A/N – This chapter is way late, I'm really sorry. I had quite a few shenanigans to sort out in the real world and honestly; I'm kind of beat. I only feel so-so about this chapter, sorry if it's not up to par. There is quite a mood shift toward the end, that might be my own mood slipping in but it really was planned all along, it just came out a little more moody than I originally expected. I do still have the epilogue planned but I had hoped to have it finished before now, it's still a little bit of a rough draft but the real world called. Ok, now that was a ramble! Thanks for all the reviews, alerts and for reading in general!

Chapter 7

"San, wake up."

Santana grunted in the darkness and burrowed further into the warm body next to her.

"Santana, wake up!"

Sleepiness immediately vanished as Santana registered Brittany's voice in the darkness. Assuming the worst, the brunette sprang upright, reaching to comfort Brittany.

"Baby? What's wrong, another nightmare? I'm here Britt; it's ok. You're ok."

Santana draped an arm over Brittany's shoulder and scooted closer. It took her a moment in her foggy mind to realize the blonde was giggling.

"You're sweet." Brittany murmured softly. "But I'm ok San, no nightmare this time. But we have to get up."

"Wh-what?" Santana muttered, trying to comprehend what was happening. "You're ok, but you want to get up now? Brittany what time is it?"

"4:57…a.m."

Santana groaned and flopped back onto her pillow. "Fuck me Britt, why did you wake me up so early?"

Brittany scooted closer to Santana and nuzzled her gently. "Because it's our last day here. We have to see the sunrise. Come on San, please?"

Santana felt the blonde shaking her slightly, still whispering intently. "Please Sanny. We're going home today which is going to be super stressful on both of us…please can we get up and watch the sunrise?"

Santana didn't know why she even bothered trying to say no to Brittany ever. She sighed and blearily cracked her eyes open again. Even in the darkness she could see blue eyes sparkling slightly.

"Fine." Santana responded weakly. "But can we come back to bed after?"

"Yay!" Brittany was immediately bounding out of bed, clapping her hands. "Of course we can Sanny! This is going to be super awesome!"

"Ugh. Don't you dare be perky." Santana mumbled. "Not until midmorning at least."

Brittany was already out on the back deck when Santana finally emerged, wrapped head to toe in the blankets from the bed. The blonde was bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet and gazing out over the still dark waters of the lake. Santana found it difficult to remain grumpy as she watched Brittany so like her old self.

When Brittany turned back to Santana and her face lit up in a huge smile, the brunette felt warmth swelling. Grinning back, she settled onto the bench swing facing the water and reached a hand out of the blankets beckoning Brittany to come settle in next to her.

The blonde settled in between Santana's legs and let the shorter woman wrap the blanket around the both of them, her chin on Brittany's shoulder. The blonde snuggled back into Santana's embrace, squeezing her arms tightly.

Together they sat whispering softly as the sun began to peak over the horizon. When the first ray of orange broke over the skyline, Santana turned slightly to watch as Brittany's face exploded into a smile. The faint orange light reflected from bright blue eyes left the brunette mesmerized. Santana found herself unable to tear her gaze away from Brittany.

"San," the blonde said shyly, feeling Santana's gaze on her, "you're missing the sunrise. It's beautiful."

"It doesn't compare." The Latina whispered.

Brittany turned away from the lake, toward the brunette and her breath caught as she met Santana's dark eyes, staring back at her lovingly. Twisting in Santana's arms, she reached and cupped her tan cheek before pressing their lips together.

"I love you Santana."

Santana grinned against Brittany's lips without breaking contact. "I love you too. I-I'm not sure how to ever tell you how much I…how grateful I am that you…that you're…"

Brittany pressed her forehead against Santana's and continued to gently stroke her cheek. "San, I think…I want to go back to bed with you. Come with me?"

Santana leaned back just enough to study the blonde's face. "Britt, you don't…are you sure?"

Brittany smiled and lightly ran her thumb across Santana's lips and nodded. "I'm sure. You'll come with me?"

Santana felt tears stinging her eyes as she pressed a kiss to Brittany's palm. "I'll go anywhere with you Britt."

They silently slipped back into the house hand in hand. The blonde stopped just inside the bedroom and released a shaky breath. Santana stepped closer, a sad, questioning look on her face. Brittany nodded, as if to encourage herself, before leaning down and tentatively pressing their lips together again.

