Slouching badass, bored ruler

Should I admit I’m actually a fan of a little manspreading? In TV tropes, this classic pose is called the Slouch of Villainy, though not always performed by a bad guy.

Here are some of my favorite examples, from top to bottom: Kratos (God of War), Conan the Barbarian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Loki (Marvel comics), Thranduil (The Hobbit), Goblin King (David Bowie), and Jarl Siddgeir (Skyrim).

~ J.L. Hilton

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Fallout 4 fanfiction: “The Treasure of Jamaica Plain”

Written from Hancock’s POV. Fiona begins to see past Hancock’s ghoulish surface, chem addictions and reputation, and view him as more than a business partner or best friend.

This is part of a series based on my first playthrough of Fallout 4. At this point, Fiona’s destroyed the Institute and romanced MacCready, but the relationship is on shaky ground.

Read earlier stories here or on AO3 if you prefer, where I write under the name Jewelsmith (like my YouTube and Twitch channels).

If you’d like to see the actual Treasure bar and brothel I built in Fallout 4, click here.

Story spoilers, romance, language and sexual references.

2,100 words

 

The Treasure of Jamaica Plain

Fiona joined him on the sofa to admire the place they’d built together. She’d named it “The Treasure” because of the legends about Jamaica Plain. The stories were bullshit and the actual treasure was a bunch of crap in a basement, but it was a damn good idea to take advantage of the posters and billboards plastered across the Commonwealth. 

“I think we’ve got a real nice place here, Hancock.” She hugged his arm and he felt the soft curve of her left tit through his coat. “Thanks for all your help.” 

“Anytime. I’m always here when you need me.” 

And she did always seem to need him. She’d tapped his mayoral experience to turn Hangman’s Alley and Egret Marina into thriving settlements. He’d been there when the Institute attacked the Castle, went with her when she took the fight to them in the CIT ruins, and stood behind her when she brought the nuclear hammer down on those assholes forever. 

Now he was her business partner, building a bar and brothel across the street from an abandoned church. He loved the irony. She loved it, too, and that’s why he loved h– 

Shit. 

He pushed the thought out of his ghoulified head. He may have performed a wedding for the general and MacCready last year, on the ramparts of the Castle, for all the Minutemen to see and all the Commonwealth to hear over Radio Freedom, but it didn’t change his feelings for her. 

Marriage hadn’t changed her, either. MacCready gave up the mercenary life to spend time with his kid and drink Fiona’s caps, but she continued to build settlements, invest in businesses, and secure the wasteland. She stockpiled Addictol for her raider rehab program, tried to negotiate a truce with the Gunners, and hounded Doc Virgil to make more of his mutant cure. If she could figure out how to un-feral the feral ghouls, Hancock bet she’d do that, too. 

“I can buy wood and recruit the staff, but I don’t know a damn thing about liquor, chems and sex work.” 

Using the arm she wasn’t holding, Hancock lit a cigarette and snapped his gold lighter — the one she’d given him — closed with a flick of his wrist. “You mean to say, I know more about the shady side of the Commonwealth than you do.” 

“‘Shady side’? Does it have a bright side?” 

“You’re the bright side, sunshine.” 

“I wish you wouldn’t talk like that.” She stopped hugging his arm and put an inch of distance between them. 

“Like what?” He closed the gap by placing his arm along the back of the sofa, behind her, and shifting just a little closer. 

“Like I’m cleaner than everybody else. Like I’m special.” 

He pinned her with a steady, intense gaze, and spoke with all the sincerity he could muster. “I call it like I see it. You are special.” 

He’d said it a million different ways since the day they met. But this time, she didn’t wrinkle her nose or laugh or rush off on a suddenly-remembered errand. This time, her eyes smoldered back at him in a way he’d never seen before. It wasn’t the kind of wistful look she gave Sturges when his big overall-covered back was turned, or the lovey-dovey eyes she used to give MacCready before she found out what happened to her kid and something deep inside her got broken. It wasn’t even the look she got on her face when she visited Nate’s grave. 

He wondered what the hell she was thinking. Her lips parted and she seemed about to say something, then changed her mind. She turned her eyes to the bar.  

“I’m glad I found Javier that tux, it looks good on him. Cait volunteered to oversee security but I think I’ll build an assaultron, next time I’m out at Sunshine Tidings. We can never have too much protection. Brian left the Minutemen to work here, but his brother Liam’s not taking it too well and he still glares at me every time I visit Bunker Hill.” 

