"Jesus Christ, Fabray. Are you trying to kill me? It's hot as hell in here."

There's a console that separates the two of you and she shoots you a glance from her place in the driver's seat, hands gripped tight around the leatherbound wheel, eyes fixed on the road ahead. You wait for any signs of movement, counting impatient seconds as dry heat continuously steals what little moisture remains. You're desperate for air, the crisp whip of wind to break the spell. You're not sure how or why you're sweltering when it's only twenty degrees outside, but especially beneath your jacket, it's like the fucking Arizona desert in this little Volkswagen. If she expects you to make it all the way to Michigan, there's gonna have to be some compromise.

Your pointer finger keeps pressing down buttons, but nothing happens. "Seriously, Q? Window locks? I'm not five. Turn this shit off. You're roasting me."

Her eyebrow twists, "No way. You're gonna have to deal, my feet are freezing. Can't you take off your jacket or something?"

You can tell by the way she's pulling her knit hat over her ears that she's cold, so you huff in acquiescence, maneuvering yourself within the limited confines of the car. Nothing about it is easy, but you manage, and the second the heavy leather shrugs off your shoulders, you feel an instant, glorious chill wash over you.

She watches you lean back again and sigh. "Better?" she asks.

"Yeah, I guess." The window still would've been the better option.

She grows quiet for a moment, her fingers fiddling with temperature dials before finding her voice again. "I'm glad you decided to come. I was beginning to think you didn't like me anymore."

"Whatever," you roll your eyes. "Don't start handing me that sensitive crap. I told you, I had nothing better to do."

Admittedly, it's true. You were a bit disappointed when you got the early morning phone call, the staffing office informing you your services were not needed for the day. It doesn't happen often, or pretty much ever, but during the holidays when the patient census tends to get low, time off will occasionally occur. And since PTO rotation manages on a past holiday basis, it really isn't that surprising; you've worked every holiday for the past year and a half.

Anyone else would feel fortunate, you're very aware of that. Normal people have family and friends, who, unlike you, they actually want to see; but you still can't bring yourself to fathom such a feeling. You get more personal gain from work—that entirely controlled, exhausted feeling that numbs your body.

Perhaps this time it just felt right, and the opportunity presented itself in an endearing enough fashion. Quinn whispered all these sweet nothings into your ear, assuring you there would be forty-eight hours of drama-free family, sleep, sweets, and bad TV. But most of all, you were looking forward to the fulfillment of Bailey's and coffee fantasies. The thought of Irish cream mixed with the bitterness of strong, hot coffee... it's left an urge at the tip of your tongue for days.

How could you not take the bait?

It is Thanksgiving, after all.

"All I'm sayin' is," you send a smirk her way, "if there ain't booze, I'm going home."

You watch a smile touch her lips. "Oh, going home, huh? And just how do you plan on getting there?"

"Please, I'm from Lima Heights. There's always a way."

She rolls her eyes again. You're going to start keeping count of how many times it happens per conversation. "Santana Lopez, I'm not carrying your ass up the stairs on Thanksgiving."

"Yeah, well—been there, done that. I learned my lesson last time you tried to carry me. There were bruises on my ass for weeks."

"Your own fault," she laughs lowly, her eyes flickering over in your direction. "I told you no more Irish Car Bombs."

The vision's still there, very clear in your memory bank. "Hey, they were free..."

"Don't even get me started on that night." She tugs down on her beanie hat again while giving you a playful glare.

"In all fairness, it was still a pretty great night."

"Great? Seriously? It was pouring freezing rain and you puked in my car. Twice."

"Eh, still good company, though."

Her draw drops with exasperation. "Um, if you're talking about the half-naked lady ginger, I'm gonna have to say no. She kept trying to show me YouTube videos of her Taylor Swift covers and photos of her Batman tattoos."

You laugh. "Touché."

One side of her lip curls up in disgust. "I swear, your standards sometimes. I will never understand you."

"Not a lot to understand, Q. It's sex, not dating."

"Ah, how could I forget? Random, gross, gratuitous sex. A little herpes for everybody." Her sarcasm is not lost. It makes you a bit defensive.

"Judge all you want, Mother Theresa. At least some of us are getting it on a semi-regular basis. When's the last time you've even talked to a girl since Rachel?" The pink in her cheeks grows deeper, her ears redder. If she wants to call you out on your shit, you can call her out on hers just as easily.

Quinn starts with a deep sigh. "I... I just don't waste my time pretending to want something I don't, you know? Casual sex... it isn't my thing."

"Well, you should try it sometime. You might like something other than sweater vests and grandma cardigans, you never know."

She laughs sarcastically. "Pot, meet kettle."

You twist your brows. "Um, I don't think you understand that turn of phrase..."

"I swear, you're so blind sometimes..." Quinn's voice trails, like it's about to go somewhere it probably shouldn't.

"I'm not in the mood for your cryptic messages, Fabray."

"Hmmm... I wonder how many times Brittany has said the exact same thing to you." You squint your eyes at the emphasis, and curse her for bringing that sweet name to the forefront of your thoughts.

Not that it wasn't there already.

"You don't even know what you're talking about, so just stop." A heavy breath escapes from between your lips. You've been dreading this moment for weeks. You've always known it was going to come, it's just been a matter of when.

"And how do you figure?"

"You just don't," you assure her with an unsteady voice. "Britt and I...we don't even talk like that."

You taste the lies on the tip of your tongue, just like you tasted her.

Your memory serves as the perfect canvas for your darkest thoughts, and you silently count the nights you've stayed awake, tossing and turning through endless wonder, that hot place between your legs burning for her.

And then, in your chest, you'd feel a different kind of burn.

You stared at the ceiling, and you wondered what she was thinking about. You marveled over your fantasies, perfect pictures of your favorite ideal scenarios on repeat. In your most vivid imaginings, she's all bundled up with a hot chocolate between her palms, sitting on a swing, cheeks red, eyes clear. She'd bring the rim of the cup to her lips, smile softly at you.

It was perfect.

"She's just... a good friend," you state clearly.

"Seems like it."

You nod. "And a really good person, too."

"And you aren't?" It feels like she's trying to remind you.

"Not like she is."

Her hands move smoothly with the wheel as the road ahead twists and turns. "Maybe you are. Maybe you're just not giving yourself enough credit."

You shrug. "Maybe."

With a voice of certainty, "I'm sure she feels the same way."

You give her a glare, and mumble a quiet yeah—a clear indication to change the subject, but Quinn doesn't even so much as flinch. She just keeps going, her left hand moving in tandem with an inquiry, "Have you ever thought about how she might feel?"

You scoff at the audacity of such a question. It's all you think about.

Before you can answer, "And I'm not talking about whether or not you've considered if you're good enough, or too busy, or unavailable, or whatever kind of shit you seem to think. I'm talking have you ever asked yourself how she might feel about you. Just her feelings, not yours."

You sit there, merely looking at her, your before and after thoughts spinning. Everything you thought you knew, everything you've ever considered right and just becomes oddly unprecedented.

You ask yourself a series of silent questions.

Have your imaginings been just that—yours? Have you not thought enough about how your actions make her feel, or how the outcomes effect her existence?

Are you really not considering her at all?

More importantly, should you be?

The clock ticks, and you know you've kept her waiting for an answer long enough. "I—I haven't. I already told you, we're not like that."

"But what I'm saying is, maybe you think you're not, but... it might be different for her."

