Chapter Eighteen: Quiet Confessions
I stared at Rachel's status for a good ten minutes, just blinking rapidly as my jaw smacked into my chest. What the hell did she mean by that? Did she mean that she loved me as a friend? Was she just trying to make a point to get Finn and all of us to stop with the Facebook war? Or did she actually mean it…that she loved me, that she LOVE loved me? My head was just a fucking mess as I tried to wrap my brain around the possibilities, and though my more logical side practically screamed at me not to get my hopes up because she had to have meant it in a purely platonic way, my heart had quite a different idea.
It beat so forcefully in my chest in that moment that it was almost painful. My pulse was like a freaking rap song in my ears, bumping so loudly that I could feel its rhythm vibrating through my entire body. I so desperately wanted to run into that bedroom and ask Rachel what she meant when she wrote that status, but at the same time, I was completely terrified that she might say she hadn't meant it the way that I wanted her to; the way that I meant it.
It took me a few minutes to work up the courage to leave the safe solitude of the kitchen and go to the bedroom, but I knew I had to go, because I knew Rachel was awake and wouldn't want to be stuck in bed all day. She'd need my help. So, I sucked in a deep, steadying breath, shook out my hands which were disgustingly slick with sweat (fucking nerves), and went inside.
Rachel was still laying down when I walked into the room, and her face was lit by the glow of her cell-phone screen as she read messages I couldn't see. I cleared my throat as I entered to let her know that I was there, and her head instantly popped up so that she could see me. She gave me a bright, beautiful smile, and though I tried, I couldn't return it. I absolutely fucking LOATHED being nervous about anything, but here I was feeling like I was going to throw up and scream and run all at the same time and all because of one surprising, pint-sized, complex, beautiful girl.
"Hi," she said softly as she smiled at me.
"Hi," I barely managed to choke out and thanked whatever god might be listening that I didn't blow chunks everywhere when I did.
She patted the bed beside her and I quickly wiped my sweaty palms dry on my sweatpants before climbing in. I slipped under the massive comforter until I was snuggled up against her and our faces were only a few inches apart on her pillow. I watched as she took a deep breath through her nose and then she let out a small moan, and I nearly exploded right there in the bed. I had to clench my thighs together, because that sound coming from Rachel Berry's throat was like a damn vocal orgasm.
"You smell wonderful," she said as the moan faded and she leaned in a bit closer to smell me again.
"Uh…thanks," I whispered, because I was afraid if I spoke any louder, my voice would give away just how nervous I was…or excited…or aroused…or nauseous. Hell, I didn't even know what I was. I suppose it was more like all of the above. "I stole some of Kurt's shampoo."
She laughed softly and it came out in a warm, breathy whisper, which forced me to clench my thighs tightly again. "Well, don't tell Kurt, but I think it smells better on you," she said with another gentle smile.
It's strange the way things can change so drastically with one simple realization. Rachel used to smile all the time. I'd seen nearly every form of her gold-star grin, but after I realized the depth of my feelings for her, those grins became so much more. They changed. They became the only smiles that mattered, the only ones I ever really cared to see or especially, to cause. They touched me…everywhere. They made my heart race and my head spin. They made my spine tingle and my skin prickle in the best way. They meant more to me than I ever would have imagined. Rachel meant more to me than I ever would have imagined. And it changed everything.
"Rach…" I let out in a sigh, terrified of what I was about to do, but I had to know. "Your Facebook status—"
She didn't let me finish, immediately cutting in and saying, "I'm sorry. Is it okay that I tagged you?"
"Y-yeah," I said, not expecting that to be the first words out of her mouth, especially considering that she didn't even try to say that it meant nothing or play it off like a joke. "I just…I mean, you know that a bunch of people are going to take it a certain way, right?"
