Switchboard occurred in the heart of Spring, when the Commonwealth was once more rolling through its seasons.

When their agents, skilled and heavy in the field, were supposed to come back and gush about the new Radstag yearlings that were bouncing about in the abandoned city streets. When they were supposed to be taking bets on which swollen Radstag doe in the herd would be the next to give birth- and whether or not she would have an anomaly like the year before, and have a yearling born with just one head.

"It's just not right," Whispers had muttered late one night, coiled close to the door of the donut shop as he lit a fresh cigarette. His eyes were watching the latest Radstag addition kick and hop its way through the street on thin legs. It's single head bouncing in time with its body. "I mean, how's it gonna see it's surroundings?"

Drummer Boy chuckled slightly at the odd sense of criticism in the man's voice.

"You work just fine with one head," Glory reminded, seated in the broken window sill. There was amusement on her face at the rare scene of fun the Radstag herd showed as one of the adult males began kicking and hopping just the same as the yearling. "Besides, it's got the herd to protect it- just like you do."

Whispers muttered something under his breath and shook his head- a wry smile caught on the corners of his lips.

But it was winter now; the first snow of the season having fallen about a week before.

There were less agents in the field now, less talk in the tight corridors of the catacombs. Everyone seemed more focused on bundling for warmth, and rubbing their hands together to conserve frozen fingertips. There was no talk about how the Radstag herd had grown larger now, or how they left visible evidence of their presence everywhere they went. No talk about the single-headed yearling who had grown into the tallest of the males- no bragging about how its powerful kick had downed a Yao Guai preying on its kin.

There were a few muttered words of relief that at least the Yao Guais were gone for the winter, that at least the Deathclaws would be few and far between.

Not that the overgrown reptiles were normally an issue for their agents.

The underground catacombs, while far from being as comfortable as Switchboard, had provided them with enough comfort and shelter. It provided them with relief during the swelling summer, and even now it provided some minor insulation during the nightly cold spells. So they couldn't really complain- even if everyone wanted to. They all had an issue with the place, but... safety was safety.

The catacombs kept them hidden, kept them out of sight, so everyone just kept their mouths shut and went on with their business.

...

The cold mornings were the hardest though, and that was when Drummer Boy heavily dealt the trade of safety with the sacrifice of comfort.

The chill brought a swell of pain that felt tight in his back- one that throbbed as he got to his feet, and felt like static when he rubbed his palm over it. Even underneath the layers of his clothing, he could feel the knot of scar tissue that ached and controlled his body.

"You're lucky to be alive," Carrington had spoken, quietly and not as abrasive as he usually was. His fingers were tedious and steady as they put fresh sutures into his bloodied, bruised back- carefully sewing closed the wound left by an Institute rifle. It had struck close to his hip, and even closer to his spine. "If that Courser had been a foot closer..."

A foot closer, and the energy shot would've blown right through him- burning organs and tissue as it passed through his back and out his stomach.

But it didn't. The energy shot, as advanced as it was, still had a limitation; it could only travel for so long before it burnt out. And Drummer Boy just managed to catch the tail end of it- catching the shot across his back before the energy dissipated just under a thin layer of muscle.

The pain had been agonizing, and the first couple of hours following the hit had him convinced that it had paralyzed him.

"Only the Institute would fire upon the retreating."

Retreating... such an easily acceptable substitute for running away.

But everyone said the same thing about Switchboard- that running away was the smart thing, was the only thing for them to do. It was for the best of the Railroad, for the best of their agents, to survive another day and pick up the pieces when the time was right again.

But Drummer Boy thought back to Switchboard, back to the sound of gunshots and screaming; the two common things that usually kept him awake most nights. He thought of the blood and bodies that fell down around him- of the cries that echoed out behind him as the place came down room by room. Their security systems did little to even slow the Coursers down, but... it had been enough to buy them time, no matter how little.

... All that time running, but it sure as hell didn't feel like survival.

It made him feel like a coward instead.

Fingers rubbed gentle circles over the knotted tissue- now a little numbed down by the false warmth from a shot glass of Bourbon.

"Better in the back than in the ass," Glory whispered her usual stunted words of comfort as she smoked on a cigarette that she hated; a bad habit she had picked up from Dez. Her hands, steady and firm on a minigun, were shaking in the hold of a thin joint. She'd never admit to it, but one could see the trembling of her fingers as she moved to retrieve the cigarette from her lips. "Could've been like Deacon."

