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 Eight: Offer to Permit Annexation

Charon gave Kate's hand one last squeeze before letting go and heading for the entrance of the recently rechristened Argyle Tower.

"Hey, wait!" Kate called, jogging over to him and then stilling his hand. "Let me get it."

"What? You don't want me to be nice?"

Pain filled her eyes, and she lowered her voice. "But last time we were here, you opened it because—"

"Because I was being extra nice. Now I'm just being regular nice." Charon jerked the door open, faint smile on his lips. "Just say 'thank you' and get in there, smoothskin."

Kate, eyes now grateful, stood on tip-toes and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, love." She took a shaky breath and stepped inside the tower.

The only evidence of the previous bloodbath in the once again sparkling lobby was the pocked marble.

"Well, well. If it isn't the homewrecking bigot," Mister Crowley sneered from a nearby wingback chair, bottle of whisky in hand. "Where's your dog, bigot?"

"Fuck off, Crowley," Charon said, slouching against the door to hold it open for the creeping robot and the asshole in the cart.

"Oh. There he is."

Kate rested a hand on Charon's arm. "Ignore him."

Mister Crowley pushed himself up on wobbly legs, turned the bottle up, and chugged. "So what's it gonna be, bigot? Huh? Back to ghouls? More humans? Or were you planning to mix it up and get rid of both of us this time? I ain't giving you no reward if you're just gonna kill me or send me back to Underworld."

"Keep talking shit, and you'll find out," Charon growled.

"We aren't here to do anything to anyone, Crowley," Kate said.

"It's Mister Crowley, thank you very much, smoothskin. Rude girls don't get rewards."

"Well, Mister Crowley, I don't know what you're talking about, and I don't care."

"Bah! Come on, girlie. Everyone cares about caps. Don't pretend like you don't. You must have had such an exciting time at Underworld that you forgot all about my little list. Tenpenny was at the top of it—may he rot in that huge hole with all those other lousy bigot scum-sucking mutant-loving—uh-bigots." Crowley took another gulp and then wagged a finger at Kate. "But don't get upset that I'm not giving you the full amount cause you're the one that fucked it up. That Tenpenny fucker was supposed to shit himself staring down the barrel of a gun, not just take a nap."

Kate blanched, glancing out of the door to check that her father wasn't within hearing distance. And just like that, the robot's lethargy became a blessing. "It's fine. I don't want your money. I don't want any money."

"Are you sure? I would feel guilty if I didn't give you something to show my appreciation, especially since I'm living it up in the old bastard's house. Wearing his suits. Drinking his private stock. Oh well. Maybe you'll get the other three right. You remember who they are, or you need me to make a note? Never mind. I'll write them down for you. Can't forget that way." As he took another swig, Crowley's free hand fumbled against his pockets.

"I already told you, Mister Crowley. I don't want to have anything to do with you or your list."

"She said that she is not interested, so drop it," Charon said.

"What? You back to playing good girl of the wastes? Well here's what I say to that: Bull-fucking-horse-shit. Sorry, kid. You might be able to trick a bunch of dumb sons of bitches, but not me. I'm not buying it. Not after taking out Tenpenny and then throwing that other asshole over the balcony." Crowley let out a wicked cackle. "Oh, hang on. I forgot to ask: you still going by Kate, or is it Mrs. Burke these days?"

In a blur, Charon launched himself towards Crowley, fist slamming into Crowley's face. Crowley staggered back a few feet, hit the corner of the chair, and spun around. The bottle of whisky flew from his hand and shattered on the floor. An errant step drove a spike of glass through his velour slipper and into his foot. Crowley sucked in a breath. After a stunned second, his eyes went wide, and he began clawing at his neck.

"Oh my god!" Kate gasped, advancing towards Crowley.

Charon threw out his arm. "No."

Mister Crowley sunk to one knee, mouth opening and closing silently.


"No. Mutantfucker would have been second in line after Ahzrukhal. Piece of shit should get what he deserves," Charon growled, reveling in Crowley's misery.

Kate's eyes flickered, but she quieted while the asphyxiating ghoul writhed in silent agony.

A flurry of feet brought Carol out of a nearby hallway. She took in the room with a furrowed brow and gasped when she saw Crowley. She ran to him, threw her arms around him, and relentlessly dug her fists into him. A tooth shot out of Crowley's mouth in an explosion of blood and then skittered across the floor. While Crowley coughed and gasped on all fours, Carol rubbed a calming hand up and down his back.

"Are you okay, Mister Crowley?"

"Thanks, Carol," Crowley managed between coughing fits.

