Maverick was still wondering why he said what he did the next day when they walked out into the pale morning light. I go where you go? What are you, a fucking dog? he asked himself, keeping a little distance between him and Leyah. He made sure to keep watching the horizon, feeling tense. Yao guai were known to live around here and he be damned if he let one sneak up on them.
To give her credit, she also had her head on a swivel as she kept on her toes as well. He saw how pink her face was getting and he sighed and reached into the side pocket of his pack. Pulling out the hat, he glanced at it and then back at her before letting out a shrill whistle. “Vaultie.”
Leyah turned and let out a gasp when the hat hit her face. She caught it before it could hit the ground and she stared at it.
Maverick kept walking. “It’s to keep your sunburn from getting worse.”
“Quit calling me that.”
“I can call you what I want. We’re friends now.”
She caught up to him and Maverick gave her a hard look when she fell into step beside him. She returned his hard look with a soft grin, plopping the hat on her head. He stopped in his tracks and she stopped with him. They stared at each other for many moments before Maverick finally felt a grin creep up on his lips. “Friends, huh?”
“Yup. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Her grey-blue eyes held mirth in them as she gently punched his shoulder and kept walking, hitching her pack up higher as her pace picked up.
Maverick stared at her, wondering how the hell she could manage to be this happy after all that had happened to her. How do you keep smiling?
Deciding to ponder it another time, Maverick took his place behind her and kept moving.
Arlington library was just showing up on the horizon by the time the sun was high in the sky and Maverick was actually pleased with their progress. It wasn’t even 11 o’ clock and they were already halfway to their destination. If Leyah’s errand didn’t take too long, they could be at GNR before sundown.
His mood was also lightened because no Raiders had decided to ruin his day so far and the only things he and Leyah came across were the occasional radscorpion or mole rat.
Leyah’s lip stuck out in a small pout as she stared up at the tall building. “So this is the library, huh? I hope the archives are easy to get to.”
Maverick groaned. “Vaultie, don’t say that.”
“Because the opposite of what you say usually happens. Don’t jinx us.”
Leyah rolled her eyes and marched right up to the door. Maverick quickly stepped forward and rested a hand on her shoulder. “Let me go first. Raiders like buildings like this.”
Thankfully, she just nodded and stepped back instead of arguing, taking her rifle off her shoulder.
Maverick slowly opened the door, shotgun in hand and peered inside. What he saw made him want to run for the hills. It was too late to turn back when one of the men in the power armor raised his laser rifle. “Halt! Who are you?”
Maverick knew there was no point in running; there was most likely a patrol nearby so he raised his hands and kicked open the door the rest of the way. “Don’t be a smartass. I’ll talk,” he growled out of the corner of his mouth.
“Who is it?”
“The Brotherhood of Steel. Now, be quiet!”
He stiffened when he felt her small hand grab at his shirt.
“Maverick, seriously I-“
“We’ll get out of this if you let me talk. It’s going to be okay.” Their gazes met momentarily and she nodded, but her grip on his shirt tightened. A wave of protectiveness threatened to crush him as the action reminded him of when Rachel was younger and he was determined to get her out of this now. He doubted the Brotherhood even remembered him, but he was ready if need be.
They slowly walked forward and Maverick gave the Brotherhood of Steel Knight a hard glare. “Relax, we’re just travelers looking for stuff to scavenge. Nothing more.”
The Knight turned to the other Brotherhood members in the room. “It’s just civilians. Stand down.”
Maverick looked around the main room of the library and he stiffened. Most of the Brotherhood members in the room were not even Knights, they were Initiates. He could tell from the very way they stood and held their weapons. This was unacceptable.
Remembering that he had to keep his mouth shut and not make them angry, he stepped forward, following the Knight further into the room. Leyah’s grip on his shirt only tightened and he wondered if she even knew who the Brotherhood was.
His whole body tensed when he saw a familiar face striding toward them from behind the desk.
“Maverick?” Amanda Yearling gestured to all of the soldiers in the room. “Stand down, he’s more than a civilian.”
She finally reached Maverick and he was shocked when she held out her hand. “It’s good to see you again,” she said, grinning up at him.
The Knight stepped forward. “Scribe Yearling we-“
“Quiet,” she snapped, giving the Knight a hard look.
Maverick’s eyes widened. “Scribe now, huh?”
“Yeah, and Rach is a Paladin.”
