mishisings: (writing ur endingz)
[personal profile] mishisings
I'm not original.

"Who says you can't go home again, huh? The kid from Vault 101 did, but it looks like the prodigal daughter's return didn't last all that long. She was seen coming out of the Vault, again, and headed God knows where. Don't let that revolving door hit you on the ass on the way out."

Toni kicks the jukebox off. How on earth does he find out these things? She's met Three Dog, and she likes him, and before she found Dogmeat, GNR was often a comforting presence, the only thing standing between her and despair. She remembers her first scavenging expedition, to the super-duper mart, for Moira. She stepped into the building and was immediately shot by raiders, and this hadn't been like the Vault, where she at least had an idea of why she was being attacked. But she turned on GNR, and Three Dog was playing "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall," and somehow she found the courage to sneak in there and search for the supplies. Three Dog loves talking about her, too, and when she hears him talk about her exploits she feels like she's actually making a difference in the Wasteland. It reminds her that there are people in the Wasteland worth caring about, and the Wasteland is maybe not as big and scary as it first seemed.

It's been a while since her first scavving trip, though. Now she's armed to the teeth and well-supplied with stimpaks, food and water. She has a house in Megaton. She loves GNR, but she finds it's not the lifeline it used to be. And it's a little creepy how Three Dog seems to find out what she's done as soon as she's done it. "'Don't let that revolving door hit you on the ass on the way out.' Fuck you, Three Dog." she says to empty air.

It's not a revolving door. Not for her, anyway. They'll never let her back. And the thought is petty, because she has a radio attached to her arm, but she wants to be as far away from that jukebox and the house and Megaton and the Vault as possible. And there's really nothing stopping her from doing anything she wants to do (that's one good thing about not living in the Vault anymore) so she just grabs her guns and her dog and heads to Rivet City.


It's a quick, miserable trip. She doesn't stop anywhere along the way, she doesn't explore anything, and her last trip out this way is recent enough that the supermutant camps in between Megaton and Rivet City haven't received reinforcements. She spends the entire trip brooding. Maybe she should have shot the Overseer in his smug, slimy face if she was just going to get banished anyway. Make the crime worthy of the punishment. Or what if there had been a way to convince Amata she didn't need to be banished? Talk to the Macks and everyone else who hated her and explain that none of it was her fault, or her father's fault... As if that would have worked. On top of that, as the bridge extends to allow her entry and she looks across the water to the Jefferson Memorial, she remembers why she left Rivet City in the first place. Goddammit.

By the time she gets to her destination she's hungry, exhausted, and very sad. And probably badly in need of a drink, she judges. (She's never been a heavy drinker, and probably never would have touched hard liquor if she hadn't left the Vault, but that was before she tasted what passed for 'clean water' in the Wastes.) The marketplace would be locked up at this time of night, so she heads down to the Muddy Rudder, even though she'd rather have something to eat at Gary's. Belle Bony's not fun to deal with when you're already in a bad mood.

She's expecting maybe a vodka or two and then she'll check into a room at the Weatherly Hotel. She's not expecting Butch DeLoria to be living it up at the bar. He spots her right away.

"Well, if it isn't my best gal, the one who sprung me from the Vault! I think I owe this lovely lady a drink!"

Her first thought is: 'How the hell did he get here before me?' She made a beeline for Rivet City, and she knows herself to be a fairly fast walker. Did he run, pursued by radroaches, the entire time? But he's way too happy and energetic to have done that.

Her second thought is: 'He's very drunk.' He's never called her a 'lovely lady' before in his life. And if he were sober, he'd never be quite so happy to see her, she's pretty sure. And how sad is it that, drunk or sober, he's probably the only person from the Vault who would ever be happy to see her again?

Her third thought is: 'Fuck it, I need a drink, and he's offering one.'

She slides onto the bar stool Butch enthusiastically slapped and orders a drink from the surly bartender. "Butch!" she says, putting on a smile that feels weird, given their past history. "How on earth did you get all the way down here?"

