Author's Note: Charloe AU – The blackout never happened. Miles & Nora get married. They need a house-sitter and unknowingly invite two different people to do the same job while they will be away on their honeymoon. Bass & Charlie have never met before and are both fighting their own demons. When they meet, they are broken and unsure; but discover that in each other they may have found the one thing that can fix all that is broken.
He can't sleep. He tosses and turns and prays for any rest at all, but it doesn't come. Instead of the darkness he craves, when he closes his eyes he sees only those he's lost. His parents and sisters, his young wife from all those years ago and the tiny baby who never had a chance, and the men he'd fought beside in Afghanistan – the ones who had died while he had lived. What good was a death wish if it was never granted? He stares at the ceiling, hoping for a reprieve from his demons, praying for sleep. Sleep does not come. At some point he'll give up and drink a bottle of whatever he can find, until darkness envelopes him like a glove and he passes out.
She can't sleep. She hates even going to bed now. It seems like the biggest waste of time. She knows that all she can hope for is a few scattered hours of restless slumber. She is plagued by nightmares. In them she always sees her Dad and her Brother. They are always in danger and always calling for her. In every one of these bad dreams, she almost saves them but ultimately fails. When she does sleep, she always wakes drenched in sweat with sheets twisted around her like a strait jacket, her heart racing, and tears streaming down her cheeks. Maybe she's losing her mind. She's started drinking heavily especially at night. Sometimes this helps. Sometimes it doesn't.
Sleep is a fickle bitch.
Miles and Nora have been married for less than an hour, but they are grinning and laughing and clearly having the time of their lives. The ceremony had been simple but lovely. White gardenias are everywhere and their fragrance permeates the banquet hall that is serving as location for both the vows and the reception. Now that the chairs have been moved to make way for a dance floor; the party is in full swing. Miles, being Miles, had insisted on an open bar and the guests have been acquainting themselves with it readily. Charlie sits on a bar stool, nursing a whiskey. It's her third. She'll probably have a couple more before heading out. She's enjoying watching the people dance and drink and chat. She has no desire to join in. She tends to be most content (or as close to it as she gets) when she's alone. Solitude is her only friend these days. Well solitude and liquor. She wasn't supposed to be alone tonight. Jason had dumped her three weeks ago though. He said he couldn't deal with her darkness anymore. She told him it was just as well.
She searches the faces for the one she's looking for, and finds him at a table by himself in a corner. He's sexy as hell, maybe mid forties – he's wearing dark grey slacks and a pale grey button down. He has stubble and his curly hair is a little unruly. Somehow the scruffy disheveled look works for him. He's frowning, looking all moody and surly. She's pretty sure he hasn't cracked even one smile since first showing up well after the actual ceremony was over. In her head she has named him "Broody McSexPot" and no matter what catches her eye, she finds her gaze wandering back his way. She isn't sure why he intrigues her, maybe it's the sadness she sees in his eyes, the same sadness she sees in the mirror every day. Maybe it's just that he's so damn hot, she wants to climb him like a tree. She orders another drink, and settles in.
Weddings suck. Weddings suck and receptions suck and Miles sucks for getting married and making Bass come to this stupid sucking reception. He could be at home in Philly. He could be at home in Philly watching a game and drinking some beers. But no, he's here in Chicago at Miles Matheson's moterfucking wedding. Damn. Bass hates weddings. He knows why. Anyone who knows his history gets it, but he doesn't dwell on that today. He just sits here counting the minutes till he can leave.
He's noticed the girl at the bar. Hard not to. She's beautiful with long wavy hair and a curvy body that won't stop, and she keeps looking at him like he's a fucking buffet. He pretends not to notice, but he does. He's tired though. He's so fucking tired. If he weren't, maybe he'd go talk to her. What's the point though? He's exhausted and would be poor company and probably a disappointing fuck assuming she really is interested. He glances at her again and she's staring and for just a second their gaze holds. Yeah, she's interested. Damn. Tempting, but he needs sleep more than anything and that includes Hottie O'StaresAlot. What the hell is wrong with him? And why did he agree to come here? Why did he agree to stay for three weeks? This is going to suck.
She sees Miles and Nora stop to visit with Broody before they leave for the airport. She had said her own goodbyes a few minutes earlier. Almost a month in Hawaii, and they can't wait to get started. Broody almost smiles, but not quite. Miles hands him something, then Broody shakes hands with Nora, gives Miles a big hug and leaves. Charlie finds that strangely she is sad to see him go. Then she orders another drink.
He takes a cab to a small grocery store where he buys bread, peanut butter, apples, eggs, onions, cheese and a fifth of Jack Daniels. He carries his brown bag of goodies the six blocks to where he'll be staying. The fresh air feels good. He lets himself in with the key, puts the groceries away and heads to his room with the Jack and a coffee mug. He drinks most of it while he gazes out the window at a sleeping Chicago. When the bottle is almost empty, he puts down the mug, strips to nothing, crawls into bed and drifts off into unconsciousness.
The bartender cuts her off around midnight. He calls her a cab and she stumbles into it, almost forgetting the address when the cabbie asks. She passes out on the way and he has to get out to shake her awake. She's blitzed and can't count money – just shoves her wallet into his hands, hoping he'll only take the amount she owes. Charlie falls once getting up the stairs, but eventually finds her equilibrium enough to get through the security doors and beyond. Once inside, she heads for her room. She doesn't bother turning on any lights, stripping as she walks leaving a trail of clothing in her wake. She pees and brushes her teeth in the bathroom before falling into bed. She is out cold before her head touches the pillow.
