Song used: Britney Spears, Everytime
Enjoy

Part V

Rachel had held back.

A week passed and Santana was still stuck on the slap. She swore she could still feel the sting in her jaw but that was just her mind playing tricks. Ticks that connected the ache of a slap to Rachel's soft lips on Santana's for the first time.

She had just gone for it. She had spent too much time waiting for Rachel to catch up. Waiting for the right moment to say how she felt, but even if the opportunity would've arose, Santana doubted she would've gotten out the words. It was easier to show it. So she did. Just like Brittany had suggested and Mercedes frowned upon.

Santana could still remember the few seconds of heat from Rachel's body when she pressed her back against the wall of her porch. She could still feel the fullness and dryness of Rachel's lips, peppered with the metallic favors that the Town's water had. Santana had been lost, and too off her guard to even anticipate the hand that was coming up to smack against her cheek. When Rachel had slapped her, Santana felt it for days, but it was Rachel's retreating back down the road that rang out even more.

It took a week before Rachel looked her in the eye, then a week more before she told Santana that, "It is hardly polite to force something like that upon a person and with no warning at that. Honestly, Santana, what did you think I'd do? Melt into your arms like putty? You have some nerve, Santana Lopez. Some nerve!" before storming off away from the training lot and swiftly slamming the door behind her with Kurt's laugh in the wind.

It took two more weeks before Rachel knocked on her door and said shyly, "I'm going to kiss you now and afterwards you're allowed to ask me to be your girlfriend. But only afterwards," That time her lips were sweet like fruit and her tongue more intoxicating than nectar.

"Not that I don't mind driving around aimlessly," started Rachel. Santana lifted her head off her propped up fist to look over at her. "But have you thought of where our next stop should be?"

Her eyes traced the curve of Rachel's cheek down to the way her lips puckered a nice deep shade of pink. Santana had the color memorized if only because she liked how rich and red they'd look after she spent however long kissing and biting them.

Santana pulled in a sudden breath causing Rachel to look at her. A dark eyebrow lifted over the bow of her shades. "Well?"

"These things take time,"

"You've been wasting it," said Rachel. Rolling her eyes, Santana shifted in her chair, noting the numbness in her rear. She didn't know how long they'd been going and she didn't care.

She was swinging back and forth between rage and remorse over the Fostoria situation. The times when Rachel wouldn't look at her made her angry and the mornings she woke up a couple minutes after Rachel jerked the rope twice made her feel apologetic. Still, that slap hurt and Tanaka deserved what he got.

"Are you listening?" Rachel exhaled loudly. "I've seen you look in that envelope twice since we began. There is no way you've read through it all."

Santana jerked open the glove compartment to retrieve the bent envelope. "Would you like to do it for me?" she held it out toward Rachel.

"You know I can't," she pushed it away only for Santana to offer it to her again.

"Who's going to stop you out here?"

"How about you do your job?" Rachel snipped, snatching the envelope out of Santana's hand and throwing it down into her lap. Santana grabbed it before it could topple off her knees and spill onto the floor. "You did promise Shelby you would get that done," she turned to meet Santana's eyes just as she slithered out, "Amongst other things,"

Santana rolled her eyes. "What are you even talking about?"

Rachel was quiet a moment. "When Shelby had me make sure your dad left the Precinct. Did you really think I went that far?"

"When aren't you eavesdropping on your mother?" Santana hissed, slamming the glove compartment shut with a harsh click.

Rachel kept her head angled forward, her jaw only moving to chew on her lip. The muscles in her hands flexed and relaxed as they gripped and loosened on the steering wheel repeatedly. If Santana could see her eyes, she would've seen Rachel building up the asking,

"What did she say she'd do to you?" it came out steady.

"What do you mean?"

"She threatened you, is that right?"

Santana pulled up her sunglasses to squint over at her. "I don't know what you're talking about,"

"You never doubted yourself," Rachel sighed, back falling completely against her seat but her shoulders stayed wound up tight. "You never doubted yourself with me then all of a sudden you didn't want to be with me. I know Shelby had something to do with it but-"

"But nothing. I was done. We were done. The Governor is out of the question," she turned to look out the windshield, arms pulling over her chest. She was ready for this conversation. She didn't think she'd ever really be. "Didn't I say we weren't going to talk about this?"

"But we never did talk about this,"

"I thought I summed it up pretty good when I slammed that door on your face." Santana fired off. She could feel the nervous tick shoot down to her foot making it want to start tapping. She fought against it, crossing her legs the best she could in the small space. "There wasn't anything else to talk about."

"If you want to keep lying, then okay, that's your game," said Rachel, voice quivering the slightest. Santana bit the inside of her jaw. If there was one thing she couldn't ever stand it was Rachel crying. "But that only works if I don't actually know a part of the truth."

She sucked in a breath to compose herself. "And that is?"

"That you've just been pretending," she said softly. Santana only swallowed. "I've kept myself up at night sick wondering why you just let me go. I thought if I knew something for sure then I'd be okay. But hearing Shelby say that to you before we left, I still couldn't sleep. You know why?"

