|As If We Never Said Goodbye
Author: Catty Jay PM
Three weeks. That's all it took. Santana finds herself four thousand miles away from home with only a backpack and a feisty blonde for company. When you're nineteen, three weeks can change your life.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Romance - Santana L. & Quinn F. - Chapters: 20 - Words: 120,374 - Reviews: 884 - Favs: 1,139 - Follows: 1,154 - Updated: 02-12-13 - Published: 07-30-11 - id: 7234325
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She said it.
Those three words.
Those three simple words like it was no big deal. She breathed them as if it didn't hurt her to say them, and like she was just waiting to. Like they were always on the tip of her tongue, ready to be said. She held my hands in her own, and the most innocent of smiles was on those lips.
And I think my heart actually stopped.
I didn't expect that. I've heard them before, but never like this, never so honest or sincere, without ulterior motive or hidden agenda. And it hurt to hear them. It hurt, and I don't know why. You always imagine that you should feel elation when someone you care about says them to you. But I felt my heart stop, and that wall close in. I felt an ache start in my chest, and those hands feeling heavier with each breath, and I don't know why.
Before I heard them, before the kiss and the rules, being near her was easy. It was still new, and unlabeled. It was fun. I could hide behind that fact. I could just be. But then I kissed her, and then she said them, and my walls got higher. Where I found myself only days ago wanting to be closer to her, I now find myself moving further away. Scared of something I'm afraid to even put a name to, because if it has a name, it becomes real. And if it becomes real, then these walls I've worked so hard to put up will fall away, and she'll see the real me, the me that I'm scared to show her. I hate being vulnerable around her, because then it just becomes easier for her to break me. My heart isn't safe with her.
I did imagine myself saying them though, when we were in the taxi on the way back to the hotel. I was testing them out, even if I wasn't going to say them. Just seeing how it felt, not knowing that she was probably doing the same. She was sitting slumped on the leather back seat, looking at me with those eyes; the ones that make everything else fade away. A part of me just wanted to stare at her, without having her stare back. I thought it would make looking at her easier. I thought without those eyes, the deep emotion that comes with them would just be shut off. I would be able to breathe again.
I was wrong.
When I asked her to close them, I could still feel every part of her. Every sighing breath, every minute movement of her lips, every wave of heat that came off of her skin. It was intoxicating. It clouded my judgment, and I was so close to kissing her in that moment. It would have been so easy, and the feeling of her lips against mine would have been better than any drug. I got so close. But once again, I got scared and pulled away, afraid of letting myself feel. Then I thought that maybe just her hand might be safe, that creating this distance between us would be enough.
But again, I was wrong.
Just the feeling of her, not just a single or certain part, but everything makes my skin, and my heart, and my body react. This shouldn't happen. When I asked her to come with me, it was only a small warmth in my chest. Not this feeling. Not this ache. And then she asked me, and I lied. She asked me why, and I told her it was just the drugs. But the truth is, even just the thought of it being more than that makes my chest hurt, and I can't breathe. And I don't know why. I don't know why I won't allow myself to feel. I can't be that afraid of being hurt, can I?
I know I'm falling for her; I'm not naïve enough to think differently. I've known that for a while now. I just don't know what that means. I've never felt like this before about anybody, nor has anyone shown me what she has in such a short time. And that's what scares me the most, that she can feel that for me. I don't see what she sees in me. All I see is broken, and dark. I don't see how she can say those three words to me after only ten days. She doesn't know me.
I waited up most of the night, just watching her sleep, trying to figure that out. How someone could say something like that like it was nothing. Like it was just that simple. A part of me always thought that maybe hearing them from the right person, even though I don't believe in those words, would trigger something that was dormant inside of me. Maybe not make me understand, but at least give me an idea of what all the fairytales were eluding to.
And I was right.
And I hate it. I hate this feeling. It hurts. So I waited up for her, hoping that I could at least talk to her about it. Even though this feeling scares me to death, at least I had this ray of hope through this haze. I had her.
But she doesn't remember.
And that hurts even more, the fact that it could have well meant nothing, and that it was just a slip of the tongue. It makes me wish she never said it to me. I just want to forget it ever happened. She keeps looking at me right now like I'm hiding something from her. She knows I'm not being truthful. But how do I tell her something that I don't fully understand myself.
And what if she regrets it. That would hurt worse than her not remembering it at all. Because even though I don't believe or understand the notion that last night she seemed so sure of, having Santana tell me she made a mistake, or having her not share this feeling with me is too much for my already damaged heart to take.
It's selfish of me to wish this on anybody, especially someone as amazing as her. I know that. But I can't go through this alone. I guess that's something the fairytales neglect to tell you, that sometimes the princess might not love you back…
Santana let out a strangled breath, and pushed her legs further and harder. Her white sneakers hit the pavement underfoot as music pumped from her iPod at a mind-numbing level. She brushed passed people on their way to work, crossing under one the many entryways into Central Park. It was still early, a fresh chill in the air, the sun just peeking through the trees.
