Been a while in between updates, but I must admit it's a fault of mine to loose my way halfway through a story. I tell myself that wont happen with this one, even though I've went on a run with it. Updates will come about once a week, maybe every week and a half. I plan to take this to the end of the game, so get ready. By the way, before reading, just know that those reviews tugged at my heart strings (what few I have), so thank you to those that took the time - can't put into words how much they help me write.

Don't own Fallout, but hopefully you enjoy this anyways.

"What would make you think this is even edible?", she said it more to the faintly florescent, pulsating green algae growing forth from a crack in the cave than to him.

It'd been a lucky occurrence to find their current hide out, but as things were now, it was hard to find anything lucky about the eerily, derelict hole. Fresh water drizzled from razor thin crevasses, stalactites and fissures in the ground where it pooled around the sole of her boots. Around them both - including the useless mutt drooling audibly - was a sight of harsh contrast against the world outside, it was dark, cold, and colored with faint speckles of slick rock that exposed a blue of Earth seldom seen anymore. Her eyes lay on a gathering of stumpy green plants; glowing and festering from fuzzy rancid looking mold. The wisps of luminous vine-like arms curled oddly and sprouted out fine hairs that were dotted with moisture.

"It was in the stomach of the molerat you gutted this morning.", Charon's voice was the same as it'd been all night; empty and famished, just like her own.

With Meatdog having shredded open half of their preserves just the day before, they'd only eaten a molerat pup; more bones than grizzle or meat really. Right now – staring at the flora Charon suggested eating - it seemed stupid to not have fileted the dog then and there. The mutt may have been mostly hair and bones, but it'd be out of as much the need for food as for revenge. Charon – however, had seemed adamant about not harming the beast. Why? - she didn't know, but the dog didn't like her, and the feeling was mutual, feeling it turn to fuel in stomach would have been quite enjoyable.

Charon eyed the growth and gave it a testing tug between two fingers – it stretched and sprang back into a bright curl much to her disgust.

She sneered silently as she took a handful of the slop off the wall – most of it finding home under her fingernails with a wet-cold sort of sponge-like feel. If anything, it looked more unappealing than the stuff that bubbled out of that molerat's stomach when they'd cooked it – the raw form was worse than the partially digested and re-heated variant.

"I think I'd rather starve.", and she fully planned to. Smearing the slimy plant on an abrasive rock, she made a grumble of her own that had transformed over the weeks into one more common on his tongue, and turned to the center of the cave, dropping down over a pile of campfire bed rolls like they were high class mattresses. It had been a long day of climbing, crawling and evading the local wildlife. Deathclaws still managed to pull at a few instinctual fears that would have had her loosing her bladder if she hadn't also been dehydrated earlier – but the water here was clean and abundant. She wouldn't die for lack of thirst, that was for sure.

"Suit yourself.", she heard him mutter, also hearing the scrape of his combat knife along the wall – no doubt hacking off the weird nappy plants like they were ripe fruit. He came to sit beside her and proceeded to eat them in front of her – the sight as disgusting as watching a man suck down the beating heart of some child. Sticky bright green trails dripped off his chin; their luminous glow only adding to her point that they probably weren't safe, at least not for her. Ghoul biology probably helped him get by on things normally evolved to kill her, or at least give her a terrible case of diphtheria.

"If you feel like your dying do let me know.", she snorted in his direction; fiddling with the radio beside the lantern to drown out the sound of him slurping up the algae. There was little but static, and her Pipboy was no different. They had a few hours left until nightfall, and even then they'd wait another two just to be sure the prowling lizards were dozing.

"They're not poisonous.", he grumbled again – having finished them off with a sour look as he wiped the green off his mouth, "That doesn't mean they taste good though."

She let out a small laugh; something that felt good enough to do again a few seconds later, even if he did give her a wary look with his eyes. They shared a moment of silence while the radio fizzled and died off and on while Meatdog kicked small pebbles with the sleep-motions of his matted feet. Charon peered over at the dog when it gave a strange breathy whistle and skitted quickly as though somewhere else in its imagination it was running fast and gallant.

"I really do hate that fucking dog.", it was meant to be malicious, but it came out nothing of the sort as she glanced back to the glowing lantern. Perhaps, she figured - as her fingers picked at the laces on her boots – now was the time that they ate the mutt. Surly she wouldn't resort to cave fungus on the beasts account – not when their were some good-sized chops kicking as the delicious thought ran a muck in her smaller-brain.

And as if Charon saw the famished and equally diabolic glint her eyes, he let out a heavy exhale, "You eat him now and you'll wish you'd kept him around later." She didn't bother looking at the probably vaguely, amused look on his face; instead she removed her boots and socks, following them off with the leather jacket Charon had yanked off a dead prospector just two days ago; a jacket which she folded loosely on a steep rock.

They were going to be stuck in this cave until the Deathclaws outside settled in for sleep, so until then she decided comfort and entertainment were key. She wiggled her toes, rubbed the soles of her feet and began pulling small drinks from a bottle of bourbon. She almost expect Charon to light up a cigarette and join her, but the sound and the smell never came, and she was too busy massaging her feet to give a damn.

