I've said from the start
That you could take it or leave it
Prefer that you keep it
Don't let go
Don't let go
Don't let go
- This is For Real, Motion City Soundtrack
Some months ago, in the midst of the confusion that was caused by her unexpected reunion with Finn and her falling into bed with Santana, Rachel and Santana had not shared a room.
It had been the first time Rachel had been apart from Santana in what seemed like forever, and to Rachel, who sometimes wondered if she felt everything with twice as much emotion as a regular person, it felt like a prison.
Highly ironic, considering they had finally made it to a place where they could consider themselves relatively free; clothed and fed and part of an emerging colony of survivors who were aimed at beating the infection and retaking civilization from the bandits, with a hobbled government's approval.
She was set free in a choir room, when Santana kissed her and confessed to her that she loved her.
In the wake of Santana's absence, Rachel once again found her solace there, at a piano, tinkering with keys and absorbing her emotion in music.
"I am trying...Not to tell you…But I want to…" Rachel closed her eyes and shut out the world. "I'm scared of what you'll say…So I'm hiding... what I'm feeling...But I'm tired of…Holding this inside my head-"
Her fingers trip over the chords, muscle memory slowly being relearnt. Rachel bites her lip and keeps going. "I've been spending all my...time just thinking about ya - I don't know what to do - I think I'm fallin' for you…"
The sound of hands clapping together brings her out of the moment. Head lifting, Rachel discovers Finn Hudson standing in the doorway, smiling at her with an expression that seems both sincere and bittersweet.
"That sounds amazing."
She manages a smile in return. "It's 'Fallin' for You' by Colbie Caillat," she informs him gravely. "The original version had a guitar, but I always wanted to try it as a simple ballad with just a piano." She presses down and lets a note ping into the air. "I always thought the lyrics were so quietly sincere, it would suit it."
"It does," he agrees, though Rachel suspects he has no real opinion one way or another.
She tinkers with the ivory keys, and finds herself admitting, "Back when Santana and I were still on the run, right before we ran into you, she'd fall asleep and I'd just lie there, and I'd sing this to her, under my breath." She exhales raggedly and glances up to Finn. "It seemed to perfectly express my conflicting feelings."
Finn absorbs that, and Rachel wonders how they've come to this moment, where he can hear that and simply nod.
Finn had been angry at first. Rachel didn't blame him. He had a dream, just like she did, and letting it go when it seemed to be just within their grasps had not been easy.
Therapy had been in the form of singing, and it was only when, in preparation for their first USO concert, Finn had sung to her a version of Weezer's 'Pink Triangle' that she really understood that she and Finn's friendship would survive.
"They're coming back, you know."
He pushes his large hands into the pockets of his cargo pants as he comes forward, settling down beside her and offering her a supportive smile.
His reassurance is appreciated, but Rachel finds it doesn't really help. "Thanks," she says anyway. "But it was supposed to be just a couple weeks, wasn't it?"
"Sometimes things take longer." Finn shrugs. "You know how the Crazies are. You gotta make sure the area is completely clear. And if one of them managed to get into the nearby lake? They gotta sweep the entire thing. Otherwise he's gonna pop up in ten years and start this all over again."
It's the easy answer of an experienced soldier, but when he smiles, it's all Finn, sweet and beautiful.
"I need to ask you a favor," he tells her, and reaches for the keys, plunking down a chord with his large fingers. "I want to sing something to Carly. You know, when we get married. You know my voice isn't what it used to be and I thought maybe you could help me."
The old Rachel, the bit of her that does exist, finds herself wounded. This is, after all Finn, and his bashful, lovestruck smile, the way he tints pink at his cheeks and the tips of his ears, was supposed to be meant for her.
"If it's too weird," he begins and Rachel finds herself flushing, shaking her head immediately.
"No," she insists, reaching out to touch his shoulder reassuringly. "Seriously," she says, because she's honestly and genuinely happy for him. "I'd be honored to help you."
He grins at her, grateful, and she discovers she's grateful too. Her mind has never stopped working, and Santana is gone, fighting the very things they've been terrified of for years, and Rachel feels like she can't breathe.
Anyone would tell her a distraction would be the best thing to keep herself from going mad.
"Do you have a song in mind?"
His grin grows wider.
She meets Carly. She's a blonde and tall, and a bit of a bitch.
She reminds Rachel so much of Quinn Fabray that it nearly brings tears to her eyes.
