CHAPTER 4

December;

I've always loved the holiday season, I mean, who doesn't? Everyone's friendly, except on Black Friday when you're trying to get your hands on the last of the latest ipods, my mom buys those seasonal smelling candles and always has them lit, all the department stores are decked out to the fullest in Christmas decorations, and it's my one time a year when I can pin my secret niceness on the fact that it's the season of giving.

Though Christmas is really the show stealer when it comes to December, it's not the only big event of the month. Another reason why I love the holiday season so much is that December has always been me and Santana's month. With our annual best friend day in the beginning of the month, my birthday in the middle, Christmas shortly after, and New Year's, you could see why it's such a meaningful time for us. No matter what we're doing, how complicated our lives are, what fight we may be in, we somehow always find a way to put our differences aside and be together.

This year is no different.

After having dinner at Breadstix a few weeks ago, things have definitely taken a turn for the better. In an unspoken agreement, I have decided to tone down my open dislike for Sam in exchange that Santana better split up her time between us.

I've even trained myself to bite my tongue when that trouty mouth jerk off pretended to bone San when she bent over to pick up her purse and that was hard. I can still see that smug bastard's face when he did it and I swore I was about to bite my tongue in half at just watching the immature gesture.

Thank God San caught on and yelled at him. I remember how she peeked over her shoulder at me, her eyes softening but her brows crinkled in embarrassment. It was a weird look she gave me, it was like she was saying sorry and be nice all at once.

It's crazy how we can have a conversation like that just through glances.

Other than the occasional slip ups, which I can't tell whether San just doesn't see or chooses to ignore, things are totally running smoothly!

So smooth that I saw Santana six days in a row, and that hasn't happened since we were both going to the same school! It was mostly because I kept needing a ride from work, my mom doesn't like me walking home when it's dark out, and because San needed help with her homework. I'm sort of a genius when it comes to math, hard to believe, I know.

Suddenly spending so much time together was a nice change, but at the same time, I couldn't help but think something bad was coming. Nothing good lasts forever, I knew that from experience. With that in mind, I cherished every second I had with her because I know, in a flash, she could be gone again.

"How are things?" Mike asked as we sat across from each other during another one of our ritual breakfast outings. I realized I only do these things when there's something going wrong with me and San, but this time it was he who wanted to meet up. I could tell by bags under his eyes and his disheveled hair that he wasn't really in the best condition, yet he was still asking about me rather than venting himself.

"Fine, surprisingly." I shrugged and pushed around the hash browns on my plate, "We went out again last week for best friend day, it was nice." I really didn't want to ask how he was; I could just see he wasn't doing well, but I had to return the favor. He'd been listening to me bitch and moan about Santana for weeks, the least I could do is allow him to do the same, even though I've heard it all before.

As soon as he muttered Tina's name, I knew I was in for long story of how she's being short with him when he tries to make conversation, ignoring his calls, hanging out with new people at her college, getting a life. It's sort of expected when he's the one who cheated on her three days before she left for school.

I never really understood his whole motive for doing it; the guy is in love with her! Why would you hurt someone so deeply then get upset that they're trying to move on?

I learned to keep those kinds of questions to myself though, Mike and I are good friends but there are some subjects even I don't want to touch on. So instead, I sit silently and listen to all of his gripes and complains. At one point they sounded oddly familiar though: Why does she have to rub how she hangs out with a new guy in my face? Why can't she respond to my texts, I'm just trying to keep in touch with her? It's been four years; she can't just leave me like this!

I wanted to reach over and slap him, remind him that maybe this was for the best and maybe tell him to quit being pathetic. But I didn't think that was my place to say something like that either, I mean, I'm not in any better position. He obviously wasn't ready for a long distance thing and that showed in her last days here, but even that doesn't excuse his behavior. I stayed quiet though, nodding and mhming every now and then. Once I get going, I can't stop and if I say something hurtful, I'll just breeze right past it like it was nothing. I continued to let him vent. It's never good to keep things bottled up.

I'm still trying to realize that myself actually.

"So do you know what Santana's got planned for your birthday?" Mike's swift subject change had me torn my thoughts, worried that maybe my zoning out was obvious but Santana's name being mentioned already had me smiling.

"Of course not," I laughed tiredly, "All I know is that she's really excited about it, for all I know it's probably a stripper."

"It's definitely not a stripper," Mike chuckled mischievously causing me to quirk my brow.

"Wait a sec-"

"Don't even, my lips are sealed."

"You know?" I gasped, almost jumping over the table, "Tell me!"

"Hell no," He laughed and pushed me back down in my seat as he eyed the other patrons around us, "I know Santana's wrath and I rather not deal with it." I rolled my eyes and slumped back in my seat, huffing and crossing my arms. "Don't be like that," He teased, grinning dopily, "You'll find out tomorrow.."

"I wanna know now though.." I grumbled feeling my bottom lip jut out. It only made Mike laugh harder.

"Tell you what," He started, rustling back against his side of the booth matching my crossed arms, "Santana doesn't get out of school till two. How about I take you out to lunch beforehand to kill some time?" There was a little twinkle in his dark brown eyes, not the same that you could find in Santana's, but a twinkle nonetheless.

I never could decipher the twinkle but I saw it every time I'd use the pout.

"Sounds like a plan!" I chirped, choosing to ignore the overly excited smile that pulled at his lips.

Midnight;

I was all cuddled up in bed, comforter wrapping my body up like a cocoon, when the vibrations from under my pillow were too annoying to ignore. Grumbling because it took me forever to finally fall asleep, I was really excited about my birthday, I blindly reached under for my phone. Not even opening my eyes to see who was calling, I swiped at the screen and brought it to my ear.

"It's yo birthday and I know you wanna ri-i-i-ide out, even if we only go to my-y-y house!"

Even in my dazed, groggy, state I could pick that voice out anywhere. I rolled over on my back and clutched the phone to my ear, letting Santana sing out the first verse of the song as it was tradition to always call each other at exactly midnight on our birthdays and sing that song. As she finished, I felt myself smiling dopily at the suggestive lyrics before realizing that I hadn't even spoke a word yet.

