Heres the first chapter of the story I've been neglecting my other stories for. Sorry to those of you that have been followed them, but I had this weird idea/dream. Had to write it down and it's been evolving this past week or so. Set about nine or eight years after the end of Fallout 3. Let me know what you think, I'm not really familiar with doing AU (which this isn't really but feels enough like one too me) so feedback is appreciated.

Dislaimer: Don't own Fallout or Bethesda. I just own a copy of the game...


edit: LillyWhiteRosePetals helped make this more readable. Thank you friend! :)

Finding the Vault door hadn't been the problem, it was getting in.

The ghouls that guarded the place were heavily armed. Which she couldn't help thinking may have been a thoughtless idea since a few specked out ghouls looked just as interesting as a scantily dressed waste whore these days.

The dust coated her feet like a second layer of skin. Her tan hide and leather boots now unmistakably the color of yellow sand.

The milky eyes of the ghoul guards stared her down, demanding what she wanted by coming here; coming to Abyss. They didn't take to kindly to smoothskins. Blood between ghouls and humans had gotten worse over the past ten years and if she was being honest, she'd taken a little to big of a risk by coming here...especially in broad daylight.

The fog lights hanging up and down the tunnel did little to light up the place. It was as if the rocks absorbed the illumination just to make it easier for the ghouls to see her, but harder for her to see them. She had learned the hard way, only a few months after crawling out of her own Vault, how better ghouls nocturnal sight was compared to hers. A faint memory cropped up at the thought; a strong but pleasant one.

She'd heard about Abyss from a few shady travelers, a couple whores who'd tried to make a living down there, and one particular trader with a missing hand; he had little good to say about a particular ghoul down there by the name of Cerberus.

"Here to trade. I mean no harm. No weapons.", it was a lie, but no one would find the 32. she'd stashed under her skirt. She knew the drill.

The rest of her weapons she'd hid in a locker, in a room on the sub-level of a old war bunker, in a small two bedroom house. She figured they were safe, but if not she was just as good with her fists as she was with a weapon.

She slung her pack down on the rocky floor in front of the two guards, taking a step back and holding her hands out from her sides. The whole ordeal was quite formal. One checked her bag, and the other patted her down. By this time she didn't flinch when the rough, searching hands grabbed at her breasts ass and hips; it was procedure. It was quick and to the point, just as she expected from a Vault run by ghouls; they were never ones to waste time, even though they had lots of it.

The right ghoul, glared at her as he slammed a fist on the button to his right, apparently that meant she was cleared. One thing she always loved about ghouls was that no matter how tough you were, and no matter how weak they were, the glares they gave could make your ass clench and your mouth shut.

It took only a few seconds for the almost forgotten noises of the door to creak and jam, then push in and over. Dust puffed out behind the ghouls, wafting in her face and blowing some of her greasy hair back, which considering how heavy with filth her hair was, it was strong.

The two cocked their weapons - well kept assault rifles - as she passed into the thick atmosphere of Abyss. It smelt like him, just like she remembered and for the first time in ten years she actually wanted to run the other way.

The place was lined with guards, each one carrying their own well maintained weapon. The fire power in the control room alone made the fine hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stand on end. They had gotten organized fast, more than any human colony had in these years. They all gave her roughly the same look, it told her to watch her step. They wouldn't hesitate raping her body with their bullets if she made a wrong move. She knew that much.

She adjusted her pack, pulling the second strap over her shoulder as she walked past the line of guards into a relatively deserted hallway. Everything was dark, hazy with moisture, like a thick jungle she'd seen in films; though the air itself was rather was a wet cold.

Another guard at the end, watched her, raising a weapon just as the intercom buzzed on. The sound made her jump, despite her desire to show she was intimidated as little as possible. The half transformed ghoul woman, with her weapon pointed straight at her head paused, listening to the announcement.

"We got us a smoothskin boys and girls, she's been cleared so don't shoot her unless she gives you all good reason...", there was a pause but the hum of the intercom continued for a few seconds, "...Cora, report to control room in five."

The ghoul woman, currently poised and ready to kill, glared at her, one eye lower than the other before slowly lowering her spic and span aka 47. She shoved past the smoothskin and headed down the hall behind her.

In the thick air the smoothskin broke out in a cold sweat. The ghoul woman looked too familiar and for some reason her feet still felt like heavy blocks glued to the floor. This place was armed to the teeth and no one looked like they wanted anything more than to bust a cap between her eyes. Coming here was either genius or idiotic.

