Author's Note: Well hot damn it's been a while. I'm gonna start this AN by apologizing profusely for being such a terrible and I mean TERRIBLE updater. See I had this chapter mapped out (for a while) and then as I started writing it I realized it was a lot to cover. There's kind of another part to it but I needed to get this out because it's complete. FINALLY. I hate putting out anything not complete so finishing this was like a fucking dream (pardon my french). This chapter is a part of A Very Glee Christmas. I observed the episode and saw an opportunity to explain a lot of off scene happenings. This chapter has a swirl of emotions in my book and even had me a little wishy washy at times. I hope the length of this one makes up for it. But that's another thing to ask. How DO you like your chapters? Long? Short? Medium? Let me know. I appreciate all of your alerts and reviews, they put a seriously stupid clown grin on my face. Thanks for sticking with me guys. Enjoy.


Chapter 13. Naked

The imminent arrival of Winter break had us Cheerios breathing appreciatory sighs. For a few short weeks we were entitled to embrace the very essence of an average Ohio teenager. We were self-governed bitches who didn't need Sue Sylvester's blessing in order to covet that last cupcake or pass up the gym for another hour of sleep. We were free to consider parties and plan trips. And for once, nobody expected anything else.

With a band of Cheerios congregating around my locker, I for one, expected one thing: for them to haul ass. The sudden encapsulation of my personal space confined me to the metal familiarity of my locker. I'd somehow found myself ensnared into a vain conversation about skiing and boyfriends; a conversation lead by none other than Whitney. I swept my eyes over her for a blatant once over, taking note of how her pencil thin smile never once seemed to twitch out of place and how the hallway florescence gave her bottle blonde ponytail a yellowish glow that resembled—not gonna lie—urine. The color was unsavory against her tinted skin which suffered from an over use of bronzer. A "Cali Tan", she referred to it as. In other words: faker than my weave and a porn star's 'O' face put together.

These interactions with my fellow Cheerios were about as pleasant as pulling teeth. If I couldn't boss these girls around, what other reason would I have to talk to them? I fixed my sight down the hall, hoping—yes actually hoping—that I'd catch a glimpse of honey. Brittany, Quinn, it didn't matter. Someone.

The wail that generated from the water fountain nearby alerted me of Puck's presence. Clad in his leather jacket, holding some poor kid's face underneath the stream, he could have easily passed for a greaser. Puck's thunderous laugh echoed down the hall until he looked up and found me. He surveyed the girls around me and the way my eyes grew wide in obvious despair. A silent minute passed between us in which I conveyed my distress; Puck zeroed in on it soundly. He shoved his latest victim into a nearby locker and made a bee line for us.

"Puckerone Express coming through!" He proclaimed with more volume than necessary, squeezing between various Cheerios, pinching asses here and there, effectively inspiring a blush or two...sometimes three.

Remember, this was Puck we were talking about here.

After each Cheerio welcomed his intrusion with an appropriate greeting, Puck leisurely laid a hand against the side of my locker. He donned a friendly smile that bared resemblance to a wolf exposing his teeth.

"Santana, you're looking rather...edible today." His amicable nature waned and he settled into his usual sex shark element, pawing at the hem of my Letterman's jacket.

For my part I relaxed into my locker and thanked him silently with a long held gaze. I found his well timed interruption endearing.

"Puck, I was just thinking about you," Whitney's resounded airily from the right.

I relented a smug look when Puck recoiled just slightly at the sound of her voice.

"Good things I'm hoping, Whitney," he answered without deviating his attention from my Cheerios uniform.

"Always," she said, waving him off. A couple of fresh meat Cheerios were nudged out completely by her efforts to move closer. "We were just talking about our winter plans and I was just thinking about that party you threw last year."

"Fuck yeah, that party was legit." Puck's expression brightened. He nudged me with his knuckles. "Remember that night, San? It's all pretty dim to me now but I vaguely recall some dude sneaking a deer into the living room..."

"I think you tried to feed it Cheetos out of your mouth." I winced at the memory unraveling in my head—just thinking about it gives me a hangover. "You were a fucking wreck, Puckerman."

I took a breath in preparation for this story. I would need it. "You pissed in every sink and medicine cabinet in the house, duct taped Finn to his truck, attempted to 'swim' on the sidewalk—which by the way, vaguely resembled molesting concrete—, fought a coat rack, and stole Berry's phone only to spend 30 minutes in the bathroom taking pictures of your dick."

When I finished, a complacent grin appeared on Puck's face. "Sounds fucking legendary. It's a shame I can't even remember half of it."

"I wouldn't blame you," I shrugged, "by the time it was over, I found you piss drunk naked in the bath tub with the lights cut off, swirling a flashlight around. You thought you were at a rave and said it was your strobe light," I reminisced with an amused smirk. "I put you to bed with a traffic cone that night. You refused to part with it."

Puck's Christmas party would go down in history as one of the best times Lima has ever seen. I certainly couldn't complain about it either. Especially after Brittany fucked me silly on the pool table in Puck's basement. Ah, memories. I still shiver a little every time I see an eight ball.

Whitney's forced laugh pricked our re-collective bubble. You could almost feel her transparent insecurities strangling the air. She all but shoved her dip of cleavage in Puck's direction. Look at me, acknowledge me.

"Totes getting my own case of flashbacks now," she interjected, flipping her hair to expose her neck. "I hate to miss it this year but my family and Andrew are going to Greek Peak in New York," the bragging tone couldn't have been any more revolting, "he's such an awesome skier."

She stood a little straighter—I heard that helps. Thank God for my boob job, I didn't need to puff at all.

"That's weird," Puck quirked an eyebrow, "he told me he was going to be brushing up on his hockey all break at Bowling Green State. You know, where all the hot figure skaters are training right now?"

An awkward pause fell over the group as a whole. Patiently, we waited on her face to reconstruct itself into an expression that better concealed her embarrassment.

Whitney blinked rapidly—keep that eye glistening in check. "That was probably before I asked him to go with me." She nodded reassuringly, letting that information settle. She didn't look too convinced. "You know what? I have to go. I just remembered I have some stuff to..." she faltered, spinning on her heel, rushing down the hall like a true Rachel Berry on the hunt for her secret hoarding boyfriend.

Puck's eyes remained glued on her retreating form for a second longer before shaking his head. "Thank the good Lord for Cheerios skirts. I swear I just saw her ass cheeks."