She rested back on the bed roll, her bag propped up behind her head to elevate the disillusion that the alcohol brought – lying down and drinking only made her lethargic. Dimly, she allowed her eyes to settle, telling herself it was only for a moment or two, but knowing there was the very real potential for that same drunken sleep she tried to avoid finding.

Even with the warmth of the alcohol, the cave was cold, but already she was feeling sweaty and dirty again, and even with the lack of layers she still felt heavier with grime than yesterday. She had half a mind (almost literally) to take a whores bath with the spring water they'd systematically had the pleasure of stumbling upon, but the only clean clothes in their sack were ones she planned on saving for special occasions. They were only another three days away from Underworld, and she could shower and shave then, maybe even rile Charon up for some rough housing if his distant attitude shifted in that time.

With a glance towards her ghoul companion – who appeared none the more dirty than she – she couldn't help noticing his vacant stare and the lack of perpetual stiffness in his face, but the oddness dwindled as she smirked at the memory of why he looked less filthy than usual. Again her eye lids hovered a centimeter from sealing as her mind wandered.

Another sip of the alcohol and she was there again.

The water wasn't hot, but it was warmer than hers had been; running down her back and slopping over her shoulders while the rest pounded weakly on the stiff man in front of her. Before he woke she'd brought the dog, food, and the rest of her gatherings into his room, all with enough time to crack open a box of instamash and fancy cakes for dinner, breakfast...whatever it was – and now he stood tall and imposing in the small shower stall with a cross look on his face. He didn't like water, she understood now, but understanding and respecting were quite contrastive.

For a ghoul that had a naked girl rubbing soapy fingers along the creases of skin and muscles, he sure wasn't keen to enjoy himself.

"When was the last time you bathed?", she didn't really expect him to answer her – was merely saying it to fill the silence as the water continued running warm. The tang of the water tasted acrid, and it smelt like sulfur, but however mildly irradiated it was, it wasn't bothering her, and if anything the radioactivity of the water might lighten his rancid mood given a few more minutes.

Grit, old blood and caked in dirt ran between them as she gave each patch of various flesh meticulous care and attention. Even when a certain area was fully clean and vaguely squeaky she lingered – the moment gave her time to explore the unique textures he seemed littered with. Each part of him was unlike the last and she found every part – right down to the smallest bump of exposed capillary – a spectacle in itself.

"This doesn't have to be awkward you know...", she muttered – just as expecting of his silence as the water eventually running cold. He merely huffed out an exhale; water whisking with his breath down against her forehead while she rubbed a slippery hand around his side to get at his back. It'd been hard to convince him to bathe, let alone with her, and keeping up her promise of keeping things cordial she kept her own naked skin off him as she rubbed the grime away.

There was some divots in his skin where hard bits of dirt had dried up, and with a little rub of her nail it loosened and washed away. It was funny how little he'd smelt now that she realized how much filth he actually had on him.

When his chest and back were clean, she eased her hands up over his shoulders, trying to clean and equally massage the muscles but finding them – with no surprise- unbearably hard. The tense muscles weren't a ghoul thing, she knew that much, and by the way he kept motionless and steady – it appeared he was purposefully resisting the manipulations.

"There's nothing that says you can't relax a little. Who knows when we'll have a chance to enjoy this again.", reasoning with him was useless, but after awhile of thumbing his almost exposed collar bone, he leveled his shoulders and dipped his head down.

"I'm not used to it.", he replied almost darkly, but a heavy and wet hand rose at her shoulder; hovering before eventually falling back to his side. Charon didn't look any less unhappy with the shower ordeal, but his muscles gradually loosened as she clean and rubbed. Water dripped between them, in the corners of her eyes and through her parted lips as the minutes went by. The water remained warm and almost steamy – it was odd, but not odd in a way that she'd question it more than once.

She'd gotten used to the idea of nothing much occurring in the shower besides two adults washing away the dirt and enjoying the warm stream, but things always had a way of bending against assumption.

When she ran a slick hand down his sternum, Charon pulled her wrist in his hand – the rough skin actually soft and the muscles a little sponge-like. He stared down at her with a bleak expression even though he'd pressed his body close enough that the tips of her breasts scratched over his chest.

"Don't you need to wash?", he spoke with eyes turned down on her, but chin held high.

"I'm not dirty.", she murmured; eyes enjoying the rest in his locking gaze. A strange turn of his mouth made her give her own – it was like he took her words in, and found something funny about them.

Silence passed and disappeared as he released her wrist and their continued movement in the shower lead to a spray of droplets hitting the metal wall loudly. He didn't grumble when she went to clean between the skin and muscle of his neck, nor did he protest when her hands pushed him down to his knees so she could wash the fine hairs on his head free of the muck.

Her body pressed to his side; projecting her naked breasts from his leveled stare while she ran small drops of shampoo through his hair, lathing the rest of his scalp in the suds.

"Might want to close your eyes."