"Yeah, no," you defend yourself, because she's implying that you're leading Brittany on in some facet. "She knows that we're not gonna be together like that—"

"Santana," Quinn interrupts, "that doesn't mean anything. We never care about the easy people."

Something about that statement resonates inside of you. It's not like you don't that you're difficult to love, but at the same time, hearing it fall from the lips of your best friend...

You shake your head. "You don't know Britt. She wouldn't...She knows it would be a waste of time."

"You're right. I don't know her. But I know how you are."

You lift your brow. "And how's that?"

She smirks. "Stubborn and brilliant."

"Whatever. I'm doing what's right," you say. "I'm horrible with relationships."

"No, you're doing what's selfish."

Your head shake once more and shoot her a glare. "Pfttt. Whatever, Q. That's bull."

"How so? You think talking this big game, using all this female bravado makes you selfless? All you're doing is dehumanizing her wants. You're basically saying she isn't capable of making decisions for herself. The thing is," her voice trails for a moment in contemplation, "our hearts are really good at telling us when and how they want to be broken. If she is willing and that's what she wants, you need to accept that. Even if you think it's wrong."

Your hands thread through your hair, and you sigh deeply. "I...I can't, Q. Not with her. She's different...she deserves better than that."

"Let. Her. Decide."

Her logic is a swift blow, forcing the wind to escape you.

Drops, trickles of reality fall to your feet.

Your mistakes with Brittany rise before you like a deep rooted fallacy climbing limb to limb. The weight of increased numbers, the curve of definition, the blatancy of a pronounced manifestation—you feel it in the hollow of your chest, changing the atmosphere, changing you.

Fuck Quinn and her intelligent reasoning.

You don't want to hear it. You just want a way to prevent people from getting attached to you.

You've already tried caution.

Distance doesn't work.

You're nothing if not aware.

Yet you've mishandled what isn't visible, and you think if only the world could hear the sounds of heartbreak, or see the scars among what's left of human pride, perhaps you'd know how to be better. You could be just a little more careful.

"Yeah," you mumble after a pause.

She finally gives you a reprieve and turns on the music in the background. You end up leaning your head against the window, basking in the quiet, allowing the damp chill from condensation to cool your skin. Your gaze moves to the window, and for the first time since you began this journey, you study the scenery. Sporadic mounds of snow cover the grass. Orange and bronze tinted leaves barely hang from the scarce trees. Discolored bark that's been warped and shaped over the years displays its weathered bruises proudly, and in a way, you admire the courage. Here among the beginnings of winter, the most harsh of seasons, the trees have lost their camouflage, yet the leaves always come back every year, thicker than ever.

You just want to be made of the same bravery.

When Russell Fabray sets eyes on you for the first time in nearly two years, a wide smile breaks free and he pulls you into a hard embrace.

"Santana, so good to see you," he mumbles against your cheek. "It's been too long."

"Sorry, Mr. F. Things have been a little busy," you tell him, sadly, breathing in the smell of sage and butter, a lingering aroma mixing with stock and ginger. It's a bittersweet reminder of your own home back in Lima, and how your abuela is probably stuffing the shit out of a turkey right this second.

The pang in your chest lingers.

He pulls back and looks at you proudly, taking you in. "You're so grown up now," he says. "Gorgeous still, like always."

"Hardly," you assure him modestly with a smile.

Two steps into the living room, and Judy Fabray's response is very similar. You feel like a runway model, spinning and circling until you're half drunk without the liquor, and you're pretty goddamn relieved when the introductions are passed. All you want to do is put your bags down.

"You'd think they haven't seen me in years," you tell Quinn within the safe confines of the guest bedroom.

"They haven't," she deadpans.

"Shut it," you order.

She shrugs. "Well, it's true."

After you settle in, the first order of business is coffee. Quinn leads you to the kitchen and makes you a pot of gourmet blend, your mouth salivating when she hands you the dark, steaming mug.

"Fuck, this smells good."

She smiles, "It's Godiva."

"I love old people, always having awesome shit in the cupboards," you sigh, pouring a healthy portion of Baileys into your coffee.

"You're not going to wait until after dinner?"

You scoff. "I get two days off a month if I'm lucky. I'm surprised I'm not drunk already."

She aims a surprised smirk at you. "Well, then."

For the next few hours you help Judy frost cookies, watch Lifetime Original Movies with Quinn, and win a few games of Scrabble against Russell. The pace you set for yourself with the booze assures that you enjoy your time, yet still lets the edges get a little fuzzy, and you quickly realize how much you're enjoying yourself.

When Judy shouts that dinner is ready, you make your way to the kitchen. "Holy fuck," you whisper to Quinn, your eyes wide at the display before you. You haven't seen so much food in years.

"See what you miss out on when you're being an ass?" she questions.

"I guess so."

And you think she's right when you begin eating, practically moaning at how good everything is. Judy smiles when you compliment her mashed potatoes, and Richard nods his head when you thank him for the generosity.

"Of course, you're always welcome here, Santana. Although, I doubt Maribel wants you to miss another Thanksgiving at home," Judy says with a wink. "I've been meaning to ask how everyone is at the Lopez house. Last I heard, Tony was deployed to Fallujah. He come home yet?"

Your fork stills, your back stiffens. Quinn's eyes fill with panic as you sit there, a bit stuck in motion.

"Um, I'm sure Tony is just fine, Mrs. F." She eyes you curiously, but seems half-way satisfied with your ambiguous answer.

"And how is your father? Still busy as ever?"

You smile, more capable of answering this question than its predecessor. "Yes ma'am. Dr. Lopez is always fine, and always busy."

"Oh, good!" she grins, her eyes sparkling at you. "I heard he received some kind of award? Doctor of the Year or something?" The nod you give is halfhearted, silent.

"I'm glad he's doing so well."

With a fake smile, "Yes, he is."

Thankfully she's done playing 20 Questions, and you excuse yourself a few minutes later when it seems polite enough, heading downstairs and plopping down in front of the fireplace. You need a few minutes to collect yourself, bring the day's thoughts to a low simmer.

You're not surprised when you find Quinn sidling up next to you after a long pause.

She eyes you apologetically. "I'm sorry. I didn't think—"

"It's fine, really. You don't have to explain."

Her eyes are careful as they find yours. "It's just, we need to talk about this eventually, you know? It doesn't need to be this taboo topic that nobody can bring up."

The seriousness in her tone prompts you to give your full concentration, and you sit yourself up straight, rubbing sleepiness from the corners of your eyes.

"It's really not necessary, Q."

Quinn lets out a deep sigh, and quickly lets a breath of air from between her lips. "But it is. It's uncomfortable for everyone, Santana. We keep dancing around the family subject, and it's getting old."

"Well, stop bringing it up then."

"But you obviously need to talk about it," she insists.

"Look," you smile at her, an offer of reassurance. "I appreciate you trying to play Dr. Phil today and everything, but it's really unnecessary. I don't wanna talk about it, I don't wanna share feelings and shit. I just wanna sit here and watch bad TV and enjoy my day, okay?"

"Santana," judging by her voice, you know she's about to push you. "You can't ignore this forever. Your mom—"

Immediately, her voice becomes just another sound wave.

Your smile fades. You're not sure what you're feeling, but something surfaces inside of you, ready to rage. Deep, guttural urges, pushing adrenaline, demanding force. You want nothing more than to curl your hands into fists and slam them against something, brace the hard smash tnat will inevitably follow. But rather, you breathe; you bring your knees up to your chin, you dig your fingers tight into the bend of your skin, pressing hard enough that the surface feels numb. It's a welcome distraction to your always busy mind.

