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Define "Counseling" (1/2)
Title: Define "Counseling" (1/2)
Pairing: Santana Lopez/Brittany
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Nothing owned, no profit gained
Spoilers: For safety’s sake, through S2.
Summary: Marriage counseling wasn’t her first choice…
A/N: Based entirely off of a smug-ass joke I made to Carrie. And then it exploded. And then I forgot about it entirely, until the lovely behind RP's santana-lopez requested birthday ficcage. So happy birthday! It's split into two parts because LJ hates my guts. :D

If someone had asked Santana Lopez in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have said, without blinking, a Jedi. With a green lightsaber.

If that same someone had asked that same question in fifth grade, she would have said, without a moment’s hesitation, a firefighter. Driving the truck.

Had the question come up in eighth grade, she would have easily replied lawyer. Assuming she could wear a damn fine suit.

In high school, she would have said the highest business executive money can buy—preferably in the “world domination” vein. With Brittany by her side.

That last part has proven to be the only transition from dream to reality.

Brittany has, as always, been a steadfast rock in her otherwise messed-up life. She has stood by through all of Santana’s shoving matches, drunken arguments, and—memorably—that time Santana decided to up and bail on the second semester of her freshman year at university. Brittany was there when her grandmother died, when her father left, when her last long-term relationship crashed and burned to epic degrees. When Quinn swiveled off in the direction of Rachel “Tiny To A Ridiculously Unsettling Degree” Berry, Brittany was there. When Puck shouldered his guitar and trekked to California to start a sincere failure of a music shop, Brittany was there. When Kurt skipped off to New York, when Tina and Artie disappeared into the depths of Europe together, when Finn joined the motherfucking Marines, Brittany was there.

Brittany is the one part of her life Santana has always been able to rely upon without question.

Everything else, well—that took a little sorting out.

But she’s done it; she’s pulled off the grown-up thing, and now here she is. Bordering thirty, a beautiful woman on her arm, an admirable business steadily filling her bank account. She’s a full-fledged adult, all kinds of impressive. And she is fucking bursting to show it off.

The Glee reunion was—surprise, surprise—Berry’s idea. Santana thinks the whole concept of reunions is unnecessarily taxing and generally obnoxious, but when she tried to say so, Quinn got that look she gets sometimes where Rachel’s concerned: the one that says ‘shut up and listen, or I’ll ignore your calls for a month in favor of fucking my wife’.

Santana hates that look with a belligerence generally reserved for proponents of Glenn Beck. She also occasionally hates the ‘my wife’ part of the understanding (Christ, look at them; they’re all kinds of married and shit now—or, in Santana’s case, tethered at the hip to the most gorgeous woman to walk this earth, which is just as good in her mind), but what can she do? Quinn loves the little freak, and therefore Santana must tolerate her. Endlessly.

So Berry went all Romy and Michelle on them, and now here they are: sitting in the old choir room with a decent supply of alcohol between them, and if she’s honest with herself, it’s actually not bad. Not too different from high school, really. There took a little less sneaking to get in than back in the day with, helpfully, Mercedes being the McKinley High choir director and all. But otherwise? Pretty old-school.

Aside from the fact that everyone’s…y’know, kind of old now. Not in a bad way, Santana admits silently, squeezing Brittany’s hand and smiling a little. Actually, most of them look pretty distinguished.

Puck, for one, has stuck with the full head-shave look, and has filled out a bit since school—broad shoulders, firm biceps, the whole nine yards. After the destruction that was his record shop, he’s taken to construction work like a fish to bubble-related places, and it shows. If she were at all interested in ruining her life, Santana might walk back into that trap, but luckily for them both, Brittany is more than she’ll ever need. Puck, for his own part, has a lady friend of his own, and from the sounds of things, is as close to being whipped as a guy still going by his high-school jock nickname can be. It is, in a word, hilarious.

Kurt looks less like a pansy-ass twerp and more like he could snap his fingers and have you killed in an instant. Santana grudgingly respects the tailored cut of his clothing, the carefully-maintained hair, and the way his smirk has grown no less haughty over the years. The confidence he possessed at sixteen has multiplied, buoyed by an ever-cycling squadron of boyfriends and a clothing line that has done desperately well. Santana still finds him irritating, but in that pleasant, ‘good to have his number in a pinch’ kind of way.

Mercedes, Tina, and Artie haven’t changed nearly as much as Santana believes they should have after so many years. Granted, Tina’s finally gotten over the color-streaking phase of her life, having returned to her natural pitch-dark hair and more human-hued make-up. But otherwise, she seems pretty much Tina—still her own woman, still playfully hitting Artie when the bespectacled man says something outrageously stupid. They aren’t together anymore, of course, the odds of so many high school relationships making it out the gate being dangerously low, but they have managed to remain the best of friends. Artie looks good; less with the bow ties and suspenders, more with the reasonable accountant look. Santana thinks she wouldn’t have expended quite so much time abusing him in school if he’d opted for this whole—no, okay, she still would have been kicking his paralyzed ass, but maybe she would have been a little nicer about it.

