Chapter 3: Where The Lines Overlap
Her eyes fluttered open, the early morning sun breaking through the thin curtains. The blinding light had caught the sheer material that billowed in the slight breeze, Santana groaning mutely and rolling over, stretching her arms out over the white cotton sheets. She let a content sigh escape as they cooled her heated skin. It was soothing, and it alleviated the dull headache that had started just behind her eyes.
As her body began to wake, her mind flitted over the memories of the night before; from Rachel's shy eyes after she'd read her letter and the dark crowded bar, to Quinn's honey sweet voice, and the memory of their kiss and of those lips. Santana laughed humourlessly at the last of the vivid images, and pushed herself up off the mattress.
She could hear soft snoring from the next bed over, the two girls still deep within its covers. Quinn had her arm draped loosely over Rachel's waist; both of them huddled together despite the warm breeze coming off the miles of sand and rock outside their window.
Santana sat up awkwardly and checked her watch, the hour hand just reaching seven. It was still early by her standards, but she was already too restless to find sleep. So she swallowed dryly and rubbed at her eyes, her bare feet hitting the rough carpet. She took one last glance at the still sleeping girls, before grabbing her fresh pack of Malboros from inside her leather jacket and padding silently across the room.
The desert heat hit her as soon as she opened the door, the world outside just waking up as well. Cars and trucks passed the small bed and breakfast, the sound of airbrakes and the distant cawing of birds meeting her ears as she clicked her metal lighter and brought a cigarette to her lips.
She breathed in deeply and took a seat on the hard plastic chair just underneath the window. She slowly exhaled the white smoke; the instant hit clearing her mind. Her thoughts of the previous night had only dimmed when she finally found sleep in the earlier hours. She'd lain awake, listening to the local traffic and replaying that kiss, over and over. She didn't know what it meant, or why Quinn did it. It was unprovoked and unlabelled. It was a mystery, just like Quinn. But it was soft and innocent, and it sent a low tightening to her stomach at just the thought of those lips.
Santana knew she was overthinking it, but it didn't stop the thoughts that nagged at her already aching head. And with everything that had happened, she didn't need something like this weighing down on her. She was meant to be healing, and grieving, and moving on, not kissing strangers.
But what did that mean; what constituted as healing in this situation? Was she meant to sit in a circle singing Kumbaya, or talk about her feelings like others would know what she was going through; that wasn't her. And she didn't think it would help. No, Santana would dwell on the bad until it consumed her, and she lashed out or checked out in the process. Which probably explained her parents' willingness, or rather defeat, at letting her go. They knew that dragging her back, kicking and screaming wasn't the solution, and would only succeed in creating more distance between them.
Santana could just imagine the two of them coming home to an empty house. But being so closed off this pass year, it wouldn't have made much difference if she were there or not. It would have been the same silence, and the same void.
Santana released the third puff on her cigarette, her mouth turning down at the taste but needing the clarity. She placed it in the ashtray to her left and ran her fingers through her messy hair, before pressing the heels of her palms to her eyes. Her throat began to constrict uncomfortably as she thought about what her grandmother would say to her if she were here now, of the words of wisdom she would share. Santana knew there would be disappointment lacing her tone at her choices, and that she would have only shared enough to show her the start of the path, and not the end. But she just felt so lost and helpless that she couldn't even see the first brick, let alone the path; she needed saving.
Santana felt hot tears sting the corners of her eyes, her jaw clenching painfully. She could also feel the choking sob that was starting in the back of her throat, fighting its way to the surface. It had her needing her palms deeper into her eyes, and had her head hanging lower.
Santana's head shot up at the sound of Rachel's voice. She wiped roughly at her flushed cheeks as the girl wandered over to the spare seat opposite.
Taking in a sharp breath, Santana composed herself as best she could before responding. "Hey," she croaked, clearing her throat.
Rachel gave her a sweet smile in response, settling into the hard plastic and bringing her knees up to her chin. She regarded her with a cautionary glance, probably noting Santana's redden eyes, before turning her gaze to the dusty road.
Santana licked absently at her dry lips, her eyes wandering down to the tiny bed shorts Rachel had on that had ridden up her tanned thighs, her mind taking a very different path. She looked away after a moment, concentrating on the faded asphalt in front of them, trying to rid her mind of those kinds of thoughts. Instead she watched as a man, not unlike Bill, hopped into the cab of his truck at the gas station opposite, his engine roaring to life a few seconds later.
