Old Loves Die Hard (Old Lies Die Harder)
"I'm enlisting in the Army as soon as we graduate." You swore that your heart stopped with Santana's words, every muscle going rigid. She was trying desperately to look strong, but her bravado slipped further and further away with every tear that slid down her cheeks.
"But, you…" You couldn't make the words form right on your tongue, but you could tell by the way she focused intently on the ground that she knew exactly what you wanted to say. That you were going to go to New York together, that she would go to NYU for law and you would go to Julliard and you would finally be able to live and breathe together without worrying every moment of every day that someone would find out. You had it mapped out for months, ever since you both got your acceptance letters. You were so excited, she was so excited.
It was all slipping away and you didn't know why.
"My family needs the money. We barely have enough right now to cover everything my brother and sister need, there's no way they can pay for NYU." It was a perfectly logical explanation. You knew how much she loved her family, but it didn't keep it from feeling like someone trampled on your chest.
"I'm so sorry, Rachel, I'm just…I have to do this." Her tears flowed freely, arms wrapped tightly around herself like it would keep it from hurting. You knew that she loved you as much as you loved her, you knew that it was hurting her, so you bit back your anger. Instead of saying everything you wanted to say, instead of yelling and screaming, you stepped forward and gathered her in your arms, letting her cry into your shoulder until she couldn't anymore.
You cried, too, but you don't like to remember the feeling.
She left for basic training a week after graduation, returning a month later much quieter than you had ever seen her. It was that way for two weeks, before you found her sitting on the porch swing on Kurt's deck, the sound of music and chatter from the party faintly tainting the stillness of the night. You sat next to her in silence for a long while before Santana spoke.
"I'm getting deployed in August." Her voice was quiet, barely audible over the noise from inside, but her words dug deep into your chest. You knew it would happen, you both did, but it was different when it had a date. It was different when you had to face it. Before you could formulate a reply, the sound of the door opening caught your attention.
"Oh, sorry. I just wanted to make sure you guys were alright." Quinn's voice was soft, almost as quiet as Santana's. You nodded in return, while Santana remained silent.
"Yeah, we're fine." Quinn nodded before pausing, her eyes trained on you, intensely, only breaking her gaze as she disappeared back in to the house.
"She really likes you, you know." Santana's was a little louder, but still, you couldn't make yourself look at her, much less reply to what she had said. You didn't want to think about Quinn Fabray, not when you only had a few months left with Santana.
It was hard to keep reminding yourself that you and Santana weren't together anymore, especially when your heart was so completely convinced that you were. You were so certain that Santana's was, too, making the entire conversation not sit well in your stomach.
"You could love her, if you tried." she continued, her eyes finally focused on the street rather than on you. You were relieved, because you knew that the girl beside you couldn't see how you took your lip firmly in your teeth to bite back the tears burning like lava behind your eyes.
"But I love you." For the first time in years, your voice betrayed you, making you flinch with how absolutely pitiful you sounded. Still, it was the truth.
"You won't always. I'm going away soon, and it's going to be a long time before I come back. You'll hate me eventually."
"I won't ever stop loving you, Santana."
"You have to."
Santana's voice was so tiny and so scared that you were shocked into silence. Those three words hung in your mind, haunting you until the day that Santana was set to leave. You offered to drive her, despite the fact that it was ungodly early in the morning.
She looked good in the uniform, you caught yourself thinking as you pulled into the Lopez driveway. Her hair was pulled back, as always, and she sent you a charming smile from the front porch. It reminded you of the same smile she used to sweep you off your feet, all bravado, built to cover how she was really feeling. You knew she was covering her fear for her family's sake, she always did, and your suspicions were confirmed as soon as you were out of sight of her house. Santana's shoulders slumped, taking in a sharp breath and holding it, like she was trying to calm herself down. Without thinking, you reached across the center console and grasped her hand.
The ride was spent in silence, Santana gripping your hand so hard that her knuckles were white. All you could do was just squeeze back and revel in every moment despite your fear, knowing that this was the last time you were going to see her in a long time. You didn't let yourself dwell on how it could be the last time you'd ever see her.
You seemed to reach your destination much too soon, and the ache in your chest became overwhelming. Santana didn't move as you put the car in park and shut off the engine, she just clutched tightly to your hand and clenched her teeth, trying to hold back the tears.
"You need to go, Santana." Your words were painful, forced past the suffocating lump in your throat. Santana was weeping softly in the seat next to her, her entire body shaking. You bit down hard on your lower lip to try and quell the ache in your throat and in your chest as you pulled your hand from Santana's, stepping out of the car and walking over to the passenger side. You pulled her up and out of the seat, and, as if on instinct, Santana wrapped her arms around your shoulders, her face buried deeply into the crook of your neck.
