What's Worth Fighting For- Prologue
I’m the One You’re Looking For - John Jarvis, Kerry Marx, & Lynda CarterThe detective ran inside the old subway station, escaping the cold rain that was assaulting his back. Tipping his hat to the bouncer before shaking the rain off his trench coat. “Hey, Ham.”“Good to see ya, Valentine. Enjoy yourself down there.” The sharply dressed ghoul tipped his hat to the other. Nick followed the soft sound of piano and song, mingled with laughter and the clinking of glasses down the stairs. Once he was in the club, he saw the low lights cast shadows on the couple of slow dancing figures as Magnolia crooned in the corner. Once he found a table he took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Taking a small scan of the room, he noticed he had caught the attention of a young lady across the room. Her dress slinked around what little curves she held. She couldn’t have been older than twenty. She was stunning, he thought to himself, but haggard. He kept her in the corner of his eye, watching her saunter over as he lit his cigarette. She held a sensual smile, leaning against a nearby wall. “Hey, there." Her velvet voice raised an eyebrow from him. He turned his head towards her, unsure of how to proceed."Evening.""Cold night like this, bet it makes a handsome guy like you pretty lonely.""More than you know." He huffed out a small laugh. She closed the distance between them and placed a delicate hand on his arm. Her graying fingers were almost as bony as his own metal hand."I can keep you warm. All it'll cost you is a few caps or chems."“Oh, I doubt it would do me any good.”“You’ve never had me before.” He raised his eyebrows and cocked his head to the side, not able to directly disagree with her.“I’m afraid no one’s that good.” Her hand fell to her side with her smile mirroring. Her focus was quickly moving on to her next prospect. “I’ve never seen you around here before. What’s your name?”“Sorry, sweetie, I don't chat for free.” She locked onto a couple of regulars, sloshing their drinks around and laughing until their faces burned scarlet. She was ready to make her entrance when Nick side stepped in front of her.“How much to learn your name?’ He asked.“What?” She stopped in her tracks, staring at his in bewilderment. “Four? Five?” The detective pulled out a small leather bag, pulling the drawstring open and showing the caps. She blinked a few times to calibrate before crossing her arms in curiosity. “... Ten.”“Ten caps?” He scoffed as he counted the money carefully and handed it over to her. “Better be a hell of a name… So?”“Felicity.”“Huh…” His face perked up in surprise, taking another drag of his cigarette as he slowly nodded. “That’s a pretty good name… Almost worth the money.” She almost gave a genuine smile as she snorted. “So, what about you? Are you like Bot-267 or-”“Nick is fine." He shot a look at her that earned him a smirk."Hm,” She hummed to herself. “Nick the synth.""Nick the detective." "Oh, so you solve crimes?" "I find missing people.”“Oh.” He furrowed his eyebrows at her as any intrigue she had in their conversation fell away. Her arms tightened, fighting the emotions that were bubbling in her chest. “Are you from around here?" He tried to grab her attention but her mind was back on the men at the bar, wondering how quickly she could convince one of them to pay for a room at the Rexford so she didn’t have to find a spot outside."Nope." "I didn’t think so. Did you-""Okay, Nick? You seem nice. But you're going to scare away clients, and I’m trying to make a living here, so beat it." Nick couldn’t help but pretend to act partly offended. He was slightly put off when she didn’t even so much as glance back at him, so he pulled his pouch out once more."How much for twenty minutes?" He asked, waiting patiently to count out the money. She rolled her eyes, reluctantly looking at him once more."For what?" She sighed."To talk.""Talk?" The young woman laughed out loud, shaking her head in amusement. “Don't you have anything better to do?""Nope. How much?” The detective gave a cheeky smile that she couldn’t help but reciprocate. "Thirty… and a cigarette." "I’d hate to think what you charge for the night.” He said as he pulled a pack of smokes from his coat pocket."Haven’t heard any complaints." She gestured for him to sit and settled in across from him. He handed over the caps, as well as a cigarette, lighting it for her before settling into the wooden chair. He couldn’t help but notice the crowd of onlooking bar flies elbowing their buddies to send their attention over to the good-doer synth who seemed to be cozying up to the pretty, young, call girl. It didn’t seem to phase her at all, leaning back into her seat comfortably. "Well, Nick the detective. We're on your time now. What's on your mind?""Why don't we start with you?”“Um, alright...” She shifted forward, with a perplexed look coming across her.“Tell me about yourself.” A wave of his hand encouraged her to start. She paused before she could answer, unsure of how much to say.“What do you want to know?” She asked. His shoulders shrugged as he pondered casually. "Where did you grow up?""Here in the Commonwealth. It's the same old story. Small town girl, big city. You're a smart guy. You can fill in the blanks." Nick made a noise in agreement. "Sure… When did you get to town?”“Last week. Goodneighbor washes your past away the minute you get to town.” He gave a somber nod."Most people who end up here are running from something.” Felicity’s dark eyes fell to the ground, swimming in memories from what Nick could tell. She looked like a small child with the world on her shoulders, desperately fighting the anguish building in her chest. "Were you-""Did you really spend your money to ask for my life story?" The detective could hear the irritation in her voice and he relinquished a long and tired sigh. After putting out his finished cigarette in the ashtray, he folded his arms on the table to come in close and grab her attention. “A long, long, time ago, I knew a guy who was engaged to this girl. Bright, young, innocent… He was crazy about her. She probably shouldn't have given him the time of day but for some reason she felt the same way. The poor bastard was naive enough to believe that his dirty work wouldn't ever reach her. But one day… it caught up all at once. She was murdered in the street, and left for dead." Her jaw dropped open, and her eyebrows furrowed as she put together coincidences. "He was never the same after that. I guess when you don't have much to live for you don't want to feel alive anymore…" Dumbfounded she