A/N – Wow, thanks so much for the interest you've shown this story! Thanks for all the alerts, favorites, and reviews. I really do appreciate it! Here is the final chapter. Hope it is both realistic and satisfying. Oh, and I tried to edit and catch all mistakes but after a full day of Black Friday shopping, I'm a little beat. :) Thanks again.
My name is Brittany S. Pierce and I am a soldier with the 43rd Division of the United States Army. I'm a prisoner of war but I can't remember how long I've been here. And I don't know where I am. I think I'll probably die soon. Please give this letter to Santana Lopez. She is a Captain with the 28th Infantry Division.
I hope this last letter makes it to you. I'm really sorry I won't get to see you again. That's all I've wanted since I got here, just to see you again. I love you. I've loved you since the day we met. And I'm not sure of much, but I know I'll love you forever.
Please don't be too sad that I'm gone San. A lot of those stories we had to read for school had super sad endings. Maybe that's what made them so important that we had to study them. Maybe someone will study us someday San.
Sorry this is so short. This scrap of paper was super hard to find and it's small so I'm running out of room. I'm really sorry I lost Quinn. Wish I knew she was ok.
I love you Santana Lopez. Please be happy. Wherever I'm going, I'll be waiting for you, but the wait will be a lot easier if I know you're happy. Love you. Forever.
Brittany S. Pierce, United States Army, 43rd Division.
P.S. Take care of Lord Tubbington for me.
Santana traced a finger across Brittany's signature for what had to be the hundredth time since Quinn found the latter almost three months prior. She sighed as she folded the note perfectly and slipped it back into her uniform breast pocket. Santana grinned wryly as she noticed again the letter was resting just above her heart and she flattened her palm against it, clenching her jaw to ward off tears.
The last three months had been nearly a blur for the brunette. Quinn and Rachel basically had to force Santana to eat or sleep or perform even the most basic of human functions. Her world was lost since they found the desecrated prison camp. Santana had been close to purposely getting herself killed until Quinn had effectively slapped some small amount of sense into the brunette.
The blonde had then pushed for Santana to be honorably discharged and sent home. But a discharge was also out of the question as far as Santana was concerned. She decided that Brittany would have wanted her to help rescue the rest of the prisoners scattered about in camps instead of just going home in defeat. Besides, Santana had yet to be able to even consider the thought of going home without Brittany. There was no home without Brittany.
Quinn or Rachel remained with Santana every night and held her as she wept in her sleep. She tried to gather herself and be strong for her friends. Rachel and Quinn were just finding their love, finally able to spend time together since acknowledging their feelings. Santana watched with something akin to jealousy and heartbreak. But also joy at seeing something so pure in her friends. But the immediate thought that she could no longer have that with Brittany would soon reduce the brunette to angry tears and Quinn would have to worry that the smaller woman would again attempt to do something foolish.
The war was basically won with many of the Arab contingencies surrendering to the Allied forces. Santana and the others were surprised. They had initially thought the Arab's were more likely to fight to the death but it seemed that the majority of them also simply wanted to return home to their families. The extremist leaders were still calling for war but the majority had decided to lay down their arms and return home.
And so, as they approached the outskirts of yet another prison camp, the 28th Infantry Division was not surprised to see the camp abandoned with the prisoners left on their own, albeit still behind locked gates.
Santana stopped and watched as one of the large trucks barreled through the locked gate of the entrance to the camp. Quinn stopped next to her and dropped a hand gently onto her shoulder as they watched a few prisoners begin to appear. They seemed too apprehensive to approach, not certain who their new guests were.
"We'd better radio back to Rachel and Tina to be ready for this new batch of prisoners. They'll need to be tended to." Quinn said softly.
A new base camp had been situated at the bottom of the mountain in an abandoned Arab stronghold so the freed prisoners would not have far to go to receive medical attention. Rachel had volunteered her services in the infirmary since the need for a secretary had dwindled as the war drew to a close.
Santana sighed and nodded to acknowledge she had heard her friend. "Look at them." She whispered. "They look like zombies. Fuck, they look worse than we did as zombies that year in glee club."
Quinn grimaced but nodded, both trying to keep their thoughts from drifting to Brittany and wondering if she had looked like these prisoners in the end. The captives who were brave enough to gather outside their housing units looked like figures from a movie. Their heads had been shaved and they were bone thin, dressed in prison garb that had deteriorated into tatters. For some, it was nearly impossible to even tell their gender, their bodies were so emaciated and their clothing hung from their small frames.