After a few seconds she moved again. Cora, that name hadn't sounded familiar, but her peeling face was. She kept her head down, figuring the submissive gesture would keep the trouble to a minimum. It did, surprisingly, or maybe it was just that she didn't see the looks everyone gave her. The animosity was heavy around her, but it was too be expected.

Ever since the Brotherhood napalmed Underworld things had gotten hairy. As far as she knew this was the only safe haven for the ghouls, and only a few people knew about it...though many others didn't acknowledge it more than a rumor of hope among the surviving ghouls. She saw fewer and fewer ghouls in her travels and was almost convinced everyone was right, that the bigots had finally gotten rid of the ghouls; had finally finished the first step of purifying the wasteland...

Red light, hung over ledges and above doors. The place literally looked like hell, as it was described in the new testament. Gone was the meek, friendly atmosphere of Underworld and hello too the violent, battle ready decor of Abyss; a fitting name.

To say she felt singled out, discriminated against and despised was an understatement. It was like they were trying their hardest to make her feel like they had when they'd first turned into ghouls, or still did. It didn't work as much as she knew they would have liked, she was used to ghouls...but not exactly like this. Things had changed, and not for the better.

At least she knew her way around Vaults, and the makeup didn't change much from one to the next, though the graffiti and dim lighting almost reversed her sense of familiarity.

In the common room was where she came across what looked as much like civilians as any ghoul in here looked. She was even surprised to see a child, maybe twelve walking around with a combat knife in his belt, though she knew better than to think that he was as young as he looked. For all she knew he was twice as old as her...

The mood was unpleasant all of a sudden. Her heart took in slow strong beats, as she surveyed the area. Spray painted signs littered the walls and alcoves above doors. Name and places were in code, western religious and biblical versus littered everywhere.

Standing in the middle of the room, as ghouls bumped past her and grumbled, sniffing and staring, forced her to take a right, down some place that was titled Two Fields. If she remember this was where normally the living quarters were, but the black corridors and red lights were starting to twirl her visual acuity. She couldn't tell what was a door and what was a wall sometimes.

Rough laughter sounded to her right, two ghouls were looking at her, smoking cigarettes near a vent. She nearly collided with a structural beam while trying to take the open door to her left; a bathroom. She was standing in a relatively bright bathroom with her heart pounding in her chest.

She touched her temples, feeling a headache coming on from what she thought was a combination of the wet air and the red lights. This place wasn't for humans, and where as one time, long ago she preferred the company of ghouls to humans...that time was slowly fading away.

In the mirror she saw her face, shiny with perspiration and lips white. She felt ill, nauseated and soon she found herself face deep in one of the toilets. Her guts emptied for about ten minutes, alternating from spewing out food and stomach bile. Her nerves were on end, no longer was she as calm and calculated as when she'd walked into this vault.

A few full steady breathes help her remove herself from the stall. Her pack was on the floor and she pulled out a box of mentats, popping one and swallowing them with the bitter water from the faucet.

Her stomach still grumbled and every part of her felt coated in a sticky layer of sweat, it cooled quickly making her skin prickle and her fingers twitch.

She nearly laughed, scrubbing her face in the sink. If she found him; if she found Charon, what would he think of her if he saw her now? With the small creases under her eyes, coupled with her long hair and right now...her pale sweaty face. She was older now, not the flawless smoothskin he'd taught and been taught by all those years ago. If she found him, she supposed she'd know then what he thought, and if he was anywhere, he'd be here. He would, she reassured herself.

She wet her hair back, pushing over the strands and getting a little grease out at the same time, humming a slow mellow tune as she did so. She was calm now, at least as much as she could be given the situation. In the mirror, with the soft light she looked the same as when she'd stepped out of the Vault, fresh faced and naive. She would have trusted a man to take her clothes off if he said he was checking for star dust back then. Not now, not anything like how she was. Most of it was with Charon's help too, he'd taught her many things...things that she wouldn't dare talk about now. She wouldn't even talk about him, pretending he was human, to anyone.

The water drained down the sink, swirling with bits of grit. She almost gagged, thinking she guzzled that down moments ago.

Everything changed after the purifier collapsed. The Brotherhood got paranoid, turning out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing after all she and Charon had done...even after her father...

