Standard disclaimers. Set mid-3x14.
It's 4:13 when she gets the call. She'll remember that, later, when she stares hard at her recent call log and wonders if it was real.
"Why are you calling me?" she asks, somewhere between annoyed and confused.
"Hi, is this Santana?" asks someone she's never met.
She pulls the phone away and checks the name under the call icon. "Yeah, who the fuck is this?" she snaps. She's barely out of Cheerios and wants a shower worse than she wants answers. "Where's Karofsky?"
"He's in the hospital," says the person using Dave's phone. "You were his second ICE number."
Something sinks from her throat to her belly. It roils as she wonders when he marked her number that way; she realizes she's only ever had two ICE contacts, and he's never been one of them.
"Is he okay?" she asks, interrupting what might be the man's name.
The voice hesitates on the other line, but says, "He will be. He's in the psych ward right now."
Her throat catches and she ignores the respect she might be expected to show the kind of person entrusted to call ICE numbers. "What the fuck happened?"
The word attempted sends her grabbing for her Cheerios jacket. She's shrugging it on over the sweat drying on her skin when she realizes the man just said suicide and stops in her tracks at the top stair.
She can feel her heart pounding.
"Did you say suicide?"
When she gets to the hospital, she has to think to remember where to go. She freezes, staring at 4:13 on her recent calls list, as she tries to recollect the words.
Someone pauses beside her and she notices she's stopped in front of the building directory. "What're you looking for?" asks the man hovering next to her. His helpful smile makes her stomach turn over.
"Psych ward," she grunts, looking down in alarm when her phone starts to vibrate.
"Fourth floor," says the guy, pointing at the words on the board. Santana tucks her phone back in her pocket, like she's still in the shower, and glances at him.
When she doesn't say anything—doesn't tear him a new one about how her father works here and she's been here more times than a weak-willed diabetic with a sweet tooth, and certainly more times than him—and just walks to the elevators, she realizes how upset she feels.
She has no sense of time while she stands outside his room. He's asleep, or unconscious, and he's frowning like his dreams are as bad as his life.
Her phone rings again at 4:38, according to the display, and she glances through the window and wonders if that would be her, if she didn't have Brittany.
"Britt," she breathes when she answers, and it sounds more like a sigh of relief than a greeting. She can't tear her eyes away from Karofsky, with his creased forehead and the way they've propped his big body so awkwardly in the hospital bed.
Brittany is chewing something. "Hey, Fred baby," she says, because she's been obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany's for two weeks now. When Santana doesn't reply with the next line—"It's Paul. Paul baby"—Brittany stops chewing and asks, "Hey, what's wrong?"
She takes a deep, deep breath, because it feels like she needs extra air to push the words out. "It's Dave," she says, and his name tastes so strange. She never uses it.
"Dave Karofsky?" Brittany sounds surprised, too. Santana can imagine her, setting aside whatever she's chewing and sitting upright, staring at the tabletop with worried eyes and scratching the grain with her nail.
She nods, though Brittany can't hear it. "He's in the hospital."
She imagines Brittany frowning. "God, why? What happened? Are you okay?"
"I'm okay," she says, and she wonders if she's allowed to say what happened. "I just… I think I need to be here for him, for a little while."
Brittany doesn't know; her voice sounds strange, confused, when she answers. "Okay. Whatever you need, San." She pauses. "Do you want me to come?"
"It's okay," she says, and swallows. "I'll call you later."
Brittany doesn't question her.
She keeps staring, holding the phone in her palm like a zombie, until a doctor shows up and taps her shoulder. It startles her and she almost drops her cell. The doctor looks more irritated than apologetic and she puts the phone back in her pocket.
"You can't be here," he's saying, not even looking at Karofsky through the window. "Family only."
She eyes him warily, a bit annoyed because for all this idiot knows she could be Karofsky's adopted sister—and, really, Santana is closer to family for Karofsky than this guy could ever be. Instead of that, though, she says, "That's the visitors policy. I'm not a visitor."
That catches him off guard and he adjusts his clipboard to cover it. "What are you, then?" he asks, sniffing like he's checking a wine's fragrance.
"I'm standing outside the fucking room," she says drily. She apparently knows the rules better than he does.
The doctor glances at Karofsky through the glass—for the first time—and sighs. "He's in a fragile state right now," he says, which she knows is code for suicide watch. "I don't want to agitate him with someone staring through the window during our session."
Part of her wants to point out that at least he fucking knows her, and he'd probably rather talk to her than this weaksauce newbie, but she's honestly not sure she can handle talking to anyone right now.
