Hey, it's a new story! Monroe gets a bit more backstory, and my conspiracy theory reaches a wider audience.

Un-beta'ed, so quibble away.

- o – o -

Pocketful of Sunshine

Fifteen years before the power had gone out, Sebastian Monroe had been a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He'd been looking forward to his promotion to staff sergeant—mostly the pay raise that came with it, although the housing allowance looked pretty good at that point. (He lived in the barracks, but the extra cash couldn't hurt. New shoes for his dress blues, for example, always cost him a fortune. Bass was pretty sure the people at the exchange had it in for him, but couldn't prove it.) Then the power had gone out, and replacing his worn-out leather-plastic shoes was the least of his worries.

He and Miles had gone north to Chicago, trying to find Miles' younger brother, Ben. Bass had spent a good number of the days that they'd gotten closer to Chicago puking. While Bass would have preferred not to interfere—or at least not kill people—Miles had stuck his nose into everything. There was a reason Miles had been infantry, and Bass had stuck with Intelligence. It was safer, and there was less bloodshed.

(Bass didn't have a weak stomach, or even mind the sight of blood. He just had a few issues with shooting people.)

After they'd reached Chicago, Bass had had enough and had spent two years getting drunk. He'd sworn it was because there was nothing better to do, every time Jeremy asked. Miles never asked, to Bass' disappointment. And then they'd reached the year-and-a-half mark. Things had turned upside down then.

Rachel Matheson had entered the picture. Miles couldn't understand why she'd left Ben, but was happy to have an affair with her anyways. (Bass knew for a fact that Rachel and Miles had dated, until Rachel learned that Miles liked guns. Miles liked guns a lot. After that, Miles had had to stand by and watch his baby brother marry the girl he'd loved…physically, emotionally, and every other way.) Rachel had had different ideas about what people could do.

That was when Bass' days of getting comfortably drunk wherever he could stopped. Rachel and Miles needed someone to lead their new republic. Bass went along with it—it was fun, and it let him put his skills as a sergeant in the Corps to use. He'd been good with computer and human intelligence, and it turned out he was pretty good at rabble-rousing. By the five-year mark, Bass was sure everything was going to go well. Hell, even the United States would come back if Rachel's plans continued to work the way they usually did. Philadelphia was their headquarters, and Bass thought it was appropriate—the birthplace of the United States was going to be the architect of the new one.

Then the dream turned into a nightmare. Miles and Rachel had different ideas about the republic that was supposed to hold things together until the United States pulled itself back together. Monroe heard, after the fact, that the crews who'd been shutting down Three Mile Island as quickly as possible to protect the civilians had been executed. On his orders. His alleged orders, at any rate. Bass had told Rachel he wanted to send aid to the emergency crews cleaning up the radiation.

It didn't get better after that. Miles slipped away six months after the Monroe Republic turned into a dictatorship. Bass hated him and hoped he got away at the same time. Miles had formed the Militia that was the military backbone of the Republic. At least the men would be loyal to him. Jeremy would never raise a hand to kill his mentor, and he'd at least follow Miles' orders to protect Bass—the "general" of the Militia and leader of the Monroe Republic—from any threat, internal or external. (Jeremy had done well enough against external threats. He'd agreed with Bass that the internal ones were a little harder.)

Thirteen years after Rachel had helped Miles and Bass' dream come to fruition in a thoroughly terrifying manner, Bass had given up fighting. It wasn't worth fighting against someone who could—and probably would—stage a successful coup, only to have you tortured to death in public later.

Bass did, however, find one ray of hope in the months after he'd given up. Meeting her just should have been under better circumstances though.

…Preferably ones where she didn't try to rip his throat out.

- o – o -

Bass's ribs hurt. A lot. He wasn't sure what had hit them this time—probably a book, if Rachel was just yelling at him for somehow countermanding one of her politely-worded orders. He'd have preferred a wine glass thrown at his head—at least then he could pretend that she really was his prisoner, and that one of their trysts had gotten a bit out of hand. He'd ended up with black eyes that had Captain Neville questioning why he just didn't get another woman to keep his bed warm before.

The general of the Monroe Republic sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose as he saw a tiny figure trying to escape the interrogation tent. Sergeant Strausse was the master of that tent. Hardly anyone went in there except for him and, occasionally, whoever he was interrogating. Bass had done his homework—before the Collapse, Strausse had been on trial for murder in the first degree. He hadn't been able to find any surviving records as to what Strausse had done, but could guess from looking at the man's work.

Monroe grinned and wondered what Neville would think if he "acquired" another woman. Well, his life would be more interesting. Crazy Rachel would throw a fit—and probably throw a chair at him. Those sessions were fun. Not.

