"This isn't happening." Santana's voice dropped like lead on the other end of the line, heavy with anger and hurt and the slap in the face of what could only be described as absolute disbelief. Santana had expected a lot of things from a lot of people, but never this, and never from Brittany.
She had expected the stares when she first came out, the whispers, the cruelty both behind her back and to her face. She had expected to be called names, homophobic slurs that made her ears ring. She had even felt the hairs raise on the back of her neck as she walked home after late evening Cheerios practices, a sensation that had nothing to do with the late autumn frost—rather, it was the very real fear of violence that made her feel eyes burning the back of her neck all night long, the ever-present echo of imagined footsteps following her down the empty street.
But this, this she never anticipated. Not in her worst fantasies, not in the nightmares that woke her in a cold sweat, mouth dry and gasping for air, choking on her own tears. She couldn't, she truly could not imagine those words coming out of Brittany's mouth. Not when she had been so truly, deeply, absolutely hers. Proudly so, even.
"Santana…" Brittany pleaded, but she cut her off.
"No," she said hotly. "No. This… no. I just… how could you? How could you say that? Think that? No."
"Santana," Brittany said again, this time with more persistence. "I don't want to lose you, that's the last thing I want. I love you." That struck a nerve with Santana more than anything, and she snapped.
"You love me?" She practically spat venom, yelling so loudly that the cat that belonged to her roommate—the one she wasn't supposed to have, the one Santana hated—jumped off the desk, hitting the ground with a thud and taking off under the bed. "Oh, this is just… okay. Let me lay this all out, just to make sure I get it. You love me. You love me so much that it hurts. You love me so much that you want to break up with me? Is that it?"
"You deserve better." Brittany blurted it out before Santana could continue her tirade. There was silence, and though Brittany could not see her face, she could imagine the way Santana's mouth hung agape and eyebrows furrowed intensely when she was faced with something she did not know how to respond to. The tension between them was palpable, pulling at the core of them, risking breaking them both from the strain. Like they could lose grip of the earth entirely, were it not for this painful tether between them. Tears slid down the side of Brittany's face as she cried quietly and listened to Santana breathe on the other end. She could always tell, to some extent, what Santana was feeling by the meter of her breaths. Right now, she was thinking. Brittany swallowed back the lump in her throat and continued, her voice careful.
"You deserve better, Santana. You're going to be so famous one day, I just know it. You're going places. You're in college, and there are so many smart people there. People who are smart like you, you know? And you're cheering and dancing, and you're going to be singing soon and have a record before you know it. And I'm… well, I'm here. Second-year senior at McKinley. You know I'm never gonna go to college, Santana. I don't sing like you do. I'm not smart. I'm not going anywhere."
At this point Santana had to strain to hear Brittany's words, either because of the blood rushing through her ears or because Brittany's voice was almost imperceptible.
"I'm only ever going to hold you back. And I love you too much to do that to you." Santana felt the air leave her chest in a sharp pang, so abrupt and painful that she let out an actual gasp at the end of Brittany's words.
"This is insane," was all Santana could articulate in response, still shaking her head.
"I'm so sorry, Santana," Brittany said. "I'm so, so sorry."
"We're not freaking Berry and Finn, Brittany!" Santana yelled, hating the way her voice cracked when she said the blonde's name. "This isn't like that, you aren't…"
"Goodbye, Santana," Brittany said with a note of finality. "I love you."
"Oh, go to hell!" Santana screamed, sending her phone sailing across the room. It hit the wall opposite of her with a loud crack, but not loud enough to block out the sound of her drowning in the muffled sobs behind her hands.
Brittany lay in bed staring at the dark ceiling, choking back quiet sobs as she listened to her sister on the phone in the next room. Her little sister was so smart—she had been in gifted for as long as she'd been in school, and sometimes the conversations she would have with her friends at the house would leave Brittany's head spinning. Everything seemed so easy for her. Everything except having an idiot like Brittany for a sister.
She knew she was doing the right thing, even though right now it felt like her chest was being torn in half. Losing Santana was losing half of herself, the half she had given her a long time ago, proudly given her. She didn't need to understand the biology of how the human heart works, or the analysis of all those love poems in English class, to know what they meant. To understand that this pain, this pain that felt like dying, was what a broken heart was. There were really no words for it anyway.
She heard feet pad lightly down the hallway into the bathroom, then back to the bedroom down the hall, closing the door behind her. She saw the light die under the crack of her closed door. But only after she was positive that everyone in the house was asleep—even Lord Tubbington—did she allowed herself to finally weep openly.
And that, more than any obscure literature or failed poetry test, was the meaning of brokenness.
Brittany awoke with a start in the middle of the night, unsure of where exactly she was or why she was awake. As she regained her bearings she realized that she was at home, in her bed, and that it was about three o'clock in the morning. She couldn't remember what she had just been dreaming about, but it wasn't enough to wake her. Just as she rolled over to go back to sleep, she heard a sharp sound against glass. She sat up again, looking over to the closed window in her bedroom. A few seconds later, another sharp sound, and what looked like… a rock?