"I remember.", he spoke into the water as it passed in a thin stream down his head, over his lips and around his muddy voice. The soap ran clean after a few moments, but he didn't return to his knees when she patted his neck in a gesture for him to rise. Instead of doing anything she would have assumed, he grumbled and wrapped his arms around her waist; soft ghoul flesh almost a strange squishy texture around her bare skin.

He was warmer than the shower water; warmer than he'd been last night even. A small tremor seeped past his chest into her stomach when he squeezed her tight; arms wringing around her with his cheek squashed over the tops of her breasts. The moment was intimate, but she couldn't help feeling mildly confused and ambivalent as to what to do. Did she stroke his scalp while he nuzzled deep into the doughy flesh of her chest? - or did she remain as she'd promised?

In the end, he answered for her; responding to a question too delicate to ask with words. He didn't pull her down, but he did guide her on her own knees – where his arms slipped up to her arms and eventually her shoulders where he merely stroked the skin along her neck and on her cheeks. The look on his face was hard to read; a mixture of sadness, interest, and perhaps mostly nothing at all.

When he pulled her face against his own; feeling the smoothness of her cheek against his while the water slipped past the seal their different textures made – she let out a heavy sigh at the growing appendage rubbing into her hipbone. It hadn't been long since she'd last thought of this, but for him to show any interest again so soon wasn't something she'd imagined.

"Charon.", she whispered it – no need for anything louder when the remnants of his ear was so close to her lips.

"Do you want to do it again?", he asked it like he would another game of cards, but the tenor of his voice didn't stifle any ounce of the desire infiltrating her veins. One of his soft hands slid down to knead a muscle under her shoulder blade – only making her stomach flutter further.

"Yes", was all she could say really. The heavy flesh between his legs – the same length that was rising and straining almost painfully into her hip was what most of her mind focused on; shameful in a way. A true friend would have seen he was hesitant in some way about this, but that didn't stop her from reaching down between them, and give him a long thick stroke.

For a moment she stared, but even though his appearance seemed off, she didn't mention it as she went for their bag. The sack was heavy in her lap; brimming with almost everything aside from the fixings for a good meal. She even had a full set of tarnished silverwear – why, or what for, she didn't know yet, but leaving it where she'd found it in a locked cupboard seemed like a silly idea at the time. With nothing but Charon's breathing, the dogs frantic kicking, the drips and the static, she unearthed a tied up deck of cards with a very dull tune on her tongue. A game of cards would bore them to sleep she was certain and if that didn't work she could always read them both articles from a medical journal.

Out the corner of her eye she watched Charon's face loosen further – the always bundled creases lessened into rough skin and healed scabs. One would ascertain that he were merely relaxed, but she knew that rarely happened, even while he slept...or, even after he came. The cave noises – a combination of random and predictable drips, as well as distant echoes of nothingness – wafted into the white noise of the fuzzy radio broadcast while she shuffled the frayed deck of cards in her hands. There was something off, and when she peered up at him she couldn't hold her tongue when he eyes started to water.

"That mold not sitting on your stomach well already?", the tone she used was (if anything) berating, but only to mask the worry she was already feeling. They had a sack of pre-war medical supplies – of which there was bound to be something that could cure him if the inevitable occurred, but the heavy concern was something she both relished and detested. Caring about a person had its downfalls, and this – before her – was one of them.

He didn't answer, but he did turn, look around, and twirl his eyes in wide-looped circles as if he were following something in the air between them. One corner of her mouth twisted down, and her eyes remain steady on the path his own followed, but there was nothing besides crisp cave air – yet, he must have seen something, for his hand shot up a few inches from her face and grabbed something completely invisible.

There was a sense of pride for not having flinched much but a twitch of her nose as he grumbled and brought his closed fist before his face – it opened quickly and his eyes followed something else purely imaginary once more.

"Okay.", she enunciated with eyes disbelieving at the uncharacteristic tilt of his bitten lips. She'd never seen him smile like that, if he ever smiled at all.

It didn't occur to her until he spoke - "These flies are impossible to kill." - that she realized something was indeed wrong, and it was only a matter of a few more untypical words and gestures that finally put two and two together for her.

Charon was hallucinating; hard.

It all seemed fairly child-like in nature until he ripped his combat knife from his thigh – still coated in the now dark-green residue from the fungus – and eyed it against the different births of light with fast and slow tilts of the blade. She knew eating that shit was a bad idea, but she hadn't realized how bad until she was on her feet, backing up from a near seven foot tall ghoul and a searingly sharp blade.

"I'm dying.",he muttered; deadpanned and - if it weren't for the knife - a bit amusing.

The whole turn of events had been slow enough that a more perceptive person would have realized the issue and the solution soon enough to avoid such a dilemma, but with the mild soak of alcohol in her veins and the previously depraved memory of herself and the very ghoul - who was now poising a knife besides her cheek - she apparently was lacking in a few key areas.

The flush of the blade rubbed cold on her cheek – the threat overtly apparent but dimmed since it came from him. Fear didn't really settled into until the edge of the knife came to rest between her moth-eaten shirt sleeve and her hot skin.

