Title: If I Just Saved You (You Could Save Me Too) [4/4]
Rating: R
Word Count:
15.5k

Notes: Just like to point out that this has been SO fun to write and I've loved your guys reviews on it! Although I am also going to point out that I am not happy about this chapter. It just doesn't feel right for the ending but it's the best I could think of, so I do apologize but if you don't like it, I'm with you brutha and I wouldn't blame you.

/

Santana's always been stubborn, even as a kid. In fact, she actually remembers her mom telling her how she was in labor for thirty seven hours because Santana (apparently) was choosing when she wanted to come out. Not when it was convenient for everyone else but for her, which could explain why she came out screaming at five in the morning and had to yank her mother's doctor out of bed.

But anyway, that's not the point. She's stubborn, and always has been and that's why she leaves it three days before apologizing to Brittany. Granted, it's on her mind for all of those seventy-two hours, but she never actually does anything until the fourth day. Though, strangely enough, it's not actually her that prompts the apology.

She's at work, scrubbing over the same spot she has been for the past two hours when Puck says anything.

"You really need to do something about that because you're depressing the customers."

"Fuck off, Puckerman," she spits, turning her head. "And it's not like the people who come in here aren't already fucking depressed."

Puck comes up to her side, hand covering her own and she glares at him, all ready to rip his damn hand off when his other hand settles on his shoulder. He must really want to lose his balls today. "Just do something about it," he commands, softly, eyes pleading. "Please."

Her jaw clenches and she narrows her eyes even further, but can't deny that she's been fucking awful to be around. For the past three days she's been storming around with metaphorical steam blowing out her ears, yelling at anyone that pissed her off even the tiniest bit and slamming drinks down for customers, spilling half the contents and receiving a few complaints; but honestly, she couldn't really give a damn. She has a right to be pissed off, upset too, but she doesn't show her emotions unless it's anger and so, well, that speaks for itself.

"Now you're off for the rest of the evening, whether you like or not," Puck shoots her a look as he backs away and she scowls. "So go home," he demands but then stops, an invisible light bulb popping above his head as he leans on the bar. "Better yet, go to Brittany's and fucking apologize because you're not coming back until you're in a better mood."

He has a point, but she still stands still, testing his threat with a pointed expression and raised eyebrow. After a few seconds he rolls his eyes, clicks his tongue and moves toward her, pushing his body into her until she's forced to stumble back and before she knows it, she's being forced out from behind the bar and he's shutting the little door to block her from coming back in. When she reaches for it, ready to come back, he slaps away her hand and heat floods across her skin as she snaps her head up.

Though apparently he's used to this glare and the beating that never follows through and throws his rag over his shoulder before saying, "Go before I fire your ass."

She scowls and throws the rag in her hand down on the bar in a huff, reaching for the swing door leading to behind the bar but Puck coughs and she glances up. "I need my coat," she explains and his eyes narrow before he nods and quickly ducks to pick up her coat from beneath the bar, throwing it at her.

"Now get going," he says, pointing a the door. "And I'm serious. Don't come back 'til you've made up with your girl."

Shrugging on her jacket, she mutters, "Asshole," as she flicks up the lapels of her jacket and leaves.

To Brittany's it is.

/

She stands at the door, shifting her weight from leg to leg, debating how she's going to approach this until the frustration just gets too much and she raps on the door twice.

Brittany opens the door, a smile on her face as she holds her cell phone to her ear but it promptly fades as their eyes meet. Her face hardens immediately as she takes the phone away from her ear and stands up straight, tucking her free hand beneath her arm as she tells the person on the phone that she'll call them back. Santana just waits, biting her lip nervously with her hands shoved in her pockets and shoulders squared. She won't run from this.

Once she's hung up, Brittany crosses her other arm over her chest and lifts her chin.

"Yes?" She finally says.

Santana tilts her head, exhaling heavily as her eyes linger over her girlfriend. She can't lie; she's missed her so much. "Can I come in?"

"Nope," Brittany replies, leaning against the doorway to block the way. "Is there something else?"

She takes a minute to think of what she's going to say, but all she can come up with is, "Sorry."

Blue eyes narrow. "What for?"

Santana's brow furrow in confusion. "For our fight," she explains.

If it weren't for the cold reception she got when she came here, she'd think she'd imagined their fight.

"Yeah," Brittany nods in a duh kind of way. "And what did you do?"

Santana resists the urge to roll her eyes because Brittany knows what she did. "Look, Britt, I said I'm sorry," she sighs. "So can we just skip to the bit where we kiss and make up?"

It must be the wrong thing to say because Brittany's face, if possible, hardens even further and she straightens up, dropping her arms from her body and reaching for the door.

"Wrong answer," she says, shaking her head and slams the door without another word.

/

Santana doesn't get any sleep that night.

She lies in bed, staring up at the ceiling and trying not to think about how the space next to her shouldn't be empty.

Her mind races with thoughts of Brittany, and honestly, as she lies there, she can't think of a reason why they're actually fighting.

Okay, maybe she does. Maybe she knows it's a mixture of things like Sam, Quinn, opening herself up and telling Brittany everything, but half of those never mattered before they went to Chicago. It never mattered and as Santana thinks about it, she realizes that what Sam and Quinn think doesn't really matter either. She trusts Brittany, and she loves her. She doesn't want to scare her or hold her back, but at the end of the day she can't tell Brittany what to do. She can't tell her that there's better choices because then it just makes her as bad as Sam and Quinn.

There's a lot about Santana that Brittany doesn't know, and the only reason she never wanted to tell her was because she didn't want Brittany to stop loving her because of those things.

But she's not that person anymore. Her past doesn't make her who she is today and at the end of the day, she doesn't want to lose Brittany.

So if that means that she has to tear down her walls and finally let someone in completely to make sure Brittany stays in her life, then so be it.

/

In the morning she wakes, fully prepared to apologize. She knows what she needs to say, what she needs to do and she can only hope that Brittany forgives her.

She showers, dresses, has a slice of toast for breakfast and then heads out, shrugging her coat on and heading over to Brittany's, battling the wind and sleet coming down against her.

Just like yesterday, she stands outside Brittany's front door, tapping her foot with nerves and staring at the wood in front of her but finally gathers the courage to rap on the door, then drops her hands and shoves them in her pockets, her eyes drifting down to focus on her now snow covered boots. The seconds tick by and she glances up after counting a whole minute, wondering why her girlfriend hasn't answered the door yet; so she knocks again, figuring that Brittany has headphones in or is dancing to the radio and can't hear the knocking.

Though two minutes after that, there's still no movement from inside. She steps back to look at the number of the door—yep, this is Brittany's house—and then knocks one more time, perking her ear up and pressing it to the wood of the door to see if she can hear any music coming from inside; but there's nothing and somewhere deep inside of her, she registers that something's very wrong.

But she doesn't want to start thinking ahead and takes a deep breath, telling herself to calm down before she gets riled up. So she steps out of the stoop and back into the snow, peering up at the two windows on the second level but only finds the curtain's are shut. It's ten o'clock and Brittany never sleeps past that time, but thinking that today might be a change, Santana reaches into her pocket and grabs her phone, dialing the number she knows by heart and bringing the phone to hear ear.

It just goes to voicemail.

She glances down curiously at her phone when she lowers it, but it's not going to give her an answer, nor will it explain the lack of Brittany and so she drops it back into her pocket and looks back at the stoop again, her eyes now finding today's newspaper on the front porch. Brittany always picks that up. Shaking it off, she heads around the side of the house, coming to the back door and reaching for the handle, twisting it to see if it's open but it's not, and that little thing deep down begins growing, rising in her throat and speeding up her pulse.

But she forces it back, knowing that Brittany might just be out, and she figures that her neighbor, Emma Pillsbury, might have seen if she went out this morning. With that thought, she heads on over there, eying the freakishly clean stoop, completely void of any snow or dirt, and rings the doorbell.

The door opens and the doe eyed redhead stares at her quizzically.

"Santana?" She says.

Santana offers a light tipped smile, rubbing the back of her neck as she looks back to Brittany's house quickly. "Hey," she mutters. "I, um—I was wondering if you'd seen Brittany?"

Emma blinks, her eyes drifting off with thought but then she shakes her head. "Afraid not, Santana," she chirps. "I haven't seen her since yesterday evening. After you left."

Trying not to wince as the memories of yesterday rush back to her, Santana nods. "Oh, right," she says, disappointment in her tone. "Well, thanks anyway."

