A/N: So, while searching for inspiration, I was re-watching a lot of my favorite Charloe videos on Youtube, and the video "Sebastian Monroe – Stronger Than Ever" just so perfectly encapsulates Monroe's belief that he won't be this way forever. Brutality and fear are just tools he's using to secure his power and the safety of those he loves, as well as the enduring safety of his citizens by creating a stable regime. Inherently, Bass Monroe is an extremely hope-driven person. He is constantly looking for the chance for things to become better. Anyway, in case there are any holes in this chapter's ability to convey Monroe's mindset, please feel free to go check out this video! I love it!
For the smallest of moments, Sebastian Monroe had almost forgotten the unshakable truth that had defined his entire life.
Nothing would ever be easy for him.
Of course – of course it wasn't her.
Despite what he knew many in his regime had begun to quietly suspect, he wasn't crazy. Monroe knew it was impossible that the girl before him – this future soldier in his militia – was the little girl he used to play catch with in Miles' backyard on those long weekends when she'd stayed over, while her parents drove across the state line to take Danny to one of his many doctor appointments.
The girl who'd become the closest thing to a little sister he'd ever have again.
He hadn't seen that girl in well over a decade. She hadn't been there when he'd sent Neville to collect Ben.
He knew because he'd asked.
And then, when Ben had been killed – Monroe flinched, still not quite able to believe it himself how quickly things had spiraled out of control – and Danny had been taken instead… even then, she still hadn't appeared.
If… he shuddered… if Charlie were still… alive, she would have done anything to keep Danny safe. Which meant Neville would have her in custody by now as well.
But he didn't.
And she hadn't.
The girl he'd known refused to leave her brother alone for more than fifteen minutes together. She would have tried to protect Danny if she could-
So yeah, he knew it was impossible that she was here now.
But… her eyes…
Of their own volition, Monroe's eyes found her face again, trying to decide what exactly about those eyes were so familiar
Almost without meaning to, he took a step forward, and then another, watching for any sign that she'd try to get past him again. But she was as still as marble, only her eyes moving to watch his advance.
He had to try one more time.
She looked at him fully, her bright blue eyes wide and wary, and spoke with evident care.
"I- I'm sorry, sir, I don't know who that is."
When his eyes flashed with disappointment, she swept her lashes down, and then slowly back up again to look at him – innocence personified. He watched her closely, but let the silence linger.
He knew it wasn't her.
But he had to be sure of it.
He had to find a way to make sure.
Charlie looked straight into his eyes, trying to decide what the character she was playing would do next. Runaway farm-girl, taken by the Monroe militia, who didn't have the heart for much other than raising calves and lambs…
Should she break the silence and feign discomfort, or wait for him to speak first and feign respect?
She bit her lip, letting him see her indecision, her confusion – hopefully, her innocence.
But the intensity of his blue eyes never lessened. He was like a basilisk, staring down at her, ready to strike. She looked away.
No, she'd wait. She'd been the last to speak, she'd wait for him to break the-
"Are you all right?"
Hearing his voice at normal volume was startling after the long minutes of relative silence. Charlie blinked, her concentration momentarily shattered.
But, ever-practical, Charlie's hand automatically reached up, self-consciously, to cradle her still-burning cheek.
What would a person with nothing to hide say?
"I guess that depends on what happens next."
Very carefully, she glanced up at him through her lashes, and caught just a glimpse of suspicion before he carefully concealed it behind a mask of professional courtesy. The speed with which he did it sent a shiver down her spine.
Anyone who knew her knew that Charlie was far from the panicky type. She'd gotten Danny through too many too-close asthma attacks to dissolve into blind hysteria at the first sign of danger – even serious danger.
But knowing that her secret was this close to being discovered… by him… It sent – a flash – through her brain that made her stagger.
He caught her by the arm before she could stumble, and she barely restrained herself from jerking away.
He knows who I am. Maybe he doesn't know that he knows yet, but… He recognizes me.
She couldn't afford to have him discover her for so many reasons. For Danny's sake. For Peter's – she'd promised his brother she'd save him. For Miles, who wasn't ready to face him again.
For herself, and her inability to forget the uncle who'd once held her while she cried. The ambulance that had taken Danny away after an asthma attack they hadn't been able to control had disappeared so quickly around the corner of her street. She'd tried to chase it, but two arms wrapped around her waist and stopped her. She'd kicked and screamed, and tried to pull his hair out.
But her Uncle Bass had held her close and promised her that Danny would be alright.
He'd promised her.
Charlie looked up at him with all the lip-quivering, cow-eyed innocent pleading she could muster, if only to cover the revulsion and fear that was pulsing out from every atom of his that was touching her.
