A/N: Sorry it's taken me so long to finish this chapter. Also sorry for the length; it just wouldn't let me shorten it.
If anyone notices anything wrong - missing sentences/paragraphs - anything that doesn't make sense, please let me know. I've had a lot of problems with Word the last few days and I'm afraid some of my edits may have been lost.
Thanks so much to the ladies of the Charloe Book Club for helping me get unstuck on a few occasions while writing this chapter. You guys are life savers!
The Cold Gray Light of Christmas Morn
Monroe stood alone in the darkness that now surrounded him with no idea where he was or how to get back home. The other ghosts had returned him to his quarters when they were through with him, but Jeremy seemed to have just left him in the middle of, literally, nowhere. Bass began to wonder if he'd taken him to Hell after all.
As he looked around hoping to see something, anything, a small light appeared in the distance, growing larger as it seemed to move closer like the headlight of a speeding train soundlessly coming toward him. Monroe tried to step aside, but no matter where he moved, the light seemed to follow him.
As the light overtook him, Miles' disembodied voice seemed to come from all directions as if it was coming from the light itself, "Bass... I'm trusting you," he said earnestly.
"Miles!" Bass called out desperately, looking into the light, trying to find him.
Monroe opened his eyes and sat up in a panic, unsure where he was. Wherever it was, it was too bright and he had to close his eyes again. As he sat there catching his breath, vivid and disturbing images filled his mind, all involving the ghosts of lost friends, Randall Flynn, and a group calling themselves 'the Patriots'. Somehow, it all reminded him of 'A Christmas Carol'.
After a few seconds, Monroe tentatively opened his eyes, realizing, with great relief, that he was in his quarters and that the brightness was just morning light streaming in the windows. Looking down, he saw he was in bed, though he didn't remember going to bed. Fortunately, the room was warm, so even if he didn't remember going to bed, at least he'd remembered to stoke the fire first.
Monroe was still wearing his uniform, though at least he'd taken his boots off. Going to bed still dressed was something that only happened when he passed out drunk, but that hadn't happened since the wedding. He did have a slight headache, but no other symptoms of a hangover that would suggest he'd drank too much. With the intensity of the images in his mind and not being able to remember going to bed, Monroe concluded that he must've had a nightmare; that was the only logical explanation.
Even if it was just a dream though, the things Monroe was remembering from it bothered him enough that he decided to ask Flynn a few questions, if only for his peace of mind. As it happened, he had a meeting scheduled with Randall for that afternoon to discuss his Plains Nation takeover. Conquering the Plains could wait until he had answers.
Monroe's musings were interrupted by a soft groan and movement coming from the bed beside him. He turned his head and saw Charlotte stretching and yawning, squinting her eyes against the light. Seeing her, he recalled seeing Patriots dragging her away to be executed in his nightmare, and he found himself needing reassurance. Bass quickly repositioned himself so he could lay his head on her shoulder and put his arm around her waist, pulling her tightly against him. He was glad she'd come home instead of staying the night with her mother or he would've had to go looking for her. It wasn't the first time he'd needed her to comfort him after a nightmare; there'd even been times when Charlotte needed him to chase her monsters away. Seeing Miles die in front of them had done a number on them both.
"You have another nightmare?" Charlotte asked tiredly, her voice hoarse from disuse, "I heard you call out for Miles," stifling another yawn. Bass didn't realize he'd actually yelled out.
"Yeah," Bass groaned hoarsely as he snuggled her shoulder, fully relaxing against her as relief that she really was ok washed over him. "So glad you're here," Bass purred, "How'd it go with your mom?" He felt her stiffen slightly against him as if she didn't want to talk about it.
"It was good," she said cheerfully, but hesitantly, and Bass could sense a 'but' coming. After a long moment, Charlotte continued, "But Danny had an attack," she sighed, "and Mark," Monroe was confused for a second, but then remembered Charlotte always called her guards by their first names, "made me come back here after Danny fell asleep in his room." Monroe felt a sense of déjà vu, remembering that Danny had had an attack in his dream too.
"Tell me about your nightmare?" Charlotte asked as she moved her arm so she could gently scratch the side of his neck, clearly trying to change the subject and distract him from any further talk about her visit.
"Mmmm, you know I love it when you do that," Bass murmured, sliding his hand from her waist to her other shoulder. He was perfectly happy to let her distract him, but he didn't want to talk about his dream. He'd much rather spend the morning making up for the time they'd lost the night before.
"I have a better idea," Bass smiled seductively as he propped himself up so he could see her face and caress her cheek. He leaned down to kiss her, but her sudden worried expression stopped him.
