Santana pushes her way off the stage and off into the wings where it's less crowded. She needs space, somewhere to think, somewhere to forget. She's pretty sure that she's going to cry any second, but crying in front of people has never exactly been a concern of hers.
There's a lot that doesn't really concern her now, actually. Like how Vocal Adrenaline won ( She doesn't think any of them really expected to win – hoped, maybe – but never truly expected to win) or that her dress is doing something to her ribcage that closely resembles what a boa constrictor does to it's prey, but she's a woman and you have to make sacrifices if you're going to look hot.
This is what she told herself when she almost nearly threw up nearly a year ago while waiting for a doctor to come slice her open and fill her with silicon.
What she should have realized then was that there are more important things to make sacrifices for, like love and friendship and happiness. Because, when it comes to the things that make life worth living, the good stuff doesn't really mean anything if you haven't got anyone to share it with. Nothing really means anything if you're alone and there's no one standing beside you.
She realized that when Brittany chose Artie.
That's probably why she's so emotional. Everyone around her appears to be with someone and in love. Rachel's got Finn, Quinn begged Sam to take her back, Puck is still chasing after Zizes, the Asians are still as adorable as ever, and Kurt's got his boyfriend traipsing across the country to watch him perform. Even Mr Schue and Ms Pilsbury look as obsessed with each other as they did last year and Mercedes just got hit on by one of the guys in a choir from Chicago.
And then there's Brittany and Artie, who have still somehow remained as loved-up and disgustingly together as ever, smooching every chance they get even though barely eighteen hours ago Brittany was jumping off her own bed, pushing Santana into her mattress and kissing her like she didn't want to stop.
It was the last thing that Santana wanted, the one thing that she'd been avoiding since that damn day at their lockers that replayed over and over again behind her eyelids as soon as she fell asleep or got her mind got carried away with itself. She didn't want to show Brittany that she needed her, that things were better with feelings, and that she'd known that all along. She hadn't wanted to pull Brittany hopelessly flush against her, whimpering her name into the crook of her neck as Brittany's fingers worked inside of her until she came undone.
So that's why she got the hell out of there as soon as she woke up. Showered and dressed herself and hid out at the breakfast buffet until it was time to get on the bus to the theater.
She couldn't deal with the fact that Brittany would probably wake up and tell her that she was still choosing Artie. It had felt like someone had shot her in the chest the first time; she shuddered to think what hearing it a second time would do to her.
That's why she's running now, because when they'd called out Vocal Adrenaline instead of New Directions, Brittany had wrapped her arms around her and held her tight. At first, Santana had thought that was it, she wouldn't have to experience the important things on her own any longer; Brittany was picking her. But then, Brittany had tugged her closer and whispered that she was sorry into her ear and that was it, she knew it was over.
Her voice sounded resolute, terrified, and just from that Santana's knew that Brittany had finally made her decision. It was Artie. She was picking Artie and Santana was still alone. Even worse, she knew at that moment that she'd completely lost her best friend because there was no way that they would get back from this. Not when Santana had accepted, so honestly and completely, that Brittany was the only person she wanted to be with.
So she did what she did best, she pushed Brittany away and she ran. She ran as fast as she could through crowds of angry stage hands and devastated show choirs, until she bursts out into the darkness of a New York city summer evening.
Rain instantly begins to beat down against her face, warm salty tears mingling with it. She needs to leave, she needs to get away, to just go somewhere until she feels rebuilt enough to face her friends and the one person she's not sure if she ever wants to see again.
A sob erupts from within her when she realizes that she doesn't know where she is or how to get to any of the landmarks she knows from TV and movies. She's so stupid and such a pathetic cliché, standing here on a side-street in Manhattan crying from a broken heart.
Damn, all she needs to do is dye her hair blond and she could be Meg Ryan. Quick. Someone guide her to the Empire State building so she can be the real deal.
Just the thought of it makes another sob erupt from within her, rattling her chest and shaking her to her very core. It's kinda loud too, even by New York city standards, and they just keep choking out of her until the door opens again and she's throwing a hand over her mouth to silence them.
"Santana..." a voice she knows too well says and her stomach plummets at the idea of her being there. That she actually isthere makes her heave as she tries to walk away again, heels slipping against the wet pavement.
"No. No. Don't you dare," Brittany's voice is different, a different kind of resolute and scared than before, as she grabs for Santana and manages to curl a hand around her forearm. The touch burns and Santana whimpers at the feel of it. "You don't get to run away from me any more," Brittany says, syllables cracking softly. "How am I meant to love you if you keep walking away from me all the time?"
Her body kind of gives out on her then, but Brittany's there to catch her. Strong arms loop around her waist from behind and Santana beats against the hold, hands prying uselessly at Brittany's fingers locked around her stomach, to free herself.
She can't do this. She can't be here. This isn't how it's meant to be. Somewhere in her mind there's a voice shouting that this isn't how their relationship is meant to end.