"I didn't know you smoked."
Santana looked back at her, Rachel watching her with those kind eyes. She shrugged indifferently, grabbing the still burning cigarette and stubbing it out in the tray. "I started when my Abuela got sick, and never really stopped."
"We all have our vices, I suppose," Rachel said cheerfully, and without judgment. She was still resting her chin on the top of her knees with her hair in their loose braids. They made her appear almost childlike, and it brought odd warmth to Santana's chest.
Santana couldn't help but feel comfortable around Rachel, her presence calming. "More of a bad habit," Santana told her, smiling back at her. "You?"
"I don't know," she half-shrugged, biting at her bottom lip shyly. "Chocolate cake."
"That's not a vice," Santana laughed, sitting forward and angling herself toward her. "A vice is more like drugs or sex. Like an addiction," she trailed off, watching her carefully.
"Chocolate cake," Rachel murmured in low serious voice, before a grin cracked her façade. Santana laughed with her, pulling her legs further underneath her chair. "I don't know, I guess I don't have one yet," she edged. The intense look in Rachel's eyes sent a slight chill down Santana's back despite the heat. She bit at her lip and shifted under the gaze, Rachel looking away shyly once more.
"I should probably go wake Quinn," Rachel intoned, before getting up from her chair, Santana merely nodding. "I'm going to take these too," she said, grabbing the full pack of cigarettes from the table between them.
"Am I gonna get 'em back?"
"Nope," Rachel giggled with a small shake of her head, before disappearing back through the door. She shut it with a dull click, Santana staring after her in awe.
"I'll be right back." Quinn just nodded absently. The motel owner left the two girls alone in the front room, ducking through the beaded door curtain at his back, and began to rifle through paperwork in his small office.
Quinn leant forward, placing her elbows against the counter, and let her eyes wander the photo frames hanging on the surrounding walls. Santana watched her for a moment, before turning around and resting her back against the desk, spotting Rachel through the clouded glass window packing the van just outside.
Santana hadn't waited long after Rachel left before following her back inside, the girl already in the bathroom, the sound of running water reaching her ears. Quinn was awake as well, smiling lazily at her as Santana sat down on the edge of her mattress. Quinn had mumbled good morning, her voice husky and still full of sleep, but it was honestly one of the sexiest things Santana had ever heard, clearing her throat when her thoughts started to wander.
Her mind was still on what happened between them the night before, though Quinn didn't look fazed in the slightest, continuing to look over at her every few moments while she waited for the shower to be free. And even now she seemed to be pretending like nothing had happened, and that she hadn't just attacked Santana with her lips less than nine hours ago.
Santana let a sigh escape, continuing to watch Rachel pack their bags into the Kombi van. Or rather was haphazardly lobbing them over the wide backseat, paying no mind as to where they landed. She'd already thrown one, when the second seemed to catch on the small lava lamp, sending a faint crack into the morning air. Rachel appeared to huff dramatically, before climbing into the back to clean up her new mess. Santana chuckled, shifting her gaze back to her other friend. But her breath caught when her eyes were met with smooth olive skin, Quinn bending over to peer at the guest book that lay open behind the counter.
Santana's eyes began to unconsciously trail over her tiny denim shorts, Quinn's loose tank riding further up, revealing the start of a tattoo on the small of her back. Santana bit down on the inside of her cheek, her hands burying deeper into the pockets of her jean shorts.
Holy sweet hell.
"Can I ask you something?" Santana blurted, shaking her head softly when Quinn jumped back down from the desk and spun to face her.
"Sure," she chirped. "What's up?"
"Last night," Santana muttered, her mind going back to those lips as a slight flush began to creep up her neck. "Was what, exactly?"
"It was fun," she answered with an effortless smirk, not missing a beat, her eyes going back to the beaded curtain behind the front counter.
Santana raised an eyebrow at her completely blasé response, "Fun?"
"You looked like a good kisser," she stated with a half shrug, glancing back at her. "I was curious."
"Right," Santana mumbled, slightly deflated at her answer. She tried her best to keep it from her tone, turning around to pace the length of the small foyer.
Her eyes flicked over the wood panelling, and over to the tourist pamphlets in a turnstile near the glass sliding door. She had to admit a part of her was hoping that Quinn had kissed her for more than just her own curiosity and amusement. But she knew she'd been overthinking it. And she quietly reminded herself that this was a good thing, that it being meaningless meant that it wasn't complicated or awkward.
It was just a bit of fun.
