- MILES -
The crowd erupted in cheers as Connor; a significantly hardened version of him at least, took his place in the middle of the tent. Arms up, eyes closed, clearly enjoying the attention. Yep, clearly Bass' kid. And then his brain made the connection and he looked over to his best friend whose face morphed into an unreadable steel mask as he pushed through the crowd to get a better view, Charlie already trailing behind him. He sighed as he lost sight of them in the sea of people and just hoped that Charlie would yet again work her magic on him and have him keep it together and not march the kid out before he'd even get his chance to fight.
The match was brutal; the other guy had forty pounds on Connor even though the kid had beefed up since they last saw him. But he had skill and what Miles could only call natural talent. He knocked out his opponent in seven rounds and that's when Bass whizzed straight past him and out the tent again.
- BASS -
Hearing his son's name, hearing that he'd dropped his mother's last name for his own catchier one just made his blood boil. Not because Connor was capitalizing on a reputation Bass had traded everything including his humanity to build. No, his anger stemmed from the fact that his kid seemed to be jumping head first into the same shitty mistakes he had made. He felt Charlie's eyes burn on his face, felt her grip on his bicep tighten every time Connor's opponent would land a blow. And suddenly Bass was hyper aware of the fact that his kid who fucked him over, also plain and simple fucked his girlfriend in the very same fields right outside this tent. He'd have a lot of shit to shift through, but his thoughts were interrupted when Connor's eyes met his.
He'd spotted Charlie first; of course his son scanned the crowd for pretty girls to take the edge off after a fight. And of course he gravitated towards the prettiest one in the room. He'd followed her hand to his arm and then looked up to see him. And that's when he got the nastiest uppercut to the jaw that sent him stumbling backwards. Bass had seen it coming, Connor was distracted and wasn't blocking properly. He narrowed his eyes at him. Get your head in the game, kid.
When the ref lifted Connor's hand up and declared him the winner a couple of rounds later, Bass released a breath he didn't know he was holding in, pried Charlie's hand away and stalked off before she could follow him.
But it was Miles who caught up with him once he was back out, cool air hitting his face but doing nothing to cool his nerves. He couldn't believe Connor had been brazen enough to brandish the Monroe name like a badge of honor when Charlie and their unborn child had paid such high a price for it.
"Light up, sunshine." Miles spat at him. "Saves you the paternity test. Your kid felt lost and came to wallow in the world's biggest whorehouse. Sounds about right to me."
Miles compared them to each other, him and his kid and Bass clenched his fists; it was all he could do not to deck Miles for running his idiot mouth. A testament to their bond, Miles immediately knew to back off and raised his hands as he took a step back.
By then Charlie and Rachel caught up with them and he could feel both their gazes on him, presumably waiting for him to spontaneously combust.
"Looks like we have an in with the plan. I'll go find my kid." He muttered through gritted teeth as he turned on his heels and walked off.
- RACHEL -
To say that Bass was a step from going off the rails again was the understatement of the century. She'd seen that manic glimmer in his eyes before, the way his shoulders hunched as if he couldn't bear the weight of his own thoughts. As soon as he left, she walked over to Miles hoping to convey her concerns in a way that wouldn't set Charlie off. But one quick look at her daughter who awkwardly hugged her sides as she watched Bass disappear back into the white folds of the fight tent and Rachel could tell she had her own concerns as well.
Miles spoke first. "He's alright. He just needs a minute."
Rachel couldn't tell whether he believed what he said or not, but she had to admit Miles' devotion to his childhood friend was once again admirable, and it would never seize to be. Even in the moments when Bass had managed to sway Miles against her, she still somehow managed to appreciate this loyalty they had for each other.
- CHARLIE -
Charlie watched Bass walk away from her without so much as a glance over his shoulder and she knew there was a war raging inside him. She could only imagine what seeing Connor again had done to him, in part because he didn't care to communicate it with her. Sure, she could read him in a fight, work with him in the same seamless manner Miles could, and she was certain it had taken them longer to perfect the stint; she'd done it in just under a year. But somehow none of that mattered now because his mind was a whole other animal that she could barely tackle on a good day, let alone a bump-across-your-prodigal kind of day.