The blonde suddenly seemed fragile again and Santana felt an ache in her heart. But she pulled Brittany closer. There was no rush or urgency, they held each other and allowed their hands to gently roam.

Santana finally broke away and gazed up into Brittany's eyes. "Britt, I need you to help me. What's enough, too much, what you-"

Brittany interrupted her with another kiss, more confident and heated. She tugged on Santana's t-shirt until the brunette pulled away enough to let the shirt slip over her head. Santana stepped out of the shorts she had worn to bed and stood naked in front of Brittany, who swallowed thickly as she allowed her eyes to roam over the brunette's body.

Santana stepped closer and grasped the hem of Brittany's shirt. The blonde closed her eyes and bit her lip before finally raising her arms and allowing Santana to pull her shirt up and away. Brittany lowered her gaze to the ground, as she stood in front of Santana, bare-chested with the early morning sunlight beginning to stream through the blinds.

Santana pressed a palm flat against the blonde's chest and felt Brittany's heart beating rapidly. The brunette leaned closer and began to kiss down the long column of Brittany's neck, her other hand slipping to her waist. Santana kissed lower as she eased the blonde's shorts down over her hips.

Brittany shivered slightly as Santana knelt before her. The blonde balanced herself with a hand on Santana's shoulder as she stepped out of the shorts. She tossed the garment to the side and rose to her full height again, gently trailing her fingers up Brittany's thighs and sides as she rose.

Santana cupped Brittany's face and gazed deeply into those blue eyes. She couldn't help but frown slightly at the look of fear and hesitation she saw flashing across Brittany's face. Santana bit her lip and raised her eyebrows, allowing her own uncertainty to show.

Brittany smiled shakily and nodded. "I want this San. I want you, I do."

Santana drew Brittany into a kiss, their naked skin pressing together. Brittany shivered and pulled Santana closer. The brunette kissed along her jaw line, down the column of her neck, eliciting a moan from the taller woman. She grasped Brittany's hands and lifted them to her own shoulders. "Hold onto me."

Santana dropped to her knees, locking her arms around the blonde's legs. She looked up and noticed that Brittany's eyes had fallen closed, her jaw muscles clenching. She felt Brittany's hands land gently on her head and tangle in her dark locks. Santana took the soft touch as permission and leaned forward, her lips connecting with Brittany's body.

A soft whimper sounded from above her and Santana pulled back as Brittany's stomach and thigh muscles began to quiver. The blonde's grip tightened in Santana's hair and the brunette smirked slightly before leaning forward again, more confident. Brittany's hips jerked as Santana began to suck gently. She applied a slight amount of pressure and a moan slipped from the blonde's throat.

"San…I…need to lie down." Brittany whispered a moment later, her knees beginning to shake.

Santana pulled away and kissed up the blonde's taught stomach as she pulled herself to her feet. She took Brittany's hands in her own and together; they dropped onto the bed. She hovered over the blonde who was reclining on her back and watching Santana with hazy eyes.

Brittany pulled Santana into her arms and the brunette dropped a kiss to the bare skin of her chest, feeling the blonde's heartbeat quickening. She raised her head and smiled sweetly.

"You are so beautiful." Santana murmured before leaning back in for a deep kiss. She slowly began to kiss back down the blonde's thin frame, trailing her lips and tongue lightly as she went, knowing the actions made her lover writhe beneath her in the past.

As Brittany's breath began to grow raspy, her back arched and she almost desperately reached for Santana and tugged her back up so that the brunette was kneeling over her, straddling her waist.

Santana gazed down at the panting blonde; their faces millimeters apart and gently brushed her fingers over Brittany's cheek. "Baby? Talk to me; tell me what to do. Tell me what you want."

Brittany gazed up at Santana, her lips parted but no words would come. She sighed sadly before Santana lifted their joined hands and kissed Brittany's palm. "Show me." She whispered.

Brittany reached and brushed Santana's hair away from her face. She ran her fingers down tan shoulders and arms until she grasped Santana's hips gently. She gasped slightly as she began to push Santana's hips back.

At first Santana wasn't certain what Brittany was doing but when realization dawned, her own breathing sped up. She tossed the blankets out of the way and scooted back on her knees, bracing herself above Brittany as she lowered her hips over the blonde's pelvis. "Is this what you want?" she asked softly.