He tried not to laugh, knowing it would only bring pain to the numbed portion of his back- but he let out a stammered breath in response. "You know he's lying about it," Drummer Boy whispered in return, trying to remain as still as he could against the thin mattress underneath him.

"God, I hope he is."

The pain was just a reminder that he was still alive, and still working- that there was still more for him to do here.

But even the Bourbon couldn't stop him from wishing he had been a foot closer, that it had been a killing shot instead. But the thought crossed him only momentarily before he brushed it aside, and picked up the latest report he needed to study.

And even though it was different, even though it was new... it still detailed the same story over and over again.

They were short on people, they were short on agents; the field was just too big for the amount of people they still had on board. It didn't help that PAM was shooting out more algorithms as of lately- something out in the Commonwealth was stirring up her circuits, and she wasn't liking any of it. With hope it wasn't more Institute activity, but it was hard to be certain.

Drummer Boy could see the annoyance of it all on Glory's face as the woman departed from PAM's room.

"More trouble?" he questioned, although he already knew the answer to it.

"Like you wouldn't believe," Glory answered, short and brisk, restrained on her tongue, as she walked behind him; the back of her hand tapped gently against the back of his ribs as she walked by. "PAM predicts there's something heading our way soon, and she wants us to stay alert. Dez wants us to keep guard out front just in case."

Right.

Drummer Boy sighed and tossed the report aside, before he grabbed his hat from his desk and slipped it back on. He followed Glory up the stairs and out the front to the small entrance to the catacombs- hidden away behind a sealed door. Whoever had put that mechanism in place was smart, and had probably done so to protect the resting dead down here; it was almost a shame that they were able to crack the code and get in anyways.

Guard duty wasn't particularly fun, but they all had to pull their weight- and if PAM was worried about something, than they all had reasons to be worried as well.

There was a deeper chill in the air out front, one that tugged at his scar once more, before he reached for the cigarettes in his jacket pocket. If they were going to be waiting out here for... God knows what, he might as well do something relaxing. Plus Desdemona didn't like them smoking inside of the catacombs- said it clogged up the air since the place lacked proper ventilation.

Pulling out a cigarette, Drummer Boy balanced it on his lips and slid the box back into his pocket- before he felt Glory pluck the joint from his lips and stick it between her own.

"You owe me," he noted, giving an easy sigh of defeat as he fished out a second cigarette without removing the pack again. "You just waste them."

"Do you actually like smoking?" she pressed.

Fingers fumbled for the lighter he kept in the same pocket, before he drew it out next. "No," Drummer Boy answered, as he struck a quick flame before he held it out to light her smoke first. "I don't think anyone does really, but... it's safer than drinking."

Glory made a humming sound from the back of her throat in agreement as she held still while her cigarette caught red. And as soon as the tip kept heat, she leaned in and pressed it to his- lighting his at the same time, and saving on lighter fluid. Matches were easy to come by, but a hassle to deal with; a good lighter though, now that was a commodity.

The woman took in a quick breath as he started to pull away, before she blew a cloud of fresh smoke into his face. He coughed slightly at the action, which soon dissolved into a brisk laugh to match hers, before he dropped the lighter back into his pocket.

"Fuck you, Glory."

She took a second breath and laughed with rolling smoke on her tongue. "It's been a rough morning," she replied, and the tired dullness in her words spoke the easy truth in them.

"That it has been."

There was a pocket of silence as they stood there- both unsure of what they were doing here, unsure of what PAM or Dez even talked about anymore, unsure of what either leader wanted them to do. But they let the faint heat from their cigarettes starve off the cold for as long as it could.

Drawing in another breath of smoke, Drummer Boy paused and held it in his lungs as something caught his attention. Smoke escaped in thin wisps from his lips as he listened in- hearing the faint scattering of footsteps echoing down the corridors outside. Heard the quiet tap of a gun, no doubt getting rid of their feral ghoul neighbors.

"Glory," he whispered, as he dropped his half-finished cigarette to the floor and stubbed it out. "Someone's coming."

"You sure?" Glory knew better than to ask, than to question him- but she did it anyways out of her own need for validation. For her own need to hear him tell her with confidence.

"Too brisk and steady to be a ghoul," Drummer Boy answered, listening intently to the way the steps tracked closer still. "Too coordinated, and heavy on the heels. Could be someone who just managed to pass by, but it's definitely a person."

"I'll get Dez."