You try not to think about the pressure in your ears, chest, building and building, wanting to expand somewhere.

And echoes, everywhere. The continuation of sounds that just increase the tightening mechanism in your stomach.

"She calls me every week, and I just—"

"Quinn, stop."

"But you need—"

"Fucking stop!" your voice carries, loudly.

She looks at you with a stupefied stare, absolute shock written on her face.

"I don't want to fucking talk about it, okay? So just stop."

"San, I'm..." You're glad her voice trails, because honestly, you don't want to hear it. The attempts to discern your anger and frustration are fruitless. You're still buzzing from it all.

Her eyes follow you to your feet. "Where are you going?"

"Does it matter?" There is a hint of bitterness there.

"Come on, San. It's Thanksgiving."

You want to tell her she should've thought about that before she ran her mouth. At this point you just want a hot ass cup of coffee and some space.

"Just leave me be, Q, alright? It's not like I can fucking go anywhere..."

"San..." Her voice is now apologetic. "I didn't mean. I'm so—"

"Goodnight," you interrupt before walking away.

It's funny how you end up going to be at nine, like some kind of scolded little kid.

The next day, your drive back to Ohio is eerily quiet. You actually end up sleeping for most of it.

Which is fine, because the moment you're back to work, you realize how much shit can accumulate over the course of two days.

Chart documents, medicines, rounds. You're bombarded with it all.

You don't get the opportunity to make it to the ICU until late the following morning, and when you find Anderson's bed empty and nothing but white walls, immediately your heart hammers. You feel panic creeping through your skin. A million what-if scenarios wrap around your mind, and you're ready to check every room in this god forsaken hospital if you have to.

That is, until you find a tired and flushed-faced Kurt leaning against the wall a few feet from the doorway, scrubs wrinkled, hair uncharacteristically out of place. You're not sure if the vision makes you worry more or less.

"What's going on?"

"Ah, you're back. I wasn't sure when you'd be here. There's... there's an issue."

You squint your eyes and cross your arms. "What kind of issue?"

"They think Blaine has some kind of virus. He's really weak, San. It's...not looking good," Kurt bites his lip, trains his eyes on the tiles as he shuffles his feet. "Brittany moved him to a private room. Dr. Schuester doesn't think he's gonna make it through the weekend."

Air leaves your chest. Dead weight fills your stomach. A hot wave hits beneath your eyes, and you turn away, silently telling yourself not to drown in this feeling. You tend to run high on emotion, and you know if you let it happen now, it'll make you seem unprofessional. So you take deep breaths, urging yourself to keep it together. You let the sharpness of your fingernails dig into the meat of your palm, and you press your lips together tightly. .

Finally, you find air again, and notice he's watching you closely.

You clear your throat. "Do they know what it is? The virus?"

With his hands crammed in his pockets, Kurt shrugs. "I don't know."

"Do you know what dose of Cyclosporin he's on?"

He shakes his head slowly, steadily. His eyes are exhausted. "I honestly don't know. I didn't even ask."

"Well, don't you think you should've?" Your voice is sharp, bitter. You don't understand why he's acting like this doesn't matter.

"Santana, don't you dare," you're struck at the way his eyes flash angry at you. "You have no right. It was only a matter of time. I'm surprised he's lasted this long."

You bring your hands up to your forehead, shooting Kurt an incredulous gaze while pressing the pads of your fingers against your temples. "So, what? That's it? You just give up? We just let him die?" You're so tired, so frustrated.

"What else are we supposed to do? He's not even our patient anymore. We're professionals, not God."

"Exactly," you spit. "We're professionals. It's our job to do everything we can."

"Santana, we already have."

"Actually," you step aside, over this conversation, "We haven't." Quickly, you make long strides past him, leaving a trail of disregard behind you.

After you do some research and locate Blaine's room, you find him propped up in bed, head touching the pillow behind him. As you get closer, you look for signs of change. You do it with all your patients, but today, knowing the level of the situation you're in, you do it more so. Two days ago his skin was getting clearer, spurring a small spark of hope that it could revert back to that normal peach tone. Today, you can see open sores, angry red and peeling along his exposed arm.

He notices you and smiles. "I was wondering where you've been." You hear a soft chuckle, still warm with a sense of humor.

"Had a couple of days off," you softly offer in return. "Didn't know I needed to keep close tabs on you. What's going on? How you feeling?"

He shrugs in a guarded manner, as if it hurts his chest to do so, "I'm okay, I guess."

You laugh slightly. "Please tell me you haven't always been this bad at lying."

"Yeah. Kind of," he laughs with a little more exertion this time, and it prompts a series of hoarse coughs that make him grip his chest.

The lack of energy is so evident.

"Well, that cough answers one of my questions," you say, your tone turning more serious.

"Yeah. I've had it for a while. It got bad a few nights ago."

This information prods at you, digs beneath your skin. You knew he was coughing. Why didn't you do anything about it days ago? Weeks ago?

"Did they give you something?"

He smiles sadly and shrugs. "I'm pretty sure they've given me every drug on the planet. You could probably hit me with a sledgehammer and I'd barely feel anything."

You see the settled smirk on his face.

"Does that mean you want me to try?"

He laughs. "Better not. Might mess up my hair."

You smile at the joke, and you swear something about the moment makes your heart stretch and bleed raw. It leaves you ashamed at all you can't do.

Apparently he senses the shift in your demeanor, because he's reaching forward and grabbing your forearm, squeezing with a gentle force. You weren't expecting the touch.

"Hey," he urges, and you wind up meeting his eyes, not really intending to put yourself in such vulnerable position. The intense stare makes panic wind up within your chest.

"You've done a lot for me," he says softly, squeezing a bit harder as he speaks, looking directly at you. "And I want you to know that I really appreciate it."

Your lip trembles and you try and hold it together. You really do.

"I just wanted you to know that, okay?"

He pauses and waits until you nod, disregarding your glistenining eyelids, and then he smiles at you again. But this time it's in a way that's slightly mischievous.

"So, I asked Kurt to bring me a latte this morning, and he totally brought back cappuccino." He waits until you smile again to continue. "I think he might be our Rose."

You've learned quickly that PICU is infinitely more interesting the PEDS, and with that knowledge, you make it your goal in life to spend a majority of your time over there.

You enjoy working with the more complex equipment and varied staff that comes and goes. Last week you met with several physiotherapists and a few specialists, and, admittedly, they made you feel important. Rather than just acting well versed in all things medical, they asked your feedback about the patients and acknowledged your input. It was entirely relieving and quite... new.

Plus, your attending doctor isn't a total creeper. He's young. Like, super young. He kinda has trout-y lips, but other than that, he's actually not that bad. He trusts you to get the job done and doesn't hover. It's really all you can ask for.

Today accounts for the second time you've had the opportunity to work with the floor social worker Emma Pillsbury, and after twenty-four hours, you know two things about her—one, she disinfects everything; and two, unlike you, she fucking loves babies.

"Still no signs of progress?" she asks, looking over at you, then down at the small infant in the incubator. She's been hovering over her all week, ever since she was admitted at four pounds, one ounce. NAS cases are very delicate.

You quickly snap the cap on and off of your stylus repeatedly—a nervous habit—and shuffle the fancy tablet tucked under your arm. "Not really. She's going through withdrawals again. I can't give her Methadone, but I'll up her Laudanum again."

