Chapter 1: Starting out
Miles, Monroe, Rachel, Charlie and Gene have all headed back to Willoughby. Bass isn't sticking around for long though, he wants to find his son.
Miles comes across Bass as he is filling his water canteen and preparing to leave. "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving. I'm going to find Connor."
Miles knows he can't stop him, and yet he's worried for Monroe on his own, for many reasons: he's still not convinced he totally trusts him, his son may still try to kill him or convince him to start up the Republic again... and how healthy is Bass mentally?
"You mean the guy who tried to get you killed?" His places his hands on his hips, squinting at Bass. "That kid?" Raises an eyebrow.
Bass glares at him. "And I should stay here with three Mathesons who tried to kill me? I'll take my chances."
"Solid point. But Bass –"
"No Miles." He picks up his backpack and swings it onto his back. "This isn't my problem anymore. You can save the world. I'm going to go find my kid."
Miles has no problem showing his frustration. "Listen Bass, I get that you want to find your kid. And I wanna trust you, I really do. But if you're planning on finding Connor and starting the Republic again, after everything we've done... Well, I just think some supervision might be in order."
Bass takes a step toward him, pointing his finger at Miles's chest. "Screw you Miles. Screw you and your happy little family here. I don't give a shit if you trust me." He steps away.
A new voice. "I'll go with him."
They both look to Charlie, walking towards them.
"What? No you will definitely not do that." Miles is surprised and well, totally surprised.
"Yeah, no. Last time Katniss offered to come I ended up in a cage."
"And then what happened?" Charlie reminds him with a mockingly sweet smile. "Miles, everything is safe here for now. What else am I going to do?"
"Not get killed by Neville for one. No way are you going Charlie."
Well that was a mistake. Now she's dug her heels in. He knows he can't stop her, but that doesn't mean he has to like it.
"Yeah? Well who else is going to go with him?" She challenges.
He looks between the two of them. Charlie, determined. Bass just shrugs. Miles looks from one to the other. "I'm sure I'll regret letting this happen." "I'll get my stuff." She walks off. "I'm giving you 30 seconds, Charlotte." Bass calls to her.
"Screw you, Monroe." "Yeah, this is not going to be good." He looks to Bass. "Promise me you'll take care of her."
Bass shrugs, looking from Miles to where Charlie just walked off. "She doesn't need me to take of her. She looks after herself just fine."
"Just promise to look out for her, Bass." He waits for Bass to look back at him. He holds his gaze. "You know I will." "But you know...don't look too much." Bass rolls his eyes. "She's perfectly safe with me, Miles."
"Here, take this. It might help if you get into trouble. Make you look...official." He hands him a badge.
"Texas Ranger badge?"
"Yeah, look. Blanchard asked if I'd join. He's going to ask you too. I ..didn't want to speak for you, but..." He looks away. "I couldn't imagine doing it without you."
"You're going to join the Texas Rangers?"
"Not yet. I don't know. I'm going to Bradbury with Rachel, and then...yeah, maybe. Just take the badge, Bass. It doesn't mean you're actually agreeing to become a Ranger."
Bass takes the badge. This is a moment between them and they both know it, even though they'd never acknowledge it. It's a step away from Bass re-forming The Republic, and towards becoming friends with Miles again.
Charlie appears. She gives them both a quizzical look, since there's some obvious tension there. "Well, if you two can bare to part from one other, let's go."
They start off and Bass can barely hold his tongue. "You really must be dying to screw my son again."
"Get over it, Monroe."
He's mad at her about this, but he refuses to ask himself why that might be. He looks everywhere but at her.
"I'm just trying to figure out what I'm walking into here." She remains looking forward. "You're not walking into anything."
"See...that's not what it looked like last time. It looked to me like you'd just been thoroughly –"
"Jesus, you have no boundaries." She holds up a hand to stop him, finally glancing at him. Her turn to ask questions. "If we find him are you going to start the Republic again?"
"Why did you screw him?"
"I asked first."
"I don't have an answer. At least not one that you want to hear. Why did you screw my son?"
