A young boy breathed in deeply as he stood at the top of one of the Citadel watch towers. His chestnut colored hair whipped around in the wind as he looked out over the expanse of the ruins. His whole body trembled as he looked over the edge. Jesus, he hated heights. Why was he up here?!
“Look Mav! I see a dog pack that way. Do you think Mom and Dad will let us adopt one?!” a high pitched voice squealed happily.
Oh, that’s why.
Maverick rolled his eyes and looked at his 10 year old sister standing nearby. She was leaning on the watch tower railing and pointing out toward the open area near the Citadel. Her dark hair whipped around her own face as she beamed at him.
“Rach! Get off of the railing. Dad would kill me if you fell!” Maverick ordered, feeling queasy at the thought.
Rachel shrugged and stepped away from the railing. “I don’t know why you’re so scared of heights. It’s really not that bad up here.”
Maverick begged to differ. “Come on. Mom is going to be looking for us soon.”
Rachel scuffed her shoe on the ground and reluctantly followed Maverick down the watch tower stairs.
They jogged across the bailey toward the B ring. Maverick’s mom was currently serving as the Brotherhood’s doctor until they get their robot fixed.
Maverick honestly preferred his mother looking at the wounds he got from training rather than a robot. At least he knew his mother wouldn’t accidentally try to cut his arm off when she was treating him.
The finally made it to the Infirmary and Maverick knocked on the door. Rachel clutched at the back of his shirt and Maverick rolled his eyes. She really needed to stop doing that. She was 10 years old for crying out loud. But, he let her do it anyway because he was a sucker when it came to her and she knew it.
The door finally opened and his mom, Eleanor, beamed down at them. “Just a second. I’m treating a broken nose right now.”
She gently closed the door and Maverick looked back at Rachel with a shrug. Rachel suddenly smiled. “I’m going to ask her about the dogs.”
Maverick shook his head in amusement. “You do that, Rach. She’s going to say no.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
“No you don’t. You act like you know everything but you don’t, Mav.”
Maverick just grinned and shook his head again.
A loud cry suddenly came from the Infirmary and the soothing sound of Eleanor’s voice shortly followed it.
An Initiate that Maverick didn’t recognize walked out of the room, holding a bloody rag to his nose. Eleanor followed him. “Now keep that up there. It’ll stop bleeding eventually.”
The initiate nodded and walked away. Maverick kind of felt bad for the guy. They were practicing hand-to-hand combat today in training and it was rough for a lot of the newer kids. Maverick didn’t have any trouble. His dad has been training him for as long as he can remember so he never had to worry during training. It was all review to him.
His father, Johnathan, was the head Paladin in the Brotherhood and was one of Elder Lyons’ personal advisors. Johnathan had told Maverick that he needed his children to be the best in training, or he would look bad.
When Maverick was younger, he just accepted these words and didn’t ask questions. He just did what his father told him too. Now, he thought it was complete and utter bullshit, but he tried his best in training anyway. He didn’t know how to do anything else.
Rachel was now going through their father’s training sessions and Maverick couldn’t help but feel pissed whenever he saw a bruise forming on his sister’s skin or when she looked worn down. She stayed happy and smiling though, and that was better than how Maverick did at her age.
Eleanor smiled and kneeled down to press a kiss to Rachel’s temple. “Are you two ready for dinner?”
“Mom, can we have a dog?”
Eleanor’s brows rose at the question. “Why do you want a dog, sweetie?”
“We saw a pack of them from the watch tower today and they look really cool. Can we please have one?”
Eleanor shook her head. “Sorry honey, dogs require a lot of work and supplies that we just don’t have.”
Rachel frowned. “But Sarah has a dog! Why does she get a dog and we don’t? Dad’s just as important as Elder Lyons. I want a dog!”
“Rach, that’s enough,” Maverick warned, seeing how his Mom’s brows were starting to pinch together. They only did that when she was upset.
“Shut up, Maverick! I just don’t get why we can’t have a dog! It’s not fair!”
“Rachel Marie Barrington, you stop right now,” Eleanor ordered softly.
Eleanor then sighed and tucked a lock Rachel’s dark hair behind her ear. Maverick almost sighed when he saw his sister’s eyes glazing over with unshed tears.