"Don't love me, okay? Promise me you won't love me." Santana's lips barely brushed against the shell of your ear, forcing you to swallow thickly, feeling her fingernails dig sharply into your back. There were so many things you wanted to say, so many things you hadn't said, but you knew that Santana had to leave.
"Okay." It made you so sick to your stomach that you could barely get the word out. Santana didn't seem to notice as she reluctantly pulled away from you, grabbing her duffel bag from the backseat.
"I'll call, okay?" You could barely nod.
You didn't have the heart to tell her that you had lied.
Just like she said she would, Santana called her every other Sunday. It was always a short conversation, but you didn't care. Hearing her voice again, knowing that she was okay was all that seemed to matter as Sunday grew near. Even after you agreed to a date with Quinn, even after you kissed her, even after you moved in together in a small New York City apartment, you couldn't shake the remnants of your feelings for the girl that was thousands of miles away. Instead, you did the best you could do, burying your feelings deep in your mind, tucked far away from your immediate problems and concerns.
There were times when it was easy to forget. Quinn was so sweet, and it was obvious that she loved you very much. It was easy to get caught up in it, to be swept off your feet day after day with her passionate kisses and her touch and the way she would wrap herself around you at night, like she could shield you from everything you didn't want to feel.
For the most part, it worked, but not always. There was always the hollow ache in your chest after Santana hung up, the speaker pressed tightly against your ear until the screeching of the dial-tone was too much to bear. You used to cry, allowing your body to be overcome by the force of your sobs until Quinn came into the room and held you for as long as it took for the tears to stop.
You weren't stupid. The look in Quinn's eyes was clear as day. Sadness and jealousy, not only because you were sad, but because you were so obviously in love with someone that wasn't her. You didn't want to hurt Quinn like that, not when she was so painfully good to you, so you tried your hardest to focus on the present. To remember that it was Quinn with you now, not Santana.
In the beginning, your acting skills were the only thing holding you together, but it got easier as time passed. You didn't even have to bite down on your cheek to hold back the tears after each phone call, anymore. You would just smile slightly at Quinn, a hint of sadness on your lips, and she would do her best to kiss it away. Sometimes, you even managed to forget why you were sad in the first place, with Quinn's head tucked gently into the crook of your neck.
There were times at night, though, when Quinn was fast asleep where you weren't sure if you hated yourself more for the profound sadness you'd sparked in her eyes or for the way it was becoming easier and easier to forget your love for Santana. Each time, you'd gently kiss the top of Quinn's head, pulling her as close as you could, praying that you were making the right decisions.
It was easy to forget that you had only agreed to go on a date with Quinn in the first place because Santana had suggested it, until she saw her again.
Santana was only home for two weeks, and you had made certain that you were back in Lima when it happened. You found yourself in the Lima airport with Brittany and Quinn, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santana's plane.
It seemed like ages before you saw her emerge from the crowd, walking past airport security. She looked tired, and thinner than when she left, and a lump began to form in your throat just as Santana spotted them. Her face lit up, a grin adorning her lips, the happiness reaching all the way to her eyes. It took everything you had not to cry when she jogged up and swept Brittany into her arms, the blonde laughing into the powerful hug. Quinn was next, but their hug was more subdued.
When confronted with you, Santana just stopped and stared. In that second, you felt everything hit you like a hammer, everything you'd been feeling while she was gone, all the love you'd managed to shove deep beneath the surface tearing through you like your walls were made of paper.
"Santana-" You choked out, tears dangerously close to spilling as Santana mirrored you. Suddenly, she lunged forward, engulfing your tiny frame in a fierce embrace. You couldn't help but cling to her, desperately, months of separation and worry working their way out of your mind with every second you held on. You needed to feel her, to truly know that she was okay. You needed to remember everything you used to know, every scar and every birthmark, the way she smelled, her laugh, the feeling of her skin. It had all been slowly slipping away, and you couldn't stand it.
"I'm so glad you're okay." You whispered into Santana's ear, quiet enough that the others couldn't hear. Santana just buried her face further against your neck.
The next few nights were a blur, spent in the company of Brittany, Santana, and Quinn. You were having a hard time focusing on anything other than Santana, trying to take in as much about her as you could before she inevitably left again. You could feel it working its way back into your chest, love. Even when you were holding Quinn's hand, or kissing her, you could think of nothing but Santana. Guilt clawed its way back into your stomach, settling just as love staked its claim on your heart.
You felt so awful about everything. You felt awful that you couldn't be better to Quinn, you felt awful that you just couldn't fall in love with her, you felt awful that you couldn't fall out of love with Santana. It was like you couldn't do anything without hurting someone, and you weren't willing to hurt yourself for Quinn's sake. You never had been. Your heart wanted what it wanted, and that was Santana. Even though she desperately wanted you to stop loving her and start loving Quinn, you just couldn't, no matter the guilt.
You just wanted Santana back. You missed her, everything about her. Everything about you together.