At the start of the third week, Rachel's mind betrays her again with fears of the worst. Even Finn has begun to feel uneasy, and plans for his wedding stall as he puts off any ceremony without Puck as his best man.
They're locked in a waiting game, and each day seems the longest of Rachel's life.
Shadows darken her eyes due to her lack of sleep, and Rachel's insides remain determinedly fragile. She has trouble taking deep breaths because of the pain that comes from pure tension, and it's in this moment, that Rachel decides that she no longer has to know exactly where she stands.
She doesn't have to know if Santana loves her for who she is, because at least she knows that Santana loves her. She knows that while she may not have the permission to dream, she has permission to feel. She has permission to touch.
She has permission to kiss Santana, to breathe her in, to stare at her with her obsessive eyes and worship, even if Santana calls her a freak for doing it.
She would take back every single demand; every overreaction if that meant she could just see Santana again.
Children trickle out of her classroom, and Rachel manages a smile for them as she waits in her classroom, attempting to gather her resolve to go back to the empty room she normally shares with her lover.
A tall man with a beard and glasses stares at her from the doorway, knuckles against the door like he's been knocking on it for some time.
"Pastor Baker." Rachel pushes off the desk, and though her head is pounding, her heart is sinking, she is polite enough to extend a hand and offer it to him. "How are you?"
His grip is firm. "I'm well, thank you. I'm sorry for the interruption but I was in the building, and I thought I'd take some time to come see you. How are the children?"
He asks with quiet concern, and Rachel tries hard to will away the sudden dread that takes hold in the pit of her stomach. "As well as can be expected," she says honestly. "Most are severely traumatized. It will be a long time before a few feel truly safe. But they're resilient and eager to learn."
"Children are a blessing," he muses, and smiles kindly. "May I see the curriculum?"
Rachel's brow furrows. "May I ask why you would feel the need to see it?"
He just chuckles, and offers her a look that she can't read at all. "Of course. I may have some comments, is all." When Rachel does not respond, his shoulders lift in a mild shrug. "I've had a couple of my congregation members express concerns."
Rachel's body stills. "What kind of concerns?"
His smile fades, and he clears his throat, as if preparing himself for an uncomfortable situation. "Well, there's been some concern that your certain… lifestyle… may bleed into the curriculum you teach."
The knot in her stomach suddenly clenches painfully. He steps forward, so much taller than Rachel. Rachel forces herself not to take a step back. She crosses her arms in defiance.
"My lifestyle," she repeats, and the anger certainly helps. It pulses within her, colors her cheeks.
"Well, you're not exactly quiet about the fact that you carry on a lesbian relationship with a female solider," he says, like it's some sort of embarrassing secret.
The anger solidifies into rage; gives her strength. "Her name is Santana," she snaps, enunciating her lover's name until it bites in the air. "And she's not just my girlfriend. She's my best friend and she's a hero. And I fail to see how that would be any of your congregation's business, Pastor Baker."
The look he gives her is almost patronizing; like he knows better. He steps away from her, looking out the window; and it's so dramatic and forced Rachel feels the urge to smile in mockery.
He exhales. "Ms. Berry, let me explain something to you. I know many people around here believe this to be an apocalypse. I prefer to think of these circumstances as a cleansing." He smiles, as if he's explaining this to a very stupid person. "The world was rife with sin. Godlessness, and just like Noah and the Ark, God has taken it upon himself to rid the world of the sinners. He's given us a second chance. Those of us that are fortunate enough to get that chance should think long and hard about what we want this world to become."
The speech, so vile and damn frightening, overwhelms her. Rachel founds herself actually struck mute.
Salvation comes in the form of Finn, who slides into her doorway and blinks with surprise at seeing the pastor.
"Pastor Baker!" he says, friendly as he comes forward. "What are you doing here?"
The pastor's eyes are locked on hers, and it takes him a long second to glance away to Finn. "Mr. Hudson," he sighs. "You know I take my ministry very seriously. And when I marry a couple, I marry them with the blessing of God. Perhaps you should reconsider the company you keep if you want to be married in my church."
The confusion is blatant on Finn's face. He glances at Rachel, bewildered. "What?"
Rachel's blood is racing, her fingers have curled to form fists, but she finds her voice is surprisingly steady when she enlightens her friend. "He's talking about me, Finn." Her eyes are hooded when she glares at the Pastor. "And my 'unnatural' relationship with Santana."
