Bass found me under a tree. "You're going to be miserable tomorrow," he said.
"I already am," I said. I stood up and pulled at my clothes, which were soaking wet and stuck to my skin. The tree I was under provided a little coverage but we were still being drizzled on and we had to stand close to stay under the branches. "You didn't have to come out in the rain, I was going to come back. I just needed to get away from her for a little bit."
"I thought you said the two of you got along," he joked.
"We didn't talk much. Did you leave her alone back there?"
"I think we came to an understanding."
"You threaten her?" I asked. He shrugged. "Works like a charm."
"Do you believe her?" He asked suddenly.
"About what?" I asked confused.
"What she said about me? Maybe she's on to something."
"I don't know. Does my opinion even matter? It's too late now, at least for me, she was right about that. No matter what happens, I've tossed all my chips in now." I leaned against the tree trunk. "Anyway, I don't think I'm at liberty to chose my own side. It's really down to which side wants to forgive me, I've betrayed them all at this point." I flicked my eyes up to his and he closed the gap between us. "Does it matter?" I repeated quietly.
I slid my arms behind his neck as he pulled me closer to him. We were inches apart and I tilted my head up and leaned in to press my lips to his. It reminded me of a movie, kisses in the movies always seemed to happen in the rain.
He leaned back and looked at me, his arms still around my back. "I asked because you and your opinion matter to me."
"I think by definition that rules out sociopath," I told him. We both laughed. "We should probably go check on Charlie."
We rode back to Willoughby over night and arrived early the next morning. As we approached the town I realized I had actually missed the place a little bit. It wasn't Savannah, nothing would ever compare to my home, it wasn't even Philadelphia, but it was something constant. I needed constant in my life after everything that had happened.
"What's that?" Charlie asked. "Hand me those," she said, reaching for Monroe's binoculars. "I don't believe it."
"What?" I asked.
"Look for yourself." She handed them to me and I looked at the town through the lenses. "They're already here."
"The Patriots," I mumbled.
"They might already have my mom," Charlie said. She started to head towards the town.
Bass looked at me and I shrugged; if she wanted to walk in there unprepared I wasn't going to stop her. "You can't just storm in there, they have the town. We have to be smart about this. Scope it out."
"He's right," I said indifferently.
We were interrupted by the sound of running horses. Charlie snatched back the binoculars to take a closer look. "Who the hell are they?"
"It's not like they'll recognize you," Charlie said. "As long as we can get past the check point, we'll blend in. Other than Aaron and my family, everyone knows you as Elizabeth Bennett, you wouldn't have to worry about them blowing your cover."
"Point taken, but I still don't think we should just waltz right in the front door," I told her. We were crouched behind an old tool shed close to the gates.
"Grandpa's house is on the edge of town. The fence over there has a hole in it, if the Patriots haven't closed that up yet we can get in there."
I nodded and we looped around the town. Willoughby had probably been pretty small before the blackout, but now it was condensed to a few streets surrounding town square all enclosed in a fence, a few people had still lived outside the fence before we'd left but it looked like most of those houses had been abandoned now. Charlie's grandfather's house was on the last street before the fence and there'd been a hole in the fence since we first arrived. No one bothered to fix it because Willoughby was in the middle of nowhere, you'd completely miss the place if you didn't know where you were going.
Charlie grinned when we reached the hole. "For once something actually went right for us." She pushed back the fence and we slid in. We went up to the house but no one was inside. "Do we wait here or do we go into town?" She asked.
"Town," we answered at the same time.
"Stick to the lesser used streets, don't make a spectacle," I told her.
She rolled her eyes. "I know what I'm doing, Ciara."
"It's my life on the line, not yours."
She shrugged. "Are you going to lecture me some more, or do you want to go find Miles?"
I walked past her towards town. Right before we stepped onto the next street a group of Patriots walked by. Charlie made a face like she'd smelt something foul. I kept my eye out for Miles. We walked past a building and I glanced in the window, through an open door I could see men talking in a back room, one of them stood up and started to leave the room.
"Duck in that alley up there," I told Charlie. "I think I saw Miles." We stepped into the alley and leaned against the wall waiting. After a few minutes Miles walked past us. Charlie kicked an empty can onto the street and hit him in the leg. He turned around and I grinned at him.
"Hey, Miles," I said. He stepped into the alley and hugged Charlie and me.
He ruffled Charlie's hair. "Been awhile, kid. Did you keep this one out of trouble?" He asked her, pointing at me.
"Try me keeping her out of trouble," I said.
"Oh please," Charlie said.
"You were wrong, we don't make a good team," I told him.
"Not getting along and not being a good team are not the same thing," he said. "Now why are you hiding in an alley?"
"We should go somewhere away from all these people," I told Charlie. She nodded and we headed back the way we came, through the fence and to an old barn.
"Seriously, what's going on with you two?" He asked. Charlie reached into her bag and pulled out the wanted posters.
"Well I'll be damned," he said looking them over.
"We took them from a bounty hunter," I told him.
"I don't get it. What do they want with you and Rachel?" Miles asked.
"I guess they're saying Georgia had something to do with the bombings," I said.
"These guys know who hit the button," Miles said, echoing Bass. "Come on, let's go show these things to Rachel." He turned to head back to the town.
"Wait," I said. "We need to show you something else."
