Wall of certainty
She's tired. The fatigue that has slowly changed into deep heaviness is filling her body with every hour that is slipping away. It's slowing down her thoughts. It makes her muscles ache and her heart and instincts feel too heavy to function.
But the stubborn fighter in her refuses to let the exhaustion win. The fear of losing him and what he means to her and a painful yearning to have him right there with her, fills her body and thoughts with every heavy heartbeat inside her chest. That yearning fills her in the same way her fatigue, and guilt, does.
Miles has been missing for two days and Charlie knows they are running out of time. She had wanted to go with him, when he had told her, Monroe and Connor to get back to their camp while he would create a diversion to get rid of the group of Rangers who picked up their trail after escaping Austin.
He never returned to their camp.
She pushes herself to keep on going until Tom Neville finds her and all her guilt near a small river. Her intuition tells her he has waited. Waited until she was alone. Because she is.
'Miss Matheson...' Neville is there with his sickening voice right behind her.
She slowly turns. He orders her to drop her weapons with a tone filled with dark threat. 'You are going to tell me what happened to my boy...right now.'
His words trigger endless guilt. Everything else fades until it is just him, her and Jason dying all over again.
'I don't know where he is.' Her words come from a small part in her that is still fighting. From the part that tells her to buy time. To think. She can almost hear Miles and what he taught her about fighting and surviving. 'Miles is going to be here any minute.'
It's a lie. It hurts like a sharp blade wounding her from the inside.
Neville orders her to take him back to their camp, convinced Jason is there. She can't. Their camp is where everyone else is. Aaron, her mother, her grandpa. Connor. Monroe. Her people. She would never lead Neville back to them. She can't.
Because this is on her. And her alone. She pulled that trigger in a desolate library in Austin. She held him while his blood flowed into her shirt, slowly soaking it in red guilt.
She won't take him to their camp so she starts walking to one of their old safe houses. Knowing Monroe and Miles left weapons there. They always do. She knows them. She knows there is a knife taped under a table waiting for her.
They reach the safe house. When they enter the quiet living room, without Miles, Monroe, Connor, without any of them there with her, she makes one final attempt to fight and reach for the knife hidden under the table.
He yanks her away from the table and the knife and then it is just him and her. He is standing there, right in front of her. His gun aimed at her. And something breaks inside of her. She can't hide it from Neville. Not anymore.
And he sees it.
And she sees it. On his face. The honest raw confused worry for Jason. When he reads in her eyes that Jason is gone, he pulls the trigger, over and over again. The bullets are crashing into the wall behind her, just above her head.
Half of the truth is out there now. She knows she can't hide the whole truth any longer. She can no longer hear Miles' voice. He would tell her to say something, anything, to Neville that gets her out of here. But guilt is washing away everything left inside of her.
And when Neville starts telling her she is bait to draw in Monroe and Miles and everybody she cares about and that he is going to work his way through all of them until he knows what has happened to Jason, she knows she can't let that happen.
It is her final push into nothingness that will be there when Neville hears the truth. He is going to kill you Charlie. She can hear Monroe's voice again. She knew he was right. Miles had been sitting next to her, when both men told her they had to kill him before he got a change to kill her.
It is too late now. He is here. He has found her.
Somehow everything feels clear when the rest of her thoughts are spinning into unfocussed colours around her. And she knows, it is all over. It will end here. With him. In this empty room. Alone.
With his gun close to her face she tells him. She tells him it was her.
'No...' Neville almost growls. In a surreal moment she observes how he puts the barrel of his gun against her head.
And with the feeling of the cold and hard barrel of Neville's gun against her forehead comes the certainty of knowing she will die. A part of her knows she deserves to die. But right before he pulls the trigger her mind screams she does not want to go. Her heart aches to stay alive.
She is so sure that death is the last thing that is left for her. But when he pulls the trigger, his gun is empty. The sound is deafening, her eyes wide and filled with tears. Her body numb, her breathing hurts. Her whole body is on fire with shock and hurt and fear and confusion. And life.
She is still alive.
