Matthew wasn't sure what had changed inside him at the sight of Santana's death, it wasn't a feeling he could pinpoint exactly, but it was akin to a hammer striking metal or an arrow meeting its mark. Something was one way and then it was another, he was conflicted in one moment and the next he wasn't.

The feeling puzzled him, because he had watched many people die.

Many people he loved dearly.

He had watched his mother die at the king sovereign's hands at a young age, he must have only seen a handful of winters at the time, but even then, as angry and hurt as he had been, he had been able to keep his feelings to himself. Because his mother had been threatening to tell the king's wife of their indiscretions together, something that could not be allowed under any circumstances. When he grew older he merely took her death as further proof that it was best to keep to himself and not to push too far.

Countless men and women passed through the gates of Castle Abrams, few were friends and many of them died because of the harsh conditions within or were killed for breaking some law or another. The only people who were constant in his life had been Brittany and Archibald, and despite what Archibald had become, he loved them both deeply. For all he was the king had never struck him or denied him basic human rights as most in power did. In private he treated him more as a friend and confidant than a slave; even though his gifts and displays of friendship often came in skewed forms, they were there.

Through everything, through every death and beating, he reasoned away any guilt or thoughts of retribution for the man that treated him as a brother or for the king sovereign that had allowed him to learn more than any slave probably ever had.

He had done so with his mother, when the then prince had denied Jean any decent medical care that led to her death, he ignored how any woman he felt more than a passing affection for ended up being sold to some lord or brothel. He had glanced over the countless women that had been less than willing for Archibald's eager touch, had easily swallowed his pride when his plans and thoughts were stolen and presented by the man he thought of as a friend. Even though it had always troubled him, he even overlooked his cruelty towards Brittany for what it was in favor of believing it was a result of his parents never spending enough time with him.

Something he could only do when he forced himself to forget that he, Brittany and Puck had all grown up without any at all.

When the king had limped before the court and spoke of the queen's infidelity and proceeded to tell the masses lies that made Matthew's conscience cringe he held fast. Once the crowd had been convinced that the queen who had saved them was an immoral beast of a woman they had cried out for blood and even the council couldn't ignore them, yet still he stood without uttering a word, because what could he say?

At the time where trial had begun Matthew had admittedly wavered and gone to speak to Santana, but upon hearing that the tale of infidelity was true he was able to make excuses again. Sure, it required him to fail in recalling the countless indiscretions the king had made since his wedding day, but he was able to do it.

He was able to watch the kindest woman he had ever had the pleasure of knowing meet her end at the hands of the cruelest man he had ever seen. It had hurt fiercely, it took more out of him than he ever thought possible with a pain that was so deep it was physically crippling.

But he withstood it, still standing at the king's side as he always had.

And then came Santana and with two words she made him see how much of a fool he was being, and in her death she made him decide to change that.

Looking at Archibald now he saw no remnants of the boy who had played with him as a child, or the man who was hopeful for the future and determined to impress his father. This was a bitter, ill tempered tyrant who had disregarded every possible courtesy due to his wife and her servant to fulfill his own needs. Next to him was a person who planned to lie and kill to get what he wanted and every want he had was selfish, evidenced clearly in the way his son still sat next to him crying with wild abandon while he offered nothing other than an angry scowl in return.

The king was pale and in need of bed rest but had insisted he be present for the execution, he had also insisted his son be present, and now that the boy was screaming as if he truly understood what had happened Matthew could not understand why anyone had thought that a fitting idea.

Matthew's eyes found Puck's, the blacksmith looked back at him with matching eyes, they were hollow, wounded, and resigned. They looked to each other for little more than a heartbeat, but the message between them was sent and received.

The king stood and Matthew helped, albeit with less care than he had when he'd sat the man down. Shelby stood to follow, but he raised a hand to keep her seated.

"Do not follow me with that noise!" he barked, "Wait until I have gone and then take him somewhere I can't hear."

With that he limped away, his healer rushing to his side with a cane in hand, one Archibald swatted him with when he failed to move out of the way in time. Several guards fell in line as they left the platform and the large group descended to the castle. Matthew followed at a casual pace as they made their way to the royal bed chamber, not saying one word. The king seemed to have noticed, because when he was back in his bed, surrounded by healers all looking over the wound in his side to be sure nothing had worsened from his trip, he commented on it.

"Why so quiet? I would have thought you'd have a speech ready for me by now?" he said casually.

Matthew's eyes narrowed, "Do you feel you need one?"

"No, though you missing a chance to try and make me feel guilt for carrying out my duty as ruler is about as odd as a beggar missing a chance to ask for coin."

"Was that your duty?" he asked, surprised to find how easily his anger was surfacing, "Your father fights a war contingent on a man whose daughter you just killed."

Archibald huffed in irritation, "My father can more than handle those ruffians, besides the problem was a matter of succession and she already bore the whelp everyone was so intent we have. Whatever his complaints, surely Samuel's life should be enough to calm them. Besides, she is an admitted adulterer, her father cannot fault me for my response and neither will mine."

"And was there truly no room for mercy?"

"Mercy?!" he laughed, "For that perverse, adulterous bitch? What next, Matthew? Should I grant land to deserters?"

"No, it was for me when I pleaded with you to merely banish them, since they both meant so much to me I was asking mercy for myself."

"But it was not your place!" he shouted, making his healers jump back in surprise, the action must have hurt a great deal since his stitching began to bleed slowly, but he didn't pay it any mind, "Mercy is for kings and kings alone to give! It is not something slaves have the right to give out or request of their masters!"

Matthew's eyes darkened as he considered the king before he gave a formal bow, "Of course, my lord."

He continued about his daily duties as he always had, read letters and wrote replies in the king's stead. When it was time for the king's evening meal he returned to his side to feed him since he had yet to find a replacement for Sunshine. The meal passed in silence and afterwards he took his own, seeing Puck but saying nothing to the man who clearly couldn't stomach looking at his own food. And given what his task had been Matthew could hardly blame him.

He returned to his room and lay down, wide awake, until he was sure the night was well underway, then rose from his bed and slipped into the servants' corridors. It was almost amusing to find the guards before the king's door half asleep when he left, Archibald's paranoia over his own safety after Santana had stabbed him clearly wasn't felt by his own protectors.

Weaving expertly through the halls, he eventually arrived at the hidden makeshift tavern which was bustling noisily with the many castle servants who had known the queen her whole life, drowning their sorrows in drink. In the far corner he spotted two figures and made his way to sit across from them, he was only momentarily surprised to see Sunshine sitting next to Puck, her expression as grave as his.

Leaning forward to keep their voices hidden in the ruckus of the room, Matthew said, "You saw the cavalry riding towards us? I am quite sure that was Lord Schuester and his rebels rushing in to strike us as we struck the West. At the sped they were traveling they should be here some time before dawn, and as they are flying their banners my guess is that they have forgone the element of surprise, yet they unknowingly have it. However, it's still a foolish plan for many reasons. We should rectify that."

Puck nodded and Sunshine did the same, "Whadaya need me t' do?" the other man asked.

Matthew paused, "Are you ready to do this? Both of you?"