"You better be awake because I'm not singing it again.." She muttered and I could almost picture the eye roll she would be giving me if I did happen to fall back asleep during her performance.

"I'm awake," I chuckled, my voice raspy from just waking up.

"Good, did you like my song?" She asked cockily.

"Yeah, I always do."

"Great, well, you sound sleepy. Almost like someone just woke you up or something," She teased.

"Me? Sleeping? No.." I giggled, the sleep that was so hard to come now fleeting at every word she uttered.

"Uh-huh, sure. You can go back to sleep now, I'll see you in a few hours for the first of your awesome surprises!"

"Can't wait," I grinned, my cheeks stinging at how hard I was smiling.

"Me either! Okay, happy birthday again. Love you, night!"

Then the line went dead before I could even get a reply out, not like I would reply anyway. I've never been too affectionate and neither has my family. I didn't grow up around giving hugs for greetings or ending each phone call with love you. My family shows love for each other in different ways, like it's an unspoken thing. On the rare occasion that we do hug it out or express our love, I always end up feeling really out of place since it's so uncommon.

Santana's family is actually kinda similar now that I think of it. Out of all of them, even her older brother and sister, San's the only one that's so openly affectionate. She has no problem expressing her love which is ironic because she hates talking about feelings; the two pretty much go hand in hand.

But what's weird is that I've always had a soft spot for Santana when it comes to that sort of thing. I'm more comfortable allowing San to touch me rather than hugging my own mom! I've even said more love you too's in reply to San, though it has to be a really special occasion for that, than I've said to anyone else including family members. I don't know what it is about her that makes it so easy to give in and change up my whole upbringing, but she's got it.

Somewhere between my walks down memory lane, which have become a frequent thing, and trying to keep from getting too excited about my surprise, I fell back asleep.

I know that yesterday I was super anxious about my birthday, so anxious that I almost pounced on Mike for details, and I was worried that time would move so slowly, but as the day kicked off I realized that it was going by relatively fast.

I felt like I wasn't even out of bed for more than an hour yet before Mike was coolly exiting his car as I walked out to greet him. There was this weird aura around him, like his smile was way too friendly and the way he combed through his hair with his fingers was so deliberate; like he wanted to be looked at. As he walked around the car, I took in his outfit and was actually somewhat taken aback by how handsome he was, or at least tried to be. He had on this really fancy looking fitted peacoat that he left open as his fingers fidgeted with the buttons of his light grey, cotton button up before he dug his hands in the front two pockets of his tight fitting khaki's to try and shield them from the chilly breeze.

"Happy birthday, Britt!" He cheered when he stopped about a foot away from me.

"Thanks," I grinned before we both walked back to the car. I was a little confused as to why he was following me over to the passenger side, but when he reached for the handle I caught on rather quickly.

"M'lady," He said in some weird olden-days accent as he gestured for me to get in.

Chuckling, I just shook my head and hopped in, "I'm not anyone's lady."

"Of course not," He laughed back in his regular voice before sprinting around the car to get back in the driver's seat. He started the car up with ease then handed me his ipod that was connected to the car speakers, "Birthday girl can pick."

"I always pick," I joked and took the ipod as I began to scroll through all his Christmas music. When I finally settled on a song, I rested my head against the head rest and stared out the window. I took in how bare the trees looked without the leaves to shield their trunks from the beaming sun, the still frost bitten tips of grassy meadows, and the realization that within a few hours I'd finally get San's surprise!

"So how do I look?" Mike's deep voice cut through the cheery music and thoughts swirling around me. I tore my eyes away from the window to look at him, brows scrunching. There was like this hopefulness in his tone, something I was used to hearing from guys when I used to be around them a lot.

"Uhm.." I hummed trying to ignore that same twinkle in his eyes as we stopped at a red light. The sudden urge to blurt out that I was a les-I mean-gay was beginning to be unbearable. For the first time, I wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to scream it from the top of a mountain, or maybe like the roof of his car since mountains sort of freak me out, but the fear still had a hold on me. I couldn't play with his emotions, I knew what that felt like and I just couldn't do that to him. He smiled widely, almost making him look a little goofy, causing this wave of guilt to hit me full force. I had to do something to keep him from coming on to me and quick!

I went with the best thing I knew how to do when it came to boys that I didn't want to like me: insult.

"Your jeans are really tight that I can almost see the outline of your tiny dick," I replied almost robotically. The words burned as they left my lips and I could tell by the way Mike clamped his mouth shut that they had the desired effect. I wanted to feel bad, but I know Mike can take some insults. It's kind of how we bond and now that I think of it, I don't know why I went with insulting him.

"I see you curled your hair today, finally, you look like a girl!" He shot back sassily as he went back to watching the road. I gritted my teeth at his comeback, but decided to swallow back another insult since I sort of deserved that one. Sucky thing about being friends with Mike is that he has no problem picking on things I'm insecure with, my femininity being one of them.

I never understood his narrow minded views on women and their appearances and that was something we always got into arguments over. A girl doesn't have to cake on make up and wear dresses and love the color pink and do her nails to be a girl. A girl is still a girl if she like playing sports and video games and doesn't like going shopping. A girl is still a girl if she loves the color pink and likes playing sports. There are so many different combinations of girl and Mike has the hardest time seeing that and it frustrates me to no end!

"So where are we going?" I asked, deciding to drop his comment because he was still doing something nice for me on my birthday.

"Downtown," He replied cheerfully like our little conversation minutes before never happened, "Ever had gelato?"

"Is that a special kind of Jell-o?" He just laughed at my question and shook his head as he drove on. After about a 15 minute drive, we had parked and were now walking up to a cute little café looking restaurant. The bell chimed as we entered and the workers from behind the counter waved to Mike and I. He was quick to make conversation, Mike's always been a little chatty, as he showed me all the flavors of gelato, which surprisingly wasn't a special kind of Jell-o.

"You can taste test which ever you like. You get a sandwich, chips, whatever two flavors of gelato, and a drink." He instructed quickly as I tried to keep up. I nodded to whatever he said as I gazed down at all the different colors and flavors while he talked excitedly with the girl on the other side of the counter. As I haphazardly listened to their conversation, I wondered if Mike actually knew the girl or if he was just trying to flirt.

