It felt Sole like time had stood still in the hotel. Most of the interior was intact, repainted and redecorated. It made her forget about the bombs, about the ruins out there. She got ripped out of her amazement by a loud “ELDER!”. As she turned around jumpily, almost grabbing the gun strapped to her thigh, she felt his hand squeeze hers. She had no clue if this was where the act started or if he genuinely tried to calm her down a little with the gesture. A pompous man shook Maxson’s other hand and Sole smiled at him. “It is great to see you again, Elder. Ah, and this must be Sole. What a lovely young lady, you’re sure a lucky man son. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“ It’s great to meet you too, sir…”
“Ah, where are my manners. You can call me Jonathan. You two look great together.”
“ You think so? I think I’m out of his league.” Sole winked, resulting in another squeeze in the hand. So this was a warning. Had to be.
“ Would you mind us getting to our room? We’ve had a relatively tiring flight.” Maxson said, the man nodded. ‘Of course! We’ll see you tomorrow. My wife will be thrilled to meet you.”
He walked away after once more shaking Maxson’s hand, this time with both hands. “And that was?”
“ Jonathan Masters, he was my father’s personal medic before he died.”
Sole nodded. Maxson never really mentioned his parents. She knew what had happened but never really asked about it before. Well, now or never.
“ Who… looked after you? After your parents passed away?”
“ He checked up on me. Sarah Lyons was my mentor. “ Before Sole could ask more they were interrupted by yet another man wearing his credentials on his uniform.
He got the key to their room and gestured to Sole where the staircase was. “Elder!” He shut his eyes in annoyance for a second before he turned around and clearly faked a smile. He shook his hand. “Morel.” This ‘Morel’ seemed to only have eyes for her though. Looking her up and down and seemingly showing disapproval in the process. “So this is your new Sentinel? Who you raised in rank so fast?” Sole ignored his outstretched hand. “It is. He raised it after I took down the Institute. Tell me, what are your accomplishments in battle?”
Maxson smiled at the man. “She is indeed. We will have plenty of time to get you both acquainted tomorrow. Now you’ll have to excuse us, we ought to get to our room.” Sole threw him a venomous smile before she got ready to be reprimanded by Maxson as soon as they got to their room.
“Is this the point where you remind me I’m supposed to behave?”
“ No. He’s merely an advisor. I’m an Elder. You’re my Sentinel. Someone ought to put him in his place. You had every right to be the one to do that.” Sole nodded. “Also he is a pain in the ass anyway.” Sole’s jaw dropped as he looked at him wide-eyed. On the list of things she didn’t ever expect to hear out of his mouth…
When he raised their room he put down their bags as he looked at the king-sized bed. Huh, so those still existed. “This must be a mistake.” He grumbled. Sole looked over at the bed. “Well, we are ‘dating’ remember?” “I told them that we for now still sleep in separate beds.”
“They want an heir remember?” He was about to walk out when Sole slammed the door shut in his face before he could walk out. “You really want to raise suspicion like that? With all do respect, get over it. I don’t care.“
“ About the hand-holding… “
“ My apologies, I am prepared to compromise if it makes you feel more comfortable.”
Sole sighed. “Actually, if you really want to ‘sell’ this, you’re gonna have to do more than that.”
“ Have you got any suggestions, Sentinel?”
“ I dunno, maybe we should kiss or something. Or you should at least hold me by the waist or something.” In for a penny…
“ Are you certain that that would be appropriate?”
“ Probably not considering we’re not actually dating but considering the fact that they want you to, ehm, ‘procreate’.”
“ Hm.” Okay, auch.
“ That revolted? You are past the ‘girls are icky’ stage, right?”
He shot her one of those ‘that’s enough’ looks.
“ Sorry. I mean, have you ever had a girlfriend?”
He raised an eyebrow and kept unpacking. “Okay, out of line. Have you ever kissed anyone before?”
“ However I’m not sure that this is a subject we necessarily have to cover, yes I have. “
“ It is though. I need to know how convincing you can be, I need to ‘know’ you. We are supposed to be dating after all. Who was it?” She was going to sleep in one bed with the guy, she might as well try.
“ A girl who wanted me for my rank. Her parents set her up to do it. “
“ How did you find out?”
“ I caught her kissing one of my friends.” He had friends? “I tried to mend it but she confessed what was truly going on afterwards. How her parents pressured her into ‘mixing their bloodline with mine’. I live for the Brotherhood but forcing her to sway me into marriage…”
“ I’m sorry. What… did you do?”
“ Nothing. She married him. Quite frankly, I suppose she will be joining us for the ball tomorrow evening.”
Sole looked at the floor as she asked him the question burning on her lips. “Are you… over her?”
“ Has there been anyone else before her?”
“ There has been. But the officials don’t know that. I was seventeen, she was too low in rank. She died. Killed by mutants.” He clenched his jaw. “I avenged her. “
“ Considering I’m getting every challenging question on your mind... I have been informed of your past. I know the pain the institute inflicted on you. “
“ Is that so?”