She turns away, pulling her shoulders up by her ears again as she heads down the steps, but then Emma calls her name and she peers back over her shoulder.

"Yeah?"

"After you left..." The small redhead begins, stepping out slight and worrying her fingers in front of her. Her eyes dart around nervously, tongue poking out to wet her lips and she pauses, taking in a deep breath before finally meeting Santana's gaze. "I saw Brittany... she got into a taxi."

Santana's brows knit together, eyes narrowing. "A taxi?" She echoes, shaking her head to show she's not understanding. "Where'd she go?"

Emma swallows and looks nothing but apologetic as she whispers, "She had bags."

"Bags?" Santana repeats, lowly, stepping up to be level with Emma. "What do you mean?"

"I mean..." Emma pauses, clearly finding the right words to say, but then she steps forward after a few seconds, setting her palm on Santana's shoulder comfortingly.

"She left, Santana."

It punches Santana so hard in the gut that she chokes, mouth dropping open and eyes widening as fear grips her chest. She stares at the other woman intently, waiting for the punchline or the bit where Emma tells her it's a lie, but instead there's nothing and suddenly Santana's faced with the reality that Brittany left. Brittany actually left. Gone without a word and Santana stumbles back, clutching at the front of her jacket as she backs away down the stoop and stands in the snow, her head swimming with the thought that the girl she loved, that Brittany, has just gone.

And she has no idea where she is.

She runs to Puck's bar as fast as she can.

/

Her head's pounding. Her heart's racing.

She feels like she's about to explode.

Brittany can't have gone. She can't have left.

Is this just a test? To see what Santana would do? Is this a test to their love?

Fuck. She just needs to find her.

/

"Puck," Santana pants, swinging open the door with brute force and hearing it crash against the wall as she rushes behind the bar, grabbing her friend's arm and tugging hard until he faces her.

Puck looks down, his eyes soft in a way she hates and she instantly feels anger for the guy she thought was her friend. He knows Brittany's left. Fuck.

"Santana," he says, voice low and full of warning.

Santana shows no sign of calming down, the desperate need to find Brittany pulsing through her veins. She lurches forward, hands gripping the collar of Puck's shirt and she pulls him down, comical steam blowing from her ears as she looks at him with sheer fury.

"Where is she?" She asks, foaming from the mouth but Puck says nothing and she uses more force, digging her knuckles into his collarbones in a way she knows hurts. "I said, where is she, Puckerman?"

Puck shakes his head though, excusing the woman he's talking to over the bar and grabs Santana's hands, pulling them off his shirt before grasping her shoulder, urging her out the back door. She stumbles out into the alley, falling against the wall opposite and hangs her head down, breathing hard and heavy.

"She's gone, Lopez," Puck informs from behind, his voice hard. "She left last night."

Santana's eyes squeeze shut and her knuckles curl against the brick. This can't be happening. Brittany didn't leave.

"You're lying," she accuses, gulping audibly. "She didn't leave," she repeats, grudgingly turning around to glare at her friend. She shakes her head. "You're lying."

Puck looks at her for a long moment, his eyes softening and apologetic in the same way Emma's were earlier. He slowly moves his head from left to right, sucking his lips into his mouth and glancing away. "No, I'm not," he finally says, meeting her eye. "She's gone."

Yet Santana chooses not to believe it. She won't until she sees it for herself.

With that, she sprints off down the alley.

/

She cups her hand over her eyes, peering in through the frosted glass of Brittany's windows.

The house is deserted; all items cleared apart from the furniture.

None of the personal items like the magazines Brittany always reads, or her DVD's, are anywhere to be seen. There aren't white sheets thrown over the sofa, but there might as well be and it rips the breath straight from Santana's chest as she rounds the house, peeking inside each window to look in the different rooms.

But they're all the same. All deserted.

Brittany's bags have been packed...

...

She's gone.

/

She still has the key to Brittany's house, and for some reason she thinks it's clever to use it and break in.

(Even if it's not really breaking in.)

Her search is frantic, and she doesn't really know what she's looking for until she finds it: a small black book, buried in the corner of Brittany's bedside table. She opens it up, sitting on the side of Brittany's bed that only a week ago, she was sleeping soundly in, Brittany in her arms, and flips over the pages until she comes across a name and a ten digit number, written in Brittany's childish writing, on the inside of the back cover.

It makes something click within her mind and she digs her phone out, eyes flicking between the screen and the book to make sure she's got the number write before she brings the phone to her ear.

After a few rings, someone picks up.

"Hello?"

"Is this Quinn?"

Down the line comes a hum of acknowledgment. "It is. Who's this?"

"Santana," she breathes out, closing the book in her hand and throwing it back inside the draw. Her heart pounds against her chest and she can tell by the lack of react that Quinn was expecting the call. It makes something deep within her twist and curl. "Is... is she with you?" She breathes, resting her elbows on her thighs, eyes focused on the carpet. "Is she there?"

There's a long silence and Santana feels heat prick at her eyelids, the need to cry almost growing too much. She just needs to know where Brittany is. She needs to find her and bring her back.

"Not yet," Quinn finally says and there's a hardness in her tone. "But she will be soon."

A slight wave of relief crashes through Santana, knowing Brittany's safe and won't be alone, but at the same time she chokes, knowing that Brittany's heading back to Chicago. Back home.

How stupid was Santana for thinking Brittany would stay with her? Brittany doesn't belong here. She's better than that.

"Why did she leave?" She forces out through a thickened throat, dropping her head into her hand as a tear slowly seeps out from the corner of her eye. Fuck.

"Do you really have to ask that?"

A tear-drop falls on to the carpet, creating a darkened patch and Santana sucks in a deep, quivering breath. No. She doesn't need to ask. She fucked up.

"I love her," she chokes out instead, the pain slicing through her and settling as a heavy pressure on her chest.

"And for some reason she loves you," Quinn replies, her voice swift and sharp. "So even though I don't approve of you two, you need to sort out your head, Lopez." Santana lifts her head, shock running through her system. Is this a pep talk? One to get her and Brittany back together? By Quinn? One of the damn reasons she and Brittany are fighting, or broken up, or apart, or whatever the hell they are? "You need to sort it out and decide what to do because Brittany won't wait forever."

It's so surprising but Santana just wipes away the tears on her cheeks, sniffing as she picks herself up and walks toward the window, staring out at it.

"I know," she whispers, but still has no idea what she's supposed to do. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it," Quinn says but it doesn't sound cheery. "And I mean don't mention it. I wasn't supposed to tell you where she's going."

A sudden surge of affection and gratitude pulses through Santana. Maybe she and Quinn could've been friends. If she weren't a total fuck up and Quinn weren't a total bitch. "Okay," she nods. "I won't."

"Good."

Santana pulls the phone away from her ear, ready to hang up but hears Quinn's, "Oh, and Lopez?" come from the speaker and listens once more.

"Yeah?"

"Don't take too long," Quinn warns. "She won't wait forever."

Santana just nods again. She knows that.

She's just got to figure out how to get Brittany back.

/

If she thinks about it, she only has herself to blame.

She should've seen it coming, really, because someone as perfect as Brittany doesn't belong with Santana. No matter how much Santana needed her.

The truth is... Santana needed someone to save her. She needed someone to rescue her because she was lost. She had no idea who she was, and now she realizes she's no-one if she doesn't have Brittany. Back when she could call Brittany 'mine,' she wasn't completely found but she was routed. She was locked down on a path that lead her to being someone she knew and she didn't know a lot, granted, but she knew she had a heart that was beating. A heart that was beating for Brittany and she knew that if everything else went to crap, she had Brittany.

Because as she looks back on it know, she knows Brittany saved her. Brittany saved her from herself, when she thought she didn't need saving and she thinks that's one of the reason she fell in love with the girl. She was always doing the unexpected, and always knew what Santana wanted when Santana didn't even know herself.

But now she's here. Alone. Once again.

Naturally.

/

"So she went back to Chicago, huh?"

Puck runs a cloth around the inside of the glass in hand as he eyes Santana. She's been sitting in the bar for four hours now and staring at the same glass of scotch for three hours and fifty-nine minutes of that.

"Guess so," she croaks out, finally grasping the glass and bringing it to her lips, her nostrils flaring as she inhales the sharp fumes wafting from the liquor. She takes a sip, wincing as it slides down her throat and settles in her stomach; but she doesn't enjoy it. So she puts it down once more, using the tips of her fingers to push it away from her. By drinking she thought she could get back at Brittany for leaving, a pathetic way of spiting her, she guesses, but she can't fight the stronger feeling that if Brittany were to come back, she'd hate seeing Santana drunk or drinking.

