In case anyone is still reading this story: I'm sorry for not having updated. I promised you I'd finish the story, and I will. There are two chapters left. Thank you all so much for all the encouraging messages I have received in those past months.

I know it's not easy being a Glee fan at the moment. My mind is with Cory's friends and family and I wish them all the strength in the world. This is for everyone who has lost someone they loved.

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Chapter 13

Santana was sitting on a kitchen chair, her hands sweaty. The ticking of the blue clock on the kitchen wall was echoing loudly in her ears.

Tick. Tack. Tick. Tack.

Time seemed to pass so slowly and Santana knew that the sound of the doorbell would probably give her a heart attack, even if she knew she had to expect it any second.

Of course she couldn't be sure that they'd really show up. They had said they would, and Santana had believed them, but maybe they would change their minds. Maybe she was terrified for nothing.

Would she be disappointed? Right now the thought seemed more like a relief.

How would she react? Shake their hands? Hug them? Wait until they'd make the first move?

She had told Brittany to leave, had told her that she needed to do this on her own. That she needed at least this one honest moment with them, being prepared for the questions they hadn't dared to ask yet. Right now, however, she wished she had let her stay. Brittany always calmed her down, made her feel safe. Just a small smile, a squeeze of her hand, it could make everything better.

The spoon in her hand was shaking, stirring the cold coffee she didn't feel like drinking. Then, when the doorbell finally made the sound she had been dreading all along, she still managed to splash some coffee on the table, her heart pounding in her chest.

She could feel the heat in her face as she was trying to focus on her breathing.

Walking slowly towards the door, she thought about picking up the handset to ask who was there. Knowing that no words would come out of her mouth, Santana pressed the buzzer, her eyes closed, waiting for the sound of the door being opened downstairs in the hallway. There was no turning back now.

She walked back to the chair that was still warm from the past hour she had been sitting on it, motionless.

Not much later, Santana could feel their presence in the room, forcing herself to look in the direction of the door again. She was biting the inside of her cheek, digging her nails into her thigh, willing to push down all the emotions that dared bubbling to the surface any second.

At first she saw her mother. Her hair was shorter. Grayer. Her eyes looked swollen.

Then a second person entered the room, slowly closing the door. It wasn't her father. Santana couldn't believe her eyes when she saw her abuela, looking at her with an expression Santana wasn't able to read, even if she had wanted to.

"Good evening, Santana", she said, not afraid to meet her eyes.

So here they were, the two people who had meant most to her during her childhood. The two people who had disappointed her more than anybody else. Those people who had been supposed to love her no matter what and who had decided that they didn't want her anymore. Her mother because of a stupid fight, her grandmother because of the way she had chosen to live her life.

Even after all these years, the pain still felt as real as it had always felt. The rejection. The anger.

But now there was something else. Now there was this new fear. The fear of dying. And Santana wasn't quite sure what role her family would play in all this. What role she would let them play.

How much longer were they going to stand there and look at her? Was this the time to offer them a drink? Maybe this had been a bad idea. Quinn and Brittany shouldn't have pushed her, for fuck's sake. What would it matter? It was going to make her feel more miserable than she had already felt before. She could have waited the last few months, or weeks, could have died without them. Once she'd be gone, she'd be gone. She wouldn't have cared anymore. There'd only be emptiness. Air. A black hole or whatever. After death, there was no regret. Right? At least not for her...

Then suddenly, there were arms around her. An embrace that was so unexpected, it made her whole body tense within less than a second.

Her abuela still used the same perfume. Santana had never particularly liked it. It smelled like mothballs. Yet it smelled like home. Like childhood.

And her arms felt so much skinnier. She looked so old. Weak, even.

"Querida, querida..." Santana heard her grandmother mumble as she was kissing her head. Once. Twice.

"Your father will come a little later" Gloria explained, sitting down in front of Santana, letting one hand rest on her daughter's leg. "He's still in... in a meeting. He says he's really sorry and he will hurry."