“Rachel, we can’t have a dog. They really are much more work than they’re worth. A dog would take away food that another person could be eating. Do you want to take food away from someone else?”
“And there’s your answer. Don’t ask again,” Eleanor said with finality.
The trio walked toward the mess hall in a tense silence. Angry tears slowly trailed down Rachel’s cheeks and it took all of Maverick’s willpower to not reach out and hold her hand. This was a lesson she had to learn, and he couldn’t hold her hand and comfort her while she was learning.
It sucked to see her cry though.
“Maverick! Maverick wake up!”
Maverick jerked awake and reached for the knife he kept under his pillow. He looked up and was shocked to see his dad standing over him. Johnathan Barrington was the perfect definition of authority. From the way his hair was combed over to how he spoke and acted told no one to mess with him.
At the moment, Johnathan’s dark eyes were flashing with fury. “Get up. Now.”
Maverick quickly rolled out of bed at his father’s harsh tone. “What is it?” he asked, pulling on his boots.
“It’s Rachel. She’s missing.”
Maverick felt like a bucket of rad-water was poured over his head and it left a wake of nausea after it. “What?!”
“You heard me. She’s missing. Keep your voice down.”
Maverick looked around and was surprised to see the other Initiates in their beds still. “Why isn’t the whole Citadel awake?”
“Because I want to keep this as low key as possible. Now hurry up, I have a small group waiting near the front gate. Meet us there.”
Maverick grit his teeth to keep a smart ass remark to himself as Johnathan walked away. Low key? Maverick didn’t know much about being a parent, but he would have been turning the whole damn place upside down if he had a missing kid. Not forming a small search party and hoping no one found out.
“Fucking asshole,” he hissed, quickly pulling his combat armor on. He grabbed his laser rifle and slung it over his shoulder before loping over to the main entrance. He clipped on his ammo belt and stepped out the door to see his parents and a few other Paladins waiting there.
“Good, we’re all here. Maverick, you and Paladin Wernicke will cover the land southeast of us toward the river. Eleanor and I will cover the land northwest and Paladin Jordan and Paladin Reynes will cover the area southwest.”
Maverick almost sighed. His dad obviously had no idea what was going on. “Dad, she went after the dog pack that passed by south of here because she wants a dog. It’s pointless to go north.”
Johnathan whipped around and narrowed his eyes at him.
“Are you head Paladin, Initiate?”
“Not. Now. Eleanor.”
Maverick grit his teeth again. He fucking hated how his dad talked to his mom. His mom didn’t deserve half of the bullshit Johnathan gave her.
“Fine, go north. She won’t be that way,” Maverick snapped, walking away before his dad could say anything else.
Paladin Wernicke caught up with him and they started to head toward the river. “You know he’s just worried right? He usually isn’t that snappy.”
“You didn’t used to live with him,” Maverick grumbled. The day he started training as an Initiate was the best and worst day ever. The best part was he got away from his dad. The worst part was the fact that he couldn’t watch over his mom and Rachel.
Fuck what everyone thought, Maverick wasn’t going to lie for his dad and come up with excuses.
The duo almost didn’t need to use their flashlights the moon was so bright. Maverick stayed as quiet as he could as he listened to the sounds of the night.
Dammit, if he knew where Rachel left, he could have tracked her easily. They finally reached the river and Maverick huffed in annoyance. They haven’t found anything and it would be dumb as hell to call out. A super mutant would find them before they found Rachel. A howl suddenly sounded throughout the night and a shrill scream followed it.
Maverick and Wernicke stared at each other before bolting toward the sound. Maverick wasn’t wearing the power armor so he was able to get a lead.
His boots finally hit the road’s pavement and he instantly raised his rifle. There were three dogs and he saw a body on the ground. Maverick took aim and pulled the trigger. The first dog disintegrated into ash and the other two bolted with their tails between their legs.
Dread filled Maverick as he sprinted toward the body. His heart was threatening to thunder out of his chest as he skidded to a halt next to Rachel. “Rach? Rach!”
