Chapter Three: The Only Comfort
My heart shot into my throat and stuck there like a hard piece of candy, throbbing and painful and refusing to go down as I took in the sight of Rachel, still bloody and still dirty and still completely broken. Her tattered clothes that had barely clung to her when I'd found her had been removed and were in little bags just off to the side on a countertop. From her visibly bare shoulders, I could guess that she was naked beneath that thin white sheet as she thrashed on the bed and screamed at the nurses not to touch her even though none of them were even making an attempt to do so. Her hair was a mess, tangled and mussed and sticky with the grime from the street, but it was her eyes that arrested me.
As soon as she noticed me standing there, those big, chocolate eyes, wide with panic and fear, pierced into me, digging beneath my flesh and tearing at my fucking soul, and I just wanted to die. I was so conflicted in that moment that I couldn't decide if I wanted to turn and run back out the door and away from all of this or run to her, cradle her in my arms, and tell her that everything was going to be alright just like I'd done when she'd broken down about her pregnancy scare.
I meant to hold it together. I swear I did. I had been holding my breath the entire time I'd been following Dr. Hart and telling myself that I had to stay strong for Rachel and not break down again, but when she locked her wide, fearful gaze with mine and her strangled voice cried out to me, I just fucking lost it.
"Santana," she cried and immediately threw her arms out to me, and that was all it took. A sob ripped from my throat and my trembling legs carried me forward of their own volition and before I could even process what was happening, she had pulled me onto the bed with her and had wrapped around me like a koala bear, that thin white sheet serving as the only barrier between her bloodied flesh and my bloodied clothes. She sobbed into my neck, her entire body quaking as if she'd just been to hell and back, and God knows she had, and I just clutched onto her, crying just as fiercely into her hair as she choked and gasped and her trembling lips moved against my neck with her words. "Santana, help me. Help me."
I had always thought people were overly dramatic when they talked about heartbreak, because I'd had my own heart broken and yeah, that shit hurt, but it wasn't the end of the world, but in that moment, I think I finally understood. It literally felt like my heart, still lodged in my burning throat, splintered and cracked wide open, and yeah, it fucking felt like the end of the goddamn world. Her words only made me cry harder as I tried to tell her that I didn't know how. I didn't know how to help her. I didn't know what to do, so I just stroked her dirty hair and pressed a trembling kiss to the top of her head, because what the hell else could I do? Nothing. There was nothing. Nobody and nothing could fix this.
Even with me holding her, though, she couldn't calm down. She only screamed and cried harder and clutched onto me until her fingernails dug into my back and burned, so I did the only thing that ever came to mind when I thought of Rachel Berry. I sang. My voice was shredded and sounded like shit, but I sang anyway. I don't even know what words came out of my mouth or what song my head had managed to produce in that awful moment, but I just kept going, and God help me, it worked. I felt her breathing stutter and slow, her frantic pulse leveling out and into a steady rhythm, pounding against my own. She still shook, but to a lesser degree, and it was as if all the fear in her leaked out in one heavy sigh and she relaxed into me, and I just rocked her back and forth and continued to sing as rivers leaked from my eyes and into her hair.
After several long moments, when I finally felt she was calm enough, I gently pushed her back so that I could look into those heartbreaking chocolate pools again, and I whispered, "You have to let them help you, Rachel."
Her bottom lip trembled as she stared into me, and I could do nothing but nod encouragingly and hope she trusted me enough to believe that this was the right thing, the best thing for her to do. "Please, Rachel, let them help you," I whispered again, my voice cracking painfully, and finally she nodded her consent, and I sighed in relief. I slid from the bed and helped her to move into a sitting position, wincing with her as she hissed in pain with the movement. I didn't look at her bare back as it became exposed, because I didn't want to see the wounds that I knew were there, so I just clutched onto her hand as she continued to stare into me, refusing to allow her gaze to wander elsewhere. I was the only thing in that room that was familiar to her; therefore, I was her only comfort, so she didn't let go, and neither did I, because in that moment, she was my only comfort as well.
There was a soft knock on the door before it opened to reveal a female detective, her badge shining from its clipped position on her hip. She smiled softly at us both, and I turned back to look at Rachel, but Rachel was only looking at me, and her gaze never moved, not even when the detective introduced herself and explained that they would need to perform a rape kit before surgery, because they needed to collect as much evidence as possible before it had any further chance of degrading or being washed away. I nodded encouragingly at Rachel even though both of our eyes were leaking as the words floated into our ears and haunted us both. When she nodded her consent again, everyone left the room except a single female doctor, the detective, and me. I was asked to step outside, but that sent Rachel into a panic, so they agreed to let me stay, but I had to stand off the side while they performed the necessary tests, and every single second, Rachel's gaze pierced into me.
It didn't matter what they did to her in that moment, because it seemed my presence was keeping her grounded. They swabbed inside her mouth, cut and bagged her fingernails, took swab samples from a fluid on the inside of her thigh that I didn't even want to think about, before they swabbed inside her, and as much as I wanted to turn away, and God did I fucking want to turn away, I couldn't. She needed me. She needed my eyes, needed to escape into something familiar, so I just stood there, trembling, while she stared into me and I stared back. When the doctor gave her a small cup with a pill in it and told her it was to prevent pregnancy, my stomach rocked and rolled for the thousandth time and threatened to spill its contents onto the floor once more, but I somehow kept it together. I kept it together for Rachel, and prayed to every deity I could think of that she could recover from this, that I could help her to come back from this somehow, though I was completely clueless as to how I could even begin to accomplish that.
When they were finally finished, they helped her into a gown and the detective asked her a few questions, but her memory of what had happened was fractured and she couldn't think straight, so she agreed to speak with the woman at a later time, after her surgery or after she'd rested, hell I don't know. I was too lost in those chocolate pools that called out to me, constantly begging me for sanctuary, for reprieve, for a damn pinch to wake her up from whatever fucking nightmare we'd both been tossed into.
The detective said she'd wait for me in the waiting room so that she could take my statement, and I just nodded, my eyes still locked with Rachel's. It took a long time for me to convince her to let me go so that the doctors could take her into surgery. Dr. Hart said that most of her wounds were superficial based on the scans they'd taken while she was still unconscious, but there was one deep stab wound to her right shoulder that needed to be tended to and her left foot was fractured, so they needed to get her into an Operating Room. It took me singing her another song and pleading with her to allow the surgery and promising that I would be there as soon as she woke up, but she finally agreed and let me go.
I stood trembling in the hallway and watched them wheel her away before a nurse pointed me in the direction of the waiting room, and I went silently, my head a riot and my heart a stammering, fractured mess. When I stepped into the massive waiting room, my eyes instantly landed on the detective from before. She was waiting near the middle of the room near a small cluster of empty seats. She smiled sadly and motioned me over, but before I could take a step forward, something caught my eyes and the air slammed from my lungs in a heart-wrenching sob.
Blonde hair swished as the familiar figure turned at the sound and wide, terrified hazel eyes bore into me, and before a word could be uttered, I was running. I sprinted the short distance across the waiting room and flung myself into arms that in that moment felt like the only home I'd ever known and allowed myself to completely crumble. I sobbed into her and she clutched onto me, her entire body quaking as her trembling hands stroked my sticky, sweaty hair, and though I knew she had a million questions, she didn't ask. She just held onto me and whispered soothingly into my ear.
"It's okay, Santana," she said as she rubbed my back and pressed a kiss to my cheek. "It's okay. I've got you." And in that moment, all I could think was, Thank God for Quinn Fabray.