"After today the king's lucky I don't jus' go in there and bash his head in," Puck growled and Sunshine nodded.

"Why don't we do that?" she asked suddenly as if the idea was far better than she had anticipated when she agreed.

"Because killing Archibald will only recall the king sovereign to take over, if we can give the raiders an edge the castle will fall from the Abrams' control. Permanently."

"What if they no better?" Sunshine asked, frowning deeply.

"We either take that chance or let what happened today stand."

"Let's take a chance," Puck said immediately.

Nodding, Matthew leaned in even closer, "What I am going to suggest is dangerous for all of us and will very likely result in death. I can do this on my own, but the chances of success go up greatly with your help."

"I already said I'm doin' it, I ain't goin' back on my word, 'specially not after what he did."

Matthew smiled, because even though it was so very late he was going to start making amends, he was taking his first step towards a life of no regret even if it meant the end of him.


Sam felt the tingling nausea that came to him every time he went to battle; this time it was so much worse, because they were so likely to fail. Will had warned him how reckless their mission was before he so much as picked a horse to ride, but he took it anyway, because he had to get to the castle.

It had been nearly midday when they had ridden over the damning ridge that exposed them to the castle, so they were all prepared for resistance when they entered the outer city. Actually, they had expected riders to come out and attempt to crush them in the fields long before then, but they hadn't.

Will suggested that they were merely opting to use the tactical advantage of the castle instead, but now with them a few short leagues from the castle's doors no one was to be seen.

Another shiver went through him as a chill wind hit, compounding with the wind of his running steed to make him feel as if he were back in that horrible stronghold struggling through another winter.

He had come from their depressing defeat in the West believing that all hope was lost, that the castellans would eventually bow to their king once more. Then came Will with his inspiring words and unyielding spirit, he proved to everyone the South was not as complacent as it seemed and that they shouldn't be either, that they would fight and win.

He didn't really buy all that. He had seen what became of those that faced the king's army and he had been to the North to assist Lord Nelson in rebuilding his castle. The king was reckless, well armed, and despite what an idiot he could be, quite a competent fighter. However, Will had also mentioned his plan to take the king's castle from under him, and that's what sold Sam to the cause, because that was where Santana was.

Even now as he looked to the looming gates he hoped to catch sight of her, though he knew it would be wildly unlikely.

Up front Will slowed his mount and signaled everyone to do the same, a motion mimicked by his second in command, Finn. The signal was wholly unneeded, but the large man felt the need to play the leader from time to time.

Their horses slowed further as they reached the edge of the town that surrounded the castle and trotted to one of the outlying homes with the largest, yet poorest looking yard.

The home belonged to a family that kept a scarce few chickens and a handful of horses, Sam could only wonder at why they were stopping at the house, he couldn't see how all of their horses could be kept unnoticed for long.

Will dismounted and knocked gently on the door, it opened and there stood a small, feminine looking man who seemed to have dressed almost theatrically plain. In a large burlap cloak with an oversized hood he may have been a wizard in a play rather than a ranch hand.

"I thought you'd have been seen long ago, everyone is in place, but no one has come," the man said quickly, looking around rather nervously.

"Do you think they've caught word of our plan?" Finn asked.

Will looked off into the distance at the dark castle, "No, if I know anything about Archibald it is that he is not a patient man. There is no reason for him to hold off, if he suspected an ambush he would have dealt with you."

Sam's brow furrowed, "Ambush?"

He wasn't really supposed to involve himself in his superiors' plans and Finn seemed irritated that he was openly listening to the conversation, but Will only nodded.

" It's a part of the plan few were told in order to keep it secret. We were to entice King Abrams to come rushing out at us when we made our approach over the peak of the valley. Kurt here has managed to gather quite a force to hide here in the outlying homes, we have a few hundred men lying in wait to take them down when they passed through to get to us."

"Kurt Hummel? Lord Kurt Hummel?" Sam questioned, "Aren't you neutral?"

His eyes narrowed, "The man is mad, I am willing to stay out of open disputes, but the king has shown wild disregard for the safety of his own men and the king sovereign's unwillingness to take note of this makes him equally as negligent. To ignore the issue further is to invite disaster to every soul in this land including those here. That said, I am not here as an emissary of my family, I am merely a man who wants to protect the land he loves."

"Only a pacifist when it suits you? Ah, the true colors of the Hummel clan," said someone from behind them.

All eyes turned to the sharp featured man that spoke, and upon seeing him Sam calmed and Kurt sneered, "Sebastian," the smaller man growled like one might address a pile of manure.

"I rather prefer Lord Smythe, Kurt," he shot back with a withering smile.

Kurt ignored him, but Sam gave him a pleading look to behave, the man was always riling others to fights at the worst times. He had a short temper that was paired poorly with a cruel tongue, but for all that he had kept Sam alive during the cold winter, the albeit brief battle at the Western outpost and many other fiercer ones besides. He was also the one responsible for training him with a sword, though Sebastian was still incomparably more skilled.

It wasn't very apparent to him why the man who so prided himself on being able to repel others had bothered to care for him. There were rumors his mentor was attracted to younger men, but they were barely two years apart and the other man had never tried to be more than a friend. In any case Sam didn't care for the reason, he was only thankful that the man had bothered at all, and as such he did what he could to keep him from causing trouble in Will's hearing as that always led to something bad.

Sebastian reminded him of Santana in a lot of ways.

Knowing it would cause more offence, he questioned on to try and cover Sebastian's slight, "What of the home owners?" he asked, looking past Kurt as if he might find slumped bodies.

"Will you hush and let us finish our business," Finn hissed at him, "We are in the midst of something serious."

"We are," Will agreed, "But I too am curious where the home owners lie."

Kurt blushed slightly, "They have been restrained, gently," he added quickly, "and they are being fed and treated like royalty. That can't be untied or leave their homes."

"With that settled, what are your orders?" Finn asked, ever the persistent soldier.

Much to Finn's consternation Sebastian asked, "Is it possible they did not see our approach?"

"It is," Kurt sighed, "there was a great to do at the castle that had the town almost empty."

"Do you know what it was?"

"That would imply I wandered into town to hear the latest gossip when I was supposed to be watching my post."

The men only stared at one another before Will asked, "So did you?"

"No!" he snapped.

Their leader thought even longer before he turned to the men waiting behind him.

"We will ride tonight, Kurt, rally the men from the other homes and follow us, we will take the inner court as suddenly as we can manage and push through to the king."

"Consider it done," the small man said quickly before vanishing into the house.

Will mounted his horse again and they watched as Kurt reemerged, followed by an almost absurd number of people given the size of the house. As they pressed on they gathered more and more men from the homes they passed, and soon they were a full fledged fighting force on the way to the castle doors.

The night was quiet when they reached the first gate and Will already had his sword drawn to begin the attack, but no one was present. Not a single guard, and the gate was wide open.

Sam immediately suspected a trap but didn't dare voice it for many reasons, because it wouldn't have made him change his mind about proceeding, Will surely already knew, and Finn would probably pass out from rage if he broke the eerie silence that only their horses hooves were encroaching upon.

Upon approaching the inner city Will called for a halt and everyone stopped to await further instructions. Sam watched him lean over to confer with Finn before the larger man turned to the troops and shouted for a charge.