Rachel whimpered and curled up into an even tighter ball. He looked and saw deep gashes in her legs and arms. The one on her side was the one that worried him the most. Luckily, the dogs didn’t reach her neck. She was crying and staring up at him with huge eyes. “Maverick it hurts! Make it stop!” she sobbed, crying even harder.
“Oh Rachel,” he breathed, quickly taking off his shirt. He tore it into strips and started to wrap them around her wounds. He stared down at her face and he could literally feel his heart being ripped to shreds.
Rachel never looked so tiny or broken in her life and her crying only got worse after he tied the makeshift bandages. He put on what was left of his shirt and quickly put his armor back on over it.
“Is she okay?” Wernicke managed to huff out as he stopped beside them.
Maverick suddenly realized that Rachel’s crying had gotten softer. He looked at her again and his heart sunk to the ground when he saw her eyes starting to flutter.
“Maverick, I don’t feel good,” she mumbled between sniffs.
“Shit, she’s lost a lot of blood. We need to get her back to the Citadel now.”
Maverick immediately ducked down as the loud pop of a gunshot rang out in the night. “Fuck, it’s Muties,” Wernicke snarled, lifting his gun and aiming it down the bank. Wernicke shot and looked down at Maverick. “You have to get her to Jefferson Memorial. Some of our soldiers are stationed there. Hurry!”
Maverick didn’t hesitate. He lifted Rachel so that she was draped over his back. He hooked his arms underneath her legs and tried to position her arms over his shoulders and he started to run. His blood pounded in his ears and his lungs started to burn as he sprinted down the road.
“Maverick, I’m scared.”
“I know, I’ll get us out of here. Hang on Rach.”
He tried to stay in the shadows as much as possible and his heart felt like it was threatening to burst as he felt bullets whiz by his head. Rachel didn’t say anything else and her body went slack. Terror started to take control at the feeling of her dead weight on top of him.
He had to get Rachel to safety. If it was the last thing he did on this earth, he was going to save his sister.
God damn him if he let her die because of a few stupid dogs and mutants.
Jefferson Memorial’s tall dome finally started to block out the moon and Maverick could see his escape. The glint of power armor on the scaffolding outside revealed the sentries the Brotherhood stationed outside.
“Help! Muties! Brotherhood member down!” he bellowed.
He shouted in pain when a searing, hot feeling bloomed in his leg. He didn’t even stop to see what happened and he kept hobbling toward the memorial entrance.
The door opened and a Knight burst out with a gun at the ready. “Get inside!”
Maverick hobbled in and fell to his knees. His leg was shaking and it felt like it was on fire.
“What’s going on?”
Maverick looked up to see a man wearing a lab coat. His dark hair was combed over neatly and his accent was strange. “My sister! Please help her!” Maverick managed to choke out. He had blacked out before, and he could feel it coming.
His world turned dark and he used his last ounce of energy to make sure he fell forward instead of backward so he wouldn’t crush Rachel.
Maverick woke to the sounds of a muffled voice. When he finally came to, he could hear clearly.
“She’ll have some scars, but she’ll be okay,” the same, deep, accented voice from before said.
Maverick opened his eyes and immediately wish he didn’t. The light was blinding and his head felt like it got smashed with a mutie’s sledgehammer. Despite that, he had to know what was going on. He looked to the side and the breath whooshed out of his lungs in relief when he saw Rachel tucked under a blanket in a bed nearby.
He slowly sat up and looked down at his leg. It was covered with bandages and the pain was slowly going away.
“We had to use a stimpak. I hope that’s alright,” a light, feminine voice said.
Maverick looked to see a blonde woman smiling at him next to his bed. Her grey-blue eyes crinkled as her smile grew. She stood up and Maverick tried to not stare at her heavily pregnant belly. “We were actually more worried about you than her. We thought the bullet got your bone for a while.”
“You’re lucky you got here when you did. Your sister almost bled out. We were able to help her though. You should be proud of yourself young man,” the man said, stepping closer to Maverick’s bed.
“How long was I out?” Maverick asked, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. The pain was quickly disappearing from his leg and he looked at the man. “Thank you, for the stimpak.”
“You are welcome. And you’ve been out for a couple hours. A blood pack and a stimpak did the trick for your leg,” the man said, giving him a kind smile. He held out his hand. “I’m Doctor James Hunter, and this is my wife, Doctor Catherine Hunter. We are working on a science project here. What’s your name son?”