Brittany jerked her head quickly and moaned as their bodies touched. Santana smiled and shifted her weight downward a little further, her own heat beginning to rise. Suddenly Brittany gasped and tensed.

"You ok?" Santana asked, eyeing her intently.

Brittany closed her eyes and tilted her head back against the pillow as her hips continued to tremble. Her body remained tense and Santana gently soothed a hand over the blonde's rigid forearm where she was still gripping her waist.

"You're ok baby." Santana repeated, this time more in reassurance than question. She once again moved against Brittany beneath her, pressing their bodies together. She repeated the motion, pressing down, the friction causing them both to moan.

Brittany whimpered before pushing herself up into an upright position, her arms tight around Santana's waist. She buried her face in the Latina's neck and shook her head almost frantically.

"Too soon San." Brittany whispered. She tightened her grip around Santana's waist and rolled them both quickly. Santana landed on her back, Brittany hovering above her. The brunette whimpered at the loss of contact the motion caused and Brittany groaned, dropping her head once again onto Santana's shoulder.

"Britt?" Santana murmured, gently caressing the blonde's back.

"Ow." Brittany muttered; her jaw clenched.

"Shit baby, be careful! Your ribs are still a little tender. Jesus, are you ok?"

Brittany raised her head and smiled sheepishly. "I'm ok San."

The blonde leaned down and pressed their lips together again before laying down next to Santana, running a hand over her hips. The Latina barked out a laugh as Brittany tickled the inside of her thighs. She smiled before sliding down and pressing a kiss to Santana's stomach lightly. She worked her way lower, her fingers teasing as she peppered light kisses.

Santana tangled her fist in the sheets, the other dropping timidly onto Brittany's head. She forced herself not push, to allow the blonde to take control and set the pace even though the teasing was beginning to become painful. She moaned before calling out Brittany's name.

Santana whimpered slightly from the loss of contact as Brittany raised her head under her hand. "Sanny?"

"Britt…I need to hold you."

Brittany pressed a kiss into Santana's thigh and slid back up her body, their eyesight level, their bodies pressed tightly together. Santana held her gaze, catching Brittany's hand gently when she began to reach for her. She shook her head and raised the blonde's hand to her lips again.

"But San, you're so close, let me-"

"No." Santana replied firmly. She held Brittany's hand tightly to be sure she wouldn't pull away. "Let me. Please."

Brittany sighed and nodded as Santana cradled her in a gentle embrace. Santana moved slowly and gently, her motions eliciting soft moans and gasps from Brittany until the blonde was whimpering and covered in a light sheen of sweat. Her eyes were clenched tightly.

"Look at me Brittany." Santana whispered.

Brittany opened her eyes and Santana could still see fear there. She bit her lip and whimpered Santana's name, aroused but frightened. Santana wrapped her right arm around Brittany's shoulder, pulling her close. She pressed a kiss to the blonde's forehead and whispered softly, "I've got you, I'm right here," before slipping inside.

Brittany gasped and tensed. For one brief moment, Santana knew Brittany was back in the alley and she tightened her grip on the blonde. Brittany drew a deep breath, desperately clutching Santana and held her intense gaze. When she felt the blonde begin to relax in her arms, Santana began to move her hand almost timidly. Brittany was soon trembling in her arms, her jaw clenched, and panting.

"Don't fight Britt. I've got you." Santana whispered.

Brittany pulled Santana closer, once again dropping her head onto her shoulder. She held the brunette tightly, her muscles tensing before letting go with a soft moan.

Santana soothed her down gently with whispered words and soft kisses pressed to her forehead. She rocked her gently. "You ok babe?"

"No." Brittany whined, shaking her head.

Santana sighed as she felt tears dropping onto her chest as Brittany began to cry. She thumbed away the moisture. "Tell me what to do. What can I do to help Britt?"

"You're here." Brittany responded, pulling back slightly. Santana studied her intently and though the blue eyes gazing back at her were still pained, she was certain she also saw hope reflecting back.

"Yep, I'm here babe. And I'm not going anywhere."

"Then I'll be ok...someday." Brittany replied softly, dropping her head back to rest against Santana's chest. "San…let me, I need to…"

Santana chuckled but shook her head. "Rest Britt. There's plenty of time for that later."