The sound was sudden, jarring, and in Sam's opinion, entirely unnecessary, the shout seemed to bounce off every wall and as the cavalry kicked their horses into motion and those on foot gained speed, everything was lost in a wall of noise.

Nobles from the surrounding homes stumbled to their windows to investigate the commotion, but not one dared set foot outside. The horses barreled through the empty streets and arrived swiftly at the inner gate which was surprisingly just as unguarded. Sam's mount reared up when he pulled it to a stop, his heart pounding rapidly as he waited for the trap to spring, but none did.

As a matter of fact he began to realize as torches were lit in the halls all around them that they were only just then being noticed.

"We have caught them unawares! Strike hard and true, this battle will be over before first light!" Will cried out, and it was the last thing Sam could hear.

His ears were filled with screams and clanking armor as the first of the available guards rushed out and were promptly struck down. The men on foot poured into the castle like a swarm of locust and the commotion only grew. More guards appeared and he watched in abstract fear as they too were killed, but then more came, their numbers greater and it wasn't only their side that was able to hold ground.

"Draw your sword or fall back, boy," snapped a waspish voice from next to him.

Sam looked to his right to see Sebastian, rapier in hand, as he dismounted and made quick work of an incoming attacker. The younger man could think of few others he would rather have at his side in the fight and his courage soared. Looking around, he saw Finn hadn't gotten far and was still fighting from horseback, Will had vanished elsewhere and he could recognize no one else in the bedlam.

Quickly he pulled out his sword and leapt from his horse, determined to keep close to Sebastian for the moment. It took one near miss from a spearman to make Sam focus and fight like he knew how, he was no artist with his weapon like the man at his back, but he was quite capable of cutting those down that came too close.

Then all of a sudden the chaos escalated when countless servants came pouring out of the castle mixing in with the guards, some of which hadn't even had the time to armor themselves making them indistinguishable.

He watched his fellow warriors cut down man and woman alike, not bothering to distinguish in the confusion indistinguishable hostiles and darkness. A sweeping fear overcame him when he thought of Santana trying to escape the pandemonium, making him lose focus just enough for a swordsman to get too close for him to be able to stop. For a long, oddly slow moment he watched the sword descend towards his face, he could see the desperate look in the man's eyes, how he wore no armor, how he had a deep wound of his own… how an arrow planted itself in his temple making his body twirl absurdly in the air before falling lifelessly to the ground.

Air returned to Sam in a rush as he looked for his savior and found him standing back by the gate, bow in hand, already notching another arrow. To his utter astonishment it was Kurt.

"Peacekeeper my arse," Sebastian grumbled behind him before sending his blade into another man's vital organs, "He is neutral like a rock is a pillow, now get your head on, boy, we've a lot of killing to do before the night is over!"

He nodded and was able to strike down several more men before another distraction caught his eye. A short ways away there was a small girl wielding a blacksmith's hammer and a larger, darker skinned man with a sword making a stand in the center of the courtyard. From their attire they had not arrived with their group meaning they were castle servants of some sort, yet they were killing castle guards, and brutally at that.

The girl struck incoming attackers with a well-muscled arm forcing her hammer to do incredible damage, even going as far as planting it into the men's breastplates, having somehow pinpointed the weakest point in the metal. The larger man was overpowering them with brute strength and between them there was almost a mist of blood in the air. As odd as it was, he was able to shake off the sight, and keep close to Sebastian as they moved closer to the castle doors.

Unfortunately, he didn't make it far before something else shook his concentration, but in all fairness how could it not. There was a dark haired woman running through the courtyard, hysterically screaming his name, he thought it odd since he was rather sure he'd never met her. Nonetheless she seemed rather desperate to find him and he was about to run to her, but the woman foolishly wandered between two men clashing their swords powerfully. The meeting of both blades and her body did not end with her the victor.

It was a hard sight to tear his eyes away from since even in her final moments she called out to him, but Sebastian called his name and at the least he knew what the other man wanted. So he turned and followed, finally making it into Castle Abrams.

The long, lush hallways were empty, leaving them free to run and search for the others that had come through. Sam merely followed the man before him, feeling astonished that he knew where to go but then felt foolish when he realized they were merely following the muddy hoof prints in the carpet.

The trail lead them past countless bodies cut down in passing, and eventually to the source of the prints. It was Will's horse, but the beast was alone, sniffing hopelessly at the carpeting as though it might find a scrap of hay. Luckily Will's shoes were as clean as his horse's and they were able to follow them to their leader. There was a point while approaching the corner that the steps did a strange dance and both men stopped to examine it when the answer came shooting from the distant hall.

Will stumbled back into their view and, upon seeing them, had just enough time to shout, "DOWN!"

Sam needed not be told twice, and the word had barely left his mouth when Sebastian had himself laid out flat on the floor. It took less time for the flap of a birds wings for the reason to follow. The blade of an enormous sword crashed into the stone wall crumbling like it were made of twigs. Pebbles exploded over all three of them as the blade was pulled easily from where it had buried itself in the wall and a colossal, dark skinned man came into view, his eyes full of bloodlust, their gaze solely on Will while he continued to scramble back.

The large man swung again and Will barely rolled out of the way before the enormous blade tore a divot through carpet and stone like it was as weak as flesh.

Sebastian got to his feet easily, a familiar, devious look in his eyes and a smile on his face, one that made Sam thankful every day that he was on their side.

"William, Samuel go on. I have this one."

Without a backwards glance their leader nodded and ran past his attacker, Sam wanted to shout a warning as the bigger man obviously had no intention to let that happen, but Sebastian was already in motion. With lightning speed he delivered a powerful kick to the man's wrists, it didn't hurt him by any means, but it did disrupt his swing, so his blade went easily over Will's head.

"Go on, boy, I have no need for help with an oversized brute like this," he said with a smile.

Sam dashed by as well, but the swordsman didn't even acknowledge him, it seemed that a dismissal of his battle prowess was unacceptable, because that bloodthirsty gaze was now on Sebastian.

Desperate to move on but fearful for his mentor, Sam lingered as Sebastian said something, no doubt infuriating, making the large man swing in a blind rage. The wiry man evaded the blow, letting the blade sink into the floor and then counter struck by easily slipping his blade into the man's shoulder through the joints in his armor. There was a roar of pain and a jovial laugh, and Sam knew he would be fine.

Turning, he ran as fast as he could to catch up with Will and quickly found him at the end of a long hall, face to face with King Abrams. For a brief moment he wondered why they were merely having a standoff, but then he heard it, the squall of the child in his arms.

"A child, Archibald? Is this how you want to be remembered? As the man who hid behind his infant son?" Will asked in a tone that was both shocked and disappointed.

"I am not hiding!" the king snapped.

Sam noticed for the first time how pale and weak he looked, and though he had no idea what activity the other man had been engaging in during the night he was excessively winded and sweaty. He supposed it could have been from rushing to prepare since he wore a sloppily assembled suit of armor and sword belt that left the weapon dangling far too low.

"What would you call it then?"

"I am protecting my son from your damned attack!" he shouted, his face contorting into a wince from the effort, "I fear no man! Especially not you, William!"

