A/N: Angsty one-shot. Download or youtube Adele's "Someone Like You" (preferably a live version) then loop it before reading.


You're in the garden, sitting on your shins and bent at the waist over a flowerbed. Even covered in dirt, you're beautiful. I watch as you run the back of your hand across your forehead, wiping away the sweat collecting there. Your hair is darker than I remember. It's only been five years, but I can tell that you've grown, even from here.

I'm sitting in my car, parked across the street. You haven't seen me yet, and I feel horrible taking advantage of this to watch you. But it's been too long, and all the comfort I once felt just seeing your face has been replaced with nervous anxiousness. I can't muster the courage I need to walk up to you. I could barely read the letter you sent, and it took three days of aimless driving – including a few hours making the same twenty mile loop over and over – to get to this street. It's tree-lined, and serene. It's everything I wanted for you. It's everything I wanted for us. But I messed that up a long time ago. And now here I am. Watching you. Wishing I had the strength to open the door and tell you what I should have told you five years ago.

I heard that you're settled down

That you found a girl and you're married now

I heard that your dreams came true

Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you

You didn't invite me here. I honestly don't know why I came. Maybe it was the way the ink from your pen bled, connecting all your letters into an unintentional cursive. Maybe it was how you began the letter with "My Dearest Santana…" and ended with, "All my love, Brittany." You book ended your news with these sentimental endearments. Why you would do that, after all this time, I had to know. So I got in my car and drove. First west, from LA, then north through the mountains. I never expected that you'd end up in Denver, but this is your kind of town. Hippies and farmers' markets and organic cheese and dancers. I knew before I even found your house. Here, you're home.

I don't know how you ended up here. After that night – after you left – you'd been careful not to give me the specific details of your life. I deserved that, to be shut out. But we both know that it was never going to be a complete isolation. I got your letters a few times a year, and you signed them all, "Your friend, Britt" as though you needed to reinforce the point. We were friends first. Then we became lovers and friendship took a backseat to sex. I got lost in that, for a while. I was young, and stupid, and I didn't know how good I had it. Maybe if things had been different for us then, at 16, we might have ended up differently today, instead of me here, and you a hundred feet away in your garden.

Old friend, why are you so shy?

Ain't like you to hold back or hide from the light

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited

But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it

I had hoped you'd see my face

And that you'd be reminded that for me, it isn't over

Being lovers was never enough for you. We couldn't separate sex from feelings, no matter how much we tried. So we lost each other for a while. But then, just like now, you made it so hard for me to stay away forever. I fought for you, back in high school when fighting had little to do with my ability to provide you with a future, and everything to do with living in the moment. But now, holding your letter in my hand, I wonder if fighting ought to mean more than just presenting myself, chest ripped open and exposed, and offering you what I wasn't prepared to give before: my soul, and a still-beating heart.

You've never been selfish, like I have. You had the biggest heart, and no matter how many times I had to remind you of your own middle name, you could still remember the first and last of every person you ever met, and greeted them all as friends. You trusted so easily, and so implicitly. I'm sorry that I took that from you. I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to apologize. I'm sorry for that night, and every night before and after.

I'm sorry you ever met me.

Never mind I'll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you, too

Don't forget me, I beg

I remember you said,

"Sometimes it lasts in love,

But sometimes it hurts instead."

The letter is what made me come here, and even though I've only had it a few days, it's well worn and fraying at the folds. I've memorized it. I can imagine the way the dots of your I's are dashes instead of circles. The pen was running out of ink, so you had to press harder at the end, and I can feel the outlines of the words on the back of the page like Braille.

"I'd like for you to meet her one day."

I can feel the request under my fingertips now. I know what it says without looking. I whisper the sentence aloud as I watch you bury a bulb deep in rich potting soil. Your elbows are scuffed and bleeding from leaning into the ground to steady yourself. I'm reminded of grass-stained knees after a fall in Cheerios practice, or the graze of a wood burn after a hard day in a dance class in LA. I remember how you used to pout at these injuries until I kissed them all in turn. But now you see the mar on your soft flesh and you smile, and I break, knowing that someone else has given you that ability; to be strong on your own, instead of dependent and unsure. You don't need me to make it better or to fix things or hold your hand. That, among other things, cuts deeply.

You told me in the letter that you met her at a bar. You were with work friends, so it took a lot of courage for her to approach you in a group like that. You wrote that she had impressed you with her grace. She wasn't a dancer, like you, but she had a fluidity in the way she spoke, easing in and out of conversation like a breeze. Her confidence, you said, reminded you of me.

You wrote that you'd spent years trying to remember what it felt like to be loved, and with her you'd finally gotten it back. I'm holding the letter now, but I don't need to look at it to know what comes next.

"She asked me to marry her," your unintentional cursive says. "And I've said yes."