"How long do you think?"

You sigh. "Hard to say. All we can do is just keep monitoring her levels. The good thing is that there hasn't been any signs of seizing. Maybe after a few weeks we'll see some weight gain."


"She seems to be responding well to meds. Just be patient," you insist. She eyes you dejectedly.

"I just hate typing up these case notes," she grimaces, peering down with a displeased face. "You'd think with how often I see it now, it wouldn't bother me so much..." You pause when she pauses, hanging on her breath, "But it does. It really does."

You see this small talk as a golden opportunity. "Does it ever... not bother you?"

"Honestly? No. If it's not one thing, it's another. I just wish people wouldn't make kids suffer like this. It's not fair."

"How do you do it?" You don't mean for the question to sound so... inquiring, but it does. "How do you..." You can't think of the way you want to word it. Nothing sounds right in your head.

"How do I shut it off? Push it down? Not feel anything?"

You nod and watch her small frame, the way her chest heaves with a sigh before beginning.

"You don't."

You give her a confused and questioning glare. "I don't under—"

"You're human," she interrupts. "You have a moral obligation to feel things. You can't turn that off. It's inevitable."

"Well then how do you do..." Your questions are incomplete, yet coherent thoughts forming on the tip of your tongue, and you don't know how, but it seems that she understands. You're so very grateful that she takes pity on you.

"I used to work on Oncology in Chicago, and trust me... that was much, much worse. You couldn't get attached to anyone. This, though?" she points around the room. "This is easy, I promise."

She watches the way you fold your arms across your chest, and you feel her implicitly uncovering your apprehension and fears. "I know you're still young in this game, but it doesn't matter how long you've been doing this, or how much you train yourself. Watching people die is never easy, and it's always going to be extremely difficult."

Your mind spins in a curious worry. You've been unable to retract yourself from this situation with Blaine, and you can't help but wonder what the consequences will feel like. And not just now, but in future circumstances as well. Will it always be like this? Will you always feel the burden of other people's tragedies with such intensity?

How exactly are you supposed to cope with that?

"You just gotta learn how to deal with it in your own way," she says, point-blank.

You nod in understand, another question formulating when something buzzes from her pocket, and you can't help but feel slightly unnerved that your conversation is being cut short. "Look, I gotta run. Just call if you need anything," she pats your shoulder. "It'll come to you, I promise."

You sure as fuck hope so.

At the sixteenth hour, your legs begin to feel wobbly. A familiar dizziness creeps through your veins, sending injections of delirium to your neck and skull, leaving your head heavy before the weight shifts again. It travels lower, surging through your shoulders, arms, hands, sliding down to the tips of your fingers. Next it settles in your calves and knees, then to your ankles, and you think perhaps this is a different encompassing fatigue; it makes your heels burn with a hot glow, and leaves tingling sensations to permeate beneath your skin, formulating an ache deep within your bones.

You know it's not usually this harsh, but your body tends to do this when you have a day off—become acclimated with rest, sleep. Now it's making demands you cannot possibly meet.

You stare in front of the mirror with barely open eyes and let the cold water flow, every so often running your index finger under the stream to check the temperature. When it's cold enough to pick sharply against your skin, you collect it in your hands and bring it to your face. Inch by inch, you feel an ice cold pang pump blood quicker through your veins, awakening your surfaces and hazy thoughts.

The water's still running on full blast when your phone starts buzzing.

In a dutiful fashion, you answer promptly and professionally, expecting it to be Evans.

"Santana, you're gonna want to get up here, right now." You sense urgency and panic before you register the voice.

"Hummel? Is that you? What's going on?" You turn the water off, now very, very awake.

You hear him sigh. "It's me, Lopez. Just get up here, okay?"


With heavy fingers, you close out the call, letting your chest fill with lead. You don't need to ask what or why. You already know.

When you walk out of the bathroom, you see Dr. Evans walking by, smile wide, hair perfectly in place. You can't deal with his morning chipper right now.

"Hey you. Ready to give report?"

"Actually," you stumble a bit, your voice shaky. "I need to go take care of something in the ICU. Can I come back in a little while?"

"Oh, sure. Anything I can help with?" His offer is so sincere you don't know what to make of it.

"Uh, no, but thanks. I'll be back in a little bit."

You feel his eyes on you as you make your way to the elevator. You don't have the patience for the stairs right now, nor do you think your legs can handle it. You're drunk on fatigue and high on emotion, and nothing about it makes any kind of sense.

You find Brittany and Kurt standing outside of his room, Kurt with a hot, pink-tipped nose and watery eyes. A solemn yet collected Brittany stands straight, and you listen to the deep background voice coming from the other side of the threshold.

In the name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit.

You look at Kurt and your eyes silently ask what already seems evident.

He nods his head in confirmation and in the river, in the world that has never failed to let you down, you feel yourself slowly sink.

Anger confronts you.

A silent scream builds from the pit of your stomach and from the bottom of the earth, somewhere deeper, blacker, a feeling ascends through the foliage. The world could burn and you'd watch it collapse to nothing but gunpowder covered confetti. You're exhausted, tired of pretending like you don't feel things, trying to maintain this facade. What if you were to destroy humanity the same way it's destroying you?

What would happen if you just let go? If you just raged?

You start with a folding chair which is leaning against the wall by where you're standing. It serves no purpose to you other than damage, and you use it with intent. You pick it up by the metal frame and with all the force you can muster, slam it against the wall. It cracks loudly against the surface, tearing away a chunk of plaster with it, and you examine the beautiful destruction before you.

"Santana, stop!"

More waves.

Sound hits your ear, but nothing matters except the explosive, passionate feeling in your chest. Blood pumps freely through your body as you whip the chair down the empty hallway, watching it slide with speed.

Next you see a phone mounted to the wall. Clearly it's within your reach for good reason, and it seems like it would be infinitely more useful shattered to pieces. Everything is better when it's broken.

You're two seconds away from further damage when long arms wrap around your waist. You try to move within the grasp, but it's too strong.

"Santana, it's okay," she whispers in your ear. "Just stop."

Her hands are firm against your skin, keeping you steady as your chest heaves up and down.

Silence becomes prevalent, and the mood seems to shift for the worse. She looks at you slightly expectantly, like she's waiting for your next segment of words, but you can't think of anything worth saying. You're at a loss, too emotive to understand life's careless carvings. You learned the bitter importance on turning everything off a long time ago, and you couldn't do it.

Like the flick of a finger against a light switch.

You want that option; you need it, over and over again.

And as you watch her swallow thickly, desperate for you to meet her eyes, you don't converse. You want to say something—anything—especially with the way she's looking at you, fashioning knowledge you imagine she loses sleep over. Maybe she questions your motives, or misinterprets your kindness. Perhaps she creates black lies to fill the voids, just like you do, making them so real she almost believes them, too.

Everything in your throat feels incredibly dry—almost burning, making breathing become difficult. It's then that your automatic nervous system takes over. Your heart rate drastically slows. The blood pumping in your veins runs cold. Like drifting, you enter a lower realm of consciousness.

Yet, you're still able to hear her faintly when she softly calls out to you.


But you're somewhere else—a place where everyone has a counted number of days. It's a permanent cessation, an indisputable outcome. It's a reality you know you'll have to face for years to come.

We attach a name to the details of existence. Death is named inevitable.