"Then put the child down and face me, I promise no harm will come to your son."

"As if I would trust your word!"

"So you are hiding-"

"Shut your filthy mouth!" he screamed, groping uselessly for his sword several times before his fingers found it and he was able to draw steel.

"Why not leave the boy in his room if you wish to protect him so?" Will continued as he took a step closer to the crazed man, "If I were trying to protect a child of mine I wouldn't hold him to my chest in a sword fight."

"And since you have no son I will not concern myself with what you would or would not do!"

The older man shrugged, "Maybe not, but I have been wed for only three years and have spent one mostly away from my wife to fight this war, you had how long to produce your one heir?"

It seemed such a trivial point and quite unlike Will to poke at another man's impotency, but then he saw the game being played. He, like Sebastian, was baiting his opponent into making a mistake, they had all heard of the king's foul temper and if he delivered another pride smashing blow the child may be simply thrown aside for an attack.

Sam moved closer, ready to catch the crying boy should it come to that, but as he stepped closer it occurred to him that the game could work two ways. The baby was a poor shield and the king had to know that, the only reason he would truly have to resort to such a thing was if it was only temporary.

If he only needed them held back for a short while.

By the time he realized what was happening it was too late. Behind him a man clubbed him so hard he saw spots and as he fell he saw a large, beady eyed man that was as big as the other guard Sebastian fought throw Will easily to the ground.

He watched helplessly as the king abandoned his crying child to scurry away down the hall with a final, " Karofsky, kill them!"

The man tried to finish the fight quickly, but Will scrambled away and turned to Sam, "Don't let him get away!"

Since he still had no sense of up or down Sam splayed his palms open on the carpeting and pushed against the floor, knowing to do so would send him up. The world pitched and turned as he got to his feet, and for a heartbeat he turned to follow the king, but instead he grabbed the child off the floor from the feet of the two battling men and dashed into the nearest room.

It contained a bed and he wrapped the baby in the sheets keeping his arms and legs tight before stowing him in the center. The child screamed even louder at being left alone, but at least he was safe from being underfoot. Quickly he dashed in the direction the king had gone and followed the hall he had taken back out into the courtyard that was now littered with countless bodies.

There were a few scuffles still happening but most had moved elsewhere, making it quite easy to see the king scurrying through the shadows. Sam was a little surprised that he hadn't made it further, but didn't bewail the fact as he dashed to him ready to deal a killing blow, but it wasn't so easy.

The man may have been winded but he was not dead, he spun around and struck with deadly accuracy missing by a hair as Sam leapt back just in time. The resignation to fight filled the king's eyes and he knew Archibald had no intention of running or stalling, it was his plan to make quick work of the man who had halted him.

It took every ounce of concentration he had to parry the attacks that came at him suddenly, and with a keen ferocity. Sebastian had always told him to never let his opponent take ground, to only ever retreat when it is planned and serves a greater purpose, and it was something he almost never failed to do, but in this exchange the king drove him back with ease.

Whatever the man was- petty, cruel, impotent - it could not be said that he was a poor fighter. Even Sam couldn't find an opening to unleash his strength, every swing he made was parried and countered, and when one particular counter caused the blade to bite into the flesh above and below his eye he worried that he may have taken far more than he could handle. Stumbling back, he looked around as half of his sight went red. He looked for someone, Finn, Sebastian, Will, Kurt anyone to save him, but the only people around were locked in their own fights and hadn't the time to save him.

The king seemed to sense his reserve and advanced quickly, his breathing more labored than ever and his face almost startlingly pale. It was something that confused him up until the final step where Sam noted that he had a slight limp and was almost curling his left arm around his side. He knew to test his guess was foolish when death was a mere step away, but he had no other option than to blindly swing his sword. Seeing the brash move the king parried it without thinking, allowing Sam to safely extend his leg and kick the man as hard as he could in the side.

The effect was almost instant.

Archibald fell to his knees his mouth open in a silent scream as his sword fell to the ground, an action over accentuated by an earth shattering crash from somewhere behind him.

With a trembling hand King Abrams reached for his sword again and Sam reared back and kicked him again as hard as he could, his foot connecting painfully with the man's armored side. And, armor or no, the king crumbled, falling to his back, raising the hand that wasn't cradled to his side.

"I yield!" he shouted.

Sam grabbed his sword from the blood covered ground and stood above the ruler of his lands, victorious. His head was spinning, the wound on his eye now numb with the rush of battle; they had captured the castle.

It was over.

The rule of the Abrams family was finally over and he couldn't have been more relieved.

The errant thought did occur to him that he should go in search of Will, but he couldn't leave the king alone to possibly weasel away, he would guard his catch until relieved of the burden.

Kneeling he looked down at the panting ex-ruler, "Where is Santana?" he asked, thinking it best to concentrate on his next goal right away.

"Who?" the pained man asked, exasperated.

"Santana, she was the field hand to my family before she was traded here."

The man continued to look quite annoyed until his breathing unexpectedly stilled and Sam could see a glimmer of recognition in his eyes before they flicked to some point behind him. Nervous from the last unseen assault he turned quickly but only saw Sebastian approaching, the man was polishing his sword and walking with a casual saunter, however, this was a little odd since blood was trickling from his hairline and he was covered from head to toe in a thick layer of dust and rubble.

"Are you alright?" Sam asked, glancing back to make sure the other man hadn't moved.

"Fine, dear boy, are you? You look terrible," Sebastian laughed, giving a nod to his eye.

"Maybe so, but Archibald seems to not be faring better," he said pointing to the wounded man.

"Oh, caught the king, did you?" his mentor asked rhetorically as he looked down at the once ruler as though he were freshly caught game, "My, my. If killing her enslaver doesn't win you favor with your woman I don't know what will. I am a little jealous, though, I would have liked to have tested my skills against him."

A regretful sigh left Sebastian before Sam's muddled mind caught up with him, "Will needs help!"

"No, he doesn't, I saw him with Finn a moment ago. They were searching for the queen, I think she may have escaped without her husband," he said, his words causing more of the dust covering him to fall.

"What happened?" Sam asked.

"Oh, this? I got the brute to bring the ceiling down on his own head, I don't think he's dead, but his legs and arms are crushed so I felt it safe to move on."

Sam's good eye widened, "How did you manage that?"

Sebastian took the time to dust off his hair and let a self important smirk rest on his face, "I merely led him to strike the support columns in the room, quite easy really."

A skeptical voice chimed in, "Doesn't look like it," Kurt said as he approached, his quiver empty and his bow showing evidence of having been used as a bludgeon.

"What, this?" Sebastian asked dabbing at his bloodied brow, "Well, it's easier to dodge a bastard sword than falling rubble."

"Hmmm," was Kurt's only reply.

Sam looked back to Archibald and saw the man's breathing had steadied slightly and his eyes held a little more focus, so once again he knelt and asked, "Where is Santana?"

"You can't expect me to know every servant in this castle," the man growled back.

"No, but I would expect you to know the ones closest to you, she cared for the son you needed so badly and you don't know her name?" Kurt said irritably.

"She may have been sent away, so many come and go from here I cannot recall every one."