I offered him a smile and parted my lips to speak when I noticed our Cheerios had fallen mute. They were observing us with careful intent, preparing to rotate our pseudo-relationship around the rumor mill. I narrowed my eyes at their expectant faces, tossing a little HBIC into my glare and spat out, "Well? Scatter off to find your captain, leeches."

The spineless group of swine did as they were told. I swear, if they didn't have someone there to tell them how to breathe, they'd all have keeled over by now. Birdbrained idiots.

I allowed Puck's lingering hands for just a minute longer before I moved them away from my body.

"Enough touching, Fuckerman. What's the status on our Christmas decorations?" The bluntness of my statement should have been off putting, but instead Puckerman simply pushed off of the locker and leaned against it beside me.

"I already dropped off some of those empty boxes they have on display from Santa's Village or whatever."

I watched him casually extend his leg out to trip a passing AV geek.

"What about that shit we found in my neighbor's house?"

"Oh yeah, I left that in the choir room this morning. We probably should have looted more than just Christmas boxes though."

I shook my head, not bothering to blink in response to the string of curses exuding from down the hall where a girl from French club had just been slushied.

"Couldn't risk my dad seeing you," I told him truthfully, "he already hates you enough."

Puck glanced at me, a hand placed over his heart. "I thought your dad had a sweet spot for me."

"He does. In the basement," I added, lifting a cunning eyebrow. Puck shouldered me lightly. I spared him another look. "I need a favor."

"Please say it's a sexual one. I've been dry for weeks now. Lauren hasn't spoken to me in days," he admitted shamelessly.

I rolled my eyes. "Not my fucking problem."

"Oh but it is your problem. The more time I spend waiting on Lauren to let me tea bag that double chin of hers, the more time I spend with you." His eyes openly wandered down my body. "As you know, I can be quite badgering when I'm sexually frustrated."

"Then I suggest you spend a little time in Home Ec, Puckerman. The key to Zizes' heart is food. Lots and lots of food. You may even come out of it with some killer sewing skills."

His brows pinched together. "Why would I need sewing skills?"

"So you can sew Zizes a new pair of pants after her mountain of an ass eats the rest of the ones she already has."

As if on cue, Lauren came wobbling down the hall. I'd never seen Puck look so flustered as he shoved his hands into his pockets and straightened his spine.

"Hey, Lauren," he greeted coyly.

Clad in her usual red flannel and a Santa Claus hat covering her dull brown hair, Lauren's eyes surveyed Puck's physique in a similar fashion to earlier. But this one, oh no. This was the kind of look you gave a freshly cooked turkey on Thanksgiving.

"How's it hanging, Puckerman?" The monotony in her voice surprised me. It hardly matched with the way her eyes practically undressed him.

"Long and ready for you, baby," Puck answered back with his usual perpetual arrogance.

A dam inside me broke and a flurry of giggles washed over me.

"If you're planning on getting any of this honey, I suggest you find a better way of expressing yourself, Puckerman. Cause Zizes—" she stepped forward, "—don't do sleazy." Her deflection came with ease as she shouldered past his stiff frame.

My stomach tightened to cease the spasms rolling through it. Puck cut his eyes at me.

"I'm sorry," I managed through a chuckle, "it's just...God, you're so bad. No wonder she won't talk to you," I stammered through another fit of laughter.

"Yeah laugh it up, Lopez. If I recall, you practically wet yourself over those lines," he defended.

I recovered quickly because he was right. Lines like that would have glued me to the mattress a year ago. My how things have changed...

"Fuck off," I bit out. "Now as I was saying before, I need a favor. I eventually plan on painting my room and I need some help."

"Laugh again and you'll be on your own," Puck warned, putting in the effort to look serious. A split second later his own raucous laugh penetrated student ears. "As long as you promise to shut all the windows and keep the door closed, I'm in. A little paint huffing never hurt anybody."

I eyed him curiously. "I don't know...you're kind of a walking example of it."

Before he had a chance to counter, the bell rang.

"That's my cue. Next period's math so I'm gonna sneak off to my car and take a little nap. Maybe spark one up to coast me through my classes—at least until we get to Glee club. You're welcome to join."

I gave him an amused smile. "Well that's productive."

"Come on, it'll be like old times," he encouraged, "joint before third period, sex after lunch." That filthy grin of his snapped into place.

"I'll pass for now. Just make sure you're still in one piece come Glee club. Britts is looking forward to all of us decorating the tree together," I reminded, lowering my attention to my nails.

"Oh that reminds me," Puck started, "Artie's looking for you."

My head snapped up. "Why?"

Puck shrugged me off. "Fuck if I know. Look I really need to go before Figgins catches me wandering. See you in Glee, Lopez."

I mumbled a goodbye and opened my locker to retrieve my books. Concern wormed its way into my belly. What could possibly compel Stubbles to talk to me? He hardly had the courage to make eye contact let alone engage in conversation. Unless something had changed...unless someone made a decision to change things...

No. No way. Don't even go there. Brittany wouldn't do that.

I shook the wafting assumptions away before they had a chance to fester. I slammed the locker shut.

And nearly shit myself at the sight of Artie sitting there in his wheelchair.

Fucking hell this guy was a ninja.

"Is it true about Brittany?" He inquired with that crisply clear voice.

You never notice how insanely blue his eyes are until he's right there, staring up at you in wonder. A tiny part of me doesn't anticipate seeing that vibrant light he carries behind his glasses blow out. As I said before, a tiny part.

So much for secrecy. Thanks, B.

So I have some choices to make here. I can admit it flat out. How I've drank in the very sight of his girlfriend naked; how I've intimately explored every inch; how I've distorted her perception of relationships. That's just scratching the surface. I can't ignore how I've manipulated my way into her head or how I've fallen prey to my own advice. Things haven gotten messy and I can't deny how my previous state of morale has bent to accompany this overwhelming selfishness to have her by my side.

This sounds so much more devious in my head than it really is. I swear.

On the other hand I can do what I do best: twist the truth. I can rearrange a lie that feels so much more familiar on my tongue. Because honesty is rare for me. It's about as rare as an eclipse or lightning striking twice. Because the only truths I'm willing to embrace are the ones that follow with someone elses tears. Those I can handle; they leave me unscathed.

I guess I'll just have to—

"I'm only asking because you've known her the longest. It just seems so...silly. Even for Brittany."

And now I'm confused.

"Could you be anymore vague, Stubs? What are you getting at here?" I snapped naturally.

Artie cleared his throat as Dave and Azimio passed. I distracted myself momentarily with the dark stitching across the front of his cream colored sweater. I couldn't stop myself from leaning in when he perched himself forward in his chair as if he were spilling a secret.