Neville disappears into his own world, stumbling to a chair behind him. Deep grieve in his eyes and guilt of his own. The guilt of a father who never was who he had to be for his son.
Charlie looks at him one more time and then her mind finally tells her to get out of there. To walk away from Neville. She is not sure she can think or breathe. All she knows is one single thing.
She is still alive. Alive.
When she walks through the door and into the light, the air outside the safe house feels weird against her skin. The sound of Neville pulling the trigger haunts her all the way back to camp. Her muscles ache with cold adrenaline. Her body feels numb.
Her shaky breath is filled with spikes of adrenaline that hurts in her blood. Everything is so sharp around her and at the same time it is like she isn't really here.
The tears on her cheeks that are slowly making trails through the sweat on her neck, dry in the cold grey wind that fills the landscape. But she does not feel the chill in the air. She is alone. Alone but with the deafening sound of him pulling the trigger keeping her company.
And now she is still here, she does not know how to be here.
She tells herself to keep on walking back to their camp, to the only place she can think of now. The place on her forehead where Neville shoved his gun, is throbbing with every step she takes. She has never been so close to death and felt so alive at the same time.
Her thoughts move through a narrow path, unable to think of anything else. Barely able to outrun what just happened to her.
She almost stumbles when she sees the contours of their camp in the distance. The smoke of fires are rising in the air.
He is the first one she sees. She can see the exact moment Connor sees her. He's dark curls, wide shoulders, deep dark eyes. He's there. His eyes stay on her and she lets everything fade.
Her mind and heart are unable to even start to understand what she just walked away from. What she escaped. Unable to think about why her boots hit the ground under her in a more desperate rhythm with the quickening of the pace of her heartbeat.
She is breathing faster and faster until she is close to feeling dizzy. She doesn't talk. She just throws her arms around Connor's neck while she is letting him catch her.
Her boots don't touch the ground when her body melts against his chest and thighs. His tall body is a wall of certainty. She feels how he wraps his hand around her shoulder. His dark curls brush her temple.
She holds on, unable to think of letting go. She needs to know somebody is still there. She needs to feel something more than death. She needs to feel his heartbeat close to hers.
A shock of surprise moves through him when Charlie throws himself in his arms. Her arms in a strong lock around his neck. Worry follows shock as she crashes straight through the wall of anger and resentment he placed around him the past couple of days.
He moves his arm around her. The palm of his hand now against her slender shoulder. It's an automatic and almost primal reaction. He has to react to the desperation in her eyes. His mind is working as fast as it can, with the pressure and heartbreak and deadly cold fear he just saw in her eyes so close.
His dad. Rachel. Miles. No one is with her.
She won't let go of him so he won't let go of her. But he needs answers, because he has never seen her like this. This raw, this open.
He lowers her to the ground. Her eyes are filled with deep shock, like she is reliving something over and over again.
He looks at the bruises on her face that have been there for days since Austin. She looks pale. So pale. And lost. The normally so strong blue is mixed with the sheen of pale tears.
'Charlie...' Connor tries, his voice raspy with worry. She is still not looking at him. He slowly tries to get her to focus on her his voice. 'Charlie...hey...talk to me.'
From somewhere far away his voice filled with some human warmth reaches her. The sound of his voice is slowly pulling her back to a place where she can feel her body again.
He watches how she is trembling on her damn feet. 'Are you alone? Did you find Miles...?' He has to swallow when a spike of deep fear moves through his chest '...my dad?' What happened?'
Charlie can just shake her head. It takes all the energy that is left somewhere inside of her to form words in her head and say them out loud. 'Don't know...we split up...' Her voice sounds like it does not belong to her when she finally looks at him.
Worry for her makes his mouth dry. She is so far away, there is feral fear and unfocussed emotions in her eyes that are so unlike her that he doesn't know what to say.
He can sense half their camp looking at them. He knows she is realizing the same thing. Worry for her turns into irritation when he looks at Scanlon and a couple of other guys close to them.
'What the hell are you looking at.' He almost spits out the words. He feels the urge to shield her from everybody around them.
'Come with me all right?' He tries. She just nods although he is not even sure she completely understands what he is saying. He moves his hand to her lower back to guide her to the abandoned building in the heart of their camp.
