Charlie woke with a strangled gasp, propelling herself upright as she sucked air into her lungs, shielding her eyes from the bright light that blurred the face of the woman who was currently grasping her by the shoulders, unable to hear the shouts for Bass and Miles.
With one hand cupping Charlie’s face and the other on her shoulder, Rachel guided her daughter back down to the bed. “Charlie, Charlie! It’s Mom! I need you to breathe! Breathe, Charlie!”
“Mom!” Charlie wheezed as the room spun around her, gulping in a lungful of air that hung thick and heavy. The kind of air that always made the hair on the back of Danny’s neck prickle.
“I’m here, Charlie, I’m here,” Rachel soothed as she pushed her daughter's hair back, watching as Charlie finally started breathing normally.
“What’s going on?” Charlie asked, blinking her eyes as she tried to focus.
“You’ve been unconscious since your seizure yesterday. We’ve all been so worried,” Rachel answered.
“What seizure?” Charlie questioned as her vision began to clear, her mother's tired and wane visage coming into focus.
“There's no way you would remember. You’ve been so sick. Your fever didn’t break until early this morning.”
“Sick?” Charlie hissed in frustration not understanding why she felt so tired and sluggish, jerking backwards when the door to the bedroom flew open.
Miles rushed to her side as Rachel stood backing away, watching on wistfully. “Charlie!” Miles said, dropping down on the side of the bed, reaching out to run his hand over her hair.
Charlie stared at him in confusion, her eyes raking up and down his clothing before looking over to her husband who was standing in the doorway. “Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?” Miles asked with a concerned look upon on his face.
“What I mean is why are you dressed like that and where are we? I don’t recognize this room. Where’s Danny and the kids?” she asked leaning around to look at Bass.
Miles looked back at Rachel and Bass who looked on in confused silence. “Rachel, go get Gene,” Miles ordered curtly. Nodding her head, Rachel fled the room.
“Who’s Gene?” Charlie demanded with a raspy cough, greedily drinking the water that Miles offered.
Pushing the glass away once her thirst had been quenched, Charlie dropped back against the pillow. “What’s going on, Daddy,” she whispered, the fear in her eyes settling heavy in his chest even as his eyes widened at the name “Daddy” causing him to look towards Bass in a panic.
“Hey, it’s going to be alright, I promise,” Bass assured her as he stepped forward, pausing for a moment as he ran his eyes over her. “It’s good to see you up and awake”
“Where are the kids? Are they with Danny?” She asked holding out her hand to him. Exchanging glances with Miles, Bass took her hand, taking Miles’ place on the bed as Miles backed away towards the window rubbing his hands over his face.
Bass was saved from answering when Gene rushed into the room with Rachel hot on his heels. Charlie looked him over skeptically. “‘Who’s that?”
“It’s Grandpa, Sweetheart,” Gene answered with a smile as he set his bag on the dresser.
“Is that true?” Charlie asked her parents who were standing huddled together.
“Yeah. Yeah it’s true.” Rachel said in a near whisper.
“When did he get here and why didn’t anyone tell me they were sending for him? And where’s Maggie? I’d much rather she looked after me.”
“Why don’t all of you go downstairs and wait on me,” Gene said herding the others out. “This will give me a chance to get to know my granddaughter a bit better.”
“Can’t Bass stay?” Charlie asked from where she lay in the bed.
Gene turned his head towards Charlie giving her a weak smile before turning back to Bass giving him a pointed glare.
“I’ll be right downstairs, Charlie. Let Gene check you out and I’ll bring you up some supper just as soon as he says it’s okay.”
Not giving Charlie a chance to reply, Gene shut the door in their faces.
Sharing a look, the three made their way downstairs to wait for Gene.
“So, you’re my Grandpa Gene?” Charlie asked, as she watched him pull various items out of his black bag.
“Sure am,” Gene said with a smile. “You were just a little bitty thing the last time I saw you.”
“Where have you been all this time? How come Mom and Dad never talked about you?”
“Well, I imagine it’s because I was in Texas when the power went out and like a lot of other folks the distance was just too great when you were trying to survive.”
“So why are you here now?” Charlie asked as her Grandfather took his turn having a seat next to her. “Well, your Grandma Charlotte passed away and a new doctor came to town, so I guess I finally felt like it was time to leave. Got on a horse, and here I am. Just arrived last night.”
“Have you seen the kids?” Charlie asked anxiously.
“No, I haven’t, but I expect you to tell me all about them, just as soon as I check you over,” he replied with a wink.
An hour later, Gene came walking slowly down the stairs, taking off his glasses and slipping them into his shirt pocket. Three faces watched as he sat his bag down and poured himself a drink, tossing it back in one shot.
“Rachel, take another drink,” Gene said as he refilled his own.
Rachel frowned as both Bass and Miles slid their drinks across the table towards her.
“What’s going on Gene?” Miles asked, leaning back in his seat with a heavy sigh.
“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”
“What’s the good?” Bass asked, stretching out his arm on the table.
“The good news is that she seems to be over whatever it was she was sick with and I anticipate her making a full recovery.”
“And the bad?” Miles asked.
“She thinks that she’s in Philadelphia, living with her parents, husband, brother and children.”
“Husband?” Bass repeated gruffly as it went down the row, Rachel questioning children and Danny and a breathy ‘Philly?’ from Miles, as they all spoke at once.
Gene held up his hands. “In her head, everyone is still alive, starting with Danny. I’m not even sure who else she was talking about. You two are her parents. She hasn’t seen her Uncle Ben since the blackout and doesn’t remember anything about him. She and her husband,” he continued looking at Bass, “have been married for almost six years and have two children, Ethan and Savannah.”
“I don’t understand,” Rachel said shaking her head as Bass reached over to pull his glass back towards him,“Bass and Charlie?”
Gene rubbed a hand over his face. “She believes that she was raised in the republic, that her father is the co-founder and General of it’s militia, her husband the Commander in chief.”
Pushing back his chair, Bass got to his feet and walked out of the house.
“We’re going to need him back.” Gene said turning to Miles. “She’s expecting her husband to bring her her dinner.
Letting her mother help her with a bath while Gene made dinner and Miles changed the sheets on her bed and hunted Bass down, Charlie finally sank into her bed with a groan. “Just how sick was I?” she asked her mother.
“Very,” Rachel replied, blinking back her tears. “We thought we were going to lose you.”
Charlie gave her mother a tired sigh as she patted her hand. “Thank you for taking care of me, Mom.”
“You’re welcome, sweetheart,” Rachel murmured as she leaned forward to kiss her daughter's forehead as she smoothed back her hair.
“I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, but where’s Bass? He promised he’d bring me my dinner and I miss him and the kids.”
“I’m right here,” Bass answered uneasily as he entered the room with a tray of food Gene had put together.
Charlie beamed brightly at her husband. “Finally. I thought you had run away.”
“Sorry about that,” Bass answered as he shifted on the soles of his boots. “Miles and I needed to talk about a few things.”
“You’re here now. That’s all that matters,” she replied as Rachel helped her sit up, pressing pillows between her and the headboard so that she could eat.
Looking between the two of them, Rachel made her way to the door, basically trading places with Bass. “Well, I’ll be downstairs for a while if you need anything sweetheart and my room is just across the hall.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Charlie said as Bass sat the tray on her lap. “We’ll see you in the morning.”
Exchanging a look with Bass, Rachel made an attempt at smiling before shutting the door behind her.
“Come here you,” Charlie said, tugging on Bass’ hand. “Grandpa said I wasn’t contagious and you know I only bite if you want me to.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle as a panicked look entered his eyes, reminding her of when they first started “dating,” even though someone swore he was too old to date. “Come here,” she said again, this time softer as she wrapped a cool hand around his neck pulling him down for a kiss. It only took a moment or two of feeling her lips against his before Bass broke down, deepening the kiss, delighting in her response to him.
Charlie left her eyes closed, giving a satisfied hum, when he finally pulled away.
“You need to eat before it gets cold,” he whispered huskily, as he watched various expressions flitting across her face.
“You’ll stay?” she asked, fiddling with the buttons of his shirt.
