Charlie watched the men from her hiding place for hours, and it was getting old. Now that the shock of seeing Tom there with Connor and Bass, it was getting old, that is. At first the sight about gave her a heart attack.
When would that crazy man be out of her life?
The sickening, familiar feeling of guilt and despair sat in her gut.
Not enough time had passed that the memory of that afternoon wasn't still intensely painful…not by a long shot. And it was only a few days since Tom, his usually cold and deadly eyes instead projecting the soul of a broken man while they looked through her…And pulled the trigger.
Her stomach lurched. The hollow anxiety sat on her chest like a teasing demon. She didn't expect it would ever feel better, or different. And she was pretty sure she didn't deserve it to feel better.
Charlie watched Toms face through the smoke of the threesomes' freshly lit fire. She breathed deeply the cold air around her, and thought he still looked like a broken man… A very dangerous, broken man. She held no doubt he would want to finish the job of killing her, if he'd known she was so near, and she couldn't even blame him. She had wanted to kill Bass Monroe with a passion for a very long time, because of Danny.
And he hadn't even looked into Danny's eyes while the shot rang. Like she did…
It was crazy to think she didn't want to kill Bass anymore. In fact, that was furthest from the reason she had tracked him here after he and Connor had packed up and abandoned the group.
She shook the thought from her throbbing head. Stupid. It had nothing to do with her. It was all Miles. It seemed like every hot-headed thing Bass ever did came back around to Miles. It was almost pathetic… Except she knew better, having been around them together for so long now. She…got it, she guessed.
It was very complicated, but really very simple. They loved each other. They loved like brothers—closer than brothers, really. Miles was never that close to her dad… They were almost like one mind, one person in so many ways it boarded on creepy.
Except where her mother came into it.
They were very far apart on Rachel, Charlie thought. That was a whole Pandora's box of shit she hadn't even begun to figure out. And she didn't want to try, really. She just wanted Bass to come to his senses and come back with her. The rest… she doubted it mattered as much as them all sticking together.
As him sticking with her.
…She watched as Bass got up from the fire and said something to Tom and Connor. He pointed at Tom, and Connor sat his knife closer to him, out of Toms sight she thought… Interesting. She didn't know what the hell was going on, but it was clear they were not feeling easy with the man. That was good. Maybe she could talk Bass into killing him before they headed back.
One less thing to worry about, She thought. She moved quietly in the direction Bass was heading. To the water, she realized. The stream she'd drank from before, down the bank and past the trees.
She easily found her way through the dark, treading so lightly no one could have heard her…She was very good at this, a talent she might have gotten from her Uncle, like dry sarcasm and being quick with a blade.
Charlie found Bass kneeling down by the water, with his shirt off, splashing water onto his face and rubbing it through his curly hair. It was darker now, and little starlight made it through the tree tops…But moonlight glowed on the water. Almost a full moon, she realized, glancing up for only a moment. Enough light that she could see better down here than back at her hiding place.
When she looked back at Bass he was pointing a pistol in her direction.
"Come out." He ordered.
"Don't shoot, asshole. It's me." She said before she stood to face him.
"Charlie?" She moved closer so he could see it was really her. She saw him register the fact before his eyes darted around, and behind her.
"Nope. Just me. He's…not here." Bass's jaw muscles flexed, before he lowered the pistol.
"Mmm hmm," She cocked a brow. If that's how he wants to play it.
"What the hell are you doing here, Charlotte? Trying to get yourself killed? Tom Neville is here… I doubt he'd be thrilled to see you. Or maybe he would, get it?" He widened his eyes at here like she was stupid.
"Yes, I know. By the way, what the fuck? Why are you with Tom Neville, Bass?" She hissed at him, stepping closer.
Bass studied her face for a moment, and turned away, knelling by the water again. "It's none of your damn business, Matheson. Go on, and get out of here before he finds you…I don't need Miles or your bitch mother telling me one more thing is my fault."
Charlie narrowed her eyes at his bare back. What was this crap? She moved up on him and bent down over his shoulder, "Oh. You think I think you'd just let him kill me? Ok. Sure, Monroe. Sure you would."
He stood abruptly, causing her to start to fall back, but he caught her none too gently by the wrist. He shook it as he spoke, "What do you want?"
"You."—his head cocked in question.
"I mean, I want you to come back. Obviously. "
He smiled, but it wasn't a smile. It was that thing he did when he thought everyone around him was crazy or dumb. It kind of made her want to smack it off his face, except he still had hold of her wrist.
"No. I'm not coming back, I'm moving on." He pulled her closer and practically hissed in her face, "I have things to do."
Charlie slowly shook her head at him in disappointment.
