The weak light filtering into the room comes through broken blinds covering a filthy window. The floor is littered with trash. Everything smells like sour sweat, mildew and mouse shit and not necessarily in that order.
Charlie sits along one wall, her knees pulled up to her chin, her arms wrapped around her calves. Monroe is crouched next to the window, watching through the muddy glass. His body looks relaxed but she knows he’s ready to pounce. Has been since they took shelter here two hours ago.
They’d been arguing. That’s the reason they hadn’t noticed the clan sooner. She knows he blames her for distracting him. Blames her for the fact that they had to take shelter in this disgusting safe house.
She watches him warily. His eyes seem bluer in this room where stripes of muddy light shine across his face. Somehow his blue eyes make him seem more human. Recognizing Monroe’s humanity has become a bad habit.
The way he walks stiffly when he first wakes up. The way he growls before drinking his coffee. The way he murmurs quietly to the horses, settling their restless feet. The way he strips off his shirt in the evenings, practicing with his swords under a canopy of trees.
Charlie doesn’t want to know about his glitchy back or his caffeine addiction of his love of animals.
She definitely doesn’t want to know how his body moves when he fights, the waning sunlight glistening on straining muscles.
No. She doesn’t want to know him at all.
Occasionally his jaw clenches or his gaze turns distant. In those moments she knows he’s somewhere far away, reliving some long ago moment. From the way his shoulders tense, she guesses these walks down memory lane are not pleasant.
Chances are his daydreams aren’t that much different than his nightmares. He has his share of those too although they never talk about it.
Not that they talk much.
Not that she cares.
Old Charlie from Wisconsin? She would have cared. She’d have asked if he’s okay. Her brow would furrow in concern when she saw his pain. She’d ask if there was anything she could do to help.
But that was old Charlie. New Charlie doesn’t feel sorry for Monroe - no matter how dirty and decimated he might appear. New Charlie remembers the feel of her father’s blood on her hands. Remembers cradling her dead brother in her arms.
She has nightmares of her own and Monroe stars in most of them.
The fact that lately he has also starred in some of Charlie’s dreams that weren’t nightmares isn’t something she dwells on.
At least not very often.
Definitely not right now when the stripes of light showcase those vivid blue eyes. He glances her way. “I think we can go,” he says, his voice low and raspy. “Coast is clear.” He gets up and heads for the door, not bothering to see if she follows. He knows she will.
And she does.