"Does she really still believe in Santa Claus?"

Oh.

The authenticity of my laugh couldn't have surprised me more. Those invisible burlap sacks of worry had slipped off my back. I could breathe.

"Of course she does," I confirmed. "She's Brittany."

Artie smiled at the truth. My truth (I'm making progress).

"Her innocence is so endearing," Artie gushed, that light in his eyes still there. "But you know how mean people can be, Santana. You know she's not always as guarded as she should be."

"That's why she has me," I stated flippantly. For some reason I felt the need to say this. As if to stake my claim.

"Exactly. And Brittany has me too," Artie added. Looks like I'm not the only one marking my territory. "But we can't always be there for her. We're no where near being her secret service, Santana."

"So what's your point?" I asked curtly.

He sighed uneasily. "I know we don't always see eye to eye, but I need your help. I just want her to keep seeing things the way they are," the urgency of his tone wasn't lost on me."That's what makes her Brittany, you know?"

I nodded in response because I did know, but the knot sliding up into my wind pipe obstructed my natural ability to agree.

"She believes in this so much. I can't bare to see a manimal like Karofsky tear the rose colored glasses off her eyes."

"That wont happen," I assured with enough confidence to sheathe us both. "I'd destroy Karofsky before he ever got the chance."

Behind those thick rimmed frames, powder blue eyes twinkled with a ball of fire. A ball of hope that I'd make good on this threat. A white flag had been waved and his surrender couldn't have been sweeter. But that expression of...of reliance, gave me no desire to break him just yet. It bred a new alliance I never thought would see the light of day. This passive aggression towards Artie would only encumber me when it came to sheltering Brittany.

So I let it go.

Like hot coals in a rainstorm, it extinguished with a sizzle. It felt like relief. They say it's in the eyes. They may glaze over with lust or swim with passion. With Artie, it's certainly the gleam of captivation in those alight irises, but it's also the sincerity in his tone, and the way he uses his hands to further animate his feelings. These were the symptoms of a smitten boy. I'd seen this look in dozens of eyes when Brittany happened to be the center of attention. Those big blue eyes swelled with vulnerability. It made me stop. Just stop and comprehend. Stop and relate.

And yeah, I'll admit, a tiny part of me throbbed with a serious thrum. Vulnerable as ever, here he was climbing into the lion's den; dwelling with the enemy, telling me his fears and aspirations for the girl we all loved to protect.

His girl. Yes, I got that. It doesn't discredit me or anything. I'm just as important. Best friends are important, right?

And for once this all made perfect sense—for both of us. We both wanted her innocence to remain intact. This belief in fantasy; in elves, and reindeer, and Santa Claus. We needed her to believe in the impossible because look at us. Sure we liked to think we cared a little too much but let's be honest here (more progress), it wasn't good enough. No one deserved Brittany. If we could just keep her believing in something, maybe she'd find it plausible to continue believing in us as well.

"Walk with me, Stubs. I think I may have some ideas," the words rolled off my tongue with little effort. Surprisingly, it didn't take long to realize my mistake. "Shit, that's not what I meant. I—"

"Don't worry about it," he waved me off with a leathery glove, "you know you don't have to get so soft because I'm in this wheelchair."

"Don't flatter yourself, Cripples. I'm only being courteous to avoid looking like a bitch in front of everyone," I said casually. "As soon as we round this corner I'm going to have the epiphany that I really don't give a shit. Hope you like your stairs steep."

"I prefer just Crip," he said, pumping his chest with his fist. "It boosts my rep around here."

"With that sweater, you're gonna need all the help you can get."

Artie kept my pace. I dumped my books into his lap.

xXx

"What are you gonna ask Santa for?" A tiny brunette in front of me asked.

"My parking tickets to be paid," I answered plainly.

The six year old frowned and tugged on her candy red vest.

"Be nice or you'll scare the kids." Artie rolled up beside me. He cast the girl a dazzling smile. "Santana's going to ask for lots and lots of presents. Isn't that right, Santana?"

I rolled my eyes, shoving my hands into my coat pockets. "Totally. I've been wanting this new Gucci bag for the longest," I said, mimicking the mirth of a pageant queen.

"Are you an iron man?" The little girl eyed Artie suspiciously.

"He's a knight," came Brittany's interjection. She wrapped her arms around Artie's neck. I swallowed a sour taste as Brittany nuzzled his skin. "My knight."

The way Artie's eyes lit up and his smile broadened to show his pearly white incisors made me inclined me to hurl into an elf's' hats. But obviously this wasn't the time nor the place. I would have taken Brittany to Santa's Village regardless of my encounter with Artie. We visited every year for this exact same reason. I kept her belief alive. This wasn't new to me.

Last year's visit got a little...rough. My father—on a mission to buy Mom the perfect Christmas gift—took Britts and I for our annual Santa time. One specific elf had Brittany close to tears after he insisted that sitting on Santa's lap was inappropriate for a girl of Brittany's age. Daddy, being the presumptuous man that he is, punched the overly critical elf in the face. Sure they banned him from the mall after that (and he never got to finish his Christmas shopping), but you better believe no one ever referred to Brittany as inappropriate again. We Lopez's handled ours.

Analyzing our Santa of the year, I valued Brittany's simplistic perception of the world because who were we kidding? The guy in the suit was black for Christ's sake.

"I'm pretty sure this isn't gonna work. That guy doesn't even look like Santa," Tina noted.

"Trust me, all Brittany's gonna see is the suit," Artie told her in a factual tone, as if this plan were his own. I'm used to that. Because who really wants to admit that Santana Lopez puts the ball in motion every time? "She wants to believe in him. 'Cedes, get up there."

Wheezy gave us a weary look and stepped up to the plate. Brittany practically bounced on the balls of her feet.

"Go Mercedes, go Mercedes, go Mercedes, go," she chanted excitedly.

I smiled at the adorableness of it all.

My Iphone vibrated in my coat pocket with the alert of a new text. I brought it up to eye's view.

From: Puck (Bad ass #1)

Sry im missing out on all the santa fun. rachel has me tied up getting the snow machine together in the auditorium at school

My forehead creased a little as I typed him back:

What the hell would Berry need a snow machine for? You're missing out on the best part. Chocolate Rain over here looks like he's about to burst his load with Wheezy sitting on his lap. :)

Even down to the sugary coat of her voice, Mercedes pantomimed the behavior of a little girl who still believed in Santa Claus perfectly. Artie and I beamed proudly at her. Next up, Lauren. The heavyset girl stomped down the aisle and threw herself onto Santa's lap with enough force to draw the oxygen out of his lungs as he uttered a soft 'oomph'. My phone shivered again.