They all knew that there was no meeting, that Fernando Lopez just wasn't able to deal with those kinds of emotions. And it was okay. To some degree Santana was thankful.

She had no idea how long they had been sitting there before Santana finally had the nerve to speak.

"I'm getting married to a girl."

These hadn't exactly been the first words she had planned to say but it was what had to come out.

"I'm getting married to a girl..." she repeated, "and I can't help but feel that you wouldn't be here now if you didn't think it might be the last chance to see me. Alive, I mean."

She could feel her abuela freeze above her, the hand that had been stroking her seconds ago now resting still on her dark hair.

"That's not true, Santana", her mother said slowly, her eyes getting teary. "It's not true and I hope you know that."

"I don't, actually."

"Santana..." her abuela started in her typically strict voice that accepted no backtalk. "Santana, look at me."

She didn't want to look at her. Didn't want to look into the eyes of the women who had made her doubt herself so badly. The person whose opinion had always mattered so much to her, but who had decided to stop loving her because she was a lesbian. Who had let her down in a time when she had needed her most.

"It's been six years, Santana. Six years since I have seen you the last time. Six long years that were enough time for me to think about you and our family."

Yeah, six fucking years that would have felt like hell if she hadn't had Brittany by her side. Six years and she hadn't once tried to contact her, to apologize.

"You have to believe me, Santana, it wasn't just now that I realized I had made a mistake. There have been many days, many situations in which I have wanted to call you... write you... and... and I didn't do it because... I was ashamed. Yes. There, I said it. I was ashamed because of the way I have treated you and I didn't know what to do... I figured it would be hard for you to forgive me, so I thought I would have to let you live your life with... with your partner... and let you be happy."

Santana could hear her voice crack, something she wasn't used to when it came to her grandmother. The woman who had an opinion on everything and who would never let any weakness show. In so many ways they were very alike. Always had been.

"It was my own punishment, Santana. To live with the thought that I had let you down in the worst way possible. Telling you all of these things when I knew how weak you must have been. I am not proud of that."

Tears were rolling down Santana's cheeks as she tried to focus on the white kitchen floor. She was doing her best to push away the memories that kept crawling back in front of her inner eye. The moment when she had dressed up nicely, trying to be brave, opening up to her family about her most personal emotions... The hurt she had felt when her own grandmother had kicked her out... the pure hatred in the older woman's eyes.

There had been too many days and nights she had spent denying who she really was, telling herself it was sick to feel the way she felt. She had been her own worst enemy, needing nothing more than to find comfort within her loved ones. Being rejected instead had made her world fall into pieces.

All she had ever wanted was an apology.

"I'm sorry, Santana. And I hope you will be able to forgive me."

Santana let the words sink in, not knowing what to reply. She wasn't ready for a "yes", yet there was something like a smile, barely noticeable on her lips.

"Santana..." her mother now started, her voice shy.

"I... um... we, your grandmother and I... we would love to help you pick a wedding dress..."

Suddenly Gloria started sobbing, not being able to hold back the emotions that must have kept her awake since the night of their phonecall.

"I... I've always dreamt of the moment when my baby girl would get married... how beautiful she'd look in a white dress... how proud I'd feel..."

It broke Santana's heart to see her mother like that.

Maybe it was for the best that she would never have any children of her own. She only had to look into her mother's eyes to know that losing your son or daughter to cancer was an experience she'd never want to go through.

"So, Santana..." her abuela said, softly stroking her granddaughter's arm and giving it an encouraging squeeze. "What do you say? Going to let your old ladies help you pick an outfit for the most important day of your life?"

Santana swallowed, slowly lifting her head before clearing her throat to answer.

"...you better not make me regret this."

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Brittany was aware that she wasn't allowed to see Santana in her dress before the wedding, yet she did not want to waste a single day without her girlfriend anymore. They had agreed that she could come with them, as long as she closed her eyes or turned around whenever Gloria or Santana's grandmother opened the curtain of the fitting room.