"Christ, how does something like this happen?" Quinn hissed. "How does someone let something like this happen to another human being? Those fucking bastards…"
Santana nodded again and moved further into the abandoned prison. The trucks came rolling to a stop inside the camp grounds and soldiers began to scatter to gather the prisoners.
"It's ok, you're safe. The war is over!" One soldier shouted to the group of apprehensive prisoners.
A few of them glanced at each other before one timidly responded, "Who won?"
Santana felt the first real smile pulling at her lips, albeit a faint one, as she approached the small group gathering in the middle of the courtyard. "The good guys!" she called back.
Soldiers quickly began to usher the prisoners toward the trucks to gather their information and take them back to the base but not before distributing blankets and water to those able to move on their own. The prisoners unable to make it on their own were being carried to the trucks. Santana and Quinn quickly set up a table with a cooler of water to help ease the prisoners as they waited to be loaded up into the trucks and moved.
Quinn noticed the figure shuffling closer before Santana did. The blonde tried to give an encouraging smile as she turned back to dolling out water while Santana's back was turned to the approaching prisoner. Quinn's jaw dropped as she realized those dull blue eyes were still vaguely familiar. She gasped at the same time the prisoner choked out a pained, "San?"
Santana froze for a split second before spinning quickly to take in the figure that soft voice belonged to.
And in an instant, Santana had her arms around the frail blonde and was cradling her to her chest as she dropped to her knees. Brittany clung to her back and shoulders as tightly as her weakened body would allow and in that moment, as Quinn rushed and threw her arms around them both, all was right with the world.
Brittany moaned as her eyes fluttered open. She waited for the blast of cold to strike her through her thin prison clothes. When all she felt was warmth, Brittany furrowed her brow in confusion and tried to force her vision to focus. She vaguely noticed a shadow cross over her before seeing a figure lean into her blurry line of vision.
"Britt? Baby, are you awake?"
"Baby?" the blonde mumbled, her eyes drifting shut again. "Guards gettin' friendly. I'm no baby."
At the sound of a soft chuckle and a gentle touch to her cheek, Brittany blinked her eyes open once again. Once her vision cleared, the blonde was certain she was dreaming or had finally died. Santana leaned forward and pressed her lips to Brittany's forehead.
"You better still be my baby. I did track you down all the way on the other side of the world."
"Santana?" Brittany gasped. "Are you really here? Or am I dead? If I'm dead why am I still so tired?"
Santana gently cupped Brittany's cheeks, forcing the worry about the blonde's sunken cheeks and eyes from her mind. "You're not dead Britt…thank God. I got the note you left at the camp. I thought you were dead Brittany. For three months I thought you were dead."
Tears had begun to leak from the brunette's eyes and she made no move to wipe them away, not wanting to release the blonde. Brittany swallowed thickly and raised a shaking hand to thumb the tears away. Santana closed her eyes and pressed a kiss to Brittany's palm.
"You're here." The blonde whispered, her voice beginning to tremble. "You really came for me?"
Santana blinked tears away and smiled. "I told you I would didn't I? I distinctly remember telling you I would come get you if you decided not to come home on your own. So you better fucking believe I came for you."
Brittany felt her own tears beginning to sting her eyes. In her months of captivity she had hated to cry, not wanting to show her captors any weakness. Now, with Santana gazing lovingly at her with tears flowing from her dark eyes, Brittany couldn't seem to stop them. "San-"
Santana scooped the blonde up into her arms and held her tightly. They held each other, both whispering soft "I love you's" as Santana rocked Brittany gently, pressing kisses onto her head.
Some time later, after Santana had climbed into the bed and continued to hold the frail blonde, Brittany sighed and lifted her head to meet Santana's eyes.
"San…they shaved my head."
Santana glanced down and couldn't help but smile at the pout on Brittany's face. She scratched at the blonde's shaved head gently. "Yeah, I noticed babe. But don't worry, you're totally rocking it."
Brittany smiled faintly and settled back against Santana's chest, the dull thump of her heartbeat lulling her back into a peaceful sleep.
Bombs were exploding everywhere and she could see the flare of fire from the machine guns as they popped off round after round of ammunition. Quinn was ahead of her. She kept screaming for her to wait for her but Quinn couldn't hear her. And then another explosion sent the shorter blonde to the ground and she could only stand frozen until she felt enemy hands grabbing her and forcing her to the ground.
She and her companions were roughly shoved into camps before being stripped and beaten. The ice cold water the Arabs "cleansed" the prisoners with still stung painfully. And then her head was being twisted and pulled as they shaved her long blonde hair. They weren't careful about it and she felt a dribble of blood run down her neck.
