A/N: Hello everyone. Thank you so much for your continued support of this story, especially to all of you who continue to review. The reviews are helpful and much appreciated.

Just to give you all a heads-up, I am currently and will be in the process of moving for a bit, so that is why my updates have been lagging as of late and probably will continue to do so until we are all settled in the new house. So, stick it out with me, friends, and I promise I will update as often as I can in the meantime. I hope you enjoy this chapter and the next few that follow as they should be quite fun. Enjoy! XO-Chrmdpoet

Chapter Twenty-Two: Fur Coats and Best Friends

The next morning, I woke up to a tickling feeling on my cheeks and nose, the kind you get when your hair falls over your face in your sleep or when a feather pokes out of your pillow and touches your face. I tried to ignore it at first, but it just kept on even after I shook my head a few times to try and wrestle away whatever was tickling me. So finally I let out a heavy sigh and blinked open my eyes, letting them slowly adjust to the soft light filtering into the bedroom.

When I was finally able to fully focus, I couldn't help the smile that stretched my lips because the first thing I saw was Rachel's big, brown eyes staring at me from only a breath away, our heads sharing the same pillow. She looked breathtaking with the gentle light of the morning spilling through the window and dancing across her face, and it made my heart race…everything—the way she looked, the way she was looking at me, the fact that she was back, that she had come back to me from the frozen, fearful state she'd been trapped in the night before. It all made my heart like a symphony in my chest.

I was shaken out of the trance Rachel's eyes had trapped me in when I felt the tickling feeling on my face again, and that was when I realized the source of it, and that realization only made my smile grow and my heart swell to the point of bursting. It was Rachel, her fingertips. She was tracing my face with the tips of two of her fingers, a barely-there brush of skin that tickled at my flesh and at my heart.

"What are you doing?" I whispered to her just as her fingertips brushed over my lips. I pressed a small kiss to them in passing and waited for her answer.

"Memorizing," she told me quietly.

"What do you mean?" I asked her as I felt her fingertips slip under my chin and down my neck before gliding back up to my earlobe and across my jaw.

She took a heavy breath before letting it out in a long, staggered sigh. "Every time I close my eyes, I hear his voice, and now since yesterday, I see his face as well, the way he looked behind that glass," she whispered. "I'm sorry that I sort of disappeared on you last night, but I felt so trapped, Santana. I couldn't let go of the line-up. It was as if he could see me through that glass even though I knew he couldn't. It was as if he was looking right at me, and I was completely terrified. Now, all I can see in my mind is his face, and I don't want to. I don't want to see his face anymore or hear his voice or feel like I'm falling apart every time little pieces of the attack slip into my thoughts."

Unbidden, my hands found their way to Rachel's waist and the next thing I knew, she was closer, her body flush against mine and our noses brushing. She didn't even seem to notice the shift, which made my heart swell. It was like my body was just so familiar and comfortable to her now, like maybe my body felt like home to hers, and that made me happier than I ever thought I'd be able to express.

"I don't want to feel that way anymore, Santana," she continued quietly. "I don't want to always be afraid, always picturing his face and hearing his voice. I want it to be you."

"What?" I asked her, confused as to what she meant by that. "You want what to be me?"

"The person that I see when I close my eyes," she whispered, locking gazes with me as her fingertips halted on my bottom lip and stayed there, "I want it to be you."

My breath caught severely in my throat at those words, and I could hardly think straight let alone try to actually breathe. My heart wasn't even hammering in that moment. It was more like it had completely evaporated into nothing but air, the tiniest little breeze whispering across my ribcage. I felt entirely weightless, like I might just float away at any minute. I think that in that moment and hearing those words…I think it was the most special I'd ever felt in my entire life. I felt truly wanted, but it was more than that, because I felt needed, too, and that was worth everything to me.

"I want to see your face and hear your voice when my I close my eyes," Rachel told me, her words each like kisses to my soul, "because you are the only person who makes me feel safe and beautiful and wanted even after everything and even with these hideous scars that I will have for the rest of my life."

"They're not hideous, Rach, and I—" I tried to say, my voice cracking, but Rachel only pressed her fingertips harder against my lips to silence me.

She smiled softly at me then and said something that I knew I would never forget. "I don't want to see the face of the man who nearly took my life, Santana," she whispered. "I want to see the face of the beautiful girl who gave it back to me."

I felt the wet touch of my own tears as they slipped over the bridge of my nose and soaked into the pillow. Rachel's fingers brushed the tracks away before her lips pressed to the tip of my nose. "Thank you for taking such good care of me," she whispered as she stroked her fingers through my hair and pulled my body even more tightly against hers.

Oh god. I could feel them…my feelings. They were bubbling just under the surface like boiling water in a pot on the stove, ten seconds away from exploding out from under the lid and spewing all over everything. Oh shit. Oh shit. I was going to say it. I could just feel it. It was going to come out any second now, the L-word. I could feel it wiggling around inside my throat and just itching to crawl up and onto to my tongue and out of my mouth.