No, is what Santana wanted to say. No, and that she didn't much care. But everything inside of her betrayed itself making her ask, "Why?"

"Because I couldn't believe you'd let someone, even my mother, steal something from you that was rightfully yours. I couldn't believe the Santana I knew backed down that way. I mean," she trailed off, lip reddening the more she chewed on it. "What did she tell you? What did she say she'd do to you if you were with me? What would make you give up?"

"There wasn't anything to give up on," said Santana, coolly though everything inside of her was anything but cool. "What I thought I had or wanted with you wasn't worth it."

"Tell me the truth, Santana," said Rachel, jerking the truck to a halt. She turned to face her, sunglasses ripping off her eyes. Fiery, brow eyes stared her down. "Did she say she'd kill one of us? Because that is the only thing I can think of that would make you pretend that you don't love me anymore."

"You keep saying that I'm pretending but have you ever stopped to think that maybe I actually don't?" Santana snapped, the words feeling all so wrong in her mouth. But she had promised, hadn't she? "We were eighteen, Rachel. People grow up and they grow apart. If you were really listening to our conversation, then you know I shut your mother down. There's nothing for her, or you, or me to worry about because I don't want you. I haven't wanted you and I don't love you."

Rachel shook her head, eyes pinched closed for a moment to hold back fresh tears. She cleared her throat, voice lowering down to steady. "Then why would you assume she wanted you gone?"

"What?"

"That night when I came over," Rachel started, staring her straight in the eyes, "I know how Shelby works. She's loved to torture me in one way or another, so what better way to do that than dangle you in front of me for weeks on end? She knows it could push me over the edge but not you. So why? What did she tell you?"

Santana kept her face fixed. She kept herself from swallowing and she kept her eyes from shifting. She kept her lids from fluttering and she kept her teeth bitten on the inside of her lip to hold everything down. She kept it all in and she kept stony eyes on Rachel's pleading ones that bounced from one of Santana's to the other.

She was begging her so much in just the way her face started to fall. She was grasping out for Santana, floundering for something – anything – but she wouldn't give it to her. Just like Santana didn't give her anything when she told Rachel it was over. The shatter of Rachel's heart could be seen in her eyes then and the gutting of everything Santana had just said was written all over Rachel's face just before it morphed and she blanked. Rachel shut down.

"Fine," Rachel choked; sliding her shades back on and turned the key so the truck shut off. "Then I'm not sorry,"

"For what?"

"For slapping you," she said evenly, undoing her buckle. She sniffed quickly so that the bang of the metal buckle hitting the door would hide it, but Santana heard it. "I was going to apologize for slapping you back at the prison but I see now that you deserved it."

"Then you shouldn't have held back," said Santana, her eyes still holding on Rachel who turned to face her again. Her mouth bobbed for a moment like the lively Rachel would when she was working up something perfect. But this Rachel was broken and shut down. Instead,

"No," she said simply. "I shouldn't have," Rachel tugged the handle to the truck, letting the door fly open.

The windows shivered at the force behind the slam of the door that made Santana herself flinched backwards. Out the driver side window, she could see Rachel in a full sprint, sand kicking up in her wake as she ran off into the distance away from the truck and away from Santana who had just chewed her up and spat her back out all over again.

Sighing, Santana dropped her face into hands, eyes pinched tight to hold back her tears. Her teeth bit into the heel of her hand in attempts to keep herself from crying. She had shed enough tears over the years on Rachel. She hardly thought there were any left to give now.

-/-/-/-

Pounding on wood drew Santana out of sleep. She rolled over, the feather chain around her neck sliding coolly across her skin as she rolled onto her stomach and opened her eyes to the darkness of the house. Knocking persisted, harsh and staccato. Santana slid herself off the bed, hand blindly finding the shirt she had thrown off in the heat.

Pulling her arms through the sleeves, she padded through her room and into the sitting room, buttoning it up as she went. The knocking grew louder; ticking on her nerves and making the headache she was attempting to sleep off creep back up on her.

Annoyed, Santana flung the door open, tongue ready to snap at the idiot who was on her stoop. She was stopped short with seeing the grinning face of Shelby flanked by two emotionless guards. Santana swallowed her insults quickly.

"Hello, Santana," Santana blinked up at Shelby trying to look less asleep and more alert. "Is your father home?"

"No ma'am," she cleared her throat, hand running through her hair in attempts to make it look more presentable. "Would you like me to take a message for him?"

"Oh no. I'm not here for him," she smiled wickedly. Her eyes looked Santana down from head to toe before landing on her face again. "May I come in?"

"Of course," Santana stepped back to allow the Governor to walk across the threshold. Santana watched the guards step in after her. She waited another moment, expecting Rachel to come in. Rachel was always with Shelby.

"There's no one else," said Shelby. Santana turned around to see the Governor making herself comfortable on the long couch. Her guards stood on either side of it. "Please sit, Santana,"

Nodding, Santana shut the door and moved to sit in the chair just across from the Governor. She sat up straight, watching Shelby take in the house with her eyes. They shifted from one thing to another, her hands clasped and resting on her knees. When she was done, she sat back.

