Title: The Squishable John

Author: Kytten

Pairing: Gob/Vault Dweller

Rating: PG13

Disclaimer: I do not own Fallout.

Summary: Gob had always reminded Nova of a radiated puppy. And the new Vault Dweller certainly didn't help matters. Especially not with her running off to chase ghosts, leaving them behind to listen to the static of the radio.

Author's Note: Gob needs more love. -.- He gets beat on all the time at work and even if you find his mother, you can't tell him about it. What kind of a life is that, I ask you?


Gob was staring at the door again with that look in his eyes that always managed to make Nova feel guilty and depressed without ever fixing itself on her.

"Honey, she's not due back for another week," she said gently, pulling away from her spot at the wall.

A lot of things in this world depressed the hell out of her, but the stubborn, useless hope in Gob's eyes was right up there at the top. Nova didn't need to specify who she was, just as she knew without asking why Gob kept sneaking glances at the door. That vault dweller. Bat shit crazy and strangely world savvy in a way that was all together off putting, she'd walked through the door in a cloud of dust, smiled at Gob and that had been it.

"The radio's working again," he muttered, avoiding her eyes in favor of a spot on the bar. "She said she'd fix it."

And if she'd said she'd hung the moon, Gob would probably believe it. Nova sighed and sat down on the edge of the bar, thinking of all the things that could have happened but hadn't yet. One of these days the Vaultie wasn't going to come back. Gob didn't want to believe it, but it was still a fact of life. People died. People got screwed over. People got kidnapped and sold off as slaves or found greener pastures and forgot all about the people they used to know.

"Takes time to cross the globe, you know," she said instead, moving to sit on the edge of the bar. "And the radio only came on yesterday."

Gob only shook his head, scabbed knuckles going white at the edges of his towel.

"She's okay," he insisted quietly, answering a question she hadn't asked. "She'll be alright."

That was another thing at the top of Nova's list. That quiet desperation in his voice put a knife through her heart her every time. The Vaultie had promised she'd come back, so she'd come back. He believed that in a way Cromwell believed the bomb was the answer to everything. It was black and white.

She'd promised.

Times like this Nova wished that damned Vaultie would have never showed up. Things were bad before, yeah, and Gob didn't have a hell of a lot to look forward to, but he never made himself sick like this. It was getting to where she could almost time his moods. How long had it been since Three Dog mentioned his Good Fighters? How long since he'd told another story about the stupid signal dish? How long before Moriarty would notice and say something stupid that would make Gob even more miserable?

That was another thing she hated. Moriarty and his fucking comments.

"She can take care of herself," Nova agreed at last, wondering if she should take the cloth from Gob before he wore a hole in the bar. Last thing the poor guy needed was to be stuck here another fifteen years on top of eternity, paying Moriarty for a new bar. "But, baby, the longer you stare at the door, the more customers are gonna think you finally lost it."

And the more Moriarty is going to take it out on you, she thought, but didn't say it. Gob didn't need reminded. Hell, the longer he could lose himself in his cheerful, black and white fantasy the better. Wasn't like he had anything else going for him, but damn did that girl really have to go and start something she could finish?

"I'm just watching the door," he said, finally releasing his death grip on the wash rag. "Nobody'll notice. It's not like anybody looks at me."

It was meant as a joke, but the humor was long gone. Like pre-war velvet with all the fuzz worn away, the only thing left was a scaled, barren patch that didn't do all that much to cover the bitterness underneath.

Poor baby, she thought and stifled it. Gob was a grown man. Hell, he could easily be twice her age, and yet somehow he always reminded her of a puppy she'd had as a kid. The poor thing had bumbled after her everywhere, utterly clueless and brimming with hope even when its ears had fallen off.

"She'll be back, sweetheart." Nova smiled, taking a cigarette from the pack under the bar as she slipped from the counter. "Worrying about her won't do any good."

Gob nodded, pointedly looking anywhere but the door. Next to him, the radio crackled cheerfully, the song giving way to a drawn out howl.

"Hey, all you folks fightin' the Good Fight out there. This is your disc jockey Three Dog, coming to you live from the wreckage of D.C. thanks to a lovely lady from Vault One-Oh-One. Here's looking at you, kid, with a little number called Crazy He Calls Me by Billie Holiday. Keep safe out there."

Nova watched from her spot at the wall as the tension eased out of Gob's shoulders with the first few notes of the song. It took awhile, but eventually the melancholy slipped from his face and he stopped fidgeting long enough to sit down, staring through the counter as if it wasn't there.

"The difficult I'll do right now," the radio crooned between the static. "The impossible will take a little while."

Nova sighed. It was going to be one of those days.

*

Or rather, it was going to be one of those weeks.

Moriarty was in fine form today and intent on packing as much misery into the next twenty-four hours as he possibly could. So far, he was setting a new record. The sudden need for the saloon to be spotless wasn't bad. Nova could even deal with the no-smoking rule Moriarty insisted on enforcing ever since he'd bought that damned sign from yesterday's traders. It wouldn't be the first time she'd gone a day without a cigarette. And it certainly wouldn't be the first time Moriarty had smacked her around because he didn't have anything better to do.

But he didn't have to go and take the radio.

Gob was now sporting an ugly bruise across one cheek and a sullen, miserable look in his eyes as he glanced between the empty radio corner and the closed door. A few tinny strands of propaganda drifted out from behind Moriarty's door and Nova scowled. One of these days some asshole was going to come through here with a gun and a grudge and Moriarty was going to say something stupid and get his head shot off. And knowing Gob's luck, he'd probably be the one to get blamed.

