Second part of the Five Times fill started with No Vacancy. Follows slightly after Down in Mexico. Thanks for the reviews!

Charlie stumbles back into the Lucky 38 just as twilight settles in on the Strip, riding on the kind of downward slope the bender he's currently going up on will most assuredly produce the next day. She wanders over to the elevator, does a double-take of her surroundings when she gets there, and vaguely reverses course, eventually washing up on the bar next to him. A waft of considerably nicer alcohol than what he's currently imbibing comes with her.

Boone keeps staring into his glass as she hangs her duster off the back of her chair, removes her hat and gloves, then places a stained deck of cards down on the polished wood and carefully starts to lay them out. He thinks she might be setting up a game of Solitaire. "Charlie."



"Seen Raul?"


Charlie stops playing and rests her head on her hands, leaves it there for a long moment and then snaps it back up, dragging the cards together so fast that some of them bend in half. "Any of that hooch you're drinking left?"

"Like you need more."

Charlie cants an eyebrow at him, sounding testy as she puts the deck away. "Like you need it at all."

Boone decides he is not in the mood for her sourness; whatever snit she's gotten herself into doesn't match his current hell. It's a bad day. A birthday. One that will never happen for the woman it belongs to. The present for it is still tucked away, hidden where she would never think to look and destined to sit there until everything around it rots into dust. "The fuck you know about what I need."

"Well, why don't you tell me, then."

The answer pours loose before he can think it might be a good idea to stop it. "I want Carla, for one more night. This night. I want my baby in my arms. Deliver that." He digs around in a pocket and slams a handful of NCR scrip onto the bar. "There. That's what you need, isn't it?"

Charlie picks the sheaf of bills up, eyes it, then firmly tucks it all back into his hand, her face inscrutable. "I'm not that kind of Courier. Carla's gone. You can't bring back what's dead, Boone, only make something new."

Oh, this is definitely not the sort of discussion he should be having in this state; probably one that he shouldn't have at all, but he can't help himself. The sad thing is, Charlie might be the only person who could understand exactly why he finds it so unfair. Why she's so unfair. "You're back. Why the fuck should it be you, come out of the dirt like an undead joke. Some barren, illiterate bitch can come back, so why not my heart-" Boone suddenly finds himself staring up from the floor, Charlie's busted knuckles matching his busted lip.

"You are one melancholic, mean little sonofabitch when you're drunk, you know that?"

He stares up at her dumbly, the viciousness in his voice traded for a sullen petulance. "You hit me." Joining this revelation is the feeling that he has finally made Charlie genuinely angry with him, almost uncontrollably so. Hand still cocked and her jaw clenched tight, she's breathing so hard the air is practically roaring out of her as she glares down at him. Boone decides there is some small satisfaction to be found in that, at least.

"If I didn't think I'd punch your lung in with a rib, there'd be a kick joining it." She turns to head for the elevator.

"You hit like a girl." It isn't bright, but it is the best he can come up with, unless he really wants to- "Should read up on it and improve yourself. Wait, right, scratch that."

That does it. Face livid, she spins, shoots one sprung boot out and nails him square, right in the soft meat of his side, knocking all his air out in a woosh. Everything in his stomach nearly joins it as her heel comes down sharp in his gut on the return.

"Right, there enough bitch in that one for you?" Charlie pauses long enough to wrap her kerchief around her bleeding hand, strips anything resembling a weapon from him, wrenching one of his ears in a twist when he tries to object, stuffs the contents of one of the cash registers into his pockets and leaves him lying on the floor. "I'll be damned if I allow you to make me your penance for the evening. I'll let you punish yourself, instead. Victor, throw him the hell out. Don't let him back in 'til he's broke and sober. Don't let him leave the Strip, either. He causes any real shit, haul him down to the NCR Embassy and make him their problem."

"Well, alrighty, pardner!"

Victor grabs his arms and starts dragging. Boone lets him. He deserves to be thrown out like trash.

