Disclaimer: Fallout 3 © Bethesda

A/N: Leroy is my character. (not to be confused with Leroy Walker) I play him as a Slaver, for I am attracted to Paradise Falls. Aubrey is my friend's Vault 101/Lone Wander.


When he finally opened his eyes, the light of the room was a stark contrast and he winced, shutting out the bright and searing to find the comforting refuge of the dark and heavy comfort he had just left. He had been ripped from blissful emptiness and thrust into a world of aching pain.

He hadn't achieved much when a rasping voice cut short his progress.

"Don't go back to sleep."

He clinched his jaws, wishing with all his might for that unconditional silence. Something empty and devoid of this gnawing ache consuming his mind.

"I know you don't want to," she rasped, slow and soft, "but you have to wake up."

In slow resignation his eyes slid open, pupils burning in disgust at the sudden and unwelcome brightness of the dank and shabby room. Carol sat at the edge of his bed - her bed - and smiled.

"There now, welcome back."

His response was expectedly sluggish. He blinked heavily once. He couldn't help but notice how everything hurt. She tilted her head, the rotten flaps of skin on her decomposing forehead shifting.

"We knew you'd make it through. Greta will be pleased. You're awfully resilient for a human."

He turned his head slowly, feeling the world around tip with him, and tried dully to gather his whereabouts. He was in Carol's room. On her bed. How long? How did he get --

Oh.

That's right.

He had gone to Underworld.

--

It had started easily enough. Just another run away. Clever thing had managed a way to get that collar off. Or she had help. Either way, in the end it would make no difference. He had been chasing steadily after her for a few days when she had fled into the Ghoul city. She had been desperate. Maybe she had thought he wouldn't venture into that rotting pit? He had followed her. All the way down. Deep into the abandoned recesses of that lost relic of an irrelevant past. If anything, he admired her determination.

Then?

It had been dark. It was getting darker the further he went. Impossibly dark. Thick with the sweet, musty stench of things forgotten, things hidden in that hole. He could hear his target ahead of him. He was catching up, or she was getting disoriented; lost.

And?

And then he had turned a corner and – she screamed. It split the dark.

--

He rotated his head carefully back to Carol, eyes sluggishly following after, and arched a brow lightly. "How lucky of me."

It wasn't his voice. It was the sound of some Ghoul, chortling out a reply with its dry, calloused throat. He hesitated at the sound, almost believing for a moment that he had turned skeletal and decayed. Just like one of the rotten inhabitants of Underworld. He wouldn't be wholly horrified, a part of him thought he would deserve--

Carol waved a withered hand. It was like jerky tethered to a wrist. He could see partial patches of bone through the flaps. "It was lucky your friend found you."

He turned away again, it was easier this time, staring in determined indifference at the far wall. He swallowed forcefully this time before he spoke. It was thick and uncomfortable and it hurt something in his chest to do it, but it made a noticeable difference. "I doubt that."

Carol ignored the statement. "She pulled you out of there, with all the feral chasing."

--

He had turned a corner and heard a scream split the dark. Two glowing eyes were upon him in a stark instant. His shotgun put them down and for all he knew the next moment he had his back to the dusty, moldy floor. There was shrill wailing and guttural hissing and the screaming he wasn't sure was only just the feral ghouls. He couldn't see but more so felt moving shapes crawling frantically over him. Tearing ravenously; and next the white hot flare and feeling all the warm streaming out onto the dust and dirt and forgotten filth of the floor - and then --

--

"How long have I been here?"

"Almost three days now." She answered simply, and just as simply, "You were chasing down that poor girl."

"She is property of Paradise Falls." He paused just a beat. "Was."

Carol frowned, the deep gouges at the corner of her torn lips pulling at the shreds of flesh hanging from her face. "You like this job." It was a statement more than a question.

--

Then he was up, literally tearing away from the ripping and the catching claws, pushing past the blazing spots seeking him in that pitch. He hurled himself against a wall, half paralyzed in agony, and pushed his legs into motion, stumbling into some form of a desperate jog; down a corridor, around a corner, and there she was. She was screaming, had probably been screaming all along. Behind her more of the vile dead began surging around a corner. He could just see in all the black.