"I thought you changed." And it was true. She did think he'd changed. He's saved her from death—and worse, she figured. He'd backed them all up, he'd fought beside them all. Hell, even had some laughs with them… That wasn't General Monroe… That was Bass. She knew.
He had gone still at her words. Very still. And when he finally spoke she almost detected a break in his voice, "Screw you, Charlie."
He dropped her wrist and turned to reach for his shirt on the ground. But Charlie was quick, and grabbed it first, hopping back from him.
"You know, I'd expect that shit from Miles, Charlie. But not you. I actually thought we were on the same page with most things… Turns out you're trying to play me like your mother plays Miles. Give me my damn shirt." He reached for it.
"No." She tucked it behind her.
"I don't take orders from you." She huffed, shaking her head at him. "No. We fight together. As equals. "
He smirked at her, "Oh is that right? Is that how you see it, kid?"
"That's how it is." She hated it when he called her kid.
The air held still between them, their angry gazes dueling. Until Bass stepped slowly toward her.
"Give me my shirt."
"At least that's how it was. Before you went and decided to shove your head up your ass—again—and throw a tantrum because Miles didn't agree with your asinine plan. Which, by the way, really did sound like the old Monroe, if you want to know!"
"I don't. Give me my shirt." He tried to reach around her back, but she spun out of his way.
"Bass. This can't be what you want. After everything we have all been through these last months… I can't believe that. We are better together!" She shook her head at him. He had to see that was true.
Her words seemed to affect him. He put his hands on his hips, drew a deep heavy breath, and looked at the ground for a long moment. When he spoke his voice was quiet, but some of his anger was gone.
"Miles has made it clear he doesn't agree."
"You left. He didn't tell you too."
"Your mother and Miles, your grandfather… None of them want me there, Charlotte."
"I don't care. I don't care what they want! I want you there. We are better all together, we are safer and stronger together—"
"I feel better with you around! Do I have to fucking spell it out for you?" She pushed out her words and then quickly snapped her mouth shut. Her lips rolled tightly together. Where the hell did that come from?
She was so shocked at herself she wasn't ready for him to step so close to her, right up close. He reached around her and took hold of his shirt. But she didn't let it go. His face was only inches from hers.
"Don't you mean you feel better when Connor is there?" His blue eyes somehow glowed in the moonlight. "Isn't that why you fucked him, Charlie?"
Her breath caught, and her brow knit. That was months ago, and nothing had happened since leaving New Vegas. Even though Connor thought it might for awhile. She realized Bass had a new edge to his voice…
"That isn't what I said, is it?" She looked him straight in the eyes. His arm was around her waste, clutching his shirt. Her arm was behind her back holding onto it, not letting go. "And why would you care?"
His expression tightened. "See? You're just like your mother. Playing these games." That took her back. What the hell?
"Funny. Because not long ago she accused me of being too much like you." She said.
Bass cocked his head at that. Studied her… His eyes traveled from her eyes to her lips, which she suddenly needed to lick. He watched her tongue as she did it, and then he was leaning into her, his bare chest against her, his lips gracing her ear.
"I'll tell you a secret now that I'm leaving, Charlotte." His warm breath on her neck made her shiver, "It drives me crazy to think you did that. It drove me crazy… And I think you knew it. And that is a game."
Charlie swallowed. He didn't move away from her, and she fought to process his words… That wasn't true.
She placed her free hand on his chest to try and get some space between them, but when she gently pushed against him he refused to move. She looked down at her hand on his skin, feeling the heat of him even in the chill night air. Her fingers splayed. He sucked air.
And then he released his shirt and both his strong hands were up around her face, holding it, and his mouth was on hers, none too gently.
Charlie's arms, shirt still in hand, came around his waste of their own volition. Pulled him closer, tighter to her. He pushed his tongue past her lips, a small moan in his chest.
What was happening? She distantly wondered. This wasn't the plan. Kissing Monroe—being kissed by Monroe—never in the plan. But… holy hell. It was what she wanted.
When she had sex with Connor, she had known just what she was doing… Although, she later thought, didn't really know why she was doing it. It wasn't until Bass brought it up to her on the road later, that she really realized she might not want to look too closely at her motives… She had agreed with herself not to over think it. It happened. In this life, crazy shit happened. You move on. She moved on. They all moved on.
But now it was like she had no choice. It was like her body was responding with some primal instinct, some plan of it's own. Some plan that had taken too long to manifest, and now it was starving for him. Starving for Bass Monroe.
She couldn't breathe. She didn't need to breathe. She was breathing him. And for the first time in day she didn't feel anything ripping at her gut, or squeezing her heart in regret.
