Wow. I don't even know what to say right now. I never thought that I would even come back and write any fanfiction. Before this, the only things I had been writing were research papers. And I had no idea when I got the idea for this fic, that it would turn into what it did. I've had so much fun working on this and getting to talk to some of you about two of my favorite characters. Also, I apologize if this is terrible sappy, but life has taught me that amidst great angst, there can be great healing and love.
A big thanks to RJRRAA, ljam86, TrustInFaith, G6-flying, OTHangels, Cam05, DaPhoenix, Guyana Rose, ButcWolf, slushied, and thesilentpath for consistently reviewing. I just, seriously. All of the people who have alerted or reviewed this fic are awesome people. You get cookies and ice cream and I just made pumpkin bread so you can have some of that, too.
I do want to give a big thank you to ApathyandEmpathy, for fangirling with me in epic Pezberry manifestos and messages for the last few months. Even when you try to pull me towards the Quinntana darkside, you still just give me so many ideas for Rachel and Santana. You're kind of awesome like that.
"Are you ready?" Santana heard from behind her.
Quinn was standing in the doorway, smoothing down the front of her dress as she watched the brunette. Santana smiled at her and nodded, giving herself a final once-over in the mirror. She slipped her earrings in and applied a coat of lip gloss.
Quinn rolled her eyes. "I'll never understand your obsession with lip gloss," the blonde said.
"No, you and your thin lips wouldn't," Santana smirked.
"We're going to be late if you don't hurry up," she told Santana, smiling playfully.
Santana took another deep breathe and nodded at herself in the mirror. "Okay, let's do this."
"God, I think you're as nervous as she is," Quinn teased.
"This is her dream, Q," Santana said simply. "I just want everything to work out."
Quinn nudged her as they left the apartment. "You're going soft, Lopez," she grinned. "It's a good look for you."
The theater was completely full by the time the show started, and Santana was pretty sure it was the biggest place Rachel had ever sung in. Santana was desperately trying not to grin and tell everyone that the leading lady was her girlfriend of six years. Next to her, Quinn, who had flown to New York for the opening of Rachel's first official on-Broadway show, was also beaming and looked just as pleased as she did.
And Rachel absolutely killed it during the show. She looked completely in her element, dancing her way across the stage while she sang her heart out. It hadn't been easy for her to make it to Broadway, but she had fought her way there tooth-and-nail. Her first stage role had been so off-Broadway that Santana was pretty sure that it didn't even quality as anything-Broadway. It had been a good first step, though.
If Rachel Berry had been preparing for Broadway her entire life, Santana Lopez had spent the last six years preparing herself for Rachel's Broadway life. Mostly, this entailed helping Rachel learn lines and putting up with her long work hours. A couple times, it involved Santana paying "friendly" visits to Rachel's rivals, who would eventually bow out of consideration or get really sick (but Rachel didn't ever need to know that.) She knew that Rachel could get her roles on her own merits, but sometimes Santana just liked scheming and taking horrible girls down a couple of well-deserved pegs.
When the final notes were sung and the audience was on its feet cheering, Santana actually did tell everyone she saw that Rachel Berry was her girlfriend. And maybe it was overkill for her to be telling the old man and woman sitting in front of her and Quinn all about Rachel, but she was really proud to say that she lived with the leading lady. And maybe she took flowers to Rachel backstage (tulips, because that was just their thing) and squeezed the other woman until she complained that she couldn't breathe, but sometimes, Santana was that kind of girlfriend and they had that kind of stupid overly-sweet and loving relationship that would have made her scoff and roll her eyes in high school.
She heard Quinn huff behind her. "Okay, lovebirds," she said. "If you two could separate for a minute, we could go on to the after-party."
Santana pulled away from Rachel, but kept an arm around her as she turned to face Quinn. "Someone's eager to get drunk," she smirked.
"No, someone just isn't eager to stand here and wait for you two to go from hugging to naked on the floor, because we all know that only takes about two minutes," Quinn shot back. "And I love both of you – really I do – but I don't want to see that again."
"Whatever," Santana rolled her eyes. "She's just jealous that Puck couldn't come and that means she's not getting any," she said to Rachel.
"Santana!" Rachel said. "I really did not want to think about Quinn and Puck engaging in sexual activities. No offense," she added to Quinn.
"None taken," the blonde replied.
Santana laughed before using the arm she had around Rachel's shoulders to pull her closer. She ducked down and brushed her lips to Rachel's ear. "Instead of thinking about them, just think about all the things I'm going to do to you later," she whispered hotly.
