Miles tossed more wood on the fire. "You ever plan on telling him?" he asked, nodding to Danny who was putting a new string on his bow.
"Eventually," Charlie answered. She was trying not to stand too close so Danny wouldn't think anything was going on.
"Look, unless you want to spend the rest of your life waking up before dawn to sneak back to your own bed, you need to tell him."
"The rest of my life, huh?" Charlie teased.
"You said it first, we're family. And we both know you'd rather cut off your own leg than let Danny go. So will you please just tell him?"
"It's not that easy," Charlie hissed. "I mean…this isn't something people do, you know."
"Oh, I know. I know better than you do, trust me. But he needs to know."
"Because I am sick and tired of hiding, Charlie," he snapped. "I have earned the right to not be ashamed of the life I choose for myself. Now either you tell him or I will. And I won't be as nice as you."
Charlie sighed. "Alright, alright. I'll tell him tomorrow." Miles's eyes blazed. "I promise. I really will. But let's drop it for now."
"Fine," Miles growled. "But no more stalling. Tomorrow one of us is telling him."
Charlie let out another sigh as Miles stalked off for wood to keep the fire going through the night. He was really angry at her. Of course, he had a right to be. But Danny was family. Surely he'd understand why she and Miles were together. Charlie bit her lip as she looked at Danny. He smiled at her and she smiled back. God, she hoped Danny would understand when she told him.
Miles hadn't been exaggerating when he compared losing Danny to losing a limb for Charlie. But what he didn't realize was that he was just as important to her now. She couldn't' stand to lose either of them for any reason. And Charlie had a terrible feeling that if she spilled the beans, she just might.
"Why the frown?" Danny asked as he came to sit next to her.
"It's…nothing," Charlie smiled. "Just trying to get dinner ready."
"Why'd Uncle Miles storm off like that?"
"He's getting wood."
"Looked pretty upset."
"That's just the way he is. Miles is a nice guy but he rarely shows it unless a battle is going on. Otherwise he just seems like an asshole."
Danny chuckled. "How does someone become a nice guy during battle?"
Charlie smiled as memories overcame her. "While we were trying to find you, his first instinct was always to keep me safe. As soon as the bullets started flying, Miles pulled me under him until it stopped. The minute steel flashed, Miles pushed me behind him so he could fight." She looked at her brother warmly. "We're safe with Miles. He knows how to protect us."
"Good. I'm glad someone was there to look after you. You shouldn't be so in charge all the time. You deserve someone to take that responsibility form you." Danny grinned. "You should settle down with a man like that."
"Yeah, maybe," Charlie agreed with a thin smile.
They spent the rest of the night with Miles not talking to anyone. His angry tension seeped into the entire campground, making conversation awkward and artificial. It was the first night in a while that Charlie slept by herself. She had crept towards where Miles was sleeping but his back was turned to her. Even Charlie wasn't brave enough to face that.
The next day, Charlie pulled Canny away when they broke for lunch. "We need to talk," she said when Miles and the campsite were out of hearing and sight range.
Danny gave her a soft smile. "You're my sister. You can talk to me about anything."
"It's about me and Uncle Miles."
Charlie bit her lip. How was she supposed to tell her brother that she was in a relationship with their uncle? "Miles and I…we're together."
"Together?" Danny repeated. He looked confused but still supportive.
"We have a relationship. Bigger than just uncle and niece."
"Are…are you sleeping with him?"
"Yes," Charlie whispered.
Danny's looked turned from supportive to horrified. "Charlie, he's our uncle."
Charlie shrugged. "It just…happened. Not exactly something we planned."
"Did he rape you?"
"No! God, no! Miles isn't like that! Besides, I came on to him, not the other way around. And I can't believe you'd think that about him."
"What am I supposed to think, Charlie? You're having sex with our dead father's brother. He's old enough to be your father."
"Maggie always used to talk about younger women marrying older men. And we've seen it lots of times on the road. It's more common than you think."
"Are they all married to their uncles?!"
Charlie flinched at his tone. "Please, Danny, try to understand. Miles is good for me. He's good to me. It's like you were saying yesterday. I don't' have to worry about protecting him. He protects me."
Danny sighed. "That's not what I meant and you know it," he pointed out.
"But it's what happened."
Danny swallowed all the responses that were bubbling up. "I love you, Charlie. But I don't know if I can handle this."
"I don't want to lose you," she whispered. She could feel tears stinging her eyes.
"I know. And I don't want to lose you either. But I need time to think about this. I don't know if I can support you now."
Charlie broke down into sobs. Miles came running with his sword drawn. He looked at the situation and Danny soon found himself staring down a sword. "Did you hit her?" Miles demanded.
Danny suddenly understood why mean still feared his uncle after all these years. "I didn't touch her," he whispered, praying he didn't start wheezing.
"Then why is she crying?"
"I told her I didn't think I could support her through this."
"Damn it," Miles cursed. He sheathed his sword and knelt next to Charlie. "Congratulations, you made your sister cry," he snapped. "I hope you feel like a man." He gathered Charlie gently into his arms. "Lunch is on the fire, make sure it doesn't burn." Danny hesitated, not wanting to leave his sister in such a state. "Go!" Danny darted off with Miles's soothing words to Charlie echoing in his ears.