No big deal.
"Sign here please."
Santana turned around to find the man had returned, Quinn already scribbling on the offered form. The girl unclicked the ballpoint pen and handed back the paperwork with a smile, "Thanks."
"Drive safe, girls," he bade, his head already in the logbook.
"Let's go," Quinn said, looping her arm gently through Santana's as she walked past. "Rach is probably waiting, and I'm starved."
Santana took a tentative sip of her coffee, watching Quinn place the finishing touches to the miniature waffle house. She had a carefree edge to her lips as she grabbed the pitcher to her left and gently poured the golden syrup over the makeshift roof. It dripped from the awning and pooled on the white plate, Quinn giggling and licking her fingers.
Santana was mesmerized, her attention on those hazel eyes as they lit up the girl's face, and on those fingers as they were brought to her lips. "Do you always do that?"
"What do you mean?" Quinn asked around a mouthful of her own coffee. The girl smiled at her, Santana sensing that it was the always that she was concerned with, and not the what.
Santana put her own cup down and regarded her for a moment, "I saw you make one at the diner yesterday, out by route 60."
Rachel looked up at this, switching her gaze between the pair. She was sitting beside Quinn against the wall of their booth, a road map spread across the table in front of her. She held a tight-lipped smile, before her eyes found the counter top again.
"Yeah, I do," Quinn told her, with a wistful look. "Ever since I was a kid."
Santana noticed a small flicker of sadness in her eyes just before she picked up her fork. Quirking an eyebrow, Santana tried to find it again, but it was gone as soon as the girl brought a corner of the roof to her mouth. Santana continued to watch her closely, Quinn cutting another slice of the house and chewing, keeping her eyes on her food.
"We could always go through Phoenix?" Rachel piped up, interrupting them as she cleared her throat. She ran her hands over the map, and looked up with a grin, "We could go to a museum or something, anything?"
"I thought we were sticking to the back roads, avoiding capital cities," Quinn said, her eyes now on Santana as she took another bite. They were a clear hazel, with no trace of their previous sadness. But they were also intense, and had her thinking back to the dance floor the night before; of when they were trained on her, the girl's body flush against hers.
A playful smirk appeared on Quinn's lips just as Rachel spoke up again. "We don't have to avoid all of them. I seriously can't stare at dirt and desert this whole trip," she retorted. "Pretty sure I'll develop kenophobia soon if I have to look at one more rock."
Quinn just laughed at her friend, dislodging the waffle door and throwing it in her direction. Rachel scoffed as maple syrup streaked across her map and landed somewhere in the Atlantic. "Wow. Thanks, Quinn," she deadpanned, rolling her eyes.
"No problem, sweetie," she teased, before she stood up from the faded vinyl seat. "I gotta pee. I'll be right back." Quinn slipped out of the booth and made her way to the restrooms opposite the kitchen, the heavy door swinging shut behind her.
As soon as she disappeared, Santana turned to Rachel who was rubbing a napkin over the sticky spot on her map, her brow furrowed in concentration. "So, what's up with Quinn?" Santana asked, trying to keep her voice light.
"How do you mean?" Rachel replied, taking a mouthful of orange juice and regarding her fully.
"I don't know," Santana shrugged, unsure of how to word her question. "She seems…fun, like she doesn't let anything get to her."
She hoped that Rachel didn't ask her why she wanted to know, or even what she meant by the word fun as she didn't quite know herself. And she also didn't want to have to go into the details of their night after they'd left the bar. But Rachel didn't seem all that fazed, shaking her head softly, "That's just Quinn. She's always had no problem with the physical stuff, but as soon as emotions get involved she tends to close herself off, distance herself from it. Why's that?"
She kissed me, and now I'm trying to convince myself it didn't mean anything.
"No, no reason."
"I still don't understand," Eddie whispered. "What came from your death?"
"You lived," the Blue Man answered.
"But we barely knew each other. I might as well have been a stranger."
The Blue Man put his arms on Eddie's shoulders. Eddie felt that warm, melting sensation.
"Strangers," the Blue Man said, "are just family you have yet to come to know-
Santana eyes shot up from the worn pages at the sound of Rachel's voice. The girl was beaming as she faced her best friend from the passenger seat, a triumphant expression painting her features, and a piece of crinkled paper in her hand.
"Are you blind?" Quinn retorted, flicking her gaze to the tiny girl. "That was clearly Pennsylvania."
"I think I can read a number plate, Quinn," Rachel dismissed indignantly.