Of course the oh's and ah's of the two women kept making her want to peek, yet Brittany was sure that this meant bad luck, so she was staying strong, occupying herself with some Disney iPhone game in which you had to help Swampy the crocodile get enough water for his daily bubble bath. A maddening game.

"Damn it, Swampy, why do you have to live down there in the sewers anyway?" she mumbled, annoyed. "It's dark there and it stinks, I know what I'm talking about. You can take a bath at our place!"

She didn't notice Gloria who had sat down next to her, as Santana was busy discussing with her abuela whether the first or second dress had made her boobs look bigger.

"You okay?" Gloria asked, one hand resting on Brittany's leg.

"No. I'm stuck in level 27. You wanna try?"

Gloria smiled. "I doubt that I'm any good at this", she admitted. "Though this is not exactly what I meant..."

Brittany sensed the serious tone in her voice, putting the phone back into her pocket.

"I'm okay", she replied, though she wasn't sure who she wanted to convince, Gloria or herself.

"I'm glad you're here", Brittany continued. "Santana wanted you here. Even if she doesn't want to admit it. It means a lot to her... And to me."

Gloria nodded, leaning back in her chair as her gaze wandered to the dressing room. She could see the two women move behind the curtain, could see some white fabric peek out, though an actual dress was, of course, not identifiable.

"I feel thankful" the older woman said after a while, staring down at her feet now.

Thankful? For what exactly? Brittany had always been a very positive person, but even she had started to forget what to be thankful for these days. She was lucky to still have Santana, lucky to know she was getting married to her. But thankful? She would be thankful for a sudden cure.

"I feel thankful because..." Gloria swallowed. "Because I know she has had you in her life, Brittany. She's had you when we haven't been around. And you've been doing all these incredible things with her... I'm... I'm beyond thankful that she got to experience this... that she got to experience true love."

Brittany nodded, a tiny smile on her lips.

"I want you to know something, Brittany. And I'm not sure when else I'd get the chance to tell you, so I rather tell you now..."

She sighed.

"You're my daughter, too, Brittany. Please never forget that, okay?"

Brittany felt Gloria's hand on hers. Warm, but a little shaky.

"Whenever it... whenever it will... I...", she swallowed. "You're not alone. You'll always be a part of this family and you'll always be welcome in our home. Don't forget that, okay?"

"I won't", Brittany replied, swallowing hard. She wished she could help Swampy again, because she wasn't supposed to get sad now. Not today. She was shopping for a wedding dress - or at least she was around people who were shopping for one - and there was no room for this certain kind of sadness that dared bubbling up to the surface any second.

Gloria's hand was still on hers when Santana's voice echoed out of the dressing room.

"Mom! Get in here! I think we found it!"

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The following weeks had been quite eventful and Brittany and Santana had often been worried that Quinn and Gloria might end up in an embarassing catfight. Quinn, the unofficial, self-announced wedding planner, was having serious problems with Gloria's very strong opinion on everything.

Gloria wanted everything to be pink, Quinn preferred yellow.

Quinn voted for a band, Gloria insisted on a DJ.

And whenever they asked Brittany and Santana to make the final decision, both of them agreed that they trusted them and that they were doing a great job.

Of course Santana realized that, in front of her, everyone kept trying to act as if everything were okay and all plans were under perfect control. Of course no one wanted to upset her.

A few months ago Santana would have been upset, would have wanted to plan these things on her own, would have wanted to show them that she needed no help and that they were insane for fighting about things that she herself clearly knew better. But to be honest - something inside of her had changed.

It would have been enough to have a small wedding, to sit at Breadstix with their closest friends. It didn't matter. Santana was thankful for every minute she could spend alone with Brittany, was thankful that she knew she could trust her mom and her friends to arrange the things they felt were important for every weddning.