It's beyond your control how vastly overwhelming it is. You're told you're meant to save people, but not everyone can be saved. Not every bit of decay can be removed, not every burned building can be rebuilt.

And it's such a heavy reality.

Yet you feel the weight lifted through the lightness of her words. In a precarious, careful way, she gently voices, "San..."

She's near you. You didn't even realize it before, but she's touching you. She's reaching forward and taking your wrist, her thumb circling the heel of your hand, leaving you to feel every ounce of comfort the gesture has to offer. A soft breath hits the shell of your ear. A drugged whisper ensures you again that everything is okay.

And with the way she's looking at you, bringing you back, you think you just might believe her.

You don't ask her to drive you back to her apartment. You don't ask her to hold your hand the whole way. She just gives you silence and sincerity—a special kindness that manages to creep through an already thinned veil of barriers. It's like she knows that tragedy has buried itself deep in the pit of your stomach and the only thing you can feel more is her.

How you fear that notion, or its inevitable truth.

Any other time, you'd turn away such softness, but something in you practically screams for it right now. You need to the comfort of knowing that someone is willing to love you, even if it's just for a little while.

When you step foot in her flat, it seems to be the Brittany normative—not perfectly in order, but not unkempt, either. Your gaze moves, but you don't study it with the same curiosity you did the first time. Something about the environment seems familiar now, more than matters of mere physicality; like maybe it's the place you'd go when you just want to be yourself and nothing more, nothing less.

Her keys clank as they fall to the surface of the counter, and she looks over at you, brows creased. "Are you hungry?"

You shake your head. "Not at all." She nods understandably and you're glad she accepts your answer easily, not finding it necessary to prod. You're honestly queasy just thinking about food right now.

What you are, however, is freezing. Your socks are wet from the trudge through the snow, and a chill has started working its way from the ground up, making you tremble slightly in her cool living room. The hair on your arm stands at attention as your skin breaks out in goose-pimples.

"Do you mind if I take a shower, though?" You ask, running your hands through your hair. Everything feels dirty, like human breakdown.

"Not at all," she shakes her head. "I'll grab you some clothes."

You stand there for a minute while Brittany rummages through her dresser, but your hands are shaky and you need something to do, so you head to the bathroom. There you start peeling off dampened articles piece by piece, strewing them in a corner, letting them fall where they may. You're down to a cotton bra and panties when she bursts through the door.

"Oh fuck, I didn't—I didn't think you'd be in here already. Sorry. So sorry. I—" Her cheeks blush as her gaze turns to the opposite direction.

"Britt," you interrupt her scattered reaction, too exhausted with everything to be embarrassed, or even care. "It's okay. Really. I mean, you've already—"

And you stop yourself right there. Because admitting that you've already seen each other naked is not something you and her talk about. Ever.

That night only exists in your higher consciousness. Fantasies, if you will.

"—been so nice to me," you fumble instead. "Honestly, it's not a big deal."

When she smiles at your response, you know it was a good fallback option. "Here," she extends her arms while still looking away, fuzzy sweatpants and an old college social work sweatshirt in hand. "Take these."

"Thanks." You pull them from her fingers, grasping at the soft fabric.

"I'm gonna go now," she blushes.


She closes the door behind you and you quickly turn the shower on, shedding your remaining clothes. The cold ceramic tiles make the bathroom at least ten degrees cooler than the living room, and you're full blown shivering as you wait for the water to heat up. Every inch of your skin prickles in icy pain.

The moment you see steam and step under the water, a sigh escapes you. Little rivers of liquid relief flow between the divots in your neck, reaching your back, catching and cascading down your curves. The pain dulls slowly, water pounding at your muscles, bringing your exhausted body back to life. It makes you realize how much you love this feeling, how alive it makes you. It also makes you realize that you have to be alive in order to feel, and...

Everything burns.

And not from the outside in, but the inside out.

Your hand comes up to brace the wall, and your weight falls against it, giving free reign for water to wash over your face. Perhaps it's the privacy of the moment, but behind the concealed sounds, you let everything escape. Tears run. Quiet sobs leave your throat. Everything comes without price when no one else can see you fall apart.

You just wish you knew the consequences from when everyone does.

A soft knock at the door makes your heart jump, and a pause occurs before it partially opens. "Hey, sorry, I'm just leaving you some warm towels on the counter..."

The door hangs open just slightly as she awaits you, and you know you have to respond somehow.

"Okay, thanks," you try not to let your voice crack.

But you know her, and you knew the moment you spoke she would sense it. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," you lie.

"Okay," she accepts, but the inflection in her voice says she doesn't exactly believe you. "I'm right out here if you need anything..."

Ten minutes later when your skin finally starts wrinkling and the hot water has nearly diminished, you step out of the shower. You wrap yourself in one of those wonderfully warm towels, you slip on fuzzy pajamas that smell like her, and you let the fragrance fill your periphery. Something about the sweetness, the knowledge that you're ensconced in her—it gives you a strange comfort.

You try to combat that, along with the sinking sadness in your stomach, multiplied by embarrassment, and you're so conflicted.

You're both devastated and content, and you really don't know what any of it means.

She's waiting for you in the kitchen when you come out, a book spread out before her, two steaming coffee mugs next to it. The air is so deliciously rich, your heart flips in happiness for the first time in ages.

"Did you make coffee?" Your voice filled with eagerness.

"I did," she smiles. "I know you said you weren't hungry, but I figured you'd want this..."

She knows you. So well.

You nod, aiming a half-hearted grin at her. "Thank you."

"Of course. Anytime."

"And thanks for earlier," your voice shakes. "For..."

Your eyes well, and you're angry that you're at such a loss for words in a moment like this, because you want to say so much more. You want her to know that everything she does, all her conscious efforts do not go without notice; you see every bit of how beautifully civilized and special she is, how evidently decent...

Her sad returned smile tells you she may understand already though, and you watch as she stands up and begins walking towards you. She gently grips you by the wrist, pulling you softly, directing you towards the bedroom. It's a fatigue induced slow process, but once you're standing next to the edge of the bed, she sets your coffee on the nearby table before urging you to the mattress. You're amazed at your own trust, how willingly you comply, just studying her in awe.

And just like last time, she undresses you.

She starts at your feet, following the white of your high-socks, traveling up your legs until finding the corners just below your knees. Slowly she brings down the fabric, unraveling it inch by inch, gliding her knuckles against your skin. Then her fingers hook at the drawstring of your pants, tugging easily, letting the material get bunched at your ass checks. She patiently waits for you to lift your hips in acquiescence, which you do languidly, yet knowingly. You think at any other point in time, you'd probably feel a dangerous dampness in your panties throughout this process, but your thoughts aren't capable of going there just now. Even when she's lifting your shirt, leaving you clad in only a bra and underwear, you're just grateful.

The sheets are every bit as soft as you remember, leaving the silky texture to rub against your legs as you slide into them. You appreciate all of it; the way everything smells like her—like soft soap and lavender oil, clean and wispy. Airy.

"Goodnight," Brittany whispers when your head hits the pillow, her hand squeezing your fingers before letting go. A feeling clutches at your chest when she slowly begins directing herself to the doorway, her gaze falling back to you, like she's hesitant to leave.

Your stomach curls at the thought of her being away from you right now, and you don't know how to convey that. You do manage to absent-mindedly reach for her hand though, catch her mid stride, pull her back to you. Her eyes flit to yours confoundedly, her voice soft when she asks, "San? Are you okay?"