She'd been running for nearly an hour, through underpasses and down side streets, but her mind wouldn't stray far from the words that she'd spent most of the night reading. It hurt to finally see them, entry after entry. It was like reliving those three weeks all over again. Except this time she was seeing the whole picture, and not just the one she painted for herself.
Tugging on her earplugs, she slowed to a jog just outside a high stone archway. She breathed in heavily, sweat pouring down her neck. The brunette took a seat on the nearby park bench and brushed her fringe away from her damp forehead. It was a spot Santana had stopped at several times. She would stop and look out over the Downtown end of Central Park, her eyes searching for that unmistakable blonde hair, or those perfect almond eyes. And now that she'd found them, she didn't have any reason to be there. But she didn't get up, her legs and body too exhausted to move.
As she read the journal the night before, she could practically see Quinn changing before her eyes. The entries had started out so hopeful and innocent, but then the rules happened, and the kiss, and Quinn began to fall. By the time they reached Barcelona, it was too late. Reading about that night, and about that fateful phone call was harder than she remembered. To finally know Quinn's reasoning behind breaking the rules, kissing her and what soon followed hurt. To know that it wasn't her way of saying goodbye, but rather her way of saying what her words could not. Her way of taking away Santana's pain so she wouldn't have to feel it. It was hard to relive.
But no matter how far she read into the night, her mind kept going back to Amsterdam. It was one of the only nights she ever truly regretted. Regretted for reasons she didn't care to admit, and ones she blocked off, even to herself. So to hear how it affected Quinn was hard to swallow. To read how insecure it made her, and the memories and long buried emotions it brought back wasn't something she ever imagined was happening at the time.
But the ache in her chest got lighter as the entries wore on. And there was a point when Quinn had just resided herself in to letting go and to just be, right around the time she decided to take her to Barcelona. So it wasn't until she saw a distinctive date in the top right-hand corner, in that neat cursive, that she had to stop. That date had haunted her for years. So when she saw it, she had to put the journal on her bedside table, suddenly afraid of what lay beyond it.
The night before we said goodbye.
Santana remembered watching her write that night. They'd just come back to the hotel, having spent the day at the Louvre, and visiting the Eiffel Tower. She'd walked into their apartment and sat down on her bed, Quinn going straight for the journal. She was inside her head more than usual that night, and Santana had watched her scribble almost feverishly. She could see the nerves in her hazel eyes, but also like a weight was lifting off her shoulders. It was as if writing down her thoughts erased the pain they brought.
So many things happened that day, so many things changed. It was the one day that Santana wanted to know about most, aside from the next morning. She always wondered what Quinn was feeling in their last hours together. Was she regretting having to leave her, or was she calm and collected. Santana saw her eyes at the train station. They were saddened, yet hopeful at the same time. Santana guessed that a part of Quinn knew they would see each other again. Quinn may not believe in love, but fate was another story. She always knew the blonde believed that everything happened for a reason, and that there were still small miracles left in the world.
I wonder what she'd say about that now, though?
Santana brought up a hand, running it through her slightly damp hair and letting out a heavy sigh. She'd left her apartment and a sleeping Brittany in an effort to clear her head. She wasn't ready to read that entry yet. She was scared for it. She'd been trying vainly all morning to put up her own walls for whatever lay within its pages. Santana didn't know what she expected to gain from reading the journal. She'd been so sure she wanted to, but now she wasn't entirely sure why. Was she seeking closure, or answers?
Or am I just trying to find a reason to stay?
Santana tossed her iPod on her bed, the slim black object skidding across the comforter. It came to a rest near her nightstand, her eyes going straight to that dark cover. It just lay idle, exactly how she'd left it the night before. Its pages were still worn and crinkled, and its thin leather strap was still hanging off the side of the low table. She let out a huff, worrying her teeth against her bottom lip. She knew she'd have to finish reading it eventually; Santana was just prolonging the inevitable by avoiding it.
But what if she didn't like what Quinn had to say about that day? What if it was easy for her to leave, or she really did blame her for not just going with her? Or what if in the end she actually wanted to leave, deciding that it wasn't worth the risk? That she wasn't worth the risk?
Santana peeled off her tight black singlet, the material clinging to her skin. She discarded it in the corner of her room and wander off towards her ensuite, hoping the hot water would drown out her worried thoughts. As she stepped under the relentless stream, she tried to let them fall away, concentrating instead on the steaming droplets hitting her tanned skin. The brunette took in a deep breath. She knew what it said didn't matter. It happened years ago. How Quinn felt back then shouldn't effect what the girl felt for her now. But Santana's mind didn't let up with that ugly self-doubt. It made her chest pang with that familiar ache as she leant her hands against the tiled wall. Her fingers scraped down the smooth surface, feeling the ridges beneath her tips.
After a few minutes, she reached down and fumbled blindly for the metal taps, twisting them off as she kept her eyes on her shower wall. Santana stood there for a measureless moment, letting the water drip to the floor beneath her feet. It shouldn't be this hard. But that day was hard. She remembered counting down the hours they still had left. She remembered not knowing if it would be their last kiss, or their last embrace.