"I'll have whatever is your favorite flavor," He said smoothly causing me to chuckle down at the glass. I couldn't tell if he was just being friendly or what, but I was thankful that it wasn't directed towards me anymore. After a few more minutes looking over the menu, we finally ordered and were going to pick out a seat. I had chose to save our spot while Mike went up to grab our order when my phone buzzed against the table.

Sanny: Two more hours! I'm so excited, you better wear something nice.

My stomach fluttered at seeing my best friend's name grace my screen, probably because of the surprises I was still anxious to see. She had been sending me a text or two every 30 minutes or so just letting me know how pumped she was about taking me out later. Seeing her so antsy about doing something with me strangely had me buzzing with excitement. She's never been one to get overly excited about things so it must be a really awesome present!

Brittz: Me too! & you can't tell me what to wear..

Sanny: why not?

Brittz: It's my bday, I do what I want! I'll wear sweats and you'll like it.

Sanny: I would love that ; )

"Woah, who are you texting? You're like..blushing." Mike asked as he set down the trays of food on the table. I instantly locked my phone and stared wide eyed up at him, hoping that the heat in my cheeks would disappear since I wasn't looking at Santana's texts anymore. I was cursing my body for betraying me so, her texts weren't even blush-worthy!

"Uhh, no one..I was-uh-reading a story." I shrugged, "It was cute." He wasn't convinced.

"Cute?" He asked as he started situating his sandwich, "Since when do you refer to anything as cute?" My lips parted as I was about to argue, but it was a lost battle already. He was right, I don't refer to anything as cute. Like ever. Why the hell did it even come out of my mouth?

I felt my phone buzz in my lap again and remembered why it accidently slipped out; Santana.

Sanny: Can I just skip the rest of my classes..

"You must be really into this dude.." Mike teased, going to take a big bite of his sandwich, "But eat your food before I do!"

"Not a dude, but okay." I smirked before chomping away. Aside from a few comments Mike made about girls and that weird look he gave me that I tried ignoring, the rest of lunch went smoothly! Within a few minutes, we were on the drive back to my house where Santana was going to meet us. We were hoping to beat her there, but when we rounded the corner and saw her little green car parked by the curb, we admitted defeat.

As soon as I saw her parked there, that giddy feeling was back, and when Mike and I started walking towards her car, it multiplied by a thousand. Looking through the back window, I could see that she had her chair back and she was propping up her feet near the side mirror like she'd been waiting for awhile. I slowly walked around to the driver's side and poked at her boot.

"Finally, I've been waiting for ages!" She teased as she moved her chair back up, her smile stretching as she looked up at me.

"Blame Mike," I joked and jutted my thumb in his direction, "He drives kind of slow.."

"What? No I don't!" He gasped and walked up to my side, "Hey Santana."

"Mhm." She hummed her greeting to Mike, her smile faltering just a little before she looked back at me, "You ready to go?"

"Yeah!" I answered excitedly then turned to Mike, "Thanks for lunch!"

"You're welcome." He replied then moved to lean into the car to talk to San while I moved to the passenger side. I was a little curious as to what they were talking about since their voices were just barely over a whisper, but as much as I wanted to listen, I didn't want to ruin my own surprise.

"What? But I want to be there when it happens!" Mike protested loudly causing me to whip my head to them. San's eyes flicked to me nervously before looking back at Mike.

"Shut up! You're going to give it away." She snapped making him groan and roll his eyes, "Thanks for keeping her company, now back up. You're gunna make us late."

"Fine." He grumbled then waved to me one last time before going back to his car. I thought their whole exchange was weird, but knowing that I had a surprise, I didn't think too much of it.

San started up the car as she glanced to me, almost checking if I had been listening as closely to her and Mike's conversation, and smiled.

"Well, I'm glad you didn't go with sweat pants." She smirked then leaned over the middle console to grab the sunglasses that were dangling off of my sun visor, clearly not bothered that she was totally invading my personal space. It's Santana though, when is she ever bothered by invading anyone's personal space?

"So where are we going?" I questioned a few minutes later once we started making our way out of my neighborhood. It took me by surprise when she took the less traveled way then merged into the lane that merged onto the interstate.

"You'll see.." She smirked again as she kept her eyes on the road. I grumbled at her vague response but kept alert to the street signs that we passed hoping that I could maybe get a clue and figure it out, but then watching all those signs pass us by so fast started getting me motion sick. I ended up just lounging back and enjoying the ride.

"Can I at least get my present?" I asked as sweetly as I could, maybe she'd have mercy on me.

She turned a smirk on me and shook her head, "I'm giving that to you the very last."

"Urgh, fine.." I sighed, the suspense building even more. San just laughed and continued to keep her eyes focused on the road.

It wasn't until I saw the Lima City Limits sign that I started to get a little worried. We'd never left the city before, at least not alone, and I'm horrible with directions so if we get lost I'd probably cry.

"Hey San?" I mumbled, interrupting her little Beyonce solo. She lowered the radio volume and hummed. "Are we supposed to be leaving the city?"

"Yup!" She answered happily, "We're not going out too far though, don't worry. I've been to where we're going before." That settled my nerves a bit, so I just nodded and sat back, letting her turn the volume up again.

After about 15 more minutes on the highway, she took an exit that I was somewhat familiar with. Living in Lima, you're sort of stuck with only two little malls but if you really want to get something nice, you venture out here to the triple story mall. It's pretty much the best mall in west Ohio, or at least that's what everyone in Lima thinks, and the exit that San took would lead us right to there.

"Saaan, are you taking me shopping?!" I cheered but she just laughed and shook her head.

"Definitely not, I'm not that rich." She chuckled, "But we are heading in that direction."

"I knew it!" I answered triumphantly then sat patiently as San parked the car in the mall parking garage. I was a little thrown off as to why we were parking there since we weren't going shopping, I mean, why go to the mall if you're not going to buy anything? That's just teasing and mean.

"Do you know what we're doing yet?" She grinned mischievously as she adjusted her jacket and waited for me to get out of the car. I took in my surroundings, but I was completely stumped.

