Whiskey and Winter Warmth

It's Christmas. But the war is over, the land is recovering from its wounds and the hearts of many are still broken. So it's small, like the last burning firewood in the fireplace right before sunrise. But it is there.

Bass is on his way to a party he pretended not to give a shit about. When Staypuft invited him to his house he wasn't sure if he really wanted him there or that it was some kind of pity invite. He moves his hands deeper into the pockets of his leather jacket. His eyes move from the night sky above him to the street in front of him. It's dark and there are soft lights burning behind the windows of the houses around him.

When he arrives at Aaron's and Priscilla's home, he stops in front of the house. The sound of the party coming from inside of the house reaches him and he sees the silhouettes of the people inside through the windows. There is a large wooden porch that flows around the whole house. A Christmas tree with simple decorations is standing near the front door and there are small glasses with candles inside of them that add soft light to the wood of the house. It's modest, but it's real. It reminds him of home. It reminds him of his family and a mother who knew how to celebrate Christmas and how to add warmth to the winter, now forever lost in time. He pushes that thought away and tries to silence to old battle raging inside of him between who he was and who he became.

He does not even want to be here. Or maybe he does. He fucking hates himself for not being able to stay away. From Miles. From her. He walks inside while he curses under his breath. It's warm inside, and when Aaron and Priscilla welcome him to their party, he can't find the loathing or hate in their eyes he was expecting. They offer him a drink. He talks to some people he barely knows. And then she is there. The light of the blue in her eyes reminds him of pale winter skies from his childhood. She is talking to a couple of her friends while a smile plays with her lips. It's a fucking beautiful smile, a smile she rarely shows to anyone, a smile their blackout world and everything it put her through, barely allows her to show it to the world.

Connor is already there. He's dancing with a girl he has been trying to conquer for months. Bass tries to hide his smile, feeling stupid pride while he looks at his kid. Connor came back with them, after they defeated the Nano and they had saved Connor from the Nano's deadly claws. He is one the reasons he is here tonight. The other reason, with long deep blonde hair is talking to a guy he immediately wants to fucking kill. He curses inside of his head. He is going to need more of Aaron's whiskey.

Charlie has just decided she needs more of Aaron's whiskey when she looks directly into the deep warmth of Connor's eyes.

'Come on…' He nods to the middle of the room, where other couples are dancing. He can see the strong no appearing in her eyes. He knows this life is new for her. And he knows it scares the hell out of her. But he will dance with her tonight. After that, she can go back to being mini Miles again and return to her glass of whiskey.

'Don't know how…' her voice sounds defensive.

'Don't worry… I do…' A grin appears on his face.

She raises her eyebrow and almost rolls her eyes at him, but then she looks at his grin and gives in. She dances with Connor, while the warmth of the fire in the fireplace behind her brushes the skin of her face.

Charlie knows he is here. The energy in the room still shifts when he walks inside. Or maybe that is just her. She tells herself it is because he still is Sebastian Monroe. When he walks into a room, people still notice him. She tells herself, over and over again, is has nothing to do with him and her.

She hates herself for not being able to stop herself from searching for him with her eyes. She is dancing with Connor to soft music that lingers through the house. She wasn't sure she wanted to be here tonight, after Aaron asked her to join his party. She knows fights, she knows her strength inside a fight, she knows the forest, she knows how to hunt, she knows how to keep on going and to survive. But she doesn't know how to live this life away from all of that.

Connor smiles at her while something in his eyes is changing. When she looks up, they are suddenly standing next to Bass. Connor steps away from her while he nods to his dad. He ignores the steel thunder that appears in Bass' eyes.

Charlie looks from Connor to Bass and back to Connor again. Connor has become a friend. He is a part of her old home. He is a part of the town her father grew up in and a life they both should have had if the world hadn't gone to hell and mother's hadn't made the decisions they had made. She trusts Connor. She trusts the small nod he gives her before stepping away. And then he is there. Bass.

Bass looks from his kid to Charlie and back to his kid again. He is thinking about leaving this stupid party and killing his son because he is sure she will just roll her eyes at him and tell him to go to hell with her eyes the only way she can. But she doesn't. She does take one step closer to him and her eyes stay connected with his. But he senses her hesitation that is so unlike her that it makes it impossible to look or walk away from her. It gives him no other option than to take another step closer to her and place a hand on her lower back.

Her body connects with his and brushes against his chest. And just like that, he is dancing with Charlotte Matheson on a party on a cold winter night. Connor grins at him while Bass sends another death threat across the room to his kid. But at the same time, he tries to fucking hide the glow that fills his chest. Because everybody is looking while he is dancing with her. He is dancing with her because she wants to dance with him, here, tonight.