That whole day was just us, and a dark shadow.
Grabbing a towel, Santana dried off, before wrapping it around herself. She walked back out to her room and sat down on her double bed, not bothering to get dressed. If she was going to do this, she was going to have to do it now. If she waited any longer, it might be days before she got the resolve again. With a quick breath, she picked the journal back up and flipped to the right entry. She swallowed heavily, running a finger down the worn page as she began to read, a lump already forming in her throat, even before she was past the first sentence.
I said it.
Or at least I showed her.
We were standing on a Love-Locks bridge in the middle of the city, just staring out over the river. The sun was this burnt orange, and we'd just finished at the Louvre, my poor attempt at trying to prolong the inevitable, take our minds of what was coming. Santana was looking at the couples lining the railing, watching them as they threw their keys into the water. She looked so beautiful, though I didn't tell her.
I'd begun playing absently with the tiny lock on my backpack, not really thinking anything of it. I was just staring at her, as usual. Taking her in, trying to commit everything to memory. But then she turned, and looked at me. She looked at me with those eyes, and I just froze under them, like so many times before. Everything just faded away, and it was like we were alone. Just the two of us. I wanted to tell her so badly in that moment. Let her know what my heart had been feeling since the first time I saw her. But then she looked at the lock in my hands.
I don't know why I did it.
Forever is a long time.
But I did it anyway.
After, I just walked over to her and I kissed her like there wasn't mere hours left for us. I honestly didn't care who saw, or what emotional consequences I would have to pay later. It was just us, and in that moment, even if it was only a moment, everything was perfect. The ache in my chest was still there, but maybe with time that would fade. Maybe it would become a brilliant burning, or a warmth so great it could engulf us both.
But right now, it's still an ache, and time isn't something that's on our side. It's running out, and I don't want to think about it. The past sixteen days have been the best of my life, and in some ways the worst. But I don't regret any of them. I regret asking her, yes. But I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't take it back. It was worth it. Santana is more than worth it.
I just wish today could last forever. I wish I could just stop time, but I can't. I know I'm leaving in the morning, and it kills me. And I could see it killing her. She was so focused on that fact the entire day. It was written all over her face. And every time I asked her, that's all she could say. I know it's not in her nature to shut certain things out. She feels everything. She may not voice it, but it's always there beneath the surface. It's part of the reason I wanted to take that pain away. I can't stand to see it. Especially in Barcelona when I got that call, the call that changed everything. Or maybe it just made us face the reality of it all.
Either way, I took the pain from her the only way I knew how, just like with the lock today. I may not be good with words, but I am with actions. So if that's the only notion I can leave her with, if a promise of forever is all I can give to her, then maybe it might be enough.
It didn't stop me from wanting to say those words, though. I thought about telling her the whole day. But every time I tried, it would just get stuck. I know I want to be with her, just the thought of not being in her life tells me as much. But where I'm from, love doesn't make things better. It just complicates everything. I don't understand that simple love that she wants from me. I grew up in world where yelling abuse through a door and drunken slurs were considered forms commitment. I grew up knowing that the love in fairytales only existent in a world of imagination. Even though it was a world I found myself living in for most of it, I resided myself into thinking that that's all they ever were. Fairytales.
But in saying that, I don't want to say goodbye. I don't want to have to look into those perfect eyes, and say those words. But I know I have to. I had a plan before her. And if we're meant to be, a year won't change that. While I don't believe in love, or rather understand it, I believe in her. And I believe in fate. Everything happens for a reason. I met her for a reason, and I have to leave for a reason. That much I know. I'm not saying it's not going to be hard to be away from her, but I have faith that it will work itself out. It always does.
I just wish I could tell her that. And not just those three words, but all them. Tell her how I feel, and why I have to go. It's still hard to be vulnerable around her. I think if I could just let her in, then maybe I wouldn't be in such a hurry to leave. Maybe I'd change my mind for her. Stay for her. Maybe I'm just scared of what would happen if I did stay, of what would happen to my heart. So, for now I'll take it with me. I just wish I wasn't taking hers too. It's going to destroy her, but I can't stay. I have to follow my dreams, and telling her how I feel will just make it that much harder to leave.
But she deserves to know. I've always said that I'm better at writing my feelings. I know I feel them, and yet I still can't say them. It shouldn't be this hard.
Those three simple words really shouldn't be this hard…
"Oh my God..."
The words fell from Santana's parted lips as the lump rose higher in her throat. She reached out a finger, running it along the torn edge of the paper. It was curled slightly with age, the entire bottom half of the page missing. Silent tears began sliding down her flushed cheeks, her heart pounding dully beneath her chest. Her eyes moved to her nightstand where that wrinkled note lay with the photograph of the two of them. With shaking fingers, Santana picked up the slip of paper and placed it under the neat cursive. Its ruffled edge fit perfectly, like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
"I love you," Santana breathed, reciting the words that she'd read a million times.
She actually tore it out.
She wrote them down, but then tore it out.
