A/N - I know it has been an unbelievably long time since I last updated this story. I'm sorry about the unintentional hiatus but I've had a lot of things to deal with recently and writing had to take a backseat to that, but I won't bore you with all the details.
Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me, I'm grateful to anyone still reading this story and for all your patience.
Santana sighed as she slumped down on the bright orange cafeteria chair, her back immediately protesting at the hard plastic greeting. She had actually expected the hospital to rely on a higher quality of chair than the ones at McKinley but if anything they were worse. Shuffling awkwardly she knew there was no way she was ever going to get comfortable but she was at least a little grateful for the distraction, if she checked the time on her phone once more she was going to go crazy.
Her plan had seemed so simple. All she wanted to do was talk to her Father, and what better place than at work? She knew exactly where he was going to be and there was no chance he could avoid her. Or at least that's what she had thought. It had quickly become clear however, that her plan was not as fool proof as she had hoped, if the number of answered calls and pages were anything to go by. At first she had believed that he was busy, he was after all, a doctor but she had managed to sweet-talk Jen at reception enough to work out that he was not in surgery and that they were no major emergencies he could have been called to. It was only after she had bribed Jen with a cup of non-hospital coffee, that she managed to pin-point his lunch break and her only opportunity to catch her Father before he resorted to avoiding her again.
Santana let her eyes roam across the cafeteria, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest as she saw her Father. It was late in the afternoon but there were still enough people there that she didn't have to worry about her Dad seeing her and making a run for it. She watched as he took a seat at a table across the room, tossing his pager down on the table next to his coffee.
"Okay, you can do this," Santana whispered to herself as she unnecessarily tugged at the cuff of her jacket. "You can do this."
She was glad that her Dad had sat with his back to her, if only because it gave her more time to compose herself as she strode the short distance from her table to his. Shoving her trembling hands into the pockets of her jacket Santana took a deep breath as she came to a stop by her Dad's table. For a brief, horrifying moment she thought her voice was going to fail, her throat so tight and constricted she barely managed to choked out her question, "Anyone sitting here?" Nodding to the empty chair opposite him she tried to ignore the terrified look her presence received, and instead quickly slid into the vacant seat, not giving him time to reject her.
"I-… What are you doing here?"
Placing her hands on the table Santana resisted the urge to wring her hands together; she had no intention of letting her Dad see how anxious she truly was. "I've been waiting for you, for four hours." Glancing at the pager sitting on the table between them she shook her head. "You got my messages then?"
"I've been busy."
Santana gave a short nod at the clipped words, her eyes meeting her fathers she mustered enough courage to not look away, to not let him get away with using the same tired lie time and time again. She was done avoiding everything, even if her father wasn't. "Okay, but it's been how many years? Maybe it's time to stop using that as an excuse."
"I-I…" Stumbling over his words Marcus stared in disbelief at his daughter before reaching out to snatch his pager up from the table. He couldn't bear the weight of her gaze on him, and struggling to fix the pager to his belt he shook his head. "I- I have to get back to work."
Her father's actions, his words, were so predictable that Santana almost allowed herself to laugh at the routine. It was as if he were reading from a script, his well-rehearsed lies falling from his mouth seemingly on instinct. She wondered how long it had taken him to perfect the robotic responses, how many weeks or months after Yara's death he had spent repeating them. She wondered if he believed them now. "No, you don't. Can we just-"
"I don't have time," Marcus said quickly. Unable to bring himself to look at his daughter he settled for offering her a shrug as he abruptly stood and made a point of checking his pager. He prayed for it to go off, his conscience clouded at the horrible thought that he was praying for some kind of medical emergency to allow him to tear himself way from having to talk to Santana. He couldn't even remember the last time they had had a conversation, but the longer she sat in front of him the harder it was to ignore the guilt bubbling inside of him.
"Yes, you do." Santana said firmly, her hands clenched on the edge of the table as she tried to control her emotions. She needed her father to understand that she was serious, she wanted to be calm and in control, she wanted to be able to sit down and have a civilised conversation but if she couldn't even get him to sit with her so had no idea how she was supposed to accomplish anything.
Marcus sighed as he lifted his hand to rub the side of his face, the rough stubble scratching against the smoothness of his palm he slowly sank back down into his seat. Keeping his eyes on the table he let the dim noise of the cafeteria fill the silence between himself and Santana, even though she was only on the opposite side of the small table the gulf between them felt infinite. His mind filled with unasked questions, from little things like when she had decided to get her ears pierced, to whether she had ever decided to try out for the track team like she had always wanted to as a child, to how things were at home with her Mom but it felt as if his tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth, his jaw wired shut.