She grinned at me again and there went those fucking butterflies (which felt more like huge-ass moths). They fluttered madly in my stomach, and made my cheeks blush against my will. "Oh, I know," she said. "It seems that many of them already have." She then turned her phone to show me her Facebook page, and I was shocked at how many comments she'd already gotten on the status. I grabbed the phone from her and began scrolling through them, my chest tightening, a lump forming in my throat, and my cheeks growing redder by the second.
Rachel Barbra Berry: loves Santana *Snix* Lopez.
-Finn Hudson: What? What the hell does this mean, Rachel?
-Kurt Hummel: Oh my Barbra! I knew it! I KNEW it!
-Mercedes Jones: Okay, hold up! Is this for real? Are you and Santana like…lesbifriends now or something?
-Quinn Fabray: I am smiling like an idiot right now. So happy.
-Finn Hudson: You can't be serious. This is a joke, right Rach?
-Brittany S. Pierce: Yay!
-Tina Cohen-Chang: I am so confused.
-Finn Hudson: You guys, she didn't mean it that way. Rachel's not gay. She meant like as a friend or whatever. Right Rach?
-Finn Hudson: Rachel?
I couldn't help but laugh a bit at Finn's Facebook panic attack as I handed the phone back to Rachel, but it did little to ease my nerves. "I think you gave Finnocence a heart attack," I said, trying to lighten the moment, because on the inside, my entire body felt like it was made of glass and might shatter at any minute; most likely the minute Rachel admitted that it was only a joke or that she'd only meant it as a friend.
"Yes, he does seem rather distraught," Rachel said with an adorable giggle, "but quite honestly, he deserves to be. I didn't appreciate the awful implications he was making about you, Santana, nor did I appreciate his obvious lack of respect for my personal business."
"Truth," I said, nodding. I closed my eyes tightly for a moment. I needed to steady myself and calm my heart, because I needed courage for what I was about to do. I hated serious conversations, but I really needed to have this one with Rachel. I needed her to know that I would never disrespect her like Finn had suggested in his many idiotic statuses, and I also needed to know more about Rachel's own status.
"Rach, you know that those things Finn said in his statuses…you know they're not true, right?" I asked in a cracked whisper. "I'm not trying to get in your pants or anything like what he said. I wouldn't…I couldn't disrespect you like that, especially after everything that's happened. I just…I need for you to know that you are important to me. You've pretty much become my best friend, and I just wanted you to know. I mean…you do know, right? You know that you're important to me?"
Ah shit. I knew I was going to fucking cry. I could feel my damn eyes stinging and burning, and though I tried my best to keep the tears at bay, I felt at least one slip out and run over the bridge of my nose.
"Oh Santana," Rachel whispered sweetly as she reached out and gently wiped the tear away, "I know. I know how much you care about me. You saved my life, and you have been with me every step of the way since, even on my worst days. Trust me, I know, and everything you have done for me and continue to do for me means more to me than I could ever express."
She cupped her small hand around my cheek and stroked her thumb over fresh tears as they fell, because I just couldn't stop them at this point. "You are important to me, too," she continued softly. "Sometimes…sometimes you feel like the most important person in my life."
I swallowed thickly and the lump in my throat went down like fire as I whispered, "It's like that for me too."
Rachel smiled softly at me again before she slid her hand from my cheek, and unexpectedly down my arm. She trailed her fingers down my forearm beneath the covers until she found my hand and laced our fingers together. "You are so much more than I ever thought," she told me, her beautiful brown eyes shining at me as they grew tearful. "I wish I could have known this side of you sooner. I wish things could have been different between us in high school."
"I'm sorry," I choked out, regret building in my chest and aching in my lungs. "I'm sorry I never gave you a chance. I was so…so mean to you and you only ever tried to be my friend. I was a terrible person to you, Rachel, and I wish I could take it back. I wish every day that I could take it back. I wish..."
"Me too," she said gently, squeezing my hand tightly and scooting even closer to me so that our noses were nearly brushing as we shared the same pillow and quietly cried together.
