Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, but the idea is mine. The plot is mine. And the pride I have from writing this is something that I'll doubt I'll ever come down from. But Glee in general isn't mine. I'm just a fan who believes that love can conquer everything.
The day he leaves, she refuses to cry.
For as long as she's been alive, Santana Lopez has never been the type to let her emotions show, and that sure as hell isn't going to change today of all days. For the past few months it's been nothing but bliss. School ended, graduation came, and the original members of New Directions walked out of McKinley High with a National title under their belt. There have been countless nights spent under the stars with the smell of grilled food lingering in the air and plenty of moments when everyone burst into song for no reason at all. It doesn't go unnoticed by her of just how drastically her attitude towards Glee club and its members has changed since she first joined. And despite the fact that she will never in her life admit it, the freaky group of misfits have come to be her best friends.
But the summer is over now; high school is a thing of the past and people are moving on with their lives. Rachel and Finn moved to New York at the beginning of the month to follow their dreams while Mercedes and Kurt went in the opposite direction directly to Los Angeles and Tina and Artie have both left for college somewhere near Connecticut. Puck and Quinn are sticking around until they can earn enough money to get a place for themselves and Grace, though where they hope to go still remains undecided. Brittany is starting classes at the local community college to get her diploma as a hair stylist, and Mike is working at some company that his father owns. The last she heard Mr. Schuester was staying at McKinley continuing with Spanish, inspiring the new glee club kids, and cultivating his growing relationship with a certain redheaded guidance counselor.
Grabbing his bags from the back of her car, he sets his things on the sidewalk before heading over to a scary looking man in a uniform. After a moment of words between the two, Matt nods and shakes the man's hand before walking back over to where she stands. His goodbyes with his parents and siblings were said before leaving the house. So now it's just the two of them, and their time is almost up.
Without a word between them, Santana falls into his frame, feeling his big, strong arms wind tightly around her tiny body. She refuses to cry. All around them there are dozens of girls weeping their hearts out. They're weak. She can hold it together; she's stronger than all of them combined. Hearing the call from the officer, Matt pulls back to look into her eyes. It still freaks her the fuck out how he can do that and make her feel like he's looking right into her soul.
"I love you so much." He says, and she knows with all her heart that he means it.
"I love you too." She promises and he leans in for a final kiss that leaves her dizzy.
"Wait for me?"
Hope and uncertainty are obvious within the simple question, and despite how many times they've talked about it before, and she's pretty sure that her heart breaks a little.
"I promise." And she will. She'll wait her whole life if she has to. If that chick from Pirates of the Caribbean can do it, she sure as hell can. She's way more badass than Keira Knightly any day of the week.
Pressing another firm kiss to her lips he picks up his bags and heads off in the direction of the other men handing over their lives to serve the country. Watching him go is the hardest thing she's ever had to do in her life, and although it takes every ounce of effort she can summon she manages to keep the tears at bay. The emotions are overwhelming, but she's strong and she won't allow herself to break down now. She's made her promise and she intends to keep it, no matter what the cost.
After a few months of basic training and combat preparation and stuff that she doubts she'll ever understand, a phone call comes with unbearable news: Afghanistan. That's where they're sending him. Minimum of seven months, maximum of eighteen months, exact time expected unknown. His flight out of North Carolina leaves in ten days. She goes online ten minutes later and books a flight to North Carolina to see him off. Screw the cost, screw the fact that she will be flying hours across the country just to watch a plane leave and then head back home, screw everything. She has to be there.
When she arrives in Charleston with her only her duffle bag as a companion, she heads to the gate number he's given her and spots him immediately. He looks exactly the same, yet different. Stronger, more muscular, a bit less soft and gentle looking- which is only to be expected. But as soon as he sees her approaching figure, he smiles and sweeps her into his arms. It's possibly the most painful hug she's ever been given, but she only squeezes him tighter, never wanting to let go. Eventually they part, just enough to join at the mouth, keeping their PDA to a level of love and passion, but also somewhat appropriate for the public around them. For a moment the rest of the world doesn't exist and it's only them, together.
