A/N: This story deals with mature subject matter. Subjects addressed are dissociative identity disorder, (non-graphic) abuse, and attempted suicide. Please read at your own discretion.
She liked days when it rained the most.
Any other person, she figured, would be mad when they discovered that they had forgotten their umbrella in preparation for the four-block walk to their apartment in the rain, but as she did with everything in life so far, she just squared her shoulders and stepped outside. A couple of people looked at her as if she were insane for lazily strolling along the sidewalk like it was a mild day in October instead of a torrential downpour in June. Most of them, though, didn't spare her a second glance; New York was like that in its penchant for ignoring everyone, and that was the way she liked it.
She ran a hand through her black hair, slicking it back off her forehead; the cigarette in her left hand lasted for two puffs before it was too soaked to be valuable. She discarded it in the bin in front of a store, then paused to glance at her reflection in the window. Dark, tired eyes stared back at her; she'd had an 8 a.m. class then four hours for the after-lunch rush at the clinic. In the glass her tan skin melted and swam in rivulets, a funhouse mirror of eyes framed by long, black lashes, hair that was plastered against her neck and shoulders, purple scrubs decorated with Cookie Monster (because the kids at the clinic loved him, which made her boss love her) clinging to every curve like static.
Thunder rolled, and she swore under her breath. Gone was the lazy stroll, replaced by harried steps; she became a true New Yorker, shoving people out of the way as she nearly sprinted the last two blocks towards the crappy apartment with its lousy heating system and barely working plumbing that she had lived in for the last two years.
Ordinarily, she loved thunderstorms. There was something about the power of the earth and sky, revealing itself in light and sound and feel, and if she was feeling particularly poetic (which she usually wasn't, firmly believing poets were just wusses who couldn't say how they felt in normal words) she'd call it majestic. She loved to be outside in a drizzle, or a smooth, steady rain that fell on her like baptism; during a thunderstorm, though, she loved to be inside on the couch, a cup of the blackest coffee she could make in her hand, with crappy MSN documentaries on the television. She could settle into the plush, soft cushions of the couch with her gaze half on the television, half on the other side of the room, watching the other girl who lived in the apartment with her.
This other girl was the reason that Santana Lopez raced into her building and took the stairs two at a time until she reached the floor of her apartment. Her hands were wet and she fumbled, dropping the key twice as she swore under her breath, until finally she was able to unlock the door and step aside.
"Hey," she called out tentatively, rooted to the rug in front of the door, water coursing off of her.
"I'm home?" She was met with silence.
A quick survey of the living room told her all she needed to know.
A half-eaten plate of chicken carbonara (extra bacon) from Dante's sat on the coffee table, a nearly empty glass of iced tea next to it. On the left side of the plate were a stack of books, novels that the other girl needed to read for her American literature class. On the right, in stark contrast, was a box of 64-crayons, each one of them worn down and clearly used, and a coloring book haphazardly open to a page that was partially filled. Santana smiled briefly down at it, noting how each stroke of the crayon had been even and smooth, staying inside the clearly-defined black lines of the picture. The lines had been traced over with black crayon, as if the artist had been afraid to stray any further. The television was loud with SpongeBob and Patrick annoying Squidward; Santana reached for the remote and flipped it off, just as a particularly loud roar of thunder crashed through the apartment. As it died off, she caught the thin, muffled squeak, and she sighed.
Standing in the middle of the living room, Santana realized just how cold she had gotten, because the last couple of days the heat had been searing, so the air conditioner was still on full blast. She crossed the floor to the hall, sparing only a glance at the closet and noting that it was cracked open a few inches. Once inside her bedroom she stripped off her wet layers and walked naked into the bathroom. Usually, she'd just dry off and put her clothes on, but she was chilled and tired, and a shower sounded like a really good idea.
The heated water flowed over her and she leaned her head against the glass door, once again watching her reflection slip steadily down the drain. Santana took a couple steadying, deep breaths and shook her head.
Twenty years old was far too young to feel this fucking old.
She didn't bother putting clothes on after the shower; she grabbed a pair of underwear out of her drawer and pulled on a bathrobe, padding barefoot down the hall once again. This time, she stopped in front of the hall closet door and tucked three fingers in the crack, pulling it open slowly and kneeling down, sitting on her heels.
The girl looked up at her with frightened eyes, from her position curled up on the floor with her thumb in her mouth.
Santana reached out slowly, watching for a flinch. Seeing none, she tucked an errant strand of honey blonde hair out of the girl's face and behind her ear.
"Hey, there," she said, brightly and gently. The girl didn't respond, so Santana settled for placing her hand on her back, stroking over the yellow fabric of her dress.
"I'm going to make hamburgers and mac and cheese for dinner," she said. "Would you like that?"
Her sister nodded, then whimpered, curling further into herself, as it thundered outside.
"Okay," Santana said. "You want to stay in here until after the storm is over?"
She already knew the answer. That didn't stop her from asking, hoping every time that the answer would be different.
The blonde girl at her feet nodded.
"Okay." Santana scooted forward slightly, leaning down to brush a kiss on her sister's forehead. "I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."
It was her sister's turn to fix dinner, actually, but Santana knew that wouldn't be happening, not while the thunder was rattling the windows every 5 minutes and the apartment was eerily illuminated each time the lightning crashed. But it didn't matter.
After four years, Santana was used to it.
So she busied herself in their too-small kitchen, trying to keep everything neat and in order as she worked, because there was barely enough room to move around, much less make a mess. She cracked open a beer and let the slow burn wash down her throat as she cooked, wrinkling her nose at the smell that would linger for hours in the lousy ventilation. But it was her sister's favorite meal on nights like this, so, really, what was Santana going to do?
It was only after she had plated her food and her sister's, sitting alone at the kitchen table with an empty space across from her that Santana realized the storm had stopped. It was already eight p.m. and the sky was just darkening, the sun's rays lightly pinking over the horizon before disappearing completely.
The soft sound of a throat clearing startled her, and Santana glanced up.
Her sister smiled at her with focused eyes, and Santana smiled back. The blonde girl carried the plate of pasta to the counter and pulled out a plastic container, scooping the contents into it and putting it into the refrigerator. Moving back to sit across from Santana, she rested her cheek on her palm and picked at the macaroni and cheese in front of her.
Santana took another long drag of her beer before leaning back in her chair, carefully maintaining enough balance to reach into the fridge and grab another.
"Hey," she greeted her sister. "Welcome back."
There was a pause as her sister stared at her.
"Hey," Quinn finally said.