"Bass…" she gasped against his lips.
His fingers came around to grip in her hair, his scruff scratching her face as he moved his mouth hungry against her own. She pressed against him, grinding, feeling his arousal through both their jeans.
This. This is what she wanted. What she needed. It didn't even matter that Connor and Tom Neville could just any moment come upon them—and at least one of them would try to kill her. It didn't matter that her mother or Miles would be furious beyond comprehension, or that, no matter the last many months of comradeship—this was still the same man who was responsible, one way or the other, for her brother's death. She should feel shame. She should feel regret or self-loathing…
But she didn't.
Her hand dropped the shirt and came around his front and rubbed heatedly against his erection. He growled, lowered his mouth to her neck. Kissing, searching, tasting.
"Is this what you wanted when you did it, Charlotte? Is this what you wanted all along?" His purred.
She unzipped his pants, and stuck her hand inside, gripping his dick in her cool hand. His head came up off her neck, and their eyes met. Both fiery, glazed…
"Don't talk about it." She said. They held their gaze. Locked. She rubbed him, making him shudder. "This is what I want now."
"Don't say that if you don't mean it." He warned her.
She gave him another tug, harder. He was large in her grip, and she felt him respond larger still. She pushed her breasts into him. "You don't scare me."
Without warning he had her tripped and on the soft banks of the stream, his weight on top of her. His beautiful face hung over hers in the dark. A face she had hated and wanted to kill for so long. Now she pulled it down to her. He kissed her again, hard.
"I don't know what you think you're doing, Charlotte…" He hissed between kisses. Her hands ran up and down his naked back, and into his jeans over his hard ass. He rubbed and pushed into her, through their pants.
She moaned, and he quieted her with his lips. "Shhhh… They'll hear us."
Somehow the knowledge that what she was doing was dangerous, this sudden, unlikely passion in the dark made her need to feel her naked skin against his. She tried to shuffle out of her leather jacket… the excitement of getting caught… She vaguely recalled the feeling when she was with Connor, wondering in the not-so-far-back of her mind when Bash would return to camp.
Games. As he said.
She didn't care. She really didn't. Life was short, and cruel, and ugly. She knew the truth well. She only felt ok when her blood was pumping, and this man—Bass Fucking Monroe—made it pump. Fighting, drinking, making plans, or just hiking beside her… He made her blood pump.
He made her feel better. Like a drug. That's what he was. Like a drug…She might as well be lost in an opium den back in New Vegas. The high was the same.
…Suddenly Bass stilled, his lips hovering above hers. His body became tense. She thought maybe he heard something, and stopped struggling with her jacket.
He lowered his forehead to hers, softly, after a moment. Then he kissed her mouth again, but this time softly, so softly. And he pushed himself up off her. He was standing, tucking himself back in, with some difficulty.
"What—what are you doing?" She asked, dazed. She felt cold without him near her, with his heat and weight gone missing. Nothing grounding her to this earth.
He said nothing, but reached down a hand up.
"Bass?" Charlie stood with him, laid her hands on his chest, but he grabbed them both gently in his own, and held them away from him.
"No. No, Charlie…" He sounded mournful. Broken.
"What?" She was stunned. Cold and stunned, and wanting nothing but the feel of him near her again. She stepped forward, reaching to raise her mouth to his. He stepped back, still holding her hands gently in his.
"I'm not going back with you, Charlie. So this can't happen." His icy blue eyes looked right into hers. Serious. Measuring her reaction. "As much as it's been what I've wanted…for a long time now."
"What?" She still wasn't understanding…Why was he saying this?
"I thought I could do it, play the game with you, and then send you on your way. But I can't, Charlie." His words were soft.
"I'm not playing a game." She was starting now to feel the anger. The rejection.
He smiled sadly down at her. He leaned in, pressing his lips to her head.
"Oh, yes. You are. But the problem is, I'm not. There's a lot of things I do that are fucked up and wrong. But when I give my heart, Charlie, I give it. I wish you and your Uncle understood that."
With that he turned, and picked up his shirt, slipping it on with his back to her. He retrieved his pistol, and the canteen from by the water.
"They'll be looking for me about now. You need to go. I don't want to have to kill Tom…yet." And he started away from her.
"Bass!" Charlie called, probably too loudly. She felt tears falling from her eyes. Flowing really. This couldn't be happening. He stopped, turning his face to her. His profile hidden in the shadows now. "Bass, please. Please don't go."
Her breath caught in a soft sob. How had this gone so fucking sideways? "Please, Bass…"
"Go back to Miles, Charlie. And keep your head up. Don't get hurt."
And he was gone.