For the next two hours, they remain in each other's arms, sharing the details of their lives for the last five months. She tells him about Lima, coaching McKinley's dance team, and how happy she is to not be under Sue Sylvester's command anymore, since the woman has apparently only gotten more vicious with age. She shows him the layers Brittany added to her hair, photographs of Grace who is growing so fast it's gotten to a level of insanity, points out the jacket that Kurt and Mercedes shipped from their boutique in LA, and pulls three newspaper articles out of her purse. The first is an article from the local Lima paper about Mike and his new vice-presidency in his father's company; next is a review of Rachel's performance in the off-Broadway play she's starring in, and the last is about one Finn Hudson saving the lives of a small family in a New York apartment as a rookie at the NYFD.
He grins at the success of their friends and tells her all about life in the military. While it still pains her to hear what he goes through on a daily basis, the light in his eyes when he speaks lets her know that she's doing the right thing in supporting him. She may never understand it completely, but being in the Army is what he's wanted to do his whole life, and despite the negative aspects of it, he's clearly having no regrets about his decision.
He smiles as he tells her of his plans for the future. When he gets back from his tour overseas, they'll get an apartment and start saving for their own house, a big place with trees and a yard and a bunch of dogs to run around with. The two of them have always been active people, so they need active pets to keep up with, he tells her. He'll find a job he loves and someday she will have her own dance studio or whatever else her heart desires and they will start their lives together.
Santana smiles softly at all of his promises. The only thing her heart truly desires is him, and his face is filled with delight when she tells him so.
"I love you so much baby."
She loves him too.
"We'll write all the time." He tells her with a smirk. "And no excuses to get out of writing real letters! Can't try and get out of it with emails."
He knows her too well.
All too soon their visit is ending and his flight is being called. Santana sees many family members of the other men in uniform start to break down. But she refuses to cry.
Instead, she focuses on kissing him with all her power, soaking as much of him in as quickly as possible, trying to memorize even the tiniest details before they're separated for nearly a year.
"I love you." She says firmly.
He smiles sadly before pressing one last kiss to her head and backing away. "I love you too San. Always will."
Santana nods, murmuring to herself as he walks off. "Always."
It's been eight months. Eight months of pure, undeniable hell. His most recent letter said he would probably be there another three, at least. Time seems to drag on forever.
She stops after school one day to pick up more energy drinks for the dance team before heading home to the apartment she and Brittany share and going to check the mail. Theirs is the easiest to recognize among the rows of white boxes because of the bright yellow ribbon tied to the front. There are dozens more just like it all over the apartment. Brittany is all for support, but the main reason she likes them is because they're the same color as ducks, which Santana immediately refused when they first moved in together and Brittany suggested getting one as a pet. Instead they have a goldfish, named Ducky.
Santana holds the package of energy drinks in one hand along with her dance bag while unlocking the small box and grabbing the stack of envelopes. When she finally reaches the apartment the drinks are left by the door and her bag is tossed in her room as she shuffles through the mail tiredly. Among the bills, junk, and newest Cosmo magazine, a certain envelope catches her eye, causing the rest of the pile to be thrown on the table carelessly. She rips into the envelope, her drowsiness gone, and sits down to read his latest letter.
How's life in Lima? Things are pretty much the same on this end. Sanchez found out Melina is pregnant, and Richie's girl just had their second kid a few days ago so the topic of kids is popular. Obviously, I had to pull out my pictures of Gracie and show her off like the proud uncle I am, haha. She beats out all of them by a mile. Other than that, there hasn't been much going on, which is a good thing. We had a serious poker tournament last week and I won't ruin this letter by telling you how bad I did. Let's just say that Vegas is not in my future. I'll stick with singing. The guys made me do another song earlier and they still find it hard to believe that I was in glee club to begin with. But apparently I sound okay since they've started making requests.
I miss you like crazy San, you don't even know. Don't go spreading this around town or anything but sometimes it's those thoughts and pictures that you've sent that are all that get me through the day. It's not great over here, and seeing how awful other people have it makes me that much more thankful of what I know is waiting for me. You're the strongest person I know and I wouldn't be who I am without you.
I love you so much babe. I'm coming home as soon as I can to you. Just keep holding on and I'll be there before you know it.
Love and dirty thoughts just for you,
PS- Your last package was amazing! I don't know how you do it, but just when I think they can't get any better you surprise me again. I think the rest of the guys are getting jealous because nobody else gets stuff as often as I do. But I shared the food you sent so they shut up. Ha.
