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Hunter/Hunted - Chapter 3

Skin Deep

Huntress crept up to the old house; it's worn out door creaking painfully as she eased it open to peer inside. Being greeted by an empty room she smiled quietly to herself as she stepped in, breathing a small sigh of relief - finally! - she thought to herself. Her lightened mood was short lived however as she turned a corner in the old living area to be confronted by another ghoul - it's eyes growing wide briefly upon seeing her as it reached for a gun, "Crap!" She swore out loud, instinctively charging right at the ghoul. Before it could raise it's weapon, Huntress landed a powerful swing across the creatures jaw, staggering it backwards against the while allowing her to reach back and pull her own pistol out, firing a single shot into the ghouls gut just as it held up a hand of mercy to her, "No - plea-.... aaarrgh!" the ghoul screamed in agony as she shot it.

Huntress blinked in disbelief as she stared past the still smoking barrel of her gun to the ghoul lay whimpering and groaning in agony on the floor in front of her - it spoke! - "You... you can talk?" she asked it disbelief, still keeping her weapon raised warily. "Unggghh.... of course I can speak, I'm not feral you know!". Huntress' eyes widened further as she took int the eloquent - albeit gruff - voice of the ghoul before kneeling slowly in front of him, "I'm so sorry... I... had no idea! I've never seen anythi-... anyone like you before; only some, what did you call it - ferals? - that attacked me earlier."

The ghoul groaned again in agony as he tried to sit up with little success. Huntress reached forward to assist him, drawing an initial nervous grasp of his weapon again expecting her to finish him off. Though his grip relaxed again when she eased him back against the wall, "Please, let me help you" she pleaded as she helped him, "Ach, I'll live... takes more than a single bullet to drop us 'ghouls' just so you know.". Huntress looked down at him with sorrowful eyes, "If you say so, but you're in no shape to do much of anything at the moment. Please, at least let me help you out until you're back on your feet. I couldn't just leave you like this, I... not again, no!" She trailed off, leading to a slightly confused look from the ghoul. "Alright, fine! Damned smoothskins always shooting first; thinking later. Couldn't have learned to be so caring before you shot me could you!" As she smiled gently, clearly impressed by his ability to speak light heartedly Huntress heard something approach behind her. "That's just Felicia." Came the ghoul's croaky voice from behind as Huntress turned to face the dog that was growling at her. "Felicia; no!" He ordered; the dog instantly calming and approaching Huntress with a cautious sniff as she turned back to the ghoul with an inquisitive look on her face, "I can see there is much for me to learn about this world if I'm to survive out here." she mused, looking back to him with a gentle smile.

The following days passed by peacefully as Huntress tended to the ghoul's wounds; listening intently for endless hours sat at his bedside while he recounted tales of life before the great war and how both he and his young survived only to become ghouls and live the never ending torture of such a life. Ed - as his name turned out to be - told Huntress his entire story; sharing with her all the knowledge of the wasteland he had gained over the years. He told her his son was killed by a Brotherhood Knight in a similar incident to theirs almost twenty years earlier before he found refuge in a ghoul-friendly city. Ed even spoke of his love for a girl who lived in the ghoul city, but was forced to part ways with her when she refused to see reason about the corruption in the cities government and follow when he left.

"Good morning sunshine!" he croaked happily, turning back from the stove to welcome Huntress with a smile as she woke early one morning, "mmm... good morning Ed" she smiled, stretching her arms slightly as she savoured the feeling of being so well rested. As the two sat at the table and enjoyed some freshly caught fish for breakfast they happily discussed plans for the day; a freedom now afforded them for the first time since they met as Ed had now recovered most of his strength and was back to full mobility. Their discussion was cut short however by the sound of Felicia outside, barking excitedly at something. The two shared a cursory glance before looking out the window to see what had got Felicia so excited. Huntress went to investigate while Ed returned upstairs to retrieve his gun.

"There she is - tha' gotta be the one what killed Bob 'n Kaylee - get her!" Came the harsh voice of a raider as Huntress stepped out of the house, "Shit!" she cursed - Oh God, they must have followed me from the tunnel! I've got to protect Ed! - as a small group of them ambushed her. Huntress' fighter instinct took over as she charged the group; making light work of the nearest as she rolled in close - splashing through the shallow water - swinging her foot across his legs as she stood closer, toppling his balance and wrapping her arms around his neck to give it a sharp twist as he fell.

Meanwhile Ed had followed close behind her with his gun in hand and charged at another pair who were about to jump Huntress from behind while she snapped their friends neck. A series of gunshots rang out followed by the all too familiar sound of Ed crying out in pain. She turned just in time to see him stumble and fall backwards into the water; his arms dropped limply to his sides as he fell, "NO!" she cried out, lunging at one with a strategically placed jab to the side of his spine; which she thought had just stunned him though without consciously realising it; she had paralyzed him and he fell forwards to lay face first in the pond - unable to move or call for help as he slowly drowned. With one disbanded, she turned sharply and grabbed the second who she flung up and over her shoulder; carrying her momentum to slam him down hard onto the rock beneath the shallow water with another sickening crunch that briefly drowned out the intense splashing as his head hit the stone.

Panicked and fueled by adrenaline, her eyes darted around before settling on Ed's form in the dim morning sunlight and she ran across to his side; plunging to her knees through the splashing water as she did and reached down to gently lift his head while he coughed and spluttered, "Well..." He groaned, glancing down himself, "I did tell you it would take more than one little gunshot wound to take me down didn't I..." He tried to chuckle, but choked and coughed up blood which splattered down his shirt, "No... no! I won't let you go down like this!" She insisted fruitlessly. Knowing it was his time and being at peace with the fact; Ed placed a trembling hand over Huntress' as she gripped his arm with determination, "Sweet thing like yourself shouldn't be wasting her life with an old fool like me anyway. Just... *cough* take care of... Felicia... for... me..."

Ed's voice trailed off to nothingness as his body fell limp in her arms. Felicia whimpered and nuzzled his cheek but to no avail; looking up at Huntress expectantly, who continued to stare down at Ed; trembling with rage, she gently closed his eyes and laid him down before returning to the house. Inside she walked purposefully up the stairs with a curious Felicia trotting along behind her. She rummaged through the battered old crates and boxes before finding what she was looking for; Ed's old hunting rifle. Checking the musty old weapon over, she proceeded to fit herself out with numerous survival supplies from Ed's former belongings; pouches full of medical supplies, food rations and a water bottle tied around her waist by a makeshift rope belt, even an old pair of binoculars she found in a drawer.

Finishing up with a combat knife strapped around her arm and spare ammunition around her thighs, she threw on the old longcoat Ed had given her during the colder nights at the house and slung the rifle across her shoulder before heading out the door; pausing just briefly as she passed by the coat rack to retrieve Ed's old hat. Giving it a thoughtful glance as she held it in her hands and ran her fingers across it's rim, she decided to keep Ed's memory with her once and for all as she donned the hat, pulling it down across her brow and again tracing a hand firmly across it's rim to force it into a favourable position as she left the house for good; Felicia following faithfully by her side.

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