One of the hardest anachronisms Nick Valentine had to deal with, harder than automatically slowing down when seeing a decrepit STOP sign or doffing his hat to every woman who walked past him, was that of the weather. The Commonwealth had precisely three options for its travellers: warm and dry; warm and wet; or warm and radioactive. Sometimes a rare day granted all three simultaneously, and the last time this had happened the miserable denizens of Sanctuary Hills had all gathered in Preston’s house to watch Hancock dance in the rain to the tune of an invisible orchestra, occasionally shooting up Jet and shouting indiscriminately at the sky, the road, and the thick green smog that surrounded him. “Asshole,” Cait had said without feeling, and there had been sage nods of agreement from the humans around her.
Meteorological stations had gone the way of all things after the bombs had done their work, and not even Travis’s newly-found confidence had given him enough of a boost to even attempt a weather report of any sort on Diamond City Radio: there would be far too many people out for his head if he did. And anyway, over the centuries the popular conversational topic of ‘the weather’ had simply fallen out of fashion: the easiest way to get yourself shanked on the roads was to approach a stranger and observe that the sky wasn’t precipitating at this precise moment, but might do at some point in the future. They would think you were nuts. And not in a good way.
The old Nick - the pre-war human who sometimes haunted Valentine’s thought patterns like a faintly remembered tune - was a man who had used the weather as an icebreaker in many of his interviews, and so taking the option away had sometimes left post-war Nick wrong-footed in the early days. Over time he had learnt to stop mentioning it, and instead kept the observations to himself as a way to begin processing data at the start of his day.
Today, he observed as he leant against one of the rusty pillars keeping Tabitha’s front porch from crashing down onto her empty Power Armour frame, was to be warm and dry. Sturges would be pleased. He’d been muttering the previous day about fixing up fencing around the Mutfruit farm planted on the traffic circle at the top of the town, but even a driven engineering mastermind hated working in the rain. The soil of the Commonwealth had been hard-baked into stubborn chalky slabs in the fallout of the War, and even a week-long storm couldn’t shift it - so when the sky did deign to share its waters with the mortals below, the ground merely became slippery rather than pliable. Tabitha had proven this once by falling quite spectacularly on her ass whilst attempting to sneak up on a Raider. This had triggered a laughing fit in Deacon, which in turn landed them all in a hot mess of trouble.
“She’s beauty and she’s grace,” Deacon had chortled as they made their way back to the Red Rocket station she used as a home away from home, all splattered in mud and blood and God knows what else. “She’ll fall flat on her face…”
“I fell on my ass, genius.” Tabitha had groaned in reply. “And no, before you suggest it, I’m not going to try a Stimpack to get rid of the bruising.”
A dark cloud momentarily flitted across Nick’s processor as the memory recall finished. Tabitha. Hm.
Nick Valentine had not been short of friendship before the sole survivor of Vault 111 had blundered into Skinny Malone’s hideout and freed him from his temporary prison. There was Jim, and the friendly folk of the first human settlement he had stumbled across after being... excused from the Institute; there were Ellie and Piper in Diamond City; and there were Irma and Doctor Amari in Goodneighbor. Then there were the grateful patrons who always offered to buy him a drink or a bowl of noodles when they saw him, and people like Hancock - those whom he held at arm’s length, but still maintained a quiet respect for.
No, Nicky had not been hurting for company these past couple of centuries - but until he met Tabitha, he hadn’t quite been aware of how lonely it had all been. Oh, Ellie was a peach, and he could sit in Dugout Inn of a Friday evening listening to the gossip of those around him, occasionally being asked to break up an argument or take a bet - very rarely insulted, but also, he knew, not entirely welcome. Perhaps that was the crux of the matter. He had always been on guard, always been ready to defend himself, always felt that he had to justify his existence to those around him: Look, guys, I’m one of you. I fix your problems. I find your spouses. I earn my caps and spend them at the Market like everybody else. I even take your shit with a smile. Now can we all please stop staring quite so openly at that gaping hole in my neck?
He could still remember the exact instant that Tabitha had realised he wasn’t human as she stumbled into Vault 114’s back office. He had been standing in the shadows - on purpose, perhaps - and could probably have passed as a human for their entire exchange had it not been for the circular glowing yellow filaments the Institute had gifted him sight with. As soon as Tabitha had seen them, she had stiffened and half-raised her gun...and then lowered it again.
