Drabble #4

Jul. 10th, 2017 04:40 pm
mishisings: (writing ur endingz)
[personal profile] mishisings
I worked on this most of yesterday holy shit.






There are raiders camped out in Springvale Elementary. Toni has decided that's entirely too close to Megaton for comfort. So they grab their guns, intent on clearing the place out. Butch enjoys watching her pick off the sentries with her sniper rifle, all quick and efficient. (He can't explain why that does it for him, but damn, it does.) She puts her rifle down and sighs. "Hey, Butch?"

"Yeah, babe?"

To his surprise she doesn't tell him not to call her babe, but simply replies: "I just killed two people."

"So?"

"So I didn't talk to them, or check to see if they were friendly, or tried to see if I could get them to leave without killing them, I just did it. I shot first and didn't ask any questions ever."

Oh, that's what this is about. When they first started traveling together, he thought she had changed in the Wastes. Gotten cold and practical. But she's still the same goodie-two-shoes who offered to share her sweet roll even though he'd demanded the whole thing. The thought comes as a relief, but it might also be a problem. She can't get cold feet out here.

"...And I didn't even do it in self-defense, we came out here specifically to kill people." she continues.

"They were raiders, doll. Since when do raiders ever do anything but shoot to kill? You probably know better'n I do it's kill or be killed out here."

"I know that!" Toni snaps. Then immediately seems to regret it. "Sorry. Look, you know I've been out here a lot longer than you. I know this is the only way to deal with raiders. It's just. After all this, they're still human beings. I don't get why they're like this."

"Maybe it's the radiation?" says Butch, not really interested in philosophy.

"I doubt it."

"Whaddaya want me to say, huh? That it's a shame we have to kill those poor bloodthirsty maniacs? That it'd be better if we all sat around makin' flower crowns and singing kumbaya and shit? They'd kill us if we didn't kill them first. And you know that. What else is there to say?" He wants the conversation to be over, but it's still going. This line of questioning makes him... uncomfortable. So what if he's being a little louder than he ought to be? She needs to understand he's not some pussy who's going to let himself get shot full of bullets over some highfalutin principles.

"We can't make flower crowns. There's no water for flowers."

"Damn it, Toni, don't go puttin' any blame on me just 'cause I ain't afraid to do what needs to be done!" And what the hell's up with that flower crown line anyway?

"I'm not putting the blame on you!" says Toni, raising her hands in a pacifying gesture. "Maybe if we had access to clean water people wouldn't feel like they had to kill everyone else to survive. Butch, don't you see? People weren't meant to be living like there's still a war going on. No one should be so afraid for their lives that they'll kill everyone else who gets close, or so desperate to survive that they'll kill anyone who looks like they might have something you need and -" she stops. It looks like she's had some sort of idea. To Butch's horror she starts to tear up. "Oh my god. That's why Dad wanted me to stay in the Vault."

Butch isn't looking at her any more. Anywhere but at the crying woman in front of him. And he spots a figure leaving the front door of the school. "Uh, listen, Toni. I know you're havin' a moment or something, but if we're not gonna do any... what did you call it, pre-emptive defense, we should get going." He carefully picks up her sniper rifle and packs it away.

She hasn't moved.

"No one ever kills each other for resources in the Vault. There's clean water, and supplies, and order. No fucking wonder..."

"C'mon, doll." Butch wraps an arm around her shoulder, tentatively at first, but when she makes no move, one way or another, he moves his hand to her back. "We can talk about this later. No sense gettin' killed out here when we got a home not a mile from this place." He gently guides her away from the ruins of the house where they've been hiding.

---------------------------------------------------------------




Butch doesn't know what to do. He led her back into town, and it felt like everyone in Megaton was somehow waiting for them on the short walk from the entrance to the little shack that he shamelessly already thinks of as 'our house' (even though it's definitely her house and there's only one copy of the key and she has it.) And they were all giving him dirty looks. It's not like he even did anything! (And he wouldn't. Ellen DeLoria didn't raise no creep.) Gob and Lucas Simms in particular looked like they'd dearly like to smash his face in. Even Moira, who couldn't even bring herself to wish harm on mirelurks, seemed worried. Not quite knowing why he did so, he wrapped his jacket around her shoulders before leading her the rest of the way. By then Toni was recovered enough to say "Guys, lay off." So the townsfolk laid off. The only one who seemed glad to see them was Dogmeat, who they'd left at home, and trotted up happily, tail wagging, to greet them.