She swallowed dryly before closing the journal, the note stuck between its pages. Santana wiped uselessly at her cheeks and took in a deep breath. She didn't know what to make of Quinn's words. Her heart felt heavy, and her tears continued to fall. She'd been bracing herself all morning and all through the night for a pain that never came. Santana's chest still hurt, but Quinn never blamed her for what happened. Santana going with her had never crossed her mind. It wasn't something that was easy. And she wasn't confused.
She loved me.
Santana looked back to the journal still in her hands. She'd always wondered where the note had come from, and whether it was something she had planned to give to her. Whether she wrote it down that morning, or if it was something she'd always had with her, just waiting for the right moment. But now as she looked at the entry, it was almost as if she wrote them down just to get them off her chest, to take away the pain of carrying them around with her.
So why tear them out then?
Flipping absently through the remaining pages, Santana let a sigh escape her down turned lips. She remembered the entry from the next morning, the paper warped, with tears blurring the dark ink. Santana didn't bother trying to read it. She wasn't sure she even wanted to. If it was anything compared to the pain and heartache she went through at Quinn leaving, Santana didn't think she would ever be ready to see those words. So she turned her eyes back to her nightstand and placed the journal down on the polished wood.
As she did, her fingers brushed gently over the small memory card that still lay untouched near her bedside lamp. She placed it there the previous afternoon when she had attempted to unpack, only to be stopped by their photo, its frame now laying broken on the floor. She palmed the tiny drive, turning it over in her fingers. Something about Tia's tone that night and the odd expression in his eyes had stopped her from finding out what was on it. It frankly scared her to think what moments he was privy to, and what moments even Santana wasn't there for.
Good ol' Mr. What If.
Taking it in her hand, she made her way down the hall and into Brittany's bedroom. Santana could hear the running water coming from under the bathroom door across the hall as she crossed over to the girl's bed and sat down on the bright yellow comforter. Her friend's laptop lay open at her bedside, Santana grabbing it and unceremoniously shoving the drive into a spare port. She waited for it to load, but when those photographs flashed up on the wide screen, she was rendered speechless, her stomach sinking slightly.
Her eyes began to sting as she flipped through them, each one hurting more than the last. It was like a photo reel of their last three days together. Some were of Quinn, or of just Santana on their own. But most were of both them, laughing, smiling, touching. Anyone would think they were a normal couple. They looked happy. There were the shots of them posing in the tunnels, and the photos taken with the women at his family's restaurant, and another just outside his aunt's house.
But it was the candid shots he had taken that were what caused fresh tears to spill down Santana's cheeks. He had captured them at the gift store at the tunnels, Santana's arm resting on the glass cabinet, the two of them close together. Her fingers were within brushing distances of Quinn's, the nervous look in those hazel eyes making Santana click to the next photo, and to one of them together on the back porch of his aunt's place. Santana's head was bowed as she was taking a bite of fruit, but Quinn's gaze was trained on the brunette, just staring at her as she ate. She seemed almost mesmerized, the lump in Santana's throat growing thicker.
Her hand began to shake as it changed to the ones taken on the river cruise a few nights ago. They were of the festivities below deck, of Quinn dancing and Santana watching her as she spun. Of them talking as they sat next to each other at the small table, their faces mere inches apart. But then it came to the ones of them alone on the top deck, the red light from the surrounding lanterns casting an eerie glow over the two of them. Santana's throat continued to get tighter and tighter as her eyes flicked over every detail of the photos on screen, her hand coming up to cover her mouth.
They were of Quinn leaning her back against the railing, her eyes lost in rest of the city lights, with her elbows resting on the old wood.
Of Quinn asking Santana to dance, her hand outstretched towards her with that smile lighting her slight features, and Santana's mouth just starting to mirror the other girl's, her teeth biting into her full bottom lip.
Of Quinn with her arms around Santana, pulling her in closer with her left hand on her lower back. The other seemed to just gently play with long brown hair that fell past her shoulders, a peaceful light in her almond eyes.
And then one of Quinn leaning in to…
Santana dropped her head, unable to keep looking at them. Tears fell onto the small keyboard as her shoulders visibly shook. She tried to breath in deeply, but it was no use. Her chest felt like it was going to close in on itself, and her head just throbbed while her ears rang. Everything hurt, and she didn't know how to make it stop. Just seeing photos of them together, of how happy they were and the look in Quinn's eyes as she leant in to kiss her was becoming too much.
This isn't real.
Santana placed a hand on the screen to pull it closed just as the bed dipped beside her and warm arms wrapped around her shoulders. She sighed heavily as she dropped her hand and blindly turned into the embrace. Brittany didn't say a word, reaching out and closing her laptop in one swift movement. She pressed her lips into her hair and just let Santana work through the pain. Brittany knew not to say anything, only stopping to murmur it's okay into her ear every few minutes. It wasn't until Santana had calmed down and was just leaning against her that she spoke again.
"Have you called into work?"