“What...are you?” She had asked curiously, eyes flicking up and down his battered frame.
He had given her his spiel. Carefully rehearsed and prepared a thousand times in his mind in the millisecond it took her human brain to realise he wasn’t what she was expecting: He was a detective. Yes, he was a robot. No, that wasn’t important right now. And who was she, anyway? Got a score to settle with Skinny Malone, or…?
“No, I...I need you to find someone…”
He had assumed it would be business as usual. Just another lost lamb of the Commonwealth, looking for someone to shepherd it to the solution of all its problems. Until the next time something went wrong, anyway. Oh, how wrong he had been.
They had fought their way to Malone together, and at first he was sure that the newcomer would simply blast past him; heck, she was good enough with a gun. But, curiously, she had instead followed his lead and helped to diffuse the situation to a nonviolent close. His mind had been whirring as they finally quitted the Vault, Malone’s threats echoing lamely through the corridors behind them, stepping out into the tepid Boston air with a mix of relief and trepidation.
He had invited her back to his office, and she had accepted.
“You really don’t mind about my being a Synth, do you?” He’d asked as they walked back to Diamond City, and hopefully to answers about her son’s kidnapping.
She’d stopped and looked at him, peering through the gloom to meet his sharp yellow eyes with a mild, unreadable expression. “The whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket,” she’d replied eventually. “Some bastard murdered my husband and stole my son. Thousands of people have been so badly irradiated that they’ve turned into immortal feral beasts who can kill you with a swipe of their hands, if the radiation doesn’t get to you first. Then there are humans who kill others and string up their corpses for funsies, and Super Mutants who do God knows what with their kills but it probably involves a frying pan and a nice Chianti. Oh, and the capital city of the entire damn mess is a baseball park.” She shook her head with a wry chuckle. “You’re absolutely right, Mister Valentine. I don’t care that you’re a robot...so long as you’re a halfway decent person.”
He’d smiled back at her. “I can only promise you that I try to be just that, each and every day the sun brings.”
“I noticed. If some guy had locked me up for a couple of weeks for trying to do the right thing I wouldn’t have been so forgiving.”
He pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. “And yet, you didn’t ice him.”
She folded her arms. “He didn’t seem...like such a bad guy. I’m sorry I had to mow down his mooks but they were the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ type and I could hardly stand up in the middle of a firefight and ask for parlay.” She sighed. “Everybody makes bad choices in life. At least Malone gets to live to make another one.”
He had laughed at that. “And he will, no fear.” Then he sobered. “You said somebody stole your son?”
“Yes.” She looked away. “That’s why I needed to find you; Mayor McDonough said you could help.”
And he had tried. And, he supposed, they had succeeded - but he could still remember the agony in her eyes when she returned to Sanctuary weeks after teleporting out in Sturges’ ramshackle construction; remember the pain in her voice as she told him it had been a lot longer than she originally thought; remember the fury in the set of her shoulders when she revealed that her son had been running the show at the Institute these past decades, had been the cause of so much misery and mayhem and death.
Tabitha had burst forth from Vault 111 and wrought a unique kind of havoc on the Commonwealth: that of kindness. She charmed and smiled her way through situations that otherwise would have ended in violence. She didn’t judge the Ghouls or the robots or the chem-addled humans, but instead invited them to be her pals, to share in her journey. Heck, she had even been offered kinship from a goddamn Super Mutant. Deacon had joked that her next trick would be to tame a Deathclaw, but Nick wasn’t so sure that she would find such a feat impossible.
To think that her nearest kin could be such an antithesis to her...well, it almost broke her. Almost. But she was strong. She fought. She signed up with the Railroad and she vowed to rescue every damn Synth she could get her hands on, as though each soul she saved would somehow atone for Shaun's decent into mercilessness. They all saw the parallel, he knew that. Perhaps even she did too. She lost friends over it - Paladin Danse and Strong both headed for the hills once her compassion became too much for them to bear - and she developed quite the sarcastic streak for anyone who dared question her prerogatives, but even catching a glimpse of her face from afar would make his world brighter for a day or two. And that was good enough for him.
...Or at least it had been, until recently.
