Chapter 12

Charon snapped his eyes open, confused for a second before he remembered why he wasn't staring at the wall of the bar he'd been condemned to for so many years. He sat up, wiping a hand over his face, his joins cracking pleasantly. The ghoul cracked his neck too and looked over to his employer's bed with a frowned, she wasn't there. He didn't need to have her in sight at all times but he didn't know how she handled herself against potential threats, or her ability to protect herself.

Charon swung his leg over the edge of the bed, pulling on his boots with the intent to look for her. As it turned out he didn't need too, she rounded the corner just as he moved the screen aside. She handed him a bowl of warm InstaMash and sat at an empty table with another bowl for herself.

"Good Morning," her greeting was bright when he sat to joined her.

"Morning Mistress," it wasn't a warm replied but it wasn't cold either so she took it, moving on to the title issue,

"Charon you can call me by my name, or really anything that not so fucking formal. I want us to be friends,"

"Friends?" He asked brow wrinkling together slightly, it was a strange concept for her to want that.

Rachel watched his expression and thought she'd offended him somehow, she back peddled quickly, "Friends or comrades or something along those lines, I'm going to watch your back just like you'll be watching mine,"

Charon looked at her, nodding. Oh right, she's missing a few marbles. It would be a nice change of pace if she meant what she said, and he believed that she did; right now. He knew it wasn't going to last, she had the best of intention but after two centuries of life he knew how easily humans got distracted, got contempt. For now thought, might as well enjoy it.

"If that is what you wish. As long as you hold my contract, for good or Ill, I serve you."

The smoothskin nodded and seemed to be satisfied. Charon rubbed the back of his neck.

"So, what is your name?"

She started and blushed red, "Oh shit, I never introduced myself. I'm sorry, it's Rachel. Rachel Boone."

He hesitated, searching for the polite response "Well…it's nice to meet to Rachel Boone,"

"You too Charon,"

After breakfast was finished they both repacked their bags quickly, and headed out. Rachel had already seen Carol, talking only long enough to get her letter and to receive a warm, "Be careful out there sweetie,"

She'd gone back to bed after that and Rachel had made their food on the hotplate Carol had let her barrow. It was still early enough that they didn't see anyone but the robot quietly making its rounds. Rachel was glad she wasn't exactly a morning person. She's been up for two hours already and that how she was awake enough to be friendly with Carol and Charon, probably Willow when they went by, but not strangers.

Charon followed her like a silent shadow, worn boots impossibly quiet on the marble floors as they crossed the final concourse. With the rise in Brotherhood soldiers in the area nobody of any real significance had tried to invade Underworld in a long damn time, it had been almost twelve years since the last time he'd even stepped into this big room, let alone outside.

Rachel pushed open the door and he paused in the threshold, the overcast sky and fog concealed city was almost stunning. He took a deep breath of clean air, cleaner then in the bowels of the ghoul city anyway and the man nearly smiled.

Rachel took a few more steps then turned to him, setting down her bag, "I just remembered, I have a few extra weapons in here I want you to have. Just in case you're shotgun ever doesn't suit the mood,"

Charon nodded with a twinge of gratification that his new employer wasn't going to stack the odds against him, watching him fight to survive for fun. Ahzrukhal certainly hadn't showed him the same kindness. On the way to Underworld their first week together he'd ordered Charon to kill a pair of giant radscorpions, but not before striping away all his extra ammo. The bastard had called it, A test of your skills. In the end of it, his ammo long gone, he'd had to use nothing but a combat knife. It was an experience he never wanted again, and had a long scar up his thigh as a reminder.

Rachel held out a semi-auto 10mm and a handful of clips first which he accepted quickly, securing the pistol to is holster belt. After that she passed over a handful of grenades and half of her stimpaks.

"I assume you know how to use a grenade?" she asked, not with any insult though, she was just inquiring.

"Yes Rachel," he tucked them into a pouch on his belt, glancing up as the sentry Willow strolled over to them. She looked him over and then the kid, arching what was left of her eyebrow.

"Yeah?" she asked and Rachel nodded with the ghost of a smile.



Charon knew he was missing something and pushed it away to ask about later if he found it to be important. Instead of pondering over it he waited patiently while Rachel talked to the sentry, slapping a cigarette pack into the ghoulette's hand.

"I only smoke in settlements, or maybe after a really long day. I like to keep all my senses clear out in the wasteland," she explained and willow grinned, tucking the pack into her leather jacket.

"Smart little smoothskin, aren't you,"

Rachel nodded cockily, "That's how I've stayed alive all these years,"

Willow laughed saluting to them both as Rachel started edging away from underworld, "Hey, watch your backs out there, both of you,"

"Always," Rachel gave a half-assed salute of her own, turning on her heel to head back out into the world.

Rachel lead the way along the walls of the decrepited and mostly uninhabited buildings, keeping to the shadows in case anything unpleasant skulked in the early morning fog. They slid into the square that held one of the metro stations when she stopped, turning to him.

"Hey, um," she reached up to tug on the long red lock of hair hanging along the side of her face. He raised an eyebrow, not sure how to handle this new timid side of her.

"Yes," he prodded when she didn't start talking again.