She approached the window, leaning in on the sill against the heels of her hands, looking down at the yard beneath. There was a dark figure standing in the grass, digging through the leaf litter at her feet, presumably for another rock. Brittany turned her bedside light on and put her hand up in the window, to signal that she'd seen her. She didn't need a broken window on top of everything else. She held up one finger, then grabbed a pair of sweatpants off the bedroom floor and hiked them on as she made her way out into the hallway, tip-toed down the stairs, and let herself out onto the front porch.
"You didn't answer your phone," she said coldly, squinting through the dark to find the features of Brittany's face. She had not turned the porch light on, for fear of waking her parents, and all the light between them was the cast-off hazy orange glow of the street lights.
"I was asleep," Brittany said slowly. "Santana, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Louisville."
"Screw Louisville," Santana said, and it was not the harshness in her voice but the scrubbed raw vulnerability beneath it that made Brittany stand straighter and bite down on her bottom lip. "Screw it, I don't want to be there if it means losing you. I won't. I'll quit."
"San, you can't," Brittany said, but Santana was having none of it.
"Don't tell me what I can and can't do, Britt," she spat. "You don't get to make all the decisions for us, for me. You don't get to decide that you're not good enough, or that I deserve better. I know exactly what I deserve, okay?" Brittany was slightly taken aback by Santana's ferocity, especially considering the mostly-bridled rage that simmered under the surface of their earlier conversation. Santana continued.
"I deserve the best girlfriend in the world. I deserve the prettiest, funniest, sweetest, most thoughtful, proudest girlfriend out there, and I have her. You. I deserve you. Only you, ever. You don't get to take that away from me." She said everything in a hitched, breathless way, as if she had run the entire distance from Louisville to Lima. The way she stood with her arms crossed over the front of her hoodie, hair uncharacteristically messy, wet, puffy eyes catching the weak light from the lamps, it looked to Brittany like Santana had just drowned, reemerged, and washed up on her doorstep.
"Okay, I get it, you're mad…"
"God, you're impossible!" Santana yelled, throwing her arms up in the air. Brittany put a beseeching finger over her lips, not wanting her family to wake up to the yelling, but she knew there was really no containing Santana when she caught fire. "I'm not mad, I'm furious! I'm furious and I love you so, so damn much, and I don't even know the difference anymore! Don't you see that?"
"You think I don't?" Brittany asked, voice unraveling. "You think I don't love you so much that I can't even see straight? Why do you think I let you go?"
"You don't get to let me go, Brittany," Santana said, almost dangerously. "You don't. You don't get to let me go. Because, look, because I'm here, forever. Here. Here in Lima, or here in Louisville, or in New York, whatever. I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere. I'm not letting go of you, I'm taking you with me, whatever that means, okay? I'm always taking you with me. I already have.
"So look, if that means I have to throw some stupid rocks at your window, or hold a radio up over my head, give you the last piece of cheesecake, whatever, I'll do it. Done. I'll start every song I ever sing by saying, 'This one's for my girlfriend Brittany.' Hell, I'll just name all my songs Brittany, all the way down the album! Because you don't get to let me go, Britt. I'm holding on. And you can ignore my calls, you can hang up on me, you can do whatever you want, but I'm gonna keep coming back, every time. Every damn time. And so help me God if you try to feed me one more line about how you're breaking up with me because you love me, I'll go all Lima Heights on—"
Brittany bridged the gap between them, and whatever Santana was going to go all Lima Heights on didn't matter anymore. She grabbed her close and kissed her like she might never see her again, like Santana was oxygen and she couldn't breathe without her. Because she couldn't. She really couldn't. She tasted the salt of both their tears as she kissed her over and over again, insatiable. She wanted to touch every part of her, taste her every breath, and never let go. She wanted to curl up in the gentle curve of her waist, hide in the spaces between every finger, get lost in the depths of her eyes, which were so impossibly dark she didn't think she would ever find a word for them. She didn't need to. If she could see them every day, like this, she wouldn't have to think of a way to describe them, because they would be right there.
"I love you," Santana said when they finally broke apart, resting her forehead against Brittany's and running her fingers through her hair. She was still crying, and her voice was thick with it, but it was without a doubt the most singularly beautiful voice that the wind and trees had ever heard.
"I'm so sorry," Brittany said. "I'm sorry. I was just, I don't know. I'm stupid."
"Don't say that," Santana admonished, closing her eyes and shaking her head a little, without breaking the contact between their foreheads. "You're not stupid. Look, we're not Rachel and Finn, okay? You're not holding me back. You're the reason I got to go to college in the first place. You're the reason I want to be better—for us. I'm not just about me anymore; you made me that person, Britt. You make me better. I can't live without you."
"I don't think I can live without you either," Brittany admitted. Santana finally cracked a smile, despite the tears still streaking her cheeks.
"Then stop trying to break up with me," she said with a soft, throaty laugh, and Brittany laughed, and the sound of them together maybe rewrote history as the new most beautiful sound that ever rippled across the surface of the planet.
"Never again," Brittany said, leaning in and finding Santana's lips, the most natural thing in the world to her, the one thing she knew how to do without fail, every time. "I promise."