"I'll make this quick," she said, one leg throwing over the other. Shelby dusted off the fabric of her skirt then folded her hands in her lap. "I'm aware of the relationship you and my daughter have," Santana said nothing. "Why neither of you thought to tell me…"

Santana swallowed, her back straightening. "I didn't know Rachel hadn't," Shelby only smiled, her eyes boring into Santana as if she was attempting to catch her in the lie. But Santana wasn't lying. Last her and Rachel spoke about it, they agreed to tell Shelby. Rachel hadn't held up her end.

"Are you in love with her?"

Santana felt her jaw drop open. "What?"

"Are you in love Rachel?"

"I-" Santana stuttered. She quickly composed herself though she could feel her cheeks blazing hot. "Yes," she croaked because she had only told Rachel herself once and it took months before Santana could whisper it to even her.

"Then I'm sorry," The smile on Shelby's lips slid down into an empty frown. "My daughter is off limits to you," said Shelby, nonchalantly. "You're no longer able to see her."

"Governor Corcoran, ma'am, we-" Santana shifted in her chair, mind lagging in processing the words just spoken to her. "I'm sorry we didn't tell you. When me and Rachel talked...she said she was going to-"

"You are not the only one Rachel lies to,"

Santana pursed her lips, brow creasing. "Did I do something wrong?"

"It's nothing personal. The thing is…Let me start by saying this," started Shelby in a long sigh as she sat back against the couches cushion. "I have recently lost something – someone – very dear to me. It took me so long to acquire someone so precious as them, and though so many are blessed with the opportunity to…meet someone so wonderful, I have not always been fortunate. It's why I started Lima. It was a chance to give those people an opportunity. But there are still those who have their moment of joy but it doesn't last. It's gone without warning. Rachel, she doesn't understand the depth of pain something lost like that can cause."

Shelby looked up from her lap to stare into Santana's eyes. Her mocha eyes were glossed with the mist of tears. It made Santana's chest constrict. She had seen the Governor in many emotions. Most of them in a muted state of rage, but not once had she seen Shelby stripe herself down so vulnerable.

Santana's tongue darted out to swipe across her lips before she rasped, "What are you saying?"

"You're in love Rachel?"

"Y-yes,"

"You hesitated that time," Shelby batted her lashes, mist drying up from her lids. "Don't hesitate. You should never hesitate on things you're sure about."

"Yes, I am," Santana answered, confidently.

The frown Shelby had been wearing slowly started to ease up into a smirk. "And you'd do anything for her? Even if that was to act like you didn't?"

Santana narrowed her eyes. "Why would I do that?"

"Because if you do not, like me Santana," bright, white pointy teeth peeked from grin split lips, "you'll share in the severity of my pain,"

Santana's stomach twisted into knots, all thoughts of the Governor's walls coming down fading away. "You're going to kill Rachel?"

"Only if you don't do as I say," the singsong in Shelby's vice boiled hot anger in the hollow of Santana's chest. "Don't look like that, Santana. Its just…some parents have one way of teaching their children a lesson and I have mine."

Santana gritted her teeth. "No,"

"No?" her dark eyebrows lifted up.

"No," Santana repeated. She pulled her arms around her chest to hide the way her hands were shaking in her lap. "No, I won't do it."

"Oh, Santana," Shelby raised her hands, clapping twice. "Either way,"

Santana didn't have the time to react before one of the guards bounded across the room, holding a gun against her temple while the other stood on the opposite side of Shelby with his own gun cocked and drawn pointing straight at her heart. Out the corner of her eye, she saw the guards thumb cock it and his finger lay gently on the trigger. Santana blinked from the warm, chocolate eyes of the one aiming for her heart down to Shelby's own burning brown pair.

"I'll get what I want," Shelby finished, arms folding over her chest. "You either agree or she'll suffer in mourning over your lifeless body on the side of the road. Take your pick."

The metal of the gun grew warmer against Santana's skin. She could hear it rattle with each pounding beat of her heart. The blood in her veins turned cold the longer she attempted to stare Shelby down. It was a losing battle, she knew. She knew it before she said no and it was that reason alone that made Santana wet her throat with a thick swallow and mutter a tense,

"Okay,"

Shelby's eyebrows lifted high. "Okay, what?"

"Okay," Santana snarled hoping the force behind it tuned out the breaking of her heart. "I'll do it,"

"Promise?" Shelby's head titled, smile twisting and breaking Santana even more.

She let out a breath in attempts to steady her voice. "Promise,"

"And the next time you see her, you'll do what?"

"I'll leave her," she answered obediently.

"And you'll make it as if you never once did love her,"

Santana choked out a laugh. "She'll know I'm lying,"

"You've always been good with your words, Santana. I'm sure you'll find the right things to say to make it convincing." Shelby examined her nails a moment. Santana tensed, feeling the barrel of the gun dig deeper into her temple. "Deal?"

