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if destiny's kind [old version]

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“The body is no good. The cryogenic systems really did a number on him.”

“Honestly, I’m not that surprised. 200 years with absolutely no maintenance, only to be thawed out and then almost immediately refrozen? I am shocked that the damage wasn’t worse.”

“Okay, well when you put it like that, yeah it’s practically a miracle that most of his brain is still usable, but I wasn’t expecting… I don’t know. A human popsicle?”

“That’s certainly one way of describing him.”

“I’m serious! If we dropped him or accidentally knocked him over he’d shatter into pieces! What would we tell the Director then?”

“We’d buy him a bouquet and a ‘Sorry for smashing your popsicle-dad’ card and hope for the best.”

“I feel like you’re not taking this very real concern seriously.”

“Really? What gave it away? I can give it another go, inject some believable sincerity into it this time.”

“… You’re a real jerk, you know that?”

“Yes, yes, I’m a bastard, blah blah. Let’s get on with this. I’ve got a date in an hour and I’m not going to miss it because we took too long popping open the human ice cube’s skull.”

---

He wakes with a groan; the flickering lights do nothing to help the piercing pain in his head and the hard ground does nothing for his sore body which pulls another groan out of him. The whirring sound of machinery isn’t helping much either, makes him feel nauseous, and the unnatural chill in the air has him shuddering and trying to curl up for warmth.

Wherever he is isn’t a good place to be with what he assumes to be a hangover. He slowly sits himself up and he realizes that he’s in what looks like a set from those old sci-fi horror movies that come on late at night. “The Gruesome Lair of Dr. Freeze,” he thinks idly as he cautiously stretches out his sore muscles.

He’s stretching his left arm when he feels his arm sting. With a small hiss he moves his arm away, turning it so he can see the underside of it. E Z R A is carved into his forearm. Ezra? Is that his name? It sounds familiar at least.

Ezra lurches up onto his feet and takes stock of himself; pristine blue jumpsuit with the sleeves tied around his waist, white t-shirt, and sturdy boots. There’s also the letters carved into his forearm that has dried blood flaking off.

He must have been down here awhile then if the letters have healed up and scarred.

Looking around at the people – well, corpses – in the pods, none of them seem familiar in the slightest, other than the fact that they’re in the same blue jumpsuits. Then he sees her and she seems… he knows her. He doesn’t remember how he knows her but he does.

Dark hair and brown almond shaped eyes, the scar that crossed over her nose and trailed down her right cheek, the feeling of recognizing her itching at his mind. Ezra sees the glint of light coming from her left hand; a wedding ring. He looks at his own hand; no ring. So they’re not married.

Friends maybe?

That’s when he also noticed the gunshot wound; the entry wound was on her right temple. Just looking at the wound he could practically hear a woman yelling, a baby wailing, and a gun going off. Ezra pressed a hand against the glass of her pod, absolutely freezing to the touch, trying to remember more, but that’s all there was.

Ezra closed his eyes, a brief moment to mourn this woman he’s forgotten. When his eyes open, he steps back and weakly smiles as he says, “I’m sorry.”

---

When he emerges from the underground facility (it’s a vault, his mind supplies) the world looks old yet new, like seeing double, grainy memories flickering over what he’s currently seeing, but then they’re gone and Ezra can’t call them back. His head stings when he tries.

Everything looks dead and gray, except for the vivid orange and red leaves on the trees and the bright clear blue sky. It is a breathtaking sight to say the least. He’s so fixated on the scenery that he nearly misses seeing something moving and light reflecting off of something off to his right.

Ezra’s head whips to the side, eyes scanning the trees, his posture tenses. Goosebumps prickle on his arms and the hairs stand on end; someone is watching him. He shouldn’t go looking, especially not by himself, but he does it anyway.

When he gets to the top of the hill overlooking the vault there is nothing there except for a small lookout with some half melted candles, a couple of water bottles, and an odd looking symbol painted in white.

---

Ezra and the dog he found at the Red Rocket stop in Concord, mostly to help a group of people being attacked by raiders. He figures he’ll help them out, say hello, and then be on his way. However Preston and Sturges ask for his help (which he readily agreed to after he heard about what they had gone through, how many people they lost along the way) and Mama Murphey seems intent on talking to him.

Now Ezra isn’t sure if he really believes in the Sight, but Mama Murphey seems to know more about him than he did about himself.

“The Sight tells me it’s important that you find the child that was stolen from your friend in the vault, kid.”

“How? Where should I go?”

“Hell, I don’t know. The Sight isn’t always detailed about these things. Try Diamond City and Goodneighbor. If nothin’ else they’re good places to start.”

She marks the locations on his Pipboy map. They’re not too far, but quite a walk from here.

“If you get lost just follow Dogmeat, he knows the way.”

“He does, does he?” Ezra asks with a small smile looking down at Dogmeat wagging his tail at the sound of his name. Mama Murphey chuckles.

“Of course he does, kid. Dogmeat knows the Commonwealth like no other,” she says before her face takes on a more serious look. “There’s something else you should know; a phrase. The Sight tells me that the road ahead for you is gonna get tricky, real dangerous. Someone’s gonna make you lose yourself, so remember this, show it only to people you know you can trust because it is the only thing that will lead you back to yourself.”

Mama Murphey pulls out a scrap of paper and jots something down, before folding it up and handing it over to Ezra. He attempts to open it before she grasps his wrist and shakes her head.

“Not here, kid. Don’t get me wrong, these are good people here, but you shouldn’t show that to anyone unless you absolutely trust them with your life. Because what’s written there? It very well could mean life or death for you. Keep it close. Keep it safe, ya hear me?”

Ezra can only nod his head as he tucks the paper away. He doesn’t know if he believes in the Sight, but he knows he believes Mama Murphey when she says it’s important.

---

When he and Dogmeat are on the roof with the power armor he allows himself to pull out the paper scrap and read the phrase.

He reads it. Then reads it again. He thought maybe it might mean something to him, might jog his memories, but it doesn’t. It’s not important now, but according to Mama Murphey it will be later, so he folds it back up and stashes it away.

Instead he focuses on the task at hand and gets in the power armor.

---

He sends the settlers off on their way to Sanctuary (the abandoned neighborhood he had just come from). Ezra doesn’t warn Preston about the possibility of the person who had been watching him being there because he knows the person is following him (he felt the sensation of being watched while he had been fighting the Deathclaw). So whoever it is won’t pose a threat to these people because whoever it is has taken an interest in Ezra.

