A Bus, Two Strangers, and a Pair of Wise Eyes

By Jules and Ashley J

Summary: A modern day story. Two strangers meet one night on a bus ride from New York to Boston where an instant attraction is sparked. The problem: they're already taken.

Warning: There is some suggestive dialogue in this short story. It is also a modern day story, and we treated the characters as such.

Disclaimer: We do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, The Sullivan Company and to A&E.

The hiss of the breaks startled him from his slumber. His ice blue eyes narrowed and widened to adjust to the darkness that surrounded him. The scent of motor oil and cheap perfume clogged his nostrils. He coughed, feeling an hour's worth of sleep draining from him. He looked at his watch, straining to see the hands through the blanket of night. It was ten thirty, and there were still so many more hours to go. His entire body quaked with nerves, and he checked his watch again to make sure. He tapped his shoes on the floor until a little old lady shot him a glare from the other side of the bus.

She blocked her eyes as the glare of the bus lights approached her on the curb. It was late, but she didn't care at this point. She had been up since 4:30 that morning, and now, she longed for the clanking lull of rolling wheels and the hard whine of Jimmy Hendrix. Her once curled hair flew against her face, now nothing more than a coppery tangled mess. The door opened like a castle entering its queen, and she unceremoniously hiked two duffle bangs over her shoulders as she escaped the side of the road.

He heard someone shifting awkwardly at the front of the bus, and he sat up in his seat to see who was coming on board. He hoped it wasn't another whistler. The last person to get on the bus had whistled for three hours straight. Luckily, he'd fallen asleep hours ago. But this was different. This was a woman. A gorgeous woman. He couldn't deny what he saw in front of him. Through the darkness, he could see her gorgeous, tired face, and he was intrigued. She was stepping closer to him, and he looked around. Could it be? Would she sit next to him? Was this the only empty seat left on the bus? Guiltily, he wondered if he could actually be that lucky.

She searched the sea of dead eyes in front of her, stopping first on an open mouth, emitting a sound that she could only liken to a foghorn. A smile overcame her for the first time that day. Finally, she had found life again in this cold, cruel world. But then, her smile disappeared as she felt the eyes of a woman--an old woman who was giving her a warning look much like her mother always did--and she quickly moved past her towards the back on the bus to the only seat left. Without looking, she made a beeline to the free seat and claimed it.

He sat up quickly, uncertain of what to say or do, if he was supposed to say or do anything at all, and he moved one of his bags off of the floorboard for her. As she stepped nearer, something inside of him began to boil. His heart pounded, and his palms sweated, and he felt like he was at some awkward junior high dance. She was picking him. She was picking him to sit next to. And, without a word, he gave her a tired smile and motioned for her to sit, as the old woman's eyes watched them with overbearing curiosity.

She didn't even fully get her bags under the seat. She could feel him moving around her, accommodating her, and she was appreciative, but mainly, it felt good to sit down. She closed her left eye, but her right eye hesitated as she caught a flash of worn out blue. Her left eye slowly lifted as she opened her eyes and took in the Levi jeans directly in front of her. They were fitted, but not too fitted. Loose. The way a pair of jeans should look on a man. Suddenly her mouth became too full and she had to swallow. He was looking her now. He laughed awkwardly, and her mouth dropped a bit. And she needed to swallow again. This wasn't good. This wasn't good at all.

Once he secured her things with his above their seats, he turned to get back into his seat. His blue eyes caught a flash of green and brown staring directly at him--his jeans to be more specific. He swallowed hard, and he wondered if she realized what she was doing. He'd never had a woman look at him that way before. Not even... What was he doing? He couldn't believe the way he was thinking. He was running low on sleep and energy. It was time to settle down. So, he scooted past her and settled down into his seat, accidentally bumping her arm as he did so. He smiled sheepishly at her and closed his eyes, swallowing the lump that was forming there. Her warm flesh against his for even a moment had sent a surge throughout his body that he had never felt before. What was he doing? This was wrong.

His arm brushed over hers, and she looked at her suede jacket, where the touch had made a striped indention in the fabric. Tanned. Branded. She shook her head and leaned back, closing her eyes. She was thinking like a complete lunatic. The rounds were getting to her--that was all. One good-looking man and she turned to mush? She needed more therapy. Luckily enough she was marrying a therapist. It really was a side benefit--free therapy. But there was no way she would be able to tell him about these thoughts. These were more for a priest. He shifted and his thighs pressed through his jeans. Where were some rosaries when she needed them?

He rested his head against the seat, trying to think hard about where he was going. He'd be there tomorrow. He'd never see this woman again, he was sure, so if he could just stop thinking about how gorgeous her eyes were and how delicious her mouth looked, he could get married in the comfort of knowing that he was the happiest man alive. Yes. That was it. He had to focus. He'd be standing before three hundred people--her idea--and he'd be professing his love to her in the matter of sixteen hours. He couldn't wait. He couldn't wait to get back to her and hold her in his arms. And, his eyes traveled to the way this beautiful stranger's jeans clung to her thighs as if they were made just for her. God, her hands were resting just where his wanted to be. No! This was wrong. He had to focus on a certain dark-haired beauty that would become his wife in less than twenty-four hours.