She did that sometimes, rambling on like a broken holotape, or singing songs no one had heard since the bombs fell. Restless, like a bird in a cage. Trapped by the wasteland, her marriage, old memories, guilt for giving birth to the man who caused the death of thousands, or remorse for having to kill her own son. Take your pick. 

He wanted to set her free but he hadn’t found the key. 

Hancock flicked ashes into the pristine ashtray she’d probably boosted from the Institute before blowing it up. She was practical like that. 

“We’re helping some hard-working folks make a decent living,” he said. “If they didn’t have the Treasure, they’d be banging caravan guards on a dirty mattress in the back of a Slocum’s Joe, in exchange for jet and Cram.” 

“I just don’t want it to blowback on the Minutemen. We’ve got the checkpoint nearby, but I’m not going to station anyone inside the settlement. People like Connie Abernathy and June Warwick wouldn’t like it.” 

“Not until they got a look at Grognak anyway.” He waved his cigarette in Brian’s direction. The muscular redhead wore the costume Fiona found at Hubris Comics. “They’ll be sneaking over here every time their husbands are in Diamond City.”   

She laughed, put her hand on his knee and gave him a nudge with her elbow. “And what about you? Are you going to…?” 

“What? Ride Grognak? I would, if you wanted to watch.” 

He enjoyed seeing her freckled cheeks turn pink. 

“Do ghouls…? I mean, I know you’ve lost a few parts, so I didn’t know if…” 

“If what?” Hancock knew exactly what she wanted to ask and enjoyed her embarrassment. Such a rare emotion in the wasteland. Most folks had very little shame. 

“It’s none of my business. Forget I asked. I’m sorry. How rude.” She removed her hand from his leg. 

Damn it. 

“Don’t apologize. Lay it on me. What do you need to know?” 

“I don’t need to know.” 

This woman who’d faced deathclaws, an army of synths, and a mirelurk queen, couldn’t talk about his dick. 

He chuckled. “You wanna know if my junk fell off, like my nose? No, it’s all there.” He drew out the word “all” because, well, a ghoul can brag, right

“Everything still works?” 

Jesus, she was fishing for some pertinent information. He liked it. 

“What’s the point of living forever, if you can’t screw around? It even glows in the dark.” 

“Really?” Her eyes widened. 

“No. But you believed me. That’s adorable.” 

“Goddamn it, Hancock.” She laughed. He loved to hear her laugh. He’d love to hear her make some other noises, too. 

“There are some side effects, though. Like, if I’m making time with someone who’s not a ghoul, they’ll need some Rad-X and Radaway.” 

“Because of radiation burns, like with ferals?” 

“Yeah, something like that.” 

“What else changed when you became a ghoul?” 

“You already know most of it. My eyes. Lost my hair. Radiation doesn’t bother me. I used to be taller. And my voice, it didn’t always sound like this.” 

“I like your voice.” 

He thought about moving his arm from the back of the sofa to her shoulders, but the ring on her hand meant something. Not to him, of course, but it meant something to her, so he’d play along. Even though it killed him. 

“Oh, yeah? I got the impression I kinda creeped you out.” 

“When I left the vault, everything scared me. Giant insects, raiders, mutants, ghouls. I’m sorry if I made you feel bad.” 

“But we’re good, now?” 

“We’re good.” She smiled and leaned in. Her hushed, seductive tone got his full attention. “I even thought Edward Deegan was kind of hot. You know, that ghoul who worked for the Cabots. I felt terrible when he got shot, it just… I dunno, it really upset me. I’m glad he’s okay. Wish I could recruit him to work for me.” 

She bit her lip. He imagined those lips on his dick. Anyone would have to be stone cold dead not to think those thoughts about her. He ached to be closer, touch her, taste her, know her imperfections better than he knew his own, whisper the thoughts he’d never told another soul. 

Instead, he said, “Remind me to thank Edward for changing your mind.” 

“Does it hurt?” 

“What?” 

“Being a ghoul.” 

Fiona gently touched his cheek with one finger. Hancock resolved then and there to send that Edward Deegan guy a fucking crate of whiskey and cigars. Hell, if she touched him again, he’d give Edward free use of the Treasure for the rest of his immortal life. 

“I’ve gotten used to it.” 

“Mm.” 

She kind of sank back into the couch and into her own thoughts, but he wanted to keep her close. 

“You feel like dancing?” 

