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New Love Grows On Trees

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Peter’s Story Part I

 

The first proper kill (radroaches don’t count) was still a vivid memory, it had been a feral dog that would return to haunt my dreams occasionally. I’d lost count since then, it would be an easy decision for my namesake saint at heaven’s gate, surely the scales were permanently tipped hell-wards for me. So, why even bother to chase redemption? It was kill or be killed, here in the Commonwealth, and Kleo knew that only too well when she chose such an apt title for her armoury. Which reminds me, time to shop for ammo. The interminable tedium of purchasing consumables, always running short of .308 calibre bullets and pursuing new stock from one settlement to the next. Turn on the charm, little flirt with the proprietor if needed, the old English accent usually coming up trumps in securing the deal to my advantage.

Reflecting on the novelty of my British nationality in this Commonwealth was something I often did. Before the bombs dropped, before the vault, I knew a totally different Commonwealth, rapidly dwindling and presided over by a token king. A real bona fide long-lineage King, with palaces and baubles to match. Here any fucker with enough guns and enough followers could set themselves up as a ‘king’. Heck. maybe I’d even reach such dizzy heights one day!

An involuntary snort of self-derision broke forth, which I hastily quieted. I didn’t want to awaken the recumbent figure of my sleeping partner, RJ MacCready. A tired MacCready was a tetchy MacCready, though, and I almost snorted again with sardonic laughter, who could tell the difference between a tetchy MacCready and a normal MacCready?

I hoped that MacCready was warming to me, now that I’d done those couple of favours for him, the not-so-little matter of taking down the Gunners’ camp and the feral ghoul-fest of MedTech. I’d found myself becoming increasingly fond of him, despite my loner instincts. He was one of the few people that I’d encountered in the Commonwealth that wasn’t either an out-and-out fool or a backstabbing bastard. I’d started to depend on him for advice and opinions about our strategies when taking on jobs. I liked having him by my side, he’d proven himself trustworthy, perhaps I’d even bought his loyalty with those pain in the arse jobs he’d been so grateful for my assistance with. Perhaps. I’d seen him tell barefaced lies to some of his so-called friends without so much of a backward glance, but then who was I to judge? In many ways we were similar. MacCready’s weakness, as far as I was concerned and certainly in the nominal role of his ‘employer’ was his sentimentality and insistence on helping some people that I regarded as lame capless ducks.

We have been making decent quantities of caps these last few weeks, and tomorrow we will set off to Goodneighbor to cash in and stock up. I reckon if we get to Goodneighbor by dusk tomorrow we can allow ourselves a night at the Rexford – two separate rooms of course. I’d have happily shared with MacCready, ostensibly to save caps, but anything else that he cared to share would be more than welcome, however as much as I’d like to, anything further than friendship with MacCready was a closed door, which being honest made me want him all the more. I found him attractive physically, but with him being my partner and all, it was probably wise to not even go there. Other than some low-key flirting, which he shrugged off pretending to be or genuinely oblivious to my intention, he remained utterly impervious to my charm, and to my chagrin I had to seek my solace elsewhere, and often. Of course, the solace seeking had mainly happened before the advent of what I think of as the ‘Cait situation’. I didn’t want to think about that now though, out of sight out of mind. At least MacCready’s lack of interest had insured things between us remained vaguely professional and business-like. Oh well, instead we could have a different type of fun, a few chems, a few beers, who knows maybe I’ll even hook up with Magnolia again?

I hate these long shifts, taking it in turns to sleep, one eye on the horizon. It was quiet, nothing but the roar of my tinnitus to be heard, roaring and gushing, all the noisier for the lack of background noise. Years in the music industry combined with my new career involving guns, grenades and mines and a distinct lack of safeguards meant the noises were worse than ever. There is very little health and no safety out here. Still, I am alive which I should be grateful for. My pre-bomb hosts, Nate and Nora were gone, everyone I had ever known was gone. In some cases, not such a bad thing. I pissed off a lot of people back in dear old Blighty and hadn’t been exactly endearing myself to the Commonwealthians. The difference in this post-apocalyptic hellhole is no one cares, that fellow whose pocket you picked yesterday will likely find himself on the wrong end of a raider’s gun tomorrow, and better that the wallet ended up in my pocket than the raider’s.

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Goodneighbor, I like it here, every time I’m here it reminds me of the seamier side of London that I once knew so well. Only here in Goodneighbor the denizens are easier on the eye. Kleo was good for some ammo at a reasonable price, then it’s onto Daisy’s store, same routine every visit to this town. MacCready would likely spend hours jawing with Daisy, not that I have a problem with that, garnering goodwill in Goodneighbor brings better deals and discounts for both of us.

“Hey Peter,” Daisy drawled, smirking in my direction, as we entered her little shop.

“Hi Dais…” It wasn’t often that Daisy singled me out in this manner, she usually only had pleasantries for MacCready, preferring to only speak to me once the deals were to be done.

“Got a message for you Peter, was left with me by the last caravan from up north that passed through here.” Daisy leaned forward on her counter conspiratorially.

“Oh yeah?” My interest was piqued now. Who the hell would leave a message for me? I wasn’t that renowned that folk actively sought me out for work, I still had to hustle.

