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Previous fic: Keep Calm and Carry On




And there’s a strange elation in your subtle assassination
I thought I saw a glimmer of hope,
I thought I saw a glimmer of hope


~ Lily Holbrook, “Better Left Unsaid”



Strange Elations




Gob was used to ridicule. Cruel names. Crueler stares.

After so many years, you either grew a thicker skin—there was a saying that never failed to amuse him—or you went off the deep end and took as many staring, epithet snarling Smoothskins with you as you could.

He’d like to think he’d “grown a thicker skin” over the last thirty years, able to stand whatever got his thrown his way. And then she walked into Moriarty’s.

Fresh out of the Vault she was. No doubt about it. Even if he hadn’t already seen one vault dweller today, and even if she hadn’t been wearing the jumpsuit, he’d have known it. Beneath the spatter of blood and the fresh wasteland dirt on her cheeks, she was pale and perfect, untouched by the harsh winds and the scorching sun.

Her hands, he saw as she laid them on the bar, were well cared for; fingernails smoothed and buffed, skin soft. And—just for a second, really, less than the space of his heart beat—he wondered what it’d be like to touch her.

When he finally met her eyes, the look she gave him struck something in the back of his throat and his “What do you want?” came out gruffer than he’d expected.

She blinked, opened her mouth and stuttered, “…look—looking for my father. Have you seen him?”

“Think he passed through here…,” he muttered. Of course, her father had definitely passed through; you didn’t randomly get two vaulties in one day.

“Where is he?”

Gob hauled another glass toward him, opened his mouth, closed it, and glared at a smudge on the side that looked an awful lot like Moriarty’s fist coming at him. “Look, kid. I’d like to help. Really. But Mr. Moriarty’s in charge around here. You need to talk to him. He’s in back taking care of some business.” He nodded at the tables in the front of the room. “You can wait.”

Nodding, she slid onto a bar stool. Stared at him.

“What’s the matter,” he said, setting the newly polished glass down, “ain’t you ever seen a Ghoul before?”

Of course she hasn’t, you idiot.

“A ghoul?” she frowned. “Is…that what you are? How did—“

“Radiation. Lots of it. And then time. All the time in the world for things to start falling apart.”

He dropped his rag on the bar, rested his elbows on top of it.

“Oh,” she said, biting the inside of her cheek. She was looking closely now. Following the line of exposed muscle down his face and neck, over his arm.

That, he expected.

What he did not expect was for her to reach out and lay one of those fine, soft fingers on his wrist, at the edge of torn, tattered skin and smooth muscle. And he shuddered under her touch.

“Do—does it hurt?”

Ohh. And fuck him. She sounded genuinely concerned.

He swallowed. Opened eyes he didn’t remember closing.

“Just my pride.” Shifting uncomfortably, he moved closer to the bar to keep everything from the waist down out of sight.

Among other things.

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September 2015

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