Word Count: ~1,200
Warnings: Fluff? Is that a warning?
Pairings: Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson
Disclaimer: I own my story. The characters in the story belong to themselves.
Summary: Harry misses Louis when he's gone which sometimes leads to irrational misunderstandings about carrots.
Harry felt better once he'd sent the tweet into the world. He dumped the rest of the carrots into the bin, thinking he could tell Louis that he'd gotten rid of them, just as he'd been asked. Not that the prat was around to eat his own carrots that fans kept sending in. Louis just had to be funny about it. Sure they'd all laughed at the time because Louis was the one who liked girls who ate carrots and turned up for video diaries wearing a bin lid on his head. Course, that's the same sort of antics which made Harry fall hopelessly in love with the caramel hair and the impish eyes.
@Harry_Styles I HATE CARROTS!
He turned out the light in the kitchen and trudged up the stairs, wishing he'd taken Liam up on his offer of crashing at his place for the night. It was always hard being away from Louis, but he was an adult and he'd manage. Somehow. He piled the pillows into a rough human shape and settled in against them, hoping for at least a few hours’ sleep. It wasn't always this bad, which was the mostly truthful statement he’d given as he'd seen Louis off that morning, but then there'd been the carrots and Louis' cheeky 'see to the carrots, will you?'. So, he'd been the dutiful boyfriend and made carrot cake and some truly awful carrot bread he was going to convince both Louis and Niall to eat. Then there'd still been a dozen or so left and he'd simply had enough of the carrots. As he fell asleep, Harry wondered when the girls would start trying to send them Lamborghinis in the post.
The pounding on his door, combined with the obnoxious sound of his mobile going off woke Harry early the next morning. He rolled from the bed and nearly fell as he went downstairs. Still rubbing his eyes, Harry opened the front door to a concerned looking Liam, Zayn and Niall.
"What are you boys doing here?"
"We're concerned, Harry, obviously."
"Why? What's happened?"
Liam and Zayn exchanged a look.
"Well come in then," Harry pulled the door open wide enough for them to all come in. "I'll put the tea on seeing as we're all up."
“You sure you’re alright?” Liam asked as he embraced Harry.
"I’m fine, honest.” Well, he’d been fine till they come round clearly concerned, now he wasn’t so sure anymore.
“We came as soon as we heard of course,” Niall added.
“Yeah, we didn’t want you to be alone,” Zayn said as he sat down at the table.
“Is Louis alright?” Harry asked, concern bleeding into his voice.
He watched the boys all look at each other a bit guiltily and was suddenly more alarmed than he cared to be. There was no way something was wrong with Louis, it just couldn’t happen. Everyone knew that, too, especially Louis. Louis wouldn’t let him be alone, wouldn’t let anything happen to him.
“We’ve not heard from him,” Liam answered, if a bit tentatively. “He’s not answering his mobile, but we all rang him up.”
"Do you even know where he is?" Zayn asked.
Harry looked at them as though they’d all lost their minds. "Course I do. He’s with his sister. She's picking out a dress or something. He'll be back round midmorning."
Once again everyone just sort of stared at him and for a moment it felt like those anxiety dreams kids have, the one where you show up to school completely starkers. He glanced down and he was in his shorts, so it wasn’t that.
"Then you've not had a fight?" Liam asked.
Harry put the kettle on and sat down heavily at the table, head cradled in his arms. "Course not."
"The tweet then, was it just something you thought you'd do for a laugh?"
"What tweet?" Honestly, all he wanted to do was go back to sleep and wait for Louis to get home and not have his mates show up and cause him to be concerned about Louis with vague not quite fully formed thoughts.
He didn't get a chance to answer before Zayn's mobile went off and after a few pleasantries, Zayn tapped Harry on the head. Harry blinked up at him and took the mobile.
Harry blinked his eyes as though it would help him follow what Louis was saying.
"Lou? Slow down."
"Course I still love you. What's going on?"
"No, I wasn't thinking that at all. Just got frustrated is all."
"Alright, love you."
Harry handed Zayn's mobile back to him and walked over to pour himself a tea, the lads were on their own at this hour.
"So, I made the headlines, did I?"
Ever ready, Liam pulled a stack of papers from his rucksack and pushed them over to Harry who just placed his head back in his arms. It wasn’t meant to be a thing. He’d just been having a bit of a bad night, really.
"‘Harry Styles hates carrots, could this be the end of One Direction?’ and ‘Feuding bandmates could mean the end of One Direction’ and ‘Breakup of the world’s hottest bromance?’.”
“Don’t read any more, Liam,” Harry mumbled. “I know I’ve made a right mess of it.”
“I think it’s funny,” Niall said. “Now that I know you and Lou are alright and all. They’re treating it like the apocalypse or something, right? And it’s just carrots.”
Harry laughed and looked up enough to see Liam look at least a little less worried. “It’ll be okay. We’ve got a show tonight, right? Manchester, yeah? I’ll eat a carrot or something to show everyone that it’s fine. And I’ll not be on twitter when Louis’ gone.”
Later that night, Harry pulled the giant stuffed carrot into his arms and rolled his eyes. Sometimes his life just confused him, but when he looked over at Louis he realized it was all worth it. The lads took their places on stage and Harry reached over to hold Louis’ hand in his. He felt Louis squeeze his hand back before he grasped Liam’s hand and on down the line it went. Harry shuffled the carrot until it wasn’t covering his face and waited for the stage lights to go up. When the fans started cheering, Harry knew they’d be getting even more carrots, but at least he knew Niall would eat the awful carrot bread he’d make and carrot cake wasn’t that bad. Harry tossed the carrot out into the audience as chorus for Up All Night began to play, finally allowing himself to feel the normal high he experienced during the concert. And if he and Louis spent more of the concert than not closer to each other than they normally allowed, well, he figured they’d earned it.
When the concert was over, a bouquet of carrots was waiting for him. He smiled and shook his head as he pulled out the card:
Niall really wants more of that bread. xx
- Current Mood: sleepy
- Current Mood: blah
Word Count: 1,400
Warnings: Angst, Off Screen Major Character Death
Pairings: Miles Matheson/Sebastian "Bass" Monroe
Disclaimer: I own my story. The characters in the story belong to themselves.
