Ghost lay in bed, sandwiched snugly between Cass's back and Arcade's chest. They were both sleeping, but the Courier was wide awake. He stared up at the ceiling disdainfully as if it had offended him in some way. In reality though, he was directing that disdain at himself, a self-loathing that had hit him without warning one evening while watching his lovers playfully fight over him.
It's not fair to them. I'm hurting them this way.
When Ghost had come up to Cass and Arcade to explain his proposition, the two had initially shot him down. But something about how the usually confident and hard-headed Courier was suddenly reduced to nervous fidgeting and too-quick resignation made them rethink the idea.
"Well it's obvious he's being absolutely serious about it. He could hardly look at us when he was talking," Cass had said with a half-frown. "Why the fuck not?"
Yes, they had both agreed. Yes, they had yet to voice any concerns about their relationship (besides the question of who had what part of the bed).
But Ghost still worried.
Ghost literally lost sleep over the so-called issue, and was relieved that Cass and Arcade had left the Lucky 38 for the day. He could sleep without worrying either one of them, since he never took naps and being sleep deprived was a clear indication that Ghost was feeling physically or emotionally sick.
Between Cass and Arcade, they knew everything about Ghost. It was a very good thing at times, like how Arcade knew exactly how many drinks of any kind of drink Ghost could have before passing out, or how Cass could predict his next move in a fight with extreme accuracy and follow his lead perfectly. On the other hand, it was a very bad thing at times as they could immediately tell if Ghost was hiding something from them.
Ghost poked at his omelette unhappily. He chucked a nearby throwing hatchet at the wall of the guest bedroom, and it embedded into the drywall next to the shelves. Rex gave him a look from the floor.
"Shut up, robo-dog," Ghost muttered and flung a piece of omelette at Rex. It bounced off of his head, and Rex caught it deftly in his mouth before it hit the ground.
"Rex, am I doing the right thing?"
Rex's ears perked up, and he jumped up onto the guest bed next to Ghost.
"Are Cass and Arcade happy?" Ghost asked, wiping off the bit of grease on Rex's brain case. Rex tilted his head in confusion.
"I mean, they tell me that they're happy and they're completely fine with the idea of me being with them at the same time, but are they telling the truth? Are they just trying to make me happy?"
The understanding in Rex's eyes shone though to Ghost, and it was reassuring just as always. Rex may have been a dog, but he had an intellect that Ghost could argue was much better than that of most Freeside thugs.
No, they're happy too, said the look on Rex's face.
Ghost wished that he could believe the same.
So, Ghost suffered in silence. He didn't voice his thoughts to Cass or Arcade, and decided it was best if he just slowly separated himself from them.
Of course, nothing ever went as planned.
They immediately noticed the changes in Ghost. They worried about how distant he had become, how he was constantly absent-minded and distracted. He would leave the Lucky 38 for several days without warning, his disappearance explained only by a note held up to the wall with a throwing knife (much to Arcade's annoyance) with a vague message about getting supplies or visiting somebody. Often times he would go alone or only with ED-E, which worried Cass and Arcade further knowing that Ghost prefered human companionship on his travels. There was one time when he took Veronica with him but only because he was going to the Brotherhood bunker, and even Veronica had no idea why he had gone.
"He's either trying to make himself invisible or piss us off," Cass grumbled.
"Well, never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity," Arcade replied, looking up from his copy of the D.C. Journal of Internal Medicine.
"Don't go all philosophical on me, Doc."
"I think it explains the current situation with Ghost quite well, though. What deranged idea has he got in his head now that incites him into wandering the Mojave with an Eyebot without explanation while making us worry years off of our lives?"
"Maybe he thinks it's funny."
"I'm more inclined to think that he's convinced himself that we hate him or something."
"Goddammit, not again."
Throwing his back onto the outcropping above him, Ghost hoisted himself up the rocky cliff face. He settled in and unpacked his hunting rifle, scoping out a few Deathclaws below. The cliff was too steep for the nasty beasts to climb, and it was easy to get away if something did happen. Ghost loaded up with armor-piercing rounds (why the hell did Deathclaws need speed, nasty claws and thick skin?), looked into the scope and waited for a Deathclaw to come within shooting distance.
"There you are, you son of a bitch."
Ghost jumped and spun around, hand going for his special 5.56mm pistol at his hip, and froze when he saw Cass standing there with Arcade climbing down the cliffside behind her.
"Goddammit Cass, I nearly dropped my rifle," he said angrily. "There's a valley full of Deathclaws under us and I'll be damned if I have to spend another few thousands of caps just to get a new one."
"Right. And we'll both be damned if you go and get yourself killed for going after Deathclaws by yourself," Arcade replied, dusting the dirt off of his coat. "I don't see why it's necessary to go after Deathclaws either."
"We ran out of Deathclaw eggs," he deadpanned.
"We've also run out of patience for you," Cass snapped angrily.
"You are going to tell us exactly what is wrong," Arcade added. "And if you say 'nothing' I will push you off of this cliff and let the Deathclaws eat you if hitting the ground from this height doesn't kill you first."
Ghost thought for a moment, before replying.
"There is not anything here that's wrong."
Cass kicked him in the side.
After dragging back a kicking and screaming, full-grown man back to the Lucky 38, Cass and Arcade were at their wit's end. They sat Ghost down on the game room couch, and Cass smacked him in the head with a pool cue when Ghost tried to escape.
"What. Is. Wrong. With. You?!" she screamed as the Courier kicked at her repeatedly.