It was then that the questioning was interrupted by footsteps coming towards them. Sam turned once again to see Will and Finn walking towards them with a man he had never seen before. A man that the king seemed quite eager to see, something that made Sam immediately distrustful.

"Who is this?" Sebastian asked before Sam had the chance.

"My name is Matthew," the reply was quick, prompt and polite.

The man showed none of the fear those who weren't soldiers had and was far better spoken, "Are you a lord?" Sam asked.

"No, merely a servant of Castle Abrams and the king," he said nodding to the wounded man on the ground.

"He got that brute to stand down," Will said, rubbing his neck in memory of the recent attack.

Finn seemed irritated that he hadn't gotten in on any of the major action, but kept his mouth shut about it for once.

"I arranged for all of the gate guards to stand down as well, though there were some I had to force."

There was no elaboration needed to catch his meaning, but at least now Sam knew how they had gained entry so easily. With that statement Matthew and the king locked eyes, both men seeming to understand something that left the servant looking wry and the king dreadful.

"If you're a personal servant to the king you must know Santana," Sam said, but he did not like the way the man's eyes darkened.

"I knew her. "

The king coughed and attempted to sit up, "Matthew, stop-" his plea was cut short by Sam driving his boot into the armor again.

"Calm yourself, he's a prisoner not a dog," Finn warned.

Ignoring him, Sam turned to Matthew, "Where is she?" he asked, almost unreasonably eager to see her once more.

Turning, the servant pointed to the top of the wall, "There."

He had to crane his neck to see what was above him, but soon he was able to make out two figures. At first they appeared to be standing oddly on the wall, then he saw they were tied to a cross. Then he saw they were headless.

Kurt made a small noise in his throat and Sebastian let out a long, low hiss, Sam just felt the nausea that had threatened him come back tenfold.

He was too late.

It hadn't mattered how he fought or what he had sacrificed or that he had pulled off the impossible. He was too late.

His father had disowned him for taking up arms against the crown, he had spent his winter watching a race between starvation and freezing as the thing that would kill him. He had trained until his body felt like minced meat and had come into this hopeless battle to find her, winning despite all odds, to set her free like he promised he would.

And he was too late.

An enraged scream bubbled up from somewhere deep inside him as he turned on the panting, cowardly man and raised his sword, fully intent on killing him. He wanted nothing more than to slice him from navel to chin, but Will and Finn rushed forward to hold him back.

"Stop! Sam, stop!" Will shouted, but the younger man was now seeing red with both eyes and it wasn't from a bleeding wound.

Finn yanked him off his feet placing him a good distance from the wounded prisoner, "Stay there," he commanded.

The blonde man stayed where he was put but stood rigid, ready for the chance to end Archibald as quickly as possible.

"Why?" Will asked looking down at his one time adversary, "What was your reason for this?"

"She was having carnal relations with my wife!" the king snapped as he held desperately to his side.

Kurt gasped once again, and Finn chocked on his own breath, Sebastian merely shrugged as if that were hardly an excuse and Will stood there with a look of shock.

Their leader turned to Matthew who watched the entire scene with indifference and asked, "Is this true?"

"Yes, the queen confessed as much which is why they are both up there."

Will turned to look at the gruesome scene once again, "I… are you sure?" he asked Matthew again.

"Quite."

Rubbing the back of his head, he turned apologetically to Sam, "That is a punishable offence-"

"What?!" Sam roared.

Holding up his hands he went on, "I am not at all condoning what he did. It is not how I would handle Emma were the same to happen with her and I would want to ride with no man that would, but you know that it was never my intent to come here and kill the king. We are here to overthrow the throne, and it will go far towards making peace with the people of this kingdom if we do not murder their ruler."

"Truly? Because it was my understanding they hated him," Kurt said, his voice hard and unforgiving.

With a sigh, Will ran his hands over his face, "Yes, but there is still his father to contend with, a man who I have respected my whole life, and I would like very much to not kill his son if I can avoid it. What he did, while cruel, was not outside his right as king, especially if she admitted to the crime. We cannot judge him now based on past deeds that were within his right."

"Can't we, William?" Sebastian asked with a bored drawl, "Isn't that all we've done? Are we not here because of his past wrongs that were done within his right as king?"

"I have a son," Archibald panted as the pain from his most recent kick subsided, "I am the only parent left to him, please let me go with him and we won't return to this kingdom. Ever. You have my word."

"A son he left in the midst of a sword battle so he could escape!" Sam shouted.

"I am wounded, your field hand stabbed me for no reason whatsoever, I knew you wouldn't harm him so I left him in your care-"

"Liar!" he roared, loudly enough that Finn had to place a hand on his chest to keep him in place.

"I must agree with the boy on this," Sebastian said, "You know as well as I that to leave the entirety of this family alive with resources across the sea is definitively foolish."

Will sighed, and rubbed his temples, "I know."

"I suggest we kill him as well," Kurt said, drumming his fingers on his bow.

"Spoken like a true Hummel," Sebastian laughed.

Before the smaller man could give a reply Will turned abruptly to Matthew, "What would you have us do?"

The group fell silent and even the king's pained pants slowed, the man turned his eyes to those watching him, looking confused, "In regards to what?"

"To him," Will clarified pointing to the man lying before them, "If you are his servant then you know what is best in this case. You have helped us this far and I am hoping you will be willing to help more."

"Honestly? You will put it to this man to make the call you are afraid to make?" Sebastian snorted.

"Watch your tongue, Smythe," Finn snapped.

"Lord Smythe to you as well, and I am not in the habit of watching my own tongue, but you are welcome to if you like. I will even take suggestions for activities for it to do should its normal fare begin to bore you."

"Silence," Will snapped, "I ask, because I know what this man is, but if those closest to him have seen anything within him worth saving I cannot in good conscience condemn him."

Sam watched the king try to crawl closer to his servant, muttering apologies and promises, Matthew looked back to Will, "I have not seen any good in some time," he said easily.

Their leader's face fell, "Has he done nothing to earn him one modicum of mercy?"

Matthew looked deep into Archibald's wide eyes as he said, "Maybe, but not within my sight. Besides, mercy is for kings and kings alone to give. It is not something slaves have the right to give out or request of their masters."

The words made the other man frown, "Of course it is, but worry yourself over that no longer, you are no longer a slave of this castle. You are free to leave or stay as I am aware this is your only home."

"And what of Archibald," Sam barked, sick of the issue being glanced over.

A heavy sigh escaped Will, "We must execute him."

"Why?" Sebastian asked, and when everyone gave him a confused stare he continued, "I mean why a formal execution? William, you have no desire to upset the locals by killing their king and making a spectacle of it will do just that. Why not just hand him over to the boy?" he asked, jerking his head to Sam.

"I agree," Kurt said quickly, "He doesn't deserve the effort it would take to organize."

Will looked to Matthew who seemed to be uninterested in the conversation and then to Finn who shrugged.

"Let him," Sebastian chimed in again, "You know as well as I what he sacrificed for this one woman, let him have this. Vengeance is a fool's errand, but sometimes it is necessary so a man can keep his soul in tact, don't break him by taking this chance from him. Given what I heard about how he treated his queen it was no wonder she sought solace in the arms of a woman, and I think Samuel here would repay the kindness our former king showed his wife."

