Let the flames begin...
Five hundred and four hours.
Thirty thousand, two hundred, and forty minutes.
That's all it took.
That's all it took for blonde and hazel and life to steal her heart, and captivate her soul.
She took a deep breath as a gust of cold wind blew browning autumn leaves around her feet. The brunette toed them absently with her scuffed Chuck Taylors while a group of laughing children ran past her, their parents rushing by moments later. She sat precariously on a wooden bench, running her fingers over the well-worn slats, deep etchings covering the lacquered surface every few inches. She danced her fingers over the markings as if she was reading braille, the writings staring back at her just as foreign.
When Santana told her best friend, Brittany, four years ago that she was getting out of Lima, she somehow pictured she would be road tripping it to New York, or jetting off to California. Never did she imagine she would be sitting in a crowded train station nearly four thousand miles away from all she knew with nothing but a backpack and a crinkled railway ticket.
She took in another deep breath, smelling freshly ground coffee and cigarettes, making her already nerve ridden stomach churn. She hung her head low between her legs, trying to clear her head of all thoughts that would have her back on a plane home within the hour.
Why am I here?
She straightened up and dug into the warm pocket of her Ohio State hoodie, fishing out her already worn train pass. She brushed her fingertips over the embossed writing on the small slip of paper.
"Gare de Lyon, Paris to Venezia, Mestra," Santana muttered under her breath as if she hadn't uttered her destination a thousand times over the past twenty-four hours.
Why did I think this was a good idea?
She was only nineteen for Christ sake, not nearly old enough to be taking on the world. But she had to get out of Lima. And if she thought about it she knew it was an adventure she had to take on her own. A part of her just wished her parents didn't let her go so easily. Like by asking to go on this trip she was testing their love. She'd hoped that maybe they would finally show concern for her well being, beg her to stay. But that obviously wasn't the case, or else she wouldn't be sitting by herself on a wooden bench in a crowded train station at 8pm at night.
She looked up at the large clock hanging over her platform, telling her it was five minutes until her train departed. She stole herself the last few moments of fresh air before she'd have to board a train for the next ten hours. She just prayed to all that was Holy that she didn't have to share a seat with a pair of screaming babies, or an over excited traveller all too willing to talk. She slung her heavy backpack over her shoulder and made her way over to the back exit of the sleek train, hoping she could find an empty compartment away from the madness of families taking their ungrateful bundles of joy with them for their weekend getaway.
It took three carriages before Santana found one that was empty. She hauled off her rucksack and shoved it unceremoniously under one of the two small beds, before falling onto the soft sheets with a sigh. She felt like she hadn't slept in days. Ever since Brittany saw her off at the airport she hadn't let her mind fade long enough to find rest.
She retrieved her earplugs from her pocket, hearing a generic female voice announce something in French just as she turned up today's favourite mix on her iPod. She settled into her bunk and shut her eyes, letting the guitars and calming male vocals wash over her. She felt the train jerk into motion, sinking lower into her pillow, having every intention of sleeping her way to Venice.
Time passed by as the cabin slowly drifted into darkness, cities giving way to rolling green hills and small towns. The soothing sounds of Dallas Green soon had Santana snoring lightly for the first time in nearly thirty-six hours.
When she woke, her slowly adjusting eyes were met with blinding artificial light coming from across the small space. Santana jerked her hands up to her face, peaking at her Omega as she did so.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Santana groaned at the unknown intruder, her headphones tangled awkwardly around her neck. "Have you not seen the time?"
She heard sheets rustling softly as she collapsed face down, trying to shield as much light as possible from her still sensitive eyes. Santana heard a breathy chuckle before the sarcastic greeting reached her ears.
"Morning to you too," came an angelic voice, making the brunette lift her head suddenly off her white pillow at the sound.
Santana turned her head toward the other side of the room, a pale hand covering the table lamp. The soft glow that seeped through slender fingers illuminated the girl's face just enough for Santana to be rendered speechless; not that she was that eloquent this early to begin with. She followed the hand across until she hit an old leather bound journal, then up towards short hair and the most amazing hazel eyes that glowed in the dim light. Her sharp flicks of blonde hair fell just below her jaw, framing her angular face.
She was breathtaking.
Santana hadn't realised she'd been staring at the girl silently for the past few minutes until she'd quirked a perfect eyebrow, and flashed a wide smile her way.
"Umm, morning," Santana finally choked, inwardly cringing at her awkward response. She buried her head in her pillow, her self-embarrassment turning her face a deep crimson.
Way to be smooth when there's a hot girl sharing your cabin, Lopez.
"So, Lopez," came the muffled, honey sweet voice. "Where are you from?"
Santana ears prickled at the question, her face going from red to white in a matter of seconds at the mention of her name.
Did I just say that out loud?
