It’s a Sunday in late February when the topic first comes up.
"Britt?" Santana asks, lying on her back and staring at their ceiling.
"When are you going to file your taxes?"
Brittany rolls over and gives her a quizzical look.
"My dad was talking to me about it yesterday," Santana explains.
"Oh?" Brittany says, propping herself up on one elbow. She plays with a strand of Santana’s dark hair. "And what’d he say about it?"
"You know, typical I’m-shifting-this-responsibility-to-you-now stuff."
"So you’re doing your own?"
"Hm. My parents haven’t said anything about it. I just assumed they’d claim me because they’re still supporting me."
"Lucky," Santana mumbles, rolling into Brittany’s side.
"Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten such a grown-up job straight out of undergrad," Brittany teases. "Should’ve been a bum like me."
"You’re not a bum. You have a great job."
"A great part-time job.”
"An awesome part-time job.”
"Mmhmm," says Brittany, ducking down slowly to kiss Santana’s forehead.
Santana sighs and rubs their bare feet together. “I have no idea how to do taxes.”
"We’ll figure it out. It can’t be that hard if they expect everyone in the country to do it. Think about it, San: even people like Puck have to do taxes.”
Santana laughs into Brittany’s shoulder. “You’re right.”
"Of course I am. Now stop getting all anxious." She wraps an arm around Santana’s back and gives her a squeeze, then a kiss. "I’m going to go put the coffee on and feed Winston, ‘kay?"
Brittany slides gracefully off the bed and pulls her arms above her head to stretch. Then she pulls the sheets and covers up and secures them more tightly around Santana.
"Thanks," Santana tells her.
"Snooze for a minute," Brittany says. "I’ll be right back."
Brittany comes home from the gym the next evening to find Santana frowning at her laptop screen.
"Hi," Brittany says, tossing her keys on the counter and her gym bag on the hallway floor.
"Hi," Santana says, glancing up from the computer to smile at her. "How was your day?"
"It was good. How was yours?"
"Fine," says Santana, squinting at something on the screen.
Brittany walks over to the table and wraps her arms around Santana from behind. “Ah,” she says quietly, seeing the TurboTax site open. “Should have known.”
"Sorry," Santana mutters. "It’s stressing me out."
Brittany kisses her on the neck, right above the collar of her pressed black shirt. She rests her nose there and breathes in the scent of Santana’s skin.
Santana heaves a deep breath and finally turns away from the screen. “You okay, BrittBritt?”
"What do you wanna do for dinner?"
"I was thinking I’d make turkey burgers."
"Oooh," says Santana, running her fingers over Brittany’s arms. "Yes."
"Are you going to try and finish all this tonight?"
"No, I just wanted to start on it. I’m making a list of questions to ask my dad."
"You would," Brittany says, standing up and heading toward the fridge. "Dork."
Santana smiles and rests her head on her hand. “Was work okay?”
"Yeah, pretty uneventful," Brittany says, pulling two beers out of the refrigerator. "Evan asked if we want to hang out on Thursday night. There’s some band playing at Exit/In that he really wants to see."
"You wanna go?"
"If you do."
"I do," Brittany says, twisting the cap off one of the beers and setting it on the table next to Santana. She leans down and kisses her. "Get your questions done. I’ll start on dinner."
Santana kisses her back. “You’re the best.”
The following Wednesday, Santana walks into their house with grocery bags cutting into her arms. She sets them down on the counter and starts to rifle through the pile of mail she grabbed on the way in.
Brittany comes in a minute later, holding Winston in one arm and her bag in the other. “Hey,” she says. “Oh! You went to the store?”
"Yeah," says Santana, stepping around the counter to say hi to her. "I picked up some roast chicken for dinner."
"Thanks," says Brittany, kissing her.
"And how’d we do at the vet?" Santana asks Winston, scratching behind his ears and kissing his mean face.
"He was not happy. He was trying to claw everything in sight." Brittany holds up the back of her left hand to show Santana a fresh red scratch.
"Aw, Wins, why’d you do that to your mama?"
"I picked up some more flea stuff for him, though," Brittany says, kissing Winston’s head. She sets him on the floor and he scampers off to the bedroom.
"You want a bandaid for that scratch?" Santana asks.
"Nah, it’s fine. This was one of his weaker ones."
Santana takes her hand and kisses the scratch. “He’s such a little menace.”
"I know," Brittany laughs, pulling the flea medication out of her bag. "Hopefully our real kids won’t be like him."
Santana grins in that trying-not-to-look-so-hopeful way she always does. Brittany smiles, tugs on the belt loops of Santana’s slacks, and pulls her closer.
"You want to forgo the chicken and go out to eat tonight?" Brittany asks. "We haven’t gone on a date in a while."
Santana tilts her head to the side and sighs. “I do, but I told myself I would finish my taxes tonight.”
"They’re hanging over my head, Britt."
"I thought you finished them already."
Santana laughs. “When? I’ve barely worked on them at all.”
Brittany makes her token pouty face. “Please?”
"I’ll make you a deal. How about I work on them just for a little while, and then we can drink some wine and watch something on Netflix."
"Mm…" says Brittany, considering. "How about wine in the bathtub instead?"
Santana’s mouth spreads into a huge smile. “Deal.”
That Friday, Santana gets home early from work and goes straight to her computer, determined to finish her taxes so she and Brittany can enjoy the weekend. She only has a few steps left and exhales happily when she finds them to be very simple. Before she knows it, she’s completing the final step; a couple of clicks later and the “You just filed your taxes!” screen appears.