Santana watched as the girl began to mark down her new find, Rachel clicking her pen and scratching it across the small bit of paper. Santana had been listening to the pair ever since they left the bed and breakfast over an hour ago, the two naming off the registrations of passing cars as they drove the long stretch of bare highway, one of them calling out a state every few miles. Santana had to admit that it was actually rather amusing, stifling a giggle at the two every so often.
The best friends continued to bicker as they both tried to complete their list, the two of them in their own world. "Obviously not, Rachel," Quinn intoned, taking her eyes off the road. "Don't cross it off, it doesn't count!"
"Yes, it does!" Rachel insisted, dodging out of the way of Quinn's right hand when she attempted to grab her pen, the van teetering slightly.
"It was Pennsylvania."
Both turned their eyes to the backseat, Rachel's mouth popping open just as Quinn began to smirk. "Thank you," she sighed happily. "I knew we picked you up for a reason."
"What is this, two against one now?" Rachel huffed, throwing her hands up and turning to Santana. "Besides, you were reading. It could have been an Ohio number plate for all you know."
"Sorry, Rach," Quinn quipped with a satisfied air in her tone, completely dismissing her rebuttal. "The jury has spoken."
"Whatever," Rachel grumbled, turning to face the dashboard. She crossed her arms across her chest, and kept her eyes on the road and firmly away from the rear-view.
Santana felt a pang of momentary guilt, though it faded instantly when she saw that pout on Rachel's lips. She knew it wasn't very fair of her to interfere in their little game. And if truth were told it could've well been a Virginian plate for all she saw. But there was something about Rachel's pout that brought an uncontrollable smile to Santana's lips, that jutting bottom lip sending a strange warmth to her chest, one she hadn't felt in what seemed like years. So it was safe to say that her intervening might have had an ulterior motive behind it.
Whatever, she's adorable. Sue me.
"So, what's next on your list?" Santana leant her chin against the front seat, her eyes finding Rachel.
The tiny girl glanced at her, trying to keep that smile from appearing, her teeth pressing gently into her bottom lip. But her thin façade fell once Santana nudged her playfully, it breaking free from those lips as she just shook her head in defeat.
"I don't know," she mumbled, her shoulders pulling up coyly.
"We could always straddle state lines?" Quinn suggested, gaining Santana's attention. "The California Arizona line is coming up in a few minutes."
"Sure," Rachel shrugged again, finally smiling at Santana. "That sounds relatively risk free."
"Come on, it's only like fifty feet."
"Try a hundred and fifty, with a forty foot drop," Rachel exclaimed in disbelief. "It's like the length of a football field, Quinn."
"For what?" Quinn laughed. "The little leagues?"
Rachel just scoffed, folding her arms tightly across her chest. The midmorning sun was getting higher in the cloudless sky, Santana checking her watch as it shined brightly in her eyes. They'd parked their van outside an abandoned building in the small town of Parker, just off the highway, all three ducking through a broken chain link fence and up onto a set of rusted train tracks that stretched across the Colorado River, dividing both states.
It was rather eerie from a top the slight hill, the smell of dead grass in the air, and the distant sound of a metal gate swinging on its hinges coming from somewhere behind them. Santana looked back down the slope to their left, the highway traffic going steadily past. She was standing off to the side next to Quinn on the lip of the tracks, Rachel a little way up, her heels dug firmly into the dry gravel that surrounded the discoloured metal, refusing to go any further. She had that pout on her lips again, Santana trying to hide her pleasure at the sight of it, but failed miserably.
"And besides we already stopped halfway across the bridge for a good thirty seconds," Rachel reasoned. "It's crossed off, okay?"
Quinn just rolled her eyes dramatically and turned to Santana, letting a sigh escape her perfect lips. Arguably, she was lucky to have gotten Rachel this far, refusing to even hop out of the car as soon as she saw the foreboding barbwire fence surrounding the railway tracks, and the faded warning signs hanging from its links.
"Okay, just go to where the hill begins to dip," Quinn edged in a reassuring tone as she looked back at Rachel, before her voice turned teasing. "That way there's more than enough time to run for your life if a train comes."
"I hate you," Rachel sulked, turning and continuing to wander the length of the tracks.
"Love you, too."
Rachel waved her off dismissively as she slowly made her way closer to the start of the bridge, the girl getting smaller the further she walked. It left Santana alone with Quinn, Santana turning her eyes on her as she fiddled absently with the settings on her digital camera.