She clenched her teeth, forehead wrinkled in anger. "Deal," she growled.

Shelby smiled, hands waving in the air. The Guards lowered their guns but the action didn't relax Santana the smallest bit. She sat stock still and board straight, frozen and broken against the cushion of the chair, watching as Shelby rose up and walked towards the front door ahead of her Guards.

Opening the door, she turned over her shoulder, dark eyes making sure to bore into Santana's as she said, "You promised," and let the door shut on her back.

-/-/-/-

Santana squinted through the dust the trucks wheels kicked up as she drove. Her knuckles felt like they were on the verge of splitting by how hard she was clutching the steering wheel and her jaw hurt from how tightly she was clenching her teeth. A soft clap of thunder echoed from the distance. The dark, black rain clouds could be seen coming up on the horizon and Santana floored it.

It may have been the only reason she decided to chance her luck driving after Rachel. She had learned long ago to never chase a Rachel Berry down after such a blow out - at least not right away. But they were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but dirt, dried up grass, and various beat up pieces of metal to let her wander far and the coming storm would have her dead within minutes.

Flat terrain gave way to lead into a destructed old city. Buildings, broken down by mostly fire lined up on either side of the path Santana navigated through. The wheels bumped and the truck shook as she rolled over what was left of car parts in the street. Her body jerked around in the driver seat, ramming into the door.

She mumbled under her breath as she went, wondering to herself why she waited so long before she started after Rachel. She had been going in a full sprint and from past memories of training, Santana knew Rachel had the best endurance out of the best of them.

"Damn it, Berry," Santana sighed, catching sight of her just up ahead walking along a busted up sidewalk.

At the sound of the truck, Rachel turned around to glare at Santana through the windshield before she started up in a jog. Santana pressed on the gas, frowning at the way Rachel slowed her pace to an exhausted walk then tried to kick it back up into a run over and over again

Rolling over a fallen streetlight pole, Santana pulled the truck up to follow alongside Rachel who refused to look up. Her face was glistening with sweat that rolled down her forehead and neck in heavy beads leaving steaks as they coasted down her skin. Her skin was flushed and her lips were chapped and dry, split open as she panted in the heat.

"Rachel!" Santana cranked down the window. "Get in,"

"Go away,"

"Rachel," Santana groaned, feeling the sting of Rachel's words in her chest. It reminded Santana of how many times she had dismissed Rachel's presence after she left her. It was so cold, and lifeless, and piercing.

"No," she barked with a little less bite.

"Come on," Santana urged. Her body shook again as she rolled over something else just in time with another dull roll of thunder. She looked up at the sky noting they were headed straight for the storm. "It's going to rain,"

"So be it," Rachel spat then wet her lips with a lazy tongue. "I'd rather be scorched to death than be in that truck with you," with a skip, she started to run again.

"No! Okay. Alright," Santana stopped the truck at the cross of an intersection too torn apart and cracked for her to navigate the truck along safely.

Jumping out, Santana ran to catch up with Rachel who pushed herself to get away. But Santana had pent up energy making it easy for her to come up on Rachel's heels with ease. Reaching out, she grabbed Rachel's swinging arm, jerking her backward.

"What are you doing?" Rachel protested, stumbling backwards so she fell back into Santana. She quickly pushed herself up, other arm coming up to swat at the hand that held her captive. "Let me go!"

"Not until you get in the truck," Santana hissed through her teeth. She yanked Rachel's arm, ramming her into her chest. She wrapped both arms around Rachel from behind, fighting against every thrash and wiggle she fought with. "Damn it, calm down,"

"Get off me. Get off me right now," Rachel cried out pitifully. She jerked to one side, shifting Santana off balance. She let go a moment to steady herself and caught Rachel before she could weasel herself away again. "I will end you, Santana Lopez,"

"Try me," Santana spat right at her ear.

Rachel went still in her arms for a second before Santana felt her chest inflate against her hold and then she was being hurled over Rachel's shoulder and onto the pavement. Santana's back collided with the ground, forcing the wind out of her chest causing her to gasp.

"Fuck," she wheezed, rolling to her side and gulping in dry air. She blinked against the black dots in her vision watching Rachel quickly jogging away from her again, feet dragging in her exhaustion. Santana pushed herself up as she yelled out, "Berry, come on,"

"No!" Rachel's voice echoed off the abandoned buildings that surrounded them. The force of her scream shocked them both and Santana watched Rachel slow down and turn to face her with gritted teeth feet away from her. "No," she panted, fist clenching at her sides. "Not until you tell me the truth,"

Santana heaved, her aching back screaming out in protest as she straightened up. Her eyes darted all over Rachel's face taking all of her in. She looked terrible. She looked so much worse than Santana remembered. Even compared to those times Santana saw her at the Precinct after everything. She had looked thin then with red-rimmed eyes and defined bags, but this Rachel…

She looked so small and so beat. Her skin was raw like sand paper and her brown eyes were lifeless and begging to be resuscitated but Santana wasn't giving. Santana had just taken and it wasn't even her fault, but that didn't matter. Not when she was staring at the shell of a girl who brought Santana more life than she had felt in the fifteen years of living in destruction. And she had been forced to give that up and now she was finally reaping the consequences of it.