"What's this?" she asked uncertainly, touching his left jaw gently. Bass winced at the unexpected pain. "Looks like somebody hit you?" she asked concerned.
Bass stopped cold and sat back on his heels next to her, his mouth agape. Someone had indeed hit him: Miles. Curious, he touched his jaw, wincing again, then touched his head where he remembered hitting it on the table, finding the bump right where he'd found it before, still tender.
Bass's mind was racing; as insane as it was, everything actually happened just as he remembered: seeing his past, watching Charlotte with her family, Flynn's meeting with Neville, Davis gloating over his death and executing Charlotte and his children... His children! The 'dream' being real meant Charlotte really was pregnant. With twins! It meant the ghosts were real too, and they'd all demanded he let Charlotte and her family go. Monroe had no idea how he was going to do that without Charlotte leaving too, but that'd have to wait. There were much bigger fish to deal with and... Miles said he was trusting him to do so.
The best chance of defeating the Patriots would be to wipe them out before they could leave Cuba, so Monroe's first priority was keeping Flynn from sending that message to Gitmo, and it couldn't wait for the meeting, he needed to act now. He just needed to figure out how to take all known Patriots into custody without alerting anyone who might be working with them.
"What's wrong?" Charlotte asked, alarmed, propping herself up on her elbows.
"There's something I have to do," Bass said turning and climbing out of the bed, having to untangle his legs from the covers in the process. He went to the wardrobe, got out a clean uniform, and draped it over the back of a chair. Monroe knew he couldn't afford to waste time, but he needed to appear as if nothing was different, and that included being clean and dressed neatly. "I'll explain later," he said distractedly, catching sight of the bruise in the large mirror on the wardrobe door. Considering how tender it was, it looked better than he expected. There was no way to hide it, but at least no one would dare ask him about it.
Bass looked at Charlotte in the mirror as he quickly unbuttoned his wrinkled shirt and threw it into the nearby hamper, "You can spend the day with Danny, if you want," he said to her reflection, "but not Rachel," he said taking off his undershirt and tossing it into the hamper. Charlotte sat all the way up; looking even more anxious at the mention of her mother, as if she was afraid Monroe knew Rachel had caused trouble during her visit. Bass turned to face her, "I'm not angry with her," he said soothingly, "I need her to help me with something," he smiled as he crawled back onto the bed to give her a reassuring kiss. He hated the idea of involving Rachel, but since she worked with Flynn, he realized she was his best chance. "I know what happened last night, but I swear, I'm not angry," Bass said caressing her cheek. She smiled tentatively; he could tell she was still worried, but there wasn't time to explain further. Bass reluctantly got back off the bed, and finished undressing as he watched Charlotte's reflection in the mirror, studying him as if she'd never seen him before. Monroe wished he could take a bath as he did every morning, but he'd have to settle for a quick wash and shave at the washbasin in the bathroom. Oh, how he miss showers!
Monroe spent the short time it took to wash, put on his pants and socks, and shave refining his plan for arresting the known Patriots. He looked up as he finished rinsing his freshly shaved face to see Charlotte in the mirror over the basin, watching him. She was leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed in front of her, wearing the kimono he'd given her on their wedding night; she looked beautiful, as she always did. He turned to face her, 'Later,' he chided himself, wishing he could take it off her.
Charlotte reached for a towel from the rack beside her and handed it to him before resuming her previous stance, "Something's different about you," she said musingly, one eyebrow raised.
Bass patted his face dry as he watched her watching him. He wanted to tell her how much really had changed and how different things would be from now on, but it would have to wait, "You might say I had an epiphany," he said bluntly, tossing the towel into the hamper. "There's going to be some big changes around here," he said seriously, "And it starts with arresting Randall Flynn," he said shrewdly.
"That must've been some nightmare," Charlotte said wryly, smiling approvingly, but Bass could see she was skeptical.
"You have no idea," he said drolly.
Monroe finished dressing, combed his hair, and looked at the clock; it was 7:40. He needed to get to Rachel's quarters before she was taken to her workshop as usual at 8:00. He wasn't sure he could convince her to help, but Monroe knew Rachel hated Randall Flynn, so there was at least a chance. He just hoped she hated Flynn more than she hated him. Bass said a silent prayer that everything would go according to plan.
Knowing some of his own people could be sympathetic to the Patriots, Monroe needed to make sure no one overheard his conversation with Rachel, so when he arrived at her quarters, he ordered the guards to wait outside and close the door behind him. It was an unusual order, but as far as they knew, Monroe was berating her for her behavior the previous evening and didn't want to be disturbed.
Rachel was sitting on the windowsill, staring blankly out the window, still wearing the clothes she'd worn the night before; it was clear she hadn't slept. He noticed her stiffen when the door closed, as if aware of his presence, but she didn't look up.