“Message from Preston Garvey at Sanctuary Hills. He’d like you to go there as soon as possible. Apparently, there’s a new settler there that you’ll be mighty interested in.”

“A settler?” I tried to keep my tone light and airy but inside I was confused, why the fuck would I be interested in any of Preston’s motley crew of capless losers?

“They go by the name of Nora…” what remained of Daisy’s lips twisted in what could have been a smile, but to my suspicious eyes appeared to be a sneer.

Oh fuck, oh fuck. Nora? How? I was sure everyone in that vault except me had perished. Shit, I’d checked, hadn’t I? Well, I was somewhat preoccupied at the time by trying to survive so it was entirely possible that I could have messed up. Maybe it was Nora that had left first and left me behind. In which case – fuck her for leaving me there!

“Any more information, Daisy?” I tried to appear nonchalant, but my anxiety must have been clear, because she reached out and patted me on the arm.

“Sweetheart of yours, was she?”

Hardly, I couldn’t even define to myself what Nora was to me, or why the first emotion on hearing that her demise had been prematurely assumed had been irritation and dismay rather than joy that my pre-war friend had survived. Friend? Had Nora been my friend? Well, she’d been something, a pleasant hostess, beloved wife of my old pal Nate. A woman I barely knew who had put up with my presence in her family home for longer than anyone could have foreseen. A two-week holiday that had extended indefinitely thanks to the cancellation of all flights following increased hostility between the US and China.

MacCready’s interest was evident now, probably enjoying my discomfort as an added bonus. “Yeah, Peter, who’s Nora?” He waited expectantly on my answer.

“Oh, just someone I used to know,” I shrugged, hoping both of their curiosities had been quashed. MacCready still stood gawping at me. “Well, I guess I’d better check up on her. RJ, it looks like we’ll be heading Sanctuary Hills-ward after we’re done here.”

MacCready made a mock salute, “Ok boss, whatever you say, boss.” He was apparently mollified as he started to open negotiations for ammo with Daisy.

 As long as the caps keep flowing what did he care whether it be Sanctuary or Goodneighbor? I left him with Daisy to catch-up on the Goodneighbor gossip, of which I was now no doubt part, and headed towards the Rexford Hotel.

Pleasantries dispensed with, and Clair was paid for two rooms. I heaved myself up the pitted marble steps to the top floor. So, now I could digest the information as incredible as it was. How had it happened? Again, I racked my memories of that first day out of the vault. I thought I had checked every one of the cryogenic pods. They had been either empty or their occupant was dead. I must have overlooked Nora in my confusion, had I missed anybody else? Well, who cares anyway? The crux of the matter was that Nora had survived, else why was she requesting my presence in Sanctuary Hills? It was a place in which I had never set foot in since leaving the vault, what would have been the point? I’d successfully dodged Preston’s request to accompany him and his group of settlers there after MacCready and I had happened on them in Concord and helped them deal with the raiders that had them trapped.  That must have been a few months ago, though I found it was increasingly hard to keep track of time. If I didn’t have this PipBoy on my arm, I’d be utterly clueless as to how many days passed. In Concord, MacCready had pleaded their cause, and as I had expected the monetary pay-off had been terrible, barely covered our expenses! A case where the game definitely wasn’t worth the candle. Afterwards, when we were rewarded with a paucity of caps and a wealth of praise and thanks by Preston, MacCready had segued back to bad ass mode, leaving all the praise for me. He only wanted his share of the piss-poor monetary spoils.

I really didn’t want to see Nora. What had she already said about me? It’s not that I’m even hiding a big secret, but I’ve crafted a persona for myself here in the Commonwealth. I’m carefree Peter, a good guy to share some Jet with and hang out for a while. If you’re lucky I’ll pick up a guitar and sing you one of my songs, though finding a guitar with the strings intact was hard enough, heaven knows! I’ve been hoarding scavenged packs of strings back at my base in Hangman’s Alley. I haven’t been back there for so long now. Yeah, I’m avoiding the place, there’s no denying it. Cait will be there waiting for me, demanding explanations, wanting commitments that I’m not prepared to give. It was a flight of fancy that I could get off the chems, why did I even say that I would? I’d thought that I loved her, and I’d certainly delivered on my promises to help her with her addiction. More strife with the Gunners, to get her into that vault to access to that treatment she wanted. There is no way I’m going back there for my turn in the hotseat. Thank Christ that detox chair only had enough juice in it to fix Cait. I don’t even need fixing. Did I only love her when she was addicted? Interesting question, and one that I’d pondered on many evenings. Fuck, I must be troubled by it, I’d even spoken about my misgivings with MacCready. He wasn’t a natural choice of confidante for me, but then again, no-one was. I liked to keep my true feelings hidden under a veneer of no fucks given. MacCready however, was always around, and hopefully discreet. He’d asked if I’d mind him ‘having a crack’ at Cait, to which I’d shrugged. What did it matter? Perhaps it could even be a way out for me.

I’d have to contrive some excuse to not swing by Hangman’s Alley on the way to Sanctuary Hills tomorrow. Shouldn’t be too difficult, I’ve had plenty of practice.