“Yeah, I’ll stay,” he said with a nod, thinking that wild horses couldn’t tear him away from this Charlie. Not that he didn’t love his Charlie...wait, what? Nevermind that. This Charlie was just so different from the Charlie he had gotten to know and they’d be back to that relationship just as soon as she got her memories back.
Sitting back, he watched as she ate about a fourth of her soup and as much bread, before pushing the tray away. “I can’t eat anymore,” she said as her eyes began to droop.
“It’s alright. That was a good first try,” he replied, picking the tray up and setting it on the dresser across the room.
“Come to bed, Bass,” Charlie said with a yawn as she snuggled down into the mattress.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Charlie. You need your rest.”
“Need you more,” she whispered, stretching a hand across the bed in his direction.
“Okay, okay, you win. Let me put my boots up and turn down the lamp.”
When he finished with that, dragging his feet as much as possible, he climbed into the bed beside her, pulling the blankets up over them both. Charlie snuggled in beside him, her hand worming it’s way underneath his shirt to lay flat against his belly with another sigh. Did she always sigh this much, he wondered pulling her just a little bit tighter.
“Love you,” she breathed against his throat, placing the lightest of kisses against his skin.
“Love you, too,” he whispered back, wondering just what the hell he'd gotten himself into as her lips curved against his skin.
Charlie stretched the next morning feeling so much better than she had the day before, smiling as she brushed up against her husband. “Bass,” she whispered, running a hand along his side where his shirt had ridden up during the night. “Bass, I want to see the kids,” she said again louder this time.
“What kids?” he mumbled in reply, running a hand over his face.
Charlie pushed herself to a sitting position as she smacked her husband's shoulder. “Our kids, Sebastian Monroe! Ethan and Savannah!” she exclaimed, looking at him in disbelief as he lay there blinking at her.
“Good Morning!” Rachel called as she knocked at the door, letting herself in. “I thought I heard voices up here and thought you’d be ready for breakfast.”
“That’s a good idea, Rachel,” Bass replied, removing himself slowly from the bed under Charlie's penetrating glare, plumping up some pillows and stuffing them behind her. “I’m gonna get some coffee and find some clean clothes,” he said pecking her on the cheek as he made a beeline for the door. “I’ll be back to check on you n a bit.”
“Dammit Bass, come back here! I want to see my kids!” Charlie shouted at his retreating figure.
Charlie growled, turning her attention to her mother with narrowed eyes. “Why did I ever think marrying that man was a good idea?”
“I simply couldn’t say,” Rachel calmly replied.
Charlie snorted. “Are we sure I just wasn’t horny?”
Rachel gave a small forced laugh as she sat a tray on Charlie’s lap. “Here’s your breakfast, sweetheart. I’ll take last night's dishes down to the kitchen and be back in a few minutes. Okay?”
Charlie looked up from where she was stabbing her eggs as she glared at the door. “Yeah, sounds good,” she replied to her mother, looking down at her plate as Rachel took last night's tray and left.
“What was I supposed to do?” Bass was asking Gene and Miles as Rachel entered the kitchen taking the dishes to the sink as she listened to the conversation, none of them paying attention to the stairs.
After her mother left, Charlie sat her tray aside, and clamoring out of bed went in search of a bedpan.
Not finding anything upstairs, She slowly made her way down the stairs, stopping just before entering the kitchen when she realized that they were talking about her.
“It’s best if we let her memories come back on their own, but Bass is right Miles. Not being able to produce her children when she keeps insisting to see them is something none of us can fix.
“Okay, so what happens if we put it all out on the table?” Miles asked. “What if we tell her everything?”
“How am I supposed to tell her that we’re not married and that there’s no kids,” Bass hissed in Miles direction. “I can’t do that to her!” Running his hands through his hair, he turned his head, only to see a stricken Charlie standing in the doorway.
“Charlie, Charlie baby, it’s not what you think,” Bass said calmly as he made his way towards her, his arms outstretched as he got close enough to grasp her shoulders, bending slightly to look her in the eyes.
“But you just said we weren’t married,” she whispered brokenly. “Where are my babies, Bass? What happened to our babies?” she wailed, looking at the other three inhabitants wildly.
“Charlie, sweetheart,” Gene started as he moved closer, “you were very sick. We even had to perform CPR on you once because your heart stopped. The only rational explanation I have is that your mind took you somewhere else. Somewhere where you’d rather be until you were well enough to come back to us.”
“No! Charlie shouted as tears ran down her face, “No! I don’t believe you, I want to see my kids and I want to see them now!”
Pulling her towards him, Bass got a good hold on her. “Charlie, Charlie, it’s okay, everything is going to be okay, I promise.”
“I just want my kids, Bass, please,” she sobbed hanging onto his shirt as he stood rocking her in his arms.
“Rachel, will you go get her tray and see about a bucket or something in the bathroom upstairs?” Bass asked the stunned woman. “Gene, I’m going to need some warm water and some cloths.”
Nodding, Gene moved to the stove as Rachel stood in stunned silence watching her daughter fall apart in Sebastian Monroe's arms.
Squeezing her elbow, Miles said her name, causing Rachel to jerk. Wiping at her eyes, she hurried up the stairs.
Picking her up, Bass carried her up the stairs before setting her down in front of the bathroom from which Rachel had just vacated. “You have five minutes and then I’m coming in there after you,” he said softly, cupping her tear stained cheek.
Sucking in a shaky breath, Charlie nodded before shutting the bathroom door.
Emerging from the bathroom, she shied away from Rachel, who was standing in the hallway, and pressed herself against Bass when he appeared in the doorway to their room.
“I’ll take care of her, Rachel,” he said, wrapping an arm around Charlie’s back as he pulled her further into the bedroom.
“I love you, Charlie,” Rachel called out as she nodded at Bass, waiting until the door was closed before making her way downstairs.
“What are we going to do?” Rachel asked as she slumped heavily into a chair, looking between Miles and her father.
“Let’s just sit tight and see what Bass has to say. They’ve gotten pretty close since they’ve been working together,” Miles said as he poured himself another cup of coffee.
“So close she’d dream that they were married with children?” Rachel asked bitterly.
Pursing his lips, Miles turned to lean against the kitchen counter, staring out the window.
“Rachel,” Gene said, sitting beside his daughter, “this could have been some kind of emotional or psychotic break for all we know. She’s been through a lot the last few years. She’s had to do things that nobody should have to do just to survive. This might have been her mind's way of saying, ‘that’s it, I’ve had enough.’”
“But I thought it was caused by her illness?” Miles asked, turning back towards them.
“I’m just speculating here, Miles. I’m not a psychiatrist. But I have eyes,” he said, patting Rachel’s hands, “and I know that for whatever reason Charlie feels safe with Sebastian and is the happiest when he’s around. So, like it or not, we’re going to have to go with that until we get a better handle on this.”
With a grunt, Miles sat his coffee mug down on the table. “I’m going into town to see about getting word to Blanchard. Those two are on indefinite leave, starting now.” Leaning over, he dropped a kiss on Rachel’s head before making his way out the door.
Bass guided Charlie to the bed, setting her on the edge. Dipping a cloth into the hot water, he wrung it out and began to wipe her face with it, giving a small smile when she leaned her face into his hand.
Dunking the cloth again, he placed it in her hands. “Hold it over your face and take a few deep breaths,” he instructed, watching as she did so.
“Feel better?” he asked when she handed the cloth back.
“Yes, thank you.”
Standing, Bass poured her a glass of water. “Drink this and get into bed.”
“Where are you going?” she asked, looking up at him with panicked eyes.
“No where, but if I’m going to spend the day in bed you better believe I’m going to do it in comfort,” he replied with a grin, trying to lighten the mood, as he pulled his shirt and then t-shirt off tossing them into a pile at the end of the bed.
Satisfied that he wasn’t going to leave, Charlie drank her water and swung her legs up on the bed watching Bass as he shucked his jeans and climbed in bed beside her.
Scooting down in the bed, he made himself comfortable before pulling her to him and tugging the blankets up over them.
“Are you sure?” she asked, hesitating before fully relaxing against him. ‘“I mean if we aren’t married,” she managed to choke out.