No one really knew what PAM talked about half the time, but... nine times out of ten, she had a reason to be believe. She was the best defense they had, the best way to get the upper hand in most situations; they didn't have a choice but to follow her. So when PAM told them of an impending, unknown variable, a rogue- a threat- they took it close to heart.

Drummer Boy expected a Raider, a Gunner, someone who would come in quiet with guns blazing. After all, if it was an Institute Synth, or Courser, or spy, PAM certainly would've picked them out by now.

But the threat came in the form of a man, less then dressed for the cold weather; a man dressed in little more than jeans and a plaid, button-up shirt with a loose jacket thrown on for added measure. His skin was red from the chilly winds, and the occasional flex of the fingers at his side hinted that they were more than a little cold. He hardly looked to be a threat, but looks were deceiving, and couldn't be trusted.

So when Desdemona motioned for him to stand down and allow the newcomer to approach, Drummer Boy thought the woman had lost her mind. She had gotten them out of Switchboard, gotten them regrouped and settled in again, even got their feet back on the ground, so he knew she wasn't one to make a rash decision.

But this... this seemed like a rash decision.

A man caught in the webs of the Commonwealth, unable to give a straight answer to anyone about anything seemed like a recipe for disaster. It was clear he kept his cards close to his chest; he refused to give any more to a question than what was necessary, but at least he was honest in saying that the unattainable information was classified. He could've lied, and try to play off that he didn't know this, or that he couldn't say for certain why he was here, or what business he had with the Institute.

All he said was that he needed to find his son- and that he needed to be quick.

It was unnerving, and suspicious, but... the bloodied chip in his hand was enough to win the Alpha over. It was enough to win most agents over. Taking down a Courser was a big deal, and within their ranks, Glory was really the only one who had been successful in doing so.

Drummer Boy swallowed hard and lowered his gun- catching eyes with Glory as she reluctantly did the same. If anything, it seemed to put the newcomer to ease for the time being- if only to put them more on edge.

But he had trust in Desdemona, and this guy... didn't seem that bad.

If anything, Glory could easily take him out if things went to shit.


Charmer.

A rather... odd moniker for a male agent, but it wasn't like he had any place to stand on it.

Codenames didn't always make sense; they were just there to create a persona, to create a different person within the Railroad. It helped to hide them; it gave them something to hide behind in some cases. It didn't really matter in the long run. Codenames didn't often last long around here anyways- or rather, the person the name was stuck to didn't.

Made no difference what the man chose his name to be. (After all, Deacon had had his fair share of horrible names- just so he could hear Desdemona refer to him by them, much to the woman's dismay).

As long as this guy got the work done, there was no reason to linger on his given name.

Still, Drummer Boy couldn't help but to think of the man though- to think of Charmer. Of how one minute, they held the guy at gunpoint, and the next, he was doing all their unmanned runs for them. He was a temporary, improperly-trained Heavy who could still give Glory a run for her money. And the man did it all without question, without hesitation.

And after the hell they had just gone through with Switchboard, it seemed like a good thing that this man had suddenly fallen into their laps.

Well, he was either a good thing, or a bad omen, either or.

"Drummer Boy."

He didn't need the sound of acknowledgment.

Drummer Boy already knew that Charmer was coming back down the catacombs long before Charmer even knew that he was standing at the bottom of the stairs. Waiting for him, like he always did- like he did with every returning agent.

Charmer was tall with a fitted frame- not overly broad, but there was definitely some kind of training behind his firm physique. He had black hair, long and slick, pulled back and up behind him; a 'ronin' style as Glory had phrased it, and later claimed that she had seen it in an old fashion magazine. It only seemed to push the fact that Charmer was indeed from two-hundred years in the past- after all, not many people kept their hair long anymore. Usually because of the issue of hygiene, but also because it was an easy target to grab in the heat of a fight.

He had a strong jaw- not square, but not too sharply cut either; it balanced well with his visible cheekbones, and visibly broken nose. Blended well with the heavy curve of his throat, which provided an unique profile from any angle.

The man had dark eyes at a distance, but up close and in the right light, one could see the hazel highlights to them. Charmer was careful with his eyes too- always sweeping out his surroundings the moment he stepped foot into them; even if it was just the catacombs, and he knew everyone there, he still surveyed. Like he was doing an imaginary headcount on everyone. Old habits maybe.