Instead he promises Preston that he’ll be back to help them out when he can.

Ezra decides to go to Diamond City first and sets off down the road with Dogmeat trotting alongside him and the feeling of being watched comes back.

---

“So who do you think is following us, boy? Some sort of creepy stalker, or maybe a Deathclaw looking for a meal? Ooh, wait, better yet? I think it’s definitely a guy with puppets and a giant ant.”

Dogmeat barks at him.

“Yeah, Deathclaw looking for a meal does seem a bit far-fetched; it would’ve tried eating us by now.”

---

The feeling of being watched isn’t consistent. It’ll last for maybe a day or two then it’ll be gone for just as long before coming back.

Ezra doesn’t see what could be so interesting about following him around. He’s just a guy traveling with a dog looking for a child he doesn’t remember for a person he also doesn’t remember. All in all, not really worth following across the wasteland.

Mostly he just ignores whoever, or whatever, is following him. They’ll either reveal themselves when they’re ready or they won’t. It’s a risk having an unidentified thing following him around, but they haven’t tried to kill him yet so they’re probably harmless.

Honestly though, he’s more worried about the fact that he sees her, his friend from the vault, out of the corner of his eye. He is hallucinating a dead woman and something roils in his gut and he doesn’t know why.

Maybe what he’s feeling is guilt. Guilt for what though? For not remembering who she is? For not saving her from the jaws of death and a smoking gun barrel? For not knowing what the hell he’s doing?

When he and Dogmeat stop for the night and build a small campfire, there she is again. She sits on the other side of the fire, flames dancing in her dead eyed thousand yard stare. Her mouth opens, but instead of speaking it’s the sound of machines, like an assembly line and it hurts to hear it. Ezra puts out the fire and lays down to sleep, hands covering his ears to drown out the noise.

He falls asleep to the muffled sound of gears and motors and to the sensation of being watched.

---

He dreams of the strings of a guitar and a gravelly voice coming in over a radio.

He’s walking around a nursery, holding a fussy infant. Golden rays of early morning light stream in through the window. The baby won’t calm with the careful bouncing motions, so he sings along to the radio.

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms

He wakes in a room with white walls that are too bright, chest heaving in panic. The last thing he remembers is seeing a bomb drop in the distance and the resulting mushroom shaped cloud, the shockwaves rushing to meet them as they were being lowered into a vault. But this… this doesn’t look like a vault.

Where is he? Where’s Moira? Where’s Shaun?

There are wires coming out of him, attached to machines, all beeping and whirring quietly. He struggles to sit up but he is able to manage it. Though when he looks down he wishes he hadn’t.

But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cried.

Oh god, where are his legs? They cut off at the knees, circuitry jutting out of them, exposed metal rods sticking out like bones. Hot tears are pouring down his face as his breaths come out in short, harsh gasps.

How did this happen? What the hell happened to him and why can’t he remember anything?

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray

He’s crying as he starts tearing out the wires that have him hooked up to the machines. The noise of the machines is frantic now that he’s no longer hooked up to them.

This is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong-

He’s turned his attention to start ripping out the exposed circuitry from his legs when the sound of a door sliding open distracts him.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

“Shit, he’s awake!”

“Put him back under!”

“Don’t you dare fucking touch me! Where’s Moira? Where’s Shaun? What have you done to me?”

I've always loved you and made you happy
And nothing else could come between

Everyone’s screaming, himself included, as he thrashes about. He ends up falling off the table, causing several of the machines he’s still hooked up to, to crash down with him.

The strangers are scrambling over each other trying to get to him, getting tripped up in wires and cords. He starts crawling towards the door they came in through.

But now you've left me to love another
You have shattered all of my dreams

One of the strangers manages to grab him be his right thigh, dragging him across the tiled floor back towards them.

“God damn it, you need to calm down!”

They struggle for a bit, rolling around on the floor, each of them trying to come out on top. He manages to get on top and punches the stranger in the throat once before the other one restrains him.

They’re distracted from their screaming and flailing when another enters the room.

“Ezra, what are you doing?”

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey

“Who are you? How do you know my name?”

The newcomer pauses, looking at him with familiar almond shaped eyes, thoughtfully before responding.

“You don’t remember me, do you? Must be something not firing right in the memory components. It might sort itself out given time though.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Hmm? Oh, never you mind, Ezra. Go back to sleep.”

“Fuck you, I’m not going-”

“Initiate sleep. Code: Sunshine.”

He immediately goes slack, everything going dark.

You'll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

The infant sleepily coos and babbles at him. Grinning at the baby he presses a kiss to its chubby cheek as it yawns and finally settles.

“Sleep tight, Shaun.”

---

Ezra wakes with a jolt, gasping for air and skin clammy with sweat in the cold morning air.

What the fuck was that?

He ends up with an armful of Dogmeat as the dog climbs into his lap, licking at his face in an attempt to calm Ezra. After taking a few moments to collect himself he gets up and they continue to Diamond City.

Ezra is glad that whoever has been following him hadn’t seen him having that weird dream.

---

When he passes through the gate into the city proper he’s overcome with a weird sense of vertigo and déjà vu.

Has he… has he been here before?

Ezra is distracted from his unease when a child, a girl, comes up to him and hands him a newspaper.

“Here’s your free copy of your interview with Piper,” she says before she returns to her small soapbox. Interview? About what? Who is Piper? Ezra tucks the newspaper away; he’ll look at it later.

As he continues into the market more and more people call out greetings to him and he politely returns them. Ezra has no idea what’s going on and no idea of where he should go until a man, a gun trader, tells him that someone called Nick Valentine was looking for him.

“Oh, uh, do you know where he is?”

“He’s probably at his agency. Just follow the signs.”

It doesn’t take Ezra long to find the neon pink signs that lead to Nick Valentine.

---

The door to the agency swings shut behind him and he glances around, taking everything in, before calling out “Hello?”

“That you, Ezra?” a voice calls from somewhere further in the building.

“Yes?” His unsure tone seems to get a chuckle out of whoever it is. The sound of footsteps gets closer and closer until a man – well robot, no, synthetic man? – appears, lit cigarette hanging from his mouth.

“That a question or an answer? Good to see you again. You were gone so long I thought maybe a swarm of Bloodbugs got to ya. So you ready to go after Kellogg?”

“Who’s Kellogg? And who’re you?”

The synth is quiet for a moment, smoke curling in the air around him as he puts out his cigarette in an ashtray before he says anything.

“You lost time again, didn’t you? More memory problems?”