“ Are you over your husband? “
She rubbed over her wedding ring. “I won’t ever be. But I’m convinced he’d want me to be happy. So if someone else comes along,…” He cleared his throat.
“I’ve heard rumours that their leader was your son. Can you confirm that?” That felt like a slap in the face. She stood up and walked up very close to him. “ Out of line, Elder.”
“ I understand. You need to know you’ve done the Brotherhood and the commonwealth a great favour. You have shown you are capable of making the tough calls. I respect that.” Sole inhaled deeply.
“ He was. But that’s enough, Maxson.” He nodded but didn’t break eye contact. She was tiny compared to him, but equally as terrifying when she said she’d had enough.
“ Tell me about Sarah.” That did make him look away. “What do you want to know?”
Sole shrugged. “What was she like, what happened to her?”
“ She showed me the ropes. She taught me what it meant to be a leader, to be a warrior. She, too was a Sentinel. She lead her own elite unit.. Lyon’s Pride.” A rare smiled appeared on his face, thinking of the name. “She was a lot like you. Protected some outcasts too. Some of the officials here disapproved of her influence over me. Ironically, she died in combat. I wasn’t truly allowed to mourn her. I’m the leader, I had to keep composure not to affect the morale. They told me I had to stick to the Brotherhood way, keep our vision in mind.”
“ Must’ve been hard.”
“ It strengthened me in the end.”
“ Do you miss her?”
The conversation got broken off by someone knocking on the door. Maxson put a gun on the cupboard next to the door, just In case, before opening it. “Room service. Courtesy of sir Coasts.” A cart with some food and drinks was rolled in. As soon as the man left again, Sole grabbed a bottle of liquor. “Sit Coasts is Jonathan.” Sole nodded.
“I think we both can use some of this.” She hadn’t expect the conversation with Maxson to take this kind of turn. After they both downed a drink, Maxson sighed and took off his shirt.
“Woah, this is all going a little fast.”
He turned around and raised his eyebrow. “I would like to get a shower.”
“ is this some sort of invitation because I’m not sure if that’s appropriate either.”
“ Of course not. I’m merely specifying why I took off my shirt as you seemed to struggle with the concept.” Sole nodded. She just had to ask, huh. As he went into the bathroom she figured she ought to have a shower too. Not every day that they got the chance to do so in a fancy place like this, not anymore anyway. She got some stuff out of her bags and put her dress and jewelry ready. She let her fingers slide over the lace of the dress, remembering the first time she wore it. Who’d have thought this is where she’d be wearing her wedding dress again?
She did a double-take as he left the bathroom, obviously still shirtless. He actually trimmed his beard too, making it quite a bit shorter. “I like it.”
Maxson frowned at her. “My body?”
“ No, well, yes, I mean… “ Sole shut her eyes and opened them again, not looking at him. “ I meant your beard like that. It’s better.” She couldn’t see the grin on his face, too busy hurrying to get her clothes and get out of the awkward situation.
“ I’m gonna have a shower too.” She hurried off into the room only to walk out of it again. “Woah, what did you do to get it that hot in there?”
“Stand there.” Sole couldn’t tell if he was completely oblivious to the pun or actually called himself hot there.
“ Do you use boiling water to shower or something? “ She rolled her eyes and walked back into the bathroom. She opened a window as she got in only to overhear a conversation outside. “Have you seen her yet?” “No, but she’s no match for him. Alice was. This savage woman won’t do. I’ve heard she even questions some of our codes. We must work to break this bond.” “I shall do no such thing!”
Sole walked out of the bathroom again. Maxson was on the bed with a report in hand. “Maxson, how good are you at recognising voices?”
“ What are you talking about?” She walked over to the bed and sat by him.
“ Some men outside are talking about our relationship, one is Jonathan, the other one appears convinced that I’m ‘not good enough for you’?”
Without a word he put his shirt back on and walked outside, to the place the window was next to.
She hurried behind him.
They indeed found Jonathan, looking delighted to see Sole again, and one other man.
“ Good evening, Jonathan. Paladin commander Jones, as I may point out to you I have the rank of Elder and I won’t have anyone question my decisions. This includes my choice of partner. Sole is a Sentinel, a rank not given lightly. I would not have entrusted her with such responsibility were I not convinced she is more than capable of defending the Brotherhood’s best interests. She is one of the most formidable fighters I’ve ever known. And she is likely to be the mother of my future son or daughter. If ever I hear you openly critique her again, I will have you trialed for treason. Is that understood?” The man clenched his jaw, and gave a short nod. “Then I bid you both a pleasant evening. I’ll see you at the meeting tomorrow.” However it was never entirely possible to forget his rank, this reminded Sole of Maxson’s actual power. As he walked back to her he pulled her closer to him and kissed her on the head, knowing the men were still looking on.
“Thank you.” She said as soon as they got back in their room. “But you didn’t have to do that.” He took place on the bed again and grabbed the report.