Bass gathered her close as he smoothed his hand up and down her arm. “ Why don’t you tell me the last thing you remember and we’ll go from there,” he suggested.
With a small nod, Charlie took a deep breath, “it was Tuesday, and I was on my way home from the hospital, just like any other Tuesday.”
Bass frowned, “Why did you go to the hospital on Tuesdays?”
This time it was Charlie’s turn to frown in frustration. “I went to the hospital every Tuesday to visit the patients, mainly the soldiers, and would take the baked goods that Cook and the staff had prepared. Maggie would meet me and introduce me to any new patients.”
“So it was a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, until it wasn’t,” Bass said against her temple, his whiskers rasping against her smooth skin.
“It was such a nice day that I decided I wanted to walk home, so I sent the carriage on ahead.”
“By yourself?” Bass asked, his mind churning at the thought of the President's wife walking home alone. As President, he had entirely too many enemies to make that a good idea.
“Yes, by myself,” Charlie huffed, as his reaction reminding her so much of her husband. “One guard stayed with me, though. Close enough that he could help if there was a problem, but far enough away to give me my space.”
“I was daydreaming a bit, as there was something I wanted to tell you when I got home, so I didn’t see the two men that grabbed me and killed him. The next thing I knew I was waking up in our bed, with all of you hovering over me. Danny was there and Maggie,” she said, her chin trembling as Bass held her tighter.
“What was so important it had you daydreaming?” he asked, having a hard time envisioning a daydreaming Charlie Matheson.
“I was pregnant again,” she whispered, turning her face into his neck as she wept.
Once she fell asleep, still weak from her illness and the emotional toll the morning had taken on her, Bass pulled on his pants and made his way downstairs, taking the bottle out of the cabinet and pouring himself a drink.
“You okay?” Miles asked from where he sat at the table.
Bass nodded. “She’s asleep so I thought I’d see if lunch was ready.”
“Any progress yet?”
“I suppose that depends on what you mean by progress. We were happily married with children and a baby on the way, when some bastard ripped that away from her and she woke up in this shithole.”
Miles looked at his friend with sympathy, knowing that children were a sore subject. “Gene suggested that you keep her talking. That something might trigger her real memories.”
Bass nodded as he fixed a tray for the two of them. “That’s the plan,” he replied, picking up the tray.
“I just don’t understand,” Charlie said, startling him when he walked in the room.
“Which part?” Bass questioned as he sat the tray on her lap.
“All of it.”
Sitting next to her feet, Bass met her eyes. “Charlie, in all the time we’ve known each other, have I ever lied to you?”
“No, never,” she answered without hesitation.
“And I won’t lie to you now. I don’t understand what’s going on, but I promise to help you through this if you’ll let me.”
With a nod of her head she began to eat, moving the tray between them.
“Do you think that Gene’s right and I somehow managed to dream an entire life?” she asked a bit later when they were almost finished.
Bass sat his bowl down, wiping his mouth before answering. “I think it’s an option we need to consider.”
Charlie took a moment to study his face. He was older than the Bass she remembered, and much more weary. She had an overwhelming sense of sadness as she looked at him. “What are we, here in this place?”
Bass looked at her sharply before his eyes darted away and he started arranging dishes on the tray.
Reaching out to cover his hand with hers, Charlie spoke softly. “Real or not, I had my children torn away from me this morning, Bass. Surely I’m deserving of the truth in this at least.”
Looking at their connected hands, Bass took a deep breath. “Friends, partners...sometime lovers.”
“Oh, thank God,” Charlie breathed, pushing the tray aside as she crawled onto his lap.
“Charlie, you’ve been sick, you need your rest,” Bass murmured as she raked her fingers through his hair while shaking her head.
“No, what I need is you, Bass,” she whispered next to his jaw. “I feel so lost and alone here. Nothing’s the same, nothing except you,” she breathed, pulling back to look at his face. “Please.”
Kissing the corner of her mouth, Bass slid his hands underneath her shirt, lifting it, then pulling it over her head, baring her breasts to him. He smiled at the shiver that ran through her as he gently palmed them. Leaning in, he peppered her collarbone with kisses as his thumbs worried her nipples to hard peaks that he couldn’t wait to get a taste of.
Wrapping one hand around Charlie’s back to hold her steady, he grabbed the lunch tray that teetered dangerously on the edge of the bed and slid it onto the table next to the bed, before turning his attention back to her.
The look on her face took his breath away as she framed his face with her hands and lowered her mouth to his, her tongue licking and teasing his lips until he opened them. Charlie hummed as her tongue found his, inviting it to play as Bass laid her back on the bed, hovering over her. Breaking the kiss, he nuzzled her nose before kissing her jaw, slowly making his way to her breast. Latching onto her nipple with his mouth, Bass pinched at the opposite one as Charlie keened lowly into the pillow next to her as she held him close.
Releasing her nipple with a pop, Bass sat back on his heels, pulling the soft cotton sleep pants she was wearing down her legs. He groaned in appreciation when he realized she was bare beneath. “You’re killing me, baby,” he said, his voice husky as he pulled the pants free, tossing them over his shoulder.
Delving his hand between her legs, he leaned back down for a kiss as Charlie worked frantically at unfastening his jeans, before pushing them down his hips, grasping at his erection with a throaty moan. “Missed you so much,” she breathed against his mouth as he settled in the cradle of her thighs.
“Charlie, Charlie, look at me,” Bass whispered, stroking the side of her face with his knuckles.
Sucking in a breath, Charlie opened her eyes to meet his as he slowly slid into her. She smiled his name on an exhale when he began to slowly move, twining her fingers with his, as he moved against her.
Letting Bass talk her into getting dressed, Charlie ventured hesitantly down the stairs to have dinner with her family.
It had been a hard won fight on Bass’ part as every time he tried to get out of bed, she’d pull him back in with a stroke to his back, a finger down his cheek and any other manner of guileless entreaties to keep him in bed.
“We had a good marriage?” he asked, unable to help himself as they dressed in the waning sunlight.
“The best,” she replied, looking over at him with a wistful smile. “We waited almost two years before having Ethan so that we could get used to living together and being in each others space,” she grinned. “I wouldn’t give up those two years for anything.”
Wondering just what was so special about those two years she dreamed about, Bass held the door open for her, hovering at her elbow on the way down the stairs.
“Charlie?” Rachel asked in bewilderment as she met her daughter at the end of the stairs.
“Hey, Mom,” Charlie replied with a smile, stretching out to kiss her cheek, leaving Rachel stricken as she touched her cheek.
“Bass suggested we come downstairs and have dinner like normal people,” Charlie said with a soft smile as she looked over at her grandfather.
“I think that sounds like a wonderful idea. Thank you Bass,” Rachel replied, meeting eyes with the man her daughter had aligned herself with.
“Is that a picture of Danny?” Charlie asked, making her way across the room to the mantel above the fireplace.
“Those were taken a few months before the blackout,” Gene replied, stepping up behind her. “You and Danny were supposed to come stay with us for a few weeks that summer and your grandma went crazy, buying up everything. We ended up packing it all away in the attic…”Gene trailed off as Charlie put the pictures back on the mantel.
“I don’t recognize that man with you. Who is he?” Charlie asked, looking at her mother.
“That’s your dad. That’s Ben,” Miles said from where he stood near the entrance to the kitchen.
Charlie looked over her shoulder at him, before turning back and looking at the picture once again.
“How are you feeling, kiddo?” Miles asked as he moved closer, laying a hand on her shoulder.
“Better,” Charlie nodded as she looked at her father. “I’m afraid I’m going to have a hard time not calling you Daddy,” she said, letting her eyes flit in his direction for a moment.
“How about you start out by calling me Miles and we go from there.”
Charlie gave a grateful smile. “Sounds good, Miles.”
They all stood awkwardly for a moment before Rachel linked her arm with Charlies. “Come help me set the table?”
“Sure, Mom,” Charlie replied, reaching out to brush Bass’ hand with her own as she passed.
After dinner, Bass helped her slip on her boots and they went for a walk around the house ending up on the back porch in a set of matching rocking chairs.
“Have we ever done this before?” Charlie asked as pushed her foot off the ground.