“We don’t have radios yet. Sturgis is still working on a couple for me.” 

“I take requests.” Hancock stood, adjusted his faded red coat and held out a hand. Fiona took it and they walked into the courtyard between the bar and the shops. 

Swaying in the neon light, he sang one of Magnolia’s slow and sultry songs from the Third Rail. 

“I see you lookin’ round the corner, come on inside and pull up a chair,

No need to feel like a stranger, cause we’re all a little strange in here.

Have you got a history that needs erasing? 

Did you come in just for the beer and cigarettes? 

A broken down dream you’re tired of chasing, 

Well, I’m just the guy to make you forget.” 

She didn’t keep him at arm’s length like she did during her birthday party, she held him close. But sometime after midnight, she went off to sleep alone. He found it almost impossible to untangle his fingers from hers, to give up the smell of her hair and the sound of her voice. 

From then on, they spent their days scavenging furniture, pipes and wood from abandoned houses, hammering nails, shoveling rubble, and running off the raiders or mutants who came sniffing around. But evenings, they sat on the sofa, talking about everything and nothing. Then he and Fiona would dance. They eventually got some radios, tuned to Diamond City, but Hancock still sang along. She did, too. 

The crew didn’t say a word. Minded their own business. Crucial trait in a bar and brothel. 

One evening, she showed him some new stairs built behind the brothel, leading up to the flat roof of an adjacent, abandoned building. She used her pipboy to light the way. 

From there, he could see quite a distance across the moonlit ruins of Jamaica Plain and the wasteland beyond. “Nice view. Decent tactical position. Could put a few guards up here.” 

“We could.” 

But she had other things in mind. She placed a hand on his shoulder and Hancock put his arm around her waist, moving into their usual dancing position while she softly sang. 

“When this old world starts getting me down 

And people are just too much for me to face 

I climb way up to the top of the stairs 

And all my cares just drift right into space

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be  

And there the world below can’t bother me

Right smack dab in the middle of town

I found a Paradise that’s trouble-proof

And if this world starts getting you down

There’s room enough for two up on the roof…” 

She stopped singing but didn’t let go. Instead, she placed both hands around the back of his velvet collar. He put both hands around her waist and lifted his chin, so his tricorn hat wouldn’t hit her forehead when he leaned closer. 

“I like that. You should sing at the Third Rail, give Magnolia a night off.” 

“I’d have to get a sparkly dress.” 

“Why wear anything at all?” 

He couldn’t read her expression in the shadows but the air felt thick with anticipation. She inhaled and tilted her head as if she might kiss him. He didn’t move. Neither did she. 

“Fiona…” He poured everything he felt into that one word. 

“No.” She whispered more to herself than to him, so he could barely hear. “I can’t.” 

She returned to the edge of the roof, guided by her pipboy light. Hancock followed, not to stop her but only to avoid being left in the dark. 

If she wanted to go, he’d let her go, and if she wanted to come back, she knew where to find him. 

* * *

~ J.L. Hilton

The Eve of Destruction <– Previous story  +  Next story —> Happily Never After

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See a complete list of video game fiction, articles and more under the Video Games tab of this website or click here

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Team Trashcake plays FALL GUYS with Starfish

My friend Starfish from Starfish_central gaming channel, joined IceStella, SulfurFurious and myself for another FALL GUYS multiplayer session back in September.

It’s such a fun game to play with friends!

Starfish had an amazing moment on the Slime Climb, which you can see in the highlight, above, and there are three longer videos from the livestream that I edited and uploaded recently to my YouTube channel.

(I’m loving DaVinci Resolve btw – and it’s free!)

~ J.L. Hilton
aka “Jewelsmith”

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WOLFENSTEIN II: The new addition to my top ten list

My family gave me WOLFENSTEIN II: THE NEW COLOSSUS in 2018 but due to some serious health crises and major life events, I didn’t get a chance to play until 2020. I knew you shot Nazis. That’s all I knew.

I’d played the original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple ][ computer with a green screen monitor way back in the early 1980s, but never played any other Wolfenstein games before.

I finished WOLFENSTEIN II recently and loved the characters, story, music and game mechanics. I had a challenging, emotional but enjoyable experience enhanced by smooth controls and superb design. It’s up there with God of War, Fallout 4, Skyrim, BioShock and Dishonored on my list of favorites.