Maverick’s heart clenched at the sound of his sister’s name. A small tug on his shirt suddenly reminded him that Leyah was standing right next to him.
“Mav, how do you know these people?”
Yearling gave her an incredulous look and Maverick wasn’t quick enough to stop her from saying, “He used to be a Sentinel among our men. He led the Lyon’s pride for years.”
Leyah couldn’t believe it. She knew Maverick had to have had formal training somewhere. She never expected it to be from the Brotherhood of Steel though. She didn’t know much about the group, but she knew they had power in the wasteland. Looking up at him with wide eyes, she exclaimed, “I knew it! I knew you were hiding something!”
“Yippee Vaultie, you discovered my dark secret.”
“You used to be part of the Brotherhood of Steel! It all makes sense now!”
Leyah was now waving her hands in excitement as a million questions started to spill out of her mouth. “Did you grow up with the Brotherhood or did you just join? What’s the Lyon’s Pride? Is Sentinel a really high rank? Is that why you know so much about-“
Maverick clamped a hand down on her mouth, leaning down to meet her at eye level. For some reason, her heart started to flutter at the contact. “I promise to answer some of those questions after we get your damn archives. Now shut up.”
Scribe Yearling’s gaze went from Maverick to Leyah and back to Maverick in disbelief as he pulled away. “Who is this Maverick?”
“I’m his friend,” Leyah quickly said. Maverick seemed to not want her to know more for some reason. “Leyah Hunter.”
She ignored Maverick’s groan and smiled at the woman.
“How did you meet Maverick?”
“Well, I was being chased by Raiders and he saved me. I also had a Rad-Cold and-“
Maverick’s heavy hand on her shoulder caused her to pause and look up at him. “Look, Amanda, long story short; I saved her ass and I’m helping her out with other stuff.” He gave her a warning look and Leyah opened her mouth to retort, but his eyes hardened even more and Leyah rolled her eyes.
Scribe Yearling was looking at them with an amused look. “Alright, what brings you two to Arlington?”
“I’d ask you the same thing,” Maverick answered, arching a brow.
Scribe Yearling then gave a long winded speech about how important Pre-war books were and how she was trying to find them. Leyah nodded and made positive noises when needed, but she was totally focused on something else. Why didn’t Maverick tell her about the Brotherhood of Steel? And, the more important question kept rising up in her mind.
Why wasn’t he with them anymore if he had such a high rank?
It took every ounce of Maverick’s willpower to keep from looking at Leyah. He knew she was curious and he also knew she would never leave him alone until he did tell her.
Deciding to finally get away from the members of the Brotherhood, Maverick finally cut in. “Scribe Yearling, where are the card catalogs and the archive?”
Scribe Yearling tapped her chin with a sigh. “Well, the card catalog can be accessed at the terminal at the desk. The archives are on the third floor. But, there’s one problem.”
Maverick tensed up. “What problem?”
Scribe Yearling actually looked sheepish. “Well, there are a group of Raiders that took over the library. We only just recently liberated this part of the building.”
Of course there were fucking Raiders.
He looked down at Leyah, who looked deep in thought now. “What do you say, Vaultie?”
Leyah’s brow furrowed as she thought about it before letting out a sigh. “Well…I wanted those archives. I was going to make a copy of them for myself so I could have all that information to use later on.”
Maverick’s eyes widened momentarily. Holy fuck. He never thought about using the archives that way. Then again, he didn’t have a –what did she call it?- Pip-Boy. He tapped her forearm. “You can get the archives on your doohickey here?”
Turning toward the Knight that greeted them in the first place, he asked, “What’s the situation on the rest of the building?”
He gestured to Leyah and pointed toward the computer. She got the message and headed toward it for the card catalogs. Scribe Yearling followed behind.
The Knight scoffed. “I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to tell that information to civilians. It’s to keep you safe. I don’t care if you were a Sentinel or not.”
Maverick almost punched the tin man right in the face. “Look, Dick –can I call you Dick?- I don’t have time for that bullshit. Either you tell me now or I’ll just force one of your Initiates here to tell me instead. And let me tell you, that would be about as fun as dancing with a Centaur.”
He stepped closer to the Knight. “Well?”
Maverick could tell the man was rolling his eyes behind his helmet when he finally answered. Maybe it was the amount of sarcasm that was rolling off him that gave it away.
“Even if you did get up to the second floor, there are small groups of Raiders hiding on each floor in each wing. The main wing is compromised as well.”