She gripped the sink and stared down her own reflection as tears welled up. "Don't you fucking dare.", she hissed to herself, blinking back the tears. Crying was for pussies...and she proved it a dozen times over that she was no pussy.

Things went to hell soon after the Brotherhood sent out nameless patrols to exterminate the ghouls and mutants, people got scared...hopeless for anything else to come around and save them from themselves. The Brotherhood came around though, fed them all lies and set up colonies around Washington and Maryland. They burned all the FEV rejects and the skinless humans, they burned it all, everything but the humans...and god knew most of them deserved worse than being set on fire. Raiders were spared, most enslaved. It was scary to think how fast shit went down, how quickly the hope they had just slipped through their fingers into the wind. She hadn't heard from Charon, since...

Eight years at least, but she remembered watching him turn his back on her much earlier than that.

When a shriek of metal hit her ears she whipped her head around, catching the sight of the same female ghoul from the hallway, the one with half her face still covered in smooth flesh. The ghoul woman only nodded to her, halting her weapon over her shoulder and pressing into the stall beside the one the smoothskin had recently purged in. No animosity like before, but no pleasantries either.

The door to the bathroom stuck as it closed, hummed and then slammed shut all the way with a shudder.

The nerves smacked her stomach again, but the mentat was starting to ease her a bit, and it would make the attempted conversation a little less terrifying. In the mirror she gave herself a smile and willed herself to lean back off the sink.

The toilet flushed and out came the ghoul woman. She washed her hands, ignoring the smoothskin beside her. It was awkward, both knew something was brewing, one of them wanted to talk, or both but neither knew what to start off with. So when the ghoul woman finished, wiping her hands on a ratty button up blouse she just stood there, watching her own reflection just as the smoothskin did hers. There was something unspoken between them already...

"Cora.", the voice was raspy, like she remembered Willow's being. Another memory hit her, but she held in the frown for a smile.

"Heard that over the loudspeaker. It's nice to meet you.", she turned seeing Cora still watching her own reflection.

"Ha! I doubt that very much smoothskin..."

The ghoul picked at her skin lightly, peeling off a small portion of dead flesh. It was gross, but never would she insult the ghoul by showing any signs of the emotion on her face. For turning into a ghoul before her own eyes, Cora was quite nonchalant about the whole thing.

"Think what you like." She turned from the ghoul, staring around the bathroom out of a compulsive habit. The meet and greet wasn't going good, not that she expected as much...but she did have hope in the beginning. A friend would have been good, at least someone who could tell her if Charon was here or not.

"I'm Harriet." She stated, glancing at Cora who was washing a section of skin with wet fingers.

"I don't really care about your name. Why your here would be better..."

Here it was. She could ask if he was here, or if she'd heard of him...but all of a sudden, with the situation perfect she avoided the question. The answer may not be so good...and was probably not what she wanted to hear, most likely. So she gave the excuse she'd given the guards.


"You reek of suspicion, you know that? Don't even sound like you believe your lie either. You another whore?" Cora's tone was bleak, as if she'd had the same conversation with a dozen smoothskins, and for all Harriet knew, the ghoul had - though it didn't help to know that and she was still offended by the question.

"No. Do I look like a whore to you?" Harriet stared, eyes dead solid on Cora and even when the ghoul turned and gave her a once over she couldn't help feeling the urge to shoot her with the .32 nestled against her thigh.

"Guess not, but I haven't seen a smoothskin woman come in here that wasn't, not that they lasted long. Most ghouls in here are starved for it, not like I'll fuck em'...or barely any other ghoul women...and they don't really want to fuck us either. Makes for busy whores..."

The words weren't lost on her but it was just the fact that Cora had actually made conversation that made her gut stop churning. Harriet stared down with a sad smile on her face, unable to hide it. She had spoken to her with more than a few clipped words, it was a start. It reminded her of when she'd first gotten Charon to say a whole sentence to her, albeit the sentence had been a rude one...but it was still a good memory.

"What the fuck are you smilin' about smoothskin."

"Harriet.", she corrected, still with a semblance of a smile. Her nerves mellowed down now that it felt the ice had been cracked.

"Whatever, just don't try anything, some of us out there," she gestured to the bathroom door, "are itching to take you down.." Cora seemed to stop halfway out the door. She looked over at the smoothskin, giving her a look of pity and mild contempt, "...and I was until a moment ago."

