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08 January 2011 @ 11:21 am
For the Good Times, Chapter Four: Hound Dog, Part 2  
Title: For the Good Times
Chapter: 4. Hound Dog, Part 2
Fandom: Fallout: New Vegas
Rating: PG
Characters: The Courier (Marie), The King, Rex, Hadrian, Francine Garret
Pairing: F!Courier/King
Word Count: 2,025
Summary: What happens when a man playing king meets a woman playing knight? That's when your heartaches begin. A series of oneshots detailing the relationship between the King and a female courier.
A/N: In this chapter, the King gets a little more help from his friendly neighborhood courier, and Marie gains a new companion. This chapter is also dedicated to Mr. Elvis Presley, the original King, whose birthday it is today! Happy 76th birthday, Elvis!

Previous chapters:
1. Marie's the Name
2. The Wonder of You
3. Hound Dog, Part 1

The King sat in the Atomic Wrangler, trying to clean his heart from his sleeve. It had been a few hours since the incident at the fort, more than enough time for him to feel embarrassed by his behavior there. He had a reputation to uphold, after all; his boys looked to him to set the example. The Mojave was already filled with enough hot-heads to give a squadron of air balloons lift off. Freeside itself was a minefield of bad attitudes and personality flaws without his and his gang’s contributions. Losing his temper like that was no way to establish a moral high ground amidst the masses. If anything, it lowered the quality standard that he had strived for so long to perfect, benefiting no one.

He was angry with himself, no doubt about it. At the same time, he couldn’t imagine having done any differently. It was a no-win situation he found himself in, and the stakes were much higher than he’d like.

Rex lay at his feet, sleeping soundly. It was with a heavy heart that he watched over the old dog, much in the same way his canine companion had always watched over him. The King was burdened with the knowledge that some day soon – he didn’t know when, exactly – his beloved pet would shut down. One final hardware failure, and Rex would be gone forever. No trace that he had ever existed at all, except in the King’s grief. For all his influence, his wealth of contacts, he could do nothing. There were no words to describe the helplessness he felt, just waiting for the end. It was the reason why he kept going down to the fort, every chance he got, even knowing better.

The alternative was giving up, and that simply wasn’t in his nature.

Meanwhile, on stage, Hadrian was performing one of his usual routines. “Hey, King, was that suit made to order?” the ghoul asked, looking at one of his few audience members. The King gave a nod, permitting the comedian his punch line. “It was? And where were you at the time?”

With a small smile, the King lifted his empty glass to acknowledge the friendly insult. This was all part of the act, all in good fun – it wasn’t great, or even that funny, but they all needed ways to make a living and he wasn’t about to begrudge the ghoul his. It was his firm belief that entertainers were needed in this dreary world, where smiles were in short supply and laughter all but nonexistent. Perhaps now more than ever, they needed the clowns and the actors and the musicians. As a means of escape, if nothing else.

Musing on these things, he didn’t notice Francine Garret until she was setting a glass of whiskey down in front of him.

“There must be some mistake,” the King said politely. “I didn’t order this.”

She just smiled, motioned over her shoulder.

“From the lady at the bar.”

Looking past the Garret, it wasn’t hard to guess which lady she meant. Marie was seated on one of the bar stools, arm in a sling. As soon as they made eye contact, she slid off of her seat and headed over to him. Rex woke upon her approach, head rising and ears shooting up. When the cyber dog saw who it was, however, he relaxed his guard some.

“Mind some company?” Marie asked with a barely perceptible smile.

“Not at all,” he answered, after recovering from his initial surprise. The King stood and pulled a seat out for her, which by all accounts seemed to confound her. “In fact, I’d welcome a little company. Please.”

She sat down, and he thanked her for the drink.

“You looked like you could use one,” she told him. Her dark eyes were watching him, concern hidden in their depths. Had he given her cause to worry? Her expression said yes, and he supposed he had with his little display back at the fort. After a few moments, Marie appeared visibly uncomfortable with the staring contest, and looked away. She was trying though, bless her heart, and he commended her efforts with a smile.

“Maybe so,” he agreed. “Though, by my estimates, I’d say you’re in need of one a whole lot more than me.”

He went to flag down Francine but Marie shook her head, waving him off with her good arm. “No. Nothing for me. Doctor’s orders. It’s probably for the best. I’m already pumped full of enough chems to put down a small Brahmin.”

The King laughed, her candid nature appealing to his sense of humor. “Water it is, then,” he said and then put the order on his tab before she could object.

They sat, listening to the ghoul’s act for a few minutes.

“By the way,” the King broke in, meeting her gaze again. “I wanted to thank you for talking some sense into me back there at the fort, and apologize for acting so rotten. Sometimes my temper gets the better of me. Next thing I know, I’m knocking out doctors.”

To his surprise, and pleasure, she smiled. “Don’t forget the table,” she said, teasing him.

Teasing him? Well, now, it seemed he was making some progress, after all.

“I’m a downright menace,” the King said, chuckling.

She gave a little laugh. He couldn’t help but notice how much prettier she was when that solemn mask was tossed aside. With her eyes lit in a smile, her features became that much brighter. Marie might have been wearing three kinds of dirt on her face, and a deep bruise at the base of her jaw, but her expression alone was better than any amount of makeup or flawless skin. It was real, like her. What more could he have asked for – here on the Strip, where everyone was pretending to be someone or something else?

