Charlie closes her eyes while she lets the buzz of people talking in the distance fade. On the other side of the old wooden doors, a church filled with people is waiting for her. She knows he is waiting for her. She is wearing a color she never thought she would wear. The endless white fabric wrapped around her body makes her miss her boots and crossbow.
She told everyone around her, and she had almost convinced herself, that she just needed one minute. Everybody had understood. But that minute has moved into more minutes without her being able to move.
She peeks through a small opening between the heavy, wooden church doors in front of her. And there he is. Waiting for her. He looks even taller today. She looks at Miles. She looks at her mom who has a nervous look on her face and a small twitch around her lips she tries to smile away. She looks at Aaron who is saying something to Connor who grins back at him. She knows that all those people are there for her. But she can't stop the shift inside of her. There is a part inside of her that has been rebelling against this from the very start.
At first, she had told herself it was the whole Matheson and we suck at commitment thing. But then, when the days had turned into weeks before they had moved her to this day, she had realized it had not been a Matheson thing.
And just like that, she knows she can't do this. Not with him. Too much has happened. She turns around, her eyes searching for the nearest exit. She doesn't stop until the cool autumn air brushes against her face and the first drops of autumn rain move against her face. And a part of her whispers to her, Matheson's run. It's what we do.
She keeps on going, without truly knowing where to go. She isn't sure there is anywhere left to go now. The first rain drops turn into autumn rain. It makes her wedding dress cling to her skin. She barely registers how cold it is now the sun has disappeared. She just knows she has to keep on going.
But then, someone wraps a large hand around her upper arm, yanking her towards a force she has been trying to outrun for years now.
When she looks up, Bass' eyes filled with a thunderstorm of emotions are waiting for her.
'Why?' He asks her with a low growl.
Her eyes fill with all the reasons why.
'Damnit Charlie…answer me…' He barks at her, his voice a low growl in the grey rainy world around them.
Bass knows he should stop. He knows he's hurting her with his hand being wrapped too firmly with a steel force around her upper arm. He knows he's being a total asshole. But he can't. He can't stop. He can't control his anger.
Because he had to watch how some punk had weaseled himself into her life after the war. She had met him at the party Blanchard had thrown to celebrate the defeat of the kaki fuckers. And from that moment, Charlie had started to drift away from him. She had started to avoid him. He had lost the part of her that would always find his eyes no matter where they were and what the hells was happening and that would trust him with her life in battle. Bass had watched how Charlie had convinced herself to settle for this nobody loser guy. He had tried to silence his hurt and rage with whores and whiskey but it hadn't worked.
But Rachel had approved. Of course that stupid bitch had. Because Bass knows that she knows. The cold glare in her eyes when her eyes had found his after she had told him the news about how loser asshole and Charlie were getting married had told him she had known about what was happening between him and Charlie. He had seen it in her eyes from the first day Charlie had brought him back with her to Willoughby. Rachel had invited him for the big day with a cold smile. He had almost snapped her neck to wipe that holier than thou fake smile of her face when she had looked at him, aiming steel ice at her before he had turned around and left the Matheson kitchen.
He had known Charlie hadn't felt for loser asshole what she should feel for a marriage to work. But he had told himself bitterly that she was a Matheson, a Mini Miles, and denial is what they do.
So today, he had been waiting in the local bar with a bottle of whiskey until the whole marriage thing had been over, telling himself he had to stop giving a shit about her. But then he had seen her through one of the large windows of the bar. She had been walking outside in her wedding dress. Soaked in the rain. All by herself and looking so damn lost. And he had not been able to stop his rage. Not anymore.
Because he had to watch her choose someone else over and over again. He had let her fuck with his head and heart. It had started on the day he had found her close to a fire with his damn kid. He had been pissed as fuck and the more he had thought about it, the more he had realized the truth. She had chosen a Monroe. She had slept with his kid to kill what was happening between them, she had fucked Connor to hurt him, to let him know that another Monroe could have her, but not him. Never. Ever. Him.
She had tried to outrun her own damn heart and him, but dammit, enough is enough. He had slammed his drink onto the bar and he had walked outside.
And now, the rain is moving from his curls to the strong lines of his neck. He is still holding her, giving Charlie no space to move now he has yanked her close to him. And he needs to know. Now. Why. Why she's here in the rain. Alone. Running away from whatever she is running away from. He needs to know why. Why it has never been him.
She looks at him, her eyes filled with wild emotions. But then she shivers, and her shiver breaks through his daze of anger. And suddenly the way she is shivering and looking at him with wide blue eyes without trying to break free from his grip, breaks his fucking heart.
Charlie looks at him, she can feel his hot breathe and anger on her skin before the anger fades from his steel eyes. She should say something. She knows what he needs to know. She also knows the answer to his question. The rain washes everything else away.
But she is frozen, feeling everything and nothing at the same time. He's so close that all she breathes in now is him. His eyes, his rough voice, the scent of his breath, the fight, the steel, the whiskey and everything he should not mean to her. And just like that the anger is gone and there he is, the man he should never be to her, with that stupid protective, possessive, strong and too gentle look in his eyes.