I like stealth in video games (usually, not always) and the stealth in WOLFENSTEIN II is really good. Sound effects and audio balance are essential for good stealthing, especially since you can’t see through walls (like Dishonored), you can’t use VATS (like Fallout 3 or Fallout 4) and you don’t even get any little red dots on a compass. WOLFENSTEIN II relies entirely upon your powers of listening, observation and timing.

The AI is not perfect but its the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. NPC’s don’t just patrol in a set pattern or stay in one spot, their behavior changes in response to your actions. They WILL see, hear and search for you. It’s not easy to hide.

Levels are intense and stealth won’t work everywhere. I don’t usually play “run and gun” games or shooters like Doom or Call of Duty so I had to git gud to pass a few tough spots (like the courtroom escape).

My favorite weapon in WOLFENSTEIN II was probably the schockhammer, a triple-barreled fully automatic shotgun with real stopping power. But hatchets, grenades, lasers, rifles, pistols, flamethrower and machine guns all had their uses. Choosing and improving the right tools for the job reminded me a bit of the BioShock weapon wheel and upgrade system.

There are stealth, mayhem and tactical perks, earned by completing certain actions in the game. I went heavier on stealth and mayhem, getting a few tactical perks for headshots and setting things on fire.

I am in awe of the level design, because when you’re doing the main story, you go through the levels in one direction. But when you come back for side missions, like killing the ubercommanders, you start at the other end and go backwards. It blows my mind how they set things up to work in both directions, including special features of the environment for stealth, taking cover during combat, or using the Ramshackles, Battle Walker and Constrictor contraptions.

Cutscenes usually annoy me and bog down gameplay. But the cutscenes in WOLFENSTEIN II happened between levels and didn’t interrupt the action. I found myself looking forward to them and getting emotionally invested in William Joseph “B.J.” Blazkowicz and the crew of Eva’s Hammer.

Having recently played The Outer Worlds, I couldn’t help comparing the random encounters on board the Unreliable to those on board Eva’s Hammer. WOLFENSTEIN II did it right. Rather than telling me where to go and what to see every time I entered the ship and repeating the same encounters over and over, I witnessed unique crew interactions and found little side quests while wandering around on my own. It felt much more realistic and natural, and more personal, with much more depth to the writing and performances.

Every word of WOLFENSTEIN II felt real and believable, in spite of the crazy alternate-history science fiction setting and some of zany plot twists, because the writing and performances were so good. This was a case where a voiced protagonist was used to great effect, not just to offer in-game tutorial and bland observations, but to set the emotional tone of a given mission and to help me connect with the protagonist I inhabited. In this, I was reminded of how I felt playing Daud in the Dishonored DLC, Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches.

Perhaps it comes down to the talent of the voice actor, Brian Bloom. But I have to give credit to the other characters I loved, too, including Fergus Reid (Gideon Emery), Grace Walker (Debra Wilson), Horton Boone (Christopher Heyerdahl) and others. Even the smallest parts were delivered with sincerity, whereas so many games sound like they grabbed someone off the street to read the lines from a white board.

I connected with WOLFENSTEIN II more than I ever expected I would, from its gameplay elements to its story to its deep emotional beats. It wasn’t just a shooter – though that part was a blast – it was so much more.

~ J.L. Hilton

See a complete list of video game fiction, articles and more under the Video Games tab of this website or click here

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GLASS MASQUERADE 2 Illusions, Temptations & Revelations

I played Glass Masquerade in January 2020, but the sequel and DLC weren’t available for PlayStation 4, at that time. So, I ended up buying the game again for PC, along with all of the add-ons, the free Lunar Year and Christmas Day puzzles, and the sequel GLASS MASQUERADE 2: ILLUSIONS.

I loved the first Glass Masquerade, which had a “world’s fair” theme featuring Art Deco style stained-glass clock puzzles in various shapes, with artwork inspired by several different countries and cultures. The DLC packs, Inceptions and Heritages, expanded on that theme.

GLASS MASQUERADE 2: ILLUSIONS is a kind of nightmare mash-up of H.P. Lovecraft and Lewis Carroll. Which sounds good, but didn’t end up being as charming or engaging as the original.

Some of the puzzles were lovely but most were strange to the point of being confusing, indiscernible, and unrelated to anything I knew about mythology, monsters, folklore or literature. Many didn’t look like stained glass, either, more like watercolors or magic marker.

The text attempted to be mysterious and intriguing, I guess, but either bad translation (developer Onyx Lute is in Russia) or bad writing made it sound like pretentious nonsense. I’d hoped for a story of some kind, explaining how I ended up in the dream world and what was happening in each picture.