"Nope.." I pouted. She seemed to like that her surprise was working out for her by the way she smiled at my response.

"Damn, I'm so good." She said, brushing off her shoulder as she grinned, "Well, come on. Can't keep birthday girl waiting.." She gestured for me to follow after her as she walked towards the stairs going down. The closer we got to ground level, the colder it became. Probably because the garage walls weren't shielding us from the wind as much as it was higher up, but I really didn't mind it since cold weather always made San stand a little closer to me.

Best friends share body heat when it's cold out, that's a normal thing, right? No one should look at us funny because we're just trying to keep warm just like everyone else outside.

I felt like we were getting closer to our destination with the way San kept checking over her shoulder at me, grinning like she's got the best kept secret. I didn't connect the dots until we were lining up in front of this trailer looking building. As we stepped closer to the trailer, I made out the tiny words on the sign hanging just to the right where a woman was tending to each customer through a window.

Rental skates - $10

I turned to San with my jaw somewhat dropped and took in her smug smile, "You took me to ice skate?!" I nearly yelled because I was so excited.

"Oh my God, Britt, shhh.." She laughed and wrapped her fingers around my bicep, almost like she was trying to keep me from bouncing on my toe.

"San, I'm so excited now!" I cheered, quieter this time. "Well, I was already excited but now I'm more excited."

"Yeah, well..I remember how sad you were that you didn't get to go last year so..ta-da!" She shrugged, "Have you ever ice skated before?"

"Nope!" I replied, popping out the last syllable, "But I've been regular skating before, I'm sure it's the same, right?" San just side glanced me, smirking again, but didn't answer me. Just as I was about to beg for an answer, the woman hanging out of the window gestured for us to approach. Before I could even ask if they took credit cards, San had slipped her a $20 and was already passing me my wrist band that showed we paid already.

"San-"

"No, don't." She held up her hand, shielding the side of her face from me, "Birthday girls aren't supposed to pay for anything." I grumbled as we waited for our skates, but San just laughed again, "Besides, this is like payback for when you didn't tell me your coupon expired!"

"Okay, fine.." I muttered though the smile was still evident on my face. We waited a few more minutes in line before taking our rental skates over to the benches where we could switch out of our boots.

"Hey, we're still kinda matching!" I cheered as I gestured to her red and black skates that matched her jet black leather jacket and red knit beanie. She tilted her head to the side in that analyzing way as she looked down then over to my grey and pink skates that matched my thick light grey sweater and baby pink tank top.

"Huh, looks like we do," She smirked and went on unzipping her boots.

Because the temporary skating rink was set up in between two of the tallest buildings outside of the mall that blocked out the setting sun, the temperature seemed drop about 20 degrees. Luckily for me, I was all bundled up! Well, I wasn't wearing a jacket but I always dressed in layers, especially in the winter because I hate being cold so I didn't really need to. Santana, on the other hand, wasn't nearly as warm as I was. Yeah, she wore her usual leather jacket but under than was just a flimsy tank top.

After lacing up my skates, I sat back with an amused grin on my face as I watched San fumble with hers. Her brow was all creased and I could tell by the way she was biting on her lip that she was getting frustrated which made it all even funnier.

"Stop laughing at me," She grumbled without taking her eyes off her fiddling fingers. My eyes widened as I pulled my lips into a tight smile, attempting to keep my giggles from getting louder. I continued to watch her previous concentrated scowl melt into a grin as she finally tied her skates successfully. She rose on two wobbly legs and towered over me, "Ready?"

"Uh-huh," I nodded and stood up just as wobbly as she did. We made our way over to the opening of the rink at a snail's pace because walking in ice skates is like the equivalent to walking in 7 inch high heels. Kids zoomed by us effortlessly as we tried making it onto the ice causing us to lose our balance and grip to the dividing wall for dear life, but once I got both skates on the ice, I realized it wasn't too hard. I pushed my feet apart and back together, surprised that I went about a couple feet from San without busting my ass.

"Britt, what if I fall?" San grumbled as I coaxed her further onto the ice. She was practically hugging the wall as she set one skate on the ice.

"I'll try not to laugh at you," I answered through a wide grin, "Come on, Sanny, those guys are about to come over and yell at you for blocking the entrance."

"Fuck them, I'm trying.." She huffed, throwing a glare over her shoulder at an oncoming worker. I stifled another laugh as the employee scurried off. Finally, she set both feet on the ice and through my instruction, she moved closer to me.

"See, you didn't fall..yet." I teased though I was still getting acquainted to the movements myself. She just huffed and tried swatting at my shoulder without realizing that any swift movement like that throws off your balance.

"Oh shit," She gasped as her arms flailed out quickly and her body jerked forward and back. Miraculously, she stayed standing.

"See what happens when you try to fight me?" I teased as I skated a little further up from her and attempted to sneak a peek over my shoulder. I wasn't really that advanced yet and my own body did a similar oh shit I'm falling dance causing San to laugh.

"One of us is going to bust our ass by the end of the night," She joked as we both skated side by side with our arms out for balance. A couple more kids whizzed by us, clearly showing off that they could skate better than a couple of teenagers and they're like 6. They even did a little spin around this elderly couple! Though they had already made like 4 laps around us, they still caught San off guard and before I could really register it, her hand had somehow made its way into mine.

Suddenly, I wasn't so cold anymore. Even through my gloves I could feel the warmth of her skin pulsating against my hand and when she'd grip tighter because she thought she was about to fall, my stomach flipped. It was such a funny feeling, a feeling that I've only felt like twice before: the first time being the day at the beach this past Summer and the second being that one time she left a hickey on my shoulder and I couldn't wear a tank top for a week!

I was never into holding hands when I dated boys, it'd just make me feel like I was being controlled for some reason. I know I wasn't because I was the dominant one in all of those relationships, but I was never too comfortable doing it. When I did, it was either because I had to look the part or because all the other girls were doing it. It felt forced and I hated it.

Holding hands with Santana didn't feel forced though. It felt all sorts of right, like this is what holding hands is supposed to feel like. It's supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy and needed and nervous and excited and amazing. Like holding on to me was some sort of protection for her, in a way it was because letting go possibly meant falling.