You swallow thick, unable to verbalize the feeling within you, so you don't say anything. Rather, you just stare through the early morning amber, silently begging her to stay.

After a pause she shuffles behind you, weight shifting down the mattress, and seconds later, you feel warmth envelope your back. "Is this okay?" she whispers into your ear before snaking her arms around your waist. You can feel her hips already fitting perfectly into yours.

In answer to her question, you place your hand over her knuckles, urging her closer, and you think it's silly she even asked.

Because she knew exactly what you needed all along.

And she reiterates that when you fight back your silent sobs and she clutches you, whispering it's okay all through the night.

Your mind likes to wander sometimes.

It travels to places you've never been, a land of wonder that's kept you in a secret paradox for as long as you've been dreaming of it. You already know what it's like to fall asleep beneath her heavy limbs, to watch her eyes flutter shut just a breath before you. Her voice resonated in your mind even before you ever heard it, and now that you're certain of her sounds, they're the waves that fill your fantasies.

So when you wake to her still next to you, but with Lord Tubbington claiming his rightful spot on her lap, splayed across her frame and then some, you squint your eyes to be sure it's not just a dream. The grey haze slowly clears as you watch her scratch away at his chin, the chubby feline audibly showing his appreciation while she grins widely.

"I'm genuinely concerned that your cat might have diabetes," you smile across from her, still groggy but loving the adorable spectacle playing before you.

"Shhh," she covers his ears. "He can hear, you know."

"He has the right to know, Britt."

"Yeah, but diets are hard for him, and then he'll think about it all the time and get self-conscious."

"Yeah, and continue to be incredibly overweight."

"Santana!" She shoots you a warning glare, and you chuckle lightly, trying to reason with her.

"Britt, he can barely jump on the table. I don't think that's normal for a cat."

She shrugs, her fingers now kneading that spot between his ears. "Maybe not."

"Definitely not," you assure her.

"But he's happy."

"He better be," you tease. "That cat's spoiled as shit."

"Yeah, but I like spoiling him."

For whatever reason, the comment makes all the blood rush to your cheeks. You redden almost instantaneously and she looks over at you, studying your reaction, your face, looking for your eyes.

You look for the clock instead, awareness causing a haste driven fumble for your Blackberry. "What time is it? I've gotta get going soon."

Her lips press together tightly, almost in curiosity, laced with something you can't quite name. "It's almost four."

"Shit. I need to leave." You're still sleepy and kind of scattered as you stay crouched, looking for your phone and strewn about clothes. When your gaze flits over, she's standing next to you, pulling at her fingers, eyes aimed down at you.

"Hey San?"

You carry on with your search, but mumble back a simple, "Yeah?"

"Are you happy?"

The question is so straight forward, so abrupt that it catches you off guard. You stop moving for a moment, your tongue suddenly heavy and dry. You don't really know what to say.

"I'm not unhappy," you shrug, feeling heat creep up your neck.

"That's not what I asked," she says, still trying to keep your gaze.

You come to a pause, feeling like this conversation is one that needs to occur at eye level, and rise back to your feet. "Well, it kind of is, isn't it?" You exhale deeply. "It's an arbitrary question with a circumstantial answer."

She pauses, looking at you again, and you wait. "Well, I kinda get that...but what does that mean to you?"

You lick your lips nervously, thinking about how you want to phrase your thoughts. "I mean, happiness is a process, you know? Most of the time it doesn't just come to you; you've got to work for it. Until then, you take it when you can get it. Small doses."

"That seems silly," she says.

"Why?" You twist your brows at her.

"Because you shouldn't have to work to be happy."

"But you're looking at it objectively when happiness isn't objective," you reason. "Like, haven't you ever had a dream—something you've always wanted—but you knew it was gonna be a lot of work getting there? The work part isn't fun, but you know once it's over, it's gonna to be worth it. That's what happiness is. Figuring out what's worth struggling for and how to get to it."

She looks at you, bottom lip sunk between her teeth, staring intently. You can tell she's contemplating your words. "I think you should take the night off, San."

You're trying to keep up with her. She's all over the place right now. "I don't think—"

"You can," she interrupts. "And you need to."

You're pressing the fabric of your scrubs firmly between your fingers, studying the stains, remembering yesterday's happenings. Your heart is heavy in mere rumination alone. You can't stop thinking about Kurt, about her, how you lost it...

"What if it wasn't me and Kurt?" It's like she can read your thoughts. "What if it was someone else that found you? Then what?"

You just look at her, not really knowing how to respond. "I—I don't know..."

"Well, I'm worried about you," she admits. "I really think you need some time until you do know."

You're leveling with the notion when she continues, "Look, I took the rest of the day off. Me and Tubbs are gonna have some General Tso's chicken and watch Jeopardy, and we'd really like it if you stayed, too." She looks down at him as if to get reassurance on the matter.

You can't win. You stay, you miss work. You go to work, you miss her.

You need to decide fast though because your shift starts soon, so you momentarily excuse yourself and head to the bathroom, basking in the necessary aloneness needed to properly regard ramifications in the back of your mind. You haven't missed a day in the two years you've been there, and you don't even know what consequences ensue for such instances; but as you stand before the sink, eyes sunk, stomach tight, hands shaky, you know Brittany's right. Everything feels like it's on the precipice—your heart weighted, thumping with lightning speed, your hands entertaining the idea that, perhaps, there's a bomb hot-wired to them.

And the edges of your consciousness...ragged with fear, propelled by hostility. You can't shake the intensity.

Another moment passes in contemplation and you decide, fuck it.

You wait three rings and half expect the staffing office to berate you, but when they just take down your name and floor, simply telling you to feel better, you're slightly shocked. No one questioned your motives. No one called you an epic failure. The reality and the expectation never become congruent, and you can't believe how much better you feel after hanging up. It's like the mere knowledge of having a day to process everything is enough to get you through.

Much like the feeling you get when you walk back into the living room and see her tangled in blankets, reading the same book she had earlier. When her eyes see that your scrubs are folded neatly in a pile and her borrowed slippers are back on your feet, she smiles knowingly. All you can do is return the gesture, feeling the spectrum shift around you.

And maybe it is enough.

Atomic number 98, this radioactive element is the only one named after a U.S State.

"What is Californium."

You're mid-chew of General Tso when realization hits you, and you can only sit there in awe, letting your fork hang from your mouth.

Krishna and Rama are both considered avatars of this Hindu god.

"Who is Vishnu."

This flavor was invented in 1929, named to reflect the economic struggle.

"What is Rocky Road."

The answers roll off her tongue, like it doesn't even faze her.

Her first hit single was released in 1998, off the 1999 album ...Baby One More Time.

"Who is Britney, bitch."

You laugh from the other side of the couch, your back angled against the side cushion giving you a perfect view of her. She's adorable like this, her bun messy, sweat pants low on her hips, gaze concentrated. You've never seen her so... competitive.

"Tell me how you really feel, Britt."

She looks at you with a sly smile, eyes bright, giving you that broken butterfly feeling in your stomach all over again.

"You're feisty when it comes to Jeopardy, eh?" You almost wink when you say it, but that could be taken in a myriad of ways, so you don't.

She shrugs. "People always used to call me stupid when I was younger. I got tired of it."

You face contorts and you feel your face flush at the notion, the very idea that anyone could think she's stupid, or anything less than genius for that fucking matter.

"You know that's not true, right? Like, not even a little bit."

