Sunlit forest

A breeze flows through the high trees of the forest around her. Charlie looks up when the sound of the wind that's brushing the treetops above her, fills the air. The sky is an impossible kind of blue. It's deep and bright at the same time. The trees look even greener because of the depth of the blue sky above it.

The forest is alive with scents that remind her of late summer and the promise of the very first beginnings of fall. The shadows of the leaves play with the forest path in front of her. It's soft and sandy under her worn boots.

She is not sure where she is going. She just knows she needs some space from her mom and Miles and all their past, self-loathing, arguing, her mother's hate for the unbreakable bond Miles shares with Monroe and Miles inability to walk away from them being brothers. She knows she needs a break from all the newfound happiness between Aaron and Priscilla, even though she wants Aaron to be happy. She loves him. He's family. But his happiness hurts.

Life has been slow. She doesn't know slow, she doesn't do slow. She is Charlie Matheson after all. She has been running, hunting, fighting and surviving for almost her whole life. The even bigger truth is that she simply doesn't know how to do slow, and how to live her life the way it is after everything that has happened. She has lost so much, seen too much and gained so many war scars that she doesn't know how to live this life of hers.

It has been a warm day. But the heat of summer is behind them and a cool autumn breeze lingers close in the air around her. She knows there is a lake not far ahead of her. Without really thinking about it, her boots take her to the lake. The blue of the water that plays with the sunlight already shimmers in the distance between the deep brown of the bark of the trees around her.

She stops at the edge of the lake. Her boots are surrounded by green grass. The water in front of her is a different kind of blue than the sky, but somehow they seem to belong to each other.

The sunlit forest surrounds the small lake. The water is clear and cool, but she knows it probably won't be cold. It looks perfect. Well, almost perfect, because Monroe is there.

He has heard her, Charlie just knows he has. She knows him, after all these years on the road with him. The trained fighter inside of him, being a survivor in this blackout world and his years in Philly, make him never not aware of his surroundings. It is something she can relate to, although she has never told him that. She hides that truth in the same place of all the truths she shares with Monroe she can't talk and thinks too much about.

He slowly turns around in the water. They lock eyes. She refuses to look away while he soaks her up with his eyes. She is standing close to the water and he stays inside the water while the forest afternoon light brushes his wet curls and his naked, strong shoulders.

He doesn't look away. She doesn't look away either. She knows that Monroe is probably messing with her or putting her through some kind of test. He's still Monroe, she knows that he knows how to play with personal space like no other man she has ever met. He's good at it. She knows. Monroe knows too. And Charlie knows he enjoys it.

She knows he probably expects her to give him a dead threat with her eyes or say something Mini Miles-like before she will turn around and walk away.

But she doesn't do either of those things. Instead, she slowly moves her hands to the hem of her tank before she takes it off and drops it to the grass next to her. She knows it's stupid. But she needs stupid. Maybe today, something is finally going to happen between her and Monroe that makes everything an even bigger mess. But she needs it, she needs that mess to silence everything else inside of her that is too much and too sharp.

So, she lets Monroe watch. She makes sure she takes her time. She makes sure Monroe follows her every move. She lets Monroe watch her when her fingers move to the button of her jeans. She lets him watch while she lets it glide over her legs while she soaks up the powerful raw intensity in his eyes. She lets him watch when she slowly moves her hands to the straps of her bra. And then, finally, she lets him watch while her fingers move to her faded panties before she lets her panties flow over her thighs.

And then, she takes a step forward before she moves into the water with him. He never stops watching her. His eyes are serious, although something more is hiding in his blue eyes that she cannot figure out.

Charlie swims towards him until she is close enough to see the lines of his body that hide under the clear water. She stops in front of him. His eyes never leave her. There is a challenge in her eyes, a challenge of make me, take me.

He is close. She can feel him move through the water. The shadow of his tall, battle strong body steals the sunlight from around her. He is closer than he has ever been. But the fire and challenge that is inside her eyes, is not in his.

Time moves on while they look at each other. She moves closer and closer to Monroe, refusing to retreat. She doesn't give herself time to think about what is happening, she just wraps her arms loosely around his wide shoulders. Her mouth is like a challenge so close to his.

Her body flows against his. Her smooth skin meets everything that has never been met. His scent is close, the sent that is so him, so Bass. She knows she is in trouble the moment her brain picks his nickname instead of the firm, harsh cold Monroe she has always used so far.

