Monroe's new headquarters are more modest than baroque splendour of Independence Hall, but he's as paranoid as he ever was, Charlie curses, glaring at the ceiling in pure frustration. She's been locked in his office for half an hour now, and the only glimmer of possibility she can see is the air vent directly over the vast desk.
Not as grand as the reddish-brown monstrosity he had in Philadelphia, she remembers with a shudder. Probably just as well, for what she's got in mind.
There's not even anything lying around to help her pry at the screws, the bastard. He'd disarmed her himself, sure hands delving into her hair and sliding under the line of her bra in search of the various blades she'd become adept at concealing. Not adept enough to fool someone who knew her every trick, however. Hell, he'd taught her most of them.
Taught her not to waste time, too, she reminds herself, and jumps up onto the desk to feel around the edge of the vent. There's a screw missing, she notes, and the grate is slightly loose, so if she tugs a bit …
She's on the third screw when the door flies open and he strides into the room, jerking to a halt as he finds her scrambling down off the desk. He'd been almost genial to that point, rueful at the change in circumstances that had them on opposite sides again after several years of fighting together, and apologetic at the need to keep her from carrying the news of the coup to Miles. But apparently trying to escape meant no more nice General Monroe.
“Really, Charlotte? A ceiling vent is the best you can do?” he sneers, then comes to stand directly in front of where she's sitting on the desk, scowling at him. She kicks out before she can think better of it, and he grabs her foot quicker than she could have imagined possible. She'd forgotten, she realises a moment later. She'd forgotten this smiling, sharply uniformed politician was still Bass Monroe, her scruffy, unpredictable lion of a warrior.
“Do I need to tie you to the damn chair?” he growls, yanking at her leg so suddenly that her ass slides across the shiny wood. She catapults forward with nothing to stop her except the solid wall of his body, leaving him nestled into the v of her thighs. Half hard, she gulps.
She would have taken that as an insult, once. Now she forces herself to see it as a warning. But he's still Bass, and she's still Charlie, so she can't quite stop the gasp that forces its way out of her mouth, or the rush of heat that takes her when his mask slips for a moment. The man looking back at her then is achingly familiar, eyes blazing with the hot throb of hunger and that awful, terrifying devotion.
But then he blinks and General Monroe seizes command. He pins her to the desk with his lower body, freeing his hands to fist in her hair. Charlie's scalp stings as he yanks her eyes up to meet his, then looms over her, nose to nose, to enunciate every deathly cold word.
“Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. You know me better than that. Do you really need proof that there is no escape from this place? No way out? Go on then. Take out the screws. Lift the cover off. See where it goes.”
Hope dies, so she simply sneers at him, refusing to show her chagrin.
“Stand up, bitch!” he orders, and her legs give her no choice, knees forcing her up to standing, arms already reaching for the screws. Her fingertips are bleeding in seconds, but she knows better than to ask for a screwdriver (although the thought of his fury if she had makes her smile).
The grate comes away quickly, and she looks down on him, one eyebrow raised. But he's still insistent on his farce, and seizes her around the waist to boost her up into the cavity. It's blocked just a few feet beyond, she sees. Bars to keep anyone from going anywhere – in the goddamn roof.
“Paranoid much, Monroe?” she can't help but sneer, and as always, her scorn goads him like a whip. She's falling suddenly, barely catching herself on her forearms to dangle from the cavity, legs kicking uselessly as he steps away.
“Hardly. Just figured that one day, I might have a Matheson in here. And just in case it was less beer and skittles and more poison in my fucking whiskey, I'd be ready,” he snaps. “Know how you all love a good escape attempt, but newsflash, kid. It's not happening. You're staying right here. No one's coming for you. And I've sent the fucking guards away, Charlie. Want to know why?” He's practically hoarse by time he pauses, control deserting him one word at a time.
“Because you're mine. To do whatever I fucking want with. So now's the time to learn to behave. Or risk the consequences,” he says, and something in her knows he's begging her to cooperate, to just let it be.
But she used to be a Matheson.
Charlie ignores the burn in her arms to lash out with both legs, lassoing him around the neck and catching him in the grip of her thighs and twisting. For a moment, two, six, she thinks it worked, but then his arms are forcing her legs apart, bracing them with his forearms and shoulders as they twist together in an intimate parody, his face pressed deep into her crotch.
And then he bites at her, teeth blunt through the denim, but the scrape of it is enough to send electricity up her spine, and expel the breath from her lungs. He snorts in satisfaction, then risks a hand to rasp his fingernails alongside the seam of her jeans in a desperate back and forth that has her legs tightening around him for a very different reason. And she's wet. So wet that's he's going to know any minute, she panics, and closes her eyes in mortification as she feels his fingers start to slide.
