"Hey Charlie, you home?" Miles's shout cut through the house. While it was a fairly normal question on its own, the edge to his voice made Charlie apprehensive.
"Yeah, what's up?"
Now that he had her attention, Miles looked nervous. "Are your mom or Gene home?"
"Not just yet, they were checking on some patients of Grandpa's before they come home for dinner. What's going on?" Charlie really wasn't sure she wanted to know.
Miles let out a heavy sigh and dragged a hand over his face. "I need your help with something."
"Well, that doesn't sound good," she tried to joke, half-hearted smile fading as Miles didn't even twitch. "Seriously, what happened?"
That explained why he wanted to know where her mother and grandfather were before explaining why he was looking for her. Charlie's heartbeat stuttered before increasing at her uncle's words. That could mean anything. It could range from him being dead to diabolical- again, in both cases.
"... and help me get him out. Charlie?" Miles snapped his fingers to get her attention. "Kid? Come on, are you gonna help me or not?"
"Yeah, sorry, let's go." Charlie shook off her lingering thoughts. She hadn't heard where Miles said they were going, but given that he wasn't (visibly) armed, she figured this was more a "convince Bass not to do a stupid thing" situation as opposed to a "Bass has already done the stupid thing and needs Matheson Assistance now" situation.
As it turned out, she was wrong, but not in the way that she expected.
Charlie followed Miles through Willoughby and into a bar. Calling it a bar was a bit generous. She'd seen field operating rooms with less bloodstains on the floor. This was one of two bars in Willoughby, the other being a far cleaner and friendlier establishment. Charlie had never actually been into this particular bar before. It was more of a shack with tables than anything. Despite it only being late afternoon, the interior of the bar was dark, the view further clouded by various plumes of smoke. A variety of people were surrounding various rickety tables. Charlie amended her previous assessment: This was more a drug den than a bar.
Stopping in the doorway, her boots crunched on broken glass as she followed Miles's gaze to a back corner.
Through the haze, she spotted Bass slumped in a chair by a small table. Charlie wasn't sure if the woman leaning towards him was a whore or just a trampy dresser. Frankly, she didn't care. Watching as the woman carded her fingers through sweat-soaked curls, Charlie spoke to Miles. "What happened?"
Another heavy sigh from her uncle. "Today isn't a good day... for him." Miles stopped to consider the sight of his friend for a moment. Charlie was just about to ask when the hell any of them had good days when Miles continued. "I didn't think it would be this bad this year. It's hard to know the exact date anymore, but we've got a good enough guess on what the timing is. Today is..."
This time when Miles trailed off and stopped talking, Charlie didn't feel the need to push. She understood now. It was the anniversary of a death. Part of her wanted to ask for specifics, ask who it was that he had lost on this day years ago. Months ago, maybe she would have asked. Maybe she would have felt that he owed her as much. But now? Charlie just wanted to get Bass out of here.
"Let's get him outta here," she said quietly and started towards the back table, Miles on her heels. She took stock of the table as they got closer. Aside from various bottles of alcohol- most of them empty- there were a couple of ash trays with smoking joints and cigarettes on the table, as well as smears of white powder.
"Shit," Miles's tone was vicious. He stepped around her. "Bass? Hey man, I'm here."
Bass looked up from the table with shiny, red rimmed eyes. Now that they were in front of him, Charlie realized he looked worse than she had originally thought. Stripped down to his sleeveless shirt, his bare arms were sweaty. His face was somehow flushed and pale at the same time, and his shoulders were slumped.
He licked his cracked lips before speaking. "What're you doin' here?" he mumbled, trying to shift his head away from the whore's firm grasp. Charlie thought she saw him wince as the woman's fingers caught in a tangle.
Okay, that's enough of that. "Alright, get outta here!" Charlie snapped and stepped out from behind Miles to grab the whore's arm. The other woman looked up at Charlie and laughed through glazed eyes.
"But he's so pretty," she slurred.
