The original prompt mentioned that Benny carries around Maria, which is adorned with religious symbols. That brought up the question of how Benny would celebrate Christmas, and deal with an agnostic courier questioning his faith. I was going for angsty and ended up with somewhat fluffy instead. Ah well. Enjoy, and happy holidays to everyone!
While no radioactive snow fell on the Strip this time of year, the Tops was determined to be the tops in holiday action. The neon lights outside glowed a beautiful red and green, a few cacti were dragged in and decorated, and the performers were busy singing Christmas carols in-between Hadrian's heckling. However, one member of the Chairmen wasn't participating in the festivities like the rest.
"Benny, the other guys are thinkin' you're a grinch, all holed up here." Swank reclined against the entrance to Benny's room, watching his boss deftly swipe a line of paint across a wooden figure, not surprised at the scene before him. Benny always had his own little rituals; the difference was that this year, they seemed to consume him.
"You worry too much," He replied smoothly, gently putting his figurine down before turning towards his door, waving a dismissive hand at Swank. "Tell the boys to chill, I'll be down soon."
"Doubt it. Your girlfriend's here."
Benny groaned, unable to stop himself. "For the last time, Swank, that broad's not mine, and I'm not hers. She comes up here to discuss business."
"Right. You tellin' her how ravishing her charlies are has everything to do with business." Swank winked quickly before vanishing, the courier waltzing in to take his place. She was dressed in formal wear and carrying a bottle of wine. For a moment, Benny didn't believe the vision in front of him. Well, until he saw the pistol strapped to her thigh.
"Merry Christmas Eve, Ben-man. Brought you a little something," She smiled, placing the bottle down next to the wooden figures he had been painting earlier. Frowning, she inspected the scene he had created with them-the Nativity scene.
"What the hell is this?"
"Don't touch, darling," Benny crooned, though his undertone was quite serious. The courier, noticing, glanced at him and started to laugh.
"Oh, did I find wittle Benny's soft spot? His little dolls?" Damn, how could someone so beautiful be so cold? Karma might be on her side, but that girl could be downright villainous if she felt like it.
"Even someone like you can tell they ain't dolls." His sentence had the desired reaction-her face furrowed in confusion, trying to determine if he had just insulted her or not. Taking this moment to his advantage, the topic was quickly changed.
"So, baby, explain the fancy dress." He tugged her into his lap and she fell, laughing as she went.
"I wanted to look nice for you. Did you put up candles?" Her interest was perked by the singular candle on his nightstand, while he was still processing what she had said.
Wanted to look nice for you. For you. He'd be lying if he said they had a simply professional relationship, from one head of a group to another. She'd dragged him back to the strip, gave him his position as head of the Chairmen back, and since then she'd been sucking the head of his chairmen in every possible position. They'd hold hands, order Swank around, even go out to shoot a few radscorpions together. They'd done everything a couple did...except acknowledge that they were a couple.
He was shaken out of his thoughts by her getting out of his lap, inspecting the candle with confusion. "White? Usually when you're trying to set the mood, you go with red."
"Wasn't trying to set the mood-" He started, interrupted yet again when she fingered the small chain he had around his neck.
"You're wearing jewelry? You never do that." Gently tugging the chain, she pulled it up, gasping loudly at the cross on it. She looked to the pendant, then back to him, reaching for her magnum.
"You son of a bitch," She hissed, and he could swear there were tears in her eyes. "Caesar's Legion? Really? After all this time-"
"Baby, Pussycat, calm down. This isn't Caesar's Legion's symbol, promise," He interjected, grabbing her hands gently. The fire in her eyes died, and was replaced by mild interest.
"Oh? Then enlighten me. What is it?"
"It's a symbol of God, baby. Jesus Christ."
The courier was silent for a few moments, looking from the nativity scene, to the candle, and back to his necklace. Then, she finally spoke.
"You're telling me you actually believe in this bullshit?"
"Excuse me?" Benny should have seen this coming. There was a reason he practiced his faith in secret. Yet he thought she would understand, or at least be tolerant of it.
"Benny, this whole 'God' thing is just a crock, you know that, right?" She gave him a look of confusion, and then one that stung even worse-a look of pity.
"Oh really? And how do you figure?" He'd heard every argument he could; whatever she came up with, he could handle.
She plopped herself back down on his lap somewhat ungracefully, turning to face him. "Look around you. The Followers don't have enough supplies to help those in need. The Omertas tried to murder everyone on the Strip to get population down. Caesar's Legion speaks for themselves. Do you really think if there was someone up there, they would let any of this happen? That they would even let bombs fall in the first place?"