She was running herself ragged working for the Railroad and the Institute simultaneously, he knew that. She only managed to make it to Sanctuary once a fortnight at the moment, and that was usually just to drop off and pick up supplies and companions; presently she was out hunting down a Courser with Deacon somewhere near Poseidon Energy. She hadn’t even stopped for a nap. She had run into town, Dogmeat trailing behind her with his tongue lolling out and his muzzle flecked with spittle, smacked Deacon on the back of the head and shouted “you’re it!”, and five minutes later the two of them had been heading out towards Red Rocket to pick up some ammo and hit the road.
She hadn’t even said goodbye.
Heck, she hadn’t even said hello.
But there was something else, too. He was the only one of her followers who hadn’t been along on any Institute- or Railroad-based missions, which actively left him in the doghouse. Not even Dogmeat’s doghouse; he had been on thirteen separate missions with his mistress and was now uncannily good at avoiding laser fire. Even Codsworth had been along on a few, and he wasn’t exactly discriminate with the use of his flamethrower. Why does a domestic tincan like that even need a flamethrower? I know Tabitha burns her Redstag steak but I’m pretty sure that’s to hide the taste, not because she has a hankering for pre-war beef flambé.
He was also developing the sneaking suspicion that she was actively trying to avoid him whenever she breezed into down. He tried to convince himself that it was paranoia, seeing patterns that didn’t actually exist...but it hadn’t worked. Nick Valentine was a detective, a damned good one, and sensing patterns in chaos was his forte. No, he wasn’t paranoid or over-sensitive. There was definitely something wrong.
And he wasn’t sure how to put it right.
They spent the day working on the house down by the bridge, knocking through all of the walls and replacing them with structural supports to make an open-space barracks for the new arrivals. Whilst some who arrived in town took one look at Nick or Hancock and decided to leave again, a lot of newcomers stayed to settle - good news for the farm, bad news for the bed situation. The retaking of the Castle from Mother Nature and her Mirelurk abominations and done a lot to restore the Commonwealth’s confidence in the Minutemen, and Sanctuary had become something of a beacon for those settlers looking to make something of themselves. Unfortunately many of them were having to sleep on the ground under a makeshift parapet on the road, cluttered together like discarded dolls in a child’s toybox, and there had been several incidents of theft and assault in the past few weeks. Preston had left Hancock to deal with them: whilst he didn’t exactly approve of Goodneighbor's government, he had to admit that once Hancock told somebody not to do something they certainly did not do it again.
The cry went up just as the sun was touching the horizon and Sheffield was making his daily tour of the town, switching on all of the generators hooked up to the meagre lighting stands Sturges had been able to throw together. “They’re back!” A settler named Beth called from the front guard post. “One Deacon and one Tabitha, on the bridge.” She squinted into the darkness. “Weighed down with junk.”
“Sounds about right,” Preston had murmured with a grin. “I hope she brought some cloth for the beds.”
Nick had been helping Sturges to carry his toolboxes back to his home on the other side of town; by the time the two of them reached the road, only Deacon remained. “Tab’s gone to clean herself up,” he said, throwing a mock-salute at them. “I hit a Raider with a headshot whilst he was standing next to her and boom, brains all over her face.” He blew a raspberry and mimed a head exploding with his hands. “It was awesome, but only for me.”
“Tabitha once disintegrated a Molerat in front of me when she was experimenting with Laser Pistols,” said Preston. “The ashes blew right into my mouth.”
They all laughed good-naturedly, and even though he joined in Nick felt a pang in his processor. He missed the old days - not the old-old days of pre-war Boston, but the new-old days of roaming the Commonwealth for adventure. He knew it was selfish of him, but back then Tabitha had been without allegiance or defined purpose; drifting from one settlement to another with the desperate hope that somebody would know something about the Institute, about how to reach her son. And in the meantime they had taken up all sorts of missions and quests from all walks of life, from rescuing Ghoul kids from fridges to hunting down brewery robots and ale recipes in old abandoned warehouses. Doing so had alleviated the guilt he felt in temporarily abandoning Ellie and the Agency, but they had always made a point to stop off in Diamond City every now and again to check in and barter their caps away on gear.
And they had done such good. Improved the lives of so many people. Brought so many smiles to so many faces. He knew that he was also doing good here, helping the people of Sanctuary establish a new colony, start their lives over, discover a purpose that was hitherto denied from them...but it wasn’t the same. Not without her.
