Every time she kisses him, he thinks his heart will burst.
It doesn't happen often, at first.
The day their whirlwind of romance began, the only kisses beyond those first two had been peppered on his neck and hollow cheek—no more were spared for his lips, though he'd seen her eyes drift down to watch them move as he spoke, studying the curve of every word that flowed from them.
It's only been a week, and he's afraid it's all a chem-fueled dream, because it's all too good to be true.
He hasn't had the nerve to kiss her yet, to initiate it on his own, lest he wakes up.
Besides, since that first day, he's hardly had a moment with her to himself.
Even when he does have her, she's distracted.
"The Slog has more than enough copper, why don't they just send it to Sanctuary when Deidre goes on her route?" She groans quietly, nibbling the lip he wants to nibble himself, more than anything. "This is ridiculous."
Hancock rubs her arm, shaking his head at her frustration and trying to keep a lid on the amusement it causes him. "Most people just ain't as practical as you, darlin'. People like to hoard supplies; it's no shocker they aren't exactly givin' away the copper. It's a precious commodity, after all."
She snorts, arching a brow at him. "Like coffee is, according to Charlie?"
He wobbles his head a bit. "Eh, sorta. He's always a bit of a miser with his coffee, even when we have tons of the shit to spare. He's worse with tea when we find it."
Shana replies with a non-committal hum and leafs through the reports in her hands, the last of which is a hand-drawn map of the Commonwealth, marking out every Minuteman outpost and settlement she's established in her time at its head.
He whistles softly at the sight. "Holy shit. You weren't kidding about it turnin' into a big operation. How'd you get so many up and running in such a short time?"
She shrugs. "I delegated some. Mostly, Preston, Cods and I ran around doing a lot of favors for a lot of people who just joined the cause afterward."
"Mac and I did a hell of a lot of that running too, got to help out a 'crapload of people', as he'd put it." Shana sighs a little wistfully. "I'll be glad when he gets back. Doesn't feel like home without him around to annoy." A soft, smirking pout pooches her lower lip at him with her proclamation.
John officially reaches the end of his rope, not entirely caring whether it's a dream or not anymore, as he leans over to quickly capture that lip between his own, nibbling and suckling on it softly.
The tiny gasp that follows almost immediately melts into a soft rumble of approval, followed by the rest of her mouth being pressed gently, carefully to his—slow, teasing, sharp little nips to his own lips swiftly chipping away at what little sanity she leaves him with.
He threads the fingers of his right hand through the short locks just behind her ear, thumb stroking her temple in grateful worship. His fingers curl when she delves into his mouth, the sweet tip of her tongue calling his into action with its cautious prodding, and the sound she makes as his fingers scrape lightly against some spot by her ear should be outlawed, for anyone's ears but his. Another lighter, experimental scratching doesn't yield the same results, but far better ones.
Shana flings the reports to the floor, letting them fan out across the wood as they will, as she presses him back into his own couch and straddles him, seating her hips to his and fitting there just as perfectly as he remembers she did the first time, every little motion doing wonders to encourage his hardening cock to stiffen further. His free hand settles on her right hip, holding her there as steadily as he can while he grinds himself up into her, once, twice, his half-choked groan straining into the air between them.
The farther back she pushes him, the more at risk his hat is of being knocked right off his head and back behind the couch, but before he can raise his hand from her hip to do a thing about it, she reaches up, lifting and flinging it from his head to the other end of the couch, not once breaking contact with his lips.
He feels her smile before he hears it. "Was getting in the way," is all she says, murmured against his lips, but the husky amusement he hears in her voice tells him all he needs to know.
"Couldn't agree more," is all he gets out before she rolls her hips along his own, rendering him incapable of coherent speech. His sputtered curses are swallowed and muffled by her lips, and he thinks, with what little higher reasoning he has left from her grinding into his lap, that they belong there—his words in her, his heart in her, his soul, his... everything, in her. It's only now that it hits him, howling in his skull like a beast trying to break free of its rattling bone cage: he loves her.
The realization strikes a chord along his body's impulses, tensing muscles, causing fingers and toes to curl reflexively, again grazing his fingers along that spot she seems to love without meaning to. Her truly sinful moan is punctuated by a desperate-sounding, "Fuck!" barely muffled by his lips, sealing her own words inside him. The return of the favor has the inadvertent effect of both calming and exciting him all at once, his hands abandoning their stations to wrap about her waist and warmly pull her to him, against him, wishing in this moment that he could pull her inside him.