Charlie looks at the man in front of her. Bass guides her through the dance. His hand is warmth on her lower back. The strength of his arms, a strength she has seen so many times in battles fought together, is new encircling her. His chest feels even wider than it looks. The faint scent of whiskey on his breath is close. She moves her eyes over the small lines around his eyes.

They dance to a song she has never heard and he barely remembers. He can barely remember the last time he danced like this. His treacherous mind takes him back to Philly, to large tables filled with food and wine, when Miles was still there and he had thought they had built a new home, together. Steel walls slowly start to circle his heart. Old, hollow pain and panic fills his chest. But then, he is aware of her body close to his again. And just like that, her eyes take him back to tonight, to him here dancing with her and the old memories fades.

All she can do is look at him while they dance. And finally, at a moment she least expected it, words her heart never allowed her to say out loud reach the surface. She looks away before she looks at him with an intensity in his eyes that makes him swallow.

'Thank you…for waiting' Her voice is filled with honest strong truth.

Her heart braces for the reaction she knows she will find in his eyes. She is trying to find more words to make him understand. Because he waited. He waited for her to wake up near a fire in Pottsboro, years ago. He waited until she was ready to accept the fact she had to go back to her family, with him, to start their fight against the Patriots together. He waited until she was ready to show herself and the world that she would save his life when he was so close to death. He waited until she was ready to follow him into battle, without questions or doubt. He waited until she was ready to talk after Austin, sitting next to her with Miles and Connor, getting her through one of the worst nights of her life. And he waited, waited until she was ready to accept him into the small circle of people she trusted her heart with and could live her life with.

Bass swallows again. He can't believe she just shared this with him. Because she is telling him something he has known for a long time. Suddenly, he is even more aware of her dancing so close to him. It's almost too fucking much. He fights the urge to say something, he fights a response filled with arrogance or smugness. But he can't. Not this time. Because when Charlie Matheson looks at you the way she is doing now, you shut up. You listen. You give her the respect she deserves for her courage and her strength that only belongs to the woman standing in front of him.

Charlie hopes he understands what she is trying to tell him. She isn't sure if he understands the intensity and meaning of her every word. But one look at him and she knows that he knows what she's talking about. One strong nod that is barely visible for everybody else in the room but that reaches her heart with an intensity that fills her with something new and overwhelming, tells her he knows.

It is cold outside, but the steel icy blue in his eyes is finally melting. And he is there, all of him. Here, with her. They dance. They don't talk. They don't want to. They don't have to. Outside, the snow is slowly starting its path from the night sky to the small town they all live their lives in now. And while the snow falls and a new song starts, she is still dancing. With him.

His hand is still wrapped around her middle. The music is still playing. She's still dancing with him. When Bass' eyes light up and a slow smile appears around his lips, Charlie looks at him with a question in her eyes. He moves his head a little bit closer to hers. Bass' mouth is now close enough to take in the scent of whiskey and the scent that lingers on his skin and his beard almost brushes her soft skin. Charlie decides she likes the new intimacy of the space they are both playing with.

'So… you know Staypuft probably did this all for you, right?' His voice is slow burning warmth.

Bass remembers how much she used to love Christmas. Maybe she doesn't, but he does. And he knows Staypuft knows. So..this..tonight.. the music, the party, the food, the whiskey and the tree near the front door, the part of a home and a life they all never were able to find after the Blackout? He knows Staypuft did this for her.

He can see her eyes light up. She just smiles. 'Maybe…' her voice is filled with rare warmth while a blush moves across her face.

Bass knows how much Staypuft loves her. He knows how much they all, Miles, Connor, Staypuft, love her. He just isn't her sure she knows and is heart is suddenly aching for her. He can feel her melt in his arms. He fucking loves that Staypuft is giving her something that makes her smile the way she is doing tonight. But he will never tell him. He just dances with her and tells himself to keep his mouth shut, because he doesn't want to fuck up what he is sharing with her tonight.

It's late. After their dance Bass had to let her go, but his eyes had been looking for Charlie all night while he had been talking to Connor and Miles. The three men had shared a bottle of whiskey. Bass walks outside, not sure what to do or where to go. It's quiet. The night outside doesn't know about war, broken heart and memories. It is just there. Just like her. She's standing on the porch while she is looking at the snow that is slowly covering the garden. When she hears him, she turns around and there is a small smile playing with her lips.

It's quiet, the sound of his boots on the wood of the porch slowly fills the night. Midnight has faded into another winter night and it is just him and her now. Suddenly, the words Merry Christmas, words she has almost forgotten, are resting on her lips. But she can't say them out loud. Because all of a sudden, her father's face is close, and so are memories of soft lights in a tree of a home she barely remembers. Her mother's smile is there, just like Danny's. Memories of her world before the blackout swirl inside her heart. They softly fade into the winter night. They belong to a past that is now gone, a past that has taken a part of her with her. But his response to the words she can't say is right there in his eyes.