From: Puck (Bad ass #1)

shes preparing some elaborate serenade to finn or something. Hopefully he'll forgive her so we wont have to listen to her bitch anymore. maybe then they'll legitimately break up and the Puckerone will have a real shot at his hot little Jew princess putting out. Chocolate Rain, huh? Sounds like you need a little kosher up in there.

I blanched at his text and lifted my gaze at Lauren who was avidly twirling white bearded hair and asking Santa for Puckerman's sweet ass. I smirked and typed away:

You'll be happy to know your Good Year blimp just asked Santa for you. Guess you didn't fuck up too badly the other day after all. Get your ass down here. I want to go shopping.

A buzz reiterated almost instantly.

From: Puck (Bad ass #1)

not your fucking puppy dog

I rolled my eyes to the ceiling. Another buzz.

From: Puck (Bad ass #1)

ill be on my way.

I smiled and prepared to put my phone away when I received one more message.

From: Britt Britt

stop sexting puck and look up.

I gazed up at Brittany whose finger jabbed the air, pointing directly at Santa's empty lap. Oh, my turn.

I stuffed my phone into my pocket and approached the chair. Brittany grasped my fingers for an instant and then let go. Her elated expression filled me with a joy that I hardly got to experience on my own.

"Ho, ho, ho! What can I do for you young lady?" Chocolate Rain asked as I settled into his lap.

It was warm alright, just like Quinn had said. And a little sticky...what the hell?

The burly sized man shifted under my weight which caused my ass to sink further...into his lap. I feel so dirty right now.

I conjured up my best smile because no doubt, Brittany watched with intensity. Mr. Chocolate Rain's breathing quickened significantly as I draped my legs over his lap. Coarse leathery hands sought out my lower back to keep me in place and I shivered involuntarily, fighting a grimace.

I leaned in to his bearded face. "Keep it PG, Mr. Claus or you'll be missing your monkey milking hand."

Chocolate Rain swallowed noticeably and slid his hand a little higher.

"That's better." My smile widened. "Now ask me what I want."

He cleared his throat. "So what can Santa get you for Christmas?"

"I want bling. I can't be anymore specific than that," I told him snappily. I was moments away from informing him of the ever so coveted white gold, princess cut studs I wanted from Daddy when I felt something. You know, that something.

I paled and cut my eyes at him, popping off about the "roll of certs" in his pocket that were getting overly comfortable with my ass. The rest of my Glee club companions were curled over in laughter—especially Trouty Mouth and Malibu Barbie.

"Don't act so surprised, Santana. You were practically gyrating in his lap. Is that an instinct or do you just do it for the attention?" Quinn jibed with acrid temperament.

The blonde bitch sauntered past with a smug undertone. I balled my fists to keep from attacking.

"And what would you like for Christmas, young lady?"

"Do you have anything for stretch marks?" She tried to keep her voice low but I heard anyway.

"It's about time you took care of that, Q. Your stomach probably looks like a road map," I barked out.

Quinn's face went stoic. I met her glare with my own pair of hateful eyes.

Brittany tugged on my fingers. "Santana, don't be mean."

I willed myself not to snap at her because it's always been this way. Ever since high school, Brittany's been in the middle of us. When Fabray grew tits and started using tampons, a bitch switch flipped on and the competitive nature boiling inside of us never really ceased. These days it's all or nothing with me. I purposely steal Brittany's time to ensure she has none left over to spend with anyone else. It's to protect her really. Quinn leaves an impression on people and I'll be damned if I let her fill Brittany's head with more bullshit on commitment and purity. She needed a positive influence in her life. What better person than her BFF?

xXx

"So we'll split it up and then meet back at the food court in an hour. Is that good?" Artie looked between our faces for any objections.

We confirmed the plan with silence and everyone broke off into units. Asian Fusion scrambled away to Hot Topic (I'm pretty sure that was Tina's idea); Mercedes ventured off to Bakers where she was free to salivate over that pair of purple suede wedges she'd been eying; and Queen Bee dragged her blue eyed prince off to where ever she felt like going—his only real use being his toned up arms that kept track of shopping bags.

That left a crowd of three. The corner of Brittany's lips turned down into a frown. She appeared to be in a conflict about who to part with. Artie stared off forlornly, no doubt discouraged by B's hefty wish to Santa. My calm exterior didn't match the frenzy happening inside. I didn't care if we had to tie Artie up like a marionette puppet, he would walk. Disappointing Brittany was not an option.

Just when the air began a transition into awkward we were saved by the Puckerman bell.

"Sup bitches!" echoed from behind us, followed by Puck's heavy biceps sliding around my and Brittany's shoulders.

"Professor X," he nodded to Artie, "good to see you out in daylight, bro. Didn't think you'd ever stop playing Halo."

Artie chuckled in response and feigned punching him.

"So where are we going?" Four Eyes asked us, suddenly in a much better mood.

"Toy store!" Brittany bellowed, taking off with me in the direction of the escalator.

The boys followed loosely behind. This was going to be a long day.

xXx

"I can't believe they kicked us out! Why would they do that?" Puck grumbled with his hands in his pockets.

"I don't know maybe because you and Stubbles were using light sabers as an extension of your dicks and whacking each other in front of four year olds? Just a thought," I said sardonically.

"Worst shopping buddies ever," Brittany dead panned. "I just wanted a Barbie. Lord Tubbington is in desperate need of a girlfriend. He can't keep fondling my cabbage patch dolls."

Impending silence followed by the occasional eyebrow lift. Typical day with Brittany.

"So...where to now?" Puck addressed me.

"I need new underwear," Brittany randomly noted.

"We're supposed to be Christmas shopping," I reminded.

"I know but I'm really short on underwear, San." Her bottom lip jutted out at me in a pout. "I think I keep losing them at your house. I have no idea where those cute pink ones are with the bow. Those were your favori—"

"Okay let's go in," I cut her off.

Artie's expression couldn't have been more curious but it was inquisitive none the less. Puck's smile had slipped off into a lopsided smirk that made me want to slap him.

They gladly followed our lead—perhaps a little too gladly. Once inside the walls of Victoria's Secret, the boys surprisingly stayed close. Brittany and I gravitated towards the underwear drawers which seemed to hold a special allure for the boys as they inspected a variety of thongs and boy shorts.