Before she even realized she was doing it, Charlie was moving after him, her legs taking her of their own volition. But Miles gripped her shoulder gently and she stopped. She knew he was right, but could she leave him out of her sights when he was in a state like this? She eyed Miles with worry and he just frowned in return.
- BASS -
Bass shook his head in frustration; if Miles was digging for a silver lining then his life really was a grim joke. He walked in as the new proprietor of the casino tossed a pouch at Connor who caught it mid-air, nodded in thanks and turned to leave. He froze in his tracks when he spotted Bass at the door. His eyes narrowed and his posture squared, but Bass stared him down trying to remain unfazed by the evident hostility.
"Won't you look at that? It's true what they say about the apple and the tree." Bass said flatly.
Connor rolled his eyes and walked towards him with purpose, ready to push past him. But Bass spoke again and he stopped.
"Come on now, son. Won't you introduce me to your friend?" He clapped a hand around his shoulders and walked Connor back to his boss. Bass didn't recognize the face, so whatever power struggle had erupted after Gould died, it was an outsider that swooped in and took his place. He extended his hand with confidence. "I'm Sebastian Monroe."
He knew that word would travel fast; you could trust the Monroe name to reach far and wide in the continent at lightning speed. But he was counting on the fact that they'd be out of there before any troops could reach this place. The guy's eyes went wide with recognition and Bass gave him a smug half-smile as he shook his hand.
- CONNOR -
Seeing Charlie and his dick of a dad during the fight, Connor had all but chalked it off to getting hit in the head one too many times. They couldn't possibly be there. He also didn't believe it was real because why would Charlie be clutching onto big, bad crazy Monroe who killed half her family? But here he was, Bass Monroe in all his glory exchanging pleasantries right in front of him as if nothing happened. As if Connor hadn't stabbed him in the back and walked out on him right when shit was about to hit the fan. Sure, he wasn't pleased that Monroe hadn't prioritized the re-taking of his empire back, but he also eventually grew to understand his reasons for it. If anything you can trust a bit of self-exile to give you perspective like nobody's business. So his anger towards Bass eventually gave way to guilt, but now that he saw him standing in front of him again, he could feel the same anger bubbling up inside him.
It took all of his limited self-control not to tackle him to the ground and start pounding on his face before tearing apart a few limbs. If Bass sensed the hostility, he gave nothing away. He kept his charming smile plastered on his face and worked his angle.
Connor's head nearly exploded when Bass gave his real name to Fernandez and pitched himself for a fight. His brain raced with the possibilities of what scam his dear old dad was trying to run with Charlie and how much that would mess with his cushy little set-up. With each scenario he ran, it made the hair on the back of his neck stand, if he learnt anything from his merry little trip down south last year it's that a Monroe and a Matheson never make a right.
Fernandez and Bass shake hands again, having come to an arrangement to actually slot Bass in on Connor's prime spot for the next couple of days. Connor doesn't even have the strength to contest this, he's already trying to come up with an exit strategy that will put as much distance between him and Bass as fast as possible. Travelling through the Plains would be a pain, but he didn't wanna be anywhere near the Monroe time bomb when it went off.
They look done and so he turns to lead the way out of the tent, and of course Monroe's perceptive eyes don't miss the fact that he's favouring his left leg.
"You really should get that checked." Bass breathed.
Connor turned his wince into an eyeroll.
"Yeah, I know… The world's against you and you've come to wallow in this purgatory with all the other freaks. And you're what? Beyond salvation and no one should care for you?" Bass had the decency to whisper so his boss would at least not hear his dad shrinking him, but Connor was floored at the truth of his words.
They were out of the tent then and Monroe let out a bitter sound that would barely pass for a laugh. "Yeah, can't imagine what that's like." He puts a hand out to steady Connor. "You don't have to be alone, son."
Connor wanted to yell at him to back off or to go back to whatever rock he climbed out from under, but he bit his tongue and went to walk away when Monroe took his arm and put it around his shoulders. Connor didn't know if it's the shock or the fact that he was in pain but he felt his eyes burn, which he chalked off to his pent-up anger.