Monroe saw her breakfast sitting untouched on the table, and as he walked toward her, he couldn't resist stopping to take a piece of toast from the tray. He didn't have time to sit down to breakfast and it was a long time until lunch.
Rachel glared at Monroe as he stood there defiantly eating the toast and then gulping down her glass of apple cider. "Just get on with it, Bass," she said impatiently.
Rachel obviously thought he was there to dole out her punishment. And Monroe wanted to tell her she would never see Charlotte and Danny again, but everything had changed literally overnight and he needed her on his side. He told himself there was no harm done since Charlotte didn't seem bothered by Rachel's revelation, and therefore there was no need, but Monroe was in new territory not following through on a threat, and he hated the way it felt.
"We're going to talk about that... someday," Monroe said absently, longingly eyeing her uneaten eggs, "But that's not why I'm here," he said wiping his hands and mouth with a napkin and perching on the edge of the table. She looked daggers at him, suspicion and loathing written all over her face. This wasn't going to be easy.
Monroe decided to get straight to the point, looking her in the eye so she'd see he was serious, "I need to question Randall and his team, and I need your help to do it."
Rachel raised a disbelieving eyebrow, "Why would you need my help for that?" she said coolly, crossing her arms, "Just arrest them," she sneered.
Monroe took a deep breath to keep himself under control; why did Rachel have to be so difficult, "It's not that simple," he said seriously, "It goes beyond Randall and his scientists." Rachel looked surprised for a moment but then she reverted to her usual cold expression. Monroe paused a moment, absently sliding the tip of his thumb along the seam of his lips, thinking about how to tell her what he knew without saying how he got the information, "I've received information from a credible source that they're working with people outside the Republic."
"I don't care," Rachel scoffed.
Monroe stood and took a few steps toward Rachel, careful to stay out of her personal space; intimidation wasn't his goal this time, "You should care, Rachel," he said firmly, but calmly, "Cause I'm not talking about some ineffective rebels who just want to take me down." Monroe felt his temper beginning to flare and took a breath to reign himself in before continuing, "Flynn's people are organized, they've been planning for years, and they want all the Republics." Monroe saw he finally had her attention and paused for a second to let it sink in before he dropped the real bombshell, "And they caused the Blackout."
Shock flashed across Rachel's face, but it was quickly replaced with her usual icy expression, "You're lying," she said flatly.
Monroe was tempted to throttle Rachel out of sheer frustration, but Charlotte's life ultimately depended on her cooperation. Getting himself under control again, "I get it," Monroe said evenly, taking a step closer, "You hate me," she gave him a look that plainly said 'you think?', "and I deserve that," looking down for a second, "But, I know you hate Flynn too. There's gotta be a reason for that?" Monroe didn't care why Rachel hated Flynn, but reminding her of it might get her to listen. "Even if you don't believe me, don't you think Flynn should be questioned?"
Rachel looked at Monroe as if she wanted to ask him something, but she turned and looked out the window instead, seemingly lost in thought for a long moment, "Something did go wrong that night," she conceded, so quietly he almost didn't hear her. She turned back to face him, looking determined - pure Rachel Matheson, "What do you want me to do?"
"Keep Randall and his team busy in your workshop," Monroe said. Rachel looked uncertain, "I don't care how you do it," he said firmly, "Tell them you have a new idea or that you need them to help you work the bugs out of Sanborn's sonic cannon... anything! Just keep them occupied for a few hours." Rachel nodded in acknowledgement, smiling as if she had an idea.
"I want to be there when you question him," Rachel said almost warningly.
"You got it," Monroe nodded. She would be valuable in determining whether Flynn was being truthful.
As Monroe left Rachel's quarters to go to his office, he realized a good faith gesture would be a good idea, so he paused to tell Rachel's guards to put back the woodstove and give back her CD's and player. Monroe found being magnanimous actually felt kind of good; besides, Flynn's people would be more likely to stay in the workshop if it was warm.
Monroe went to his office and reviewed his files on the officers Jeremy recommended and then summoned them. All four had exemplary records, but two, Captains Hernandez and Grant, gave him pause since they were under Neville's command in Intelligence and Interrogations, but he decided to trust Jeremy's suggestions and move forward with them.
While waiting, Monroe wrote lists for each officer of the pertinent details from his mental notes on the Patriots. When they arrived, Monroe briefed them about the Patriots and Neville's treachery - his reason for going around one of his longest-serving officers, handed out the lists, and ordered each to a specific task.
