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Cold Hearts in Far Away Places

Chapter Text

It was freezing.

That's how it always felt; so cold that her breath was present in the air.

It was also dark and she could feel the familiar sensation of cold steel clasped tightly around her wrists as she struggled to break free.

"No." She pleaded. "Not again..."

She didn't have to see him to know he was there. Watching, waiting. His presence consumed her, wrapping around her soul like the demon he was. She would try and fight but she was frozen in place, only able to feel and cry.

"Please, let me go!"

"No...you're mine." He finally spoke "...Forever."

 

Ella woke up with a scream, sweat dripped down her forehead as her heart beat like a drum. Her eyes searched the darkness of the room for any sign of him, any hint that he was there...nothing. It was just another nightmare. 

"Charmer!" Deacon ran into the room still half asleep and in pajamas.

She glanced to her best friend and felt reality come back to her in pieces. She was safe, unharmed, and protected within the walls of the Castle.

"I'm fine, D, it was just a bad dream." 

He let out an overly dramatic yawn and laid beside her in the bed, taking her into his arms out of instinct. "Lemme guess, flying deathclaws chasing you?" 

"If only." Ella sighed.

He absentmindedly rubbed her shoulder while drifting back into sleep. Charmer savored the warmth of his touch, the way his heart always seemed to be at a steady pace just for her like a calming cadence. It was one of the few things left in her life that she enjoyed, one of the few things Maxson couldn't take from her. 

"Charm?" Deacon spoke in a whisper.

"Hmm?"

"I know you don't want to talk about it but maybe you should."

Her mind flashed back to her nightmare, to the bed where she was chained up. Her blood went cold. 

"No. I can't."

"I'm not forcing you, Charm, I just feel like maybe if you told me what he did then I could help." 

"Can't you just use your imagination?" 

A soft smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. "Well, in my imagination he's being torn apart by super mutants, then a heard of dogs chew on his bones." 

"Yeah? Then what?" 

He thought. "...then a group of raiders find the bones and make tacky home decor out of them...a rib cage chandelier, a skull vase...they sell 'em for 100 caps a pop." 

"Who would buy that?" 

"The mutants who killed him, of course." 

Ella chuckled. "Well, that's certainly creative...and dark." 

He rested his chin atop her head and smiled. "Well, if you do want to talk about it then you know I'll be there to listen." 

She nuzzled closer to his chest, craving to hear the beat of his heart beneath her ear. "I know, D. Thanks." 

Before she could settle back into his chest she felt her stomach churn in a horribly familiar way. "Oh, shit..."  She quickly stood up from the bed and sprinted across the room, vomiting into the old sink that was used for washing clothes. Deacon followed her to hold back her hair. 

"Again?" He asked. "You ate dinner right?" 

She shook her head. 

"Jesus, Charmer, you know it hurts like ten times worse on an empty stomach, right?" 

She heaved stomach acid and nothing else, the burn in her mouth caused her eyes to tear up and spill down her sickly cheeks. Deacon patted her back while turning his head to gag at the noises she made. 

Desdemona heard the commotion from the next room and rushed over with her red hair pulled back into a bun. "What's happening?" 

"She's throwing up again." 

"I can see that...and smell it." She sighed and brought water over. "She's been through trauma, just let her get it out of her system."

"She's thrown up everyday for a week...I mean, we should be worried right? It feels like we should be worried."

"Stop...talking about me...like I'm not...here!" Ella spoke in between gags and spits.

"Sorry, we just don't like seeing you suffer."

"It's just vomit. I'm fine." She swallowed for air and turned the water on, rinsing out the sink and watching her bile swirl down the drain. 

"You should see a doctor...maybe we can make a trip to Diamond City."

"That place is probably crawling with Brotherhood. We can't risk her being seen, Deacon. You know that." Dez sighed.

"She needs a doctor. A real one, not just Tom."

"Will you two stop?" Ella stood upright. "I don't need a doctor, I need a break!"

They both apologized and stayed quiet, watching as she chugged down water.

Desdemona watched with more worry, noticing little things about Ella's behavior that when put together added up to something much larger. The being sick, the mood swings, the vivid nightmares, not to mention her strange aversions to foods she used to love...it wasn't just trauma. It was something worse.

"Maybe he's right...you should see a doctor." 

"You just said Diamond City isn't safe." Ella walked back to the bed.

"Goodneighbor is and Doctor Amari will be more than willing to take a look at you."

"And are we just supposed to trudge across the Commonwealth avoiding vertibirds and all the Brotherhood search teams?" Deacon asked.

"Go undercover, you've done it before." 

"That was different. Nobody knew who she was." 

"So, dress up as traders and take one of the Minutemen's brahmin. If you head for Goodneighbor along the regular route the Brotherhood shouldn't bother you."

Ella shook her head. "It's too risky, Dez...too many of them know what I look like." 

"Well then, let's change your appearance, we can make you unrecognizable."

"Sure and while we're at it let's change my eye color and height while we're at it. I've always wanted to be six feet tall."  

Desdemona ignored her snark. "What about your hair? That's an easy change."

"We don't have all the supplies to change her hair color right now." Deacon chimed in.

"Okay, so we use what we've got, even if it's ink from an old pen. I mean come on, we've worked with less before!"

"Things are different now, we can't risk losing her-" 

"Shave it off." Ella interrupted them.

"What?" Deacon turned to her.

"Give me a buzz cut. Nobody from the Brotherhood will look my way."

Deacon frowned. "Are you sure?" 

"C'mon, aren't you tired of having to hold it back while I puke every three hours?" 

"And here I thought we were bonding." He crossed his arms. 

"No. I've made up my mind. Shave it off, Tom has shears right?" 

"But you love your hair, won't you miss it?" Dez asked.

"I did love it...but that was before I was forced to do things by Maxson yanking on it."

Deacon's jaw tightened, along with his fists. 

"You really want to shave it all off?" Dez asked.

"Yes. I do...right now. I hate it." Ella nodded.

Dez looked at Deacon and shrugged. "You heard her...go wake up Tom. Let's see what he can do."

*

A few minutes later Dez, Deacon and Tom were surrounding Ella, looking down at her hair and discussing what to do with it.

"Do you wanna go full bald or just a buzz cut?" Tom asked her.

"I don't know. You're the expert here. Just make me look different." 

"How about a half shave like Glory?" 

"That's too edgy, we have to make her blend in, remember?" Deacon said. 

"Okay, okay...I think I know what to do but I'm gonna need some space." He turned to Dez and Deacon. "Do you mind?"

"What, we can't watch?" 

"Art takes time and privacy, man!" Tom chanted. 

"Fine. We'll be outside." Dez ushered Deacon out.

Once the door shut he let out a ragged breath. "I hate seeing her like this..."

"We all do. Just need to give her some time, wait until she's ready to tell us what happened. You said you found her chained up to Maxson's bed, right?"

He nodded sharply. "She looked so scared. There were bruises all over her body..."

"Well, it's no wonder why she isn't wanting to talk about it. I can only imagine what that man made her do."

Deacon paced angrily. "Fucking bastard...we should've killed him when we had the chance. It would've been so easy to just throw in an explosive while we were there." 

"You're objective was to rescue Charmer and you did that, killing him wouldn't have taken back what he did." 

"At least it would've been some form of justice! That asshole gets away with slavery just because his bloodline? It's bullshit!" 

Dez put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, the last thing Charmer needs is for you to go off the handle." 

"It just doesn't make sense...three weeks home and he still has some hold on her. I mean, the nightmares I get but the being sick?...Do you think he poisoned her or something?"

Desdemona sighed. "Something like that..."

"What?"

"Nothing. Just get her to Doctor Amari and have her run every test available. Blood, urine, the works."

"Do you think it's that serious?" 

"I don't know yet. That's why we need Amari's opinion. If nothing else at least we she can get a psych evaluation and maybe some medicine to help her sleep."

"Alright. We'll leave as soon as we can."

"Ready!" Tom shouted from inside the room.

Desdemona held the door open as they walked back in, prepping themselves to see Ella with a bald head. Deacon grinned and nodded in approval. "You look bad ass, Charm."

She grinned and looked into the mirror Tom handed her. "Holy shit, I love it." 

"Good work, Tom." Desdemona smiled. "Now, I want you and Deacon on the road before the sun rises. You'll make it to Doctor Amari by noon. Just be careful. No shortcuts."

"We're on it. Thanks again, Tom." Ella hugged him. 

"Sure thing, baldy. Just tell Hancock I said hi, alright?" 

*

The Castle was an hour and a half away from Goodneighbor if they took the path through Gunner territory but with a pack brahmin and one vomiting woman, Deacon was forced to take the safest route...a four hour walk.

"Can't I just ride on the stupid cow?" Ella complained.

"No, it'll look weird. Plus, I don't want to risk Ol' Bessie here kicking you off." He patted the Brahmin's side.

"Then can I at least get a hit of Med-X or something? My feet are killing me!"

Deacon sighed loudly. It was like dragging a child across the Commonwealth, he swore if he didn't love her so much he'd strangle her. "There should be a rest stop for caravans around the corner. We can stop there to give you a break. Until then I'm going to need you to shut the hell up, Charm, I can't even hear myself think.

"Someone's cranky." She murmured to herself.

Just like he said there was a stop around the corner with a few traders and mercenaries resting on sleeping bags. There was an open seat on a filthy couch that called Ella's name. She wanted to sprint ahead to grab it before someone else did but when her eyes looked up she recognized a face in the crowd. She gasped loudly and stopped in her tracks, holding back the Brahmin and Deacon.

"What? What is it?" 

"That guy...in the flannel and torn jeans over there." She glanced back at him.

Deacon followed her eyes and saw the man standing over the sofa. He looked like a normal enough, perhaps a bit more rugged than most. "What about him?"

"That's Knight Rhys, I've seen him around the Prydwen."

"Shit." He breathed out. "The Brotherhood has undercover spies now? I thought that was our thing."

"Maxson must've planted soldiers all over the Commonwealth...Jesus, they could be anywhere!" She panicked.

"Hey, hey!" He put his hands on her shoulders and gave her a soft shake. "It's okay, Charm...just take a deep breath and act normal. He doesn't know it's you."

"Yeah, but-"

"Remain calm. Let's go in there, let the Brahmin drink for a few minutes than leave. We're just normal travelers, nothing else." Deacon assured her. "Now, let me hear it back." 

"Nothing else." She nodded. 

"I meant the whole we're normal travelers but fine." 

The walked smoothly into the rest stop and let their Brahmin stop at the water mill. Ella purposely kept her back to Rhys the entire time while she tried to keep her hands from shaking.

Normal travelers, nothing else...normal travelers, nothing else...

"Excuse me, miss?" Rhys' voice echoed in her ear.

Fuck.

She slowly turned around and felt her mind race a million miles a second trying to think of ways to escape when she made eye contact with him.

Stab him! Run! Scream! Do something!

"You got a light? I'm all out." He held up a cigarette.

She let out a relieved breath pulled a matchbox from her pocket, striking it and lighting up his butt. He took in a long drag and exhaled, letting the smoke mix in with the air. The smell made her stomach twist with nausea. 

"Thanks." He paused. "Say...don't I know you from somewhere?"

"Um...no." She shook her head softly. 

"Sorry, you just look familiar."

Before she could respond one of the Brahmin suddenly began wildly bucking it's back legs and kicking over crates of food. Everyone rushed back while the owners of the animal tried to calm it. Ella paused in shock for a moment when she felt Deacon's hand grab her arm and pull her back away from the situation.

"Come on." He whispered.

They ran up ahead, abandoning all the supplies and their Brahmin. When they were covered within the trees Ella fell to her knees and gasped for air, violently dry heaving from running too far too fast.

"What was that?" She asked out of breath.

"I may have pulled the Brahmin's tail...but at least it was a good diversion." He panted and handed her a bottle of water. "Drink."

She chugged it down quick and immediately threw it back up. After a few minutes of calming down she rested her head on a fallen tree, looking up at the sun rising in the distance.

"They're everywhere." She sighed.

"That's the Brotherhood for you." He leaned back with her. "It's okay. I'm not gonna let anything happen to you." 

"Don't you get it, D? This means that we can't trust anyone, they could be Brotherhood in disguise just waiting to catch me."

"You're starting to sound like Tom." He chuckled softly.

Ella couldn't help but sniffle and curl into a ball. "How long is he going to chase me for? Until one of us dies?" 

"You don't know that, Charmer." 

She shook her head and took a deep breath, fighting back the emotions that begged to bubble over. "Yes I do. He's never going to stop, not until he has me again. That means I'm going to be running from him for the rest of my life."

He put a sympathetic hand on hers and shushed her, letting her rest while the sun appeared over the horizon. The only thought that echoed in her mind were the words that just left her lips.

The rest of my life...

Chapter Text

Goodneighbor was useful for three things: drinking, fucking, and running away from your problems.

Maybe that's why Ella felt so at home here, it was the one place where she could forget about her life for a few hours and make some new friends. It was where she first met Hancock and that mercenary MacCready, it was also where she first met Deacon. The town held a special place in her heart, it only seemed right to come back again to forget more of her problems. 

Hancock beamed as she and Deacon walked into his office. "Well, if it isn't my favorite little Railroad agents." 

Ella grinned and ran into his arms, hugging him at the waist while he let out a hoarse laugh. "Did you miss us?" 

"Only everyday, love." The ghoul kissed her head then looked up to greet Deacon. 

"So, what's the reason for this visit? You guys need more help hiding some more synths?"

"Not this time. We're actually here for Doctor Amari."

"Oh, you two lookin' to relive some old memories?" He winked, knowing damn well that they we're secretly in love with each other.

They both turned pink. How the hell did he always know shit like this? Maybe it was the mentats that made him so damn insightful.

Deacon laughed it off, clearing his throat to move on to another subject. "I assume you've heard about HQ being attacked?"

"I heard. Sorry about that...damn Brotherhood, always causing problems."

"That's partly why we're here, Hancock. Has anyone new come into town? Anyone suspicious?" Ella asked.

"A few newbies, some sketchy but not much. Why?"

"We're hiding from potential Brotherhood spies so if anyone starts asking questions about the Railroad..."

"...I'll be sure to give 'em the run around." Hancock finished her sentence.

"Thanks. We owe you." She kissed his cheek.

"You're a doll, Vaultie. You need to come by more often, gets lonely here, ya know what I mean?" He glanced to Deacon and winked, savoring the jealousy in his firm glare. 

"I've been pretty busy the past few months...I'll make it point to stop by though." 

"Don't go makin' promises you can't keep." The ghoul smirked. "Now get going, I'm sure Amari is gonna love to see you back in town." 

*

The Memory Den always smelled of old perfume no matter what day it was. Deacon once hypothesized that the smell came from Irma but Ella thought differently...only someone creepy and lonely would wear that much perfume...which is why she was sure the floral odor came from Kent. Regardless, they took in the scent with great nostalgia, remembering the fond memories they had shared in the old Den before things were so fucked up.

They walked down the stairs to her office with smiles lingering on their faces, Deacon didn't want to admit how much he'd missed the old gal, she was ten times more fun than Carrington and she only gave him half the amount of shit. 

"Honey, I'm home!" He called out. 

She recognized his voice right away and came running from her office. "Deacon, is that you? Oh my god!" She pulled him into a warm embrace. "I thought you were dead. I heard the Railroad was-"

"Long story, horrible ending. But we're alive, Desdemona too." 

She pulled back with a sincere smile. It seemed she had missed him just as much. 

Deacon took it as an opportunity to test out one of his pick-up lines. "Whoa, did the sun come out or did you just smile at me?" 

Charmer rolled her eyes and pushed past him to hug Amari. "It's so good to see you, doctor." She remembered the last time she was there with Nick and a hunk of Kellogg's brain. Good times, she recalled. 

"Charmer, you're here too? What a surprise! Why the sudden visit?" She looked at the two agents.

They both shared a somber look. "We need you to run tests on Charmer...she's sick but we don't know how."

"I see. Let's step inside and you can go over your symptoms with me while I take some blood." 

. . .

"So, you were held captive for nearly six months?" Amari asked. "I can't imagine." 

Ella shrugged. "It wasn't so bad," she lied "-you start losing count after a few weeks." 

"I'm so sorry, my dear. The trauma you must have gone through...after everything you've experienced in your life it doesn't seem fair." 

"God is funny that way, I guess." 

"Funny? More like malicious." Deacon sighed. 

Amari placed a tender hand on her arm. "If you need to talk about what happened-" 

"No." Ella stopped her. "I don't want to talk about it." 

"I understand. Take your time but know that the longer you hold onto your feelings the worse your condition might get."

She nodded softly. "I know." 

Amari ended her lecture and took a step back. "It's going to take me a few hours to go over your blood work, let's reconvene tomorrow morning. If you'd like to stay here there's a spare bed in the basement, that way you can avoid seeing anyone around town."

"Thanks doc, you're a doll." Deacon smiled and turned to usher Ella down the stairs. 

He'd spent a night or two there before when he was too exhausted to make it back to HQ, though he'd never spent the night down there with anyone else. He saw the familiar dingy mattress that laid on the floor covered in grime, it was big enough for only one but he didn't mind sleeping on the floor beside it. 

"Home sweet home."

"You first?" 

Deacon nodded and sat down, seeing a puff of dust fly into the air. "Cozy." He chuckled.

Ella smiled and sat beside him, letting her head rest on his shoulder. "Sorry about throwing up on you earlier." She mentioned.

"Hey, what are friends for?" He wrapped his arm around her. 

They nuzzled close together and looked at the room around them in silence, listening to the soft noises of music playing from upstairs. It was peaceful...almost making them forget how fucked up everything was right now.

"So, Charm, now that we're alone, can we talk?" Deacon asked quietly.

"Ooh, is this a serious talk?" She playfully grinned. 

"Well, I guess you can call it that." He chuckled. "It's just about what Hancock said earlier...about us."

"I'm sure he was just kidding. If it bothers you I can talk to him."

"That isn't what's wrong."

She shifted to face him. "Okay then tell me what's on your mind."

"Well, you know I...like you, Right?"

She put on a demure smirk. "Is that so? Tell me, Mr. Deacon, what do you like about me?" 

"Lots of stuff. You're funny, cute as hell, and you make a mean mirelurk stew." He shifted and took off his sunglasses. "But also, you know me. Like, the real me....not all the lies I tell everyone." 

Ella could read his body language like a book. He was nervous, it was something that he never showed to anyone but her. He usually tried to mask it under a veil of jokes and wit but with her that melted away the second he removed his glasses. It was like a cue for her to know he was being serious. 

"Deacon," She paused. "What's wrong?" 

"Nothing, actually. I'm just...trying to get this out without sounding like an idiot." 

"Well, you always sound like an idiot." 

"True." He smiled. 

A few seconds passed and Charmer picked up on why he was so nervous.  "Are you trying to ask me to be your...girlfriend?" 

He couldn't help but break into a wide grin. "Mayyybe." 

"But what about Dez?" 

"I already talked to her, she's cool with it. If I didn't know any better I'd say she was thrilled."

She snorted before biting at her lip, sharing in his anxiety. "Listen, D...you're my best friend. And I would do anything for you-" 

"I'm sensing a but coming..." 

"But," she continued "...I'm fucked up. Now more than ever. You don't want me...not like this. You could do so much better." She sighed. 

"Bullshit. You're no more fucked up than everyone else on this planet-hell, this universe...and I don't think you realize how fucking lucky I am to have you." 

"Why would you want me after what happened?" She stood up to pace.

"What happened to you wasn't your fault, Charm. You're still you." 

She let out a bitter huff. "I'm damaged, alright? Broken, spoiled, used up..." she listed off "...trust me, you don't want me." 

Deacon stood up and captured her face in his hands. "You're not used up, you're fucking amazing! I always knew that I felt differently about you but I never realized how much until you were gone." He took an uncertain breath, like what he was about to say was hard to get out. "I love you." 

She let out a shaky breath as her eyes stung with tears. "Really?" 

He answered her with a kiss, one that was full of confidence and longing. Feeling his lips on hers, no reminders of Maxson or his domineering presence, sent a wave of composure down her spine. She responded with a light whimper, pulling at his shoulders to bring him closer, she had to feel more of him. 

Hesitantly, he pulled back. "Maybe we should slow down." God knows he didn't want to stop. He wanted to take her right there, show her just how much he missed her but the voice of reason in his head knew she wasn't ready. 

Ella looked up at him with wide eyes. "No...I need this, Deacon, please don't stop." She flashed back to all the times Arthur would force her body into a heat only to stop at the last second. "Please." 

That please broke him. He hoisted her up with ease and carried her back to the bed as her legs wrapped tight around him. Carefully, he laid her back as their mouths connected again in a slew of praise and breathy moans, their tongues danced together like they knew every move the other was about to make, the pure passion of it all overwhelmed and exhilarated Charmer. 

The way he kissed her was so reminiscent of their first mission together, it brought back all the nerves and butterflies she felt in that room in Covenant. This time was different though, better. 

"I love you too." She whispered as he kissed around her mouth, slowly moving lower to her neck. 

He let his tongue swirl around the sensitive skin before gently biting it, humming in approval at the way Charmer rasped delicately. Before he could move lower to ravish her chest he caught sight of an almost faded love bite. His stomach tightened at the thought of Maxson's lips touching where his were currently. It enraged him to picture Charmer beneath him, begging him to stop while he used her like a toy. 

"D-deacon?" Ella pulled away. "Are you alright?" 

He forced his eyes off the spot on her neck. "Yeah. Why?" 

"...you're nails are digging into me." 

He stared down at where his nails bit into her sides and frowned. "Fuck. Sorry, I guess I got caught up in the moment." He lied. "Maybe we should take a break." 

Ella nodded in agreement. 

They sat up and smoothed out their clothes, looking back at each other with slight smirks. It was amazing how even after all the time they spent together they still didn't know what to say after moments like this. 

"D?"

"Yeah?"

"Ask me again." She whispered.

He smiled. "Charm, will you be my-" 

"Yes." She cut him off. 

They both chuckled and kissed briefly before laying back on the mattress with entangled fingers. Deacon moved half off to the floor to give her space, kissing her head before rolling over. 

"Get some rest." He yawned.

*

"Charmer, take a seat." 

Ella swallowed nervously as she sat hand in hand beside Deacon, waiting for the news of her results. From the look on the doctor's face, it didn't look good. The only time she'd ever seen a face so grim was when Madison told her about Shaun's passing.

"I'm dying, aren't I?" She asked softly. 

"No. Not dying." Amari confirmed.

Deacon let out a breath he was holding as his legs bounced up and down in anticipation. "So, what's wrong with her?"

"Well, after Charmer described her symptoms and...experiences...with the Brotherhood, I gave her a qualitative hCG blood test and the results came back this morning. After checking and rechecking, it's quite clear that the results were positive."

"So, what does all of that mean?"

Dr. Amari sat in the rolling chair opposite them, letting her clipboard sit on her desk while she tried to come up with an explanation. After seconds of agonizing silence she simply blurted it out. "You're pregnant."

Time stopped. 

Ella felt her heart drop to her knees, her hands went cold with the harsh realization. How did she not know?...It suddenly all fit together, the throwing up...the way her feet and back ached, it was just like when she was expecting with Shaun. 

The air in her lungs left her. "I'm...pr-pregnant?" 

"From your blood I would say you're about eight weeks along. I'm so sorry." 

Deacon stood up from the couch and put his hands behind his neck, pacing back and forth while the information set in. "No." He panicked. "Not with him. No!"

With him...Oh god...

Ella stood up and stumbled forward, feeling the floor tilt back and forth under her. Flashes of the Prydwen came back to her...the steel walls, the smell of the cleaners, Arthur on top of her...and then a scream. A loud, blood-curdling scream filled with sheer horror and panic. Except it wasn't a memory, it was coming from her own mouth.

And before she knew it, everything went black.

Chapter Text

Ella was met with the harsh lights of the Memory Den, her eyes fluttered shut as she tried to adjust to the overwhelming brightness.

"Am I having a nightmare?" She whispered softly. 

She was met with Amari's glum sounding voice. "I'm afraid not." 

When she slowly sat up she came face to face with the doctor and Deacon, who was nervously tapping his foot against the tile. 

"Are you alright, Charm?" He asked. 

She remembered their conversation before she blacked out. "No." She sighed and looked up for confirmation. "I'm pregnant?" 

Amari nodded. "You are. I'm sorry." 

"But...I can't be. I can't...not now, with...with-" She almost threw up at the thought of saying his name. 

The doctor placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I know this is very difficult for you but try and relax, just focus on your breathing."

Ella just shook her head. "I can't have another child. I won't."

Deacon and Amari exchanged concerned glances. 

"There are other options. You could give the child away to someone else, someone who will take care of it." Amari explained.

"No. I know if I go through with it I'll just get attached...it's better to just end it now."

Deacon's brow tensed up. "Charmer...you don't mean-?" 

"I do. I can't have this baby. You have to get rid of it, Dr. Amari."

The doctor frowned. "What you're asking me to do...not only is it against my own personal beliefs but medically speaking there are no gaurentees that you won't die in the process. Medicine isn't like it was in your time. I'm not even lucky enough to have proper supplies most of the time."

"I don't care. You have to end this pregnancy now before it's too late."

"Well, I suppose there is a procedure I could do. It's early enough in your pregnancy but the possiblily of you getting bleeding out during the operations is around 25%."

"Fine with me. Do it."

"Are you insane? That's like a one in four chance of dying." Deacon protested.