"Tell me the truth!" Rachel demanded, foot stomping against the pavement.

The truth? There was a reason she hadn't told the truth. Because the truth hurt and the truth was the one thing that would bring about exactly what Shelby threatened she'd do. So Santana balled her fist and she gave as much of the truth that she could without breaking her promise to the Governor but at the same time would make Rachel understand what and why she had did what she had done.

"And then what?" Santana yelled, her heart beating in her throat. "I can tell you she told me to do it and she held a gun to my head but what would that change? I didn't fight for your ass because I didn't want to have one of us buried by a dust storm on the outskirts of town like she threatened to do to either of us if I didn't do what she told me to. You living – seeing you everyday – was more important to me than having you gone for good. So hate me for it. Go on. I did what I did because I did care. Because I loved you."

Rachel's head tilted so sweat matted hair fell out of the messy ponytail it was thrown up in. Her eyes narrowed and her lashes fluttered as her mind took in what Santana had said. And out of everything Santana thought Rachel would say, out of all the things she could've said or asked, the one thing that came out of her mouth was a simple,

"Loved?"

"Yes," Santana's mouth was dry and her chest was clenching so tight that it made breathing even more difficult in the arid heat.

It clenched so tight that I almost forced the present tense out of her. Because she still did love Rachel and the feather tucked into her shirt that burned white hot against her chest was a reminder of that. But she wasn't allowed to love Rachel anymore. So yes she,

"Loved you, yes I did,"

"Did?" Rachel repeated, her gaze burning into Santana as she muttered, "what about now?"

Santana sighed, forcing herself not to look away. "Funny thing about pretending," she said, sadly, "is that after a while you're not pretending anymore."

Rachel only blinked and Santana watched her. Thunder clashed against the chorus of each of their panting and the raging of Santana's pulse. Her whole body ached with the coiled tension that vibrated from the tips of her fingers to the bottoms of her feet. It was only eased by Rachel's hands relaxing and her shoulders finally loosening up.

The anger in her eyes was gone but there was a new weight on her. One of hope lost that Santana also kissed goodbye. She had entertained her own thoughts of the assignment with Rachel. Of possibilities of what was once theirs being rekindled. But the risk of that was too great and a life with Rachel in it at arms length away was better than one without Rachel in it at all.

"Okay," it left Rachel's lips in a puff of air.

"Rachel,"

"We should find a place to set up a tent or camp out before the storm hits." She went on, walking towards Santana.

"Yeah," Santana murmured as Rachel walked right by her heading for the truck. "Alright,"

-/-/-/-

Santana trudged the path to Rachel's flat. She was already scheduled to come by Santana's. She had planned some sort of nightly outing for the two of them that Rachel promised wouldn't be like their usual ventures out of Lima. Those were normally low key and spent in the bed of the truck Rachel snagged out of the Precinct lot, kissing under the clouds and cuddling while Rachel sang softly into Santana's ear who fought against her heavy lids.

Rachel's place was a small little thing. It sat with the other one room houses in a cluster just off from the Town's center. Warm light burned around the edges of curtains draped over the windows and a string of tiny lights drooped across the overhang of the porch like the tiny glow of fireflies.

Santana marched heavily up the steps, eyes on the dirt that her boots scattered on the wood. There was rustling on the inside. Rachel must've been getting ready to leave for Santana's. She wondered what it was Rachel had planned. They had already done everything she thought. Being together nearly two years there was hardly much else to do. They had exhausted the usual pockets outside of town.

They had gone out to the dry pasture and rolled in the grass. They had scaled the remains of old skyscrapers to get a closer look at the stars. They had skinny dipped in the cove a long hours drive away that dried up not that long ago. They had done every little thing Santana could think of...but maybe not and she'd never know.

Her palms started to sweat in her clenched fist. Santana uncurled them only to dry them off on her jean shorts. Her eyes raised to stare at the door. A door she had looked at and knocked on and leaned against and kicked and slammed and opened so many times.

She knocked.

"Who's there?" Rachel called instantly.

Santana sighed, wavering on the balls of her feet. She could go. She could walk off Rachel's porch and skip out of Town for the night. She could avoid Rachel and the Governor and the-

"Santana?" Rachel's eyes were narrowed as she looked up at her through a crack in the door. She pulled it more open, eyebrow rising. "I thought I was coming to you," Rachel ran a hand through her hair.

Santana smirked. "I never said who I was,"

Rachel rolled her eyes. "I looked through the window when you took so long to answer. Come in,"

"Rach, wait, I-"

"Whatever you're going to say, say it inside," she combed through her hair again. It was still damp and tangled but they were passed the point of trying to look flawless in front of one another. "You're letting all the cold air out."

"What cold air?" she teased.

Santana followed her inside, looking at the familiar sitting room. Only a small couch with an end table topped with a lamp cluttered the room. A dusty rug spread across the wooden floor that whined under Rachel's footsteps into the back room.