Major Jackson would be responsible for apprehending everyone on his list, and anyone found with them. Monroe made sure Jackson understood the arrests were to be made quietly to prevent anyone from getting wind before they could be taken.
Captain Hernandez would gather and analyze the intel. Even though Monroe remembered everything he'd learned at the meeting, he still needed to know if they were working with anyone else and any additional details that could help in planning the eventual attack on Gitmo. Also, if any of the intel mentioned plans for the other republics by name, it could prove useful in future dealings with them.
Captain Grant would oversee the interrogations, with particular emphasis on the items on his list. Monroe told him to start with John Sanborn, citing that he seemed most likely to break quickly, and to save Flynn for last - Monroe wanted to question him himself.
Colonel Epstein would help Monroe plan and coordinate the surveillance, ground recon, and attack. Her first task was to send a stealth surveillance drone to Guantanamo Bay to get a current overview of the area, transporting it to and from Florida as quickly as possible via post-Blackout means. It would take longer to get the photos than Monroe would like, but everything leading up to the attack needed to be done quietly to avoid detection by the Patriots. She was also to start assembling the recon team and any necessary assets.
Before dismissing them, Monroe gave explicit orders that any family taken with the people on the list were not to be tortured - only questioned and held until further notice, and that both Jackson and Grant were to check for a cyanide tooth and remove them from everyone before interrogation. He also ordered that anything they told their teams was strictly 'need to know'. And Monroe told them to watch anyone in the Militia who was friendly with Wilson, Flynn, or Simpson - rebel sympathizers weren't the only enemy within anymore.
Flynn and his team would be apprehended in Rachel's workshop after Jackson finished arresting the first two on his list. Before that happened though, there were three more traitors not on the list that Monroe felt he needed to take care of, personally.
As soon as the 'Fantastic Four', as Monroe codenamed them, left around 9:45 to carry out their orders, Monroe sent messengers summoning the Nevilles to his office. Since Christmas wasn't officially recognized by the Republic, Tom and Jason were on duty like any other day and wouldn't be suspicious being summoned by the General on Christmas, but since Monroe never called for officers' wives, he'd had to send for Julia under the pretense that Tom needed to see her in his office.
While waiting, Monroe finally had a few minutes to eat something more substantial than a piece of dry toast. It was only a chicken sandwich on day-old bread and chicory coffee, but he'd found himself savoring it, even the so-called coffee, as if he hadn't eaten in days.
As he finished his sandwich and pushed the empty plate and cup aside, Monroe looked at the four soldiers already in position at both doors ready to seize Tom and Jason. Not long ago, the same men were there to follow different orders, orders Monroe regretted ever since. He'd acted rashly, executing Jeremy before the investigation was completed, but this time, Monroe had seen Tom and Jason's betrayal with his own eyes, so he would be justified to kill them. But the idea of killing another old friend, even if Tom never was the friend Jeremy had been, and knowing Charlotte wouldn't forgive him for killing Jason, made Monroe decide they should be arrested now and dealt with later.
Though without the distraction his lunch had provided, the stress of waiting for word on Jackson's progress was making Monroe's mind wander into dark territory. He sat in his chair angrily gripping the armrests as he remembered Tom and Jason at that meeting. He didn't know what they'd been offered, but from his end, it looked like they'd turned against him pretty easily. Monroe knew he needed to tamp down his anger so he wouldn't act rashly again, so he tried to focus instead on his hopes for the future: a life with Charlotte and their children, and a better Monroe Republic. But, it wasn't easy.
A few seconds later, the door opened and Tom and Jason entered, stopping in front of Monroe's desk and standing at attention, "You asked to see us, sir?" Tom asked formally. Monroe had to steel himself to keep from just shooting them right there - how did he never see how easily they'd betray him?
Monroe leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers contemplatively at his chin as he studied both men a long moment, deciding how best to proceed, "I'm told you had quite the evening," he said ominously, lacing his fingers.
"Sir?" Tom asked incredulously, pretending not to know what Monroe was talking about. Jason seemed unfazed, just continuing to stand at attention looking at Monroe.
"I know about your little meeting last night," Monroe said menacingly, leaning forward and nodding to the soldiers who moved to block both doors and drew their sidearms. Tom stiffened slightly, but didn't show any other sign of fear. Jason's eyes darted to the men at the side door, but then focused back on Monroe. They'd surely seen the men when they came in, but it wasn't unusual for Monroe's guards to be in his office, so they apparently hadn't realized the men were there for them until now.
"Sir, if I may-," Tom began, his voice wavering only slightly.
"You were seen," Monroe interrupted almost yelling, his tone leaving no room for argument. Monroe wasn't sure, but he thought he saw Tom startle. Jason just looked between his father and Monroe nervously.
