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The Vaultie ducks her head, a pink flush crawling up her neck. Everything seems pretty normal: the bar is still a dusty shithole, Moriarty's snores can still be heard throughout the building, Gob is still a chewed-up mess of radiation... but this is damn sure a dream.

"What," he manages to rasp out, which he considers well done when his body can't decide whether to stop breathing or hyperventilate. Somehow he keeps the rag moving across the bar, on autopilot. The Vaultie kicks her foot against the metal rung of her chair, a lock of red-gold hair falling into her face. The dog that's been following her everywhere lately looks up briefly from its place near the door, tail softy wagging. She taps her fingers against the dirty bar, every line of her body screaming nervousness. She hasn't looked like this much of a kid since the first day she strolled into Megaton.

"It's just... there's not a lot of guys in the Vault, Gob." She takes a deep, shuddering breath, leaning back in her chair, and squints against the shafts of light that are starting to come through the gaps in the walls as the sun rises. "At least... none that I'd be willing to... um. It's got to happen sometime, you know? It's--" she glances up to meet Gob's eyes and looks away just as quickly.

Gob realizes that he's crumpled the dust rag in his fist, and carefully lays it on the bar. Just as carefully, he makes his way around the corner of the bar and drops into the chair next to the Vaultie.

"It's bad out there, Gob," she continues more quietly. "To be absolutely honest with you, I'm afraid. Of-- well, of getting killed before I get to do anything at all-- what a waste!" she says, flashing the smile that stopped Gob's heart the first time she spoke to him. "Or, worse, that I'll be... there's a lot more men than women out there, Gob, and I've seen some—things." Her voice is nearly a whisper now, and though Gob buys the first reason more than the second-- the kid can come out of a Super Mutant attack on the winning side, after all-- the mere idea sends rage coursing through him. Gob carefully unclenches his fists for the second time before speaking.

"Kid, that still doesn't explain why you're coming to me about this. Not that I'm not flattered--"

--not that flattered is even close to the surreal elation her suggestion inspired—

"--but, hell, I'm not even my own first choice."

The Vaultie stills, turning to face him with a particularly stubborn set to her mouth. "I trust you, Gob. I pretty much don't trust anybody out here but you and the dog. And I like you. And the Ghoul thing doesn't bother me, and, and I talked to Nova, she told me—you know, stuff." The blush peeks over her collar again. "If it's going be anybody, it might as well be you, okay?"

Gob grips the edge of the bar hard enough to hurt his fingers, but it steadies him. Trying to reason this out, or even believe it, was like swimming through mud. Sure, there'd been a kind word or two over the decades, and a few smoothskins that didn't even seem to mind too much if they accidentally bumped him or something, but nobody willingly touched a Ghoul if they weren't one. Hell, the last time he'd-- the Vaultie snaps him out of his thoughts with a kiss pressed against the corner of his mouth and a key pressed into his palm, and now Gob knows he'll never manage to breathe again--

"Just, just think about it, okay? I'll be home for a few days." A sharp whistle brings the dog to its feet, and Gob realizes he can't hear Moriarty snoring anymore. He's so damned busy getting back around the bar before the man sees him-- or hits him, more likely-- that he doesn't even notice the kid slipping out the door until the hot midmorning air strikes his face. For the rest of the day, Gob is painfully aware of a key resting in his pocket, and tries desperately to keep hope at bay.

 

***

 

Most nights in Megaton held an unforgiving chill, but in these long summer days the sweltering midday heat lingered, long after the sun set. Gob leans against the Vaultie's door, wishing he could strip his shirt off like smoothskins do. He hadn't handled heat well even when all his pores were in working condition. 

The stifling heat drives most residents indoors, a thing for which Gob is inordinately grateful as he rests his forehead against the relatively cooler door. It's quiet enough that he can hear the faint strains of music from the Vaultie's Pip-Boy. Quiet enough that he can almost imagine they're the only two people for miles. The silence is oppressive, burying Gob in his own thoughts, no chance of distraction.

Being a Ghoul changes you more than physically, but a part of Gob-- the half-remembered smoothskin he'd been-- wants more than anything to shove the door open and take the kid in his arms. He'd never been what you'd call a ladies' man, but there'd never been any complaints either... not back when he could look in the mirror without nausea. But being a Ghoul does change you. It turns you into someone who falls for a kind word and a sweet smile, no matter how stupid you know it is. It turns you into someone who rips themselves apart with fantasies, dissolving years of painstakingly cultivated numbness. And it makes you someone too damned afraid to think that impossible fantasies could come true.

One rough bark of a laugh escapes Gob before he can catch it, and he turns away from the door. Impossible-- right. The kid doesn't mean it, even if she thinks she does. There's nobody in or out of this hell who'd want Gob running his hands up their shirt, kissing down their neck-- god how he misses that--

"Gob?" The Vaultie's voice halts him in his tracks, and he dares a backwards glance. She's leaning out the door, arms braced above her head and one knee blocking the dog's bid for escape. Her sweat-soaked shirt leaves nothing to the imagination and his mouth dry.