"Well, you're not the first unusually dangerous companion I've picked up here in the Capital Wasteland, and I want to give you a fair warning because we're about to pick him up," Rachel bit the inside of her lower lip, looking up at him like she was a child about to be in trouble.

"It can't be that bad Rachel, who is he? Some kind of Ex Talon Company? Raider?, I am sure who ever it is, I've had to travel with a lot worse," He tried to assure her, she did appear to want him happy but it wasn't his say who else she picked up, not as long as she wasn't in direct danger.

"Yeah," she muttered, "We'll see, will you wait here of the minute? Just please don't shoot him," she half pleaded and he nodded, accepting the request as an indirect order.

Rachel sighed and turned, walking the last ten feet to the dumpster and snapping her fingers twice as she called his name softly. She was relieved to her the patter of clawed feet, glad he was still safely tucked inside. She lifted the lid and blanched, the stink from inside had punched her in the face, he'd done his business in the corner thought thankfully hadn't rolled in it or anything similarly gross.

Holding her breath she reached inside, getting a cheerful gurgle as she picked him up, cradling Claws in her arms and she turned so the ghoul to see little friend. Originally she'd been planning on putting the deathclaw down while she explained, but the sharp gasp, the way his hand flew to his shotgun and his wide eyes told her no way in hell was that a good idea.

The hard skin left on the ghouls face went as pale as it could when she'd turned around, the widely agreed most dangerous creature in the wasteland cradled in her arms like an infant. He held his breath for a full thirty seconds as he fought the urge to rip the deathclaw from her arms and put a buckshot in its brain. She'd ordered him not to shoot it and it wasn't attacking, yet. Charon tightened his grip on his combat shotgun and swallowed thickly, keeping his voice steady by sheer force of will.

"What is that," he asked slowly, it was the only think he could think of that wasn't mostly questioning her intelligence.

Rachel knew exactly what his was asking but she was half panicked that he was going to shoot her pet anyway, she looked down at Claws and back up to the ghoul, "A deathclaw,"

Charon gritted his teeth so hard they hurt, "Y-yes, I see that, Mistre- Rachel, I have standing orders to speak freely?"

Rachel gulped, it would be so easy to say no, too order him to deal with it and avoid what she knew was going to shouting match. She knew couldn't do that to him though, she'd promised herself she wasn't going to use that power over him, she never wanted to be that kind of person. So after a moment she nodded slowly. Better to let him get it all out now.

Permission granted Charon sucked in a breath, his snarl making both the girl and her deathtrap flinch, "What the hell is wrong with you? Where did you even get that damn thing? Deathclaw aren't pets, they're killers!"

Rachel refused to meet his eyes, "He isn't either, he's already saved my ass once when I was down in the metro,"

"How the hell aren't you dead, what are you 18? And not enough common sense to fucking run when you see one of these thing?"

Rachel bristled, Claws feeling her stiffen and growling in Charon's direction while pressing herself tightly against the human holding him. "I'm twenty-two, and I did walk away, he followed me!"

"It hunted you, and even if it didn't, it's mother sure as hell is!" He yelled, glancing around like he expected the Mother Deathclaw to appear.

"No, she's dead," The fiery red head told him firmly, explaining in a rush about the raiders and the massacre and her theory about why the runt had survived. "He was just looking at me, so I tossed him some mole rat and went on my merry fuckin' way."

"You fed it! Why?" the ghoul demanded, and Rachel looked down at the ground, suddenly defused as she pouted softly, scuffing her boot against the concrete.

"I don't know," the hurt in her voice dosed his anger like cold water on a campfire, leaving him irritated and guilty that he'd, justifiably, yelled at her. He didn't like the emotion. "He just looked so scrawny, and you know what life is like out here, I figured I'd feed him once and give him one more day before the wasteland got him,"

Charon grumbled and then sighed, defeated. Despite the yelling the thing hadn't made a move to attack either of them and they weren't going anywhere by arguing and it wasn't like he could leave her to her doom. In the end he was going to have to tolerate it. Oh you are so very, very crazy, he thought, saying, "Fine, keep it, when it kills us in our sleep I'm to use my dying breath to say I fucking told you so,"

Rachel giggled, the sound blurting from her lips, it sounded chocked, like she didn't do it a lot. He looked down at the deathclaw as she wiped what he told himself was an eyelash out of her eye. "Fair enough,"

Charon rubbed a big hand over his face and the back of his neck, "So, since you're blatantly batshit insane, I assume you fucking named it,"

She nodded, shifting her arms and holding the little killer out at arm's length, "Yeah, His name is Claws,"

Charon snorted as she put it down, watching it sniff her and the ground around her. It kept one eye on him but didn't approach, "At least you didn't name it fucking fluffy or some shit,"

Rachel tsked at the absurd name, fetching the bowl and blanket, stuffing them in half full pack. Fluffy didn't make any sense at all, "I've only ever seen one thing in the wastes that I would call fluffy, and it was in the height of summer in the Mojave. A rancher had cut most of the hair off his bighorners and the short hair was positively fuzzy."

Charon wasn't sure what a bigghorner was but before her could ask she spoke again, "Hey, do you know where a building called GNR is? I have an errand to run over there,"

Thank you for the piping hot bowls of review I've gotten so far, It's great to know you guys are enjoying my stuff and I hope you've enjoyed this chapter too!