"What else am I supposed to do? Keep it?"

Deacon looked to Amari with a long sigh. "Can we have a minute alone, Doc?"

"Of course," she nodded "take your time."

Her footsteps faded into the soft music playing from upstairs, prompting Deacon to gently grasp at Charmer's trembling fingers. "You can't kill this baby, Charm. I won't let you."

She scoffed lightly. "It isn't your choice, it's my body."

"Not anymore. There's another life in there you have to consider."

"I'm sorry, did you hit your head and suddenly forget who the father is?"

"I know, alright? But is that really reason enough not to keep it?"

"If he ever finds out about this-" she shuddered at the thought of what he'd do "...I can't let that happen, D, I won't."

"Don't you get it, Charm? You could die if you try the procedure."

"And? This isn't about me, Deacon, this is about bringing an innocent child into this fucked up situation. It isn't fair!"

"Nothing is fair!" He retorted. "Look around us, look outside. Everything is fucked up but that doesn't mean we give up, right?"

"Fine, nothing is fair and the world sucks so now I'm just supposed to raise a baby by myself?"

"You aren't alone, Charmer. You have Dez, Tom, and me to help take care of things. And you know I've always wanted a family, I mean, what if this baby...I don't know, what if...we raised it together?" 

"Deacon," She sighed "you don't want that."

He sat upright. "Well, maybe I do. I could be a dad. I could play catch and read the kid stories or something. I could even dress it up to look just like me." He had a hint of a smile at the thought.

"Maybe with your own kid...not with his."

"It's not just his kid, it's yours too. Half of it, actually."

"Do you even hear yourself? Three days ago all you wanted was a new pair of sunglasses, now you want a baby?"

"I know it's crazy but why not?"

"Because it's Maxson's baby. Can you really look past that?"

He exhaled slowly as he thought about it. Could he really love a child that wasn't his own? Especially one with Brotherhood blood running through their veins? Could he really stare at the kid and not see that asshole's face in there? He wanted to believe he could, even if he knew deep down it was a lie. 

"I don't know." He answered. "I hope I can."

"And if you can't?"

"Then I'll suck it up."

"Deacon-"

"Just think about it?" He smiled. "You, me, and a kid? That'd be a fucking riot! We could all wear matching sunglasses and we can teach it how to draw railsigns and prank Tom..." 

 She couldn't hold back her giggle. "You're so dumb."

He grinned like being called dumb was the greatest compliment in the world, and from her it was. "Please?" He asked softly. 

"I don't know, Deacon, this isn't an easy choice." 

He stood to pace for a moment, stopping back in front of her and leaning down to be level with her eyes. Damn, he always loved how brown they were...he'd spent so many days trying to avoid staring too deeply into them so she wouldn't notice and now there he was willingly pleading with them. "Charm, you already lost the chance to be a mother before and I saw how much it killed you. I know you pretended like it didn't hurt but I fucking know it did." 

"What's your point, Decaon?" 

"My point is that you lost out on motherhood because of a nuclear war. Now you have a second chance...don't let Maxson steal it away from you too."

His words hit Ella hard. She was only a mother for five months before the bombs ended her world...if she closed her eyes tight enough she could still see Shaun's toothless smile, she could almost hear the way he cooed and garbled in the middle of the night when she was so tired she felt like crying. Those smiles and giggles were the only thing that kept her going. 

Then they were gone. Replaced by an old, sick man who she didn't even know. Deacon was right, it almost killed her.

Was she really going to let Arthur take her chance away again? Did he still have that kind of power over her? 

"Okay...I won't do the procedure." She concluded. 

"Yes!" Deacon beamed and pulled her into a hug. "You won't regret this, babe, I'm gonna be a great dad! Honest."

She embraced him back for a solid two minutes before pulling away with a worried sigh. "How are we gonna tell Dez?" 

Deacon shrugged. "Maybe she won't be too upset."

"YOU'RE WHAT?!" Desdemona's voice echoed throughout the Castle.

Chapter Text

Another week had passed since breaking the news to everyone back at the Castle, and although Desdemona was beyond unhappy, she was still supportive of Charmer's decision to keep the baby. Tom on the other hand still unsure of how he felt. 

"Are you sure there's a baby in there?" He drawled. "Cause, I mean, the Institute could have implanted you with some sort of high tech nano-machine. It could be feeding off your organs and we wouldn't even know it! Hey, don't look at me like that, man, it's not outta the realm of possibilities." 

Charmer sat on the other end of the couch from him with a defensive hand on her stomach. "Tom?" 

"Yeah?" 

"If you don't shut up I'm gonna barf on you." 

"For real?" 

Deacon piped up from the corner where he read his magazine. "It's true, Tinker, don't test her." 

As Tom took a cautionary step away from her, a stranger walked into the common area putting a stop to their conversation. Charmer tensed up; ever since seeing Rhys undercover she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. Anyone could be a spy, only Deacon, Tom, Dez and Preston held her trust.

Deacon could sense her discomfort and stood up to walk over to the stranger with a fake endearing grin. "Hey, buddy, you lookin' for the Minutemen? They're actually upstairs. Just look for the handsome guy in the cowboy hat, he'll help you out." 

"You think Preston is handsome?" Tom raised a brow.

He turned around to gawk at him. "You don't?" 

"A-actually, I'm here for the Railroad." The stranger spoke. "This is it, right? Desdemona told me this was your part of the Castle." 

"Oh." He dropped his smile. "Yeah, that's us. I didn't know we had any new recruits after the last few dropped out." 

Charmer stared from the couch while Tom and Deacon crowded the new guy. He was young, curly brown hair covered half his face, and he looked like he hadn't had a decent meal in weeks. Still, there was something about him that made her relax, he looked so...innocent.

"How old are you?" Tom asked. "Just cause, you know, you seem a little young to be an undercover spy from the Institute...unless-" 

"Fifteen." He answered. "I'm fifteen." 

Charmer felt her brows shoot up, she couldn't keep herself quiet anymore. "That's really young."

He glanced back at her with a friendly smile. "I guess so. My name's Jonathan-er, I mean...well, I haven't really come up with a code name yet...b-but I will. I just need some inspiration, ya know?" 

Ella walked over to get a closer look. The kid reminded her of Shaun in a lot of ways...at least, he reminded her of what he might've been like as a teenager. Awkward, skinny, too nice for his own good. A soft smile pulled at her lips as she shook his hand. 

As if on cue, Desdemona walked in with her usual cigarette dangling between her gloved fingers. "Good, you've met already. This is Jonathan, he's from one of Preston's settlements down south. He wanted to join us so he traveled up with one of the Minutemen's caravans." 

"Y-yeah. I'm just glad to be here already. I was getting tired of smelling the Brahmin all day." 

Deacon smiled. "Well, living with Tom isn't much of a change from that. C'mon, kid, I'll show you around our little hole." 

Tom followed as they went off towards the bunks, leaving Dez and Charmer alone. 

"So, what's his story?" She asked. 

"His father was replaced by a synth. Apparently after a radstorm he went haywire and killed his mother and younger brothers. Jonathan killed him and found out the truth...Preston said the caravan going through found him sitting outside in the rain on the edge of death. After hearing his story someone recommended he join our cause." 

"Wow. That's terrible." 

She nodded. "I'm having him take over Drummer Boy's job, that way he can avoid combat. Poor kid can't even hold a gun properly."  

Ella chuckled. "Neither could Drummer Boy." 

The three eventually circled back and while Dez gave Tom and Deacon the background on the kid, Ella stepped off to watch as he unpacked his few belongings into one of the bunks. 

"Hey." She said.

He turned around, slightly startled by her sudden entrance. "Hi. I-it's Charmer, right? That's what Tom said. Do I call him that or does he prefer Tinker? He didn't say..." 

"He's okay with anything." She sat on the edge of his bunk. "So...you're from a Minutemen settlement, right?" 

"Yeah. It's a farm just outside Quincy. It was just me, my mom and dad, and my brothers." 

"Sounds nice." 

He looked down, a somber look crossed his face. "It was." 

"Do you mind if I ask you something personal?" 

"Sure." 

She shifted, trying not to sound like an irritating mother figure. "...Do you really think this is the life you want? Hiding under buildings, never feeling safe." 

He took a seat beside her, hunching his back as his rested his elbows on his knees. "I already worry about my safety, might as well help synths while I'm at it, right?" 

"Desdemona told me about your family...I'm sorry." 

He smiled softly. "My dad was a really nice guy...at least I think he was. It's kinda funny...I don't even know when the Institute replaced him. Was it a few days, was it years? What if it was my whole life? I mean, what if all my memories of him are really just memories with his replacement? I mean, I'll never really know. Just sucks." 

"Yeah. It does." She sighed and slid her arm around his shoulders. "Wanna cry about it?" 

He nodded softly. 

*

The cold halls underneath the Castle were a lot like the catacombs back at HQ...cold, damp, nowhere to hide. It was a miracle that Preston was even willing to let the Railroad stay there, he didn't owe them anything. Maybe he felt sorry for the group, maybe he didn't want the space to go to waste...still, they couldn't complain. With only five members it wasn't as crowded as the old HQ was. 

Tom's soft snoring from under Ella's bunk had her drawing in a long breath. She never used to suffer from insomnia...maybe that was one of the perks of going through trauma. She had to stay up all night and go over every tiny detail until her head split. 

Deacon laid beside her, stealing the blanket and pillow like he always used to do. It made her smile...even when things were unbelievably shitty he was always there. 

"Hey, D? You awake?" She whispered. 

He let out a yawn and hummed in response. "What's wrong, Charm?" 

"Nothing...I just...I thought maybe we could talk now. About Arthur." 

The use of his name had Deacon sitting up fully, the metal bars squeaked with the sudden movement. Even with the dim candlelight in the corridors she could still see anxiousness written on his features. "Oh. Sure, yeah, we can talk. About anything, really. Maxson...politics...how Tom would look in a dress. Do you wanna go somewhere quiet?"

"No. I need to get this out before I lose the nerve." She shifted to rest her head against his thigh. "I just don't want to upset you." 

"Are you crazy? You won't upset me, babe, I'm perpetually calm. In fact, one time-"

"Deacon," Ella stopped him "...take a breath." 

He nodded and exhaled shallowly. "Sorry. I guess I'm just not great with serious talks. But...I'm here for you, Charmer, whatever you wanna say, I'll listen." 

"I don't want to talk about everything...I just think that if I talk about some then maybe I'll feel better. I don't know, it's stupid." She chuckled softly. "I feel like if I tell someone then it'll all just go away." 

"Well, I'm not really an expert but if it'll help you then I'm all for it." 

"Thanks" She exhaled an anxious sigh. "I just need you to be quiet until I'm finished. Can you do that?" 

"Promise. You won't hear a peep out of me." He playfully zipped his mouth closed. 

Ella nodded and took a deep breath, her eyes slid closed while she tried to think of something, anything to say that might make her feel less of a victim. After nearly a minute, the words just started flowing without hesitation. 

"He hit me...a lot." She admitted. "Mostly when I was bad. Sometimes it was just spankings but when he was really mad I was back-handed." A bitter chuckle left her throat. "It got to the point that after awhile I thought I deserved it...like it was my fault for misbehaving. Pretty fucked up, isn't it?" She paused catch her breath before continuing. "It got to the point to where I started to punish myself...once I forgot to dust the bookshelves and I didn't let myself eat for two days because of it. God, that's so pathetic." She scoffed. 

"I just fucking hate myself. I'm ashamed that I ever let him have that power over me. I mean, I used to be strong...I didn't take shit from anyone. Six months with Arthur and I was calling him master and..." her voice trembled "...I just stopped fighting."  

Deacon kept his promise, not speaking until she finished. By the end of her speech his fingers were digging into palm from how angry he was. Not at her, of course...none of that was her fault. Instead he was mad at himself for letting her stay on that fucking ship willingly. His life wasn't worth her getting used by him. He would've happily died if it meant she could live a happy, free life away from the Brotherhood. 

"Say something." Charmer interrupted his thoughts. 

He cleared his throat, unsure of what to actually say. "I don't think you're pathetic, Charm...I think you're strong. I mean, you did the best you could and you made it out alive. In my book that makes you pretty fucking bad ass." 

She shook her head, tears threatening to spill over her lashes. "You don't know what I've done, Deacon. I...I was weak."

"Hey, who's the bad guy here? Because the last time I checked, it was Maxson. He was the one who hurt you, he was the one who hit you, it was because of him that you were put in that position. None of this was on you, Charm, you did what you had to do to survive."

"Don't you get it?" She sat up fully. "I did nothing! I let him hit me and choke me, I let him fuck me! I'm just as despicable a human being as he is!" She shouted. 

Tom stirred underneath them, rolling over to one side of his bed. 

Deacon held onto the sides of her arms tight, staring into her eyes with a mixture of compassion and assurance. "Don't say that." He whispered. "You're a fucking angel compared to him. It doesn't matter how you acted, Charmer, you went through something traumatic and it wasn't your fault! Do you hear me?...It. Wasn't. Your. Fault." 

Ella shut her eyes again, forcing more tears to evacuate her eyes and roll down her cheeks. So much of her wanted to take responsibility for what happened...she felt like it was the only way she could move on. Blaming Arthur somehow gave him the power...and she didn't want that. But Deacon was right, it was him who raped her, him who held her slave...why was that so hard for her to admit? 

"You don't think less of me?" She asked under her breath. 

"I could never think less of you."

"Why not? I do."

"Because you're my best friend, Charmer, I'm not allowed to hate you." He smiled. "It's in the rule book." 

She snickered as she wiped her eyes. "What rule book?" 

"The one they wrote about partners-in-crime turned friends turned death-metal bandmates. I co-authored it ya know." 

"How is it that I'm so in love with someone who's so full of shit?" 

"You're just lucky, I guess." He leaned over to kiss her gently. 

The kiss wasn't long, he never liked to crowd her...even so, it was full of understanding. Ella rested her forehead against his after and smiled softly. 

"I know this isn't easy for you with the whole baby thing but I know you're trying and...I want you to know it means a lot to me."

"Hey, don't even worry about it. As far as I'm concerned that's my kid in there too." He patted her stomach. "And I love you both." 

She pulled him into a hug, savoring the silence of the moment. Tom's soft snores and daft mumbles were the only thing that filled the room. After a few minutes she pulled away with a slight flame sparked in her stomach. 

"So...I don't really know how to do things anymore. I mean, I do but it kinda seems impossible." She whispered. 

Deacon shrugged like he didn't really care. "We don't have to try anything unless your ready. I mean, I haven't even really thought about it that much." 

She gave him a presumptuous chuckle and a 'yeah, fucking right'  kind of stare. After knowing Deacon as well as she did, detecting his lies were second nature. 

He grinned like a teenager caught in the act. "Okay...maybe I've thought about it a little bit."

The thought of being intimate again scared her, thoughts of Arthur plagued her mind at the sheer memory. Still, with Deacon, it didn't seem as scary. Her common sense told her that he was trustworthy, that he would never hurt her. And that was enough to give it try, wasn't it? 

Deacon picked up on her deep thinking, retreating back into his supportive veneer. "But I'm being honest here, only if you're ready. I don't care if it takes months or even years."

Ella nodded slightly, her lips couldn't help but pull into a smirk. "I think I'm ready."  

Chapter Text

Deacon stared at Charmer through the darkness, studying her face for any signs of uncertainty. 

"Are you sure you want to try this?" He asked. 

"I'm sure." 

"Cause, you know, if you don't we could do something else instead. Maybe play some board games." 

"Deacon-" She chuckled. 

"What? I'm just saying? I got an old deck of cards in my bag, and I think the new kid has Blast Radius under his-" 

She shut him up with a heated kiss while letting hand slid around from his jaw to the back of his head. Deacon couldn't hold back the low groan in the back of his throat. 

How long had he wanted Charmer like this? A year? Maybe a year and a half? 

It felt like forever.

So many sex dreams, so many lingering gazes on her ass around Goodneighbor. There was even one time where he woke up in the midst of calling out her name in pleasure. 

Glory gave him hell for that. Even though he INSISTED that it was a different Charmer that he knew from his childhood. 

Point is, he'd been dreaming of sleeping with her for too long. And now here he was, about to do it. 

Her hands yanked at his shirt aggressively and he nearly fell off the side of the bed trying to yank it off. Immediately their lips connected again and her hands roamed along his back and shoulders. 

"Talk to me." She sighed breathlessly. 

She kissed along his stubble while he muttered like an idiot. It was pretty tough to talk sexy when she was doing that... 

"Uh, what should I say?" 

"Something. Anything." She begged. 

He cleared his throat. "Four score and seven-OW!" 

She smacked the back of his head. "Not that, you weirdo!" 

"Alright," he chuckled "...how 'bout I tell you how stunning you look right now?" 

"Deacon...we're in a dark room." 

"Yeah, but I can tell you look good. Call it lovers intuition." 

"Ugh, just go back to kissing me before I kick you in the stomach." 

He smirked and did as he was told, kissing her until her chest fell up and down quickly. Moving lower, he sucked at her neck, humming softly at how warm her skin felt against his tongue. It was impossibly hard to not over step her boundaries...all he wanted to do was grab her, kiss her, do everything he'd ever wanted to do but his brain was on high alert, searching for any signs of distress. 

His cock ached as it pressed against the zipper of his jeans. Resisting the urge to roll his hips against her was insurmountably hard. In a feeble attempt to distract himself, he moved his mouth up to nibble at her jaw. His teeth gently scraped over her skin something warm and wet hit his cheek.

She was crying. Fuck. 

He pulled away to see the stream of tears shimmer against the soft glow of the candlelight. Charmer wiped her eyes with shame. "Sorry." She whispered. "It's nothing, just keep going."

"Did I do something wrong?" 

"I-I'm fine. Just please...don't stop." 

"But you're crying." 

"I'll get over it, D, I'm okay. Really." 

He frowned. "Charm, if you aren't ready for this-" 

"I am ready. Just ignore me." 

He sat up instead, giving her room to breathe. "Let's take a break, huh? I mean, we've got all the time in the world to experiment." He let out an unconvincing chuckle. "Hell, we've waited this long...might as well go for the record." 

"No...just keep going. I'm just anxious, it's fine." 

Deacon's brows tensed up, making him pull away more. He knew a lie well enough to spot it from a mile away...and he knew Charmer too well to believe her when she said she was fine. 

"I think we need to stop." He sighed. "It's been a long day and-" 

Charmer sat up too, glaring daggers at him through the darkness. "Don't you dare stop now!" Her voice trembled. "I have to do this, okay? I have to!" 

"Why?...Why not wait until you're ready?" 

She scoffed. "Don't you get it...? I'll never be ready! So just fuck me, please! Just get it over with!" 

Even in the darkness, she could tell that his face changed. 

"Get it over with?" He repeated slowly. "Jesus...that isn't how I want this to be. I want you to want me too, Charmer." 

The hurt in his voice made her heart sink. Without a word or sarcastic joke, he climbed off the bed and pulled on a t-shirt. 

"Where are you going?"

He couldn't even muster enough energy to make up a convincing lie. "Gonna go check the perimeter, make sure everything's okay." 

"Deacon-" 

"Get some rest, okay?" He stopped her. "You're sleeping for two now, ya know." 

With that she was left in alone in the room with Tom still snoring lightly beneath her. 

He should've grabbed a coat before running outside in the middle of the night. Instead he was stuck with his pajamas which was not a great disguise if someone were to wander up to him. How was he supposed to sweet talk his way out of a mess with cartoon spaceships on his pants?

But what was he supposed to do...change into his jeans while trying to hide the total rejection on his face? Even he wasn't that pitiful...

He thought about bailing, about leaving and going to Diamond City to blow off some steam. He even considered going to the airport and killing as many soldiers as possible. Instead he sat at the top of the Castle walls, feet hanging over the edge and a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips. He looked over the water, wondering if it looked the same as it did before the war. Was it always tinted green or was it a deep, beautiful blue like in old storybooks? 

He wished Charm was next to him, telling him about how great everything was before the bombs. 

Man, he fucked up. He didn't really know how, but he knew he did.

Did he hurt her? Pressure her?

Damn it, why was it so hard to read the situation? And fuck...sensing the way she looked at him like he was garbage? Like he was exactly like Arthur? It made him sick. 

Yeah...he had to go apologize. Even if she was harsh, he couldn't blame her. Nobody should have to live in her situation...pregnant by someone she hates? Forced into having their baby? 

Right or wrong, he had to make it better.  Behind him were the distinct sounds of footsteps. Maybe it was Charmer? He hoped it was...

"Hey there."

A woman spoke but it wasn't Charm. He glanced up to the stranger with a raised brow over his sunglasses. She was dressed like a regular settler, but not a Minuteman; and she had long red hair that was braided at the base of her neck. 

"Do I know you?" He asked. 

"No. Not yet, at least." She took the seat next to him, far too close for his liking and pulled out her own cigarette. "Can I have a light?" 

Deacon fished through his pocket, flicking his lighter as the woman inhaled a puff of smoke. She looked...familiar somehow. Like he'd met her before but for the life of him he couldn't figure out where. Diamond City?...No. Maybe they met back in Lexington? Nope. 

She blew out smoke from pursed lips, almost like she was giving the air a kiss. "It's Deacon, right?" 

Jesus, she knows his name too? He broke his stare and glanced back towards the mossy water. "Nah, you must got me mixed up with someone else." 

A soft smile pulled at her lips, he could almost hear in in her voice. "Lying to me already? We just met...doesn't seem too polite." 

What the hell? The only people who know he's a liar are his friends, whom he lies to frequently, aside from them everyone just assumes he tells the truth. Clearly, they had met before, otherwise he wouldn't recognize her. He was always great with faces, never names...so who was she? 

"Sorry, lady. You got the wrong guy." He insisted. 

"You must think I'm an idiot. But fine, I'll play along. I'm new to the area and was told that a handsome guy with a silver tongue and sunglasses can show me around. That you?" 

"And who told you a crazy thing like that? I'm not a Minuteman."

"Neither am I." 

She was getting weirder by the second. He decided to take a shot in the dark.

"What's your name?" 

She grinned, showing off flawlessly white teeth. "Guess."

"Not much of a guesser." He hummed. "Is it...Gwendolyn? Because you look like a Gwendolyn." 

"No. It's Baby." 

"Baby?" 

"Yeah, Baby. That's my name." 

Deacon huffed out an empty laugh. "Your parents must've been road scholars." 

"Funny. I'll have to tell my mom that when I see her." 

This girl had trouble written all over her...and he would know, because he was also a big bottle of trouble juice. Ugh. Trouble juice? Jesus, he needed to get better material. Even in his own mind. 

He looked to his watch-less wrist and let out a loud yawn. "Look at that time. Guess I should be going now, Baby. Stay safe, don't get dropped on your head and all that." He stood up and gave a half-assed wave before hearing her footsteps follow him. 

"I'm in the Railroad. I actually just joined." 

Oh...no wonder she was shady. She was one of them. He turned on his heel, nearly bumping into her chest. "And why didn't you just say that from the start?" 

"I heard you were a liar...guess I wanted to see if it were true." 

"Well, it is. Have a good night." 

Again, she followed him down the stairs like a lost puppy. "Dez assigned me to work under you." She almost gloated. 

Bullshit.

"Did she?" He turned around on the last step, looking up to her with a fake smile. 

"No. But I think I'm going to anyway...I like the thought of doing intel. It's more fun than weapon manufacturing with Tom." 

Yep. Trouble juice...a big fucking gallon of it. 

"You should listen to Desdemona." He frowned. "She's in charge for a reason." 

"Yeah, but I can convince her otherwise. I have a way with words. Trust me." 

She gave his arm a squeeze before sliding past him and walking out of sight. Deacon stayed still, unsure of what to make of this new girl suddenly latching onto him. 

"I don't." He muttered. 

Chapter Text

The next morning Ella went looking for Deacon. 

After waking up alone she had feared the worst...that maybe he left or went AWOL. Not that she'd blame him. She was a fucking bitch to him and she knew it. 

Why would she go and ruin such a special moment between them? Over nothing? 

It was the moment he scraped his teeth against her skin, all she thought of was Arthur and every time he would bite into her shoulder or neck when he came inside of her. 

Feeling Deacon do something similar made her blood go cold. She was so queasy and light-headed that she thought she may pass out. Nothing but fear and adrenaline flooded her body. 

It was a panic attack. 

Not uncommon for trauma survivors but she never thought she'd ever have one. She spent so many hours calming down Nate when he went through them, always feeling so helpless and horrible.

And that's how she made Deacon feel. Worse...she rejected him. She wasn't even mature enough to tell him what was wrong, she just snapped. 

There was no way she could ever take those words back...

As she turned the corner into the Minutemen's kitchen she saw him at the dining table with his feet up and a magazine between his fingers. Guilt swarmed her as she stood in the doorway like a damn statue. After a few seconds he glanced over the pages of his Live&Love and spotted her with a slight smirk, the kind that let her know everything was okay. With a deep sigh of relief she walked over to him, taking the empty seat across the table. 

"Hey...you never came back last night." 

"Yeah, I decided to go cuddle up with Preston. He didn't even mind at all, we spooned and everything." 

That earned him a chuckle. 

"Look, D..." 

"No apologies." He sat up straight. "It's all water under the bridge. I mean, it was our first attempt...of course it was too much. We should've started slower. My bad, I take full responsibility." 

"But the way I spoke to you wasn't okay. I feel awful..." 

"Well, lucky for you I have a soft spot for beautiful women from vaults. Particularly cryo vaults." 