"Your hungry.", he breathed out down her face; hot and smelling strangely sweet. The mold had some interesting effects on a ghoul of his size, and just as his blade cut off her sleeve – the fabric flapping down and exposing the top curve of a breast – she couldn't remember exactly how many it was he'd eaten; a few maybe?

"I am", she said; tone soft and easy. She knew how to deal with people when they were like this. Tripping was a term used often enough that she could characterize that strange dance of his pupils as such. Ghouls didn't sweat, she knew this – they panted, and Charon (hunched over her with that serrated knife in the hand that held the ball of her shoulder) was gasping down the side of her face like he'd been sprinting her away from danger.

She could remember a time not too far into their companionship where he'd slammed her out of the range of fire, into a wall where he stood close as he did now; panting with his weapon out at the ready.

She bit in a breath as he gathered her up in his arms; erratic and clumsy, but she kept her lips shut as the blade nicked the back of her elbow. He hefted her half on his chest and half off his shoulder. The rhythmic pounding of her heart palpitated ever few beats as he walked her to the bed rolls and the lantern. From past experiences and wasteland paranoia, she briefly thought he'd throw her down and fuck her – it wouldn't be rape since she'd have him anyway and anytime he'd be willing, but the thought blended in too well with one that wasn't consensual; a memory half-forgotten and usually ignored.

Antic mumblings and breaths were spoken against her side as he circled the band of their gathered things; holding the backs of her thigh and pressing a flat palm between her shoulder blades possessively. The thought occur to her that he was holding her like she'd seen mothers do to their babies when they'd been trying to coax them into sleep – it was a spectacle she'd only seen once in the vault and twice on the outside, but the situation was uncannily similar.

When the tips of his fingers dug past the thinness of her shirt, she opened her mouth to speak, only to have the words come out as a low vocal-pitch when he tossed her back on the bedrolls – the contact took the air out of her lungs.

Once she picked the hair out of her face, she caught a glimpse of him handling the wall to her left; hands running over the slimy wet cave wall like he was seeing if it was soft or hard.

"...hell...", she uttered to herself as she drank in the darkly humorous sight of Charon of all beings feeling up a cave wall; his body pressed close and the same odd mumblings passing over his lips. Aside from the blade still in his hand (glistening off and on) he didn't seem a hindrance to her or himself – still, she silently pull their pack open; gently moving supplies aside until the stained first aid pack appeared past an assortment of ink-less pens and batteries.

She checked on him again, seeing that he'd started digging the tip of his knife into a crevasse; fishing small rocks out. Funny how she decided he needed to be treated only once she saw him ruining his blade, and not when he was threatening it against her face. He'd be annoyed when he came around and realized he'd dulled, or worse: chipped the tip of his combat knife. For something he cleaned and sharpened every night, she couldn't really watch him twist it into a hundred-thousand-year old slab of mineral rock.

"Charon, you still hungry?", she rang out with her fingers still in the large pouch of colored-coated pills and neatly kept syringes. The blue pouch really had a nice assortment of things, most of which she knew nothing about though and there age accounted for little.

Charon hadn't answer, and she'd been too busy trying to read the small labels on the antidotes and adrenal injections to notice his approach – so when he plunked down (height, weight and all) in front of her, she dropped the pouch and felt her heart miss a beat. He stared with wide blank eyes at her; large and tall with his mouth moving around at the jaw as if he were grinding his teeth like a Brahmin.

"Do you feel different right now?", she asked hesitantly; hands perched behind her and body leaned back in a stance that could prove her fear as much as it could her ease given the right or wrong person eyeing her.

"I can hear it when you look at me.", he said it with a straight face; jaw stopped and hands wringing with tension around the thick leather on his knees.

He shuttered out water droplets and hot breath down her neck as she squeezed and twisted her palm over his hard flesh, working her arm snugly between them while his hands kneaded down the meat of her back; growling and huffing in her ear.

"You sure?", she managed to say as her mouth kissed a patch of spongy muscle on his chest.

"Yes.", he grunted in her hair; fingers pressing into the planes above her rear.

So she urged him up on his feet, dragging her hands down his sides and his thigh even though he took a step back as best he could in the tight shower; avoiding the blatant level of his groin to her face. He might have grabbed her hair and pulled her back when she opened her mouth along his scarred length, but once she got a thick lick along the underside of it, he relented with a heavy sigh.

This kind of thing wasn't something she'd ever done; something that suddenly seemed lucky in a world like this as she ran fingers around the tender girth pulsating softly. What he'd done last night had felt better than a lot of thing had in her life, and the least she could do is try it out on him.

When she took him in her mouth – hollowing her cheeks – she felt fingers dance around the wet strands of hair on the back of her neck, but only barely before they left completely. He didn't speak; scarcely breathed even as she tested how far back her throat could open and which places were the most sensitive – still though, he didn't make much movement.

It was hard to figure out what felt good from the noises alone, so when she looked up – eyes wide and mouth still wrapped around his sex – she didn't expect to see the mess he was. A ragged, thick and tense arm stretched over her; bracing against a wall of the shower. His mouth was down and half open; eyes about the same with a hand hovering around her head as if he wanted to grab her, but refused.

