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The Gift

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He was in love with her.

Shit. He'd been in love with Nora for months now. Not that he had the balls to say that to himself, let alone out loud to her. But deep down, he knew it. He'd known it for a long time.

Predictably, he tried his hardest to write it off as lust or the chems or a combination of the two. No, the truth was much worse. Sexual attraction; that was easy. He could do sexual attraction. It was the fact that it was more than attraction that made it fuckin' difficult.

She. Was. Beautiful.

The soft brown curls, the wide gray eyes, the freckles that dusted her cheeks and nose. He was unsure of where she managed to find the stuff, but every day she would sweep a pale red across her plump lips. Her ass was to die for. Christ, the first time she'd turned up at Goodneighbor in that vault suit he'd nearly lost his mind. And he'd always been a sucker for thighs. Hers of which had... developed quite well with her insistence on crouching and sneaking around everywhere. She turned heads everywhere she went.

He'd seen the way other people looked at her. Magnolia had practically propositioned her when she'd shown up at The Third Rail. MacCready longing after her with those puppy dog eyes of his. Cait shamelessly staring at her whenever she was around. Fucking Danse with his fucking hair and his fucking power armor, always looking at her like she was a goddamn angel. Which she was, but that wasn't the point. Even Preston, who Hancock begrudgingly had to admit was one of the most standup guys out there, would glance at her with something lingering closer to romance rather than friendship every once in a while.

That wasn't to say that her good looks were the only reason people stared. No. She was more than her attractiveness. The reason people longed for her instead of lusted after her was because she was deserving of their respect. She was tough, smart, compassionate. She was adamant that a lot of situations could be resolved without violence, and was almost always right. She could charm a Deathclaw with that raspy voice of hers and those kind eyes. But when push came to shove, she always stood behind her gun. On top of that, she had a sense of humor and was habitually ready to help those in need. Not ONCE had he ever seen her turn her back on someone who needed help.

And goddamnit if that didn't make her all the more beautiful.

Watching her now, alive and relaxed in the home she'd made at Sanctuary... he was more sure of it than anything in the world.

The party their ragtag group had decided to throw for her birthday rivaled anything he'd hosted at The Third Rail. She’d protested, of course, because they ‘couldn’t just waste resources or time on her, ya know’. But secretly, he knew how happy she was to see her friends all celebrating in one place.

Everyone had gotten sloshed, including Nora. Hot food and alcohol had been passed around a large campfire. Diamond City Radio had sang song after song through the speakers they’d set out. Her freckled cheeks had turned rosy from the bottle of wine Piper had gifted her. Her hand had hung loosely at her side, idly scratching at Dogmeat's ears as she laughed wholeheartedly at some story Deacon was telling her.

Hancock was smoking a cigarette when she had glanced his way. Her eyes had glittered like stars in the light of the hot fire, and a warm smile lit her face. His throat had tightened at her expression, at the smile she was giving him, but he had masked it with his false bravado and swaggered over to her.

He had then snuck a jet her way when no one else had been paying attention. Sliding into her personal space as close as he dared, he had slipped it into her hand and watched triumphantly as her eyes narrowed with mirth. When he'd brought a single finger up to his lips in the universal 'hush' symbol, his heart had practically burst out of his chest the way her gaze had followed it. A soft grin had graced her features then and she nodded, "It'll be our little secret."

And then she had winked. Slowly. And if he hadn't been in love with her already, he certainly was then.

The evening had eventually died down and Hancock had watched as Nora snuck out of her own party without anyone noticing. He'd have missed it himself if he wasn't constantly longing after her, glancing at her in hopes of getting her attention or receiving one of her smiles.

He found her on the roof a few houses down, looking up at the stars. A lit cigarette hung from her full lips and she took a lazy drag off of it as he climbed up to join her.

"Done already, sunshine?" he asked.

He was rewarded with a crooked grin. Of all the smiles she had, that one was his favorite. It spelled trouble, and usually meant there would be vague flirting involved. He yearned to bring it out of her every time they spoke. Hancock watched as she thumbed the jet inhaler out of her jacket pocket and glanced at him. "Oh, probably not yet," she replied, blowing smoke from her mouth amusedly.

Hancock felt his teeth flash in a wide smile. "Sounds like a good time," he said, pulling out an inhaler of his own. "When you're ready, I'm with you."

Nora's expression softened slightly at his words. He knew she didn't do chems often, hardly ever even, but when she did, he always made sure he was there. So she wasn't by herself.

