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New Dear Hearts and Gentle People (M)

Kreed · 73 · 4613

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Offline Kreed

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Despite the fact that Joe felt his response was lackluster, Akuma gave a satisfied smile that caused their glasses to move as their cheekbones shifted.

"That sounds more accurate, anyway. A vague truth is better than a solid lie, if you as me." The stranger reached down to collect their bag, shifting it onto their bag before moving to roll up their sleeping bag. With a reluctant groan, Susana stood up and shifted out of the way with a lazy roll and a shift to look upside-down toward Joe, as if to say 'are you seeing this shit?'

"That is of course," Akuma added, "Unless you're lying your way out of trouble. Which is not at all unlike me." They straightened up and tied their sleeping bag down to their pack with four solid knots in a set of leather straps.

"Well, big guy, you ready to head out? Maybe that's an easier question for you." They shifted, unzipping one of their saddle bags to reveal a mutfruit, still mostly in tact and only slightly overripe. They held it out, open-palmed, for Joe to accept. "You should eat too."


Offline Jabbathejack

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"I ain't going to lie to you." Joe was still on edge, expecting a negative response to just about everything. "I just need to... work a few things out."

Like what had just happened to him over the space of a single night. In just a few hours, his life had changed.

"I'm ready to go." Of course, he was trained to be ready whenever he was told to be, even if it was a second's notice.

Joe accepted the mutfruit, murmuring his thanks. It was sweet, slightly overripe, but it was good, something that he hadn't been able to have in quite some time.

He tied his bedroll in place on the top of his pack and lifted it up onto his shoulders, tightening the straps to hold it steady.


Offline Kreed

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"I just need to work a few things out." Hell, he could say that again. "You and me both, Blondie." With some fuel in Joe's stomach, Akuma felt comfortable with moving on. They checked all their bags and pockets, making sure everything was accounted for and secure in their places before tightening the straps of their bag.

"Good. Hopefully we don't run into too much trouble before we reach DC. I reckon we'd be aight, but no sense going out of our way if we don't need to."

Akuma turned their head to look down at their Yao Guai tagalong and lightly slapped their thigh to get the bear's attention. The old white sow rose with a grunt and nosed the southerner's palm, and was given gentle scratches on her muzzle for her efforts.

From their pants pocket, Akuma revealed a small, rusting, beat up tin box that might have once held cigarette or mentats. They flipped it open with their thumbnail, revealing a substance somewhere between clay and cream, in a deep khaki-veering-on-the-edge-of-olive hue. It didn't seem to have a strong smell of any kind, and by the way Akuma swiped a finger into it and smeared it onto the bear's ears and nose, it was thick but easy enough to spread into a thin layer.

"It's gettin' warm out there already." They turned and looked to Joe, swiping a muddied set of fingers across their stomach and neck with swift, practiced strokes. "You might want a little some of this. Keep you from burning up, since you don't have much protection on you at the moment."


Offline Jabbathejack

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"Oh." Joe frowned as he looked at the contents of Lucy's tin, realising that it was for protection from the sun. A good idea, considering he didn't have his hat with him, left behind in all the confusion.

"Thank you." He murmured softly as he accepted the tin and smeared his fingers in the greasey substance and applied it to his face and neck.

"I'll have to find myself a hat somewhere."

He handed back the tin with a nod and wiped his fingers off on his shirt absent mindedly. Beckett had given him the hat, but it had had little to do with his actual comfort, more about keeping his ability to move and fight decently. Joe grimaced, why was he even thinking about a battered military hat that he didn't even have anymore?

"I'm ready."
« Last Edit: August 16, 2020, 01:26:08 PM by Jabbathejack »


Offline Kreed

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“A good hat is hard to beat,” Akuma agreed with the click of their tin. “Course, I’m a little biased.”

 With their homemade sunscreen back in their pocket, they turned to leave the Super-Duper Mart. As they lead the way back toward the entrance, they scanned through the nearly barren shelves for any signs of potential supplies, either overlooked or forgotten. Unfortunately, between the chaotic mess and the excessive greed of the raiders, it seemed very little was salvageable.