Then she was gone, like that, leaving the lingering smell of stale scotch and smoke behind. The bathroom was just as cold and damp as it had been, and the chills set in again. The idea of setting out into the red hellish hallways wasn't a pleasant one, but she needed a drink. The alcohol was guaranteed to stifle her nerves like the mentats didn't. But first, she needed to trade some of her shit until she could afford the booze.

So, with one last farewell to her reflection; the one with the tired eyes and the shiny skin, she swung her pack over a shoulder and exited the bathroom.

Outside the bathroom, through the hallways the area was dead. No one but a lone ghoul with a hand rolled cigarette was out, and he didn't even look at her. There was an echo of some old music drifting through the rooms, a few clicks and creaks, but besides that all was quite. The signs were still hard to read, sprawled in swirls and block-like letters. She followed an intricate snake pattern up one wall, it curved high, past the railing to the second floor and straight up to the dome window of the Overseer's office.

A figure was in the window.

A large black silhouette stood, arms behind it's back, legs parted. The stance was stoic and she couldn't help but stare.

The figure made her body freeze - not stop moving - but literally drop in temperature. It was as if some one had shot her full of ice. Goose bumps ran up her sides, and the tips of her fingers burned.

She locked eyes with it, or at least where she assumed their eyes would have been.

The shoulders were broad, the legs thick. Whoever it was they were built, or maybe - she tried to remember - that was how they always looked when they were up there. Her memory was limited from that long ago, but it didn't matter much any more.

He or she, no...most definitely a man, was looking at her. She knew it; the head was tilted down at an angle, in her direction. The graffiti snake's head was large underneath him, one bulging eye with an open mouth; fangs and tongue exaggerated. It fit well with his imposing black form, one that wouldn't stop looking down at her. She knew not to make a face, not at the one that was in the power house, but without knowing what she was doing her stare turned hard.

It felt like forever until the figure wavered, turned and left the view of the window. The moment passed, the sub-zero feeling leaving her, making the air almost warm in comparison. She breathed in again, barely aware that she'd been holding her breath the whole time.

She needed a drink. Once she saw everything through the layer of a good buzz she'd be find. She always did function better on a bit of booze everyday.

The ghoul in the corner coughed, squishing out his cigarette. She watched him as he headed out a door behind him on his left. The door read nothing but a symbol, a cross between a circle and a lug nut. Looking back at the other signs she determined the lug nut door was the one that had the most chance of having supplies.

With one more look to the empty dome window she trailed through after the tobacco smelling ghoul. The hallway was bright, almost too much compared to the rust saturated common room. Her eyes flashed; adjusting. No graffiti either. It was spick and span, clean enough to eat off of...well that was a lie, but it was clean enough for anyones tastes.

Doors along the hallway were closed, except a few that appeared to be lounges, one with a projector room. Armored ghouls were crowded in the rooms, arguing it seemed, but over what...she didn't know.

Ahead at the end of the corridor was a hazy room, one with a ghoul behind a counter, shelves upon shelves of produce, at least from this distance it looked like that. The closer she got the more she realized they weren't boxes of salisbury steaks and fancy lads snack cakes but countless boxes of ammo, every color, shape and size.

In the doorway she stopped, surprised and near giddy. It was like she'd stepped into the ultimate loot pile, except if she wanted this, she'd have to pay. Though that was fine, the fact of the matter was that it was available, and in the wastes part of the battle was finding it, the other was paying for it.

The ghoul behind the counter perked up, face thin and cheeks hollow. His mouth was small and his eyes big, with what looked like a large scar starting from one corner of his mouth down to just under his jaw. It was a nasty wound, but for her scars were something to admire, it meant you were a survivor; meant you didn't end up just another corpse being picked clean by vultures.

"A fellow Vault rat maybe? You know your way around the tunnels, or maybe you sucked it up and asked a ghoul for directions. Somehow I find that more possible coming from a woman than a man, and you are definitely a...woman." He was sly, eyes looking her over, but she wasn't bothered by the act in the least.

The older she got the more she appreciated the crude gestures, words and innuendoes. The ghoul wagged what would have been eyebrows at her, lips parting to show dull teeth.

She smirked, setting her fists down on the counter, gazing past the ghoul at the array of ammo, weapons, and...pornography? She stopped and stared, and it seemed he caught her cause the smirk he got on his face could have melted the sun.