"I messaged Holly about an hour ago," Santana mumbled into her bare skin, her hands buried in Brittany's towel that was wrapped around her. She pulled in closer to her, shutting her eyes and just letting the girl's presence wash over her.
Why can't I feel this safe with Quinn?
I'd give anything just to have this feeling with her.
"Come with me to the studio."
"I don't know, Britt," Santana sniffed, lifting her head slightly.
"Come on, I don't have any classes today. No one's going to be there. You can just watch me dance," she suggested, brushing her fingers through Santana's hair. "I'll even drag out the yoga mats, and we can just lay on them and pretend we're on my trampoline back home. We can try and find shapes in the ceilings fans."
"That sounds perfect."
I've just been sitting here for the past hour watching the stewardesses and the other passengers walking up and down the aisles. Watching the elderly woman two seats over knitting a bright blue sweater as her needles click together. And staring out the tiny window at the darkened night sky, and the white billows of cloud we pass through. But mostly, I've been watching her sleep. Just sitting here trying to imagine what it would be like not to be able to touch her hand, or hear that voice, or run my fingers through her hair. It's been one hour, and I can't do it. Every image my mind conjures, there she is. Every song I sing, or book I read, there she is in every line.
I think that's love. Not being able to imagine your life without the other person in it. To not be able to imagine not holding them as they fall asleep, or being the first person they see when they wake. Getting to hold their hand as you walk down a crowed street, or kiss them just because you can. And it hurts to imagine it being anyone but her. Because Santana is all I can see when I close my eyes, and she's the only one I want to see when I open them.
So I think that's love.
And I've finally realised that it isn't about me. It never was and it never should have been about me, or what I wanted. When I say those words, it has to be about her. And I don't know why I'm only just now realizing that. She deserves to be told everyday for the rest of her life that she is loved, and that she is worth it. To be told that to me, she is perfect in every way. And while I'm still scared, I need to do this for her. I want to do this for her. To show her I meant what I said when we were nineteen and standing on a bridge in the middle of Paris. I meant it when I said forever, even though it took me just as long to realise it.
But as I watch her, I can't help looking down at the text message from Michael, telling me he'll be at the airport tomorrow afternoon, and it makes me feel sick. I honestly hadn't thought about him until I saw the date on my phone. September 22nd, the day we met all those years ago. But thinking back to that time, I don't feel anything. At least not nearly as much as when I think back five months prior to that, but then again anything would dim in comparison.
So when I saw that date on the ride home from our river cruise, I had to message him, if not as his girlfriend, then as his best friend. I thought I might have texted happy anniversary, or something of the like. But what ended up coming out was me asking if he was still going to be there when I landed. A part of me only asked to tell him not to bother, to tell him that I would just see him when I got home. And then when I didn't receive a reply it was like he wasn't even there, like he didn't exist outside the world Santana and I had created for ourselves. And then she just looked at me and everything faded away, and it was like he didn't.
I know what I did, or what I have been doing for weeks now is wrong. He doesn't deserve to be hurt like that, and it's going to break his heart when I tell him. And I will. But he deserves to be told in person, I owe him that much. I may not be in love with him, but he's still my best friend. So when I got his reply at our stop over, I couldn't help that nausea that churned in my stomach at seeing those words. And when I looked over at Santana, I could just see that she knew something was wrong. But as always with us, she didn't say a word. I'm not sure if I should be thankful for that or not.
I guess I just don't want to think about it. And even more so, I don't want to see last night as anything but perfect. I don't regret it. Being that close to her again was everything I remember it being and more. When she touches any part of me, I feel it everywhere. Even when she isn't touching me at all, I still feel her. Even right now. It makes me wonder how I could possibly be so lucky to find someone as patient, and forgiving as she is. But my world has never made sense to me before, so I won't start questioning it now.
But the text is still staring me in the face, and burning a whole in my hand. I know I should tell her that he'll be there when we land, but not yet. I want to hold on to this feeling a little longer, even if it's only for a few more hours. I don't want the veil to be pulled away just yet. I want to feel her sleeping next to me for just a little while longer. Then maybe when she wakes up, I let her know. I just wish I could tell her everything before we get back to New York. But I want to do it without feeling guilty about my words. I already feel it enough already. I just hope she can understand that. Just a few more hours and I will.
So the only thing for me to do now is prepare for what awaits me when I get home. I've never been good with words, and Michael's such a good guy. He deserves better than me. Better than what I've given to him. So does Santana, she deserves the world, one I know I can't give to her. But I'm much too selfish to let her live without me. And who knows, maybe we can find that world together…
Santana's shoulders slumped under the weight of it all as she closed the last few pages and dropped the journal to the wooden floorboards. She felt completely drained, emotionally and physically. She now knew what was behind those eyes, and what Quinn had been thinking when they were together. But she wasn't sure if it changed anything between them. They were just words after all. Santana knew that Quinn was the one that wrote them, but what was she meant to do with that. She also knew now that the girl wanted to be with her, but again where did she go from here. She wasn't going to feel guilty either for walking away, no matter what it said. It's just a journal. They were just words.
How can I have all the answers, yet none at all?