“ They questioned my authority in questioning yours. There is truly no need to thank me, I simply cannot have anyone undermine my authority.” She nodded, reminded how easily Maxson threatened people. He looked at her as she went back into the bathroom. She closed the door and the window. As she stood in the shower she tried to think of whether or not he was truly just doing this for himself. Diplomatically, what he did wasn’t a smart move, after all. And to which extent she was seeing the real him… was it this man? Or the man talking to her before?
In the meanwhile Maxson put down the report and layed down, hands behind his head. To his confusion, Sole seemed to keep more of a distance after he defended her. She wasn’t one to be this taken aback from someone critiquing her. He even knew it to strengthen her resolve in anything she did. He was wondering what would happen tomorrow, whether bringing her had been a good idea. Then again, this was an excellent opportunity to find out who truly stood by him and who would attempt to undermine him when given the chance. But to ensure that he wouldn’t have to ask Cade for an infertility report he would have no other choice but to convince them that they were together.
When Sole left the bathroom, depping her long wet hair with a towel he looked at her. “ What are you wearing?” She had a silky nightgown on. A pre-war dress she never really liked but which had somehow also survived the apocalypse. Codsworth had carefully guarded the clothes which had survived.
“ First of all; I wear whatever I goddamn please. Second; I usually sleep in my underwear when I have an actual bed at my disposal. I’m only wearing this thing because of you.” Maxson wanted to bring up that he didn’t care much about that, but opted against it to avoid her misinterpreting it as him making a pass at her.
She layed down on her side of the bed. “Is it common to marry within certain families?”
“ Common, yes. Required, no. “
“ So me being your girlfriend is a bad decision in their eyes.”
“ Certain traditionalists might be opposed to you. Nobody whose opinion I care about. The majority of those present will be pleased I brought along a woman for once. ” In the loaded silence which followed she looked at him. He was thinking about something. She knew.
“ What is it Maxson?”
He looked at her. “ Considering you have brought this up before, do you advise us ‘practicing’ acting like a couple?” Sole shrugged.
“ Perhaps we need to practice how we show physical affection.” She looked over at him, surprised by that answer. “Okay, get up then.” Ordering Maxson around and him actually listening was barely common. She walked over to put on her heels, making sure he wouldn’t have to bend over to do this.
“ Alright, how would you kiss me?” He tilted his head a little and narrowed his eyes as if inquiring to what exactly she expected of him. Sole rolled her eyes. “ Kiss me.”
He walked over to her, put his arm behind her waist and pulled her really close. She had her body pressed against his. Her eyes were locked on his and she felt her heartbeat race. His face was centimetres away from hers.
He got closer only to let go of her and take a step back, Sole took a moment to regain her composure. Breathe, don’t stand there, say something. “Well that was disappointing” Don’t say that. “ I mean, nobody’ll be convinced by that.” Better. “You usually have better follow-through than that.” There’s another innuendo. She blamed Deacon for being so fluent in those.
“ This simply feels overly forced. Possibly because I’m aware of the fact that we have no romantic feelings towards each other. I refuse to ‘instruct’ anyone to show me physical affection.”
“ You’re not. This was my idea.” Sole was annoyed at the big boss seemingly being capable of threatening people left and right but kissing her seemed like a tough task.
“ Only out of loyalty. There are certain things I won’t ask of you, Sentinel.”
“ Oh for fuck’s sake. You want to get them off of your back? Then you’ll have to put in some goddamn effort. If you can’t do it now, you definitely can’t do it in a room full of people.”
He rolled his eyes. “I can’t recall last time I valued someone else’s opinion over my own. My decision is final.”
Sole knew they had to do this at least once for him to get over it already. She ran up to him and kissed him full on the lips. He didn’t respond, grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her back.
This time she was focussed, immediately looked at him with a challenging look in her eyes and said
“ Point proven. That was my choice.”
He grabbed her by the waist again, more forcibly this time, and kissed her. It felt like he wanted to prove he was still the dominant one, the leader. When Sole deepened the kiss by grabbing his hair and pulling him closer he one-upped her by slipped in some tongue. This wasn’t just kissing, this was full-on making out. Sole had no clue how long they had been going before he broke it off. Damn.
“ Will that be convincing enough?” Ah, what every girls wants to hear after such a kiss.
“ Borderline scandalous for your ‘officials’. But at least we got over that presumption of yours.”
“ Sentinel, I inquired whether you think this would be convincing?”
“ Certainly, ‘Elder”. ”
“ I’m going to bed. Good night.”
He took off the shirt again, given how heated Sole had gotten mere minutes ago a highly frustrating thing to do. It didn’t help that he also took off his jeans. He was sleeping in his underwear? Well fuck that then. She slipped out of the dress, leaving her underwear, and got under the sheets. As she did she accidentally bumped into his half-naked body. Turns out he was already counting sheep, or ventibirds, whatever goes. He didn’t seem to notice her change of attire, yet when she bumped against him, he put his arm on her middle and pulled her a closer. Sole had no clue what to do. She tried to get away but couldn’t, his arm a bit too heavy to lift from this particular position. Instead she just went with it and closed her eyes. At least he was warm. She fought the thought that she could get used to this.