But I couldn't, right? I mean, I couldn't just say that I was IN LOVE with her. No. No way. It was WAY too soon for that, and just completely the wrong time given everything that she was going through and probably would be going through for a long time. No. Nope. I couldn't. The L-word had to be introduced at just the right time, not that I really knew what the right time was considering I'd never really had any great (or any at all) experiences with real love. But to me, saying the L-word for the first time was like wearing a big-ass fur coat. You know? There was a time and a place for that shit, otherwise it would feel too heavy, or too hot, or too scratchy, or too much for this event, or too much for that outfit….ugh, just too much, too everything.

God, the way she was looking at me, though, and the things she'd just said. It was like she was doing everything in her adorable and mysterious dwarven powers to get me to spill my heart out. Of course, she couldn't have just been like, hey Santana, you're cool. I like you. Thanks for being a totally dope friend. Nope, that would have been way too easy, way too platonic, and admittedly entirely un-Rachel-like.

Instead, though, she had to be all, I want to see your face when I close my eyes, Santana. You're beautiful. You make me feel safe. You make me feel wanted. I need you.

In other words, she was basically saying, please spill your guts, Santana. Please embarrass yourself and make things fifty times more difficult by telling me that you love me at this entirely inappropriate and way-too-soon moment in time.

Oh Christ, I was going to explode! I didn't know how much longer I could hold all of this shit in. It was like every cute little thing she did or said, every time she opened up to me, and every time she touched me, my heart would just zip right up my throat and into my mouth and beg me to tell her. But at the same time, I was fucking terrified (repeat: TERRIFIED) of what would happen if I did. Would she reject me? Would she say it back? Would she NOT say it back? Would it be too soon or too much for her? Because it certainly seemed like it would be. I was just so conflicted that I felt like I might splinter apart at any moment.

And then my phone rang.

Oh sweet Jesus, thank you! The shrill sound chopped right through the tension building inside my body and through the moment that was still sort of dancing between Rachel and me, and though I wanted to spend as much time in our little more-than-friends, possible-semi-lesbian-lovers bubble as I could, I seriously didn't think I would last another second without blurting out my secret feelings.

Rachel's eyes nearly bugged out of her head as the sound drew her attention over my shoulder and toward the nightstand. "Shit!" she practically yelled, which not only shocked the hell out of me because it was loud but also because Rachel rarely cussed. I mean, I'd heard her pop off at the mouth a few times, but her language was hardly ever crude and definitely never even in the vicinity of being as bad as mine. I turned over quickly, reached for my phone, and instantly saw the reason for Rachel's shout.

Quinn Fabray's face was beaming brightly up at me from my phone's screen as it continued to ring for her incoming call. Shit. Shit. Shit. I'd completely forgotten about her. I grabbed the phone and quickly accepted the call on speaker. Before I could even get a word out, though, Quinn started talking.

"So, picture this scenario: here I am on the train bound for New York City, and of course, I am incredibly excited to see my two very best friends after several weeks of being unable to get away from my ridiculously rigorous and difficult studies at Yale, and said excitement is only growing as I get closer and closer to the city. However, when the train pulls into the station, imagine my great surprise at realizing that my dear friend Santana, who I'd reminded numerous times of my exact arrival time and received multiple assurances that she would definitely NOT forget, is nowhere to be found. It seems that she, in fact, DID forget to pick me up after all."

There was a long pause in which Rachel cupped a hand over her mouth to keep from cracking up and I just rolled my eyes before Quinn's voice came through again to dryly add, "End scenario."

"Dramatic much, Q?" I deadpanned. It seemed Quinn's drama courses at Yale were seriously taking their toll.

Rachel did all she could to keep her laughter from slipping out as she said, "I am so sorry, Quinn. I completely forgot to set the alarm for Santana."

"Yeah, yeah," Quinn mumbled. "Just open the door, bitches."

"Oh, you're here!" Rachel said excitedly. "Santana, go let her in. Go!"

"Damn people, stop pushing me around," I growled playfully as I planted a kiss to Rachel's cheek and rolled out of the bed. "I'm going. I'm going." I clicked to end the call with Quinn before darting out of the room and over to the large sliding door of the loft, the cold of the floor biting at the bottoms of my bare feet.

As soon as I slid the door open, I was greeted with searing hazel eyes that playfully hardened as Quinn said, "I can't believe you forgot about me."

I lowered my voice to a whisper and told her, "I'm sorry, okay? Some shit went down yesterday. I'll tell you about it later when Rachel naps, but trust me…you'll understand once you know."

Those hazel eyes instantly softened and saddened before Quinn nodded her head, stepped into the loft, and right into my arms. We wrapped easily around each other, something that was like second-nature to us because her body was familiar to me, comfortable, just like mine was to her. Quinn and I…we'd been best friends for so long that it felt surreal to think that there had ever been a time in my life that I hadn't known her. Hell, we'd been best friends for so long that sometimes it was like we were the same person. We just got each other…and it meant more to me than I'd ever be able to tell her, but something told me that she already knew, even if I never found a way to say it.