"What did it say, anyway?"
Santana looked up as Brittany wandered over, a towel around her neck and a water bottle to her lips. The girl had been dancing for hours while the light outside the high windows turned dark, and a fresh breeze now drifted through the studio. Santana sat on the floor of the large rectangular room, leaning against a freestanding shelf full of CDs and fresh towels, the journal idle at her feet. She held Brittany's gaze with a defeated shrug, before looking back down at her now empty hands.
"Everything I wanted to hear. It's practically Nicholas fucking Sparkes," Santana laughed bitterly. "But that's the thing, I needed to hear it."
"Guess I better start talking then."
Santana's head snapped to the now open door of the studio, that voice that still made her heart race reaching her ears. Quinn was leaning against the doorway, looking at her with those perfect eyes, a small smile on her lips. Santana could feel her erratic pulse in her throat and her lungs straining for breath. It hurt just to look at her right now. She wasn't ready.
Why is she here?
"Oops, must have left the door unlocked," Brittany chimed innocently as she picked up her gym bag along with her jacket. Santana stared silently after her as she brushed passed Quinn and dropped the set of studio keys into her waiting hand. The girl disappeared through the door, leaving Santana alone.
"Remember, no sex on the hardwood…"
It came only as an echo down the hall, causing Quinn to chuckle breathily. But it caused Santana to get to her feet and back her way over the other side of the room, placing distance between them. Brittany's words were meant to be jesting, but her head and her heart wouldn't see it that way. She couldn't even speak. Seeing Quinn again, even though it had only been three days, had Santana wanting to just run over to her, and take her in her arms and never let go again. To see those eyes and that smile, and just Quinn had that familiar sense of drowning come over her and cloud her rational mind once more.
But it was her that was breaking, not Quinn. She was the one that was no longer safe, and she wasn't sure how much more she could take. She wasn't sure if she wanted to put herself through any more pain, no matter how she felt about the girl standing before her. And what was worse, she now had no time to decide that for herself.
"Why are you here?" Santana asked timidly, her back now pressed up against the mirrored wall opposite the door, her hands seeking the wooden railing that lined the entire room.
"I asked Brittany-"
"You know what," Santana interrupted, clenching her eyes shut for a moment and bringing a hand up just to make sure she stopped. She wasn't sure if she could listen to her right now without breaking down again. "You once told me I was the only one that could break your heart. But from where I'm standing, I'm the only one that's been breaking."
"One day someone will come along, and you'll wonder why you ever doubted it."
"That's what you told me right before I kissed you for the first time," Quinn stated calmly, taking a step forward, her ballet flats echoing softly around the room. "A part of me knew you were talking about yourself, but I was too scared to let myself believe it. Scared that I would give myself over to these intense feelings that I had, only for you to walk away."
"What?" Santana exclaimed, finding her voice and arching forward off the mirror. "How could you possibly think that-"
"No," Quinn cut in gently before Santana could finish, placing a finger to her lips in a silencing gesture. "It's my turn."
Santana bit down on both her lips and leant heavily against the back wall again. She kept her eyes on the blonde as she paced further into the studio, a slightly apprehensive expression on her beautiful features. Santana forced herself to keep silent as Quinn neared the shelf she was sitting at only moments before.
"I thought that you'd realize I was too broken, scared that you'd finally see the real me, and turn and run. So, I closed myself off, and I checked out," Quinn continued through a shaky breath. "I didn't know any other way. The only examples I had to go on growing up were drunken screaming and shattering glass against bedroom walls. Being witness to that, you learn not let people in. Or rather, you don't want to let them in. But you stayed. You didn't run. And no matter how distant I became, you always found a way to tear down the walls I put up. It got to the point where all you had to do was look at me, kind of like you are now."
Santana bit down further on her pursed lips to keep them from trembling at Quinn's words, gripping the railing even tighter behind her back. It felt like she was in that hotel room in Hoi An again, listening to her talk about the things that she knew about the two of them. She didn't know what to feel. All she could do was just stand there and listen to the girl of her dreams talk while she tried not to let her tears fall down her already flushed cheeks.
Quinn dropped her intense gaze after a moment, spotting her journal on the floor and bending down with a wistful smile to pick it back up. She looked over to Santana as she absently flipped through its worn pages, that smile still on her lips, though her eyes held that scared longing Santana knew so well.
"We always said that Europe was to the unexpected," she murmured. "Well, you were my unexpected, Santana. You made me feel things that I spent my whole life convincing myself didn't exist. And for the longest time I refused to believe that these things you were making me feel were love, because I've never known it, nor been shown it before you. Or since."
Santana tried not smile at that last part, the pure honesty in Quinn's voice tearing at her already broken chest. But she stayed standing, just watching her as she turned to an entry in the book, holding it up for Santana to see. She recognized the jagged edge of the page instantly, her heart settling higher in her throat.
"When I tore out this part of my journal that night, it wasn't because I was going to give it to you. I wasn't. I never was," she told her thickly. "Seeing those words back then, I couldn't stand to look at them knowing I could never say them. But then just the thought of leaving without having told you how I felt, to leave with them was too much for me, so I turned around and I came back to you."