Summary: What if things had gone a little differently in the tunnels? Would Miles return to Monroe if there was nothing holding him back?
A different look at Kashmir.
Author's Note: Highlight to get a spoiler on Off Screen Major Character Death MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH: CHARLIE & NORA.
It seemed like hours before he was sure they were all asleep, which he supposed made sense after everything. As quietly as he could, Miles snuck around the group and clung to the shadows as he worked his way through Philadelphia. It was easier than he thought, moving through the familiar territory. Unlike the tunnels, this was familiar, unchanged for his purposes. The sound of footsteps had him hiding behind a building, holding his breath until the sound faded away. Now, with Independence Hall in sight, things would get tricky. He wasn't lying when he'd said the buildings were impossible to infiltrate. Of all the things Monroe would have changed during his…absence, he doubted it was the security measures. If anything, he'd've had them increased, which made his job harder.
He incapacitated six guards before he even reached the green. There had been a close call, and he really didn't need any of them shouting out and bringing the rest of the militia down on him. It would just complicate things. Not that this was the most well thought out of plans, but it was what he had. He took out another dozen guards as he moved through Independence Hall, pleased he wasn't forced to kill any of them. He moved past the entrance to Monroe's suite of rooms, down the hall to the War Room. It was a dumb name, made it sound like something it wasn't, not really. They planned more than just war in there, but Monroe said every great leader had one, so why couldn't he.
That's where he went, the door unlocked, the room empty. It looked different, shadows obscuring his view, but it would be dawn soon enough and Monroe would find him. He trailed his hand over the backs of the chairs, remembering the countless hours sitting at it, looking over the trade routes, reported rebel bases, alliance agreements, tax reforms…everything necessary to run the Republic. All at this table, with a small group of advisors, most of whom would now shoot him on sight, and he wasn't entirely sure he'd work hard to stop them.
Either he was still hallucinating, or Monroe hadn't changed anything since he'd been gone. The room looked exactly the same, the colonial sensibility, the throwback to simpler times - it soothed Monroe, or so he said. Miles walked over to the desk, remembering the times Monroe had fallen asleep on top of the paperwork, the imprint of whatever happened to be on the desk on his forehead. Sometimes he'd been able to wake him up enough to move him to the bedroom, other times he just pulled his own chair up by Monroe's and fell asleep next to him.
He heard the door open, turned his head slowly, not sure if he was more or less afraid of it being Monroe than someone else. Not sure of what would happen when he saw his best friend again. It was Monroe, standing there in the doorway, and Miles forgot to breathe. He watched Monroe's eyes widen briefly before settling into a happily stunned expression that Miles wanted to mimic, but he couldn't breathe, let alone move. Then Monroe was moving towards him and the world slowed to a stop. Miles watched a smile break out across Monroe's face, the one that lit up his eyes, the one that couldn’t be a lie…he was happy to see Miles. The thought rocked him for a minute, but then Monroe had his arms around him, and Miles couldn’t do anything but return the embrace, hands clenching the material of Monroe's uniform. Monroe pulled back with one last friendly shoulder squeeze, the fond smile still on his lips.
"Is this a dream?" Maybe he was still hallucinating.
Monroe smirked. "I was going to ask you the same thing. You know for days I would walk in here in the morning and half expect to see you bent over the desk. And now, here you are."
Monroe walked over to the side table and poured them both a drink. Miles blinked his eyes, trying to chase the memory of his hallucination away, but this was real. Monroe was standing in front of him, holding out a tumbler of whiskey.
"What are you doing here, Miles?"
"I - I'm tired, Bass. So tired."
Monroe nodded slowly, the smile in his eyes fading to concern. Miles wanted to cling to him, to fall to his knees and beg to come home. Could he? Would it be that simple? He had no pride left, not anymore, not with Monroe. His hallucination had been wrong because he wasn't afraid of Monroe taking him back, of falling into line…not anymore. Now, face to face with his best friend, he was afraid he'd be sent away, afraid he'd never be taken back, afraid he'd never be able to come home. He didn't deserve it, didn't deserve a second chance, not after everything, not after so much time, but that didn't keep him from the hope that Monroe would forgive him.
Miles blinked back to the present, Monroe's hand was warm on his cheek, when had he moved closer?
"Why'd you leave, Miles?"
It was difficult to think straight, and with Monroe's thumb gently stroking his cheek, Miles didn't think he'd be able to do anything other than stare stupidly at the man in front of him. The man he'd betrayed, the man he'd created and then shattered. The one person in the world who truly deserved better, the one man who held more power over Miles than either of them realized, the man who should by all rights send him away, or kill him…that person was offering comfort, and it was killing him.
"There was so much…so much blood. You went - I went - it went too far," Miles wanted to look away as the words tumbled out of his mouth.
"You came back, walked right through the front door," Monroe smiled a bit. "You came home."
Miles licked his lips, his mouth dry. "I had to. In the tunnels, there was a moment…and you, you - you are my home. I wanted it more than anything. And, she's dead now, so there's no reason to rescue Danny, not anymore."
"Charlie, my niece - Danny's sister. Ben's girl. Made me promise to help her get Danny, but no reason to do that now."
"He's fine, you know. Danny. I gave him a room, anything he wants."
"Good, that's good."
Miles wasn't really sure what he was agreeing to, but he was sure it was fine. Charlie had died down there, in the tunnels, the tunnels he claimed to know. One false move, Nora hearing the mine click a moment too late. He could still see the explosion, feel the heat of it on his skin. They were both gone, Charlie and Nora. More collateral damage attributed to Miles Matheson, retired Commanding General.
"Did you find what you were looking for? When you left the militia?"
"No. No, I didn't."
It had been easier, in some ways, talking to a hallucination. Easier to say what he really meant, the things he really felt. Maybe it was because he was talking to himself, convincing himself of what he already knew. Now that he was here, with Monroe, it was different, harder. The one time in his life he needed to say something, say everything, he couldn't. Could he tell Monroe how lonely he'd been? How hard it had been to live without him, knowing he'd done the unforgivable? How was he supposed to apologize for trying to kill his best friend? The one man who'd always been there for him, stayed with him when the world went dark, followed him into the mouth of hell…how was he supposed to find the words?