The crowd drifted away eventually, herded by Preston - who was all in favour of curfews but had been shouted down on too many occasions to actually try to enforce one - until only Deacon and Nick remained. They stood in companionable silence, watching the stars unfurl against the dark sky.
“How is she?” Nick asked quietly after a pause.
Deacon held his hand out, palm facing down, and wobbled it on his wrist. “So-so. Admittedly less so-so after I splattered her with grey matter.” He threw a sideways glance at the Synth, noting the hunched shoulders and uneasy twitch in his hands. “She could probably use a friendly face, you know, to talk at.”
“Probably could,” Nick agreed distractedly.
“But since there aren’t any available, I guess she’d settle for you.” Deacon continued after a further pause, rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses. He never removed them, not even after sundown. “I mean it’s all dark and stuff in her shack, and she could use the illumination to read or something.”
“Hm.” Said Nick, and Deacon’s smile faded.
“Hey, come on. I know it’s killing her, living this whole double-life. I’m probably the best qualified to know that, actually, and I just figure she needs to talk. I’m great at the whole listening part but I’m also not super good at being all wise and sympathetic. Whereas you have this whole Mama Yao Gui thing going on. People practically run at you with their problems.” He scratched his cheek. “It’s probably the hat.”
“Or the fact I’m slightly magnetic.”
“Yeah, or tha...wait. Really?”
Nick’s lips twitched. “As far as you know.” He looked off into the distance, towards Tabitha’s little shack on the edge of town, and shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll amble on over and make she’s doin’ okay, then.” It felt like he was asking permission, but he set off as soon as he finished speaking.
Deacon watched him fade into the darkness. “Hey!” He called after him. “If you die, can I have your hat?”
Nick’s response would have been unpublishable in Publik Occurrences.
Tabitha wasn’t in her shack. The small living area was lit up in a faint blue glow by the strategic placement of Nuka Cola Quantums, and he could dimly spy Dogmeat peering out at him from his dog box in the corner of the room. Everything was silent, apart from the rhythmic thump-thump-thump of the Alsatian’s tail slapping repeatedly against the wood in excitement. The tempo increased as Nick approached him.
“Hey, boy,” he said softly. “Have you seen Tabitha?”
Dogmeat gave a soft bark. Yes. And then a whine. She’s not here.
“It’s okay, boy, I’m sure she’ll be back soon.” Nick held out his hand - he always had to remind himself to use his Synth hand for Dogmeat because it apparently gave better head-scratches than his ‘human’ one - and chuckled as it was viciously attacked with licks. “If you’re angling for a Sugar Bomb then you’re fresh outta luck; I ran out some time back.”
Dogmeat let out a whine and his tail stopped wagging.
A series of clatters and thuds from the derelict house across the way rang out into the night. Frowning, Nick peered out into the darkness through the open doorway and saw a faint pink light moving around in the living room: Tabitha’s Pip-Boy. He looked back at Dogmeat. “Seems like a funny hour to be working on home renovation.”
Dogmeat crawled out from his doghouse and gave Nick a gentle push in the back of his knees, then let out another whine and sat back on his haunches. Go on, he seemed to say. Get on with it.
“Yeah, okay.” Nick stuck his hands in his pockets and sighed. “You and Deacon in cahoots or something?”
Dogmeat’s tail wagged, making a shuffling sound against the bare dirt floor.
“Figures,” muttered Nick.
He left the shack and headed over to the gaudy yellow house a family had occupied before the great bang had blown their ashes to the wind. It was one of the last to be tackled by the clearing crews Preston had assembled and as of such had been used as a sort of storage depot for the items Sturges hadn’t quite gotten around to scrapping yet; the bathroom, Nick knew, was full of sinks.
By the time he reached it, Tabitha had moved on to the bedroom. From her behaviour he guessed she was searching for something; she got a certain agitated energy about her when she rifled through old buildings for caps, ammo and junk. Bull in a china shop, pre-war Nick would have called it, although post-war Nick wasn’t so sure what a bull actually was. Probably just a really big Brahmin.
As he entered the room, she straightened up and gave the filing cabinet a short sharp kick. “Goddamn you!”