“Give me numbers dammit, or do you even have those?”
“No, we don’t have those.”
“What type of Knight are you? Jesus Christ,” Maverick snapped, walking toward the small group of Initiates standing near the entryway toward the back of the library. Maybe the kids knew more than their supervisor.
The clicking of many different sets of power armor standing to attention rang throughout the hall and Maverick stared at the group of kids incredulously as one of them saluted. “What the-“
“My name is Initiate Johnson sir and my father served with you,” a slightly familiar voice said from the helmet.
Maverick blinked in surprise before narrowing his eyes at the Initiate in front of him. “Who’s your dad?”
“Paladin Ryan Johnson, sir. He retired from the Lyon’s Pride shortly after you were dismissed.”
Even though his stomach was curdling at the mention of being ‘dismissed’, Maverick couldn’t help but grin. Ryan Johnson was one of his closest friends in the Brotherhood. “Well Initiate Johnson, are you good at scouting? Your dad was the best damn scout I ever met.”
“I need your help then.”
Leyah mentally cheered when the card catalog finally downloaded to her Pip-boy. Looking around the room, she finally found Maverick’s tall frame standing near a bunch of Brotherhood men…or women. She couldn’t really tell with all that armor.
Slowly making her way over, she pondered how to get Maverick to tell her his story. She knew it had to be painful for him, and she didn’t want to upset him any more than he probably was. Biting her lip, she almost let out a sigh of defeat. She never was good at stuff like this.
“So is it true you were called the Lion of the Lyon’s Pride?”
“My dad told me so much about you.”
“Elder Lyons still mentions you sometimes you know.”
Leyah halted in her tracks and tried to listen in on the conversation.
“Shit, they told you about the Lion thing? I thought it was fuckin’ stupid to be honest,” Maverick grumbled.
One of the soldiers in front of him nodded vigorously. “Yeah, my dad said it was your nickname because of how you led the Pride. He also said you had the makings of being the next Elder or something.”
Maverick tilted his head back with a bark of laughter. “Your dad is full of crap, kid. I would have made the shittiest elder out there. As for the nickname bullshit, I never liked it and I better not hear you calling me that.”
Leyah decided it was finally time to make her presence known with a sly grin. “Lion of the Lyon’s Pride, huh? Maybe I can call you that instead of Mav,” she joked, walking up to his side.
His hard look and frown was enough to make her giggle. For some reason, she thought it was funny when he was irritated now.
“Call me either and you’ll really see how I think about that, Vaultie,” he growled, looking toward the soldiers again. “By the way, we’re in luck. These Initiates told us they would help us with our Raider problem. Think we can show them a thing or two?”
Leyah looked up at him with an incredulous look. “Are you sure? I’m sure we can wait it out until-“
“Vaultie, the Raiders are never going to leave because they know the Brotherhood wants this place and they love pissing people off. It’s now or never.”
Leyah sighed and looked at the Initiates. “Thank you for offering. I appreciate it,” she said, forcing a smile to her face. She really didn’t want to put anyone in danger.
Maverick grunted in approval and looked at the Initiates again. “Alright, so we’re going to use the Red method. I hope they still teach you that in training.”
Maverick loved using the Red method. It usually involved drawing the enemy out into a trap and heavy firing from their side. The Initiates were surprisingly competent and they followed his orders to the T. He was actually surprised at himself for remembering how to be a leader of a group like this.
It has been eight years after all.
About 20 minutes after they left the main hall, they all found themselves on the third floor and Leyah was in the process of downloading and copying the archives. There were no casualties on their side and there was plenty to scavenge from the Raiders’ supplies.
Maverick leaned on the wall next to the desk she was sitting at, watching the Initiates interact with each other on the other side of the room.
“Do you miss it?”
Maverick stared at Leyah for a moment before shrugging. Dammit, might as well get the tough questions out of the way. “It had its ups and downs. But, yeah, I miss it like hell.”
She studied him for a moment before grinning. “I can tell. You’re acting happier.”
Maverick arched a brow at her before pulling a cigarette out of his pocket. “I’m never happy, Vaultie.”
“You were when you talked to those guys,” she mentioned, gesturing to the Initiates.
For once, Maverick had no smart retort for her. Instead, he let out a soft bark of laughter before lighting his cigarette. Blowing out some smoke, he turned to her again. “Why aren’t you interrogating me about it right now?”