She must have made out his figure in the dank gloom, almost tripped over herself to lunge down the corridor for him. Her flight for freedom long forgotten in the span of half a dozen strides. Her eyes were so wide, almost all white in all the darkness, glowing of hysterics and driven by pure fear and almost so akin to those raving pinpricks hunting them in the black.

She must not have known. Or had truly been that desperate before. Now, however, in the face of it, the terror was more than anything she had previously known in Paradise Falls. He had known, was aware and steeled for it, but horribly thrilled to find it a worthless arsenal. If there was one thing he hated in the wastes, it was down here with them. She really must not have known.

"I'll go back!" She wailed in pitched horrors, smearing herself to him and he thought he could smell blood. "Save me! I'll go back!"

The enraged, blind rasping filled the corridor, racing up behind her. He had lost his shotgun somewhere when he had hit the floor. It had little mattered at the time, but it was a burning reality suddenly. All he had left was his ripper. The pelting of rotten feet on the eroded floor was muffled, but it was like a thundering in his mind as the feral swarmed in on them.

He started up the serrated saw-blade and tore it deep into her thigh.

She screamed; so horrible and so loud - and still he could hear it tearing across his mind.

She crumpled to that filthy floor, wailing and crying in agony and newly realized horror and cursing him - and he had left her. The beasts fell upon her and he turned and he ran back the way he had come as far from the screaming as he could get --

--

and then Carol. Sitting on her bed. Her bed he was currently lying on.

He turned and tried to sit up and instantly regretted it. The world rolled in waves of white searing and nauseating thrums against his skull. Carol was doing some moldy imitation of clicking her shriveled tongue at him.

"You shouldn't try to move just yet. You just woke up."

"I feel like shit." He murmured sullenly, giving up. He winced and shifted his back slightly. He could feel the wraps around him. He already figured the medic responsible for them.

He mentally cursed his luck.

He could have died. Maybe he should have died.

But here he was now. And in debt.

Carol was watching him in quiet fascination when the door opened with a low creak. He turned his eyes to the shock of auburn hair and the face beneath. Easily recognized that ever-ready Vault jumper. Her bright eyes caught his shadowed haze and her lips parted.

"Leroy."

--

He was racing the way he had come. Or he was racing into a dead end. He couldn't be certain and he didn't have the time necessary to worry about it. He just had to get away.

He made it to the end of another corridor and there was the cold, resolute cock that he recognized instantly as the sound of his lost shotgun. His shotgun in the arms of a dark shadow he recognized almost as fast. The Ghouls had probably seen him coming, had probably informed her. She had probably went searching – and now. She stood there, wearing that grotesque mask and half-turned his way in surprise. She had always been so easy to read. So innocent from a life tucked away safely in some Vault.

Then they were on top of him and dragging him down with that once again familiar tearing and ripping and he started to scream something--

and she fired the gun with a thundering blast just past his head and one of them dropped to the floor wetly. Again she aimed and fired, and with another roar past his shoulder something was shot back into the dark hall. He hit the floor. She was poised, eyes so wide and scanning the dark desperately; then down at him. He looked up at her, at those bright, wide eyes trying to say something. He shook his head numbly at her gaze, trying to calm the hitch in his breath - and then something grabbed his legs --

and he was torn back down the hall into the black; he could hear her still screaming after him.

--

"Leroy."

He stared mutely back at her. She edged into the room. She was already wearing one of her uncertain smiles for him. Carol made some Ghoul sound and got stiffly up. The dried flesh made some awful pulling sound where it stuck to still-moist meat as she straightened and walked past that small uncertain smile - flashing with the smallest glint of hope, and shut the door behind them with a click.

She gave a weak little laugh with that little smile to fill the expanding silence.

"You sure worried me a bit there."

He stared flatly at her. At that bright hair and those too-bright eyes and those little lips pulled up in the corners and knew she meant every bit of it. And he hated it.

"Get out."

He watched it all fall apart at his force – and she fled the room. Once again he felt safe. He was alone. There was nothing before him now. He closed his eyes resolutely, staring back at the empty dark.