She exhaled heavily, feeling his eyes on her. She needed air now. Quickly, she reached up, fumbling the knob of the air conditioner. As no air came out, she wriggled the knob furiously, frustration taking its control over her. She could feel his eyebrows rising tautly, and she could feel him mocking her. She knew it somehow. She quickly stopped and blew the wild hair out of her face, glaring accusingly at him. He smirked confidently and lifted his hand. She narrowed her eyes, feeling his male ego invading her space like the plague. For some reason, the arrogant ones always looked cute in jeans. Even cuter when they smirked. And she knew this. She knew it! She knew--his fingers were touching hers. She didn't know that they would feel like that. She dropped her hand quickly and fell back to her seat.

His throat was dry now, but his mouth was watering. When their fingers had touched, a bolt of white hot desire surged through his veins, and his guilty heart began to pound like it had never pounded before. He couldn't take his eyes off of her, though he tried to concentrate on where they were going. What he was doing. He saw the old lady fast asleep now, and he thanked God that she wasn't watching them anymore. He couldn't deny that the stranger in the seat next to him aroused him. The smell of her perfume invaded his nostrils now, and his eyes gazed over her heavily breathing form. He turned away, looking out the window, pressing his hand against the cold window glass. He only wished he had room to escape. He needed air. He needed to get away from...from this...this woman! He eyed her, wondering if she was taunting him. He felt like an idiot, when her eyes didn't meet his. He wanted to get up and walk away, but he was beginning to forget why he was even there. Why...wedding! Her. Oh Lord, he needed to breathe.

She hated these stupid Chinatown buses. They were always chocked full of people from New York to Boston. If only she could get up and move. If only the air conditioner worked. The window. Brilliant. She didn't have a Ph.D. for nothing. No siree. To jump out or jump him. That was the question. Immediately, she reached across him and began to heave the stubborn window open.

His back pressed hard against his seat, as she leaned over him. He could feel her long, gorgeous hair touching his legs through his jeans. He was on fire. He needed air just as much as she did, and as her elbow slipped from her arm rest, her body came smacking down into his lap. Both of them startled at the sudden intimate contact, and her other elbow landed right on his inner thigh. Two inches higher, and they both would have been jumping out of that seat.

She tried to open her mouth, to form the words excuse me, but instead, they just froze apart, inches away from his. His face was dangerous. Her therapist...er...fiancé would say she was deliberately sabotaging herself. Making excuses. Avoiding the real issue. But in the moment, she didn't look at it that way. The real issue was his breath. She had never met a man who truly understood the art of breath mint. It was either too much or not enough. But just then, as she inhaled, she caught the perfect combination of man and mint.

He wasn't sure if he was breathing any longer, as her perfectly imperfect eyes looked into his, mirroring an attraction that had already been established with only a few touches and glances. He sucked in a cold breath, and his eyes couldn't move from the gaze they held upon her lips. The only thought he had was the wonderment of what her lips felt like...what they tasted like.

She knew she should move away. That, or find a more comfortable position against his chest. All action seemed to evade her at the moment, so there she sat, tangled in his lap, in the most awkward and haphazard position of her life. Suddenly, his eyes widened and a full blush darkened across his face. She was self-conscious herself, but she was certain she had never turned that red before. He looked down guiltily and looked back up. Realization hit her, and she clamped her mouth shut.

He couldn't think about anything any longer. He couldn't think about the woman he was supposed to marry. He couldn't think about the fact that he was sitting on a bus and surrounded by twenty sleeping strangers. All he could think about was the fact that a beautiful woman had literally fallen into his lap, and the look in her eyes was that of innocence and pure desire at the same time. Now, it was obvious that he felt that same desire. He couldn't stop himself, but when his intended's face flashed before his mind, he looked down in pure guilt, knowing that he wasn't supposed to be feeling this way. But, he couldn't help it, and when he looked back up, the blush that had spread across her cheek was still there, and her jaw was rigid and trying not to tremble. But her eyes...oh, those eyes. They were the most beautiful eyes he'd ever stared into, and he could see himself there, and he knew what he wanted; what he needed. Boldly, he reached out, and his fingertips gently touched the crimson flesh of her cheek.

She closed her eyes and tried to imagine a thousand ways out of this situation, but even in the darkness of her sight, she could only see his hand, only feel his hand, and by God, she wanted to taste it too. But she didn't. She simply turned her cheek towards his palm, allowing their flesh to kiss as she didn't dare move any closer to him. Slowly, she unknotted the fist that had turned into her hand and allowed it to hover in the air over his. What would happen if she touched him? It would just be a simple touch, right? But deep down, down below the sinews of her muscles and organs of her core, she knew that it would change her life.

Time was standing still, as he felt the shadows of her fingers warm his hand. He wanted to feel her touch. He wanted her hand to join with his. He wanted their lips to join. He wanted their bodies to join. And, as his other hand moved to caress her other cheek, he leaned in, bringing their lips a breath apart. God, he could stare into those endless oceans of green and hazel all night. He wanted to say her name, but he couldn't. What was it? Who was she? The fact that he knew nothing about her except for those innocent, needing eyes made him want her all the more.