All the warning lights were flashing in my head though, reminding me that I'm not supposed to feel any of those things for my best friend. I was so conflicted. Then that turned into the paranoia that people were looking, were judging, and I couldn't have that. They could judge me and glare and say mean things to me, but not to Santana. They weren't allowed to be like that to her, she's not even like me. She's not gay, she shouldn't have to suffer the same consequences as I do.

Just then a group of girls skated around us, all holding hands and laughing as one of them almost slipped. They looked carefree and happy and no one seemed to mind that they were holding hands too. I snuck a peek around us at another couple of girls holding hands as they skated side by side effortlessly. The more people I saw holding hands, the faster my panic level seemed to decrease. There were places where holding hands with another girl were normal and there were places where they weren't; ice skating rinks just happen to be one of those places where they were.

San didn't seem to notice my mini panic attack as her eyes were focused straight ahead and trying not to run into anyone. We still didn't know how to stop, so we just continued going in circles, laughing when each other would almost fall. We held tightly to each other's hands still because here it was normal and I could handle that.

So with that in mind, I pushed my feet apart a little further to gain a little speed and towed San behind me. She laughed as I led the way, moving both my hands to hold onto hers as I dodged other skaters. I could feel the blush creeping to my cheeks each time she'd squeal my name when I'd move too fast, but I could easily blame that on the cold. My cheeks and nose always turn a little pink when it's cold outside! I did about two laps of that before I got tired of pulling San around and ended up going back to skating side by side, her hand never leaving mine.

"Damn, this is a work out!" She sighed as our pace slowed.

"I know, my feet are gunna hurt so bad tomorrow!" I giggled, "But it was for a good cause."

"Definitely," San nodded, "People probably think we're girlfriends." She was joking like always, but I still couldn't help that little pang of fear from striking me.

"Doubt it," I countered hoping that my voice wouldn't come out all shaky, "Lots of people are holding hands."

"True," San shrugged casually, "You wanna get some hot chocolate? I think my face is completely numb now."

"Sounds good!" I replied, glad that the subject was changed so swiftly, before carefully leading the way to the entrance of the rink without getting ran into. As soon as she was within arms reach of the dividing wall, her hand left mine. The lost of contact brought back the full effect of the weather and I instantly remembered that it was freezing out, especially now with the sun completely set.

We found our way back to the benches and went to untying our skates though our fingers were practically frozen. After the initial after effects of getting our feet on flat ground, we took our skates back to the booth and turned to the exit.

"I should've worn gloves," San grumbled and just like before, her hand slipped easily into mine again. "You're always so warm, Brittz." She hummed as she shuffled a tiny bit closer to me. It was like being electrocuted again, even if my skin was shielded by my gloves, it still had the same effect. Again I was conflicted because here we are, not on the ice anymore, San's shivering, and I'm having another panic attack. I felt my body tense up, no matter how hard I tried not to, I couldn't help it.

"I'm gay, San." I blurted like that meant she wasn't allowed to hold my hand like that anymore because things were different now. She's supposed to control herself because I like girls and I could like her and she doesn't want me falling in love with her or anything like that. Best friends aren't allowed to fall in love with each other.

"I know that," She laughed then rubbed her thumb against the back of the hand she was holding onto as she spoke comfortingly, "We're in a different city, Britt, there's no chance of running into anyone we know here. It's okay."

The way she spoke so softly, so certain, it made me want to believe her so bad because this feeling felt so..good. I wanted to just nod and smile and squeeze her hand back just as tight and we could skip off to the doors of the mall. I wanted to revel in the fluttery feelings she gave me in the pit of my stomach. For once in my life, I wanted to let myself enjoy her closeness.

For a split second, I did.

I ignored the way the hairs on the back of my neck seemed to stand and suppressed that rising fear, the paranoia of being watched, and let her tug on my hand some more. I tried remembering that, to her, the gesture was simple and innocent, and she wasn't having an internally war with herself. Her head wasn't screaming at her to let go and her heart wasn't begging her to hold on a little tighter. Nothing about holding hands was scary to San because she's done it tons of times with tons of people, it didn't mean the same as it did for me.

But, I ignored all those feelings and let her take control.

For a whole 48 seconds, I was okay with holding Santana's hand. Just like on the ice, her warmth radiated against my palm making it seem as if the weather had no effect on me, on us. I glanced to my left and smiled down at her like I was saying that I would try to do this.

And for a whole 48 seconds, that worked.

She smiled back in return, her cheeks bunching and her eyes getting all squinty, as she laughed at something she said, something I missed but still laughed at anyway because she was laughing and if San was laughing it had to be funny. We giggled like no one was around, sending each other wide grins, as we scurried towards the door, huddling into each other to shield our bodies from the chill. It was scary how normal it all felt, but even scarier than that was that, for a brief moment, I thought I could get used to it.

Not with Santana though because she's my best friend and even if holding hands with her could be my most favorite thing in the world now, you're not supposed to feel that way about your best friend.

I tried pushing that thought from my head as we held hands, choosing to over think all that shit later rather than single handedly ruin the moment. In those 48 seconds, I let everything go and focused only on the feel of her hand in mine.

But not everything good can last and as soon as a group of girls exited the mall, walking towards us all crowded together, giggling like seeing San and I holding hands was tease-worthy, my happy little bubble burst and I was brought back to the real world.

Their eyes caught mine making it harder and harder to ignore their laughs as I tried building my walls back up in defense, because behind those I was untouchable. Or at least, that's what I tried making myself believe. The closer they got to us, the hotter San's hand seemed to feel. It was like holding onto an ember the way her hand burned through my glove, her clasping tight like we were still in the happy bubble and my brain begging me to let go. My chest tightened as the taller girl let out another high pitched squeal as her shoulder bumped carelessly into her friend's and I knew it was only a matter of time before I just had to drop San's hand.

They knew, each and every one of them knew, they had to. I could feel it in their stares and laughs. There was no hiding because it was evident what was going on.