"Why do you care?"
Tension is thick in the air until he alleviates it by calmly asking, "Why did you offer to come with me?"
"Are we playing 20 Questions?"
"Are you planning to kill Neville?"
"I don't answer to you Monroe."
"No, but if we're going to be traveling together, just the two of us, I kinda want to know who you're trying to kill."
"It's not you. And it's not Connor." "I bet."
She's had enough of the Connor innuendo. "I'm not planning to sleep with Connor again." She looks at him emphasis. "Especially not after he pointed a gun at me, by the way. And it's still none of your business."
He finds that he likes that answer, but he doesn't say anything.
"Why did you come with me?"
"Are you planning on taking back the Republic?"
He doesn't answer, so she looks at him, waiting for her answer. He looks down into her eyes. "Why did you come with me?"
"Because I had nothing better to do."
"Well that's a weak answer. Come on Charlotte, if we're going to be on the road together like old times, we might as well be honest."
"Like you just were?" He shakes his head from from side to side in that way that he does. "Honest-ish."
She smirks and glances at him again. "Because I had nothing better to do and you needed supervision." She changes the topic. "Do you have a plan for this trip or what?"
"Last I saw him, I'd barricaded him and Neville in a shack outside Austin." "Okay. And what happened before that?"
He tried to let Neville kill me."
That surprises her. She looks at him. "How? Why?"
Are you going to be this chatty the entire trip, Charlotte?"
"You going to be a total asshole?"
"Probably. Because I don't need a babysitter, and I'm really fucking sick of Mathesons."
"I'm not your babysitter."
He stops and steps closer to her, invading her space, like he tends to do, his eyes looking into hers. "Yeah? So what are you then?"
Charlie feels heat envelop her, even though she knows he's trying to piss her off. "We're friends. Aren't we?" She looks at him with a challenge in her eyes.
His eyes drop to her lips before looking into her eyes again. "Are we though?"
She stares back. That electric pull between them sparks to life. She sees challenge in his eyes, and yet also – briefly – sadness.
She steps away from the heat of his gaze. "You really are going to be an asshole the whole time, aren't you?" He doesn't say anything, so she continues. "And I didn't see you fighting too hard to get me not to come."
He has nothing to say to that either.
** They actually enjoy each other's company although they'd never admit it. They share a sense of humor, and he tells good stories about he and Miles when they were younger, and he'll answer all her questions about different countries, popular culture, and the Internet. Ever since the ride to Willoughby, she finds she genuinely likes being with him sometimes. And although he'd never admit it, he's glad she decided to come with him.
They break for lunch – beef jerky, bread, and apples. Some silence seems to have solved the tension since both are getting bored with just their own thoughts.
Charlie tears off a piece of bread. "So who's Katniss?" "Hmm?" "You called me Katniss earlier."
"Oh." He takes bite of his apple and talks with his mouth full. "She was the hero in a book series, which was – ironically – set in a post-Apocalyptic world." He waves the apple to indicate their current apocalypse. "She was good with an arrow." He takes another bite.
"And...?" Sometimes Monroe neglects to tell the actual plots of stories in favor of the gadgets and super powers.
"That's about all I remember. I never read the books, I was dragged to the first movie." "Dragged, huh?" She smiles.
"Yeah, this girl...never mind."
Even better. "Dumped you afterwards, huh?" She laughs.
"Hey, I got plenty of girls." He tosses the rind into a bush.
"I'm sure. Who wouldn't want a future psychotic dictator?"
That kind of hurt. He points at her before reaching for a piece of jerky. "You're a pain in my ass."
"I know. So what did you like to read then?"
"Graphic novels, mostly."
"You mean comic books?"
He sighs with a smile.
"They don't actually have a lot words do they?" she asks with a smile.
Damn he likes her company. He laughs. "Nope, not a lot of words. The ones I read were about superheroes and superpowers and saving the world. You would have liked them actually."
"Yeah, Batman?" She catches his eye to see if he caught her joke. He smiles into her eyes, appreciating the call-back. "Yeah."