Somehow, drunkenly wandering around with his last handful of cash after the last casino throws him out, he ends up with a prostitute. At least he thinks she is, since the money disappears, but then he may have lost it somewhere on the way from the dark corner he had been dropping trou to piss in to the other he has ended up fucking her in. Nice girls didn't spread their legs for washed up NCR grunts, at least without the money going in barter for booze and chips, and she isn't local. She's soft, and smooth, her hair and skin scented with things he has only encountered back west, the same kind of perfumes and soaps Carla had loved and could never afford to get after her small supply ran out. Now he has it all at his fingertips, and no one to buy it for, to give it to. All the comforts of home, including home-grown whores, courtesy of an east-bound caravan.

Had he found her, or had she found him? He's too drunk to remember, so drunk he shouldn't even be standing anymore. God, but she smells like her. It's too dark to see each other behind what he thinks is the monorail station, she's keeping her mouth shut, and it is so easy to pretend. The perfect company to build up a broken fantasy on, really; amorous, anonymous and nearly guilt-free. She would never find him in the daylight, he could blame everything he did with her on the drink. It is not a pretty thing, he thinks as things fade out into the dim, but then neither is his guilt.

He wakes up behind the Ultra-Luxe, when the sun is just high enough to shine over the wall and feel like a knife to the eyes. "Damn. Thought I passed out under cover."

"You did, idjit." Boone jerks, immediately regretting it, then again when a boot gently pushes down on his neck. "Lay still before your brains end up out your ears. You're lucky they didn't end up on somebody's plate, sacking out here. Apparently you're stupid as shit when you're loaded, along with being nasty."

Not quite ready to recognize something as complex as a voice yet, particularly not with so many words involved, he only relaxes when another extremely familiar set of scents washes over him, the parts of his brain responsible for processing it apparently primitive enough to cope through the hangover. Clean sweat, dirty leather, and warm, oiled metal. He takes in a deep breath, filling his head up on the tangy reek until the person it belongs to floats to the front of his head, clearing out those last sweet remnants from the dead of night that always seem to turn so bitterly ugly once the sun comes up. This time, he wasn't sure if it was an improvement. "Charlie."

"Ding ding." The light pressure on his neck lifts, and the swirling mess of light and shadow resolves itself into a figure standing over him. "Stars and sky, I leave you alone for a few hours and look what happens."

He sits up, moving with infinite care. The first thing he notices are the drag marks trailing out from a set of legs, then the fact that he is the owner of those particular limbs. "I did lay down in cover."

"Told you. I decided to make your morning start bright and cheery. Filling it with as much suffering as possible was also part of my grand plan." He stands up, something making a clinking noise as he does. Charlie frowns, plucks his beret up, and switches to a wide grin as a little sprinkle of caps and poker chips rains out down over his face. "Well, leastways it's not marbles. Thought you never took this thing off for anything."

"Only one thing."

"Aha. I remember. We can get you a purse, you know. They sell 'em up the Strip, plain jane ones, and ones with tassels an' sparklies and everything. Veronica'd probably help you pick one out."

"Shut up, Charlie."

She gives him a oddly blank look that could either pass for suppressed hilarity or disappointment. "Could pick one up for that long drink of water you drowned yourself in last night."

"Shut up." He snatches his beret back and snugs it down. "What the fuck were you doing, spying on me?"

"As much as being a voyeur of your escapades would no doubt thrill me, no, I was not spying. I came back down to find you, couldn't, looked, did."

"How many times?" Boone carefully keeps his voice neutral. Considering the circumstances, he's not sure whether to be annoyed or comforted she bothered to check up after Victor tossed him onto the tarmac.

"Twice. I'm not sure what your worst mistake was, putting yourself in a spot where you could catch something nasty or be caught by someone nastier, although I suppose I'm one to talk." Charlie stares at him for a moment longer, then shakes her head and starts walking away, not looking back to see if he follows. He supposes the staggering noises are evidence enough, considering how she starts speeding up.


"Oh fuck off, Boone. You don't know just how damn sorry you should be." Charlie stops, sighs heavily, and starts walking again, but at a much slower pace. "Come on and hurry up. Arcade can probably sort your head out, if he's inclined. If he's not, I'll talk him into it." She sighs again. "Honestly, the shit I do for you."