"You sure got a loyal town." he says, ironically, as he makes her a pot of hot chocolate. (She traded a small fortune in caps and whiskey to a scavenger for some chocolate powder and kool-aid, and they both agreed, for once, it was a good investment. Magic powder that makes water not taste like shit? Amazing!) "I thought they were gonna kill me for a minute there." She laughs, but it's weak.

Christ, what's he supposed to do? She's the Lone Wanderer, the darling of Galaxy News Radio, the savior of Megaton. She's not supposed to cry or have moral crises! And he's just- well, he's not going to sell himself short, he's the leader of the Tunnel Snakes, the baddest gang in the wastes (even though that gang basically amounts to him, Toni, and the dog right now, and hey, that's all it needs to be the best.) But even the leader of the Tunnel Snakes can't be good at everything. And - why him? It shouldn't be him having to talk to her! He's no good at that!

Toni watches him putter (calm and composed, certainly not panicking) in the kitchen area, and as he waits for the water to boil, and wracks his brain trying to think of something else he could do. And then she chuckles. A real chuckle this time. That bitch.

"What's so funny?!" Here he is making her hot chocolate out of the kindness of his little black heart, and she's laughing at him? Some gratitude!

"You are, Butch!" Another laugh. It's a weird sound coming out of her, unusually girly. "You don't have to fuss over me! I'm not sick or crazy."

"If I hadn't moved you, we'd both be fulla bullet holes by now." He points out, trying not to be annoyed, but also hoping the problem has somehow been fixed and he doesn't need to do the touchy-feely stuff anymore.

"I know, Butch. Thank you. For getting us out of there and for your jacket and for the hot chocolate." She's smiling at him. It's a genuine smile of gratitude, not the amused smirk she has when she's scored a hit against him, and it's so brilliant he feels like he might be getting a sunburn. What the fuck. She's never so openly appreciative.

"Yeah well I'm not used to chicks crying around me," he mumbles. "The Butch-man never leaves a girl unhappy." That's... probably a lie, but in her current state he hopes she won't call him on it like she usually would. Or maybe she will and they can go back to comfortably bickering and forget all this unpleasant moral debate shit ever happened. Hey, it's win/win!

"I'm sorry. I have a lot on my mind, I guess." she says, as he hands her a mug. She's sitting crosslegged on his bed and he sits down next to her, and looks away, so she can't see him blush. And so he can't look at her face and start the cycle of blushing all over again. Dogmeat trots over to her and flops down on the bed beside her, leaning against her comfortingly. Goddamn, why is he the one to listen to her bare her soul?

"What with Dad dying, and everything." Oh right. That's why. But fuck, she's smart, the irony of the only person from her old life around being her childhood nemesis can't possible be lost on her.

"I never understood why it was so important to him that I never leave the Vault." she explains.

"I get that. The Vault sucked! Same people, same dumb rules, same work, day after day til you croak. That ain't life, that's just... purgatory." He's still not looking at her face, but he hopes he surprised her with that word. He picked it up in Underworld. And he's relieved she's talking about something easy.

"Yeah, but it was safe. We had food, and clothes, and shelter, and there was no radiation, or radroaches or mirelurks or super-mutants. Or raiders. No one ever had to kill each other for food, and the rules kept us from killing each other for other reasons. But I didn't really appreciate that until I was chased out."

"An' no freedom," Butch adds. "The overseer says 'jump', you gotta say 'how high?' or you're toast. And I hate to break it to you, doll, but he did a lotta killing for pretty crummy reasons. Jonas Palmer. And Mary and Tom Holden. He said you killed them, but there ain't no way that was true, right? And he never liked you. He woulda found some reason to get rid of you sooner or later."