Finn only seems more confused. "Your relationship is unnatural?"
"Pastor Baker, I grew up with two fathers. There was nothing unnatural about their love for me, and there is nothing that exists between me and Santana except the beauty of unconditional love. The God I believe in would find no fault with that."
The good pastor just smiles back at her pityingly. "Ms. Berry, I take my vocation very seriously. I was a sinner in a previous life, and I've been reformed by the grace of God. He gives us all choices, and should we choose against his will, we are responsible for the consequences."
"Wait, is that a threat?" The confusion seems to have gone from Finn's voice, replaced instead by anger. "Are you threatening her?"
"Finn, there's nothing he can say that can scare me."
Perhaps Pastor Baker doesn't find Rachel intimidating, but there does seem to be something imposing about the tall, heavily muscled, tattooed angry soldier sliding between them, towering over the shorter man.
"Mr. Hudson," Pastor Baker begins, taking a small step back. "Tread carefully."
"No," Finn spits, skin blotchy in his emotion. "Screw that. Rachel is one of my best friends and you don't get to judge her for being in love."
"My step-brother was gay. He was one of the best people I knew. He helped me to be a better person, and God made him who he was. I'm the man I am because I knew him. Because I know Rachel. And the fact that he didn't make it when someone like you did? It makes me sick. Spew your hate speech somewhere else, because I'm done listening."
Pastor Baker's face is red. His posture is tense, and Rachel has never been more proud of the boy she loved when he stands against her, unapologetic and furious for all the right reasons.
"Mr. Hudson, if you're going to marry in my church-"
"Screw your church," Finn snaps, "I don't need your blessing to marry my fiancé, and I don't want it."
And this is him. The man Rachel knows Finn would always become when the fear of damaging his high school reputation, of what people thought of him, faded away. He is noble and loyal and a damn near unstoppable force, and Rachel is suddenly so grateful that a man like Finn had survived this along with the Pastor Bakers of the world.
With Finn standing opposite the Pastor, staring him down with his own morals and lack of fear, the fight hardly seems fair.
Mr. Baker exhales and steps for the doorway. "I'll pray for both your souls."
"Pray for yours, you bigoted asshole."
He hesitates, but keeps going.
When the door closes, Rachel feels suddenly weak; winded. It's what she's been afraid of, what she's been waiting for, and somehow the start of this … whatever this is… has come out surprisingly in her favor because although she may not have the Human Rights Coalition or the ACLU to fall back on, she has friends like Finn and an unwavering love for Santana.
Finn's breathing heavy. He's noisy beside her. "My mom was a Christian," he mutters. "She loved everyone. She believed that God loved everyone. What a dick." He glances at her, and he must see the way her face is pale, the quiet maelstrom in her expression, because his hands settle on her shoulders and he squeezes reassuringly. "Rachel, he's an asshole."
"Finn, why did you love me?"
She's well aware that the question seems to come out of left field and Finn, who is generally confused even on a good day, can only stare stupidly.
"What do you mean why, you're Rachel."
He says it so matter-of-factly, but it's not good enough. She's known forever that they were together because they were Finn and Rachel, and that was all that mattered.
But Rachel and Santana doesn't make the same sort of sense that Finn and Rachel do. There is no easy explanation.
"I know who I am," she replies, frustrated despite herself. "Why'd you fall in love with me?"
Finn's mouth quirks. "Because you had an amazing voice and a killer body." When she can only stare in response, he sighs and drops his hands. "I'm not helping, am I?"
"No," she admits. "You're not."
But maybe she should give Finn more credit, because he seems to see past her insecurity, and on his face there is a gentle smile that reminds her of his sweetest moments in high school. "Rachel, what you and Santana have is real. I've seen it. And Pastor Baker is an idiot."
"We had a fight, before she left."
He absorbs that, and then shifts on his feet uncomfortably, as if he's not quite sure what to do with that. "Oh."
That he looks almost frightened when faced with possibly having to deal with girl-drama is an amusement she desperately needs. She clings to it, even as she finds herself sinking down on the edge of her desk, gripping the sides for support.
"I know I'm dramatic, Finn. I know people thought I was a freak in high school." She exhales slowly, and glances towards the closed door, mind suddenly full of the departed Pastor Baker and his view of her 'otherness'. "I know Santana was one of them."