Silent tears had started streaking down Quinn's cheeks as she closed the journal and rested it on the top shelf. Santana wiped uselessly at her eyes, it was all she could do not to let her own tears fall. The other girl took in an uneasy breath and leant back against the shelf, before looking up Santana, that same honesty shining in her deep hazel eyes.
"Then a few weeks ago, you came back into my life, and I was right back where I started," Quinn sighed with a small shake of her head. "I'd been without you for so long, without that feeling you gave me that I didn't know how to cope. So like clockwork, I closed myself off, and I checked out. But then when we were alone, it was like those three weeks all over again. My walls came crashing down, and I fell further and harder. You had that hold on me again, and I couldn't shake it. I didn't want to shake it."
Quinn let a laugh escape, though it came out as more of a strangled choke. Those eyes found the ceiling for a moment as she tried to compose herself, blinking back more of her tears. Santana's short nails were digging into the wood of the railing. She didn't know where this was going, or what Quinn was trying to say to her. Santana didn't know whether she was just giving her the answers only to walk away again, or if this was her finally letting herself feel.
"So when you walked away from me," Quinn said through a laboured breath, bringing her gaze back down. "I finally understood what you went through when I got on that train, and I'm so sorry for that. I'm sorry that I didn't give you a choice back then. I made it for you, and that wasn't fair on either of us. I left it up to fate, and you were right, life isn't like the movies. Fate wasn't listening."
Santana watched as she seemed to close her eyes for a moment and take another step forward. It echoed around the empty studio, the only other sound, apart from the brunette's heavy breathing, was the turning of the ceiling fan and the distant horns coming from the darkened Brooklyn street below. And when Quinn spoke next, her voice held something that Santana hadn't ever heard come from those lips. It was reserved, and hopeful, and full of something she couldn't quiet place.
"But while life isn't a fairytale, I finally understand them now," Quinn said wistfully. "I finally understand what they all spoke about, the ones I convinced myself only lived within the pages I would read as a kid. The ones that spoke of a love that no length of time, or space could conquer. Ones where two strangers would lock eyes across a crowded room, and the rest of the world would just fade out."
The girl paused for a moment and paced even closer as Santana's stomach twisted anxiously. The brunette was doing her best to fight off the smile that was fighting its way to the surface, the look in Quinn's eyes making it hard to even breathe at this point.
"And the ones where the prince waited three long years to let the princess finally know how he really felt," she finished with a tearful smile.
Not being able to wait through the seconds of silence that just seemed stretch longer and longer, Santana finally cut through them with a shaky voice.
"What are trying to say, Quinn?" she barely managed, the darker girl practically bouncing on the balls of her feet, just aching to hear those words.
"The same thing that I've been trying to say to you since the day you told me that I'd know when I found her," Quinn shrugged sheepishly. "I love you, Santana. Always have."
Santana stayed silent. She couldn't think, or speak, or breathe. Everything was just white noise and those three words. She let them wash over as she closed her eyes. The ache in her chest slowly started to fade, it thudded once, twice, and then it just ceased. And then a warmth began to spread over her body that had her bracing herself against the railing. She vaguely registered the sound of shuffling feet, and the sharp intake of a breath in front of her, before that honey sweet voice continued in a rush of words, each one seeming to just fall from her lips.
"And it's not that I can't live without you, it's just that I don't want to. I've done it for too long, and I don't want to do it anymore. I don't ever want to have to say goodbye to you again, or just stand there and watch as you leave."
Santana couldn't hold onto them any longer, letting her tears slowly slide down her cheeks. She kept her eyes closed as quite sobs began to rack her slight frame. She kept breathing, her hands that gripped the railing the only thing keeping her upright.
"Santana?" Quinn asked, worry clear in her tone.
"Say it again," she breathed.
"What? All of it?"
Santana choked back a laugh, and just simply shook her head. It was a moment before she heard Quinn's footsteps getting closer and closer. She stayed leaning on the wall behind her, not daring to let her grip go. After a while, Santana felt the ghost of a touch, and then the feeling a small body press up against her, warm and close. She sighed into Quinn, her breath tickling at her ear as she appeared to rest her hands on the mirror behind her head.
"I love you," she whispered in her ear, her nose brushing lightly against the side of her cheek.
"Keep going," Santana sighed, her hands bunching in Quinn's loose top.
"I love you."
"I love you."
"I love you."
Each one was husked into her ear, the next holding more weight than the last. And with each, Santana pulled her further and further in until Quinn's whole body was bearing down on her. But Santana didn't care. It felt amazing being this close to her. It didn't hurt. It didn't flare the now nonexistent ache. It was addictive, but not damaging. It sent all her nerve ending alight, but they didn't fizzle out. The brilliant burning wouldn't cease, and as Quinn began brushing her lips softly down Santana's jaw and across to the corner of her mouth, a different kind of ache began low in her stomach, starting a burn all of its own.
"Look at me."