Ezra looks at him warily as he responds. “Yeah, how did you-”

“Because you told me, after you busted me out of Skinny Malone’s place. When you told me about what happened down in 111 to Moira and Shaun. Said you had a lot of holes in your memory, that you occasionally just forgot things, usually entire days. ‘s why it took you so long to get to Diamond City the first time, couldn’t remember things for more than maybe a few hours at a time, could barely remember your own name. I’m Nick by the way, since you forgot.”

Ezra inhales sharply at that and tugs his left sleeve up, revealing his scarred up arm. Nick curses at the sight, grabbing at his forearm to look at it.

“Christ, Ezra, I know you don’t have all your marbles but ya didn’t have to carve up your arm. Could’ve just written it down on paper.”

Ezra shakes his head, a strange buzzing sensation building in the back of his mind, mumbling out a “Couldn’t risk it, had to be sure.”

“Well it doesn’t look like it’s infected,” Nick says as he leads Ezra to a chair. “Tell me what you remember.”

“Not much. Just waking up on the floor in the vault,” he says, his head beginning to hurt. “What happened? Before that. You said something about Kellogg.”

Nick sighs before pulling up a chair and recounting what he knew.

---

Ezra had apparently woken up in Vault 111 weeks ago, memory spotty and blurred together. How he had managed to make it to Diamond City by himself neither he nor Nick knew. He had gotten Nick out of Skinny Malone’s hideout, then they met back up at Nick’s agency where Ezra had recounted the murder of Moira and Shaun’s kidnapping. It was at that point that Nick mentioned he noticed Ezra had looked a little green around the gills, but before he could say anything about it Ezra had decided to go get some air to clear his head and left.

Ezra had been gone for about two weeks.

What Ezra had done during those two weeks between leaving the detective agency and waking up again in 111 is a mystery.

“Maybe we should go take you to see Doc Amari,” Nick offers. “She might be able to figure out what’s going on with your mind.”

Ezra nods in agreement. Whoever this Doc Amari is she’s his best option right now.

---

They get delayed, however, when Nick’s assistant, Ellie, is heading in the door just as they’re about to head out. She says that Nick has a case that he really can’t put off any longer. The look on her face says he’ll catch all hell if he doesn’t get it done soon.

“Looks like you’ll have to go by yourself. Anyone asks why you’re at the Memory Den just tell ‘em I sent you.”

---

Deacon could hear Desdemona questioning their new guest the closer he got to the entrance. He hadn’t expected Spots to find the Railroad this soon, but from the weeks spent following the vaultie Deacon should’ve known better than to expect Spots to be anything close to predictable.

He thought he’d had him pegged pretty well the first time Spots emerged from 111; confused and easily sidetracked, but somehow skilled enough to rescue Nick Valentine. Then for whatever reason he’d returned to 111 and when he left for the second time he seemed completely different, like he finally woke up from some dreaming haze.

But here he is, pointed in the Railroad’s direction by Amari for some reason.

Deacon wonders what she said to Spots. He’ll find out sooner or later.

“I’m Desdemona, and I’m the leader of the Railroad. And you… Deacon, where’ve you been?”

Ah, there’s his cue.

“You’re having a party. What gives with my invitation?”

Desdemona narrows her eyes at him, face slightly scrunched up in irritation.

“I need intel. Who is this?”

Deacon would be surprised but he’d worked very hard to keep everyone else off of Spots’ trail.

“Wow,” Deacon says with faux surprise, “News flash, boss, this guy is kind of a big deal out there.”

“You’ve heard of me?” Spots asks, surprise evident on his face and in his voice. Definitely going to have to work on masking his emotions. Spots has a pretty face and that goes a long way in their line of work, but it takes more than that to stay alive.

“You know you’re practically famous. No one knows your name but you’ve got a really recognizable face. Nick Valentine was in a jam, as usual. But word is you bailed him out. And talked your way past Skinny Malone, too. And as if that wasn’t enough… You’ve left a trail of destruction in your wake. Gone places no sane person would go alone.”

“So you’re vouching for him?” Desdemona asks with a pointed look on her face.

“Yes. Trust me, he’s someone we want on our side.”

“That changes things. So, stranger why did you want to meet with us, anyway?”

“My… nephew was kidnapped,” Spots says, “I’m looking for help to find him.”

“Someone stole your nephew? That’s terrible. Do you know who did it? For your sake, I hope the Institute isn’t involved.”

“Why would the Institute be involved?”

“Many kidnappings in the Commonwealth are perpetrated by the Institute. Why? Who knows. But I’ve never heard of them taking children. So hopefully they’re not involved,” Desdemona says. “I’ll have Deacon look into this. If anyone can find a lead on your nephew, he can. If we’re going to be dealing with you, I need to make sure we’re on the same page. You know what a synth is, right?”

“I’ve heard rumors. What are they really?”

“The Institute created them. Synthetic humans. They’re mostly organic, part machine. Somewhere along the line they become more than just constructs. They think, they feel, and act just like you and me. The Institute treats synths as property. As tools.”

A look of something passes on Spots’ face, but it’s gone before anyone other than Deacon notices; he may be quiet right now but he’s definitely observing the vaultie.

“That sounds like slavery.”

“Exactly. So we seek to free the synths from their bondage. Give them a chance at a real life. I have a question. The only question that matters. Would you risk your life for your fellow man? Even if that man is a synth?”

Spots seems to be taking a moment to think it over before answering, his face firm.

“Yes. Makes no difference to me if it’s a human or a synth.”

Deacon smiles at the answer, glad that betting on Spots is turning out to be the right choice.

“Well said. We’ll do what we can to look into your missing nephew. Normally, you’re exactly the kind of person we try and recruit-”

Deacon can feel the smile slip from his face. Oh come on, Dez, don’t be like this please.

“But right now we don’t have the time to train up a new agent. There are, however, other valuable ways you can contribute-”

He quietly sighs and hangs his head slightly. Dez why? We need all the help we can get and you make him a tourist.

“And in turn we can help you. See Deacon for details. You’re free to go,” she says before leaving, Glory and Drummer Boy right behind her. Deacon turns to Spots when he approaches.

“Hope you didn’t mind the reception,” Deacon says as he puts his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “When you tango with the Institute you got to be careful when someone new gets on the dance floor.”

Spots shrugs as he responds with, “Your leader was just being cautious.”

“Exactly. Kind of killed our chance at a friendly first impression, though. But it’s all good now,” he says as he heads to the catacombs, nodding for Spots to follow him. “I vouched for you. Nobody got shot. Still, I would consider it a close personal favor if you didn’t sell us out to the Institute. Thanks.”