He breaks a kiss that would be impractical to keep up with her this close, instead diving for her neck, chasing that spot she loves with his lips and tongue, knowing he's found it once her fingers curving along the back of his neck and scalp curl in to leave light crescents in his pitted skin. The shuddering sigh, the slide of the muscle under the skin beneath his lips, the tremble in her spine, all confirm it for him, and he would give up every last dignity he's ever had, if only she'd let him worship at the altar of her flawless skin a moment more.
Just when he thinks she might actually let him, just before any semblance of his sanity is utterly obliterated by the need that flows through his entire being, there's a knock on the door.
They freeze, right as they are, his lips and teeth still gently latched onto her skin, her fingers clinging him to her eagerly, hips smack in the middle of starting to grind against his once more.
"Whatever this is, it had better be of the utmost fucking importance!" she calls over toward the door, dropping a kiss onto the top of his head and dismounting him with an obviously frustrated huff. She reaches for, and plops his hat back onto his head, then steals a smoke from his pocket with a great sigh.
He lights it and holds her ash tray, because he always has, and probably always will. He takes some small delight in it, though he can't really explain why adequately, even to himself. He's tried, when she asked him once. He just likes it. It's just a fact, like... like him loving her.
A shiver races through him which he suppresses, then leans over and presses a kiss to her cheek, just as Mozzy finally speaks up from beyond the closed door.
"Got uhh... something for the General. Charon's here, and..." there's a pause, Mozzy speaking to someone in an inquisitive tone too soft for him to catch particulars, "and a Butch DeLoria? Charon says there's some kind of unfinished business with a contract."
John observes as she stiffens in recognition, eyes lighting up and a slightly sheepish grimace planting itself on her visage.
She looks to the door, already taking a breath to answer, "Let 'em in, Mozzy."
He turns to see Mozzy leading Charon and Butch through the doors, then moving to close them and taking to his secondary station, just inside the door. John gestures broadly to the opposite couch as Charon and Butch approach. "Have a seat. Any guest of the General's is a guest of mine. Let me know if you need anything and I'll see what I can do," he offers hospitably, then leans back and slings his left arm over the back of the couch.
Shana takes a last puff of her half-finished smoke, then hands it off to him to finish—a little tradition they've been founding in the past few days, one he finds he rather likes. Oddly enough, Charon seems to take note of it, but doesn't comment.
Nor does he sit his ass down, despite Butch having accepted the invitation right away. Instead, he stands next to the far couch, like a damn gargoyle, watching all of them intently.
"So," Butch begins, tugging an absolutely gorgeously engraved silver flask from his jacket's inner breast pocket, unscrewing the cap as he talks, "if I'm understandin' things right, Charon's apparently deemed you worthy of bein' the next rightful holder of his contract." Butch peers over to Shana, arching an inquisitive brow at her. "That about sum it up?"
Rather than answer immediately, she looks up to Charon, who's now moved to stand just to Butch's left side, to the rear of the couch. The huge ghoul nods, once. Shana quirks her head, as if to say, 'well, alright, if you're sure,' then turns her attention to Butch. "Seems so. If you want to know why, you'll have to ask him."
Butch shrugs, finally drawing from his flask, long and hard, before swallowing and answering, "Already did. Said you were like Lynn was, before he blew her fuckin' head off. You want his damn contract? Give me starting money for a barber shop here in town, and you got his flaky ass, for as long as you can stomach it."
"Wait a fuckin' second. Who's to say he won't do that to Shana?" John demands of Butch. He and Shana had discussed Charon's contract a few days after she woke from getting her memories back, but the actual terms of the contract she'd conveyed to him were... vague, at best.
Butch shrugs, gesturing toward Charon. "Ask him, if you want to know that shit. Lynn was his real contract holder, I never really knew any specifics about all this crap. Didn't want to, thank you very much. Still don't." With that out of the way, he takes another long drink from his flask.
Before John can ask anything, Charon speaks, looking down to Butch, disapproval in his tone and craggy features. "You promised you would stay sober for this, Butch."
Butch turns, anchoring his elbow on the back of the couch to aid his twisting frame. "Fuck off, Charon. I didn't kill your wife. I get to be as drunk as I want, wherever I want, whenever I want, until I can't remember what you fucking did any—"
"Alright, that's enough!" interjects Shana, abruptly shooting to her feet, standing taller than everyone but Charon, asserting her authority at last. "Butch, I'm sorry, but I have to stop all this, immediately. You need a dose of the truth, right now. I get that you lost Lynn, and what happened to her was fucking tragic, but Charon paid you all a fucking mercy when he did what he did. She was fucking feral, Butch. I don't know if you knew that. She was feral when he shot her. No mind left. Nothing. There was no more Lynn DeLoria when he put her down. I get that you're grieving, believe me, but he doesn't deserve the treatment you're giving him. You need to accept the truth that she ordered him to end her life."