"Mom has her first appointment with her new therapist today," Santana said, she hesitated before adding, "She doesn't know I'm here."
"Why didn't you tell her?" Finally lifting his gaze from the table he frowned. He had assumed Marianna would at least be aware of their daughter's plan, if not the one who suggested it.
Santana shrugged, and fidgeting in her seat she realised she didn't really know why she hadn't told her Mom about her plan. She had convinced herself that she didn't want to bother her Mom with it but now, sitting with her father she realised it wasn't that at all.
"Does she not want you to see me?"
Shaking her head Santana quickly replied, "No, no it's not that at all. I just…" The words were on the tip of her tongue, the sudden clarity taking her by surprise and sounding more than a little harsh even in the safety of her own head.
Marcus stayed quiet and watched his daughter, his eyes roaming across her features that were so familiar yet so altered. The innocence of the child he remembered seemingly lost within a teenager much older than her years.
"Mom… she said that you, you were trying," Santana began carefully, her head dipped down as she continued; "I wanted to talk to you, to see if she was telling the truth. I-I…" She almost felt her face drain of her colour as her voice fell to barely above a whisper, "I didn't believe her."
Grimacing at the revelation Marcus sunk back into his chair. He couldn't blame his daughter for being sceptical but hearing those words still hurt, and whilst his brain screamed at him to plead his case, to try and convince Santana that he was trying, he could only mumble a half-hearted deflection. "Your Mom and I, everything is… well, it's complicated."
"I know that," Santana snapped as she leant forward in her seat, arms planted on the table she watched her father sink further away from her. She hated being spoken down to, and though she knew her Dad probably hadn't meant it to seem so condescending, it had. But what she hated even more was her father's complete inability to speak to her like she was his daughter, to acknowledge the fact that she had been there every torturous step of the way. "I don't need you to tell me things are complicated, I came here because I needed to know if you even want to try and sort this whole goddamn mess of a family out. Mom is telling me you're trying, that freaking perky receptionist is telling me you're showing pictures of me to the rest of the staff but here you are, sitting right in front of me acting like I'm some fucking idiot you'd rather have security throw out the front door."
"I should never have come here, it was a stupid idea," Santana muttered as she sagged back against the plastic chair, her anger quickly evaporating.
A heavy silence hung between them and Marcus found his next words tumbling from him almost unwittingly. "You spoke to Jen?" With a confused frown he caught Santana's eye, "The perky-receptionist, you're talking about Jen, right?"
Crossing her arms Santana huffed. "Yeah, so?"
"Her brother and his wife have a little girl, Caroline, she turned eleven last week and she's already talking about joining glee club when she starts at McKinley."
Narrowing her eyes in confusion Santana tossed her hair over her shoulder as she repeated, "So?"
"So… I showed Jen a picture of you performing at regionals last year, of you winning regionals last year," Smiling timidly Marcus reached into the pockets of his scrubs and pulled out his wallet. It was a tatty old thing, that had definitely seen better days, but it was also the last present he had received from his daughters the Christmas before the accident.
Santana watched as he carefully flipped the cracked leather open to dig something out of one of the compartments, a smile flickering across her features as she recognised the beaten up leather. She remembered how her Mom had spent most of Christmas Eve traipsing around after her and Yara as they ran from store to store searching for the perfect gift for their Dad.
Finally freeing the photograph Marcus handed it to his daughter. "I… I found it on the computer in the office."
"Rachel's Dad took it," Santana said as she stared down at the image, trying to wrap her head around the fact her Father carried this around with him. "Actually he took hundreds of them and Rachel sent everyone single one of them to the entire club. This… it's my favourite it."
"You look happy."
Santana smiled as she nodded. The photo itself wasn't anything spectacular; Rachel was waving the trophy over her head while the rest of them cheered, and hugged and generally made idiots out of themselves. The thing that made it her favourite was that every time she looked at it she remembered the split second she had felt completely and totally happy. Standing on that stage, knowing she was doing something she loved, that she was going to Nationals with her friends, had been enough to forget all the horrible things that were going on in her life, if only for a moment.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there."
Passing the photo back to her Dad, Santana felt her smile fade. "You mean at Regionals, or in general?"