For her, it wasn't about the greatest cake or the best music anymore. For her it was only about her wife. And her family. And Quinn. It wasn't the party that mattered, as much as the ones you were celebrating with... right?

The only thing truly upsetting Santana was the fact that her dress didn't fit anymore. In only a few weeks she had lost far too much weight, feeling as if the dress were swallowing her as she put it on, only hours before the ceremony.

Her abuela was standing next to her, their eyes meeting in the mirror as tears were starting to blurry Santana's vision.

"C'mere", her abuela whispered. "Let me fix this."

Grabbing needle and thread, she looked at her again, an encouraging smile on her lips.

"No time for tears. My granddaughter is getting married. I want to see her smile."

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For a while, she hadn't been sure that she'd be able to do it. There had been days when she had been feeling too weak. Days when she had been sure that they had to cancel on all of their guests. Days that she had preferred rolling around in the wheelchair they had gotten her just in case, for the days that felt too heavy on her shoulders.

But now that Santana carefully stepped into the church, now that she saw her soon-to-be-wife standing next to the altar while the organ was playing, she took a deep breath. A new wave of power seemed to wash through her bones and for this very moment, the pain seemed to be entirely gone.

Her father was supporting her on her right, his strong hands holding her tightly. Quinn was walking by her left side, their fingers entwined. Nothing could happen to her. She was safe with them.

And then her eyes met Brittany's. Blue comfort. Filled with so much love.

Her father placed a kiss on her forehead before sitting down in the front row next to Gloria and her grandmother. Brittany's mother was smiling at her, carefully drying a tear with her pink napkin.

Santana looked around the church, realizing that a lot of people had come. The church was almost full.

Brittany took her hand and she could feel her pulse speeding up.

Her lips were close to her hear as she whispered, "You look so beautiful. I can't wait to say I do."

Then, for the first time, she saw the little booklet in front of her. The service programme. She opened it, carefully.

Several songs that were going to be sung, references to the service book, the reverend's sermon... and then, right after the vows... Cherish - Performed by the God Squad featuring the McKinley High Glee Club Revival

Santana's eyes widened as she read the words. First she looked at Brittany who nodded, smiling. Then she turned around, her gaze finding the little balcony in front of the big organ.

She felt the tight knot in her throat as she looked into their faces.

Rachel. Finn. Tina. Mercedes. Kurt. Puck... They were all here.

Turning around again, Santana closed the booklet, just to see the saying on the back.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It means allowing yourself to be scared, and allowing yourself to let love guide you. No matter what.

The reverend was standing in front of them now, whispering so that only her and Brittany could hear him.

"Miss Pierce... Miss Lopez... you ready?"

Santana smiled as she was biting her lower lip and holding Brittany's hands even tighter.

"I'm ready."

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"There you go..." Loredana whispered, smiling when she was done with the injection. "It'll help you enjoy the next few hours a little more."

"Thank you", Santana replied, relieved to know that it was going to make the pain more bearable. They were in a small room next door as Santana didn't want her guests to worry about her. The bass of the music was surrounding her and she took a deep breath before walking back inside. The party had been fun and it had been amazing to see all of her old friends again, but Santana was also looking forward to being in bed with her wife. Until then she'd try to enjoy the presence of her guests.

"Ahhhh there she iiiiis" she heard Quinn yell from the table she'd been sitting at, her cheeks rosy, her hair slightly tangled from her previous dance performance. At least her friend seemed to be enjoying herself a lot while entertaining people from school and Santana's former colleagues. Santana wondered how many phone numbers Quinn had already collected during the night and how much she would actually remember the next morning.

Quinn got up, stumbling over to the DJ and whispering something into the tall man's ear. He nodded before handing her his microphone.

She cleared her throat, tapping her index finger on the mic several times. "Is it on? Hello?"

A loud beep was echoing through the speakers, resulting in a few guests groaning and putting their hands over their ears.

"I think it is... Fantastic..." Quinn slurred.