"No," Brittany shouts as Santana struggles. Her arms grow stronger with each hit Santana beats against her wrists and her body straightens as Santana curls against herself. "Stop it!"
Santana gives up when she realizes that Brittany's crying, sobbing softly against the back of her neck as she holds them upright. But then, Brittany's always been strong enough to support both of them, even at her weakest.
"Please," Santana whimpers, breath rasping from her. She's soaked to her skin, the silk of her dress sticking to her and dragging her down. "Please, please just let me go."
Brittany spins her around with a dancer's grace she didn't know she possessed and grips at her shoulders. "No," she spits around the rain that pools against her bottom lip. "You're not running from me any more. I'm not letting you."
Santana attempts to put some distance between them, barely enough to allow her heart to beat again, but Brittany closes it instantly.
"You don't need me," Santana sobs uncontrollably.
She hasn't even looked at her yet, just because she knows that seeing her will make her feel worse than she already does.
"You have him. You chose him," her voice breaks, but she swallows thickly, tasting the acidity of the rain against the back of her throat mingling with the burn of the words there. "Why can't you just leave me alone?"
Fight swells inside of her again and she pushes and wriggles in Brittany's embrace. Brittany shouts for her to stop again, begs just as desperately as Santana pushes her away, but it's useless. Nails grip at her sides as Santana's own claw at Brittany's shoulders. For a moment, Santana isn't sure if she's pushing or pulling; she just struggles against Brittany, the need to be free from her embrace greater than her need for oxygen because she's sure it's the only way her lungs will start working again.
Brittany's arms drop from around her and the relief is both soothing and painful. For a moment she feels the burden lift from her shoulders, but then the reality that Brittany will probably never touch her again brings her back down to earth as quickly as a fall from the top of the pyramid and she gasps for breath that won't come, winded.
Instead, she opens her eyes and, for the first time, catches Brittany's gaze. It's in that moment, when desperate brown meets troubled blue, that she's sure that Brittany understands. Santana sees it flicker with recognition in the darkness behind her eyes. Brittany's going to let her go. From the pain she sees in Santana's eyes, she knows that it's for the best.
So, she turns, trips a little as she takes the first few steps into what she wants to be a better and easier existence, what she knows will be the first few steps to moving on. They're the hardest steps she's ever taken, her feet feel heavy and her limbs ache, but she takes them anyway because it's what they both need.
They can't keep going around in circles for the rest of their lives. One of them has to put a stop to it and do the right thing, for all of them.
The fact that it's her doing the "right" thing doesn't make it any easier. In fact, it makes it harder, because she knows that she shouldn't have to walk away. Bitterly, she thinks that Artie should be the one to walk away. He's the one with wheels. It would be easier for him. He doesn't have the history, he doesn't have the millions of memories. He has a Christmas and a Valentine's day, a prom that was a complete sham.
But she and Brittany, they've shared almost every Christmas, every Valentine's day, every birthday, every landmark event their entire lives. She never realized how much she loved those stupid hallmark moments until Artie swept in and stole Brittany away. It made her cling onto those that he couldn't take, like their first kiss and their first time. The kind of moments that had her awake in the middle of the night replaying them over and over and wishing she'd treasured them more when they'd been happening.
"No," she hears from behind her, "No, I can't..."
She barely feels or sees it happen. One second she's walking away, and the next she's being pulled back those struggled few steps, the sound of the rain whooshing through her ears as someone tugs on her arms and turns her around. The entire world's a blur of dark smudges only broken by the bright blue conviction of Brittany's eyes boring into her own. Her brain doesn't catch up for too many seconds, too many wasted seconds where she doesn't realize that Brittany's kissing her. Brittany's kissing her deep and whole and hungrily, like there's nothing else in the world.
And who would she be to deny herself this, especially with the fear of never touching Brittany again so fresh in her mind. She'll take this bittersweet memory of them and she'll keep it forever, lock it away with all the others of a beautiful girl who made her believe in love.
She doesn't feel too bad about it. Not when it feels like Brittany's doing the exact same thing; absorbing her, coating her body in memories of their last kiss and the last moments they shared loving each other before they both gave up.
She knows that one day she'll think back and she'll remember this day. She'll see a picture of them in her mother's attic or she'll find the bow in her hair at the back of a drawer one day, and she'll remember this. How the rain beat down on them as their lips, warm and cool at the same time, slid wordlessly against one another. Her skin will tingle with the same goosebumps that currently coat her arms and she'll hear echoes of the moans that leave Brittany's mouth. She'll smile and she'll remember how Brittany's arms held them close and it'll be enough. She'll forget the tears they shed and make the memory happy and it'll be enough. It'll be enough to remember that, at one time, this beautiful girl was almost hers.
Brittany's face screws up with tears as she gasps away for breath. Her hands, still clenched against Santana's cheeks, tug her forward again and she sobs against Santana's mouth as she kisses her again.
