A/N: TRIGGER WARNING. Angst, ridiculous angst. Character death. You have been warned.


Her cheek is pressed against cold tile. Above her, the faucet in the sink drips menacingly, taunting her. All she wants is silence and for a few brief, blissful moments, she'd had it. Until the damn sink started leaking. And now, as she's lying with her face on the bathroom floor and her fists balled up over her eyes, she's wishing for that blessed silence again.

Why does the world have to be so goddamn loud, she thinks, her body shuddering as a breeze blows through the open window at her back, the translucent curtains fluttering. She's bent at her middle, the straps of her bra digging into her otherwise bare shoulders. She only managed to get the top of her Cheerios uniform off before collapsing. The effort it took to try and remove the rest after she had hit the floor proved too much, so she remains this way, the skirt riding up over her hips.

She is alone. Not just literally, because at this moment she is also metaphorically, virtually, theoretically and incontrovertibly… alone. She doesn't cry about this fact. She doesn't really believe that she can cry. Her body has rejected simple human acts like tears. Also kindness, compassion, and love. They're replaced with biting sarcasm. Kindness with cruelty. Et cetera, et cetera. It's always been that way. It's easier, she supposes, to be jaded and aloof than open and honest. Or, at least that's what she used to think. Now, laying on the bathroom floor, shivering, she reconsiders her earlier assumptions.

She wonders, also, how it came to this. Lying here, mildly catatonic and half naked, her scars on display. There were events, yes, that had led here, and they were entirely her own doing. Brittany. Puck. Finn. Sam. Quinn. Hell, even Rachel. They had played a part in her abrupt and graceless downfall. They're not to blame, for sure, but everyone has a role in a farce such as hers. Even secondary players further the plot. Where would Romeo have been without his Mercutio?

She regrets everything leading up to this point, and that's probably one of the more depressing things about the situation. Regret isn't something she expected for herself, especially regret that permeates so deeply. She considers her life thus far a failure, if only because she can think back and count on one hand the number of times she's been truly happy.

And all of those times include Brittany.

It's not as though she planned this, this deep, guttural hatred she has for herself. She didn't plan a lot of things. Loving a tall, blonde dancer is certainly among them. Had she been given a list of her future endeavors when she was a child, she could have been better prepared for the havoc that Brittany wreaked on her life. She could have been better equipped to deal with the amount of pain she feels when Brittany is upset. She could have a better way of handling her own ecstasy when she sees Brittany smile.

No one ever prepared her for this. No one told her how much love could rip her apart.

If this is love – it feels so much more like obsession, like dying and being reborn in fire – then she has failed at it, just like she has failed at everything else in her life. She isn't the head cheerleader. She isn't the valedictorian, She has never been a good or even true friend, especially to Brittany. Brittany, who loves ducks and thinks her cat helps her with her homework, when it's really this puddled mess on the bathroom floor that corrects the algebra after Brittany goes to sleep. Brittany, who, when she dances, the whole world stops spinning and watches, enraptured by every flick of her wrist and bend of her long, lithe legs.

She pulls her knees up to her chest just thinking about Brittany dancing, holding herself tightly where the blonde used to; around her own ribcage, her abdomen, her thighs, carelessly caressing her own breasts and imagining that it's Brittany's hand. Imaging that she hasn't failed so incredibly miserably that Brittany will never touch her in these places again. Trying to convince herself that she hasn't lost the one person who ever cared about her to a condescending chauvinist in a wheelchair.

She can't blame Artie for all of this. She can't blame him for any of it, really. He sees in Brittany exactly what she sees: perfection wrapped in a quirky, slightly addled package. It's irresistible. So no, she can't blame him. It started so much earlier than that, anyway. With Puck. It's still going on, if she's being perfectly honest (and there's no reason not to be, when it comes down to it). It's a relationship of convenience, her sex with the mohawked football player, coupled with a scathing sense of self-loathing that requires her to seek him out whenever she feels herself slipping from her steady pedestal, falling. Because Brittany has that effect on her: she can make her fall. She knows that every time she arrives at Brittany's house smelling like Axe body spray and chlorine, the blonde's face will fall. She's seen it, and has chosen to ignore it, because it's fun with Puck. It's quick, and painless, and she never feels wobbly on her pedestal when he's there. She just gets to lose herself, and forget that her grip on things is not as tight as she wants it to be.

But then there was Finn. Brittany herself had told her to take his virginity. She wonders to this day why she ever followed through with it. She doesn't – didn't – like him, not even a little. The idea of torturing Rachel had appealed to her at the time, but in hindsight she relives the moments when he was on top of her and shudders. He'd felt nothing, he told her after. The unfortunate thing, she thinks, is that she had felt everything. Felt Brittany's eyes on her, felt his fumbling hands and her own crawling skin. She pulls herself tighter into a ball just remembering it, trying to wipe the memory from her mind.