God. She's so pathetic. Loyal to someone who walked out on her.

"She didn't even leave a note?"

The reminder slices through Santana, quick like pain. She drops her forehead to the bar, pressing it down and muffling out a strained, "No."

"So are you guys broken up?"

Anger sizzles beneath her skin, trying to cover the anguish she feels at the question. "I don't fucking know," she grits out, lifting her head to glare at her friend. "If I could get a hold of her, I'd ask."

She drops her head again, feeling nothing but pain and sympathy for herself and already fucking hates him. Puck otherwise stays quiet, and soon enough the silence proves too much and she has to glance up, but only finds him staring at her with the emotions she feels. More than anything she hates that look: the sympathetic one, but she guesses it'd probably be soothing to any normal person and so says nothing more about it, just slouches against the bar, propping her elbows on the top and hanging her head between them, fingers gripping the back of her head.

"She was never going to hurt you, you know."

She barely tilts her head, peering up through lashes with a squint. "What?"

Puck sets down the glass in hand, the rag in his other and leans toward her. "She loves you," she says simply and the words wind around Santana's heart, squeezing. "Nothing was going to change that," he breathes. "Not even your past. That girl was in it for good, Santana. Through thick and thin."

It's strange because she never told him why Brittany left. He might have his own conclusions, or thought up reasons, but he doesn't actually know. She never opened up and told him. She keeps things like that to herself. She bottles them up and tucks them away because she doesn't open up to anyone. Never has. That might have been the problem with... well, with her.

"What are you talking abo—"

"You didn't open up," Puck states, his eyes knowing. "Did you?"

Santana pulls back, staring at him. How does he know that? "How did you—"

"There's a reason why you don't have any best friends, and just have friends, Lopez."

"You're my best friend."

Puck lets out a short mirthless laugh, one side of his lips pulling up. "That's sweet, Lopez, but it's not true." He shrugs and stands. "I don't know really know anything about you. But I'm an asshole and don't really care much about that," he tells her. "We know each other as much as we tell each other, and that works for us. But that's because we're friends, and not in a relationship. It's different."

She cocks her head to the side, her eyebrows scrunching together. "What do you mean?"

"You're like a map that can't be read, Santana," he says, his tone serious in a way she's not privy to. "And you've let the only person who was willing to stick around and figure you out, walk straight out your life." He looks at her, clenching his jaw because she just shares a blank expression. "You've let the only person who'd never use your past against you, just disappear. Without a single word. All because you couldn't tell her a little something about you, even though you knew that she was going to love you no matter what." She opens her mouth to protest, but he cuts in quickly, shaking his head. "And don't tell me you didn't know that, because you did." Her mouth closes, head dropping a little and he leans forward again, forearms pressing into the bar as he gets closer. "You're a fucking idiot, Lopez, and that's coming from another fucking idiot, too."

He straightens up, lifting his chin a little and raises a brow down at her, knowing he's right; and it takes a little while but then realization sinks in and Santana's back is as straight as a pole, eyes wide. Because fuck, there must be pig's flying around because Puck's actually right for once. Brittany was always going to love her because she already did. Not knowing anything about her and loving her did seem stupid because how can you love someone if they don't know anything about you? But now, looking back on her, she realizes that Brittany loves her in spite of all those things she doesn't know. Brittany's not stupid, she knew that Santana's past had some deep, dark secrets in it, yet she still loved her, and still assured her that no matter what it was, or when Santana chose to show herself, Brittany would continue loving her.

Because Brittany didn't care about Santana's past. She didn't care because she knew it wasn't the person Santana is today. It wouldn't have mattered how broken and dark Santana's past it because Brittany was going to love her anyway. Through thick and thin, just like Puck said.

And fuck, Santana just let her go. Just like that.

"What do I do?" She whispers, mostly to herself but Puck looks down at her, his lips pressed together and eyebrows lifted.

"What do you want to do?"

Santana's eyes search the top of the bar, like the answer's going to be scratched into the wood. "I want her back," she breathes.

Puck stretches across the bar, setting an arm on her shoulder, urging her eyes to his. "Then fucking do something about it."

/

She doesn't do anything about it.

She thinks and thinks and thinks, and the only conclusion she can come up with is that if Brittany did want to leave, she wouldn't have. And honestly, a little part of her is really fucking pissed off because of that. Why did Brittany save her, and make her happy if she was just going to leave? For that matter, how could Brittany leave after one little fight? Couples fight all the time and yet this one time, Brittany fucks off back to Chicago. Probably to Quinn and Sam to talk about their perfect little fucking lives.

Hell, maybe she went back to Sam because Santana would bet her bottom dollar that he'd be okay with comforting Brittany.

Fucking asshole.

(She shudders at the thought.)

Still, she can't help but feel bitter and angry that Brittany just left her here, without a word after one stupid fight. Maybe they weren't as perfect as she first thought.

Puck continues to ask what she's going to do, butchering her on like it'll make her do something, but she always has the same response, which always ends up with Puck rolling his eyes.

"She's better off without me. She doesn't belong here."

"Neither do you."

Santana looked up at him, scoffing. "You know people don't get out of here once they're sucked in," she said, lifting her scotch glass.

Puck set a hand over her own, preventing the sip. "Brittany did."

Santana kept drinking. Puck just rolled his eyes.

Though as the weeks drag on—four to be exact—Santana finds herself working as many hours at the bar as she can to keep herself distracted. The bitter and angered thoughts only last so long, and it seems she's moving at rapid progression down the five stages of grief because now she's at that hysteric, not-being-able-to-sleep-and-wants-to-cry-all-the-time stage. The one where she feels empty and it's causing anguish in pain at a depth that she's never known before.

She's at that stage where it feels like she could be sad forever. Where she withdraws from everything—if it's possible to do so even more—and is just left in this... fog of intense sadness. Of missing Brittany and wanting her back.

But she just can't locate that switch to her fog lights that helps her find her path again. She just can't get back on track and it's killing her.

Which could explain why she's on her knees, scrubbing at the floor where some douche spilled beer with tears in her eyes. And it could explain why she's been scrubbing at the same spot for over twenty minutes, and why the spot's actually clean and now she's just taking off the varnish.

Though it seems Puck notices because he dumps his rag behind the bar, steps out and crouches down beside her so only she hears when he says, "I think you should go home."

"I'm fine," she chokes out, an instant reaction to someone caring about her. Even if her throat is thick and eyes prickling with heat from the tears she's desperately keeping back, she won't say she's sad. She won't be weak. That's the one thing about having someone you love walk out of your life; you notice how empty it was before they came along.

"Santana," Puck says, his tone full of warning and sympathy. "Just go. You're a mess."

All the anger's drained from her, so she can't even bring herself to snap at him. Instead, choosing to drop the scrubbing brush and hang her head, blink and letting a tear fall free. She's exhausted, and not just emotionally, but physically.

For the past week she hasn't got a wink of sleep. She's not even sure how she's awake right now. Probably a mix of Red Bull and coffee, which she acknowledges isn't healthy, but it's the best she can do right now. But when she lies in bed, she's just reminded that she's alone and can somehow still smell Brittany on the pillow which is just a punch to the heart. She can still run her hand across the right side of the bed—Brittany's side of the bed—and feel the indent of where Brittany would curl up on her side and grasp on to Santana like her life depended on it and it hurts. It really fucking hurts because she doesn't have any of that anymore.

She just can't sleep unless Brittany's by her side.

So she just ends up lying there with these constant reminders that she isn't happy, that she doesn't have the love of her life lying next to her and ends up not sleeping because of it.

"I can't," she finally chokes out, the tears now trailing down her cheek. "I can't if she's not there," she manages to get out, sniffing and wiping her cheeks on the sleeve of her hoodie. "So just let me get on with this."

Puck doesn't leave her alone though, just sets a hand on her shoulder and shoots her an understanding look.

"You can stay at mine," he offers.

Santana almost smiles for the first time in four weeks.

/

By the fifth week, Santana's switching between the stages, going from a day of lying in bed, moping over the memory of the love of her life walking out of her, to a day of swearing at everyone and losing a large amount of tips because she swears or threatens to pummel a guy's ass when she catches him checking her out.

For this particular evening though, she seems to be stuck somewhere in-between. She hasn't bitten anyone's head off, but she's not crying her eyes out. She's just sort of... lifeless.

