- MILES -
Sitting by the crackle of campfire while the women slept peacefully a few yards away on either side of them, Bass and Miles kept watch together. They hadn't done that in a long time. Probably since those first few months after the Blackout when they were too paranoid to leave each other out of their sights for fear of something happening. Eventually they'd become practical about it, but at the beginning the tension and confusion wouldn't let them rest.
This time it was different. They'd once again pulled a fast one, but at what cost? Miles looked over at Charlie who slept in his own bedrolls since only him and Rachel had packed for this trip. The way they had to flee meant that they had no supplies. They also had no doctor with them anymore. He cussed himself for not thinking about taking Gene with them when they went to find Charlie and Bass, but now there was no going back to Willoughby. Not if the price on their heads was back on. They'd need to get supplies and there wasn't a polite way of doing it. They had no diamonds, nothing to barter with; they'd have to steal. But that was a problem for another day.
Miles stole a glance at Bass who just kept his eyes trained on the fire. He'd spent the entire ride avoiding everyone, but he'd seen him and Charlie have a chat sometime after they set up camp. He knew to leave them to it and it seemed to be the right call because whatever dark thought it was that got Bass all skittish, it seemed to have cleared now. His face was not entirely free of the shadows of dark thoughts – Miles knew him better than that anyway. But for now the storm seemed to have passed. Always to Charlie's credit.
"I know what you're doing." Bass said, his tone betraying his annoyance.
"And what might that be?"
"I'll keep it together, alright? I said I would."
Miles nodded. He believed Bass would try, but it wasn't a switch that flipped overnight. His descend to gun-toting crazy dictator was slow and subtle, that's why he'd missed it the first time. And if he wasn't mistaken, that was exactly how it started last time – a camp, hungry and desperate, having to raid the supplies of innocents only to survive and of course Bass' rage, fuelled by losing a child.
Back then he couldn't understand what the pain must have been like. Sure, he empathized; he saw his pain, all of it. He could relate it to how he'd feel if it was Rachel, or his brother, or their kids that had been harmed. But now looking at Charlie taking even breaths, knowing he'd nearly lost her, he knew it was more than enough to drive a man crazy.
- CHARLIE -
Charlie woke to the sound of Bass' voice in her ear and the prickly feel of his beard tickling her cheek.
"Come on, Charlotte. No more beauty sleep."
She yawned in protest and wrapped her arms around his neck, as he was about to pull away. He kissed her softly and pulled her up so she was sitting in the bedrolls. He stepped back and looked at her for a second before he turned around and disappeared down the trees where they'd tied the horses to help Miles secure everything to the saddles.
Charlie looked at them banter as they worked and quietly considered what a lifetime of shared memories felt like to the two of them that far down the line. She knew she'd fallen into step with Bass, that their shared pain, and even insecurity tied them to each other. But she'd always marvelled at the way Miles and Bass would plunge themselves into an old memory, this before that was unknown to her and that she'd never catch up on. Usually she just enjoyed being in their orbit when they were like that, but today she wallowed in a bitterness that she hadn't felt in a long time. Only because a decent night's sleep gave way to a realisation that stunned her – on paper she was their equal in a fight, she knew they counted her into every plan, that they always expected her to deliver. But now she also knew that when it came right down to it they'd put her life before their own and that filled her with dread. She put her hands on her stomach where Bass' seed had caught and grown only to be plucked away by the Patriots and the cruel fate of being part of a world that was brutal and unkind. She knew this changed things, that it made her vulnerable in their eyes once more and she'd fought tooth and nail to prove herself, to stand beside them as an equal. Now she was just a little girl they needed to keep from harm's way.
She sighed and got up to start rolling the blankets away, thinking of all the things she'd have to do to prove herself again. She straightened her posture and walked over to them, it was almost funny how they both just stopped and turned to look at her – Bass was relaxed, Miles was almost tentative.
"Where do we go now?" Charlie asked.
"Well we've got to get out of Texas. Blanchard's trying to avenge Carver's death but his Rangers clearly aren't going through these Patriot sons of bitches fast enough." Miles responded.
"So The Plains?" Bass got straight to the point.
"The Plains." Miles nodded, his brow furrowed as always. He knew it was dangerous, but it was the only way they'd move through the continent undetected.
"Oh, don't fret, Miles. I know a place." He said with a half smile as he winked at Charlie with meaning.
A/N: Thank you for reading through and for the amazing support. I've decided to develop this story into a series. The second part that's ready and will be posted tomorrow is the story of how Bass & Charlie's first night together went down. It's going to be just one single chapter but I tried to flesh it out as much as possible so it's a nice long read. Then after that for the third and final instalment in the series we shall embark on a journey through the Plains Nation. This third story is gonna be quite a similar on to this one and to be fair I still haven't mapped out exactly what I wanna get out of it, so all suggestions are welcome.