When you walked out five years ago, you swore to me that you'd never love again. That I'd broken you irrevocably. But you found her, and I know now that it's me that's broken. It always has been.

You know how the time flies

Only yesterday was the time of our lives

We were born and raised in a summer haze

Bound by the surprise of our glory days

Do you remember the day we left Lima? When we took every scrap of everything we owned and shoved it in the trunk of that piece of shit station wagon we scrimped and saved for? Do you remember what you said to me when we turned off your block and you waved goodbye to your mom? You told me that we were only just beginning, but it already felt like the end. I didn't know what you meant by that, then. Now, though, I think I understand. We ended a life in Lima to start something new, but I was never really very good at reassuring you that we were on the right path to that. No matter how many beginnings we had, another ending was always just over the horizon.

We did well, in LA, though, didn't we? I thought that we'd built something good there. Good enough, at least. Good enough was all we had back then. We never had any money, but we had each other. It was hard, and I know we grew up fast. But you couldn't have known, nor could I, that it was growing up together that would push us apart.

You're knee-deep in fertilizer now, spreading it across the newly planted earth with this infectious look of satisfaction on your face. When you're done you stare at your handiwork and wipe the excess debris from the decorative rocks. You take off your gloves and I can see the ring on your left hand from here. I bet it's beautiful close up. Not that it could ever compare to you covered in dirt. But I still bet it's beautiful.

You take a step back and frame the house and garden with your fingers, as though you're setting up a photograph. I've spent so much time studying you – the new lines on your face, the darkness and new style of your hair, the way you favor your left leg just a little – that I haven't even looked at the home you share with her. It's small, yellow paint on antique wood shingled siding, with a red door. The knocker, I think, is a duck. Or least it seems that way from here. I wouldn't be surprised. There's even a picket fence, although it isn't white. I know you're better than that cliché.

You've found everything you wanted, it seems. Domesticity. Comfort. Home. Everything I was too selfish to give you. We spent the first half of our lives together, and it somehow became easy for me to take you for granted. It wasn't until you were gone that I realized just how much you did for me. You made a home for us time and again when I forced you to uproot yourself and move from place to place, new job after new job, never thinking that the only thing you ever wanted from me was stability. Someone you could trust. You trusted everyone, but me above all. And I broke that in you.

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited

But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it

I had hoped you'd see my face

And that you'd be reminded that for me, it isn't over

I've told you before, but I came here to tell you again. She never meant anything to me. She was a distraction. It's not an excuse. I know you deserved better than that. And to have you walk in only makes it worse. You should never have had your home defiled like that. That night – any of those nights – should never have happened. I came to say that.

No, that's wrong. That's not why I'm here. I keep telling myself that; that apologizing again will make you look at me and not remember what you saw or how I hurt you – over and over – until you gave up. Until I broke you too badly for you to let me fix you. I know that you'll never fully forgive me, even though you say you have. I know you call me your friend in your letters, but I can never be just that with you.

You know me. It's all or nothing.

I came here to wish you well. I came to shake your hand and congratulate you and tell you that you deserve the happiness you've found. I came to meet the girl that could give you that happiness, and thank her for doing everything that I could not.

But she's pulled into your driveway now. She gets out, dressed in a suit, carrying a briefcase, but her collar is askew and her buttons are undone. She's smiling at you as she crosses the lawn and you rush to her. She hugs you, dirt and all. I know now that I don't want to meet her, because she'll remind me of just how wrong I was for you.

Never mind I'll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you, too

Don't forget me, I beg

I remember you said,

"Sometimes it lasts in love,

But sometimes it hurts instead."

I don't even know her name, this woman you love. The woman who put you back together. I don't want to know. So I'm still sitting here in this car, watching you as you show her what you've done in the garden you share. She adores you. The look in her eyes when you get excited is just as animated, as though just the fact that you're happy is enough to make her happy, too. I lost that, before. I forgot that that's how a relationship is supposed to work. I let myself care more about my own well-being than yours.

She's taken you inside now. It's almost dark, and I can see your silhouettes in the lit window. I ought to be jealous. I ought to march to the front door and challenger her, because my love for you, our history, means more than that ring.

But I won't make that mistake again. This isn't about me, not anymore. Maybe it was five years ago, or even three days ago when I got in the car. But seeing you like this, I understand now that this can never be about me again.

So I'm writing you this letter while I sit outside your house. Because showing up like this wasn't fair, and because I need you to know that I want your happiness above all things. She gives you that, and I couldn't.

I won't write you again. I won't allow what I feel to sully what you've made here. But I will always love you, Brittany. There was never anyone else for me. And there never will be.

Congratulations. She's a very lucky girl.

All my love,

Santana

Nothing compares

No worries or care

Regrets or mistakes, they're memories made

Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Never mind I'll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you, too

Don't forget me, I beg

I remember you said,

"Sometimes it lasts in love,

But sometimes it hurts instead."