A/N: Thank you for the continued support for this fanfic! Apologies for the delays in completing this chapter! I know its been forever, but it really took me a long time to figure out where I wanted to go with this story. The last chapter led to a sort of decision making time. Couldn't put it off any longer! Enjoy!
Lucielle flicked the poker chip with her thumbs on the table so that it spun around on its thin edge. She watched it turning, spinning on its own, until it wobbled over and fell flat. She immediately grabbed it and repeated the process.
As she and Boone sat at that table in the diner of The Tops, Lucy knew she was avoiding Boone's judgmental stare by focusing so completely on a silly spinning chip. But the simple action helped her think, and she had a lot to think about.
She and Boone had barely said two words to each other in the two weeks since the Vault 34 incident, where under pretense of death, they had kissed in the dark. And where, when trying to find means to save Boone from death, Lucy had found the letter he always carried for his dead wife.
Lucy spun the chip again, watching as it moved about the table on its own. She didn't want to think about the letter or what it meant. She didn't want to think about Boone still carrying a torch for a woman he could never have, but would always, always want. She couldn't compete with that.
She didn't want to think about it, but it was all she could think about for the past two weeks. She knew she would never have Boone, and that left her feeling nothing but loss. Even with Boone still at her side, things just weren't the same. She wanted to talk to him about it, as usually talked quite a lot. She always thought Boone liked that, even though he never said so. Still, she was at a loss how to address the issue. Could she really just ask him to let go of his dead wife so that they could be together? No, she didn't think she could.
All of these thoughts reached a peak when Lucy finally built up the courage to face Benny again. She only meant to get him alone to take the Platinum Chip from him without worrying about his lackeys hurting her, but what he offered was indeed tempting - especially to a woman who was recently rejected and hurt. Benny was an attractive man in his own way, and she knew a night with him wouldn't be overly disappointing. Still, something was holding her back, and it was that reason that she was sitting in the diner with Boone rather than scurrying up the elevator to Benny's room.
Benny's room key was heavy in Lucy's pocket as she gave the chip another turn. She dared a glance at Boone, who was staring at the spinning chip with as much intensity as she must have been. He was undoubtedly trapped in his own thoughts, but then, he usually was. She hated to put him in these positions of choice, but maybe that's why she was doing this to begin with. If she had a thing with Benny, then perhaps she could let go of Boone, and he could go on to his continual grieving in his own way, just as he wanted. She was trying to give him an out.
She hadn't told him much about the situation, simply that she didn't need him to join her and that she would see him in the morning. That in and of itself was perhaps enough for him to know what she was planning. At least, she hoped it was. She didn't want to have to talk about it. She just wanted to do it. If she talked about it too much, she didn't think she'd be able to go through with it. But it was important that she go through with it, so that both her and Boone could move on.
At last Boone met her eyes and held them with a ferocity she had never seen before. But then, his gaze was usually hidden behind dark sunglasses. He had lost his favorite pair in the Vault 34 and had yet to replace them.
"He shot you in the head," Boone said, his voice monotone but his eyes narrowed in anger. "He left you in a shallow grave."
"It wasn't personal," Lucy shrugged, but of course, it was still a valid point. She tried not to think too hard about it. "Besides, if I crossed off everyone who ever took a shot at me from my list of eligible men, I'd never have a date." Hell, shooting at each other was a type of foreplay in New Vegas.
Boone's gaze was unwavering for a long moment, as if trying to tell her something he couldn't say with words, but when she did not reply, it fell away.
Lucy knew what he wanted to say. He never took a shot at her, but she refused to acknowledge it, as he wasn't exactly on the list of eligible men to start with.
The chip wobbled on the table, and Lucy snatched it once more. She held it in her hand for a moment, rubbing her thumb over the smooth edge. She remembered when Boone had given her this chip, on their last visit to The Tops. Perhaps she was a fool for holding onto the thing for so long. She set it onto the table flatly and moved to rise.
It was time to move on.
"Lucy," Boone said quickly, on instinct.
She looked back at him in apparent annoyance, but he could see beyond that. He could see the hurt in her eyes, the same hurt that had been there since Vault 34. She was looking expectant, waiting for him to say something. He didn't know what to say. Only one thing sprang to his mind.
"Don't," he told her, even though he knew he had no right to demand her this. She deserved to have fun and be happy, and she could take care of herself. He was just a big weight on her personal life, holding her back. But he couldn't stop himself. The idea of this… What she was planning just did not sit right with him.
Immediately, he regretted saying anything though, as tears began to welt in her eyes. He hated that he was a continued source of pain for her. Perhaps it was better this way. Perhaps he should leave her now and not return. She had the chip, and enough allegiances now to always have someone looking out for her. She didn't need him anymore. He was only causing her pain.
She took a long, unsteady breath to calm herself. He always admired her strength.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't do this," she said very carefully. She couldn't look at him.