He couldn't. It was that simple. Knowing that didn't make him feel any better though. He took a long swallow of the whiskey, feeling the way it burned going down…Monroe always had the good stuff, better than the piss he used to sell in Chicago.
"What are you doing here, Miles?"
Miles looked into Monroe's eyes, searching for an accusation, for condemnation, but finding nothing but an open, earnest curiosity. He licked his lips nervously, tears threatening to spill over as his eyes held Monroe's gaze.
"Bass, I want to be home," Miles paused, afraid his voice would break. "I just want to come home."
Monroe's eyes were soft, filled with unshed tears even as he smiled. Then he was hugging him again, arms wrapped around him like a blanket. Miles fell against him, knowing Monroe was the only think holding him upright.
"You are home, brother."
Miles nodded against Monroe's shoulder, unwilling to let go ever again.
- Current Mood: annoyed
Title: Haunted Love
Word Count: 2,300
Warnings: Angst, Murder, MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH
Pairings: Miles Matheson/Sebastian "Bass" Monroe
Disclaimer: I own my story. The characters in the story belong to themselves.
Summary: Sergeant Strausser does as Monroe ordered, he brings the pendant...and Miles back to Philadelphia.
Author's Note: Highlight to get a spoiler on Major Character Death MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH: CHARLIE.
Bass paced the tent anxiously. He couldn't remember ever having been quite this nervous before, ever. He was the President of the Republic and made life and death decisions daily, not that he needed to think about that now. He'd been doing it all alone for a few years now, trying to maintain the order and level of success Miles Matheson had set up. He walked over to the table and snatched the scrap of paper up from the desk. He'd read it so many times he was surprised the paper hadn't disintegrated, but Sergeant Strausser had sent word. He had Miles. Miles would be here sometime today. Bass had sent riders out to keep a look out for the party, wanting to know as soon as he was here. Not that the knowledge kept his palms from sweating.
"General," his guard called, "they're here."
Bass took a calming breath and schooled his features. Miles would see through it, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. He could keep the men from noticing his nerves, from seeing how intimidated he was, but mostly, he was hiding hide how angry he was, how sad, how lonely. He'd spent the first night after hearing from Strausser imagining different scenarios, all ended with them in bed, though some ended with Miles severely maimed, before that part.
A small troop of people was marched into his room. Miles he'd expected. Charlie, Nora and the large guy, whom Neville's boy had seen with one of the pendants, were unexpected. Major Neville came in and stood next to him, the same questioning look on his face. Bass didn't have any answers, and realized he'd been waiting for Miles to say something. He glanced at Miles, who was looking right at him. It was almost like looking at a stranger. Bass couldn't read the look in his eyes and looked away.
"Sergeant Strausser, what happened? I sent you out to get my pendant and Miles," Bass asked, voice strong.
"It was the only way I could bring them to you. Miles became resistant when I went to take the pendant. I know you wanted him alive. It was easier to bring all of them."
Bass fought to keep his face from breaking out into a smile. That was the Miles he knew and lo- no, Bass forced his thoughts away from that. It would be all too easy to just fall back into what they had, to go back to before, and he couldn’t be the first one to make a move.
"Miles," Bass said, the name heavy on his tongue. They locked eyes and Bass couldn’t think of anything to say. There was too much, and words were so inadequate. If Miles felt any conflicting emotions, he wasn’t showing it. He stood, feet apart, hands behind his back, as though he didn’t have a care in the world. Bass kind of hated him for it.
"Bass," Miles replied, voice like velvet on his skin.
"I want the pendant," Bass blurted.
"Yeah, I kinda figured."
Neville approached the larger man, Bass really needed to learn the man's name, and reached to search his pockets. Charlie elbowed the man who'd been guarding her and moved to push Neville out of the way. Before he could say anything, Neville hit her across the face, sending her tumbling to the ground. Miles moved to stand between Neville and Charlie and Bass felt the situation spiraling.
"I'm going to check his pockets."
"Like you were going to bring Ben here? I don't think so," Miles growled.
Bass caught Neville's eye as he looked for further instruction. Bass shook his head and, thankfully, Neville stepped away. Bass watched Miles carefully, noticed how he'd maneuvered himself closer to the guards, closer to the weapons.
"Aaron, give me the pendant," Miles said.
Bass wasn't expecting that.
"Miles!" Charlie cried as she stood to her feet. "You can't be serious? He killed my father, he kidnapped my brother. You can't just give him the pendant. We're here to get Danny."
Bass watched Miles' face carefully, but there was this emptiness in his gaze that he couldn't read. He knew the look, it was the look Miles wore when he was going to kill someone, or had killed someone, or was going to order someone killed.
"Give me the pendant," Miles repeated as though Charlie hadn't spoken at all.
"Miles - "
"Now, Aaron." Miles held out his hand.
Aaron hesitated, looking between Charlie and Miles. Bass felt the tension in the room, saw the men shift. It seemed an eternity before Aaron reached into his pocket and pulled out the pendant. Miles snatched it out of Aaron's hand and looked at it before turning to face Bass.
"Your pendant." Miles held the pendant out to him.
Bass searched his eyes; the emptiness was gone. Bass' hand grazed Miles' as he took the pendant and he didn't imagine Miles' slight intake of breath. It pleased Bass to know that he wasn't the only one affected. He allowed himself to believe that Miles felt something, was feeling something.
"Welcome back, General Matheson," Bass said with relief.
"Sir," Neville said, voice outraged, "you can't be serious."
Bass glanced at Neville before looking back at Miles. Maybe he was dreaming. Maybe Miles wasn't back, didn't want to be back. "Miles?"
"I wouldn’t have come if I didn't plan on sticking around," Miles answered a small smile on his lips.
Neville sneered at Miles. "If you're really back then prove it."
"That promotion's really gone to your head," Miles commented as he looked at Bass.