Drummer Boy prided himself on his ability to pick out and memorize agent's details down to the smallest mentions; it helped him identify people in the field, no matter the distance in most cases- allowing him to call out positions when it was needed. And while Charmer was... visibly different from everyone in the Commonwealth basically, Drummer Boy still made a note of taking in every bit of detail he could.

Even down to Charmer's long eyelashes.

They were hardly worth noting in most cases, but it just wasn't common to see someone with long lashes; hell, some people didn't even have eyelashes due to radiation exposure. But they stood out like a black outline around his eyes, and the curled tips pressed into one another every time he blinked. Some of their female agents had compared his lashes to Magnolia's, who were just as long and dark; the Goodneighbor entertainer could ease a crowd with her sultry singing, and just a slight bat of the eyes was enough to get a drunken audience excited.

Somehow, he didn't see Charmer pulling off a stunt like that. If anything it was just another trait that set Charmer apart from this world, apart from this century really. Well two centuries.

In the end, it was hard to deny that the two hundred year old man was attractive to just about any eye- so perhaps the codename Charmer was a suitable fit after all. Perhaps that was why the man had chosen it in the first place.

"Desdemona said to come to you for my next assignment," the man spoke; his voice smooth, and lingering like a good glass of Brandy.

Drummer Boy knew that they were desperate for people, for agents in the field, but for this guy to come in and suddenly be settled in their ranks? It just... didn't seem natural for them. They had a process here- or at least, they used to.

Switchboard made them desperate, not stupid.

But if Desdemona trusted this guy, than so could he.

"Charmer, right?" Drummer Boy questioned, watching as the man nodded. "... Yeah, I got a few things I need to hand out."


"Charmer's a good guy."

Drummer Boy looked up at the quiet words, focusing on Glory's tired look of contentment as she rubbed at her temple with one hand. It was late, maybe early morning even, and the unsettling chill in the air made it hard to sleep- or at least, he told himself that the cold was what was keeping him up. It was always easier to go down that path. Glory had told him that same excuse when she plopped herself down across the desk from him; she didn't technically need sleep though, so he figured she just wanted to keep him company.

They all had this sort of inkling feeling when someone was up, and they all knew not to leave each other alone for too long. Especially at these hours.

"You just saying that 'cause of Malden?" he asked, already having heard the tale of Malden a few times over. Glory had gotten onto Desdemona's case about it, and while the Alpha assured her that she would try to keep a tighter eye on these sort of things... it was near impossible to with how cracked their operations were right now.

It didn't hurt to have back up from time to time though, even if it was annoying for some. Glory was good in the field, one of their best even, but sometimes she had a hard time pulling the trigger on other Synths, even if they were just Gen-1's; she could do it, but she didn't like it.

It was usually easier for her to gun down her own kind if she had someone else to protect. And in this case, that would've been Charmer. Even if the man could protect himself just fine, it was all a mental game to Glory. Drummer Boy had absolutely no doubts that Glory could've cleared out Malden on her own, but... he figured she found it a lot easier with Charmer there- not that he'd think she'd admit to it though.

"Hey, he could've shot me in the back if he wanted to- you would've been none the wiser," Glory replied. "The fact that he showed up in the first place says a lot."

Drummer Boy gave a brief nod in response. "The fact that he does anything says a lot," he answered. "Still weird though."

"Yeah, it's still weird," she agreed.

He used the brief settling of silence between them to go back to his report- although reading it was absolutely mind-numbing at this hour. He was used to working at all hours of the day, working around the clock whenever he could, but... these early morning hours were a grind sometimes. Especially after a night of little to no sleep. Nothing more than routine though. He needed to have these reports memorized.

"The fact that he showed up here, of all places, two hundred years later is weird," Drummer Boy continued. This was technically the future for Charmer, who lived two centuries in the past; and what a shitty future it was.

"Yeah, it gets pretty scary the longer you think about it," Glory noted, leaning over in her chair to pick up the half-empty water bottle at her feet. "I try not to give the situation too much thought- it's just easier that way. Focus on Charmer, but don't focus on him, you know?"

He chuckled lightly at her words, watching as she tossed the bottle between her hands a few times, before she finally decided to open it. "Is that your way of saying that when you were watching his back in Malden, you were actually checking out his ass?"

Glory gave a half-snort, half-laugh through her sip of water. "You would too," she replied. "In fact, I know you do."

"Can you really blame me?" he questioned.

"No."


Within the first week, he could already pinpoint Charmer's footsteps coming through the catacombs.