Carol's brow creased as she began to sniff. "Is that—is that alcohol I smell?" Carol stood, picked up the neck of the bottle, and shook it at Crowley. "Mister Crowley, what am I going to do with you? I've told you that during the daytime you've got to keep it in the bar or in a room. This isn't Underworld. There are children here, and it's only—" Carol glanced at her watch. "Heavens! It isn't even four o'clock yet!"

Wincing, Crowley sat back and studied his foot, tsking at the glass. He yanked it out with a growl and tossed it. He pulled his shoe and sock off and splatted his foot in the wasted whisky, teeth clenched. Once the foot was resting in front of him, he let go of his breath and looked up at Carol, oblivious to how his pants were soaking up the whisky. "Thanks, sweetheart. You saved my life."

Carol waved a hand in the air as she crossed back to Crowley. "It's what anyone would have done."

"Bullshit! You saw that little bigot and her dog just standing there. They didn't do a goddamned thing to help me."

"Mister Crowley—"

"Mutantfucking piece of shit brought it on himself," Charon snapped.

The disappointment was clear in Carol's eyes as she looked at the couple. She put her hands on her hips and refocused on Crowley. "Well. Why am I not surprised? Really, Mister Crowley, I'll never understand why you give everyone such a hard time."

"Well, she might have, but her dog wouldn't let her. Haha. That's kind of funny. A dog making its master stay."

Anger filled Charon's chest, but then he saw Kate move in his periphery. She had crossed her arms and was now staring at the floor, red-faced. He wilted.

Fucking. Great. Crowley had done nothing but cross lines right and left since their arrival, and Charon had been proud of himself for holding off from doing something to Crowley for as long as he had. But then Crowley had crossed THE line. His sin wasn't that he had punched Crowley. In fact, even if she didn't always approve of his methods, Kate was usually grateful when he silenced their antagonizers. His sin was that once Crowley had started choking, he had stopped her from intervening. She, who still took killing so personally. She had just killed a load of unlucky fucks in Vault 112 to save herself and her father, and now she was back at Tenpenny, the place that had inspired the guilt that had taken them to the vault in the first goddamned place. And he was going to make her stand there and watch the bastard, who had technically not done anything to her besides talk shit—yet—undergo an agonizing death.

"Here. Let me take a look at that foot," Carol said, pulling up Mister Crowley's leg.

Mouth opened dully, Crowley's eyes wandered a slow, shaky path up and down her body. "Hey Carol, anyone ever tell you that you're pretty fucking sexy for a ghoul?"

Carol sighed and dropped his leg, ignoring the resulting yelp. "Yes. Greta does all the time, although she never says 'for a ghoul.' If you clean it and bandage it, and you'll be fine." She turned pleading eyes to Charon. " Charon, would you be a dear and take Mister Crowley up to his room?"

"What? Are you fucking nuts? This asshole just tried to kill me," Crowley shouted.

"No. I just punched you. You are the goddamned idiot who decided to inhale a tooth."

"That you knocked loose!"

"Well, what I think is that he needs to patch himself up and then sleep this off so that maybe—just maybe—he'll act with a little more civility. In the meanwhile, he certainly doesn't need to add any more blood to the mess he's already made on our nice floor."

"I am not doing anything for that asshole," Charon said.

"May I ask what he did to make you so angry?"

Charon seethed, feeling bile rise as he thought of the horrible, unutterable name.

Mister Crowley chuckled. "Dog got pissed that I called his 'woman' Mrs. Burke."

Carol dove in-between the ghouls and put her arms out before Charon could stop Mister Crowley's breath for good. "Easy now. Easy! Mister Crowley, why you think it's a good idea to taunt Charon I'll never—"

"I don't understand. Why get so touchy over a smoothskin? If you think she's not going to ditch you for another smoothskin one day—well—I don't know. Point is, contract's on you not her, pal," Crowley said, climbing to his feet.

Carol rounded on him. "That is enough, Mister Crowley. If you cannot be nice or at the very least hold your tongue, I cannot and will not protect you from Charon, do you understand me?"

"Nice? All I did was ask a question."

"Please, Charon. Would you please, please just take him back to his room and get him out of our hair. Just ignore him. I doubt he knows half of what he's saying."

Kate put a delicate hand on Charon's back. "Why don't you just do as Carol asks and then go get some sleep. You're exhausted."