She sucked hard and he shivered, but didn't moan or groan. Eventually, his eyes focused off the distilling air clouding up dimly and caught her unblinking gaze. This time – with eyes keen on her own - she heard him grunt and felt those raw fingers immediately bury themselves in the hair behind her ear. She stared and sucked, licked and bowed down the slick flesh while he panted and played with the wet hairs on her head; both watching the other while the water started running cold between them.

The flesh under her tongue was thick and oddly soft over the stiffening blood in his erection, but the small nicks of veins were what her tongue sought out time and again – the small ridges pulsated and throbbed in turn with a heart that must have been hammering away. His grip would tighten and loosen sporadically when she ran her teeth along his skin, but that was all.

She'd seen raiders doing these things, with women and with men – the whole act had looked aggressive and frenzied with heads bobbing and teethed bared, but this was nothing like that. Charon was just as hesitant as he'd been last night; unbridled in a sense but also very careful. The small tugs and restrained noises were just a small part of it, and when she reached up to cup the flesh under his sex, he even warned her before he was spent; tugged her mouth away and allowed her to finish him down her front with the water washing it away.

The word he muttered was her name and the rasp of his voice molding it did strange things to the gushing heat in her chest. No one had ever sounded as he did now; now as he plucked her up by her arms, pressed her back on the shower wall and rubbed the slippery flesh between her own legs; working her firmly once his thumb ran over the tough nub under her cleft.

"You don't have to. Its -", she moaned in a breath when his finger slipped inside, " - okay...", but he did and once he hefted her leg up under his arm he was almost rough; teeth scratching on the edge of her jaw and tongue licking up the water running down through her hair. It was the radiation pulling the reaction out of him, she told herself – and when he added a second finger with the first she repeated that excuse again while gasping him name past the spray of the shower.

"Its not productive.", he said abruptly when he looked down at the hard blue pill between her forefinger and thumb.

"What isn't?", she asked slowly while eyeing the label on the baggy she'd pulled the antidote out of – it wasn't anything pertinent, and her memory was foggy about it's effects. The only thing logical to give him were the charcoal tablets, but that could absorb the radiation he seemed to thrive off of.

It all came down to whether he really needed it or not, and by the looks of the half sleepy stare he was giving every small inch of her body, then he was probably fine. They were safe, and he had yet to show any more violence – if anyone could really call the rubbing of his knife violent.

In essence she'd been more terrified of crippled raiders than when Charon came at her with his blade drawn – if anything the thrill of it was invigorating.

"This feeling. It's normal...not normal.", his eyes roamed like they had before, but they seemed more frantic and unsure, "Everything, throbbing. The rocks...look alive."

"I did say not to eat it. Nothing good for you actually glows...well, not normally.", she muttered; leaving the small stash of charcoal pills beside the humming radio before stuffing the aid-kit back in their bag. He made a hefty growl; similar to something the mutt would have made if it wasn't still kicking dirt on the floor.

"Your not helping.", he sounded irritated even through the spacial high pulsing in his head. The effects seemed to be more forceful than he was probably used to – the constant loosening and tightening of his face and muscles seemed to solidify that notion. It wasn't even the hallucination he hated, she was sure – it was most likely the symptoms in his limbs and chest that made him annoyed. Even near-locked in this cave as they were he refused to relax, and just like that he refused the algae.

"They're magical – like those warlocks in Grognak's adventures – try to ride it out. Enjoy yourself for once...", she kicked back on the cold, hard, and wet ground with arms clasped behind her head. The stalactites dripped small puddles around her hip and elbow with delicate noises that died down once Charon stood to pace around their little camp. He would not enjoy himself and his situation was starting to chew away at the shell she'd built up against it - it'd do no good for her to get nervous. Getting nervous would only make things worse.

"It's not pleasurable.", even past the mind-clogging flora, he still sounded affront that she'd even compare enjoyment with such a sensation.

"Then take these pills by the radio-", she shoved the clunky piece of old technology aside and gathered the pills in her open palm, "-there's no sense in sitting around like this if your miserable – they might make you tired though."

"Anything is better than this.", for a man who was apparently seeing sounds and hearing looks, he sounded only vaguely strained – a testament to how much control he truly had. If she'd been the one experiencing lucidity she may have started pulling her own hair out, shrieking for it to end, or even gutted the dog just to know she was still on Earth.

Charon seemed to pause, but when she rolled an eye over to him he plucked the pills from her hand roughly and proceeded to glare and swallow two of them with the bottle of whiskey from her side. She didn't remember when it was he'd actually taken the bottle off her hip without her knowledge, but the fact only added to his resistance - he was smooth and agile even under the influence. He truly was an enigma of the highest variety, and that thought made her smile through the hidden nerves.

"Get ready to feel dizzy.", she murmured into the side of her arm; staring at the workings of his throat as he swilled up the last of the alcohol – a small trickle of the amber liquid slipping down the side of his mouth and down the cerise muscles along his thick neck. There really wasn't any situation or moment that she didn't find a sight like that at least a little arousing – even just in a clinical-interest sort of way.

"Your finger looks red.", his voice sounded clogged and tired already, but that may have very well been just a symptom of the half liter of booze he'd just ingested.