My fingers started to squirm in her grip as I tried to wiggle out of the hold causing San to turn to me with her brow quirked and confusion in her eyes, "Hold my hand, Britt.." Her voice was soft, almost like a whisper, as she lowered her head a little trying to find my eyes when I refused to look at her. The girls were walking closer and that was all I could focus on; that and San still holding tightly to my hand.

I wiggled my hand a little more, almost breaking free of her grasp, "I have to check my-"

"No you don't, hold my hand." She giggled and wrapped both her hands around mine, tugging it to her chest. My eyes darted back and forth from the group of girls walking closer to San's eyes narrowing playfully on me, I wanted to explode. Each step closer they took, the more I tried wriggling free from San's grasp.

"Damnit, San," I grumbled though I was still smiling hoping that San wouldn't think I didn't like holding her hand. To her, it was all still a playful thing, she's used to me trying to pull away but ultimately failing. It was another game for her to play and Santana loves playing games.

There was no longer a large gap between us and the girls and there was no way San was letting go; I had to somehow compromise.

I continued to hold San's hand as the girls passed us, one by one, but instead of staring back, catching every single one of their expressions, I turned my head to the opposite direction. In that moment, if I could, I probably would've chewed off my own arm in order to get away. My cheeks burned as San continued to chatter next to me lively as ever, completely oblivious to everything around us.

Sometimes I envied that about her, how she could ignore it all and live in that perfect little bubble of hers and nothing would ever pop it.

As the last of them past and we neared the glass doors, San dropped her hold on my hand and looked over her shoulder.

"That brunette was totally checking you out, Britt!" She teased as I went to open the door.

"She was not.." I scoffed as San walked in first. I wanted to sneak a peek behind us, but I doubt they're still there. San just shrugged casually and led the way to the food court where we'd order hot chocolates and spent the next half an hour talking about how sore our feet already felt.

I watched as her excitement diminished as she sipped away at her hot chocolate, probably something to do with the little sniffles she tried hiding throughout the night. Despite being pumped about spending my birthday with me, San had been trying to kick this cold for the past couple of days, and by the looks of it, she's been unsuccessful. She was always going at 100% so she never really had the time to relax and get better. I eyed her carefully as she slowly inhaled, how her eye lids drooped a little as she wiggled her nose at each sniffle, and felt slightly guilty for being the reason why she wasn't home resting.

"Did you take any medicine today?" I asked, watching her stifle a cough. She shook her head. "San..why not? You'll never get better."

"I don't have any," She shrugged and went to sip her drink again.

"But..your dad's a doctor?"

"So? Doesn't mean he'll bring me medicine, I gotta fend for myself at my house." I knew San didn't really have the best relationship with her dad, but I didn't think it was that bad. They were probably just having a bad week, I guess. I thought about asking if Sam ever brought her some, but decided against it. She hadn't mentioned him all night so why should I?

"Well..I have some at my house!" I answered happily, "I'll give you some when we go home."

Ironically, at the mention of home, my phone buzzed in my lap. Looking down, I saw a new text and swiped open the screen.

Mamadukes: Dinner with Gramps at 6

Totally forgetting about my birthday tradition of always going out with my mom and my grandpa for dinner, I snapped my head up to Santana.

"What?" She mumbled, whipped cream coating the tip of her nose as her tongue poked out and ran along her bottom lip.

For a second, I completely forgot what I was going to say but realizing that starring at my best friend's lips like that was not allowed, I remembered.

"Uhh, family dinner..it's in an hour." I sputtered, still a little distracted by how she was licking the tips of her fingers from dipping them in the whipped cream. "Did you want to come with?"

"Uhm, am I allowed to?" She asked through a sniffle, "It's family dinner..I don't want to intrude or anything."

"Intrude? No way, I'm the birthday girl; I can get whatever I want!" I grinned, "Plus, it'll totally be better if you're there. I never have anyone to talk to, mom and Gramps get to talking about boring stuff and I want to fall asleep."

San chuckled at that before settling back in her seat with her arms crossed over her chest, "Well..I guess I could go."

"Yay!" I cheered and typed out a quick text to my mom saying Santana was going and we could carpool. "Well, let's go! Mustn't be late for supper."

"Supper?"

"Gramps calls it supper..he's old." I shrugged causing San to laugh once more. We tossed our empty cups and made our way towards the parking garage.

Despite making it on the interstate during rush hour, we made it back to my house in a decent amount of time. Santana greeted my mom as if she were her own, she's weirdly comfortable around my family, and after I gave her some medicine, we piled into my mom's truck. San sat in the backseat but kept her elbows placed on the middle console, talking adamantly about ice skating with me and how my birthday has been going so far. I sat quietly; watching, not at all bothered by the fact that San was bonding more with my mom than I was, even if her voice was starting to get all scratchy from not wanting to cough.

"Britt was a pro though, she didn't even fall." San praised as she sent me a gleaming smile causing my cheeks to flush. I was never good at accepting compliments, that's why I blushed, not because there was so much adoration in San's tone and definitely not because of the way she brushed her fingers along my arm as she spoke. My mom just chuckled at that as she tapped her fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the music pouring from the speakers.

Arriving at some burger joint my Gramps loves, the three of us headed towards the entrance. Well, San and I sort of awkwardly ran together while my mom trailed slowly behind.

"Hey! There's the birthday girl," My gramps called happily as we entered the lobby. I smiled back, nodding, before waving back.

"This is my friend Santana," I gestured towards San as she opened her arms up and tried hugging him. I could tell the move took him by complete surprise because, like I said, we're not a family of huggers.

"Yes, I remember." He grinned and did this little pat move on her head as she slowly let go. "Come, let's eat! Eve is already seated."

I rolled my eyes at the mention of my step granma, because of course she would be sitting already, the world revolves around her, who has time to wait with everyone else like a normal person?

"Quit it," San teased, poking my arm with her elbow as the three of us followed after my Gramps towards the table. I went to protest, but I knew by the look in San's eyes that it was no use. San knew all the drama behind the Step Monster's evil wrath.