He grinned when Charmer lit up. 

"How did I get so lucky to find you?" She beamed. 

"I ask myself that everyday, babe." 

The both leaned across the table to kiss briefly before grabbing some of the fruit from the lineup of food. Say what you will about the Minutemen, but they were never hungry. Preston always made sure the kitchen was stocked with just about everything from mutfruits to deathclaw omelets. 

As Charmer picked at a piece of bread, Deacon saw the familiar woman from the night before walk in with Jonathan at her side. They chatted briefly until she caught sight of him, prompting him to glance away. 

He could hear her say bye to Jonathan and begin to walk over to them.

Fuck. 

"Hey, Deacon, who's your friend?"

Baby placed an oddly chummy hand on his shoulder and Deacon could practically feel Charmer place her hand on her gun from under the table. 

He muddled awkwardly. The last thing he needed was for Dez to kill him because Charmer killed the new recruit. "This is Charmer, she's my girlfriend. B-but not just a girl who's a friend...I mean, she is my friend-my best friend-but she's also pregnant. With...my...child." He sighed pathetically. He was a fucking professional, he could've done better than that. 

Baby laughed as if he were pulling a prank on her. "Oh, you! Always a liar, huh?"  

"Nope. Super pregnant over here." Charmer confirmed. 

The new girl looked like steam might come out from her ears. "Oh. Funny. Desdemona never mentioned that little tidbit." 

"Maybe because it's none of your damn business." 

Awkward silence. Deacon was tempted to break it but that didn't go over well last time. 

Baby just snickered. "You're just adorable! And glowing, how far along are you?" Before Ella could even answer she cut her off with a fake, dramatized gasp. "Oh, wait, you're the own who was a slave right? You poor thing! Must've been so horrible to have to serve under the Elder of a prestigious army. It's Arthur Maxson, right? He's so young and handsome...it's so surprising that he would do such a thing." She laughed passive-aggressively. "But you wouldn't make up a story like that, so it must be true, right?" 

Ella looked to Deacon with a 'hold-me-back-or-else-I'm-gonna-punch-her-in-her-stupid-prissy-face' stare. 

"...Do I know you?" She asked instead. 

"Me? No. I think I'd remember meeting a girl like you." Baby chuckled and put another hand on Deacon's shoulder. "I'll see you around, big guy. I hear training is going to start today with the other recruits. I'm excited for some one on one time." She walked away without another care leaving Charmer snapping the plastic fork she held in half. 

"Hang on there, Sunshine...let's not get our blood pressure high, remember the child." He tried to comfort her. "Inhale, exhale and all that." 

She stood up and started walking towards her. "I'm killing her." 

Deacon pulled on his waist from his chair. "There's no need for violence, Charm. She's just some random recruit Dez assigned to me. She's trying to get under your skin, don't let her win by going over there and popping her in the mouth." 

"Well, someone has to!" 

"And someone will probably. Trust me, I know girls like that. They never last a week in the Railroad. They either quit from all the work or get kicked out for causing so much drama. Just forget about her."  

"Deacon, she touched you. I'm killing her, end of story." 

"Hey, everyone touches me! You, Tom, Preston, Dez...hell, even I touch myself sometimes. I'm just a really touchable guy!" 

Ella exhaled slowly and nodded. "She should thank her lucky stars that she's not training with me. I'd have her try to pin a bow tie on a deathclaw." 

"Aww, how formal!" Deacon smiled. "Hey, who are you training anyway? It'll be nice to finally have a heavy that could life more than twenty pounds. Me and Tom are tired of doing the grunt work." 

"I don't know. Dez just said he was looking forward to training." 

"Well, hallelujah. About time we get shit started..." 

*

Charmer stood outside the Castle walls with a ball cap and sunglasses on. 

From her view she could see the Prydwen hovering above the airport like a watchful pest. It almost taunted her the way it stood afloat...if karma was a real thing then it would've exploded ages ago. 

"Hey." A man's voice had her jumping slightly. "You Charmer?" 

She turned an saw an older man, maybe mid-50s with a matching hat and sunglasses. 

"I'm supposed to start training with you today." He said. 

"Well, shit...we should've called each other beforehand. I hate wearing the same outfit as my gal pals." 

"You some kind of comedian?" He scoffed. 

"Only on weekends." She stepped off the wall. "What's your codename?"

"24."

"A number? Seriously? How original..." 

"Well, you don't seem so charming to me, missy."

 Touché. 

"Is that an accent I'm detecting?" She asked. 

"Maybe. Who cares?" 

"Just weird...I haven't heard a Boston accent in ages."  

He took off his sunglasses with an eye roll, though the only thing Charmer could focus on were his almost-amethyst eyes. If she didn't know any better she'd think he had on colored lenses but there was no way that was possible. '

"So, we gonna train or what?" 

"...Yeah. Let's do it." 

Chapter Text

TWO MONTHS LATER

 

"Everything looks good." The Minuteman doctor spoke. "You're just about eighteen weeks along, so be sure to watch out for any swelling in the hands or feet. It's not terribly uncommon but I should know regardless." 

Ella nodded as she buttoned up her shirt. The weeks had begun to fly by once she hit her second trimester, much to her relief. Between training 24, doing light recon with Jonathan, and helping build the Railroad there was hardly any time in her day to focus on the unborn child she carried around. She almost felt bad for the kid; when she was pregnant with Shaun she was beyond ecstatic, she planned and prepped every second of the day. Fast forward to now and she sometimes forgets that she's with child, she just feels as if she ate a big lunch. A big, kicking, uncomfortably lunch. 

Still, she knew it wasn't out of neglect...the Railroad was also her baby and as of now it came first. 

They were at twenty agents now; most of them tourists. It was actually astonishing to see how many people still cared about the synths. After the Switchboard and church were wiped out it didn't seem likely that there were many supporters left. Most of them were dead or had ran away once the news spread.

At least two days out of the week Jonathan and her would hike south a few miles to leave a dead drop, then immediately turn around and come back. It was usually just transporting packages to Bunker Hill, none of the tourists were suited for combat and since she was out, 24 was left to handle most of the big jobs. 

"Thanks." Ella spoke to the doctor. "I'll be sure to keep you updated if something changes." 

As she left the makeshift clinic and past the garden she saw a group of some of the newer Minutemen picking on Jonathan who was carrying a box full of junk. One of them made a particularly cruel joke about his family dying, while another snickered childishly at his brown curls. As the group began walking away there was a guy nearly twice Jonathan's size who shoved him to the ground with a harsh laugh. 

Charmer felt her chest tighten in response, walking over to her friend while simultaneously ramming shoulders with the larger man. 

"Asshole." She muttered loud enough for him to hear. His eyes shot back at her before dropping to her stomach. As stupid as he was, he wasn't about to start a fight with a pregnant woman.  

Jonathan stood up timidly and dusted himself off, a bloodied scrape had split his lip open from where he kissed the ground. Charmer regarded him with care.

"Hey...you alright?" She asked. 

"Y-yeah. Just guys having some fun, you know?" He bent down to collect his things. 

"Here, let me help-" 

"Don't be silly, you're pregnant. I can handle it." He insisted. 

She got on her knees anyway and helped to pick up his assorted items. Duct tape, frayed wires, a tin can, a fan blade, and a box of candy. "What's all this stuff for anyway?" She asked. "Are you trying to build a blender or something?" 

The thought of a wasteland smoothie had her fighting the urge to dry heave. 

Jonathan stood up and extended his hand to help her. "A propeller actually, Preston said the one for the water purifier is busted. I don't know...just thought I would help if I could." 

"That's nice of you." 

He shrugged. "I'm no inventor. Can't even glue to sticks together...it was stupid to try." 

"Hey, don't say that." She pet his arm. "You'll figure it out, just cut yourself some slack. I bet Tom would be willing to lend you a hand."  

He nodded and gave her a soft smile. "Thanks." 

They walked in tandem down the stretch of corridors, making their way back to HQ. Even though most didn't care for the kid, Ella enjoyed his company. Maybe it was all the long walks to dead drops that made her like him or maybe it was the fact that he reminded her of Nate when he was an insecure teenager. 

"So, what are the candies for?" She asked after a few silent seconds. 

"You, actually." He handed them over with a shy smile. "My mom was pregnant when...well, she was pregnant." He sighed. "Anyway, she always craved sweets, said it was because she was having a girl." 

"Yeah, I've heard that." Charmer chuckled. "So, you think it's a girl?" 

"I don't really know...maybe." 

As they reached the General's quarters that led to the forecastle they were met by an older woman standing by the door. She looked at Charmer expectantly. 

"You go ahead, Jon...I'll be in soon." 

He nodded and walked inside, leaving Charmer with the strange woman.

"Can I help you?" She asked slightly accusatory. 

The woman gave her a hug. "It's Ella, right? Oh, it's so nice to finally meet you!" 

Charmer tensed up and pulled away, hand shaking as she tried to reach for her pistol. "How do you know my name?" 

The woman batted dark, mysterious lashes. "I'm the new doctor for the Railroad; Preston's doctor handed over your medical file. Sorry, do you not go by Ella?" 

"What the hell do you mean your the new doctor?" 

She chuckled. "Just what you said. I'm the Railroad's doctor...I'm taking over your care." 

"And nobody was going to tell me this?" Ella scoffed. "No offense but I don't know you, I'd rather have Preston's doctor resume my care." 

"That's a little selfish, don't you think? The Minutemen have enough people to care for, they don't need someone who's pregnant added to that list. Besides, I'm fully capable of handling you-" 

"Did Desdemona approve this?" 

The woman nodded. "Of course. She was the one who assigned me to you." 

"No. She wouldn't do that without letting me know." 

"Are you always so suspicious?" She smiled wide. "I'm friendly, I promise. My name is Mercy-" 

Charmer cut her off once more. "I am suspicious for good reasons! And I don't trust people I don't know." 

Mercy nodded with another fake grin. "I'll see you around, Ella." 

"It's Charmer...my name is Charmer. I'd remember that if I were you." 

"Oh, don't you worry about me. I have an impeccable memory." She hummed. 

Chapter Text

Deacon wandered around the Castle walls for what felt like the millionth time today. To the naked eye it looked like he was on duty, marching around the perimeter looking for any signs of danger but in reality he was just searching for the whereabouts of Charmer. It had been hours since he last saw her, she left in the morning with one of those mischievous grins and said she would see him later on, to which he responded 'not if I see you first', that was just their classic banter. Yet as more time passed he found himself growing more and more curious as to what she meant by that. 

Did she wink? He couldn't remember if she did or not. Regardless, without her to constantly joke around with things had gotten boring. So, true to his word, he decided to find her before she could find him. 

There was no way she would've left the Castle grounds, that much he knew. And she never liked to venture near the broken walls since she was afraid another mirelurk queen would come out from the sea. So...that only left about a billion places where she could hide. As he walked down the steps towards the garden he spotted Baby flirting with a very nervous Jonathan. A grin spread across his face as he neared them, waiting for Baby to leave before stepping up. It didn't take long considering that the kid was immune to her sexual advances, just like he was.

He jumped up from behind him to wrap an arm across his shoulders. "Jonathan, my man...you seen Charmer?" 

His cheeks were still pale from talking to Baby. "Y-yeah. She told me to tell you she's hiding."

"She's not upset or anything, right?" 

"No. She said it's a game." 

He scoffed. "She thinks she could beat me in a game? That's laughable...I mean, REALLY laughable." He steered the kid toward the walls where they could talk privately. "C'mon, tell me where she is, I'll give you present if you do and it may or may not be a baby deathclaw named Lucky."

"No." 

"No?" 

"She told me not to tell you." 

"But she won't know if you told me...trust me, I can keep a secret." 

"Yeah, but I don't want to betray her trust." 

"Always the loyal one, aren't you? Fine. I'll find her myself...I'll have you know that I'm a master tracker." 

Jonathan smiled sheepishly. "Good luck...and I'd check the North side first." 

Deacon grinned. "I like you, Jonathan, I think I'm gonna keep you around longer...I'll call off the hitman."

"Wait, what?..." 

He walked away with a cheery whistle, glancing back with a wink that he couldn't see through his sunglasses. Damn, he loved messing with people. And Jonathan was wonderfully naive, he would probably believe anything...maybe even that he used to be a super mutant that got cured. Yeah, that's too good not to test out on him.

He checked the kitchen first, then Preston's office, he even took a peak inside of Tom's lab where Charmer never goes. Nothing...it was like she was invisible. He started to think Jonathan might've misled him when he walked past a suspiciously quiet closet towards the end of the hall. On the door hung a sign that said 'Out of Order'...he smirked. 

"Charm? You in here?" He opened the door to see dozens of candles lighting the way. 

He heard the faintest of chuckles. "Maybe." 

He let out a small sigh and shut the door. "Jesus, I've been looking everywhere for you. You know, I've never been a fan of hide and seek...especially when I'm the one who isn't hiding." As he turned the corner towards her voice he saw her standing upright against the wall wearing nothing but one of his baggier shirts. The growing baby bump had forced the thin fabric higher up, allowing him to see that she wasn't wearing any underwear.

"Fuck." He stared down at the curve of her hips, nervously swallowing. "I...uh-"

"Speechless?" She grinned. "I never thought I'd see the day..."

He recovered fast, forcing his eyes to meet hers in the dimly lit room. "Well, to be fair I never thought...okay, you got me...I'm pretty speechless over here." His eyes scanned back down her body, suddenly his jeans felt insanely tight in the crotch region. "You look...comfortable."

"Comfortable?" 

"Well, I don't want to objectify you but...damn." He whispered. 

She beckoned him with a single finger. "Come over here."

His feet moved instantly, with all the blood rushing south it seemed his head didn't want to stop to ask questions. His throat bobbed as he held back the urge to blurt out something stupid. Being in intimate situations wasn't exactly his forte and considering how it went last time...he figured silence was his best friend.

"I've been waiting here for almost five hours. Where the hell have you been?" 

"Oh, you know, just doing things. Important things. Luckily, I found time to squeeze you into my schedule." 

Even though he manged to get his mouth to move; his eyes still stayed glued to her body, much to Charmer's pleasure. 

"Can I touch you?" She asked softly, voice sinfully sweet.

He nodded much too fast...damn his self control.

His breath hitched slightly as she circled around him, stopping to slide her hands up the back of his shirt. Her cold hands against the warmth of his skin sent shivers down his spine, he was positive the hairs on his neck were standing up just from the sheer scraping of her nails against him.

"Charm?" He forced himself to speak. "...You sure you're ready for this?"

Her response was a very enticing kiss to the center of his spine. "I'm ready to try. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't think I want to do everything...but I like this. Being in control." 

"Yeah? You saying you wanna blindfold me?" 

"No." She laughed. "I just like knowing that I can trust you not to push me. And the look on your face when you saw me?...Pretty fucking hot." 

"So, you like ambushing me, huh? Alright...I can work with that." He turned around to meet her coffee colored eyes. "What are my orders, boss?" 

"Take your shirt off." She whispered through a devilish smirk.

"I can do that." Deacon nodded and nearly ripped it off.

He watched as Charmer studied every part of his skin, the blush rising on her cheeks had his confidence building. A slightly uncertain hand tugged at her waist, pulling her close enough to kiss. Maybe it was the hormones, or maybe she was finally opening up but he could feel the change in her disposition. Before she was scared, almost untrusting despite her better judgement. And fuck, he never blamed her...in fact he admired her for the strength she had to attempt to move on. Still, that admiration couldn't erase the fact that she flinched, that she trembled with every small touch.

Now, though?

She was dauntless. The way she took control and kissed him had his head spinning. For so long he had wondered if things would ever be the same; and maybe they won't ever be...but now it felt like there was hope. And hope was a good thing, it was something he hadn't felt in quite literally decades.

He let his hands rest on her hip, his pinky finger being the rebellious one that touched under the hem of the shirt she wore. His self-control was fading as more of his fingers slid down her thigh, slowly getting closer to her core. In the depths of his brain he prayed that he wasn't dreaming...if he woke up fondling a pillow he may just have to shoot himself.

Without warning, Charmer pressed her hips taut against his, grinding against his painfully obvious erection. Her lips left his to bite at his ear lobe, an action he never realized he loved so much.

Her voice dropped to a provocative whisper. "Fuck me, Deacon...please."

There went the last of his control. He felt it dissolve as lust swept through him. His hands moved to tug at his jeans, but they refused to come off. Embarrassing, really, for a man who changes outfits about fifty times a day. Frustrated, he tried ripping them off only to trip and bring Charm down with him. They laughed painfully as the concrete under them broke the fall, Deacon couldn't thank God enough that the room was dark enough so she couldn't make out how red his cheeks were.

"Need some help?" She snickered mockingly.

"Yes. Go get Tom." He countered.

She gave him a wry smile and tugged at his zipper, pulling down the faded denim while he lifted his hips. The rock shaped bulge behind his underwear met Charmer's eyes and he watched carefully as she writhed slightly. There were no hints of fear or regret...only lust. A secret thrill ran through him at her reaction.

"Like what you see, babe?" He grinned.

She only nodded, her cheeks flushing pink. His hands stayed behind his head while he let her examine him. A heavy breath escaped him as she cupped his member, squeezing gently while rubbing her thighs together impatiently.

"Doin' okay?" He asked quietly.

She nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I'm just...trying not to lose my nerve, you know?"

"Hey, if you do then that's okay. You don't gotta ride the roller coaster to have fun...sometimes it's nice just to buy a ticket and get real close."

She snorted slightly. "Please tell me you didn't just compare your dick to a roller coaster."

"Well, it's designed to be ridden, isn't it?"

"You're an idiot." She chuckled.

"Yeah, but that's why you like me. I'm pretty irresistible once you get past the stupidity."

Charmer gave him an earnest smile and crawled up to kiss him, letting her hips once again press into his groin. Feeling her body willingly against his was slowly destroying his sanity. The urge to just rip their clothes off and plow into her was almost too much to handle. "You're killing me here, Charm." He laughed almost painfully.

She gave him a sultry grin in response. "Good. I hope it's a slow death." With another slight chuckle she pulled away from him and took off her shirt, exposing the mouthwatering breasts that she hid underneath. If someone were to shoot him right now; he'd die a happy man.

As she leaned back over him, he took the opportunity to take a nipple into his mouth, flicking his tongue over it while savoring her breathy moans. Her fingers removed his sunglasses, allowing her to gaze down at his eyes while he gave a gentle squeeze to her unoccupied breast. He felt her hands moving slowly from his stomach to his underwear, hooking her fingers into the waistband to slide them off with ease. 

The realization that they were both naked with one another for the first time had his cock twitching up, grazing her inner thigh. Ella sucked in an anxious breath at the feeling. 

"Sorry." She muttered. 

"We can stop." 

"No, I'm okay." She exhaled. "I trust you." 

His hand moved up to stroke her cheek lovingly, he didn't want to admit how much he treasured the trust that she gave him. "You're in charge here...just tell me what you want me to do." 

"I want you on top of me." 

"You sure that's a good idea?" He asked with knitted brows. 

"I'm sure." 

They switched positions, Deacon gave her enough room to breath while he kicked off the rest of his underwear. When he turned to stare back at Charmer her fingers were between her legs, rubbing gently at her clit. 

With a long breath he muttered, "I lied earlier." Ella cocked an eyebrow in response. "Now, you're killing me."

A smile spread on her face as he crawled back over her, his mind racing with as he stared at her parted thighs. 

"You're beautiful." He whispered. "You believe me, right?" 

"I know you wouldn't lie to me." She kissed his cheek. "Now, please...fuck me. If you make me beg for it I'm going to kill you." 

He laughed and moved forward, lightly pressing his tip into her. Trying to hold back the desperate moan that bobbed in his throat was nearly impossible, just knowing she was so wet for him had his head spinning. He pressed in another inch, glancing up at her when she tightened around him. "You okay?"

She nods. “Just nervous."

"You need me to stop?"

"No. I want more." She moved her hands up the sides of his biceps, resting them there while he pushed himself in the rest of the way.

They simultaneously gasped, her hands tightened around his arms in response. Deacon was already panting; sweat misted his forehead as he tried to fight the urge to take her harder. He laid as much as he could against her until her stomach stopped him, leaving a small gap between their chests. As slowly as possible he withdrew himself, sliding back in while watching for any signs of discomfort.

"Feel good?" He asked.

"Yes..." she whined "-really good."

A smirk spread on his face as he moved up his pace, grinding against her until her head tilted back in ecstasy. "Fuck. You feel so good." He sighed, the pleasure already boiling to an unbearable point. She angled her hips to meet his thrusts, her hands on his arms encouraging him. 

"I've wanted to do this for so long." She made a content hum. "I'm sorry I made you wait." 

"Don't apologize. Waiting makes it better, right?" 

She smirked. "So much better." 

Deacon swore under his breath as she tightened around him, egging him on to go deeper. And somehow that just turned him on more, his mouth collided with hers in a desperate attempt to entangle their tongues. Feeling how wet she was for him was beyond amazing, especially after knowing what she went through. 

Damn.

The thought of Arthur pulled at his mind, forcing him to think about all the times he had raped his best friend. Did she scream? Or cry?...What if she actually enjoyed it? 

NO! He refused to let that asshole be apart of this moment. This was the first time in maybe twelve years that he'd had sex and it wasn't going to be ruined by Arthur fucking Maxson. 

Breaking away from her mouth, Deacon stared down into her eyes and seeing the want in them was what brought him back to reality. She wanted him...him, nobody else. 

"I love you." He spoke softly. 

She smiled. "I love you more." 

"Wanna bet?" 

"Yes." 

It was amazing how he could be in the middle of fucking her and still manage to make her laugh. As he sped up his pace, she moaned beneath him, a slew of curses and praises were the only thing that left her lips. 

And yet something was missing...

"Say my name," he whispered "-my real name."

Charmer looked up at him in puzzlement. "But I don't know your real name."

He muttered it into her ear between thrusts and immediately she said it over and over like a mantra, calling it out each time he plunged himself back into her heat. He groaned aloud; his name had never sounded better. 

"Fuck...I don't know how much longer I can go." He breathed out. "Where do you want me to-?" 

"Inside me." 

"You sure?" 

She nodded frantically. "I want to feel it when you cum." 

He bottomed out one last time before bursting inside of her, cursing so loud he was positive that the rest of the Castle had heard him. 

Ella wrapped her arms around him as he relaxed, eventually helping him roll off of her and rest on her shoulder. The aftershocks of his orgasm had him shivering and suddenly the room felt cold and too quiet. 

"How are you doing?" Deacon asked in shallow pants.

"Good. Really good, actually. I don't remember the last time I felt so..."

"Good?" Deacon smiled. 

"Well, I was going to say amazing but sure, let's go for that." 

"No, no, please go on. Tell me how amazing I am." 

She bumped him in the rib cage with a laugh. "Thank you...for you know, being you. I never thought I would be able to do this...I thought it was gone forever. So, thanks."  

"Anytime." He whispered. "And if you ever wanna play one of these games again, you just tell me." 

Ella put on another wicked grin. "Well, now that you mention it...I'd like to play some more in, like, ten minutes." 

Chapter Text

Everyone sat around the Minutemen's oak conference table, the small room barely big enough to hold them all. It was finally time to decide on how to handle in incoming traffic from tourists and packages, and only Deacon was ready to say what everyone else was thinking.

"We need a new HQ...like right now."

"Yeah...I'm getting tired of sharing the bathroom with the Minutemen." Baby leaned back in her chair.  

"It's not that easy." Dez sighed. "We still need to remain close to Bunker Hill but we can't be near the Brotherhood."

"We also need to be underground; hidden from you-know-who." 

Jonathan raised his hand timidly. "Who's you know who?" 

"The Institute, man!" Tom's tongue clicked in annoyance. 

"S-sorry. I knew that." 

Quiet fell around the room as everyone glanced around. Ella pulled up her pip-boy to look around the area, hoping she might see something worth taking a closer look. "I might know a place." Ella smirked as she spotted it. "It's actually pretty close to the old HQ and probably bigger too." 

Desdemona raised a brow. "Is it underground?" 

"Mostly." 

"Is it secret?"

"As secret as can be."

"So, what's the catch?" 24 asked.

Charmer tried to sound as casual as possible. "It's a murder house....but a really nice one!" 

Baby let out a vexatious snort. "I am not going to live in a murder house. I have class, unlike some." 

Deacon leaned close to Ella to mutter in her ear. "Could'a fooled me." 

"I have to agree." Dez interjected. "How do we know this is a safe place to set up shop?" 

"Well, the guy who lived there is dead. Hancock hired me to get rid of him when I first got to Goodneighbor. And the only people he killed were raiders so they probably still avoid the place."

"He only killed raiders?" Mercy chuckled. "Was he some kind of vigilante?" 

"Nope. Artist." 

Jonathan tilted his head curiously. "What do you-...oh. Gross." 

"Nothing some bleach couldn't fix." Deacon smirked.

"Alright..." Dez sighed. "I guess it's the best we can do for now. Charmer you and 24 can clear it out, take Jonathan too. He can send us a dead drop outside of Bunker Hill once the area is secured. Everyone clear?" 

"What? No. Definitely not clear! Charmer is pregnant, she can't go into that place!" Deacon protested.

"She's our heavy and 24 isn't ready for a solo mission. I'm sorry, but I trust that she's capable enough to handle this mission."

"Then can't I at least go with them? Just in case?" 

"There are already three people going...we can't afford to draw attention to ourselves." 