"So? She obviously doesn't now." Finn's assurance is typically male in its simplicity.
He's also quite wrong. Santana still thinks she's a freak.
She just loves her despite it.
Rachel suddenly aches for her. Her eyes catch Finn's, liquid in her worry.
"What if she doesn't make it back?" He stares at her, exhales slowly. "Finn," she begins, tone fragile and devastatingly honest. "I can handle Pastor Baker. I can face it. I'm strong enough for it. But I'm not strong enough to be without her. I honestly don't know what would happen to me if I never saw her again."
Her sincerity is betrayed in her tone, and it affects Finn. He scrubs at his head, shaking his head and sinking into one of the tiny school chairs.
Her smile is bittersweet. "It's ' PTSD bullshit'," she corrects flatly. "That's what Santana calls it anyway."
"And what do you call it?"
Rachel thinks. She thinks of Pastor Baker and the world he wants to create. She thinks of the Crazies and of every person who wasn't lucky enough to get to this point. She tries to imagine never feeling this way. Tries to imagine thinking of Santana and not feeling that twist in her chest that tells her she's missing something desperately precious.
"I call it love," she says finally. "I know its love."
When Finn folds himself out of the tiny plastic chair and opens his arms to her, she sinks into his embrace thankfully.
Rachel considers it something of a rare treat to see Finn Hudson in love.
The experience is oddly surreal; Rachel feels almost like she's outside of herself, as the old version of her still struggles to compute that Finn, wailing through scales and pouring over the lyrics for Motion City Soundtrack's 'This is For Real', isn't toiling for her, but for a bitchy tall blonde who feels threatened by Rachel but adores Finn enough to tolerate their friendship.
Privately, Rachel does believe the fact that she's quite obviously in a lesbian relationship and pathetically in love with her own departed soldier has helped quite a bit.
"You got your happiness," a departed Puck once told her. "So be happy."
Rachel Berry, melodramatic and over-sensitive, considers this sage advice. Oddly, in the wake of her and Finn's confrontation with Pastor Baker, the fear that has crippled and overwhelmed her seems to have ebbed.
She still is sleepless in an empty room. Her insides still itch, like she's swallowed fiberglass. She's still consumed with thoughts of Santana, but since she's been a child, Rachel has known who she is.
She's a survivor, and perhaps some part of her is finally starting to understand that maybe it's okay to want more than that.
Rachel remembers quite vividly a moment in time, dozens of them spread over months, where she fell in love with Santana Lopez.
Rachel had been so unsure, and objectively, the uncertainty was quite natural. After all, she had never fallen in love with another woman. And their circumstances were extreme. They were fighting daily for their lives and the close quarters, the sheer proximity, was enough to make Rachel believe that her morphing feelings were simply exaggerated attachment.
It didn't stop her from catching her breath in those rare moments when Santana laughed. From curling into a sleeping Santana and tracing dirt-smudged features. It didn't stop her heart from feeling like it was about the implode when their eyes connected just a little too long.
Lyrical at heart, Rachel had reverted to habit and tried to absorb her emotion through music. Except the song, the words, they were all in her head, because back then, singing had been forbidden.
Once, she had forgotten herself and hummed in front of Santana. The look Santana had given her, furious and frightened, had squelched the song immediately.
But it said something about human nature that no matter the circumstances, as her feelings evolved, Rachel still dreamed. She constructed a fantasy inside of her head that was so fragile she wouldn't dare even think about it for fear it would never come true, and it involved a moment, just one, where she would find the courage to sing again.
"What?" Finn asks, interrupting her musings with a poke on her shoulder. "You're all… think-y. What's up?"
She sucks in a breath and settles back on the lawn. Children play in front of them. It's a new sight, something that has happened only fairly recently. The laughter that erupts from them is precious.
"What do you think Santana would ever do?" she muses. "If I serenaded her in front of her unit?"
In the middle of a drink, Finn chokes, spewing water on the blanket. "She'd die of embarrassment," he tells her, wiping at his face with the back of his hand. "And then she might shoot you."
Rachel flushes, glancing down at her sheet music. "Probably."
"You really wanted to do that, didn't you?"
Her head comes up. Finn is watching her with a look of bemusement and affection. "What?"
"That song you'd sing to her when she was asleep." Finn arches a brow, a half smile curling on his face. "You totally wanted to sing it to her, didn't you? For real? Like this dramatic declaration of love?"