"Okay, fine.." I grumbled and plastered on the fakest smile I could as we approached. We exchanged greetings as we slid into the booth, I opting to dodge the hug Eve tried giving me, while San was as friendly as ever. The table settled into a comfortable silence as the waiter came over with four menus for us to look over. After they were given out, I noticed that he had forgotten on for San.

Lifting my hand to wave him back over for another menu, I was stopped by tan fingers wrapping around my wrist.

"I'll just share with you," She whispered and wiggled even closer to me than she already was. The lack of space between our bodies had my stomach doing all sorts of flips and flops. She then propped up her head on her hand, the dim light hitting her cheekbones perfectly, almost making it impossible to look at anything but her.

I was thankful that my back was towards my family as I stared at her, because I'm sure if one look could tell my deepest secrets, that was it.

I was also thankful that San had missed that whole exchange as her eyes focused on the menu between us.

"I'm not really hungry, Brittz, maybe we can share?" She offered as she ran her finger along the listings.

"Yeah, sure." I answered, her voice breaking the trance her looks had on me, "Whatever you want."

"Whatever I want, huh?" She smirked, her eyes never leaving the menu. I chose to ignore the cockiness in her tone as I joined her in overlooking the items.

As time passed, it felt almost like San and I were in our own little happy bubble again. The conversation going between my mom and Gramps seemed so far away though I was sitting right next to her. All I could focus on, or rather, try not to focus on, was the way San's lips moved. At some point she started talking about school or Sam, I'm not sure, but when she got going, I was entranced.

It wasn't until she stopped talking and looked up at me, grinning mischievously, that I stopped my weird leering. For a moment, I thought I had been caught in the act and I could already feel the heat spreading to the tips of my ears and the apples of my cheeks.

"I'm so excited about your present," She whispered, "Like I want to give it to you now, but I can't. Well I can, but..it's complicated."

"I can wait.." I shrugged innocently, but that didn't seem to be the answer San was looking for.

"Fuck it, I'll just give it to you now." She grinned excitedly and started shuffling around to face me. She pulled her knee up so that it was pressed into my thigh while she let the tip of her boot nudge my ankle under the table. I wasn't sure if she knew she was touching me if she thought it was just the baseboard of the booth, but she kept doing it. I lifted my gaze to meet hers; the lights were dim enough that I couldn't really see that twinkle in her eyes, I just knew it was there.

"Well?" I asked nervously when I realized she still hadn't said anything. She continued to smile mischievously as she started to bounce a little with her own excitement. "Saaan..come on," I whined through my toothy grin.

"Okay, okay," She giggled, "Well..I was talking to my dad, right? I know, never happens, anyway..we were talking and he asked me why he saw you walking on his way home from work once. I told him it was because your car broke and you had no other way to work and you don't have enough money to buy a new one." San was talking so fast and her eyes were darting all over the place like she was either extremely nervous or extremely excited, I couldn't decide. "Then he asked me how you were getting to school and I told him you stopped going.."

"Oh God, San, did you really?" I gasped, wide eyed. I felt a pang of guilt somewhere deep down in me, guilt from not being able to the one thing expected of me. I could just imagine the disappointment in his face and it hurt knowing that I caused that, it hurt all the same even if I wasn't his kid. San and I have been friends long enough to be considered family anyway.

"Yeah, but don't worry..he didn't care." She shrugged, "He was actually really worried about you, like, walking home in the dark and what if you got hit by a car kind of worried. You know, I'm actually a little jealous, he doesn't worry like that about me!" She teased and poked at my arm.

"Get back to the story," I giggled.

"Well yeah, so anyway..I remembered what you said about making payments on a new car." She replied, her voice getting smaller and smaller as she spoke, "So, my dad and I made an agreement."

"Uhm..okay?" I drawled out, completely confused as to what was happening.

She ducked her head as she started to nervously play with the zipper of her jacket, "Mydadsortaboughtyouacar."

I felt my jaw drop a little as I tried to decipher her quick words, but I didn't believe what I thought I heard. San's gaze met mine again as she smiled timidly.

"What?" I deadpanned.

"My. Dad. Bought. You. A. Car." She replied, announcing each word slowly, her smile getting bigger and bigger as my eyes grew even wider. "The downside is he has the keys so I can't really give it to you tonight, but it's yours."

"Holy shit, not-uh.." I gasped quietly but San just laughed and nodded her head, "Santana! Don't lie!"

"Brittany, shh.." My mom warned and nudged my back, "What are you doing, San?"

"Giving Britt her present." She replied innocently, working her charm as she looked past me to the rest of my family.

"Oh, what'd she give you?" My mom questioned as I slowly turned to face them. San nuzzled herself into my side as she encouraged me to answer.

"She-she gave me a car.." I stammered still recovering from the shock of it all. I watched as my Gramps' bushy white brows raised to his balding hairline while my mom and the Step Monster both looked equally as surprised. I turned to San again and couldn't help but smile adoringly up at her.

"Well, my dad did.." San corrected with a triumphant grin, "He said it was getting colder out and Britt shouldn't walk in that." I stayed quiet as San explained the whole story.

After she finished, she leaned back to her side of the booth, for the past 10 minutes she had been practically in my lap as she told the story, she sent me another smirk.

"What?"

"You should've seen your face, it was priceless.."

"Well, yeah..my best friend just gave me a car for my birthday like wow. Best. Present. Ever." I giggled, not even bothered by the fact that Eve was burning holes in the side of my face with her pensive stare. She had been staring at us like that practically the whole time and it took everything in me not to jump over the table. She had that stare that made your skin crawl and I couldn't place my finger on what the reason was: that I'm gay? That my best friend is extra close to me? That Santana is the best thing ever? It didn't matter; I wouldn't let her effect me like those girls did earlier.

"Right? I should get a kiss for that," She teased and turned her cheek to me and tapped it with her index finger.

For a second, I actually thought about going through with it. I bet it would've felt amazing, San's skin on my lips.

I didn't though, too many confusing feelings swarming my head, so instead I just said what I thought San would if the roles were reversed.

"Oh, I'd do way more than kiss you for this," I muttered before realizing how that sounded. I nearly choked on my spit trying to come up with an explanation for that one, "I-I mean, like marry you because, damn, that's wifey material right there." I joked earning a few giggles from San.