"But-"

Ella put a hand on his shoulder. "Deacon, I'll be alright. It isn't that far away. Besides, me and Jonathan have gone on ops before, why is this any different?"

"You're going into raider territory and it's close to the airport. What if the Brotherhood spots you?" 

"They won't know it's me." 

"You look like you're smuggling a basketball under your shirt...they'll know it's you." He sighed and looked over to Mercy. "You're her doctor, don't you think sending her out is too dangerous?" 

"On the contrary...I think the fresh air and exercise would be beneficial for her and the baby. Plus, she is going to be escorted by two men...the odds of something happening is unlikely." 

"Then it's decided." Dez stood up. "Charmer, 24, and Jonathan will leave first thing tomorrow morning to scout out the new HQ." 

Everyone else stood up to file out, everyone but Deacon. His foot anxiously tapped even though his face remained calm. Charmer hung back with a sigh, locking the door once the last of the Railroad left the conference room. 

"What's really going on, D? Why do you really not want me to go?" 

He shook his head, almost in disbelief. "Am I the only sane person here? You are pregnant. You aren't fit for field work!" 

"But that's not your decision to make. It's mine...and I think I'll be okay." 

"And if you aren't? If something happens?" He sighed. "What am I supposed to do?" 

Charmer frowned as she walked back over, taking the chair beside him. "Is that what this is about? What might happen if I die?" 

Deacon remained silent, his fingers drumming on the table the only sounds echoing in the room. 

"Talk to me." 

"I've already lost important people in my life. Too many to even count...I don't want you added to that list." His eyes cast down to her stomach. "Plus, that kid in there is mine. I don't give a flying fuck about the genetics...he's mine." 

"Deacon...you're sweet. But this is the job we got into, I'm not going to let something like being pregnant keep me from doing my job. Mercy said it's safe, Dez said it's safe and I believe them." 

"Look, I don't want to control you. I think you've dealt with enough of that for ten lifetimes...so, I won't stop you from leaving. But I will guilt trip the shit out of you." He cracked a small smile. 

"Oh?" Ella chuckled. "What if I give you a special going away present?" 

"Well, I do like presents..." 

He watched as Charmer left her chair, dropping to her knees in front of him. The electric shock that coursed through his spine had him sitting up taller. "Whoa there, partner...you sure you ready for that?" 

"I wouldn't try if I wasn't ready." She popped the button of his jeans. "And I want you to know how much I'll miss you."

"Well, I'm certainly not gonna object...but are there any ground rules here? Just to make you more comfortable." 

"Maybe don't touch me? I know that's stupid but-"

"It's not stupid. And consider it done."

She smiled and tugged the waistband of his jeans down, bringing his underwear with it. Ella eyed his member, trying to focus on ignoring the voices in her head and the memories that came with it. 

The last time she was on her knees was for Arthur, his hand was wrapped up in her hair while he forced her to take him all in one swallow. And once he was done she just laid in their bed and cried herself to sleep. That happened so often she didn't even remember what a proper blow job was supposed to be like...was it supposed to feel good to her? Was she supposed to gag and choke her way through it? 

Was she insane for even wanting to try it with Deacon? 

She grabbed the base of his cock and gave a few gentle strokes, feeling encouraged by the way his head dropped back. His knuckles were white against the armrest as he fought the urge to touch her, and when she wrapped her lips over the head of his cock he made the most glorious gasp she'd ever heard. 

"Damn." He panted. "I'm just gonna go ahead and warn you now that I might not last long...you look too fucking good on your knees." 

She smirked as she took him down a bit further, her cheeks hollowing.

Deacon's hips bucked slightly before he restrained them. 

"Sorry." He breathed out.

She glanced up at him, and somehow managed to make her voice almost innocent.  “Keep doing it.” 

"You sure that's a good idea?" 

"I want to try...please." 

He nodded and thrust slightly as she swirled her tongue over him. 

"Fuck," he blurted out "...that feels awesome." 

"Yeah?" Ella spoke with a smile before taking him back into her mouth, moving in time with his thrusts to avoid her gag reflex. 

"Shit...Charm, I'm gonna cum. Where do you want me?" 

The thought of him cumming in her mouth, down her throat brought a sick feeling to her stomach. Just the question recalled all the times she threw up all over the floor by Arthur's feet after he forced her to swallow. Her hands trembled on his thigh as she struggled to respond.

He caught on quick and pet her hand. "Want me to finish myself off?" 

She nodded. "I'm sorry." 

"Don't be...now, if you wanna give me a minute?"

"Actually, I think I wanna watch." She smiled. "If it's okay." 

His brows shot over his sunglasses as a grin spread over his face. "Kinky." 

Charmer sat back as she watched him stroke along his length, her tongue darting out to lick her lips. It only took a few moments for him to cum, his head going back in ecstasy. 

"Fuck." He whispered as his cock dripped. "That was a good present." 

Ella stood up on her knees to kiss him, savoring how warm his mouth was. "I said I was going to miss you." 

"Yeah...but it'll be like what? Two days? You'll be back here in no time." 

"That's right." She smiled. 

Chapter Text

"So...tell us about yourself, 24." Ella tried to make conversation.

The trio of Railroad agents were just past Goodneighbor, almost to Pickman's Gallery when she decided she'd heard enough childhood stories from Jonathan. As much as she adored the kid, she didn't need to hear about how to milk a brahmin without getting kicked in the stomach. 

"Y-yeah. What's the Institute like?" 

24 kept his eyes forward, the ball cap he wore blocking how stern his brow looked. "You know enough about me." He huffed. 

"I know that your a synth...what else don't I know?" She persisted. "Maybe you'll tell us your favorite color?" 

"Mine's green." Jon beamed. "Charm? What's yours?"

"Yellow. Okay, 24, your turn!" 

"I don't have a favorite color." He glared at them pointedly. "And stop with the questions, we're not friends." 

"Well, that's rude." Charmer frowned. "C'mon, we're just trying to get to know you. Is that so wrong?"

"Maybe."

They walked along for a few minutes of silence until Jonathan couldn't take it anymore. "W-what if we make it a game? Like we can all take turns answering stuff." 

"I hate games." He spoke in a monotone huff.

"I'll give you some bubble gum if you play." Charm held out a piece. "Oh, come on, don't act like you don't want it...I see you chew it constantly." 

With a heavy sigh he snatched the strip from her fingers and unwrapped it, shoving into his mouth with a nod. "Fine." 

"Okay, I'll start! How long ago did you escape the Institute?" 

"Fifteen years ago." He reluctantly answered. "Actually, maybe closer to fourteen." 

"How'd you escape?" Jonathan asked. 

"Ain't it my turn to ask something?" He stopped him before looking over at Ella. "How long have you and that other agent been seeing each other?"

"A few months...but we've been friends for a long time."

"And he got you pregnant? Is that why you're with him?"

"It's my turn to ask a question." She paused with a smirk. "Did you know Doctor Li when you were in the Institute?"

"No. I heard her name a few times but I didn't work in her department."

Jon took the next question. "Which department did you work in?" 

"Outside mostly." 

Ella stopped walking. "Oh...you were a courser, weren't you? That's why you're so good with guns and stuff." 

"A courser?...Wow, that's kinda scary. Did they really make you wear sunglasses all the time?" 

24 turned the corner and let out a fake sigh. "Oh no! Looks like we've arrived at our destination...no more time for questions." 

"Buzzkill." Charm muttered before following. 

She crouched down onto the dirt and examined the area. It was...quiet, really quiet. 

"Hmm." She exhaled.

"W-what?" Jonathan asked.

"There are no raiders...that's weird. I was positive they would've taken over by now."

"No raiders is a good thing, isn't it?"

"Yeah...I'm just surprised."

They walked inside of the old building, guns drawn and ready.

Immediately upon entering they were overwhelmed by the odor of rotting bodies. Ella quickly covered her mouth and vomited into her palm, feeling the burning bile seep through her fingers and hit the wooden floor beneath them. Once Jonathan caught sight of her heaving he too emptied his stomach on the doorstep.

"Jesus..." 24 sighed. "It's like I'm traveling with a bunch of children." 

"Sorry." She gagged softly. 

He opened up the care package they brought with them and passed around a bottle of water, waiting from them to swallow some down. Ella splashed some of the cool liquid onto her hand, listening as it hit the floor. Below thier feet she could hear the soft noise of wood creaking, making her jump slightly.

"What was that?" She gasped.

"W-what was what?" Jon looked around frantically. 

"We're standing in a two hundred year old building. Stop being so jumpy!" 24 snapped. 

They walked deeper into the house, avoiding eye contact with Pickman's previous artwork he had on display. On the dining table Charmer laid out a sheet of paper, drawing out what she could remember of the tunnels. 

"Okay...this is where the main HQ should be so we should set up traps here, here, and here." She pointed. "We might have to keep some of these corpses up here to scare off squatters...can't imagine Dez will be too happy about it though." 

"Got it. Let's scout out the area first, then mark where send Jonathan out for the dead drop. Agreed?" 

"Agreed." Jon and Charm spoke in unison. 

"Come on, there's a tunnel over here that leads underground." Ella gestured.

They all walked along the dirt path deeper into the gallery. It was mostly quiet, the only sounds were Jonathan's muttering about how much he hated caves. As the path narrowed the unmistakable sounds of footsteps echoed above them.

"Shh!" Charmer stopped to listen. "...Someone's here."

At that moment the three agents heard the door upstairs burst open and several loud stomps running inside. "Secure the area! Don't let her escape!" Someone shouted.

"Oh my god...it's the Brotherhood!" Panic coursed through her veins as she turned to 24. "Did you tip them off?!" She hissed.

"I didn't tell anyone!"

"Jonathan?!" 

"N-no! I swear!"

"Then how do they know?!"

She quickly pushed back away from them and held her gun, almost hyperventilating while adrenaline rushed through her. She could hear more of them coming, some already calling out her name.

"Ella! We know you're here! Surrender and come peacefully!" It was a familiar voice...Danse.

"NO! What did you do?!" She screamed at her fellow agents.

"Charmer, lower the gun! Now isn't the time to go crazy on us, alright? Let's focus on getting you the hell out of here!" 24 grabbed her hand and looked back at Jon.

"Jonathan, you stay here and plant these mines," he threw him the pack "...there are some stealth boys in there. Use 'em." 

"O-okay...yeah, I can do that." 

As the sounds of soldiers marching grew louder, 24 sprinted through the dimly lit caves with Ella behind him until they reached the end of the tunnel, the steep drop almost catching him off guard. He jumped first, turning to hold his arms out for Charm. "Jump! I'll catch you!" He shouted. 

Her eyes screwed shut as she stepped from the edge, shakily falling into 24's arms. In the corner was Pickman's decaying body, flies hovering over it like a free buffet. 

"We gotta get out of here." 24 pulled her toward the exit.

"No! What about Jonathan? We can't leave him!" 

The courser sighed and took off his baseball cap while he caught his breath. "Alright, you stay here...I'm gonna climb up this ladder and see if the coast is clear. Just stay put, you understand?" 

Charmer nodded and stood up from the dirt, slowly backing into the shadows while watching 24 leave her. As soon as the hatch closed off she listened to silence...no gunshots, no mines...nothing. 

Was it over?...

She let out a long exhale and felt something warm hitting the back of her neck.

...What the hell is that?

Before she could turn around to investigate her mind suddenly connected all of the pieces together when a familiar voice played directly in her ear.

"Surprise." Arthur whispered.

Chapter Text

"Hello, Ella..." Arthur quietly whispered into her ear. "I've missed you."

She screamed in terror, fighting to break free of his grasp while calling out for help. 

"Shh, shh...it's alright. I've got you." He comforted her. "Just drop your gun."

Tears streamed down her cheeks as she tried to make sense of the situation. Her eyes screwed open and shut as she tried to force herself to wake up from what was surely another nightmare. The nausea she felt became overwhelming as she choked on her own broken pleas and sobs. 

"N...no. No. No. No. No. No." Her breathing grew shaky as she repeated the word over and over again, sounding more like a broken record than a person. 

"Everything's alright...just listen to what I'm saying." He whispered. 

Why wasn't she waking up?...Dreams aren't supposed to feel this realistic. She could actually feel his beard scratching against her neck, his hand clasped tight around her neck. 

"Don't make me ask again." Maxson hissed in her ear. "Drop. The. Gun."

Her hands trembled as she pulled off the pistol on her hip, throwing it across the cave where Pickman's decaying body lied. Unbeknownst to Arthur, she still had a switchblade tucked away in her boot that gave her some sense of security. 

"Good girl." He pulled both her arms back and he could feel the familiar sensation of cold steel locking around her wrists, tight enough to bruise. "Now, turn around."

The hope of all this being a nightmare was quickly shattered. 

She'd never been able to see him while dreaming instead he was just a constant presence that loomed over her, waiting for the perfect to strike. And it seemed that time had finally come for him. 

Arthur's hand grabbed her shoulder and whipped her around. Suddenly, she was face to face with the one man she feared most. 

It was strange how much he looked the same yet somehow totally different. The scar along his face looked deeper and his eyes were still as blue and sharp as ever. She methodically watched him, waiting for him to make a move. She thought about how so many months ago she slaughtered Pickman here...and how now she might share his fate in the same spot. Her brain tried to prepare herself for the slap, the punishment that was sure to come. Instead, she watched a smile spread across his face.

"You shaved your head..." He examined her. "-an act of rebellion?" His fingers traced down her cheek. "I like it." When his eyes dropped down to her stomach and he smiled bigger, carefully lifting up her shirt to see the bump that was present underneath. "Wow...it's our baby."

"Let me go." She begged through tears. "I'll give you anything...please!" 

"Oh, Ella..." He practically cooed. "It's okay. I'm going to take you home now, where you belong."

He was leaning in for a kiss and Ella panicked, kicking him in the shin and making a swift run for the escape ladder, nearly breaking her wrists in the process while attempting to climb up the metal bars.

Arthur moved like a fox, pulling at her leg and flinging her back to the ground with a loud thud. "Don't make me hurt you, Ella!" He warned her. "We can do this peacefully if you cooperate."

"No! Get away from me!" She cried out.

Arthur scooped her back up, holding her by the fabric of her shirt. "Fine." He sighed. "You want to do this the hard way?" His hand raised to smack her.

"L-let her go!" Jonathan shouted from the ledge of the cave.

They both looked up to him, seeing his rifle aimed at Arthur's head. He didn't seem bothered in the least...

"You can walk away from this," he yelled up to him "-just leave and I'll forget I ever saw you."

"That wouldn't make me much of a man, would it?"

Arthur smirked and looked back at Ella. "Is this who you've replaced me with, dear?...Tsk...you could do much better. I can't imagine he takes care of you like I would."

"H-hey! You got something to say, say it to me!"

Arthur looked back to him, staring down the barrel of his gun. He held Ella close to him, almost as if she were a prized trophy. "Are you going to shoot me?" He mocked the agent. "Do it...a sawed off shotgun like that with a 12 gauge will certainly kill me...but not without killing her and the baby first. Your move..." It was almost a dare. The man was a brilliant tactician and Ella knew it better than anyone.

"Run." She spoke up to Jonathan. "Drop the gun and run!"

"You should listen to her, kid." Arthur chimed in. "I'd hate to see you get hurt."

"You must be an idiot if you think I'm leaving." His finger trembled on the trigger. "Now, let her go!" 

Charmer could see his confidence shake as Arthur walked closer, almost as a taunt. In her head she listed off a million ways of how this all could end but only one made enough sense...

"Kill us!" She shouted. "Do it quick!"

His eye twitched as he looked back at her. "I can't...I won't!" 

"Jonathan, just do it now! Hurry!"

He swallowed shallowly and nodded, looking down the sights with extreme stillness, his finger tightened slightly on the trigger.

One...

Two...

There was a gunshot. Loud and sharp.

Ella squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the burn of the bullet. And when nothing came, she peeked her eyes open and gasped.

"NOOO!" She screamed helplessly as she saw Jonathan's body fall over the ledge with a gunshot wound to his chest. Danse stood over him with his laser pistol smoking in his hands.

She ripped free from Arthur's grasp, falling to the ground and scrambling to where Jonathan lied. He coughed up blood, his hand almost limp as it landed on her stomach. 

"Charmer?" He wheezed. 

"It's okay, Jonathan, just stay awake!" Her hands ached from trying to squeeze from her cuffs. "Keep your eyes open!"

He sighed, the sound bubbling in his open chest. "Hurts. Everywhere..."

"Don't focus on that, focus on me!"

"Am I gonna die?" He asked. 

Ella froze...she didn't have the heart to lie right to his face...not when he looked at her like that. "I...I don't know," she cried. "...yes."

His eyes closed as he tried to breathe in puffs of air, his face was fully drained of all color. "I'm...I'm gonna see my family, right?" 

"Yeah...you're gonna see your dad, okay? And your brothers and your mom...even that sister you wanted." 

His head shook as tears trailed down the side of his face. "You're my sister." 

"I am...and I love you, okay? I'm...I'm so sorry, Jonathan. This is all my fault." 

"No. 'ts my fault...I...tried to be the hero." 

"You are the hero. You're my hero."

Ella pressed her forehead to his, waiting for him to respond again but when nothing came, she opened up her eyes. 

He was gone.

"No...no, Jonathan! Please come back...please!" She screamed. 

Arthur crouched behind her and grabbed her arm while she helplessly wept, a dose of Med-x in his opposite hand. She hadn't even realized when he'd pricked her, instead she just cried softly until finally going unconscious. 

"Is there anyone else we should be expecting?" Arthur looked up to Danse. 

"We captured an unidentified man trying to escape, he appears to be another agent. He's in custody now." 

"Excellent." Arthur hummed as he stood up, carrying Ella's body in his arms. "Sentinel, fire up the vertibird...I think it's time we escort Ella back to where she belongs." 

Chapter Text

Ella sat in the same room as she had nearly ten months ago; before the beatings, before the torture, before the torment. 

She was so naive back then...happy, but naive. 

Looking back she would've made a different choice. She would've killed herself a lot sooner, killed Arthur if she had the chance. She was stupid to think she wouldn't be forever damaged by what he put her through, all the pain and suffering was permanently etched into her like a rough scar covering her face, the kind that was rigid and thick. Nobody would ask how she got it, but they'd know just by looking at her that she wasn't normal. 

Her eyes burned when she slid them closed; desperate for some much needed rest. Without the harsh clasp of steel wrapped around her wrists she was able to rest her head on the table, sighing in appreciation at how the cold sting soothed her skin. 

A knock on the steel door reverberated through her skull as she sat up, not knowing who was standing on the other side. Slowly, it creaked open and she was face to face with him.

Panic settled deep in her stomach, threatening to make her throw up. It still didn't seem real...was he really there? Standing before her with that same slight smirk he wore to taunt her? She wasn't sure if she should scream or beg for her life. 

"Hello, dear." He shut the door behind him. "I've brought some water for you," he set the few bottles down on the table "...you haven't stopped crying. I can only imagine how dehydrated you must be."

She reached for one to drink, knowing they were sealed gave her a sense of comfort. Arthur watched her closely and took the open seat across from her, just as he had done months before. "You're looking well. It's good to see you've been taking care of yourself in our time apart." He smiled slightly before adding, "I was worried." 

Charmer narrowed her eyes at him. 

"Am I getting the silent treatment?" He asked pointedly. "I understand that you're upset about your friend but we shouldn't resort to such childish tactics." 

"Childish tactics..." She muttered softly as if to mock him. "You murdered an innocent boy." 

Arthur raised a curious brow. "Speak up, Ella." 

Rage burned at her cheeks as she met his eyes. Was he really that daft? Did he really see no harm in killing Jonathan? Her hands trembled as she tried to hold in her anger. All the fear and panic that had been building up over the past few months had melted away into venom. 

"Ella."

Suddenly, she burst. 

"I hate you, alright?! I fucking hate you and what you did! Kidnap me, fine but why did you have to kill him?! He was a kid, Arthur, a KID!" The last word ripped from her throat and bounced around the steel walls like a boomerang. 

Arthur sat back in his chair, a soft sigh leaving him. "Danse was the one to pull the trigger, dear, you shouldn't punish me for his actions." 

"You know damn well that he did it on your behalf." 

"Perhaps." Arthur concluded. "But he was going to kill you, Ella. I wasn't about to let that happen." 

"And why the hell not? So you can just torture me here for the rest of your life?" 

He stood up and circled around the room, hands clasped at the base of his spine. "I admit that before I was more than unsavory towards you. However, things are different this time, darling." Arthur hummed. "You're carrying my child."

She defensively touched her belly, completely forgetting about it in all the chaos. "What makes you think this baby is yours?" 

He chuckled. "Oh, Ella...when will you learn that you cannot lie to me?" He stuck a hand inside his coat, pulling out a barrage of folded papers. "Take a look." He handed them over.

Charmer hesitantly unfolded them only to see pages of information on her. Vault-Tec records, pre-war documents, reports of her sightings in the Commonwealth...and the last page was a medical record dated just before she escaped the Prydwen. Her eyes slowly scanned the information, feeling more despair rise to the surface as she read the last report from her check-up.

The color drained from her face. "You knew...you knew this whole time that I was pregnant?"

"Surprised? You shouldn't be. I am a man of unlimited resources. I've told you before never to underestimate my power."

Tears stung at Ella's eyes. All those months she thought she was safe...free. But she never was; she was just under close surveillance. She should have known and the fact that she didn't made her all the more furious. 

"Fuck you." She threw the papers at him, sending them flying into the air before falling slowly like some sort of depressing confetti. 

Arthur remained silent and thank God for that, had he said anything else Ella may have exploded.

"I'm tried." She whispered softly in defeat. "Can we just get the beating over with so I can sleep?" 

Arthur hesitated. "I told you, things are different this time, Ella." 

"Why do I highly doubt that?" 

"Well for one, there will be no punishments...at least not physical. Also, you'll be allowed access to the entire ship, save it a few areas, and you will no longer be handcuffed." 

Her brow tensed up. "I don't understand...I'm being rewarded for escaping?" 

"There are no rewards either." He said. "You're pregnant, which means you are afforded some space and breathing room...I simply want to make life more comfortable for you."

"So, no punishments? No slapping, beating, shoving, or kicking?" She scoffed. "What's the catch?"

"None whatsoever." Arthur hummed. "I think you'll find that I've grown very generous in our time apart." 

"And why is that?" 

"I've stopped drinking." He offered up. "It was difficult, but I decided to quit once I found out that I was going to be a father." 

"Wow...that's...impressive for you." She admitted. "But it doesn't mean you're a better person." 

"Of course. However, I intend to make up for how I've treated you in the past. I'm not proud, you know."

"You want to make it up to me?...Let me go. Let me and my baby live in peace." She almost pleaded. 

"That isn't a possibility, I'm afraid." He sat back down. "You are carrying the only heir to the Maxson name. It isn't just important for me to have this child, it's important for the entire Brotherhood. I don't think you could understand the magnitude of how special this child will be." 

Ella made a disapproving sound. "If you think I'm going to let you turn my child into a solider then you're even more insane than I thought." 

"It isn't really up to it, is it?" He hummed. "Make no mistake, Ella...I am still your master. Nothing has changed in that regard. I've simply decided to be more lenient given your state and that you've already betrayed me once."

"You call escaping slavery a betrayal?" 

"I call abandoning me and taking my child away an act of treason."

 

"You're delusional." 

Arthur chuckled. "Listen to you...four months out of my care and already so much back talk. I don't mind," he deadpanned "...I find it refreshing to see that you still have that sharp edge I admire."

He stood up and walked over to the door, looking back at her expectantly. "I think we've spoken enough for one night. I'm going to be placing you in Danse's quarters for the night while you adjust to being back. Now, do you want to argue or follow?" 

Ella begrudgingly stood up, keeping a healthy distance between herself and Arthur. They walked all the way to the front of the ship where the rooms were situated, Maxson followed her inside the small space. 

 

"I'll bid you goodnight once you undress for me." He said causally. 

"What? No. No way in hell."

"Just to your underwear so I can give you new clothes." He assured her. "I don't want you walking around in rags. It gives everyone the wrong impression."

"You mean the impression that I'm not a slave?"

"I mean the impression that you're not important." He corrected her. "Now strip."

She scoffed and unbuttoned her shirt, taking it off and throwing it on the floor. Even without looking, she could feel Arthur's eyes stare at her growing stomach, not even blinking. Next she unbuttoned her pants, pulling them down to her hips when she realized she still had a switchblade in her boot.

"Aren't you going to take off your shoes?" Arthur noticed her hesitation.

"No. I want them on."

He wasn't a stupid man. He knew right away she was acting suspicious. "Take them off. Now."

She made a low grumble and sat on the edge of the bed, unlacing her boots and taking them off one at a time. When she made pulled her foot out the blade came with it, clinging as it hit the floor.

"A knife? Really, Ella?" Arthur rolled his eyes. "Hand it over."

She picked it up and held it tight in her hands, holding in a breath while she decided what to do. Sure, she could stab him in the stomach but then what? How would she escape then?

"Ella." He cautiously stepped closer.

Without thinking it through she quickly swiped at him, slicing the exposed skin on his hand. He practically growled as he lunged forward, grabbing her wrist and twisting it until she dropped the blade with a cry of pain. He picked up the knife and looked down at his bleeding hand. "I'll let that go." He seethed. "But know that the next time you disobey me there will be consequences."

He walked back to the door and looked out, calling a nearby solider over. "Have Cade bring an ice pack down for Ella." After they left he walked back inside, wiping the blood on his uniform. "Do you have any other weapons on you that I should know about?"