Brittany sighed but nodded against Santana's chest. The brunette returned the sigh and squeezed her tightly, running her hands through blonde hair. She smiled as Brittany drifted off into peaceful sleep.

xxxx

Santana glanced sideways at Brittany in the passenger seat. The blonde was fiddling nervously with the hem of her shirt and chewing on her bottom lip. They were nearing their apartment. Santana had purposefully taken the long way around so as to avoid passing by the alley.

"You ok baby?" Santana asked softly.

Brittany nodded. "Yeah San. Just nervous I guess. But our apartment is safe right?"

Santana reached for the blonde's hand and squeezed gently. "Yeah Britt, it's safe. Puck changed the locks for us and everything, just to be on the safe side. That's our home Brittany, we're safe there."

"I know you're right San. Guess I just got too used to being away from everything. It's so loud here."

Santana furrowed her brow as Brittany raised her hands to cover her ears and hunched further down into the seat. She fought the urge to turn the car around and drive back out to the lake house.

Santana smiled and thanked the garage attendant as he welcomed them back home. She pulled into a spot and shut the car off. Both sat motionless, neither sure how to make the first move to return to life as it was.

"Well…you ready to go in babe?" Santana finally asked softly.

Brittany exhaled shakily and nodded. She gave a weak smile before opening the door and stepping out of the car. Santana popped the trunk and grabbed the first of their bags. They linked arms and headed inside their apartment building.

As they stepped inside their apartment, Santana couldn't help but smile. Quinn and Rachel had cleaned and restocked the pantry and refrigerator. Quinn had even somehow managed to infuse the space with the scent of freshly baked cookies. Santana immediately thought the blonde's real estate agent mother would be proud.

Brittany sighed happily as she wandered around their spacious living room. "I think we need to have a party San."

"Say what?" Santana replied, surprised. "We just got home and you already want to have company over?"

Brittany shrugged. "Just our friends San. They've been pretty awesome with all this mess. Feeding them is the least we can do."

Santana couldn't help but agree. She unpacked the rest of their belongings as Brittany helped place their things back to the rightful spot before settling in for a quiet evening back home.

xxxx

Three days after arriving home, Santana watched Brittany laugh happily with their friends who had been invited over for dinner. Puck had kissed her temple before gently wrapping the blonde in a warm embrace. Quinn hovered like a mother hen while Rachel gave a detailed recounting of the praise she had received when she was offered the lead in a new musical.

Tina and Mike arrived and Santana made her promise she hadn't brought any more suspicious smoking materials this time around. Mike hugged Brittany before twirling her into an impromptu dance move, much to the blonde's delight.

Kurt had even flown in from San Francisco just to see them. He and Mercedes immediately updated everyone on the gossip from their old friends who hadn't been able to make it into the city for the visit.

Friends from Santana's office and Brittany's dance studio also filtered in and out through out the evening. The brunette kept a watchful eye on Brittany, worried it would all be too much in addition to what they had dealt with upon arriving back at the apartment.

In the three days Brittany and Santana had been back home, they had been swamped with visits from their family members along with final reports to the police and face-to-face meetings with Brittany's therapist. The change in pace had been a lot for the blonde to cope with and she had woken each night multiple times.

Santana had to smile now though, as she watched Brittany genuinely happy to see their friends.

"She looks great."

Santana startled slightly from her position behind the kitchen counter, following the blonde with her gaze from her spot out of the way. She turned and smiled as Rachel stepped closer, wine glass in hand.

"Yeah, she does." Santana replied. "It's been a stressful few days getting back into the swing of city life but she looks like she's having a great time."

"Has she had trouble getting back into the routine?" Rachel asked, turning her own gaze out to the blonde who was currently laughing at some story Puck was telling while leaning into Quinn's side.

"It was great to see our families again but she's been a little overwhelmed." Santana said, glancing back to the shorter brunette. "She's a trooper though. I know she's looking forward to getting back to the studio but she's nervous too. I think even the traffic noise has her a little uneasy. But she's doing great."

"Of course she is." Rachel said with a firm nod. "You two are an amazing team Santana. I told you before and I will tell you again, there is nothing you two can't handle together. A true inspiration I must say."

"Easy Berry." Santana replied with a smirk. "Save all that enthusiasm for when you get your girl home alone."

Rachel blushed but smiled. She shook her head and laughed before she wandered back out to join the crowd while Santana kept her vigil. It wasn't until she saw the blonde's shoulders beginning to tense and her hands beginning to shake that Santana interrupted the party and pulled Brittany firmly to her side.