She swallowed a scream as the guards morphed into rats that fought for what little food the prisoners were given and would leave scratches and bite marks everywhere. With a whimper, she shoved one off of her shoulder and retreated to the corner of the room, huddled into a ball. She just wanted rest…
But prisoners weren't allowed to rest. They worked. And they starved. But still, if she could just close her eyes for a moment…The sight of Quinn falling once again flashed across her memory. Only this time, Santana was there too…both bloody and mangled from the explosion. And one of the rats was eating Lord Tubbington.
"Wake up Brittany."
They wouldn't let her rest. Couldn't they see how tired she was? She wanted to scream in frustration but could only manage another whimper, her strength fading…
"Come on B, wake up baby. Please, wake up. Brittany, wake up!"
Brittany woke, gasping for air and tried to thrash away from her constraints. Something was holding her down but she was too weak to free herself. She choked on a strangled cry, unable to move.
"Easy Britt, you're ok." A soft voice cooed. "You're safe now. It was just a dream baby, just a bad dream. Come on, wake up, that's it."
The familiar voice flowed over her like calming waves and Brittany blinked rapidly, the visions of the dream finally fading. She stared up into deep brown eyes, clouded in concern. "Santana?"
The brunette smiled and nodded. "I'm here B. I'm right here; it was just a bad dream."
"San," Brittany whined. "I'm so tired. But I don't wanna see them anymore. The rats and the bombs. And…I-I'm so tired."
Santana gently traced her thumb over Brittany's brow where it was furrowed, her eyes already drifting closed again. "You just sleep Britt. I promise I'll wake you up if you have another bad dream. I promise."
Brittany managed a small nod before she was sound asleep once again.
The next time Brittany opened her eyes, she was surprised to learn that she had been asleep for two days straight. She lifted a hand to scratch her nose but narrowed her eyes at the tube running from her hand.
"It's just an IV babe. To help you get your strength back. Since you've been sleeping so much, Tina thought it would be a good idea." Santana leaned into the blonde's line of vision and smiled. "Good morning."
Brittany grinned tiredly and gave Santana a wave, nothing more than a wiggle from her fingers. "Hey San. Did my hair grow back yet?"
Santana chuckled and settled onto the bed with the blonde, draping an arm over her waist. "Not yet babe. That takes a little more than just a few days. But it will. And if it doesn't? Fuck it, you're still smokin' hot."
"I'm far from hot now Santana." Brittany replied, her smile turning slightly sad. "I'm all bony and sickly. But I don't care. You're here and we get to go home. That's all that matters right?"
"Yeah." Santana said, nuzzling closer to the blonde and pressing her kiss to her lips. "That's all that matters."
They decided a warm bath would help ease the blonde's aching body so Tina managed to have a tub filled with steaming hot water in a private section of the infirmary.
Santana carried her to the secluded corner and helped pull off the army sweatpants and shirt Brittany had been dressed in after arriving back on the base. She helped settle the blonde into the soothing water. Tina had dropped some herbs and spices into the water that Mike's mother swore helped soothe aches and pains, determined they couldn't hurt.
Santana had to force herself to fight back her tears at the sight of Brittany's emaciated body. Her skin was stretched tightly over her bones, very little fat or muscle left to provide comfort. Once settled into the water, Brittany noticed the brunette's pained expression and smiled sadly.
"I look pretty bad huh?"
Santana knelt next to the tub and cupped her thin cheek. "I've never seen anything more beautiful."
She pressed a soft kiss to Brittany's lips and smiled in return when she felt the blonde smiling against her own. "I love you Britt. We're going to get out of here. We're going to go home together and I'm going to take care of you. You're going to be chubbier than Lord Tubbington by the time I'm through with you."
Brittany smiled and let her head loll against the back of the tub. "Where are Quinn and Rachel? Are they ok?"
Santana nodded and gently grazed her fingers up and down Brittany's arm. "They've stopped by to check on you every chance they've gotten. Quinn spent part of last night with you. I think she blames herself for…you know, you being taken."
Brittany sighed. "I saw it. I saw her fall. There wasn't anything she could have done. I thought she was dead too. And then I was trying to get to her but they grabbed me…" She ended with a sad shrug, the memories from the day and her dreams seeming all too real once again.
Santana noticed the lost expression and decided to change the direction of the conversation. "She and Rachel kept me sane these last few months…I think I would have gladly jumped on top of a roadside bomb if it hadn't been for them."
"I have to thank them." Brittany replied softly, finally meeting Santana's gaze again. "I want to see them. Not that I'm complaining at all, but how did you manage to get so much free time to stay with me?"