"Ah, never see a naked lady before? I have a mirror in the back... if you'd like I could show you one just with the flick of my wrist."

She snorted, un-lady like, but it mattered little. "No thanks, I know how to undress myself."

"Pity, what can I do for you then? The magazines are expensive...just so you know."

The mentats were doing their job and she placed her pack down in the counter with a sheepish grin, feeling much better than earlier.

"Got a few things to trade, think you might find them useful, what with all your...", she waved a hand to the counters behind him, "...goods."

He seemed interested, leaning over the counter with hands bracing on the edge. He watched her hands more than what she was putting on the counter, and she knew why too. She was missing a finger, which in the wastes wasn't too uncommon, but most never saw it on a woman. She wiggled the half digit, watching his eyes waver before looking up at her. He looked a bit embarrassed but it was gone when he saw what she'd set on the counter.


She nodded, a small smile on her lips as she set down a few other less interesting odds and ends.

"These will come in handy. Where did you get them, if you don't mind me asking?" He palmed each one, some extended magazines and one thick silencer. The ghoul looked impressed, but only vaguely, in fact she was a little surprised he hadn't wet himself at the sight of them.

"Picked them off some hoods.."

The room got real quiet, and it was then she realized it may have been best if she'd lied. The ghoul stared at her, lowered eyes and an expression as unreadable as it was worrisome. His thin bitten fingers set the specs down carefully, almost like they were made out of glass. She watched him, ready to see just what he had to say.

"How'd you manage that?" His tone was curious but disbelieving, almost suspicious.

"Sheer willpower...", she paused, eyes locked with his; her smile gone, "...They hate me as much as they hate you by now."

"I wonder why that is...", it wasn't a question, more of a statement. Nevertheless the ghoul opened up his register and started dishing out caps. The whole placed was rigged left and right with everything that made her mouth salivate, so when she saw the amount of caps he had in stock she told herself she shouldn't have been surprised. The question did this place have everything it needed, nay, more than it needed. The logical answer was that they were building an army, all the necessary components were there and the pieces fit.

So as the ghoul strung up small pouches of caps she couldn't help but wonder, "Have you killed any?"

Again the room went silent, but it didn't last as long as the previous pregnant pause.

"No, but he didn't kill me." The ghoul gestured to his face, the scar looked more pronounced now that he'd craned his neck to the side, and the scar didn't stop where she'd thought it had. The jagged length trailed down just under his adam's apple, where the gash deepened. She locked eyes with him, how the bastard managed to survive a cut to the throat like that was beyond her. The ghoul survived...that he was right about.

"He might have died, but I wont ever know for sure. Got him good in the gut right before, but the coward ran off, guessing he'd let me bleed out."

"They're all an extent...", she added. Suddenly she felt uncomfortable, eyes shifting anywhere but the ghouls face. It felt like she'd been given the information just so she'd feel bad for asking, which she couldn't deny wasn't the case.

"Names Aser..."

He was itching the scar on his neck, looking at her with lidded eyes. The tone friendly, but nothing like the fake tone he'd used the first time. There was even a little smile to his lips. She gave him his own look back and pushed a hand out at him, the one with four fingers. He took it, a firm grip that she returned wholeheartedly. They squeezed each other palms, negating the usual shake.


"A beautiful name, for a beautiful woman.", and the slutty tone was back. She grinned, pulling her hand back, picking up the caps he'd pouched. They were heavy, in her hands and she bounced them in a palm.

"Feels like you've given me a too-good-to-be-true price."

"New customer, need to make sure you end up returning. Don't know if I can have that sweet ass come in here and never come back."

"You haven't even seen my ass yet." She paused, licking her lips before giving him a cold look. "I'm not a whore you know..." She put the caps in her pack, shaking her head and smirking into the sack.

"I know, whores aren't as pretty as you." He must have been a charmer in his non-ghoul days. For a scared up ghoul trader he sure was a confident fucker, "I was going to close up for awhile, let me buy you a drink?"

He wasn't a charmer now, a slime if she had to describe his approach but his humor was good and damn her if she wasn't impressed by the scar. Not only that, but he may be able to give her a few good answers about this place, without sneering at her every syllable like she would expect Cora too - not that she had planned on searching the ghoul woman out, or maybe she had. Regardless, there was something interesting about Aser and damn her to hell if she was gonna turn down a drink with good company.

"You read my mind Aser."