Included with the letter are three photographs of Matt and a few of the other guys in his platoon. By now Santana has most of them memorized. Sanchez, Garzo, Hemmerick, Matt, Louis, and Richie are grinning up at the camera like fools, a few of them holding their hands up or holding someone else in a headlock in the first. The second consists of mostly the same men, this time all wearing sunglasses and posing with their backs to each other, arms crossed, and cheesy smiles aimed at the camera. The last one is a simple shot of the ground, but after looking at it for a moment Santana realizes that something has been scrawled in the dirt. It's hard to notice because of the sun glaring when the photograph was taken, but its there. Simple, just one word and yet the meaning is crystal clear: ALWAYS.
Grabbing the box kept safely in her bedside table, she takes out a sheet of the stationary she bought just for him. She always douses it with her perfume right before sending, hoping that with enough sprayed on maybe the smell will hold until it reaches him. Grabbing the nearest pen, she puts it to paper and begins to write, mentally thinking of what to send him next.
It's been seventeen months, two weeks and six days when the letter comes. It's not long and detailed like the others; it's less than a sentence. More like a post-it note.
8/12. Mark your calendar. I love you baby!
She refuses to cry. Despite the fact that she's elated and relieved and excited beyond all human emotion, she refuses to let the tears come. Tears show weakness. She isn't weak. But she does allow herself to scream and grin and when Brittany comes in from the other room asking what the hell is going on she hops over and hugs her best friend with joy.
"He's coming home, B. Matt's coming back home."
Brittany's own grin instantly appears on her face. "That's great San! How long?"
"For good." She laughs. "He's coming back to me."
The next three weeks are spent preparing for his arrival. The apartment is cleaned until it sparkles, which is a first because Santana has never been one to tidy up. Her hair is cut and fixed, her nails airbrushed with intricate designs, and she and his family go and pick out party decorations for his homecoming. The night before his plane is due to arrive Brittany, Mike, and herself are invited over to make signs and the Rutherford living room is nearly silent as the seven people concentrate on making their pieces of poster board flawless.
She doesn't get a minute of sleep that night. Her excitement keeps her up, so Brittany digs out their overused copies of the Twilight movies and fixes popcorn. But not even Edward has the ability to distract her now. She has only one man on her mind tonight and he doesn't need sparkles to dazzle her.
Eventually, they're at the airport and Santana hasn't been able to stop pacing for the last hour and a half. They all arrive extremely early, but it isn't like they have anything better to do at home. The posters are propped up around them, glitter and sparkles and bright markers drawing the eyes of each passerby. The announcement over the loudspeaker finally announces the arrival of his plane, so she grabs her sign and watches the terminal. After twenty seconds of nothing, she returns to her pacing.
Soon Brittany taps her shoulder and points.
She does and for a minute she's not sure if she's dreaming. He couldn't really be here. It had been almost two years. This day would never really arrive. But there's a large dark figure in uniform walking towards their group and he's grinning. Looking into his eyes confirms it: it's really him.
After almost two years of holding it all together and being tough, the walls of the dam open and the floods are released. It's uncontrollable. A sob escapes from her lips as she breaks out into a run towards him, tossing the poster board aside with no concern whatsoever. She crashes into his body and his arms sweep her up in the air, spinning around in a circle as his world returns to him. Her eyes are squeezed shut tightly and she couldn't care less if her death grip around his neck is cutting off oxygen. He hugs her back with the same vigor, pulling back just enough to press a hard kiss on her lips. Mike snaps pictures with his camera while several other people around the airport stop to smile at the reunion.
She's forced to let go when his family comes forward for their turn to greet him, but she remains within arm's distance, as if he could slip away at any moment. His mother and father are first, his older brother and sister next, and then Mike and Brittany welcome him home as well. The minute he's finished, she's pulled back in his arms and he's brushing away her tears with the rough pads of his thumbs while whispering words of love onto her lips.
"I missed you so much." She says quietly, failing to hold in the whimper in her throat.
He nods and kisses her tenderly. "I missed you too baby. But I'm here now, okay? And I'm never leaving your side ever again."
She hates to sound like a child, but can't help asking. "You promise? Forever?"