It was when they reached the shattered front door that Akuma turned and looked over the store for one final once-over. “I checked out the pharmacy last night when you were sleeping. Seems like those idiots couldn’t figure out how to unlock the door. I’ve got water and some stimpaks if you need, but ... not really anything else. No chems. If you’re into that sort of thing.”

The wind from last night had not relented, and it swept around the parking lot in tiny spirals of dust. In the soft rosy light of the early morning, the full extent of the carnage was a familiar but ever haunting sight. Already, small blisters were forming on the skin and the crows watched from the letters of the Super Duper Mart’s sign, waiting to descend as soon as the coast was clear.

Akuma neatly stepped over and around the fragments of gore. “Best haul ass before the bugs come round. ... What direction are we headed in?”


Offline Jabbathejack

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Now that it was daylight, it was possible to see the full extent of the devastation that they caused the night before. Joe was glad to be leaving it behind, with its twisted decorations of human carcasses, acting as a warning for others. Well, between the two of them, they had left their own message.

He nodded as Lucy talked about the pharmacy inside.
"No chems." Joe shook his head. "Too many and they mess with you."

He'd seen plenty of people suffering from taking too many chems. Most of them had been back at Paradise Falls, shaking in the cells as their bodies went through the withdrawal stage. The slavers preferred to get them clear before they sold them on. Poor bastards.

Grimacing, Joe followed Lucy outside.
"Yeah." He nodded at Lucy's suggestion, wanting nothing better than to be on their way.

"This way." He pointed towards the road that led the way towards Rivet City. "There's a few things out this way. A couple of farmsteads, but they don't like strangers."

Joe grimaced, but he kept his gaze on the road ahead as he set off. The last time he had been this way was with Beckett. Strangely enough, the farmers got hostile when you captured two of their sons when they were out working the fields.


Offline Kreed

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It was good to know where Joe stood on the matter of chems; they could certainly be a divisive topic among the common folks. When it came to wastelanders and scavvers, the lines were simultaneously blurred and firmly drawn from person to person. They had their own thoughts on the matter, but it was best to keep that to themselves until they had cleared some distance between themselves and the fragments of raider that were waiting to cook on the pavement for any hungry critters that happened by.

Akuma was quiet as they cleared the parking lot, and did not speak again until they had rounded the next hill. It was only when the Super Duper Mart had disappeared behind the mud-colored landscape of Arlington. The Southern caught a glimpse of Joe's souring expression, and decided to draw him back in from whatever dark thoughts must have been brewing by re-engaging him in conversation.

"I'm of two minds about chems, myself", they said, "But I may be a little biased, the way I was brought up. I can see the use of them, but the danger too. Figure everything is best in moderation. The trick is figuring out what constitutes as moderate for each person, and each chem."


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe blinked, snapping back to Lucy at the change of subject, taking him back to the matter of chems.

"I guess." He shrugged. "They might do some good sometimes, but I've seen the negative side too many times."

He kept his gaze fixed firmly ahead of them as he spoke.
"Chem heads were always easy targets for Beckett, except the ones on psycho, but he knew to avoid them."

Joe dropped his gaze to the path by his feet.
"No idea what would work for me, or if I'd even want any of that." Joe frowned, glancing at Lucy. "What would you suggest?"


Offline Kreed

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"None. Nothing."

Lucy was quick to answer Joe's question, like it was gut reflex and they didn't have to think twice about their words. It was true, because they had to reconsider their gut reaction before continuing their thought.

"You've just gone through a lot. You probably have a lot of stuff to work through, lot of pain and anger inside you." They glanced toward Joe, noting the man kept his eyes either glued forward, or dragged to the ground ahead of him. He would not meet their eyes.

"Pain and chems..."

If that wasn't the story of their goddamn life.

They said it again, soft, barely above a mumble as they turned their head back toward the front. "Pain and chems." It was followed by a slow, heavy sigh.

