This was just a little vignette type story that I wrote sometime last year, featuring my Lone Wanderer, Evelyn, and her companion Charon. It's mostly character study with very little dialogue. If you like them, I do have more one-shots (some much more lighthearted ones too) and a longer story in progress, so please review and let me know what you think! :)
Rated Teen for one bad word, really. Hope you can handle that ;) The rest is pretty PG.
It didn't take Charon long after his new employer obtained his contract to realize that he had some serious, deep-seated issues with touching.
Back in Underworld, Charon had done his best to keep as far away from people as humanly possible. Standing in the corner of the 9th Circle, arms crossed and an expression that was unnerving even to those who knew him, Charon's entire demeanor was one of "fuck off and keep on walking." Unless he was dragging a belligerent drunkard out of the bar's premises, physical contact was not typically in his repertoire. When violence was required upon his part, he preferred a nice, clean gunshot wound, long-range if possible: cold, careful and calculated.
But with Evelyn, everything was personal. She didn't seem to let Charon get so much as 5 feet away from her. And when he did, she often had a mild panic attack. He vividly remembered having to stop in order to relieve himself once, and Evelyn was fast on his heels. She learned the hard way to keep a little distance after that incident. Regardless, Charon still hadn't figured out whether she wanted him close for her own protection, or the sense that she was protecting him.
Aside from the whole proximity issue, the kid seemed to touch everything and everyone in her path. She had a habit of politely tapping people on the shoulder or the forearm as she engaged them in conversation and people openly trusted her, for whatever reason. Charon had also learned early on that he couldn't let her get in the vicinity of a domesticated animal; brahmin, dogs, even the occasional molerat. He swore that she'd try to pet a Deathclaw if it was tame enough.
Maybe it was the fact that her daddy was a saint. Maybe it was her vault-dwelling ways that kept her so willing to reach out to people, despite all of the horrible ones she met up with during her travels. Maybe her brain worked differently, as Charon had no doubt that she suffered some sort of brain damage before he was around to save her ass. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but he did know that it made him distinctively uncomfortable at times.
He remembered the first time she had touched him. In their first week together, he had suffered a minor injury on his forearm as a Raider's bullet grazed him. It was a clumsy move, too, on his part. He blamed it on rotting in the 9th Circle for years and not truly using his combat skills to their full potential. He was used to dealing with his injuries on his own, so he didn't bother asking the kid for aid. He'd rather have his arm fall off from infection.
But Evelyn couldn't stand the sight of him bleeding, not even a little bit. When she asked him if he was injured, Charon had casually shrugged it off. However, the kid was persistent, rambling on about infection and proper first aid and he just couldn't take it any more. He gave in, if only to cease her incessant fussing.
As Charon watched her demonstrate her well-learned medical skills, she didn't flinch, didn't recoil, didn't so much as change expression while she held his arm in place and gingerly dressed the wound. Charon had met people in his lifetime who refused to shake his hand as if he was the carrier of some contagious disease. He was certain that she'd be repulsed by him. But as she delicately smoothed the bandage over his injury, goosebumps were sent shooting up his arm and all the way down his spine. He was not used to being treated in such a way, and he couldn't quite fathom how she could touch his skin, his rotting and deteriorating skin as if he were nothing out of the ordinary... as if he were just like her, a smoothskin. Again, probably the brain damage.
Charon had only touched her back once, and it had been unintentional.
The kid had been in pretty bad shape, as it was a particularly arid day in the Wasteland and they had been traversing some rather jagged terrain. Throwing caution to the wind, she was stripped down to a flimsy tank top and military pants to compensate for the unbearable heat. Exhausted and probably bordering on becoming overheated, she lost her footing, nearly pitching forward down quite a steep slope. Charon watched as she flailed her arms wildly and tried to throw herself back into balance... and it could have been messy, but his honed reflexes caught her just in time. He grasped her by the wrist and tugged her petite body towards him with enough force to pull her into his arms.
Evelyn looked rather shocked and a little ashamed over her clumsiness, refusing to make eye contact with him at first.