Santana scoffed. "As if anyone here could force me away from you. I don't care who orders it, I'm not leaving your side. Plus, you won't believe this, but Coach Sylvester is here! She wasn't kidding when she said she was part of some super elite Special Forces group. She helped get clearance for me to stay with you."
"I knew it!" the blonde exclaimed. "I knew she was here. At training camp, they made us run with bricks in our bags. That's totally a Coach trick."
Santana laughed and pressed another kiss to Brittany's temple before helping her wash. A short time later, she helped lift the blonde from the tub and wrapped a thick towel around her. She placed her onto a bench and leaned forward, pressing their lips together. When they pulled away, slightly breathless, Santana felt her heart skip at the light blush dusting Brittany's cheeks. Any color on her almost gray skin was a welcome sight.
"I'll go round you up some clean sweats, just hang tight ok babe?"
Brittany nodded and smiled shyly. She absentmindedly plucked at the towel until she heard the privacy curtain rustle slightly. The person who dropped to her knees in front of her was not who she was expecting but not at all unwelcome.
Quinn gazed up at her with tears sparkling in her hazel eyes. She was clutching the sweats that Santana had promised tightly against her chest. "Hey B."
Brittany stared at the smaller blonde intently, her gaze stopping on the scar that trailed just below Quinn's hairline on the left side of her head. She gently traced a finger down the scar. Quinn dropped her head to Brittany's lap and wrapped her arms around the thin woman's hips.
"Quinnie," Brittany sighed, running her fingers through her blonde hair, scratching lightly at her scalp. "Please don't be sad. You're ok right? And I'll be ok. So…don't be sad."
A sob escaped Quinn's lips. "I should have been with you. You shouldn't have been there alone…God, I'm so sorry!"
"I'm glad you weren't there." Brittany replied easily with a shrug. "It sucked and I wouldn't want you to go through that."
Quinn's head snapped up with a questioning stare. Brittany smiled and shrugged again. Quinn finally smiled and brushed away her tears. "Brittany Pierce. You are something special."
"Yeah." Brittany replied. "And I'm bald. I don't look like Puck do I?"
Quinn snorted out a laugh and shook her head. "No. You don't look like Puck. Now come on, let's get you dressed."
She helped Brittany dress in the sweats as Santana and Rachel watched from the curtain opening, arms linked.
Even the simple task of being carried back and forth from the tub had worn the blonde out and Brittany was sound asleep before Santana could even settle her onto the pillows. Rachel pulled Quinn into her arms and kissed her tenderly as the three friends stood around the frail blonde's bed and Tina reconnected the IV.
A day later when Brittany opened her eyes, Santana was still asleep, curled around her and holding her tightly. The nightmare that had startled the blonde awake hadn't been enough to wake Santana and the sight of the woman helped chase the dream away. The blonde smiled and kissed Santana's nose, causing it to twitch. Brittany giggled and kissed her again. Santana smiled and opened her eyes. When Brittany pulled her closer, the two continued to kiss lazily, embracing each other lightly.
"Well aren't you two glad 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed." Santana scrambled backwards off the bed and landed with a thump as Sue Sylvester stood smirking over the two at the end of the bed. "Easy there sandbags, don't hurt yourself. We only have so many of those purple hearts to go around."
"Coach!" Brittany said with a crooked grin.
Sue smiled back, actually smiled back. "Hey there kiddo. Way to make me look good. Just goes to show I know how to pick my Cheerios. I take full responsibility for your survival and rescue of course."
Santana scoffed but wiped the look from her face when Sue turned to glare at her. She reached and pulled Brittany's hand into her own without saying a word to her former coach. Brittany just continued to smile and squeezed Santana's hand.
"You make sure and get better. I've got an assistant coach position with your name on it if you want it. Someone has to teach those club footed losers how to dance. There might be a spot for you too jugs, if you play your cards right and take care of this one."
Before Santana could respond, Brittany cut in. "Thanks Coach, but we're moving to a beach. I never want to be cold again, ever. That is…if you want to San."
Santana's smile split her face as she gazed lovingly down at the blonde. "I love the beach." She replied softly.
Brittany smiled sweetly and pulled Santana back onto the bed. The two barely even noticed as Sue shook her head and slipped away mumbling under her breath about passing up on the opportunity of a lifetime.
"Yeah babe?" Santana asked between kisses.
Brittany smiled, pulling away slightly. "Can we invite Quinn and Rachel to the beach too?"
Santana quirked a brow, her lips beginning to twitch slightly. "Like, as in to visit? Or do you want them to live there with us?"