“Not with me, no.” Bass replied as he scanned Gene’s back yard looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Charlie frowned. “You don’t live here, do you?”
“Nope. I’ve stayed over on occasion much to Rachel and Gene’s displeasure, but I’ve got a little place on the other side of town.”
“To their displeasure? How come Mom doesn’t like you?” Charlie asked, clearly puzzled by how her mother could possibly not like her...partner.
“Things are different here, Charlie. I’m not the person you think I am. None of us are,” Bass replied, his heart aching at having to destroy her image of them.
“But whatever it is you’ve done, I’ve forgiven you for it, right?” she asked as her brows drew together in concern.
“Yes, you forgave me and Miles a long time ago. It took a bit longer with your Mom, but we’ve all learned to let it go. Mostly.”
“Do you remember the Oak tree in the back garden?” Charlie asked as she looked at the massive lone tree between the house and the barn. “If Danny were here, he’d be pushing Ethan on the swing that Miles made for him and Sunny would be curled up in your lap, her face sticky with crumbs from the cookies you’d been sneaking her.”
“Charlie…” Bass began, his voice thick with emotion only to be waved off as she stood.
“I’m tired. I think I’ll head up to bed now. Goodnight, Bass.”
“I’ll be up to check on you later,” he replied as he opened the back screen door for her.
“That’s alright,” she said, refusing to look back at him. “I’m sure you have a life that you need to get back to instead of babysitting a crazy woman.” At a loss for words, Bass watched as she shuffled away, disappearing around the corner.
A few minutes later the screen door opened behind him as Miles joined him on the porch.
“How is she?” Bass asked as they stood staring into the night.
“Pretty upset. Rachel’s with her now,” he said. sticking a thumb out in the direction he came. “What happened?”
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Bass looked up towards the sky as he shook his head sadly. “How do I give her back these things that she never had?” He asked, pleadingly. “How do any of us give her back what she feels has been stolen from her? I can’t give her back Ben or Maggie or Danny. I can’t give her some magical storybook marriage with two point five kids. You and Rachel can’t give her a set of perfect parents. So, tell me Miles, please, I’m begging you. What am I supposed to do.”
Miles reached out, squeezing his friend’s shoulder. “I wish I knew, Bass. All we can do is be here for her until she recovers.”
“And what if she doesn’t? What then?” Bass asked, rubbing his hands over his face.
The corner of Miles mouth twitched up as he spoke, a far away look in his eyes. “You know, from the moment I met her, I always knew she’d pick you and there wouldn’t be a damn thing I could do about it.” Turning back to the house, he stopped at the door to wait for him. “Rachel was going to put her to bed. You should go to her.”
Following Miles inside the house, Bass closed the back door, making sure it was secure before making his way through the darkened house, nodding to Miles when they reached the top of the stairs.
Hesitating for a moment, his hand hovered over the doorknob before turning it. Stepping into the room, he discovered Charlie lying on the bed, facing the wall with a lamp turned down low on the dresser.
Toeing off his boots, he stripped down, sliding into bed beside her. Leaning on an elbow, he hovered over her, laying a hand on her shoulder, unsure what to do.
The decision was taken out of his hands when Charlie turned towards him, eyes filled with tears. “Why?” she asked in a tremulous voice, “Why is this happening to me?”
With a sigh, Bass pulled her into his arms. “I wish I knew,” he whispered.
“You need to go back to work,” Charlie said as she sat on top of the fence, observing Bass as he chopped wood out by her Grandpa’s barn.
Stopping for a moment, Bass wiped his arm across his forehead before swinging the ax once again. “I do, huh?” he grunted, knocking the wood out of the way before grabbing another log to split.
“Uh huh. Otherwise, you’ll be joining me in la la land sooner rather than later.”
“Don’t do that,” Bass huffed, swinging the ax again before leaving it where it lay embedded in the stump.
“Don’t do what?” Charlie asked, watching as he used a towel to wipe the sweat from his face before moving towards her, making room for himself between her legs.
“Don’t talk about yourself like that. You’re not crazy.”
Playing with his sweat slicked curls, Charlie tilted her head. “Then, what am I?"
“Mine,” he replied, reaching up to grasp her hips, pulling her down towards him.
Locking her heels around his waist, Charlie cupped his cheeks as she lowered her mouth to his, moaning as she bounced against him as he carried her into the barn.
Pushing her up against a wall, he tugged her shirt up and her bra down as his lips latched onto a rosy, pebbled nipple, drawing another breathy moan from her mouth.
Pulling her shirt over her head, Charlie snapped the hook on her bra as Bass switched sides. Carding her fingers through his hair, she gave a gentle tug, listening to him release her nipple with a pop before looking up at her with a frown. “Stall. Now," she demanded.
A playful grin broke out on his face as he carried her to the last stall in the barn, tossing her onto the pile of hay piled there for this very purpose, causing her to break out in giggles as he followed her down, unfastening her pants before dragging them off her.
“No fair,” Charlie pouted, her bottom lip poking out as she propped herself up on her elbows. “You have on too many clothes.”
Pushing up from his knees to his feet, Bass’ eyes turned dark as they ran up and down the body he knew as well as his own now. Toeing off his boots, he pushed his low riding jeans down over his hips, his eyes closing as his cock slid free of the restraining fabric.
Opening his eyes in time to see Charlie inspecting him with a lick of her lips, Bass dropped back down to his knees, pulling her to him when she reached out a hand. Perched on his thighs, she leaned in to kiss him as her hand reached between them, stroking his cock as her tongue stroked his own, mimicking the actions of her hand which elicited a groan from deep in his chest.
Breaking their kiss, Charlie lifted slightly, rubbing his tip against her wet folds before sinking down to fully sheath his length. Pressing her forehead against his, she huffed out a smile at the connection, bringing her hand up to cup his cheek, the mood immediately changing when he looked into her eyes.
With short nipping kisses, Bass wrapped his arms around her, laying her back on the blanket that was a constant fixture here these days, pushing the hair away from her face even as he slowly moved inside her.
Moving his mouth, Bass found himself unable to form actual words as he looked down at this woman who treated him like he hung the moon and the stars. Even more surprisingly, he had discovered over the last two months, was that was who he wanted to be. But, here, now, when it felt like something delicate was in the balance, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t tie her to him with those words. He wouldn't.
Reaching up, Charlie copied his motion, brushing the still damp curls off his forehead with a sweet smile as she whispered, “Love me now, Bass.”
Later, as they lay on the blanket covered hay, Bass pressed a kiss against the top of her head. “I’m not leaving you,” he said quietly, watching as filtered sunlight made patterns against her skin.
Shifting, Charlie rolled towards him with an arched brow. “As in forever? Or just to work?”
“The last time I left you, everything went to hell,” he replied, brushing her hair back over her shoulder.
Charlie gave a sad sigh as she laid a palm flat against his chest. “What happened to me isn’t your fault, Bass, and you need to stop blaming yourself.”
Taking her hand in his, he pulled it to his mouth, pressing a kiss against the palm that was just against his chest. “Charlie…”
“At least think about,” Charlie interrupted him. “Miles is going to Austin tomorrow. Get out of this house and go with him. I know you could use the break.”
“And just how do you know that?” he asked, pulling her up higher.
“Because I could use a break from the hovering, staring, well meaning questions…”
Bass clamped a hand over her mouth, as she rolled her eyes, with a chagrined smile, “Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll go to Austin tomorrow and see how it goes. Happy?”
“The happiest,” she whispered sliding a leg over his hip as he tilted his mouth down to kiss her.
Waving goodbye to Bass and Miles the next morning, Charlie walked back in the house and picked up a bag she had set next to the door and headed down what used to be a driveway.
“Charlie! Charlie, wait!” Rachel called out, hurrying after her daughter.
Turning around, Charlie rocked back on her heels as she waited for her mother to catch up.
“Where are you going? Do you want some company?” Rachel asked, looking worriedly at her daughter and the pack she was carrying.
“I’m going into town and, no, I don’t want any company,” Charlie answered, watching as her mother's face fell. “Mom, I’ve been cooped up in that house with the four of you for two months now. You’ve all gotten to come and go and have half a minute to yourselves that's not in the outhouse.” Reaching out, Charlie took her mother's hand in her own. “I just need some time to myself, to gather my thoughts. Bass and Miles will back the day after tomorrow. I’ll be back before then.”