"Thank you," she muttered after catching her breath, allowing her palms to rest upon his armored chest. "It must be the heat getting to me."
"You should be more careful," was all that Charon said. His gloved hands lingered upon the bare skin of her shoulders, allowing them to slide down her pallid arms. He tried to pass off his wandering fingers as looking her over, but he realized after the fact that he was selfishly satisfying curiosity. Her skin was like alabaster, smooth with a translucent quality to it, and pleasant to the touch. It was no surprise why people ogled her in every settlement they stepped through. Her skin seemed untouched by the harsh elements of the Wasteland, perfectly preserved like a fine wine, as if she had never left the Vault from which she came.
Charon was surprised that she hadn't pulled away from him as she lingered in his grasp. Instead, she smiled a little, looking upwards at him with an awed expression upon her delicate features. He soon felt that familiar discomfort building up again and he released her, lecturing about how she should make sure that she was hydrated before traveling onwards.
Later that evening, Charon came to an interesting realization as they sat around a fire with bitter darkness surrounding them. Although the daylight hours were muggy and dry, the weather had transformed into a brisk night, and Evelyn had a tattered old blanket wrapped around her shoulders for some extra warmth. Charon was toying with his shotgun and making sure that it was free of blood spatter as he often did when he needed something to occupy himself with. The Wastes were deathly silent; the only noise was the crackling of the fire and the distant howling of the occasional feral dog. And then, the silence was broken:
As she uttered the familiar words, Charon allowed his gaze to travel from his weapon to her face. The shadows created by the dancing flames seemed to exaggerate the tired circles beneath her eyes.
"Do you want me to take the first watch?"
"No, I'll do it. You get some rest."
"Are you sure?"
Charon nodded in acknowledgment. He didn't mind keeping a lookout all night if he had too. After all, the kid needed to regain her strength more than he did. He heard her shifting beside him as he resumed cleaning his shotgun, and while he did so, Evelyn leaned over and lightly pressed her lips to his cheek.
He froze, as if every neuron in his brain had suddenly ceased to fire and every muscle in his body was in a temporary state of paralysis. Smiling faintly, she leaned towards him as if she longed to say something more, but seemed to decide against it when Charon merely stared. Her cheeks flushed a rare shade of red as she pulled away, but Charon caught the faintest flicker or something different in those exhausted green eyes of hers.
As she rolled onto her side and whispered a "good night," pulling the blanket a little tighter around her shoulders, it finally dawned upon him. The kid touched everyone in hopes that someone would reach out and touch her in return; In hopes that it would somehow make up for her daddy leaving her, or the void that she felt in her life out in The Wastes. Moments ago, he had seen that void for himself, like a black hole sucking the starlight out of her eyes.
Charon frowned deeply as he watched Evelyn drift off to sleep, his cheek still tingling from the unexpected contact. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he should have regarded her with something more than an expressionless face, but he didn't want to lead the kid on or anything. He had undoubtedly taken it too far when he had selfishly touched her earlier. Apparently, she was looking to him for some kind of reassurance and that was something that she could never receive from him.
Evelyn held his contract, and Charon was entitled to aid her when he was able to. He didn't mind losing sleep so that she could rest or dispatching enemies in her path... but anything more than business-like-professionalism would be in violation of what they shared. She may touch people's lives, but he was not meant to be the one to reciprocate. She was his employer and he was her loyal bodyguard, nothing more and nothing less. After all, the Wasteland was a cold place, cold like him... and calculated for nothing but death and destruction.
As he focused his attention to his shotgun once again, Charon glanced over at Evelyn's sleeping form. The rag that covered her had slipped off and she was visibly shivering. As he gave a grunt, Charon reached over and pulled it back over her shoulders, but his fingers strayed from their intended path and he found himself brushing her cheek with his fingertips, lightly pushing a few errant strands of blond hair out of her face...
... and in that moment, as he watched the kid smile in her sleep, a rare bit of warmth spread throughout his body despite the coldness of The Wasteland. And for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel uncomfortable at all.