Her lips pout for the briefest of seconds before she nods. "Yeah. I know, but I get confused easily and it frustrates people. They automatically assume I'm dumb because some stuff just takes longer for me to learn. And I know I can get it, it just have to work a little harder."

Your brow lifts. "What confuses you, Britt?"

She bites her bottom lip gently, like she isn't sure she wants to answer. "Just... certain things. Situations. Loud yelling. Violence. Sometimes big numbers."

You nod with a smile. "Well, certain things confuse me, too. It doesn't make you any less intelligent."

Her grin cocks, her eyes shine when she looks at you. "Well, what confuses you?" You love how curious she's become, and you know it's likely because you've never been this open before.

"People," you admit. "Love. Life. Everything."

She nods slowly. "Life is pretty easy most of the time. For me, anyway. It's not usually people that are hard to figure out."

You smile at your inner-most memories. "Yeah, I think we established you're pretty good at reading people."

She blushes a bit before a quick pause. "Why do you think people are hard for you?"

You wet your lips while you think. "Expectations, mostly. Trust. How anyone understands any of it. Stuff like that."

She looks at you indecisively. "Do you think people expect things from you?"

"Sometimes," you shrug. "And when they don't, I do."

You notice she placed her food on the table a while ago, and you do the same, noting how significant the conversation has grown. What's strange, however, is how comfortable you are. There's no vulnerable panic flooding you. You don't feel a vast need to run away. You're perfectly content right here, right now, looking at her, memorizing her just like this.

She reaches and takes your hand, the pad of her thumb circling your knuckles gently when she says, "You don't have to be so hard on yourself, you know." Your heart beats quicker as you trace the sadness in her words.

"Maybe not," you barely make out.

Her other arm extends, and she uses the back of the couch as leverage to pull herself against you. Your arms sidle up, her warmth running hot against your chill prickled skin.

"Can we play a game?" She asks quietly. Normally, you'd answer with a contingent response, but this time, you just nod.

"I want you to close your eyes," she says, and you look at her wildly, your gaze questioning. "I know it's cheesy, but it's really effective."

You pause, and after a moment, she explains. "It's this game I sometimes play with my patients. It's called Threes. Basically, I just ask a few questions, and you have to give me three answers to every one. I wanna try it with you, okay?"

Your response comes with a shrug. Seems simple enough.

"But it's better when you close your eyes," she whispers with a smile, softly reminding you. She has this way about her, a gentle command, and for this reason, you acquiesce, rolling your eyes one last time before allowing them to shut. Part of you thinks you should've just skipped the semantics. You were gonna do what she asked regardless.


"Fine," she mimics playfully.

You feel her fingers graze your arm before she moves a touch away from you, and the loss is immediately evident. Your first reaction is to open your eyes and see where she's gone, but—

"Ah ah, keep 'em closed," she orders sweetly, and you groan outwardly, somehow needing to convey your disapproval. It must get the point across though, because you feel her fingers back against the crease of your wrist, igniting you again. You hate to admit how much you want her touch right now. And more than just her hand.

"Remember, its three short answers, okay?"

You nod nonchalantly, not really understanding why she's making this a big deal.

"Things in your house that you love."

You chuckle lightly, not really sure why you need to keep your eyes closed. "Uh, my coffee maker."

There's a silent pause, and you realize you're supposed to keep going.

"Oh, uh..." You have to think, because your apartment is kind of lacking. "These flannel sheets I have, and uh, I guess my microwave? I use it a lot."

You can hear her chuckle before she starts her next question.

"Places you love."

You purse your lips slightly, thinking that, okay, maybe this is harder than you thought.

"Um...New York," you've only been there once, but it impressed you. "My abuela's garden, and, um..." Here.

You can't possibly voice that out loud, but she doesn't push you to come up with another answer. Rather, she just squeezes your arm knowingly, telling you what you've given is enough, just assuring your comfort level.

And you are. You're comfortable enough to tug her closer to you, urging her to lean against you.

Even if she seems surprised by the shift in accommodations, her face never alludes to anything other than contentment. Your front is pressed into her back, your nose against her neck. Less space ensues. You smell the clean on her skin, practically taste her breath. When you make the mistake of looking over and returning her gaze, the earth tilts. Your heart slams. Everything spins in holograms, perfect hues, but only one shade sustains the storm.

Everything is the color of her eyes.

Perhaps it's the hyper-awareness of touch, but when you breathe deep, noting that that inner pendulum which knocks over and over again against your ribcage, timing your pulse, it almost feels like the beats are in sync with every one of your undeclared desires.

"Your biggest accomplishments."

You smile against her neck because this is an easy one. "Graduating at the top of my class, getting into med school, moving out of my parents' house."

Her head is now resting against your shoulder, her breast pressed into you, gaze tilting in your direction. The moment somehow makes you appreciate that your eyes are closed.

"The things you like most about yourself."

The question resonates. You bite your lip slowly, your grin gradually losing its place, and suddenly, you don't want to play this game anymore.

"I um, I'm..."

Self-destructive, selfish, indulgent, harmful.

You feel her stare, attentive and patient while you continue to falter. You can't seem to fathom thoughts which would translate into positive words. You'll begin to think of one thing, something like reliable; but while it may be applicable in some ways, it isn't in others. And then you're failing, coming to terms with the sad fact that there's nothing there—

"San, hey." Her fingers flutter against your cheek, her voice commanding your attention. She directs your face to find her eyes and you remain intent on giving her that much. "Sometimes," she starts slowly, making sure you're paying attention, "It's really easy to get down on ourselves and forget about all the good things we do. The point of this is to remind you of that. You can't always just track mistakes. You have to keep count of the other stuff, too."

You swallow, watching her watch you, waiting.

"When I told you before that I wish you could see yourself the way I see you, I meant it. You're so beautiful, San. And smart, and sweet. You just need to give yourself more credit."

If it were anyone else in the world, those words would bounce off you in a matter of seconds; but it's her, and just like everything else she does, you feel it. It vivisects you, vertebrae to bone, blood to flesh, leaving you no choice but to believe every exaltation that spills from her lips.

Her touch lingers upon you. Her eyes never leave yours.

Brazenly, she leans in closer, creating some kind of unstable reality. You don't know where you are. All that you're now meant to fathom consists of proxemics—the closeness of fingers against fingers; the centimeters from hip to hip; the distance between lip and tongue. Such little space.

Your mind wages war against your heart's desires as you stare at her lips, feeling that deep pound in your chest. You want to kiss her, and you think she wants to kiss you, too, but surely the consequences will destroy everything.

Yet, all your mind can do is continuously ruminate over the laws of gravity.

There is an empirical physical constant involved in the calculation of gravitational force between two bodies.

Her eyes keep begging you, daring you to do something.

There must be a force to cause acceleration.

Her hand is wrapped around the back of your neck while the tips of her fingers press into your skin. You don't trust the feeling burgeoning inside of you. It's too big, too perfect, more than you can keep. So you lean forward, and you don't do it chastely or slowly. You own your advances. You press your mouth to hers and kiss her like she deserves to be kissed. Hard. Without inhibitions.

And thus your free fall begins.

The pendulum stops. Your mind clears, taking you to a higher state of consciousness. Your existence becomes the most prevalent it will ever be, and all that is in your periphery levitates before the descent. But it's not a rushed falling. You're high enough that you can take your time, allowing yourself to savor the unhurried, weightless world. It reaches a realm beyond your imagination, and without thought now, you can discern every fragment of her loveliness without caution.