He's teasing her, and Rachel can't quite laugh with him. Not with something this intensely personal. "You know I best express myself with music," she says quietly. "It seemed the best option."
"So why didn't you?"
She inhales raggedly, and blushes, suddenly overtaken by the feeling of Santana's body pressing hers into the dank ground, the taste of Santana's tongue, the feel of Santana's fingers stretching into her.
Color stains her cheeks as she squirms. "We ended up having sex instead."
When Finn stays quiet, she looks up to gauge his response. The expression on his face makes her think he may have swallowed something sour.
"That's one way to do it."
The wind is picking up. Rachel takes a moment to quietly watch the way the branches rustle in the trees above them. "I wanted to," she says, as some leaves flutter to the ground. "I was afraid. That she would laugh at me."
The old Santana would have. She would have stared at her like she was a freak and she would have probably rolled her eyes with disinterest, because no one annoyed her quite the way Rachel did.
One of the leaves floats by her skirt, landing on the blanket. Carefully, she picks it up, twirls it by its stem.
"So do it. Sing it."
A morose smile flits onto her face. Her head shakes slowly. "Finn." He taps her, harsh and bruising enough to jolt her head up. The leaf falls from her fingers. "Finn!"
"Seriously." There's an odd smile on his face, and his eyes are sparkling maniacally. He suddenly reminds Rachel of a demented clown. "Like she was right here. Like she was coming for you right now." He doesn't seem to be looking at her, but rather, past her. Rachel finds her suspicion growing. She begins to turn to look behind her, but Finn tugs her hand, forcing her attention back to him. "I want you to sing it. If you could sing any song to Santana that expressed exactly what you felt right now, what would it be?"
It's out of nowhere, and Rachel finds herself suddenly oddly self-conscious, glancing around them at the children playing and the other civilians sitting on the grass.
"Out here? On the lawn?"
"When have you ever been shy?"
He has a point.
The image of Santana comes to her like a ghost, with her long dark hair and her almond eyes, striding toward her with combat boots and her damn tattoo and that patented scowl that couples as her defense mechanism.
Rachel blinks, and the image fades away. Suddenly sweaty, she wipes her palm on her skirt, takes in an unsteady breath.
Finn's smile is nothing but encouraging.
"The song would be 'Run'," she says, like they're in Glee Club again and she's beginning another solo. "By Snow Patrol, but I'll be singing it in the style of Leona Lewis."
Finn rolls his eyes, but nods, settling back on the blanket and giving her his full attention.
It takes a moment, and she's ashamed to say her first note is wobbly, but as she hears herself, the pitch steadies, and suddenly it's just her and the music, loud and clear and unafraid.
It's the lyrics, the poetry of the words, that causes her breathing to go ragged, her throat to close up.
"To think I might not see those eyes…Makes it so hard not to cry…"
When her eyes begin to sting with moisture, she gulps and forces herself to soldier on.
" And as we say our long goodbye…I nearly do…"
Her fingers wrinkle in the fabric of her skirt, and she's taken by surprise when wetness drips onto her cheek. Her visions had gone blurry, and around them, there's nothing but quiet. Even the children have stopped playing, and everyone on this lawn, all of them, are witnessing Rachel's bleeding heart.
Her head lowers. The tears fall silently.
"Light up, Light up," she manages, chin lifting and glossy eyes staring up towards the sky. "As if you have a choice… Even if you cannot hear my voice…"
There's a crunch of leaves behind her, and through the stillness breaks a familiar voice, that is acerbic and acidic in everyday life, but astounding in song.
"I'll be right beside you dear."
Rachel's eyes open. For a moment, she's frozen in time, fixated completely on that disembodied voice that is distinctly Santana.
Lost, afraid even to hope, she stares beseechingly to Finn. What she receives is a watery affectionate stare and a reassuring smile, before his eyes once again move away from her and stare behind her.
She's broken. She has to be. She can't move. She can't even breathe, and Rachel finds her heart swelling with sputtering hope, as she lifts to her knees and jerks her head to look behind her.
She finds her almost immediately, looking dirty and disheveled and shouldering that stupid gun, with those same pouty lips and those same deep dark eyes, standing beside Noah Puckerman.
Noah waves, and Rachel discovers she can barely comprehend his presence. So much of her is too focused on willing herself to believe this isn't a dream.