"You know what? Ignore what I said about them being useful in small doses. Stay away from that stuff, Joe. Right now you're in the space where you'd get sucked into the feeling. I don't think I could get you back out."


Offline Jabbathejack

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"Yeah. You're right."
Joe nodded grimly. "It ain't the best time to start experimenting like that."

He was silent for a long moment, focusing on the road ahead of them, yet his thoughts kept pulling back to Lucy's words. Pain and anger inside. Was that true?

"I guess I'm still making sense of everything."

He glanced over at his companion.
"I feel a bit like a jumble of a lot of things right now." He shrugged, smiling bitterly. "I'll be all right. I'll adjust."

He didn't have much choice. Might as well just get on with it.


Offline Kreed

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"Well, of course you are." Akuma spoke as if it were obvious. In their mind, it was. "It's been maybe twelve hours, if that, since it all happened. That's not even enough time to process your escape. Let alone all the shit you went through before that."

They idly reached about in several of their pockets, stopping at the inner pocket on the inside of their jacket. They caught themselves, hand stiff as though they'd been bitten by a snake, and drew their hand back to their side. They'd forgotten they were out of cigarettes. Just as well. They were trying to quit.

"You might not ever be over some of the stuff you experienced. Nobody expects you to be ready to go in a couple hours. Anybody who does hasn't come close to trauma and they should thank God they have the luxury of judging a man who has."

Their tone softened when they looked at the man again, and a sigh came distorted through their respirator with a warm crackle like brown noise on the radio. "Yeah. You're gonna be okay. You came away with the parts that matter." They paused, considering their new companion for a moment, before slowly turning and resuming their trip down the road. Sometimes, freedom was best appreciated in the silent contemplation of the simple things. It had a way of making even the ugly taupe and khaki landscape of the Wasteland full of natural beauty, for those willing to seek it out.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe grimaced faintly as he led the way forwards; no one expected him to be ready to go immediately, except maybe himself. Hell, he had been like that even before he had met Beckett. Always ready to spot his own failings, ready for when someone else invariably voiced them out loud.

He remained quiet, keeping alert for any dangers around them. Out here, there was a strong chance of seeing raiders and slavers not to mention the abundance of dangerous wildlife. He gave the albino yao guai a sidelong glance, watching as it snuffled in the scrub at the carcass of a dead mole rat. He was still not used to the reality of travelling with such a creature, but he figured it worked as a deterrant for any other creatures in the area. To Joe's surprise, he felt oddly comforted by that thought.

After a few hours' worth of walking, Joe held up his hand to signal Lucy silently. He gestured up the slope and spoke softly, his eyes still fixed on the slope.

"A farmhouse used to be up that way." He frowned, staring up into the trees; the house was just out of view. "Last time we went this way, the residents were hostile."

For good reason.

Joe turned to look at Lucy briefly before gesturing off the road into the wilderness.
"We should head that way. Safer."


Offline Kreed

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Akuma stopped the moment Joe threw up his hand, brows furrowing in thought. Their head turned slowly, and when Joe gestured up the slope, they squinted through their dark glasses to see if they could make out any discernible shape of a building against the harshness of the rising sun. Their respirator shifted on their face as their nose and forehead wrinkled before they shook their head and sighed. It was no use. The glare was too harsh, washing out the hills with hazy white and smoking out the shadows into inky smudges.

Damn photophobia. They looked toward Joe with a defeated slump to their spine. Like hell they'd admit to this near stranger they couldn't see shit.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess I know why they weren't exactly happy to see you. Guess the part I'm surprised about is that you think some of them could still be alive. If I was the sort of man Beckett is, I'd have made sure I'd taken them all out before moving on. No loose ends. For a group of folks that ain't got anything left to lose, vengeance is invincibility."

Still, would be awful nice to have a place to hunker down if things got hairy. Fortunately, the day was still plenty young and they would cover plenty of ground. "The way you pointed out looks a little rough. You set to be trekking around through that?"