"Oh sweet Jewish Lord, look at this, bro!" Puck swatted Artie's shoulder, excitedly. A lavender colored v-string hung between his fingers. "And they call this underwear? More like a sheet of toilet paper."

"Check this one out," Stubbles offered, presenting Puck with a lacy pair of raspberry colored boy shorts.

"I love a girl in boy shorts," Puck gushed.

"I think you two need to get laid more often," I quipped, opening and closing drawers just for the show of it as I waited on Brittany to make her decision.

"You already know I'm trying," Puck replied. A brunette saleswoman approached him and he rounded, holding up the v-string. "Do you have these in like...an extra, extra, extra large?"

I sank my teeth into my lip to stop myself from laughing at the saleswoman's reaction.

The soft skin of Brittany's open palm pressed over the back of my hand.

"Do you plan on buying anything or are you just going to keep closing those drawers until you slam your fingers?" she asked with the hint of a smile.

I shrugged. "Depends."

I watched her fingers curl around my own against the drawer.

"On what?" her voice remained even but dropped down into a whisper. I suddenly became more aware of how close we were standing.

"If I want to use them later on," I husked, my eyes permanently fixed on the drawer.

She squeezed my hand and reiterated the question, "on what?"

I gulped and for once endured a forethought. Artie couldn't have been more than four feet away. Yes, he and Puck were avidly arguing with the saleswoman about size discrimination in the store but still, four feet away. This shouldn't be happening. Her fingers shouldn't weave themselves through the gaps of my hand so seamlessly. Her brushing hip shouldn't reduce me to labored breaths and caged butterflies. It just shouldn't. But it's there. Oh God is it there. And her disregard for our surroundings, as she encircles my fingers, does nothing to soothe me.

It's the way she opens me up and reads me like an open book that induces a weight to topple down into my belly and an earthquake to tremble through my skin. But the intensity is hardly unnerving. I welcome it. Because most of the time my insides reflected that of a gutted jack-o-lantern; just waiting for a candle to illuminate the damage. I wasn't half as hollow with B around. Not at all.

It's Puck's groan that shakes me out of this haze of metaphors and impulses. Now that could only mean two things: either he's getting one awesome blow job from this sales bitch or he's found himself in some deep shit. Hoping to God it's the latter.

"What is it?" I couldn't help but sneer. If it wasn't for his throaty interruption, Brittany would still be holding my god damn hand.

"Don't look now," on instinct our eyes darted around the store, "but that's Ms. Warren over there. Whitney's mom," he rasped quietly and pointed at a remarkably tall, blonde woman. Her skin, sun kissed and blemish free, advertising a veneer of perfection. "I may have incidentally cleaned her pool a few months ago."

"Wait. Hold up," I raised a hand, "let me get this straight. You fucked Whitney's mom?"

"A little louder, Santana, as if every resident in Ohio couldn't hear you."

"That's fucking priceless," I laughed, ignoring his dagger like gaze. This information was so gonna come in handy one day.

"This is no joking matter," Puck growled out. "She brought the fucking God of Thunder with her over there. If she sees me and her boyfriend picks up on the tension, he's going to stomp my ass."

We all cast a sideways glance at the hulking figure beside Ms. Warren with a blatant hold on her Pilates toned ass. The Thor resemblance uncanny with his golden shoulder length hair and the biceps of a seasoned steroid abuser.

"The Puckasaurus is gonna stand down before he winds up as crippled as his friend here—no offense, Artie my man." He offered Artie an apologetic look.

"None taken my brotha," Artie assured. "I'll follow you. Got some Christmas shopping to do."

Brittany leaned in to allow Four Eyes' chaste kiss against her pink tinted cheek.

"You most certainly will be missed," I stated dryly. I'd come down from that cloud of Brittany bliss, no longer capable of ignoring this mess of hair and Christmas sweater before me. Reality struck a sullen chord.

"We'll see you at the food court," Brittany promised, enthusiasm lowered into her voice. Her eyes lifted to me. "Bra fittings in two minutes. Be there or be square."

I bobbed my head in response.

"She wouldn't miss it for the world," Puck taunted in my ear, earning a quick elbow to the ribs.

"Will you talk to her for me?" Stubbles asked once Brittany had disappeared. "About the Santa thing, I mean. It was a pretty big request."

His tone prompted with a kindliness I wasn't prepared for just yet. If ever. We weren't friends. We weren't even acquaintances. We had a common interest: Brittany. When said interest was satisfied, we were through. I wanted to tell him this. I wanted to spit it out in such a way that the lash of my tongue left a big welt.

"I'll try," came out instead. We hadn't accomplished anything just yet. We were still an unlikely alliance with the sole goal of keeping a specific girl's vision of the world in tact. This wasn't the time to sabotage just yet.

A shit eating grin took form on his face and it took everything in me not to scratch it right off. My nails go deep, his girlfriend should know.

"Good," he said pleasantly. I masked my building petulance by mirroring his smile to the tee. "Just one more thing though. Please discourage her from buying me anymore of those blinking wheelchair lights. As much as I love looking pimped out as I ride down a dark alleyway, it does nothing for my reputation with the guys."

My grin widened to assuage the contempt bubbling in my throat for this guy right now. I personally knew that Brittany's oddball gifts were an extension of her character. She bought on impulse when it came to presents and always had a particular element of your personality in mind. With me that was everything from bacon flavored candy canes to binocular flasks (don't ask). Brittany put more thought into gifts than anyone cared to realize. Including Artie—who took it completely for granted. It comforted me to know there were still some things about Brittany that he didn't know; that he didn't understand. I personally wanted to keep it that way.

So I humored the bastard, spouting some shit about narrowing her options down to bow ties and nipple clamps for flavor. His expression was one of shock for a good five seconds before he caught a glimpse of roguery in my eyes. That's when he laughed away the hovering tension. And that's when I stole a glance at the fitting rooms, where his girlfriend awaited my intrusion for reasons Artie couldn't possibly determine.

xXx

In all the time that I've known her, Brittany has never been shy about her body. Nudity in her house is as common as passing the salt at the dinner table so it hardly surprised me when she shed her Cheerios uniform like a second layer of skin. The sight did nothing to desensitize my body's initial reaction though. My pulse picked up a rapid tempo, a blockade of tension swelled the confines of my throat, and my brain pumped out an unusual secretion of dopamine that had me crossing myself to ensure I didn't do anything...impulsive.

From this angle I had a glorious view of Brittany's backside as I perched on the lounging bench. Her eyes remained glued on her reflection where she stood assessing her nearly naked form. An unresolved expression settled and her lip worried between her teeth in silent thought.