"True, true," She answered smugly then went to buff her nails on her shirt.

Dinner drew to a close shortly after San's grand gesture and, after our awkward goodbyes, the three of us were heading home. By that time, the temperature had dropped significantly and being cold mixing with being sick wasn't a good combo for San.

"You alright back there?" My mom called as she peeked through her rearview mirror. I glanced back and saw San curled up in this blanket my mom always kept in the car, her hand going up the rub at her nose.

"All good, mamadukes!" She croaked, turning her hand that was going at her nose into a thumbs up.

"Liar," I chuckled and cranked up the heat after shrugging off my sweater and tossing it to her so she could use it as a pillow.

Within 10 minutes we were home again and after parking, I took San inside so she could take home some more medicine since my mom and I rarely ever get sick.

"You going to be okay going home?" I heard my mom ask as I rifled through our medicine cabinet.

"Mhm, I'm just 5 minutes away. I'll be fine." San answered, her voice all raspy and strained. I sighed at her struggle, she's so damn stubborn. I grabbed a bottle of Nyquil and a hand full of cough drops before shrugging and grabbing the whole bag of them. San will pop the things like candy while she's in school anyway.

"Alright, drink this and these are for tomorrow." I advised as I approached the both of them with the bottle and cough drops in hand.

"Sweet, I'm just gunna go to the bathroom and I'll go home." San replied, setting them on the kitchen counter before scurrying off. I took the moment she was away to hide the bag of cough drops in her purse along with a Kit Kat bar that I had bought a few days ago and was saving for her. Just by how quick she dismissed the medicine, I knew she'd probably forget about one of them tomorrow but at least she'll have cough drops she didn't know about.

After San finished with the bathroom she started to gather her things; she would've forgotten the Nyquil if I hadn't pointed it out to her, totally called it. I walked with her to her car, despite the warmth of the house, she looked so sick and miserable and she was trying so hard not. The least I could do was walk her to her car, especially after the kind of day she gave me.

"Ugh, being sick sucks." San grumbled as she unlocked her doors and started chucking her things in the backseat.

"Well, you wouldn't still be sick if you'd just get some medicine in you." I chuckled at her little temper tantrum. She just scoffed and rolled her eyes as she spun around to look up at me. I was glad my back was towards the street lamp, my face hidden in the shadows as San continued to stare, because with the way she was looking at me mixed with the feelings she's giving, I positive I was blushing.

For what reason besides the cold? I have no idea.

When it comes to Santana I'm just a big ball of mush, putty, in her warm hands.

Hands that were in mind just a few hours ago.

"You have fun today?" She asked, breaking the staring contest.

"Of course," I nodded happily, my hands finding their ways into my pockets, "It was the best!"

"Good," She replied as we settled into another comfortable silence.

"I don't think I said thanks, you know, or the car. I can't believe you guys did that.." I rambled, "That's really cool, thank you." I could tell we were treading that thin line between saying too much and not saying enough, so I stopped there.

"You're welcome." She smiled bashfully as she looked back at her car, "Well..some of us have school in the morning so.." Getting the message, I silently took a step back so she could close her door, but she pulled at my sweater and brought me closer. "I know you don't like hugs, but it's your birthday," she mumbled as I felt her hands slide around my waist. I jerked at the sudden movement of being pulled to her like that, so my hands were out of my pockets for balance, but as I saw what she was doing I sorta wished they were still restrained.

But her closeness, the smell of her hair carrying through the chilly breeze, her warmth pressing into me, it was enough to kick my walls down, at least for just a moment.

Like earlier on the ice, I gave in. I let myself enjoy those fuzzy feelings she gave me, feelings that somehow she only gave me, and it felt nice for a change. I chanced a glance towards my front door hoping that my mom wasn't staring at us or something, but then again, I'm just hugging my best friend. There's nothing weird about that, right? There's nothing wrong about liking how close she was, right?

I let my shoulders ease and allowed myself to return the hug. I flattened my hands against her shoulders and pressed her even closer while I buried my nose in her hair, loving that after all this time she still smelled the same. I wondered if she never changed her shampoo or if that was just Santana's signature scent.

As I felt her arms loosen around me, I did the same and slide away.

"Well, happy birthday again Brittz." She whispered before ducking in her car and closing the door behind her. I smiled as I lifted my hand for a wave, my body still buzzing again from the feel of her. She waved back before driving off.

I don't know how long I stood outside watching after her, it was long after her brake lights had disappeared, but I couldn't bring myself to move. Good things lasting a long time isn't really a common thing in my life, it never has been, and as I watched her leave, I knew this was one of those good things ending. I knew I shouldn't think like that considering everything that's happened today, but it's inevitable, something bad is bound to happen that's just how my life is.

But later, as I rest my head against my pillows and the comforter tucked under my chin, I thought back on my day. I remembered how San's eyes lit up when I first approached her car after Mike dropped me off, the anticipation in her voice as we drove to the skating rink, all her snarky insults she yelled to passing cars, the way she licked her lips after singing all the words to a song on the radio, that little nose scrunch she does when she's cold, how concentrated she looked when she tried tying up her laces, the way she flailed her arms out for me when we got too far away from the dividing wall, how cute she looked when she almost busted her ass, the way her cheeks get all red when she's super cold and I'm making her laugh, how proud she sounded when she told my mom of my awesome ice skating skills, the way she attempted making friends with the Step Monster, and how helplessly adorable she looked all cuddled up with my sweater in the backseat of my mom's car.

It was then that I realized that maybe I already had the worst thing ever happen. It was just a matter of time before I actually noticed it.

And maybe a little piece of me did notice it, but rather than accept it, chose to ignore it.

Because, really? What's worse than falling, pathetically at that, hitting every tree branch, jagged rock, and bee hive on the way down, in love with their best friend?


A/N I didn't really intend on this chapter being so long, nor did I intend on Brittany 'fessing up'..it just felt right. Fair warning, this is a SLOW burner..like super slow. Just be prepared. Anyway, if you have any questions or what not..ask away on here or tumblr. I always love seeing what you've got to say. Thanks for reading!