Tom had the nerve to argue anyway, "I found out Randall Flynn is working with the rebels and we were there to spy on them," he lied smoothly, "I was about to come make my report to you when I was summoned here." Did Tom really expect Monroe to buy it? Monroe knew Tom was lying since if it had been true, Neville would've brought the information to him before proceeding with a 'spy mission'. Monroe couldn't abide lies; he glanced at the guards, considering giving new orders.
Giving Neville a dangerous grin, "I know you're lying, Tom," Monroe said turning his chair to stand up, and walk toward the Nevilles. Monroe stood over Tom, "I promoted you, gave you the appointment you wanted, even after you botched the simple assignment of finding and bringing Ben Matheson here, and treachery is how you repay me?" Monroe almost shouted the last words. He was about to give the order to take them, but Neville had the gall to answer.
"I was loyal to you, sir," Neville sneered, "until you became a lovesick fool, mooning over the Matheson girl," Tom spat. Neville nodded to the bruise on Monroe's jaw, "Trouble in paradise? She kick you to the curb?" he derided. Tom's disrespect of Charlotte angered Monroe to no end; he clenched his fists at his sides, ready to punch the man, but he held back.
Jason spoke up for the first time, "I did it for Charlie, he said angrily, "You made her marry you!" he added disgustedly. Tom looked annoyed at his son, almost rolling his eyes.
Monroe chuckled mirthlessly, turning back to Tom, "Funny, your son seems to be a 'lovesick fool' too." Monroe couldn't resist that little jibe and he could tell Tom didn't appreciate it.
"I should kill you for treason," Monroe said, looking between the two, "But...," he began, heading back to his chair and sitting down, "...I'm going to give you the chance I wish I'd given Baker. Take them," Monroe ordered to the guards. The four men moved to seize the Nevilles.
Two of the men got hold of Tom, but Jason managed to draw his sidearm and point it at Monroe before the others could get to him. "Just let us go," he ordered, "and Charlie, too." Tom did roll his eyes then.
"You've got balls kid, I'll give you that," Monroe chuckled, unfazed. "Corporal Jessup," he called out and the side door opened, revealing the Corporal holding Julia by the upper arm, pointing a gun at her head, her hands cuffed behind her back. Monroe had known they wouldn't go quietly - they needed an incentive.
It had the desired effect, "Mom!" Jason said shocked, letting the gun fall to the floor. Tom's eyes went wide upon seeing Julia being held by Strausser's protégé. They allowed themselves to be seized and disarmed, but not without Tom looking daggers at Monroe the whole time.
"What will you do to us?" Jason asked defeated.
"I haven't decided yet," Monroe answered matter-of-factly, "Get them out of my sight," he said disgustedly to the guards. Monroe couldn't help smirking as the Neville family was led out of his office. Julia shot him an angry look as she was led past his desk and out the main door, following the others. 'Good riddance!' Monroe thought.
Major Jackson walked in wearing a broad grin, plainly keeping his eyes averted from the traitors as they were led past. Wilson and Simpson were the only people on his list besides Flynn's team, so it hadn't taken long and apparently everything had gone smoothly. Monroe let out the breath he'd been holding and stood up, "Are your men in place?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes Sir!" Jackson answered, grinning.
Now it was time to take out the rest of the trash.
Monroe and Major Jackson arrived at Rachel's workshop, meeting up with Jackson's men waiting outside the only door. Monroe entered ahead of Jackson, followed by the men who dispersed around the room, Rachel's guards joining them, ready to make the arrests.
Unlike the day before, the workshop was comfortably warm and music was playing softly from the CD player on the workbench. Rachel was sitting next to the workbench on her stool arguing heatedly with Flynn, Sanborn, and one of Flynn's men whose name Monroe couldn't remember. It looked like the sonic cannon on the table in front of them was the source of the disagreement. The other two members of Flynn's team, a man and a woman, were farther down the bench, apparently building a new amplifier.
Rachel saw Monroe and Jackson first and immediately stopped arguing. Flynn noticed and followed her gaze, seeming unfazed to see Monroe and all the men. Sanborn and the other man however, were apprehensive, though that seemed to be Sanborn's baseline. These two would definitely be the first to break under questioning.
"Ah, General," Flynn said genially, "We've made a breakthrough on the sonic cannon," he said eagerly, "I was going to tell you about it at the meeting, but since you're here...," managing to sound condescending as always. Flynn's face fell suddenly, apparently finally seeing that Monroe was angry, but he recovered quickly, "To what do we owe this visit?" glancing smugly at Rachel as if he believed she was the intended 'target' of Monroe's ire.