"What do you think of this one? She finally asked, her hands fitting into the dips of her hips.

It didn't take long to zero in on her newly accentuated cleavage where a pattern of black and silver lacing embroidered her bra cups. The sight couldn't have been more mouthwatering.

"Looks great," my tone, casual; a complete contradiction to the way my stomach twitched in anticipation.

Brittany rewarded me with a full row smile and twirled a bit in front of the mirror to get a better look.

"Girls are so much better than boys when it comes to this," she mused. "Whenever I ask Artie how I look he kind of just nods and starts breathing really heavy until his glasses fog up."

"Sounds like Droid over there had a man gravy moment," I smirked.

"Don't talk about gravy, San. You're making me hungry."

Brittany licked her lips. I crossed my legs.

"We can um, go down to the food court if you want?"

Brittany shook her head. "Not yet. Artie's still probably fretting over what to get me," she stepped towards me, "He should really leave that up to Santa. Will you undo this?" she prompted, turning her back.

I cleared my throat roughly and mumbled, "sure." My fingers found the clasp of her bra easily but my nerves had me fumbling like a 14-year-old virgin. "I think it's just a pride thing—sorry," I said when my cool fingers brushed her skin. "I mean, who really wants to be outdone by a morbidly obese man who crams himself down your chimney to pull a 'B & E'."

Brittany slid the straps down her arms so I could see the smooth contours of her back. Her freckles had blended seamlessly with her flushed pink skin; a response to winter. She crossed the small fitting room just as I reached out to touch her spine.

"I'm convinced guys just generally suck at gift shopping. Remember last year when my dad offered to give us all birth control for Christmas?"

I suppressed a smile. "That actually came in handy...for most of us." Brittany cast me an eye roll over her shoulder as she slid on another bra. "The gay ones aren't so bad though. Seems like they were born with all the talents of Martha Stewart and Tyra Banks. Food and clothes is all you need," I commented absently as my eyes crawled up her body; less leering, more appreciating. I was feeling pretty gay myself right now.

Brittany wheeled around to frown at me but the expression hardly made it home as my attention fell on her chest. Fire engine red with a black lace trim, soft enough to slip a hand under; a siren's choice.

"It seems like we lost our only one at Mckinley."

As soon as she uttered the words I knew I'd made a mistake by bringing it up because the casual air had gone and the stress in her eyes told me she wanted to discuss this. I wasn't ready to talk, I was ready to do shit.

"How do you feel about that?" I glanced down at my hands. If we were going to have this conversation I couldn't be staring at her tits as I contemplated all the things we could surely be doing right now.

"Sad," Brittany said after a moment, "I loved Kurt. His hands were really soft."

Her honey melted voice drew me back like a magnet. Fire engine red. Damn it.

"Softer than mine?" I challenged with a raised eyebrow.

Brittany crossed the room in a step and leaned down so that we were at eye level. My nerves tingled as she grasped my hand and placed it over her cheek. She cupped her palms over the hand and slowly rubbed her face against it, creating a warming effect. Someone sighed (I think it was me) and then she dropped my hand away.

"Never yours." She smiled. So close. Close enough to kiss but my body had stiffened; too paralyzed by the eyes that arrested me. If my nerves weren't so on edge, crackling with electricity, I would have never noticed the small circles she drew over my palm. The eye contact felt infinite as something seemed to unravel inside of me. I couldn't quite place what it was but it snapped away like a rubber band.

And then she was gone. Back at the mirror, assessing her physique, judging her beauty.

I took a minute to steady my rabbit heart because that intimacy there, it dulled senses and curbed feelings; raised new questions. Questions I typically disregarded.

"Britt?"

"Hm?"

"How do you feel about...gay people in general?"

"I don't know, San," Brittany's reflection shrugged. "They're just being what they were born to be."

"So...you're saying they have no other choice?" I proceeded cautiously.

She caught my eye in the mirror. "It's like any other thing. Like Mike and I, we were born to dance."

"Yeah but that's different," my arms instinctively crossed, a bout of anxiety stirring, "no one wants to hurt you because of that."

"It's just jealousy," the words were soft, only meant for me.

"I don't think people are jealous that they're gay, B. There's nothing to envy in their situation," my voice came off harder than I intended it to.

"Maybe not, but they're jealous that they're free," she said and swiveled her gaze to look directly at me. "That's all that really counts, isn't it? Being free?"

I unfolded my arms, shoulders relaxing. "Of course it is."

"Then they're free to be who they are. Just like us." She reached me in a stride. "We're free to cheer and join Glee club." She fell down into my lap. "I'm free to believe in Santa." Her fingers traced the fate lines of my hand. "And I'm also free to do this..."

She leaned in confidently close and drew my bottom lip between her teeth. I never had a chance to respond because she pulled back just as quickly as the action began. The playfulness of it left a lingering smile. Britt swooped in again and I met her this time, preparing to smash my lips into hers—make her regret ever having me wait this long. But she dodged me, going off to the right to lick a clean trail up my cheek. I gasped at the feeling, shocked for all of three seconds, before I pulled back and squeezed her against me.

"That was real cute," my breath hot in her ear, "but I will not tolerate being made a fool out of by a girl who isn't even wearing real clothes."

"How do you like the bra anyway?" She shifted in my lap to sit side saddle. "You never commented."

"The red's very festive," I told her and then followed it up by planting an open mouthed kiss on her neck. I laughed at the crimson rushing up; the only betrayal to her cool exterior.

"Thanks," Brittany beamed, completely gratified. "That's..." a peck on the forehead, "exactly..." a kiss on the chin, "what I..." a brush to my jawline, "was going for," she finished by grazing her nose against my cheek.

"Stop that," I said, tightening my grip on her waist. "You're way too naked to be Labrador cute right now."

Our foreheads joined to support Brittany's lazy form which relaxed against me. That soul searching thing resumed. Heavy lidded eyes to alight, excited ones. I studied her lips for a good 10 seconds, then reached out to cup the nape of her neck where I twisted loose ringlets of hair between my fingers.

She breathed out a sigh and the air suddenly tasted sweeter. While her heart rate trickled back down to normal speed, mine ran a marathon, jumped hurdles, and scaled walls. I couldn't find the words. We'd never been so close yet not close close. I didn't want to disturb it, whatever the fuck this was. I didn't want to sabotage it.

Our mouths hovered mere inches apart. I could almost taste her. Curious hands wandered up my front until they settled over my neck where a rapid pulse beat violently against her palms like a kettle drum. The curvature of her lips fascinated me every time they parted and pursed; some things were better left unsaid.