Bass knows what she wants to say, it lingers in the crisp, cold air between them. He also knows why they both cannot say those words out loud, not after everything life took from them, not after their world changed so much. He looks at her while he closes the distance between them.

Charlie doesn't move while Bass gets closer and closer until he is close enough to shield her from the winter cold. So here she is. On a silent porch, with snow in the air and his wide shoulders close. And just for one night there is no fight that has to be fought within her heart. The snow around them silences everything else. Bass moves closer to her until her body brushes his leather jacket. She waits. She waits until she can feel the warmth of his hand wrapped around her face. She waits until his lips brush her lips. She waits until she can taste him inside of her heartbeat and strong arms pull her closer to his chest. She looks into his eyes before she has to close them, because of so much warmth of his slow kiss on her lips. And just like that, Sebastian Monroe is kissing her on a porch in the middle of a snowy, silent night.

Aaron Pittman is looking through his kitchen window with a glass of whiskey in his hand. He is looking at the girl he has known since the world outside the gates of their small town was still new and waiting for her, standing next to one of the most notorious men of their time.

She is standing in the shadow of his tall body while the night is a quiet and the snow is falling. Aaron is smiling. There is a friendly kindness in his eyes. He's happy for her. He's happy for what she has found with Monroe. He has watched them through the years, slowly finding their way to each other. He has known there was something happening between the two of them from the moment she had brought Monroe back with her when she had returned to all of them months after the Tower.

He had known for sure the night he had stood next to Charlie, on the night she had believed Texas had executed Monroe. He had stood silently next to her, while she had been overwhelmed by her own heart when it came to this man. He had known even before her, and that was the reason why he had been standing next to her on the town square that night she had believed she had lost Monroe, when Miles was so lost in his own pain, that he couldn't be there for her.

He had watched how she decided Monroe's life was worth saving. He had watched them both sitting near a fire on one of the many nights they had all spent on the road. He had watched Monroe watching her when Charlie wasn't aware of his eyes on him. He had watched Monroe watching her when she was asleep. He had watched them, together, in one of their many fights. He had watched her strength, stubbornly seeing something inside of him that other people thought was gone or had refused to look at. She had done that for Miles. She had done it for Monroe.

And somehow, he has always known she was safe with him. He had watched Monroe, walking next to Charlie, with wide shoulders and a look of protective respect in his eyes, even before she had been able to see it. He had watched how Monroe protected her, over and over again, even if she didn't realize it herself.

Aaron had been able to look beyond everyone's opinion about Monroe, and he had been able to look at what it did to Charlie's heart, to have him right there with her. He knows about her struggle when it comes to her heart and Monroe. He has watched how she became who she is now, right next to him. Miles will probably kill Monroe if he finds out, but for now he is passed out on the couch in the living room on the other side of the house. Aaron grins. He, and his bottle of whiskey and the fact Aaron made sure Miles' glass was never empty tonight, might have something to do with that. So, Miles will find out. And there will be death threats and another round of Miles trying to kill Monroe. But that is for another tomorrow.

For now, the snow keeps falling while Aaron looks at two people on his porch who have found something unexpected with each other. And maybe Charlie and Monroe don't realize it, yet, Aaron knows he is watching the start of something new between them... or better yet, more of who they are, together. He knows what they found with each other. It is something they are both terrified to name. But he knows it is there between them, while the snow is gently falling and Charlie moves her forehead against Bass' chest while Bass' arms are wrapped around her.

The end

Author's Note: I wanted to write a story about forgiveness and hope, even in places and moments in our lives where that is hard to find. I wanted to write a story about love, even when warmth and hope seem far away and one's heart has seen so much and might be terrified to love and trust again. Charlie and Bass had to live a big part of their lives in a blackout world. I wanted to explore some of their memories, of a home now forever gone, belonging to a world before that blackout. I love including Connor and Aaron in this story and Aaron's thoughts at the end of this story. I always loved the scene in season 2 where he is standing next to Charlie, on the night they both believe Texas has executed Bass. I love that he is there for her and I love all her emotions that reach the surface there. I really enjoyed writing Aaron's perspective and to look at a lot of moments that take place in season 2 between Charlie and Bass through his eyes.

I believe in Love. Always. I love December and Christmas, but I do realize everybody is celebrating their Holidays in their own way ( or not celebrating at all), with their own traditions. I even realize that in some parts of the world it is summer right now. But I still wanted to publish this December-winterwarmth story about love and friendship for all of you and send a lot of snowflakes, love, hope and warmth to all of you! Love from Love