Bass wasn't surprised Miles knew about the promotion, nor was he surprised that Miles seemed less than pleased about it.
"Miles, you can't do this," Charlie said as she gripped his arm. "This isn't you. It doesn't have to be you, not anymore. What about Danny? We're your family."
Bass watched as Miles' face closed down completely. The blank look was back and the guards took a step back. Miles reached forward, placed one hand on each side of Charlie's head and snapped her neck. She crumpled to the ground before anyone could react. Nora and Aaron were both making sounds of outrage and protest, but Bass couldn't really hear them. His entire world had narrowed to the man standing in front of him. Miles was back.
Bass moved to Miles as though on a string, grabbed his face and seared their lips together. Nothing got him hard like seeing Miles kill. He didn't remember when it had started, but every time Miles killed, Bass wanted him, needed him, craved him. Miles didn't disappoint. As soon as their lips fused, Miles hauled Bass closer to him, arms locked tight. Bass moaned into the kiss and rubbed himself shamelessly against Miles, desperate for the contact, the extra friction. Miles pulled back and Bass whimpered at the loss.
"Dismissed, Major," Miles growled.
Neither of them waited to see if the order was followed, neither of them cared. Bass groaned when Miles began to kiss his neck, it turned into a keening sound when he felt Miles begin to suck a mark, claiming him. Bass knew what came next and he wanted it more than anything in the world. Miles walked him back to the desk, Bass groaned when hitting the desk forced their hips together, the friction a tease. Bass threw his arms around Miles' neck, steadying himself as Miles lifted him onto the desk. He kissed Miles' neck as Miles leaned forward, knocking everything off the desk.
Bass felt Miles' hand close around his neck as his head was tilted back, Miles forcing his tongue in as he settled between Bass' knees. Bass couldn’t figure out what to do with his hands, they scrambled for purchased on Miles' shoulders, then Miles would rock his hips forward and Bass' hands would fall to the desk, his knuckles white with the force of his grip. Miles pulled back and Bass knew he looked as desperate as he felt when his hands chased after Miles.
When Miles began to unbutton his shirt, Bass' mouth went dry. He wanted to reach out and pull Miles to him, but he stood just out of reach. Bass watched Miles trail a finger down his torso before he reached up and played with his nipples, rolling the nubs between his fingers.
"Take off your clothes," Miles' voice was pitched low and felt like sandpaper.
Bass hated that his fingers fumbled with the buttons on his jacket and he hurried to take it off. The sleeve got caught on his wrist and he briefly wondered if removing his arm would get him naked faster. He wanted Miles to touch him, needed Miles to touch him, but he knew Miles wouldn't, not until he was naked. Bass had just managed to get his shirt all the way unbuttoned when he glanced up and saw Miles removing his trousers. He was unable to look away as Miles took himself in hand and began to stroke his cock, bringing it to full hardness. When Miles caught him looking his hand stilled. Bass shook himself and went back to removing his shirt, fairly certain he heard the material tear before he began undoing his trousers. Once he was fully naked, Bass reached for his cock and his hand had just closed around it when Miles knocked his hand away.
"No, that's mine," Miles said as he roughly worked Bass' cock. "Oil?"
Miles opened the top drawer and rummaged around until he found the jar of oil. Bass pouted when Miles set the jar down on the table without opening it. Miles smiled before he captured Bass' lips in a kiss, rubbing their naked cocks together. Bass couldn’t think of anything beyond the throbbing in his cock. He was needy and he knew Miles knew it. He kept seeing Miles wrap his hands around Charlie's head and snap her neck as though it were a toothpick, the image sending shivers down his spine.
"Open yourself for me," Miles whispered against his ear.
Bass blinked at him, dazed, as Miles moved back from the desk. He watched as Miles began to stroke himself again and made an unintelligible sound in the back of his throat. He blindly reached for the oil and sloppily covered his finger in lube. Bass reached down and slowly pushed his slicked finger into his hole, feeling the slight burn as his finger stretched the tight muscle. He hadn't been fucked since Miles left. He pushed his finger deeper, working it in pace with Miles, who was standing in front of him, stroking himself in long, slow movements. Bass pulled his finger out and quickly coated a second before pushing them back in. He worked his fingers in and out, stretching himself, knowing Miles was going to take him hard and fast, knowing he was going to feel it in the morning. An odd contentment settled deep inside him at the thought. He wanted to feel Miles, wanted Miles to mark him, wanted to know he was back with him. Bass' finger brushed against his prostate and he swiftly pulled his fingers out, knowing he'd come if he prepped himself anymore.
Bass watched Miles move towards him. He swallowed, but it didn't help the dryness in his throat.
"Ready for me?"
Bass couldn't speak, he just nodded. Miles' eyes were dark, hungry and Bass felt safe for the first time in years. He couldn't tear his eyes away from Miles, but couldn't keep his eyes from slamming shut as Miles pushed into him. He could tell Miles was restraining himself, pushing forward slowly. It wasn't what he wanted, wasn't what he needed. He locked his legs around Miles and pulled him closer, forcing Miles' cock in deeper. They both groaned at the increased contact. Miles kissed Bass deeply, his hips snapping more forcefully into him. Bass gripped the edge of the desk as Miles pulled back, changed the angle and thrust hard and deep into him. He heard the table scrape against the floor with the force of Miles' thrusts. Bass was close, but he felt Miles come deep inside him before he was able to come himself.
"Ssshhh," Miles whispered as he sank to his knees. "I didn't forget about you."
Bass barely had a chance to process the sight of Miles on his knees in front of him before Miles took his cock in his warm mouth. He sucked him off like he fucked, hard and fast. It was warm, wet, sloppy as Miles worked his cock in deep fast sucks. Miles took him all the way down, his nose brushing against the hairs at Bass' crotch. Bass could swear he was leaving finger shaped marks in the desk, his grip painful. He was so close to the edge, but Miles was teasing him now, licking around the head. A litany of unidentifiable curses and praises flowed from him as he floated on the sensation of Miles' mouth around him. When Miles pushed three fingers inside and took his cock all the way down, Bass couldn't keep his hips from thrusting forward as he came down Miles' throat. Miles pulled off him with a wet pop, his lips glistening with spit and come.