There is a crate in the corner of the quiet room. He tells her to sit down and crouches down before her. His hand now on her shoulder, his fingers brushing the skin of her neck, filled with the need to somehow connect with her.
She finally meets his eyes and he can see some of her shining through the pale and shocked look in her eyes.
Charlie looks at Connor. He is a mixture of being there and knowing what they share, whatever it is, could be over in a blink of an eye. But that last part doesn't matter. Not now.
He is here. With her.
He moves his hand from her shoulder to her arm until he reaches her hand. It's cold and he can feel how her hand is trembling. He cups her hand with his. With his free hand he searches for her other hand until he warms both her hands with his.
Charlie is slowly able to feel how the warmth of his hands covers hers. The metal of his ring is cool, but with every second he sits there, with her, it feels less cold because of the warmth of his skin that mixes with hers.
He sits with her until her breathing slows down. His mind is filled with her. With the past couple of weeks. With not being sure where he fits in all of this. With all those months since he had left his life in Mexico behind. There, where he has was someone.
They are fighting so hard to find Miles. And there is a dark part inside of him, filled with the past and shadows, that wants people, his dad, to fight for him. To see him. To choose him. Just this once.
Dark jealousy and bitter disappointment have been fuelling his actions. It made him take a step back from his dad. From what they could be. Because what they could have been, is just too painful to be there with him in the present. He wants to be there, side by side, fighting with his dad.
But there have been too many broken promises to fully surrender to the idea of his dad being there for him. To trust this bond they have been trying to build since he found him in Mexico.
His mom promising everything would be all right. Standing there, before their home, letting Miles take him away from his life. A complete stranger, taking him all the way to Mexico. He remembers how quiet Miles was, he remembers how he had hated every day Miles took him further from Jasper. His aunt and uncle giving him a home until their death took that home away from him. Days and nights alone on the street without a home or family. Nunez promising him that he was like a son to him before betraying him.
Sometimes he can still remember the scent of his mother's perfume. He can still hear her voice. He can still see her smile. Everything will be all right, Connor.
Nothing is all right.
He is not even sure he wants to be here, with all of them. It's an impossible struggle that fills him with rage.
But this is her. Her. And sitting in front of her and seeing her like this, lost, alone and with an echo of a primal fear in her eyes makes him have to reach out for her.
'I am going to get you some water all right?' He waits until he is sure she understands him. 'I'll be right back.'
Charlie nods. And when he steps away from her, she suddenly and unexpectedly misses the warmth of his hands around hers. She watches him walk away and then it is her and the empty room around her and some room to breathe and think again.
When he returns, he can see a shift in her shoulders and a change in her eyes. There is something in there that tells her she won't allow him close to her. Not anymore. So he keeps his distance after he puts the cloth and a bucket of water in front of her.
She washes the sweat and tears away with the cool water in front of her. She lets the water flow over her hands and over the deep red stains that are still there, imprinted in her skin. Jason's blood.
The coolness of the water grounds her. It's soothing the bruises on her face.
'It is going to be nightfall in an hour...are you thinking of going back out?' Connor needs to ask her.
'Yeah, I have to.' She looks at him.
Sometimes they talk. On the road. In front of a fire. Sometimes she lets him in.
It does not happen often because it is painful when he shares things with her about his life. Things that add more images to the years of her life where the world outside the gates of Sylvania Estates had kept on going. Sheltered from everything by a father who had wanted to keep her away from everything.
Connor had told her about Miles. About the day he showed up at his home in Jasper, to take him to a new life, far away from everything he knew until then. She has seen the picture in his hands when he thought nobody was looking. The picture where Emma is holding him when he was only a couple of weeks old and life had been so different.
Sometimes, there is room and time between them where they share something other than fighting and death. Where he really looks at her. Sees her. Where he lets her talk or comes to find her when everybody else is busy with their own crap.
Connor takes a step towards her. 'I am sorry for having to say this, but if Miles could have got out by now, he would have.'