You get better explanations with the DLC, particularly the Temptations expansion, which at least names the various characters – harpy, gorgon, succubus, vampiress, etc.

I’ve seen GLASS MASQUERADE 2: ILLUSIONS rated “E” for everyone online, but based on the difficulty, sexual suggestiveness and dark themes of the puzzles in this sequel and its DLC, I would put it at “T” for teens.

In spite of my criticisms, GLASS MASQUERADE 2: ILLUSIONS is still a decent game for the price, if you enjoy jigsaw puzzles. It’s only $4.99 on Steam (last I checked) and the Temptations and Revelations expansion puzzle packs are $1.99 each.

~ J.L. Hilton
aka “Jewelsmith”

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Gamer geek moms discuss Halloween

For Halloween, IceStella and I discussed customs in the UK and US, horror movies, books, video games, recipes, Frankenstein, Stephen King, 90s goth, Doctor Who, Gary Oldman, and more. Just a couple of geeky gamer moms hanging out.

Several of my regular YouTube and Twitch viewers seem to enjoy the chatting as much or more than the gaming, so we thought we’d try out this sort of podcast or radio talk show format.

Recorded October 25, 2020, using PlayStation chat while I ran Fallout 4, and my sole survivor Fiona stood staring at a window in Sanctuary Hills (thus the occasional radstorm or strange noises in the background).

I broke the session up into three episodes for YouTube. Here are parts 2 and 3, below.

~ J.L. Hilton
aka “Jewelsmith”

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Halloween puzzles for GLASS MASQUERADE

I played GLASS MASQUERADE at the beginning of 2020 and I loved it.

For more info see JLHilton.com/2020/01/glass-masquerade

The bonus puzzles and sequel, Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions, were not available for PlayStation 4, so I bought the game again on PC and played through the beautiful Halloween DLC, with stained glass puzzles for Ireland (Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkins), Poland (Witch), Romania (Vampire), Japan (Obon) and Mexico (Dia de Muertos).

The entire Halloween expansion is only 99 cents if you own the main game, which is currently $4.99 on Steam.

~ J.L. Hilton
aka “Jewelsmith”

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Halloween “Guess Who?” Character Sheets

I made these Halloween-themed printable inserts for my kids’ Guess Who? game back in 2014. They work with the kind of game that has a 4×6 grid of little windows that open and close.

This set features jack-o-lanterns and nothing scary (no witches, vampires, zombies, ghosts, etc).

Halloween page 1 (pdf)

Halloween page 2 (pdf)

 

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Try-It Tuesday: WITCHER 3

SPOILER ALERT: A few plot points are mentioned but I try to be vague and speak in generalizations. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time, so THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT has been recommended to me many times since the game came out in 2015.

I watched a few gameplay streams and let’s play videos, read a bit about it, but WITCHER 3 just didn’t grab me. It should have, since I like fantasy and open worlds. I prefer first-person games and creating my own characters, but that didn’t stop me from absolutely loving God of War. I didn’t want to devote hundreds of hours of my life to another game… but ended up doing that with Fallout 4, anyway.

I don’t know exactly why I avoided WITCHER 3 for so long. I guess I just had a gut feeling about it. But after watching The Witcher on Netflix, PlayStation had the game on sale for $15 and I finally gave it a try.

The above video is from my first Try-It Tuesday livestream of WITCHER 3 on Twitch. After that, I streamed about a hundred hours, which I edited into highlight videos on my YouTube channel.

<<See my WITCHER 3 playlist here>>

WITCHER 3 is a very rich game and I can understand why people like it. There is a massive amount of stuff to do and I enjoyed exploring the maps. Much of it is very well-written with depth, detail and emotion.

I appreciate that the protagonist isn’t a savior. He’s not The One. He’s not the only Dragonborn or the sole survivor. He’s disliked and distrusted by many. Geralt is just one of several exterminators who specialize in supernatural pests, like a Ghostbuster.

“Who ya gonna call? The Witchers!”

But the more time I spent with Geralt, the more I disliked him, too. Henry Cavill was great in the Netflix show, but when I don’t like a video game protagonist, it’s hard for me to enjoy a game. (Same problem I had with BioShock: Infinite and to a lesser extent, Horizon Zero Dawn.)

As I played WITCHER 3, I sometimes enjoyed it, sometimes hated it, but I kept going.