“What did that poor hunk of metal ever do to you?” He asked, leaning against the doorframe and folding his arms.
Her head whipped around and she gave a small start; when she saw who it was she began to smile...and then didn’t. “Oh. Hey, Nick.”
“Hey yourself,” he said. “What’re you looking for? Sturges has a rather...unique method of filing. Ellie would have a fit if she ever saw this place.”
“Screws,” said Tabitha. “I’m looking for anything that has screws in it. The sight on my pistol broke.”
“There’re some fans and hot plates in the guest bedroom,” Nick said. “And I think I saw a telephone or two hanging around in the bathroom.”
This time she did smile. “Great. Thanks.” She moved towards the door and then stopped when he didn’t get out of the way.
He looked at her. “Have you got a sec?”
She avoided his eyes. “Not really. I wanna just get this fixed up and get to bed. I’m heading out for the Railroad first thing.”
“Can I join you?” He already knew the answer, and when it came it was as blunt as it was immediate.
“No, I’m going alone.”
“Then I need to talk to you now.”
She rocked back on her heels and finally looked him full in the face. “Okay. What is it?”
“Uh…” Now that it actually came down to brass tacks, he couldn’t find what to say. It was all there, floating around in his mind like glow fungus spores, but all disconnected from him: abstract thoughts and ideas he wanted to convey that were fine until it came to putting them into words, and then they fragmented into uncertainty. “I…” He tailed off.
Tabitha folded her arms. “Yeah?”
“I…” He passed his hand over his face. “Aw, hell. I miss you. I miss travelling with you. I miss our little shindigs. And I get it, I do. I’m a Synth, you’re hunting Synths, it’s all very uncomfortable. But the Institute doesn’t have its claws in me. They were done with me decades ago. And I don’t know how I could ever prove it to you more than I already have, except to say that I support everything you’re doing and I want to be there for you when you do it.” Internally, he groaned. That was just about the worst speech you ever gave, and you once took a hit to the vocaliser that left you croaking for weeks. What the hell, Valentine?
Tabitha was staring at him. “You...you think I don’t want you along because I’m worried you’ll betray me?”
“Can’t think of any other reason.” He was aware that was getting defensive, but he couldn’t help it. “I haven’t said or done anything to offend you, or at least I’m pretty sure I haven’t, and last time I checked my gun skills were still pretty good in a brawl. So I figure that it’s gotta be my unique physiology that’s holding me back. Just as it always has.” He hadn’t meant for the last part to come out at all, and when it did it was soaked with bitterness. He winced at the sourness of his own tone.
Tabitha’s arms fell to her sides and she looked away, down at the floor. She bent and picked up a piece of metal tiling from the roof, examined it, stalled for time. Eventually, she shook her head. “Nick...I’m not scared you’ll betray me.”
“Now, look -”
“- I’m scared that you’ll die.”
He stuttered. “What?”
She sucked air in between her teeth in a hiss. “Do you know what it’s like for me to kill a Synth, Nick? It’s not like killing humans. It’s not like Raiders, or Gunners, or Ghouls. It’s not like killing humans who have chosen to be evil - or, well, Ferals who don’t know any different. They’re more like Deathclaws, I guess. But Synths... I’m killing slaves, beings who possess the potential to be so much more. Beings who…” She paused and stole a quick look at him, biting her lip. “...Are your brothers, like it or lump it. And they’re made like you, the Stryders especially. The Coursers aren’t so bad because they’re practically human, but I take a quick glance up on the battlefield and I see a pair of yellow eyes gleaming back at me and just for a split second I think I’m looking at you down the barrel of a gun...and then I have to kill them, because otherwise they would kill me. And killing them is killing you. Over and over and over again. And Christ, Nick...I already lost Nate. I don’t want to lose you.”
The silence stretched out between them, broken only by Tabitha’s panting. She had worked herself up into a quiet rage, her fingers tensed against the metal sheet she held, her face red and shiny in the dim light of the Pip-Boy.
“Me?” Nick asked eventually, and he hated how small he sounded. The fallen home around them suddenly seemed simultaneously too big and too small; intimidating but also claustrophobic.