Sam's body was taught to the point of discomfort as he waited for Will's answer, his eyes firmly on fearful grey ones as he awaited to hear if he would be allowed to even partially redeem himself. He knew what he would do if given the chance, he already had an appropriate reciprocation in mind for how Santana was mistreated.

"Take him," Will finally sighed, "Quickly, before I change my mind."

With a great yank, Sam pulled himself free of Finn's lumbering presence as he grabbed Archibald by his armor and dragged him to the nearest, saddled horse he could find lumbering through the piles of bodies.

It might have been odd to a different person that not a single subject paid his screams any mind as he was thrown, bound wrist to ankle, on the back of a horse and taken through the town. Not a single person protested his capture, they merely watched with detached disinterest as he rode by and away from the castle.

Maybe no one cared, or maybe no one was brave enough to stop the determined young man riding in front who had rage in his eyes.

Sam rode far out of sight of the castle and rode some more, he traveled until morning broke over the plains and kept going as the sun made its way across the sky. The only sounds that accompanied him were Archibald's tired screams between moments where unconsciousness would take him, the gentle clop of his horses hooves and the blaring silence the sorrow in his own chest brought.

When the sun began its journey back down to the ground and his horse began to breathe raggedly he began to look for a place to stop, finding it in the form of a deep ravine. Hopping off his steed, he decided the crevice was deep enough to serve his purposes as it was several dozen heads deep.

What he was doing was dangerous, he knew that, but in many ways he wouldn't have been too upset to meet his end. There was nothing left for him. Archibald had seen to that.

Angrily he pulled the man from the horse and let him land heavily on the ground, smiling broadly when he woke screaming. His wound had bled all over his horse's flank and that wouldn't do. Taking his time he removed the king's armor and tossed it into the ravine and removed the man's shirt, a sleeping shirt in fact, using it to wipe as much of the blood from the animal as could be gotten before tossing it down as well.

He then sat him up and looked into his tearful grey eyes, "You will think this revenge, but don't, because it is not. For me it is redemption, as meager as it will be, and for you it is nothing but what you deserve."

"I… I never touched her…" Archibald panted, "Your woman… I never-"

"It doesn't matter, you called for another to end her life and that is reason enough for me."

Sam felt no remorse when he kicked the man, still bound hand to food, into the ravine, nor when he heard the dull thud of his body hitting the bottom or the crack of some unfortunate bone. He sat and listened to his cries as the sun continued to set lower, instead feeling the sorrow stored in him, though he refused to cry, because he didn't deserve to, not yet. Not until it was all over.

Darkness began to creep upon them and Sam set to building a fire with the thin branches that had been scattered about from the harsh winds and the flint and steel in his saddlebag. There was a small portion of food available inside, but he didn't take it, he merely sat by the blaze with his horse, watching the fire lick at the wood, adding more every now and again.

And then the howl of wolves reached his ears.

His steed reared up but seemed to somehow know better than to leave the safety the flame offered. Even though it almost bolted once again once the wolves followed the scent of blood to Archibald and the first blood curdling scream floated to the heavens.

Without turning from the flames Sam reached for the horses reigns to pet its head slowly as he heard the animals eat, and their prey scream.

He listened until there was nothing to do but hear them eat.

And when the wolves howled their satisfaction he felt the tension leave him. It was replaced by an ache that reached every part of his body and made his heart beat as though it were pumping molasses.

His task finished, he left the fire burning as he rode away into the night, feeling the pain of losing a beloved friend, the sting of his cut eye and the emptiness that he had hoped would vanish with Archibald's death.

It didn't.

It followed him back and ate him like the wolves had eaten the now dead ruler.

Winter and Summer saw ten full rotations before Sam could ever get himself to leave the castle and wander past the border of the river to the open space by the cliff face.

In that time the king sovereign, lacking soldiers and having no home to retreat to was felled by his enemies before William could ever send conditions for his return. Upon learning that the Abrams kingdom found itself in the center of a reform that those responsible were not ready to make. Kurt oversaw negotiations for land divisions eventually leading to talk of succession and kings, William declined the position and offered it to Finn who seemed more than ready to take over. Of course it was Sebastian who objected, but surprisingly Sam who suggested the people of each region chose who would govern over them.

The suggestion was met with resistance by many who still clung to the old ways, but enough people agreed with the idea that it became so. And since he had come up with it Sam rather accidentally became the land's first Praefecus, a title suggested by Matthew, and one Sam couldn't say with any amount of ease.

He negotiated with the other Praefecus to perfect trading between the lands, wrote laws to help govern the people, and even had the castle rebuilt to house those in need of a home.

Over the years he helped feed the poor, rid the land of slavers, and even appointed others to power to keep him in check should he ever go astray. Though he never married he raised Samuel on his own, something he became determined to do when Matthew mentioned how Santana loved the boy.

The former prince grew up strong, healthy, and very much loved, only knowing that his mother died to a cruel man but couldn't have cared for him more. He even told the boy of Santana and how she was like a second mother to him, Samuel would always swear he remembered them, Sam doubted that very much but never said so.

His leadership yielded changes never dreamed of in his lifetime, his life had been threatened by extremists, countless women had vied for his attentions with no success, he had been through war and death and blood.

Yet still walking across the river was the toughest challenge he'd had to face in ages.

Because at the cliff face was where Brittany and Santana had been laid to rest.

And after all this time it was a failure that was hard to face. Even more so when he learned of what they shared.

The realization that their relationship was more than just physical had surprised him when he was told, but he hadn't cared that Santana had loved a woman. If anything he had been so happy she had ever decided to open her heart in that way.

And it all could have been saved had he done better.

Those were the thoughts he had to push away when he finally did visit them, their graves marked with thick stone, their names neatly chiseled on the front.

He stood between them, thinking that now the pain wouldn't be as sharp, that now it wouldn't make him feel so useless. But it did. Despite all he had done since, it did.

Kneeling, he placed a flower down for each of them before clearing his throat, tears already stinging his eyes.

"I know I was late coming and I'm even later coming here now, but…" he stopped, because he didn't know how to excuse himself, "Santana, you know I miss you, and Brittany I miss you too even though we've never met. Your son, he is such a joy and if he is anything like you, then I know you were a woman to be deeply missed."

He stopped and cleared his throat, averting his teary eyes to the sea to wipe them discretely.

"Santana, since then a lot has changed. Your friend… well, and mine now, Puck, he left some time ago to be with a woman he has long loved, Sunshine went with him though he did send word to me some seasons back to tell me she had gone her own way. Matthew has gone as well, he was an excellent advisor, far wiser than the king's actions would lead one to believe. He said he needed to travel, to visit old friends, make new ones, and live up to your expectations. Whatever those may be. If they are from you I suspect that man has a long, hard journey ahead," he laughed at himself, cursing silently at his eyes as they wouldn't stay dry.

"I just want you both to know that I'm sorry, I'm told it isn't my fault every day, even Samuel has told me. But I still feel that it is something I must say, especially after Matthew informed me of his suspicions that Santana named the prince." His eyes shifted to the spot Santana lay, a small smile gracing his face, "I didn't believe him until I found your old rooms and saw that you kept your clothes from the vineyard wedged under your bed."