"Same way anyone does. By being too cool to stop anywhere else! I didn't see a thing in the wasteland that was a match for a bona fide Tunnel Snake!" He boasts.

It's not an answer, but his ridiculous bravado is kind of cute, if you squint. He still has no idea what the wasteland is like. She's sure he mustn't have seen anything more dangerous than an angry mole rat. Maybe he got the jump on her by skipping Megaton? But then how did he get directions to this place?

"So here's to freedom and rocking the Wasteland! Drink up!" he exclaims.

She decides she doesn't particularly care about the logistics at this time of night. She downs her drink, faster than she probably should. And... she's pretty sure he's too drunk and self-centered to ask any unpleasant questions, but just in case he might be thinking of any, she should probably direct the flow of conversation for a bit. While she's still sober enough to do it.

"So... Seen any dragons yet?" (And maybe she wants to mess with the newbie a bit. Just a bit.)

"Dragons? Ya think I was born yesterday? You don't MESS with a Tunnel Snake!" he exclaims. Oh yeah, he's definitely drunk. That was much louder than he probably intended. (Or maybe not. He is obnoxiously proud of that dumb gang of his.)

"Have you seen the two-headed cows they have out here? Trust me, Butch, radiation can do some pretty wild things. It's a wonderful world out there, my friend." Toni's polite smile is becoming more of a real smirk and she hopes he's too drunk to notice, because she's starting to be too drunk herself to hide her mischief.

"No foolin? Don't try to be putting one over on ol' Butch."

"God's honest truth, man." Toni says, pouring herself another shot. "There's a town out there called Grayditch, and in that town are fire ants. That breathe fire. And if mutation can make ants breathe fire, why not lizards? Go out in the mountains sometime. Seeing a dragon flying overhead, it's gorgeous. Majestic. With its wings glittering in the sunlight. So huge. Like a whale, but in the sky."

"Whassa whale?"

"Giant sea mammal. Very smart. Eats plankton." There was a documentary in the Vault on whale migration, who knows why. Toni must have watched it with her father a thousand times. She'd always thought it must have been amazing to scuba-dive. But with the water so full of radiation, who knows what could even survive in today's waters? Certainly not humans.

"Can't be that smart if all it eats is a whole lotta wood." protests Butch, and for a minute there Toni's a bit afraid the con won't work. Trust Butch DeLoria not to believe the one true part of her story. And not to know what plankton is. "Can we see those out here?"

"Sure, man, just step out on deck. Bound to see one sooner or later." What even is the con any more? Maybe it's just 'get Butch to stand on the deck of Rivet City for hours, hoping to see a beluga'. Hell, that works. Keep him out of trouble, even. One less person she knows to die on her. Or betray her.

But he's getting off his stool. "Whoa, whoa, where are you going?"

"Who wants to just watch? We're gonna go swimming with the whales!" He's swaying, but he's trying to make it look like his usual swagger, with mixed success.

She grabs onto the tail of his jacket before he can escape, yelling "NO!" She remembers when the town found Nathan's body in the pond next to the bomb, as though he had just stood there until the radiation claimed him. Fuck radiation. "No! Nonono. Water's too dangerous for people. Radiation. And, and, and sharks!"

He turns around and smirks. It's not a good look. "Aww, babe, I didn't know you cared! But it's okay, ain't nothin on land or sea can bring the serpent king down!" he says, clearly pleased with his bit of unintentional rhyming.

She grabs his lapels and glares up into his eyes as though she might develop laser vision. "Big sharks. With two heads. Fulla rows and rows and rows of nasty big pointy teeth. An' skin also made of teeth. And the heads are..." Why did Dad give her so many children's books about sea creatures when she was a kid? What was that breed of shark called? "Hammer-shaped!"

He puts his hands on hers and gazes fondly (and drunkenly) back at her. "I think you're hammered." he says.

"You're a dumbass. I don't care about you! I just also don't want you to die."