“Yes. You.” Her voice cracked and she took a moment to compose herself. “Do you remember when we first arrived in Goodneighbor, and you pulled me aside for a chat? Do you remember what you said?” He did, but he couldn’t find the words to interrupt her. “You told me that the Institute had thrown you away. That you were junk. And I remember standing there in the rain, watching the sadness pass over your face and wondering how the hell you could ever think that about yourself when you’ve done so much to help so many. To help me.” She tried to laugh but it came out as a harsh, phlegmy sob. “I think I fell a little bit in love with you that day, Nick Valentine. And the first time I shot a Synth, watched its skin fly off, watched it fall to the floor and spark and die...my heart just about snapped in two because for a split second I thought I had shot you, and I couldn’t...I couldn’t…”
With a dull sense of horror he realised she was crying. He had never seen her cry before, and it alarmed him. After everything she had been through - losing her husband, losing her son, finding her son again only to realise he was the villain all along - she had maintained a stoically optimistic outlook on the world with bright eyes and a trembling jaw. But now the tears were falling, not making a dent in the dirt on her face but still there all the same, and he felt total helplessness.
She gave a harsh sob and turned away, her arms crossed across her ribs, a hand over her mouth. He stepped forwards and placed an awkward hand on her shoulder, working on the instinct gleaned from a faded memory of his predecessor. "Hey."
She turned reluctantly, the tears already coming to an end, taking huge gulps of air to try to quash the sobs. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have...I shouldn’t have said all that...I…” She cleared her throat. “I can understand if you want to go back to Diamond City, and, uh, continue with, continue with the Agency.” She wiped her sleeve across her face, then looked at him. “Please say something.”
If Synths possessed the ability to blush, Nick Valentine would have turned as red as a tato on the spot. As it was, he merely let out an embarrassed cough and started patting at his pockets for a cigarette. “I don’t wanna go back to Diamond City,” he said, finding one and lighting it with sparks generated from the fingers of his metal hand. “Not without you. Never without you.” He took a drag. “I remember what I told you in Goodnighbor. But I also remember something else I told you, later, down south from there as we stared down Swan and won. I told you that the one thing I had always wanted, more than anything else, was something to call my own. Well, these past few months have shown me that I already knew what that something was, and I had halfway convinced myself that I had lost it.” He offered her a weak smile. “It’s good to know that I haven’t.”
“And that you never will,” she added. She matched his smile, but hers was tinged with sadness. “I’m sorry I didn’t explain myself sooner. I’m sorry for putting you through that. I’m...I’m sorry.”
“You do have a habit of carrying the world on your shoulders, doll.” His mind was nagging at him, telling him to do something, but he couldn’t quite translate the abstract impulses into physical actions. “It’s okay to let your hair down every now and again.”
She nodded. “So...we’re okay?”
“More than okay. We’re just swell.” And without thinking - just allowing those abstract impulses to just do their thing - he threw away his cigarette, stepped forward, and folded her into his arms. He half expected her to push him away, to berate him and tell him she didn’t mean like that for Gods’ sake, he was a robot - but she didn’t. Her own arms found their way under his coat, looping around his waist, and they stood together alone in the darkness, each listening to the other tick.
Their peaceful solitude lasted five minutes.
Deacon skidded into the room. “I hate to break up your little...whatever this is,” he said as they broke apart, each muttering some form of excuse, “but we got Super Mutants on the horizon and Preston is totally freaking out.” He paused. “We’re probably all gonna die, so if you two wanna share a farewell kiss or something I can totally understand.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Desdemona,” said Tabitha, unholstering her .44 pistol. “Deacon got shot by a Super Mutant. Yeah, in the head. Real close range. Well, he would insist on wearing those stupid sunglasses at night...”
“You’re totally right,” said Deacon. “I should go tell Preston to man the mortar. Later.” He left.
Nick smirked. “Super Mutants, eh? Never a dull day in Sanctuary.”
“Must have been pretty dull recently,” said Tabitha.
“...Yeah. But I think I can see a light in the distance.”
They smiled at one another.
“Well,” said Tabitha, “after you, old friend.”
Nick held up a hand. “Oh no. I’ve seen - and felt - what happens when I get between your gun and a Super Mutant. After you, partner.”
They ran into the night together, chasing the sound of gunfire as they always did, and even though it took several hours to scrub the smell of Super Mutant blood from his coat Nick Valentine couldn’t help but feel that everything was right with the world.