"Why make her do this list?" Santana asked out of curiosity, slipping her aviators to the top of her head. "She doesn't seem all that into it."
Quinn looked up from the tiny LCD screen. She regarded her with those almond eyes for a moment, seeming to decide on her words carefully. "When we were in high school, I was always there when the older kids would pick on her," Quinn began, her tone thoughtful. "But now we're going to be in different places when term starts, and I'm not going to be there anymore. I'd hate to think that she shied away from opportunities at college just because she was afraid." Quinn took in a breath and turned her eyes back to Rachel before continuing, her voice almost wistful. "And in a way I guess I'm doing it for me too, to give myself piece of mind so I'm not spending my freshman year worried about her. I mean look at her, she's so little."
Santana looked up to find Rachel still walking at a snail pace, her arms out as she dawdled along the metal tracks. "No, I get it. I was the same with my ex," Santana offered, her mind going back a year ago, to those blue eyes that just made her stomach sink uncomfortably as they ghosted past her lids. "Though she always seemed to be the one making the first leap."
She caught Quinn's gaze as she said the words, the girl looking back at her with a genuine smile. Santana was unsure if it was the she that made her bit her lip, or whether it was something else entirely. And the look in her hazel eyes was making Santana's heart hammer faster just beneath her thin singlet. It had her looking away and out over the river in front of them, her hands going for her pockets.
"So, why did you guys break-up?" Quinn asked, cutting through the tense silence that had began between them.
Santana thought back to that time. It was a few months after her grandmother was diagnosed. She remembered the blonde sitting across from her in that empty classroom, her hand resting gently on hers. Santana barely registered the soft strokes her then girlfriend was giving to the back of it as she proceeded to break her heart. She shook her head out of the memory, and cleared her throat quietly.
"I stopped leaping," Santana mused softly, giving Quinn a sad smile. Quinn's face fell slightly, her hand instinctually reaching out to brush the skin of Santana's arm.
She was only inches from her when they were both pulled out by the sound of Rachel's loud, yet distant voice. "Is this far enough?"
"That's perfect!" Quinn yelled back, not taking her eyes off Santana. They stayed like that for a moment longer, before Quinn spun and took the photo.
She let the cool water hit her heated skin, and drip to the light green tiles under foot. It was calming, clearing her mind of all thoughts, including the ones she'd rather not be thinking of; those of her Abuela and of the past year. Of the friends she'd lost, and the relationships that had been severed back home. She'd like to think that she hadn't changed from the person she used to be, but she knew she no longer had that sense of adventure and that life in her that she used to have, and she knew it was the reason people distanced themselves from her in the end.
I'm just not that girl anymore.
Santana ran her fingertips down the smooth shower wall, feeling the ridges between each tile. She turned to face the clear glass, combing her fingers through her wet hair. She could hear the two girls outside, their laughter reaching her through the crack underneath the closed bathroom door, along with the low hum of the TV, the sound strangely as calming as the water hitting her back. Santana let a content sigh fall from her lips as she shut her eyes against the gentle spray, letting her body relax.
It wasn't long after they'd crossed into Arizona when they'd decided to take Rachel's suggestion and head toward the capital, booking into a roadside motel on the outskirts of town. Phoenix, or at least the limited parts Santana had seen, was beautiful, in its own way. They hadn't ventured too far into the city, sticking to less built-up areas. Tall palms and cacti lined the streets, with small shrubs dusting the miles of sand and desert surrounding the concrete high-rises, as rocky mountain peaks obscured the horizon in the distance.
As they neared the busy metropolis, signs began popping up every few miles for a travelling carnival that was having its last night at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Rachel had turned to Quinn after the second billboard came and went, grinning expectantly at her. Quinn merely shrugged with a smile, not fazed either way, pulling into the first motel they'd come across as Rachel clapped excitedly from the passenger seat, Santana trying not to laugh at the endearing girl.
It was just after midday when they were settling into their room, Santana sitting beside Rachel on one of the two small beds, an iPod between them and not much else. The girl was playing her a song she'd mentioned on their three-hour trip into the city, that half smile on Rachel's lips as she hit play. Santana returned it, listening to the unfamiliar melody coming from the headphones she was sharing with her. Rachel was watching her the entire time, her eyes nervous yet excited at the same time. Her hands fiddled with the player, Rachel humming along softly to the lyrics.
