Warning: Contains a traumatic experience and the aftereffects thereof. Gratuitous references to Kim Possible.
Disclaimer: Don’t own ’em, making no profit off ’em, etc.
Word Count: 2,286
Summary: Coach Sylvester says jump and no one asks how high.
Notes: I'd been meaning to write some Brittany backstory for a while, but shying away from it because of the subject matter that kept springing to mind. This might be a horrible mistake, but I wanted to mess around with the possibility that Brittany isn't just a dumb blonde and that there's actually some sort of an explanation for her. Beyond the Glee writers wanting to milk her for all the absurd one-liners they can, which is of course a given.
She wins a spelling bee in fourth grade on that word. Her mom pins the ribbon on the cork board on the living room wall. It sits there along with last year's, lined up with all the other ribbons for honor roll and perfect attendance, displayed there above the shelf with all the cheerleading awards. She tells Brittany that her baby sister has some huge shoes to fill.
Fifth grade, she loses out to a new girl who probably doesn't even know what “awry” means and gets it right out of sheer dumb luck.
Her name's Santana Lopez, and at first Brittany hates her for having dumb luck and two last names. Her dad runs a bakery, got transferred to manage the Lima branch, and Santana says he makes this joke about rye bread that Brittany thinks is super lame and Santana clearly does too. She tells Brittany she should come by and have a sandwich because she pretty much cheated at the spelling bee and it's not even that big of a deal anyway.
“I'm sick of you just ignoring me” she adds, and Brittany hasn't ever been talked to that way by anyone her own age. “And I want to learn how to do a back flip.”
Dance classes in Lima are small and slapdash, but Brittany's been taking them since she could walk and cheering since her grandmother made her a Buckeyes uniform for a Halloween costume back in kindergarten. “You can't just start with the big stuff like that,” she protests, and Santana frowns at her.
“You don't even know me. How about you don't judge me?”
The tuna on rye is really amazing and it turns out Santana can do cartwheels almost as well as Brittany can. Santana doesn't like Lima very much and misses Pennsylvania. "There's nothing to do here," she complains, and they paint each others' nails silver that Friday, then purple the next Friday, and when Brittany tells her she should stop whining and join the dance team Santana doesn't even roll her eyes that much.
“You have potential,” says Brittany, watching critically when Santana slides into a split and picks up the remote. Santana watches Everwood with her mom and Brittany feels like a kid for just watching Kim Possible with her sister and sometimes Jeopardy with her dad. Santana doesn't think it's a big deal, though, which is kind of cool.
“I know,” says Santana. “But so do you.”
When they get spotted during a middle school game, Coach Sylvester somehow redraws the school districts to have them both enrolled at McKinley the next year.
“She's kind of badass,” Santana says approvingly. She took up swearing when she turned twelve.
“She's a legend,” Brittany corrects. “We're gonna be stars.”
She's Brittany Clara Van Herk and she can do anything.
Herkies are easy. Coach Sylvester says jump and no one asks how high. You don't ask Coach Sylvester anything. You push off and shoot as far into the air as you possibly can and if you're lucky you come back down with stars. No one flies higher than Brittany, not even Mari Panova who was a gymnastics prodigy in Moscow or something.
When you're one of the only freshmen on the team, you want to aim beyond the ozone. Back handspring, front hurdler. Piece of cake. Brittany isn't small enough to fly anymore, like she could in middle school, but she's a base when they do scorpions. Easy as pie. Mari isn't there, tiny Mari, and Coach Sylvester calls out Brittany to stand in for her.
Just for a demo, just a routine basket toss, just to show the others how it's done so they can really wow the crowd at the football game on Friday.
Kick twist basket toss. Normally Mari only twists twice, but Brittany can do one more, always could before she had her growth spurt and got too tall to be the flyer anymore. She can still do it, she's sure.
Coach Sylvester says jump and no one asks how high.
She's Brittany Charlotte Bradshaw and she can do anything.
Sex and the City is on and Santana's snorting at how unrealistic it is and Brittany's shushing her because Carrie's complaining about being dumped via Post-It. Brittany's never really dated anyone long enough to ever be dumped, but she thinks it's important to know the proper way to respond in case it ever happens. Santana goes home when it's time for dinner and Brittany goes to help her sister get ready for soccer practice.
The girls on Cassie's team love her because she cheers them on and sometimes she'll take Cassie to her games early so she can do the team's hair and paint emblems on their cheeks and help them warm up. The coach doesn't seem to mind, just watches her the way Coach Sylvester sometimes does.
Cassie likes soccer more than cheering. Brittany knows her mother encourages this.
When she gets home from practice, her mother sometimes tells her things. “I don't want you cheering again,” she says one Saturday when Brittany's on her way out the door. Santana always picks her up.
Brittany stares. On the opposite wall, her honor roll ribbons meld into a continuous band of blue. Cassie is going to have more than her before too long. Brittany hasn't brought home anything this year. “What else can I do?”
“You're my daughter and you can do anything,” her mother says, and she's got tears in her eyes and Brittany doesn't quite like that. “But I don't want you doing this.”
It's hard to talk and Brittany's head feels like it does when she mislays her pill case and doubles up her dosages to make up for lost time. “But what else can I do?”
In the end, no one ever has any answers. Brittany goes to practice.
She really is one of the best cheerleaders, even now.
Wednesdays after school is Dr. Garrett, who asks how she's adapting and what her plans for the future are, and sometimes he says things that are supposed to be jokes. Brittany doesn't think they're funny, even when he explains them afterward. It reminds her of meeting Santana and her dad's stupid joke about bread that makes no sense to her now, and she can't explain why that upsets her.