"That's not fair, Santana. You know as well I as I do that-"
"Yeah, you're right. I do know, but I also know it isn't fair that I've spent most of my life without either of my parents. I also know that you've had every goddamn opportunity to 'be there' and you've never once tried. So why now?" Her voice shook with the sheer effort of confronting her Dad, memories flooding back to her of all the times she had prayed for her Dad to show even the slightest hint of the man he had once been. "Why not after Mom tried to kill herself? Or, here's a crazy thought, how about when I stood in front of you asking you to come home because I needed you?"
Shaking her head Santana took a deep breath, inhaling slowly through her nose in a futile attempt to control her flaring temper as the stared back at her Father's shocked expression. "No, I fucking needed you and you didn't care. I went back to that house by myself, and I saw the… I saw it. All of it; the pills, the… the…"
"You went back there?" Marcus choked out, his mouth ajar as he clambered for words. "I never thought you would go back there-"
"Well, it didn't really seem to matter to you, where I went as long as I went," Santana spat, unsure whether the tears stinging her eyes were out of anger or sadness. She could still remember the cold blankness of his eyes as he turned his back on her, the image had haunted her more than any other, torturing her every waking moment. "I let myself think that for once you'd actually care."
"I did care… but didn't know what to do," Marcus sighed, his voice strained with unshed tears. Lifting his eyes to meet his daughters he shook his head despondently. "You have to understand Santana; I've spent my whole life fixing people, it's what I do. People come to me and I do everything in my power to make sure my patients leave here happy and healthy but… I can't fix this, any of this. I don't know how." Clasping his hands together in front of him Marcus allowed the tears to fall down his cheeks, his heart clenching painfully in his chest as he saw his tears mirrored on his daughter's cheek. He wanted desperately to be able to reached out and comfort her, to wipe away her tears and wrap his arms around her shaking frame.
Santana bit her lip, her teeth sinking into the soft flesh as she watched the man in front of her. Slowly, almost hesitantly she let her hand glide across the cool metal of the table and come to rest on top of her Father's tightly clasped hands, a watery smile gracing her features as he linked her hands between his two. "I never expected you to fix anything, Dad. Yara died, it was horrible and unbearable and it shouldn't have happened but it did, and no one could ever fix something like that."
Marcus sighed, his grip on Santana's hand tightening he forced himself to ask the question that had plagued him for years. "Do you blame me, for what happened to Yara?"
"No, never," Santana replied, her eyes widening in shock as she quickly shook her head.
"I was supposed to be in the car that day, do you remember?" Marcus continued, his eyes glazed over as he let his mind drift back to that day. "Your Mom and I were going to take you two bowling, we'd been planning it for weeks but just as we were about to leave I got a call from the hospital asking if I would come in. I said yes. I stood on the porch and I watched you three get into that car and pull out of the driveway without me."
"You didn't know what was going to happen."
"I know that… but," Squeezing his eyes shut in an attempt to hold back some of his tears he said, "If I have been there maybe I could have done something. Maybe I could have saved her, maybe I would have seen the other car or… maybe…"
Santana shook her head adamantly. "Or maybe you would have died that day too." Waiting for her father to look at her she continued, "Yara died, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. You're not the only one who thinks about things like that, you know? I spend years wondering what would have happened if maybe I'd had a tantrum about you not coming with us, or if I'd been sitting in Yara's seat. I thought about how that guy could have gotten in to his car five minutes later, or that he could have lost his keys. I wondered if he had friends with him who let him get into his car drunk, or if the person serving him drinks might have cut him off sooner. You can't spend your whole life thinking about what might have happened, it'll drive you crazy." Taking her other hand Santana brought it to rest on top of their clasped hands. "I've already seen my Mom lying in a bed in this place; I don't want to see you here too."
"I would never do that."
"I hope not," Santana said, unable to fully believe it. She had never thought her Mom would attempt anything so final either and she didn't know if could believe her Father, not without help anyway. "Mom mentioned to me that… she thought it would be a good idea for us to see someone; as a family."
Marcus nodded. "She mentioned it to me too. I think it's something we should talk about together."
"Okay," Santana said offering her Dad a hopeful smile. Her smile quickly faded as the sound of her Dads beeper echoed around them. She had almost forgotten where they were and glancing around she saw the cafeteria was almost empty, the only other people taking up a table on the opposite side of the room. "Do you have to go?"
"Yeah, they need me down in the emergency room." Standing quickly Marcus found himself hovering awkwardly as Santana looked up at him. "I'm off work at eight; I'll see you later, okay? I promise."