"Santana…" she says, under her breath and almost like a question. It comes out weak, but it seems to have some power, because it manages to break Santana free of whatever spell she's under, and she's walking towards her those last few feet, until she's kneeling beside her.
"You wanted to serenade me?" Santana asks, all disbelief and slight horror and it's so distinctly Santana, Rachel feels a choked laugh burst out of her, the joy hitting her like a speeding train, nearly blindsiding her.
"Yes," she admits. "There would have been an orchestra. And flowers. And maybe a ballet."
Santana absorbs that, taking in Rachel's romantic, dramatic aspirations. A small, delicate smile grows on her lips, and Rachel, hauntingly aware of herself, of the goosebumps that have prickled on her skin and the way her entire body seems to hum in anticipation, shivers uncontrollably when a warm hand suddenly skims her cheek.
Santana's thumb flits against her jaw, and she's staring at her like she can't look anywhere else.
"Sorry I'm late," she says.
Her heart sputters, happiness invading her in every sense, from the sight of Santana to the smell of the air, to the touch she's leaning into and the words that have seeped into her.
"You're always late."
Santana's smile is gorgeous, and Rachel sees it for only a split second because Santana jerks forward, engulfing her in a crushing embrace.
Her answering kiss is shamelessly lewd. Her lips slide hungrily across Santana's, and its desperation feels mutual; savage.
A long moment later, when her lips are swollen from Santana's mouth and she's breathless from emotion, Santana's arms weave around her and Rachel's so dizzy she can do nothing but close her eyes and hug her back.
Her moist cheek slides against Santana's as lips flutter against her ear. "You and your god-damn drama."
She smiles, as her forearms wind around Santana's shoulders. "I think you love it."
Rachel Berry knows exactly who she is, and at that moment, she's a person who is beside herself with love.
She's panting, giddy with joy and fevered with desire and adrenaline.
And she can't stop touching Santana.
She hasn't since that spectacle on the lawn, where their embrace was interrupted by clapping, whistles and shouts, like the climax of some great romantic movie, with a sweeping soundtrack of violins and a fade to black.
There is no fade to black.
The door jars with the force that she slams her lover against it, and when Santana erupts in a gorgeous, crystal clear laugh, Rachel just grins back wickedly and pushes flush against her, dipping her head to taste salty skin along a slender neck.
The laughter morphs into a tortured groan, and the sound of it vibrating against Rachel's lips brings with it an aroused shudder.
This is sex. It's primal: an exchange of fluids, writhing bodies, and an ache that throbs from her chest to between her legs. Its lust, and it manifests itself like a drug of the addicted.
Rachel feels nearly euphoric as hands press against her, seemingly everywhere at once; skimming at her sides and underneath her skirt, smoothing against her shoulder blades and tangling into her nape.
Her teeth nip her way up to Santana's ear, and as her tongue curls against Santana's earlobe, she palms her lover's breast, humming in appreciation.
Santana chuckles again, and the sound is as beautiful as music. Rachel trembles in her emotion, lifting her head to meet Santana's open mouth, kiss her desperately and thankfully.
"We need to get inside," Santana mutters against her lips, but her tongue slides deeply into Rachel's mouth and her hand sneaks under Rachel's skirt again, palming her ass to drive her leg in between Santana's, pushing against her writhing hips.
Sucking in a heated breath, Rachel is in no hurry. With a forceful tug, she traps Santana's waist with her hands and grinds into her. Santana's head flops back against the wooden door; her eyelids flutter with appreciation.
"Why?" Rachel asks, pumping her hips slowly until Santana grabs hold of the back of her head and steers her back to her mouth.
"Because," Santana whispers, a long moment later. "I need to take your clothes off. Like right now." Santana's fingers work between them, until they're cupping Rachel through her skirt, pressing in hard. "I can't wait to taste you."
The arousal hits her like a drug.
Dizzy, she nods breathlessly, and her eyes flutter shut when Santana tilts her head forward to kiss her, fumbling blindly with the key card.
There is a God, Rachel thinks, when the door gives way suddenly and they tumble through the entrance.
Rachel manages to catch herself, but Santana sprawls on the floor, legs splayed open and mouth gaping, rubbing at her head.
The sight causes her to laugh suddenly, and she pays for it when Santana's eyes narrow and launches up wordlessly to grab hold of her knees and bring her down with her.
