The Christmas tree.

A Revolution fic. Bass Monroe, Charlie Matheson. Charloe. Blackout AU. T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a… Well, that's not quite true. The war with the Patriot remnant is as hot as the weather is cold and somewhere near Austin, Bass and Charlie are hiding out in a safe house, separated from the others after a surprise and way too close encounter with a big troop of hold-out khaki flag wavers and Miles and Rachel are off who knows where. It doesn't look like anyone's going to have a happy Christmas.

AN: A birthday present for my friend, LoveForTheStory who asked for a Badass Bass who rediscovers his sensitive side, just for Charlie. Happy birthday, Love, I'm wishing you everything that's wonderful and hoping that 2019 brings you health, wealth and heaps of happiness. J xx Magpie

….

Charlie Matheson peered through the dirty, web and lace draped window of one of Miles' endless supply of safe houses into a night full of the threat of snow, looking for any sign of patriots although the chances were slim that the khaki bastards had bothered to follow them this far into the woods and wild open country on the bad side of Austin.

She shivered, wrapped her arms round herself and stomped her feet to try to warm up, her breath making little clouds in front of her face. It was very cold. They hadn't dared light up the wood-burner stove yet, but she was about ready to take the risk. A fire would at least make the night a bit more bearable, and maybe even let her imagine that things were different, better. Damn it. Every year she stupidly hoped for something magical to happen like in the stories but just like all the other recent Christmases in her life, this one sucked.

Big time.

She sighed, her breath ruffling the old, stiff curtains and a small, startled moth took flight, catching a wing in one of the webs and spinning around in desperate circles, caught fast. Its fluttering, desperate struggles increasingly frantic as it tried to escape.

Drawing her knife she tried to set it free with the point, going carefully, delicately but whatever she did the moth only got more tangled up in the web, its struggles getting weaker, little wafts of moth wing dust like silver streaks on the steel. She gave up, afraid of making things worse but things got worse all on their own. A big black house spider darted out from behind the curtain and pounced on the struggling insect, surrounding the frail moth body with fangs and long segmented legs, wrapping it up in sticky grey silk until with a final small flutter of a wingtip it was still.

And that was it. No more moth. Poor thing. Charlie felt weirdly sad.

She stared back out the window, wondering where Miles and her mom were and if they were safe. True to their luck lately in this fucking war, the troop of Patriots they'd accidentally run into had been too many and too heavily armed to fight and while her family fled one way, somehow she'd found herself riding the other with ex General I've suddenly got a stick up my ass Monroe.

It was hard to see anything outside by the thin light of a cloud shadowed moon but she gave it a good try because it was a hell of a lot better than talking. For some reason she couldn't work out, Monroe had been in a bad mood since they got here, every word a growl vibrating with tension and sarcasm and it looked like she was stuck with him, damn it. Unless she wanted to chance the weather and the patriots by riding out and trying to find her folks at night.

She briefly considered doing just that except for the fact that the horses were in the old shed out back of the house, warm and enjoying a nosebag of grain and she didn't have the heart to make either of them go out into the cold. Not to mention the fact that even though he was being a pain in the ass she knew he'd follow her even if it was only to make sure she was ok so Miles couldn't blame him for getting her killed.

She glanced over her shoulder at Mister tall and broody.

He was staring out of the window on the other side of the big lounge room, face in profile, one hand reaching up to pull one of the blind slats down a little so he could see out. The moonlight coming in through the tattered venetians cast slanted shadowy lines across his face and chest, making that handsome face and muscular body look carved from something hard, like stone.

She turned back and briefly let herself wonder what the hell his problem was but then her own troubles rose up again like a wave and the window got even more blurry. She blinked, hard. There was just no way she was going to let him see her cry like a damn baby. No way. Maybe she'd go join the horses in the barn, it'd be a whole lot warmer than in here.

'See anything, Charlotte?'