Santana edged her eyes open to be confronted with dark hazel. There was no clouded void. There were no traces of hesitation. All she saw was just pure want and love, and it had Santana's hands pulling harder against the material of Quinn's top, the girl stumbling even further into her. The blonde's lips grazed Santana's, hers parting at their own accord. Quinn only waited a moment before whispering hotly against her mouth, Santana whimpering as those words shot through her.
"I love you."
Quinn wasted no time, crashing her lips to Santana's, her hands seeking out her jaw, while tanned ones went straight for the girl's lower back. Santana raked them underneath her shirt, her fingers connecting with soft skin. The railing bit painfully into her back as Quinn pushed hard against her, but Santana ignored it, her mind concentrating on the intoxicating feeling of those lips and those hands. They left a burning trail down her neck, and had her gasping for air.
This didn't feel like any other time she'd had Quinn. It wasn't saying anything that those countless times before had said. The first time in Barcelona, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, all the way up until their last time in Paris. Each, just beneath the surface of I love you and I'll miss you, had an underlining goodbye. She remembered feeling it with every touch, and every flick of the girl's tongue. It was like a heartbeat, a rhythm.
But as Quinn reached for Santana's denim shorts, popping the top button and pulling on her metal zipper. As Santana grabbed for the girl's top and yanked her arms free. Even as she ran her fingers down beneath the hem of Quinn's underwear, there was no heartbeat, or rhythm. There was no I'll miss you. And there was no goodbye.
It was only I love you.
It was that simple.
"Do you think Brittany will be mad?"
"Britt said the hardwood," Santana stated firmly with smirk. "She mentioned nothing about her yoga mats."
Quinn giggled beneath her, Santana letting the effortless sound wash over her. She leant her head against the girl's chest, drawing small patterns on her bare stomach, sending goose bumps over her perfect olive skin. It was peaceful and calming, Santana breathing in and not feeling anything but that for the umpteenth time. She was still getting used to the warmth in her chest, her lips pulling up every time her mind concentrated on where she was and whose arms she was currently in.
I'm never going to get used to this, am I?
I could wake up in your arms a thousand times, and even then I still won't be.
"Hey, I know that me giving you my journal, and telling you that I love you isn't going to be enough to make things okay," Quinn murmured, Santana loving the sound of those three words coming from her perfect lips. "And I can't promise that I'm always going to let you in. You're just going to have be really patient with me, okay?"
"I know, it's okay," Santana nodded softly, reaching up her free hand to run a gentle finger along her jaw. "I love you."
She reached up and pressed her lips gently to Quinn's, the warmth flaring in her chest and her eyes closing for a long moment. She reluctantly broke the kiss and settled her head back down, her hands resuming their absent wanderings.
"So, does this make us girlfriends, or what?" Santana asked out of curiosity. She'd never had to label their relationship before now, it seemed a strange notion to do so, no word seeming to fit.
"I don't really like the word girlfriend," Quinn confessed, a playful scowl on her lips. "I don't think it quite describes us."
"Too cheesy and cliché," Quinn said shaking her head, her fingers brushing up and down Santana's arm.
"What about partners?" Santana suggested with shrug, her eyes craning up to meet Quinn's bright almond ones.
"Too old, sounds like we've been together forever."
Santana thought about it for a moment her lips quirking at her words as she pressed a light kiss just below Quinn's collarbone, earning a shiver from the girl next to her.
"It's so strange to think that technically we've only spent like two months together."
"It feels like a lifetime," Quinn mused.
They were both silent for a moment, Santana reaching a finger up and tracing the valley between Quinn's bare breasts, before trailing down toward her navel. She stopped when it reached the large towel they draped across their legs against the chill. They left their torsos bare, the warmth from their bodies enough to ward off the night air.
"I think we should invent new words."
"Yeah, because you're so good with the ones we already have," Santana deadpanned, stifling her laughter against Quinn's side.
"Hey," she scolded, flicking her on the arm.
"A little," she mumbled with a slight grin. "Why don't I just call you roomie?"
"It would probably make more sense if we were living together, though," Santana mentioned off hand, before looking back up into those eyes. They held a certain weight to them, Quinn quirking her brow suggestively at her. It sent butterflies to her stomach and had her arms tighten around her small waist.
"Fine, roomie it is," she relented, not putting up any fight on the matter. "But I get to call you cheap whenever I want."
Santana let her arms go slack, crawling up Quinn's body and settling comfortably between her legs. The girl beneath her just grinned at her, wrapping them around her and pulling her in to meet her waiting lips. Santana let a groan slip from her throat, as that tongue met hers, leaving her slightly lightheaded. After a moment, Santana placed her hands either side of Quinn's head and pulled back to look into those eyes that held nothing but hazel, and pure love and want. It still took Santana by surprise, the girl smiling lazily down at Quinn.
"This is going to work, right?" she asked, turning thoughtful for second. "Us?"
"Of course it will," Quinn assured, gently brushing a finger over Santana's flushed lips. "It'll be as if we never said goodbye."
End of Part Two