Everything is hazy and he's pretty sure he's dreaming but this is a dream that he never wants to end. His arms are wrapped around a woman. She is warm and her body is toned and lean. She has long hair and his face is buried in it as he spoons her. She smells of vanilla and whiskey and he's never been hornier than he is right now. One hand is jammed under her body, but the other hand is free to roam, and roam it does. He trails his fingers from her smooth flat belly up to the curve of a perfectly formed breast. He squeezes gently, rolling the nipple between his fingers – feeling it harden into a pebble.
In her dream Jason has asked her to come back to him, and she says no. But Dream Jason says he doesn't understand the word 'no' and begins to touch her. She loves the feel of his hands on her, stroking her belly and her breasts. She pushes back against him, trying to get closer. The fog in her head makes things seem strange and she wonders why Jason is even here as her subconscious reminds her of their break up. She fights harder against the fog and she breaks through, eyes opening and she's awake. Sunlight is streaming in through the windows and this is not a dream at all. She is being spooned by someone – who is most definitely not Jason. Panicked she lurches away from whoever this guy is, and she falls to the floor in a naked sweaty heap. Jumping quickly to her feet she turns to look at the man in her bed. Her bloodshot eyes go wide in shock.
"Broody McSexPot?" she mutters. "How the hell did you get here?"
Noooooo, why did she leave the bed? She was so warm and soft and he loved having her in his arms… He hears her say something, but its from far away and he wants her close again. His head is beginning to throb which means he's officially waking up and so he cracks open one eye to see the woman who until moments ago had been in his bed.
He peers out through his lashes and sees it's the girl from the bar at the reception. Hottie O'StaresAlot is naked and sexy and rumpled. Confusion settles in his head, confusion and curiosity and an overwhelming need to get back to what could have happened if she'd just stayed put.
"Why are you in my bed?" she asks, trying to cover herself with the sheet, though in the process she pulls it from him. One of them is still naked and uncovered, but now it's Bass instead of her. He really doesn't care, but he is awake now – lurched from whatever sleepy drunken stupor he'd been in by her question. "No." he says, his voice scratchy with misuse, "This is MY bed."
Her head is foggy with a bitch of a hangover. Could she have brought him home with her and not remembered? Had she screwed him last night and just can't recall it? She shakes her head. No, that doesn't feel right. She looks at him, now uncovered and completely not caring that he's naked and exposed. He's watching her, hands clasped behind his head. She takes a moment to appreciate the view. Broody is all sexy and ripped and relaxed (well, not ALL relaxed). Her eyes travel up and down and back to the middle where an impressive erection is on full display. "Focus Charlie" she says to herself. She will not get back in bed with him. Even if her body tells her she should, she won't. Instead she says, "I'm taking a shower." She starts to turn, but glances back. "We'll discuss whose bed this is, and why you're in it after I've had some coffee."
"Fine" she hears from behind the door after she slams it shut.
He makes quick work of his erection since clearly he's not going to be getting any help from her in that department. He wonders how old she is – young, that's for sure. Sated (at least for now) he grabs his duffle bag and wanders down the hall till he finds the another bathroom. He showers quickly, and comes out wearing an ancient USMC tee shirt and soft worn jeans. His hair is damp, and he is whistling a little. Half way down the stairs he stops cold, realizing that he is actually kind of happy. Happy and rested. He must have actually slept last night. It's a fucking miracle. It has been so long, he'd forgotten what a decent night's sleep can do to a person's outlook. He also realizes he's hungry and goes to the kitchen to make some breakfast.
Toast is buttered, Coffee is brewing and omelets are almost done when she walks into the kitchen. She is wearing a grey tank top and jean shorts. Her legs are a mile long and when she brushes some wet hair out of her eyes he sees a black bra strap fall over her shoulder. Absently she pushes it back up, eyeing him warily.
"Coffee or hair of the dog?" he asks motioning toward the coffee pot. Next to it is what's left of last night's fifth.
"Both." She answers, heading for the coffee pot. "You?"
"Same. Want some breakfast?"
She nods, walking over to the coffee pot. She pulls two mugs from the cabinet and splashes some Jack in the bottom of each before topping them off with hot coffee. She hands him a mug and sits on a bar stool leaning her elbows on the top of the kitchen island, she stares at him – a million questions in her eyes.
He beats her to the first question, "How old are you anyway?" Please say at least eighteen he is chanting in his head. Please say at least eighteen...eighteen...eighteen.
"Twenty-two" she says simply. "How old are you?"
"Forty-seven," he responds, relieved. She raises an eyebrow. He shrugs. "I know, you were thinking younger."
Charlie tries not to laugh, but he is charming. "How did you get here? I know I was drunk, but no way did I forget bringing you home."
"Home? You don't live here."
"True Miles and Nora live here. Nora asked me to housesit while they're in Hawaii."
"Well isn't this a small fucking world?" He shakes his head ruefully. "Miles asked ME to housesit. You and I didn't come home together. We just both happen to be staying in the same place."
"And ended up in the same bed…" Charlie nods thoughtfully. "What is your name? I've slept with you after all." She chuckles a little at his amused expression. "You know what I mean… Slept together as in snoring and REM and dreaming. Anyway, I should probably know your name."
"I'm Sebastian Monroe, old friend of Miles'. Call me Bass." Bass tilts his head to the side, looking at her curiously. "And who are you?"
"Oh, I'm Charlotte Matheson. Everyone calls me Charlie. Miles is my uncle." She grins as the color drains from his face.
"Oh fuck me."
"Yeah, about that…"