Ella shook her head.

"Good. Now, I suggest you get some rest. I want you up early tomorrow to see Cade. Do you understand?"

"Yes." She hissed.

"Good. Now rest, and don't forget that there's a guard posted outside. I'm right next door."

It was more of a threat than a peace of mind. Once the steel door shut she could hear the lock switch into place. The sound echoed in her ears and it was just like her first night almost ten months ago. Full of fear and emptiness. 

Chapter Text

"Something's not right."

Deacon paced inside the Castle walls, looking towards the doorways every few seconds while a radstorm drenched everything in sight. The green mist of the clouds twisted in the darkness, casting everything in a gloomy shadow, ironically fitting the situation... 

It had been almost a day since Ella and 24 left for Pickman's Gallery and with no word from Jonathan, everyone grew more and more worried by the minute. 

"He's right." Mercy spoke from her chair. "They should've been back hours ago."

"Maybe they got held up in the storm." Baby suggested, seemingly nonchalant given the circumstances. 

"No. Charmer knows the Commonwealth better than anyone. She would have been back if things were alright."

"She said it was a murder house, right? Maybe they stayed to clean before setting things up." 

Desdemona scoffed from the corner while she exhaled a drag of smoke. "Charmer can barely lift a minigun let alone dead bodies. Deacon is right...something must've happened."

"Okay. Fine...maybe something happened." Baby rolled her eyes. "But what are we supposed to do about it...rescue them? They were our heavies, nobody else here has their combat experience."

"She's got a point." Mercy hummed. "Anything that would cause them trouble would certainly overwhelm us." 

"Well, we have to do something!" Deacon shouted. 

"We have to think it through first." Dez stomped out her cigarette. "Right now we have to wait, it's only been 18 hours."

"You want us to wait an entire day? That's stupid and you know it! We need to move now, Charmer can't afford to be out there on her own!" 

"Yeah, we gotta save baby Railroad!" Tom agreed.

Baby stood up with an grimace. "In case you haven't noticed it's pouring rain outside. What's the point in going there when they might just be hanging out? What if we're just blowing this all out of proportion?" 

"No. Something's wrong, I know it."

"You're overreacting, Deacon, you can't act out of emotions."

He stood up with a harsh glare. "I can act however the hell I want when it's my kid that's involved!" 

"Oh, please!" Baby snorted. "That kid is more yours than I am a mutant!" 

"Baby." Dez hissed.

"What, are we all going to just pretend like it's actually his? I mean she escapes 'slavery'  and two weeks later she's pregnant by Deacon?" She laughed. "I mean, I'm sorry but you can't just knock someone up that fast." 

"That's enough!" Desdemona shouted. "You are out of line." 

"But-"

"Stop. It's my call to make and Deacon is right. If we want to help them then we need to move now."

Tom raised his hand. "When you say we do you mean...all...of us?" 

"Yes. We split up three ways and meet at the location where they marked. Mercy and Baby, Tom and Deacon, then I'll leave after. Am I understood?" Her eyes went straight to Baby. "Go now."

"What about the rain?" She persisted with being problematic. 

"Bring a hat. You're dismissed." 

The two women stood up and filed out, Tom following close behind. Deacon stayed behind with a worried frown, his foot anxiously tapping while Desdemona placed a tender hand on his shoulder. 

"I'm sorry...I should have listened to you before."

He let out a light scoff, shaking his head in the process. "I fucking knew she shouldn't have gone out there. I never should have let you guys talk me into letting her leave." 

"We're going to find her, Deacon. I promise."

He stood up, grabbing a long coat near the door. "Promises mean nothing, Dez, you and I know that better than anyone." 

Chapter Text

The night was long to say the least.

Half of it Ella spent pacing around the room, jumping at every slight noise that echoed within the steel walls. It didn't matter how many guards were posted outside or how many locks were keeping her inside...she didn't feel safe. Not when Arthur was so close, only separated by a few inches of metal.

During the night she swore she could hear him breathing that low, steady pace that he often did. It made her sick...she thought she would never have to hear that stupid noise again. After hours of simply pacing in circles, she resorted to crouching down in a corner for comfort; knowing that nothing could scare her from behind. 

Without a clock or any windows it was impossible to tell how much time had passed. It felt like she sat in that corner forever, staring at the door like it had a mind of its own. When the lock finally clicked the next morning all Ella could do was hold her breath, waiting for something terrible to walk through the door. She stood up and braced herself against the wall, heart pounding against her rib cage. 

The door swung open moderately fast, revealing who had pushed it open. "What are you doing here?" The enmity in Charmer's tone was clear.

Danse stood in the doorway staring back at her with big, brown eyes. Amazing how he could look so innocent and pure when he was responsible for killing countless synths and Railroad agents...including Jonathan. 

"This is my room, you know." He spoke with a frown. 

"Well, get out. I don't want you here." 

He walked inside, almost just to spite her. He walked over to a drawer and began digging around for his belongings, oblivious to the fact that Charmer was glaring at him with a sharp sneer. As he picked out a new uniform and a few toiletries, he turned to face her with a sigh.  

"Ella-"

"No." She said firmly. "Don't you dare talk to me like we're okay. We are not okay, Danse!" Her voice quivered. "...you killed my friend."

He swallowed before looking away, clearly ashamed in what he had done. "I'm sorry...I-I didn't have a choice." 

That struck a chord with her. 

"Oh, don't give me that bullshit," she scoffed "he was 1/3 your size...the least you can fucking do is not make piss poor excuses and own up to the fact that you murdered an innocent boy." 

"Murder? He was going to kill Elder Maxson, I had to do something." 

"You could've overpowered him or shot his leg but no...you decided to shoot him when his back was turned. That's fucking ignoble and you know it!"  

"He would have killed you too, Ella! What was I supposed to do?!"

"Let me die!" She screamed. The sound bounced off the walls while she paced back and forth, feeling woozy from the rush of adrenaline and lack of sleep. "I thought you were different, Danse, I thought we were, I don't know, friends? I mean, you were the one who helped me escape in the first place. I fucking respected you for that, I loved you for that, I thought I owed you my life...but it turns out I was all wrong. You're just like the rest of them." She cried out the last part. 

He reached out and touched her arm, only to have it yanked away at the last second.

"Don't fucking touch me!"

"Ella...please just listen-"

"Save it." She scoffed. "You're dead to me, Danse. You are not the man who I thought you were."

It was obvious that he was hurt. His face said it all. Still, he looked back at Ella and nodded softly. "Fine...but I still have a job to do. I'm supposed to escort you to Cade's office for a medical exam."

"I can escort myself." She pushed past him.

He listened as her footsteps faded into the hallway, blending in with the other soldiers. A long sigh left him as he laid back onto his bed with a thud, guilt taking over him. 

 

Chapter Text

"He's dead." Mercy stood up from Jonathan's body. "Judging by the color of his face and the stiffness of his joints; I'd estimate time of death to be around yesterday afternoon." 

"God damn it." Dez paced around the empty cave. "I should never have sent him out here...he was far too young for any field work." 

"It isn't your fault, he was just doing his job." Baby said. 

"And that warrants his death?"

She remained silent. 

"We need to spread out...Charmer and 24 could still be alive. And if they are, they could be in danger." Dez frowned before glancing at Deacon. He had yet to say a word since arriving in the gallery. "Their footprints led us here so search for anything: hair, blood, ammunition." 

While the other agents fanned out, she walked over to where Deacon stood, placing a tender hand on his shoulder only for it to be shrugged off. 

"You blame me...don't you?" She mumbled. 

"Would you like me to lie, Dez? Say that it isn't your fault?" He scoffed. "I told you...I told her. This whole idea was insane and nobody stopped for a moment to think 'Hey-maybe Deacon has a point...maybe we shouldn't send out a pregnant woman and a teenager to a fucking raider den with a man who has little to no field experience.' ."

"You're right. I failed to look at the big picture and I overestimated 24's ability to keep them both safe. I was just so wrapped up in getting back on our feet and not having to rely on the Minutemen that I didn't think about the risks. I'm sorry." 

"Yeah, well, sorry isn't going to help Charmer...or Jonathan." 

Tom hollered from the corner of the room, one hand pinching at his nose. "Hey! I got something!" 

Deacon ran before he could finish his sentence, stopping short of tripping over a rotting corpse dressed in khaki. 

"Holy shit." His breath left him as he bent down to grab what Tom was pointing at. "This is her favorite gun...she'd never go anywhere without it."   

"Then where is she?" Mercy asked. 

"I don't know but it's good, right? I mean, she was here at some point before dropping it." Tom spoke. 

"I don't think she dropped it." Deacon stood up clutching the weapon with care. "It looks like she...threw it. Why else would be beside a dead body?" 

Baby let out a scoff from where she stood. "Can we play devil's advocate for like ten minutes? How do we know Charmer didn't kill Jonathan?" 

"No," Dez interjected. "She adored him." 

"Fine, what if 24 did it? Then maybe he took care of Charmer because she saw him do it." 

"But then he would've killed her here too, otherwise why would he risk leaving with her alive?" Tom emphasized. "And that still don't explain why Charmer left her gun behind." 

"Why are you poking holes in my theories?" 

"Man, I'm being the devil's advocate to your devil's advocate!" 

"Enough!" Dez shouted. "We're running out of time! We need to work together instead of arguing about the possibilities!" 

"Hold on...I see something over there!" Mercy called out, pointing towards the dark corner of the cave. 

They all whipped around to see something shiny glimmering in the darkness like a diamond. Everyone scrambled to run over, stopping with intense anticipation when the doctor picked it up from the dirt. 

"It's a key." She announced. 

Baby rolled her eyes. "And we care because...?" 

"It's not a regular one...it's a handcuff key. Look on the back." She handed it to Deacon.

His fingers trembled as he took the silver top, examining it closely before feeling his heart sink all the way to his feet.

"No." He whispered in defeat. 

"What?... What is it?!" Dez shouted.

"It's the Brotherhood insignia." Mercy answered. "They've got her." 

"You're joking, right?" Tom hoped. 

"Does it look like she's laughing?" Baby glared at him. 

"No." 

"Wait...this-this can't be happening." Dez looked at the key. "No, we just got her back! Goddamn it!" 

Deacon suddenly combust and began punching the rocky wall, shouting curses and grunts until his knuckles split open. "How?! How did they find her?" His voice cracked. "It's not possible...nobody knew that she was coming here, nobody except-" 

There was silence in the room. Desdemona dared to finish his statement. "...us." 

"Someone here told them where to find her...holy fuck." He finished before glancing at everyone. "This was all a huge plan to get her back to them, wasn't it? Jesus, I can't fucking trust anybody in this room right now!" 

"Yes, you can...we're you're family." Dez tried to comfort him. 

"No! One of you sold out an innocent child to the worst possible person in the fucking Commonwealth! And for what...money? Power? Just for the hell of it?!" 

"You have to stay calm!" Desdemona put her hands up in surrender. "Otherwise, you'll do something you'll regret."

"I don't care." He spoke in a disbelieving laugh. "Someone here personally handed her over to the Brotherhood and I want to know who the fuck did it!" 

Tom folded his arms before speaking up. "Maybe it was Jonathan...I mean, we didn't know the kid that well and maybe Charmer killed him as revenge. Ain't too crazy, right?" 

"It could've been 24 as well," Mercy added "...it would explain why he isn't here now. Maybe they took him as well to reward him."   

Dez cut in. "No matter who it was we can't stay here and debate it anymore. If the Brotherhood knows we're here then we may be targets as well." 

"What do you want us to do? If we split up then whoever the spy is has a chance to get away!" Tom exclaimed.

"He's right, maybe we should all move as one." Mercy suggested.

"That'll draw attention. We still have the Institute to worry about."

"Fuck the Institute! We have worse problems to deal with!" Deacon shouted once more.

"Alright!" Dez matched his tone. "We'll move in groups and meet at the Memory Den. Then we can sort this all out." She took a deep breath. "Deacon, take the front entrance out. Then Tom and Mercy will leave out the escape ladder. I'll stick with Baby and file out after you leave."

"But-" Deacon began.

"We don't have time to argue! Now, move out!"

As the other agents slowly left the gallery, Desdemona paced around the cave until she and Baby were alone. 

"I'm sorry but I have to ask because I know you've crossed paths with the Brotherhood before...did you have something to do with this?" 

"How could you ask me that?" She scoffed. "I told you, I cut ties with them a long time ago."

"All ties? Even to that boy you were involved with?" 

"Yes!" She rebuked. "I had nothing to do with this, I swear!" 

"I really hope you aren't lying to me, Ashley, because I can't protect you if I don't know the truth."

"I'm not lying! I didn't even know that Charmer was missing until Deacon told me! Do you really think I'm capable of doing that to her and the baby?" She asked.

Dez stopped pacing and locked eyes with her. "No. I don't..."

"Good." She exhaled in relief. "It means a lot that you can trust me."

"Of course...now, we should go. If we hang back too long it'll look suspicious."

Baby nodded and walked up the cave path behind Desdemona, arms nervously crossed. "Thank you, Mom."

Chapter Text

 

"I have a surprise for you." 

Ella shuddered at hearing Arthur's voice from somewhere behind her. After spending the last hour enjoying some free time around the lower level of the ship, she had nearly forgotten that she was trapped on a ship. She was so deep into her book that she stole from Quinlan that the misery around her melted away into a fictional paradise, one where she could escape. But of course, only Maxson had the power to take that little freedom away from her too. 

"I don't want anything." 

He smiled as he walked into her field of vision. "Trust me, you'll want this one." 

She hesitantly looked up to meet his eyes, wincing slightly at the memories of him staring into her while she was pinned down. She could still vividly remember the way his pupils would widen every time she screamed; how the darkness of them swallowed the pale blue of his irises. Her stomach threatened to spill itself all over the floor if she didn't look away.

Arthur didn't seem to mind-or care- when she forced her eyes away from him. In fact, she suspected a dark part of him enjoyed seeing that fear in her was still there. 

"Tell me, Ella, are you feeling lonely?" He asked. "I could only imagine that you would be being that Doctor Li is no longer here. And I'm sure that given your current state, a friend would be very valuable." 

She shrugged indifferently. "I guess."

"Good. Then you'll be very pleased to hear that I've acquired a friend for you this time around. One that will keep you company whenever you'd like and someone that will help you adjust to your new role as a mother. Would you like to see them?" 

"...Okay?" 

He gestured to the door with one hand as it opened slowly, almost as if to tease her. She tried to prepare herself for what was going to walk through the door; a pet molerat, maybe a scribe that Arthur had no use for...but when the familiar figure of a man entered the room she almost dropped to the floor in relief. 

"24...!" She gasped. "Oh my god!"

He looked rough. His eye was violet and swollen shut and his upper lip had been sliced open and scabbed over. Not to mention the trademark handcuffs that the Brotherhood was known for. When he spotted her there was a look of thankfulness that danced across his features. "Jesus, Charmer, you're okay!" He chuckled. "Fuck, I didn't know if you were dead or alive!" 

The guard who followed him in gave him a sharp jab with their gun. She was tall and built with muscle and had greyish-brown hair scraped back into a military-style bun that aged her even more. 

"Watch your mouth, civilian!" She hissed at 24. "You're in the presence of Elder Maxson, show some respect." 

"Ain't got any to give, I'm afraid."

Arthur chuckled. "There's that famous Railroad humility I'm so used to. Well, what do you think Ella? Does this please you?" 

She glanced between the two men for a moment before feeling the joy inside of her fizzle out. "No..." she swallowed "-you should let him go." 

Everyone in the room exchanged glances, even 24 and the guard. 

"Let him go? I have to say, I'm a bit surprised at your response. I was under the impression that you'd like companionship." 

"You want to make me happy right?" 

"Of course."

"Then let him go...he has nothing to do with us, Arthur. He's innocent." 

"Nobody is innocent." He deadpanned. "Not even you." 

At that moment the guard handed him a circular device from her waistband, it was large and clunky...and somehow familiar to Ella. She could've sworn she had seen something like it when she helped Deacon save rouge synths from raiders. Suddenly, it dawned on her. 

"Is that a slave collar? Y-you can't do that!" She stammered. 

"Relax, Ella. I would never put your friend here in any real danger. No, this particular device isn't a slave collar...not anymore." He extended it for her perusal. "It's been repurposed into a shock collar by one of my proctors. Perfectly harmless, I assure you." 

Her fingers traced over the metal, cringing slightly at the harsh edges that were meant to be pressed against the sensitive skin of the wearer's neck. "Why?" She almost whimpered. 

Arthur took the collar back from her. "Like I said yesterday, I will not be punishing you anymore. Not just because you're pregnant but because I want to show you that I'm a changed man. That being said, you still need to be given punishments should you misbehave." 

Ella glared up at him, realizing his angle. "So, he's going to be punished on my behalf? That isn't fair, you know how much I care about my friends!" 

"Which is why it's the perfect incentive for you to follow orders." 

"You son of a-!"

He held up the device. "I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you, Ella. Just because the collar isn't on yet doesn't mean your friend here won't be punished." 

"Bitch." 24 finished for her. 

The guard slammed the front of her gun on the side of his face, forcing him to drop to his knees as a thin stream of blood ran down his cheek. Ella covered her mouth in shock and tried to rush to his aid only to be held back by Arthur's hand on her wrist.

"Don't make it worse, darling." 

"Let me see if he's okay, please!" 

"I'm fine." 24 choked out. "Don't get your panties in a twist." 

Arthur glared down at him with disdain. Clearly, he didn't enjoy seeing her run to his side. "See? He's fine."

"He's bleeding!"

"He'll survive." 

Ella pulled her arm out of his grasp with a rough tug. "Can't you at least pretend to care?!"

The Elder sighed and looked at the wounded man with little pity. "Very well...I'll have Cade give him some stitches and pain medicine. Would that satisfy you?" 

She nodded slowly.

"I'll send for him as soon as possible." He promised. "But for now you should say good night. It's time for dinner and I'd like for you to join me." 

"I'm not hungry." 

"Yes you are, I heard your stomach growl a few minutes ago." 

Damn him and his stupid hearing. "Fine. Can we at least have some privacy?" 

"Of course." He nodded before looking toward the guard. "They can have one minute alone, after that, escort him back to the bay and have someone bring Ella to my quarters." 

"Yes, sir." The woman nodded before exiting the room with him in toe. 

Once the door shut, Ella ran to pull the older man into a warm embrace. "Jesus, are you alright? That guard is such a bitch! And who hit your eye...was it Danse?" 

"Slow down, kid." He chuckled slightly in pain. "I'm fine. And the black eye was partially my fault...I may have spoken some unsavory words to some of the staff when I got here." 

She couldn't help but laugh in relief. "I can't believe you're actually here...I thought they killed you too." 

24 paused. "Too?" 

"Holy shit...you don't know." 

"Know what? Tell me." 

"Jonathan. He's dead." 

His shoulders visibly deflated. "Damn it. Damn it!" He cursed. "This is my fault, I never should've left him behind! Christ's sake...he was a kid. I mean, I knew the Brotherhood was bad but...I didn't think they were capable of that." 

"You made the same mistake I did; you underestimated them." 

"Charmer, we gotta get the hell outta here." 

"I know. I'm sorry you got wrapped up in this...it should've just been me." 

"Why? What do they want with you?...I mean, I'm missing something, right? It doesn't make sense that they would go so far to capture one person." 

Ella sighed. "It's complicated. I wish I could explain but I don't even know how..." 

"Look, we only got a few seconds, right? Let's just be glad we're alive and sort out our shit later." 

"You're right. We should just leave and not give them any reason to punish you...here, let me help you up." 

"I'm fine." He winced while standing. "Just keep yourself safe, alright? And hey-I don't mind getting shocked here and there if you wanna mouth off a little." He smiled. 

She didn't share in his humor. "I'm so sorry, 24." 

He dismissed her with a wave. "Nah, it's not a big deal. I've been through worse." 

"Oh, that reminds me. About your past...you can't let them know." 

"About the Institute? I don't care who knows, not like I'm ashamed or nothing." 

"24...listen to me. If they find out they will kill you. And I need you alive if we're ever going to escape. Do you understand?" 

The door was pushed open and the female guard walked back in, face stern and tight. "Your time is up. I'd suggest you see yourself to Elder Maxson's quarters before I strap on your friend's collar." 

Ella squeezed 24's arm and walked out of the room, thankful that she had at least one ally. 

*

When Arthur opened the door to his room, Ella was taken aback at how anxious he seemed. 

"-I wasn't exactly sure if you had any aversions to anything so I had a few different meals brought up." He gestured to the table. "There's some steak, a vegetable stew, and I even had my best cook prepare a prewar dish called pot pie."

Ella looked over the table and instantly felt her mouth water. How long had it been since she had a proper meal? And not something from a can that was warmed over a fire but an actual hot meal? Her stomach began to growl softly as the aroma hit her, the sound unmistakable to Arthur's ears. 

"Anything in particular you'd like to try?" He asked with a smile. 

"Um...all of it?" She glanced up at him. 

He couldn't help the chuckle that slipped from his mouth. It was almost adorable to see her so enthralled by food. Sometimes he forgot what a luxury it was compared to the nothingness one would find in the Commonwealth. The thought of her eating scraps of expired filth for so long left a pit in his stomach, he should've made sure she was eating enough out there at least for the baby's sake. 

Ella gasped softly. "Is that...fresh-squeezed juice?" 

"Yes. From mutfruit, why?" 

She answered his question by picking up the glass to chug it. Afterward, she picked up a cob of grilled corn and downed it within two minutes. Arthur smiled and took a seat at the table, watching with interest as she tried just about everything he had laid out for her. 

"Aren't you going to eat?" She asked with a mouthful of soup. 

"I think I'm happy just watching you." 

She handed him a plate of fried deathclaw. "Eat something. Or else I'll feel fat." 

He took a bite to satisfy her but stuck to sipping on water while watching her sigh in delight at the taste of Scribe Neriah's fresh carrot mash. It was the first time since he had met her that she didn't look angry or scared, just calm. It almost made him think that one day she would always be like this, that maybe they could share a meal without harsh words or evil glares. It almost seemed possible now. 

. . .

"Did you get enough to eat?" He asked an hour later. 

Ella nodded lazily. "Maybe too much...but it was worth it." 

"I trust you'll sleep well then. May I walk you to Danse's quarters?" 

She nodded, standing up to allow him to open the door for her. Arthur walked a pace behind, admiring how she slightly waddled in front of him. Was it the size of her growing stomach or perhaps the amount of food she ate? Regardless, it put a smile on his face.

They stopped outside the shut door, Ella turning around to pause. A part of him wondered if there would be a goodnight kiss, surely he wouldn't be that lucky...no, he was perfectly satisfied just being near her. At least, that's what he told himself. 

"Thank you...for the dinner, I mean. That was nice of you." 

"Of course. I'm happy to see you happy." 

"I wouldn't say that I'm happy...just content for the time being." 

"Well then, I suppose I'm happy to see you content." 

Perhaps it was a show of civility or maybe just a way of saying thank you, but Ella placed a small hand on his shoulder. 

He leaned in closer out of instinct, slowly reaching his hand up to graze her cheekbone. A large part of him needed more contact, especially after spending the last four months without her...but he knew better. He wanted to know better. And so, he tested her boundaries. 

She recoiled slightly, unsurprising.

"It's getting late; I should probably get some sleep." 

"Of course...I imagine you're quite tired."

She nodded. "Goodnight, Arthur." 

He could feel her begin to slip away but the desperate man inside of him couldn't let her go so easily. "You could stay with me, you know. It's no trouble." 

"It is, though...for me." She glanced away. "I'm just not willing to share a bed with you...not now, not ever." 

His thumb rubbed over her bottom lip, catching a warm exhale in the process. "I have a feeling you'll change your mind." 

"I won't, I can promise you that." 

Their eyes locked and he couldn't help but feel lost in the sea of brown that captured him so easily. "You have no idea how badly I want to kiss you right now." He admitted. "I'm going to win you back eventually." 

Her left brow raised slightly. "Win me back? I was never yours to begin with."

"I will make you love me, Ella, one way or another." He promised. 

"You're wrong." 

He grazed her cheek again with a smirk. "Do you realize everytime you say that it just makes me want you more?"

"That's because you're an egomaniac." 

"You're as frustrating as you are beautiful."

She finally pulled herself from his grasp, opening the door to Danse's room and retreating inside. With one hand resting on the metal frame, she looked up at him with wary eyes. "If you ever want me to begin to like you then you can start by giving me my freedom."

The door shut quickly, both figuratively and in reality. 

Chapter Text

24 laid back on the metal bench where he was being held, looking through the cracks of the steel cage with emptiness. 

He wasn't sure how many hours had passed since seeing Charmer...he guessed about ten. Time seemed a lot slower in solitude with his only company being the female guard who kept her eyes straight. Thus far he had been keeping himself occupied with old memories of the Institute, of the life he used to live. 

In truth, he enjoyed his job there. There was nothing more satisfying than reclaiming runaway synths and exterminating threats to the SRB. Maybe it was his programming or maybe he was just that sick, but he was completely fulfilled in his role. 

At least he was until he met K4-44...

It was a typical case, a runaway who had been tracked down in a settlement outside of Diamond City. His job was to reclaim her for a memory wipe and kill anyone who stood in the way; something he did daily. However, when he got to the location he was surprised to see just how much K4-44 had accomplished in her time away. 