Finn blames her for his relationship with Rachel coming to an end. He blames her for stealing a part of him. But she doesn't blame him for treating her like a common prostitute, because afterward she had felt like one. He had bought her a burger, dropped her off at home, and they never spoke of it again. He'd paid her in food for the luxury of connecting his genitals with hers, even thought neither of them had really wanted it. She finds this to be the definition of prostitution, and she hates herself even more for allowing herself to become that girl.

What hurts the most is that, even a year later, she and Finn can only agree on one thing: she's disgusting, and not worthy of the time anyone takes to hate her. She's not worth it, he'd said. The biting sarcasm she's known for had spewed from her mouth, and once again she'd felt dirty. She'd ruined something between Finn and Rachel. Even though she doesn't particularly like the diva behavior, she doesn't want to be the one who destroys something like that. Something like love. She's a lot of things, but a homewrecker isn't one of them.

She has only slept with two guys in her life, and both of them turned out to be disasters of monstrous proportion. Puck made her feel stable, but it made Brittany feel betrayed. Finn made her realize how wrong anyone else's hands felt, but in the process she had turned herself into a whore.

She thinks back to the summer between sophomore and junior year, when her parents were vacationing in Bali, leaving her their credit card with no limit and no one to tell her that she was beautiful without the implants. She remembers how it felt, when she woke up and there was a weight on her chest like guilt. The doctor says it's the silicone in the implants, but she knows it's more than that. She can still feel it, here on the floor, her fingers grazing the small incisions on the undersides of her breasts. This isn't plastic, this is fear and self-doubt and a bitter anger, the likes of which can only be imagined and never fully described.

She rolls onto her back, allowing that weight to compress her lungs. She still hasn't gotten used to the feeling, the truck-like burden sitting there. She supposes she never will, because it keeps getting heavier. Soon, she suspects, she'll just stop breathing all together.

She's prepared for that day, at least.

I tried, she tells herself. I tried, didn't I? She remembers singing the song at sectionals, remembers the force with which she had demanded the solo from Schue, and the desperation she had exhibited that had caused his face to shift expressions from irritation to concern, and then acquiescence. She remembers singing "Valerie" and never taking her eyes off Brittany as she danced with Mike, his hands touching her friend – her lover – in places that she has touched, but in much more intimate situations. She remembers Brittany running to Artie after their performance, leaving her standing with the microphone in her hand and nothing but a vast cavern in her chest. All that work, and Brittany had gone running to the cripple.

And then there was the thing at their lockers. She doesn't even want to think about that anymore. No. A month later and the wound is still fresh, deep, and unhealing. Maybe if she had done it sooner, things would have turned out differently.

Maybe, she thinks, I didn't try hard enough.

She hasn't moved from her position on the floor. She doesn't think she can. Her muscles feel atrophied, uselessly clinging to powdery bones that could break with the slightest pressure. She's so tired, but sleep doesn't come. She supposes this is punishment for the torment she's caused. How many times has she spoken without considering the consequences? How often has she lied to get her way, or to feel secure, or to keep herself from falling? It doesn't really matter now, because it's already done. There's no way to take any of it back. And she would, if she could, knowing where it's gotten her.

She sucks in a deep, gasping breath, hearing her lungs rattle against the weight pressing down on them. It's harder than it was a few minutes ago, the breathing. The heels of her hands are still pressed tightly against her closed lids. She regrets many things, the least of which is that she hadn't chosen a better outfit in which she would die.

Because that's what she's doing here, on the floor. Dying.

She's comfortable with it now, though. Being found half naked in her bathroom. It feels appropriate, that she be so exposed in death, because she could never be that way in life. She hopes that this small concession will garner her some reprieve when she meets whatever deity is on the other side. Her father's religion teaches that suicide is a sin, and those who commit it will burn in hell. She figures it can't be much worse than Lima, Ohio.

The pills are having their intended effect. The corners of her eyes have blurred, and her pulse is slowing. The weight on her chest lingers, but it feels less burdensome now. Like a hand pressing there, feeling her heart. She likes to imagine that it's Brittany's hand, guiding her. She sees it now. The blonde is sitting next to her on the floor, smiling down at her and running her fingers through dark hair.

"It's okay," she imagines, the sweetest, softest voice carrying through her hallucinations. "It's okay, Santana. You can go now."

And Santana smiles up at the vision, the very least she can do for the girl who kept her living this long. Maybe, in another life, she would have been better. Could have been better, for Brittany. Maybe in her next she'll have a chance. But this one has been too hard for too long. Maybe there's redemption to be had in leaving. Maybe rising from the ashes won't be just a metaphor.

The air rattles in her lungs as she breathes out, the last words she ever speaks lingering in the air long after her eyes have closed.

"I love you."