Monroe stepped up to loom over Flynn, "I think it's time you were properly vetted," he said threateningly, as Jackson's men surrounded Flynn and his people. Flynn appeared fearful as the men moved closer. Rachel moved to stand beside Monroe, her arms crossed and smiling smugly at Randall, reminding Monroe of a vulture eyeing its intended meal.
"Sir?" Flynn started, as two of the men grabbed his arms, then another forcibly opened his mouth, and yanked out his cyanide tooth. Sanborn and the other man Rachel had been arguing with were being similarly treated. Rachel looked at Monroe disgustedly, "What're you-," she began angrily; apparently she'd assumed they'd just be arrested. Monroe nodded to the man who'd pulled the tooth from Flynn, indicating his hand, and he held it out for Rachel to see, effectively silencing her.
The other woman somehow managed to bite down on her tooth before Jackson's man could stop her. Seeing this, Rachel went to her, apparently trying to help, as the guards holding her let her limp weight fall to the floor, "Linda!" she exclaimed. Rachel watched in horror as the woman seemed to be dying in front of her, blood and saliva streaming from her mouth. "Who are these guys," Rachel asked, looking up at Monroe in horrified awe. Monroe knew she believed him now; nobody working for bunch of disorganized rebels had a suicide tooth.
Monroe walked through Independence Hall, gathering his thoughts as he went to his quarters. Now that all the arrests were out of the way, Monroe figured it would take about ten days to get any solid information from the interrogations, analyze the intel, and study the surveillance photos of Gitmo, then the recon could be planned and deployed.
An assault on Gitmo couldn't be properly planned until that recon team returned, but Monroe found himself already considering the possible modes of attack: aerial, ground, sea... Nukes...? Based on what he'd heard at Flynn's meeting, the Patriots had access... 'NO,' he told himself, 'I would be just as bad as they are.' Still... it was tempting to obliterate them once and for all.
Monroe's tendency was to overthink when the stakes were so high, so his fears that he might've missed something were also weighing heavily on his mind. He knew he needed a clear head to make the right decisions though, so he had to put all those doubts to rest. In the past, it was Miles or Jeremy who'd help him do that, but now he had Charlotte.
Bass expected Charlotte to be spending the day with Danny, but he found her in their quarters sitting on the windowsill as her mother so often did, staring pensively out the window, clutching a small pillow to her chest. The way she was holding it reminded Bass that something had been bothering her the night before. He hoped she would tell him what it was, but he knew he'd have to wait for the right opening to ask.
She turned toward him as he approached, smiling, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. Bass walked up beside her, "Not that I'm complaining...," he said, putting his arm around her shoulders and pulling her against his side, "But I thought you'd be with Danny?" he said pressing a lingering kiss to her cheek, "Did he have another attack?" he asked concerned.
"He's fine," Charlotte said cheerfully, pulling back slightly and looking up at Bass curiously. Monroe didn't often ask about Danny and she seemed surprised by his concern, "I spent the morning with him," she said. After a long moment, Bass was going to ask for more details, but she went on before he could, "He wanted a nap after lunch, so I came back here," she shrugged.
Looking out the window over her head at the park below, Bass realized something, "It occurs to me…," Bass began as he pulled away from Charlotte, "You haven't been outside since the wedding," he said walking over to the wardrobe. He hoped a change of scenery and some fresh air might get her to open up, and it was true she hadn't been outside in weeks, much to his shame.
"No?" she answered uncertainly. From the mirror, he could see her slide off the windowsill and start toward him tentatively.
Bass took her coat from the wardrobe, the one that matched his uniform coat, and held it up for her, ready for her to slide her arms into the sleeves. At her look of confusion, he clarified, "Let's go for a walk," Bass said, smiling happily.
As they started walking downstairs hand in hand, followed by all of their bodyguards, Charlotte looked up at Monroe, seemingly studying him as she had that morning for a few seconds before speaking, "How'd it go this morning?" she asked casually.
"Went like clockwork," Bass smiled proudly, "Flynn and his people are being questioned as we speak." At her look of distaste he quickly added, "They won't be tortured any more than strictly necessary," he said seriously. He meant it; it's partly why he wanted to start with Sanborn.
As they approached the front door of Independence Hall, Captain Hernandez walked up to Monroe, standing at attention and looking somewhat anxious. Fearing something was wrong, Monroe squeezed Charlotte's hand before letting go to ball his fist, "What is it Captain?" Monroe asked, unable to keep the concern from his voice.
"I thought you should see this, sir," Hernandez handed him a document. Monroe immediately realized it was in code, but not like any military code he'd ever seen; it was Arabic. He also noticed a symbol on it, an eye inside a pyramid. "This is just a sample, but everything we've found so far is like this," Hernandez said gesturing to the paper, "And Flynn and Simpson were wearing rings with that same symbol on it." Monroe had seen Flynn's ring, but he'd never thought anything of it.
