Title: Leave My Mark on the World
Fandom: NBC's Revolution
Rating: PG or teen
Characters: Charlie, Miles, Nora and Aaron
Pairing: None, gen
Prompt: From nbc_revolution Community Prompt Table (007. Mark)
Summary: Post 1X7 "The Children's Crusade", Charlie muses on the M brand and what it means. References past episodes, especially 1X3 and 1X6.
A/N: Not beta'd and I haven't written in years (and I live in a Country where English shouldn't be my first language) so tread cautiously. And how exactly did I end up writing a mostly thought-stream from Charlie's POV?
"I'm fine," Charlie says for what must be the hundredth time that day.
"I know," Aaron says gently, applying Maggie's home made antibiotic to her right arm. "But we need to make sure it doesn't get infected," he glances quickly in Nora's direction and Charlie hears clearly what he won't say. 'Like Nora's wound did and after everything we went through…' So Charlie grits her teeth, but nods at him to continue.
She figures it's better for him to be so overprotective, rather than have another meltdown like earlier that day, when he saw her brand for the first time. He ranted and raved at the world in general and Miles specifically, throwing a tantrum about "How could you," and "-like cattle" and "Ben wouldn't have-". Charlie wasn't paying much attention and couldn't even hear if Miles said anything in return; it felt like there were jagged snakes crawling under her skin and she could see that her brand blistering.
"We need to take care of that," Nora said loudly enough to get through to Aaron and led Charlie towards the river. Aaron was immediately by her side, telling her it's going to be ok and she wanted to tell him she's not ten anymore and this isn't a sprained ankle, but the initial adrenaline rush of the boat was over and she just felt tired and numb. Aaron watched with rapt attention as Nora washed her arm, before she smeared one of Maggie's creams and bandaged it up.
When they hit the road again, Miles went up front alone and didn't say much to any of them; Nora covered their rear and Aaron walked besides her. "About before," he started to say apologetically. "I'm sorry I blew up like that. What they did to you… They don't own you, ok? They don't. They never will. And that… That thing is just an ugly scar, just a reminder of another thing you've survived." She was too tired to do much other than nod placatingly and offer a small smile.
Now she watches as Aaron re-bandages her arm and even though she can't see it, she can feel it- an M branded onto her skin, throbbing with her pulse. It doesn't hurt anymore, but it itches like hell and all she wants is to get it off, to tear the skin off and the damn mark with it. She puts her jacket on, mindful of her arm.
"Look at you, Aaron, going all Nurse Ratched on us," Miles mocks, the flames of the fire casting dark shadows across his face. He hasn't moved from his spot by the fire from the moment they set up camp, pretending not to watch Aaron and Nora patch her up. He hadn't said much, not that that was unusual, but there was an aggressiveness to his silence, as he occasionally took a sip from his flask. "I guess it's a good thing your nursing skills have improved since your last patient."
"Hey, man I'm just trying-"
"Don't pay any attention to him, he's just being an ass," Nora says, glaring in Miles' direction, before smiling encouragingly at Aaron. "You did a good job."
"Well, it's nice to know you're good at something," Miles says sardonically. "You know, other than lying and keeping secrets."
"I'd say I was sorry I didn't tell you, but I'm not. I didn't tell you, because I didn't trust you not to do something stupid, like- oh I don't know- trying to take it from me so you can destroy it."
"If Monroe gets his hands on that pendant-"
"I know, he'll become a Bond villain and put laser guns on sharks," Aaron pulls out the pendant from under his shirt collar and lets his thumb lightly brush its cool surface. "If this pendant can turn the power back on, if we can get electricity back- isn't it worth the risk?"
"Maybe that pendant can somehow bring everything back and maybe we can save the world," Miles smirks darkly, emphasizing his words with his flask. "But I can guarantee what will happen if Monroe gets his hands on it: He'll massacre hundreds if not thousands of people, he'll take over the other Republics and nobody will be able to stop him. He'll win and any hope your rebel buddies-" he aims the flask at Nora, "-ever had of a 'United States of America'? Will go down in flames together with anyone still resisting."