She pulled the arm from under her head and examined the finger in question – the circle of flesh around the middle joint was swollen and inflamed. It'd been bothering her only recently, but she'd used the digit constantly and the sight wasn't shocking until now; now that she could see it in the light. Yellow dotted under the swollen edges as if the flesh were ready to turn purple – a sign of infection.

"I wouldn't worry about it.", she mumbled with eyes still glued on her distended finger; trying to pass it off as nothing...which it was, she reminded herself. Nothing that a stimpack couldn't cure if the problem persisted; nothing that a distant mind couldn't fix.

A dim grumble resounded as she bent the bloated digit – disapproval she was sure. A small jolt of pain running up to the bed of her finger nail made her pupils dance, but it took her mind off the worry, if not for just a seconds time.

Five months and two weeks after the Vault...

The blood - caked over her naked skin - cracked; stretching the beaten and bruised flesh underneath whenever she made the most miniscule of movements. Whenever she turned in her hanging cell, whenever she opened her mouth or even felt her body tense at a certain far away scream – the blood cracked and stretched. Filthy was something she wished she was. Compared to the heavy drape of blood, semen, and dried stagnant piss-water they shoved her into, she wished she'd been covered in the more expected layers of the wasteland. Before when she'd sneered at the smell of herself under the beating sun – she now sneered at the luck all of that had truly been.

Her heart would seize randomly when ever footsteps padded down the hallway under her suspended prison. Another reason not to move was keeping the thick chain looped in her birds-cage from attracting anymore attention - a plan was still in it's earlier stages as she took in every small detail of what her eyes could capture. Somewhere there was a weak point, somewhere there had to be a weapon she could use, and somewhere there was an exit.

Every other problem she'd found a solution – it had come easily until now.

A bottle smashed in one of the far rooms dimly, followed by a hard slapping of flesh that sounded more like a fist fight than anything even more disturbing...

The horrible cajoles, biting laughs and cries of rape had ended not a few minutes ago, but the weak sounds of conversation still wafted about the conjoined halls and rooms. Voices bounced around in the wet concrete surroundings, making it impossible to discern between the masses, or even tell how many she needed to evade, kill or maim.

They hadn't raped her like they'd done the other girl brought in with her – why?, she didn't care to question. If it was because she'd been dirtier than the other girl then she thanked the radiation puddle she'd fell in the hour before being captured; if it was because of the fact that she'd pissed herself when they'd kicked her in the gut then she'd pray that it happened again if this situation ever arose once more, which - she promised - it wouldn't if she found a way out. No more would she put her trust in anything even remotely out of the ordinary.

The raiders – now her captors - had looked like no more than traveling merchants; clothes well kept, in a way, and guns heavy like those the Brotherhood patrolled with, but great disguises had been the only thing they had in common with half-civilized peoples.

A harsh rattling of her cage – making her gut churn sickly – gave her a brief moment of atrophy as the even more foul sound of a close chuckle marred with the decent of her cage. It was her turn now, she knew it. Desperatly her eyes pounded as her heart did; searching for something (anything) to keep the sick activities of these animals at bay.

They were hoisting her down, and for a moment she thought she couldn't breathe. A sticky, greasy and almost moldy head of hair was the first thing she noticed as a person, and the more she saw of her grinning captor – the more the bile rose up in her mouth. He was short, thin, and gave her a full-mouthed smile with no more than four teeth; four chipped and blackened teeth, behind lips that looked as though the first layer of dermis had been peeled off that morning. His skin was ravaged by the sun – worse looking than a ghoul even and void of any inner charm the radiation victims had.

The voice coming from his festering hole of a mouth was just as terrible as his appearance and smell, "Jerry hopes your harder than the last one. Jerry – he wants...hard, girls.", even with his striking lack of vocabulary, she found that the words he managed to say indeed hit a cord; one deep in her gut. Her body imploded in on it's self as if she'd been struck by some horrid malady; eating her from her inside out like little claw-ridden parasites. The feeling of terror was so ripe that her ears didn't pick up on the muted sounds of pain in the other rooms. All her mind could focus on was the horror standing before her, while the man reached one stained hand between his crotch to itch at some venereal disease.

She watched - petrified - as the disgusting little man shoved an equally worn and skinny key at the keyhole; missing the gap for so long that she'd hoped he'd give up, but that thought seemed to coincide with the lock on the door slipping open as that damn key made it's way in the right spot.

The fog of his rancid breath was so terrible it traveled a good two feet before hitting her in the face; strong and warm like some condensed creature. If anything, she only wished that she'd found her Father before this sort of thing happened. Dying now seemed like such a kick in the stomach; and dying by these sorts of barbarians was something she couldn't think to describe.

A filthy hand; smudged with grease, blood and bodily grit reached out inside her cage. Her whole life seemed to whither at the sight of that hand - her stomach dropped, her mouth went sour, and for the briefest of seconds, she thought about banging her head into the metal bars of her cage to see if she could knock herself out quicker than he could grab at her, but that apparently wasn't necessary.

