Part Two

When Bass starts to make a fire in his fireplace, he is aware of her standing behind him in his living room with every new log he adds to the fire. The warmth and light of the fire cast away the November cold and shadows inside his living room.

He curses, he has done this more times than he can remember with her close, but tonight, something is different. Those nights he had spent with her near a fire, feel like a lifetime ago. But at the same time, her being here make the memories of all those nights rush back to him.

Now she's suddenly here, an eager, deep and strangely yearning sensation fills his blood, something that he tries to push the hell away with her so damn close. But when it comes to her, he has never been good at outrunning what he feels for her.

He gets up and turns around. She is still standing in the middle of his living room and he doesn't know what the hell to do. He had ruled a whole Militia and conquered half the continent but right now, he doubts what to do or say next. She hasn't spoken on the short walk back to his place.

'Do you want me to run a bath for you?' he curses at himself again for sounding the way he does and for offering this to her. He knows she probably doesn't believe he has this inside of him and that she will probably mock him or question his motives, just like she had once done near a fire after he had saved her life.

But dammit. He came from a loving home, he had sisters, he took care of Emma, of Shelly, he was married. He knows how to care. A deep tension rises inside of him before it reaches the muscles of his neck and his jaws. He pushes the memories of the past away.

But then, she looks up and finally, there is something inside of her eyes that reminds him of something human and real. Something finally shifts in her eyes when she looks up at him and it does more to him than he can put into her words.

Charlie processes his unexpected question. A bath. A bath means warmth and comfort. When he asks her his question she realizes how much she needs and wants it. She nods slowly.

When Monroe fills the old bath tub in his bathroom, she looks around. His living room is small, but somehow, it suits him. His leather jacket is placed on one of his kitchen chairs. She slowly lets her fingers move over the black leather she still knows so well. The fabric makes contact with her skin and his scent of fight, leather and whiskey is suddenly close again.

There is something safe hiding between his four walls, but then again, her mind whispers…it's him…it's him being close that makes you feel the way you do.

She stops herself right there.

She looks up when the heavy sound of Monroe's boots hitting the wooden floor of his living room fills the room again. He doesn't say a word when he looks at her but she knows what he is saying. He's here.

She slowly gets up before she walks to his bathroom. She closes the door behind her. She doesn't lock it, without truly thinking about the why. She notices that he has lit a couple of candles, which are standing on a low wooden table close to the bath. The light is casting soft smooth shadows on the walls around her when she slowly starts to undress herself.

It's warm inside the room and the water looks inviting. When she lets herself slowly sink into the warm water, a sight escapes her lips. She suddenly feels how tried she is. The pressure and warmth of the water are a gentle friendly wave of comfort while the water presses against her body, warming her skin. But then, there in his bath, something shifts inside of her. It's like being here pushes straight through her defenses. Her heart fills with a raw, soundless sob and a sudden realization of how long she held on to walking her road alone. She pushes her tears away but a couple of them win anyway. They move over her cheeks before they join the warm water in the bath.

She lets the warmth of the water surround her. And all the time she's safely inside the warm water, she is aware of the man sitting on the other side of the wall, waiting for her.

When Charlie closes the door of his bathroom softly, but without locking it, Bass exhales sharply. Fuck. He can't believe she's here. He knows he should not feel the way he does right the hell now, but she being here fills his entire chest with something that belongs to a lifetime before the blackout.

He had known it was her the moment he had turned around while he had been waiting for a new drink at the bar. She is older, she is different in a way that quietly breaks his damn heart, but at the same time, she is still her.

He still remembers the day Miles had told him she was going to leave. The war had been over, but the broken pieces of their lives were there, every single day.

Bass is on his way to meet Miles. The night sky is filled with stars, the days are getting colder now autumn is here. He moves his hands deeper into the pockets of his leather jacket. He fucking needs a drink. His brother is busy playing house with Rachel and he hates every single thing about it. But tonight, they are going to drink and forget about all that bullshit and the girlfriend from hell who has changed his brother for good. He has offered to meet Miles at his place. He has been trying to convince himself over and over again it has nothing to do with the possibility of seeing Charlie again at the Porter home, although now he is thinking about it he realizes she is rarely there anymore.

The moment Miles walks outside Bass knows something is up. Miles walks of the steps of the porch of the home he is sharing with Rachel now while he walks over to Miles.

'What's wrong?' A cold wave of needing to know and not wanting to know joins his next heartbeat while he looks at Miles. He knows this moron. He knows him better than he thinks he knows himself, even though Miles will always deny that. But he fucking does. Bass's throat feels dry. His heartbeat beats faster while he waits for Miles' answer.

'Charlie…she's leaving.' Miles looks away with a deep misery in his eyes. 'She just told us tonight…'

Bass swallows. 'Wh….why….' he stammers, the raw why rolling of his lips while he tries to push everything he doesn't want to show his brother, away. The thought of her leaving is causing a storm of panic and disbelieve inside of him.