Now his tears fell freely and he didn't care.

"You never forgot me, and I honestly thought you had. I merely wanted to make good on a promise to a loved friend, but I never suspected you would even bother to remember that time. And I'm sorry because maybe if I knew you were waiting I could have made myself get here faster."

A weak sigh came from him as he finally wiped his tears again and turned to Brittany.

"And to you, thank you, for loving her, for seeing that she was never alone. You did everything I couldn't and it cost your life, but please know I will care for Samuel until my dying day. I will never fail someone I love again, you have my word."

And with that he stood and left, his heart felt less heavy as did his arms when Samuel spotted him upon his return and leapt into them laughing happily. The boy didn't make his heart sink with the pain of failure, instead it soared with the hope of promise.

The land fared well under the Sam who had failed his friend, but it flourished under the Sam who was finally able to forgive himself.


Los Angeles, California

"And you bought the tickets in advance? I don't want to hear later how you can't make it because you waited too long."

Santana sighed and rolled her eyes heavily, "Yes, mami, I have my tickets."

"Don't roll your eyes," her mother snapped and the young woman held her phone from her face wondering if the voice chat was on. It wasn't. Apparently MaribelLopez was a mother, doctor, and telepath…

"I wasn't, I'll be there. I wouldn't miss your birthday for anything, I'll walk if I have to," she assured.

"You had better! Oh, and be sure to get an extra ticket just in case."

Santana frowned, "Of what?"

"Have you forgotten already?" her mother trilled, "My birthday is on Valentine's day so if you should meet someone your father and I would love to meet her and the trip would make an excellent gift."

"How is a trip to Ohio to meet someone's parents a gift? Besides you expect me to give this present out to someone I may meet between now and then? At best that's a third date, that is a terrible idea, look, mami, I love you, but I gotta go. My break was over… around when we started this twenty minute conversation."

"Don't be grumpy with me, I'm turning forty," Maribel whined.

"Forty-five," Santana laughed.

"Don't correct your mother," she chastised good naturedly, "I love you and I will see you in four weeks, si?"

"Si, mami, bye," she said quickly, hanging up before her mother could rope her into another conversation.

The brief reprieve was interrupted by Sam who slid into the break room, a wide smile on his wide lips, "Sooo, you gonna see patients now or should we just close the clinic until you're done talking with your great aunt Glinda?" he joked.

"What's up next, Trouty Mouth?" she asked, ignoring his banter.

"Would it hurt you to call me Nurse Evans or Evans, or even nurse?"

"It might, what about-"

"Don't say Nurse Trouty Mouth, it's beneath you, you can do better."

"What if I call you Nurse Angelina Jolie?"

"I doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, besides if I were you I would call me Nurse Evans as a thank you for this present," he said handing her new patient file.

"More work, why thank you, Nurse Jolie."

"Keep talking, but I snatched this chick out from under St. James, just for you, you'll love her."

Santana's mouth fell open, "You and my mother! I swear between the two of you I don't think I need ever search for a girlfriend ever again," she growled, marching out the door to deal with what appeared to amounted to a sprained finger.

Sam followed behind her at an even pace, a smile on his face.

"You both need to keep your grubby little fingers out of my love life," she barked at him, more irritated by his smug little grin than his attempts at matchmaking, "If I needed your help I would… ask… for…it…"

Her sentence died on her lips as she opened the door to see her patient. What she found was a blonde woman sitting on the examination table who somehow, in a t-shirt and blue jeans, managed to steal all her air.

"You're welcome," Sam sang as he walked past.

Shaking her head, Santana stepped in and pulled the door shut gaining the woman's attention which was even more devastating, because her eyes were a deep blue and even from across the room she swore she could see eternity in them.

Without saying a word she crossed the room and was before this vision of a person sooner than she was ready. Santana had nothing to say but wanted to say everything, she wanted to hug her, kiss her, and show her how glad she was that she found her…

But who in the hell was she?

Shaking her head again, she looked down at the forgotten folder in her hand, very aware of the intense blue eyes watching her since they were making her forget how to read.

"Do I know you?" the woman asked, her voice almost excited in the way people got when they thought they were about to have their sneaking suspicions confirmed.

"I, uh," Santana's voice was raspier than usual so she gave a fake cough to cover, "I don't think so."

"Are you sure? You look super familiar, but I think I'd remember someone as pretty as you."

Santana fumbled the papers in her hands and growled irritably at herself as she stooped down to picked them up. Her body seemed to rebel against all things that weren't pinning the woman to the table and kissing her breathless. After a calming breath she stood and tossed the folder onto the counter before she messed up and dropped the whole thing.

"So what's your name?" she asked, becoming even more annoyed when her voice cracked.

"Brittany S. Pierce, what's yours?"

The name was common, she had known more Brittanys in her lifetime than she would care to count, but somehow that name, with this woman made it the most beautiful name she had ever heard.

"Dr. Lopez," she replied quickly, "What seems to be the problem?"

"My finger hurts a little," Brittany said, holding out her right hand to be examined.

Santana merely observed it, seeing that her pointer finger did look a little red, possibly swollen. There could have been a hairline fracture, a break was unlikely but not impossible. It would be easier to tell if she were to simply feel it, but at the moment the doctor was rather wary of physical contact with the woman that affected her so.

"Um, does it hurt?"

"Not a lot," she sighed, "I didn't think I needed to come, but my friend Tina said I had to come 'cause otherwise the company would be labeled or something."

"Liable?"

"I guess; hey, is it weird that I really want to kiss you right now?"

Santana gulped and took a step back, "Let's focus on your hand right now," she said, though she was mesmerized by the blue eyes that stared back at her.

"You are always difficult when it comes to feelings, aren't you?"

"Wh-wha-" she sputtered and glanced to the door, convinced this was some sort of prank.

Sam had spiked her coffee and he and St. James hired this pretty blonde to come in here and make her crazy. That was the only logical explanation and it wasn't even close to logical.

"It's okay if you don't want to kiss me, but you have this look in your eyes like you really want to, and I know I want to kiss you."

"Did Sam hire you?"

"No, I don't think so… who's Sam?"

Waving her hands Santana tried to get a reign on things, "Alright, back up! First off, what in the world did you mean earlier? About me and feelings? Because I don't know who told you what, but I am not difficult."

She laughed, "It's just a feeling I have."

"What exactly is it that you do for a living?" the doctor asked, waiting patiently for the words practical joker or call girl to come up.

"I'm a teacher at a preschool. But what I really like doing is dancing, and singing, though I'm not very good, and I volunteer a lot at the community center."

"Uh-huh, and how did this happen?" Santana asked pointing in the general direction of her hand.

"Well there's a toy donation place at the community center and I take all the crappy toys people give away cause they're busted or gross and make new ones for when Christmas comes. I hurt my finger taking one apart though."

An unlikely story, yet too random to be false…

Taking another breath Santana soothed her frayed nerves and decided to get back on the ball, she had been off kilter since she stepped in the room, she was already flustered and her patient was a little odd, that was all.