“But why so long?” Rachel gasped, taking a step closer to her daughter.
“Mom, by now I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get my memory back by sitting around this dusty old house looking at photo albums and playing nurse.”
“That’s not all you've been playing,” Rachel replied harshly as her chin jutted out.
Charlie sighed. This was not the first time she had received push back from her mother regarding her relationship with Bass. “Mom, I know that there’s something between the three of you. Something ugly,” Charlie said as her eyes started to tear up, “and I’m sorry if you think I’m doing this to hurt you.” Giving her mother’s hand one last squeeze, Charlie turned on her heel and continued walking.
“Charlie, that’s not what I meant!” Rachel called out after her daughter who quickly disappeared into the distance.
Walking down Main street, Charlie nodded and smiled to the people who addressed her by name as she made her way through town.
Stopping at what had once been the only major intersection in town, Charlie stood, trying to determine which direction she should go, when a man her grandfather's age stopped next to her.
“Charlie? You okay?” he asked, looking at her in concern.
Charlie gave the man sheepish grin. “For the life of me, I can’t remember where Bass Monroe’s house is. Do you happen to know?”
“Of course,” the man said, turning to face the same direction she was. “Four blocks straight, then turn right and go another three blocks. 520 Chestnut Street.”
“520 Chestnut Street.? Are you kidding me?” Charlie asked, a shrill note to her voice that caught the man’s attention.
“No. Why is something wrong?” he asked, taking a step away from her.
“520 Chestnut Street is the address of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.”
“Oh,” the man said, his eyebrows popping up as he shook his head with a chuckle. “What are the odds? Well, I need to be going. Have a nice day, Charlie. Tell your grandfather hello for me.”
“Yes, thank you for your help,” Charlie replied distractedly.
Crossing the street, she followed the man's instructions until she found herself in front of 520 Chestnut Street. It looked like most of the other houses that still remained in the neighborhood, its fireplace saving it from the same fate a majority of it’s neighbors had fallen to.
Walking up to the door, Charlie twisted the handle only to find it locked. Forehead wrinkled in minor frustration, she looked around the porch for anything out of the ordinary. Not seeing anywhere Bass would leave a key, Charlie slowly circled the house, smiling when she saw the small bird house hanging near the back porch.
Barely blue in color, it looked exactly like one of the first gifts she could remember giving Bass when she was a little girl. Taking it off it’s hook, she slid the roof back and grinned at the sight of the house key lying inside on a bed of dried out grass.
When she was little, he would leave little treasures for her to find inside and then when she was older he would leave whimsical notes, sending her on treasure hunts when he was gone to keep her busy. When they were dating they had turned into love notes and more adult like treasures.
Later, It would be how he had learned of her first pregnancy. Too scared of his reaction to tell him herself, she had left a note and watched from the bedroom window as he had read it. Her face softened at the memories. It had eventually came down to be replaced with Ethan's swing, and now hung in that same bedroom window.
Putting the birdhouse back together, she used the key to let herself in the back door. It only took her a few minutes to investigate the small home that was comprised of a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Throwing her pack down, Charlie collapsed on the couch taking in a deep, if somewhat dusty breath as she basked in the silence, thinking about the version of Sebastian Monroe that she was currently sharing a bed with. Kicking off her boots off, she curled up and closed her eyes, dreaming about making love to him not in a barn, but in a large canopied bed with soft cotton sheets.
Knock, knock, knock.
Charlie's knuckles rapped harshly against the wooden door in front of her before taking a step back waiting to see if anyone would answer.
When the door opened, the dark haired woman took one look at Charlie and started screaming into the house. “Aaron! Aaron it’s Charlie!”
Charlie watched as the woman stepped back and a large, bespectacled man came running out of the house directly towards her.
“Oh my God!” Aaron exclaimed, wrapping his arms around her in a big bear hug, lifting her off the ground. “I can’t believe you're here and that you're alive! I’ve come by the house a dozen times and they keep turning me away,” he said, finally letting her go and drawing a breath. "I was beginning to think...well, that doesn't matter now, all that matters is that you're here."
“You are alright, aren’t you?” The woman asked from where she stood on the porch.
“That’s open to interpretation,” Charlie replied with a one sided smile. Looking back to the man, she tilted her head. “I was hoping we could talk.”
Walking back to Bass’ house, Charlie paused along the side of the road to throw up.
Several times in fact.
Going in through the kitchen, she stopped to draw water from the well, using it to rinse her mouth out.
Pulling out a piece of flatbread that Priscilla had sent went her, she sat at the dinner table chewing the tasteless bread as she processed everything she had learned about herself.
Finally, as her head began to throb, she threw her hands up and said fuck it.
Trying to compare the Charlie she was now to the Charlie that she used to be, was simply an exercise in madness. Standing, she hung her jacket on the back of her chair and examined her surroundings thoughtfully.
This town and these people and this house may know Charlie Matheson, glorified killer and war hero, but they had never met Charlie Matheson Monroe, First Lady of the Republic.
And while Charlie Matheson Monroe didn't understand why these two worlds were colliding, she was determined to find her place with Charlie Matheson's help.
Mostly, she wanted a life that she could call her own, even if it meant starting over from scratch.
The house at 520 Chestnut street was abuzz with activity when Rachel and Gene stepped through the open doorway.
“Hi Mom!, Grandpa!” Charlie greeted as she walked out of the kitchen carrying a pitcher of lemonade.
“Hi,” Rachel replied with a tilt of her head as she took in the yellow sundress that flattered her daughters figure and the side ponytail, artfully curved over her shoulder.
“Isn't it wonderful,” Charlie beamed making her way towards them. “Aaron and Priscilla gathered all their friends to help make some repairs to the house and to help us get some things that we desperately needed,” Charlie explained as she turned to smile and nod at two women coming down the hallway from the bedrooms.
“And you talked to Bass about this?” Gene inquired, distracted as he watched two women discussing the pros and cons of having pillows on the couch.
“It’s a surprise,” Charlie replied with a smile, oohing at some linens another neighbor stopped to show her. “I have a meeting later today with the Mayor, but then I’m having everyone over for a potluck in the back yard. You’re both invited of course. Oh! Here Mom, would you take this please? I’m needed down the hall,” she said, handing her mother the lemonade pitcher and hurrying away.
Rachel turned to look at her father who raised his eyebrows. “I’ve got nothing,” he replied to the unasked question.
“Aaron!” Rachel called out, making a beeline for the kitchen from where she saw the man emerge from behind the refrigerator. “Aaron, a word please?” Rachel asked as she sat the pitcher down on a counter, smiling politely at the women in the kitchen as she walked out the back door, Aaron and Gene following behind.
“What is going on here?” she demanded, crossing her arms when they were an appropriate distance from the house.
“Which part?” Aaron asked angrily. “The part where you kept me away from her while she was going through this or the part where I chose to believe her?”
“You can’t tell me that you actually believe all this nonsense about her growing up in the republic and being married to Bass!” Rachel replied heatedly.
“It doesn’t matter if I believe her or not, Rachel. The only thing that matters is that she believes it. I have known that woman since she was in pigtails and if I have to be in that living room every day at four for tea so that she can wrap her head around whatever she’s going through, then that’s what I’ll do, and to be honest, I can’t believe her own mother isn’t more supportive, oh but wait…,” Aaron said with a palm to his forehead.
“Okay, everybody. Just calm down,” Gene said softly, smiling at the women hovering near the back door watching them. “I think we can all agree that we only want what’s best for Charlie. Do you know why she’s meeting with the Mayor this afternoon, Aaron?”
“I told her about Blanchard wanting her to work with the Mayor and the sheriff to put together a local militia and strengthening the town walls. She seemed intrigued by the proposition and asked Priscilla to set up a meeting while she played hostess.”
“What else did you tell her?” Rachel asked, wondering just what exactly her daughter had learned yesterday.