After all the hype I’d heard about WITCHER 3 being “perfect,” I was surprised to encounter so many glitches, quests that wouldn’t progress or didn’t make sense, confusing dialog, characters sinking into the ground, messed up merchants, and rewards not received.

Many “choices” seemed to provide only the illusion of choice. For example, I detested one of the “sexy” characters in the game and tried to avoid her, but the game seemed designed to make Geralt fall for her charms, regardless. Ick.

Clunky controls felt like a game designed for PC then later mapped to a console controller, and not very well. God of War was not an easy game, but I never felt like the game itself got in my way. In WITCHER 3, I felt like I was constantly fighting the game controls, not just fighting enemies, and no amount of getting gud would overcome that.

After awhile, the gameplay loop of fight, loot, repair, repeat, got me thinking I would make a lot more money, with a lot less effort, if Geralt gave up witchering to became a florist or an herbalist. I could gather flowers and herbs, and sell them, without wrecking Geralt’s weapons and armor for… what? I wasn’t getting rich. I wasn’t earning goodwill. Everyone I tried to help seemed to be doomed, anyway.

Skyrim has its dark corners and twisted tales, too, but it also had opportunities to make meaningful choices and to do good in the world. Try to do the right thing in WITCHER 3, and it’s always fucked up. You are always damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Plague, war, rape, misogyny, suicide, domestic violence, miscarriage, injustice, oppression, kidnapping, slavery, cannibalism and torture aren’t my ideas of fun. The excessive violence against women in WITCHER 3 made me uncomfortable. Women killed by lovers, husbands, angry mobs. Every dead wraith had a sad story.

I’ve dealt with enough darkness in real life. I play video games to forget about that for a little while or to enjoy the fantasy of defeating and dealing with it.

WITCHER 3 seemed to wallow in its misery and I couldn’t take it any more. The suicide of a major character was the last straw for me, making it too emotionally overwhelming to enjoy.

May 10, 2020, was my last livestream of this game, and I won’t be going back. “Tragic End” (below) is the final highlight video from that stream.

THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT is rated “M” for mature audiences, ages 17+, due to blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content and use of alcohol. It’s available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Wanton Wasteland: Home Run

* * WARNING: ADULT CONTENT * *

Fiona takes Mac to her house in Diamond City to play with his bat and balls, but things get serious. Based on my first playthrough of Fallout 4, this story takes place after MacCready’s Wooden Soldier and before Wanton Wasteland: Hangman’s Alley 

If you’d like to see Fiona and my Fallout 4 videos, check out my YouTube channel.

2,000 words.

 

Home Run

On the outskirts of Diamond City, a guard wearing a catcher’s helmet and chest pad called out. “Hey, MacCready, long time, no see. You still an asshole?” 

“Hey, Pete,” Mac sassed back. “You kiss your mother with that mouth? Or just your sister?” 

At the gate, a guard stopped Fiona. “Sweetheart, you got something stuck to your shoe and it’s trailing along behind you. Want me to remove it?” 

He guffawed and brandished his wooden bat as they walked away. 

“You have a lot of friends here?” she asked Mac in a low voice. 

“Haven’t been to Diamond City in years, but I guess I made a lasting impression.” 

The town looked more like a scrapyard than a settlement, built in what used to be a baseball stadium. Mac paused to look over the jumble of flashing lights, crooked signs and muddy baselines. He seemed pensive and melancholy. 

“Why so sad, Slim?” 

He’d probably gained ten pounds since she hired him because she was constantly making him eat. But she still used the nickname because it still fit. 

“Last time I was here, I was with Lucy. It just feels weird, you know?” 

“Yeah, I know. I was here with Nate over two hundred years ago. We sat up there.” She pointed to the stands above third base. “First time I came back, after leaving the vault, this all felt like a bad dream. But now, the past, my past, the distant past… That’s the part that feels like a dream.” 

Mac heaved a heavy sigh and followed her to Power Noodles, where she bought two bowls of ramen and some cold Nuka Cola. 

He inhaled his food and asked the robotic chef Takahashi if seconds were free. They weren’t. Under his breath, he murmured. “At fifty-five caps a bowl, they should be.” 

She bought him a second bowl. 

He wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “You keep buying me dinner and you’re going to be stuck with me for a long time.” 

“That’s the idea, handsome.” She smiled, clinking her soda bottle against his. “Cheers.” 