"Santana," my name rolled off her tongue like liquid gold; so rich and delightful. I let my silence work out a response. She took that as room to continue, "it's been almost five whole minutes and you're not even naked yet. Are you broken?"

My laughter vibrated through the both of us until I manage the feat of looking her in the eye without grinning like a stoned clown.

"Balls in your court, B," I whispered against her lips, a gentle hand sliding up her elbow, "I'm as naked as you want me."

The eye gazing finally ceased when those dallying hands slipped up behind my neck and she claimed my mouth. My words, a match to dripping gasoline. I forced myself to exhale after the kiss robbed me of air. Naturally, I expected my lungs to burn from the lack of oxygen but it was my hands that seared instead, twitching alive over hot skin. So much skin. And naked. So much naked.

My Cheerios shirt joined Brittany's on the floor, next to her skirt and shoes. I pushed my tongue back into hers, fervor on the tip. Suppressed tension burst through me like live shrapnel threatening to rip me apart. So damn good. I bargained with her to stand at my request and when she did I pinned her to the mirror soundly. Initially the cool glass seemed to startle Brittany but once my body remolded itself to hers she relaxed.

I savored her floral tasting skin; the lilacs scent dizzying my senses; and the friction down below as I forced my thigh between hers. She held firm on my neck when we reattached lips. I mirrored her deft movements with her tongue, allowing her to take more control than I necessarily would in any other situation. My fingers grabbed at ribs while hers pawed at more clothing. Hands slid up my thighs and under my Cheerios skirt to deliver a firm squeeze. Spankies bunched while nails dug deep. My oh fucking my.

Teeth sunk into my lip hard and unapologetic. That inclined me to slip slender fingers under her jaw, a firm grip followed by the weight of a kiss that forced her lips apart and sent her knees quivering. I stroked and massaged with great care once inside; a tender gesture for such a bruising touch. Hips curved up to meet mine repeatedly. I dropped my hand away from her chin only to rest it against her chest. Brittany's hands drew up behind her to unclasp the obstruction. Goodbye fire engine red.

I nearly choked on my own air at the sight of bare skin. Brittany slumped back against the mirror, naked vulnerability and all. An offering in the purest form. I swallowed to moisten the dryness that had suddenly accumulated. Swollen lips, thumping chest, flushed skin. So. Fucking. Perfect.

I started at the neck, trailing a moist path of kisses down her pulse and collarbone. I sucked lightly at that patch of skin just above her dipping cleavage. Brittany traced her fingers along my back as I went to work on her nipple. The distinct sound of a dressing room door opening in the distance solidified all motion. We shared a look, our feet cemented into the floor, too tense to make a sound.

Thirty agonizing seconds passed before I could finally breathe. Brittany must have taken that as permission to continue because her hips resumed their rolling. I cut my eyes at her but she kept her undulations up, unabashed and seemingly undaunted by our neighbors. Her eyes spelled out a challenge with the smallest hint of a smile tugging the corners of her mouth. Some where in the last functioning part of my brain I knew I didn't stand a chance against those boldly moving hips. Fuck.

I twirled her around until her back was flush against me; my chin rested on her shoulder. Her eyes never left mine; the mirror acting as an intermediate. It never shows us more than we're willing to give. I wonder whose giving what because my insides are fluttering differently now than when I first stepped into this dressing room.

I felt that I should say something about it. Address this new found conflict. But the moment was all wrong. Maybe you're not supposed to mention it at all. Some things are better left unsaid.

All smugness waned and hands braced against glass when I dipped a hand into her panties. Arousal drenched venturing digits almost instantly at the sight of me touching her. Not willing to waste another second, I pushed past her welcoming folds to find a suitable rhythm that would get her off in the fastest way possible. We were no doubt lingering on shoplifter time now.

Brittany's panting breath left fog rings on the vanity. We'd never done it quite like this before and to be honest, it was hot. The addition of a finger inspired a gasp from those bow shaped lips. Brittany's eyes fixated on my left laborious hand while mine skimmed over aesthetic features. I recorded every detail for later, just to revisit this moment. The way she melded against me; warmth suffocating my busy hand. Legs spread apart, hips reaching for more depth, another knuckle to pass.

My lips hemmed over her neck with the trace of teeth. Faceless words entombed my hollow chest. They'd unbraided themselves from a thread woven stomach and now traveled upward, hanging, pulling.

I found Brittany's mouth before the thoughts in my head found my vocal chords. She drank the words right off my lips. Snuffed the flickering fire out with a smother of sand. Quick sand. I was sinking fast, I needed a savior.

Oppressed words translated into motions and friction. Strokes grew prolonged, kisses lingered against skin. And somewhere in those bare seconds of release I'd never felt more in tune with Brittany. The orgasm flushing through her system tangible proof of the development between us. No boyfriend would ever measure up to this. The verity of that sent my ego on a trip. Santana Lopez knew her Brittany better than anyone.

We were dressed and out of the fitting rooms before anyone could call the cops on us. Brittany's candescent demeanor certainly left an impression as she drifted off to the cashier—chromatic unmentionables in hand.

I feigned interest in a clothing rack full of cashmere, biding my time until we could leave. Sex gave me the munchies even if I wasn't the one having it.

A glimpse of honey flashed into my peripheral. I turned, preparing to greet Brittany's warm smile with a carbon copy of my own. But any possibility of that happening faded when I fell under the weight of severe hazel eyes.

"Q, what are you doing here? Motherhood Maternity is three doors down," I sniped.

"What is it with you and this obsession with my pregnancy?" She asked.

"No obsession, you're just a caricature of a Lima statistic now," I shrugged complacently. "Pretty soon you'll be eligible for Real Housewives of Ohio once you get knocked up again. I hear previous moms are more fertile."

"You're getting rather sloppy with the baby jokes, Santana," she paused, eyes darting over my face, "among other things."

I took the bait without even realizing. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Warm hazel solidified until there was nothing left but a bone chilling cold.

"I knew you were sneaky, Santana, but I never thought you'd drag Brittany down to your level."

Wait, what?

"Okay first off," I stepped into her personal space, "mind your tongue when it comes to Brittany or you'll find yourself being picked up off the floor, Princess." She raised an eyebrow. "And second, what the fuck are you talking about?"

Quinn didn't answer right away. She fidgeted with her hands, glanced over my shoulder, avoided eye contact all together. For a minute. And then she was speaking so softly I had to strain my ears to listen.