We lay there together in silence for a long time after that, just staring into one another and holding hands in the small space between our bodies. My heart was like a ballad in my chest, its rhythm building and building with every passing second that Rachel looked into my eyes. It was like she was reaching for my soul, and god…I just…I wanted to give it to her. I wanted to pour it all out right there in that moment and just hope for the best, but there was too much stopping me.
And then Rachel said something that shook and tested my control like nothing ever had.
"Santana…" she whispered. She hesitated for only a moment, her eyes briefly showing whatever internal conflict she was having, before she locked gazes with me again and said, "I feel so many things when I'm with you."
My skin was fucking electric in that moment, because every inch of me just came alive as Rachel's words washed over to me. I wanted so many things right then. I wanted to tell her that I felt so much more than I could handle when I was with her. I wanted to tell her that I loved her. I wanted to grab her and kiss her and hold onto her for the rest of my goddamn life. I just…I wanted Rachel.
"I think of you," she told me quietly. "I think of you nearly every minute. It's like I can't get you out of my head."
I gulped audibly, which was notably embarrassing, but I just pushed aside my mortification and asked, "What do you think? I mean, when you think of me…what do you think?"
She seemed nervous then, which surprised me, because Rachel was always so sure when she spoke. She was always so confident in her emotions and in her vocalization of those emotions, so to see her nervous about telling me her thoughts only made me more nervous myself. But when she did finally tell me, my heart shot right out of my chest and soared.
"I think you're beautiful," she whispered shakily. I closed my eyes tightly at that and sucked in a breath. Rachel only squeezed my hand and continued. "I think you're soft, the way you feel against me when we lay together like this. I think you're so much more than you show the world. I think you are so special, Santana."
"Rachel…" I breathed out, and she squeezed my hand tightly again, but she didn't stop talking, and I realized in that moment that regardless of the anxiety in my chest and the rapid rhythm of my pulse, I didn't want her to. I wanted to hear it all, everything. I needed her love like I needed air, and I just wanted to hear it over and over, if she was willing to offer it.
"Ever since the attack, I've been so lost," she told me, and I couldn't help the tears that fell down my cheeks, because I knew how lost she'd been and how broken she felt. She cried as she spoke, and so did I, but I kept squeezing her hand and listened to every word. "I just feel so…so terrified all of the time. I feel so broken and so ugly and so worthless. I feel dirty. I feel so dirty, like I can never be clean again. I can still feel him all over me and inside me, and it makes my skin crawl. I feel ruined."
"Rachel, please…" I whimpered, but again, she didn't stop. It was like she couldn't. She needed to get all of this out and as difficult as this part was for me to hear, I knew it was more difficult for her to talk about, and so I tried to be strong for her. I tried to be anything and everything she needed in that moment.
"But with you, it hurts less," she whispered through her tears as she squeezed my hand so tightly that it hurt. "When you look at me, I don't feel ugly. I don't feel dirty or broken or ruined. I feel like me again. When you hold me, I feel special and precious and like I'm worth something again. When you hold me, Santana, I feel so…so safe."
I was a sobbing mess in that moment, and my heart was exploding in my chest. To know that I had done all of that for Rachel, that I was able to help her and make her feel like herself again…well, that was just everything.
"But those feelings also scare me," Rachel continued, and my anxiety instantly rekindled. "They scare me because I am me, and you are you."
"What do you mean?" I asked through my tears.
Rachel smiled sadly at me then and said, "You're Santana Lopez—the popular, sexy, experienced cheerleader that everyone always wanted and still wants. And I'm me, just Rachel Berry. I'm nothing—a loser, a freak, a slushy target, a…a victim. How could you ever, ever—"
"Rachel," I choked out in a broken sob, cutting her off as tears spilled down my cheeks.
And then I moved. I stopped fighting my heart as I closed the gap between us and pressed my lips gently to hers.