Their friends had been there for quite a while and she hoped Quinn and Rachel would understand the subtle hint of Santana steering Brittany into the kitchen and help wrap the party up. She wasn't disappointed as Rachel jumped up onto the couch and loudly declared that as the star of a new show, she needed her beauty rest and as a part of the cleanup crew, it was time for the festivities to end.

Quinn rolled her eyes but also began to usher people to the door, understanding Brittany needed a break. She and Rachel remained behind to help clean up the mess and hugged each woman tightly before leaving Santana and Brittany alone.

The blonde seemed slightly shell-shocked once they were alone in the apartment. "You ok babe?" Santana asked softly. "Was it too much too soon?"

Brittany smiled and shook her head. "No San, I'm ok. We're home, we're safe so I'm ok."

"We are." Santana affirmed. "We can have a quiet day tomorrow, just the two of us. You've had a lot to deal with since we got back. The party was a sweet idea and it was great to see everyone but I think we should have a day to ourselves. Sound good?"

Brittany smiled and nodded, clearly exhausted. "That sounds great San."

They slipped into bed a short time later. They settled comfortably against each other and before long they both drifted off to sleep. Santana was startled awake by Brittany thrashing and whimpering next to her a short time later. As Santana held her tightly and tried to calm her, she couldn't help but wonder how much longer their nights would continue in this way.

xxxx

4 months later

The bedroom was dark, even though it was light outside. The curtains had been closed for numerous days straight, keeping the outside world at bay. It was cool in the room, despite the last lingering heat of the fading summer. The ceiling fan sounded quietly above, continuously circulating the air throughout the tightly sealed room. The curtains shifted gently with the air.

Even in the heart of the city, the darkened room seemed untouched from the noise and chaos. It was still. It was mostly silent. Except for the fan and for her soft breathing.

It had been this way for a week. Maybe it wasn't quite a week, Brittany could no longer be certain. She just knew that it had been a long time since she had had the energy to do more than just breathe. Sometimes even managing that small task took more effort than she felt she could give.

Brittany was pretty sure that people could die from just sitting still too long. If they stopped eating and drinking, moving and talking…stopped living. Eventually they died. Maybe that's what had happened to her grandfather. She vaguely remembered visiting him when she was a child. The only memories she had of him were of him lying motionless in a hospital bed. He just stopped living after her grandmother died. At least that's what her parents had said.

Brittany wondered if that was what she wanted. If it would make it any easier. Because even simply breathing was beginning to hurt. She had long since run out of the strength to cry.

From time to time, Santana came in with food, coaxing, almost begging, her to eat. She would sometimes make small talk, about reviews from Rachel's hit play, about Kurt's fashion line picking up, about Mercedes' concert tour, about whether or not they should have Pizza for dinner.

Santana mostly honored Brittany's need for solitude and silence, simply sitting next to her while she ate and then clearing the plates away after. She seemed to know when it was ok to push the blonde to at least shower and when to leave her alone. Brittany would crawl out of bed and scald her skin with hot water before rubbing it raw. When she would return to the bedroom, she would find clean sheets on the bed and fresh pajamas folded neatly on the dresser. Santana would be gone, back to maintaining the life that Brittany had abandoned.

She had heard about the stages of grief or something along those lines, she just didn't realize the impact each stage could have in an of itself. It's the depression that follows a life-changing event that they hadn't been prepared for. Brittany had at first just been living day to day mostly from adrenaline and then fear. She could respond to the basics of life, that life that was now reorganized into "good" or "bad", "safe" or "unsafe".

The drugs had been there too, to keep the pain away and cushion the blow of reality. The crushing weight of life can't hold you down if you're flying high as a kite. And in those first few weeks, Brittany had been exactly that, high on medications and oblivious to all but the most basic of human responses.

She had even managed to function in that world. She could watch TV. She could talk to her therapist and friends and family. She could even make love to Santana. But mostly, she was living in a haze, as if stuck in a dream world. She was there but she wasn't.

When the pain faded, the drugs had become an option, and then even frowned upon. She was urged to face her troubles and release her crutch and so, the vacation ended. Real life resumed and she owed it to Santana to participate. Santana who had given up her own life and dropped everything to whisk her away and help make sure she healed and processed.

Quinn and Rachel tried to help coax her out of bed. Her parents came. Santana's parents came. They all came by often and fretted over her. Asked her not to give up. But they didn't understand, they couldn't. They didn't know. They didn't know how it felt when it happened…it, the thing that the blonde still had trouble naming.