continued to sit, wide eyed and blinking. Her heart thudded so hard in her chest she swore she could see the tiny beads shake with each pulse. "I know who you are, Miss Gardner." Silence fell between them, freezing them both in place as the jazz bar continued to buzz around them. Cold sweat fell down her back as she debated making a dash for the door, but her legs would be too weak to carry her."How?" She finally broke the silence with a broken whisper."Your brother in law has been looking for you for a very long time.""Luke?" Nick nodded, taking the cigarette that she had forgotten about from her fingers before she could drop it. She didn't even notice as still tried to piece together what had happened. "He seems to be the only one in your family who thinks you're still alive.""I don't have a family.” Her voice grew softer, gently folding her arms in front of her chest. “Luke’s a child. He doesn’t understand.”"He’s not that much younger than you. And as it happens, I met a few people who would disagree with you." Nick sighed."They told you what happened?""Yeah, they did.""Is that why you made up that story about your friend?" She asked."I didn’t make it up. To be honest, I try not to think about it most of the time, but I thought you would be able to relate to it.” Her expression softened, letting her body relax some."Well... what happened to him then? After his fiance was killed?""He died." He said plainly. She scoffed and rolled her eyes in pained disgust.“Great ending. I’ll be sure to remember that one when I’m looking for that bright side.”“He’d be dead by now anyway. That’s not the point. He spent what time he did have pushing away his family and friends and ended up making some mistakes he could never take back. I don’t know how much different his life would have turned out if he had let them support him, but I know he regretted it till the very end.” Felicity quietly leaned back in her chair, losing the will to continue to hold make the tears forming in her eyes. She closed them to compose herself, swallowing down the emotion that boiled inside her, and allowing a few small tears to roll down her cheeks.“Well, you solved your case. Go ahead and tell Luke I’m not dead.” She started to get up once more but he lifted his hand to stop her.“I still have ten minutes.” He stated. She hesitated before unwillingly sitting back down, and wiping her tears. “Let’s talk about why you left.”“No, thanks.”“Luke was clueless when I asked him. Everything pointed to you killing yourself, hell, even I told him you were probably gone, but he insisted you were alive. He said he just knew.” She picked at the skin around her nails, unable to hold the detective’s gaze as the tears continued to fall.“Sam’s dead. Whatever ties I had to his family should be dead too.”“Do you really think that?” Nick’s eyebrows snapped together with concern. She shrugged quietly, still focused on the peeling dead skin around her thumb. “The world is cold enough as it is, with a large sparsity of trustworthy people. I think anyone who’s willing to have your back in the dark times can be considered family.” The girl’s eyes finally met his once more, struggling to face the demons she had spent so much time running from.“If I go back, I’ll see him everywhere I look… At least here I can forget about it from time to time.”“Do you want to forget it?” His words broke through the last of the barricade she had built. A quiet sob left her, cueing Nick to stand and walk around the table and squat down beside her. “I know the reminders rain down like hellfire at first, and that it’s enough to drown in. But one day it really will get easier. I don't have to tell you it won't be the same, but something always comes from the ashes.”“I’m supposed to just live knowing it’s always going to hurt just because it might get better soon?” He gave a sad sigh and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.“Everyone has pain. Some of us just carry more than others. It’s still up to you if you want to just survive, or if you want to live.” She hesitantly nodded, processing the raw emotions that had been begging to come out for months. “Your family needs to see you.”“I’m not worth their time anymore.” Felicity choked out, biting her lip to keep her volume low.“Well, you should tell that to Luke. He gave me his last fifty caps to get you home.”“He what?” Her head snapped up at him, sniffling in between her words. “But… You spent your whole reward talking to me?” The synth smiled at her, standing straight once more.“Not quite. Take his.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the coin pouch, holding the last ten caps, to hand it over to her. She held it gingerly, the bag cupped in both hands.“See that merc over there? The big one?” He pointed to a man standing near the entrance. A long leather coat draped down to his ankles, wrapped in straps that held gun holsters to his waist. “He looks like he’ll eat you, but just tell him Nick Valentine sent you. He’ll take you home . He owes me one so he’ll do it cheap. He usually has some Addictol he’ll sell so you can get clean before you head back too. Do you have a change of clothes? A coat?”“Y-yes, but you’re not taking me?” She asked.“I would if I could. But I’m actually here on another case right now.” He extended his hand to her to help her back to her feet. “Well, wait, you weren’t even here for me? Why did you even bother to talk to me?”“You said ‘hello’. It would have been rude to ignore you.” He gave her one last playful smile before reaching to shake her hand. “I’ll be checking in on you soon to make sure you made it, so don’t think about changing your mind.”“I think if I did fate would throw you back in front of me again.”“You’re onto something there.” Nick chuckled. “I’ll see you around, kid.” He turned away from her, heading towards the bar. “Detective?” Felicity called out to him, causing him to turn back to face her. When she opened her mouth, however, words seemed to fail her. Thankfully, Nick had seen that look on many people before. Unexplainable gratitude, he would call it. He gave her an understanding smile and nod and watched as she finally began to make her way to the leatherbound man. The feeling of satisfaction washed over the bot as he continued to the bar. A gentleman who had been nursing his drink at the bar caught Nick out of the corner of his eye as he approached.“Detective Valentine?” He set down his glass, relief coming across his face. “Hi, I wrote you about Darla?”“Ah good, you made it. Sorry I'm late.” Nick shook the man’s hand. “So, you think she’s been kidnapped? Tell me what you know."