Her startled shriek dies immediately when Santana palms her face and kisses her, sucking her tongue into her mouth and twisting her hips, knocking Rachel sideways.
It's make up sex, Rachel realizes suddenly, when Santana rolls between her legs and tugs, pulling her into her. This is make up sex and thank-god-we're-alive-sex. All together.
"What are you smiling at?" Santana asks, hands on either side of her head, long hair cascading down.
Rachel reaches up to smooth a lock over Santana's earlobe, clearing her face. "I'm just happy."
The simple statement makes Santana's smile falter. "Rachel…"
But Rachel is in no mood for hashing things out. She knows her reputation. She knows she's the one who always wants to talk, but at the moment she's only interested in Santana's unspoken language, the one Rachel is learning well.
Her head lifts to capture Santana's lips, kissing her breathless as she squirms underneath her, fussing with her own shirt until she can break away from Santana and haul it over her head, flinging it towards the wall.
Santana sucks in her breath, eyes locked on her chest. Rachel just smiles, and reaches for her bra straps, yanking them down her shoulders and twisting the straps to fumble with the clasp.
"Holy fuck," Santana whispers. Her head dips to her bared breasts, but Rachel holds her steady with a hand to her shoulder, shaking her head and curling her fingers underneath Santana's shirt, scratching up a flat stomach.
She hauls up the shirt, mussing up Santana's hair and smooshing her nose as it comes off.
Santana grunts, kisses her as soon as it's off, but Rachel is of a one track mind, and though she's grinding against Santana, though her tongue is tangled against hers and her fingers are thumbing a nipple through the fabric of Santana's bra, she bucks her hips, throwing Santana off-balance.
She lands on her back, and Rachel takes advantage, straddling her lover and smiling in triumph.
The smile fades as soon as she reaches for Santana's sports bra, and sees unfamiliar ink, just underneath Santana's eagle's outstretched claws.
"You got another tattoo?" she blurts, and Santana stops breathing.
Rachel frowns, curls her fingers underneath and yanks the fabric aside.
What she sees, she can't quite understand. Not immediately.
Just above Santana's left breast, right over the place where her heart would be, there is a simple outline: a star.
"I wanted it to be gold," Santana whispers. Rachel, still settled on Santana's hips, meets her gaze in quiet wonder. On her lover's face is an uncertain, nervous expression. "But we were out in the field and there was only a guy and a needle and…"
She bites her lip, and traces the sore skin, still puffy from the abuse. Santana sucks in her breath, but bears the pain.
Santana has tattooed a star, meant to be a gold star, over her heart.
Rachel sucks in her breath, like she's been struck, and the tears are almost unstoppable. They pool in her eyes as her smile trembles.
Santana's fingers reach up, carefully cover her own. "Rachel, you're kind of a freak." Her brow lifts. "You're so full of yourself that it drives me nuts. You don't know when to shut up. I've wanted to gag you more times than I can count. You can't do anything like a normal person. You need a stage and an audience and sometimes I think you're not a real person, but a cartoon." Rachel can only offer a choked laugh, nodding helplessly. Santana's smile widens. "And when I look at you, you take my breath away. When I'm not with you, I feel like I'm missing an arm. When you sing, I fall in love with you all over again, and every time you smile I want to figure out what I did just to see you smile again." The grip against Rachel's fingers tightens. "You're annoying and crazy and beautiful and even though this place is nuts, even when it feels like it's just the two of us against the world, I can't help but think that when we're together, we're kicking its ass."
Rachel Berry, dreamer, survivor, and hopeless romantic understands that there are some things that are indisputable.
She has talent. Zombies exist. Finn's kind of dumb, but he might be president someday. Puck's a dick, but he's not an asshole. Santana's a bitch, but Rachel adores her.
These are facts.
She's practically blind with tears, but she nods fervently and whimpers against Santana's mouth, cementing her emotions, Santana's profession, with a hungry kiss of devotion and certainty.
"It's you and me against the world," Santana whispers against her lips, head tilting against hers.
Rachel feels the tears trickle down her cheeks, but she nods. "No matter what."
"No matter what," Santana repeats. "And we're kicking its ass."
This isn't an opinion.
Rachel suddenly believes this to be unmitigated fact.
She sinks down onto Santana as their kiss deepens.
The world, with its Pastor Bakers and Crazies and marauders, doesn't stand a chance.