AN: Happy (belated?) holidays and early happy new year.
Rated M for gratuitous profanity, violence, and ghoul sex.
The Fallout universe rights are currently owned by Bethesda Studios. I receive no money for this. It is merely a creative outlet, dream space, respite from the real world, and something to tide me over until Fallout 4 is released.
Chapter One Hundred Seven: Our Little Secret
Charon squinted in the yellowing afternoon light, watching as his love, her more-trouble-than-he-was-worth father, and the robot rolled towards him at an agonizing pace. One hand shaded his eyes while the other worked Dogmeat's ears. Dogmeat had done a good job tearing up raiders in the fight, (not that Charon couldn't have taken out all of them on his own, but the extra chaos had been a boon). Shitty name for a good dog, but if the dog answered to it, so be it. Charon was more than happy to live out the rest of his life without ever naming another dog.
Even though he was all but dead on his feet, he couldn't help smiling as Kate neared, and although she returned the smile, it didn't seem quite right. Her smile had been so much brighter back when he brought the satellite dish to her. Back when they knew nothing about one another. Back when his companionship must have seemed like punishment for her good deed.
But since he had spent days worrying, he was probably just looking for something to worry about. Maybe she was just tired from the entire Vault 112 ordeal. Or maybe her father had been a pain in the ass the whole trip. Not that he had had any reason to be. After all, the monster had stayed nearly a mile away from his daughter in order to take out the true abominations of the wastes. The ones that actually posed a legitimate threat to James and Kate.
Although, Charon would understand if James was pissed off about his taking Dogmeat. When he left to go find a shopping cart, Charon had tossed James his bag and a dry vault suit, opened the door, and gave a short whistle on the way out that brought Dogmeat to his side. Since Kate had told Charon to be nice to Gob, the Brotherhood, and half the fucking wasteland, he heard those damned words every time he thought about James. Back in the vault, it had been odd to hear those words directed at her father instead of him for once—not that James had listened. With James treating him like he was an asshole, it felt really fucking good to just give in and be that asshole.
When they were near enough, Dogmeat trotted out to meet them, sniffing circles around the trio. Kate flinched when she first felt the nose on her leg but then reached down to smooth its fur.
"You did not have any trouble, I hope?" Charon asked.
Kate slung her rifle over her shoulder and walked towards him. When her smaller, softer hand was tucked into his, she gave him the smile that he had been waiting for. "With you looking out for us? Of course not."
Charon stood a little taller. Now that they were safe, he could enjoy the warming of his heart. It was enough to give him the patience that he needed to address the disapproving, scowling James. "How are you feeling?"
James gave a derisive snort. "Cramped and useless. Thank you for asking."
Charon didn't give a fuck about his wasted patience, but he was pissed when the warm glow fizzled from his heart. Judging by the stash of raider gear in the cart, James had seen what a truly useless man looked like, and if he was smart, he would remember just how little gun fire was exchanged before Charon had reduced the group to silent, crumpled flesh. Of course, if James ever wanted to know what it was like to merely be broken yet still useful, all he had to do was ask Charon.
"Okay, Dad. Well, let's hurry up and get you in to see the doctor."
"I don't need to see a doctor. I already know what I need to do."
"What you also need is a second opinion."
"Have you met the doctor here? Can't imagine that he'd be much more than a sharply-dressed quack."
"I didn't really have the time to talk to him when I was here last. So long as we can get you the medicine, supplies, and nutrition that you need, does it really matter?"
"You're the one who said that I needed a second opinion."
"Well, you trained me. I think that qualifies me to give a second opinion."
"A second opinion, certainly, but considering that I never finished training you—"
"Which is your fault."
James sighed. "Yes, honey. Which is my fault. But as I was saying, since I trained you and since you're my daughter, that hardly qualifies you to give an objective opinion."
Kate narrowed her eyes with a dark chuckle. "Oh right. Of course. What was I thinking? That's what you've been telling me all day."
"Katie! Come now. You know that's not what I—"
Kate wrenched her hand from Charon's, stomped over to the intercom, and stabbed the button. "It's Kate. Let us in."
"Hello, Kate." It was Pete. Well, it could be worse. It could have been Jamison. "Thank you for visiting—" The intercom clicked off briefly, and when it came back on, Pete's voice had gone from hospitable to horrified. "Wait. Not the Kate. Not the one that—"
"The one with Charon? Yes," Kate snapped.
"Shit. Is Charon out there—uh, you know, with you—um, right now?"
"Yes, and so is my—"
"Oh shit. She talked to me first. You saw that, right Charon? But I haven't said anything bad and—oh wait! You don't have to worry about me anymore anyway—uh, not that you had to in the first place—although, I guess maybe technically second place since the first place would have been Underworld, but I told you that the only reason why I—"
Charon flew to the intercom and snarled into it. "Shut the fuck up, and open the goddamned gates."
Pete continued talking as the doors began to creak apart. "Okay, but—"
The intercom clicked off.
Charon rounded the column, determined to get inside before Pete said or did anything else.
Pete slammed into his chest with a loud "oof" and then staggered back with an appropriately terrified look on his face. "Oh god, I'm sorry."
"That's right. You are."
"Yeah. I am, uh, just like you said. Anyway, I was trying to tell you that I've actually got some good news about Kate."