"There is nothing wrong with me, so let me go!" Ghost screamed back. Arcade grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him quite vigorously.
"Ghost, this isn't funny. You go off on your one-man 'adventures' in the Mojave, and don't give us any semblance of a warning beforehand. You come back after days, sometimes even a full week later, looking like Nightstalkers scavenged off of you without any explanation of where you'd been and why you'd left except for 'we needed food' or 'I went to visit a friend.' We are legitimately worried about you, and you brush it off like nothing is wrong. Something is wrong, and it's the fact that you won't even look us in the eye anymore."
There was a long silence. Cass and Arcade watched Ghost expectantly, waiting for an answer.
"...why can't you tell me the truth?"
The two looked at eachother, and back at Ghost.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Cass asked.
"I mean, why can't you tell me the truth? Why do you sit here and lie to me?" Ghost stood up, starting to raise his voice. "Why do you sit there and smile you little smiles at me, and tell me everything is alright, it's beyond alright, it's the best thing that could have happened to you even though on the inside all you want is to tear each other's and my heads off because I keep giving my attention away to someone else and not just you like it should be, and when I ask you just sit and smile, just sit and smile at Ghost because... God, who knows why you lie to me anyway? Don't want to hurt me, or piss me off? Don't want to see me upset or be kicked out and told to never come back?"
Ghost was now very red in the face. He stormed over to the shelves displaying all of the unique weapons he had found in his travels, and started knocking everything off the shelves.
"I don't even know, I can't come up with a decent explanation of why you would do that because it's just so stupid and simple-minded like some Bighorner calf that keeps running into the same spot in the same barbed-wire fence when it's being herded and the sheer amount of stupid just pisses you off because no matter how many times it runs into that same damned barbed-wire fence and ends up with giant cuts it keeps running as always, just keep running because that's all it does, you two are just like that!"
Ghost stomped over to the pool table and started chucking the pool balls at the walls.
"You are so stupid and mindless and infuriating and why can't you just tell me that you hate me? And if I say that then you just look so scandalized, as if I accused you of being Caesar's personal sex slave or something because oh no, I can't tell Ghost that I hate him! That would be horrible, so I should sit here and hate his guts while he runs off with that pretty-boy doctor! I should sit here and suffer in silence while he runs off with that piss-drunk cowgirl! I can't tell him that I hate him, he would just shatter, or maybe shoot me or string me up by my intestines from the top of the Lucky 38!"
When he ran out of pool balls, Ghost turned to his hat collection and started tossing his hats around.
"Oh no look, Ghost might be on to us! I know, we should bother him and follow him everywhere and demand to know every last bit of information as to where he's been and why he went there and who he talked to and what he did and if he's ridden a Radscorpion across the desert because oh no we have to know if he knows! It would be horrible if he ever found out because... because it would just be horrible, because everything is horrible if Ghost finds out!"
A centurion helmet went flying through the air, and the two ducked under the pool table to avoid it. Ghost turned around to see them hiding there, and kicked a leg of the pool table. The pool table's legs were much stronger than Ghost's feet though, and he swore loudly and grabbed his foot in pain.
"Ghost! Would you please calm the fuck down?!" Cass yelled.
"NO!" Ghost screamed back.
Cass and Ghost continued to shout at each other, but Arcade had had enough of this already. He stood up, walked briskly over to Ghost, grabbed him from behind and deposited him onto the couch.
"Okay. We are going to try this again. You've been wandering off, ignoring us and making us worry because you think we hate you?" he asked.
Ghost stared defiantly at Arcade for a moment, choking back tears.
"Well you have to hate me, right? I mean I'm sleeping with both of you at the same time and any sane human being would be extremely jealous of that, I mean you call that cheating for a reason! Instead I'm in bed with two people at once because it's something I fancy, and you two don't even love each other romantically, you just put up with each other because I make you and because you have to be in bed with each other and it's a bad idea to piss someone off if you're going to end up in bed with them whether you like it or not, right?"
Ghost would have kept going if it weren't for Arcade's mouth plastered firmly onto his own.
"Ghost. Ghost, stop talking. Just listen to us," he said, holding Ghost's head in his hands. "We love you. We both love you. We know that you love us both. This... situation is odd, I'll admit that, but we love you and there's nothing that's going to change that."
"He's right, you know. It's less odd for me, but that just makes this a whole lot easier for me to adjust to what's here," Cass added. "Besides, I enjoy it quite a bit. Blondie here helps me get a nice view of you at night."
Arcade gave Cass an unapproving look, but Ghost cracked a smile.
"But... you never say anything about this. Not a single complaint. That worries me. Relationships have plenty of fights in them, and with more people involved than the usual number you'd think that the fighting would increase, not disappear," Ghost said.
"Well if we aren't fighting, I'd say that's a good thing," Arcade replied. "I see no need to start arguments on purpose for no good reason at all other than 'Ghost forgets what logic is again.'"
"Honestly if we had fights every time that happened, we'd be having an awful lot of fights," Cass added, after thinking for a moment. Ghost threw a police hat at her.
That night, Ghost lay in bed sandwiched snugly between Cass's back and Arcade's chest. They were both sleeping, but the Courier was wide awake. He stared up at the ceiling, deep in thought about how much he didn't deserve to be loved by such wonderful, patient, understanding people.
He shifted a little to get into a more comfortable position, and stopped squirming when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Go the fuck to sleep, Ghost," said a voice from in front of him, and Ghost obliged, grinning.