Carol snapped and jogged over to the former security desk. "That reminds me!" She rummaged through a drawer until she held up two sets of keys triumphantly. "Now, we all discussed it, and we thought that you and Charon should get to decide which suite you'd like to have. Not that you're obligated to live here, of course, but you're welcome to stay any time you're in the neighborhood. But it's up to you two which one that you'd prefer. Now. Let me see. There's Mister Tenpenny's old suite. The old suite that you stayed in here last time and—" Carol dropped a set of keys, trading it for another. "And—um, well—Mister Burke's old suite."

"Hey! Pick any of 'em except Tenpenny's. They said that I could have it if you two didn't take it," Mister Crowley said, sliding over the floor towards his chair. "Oh! I know! I'll call off the whole list thing if you just give me his suite."

Kate glanced between Carol and Charon. "I would prefer the one that I—that we stayed in last time. If that's okay with you, Charon."

"So long as it is not Burke's room, I don't fucking care. Pick whichever one you want, smoothskin. Just don't give Tenpenny's suite to that asshole because you feel like you have to."

"I'm not. I mean, it's really nice and all, but it's—uh—"

There was a loud thunk at the door.

Carol gasped, hand flying to her chest. "Mercy! What was that?"

"That's probably my dad."

"Oh, honey! You found him? Oh that's fantastic! I'm so happy for you!" Carol said, bouncing as she clapped. She watched the door eagerly. "Well? Why doesn't he just come in?"

"Because he can't."

"Did the door get locked somehow?"

"No. He can't walk right now."

"Oh that's horrible! Wait, if he's not walking—"

There was a louder thunk.

Kate stepped in front of Charon and rested her hands on his chest. "Please, love. Will you just get Crowley out of here? God only knows what kind of shit he's going to say to my dad, and I really don't want to have to do any more explaining than I have to."

Charon's heart weakened as he looked into her eyes. He rested his forehead on hers. "Come with me."

Kate sucked in her breath and then giggled. "Where? To drop off Crowley? You'll be fine."

"Come to bed with me," he breathed.

She flushed. "That would be nice, but—I think that I really need to stay with my dad. Until Doctor Banfield gives his own diagnosis. I know that you're exhausted, but I'm not sleepy right now."

She made him desperate. "Please? I—I need you," he said, pride gone.

"But right now, he needs me too." When Kate withdrew from him, he dropped his gaze. She gently tilted his chin until his eyes met hers once more. "Just for now, though. You go get some rest, and next thing you know, I'll be in your arms. I promise."

Charon folded his arms. "Stay away from other ghouls."

"Oh, come on. Carol's harmless."

"No. Not Carol. You know the ones that I mean."

Kate sighed. "Yeah. I know which ones."

Charon took her cheeks into his large palms, and when her mouth opened, he leaned in and kissed her slowly, his lips cradling hers. "Be careful."

"I'll be fine. Quit worrying about me for a second, okay? Worry about yourself. Now go get some good sleep." She took a few steps back this time and shooed him.

"Aww. You two lovebirds are so cute! Now! Which suite will it be then?" Carol asked.

Another thunk.

Charon rubbed his forehead with a sigh. "Just give me the keys to that regular suite. The one without a name."

"And give me the keys to the old bastard's suite, My Good Carol." Mister Crowley pulled himself to his feet, swaying with a growl when he made the mistake of putting weight on his hurt foot.

"I'm afraid not, Mister Crowley," Carol said, crossing to Charon and handing off the set of keys.

"But that the bitch said—"

"Exactly how fucking thick is you skull, Crowley?" Charon snarled, whipping around.

"The very nice young smoothskin should probably have some more time to think it over, and goodness only knows what harm you might do to it will you're on this little bender." Carol turned around and pointed to the stairs. "Now, Charon, take the stairs on the left. His room is number 106. You do have your key on you, don't you, Mister Crowley?"

Mister Crowley grabbed and shook himself. "Oh I got a lot more than that, toots."

Charon walked over to Mister Crowley, grabbed the scruff of his suit, and dragged the limping asshole along.

"Hey wait. Don't I get one of those?" Kate asked.

Charon paused, brow furrowed. "One of what?"

"One of the keys?"

"You. You are asking for a key?"


"You—Ms. 'I can pick—"

"'Any damned lock that exists.' Yes, I'm sure."

"You sure that you are not tired, smoothskin?"

Kate plucked the keys from his hand, freed her copy, and stuffed it into her pocket. "I'm sure. Now hurry up and get him out of here."

Charon took the lone key back with a sigh and tightened his grip on Crowley. "As you wish."

AN: Just so that you don't think that everything is idyllic, even though they're living in ghoul/smoothskin harmony now, there will be consequences later on for the ghouls taking over Tenpenny. In the meanwhile, I'll keep trying to figure out where the line between regular drama and soap opera drama is.