Marie took a sip of her water and then appeared to recall something of importance. “I spoke with Julie Farkas after you left,” she said. “She said there was a man in Jacobstown who can treat Rex.”

“She said what?” He was immediately attentive, and confused. “Why didn’t she just say so when I was there?”

All it took was a reminding look from Marie, and he had an answer.

“Actually, I was pretty angry while I was down there,” he admitted sheepishly. “Guess it’s no wonder she wasn’t exactly forthcoming. Anyway, that’s incredible news!” His grin faltered as reality set in. Jacobstown wasn’t exactly a stone’s throw away. Far from it. “Only thing is, there’s too much going on around here for me to make a trip like that. And I need all of my guys just to keep things settled here . . .”

Marie was no longer looking at him, but at Rex who appeared alert and tuned into the conversation. An idea struck him.

The King leaned forward in his seat. “You seem awfully interested in my boy Rex here. And you’ve proven yourself a friend to me, and to Freeside. I’ll tell you what. You promise to get Rexie to that doctor, and I’ll lend him to you. What do you say?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” she said. “I don’t exactly lead a quiet life on the road. It’s dangerous. Things happen. I wouldn’t want any harm to come to your dog.”

Rex barked, and the King smirked. “I think he’s sayin’, he can take care of himself.”

She smiled at his invention. “Alright, then. I’ll see that Rex gets better. You have my word.”

“I can’t thank you enough –”

“Thank me after he’s better,” Marie told him.

He nodded. “Now, there’s a few things you should know about ol’ Rex here if you’re going to be traveling together. First, he hates rats. Can’t stand the things. Giant rats, mole rats, doesn’t matter. He catches a whiff of one and he’s off like a shot after them. He’s normally pretty obedient, but you might have to chase him some of he goes after one of the little varmints. Second, he doesn’t like hats, or the people wearing them. Don’t ask. I have no idea why. Maybe because it rhymes with ‘rats’.”

“Oh, he’s going to love Boone,” she said, and the King hearkened back to a memory of the First Recon soldier she liked to travel with, and his red beret.

“That should be it, though. Other than the occasional bad spot when his brain starts hurting him, that is.” He looked meaningfully at her. “But I’m hoping you’ll see to that.”

Marie nodded, and stood.

He looked down at his pet. Rex was already on his feet, alongside the courier. “Rex,” the King began. “This is your new master. Protect her, as you would me.” The dog barked his assent.

Going down on bended knee, Marie looked the dog straight in the eye. Rex looked back with his head quirked to the side. Something inexplicable passed between them – understanding, maybe. Wordless, but powerful. She reached a hand out and scratched behind his ears. His tail wagged happily, and the King reasoned that Marie had just made a new friend. One of the best and loyal ones she could ever have, in his opinion. He hoped, together, they would both stay safe.

She got back to her feet, and he knew it was time to say goodbye.

“I wish you both luck. Take care of my Rex now, y’hear?” Try as he might, he couldn’t keep the emotion from his tone.

As she passed behind him, she stopped. He felt a small hand on his shoulder, followed by a gentle, reassuring squeeze. The King didn’t know what to make of the foreign gesture, particularly coming from Marie. She was a woman of few words, so her actions had to do most of the talking.

“I will,” was all she said, and then the warm comfort of her hand was gone.

Hadrian took the opportunity to cut in with an inappropriately-timed jibe. “This guy, right here, he’s got an angel looking over his shoulder.” A beat for comedic effect. “If I were him, I’d get a restraining order!”

The King couldn’t tell how the ghoul’s commentary went over with the all-too-serious Marie, because she was already headed toward the door with Rex in tow. He watched her retreating back, and found himself sad to see her go. Before he knew it, he was on his feet and following after her.

“One more thing, before you go,” he said, catching her at the Wrangler’s threshold. “You have anywhere to stay tonight?”

“Not unless you count a patch of dirt and an old mattress at the fort,” Marie replied. “Why?”

“In that case, I’d like to extend to you an invitation. You’re welcome to stay at the School, whenever you like. Seeing as you’re going to all this trouble for me, least I can do is put you up in some decent accommodations. Consider it free room and board, courtesy of the Kings.” He leaned in, lowering his voice conspiratorially. “And between you and me, I hate to see a pretty lady sleeping on the street.”

Her normally sharp eyes regarded him with a softness that suggested his compliment had hit its mark, for once. She did that thing where she tilted her head to look at him, visibly uncertain. Truth be told, he was beginning to delight in that baffled little expression she gave in the face of an act of kindness. It was endearing, in its own way.

“Are you sure?” she asked, ever the skeptic.

“We have plenty of room to spare,” he reassured her. “Don’t worry.”

Marie pushed a few errant strands of black hair out of her face, looked from the exit back toward the stage. “Maybe I can stay a while longer,” she said, moving a mischievous gaze to the King. “Give that stupid ghoul a run for his money.”

Laughing, he told her, “Now that’s an act I’d pay to see.”

And with a gentleman’s hand on her lower back, he guided them back to their table.

Or read it @ FF.net HERE
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