"I miss you," Brittany chokes and she pulls herself closer until their cheeks are pressed together, their tears mingling together on their skin. She needs the touch, the press of skin on skin. "I miss you so much that it hurts. It feels like I'm having a heart attack."
Santana sighs, and despite the burning it makes spread all over her body, she wraps her arms around Brittany's waist and lets herself be held tighter than anyone's ever held her before.
"Please say that I didn't ruin it," Brittany sniffs breathlessly. "Please say that we still have a chance."
Santana's stomach drops and she reluctantly pulls herself away until their foreheads press together.
"What?"she says, hope swelling her her stomach like the old childhood excitement of Christmas eve. It's the same excitement that filled her the night before she told Brittany she loved her, laying in her bed and staring up at her ceiling thinking of what words she would say. The memory of how badly that turned out still stings at her chest and she futilely attempts to push it away.
Brittany gulps and sucks in her bottom lip shakily. "I love you," Brittany breathes out, but she still manages to say the words like they're the most obvious ones in her entire vocabulary. "I'm in love with you."
Santana doesn't speak. She just watches enthralled as Brittany looks at her, a thumb dragging over the swollen skin of her bottom lip.
"I thought you knew," Brittany goes on, "I thought that you knew last night when we..." she trails off and sobs again. "I didn't know the words to say how sorry I am without making you run away again so I just kissed you." she pauses and her shoulders drop dejectedly. "I thought that you'd understand, but I stayed up all night just in case. I didn't want to miss you waking up. I wanted to kiss you awake. I wanted to tell you I love you so that the first thing you knew when you woke up is that I choose you. I want you."
Santana's eyes widen and fill with tears, better tears. Happy tears.
Brittany grips harder at her chin and she shakes her head desperately. "I tried so hard to stay awake, but I fell asleep and I just... and then I woke up and you were gone and I was sure that I'd ruined it and... that's why I said I was sorry when we hugged and then you ran again and then I was reallysure and now I don't know."
The corners of Santana's mouth twitch up into a smile, lips quivering with the threat of tears as she clings to few of the words from Brittany's mouth. "You want me?"
Brittany draws herself away, taken back by the question. Her hands release Santana's cheeks and she strokes Santana's hair from her eyes, soaking in the sight of her, drenched by rain and weakened by tears.
"I want you more than anything else in the world," she whispers so only Santana can hear, and Santana suddenly feels like she might start crying again because she realizes she's been waiting for someone to utter those words to her for her entire life.
Santana pulls her in, nose stroking softly against her cheeks. Her mind flashes forward to the future, of a picture proudly displayed on their bookcase and a laugh at the ridiculous hair bow she still keeps sentimentally displayed on her dresser. Instantly, she knows that one day she'll look at them and remember the way that Brittany smells earthy and clean like the rain, the way her skin tastes like new beginnings and refreshed hope. She'll remember the way that the only things she feels are happy and loved. The knowledge that she'll never have to be alone again will make her smile without fear, and the memory won't be enough until she's shared it with the only person who truly knew how it felt.
"What about Artie?" she asks softly, fear sparking inside of her.
"I was wrong to pick him. You were right," Brittany whispers against her ear. "He's just a boy. He'll get over it."
Santana bites her lip, "But you love him."
Brittany shakes her head softly. It nuzzles her closer. "Not like I love you."
The rain falls around them; Santana's never thought of it as cathartic before. But that's what it feels like now; it feels like it's washing away all the bad days and the sadness until all that's left is them, together at last.
The empty space that has been filling her chest for weeks now, suddenly feels whole. In fact it feels too full, like she's bursting at the seams. "I love you too," she whispers against Brittany's lips. Her eyes flutter closed and she hums in contentment. "I missed you. Don't let me run away from you again."
Brittany shakes her head. When she lazily smiles and lets her eyes fall half-closed, Santana mirrors the expression. "I won't. I love you," she repeats gently and the words properly sink into Santana for the first time and she understands.
Brittany loves her. She lovesher and she wants to be with her. She never has to be lonely ever again if she doesn't want to, not when she has Brittany.
Brittany's eyes are timid as she strokes her thumb over the curve of Santana's cheek, back over her bottom lip.
"Be mine," she whispers softly, nudging their noses together. Santana hears the breath nervously hitch in Brittany's throat at the request.
Santana's smile almost breaks free from her face and she watches the way that Brittany doesn't look at her out of fear of rejection."Silly," she presses her lips to the tip of Brittany's nose until it scrunches up adorably. "I've always been yours."
"Awesome," Brittany grins and Santana giggles softly at her, tugging at her cheeks until their mouths are colliding again, tongues searching aimlessly and lips making paths that once used to feel familiar but now feel so achingly new.
They rain washes around them and they kiss until they can't breathe, but it doesn't stop them. The relief is too great and the happiness too ill-contained in their chests. They stand on an empty side-street in a city they don't know, and where nobody knows them, and take comfort from the familiar feel of each other's bodies and it's enough.
They forget the real world and get lost in their own and it's more than enough. It's everything.