"You okay, honey?" she asked him, keeping her voice low enough that Moriarty couldn't hear it over the noise the Enclave station broadcasted. Hell, he probably wasn't even listening. If she knew him, he chances were he had the radio sitting right in front of the door, blasting stupidity just to torment them.

"I'm fine." He looked up briefly and met her eyes for a second before glancing at the door and back down at the bar. "You need something?"

"Don't let Moriarty get to you," she said, settling her hand lightly over his. "He's just being an asshole because he can."

Gob only shrugged and picked up the towel he used to wipe down the glasses.

"I'm used to it."

That was another one of those things that set Nova's teeth on edge. Way up there at the top of the list, right smack next to Moriarty, was the way Gob took his bruises as a fact of life. As long as she'd known him, he'd always assumed people would beat him. Hell, he hadn't been proven wrong until that Vaultie came along.

Nova sighed, ran a hand through her hair and muttered something nasty about nothing in particular. She didn't like the Vaultie. The girl gave her the creeps something fierce and she really didn't like seeing the different gun on her hip every time she came in. Once—and while Nova wasn't an expert on guns, she knew a Fat Man when she saw it—the kid had come in with a fucking rocket launcher strapped to her back. But as strange as she was, at least she'd know what to say to cheer Gob up. Hell, so long as she showed up, Gob would be happy and after that it wouldn't take much more than a smile in his direction.

"We wouldn't get word one way or another for a few days yet, you know," she said, sneaking a look back at Moriarty's door and furtively lighting a cigarette. "It's not like we need the radio today."

Gob only shrugged, not looking at anything as he wiped down a glass.

"I'm not holding my breath anyway," he muttered at last, setting the mug down for another. It was a blatant lie, especially obvious in the way he glanced at the door soon after with a sort of broken wistfulness in his eyes. "It's not like she has a reason to come back or anything. She might have gone to Rivet City. Probably better for her there anyway."

Nova took a long drag on her cigarette and leaned back against the bar so that she could look at Gob and the door behind him.

"Have you ever been?"

He shook his head and while his expression didn't change, Nova watched his knuckles turn a bloodless white on the tankard's handle.

"They don't like ghouls there." He said, forcibly relaxing his grip on the mug and setting it down like a sleeping child, still only half clean. "Course, they don't like ghouls anywhere. Don't wanna be reminded, I guess."

Nova didn't know what to say to that. Hell, there wasn't anything that could be said to that. It was bare boned truth. No pleasantries, no fluff. Just a fact of life. No one wanted to be reminded what they'd look like when they died. No one wanted a walking, talking reminder of the atrocities waiting for any unlucky idiot wandering the wastes on his last Rad-X.

The Vaultie would know what to say though. She laugh, probably do that flirt-without-flirting thing she was so good at and tell some story about a Brahmin in a Nuka-Cola factory that had nothing to do with anything and everything to do with distraction.

Nova didn't have stories like that. She could tell a story about a John with a detachable john, but Gob didn't really need reminded of sex or missing body parts. If she sat for awhile putting all the fragmented memories together, she could probably tell a pretty good story about the cross dressing ex-Raider she'd met in Canterbury Commons.

And Gob would smile, nod and try not to stare at the door.

Fucking Moriarty.

*

At least he'd given the radio back. Or, at least, some time between midnight and three the radio had reappeared on the bar counter along with a new bruise riding high on Gob's jaw. Nova didn't know what to think about it, but knew better than to ask. Hard to pretend everything was just peachy if some idiot kept poking the wound, after all.

"I swear to fuckin' god they're playing that damn song every time the radio goes on," Moriarty announced, swaggering out from the back room. "Turn that shit off."

But Gob didn't move from where he was standing, head down, feet apart, staring at Moriarty with a dangerous look in his eyes. And Nova couldn't help but notice that there were four evenly spaced bruises along one side of the bastard's throat turning an ugly shade of purple in the dusty morning light.

"Or turn the fuckin' thing down at least," he amended with something between a leer and a scowl, pulling a pack of smokes from his front pocket as he ambled towards the door. "I'm sick to death of hearin' it."

Gob reached out and prodded the volume knob so lightly not even a bat—if they still had bats—could tell the difference. But Moriarty nodded like he'd gotten his way and popped a cigarette between his lips.

"Tha's better." And in something that was most definitely not a retreat, swept out the door.

Nova looked between the door and Gob in something close to wonder, pulling out a cigarette of her own.

"You get into a fight last night, honey?" she asked because she couldn't help it, moving across the room stand next to him. "He's acting like somebody finally gave him a taste of his own."

Gob shrugged, flashed something that might have been a smile half a century ago and glanced at the door.

"It's my radio," he said as if it were the answer to everything, cleaning the already spotless bar. Nova waited for the rest of it, but the rest never came and she ended up watching Gob clean in silence until her cigarette burned down to ash.

She wanted to say something to break the silence, but Gob was on a planet of his own, humming along to the song crackling over the radio speakers.

"And that was Anything Goes by Cole Porter, singing out across the Wastes for that crazy little kitten from Vault One-oh-One," Three Dog announced in the rhythmic sing-song that meant hell would hold off a while longer. "All you folks out there keep fighting the Good Fight and don't go feeding the yao guai. Now here's a song by Bob Crosby and the Bobcats—Happy Times."

Nova watched Gob relax like clockwork. Watched him fiddle with the volume while sneaking glances at the door like she'd be coming through at any moment with that crazy ass grin of hers and a bag full of things to share. Wondered what sort of fucked up world they lived in and leaned back against the bar for lack of anything better to do.

She'd come back.

She'd promised.