Deacon nearly trips over a dog when he passes through the secret door. He looks back at Spots, smiling in question of their furry companion.

“Dogmeat was keeping an eye out for more ghouls. You might want to call pest control next time, you had a bad infestation of ferals,” Spots says with a charming smile and wow if Deacon thought he was pretty before the man was downright gorgeous now. “So tell me, why did you vouch for me?”

“In our little outfit, it’s my job to know things. And with everything you’ve done it’s clear you’re capable. A dangerous enemy. And, I’m betting, a valuable ally.”

“But why the trust,” he pushes. “You can’t be taking it all on faith.”

Man, Spots is persistent as he is charismatic.

“I don’t know if we can trust you,” Deacon admits as they climb up the stairs into the old church proper. “But I hope we can. We just survived a hell of a crisis. So we may be just a teeny, weeny bit desperate for new members. If everything was sunshine and bottle caps, we’d probably play a longer ‘getting to know you’ game. But we don’t have that luxury.”

“Really? Is that all?”

“You just don’t give up? All right, I have a short list of people I think would be a good fit for our family. You piqued my interest, so maybe I asked around. Did my homework. If you hadn’t found us, there’s a chance I would’ve found you, instead. Thanks for saving me the trip.”

They continue through the dilapidated church until they make it outside.

“So Dez wants me to make you a ‘tourist.’ That’s what we call someone who helps out with the odd job here and there. What a waste. I’m just going to come out and say this: the Railroad needs you.”

Spots looks at him, slight smirk on his face, as if he knows what Deacon’s about to suggest.

“So what’s the plan, Deacon?”

“I got a job. Too big for me. Just perfect for the two of us. You help me out, we turn a few heads, and then Dez invites you into the fold. Then if you get into a bind and need help, your buddies in the Railroad got your back.”

“So what is it?”

“So up front, the only thing I’ll say is it’s going to be a wild and dangerous ride. But probably nothing new to someone like you.”

“Sign me up,” Spots says, smirk changing into a lopsided grin.

“Perfecto. Let’s meet up at the old freeway outside Lexington. I’ll fill you in once you get there.”

---

The sun is setting when Ezra makes it to the meeting spot and Deacon is nowhere to be seen. Dogmeat’s barking alerts him to a scruffy stranger’s arrival.

“Spots! Glad you could make it.”

Once he gets a good look he recognizes the man as Deacon. The sunglasses give him away.

“Deacon? Why are you dressed like that? And Spots?”

“Disguises are a part of my job. Makes it easier to get around unnoticed. And yeah, ‘Spots’. It’s what I call you on account of those spots you got,” Deacon says making a gesture towards his face.

Oh, he’s talking about Ezra’s vitiligo.

“C’mon, we’re meeting a tourist and I’m going to be teaching you the basics so pay attention, Spots.”

---

After they clear out the Switchboard and head back to the headquarters, after Deacon embellishes the truth and Ezra goes along with it, he’s officially part of the Railroad. Ezra, or Charmer as he’s now known to them, decides it’s time to head back to Nick, finally go after Kellogg.

He remembers what Amari told him, that the Railroad would be the best way for him to find out about what’s going on with his head, but he doesn’t know if he trusts them yet. Ezra remembers what Deacon said about how he hoped that they could learn to trust him; he hopes that he’ll be able to trust them too.

“So after comparing these scans of your brain to the ones we took when you arrived, I’ve noticed that there’s some unusual… activity. If you look here, you can see a foreign object attached to your brain. I would say that this means you’re a synth, but the technology doesn’t look right for that.”

“What do you mean, doc?”

“Well the Institute has a standardized neural implant that they use in all of their synths, but yours is different. At first I was puzzled as to what function it served, since it didn’t appear to do anything, but I think that it has multiple purposes. One of them is repairing the damage done to your mind.”

“What are the others?”

“Honestly? I have no clue. It seems to be running at half capacity. Trauma of some sort seems to have shorted out the other functions. Whether that’s temporarily or permanently, I cannot say. I don’t know much else about this without having to actually dig around in your skull, but I’d rather not do that. Although there might be someone else who might have an idea of what this is.”

“Who?”

“Tell me, Ezra, have you heard of the Railroad?”

Ezra is snapped out of his memory when his eyes finally focus on the movement of a hand waving in front of his face and the sound of Deacon trying to get his attention.

“Hello? Anybody home in there?”

He bats Deacon’s hand away but the man just grins at him.

“Sorry about that, mind kinda wandered away for a moment,” Ezra says.

“No problem-o. So what’s next, partner?”

Ezra rubs at the back of his neck thinking over his options. He really should get back to Nick, considering how worried he’d been the last time Ezra had dropped off the map. But should he bring Deacon? Ezra has already begun to trust the man, however tentatively, but he hasn’t told him about the memory problems, hasn’t told him about Moira in the tomb that was 111 or about Shaun, his missing nephew.

Well, if they were ever going to really work and trust each other like a team should, they were going to have to open up and learn about one another.

“Diamond City. Got to check in with someone and there’s something that needs to be taken care of.”

“Ooh, keeping it vague and mysterious, huh? I do like surprises. Well, most surprises. As long as it’s not a Deathclaw jumping out of a cake.”

Ezra can’t help the laughter that spills out at the image the words bring forth in his mind. Deacon quirks a smile at him.

“Hey you laugh now, but that actually happened once. I was undercover in the capital at a party for the Lone Wanderer and his husband and somebody rolled out this giant cake and bam! Deathclaw jumps out of it. Needless to say it’s in my top ten favorite parties.”

---

“Made a new friend, Ezra?” Nick asks when he and Deacon enter the detective’s agency, door swinging shut behind them. Dogmeat trots over to where Nick is seated behind his desk and the dog rests his head on the synth’s thigh, tail thumping against the floor.

“Something like that,” Ezra says as he sits opposite of Nick, Deacon opting to lean against the wall and observe the way Ezra and Nick interact. “How’d your case go?”

Nick grunts, puffing away at the cigarette in his mouth, and obliging Dogmeat and scratching behind his ear.

“Went well enough. Turns out the missing persons ran away to elope. What about you? What’d Doc Amari have to say about,” Nick’s eyes flick up to Deacon before resting his gaze on Ezra, “well...?”

Ezra can feel Deacon’s eyes on him as well and it feels oddly familiar… oh, he has an idea now about why that is. He’s definitely going to have a few words with Deacon about that later though. Ezra sighs heavily before accepting a cigarette and lighter from Nick.