You've never been in love; you always assumed when it came around, the sensations would be instantaneous and all-consuming; like you would see this flawless person from across the room and everything would change in a matter of seconds.

But even at this moment, when you feel the silence fading, when you follow the reverent wonderment in her eyes, it's everything your mind never fathomed; maybe more.

Because you're no longer just looking at her. You're seeing her. All of her. And you're witnessing the perfection and imperfections, and you're loving her all the same.

The revelation absolutely fucking terrifies you.

You always knew she would destroy you, you just didn't quite understand in what capacity and when. Now that it's no longer impending, but rather, a reality, you don't know how to move forward. Are you masochist enough to let this carry on? Wouldn't it be better for you both to just end it now?

You're about to pull away when she playfully nips at your bottom lip, sucking the flesh in her mouth, and you immediately find the roughness amplifying your needs, contesting your better judgment.

"We should stop," you whisper, still kissing her with fervor. She smiles into your mouth, her hands dipping at the waistband of your sweatpants, clutching the curve just above your ass.

Something about the wickedness in the action rocks between your legs, and you can't help but gravitate downwards, pressing your center against her thigh. What little relief the friction gives you doesn't prove to be much, and if she keeps looking at you like that, you're going to strip her bare and fuck her on the living room floor.

"Maybe we shouldn't..." The whisper comes in hot against your ear.

You sigh as her lips find your neck, the rough of her tongue warm while the sharp of her teeth drags across your skin.

"Fuck," you whimper.

So much clothing. So in the way.

It takes countless seconds for the hooded sweatshirt she's wearing to be whipped across the room, out of sight, out of mind. You're rewarded with the smooth expanse of her stomach, allowing your hands to roam freely, but never carefully. Her muscles twitch and tense beneath the tips of your fingers, and you feel oddly ashamed yet powerful. The touch isn't considerate. It turns and burns with a vile need that can't merely be assuaged; it must be ravaged, raged. Naked. Raw.

You want her naked and raw just the same.

You tell her so when she drags her nails against your sides, tearing away the outermost flesh in its wake. Your skin flares and you wonder if the intention was for you to feel that. Maybe she knows. Maybe she realizes she'll hate you tomorrow the same way you already hate yourself, but for now, when a moan forms against your tongue and her taste spreads across your lips, you can't think about that. Your concentration lies on how your fingers are digging into the slope of her hips, urging the junction between her thighs to meet yours.

And your pelvis slams her down. Your weight pins her in place. Everything you give is harsh, undignified and flagrant; but the point you seek to prove is not one of proclamation. This is about closure, a means to an end. You're showing her all the reasons she needs more than what you can possibly give her. There is no romanticism available for the moment, only lust.

This is all you can offer.

Your hands reiterate your thoughts downward, slipping beneath her waistband and gripping her ass cheeks roughly. She gasps slightly, maybe expectantly, and you clutch your lips to her neck, sucking with greed. More profanities. More urge. More teeth and nails.

Your hands don't have time for hesitancy. You don't bother with her bra. You don't ask permission when your fingers snake below her panties. You're too busy wrapped up in the rasp on her voice, losing your bearing in the helplessness of her sounds. She's hot and wet, and with the force of three fingers, you sink. You glide inside of her, never meeting her eyes; rather, you bury your face in the crook of her neck, using your hips to gain further momentum, taking her to the edge of darkness.

Her breaths are ragged as your fuck her far, fast and wide relentlessly. You hear, but you don't see past your eyelids. Your vision consists only of every other convoluted, grey faced conquest you've had.

A hiss breaks your thoughts. "Santana," she says, grabbing your wrists, and you continue to move.

"Santana, look at me." She's trying to stop your movements.

You're lost in the moment, ignoring her request, lining her neck with hurried kisses instead, reaching farther.

"San, please." It's a raw, desperate plea as her nails dig into your skin.

And this time, you don't deny her. You open your eyes and you look at her beneath you, red-rimmed and on the verge of tears. You did this. You're to blame. Shame hits you. It eats at your conscious, and like she already knows, her fingers trace the line of your jaw. The touch reassures you the same way her mouth does. It's the kind of gentleness you're not familiar with—all soft and no tongue, no hurry, and you still yourself, just basking in the feel or her lips against yours.

You try to quicken the pace again, moving your lips with haste, but she doesn't allow it. Her hands hold you firmly in place, and through a series of motions, control shifts. She pulls herself out from under your weight, her legs swing, and before you can contest, she's straddling you, the pressure of her thighs keeping you trapped. You're now gazing at her from a new angles, memorizing her features from below rather than above.

And her eyes; you swear, you've never seen such a dark shade of blue.

Light caresses tease around your clavicle, touching skin from beneath your sweater, and she takes her time with it, hooking her thumbs onto the fabric from the bottom up. Once discarded to the floor, it allows ample time for her lips to run across your firm stomach, dragging upwards until they meet the swell of your covered breasts.

You arch into the touch, panting at the way her mouth hovers across your nylon covered nipple. Already, you can feel how wet you are.


Admittedly, you enjoy her in this light, dominant and pressed sharply against you. You feel every divot, every muscle, and god, you love her body—the dips, the curves, the caliber of its design. You love the way her tongue appreciates every detail as it traces the edge of fabric, paying special attention to any uncovered skin available.

So much skin. So much heat.

Swift fingers easily unclasp your bra, and the second it falls to the wayside, her lips are wrapped around the peak of your breast, the wetness of her tongue circling your nipple. Something sparks behind your eyelids, and you gasp audibly at the sensations pulsing liquid heat between your legs.

So very, very wet.

And when she gracefully slips your panties down your legs, you only become wetter.

"Just remember," she whispers against your ear, her fingers dancing across that dark, soft patch of hair, "It's always better slow. Always."

You breathe out before you breathe in, and like an ode to your body, her hands become lyrical.




She's slipping through your slickness, and you love how slowly she's building you. The coil hums low, but you know at the pace you're moving, with the pressure she's using, your moment is forthcoming. Nothing has ever felt this overwhelming before, almost like the world is expanding from the darkness you've created, and her cracks of perfection are the only means of giving you light.

"Fuck, Britt," you moan when she angles herself up, curling herself more firmly inside of you. Her fingers are just as long as they are slender, and with the width of two of them, she's reaching for heights you didn't think were able to be reached.




Flawless patterns consume your existence. Everything burns white with rapture as you kiss her deeply, widening your legs further for her to serve you better.

"Oh god, there." You bite down on her neck, hips raised, voice shattered. Her thumb circles your most sensitive spot, and you urge her on, clutching at the cushion, your nails tearing at her shoulder blades. Yet she never deviates from her steady movements, even despite your desperation.

"Britt, I'm, I—" Your jaw locks, heels dig, teeth grind. You beg with your hips and you plead with your mouth against her mouth, chasing an all too perfect feeling. The intensity burns, right there, on the edge.

Provided with the right velocity, an object can travel completely around the atmosphere, always falling in the gravitational field but never reaching the earth.

On the slide is when you feel it.

Every shade on the color wheel flashes through your vision, and you tense around her fingers, your back muscles rippling. The feeling suspends through your body for so long, you don't know where you are, only that her hands never leave you. She's there the whole time, picking you up beneath the stars, leaving a trail of promises about how beautiful you really are, never letting you fall to solid ground.

You just wish you didn't always have to believe her.