It took him a little longer, but eventually if Charmer was with a group, he could still pick him out- as well as any other agents he was with. The man was heavy on the heels, and his right leg echoed harder than his left for some reason, a trait that Drummer Boy took extra precaution on noting. Charmer had a calm, controlled gait, but could easily keep up with anyone without breaking speed; despite the collective exterior though, the man moved like he was always in a hurry- not a big one, but still fairly rushed from time to time.

Drummer Boy marked it up as nothing more than nervous habit; after all, in the Commonwealth, it wasn't safe to be slow.

Nearly two months later, he could meet the man on the stairs and inform him of his next operation- a little trait to try and save time and get information out as quickly as possible. Most agents didn't want to return to the catacombs, only to turn around and head all the way back out; they seemed to appreciate the fact that he would at least meet them halfway there so they could get back into the field. A lot of their work was time sensitive, so they all had to try and shave off as many seconds as they could.

Charmer however, always seemed either surprised, or amused every time he was there to greet him.

"If we keep meeting like this, people are going to start rumors," Charmer remarked- and the slight grin on his lips might've implied it to be a flirt.

"Don't think you're special, I do this with everyone," Drummer Boy replied, going out of his way to ignore the hopeless look. And going further out of his way to ignore the way it unhinged him- ignoring the slight fluttering it set in his chest. Instead he just tried to focus on handing over the folded piece of paper in his possession. "Here are the details to your next op."

"I'll get to it then- see you here when I get back."

So when Drummer Boy heard those familiar steps coming down the curves of the catacombs, he expected nothing more than yet another job completed. And, more than likely to Charmer's dismay, he already had two more jobs lined up- courtesy of Desdemona though, so don't shoot the messenger.

Picking up the latest report, he started towards the stairs about the same time the door at the top opened. "Charmer," Drummer Boy started, already anticipating one of the man's witty response as he hit the bottom step. No words greeted him though, only heavy footsteps heading down the stairs as Charmer descended- acting as though he never even heard him to begin with.

It might been another one of his antics, but... somehow Drummer Boy didn't think so. Charmer had remarked once or twice that he'd rather avoid going down any stairs any chance he could- and this would've been an easy one to avoid.

"Charmer- whoa there, hang on-"

He caught the man at the bottom of the stairs, unsure if the man was in any real danger of falling- or at least, that was the case until he felt the weight of Charmer come down on him. Legs braced themselves at the sudden addition, which only lasted a few seconds before the man caught himself and steadied out his own feet.

"Sorry about that," Charmer muttered, one hand heavy on Drummer Boy's shoulder as he pushed himself back.

Now he was definitely glad that he had been here, or else Charmer would've ended up cracking his head open on one of the desks, or coffins nearby.

"Christ, what on Earth happened to you?" Drummer Boy started, feeling how the man's skin was hot to the touch underneath his hands.

It was worth noting that Charmer lacked the usual jacket he had on him, which with the chilling breeze outside, it would be stupid to go without one; the man must've either stripped it off, or lost it somewhere along the way. But the lack of the protective sleeves revealed the short-sleeve shirt he wore underneath it, which revealed his arms and hands, which were covered in a beaded red map of hives. Drummer Boy could feel the welts underneath the hand he kept on Charmer's arm for support.

"I'm fine," Charmer half-heartedly assured, sounding as though he was trying to breathe through a blockage in his throat. "Just an... allergic reaction, I think. Just need to... sit down."

An allergic reaction? Those were few and far between to see.

"Carrington!" Drummer Boy called, just loud enough to draw the doctor's attention away from his work. "Charmer uh, either got stung, or ate something that didn't agree with him."

When Carrington eventually looked up to see what was going on, it didn't take him long to share the same shocked expression that Drummer Boy had. "Christ, what did you get stung by?" he muttered, as he got to his feet. "Get him seated, would you? And get a bucket by his feet, he's going to get sick soon enough."

Drummer Boy ushered Charmer to a chair nearby, and pushed him into it- keeping one hand on the man's chest just in case as he kicked over a nearby bucket. Tinker Tom had been tossing old schematics into it as a trash can, so he could only hope that the mechanic was done with the faded blueprints.

He barely had the bucket by Charmer's feet, before he heard the familiar choke, and then watched as the man toppled forward. And whatever contents that had been in the man's stomach... were now no longer there.