"Hells yeah I did," she whispers to herself. Then she takes a picture on her phone and sends it to Brittany with the message I’m all growed up! attached.
She’s sprawled out on the couch, lounging in her sweatpants and watching Wife Swap, when Brittany comes in.
"There she is!" Brittany shouts, hastily setting down her keys and a bottle of champagne. "My grown-up girlfriend!"
Santana giggles when Brittany climbs on top of her and starts kissing her all over her face. “Britt, stop, that tickles!”
Brittany continues to kiss her until she’s lying flat on her back, laughing and pawing aimlessly at Brittany’s hair. “You just filed your taxes!” Brittany says gleefully.
"I know I did," Santana says breathlessly. "And you got us champagne to celebrate?"
"Yes," Brittany says with a kiss.
"Because now you don’t have to hear me whine about them anymore?"
"And because it’s a huge milestone."
"What?" Santana laughs. "Filing taxes?"
"Yeah," Brittany says, pulling her to sit up. She smoothes Santana’s hair. "That was the first time out of tons of times. Plus, now that you’ve learned how to do it, I’m just going to turn over all tax-filing responsibilities to you."
"Oh, are you now?" Santana laughs. "So what—you’re just never going to have to file your own taxes?"
"Nope," says Brittany, patting Santana’s thigh. "Because after we get married, we can file jointly, and I’m going to make you do it.”
Santana’s breath catches and her eyes go soft. Brittany shakes her head like she doesn’t know what to do with her. “You are such a goober,” she tells her.
"What?" Santana asks.
"You still act so surprised anytime I bring up getting married."
Santana casts her eyes away shyly. She shrugs and says, “I know we’ve talked about it, but we’ve never actually…like…talked about it.”
"Okay…do you want to talk about it?"
"If you do."
"Okay. So you want to get married?"
"Yes," Brittany says, rubbing her thumbs over Santana’s hands.
"That sounds so grown-up," Santana says.
"San, we’ve been living together for almost nine months now. We have a cat together and we share a bed and we pay rent. You filed your taxes today, which proves more than anything that we’re adults now. Is the idea of getting married really that crazy?"
"No," says Santana, dropping her head down to the couch cushions. "It’s just—I feel like I’ve always had this idea that I wanted to marry you, but I never thought it was actually going to happen."
"I don’t know, Britt….It’s like everything with you and me: it feels way too amazing to be true. Five years later and I still feel like someone needs to pinch me. You know?"
Brittany breathes deep and smiles. “I know.”
They’re drunk on champagne and cuddling on the couch when Santana asks Brittany about the moment she knew.
"The moment I knew what? That the Care Bears were cartoon versions of reincarnated hippies?"
"Stop it," Santana laughs, smacking her playfully. "The moment you knew you wanted to marry me."
"Easy. When I first saw you in elementary school."
"Cute, Britty, but way cheesy. Seriously, when did you know for sure?"
Brittany smiles shyly. “A few years ago.”
"Yeah?" Santana grins, biting her lip. "Tell me."
Brittany trails her thumb over Santana’s right eyebrow. “Part of me wants to tell you, but part of me wants to keep it for myself.”
Brittany shrugs. “It’s special.”
Santana brushes her knuckles down Brittany’s cheek. “Please tell me.”
Brittany clears her throat and glances away at the TV for a moment. Then she turns back to Santana and smiles a secret little smile. “Do you remember sophomore year when we visited Tina and Mercedes?”
"Do you remember where we went after that dorm party?"
"Oh yeah," Santana laughs. "Tina was so drunk that she tried to order a beer."
"Yeah. Well…it was there."
"It was there?" Santana frowns. "At Waffle House?"
Brittany smiles. “I hadn’t seen you in a few weeks, but you were so wonderful that night. You kept kissing me at that party, and I just remember feeling so happy. And…well…I remember I ordered hash browns at Waffle House, but when the waitress brought them out, I couldn’t find the ketchup. There wasn’t any on our table. I looked at the table behind us, and then I leaned forward to check the table in front of us, but I couldn’t find any. And I wasn’t saying anything because I didn’t want to interrupt the serious conversation you and Mercedes were having about Sam.”
"But then, without me even saying anything, you reached over the counter and grabbed a bottle of ketchup near the cash register and handed it to me, and you said, ‘Here, sweetheart,’ very quietly, because you just knew that that was exactly what I was looking for. And then you just kept talking to Mercedes like you hadn’t just read my mind. It was amazing. And I remember later, when we were falling asleep, I thought about it, and it was like—I just knew. It just kind of hit me, like, I’m actually going to marry this girl someday.”
"Wow," Santana breathes. "I don’t even remember that."
"I will always remember that. It’s one of those moments I stored away forever."
Santana kisses her tenderly. “I can’t wait to marry you, sweetheart.”
Months later, when she gets her tax return in the mail, Santana struts proudly into their little house and shakes the paper in front of Brittany’s face. Brittany turns around from washing their coffee mugs and asks, “What’s that?”
"Money from Uncle Sam," says Santana, raising her eyebrows.
"Sam sent us money? Why?"
Santana laughs. “Uncle Sam. Like, the government.”
"Oh," says Brittany, frowning. "Oh! You mean your tax return."
"So does this mean we’re going shopping?"
"No," says Santana, backing Brittany into the sink and lacing their hands together.
"I’m putting this money into my savings."
Santana gives her a secret little smile. “Because I’m going to need it for a ring in a couple of years.”
Brittany beams at her, all bright blue eyes and pretty teeth, and kisses her soundly.