"Okay, okay," says Butch, as though humoring a child. "Just for you, babe, I won't go swimming."

He probably doesn't even know how to swim, she thinks, as she loosens her grip on him. That big, dumb -

He kisses her forehead.


Toni wakes up the next morning with a splitting headache. Or rather, a splitting headache wakes her up. Her mouth feels like a cluster of tiny radroaches died in it. She's lying face down on a naval cot in the common room. She turns her head to the side, and there's Butch Deloria, sitting on the bunk opposite hers, drinking a beer like he doesn't have the massive hangover she thinks he ought to have.

Dogmeat is curled up on the floor between them. Sensing the stirring of his mistress, he gets up and licks her face. She fends off the tongue with her hand and pets him mechanically.

"I hate you so much." she mutters to no one in particular.

"Ey, sleeping beauty awakes at last!" Butch appears not to have heard her.

"I said, I hate you so much." she repeats to Butch.

"Not my fault some of us handle their liquor better than others." he replies, without rancor. She remembers the kiss. Is it possible that he never actually hated her back? It's probably easier for a bully to forgive their victim than the other way around. He was so drunk, though. Maybe he's just an affectionate drunk. That must be it. She hopes he doesn't remember it, though. Just the memory of it mortifies her.

"How much do you remember about last night?" Please don't say you kissed me please don't say you kissed me please don't say you kissed me!

"Not much." Butch replies, as though it's some sort of badge of honor. "Wait, you're not asking if we-?"

"No! No. GOD no. Never in a million years! I'll never be smashed enough."

"Oh yeah?!" Butch seems a bit offended. "Well, me either! I'm way outta your league, doll." And for some reason, she feels a little stung herself, even if she knows he's just trying to protect his ego. She must still be a little messed up. She meant what she said. Never in a million years.

"Man, you were pretty drunk last night, though. You were goin' on and on about teeth. And whales. And all the nasty things out here in the Wasteland. Can't wait to fight some'a those, what did you call them. Super-mutants?"

"You dumbass."

"You sure are cranky this morning."

"I have a hangover, jerkface. Why are you so chipper, huh?"

"It's a good day for the Tunnel Snakes, babe. I got my first two members!" She doesn't remember introducing Butch and the dog, but already they seem to be best friends, as Dogmeat trots over to him for pets.

She sits up on her cot. "You can't induct a dog in your gang. Besides, he's mine." Dogmeat flops over so Butch can rub his belly. The traitor.

"Who says? Anyway, it's our gang, now. You're Tunnel Snake number 3."

"When the fuck did that happen? And why am I number three?" Although... if Toni searches her memory, she can vaguely recall agreeing to be a member last night. She must have been even drunker than her hangover would suggest.

"Last night. You were all like 'Please let me into your gang, Butch! You're such a natural survivor! I'd feel much safer with you around!' and I was all like 'I dunno, man, you gotta be hard to hang with a real Tunnel Snake like me' but you begged me and I guess if you survived all this time in the Wastes you're probably a lot tougher than you look so I generously let you join." Toni rolls her eyes, not believing a word of it. "And you were gonna be number two but I can't let this kinda disrespect to your great leader stand."


"Naturally!" agrees Butch, completely missing the sarcasm. "Anyway, number 3's just as important as number 2. You're our wasteland survival expert. You gotta make sure our number 2 doesn't get himself killed eating something he shouldn't."

Toni looks at 'number 2', rolling happily around on the floor. She's seen the dumb mutt cheerfully chow down on everything from Fancy Lad Snack Cakes to Deathclaw hide. Dogmeat takes care of himself. Whether Butch can take care of himself is more doubtful.

"Tunnel Snakes is for life." Butch says. "Birth to earth. Womb to tomb. So don't try to take it back."

She could, she knows. This is the Wasteland. There's no rule saying she has to do anything for anyone else, especially not Butch. And he already knows she was incredibly drunk when she agreed. It wouldn't be that hard to argue her way out of it.

"Move over," she tells him. "It's my turn to pet Number 2."


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