She had completely revived the tiny community where she hid. There were medical buildings, a school, even a small security team that carried heavily modded weapons. Dozens of citizens from all backgrounds lived there happily without a care in the world. Kids played in the streets, farmers worked with smiles, even the Brahmin moo'd with cheer. Given a few years, the town could grow enough to threaten Diamond City and take its place as the trading hub of the Commonwealth. 

But then he showed up and ruined everything for them. 

The moment he was spotted in his courser uniform, people began running and screaming. He remained stone-faced as he took out both guards with a single bullet each, walking over their bodies in search of his target. 

K4-44, who had called herself Beth, had offered herself up so long as the town stayed safe. 24 was perfectly fine with that alternative, in fact, he thought that it would be a good idea for the Institute to have control over the growing area but the settlers refused to let their leader sacrifice herself. In the end, K4-44 was reclaimed and 36 lives were lost...the youngest being a three year old boy. 

After that, he couldn't help but question the point of his mission. The rouge synth had been reclaimed, but at what cost? Why was retrieving her worth more than those settlers' lives? And why did Father insist that anybody who fought back be executed? The only answer was that the Institute, his home, didn't care. All they wanted was their technology, nothing else mattered. 

Including him. 

He escaped the next morning, traveling all the way to the ruins of Pennsylvania to find a surgeon skilled enough to remove his courser chip. From there he took on mercenary work, traveling from state to state until coming back to the Commonwealth only to discover that a war was coming. The Brotherhood of Steel versus the Insitute...neither were good options. And although everyone knew that the Railroad was destroyed; he had heard a rumor about a few survivors, slowly trying to rebuild. 

That's when he enlisted...and now, only a few weeks later, he was once again a prisoner. 

He craned his neck to watch the guard standing lifelessly outside his door, her hands held tight to a laser rifle. In a lot of ways, she reminded him of K4-44...she seemed to take pride in her work, no matter how insignificant it was. He thought that was admirable...until remembering that only a few hours ago she had punched him in the nose. 

"You got a nice right hook." He spoke aloud.

She flinched slightly at his sudden voice but kept her eyes forward. 

"Kinda surprised you didn't break your thumb. You tucked it in when he hit me. Rookie mistake." 

"Quiet." She finally spoke. "Just because you're Elder Maxson's guest does not mean that you have the freedom to mouth off to staff." 

"I'm his guest, huh?" He looked around the cell pointedly. "Tell him he needs to work on his hospitality." 

"You think you're funny, don't you?" 

"Sometimes."

"Well you aren't, so shut your mouth." 

24 smirked and sat up taller. If there was anything he learned from Deacon it was that if you annoy someone enough then they'll talk. "Nah." He said. 

The guard turned around fully with an angry stare. "Excuse me?" 

"If you want me to shut up then you gotta answer some questions for me." 

"Or I could just leave you in here to rot alone." She turned back around. 

"But you won't...if you really didn't like me then you would've left hours ago." 

"Elder Maxson asked me to keep a close eye on you and I intend to do so...don't mistake my presence for anything more, wastelander." 

He snorted. "That 'sposed to be an insult? Wastelander. Look around, sweetheart, it's a fucking wasteland." 

"Don't call me sweetheart." 

"Don't worry...I'm using it ironically. You're far from sweet." 

She scoffed and whirled around on her heel, finally showing some fire. "What? You think because I'm a woman that I can't handle watching over a big man like you?"

"Did I ever say that?" 24 countered. "I know more than anyone that women are the deadliest of us all." 

Her grip loosened on her gun and she looked away again, seemingly less angry with his answer. 

24 took the opportunity to dig. "Look I just want some answers, yeah? And if I get em, I'll be quiet. Sound like a fair deal?" 

"No." 

"Great." He proceeded. "Tell me what you Brotherhood pricks want with Charmer and me." 

"I don't know who you're talking about." 

"Yeah, you do." 

She exhaled. "Ella Scott is Elder Maxson's bride-to-be...that's all I know." 

"Bride?" 24 laughed. "She's got a boyfriend, and she's pregnant too. Is Maxson into some kinky shit I don't know about?" 

"We've gotten reports of her having a relationship but that is irrelevant to us...and that child she is carrying just so happens to be the heir to the Maxson name so I would watch your tongue."

24 stood up, moving to the bars as if he didn't hear her right. "Wait a minute, you're telling me that baby she's carrying belongs to that asshole? This whole time? Jesus Christ."

A slight smirk crossed her features. "You're cute when you're mad...it makes that accent thicker. Tell me, when was it that the Institute created you?" 

"Excuse me?" 

She turned to face him, their noses separated by a few inches of space. "You think I'm stupid? The only people who speak with a pre-war Bostonian accent are either ghouls or synths. Plus, you're in the Railroad. That means you're either stupid or a synth...no sane person would join that dying cause." 

24 huffed out a defeated laugh. "So, you gonna kill me now or what?" 

"No. Not yet, at least." The guard chimed before facing away again.

"And why is that?" 

"Because I lied earlier...I think you are funny." 

 

Chapter Text

"...so, that's when Deacon rescued you?"

"Yeah. Right after the Institute attacked something they call Liberty Prime." 

24 tried to wrap his mind over all the details in Charmer's story, tried to place himself in her mindset during her imprisonment. It almost seemed unreal that she actually made it out alive...and it seemed even more impossible that she was now back under Maxson's thumb. 

He glanced down at the rounded curve of her stomach. "And that's not Deacon's kid." He stated matter-of-factly. 

Ella shook her head. 

Now it all made sense as to why Deacon seemed so protective over Charmer...it wasn't because he was controlling, it was because he was scared. 

When 24 first met the strange man he could tell immediately that he didn't like him. He didn't really care; nobody likes him. The only reason he noticed was that Deacon was pretending to be on good terms with him. He could remember the first time they were face to face and he wore a fake grin and asked him questions about his past; all while spilling secrets to him that were probably untrue. 

Desdemona warned him that he was a pathological liar, but now that he knew the truth about Charmer, things seemed to click into place. 

Deacon didn't lie for shits and giggles- at least most of the time-...no, every lie he told was calculated; he did it for a specific reason. To gain sympathy, trust, to anger and manipulate. The man was an emotional genius, playing everyone around him to get the upper hand. It was suddenly clear why Dez kept him around this long. 

"He still hurting you?" 24 asked calmly. "Maxson, I mean...does he do shit behind closed doors?"

"No. He's been letting me stay in a different room at nights but I'm not sure how much longer that'll last." 

He huffed. "How noble." 

Like Deacon, Maxson was also an emotional genius. Every move was planned, every scenario thought out. Giving Charmer a room painted him as the bigger person, someone who wasn't angry that she escaped him. It made him look civil and rational; no matter how untrue that was behind the lies.

It suddenly became clear to him why the Institute hated him so much. It wasn't because he carried the Maxson name or because he was another Commonwealth nuisance; the reason was that he was a serious threat. In and out of battle, it seemed. 

"You got lucky." He sighed. "There's no way Dez is gonna pull off an escape plan like that again. The Brotherhood is prepared now." 

"Yeah. I know." 

"What are we supposed to do? Not like we can fight our way out."

Ella chuckled and scooted down in her chair, making her slump lazily to one side. "Honestly? I give up. Even if we did somehow escape alive, Arthur would never stop looking for me. It's pointless...this isn't going to end until one of us dies."

"So, you just wanna stay here? Forever?" 

"Does it really matter what I want? It's what I should do. If I escape again then I'm endangering innocent people by hiding among them. The Brotherhood would tear every inch of the Commonwealth apart looking for me and I wouldn't be surprised if they started killing to show how much power they have...it's fucking pointless, all of it." 

24 moved to sit on the ground, catching her eyes to see them looking lost and empty. He wasn't one for comforting; it just seemed insulting at this point to pretend like everything was alright.

They both knew better. They were in over their heads.

Best thing to do was to just accept that that's what she decided. As long as he kept himself alive he could protect her, watch over the baby when it was born. Hell, maybe Maxson would die a young death and save them some time. At the end of the day, it made sense...everyone would be safe and the Railroad would eventually move on without them. 

That reminded him of one other factor to consider.

"What about Deacon?"

Ella looked away. "He's better off without me."

"Well...that's some pure bullshit." 

"Excuse me?" She sat up taller. 

"You realize how fucking crazy that guy is about you, right? I mean, he wanted to take care of his enemy's child just so he could be with you. That's nuts." 

"You don't get it! All I do is bring him trouble. Because of me, the Railroad has been destroyed, the Institute is more powerful, and the Brotherhood is a larger threat. Trust me, 24, he's fine without me." 

"You're wrong." 

"Shut up!" She shouted. "I know him better than you!" 

"Nah, you're judgment is clouded with hormones." He laughed. "I know he needs you." 

She sank back down in her chair. "You're an idiot...he's probably long gone by now with a new name and face anyways. Not that I'd blame him." 

24 shook his head with a snort.

"What's so funny?" Ella glared.

"You." He grinned. "Thinking that he isn't gonna go to the ends of the Earth to try and get you back." 

Chapter Text

Deacon stood outside the door to Valentine's Detective Agency, taking in a deep breath to calm himself. 

Diamond City had always made him nervous, it was a constant revolving door of new faces and stories and knowing that the Institute could be there always made him feel more paranoid. If it were up to him, he'd never step foot in there unless absolutely necessary... 

With as much courage he could muster, he pushed open the door. "Nick, you old dog! How the hell are ya?" He smiled as he walked to his desk.

The synth looked up from the barrage of papers with a slight gleam in his robotic eyes. It was as if a gear turned in his head at the familiar voice.

"Ah...Deacon. It's been a while. You here on official business?"

Official...now, that's a riot. The Railroad could hardly take care of themselves let alone harbor escaped synths. 

"Something like that." He cleared his throat. "So...did you hear?" 

Nick sat back in his chair with clasped hands behind his metal head. Behind him was the young office secretary who always seemed eager for new cases, it was obvious that she carried a flame for the old synth and even more obvious that he had no idea. 

Pfft. Some detective...

"Ellie would you excuse us a moment?" 

"Sure. I'll be upstairs. Hollar if you need me." 

"Thanks, doll."

As soon as she was out of earshot Nick stood up, crossing the room and lighting up a cigarette. Deacon wondered for a moment if he was actually able to enjoy them or if it was just a part of his noir private-eye gimmick. 

A stream of smoke billowed from his mouth. "Hancock told me what happened. It's a damn shame...Ella deserves more." 

Deacon cringed slightly. "Actually, it's Charmer now. She stopped using that name after she killed Kellogg." 

"Right," he remembered, "...still, I wish there was something I could do to help the poor girl." 

"That's actually why I came here, Nick. I want to hire you."

"Hire me?" He chuckled brazenly. "She isn't missing, she's at the airport." 

"I don't want you to find her, I want you to find the person who sold her out to them."

The synth moved to dig the end of his cigarette into the nearby ashtray, glancing back at Deacon with curious eyes. "You think someone in the Railroad did it?"

"I know it, I just need help figuring out who." He sighed. "I have some caps saved up, it's not a lot but it could cover some basic expenses-"  

"Don't bother, pal. If you think someone betrayed Ella then that means they betrayed us too."

“So...does that you’ll do it?”

The synth smirked. “Yeah. Count me in.” 

. . . 

As they weaved through the back alleys of the city, Deacon chatted with Nick about mundane things like liquor and how magenta was more purple than pink. There was no way he'd be giving details about the job until they were far, far away from the Institute den that was Diamond City. As they passed the Dugout Inn, however, they both noticed someone stand up to follow them outside. 

It was a man dressed in black with sunglasses covering the majority of his face. 

He's wearing sunglasses?... That's my thing!

He followed them around the block, keeping a good distance as not to frighten them. It was something Deacon was familiar with...

As they passed Hardware town, they both decided to confront the stranger. Two against one was better than being stalked.

"You lost, buddy?" Deacon made it clear that they were aware of him. 

"No." The dark man spoke calmly. "Are you Deacon?" 

He froze before putting on a confused looking smile. "Sorry, wrong guy." 

"No. I am certain that it is you." 

Nick exchanged glances with him before clearing his throat. "Listen, pal, we're kinda in a hurry and-"

"...You must be Nick Valentine. The synth playing detective." 

Deacon moved fast to jam the barrel of his gun against the stranger's chin, pushing him against the building with a rough shove. "Who the hell are you?" 

His facial expression didn't change. "I am unit X6-88, formerly a courser with the Institute." 

"Give me one good reason not to end you right here." 

"I am no longer with them if that is what you're worried about." 

"Like I would believe a killer like you." 

"Why not? Have you never ended a life for your own goal? Have you never spilled blood in the name of the Railroad?" 

He knows about the Railroad...kill him now before it's too late! No...squeeze him for information, then kill him. 

"I am looking for Mother." 

"Look, I don't know who your mother is and I don't care. Tell me how you know us." 

"Mother is Father's mother and Father is dead, therefore, I must find Mother." 

"Jesus, is this thing broken?" Deacon whispered to Nick. 

"I am not malfunctioning." The courser spoke normally. "I simply would like to find Mother. Her name is Ella Scott and I have it on good authority that she is connected with the both of you." 

Deacon's blood felt like ice in his veins. "Listen, I don't know what the fuck you Institute bastards want with her but-" 

"The Institute does not want her, in fact, they don't even know she's alive." 

Nick put a hand on Deacon's shoulder. "Let him explain, if he still doesn't make sense we could always shoot him." 

He moved his hand off his pistol. "Talk. Fast." 

"Thank you." He spoke to Nick before smoothing out his clothes. "Around ten months ago, word that the Railroad had been attacked spread throughout the Institute. Father demanded a search team be dispatched to the location to find any sign his mother but nothing was found...he died shortly after. In his will, he left the Institute in the hands of Ella Elizabeth Scott and nobody else. Seeing as she was deceased, Dr. Justin Ayo took control and proceeded to smear Father's name and throw away decades of hard work simply because he could." He paused. "I left after a few days, coming here to Diamond City to seek a new life. That's when I, myself, went to the site of the Railroad attack and searched through the remains. None of them appeared to be from Mother. The only logical explanation was that she managed to escape the attack or that the Brotherhood had captured her and possibly executed her somewhere else. Given her extraordinary combat skills, I assumed the former." 

"I still don't understand," Nick said calmly. "What do you want from her?"

"In a word...purpose. It is what I could not get from Dr. Ayo and seeing as she is the rightful heir to the Institute, I feel that I must pledge my allegiance to her." 

"You think she's gonna take you under her wing? After all the shit you and your Institute fucks have done to us? You must be delusional." 

"I admit since his passing, I have felt somewhat distraught over Father's death. I was his closest ally; someone who he confided in daily, I feel it is my duty to him to look after his mother since he cannot do so." 

Nick and Deacon exchanged concerning glances. Trust was not easily earned, especially to a courser. 

"All I ask is that you take me to her so that I may ask for her companionship." 

"That's gonna be a little hard, buddy." Nick snorted lightly. 

A brow raised over his sunglasses. "Why is that?"

Chapter Text

Ella woke up early to treat herself to a hot bath. It was a gift in the Commonwealth to find even lukewarm water that wasn't toxic, so when a scribe came and told her that she could have access to their bathhouse Ella almost kissed the poor girl's feet. 

She didn't even mind that she was being watched by the stranger, not when the steam opened up her poors to get rid of a lifetime's worth of dirt. All she could do was savor how much it stung her skin to be submerged.

When she finally got back to her room she found Arthur lurking around, glancing at some of Danse's old books. Suddenly she was thankful to have gotten dressed in the bath house.

"Knock much?" She walked in with an eye roll, one hand towel drying her hair.

"I apologize. I came to bring you breakfast but you were already gone." 

"I took a bath." 

"I hope it was satisfactory, my proctors work hard to provide hot water." 

Her soul wanted to sing to the heavens about how glorious her bath was, but giving high praises to Arthur would only make him more smug than he already was. "It was fine." She walked past him. "Now, is there anything else you need? Because you're ruining my morning." 

"I just wanted to spend some time together. Is that so bad?" 

"Yes." She sat on the bed and pulled out a hairbrush.

Even with shorter hair, she still kept the routine of combing it through, mostly because she enjoyed how it felt of her scalp. 

"May I?" Arthur asked. 

She looked at him warily. "Why?" 

He smirked slightly before walking over to take the brush. Ella outwardly growled when she let him brush through the nothingness that was her hair. Still, it felt nice. If she closed her eyes tight enough she could pretend she was in her old salon getting her hair done for one of Nate's military events. She always hated them...just a bunch of pompous men trying to out-do the other, but she did enjoy getting dolled up for the occasion. 

"I like your hair like this...it suits you much better."  

"No talking." Ella replied lazily. "But thanks..."

She was in the middle of remembering the time Nate and his old army buddy got into a pissing contest over who had more headshots in their unit. Nate won, of course. He was always the perfect sharp-shooter. He could hit a tin can from half a mile away if he wanted to...

"Ow." She whispered quietly at the pain in her stomach. 

"Did I brush too hard?" Arthur stopped.

"No. It's just the baby...I think it's pressing on my bladder." She sighed. "Shit, I thought it was too early for that. How big is this kid? I'm telling you now that if I have to push out a nine pound watermelon, I'm taking you down with me." 

Arthur seemed suddenly quiet. When Ella opened her eyes to check on him, he was standing in front of her, eyes glued to her stomach. 

"Can I feel?" He asked hopeful. 

"I guess so...it's just a stomach."

She leaned back on her elbows to give him a larger surface to feel, also because she was slightly nervous about him being too close to her chest.

His hand was large against her stomach, almost taking up 1/3 of it, it reminded her of when Nate and Deacon would fawn over her stomach while telling the baby their worst dad jokes.

Thinking about it made her smile.

"What was that?" Arthur's hand snapped back suddenly. 

"A foot. Maybe a hand."

"Wow. So, there's really a baby in there?" 

"I hope so. Otherwise, I've just been getting fat." 

They both chuckled, which made Ella feel horrified. Was she really sharing a moment with the same man who kept her as a slave? Why did it feel so natural to laugh with him when moments ago she was ready to bite his head off?

"Do you think it's a boy?" He asked. 

"I'm not really a good judge. I thought Shaun was a girl up until he was born." 

"You never talk about him...your son." 

Remembering him made her heart constrict. "He's dead. That's all you really need to know." 

"I'm sorry. We don't have to talk about it if it troubles you." 

"It's not that. I just don't want to hear all the stuff, you know?" 

"Stuff?" 

"Yeah. The whole 'oh, I can't imagine how you're feeling', 'you must be so sad' speech...it's patronizing. All I want is to suffer in peace."

"I understand." Arthur sat beside her. "When Sarah died I was met with a lot of sympathy; somehow that just made me feel even worse. It was like I was a walking spectacle for people to take pity on." 

"Exactly, that's what I don't need right now. Besides, he's with my husband wherever heaven is...that's good, isn't it?" 

"Of course." 

After what was seemingly a moment of silence, Arthur moved to grab a bottle of lotion off the desk, lowering himself to rub her feet. Ella remained silent at the action, mostly because it felt too nice to kick him in the face.

"Jessica." 

"What?" 

"That was my mother's name...Jessica. I'm not saying that we should name our baby that but...I think it's nice." 

Ella smiled. "So, you think it's a girl?" 

"I want a girl...they bring so much laughter everywhere they go. Plus," he added "-I know how to do french braids." 

"Yeah, right." 

Arthur laughed. "I'm serious. Sarah taught me. That's how she liked hers done when she wore power armor." 

"Roxanne. That was my mom's name." 

"It's...nice." 

"No, it isn't." Ella grinned. "She hated it...everyone called her Rose." 

They shared another moment and snickering before Arthur cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly. "I wanted to ask you something." 

"Go ahead." 

"Well, it's just...you've been back a while and Danse would probably like his room back." He rubbed her heel harder with anxiety. "I was hoping you might want to spend the night with me." 

Ella thought for a moment. "Is that a demand?" 

"No. It's completely up to you." 

"Then yes...I'll stay with you." 

*

"Are you out of your damn mind?" 24 bordered choleric. "You're going to willingly sleep in the same bed with the man who forced you into having his child?"

"Relax!" Ella snapped. "I didn't tell you so that I could have my head bitten off." 

"This is a joke, right? Or some kinda pregnancy hormonal thing? Because there's no way you're being serious right now." 

"He's...different somehow. More pleasant. I don't know, maybe in our time apart he's changed." 

"You mean in four months? That ain't even long enough to build a computer." 

"He stopped drinking, alright! And he's calm and nicer than he used to be!" 

"Listen to you! You're making excuses for him! Are you kidding me? Do you like him now or something? Did you forget all the shit he's done to you?" 

"Of course not!" Ella huffed out a frustrated sigh. "But he's human, he deserves forgiveness, doesn't he? We all make mistakes." 

"Oh, I'm sorry, was it an accident that he captured you TWICE?" 

"No." 

"Was it just a tiny mistake when he chained you up to his bed? Or when he choked you and used you as his own private toy?" 

"You don't understand! I can't hate him anymore...it's too hard." Ella looked down in resignment. "I can't remember all the horrible things he's done when he looks at me the way he does, when he seems so excited to become a father." 

24 stood up with knitted brows. "Who are you? Just a few weeks ago you couldn't even glance toward the Prydwen and now you've suddenly forgiven him?" 

"I never said I've forgiven him...I'm just willing to move past it." 

"For what? The sake of your child? Please..." he scoffed "-men like Maxson don't deserve second chances. In my book, once a rapist dictator, always a rapist dictator." 

"Well, this isn't for you to decide! I'm the one who is pregnant, I'm the one who was tortured and beaten, and I am the one who gets to decide how I feel!" 

24 walked over to the stairs, gripping the handrail until his knuckles turned white. "You know, I'm really glad Deacon isn't here to see this...because it would kill him to know that you're on his side." 

"Where are you going?... We still have a whole hour together." 

"I can't spend another minute with you. Otherwise, I might say something I'll regret."

"24! Please...you can't just leave!"

He chuckled bitterly before walking up the steps to where he stayed. "Ya know, you were right about one thing...I don't understand." 

*

Ella felt her blood run cold as she laid beside Arthur in his bed; the same bed where she had been chained. Maybe 24 was right, maybe she had finally lost it. Because surely, nobody in their right mind would do something so reckless for no reason at all. 

"I'm not having sex with you." She declared. 

"I never asked you to." 

"Well, we both know that you have a history of taking what you want." 

Arthur looked her over with confusion. "Have I done something to upset you?" 

"Not yet." She whispered. "I'm still waiting for it." 

"I'm not going to hurt you, Ella. I thought we've already established that." 

"I'm not entirely convinced." 

He rolled over to get a better view of her. "How can I convince you?" 

"You can't." She moved away out of instinct. "You just...can't." 

"I've stopped drinking, isn't that a sign that I've changed?" 

"You aren't magically a better person just because you stopped drinking so much whiskey." She sat up. "Are you trying to say that the reason you raped me was because of alcohol? Because that's ignorant, even for you." 

She flinched slightly when he sat up, moving to regard her closely. "You think I raped you?" 

Ella actually laughed.

"I don't think that, I know it! What? You don't think you did? Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Our time together was...rough, I admit. I regret it now but I'm not a raider...I don't rape."

"Are you insane? You forced me to have sex with you, Arthur! That's rape!" She scoffed. "I can't believe this! You're actually trying to justify your actions!" 

"You were my servant, Ella, you belonged to me." He sighed. "I thought...I thought that's how it was supposed to be! I thought that you saying no was just for pride's sake!" 

She stood up in a huff, heading for the door before things turned worse. 24 was right...once an asshole, always an asshole. It was a mistake to ever think differently. She just prayed he would let her walk out without dragging her back for a taste of how he used to be.

Then a sudden thought jumped into her mind that stopped her feet from moving. Slowly, she turned around to stare down Arthur. 

"You said that's how you thought it was supposed to be?" 

Arthur sputtered for a moment, trying to make sense of why she was so angry. "What does that have to do with anything?" 

"Had you never been with anyone before me?"

He looked away. "That doesn't matter." 

"Yes, it does. Damn it, Arthur, I deserve the truth!...Did I take your virginity?" 

His silence was enough of an answer. 

"Really?...Not even Sarah?" Ella asked. 

"Of course not." He turned various shapes of pink and pale. "I was like a brother to her." 

She walked back to the bed against her better judgment. "Why did you never mention this before?" 

"I didn't think it was important." 

Ella dropped to sit beside him again. Suddenly, she wasn't so mad anymore. She was...sorry for him.

Arthur was raised differently from everyone else...he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he was told from a young age that he was going to be a great leader and that nobody could get in his way. People spoke to him as if he were royalty...they bent over backward just to please him. 

He was raised to believe that if he wanted something bad enough, he should just take it. And that's what he did to her...

"Why should I believe that you're any different now? Why I should ever forgive you for everything you've done to me?"

Arthur glanced at her briefly. "I can't answer that." 

"Try." 

That's when it happened...Arthur moved to kiss her. 

It wasn't overly aggressive, nor was it sexual in nature. It was like a peace-offering...careful yet still firm and full of different meanings.

He smelled so...familiar. Where she used to be nauseated by his touch, suddenly she had butterflies. The rational part of her knew that it was wrong, she knew that this could all be an act and in two seconds he would handcuff her to the bedpost. 

But that didn't stop her from kissing him back. 

When he finally pulled away, Ella was left too stunned to speak. Arthur seemed to have a similar reaction based off the color off his cheeks...

Without another word he laid back onto the bed, facing away from her. "Goodnight, Ella."

She remained frozen. What was she supposed to do now? 