"I don't use black curtains for no reason," Rachel's voice came muffled from her room, gradually getting clear as she walked back into the sitting room running a brush through her hair. "Despite them being tacky, they keep enough heat out so by night it's reasonable in here."

Santana pursed her lips. "The Precinct has AC,"

"The Precinct also has Shelby. I'll take privacy over a couple degrees knocked off the thermometer. Besides," Rachel padded across the room, hand dropping away from her untamed hair to take Santana's face in her palms. "If we were at the Precinct, someone might catch us doing this,"

Her lips molded with Santana's in a deep kiss. She felt herself react despite everything. There was not a time when Santana didn't react to those lips on hers. It was always immediate the way she circled her arms around Rachel's back, tugging her closer to feel all of her. But all of her was what she was supposed to be rejecting right now.

"Rachel-"

"Shh," Rachel cooed, taking one of Santana's pouty lips between her teeth and bit down. "You're all mine tonight,"

Santana melted instantly, losing herself in the sensation of a tongue across the tiny teeth marks on her lip and the way fingernails were now dragging lazily across her scalp. But it was when she opened her eyes for a moment to see lidded brown ones staring back at her that Santana's mind reassemble.

She pulled back abruptly making their lips smack in disconnection. "About that,"

"About what?" Rachel blinked, rattled. Santana looked away from those eyes that always probed her and dug into her in the best of ways but now wasn't one of those times. "About what, Santana? What's wrong?"

"We need to talk," said Santana, taking the slightest step backward before she was tempted to lean back forward. "About us. We-"

"Listen," Rachel hurried, cutting Santana off. "I know we talked about informing Shelby about our relationship, but I figured it's nearly two years over due and she already knows without me speaking to her. Not to mention Shelby has never cared about anything in my life. She's content on ignoring what happens to me so I didn't tell her. We can if you want but…but don't be mad, okay?"

Were it any other time, Santana would've laughed at the outburst. She would've tugged Rachel into her, and shut her up before she could've said much at all. "I'm not mad," she said instead, keeping her gaze from meeting Rachel's.

"Then what's wrong?" Rachel stepped forward, hand cupping Santana's cheek. She pulled out of it. "Santana?" she tried again but Santana jerked her face from her hand. "What's wrong?"

"Us," said Santana, catching the hand that was trying to touch he again.

"Us?" Rachel echoed, wrenching her wrist out of Santana's grip. "What do you mean us? As in us us?"

"I..." Santana swallowed. "I can't let you keep believing that I still feel the same about you." She took a breath to steady her voice."Because I don't and I haven't, and," she forced herself to look up at Rachel's face as she said, "I don't want to be with you anymore."

"Santana Lopez, you had better be joking." Rachel guffawed, her wringing hands breaking apart a moment to run nervously through her hair. Santana said nothing. "Santana, stop it," Rachel's uneasy grin slipped off. Santana still kept quiet. "No, no, no. You're joking. Stop it. This isn't funny."

Her eyebrow quirked up, arms pulling over her chest. "Who's laughing?"

"You can't be serious," Santana stared down at her, letting Rachel's eyes bounce from one of hers to the other. She let Rachel take in her words until they sank in just enough to shake her. "I- we were- I had everything...tonight we...Santana what are you telling me right now?"

"I know you had no problem hearing what I said. You have perfect hearing, remember?"

"Oh no, do not get smart with me. Not right now."

Santana sighed. "I knew you'd start flipping out," she rolled her eyes and nearly grimaced at seeing how it registered as a slap on Rachel's face. "I don't want to be with you, Rachel. What's so hard to understand about that?"

"I don't know," Rachel coughed out, sarcastically. "Maybe that just the other day you were crying in my arms because you told me you loved me and now you're saying you don't want anything to do with me."

"I didn't say that, but that might be a good idea." Santana quickly shot back before that memory settled in. "I don't want to be with you and I don't want anything to do with you. Sorry."

"No," Rachel shook her head, pacing away from Santana only to come back to stand in front of her. "No, no, no. You cannot follow that up with a sorry. Tell me why,"

"Why?" she waved off, using the moment of Rachel's eyes pinched closed to quickly blink back her own tears. "I mean, I can start listing off all the things that I absolutely dislike about you which have recently begun to override the things I do like - or did like."

"Oh god. Oh my god, you-" she pressed a palm to her forehead, feet taking her from one point in the room to the other. Santana watched her pace, the time bomb in herself ticking before she erupted. "I don't- No. Santana, no."

"I'm sorry,"

"Do not say you're sorry," she stopped in front of Santana, glossy eyes hard. "Just don't,"

"Fine," said Santana with a shrug. "I'm done," she turned around, teeth grinding together as she reached for the door.

"Wait," Rachel grabbed hold of her sleeve, tugging. Santana spun back around to glare down at her. Rachel cowered, her voice dipping. "Why? Please, just tell me why. I don't understand how you could- how- we can talk about this. Just talk to me, okay? But don't do this."