After dinner, Fiona took him to a door just a few paces from the food stand and invited him inside. She yanked the chain of a hanging bulb, illuminating two large rooms connected by a wide corridor. Very spacious by wasteland standards, but the rooms were currently crammed with a bunch of shit left behind by the former occupant. 

“Whoa, wait a minute. You’ve got a place right by the market? Who’d you have to kill to get this?” 

She closed and locked the door behind them. “Nelson Latimer’s son. I intercepted his drug shipment and made a load of caps off of it. This seemed like a solid investment.” 

“Damn. I don’t know whether to be terrified or impressed.” 

“A little of both?” 

They dropped their packs in a shopping cart and disarmed, arranging their weapons on a broken table propped up by cement blocks. 

Mac kicked some tires and dug around in a box of tools. “Is all this crap yours?” 

She struggled with a stuck drawer in an old bureau. “Yeah, I gotta sort through it and get a provisioner to haul the useful stuff out to the settlements that need it.” 

“Or just sell it to Percy and make a small fortune.” 

“Or Myrna.” 

“Screw Myrna. She still think everyone’s a synth?” 

Fiona got the drawer open far enough to reach inside. She pulled out a Grognak comic and handed it to him. “Here. I wanted you to have this.” 

His blue eyes widened. “Jungle of the Bat-Babies? I didn’t even know this one existed. Where did you get it?” 

“It was Nate’s. One of the few things I found in our house after I left the vault.” 

As he flipped the yellowed pages, his face seemed to transform, losing its tension and perpetual sneer, and the creases around his mouth and eyes vanished. He suddenly looked very, very young. 

“How old are you?” 

“Hm?” He didn’t look up. “Uh… twenty-two, I think. Give or take a few months. I don’t know my birthday.” 

“Jesus. I thought you were closer to my age.” 

“Two hundred and thirty?” 

“Two hundred and forty.” 

“You don’t look a day over a hundred.” 

“Thanks.” 

He closed the book and returned it carefully to the bureau. With a crooked, playful smile, he slipped his arms around her waist and said, “Don’t worry, grandma, I still think you’re gorgeous.” 

“I wasn’t fishing for compliments.” 

“Well, I’m going to give you some, because you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m being serious, now. You want to talk about dreams, I keep thinking I’m dreaming because nothing in my life has ever been this good. I’ve got the Gunners off my ass, I’ve got a cure for Duncan, I’ve got someone who cares about me and… I’ve got Jungle of the Bat-Babies!”  

Fiona smiled. She hugged him close and whispered in his ear. “We should finish what we started at the Castle.” 

“The mutants?” 

“No, the other thing.” She unbuttoned her top. 

“Riiiiiiiight… that thing.” 

Taking hold of her chin, Mac guided her mouth to his. He tasted like a soda-drenched ashtray and smelled like dirty laundry but she didn’t give a shit. The things she did give a shit about were having a light-footed sharpshooter watching her back and a companion who understood what it meant to be a parent and how it felt to lose a spouse. 

She removed the scarf around his neck and kissed the sweaty, dusty skin at his throat. He shrugged off his one-armed coat while she unbuttoned his shirt from top to bottom. Then she dropped to her knees to unbuckle his pants. She kissed the thin trail of hair below his navel, but when she tried to go further, he squirmed away. 

“Whoa! Hey, you don’t have to do that.” 

“I want to.” 

He pulled her to her feet. “People do that kind of stuff when they’re desperate. Sometimes the Gunners force people to do it. It’s just… wrong, okay? Chowing down on somebody’s rank case of feral crotch. You don’t ever have to do that to me.” 

“Okay, Mac, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Didn’t you and your wife ever–?” 

“I would never treat anyone like a chem whore or a captive, let alone my wife.” 

He obviously had some negative associations, so she didn’t press the issue. “Is using my hand okay?” 

“Sure, if you want t– ohh…” He gasped when she grasped his rock hard shaft. 

“Am I squeezing too much?” 

“N-no… it’s…” He cleared his throat. “It’s fine. Better than fine. It’s g-good, actually.”  

She went on kissing and touching him while he fumbled with her bra, gave up, pushed the straps down her arms and grabbed her tits. 

They moved closer to a bed in the corner, which she’d covered with a patchwork blanket made of scavenged scraps and some fabric from Fallon’s Basement. 

Fiona stripped and laid down but he just stood there, staring at her, his pants sliding down his ass. He took off his hat and ran a hand through his messy hair.   