She could see that Rachel was trying not to smirk, but it wasn't working and the shorter brunette ended up grinning. "Hey, Q, could you give us a minute?" Santana asked the blonde.
Quinn narrowed her eyes at the pair. "Why?"
"Because I want to talk to Rachel, obviously," she responded, leveling a half-hearted glare at her friend.
Quinn backed away towards the door, continuing to eye them with suspicion. "Two minutes," she said. "If you're not out in two minutes, I'm assuming the worst and leaving you here."
Santana's response was to politely push Quinn out the door and close it behind her, turning around to lean back against it. Rachel was watching her with interest, a smile settled firmly on her face.
"You wanted to speak to me about something?" she asked.
Santana nodded, beckoning Rachel over to her. When the smaller woman reached her, she grabbed one of her hands, swinging it lightly between them. "Yeah," she started, clearing her throat. She glanced around Rachel's dressing room. There were pictures stuck to the mirror and in frames on the top of her vanity. There were some of her dads, and a couple that had Quinn and Puck in them. There was a photo from the most recent glee barbecue they had managed to make it to, this one definitely more full of children than any other get-together had been. The constant, she noticed, was that she and Rachel were together in all of them.
"I'm really proud of you," Santana said. "If you don't get that freaking Tony for this, then I don't even know what I'll do, but it will not be pretty."
"And I managed to get this role without you trying to take out my competition," Rachel teased, smiling up at Santana as she leaned against her.
"Shit," Santana laughed. "You knew?"
"You didn't think that it would get back around to me that my girlfriend was threatening other performers?"
Santana couldn't help but grin at her widely. Rachel, however, looked only slightly amused. "I was just trying to help," she tried. "I'm sorry."
"No, you're not," Rachel said.
Santana shook her head. "I'm really not."
Rachel laced their fingers together. "Just try to keep your schemes to yourself from now on," she said, giggling a bit.
"We'll see," she replied casually, laughing with the other woman. "I can't make any promises."
Rachel raised an eyebrow at her and they both knew from the look on her face that Santana was going to keep her schemes to herself, at least in practice. That didn't mean that they couldn't talk about them, though, and Santana had more than enough ideas to entertain them on lazy Wednesday afternoons spent lying in bed whispering to each other.
Quinn knocked on the door. "Time's up. I'm leaving," she said loudly.
Santana rolled her eyes, pulling herself off of the door. "I mean it, though, Rach," she smiled. "I've never been proud of you than I was tonight."
"Thank you," Rachel said. Santana watched a faint pink settle across Rachel's cheeks and it distracted her for a moment. And maybe she kind of loved that Rachel still left her insides feeling like mush sometimes.
"I love you," she said simply.
Rachel pulled her into a hug, wrapping her arms around Santana's waist. "I love you, too," she sighed.
There was a loud banging on the door. "Can't you keep in your pants for one evening, Lopez?" Quinn yelled. "I'm seriously going to walk out right now."
Santana swung the door open, pulling a still smiling Rachel out behind her and marching towards the exit. "Well, come on, Fabray," she threw over her shoulder at a startled Quinn. "We're not waiting for you."
Rachel was whisked away from Quinn and Santana almost as soon as they arrived at the after-party, which was already in full swing. She sent them an apologetic look, but Santana waved her away, glad that the other woman had suggested that they invite Quinn along so that she would have something to do. For Santana and Quinn, "something to do" meant taking advantage of the open bar and making fun of some of the outfits people had on.
Every so often, Santana's eyes would find Rachel, who looked a million times better in her simple navy dress than most of the other partygoers looked in their overly complicated ensembles. She was radiant as she was dragged across the room by her agent, meeting producers, directors, and other important people whose positions Santana didn't care to learn.
"You got really lucky, you know," Quinn said, following Santana's gaze over to Rachel.
Santana nodded absently, still watching her girlfriend move about the room effortlessly.
Quinn took a few sips from her cocktail. "I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if Puck hadn't sent Rachel to find you," she told her friend. "And not just to you, but to all of us."
"Yeah, I try not to think about that, either," Santana sighed, turning back to face the woman sitting next to her. "Fuck, Q, I don't even – I don't even want to think about it," she said. And it was true – she really didn't want to think about the path she might have followed if Rachel hadn't shown up when she did. Santana didn't even want to think about her life without Rachel in it at all, without Saturday morning vegan pancakes and Tuesday night reality television marathons; without mornings spent in bed and afternoons spent in the park or at the coffee shop where Rachel used to work. She felt a lump building in her throat and she had to swallow it and she released a strangled laugh. "God, just look what she does to me."
Quinn smiled softly. "She makes you human."
"No, she makes me fucking emotional," Santana responded.