The song was just getting into its third chorus when Quinn came back from the motel's reception, jumping on the end of their bed and startling both girls. Santana had pulled the tiny plug from her ear, and shuffled over slightly on the mattress. She saw Quinn's eyes dart between them for a moment, before that smile reappeared. Rachel had wound the white cord back around her iPod and placed it on the nightstand next to her, a nervous expression on her lips, her eyes not meeting either of them.
Santana bent down, retrieving her bottle of shampoo from the shower floor, her mind pulling out of the memory. She didn't know why she felt like she couldn't be close with Rachel, sit next to her or be within arm's reach. But every time Quinn was around them she found herself moving away, distancing herself from her. And it wasn't like she did the same with Quinn, if last night on the dance floor was any indication. Rachel had watched them practically the whole night, and she didn't feel the need to back off. She shouldn't be feeling guilty. Quinn had made it clear that it was just curiosity behind her actions. And besides, she hadn't done anything wrong with Rachel. It was innocent.
The bathroom door opened abruptly, startling Santana out of her thoughts. She stood frozen as Quinn appeared in the doorway. Both of Santana's hands were caught in her hair above her head mid-wash, as Quinn padded across the room to the small vanity, grabbing something from the counter. Santana didn't bother covering herself as she continued to stare at Quinn, her heart beating out of her chest.
"Sorry," Quinn muttered, gesturing to a bottle in her hand. "Just needed to grab my moisturizer."
"Oh-kay," Santana choked, still not moving an inch as her skin flushed hot under the cool water. She saw Quinn eye her briefly, noticing a tiny smirk on her lips through the glass of the shower, before she turned for the door.
"Nice ass," Quinn quipped, just as she closed it firmly behind her, Santana staring after her in complete shock.
The red and blue lights of the fairgrounds shone brightly in hazel eyes, Santana watching them intently as they followed the fiberglass clown from left to right. Quinn had a small ball between her fingertips, holding it over the opening of its mouth as the sound of a rollercoaster screamed round the bend to their left. The laughter from the carriage full of teens drifted into the warm night air, mixing with the music pumping from a nearby sound system.
Santana leant her back against the game station, as Quinn's face lit up with the surrounding lights, the girl dropping the ball down the disguised shoot. She kept watching her, expecting to find something behind those eyes, or in that smile. But she was a mystery of the best kind, Santana continuing to stare as she released yet another ball.
The two of them had just finished at the Haunted House, Rachel declining to join them, insisting that it was fine and that she'd just wait by one of the picnic tables out front. Both of them had merely nodded, entering the ticket line as deep foreboding laughter and a sharp crack of thunder came over the speakers, the red glowing eyes of the stone gargoyles stark against the dark night sky. Rachel had waved meekly at them from her spot at the table, her eyes on the tall spires above and the rather eerie rout iron gates of the attraction.
It wasn't long before they'd entered through the broken front door, the sounds of the carnival cutting short behind them. As they'd stepped inside, she'd heard a distant creaking, as well as manic laughter from behind one of the locked doors to their right. The frame rattled and banged against the jamb as they made their way past, Quinn gripping Santana's hand tightly in her own.
In the darkness of the narrow passages and the tight turns, it had been easy for Santana to lose herself. She'd felt Quinn's hand in hers the whole time, seeing the dim reflection of the low hanging lamps in her almond eyes, as cobwebs and torn curtains brushed against her bare skin. It had been freeing being alone with Quinn, but it had also sent her heart racing beneath her singlet at their constant proximity.
As they'd ventured deeper into the house, a wiry and bloodied butler and an elderly woman in 1800s garb were waiting in the shadows. Quinn and Santana were passing a set of rundown stairs leading them lower, when the butler's hands appeared, Santana whimpering and cringing away. But Quinn had just tightened her grip on her hand, her thumb making soothing circles on her sensitive skin, and her breath whispering gently near her ear. The feeling had sent a chill down Santana's back, and her mouth had gone dry at the ghostly touch.
This girl is gonna kill me.
It had been ten minutes since they'd entered when Santana had paused underneath a flickering candle on the second floor, both hands clasped tightly behind her back. The tiny flame had thrown the rest of the hallway into shadows, Santana's eyes searching for Quinn in the darkness. She'd been separated from her sometime after the set of stairs when a group of teens had rushed passed in a flurry of screams.
"Quinn?" Santana had whispered, trying again vainly to find her friend. "This isn't funny."