"I missed you," I told her as I squeezed her tightly.

"I missed you too," she said, grunting from how tightly I was squishing her. I laughed and let go of her before reaching for the handle of her enormous suitcase and wheeling it over to Kurt's room. He'd only just left early that morning to visit his dad and have a "serious talk" with Blaine for a few days, and Quinn's classes were out for the next week because of some lame Yale crap that I couldn't remember anything about, and she was spending the whole week in New York with us. So, I figured she might as well get to use Kurt's room and sleep in his nice, big bed since it was available instead of having to sleep on our couch.

"Santana, I can sleep on your cot," Quinn said as she followed me into Kurt's room. "You should get to sleep in here while Kurt is gone."

My face went cherry red in that moment because I'd completely forgotten that neither Rachel nor I had told Quinn about our sleeping arrangement since the attack. I mean, yes Quinn knew that sometimes Rachel had terrible nightmares and I would always stay with her then to help her calm down and get back to sleep, but she didn't know that it was a full-time, every-night kind of thing. Needless to say, there was definitely going to be a reaction to that.

"Uh…" I mumbled out, avoiding eye contact as I strained to pick Quinn's suitcase up before plopping it down on Kurt's bed so that she wouldn't have to squat down to the floor to unpack it. "I actually sleep with Rachel."

"You sleep with Rachel?" she reiterated, arching that famous Fabray eyebrow at me. "As in, in the same bed every night?"

"Yeah," I answered, clearing my throat and keeping my voice low so that Rachel wouldn't overhear, "but we just sleep, I swear. I couldn't…I mean, I wouldn't ever try to push her to do anything more than that."

"Hey," Quinn said softly as she grabbed my hands and squeezed until I looked up and locked gazes with her. "I know you wouldn't. It's not a big deal, Santana. I was just a bit surprised that it was an every-night kind of thing versus only when she has nightmares. Then again, I assumed after seeing her Facebook status that day that you two were sort of in a relationship now, but Rachel has been very tightlipped about it every time I've asked her about you two on the phone."

She smiled at me then, that annoyingly knowing Quinn smile that always grated on my nerves because it was like the woman could suddenly see all my secrets. I rolled my eyes at her and said, "That's because there's nothing to tell. We're not in a relationship, Q. She only made that status to make a point to Hudson that he needed to stop with his stupid Facebook insults."

"Really?" Quinn asked, that annoying smile still planted on her lips as she poked playfully at my sides. "That's the only reason?"

"Okay, okay, stop," I laughed out as I smacked at her hands. "She likes me, okay? Are you happy? She does like me. I know that much, but we aren't in a relationship."

"But you want to be," Quinn said, smirking. "I can see it all over your face. You like her, too."

"Oh god, Quinn, I fucking love her," I groaned in a strained whisper, finally exploding beyond the point of holding it in anymore, and damn, it felt good to finally just tell someone.

Quinn gasped, her eyes going wide, and she quickly lifted a hand to cover her mouth. "I know, I know," I whined at the look on her face, guilt racking my body in that moment. "I know it's too soon and I can't say anything because she's not ready for that kind of thing right now, and I haven't told her. I swear I haven't, because I don't want to put any kind of pressure on her, not to mention the fact that I'm fucking terrified that she doesn't feel the same way, but fuck, I love her, Q. I love her. I can't stop loving her. I think about her all the time, and I wanna be with her all the time, and it's driving me fucking CRAZY to not say it, because she does all these cutesy little things and says all these like stupidly romantic things that make me just want to—"

"Santana!" Quinn snapped at me as she grabbed my shoulders tightly and shook me. "Take a breath!"

I sucked in a heavy breath like she said and then I watched as a massive and beautiful smile spread across her lips. As soon as I saw it, I just couldn't help myself. I dissolved into a loud round of laughter and Quinn quickly followed. I collapsed into her arms as we laughed and she just rubbed my back and said, "Oh honey, you've got it bad."

"QUINN FABRAY!" Rachel shouted from her room, her voice echoing loudly through the loft in a very sing-song manner and only causing Q and I to laugh harder. "While I am quite aware of Santana's many entertaining qualities, you have now been here exactly six minutes and thirty-seven seconds and have yet to say hello to me! In case you have both forgotten, I am rather incapacitated here, so a certain blonde had better make her way into my room in the next twenty seconds or I may very well take offense and rescind her invitation!"

"Wow," I said through my laughter. "I can't believe it took you and Rachel so long to be besties. You're both dramatic as hell."

"Uh huh," Quinn said, smirking at me. "You're many entertaining qualities, huh?"

"Shut it, Q," I snapped at her, narrowing my eyes. "Go visit the munchkin and I'll unpack your stuff for you."

"Alright," Quinn drawled, "but you and I have MUCH to talk about later, Santana."

"Yeah, yeah," I grumbled before watching her stroll from the room and over toward Rachel's. I didn't know if I was looking forward to that conversation or not.