"Course I did." He smirked, jiggling his keys in one palm and slicking his patchy off-green hair back with the other.

She secured her pack over a shoulder, following out after him and waiting as he locked the shop.

As they walked he told her about Abyss, not the details but the rundown.

It had been around for the past six years, growing more everyday. They had all the amenities and normally, they had the entertainment, meaning whores, but he gruffly told her they couldn't handle what he was packin'. A ghoul named Cerberus was the foundation, taking over this vault with a group of others. She asked more about him but Aser just ignored her, kept on talking about the place and the stuff he did for fun; mostly involving alcohol and pussy when he could get it.

She thought back to the intricate snake graffiti in the common room; how it slithered its way up, cradling the Overseer's dome window like a meal. The black figure, she was sure, had been Cerberus, the one that had stared her down making her feel like she'd never left her vault; like she was still a nineteen year old girl, ignorant of anything evil or traitorous. The feeling hadn't been pleasant, but it wasn't unfamiliar either.

They passed a placed called Resurrection, the medical wing where two average technicians acted as doctors. Two Fields was the male and female living quarters as she'd suspected and there was even a whole reactor floor for the hounds they trained. There were other places but he said that he could show her that later, when he took her back to his place.

She shook her head finally finding a reason to laugh. She walked on with him, ignoring his witty flirtations as they headed down red filtered corridors. They were headed to the bar, a place called Dante's, which she figured was fitting enough considering the place she was in.

Even if Aser wanted nothing more than to get her good and buzzed, naked and on his bed, she was still grateful for something akin to friendship. The last time she'd been able to laugh with a ghoul was way too fucking long ago.

Dante's was reasonably filled, ghouls littering the tables pushed into the walls. Smoke filtered up into the ceiling, creating a haze that blocked out the dusty grey color above them all. If it didn't smell so rich, it would have been pleasant; the atmosphere and all. Most of the ghouls stared, but after a few moments they went back to their conversation or drunken solitude.

"Sit down, I'll get the drinks...Harriet." She sat down, a table near the center of the bar. He said her name like you would a fine wine and all she could do was shoot him a warning glance before plunking her pack by her feet.

"Whiskey." She called out as he turned his back on her.

Some eyes were still on her, and she made contact with them. It was amazing what a conversation with a ghoul like Aser did for her confidence of the place. Now that she knew more about the vault, its residents and some more shady aspects she felt less intimidated by the looks. She spotted Cora at a table of male ghouls, knocking back shot after shot like the rest of them. The ghoul woman wasn't looking at her, in fact she would go as far as to say she was avoiding her as her eyes poured over the bar. She didn't hold it against the ghoul, she may have done the same if she were in her shoes.

Aser came back, two full glasses of whiskey, nothing like the small shots most everyone else was milking.

"You must really want me drunk Aser..."

"I'm a sucker for getting one's point across early in the game."

She chuckled again, the sarcasm was what she needed right now, the whiskey too...but he didn't know how well she could hold her alcohol. She took a few good mouth fulls of the whiskey, draining half the glass. The lip of the glass rested against her mouth for a moment as she thought of something. The figure in the dome window from before was bothering her, like it ought too she figured. There was something odd about the whole thing, and it wasn't just the normal infuriation of being belittled by an unknown person.

Aser was staring at her, not having touched his glass yet. Her eyes went to his, and something passed between them. They stared at each other a few moments, the silence between them pleasant as the chatter and cajoles of the bar wafted over them.

He saw the question in her eyes, she knew it, but that didn't mean he would humor her about it.

"So, I'm guess that was Cerberus in the Overseer's window?"

" saw him up this early?" His voice was drawl, as if the whole question bored the shit out of him.

"It's three o'clock", she gave him his tone back at him and he cocked a brow.

Aser gave a lopsided grin to his drink and took a hardy swallow before saying anything else, "Even down here, with no sunlight he seems to avoid the daylight hours. Nasty mother fucker, and I mean that in the best possible way."

She set her glass down, folding her arms on the table. The look of rushed curiosity was more than evident in her body language and expression, but she couldn't be bothered to care.

"Tell me."

Aser paused, looking as if she'd said something insulting, but the look went away after he downed the whole heavy glass of alcohol. He surveyed the bar. No one was watching them anymore, to busy with their own conversations and binge drinking.