As for Mercedes, well, she’s kind of pulling the whole Schuester-the-second routine. Except she’s doing it with way better hair, fewer awkward dance moves, and a cool factor that seems more or less off the charts. Which just cracks Santana up because, really, a world where Mercedes Jones—or Kurt Hummel—or Tina Cohen-Chang—are the cool kids?

What the hell.

They haven’t changed much, but some people have—namely, one Finn Hudson, man-child extraordinaire, who looks and seems, at first, nothing like he once did. Seated in a chair instead of behind the drum set, hands folded in his lap, he smiles softly and speaks little. His hair, shorn instead of spiked, and perpetual sad-eyed expression give away his sometimes-regrettable decision to play GI Joe for a living. Santana figures he likes it well enough; he certainly has learned to carry himself with more grace than anyone who’s ever borne witness to his dancing would have thought possible, and he seems…calm. Calm is the only word for it, as he sits between his step-brother and his once-best-friend, chuckling as they bicker like schoolchildren. Gone is every trace of world-weary, barely-hidden selfishness, and Santana thinks he wears it well. Looking at him now, with the tracings of stubble around his cheeks and those deep, mournful eyes, Santana almost feels bad for stealing his virginity so carelessly all those years ago.

Y’know. Almost.

They don’t have everyone, naturally. Matt isn’t around; they all sort of lost track of him after school, never having been close enough to hear him speak in the first place. Likewise, Mike couldn’t make this little gathering, being off on some weird expedition thing (and who’d have thought Mike Chang would wind up a fucking oceanologist, or…whatever the hell he is; Santana thinks it involves penguins, or turtles, or some breed of breathing sea vegetable, and is mildly freaked out no matter which happens to be the truth).

Which just leaves the four of them left over; the Freaksome Foursome, Quinn sometimes jokes in her bad-pun Quinn way. The only four to stay in contact all this time, the only four in no need of a reunion. It makes Santana’s stomach turn a little, to think that she’s now known Rachel Berry for over half her life—and, God help her, knows her well—but overall she can’t complain. Rachel, with her piano bar frequenting and teacher-person skills, has definitely mellowed out since the age of animal sweaters and polka dotted frocks. Quinn has had something massive to do with that, of course, shutting down Rachel’s high maintenance behavior with well-timed quips and kisses, but the fact of the matter is, Rachel Berry has Grown Up. As have they all.

Including, creepily enough, Santana.

As she is now trying to explain.

“You’re a…a what?” Artie demands, pushing his glasses up on his nose exactly the way he always used to. Not astonishingly, Santana feels exactly the same old urge to crush the lenses in retaliation.

“A marriage counselor,” she responds as civilly as she can manage. Sprawled in a nearby chair with his arms crossed over the front of his olive-green jacket, Puck snorts.

“Fuckin’ kidding, right?”

No,” she seethes, already losing patience with this little game. Brittany’s hand closes over her wrist, supple and reassuring as ever, reminding her to breathe.

“You’re a…marriage counselor,” Tina parrots back to her disbelievingly, eyes wide. “As in a person who—“

“Counsels married people, yes.” Don’t snap, she reminds herself forcefully, snapping only feeds the misguided belief that you can’t be that person. Nice and easy, Lopez.

“And…how did that happen?” Artie asks awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. Santana is struck rather bodily with the urge to grab him by the lapels of his crisp blue button-down and chuck him right out of that chair.

“Well,” she says slowly, gratingly, “first I went to school for it. And then I went to more school. And then—“

“Think they’ve got the general idea, S,” Quinn cuts in, shaking her companionably by the shoulder with a tight ‘watch your ass’ smile. Santana sighs.

“Look, it was a little unexpected, but that doesn’t mean I’m not good at it.”

From the way they’re all looking at her, she surmises ‘unexpected’ was not quite the word they’re all searching for. She scowls.

“I’m serious, you assholes! I’m good at what I do!”

“Uh huh,” Finn mumbles, transforming in an instant from strong, silent military-guy to the bumbling boy she remembers from that hotel room half a lifetime ago. “Aren’t marriage therapists supposed to be…like…sensitive, or something?”

I’m sensitive!” she cries, high-pitched and aggravated. “I bleed sensitivity.” Her gaze snaps to Brittany, sitting regal and amused at her side. “Babe. Tell them.”

Nearly thirty years old, respected, accomplished, and this is what she’s been reduced to: arguing with a bunch of people who always fell just shy of being her friends and turning in desperation to her girlfriend for help. Sue Sylvester would be rolling in her grave—if, y’know, Sylvester had enough humanity in her to kick it like a regular person.

Brittany gives a serene nod. “She’s sensitive.” Her serious expression holds for all of seventeen seconds before collapsing into a teasing grin. “When she feels like it.”