"Like Amata did." He risks a look at her face. She's not crying anymore, and not smiling that unnervingly disarming smile, but she's brooding down into her mug.

"Man, fuck Amata! Is it true what you said? Was it really her who killed Stevie Mack?"

"Yeah. I take it she didn't tell anyone?"

"The Overseer said you were the one who killed him, and she didn't call him out on it. She did try to convince us you did it to protect her. I could believe that." Butch says. Actually, back then, it was hard to believe Toni of all people would kill anyone. Kick a guy when he's down, sure, but not do anything seriously against the rules. Even if they were shooting back. It occurred to him suddenly how tough that must have been, dodging bullets, not having the power to make it stop. Maybe not even wanting to even if you did. He always thought refusing to fight back was weakness before, but he's been traveling with Toni for long enough he knows she's definitely not weak.

"That explains a lot." she snorts. "If I'd stuck around, she'd have to tell the truth. Ruin her squeaky clean overseer reputation right from the get-go."

There's a long pause as she drinks her hot chocolate. Butch busies himself petting the dog.

"I can't believe she chose the Mack family over me! They're a bunch of violent meatheads and catty bitches! And I was her best friend!"

"Fuck'em." Dogmeat barks in agreement. "See? He agrees with me! Good boy, Dogmeat." Butch scratches the dog's neck affectionately.

She chuckles. "You're right. Vault 101 was a shithole and I'm glad I'm out."

"Damn straight, I'm right. I'm always right!" Not that she usually acknowledges it.

She sighs again. "But all the more reason to do something about it, so the people in the Vaults don't have to live like rats in a maze, dancing to the whims of an overseer who might be insane, and too scared of the outside world to leave. And so the people out here don't have to turn to raiding."

Suddenly he's lost again. She just jumped from hating the vault to wanting to help them? What the hell? "Hey, wait, a minute. Back up. What's this about uh, doin something?"

"My father had a plan. To restore clean water to the entire DC area. If we can make life better for everyone in that way, then... I mean, it'll help, won't it?"

"I don't get how you can care so much for people who hate your guts." Butch grumbles.

"Oh, individually they can go fuck themselves," Toni agrees cheerfully. "But helping everyone also helps us. And I'd rather live in a world where there's clean water than one without one. And I know what you're gonna say: 'this do-gooder shit is for the birds' but Butch, here's a little secret: doing good pays very well."

He was going to say exactly that, but caps are a very good argument. It's a little worrisome how well she's learned to push his buttons. "Well, why didn't ya say so? So where's that water cleaner?!" he exclaims.

"It's in Jefferson Memorial, but it's heavily guarded by the Enclave. We need to talk to the Brotherhood of Steel. Honestly I should have done it months ago, but Dad had just... And I didn't want to think about it."

He watches her with her hands around her mug, his jacket still wrapped around her shoulders, and the thought of her killing herself like she said her dad had done, well, he can't stand it. The words are out before he can think them, before he can stop them: "I'll protect you!"

She blinks in surprise. "What?"

"I'll protect you. From raiders and the enclave and shit. If you lose your nerve again. Tunnel Snakes take care of their own." with every sentence he's more and more unsure he'll actually be able to follow through on his promise. He'll be okay, he knows. He's not going to die to some super-mutant goon, but can he protect himself and her at the same time? But strangely, even though it would be really easy to take it back, he doesn't want to. She's going to laugh at him, but, weird as it is, he's serious about this.

And she does laugh. He's not looking, of course, but he hears her. "I'll be okay, Butch. You know I can take care of myself. I won't have another attack of conscience. But from now on, we're not doing any more pre-emptive defense. If someone else starts a fight, we'll finish it, but I don't want to kill any more people in cold blood. But, thanks anyway. That was sweet of you."

He's sure his entire face is red, and the only way he's going to hide it is if he leaves, so he grabs her mug and the empty pot of hot chocolate and mutters something about going to to go clean it, and leaves the house in an embarrassed fluster, never looking at her face. Which is a shame, because if he had looked he'd have seen that she was blushing too.
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