She could slap him or retreat back to Danse's room in tears...but as her lips tingled still in the absence of Arthur, she simply rolled over and closed her eyes beside him. 

Chapter Text

"You're back early." 

24 glared at the guard who opened his cell, wishing he had something to shoot back at her. "I'm not in a talking mood." 

"Clearly." She locked him in. "What happened with your friend?" 

"Nothing." 

"Liar." 

He laid back on his metal bench with a groan, damn thing killed his back. The woman seemed to notice and turned to stare, her hands relaxing on her gun. "You in pain? I could probably find a pillow or something." 

"And why would you do that?" He asked, still adjusting to the steel. "Aren't you supposed to be torturing me?" 

"Have I so far?" 

"You punched me in the nose." 

"That's because you mouthed off to Elder Maxson. I can't protect you when you act so blatantly stupid." 

He turned his head to meet her gaze. "Why are you protecting me? Ain't I everything you hate?" 

"I don't hate synths, at least not as much as everyone else. Don't get me wrong, I think they're stupid for trying to escape the Institute. If I were there I would never leave." 

24 furrowed his brow. "Why?" 

"It's clean, safe, and has the best technology in the Commonwealth, maybe the world. Why would anyone ever leave?" 

"You act like you've been there." He huffed. "And you wouldn't wanna be there if you were a synth. Life is different for us there." 

"It's worse up here, don't you think?" 

"You know, you're asking a lot of personal questions...is this supposed to be a subtle interrogation? Cause you suck at it." 

"I'm getting to know you...is that so wrong?" 

"It is when I know nothing about you." He chided. "How do I know you're not trying to pump information from me?" 

"Fair enough." The woman reached her arm through the cell. "I'm Rebecca, I'm 38 and I'm allergic to dogs and mirelurk meat." 

24 stared at her gloved hand for a moment before shaking it, looking up to meet her green eyes. She seemed sincere, at least as far as the Brotherhood went, but the paranoid part of him (the one that used to be a courser) knew better than to fully trust her."So, Becca...why are you being so nice to me? You get brownie points for getting details of my life?" 

"Not at all. In fact, I think I might be reprimanded for even holding a conversation with you." 

"So, why are you doing it?" 

"Because you're back early and I want to know if your friend is giving you a hard time." 

He chuckled. "She's half my size and pregnant, what do you think she could possibly do to me? Throw up in my face?" 

"I just want to make sure you're okay, Jack." 

"You know that isn't my name, right?" 

"Yeah," she smirked, "...but you look like one." 

Chapter Text

Arthur walked into Ella's room with a smirk that said he was up to no good.

"What do you want?" She glared at him.

"I have a present for you." He hummed.

"I don't want anything." 

"You don't even know what it is." 

"I know I don't want it." 

"Not even if it's a letter?"

Damn her curiosity... "From who?" 

Arthur smiled and held up a blank piece of paper. "From you. To your friends."

Ella sat up fully and eyed the paper, already thinking of all the things she could write to them if she had the chance. Maybe she could tell them how Jonathan died, that 24 was still alive and very much still an asshole. She could even tell Deacon how much she missed him and that it wasn't his fault for what happened to her. 

"What do I have to do for it?"

"Nothing. It's a gift." Arthur assured her. 

"I don't believe you." 

"You have no reason to." He acknowledged. "I've shown multiple times that I cannot be trusted. However, this time is different. I promise."

"Why? You know I would do anything for that letter so why give it to me for free when you have everything to gain?"

Arthur sighed understandably and sat beside her. "I've been thinking about what you've said lately, about how you think of me as only your captor. I want to change that." He planed a hand on her shoulder. "I want you to see me as a better man and for that to happen, I need to give you some trust. Hence the letter..." he gestured to it.

Ella's eyes stared cautiously at the paper and pen. "So, there are no strings attached?"

"None whatsoever." He offered the supplies again. "I'll give you a couple moments to write, then I'll deliver it to Proctor Quinlan for his field team to deliver. Sound fair?" 

She didn't have much of a choice. It was either refuse the letter and get nothing or write it and maybe have a chance of getting it to Deacon. The pen felt foreign in her hands as she began to write, not even knowing what she was going to say until the ink began to drench the small spot on the paper.

Deacon,

I don't have a lot of time to write this but I'm sure by now you've realized where I am.

I'm sorry...it was stupid to go to Pickman's Gallery and now because of me Jonathan is dead. I wish I could explain everything that happened but I just can't...it's too painful. 

24 is here with me, I see him every few days and he seems to be doing fine. No injuries and still a lot of sarcasm.  Maxson has allowed me to write this but I'm not sure if he'll let me do it again. He isn't hurting me either...so don't worry. The baby and I are safe and I’m being taken care of, at least for now.

There are a million things I wish I could tell you but there's just no time. But I don't want this to be a goodbye letter, because I will never stop trying to get back to you. 

Give everyone my love and please stay safe.  I love you.

-Charmer

 

She licked the envelope and sealed it extra hard, making sure nobody could tamper with it. 

"Here," she walked it back to Arthur "I'm trusting you to get that into the right hands." 

"Of course. I'll hand this over to Proctor Quinlan right away. Hopefully, your friends will get it within the hour." 

As he turned to exit the room Ella felt a chill of guilt pass through her. "Wait!" She called out. Arthur stopped to face her only to have his breath knocked out of him by the force of her hugging him. His hand moved to stroke the back of her head, savoring how willingly she had just touched him. It, too, was foreign.

"Thank you." She muttered into him.

*

"I have the letter." Arthur greeted Quinlan with the sealed parchment. "She just wrote it."

"Ah, good! I was just about to send out a team. They could deliver it on the way to their destination." He held his hand out expectantly and Arthur gripped it tighter. "Are you sure about this, Proctor? Is this...ethical?"

"War is not ethical, Elder."

"I am not at war with the mother of my child."

"Surely...but you are at war with the Railroad." He snatched the letter from his hand, ripping it open quickly. "And there are many casualties in war."

His eyes scanned the writing for a moment before pulling out a new paper and quill. Arthur watched with mixed guilt as his proctor recreated the letter with new words.

"There." He announced. "Care to read it? Make sure it sounds just like her?"

"No." Arthur sighed. "Just send it...I'm sure it's fine."

"Very well. I'll have it delivered this afternoon. Thank you for your cooperation, Elder."

*

"Deacon, where the hell have you been?" Dez grabbed his arm like a scolding mother. "It's been a week since anyone has seen you! Jesus, I thought you went and got yourself killed!" 

He smirked smugly as Nick and X6 followed him up the horizon toward the Castle. He knew Dez would be mad, in fact, he was counting on it. If she seemed at all unhappy to see him, it meant that she was glad he left. At least now he could rule out that she wanted him dead...which was more than he could say about the other Railroad agents. Anybody who had ill-will towards Charmer also had it against him.

"I made a trip out to Diamond City, didn't think you'd mind."

"We find out Charmer has been captured and you just decide to take a vacation? Are you kidding me?"

"I was taking care of business." He offered up. "I even brought home some stray synths...now, I know you said no pets but hear me out-"

"Deacon." Dez chided.

"Oh, come on! They can sleep in my bed and everything-" he committed to his act "...I'll even toilet train them!"

"I'm already toilet trained," X6 spoke neutrally from behind them "-however, I have doubts about Mr. Valentine."

"Oh, shut up, will ya?" He scoffed and walked forward to greet Desdemona. "It's been a while, doll...I heard about Ella. I'm sorry."

"Charmer." Both Dez and Deacon corrected.

"Right...well, I'm here to help. Deacon has already briefed me on the situation."

"There is no situation, she isn't missing. I apologize that you came all this way but your services aren't needed."

"I didn't hire him to find her, Dez. I hired him to help with our little rat infestation." Deacon clarified.

Her eyes widened slightly. "You hired a detective to investigate the Railroad? How could you do such a thing?" She scoffed. "Not only does it leave us vulnerable and distracted but it shows that you don't trust us...not even me."

"Someone sold out Charmer to Maxson. That means that until I find out who it is, everyone is my enemy. I know that might seem a little crazy but I can't be too safe...not when the traitor can be anywhere. You understand, right?"

"No. I don't." She sighed in defeat. "Do what you have to do...just know that I don't approve. Of all the people you should trust in the world, it should be me. We've been in this for nearly a decade, you're family to me."

"I'll believe that when I get Charmer back." He voiced. "Now, I know this isn't a great time but since 24 has turned up missing, I've found us a new heavy." He looked back at X6.

"We aren't running any ops until we figure out what to do with the Brotherhood. A heavy isn't a priority right now."

"So, he'll just stand around and look pretty. Throw some sunglasses on him and he looks damn near menacing."

Dez let out another defeated growl. Somehow saying no to Deacon seemed impossible when she was so happy to see him alive. "Fine. Just make sure he stays out of the way...I have no time to do background checks so I'm holding you responsible for anything that happens."

"Fair enough." He looked at X6. "Congrats, you get to stand in the corner and watch everything. Thrilling, right?"

"Perhaps." He mused. "Am I to report suspicious people?"

"Sure."

"Very well, there is a man wearing a standard Brotherhood issue uniform walking towards us." He gestured with a nod.

Both Deacon and Dez whipped around to see a young man approaching with wide eyes. Before she could even stop him Deacon raced out and tackled the kid with his hands wringing around his scrawny neck. X6 made a noise of approval while Nick and Desdemona rushed to claw him off the scribe.

"Where is she? What did you do to her?!" He shouted while choking him.

"Deacon, stop! You're going to kill him!"

"So? He's Brotherhood! He deserves everything that's coming to him."

Nick forced Deacon's sunglasses to lock with his yellow iris'. "You know better, this kid is just following orders. At least hear him out before strangling him."

"Fine." He shoved the scribe deeper into the soft Earth. "Talk. Fast."

"I-I have a letter! Please don't hurt me...it's from her, take it, please! I just wanna get out of here!"

"A letter?" Deacon's voice fell desperate.

The kid reached into his front pocket and shakily handed him the crumpled letter. Deacon took it and rushed to a private spot while Nick and Desdemona stalked after him. X6 remained behind to stare lifelessly into the scribe until he backed away out of sight, then he followed.

They went on top of the castle walls, looking over the lake while Deacon looked at the letter with a tight frown.

"Aren't you gonna open it?" Nick asked.

"Yeah, I just need a minute." He breathed slowly. Anything could be inside the envelope...pictures of her being beaten, a letter notifying him of her death...nothing settled his mind. Nervously, he ripped open the aged paper and looked upon the words.

It was her handwriting...

Deacon,

I don't have a lot of time to write this but I'm sure by now you've realized where I am.

I'm sorry, I wish I could explain everything but I can't...  It was stupid of me to escape Elder Maxson. He takes care of me, keeps me safe. I know you don't understand that and I'm not asking you to. I am simply asking for you to stop trying to get me back. I'm happy here and nothing is going to change that for me.

I'm sorry, this isn't how I wanted to deliver this news but something had to be done...we're getting married in one week. I thought it best that I cut myself off from you before then...otherwise, it wouldn't be fair to Elder Maxson.

Please forgive me for not giving you more notice...I tried writing this a million times but nothing seemed right. I think the best way for me to end this is by saying goodbye...and once again, I'm sorry. Take care of yourself,  -Ella

 

Deacon's heart pounded in his throat. He must've reread the paper twenty times but still, it didn't seem real. It was like she wasn't even herself anymore...

“This isn’t real...it can’t be.” Desdemona read the letter before passing it to Nick.

“No...it’s her handwriting.” Deacon stared blankly at the ground.

“Maybe she’s brainwashed.”

"Or maybe she was forced to write it."

"No!" Deacon shouted. "I know her...she would've left a sign or a spelling mistake. Anything to let me know this isn't real!"

"Maybe she couldn't-"

"Stop it, alright! You saw it...you know what it means! It means she's choosing him. She's choosing the Brotherhood!"

"Deacon, calm down..." Dez soothed him.

"I need a walk." He spoke weakly as he left the grounds of the Castle.

Chapter Text

Deacon stumbled into the Third Rail like a man on a mission...literally.

It had been a month or so since his target had awoken from the vault. And he nearly missed it, barely there in time to see her crawl out of that hole.

For whatever reason, the Institute seemed interested in it, there were coursers that checked on the location a few times a year. When he peeked inside the first time to find a woman frozen inside, he chose to simply wait to see what would happen. Fast forward three years later and his moment finally came. 

She shot out like a bat outta hell, and he followed in hopes that she would lead him to the Institute. Instead, she went to Concord. Then to Cambridge. Over the next few weeks, she seemed to move a random...staying in Diamond City a few days, maybe going into some abandoned subway.

She seemed capable enough. She knew how to shoot, she could tie her shoes. What more could he ask for in a Railroad heavy? 

Honestly, in a perfect world he would've had more time to get to know her, maybe even befriend her under another alias for a couple more weeks until he could determine how trustworthy she was. However, due to the recent arrival of the Brotherhood of Steel he needed to make his move on her before they did. He didn't want to risk her falling in line with them...ugh, just the thought chilled him to the bone.

That's why he nearly tripped into the Third Rail; he was running out of time. It was time to introduce himself and pray that she was more than knots and shooting. 

He was told her nightly routine would leave her sitting alone at the bar, usually sipping some tonic water while Charlie idly chatted about the drunken rabble. From there she would pay and spend the night in the Rexford, usually with her friend Piper sharing the room.

Tonight was no different. He spotted her alone at a table, this time with a Nuka-Cola and a defeated look to her eyes. Not surprising since he knew she had just come from the Memory Den...nobody leaves there happy unless it was Hancock revisiting a night of passion. Something big must've happened because she had Nick by her side. And although he was able to sneak in the building, he could only pick up snippets of their conversation. 

He approached the table with a friendly smile, hoping his charisma was enough to impress.

"Hi there. Can I buy you a drink?"

For a brief moment, she looked up. Her eyes were lost in thought but still, she responded politely. "I'm not much of a drinker. Thanks, though."

Rejected. Maybe he should turn up the charm...

"How about dinner?" He persisted. "Nothing better than some brahmin stew after a long day."

"Already ate."

Huh.  She really wasn't interested, was she? That took a shot to his ego.

"Well, if I can't buy you a drink or dinner how 'bout I buy you the world?" It was his cheesiest line ever, one that never failed to make a girl chuckle.

"No, thanks. I've seen it and I don't want it."

Deacon cracked a smile and sat down across from her. Even following her around for a few weeks, he never got close enough to hear her voice. He liked it...

"What's not to like about the world? The dirt outside is the best kind you'll ever see."

"I've seen better."

"That's rich coming from a vaultie. Have you even seen dirt before?"  

She stopped sipping her drink to eye him suspiciously. "How did you know I was a vault dweller?"

"You mean besides the Pip-Boy?" He gestured to the travel-sized computer. "I'm psychic. I know everything."

"Yeah, right." She scoffed.

"What? You don't you believe me? I'm as honest as they come, really." He waited for a reply. "Alright, let's make it a game then. If I answer eight questions about you then you owe me 100 caps. If not, I'll owe you 200 caps."

"Sorry, no. I think I'd just rather sit in peace for tonight." 

"Hey, no hard feelings!" He smiled. "We'll just sit and listen to Mags for another few hours." 

"We?" She chuckled. "Look, I don't mean to be rude but I really just want to be alone. I've had a long day and I'm not really interested in talking to strangers." 

"Ah, jeez!" Deacon frowned. "I'm sorry, I thought I would just stay and chat but clearly, you're too busy. My bad, I'll leave you to your cola." He stood up to leave but stopped short and grabbed his head in pain, mumbling nonsense while his vaultie grew concerned. 

"Hey, are you alright?" She stood up. "Do you need a doctor or something?" 

"Wha-? No...no, it's okay. I just had a vision...wow, it was a BIG one." He shook his head. "Something about...water. No, wait-the sea! I had a vision of the sea...glowing with answers." 

His target froze, eyes wider than golf balls. "The Glowing Sea? Is-is that what you're talking about?" 

"I don't know." He faked confusion. "Why would I be thinking of that place? Oh, well...must be nothing. Have a nice night stranger." He turned to leave, smile peppering his face. 

"Wait!" She followed him upstairs. "Are you being serious right now? Did you really just have a vision?" 

"What possible reason would I have to lie, stranger?" 

"I don't know...money, to be an asshole?" 

"Madam, you offend me." He clutched non-existent pearls. "I am a very honest person." 

"Nobody is honest." She scoffed. "C'mon, just tell me if you're being truthful. I can't afford to waste any time. If you can help me I'd be willing to pay you." 

He turned to face her, ignoring how radiant her skin looked in the moonlight. He almost felt bad lying to her...she did take care of Kellogg after all.

"Tell you what...you give me honesty, and I'll give you some." 

"O...kay?" She raised a brow.

This wasn't how he planned their encounter to go...but at least he would get some answers.

"Tell me what you think of the Insitute." 

"What kind of question is that?" She scoffed. "They're evil." 

Good. Check passed.

"What about synths?" 

The vaultie raised a brow. "Why do you wanna know?" 

"Maybe I have a synth fetish. Just answer the question." 

"The gen-1s and 2s are pretty bad. The rest are fine in my book." 

Deacon breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn't a shitty human, thank god. "Alright, I think you've earned some answers." He smiled. "Ask away." 

Her arms crossed over her chest. "Did you really have a vision of the Glowing Sea?" 

"Maybe. Maybe not. Point is, I bet I can tell you how to get there." 

"I know how to get there. What I need to know is how to get through there." 

"Bullets, mostly. The radiation there is constant, but it isn't bad. I bet if you prepare yourself with rad-away and some blood packs you'll get through easy." 

She nodded thoughtfully. "Thanks for the tip. Here...for your fake vision." She fished in her pocket for caps. 

"Actually," he stopped her "-in lieu of payment, I think I'd like to ask a few more questions. Have you ever heard of the Railroad?" 

"I've heard rumors. That's all." 

"And?... What are our thoughts?" 

She chuckled at his wording. "They seem alright. I've been trying to find them, actually. Everyone keeps saying to follow the Freedom Trail but I can't quite get there right now. Why? You know them or something?" 

"Why would you assume that? I'm just a regular guy." 

"No, you're shady." 

He actually laughed. His dweller was honest, wasn't she? They would make a hell of a team if they paired up...

"You know, you seem alright, Vaultie." He smiled. "How about we take a little walk outside the gates? I got a few friends you might like to meet." 

"That sounds creepy and incredibly dangerous."

"Oh, it is. But you trust me, right?" 

"Nope...let's go." She began walking toward the gate and he followed with a smirk on his face.

"I'm Deacon, by the way...probably should've mentioned that. So, uh...I never asked. What's your name?"

"You're the psychic. You tell me." 

"Okay, okay, maybe I exaggerated a little about that..." 

She stopped walking and looked straight through his glasses, his chest tightened at how she seemed to know exactly where his pupils were. 

"I'm Ella." She extended a soft hand. 

"Pleased to meet you, Ella."

*

Deacon sat up at the sudden realization he had.

Quickly, he ran across the room and fumbled through his possessions trying to find the note that Ella had written him. He held the crumpled piece of paper close to his face, rereading it over again until he saw the last word written. 

"Nick!" He burst into the meeting room.

The old synth and Preston stopped talking, looking at the agent who was out of breath and holding a crumpled piece of paper.

"Something wrong?" Preston asked.

"Something always is." Valentine stood up.

"Look! Look at it!" He was winded from running across the grounds. 

"It's the note Ella wrote to you." 

"That's just it, don't you get it?" He pointed to the end of the letter. "She signed it with her real name, that isn't like her! After she killed Kellogg she changed it to Charmer...she didn't write this. There's no way!" 

Nick took the letter and looked over it with Preston breathing down his shoulder. "So, you think she was forced to write this?" He asked.

"I don't know but it means that every word in that letter is a lie! She doesn't love Maxson, she would never! And now we know!"

"Heh. Looks like you're a better detective than I am."

Chapter Text

"Hey, wake up!" Rebecca tapped her gun on the steel bars of 24's cage.

The vibration of the metal had his ears ringing but he still managed to look up and meet her wide-eyed stare. "Ain't you supposed to be off duty?" 

"Yeah, but I traded with someone else-" she shrugged "...you should be thanking me. The guy who was supposed to watch you is such an asshole."

"And you aren't?" 

She held up a box of things that she brought. "I have chess and food. Still an asshole?" 

"Depends...you got any chewing gum?"  

"I have cola. You prefer a certain flavor?" 

He shook his head and she passed him one through the bars, sitting on the floor to set up the chessboard on her side. Sitting across from her with a game felt oddly normal...like they were actually friends. 

"Cheers." He guzzled down the drink, internally humming at how it bubbled in his chest. "What's the occasion?" 

"Elder Maxson has finally made plans to attack the Institute." 

"Yeah, let's hear 'em." 

She laughed. "Like I would ever share the details with you. You're the enemy." 

"You always share drinks with the enemy?" He asked. 

"No. You just happen to be the most interesting thing on this ship."  

"I could say the same about you." He moved a chess piece. "Can I ask you something?" 

"Shure." She spoke through a mouthful of cake. 

"Why are you so interested in the Institute? I thought you guys were supposed to hate them." 

"We do. That doesn't mean they aren't interesting though...all that technology. It's incredible what they can do." 

"Heh. So, you respect what the Institute can do, you don't hate synths, and you're befriending a prisoner of the Brotherhood." He listed. "You might be in the wrong profession, Becca." 

"Rest assured, I'm where I belong." She smirked. "Check." 

24 moved his king one spot on the board. "I'm not too good at this game." 

"I can tell." She smiled. "You keep going after pawns. See, if you wanna win then you gotta go after the queen. She's the most powerful." 

"Yeah? Why not the king, ain't he the one in charge?" 

"Men are never in charge...there's always a woman pulling the strings behind him." 

He chuckled. "That ain't the case for Maxson. Charmer is stuck listening to every word he says." 

Rebecca shook her head with a snort. "Ella has more power than you think. If she really wanted to, she could have Elder Maxson under her thumb." 

"Not likely. She's a prisoner." 

"Oh please, she's practically a goddess...nobody on this ship would dare mess with her. She's pregnant and betrothed to the most powerful man in the wastes, she's hardly a prisoner." 

Her words made 24 pause. Arthur was unnaturally obsessed with the mother of his child, almost to the point of delusion. If he could convince Charmer to play the part, Maxson would do just about anything for her...even free them. 

He took another swig of cola and smirked at Becca. "You're smarter than you look, you know that?" 

"Believe me, I know." She leaned closer. "Checkmate." 

"You win." He kissed her through the bars. 

Chapter Text

Ella walked down the stairs to see 24 waiting on the bench where they always talked. It had been over a week since they had their fight and no matter how angry she still was with him, she couldn't deny that she needed his friendship now more than ever.

"Hi," she waved in surrender "-are you still mad at me?" 

"That depends. Are you still being a bitch?" 

"Not unless you're done being an asshole." 

"I am." 

"Good...then me too." She sat beside him. "I'm sorry for the fight. I know you were just trying to protect me." 

He nodded slightly. "It wasn't just that, Charmer, I wanted you to take what I had to say into consideration. We're still in this together, you know." 

"I know. And I'm sorry...I should start listening to you more. It's the least I can do since I've dragged you into my mess." 

They smiled slightly and caught up on what had been happening since they began ignoring each other. 24 told her about the guard and how she was a little odd, Ella told him about the baby and how it was growing. After a few minutes of joking and getting back into their normal schedule, 24 decided to steer the conversation back to Arthur. 

"So, I was thinking...maybe you getting closer to Maxson is a good thing. Maybe we can use it to our advantage." 

Ella raised a skeptical brow. "What are you talking about?" 

He looked around before leaning in and dropping his voice. "What if you played him a little?...I'm not telling you to do anything crazy but if you just play into his game, I bet you can convince him to do things for us." 

"Are you serious?" She scoffed. "First you wanted to stay away and now you want me to seduce him?" 

"Who said anything about seducing? I'm talking about flirting or even just being extra nice. Maybe it'll trick him into thinking your falling in love or something...it could come in handy for us." 

"24!" 

"Do you wanna get outta here or not?" 

"I do. Of course, I do!" 

"Then do something! Otherwise, we're gonna be stuck here forever." 

 She sighed and stared down at the floor, trying to 

 "I'm not promising anything, alright? But...maybe I can try something."

"That's all I'm asking." 

*

Ella paced around the room waiting for Arthur to return, muttering to herself and questioning her sanity for wanting to try this. 

Maybe 24 had a point...if she could manipulate Arthur into doing something small; perhaps she could manipulate him to do more. It made sense and was worth trying, at least that's what she kept telling herself. In truth, she was a nervous wreck. Her teeth were borderline chattering from how stressed out she was. It had been so long since she had flirted with anyone, and with Deacon it came so effortlessly that she never had to think twice. Now, she had to think over every possible scenario of what could happen, including Arthur taking the control from her.

When the door finally opened and he walked in, she couldn't help but berate him for keeping her waiting. 

"You're late." 

He apologized somewhat unapologetically as he closed the door. "We're making headway on our weapon against the Institute until the battle is here I'm going to be very busy with preparations." 

Ella took a small breath, trying to put on the part of the pregnant lover that 24 wanted her to play. "Not too busy for me, I hope." 

Arthur's brows raised slightly as if he hadn't heard her correctly. She gnawed at her lip waiting for his response, instead, he took a moment to soak in what she had just said. 

"Of course not," he set his coat down "...I'll always make time for you if that is what you wish." 

"Good...because, I've been wanting just that." 