The group formerly known as New Directions dissolves into hysteria, Puck slapping his knee like the hick Santana has always suspected him to be, Mercedes howling directly into Kurt’s ear. Even Quinn slumps over with the force of it, though Santana thinks that might have more to do with whatever Rachel is “sneakily” doing behind the back of the blonde’s chair. She rolls her eyes.

“Yuk it up, fucktards. One of us is raking in the big bucks.”

“Excuse me,” Kurt smarms through his giggles. “Would you care to exchange pay stubs, darling?”

She slouches down in her seat, arms crossed over her front, and scowls like she’s getting paid to do it. Soothingly, Brittany slides a hand into her open blazer, smoothing up to adjust the collar of her blouse.

Tina wipes a tear from her eye and grins, pointing as Brittany’s fingers move to cup Santana’s cheek. “Hey, look, it’s high school.”

Except in high school, she would never have been so stupid as to say such a thing, for fear of Santana strapping her over-Gothed ass to the flagpole. The Latina is pretty sure she prefers the nostalgia to this present state of mockery.

“You all are such dicks,” she announces with as much maturity as she can muster, leaning reflexively into Brittany’s touch and smirking. Puck tilts his cracked aviators down on his nose, eyebrows raised.

“This, our fine example of sensitivity training. Give a wide round of applause.”

She hates to admit it, but this is actually sort of fun, in its own special-needs kind of way. These people may not have been her friends, exactly, but they were certainly the driving force behind her high school career, and it’s good to see them again. Especially looking worthy of her time. She doesn’t think she could stand sharing oxygen with the likes of Abrams or Hudson if they’d gone and gotten fat or bald or something.

Bonus points for how comfortably Brittany still fits, nestled against her shoulder, bumping against her jaw with the top of her head. Santana smiles fondly.

“So, S,” Quinn says cheerfully, nudging Rachel with a wicked grin. “How is work going for you lately?”

“Yes, Santana,” Rachel catches on instantly, which makes Santana more or less want to puke her guts out. She doesn’t think she will ever be okay with the two of them operating as a single entity of disturbingly fluffy proportions. “Any interesting clients these days?”

She glowers at them both, crossing her legs and pulling Brittany closer. “You bitches know I’ve got doctor-patient confidentiality—“

Doctor,” Puck interrupts with his old shit-eating grin. “Check this shit out, kids, Lopez is a doctor now.”

“Shut the fuck up, caveman,” she snaps, stretching to kick him in the shin. Finn grins.

“We’re all so proud.”

“Don’t think I can’t still kick your ass, T-Rex,” Santana warns, smirking when—despite years of military training and honest-to-God combat—the man goes pale and runs a nervous hand over his short hair. Brittany taps her arm.

“Be nice,” she whispers, biting lightly on the shell of Santana’s ear. The Latina sighs.

“Work,” she says pointedly, glaring at Quinn, “has been fine. My patients have been suitably insane and as prone to writing fat-ass checks as ever. Things are good.”

Quinn makes a humming noise in the back of her throat, the kind that lets Santana know some serious mockery is coming up fast. She braces herself with a quick reminder that, while punching Fabray in the nose is its own brand of fun, she’s supposed to be proving a point here.

“I want to hear some stories,” Puck says suddenly, eyebrows arched. “Fuck confidentiality bullshit, Lopez. We’ve got enough booze to supply a Jane Adams graduation party, and I want stories. Come on, I told you all of mine.”

“All of yours,” Santana notes with a shake of her head, “involve crushed fingers, shattered shins, and that guy with the nail through his foot.”

He looks absurdly proud. “All of which I highly doubt your pretentious ass can top.”

Santana rolls her eyes because, God, what are they, in tenth grade again? She is a fucking adult, with a swank apartment and a receptionist who bends to her every whim and a whole stream of fuck-ups who should never have signed the all-important certificate in the first place. What the hell does Puck have on her?

“Come on,” he says again, with that stupid cajoling tone she remembers all too well. When they were younger, it often led to blowjobs and long hours spent scowling at Call of Duty. Now, she suspects it’s a one-way ticket to Face-Punching 101.

“Come on what?” she snaps. Brittany nuzzles her neck. Puck grins.

“If you won’t talk, it just means you’ve got something to hide, you know,” he says airily, folding his arms more tightly across his chest as if he can see the blow coming before she throws it.

“Sure,” Quinn darts in with her insufferable smile. “Kind of implies you’re not so hot after all, S.”

Oh hell no. This is too much. This is stupid. She is Santana Lopez—adult, girlfriend, doctor, and she is not taking this crap.

“Fine,” she growls grudgingly, pulling Brittany closer and relishing the squeal of delight she receives for her efforts. “But this shit doesn’t leave the room, you bitches got me?”

Kurt claps like a ten-year-old at her first Backstreet Boys concert. Mercedes utters a low whistle. Smug-eyed, Quinn gives Rachel an affectionate squeeze and presses a kiss into brown hair.

Santana chugs back half a bottle of beer, drops it between her knees, and searches for the best place to begin.

[Part 2]


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