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13 January 2011 @ 08:43 am
For the Good Times, Chapter Five: Crying in the Chapel  
Title: For the Good Times
Chapter: 5. Crying in the Chapel
Fandom: Fallout: New Vegas
Rating: PG
Characters: The Courier (Marie), The King, Pacer, Rex, Boone
Pairing: F!Courier/King
Word Count: 2,039
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, Marie can't sleep, but finds momentary solace in the King's music.

Previous chapters:
1. Marie's the Name | 2. The Wonder of You | 3. Hound Dog, Part 1 | 4. Hound Dog, Part 2

Marie woke in a cold sweat, her heart swollen with dread.

Around her, nothing seemed familiar. Everything was darkness and shadows, immaterial specters trying to follow her from her dreams. She felt for her gun and found it beneath her pillow. The revolver was cool against her hot flesh, comforting only for the few moments she thought she might have to use it. While a well-placed bullet could solve most problems in the Wasteland, or make them that much worse on a bad day, they proved altogether ineffective against ghosts of the past. Hers, specifically. In the courier’s experience, it was those skeletons in her closet that were the hardest to kill. They refused to stay dead, the stubborn bastards, instead choosing to live on in her nightmares.

She kicked her feet free of the tangled covers, and threw her legs over the side of the bed. After enough sleepless nights over the years, Marie knew when she was beat. Didn’t matter that she was tired, or that she was in sore need of some rest, or that she would probably end up being extremely unpleasant in the morning. If she laid back down, all that awaited her behind closed eyes was a lifetime of regret. Her head sank into her hands and, rubbing her face, she released a ragged breath. All she knew was this sort of thing hadn’t been a problem before she’d gotten shot. Who would’ve guessed that her second chance would come replete with insomnia? Amazing thing, a conscience. And inconvenient beyond words.

It was nothing a little air couldn’t fix, though, even the irradiated kind. Having convinced herself of this, Marie stood and made her way to the door. In the process, she nearly tripped over Rex who was curled up in the middle of the floor. The dog growled out his displeasure, but a quick pet on the head calmed him down. Now awake, Rex seemed ready to play a rousing game of Follow the Leader. Except, in this instance, the leader in question didn’t want to be followed.

“Stay,” she whispered, and he laid back down with only a whine of protest. It drew a reluctant smile from her. “Good dog, Rex.”

None of this seemed to disturb Boone who Marie was under the impression could sleep through the Second Coming. He was nearest the door, back to the wall, and was for all intents and purposes dead to the world. His cherished sniper rifle was cradled in his arms like a sleeping babe, one hand still wrapped secure around the barrel. That wasn’t the strange part. With eyes shut tight, his brows kept furrowing together, his lips forming around silent syllables. Most people looked peaceful when unconscious, but not Boone. He looked troubled. She wondered if this was the way she looked, too, when she was asleep and dreaming – not of sugar plum fairies.

Taking the utmost care not to wake him – or anyone else, for that matter – Marie headed downstairs. The King’s School was normally a place of activity, bustling with young men wearing their signature Jailhouse Rockers and assuming some pre-war persona. Now, the building and all those inside slumbered, resulting in an atmosphere that wasn’t as flamboyant as it was lonely.

Upon reaching the top of the stair well, a peculiar sound floated up. The walls carried it to her, and she stopped to listen for a time.

You saw me crying in the chapel, the tears I shed were tears of joy . . .

A man’s voice, and he was singing. The melody was haunting, which was fitting considering how like a lost spirit Marie felt at that moment, wandering the empty halls with guilt beating in her chest. This music was unlike any she’d heard before, sublime in its simplicity, chilling in its effect. Honest.

She decided to find its source.

I’ve searched, and I’ve searched, but I couldn’t find no way on Earth to gain peace of mind.

It didn’t take very long for her to find the musician, just a few lines of verse. With unnecessary stealth, she peered around the door frame. The theatre was draped in black except for a single spot on the stage. Swathed in flickering light from the ceiling, the King sat at the edge of the stage with a guitar in hand. Adroit fingers plucked the strings with expertise, the kind that came only with years of play. With eyes closed, an expression of contentment was etched into his features. She watched him there, singing in a baritone voice that would have made angels weep to hear it.

Marie didn’t notice her own eyes, hot and stinging.

Now I’m happy in the chapel, where people are of one accord,” he continued, a mild tremble accenting the powerful words. “Yes, we gather in the chapel, just to sing and praise the Lord.”

Religion wasn’t talked about much these days, unless it was in the context of an obscenity. Marie herself had only come across it on a few occasions, usually when people were begging for their lives. For the love of God, they’d say. She always thought that was a curious expression. It was often followed by the usual pleas for mercy – all of which went unheard, by both her and said great deity. At the time, she hadn’t thought much of it; spirituality had been wasted on the assassin-who-would-be-courier. But now? Paths of redemption, such as the one she found herself on, were riddled with questions of purpose. Some might have scorned people of faith, but Marie just sought to understand.

A sharp pain shot through her arm, still in the process of healing, at the same time a hand yanked her backwards. Startled, she barely had time to reign in her survival instincts which would have led to her laying out the unfortunate intruder with a punch to the trachea or a knee to the groin.

“Well, what do we have here?” She recognized Pacer by his sneer; otherwise, he looked just like any other Kings member. Minus the manners. “A thief? NCR spy maybe?”

“Stand down, Pacer.”

Marie hadn’t even realized the King had stopped playing until he was standing in front of them, still holding his guitar in one hand.