Drummer Boy cringed at the sound; no matter how frequently he had been in this position, he still couldn't get used to the noise. Hands were quick to hold back Charmer's hair, which had slightly shifted out of its usual tight hold- yet another habit he was used to doing. A lot of their agents used to work themselves to fatigue and sickness to get their jobs done, and since he was always positioned at base, he normally took over the nurse duties after Carrington had passed them off.

Not exactly a glamorous role, but it certainly wasn't thankless.

"You know, there have been reported increases in the infected blood bug population recently," Desdemona noted, as she kept to her desk- knowing well to give Carrington his space to work. The woman had been stressfully working in silence this whole time, Drummer Boy had forgotten she was even here to begin with. "Something big and irradiated must've died in their hive somewhere."

"It's very likely," Carrington added, as he shuffled through his supplies for whatever kind of medication he might need. "And it doesn't take much to rile up the hive either."

Drummer Boy moved one hand to rub at Charmer's back, feeling the heavy convulsions in his lungs with each stomach-twisting cough. Fingers fumbled to grab at the water bottle settled on the desk nearby, one that Glory had left behind, before he quickly offered it to the man once it seemed like he was through. And Charmer took it graciously- taking a quick sip to rinse his mouth, before he spat it out into the bucket.

"Actually, it's hardly... that serious," Charmer insisted, slow with his words as he still struggled to catch his breath. One hand fumbled to undo the first couple of buttons of his shirt. "I was fine until I ate a piece of mutifruit on the way over." There was a slight pause as he finally got the front of his shirt open, before he gave out an airless sound of relief. "I think I'm allergic to them."

He paused slightly at the confession, watching as Charmer poured some of the water over his head now- no doubt trying to cut down on his fever.

"You're allergic... to mutifruit?" Drummer Boy repeated.

"I'm allergic to any and all citrus fruit," Charmer elaborated, running a shaky hand over his damp hair now. "I guess that would mean that a mutifruit falls into the same category. I don't know what I was thinking- it even had fruit in the name, I should've been a little smarter about it." He took a few seconds to catch his breath, which was still heavy in his throat. "Marcy dried some out for me, and said it would last longer while I traveled, and to be honest, I didn't even think to ask. I was too busy thinking about where I needed to go, and as long as I had supplies with me, it didn't seem to matter. It looked like a little strip of beef jerky if you ask me- kind of tasted like a grape too. The tingling in my mouth set me off though, so I came here as quick as I could in case I passed out from it. I haven't had an allergic reaction since I was twelve, and that was... well, way too long ago."

"Well hey, at least you got here in time," he remarked, pulling up a second chair as he sat down next to the man. "And to be honest, I'm not sure if anyone really knows where mutifruit came from, so there's really no telling what the hell it is."

The remark was enough to get a choppy laugh out of the man.

"At least my reactions were never too serious," Charmer spoke, "otherwise I'd be a dead man right now. And can you imagine that? Man Out of Time done in by a damn mutifruit."

It was his turn to laugh now at the imagery. "We couldn't have that- Glory would be disappointed," Drummer Boy replied.

He wouldn't admit that, while the situation seemed harmless now, something that they could laugh about, it could've easily resulted in death. The thought of dying to a piece of mutifruit might've been humorous to the outside eye, but... the thought of losing Charmer to it was less than funny. The Railroad had hit enough setbacks, they were all tired of seeing the people next to them dying.

They couldn't afford to lose anyone else.

Especially not Charmer.

"And you wouldn't be?" Charmer questioned- that familiar grin on his lips again, although smaller, and more tired this time.

Drummer Boy didn't have a chance to react, let alone fully comprehend the question, before Carrington was pushing him aside and telling him to get back to his work. He was left stumbling aside while Carrington took over with helping Charmer dial back from his allergic reaction.

He told himself not to look into the words too much.

... The advice didn't help though.


"Look after Charmer, would you?"

It was a little hard to turn down the request seeing as Desdemona had made it while she was halfway out the door anyways. It wasn't that big of a deal since he was going to be stuck here doing reports anyways; he just didn't expect that he'd suddenly be doing so alone. As soon as Carrington cleared up Charmer and got him settled down again, it seemed like everyone suddenly had places to be.

Carrington got called out to some wounded agents in the field. Nothing serious, thankfully, just a few cracked ankles and wrists from slipping on ice from the sound of the distress call.

Desdemona left to meet up with High-Rise at Goodneighbor, so she would be gone for awhile too. The Alpha very rarely left the catacombs herself, but sometimes important business called, and High-Rise refused to let the woman dig her heels in.