"I should have seen this coming. You were always so close. And in rare moments when you weren't together, people noticed," she smiled faintly. "A package deal, I guess." Her sigh exuded heavily, a crease emerged over her forehead. "Tell me I'm wrong about the dressing room."

I couldn't find my words. The silence confirmed her assumptions either way. Some things were better left...I don't really know anymore.

Quinn laughed; the sound hollow and short of joy. "My god, Santana. Just one person. Can we know just one person you haven't had sex with yet?"

"Your neutered boyfriend," I answered condescendingly.

Irritation flared up in her eyes and translated into her fists which balled at her sides. Mine were already there, a fight or flight instinct at work.

"Why?" Quinn threw her hands out in question. "Why, Britt? You couldn't find anyone else to fuck up on such short notice?"

"Fuck up? Brittany wanted this. She came back every single time," I sneered at her.

"Jesus Christ, Santana are you even hearing yourself?" Quinn started to raise her voice but thought better of it when I cut my eyes at her. "She looks up to you—God knows why, but she does. Of course she's going to listen to you. She doesn't know any better."

"Do you ladies need any help?" The brisk voice of a saleswoman intervened.

"No thank you," and "step the hell off," whipped out simultaneously. The woman rushed away after meeting our permanent scowls. My stance remained tense while Quinn's spelled out dejection. Game face on.

"So what's your plan, Q? You gonna narc on me to Artie?"

"I could care less about Artie," she said truthfully, "but B needs a new perspective. You know it's gonna break her heart when Artie dumps her over this."

"Whose to say she won't break his?" I challenged.

Quinn shot me a knowing look. "We both know that'll never happen."

A bitter laugh escaped me. "Why is everyone so afraid to hurt him? He survived a fucking auto accident, I'm pretty sure he can handle a high school break up."

"You know how sensitive Brittany is, Santana. There's this nasty thing called guilt. I doubt that term holds any meaning to you but for Britt it's everything." Quinn casually sorted through a row of v-necks.

Before my brain could catch up to my body, I was wrenching her by the elbow.

"Don't you dare patronize me."

"Let. Go." she emphasized the words through grit teeth.

I dropped her arm before we attracted any more attention.

"Don't be so melodramatic," I hissed at her as she rubbed a hand over her forearm.

"You can't get pissed every time someone doesn't act the way you want. The whole world isn't yours to just manipulate and fuck whenever you feel like it, Santana."

I shook my head at her in awe. "You know what you are, Quinn Fabray? You're a hypocrite. Look at you," I gestured towards her with sharp motions, "just flaunting that holier than thou attitude in my face. Just pointing that dirt stained finger." Quinn's expression darkened, arms crossed over chest. "Tell me something. Who was there for you at cheer camp when you were still recovering from your summer surgery. Hm? Oh, that's right, me. I kept my promises to you, Quinn. As much as they fucking killed me at times, I kept every single one."

Her mouth snapped open to repel me but I cut her off, voice rising, hands balling and uncurling. Adrenaline pumping, a loose wire flailing about.

"And how do you repay me? You stab at any possible point of weakness. You tell Coach about my boob job. You get me demoted to the bottom of the pyramid. You—"

"I was angry okay?" the words exploded from her lips. "After I got pregnant you made my life a living hell. You stabbed me first," she said brokenly. "I didn't want to forgive you after that. I'd be stupid if I did."

"And what do you think compelled me to do that, Q? I don't know, maybe it was after you slept with my fucking boyfriend at the time and on top of that made him fall in love with you because you were carrying his bastard child. What does that say about you, Quinn?" A rare moisture gathered at the brim of her eyes but it remained unspilled. "You're not good. You're not pure. You're just a scared little girl playing the manipulative role of a bitch whose every boy's wet dream. A slut, Quinn. You're me in your worst fucking nightmare."

"I'm sorry but we're going to have to ask you two to leave," a saleswoman informed snottily, a good three feet put between us.

"I'm not leaving without my friend," our voices chimed together. Quinn and I shared a look momentarily.

"You're free to wait outside, please."

"Oh hells no. Did you not just hear us say we we're waiting on a frien—"

"We're going now, thanks." Quinn pushed me towards the exit.

"I say we wait on her to go on break and Lima Heights her ass," I grumbled once outside the store.

"Relax," Quinn said, leaning against a wall.

I joined her on the wall, hands in Cheerios jacket, eyes cast down at my shoes. The previously violent air had evaporated some since they kicked us out but that hardly meant guards down. Never around Fabray.

"I don't really know how this goes but...I guess I'm sorry," the sincerity was apparent in her tone. "I didn't...I never...I'm just sorry," she worried her lip between her teeth, uncertainty crossing her eyes. "If I ever like, hurt you—"

"Please stop talking. You're shit at apologies," I told her candidly.

Quinn laughed."We'll you're shit at accepting them," she smiled. "You're so...stubborn."

"So?" I countered defensively.

"So I'm warning you," she said seriously. "Artie's her boyfriend. Get that through your thick, inconceivable skull."

"I got that a while ago. Still don't care."

Quinn rolled her eyes. "All I'm saying is you're a possessive person. Don't even try to act like you don't still claim Puck in front of Glee club." She ignored my glare and continued, "You're going to get tired of it—her spending all of her time with Artie. And make no mistake you're going to try and ruin it." Her brows knit uneasily. "Don't ruin it. It'll hurt her and...and I know you really don't want that.

"Brittany's a free bird. Whatever she decides to do with C3PO junior is up to her. Not gonna lose sleep over it."

Honey blonde flashed in front of me. The right kind. I smiled that smile I'd locked away the second I laid eyes on Quinn and passed it on to Brittany. She fussed with us about leaving the store for all of five seconds before we were off to view the large Christmas tree downstairs in the foyer.

Quinn must have stalled us for at least another 30 minutes before we finally met up with the rest of Glee club again. Sam didn't seem too upset by Quinn's disappearing act since she ditched him in a sporting goods store. Artie, however, whined like a newborn in the absence of his breast feeding mother. Brittany settled into his lap, feeding him fries and laughing with Mercedes and Tina. Puck slung a protective arm around the back of my chair to which I snuggled into. Quinn watched me curiously, every so often interjecting comments into the conversation.

I remained silent and still in Puck's arms. He never asked me why we were in this position, just took me in and offered his body as a home. I valued his blithe disregard for explanations. We weren't in love—hell, we didn't even like each other most days—but it was better than nothing at all. This pseudo comfort kept all of those unspoken words and feelings in check. The coping mechanism to loneliness. An antidote for insomnia.