A figure - just as naked and bloody as she - rounded a corner with slow, sloppy movements; bending from one end to the next as if at any moment the girl would fall, never to get up again, but somehow she managed. The girl – the one she'd seen raped, beaten and drug off for more - held a meated-looking baseball bat at her legs - it wasn't made red, she just put it through the rounds.

She pulled her eyes from the girl as quickly as she'd looked, only watching her from the blurred extent of her peripheral vision while the ghastly man grabbing for her grinned wide and nastily with eyes wide and excited: savage.

Her fingers curled around the slick bars against her back, watching with diluted fear as the girl creeping closer became more and more steady in her stride; baseball bat rising quickly in both hands like she was ready to hit the winning home run. There was a sunny-ray of rage in the girl's eyes – she'd killed the other men, she knew it, but the lust for revenge hadn't been abated yet, and only with this kill could the need be sated. Something told her the girl wasn't aiming to save her from a similar fate, just killing those that harmed her, but she stared on in gratitude nonetheless as she watched the murder take place.

Blood and mayhem in the wasteland had remained cut and dry until this moment - the moment that her eyes honed in almost erotically on the way the man's skull concaved and cracked down between his eyes; blood trickling at first and then gushing and spurting up like a broken pipe of crimson bodily fluid. Up until that second in time she'd done nothing but shoot her enemies down. The whole ordeal of pulling a trigger had at first been as horrendous as it had been exhilarating, but the sight of a human's skull being beaten in on the cold filthy ground was something else entirely.

She watched - as more an overseeer than a rescue-e or even a victim for that matter - while that bloody and raped girl turned the man's head into a pile of red mash; pulp with only a few hard, sharp pieces and an expose bellied eyeball to give away the fact that it had at once been someones head.

It was the sound that was the worst - the hard cracking that turned so quickly into a wet slurping and squelching smack.

The girl didn't say anything once the exertion of sweat started to wash the moistened blood down her body - just gasped, stared and (after a few seconds) dropped that wet bat and walked off. Whatever fates the other men found themselves - she'd never know. She didn't stay to loot even though she'd needed to for days, she didn't grab a weapon even though her life depended on it, and she didn't look twice. She ran out near blind - the true horror's of the wasteland had finally caught up with her.

Stories didn't do the sick and weariness in her cold veins justice - experience was the only thing that would keep her alive. She could ignore all the pain and the futility of existence as long as she just chocked it all up to a better well played tomorrow.

Shattered innocence, pride, bones? limbs? - if she lived through it then it would only make her stronger; more resilient against the next turbulent part of her journey. But she would survive, she promised herself she would.

"How are you feeling?", she whispered out the anxiety to him. It'd been over half an hour and Charon had done nothing but sit in that same bent, crouched and uncomfortable looking position; breathing in and out as if he'd been counting each second that went by like the countdown to some catastrophic bomb.

"Fine.", he said with finality. The tone suggested otherwise, but still the more hesitant portion of her brain said to leave it be; let him retain whatever he thought he was losing by being in this predicament, but she found her body inching and crawling beside him not sooner than he could pin her with a hopeless glare. His clouded eyes looked normal, filled with spite and that strange ripple of upset. Charon may not have said it, but she'd seen that same look before - it was something she'd given herself in mirrors while alone and cold; beaten up by the chores of the world.

Individual control - ironically - must have been as important to him as his contract. Control would have kept him sane in moments of insanity, and even impervious against the worst of commands - but his control had been broken for that thankfully rather brief amount of time.

"I'm still up for roasting the dog by the way.", she murmured while snaking a hand and arm slyly around to hook it up with his, watching his face tighten and relax in the dim light of the lantern. Slowly - and even with a small shake - she noticed his opposite hand reach over and hold her arm in place; rough skin playing sweetly on her damp skin. She almost smile, but he spoke, "I don't have friends, smoothskin, would say that's what I am. You and the dog are friends, not food.", and even though he must have seen the blank look on her face, he rearranged their arms with a grumble and pulled her up against his side a little too tightly.

"Let's starve.", he said; voice with a heavy drawl as it seeped hotly on the top of her head.

"Sure", she couldn't stop from saying it - he was so warm in a world that (despite the heat) was oddly cold, and the hard, rough parts of him around her were like the metal walls she grown up encased by. Safe is what he was, and it was then she realized she might have been a slave to him as opposed to the way this was probably suppose to pan out.

"We'll starve tonight.", and when she managed to toss out the empty pit in her belly, she found it filled in other ways when he tugged her closer; inhaling the scent of her hair and filtering it out down the side of her face.

Three days later...

She lay now, half undressed behind the cover of a marooned boat – as if at one point the dry patch of nothing they had made camp on was once a lake or a river. The lightness of an orgasm he'd given her ten minutes ago still made her lips curl oddly as he yanked and shoved Meatdog around by his fur on the other side of the burning fire.

When she shut her eyes against the elation, Charon made a grunt of strange amusement while the mutt yipped; uncharacteristic of either of them really, but the raw wind of the morning felt too nice on her drying skin to think them strange now. Replaying the previous events from beginning to end was almost much more enjoyable than chastising the way Charon had opted for the dog than her in his after-coitus moments.