He opened his mouth to tell her again that the man in question did shoot her, because her safety was a main concern of his, but she cut him off before he could say a word.
"A different reason," she added.
I love you, Boone.
The memory hit him in full force, of Lucy's confession. She was near unconscious at the time; he doubted she would even remember saying it. The words had been on his mind since then. She deserved to be loved in return. Was that what she wanted from him? To be loved? Was that the reason she was searching for?
The one reason she wanted was the one he couldn't give. His hear wasn't his own to give. He had locked it away when Carla…Carla.
Lucy took a step back to him, probably recognizing his return to memory. So often did she bring him to the present. Just a touch from her reminded him of where he was, but he could never forget the past.
"I can't," he told her, hoping he was making the selfless act.
The tears were there again, instantly, and she retracted the hand she had extended toward him like he had slapped her.
He wanted to apologize, but stopped himself. He knew this was the right decision for her. Even if it didn't sit right in the pit of his stomach, he knew he had to let her go.
She turned and walked away without another word. His eyes were fixed on the exit long after she had gone. This was the end. He knew he would never see her again. He would leave. He would stop holding her back, and she would have a chance at happiness in such an unhappy world.
It should be with me. A voice ticked within him. I could make her happy.
He growled at himself for his conflicting emotions, and repressed the thoughts with memories of Carla. He couldn't keep her safe and happy, despite his best efforts, and she was taken from him, killed by his own hand. She was beautiful and perfect. They were going to have a family together. He had laughed back then, and had smiled. He had friends. And then it was over, destroyed. He lived in a world too cruel for love. It had broken him. He was worthless to others now. He lived only for revenge. To kill Legion was his purpose now. There was no room for love in the blood he meant to spill.
But Lucy…she loved him. She had seen the very worst side of him and still loved him. Lucy, who was brave and honest, who talked too much, who loved her weapons like most people loved pets. His Lucy, who stuck by him when he pushed her away, who kept him alive when he felt like dying, who protected him from everything and everyone, including himself. Lucy loved him.
Boone was shaking his head, trying to clear away pointless thoughts when he saw the chip on the table. He had recognized his gift to her immediately when she had pulled it from her pocket earlier. He was surprised she had still kept it, but supposed he shouldn't have been. Lucy was sentimental. But then, so was he. He instinctively reached up to his chest pocket for the letter he had always kept there, before remembering that he had left it behind, deep in Vault 34. His hand fell away, instead reaching for the abandoned poker chip. It was still warm from Lucy's hands.
She had left it behind on purpose, he knew. She was trying to move on. She deserved to move on.
I still want her.
His fist hit the table so hard that the other patrons turned to stare. He couldn't help it; his own thoughts had surprised him, condemned him. Yet he knew it was true the instant it slipped into his mind.
Lucy was like his light in the storm, directing him when he was lost, and he was always so lost. He wanted her by his side. He would follow her anywhere. He didn't want to give her up, not to some sleazy Chairman. No - not to anyone.
He was walking toward the elevator before he even realized he was doing so.
He still loved Carla, still wanted to avenge her, but so help him, he loved Lucy too. He knew he didn't deserve her, but that was her choice to make. He shouldn't have been trying to force her away. Now he might have lost her forever.
Boone pounded on the elevator button for the third time. The thing was unreasonably slow. He turned for the stairs, hoping there was still time, hoping that she hadn't completely given up on him yet.
He loved her; he knew it. Now he wanted nothing but to tell her so.
Lucy paused outside of Benny's door on the thirteenth floor. She couldn't believe she was actually considering doing this, but here she was. All she had to do now was walk through the door. She took a breath, trying to calm the butterflies in her stomach and the ache in her heart that told her this was a plan she would regret.
"Stupid butterflies," Lucy grumbled and pushed open the door, stepping inside.
She found Benny by the side of the bed, stripping off his checkered jacket to the white-buttoned shirt underneath. He looked up when she entered, and flashed her a smile that she knew he thought was charming. Maybe it was. She couldn't tell. All she could think about was the few times she had seen Boone smile, of how rare an occasion it was, but of how good it felt to have put the smile there on his face. Lucy bet Benny smiled all the time, to anyone.
He sauntered toward her, his brows lowering mischievously. "Benny is going to show you the Tops," he said as he approached. He ran his hands up her arms and down her back as he stepped closer. "I hope you're built sturdy," he added with a smirk.
Lucy placed her hands on his chest, felt the muscle there. She had not expected Benny to have muscle, though as she slid her hands over his shoulders and his arms, she realized that he paled in comparison of Boone's hard figure.
She shook her head, pushing the thoughts away.
"I've got more under these clothes than you ever dreamed, baby," he told her as he leaned to kiss her neck.
Lucy tried to focus, but she knew if he continued to talk she was not going to be able to go through with it. She liked quiet men, who would appreciate her and the moment, rather then spew off useless banter. She always imagined Boone would…
She broke the line of thought by finding Benny's mouth with her own. He kissed her deeply, and wasn't bad at it, but all Lucy could think of was Boone. For one small moment, Lucy tried her hardest and was actually able to convince herself she was kissing Boone rather than Benny. In that moment, their kiss had intensified and sparked, but it passed with a pause for air.
Benny opened his mouth again. "You're platinum, pussycat," he told her with a lick of his lips. He leaned in for another round.
Her hands on his chest tensed. "Wait," she said. She couldn't do this. She never could. She knew that now. It didn't matter if she couldn't have Boone; she loved him. This was a lie, and it was all wrong.
"What's the hold-up, baby?" Benny asked. Still, he was smirking. "Worried the Ben-man might be too much for you?"
Lucy shook her head, repressing the urge to smack him for his ridiculous banter. "I want Boone," she told him honestly, seeing no reason to lie about it.
He leaned in, his eyes narrowing devilishly. With a completely straight face, he said, "I can be whoever you want me to be, pussycat."
Lucy's brow rose. She highly doubted that was true. She bet Benny couldn't stop talking long enough to be anyone but himself. She couldn't help a small laugh just thinking of him trying to be Boone. Wasn't going to happen. She wanted the original anyway.
She still needed the Platinum Chip but she was going to have to figure out another tactic to get it. This was just not going to work.
No sooner had she said, "Sorry, Benny," than did a pounding on the door begin. "Expecting company?" she asked as the door flung open.
Boone was in the doorway.
"Hey, daddio, this is a private party, ya dig?" Benny said, taking a step toward the intruder.
"I knocked," Boone said as he stepped into the room. Without pause, he slugged Benny straight in the jaw. Benny hit the floor without further argument, most-likely unconscious.
Boone turned toward Lucy.
"Boone?" she gasped, as he picked her up and flung her over his shoulder. "What are you doing?"
He didn't reply, just carried her down the hall to the elevators.
Lucy struggled in his hold, not sure what he was planning. She had never seen Boone act this way before. She had no idea what he was thinking. She didn't know what to think herself. She couldn't deny that she was relieved to see him in the doorway, but it was unexpected. Incredibly unexpected.
The elevator door opened, and he stepped inside. He pressed the ground floor button. When the doors closed, he slapped the emergency stop trigger before the elevator could move. Then he placed Lucy down gently on her feet.
For a long moment, she just stood there gaping at him. He looked absolutely conflicted and miserable, with a heavy frown.
"Don't sleep with Benny," he said, and Lucy blinked. It was a little pointless for arguments, considering Benny was now unconscious on his floor and Lucy was trapped in an elevator with a different man.
"I don't…" she began, but Boone continued at the same time. Lucy's voice fell away, knowing Boone usually didn't speak without importance.
"Don't sleep with Benny because I…" he hesitated. Lucy had no idea what he was trying to say. He grunted in apparent frustration and walked away from her to the other end of the elevator.
"I'm broken, Lucy," he began again. He refused to meet her gaze. "I might never be fixed. I might never be able to make you happy. I know I don't deserve the chance."
Lucy couldn't believe her ears. Was Boone really saying what she thought he was saying? No, it had to be some kind of mistake. But it wasn't like him to ramble. "What are you trying to say?" she asked, to clarify.
He took a breath, and at last met her eyes. They stood like that for a long moment, just staring at each other. Lucy would have traded a hundred nights with Benny just to get one minute of Boone's glance in that elevator. She was a fool to think she could want anyone else.
"I don't want to live in the past anymore," he told her.
"I love you," he said, and Lucy didn't even blink for fear of ending the moment. Was this a dream? She didn't want to wake up if it was.
"Boone," she breathed. They took a step closer at the same time.
"I'm broken," he told her with another step.
"So am I," Lucy replied as she found herself directly in front of him. Her arms wrapped around his neck without delay. His went around her waist, his hands warm on her back. Lucy sighed in sweet relief. This was how it was supposed to be. This was what felt right.
"I don't deserve a second chance," he whispered, his breath hot on her face. His mouth was dangerously close to hers.
Lucy didn't want to argue. Boone was a good person; she knew that. She also knew that to convince him of that would take more than just one conversation in an elevator. That argument could take many years to win, possibly the rest of their lives. She was ready to take up the challenge.
For the moment however, she knew one way to put his mind temporarily at ease. "I don't care," she told him as she kissed the corner of his mouth. She pulled away briefly to say, "I love you." She kissed the other corner. She felt it curve under her touch. When she looked at him again, he was smiling. Her heart raced in excitement, in knowing that she put that smile there. This man was irreplaceable.
"You're the one I want," she told him, and he kissed her.
His hand reached up to touch the side of her face, cupping her cheek as the kiss deepened. His fingertips were soft caresses on her skin. He was so gentle, so adoring, that it was everything Lucy thought it could be. She wanted more, wanted all of him.
"Lucy," he breathed. He broke the kiss to look down at her, as if he simply could not wait to tell her again, "I love you."