Maverick took the man’s hand. “Maverick Barrington. What did you do for her?” he asked, looking over at Rachel.
“I was able to stitch up the shallow wounds and we gave her a stimpak to help the deeper ones heal. She should be alright,” James answered.
Maverick sighed in relief. “I-“
The door suddenly burst open and Maverick’s heart dropped when he saw his dad walk in with his mom close behind. “Maverick, go help the Knights out front. Now.”
Maverick held back a sigh and nodded at the two scientists before grabbing his things next to the bed. He looked at the scientists again. “Than-“
Maverick glared at his dad before walking out the door.
Maverick stared at the opposite wall, waiting for Leyah to say something.
“You…met my mom?”
Maverick stiffened and dared to look at her. “Yeah, I guess I did.”
“What was she like?”
Maverick’s brows pinched in confusion. “You never met her?”
Leyah looked away. “She died when I was born,” she said quietly, now gnawing on her lip.
Maverick’s heart sunk at her expression. He knew what that look meant. He saw the same expression in the mirror whenever he had come back from a mission. “You blame yourself, don’t you?”
Leyah sighed and let out a small laugh. “I mean, I would blame me if I was my dad. She would still be alive if they didn’t have me and he never got over her.”
Her eyes started to glaze over with tears and Maverick did something he hadn’t done in years. He draped an arm over her shoulders and pulled her close. “I doubt that’s what your dad thinks. It’s one of the damn risks of living out here.”
Leyah shook her head. “What if that’s why he left? What if he really couldn’t stand the sight of me?”
“Cut that shit out. It might have something to do with what your parents were doing before you were born. I never knew what the hell was going on at the memorial but there were Knights there all the time so it must have been important.”
Leyah wiped her nose and looked up at him. “What if he’s there?”
Maverick shrugged. “I don’t know about you, but I want to make absolutely sure before going anywhere. Confirm stuff while you can out here, because you don’t get that chance often.”
Leyah nodded and stared ahead. She then leaned into him more, resting her hand on his knee. Maverick stared at her hand, suddenly realizing what position they were in now that he wasn’t comforting her. Her side was pressed against his and he could see the freckles on the bridge of her nose she was so close now. His heart started to thud in his chest and he mentally cursed at himself.
She blushed and immediately jerked it back to her lap. Maverick found the action endearing. “Sorry…so that’s why you want to help me find Dad? So you can thank him for real?”
“Yeah, Rachel is one of the most important things in my life. I don’t know what I would do if she died and I have your parents to thank for that.” He paused, trying to think of something else to say. “You look like your mom too. Same hair and shit. The rest is your dad.”
Leyah grinned a little. “Dad always told me I kind of looked like her.”
Maverick squeezed her shoulders before pulling his arm away. “I also just wanted to help you after you left. You remind me of Rachel.”
Leyah looked up at him, grin growing wider. “Really? How?”
“She goes out of her way for people too. And she doesn’t let the wasteland win either.”
Leyah chuckled and thumped his leg. “I knew you liked me a little.”
“Yeah yeah, congratulations,” Maverick retorted, pinching her arm.
“Now shut up, this next story is depressing.”
“More and more muties are getting deeper into the ruins. Where the fuck are they coming from and why are they coming here?” Kodiak rumbled, scratching his head.
Maverick sighed and looked at their makeshift map of the ruins on the table. The rest of the Pride was standing around it, looking to him for answers.
“We need to find out where they’re making more muties. As far as we know, they don’t reproduce and they don’t always eat the people they capture. Now, most of them are coming from the western tunnels and slowly making their way east; we need to cut them off,” he finally said, pointing at the various markers on the map.
“What should we do? Set traps at certain tunnels?” Sarah said, pointing to one of the western tunnels.
Maverick shook his head. “No, we can’t do that because civilians could get hurt that way. Yes, it would probably deal with a lot of the yellow motherfuckers but that’s putting too many innocent lives at stake.”
“Come on, who is innocent these days?” Kodiak huffed.