Bass didn't think there was anything that turned him on like Miles killing, but seeing him on his knees, face messy with spit and his come, was one of the hottest things he'd ever seen. Miles stood and took Bass' mouth in a wet, messy kiss. Bass liked the taste of Miles in his mouth and finally allowed his fingers to release their death grip on the desk. He wrapped them around Miles, who was kissing his neck.
"Welcome home," Bass whispered.
- Current Mood: lazy
Word Count: 13,500
Warnings: Angst, Barebacking, Branding, War Themes, Execution
Pairings: Miles Matheson/Sebastian "Bass" Monroe
Disclaimer: I own my story. The characters in the story belong to themselves.
Summary: After Jeremy's wounds are healed, a series of events lead Miles and Bass on the road to developing the Monroe Republic.
Author's Note: This is my headcanon for how the Monroe Republic really began.
"It's ready," Jeremy said.
"That really didn't take as long as I wanted it to," Miles commented.
Bass hadn't been himself since the execution and Miles couldn't figure out how to reach him. He was cold, aloof, spoke only when spoken to and stayed inside most of the time. He was hoping the brand would take longer to make, at least long enough for him to help pull Bass from his mood. They both had a job to do, and disappearing after executing four men didn't exactly help to dispel the rumors running through the ranks.
"Look, let's just get this over with. He's going to hate it. Or worse, he's going to be apathetic about this like he has been about everything recently."
Jeremy gave him a sympathetic look and Miles resisted the urge to hit him for it. Bass was in the living room, looking over the most recent troop movements. Miles didn't like the stoop of his shoulders.
"Bass, we have something we need to discuss with you."
Bass turned to face them. "What?"
"You told me to fix the problem with the men, and Jeremy and I came up with an idea that will work. The men will know what they're signing up for, they will make a commitment to stay with us and we'll also be able to identify them."
Bass looked unconvinced. "How?"
Jeremy handed Miles the branding iron. Miles took a deep breath and held it up to Bass. "With this."
Bass paled and stared at the iron as though it was going to attack him. "You're going to brand them? With my tattoo? This is your idea to fix the problem?"
"We can't give them dog tags and the uniforms aren't working. This way they get the identifying mark and they'll know what they're getting into. They won't let us brand them if they're not with us."
Miles gave Jeremy credit for not stepping back when Bass turned his glare on him. "What about you, Jeremy? You'd let Miles brand you?"
"Bass - "
"No, Miles, it's okay," Jeremy interrupted. "Bass has a point. If I'm not willing to do it, no one else will."
"See, Miles? This isn't a solution."
"No, Bass. It is. I'm the one who gave Miles the idea. You guys found me on the side of the road getting the shit kicked of me. If it weren't for the two of you, I'd be dead. Miles taught me everything I know. You're putting together the only stable thing we have anymore. Taking a brand is the least I can do to repay you."
"You don't have to take the brand, Jeremy. We know you're not going anywhere."
"I do, Bass. Everyone has to do it or it won't work. They can't see me get out of it."
"He's right, Bass," Miles said as he pulled the branding iron from the fire. He'd snuck it in the fire while Jeremy was talking. "We all need the brand."
Miles handed the branding iron to Jeremy and rolled his right sleeve up. He held his arm out to Jeremy. Before Jeremy could bring the iron down, Bass knocked the iron away and it clattered to the floor. Bass was breathing hard, his eyes full of fury as he stared at Miles.
"Get out," he growled.
Jeremy hesitated. Miles appreciated the loyalty, but there was no reason for both of them to die.
Miles nodded and Jeremy backed out of the room.
"You're not getting branded. If you try anything like that again, I'll shoot you myself."
"The men need to see were all in this, Bass. We can't show favorites."
"This isn't showing favorites," Bass spat. "You're the commanding general of the goddamn militia. Your loyalty to me is irrelevant. You speak for me, in the eyes of the men, you and I are the same, and you will never need a brand for that to be true."
Miles couldn't speak at first, he just blinked stupidly at Bass. Miles took a moment to compose himself before he moved in close to Bass. He gently held Bass' face between his hands. "Okay." He took a deep breath. "Okay, Bass. I'm sorry. It was a display for the men, nothing more."
Bass nodded. Miles smiled softly and leaned in for a gentle kiss, thumbs stroking Bass' jaw. He felt Bass' hands land on his hips and pull him closer. Miles angled his head, deepening the kiss as he moved his arms around Bass, holding him. They broke the kiss, eyes still locked together. Miles smiled and gave Bass one lass kiss as he pulled away.
"Jeremy's getting the men ready. We need to do this, Bass. You're right. The men need to know what they're fighting for."
Bass nodded. Miles opened the door and followed Bass outside after retrieving the branding iron from where it had fallen to the floor. Miles put the iron in the fire while Jeremy made some sort of speech, similar to what he'd told Bass earlier. He watched the men's faces, watched when they began to nod, watched for that moment when they understood and accepted what Jeremy was proposing. He pulled the brand from the fire, the 'M' glowing red from the heat. He swallowed thickly, realizing what he was doing was barbaric. Jeremy stood in front of him, face solemn and he gave a curt nod. Miles nodded back.
"Captain," Miles began, "do freely and of your own will swear your loyalty to the militia of the Monroe Republic? Do you swear to devote yourself to the purpose of maintaining order and ensuring the safety of the citizens of the Monroe Republic?"
Jeremy took a breath. "I so swear."
Miles brought the iron down to Jeremy's arm, he heard the flesh sizzle, smelled the flesh burn, watched the pain gather in Jeremy's eyes and hated himself a bit more. He brought the iron away and nodded to Jeremy who stood to his feet, steadier than he had any right to be. Miles followed Jeremy's eyes and saw Bass. His eyes were wide and his skin had an unhealthy greenish tint to it. Miles couldn't leave now. He needed to finish this, but he wanted to walk away and pull Bass back into the house.
Lieutenant Neville came forward. "Sir, I would like to volunteer to receive the brand."