No, she couldn't bear it if he found out who she really was.
He removed his hand.
He'd seen the flash of hatred that she had kept carefully concealed until this moment, and his heart squeezed with an irrational burst of hope.
He knew it was impossible that this girl was her. Knew.
After all, who would hate him more than her?
He should push into her hatred, make her so angry - threaten her family – that she had to reveal herself, if only to try and murder him.
But instead he heard himself saying, "What happens? Nothing's going to happen to you, Charlie." He wanted to wrap his arms around her, tell her that he'd only taken Danny so that he didn't have to do something worse. Tell her that he'd take her to see him now if she'd only help him.
He knew he couldn't get Rachel to talk without help.
And he couldn't get the lights back on until Rachel talked.
Which meant, he couldn't save his Republic from the constant threat that was Georgia until he got the lights on. Without power, his people would die by the hundred thousand. Georgia had always had more money, better weapons, seemingly-unlimited resources.
And though Rachel was quite possibly the bane of his existence, he'd never dream of actually killing her, and he couldn't quite stomach the thought of her being tortured... not again. The memory of the last time was seared into his memory – the indelible mark that sentenced him to Hell if anything could.
Although he could never allow her to know it, he couldn't do anything more to her without making his own conscience rebel against him.
And he wouldn't risk the impulse of suicide, not when there was so much left undone.
But Rachel would never talk without… an incentive. And although she wasn't much of a mother, her children were quite possibly the only people left that she cared about.
And if Charlie would simple join him, they could convince Rachel together that this was the only way to save everyone they loved-
Bass stopped himself, the hopeful tears that were already springing to eyes warning him sharply that he was allowing himself to believe in something that hadn't even materialized.
He didn't even know whether Charlie was alive.
He took a very slow, deep breath.
"If… it is you…" He paused, making sure he had her attention, his eyes trying to tell her something she instinctively knew she needed to know. "I'd need to know. Before this conversation turns into something else."
She looked up at him without understanding, her expression enough to win an Oscar if she was lying.
But, out of the corner of his eye, he saw her hand twitch.
It was nothing, hardly even a quiver, but somehow it seemed to make everything that was real suddenly visible. He could see her now.
The uncertain trepidation coloring her wide eyes was a thick veneer, carefully painted to hide a deeper and much more certain fear. The open way her head was tilted back, her neck guilelessly exposed, tried to distract him from the way her shoulders were tensed, her whole body curving inward. Away from him.
What prisoner wouldn't cringe away from their captor, what young woman wouldn't shrink from a what she perceived as a threatening male presence?
And yet, all the reason in the world wouldn't talk him out of the irrational hope he felt.
But still, she was silent.
"Charlie… please." His hands reached for hers, taking them without hesitation, watching for any reaction. There was none. Still, he persisted. "Please. Let me help you."
The look in her eyes changed then – caution instead of confusion.
"How could you help me, General? Set me free from your militia? Let me return to my family? Do you really have a heart left that's capable of pity?"
Charlie bit her lip, knowing the last part was likely a mistake. She could see it in Monroe's eyes. A tinge too personal to be coming from a stranger – even one of the many strangers in the Republic who sincerely wished their dictator dead.
She took a breath, ready to steer her next remark into safer territory – maybe groveling.
He was the president of the whole damn Republic after all. A normal person would try to show the proper respect, at least for the sake of self-preservation. And she had to be a normal, unremarkable person right now.
Not Charlie. Normal.
She was all set to apologize or say something equally self-effacing and beg for him to allow her to return to her pretend-family's farm, when a knock rattled the cabin's door that nearly broke the hinges.
Charlie looked to the door, not noticing the way Monroe continued to study her. Without even shifting his gaze, Monroe called for the knocker to enter.
It wasn't until the captain who entered started speaking that he actually looked at him.
"General, sir!" The sergeant snapped to attention as soon as he got through the door, his hand held rigid above his forehead, his lips trembling with news he was desperate to relate. So desperate, he didn't bother to wait until he'd been given permission to speak. "The lighthouse – it's… got a light on inside!"
A/N: Sorry this scene turned into like the longest slow-burn, internal monologue sequence. Maybe next time we'll get to some actual action? Lord knows. I just find the complex psychology of their reunion so fascinating. And, since Charlie's still the young relatively-innocent Season 1 version of herself, I needed to give her some time to work through all her past-meets-present trauma-drama with her formerly-beloved "uncle." Also, that "niece" thing Bass and Charlie have going on - I promise I've got a plan to still get us to our Charloe endgame. Never fear.
Thank you all for your continued reviews and support. It seriously means the world to me, and even inspired a breakthrough for how Bass is finally going to get the truth out of our dear Charlie. To be continued...