Maverick glared at him. “Hey asshole, our job is to protect civilians and nothing else. Now, I say we search every western tunnel until we find out which one they’re coming in from and go from there. If we can track the fuckers back to their origin, we just might be able to solve the problem.”
Glade crossed his arms with a scoff. “Oh please, I think we all know those bastards at Raven Rock are the ones behind it.”
Maverick gave him a knowing smirk. “I think the Enclave are behind a lot of shit in the wasteland, but we can’t stop them until we know what they’re up to for sure. The Pride could find the means of their destruction and I think dealing with the muties can be our first step toward that.”
A light knock suddenly sounded on the door, causing the whole Pride to look toward it as it slowly opened. A young scribe stood there with an apologetic look. “Uh, Sentinel Barrington, they want to see you in Elder Lyons’ quarters, sir.”
Maverick rolled his eyes toward Glade. “Start making plans. I’ll be back.”
The walk to the top level of the Citadel was a short one and Maverick found himself in front of the Elder’s office in no time. He knocked on the door and stepped in.
Surprisingly, he only saw his dad, Scribe Rothchild, and Paladin Casdin. Why were the advisors here? Lyons was nowhere to be seen.
“Can you close the door please, Sentinel?” Rothchild asked with a thin smile.
Maverick shut the door and stepped toward the advisors. “You needed me?” he asked, looking at each of their faces.
“We came here to give you a proposition, son,” Johnathan said, walking toward a large table on the other side of the room.
Fuck, his dad only called him son when he wanted something. It took every ounce of his willpower to not give him a sarcastic reply. “And that would be?”
“We have come up with a new mission plan to help with the growing super mutant problem,” Rothchild said, walking toward the table as well.
Maverick followed suit and stepped closer to the table. There was a detailed map of the metros on it and red markers at every open tunnel entrance. Blue markers were placed on the western metro entrances.
“The red markers represent every accessible tunnel in the metro. Do you want to know what the blue markers represent?” Rothchild asked.
Maverick grit his teeth. He hated how Rothchild spoke to everyone in a patronizing tone; it pissed him off to no end. “What do they represent, Scribe Rothchild?”
“The Super Mutants have an irrational need for humans, so we decided to go with a different approach rather than taking the fight to them,” Rothchild explained, “we plan to find willing…volunteers, to go in and draw the mutants out while the Pride fires down on them. We even believe that collapsing some of the tunnels they use frequently will help with the issue.”
Maverick stiffened and glared at the Scribe. “You want to use people as fucking bait?”
“Language,” Johnathan chided.
“Fuck you, I lead the elite group here. I can say what I want,” Maverick snapped, turning back toward the scribe. “Say it again, asshole. You want to use our people as bait and possibly collapse a tunnel on them just to stop a few muties?”
“We believe it would be most effective and it would force them to use the tunnels we have an advantage in and-“
“No one has any advantage in any tunnel, you fuckwit. The feral ghouls and super mutants will always have the upper hand no matter what the hell you do and you would know it if you actually left this damn place. Putting people in danger is not worth it.”
Casdin sighed and looked at his dad. “Johnathan, please get through to him.”
Arch Paladin Barrington obviously didn’t like how his son was disagreeing with their perfect plan. Maverick could recognize the signs immediately. His dad’s jaw as clenched and he was holding his hands behind his back. His eyes were like hardened steel as he narrowed his eyes toward his son.
“Sentinel, we never said that we would use our own people to draw the mutants out. People are looking for help and supplies from the Brotherhood all the time. We will compensate the civilians that make it out of the operation and give them shelter and the supplies they need.”
Maverick felt as if someone shocked him with a pulse mine. No fucking way. No. Fucking. Way.
“You want to wave innocent people in front of the mutants and possibly crush them in a tunnel? And you want the Pride to be a direct part of it? No. My men and I will have nothing to do with this,” he snarled. “What does Elder Lyons have to say about this?!”
“He approved of it this morning. All we need is you and the Pride’s cooperation,” Rothchild explained calmly.
Maverick didn’t believe a god damned word. Lyons would never approve putting innocent people in danger. That was not what the Brotherhood was about. They left the ruthless cruelty to the Enclave. “I want to hear it from him before I fucking decide anything. Where is he?”