The shocked, pained outrage in Butch's glassy stare is plain for anyone to see, as he stares at Shana with eyes wide and jaw dumbly slack. Charon stands with a stiff spine, watching her with calculation in his gaze, but no other discernible expression.
Not giving Butch, or anyone else time to respond, she steamrolls on, "As for your price on his contract? Fine, if that's what it takes to get him out from under your verbal abuse, I'll pay it. But you do not get to berate or defame him any further after that contract changes hands, do I make myself crystal motherfucking clear?"
Hancock relaxes back into the couch, having had his questions and concerns answered so succinctly that he doesn't really have any more. Not on that subject, at least. He looks to Butch, instead, curious what he'll say to Shana's reprimand.
Butch slowly twists back to look at Charon, taking a few moments before he asks, "Is that true? She... she w—she was a fuckin' feral?"
Charon nods. "Yes."
The greaser gapes at Charon. "Why didn't you fuckin' tell us? Why'd you let us think you'd murdered her, what the f... Why?! Why would you do that, man?"
Charon maintains eye contact with Butch, his tone even as he replies, "Because she ordered me not to tell any of you."
Butch flings a hand toward Shana in flagrant indication. "But you told her? A complete stranger?"
The huge ghoul shrugs. "Lynn stipulated those I was not to tell were restricted to her inner circle. Shana is not included in that group, so her restriction did not apply."
As Butch continues to rant at Charon, Shana sits back down and turns to murmur to John, "How much do I need to give him? I want to see this done, yesterday."
John shrugs slightly, bringing his lips to her ear to reply, "Probably about a thousand caps would cover any business that wanted to start up in town, with fees and rent and all that jazz. You sure about all this? What if the big guy's lyin'?"
She shakes her head shortly, only replying, "He's not."
He tilts his head in lieu of a shrug, patting her knee affectionately. "If you're sure."
She only nods, then looks to Butch, who has finally finished chewing out the ghoul behind him. "A thousand caps, right?"
Butch wavers, peering at her, then the floor, then the chems lying on the table, then back to her, before he nods. "Yeah, one 'k' ought to do it. You still want him?"
Shana reaches for her backpack, resting by the table, then rifles through it. After a few moments, she produces a set of four bags, which jingle heavily with caps, tossing them on the table. She closes her pack, looks at Butch and nods at the bags. "Yes. Count them, if you like."
Butch frowns, then leans forward, sliding to the edge of the couch as he reaches out for one of the bags, hefting it into his outstretched hand, weighing it. He tilts his head and peers over at her with narrowed eyes. "Five-hundred cap bags? Shit, someone's rollin' the dough."
Both Charon and Shana snort at this, Shana speaking up to gently correct him, "'Raking in the dough', is the phrase you're reaching for, there. Good try, though."
Butch waves her off, like batting away an annoying bug. "Yeah whatever." He picks up the other three bags, weighing each one in his hand carefully, before nodding. "Yeah that's cool. Here." His right hand goes to his pip-boy, ejecting a holotape. He hands it across to her. "Check it, if you want. Have you heard it yet? Shit's fucking creepy."
She dips her head in assent. "I have, yes. Though, Charon stopped it, after the scientist began to eat his own arm."
Butch shudders quite visibly, and John can't help but agree. "Ate his own arm? The fuck'd he do that for?"
Butch answers, quietly, "He went feral. Didn't survive ghoulification, like Charon did."
Shana relaxes back into the couch, hitting eject on her pip-boy's tape deck and sliding the holotape in. She fiddles with the dials for a moment, then glances up at Charon, before un-focusing and staring off into middle space.
Butch busies himself with shoving the cap bags into his own cobbled together pack, apparently not finding her behavior odd at all. Charon simply watches her, evenly. John looks between them all, frowns in confusion, and asks, "The hell's goin' on? Why's she starin' off into space like that?"
It's Charon who replies, "She is listening to the tape. The pip-boy can reroute sound to play directly into the wearer's eardrums, for solo listening."
John remains frowning, still confused. "It does that through her skin? That... doesn't make a damn bit of sense, brother."
Charon taps Butch on the shoulder. "Butch, if you could demonstrate?"
Butch nods lazily, unbuckling his pip-boy, letting it disengage with a slight hiss and a grimace. When he pulls the unit away, there are several small, bright-red and obviously smarting holes in the man's arm which, oddly enough, are notably not bleeding.