In the little cafeteria, one of the residents recognizes her. She comes over and it's only when she sits down that Santana looks up from her cup of bad hospital coffee.
"What're you doing here?" asks the resident. Santana can't remember her name and can't tear her eyes away from the cup.
"Here for a friend," she says, and the sentence cracks in half and catches her by surprise.
It must say more than her words did, because the resident just gives her hands a squeeze over the cup and leaves.
She stares hard at the flowers in her hand, still unsure how she ended up buying them, when the door clicks shut in front of her. She looks up at the doctor in surprise.
"You're still here?" he asks, clearly irritated, but then he sees the flowers. "Oh."
"Yeah, oh," she says. She's too tired to snap at him. "Can I go in?" She glances at the window and almost jumps when she sees Karofsky's eyes settled on her. He looks different. His expression is strange to her.
The doctor is sighing, so she draws her gaze back to him. "If you won't go away, I guess you might as well go in," he laments, like she's a waste of his time.
She skirts around him without saying thank you and slips into the room.
"Why are you here?" he finally asks, once she's put the flowers on the table and peered uneasily at every corner of the room.
His voice sounds rough and strangled.
The word makes her flinch. She covers it by shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket.
"I got a call," she says, wondering what they've told him. Even she doesn't know why they called her. She doesn't even remember who called.
He looks aside and she notices his cell phone isn't beside him. She doesn't see it anywhere.
When he doesn't say anything, she rubs her knuckles against the pocket lining and shifts her weight to her other foot. "Dave, what the hell?" she says, and when she hears how small it sounds, she realizes she's almost crying. Her eyes feel wet.
"They know," he answers, in the lowest part of his register. It sounds like a growl. With his tortured voice box, it barely sounds human.
She feels her forehead smooth out and her ears tug back, the way they do. She remembers the white-hot white-cold terror of being outed. She remembers the fabric of the chair in Sylvester's office and the imperfection in the corner of the TV screen. She remembers all the blood in her body pumping to her legs. Fight or flight.
"When?" she asks. Her voice shakes like she's back in that room. In that horrible afternoon.
Karofsky—Dave—licks his lips and stares at his big, soft hands. "I… went to see Kurt on Valentine's," he admits. Santana chews her lip and remembers the dumb gorilla costume. "Somebody from school saw me."
She swallows and it leaves her throat just as dry. She's closer to the bed than she thought, and she's squeezing her hands so tight she can feel each nail against her palm. "What kind of somebody?"
She knows the answer already, but he gives it anyway: "The wrong kind of somebody."
He laughs sadly.
"And he told."
It's not a question.
Dave keeps staring at his hands. He doesn't need to answer—doesn't need to say anything—and she sits on the side of the bed and looks at her knees. "Dave, why didn't you call me?" she asks, even though she's not sure he ever owed her that.
"I didn't want to look at my phone," he says quietly, and it feels like the first answer she hasn't expected. She turns her head to watch his face and he shrugs when he meets her eyes. "I had—They texted a bunch of shit."
It takes effort to remind herself that she needs to be here for Dave first, before she can pummel whoever they are. They're not Finn Hudson; they don't have good intentions and a school administration of worshippers to protect them from her.
"I'm sorry," she hears, higher pitched and rough again, and she snaps her head around and sees Dave cradling his face in his hands. Somehow, being too big for the bed makes him look small.
"No," she says, shaking her head so hard it starts to hurt. She reaches out and takes his hands away from his face. The tears and his skin against hers feels so old and alien; she hasn't touched him at all since junior prom, and this weird echo of their closet party is the best and worst part of this moment.
"It's not your fault," she says because she has no idea what to say. She knows it's right to be here, but she's not sure what steps come next. She squeezes his hands and looks at his wet eyes.
"Dave, nobody deserves to feel like this," she says, and suddenly she's crying.
She's running down the hallway, smearing her makeup with her wrists, trying not to trip over her feet and the worst campaign ad ever and the very idea of Finn fucking Hudson and his Ohio-sized mouth. She's feeling that pain in her chest, like her heart lives in a box that's getting smaller.
Dave's face is open and sad, but he's smiling under the tears on his lips. "I'm not sure why I did it," he finally says, and she knows it's a lie.
But they don't have to talk about that. That's not who they are. She's known that since their first conversation at the Lima Bean during Operation: Win Prom Queen. They're not It Gets Better poster children. "You don't have to know why," she says and shrugs. "I'm here either way."
"Thanks for the flowers," he mutters when they've stopped crying like a pair of wusses.
She smirks at them, lit poorly under the flourescents, and swings her feet against the side of the bed. "You're welcome. I couldn't get a corsage on such short notice," she teases.