She's in the bar, sitting at a stool that must have her ass imprinted on it by now, fingering her second glass of scotch and ignoring pretty much everything around her. People have been coming and going, as usual, but she's paid absolutely zero attention to any of them. Instead, she's just sitting there, the minutes ticking by as she watches the level of her scotch shrink with each sip she takes.

The doors to the bar swings open, and because she stopped looking after the seventeenth time—she found there was no point because it wasn't like Brittany was going to come sweeping in like she had the first time Santana ever lay eyes on the girl—she doesn't realize just who walks through the door.

So she just downs the rest of her scotch, enjoying the slight warmth it brings to her stomach and the low buzzing it sets in her ears, and slides her empty glass over to Puck who gives her the look she thought she'd never get again. That half-concerned and half-disappointed one that her parents used to give her. That Brittany used to give her.

Damn, it sucks.

"You having another one?"

She wants to say yes, but she already feels like shit and getting drunk with only make her worse. Apparently now she's an emotional drunk. "No," she sighs, looking up at him. "I'm just gonna head upstairs. You got anything good to watch on your DVR?"

"Recorded a few horror movies," Puck shrugs, looking slightly less disappointed than he did a minute ago. Probably because she said no to alcohol.

"Perfect," she manages a weak smile. "As long as it's not some crappy romance film, it'll do."

Puck looks at her but nods, checking no-one needs serving before heading out the back door with his cell phone and cigarettes. Santana just sits there for a moment, blowing out her cheeks and running her fingers through her hair before she decides to get up...

...To find two guys standing behind her, glaring with hard expressions.

She tilts her head to the side in slight recognition, but can't quite place them anywhere. One's a beefy guy with a heavy five o'clock shadow, and the others got one hell of a strong jaw line.

"Yeah?" She asks, lifting both eyebrows as if to say can I help?

The guy with the strong jaw line steps forward, jabbing a finger into her chest. "You owe me a grand," he murmurs.

And fuck. Santana's heard this before. Now she knows exactly who it is: that Jesse guy.

With a sigh, she meets his eye. "Look, we fought fair and square. You lost and I won."

Jesse's upper lip curls in aggression. "Did not," he growls. "Now give me my money."

"I don't fight anymore," Santana says, declining the offer. She did win that fight fair and square, and she's not going to give that money back just because he's a sore loser. No way in hell.

"You were for your pretty little girlfriend," Jesse spits, stepping closer. His eyes flicker around the bar, a smirk tugging at his lips. "Where is she anyway?"

Pain slices through Santana and she lowers her head, jaw clenching. Her entire body tenses but she tells herself not to give in. Wishes that Puck were here, too. Dammit.

"Just go away," she finally says, meeting Jesse's gaze. Her voice is soft and she hopes he'll just leave her alone. "I'm not gonna fight you."

Jesse narrows his eyes, forehead scrunching for a split second before his entire face breaks in realization. His lips curve even further, a full on smirk pulling at them and he lifts his head, laughing mirthlessly through his nose. He looks... evil. "Your girl left you," he announces and Santana blinks back the sudden heat at her eyes. "She realized you were just a piece of shit, right?"

Knowing words will only encourage this guy on, Santana stays silent, desperately trying to push the pain away. Jesse can't hurt her. Not with these words. He knows nothing.

"Did she finally open her eyes?" He continues and Santana looks down, the beginnings of hot, white anger curdling within her. "Did she finally realize that there were better people in the world to share her time with?"

She stays silent. She knows this guy doesn't' have a fucking clue what the hell he's talking about but it just reminds her of all the reasons why Brittany did leave. Because there are better people in the world. Better people than Santana, and better cities than fucking Grantsville, and even though she knows she shouldn't react, it still punches her in the stomach, the words still settle in her gut and her body's natural reaction to anyone taunting her is to lash out, so she curls her fists against her jeans.

And then Jesse pushes her over the edge by leaning down, close to her ear and whispers, "Maybe if you point me in the right direction, I can show the good time she deserves," and she lashes out, shoving him in the chest hard and feeling her entire body sizzle with the need to punch something. Jesse preferably.

Santana feels the anger get too much, red flashing before her eyes as she rips her shirt off, leaving her in a sports bra and jeans, ready to fight. But when Jesse raises his fists, a smirk pulling at his lips as he crouches slightly into a stance, she realizes that her fighting him is exactly what he wants, and the memories of Jesse provoking her when Brittany was around flash back and she thinks about how... disappointed Brittany would be if she could see Santana like this.

And just like that, her fists uncurl and all the will to fight drains out of her.

"I'm not going to fight you," she sighs, her shoulders sagging forward as a wave of irritation hits her. She'd like to kick the crap out of this guy, but she just can't. She doesn't have the energy to.

But Jesse's not having any of it and snarls at her, lurching forward to grab her hair and yank her towards the cage. She yelps, feeling several strands of hair being tugged from her scalp but just goes with it, not giving into the satisfaction of fighting back. Maybe if she does that, Jesse will stop. Maybe he'll have the decency not to beat up someone who's not willing to fight back. Though as she's thrown into the cage, her face mashing against the metal wires of the walls and pain stinging through her face, she thinks that might not happen.

"Yo, St. James," a voice calls and Santana peers over her shoulder, eyes sliding to the right to find that beefy guy standing there, looking at Jesse. "Tag me in when you think you've got your money's worth." His eyes dart to Santana and he cracks his knuckles, smirking. "I need to get mine."

It's that smirk that refreshes a memory from her brain and she realizes, shit, she fought that guy, too. It's Karofsky.

"Will do," Jesse replies and shrugs out his jacket, cracking his neck from side to side as he jumps into the air, waving out his limbs.

And Santana? She just waits for it, closing her eyes as he stalks toward her and throws his fist into her gut, sucking the breath straight from her lungs.

/

It's only a few minutes later and she's black, blue, bleeding and bruised.

Her entire body aches, her head pounding and eyes dizzying, but Jesse doesn't stop. His fists, his feet, his knees and his head keep coming at her, striking her again and again, causing her to choke and spit out blood on to the floor of the cage until she can't take anymore. Even then, Jesse continues and before she knows it, she's on the floor, her eyes screaming at her to close as her quivering hands push against the floor, fingers smudging the red liquid seeping from various parts in her body, and try to get her up.

Jesse's there though, kicking her elbow and sending her falling back to the floor with a thump. Her forehead smacks against the ground and she winces, but it's nothing in comparison to the intense pain pretty much everywhere else in her body and so she doesn't even choke. She turns over on to her back (with incredible pain), stares up into the bright lights that burn down on her and wishes that something would just get rid of this right now. That something or someone would come along and stop this, but she knows it won't and there's no way in hell she's going to try and defend herself. The only way she could would be if she used violence, if she fought back and she can't do that.

She's not that person anymore and Brittany won't come back if she is.

(That's what she's telling herself anyway.)

(Even as she gets the shit kicked out of her.)

A follow-up strike doesn't come within the next few seconds, and she manages to blink back into focus and wipe away the tears from the corners of her eyes enough to make out the shapes of Jesse leaving the cage, wiping his hands on something white in his hands and someone else entering. Someone bigger, beefier, stronger.

If Santana thought she was in shit already, then she was horribly mistaken. Jesse isn't half the size Karofsky is, and now she's in Karofsky's hands.

Just as expected, the strikes come and they're twice as bad. The punches are heavier, the kicks not as fast but sure as hell harder and Karofsky even picks her up and throws her into the cage walls before she slumps down onto the floor with a large thud, the air ripping straight from her lungs as she chokes out a mouthful of blood. She can't even process any thoughts apart from the alert going off in her head that maybe she's going to die, but she still tries to crawl away to see if Karofsky has any sympathy for her. But the kick she gets in the lungs says that no, he doesn't.

And after being picked up by the throat, and held as Karofsky punches her everywhere—in the gut, in the face, in the chest, everywhere—she realizes that it's true; she's going to die in this ring. There's no words to describe the pain she's in. The ache is everywhere, the sharp, hot sting of torture thrumming through her body, and she can't even open her eyes or ask Karofsky to stop because she's just not able to; the anguish is just too much.

So when Karofsky drops her to the floor, crouches over her body and whispers, "Game over," as he brings his fist back, she closes her eyes and thinks about all the good times she's had in her life: when her mom and dad took her to Disneyland for her ninth birthday, when her brother took her up the Empire State Building for the first time, when she first realized she had feelings for Brittany and when she first realized she wanted to spend the rest of her life with her, too.