Johnathan suddenly lunged forward and tried to tower over Maverick. That was hard to do when he was shorter than him now. “You listen here, we are your superiors. I don’t care what group you lead. We believe this is the best for the wasteland and it will give us an edge over the mutants.”
Maverick shook his head. He knew what this was about. His father was an elitist through and through. “Let me guess, our volunteers will come from Megaton and some of the less sophisticated settlements of the wasteland? Just weeding out the unworthy, right? I want nothing to do with it,” Maverick growled, glaring right back at his father.
Johnathan’s jaw clenched and Maverick knew he hit the nail on the head. That motherfucker didn’t see it coming.
“I know how you feel about some of the settlers. You wouldn’t feel an ounce of sympathy if that bomb in Megaton went off. I bet you would be grateful,” he stepped closer and towered over his dad instead, “Let me tell you one thing Arch Paladin, the Pride and I are not going to be a part of your fucked up schemes. You tell Elder Lyons that I will be in the Den if he wants to explain this plan himself, if he approved it.”
Maverick turned on his heel and glared at Casdin and Rothchild. “I’m honestly not surprised that you three motherfuckers came up with this. It’s disappointing to see people like you among us.”
He started to walk toward the door. His dad’s sharp tone reached his ears right as he reached for the doorknob.
“You will be dismissed from the Brotherhood of Steel if you walk out that door, Maverick Barrington,” Johnathan threatened.
Maverick’s hand froze on the doorknob. He looked up at the ceiling with clenched teeth. He whirled around, barking out a laugh. “Oh really? Just because I don’t want to kill people? Or because I won’t bow down to your demands?”
“Yes, insubordination like this will cause the downfall of the Brotherhood. If you continue to disobey orders, we will be forced to take action. You will be dismissed and if you do not leave the Citadel before nightfall, you will be shot on sight.”
Rothchild and Casedin wouldn’t even meet Maverick’s eyes when he glared over at them.
Maverick weighed his options. He could stay here and agree with their fucked up plan, but the guilt would weigh him down the rest of his life and he knew the Pride would question everything he did after that. He could refuse and get shot, but that wouldn’t help anything. Everyone would believe whatever lies his dad and the others could cook up.
There was only one option that would expose them and keep the Pride out of the plan, and it was the most painful option of all.
“Fuck you. The Pride stays out of it,” he hissed.
With that, he stepped out the door and slammed it shut behind him.
Maverick didn’t even bother going back to the Den. He immediately went to his quarters and started packing.
Maverick looked over his shoulder and inwardly groaned. Knight Morgan was one of his least favorite people out there. She basically licked the dirt off his dad’s boots.
“You can’t take any power armor or technology with you. You’re allowed clothes, basic supplies, and one weapon,” she sneered.
Maverick stepped close and towered over her. “Oh? And you’re going to enforce that?”
The whine of a laser pistol charging and a soft nudge to his abdomen was his answer. Maverick clenched his jaw to keep from punching the smug grin off her face.
“Fine, but I get to see the rest of my family before I go.”
“Fine with me. You only have 30 minutes before the sun sets though, so I would hurry if I were you.”
Maverick quickly packed things that he would absolutely need and things he could trade. He left his laser rifle and grabbed his shotgun instead. Shotgun shells were cheaper than electron packs.
He picked up his pack and glared at Morgan before striding out of his room. He quickly made his way toward the B Ring. He finally made it to his parents’ room and he tapped on the door. He tried to ignore the laser pistol pointed at his back.
His mother opened it and her blue-green eyes crinkled as she smiled up at him. “A visit from my son? I thought you were too busy being important to do that,” Eleanor laughed.
Her comment was like a punch to the gut. Without saying anything, he stepped forward and pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry, Mom…you won’t get to see me for a while.”
Eleanor pushed away and stared up at him with wide eyes. Her lip started to tremble when she saw the heavy pack draped over his shoulder with his shotgun. “You said no, didn’t you? I didn’t think he would actually do it,” she mumbled, looking horrified.
Maverick pulled her in for a hug again. “You can’t let him carry out that fucked plan of theirs Mom. Do whatever you can to expose that son of a bitch.” He stepped away and held her face in his hands, wiping away her tears with his thumb. “I love you, Mom. Take care of Rach for me.”