“Doc says she doesn’t really know much about it other than the fact there’s some kind of trauma that caused it. She says that it might improve over time or it might not. Also said that there was something weird in the scans but unless she went rooting around in my skull physically there’s not much more she can learn about it.”

Nick nods as he stands up, putting on his coat.

“Well, you ready to go after Kellogg then?”

“We’re going after Kellogg?” It’s the first thing Deacon has said since they passed the city gates and the way he sounds so incredulous about the notion of it makes Ezra laugh.

---

Discovering Spots’ real name hadn’t really surprised him. Spots is popular with people so it was only a matter of time (even though the Railroad forbids using real names, he’s kind of glad that he knows it), but he was… not ‘disappointed’, that’s not the right word for it, but he hadn’t really been expecting Spots’ name to be Ezra. Not that there’s anything wrong with the name and it does fit Spots, but he was expecting it to be… well he doesn’t really know what he expected. (He still has no idea why Spots went to Amari other than what little information he had gotten from the conversation with Valentine. Head injury maybe?)

Maybe something a bit more, more? Something that said “oh yeah this is definitely the name of a guy who goes chasing after Kellogg for kicks and also revenge.”

Speaking of the Commonwealth’s boogeyman.

Finding Kellogg was easier than Deacon thought it would be; the guy literally left a cigar trail right to his doorstep. Fighting off Gen 2’s and turrets was bog standard in a place like Fort Hagen, but the big confrontation with Kellogg had been really underwhelming.

The entire time Spots, Nick, and him were going through the Fort, Kellogg had been taunting them over the PA system, talking up a big game all the way up to Spots asking him where Shaun was. Deacon had been anticipating a difficult fight, but within moments Spots had managed to cave Kellogg’s head in with a baseball bat.

Deacon had let out a low whistle of appreciation at that. Only two hits and the man the Commonwealth lived in fear of for years went down like a sack of bricks.

When the dust had finally settled he noticed a particular look – one that was nothing but despair – on Ezra’s face.

“The Institute has Shaun.”

Well, shit.

---

They went back to Diamond City after that, out of any ideas on how to further track down Shaun. They all piled into Piper’s office, trying to figure something out. The Memory Den was brought up and luckily Ezra had already grabbed Kellogg’s neural implant before they left Fort Hagen (he had noticed the weird piece of tech sticking out of Kellogg’s no longer intact head).

Piper and Nick went on ahead, while Ezra, Deacon, and Dogmeat went to clear out some troublesome raiders that had been ambushing caravans.

---

“Hey, got a minute?”

Ezra looks up from the turret he’s scavenging ammo from.

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I’m used to flying solo, but I gotta admit, working with you makes me think I’ve been missing out. Having someone watching your back… is refreshing. Especially since you never know when the Institute is watching.”

He can feel a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

“Don’t get all mushy on me, especially when I’ve still got raider blood all over me.”

“Aww. I was just about to open up about my first pet mole rat, Bessie, and the time we had to put her down,” Deacon says, smiling right back at him. “Some people at HQ are jealous. You took the Big Nap and everyone you knew is long gone. Wait, hear me out on the silver lining.”

Ezra gives him a look, waiting for Deacon to elaborate.

“If a human in the Railroad slips up then they expose friends and loved ones to danger. You’re safe from that.”

“You do remember that my nephew was taken by the Institute, right?”

“Oh, Jesus, I didn’t mean that. If the Church gets compromised and the Coursers are on our trail at least you’re not putting more people in harm’s way. That’s all.”

He stands up from where he had been kneeling next to the turret, having gotten as much ammo out of it as he could, and lightly knocks their shoulders together before moving onto the next turret.

“S’okay, I know.”

“Well, putting loved ones in harm’s way doesn’t really matter much to me. I’m a synth.”

Ezra stops dead in his tracks, turns to look Deacon in the eye, well look him in the sunglasses.

“You’re a synth?”

“At least that’s what they tell me. So I don’t really have anything to lose. For Glory and me, and the others, it’s easier to dedicate ourselves to the cause.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I don’t like talking about it. I was one of the first synths they did the whole cranium reboot on. So it was a bit of a botch job. Most synths have fun fake memories. A happy home, a family. Me, I got nothing. And that… well, it does something to you. Since we’re traveling together I want you to take this. It’s my recall code,” Deacon says as he hands over a folded scrap of paper. “If you ever need to know something about the Institute, read it to me.”

Ezra can feel his heart twist in sympathy. Yeah, he knows exactly what not having memories can do to a person. He must not be doing a good job of keeping a lid on his emotions because Deacon ducks his head slightly, looking away from Ezra’s face, breaking eye contact even though there’s sunglasses in the way.

Something… isn’t right.

“If you expect me to believe you I want proof.”

“Alright, you got me. No fooling you, huh? Don’t take it personally, I lie to everyone. Maybe I’m just another human that has people back home he wants to protect. Then again, maybe not.”

He doesn’t know what to say to that and it must show on his face.

“I want… If you believe anything, believe this. I’m in your corner. Always have been. That code I gave you is a hard truth. You can’t trust everyone. Even if someone sounds sincere they could be a synth replacement working for the Institute. The bitch of the problem is recognizing the 90% of the time someone’s on the up and up and the 10% of the time you’re being played.”

---

Okay, so maybe playing the “I’m a synth, no wait not really, or maybe yes really?” card wasn’t the best idea, but he still feels that it was the best way to really drive home the point of “be careful who you trust.” Deacon doesn’t feel guilty about it though since he lies to everyone. It’s as natural to him as breathing.

They catch up with Nick and Piper at the Memory Den not too long after his impromptu imparting of hard learned wisdom. Deacon can tell that Ezra isn’t really sure how to take the fact that he lied right to his face, the furrowed brows says it all as he gets into the memory lounger. Hopefully Ezra will take the lesson and the intentions behind it to heart instead of the lying, because yes, they’re supposed to be building trust with each other and he’d actually kind of hate it if he ruined that with his inability to be truthful.

Okay so maybe he does feel at least a teeny-tiny bit guilty and might want to make it up to Spots.

He hopes he’ll get a chance to do so before Ezra decides to get a new partner, one who doesn’t lie about anything and everything under the sun.

One who actually remembers how to be able to tell the truth.

---

“They’re making you a sniper, huh?”

“Yeah. I just thought I’d be another infantryman, but I guess I got what it takes. Must’ve impressed someone.”

“Oh please, you’re always impressive.”