She thinks about all of that, inwardly letting herself feel the last few moments of happiness she has stored up within before she says her goodbyes in her mind and uses her last breath to whisper the one thing she's ever truly known.

"I love you, Britt," she mutters to herself and lets a small, sad smile tug at her lips as she waits for the final blow.

But it never comes.

/

"Mommy? Daddy? Where are we going?"

They'd been traveling on the road for hours, and Santana had been sitting impatiently in the back seat, beside her brother, wondering why they weren't getting cake because it was her birthday.

Her mother turned in her seat. "We're nearly there honey," she cooed, her brown eyes soft. "Just wait."

Santana sat back, huffing loudly and crossed her arms. Even at nine, she was difficult. But twenty minutes later, her entire demeanor changed as her dad pulled the car into a long drive, leading to a car park and the best vision she'd ever seen before her young eyes. Because that really long drive was totally worth that moment because she may not have any cake, but she was at Disneyland.

A place where the magic never ends.

It was the best birthday she ever had.

/

She was fourteen when her parents died.

It wasn't anything hugely dramatic, just an asshole running a red light and crashing into the side of her parents car, killing both of them instantly.

But it still hit her and her brother hard, and on the first anniversary of their death, Rafael, her brother who was four years older than her, told her to put on her jacket because they were going out. She followed, keeping her head down as they walked down alleys because she was so used to him dragging her out to shady looking places to talk to strange men, but then they got on a train and four stops later, were getting off and heading up to street level.

She had no idea where she was going and she didn't bother asking her brother because he was always a little secretive about... well, everything. He'd lash out and she didn't want him to. She'd seen him lash out at other guys, at people who owed him money for something she didn't want to ask about, and she just wasn't down with that. Most of the time those guys would end up with a broken nose, or lying unconscious in a dark, dirty alley so yeah, speaks for itself.

So she just kept following him, her shoulders by her ears, hands dug deep in her pockets and her wits about her. She didn't know what was coming.

Though minutes later, they arrived outside a building and Rafael stopped, eying her carefully.

"We're here."

Santana narrowed her eyes, peering at the windows of the building they were next to. "The Empire State Building? Why we were?"

Rafael just stayed silent, the cold look no longer in his eyes and for the first time in a year, Santana saw him smile as he clapped her on the back and led her in. They headed up to the viewing area and stopped by the side, looking out upon the city, the view completely breathtaking as the nights of New York City glowed in the dark of the night.

"This is where Pa proposed to Ma," Rafael told her and she choked up, tears pooling in her eyes. "I just thought..."

He stopped and Santana looked at him, no longer seeing the man who threatened people with knives in front of her. She no longer saw the one who was cold, who had scars from many bar fights and who almost constantly had a dead look in his eyes, but instead saw her brother. The one who used the rest of his allowance, that he was going to spend on a toy for himself, to buy her ice cream the first time she was pushed over in elementary school. She saw the one who came into her room and hugged her to sleep the first night she ever heard her parents fight. And she saw the one who became her best friend and played video games with her all night when she first came out because none of her friends wanted to be near a 'dirty lesbian dyke.'

She saw him, and began crying as she wrapped her arms around him, burying her nose into his coat and ignoring the stench of stale smoke and old beer.

And he just wrapped his arm around her, holding her close and dropping a kiss to the crown of her head.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Rafael squeezed her tighter and for the next hour, they just watched over the city, their parents in mind.

/

It was the day of the burnt brownie fiasco, and they'd both fallen asleep after hours of watching Sweet Valley High.

Santana woke, startled, her eyes finding the room completely dark as the groggy feeling tugged at her brain. She rubbed her face, looking toward the TV to find the DVD menu playing over and over and tried to reach for the remote when she became hyper aware that she couldn't move anything below her chest. And she looked down, finding a sleeping Brittany, curled up between her legs, clasped hands tucked beneath her chin and head resting on Santana's chest and really, it was the most adorable thing Santana had ever seen.

So completely forgetting about switching off the DVD, she reached down and traced her fingers over Brittany's forehead, pushing back a lock of hair fallen down and tucking it behind her ear. Her touch was soft, gentle, but it stirred Brittany and she slowly awoke, blue eyes blinking sleepily up at her and causing a smile to pull at her lips. Though suddenly, she realized she'd just been touching this girl without her permission, and in her sleep, and embarrassment rushed through her, a blush creeping up on her face.

In that moment, she couldn't have been more pleased that she was of an ethnic complexion. They didn't show a blush.

"Sorry," she blurted out, completely embarrassed that she was caught.

Brittany just stared up at her, brows pulling together in confusion and Santana was met with a wave of rejection as the blonde girl climbed off her lap and off the sofa, but it was swiftly replaced with surprise as a pale hand grabbed her own, tugging her up. She went with it, following Brittany through her house until they were trudging up the stairs and along the landing to her bedroom, and then she became the one thoroughly confused.

The blonde girl didn't seem to notice though and led Santana to the bed, pushing her down on it and taking her shoes and socks off before removing her own and climbing on to the bed to join her. Legs straddled her waist and brown eyes grew wide, but then Brittany collapsed down on to the bed, one leg still hooked over Santana's waist as she snuggled in next to her, hands clutching at Santana's bicep.

Santana just stayed still, ignoring the way her heart was thumping loudly in her chest as Brittany nuzzled into her neck, lips brushing over the skin because she'd never cuddled with someone before. She'd had sex, fucked, done a plethora of things... Yet cuddling was never one of them.

But instead of fighting it, she let herself feel how amazing it was to have Brittany here, clutching at her and draped haphazardly over her, breathing warmth against her neck as she fell back to sleep, and Santana couldn't fight that she was slowly realizing something.

She was falling for Brittany.

And she could sure as hell get used to this cuddling thing.

/

She was leaning against the bar, no surprise there, just gazing at Brittany playing pool with Puck in the corner.

She was leaning on to her pool cue, laughing as Puck took a shot and missed one of his striped balls, hitting the white ball and pocketing it. Puck scowled, growled and otherwise looked thorough pissed off, but Brittany was just giggling her ass off, her face scrunched up in the most adorable way.

Sensing the stare, Brittany turned her gaze and the corners of Santana's lips curved up as blue eyes locked with brown. The blonde's face broke out into a grin and Santana couldn't fight the overwhelming rush of happiness that thrummed through her.

She was so in love.

"Is that your girl?"

After jumping a little, Santana turned her head to find the young, blonde bartender leaning over the bar, eying Puck and Brittany by the pool table. Santana looked at him for a moment, then back at Brittany now leaning over the pool table, tongue stuck out and utter concentration etched in to her features in the cutest fucking way, and Santana couldn't help allow her face to stretch into an idiot grin because in that moment, she knew that Brittany was all she was ever going to want in life. She was perfect. She was beautiful, she was innocent, she was everything good in this miserable, stinking world and somehow Santana managed to get so lucky that Brittany chose her.

She never wanted to let her go.

"Yeah," she sighed, laughing through her nose a little. She didn't understand how she could feel this way about a person. "That's my girl."

The blonde bartender smiled and clapped her on the shoulder. "You've got a keeper," he said with a smile before going back to work.

Santana just looked to Brittany, sticking her tongue out at Puck before throwing a wink Santana's way as she pocketed her second ball, and well, she definitely was a keeper.

And so as she walked over there, wrapped her arms around Brittany's waist and kissed her neck, humming in content as Brittany leaned back into the touch and laced their fingers together over her abs, Santana promised herself that she'd marry that girl one day.

/

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

It's a woman, of that Santana's sure, but she can't make out who it is. There's a buzzing in her ears and she can't peel her eyes open because they're already swelling and she's pretty sure her eyebrow's split and the flesh is now just... hanging off her face, to see who it is.

"Getting out money's worth." It's Jesse, and she can tell he's smirking by his tone.

"Get out."

The body crouching over hers disappears, and she breathes out a sigh of relief, wincing at how much that hurts. She's pretty sure she's got at least five broken ribs.

"Why?" Someone draws out and Santana blinks, her hazy vision making out a large bulky shape stalking toward a woman. It's Karofsky. "What are you gonna do, lady?"

Puck suddenly comes out from the back, a shotgun wielded in his arm, pointed toward Karofsky. "Do as she says," he growls.

And Santana wants to prop herself up to see what's going on but she can't. She's about two seconds away from passing out. Though as she groans to herself, rolling on to her side and wrapping an arm around her self to see if it'll reduce the pain, she feels a warmth of a person beside her and lets her eyes fall shut as her nose picks up a certain perfume. This woman isn't just anyone, it's Shelby.