“Nothing. She didn’t ask anything about you, Miles, or Bass. She knows there’s history there, Rachel. She’s not stupid. But why should she be worried about your past when she needs to figure out her future.” With a shake of his head, Aaron left the two standing there as he made his way back into the house, meeting Charlie's eyes from where she stood on a small step-ladder arranging curtains in the living room.
“Ms. Matheson,” The Mayor said warmly, greeting her with an outstretched hand. “I was surprised when Mrs. Portman relayed your message. I didn’t think you had any interest in settling down here in Willoughby.”
“Circumstances have recently changed for me,” she replied, reaching out to shake his hand, before taking the seat that he indicated.
“Yes, I heard about your extended illness, but it appears as though you’ve made a full recovery,” he commented, looking her over.
“There are some issues with my long-term memory, but nothing that can’t be dealt with,” she explained with a serene smile. “However, because of my illness, I find myself wanting to stay closer to home. When Aaron and Priscilla reminded me of Blanchard's offer to help out here in town, I thought I’d reach out and see if the opportunity was still available.”
“I can assure you that it is, Ms. Matheson. We’re just a bunch of farmers here, and I’m afraid that our town often appears to be easy pickings to the outside world. Honestly, we need the kind of help that you're able to provide. Ms. Matheson. After all, it’s not everyone that was trained by “The Butcher of Baltimore,” himself, not to mention those things you’ve surely picked up from Sebastian Monroe.”
Blanching at hearing her father...Miles, referred to by such a gruesome title, Charlie took a deep breath before replying. “Do you have a problem with my family, Mr. Mayor?”
“No Ma’am.” he replied with a shake of his head. “We owe your family a great deal, Ms. Matheson. I think everyone here can appreciate the merits of having men like the ones in your family tied to our town.”
“Those men are leaders, and it would behoove you to remember that, Mr. Mayor,” Charlie replied with an arched eyebrow. “One day a town, the next a state, then a country. Easy enough pickings for a man called ‘The Butcher of Baltimore,’ don’t you think?” she inquired, getting to her feet. “It was lovely to see you again, Mr. Mayor. I’m having a potluck tonight at Sebastian’s home and I know the former president, as well as myself, would be delighted by your family’s attendance.” Holding out her hand, Charlie waited for the man to take it.
“Thank you for stopping by, Ms. Matheson. I’ll let the Sheriff know you’ll be starting Monday,” the mayor replied shaking her hand.
“Oh, no worries,” she replied sweetly over her shoulder as she walked towards the door. “I’ll let him know tonight.” Shutting the door behind her, Charlie smiled as she walked out of the courthouse.
“She did what!” Miles nearly bellowed, before lowering his voice as he visibly searched for his niece.
“Just between you and me, Chet’s always been a bit of an ass, Miles. It was nice to see someone put the fear of Jesus back in him,” the Sheriff chuckled as he watched the woman in question totally charming the pants off Marcy, Chet’s wife.
Bass stood beside them quietly, counting over a dozen tables spread out over his back yard and the two adjoining lots. Candles in jars swung from the trees and sat on the tables, setting everything aglow with soft light. Tables near the house groaned under the weight of the food piled upon them, testament to just exactly how many people were in his backyard.
He didn’t spot Charlie immediately, Miles pointing out where she stood near Aaron and Priscilla, dressed in a blue sleeveless dress the color of her eyes, barefoot, with her hair pulled up in some kind of messy ponytail on top of her head. She was chatting up the mayor’s wife, their smallest child on her hip, as she seamlessly divided her attention between the two, while still managing to handle numerous interruptions. When Marcy pointed in their direction, Charlie glanced back, a large smile breaking out upon her face.
Giving the baby back to her mother, Charlie headed in their direction, taking far longer than they expected as she stopped by each table and individual she passed to chat.
“Hey Rich,” she said with a smile at the Sheriff, before pressing her lips against Bass’ jaw. “You’re home!” she breathed, nuzzling against him as he wrapped an arm around her back, not noticing the people who had stopped to watch.
“We need to talk,” Miles growled in her direction with a frown.
Ignoring him, Charlie took Bass by the hand, guiding him to the food, nodding, and smiling at each person that greeted Bass as they made their way through the crowd. Filling a plate, Charlie handed it to him with a smile as she brushed a hand against his cheek. “You look exhausted. I’ll start encouraging people to gather their children and food, and to head home. Mom and Grandpa are right over there. You should sit with them,” she suggested. “I’m sure they have all kinds of things to tell you,” she said with a wink, before sending him on his way as she looked for Marcy and Helen who were only too happy to help her encourage folks to be on their way as it was so late and Miles and Bass just had to be exhausted.
Sitting down next to Miles at the picnic table that Gene and Rachel were settled at, Bass began to eat.
“How can you eat right now?” Miles demanded, looking over at his best friend.
“How is my not eating, going to change whatever it is that they're dying to tell us?” Bass countered, waving his fork. “Besides, she didn’t tell the man anything that wasn’t true.”
“She went to Aaron,” Rachel blurted out, stopping Bass in mid-shovel.
“And?” he asked around his mouth full of food.
“He didn’t tell her anything about us and she didn’t ask. She only wanted to know about herself,” Gene answered with a frown at his daughter.
Reaching for the glass in front of him, Miles jumped as Charlie’s hand clamped down on his shoulder. “Help me in the kitchen, Mother?” she asked, smiling sweetly at Rachel.
“Of course, sweetheart,” Rachel replied, standing from the table and making her way towards the house. Patting Miles’ shoulder, Charlie followed behind.
“Why do I feel like I just fell into a Stepford wives movie?” Miles asked, pulling a flask out of his Jacket.
“You think this is bad, you should have been here this morning,” Gene replied, scooting over to the middle of the table and leaning forward.
By the time Bass made it inside the house, Charlie was sitting on the couch in front of the flickering fireplace, feet tucked up beside her, two glasses and a bottle sitting on the table in front of her.
“Pour us a drink?” she asked.
Sitting beside her, he filled both glasses half full, handing her a glass as he sat back. “Nice curtains” he commented, looking around the house that looked nothing like the dismal place he would come to in order to drink whatever bottle was available and crash on the couch. He wasn’t even sure he’d ever slept in a bedroom here.
“Mmm,” she hummed in reply looking around the house. “I wanted the blue settee like the one in your office, but I wasn’t able to sweet talk the old lady over on Oak out of it.”
“Who are you?” Bass whispered, his glass hanging loosely in his hand as he looked over at her.
Finishing her drink, Charlie leaned forward, setting her glass back on the table. “I’m Charlotte Matheson Monroe, First Lady of the Monroe Republic, ” she replied softly as she stood, unzipping her dress and letting it slide to the floor, shedding her bra and panties with it.
Taking his glass away from him, she sat it beside her own on the table, before climbing on the couch to straddle his lap.
Pushing his jacket back off his shoulders, she had his arms trapped in a matter of seconds, pushing his shirt up to lap at first one nipple and then the other, licking her way up his neck so that she could whisper near his ear. “But here, here I’m Charlie Matheson, a woman who sprung forth fully formed from The Butcher of Baltimore. Birthed for no other reason than to become Monroe’s Avenging Angel.”
Carding her fingers through his hair, she traced the shell of his ear with her tongue before using his hair to jerk his head back to look at her, her painted lips shiny in the firelight. “So, tell me Sebastian, just who are you to have such bloody followers? What monikers were you given?” she crooned, keeping one hand in his hair as she ran the other over the curve of his face.
“The Terror of Toledo,” he whispered on a moan, watching as she dipped her head down to swirl her tongue around his nipples once again.
Shaking her head, Charlie released her grip on his hair and unbuckled his pants. “Uh uh, that’s not the one that bothers you,” she whispered, flicking her tongue against the corner of his mouth as she unfastened his pants, pushing them down far enough to release his erection, sighing as she wrapped her hand around his silky cock.
Hands still trapped behind his back, all Bass could do was watch as she slipped two fingers into herself, pumping in and out a few times before pulling them back out to smear the viscous fluid over his cock, his chest heaving as she turned her attention back to his face.
“It’s a good one to be fair,” she murmured, “right up there with the Butcher of Baltimore. But it’s not the one that gives you nightmares only a bottle can quiet. Tell me, baby,” she pouted, spreading precum over the tip of his cock with her thumb before bringing it to her mouth to lick.