"How did you?" Santana stuttered. Her heart was beating wildly as she turned to face the other girl, pulling her legs up to her chest and untangling the chord from around her neck in the process. The girl just smirked in response, then motioned toward something underneath Santana's bunk. Realisation washed over her, remembering her last name was scrawled across the top of the rucksack she'd borrowed from her older brother. She let out a shaky breath, nodding in understanding.
"Lima, Ohio," Santana answered, getting comfortable. "You? And your name while at it too, since you insist on playing twenty questions at four in the morning."
There was that laugh again, breathy but with a childish innocence. It was contagious, and it brought a small smile to Santana's lips and a warmth to her chest.
"Small world, I'm from Bellville," the blonde stated, closing her leather journal and meeting Santana's gaze. "But I've lived in New York for the past two years." Santana nodded softly, but still waited patiently for her acquaintance's name. "And you can call me Q," she finished.
"That's all I get?" Santana asked in astonishment. "Q?"
"Yes, that's all you get," she told her in a matter-of-fact tone, returning her attention to her journal. "You could be a serial killer for all I know, Lopez."
"Say's the one that's writing in her journal at 4am," Santana retorted, causing her to put down her pen once more.
"You're really not a morning person, are you?" she asked, a teasing grin on her lips.
"It's still night, Q," she stated, pointing out at the darkened scenery rushing by. The blonde turned her attention to the outside world for a moment and nodded thoughtfully, her smile still in place.
Silence feel over both girls as the Italian sun slowly started to peek over the green hills in the distance. Santana, for the most part, gazed out of the window at her first glimpse of Italy. It was beautiful; there was no denying it. With its lush pastures and quaint houses nestled every few miles, she could see its appeal. Farms soon gave way to small towns, and towns gave way to sprawling cities.
Every few minutes Santana would break from watching vineyards to steal glances of her new friend, who never seemed to take her eyes off her notebook, or her ever-moving pen. This gave Santana a chance to watch her more closely. Watch her eyes light up when she would write, or watch how she would bite her lip in concentration when she wasn't.
"So, how long are you gone for?" the girl asked, gazing up through her long lashes and catching Santana staring. The brunette reverted her eyes back to the window, suddenly finding her fingernails extremely fascinating as she tried to avoid the her knowing gaze.
"Until my trust fund runs out," Santana huffed, not wanting to get into the details. The story of how her parents would rather throw money at her than spend quality time with their only daughter wasn't really a subject fit for early morning small talk.
"So, how long are you gone for?" she repeated again, her smile evident in her tone.
"One month, two tops," Santana replied, finally looking back at her. "What about you?"
"I'll be working in London for the next year, then it's back to New York."
The train came to an abrupt halt, the metal wheels screeching across the rail. The generic female voice had turned Italian and began rattling off what Santana guessed was the standard take your belongings upon exiting.
"Sounds like we're here," Santana announced awkwardly, reaching under her bunk to retrieve her backpack. She slung it over her shoulder and made her way to the exit just next to their cabin.
She touched down onto the concrete platform, and breathed in the fresh sea air. The first thing she noticed was the temperature change. It had climbed a considerable amount since Paris, making her skin overheat in her sweatshirt in minutes. Q stepped off the train moments later, making her way over to where Santana stood in between the platforms.
"Well, it was nice to have met you, Q," Santana jested playfully, holding out her hand expectantly.
"Likewise, Lopez," she quipped back, taking her hand. The easy contact sent tingles up Santana's arm and through to her chest. They let their hands drop, the brunette rubbing her palm discretely on her jeans in an effort to rid the static left behind by the touch.
With one last glance at Santana, Q turned her back and began making her way up the platform toward the exit. She hadn't gotten fifty feet when she turned around, the shorter girl still standing there watching her go. She cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes, contemplating something for a moment before jogging back to Santana.
"Come with me."
Santana's eyes practically bulged out her head. This girl couldn't be serious.
"I don't even know where you're going," she stated, shell shocked from the completely blasé statement.
"Does it matter?" the girl countered.
"I don't even know your name."
"Quinn," she said with a smile. "Come with me."
"I just met you."
"That's a matter of perspective."
"I just learnt your name."
"What's in a name?" Quinn recited poetically.
"I barely know you," Santana said, her brain ruining out of excuse to say no to the beaming girl in front of her. The darker girl was starting to think Quinn's smile could get her to do just about anything it wanted, given the right circumstance.
"All the more reason for you to come with me," she said passionately. "Why did you come to Europe if not to experience the unexpected. Well, I'm the unexpected."
A million thoughts and scenarios were racing through Santana's head. Was this really a smart thing to do? For all the already mentioned reasons, she felt reckless and stupid for even considering it.
"Give me three weeks," she digressed when she saw the hesitation in Santana's eyes. "Three weeks, and I'll show you why you left home in the first place."
Santana let out a breath and eyed the girl in front of her.
What's the worst that could happen?
I've had this story in my head for the past six months, and if I didn't get this out I may just go insane. This is what came of it…