It was quiet in the car on the way out of DC. Annie was glancing down at her fingernails, rarely looking up around her. Jai was cautious enough to wait for her to talk first.
"What else is real, Jai?" Annie finally murmured after a spell.
Jai shrugged. "What else do you want to know?"
"Enough so that I can know for myself if there's anyone left to trust."
Jai inhaled. "Not Auggie or Joan?"
He was surprised to see Annie grimace and shift a little in her seat. Apparently he had been gone a lot longer than he thought from the Agency.
"Everything more or less changed in that department after you 'died.' Auggie got engaged at one point and something's going on with Joan that I'm not sure of."
"Wow, good for Auggie." Jai muttered. His fingers tapped upon the steering wheel.
It was surprising to hear about Joan, though. Jai thought. She was always a straight-up, dedicated professional in the office. Then again, he knew Arthur more than Joan simply for having worked for him for a longer span of time.
Annie was studying the expression on his face. "You know something about Joan?"
Jai regretfully shook his head. "I know Arthur a lot better than Joan. Your guess is as good as mine about what's going on with her."
Annie turned her attention back to the road, watching the occasional car pass them by. She suddenly grinned and punched Jai in the arm.
"What was that for?!" Jai exclaimed, rubbing his sore arm before putting both hands back on the wheel again.
"Punch buggy." Annie laughed.
She hadn't played those kind of car games since she was little. Jai gritted his teeth with mock irritation. She would pay for that soon enough as they reached DC limits.
It was well after midnight before they arrived at Jai's beach house in South Carolina. They had stopped a few hours before at a grocery store to stock up on food in the beach house's kitchen.
Jai unlocked the front door and turned on the lights. Annie followed after him into the beach house, carrying a bag of groceries in her arms. It took a few minutes before Jai finished pointing out the layout of the beach house to her. There were several bedrooms upstairs for her to choose from.
He went back outside to collect the second and last round of groceries as Annie went upstairs and picked the bedroom with the closest view of the shoreline. She opened the window, noting the sea salt lingering in the night air.
Annie heard a gentle rap upon her door. Jai peered in, asking if everything was to her liking. Annie turned back to him and nodded with a grin. She would see him in the morning.
Annie had to almost laugh, hearing the espresso machine running downstairs as she stumbled out of bed. Jai was practically mainlining caffeine with his lattes at this rate. She quickly changed into some shorts and a tank top, walking barefoot down the stairs into the kitchen where Jai was engrossed in figuring out how the damn espresso machine worked.
Annie quietly took a seat and then cleared her voice. "You know, we can always go to one of the local cafes in town if that," she pointed at the espresso maker, "doesn't work."
Jai grinned. "No need." He brought over a pair of lattes to the table and handed one towards her.
Annie gratefully accepted. She leaned back in her chair after a few sips, holding the bottom of her latte cup in her hands, enjoying the warmth. "How'd you find this place?"
Jai had a wistful thin smile as he looked around the kitchen. He came here with his parents on the rare vacation when he was a little kid. Annie bit her lip and nodded, going back to drinking the rest of her latte.
Jai surprised her by reaching across the table for her hand. "Hey, you wanted transparency. That's what you'll get from me this weekend."
Annie tried hard not to stare directly into his kind eyes.