He chuckles, and it makes the ache in her stomach loosen a little to hear him sound genuine.
"Not that I want you to go," he says softly, still rasping, "but don't you have places to be?"
She blinks and thinks about it. "That's right. You gotta tell me some home addresses so I can go fuck their shit up." She turns seriously and he looks so surprised that it surprises her, too. "The douchebags that messed you up," she clarifies.
He looks shocked, now. "Santana, no, you don't—I mean, you shouldn't—"
"Dave," she says slowly, "I'm serious. You know I can take care of it." She doesn't do this much anymore—picking fights, or even TPing houses, aside from the freshman Cheerios' first week of practice—but this is what they are to each other, her and Dave. This is her duty in their weird, fucked up relationship.
He looks away from her and that's her first clue. He picks at his fingernail and says, "I'm not sure you can."
It takes him a minute to glance at her face again and when he sees it, he sighs. "It's the whole fucking football team, Santana," he says earnestly. "I mean, you're fierce and all"—his voice rises the way it does when he teases her—"but there's a lot of them, and I really don't want you to get into it… you know?"
She's about to insist when she catches the sadness in his expression. The way he's asking like it's a favor.
A moment passes and her body relaxes. "If you're sure," she pushes. Firm.
He nods back, equally serious. "I'm sure."
She smiles, just a little, because this is really what they are to each other. A little sadness, a little regret. Respect. Understanding.
He smiles back, just a little, and the knot in her belly loosens a little more.
"I meant Brittany," he says after they sit a little longer.
He shuffles his legs under the blanket. She doesn't flinch when his shin brushes her butt. "When I said you have somewhere else to be," he says, glancing away and back again with that half-smile of his. It's been so long since she's seen him that it's strange to recognize every expression on his face.
He mistakes her silence and ducks his head to retrieve her attention, adding, "Aren't you with Brittany now? That's what Facebook says."
She smiles and laughs, self-conscious, and hooks her finger behind her ear like her hair's down and needs tucking. "Yeah," she says, breathless like she gets whenever she talks about it. Her legs swing against the bed again and she touches her thighs to make them stop.
"So why are you still here?" he asks, gentle.
That makes her frown and she looks back toward him, a little surprised he's even asking. "You need me," she says, and she laughs and punches his knee when he grins. "You do," she insists, "and I can see her later, whenever we're done here. Okay?"
He eyes the blue bed sheets bashfully and keeps smiling. "Okay."
Her phone vibrates and Home flashes across the screen. Her eyes dart to his as she picks up. "Mamí," she greets while looking at Dave, to tell him who it is. "What's up?"
"Sweetheart, are you coming home for dinner? Where are you?"
Santana turns away instinctively, legs swinging again. "I'm helping out a friend. Um"—she turns to Dave—"hang on a second."
She tucks the phone against her shoulder and asks, "Do you want me to bring us some dinner? The food here sucks worse than the Master Cleanse."
He laughs because she made him try it once and he almost puked. "You don't have to," he says kindly, and she feels relieved all over again because he looks almost normal now.
She smiles back and brings the phone to her lips. "I think I'm gonna eat here," she says vaguely. It takes a moment before she hangs up.
"You really don't have to," he repeats, quieter.
She shrugs and says, "I'd rather eat with you than them, anyway. We've clearly got a lot to catch up on." She waggles her eyebrows and he chuckles. More cautiously, she glances at his bruised throat and asks, "What can you eat, right now?"
He smiles grimly at her—or maybe sadly—and shrugs. "I'm not that hungry, honestly," he admits, "so if you just got me like a king size milkshake, that'd be awesome."
As she grins and hops off the bed, hanging her hands in her pockets by the thumbs, he amends to her amusement, "Maybe two king size milkshakes."
She's picking fries one by one out of the McDonald's bag as he works on his milkshake with a spoon and shaky hands.
"So," she says, "you and Lady Hummel, huh?" She offers him her softest, gentlest smile, one she wonders if he's ever seen.
He reddens almost as fast as Brittany does and buries his attention in the chocolate shake. "Shut up," he mutters.
She grins and chomps a fry on the right side of her mouth. "No, seriously," she says, digging in the bag for another one.
After a moment, she looks up and finds his eyes on her. Her chewing slows. "Dave, what? It's me."
His gaze flicks out the window and back to his shake. He stirs it deliberately with his plastic spoon. "I dunno, I figured you didn't like him," he says uneasily.
She stares until he meets her eyes again. "Dave, you can tell me anything," she says, so sincerely it almost makes her feel sick. It's still foreign and frightening to talk like this with people who aren't Brittany. She looks down into the bag. "I've certainly told you plenty."