Miles gave a tight smile and nodded. "Lieutenant, do freely and of your own will swear your loyalty to the militia of the Monroe Republic? Do you swear to devote yourself to the purpose of maintaining order and ensuring the safety of the citizens of the Monroe Republic?"
His face had the same solemn, almost worshipful expression Jeremy's did. "I so swear."
Miles had just pressed the iron to Neville's arm when he heard retching noises from behind him. As soon as he was done with the brand, he handed it to Jeremy and dashed off to where Bass was doubled over, puking the contents of his stomach onto the field. He was thankful Bass had been able to get himself to the side of the house, out of sight of the men. At least there would only be speculation. He'd kill anyone who spoke outright about it.
He rubbed Bass' back as he continued to empty the contents of his stomach until there was nothing left but dry heaving. Miles sighed as the scent of burning flesh began to permeate the air around them. He needed to get Bass away from the smell, away from the base. Away from everything that had happened here recently. The idea struck him, and he felt rather stupid for having not figured it out sooner, but better late than never. After a day for recovery, he'd have Jeremy begin preparing the men ready for a move. They needed a new base, one without so many memories.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Miles looked at himself in the mirror, surprised the house's bathroom mirror was still intact. He looked ridiculous, but this was for Bass, so it was worth it. It'd been a hard couple of weeks, moving the entire militia, establishing a new base camp. It had required a lot of Miles' attention. Attention he needed to give Bass, but couldn't. Jeremy and Neville were in charge of the men for the night. Miles was becoming more and more impressed with Lieutenant Neville as the days progressed. He'd really proven himself during the branding and the troop move. Tonight wasn't the time for thoughts of the militia, so Miles pushed them from his mind. Tonight was all about Bass, and it was long overdue.
With one last glower at his ridiculous reflection, he went into the living room. Bass was standing in front of the roaring fire, the firelight reflecting off his face. Miles walked up and wrapped his arms around Bass, feeling the soft cotton of his grey shirt under his fingers. He kissed the back of his neck and ran his hands up Bass' torso. He felt Bass settle back against him, his head resting against his shoulder. Bass rolled his head until he could suck Miles' earlobe into his mouth. Miles ran his hands back down Bass' torso and up under the hem, feeling the smoothness of Bass' skin beneath his fingers. When Bass released his ear, Miles turned his head to trail kisses along Bass' neck.
"I've been neglecting you," Miles whispered against Bass' ear.
"It's okay, things have been busy. You've had a lot to do," Bass murmured.
"No," Miles said as he moved away, "that's no excuse. Don't be understanding while I'm trying to apologize. Either forgive me or agree."
Bass turned around a soft smile on his face. Miles felt Bass' eyes blaze a path across his body. He shivered under the weight of it, pleased he'd had Jeremy find the outfit for him.
"I was just going to agree," Bass said as he slowly stepped forward, "but, now that I see what you're wearing, I'm inclined to forgive you."
"The top hat that powerful, huh?" Miles asked, teasing smile on his face.
Bass gripped Miles' lapels and hauled him closer. "I know how you feel in this, and you're wearing it for me anyway. You're forgiven."
Miles leaned in and gave Bass a soft kiss before leaning back to remove the top hat.
"I never said you could remove the hat."
Miles' eyes widened. "Seriously? I have to wear the hat?"
Bass began to undo the buttons on Miles' shirt, kissing each patch of skin revealed. "Mmmhm."
Miles' eyes fluttered closed as Bass' lips closed around his nipple. Bass was cheating, but Jeremy had gone through a lot of trouble to get the hat, and it made Bass do the thing with his tongue that made Miles' toes curl, so he'd wear the fucking hat. Bass' hand trailed down his side and slipped beneath the waist of his trousers, his fingers brushing teasingly against his cock. Miles growled and brought his hand up around Bass' neck, holding him in place while he ravaged Bass' mouth, forcing his tongue past Bass' lips. He rocked his hips forward, giving just enough pressure to drive them both mad. Miles felt Bass' hands move around and follow the hem of the fabric.
"You're wearing tails."
Miles could hear the smile in his voice. "Now I match your décor."
Bass pinched his ass. Miles chuckled as he went back to kissing Bass' neck, wanting to hear the little noises in the back of his throat. He grabbed a fist full of Bass' shirt and broke away long enough to pull it over his head. Miles brought his mouth down on one of Bass' nipples, swirling his tongue around the nub before biting down gently, while his hands worked the buttons on Miles' trousers.
Miles nodded and helped Bass step out of his trousers before taking his hand and leading him to the bedroom. There was a fire blazing in the hearth and he'd lit the wall lamps before he'd put on the penguin suit. He loved how Bass looked in firelight, the warmth of the light dancing across his skin, making his eyes glow. Miles could stare at him all night, but this wasn't for him. He pushed the hat down on his head and backed Bass to the bed. He watched Bass settle himself up near the head of the bed, a fond smile on his lips. Miles loved seeing him like this, relaxed, carefree, and he loved that he was the one to make Bass feel like that.
He peeled the jacket off and draped it over the back of the desk chair, feeling Bass' eyes on him as he finished unbuttoning the shirt. He dropped the shirt to the floor before reaching for the buttons on his trousers. Miles was spread eagled on the bed, hand slowly working his cock. Miles watched Bass stroke himself.
"Jesus," he muttered as he hastily undid the rest of the buttons and slid the trousers down his legs. He toed off his shoes, glad for once, to be wearing the shiny, patented leather monstrosities. They were much easier to remove than his standard boots.
Bass licked his lips. "Damn you look good. Don't lose the hat."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Miles answered distractedly as he moved to the bed, eyes focused on where Bass was still stroking himself.
Miles reached for the jar of oil they kept next to the bed. "I could watch you do this all night."
Bass had a disbelieving look on his face.
"Okay, not all night."
Miles climbed up onto the bed and braced himself, hands on either side of Bass. He could feel the back of Bass' hand brush against his torso as he continued to stroke himself. Miles leaned down and kissed Bass deeply. He coated his finger in the oil and slowly pushed the tip in, savoring the feel of Bass around him.