He grins at the smile he can hear in her voice over the phone.

“So how’re things with Satya?”

Silence over the line.

“Moira? You still there?”

“Yeah, I am. Things… didn’t work out with Satya.”

“Oh, well that’s a bummer.”

A heavy sigh over the line now and a sad chuckle that follows it.

“Yeah, well… Most of my relationships never last long. Hell my longest relationship is our friendship.”

“I’m in the same boat. If we weren’t both gay –”

“Or if you were a lady.”

“– we’d probably work out.”

“At this rate we should just get married to each other. At least that way we’d get tax benefits.”

This time he laughs.

“You proposing to me, Moira?”

“You know what, why not? We live together already, might as well. Besides, I’m probably the only one at this point who can stand your obnoxious shower singing.”

“Hey, I’ll have you know that I have a beautiful voice.”

“Sure, if your definition of a ‘beautiful voice’ is ‘off key and sounding like a dying lounge singer’ then yes you do.”

“Wow, I can’t believe I’m engaged to a jerk.”

---

“Hundred points,” Deacon says from where he’s resting his cheek in his hand, binoculars raised to see the raider camp in the distance, as Ezra picks off another raider with his suppressed sniper rifle. “Where’d you learn to shoot this well?”

Ezra is quiet as he reloads, brows drawn together in a way that says he’s thinking too hard.

“Army. I was a sniper,” he says as he lets off another shot and another raider drops. If Deacon didn’t know better, he’d say that from the serious look Ezra is angry about being lied to, but he does know better, so he knows that Spots is just very focused on sniping (that and he had told Deacon after what happened in the Memory Den that he wasn’t angry just kind of confused).

“Yeah? Should I be calling you ‘soldier boy’ instead of Spots then?”

Ezra snorts as he digs himself down a little deeper into the ground where he’s laid out.

“Technically you’re supposed to be calling me ‘Charmer.’”

“Well you certainly are one.”

Ezra laughs at that, having to pull away from the gun’s scope, turning his head to look at Deacon, smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

“Certainly gets the job done. So. The army. What was that like?”

Ezra bites his bottom lip and looks back through his scope, seems to be debating something in his head.

“Don’t really remember. Don’t remember much of anything really. The cryo units in the vault did a serious number on my head far as I can tell.”

“Huh. That explains a lot, actually.”

“Speaking of explaining, are you ever gonna tell me why you were following me when I left the vault?”

Deacon tilts his head and makes a see-sawing motion with his freehand. “Hmm… Maybe. I’m kind of on the fence about it right now.”

“Trying to find a way to spin it so it doesn’t sound like you were stalking me?”

“Stalking is definitely not what I was doing. Gathering information while lurking in the shadows? Yes.”

“You’re lucky you’re cute.”

---

He’s having difficulty sleeping.

No more sailin’

At first his hallucination of Moira would only happen maybe once every two weeks, but she’s been appearing more and more, always with the same dead eyed thousand yard stare. The mechanical sounds, the metal grinding against metal like two cars meeting at high speed, she emits grows louder and louder to the point Ezra starts getting headaches. As if that wasn’t bad enough when he is able to rest his dreams are plagued by old songs.

So long sailin’

Sometimes it’s You Are My Sunshine but now Somewhere Beyond the Sea has joined the mix and it keeps running around and around in his mind.

Bye bye, sailin’

Now usually – ever since he left the vault – Ezra doesn’t need much sleep. Maybe only an hour or two and he’s good to go, but those damn songs and fake Moira barely let him sleep for more than maybe half an hour.

Move on out, captain

That last line. Something is off about it, makes the back of his mind itch in an unpleasant way, makes his skin so sensitive and tight that it’s painful. Makes his mouth taste of iron and his lungs stutter. And that’s just when he thinks about it; he doesn’t want to know how he’ll react if he ever hears that phrase said aloud.

Ezra knows Deacon has noticed. The man never outright asks him if he’s alright, but he makes sure to reassure him just as subtle as he asks.

They’re looking through an old, mostly dilapidated, office building when Deacon tosses Ezra something with a quick, “Heads up, Spots!” When he catches it he sees “Mixtape Vol. 1” written on a holotape.

“You got me a mixtape?” Ezra asks, smirking at Deacon from across the room. He can’t see it, but he can tell Deacon is rolling his eyes behind his shades.

“Not me specifically. Whoever worked here must’ve left it,” he says as he turns back to rifling through desks for anything useful. “No clue what’s on it, but it’s got to be better than the two songs you’re always humming. No offense, but you can’t carry a tune.”

Ezra is glad that Deacon has his back to him because of the way his hands are trembling. He had no idea he’d been humming anything at all, but he has a good feeling he knows which two songs he has been.

---

Finding that mixtape had been a blessing. Sure, Ezra’s voice was off key when he sang along to it, but his mood had lifted, no longer looking like death warmed over. (That and Spots stopped humming those two same songs like a man possessed. He hadn’t done it constantly but often enough for Deacon to get the tunes of both stuck in his own head.)

Spots’ singing has drawn the attention of the settlement kids who’re now flitting around him while he’s working on a turret in need of repair and trying to sing with him, not quite getting all the words. It’s honestly way more endearing than it should be.

---

Working a room for info is an important part of the job, but it can also be pretty damn dangerous. Ask the wrong person the wrong thing and before you know it you’re at the wrong end of a gun, especially if they cotton on to the fact you’re part of the railroad. Goodneighbor is relaxed compared to most of the Commonwealth, mostly because Hancock turns a blind eye to most of the Railroad’s activities. Won’t go out of his way to help, but that’s better than him leading witch hunts like certain people do.

Anyway, he’s getting sidetracked.

Goodneighbor is a good a place as any to practice that particular skill, getting people to tell you anything and everything, so he gave Spots the basic rundown of it and let him try out the Third Rail while Deacon sits at one of the tables listening to Magnolia sing.

It’s all about technique and not looking shifty. Deacon personally goes for disguises and just generally blending into the crowd and being easily forgotten by most (the dim lights of the bar help obscure his face), but that’s not Ezra’s style, not that he ever thought it would be. Ezra’s face is too distinctive to try for a disguise (he thinks about seeing if Ezra would be open to getting his face changed but Deacon throws that idea out the window immediately; it’d be a waste of such a pretty face. Maybe he should teach him how to use costuming makeup? Couldn’t hurt to try), but he’s not as well known in Goodneighbor as he is in Diamond City so it doesn’t really matter.