“Slippery already, Charlie? Still so easy? Thought you hated the General. What was it you called me? Double-crossing psychopath? Did it always do that for you?”
She has a sudden flash of him in a different uniform, shorter hair, smoother face. Mesmerised by the gun in her face. Then later, after New Vegas, a rifle pointed at her back while every nerve ending in her body sang.
Yes. Yes, it did.
She'd been totally fucked from the start.
“Do you remember my desk in Philly? That ugly old thing with all the fancy shit? Do you even wanna know how close I came to dragging you in there and bending you over it? My best friend's sweet, brave niece, and all I could think about was ripping off those tight, tight pants and getting myself balls deep,” he snarls. She's frozen by the lust in his voice, the confession of something she's long suspected, and barely yelps when he boosts her into the air, lifting her free of the vent before sliding her down his body, slower than sensible, long moments of madness before her feet finally touch the floor.
She should step away. Make a break for the door, even.
Instead, she ignores the clamour of common sense and her outraged pride, and turns her back on him. Unbuttons her jeans, and slowly pushes them down her legs, before folding herself forward onto his desk. She should have taken off her shirt, too, she thinks idly, but her nipples are so hard that she can feel the smoothness of the polished surface titillating them as she waits, his shocked silence abrading her nerves.
She looks back over shoulder when she can no longer bear the humiliation. “Well?”
He stammers. She'd grin if she wasn't so desperately on edge.
“Cha- Charlotte. I was just screwing with you. I wouldn't ...”
“So you need me to beg?”
The jangle of his swordbelt hitting the ground nearly drowns out the rasp of his zipper, but the heat looming behind her is unmissable. His cock touches her first, bumping wildly against her thighs as he grabs at her hips, tilting her ass to expose her fully. She can feel cool air kissing her slit, and the heat of his stare roasting her as he brushes his cock from side to side, slicking it in her juices, but not pushing inside. Not yet.
“I can't be gentle,” he says through gritted teeth, and she knows he's offering her the chance to back out. The chance to say no.
“Maybe that's not what I want from you. From him,” she admits helplessly, and pushes her legs as far apart as she can manage, shameless. (Three years this has been burning her alive. She has no shame left.)
Fucking Bass had been one thing, they were perfectly matched warriors and brothers-in-arms and family forever, but the General, the General … that had been raw, unholy lust.
Still was, she thinks, and bucks backwards, impaling herself. He chooses the same moment to slam into her, yanking her towards him so that her fingers scrabble for purchase on the shiny lacquer, and her nipples burn with delicious friction.
Everywhere burns, her body no longer used to his massive girth, struggling to adjust as he pistons in and out, faster and faster as her body clutches at him, shock and resentment and that terrible, relentless desire that has her mewling for him, panting his name with every thrust. Charlie spreads her arms wide, abandoning any pretence at control, welcoming the bruises and the abrasions and the battering ram inside of her with hot, thankful tears. It doesn't last long – it can't, not after so long apart – and he doesn't pull free of her when she starts to ripple around him, doesn't even try to. Instead, he floods her with spurt after spurt of terrifying possibilities, all the ways they could fuck it up and get it wrong and be the world's worst-ever parents, the old warmonger and his unforgiving shrew of a sometimes-wife.
He collapses over her, dragging in lungfuls of air as if he hadn't taken a breath since he first saw her again. Maybe they had reset the clock, Charlie's endorphin-clouded mind offers. Maybe they'd erased the six months since she'd walked out, the eleven weeks since she'd heard about him seizing the reins in Texas, and the four she'd spent trying to infiltrate his camp.
The two days since she'd been captured and thrown into the cages by a brutish pair of jailers unaware of who she was. The hours since he'd shot them, one after the other, a bullet for every bruise they had left.
The suspense-filled minutes that yawned between them after he frogmarched her into his office, left her alone to try for escape, then came back.
“You came back,” she murmurs into the battered woodgrain, and feels his lips twitch against her neck. That reluctant, resented Bass Monroe smile.
“Technically, you did,” he reminds her, and they'll be fighting over this for months, she knows. Who left who, who came back first.
Who got to sit behind the big, shiny desk, and who got to stand in the background, pretending not to run things.
Who would do the midnight feeds, and bounce the baby through murder hour, and walk the floor on fussy nights, when their baby didn't care that Mom and Dad had Congress nipping at their heels and a fledgling sort-of-democracy to run.
Charlie gathers her energy enough to reach out to pluck a sheet of paper from the desk set teetering on the far edge of the desk. The fancy pen is harder to grab, but she manages it, and has scrawled half of her message before he notices what she's up to.
“Figured out how to handle the General,” it reads.
“Tell him to bring the desk.”
His office can be right next to the nursery, Charlie decides with a smirk.