Miles tore his mouth away from Bass' and smirked, but he did as he was told. More because he couldn't not than because of Bass' needy, if bossy, voice. He pushed his finger all the way in, feeling Bass clench around him. He pulled his finger out and Bass groaned. Miles coated two fingers in lube and slowly pushed both in to the second knuckle. Bass' hand fell from his cock to clench the sheets tightly. Miles leaned forward and kissed Bass' neck, leaving teasing nips as he trailed his teeth down to Bass' nipple. He pushed his fingers all the way in before pulling them out again. He repeated the action, thrusting his fingers deep, stroking Bass' prostate as he continued to push his fingers in and out.
Miles was so hard it was painful. Watching Bass stroke himself, seeing him splayed out on their bed, it was just too much for him. He removed his fingers, smirking when he heard Bass' sound of protest, and covered his cock with the oil. Even the light pressure of his own fingers on his cock was threatening to send him over the edge. He needed to be inside Bass, now. He looked into Bass' eyes as he positioned himself, the head of his cock brushing against Bass' hole.
He gave the tiniest nod and Miles thrust all the way in, both of them groaning at the pleasure of it all. Miles held still, not sure Bass had been as ready as he should have been, afraid he'd hurt him. Bass' hands left the sheets and gripped Miles' shoulders, fingers digging painfully into his flesh.
Miles smiled against Bass' neck, rocked his hips teasingly before pulling out and thrusting back in. He set a brutal pace, his hips snapping forward, rocking them both against the headboard. He could hear the wood clatter against the wall, and was pleased he had both Jeremy and Tom watching the men tonight. It wasn't a secret, but some things didn't need an audience. Miles felt Bass work a hand between them as he began to stroke himself in rough fast movements. Miles increased the speed of his thrusts, determined to get Bass off first. Bass came with a cry, his hand still working his cock, come covering his hand and both their chests. Miles leaned down and licked Bass' chest, savoring the flavor of Bass' come on his tongue. And with a few more thrusts, emptied himself into Bass. He collapsed on top of Bass, the movement knocking the hat off.
"I told you not to lose the hat."
Miles braced himself up on his arms and looked down a Bass. "If you're thinking about the hat, I didn't fuck you hard enough."
Bass leaned forward and kissed the frown on Miles' face. "I love you."
Miles smiled. "You too."
"You're going to have to find the hat."
"In the morning."
"What if someone steps on it?"
"Then I'll shoot them. No one's going to come in here."
Bass smiled and Miles kissed him softly before getting up from the bed. No one was coming in, which meant he had to put out the lamps. He found the hat next to the bed and with exaggerated movements for Bass' benefit, he placed the hat on the desk. After turning out the lamps, he climbed back in bed, and pulled Bass into his arms.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Miles and Bass were hunched over the table. Rebels had been attacking their supply lines, making it more and more difficult to bring things from the outlying areas of the growing Republic. They'd begun to resettle people further away from their base of operations, allowing them to run their own little communities, provided they continued to pay their taxes. Based on what they produced, each area had its own form of taxation. Protection had its price, and most people were scared enough in the wake of the violence that permeated the world after the lights went out that even if they balked at taxation they paid with little resistance. Of course, the further out the settlements were, the more difficult it was to enforce, which is why it was important to keep the supply lines intact.
They both looked up when they heard commotion outside the tent. Miles put a hand on Bass' shoulder.
"I'll go see what the problem is."
Bass nodded and went back to looking at the trade routes. Miles strapped on his sword belt as he walked outside. The sentries came to attention and Miles gave them a curt nod as he surveyed the group of men outside the command tent. Lieutenant Neville stood in the center of the group and held a hooded man, while the rest of his unit looked everywhere but at each other or at him.
"Sir," Lieutenant Neville began, his voice not quite as strong as it should be, "I have some distressing news."
"Let's have it."
"Sir, this is perhaps something we should discuss in a more private location."
Miles nodded slowly. He turned and walked back into the command tent, knowing Neville was following.
Bass looked up when they entered, a curious look on his face.
"Lieutenant Neville has some sensitive information for us," Miles explained as he went to stand next to Bass.
Neville swiftly removed the bag from the bound man. Miles worked to keep his face expressionless. He knew this man. Had known him for years. He crossed his arms and waited for Neville to explain.
"We encountered a small rebel force along the western route, they were attempting to steal taxes we'd collected. This man was with them. It seemed as though he was leading the group."
Miles looked at Bass. His face clearly showed his shock, his pain. They both knew this man. They'd been part of the same unit before the blackout. After they'd setup a semi-permanent operation, he'd come and joined them.
Miles looked at Lieutenant Neville. "Assemble everyone. Parade formation."
Lieutenant Neville didn't question the order. Miles turned to Bass once Neville was out of the tent. Bass was staring out at the distance. Miles knew this wasn't going to be easy. None of this was easy, but it was necessary. Order was necessary in times of chaos.
"The men are assembled, sir," one of the sentries reported.
Miles nodded. He glanced back at Bass who was still staring off into the distance. He wouldn't make Bass watch. His militia, his rules, his responsibility. Once he was outside, he saw the troops lined up in neat little rows, pleased to see something still made sense. Lieutenant Neville held the prisoner at the front of the formation. From the corner of his eye, Miles saw Jeremy come up, his face grim. They nodded to each other. Miles motioned to Neville who removed the sack from the captive's head. He felt the tremor go through the assembly. This wasn't just some new recruit, some foot soldier. This was one of their captains, a man they looked up to, a man they respected. Miles felt Jeremy's eyes on him, but he ignored it. This wasn't the time to be weak, this wasn't the time for mercy.
Miles walked forward and stopped two paces in front of his friend. They locked gazes for a moment, an entire conversation passing between them.
"On your knees," Miles commanded, voice loud and steady.
His friend nodded, face grim as he fell to his knees. Miles drew his sword, pleased his arm was steady because he felt anything but collected. He held his captain's gaze as he pulled his arm back, tightened his grip and swiftly completed the arc. The cut was clean and deep. The death would be quick and it was the only form of mercy he could afford to show.