Glory had been gone all morning; the Heavy was spending her time at one of the other safehouses cleaning up the surrounding area.

And any agents that had snoozed through the whole allergy deal had already woken up and headed out on business.

So, for now, he was stuck here, filling out reports, and occasionally glancing to the man passed out on the mattress next to his desk. Whatever Carrington had given Charmer had started to clear up his skin and helped to level out his breathing thankfully- but it also knocked him out cold. It made for an easy watch assignment, even though he had to check now and again to make sure the man was still breathing. Sometimes it was a little hard to tell.

It took about an hour before the man's quiet slumber was punctured by a hard wheeze, and he watched as Charmer seemingly woke himself up with it. Dark eyes snapped open suddenly, and stilled, before they slowly drooped back down.

"Where am I?" Charmer questioned groggily, the waking moment of panic quick to dissolve.

"You're in the catacombs," Drummer Boy answered, taking a break from his reports as he focused his attention on the man. Again, he had been in plenty situations like this before, and speaking calm and clearly usually did the trick with keeping a Med-X hazed patient calm.

"... Still?"

He frowned slightly at the odd question, taking note of Charmer's confused look at his answer. It wasn't like the man had time to go anywhere else after Carrington gave him the medication; he passed out almost immediately afterwards.

"Yeah." Was all he answered with.

Charmer groaned and rolled onto his back, hands moving to rub against his eyes, and then his face as though trying to sober himself back up. It didn't take long before he heaved himself up into a seated position, stifled a brief yawn and looked around the place, as though in need for confirmation. "Shit..." he muttered, rubbing at the back of his neck now. "I must've had one of those roaming dreams then... Thought I was already back at the Castle."

From what reports would say, Charmer worked as a Railroad agent, but shadowed for the Minutemen as well.

Drummer Boy watched as the man took a moment or two to recollect and wake himself up, before fingers moved to fumble with his right pants leg. He had to admit he was curious as to what the man was doing, seeing as he was still groggy and fumbled through every motion he was doing; he watched as Charmer tugged on a zipper on the outer hem of his pants leg and pulled it up to his knee.

Fingers pulled the denim aside, and exposed the long, tight-fitted black legging of some kind that covered the length of his shin. The material was odd looking, maybe like some kind of wetsuit or something- like the kind Deacon had pulled out of a lake somewhere last year. The man never would reveal his secrets as to where this mysterious 'lake' was, or why he went diving into it, but then again, no one liked to ask Deacon questions to begin with.

Charmer's fingers slid underneath the tight hem of the material, before they tugged it down as well.

Exposing the prosthetic limb underneath.

Fingers circled his knee cap, seemingly tending and checking on the area, before the man pulled the mechanical leg off- exposing the below-the-knee amputation. The man grunted slightly at the action, as though it had exerted more force and energy than he thought it would, before he peeled back on the protective liner that covered the remaining portion of his leg. The skin around his knee was slightly red, and once more Charmer gently prodded and touched at it.

Suddenly, a lot of things about Charmer made sense.

It explained why his right leg sounded heavier than his left, why he tried to avoid stairs as often as he could- and water too for that matter. Maybe even why he didn't spend too many nights in the catacombs, bundled up next to the other agents in the back hallway.

"What happened?"

The question escaped Drummer Boy before he could even consider the faux pas behind it. Plenty of their working agents had prothetic limbs as well, so it wasn't an entirely uncommon sight. And the fact that he usually knew how the accidents occurred meant he normally didn't have to ask- so he wasn't used to being in the dark about something. Still, he had to call himself out on the insensitivity of the question.

A majority of their agent's limb injuries stemmed from Institute Coursers and their high-powered rifles; a few others were from horrific run-ins with Raiders. And in the case of their agent, Meat, a Yao-Guai attack- hence the codename; that was at her insistence though, and the lost of her dominant arm had yet to slow her down in the slightest.

Most of their prosthetics had been stripped from destroyed Gen-1 Synths, and repurposed to fit and function. And in the case that a Gen-1 Synth couldn't be found, an Assaultron was a good fit too; agent Meat rather enjoyed the two-finger prongs of the Assaultron hand- although it was best to avoid letting her pinch you with them.

Tinker Tom was actually pretty good at hand making a few prosthetics himself- although not too many agents took him up on the offer.