"Either." Brittany replied with a shrug. "But the four of us together would be awesome. We should ask them."
"Sure thing babe." Santana said softly, still smiling. "We could open a beach club or a bar or something. I definitely have no complaints about us living where you can live in a bikini."
Brittany sighed. "I'd better let you Lord Tub me before I put on a bikini again San. No body wants to look at bones."
"I think your bones are sexy baby." Santana murmured. She pulled Brittany flush against her again, kissing her deeply, hoping to chase the memories away once again.
The blonde moaned as she pulled away. "Wow. Yep, we're still awesome at sweet lady kisses. I really hope I gain weight soon. I'm afraid I'll put an eye out with my bony elbow."
Santana smiled tenderly. "I love you Brittany Pierce. And I can't wait to go home and live at the beach with you."
"I love you too San." Brittany whispered, tears filling her eyes. "I know I was super pissed at you but I'm really glad you joined the army and came after me."
"I'd do it again tomorrow."
Quinn and Rachel were off playing in the water as the waves crashed along the beach. I could hear their laughter drifting over the sound of the water and seagulls above us. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky.
I smiled as I watched the two laughing as they held each other close, exchanging kisses. This was our own private beach. Our small beach houses were situated within sight of each other and the club we bought together only a short drive away. We were living the dream. Home from the war, the four of us, each war heroes in our own right and happier than any of us thought we deserved to be.
As I watched them, I let my mind wander back to the friends we had lost. And the ones we hadn't. Puck made it home nine months before the war ended with a leg wound. He was apparently helping Mr. Schuester with the Glee club, or what was left of it.
Tina and Mike were getting married in a few months. We were looking forward to going. But the thought of the ones we wouldn't see drove an ache into my chest. How did we get so lucky? How did we get so lucky that Brittany's camp was split into two groups, one to the incinerators and one to another camp and she happened to make it into the group that survived? And how had she not lost herself completely in that hell? I was sure I would never understand but I would be forever grateful.
I tore my eyes from our friends to where she was sitting, also watching. Brittany was sitting cross legged on a beach towel and smiling as she watched our friends playing. I sighed at the beauty of her. Her hair was growing back, even more blonde than I remembered. She was still thin, but not painfully so. She looked happy.
I briefly thought of the night before, when Brittany had awakened in a panic, screaming. It happened often unfortunately. We all saw horrific things during the war that we would never forget. But what she must have lived through in the camps…Brittany was on a number of medications and met with a therapist every week. Just returning to life had been a bigger battle than we had thought it would. But, the happy times now outnumbered the sad. And we were facing those sad times together. And she hadn't lost herself completely. She's amazing, always has been.
I squared my shoulders, the weight of the small velvet box burning in my pocket. I slipped in behind her on the blanket and wrapped my arms around her. She smiled even wider and burrowed into my arms, her back flush against my chest.
"Hi Sanny." She said softly. "Where've you been?"
I smiled and kissed her shoulder. "I had to pick something up in town." I replied, still smiling.
She caught the twinkle in my eye and she narrowed her gaze playfully. "What did you pick up babe? A new toy?"
I laughed loudly at her mischievous smirk. "Maybe. But that's for later. For now…I have a question. Remember that letter you left for me the day you shipped out?"
"Remember it?" she asked. "How could I forget, you had it framed."
I laughed again. "Then you remember what you promised in it. You promised to come home and marry me and make lady babies. Well…we're home and I think we've waited long enough."
I pulled the box from my pocket and with my arms still wrapped around her; I opened it in her lap. The diamond sparkled in the sunlight. But it didn't match her eyes, not by a long shot. I nuzzled her neck and breathed in her scent. She smelled of the beach, and vanilla, and just Brittany. I could never grow tired of that scent.
She still hadn't said anything so I squeezed her gently. "Well? What do you say? Will you marry me Brittany?"
Something like a squeak escaped her lips and she quickly turned in my arms and threw herself on top of me, peppering my face with kisses as we fell backwards onto the sand. I heard her say "yes" at least ten times before I managed to pull away. Still smiling and giggling, I pulled her back up and pulled the ring from the small box. I slipped the ring onto her finger.
And as she gazed wide-eyed at the ring, I knew we would be just fine. Even though Brittany sometimes got a far away look in her eye, or woke up from a nightmare in tears, I knew without a doubt that we would be just fine. Because we loved each other. And not even World War III could tear us apart.
Well, there we have it. Thanks again for sticking with it! It may not be realistic but I'm a bit of a sucker for a happy ending. I just couldn't split them up lol. Thanks again!