Six minutes on a sprained finger, St. James would laugh her out of the building.

At least she thought it was a sprained finger, the only way to know was to go over and touch it.

Or take X-Rays.

Shaking her head a final time she squared her shoulders and walked right up to the exasperating woman and took her hand.

And just like that she was gone once more, the pull of proximity was a little too strong with the addition of touch, and with Brittany sitting before her looking so very kissable how was she supposed to not do it?

So she did, she leaned forward and kissed the woman who, up until minutes ago, had been a complete stranger. And yet when their lips met it didn't matter, because they somehow were strangers no longer. She knew this woman, knew she was a good and kind soul, knew she would do anything for her, Santana also knew that she felt the same.

They kissed deeply, Brittany's hands running easily through Santana's hair as they did, their tongues met and explored until air was an absolute necessity.

The connection was broken with the utmost reluctance, because when Brittany held her close she felt whole, complete in a way she didn't know there was to be, like discovering there were two more floors to a house she thought only had one.

"I think your finger's fine," Santana panted, her forehead pressed against Brittany's, nearly purring as the blonde deftly massaged her scalp.

"It definitely feels better," she said with a lazy smile before giving another swift kiss.

Closing her eyes tightly, she tried to calm her thudding heart, "I don't usually do this. Kiss random patients I mean."

"I'm not random," Brittany laughed sweetly, "I'm the person you're supposed to kiss always, I can feel it."

Santana's eyebrows shot up, "Am I now?"

Brittany smiled and bit her lip, nodding quickly.

And when she acts that adorable how can I argue?

The doctor took another deep breath that did nothing to clear the feeling kissing Brittany had brought on, and backed up, putting a respectable distance between them. Once more she took the woman's hand in her own and used every ounce of willpower available to make sure Brittany's finger was in working order before taking another large step back.

"It is thoroughly unprofessional of me to have done… any of what just happened, I apologize, your finger is fine, you are free to go."

Brittany's face fell, "But I don't want to."

"I'm afraid you have to, I'm already jeopardizing my job making out with you in here."

With a huff Brittany stood and walked to the door, "I'll go, but don't think I'll give up on you," she said as if it were a threat before calmly leaving.

Santana watched her, leaning out the room as the blonde exited the front doors, followed by three others she assumed Brittany had come with, Sam spotted the other woman leaving and walked over to his friend.

"She's gone already? Did you get her number?"

"Nurse Big Lips, it is against policy to flirt with patients in the examining rooms."

He frowned, "Nurse Big Lips? That's just lazy, and whatever to the policy, I break that rule, like, constantly."

"Well, I am not you," she said as she eased herself into the hallway.

"Clearly, I would have gotten them digit-" he stopped as all of a sudden Santana took off out of the hospital at top speed.

The brunette burst through the doors and saw a familiar blonde walking towards a car where others waited. Santana didn't exactly relish the idea of an audience, but she hardly cared enough to spare the others another glance. She ran to Brittany with all her might, so much so she hardly had enough air to call out her name, but it wouldn't have mattered, the other woman seemed to sense she was there.

"Hey, uh,… since you're… no longer… a patient… and we're in the parking lot… wanna… wanna go out and get coffee… sometime?" she panted, her speedy sprint leaving her far more winded and less charming than she planned.

Brittany smiled a brilliant smile that made her labored breathing even more difficult, "Of course!" she squealed, easily scooping up the small doctor and kissing her.

Once again she was lost in the sensation of being complete, of finding the missing piece, one that had been gone for far too long. Santana wasn't one for mushy feelings, Brittany had been right in her assessment that when it came to those kinds of things she could be a bit difficult, but something about this woman overrode all that. For some reason the urgent need to hold her wasn't making her want to pack her bags and move to a different state.

When they broke apart Santana gave her a smitten smile, "Santana, by the way," she said backing up slightly, afraid of the spectacle she'd make if she stayed too close.

"I feel like I already knew that," Brittany said thoughtfully.

"I feel like I already know you," Santana breathed, marveling at how captivating the blonde's eyes were compared to everything else she had ever seen.

"I feel like I'm gonna barf," said a small voice behind them.

With a quirked eyebrow she looked to the car a few feet away and saw a small Asian boy being rebuked, by a woman she presumed was his mother, for interrupting. And if his lean frame and round face were anything to go by, the man watching them casually as he leaned against the car, was his father.

"Sorry, these are my friends Tina and Mike and that's their son Warren."

The couple waved quietly to her, Mike lazily with a kind smile and Tina quickly as she policed her son into doing the same. Santana waved back shyly, feeling like she was making a total ass out of herself, but when Brittany turned to leave she didn't care as she grabbed the blonde's hand spinning her around.

"Wait," she said, melting again as Brittany's eyes held hers, "How do I get in touch with you?"

She asked the question already hearing Sam telling her to just take her number from the form she filled out upon entering, but this way was far better as it involved holding her hand.

Surprisingly the question made the blonde giggle, "I put my card in your pocket when you kissed me the first time." Blushing, Santana reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a card decorated in ballerina slippers and cat paws, "That's my cell, call me anytime, preferably soon."

"Come on, Britt, we gotta go!" Warren called impatiently, earning him another lecture from his mother.

"Tina promised him he could look at dogs at the local shelter if we had time after my doctor's visit," she informed Santana quietly.

"Don't let me keep you then," she laughed.

Brittany laughed too but not before giving her one last, lingering kiss that caught the brunette completely by surprise. And as she stood in the parking lot watching the mysterious yet familiar woman drive away, holding an adorably decorated business card she made a mental note to buy that second ticket to maybe in this case meeting the parents on the third date was just about right.

The End.


EDIT: So this story now exists on it's own with no Glee affiliation in the Kindle store under the same name and author, if you think 'Hey I know someone who would like this story but doesn't watch Glee' or 'I would like to support 0atis for kicks and giggles' you can pick it up. Direct link to it is on my tumblr page (info in my profile cause this site doesn't allow links in stories)

A/N: Thanks again to my Beta chombiric!

I am fully aware of how short the drama fuse can be when it comes to Brittana since the show seems to be geared towards making all the wrong moves so I decided to offer immediate relief to the heartache by releasing the last two chapters at once. I hope my band-aid was sufficient.

The thing to keep in mind for this story is that realistically there was no happy end to be had for them in the first timeline. And the overall point was that Santana was the very key to the downfall of the kingdom since she was behind every major event that caused it from the beheading to Sam's victory, even to his reason for being there.

This fic had a lot of incarnations but the longest standing version was called Southern Hospitality, it took place on a plantation during the civil war and had a similar format only Beiste, Sue, Finn and Quinn played a way more major role.

The end of that story was a kind of 'And they all get away and live happily ever after'. It wasn't a bad concept but after I finished my outline I looked at what I had made and realized it bored me, like for real. So I trashed it.

Then I was half asleep with the tv on and Man on Fire was playing, the vocals at the end of that movie triggered a series of thoughts that brought you this fic in it's entirety. I always wanted to uses a reincarnation theme somewhere but didn't really have a story it worked for even amongst my original plots so that plus Southern Hospitality and some creative changes inspired by the music is where this came from.

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Reviews are, as always, welcome.