"Begging," Santana spat, jerking her arm out of Rachel's hold. She saw Rachel flinch at her raised hand as if she were going to slap her. She quickly lowered it. "There goes one check on the list."

Wordlessly, Santana reached for the door, throwing it open. She could feel her chest starting to cave in and her throat starting to ache. She could feel her stomach start to churn and the sting at the corners of her eyes. She just needed to get away and get far enough away before she turned around and apologized and-

"Santana," Rachel's hand grabbed hold of her again causing her to stumble over the threshold and into her. Santana!"

"We're done, Berry!" Santana snarled, the bite behind it startling herself. She wheeled around, pushing Rachel off her before she registered what she was doing.

She watched, her body nearly betraying her but Santana kept herself from reaching out to catch Rachel before she tripped backwards into the house and sprawled on the floor. She smacked hard against the wood, wind rushing out of her in a painful squeak. Looking up, Rachel found Santana's eyes and locked on with pure disbelief. Tears burst from her warm, brown eyes, streaming down her cheeks that were red with embarrassment and anger.

"Why?" Rachel muttered, her shoulders quaking.

Santana shook her head, looking away from that pitiful face before she broke right then and there on that porch. She needed to keep it up. She needed to make it as believable and cold and harsh as she could because that was the only way Rachel would believe. It was the only way she knew Rachel would keep her distance if only for a while until Santana herself could put herself back together and hold face.

"We're done," she breathed, reaching in to grab the knob of the door and yanked it shut so hard the wooden panels shook.

The last thing Santana heard was her name being screamed in the wind and the pounding of her boots as she ran away.

-/-/-/-

The rain poured down in sheets. Heavy raindrops struck the cracked window of the little convenient store they had found in a never-ending chorus of harsh staccatos. Santana watched it from where she sat on her sleeping bag in the back corner of what she guessed had been the break room; its greenish tint looked ghoulish against the white smog sky.

A leak in the ceiling plopped drops into an empty tin q can that Rachel every once in a while would get up to dump outside the employee door that was gradually getting flooded on the other side. Across the way, leaning again against the wall Rachel shifted positions from her head lolled back on her shoulders to her chin resting on her drawn up knees. She hated the rain, and told Santana she always had. Acidic or not, rain was never something she enjoyed.

"I knew it had to be something like that," said Rachel, breaking the silence. "I never believed you that night, or at least I tried not to. But the way you treated me after that made it harder to think anything otherwise." Rachel tilted her head so she could see Santana over the curve of her knee. "How you felt about me…what changed?"

"Life changed," Santana croaked. Her eyes followed a drop from the leak in the ceiling and she sighed. It would be a long time before they could leave.

"Was it Brittany?"

Santana cocked an eyebrow. The corner of her mouth threatened to kink up in an amused smirk. Brittany had been the one to find Santana sitting in her water trough, entire body submerged in the dirty water. Brittany pulled her out and scolded her good for scaring her even though Santana told her she hadn't been trying to kill herself. That didn't stop her from tattling to Mercedes who would stop by everyday after her shifts at the Clinic to check on her.

It was pointless, really. Why would she kill herself? It would change nothing. Shelby would've still gotten what she wanted and Rachel would've been crushed even more. It was better to live and watch Rachel walk around barely there and all there at the same time.

Santana shook the thoughts away. Sometime in the years they had learned to speak to one another again. Santana found a way to make conversation with Rachel without making it seem like she really cared. But in every insult, in every jab was the question if Rachel was okay or not. But the more Santana did, the more Rachel faded away and maybe it was better that way.

"Was it?" Rachel asked again.

"Would you feel better if I said it was?"

Rachel blinked in surprise before nibbling on her lip. "Probably not,"

"No," Santana let out a long breath as she lay back onto her sleeping bag. "It wasn't because of Brittany,"

"Oh," Rachel cleared her throat. Her hands twisted around one another in nervous habit. "Do you- do you ever think about us?"

"Seriously, Berry? Shut up," she pinched the bridge of her nose, eyes clenching. If the rest of her time with Rachel was going to be spent talking about these things, she didn't think she'd last.

"It's a simple question, Santana, and it's the least you could do to answer." Rachel grumbled, throwing her legs out in front of her to stretch. "Or do I need to hold a gun to your head to get anything out of you?"

Santana turned, meeting Rachel's cold expression with her own glare. "You know what?" she flipped over, putting her back to Rachel as she let out a halfhearted, "fuck you," and curled up into a tiny ball.

It was a position Santana had found herself doing for days after she slammed that door on Rachel's face. It was the only way to alleviate the ache that set into her gut when she was alone with only her thoughts to entertain her. The only thing she could think of was Rachel's face, the way her lip had quivered, and her heart shattered in those eyes once always so alive and now so dead.

Her mind replayed her begging, reaching out to grab any part of Santana only to be pushed away in more ways than one. And maybe it wouldn't have hurt so badly if it hadn't been all a lie. Maybe if somewhere in Santana she could've found a bit of truth to anything she said to Rachel. But the truth was her heart was in that eighteen-year-old girl's hands and was still hers, all shattered into shards and hardly beating.