Exhaling shakily Santana almost let her jaw drop. She couldn't remember the last time she and her parents all been home at the same time, let alone had a conversation together. "O-okay." She watched as her Dad hurried from the room, simultaneously trying to rearrange his lab coat and clip his beeper back on. She let herself sink back in her chair, the hard and uncomfortable plastic barely even noticeable anymore, and prayed that her Father would keep his promise.
She hadn't meant to fall asleep but between the glowing light of her clock ticking away the minutes that had passed since her Dad failed to show, and sheer exhaustion, Santana had let her eyes drift shut and allowed herself to escape her constant thoughts. She felt like an idiot for buying into her Father's empty promise, she should have known he would end up blowing her off for work again and even in her dreams her brain refused to let her forget her mistake. Burying her head deeper into her pillow she clung to her covers, wrapping them tightly around herself and sunk into the soft cocoon, part of her never wanted to leave her bed again.
Santana sighed as she checked the time, 10:05pm, more than two hours since her Father had finished work. She was considering hurling the stupid clock across the room when she heard it, the sound of a car pulling up in front of the house followed by the gentle creek of the front door opening and clicking shut. She held her breath, trying to slow her pounding heart as she willed herself not to get her hopes up. It could be anyone, maybe her Mom had gone out to pick up something at the twenty-four hour store, or she had arranged to for one of her friends to come over, maybe she had gone to the hospital to yell at her husband for being so cruel. Santana listened intently for the sound of voices, trying to make out the dull murmur of voices coming from the hallway downstairs, and frustrated beyond on belief that she was still excited at the possibility her Dad had decided to come home after all.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs made her whole body tense, her hands curled into fists as she closed her eyes in an attempt to hide from the reality check she knew was coming. Surely it was her Mom coming to tell her that her Father had, without a doubt, broken his promise. Hearing her door slowly swing open Santana was glad she had turned out her lights; she didn't want to see the dejected look on her Mom's face.
She was silent for a moment, the sound of her heart thudding in her chest filled her ears, and it felt like an age before she managed to let out the smallest of whispers, her voice low and trembling as she pulled down her covers to see the figure in her doorway. "Papi?"
"I'm here," He murmured as he carefully padded his way across the room and eased himself down to sit on the edge of the bed. He swept his hand across Santana's cheek, pushing the stray hair off of her face. "I'm right here."
Santana found her words failing as she stared up at him. "What… I don't…"
"I'm sorry," Marcus chuckled sadly. "It was a stupid idea really, but I thought…"
It was then Santana noticed the bag he was carrying, a small striped paper bag that, even with only the light streaming in through her door, she recognised. "You went to Breadsticks?" Pulling herself up into a sitting position she leant over and flicked on her lamp.
"Well, I…" Clearing his throat awkwardly Marcus offered the bag to his daughter. He waited for her to take it before continuing, "When I was speaking to your Mom the other day she mentioned that you were going to dinner with a friend and that Breadsticks was your favourite restaurant. I wanted to swing by and pick you up something, I thought… I mean, I missed dinner but we could still have dessert together."
Peering in the bag Santana frowned. "It took you two hours to get dessert?"
"No. I took me two hours to get dessert, have my car breakdown on me, call the tow company, argue with the tow company and eventually get back here." Shaking his head Marcus added quietly, "I may also have thrown my phone at a tree before realising I should have called to let you know I was going to be late."
"At least I know where I get my temper from," Santana said with a cautious smile.
Marcus sighed as he bowed his head. "I didn't mean to let you down… again. I'm so bad at being a Dad; it's been so long I feel like I've forgotten how." Risking a look at his daughter he bit his lip nervously as he tried to read her expression. It didn't take a genius to work it out and shuffling forward slightly he tentatively reached for his daughters hands, "I'm sorry Santana, I really am, but I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere."
Santana swallowed hard, her eyes boring into her Fathers as she struggled to process the words she was hearing. She had been so sure that he was going to let her down again; that everything he Mom had been trying to persuade her was true, was actually false. But yet, here he was, sitting in front of her, willing to try and be a Father again. Suddenly lurching forward Santana wrapped her arms around her Dad, her smile growing as she felt her hug returned, the two of them clinging tightly to each other. "I thought you weren't going to turn up, but you did." Tightening her grip on her Dad she buried her face against his neck, silent tears running down her cheek as she whispered, "You did."