Nah, Ezra doesn’t even try to blend into background, he makes himself known and has all eyes on him without stealing the spotlight from Magnolia; that would draw too much attention, the bad kind. Easy going, lopsided smile and pale grey eyes seem to get most of the bar’s patrons to open up to him, others require a little more.

Luckily Spots is as perceptive as he is charming so it isn’t all that difficult for him; it’s as easy as breathing.

Deacon has been sitting on the sidelines to keep an eye on Ezra, help get him out of a sticky situation if needed, since as far as he knows this is Ezra’s first time doing this kind of thing. Then again, with how quickly the other man has taken to this it makes Deacon wonder if Spots had been more than just a sniper way back when.

He looks back to Spots, who is currently leaning against the bar and talking to a traveling merchant, and when he takes a drink from his beer Deacon gets another look at the armguard Spots is wearing on his left arm. Ever since Spots hung up his vault suit in exchange for road leathers he’s taken to wearing the armguard whenever he isn’t wearing his jacket.

Curiosity itches at Deacon’s mind as to what Ezra could possibly be hiding under there. Scars? Ugly birthmark? Embarrassing tattoo?

He’s thinking about it too much, and also staring a lot if the way Ezra looks at him from across the room and quirks an eyebrow in question at him is anything to go by. Deacon quirks a brow back at him as he tips back slightly in his chair and taking a swig of his own beer. Spots just smirks and winks at him before turning back to his conversation.

Deacon’s glad that Spots didn’t notice the way he choked on his drink when Spots winked at him. He knows he wouldn’t live it down.

---

There’s something strange about Covenant.

It’s a relatively new settlement that attracts a lot of travelers due to its location which happens to be along a main trade route. Ezra honestly probably wouldn’t have even stopped by the place, but a trader in Goodneighbor had mentioned the place, which lead to Deacon saying how he hadn’t had the chance to check the place out yet, so here they are just outside of its walls, taking something called a SAFE test.

Swanson – the man administering the test – says it’s been “scientifically designed to weed out undesirables” but to Ezra it just sounds like a bunch of nonsense strung together. He’s been answering the questions at random, not really putting much thought into it, but Swanson seems to be really reading into it (Ezra just wants to tell him that his answers really aren’t that deep, but he still has to get into the place so…) and makes comments here and there about how “interesting” his answers are and seems to tense up when Ezra answers with “Catcher” to the baseball question.

All in all, the test is boring and a waste of time, but Swanson lets him, Deacon, and Dogmeat in anyway.

The town is small but well-kept Ezra notes as a Mr. Handy hands him and Deacon some lemonade as they pass. Looks like a decent place, but the townspeople, something isn’t right about them.

Too nice, too polite, too cheerful.

Their behavior, it’s not normal and Ezra can tell it’s doing a number on Deacon’s ever present paranoia. The only person here who seems even remotely normal is a guy – who introduces himself as Honest Dan – asking around about a missing girl named Amelia Stockton.

Honest Dan asks them to check out the caravan’s remains and to look around town for any clues as to what happened to Amelia while he continues to ask around and observe Covenant’s townsfolk. What’s left of the caravan isn’t even that far away from the town, barely a stone throw’s away and there’s a bottle of lemonade that the Mr. Handy had been handing out and a blood trail leading back towards Covenant.

---

Covenant has been sending people suspected of being synths to a place called the Compound, a repurposed sewage system across the small lake. Ezra manages to get all four of them (him, Deacon, Dogmeat, and Honest Dan) into the place by convincing Manny, who appears to be head of security or something close enough to it, to escort them to the woman in charge. All throughout their walk through the complex something about it makes his skin itch and he feels uncomfortable so he sticks close to Deacon.

They’re introduced to Dr. Roslyn Chambers who explains the purpose of Covenant and its test, how she became hell bent on wiping out every synth in the Commonwealth after her parents deaths in the Broken Mask incident and that she will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. She even has the gall to ask Ezra to kill Honest Dan and allow them to continue kidnapping and torturing innocents.

“Absolutely not, no deal. I’d rather jump off a bridge than help some sort of Institute knock off.”

“How dare you compare us to the Institute! The work we do here is for the greater good, we are nothing like the Institute.”

“Right, because stealing people and then doing God knows what to them is totally nothing like the Institute. You’re so damn blind to what you’ve become, but the ends don’t justify the means.”

“Then you’ll just have to kill me.”

After that things end in violence, as they tend to in the wasteland.

---

After fighting their way out of the Compound, Honest Dan and Amelia part ways with them. Deacon and Ezra sit atop the platform above the complex’s entrance, looking out across the lake towards Covenant; they’ll have to go there soon to deal with the townspeople, but that can wait for a little while.

The stars are beginning to peek out in the darkening sky and Deacon decides it’s time to tell Ezra the truth – well, as close as he can get to it because even now he can’t bring himself to say her real name aloud – about his past, about how he joined the Railroad. He looks over at Ezra, who is now gazing up at the bright stars, and feels a little guilty that he’s going to basically ruin this quiet little moment of respite, might ruin this friendship that borders on something more.

“Hey, I got something important to say,” he says and he almost doesn’t recognize his own voice; it sounds too dry and almost cracking with barely concealed emotion. When Ezra looks at him he almost backs out of it right then and there because he’s selfish and doesn’t want Spots to ever stop smiling at him like that. “I really appreciate you putting up with my bullshit. Truth is it’s been a long time since I’ve had a… friend.”

Ezra remains quiet, still giving him that soft smile; Deacon knows Ezra can read him like an open book (well, he can read him better than almost anyone, which says a lot about how close he’s let Ezra get), so Ezra must see his need for him to listen and stays quiet because he’s not sure he can get all of it out if Ezra says too much before he’s finished. He knows he’ll chicken out.

“I’m a liar,” Deacon continues, voice gaining some strength. “Everyone knows it, I make no secret of it because the truth is: I’m a fraud. To my core. When I was young, a hell of a long time ago, I was… well, scum. I was a bigot.”

He has to pause, his throat has gone too tight and he feels too vulnerable, too exposed admitting this to Ezra.

“A very violent bigot,” Deacon’s voice wavers and cracks a bit as he says this while his heart is doing a panicked staccato in his ribs.

“Go on,” Ezra says and Deacon’s a little envious at how even keel his voice is right now, but there’s no tone of judgement in there and that surprises him a bit.

“I ran with a gang in University Point. We called ourselves the UP Deathclaws. For kicks we’d terrorize anyone that we thought was a synth.” The gang part is true, the location and gang’s name are both wrong, and he knows he should be telling the whole truth, but it’s been so long since he’s done that that omitting or altering certain details, no matter how small, is the closest he can get to it. “We kept egging each other on. Started with some property damage graduated to some beat downs. Then, inevitably, a lynching.”

