R&J — A Love Affair in Boston, Part V
And this concludes the Boston part of our story, which I'm sure neither protagonist will forget. mxpw says this section has his stamp of approval. No idea why.
They went to the bus station.
It was stupid, foolish, idiotic, and he could hear his mother ranting in his head about what a trusting fool he was being the whole time, but Chuck still led the way into the bus station about twenty minutes outside of city limits and gestured that Sarah should take a seat and wait for him while he went and found the lockers.
She ignored him and kept pace with him the whole way. He rolled his eyes, but didn’t comment.
Neither had spoken since the shed.
It was a simple matter to pick the lock on Ellie’s locker, shielding the action from the cameras with his body while Sarah automatically kept a look out. At this time in the afternoon, the bus station was mostly empty but their muddy, unkempt appearance—or Sarah’s tattered hooker dress—gained them a few stares that made him itch between his shoulder blades, but he gritted his teeth through that feeling, and against the intense agony radiating throughout his torso from Sarah’s beatdown. He pulled a duffel bag from the locker, searched through it and pocketed anything pertinent before passed that to Sarah, and moved on to his personal stash. Bartowskis kept backup clothing and cash in major cities just as a matter of course. Old habits died hard.
His own duffel retrieved, they headed off to the bathrooms together. Sarah followed him into the men’s room.
For what felt like the fiftieth time, she ignored him; there weren’t any men at the urinals, thankfully, and Sarah checked the stalls. Empty. She gave him a look. “Keep a look out. I’m going to change.”
And she peeled out of the dress.
For a second, his mind went completely, happily, blissfully blank, faced with all of that smooth skin, even if mud and slime had begun to flake off of her arms and shoulders and legs. All too soon, he remembered himself, and yelped. “Whoa, a little warning!”
“Keep a look out,” Sarah said again, nodding pointedly at the door. She yanked her gun from her boot, set it on the edge of the sink. “It’s hard to do that when you’re staring at me.”
“Well, it’s not like I can help it!” She was wearing some kind of matched underwear set, black bra, black panties. There was a little pink bow on the panties. Chuck distinctly felt his blood pressure rise.
Sarah made it worse by disregarding her next to nude state and splashing water on herself. Mud leaked down her arms in rivulets.
Chuck wondered if it would be considered an act of terrorism to explode into a thousand pieces in the middle of a bus stop bathroom. It was, after all, an attack against public transportation. Resolutely, he strode over to the door and locked it, more than a little surprised there was actually a flip-lock on the door. He’d seen a dead body dangling from the ceiling, tortured and mutilated, and an empty bathroom with a lock surprised him.
He was going to need to get his head checked.
Sarah took awhile to get dressed in the clothing he’d given her; when she finally declared it safe for him to turn around, he nearly blinked. She’d scrubbed off the hooker face paint and lipstick, evidently with the bathroom soap, and her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. It made her look much younger and far more vulnerable.
He knew better to say anything. Instead, with her watching the door, he stripped free of the muddy work-shirt and jeans, and washed off as best he could, wincing with every move. Sarah had seemed completely unselfconscious when she’d ditched the hooker garb, but Chuck moved as quickly as he could (which wasn’t very quickly; his chest and back felt as though somebody had taken a few sledge hammers to him), hoping to get changed before she turned and saw him. He worked out, but Sarah definitely beat him in the almost-naked department by far. And he couldn’t help but note that he was now completely open for Sarah to do something like handcuff him to the sink in his boxers and call in CIA backup, but she kept her back to him, her arms folded as she stared intently at the door.
Breathing shallowly through his mouth to fight off the pain, he pulled on the jeans, T-shirt, and his back-up Chucks, a U-Mass hat completing the ensemble. If he hadn’t been watching Sarah closely, he wouldn’t have caught the brief shiver as she continued to watch the door.
Though it was approaching the height of summer, he dug into his bag again. “Here,” he said, tossing the hooded Boston Celtics sweatshirt her way when she turned.
She acknowledged the gift with a nod; a thank you, he supposed, would have meant admitting to vulnerability.
He unloaded his computer equipment from the grimy and filthy backpack into the duffel, trying not to let Sarah get a good look at it. They seemed to have declared a temporary truce, as neither had attempted to attack the other during the changing, but trusting overmuch at this stage would just be idiotic.
His mother’s voice, in the back of his mind, reminded him of that well-enough.
When they’d stuffed their disgusting clothing into a trash can, they headed into the main bay of the station. He flinched a few times when stepping wrong reminded him that he’d lost a battle with the meat grinders that were Sarah Walker’s feet and fists. Though Sarah glanced his way a few times, she didn’t seem to acknowledge it at all.
The bus ride was going to be agony.
They picked Providence, bought seats on the next bus out. It wasn’t the best cover, and they both knew it, but it gave them enough time to recoup away from Boston and figure out what to do next. Somehow, they’d gone from uneasy opponents to unwilling partners, and Chuck wasn’t sure how he felt about this at all.
He still heard Mary Bartowski’s voice in his head, calling him a damned fool.
And sitting on a bus, in intense pain, next to the woman who’d put him in that pain, he couldn’t help but wonder if he agreed or not.