The First time

Part One

When she walks into the small town, time has moved her deep into autumn and the first frost of the year has already touched the ground beneath her boots. The pale orange sun is slowly setting. The town looks friendly. The people on the streets greet her with a polite smile while she lets her intuition guide her to the nearest bar.

Charlie frowns while she looks up at the sky. Rain on its way is filling the sky while the last daylight covers the town. She keeps on walking, asking herself how it's possible that it's autumn again.

She has left everything behind.

She has walked from the end of the war to this autumn day.

She is tired. She's tired of having to deal with a mother who can barely deal with her own destructive behavior. She is tired of taking care of everybody but herself. She's tired because of the fall out of previously made decisions made by the people she carries with her every day. She's tired of people not telling her the whole truth. She is tired because of the past, because of all the things that had to be done and all the things she didn't want to do.

She's tired of the war that she has fought for so long. She's tired of all the loss and all the people that had left her behind.

So when the war had ended she had been the one who had left.

She had ignored her mother's desperate plea to stay. She had ignored Miles talking her into staying. She had tried to ignore what was hiding in Monroe's eyes and deep voice when he had told her to take care of herself.

Her hunting skills and her Matheson stubbornness have been her only companions. It has been her and the road while her intuition has taken her back north again, because somehow, that feels like home.

One lonely long night, when she had been sitting close to a fire when it had been her and the night sky, she had realized that a part of herself had finally understood a part of Monroe and his need to burn the past and fill his heart with steel control and destruction. Maybe this is her, changing into someone and something she never thought she could be. Anonymous. Alone. Stronger. Harder. Less of her, more of the scars she carries on her skin and inside of her and the person she never wanted to be.

Months of walking and taking small jobs along the way to make sure she could survive, but never staying somewhere too long, had turned into watching the landscape change around her. She keeps on going while the seasons keep on changing. But she feels restless. It's still not enough. She feels hungry for something she cannot name or seem to find.

So she has kept on walking until the road and took her to a small town waiting for her on the horizon earlier this afternoon.

Welcoming warmth and the buzz of friendly voices meet her when she walks into the local bar. When she walks to the bar to order her drink, it happens. Just for one moment, wide shoulders appear between the crowd, shoulders with so much strength that they remind her of the only man in her life that caused a storm inside of her that's so big, she was never able to let it calm down. Remembering him the way she does now floods her heart. The sudden shock of the moment is throwing her off balance. It makes something ache inside of her without her being able to stop it. She almost loses herself into that raw aching yearning sensation that is so intense that it hurts before a guy carrying too many glasses of beer crosses her path. The shoulders disappear into the buzz of the voices and the scent of smoke, candles and booze and she's back in a bar, far from everything she has left behind.

It's a cruel trick, she tells herself, it's a cruel game her mind plays with her heart. He can't be here. She is hundreds of miles and years away from Willoughby and her old life. It's. not .him.

She walks to the bar. She sits down. She orders her drink. Her whole body is filled with her don't fuck with me Matheson attitude she has perfected over the years to keep everybody at a distance.

It works. Until she feels a shift on her right. And then, in one seemingly never-ending moments she is about to tell the guy on her right to go to hell before her whole body floods with knowing she knows him.

And when she looks up, he is there. All of him. Smug ego, deep eyes, wide shoulders and that dark look in his eyes. Her lips start to form his name with a will on their own, a name she has not spoken for so long now. And name that has been on her mind even after all the seasons has changed and all the miles she has walked.

But before she can speak, he does.

'Jimmy…' his voice is rough, deep and filled with everything she used to find in his eyes.

She blinks, realizing how much she remembers and missed hearing that voice all at the same time. It makes her freeze and warm up inside at the same time. Her mind automatically moves towards survival mode, forgetting her own name when he uses the name he uses to let the world forget who he is.

'Sarah..' His eyes pierce through hers, just like he has always done and she lets it happen. She doesn't look away because he doesn't look away either. She has to fight a raw sob that almost crushes her heart. She can't believe he's here, sitting so close to her, close enough to almost touch.

Bass has to swallow away the world of pain that appears in her eyes. He can't believe she is fucking here. But she is. He realized it was her the moment she had walked inside. He had seen her before she had seen him. She looks like hell. She sounds tired. But in the middle of all that, something lights up when she looks straight at him, reminding him of days of the past, reminding him of her. He knows she's far from home. And he knows she will never ever admit it, to anyone, to herself, fucking Mathesons, but she is in trouble. He can tell by looking at her.

The raw confusion and something that appears in her eyes when she looks at him that is too close to something else that is killing him, make him want to shield her from the rest of the world. He can't fucking help himself. When it comes to her, that's how it has been. He needs to get her out of here. Now.

'Come on…' His voice is deep and steady while he nods at her to follow him. It breaks his fucking heart that she forgets her drink, gets up and follows him.

They walk outside. It's getting dark. November wind starts to fill the streets while she looks so damn cold and he has to fight the urge to move his arm around her. He doesn't. But he does stay close to her.

Charlie falls into step beside him. And just like that, she is walking next to Monroe again. And there is one thing her mind, or heart, keeps on repeating over and over again. It's him and her, again.