She shrugged and typed in more things on the terminal. “I decided I’d rather hear about it on your own terms.”
Maverick wanted to call her out on her bullshit, but a feeling in his gut told him that she really meant what she said and he usually trusted his gut. He stared at her for a moment, wondering what to make of the Vault Dweller. Maybe I was wrong about her, he thought. He thought she would do her normal prying and persistently try to get something out of him like she did in the past.
She whipped her head around and stared up at him in surprise before a broad grin spread on her lips. “Hey, you called me Leyah.”
“I knew it. You think we’re friends too.”
“Don’t push it, Vaultie.”
Her soft laugh was his only answer and Maverick was surprised to feel a warm feeling beginning to bloom in his chest because of the sound.
“Hey Vaultie, what Metro station gets us to Chevy Chase the fastest? I usually go to one up north but we don’t have time for that.”
Leyah grumbled as she scanned her Pip-boy map. A few of the settlers in Megaton were able to point out some metro entrances on her map, but that didn’t mean they were accurate. “Well, there’s the Farragut West station nearby. Moira told me to avoid that one though.”
Maverick gave her an incredulous look. “Why?”
“She said feral ghouls were down there and I don’t ever want to see one of those.”
He gave her a blank stare for a moment, halting in his tracks before snickers started to escape from his lips. “I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t matter what part of the Metro you’re in. You’re going to see feral ghouls, Super Mutants, or some shit like that.”
Leyah let out a groan, letting her shoulders sag a little. She had seen pictures people had drawn of feral ghouls, and Gob had explained the process a little when she had asked about it. She also wanted to avoid the Metros for one, particular big reason.
“Are you sure we can’t get into the city without the Metro?”
Maverick gave her a look that said ‘Seriously?’
“Vaultie, you’re not telling me something.”
“I just don’t see the point if there is a better way.”
Maverick halted in his tracks, putting his hands on his hips. Leyah could see him bite the inside of his cheek in irritation. “You went in a Metro alone, didn’t you?”
Leyah shrugged sheepishly. After dealing with the fire ant problem in Grayditch, Leyah never wanted to see a metro tunnel or an ant ever again.
“Do you remember one of the first things I told you?”
Letting out a sigh, Leyah looked up to meet his hard, even gaze. “There is always going to be danger, the difference is whether you learn to face them head on or die in a piss puddle,” she quoted, arching a brow. She crossed her arms before adding, “Eloquent as always.”
“What would you have remembered better; the piss puddle or a long winded speech?”
Leyah opened her mouth to argue, but her voice died in her throat. She hated it when he was right.
Maverick snorted, resting his shot gun on his shoulder. He started to walk toward the Arlington metro entrance. “You gotta admit it, Vaultie. I know my shit.”
Leyah pouted, jogging to catch up with his long strides. “Yeah, teaching all those Initiates and keeping Knights in check helped out a lot didn’t it?”
“You’re fucking hilarious.”
They made it to the entrance and Leyah had to literally gulp down the lump that was forming in her throat to breathe. Fear seemed to be spreading throughout her chest like radiation and started to make her feel heavy.
Maverick gently elbowed her before making his way down the stairs. He paused halfway and looked up at her. “You coming or what? I thought you wanted to find your dad, not stand out here.”
Right, Dad. I need to find Dad. Get a grip!
Leyah took a deep breath, remembering her and Maverick’s run in with the Raiders at RobCo. Just focus on how calm he is. Just focus on him, Leyah.
She quickly went down the steps, zeroing her eyes on Maverick’s broad back. The armor on his shoulders gleamed dully in the sunlight and the ammo belt he wore would occasionally click as they made their way down the steps.
Maverick stopped in his tracks at the grated entrance, turning around and looking down at her. Leyah looked up to meet his eyes, craning her neck. She had stopped right behind him and she could feel her cheeks flush from their close proximity. She could feel the heat radiating of his body and mentally slapped herself. It was just Maverick. Why was she reacting this way?
“Remember to always look the opposite direction I’m looking and try to stay as quiet as possible. Do you have plenty of mines?”
Leyah reached around and pulled the small sack she had out of her bag. “I don’t have many,” she mentioned, suddenly feeling incompetent. She also wondered why she was so afraid of his disapproval now.
“That’s fine, we can work around that.”
He turned again and opened the door. Cocking his shotgun, he grinned at her over his shoulder. “Let’s kick ass, Vaultie.”
It was funny how those words made her feel less scared.