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but I prayed this word: I want

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Santana reminds Quinn of the ocean at night.

She seems that mysterious, that unknowable, with her hair like moon-spangled tides and skin like damp sand. Quinn could take the images farther (subtle curves of sand dunes, glimmering seashells and tangled seaweed and the tang of salt on her tongue) but she pushes the metaphor away resolutely. If she keeps on with that line of thought she is going to get that glazey look in her eyes again, and Santana does not like that glazey look. She also doesn’t like romantic metaphors, or romantic gestures, or romantic anything. What Santana likes is fucking, and she likes to fuck with eyes wide open.

Quinn likes that too. She likes that a lot. But sometimes she can’t keep herself from wondering about that mysterious thing Santana seems to keep hidden behind the loose curtain of black curls, the impregnable-steel glint in her eyes. When that happens, it’s not unusual to see Santana’s eyes get even harder, as though she knows what Quinn is thinking.

So Quinn tries not to think.

The not-thinking is easy sometimes. It was easy half an hour ago, when Santana was braced above her on the bed and Quinn’s hands were scrabbling frantically at Santana and Santana was working that hard fast rhythm and the air was all wine coolers and sex and oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck how did she do that Jesus fuck before everything exploded and the waves crashing around her ears drowned out every other sound in the room. It was easy then, and it had even been easy an hour before that, when they were in the restaurant with six other Glee kids and Santana’s toe kept sliding up Quinn’s leg and she’d catch Quinn’s eye for just a fraction of a second longer than usual and Quinn was pretty much dead to everything but the wanting. The teasing, the needing, the begging, the fucking: Quinn’s brain tended to shut down. That was what Santana was good at. She ought to be. She seemed to spend every waking moment practicing it.

But now it’s over, and things are quiet, and Quinn’s thoughts are drawn to dark waves and seashell-studded shores. “Santana,” she whispers.

“Hmm?” Santana sounds half-asleep. She likes to sleep after.

“Oh…” Quinn hadn’t actually expected to get any answer at all. It wasn’t a question so much as an affirmation to herself: I’m here with Santana now. She’ll fuck eighteen other people tomorrow, but this moment is mine.

“Do you want a soda?” Quinn says instead. Idiot.

“Nah.” Santana sounds like she’s drifting off again. “Why would I… you’re weird,” she mumbles.

Quinn bites her lip. Santana always makes her feel like that. Like she’s awkward. Like she’s weird.

“Santana,” she says again, and her voice is louder this time.

Santana rolls over. “What,” she says, annoyed.

“Why do we do this?”

“Why do we… wait, what?” From the way Santana’s brow is crinkling, Quinn can’t tell if she’s getting madder or if she genuinely doesn’t understand the question. “What are you even talking about?”

Now Quinn is saying things she doesn’t mean to be saying. “Why me, Santana? Why are we here? You’re fucking half the student body. Why me?”

Santana crooks an eyebrow at her. “Because... I’m fucking half the student body?”

“No! Is that seriously what you –? No. That’s about them. I don’t care about why you’re fucking any of them. That’s their business. I am talking about me. One person. Me. Why are you here with me?”

Santana stares at her for a minute, then turns away, tossing her hair back over her shoulder blades. “I’m hungry. I’m getting nachos.”

“Damn it, Santana –“ Quinn is not going to let Santana see how close she is to tears. She just isn’t. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I’m not good at this. I’m not cut out for this.”

“Cut out for what? What is even going on here? One second I’m half asleep and the next minute you’re crying at me and – what? I so don’t get this at all. Do you want nachos?”

“Do I want nachos? You know what – just – no. Fuck this. No.” Quinn struggles out of the bed, disentangling herself from the sheets as fast as possible, and begins throwing on her clothes. Jeans, forget the panties; bra – where’s her shirt? She can’t find it. She grabs after one of Santana’s.

“Quinn.” Santana has crossed the room and is taking Quinn’s wrists in her hands. Quinn jerks away.

“Quinn,” Santana says again, and her voice has an odd tone to it, not one Quinn’s heard from Santana before. Quinn thinks that if Santana were capable of demonstrating vulnerability, this is what it might sound like. That isn’t actually it: Santana is who she is, and a weird moment of early-pregnancy hormones from Quinn is not going to change that. As it is, it’s more like Santana is leaving Quinn some room to be vulnerable. But it’s more than she’s given in the past, and Quinn isn’t too proud to take it.

“Quinn.” A third time. Quinn realizes that she must have been spacing out for quite awhile. And that Santana really is being patient with her. She should have been long gone for the nachos by now.

“So why aren’t you?” Quinn asks softly.

“Why aren’t I what?”

Quinn shakes her head, tries again. “I’m pregnant, Santana. I’m trying to keep Finn around, I’m trying to deal with Puck, I’m trying to – forget it. What I’m saying is, I don’t have room for –“ She gestures around randomly. “For this.”

She waits for Santana to ask “For what?”

Santana doesn’t.

“It doesn’t take up much room,” she says eventually, and if there’s emotion in her voice Quinn can’t find it.

“Not for you! God, Santana, how many people have you got jerking around on a string like this? Don’t answer that,” she says warningly, as Santana starts to open her mouth. “I don’t know how you – whatever. I can’t just separate this stuff out like that, okay?” She pulls the shirt over her head, a gesture of finality. “I can’t just fuck around and have it not matter, okay? I never – it fucks with my head. I’m not built for it. I just can’t deal.” She slings her purse over her shoulder, starts heading for the door.

“Quinn.”

She looks back over her shoulder.

“Don’t go.”

Santana is naked and moonlit and too beautiful to ignore and the mystery Quinn has always groped after is flooding her eyes right now.

“Why?” Quinn asks softly.

Santana considers. “Because I don’t want you to?”

“Santana, please.” Quinn makes a half-turn towards her. “Give me something.”

There’s a pause.

“I don’t know exactly what you’re asking,” Santana says eventually. “I’m not going to stop fucking half the student body, if that’s what you want.”

Quinn exhales.

“But – look, when you’re all on about how you can’t fuck around and not have it mean anything… yeah, you’re right, I do that with, like, practically everybody.” Santana raises her eyes to Quinn’s. “But not with you.”

“So…” Quinn is trying to parse this out. “What are you trying to tell me? That –“ And she breaks off and laughs, because the sentence she was about to come out with was Because you care about me, and that is anathema to everything she knows about Santana Lopez.

But Santana’s face is set in a pained expression, and that particular expression is anathema to everything Quinn thought she knew about Santana Lopez, too. “All I’m saying is that I really don’t give a shit if any of the rest of them throw me over, okay? It doesn’t matter. They can do whatever the fuck they want.” She stops, seeming to be drawing the words out with difficulty. “But I’m asking you… to stay?”

It’s the stupidest thing Quinn’s ever heard and the dumbest deal she’s ever been offered. I won’t stop fucking other people, but I don’t mind if they dump me, so that’s okay. But I don’t want you to dump me, so you shouldn’t. It’s a deal that makes no sense in an adult world, that will make less than no sense in seven months when Quinn has this baby, the sort of deal that exists in this world that Santana has constructed entirely around herself and that was never built to house other people’s emotions.

But she's trying. Quinn senses that for the first time, Santana is trying to let someone in.

And she is too beautiful to lose, and Quinn is already so tired of losing things.

And so she takes off her purse, and she says “Okay,” and Santana kisses her and pulls her to the bed, and over they go again.