"We'll make sure it doesn't happen," Charlie says with steel in her voice. She tries to catch Miles' eye, but he quickly looks down at his hands. "My dad kept it all these years for a reason," she continues. "Monroe doesn't get to take this as well and use it to butcher more innocent people. We won't let him, we'll stop him."
Miles huffs a mirthless chuckle. "Sure we will." He throws down the flask in disgust and gets up. "You should get some rest, I'll go do a last sweep of the area."
"Miles-" Charlie moves to get up, but Nora stops her with a gentle arm on her shoulder. They watch in silence as Miles disappears into the bushes.
"He needs to be alone, to get it out of his system." Nora tells her with a final pat on the shoulder. Aaron tells them goodnight and lies down on his back, feeling the weight of the pendant against his chest. Or maybe it's the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"I get it," Charlie tells Nora after a few minutes of silence. "I know that Monroe would do terrible things if he-"
"It's not about the pendant," Nora sighs and rubs her eyes. "I mean, it is- but it's not just about that. I think he was mostly trying to pick a fight."
"Then, what? He's been acting strange ever since we got back from rescuing Peter."
"I think it's the brand," Nora looks at Charlie's arm pointedly. Charlie's hand clenches and she has this irrational desire to cover her arm or hide it behind her back, but she keeps it deliberately still.
"I'm ok," she says, because apparently that has become her new mantra.
"I know," Nora gives her a little smile that sees through her lies. "But I think it kills him a bit to see that mark on you. It symbolizes everything he ever did wrong, all the terrible things he's done."
"Yes, Charlie- I killed fathers and sons and husbands," she remembers him telling her at a barricaded diner not too long ago. She also remembers the look in his eye, the guilt in his voice when he asked her not to try and save Peter. "Charlie- what happens on that boat? That's my fault. What happened to Peter and Michael and their parents; and what's happening now to Danny? That is all because of yours truly."
"It was my choice," Charlie tells Nora with conviction. "He didn't want me to go, but I had to. And I'd do it all over again to save those kids."
"I know," Nora says evenly, "but Miles still blames himself." Silence stretches between them and Charlie isn't sure what to say or ask. Nora looks at Charlie's arm jacket in contemplation, before saying: "I think we can use this to our advantage."
"The Militia brand," Nora gestures at Charlie's arm. "We might need to infiltrate their camps at some point. I've got a bullseye on my back-literally- and Miles might get recognized."
"But they don't know what I look like, well, most of them," Charlie catches on to her train of thought. "And I have the brand."
"We'd just need to get you into a uniform and you'd be our man on the inside," Nora finishes.
"We can use this," Charlie says to herself, looking at her arm, before giving Nora a tiny smile. "Maybe it could do some good in the end."
"You should try and get some sleep," Nora gives her a small smile back. "Miles won't be back for a while. By tomorrow morning, he'll pretend this never happened and won't mention your arm again."
"Maybe I can talk-"
"You can't," Nora insists. "At least not tonight, trust me on this. If he wants to open up, talk about his 'feelings', he'll come to you." Nora lies down and closes her eyes. "I actually think you're growing on him."
Charlie doesn't respond, instead she lies down on her left side, trying not to move her right arm too much. She can feel the heat from the mark through her sleeve. She remembers Lieutenant Slotnick's words, as he prepared to brand her: "You see; Militia soldiers aren't just born, we make them." She also replays in her mind running him through with a sword and feels a perverse sense of joy.
Nora said that to Miles the brand symbolizes all of the terrible things he's done; Miles was in charge of the whole Militia once. His words ghost through her head: "Now you know why the Militia cannot be stopped- because they're mine." A spiteful part of her wonders whose idea it was to brand the soldiers like cattle- Miles or Monroe. They were his, that's what he said. He trained them; did he create the brand as well? Is she marked like an animal because of-
She stops herself from going down that path and takes a deep breath. She can't think like that, can't let herself blame him. It doesn't matter who invented it (and considering the fact that it's Monroe's Militia, she's willing to bet it's his idea). She can't think of Miles like that- he'll jump at the opportunity to hate himself, to give up on being a better person and just accept the monster he thinks he is. "Tell me I'm a monster, that I'm garbage. Miles Matheson- General of the Militia. Come on, I wanna hear you say it," he practically begged her to disown him once she found out he co-founded the Republic. She refused to say it and told him it's because she doesn't believe it. "Yes you do- how could you not? You don't understand."