Charmer gave a quiet chuckle as he seemingly finished his brief examination. "I was a field medic in the army during the war- the one that actually lead to the bombs dropping and to the creation of this world," he started, rubbing slightly at the stunted limb, before he slowly began to pull everything back on; first the liner, and then the prosthetic, and then protective wetsuit. "I took a sniper shot to the leg during a night ambush, and the bullet ended up shattering both my tibia and fibula; the doctor back at our main base of operation told me that no amount of pins or rods could fix it- and even if it could, I wouldn't be able to walk with it. I was out for a year to recover, and then I worked myself back to active duty. People with my experience, and my skill set were few and far between, otherwise the military would've discharged me before I even went into surgery."

Right.

A pre-war injury- made sense.

"That's quite the story, Charmer," Drummer Boy remarked. "Can't say that I would've guessed that."

"Ah, it wasn't all bad," the man continued, zipping the seam of his pants leg closed once more. "I met my wife, Luka, while I was in the ICU recovering; she was in the next bed over recovering from malaria. She kept me in good spirits throughout the ordeal- mainly by making me appreciate the fact that I didn't have malaria."

Everyone pretty much knew what had happened to Charmer's wife- it was one of the reasons he was so insistent on finding the Institute himself. But... this was the first time Charmer had mentioned her by name, or really at all. It had to have been a touchy subject for him, and he probably didn't like the fact that everyone knew about her, and that they knew what had happened to her.

Nothing like open details to derail the grieving process.

"But as you would know, I can get around with it just fine," he assured, giving the prosthetic leg a brief rub. "State of the art, pre-war technology. I was told that the damn thing would outlive me."

"I'm pretty sure that warranty was only good for pre-war environments," Drummer Boy remarked, garnering a brief laugh from Charmer now. "You know though, it makes a lot more sense why you kept telling Carrington to 'take off your leg' before you passed out."

Charmer gave a louder laugh this time, which stumbled into a slight cough, before he recovered. "Christ, yeah I... try not to keep it on for longer than necessary. There are rules and instructions for these kinds of things, and I'm cutting enough corners with them as is. I'm lucky I haven't had any skin breakdowns; a lot of blisters and bruises, but I can manage those as they come to me."

That was the usual complaint coming from their other prosthetic-wearing agents.

"Well hey, if you ever need maintenance on it, Tinker Tom's pretty handy with metal limbs," he offered. "A lot of people are kind of weary about it, but he does good work, and he knows what he's doing- uh, well, for the most part anyways."

"I'll keep that in mind," Charmer nodded, one hand rubbing at the back of his neck. Again, the same grogginess from before seemed to be washing back over him. "Christ, I don't know what Carrington gave me, but it is kicking my ass right now."

"Homemade concoction is the best answer that I can give you," Drummer Boy replied, already quietly bracing himself for if he needed to catch Charmer again. "A little bit of Med-X too, which knocks most people out. You probably more so since you're... well, you know, not from around here technically."

The man gave a tired chuckle, his voice sounding rough again as he slipped back into a drowsy state of mind. "Hey, I lived here before anyone of you guys did- you're the ones who aren't from around here."

"Pulling the old 'pre-war' card on us, are you?" he spoke. "Well if you're so-" his words were cut short as he watched Charmer finally nod off from where he was sitting, before the man slumped to one side and fell against him instead; his head resting against the side of his thigh. He stilled for a moment, waiting to see if the man would move or not, only to watch as he seemed to make himself more comfortable instead. Not exactly the best predicament, but if the man had fallen in the opposite direction, he would've smashed his head into the wall. Still, certainly not the first time he had had someone fall asleep on him. "Charmer-"

"Elijah," the man interrupted- surprising Drummer Boy a little since he thought Charmer had gone cold again.

He looked down at the man once more, watching as he adjusted his body as needed before he fell still once more. Elijah? Was that... was that his actual name? Nearly three months in and he had been good at avoiding any instances where Charmer's name would've come up- which, in the Railroad, was pretty easy to do. Outside though, now that was harder. Thankfully the radio seemed to enjoy referring to him as the Man Out of Time instead; sometimes as the 'sole survivor' too. And the occasional drop of 'General' seemed to be a good reference as well.

Drummer Boy didn't exactly know what to do with the given information- it felt too personal to know. "We don't normally... give away our real names," he started; it was all for security reasons. It was for protection; protection for them, protection for the Railroad. Although he couldn't say that he knew of an instance where someone's name had been given away, or revealed.

"Everyone else in the Commonwealth knows my name," Charmer- Elijah- insisted. "... I wanted you to know too."