His scruff is suddenly brushing against her cheek. And then, finally, his hoarse, deep voice breaks the silence between them. 'Hey…slow down Charlie…' It's deep and calm at the same time. He catches her with his whole body that meets hers and he starts to move closer to her. '…slow down…' The taste of his mouth is close before he moves his mouth closer to her ear. His voice is vibrating through her in a slow rhythm. 'Relax..'

It's the smooth Monroe charm she has heard so many times before. She should kill him. Right here. Right now. She really should. But she can't, the water feels too good, the warmth of the sunlight gives her too much solace. And she knows something else is hiding in his words that has nothing to do with his manipulating, calculating charm. It is real. Too real. And just for her. She starts to panic.

But what he is offering her is too tempting. So instead of opening her eyes and look at him with a promise that she will kill him, her eyes find his before she closes them again and she allows Bass to move his arms around her. Because he is right. She is filled with tension and sharp edges. Tension because all she wants is to do is soak up the blue of the sky around her, the golden light of the sun, the warmth of the air around her and the cool, fresh water around her while the strength of his chest and shoulder surround her. She wants to let go of the rest, just for a while.

She hates how her body gives in. But what he is offering her is so close, too close. Too real. Too personal. So, she gives in. She lets go. Bass supports her body with his while his arms have moved around her. Without realizing it herself she has wrapped her legs around his middle. Her breasts press against his chest. Her cheek is resting against his shoulder. Her long wet hair moves against his cheek. His skin is warmth, the cool water drops on it are cool.

And just like that, he makes her melt against him and all the man he is while he makes her forget about the hard, raw encounter she had in mind because of all the sharp edges inside of her. He slows her down with his hand that is making a slow path on her back before it moves gently through her hair. It's like he can read her thoughts. She lets him hold her and all she has to do is float in the water against his body and disappear into his embrace. Without hearing his voice she can still hear his words that make her surrender.

The forest is quiet, although the sound of birds and the sweet soft flowing sound of a strong breeze that plays with the many leaves of the trees still fills the air.

Her thoughts finally slow down. The more she gives in to his touch, the more all the sharp edges inside of her smoothen, and all the pain and screaming scars inside of her silence. And finally, deep in the forest, in the cool water and with his strong arms around her and his body pressed against hers and his reassurance close, she finds it. She finds what she has been searching for, without any hope of finding it again.

Bass knows what she is yearning for, he knows what she has been silently craving for. Peace. She is looking for one moment of something human in this fucked up blackout world. He knows because he has watched her, many times. He had seen it when he had met her again, in an empty swimming pool. The empty hurt, the real loneliness. He knows about loss and hurt. He had known she had been lost and filled with rage and grief. He had been there, time after time, on every day they had spent on the road together from that day, fought battles and the people they cared about. He had been there on the day in Austin when life had almost broke her. He has been there, over and over again and for so long, that she has become a new constant in his life. He has wanted to be there for her. Over and over again. He had wanted to talk to her, to sit next to her near a fire. He had wanted to wrap an arm around her and let her scream, cry, rage or whatever she had needed at the time.

Hell, he knows it is pathetic, him wanting to be there for her. He also knows why she has never been able to let him be that man. That doesn't mean he has stopped trying. He has been waiting. For her. And now she is finally here, in his arms, with so much trust and surrender in her body that is leaning into his, that it breaks his damn heart and heals something dark and abandoned inside of him at the same time. He holds her. He also knows why she was here, he has seen it in the challenge of her eyes when she had started to undress right there in front of him. And he will fuck her. He will make her sob, tremble or scream or whatever is going to happen when he can finally to do her what he needs and wants to do to her. But not today, not like this. He won't let her use that fuck to add more chaos and self-loathing to what she has to carry with here every day. So he just holds her. He keeps her safe. He lets her be. He pulls her closer while the world out there can go to hell for now. The sun flows through the trees. The blue in the sky changes. The green of the deep forest around them gets even deeper. And all he needs right now is this. Being with her. Holding her. Just her.

Author's Note: My dear friend, Threemagpies, happy early birthday! I hope you enjoyed this story. Travelling this summer has been a huge inspiration for this forest story, and your kind idea for the title of this story was perfection. This is your birthday present and a wish of hope, love, peace and solace for all of you when you need it the most. Love from Love