"Santana, honey," Shelby coos and Santana swallows, the metallic tang undeniable. "Can you open your eyes?" She can't do as wanted, but she makes a noise of acknowledgment to show she's still alive. "Okay, honey, just keep breathing for me. We're going to get you out of here."

In the background she can barely make out the sounds of Karofsky, Puck and Jesse talking.

"You wouldn't shoot us," Karofsky grunts.

Puck chuckles mirthlessly, rounding the bar and closing the gap between him and the other two men. "Fucking try me, meat head."

Curling his knuckles, Karofsky stares at Puck with narrowed eyes and Jesse shifts beside him, his clenched fists quivering by the tops of his thighs.

"You'll get done for it," Jesse seethes, challenging the bartender.

But once again, Puck just laughs in his face. "I protect me family," he starts, his voice low and angered as he paces in a circle, urging Karofsky and Jesse to the door. "And I guarantee you everyone in this room would swear you bought this in," he lifts the shotgun. "And threatened to kill us all if we didn't hand over our belongings—a robbery, if you will—and after Santana over there tried to stop you, you beat the crap out of her." His eyes flicker to Santana and he increases the volume of his voice as he says, "Am I right, guys?"

The entire room, which consists of like, four customers, all drone a synchronized, "yes" and Puck smirks.

"Exactly," he says, cocking the gun. "So fucking leave."

Karofsky scoffs, clearly more frightened by the threat than Jesse and lets his gaze linger between his friend and the bartender. But then Jesse snarls and shakes his head, and Karofsky takes this moment to wave Puck off before grabbing his friend pulling him out the bar, swiftly leaving. Then Puck sets the shotgun down and rushes to Santana, helping Shelby picking her up. Though the movement is more painful than she thought it would be and yelps out in pain, cowering and burying her head into Puck's shoulder as arms wind around her body, lifting her completely off the ground.

"What happened to you?" Shelby asks as they move somewhere.

Santana just squeezes her eyes shut. She doesn't know what's going on but she can't find it in her to care because everything just hurts too much.

"Where's Brittany?"

The physical pain takes a side step as the words flow through Santana's barely there conscience, and she whimpers, the tears suddenly falling from her eyes for a completely different reason than the possible broken bones and severe beating she just received. But Puck must give Shelby a look, or say something that Santana misses because the older woman never gets an answer, and before Santana knows it, she's being set down on something hard and cold. The bar, she thinks.

"I'll grab the medical kit," Puck says but Shelby quickly cuts in.

"We should be taking her to the hospital, Noah. Not fixing her up with a band-aid."

"She wouldn't want that."

"We don't know the extent of her injuries," Shelby argues and Santana wishes she could just pass out from the pain. Enduring it's proving too much.

Still, she manages to pick up on the conversation and struggles to get out a muffled, "No hospital."

The mere thought of going to hospital and having people prodding and poking her, and then having the cops coming to take a statement since she clearly didn't fall down the damn stairs is just something she doesn't want to do. She doesn't want to deal with that shit.

"See," Puck chimes in. "She's a lot stronger than she looks, so we'll just clean her up and take her upstairs." There's a moment of silence and Santana wishes she could open her eyes to see what's going on. "She's been sleeping at mine."

Santana doesn't know what look Shelby just gave him, but she can guess from the explanation.

"Okay."

Everything from then on is a blur, and Santana lets Shelby clean her up, dab at her wounds and put steri strips over the gashes she assumes she must have in her face. The next thing she knows is someone's picking her up, someone she knows as Puck when she buries her face into his neck and she's being carried up stairs and set down on a mattress. The same mattress she's been sleeping on for the past week.

The last thing she hears before the darkness takes over her, is Shelby whispering, "What have you done to yourself?" as fingers stroke over her forehead.

Santana doesn't even know.

/

The next day she wakes and swears nothing's worse than this feeling.

Yesterday she got beaten to a pulp by two guy's she's previously beaten herself. She didn't even bother defending herself and now her head's pounding, her mind racing and body aching all because she didn't want to fight back.

Two max strength painkillers and a gulp of water later, and she's stumbling down the stairs to the bar, clutching at her side and wondering how the hell she managed to change into sweatpants and a shirt without crying, or like, dying from the pain. She finds Shelby talking to Puck over the bar when she pushes the door open, and stills, not even knowing what she looks like right now—thanks to the lack of mirrors in Puck's apartment. You'd think a guy that vain would at least have one, but no—but guessing it's pretty damn bad considering Shelby gasps and covers her mouth and Puck straightens up, his eyes growing wide at the sight of her, both their jaws going slack.

But she can't find it in her to care. Even now, with this intense pain thrumming through her body, she stands by her reason why she didn't fight. She's not that person anymore.

She slides down on to the stool, with much difficulty, and leans against the bar, breathing out heavily to relieve some of the pain. Her hand clutches at her ribs and she ignores the stare and the silence Shelby and Puck are giving her as she tries to get a little more comfortable, which proves to be hard.

Though soon enough, she's settled and she glances up, as much with her left considering it's puffy and swollen, and meets Shelby gaze as the woman reaches over, placing a delicate hand on top of her thigh.

"How are you feeling?" She asks, and her voice is as soft as her touch.

Santana wants to roll her eyes, but she knows how much it'd hurt and resists the urge. "Like I've been hit by a ten ton truck," she retorts and Puck cracks a smile. "Why are you here?"

The bartender suddenly leans over, joining the conversation. "I called her," Puck says and Santana attempts to shoot him a glare. She doesn't need looking after.

"Why? I'm fine," she spits, defensively, eying the top rack behind the bar. There's at least seventeen different liquors that could get her from stop feeling this pain; though she acknowledges she'd have to get drunk to do that and she's not game with that. Not that person anymore, remember?

"Your appearance is telling a different story, Santana," Shelby says and shifts, slipping off the stool and closing the gap between her and Santana, manicured hands gently cupping bruised cheeks. "You look awful."

Santana lets out a noise that almost sounds like a scoff. "Thanks," she mutters, staring the closest thing she has to a mother in the eye. "But honestly, I'm fi—"

Just then, the sound of the doors swinging open tear everyone's attention away from the bruises and swelling on her face, and Santana swears she all about dies as she sees the person standing before her. Because it's not just another drunk coming through the door, wanting to get blitzed before midday, nor is it a delivery guy pushing a stack of beer bottles through the doors.

No.

Instead, it's Brittany.

/

It's probably not the best situation to be caught in by Brittany.

Mostly because Santana's sitting on a stool with a woman between her legs, the woman's cupping her cheeks and probably looks like she's staring deeply into her eyes when really she's just letting her disappointed gaze trail over Santana's features, taking in all the bruises and gashes covering Santana's face. But to Brittany, it'd look completely different. Even if it is a woman who might as well be Santana's mother.

But Brittany's never met Shelby and that's why the second the blonde girls gaze flickers between Shelby and Santana, Santana pushes the older woman away from her, ignoring the jolt of pain that surges through her body and slowly (but painfully) slides off her stool, offering her hands out and handling her girlfriend, or ex-girlfriend, like she's a spooked animal that might run away at any sudden.

Fear grips her chest and her head rushes as she slowly inches toward the girl. Shit. This is so not what it looks like. "Britt, it's not—"

"Ah, you must be Brittany," Shelby interjects, stepping around Santana and heading toward said girl, offering out an embrace that Brittany takes with a smile.

"And you're Shelby," the blonde girl returns, pulling out the hug and smiling at the older stare at each other with kind, warm smiles.

Santana just stands somewhere in the back, utterly confused by the interaction taking place. She has absolutely no idea what's going on right now. They've never even met and Santana's pretty sure that she never even mentioned Shelby to Brittany. She knows Shelby knows who Brittany is, but she's never seen a picture, nor has she talked to her. So how the fuck does she know that this is Brittany? And why are they both acting like they know each other!?

(Behind all the confusion, Santana feels the sound of Brittany's voice and Brittany's general presence warm the cockles of her heart.

Damn, she's missed that girl.)

"Thank you for coming," Shelby whispers and Santana's head tilts to the side, her breath hitching when blue eyes flicker to her.

"I couldn't not come," Brittany replies, her eyes trained on Santana but words aimed at older woman smiles at the girl and squeezes her biceps before throwing Puck a look.