Charlotte? She blinked again. What the fuck? He'd been calling her Charlie for months now. While Miles and her mom stuck together like flies on honey, she and Monroe had been fighting side by side, watching each other's back. Making sure the other survived. She'd learned to trust his instincts, his skills, had even learned his and Miles' code signs and what their stupid city names meant. Shit, she'd even started to think that they were more than... She stopped that thought in its tracks, because it was obviously a stupid mistake to think he could see her as anything more than that. She wasn't even sure he saw her as a woman. Worried that he'd see the tears, she flicked her eyes to him then away again. 'No.'

Silence.

She could feel his eyes on her and her back stiffened. She cleared her throat, tried to make sure her voice was firm, calm, in control. 'What about you?'

'No.'

Silence again.

Then she felt him move, her awareness of him like a shiver across her skin, taking her breath. The air between them alive with something she didn't know how to name.

'I think it's safe to light the fire now, I'll go get some wood from outside.' His steps creaked a little as he walked across the old floorboards and mildewed carpet towards the door to the kitchen and the back of the house although he walked lightly for a big man.

She nodded, more grateful than she could say, although she'd never actually say it. 'Yeah, the wind'll blow the smoke away anyway. '

He didn't stop, just called back over his shoulder. 'You keep watch, I'll be back in a minute.'

She didn't answer, too cold, too tired and too sick at heart.

It was Christmas and here they were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing. She'd had plans. She'd organised presents for everyone, had even found Monroe a real civil war sabre from an old shop that'd somehow been left untouched since the blackout. Miles had cut her a tree and she'd traded a couple of skins for some pretty bauble things from the market. It was stupid and childish but for some reason, it mattered.

She waited for him to come back, alternating windows. Outside on both sides the clouds were mostly gone and it was bright moonlight, the ground white with snow, sloping away into rolling hills with the distant road a silver ribbon, the trees dripping with frost and mysterious, air icy clear and crisp with the threat of more snow coming, the remaining clouds scattered by the wind and silver edged as they passed in front of the moon. The views were like something from the pre-blackout Christmas cards they'd recycled every year back when she and Danny were kids.

Something inside her smiled, just a little.

But no matter now beautiful the view was and how much she was enjoying it, after she'd seen it from both windows a few times each she decided he was taking too long and gathered her weapons to go looking for him. Maybe she'd missed something? Maybe he'd been found by the patriots? Memories of a day when she'd seen him caged like an animal and dragged through the town towards his execution rode through her mind like a nightmare parade, the thought of him prisoner or worse making her blood run as cold as the air outside. They could be torturing him to find out where she was, they could be doing anything because if she knew him, and she'd fought beside him long enough to guess, he wouldn't tell them anything.

Shit.

She felt even colder. There was only one of her, and rescuing him would be hard, if not impossible. This time there'd be no miraculous coming back from the dead. A frown creased her brow. She didn't want to think about being without him.

Without him nothing would ever be ok again.

She heard footsteps in the kitchen, coming towards her. They were heavier this time, but then he'd be carrying wood for the fire.

The weight sitting on her chest suddenly got a whole lot lighter and the wave of panic swept away leaving her suddenly furious at him for making her worry so much. She swung round towards the door, eyes blazing. 'What the hell took you so long, Monroe?' Then she stopped, her mouth hanging open and her heart pounding so hard she thought she was going to burst. She took a step towards him, eyes wide, silly tears dripping although she didn't care this time. 'Oh…It's beautiful.'

He put the big, fancy pot with the pretty, tinsel draped, star topped Christmas tree in it down in a corner of the room and grinned, the brooding look gone as if it had never been. 'I found it out back in a box, had to put it all together. I 've got something better for you back in town, but just for now...' He stroked the tree gently, rearranged the tinsel just a little and straightened the star. 'Merry Christmas, Charlie.'

….

AN: Thanks so much for reading, and I really hope you liked this one, Love. I loved the idea of Bass being all gloomy for the same reason Charlie was? And then for him to find something special to make Christmas ok…

Anyway, happy birthday my friend xx Magpie