“Miss Marie here’s our guest,” he went on to explain. “And I expect you to treat her as such.”

“You didn’t see the way she was watching you, boss,” Pacer objected, shooting Marie a dirty look. She was starting to regret not having followed her gut and giving the chump what was probably a long time coming to him. A beat-down of epic proportions. “Probably planning on killing you when your back was turned or somethin’.”

“Or something,” Marie agreed, which just served to make Pacer angrier.

Luckily, all it took was a few words more from the King to send the weasel scurrying back to whatever hole he’d crawled out of. “Pace, you’re looking a bit worse for wear there. Why don’t you go catch a few Z’s? I can handle things from here.”

“You’re nursin’ a viper at your breast,” he said, setting up his parting shot. His glare threatened a dozen other insults, but he finished with, “Sure hope she’s worth it.”

As he stalked off like a predator denied his meal, the King simply shook his head.

“I wish I could say I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but I do,” he said, lamenting the fact in not so many words. “The influx of NCR troopers and refugees in Freeside has him on edge. Perhaps for good reason.” Marie could see in the stress lines of the King’s face and the look in his eyes that Pacer wasn’t the only one bothered by this particular vein of trouble. The King just hid it better, concealing a world of malcontent behind a carefully constructed façade of savoir faire. It was admirable – at least she could see no harm to it.

“Anyway,” he went on, adapting his frown into a smile. “I wish I’d known I was giving a performance earlier. I would have taken requests.”

Marie glanced down. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

He shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry for,” he assured her. Then he got real quiet, and Marie was forced to look back up at him. His brows had come together in a look of concern. She didn’t understand it until he reached out a finger and brushed something from her cheek. There was care and gentleness in the act, such as Marie had not been shown in . . . She couldn’t remember how long. “What’s this now?” the King asked. “Tears?”

She jerked her head back, and eradicated the remaining tears through a few, almost violent wipes. It had been so long since Marie had cried that she’d forgotten the signs. Traveling through the Mojave, her eyes were always irritated in some way. But she was inside, there was nothing here to aggravate her eyes, except for the soft, sweet melodies sung by a pure soul on an old guitar. To say that she was surprised at herself would have been an understatement. To say that she was embarrassed, that would have been hitting it right on the nose.

“Must be my arm,” she lied. Her arm did hurt, but that wasn’t the cause. Just a byproduct of being manhandled by Pacer.

Convinced or not, the King took her for her word. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, guiding her into the theatre and seating her at one of the tables. “Why don’t I play a little more for you? Take your mind off of it.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that . . .” She would never dare, point in fact.

He smirked, took a seat opposite Marie, and let his fingers drift across the strings. She watched him, this curious man with the peculiar voice, curling lip, and soft-hearted smile. Even now, she didn’t know quite what to make of him. All she knew was the effect of that smile, how it was like a shot of plasma to her insides, reducing her to her basest parts – a plethora of emotions that she had long since thought dead and gone. A deluge of feeling from a dried-up source.

Marie guessed the King was sort of like her own personal miracle, in that sense.

“I figured as much,” he went on to say. “You know, you’ve never asked me for a single thing. In all the time I’ve known you. Not one thing. I’m not sure what to make of it, to tell the truth.”

“Guess I’m a cheap date,” Marie said.

His laughter was its own music, at least to her ears. “You are, at that.”

She smiled.

The King struck a chord on his guitar. The dark theatre lit up with sound; she imagined it warm and colorful against the grey silence. Then, fixing her with a meaningful gaze she couldn’t tear her eyes from, he began singing again, picking up right where he’d left off. “You’ll search and you’ll search, but you’ll never find no way on earth to gain peace of mind.

Take your troubles to the chapel. Get down on your knees and pray. Your burdens will be lighter, and you’ll surely find the way.” He finished without any flourish or exuberance. Just a simple tapering off in quiet conclusion, the strings finally going still.

Marie wasn’t sure how to respond, and she didn’t trust her voice, so she imitated what she’d seen others do after performances at the Aces Theatre. She clapped.

“Thank you,” he said, with a modest chuckle. “Thank you very much.”

As he set his guitar to the side, she asked him, “Do you believe in what you sing?”

“Sometimes. Other times, they’re just dressed-up words. More a comfort than anything else.”

She nodded, absorbing the wisdom of his answer. It was something else for her to think on, late at night, when all she had were her sins to keep her company. Except now, Marie would also have his song – its beauty and its reassurance, its hope. Maybe it would be enough to keep the monsters away.

Or read it @ FF.net HERE
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
icecrystal2k: Boone Heart Pajamasicecrystal2k on January 14th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
Ah! I'm all caught up. I love how you've characterized the King as being from a different time, and basically everything you write about him, because it's all lovely and feels so right and in-character.

I love Pacer too much. I mean, he's a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed Jet addict. And yet. Wonderful to see him make an appearance.

I like your Courier, and the journey she's been on.
lady_boromir: The Kinglady_boromir on January 15th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I thought the game did a good job of setting the King apart, so I try to keep to that as much as I can while still expanding on the character. Plus I like to inject a little bit of Elvis into him every now and then, too. ;) Glad to hear that he feels in-character! And Pacer is one of those characters you love to hate, I think. xD He'll be popping up several more times, I'm sure, given his connection to the King. And it makes me very happy to hear that you're still enjoying my courier and her journey! She's a complicated gal, and I've enjoyed writing about her. =)