He jolts, realizing that this is their cue to leave and rounds the bar, bypassing Santana and dropping a kiss to her head carefully, his hand rubbing over her shoulder. Shelby smiles warmly at her, a knowing glint in her eye and then loops her arm through Puck's, swiftly leading them out the bar without another word, leaving Santana and Brittany completely alone for the first time in five weeks, and really, Santana doesn't have a fucking clue what's going on.

"Shelby called me," Brittany says, breaking the silence and answering a question Santana hasn't asked yet.

Santana just nods, but that still doesn't answer why Brittany's back though. Nor does it answer how Shelby got in touch with her. Actually, Brittany's words bring up more questions than it answers.

"How?" She asks, meeting Brittany's eye and watching the way her brow crinkles, eyes taking in the injuries on Santana's face. "How'd she get in contact with you?"

"Puck called her and asked her to find me," Brittany answers, stepping forward and thumbing the hem of her jacket. Her eyes search Santana's for a long moment and Santana forces herself to look away. She can't get used to looking the girl in the eye if she's only going to leave again. "They were worried about you."

It breaks Santana out of the shock of seeing the blonde and she starts feeling that bitterness and anger bubbling inside of her. "Well, I'm fine," she spits, clutching on to her side as she moves around the bar, suddenly needing to quench an intense thirst with something alcoholic. "I'm not dead, nor am I dying, so feel free to go back to Chicago now."

She waves her hand, flipping the other girl off but Brittany just steps up to the bar, setting her palms face down and tilting her head to the side.

"I don't want to go back," she admits, sheepishly, staring at her finger as it traces invisible circles on the wood of the bar.

Santana whips her head up, ignoring the pain she feels from the movement. "Well you've done it before so why not now?" She blurts out, unable to stop her words even at Brittany's hurt expression. "I'm sure Sam and Quinn are waiting for you so just go." Her hands reach for the bottle of scotch and then she grabs a glass, slamming it on to the counter to relieve some of the anger sizzling beneath her skin. "You don't belong here and you shouldn't have come back," she finished through a hiss, picking up the scotch glass once she's poured a little and taking a large sip, the liquor burning down her throat. "Okay?"

Brittany just tilts her head to the side, her brow furrowing and hurt flashing across her eyes as her shoulders drop. Her eyes dart down to the bar, her body shifting into a position that makes her look so small and Santana hates the way she can tell the girl's about to cry. How is this fair? Brittany fucking leaves and then comes back, fucking crying when Santana tells her to go back? What the fuck!?

"Santana," the blonde girl says in that dumb tone that always makes Santana feel like she's being handled. Her eyes flit up to meet dark ones. "Don't say that," she whispers and Santana's about to make a remark about how Brittany can't tell her what she can do anymore because she fucking walked out, Brittany fucking walked out, but then Brittany speaks first and it completely shuts her up. "I love you."

"Then why did you leave!?" Santana snaps, slamming her glass on to the counter, eyes wide and breaths heavy. "How can you love me if you can just leave me like that!?"

Brittany shrinks down immediately, her eyes searching everywhere that isn't Santana. For a long moment it's just the sound of their heavy breathing, of Santana's pain and Brittany's regret.

But then the blonde girl continues talking and asks, "Why didn't you fight them back?" as she points to Santana's face, her eyes flitting across the bruised and swollen features. "Why'd you let them do that to you?"

And well, fuck. Leave it up to Brittany to pick up things that no-one else would.

"It's not your business anymore," Santana mutters and tries not to betray her words by a quivering tone. Doesn't work, though.

The blonde girl looks at her, jaw clenched but eyes glossy. "It is my business," she whispers, but Santana just loses it. How can Brittany even say that? Fuck.

"No, it's not, Brittany! It stopped being your fucking business when you walked out and flew back to Chicago without a single. Fucking. Word!" Santana spits, heat pricking at her eyelids as she bangs her fist against the counter, punctuating her words. Luckily, the adrenaline seeping through her veins prevents her from feeling any physical pain, but she knows later, she'll feel it. "It stopped being your business so now you've seen I'm not dead, now you've seen I got the shit kicked out of me, you can fucking go back," she blurts out and pauses to pant a little, her eyes searching Brittany's as blue eyes just stare at her. "That's the reason you came back, isn't it? To clear your conscience?"

"No," Brittany defends immediately, pulling her head back and squinting in disbelief. "I didn't even know that you were beaten up until I got her, Santana, so don't give me that."

It's sort of stamps on her point, and so Santana lets her shoulder sag and features relax. Shit. Now she's not so much angry as she is hurt.

"Then why?" She breathes, a pressure building on her chest as a tear falls from her eye, trailing down her cheek. "Why did you come back?" She asks, wiping away the tear with the back of her finger before she stares the other girl in the eye.

"Because I'm stupid," Brittany replies like it's going to fix everything.

And because Santana's still madly in love with this girl, no matter how much she's hurting right now, she immediately interjects with, "You're not stupid."

The corners of the blondes lips quirk and she makes her way around the bar, pushing open the door and letting it fall shut as she approaches Santana. Brown eyes stay trained on her the entire way, and Santana knows that her will to block this girl out, to stay mad at her is slowly fading. Brittany may have left, but Santana would still do anything to have her back again. No matter what she might say.

"I am," Brittany says, her eyes shining and apologetic. She inches forward, her hand twitching and Santana recognizes it as a sign for the blonde wanting to hold her hand, but she stops it before it happens and shakes her head, hating the way Brittany's face falls with rejection and hurt and how it gives Santana absolutely no satisfaction whatsoever. "But so are you."

Just like that, the anger's back again. Santana's eyebrow shoot up to her hairline and she scoffs, her ribs protesting at the movement. "Excuse me?" She asks, rhetorically. Did Brittany really just say that?

"We're both as dumb as each other."

Brittany says it with such innocence that Santana has to blink, go over the words in her mind at least five times before she answers. "Do you wanna fucking elaborate on that, Britt? Because as I see it, you're the one that left."

"And you're the one that made me," the blonde shoots back, stepping closer and not even bothering to check with Santana as she reaches for her hands. "San," she starts, looking deeply into dark eyes. "If you don't want me to leave, then don't push me away."

"What? Because I didn't tell you about my past then that's me pushing you away?" Santana grits out, teeth grinding together. "Because I didn't open up to you?"

"I never needed you to tell me about your past, Santana!" Brittany suddenly yells, lifting her hands into the air and running them through her hair, heavily dropping them back to her side. Santana jerks her head back. It's not? "I never needed to know everything because that's not the person I fell in love with!"

Features dropping, Santana narrows her eyes. "What?"

"Santana, I don't know about your past, but I don't care," Brittany explains, turning her palms up and shrugging like that was so obvious. "I don't care because that's not who you are. Your past doesn't define you and I fell in love with the Santana Lopez that I know you are today."

It's so simple. So simple and Santana never really thought about it like that. She thought her past made her who she is, but in fact, it's taught her to be someone else. She moved away from New York because she didn't want to be a bad person. She didn't want to sell drugs and get into heavy shit like her brother did, but she always thought that because bad blood ran in her veins, because her brother was a bad person, that she automatically was too and so she carried that around for years. But Brittany's now completely changing her thoughts. Brittany fell in love with the person that Santana is, with everything Santana left behind and suddenly it all makes sense.

She isn't a bad person. She thought she was because that's all she's ever known, but just because she's had a bad past, doesn't mean that's who she is.

"I fell in love with the Santana Lopez that loves me so much that she let two guys beat the crap out of her all because she thought I'd be disappointed in her," Brittany continues and steps forward, her hands coming up to the collar of Santana's shirt, fingers tracing the edge as their eyes search each other. "Although, that was kind of stupid, San."

Santana manages a weak smile but forces herself to step back because this is all too much. Brittany can't come back after five weeks of nothing and sweet talk her walk back into her life. Nothing's changed. Brittany still walked out and that's the bottom line.

"So what, then?" She asks, shaking her head. "You expect me to just forgive you? You turn up out of the blue and that's it? We get back together and forget everything?" Santana asks, lifting a shoulder because no, that's not how things work. "You think I'm just going to forget that you walked out my life for five weeks?"

"No, I don't," Brittany answers honestly, shaking her head. "I expect us to try and get through this because that's what couples do when they fight."

"But I don't want to fight anymore, Britt! I don't wanna fight with you, or in the cage. I mean fuck, I got the shit beaten out of me because I convinced myself if I didn't fight them you'd come back."

"And I did come back," the blonde replies. "I came back because I'm in love with you, Santana."