Fuck, his hands are starting to shake as the memory of that night begins to resurface; those green eyes, large and bulging, begging for mercy, for help, and he did nothing. Just let it happen, was a part of it. That blood on his hands will never wash away. It haunts him still.

“The Claw’s leader was convinced we’d finally found and killed a synth. Looking back, I’m not so sure.”

“I’ll withhold judgement until you’re done.” And just like that he feels relief, however small, at Ezra’s words, yet he also feels a bit of dread beginning to build back up. It’s like a stay of execution; a moment of hope yet the final nail in the coffin is still waiting.

“Thank you,” he says, barely above a whisper. “So I turned my back on my ‘brothers’ – broke all contact. Time passed, I became a farmer, if you can believe that. Then one day I found someone. She saw something in me I didn’t know was there. Barbara, well, she was… she just was.”

Her name wasn’t Barbara, not even remotely close to Barbara, but that’s why he refers to her with that name, makes it sting less.

“What was she like?”

Deacon can feel a smile grow on his lips as he remembers her, how she looked when they first met; curly black hair and big brown eyes and that green dress she always liked to wear.

“She had a smile like on those old magazine covers. Her eyes…” he trails off. Words can’t do her justice. “We were trying for kids, ekeing out a living. Then one day… It turns out my Barbara… She was a synth. She didn’t know that. I certainly didn’t. I don’t know how the Deathclaws found out, but… there was blood.”

His stomach twists as the memories cross his mind. The sound of Ezra talking keeps him grounded in the present instead of being swept away by the current of memories and old hurts.

“So they killed her?”

Deacon nods.

“Yes. I don’t remember much clearly after that. I know I killed most of the Claws. I must’ve made a big impression. The Railroad contacted me, figuring I’d be sympathetic. Seeing that I lost my wife and, well, what I did afterwards.”

“The Railroad let you in? Even though you used to be in the Deathclaws?” There’s no malice behind it just genuine curiosity and he’s at a loss for a moment because he keeps expecting condemnation.

“So many years had passed that I don’t think anyone, well except the Claws, knew that. All they knew was that someone fought back.” Deacon takes a breath before continuing. “I don’t even know why I lie anymore, but I can’t tell the truth. Everyone – Tom, Dez, you, even that asshole Carrington – they deserve to be in the Railroad. I don’t. I’m everything wrong with this whole fucking Commonwealth. You’re the only friend I got. I don’t deserve you being okay with this. Hell, I’m not even asking for it, but I figured you should know.”

He looks away, turns his face up towards the night sky, because he doesn’t want to see if Ezra looks at him differently now that he knows.

“Everyone’s got a past. The important thing is you’re trying to make up for it. I’m still on your side.”

Deacon freezes. That… was not what he had been expecting to hear. He lets out a quiet bark of laughter (it was that or shedding tears of relief and while he’s comfortable with and trusts Ezra, crying is not an option. Ever).

“I’m not the hugging type. So, yeah. Good talk.”

They sit in comfortable silence for a few moments before Ezra speaks up.

“If we’re doing this whole confession thing, then I got something I should probably say now.”

---

“I’m not the hugging type. So, yeah. Good talk.”

Ezra is surprised and honestly touched that Deacon actually told him about his past, as vague as he went about it, and the amount of honesty he was able to give… He figures now is a good a time as any to come completely clean about what’s wrong with his memory and all that. He should definitely tell him about what Amari found in his head. Maybe even show him the note Mama Murphey had given him all those weeks ago.

Taking a deep breath he looks back up to the twinkling stars, trying to get his thoughts together.

“If we’re doing this whole confession thing, then I got something I should probably say now.”

This time it’s Deacon who remains quiet, but turns his face towards Ezra, waiting for him to continue.

“So in the interest of full disclosure, Doc Amari found something… attached to my brain in her scans. She told me it doesn’t look like Institute hardware, but she can’t be sure unless she goes digging in my skull. What she does know is that whatever it is, it isn’t working at full capacity. Something about head trauma messing it up, but it’s been repairing my head for a while now. It’s been fixing my memory problems. Well, it’s been keeping me from losing time. I still don’t remember much. Had so much trouble remembering my own name I apparently decided it would be a good idea to carve it into my arm.”

Ezra shrugs his left arm out of his jacket, revealing the scars that spell out his own name. Deacon lets out a low whistle as he takes in the sight of it.

“So if it isn’t Institute then what is it?”

“I don’t know. For all I know it was put in before I took the long sleep. Maybe I signed up for some military experiment or something. Like I said, I don’t remember much before waking up in the vault for the second time.”

Deacon is quiet again, seems to be letting the information sink in before shrugging.

“So you got some machine in your noggin. You’re still you.”

“Well, that’s not all.” Ezra takes Mama Murphey’s note out from where he’s kept it in his jacket. It’s barely crumpled or wrinkled; he’s taken good care of it because if it is as important as she said it will be, he doesn’t want it to be illegible from neglect. He hands it over to Deacon before continuing. “Mama Murphey gave that to me after I left the vault. Said it’d be important, that it would help me find my way back to myself. Told me that ‘someone is gonna make me lose myself’ and that phrase is the only thing that will bring me back.”

“Christ on a pogo stick, Ezra. This a trigger phrase.”

“I know. Which is why I’m giving it to you. I trust you to have my back, Deacon. So when whatever happens ends up happening I need you to say this.”

“You don’t know it’ll even happen for sure though. Just because Mama Murphey said it’d happen doesn’t make it so.”

Ezra laughs quietly before meeting Deacon’s gaze that always seems to be hidden behind those god damn sunglasses, even at night.

“True. I’m still not completely sold on the Sight, but I know she’s right about the trigger phrase. In fact I have a pretty good idea as to what the phrase that will be used against me will be. But even if it doesn’t happen, I’d rather be prepared for the possibility of it happening anyway.”

This time it’s Deacon who laughs as he lifts himself to his feet.

“Fuck, what is it about tonight and heavy confessions?”

He holds out a hand to Ezra, which he takes, but doesn’t let go when they’re both standing mere inches apart. Deacon squeezes Ezra’s hand before letting go and stepping away.

“Don’t worry I got your back, Spots. C’mon, we got some heads to knock together over at Covenant.”

Aw hell, if he wasn’t already pretty taken with Deacon he sure as shit is now.