For the Charloe500 fic challenge by The Good Ship Charloe.
I haven’t posted anything Charloe related in quite some time. It’s been nice getting back into them recently. I had to shake some rust off. Thanks for reading and please be kind to leave a comment.
“I still don’t understand what a ‘road trip’ is and why you keep saying it like it’s a big deal,” Charlie snapped from her spot on the bench.
Monroe still wasn’t letting her drive the wagon. What did it matter that he had a better touch with the horses? It was still stupid that he wouldn’t let her drive. It’s like he suspected she’d kick him off the wagon and keep going.
Not that she’d thought about it—much.
“Road trips used to be an event,” Bass said. “A rite of passage.”
His face went a little soft, fond and Charlie tried to ignore that it made him look attractive.
“But why?” Charlie said. It didn’t sound particularly remarkable. Mainly because she was used to long travels to get anywhere from point A to point B.
Bass gave a long-suffering sigh. “You and some buddies would pack into a car and hit the open road.”
“That’s what we’re doing right now,” Charlie pointed out. “Except for the being buddies’ part.”
“You’d have a collection of CDs—or later a playlist on your iPod—and map, and plan of where you were going to visit,” Bass explained. Charlie had no idea what a CD or iPod was. But she didn’t mention that because she was tired of Bass looking at her like she was an idiot. It was absolutely not her fault that everyone else was clearly old and remembered things pre-Blackout. She still never figured out what a “Boy Band” was but she thought it was dumb on principle.
“You’d take the scenic route as often as possible—except for Ohio because it was a big state and boring for most of it—and avoid all the major highways,” Bass continued. “That way you find some really obscure shit like ‘The World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn’ or ‘The World’s Biggest Ball of Earwax.’”
“Eww…that’s nasty. Is that real?”
“How the hell do I know?” Bass shrugged with an amused snicker. “But the point is that you find all these dumb ass tourist stops. Take pictures. Buy dumb souvenirs. And eat some crazy food. No stopping at big chain restaurants.”
“Yeah like Applebees or Friendly’s. You go Ma and Pop all the way or food trucks. Some damn good food on food trucks,” Bass said with deep nostalgia.
Somehow Charlie doubted he had that same feeling when they shared rabbit over the fire.
“Ma and Pop? So you’d stop and eat at people’s homes?” Charlie asked confused.
Bass laughed, and Charlie really thought about pushing him off the bench. “No, Ma and Pop means small, local businesses. You get local cuisine that way. If you stop into a Friendly’s in Florida it’s the same food you’d find on the menu in Minnesota.”
“Doesn’t that guarantee that the food wouldn’t be bad?” Charlie asked.
Bass gave her a pitying look. “Most times a Ma and Pop place could kick the ass off any major chain. And that’s part of the adventure of the road trip—trying out places that might be so nasty you get the runs and have to sit on the motel toilet for three days.”
“This is the most revolting thing,” Charlie said with deep scorn.
“I told Miles not to eat the food from that shack on the bayou. There’s taking a risk and knowingly risking food poisoning. It was his own fault,” Bass shrugged, zero remorse. “Life was a lot easier back then. You had to find your adventure where you could.”
“And so risking diarrhea prevented people from dying of boredom?” The scathing dislike and judgment were as evident on Charlie’s face as the sky was blue above them.
She couldn’t imagine a life so simple that people had to find things to make life interesting. First, she couldn’t imagine the privilege of having the time to do whatever she wanted. She grew up with something always needing to be done. She’d wanted to explore but there had been untold responsibilities keeping her in Sylvania Estates.
“Not at all. The best adventures are trying to compete with who could get a girl to come back to the room first, thus making the losers wait outside the room all night,” Bass teased, wiggling his eyebrows like a teenaged boy.
“You’re a pig,” Charlie told him.
“And you’re a prude,” Bass taunted.
“I am not,” Charlie refuted. She liked sex just fine. But something about thinking about Bass and a motel room made her feel things she didn’t want to examine. Therefore she resolutely ignored it.
Silence lingered for a while until Charlie’s curiosity got the best of her. “So did you do many of these road trips?”
“I went on a few,” Bass acknowledged. “Miles and I hit the road just before we both enlisted in the Marines. Then we took a couple during our leaves. We were planning another one when the power went out. Of course, then we went backpacking across the country to Chicago.”
“And then you became a megalomaniac,” Charlie quipped.
“Touché. Though there were a lot of miles in between the two,” Bass said.
“So Miles has always been your road trip partner?” Charlie asked.
Bass paused. He’d taken trips after he became President but that didn’t feel like the same thing. It wasn’t two pals, the open road, a sketchy plan and the opportunity to do whatever came their way. It had always been business and politics. Especially after Miles had left. And maybe he and Charlie weren’t pals. But they’d gotten each other out of some tight spots since they’d hit the road—first, he saved her in Pottsboro and then she’d saved him from being noticed by bounty hunters three nights ago. He wasn’t sure why she hadn’t turned him in; he wasn’t sure even she was aware of why she did it either. All she said was that she still wanted the chance to kill him herself.
Bass didn’t believe her so much now.
So they weren’t pals. But there was a truce between them. An unspoken understanding that they were partners—Charlie needed him for when they met up with Miles because there was a fight coming, he could feel it; and he needed her to find Miles, because if there was a fight coming, experience told him that he and Miles needed to be on the same side for them to win. And Charlie had proven to be a suitable second in place of Miles. He clearly had trained her well. Thus, they weren’t pals, but they needed each other. And that was enough. For now, a small voice whispered but Bass ignored it. Still, Charlie liked to remind him that she could kill him if she chose. Bass let her think she could. What were partners for?
“Until now,” Bass answered low.