She wants to understand. She wants to know how the Uncle who took her for a ride in her car and sang along to the blaring music; the man who was willing to sacrifice himself for her, Nora and a bunch of Rebels; the man who stopped her from killing an innocent man; the man who helped save those kids on the boat out of guilt… How could that man be General Matheson? How could he do all the things they say he's done, all the things he claims he did? She knows he's afraid to tell her- that he thinks if she finds out all the terrible things he's done, then she'll turn away from him. She wonders if that's what her dad did- if he looked at Miles with the same look he gave her the day he died, when she rushed back home with Danny in the middle of an asthma attack… That look of crushing disappointment that felt like a weight on her shoulders.
She wonders what her father would think about the person she's become. She remembers the stupid kid who thought you shouldn't kill a bounty hunter, because he's unconscious. She got on her high horse and convinced Miles to let him live, only for him to come after them later and nearly take Miles away. How long did it take her until she was ready to murder an innocent man to save Nora? She would have killed O'Halloran if Miles hadn't stopped her. She never thought she would become that person, but she almost did. How long did it take Miles? Did he have good intentions with the Militia and it all just went to hell? Was he trying to create something good, something stable- but Monroe corrupted everything? Or was it rotten from the beginning?
It doesn't matter though, because she's not turning away from him. Because despite his protests, he does give a crap and it's her job to make sure he keeps caring, keeps trying to do the right thing. She needs to think of him as two different people. There's General Matheson, the man who founded the Monroe Republic and did all of those terrible things; and then there's Miles- he's her family and he's messed up, but he's trying to fix some of the mistakes he's made.
Her fingers subconsciously follow the outline of the mark she can't see, drawing an M on her sleeve lightly. This can't be fixed. It's not like when that stupid bully broke her arm, or when she fell through the windshield of a minivan, trying to get a metal lunchbox she saw gleaming inside. She needed 3 stitches on her left forearm and banged her head; her dad was livid and forbade her from going scavenging for something that wasn't food. She didn't listen (she never did) and instead started storing her postcards in the box and hiding it outside. Those wounds healed eventually and didn't leave a discernable mark. This brand, this mark won't ever go away. But what does the mark even mean?
Aaron treats it like it's just another injury, just a burn- wash it, put on it antibiotics and wrap it up. It'll scar, but at least it won't get infected. Nora, always the pragmatic, thinks it's an opportunity- a chance to use the Militia's methods against them for the cause. Miles… Miles sees a reflection of his past, his dark side, his mistakes and failures. He can't even look at it or talk about it. She remembers the look he gave her on the boat when he saw the mark- it was more than pain or guilt, it was like a wounded animal, like someone ripped his soul to pieces.
And for her? It could be just a scar, just a letter- if she wants it to be. But she doesn't. She wants it to mean something. This is Monroe's Militia, Monroe's brand and he may not have ever met her, but he left his mark on her and not just physically. This mark will help her remember and focus on what's important.
It's not just about rescuing Danny anymore- that's still her mission, but she's not going to turn a blind eye to everything around her. And if they do rescue him- what then? Even if they kill Monroe, they can't kill the whole Militia single handedly. They can't go back home- that's the first place the Militia will look. She's not going to run and hide either. She's going to fight back.
This mark represents everything she's fighting against and for. She's fighting against the men who murdered her father and kidnapped her brother; the Militia that took a piece of Miles' humanity and the injustice of the Monroe Republic- the M gives all her rage and hate a target and a name. Monroe did all this and he's going to pay. But she can't ever forget what she's fighting for- she's fighting for Danny; for Miles' chance at redemption; for Nora's hope to try and bring the United States of America back.
Monroe may have left his mark on her, but she's going to decide what it really means. And she's going to make damn sure she'll leave her mark on him.