He stepped into the tent and sighed at the sight. A young woman was huddled up on the ground, hiding in a corner that Strausse couldn't reach—not without putting himself in range of the girl's hands and teeth, anyways. Her hair had been shorn off, rather messily. The clumps of hair on the ground told Bass that the sergeant had done the work himself.

From a purely logistical standpoint, Bass could understand that. Dehumanizing captives was the easiest way to break them. It made them emotional, and emotional people were more open to various stimuli that would make them quite a bit more willing to volunteer information. As much as he hated to admit it, he'd learned a number of the same tactics himself.

Those lessons were yet another thing he needed to pay Miles back for—SERE was for the insane people in the Corps or those joining Recon. (It was pretty much the same thing.) There was the standard set they needed—which was not nearly as terrifying, unless the MREs were being counted in the overall scheme of things—and then there was the set Miles had convinced him to take part in.

Being tortured during "Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion" courses, occasionally by your best friend (who also happened to be your only family, technically speaking) was not fun. Bass hadn't spoken to Miles for almost a month after that. Miles eventually held him underwater in the pool until Bass agreed to stop ignoring him. The pilots who used the pool for their training exercises were not happy with either of them for horsing around.

But this was now. Now, there was a girl being subjected to almost the same tortures he'd gone through willingly. Judging by how flushed Strausse's face was, it was probably best that he interfered now. He was also going to have to speak with Captain Neville about reigning the man in a bit.

"Sergeant Strausse, may I ask what you're doing?"

Strausse looked at him, eyes wide. His pupils were blown wide, telling Bass far more than he wanted to know.

"Sergeant Strausse, may I ask why you're interrogating this woman?" Bass was speaking calmly, although he really just wanted to kick Strausse until the man begged for mercy. There was a reason people thought he was a sociopath who subsisted on human souls and newborn children…

"I…She was with a rebel party, sir."

Bass raised an eyebrow. "I'll take it from here, Sergeant Strausse," he replied, tone cold. It was one that brooked no dissent from his underling. Bass could practically feel the hatred rolling off the man as he brushed past, but didn't really care.

"If you come near me, I'll tear your throat out."

Bass gave the girl a look and laughed. He had at least a foot in height on her, and definitely a lot more weight. How much damage could she do?

Half an hour later, Bass was in his tent, shirtless and waiting for his personal medic to finish stitching up the gashes in his side and on his face. Apparently his kitten could do a lot of damage. And it hurt. A lot.

That's you done, sir," the medic said, tying off the last suture. "Try to keep her chained down a bit better next time, hm?" Bass made a rude gesture at the medic's back as the woman left, packing the last of the bandages into her black Gladstone bag.

Bass looked over at his guest. She was unconscious, which was a far better state for her looks than wildcat combatant. Her hair had been shorn off to even it out, which made her nose and lips look larger than he was sure they were. Mandy, as he'd learned her name was, looked vulnerable and tiny on his cot.

The bathrobe she was wearing didn't hurt her looks, though. The white terrycloth robe was rather short, and he got a nice peek at her assets when she moved around in it. Sadly, there was no garment on earth that would really complement manacles, no matter what they looked like.

Nearly an hour later, Bass was nursing another bruise—this one on his left eye—and a faceful of water. He was also seriously entertaining the idea of just strangling his guest and dumping her corpse outside. It turned out that Mandy was also an excellent actress.

"What the hell is your problem?!" he finally yelled, wiping the water off his face. He'd been trying to get her to take some Tylenol, and she'd spat the mouthful of water back in his face. She'd also dry-swallowed the pill he'd given her, and was smirking.

"You're Militia. That's reason enough, isn't it?"

Bass pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing. This was going to be a long day…

His only consolation, over the next few days, was that Mandy wasn't part of the Rebels. She'd stated—quite clearly, when he'd asked—that she'd have to hurt members of the Rebels on principle. It went without saying that she'd do the same to the Militia. There was quite a bit of bad blood on both fronts, as it turned out. The Rebels trampled her fields that she'd worked so hard on, and the Militia took what was left.

By the second month, though, things had finally warmed up between them. Mandy had gotten used to the fact that he drank quite a bit, and had given up attacking him. Her hair had grown out by the time she'd made that declaration, so Bass made a mental note to never give his kitten a haircut. It would probably end badly.

By the third month, they were sleeping together. Captain Neville had commented on it, and had the grace not to press further when Bass returned fire with rather prying questions about the other man's sex life.

And then Mandy decided he needed a new nickname…

- o – o -

So, what did you think? Good? Bad? Enjoy Mandy and Monroe interacting? Drop a line and let me know!

I should add that this story is only connected to the Nickname's 'verse. It will have no impact on the Lord Harry 'verse, RFED, or other stories that are not also part of the Nickname's 'verse. I'm sorry if I confused anyone with this fic.