He held her against his checkered coat, running his fingers through her hair. It was a few moments before he spoke. "God helps those who help themselves, and it's not like He can get in the middle of everyone's little feuds. The bomb dropping, the Omertas, Caesar's Legion..."
"And what about the Followers?" She challenged, shaking her head. "They're good people trying to help good people."
"Life ain't fair, even God can't fix that," He murmured, not about to go into detail. It was Christmas Eve, time for reflection-it was his own sins he wanted to think about.
The woman in his lap was quiet for almost a whole minute until she spoke up. "Aren't angels a God-like thing?"
"Huh?" She was going somewhere with this, he was sure. Where? He had no idea.
"Angels. That's in your little religion, right?" The intense look had returned, though there was no anger this time. At his nod, she tilted her head. "You've called me an angel before. I know it's a compliment, but it's got to mean something more to you."
Oh boy. Sharing his innermost personal thoughts wasn't exactly on his agenda for the night. Then again, she had gotten dressed up for him, brought him a bottle of wine...all very romantic. All things a normal couple would do. Wasn't sharing feelings something couples did?
"Angels save people, y'know? Show them mercy. You did that twice; let me live and escape, then murdered Caesar and untied me. Not to mention bringing me back to the Strip, giving me everything back."
She seemed to drink in everything he said, chuckling after a moment. "You have no idea how cheesy you sound right now. I think this is worse than your puns." When he opened his mouth, she pressed a finger against his lips. "But it's incredibly sweet. Thank you."
He grinned wolfishly and kissed her finger, praying they were off the topic. Of course, she wasn't finished.
"You're going to Hell, you know that, right?"
"So you don't know my religion, but you know enough to tell me where I end up?" He didn't mean it in a cruel way, but judging from the uncomfortable shift the woman in his lap made, it had certainly come out like that.
"Heaven and hell and angels are commonplace stuff, you know? It's not like I know that much about it, just that when you do bad stuff you go there."
It was such a childish response that he couldn't help but chuckle. His grin only widened when she pouted at him, unhappy her contribution wasn't being taken seriously. "It is! So why bother with all this religion when you're already screwed?"
He stopped smiling. "I'm not screwed. I just gotta pray, work towards redemption and ask for forgiveness."
A lock of hair had fallen in the courier's face, but she was too busy staring him down to notice. "Benny. Darling. You are a dirty snake in the grass. Redemption? You don't have a chance."
"And you know me so well. What do you think I've been doin' this whole week, baby? Sittin' up here and twiddling my thumbs?" He was tired of this game, tired of lying down while she shoved his face in the dirt. He opened his mouth to say something quite crude about her ass when her mouth fell open, and she suddenly looked quite ashamed.
"You've been praying. Of course you wouldn't tell anyone, they'd just make fun of you. Like I've been." She moved off of him once more, silently heading for the door.
She had barely touched the doorknob when he caught her, wrapping his strong arms around her waist and letting his lips brush against her hair.
"Hold on there, Pussycat. I want to say something to you."
"Go ahead, I deserve it," She mumbled, clearly expecting a lecture. He shook his head slightly at the thought, gathering his voice.
"You're right. I'm probably going to Hell for a lot of things, most of all for shooting you. But I'll be damned if I'm going without a fight."
She turned, gracing him with one of those beautiful smiles she reserved only for him. It was childish, innocent even.
"If forgiveness saves you, helps you, maybe I should tell you this. I forgive you for shooting me. You were just trying to do what you thought was right. Not that it was right, mind you, but I understand."
"He really blessed me with you." He said it softly, not aware she could hear him. Choosing not to comment, she instead wrapped him into a tight hug.
"I...care about you." It wasn't much to say to a woman you'd been sleeping with for months, but it made her face light up like one of the Christmas cacti.
"Same here, Benny. Same here. I, uh...do you want to go downstairs with me? I heard a rumour that someone would try to stuff Cachino into a Santa outfit, could be fun. Unless there's something you need to do up here...?"
"One thing." Striding across the room, he lit the lone candle in his room and got to his knees, whispering something. The courier only heard him say the last word, 'amen', and had to resist asking who that was. Instead she smiled and took his hand, wandering downstairs and into the fray, the Mysterious Wander's voice crooning above the bustle of the crowd.
They joined the crowd, the courier laughing with Cass and passing Benny a bottle of whiskey. He took it and sipped, listening to Swank tell a dirty joke. Neither one of them mentioned the cross, glittering against the neon lights.
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine!