I'd figured enough is enough, and then a few weeks ago I started typing away at this, another story with Charon taking co-star. Tweaked it up a bit and put this scattered thing up for Ch. 1 of a story that probably wont exceed more than 3 or 4. Contains acts of sex, violence, and naughty language. The portions are separated and past events are italisized.

Lets see if I still got it...

Disclaimer: No owning of the Fallout.

Cold wet slips of moisture ran in small rivers down the icy Nuka in her hand; sweating with even more fury than her bang-covered brow. Her sweat was warm, even in the air-conditioned bar, but this sweat – the cold dirty water now brimming over her clasped hand – was anything but. She hadn't even drunken any of it yet, just let the fumes of cold carbonation rise from the neck of the bottle like a steam, and just that in its own right was refreshing.

The last of her caps went to this cola, and damned if she didn't just feel like looking at it a bit more before the fructose ignited the taste buds aching on the tip of her tongue. If she'd really and truly given up purchasing a bed of her own tonight, just to enjoy this beverage, then it might as well have been the best drink known to dying man.

Greasy strands of unwashed hair stuck to the tacky skin of her neck and a vertebra in her spine slipped back into place as she let out a small sneeze. The century-old dust in this place always got to her; crawled in her nose and found a warm blanket inside her sinuses – it was just another thing to be ungrateful for in a place where no one would bother her, where no one would push a knife in her back, where no one cared.

What a luxury; to find things to worry about.

She'd been saddling around – periodically – in Underworld for a couple years now, and the draw, as well as the catch, was that no one gave a shit here. Sure there was peeked interest in the early days; the days when she'd set tongues a'waggin at the old garbes she wore, but the site of her tanned thighs and exposed mid-drift turned into background chatter like everything else in this shit-world. She went from a peep-show to just a regular, but there was enjoyment in that too. The ghouls talked to her now, didn't show her any of their jostled demeanors, nor did they slip over their words any longer. She was – in a sense - an equal now, fit with a few friends, a few good friends, and a regular stool at the Ninth Circle.

Today things were quiet – not that things were exceptionally lively on a daily basis – but the silence was just, more-so.

A muffled snort came from the floor, and she did little more than spare the matted brown creature a glance before dead-panning her eyes back to the frosty cola freezing her fingers.

Meatdog (because he was more akin to a meat shield than a bit o' dog meat) laid by her feet with his sticky snout in a tin can of pork'n'beans; cleaned hours ago by that floppy pink tongue but obviously still smelt good enough to breath out of. He'd been with her a few weeks now – the mangy mutt that could turn on you without the common courtesy of a warning nibble. The tooth puncture in the flesh of her hand was true to that fact. The dog was trouble, but she'd be lying if she'd claimed he hadn't had his moments, and those moments of good were more apparent than the bad, which meant he wasn't breakfast just yet. That being said, he better watch his behavior next time she got peckish.

It was Meatdog's first time in underworld, and yesterday had been eventful – the rotten smiles and the gathering of pets and scritches the beast had received was enough to even make the most-loved and cherished individual envious. The sheer fact that it'd taken until late that night for the thing to snap at one of them was surprising. Poor Tulip, she grimaced at the recollection of the hurt watery glaze the ghoulette had gotten when the beast had all but went from lapping happily at the attention to snapping bared graying teeth at her fingers.

Despite the morose mood the bar was currently brewing – the music at least coming on through the radio was starting to swing in a positive direction.

When her lips opened – the thin skin almost having fused together in such a lifeless state that was due to her 'pondering' - Ahzrukhal decided to slap an elbow before her and begin a series of pained complaints. The more she spoke with him, the more she came to like him…but that likeness wasn't brimming in her gut right now. He was in one of those…moods.

"Do you smell that, smoothskin, it smells like whore breath. Someone's been sucking too many dicks without rinsing out the givings. You wouldn't know about anything like that? Anything like double-talk…like back-stabbings; any ill-will placed in my humble direction?", it wasn't even as if he was speaking to her personally. If she'd been Carol, he probably would have said the same damn thing.

Paranoia was what infected her, and Ahzrukhal's special brand of paranoia-breeding-concoctions were the worst. She'd never seen him puff on the dragon before, but sometimes she speculated he went at it when the going got slow. When he started clicking the near exposed end of a finger bone on the counter she started to get that itch in random places on her body; like little microscopic bugs were pinching her skin.

She'd learned long ago that responding to his crackpot worries only ended up worse for the both of them, but the silence normally meant he'd continue on a rant for a few extra minutes. Either way she'd end up begging for a beer just to get the prickle of nerves to die down, and begging heartily is what she'd end up doing with nothing but dust in her pockets.

"Not enough problems. These people need their own problems – too much time means they start talking out their asses. What have I ever done but supply them with cheap liquor and chems. I cater to their every demand, damnitt."

A long exhale shuddered behind her – from the corner that never seemed unoccupied – mimicking the one that was about to fall from her own lungs. At least she could leave if she'd wanted. Charon was stuck with the man 24/7, and who really knew how many repetitive years it'd been; decades; centuries.

"You'd think gossip whores would leave this old heap'o'bones alone.", he showed no signs of taking a reprieve from his mutterings, so finally, she regaled him with a response.

"Why not take your mind off it?", finally the lip of the bottle met her own bottom one. With a dip of the bottle the cold sugary-sweet liquid flooded her mouth, simmered, and then slid like only an icy beverage could, down her throat.

"Care to gamble?", she asked; her voice less grating now that the cola had moistened her up. When he only frowned - eyes falling to the rim of wetness the bottle of

Nuka had left – she procured a 'hmm' noise to make the question seem more important. She'd always offered up the fantastical idea of him putting that heavily guarded slip of paper in his pocket to a hand of cards with her.

"Did I not just take the last of your caps, smoothskin? What pray-tell would you be able to bet with?"

She sat back straight in her chair, tipping the lip of the bottle to the floor where Meatdog was biting into the –apparently – never ending cavern of the tin can. Smirking when he near laughed, she took another satisfying swig of sweetness before delivering out the best noise money could buy. Delicious.

"What skin I have left, I treasure.", he drolled on melodramatically, but his paranoia seemed to have dwindled, and that was good enough.

"Mind if I share a drink with your other-half then?", she queried, picking up her bottle and swirling around the contents languidly. Ahzrukhal sneered at her term, but the expression held little malice.

It was customary since last Christmas that she had a drink with the bouncer when she visited. The pre-war holiday was a big deal around here, as far as things went for special now-a-days, and everyone had been cheery and sauced when she'd arrived just in time for the surprisingly fun activities. Even Charon had ended up enjoying a rare drink with her (among other things), and somehow she'd found that not only did he have things to say, but that the two of them had more in common than a Supermutant and a Centaur. Bad analogy, but appropriate.

"I'm feeling generous.", it was a lie he spoke, but he branded her with a bottle of dirty water anyways before giving her the cold shoulder.

That smirk she'd given him grew a bit bitter, but none-the-less amused as she swiped the water, her bottle and poked the beast for good measure before meandering to the little table besides the corner.

Charon knew the drill by now. When she sat down and slammed the water beside her, he followed suit and drug the chair out, sitting with a strain to the old metal. It was always entertaining to see how he turned a regular chair into a doll's chair. The man was almost as tall as a Deathclaw.

Normally they didn't talk much; petty talk if they did, and only rarely did they get personal. Ahzrukhal was always listening - not that he was as much the hardass as she'd originally assumed - and besides, being an excuse to get him off his feet for a few minutes was that little bit of good-karma she needed to live with herself on a day to day basis – the sight of him wasn't as bad as others thought either.

Today, Charon was a bit less passive than normal. She watched solemnly - Nuka curled up in her arms across her chest – as he patted his thick thigh, watching Meatdog with those foggy eyes. She expected nothing – the mutt never came when she gestured to it; did what it wanted of it own accord – but with a bit of jealousy (and amusment) she stared as the beast rose on it's front paws with the tin can still muzzling it. His fuzzy, ratty, brown ears did a corkscrew of movement, picking up on the sound before trotting in a near straight line for Charon's thigh. She hated that dog…

"Malnourished.", Charon grunted as his half-shredded fingers plucked the can from Meatdog's snout. Out came the sticky-bean-covered face of the beast; tongue sliding in and out over his lower teeth like a dope; rolling up over its nose and jowls to gathering up the tasty bits of goo it'd missed before.

"Should be more worried about 'the woman' you know…", she muttered, turning eyes from the sight like she'd decided to boycott something extremely evil; Nuka Cola tasting sweet but less cold as she took another heavy swallow.

Charon made that noise she was all too accustom with by now. This particular set of short vocal spasms told her that he was tired, but entertained by her statement.

In the end, Charon had proven to her that he was hard, callous (a killing machine), but innocent in certain areas that made him oddly appealing to a women's needs – though the skinless part was a deal breaker for most. For her – well – she could manage a man without skin if the content of him was solid enough. Even raw and exposed as he was, the ghoul was more intimidating than most Mutant Battlemasters, and even without alcohol he was – for lack of a better description – not ugly. He was interesting, fascinating, and even after all this time she still found it entertaining to just watch him.

She watched innocuously out the corner of her eyes as Charon plucked a scraggly ear between his fingers, tugged, and moved on to rubbing a cleaner patch behind the beasts ear. The mutt looked too happy, almost insultingly happy.

The tilt of her lips was almost turning into a scowl, and would have if she hadn't replaced it to one of neutrality when Charon turned to reach for the water. He drank and she drank, both quiet in the ever wet panting chatter from Meatdog under the table. Never – since Christmas – had their moments of mutual company been awkward, but unbeknownst to her, that uncomfortable fidgeting was starting to attack her left leg; bouncing nervously at the ankle under the table.

A hollow burn gathered beside her face, like that of someone boring a hole in her skull. She turned her eyes to Charon, still tongue deep in a warming cola while he all but stared blankly at her. He'd finished the water it seemed. Must have been thirsty.

"Yes?", she questioned; getting over the oddness of his stare rather quickly by swallowing another bout of the Nuka. In the old days he'd given her plenty of looks like this, which had taken some time to get used to. At first the constant glares were offensive, and then relished, and then…they were, whatever.

"Who smashed your skull in?", he seemed only mildly interested, which was probably why a flicker of ire welled in her throat, but mainly the brief atrophy of her limbs was due to him even noticing such a thing at all.

A few seconds was all it took to shake off the surprise, but her eyes still widened at the dripping sight of the cola on the table. She'd grown out enough fringe to cover the unsightly scar, and only a hard wind could truly expose the jagged cut. Not only did he seem to notice something that even she forgot about for weeks at a time, but he'd never asked her anything personal since Christmas. He was getting personal again.

"It wasn't smashed in.", she answered eventually, and she was prepared to leave it at that when – just as she was filling the mild awkwardness with another swig of her drink – he made a short choke; a small laugh.

Again he spoke; the word carrying open interest for once, "So?"

It was easy to talk to people; easy to relate to them; to follow conversations without a strained vein, but what should have been a rather infantile conversation with Charon was beginning to produce a fine sheen of sweat on her skin. That feeling she'd had trouble getting used to; that emptiness in her skull that'd started to fill up was suddenly draining fast. Her head felt hollow and cold, and the distant memory of spilling Tobar's intestinal lining was repeating itself quite vividly in her mind.

Charon, either figuring she wasn't going to answer or was no longer interested, stood up to resume his post in the corner. He moved fluidly out the side of her eye, and she could see him yes, but the horror she'd felt in that damnable swamp was resurfacing like some dry heave; consuming.

It'd probably been awhile that she sat there, hunched; staring like some dead dope over the near empty Nuka. She was fighting a losing battle, just sitting there like she was; mourning over a chunk of her brain like a sad sap crying over a lost love. The funny thing was that she'd come to terms with it all sooner than one would expect, and honestly, it hadn't really bothered her again until now.

She could hear, almost feel, Charon breathing steadily behind her. The sheer sound of it was making her itch again; making the baby hairs on her arms feel coarse and sharp. With condensed-wet fingers, she rubbed up under the sweaty fringe, feeling along the groove of healed skin; shaken. That hollow burn on the back of her skull said Charon was staring at her once more, and for whatever reason she couldn't stand another second of it.

With stead-fast ability, she scooted back her chair, rose, kicked the dog until it treaded at her heels, and left without pushing her chair back in. Getting out of here as quickly as possible was operation get-go. Get out and go shoot up some med-x, then sleep off the nerves.

As the Ninth Circle door slowly shut behind her, she could hear the sound of a chair being pushed back in place, and a loud huff of breath follow soon after.


"Laid", she repeated; the word more-like an off-tuned note to a song than anything else.

"I need to get laid.", she explained, staring into the stringy leftovers of Tulip's cheek as her arm tightened around the ghoulettes shoulder in a half-drunk stupor. At least in the morning she'd forget ever acting like the uncomfortable drunk she always was, and if things really went her way, well, everyone would forget about it as well. The liquor was flowing. Whatever true meaning this Holiday at one point had, it seemed that now these ghouls used it as an excuse to drink themselves stupid, and who was she not to join in on the festivities.

"Smoothskin…", and the way Tulip spoke her common handle told her the ghoulette was half-way to piss drunk as well, "…to be a smoothskin. I wasted…being meek, my life." It was turning out that Tulip was a sad drunk.

She cringed; wrinkling her nose as Tulip stretch out her arm, making a pathetic little squeal as if that fucked up noise expressed everything. To shake off the sudden bleeding-vibe, she took another thick swallow of old-old scotch.

Tulip wouldn't last long the way she was going. She'd walked in through the better half of the evening and from what Winthrop had told her, they'd all been nursing deadly concoctions since the afternoon. But they could drink more than her, so once she deducted a few equations, she guest-i-mated that they were only a tad more sloshed than she was right now.

Though it seemed her calculations were a tad off. A few minutes into a steady battle of leg dancing on the counter in Tulips shop proved to be too challenging for the ghoulette. When their conjoined arms pulled the other back on the desk, only one came up, and it wasn't the ghoul.

Tulip was in a drunken sleep; one that she'd be in herself soon enough, but the night was young enough that she just slid sanguinely off the counter. Pulling one shredded limb back, one forward and another up and over, she got Tulip splayed comfortable enough on her desk. If luck landed in their favors, the ghoulette wouldn't wake up on the floor in the morning.

The Ninth Circle was alive, but barely. Ahzrukhal was leaned half on the bar; arms crossed as he slurred to two equally doped up customers. The bar wasn't very full, but those that were their seemed adamant about their particular space. Greta was among them, but the one eye the ghoulette had aimed in her direction wasn't the most pleasant of glances. The reaction everyone had been having to her tonight was one of two kinds: delight and loathing. Greta was loathing her, but Ahzrukhal, he was showing delight.

"What a day to see the glowing smoothskin in all her glory.", even with wet eyes and loose lips – the bartender was almost as sickly smooth as ever. That shit-eating grin of his seemed a permanent resident on his face as well. That grin said – in blaring letters; gaudy and yellow – 'free booze'. A little sweet talk and it may be death by alcohol poisoning after all.

"Festivities down stairs have cooled considerably, but your party seems…", she would have said lively, but that'd be an open lie, "…seems…", one ghoul passed out; head banging on the table with what looked like an un-opened beer in hand.

"It's alive, but barely.", he finished for her, eyeing her loose shirt and shorts like some Raider on the prowl for a fucking. The ghoul hadn't given her that look since she'd first met him, but with the alcohol already brimming in her veins, it didn't really bother her that much.

"Holidays yoo'see.", he muttered; a hand splaying flat on the sticky counter as if that was the only thing keeping him from wobbling. "Holidays. No one celebrates them anymore." Hell they didn't even celebrate them in the Vault. Christmas was still getting caught on the tip of her tongue when she tried to say it.

"Chris'mas.", she said almost dramatically once she got an eye of the heavy bottle his fingers were reaching for. The vein in her neck tightened when the bottle shuddered at his clumsy hands. If he'd dropped it she may have openly sobbed, but alas his eyes left her and plucked the neck of the bottle easily. It rested down in front of her; golden and rich: the waters of life.

She wrapped her hand loosely around the bottle, watching as his fingers remained tight around the neck. Ahrzrukhal was tongue waggin'; eyeing her chest in the sleaziest of ways, but a bottle of booze was between them, and self respect didn't fall into this category. She wanted to exploit on this Holiday as best she could.

"Blow me.", he leered and slurred. The ghoul beside her with half his face in one hand blurted out a laugh – another one at the end of the bar made a small snicker, but he was laughing with his shoulders more than his throat. Sure the joke was funny, but she hadn't gotten along this far by taking comments like this, nor by sucking cock, and definitely not ghoul cock.

Maliciously she grinned, pressing her stomach into the edge of the counter and ripping the bottle from his grimy fingers once his grip loosened and his eyes trailed down her shirt's hem.

The laughter only started up again, but her back was already to the counter and her feet dragging her pride fully to a table of any company, of any size or state.

The only empty table was the one in the corner, though – to be fair – she'd never seen it occupied, even she herself had avoided it for the very reason most everyone else did. Charon didn't look at her when her feet made an awkward change in direction towards him. She wasn't afraid of the mountainous ghoul like the rest, no, but intimidated, probably.

"Merr'fucking Christmas to'ou too!", Ahrukhal's words were louder than they needed to be in the small bar, but at least some of the words were jumbled up into one and the ordeal was short lived as his gamey mutters started to form a conversation with the others at the bar.

"Wanna' share?", she tipped the bottle towards the bouncer without truly thinking much about it. He just glanced at the bottle, and then glanced away.

"No, I guess you wouldn't.", she stated sourly, pulling up a chair at the table and plopping down – the chair making a terrible whine at the abuse.

Out the corner of her eye she saw Ahrukhal wave a hand irritably. When the bottle top unscrewed in her palm she eyed the bartender wearily, thinking he was attempting to hassle her again, but his eyes had left her direction and in her own line of sight a large, leather-clad ghoul sat down.

Being drunk was a luxury that normally she couldn't get away with when outside – it ruined your response time and made things a bit harder to figure out the reasons or whys to certain things, much like now. For a moment she didn't know who this was, or where someone so large had come from. The fact that it could have been the bouncer behind her hadn't really been an option to consider until her eyes ran up to his face. There was that passive – if not a bit annoyed – look staring her down.

With surprise only sort of registering, she asked, "Can I help you?"

He didn't answer, but he did reach over her – the loose leather on his arm almost brushing against her shirt – and dragged the bottle of booze across the table to himself. She watched, almost transfixed and dimly knowing that she wore the worlds worst look, as he tipped the bottle back and chugged a good quarter of it. His throat worked down and up; bobbing with the exposed veins and raw muscle. The Ninth Circle had booze that burned, and just looking at the sight of Charon swallowing greedily such a heavy amount of liquor made the bile rise up in her throat.

There was another bout of laughter, no doubt at her expense from the bar as her eyes stared wide; following this massive ghoul's movements as he set down the bottle before her casually.

She looked at the bottle – the muscles between her brow flexing in thought as the why's and how's of things tried to fit. Almost a year had passed and she'd never gotten more than three words out of him…

When – peripherally - she saw Charon reach for the bottle again, she forgot about thinking about the why's and how's. She could think tomorrow, and enjoy today. Fuck tallying up past and present reasons for things that in the end didn't matter.

She swiped at the bottle, aiming a glare at the hand that had already stopped advancing for the bottle, as she took two swallows. The liquor burned on and under her tongue, around her gums and down her throat until it settled like a warm nectar in the pit of her belly.

"I did say share, you recall?", she warned, but the sight of his partially relaxed glare was enough for her to simper engrossingly. Curiosity was a weak word for what she'd grown in regards to this ghoul, and perhaps with enough liquor he'd say a few more words than the few she already knew. By this time she'd figured that wave from Ahrukhal was permission to enjoy himself at her offer; a rather surprising thing for a bastard like Ahzrukhal to do.

She hadn't condoned what Charon was to Ahzrukhal, but he'd said that if she didn't have the caps to buy him off then she needn't complain. The worst part was that she never did have more than five hundred caps at a time, which would explain why she was still a regular near a year later, but at least the bouncer did get some time to relax – no matter how little.

She nudged the bottle over with her index finger, pulling at the skin of her lower lip with her teeth as she watched – almost perversely – as he repeated the same act as before. He didn't swallow as much this time though, but even so the bottle looked half-full when he sat it down. The shame was that he probably wouldn't even get relaxed with just one bottle.

The bottle didn't take long to drain dry between the two of them. Her tolerance came from starting early in the Vault Reactor rooms with the Tunnel Snakes and sitting too long in that run-off for Moira, but Charon, he was genetically able to down a quantity that could kill her two times over. Regardless of what her rational brain told her – which had been shrinking since this afternoon – she filled a palm with caps and jingled them above her head, calling to Ahzrukhal across the bar.

"Another, please!", she demanded, but making nice with the bartender – or at least pretending to – with a big grin got him pulling that bottle off the shelf quicker than normal. A curt nod of Ahzrukhal's head was all it took to get Charon up on his feet to fetch it for her; for them.

When he sat down she tore the cap off without taking her glazed eyes off him.

"So, color me curious, but how much do I honestly need to spend to get you as bombed as the tiff at the bar?", she gestured with a roll of her eyes to the half conscious ghoul that had stopped listening to Ahzrukhal's speech a few minutes ago. Charon looked in the general direction and shrugged one shoulder. She expected that to be all the answer she got from him, but before she could taste the first innards of the bottle he spoke.

"I would hold onto your caps if that is your intention.", the flow of words was heavy with misuse. He sounded angry, but by the look he gave the bottle at her lips, she knew better than to think so ignorantly. Somewhere hidden and barely apparent, there lay an accent she'd heard in holotapes down in the Vault. Whatever the accent, it wasn't native to DC.

She smiled briefly at his words, peeling her eyes off him to take that first swig.

"I don't save caps. If I have them I spend them, and what better way to spend them than with company?", her words had started off careless; drunk, happy and careless, but somewhere towards the end she'd let her voice loose that carelessness. If he noticed the change, he didn't say anything – not that she supposed he would have.

They passed the bottle back and forth – her taking less amounts with each turn and him taking more. She only smiled and his frown only lessened as the contents in the bottle dwindled slowly.

When she'd gotten him halfway into the third bottle, they were talking rather fluidly, much to the interest at the two conscious eavesdroppers at the bar.

"Is' not that I don't know how to take out the recoil spring-just not very sah'vvy on putting it back in properly'like. Carbines much easy, less parts, less hassle.", she'd had her pistol sitting on the table for the past minute, talking about the first real kill she'd ever made and how this little guy was part of that past spectacle.

"The parts are just larger, smoothskin.", he muttered, taking another swig of the booze before peering almost secretly at the hybrid rifle on her back. "If you can replace the other springs in the grip then the recoil should be simple.", he opened his palm over the table, waiting for the gun to be placed in his hand – he knew better than to pick up another's weapons, if anyone would know weapon courtesy it was probably a ghoul of old age.

"No doubt.", she said lamely, but the alcohol was working in strange ways tonight, and all that was really on her mind was the sudden fluent know-how coming from the ghoul beside her. She wondered absentmindedly – as she rested her pistol in his large hand – if he'd been waiting to have some semblance of a conversation with her, or if he would have had it with anyone that shared even the smallest of interest. The monotony of every day for him must have been more troublesome that anything the Vault could have pushed her way, and for this she felt a frown pull on her loose lips.

She watched - eyes half open - as he dismantled her pistol. Despite his thick fingers, he wedged out the small workings in an almost delicate and easy manner. A few pieces he puffed hot breath through, some he scratched out dirt with a soft finger nail, others he set down in neat places on the table.

When he said something about the recoil spring, she blinked back the cloudy glaze to see him holding up the small fat spring between two fingers. She watched; chin in hand as he pressed the spring in horizontally until it all but disappeared. As quick as a fucking bullet, he slipped the guide right behind it before snapping both in place. The small, and what some would dare call meaningless act, confounded her.

Her mouth parted, chin lifted from her palm as she watched him with tentative eyes while he reassembled her pistol in a matter of seconds. When the last part was rigidly in place he cocked the loaded pistol against his chest and aimed down its custom sight across the table. Her mouth was still dumbly open when he rolled the pistol in hand; making sure the barrel was aimed away from her before handing it over. She took it – not being that out of it – but before tucking it back in her belt, she snuck a peak through the sights herself. The damn man was brilliant.

She muttered a bewildered "thanks" before taking a sip of booze.

"You have a high tolerance for alcohol.", he made it a statement; eyes watching her, once again passive. He'd looked a bit easier dismantling the gun; more relaxed and comfortable.

"I'ave'd a few mishaps land in my favor…so far. Wors' part is I spend more, so, perhaps…not favorable after all."

He didn't respond, but took another drink when she scooted the bottle towards him.

They shared some relative silence as the third bottle went like the last two. By the time the main lights in the bar dimmed, and her pip-boy buzzed for the sunrise, her shoulder had been jammed against Charon's bicep for a good half-hour. He wasn't drunk, but his eyes were drooped last time she'd glanced at him, and he hadn't done much but tense slightly when she'd leaned on him after the silence had turned her groggy.

The small mechanical chime following the buzz of her pip-boy was what had her moving finally. There was a small feeling of drowsiness; as if she'd been asleep for a few moments too long.

She sat up straight in the chair; a kink in her neck popping when she bowed her shoulders back. The view was still fuzzy, not doubled, but hazy all the same; a drunken haze.

A snort of breath reminded her of her new friend. He looked annoyed and slightly sauced when she glanced at him, but the whole of his body seemed loose compared to what she'd always been witness to.

"Wonder how often I ca'hn get Ahzrukhal to let yoo cut loose wit' me.", she stated this while rubbing a finger under one eye; loosening sleepy crusts from her eye lashes. "You're not half bad when you get the stick outta your ass."

He ignored her jibe, running a rough palm down his face; blinking back whatever state of inebriation he was feeling

"Next year.", he answered.

"I'll be here.", his voice was calm, almost depressingly nostalgic in a way. He wasn't looking at her anymore, now taking to the sight of his employer's face planted on the bar's counter, glued by his own drool. She snickered and ran a few fingers through the hair on the side of her scalp.

"Sure I can sweet talk some off-time for yah'.", she said it as a gesture, even a bit of a joke, but she caught his sneer; forming suddenly while he began rising from the chair. Without thinking – another con to drinking heavily – she grabbed the leather on his arm; wringing the fabric in an unforgiving way. He didn't move – just remained half standing and half sitting; hovering over the chair. How did his knees not buckle?

She put her full weight into the act of getting his ass in the seat, and when the victory was hers, she just gaped in an odd fashion at his thin frown. Did anyone handle him like that besides Ahzrukhal and not get the shit smacked out of them? It was a night of too many liberties, and just because he'd had a conversation with him over a couple bottles of booze didn't mean she could just yank him around like this.

Was he going to kill her for that? God knows she should have paid more attention when Ahzrukhal spoke about his contract.

The booze was taming some of the worry, but with that little pro came another con; one that ultimately could have gotten her killed if she hadn't ended up on the lucky side of such a devious gamble. She rose – a knee on her chair – and another hand finding his other arm, yanking him clumsily (or maybe yanking herself clumsily) near him. He smelt bitter up close, like acid, old radiation, stale gun-powder, and wet leather. So many comparisons filtered through her thoughts as she gulped down every detail of his peeled-off face.

Alcohol could also turn situations around rather simply – for good or ill.

To Charon's credit, he didn't seem as surprised or put-off by her close proximity and studious absorption of his features. He wasn't like Gob, wasn't shy or ashamed of who he was when she just wanted a closer look. If anything the faded look in Charon's eyes was one of challenge, like he was egging her on; daring her to try something more…bold. At this level of intoxication her mind wandered far and wide, and suddenly she grew a smirk that would have melted a weaker man. His name fit in this moment as her thoughts were ferried off to the darkest and dankest of crevices.

When he exhaled she felt the hot, moist washes of it against her neck; flooding down her shirt until it warmed even her stomach – it reeked of alcohol, but so did hers.

She thought about how his skin would feel; how it'd feel under her fingers, against her lips, or dampening under her tongue, but her pip-boy chimed once more like a snooze button running rampant again.

She watched his eyes shift short and sharp as if he were reading words trailing behind the lens of her eyes, and for all she knew, he was.

In the end she knew better than to jump a ghoul; jump a ghoul while sloshed, and she knew even better than to do it with one whose physical body was under ownership of another ghoul snoring just fifteen feet away, but she did – even so meagerly – trace her lips beside his own. So close but... so far – his breath washed over her lips in a hitched vibration.

Her eye lids fluttered, and a whistle of breath on his ruined lips was – apparently – the last thing she shouldn't have done.

A sudden tight batch of fingers curled violently at the base of her skull, tugging back her lips an inch or so from his before her wide eyes saw his mouth curled almost furiously. He looked maniacal, and for a moment she thought she'd triggered some kill-switch just before his mouth shoved over her own roughly. Her balance was lost, her knee stumbled off the chair and her legs buckled to catch her fall, but his dry hard kiss didn't waver. He bruised her lips; never opening his mouth or moving his lips against her own until she finally slapped the side of his face with a loud clap of chapped flesh.

She saw his eyes open, and his mouth loosen in retreat at the sting on the side of his face, but that only left him open for her assault and with a shaken breath – her lips curled over his mouth; tongue slipping inside. A shocked grunt passed into her mouth from his own.

He should have prepared for all the odds, even this little happen-stance.

Never had she kissed a ghoul – nor would she have wanted to so furiously until now, but the heightened body temperature she'd found inside him set her tongue on fire when his lips sealed around her slippery muscle. Something about his eager but odd behavior said he wasn't educated on how to do this; everything he did in response to this wasn't like anything she'd received before.

He sucked her tongue; bit the side of it when she pressed into the reaches of his mouth and when his tongue moved it was to tease the corner of her mouth rather than battle her own. When her teeth planted a tight bite on his lower lip, he didn't bite back, but simply put his tongue between her teeth, letting her place a bite on that next.

It was strange, but the alcohol wasn't what had her skin prickling with heat – true, it helped ease this interaction along smoothly, but booze never got her fingers aching against someone else's skin before, or – more precisely – someone's skinless muscles.

Her kiss was sloppy, but drunken or not it usually was when it was reckless and unprovoked like this one. His lips needed the extra moisture anyways, and just when they were turning soft and plush-like under her suckling and rubbing – he shoved her back; the empty bottle of booze toppling and rolling until it shattered loudly on the floor.

What could have been? – it flashed through her mind so suddenly and regretfully that she winced more for the loss than the sound of the bottle as it echoed like a fucking nuke in the bar. Charon was between her legs; hands curled up around her shoulder blades and back bent harsh over her one moment, and then the next he was back in his corner just as Ahzrukhal was peeling his face off the counter.

She rolled – half dazed and hot – onto her side; legs rubbing together interestingly as she witnessed Ahzrukhal throw her a half annoyed and amused look.

"Too much of a good thing eh', smoothskin?", his voice was raw, but not pained even as he rubbed his face – wincing - like it was starting to swell.

Her body was twisted awkwardly; one arm trapped under her side and the other splayed on the table white-knuckled. "Yes…?", she spoke, but the uncertainty and lie was obvious enough that anyone sober would have easily picked up on it. Luckily, Ahzrukhal was no where near a sober line – wouldn't cross one for a good few hours - and the only thing he did was eye-direct Charon to her form half lying on the table before meandering to where ever it was he slept during the morning hours.

A rough hand tugged her up by her arm; pulling her to her feet. To say there wasn't enough alcohol to make this less awkward, was the truest statement facing mankind. Sober – she wouldn't have made eye contact with Charon, especially as he walked her to the door of the bar, but sober she was not and her eyes wouldn't leave his tight face, even as she stumbled over her own feet.

He was close again, and the embarrassment of the smashed-bottle-incident was fading fast. When she slid against the closed door, her fingers slipped under the tight belts around his chest; pulling herself flushed against him again. He wouldn't bend to her eager lips – pulled back from her advances actually and pried her hands off him with the same thinned expression.

"The fuck is the matter?", her whisper was hard and annoyed as she battled with his hands until they were rendered useless in his tight grip.

"This didn't happen, smoothskin. Get in bed. Sleep it off.", he spoke short and quick to her, like she were an unrepressed child and pushed her almost numb hands back to her chest. The soft groan emitting from his chest was the last thing she heard before he pushed her quickly out the door.

The air outside the bar was cold compared to the heated presence her body had relished in. A heavy bolt latched at her back and she'd been effectively kicked out of the bar with alcohol still running lustfully in her blood; still desire and thoughts of what could have been running amuck. She could have had her ghoul cherry busted if that damned bottle hadn't rolled so fast to the fucking floor.

Even with frustration following and waiting with each of her childishly loud steps, she did as Charon had said.

She indeed slept it off, and upon waking…things didn't really seem all that different.

Empty bar, empty belly, empty head and empty, empty…empty, nothing.

The table lay cool under her head as she let a cheek squish against its grimy surface. Meatdog panted loudly at his spot on the floor by her right ankle; staring at her with beady brown eyes and a cracked - but very wet – nose. She'd been a regular since the afternoon, playing cards with some residents every half hour or so. She'd gambled her way into a nice handful of caps and with the howling of her belly, it was safe to say food was in order – next beer.

Charon stood motionless behind her; always there and always watching.

When she peered behind her, his eyes darted to a corner in the farthest reaches of the bar. His mannerism was odd. Normally he didn't shy away when caught looking, and never had she seen him look so stern before.

Meatdog whined up at her lazy form; pitting those near-black fucking eyes on her. Sometimes she could have sworn the beast was planting thoughts inside her mind; controlling her for some master plan that involved mass quantities of raw meat and bitches in heat.

The eyes of the ghoul and the dog were enough to get her up on her feet. She bought a few snack cakes and chips from Ahzrukhal, only buying the can of pork'n'beans when the dog whined again pitifully. Charon had been right – the dog was malnourished, but considering the array of bodies she left behind from place to place, he had enough to eat since they'd formed a duo. With a suckle of her lips in thought, she assumed the logical explanation was some mutated version of a tapeworm – the very thought brought up a visual of sharp tiny teeth, rotating and dribbling from a fat wiggling body yards long.

"Still feel like gambling, smoothskin?", Ahrukhal offered; a hand inside a glass like he was cleaning, but she knew better.

She'd mentioned the prospect once more last night before heading to Carol's for her charity bed, but the ghoul had only chuckled and leered maliciously. "Why the change in heart?", she asked; feigning indifference as she tore open one frosty cake, despite the sputtering excitement at the prospect of gambling.

"I've obtained something that's changed my…outlook on things if you will.", he eyed Meatdog as he spoke, as if he were imagining all the deliciously evil things he could conjure up with the rank-furball at his whim.

The frosty cake was overtly sweet and a combination of stale and squishy when she bit into it, still – food was food. She wiped some cream from her mouth with the back of her hand and shrugged; continuing the performance of indifference. "This aforementioned thing is what, pray tell?"

"A slave collar."

She paused in mid-bite. Now that was interesting.

With a few chews and thick swallow, a smirk crept on her face. "I take it my worthy claim behind me is substantial enough to have something of, say, equal value put on the table?" In a way she'd been talking out of her ass, but when that wrinkled slip of paper was slid out of his jacket and placed on the counter, she couldn't take her eyes off it. The echo as it'd slid against his corduroy jacket was still like music to her ears. Something about this screamed shady, but Ahzrukhal wasn't the type to gain trust over a couple years, then pull the carpet out from under someone. If he was going to screw her it would have happened much earlier in their relationship.

A billion scenarios of what could happen once she was new the owner of said little piece of paper and the word – said with infinite ardor - was out of her mouth sooner than her brain could comprehend.


A month earlier…

"You heard me, you skinned limey; I said go fuck yourself. World might not be giving warning or caution signs before the shit get's rough, but I didn't volunteer for brain surgery! So fuck Calvert, fuck the plan, and fuck you!", she bent a finger painfully into his chest, never feeling so livid; so terrified in her whole life.

Her head was missing a valuable part of its composition, perhaps a portion not as important as she'd thought - since she was doing fine without it – but the fact remained clear that someone had gone around digging inside her; inside her head, and the ghoul before her only chastised her about the tender subject. No sympathy; no break.

A vein bulged in her neck when he merely pushed her offending finger away with a swat.

"Don't be a worthless cunt. Damage is fucking done and your deal doesn't just end if you piss your pants like a cowardice bitch. Pucker up butter cup.", nothing got to him, and everything he uttered somehow crawled under her skin like some burrowing parasite.

She had half a mind to just blow his brains out; help out his enemy for shits and giggles, maybe come back and defile his corpse a little for good measure, but whether the radical shift from pure hate was due to her brain loss, well, she'd rather blame the brain loss part for just deciding to fuck rather than fight.

The tension between them for this sort of activity had been there all along. He didn't mention it – to proud and totally spiteful for that. She - stuck with the image of another rough individual to act upon it.

A combination of dead-fear and anger was what eventually set the ball rolling, at least on her part. Maybe Desmond just liked his women to hate him beyond the point of killing him when he got to fuck them over a couch, which is where they ended up when she knocked the coffee table over after socking him in the jaw.

There was nothing emotional; nothing even intimate about it, which was almost funny since the act required a certain amount of intimacy to complete, but the uncoordinated and heavy fumbling to remove the appropriate clothing was anything but friendly.

Her pants ended up at her knees; binding them close when he assaulted within her. Despite her bare ass and his unbuckled pants, she was fully clothed, and there was something about sex with most of her clothes on that felt…distant.

The couch skidded, even with his one foot bracing on the floor as he banged ruthlessly inside her. His thrusts were short, dry and hard. The little lubrication she had didn't make his ragged skin glide inside her any better than calluses did on tight fabric – but he worked through it and so did she. They weren't in this for pleasantries really. She needed the distraction, even if it was with pain involved, and who knew why he was as eager as she to do such a deviant thing. If anything, she figured the more unsatisfying this was the better.

Somewhere, she'd always assumed caving in and fucking a ghoul would get rid of the curiosity, and when finally, after what felt like hours, she came – the feeling as terrible as it was good - she decided it wasn't all she'd built it up to be. Desmond finished inside her without any warning; it fit for him to do such a thing, but when he started up again – now slippery with his fluids – she almost choked on the fingers she shoved in her own mouth.

Needless to say her curiosity for ghouls didn't die that night – or more precisely, for a certain ghoul currently hundreds of miles away - and after a couple hours of hateful rutting on that putrid couch, she did indeed hold up her end of the agreement.

The last time she saw Desmond was with Calvert's brain on the floor. In the moment before she left he said nothing; just smirked and twirled the end of his mustache like some cocky little-shit while she swallowed her pride and asked for a good-bye fuck. The past day and night – missing a portion of brain and sleeping off and on with a man she loathed – had forced some sort of dependency not there before. She needed a distraction; a release from the emptiness.

When he said she really wasn't his type they both laughed, even if hers was a bit more-bitter than his.

That early morning when she boarded the Dutchess, after she took a switch blade to the soft lower portion of Tobar's belly; spilling the tight ropes of purple guts, her eyes fell to a desk with a sole syringe of med-x. The nine hours it took to reach DC, she did nothing but shoot up the pre-war drug; procuring more from her bag that would have normally been sold off.

Her missing friend – a jar housing the oddly tiny chunk of her brain swimming in green fluids – sat between her legs the whole time. Her mind never wandered and worry never consumed her. Nerves turned into gooey dribbling currents of contentment, and it was then that she developed her small addiction to the narcotic. If she couldn't find a release in alcohol, sex, or immoral violence…then a thimble full of old world medical psycho would fill the gap.

Review if you find the time. For a writer, they are comparable to the Lone Wanderer and her Med-x addiction. Thank you reading regardless.