Another couple had slowly crept past her; both of them huddled together, their eyes darting around the walls. She'd heard a high-pitched scream as they turned the corner, followed by a cackle and sharp shuffling footsteps. Santana wasn't usually put off by haunted houses; and she'd definitely seen worse coming from a small town like Lima. But something about this one had her heart hammering and her palms sweating uncomfortably.
Santana had braced herself against the wall, before taking a calming breath and pushing off from beneath the flickering candle. Her hands hadn't even left the wall when she felt fingertips graze her jaw. She'd shivered, those hands cupping her face before soft lips pressed firmly against her own. She'd moved up instinctively to pull the girl closer, but hit air as Quinn stepped back and disappeared again into the surrounding shadows.
"Still curious?" Santana had called after her breathlessly, only hearing Quinn's distant chuckle in return, the girl already rounding the next corner.
"Why do I get the feeling that you're searching for something, but you're not entirely sure what it is you're seeing?" Quinn asked, breaking Santana out of her reverie.
Santana shook her head, toying with one of the small white balls, "Just trying to figure you out."
She looked back over, seeing that smirk as Quinn leant in, grazing Santana's nose with her own. "When you do," Quinn husked against her lips, "let me know."
Oh my God.
"So, where did Rachel get off to?" Santana asked, clearing her throat nervously. Quinn pulled back with a giggle, as Santana tried to gain back some resemblance of composure.
"Oh, she's waiting for you by the Ferris wheel," Quinn told her, placing another ball down the shoot.
"Me?" Santana questioned in surprise. "Why me?"
"Because I shotty not." Santana arched an eyebrow at her, waiting for her to explain further. Quinn caught the look on Santana's face, sighing and turning toward her. "She's afraid of them," she digressed, with a simple shrug.
"So then why is she doing it?" Santana asked, passing Quinn her next ball. "That's insane."
"She's conquering a fear."
"Oh," Santana mouthed, remembering that as one of the bucket list points. When she spotted it at the bar the previous night, she had to admit she was a little curious as to what it would entail. She somehow pictured Rachel petting a snake, or streaking down a public street. Not riding a Ferris wheel. It just seemed…tame, almost.
"We tried to cross it off when we were buying the van at Santa Monica Pier, but she didn't even make it off the ground, and my arm has the evidence to prove it. So," Quinn edged, popping in her last ball, "Good luck." She leant her elbow against the clown's shoulder and threw Santana that grin.
"Thanks," Santana deadpanned, before setting off to find Rachel. She passed numerous hotdog stands and cotton candy vendors, rounding the corner into the rides section of park. Bright flashing lights met her from every angle, and screams and shouts of euphoria came from high above as metal screeched against metal.
She made her way through the tilt-a-whirls and the merry-go-rounds, her eyes searching for the turnoff to the Ferris wheel. It didn't take her long to spot Rachel, the tiny brunette standing at the base of the wheel, her wide eyes looking up at the towering structure before them. Santana came up beside her, giving her a friendly nudge to get her attention. "You ready, short stuff?"
"As I'll ever be, I suppose," Rachel said nervously, tearing her gaze from the ride and setting them on Santana. She could see the genuine fear in the girl's eyes, her pupils completely eclipsing soft brown.
The pair kept silent as carnival goers before them were loaded into their seats. Rachel was bouncing on the balls of her feet, her teeth constantly worrying against her bottom lip. Santana found it hard not finding the gesture endearing, covering herself by biting her own.
"Next!" The attendant's commanding voice urged them both forward, Rachel going first and cautiously taking a seat on the cold metal of their carriage. The balding man slammed the lap bar down just as Santana sat next to her, making Rachel jump in her seat. She instinctively gripped Santana's thigh, but retracted it as soon as the ride jerked into motion.
"Sorry," Rachel mumbled, gripping the lip of the seat instead. "Habit. The last time I tried this was with Quinn, and we barely made it off the steel platform."
"She may have mentioned that," Santana teased. The fairground was just coming into full view as they began to near the top. "So why are you afraid of heights anyways?"
"It's not the height that's the problem as you might have guessed from the train tracks today," Rachel said in a tight voice, her back tense against the seat. "It's the falling and dying part. I could stand on top the Empire State Building and look out over the city with no problem. But being up here it's-" The Ferris wheel shook, the seat swinging back and forth violently on its hinge. Rachel made a grab for the metal lap bar, her knuckles turning a shade of white with the strain. "Oh my god, why did we stop?"