"He hates me," Charlie sobbed.
"He doesn't hate you," Miles said. "If anything, he hates me."
"I don't want him to hate you either."
"I know. I know. But you can't control how Danny feels."
"What if he leaves?"
Miles really wanted to say 'well then screw him'. But Charlie would just sob harder if he did that. "I don't' think he'll leave," Miles sighed. "Not until we're in the desert at least. And we've got a while to go before we get there. So maybe he'll come around on the journey."
"No he won't. He'll leave me. Everyone leaves. It's what they do. Damn it, Miles I'm cursed."
Miles held her closer to his body. He kissed the top of her head and tucked it under his chin. "You are not cursed, Charlie. I'm still here, aren't I? And I'm not going anywhere. I've told you that a million times. Just trust me, Charlie, this will work out." Charlie seemed to have run out of words because all she did was sob harder. Miles began to rock her gently. "I love you, Charlie. I'm not leaving," he repeated over and over.
Eventually the sobs dried up. Miles brushed away the rest of her tears and led her back to camp, his hand in hers. Charlie tried to pull away when they got back to camp but Miles tightened his grip. Danny was either going to get on board or get out. Miles tugged Charlie to sit next to them while they ate lunch. Every time Danny so much as glanced at his sister, Miles was glaring at him. When they set up camp for the night, Miles pulled Charlie to his bed roll though they didn't have sex. Miles was stubborn not stupid.
It was like that for the next two weeks. Danny trying to figure things out and Miles being very possessive of Charlie. The girl was rarely away from his side. And the strangest part—in Danny's mind—was that Charlie didn't seem to mind. She seemed grateful for it almost. As though Miles making the decisions was easier because she was too confused to make them herself.
Finally, it was Miles's turn to get water while Charlie started setting up dinner. Miles looked really upset about this division of chores but he was the one that insisted on it in the first place so he couldn't very well change it now. He whispered to Charlie, kissed her soundly and gave Danny a death glare before heading off. Danny waited until he was sure Miles wasn't in hearing range before going to his sister. "Can we talk?" he asked softly.
Charlie looked at him warily. "Are you going to yell at me again?" she asked in the same soft tone.
"Then let's talk."
"Look… I don't get this thing between you and Uncle Miles and I'm not going to pretend I do. It's just so…weird." Charlie opened her mouth but Danny held up a hand. "Let me finish. I don't understand it but what I do understand is that he cares for you. And he's not going to let anyone, even himself, hurt you. And you deserve a guy that's willing to watch out for you like that. So if Uncle Miles is the one you want…then I guess I'm just going to have to get used to it."
Charlie lit up. "You really mean it?"
Danny smiled at her. "Of course I do. We're family, Char. We'll figure all this out."
Charlie hugged him tight. Danny hugged her back just as hard. "You, um, you should probably let Miles know sooner rather than later. He's getting a little…"
"Overbearing?" Danny teased.
"Overprotective," Charlie corrected. "And it's sweet but the tension is insane."
Danny hugged her again. "I'll go talk to him right now. You take care of dinner."
Charlie went back to her work, humming now, as Danny went to find Miles at the nearby river. "You wanna talk, talk fast," Miles ordered, not turning.
"It's about you and my sister," Danny said.
Miles straightened up and turned to his nephew. "Look, it happened. And it's going to continue to happen. So either deal with or pack up your stuff now."
"I know," Danny nodded. "And… I'm not okay with but I'm getting there." Miles gave a satisfied nod. "Just…keep the sex away from me. I don't want to see it."
Miles gave him an outraged glare. "Who said I wanted you to see it? There are lines, kid."
"You seem to be fond of breaking them."
"Yeah, even I have limits."
"Good. Long as we're clear on that." Miles made to walk back to camp when Danny's hand on his chest stopped him. Miles looked down at the appendage and then back to its owner with raised eyebrows. "We're not finished. I love my big sister and if you hurt her, I will get you."
Miles snorted. "Kid, I trained the god damn Munroe militia. Not to mention you have pretty bad asthma. I think I could take you."
Danny's steel gaze never moved. "I'm serious. And I don't need to breathe right to put a crossbow bolt in your chest."
Miles raised his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, I get it, you're scary. You're going to take revenge if I hurt your sister. Consider me cowed." He rolled his eyes. "As if I would hurt her anyways," he muttered, shouldering by Danny.
The boy watched him go, trying to decide if he should have been more forceful with his uncle. Then he realized that was probably the best he was going to get out of the other man no matter what he said. He climbed back to their campsite to see Charlie laughing about something and Miles sitting close, smiling fondly at her. Charlie looked up at him with bright eyes. "Come sit with us," she beckoned.
Danny hesitated as his gaze flicked to their uncle. Miles sized him up for a moment before shrugging. Danny settled right next to his sister. "What's for dinner?" he asked excitedly.
A/N: For anyone wondering about the title, they're "tending the future" by making sure they'll have one where they can all live happily ever after as it were. Also, someone keeps leaving very long and in depth reviews on my fiction but not logging in. I love to reply to reviews and answer questions but I can't do that if you aren't logged in. If you have a profile, please be certain you are logged in before reviewing. Click on your name in the corner and make sure it takes you to your profile before typing. That way I can thank you and answer any questions you have. Thanks.