Before it, back when she was still whole, those last remaining seconds before all she knew was shattered. She remembered the fear. It almost choked her, trying to breathe through it and survive. She had to survive for Santana, that's what she remembered thinking. Santana wouldn't be touched.

Brittany knew she had made the right choice and she would make it again in a second but the price…She could still feel the fear when it became reality, that there really was no way to escape it. She remembered her body trembling with fear and rage as she tried to fight. She remembered the pain. She often tried to explain but she became frustrated when she couldn't find the right words.

Santana tried to understand but she couldn't, it wasn't possible. You couldn't unless it had happened to you. There had been no escaping it, that was the hard part. She remembered waiting to wake up from the nightmare; only it wasn't a nightmare. The only thing she could do was endure it and keep breathing. Survive for Santana.

In the end, all that mattered was protecting Santana. Brittany didn't understand things like numbers and certain words but she understood that what she wanted and needed in that moment were two different things. She wanted to curl up and hide or better yet run. But she needed to protect Santana. That was all that had mattered.

She remembered how hard it had been to breathe. It hadn't just been because of the blood trickling down her throat from her injuries, it was the fear and anticipation of what could happen next. What could happen to Santana.

Brittany hadn't thought the pain could get any worse. But she had been wrong. When it was over and she was left lying on the cold pavement, waiting for the next blow, her mind had been remarkably clear. She knew that no matter what, nothing would ever be the same. Whoever she was, if she would even still exist when it was all said and done, from that point on, everything had changed. Those men had changed it, changed her, and part of her wanted to die. Part of her still wanted to die.

The truth was, when it came down to it, if she died she wouldn't have to try to explain what Santana could never understand but so badly wanted to. It would be easier. The pain and the noise would stop. The screaming in her head, it was so loud. She understood now how people could kill themselves. Maybe they didn't want to die…maybe they just wanted the screaming inside to stop.

Brittany knew thoughts like those were scary and would hurt Santana but she couldn't stop her mind from wandering to those dark places. She had run out of tears in the stillness. She just felt empty.

Brittany heard the door handle turn. A small triangle of light spilled into the dark room before disappearing as the door was softly shut again. She heard soft footsteps padding across the plush carpet of the bedroom. She heard the soft rustle of sheets and then felt a warm body slide into bed behind her. She felt an arm drape over her waist and a hand slide down to press against her own. Their fingers threaded together while the other hand softly brushed blonde hair to the side leaving her neck exposed. She felt a kiss pressed to her jaw. She heard the soft sigh.

"Your sister called." Santana said quietly. "The kids want you to come to the park with them."

Brittany stared at the softly fluttering curtains without saying anything. She felt Santana tighten her grip and nuzzle into her soft blonde hair.

"They're leaving in about an hour." Santana continued. "I told them I'd go with them…and that I'd ask you to come. Your niece and nephew are pretty crazy about you ya know. They miss you."

Brittany sighed somewhat sadly. "I guess it has been a while since I've seen them."

"Yeah." Santana replied, pressing another kiss to the blonde's pale neck. "Quinn called too. She's got a few days off coming up and she wants to take Rachel away somewhere for a weekend when the show breaks. They want us to come too."

"Really?" Brittany asked, surprised. "Are you sure it's not a romantic thing for them?"

Santana chuckled and squeezed tighter. "So what if it is? You know Quinn will splurge for a double suite or even a house somewhere. We won't bother them at all. Unless we just clearly blow them away with our awesome sexy times and who are we kidding, we totally will. But they love us so they'll forgive us."

Brittany managed a soft laugh. "I think they've learned from the best, they seem to be doing just fine."

"Yeah. They try. But we both know they can only hope to be as awesome as us."

Brittany smiled and nodded before her eyes drifted closed. She could feel Santana's heart beating against her back and their breathing soon settled into a steady rhythm. She felt warm where their bodies were touching and she remembered again why she made the choice she had.

Brittany felt the body behind her shift and she cracked her eyes open to see Santana propped up on one elbow and gazing down at her with a soft smile. For the first time in possibly two days, they made eye contact.

"Hey there." Santana said softly.

"Hi San." Brittany replied, reaching to brush dark hair away from her shoulder.