Miles answers, he tells him how she needs her space, how he doesn't know what to do or how to help her. The powerlessness in Miles' eyes and voice is killing him. Bass listens to Miles talking about Charlie while a deafening drum moves through his ear. Because she…Charlie… she is leaving.

Bass remembers the look in Charlie's eyes on the day she had left. She had said goodbye to Aaron, to Rachel, her grandfather and Miles. And then she had surprised the hell out of him by turning around and walking towards him, by looking directly at him and saying everything with her eyes they could not say out loud. She had surprised him by letting him touch her. He had awkwardly moved his arms around her while she had let him embrace her. He remembers the way her body had felt against him. He had told her to take care of herself, his voice a hoarse warm version of himself he did not know was inside of him anymore. She had nodded before she had turned around.

Watching her walk away had been hell. After that, he had tried to live is life. But the truth was that he did not belong in Willoughby. His brother was changing and building a life with Rachel that reminded Bass too much about a life he should have had with Emma, with Shelly.

And in Texas, he would always be the Sebastian Monroe, the man who had helped win the war, but who would never be fully accepted. So, when summer had changed into autumn before winter would find them again, he had left too. He had said goodbye. He had shook Miles' hand, while they had both realized they would always be brothers, but never again the way the once were.

He had walked. He had picked fights to destroy things that could never be forgotten inside of him. He found an old familiar rhythm of fucking, fighting and drinking. He had taken jobs to stay alive. He had been alone. Sometimes, he had stayed with a woman, lying to himself and telling himself she was going to be enough, but he had never stayed too long. He had walked north, because somehow that had felt right.

Until on one early spring day, he had walked into this town. He had liked the pace, the fresh air, the woods surrounding it and the people living inside of it. He had stayed until a new autumn had found him and all of a sudden, she had walked into his local bar and back into his life.

And now he's here. She's here in his damn bath tub. He stares into the fire in front of him before he realizes how much he needs a drink. He walks to his kitchen and grabs a bottle of whiskey and, without thinking about it, he also grabs two glasses before he walks back to his couch.

When Charlie walks into his living room, the fire in the fireplace has warmed up the room. He's sitting on his couch and suddenly she is way too aware of her wearing his shirt while her bare legs are brushed by the warmth of the fire. Him leaving one of his shirts in his bathroom for her to wear was welcome. She had seen it after she had come out of the bath. It feels strangely comforting in a way she doesn't want or can't think about and weird at the same time, but she didn't want to wear her old clothes tonight.

Bass looks up when she walks back into his living room. She is wearing the shirt he has placed in the bathroom for her, unsure if she would accept it. Something shifts inside of him when he sees her wearing one of his old shirts, her long hair wet and moving around her shoulders.

He flinches when he watches her red eyes. Dammit, he knows she cried in there. A Charlie Matheson who cries is so fucking rare that he stares at her before he tells himself to stop staring. But he can't look away from the depth of her sadness inside of her eyes that are normally filled with so much fire and challenge. And the fact he can read all that from her face, wakes up something protective inside of him. It is not the first time he feels this for her, but just like he has always done, he buries that feeling for her deep inside of him.

She looks unsure about what to do now she is standing in his shirt in the middle of his room and that is something he never thought he would see inside her eyes. Only when he searches for her eyes with his and she allows him close while she looks back at him, she starts crossing the distance between them. She sits down next to him. He grabs the bottle that has been waiting for the both of them from the table before he fills her glass.

She accepts it without looking at him. They don't talk. Hell, he doesn't even know where to start. She drinks from his whiskey, he does the same. He watches how the warmth of the fireplace slowly dries her hair, turning it from a deep gold into a lighter color. Bass lets his drink swirl inside of his glass before he lets the whiskey burn in the back of his throat.

'Miles… is he…' there is a heaviness in his voice that makes her finally look up and meet his eyes.

Charlie knows what he is asking. She understands what Bass needs to know. He needs to know if Miles is all right. She knows that in the middle of all his scars and all his wounds, Miles is still his anchor. It breaks her heart. But she understands it at the same time. Because Miles, he's that anchor for her. And no matter how much it hurts, she knows it will probably always be that way.

She nods. 'Yeah…'

Bass looks at her before he looks away with a deep frown on his face. Talking about Miles connects everything and all of them through time again. It's hard.

'I heard from him a couple of months ago. I was staying in a town for a couple of months and he send a letter back.' She surprises herself by sharing a little bit of her life with him. She is grateful he doesn't start asking questions she is not ready to answer.

Maybe she will tell him everything, but right now she is too tired, she feels too heavy inside and she doesn't know where to start.

He looks at her again with a softer gaze in his eyes while he finishes the last of his whiskey in his glass. 'You can take the bed.' He nods towards his bedroom, and there is a hesitation in his deep voice that catches her attention.

'Thanks…' Her voice has never been this soft and calm when she has talked to him when she answers him. She doesn't look away when he soaks her up with his eyes. Maybe she should argue with him. Maybe she should not want his bed. But right now, she needs the reassuring comfort of a bed.

She finishes her drink and he nods his goodnight before she gets up and walks to a dark, cool bedroom, a soft bed and sheets that smell like him.