The harsh beating of rain muffled the sniffle coming from Rachel's side of the room. Santana chanced a look over her shoulder to see Rachel still sitting with her back against the wall and eyes fixed on the drops that fell more frequently from the ceiling.

"You remember when you got caught in the rain?" Rachel's voice broke the silence. She kept her eyes turned up as a faint smile touched her lips. "You wouldn't let me touch you,"

"It hurt," Santana swallowed to wet her throat. "You wouldn't just leave it alone,"

"The blisters needed to be treated," Rachel stressed, finally blinking down to her. In all the years that had passed, Santana hadn't seen the ghost of such a smile on Rachel's face.

"I didn't need your help," Santana turned away from her again.

Rachel sucked her teeth in annoyance."You practically begged me to stay over,"

"It was either sitting in silence freezing in the tub for three hours going crazy in the silence or going crazy with the sound of your voice blabbing on and on."

"I sang too,"

"Don't remind me," Santana groaned though her insides warmed at the memory.

"It was your own fault," said Rachel, pouting. "When I told you to fly home to me, I didn't mean risk your safety trying to beat the rain back into Town. What would've happened had you been caught in the downpour?"

"I would've been scarred for life," Santana deadpanned.

"You always do that," Rachel mumbled. Santana herd her shifting on her sleeping bag. "You always make things sound like they don't really matter or like you don't care. Today, when you told me the truth, was the first time I've ever heard you be so…real. Even when you finally said you loved me." Rachel paused to glance over at Santana then sighed. "I suppose it helps in a way. If I pretend like you never meant it in the first place-"

"I liked it better when you sang," Santana muttered, her eyes staring at the cracking wall in front of her. "So unless you're going to put that mutant voice of yours to work the way I know you used to enjoy doing, then shut up so I can sleep." She heard Rachel slump back against the wall. Santana winced, turning to catch Rachel's eye. "Well?"

Rachel's mouth bobbed with lack of words. She looked down, face reddening and teeth gnawing her lip. Her hands clenched the fabric of her sleeping bag as she sniffed and started to hum a broken tune. Santana strained to hear what it was. She didn't recognize it and the way Rachel's voice gave out and hitched in parts didn't help.

Rolling back toward the wall, Santana closed her eyes as she listened to Rachel's voice ease out of a hum to a soft mumbling of words.

Notice me
Take my hand
Why are we strangers when
Our love is strong
Why carry on without me?

Rachel's voice gave out again to choppy humming. Santana curled her legs up, arms pulled against her chest and teeth biting into the knuckle of her fist. She should've known Rachel would pull something like that. She should've known that whatever came out of her mouth would either make her melt like her voice use to always do or it would make her shatter.

I make believe
That you are here
It's the only way
I see clear
What have I done?
You seem to move on easy

Closing her eyes released a tear that slipped down Santana's cheek and soaked into her sleeping bag. She bit down harder, feeling her teeth pierce skin but she wouldn't cry. She wouldn't let Rachel see or hear or know she cried. She had been keeping herself together since the day Shelby had given her the assignment and Rachel showed on her porch.

She had choked every emotion down that wanted to spring to the surface and told herself she could get through it. But she couldn't, and as Rachel sang on in a teary breath of a whisper, Santana knew she could only take so much more of this before she crumbled

And every time I see you in my dreams
I see your face, you're haunting me
I guess I need you…

"Santana?" Rachel whispered. Santana stayed still, her body aching with how tightly wound she held herself. She heard Rachel shift on her side of the room and the itchy threads of the rope slide around her ankle and tighten.

Rachel sighed long a hard before she whispered, "Goodnight, Santana,"

-/-/-/-

Santana stepped into the Governor's Suite, making sure the door was closed tightly behind her. She stood in the middle of the room, staring at Shelby who stood at the large pan of windows that stretched at the back of the office. The darkness made it so she bled into night, but the hue of the moon lit up her face in a ghoulish smoky peach tone.

"So?" Shelby said, still looking out into the night.

Santana fought against the lump in her throat to choke out a small, "Done," she watched Shelby raise a wine glass to her lips and take a sip, her back still toward her. Santana seethed. "Satisfied?"

"Quite," Shelby laughed softly as she turned over her shoulder . "Good job, Santana. I knew I could always rely on you," She peered right into Santana's eyes. They reminded her too much of the crying pair she had left on the floor. "And now that you're assignment is done, I won't be needing you any longer."

"Ma'am?"

"Being a Scavenger is invite only," she said, coolly, turning to sit on the windowsill, "and for now I'm revoking that invitation to you."

Santana's fist balled at her sides at the growing smirk that pulled on Shelby's mouth. "For what?"

"Argue with me and you may never find yourself back here again, Santana," She lifted the wine glass back to her lips. The last bits of it went down her throat in a single, audible gulp. "You may go,"

Santana gave a terse nod. "Yes ma'am," she forced out before turning on her heels and leaving to the echo of Shelby's laughing at her back.

till next chapter