"You seem like the sort to take things for what they are, so just know he's not one you speak ill of...even in the privacy of your own bed with your dick in your hand."

She noticed a shake in his hand, the one holding his empty glass in the air. He gestured to her half full glass and she shook her head. With a breath Aser downed her drink and set it on the table.

"Know that if you keep asking about him the word will get around. He'll be glad to have one of his lapdogs take you up to his office so he can show you first hand. Never seen anyone more hateful of smoothskins than that one. Won't even fuck em'."

"Donn! Another round, good sir!" Aser bellowed at the bar, holding up her empty glass. He had a weird forced grin on his face, as if the alcohol hadn't qualm any nerves that she roused up by her question. Though sooner then she thought he make the look convincing and smiled at her, putting the glass down.

"This isn't Underworld, you need to be careful what you let loose out of that soft mouth of yours."

The drinks came - both set none-to-gently - hers spilling along the table and a few fingers. She eyed the bartender, a short but muscled ghoul who looked at her as if she was a pile of shit. The look almost made her suspicious of drinking the glass set down in front of her.

"Chill it Donn, smoothskin hasn't done anything to earn your prick-stare." Aser huffed a breath out his nose and he went to work on his third glass.

She kept her eyes locked, pride keeping her from leaving the staring match first. Donn, only sneered and turn away, leaving them both with a foul lingering fog of animosity.

Truthfully, if she'd been a man Aser would have given her the same look, more or less, so she was thankful she had tits and went to her drink. Whatever could get her by without a knife to the breastplate would be looked at in a positive light. No time to be picky.

"He may be a bit of a cunt, but he fixes a strong drink. None of that watered down shit for a friend of mine." Aser cracked a grin and winked at her. He'd already finished his glass, while she was taking her second sip. He was a booze hound, or maybe ghouls needed more. She honestly couldn't remember Charon ever getting drunk...or Gob, who never drank. Another frown came at the thought, so she tossed her glass back and downed the whole of its contents, getting a whistle of approval from Aser.

"That's a real woman for ya.", the grin in his voice almost offensively apparent.

The ghoul leaned back in his chair, watching her cheeks flush rosy with the booze. She had to admit, it was strong and she wasn't used to the stuff if it wasn't cut down at least by a third. Aser seemed to know this too, for he merely kept grinning at her, as if he'd scored an ace in the hole.

Her inhibitions started to leak out of her, and if it hadn't been for the mentat she'd popped earlier she had no doubt she'd be a slurry mess about now. Her stomached ached with a sweet warmth and the sides of her vision blurred in a euphoric afterglow. The smug smile on Aser's face seemed to cut into his mouth as far as his small mouth could stretch. She needed to ask, before she forgot why she was here.

"Do you know of anyone by the name of Charon?" She was surprised at how casual her question was, maybe the booze had helped more than hindered.

"Naw, no ghoulettes by that name. I'd remember." He still had that smile.

"No. He. His name's Charon."

Aser's smile dropped at that, his eyes shifted and he fingered the lip of his dry glass. "A ghoul?"

She pressed her lips together, lowered her lids in a 'no-shit?' manner. Aser tilted his head down, rolling his eyes to the ceiling as if in thought. Her heart thudded between her ribs at a increasing tempo, anticipating his eventual response.

"Nope! Can't say I have."

She felt floored, "You sure?"

"Charon's a girls name anyways, I would remember a man by that name if I knew 'im." Aser gave her an intense look, one that made her back down without her even thinking about it. The whole conversation had been odd. His tone and how quickly he changed it. She wasn't convinced, but no way was she going to throw him more questions. So, she licked the taste of alcohol from her lips and smiled.

"Well then, how about you sell me one of those dirty magazines?"

"Baby, you don't need one of those with me around."

"Not for me." She put her four fingered hand down on the table, tapping her digits against the sticky metal. Aser watched her drumming, but gave her a curt nod before standing. He offered a hand to her, one she took as her other hand grabbed the strap of her pack.

Her pace was slow and steps uneven, but Aser seemed even more sturdy than when he'd escorted her to the bar. She couldn't tell the time, which she should have check before leaving the bar. Her Pip-boy was hidden in a innocuous flap inside her pack. Having it on would just have gotten her more stares and assumptions; things she didn't need more of.

Of all the things to have happened in the last few months, she had to admit, buying a smutty magazine from a equally smutty ghoul shot to the top of her list.

