14.

When Bass senses movement between the trees before he hears it, his eyes are immediately drawn to the spaces filled with darkness between the trees. His hand reaches for his weapon. He tells Scanlon that he will handle it.

When he finds his way through the forest, the light of their camp slowly fades between the trees. It's dark, but he recognizes the sound of her boots immediately.

'Damn it, Charlie, what the hell are you doing here?' he barks, 'Are you trying to get yourself killed?' He curses at himself for those last words. He curses at himself for caring about what the fuck happens to her.

The light of their campfire in the distance reaches her face. She raises her eyebrow, shooting him a look that is so like Miles that it makes him swallow thickly.

Charlie knows him well enough to know what's behind his growl. When she had walked away from her mother and Miles, she hadn't planned on tracking him down. But there had been something that had pulled her into his direction, something that made her start looking for and following his tracks. She had tracked him down. Again. She had walked until she had seen a small fire between the nightly shadows of the trees ahead of her. She had stood there and had looked at him, staring in the fire with a dark intensity in his eyes that was so much like him. She had stepped on a branch on purpose, knowing the sound of the wood breaking under her boot would catch his attention. She has spent weeks with him, she knows how his mind works.

And now he's standing in front of her, looking impossibly tall. It's reminding her of the man that had once ruled a whole Republic. The deep blue of his eyes pierces into hers. Stubbornness and doubt are fighting the words she wants to say to him now it is him and her, here, together, alone. She curses at herself, she's cursing her decision to track him. But before she can talk, he opens his mouth.

'You are here to say goodbye to my son or thank me for giving up my life in Vegas so you didn't have to lose your fuck buddy?'

They both remember her words about Vegas from earlier today. Bass regrets the words the moment they come of out of his mouth. Fuck. He doesn't know why he chose those words, but the fucked up thought of her being here for him makes him want to push her away.

Sharp hurt appears in her eyes, before her strength takes over. She doesn't look away from him. 'You don't get to talk to me like that Monroe, not after you screwed my mom.'

She wants to walk away, she wants to start telling herself she needs to forget he ever existed. But she doesn't. She can't. Her heart always pulls her back to him, no matter what she tells herself or does to erase what's she feels when he is around. She takes one step closer to him. And then another one. She doesn't stop until she is just as close to him like she had been that day they had stood on a silent road in the forest, right before she had told him to go to hell for suggesting she would take him back to her family. One look at him, and she knows he remembers that day too. She can see the memory burn in the smug depth of his eyes.

He can be an asshole all he wants, but she's a Matheson. She is not going down without a fight.

'I didn't do that for Connor you stupid son of a bitch, I did it for you,' Her rage and everything that is hiding behind that rage makes her body tremble, when she's finally able to be honest with herself and with him. 'And it's none of your damn business, but it happened once, one time,'

She doesn't want to share this with him, she doesn't even understand why it is so important for her that he knows this.

Her warm breath brushes against his face. Her lips are too fucking close and images of what he wants to do with those lips rush through his system. The blue of her eyes lights up. And she is so her, so strong and so fucking beautiful that the only thing that matters is her and what she is finally sharing with him.

She can't outrun the way he looks at her. It's the kind of look that makes her want to take one step closer to him instead of putting distance between them, using all that familiar loathing and hatred.

'I came here for you, you arrogant bastard. I came to thank you.' She is still firing her words at him, the same way she fought him once in the dark, close to a fence with an unconscious bounty hunter on the forest ground. Her face is close to his. 'I came to thank you for getting me out of that bar.' Her voice slowly loses his anger. Mentioning what Bass did for her that night, mentioning it in front of her family earlier today had felt like ripping open an old wound.

It's like somebody puts a heavy stone on her chest all of a sudden. With every beat of her heart, another piece of the memory from that night in Pottsboro flashes through her mind. Those men around her, circling her like vultures.

Another beat.

The lock on the door. Panic that takes over her body and thoughts. Wishing Miles' deep eyes are there.

Another beat.