"Santana," he says, and she swallows hard.
"I'm serious." She bites her lip and tastes the salt from the fries. "I know where you've been, okay? You don't have to hide from me."
He sighs and she sees him pursing his lips as he considers. It takes him a minute, but then he just mutters, "Well, now it's not gonna be as dramatic as the hype."
"I doubt it," she jokes. "You queens know your drama."
"Shut up," he says with a grin, kicking her butt lightly.
She grins and throws a fry at him, missing the shake by half an inch. "Hands off the merchandise," she shoots back.
"Been there, done that."
They're both laughing, almost happily, and Dave gets the fry from his lap and dips it gamely in the shake. "I really like him, I think," he finally admits, in a hushed tone that's almost clean of the fear that used to taint her confessions.
She smiles at him, gentle and sympathetic, and thinks about watching Brittany nuzzle Artie during Glee. The image doesn't stab like it used to, but the ache is still there. "He's a good guy," she offers.
Dave looks up and she knows he understands. He sighs. "It was dumb to go see him," he mutters, and it sounds distraught at the end because that's also why they're here in this stupid hospital bed in the first place.
"We all do dumb things," she says, without adding for love. She knows she's done plenty of dumb shit, and not all of it was for such a noble cause. A lot of it was for nothing.
He sighs and slurps milkshake off the spoon unhappily.
"Dave," she begins, shifting uncomfortably because this is going to make her uncomfortable, "this—all this shit—it shouldn't be about Kurt, you know?" She feels his eyes on her and she stares resolutely at the fries spilled on the bottom of the bag. "Coming out is about you, and it's sure as shit easier when you've got people to help you, but Kurt…" She bites her lip and tries again. "Maybe Kurt's not your one and only, you know?"
She looks at him and hopes he listens. Hopes he doesn't discard it immediately because who the fuck is she to talk about one-and-onlys when she's got Brittany? When she's the only one-and-only most people have ever met?
Before his expression settles, she shakes her head and tries a third time. "Kurt's not the only guy you'll like, okay? So whatever steps you take—whatever steps you need to take—make sure they're your steps, okay?"
She reaches out and touches his knee. To her relief, he smiles at her, faintly. It takes her a second to see the tears glistening in his eyes.
"Oh, shut up," she mutters as she grins at him. She squeezes his knee. "I'm just saying, Auntie Snix is way better backup than Porcelain when the shit hits the fan." She winks at him.
"Well, good," he says, mixing the shake with his spoon again. "Because there is definitely shit all over everything right now."
She grins and throws another fry at him. "Gross."
When she finally checks her phone for the time, he says, "You really should go soon, Santana."
She wants to protest, but it's almost 10:15, and she has calculus to do for tomorrow. "I can stay," she says truthfully, looking over at him, "if you need me to. If you want me to." She shrugs, uncertain how to put this promise into words. "I can stay."
He shakes his head as she puts her phone away. "It's okay," he assures her, setting the remnants of the second shake on his bedside table. His voice still sounds so rough. "I… feel kind of better," he adds, pitch rising at the end like he can hardly believe it himself.
With a grin, she jokes, "Who knew Santana Lopez would ever make somebody feel better?"
He snorts. "Whatever." He nods at her phone. "Go see your girl and stuff."
She grins and sighs. She suddenly realizes how much she's missed him. "Can…" She hesitates; she's not sure how to ask him for something. She's pretty sure she never has. "Can I come by again tomorrow?"
"Yeah." He blinks like she shouldn't be asking. "Duh."
She looks at him like she's never seen him before. Maybe she hasn't. She grins again as she asks, "Want me to bring more milkshakes?"
"Please," he says heavily. "If I have to yak my head off with that dumb psychiatrist, I'm gonna need more chocolate goodness."
She fucking giggles at him and walks to the table to sweep the empty cups into her McDonald's bag. "Well, I'll be sure to deliver some," she promises.
They pause there, for a moment, and Santana's about to attempt a goodbye when he adds, "You can bring Brittany, if you want," with upturned eyebrows.
It takes a second to process the sentence—she's not sure she's ever heard him say Brittany's name—but she shakes her head as soon as she gets it. "No, that's okay," she says, unsure how to explain that this thing they have, where they understand each other, is separate from Brittany. How it's better when it's the two of them.
She catches the relief at the corners of his eyes and smiles a little. "She's got better things to do than mope around with us," she says.
"Like what?" he asks with a crooked, curious grin.
"Dance class," she answers smoothly as she coils the top of the paper bag. It rustles.
He's still grinning and he finally says, with happiness that seems strange even to him, "I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Lopez."
"I guess you will, Karofsky."