Charon's anger flared, and he snatched and twisted Pete's wrist, quickening his pace as he dragged the other ghoul forward towards the tower and away from Kate. "What in the fuck could you possibly have to tell me about her?"
"Indirectly about her. Or you. You know, that really hurts, Charon—and you're not stopping. Okay. Well, um, I just wanted to let you know that you don't need to worry about her anymore—not that you needed to worry before or anything, which I guess I just told you over the—um—but anyway, I've got a smoothskin of my own now. Well, not really my own, but hopefully eventually maybe. She says that she's sorting herself out right now and—ow. Um, hey Charon, can you let go? Please? I think something is about to snap, and I kinda need my wrist. No? Okay, well, I thought that you would be happy for me or us or you guys. I don't know. Oh, um—who's that?"
Charon glanced back to see Kate standing inside the gates, waiting on the robot to finish pushing her father up the stairs. He whipped Pete in front of him and let go of his wrist with hardened eyes. "Kate's father."
Suddenly, Pete was having as much trouble standing as James. "Um, does he know about—'
An evil grin formed on Charon's lips. "Why don't you ask him?"
Pete gave James half a wave with a nervous laugh before pulling his wrist back to soothe it. "Um, I'm sorry Mr.—um—well this is awkward. I don't know your last name, so I guess—um—Mr. Kate's Dad. Wel—welcome to Argyle Tower. Uh—they didn't tell you about—"
Kate moved to the cart, resting her hand on the side as she stared down Pete. "Oh, yeah. We told him. He knows that ghouls are living here now, and how there aren't any fees to enter the tower."
Pete looked as though he was about to faint with relief. "Oh. Right. Wonderful. Well, um, she's right, but I am supposed to conduct an interview with visitors to make sure that they plan on being peaceful here and to collect all weapons so that they have to be." He looked between Charon and Kate. "Um, not with you two, of course, but with any—uh—'unknowns.' Not that I want to inconvenience you, Mr. Kate's Dad—"
"James. Oh good. James. Okay, well, like I was saying, my orders come from Dashwood—although the whole tower agreed to them and I think that they're pretty good—and—well—I can't help but notice that you've got a cart full of weapons with you and a very scary-looking robot."
"Did you notice how I'm buried under all of this stuff? I can hardly use any of them. And the robot's really nothing more than a Brahmin."
The robot cleared its non-existent throat politely. "Sir, you will have to excuse me, but I am not familiar with the term 'Brahmin.'"
"Don't worry about it, robot."
"Unfortunately, I am unable to comply with your wishes as that an anxiety routine was not built into my programming. I am sorry if that disappoints you, sir."
"The only thing you have to worry about with this robot is having it take you too literally or getting your toes run over."
Pete rubbed the back of his head. "Uh, okay. I guess I can take your word on that—being Kate's father and all—uh, James—but can't you just—um—get out of the cart and leave the robot here?"
"If I could, I wouldn't be trapped in this damned thing."
As Kate walked towards Pete, Charon moved to keep himself between them.
"We don't want to get you in trouble with Dashwood," Kate said.
"Speak for yourself, smoothskin," Charon said.
Pete glanced at Charon with a nervous laugh. "Well, actually, I'm not worried about Dashwood as much as I'm worried about—"
"Look, Dad's just having some trouble walking right now, and we just need to get him in there to see Doctor Banfield. Then we can do whatever needs to be done with the cart and the robot. Okay?" Kate said calmly.
"My orders are to escort this injured vault resident to a medical facility," the robot added helpfully. "However, if you do not have any other need for me after that, I should return to Vault 112 to take care of—"
"No. You'll stay here, robot. We might need help getting back to 112," Kate said.
Charon spun around and faced her with a stone stare. "Kate, we are not—"
"Just to keep it here in case we need it for something else," Kate muttered.
Charon growled and folded his arms.
"Oh. Well, um, I guess that's okay if you're just going in there to do that. After all, it is your father, Kate—um—Kate, who I'm only talking to to remind her what a piece of shit I am."
Kate gave Pete a murderous look that Charon savored. "Okay, well, we're going inside now. Why don't you get back to guarding the gate. Looks like you left it open."
"Huh? Oh. Right. Um, sorry," Pete said before scurrying back to his post.
James watched him return. "Need I even ask what that was about?"
Charon could see the panic growing in her eyes. "He was a real prick to her the first time they met."
James narrowed his eyes, tilting his head with a challenging smile. "And how about you? What were you like when you met my little Katie?"
Any other question and he would have lied his ass off. The fact that she was beside him now didn't matter. Even if he was on the other side of the continent and talking to a mutant that couldn't comprehend language, he couldn't lie about it, because if he did, it would mean that he had forgiven himself or accepted it or something else that should never happen. That she had given him the permission to forgive himself of his other atrocities was exactly why he couldn't forgive this last one.
James already knew the answer: When Charon met her, he was a goddamned monster.
"It's Kate, Dad. Kate. And Charon was a perfect gentleman when we met."
James harrumphed. "I'll bet he was."
Kate took Charon's hand and squeezed it. "Was and always has been."
He returned the squeeze, heart aglow once more. She was good to him. Too good to him. But if he had learned anything from Dashwood and Gob, it was that the truth always finds its way out.