"Is that so?" 

She nodded as an anxious chuckle left her. "I guess it's all the pregnancy hormones...I just want to be closer to you." 

"Alright then," he walked closer "-tell me what you want. I can cook something or-"

"Kiss me."

His throat bobbed, clearly, he was taken aback...that was good. "Sorry?" 

"Kiss me..." she repeated, "-please." 

His lips parted in confusion before shutting again. "Is that really what you want?" 

She thought about it...deep down, she wanted to say it was just for her gain. She didn't actually want his touch, she just wanted the benefits that came with it. However, as she stared into the blue hue of his eyes, she couldn't say that was the whole truth. As hard and stupid and incredibly moronic as it seemed...she was starting to fall for him. 

Or at least, the idea of him.

The idea that Arthur could be more than the terrible man who she knew him to be. That he could actually be the father that her child deserved...that he could somehow replace Nate and Deacon, and become her someone that she could spend her life with. 

But then again...maybe that was simply impossible. 

"I want you." She confessed. 

That sent him over the edge, their lips crashed together in a mess of familiar emotions. It was strange how kissing him felt so normal, like she never escaped from him the first time. He was still so soft and warm, his tongue still glided against hers like he was desperate for more contact. Nothing had changed except for the fact that now Ella was in control, she was the one pulling at his strings and manipulating him in secret...and somehow that thought thrilled her. 

"We...we shouldn't go any further." He spoke between kisses. 

"Why not?" 

"It isn't smart."  

She responded to his point by pulling at her sweater until it fell around her elbows. Arthur pulled away abruptly, leaving her kissing the air. She watched as he paced with a hand running through his hair in frustration, all while purposely keeping his eyes off of her newly exposed skin. 

"I don't understand." She exhaled. "I'm basically throwing myself at you...why aren't you taking it?" 

"Because I don't want to take anything! I won't be able to stop, Ella, don't you see that? If I touch you, I'll lose control." 

"Maybe I want you to lose control." 

He stared back at her in disbelief before nodding slightly. Before she could realize what was happening he shoved her back against the wall, pulling her hair back until her neck was exposed to him. The tips of their noses touched as she let out a soft cry, shivering at how his breath spilled over her mouth. 

"Do you still want that?" He whispered sharply. 

"N...no! No, I'm sorry!" 

He released her and took a deep breath, moving back until she slid down the wall and clutched onto her knees. Arthur grabbed his coat from the nearby table and shoved his arms into it, trying to avoid staring at the mess he left Ella in...the last thing he wanted was to make it worse. 

"I'm going to sleep somewhere else tonight...I'm sorry. I just can't take anymore." He said before leaving the room.

Chapter Text

When Ella heard a knock on her door, she had expected it to be Arthur. 

He hadn't come back to the room since their last encounter, and truthfully, she felt bad for pushing him beyond his limits. It was ironic, given their past, but she felt dirty for trying to manipulate him. It just reminded her of everytime he had done it to her, everytime she was tricked into doing something for him because he made her feel something. 

That wasn't what she wanted...even if it meant escaping sooner than later. She never wanted to lie about her intentions.

So when she opened the door, she did so with a slight smile. 

"Hello, Ella." Danse stood in front of her. 

The smile faded in an instant. "Get away from me. I don't want to talk to you." She could still remember the look in Jonathan's eyes when he was dying. The anguish, the pain...nothing could ever erase that image from her head.

"Just hear me out." Danse shut the door behind him. "I have some information...it's about the Railroad."

She kept herself from kicking him in the crotch and crossed her arms, trying to seem like she didn't want to know whatever he had to say. 

"Why would you tell me anything? I'm not Brotherhood."

"No, but...you're a good person. You help people even if there isn't anything in it for you. And if I'm being honest...Elder Maxson is distracted. He's so focused on you and the baby that our plans for the attack on the Insitute have been stalled until after you've given birth. That's nearly six weeks away...there's no time for waiting around. I think if you knew what was happening right under your nose, you might help speed that process along." 

"What are you talking about?" 

"There are things you need to know, things that we've been hiding from you since you've returned. If you'll allow me to explain myself, I'd be happy to tell you." 

She eyes him suspiciously. "You have two minutes." 

He nodded before beginning.  

"We've been getting information for a few months now from a source in the Railroad. It's how we were able to keep track of you after you escaped...it's also how we managed to find you at that abandoned gallery." He took a shallow breath. "We were given updates, we were told about your daily schedule...nothing was off limits. If you did it, we knew about it within hours of it happening." 

"You...you had an informant?" Ella felt her stomach drop, she visibly trembled as a sharp pain shot through her spine like a knife had been stabbed there. "What about now...are you still getting information?"

Danse nodded and she suddenly felt worried for Deacon's safety.  

"Who? Who is it?!" 

"I don't know. They've been using a fake name and they only contacted us through terminals."

"So, you just listened to some stranger? You didn't even know if it was real?" She let out a disbelieving scoff.

"It was the only lead we had on you. I thought that if Elder Maxson got you back then he would finally make a move on the Institute...but I was wrong."

She had to take a seat to keep the room from spinning. All that time she thought she was free, she felt free...but she had really been watched from the moment she landed at the Castle. It was like a sick joke... 

"Why are you telling me all of this? Why now?"

Danse let out a soft sigh, like what he was about to say might send her off the edge. "The person who sold you out is here on the Prydwen."

Ella felt the pang of worry turn to molten anger, her fists balled up at knowing she was close to the person who sold her out.

"Where? Why?" The questions fell from her mouth. 

"In exchange for any information regarding you or the Railroad we told them that they would have a place in the Brotherhood." 

"So, they decided to ruin my life to become a soldier?" 

"Wastelanders would do anything if it meant they would have a warm bed and food every night."

She got up to pace in circles, trying to digest everything he had told her. Knowing that her family, the people she trusted might've stabbed her in the back hurt worse than anything...and knowing they were around Deacon, possibly hurting him too? She was furious. 

"And Arthur knew this whole time?" 

Danse nodded, slightly ashamed.

"Where are they? Tell me now."

"The command deck."

She rushed toward the door, steam practically coming off her head when Danse grabbed her arm. 

"Whoa, slow down! Where are you going? You do realize if you try anything you'll be punished, right? You can't attack a Brotherhood soldier."

"Fuck that. I don't care if I have to sleep in a cage, I'm getting my revenge."

"You're pregnant. You can't go around starting fights with people!"

"Give me your knife." She cut him off. 

"What?"

"I know you have one, give me your knife."

"Are you insane? I can't be liable if-"

"Danse."

She spoke so calmly that it sent a shiver through him. He sighed and pulled the combat knife from his boot, handing it over to her hesitantly.

"If you hurt anyone other than the spy, I will punish you myself. Understood?"

Ella nodded and grabbed the blade, walking out of the room without another word. As she sprinted down the stairs and rounded the corner she could hear the voices of Arthur and Kells, welcoming the new member into their little cult. She waited to hear the voice of the spy, hands trembling with pure hate and anxiety.

What if it was someone she loved? What if it were Tom of Desdemona? The thought killed her...

Kells' voice broke through her thoughts. "I'm sure you'll fit in very well here. It's been a while since we've had someone with your experience on board."

And then she heard it. A chuckle...one that she had heard before.

At that moment all of her fear and nervousness melted away as she turned the corner and saw the person who was responsible for taking away her freedom.

"You." Ella spoke up.

The meeting stopped and everyone froze, staring at her with confusion and shock. Before anyone could question what she was doing she walked up to the spy and met their eyes.

Agent Mercy stared back, the slightest smirk present on her smug face.

It all made sense...it was why she convinced Dez to let her be the Railroad's doctor, it was why she was oddly interested in her pregnancy, it was why she never spoke...it was because she was watching, feeding information back to the Brotherhood behind everyone's back. She was the reason Jonathan was dead, she was the reason that landed her back on this ship with 24, and she was the reason she might never get to see Deacon again.

Without any word or warning, Ella swung her fist back and landed it on Mercy's nose, jumping on her to land blows to her face while she blocked with her hands. 

"You stupid bitch! This is all your fault!" She shouted. 

Arthur and Kells tried to pry her off but she kept resisting, the adrenaline forcing her to outmaneuver them. Arthur finally gripped onto her hair until she yelped, pulling back to avoid getting it torn out. Mercy stood up and shouted curses back at her while she was being dragged away. Before she could get out of arms reach, she flicked open Danse's blade and swiped it across her arm, leaving a thick gash in its wake. 

"Shit," Arthur muttered as he saw the knife go into his newest scribe. "Kells, go get Cade. I'll deal with Ella."

He nodded and ran up the stairs while Arthur pulled Ella up into his arms and carried her over his shoulder while she screamed and scratched at his back. Once he managed to get her back inside the room, he dropped her down on the bed and handcuffed her to the bed frame, waiting for her to calm down.

Eventually, her tantrum stopped and she just cried softly into the pillow beside her.

"Are you finished yet?" Arthur asked.

When she didn't answer he walked over and sat beside her, smoothing out her hair and listening to her quiet sobs. "If you keep crying like that you're going to hyperventilate."

Ella glanced up at him with no anger in her eyes. Instead, she wore a look of heartbreak. "You knew. You knew this whole time that she was watching me...you let her get close to me and my friends. You let her betray the people I love."

He remained calm and cold, as if everything that happened between them was nothing. "I needed to get you back, Ella, and I was willing to use whatever measures necessary."

She scoffed, completely dumbfounded that he didn't try to deny it. "These past few weeks...you've been different. Kind. I thought that maybe you weren't the man that I was so scared of, I thought this baby was changing you as a person...but now it's all clear to me. You never changed, you're still a psychopath....you're just better at hiding it now. God, I can't believe I fell for it."

For the first time since laying eyes on Ella, Arthur was left speechless. He had nothing to say to talk his way out of this, nothing to do to her to prove that he was right in his ways... he was broken. 

"I...I love you." He said softly.

"I hate you." Ella sat up. "Don't you get it? I hate you, Arthur. You are my worst nightmare and every moment I have to spend with you is torture!"

She waited for the beating, the rape, the shouting...instead he got up and left the room without another word.

Ella watched him leave in disbelief, feeling something towards him that she didn't think was possible.

Guilt.

*

She was half asleep when Arthur stumbled back into the room. She had waited there, partly out of hurt but mostly because he never uncuffed her from the bed.

The clock was past two in the morning and the overwhelming smell of alcohol was present on his breath.

"Are you drunk?" She scoffed. 

He came and sat next to her, groaning when he finally laid back on the mattress with a thud. "I think so."

Ella rolled her eyes.

Of course, he was drunk. He would never take an ounce of responsibility unless it was at the bottom of a shot glass. 

"Can you at least unlock me so I can sleep somewhere else? If I have to smell the liquor I'm going to be sick." 

"Noo." He spoke like a child. "You're being punished."

"For what?"

"I can't remember." He sighed and rolled over to stare at her. "You look pretty." 

"Unlock my handcuff, Arthur. Now." 

"Kiss me." 

"No. You're not thinking clearly."

He made a frustrated growl and set his lips on her cheeks, kissing with a lazy passion.

"Arthur," she warned, "get off. I'm not letting you do this to me."

He continued nipping at her neck, trying to get a reaction out of her. When nothing happened he moved his hands to her chest.

"Stop."

"I need to be inside of you." He whispered in her hair. "Please, Ella, just let me touch you." 

"No!" She used her free hand to push him off. In his drunken state, it didn't take much to get him off of her. 

He slid off the side of the bed and caught himself, standing up with tensed brows. "Why do I have to force you to love me, Ella? I can take good care of you! I could give you everything you've ever wanted."

She stayed silent for a moment, shaking her head at his words. "You can never give back what you stole from me."

"I can try." He huffed. "I can spend every day of the rest of our lives making it up to you." 

"I don't want that, don't you get it?! I don't want you!" 

"Why? Why can't I be the man you want? I've apologized, I stopped drinking, I don't know what else I can do to make you forgive me. You can't keep punishing me forever!" 

"You can't make me forgive you, Arthur, that's the whole point! You aren't entitled to that! If I want to spend every breath of my life hating you then I can do that!" 

He sat back on the edge and stared at the satin bedsheets for what seemed like several minutes. Finally, he looked up at her with a penetrating gaze. 

"But you don't really hate me, do you? If you did then you wouldn't be so hurt right now." 

He had a point...if she didn't actually love him, then she wouldn't have been surprised that he tricked her once again. 

"Go to sleep." She said in resignation. "We can talk more tomorrow." 

He stared at her before lying back and resting his head against her shoulder, yawning as he pulled a blanket over them. "Goodnight." 

*

When morning came, Ella awoke to the sound of Arthur vomiting in his bathroom.

"Exactly how much did you drink last night?" She asked from the bed.

"I...I don't know. Three or four bottles." He sighed.

"Of beer?"

"Of vodka." He came out from the restroom and chugged on a bottle of water beside the bed. "My head is killing me."

Good...

Once he threw the empty bottle on the floor he walked to his coat and pulled out a small key, unlocking Ella's wrists with a soft apology. Before she could grab them to rub away the ache, he was already heading toward the door. 

"Where are you going?" She asked. 

"I-uh, I need to go to work." He pulled his battle coat on. "We still have the Insitute to deal with and I think Proctor Ingram would appreciate my presence at the airport." 

"You should rest, you're still hungover." 

"I can handle it." 

"Arthur," she sighed and stood up "...please stay. We have to talk."

"I'm uninterested in talking about what happened last night. Let's just...forget it ever happened." 

"That isn't what I wanted to talk about...now, would you sit down for a minute?" 

"Fine, but that's all I can spare." He sat at his desk. 

Ella nodded and stood across from him, biting her nail with anxiety before speaking up. "So...you know where the Railroad is, who the members are, and all of our plans for the future, is that right?"

Arthur hesitated but nodded after a moment.

"That's what I thought." She scoffed lightly. "Since that's the case, I'm willing to make a deal with you...but I need it in a contract or whatever so you can't go back on it." 

"Okay...what did you have in mind?"

She took a deep breath and straightened out her back, trying to sound as diplomatic as possible. 

"From here on out, the Brotherhood and the Railroad are in an entente. You will give them whatever they need: ammo, food, fire support, housing..." she listed off "...and there will be peace between everyone. Nobody gets hurt or taken and they are free to do as they please without interference from the Brotherhood. They can save synths and grow in numbers and you can do whatever it is that you do."

"And what do we get in return?" He asked.

"You get me." She answered. "I will willingly stay here and marry you. I will give you more children, I will live with you in the Capital Wasteland, and I will be yours...forever. I won't fight you, I will love you and I will live a happy life with you...but only if all of my conditions are met."

He froze, eyes searching hers to see how serious she was. 

"You'll...you'll marry me?" 

"I will."

"But is that what you want? To stay with me?" 

"What I want doesn't matter...I'm willing to negotiate on behalf of my friends. This is your only shot at keeping me, Arthur, otherwise, I am never going to stop trying to get away from you. I can promise you that." She stated firmly. "Now choose." 

"If I accept this contract, I'll be in a lot of hot water with my men. Our views on the Institute and their synths are clear; they're our enemy." 

"Isn't the enemy of your enemy your friend?" She asked. "The Railroad doesn't like the Brotherhood, but they have no reason to start a war. If you want to make the right decision as an authortarian...it might be wise to make friends with the Institute's biggest threat. And remember, I'm a part of this deal. If you want to keep our family together, I'd suggest taking it." 

He swallowed and looked away, fingers drumming restlessly on the table. "Alright, I'll do it. Proctor Quinlan can write up contracts and I will make sure the Railroad signs and understands the agreement. Once we leave the Commonwealth, we can give them the airport to rebuild whatever is left." He stood up. "And we can be married...right?" 

"Yes. We will be married." She promised. 

A slight smile pulled at his lips as he grabbed his coat. "Very well. I'll inform Kells and Quinlan that the Railroad is no longer our enemy and we can reach out for further steps on their behalf." 

"That's great," Ella added. "Oh...but there's one more catch..." 

Arthur looked back with a brow raised.

"I get to kill that bitch who sold me out. And I get to do it in front of the Railroad."

Chapter Text

The Railroad sat out in the sunshine of the courtyard, soaking in the chill weather before the sun set over the Commonwealth. 

Ever since Nick and X6 had joined them temporarily, they had hit a dead end in how to save Ella from the Brotherhood. Nick said it was normal to not make progress for months so Deacon had resorted to deep thinking while getting a tan in the irradiated sunlight. Desdemona let out a long sigh as she plopped down beside them, having spent the whole day trying to track down Mercy. 

"She vanished...that's just great. Another agent lost. Damn it, if something happened to her-"

"Don't worry, Dez, it hasn't even been a day," Tom reassured her "...she'll turn back up." 

"I hope so. Our numbers are low enough as it is, we can't add her to the list of deaths." 

"Tom is right." Deacon stretched out. "No use worrying when she's probably around somewhere."

Dez stared at him pointedly. "You're the one on Intel, shouldn't you know where she is?" 

"I'm a little preoccupied with other shit." He muttered. "Baby's on Intel too, why don't you ask her?" 

"Don't bother," she responded without looking up from her nails "-I haven't seen her." 

"You both should be ashamed of yourselves." Dez scoffed. "Just because we have no packages to transport doesn't mean we can slack on our jobs." 

"Seriously?" Deacon sat up. "You seem more concerned about Mercy than you do Charmer. It took you nearly two days before you bothered to look for her." 

"Don't start." 

"I didn't start anything, you were the one who-"

"Hold that thought," Baby looked up at the sky. "Vertibird incoming." 

The large machine came flying toward them, veering left as if searched for a place to land. 

"What the hell?" Deacon stared up at it. "Why is the Brotherhood coming here?" 

"Maybe they want to deliver another fake letter." Nick lit up a cigarette.

As it landed near the old diner, a man dressed in research clothing approached; a large satchel hanging from his side. 

"Let me handle this." She stepped in front of the group. "I am the leader of the Railroad...anything you have to say, you can say it to me." 

The scribe went into his satchel and dug out a small stack of papers. "This is an official concordat from the Brotherhood of Steel offering a one-time pardon to the agents of the Railroad to come to the Boston Airport and meet with Elder Arthur Maxson, Lancer-Captain Robert Kells, and Ella Elizabeth Scott." 

Deacon pushed past Dez and took the papers, scanning them briefly before looking at at the stranger. 

"What for?" 

"The meeting is to discuss the co-existence of the Railroad with the Brotherhood of Steel in a civil and safe manner. Should you choose to sign the agreement, you will be flown across the river to the airport tomorrow morning to handle proceedings. Should you choose to ignore it, you will remain an enemy of the Brotherhood and will be dealt with in whatever manner Elder Maxson sees fit."

"Yeah? Alright, I'll play along like this isn't one big set-up. Why does the Elder want to co-exist all of a sudden?" 

The scribe twitched slightly as if the question bothered him. "To be frank...we don't know. It was a very controversial decision but as Elder, he has our unwavering loyalty. If it were me, I would take into consideration what an honor it is that he is extending this invitation onto you; enemies of the Brotherhood rarely get second chances." 

Deacon flipped through the papers trying to find some sort of technicality. "And I'm assuming you'll give us time to read through all this?" He asked the scribe. "Just so we know nothing funny is going on." 

"Of course. I'm due back at the Prydwen in two hours...you have until then." 

"Great." He flashed a mock smile. "We'll let you know." 

They took a few steps back and huddled into a circle, the documents hanging loosely from Deacon's hand. 

"We should bring these to Preston, make sure it's legit."

"I can read them myself," Dez glared "-I'm the one who they were supposed to go to." 

"They're meant for all of us...but fine, if you insist then we'll go somewhere private." 

They broke up and walked toward the Minutemen office when Deacon pulled X6 into a chummy side hug. "Watch him for us, yeah?... Make sure he doesn't leave or talk to any of the Minutemen." 

"Very well, just know I am doing it on my own accord and not because you have instructed me to do so...I only answer to Mother." 

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you gotta tell yourself." The moment the door shut, he spun around and stared at Dez with conviction. "We're going." 

"That isn't your call to make, Deacon, I'm the one in charge here." 

"And look where that's got us..." 

"Excuse me?" She scoffed. "Are you trying to blame me for all of the destruction that the Brotherhood has caused?" 

"Of course not, you had no control over them attacking us...but it was your call to send Charmer to Pickman's Gallery, even after I told you it wasn't a good idea."

"You're never going to forgive me for that, are you?"

"No, not until we get her back. Face it, Dez, we're worse off than we've ever been. If things don't change now we won't make it another year. Hell, we aren't even helping synths anymore!" 

"Because we have no resources, that's why we're rebuilding! And who's to say this isn't a trap that the Brotherhood is setting up?" 

"I don't care...if I have a chance at seeing Charmer, I'm taking it." 

"Now, don't be rash, Deacon." Nick stepped between them. "The Brotherhood had the gall to send a fake letter from her...they might try something like that again." 

"But what if it's real? What if this is our last shot at getting Charmer out of there alive? We would be fucking morons to not take this opportunity." 

"You're not thinking clearly." Dez stopped him. "For all we know, Charmer might not even be there." 

"I don't care. I have to do something! It's been months since she was taken and we haven't done jack shit about it...I'm done waiting for a miracle, Dez, I have to get her outta there." 

"Deacon-"

"No, Dez, I'm going." He decided before looking around the room. "Tom?" 

"Yeah, man, count me in!" He smiled wide. "I'm always down to save baby Railroad." 

"Nick?" 

The synth let out a sigh and looked between him and Dez. "Ah, hell...fine. I'm in." 

"You're not serious..." Baby chuckled from her corner of the room, "-they would probably shoot you on sight." 

"Maybe. But Deacon hired me to help get Ella back and I intend on making good on my promise." 

Deacon smirked and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him into a bear hug until he pushed him away. "C'mon, Dez, we're all in this together, right? What do you say?" 

"I say no." Baby interjected once again. "Mercy isn't even here, shouldn't we be focusing on finding her first? At least we know where Charmer is." 

"Mercy probably went to Diamond City for more medical supplies. Look, we don't have a lot of time, remember? The deadline is tomorrow!" 

Desdemona sighed low and looked around the room, shoulders deflating with ease. "I still don't think this is a good idea...but fine. We'll go." 

"Yes!" Deacon cheered. "That's my girl, going straight into the wolf's den to get our agent back! Glory would be proud." 

"Shut up and sign the agreement." She tried to hide a smile. "I'll be out in a moment." 

Deacon pulled his sunglass off slightly to give her a wink before turning with Nick and Tom behind him. Baby stayed put with a pout, arms crossed like she was in church. 

"This is stupid." 

"I'm glad you think so because you're coming too." 

"Are you kidding me?" She scoffed. "You know I have a history with them...if I go back then it's going to ruin everything I've worked hard to forget." 

"It doesn't matter. When I let you into the Railroad, I welcomed you into a family. Like it or not, Charmer is a part of that family and she's in danger."

"I'm your real family, did you forget that? I should have more of a say than anyone!"

"Yes, Ashley, we're family...but you ran away when you were fifteen. All this time I thought you were dead and it turns out you were with the Brotherhood...you can't just ask me to ignore the people I've come to love over the past decade." 

She scoffed, looking away in defeat.

Desdemona could hear Deacon's voice echo through the halls as he happily berated the scribe and she walked out to meet him. 

Baby stayed in her corner and sighed, arms hugging herself again as she tried to brace herself for the meeting with the Brotherhood...who knows? Maybe she would go the whole trip without having to see him. 

*

Rebecca walked into the holding cell with a smile, her hands fitting through the bars to pass 24 a snack while she lingered around. 

"You hear the news? Looks like your friends are gonna be coming to the airport." 

He took the potato crisps and popped them open, sharing a few with her. "Yeah, Charmer told me. What does that mean for me, though?" 

"You're still our prisoner, at least until the agreement is signed. Then you'll be released with the Railroad so you can get back to saving your helpless, little synths." 

"And what about you?" 

"I'll be here." She deadpanned. "Why? Are you gonna miss me, Jack?" She winked. 

"Hell no...you're way too much trouble." He smiled. "I will miss that sarcasm though, not enough wastelanders got it."

"Maybe you're just hanging around the wrong people." 

"That's funny coming from you." He chuckled. "Hell, you'd be a better Railroad heavy than a Brotherhood guard...you should come with us when we leave." 

"You're joking, right? That would be treason. Elder Maxson would order my death before letting me leave with the likes of you." 

"I would protect you, make sure no soldiers get near you." 

"I can protect myself." She snorted. "Sorry, but my place is here. Get used to it." 

24 shook his head with a sigh. "You're a bitch." 

"I know...I think that's why you like me." 

His arms wrapped around her waist until she was flush against the bars that separated them. "It is."

She shivered slightly against him, a soft breath leaving her. "Look, I know we've gotten close these past few months but that doesn't change our positions. We're on opposite teams...and one of us is going to lose. It's best if you just left and forgot about me." 

"Don't tell me what's best for me...because I already know it's you." 

Rebecca shook her head. "You don't know me, Jack. Not like you should..." 

"What's that supposed to mean?" 

She pulled away from him, leaving him grasping the air. 

"It means you're an idiot for thinking that we ever had shot. I'm sorry, but this thing between us has to end. Tomorrow you're leaving...and me? I'm staying here. There's no changing that." 

"So what? We still got a whole day together...I'm not gonna spend it wishing I'd never met you." 

A scoff left her. "Yeah? So how are you gonna spend it, counting the ceiling tiles again?"

He smirked mischievously. "Why don't you come in here and find out?"