"Do we have anyone who can translate?" Monroe asked, concerned, still looking at the paper. Monroe began to panic, all this progress just to be stopped by a 'code' nobody in the Militia could decipher.
"I can, sir," Hernandez said proudly, "My mother was from Egypt, she taught me," he added by way of explanation, "It'll take a little longer to go through it all since there's just me to read it, but you'll have your intel, sir," Hernandez added confidently. A wave of relief washed over Monroe and he released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Monroe knew Jeremy made his recommendations for a reason! Monroe smiled proudly at the officer.
Charlotte moved closer, "You took this from Flynn?" she asked Hernandez, "What's it say?" she asked, pointing to the paper in Monroe's hand.
Hernandez looked uncertainly at Monroe and he nodded his permission to speak in front of Charlotte. Charlotte hadn't ever been privy to the specifics in matters of State, but Jeremy had suggested Monroe should listen to her input and he found that he really did appreciate her interest and wanted to know what she thought.
"It outlines a plan to kill the infirm and other undesirables," Hernandez said disgustedly, looking between the two, "with some kind of engineered virus. Also says Flynn needs to make sure his people get vaccinated," turning to Monroe, Hernandez added, "We found an empty vial too."
Charlotte gave a look of disgust that turned to horror as realization struck her. She took a step back, looking between Monroe and Hernandez horrified, "Danny!" she exclaimed, barely above a whisper.
"Good work, Captain. Carry on," Monroe said handing the document back to Hernandez, "Oh," he began, "Tell the others," referring to the Fantastic Four, "to arrest anyone else they see wearing that symbol," Monroe ordered.
"Yes sir," Hernandez said saluting. He turned and hastily walked away.
Bass pulled Charlotte into an embrace, "It's ok Charlie," he said softly to the top of her head, "We stopped them before they could release it. Danny's safe," he said stroking her hair. After a minute, she stiffened and pulled back, still in his arms, looking up at him questioningly. She still seemed upset by Hernandez's revelation, but also surprised. "You prefer to be called Charlie, don't you?" Bass asked uncertain. She nodded, apparently stunned silent. "I just thought it was time I respected that," he smiled. She would always be Charlotte in Bass's mind, but if she preferred to be called Charlie, then he would call her Charlie.
"Thanks," she said hesitantly, "I guess I'm just not used to hearing you say it." After a long moment seemingly lost in thought, she spoke again, "Why do you always call me Charlotte?"
Bass cupped her face with both hands, "Because it's such a beautiful name and you...," drawing her closer and kissing her forehead, "...are such a beautiful woman." She smiled warmly up at him. Bass's heart did a flip-flop at the sight; he wasn't sure he'd ever seen her really smile.
"Ready?" Bass asked smiling back. Charlotte looked unsure, "To continue our walk?" Bass clarified, steering them toward the door. She nodded.
They walked in silence following half their guards through the door and into the cold mid-afternoon air to the park in front of Independence Hall, their remaining guards following; all eight protectively surrounded the couple. The sky was cloudy and Bass guessed the temperature was near freezing. There wasn't any fresh snow on the ground, though by the smell of the air, he thought it might snow that evening. Bass led Charlotte to his favorite bench under a tree near the statue of Commodore Barry; they sat down as the guards took watchful positions nearby.
Bass leaned back against the bench and put his arm around Charlotte, "Are you cold?" he asked.
"No," she said distractedly, without looking at him, as if lost in thought. "I'm ok," she added, glancing at Monroe and smiling.
Charlotte looked down at her gloved hands in her lap, and looked back up at Monroe, "So... what does all this do to your plans for world domination?" she asked wryly, one eyebrow raised.
Bass wasn't expecting that, but he should've; Charlotte had objected to Georgia's annexation from the start, so it stood to reason she'd oppose any further conquest. He looked her in the eye and took a deep breath, steadying himself as he remembered Ben showing him what his lust for power had wrought, before answering, "I'm not taking any more territory," Bass said simply, "I'm keeping Georgia, " he added quickly, "I just won't go after the other republics." Charlotte eyed him skeptically, clearly not quite believing him, so he explained further, "I want to make the Republic the safe place me and Miles wanted it to be in the beginning, and that'll be easier to do without more territory." It wouldn't be easy to give up the desire for power, especially since the continent was the legacy he'd wanted to give his children, but he'd do it for Charlotte, and Miles and Jeremy.