The dizziness that floods her body. Raw disgusting hands on her skin. The scent of sweat and booze that lingers in the air and so close around her.

Another beat.

The darkness of abandonment and loneliness that's creeping towards and corners her. Knowing she will never see her family again. Knowing it will end here, tonight, in this filthy bar.

Another beat.

Doors flying open, his swords working their way through all of those assholes who are trying to hurt her, saving her. The intense look on his face, right before she has to give in to the darkness and somehow knowing that he's not here to hurt her.

Her breathing is heavy and fast, while it's following her chaotic memories. Tears are filling her eyes and are blurring her vision. She closes her eyes, she desperately tries to breathe. With her eyes closed, Charlie's pulled back into the bar in Pottsboro. She hasn't allowed herself to feel, she didn't want to remember. But here, with him, the memories come back with such intensity that she doesn't know how to fight them.

Bass has to fight back raw pain for what happens inside of her eyes, right there in front of him. She has never looked so small. But all he can see is her and all of her so close to him. Charlotte.

'If you wouldn't have been there, they...' She can't bring herself to say the words out loud. She feels cornered. She feels overwhelmed. It's a mix of emotions she can't fight her way out of.

And then, there in the dark, she feels how strong and warm hands are cupping her face. His calloused skin feels rough against the softer skin of her face. But his touch is gentle, his strength is close.

Bass has watched her face from the moment it has started to fill with pain, her mind in a place far away. He knows where her mind lead her back to, because he was back there too. And when she closes her eyes, after tears were clouding the deep blue of her eyes, he has to close the last remaining distance between them both with his hands. Her warm tears are flowing over his hands. He is standing close to her. He finally touches her. And she lets him.

'Hey..' his voice is warm depth, '…I was there Charlotte…' His voice is raw, deep hoarse warmth. The way he says her name finds its way to her heart. His voice is close. His hands are too. His touch is reaching through the cold memories. She slowly leans into his touch. Bass moves his hands, one hand finds its way to the back of her head, the other hand moves to her back. And just like that, at the moment she's sure the wave of memories filled with disgust and panic will crush her, it evaporates.

His chest is wide and his arms are strength around her. She lets her forehead rest against his chest. She is not used to this, she is not used to feeling another man's strength in moments where she is not sure she can find hers. The scent of his skin, his leather jacket and the cool night of the forest is close.

'I came here for you,' it's a slow whisper, close to his shirt and chest, only meant for him to hear. Bass swallows, pulling her even closer without realizing it himself. They stand there, together, in the dark. She doesn't talk, he just holds her. Time slowly moves through the night.

She finally looks up and refuses to give up until he really looks at her, although her heart is roaring with so many unsaid things between them.

'I meant every word I said to my mom and Miles,' He has never looked at her the way he does now, he has never been this close. She can't look away. 'I need you to know that whatever happens now, I meant those words.'

He nods, it is barely visible to anyone else, but then she realizes that they have reached a point where she can read that small moment between them. She once accused him of being cold, of being a killer but she finally sees what her heart has known for a long time. He's more.

'Why?'

His voice is hoarse and deep but his eyes fill with an insecurity that it so unlike Monroe, that it almost hurts. She looks at him with a question in her eyes.

'Why did you break Connor and me out in Vegas?' There's a hint of hesitation in his voice. He doesn't want to ask, but he really fucking needs to know. A part of him already knows the answer, but he really needs to hear her say it.

Charlie takes a deep breath. 'I could have walked away. I knew that would mean that you would be dead in less than 24 hours.' She lets her words burn between the both of them. 'I have wanted you dead for so long. You are still an impossible son of a bitch. But here's the thing, leaving you behind to die in that hell hole, killed by your own son, just wasn't an option. Not everything after you have done for me. Not after every fight we fought together.'

And there it was, the truth. It's strong and lingering between his heart and hers. Bass slowly moves his hand to her face, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, brushing his thumb along her cheek. They both know she has to go, but she can't. So she forgets about everything that is waiting out there for them, and all that there is left for now is to feel the touch of his hand on her skin.