He flips the pip-boy over, showing the underside of it to John. "See these ports here?" He points to several ports with retracted connectors just hanging in suspension within them. "When the pip-boy turns on, it has to shoot those into your arm, to get a lock on your system. They attach to different things, dependin' on the type of sensor it's got, but," he points to the various ports seemingly randomly, "these attach to nerves, these to veins, these to tendons, bones, these to muscle. This right here is why, if someone were to try to forcibly rip a pip-boy off a live person, they'd have to take the whole fuckin' arm off with it."
John stares at the pip-boy Butch holds with great distaste. "Shit. Y'know, that all sounds like a very big reason to never use one of those fuckin' things."
Butch snorts, a half-smile coming to his lips as he smacks his pip-boy back into place, again hissing as the connectors presumably shove themselves back into his arm. "It might sound shitty, but honestly? The benefits outweigh the shitty parts. No way in hell I would've survived this long without the V.A.T.S. to help me out. I'm shit aim without my dad's rifle."
John skews his eyebrows, yet again confused. "The fuck is a vats?"
Charon answers him, "Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. When triggered, it shows a highlighted overlay display over targeted enemies, to focus the person wearing the pip-boy in the heat of battle, allowing them to select specific parts of the target to focus on. Head, chest, arm, leg, weapon, etcetera. It is... effective, to a point. If one is unused to combat situations, it can be of great help to them. For those used to the flow of battle, however, it is more of a hindrance than a boon."
"I don't use that, if you were wondering," comes Shana's sudden comment, though her eyes still stare off into space.
John blinks, glancing at her, then at Charon and Butch, hooking his thumb toward her. "She can still hear us?"
Charon nods. "Yes, if one concentrates, it is possible to listen to the pip-boy and the goings-on around them." He peers down at Shana with something akin to an ounce of admiration in his eyes. "I have not seen it occur often, however."
Butch snorts, shaking his head. "Fuck that noise, that's too much work."
Shana shakes her own head, wearing a slightly grim smirk as she ejects the tape from her pip-boy. "I can imagine it would be," she murmurs, then rises to a stand, looking across at Charon with a tiny smile, holding the tape in her upward-facing palm. "Charon, do you recognize this as your contract?"
He glances down at the tape, then moves around the couch, plucking the holotape from her hand and flipping it once, so the label faces down. He nods, handing it back to her. "Yes, Mistress."
She arches a brow at his address. "Is that what you personally prefer to call me, or what you were trained to do?"
Butch chuckles, interjecting, "It's what he called Lynn for years. Think he has trouble learning names."
Shana smirks at Butch. "Then he and I have something else in common." She looks back to Charon. "Well?"
Charon shrugs. "It is what you are."
She tilts her head at the brute. "That doesn't answer my question."
Charon flinches slightly, just a tic of his cheek before he recovers and quickly answers, "It is a result of my training."
Shana narrows her eyes at him. Without breaking eye contact, she snaps her fingers at Butch. "You have what you need, yes? Best get to setting up that barber shop." She does look down at him to stipulate, "I'd better not find that you've drunk that startup money away, either. This is your chance to do good here." She returns her gaze to Charon, smoothly and effectively dismissing Butch. "Don't waste it, please."
"Uhh sure. Thanks?" He tugs his pack up over his shoulder as he stands. "Well, see ya later, Mayor, General... Charon."
A series of nods send him out of the room. Mozzy follows him out, returning to his watch outside the door.
Shana lowers her volume until it's almost a choked-off whisper, "Why did you flinch, just now?"
Charon rolls his shoulders, glances at John, then back to her, tilting his head toward him. "You trust him with this, Mistress?"
She nods so quickly that his chest constricts a bit, from the pride he feels at her surety. "Yes."
Charon dips his head in acquiescence. "It is a part of my training. Disobedience induces a pain response. It is automatic and unavoidable."
She scowls, looking down at the ground, seeming to ponder his answer for a few seconds, then looks back up and sighs. "So, because I specified that you didn't answer my question, the pain response flipped on?"
He shakes his head. "No, Mistress. It had already begun, it simply became stronger under your insistence."
Her grimace tugs the dimples in her cheek into stark relief. "Right. I'll try to avoid that, then. If I order you to do something contrary to your training, will it trigger the same response?"
Charon frowns at her, as if troubled. "It... would depend on the order."
Her left brow lifts curiously. "If I ordered you to call me by my name..?"
He bows his head. "I would be able to comply."
She gives him a pleased smile. "Then do so."
Charon raises his head, looking her in the eye. "Yes, Shana."
She smirks, shrugging gently. "It's a start."