"This man is a deserter. He betrayed the Republic by joining with the rebels. The penalty is death. There are no exceptions," Miles voice rang out loudly in the clearing, everyone quiet in the wake of the execution.
"Lieutenant Neville," Miles called out, turning away from his bleeding friend. "Congratulations, you're now Captain of the Second Infantry. Dismiss the men."
"Sir," Captain Neville managed.
Miles turned back to the command tent only to see Bass standing in the doorway. His eyes weren't unfocused anymore. They were locked on him. Miles motioned to Jeremy, who relieved the sentries. Miles offered him a tight smile as he walked into the tent. Once he was free of his men's looks, he allowed his shoulders to slump, his eyes to fill with pain. This was Bass and he didn't have to be the fucking General, at least for a few minutes.
"You didn't have to do it," Bass said softly.
"Yeah, I did."
"I mean you didn't have to do it. Jeremy would have, hell, I'm sure Neville would have done it with a smile."
"I had to do it, Bass. You know I did. It's the only way to maintain order. I can't look like a coward in front of my own men. They have to know there are no exceptions to the rules. The punishment for desertion is death. The punishment for betrayal is death."
Bass moved to stand in front of Miles and brought his hand up to reset on Miles' shoulder. "He was your friend."
Miles looked into Bass' eyes, searching for an accusation, and finding nothing but a resignation he didn't like. "Yep, and I killed him."
Miles stepped away from Bass, unable to take comfort from someone who was grieving like him, someone whose pain he'd caused. He moved to the table and poured two large glasses of whiskey. He handed one to Bass and raised his own in salute. It was the closest thing to a goodbye he could muster.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Miles pushed his horse harder than he should, but he wanted to get back to Pennsylvania. He'd been away for a few weeks, helping the northern border patrol re-secure the lines. He could just make out the edge of the camp, and he smiled. It was good to be home, but he half-expected someone to come running up to him announcing some new emergency. It had sort of become a thing. The past few times he'd gone out on patrol, he'd come back to chaos, or to a small emergency. He made it all the way to the stables and no rider came. He met Jeremy as he walked to Independence Hall.
"Anything I need to know about?" Miles asked.
"Nothing Bass didn't handle."
Miles felt a twist of concern. Maybe it was unfair of him, but Bass wasn't okay with some of the more extreme forms of discipline Miles had enacted over the months. They had recently established their primary base in Philadelphia, the trade routes finally established, most of the borders secure, and things were beginning to return to a state of equilibrium. Getting things to that point required Miles to do things that still make him sick, if he stopped to think about it. He'd lost count of the number of times Bass had given him a disapproving look after he made a command decision, but he'd stuck around. They were family.
"What happened?" Miles asked as he walked into the study, Bass sitting behind the desk looking at troop updates.
"Hi, glad you're back. How was your trip? I'm fine, thanks for asking," Bass grumbled without looking up from the desk.
Miles smiled and rolled his eyes. He walked around behind Bass, wrapped his arms around him and leaned forward to kiss his neck. "Hi, I missed you."
Bass stood from the desk and turned in Miles' arms. "Much better greeting."
Miles smiled and captured Bass' lips in a deep kiss. Bass moaned into the kiss and Miles pulled him closer, loving the feel of having Bass in his arms once again.
"You worried about me," Bass said against Miles' lips.
"You sound surprised. I always worry about you."
"Things are fine."
"That's not what Jeremy told me."
Bass shot a look at Jeremy who shuffled in his place by the door. "I'm going to go and leave you two to catch up and yeah."
"Traitor," Bass accused, smile teasing his lips.
Miles rested his hands on Bass' hips. "You going to tell me what happened?"
"One of the patrol groups caused some trouble in one of the settlements and I took care of it."
Miles cocked his head. "Out with it, Bass."
"Okay, the patrol group went out, and one of the younger guys got rejected by a girl. But he pushed it and her father got involved. The father attacked the guy, defending his daughter, and the young kid killed the father. The whole village nearly broke out into a fight, but Jeremy stepped in and put the kid in handcuffs. He told the girl she could come with them back to the base and get justice, but only if fighting didn't breakout. She agreed."
Miles rubbed his brow. Things like this were happening more and more. Men of the militia feeling as though they were more important, more entitled than they were. It was a problem he planned to fix, but things on the border had pulled him away.
"When they came back and explained it to me, I asked the girl if a life for a life would be enough for her. She agreed and I shot the guy. The rest of the patrol group was sent to the work camp."
Miles nodded slowly. It's exactly what he would have done, if he'd been here. He searched Bass' face, looking for signs of strain, of pain, of regret. There was nothing in his expression that showed distress. Miles smiled and pull Bass into his arms, kissing him deeply.
"Welcome home," Bass whispered as they broke apart.
Miles smiled softly. "I'm going to check on things, then I'm going to come back and give you a proper hello."
Bass smiled. "Hurry."
Miles gave Bass one final kiss before walking outside. He wandered to the stables, ensuring his horse had been tended to properly before going over to the medical tent, pleased to see it was mostly empty. He walked behind the men's tents, watching them mill around the camp. Most of them were smiling, joking, enjoying themselves. It was good to see Bass' actions hadn't upset morale. Maybe it meant they were beginning to understand the regulations he'd put in place. Miles didn't allow himself to think that maybe the men were becoming immune to the extreme violence, the way that he was, the way Bass appeared to be now.
"The general ordered another group be sent out to collect taxes. He won't allow one group to mess up the supplies for the men. He's really upset about some of the shit people are pulling. I don't think any of us will get away with anything, not unless we want our brains blown out or our throats slit."
"Yeah, the general really isn't in a forgiving mood these days."
Miles his smile behind his hand, he was glad to see he was being taken seriously, but he didn't use his gun to execute people, not anymore. Bass preferred using the gun. Realization dawned, and Miles' smile faded. He and Bass had become one person to the men. Miles made his way back to Bass and found him in the bedroom, dressed for bed.
"I overheard the men talking. They keep referring to The General, and I'm pretty sure they mean both of us."
Bass turned to face him, smiling softly. "Of course they do Miles. What did you expect? This is our world."
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