She'd deny it if asked, but Charlie growled as she yanked the woman up and shoved her towards an empty chair at another table. "Bitch." She turned to find Bass blinking at her, eyes wide. He hadn't noticed her before.
"Charlie?" he asked shakily. The look he gave her was awestruck. "Charlie."
"Bass, hey?" Miles braced his hands on the table and leaned in, wincing as his hands touched some of the powder. "Come on man, you need to get it together. Can you tell me what you took?"
"He's... he's not just drunk?" Charlie hadn't even considered that he might have used any of the other substances on the table. Sure, they all drank and she knew he and Miles had shared a cigarette before, but this? Charlie didn't even know what some of the drugs on the table were.
"With Bass, you never know," Miles said. "He doesn't... handle things well."
The man in question didn't even seem aware that Miles was there, much less talking to and about him. He'd kept his eyes locked on Charlie from the moment he'd seen her, like he was afraid she'd disappear into the smoke if he looked away. Charlie was more concerned with him disappearing at the rate he was going.
"Hi there," she said and moved the chair the whore had been using out of the way. When she stepped up next to him, Bass craned his head back to stare up at her. "How are you doing?" As soon as the question left her mouth, Charlie could've kicked herself. Miles had told her what today was! How did she think he was doing.
"I missed you," he mumbled up at her.
Ignoring Miles's curse behind her, Charlie kept focused on Bass. "I'm right here." What else was she supposed to say? He knew who she was- he'd said her name earlier, after all- but where did he think she had gone? They had just seen each other the day before.
Her response seemed to be the answer Bass was looking for. He leaned closer until his forehead was resting against her stomach, slowly bringing his arms up to wrap around her waist. Through the thin material of her tank, Charlie could feel dampness. She wasn't sure if it was from sweat or tears. Cautiously, she rested her hand on the back of his head. Bass seemed to melt into her at the contact. She felt tears well in her eyes and she turned to Miles, a helpless question on her face.
Miles's eyes were black, his face drawn in the darkness of the bar. He took a breath and seemed to brace himself before coming around to the back of Bass's chair. "Okay, you've gotta get up. Let's get you out of here," he said as he tried to get a less-than-cooperative Bass on his feet.
"No," Bass mumbled into Charlie's stomach. "Don't wanna."
"Well, I don't really care what you want right now," Miles huffed and grabbed more firmly at Bass's shoulders. "C'mon, let go of her."
"Miles..." Charlie started.
"What?" he spat.
She shook her head and looked back down at the man clinging to her. She wasn't sure what she had planned to say. Bass obviously didn't want to let her go and... well. Maybe she could work with that.
Charlie gently reached down and cupped the back of Bass's neck. "Hey, can you get up for me? Please?"
He slowly tilted his head back. "Don't leave me," he begged. "Please..."
"I'm not going to leave you, we're just gonna go somewhere else, okay?" Charlie told him and moved her hands to the arms coiled tight around her. "You have to get up."
To her amazement, he did. It was with far from his usual grace, but he stood up and looked expectantly at Charlie. Now what?
Thankfully, Miles knew what to do. "Charlie and I are gonna take you home, okay? C'mon." Miles slung one of Bass's arms over his shoulder and gestured for Charlie to do the same on the other side. He sagged against her as the three of them slowly made their way out of the bar.
As they cleared the door, not even bothering to look for Bass's overshirt or a bartender to pay, he spoke up. "Don't have one."
"What's that?" Miles asked.
"A home. There's no one there. They're all dead."
Charlie almost tripped over her own feet at Bass's words, but sheer Matheson stubbornness kept her going. She tried to get a look at Miles's face, but Bass's slumped form prevented it as he staggered along between them. After that, no one said anything. The three of them slowly made their way down the dimly lit Willoughby streets in silence. Charlie hadn't realized how long they had been in the bar with Bass- it was approaching dinnertime. That meant that Rachel and Gene would be home. Damn it! As they approached the extended Porter-Matheson residence, she brought it up to Miles.
Miles's only response was "fuck it" as he started to drag Bass along a little quicker.