It was how you found yourself in the bathroom at Kurt's house, pressing Santana against the wall, your lips fused. You were kissing with such a passion that it was hard to remember how to breathe, your hands wandering to the hem of Santana's top, desperate to feel skin. Santana didn't fight it, she poured just as much emotion back as you were pouring in, kissing frantically. It was like she'd wanted to do this for months, as she pushed back against you, hoisting you up onto the counter in a swift movement, settling between your legs.
Santana kissed down your jaw, nibbling softly on your earlobe as her hands softly worked their way up your shirt, thumbs finding hardened nipples with familial ease. You grabbed the sides of her face, burning with the need to kiss her, moaning softly into her mouth as Santana's fingers worked their way into your jeans. The first touch of Santana against you made you gasp, like it always did, your hips softly canting to meet her hand. Santana kissed you fiercely as she slipped two fingers inside, your thighs clamping around her hand with a moan. You rocked herself into Santana, hard, trying to savor every second of this.
It was heavy and needy, lacking patience or grace, but you couldn't care less. You needed this, this closeness. You needed the intimacy. It was all the love you'd pushed back, all the passion and the frustration expressed in physical form.
"Santana, I love you. God, I love you so much." The words spilled from your lips as you dug her nails into Santana's back, before you could stop them. Santana froze, her dark eyes fixated on yours, like she was unable to look away. The silence was deafening, as was the scared look in Santana's eyes, like she wanted to run away. "Don't lie to me, not now."
"I-I love you…I love you."
She sealed it with a kiss.
It was like you just blinked and Santana was boarding a plane back to the god-awful place from which she'd come, the sad look in her eyes enough to distract you from the sad look in Quinn's. You hugged Santana goodbye, clinging to her, desperately, the same way you had when she'd come back. You couldn't even speak, the lump in her throat impossible to clear. Santana didn't speak, either. What was there to say that hadn't already been said?
Nothing, and everything. The feeling was stifling.
All you could do was watch Santana walk away and avoid Quinn's gaze, which began to burn the moment it fixated on you. It was all too much to take right now, Santana leaving and Quinn's sadness, all on top of your own turmoil. You couldn't deal with it, not when it took everything you had left to ignore Quinn's attempts at conversation on the ride back to your house. Finally, she gave up, disappearing for the rest of the day while you visited with your dads. Tomorrow, you were heading back to New York, away from all the memories, but you knew that you couldn't escape the emotion. Not this time.
For some reason, you hadn't been expecting to hear Quinn speak when she entered your childhood room. You'd expected the same silence that you'd wished for earlier, no matter the guilt.
"Can I sleep in here with you?" You weren't really sure why she was asking when it was what you'd been doing for months. There was no way she knew what had happened, was there? It wasn't like Quinn was oblivious to your feelings for Santana, or to Santana's feelings for you. She couldn't be. The thought made you sick to your stomach, sicker still when Quinn found her way under the covers and wrapped an arm around your waist, pulling you flush against her chest.
"I love you, you know." She whispered. From the way her voice waivered, you knew she wanted to cry. You squeezed your eyes shut, fisting your free hand in the blanket, wishing once again that you could just love Quinn and make this whole situation far less complicated. Once again, it didn't work.
You drifted to sleep eventually, only to have your mind consumed by dreams. Santana, lying prone on the sand, hand clutched against her stomach. Crimson quickly painting the ground, her breath ragged, coming in uneven pants. The sound of gunfire from everywhere, the yelling of orders you didn't understand. She tried to pull herself to a safer spot, away from the action, but moving just made her cry out in pain. You had never seen her cry out, ever, not like this. She was like a dying animal, struggling to escape when she knew that she was trapped, doomed to her fate. She bled to death in the desert, thousands of miles from home, all alone. You wanted to cry.
Suddenly, you were being shaken awake, the sound of Santana's cries replaced with Quinn desperately calling your name, trying to get you to wake up. The haze of your dream drifted away as you blinked awake, quickly realizing that your cheeks were wet with tears.
"Oh thank god you're awake." Quinn whispered, pulling you tightly against her. You couldn't help but cry against her, your body shaking furiously with sobs, your fingers digging into Quinn's back. "You were crying so hard, baby, I was worried."
You couldn't help the way your sobs intensified. Quinn loved you so much, but she just wasn't the one that you wanted. The one that you wanted was heading back to that desert, where she could get shot in the stomach and bleed out, alone.
"Shh, I'm here honey. You're okay, everything's okay." Quinn whispered as she gently rocked you, her arms latched around you like iron. She just kept repeating herself, over and over, and all you could do was cling to her and wish. You wished for Santana, you wished that you could be better to Quinn, you wished that things could be different. You wished that this could be good enough, the blonde's embrace, her tender kisses to your forehead and cheeks. You wished it was good enough, but it wasn't.
You couldn't stop the tears, not even when you realized that Quinn was crying, too.