As he held her face, she exhaled a wavering breath, not knowing how to let go, but at the same time, doing it. Women weren't supposed to do this. They weren't supposed to fall so fast, so easily, so hard. She avoided it like it was some rare disease that they had vaccinations for--like polio or the measles. A woman needed dependency and security--not some handsome stranger on the Bowash parkway. But those eyes. They weren't strangers. They seemed more familiar than Boston ever did. If she was wrong, then she didn't have to speak. She could forget him. But she had to touch him. She had to. She lowered her fingers, grazing the wanton skin, and suddenly gasped.

Everything he had ever desired came crashing down around him, when the bus came to an abrupt halt, and their gaze broke. His heart broke, when she gasped and pulled back. He pulled back too, uncertain of how a stranger could break his heart, when he was certain he had already given it away.

She jumped back in her seat, her heart racing. What had she done? That... that wasn't supposed to happen. She wasn't supposed to feel... that. She couldn't sit here. She had to get up. She had to get away. She had to do something. She looked around frantically, and was quickly taken back by the old woman staring at her, her eyes full of wisdom. She could hear him breathing next to her. She could still feel his touch. That single touch. She had been right. She had to get up now. Quickly, she reached for her purse and threw it around her shoulder. She jumped out of her seat and ran to the clanking bathroom door next to them.

And she was gone. He was left alone on the dark, still bus with only one pair of eyes staring at him. The old woman was awake again, and he couldn't escape her gaze. He couldn't escape the reality that he had almost kissed a woman he didn't even know, but his desire for her had grown even stronger. As the bus driver announced a ten minute stop, he knew it was time to get off of the bus. He needed fresh air, so without a second's hesitation, he barreled out of his seat and down the narrow aisle. When the cool night air hit him, he took a long, heavy breath, trying to find his senses again.

She raised her hands off of her fists, finally realizing that the bus had stopped. She had to get off. This was her only chance before she continued to make a complete fool of herself--like running after him or accidentally jumping back in his lap or some other convenient accident that had much more of the design of fate than chance. She walked down the aisle and picked up her heavy duffle bags and carried them towards the door. She walked off and looked for him. He wasn't in sight. Stealthily, she made her way towards the road. Her therapist would definitely call this avoidance.

When he returned to the bus, a feeling of urgency was balling up in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't comprehend the feelings that surged through his soul. He hadn't even heard her voice. How was he supposed to know that this woman meant something more to him? He had to see her. He had to speak to her. He had to tell her that things happened for a reason, even if all of the obstacles stood in their way. And when he stepped up onto the bus, he saw the open bathroom door, and as he made his way back, the old woman simply shook her head and turned on a small flashlight before diving deep inside the reaches of a poetry book. Had he dreamed it? Had she not been there at all? Where was she? God, she was gone.

She walked down the street, feeling the rush of wind as the cars passed her by on the highway. What if she had been wrong? She turned around and waited for a moment. No, she had given up on fairytales a long time ago. Romance was for the hopeless. Or maybe for the hopeful. She didn't know where she fit in. She only had a therapist. A green neon sign illuminated the way in front of her: Boston 34 miles.

Without even grabbing his own belongings, he stepped off of the bus, searching for any sign of her. Where was she? How could he find her? How could he possibly begin...and then he saw a flutter of her hair in the wind. God, he wanted to scream out her name. What was her name? Why couldn't he call out to her? Was this a cruel trick? Was this his punishment for the future marriage he had almost destroyed? Was this the way he was supposed to be miserable? He couldn't take the chance of letting go of something...someone whom his heart had told him was important. He didn't know how, but he sure as hell wasn't going to sit back and wonder why. He had to get to her.

Suddenly, the pounding cement echoed behind her, and his breath chased her, circling her, as he reached out for her arm and pulled her around to face him. She didn't know what to do as she watched him take in the air around her, trying to catch his breath. He wasn't supposed to be the one. "Your... your name," he gasped finally, "I have to know your name."

"Michaela. But people don't usually--" She stammered, not knowing why she was telling him her life history suddenly.

"I would," he said, finishing before she could. "I would call you Michaela." Relief washed over her. Acceptance. That's what her therapist would call it. She smiled at him. A real smile. His arms were around her, and it was happening all over again.

Just as she felt the minty tingle hit her again, she paused and stopped. "You have a name too, don't you?"

"Just call me Sully," he whispered, and then as his lips melted onto hers, he added hopefully, "for now."

And as their lips touched, a white hot, empowering force of life filled every part of their begins, and they fell into one another, hanging on for the feeling of knowing that there was something more. There was always something more than what they were looking for, and they had found that in one another. This was it. Two names and two souls were all they had to offer at that very moment, and as they opened themselves up to one another, nothing else mattered. Not the next sixteen hours, not therapists, not Boston, not a groom, not a bride, not hundreds of guests. No. This was what mattered. This was what they had been blindly...obliviously searching for their entire lives.