They stood in his shop now, him behind the counter as he was before and her with her stomach pressed into the edge of it, smirking at the seductive poses in front of her.

She flipped the pages with her now spit dampened thumb. The pages were wrinkled and some in more gross condition. No pussies or cocks though...just bare breasts, coy smiles and curved flesh.

"Nice tits...", she smirked and shut the magazine, stuffing it in her back pocket after rolling it up.

"I hope your not offended that I have a hard-on right now." Aser snickered at her across the counter, elbows planted and eyes glittering.

"I expected no less from you.", she leaned over the counter as well, tapping her middle finger on the cool linoleum, eyeing the counter behind him. "Would it be unfair to assume you'd sell me ammo?"

"For what gun?"

"I have some high caliber weapons nestled in a safe house a few miles away, no guns on me of course."

"Unless your hiding one somewhere no ghoul is allowed to grope..." He was witty, she'd give him that as well. No one could say he was a thick thinker.

She was about to open her mouth to retort but Aser's eyes widened, and he stepped back, elbows slipping off the counter to fall at his side like limp noodles.

He looked through her.

His tattered mouth thinned down and his bugged out eyes were unblinking. A shiver ran up her spine, feeling a presence enter the shop and judging by Aser's look it couldn't have been good, so she opted to not turn around yet.

Heavy sets of footsteps sounded behind her. The noise sounded forced, like who ever it was wanted her to hear them. Her knuckles drained of color while her grip on the counter tightened. A breath hit her neck for a second before a heavily armed ghoul stepped up to her side, pressing a hip into the counter to look at her.

The other ghoul she still felt behind her, but closer now.

The cold sweat came back, the warm buzz from the alcohol draining from her body the moment a gun behind her clicked, as if someone had removed the safety.

Her eyes shifted in her sockets, from the stock pile of assorted ammo to the guards face. No emotion shown on the ghoul, nothing but a thinned mouth and solid milky eyes. She was playing it cool until a strong grip landed on her shoulder, her body jumped and stiffened as the ghoul behind her yanked her back a few inches.

Her breath caught in her throat, watching the guard before her give her a small smirk before nodding to Aser who for all she knew hadn't moved a muscle from behind the counter.

"Keep your business and your mouth behind the counter Aser, the smoothskin doesn't need a personal tour."

She was pushed to the side, almost drug to the door by the unseen ghoul while the other stood where he was. "Doubt Cerberus would appreciate you mouthing off to her about anything...private." The word came out a growl, and Harriet couldn't help but feel a jolt of shame and guilt.

Out in the bright hallway she was pushed forward, jabs at her shoulders every time they deemed she was walking too slow. Her teeth grit together, every fiber of her being telling her to rebel against the harsh treatment, but this wasn't the place.

"Keep moving smoothskin." The one she had yet to see grumbled and poked the tip of a gun against her shoulder blade, pushing her forward. Her mouth salivated, her tongue thick in her mouth as she clenched her jaw back and forth. The pokes weren't just firm, they were meant to hurt her.

The red hue of the common room did little to ebb her growing rage as they pushed and stuck her, herding her like some brahmin to the slaughter.

A specific stab at a disk in her spine made her swerved without a second thought.

She clocked one of the ghouls under his jaw, spit flying out her mouth in a ragged growl. He stumbled back, falling as the other quickly put a strong scratchy arm around her throat, putting her in a very effective choke hold. She gagged, grabbing the arm out of instinct as he pushed her down into the floor.

Down, on the floor in the visually hellish room, with one ghoul at her throat and the other struggling with her bucking legs was not how she wanted someone to see her, but sure enough, with her vision blotchy from the lack of oxygen to her brain she saw the tall imposing figure in the dome window.

He was staring down at her as he had been before, arms behind his back and legs evenly spaced.

Spittle leaked from the side of her mouth, teeth bared while choking tears fell off the corner of her eyes as she stared up at the man in charge. Cerberus.

"Grab her legs properly you dumb-fuck!" The ghoul screamed at his partner, while he tightened his grip around her neck.

A weird, gurgling noise left her throat and soon the pressure in her head was too much. Her legs gave a few last lingering kicks, one landing in the ghouls gut before weakness set into her limbs and everything got heavy.

Her legs dropped, held in rough hands, as her hands fell from the arm bulging around her neck. The last thing she saw was the figure in the dome waver before leaving her view as the red faded into pitch black.