He lets her play card games on the computer sometimes, though, which is kind of fun. She always tells him that she knows she'll get a scholarship for cheering, grow up and become a dance teacher or a cheerleading coach herself, and everything will be okay. Coach Sylvester told her all this would happen and what Coach Sylvester says is always true because no one ever tells Coach Sylvester otherwise.
The story of Brittany's recovery is worth more than the story of her decline and Coach Sylvester can paint the world with whatever brush she chooses, that's how powerful she is.
She can still notice things, even though her grades are terrible.
Her mother's laptop open to a site about frontal lobe damage and how it controls personality, humor, other things caused by jumping too high and hitting too hard on the way back down.
The huge pink Get Well Soon card everyone on the Cheerios signed.
The wheelchair boy, Arnold or Archer or whatever his name is, telling her he's here if she wants to talk. Brittany telling him right back that she has nothing to say, now or ever.
Santana screaming at some baseball player in the hallway, something about the word retard. Santana can kick anyone's ass.
Coach Sylvester with free spa sessions and hair extensions, as soon as her hair was three inches long. She and Santana measured.
When the salon puts them in, she can't get enough of it. She feels like a princess and she spends ages combing and tossing her new hair, in front of her mirror, in the girls' room at school, sometimes in the hall if she's got a really awesome song stuck in her head. Once, some senior guy tells her to stop before she gives herself brain damage, then cracks up for all of three seconds before Santana gives him a bloody nose and threatens to tell everyone he got schooled by a girl.
“What's on your playlist this time?” she asks Brittany afterward, like nothing's happened, and Brittany gets out her iPod so Santana can hear the Japanese cover of Lil' Wayne's “Lollipop” that's been in her head all day. Santana groans, but she's singing it too by the end of the day.
She's Brittany Kim Possible and she can do anything.
When her dad's done making deliveries for the day, he comes home with little packages for her sometimes, like barrettes when her hair's long enough for them again and coupons for Smoothie King. He doesn't talk to her much, but he listens, and most of the time he does it without getting a headache and having to go lie down the way her mom does.
Brittany tells him about how she has to go and see to Ms. Pillsbury about the bird she finds, the one she names Rufus after Ron Stoppable's mole rat, and how she can't put it back in the nest so she makes one in her locker because if she takes it home her cat will eat it, which Ms. Pillsbury doesn't seem to understand. And she tells him about her IEP, even though she always forgets what it stands for, and how it means she has some classes with Becky Johnson, but Becky's sweet and has really pretty eyes even though they're hard to see behind her glasses even when Brittany gives her a makeover. She tells him how she's failing Spanish but she takes it because she gets to be with Quinn and she likes the way Spanish sounds in Santana's voice even though Santana isn't in the class.
She always has to be the one to talk because her father never asks her anything. Santana does, and she loves her for it.
“How was Dr. Garrett?” goes Santana, while they're fixing their mascara between classes, and Brittany can't remember the last time anyone who wasn't Santana spoke to her that way.
“He was okay. He changed a picture on a wall. And he talked to my mom and dad about the limbic system again. They all looked really serious. I'm limber, right?” She has to stay limber if she wants to keep her scholarship and the only future she has. Coach Sylvester says so and no one questions Coach Sylvester about anything.
Santana's mouth falls into a frown for a second, but it still looks nice because Santana always has the best lip gloss. Her aunt does the Avon thing. “Yeah, Britt.”
This happens sometimes. Santana gets upset or angry and Brittany doesn't know why.
Like when Santana's late meeting her after school and she gets bored and makes out with Mr. Mossiter, her science teacher, because it's something to do and the Cheerio uniforms really are foreplay in and of themselves, and then Santana is pissed as hell when Brittany tells her.
“It doesn't matter that you've taken a vow?” Santana sounds like she's honestly distressed, which is weird, since they're only in the celibacy club because of Quinn and Brittany knows for a fact Santana's been hooking up with Puck.
“Parlay,” Brittany says, after thinking for a minute.
Santana raises an eyebrow and says something in French, which makes no sense at all, even though it really is cool that Santana's learning French. She says Mrs. Buckley is a lot less uptight than Mr. Schuester and teaches them swear words sometimes.
“Parlay,” Brittany repeats, enunciating very carefully. “Like Pirates of the Caribbean.” They'd tried to marathon all three movies during their last sleepover and she refuses to believe Santana's forgotten that.
“Y'know, like...the Pirate's Code is more like guidelines than actual rules. Same thing with Celibacy Club. Being pure is a lot like being pirates.”
Santana sighs, takes her hand and kisses her on the mouth, raspberry lip gloss and salty wetness. It's nice. Aside from the tears.
“Was he good?” she demands. “Was he fucking good enough for you?”
“You're better,” Brittany assures her, petting up and down Santana's shaking back. “You're always better.”
Some college freshman—who looks like what Santana would call an uppity hipster—wants to interview her and do a feminist exposé on how cheerleading is oppressive and exploitative. Those are the words she uses, and they wash over Brittany like Mr. Schuester's voice when he's explaining choreography for the millionth time. He always looks surprised when Brittany nails it before anyone else. Every time.
“I found the article online,” the college student is saying, "about a thirteen-year-old girl taking a fall during a botched lift, this honor student who was rushed to the hospital and in critical condition. No name given, since she was a minor, and everyone let her go right back to cheering as soon as she could even though clearly somebody should have put their foot down." She pauses. “Your mom goes to the same gym as my mom. They get lunch sometimes. I know that was you.”
“Oh,” says Brittany, when she's finished studying her nails and the cracks in the floor and the ugly scarf around this stranger's neck. “This must be what it's like to be Lindsay Lohan.”
She doesn't tell anyone about that. She tells herself she forgets it.