Eleanor barely managed to nod before pulling her son in for another hug. “Stay safe out there. And carry out our mission.”
Maverick instantly knew what she meant. “I’ll try.”
Eleanor pushed him away. “Go find Rach. You don’t have much time. I’ll meet you by the front gate,” she managed to choke out before covering her mouth to stop the sobs.
Maverick nodded and pressed a kiss to her forehead before hurrying down the hallway.
Maverick gulped down the lump forming in his throat as he stepped into the A Ring. Rachel would most likely be with the other Knights right now in the mess hall.
He finally reached it and instantly picked her dark hair out in the crowd. He hurried over to her and grabbed her elbow. She yelped in surprise as he pulled her toward the other exit. “Hey! You could at least say hi first, dummy!”
Maverick stopped when they got into the hallway and he took a deep breath before meeting her eyes. Morgan gave him a warning look from behind Rachel. “I have to leave, Rach.”
Rachel’s thin brows pinched in confusion and her mouth turned down into a frown. “What? Why? What happened? Are you going on a special mission for the Pride?”
Maverick’s heart was literally being ripped apart. “No, I am being dismissed from the Brotherhood. I have to leave in 15 minutes.”
Rachel’s dark brown eyes widened in shock before she started to shake her head. “No…no fucking way. You?! You’re being dismissed of all people?! NO!”
Her small hands were clenched at her sides as she shook with fury. “That’s not right! You’re our best soldier! You lead the Pride. Why?! I can’t-“
Maverick grabbed her shoulders. “Rachel, I need you to do something for me. Find Elder Lyons and tell him what happened. Mom can explain everything you need to know.” He paused and pulled her in for a tight hug. “I’m going to miss you, Squirt.”
Rachel let out a half laugh-half sob. “This can’t be happening.”
Maverick gently pushed her away and squeezed her shoulders. “This is the only way that Dad and the others can be exposed. You have to do this for me, Rach. Only you and mom can.”
“They can try,” Morgan scoffed.
Maverick glared at her before looking at his sister again. He pressed a kiss to the crown of her head and leaned down a little to look her in the eye. “I love you, Rach. I’ll be okay. It’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Rachel nodded as tears streamed down her face. “I promise.”
Maverick smiled sadly and turned to walk away.
He tried to ignore how his heart was breaking as Rachel reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt as they walked toward the bailey. She never did break that habit.
They walked out the door to the front gate and Maverick’s stomach started to roll when he saw his mother standing near the gate with what looked like knapsack.
None of them said a word as she handed it to him. Maverick wrapped his arms around both of their shoulders and pulled them close, holding them one last time. He could feel his mother’s tears starting to fall on his shirt and Rachel was trying to put on a brave face when he pulled away.
He forced himself to turn away from them and he followed the road that eventually led to Rivet City.
“I love you!” his mother called out.
He didn’t let the tears fall until he was near the river.
“That’s why you were dismissed? For doing the right thing?! I want to kick your dad where it hurts!” Leyah snapped. Her knuckles started to turn white she was gripping the fabric of her jumpsuit so hard.
They had eaten their meal during the story and Maverick was now nursing his beer. He felt like he needed something stronger after telling her everything.
Leyah was literally shaking with fury. “I can’t believe that he would do that to you! You made it sound like you did something horrible but it’s the opposite! And I can’t believe your dad! You’re his son! I can’t even-“
Maverick reached out and grabbed one of her hands before she could start waving them around like she did when she was pissed. “Leyah, as far as I know, his plan never got carried out. Knowing that has helped keep me going.”
Leyah shook her head as angry tears welled in her eyes. “It’s just so damn stupid! It’s hard to wrap my mind around.”
Maverick huffed. “Tell me about it.”
She stared at him for a moment and Maverick finally looked her in the eye again.
Without saying anything else, Leyah scooted close to him again and leaned against his side. Maverick tensed when she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Maverick was torn between putting his arm around her again and pushing her away. He knew he should push her away, but there was a bigger part of him that didn’t want to. It felt good to have someone hug him again.
Instead of overthinking it, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders like before and they sat in silence until they both fell asleep.