“I want to…” He shuffled toward the bed. “God! I want to be with you more than I want to shoot a deathclaw between the eyes at five hundred paces. But what if… What if we make a kid?” 

“I don’t know if that can even happen. I mean, maybe, but my cycle’s been weird ever since I left the vault. Might be the cryofreeze process or the radiation out here or something.” 

He sat on the edge of the bed. “But if it happened…” 

“If you’re worried, we can do other things. Things that don’t make babies.” She rubbed his shoulders and nibbled his ear. “Or you could pull out before you finish.” 

He growled but it sounded more like frustration than arousal. 

“I don’t want to do other things. I don’t want to pull out.” He turned and looked in her eyes. “I want to have a baby with you. I want us to be together. You, me, Duncan… Shaun, when we find him. I want a family again.” 

He said “when.” Not “if.” When we find Shaun. 

Her eyes welled up with tears. “We would have a very cute baby.” 

“Really, Fi?” 

“Yeah.” She sniffled. “Sorry, I’m being stupid.” 

“It’s not stupid to cry.” He wiped a tear from her cheek. “You know what’s stupid? Stupid is FIFTY-FIVE CAPS for a BOWL OF RAMEN. Sheesh.” 

She laughed. 

“I should give up killing people and open a noodle stand in the Third Rail,” he said, yanking off his boots and pants. “What was I thinking?” 

He got on top of her and she wrapped her arms and legs around him. His bony hips dug into her thighs as he ground his dick against her clit. She shifted her hips and he slid inside, but he didn’t pump. 

He took several deep, ragged breaths that made her wonder if he was trying not to come too soon. Grunting and gritting his teeth, he pulled out and slid in again, slowly, but with each stroke, he thrust faster and harder. 

Grasping his tight ass in her hands, she wasn’t just fucking Mac, she was fucking the idea that they would rebuild the lives they’d both lost to tragedy. It felt so good. She felt happier than she’d been in months. 

“Yes, yes, yes, give it to me, yes…” She dug her fingers into his skin, moaning as sexual tension built and then surged through her, like a dam breaking. 

With a final, deep thrust, he shuddered and collapsed, gasping like he’d just run all the way from the Capital Wasteland. She could feel his rapid heartbeat against her chest. He groaned and rolled onto his back beside her, wiping the sweat from his forehead. 

“God da– I mean… heck.” 

It was the most ardant “heck” she’d ever heard. She cuddled up to him and played with the curls of hair around his nips. “You don’t have to curb your language for me. Especially not when we’re fucking.” 

“When we’re what?” 

“You heard me.” 

He smiled his wicked mischievous irresistible smile. ”No, I’m sorry, what were we doing?” 

She climbed on top of him, straddled his crotch, cupped her tits in her hands, and hammed a breathy, seductive voice. “You were fucking me with that long sniper rifle you call a cock and shooting a load deep into my hot, wet target.”

“You know it’s a good idea to shoot twice, just to make sure.” He grabbed her ass, grinding against her, and she could feel him getting hard again.  

“Wow, you really are twenty-two, aren’t you?” 

*

Later, they sat on the roof, listening to the radio and watching the night market. Arturo, Polly and Moe closed up their shops. Geneva walked home from the mayor’s office. Piper’s sister Nat hawked copies of the local newspaper. Percy took over for Myrna. 

Mac wore his pants and shirt again, but he’d left the shirt unbuttoned. Fiona was more interested in watching the wiry merc than Diamond City. She reached for his hand and his fingers entwined with hers. 

“We could live here when Duncan arrives. He could go to school.” 

The red ember of his cigarette brightened with his inhale, then dimmed. Mac shook his head, exhaling a white cloud of smoke. “Bill and Maria are coming with him. That ghoul couple I told you about, who’ve been taking care of him for me. They wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the green walls.” 

“That’s such bullshit. This place ever needs the Minutemen, I’m going to send every ghoul we have in our ranks.” 

“It’s what got the mayor elected. The wall is there to protect the decent people of Diamond City from synths, ghouls, vagrants and other ‘filth’ of the wasteland.” 

“All the types that Hancock takes into Goodneighbor.” 

“Yep.” 

“What about that big house, near Covenant? Preston called it Taffington House or something like that. We found it when we went to Med-Tek for Duncan’s medicine. Had a stove, a garden and a water source.” 

“Yeah, that place was nice. We’d just need to fix the roof and bury the bodies.” 

* * * 

~ J.L. Hilton

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