“The Scrounge of Scranton,” he ground out, watching her suck the tip of her thumb.
“Now, that’s more like it,” she cooed, bringing her mouth up to graze his lips with her own as she sank down on his cock, engulfing him.
“Charlie,” Bass moaned, watching as she dipped her head back, one hand pinching at a nipple as the other stroked her clit, growling when she wouldn’t listen to him.
“Charlie! Look at me!” he barked, the corner of his mouth creeping up when her eyes popped open in surprise at his gruff tone.
“Let.me.go.” he said softly yet succinctly, waiting patiently for her to obey him.
As she leaned forward, wrapping her arms around him, Bass ran his nose along her throat and jaw causing her to fumble with the jacket sleeves.
Finally freed, he lifted his hands to grasp her by the shoulders, keeping her close as he found the spot on her neck that drove her crazy. Scraping his nails down her back, hard enough to leave marks, he grabbed her ass, grinding her down against him. When she gasped in surprise, Bass reached a hand up, wrapping his hand around her neck, squeezing as he watched her breasts rapidly rise and fall before meeting her eyes.
“Is this what you want? What she and I had?” he asked, his voice rough as he squeezed tighter, causing her to bring her hand up to his wrist. The hand on her ass tightened as he watched a tear roll down her cheek before she slowly shook her head.
“Then what?” he gruffly demanded, releasing her ass to slide his fingers up and down the cleft, watching as her eyes fluttered closed and her pussy tightened around his cock, even as her chin trembled.
“I don’t want you had with either of those other Charlie’s. Not the Charlie that I remember or the Charlie that you remember. I want what you and I have,” she whispered, pulling his hand away from her throat.
“And what about me? I’m not the Bass that you think you remember,” he replied, swallowing thickly.
“I know that now,” she replied with a nod. “That Bass was perfect, but he wasn’t real. This Bass, my Bass, ” she said, reaching out to rub his whiskers, “is rough around the edges, but he wants to be better. He wants to be better for me, for this Charlie,” she whispered, as another tear slid down her cheek. “That’s why I fell in love with you,” she choked out, brushing at her cheeks angrily. “Stupid tears. I feel like all I ever do is cry any more,’ she said, surprised when he took a hold of her wrists.
“Don’t ever apologize for showing your feelings. Not to me. Not ever. That’s one of the things I love about my Charlie ,” he said, using his thumbs to help wipe the tears away.
With a huff of breath, Charlie leaned forward to press her lips against his, a tiny moan escaping when he licked the remnant of tears from her lips.
“I love you,” she whispered, this time pressing a kiss against the corner of his mouth as her hand smoothed across his cheek, trailing down to his chest.
Pulling his shirt over his head, Bass cupped her face in his hands, meeting her eyes, before pulling her close for another kiss. Leaning back, he twisted so that he was now laying on the couch, Charlie still anchored on top of him, her breasts pressed against his now bare chest as he ran his hands softly over her back, encouraging her to move above him.
Waking on the couch, Bass groaned as he stretched, his back killing him due to the odd angle. Sliding his arm out from underneath Charlie, he managed to get to his feet without breaking his neck. Not bothering to unlace his boots, he simply toed them off as he shook his pants off the rest of the way. Wandering down the hall, he poked his head in the first bedroom, taking in the large bed, before seeking out the second room which had a smaller bed that was currently strewn with oddly familiar looking journals.
Walking into the room, he picked up one of the closed journals, looking at the nondescript spine before opening it.
Only a few minutes had passed before he heard Charlie padding down the hall. “What are these?” he asked, looking back at her.
“They’re her journals. She’s spent every free moment since the war ended, writing down everything she could remember from the moment her father was killed. She didn’t trust Rachel not to snoop, so as soon as she filled one journal, she would give it to Aaron, who would have a blank one waiting for her.”
“I always wondered what she was writing. Staying up late, scribbling in them when she should be sleeping. But now that you mention it, I never once saw her write at home. Not ever.” Flipping through the journal, not really reading, just taking in her scrawling handwriting, Bass looked over at Charlie who had begun to straighten them.
“I think this was a kind of catharsis for her. A way for her to forgive herself for what she had become.”
Bass added the journal in his hand to the two neat stacks now sitting on the bed. “You had time to read all of these while I was gone?”
“No, just bits and pieces,” Charlie, replied stifling a yawn. “Do you want to read them?” She asked quietly, tilting her head to see his face. “You can.”
“No,” he replied, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “We can give them back to Aaron later. He was trusted to keep them, so that’s where they need to say. Right now, I have more important things to worry about.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?” Charlie asked, smothering another yawn.
“Finding out just how good that other bed sleeps,” he replied, rubbing at his lower back.
“Oh, thank god,” Charlie said, slumping against him with a sigh. “Do you know how exhausting it is to entertain this town. Talk about needy,” she groused as he guided her to their bedroom.
“Uh huh. Maybe next time you’ll remember that,” he whispered in her ear as he curled up behind her.
Charlie smiled as she closed her eyes, snuggling back towards him. “Just keep pretending you're not ready to settle down with a house that has curtains, while watching the neighborhood kids playing out front while you talk crap with their dads.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Bass muttered as he wrapped his arm around her waist, no longer sleepy.
Sorry for the weird formatting. Nothing I do seems to fix.
2 years later
“Miles! Miles! Where in the hell is my wife?” Bass Monroe shouted as he marched into the sheriff's office.
He had gotten home late last night and not wanting to wake Charlie, had slept in the spare bedroom. When he woke this morning, he had discovered his breakfast on
the table and note saying she was going into town.
“Where do you think she is?” Miles answered with a frown, looking up from the drawings of the new walkway that would eventually encompass the entire town.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Bass growled, walking back out and towards the town gate, yelling at the top of his lungs, “Charlotte Monroe! Get down here right now
before I turn you over my knee!” he threatened, standing with his hands on his hips as he waited for her to appear up top and make her way down the wobbly
narrow steps that had yet to be repaired despite his constant bitching.
Stomping down the stairs as hard as possible, Charlie stalked towards her husband.
“Don’t you threaten me Sebastian Monroe!” she yelled back, shoving a finger in his chest.
A smirk hovered over Bass’ lips as he snatched his wife’s wrist, pulling her against him. “You’re cute when you’re angry,” he whispered near her ear before pressing a kiss against her cheek.
“Yeah, and you’re mean,” she grumbled, slipping an arm around his back, causing him to laugh.
“Well, then, how about we go home and I make it up to you?” he asked, eyes sparkling as he ran a hand protectively over her belly.
“Yeah?” She asked, looking up at him from under her lashes as her tongue darted out to lick her lips.
“Oh, yeah,” he nodded, running a hand up underneath her hair to keep her head still as he leaned in to kiss a spot between her jaw and ear, causing her to hum as she rubbed her thighs together.
“Come on,” he whispered hotly against her skin as he turned loose of her and turned her around to follow him only to hear Charlie yelp at the sight of the man who was standing in front of her as he frowned, wondering where the man had come from. He hadn’t been there a minute ago.
“Young lovers with a baby on the way,” the ancient man’s chest rattled as he reached out a hand ravaged by time and arthritis. “May I?” He asked.
Glancing up at Bass who had laid his hands on her shoulders protectively, Charlie looked back at the man with a polite smile and nodded her head. While it bothered her when people asked to touch her stomach, she understood the almost unconscionable urge that made them do it. There was something about an unborn baby that signified hope, and life’s ability to carry on despite the circumstances.
Reaching out, the man’s hand seemed to unknot in front of Charlie's eyes as she watched him place his palm in the center of her stomach and begin to shake.
Following his shaking arm, Charlie gasped when she saw his eyes roll back in his head. “Oh my God, Bass, I think he’s having a seizure. Someone get Doc Porter!” she yelled to the watching bystanders as Bass laid him out on the ground.
Kneeling next to him, the man's eyes flew open when Charlie took his hand in hers.
Motioning her closer, the old man began to speak again, this time in a voice much stronger and steadier. “I’ve never known two children who loved their mother so
much they would follow her through time itself.”