Santana looked over at her. Rachel's neck was flushed and her jaw was clenched painfully. She knew she shouldn't be finding this situation funny or amusing, but she couldn't help the small smile fighting its way to the surface. "I think they're putting more people on," Santana told her, trying to keep the laughter from her tone. Santana looked down over the edge again, watching as the attendant at the bottom helped another two riders into an empty bucket, the crowd looking like ants from a top the wheel.
"Please don't lean forward like that," Rachel pleaded, her eyes still shut and her knuckles only getting whiter.
"Okay, what should I be doing then?"
"I don't know," Rachel shrugged, her chest heaving. "I just need something to take my mind off being a hundred feet in the air on a ride that probably hasn't had maintenance work done since the late 70s."
"It's probably more like the 50s," Santana jested, watching as Rachel brow furrowed further and a muted whimper escaped.
"Please don't joke. I just-"
"Well, what else are we meant to do a hundred feet in the air?" Santana exclaimed in slight exasperation. "Play I Spy?"
Rachel eyes flicked to her nervously, her mouth opening and closing slightly, before a deep blush crept up her neck. Santana's heart fluttered in her chest at the shy look on Rachel's features, those dark brown eyes not quite meeting hers, but instead meeting her lips.
"Close your eyes."
"What?" Rachel stammered.
"Just do it," Santana said gently. She had no idea what she was doing or even saying at this point. All she knew is what she wanted. She wanted to help Rachel. She wanted to make her forget she was hundred feet in the air. And she wanted to taste those lips.
Rachel took in a shaky breath, before doing as she was told. She could see Rachel's heart beating heavily as she shuffled closer to her, tucking a stray lock of hair behind the girl's ear. Santana felt Rachel shiver at the soft touch. She looked so innocent, just sitting stock still next to her.
Reaching out her left hand, she brushed it along her jaw and turned Rachel's face toward her, her eyes on those perfect lips as they parted slightly. With a shaky breath of her own, Santana closed the remaining inches, capturing them in a soft kiss. She tilted ever so slightly, taking her bottom lip into her mouth, slowly massaging it, her thoughts turning to white noise.
A low moan escaped Rachel's mouth, sending shockwaves through Santana, and making her push further forward, her free hand landing on soft thigh. So many thoughts seemed to run through her mind, but each one seemed to be snuffed out by the white noise and the feeling of those lips.
After a moment, Santana reluctantly broke the kiss, but kept her lips close to Rachel's. "Better?"
Rachel swallowed dryly, her eyes dazed and slightly hooded. "Not exactly," she whispered, a coy smile on her flushed lips. "I could be better."
Santana just laughed at the smaller girl, before her eyes darted back down and she pushed forward again, kissing her for a second time, seeking out that feeling of her lips once more. Santana slid her left hand up further to bury in her hair, threading the soft strands through her fingertips. Rachel's hands fell from the metal bar, and bunched in Santana's singlet, pulling her even closer. The girls barely registered the ride jolting into motion again, their seat swinging slightly with the momentum of the giant wheel.
"Should I count this as kissing a stranger?" Rachel mumbled against Santana's lips.
Santana nodded. "I think this counts."
They broke apart once their cart hit the bottom, both opting off. Santana's hands went straight for her pockets as Rachel walked ahead of her down the small set of stairs and onto solid ground.
Quinn was waiting for them at the bottom, holding a bag of multi-coloured cotton candy and sporting a wide grin. "So how'd did it go?" Quinn chirped. "Can we cross it off?"
"It was fine," Rachel replied in a clipped tone, her eyes finding Santana as she came up beside her.
"And not even scratch. How did you manage that?" Quinn asked, sounding rather impressed, before holding out the clear plastic bag to both of them. "Cotton Candy?"
Santana stepped forward, tearing off a piece of the soft blue pillow, and bringing it nervously to her mouth before answering. "Well-"
"She just talked to me, and thankfully didn't make the carriage tip too much," Rachel cut in before Santana even got her first word out. "Unlike some people."
"Wow, why didn't I think of that?" Quinn teased, her voice dripping with sarcasm. Her eyes shifted between both the girls as they stood a few feet apart, her brow knitting together at their somewhat guilty expressions and flushed lips.
"So who's for bumper cars?" Rachel announced abruptly, grabbing Quinn by the arm and dragging her away before she could voice any questions that Santana could see were forming just behind her lips.
They both hurried off, Santana noticing Quinn's smile reappear and that laughter floating into the night air as she ran off after her best friend, leaving Santana alone to follow them.