Matt chuckles, his own emotions getting the best of him as well as he holds back a few tears. "Always."
She pulls him down for another kiss, his lips calming every fiber of her being and making all the worries and pain disappear.
"Well, what say we get out of this airport and head home?" Mrs. Rutherford says a minute later. "There's dinner waiting."
It's nearly one in the morning when Santana arrives home from the Rutherford house. Her hand is still firmly clasped with the man she loves, their fingers intertwined, as the door of the apartment is unlocked and pushed open.
"It looks great babe." He says after setting his bag down in her room and looking around a bit. It's obvious that she cleaned for him, his time overseas didn't make him forget her messy habits, and he finds it cute how much effort she's put into trying to impress him. But at the moment all he can focus on is her. Brittany went home with Mike so tonight, it's just the two of them together. He wastes no time in pulling her into his arms, pressing soft kisses along her jaw and plump lips.
"You know, every day I was gone I thought about you all day long." He confesses, his eyes filled with lust and longing. "And part of me worried that you'd find someone else and move on."
Her heart breaks a little. "Not possible." She whispers. "I found the only thing I need a long time ago. Even a war can't change that."
"I love you so much Santana."
When his lips are on hers again, she can't help but let out another huge sigh of contentment. "I love you too Matt. So fucking much."
Swiftly lifting her up, Santana's legs wrap around his waist while holding on to him for dear life as he makes his way back to the bedroom. Peeling away each other's clothes they pay close attention to all the details they've had to do without for such a long period of time. She examines his lean body, checking for wounds that he failed to mention, and is relieved when he appears to be exactly the same as she remembered. Matt is pretty sure her body has only gotten better and knowing that she's entirely his only heightens his desire.
The first few rounds are rushed because it's been such a long time since they've been together. They're both done with waiting and revel in the feeling of the other's hands maneuvering over their bodies, their cries like music as they join together as one. As the night grows darker things begin to slow down, sensuality builds, and their entire operation is different. They hold out much longer, tease more, and take their sweet time because now they don't have to worry about an ending.
"This is a great way to celebrate coming home." He says as they lay content in each other's arms, their limbs tangled together under the single violet sheet remaining on her bed.
Her lips move across his chest in bliss, fingers tracing patterns on his stomach. "I could stay like this forever." And she could. She absolutely could.
Matt smiles. "Forever sounds pretty damn good right now."
She grins into the kiss he presses to her lips. "So what are you thinking Mr. Rutherford?"
He sighs lazily. "I'm thinking about how we can do anything we want now. And that it's time to start on all those plans we made."
"Like what? The house and kids?"
"And dogs, don't forget the dogs." He chuckles. "And the being together for the rest of our lives." He shifts his body so he can look directly into her eyes. "I love you, and I want to make it official." The glint in her eye speaks for itself and she knows. She's ready too. She always has been.
Nine days later, they find themselves standing before a judge at City Hall, their closest friends and family filling the two rows of chairs behind them. She's wearing a simple knee-length strapless dress that Kurt found, and behind her left ear is a white lily. He is standing proudly in his uniform, a permanent smile etched across his face. The ceremony is short and traditional, neither one of them has ever been very religious nor are they concerned with big gestures and small details. The only thing that matters is being united as one for the rest of time. When the papers have been signed and the words have been said, the judge turns to them both with a smile and nods. They wear matching grins as Matt pulls her into a deep kiss, sealing the promise of a shared lifetime to come.
The after party is being held at the Rutherford house and the rest of the evening is spent drinking, dancing, and laughing in celebration of their unity. New Directions has reunited, albeit briefly, and for once when a very pregnant Rachel Hudson announces a performance, Santana has no rude comments to make. The remaining ten members (along with, much to everyone's surprise, Mr. Schuester and Ms. Pillsbury) come together to sing as if they were just crowned National champions the day before.
As they dance under the moonlight, held tight in each other's arms, the music begins to fade until it is only a faint hum carrying in the background. For a moment, only she and Matt exist, the rest of the world is only a memory and it occurs to Santana that for the first time in her life she is no longer afraid to cry.
A/N: I hope you liked it. I hope it gave you the same rush that it gives me. I hope it inspired you and just… gave you a good feeling. But even if it didn't, I'd love to hear your opinion regardless.