Bass wasn't much more coherent by the time they made it up the porch steps and through the front door. She had been hoping that he would get with it enough to be able to walk on his own before crashing, but that wasn't happening. He hadn't spoken since his denial of having a home and if Charlie couldn't see his glassy eyes, she'd have thought that he was unconscious.
As Charlie had suspected, Rachel and Gene were home. They must have just gotten in as they cleaned up in the kitchen and got ready to make dinner. Charlie doubted that she and Miles would be able to get Bass up the stairs quickly and quietly, and to get to the downstairs bedroom, they had to go through the kitchen. She mentally echoed Miles's sentiment as she readjusted her grip on Bass. Fuck.
"Charlie, I was wondering where you had went." Rachel had obviously heard them come in the front door as she turned around. "Do you know where- Miles, what the hell is going on?" Her voice went from curious to cold in seconds.
As Miles stammered and tried to cover up the ugly and obvious truth, Gene fell back on his role of doctor. He approached them and reached out to feel the pulse at Bass's neck. Bass pulled away from the unfamiliar touch and buried his face in Charlie's hair. The movement cause his left arm to slip from Miles's shoulders and he went with it, sagging against Charlie. She swayed at the additional weight, but kept her feet.
"Guys, can we do this later?" She gasped out.
Miles gave up on trying to explain things to Rachel and helped Charlie half guide, half carry Bass down the hall. They crashed through the doorway and into the bedroom. Charlie tripped and gave in to a controlled fall onto the bed. She ended up half underneath Bass, his forehead pressed to her collarbone and his torso a heavy weight in her lap.
"Shit!" Miles swore and snapped his fingers next to Bass's head. Gene followed them into the room, ready if they needed help. "Charlie, you okay? Bass! Hey man, wake up!"
"Not asleep," he whispered, breath a hot puff against Charlie's throat. "Hey Charlie?"
She ignored the questions Gene was asking and Miles was doing his best to answer to focus on the man in her arms. "Yeah?"
"Don't... don't leave me, okay?"
"I'm not gonna leave you," she said. Ignoring the eyes on them, she ran a hand up and down one of Bass's bare arms. He felt clammy.
"You're... you're the only one..." He picked his head up and stared deep into her eyes. "You're the only one who hasn't left me."
"I told you, I'm not going anywhere."
"Miles hates me... Connor ran off... everyone else is dead..." As Bass's mumbled list of people faded away and he resettled his head against her, Charlie couldn't help but consider the category that she had been placed in. His best friend (life partner, really), his son... she didn't know who the "they" he kept talking about were exactly, but she knew that they had to be family, friends. Loved ones.
He'd rapidly become part of the group of people that Charlie knew she would kill and die for, and she knew he would do the same for her, but to hear it said aloud? That she was important enough to him that he would miss her if she was gone, and not just because of her connection to Miles? It affected her more than she thought it would. Suddenly, she realized that they still had an audience.
"I think we're okay, if you can help me get him settled?" she asked Miles. With his and Gene's help, Charlie shifted to rest against the headboard as they swung Bass's long legs further onto the bed. She felt as he relaxed against her. "I'm gonna stay here with him while he sleeps it off, okay?"
"Are you sure, kid?" Miles rubbed at his face with a sigh.
"Yeah, I'm sure." Charlie answered.
"Call for us if you need help, okay?" With that, Miles and Gene left the room.
She rested with Bass in silence, just able to hear the hissed argument taking place between Rachel and Miles in the kitchen. The volume started to rise until she heard Miles snap "It's the fucking seventh!". After that, the house was quiet again.
In her lap, Bass stirred at the shouting, humming slightly in confusion. "Charlie?"
"Hey, I'm right here," she said.
"Need you here... with me," he mumbled before falling back into silence. Charlie wasn't sure if he was asleep or not, but he seemed to be resting comfortably. Carefully, she arranged a blanket over their intertwined legs and settled back to rest. She kept a hand on his back as she drifted off to sleep, a reassurance to them both that she wasn't going anywhere.