"Come to the park with us." Santana lifted her hand and cupped Brittany's cheek. "When we get back, I'll even make your favorite macaroni and cheese, the one in the blue box, dinosaur shapes and all."

"San I…" Brittany sighed, unsure of what to say. She actually imagined kicking herself in her mind as she saw Santana's bottom lip quiver slightly. Deep, dark brown eyes teared.

"Brittany, I'm not going anywhere, you know that. But…I need you." She whispered. "I need you."

"Sanny, I just want it to stop. The screaming…it's so loud in my head. I just want it to stop." Brittany whined, raising her hands to cover her ears.

Santana's heart clenched. "I know baby." She murmured. "But if you stay in here all alone, you won't hear anything else. Please come to the park with us…with me."

When Brittany made no move to leave the bed, Santana sighed and pressed her lips to the blonde's forehead. She slipped from the bed and tucked the blanket tightly back around Brittany's bone thin frame.

Santana let the tears leak as she cast a longing glance over her shoulder before slipping out of the dark bedroom. Seeing Brittany so motionless and lifeless was taking a toll on the Latina. Brittany who before couldn't be still for more than two minutes without twirling or bouncing in her seat now remained in the same exact position for days on end. Santana wasn't certain the blonde would ever actually get out of bed without her gentle prodding to at least shower.

Santana was watching Brittany slip further and further away and had no idea what to do to stop it. After everything they had survived and coped with, it seemed almost anticlimactic for the blonde to be left in the position she was now in. They had made such good strides at the lake house and even upon their return to their apartment. But now, it seemed reality was crushing them both.

Brittany kept her eyes tightly closed as she heard the bedroom door shut softly. She listened as their balcony door slid open. She could imagine Santana lounging out on a chair overlooking the city. It was Santana's favorite spot.

She heard soft music drift through the air. It was a classical orchestra piece, which would have surprised anyone but those who actually knew the brunette well. Brittany smiled sadly knowing this was the music Santana turned to when she was upset or worried.

Brittany could hear the soft music flowing and could picture Santana, head back, eyes closed, letting the music calm and comfort her. That should be my job, the blonde thought. She continued to listen to life going on without her.

She heard traffic in the distance; she heard laughter from one of the neighboring apartments. And she heard Santana humming along to the tune. Life was leaving her behind; she was missing it. She realized she was letting those men win, letting it win.

The weight of what she was missing out on pressed down on Brittany even more than the reality of what she had lost. It was a waste. She knew she wasn't the smartest at a lot of things but Brittany knew without a doubt she was wasting what she had given up so much to protect.

She was almost surprised to realize that she did in fact have more tears left to cry. She sobbed into the pillow silently, her body trembling. Brittany refused to call for Santana; she knew she needed to step out on her own. If for no other reason than it would be the only way she could be strong enough for Santana, to finally step out on her own.

Brittany hiccupped as the tears finally stopped. She tiredly wiped her face and sighed. She was pretty sure she was at the bottom. And from the bottom, there really was only way to go and that was up.

She didn't want to get up. She didn't want to go back to living, to breathing, eating. She wanted to remain in bed and just wait and hope that the frantic screaming in her head would end. But the thought of Santana alone on the balcony with nothing but music to help ease her pain wouldn't let Brittany remain where she was any longer.

So, with Santana's face in her mind, Brittany groaned and pulled herself upright. Her stiff muscles ached from lack of use and she fought a wave of fear and dizziness as she slowly and stiffly rose to her feet.

Brittany shuffled out of the bedroom and into the living room where the sunlight was filtering in through the open balcony door. She stopped and let her gaze linger on Santana sitting in a chair just as she imagined her. Head back and eyes closed as the music continued to flow. But she looked troubled and Brittany frowned at the sight. Dark circles were surrounding her eyes and she had her arms crossed tightly around herself.

Brittany knew she had remained lifeless long enough. Her girl, her life, was right in front of her, waiting for her and she didn't want to miss anymore. She cleared her throat awkwardly.

"San, can we take bread with us to the park to feed the ducks?"

The smile Santana graced the blonde with as she turned from her seat and saw Brittany standing inside the doorway could have lit up their old high school auditorium. Brittany felt a warmth swell and she found herself returning the smile, just as widely.

"Baby, we can take the whole damn loaf."

Santana rose to her feet and stepped closer to the blonde. Brittany laughed and held out her arms, quickly engulfing the brunette in a fierce embrace.