He hadn't instigated it yet, but Charon hadn't mopped around guiltily after wards either. She'd kissed him slowly, hoping it'd have lowered his chances of regret; nibbling on his scarred lips until he'd returned the gesture. He'd came with his mouth open between her breasts and his hands hard around her hips, saying nothing bad and nothing good – just silence and even a straight mouth; almost a smile. Even when she'd rolled off his lap to laugh silently in bliss so uncommon outside of sex, he didn't look at her like he'd done the last time – just rose to bring the fire back up and fix his leathers back in place.

Thinking about the pleasure only made her stomach flip smoothly as she spread her thighs indecently against the wind – the recent memory hard to push back for the day ahead.

Only when the light began to grow did she rise to dress herself as Charon watched passively with one arm wringing the mutt around in tight loops at his knees. When she sat down to stare at him past the rippling tips of the fire, he looked away as if he'd never been watching her at all.

They shared silence until the morning light made the tops of the buildings in the distance visible – it was then that she spoke (brushing all content thoughts, brought on by their coupling, to the gusts of wind). The dead raiders they'd killed a couple hours ago lay off about 15 meters away, but the growing brightness drew her eyes directly too them. They were unavoidable.

"Why is it, do you think, the world is the way it is now? Were people always this terrible; always this...selfish? - or did the bombs push everyone to their limits? Damn it all to basic human nature?", she snapped the last twig sharply over her bent knee - the miniscule bits only bringing the fire an inch higher after tossing them in the blaze.

"I don't know, and yes.", Charon spoke with fingers buried in the oily coat of the dog, obviously oblivious or uncaring of the small dried bits of flayed meat and blood from the raiders gluing the dogs hairs together. She could almost hear the strands unsticking as he scratched and pet, much to the beasts perverse enjoyment. The two seemed fond friends; perhaps in the oddest sort of way, but the sight was still somewhat comforting to watch unfold, especially now while the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon; a sordid blaze of green blues and dusky yellows, only growing more intense and then less pronounce as the sun grew closer to breaking.

In the light of the fire and the clearness of the early morning, she allowed a silent smile upon her face as she prodded along the swollen bubble around her finger. The flesh at the sides had turned a deeper shade of purple. The tiny joint was bent askew a few centimeters, making two fingers press together when she curled a loose fist. Seeing the bulbous joint reminded her of the emotions surrounding it; both as dissimilar as night and day.

A sharp bark rushed her stare from her finger to the mutt; tongue hanging out and teeth appearing yellow than normally against the crackling light. A rare sort of amused look graced Charon's face; lips curled on one end and eyes oddly bright. She watched intently - a feeling of warmth, not just from the fire invading her chest - as her ghoul grabbed the dog's open bottom jaw and tugged it almost playfully as the mutts beady eyes glistened with supreme joy. They rough-housed until day break - or as much as one could call what he was doing with just one arm - the rest of him was loose and motionless.

She wasn't sure if it was the sex or something deeper that brought out the less-distant-Charon, but the color looked good on him, and it was harder and harder to look away.

The previous day and recent night had been uneventful. From the throngs of the open wastes to the scattered remains of Paradise Falls, they ran into nothing worthwhile - a few radscorpions here and there, but nothing worth recounting. The stagnant day was in a sense a strange blessing - he wouldn't have admitted it, but since the charcoal he'd been slow and even without her own excuse she couldn't say she was any better.

"How do you feel about having a goal; a destination we're heading towards? It wouldn't be anything serious, but maybe just a…", she paused; staring heatedly past the licking flames at him and the beast, "…a vague direction – like east, or north-east."

"You have a specific place in mind.", a statement; like half the things he said, but this time something about the blank way he said it, as though he were seeing past her fumbled suggestion made her face burn. He wouldn't say no if she'd told him what she'd been thinking, but even she herself wasn't sure it was the right idea.

"I don't know really, but wandering does no good in the end.", she didn't hide the rawness of her voice - the night had been too long for that, and something about his interest in the dog and not her – especially after their intimate moment - hadn't felt great.

She wanted to kill for purpose again, ever since she'd left the Purifier it'd been a distraction. Death and pleasure had found a strange fluidity in each other, and now - with Charon and the looks and the sex that wasn't just sex - she didn't want to enjoy the taking of a life as much as she'd done in the past.

He didn't answer her, but grunted in agreement as he shoved the mutt weakly on it's side as it gave a slopping yip of delectation.

Even if she loathed the beast for frivolous reasons - the sight of Charon (the ghoul behemoth) and the filthy drooling dog playing was a sight that any set of eyes would find pleasurable. Maybe she needed to take a page out Meatdog's book for a change...even if the beast was more of a bitch that anything else.

Hope this portion of the story was worth the wait. I just bought myself a brand new laptop, so now writing on the go with be simple as apple pie (though good apple pie isn't all that simple). Please, if you have the time, sling me a review to let me know what worked and what didn't - constructive criticism is always appreciated, as well as kudos. Regardless, thanks for those that read, and those that will read the next. :) Much obliged.