"Hey," she says with a soft smile, looking for once more woman than girl. Her green eyes are nothing but welcoming, and he feels his resolve disintegrate. "Coming in?"

"Yeah," he breathes, but it hitches in his throat when she just fucking lights up in response. He finds he can't do anything but follow when she grabs the dog (who spares Gob a sideways look and halfhearted growl before flopping to the floor) and disappears behind the door.

"That thing have a name?" he mutters, avoiding the Vaultie's eyes. It doesn't stop him from hearing the smile in her voice.

"Yeah, Dogmeat. You know... in case I have to eat him or something." He keeps still, afraid and unsure, but allows himself a look in her direction as she speaks. "Mostly, just Dog." She's looking right at him, nearly defiant, but the line of her shoulders and her fidgeting hands scream of shyness. It relaxes him, makes the choice a little easier. He can't do this. The kid deserves better. Still, he thinks, there's nothing stopping him from admiring the way she moves, loose and lithe as she shoves a pile of gears off the edge of a mattress and drops down onto it. She drapes her arms between her knees, the posture childish but somehow endearing.

It's only then that Gob notices the... unusual decor. What he can see of the rest of the house looks barren, while the front room seems turned into something resembling a fort. Two mattresses dominate it, pushed together in the center and piled with blankets and mechanical junk. It's almost cute, until he notices the weapons tucked into nearly every nook and cranny.

The Vaultie notices him noticing and ducks her head in a familiar gesture. "I never really use the other rooms, so I just kind of ended up bringing everything in here." She gives a half-hearted shrug and shoves more stuff of the beds. "It works. So... um..."

"Kid... no. This isn't going to happen. Look," Gob feels blindly for the doorknob as he speaks. "Look, Jericho, or, hell, anyone would--" and damn but the kid is fast, darting in front of him and pressing her back to the door.

"I asked Nova-- I know you want to. Nova said--" The stubborn line of her body says I will not move, but for all her strength she's small, and Gob is a hell of a lot stronger. The problem is that when he grabs for her, the Vaultie does the last thing he expects-- because no one ever doesn't care. But the Vaultie wraps her hands around his biceps and she leans forward and honest to God kisses him.

Something snaps in Gob and no matter what happens later, he just doesn't fucking care anymore. He slips his hands around her waist and slams her back into the door. The Vaultie gasps and Gob takes advantage of her open mouth, slipping his tongue inside. He feels lost in this, in the feel of her flush body flush against his, the faint, sweet, Nuka-Cola taste of her mouth.

It feels like eons before it ends; it feels like not nearly enough time at all. When he breaks away, the Vaultie is flushed and panting, fingers digging into his shoulders. Their eyes meet and the raw, primal anger drains from him, replaced by a cold, creeping horror.

"Shit, I'm sorry. Shit." Gob tries to step back, but the Vaultie doesn't let go and somehow his hands are still holding tight to her waist.

"Gob," she says, a breathy sort of whine to her voice that makes his mouth go dry. "Gob, shut up."

Gob is lost, truly lost, as she slides an arm around his neck and the other under his shirt, and kisses him back. He's never considered himself lucky as a Ghoul. Not that being a Ghoul is particularly pleasant for anyone, but Gob's most ravaged portion is his face. It's what most people see-- and hate-- first.

The rest of him wasn't quite so bad off. Deteriorating, of course; a Ghoul can't help that. He wouldn't win any beauty contests, but the skin on his torso was still pretty much there (well, mostly), and… things still worked. A fact Gob had hated every second of his life as Ghoul, able to look and want and never touch. When the third kiss ends, the Vaultie's head falling back against the door, her eyes closed and her face flushed, Gob is damned if he can think of anything he's ever been more grateful for.

"Kid--" it comes out almost a growl, and he stops in surprise. She opens her eyes, a sultry smile playing across her lips, before leaning forward to tuck her face against his shoulder. Gob feels like he's dying, burning from the inside. He sucks in a deep lungful of warm air, tucking a red-gold strand behind the Vaultie's ear. No, he thinks, as he tilts his head down and kisses her on the cheek, whispering her name. This is going to be soft, and sweet, and everything it damned well should be. Restraint is killing him, but for her he'll make it as perfect as he can.

"We should probably," she says, the sound muffled against his shirt, "probably... um. Bed?"

"Yeah." An idea flashes into Gob's mind, and he swings her up into his arms with a grin. The Vaultie lets out a thoroughly satisfying squeak as she quickly twines her arms around his neck.

"My hero," she breathes into his ear, and he can hear the warm amusement in her voice. Gob sets her on her feet by the bed with exaggerated care. Then something occurs to him, and the grin fades.

"Look, you know… I mean, the, uh, mech- mechanics…right?" Gob winces, wondering if he can make it out the door before she realizes what an idiot he is.

"Do I know how?" She ducks her head, only to glance up at him through stray curls of hair. "Well, yeah, basically. I mean, we had biology classes, in the Vault. And... I, um, I asked Nova about it. She told me... some things." There's a decidedly pink flush to her cheeks as she trails off.