"Weeelll..." she started, a little louder this time, smiling as she now tapped her glass with a fork - so hard that Santana was afraid she'd break it. Good that there was a doctor in the house, just in case.

"As the maid of honor, I think it's time for me to hold a speech."

"Just the moment we have all been waiting for..." Santana heard Gloria mumble as she was rolling her eyes.

"I'm sorry what was that?" Quinn spoke into her microphone, taking a step closer towards her best friend's mother. "You were saying something, Gloria?"

The woman just shook her head, taking a sip from her champagne. "Nothing."

"Nothing!" Quinn repeated, faking a shocked expression. "Would be the first time since you came here", she continued, her face serious before she finally lost control and started laughing, letting out a little snort. Followed by a hiccup.

"Oh I'm sorry... it's just... it's just that you should know that Santana's mother has an opinion on everything... I won't blame her... it's her daughter's wedding after all... yeeaahh..."

Quinn stumbled, barely managed to hold her balance, before starting to laugh again.

"You sure you okay?" the DJ whispered as he came over from behind his pult, letting one hand rest on Quinn's back for support.

"I am FINE... F.I.N.E!" Quinn yelled back, pushing his hand away. "I am fine because my best friends are married now, and I wanna say a few words, so puh-leaaase, let me."

Santana was looking over to Brittany who seemed very amused by all this, giggling and staring at their friend, excitedly. She herself had a weird feeling in her belly. She had known Quinn long enough. Long enough to know that this could easily turn into a disaster.

"Brittany and Santana!, Quinn continued. "Santana and Brittany. Santittany. Or Brittana? Whatever you guys prefer." She cleared her throat and Santana was worried Quinn was going to puke in front of all of their guests.

"Who would have thought that they'd get married? I mean, 10 years ago they were the most popular girls at school, dating all the guys, sometimes at the same time... but hey, I always knew what was going on during those sleepovers... wink wink."

Some people were laughing, some were looking awkwardly at their tables or drinks.

"And look at them. Seriously. They are both gorgeous. Goooorgeous girls... Naah, women. Let's face it. We're not getting younger, are we?"

Quinn seemed to be staring aimlessly for a moment, lost in thought as she was smiling.

"We're not getting younger, but that's the point of getting married, right? We decide that we have found the right person to grow old with. We stop caring about age. Because... because no matter how old we are, we love this one person. Even if he or she has wrinkles or is getting bold. We know we want to wake up next to this person for the rest of our lives..."

Her tone was becoming more serious and Santana glanced over to her wife again, the smile washed off of her face, replaced by... well... What was it? She didn't look sad. She was just staring at Quinn, her eyes glued to the other woman's lips.

"You know what the best case scenario is?" Quinn asked the audience, though she didn't seem to be waiting for an answer.

"The best case scenario is that your wife or husband is also your best friend."

Suddenly there were tears in her eyes.

"And this is what those two have. A friendship which has always been so close... untouchable even. Of course I've always been their friend as well, but what those two had? It was special. Still is."

She paused, swallowing hard.

"It's something everyone in this room can be jealous of."

Santana was looking around the room, some people nodding, most of them looking serious.

"It's this deep friendship that brought them back together. And... fuck... it will always unite them, okay? Have you seen their tattoos?"

Looking at her friend, Santana was close to walking over to Quinn, telling her that it was okay and that she could stop talking now. But somehow she couldn't move. Somehow Quinn seemed to have everyone under her spell.

"Let me tell you something - if I'll ever be lucky enough to find love comparable to what Brittany and Santana have, I will die happily... because I think this is what we're here for... on this miserable little place called earth..."

Quinn was slurring again, occasional sobs making it even harder to understand her.

"...we're here for love. To experience it, once, with our whole heart and soul."

She sat down, searching Santana's eyes in the crowd.

"Santana...", she looked over to Brittany, "...Britts..."

Santana stepped closer to Brittany, searching for her hand to hold it.