"That's called being human," Quinn chuckled.
Santana shook her head, clearing her throat and rolling her eyes. She knew that her friend was right, though; that Rachel made her more human somehow. "Sometimes, I really don't think I deserve her," she said honestly.
"Don't you dare tell her that," Quinn told her, "because I can already hear the epic twelve-page speech she'll give you about how wrong you are for thinking that."
"Who are we not telling things to?" Rachel asked, dropping into an empty seat beside Santana. "I'm so sorry I haven't been able to spend more time with you both. I think my agent won't stop until I've met everyone here. I think the only person he hasn't introduced me to is the bartender."
Santana dropped a kiss to her cheek. "I'm sure you'll get around to it," she said.
"I think I'm looking forward to that meeting more than any other," Rachel laughed, picking up Santana's drink and taking a couple of sips. "Now, what were we talking about before I interrupted?"
"Nothing," Santana answered quickly.
Quinn shot her a look and Santana glared at her. Quinn smirked and raised a challenging eyebrow at her. "Santana was just getting emotional about how much she loves you," she said.
"I was not!" Santana cried, frowning. "I was just – "
"She was almost about to cry," the blonde interrupted.
"I wasn't," Santana exclaimed, feeling Rachel stand up next to her and pull on her arm until she rose. "I wasn't," she repeated.
Quinn stood up, too. "I think I'm going to leave you two here and go reintroduce myself to the man with the alcohol," she told the two brunettes. As Rachel took Santana's hand and started leading her away, Quinn turned back around to face them. "Sometimes, she thinks she doesn't deserve you, Rachel," she said. "And I'm pretty sure you have a novel written about everything wrong with that idea."
"Santana?" Rachel asked softly, her voice a low murmur.
"Rachel, I –"
"Come dance with me, sweetie," Rachel smiled.
Santana took a deep breathe and let Rachel lead her on to the dance floor. They found their place among the other couples dancing and their bodies melded together. They were both wearing heels, but Rachel's were much higher than Santana's and the two women were almost at eye level with one another. Santana held Rachel as close as she could, letting everything that was familiar and amazing about her girlfriend wash over her.
"I'm really proud of you, too," she heard Rachel say breathily against her neck. "I know how hard you've been working to save up the money to pay for school."
Santana nodded, leaning her head against Rachel's as a slow song started up. When she decided that she wanted to go to college, she had been adamant that even though they were a couple with a joint bank account and bills and records with both of their names on them, she was going to be the one to pay for her education. Santana would always be grateful for Rachel's willingness to use their joint-everything to pay for school, but she still wanted to do something on her own. She ended up getting a second job and working during Rachel's long rehearsal hours, leaving them with roughly the same schedule. So when Santana finally got a chance to stop working and breathe, it usually coincided with when Rachel got a chance to stop working and breathe, and they could lay down and just breathe together.
"I just hope I don't fail and withdraw during my first semester," Santana said, trying to pretend like she was kidding. "It's been a while since I've done that whole school thing, and I wasn't that great at it back in the day."
Rachel spun Santana away from her playfully. "Well, I can always help you with your homework if you want," she laughed.
Santana let the other woman pull her back towards her. "Ms. Berry, can I stay after class? I really need your help with this assignment," she said, dropping her chin and looking up at Rachel through her lashes.
Rachel lifted Santana's chin, staring at her earnestly and with great tenderness. The mood between them shifted and Santana realized as she stared at Rachel that they had stopped dancing. Somewhere in between dancing and flirting, something had changed and Santana could tell from the look on Rachel's face that it was serious. She had on that same determined face she always got when she had something important to say, but there was a softness there and Santana was sure that it was about to engulf her.
"You're wrong," Rachel started. "You know that I love you. And the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe I'm destined to marry you."
Santana gaped. Some of Rachel's words were so similar to the ones she had shouted at Santana ten –eleven? – years ago, but they had come so far and changed so much and all she could do was just stare at the woman in front of her. She knew that Rachel's wording was intentional and that fact just made her words all the more powerful. The softness on Rachel's face really did seem to engulf her, then, and so Santana did the only thing she could think of, the only thing that she could ever do when Rachel swept her off her feet. She kissed her and wrapped her arms around her and held her close and tried not to cry because as far as they had come in six long years, sometimes, Rachel still found ways to surprise her.
Santana Lopez went to bed every night with the words of Rachel Berry ringing in her ears. She would take a deep breathe, close her eyes, and wrap an arm around Rachel's waist. She would lay her head on Rachel's shoulder and drift off to sleep with the feeling of Rachel's fingers running through her hair.
"The truth is, Santana, I love you."