"What happened to you last night?" Charlotte blurted out, turning in her seat to fully face Monroe. "It wasn't just a nightmare," she said more calmly, "I mean people like you don't just wake up from a dream with a change of heart," she paused to take a breath, "I just want to understand what's changed," she said placating, as if she was afraid he was becoming upset. Bass could tell she wasn't going to let it go until she got an answer; just like her parents, she was too smart not to ask questions.
Monroe felt defensive for a moment; he usually lashed out at anyone who challenged him. But this was Charlotte, he could see she wasn't trying to start a fight and he knew it was important for their future for him to talk to her. He couldn't tell her everything about the night before though, so he decided to give her the CliffsNotes version.
Bass took her hands in his, hoping to reassure her he wasn't angry. After a long moment gathering his thoughts, "I don't remember all the details," he lied, keeping his tone even, "But you're right... it wasn't like any dream I've ever had before." Bass looked down at their joined hands and stroked hers with his thumbs, "Miles...," he trailed off, looking back up. Charlotte's eyes widened at the mention of her uncle, but Bass went on before she could interrupt, "...and some other old friends appeared to me, and showed me things that reminded me of the man I used to be. And they all warned me about Flynn," Bass paused for a breath, "I know. It's crazy," he added at her dubious look. He took a long moment to decide how to clarify before continuing, "It's like the doubts I've had all along about Flynn finally caught up to me in my sleep. And I woke up with this... feeling... that I needed to find out more about him, and that I need to change things... before it's too late," whispering the last words. 'And Miles said he trusts me,' Bass added silently to himself.
Charlotte smiled slightly, seemingly satisfied with his explanation, but Bass could tell there was another question coming, "How'd you get that bruise on your jaw?" she asked nodding to it.
Bass sighed inwardly, wishing, for only a moment, that she wasn't so smart, "I tripped and hit it on the end table," he said matter-of-factly, it wasn't a complete lie, but he couldn't tell her the whole truth either. She'd never believe her dead uncle punched him.
"Why'd you act so strange when I touched it this morning?" Charlotte asked doubtingly.
"Coincidence," Bass said simply, "That happened to be the moment I remembered the dream and realized I needed to act," he shrugged. Still not a complete lie. He was sure Charlotte wouldn't buy it at all though.
She studied him a long moment, "Ok," she said simply, seeming satisfied with his answers.
Charlotte turned to face forward again and Bass put his arm around her shoulders, drawing her close. They fell into a comfortable silence as they sat just enjoying the afternoon. She seemed to be enjoying the brisk, but fresh, air and happy to be outside again. Now was the right time for Bass to ask his question. He took in a deep breath, "Charlie?" he breathed into her hair.
"Hmm?" she murmured dreamily.
"I still want to know what's bothering you?" Bass said tentatively, "You were going to tell me last night before Flynn interrupted?" he clarified.
After a few moments awkward silence, Charlotte took a deep breath, "Well," she sighed resignedly, "you're going to figure it out eventually...," she trailed off as she pulled back to look at him for a second, "I think I'm pregnant," she said as she looked down.
Even though Bass already knew, hearing her say he was finally going to be a father left him speechless and he was sure he was wearing a big dopy grin. He moved his hand to caress her chin, coaxing her to look up at him, then leaned in to kiss her tenderly. She reciprocated, making Bass want to take it further, but he never would in public. A little PDA was fine, but making out in public? Not so much.
"So you're ok with it?" she hesitated. Bass nodded happily, still unable to speak. She took a relieved breath, "I wasn't sure how you'd take it."
Bass was about to suggest they go inside and continue their discussion, but she spoke first, "You can call me Charlotte... if you want," she paused, "once in a while," she amended facetiously. "I like how you say it," she almost whispered as she glanced down, as if she didn't want him to hear.
Charlotte shifted so she could lean against Bass and put her hand on his leg, laying her head on his shoulder as he tightened his arm around her shoulders. That moment, Bass realized she'd never shown him any affection; she would only react to his affection. She'd initiate sex sometimes, and was an active participant, but she'd never just hug or kiss him or hold his hand without prompting. Bass knew he was probably delusional, but he couldn't help hoping this small show of affection from her was a sign of things to come. That he'd made all the right decisions to build a better future for her and their family, and their country. "I love you, Charlotte," Bass murmured, finally finding his voice.
A/N2: This isn't the last chapter. There'll be one more chapter and an epilogue.
LadyH, sorry I didn't go with your idea of having Bass's personal doctor looking after Jason. It really was a good idea if I'd ended up going with the 'Jason is hurt' ruse since, of course, Bass would have his own doctor look after his officers' kids. But I decided Tom asking Julia to his office worked better - keep ruses simple - less to go wrong.