Gob can't think of anything more to say, of any way to stall. Part of him still says this isn't right, but the voice seems to get quieter by the second. Stronger is the sheer need building in the pit of his stomach. The Vaultie opens her mouth to speak, but all that comes out is a soft sigh as he steps closer to her. One hand returns to her waist, the other sliding under her shirt. There's no bra to contend with-- thank God, Gob thinks, he was never any good at getting those damned things off--and then he pretty much stops thinking, at the feel of a soft breast in his hand and the sounds the Vaultie's making, quiet noises that put his brain on disconnect. Forget Ghoul; apparently he's got enough of the basic human male left for instinct to kick in.

She pouts, but doesn't protest as he releases her and steps away. Gob strips his shirt off, then pauses, hands at his pants button. A fleeting nervousness returns, but the Vaultie only looks at him, takes a deep breath, and removes her shirt in return. Shit, Gob thinks, along with fuck and my God and a few other things he can't quite keep track of, as she gives him a challenging smile and drops her shorts to the floor as well. He's vaguely aware that he's supposed to be doing something, but he can't bring himself to do more than stare until the Vaultie steps forward and brushes her fingers along the crotch of his pants. Gob jumps, and so does she, stumbling back and turning as red as a Nuka-Cola label.

"Sorry, I--" The kid has absolutely no idea what she's doing, but she's so damned cute, so damned gorgeous, standing there as if completely unaware of the effect her body is having on him. Gob pulls the Vaultie against him and tips them both onto the mattress. She presses herself close with more of those soft noises that make him want to do distinctly dirty things to her.

"You--" her voice is husky and needy, despite the blush that remains. "You should, um, probably have your pants off, yeah?" She shifts against him in a way that makes Gob groan.

"No," he manages to get out past gritted teeth. "First things first..." He pushes himself up and leans over her, lowering his mouth to a breast to stave off any further questions. The half-strangled moan she gives him as he flicks his tongue over one already-hard nipple is worth the discomfort of suppressing his own desire. He almost wants to just take her, but he keeps it slow, as much for himself as for her. Gob loses track of time this way, trailing kisses and soft touches across the Vaultie's skin. He's teasing, but he means to. It's almost better than the idea of sex, the knowledge that the needy sounds coming from her are because of him.

He loses track of time, at least, until one brush against her skin elicits a squeal rather than a moan. He tries it again-- yes, those were definitely giggles. Gob stills a moment, warring with himself. There were two excruciatingly appealing options open to him...

The Vaultie raises herself up on her elbows and stares at him, the suggestion of a pout to her mouth. "Gob... don't you dare..." It's all the provocation he needs. With a smirk and a feeling suspiciously like glee bubbling up, he tickles her.

***

Gob's not entirely sure how the Vaultie managed to get on top of him, but the position hasn't improve her situation any, with Gob holding both of her wrists in one hand and tickling her stomach with the other as she laughs and squirms.

"Hey--! Gob... stop it!" The squirming breaks off as abruptly as her voice when the Vaultie shifts back a little too far. Gob freezes, stunned—shit, he'd actually forgotten--     

"Oh," she says, and then shifts again. "Oh." It's all Gob can do to keep from flipping her back over and finishing it then and there as her small fingers find the closure to his pants.

"I... kind of forgot a little," she confesses, her tone almost conversational as she echoes his earlier thought. Roughly a million things flit through Gob's mind, a feeling of panic rising in his throat. The Vaultie seems oblivious as she wraps her cool fingers around him. "This is," she says, not meeting his eyes, "this is supposed to hurt, right? Not for you, but..." She laughs nervously.

Gob swallows, trying to focus. He's gearing up to say, stop, we can't, this isn't right and I'm not right-- but the Vaultie shifts again, positioning herself with surprising deftness, and slides onto him.

"Fuck." It's about all Gob can manage to say. The Vaultie's still, her eyes closed, biting her lip, and it's taking every ounce of his self-control not to come then and there.

"Yeah," she says after a few minutes, still not moving. Gob focuses on breathing, until he's fairly certain he won't embarrass himself, and then tries an experimental shift. She whimpers deep in her throat, her hands tightening convulsively on his chest.

"Hurts?" he breathes, beginning to worry.

"No. Ah," she opens her eyes, taking a deep breath before meeting his. "No, it doesn't hurt. Just... taking some getting used to."

Gob honestly wouldn't mind just staying like this for the rest of the night-- hell, the rest of his life-- but the Vaultie begins to move. He groans, and reaches for her hips, not sure he has enough self-control for this, not when she's tipping her head back, lips slightly parted, whimpering every time she rocks forward. He tries desperately to think of unpleasant things.

Eternity only lasts a few minutes. Gob can't believe his luck when the Vaultie tightens around him, her moans taking on a distinctive pitch.

"Oh, my god. Gob--" she falls forward, one hand braced on his chest. She rocks one more time, gasping at the feel of him still inside her. "--oh, Gob..."

Gob keeps one hand on her hip, using the other to roll them both over, and it's all the self-control he has left. The Vaultie wraps an arm around his neck as he thrusts into her. It doesn't take long. Before he knows it, he's collapsed against her, face buried in her curls in a blissful daze as he drifts to sleep.