"Come with us," Charlie said, motioning us farther into the countryside. Charlie led us back to the place we'd left Bass. "Promise me you aren't going to freak out," Charlie said as we crossed the creek.
"Not exactly a promise, but ok," I said.
"Okay?" Charlie confirmed with me. I shrugged.
"Miles," Bass said, cutting him off. Miles stared at him for a moment before starting towards him. Charlie and I both stepped quickly in between them.
"You brought him here," Miles said looking between Charlie and me. "Why did that seem like a good idea?" I started to speak but he held up a hand, stopping me. "You I understand. Why'd you let her bring him here, Charlie?"
"She wasn't really open to negotiating," Charlie said.
"You need to leave," Miles told Bass. "You can stay here, Ciara, but he has to go."
"We need his help, Miles," I said calmly.
"Let's go, Charlie," Miles said, turning around.
"Miles, wait," Charlie called after him.
Miles turned around and walked back towards Bass. "I don't want your help, Bass," Miles said, addressing him for the first time. That was progress, right? "I should kill you." Okay, maybe not.
"You can't do this on your own," Bass told him. "You need me."
"You want to help me? Go away." He walked away.
"Damn it, Miles, listen to him!" I yelled after him. "Maybe it doesn't bother you that these people are responsible for the deaths of a hundred thousand people but it bothers me. They killed my dad, he's dead, gone, and I'll never see him again. I want revenge, Miles. I want blood." I groaned. "I don't know how to make you angry. He was your friend. Philadelphia was your city; you know what, that's gone too. If I thought Bass and I could take down these sons of bitches on our own, do you think we'd be here right now, Miles? We need you and you need us."
"Ciara-" Miles started.
"It's always you and me, Miles," Bass said. "The two of us together is our best chance. I'm asking for a truce."
After a tense moment Miles finally nodded. "Fine." I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath, until I could breathe again. "You came at a good time. The Texas rangers are here, this is the perfect time to make our stand against the Patriots."
"Why can't we just get my mom and run?" Charlie asked.
"Run where?" Miles asked. "Is there any place we can go that is out of their reach?"
"There are boats in Savannah, right, Ciara? Boats we can pay to take us to England or wherever."
"I don't run," I told her.
"You guys are talking about starting a war."
"That's smart," Bass said. "We have the Texans fight the Patriots and we just sit back and enjoy the show."
"This is crazy!" Charlie protested.
"How else do you propose we take down a government, Charlie?"
I rolled my eyes. "What do you need to convince the Texans to go to war?" I asked Miles.
"Proof the Patriots are as bad as we think they are," he told me. "I'm supposed to have something to show him by tonight."
"Then let's get our proof."
Miles led us along the tracks away from town. Bass dropped back and I slowed my pace to walk with him. "What?" I asked.
"You aren't a fifteen year old girl. Don't pretend like you aren't in a bad mood, it isn't cute."
"You're the kind of person who put yourself in danger to save someone you barely know, you don't let people walk into dangerous situations by themselves. You kill when it's necessary, and avoid it when you can. You don't stab unconscious men just because you feel like it. When you killed my men on you way back to Atlanta, you apologized to their widows when you returned. Instead of hating you, they hated me for putting you in that situation. Your entire platform is based on reuniting the United States through discussions, not wars. Hell you were going to marry a guy you'd never met so you could start putting this country back together and keep it from going to war." He looked me in the eyes. "What happened to you?"
"What happened to me?" I asked incredulously. "I've lost everyone. My own soldier shot my aunt and she died in my arms. Garrett and my dad are dead because I didn't have the nerve to say I thought Randall was bad news. I was too nice to say it. I've lost count of how many times I've been shot at. A family I thought I loved left me for dead, though to be honest I only have myself to blame for that one. I'm down to one remaining biological family member and I have no idea where to even begin looking for him. On top of all of that, I'm absolutely terrified I'm going to lose you and Miles." I took a deep breath. "So tell me why I should still care about what happens to anyone else? No one was looking out for me. If you're allowed to change, so am I."
"I'm sorry, I know the last year and a half have been hard on you."
"Do you like her better?" I asked. "Who I was before? You can tell me the truth."
"You inspired me to change, maybe now we can change together."
"No promises I'll ever be her again, she was naïve. You're only young and stupid once."
"I wouldn't want her back."
"This is the place," Miles called from up ahead.
"What are we looking for?" Charlie asked. I looked around; it was an abandoned train yard there weren't a lot of places for our proof to be hiding out.
"It was filled with prisoners," Miles said.
"Well it isn't anymore," she mumbled. She walked along the tracks away from Miles and Bass. I followed her for a bit before looping back behind the train cars where Miles and Bass were talking.
"You're a dark pit that I spent too long trying to get out of, I'm not letting you pull me back in," Miles told Bass.
"Uh huh," Bass said, I couldn't see his face but I could tell from his tone he didn't put much stock in Miles's words.
"I won't let you take Ciara down with you, she's as much family to me as Charlie is. She's been through a lot, if you aren't going to stick around then you should tell her now before it's too late."
"I believe she's the one who left me, not the other way around," Bass said. There was a pause. "But, I wouldn't do that to her. You may not want me around but I'll be here until she tells me otherwise."
"Oh great, Ciara has one of the most dangerous men in the world on a leash," Miles said.
"It's not much, but I found some wagon tracks," Charlie said. I walked around the train car and joined the group.
Miles nodded. "Lead the way."