She knows he is being honest. She knows he does not want to hurt her. She knows what he is trying to say. But her heart refuses to believe that truth. Because Miles needs to be alive. She has to make him understand what happened today. And what it meant to her. And finally, she is ready to talk.
'Do you see this?' She moves her hair back over her shoulder, showing him the place where she can still feel Neville's gun, a moment that forever changed who she will be. 'This is the place where Neville shoved his gun in my face.' Her heart feels impossibly heavy when she has to mention his name again.
And she tells him. About Neville, about the safe house. The gun. Connor can only listen to her. His heart is raw because of her honesty. He surprises himself with the amount of compassion he feels her for her.
She tells him how she asked Neville to shoot her when guilt was all that was left. She tells him about the new explosive yearning of wanting to live she found today.
She sees the anger in his eyes, the tension in his shoulders and his face. It reminds her of Miles. Of how pissed he would be if she were to tell him she had asked Neville to shoot her. It's a hard realization, one that makes her have to take another breath.
When she tells him what Neville did to her and what she had asked Neville to do to her, he feels anger rise inside of him when he thinks about someone putting a gun to her head.
Anger for her being alone out there. For asking Neville to shoot her. For thinking she deserves that. Anger for another Neville hurting her. Anger that he wasn't there. For her. Anger for every fucking thing that is happening.
He admires and respects her for her strength, for the way she is fighting for Miles. But a dark part inside of him yearns for that same strength, for someone willing to fight for him and for him alone.
Their eyes meet. She knows what it is like, this life with Miles and Monroe and all their history. She knows about the reality and the impossible struggles of life. She knows he had his own. He knows loss and abandonment, just like her.
She can see the depth of dark resentment in his eyes. She has seen the anger flowing through his shoulders. But she can has seen beyond that rage. She knows about his struggle to fit in another life that has been thrown before his feet. Because she knows how that feels.
She knows how anger can point its arrows to the person it is easiest to fire them to. To let that hate and rage rage like an autumn storm. She knows why he can't search for Miles with them. With her.
She knows about anger and the past and putting all the blame on one person, when so many people had their part in the past that turned into their present. She knows why Connor is so pissed at Miles. She knows why it has to be him.
He is not ready to be pissed at anyone else. She knows why he won't let himself feel that anger when it comes to Emma. It is the same reason why she has been focussing all her anger and disappointment at one man herself.
Because allowing herself to see how her mother, Miles, even her dad had made choice after choice, claiming their place in history, had given her room to see behind the mask that Monroe wears so well.
After that bar in Pottsboro, after they had almost lost him after Texas sentenced him to death. After having to spend time with him and surprising herself in New Vegas, telling Duncan Page that Sebastian Monroe did know about family, she can see more than just that one truth.
She knows Connor can't. She knows he won't follow her out there. When she takes a step towards him, he is there. Again.
'I have to go..' Her words float in the space between them.
Connor takes a step towards her. He hates the idea of her out there. But the anger for the past that is there in the present with him, makes it impossible to follow her. He can't. He looks at her. But there are no words left.
She looks at Connor. And he is so close. Again. His fingers brush hers, slowly connecting with hers.
And for one second, she longs for the warm pressure of his hand on her shoulder blades again. She longs for someone, just one person, that will be there, completely, for her. To stand still and let the hurt disappear in another embrace and strong arms around her.
But she can't. She has to be who she has to be. She has to fill her breaths with survival and everything Miles taught her. She has to face everything out there again, including a Neville looking for blood. For him. For Miles.
And if he won't go with her, she will go alone. One more brush of his fingers over her wrist. One more moment close to him and she knows he won't follow her back out there.
When she walks outside she can feel his eyes on her. She can still feel his chest close to hers when he held her close.
He won't follow her out there. But she knows she has go. Because Miles is out there. Waiting for her to find him.
Author's Note: After watching the promo for an episode for season two where Charlie embraces Connor, I knew I wanted to write about that moment. I wanted to explore one of the many possibilities for this scene. It became a story about guilt, life and wanting to live, Charlie's strength and Connor being there for her before life out there is waiting again. Thank you to Threemagpies for her support for this one shot. Love from Love