Jason woke up as the morning sun was rising over the trees. For a moment, he was confused as to where he was. He sat up looking around, then remembering stumbling across Miles in the woods. He looked over at Charlie, sleeping beside him. He wondered how she'd pulled that one off without Miles shooting one of them. Reaching out, he brushed the hair off her face.
"Go away, Danny." she mumbled. "Chores can wait, I want to sleep."
"She dreams about her brother a lot."
Startled, Jason turned around. Rachel was sitting a few feet away, watching him. "Um, good morning?"
"My daughter likes you quite a bit." she continued, not missing a beat. She figured it was one of her few opportunties to question Jason without Miles or Charlie breaking in.
"She's great." he said, carefully, unsure where she was going with this.
"But I don't know anything about you except you're Neville's son. Your father killed my husband, Charlie's father." she stated. "For that reason alone, I don't understand why Charlie likes you."
"Because she sees I'm not my father." he fired back.
Rachel shrugged. "Okay, say I buy that. What else is there?"
"You do realize she's not twelve anymore, right? She can like whoever she wants." Jason didn't appreciate being interrogated like this, especially first thing in the morning.
"I haven't been there for her like I should've been." she continued.
"So she's mentioned." Jason fired back. "That's something we have have in common, me and Charlie, we each have a parent we can't get along with and yet, can't seem to live without."
"Charlie managed okay without me for a long time. She could do it again, if she had to. "
"You'd be surprised. She loves you." Jason shocked himself by giving her such an answer.
Rachel stared at him a minute. "I know." she whispered._
Neville led the charge out of the militia camp. Anger fueled him, he still was in disbelief that his son had betrayed him like he had.
"Remember, men, the Mathesons, Pittman, and my son, we must find them all!" he shouted as the men marched toward the rising sun. "We must not let them be free to destroy what is left of our great Republic!" He was determined that he would be the one to bring Matheson down, no matter the cost. He wanted the man either dead or as a prisoner of war. As far as he cared, Ben Matheson's wife and daughter could join Miles in prison or in death, it didn't matter to him.
A roaring cheer came up from the marching men as they ventured out beyond the woods in search of the renegades.
Neville looked out over the great expanse of land. It was far bigger then he'd realized from the maps he'd been studying. He had no real idea with Matheson and his gang could be hiding but he pushed that aside to think about how he was going to conquer the next militia camp. It wouldn't necessarily be as easy as the first had been.
However, with the capital potentially gone, the militia members would be scattering. It would be easier to convince the troops that remained of new leadership as long as they weren't actually in the Republic, far away as they currently were, there was no news of Monroe picking up the remaining pieces to fight back. If the reports Neville had been hearing of Philadelpha being destroyed with a nuclear bomb were true, he felt it was even a possibility Monroe was dead which would make things even easier for him to take over.
However, Neville also knew Monroe hadn't been in Philadelphia for quite some time so unless someone else other then Matheson had a grudge against the man, it was also possible Monroe was still alive. Neville knew there were plenty of others who would've killed Monroe, simply out of hatred. Neville didn't hate the man, he just wanted to push him aside, take over the Republic and do things right instead of the lousy way Monroe had been carrying on for too long.
Miles had meant it when he said he'd wanted them to get an early start, the group moved out quickly not long after awakening.
"Charlie seems to be doing better this morning." Aaron remarked, lagging behind with Rachel.
"Hmmm."she murmured, watching her daughter and Jason ahead.
"I think having Jason here will be good for her, boosts her spirits a little. She hasn't had much to be happy about for a long time." Aaron continued. "You know, I kind of miss the way she used to be. Always in trouble but at least she had Danny to hold her back."
"She was dreaming about him again this morning."
"She doesn't talk about it to anyone." Aaron replied, cautiously.
"So I've noticed. Charlie's gotten too much like Miles." Rachel added.
Aaron stopped and turned around to look at her. "Hey. There are a lot of worse people she could be like. I don't particularly like him but I know this much - there is nothing he won't do for her. He's actually a lot more like Ben then he realizes."
"You'd be surprised how much she's like him." she muttered, brushing past him.
Aaron stared after her in confusion but didn't stop for very long as he didn't want to be left behind.
It was nearly mid afternoon before they took a break. The sun was blazing hot but they'd found a cool refreshing stream to sit beside as they pulled out the tins of crackers once more.
Miles watched Charlie and Jason sitting beside each other, he helping her open a tin and going to the stream to get her a drink. She smiled at him as she reached for the cup with her good hand. The pair reminded him too much of what he had had and what he had lost. The grief he refused to allow himself to face threatened to bubble to the surface once more. It was getting harder and harder to shove it down. There had been no time to face it and there would never be a good time. Right now, he wanted to focus on getting to the militia camp, on making sure Neville stayed away from Charlie and keeping his niece safe.
He closed his eyes, trying to clear his head. The past filled his mind and he opened his eyes, shaking his head, hoping to dispel the memories into dust.
"Hey." Charlie had snuck up and sat down beside him while he'd been battling his inner demons. "So, we're only ten miles away now? We could make that by midnight."
"Charlie." he groaned. "You're going to make yourself sick pushing yourself."
"I'm fine. Really." she quickly added as he opened his mouth to argue. "Besides, we don't have time to sit around if we're to get there first."
He hated to admit it but she was right. They absolutely had to be the first there.
"Sir, at our current pace it will take at least two days, possibly three to get to the camp." a soldier informed Neville.
Neville looked very displeased with this. "Not good enough. If the girl went back to Matheson, he'll be trying to get there first. Tell the troops we'll push through the night." It would make for exhausted troops but it was going to have to be necessary.
"Sir, yes, sir!" the soldier saluted, and turned to face his duties.
Neville leaned back. He'd allowed the men a small break, for eating and other necessities, but it wasn't going to last much longer. There just wasn't any time to waste after all the time spent looking for Charlie Matheson and his son. He figured to enjoy his time off for a few moments and bit into an apple. Good apples had been a rarity for years but being Monroe's right hand man had had its pleasures. Unfortunately for Neville, those pleasures were few and far between now and he knew exactly who to blame.
"We're out of fresh bandages now." Rachel caught Miles' sleeve.
"Rachel, we're out of fresh everything. I don't know what you want me to do about it."
"You promised to take care of Charlie. This, this is not taking care of her!" she was angry.
"Rachel, I know, okay? I'm doing the best I can. I'm not the one you're mad at anyway. Save your anger for Monroe." Miles didn't even try to argue. He was just too tired to even try anymore.
"She says you agreed to press on to the camp tonight."
"Eh, not so much agreed as she suggested it and I didn't say no."
"Miles, you can't let her go on like this."
"And what choice do we have?" he pointedly asked. "Would you like us to simply stop and let Neville or Monroe kill us all? Because I don't think either of them are going to care much about her or you or anything else. We're in their way and they want us out."
"I just want her safe. This is not keeping her safe." she said, softly.
"Charlie can take care of herself. She's gotten pretty good at it." he admitted, more to himself then her.
"She shouldn't have had to."
"But she did."
Yay! We're almost to the end! I think this is the longest story I've ever written :) As usual, reviews, comments, ideas, etc are welcome and very much wanted.