'Have you seen my other T-shirt?'
Charlie was pulling clothes out of the bottom of her pack. A few feet away Bass grunted and looked over at her.
'Nope'. He looked pointedly over at Miles who was trying to look like he wasn't listening them.
Charlie finally found it wrapped around some clean underwear and shook it out smiling happily at Bass.
'Here it is'. Shooting a look of unconcern over her shoulder at Miles she picked up her clothes and wandered out back to wash and change into clean things.
Earlier that week Bass had been cleaning out his things, looking for a knife to replace the one he had lost in a short dirty fight that morning. He usually had a collection of knifes and weapons stuffed down amongst his things, hastily cleaned off and shoved down to be sorted through later. Miles had watched him sort through the spoils a thousand times before but today the ritual was laced with tension. Bass and Miles were eyeing each other warily as Bass tipped out the bottom of his bag.
Scattered among his things were some of Charlie’s things. A book she was halfway through, a collection of old postcodes she liked to sort through and dream over, a broken necklace she still loved. Miles raised his eyebrows at Bass who just shrugged and said nothing. It was 50/50 what would be pissing Miles off more, that something might be going on between them that he didn’t know about or that for once Bass wasn’t rushing to explain himself to Miles.
Truth be told Charlie had started using his pack as a kind of overflow for the stuff she couldn’t (be bothered) fitting into her own weeks ago. Somehow more and more of her clothes made their way into his bag all the time. She would stroll over when no one was looking but him and tuck things in, smiling widely at him knowing he would grumble but never complain.
It had been going on for weeks, starting by accident when they had had to make a rushed departure from one more no longer safe place and they had all just grabbed whatever they could, stuffing things into bags and running for cover. Later when they had stopped to catch their breath and recoup Charlie couldn't help but notice that Bass had saved most of her stuff. She had felt a strange thrill of intimacy seeing Bass pulling her things out of his pack. She had thanked him for saving her new jacket and felt his eyes on her back as she turned away shrugged it on.
Later that night he had followed her outside and they had clung quietly and desperately to each other. All the tension of the months of looks and longing finally wearing them down. There was so little privacy for any of them. Their mistakes and histories all played out in front of them all, all of the time. Neither Bass or Charlie had intended something to start between them but they had easily agreed whatever it was that they accidentally slipped into was to be only for them. No one else would need to know.
Rushed kisses and hurried moments had settled into something they both adored. They had become expert at quick leg shaking sex. Mouths bruising, fingers digging into hips and asses. Charlie couldn’t tell if Bass really just liked it standing or if that’s all they ever had opportunity for. Still nothing felt better than her legs wrapped around him, against a tree or a wall, clothes pushed hastily aside so as much skin could touch as possible. His hand pushed between them to touch her as she whispered soft sounds of encouragement, hot and wet into his ear.
They rarely acknowledged what happened between them in those moments. Once when Charlie had been shaken by a particularly gruesome day she had pulled Bass behind an old van, pressing her nose to his chest and just leaning against him, breathing deeply. Taken by surprise he had done nothing for a moment before bringing his hands up to rub her arms, leaning his chin down to rest on her head. Hearing Miles starting to swear and double back when he couldn’t see them Bass had pushed her roughly aside, a brief apology tracking through his eyes. Charlie had stumbled, eyes swimming and then taken a deep breath. She'd stepped around him and walked past Miles, catching up with the others.
By the end of a few weeks hard travel heading north Charlie seemed to have half of Bass' possessions in her pack and he had much more of hers. It sometimes made things difficult. They took a wry sense of pleasure from watching each other go through lengths to get what they needed from each other’s packs without anyone else noticing. They hid their smiles and tried not to catch the others eye. Really it would have been much easier just to carry their own stuff. Secretly they enjoyed the sense of sharing the newly acquired habits of using each others pack space brought them. As it turned out they both needed someone. They both needed something, private,secret and safe from the rest of the world.
But now it seemed that Miles had actually looked up long enough to notice something going on. Watching Bass sort through his and Charlie's things had confirmed his niggling doubts that either of them would ever consider each other in that way.
Miles leant towards Bass unsure and uncomfortable about how to proceed. Charlie wandered back towards them, curious and realised they were both just watching each other, waiting for the other to speak. Must have been a first for Bass. No one said a word until finally Charlie broke the silence.
‘What?’ Annoyed and running an impatient hand through his hair Miles looked at Charlie.
‘I said no, Miles.’
‘Charlie…’ he growled at her.
‘We are not talking about this.’ Charlie said and looked directly into his eyes.
‘There had better not be a ‘this’ to talk about’.
‘Well, good then… nothing more to say’. Charlie looked challengingly at Miles and made as if to walk away. Bass just laughed softly and went back to cleaning out his pack.
‘What the hell, Charlie?’ Miles looked at her anew, surprise written all over his face. ‘You can’t be serious, Charlie, you are practically living in each other pockets’.
Charlie stopped and thought for a moment.
‘Yes, I suppose so’.
'Well, you can't'.
Charlie reached up and rested her hands on his shoulders.
'Miles, just mind your own business'. It was liberating. As much as she had worried over someone finding out about them this wasn't so bad. It was only Miles. Not a man who talked much or wanted to upset the apple cart.
'Just stop Miles, I don't need you to get into this'.
His eyes bulged in disbelief and he began to try to say something. She laughed at the amazement on his face.
'Besides, I think my mom is looking for you'. She said slyly, enjoying his instant discomfort and they way his head whipped around to look for Rachel.
Bass stood up and stretched his back, tossing the book from his pack at Charlie before wandering off towards the fire. He caught her eye as he walked by her, one corner of his mouth lifting. She looked at the book in her hands flicking through its dog eared pages and turned back to Miles.
'Let's all just agree, nothing to talk about here, is there Uncle Miles?' she moved away from him to sit she ended the conversation, ignoring the dissatisfied scowl on his face.
He let out a huge frustrated sigh and looked up at the sky. He looked one last time at Charlie, unsure of what to say or do.
But Charlie had found her page and was clearly no longer interested in anything he had to say. Sitting in the last of the sun resting against Bass' pack she began to read.