'Come one…' Bass moves his arm around her, trying to shield her from the rain with his whole body. He expects her to tell him to go to hell, but instead, her body leans into his.
He doesn't stop until they reach his home, one mile outside Willoughby. He had chosen it because he had needed it. It had been quiet. It had been far away from all the bullshit in town he doesn't want to face now the war is over and Miles Matheson is a fucking hero while playing house with Rachel.
He closes the door behind them and guides her to his couch. She sits down without looking at him. He quickly starts a fire. He walks into his bedroom and grabs a towel before he sits down next to her. She hasn't moved. She hasn't said a word.
'You are so cold, dammit…' And there it is, again, the protective gentleness he thought had died with his family, Shelly, his baby girl and his life with Miles in Philly. From the day he had carried her out of that bar in Pottsboro, it had been there.
He doesn't know what the hell to do. The wet wedding dress clings to her body. But he doesn't want to touch her if she is not ready to be touched. So he sits next to her and waits for her.
She just stares into the fire. Bass knows she will talk when she is ready to talk. He gently dries her hair with the towel in his hand while the flames of the fire close to them dance inside her eyes. He lets the warmth of the fire dry her hair while he sits down next to her, waiting, hoping, craving for her to talk but telling himself to not fuck this up and keep his mouth shut until she is ready.
'I just couldn't…. I couldn't, Bass.' Her voice breaks the silence between them.
Bass swallows, her using his nickname for the first time without truly noticing herself, is slowly killing him.
'Because… .he's not you.' There it is, the raw, honest truth that fills the entire room. And it rolls of her lips so easily that it should surprise her.
It's the truth, the only truth. And because of that, because she finally lets it happen, she feels heavy and free at the same time. Because her feelings for the man sitting close to her have been there for so long. She needs him. She wants him. He's the only force she needs and want next to her in her life.
She has tried to deny it. She has tried to kill it after she had tried to kill him. She had tried to silence them, convincing herself she would live her life with another man. Until now, Until today. She can't run away or kill her feelings for Bass. Because even when she feels like hell on this day from hell, he is there and she realizes he is the only man she wants sitting so close to her, drying her hair, sitting close to her and looking at her the way he is doing now.
She can't stop treacherous tears that finally reach the surface. They fill her eyes. When she's finally able to look at him, Bass' eyes are waiting for her. He's crouching down in front of her. His thumb brushes her tears away from her cheek.
'I'm scared.' She looks at him while she shares another unexpected truth with him.
'I know.' His voice is raspy warmth.
The Me too… is unspoken but joins the sound of the fire in his small living room.
Bass' heart beats faster while he fights the overwhelming and almost overpowering strength of knowing she is going to be his. Wrong. She has always been his. But she is finally here. All of her. Charlotte. Charlie.
He swallows the raw intensity of what he feels for her away because it is almost too damn much. He tries to control his emotions because his mind keeps on screaming at him that she is finally his, that he can have her, touch her, hold her, be with her and after so many years of not being able to do anything about how he feels and having to watch her from a distance, it hurts so fucking much that he doesn't know what to do. Tension appears in his jaws. His shoulders tense. But then her eyes find his.
She looks at him the way she has always done but has never done at the same time. And all the fucked up crazy mess in his head starts to melt again. Bass slowly cups her face before his mouth covers hers. He kisses her slowly, and she kisses him back with cold but firm lips. He can finally taste her, he can taste the autumn rain on her lips while the warmth of his lips find hers. Fuck. She feels so fucking good. Charlie lets him kiss her. When he stops their kiss his fingers simultaneously move her hair out of her face in a slow movement that tells her exactly how much he feels for her.
She moves her forehead against his strong jaw. He leans in closer, while his hands move to the straps of her white wedding dress, which is now soaked with autumn rain and mud. Bass needs to get her out her wet wedding dress, he doesn't want her to get sick. But more than that, he needs and wants and craves to remove and burn the one thing, and any trace inside of her, that belongs to another man, another man who will never ever fucking touch her again.
Charlie looks at the possessive and almost too intense steel in his eyes while he starts helping her out of her dress. But then he slows down, and his eyes fill with a softer look. She lets him help her. And when Bass slowly helps her out of the dress that never was hers to wear today, she finally comes back to herself. She finally comes back to him.
She can feel his eyes moving over her skin before they find her eyes again. But this is not about sex. They both know. They both understand. Bass' hands are gentle. He sits down next to her. He pulls her closer and wraps a plaid around her. Her head rests against the strong, warm place between his neck and shoulder. They sit on his couch. They let the fire burn in front of them in his small living room. It's dark outside. It's cold outside. All the bullshit outside and a church filled with people and a fiancée that should never be hers is still waiting for her. But for now, they don't exist.
It's could outside. It's dark outside. But it's warm inside. His chest is warmth, his arm around her is strength and she knows that the truth is finally there, lingering between them. She lets Bass pull her closer while she looks up. Bass swallows at the intensity in her eyes. And then, she kisses him with everything she has and everything she is, for the first time. And he knows, she is his and she will be his.
And a part inside of her that reminds her so much of Miles all of sudden whispers to her, you love him. You will always love him. You will always find your way back to him. You are a Matheson. It is what you do.