"So why did you leave in the first place? You were in love with me before and you still left!"

"I left because I–" Brittany drops her head, suddenly going back on her words and suspicion spikes through Santana. "Because I had to."

Santana's not buying it though, so she shakes her head, upper lip curling and eyes narrowing. "You're lying," she accuses. "Just tell me why you went back."

It's said lowly and Brittany must be able to tell that Santana's not going to take anymore shit by her expression and her tone because she wets her lips and takes in a deep breath, meeting dark eyes.

"I went back to tell everyone that I was leaving Chicago."

Dark eyebrows push together, confusion pulsing through Santana's being. "What?"

Brittany steps forward, head tilting. "I never meant to leave," she says and it just confuses Santana more. What the hell was she doing then with packed bags and a freaking plane ticket? "After I left your house, I went home and in the heat of the moment, I started packing my bags." Santana winces, eyes closing but cold hands reach forward, cupping her cheeks and urging her eyes back up. "And as I was doing it, I started crying because everything inside of me was saying that I didn't want to go. That I never wanted to and I knew at some point, I'd have to because what you said was true," she shrugs and Santana looks at her. Like really looks at her, trying to see the answer before it's revealed. "My life was back in Chicago, with all my friends and my job, and I knew at some point I was going to have to go back there."

Santana gulps, not entirely sure of where this is going. The only thing she's hanging on to is that she hasn't heard the words I'm leaving forever or I'm breaking up with you for Sam so she's okay for now.

"So I just left to try and get my head together," Brittany continues, her thumbs stroking over bruised skin. "I left and when I was sitting on that plane, I realized that I had to make a choice." Her voice is soft and easy now, and even though Santana's still hesitant about where this is leading, she has to admit it calms her a little. "I could either spend my time flying between Grantsville and Chicago, screwing up my job and pissing off you and my friends, or I could do something permanent about it."

Cocking her head to the side, Santana frowns at the girl. "Do something permanent about it?"

Brittany nods slowly, sucking in her lips and inhaling deeply through her nose. "I could break up with you," she starts and Santana's heart leaps up into her throat, the tears pooling in her eyes at the thought of the blonde breaking up with her but Brittany's right there, forcing her to look at her again and breathing heavier than before. "No, listen, Santana," she says, desperation in her tone and Santana brings her eyes back up, willing herself not to break down right here. "I could either do that... or I could move here and be with you."

All the pieces slowly begin fitting together and Santana's heart begins calming down, her pulse no longer roaring in her ears, but a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips.

"You could move here?" She echoes, trying not to get too ahead of herself as it'll only hurt more if she's wrong.

Brittany's face splits into a quick grin and she nods. "Or I could move here," she repeats and shifts forward, their bodies pressing against each other and faces now impossibly close. Santana's hands instantly fall to her hips, fingers curling around her jacket. "And so I chose that."

It takes all words away from Santana's brain and she lets the decision sink in. Shit. Brittany's actually here, and she's actually fucking moving here. Though as her thoughts process, she realizes something and can't stop herself from speaking up.

"Your friends..." She draws off, thinking about Quinn and Sam. "And your job..." She adds on, just as breathless.

Okay, yeah, she's fucking ecstatic that Brittany's moved here, or is moving here, but Santana doesn't want to be the reason Brittany loses her friends and her job. She can't do that. She loves Brittany with everything she has but she won't be responsible for destroying the rest of her life. In fact, she loves her too much to do that.

Fuck.

"My friends understand," Brittany continues, softly, removing a hand to stroke back a lock of dark hair. "I talked to Quinn about it and she told me to follow my heart," she shrugs and drops her eyes again, meeting Santana's. "And it led me back to you."

"But your job..."

"I can get a new one," the blonde replies like it's the simplest thing in the world. "Even if it's working here in Puck's bar, or helping Mrs. Williamson down in the grocery store," she pauses to smile at Santana and shrug. "It doesn't matter. I just wanna be with you."

It may not solve all their problems, and they still have a lot to talk about, but for now it'll do. Because it hits her, really blindsides her that this is serious and this is happening. Brittany loves her and is moving to Grantsville, the shittiest place since Shitsville because she wants to be with Santana. She's giving up her life for love, and even though Santana's pretty much against that, she can't fight how great it feels to have someone value her that much. To accept that someone loves her that much.

So she wraps her arms around the blonde girl and pulls her into a hug. Long arms wind around her neck and she closes her eyes as their bodies press together fully, her knees almost buckling as a familiar warmth spreads throughout her body and head swims with Brittany's scent. She can't deny it; she's missed this girl so much. It was like half of her was missing, like she wasn't fully there and now she has Brittany back, their bodies pressed together for the first time in over a month and it feels too fucking good that she lets her eyes flutter shut, all the pain and ache from her bruises and gashes seep from her mind as she revels in their reunion.

Though too soon, Brittany breaks the hug, but doesn't move her body, just keeps her arms around Santana's neck and faces close together as she speaks. "But you have to let me love you, San," she breathes, her breath hot against her face. "And at some point you're going to have to trust me."

"Britt," Santana starts, closing her eyes, clenching her jaw and dropping her head a little. This is one of those issues they have to talk about because she knows an apology won't fix everything. She does trust Brittany, she really does and she wants to tell her but she doesn't know how it'll convince her. "I do trust you, I just—" All of a sudden, she stops short and tilts her head, an idea suddenly springing to mind. "Will you come with me somewhere?

It's a swift change of conversation and Brittany blinks, fair brows knitting together in the middle of her forehead. Still, she nods and Santana takes in a deep breath, moving away and hating herself that she didn't kiss her whilst she could as she slides her hand down the blonde girls arm, finding her fingers and letting her own slides through the gaps there. Then she shoots a smile at Brittany, who offers a trusting one back and Santana leads them out the door of the bar, into the cold and stops on the porch, eyes searching around the snow and houses until she finds Puck and Shelby, standing beside Puck's truck, talking intently.

"Shelby?" Santana calls, her body suddenly thrumming with nerves and heart racing inside her chest. "Can you come over here, please?"

The older woman looks to Puck but nods, kissing him quickly on the cheek as she comes over, her pace steady and hands clasped in front of her body. She climbs the small step on to the porch to join them and shakes her head, freeing the white flecks of snow from her hair before smiling warmly at both of them.

"Have you two girls made up?" She asks and Santana laughs a little, her head turning when Brittany says, "we're getting there," and squeezes her hand reassuringly. "Good."

Santana purses her lips into an 'o' shape and blows out, throat thickening as she thinks of what she's about to do. "Shelby, I'd like you to officially meet someone."

Shelby smiles, her eyes flitting to Brittany and Santana feels the significance of this moment as blue eyes flicker to her, Brittany's face suddenly turning very serious because this is a formal introduction to Santana's family. It may not be blood, but blood doesn't mean family and as far as she's concerned, Shelby is her family. (Bar Puck, but he's more like a perverted second cousin.) Shelby one of the most important aspects in Santana's life and now Santana's introducing her to another most important aspect of her life: Brittany.

"Brittany Susan Pierce," she starts, using her other hand to reach across and pull the blonde girl forward gently, before she looks to Shelby. "I'd like you to officially meet Shelby Corcoran."

Shelby steps forward, her eyes gleaming and Santana lets her eyes drift to Brittany just for a second, only to find tears streaming from the blondes face as she shakes hands with Shelby, officially being introduced because right now, all three of them—hell, even Puck probably knows—how damn significant this moment is because this isn't just a first for Santana, but this is a first for Shelby, and Brittany, and this is the securing of their relationship because yeah, sure, they still have their problems and are going to have to work to get back to what they were, but this is solidifying their future. This is Santana telling Brittany that she trusts her with all her heart, that she loves her with all her heart and that she wants her to stay in her life. Forever.

"Brittany," Shelby starts, her eyes darting to Santana and back to blue eyes once more, both of her hands now cupping Brittany's left one. She takes in a deep breath and the most honest and loving of smiles comes on her face as she says, "Welcome to the family."

And even though they may not be family right now, this meeting between Shelby and Brittany is a promise that they will be. Because Santana Lopez is head over heels in love with Brittany Pierce and always will be.

And because Brittany saved Santana when she didn't know she needed to be saved, and because Santana saved Brittany right back.

/

Read through this like three times, but I'm tired and so I know I will have made mistakes. But overall, not entirely happy with the ending but hey, it's the best I could do right now so I hope you enjoyed and please leave a review if you can! If not, thanks for reading once again and hugs to you all for being awesome!