"Do you ever wonder when it all went wrong between us?" Ben asked Miles apropos of nothing. Miles couldn't keep track of time, how long has it been- a few days? Or only hours? They were sitting at the table in their parents' kitchen in Jasper now, Miles figured it was supposed to symbolize their childhood or relationship or something.
"No, I don't," Miles answered at last, knowing It won't go away if he ignores It. "Because you're not my brother."
"No, of course not, Bass was your brother, right Miles? But us? We were never that close, even though after mom got sick I practically raised you, couldn't really trust dad to it, with his drinking-"
"You're not Ben, you're some HAL knockoff that likes to mess with people's heads."
"We're pretty good at that, aren't we?" 'Ben' said with a smirk that looked foreign on his brother's face. "But you're avoiding the question. Why weren't we ever close, hmm? Were we just too different to relate to one other?"
"You're trying to play shrink now?"
"I just want to get to know you better, Miles."
"You're in my head, why even bother asking when you can find all the answers yourself?"
"It's more fun this way," 'Ben' smiled. "Were you trying to hurt me when you slept around with Rachel behind my back? When you took her to Philly? When you left her with Bass and Strausser? Were you that jealous of my life, that you had to try and steal it from me?"
"I'm done talking to you," Miles said gruffly, willing himself to wake up.
"If you were so jealous of Ben, why didn't you say something when you had your chance?" Miles looked up at the change in voice and was caught by Rachel's pleading eyes. "I would have left Ben for you."
"You deserved better."
"Is that why you dragged me away from my family?" The scene changed and they were in the dungeons in Philly, Rachel sitting on a chair, her hands handcuffed behind her back. "You loved me so much, you ruined my family, held me prisoner and tortured me?" 'Rachel' scoffed.
"Or maybe this is how you prefer me- locked up, tied up, weak," she sneered. "Oh, you must have loved those first few months in Willoughby, big strong Miles nursing poor, broken Rachel back to health?"
"You're not Rachel and you're wrong," Miles swallowed heavily. "Rachel was one of the strongest people I know. Bass had her for eight years and she never broke, not once and she always kept on fighting, kept on trying to fix things."
"Well, that's something you two have in common," 'Rachel' smiled. "Neither of you knows when to leave well enough alone, you kept trying to fix things and just ended up making things worse. You and Rachel should have stayed out of it, but you couldn't just let yourselves be happy and let someone else fight for once- if you had, maybe Rachel would still be alive."
"Someone has to stop you."
"And that somebody is you?" 'Rachel' laughed. "Oh Miles, not even your ego can be that big. Aaron, Rachel and Priscilla couldn't stop us, you really think that you can?"
"I have to try."
"Because Miles Matheson doesn't give up, right?" 'Bass' asked with a knowing smile. It was the Afghanistan desert and they were lying on the ground beneath a star-filled sky. "Except on me, because I was such a dark pit, Miles? The Republic was your idea, I just followed along, like a loyal dog. Maybe you should have put me down, if I was such a rabid dog, hell you could have let me do the job myself that night at the graveyard."
"You were too far gone-"
"Then you should have stopped me!" 'Bass' yelled, they were in Bass' bedroom in Philly and Miles had a gun in his hand, pointing it at the reclining figure. "You just stood there and watched me lose it after Shelley and the baby, instead of helping me."
"I did help you-"
"Oh really? Then why didn't you confront me after the Birthday Bombing if I went too far? You knew I did it all for you, that I transferred all my obsessions over to you after I lost my family, twice. You liked it, didn't you, Miles? Being the center of my universe? But I kept coming back for more abuse, so I guess the joke's really on me. All you know how to do is use and then discard people like trash."
"That isn't true."
"Oh no? Whatever happened to Kip, after he helped you guys, did you ever stop and wonder? And how about Jeremy- you never saw him again after Jasper, did you just figure he died when Philly got nuked? Wanna know how he really died? And let's not forget about Alec- you trained him, made him who he was and then sent him to be tortured by Texas, did you even feel a bit guilty about it?"
"What exactly do you want from me?" Miles shouted, the gun wavering. "You want me to say that it's all my fault, that I hurt everyone around me?"
"I want you to pull the trigger, Miles," 'Bass' said. "Put us both out of our misery."
"I can't kill you, Bass," Miles dropped the gun. "You're already dead."
"And I thought I'm the one that everyone dies on", 'Charlie' said casually, standing in the middle of a graveyard at sunset. "You got us all killed."
"I know," Miles said, his voice breaking. "I'm sorry."
"For me dying? Nah, that's on me," 'Charlie' said self deprecatingly. "I zigged when I should have zagged. You know, it's funny- after The Tower, I was pretty much just going through the motions, fighting, but knowing that it was futile. It wasn't until I killed Jason and Neville put a gun to my head that I realized I wanted to live."
"What are you still fighting for, Miles?" 'Charlie' asked curiously. "Not for me and mom or even Monroe, we're all dead, everyone is dead. All your life you've done nothing but run when things got too complicated- you checked out on my mom, ran from Monroe when you couldn't stop him, ran out on Nora- it's what you do best."
"I didn't run out on you."
"No, that's because I wouldn't let you," 'Charlie' grinned, walking around the graves, touching the markers, spelling out their names with her finger. "Remember what I was like when you first met me? You turned me into you- a hardened, cynical soldier, just like you did with Alec. You made Jeremy the kind of guy who would send his men to be slaughtered like Lemmings, you let Bass sink deeper and deeper into that pit you dug and my mom… You tore my family apart, Miles and then let me blame it all on her."
"I'm sorry," Miles sank down on the ground, facing Charlie's grave.
"Did you even know that I was practically suicidal after The Tower? Did you even care, or was it easier to just ignore it, as long as I could still be useful, as long as I followed your lead?"
"I couldn't help you-"
"You couldn't help anyone, you never could," 'Charlie' agreed. "Not that it ever stopped you from trying. Somehow, there's always a little bit of fight left in you, a little voice that won't let you give up, that tells you to keep fighting, to keep trying. It's become this reflex, you're just too stubborn to stop. Tell me Miles- why are you still trying? Who are you fighting for?"
"I don't… I don't know."
"We're all dead," 'Charlie said gently, crouching in front of him and laying a hand on his shoulder. "You lost, you have no more moves to make, no more family to fight for. Why don't you just give up? Aren't you tired of feeling guilty, of failing everyone? Won't it be so much easier to just let it all go?" She leaned closer until all he could see was her watering blue eyes and she whispered in his ear. "We can make it all go away and you can be with them again. We can make it so the Blackout never happened, everyone you love can be alive and happy. Don't you want to finally be happy for once in your life, Miles?"
"Yes," Miles choked out and felt her hands caress his face.
"Then close your eyes and let go," 'Charlie' instructed.
Miles felt his eyes close of their own accord and allowed himself to slip into darkness' warm and welcoming embrace.