Charlie’s brows dipped as she looked over Bass and then back to the man. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
The man smiled, showing off the few teeth he had managed to hang on to. “Ethan and Savannah. Can’t you feel them inside of you? They’re waiting to be reborn.”
Falling on her butt, Charlie scrambled backwards in the dirt to get away from the man, finally rolling over to her knees so that she could push herself up as Bass raged at the old man, being held back by several of the townspeople.
Not stopping to wait for him, Charlie ran towards home, her hands protectively covering the baby in her womb.
When Miles and Gene Showed up, Gene looked to the ancient man still lying on the ground as Miles grabbed a hold of Bass and drug him away from the crowd.
“What the hell happened?” Miles hissed, looking over at the man that appeared half dead.
Bass drug his hands through his hair. “He touched Charlie's stomach and then started saying this crazy shit about Ethan and Savannah! How could he have known about that Miles? How?” Bass demanded.
Miles frowned as he looked back over at the crowd. “I don’t know. Where is Charlie?” he asked, looking around and not finding her as Bass closed his eyes.
“She must of headed home,” he answered, taking off at a jog to find his wife.
Calling out her name as he burst through the door, Bass searched the house until he found her on the floor in front of their bed.
Taking a calming breath, he clamored down to the floor beside her, draping an arm over her shoulders.
“You know we're going to have to talk about it sooner or later,” he said softly, tilting his head to lean against hers.
Charlie shook her head, trying to control the trembling of her chin. “I promised. I promised that I’d never look back and I haven’t. I haven’t Bass!” she insisted, reaching for his hand.
“I know you haven’t, baby, I know,” Bass soothed, stroking her hair with his free hand, “but I’m the one that you made that promise to and it’s okay, Charlie. It’s okay if we need to talk about it to get through this,” he reasoned.
Charlie swallowed as she gripped his hand tighter, laying their joined hands against her belly, the child inside kicking to make it’s presence known. “I don’t know how he could have known, Bass. How could he have known about Ethan and Sunny? I never even told Aaron and Priscilla about them, and he just spits out their names like he knows us, like he’s a part of our family,” she cried, turning to rest her head against his chest.
Rubbing her back, Bass held her close. “I don’t know, baby. I don’t know. The Nano were doing weird things to people before the war. Maybe they did something to him. Made it possible for him to read minds. I’m certainly not upset about it, but it makes sense that your mind would turn to them now. Maybe you were unconsciously thinking about them and he picked up on it?” Bass offered in explanation even as Charlie shook her head.
“No, no, this is our baby , Bass, I wouldn’t do that, I promise ,” she breathed, looking up at him just as someone banged on the door.
“That’s probably Miles,” Bass said as he got to his feet, reaching down to help her up, only to have her cry out as she doubled over in pain.
“Charlie! Charlie what's wrong?’ Bass asked as he sat her down on the bed.
“I think I’m in labor,” she gasped, pressing a hand against her lower abdomen.
“Damnit!” Bass spit out, moving to the doorway. “Miles! Miles, get in here!” Bass yelled before moving back to Charlie’s side.
Booted footsteps could be heard coming down the hall as Miles slid into the room.
“Get Gene!” Bass demand. “Charlie thinks she’s in labor,” he explained as he began to remove his wife’s boots.
Wide-eyed as he looked at his niece, Miles nodded his head and took off back down the hallway.
“It’s going to be okay, baby, I promise,” Bass calmly reassured his wife as he got her undressed, slipping a cotton gown over her head and socks on her feet.
“You and I both know it’s too early, Bass. Something’s wrong,” she panted as he got her comfortable.
“Why don’t you let me decide that,” Gene said from the door where he stood next to Miles. “Bass why don’t you and Miles get some water heating while I do a cursory exam on my patient.”
Cupping Charlie’s cheeks, Bass kissed her forehead before meeting her eyes. With a quick nod of his head, he exited the room, letting Miles shut the door behind them.
“You okay?” Miles asked as he entered the kitchen to find Bass lighting the stove.
“No, I'm not alright! Just who the hell was that old man and how did he know about Ethan and Sunny?” he asked angrily, filling a kettle with water.
“His name is Edward Greycloud. He’s a Chickasaw Indian from Oklahoma. Ninety if he’s a day. Claims he’s a seer and he came to Willoughby before the war started because his gods told him it would be protected,” Miles explained, disbelief dripping from every word.
“You know, Miles, Charlie hasn’t talked about the kids or Philly since the night of the party on Chestnut Street. We both agreed to leave the past in the past and start over, and now this jackass comes along and drags it all back up, causing her to go into labor.” Turning his back on Miles he was barely able to choke back the sob that threatened to escape.
“I’m sorry, Bass,” Miles replied, looking down at his boots. He knew how much Shelly still haunted him.
“I can’t lose her or the baby, Miles. I can’t go through that again,” Bass rasped out harshly as he gripped the edge of the kitchen counter.
“You’re not going to lose any of them, if I have anything to say about it,” Gene announced from the doorway, watching as Bass turned to face him with red rimmed eyes.
“Any of them?”
“You’re having twins. Not sure how I didn’t pick up on it before but there’s two babies in there and they’re ready to meet their parents,” he said with a smile and tilt of his head “Charlie’s waiting for you.”
Giving a relieved smile in return, Bass rushed out of the kitchen and down the hall.
Pulling a bottle from the cabinet, Miles grabbed a couple of glasses and poured himself and Gene a drink. “Twins?”
“It’s the damnedest thing, Miles. I’ve never had any indication of a second baby, but today, out of the blue, there’s two distinct heartbeats. I don’t know how I could have missed it,” Gene sighed, taking a drink from his glass.
Miles looked at the liquid in his glass as he swirled it around. “It’s almost as if one was shielding the other. An older sibling protecting the younger. Gene, what if she were telling the truth and that’s not our Charlie?” he asked, looking up at his Father-in-law who looked as stunned as he felt.
“It’s a boy!” Gene announced as he cleaned out the baby’s air passages and tied off the umbilical cord.
Laughing and crying at the same time Bass pressed his lips against his wife’s temple, even as Charlie began to panic. “Why’s he not crying?” she asked as Rachel took the baby from her father getting a good look at her grandson.
“I don’t know,” Rachel said, looking at her father as she moved to the side of the bed so that his parents could see him.
Charlie sucked in a breath at the sight of her son, knowing that the old man had spoke the truth.
“He’s beautiful, Charlie!” Bass sobbed happily, running a hand over the boy's head, startled at a sudden groan from Charlie.
“I think that’s our cue,” Gene told Charlie as he settled back in at the end of the bed.
“It’s a girl, isn’t it,” Charlie cried with one last push. “Let me see her! Let me see her right now!” she demanded of her grandfather as her husband and mother looked on and her son began to cry in earnest.
Lifting the child up, Gene handed the slippery baby to her with Bass’ help as he once again busied himself with tying off the cord.
“Oh, Charlie, she looks just like you,” Bass whispered with a smile as they looked down at their daughter, her head filled with golden curls.
“It’s why we called her Sunny. Her hair was like sunshine itself,” Charlie whispered as she laid the child on the bed beside her. “Bring him to me,” Charlie requested of her squalling son, having Rachel lay him down close enough to his sister to touch, causing his cries to instantly cease.
“Charlie?” Rachel asked as she looked on in wonder at the now content babies.
“Can we have a minute?” Bass asked, tearing his eyes away from his family long enough to look at Gene.
“Just a minute,” Gene said softly, looking at his granddaughter. “We need to finish up this delivery and get them cleaned up.” Taking Rachel by the elbow, he guided his daughter out of the room and shut the door.
Holding Charlie close as she softly cried, Bass reached out, placing a hand on his children. “So, the old man was right. This is Ethan and Sunny.”
Charlie nodded, as she cried harder “I know you think I’m crazy, but I’m not Bass, I swear I'm not!”
“You forget that you’re talking to the king of crazy,” Bass whispered near her ear as he grasped her chin in his hand to look at her. “I love you so much, Charlie Monroe. This just proves that no matter where, no matter how and no matter when, we will always find each other. Always,” he whispered against her lips before kissing her softly.