"I love you girls. So much. Okay?" Quinn said, brushing a tear away with her sleeve.

"And it's an honor to be your maid of honor..." She paused. "Wow. Suddenly the word makes sense."

Santana smiled, looking down as she was squeezing Brittany's hand.

"And... I haven't said it before... but I will say it now, because I'm drunk as fuck, okay?"

Oh oh.

"I don't know what I'll do once... I... I really don't know. I just..."

Santana swallowed and felt Brittany tighten her grip on her hand.

"It just hurts to think... It... it hurts. I just want you to... I want to come over to your house when we're all, like, 95 or something. I want to see your children and spoil them with presents, be their favorite aunt. I want all that for you two. The whole thing. The real deal. I'm... oh god, I'm sorry."

Santana had never seen Quinn like this before. She knew that whatever else Quinn wanted to say, whatever else she felt... it was too strong for words. Especially now.

"Excuse me, please."

Then the microphone dropped to the floor and Quinn was running out of the room, pushing some guests out of her way as she tried to get through to the door without meeting Santana's eyes again.

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About two hours later, most of the guests had left. Brittany had tried calling Quinn but she hadn't picked up her phone. At some point Quinn had sent a text.

I'm so sorry. I hope you know that. It was a beautiful wedding and I love you girls. I'll call you in the morning. Have a great night xx

They weren't mad at her. How could they be?

The day had been beautiful, it really had, and Quinn had done her best to make all of this happen. The weather had been perfect, the decorations had been stunning, the food delicious. They had danced, Brittany's head resting on Santana's shoulder. They had laughed. They had seen all of their friends and Brittany knew how much Santana had enjoyed their embraces, their friendly faces. She knew she had wanted to see them one more time, had wanted to celebrate this with them.

But now she could see how tired Santana must have been. She was a little pale.

But she was also happy.

Brittany was looking at Santana, taking in the sight of her wife's silhouette standing in front of the window of their room, softly illuminated by the moonlight.

She stepped behind her to open the zipper of her wedding dress, letting it fall down to the floor so that Santana could step out of it. She peckered kisses along her shoulder, sensing the goosebumps on Santana's skin.

She was her wife now.

It was all that mattered.

It felt as if time had stopped. And there was nothing she wanted to do but to lay down with her. No music. Just the sound of Santana's breathing. The sound of her heartbeat, so close to her own. She wanted to appreciate every second of it. Wanted to cling to this moment.

Her skin was still so soft. So unbelievably soft. And she was warm. And she smelled fantastic.

So much comfort.

There was no way - okay - no way that it could ever be different. All right? Because this was the woman she loved with all her heart, with everything she had, and she needed her by her side. How would she be able to breathe without her?

Santana was stroking her hair as Brittany let her head rest on the other woman's chest. She felt her own head move up... and down... and up... she felt so close to her.

Santana wrapped her arm around Brittany, held her tight, not needing to speak. Brittany knew what she wanted to say. Knew that she wanted to say "I'm still here".

Please don't go. Pretty fucking please, don't leave me alone, please.

She felt her kiss her head and closed her eyes for a moment.

You weren't supposed to feel like this in your wedding night, right?

But then again... what was a wedding about in the first place? For her it was simple - two people wanting to spend the rest of their lives together. Brittany knew that Santana was that person for her. That she'd always be that person.

Memories were flashing in front of her inner eye. Childhood days. High School days. First Kiss. First Fight. First Sex. Santana laughing. Healthy.

Darkness was surrounding them.

"Thank you for being my wife", Brittany whispered into the silent room.

Santana was softly stroking Brittany's neck and it was the most comforting feeling Brittany knew.

"I love you more than anything... and this has been the best day of my life" Santana replied slowly, closing her eyes, even though Brittany knew her wife felt just as widely awake as she did herself.

It was all they spoke that night.

And there wasn't much more to say, really.

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N°15: Talk to my grandmother again - Check.

N°16: Be your wife - Check.