"Thanks Hancock," she murmured, ashing her cigarette onto the broken roof.

He shrugged and grinned, attempting at nonchalant, "Never ride alone, sister." She smiled up at him with a genuine fondness and chuckled. It was fucking adorable.

He turned away from her open gaze, swallowing thickly. Normally all he could think about was being alone with her. It fueled his wildest thoughts late at night. But lately, when it was just the two of them? Christ, he'd never been more nervous in his life.

And he didn't know why either, it wasn't like she was fucking interested. Who in their right mind would want to be with someone like him? A ghoul. Especially a woman like Nora. She'd deserved someone as saintly as her.

Not like Danse, fuck that guy. But somebody like Preston, or MacCready, even? That'd be ideal. A man who could give her a family and the life she deserved, especially after the hell she'd been through.

She'd only ever spoken to him about her murdered husband once, back when they were still getting to know each other. They'd been stuck in a rad storm on their way to clear out some slavers. They holed themselves up in an abandoned building for the evening and began trading tales about each other. Eventually it came to stories about run-ins with the Institute, and then about finding her son, and then about her lost husband.

"Nate is- was- a good man," she said, staring out the window into the storm.

Hancock rolled a mentat onto his tongue nervously. It was the first time she'd ever mentioned him. He cleared his throat and her gaze found his.

She seemed suddenly... uncertain? Or embarrassed maybe that she'd slipped up about her old life?

"Tell me about him," Hancock said, despite the small twinge of jealousy he felt. She probably needed to talk to someone about it, and if he was being honest, he wanted to hear it. He needed to know. "If you want to, that is," he added, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

There was a pause as he lit one and took a long drag, attempting to relax himself. He glanced back up to see Nora watching him, staring as if she was looking for something. Whatever it was though, she must have found it because she nodded and continued.

"He was... strong and protective. Military man and all that," she explained, waving her hand vaguely. Her mouth turned up slightly at the corners, "He was funny. Constantly teasing me, which was probably why I fell in love with him so quickly. Always had a thing for funny guys." Hancock chuckled at that, knowing from experience that she had a good sense of humor.

A full blown smile that made his chest tighten appeared then. "He'd always kind of... fuck with Codsworth. 'Cause it's not like Mister Handy's have great humor logistics, ya know? So Nate would always try to teach him how to tell jokes and it was...-"

Hancock glanced up when her voice trailed off softly.

Nora's smile became sad then and she shook her head. "Well, I guess you just had to be there. But he was a good guy. A good dad," she said wistfully. Her eyes glazed over a little bit, and his heart hurt at the pain she must have went through. When she spoke again... it wasn't really to him. Like she'd forgotten that she was speaking to Hancock at all.

"Finding Kellogg... it was- I thought that killing him would help. But this whole thing just keeps getting more complicated and I still miss Nate sometimes. I mean, to me it's only been a few months since he's been dead. It still hurts."

Hancock didn't say anything, but the expression on her face plainly said she still loved her husband. She wore both of their wedding bands on a necklace. He'd catch her worrying at them with her thumb whenever she was nervous or thinking really hard. Thinking about him.

Hancock didn't stand a chance.

Instead of tripping over his selfish tongue, he simply brought her in for a hug. Like a good friend should.

"Hey..."

Hancock stirred out of his reverie to find Nora's free hand placed in his. She cocked her head in concern and gave a small smile. "You alright?" she asked. "You looked really far away there for a bit."

He squeezed her fingers briefly and nodded. "Just thinkin', that's all," he replied, hoping she didn't notice how hoarse his voice had gone.

The end of her cigarette lit her features when she took a drag, the faint orange glow casting shadows across her face attractively. "Yeah? What about?" she inquired, giving a crooked grin.

Hancock made the astute observation that she hadn't moved to let go of him yet. And didn't appear to be going to do so anytime soon. In fact, he was painfully aware of the small circles she had begun to massage into his hand with her thumb.

Maybe she'd had more to drink than he thought? 'Cause there was no way she'd be doing this if she really was thinking clearly. Not because she had a thing against ghouls, she helped anyone who needed it and was always kind no matter if they were human, ghoul, synth. Fuck, even a mutant.

But if she was thinking clearly, she'd stop because it was him. John Hancock. Chem addict, failed brother, liar. A bystander who had let ghouls get murdered in the streets. A man with a rotting face and a cowardly past that haunted his nightmares.

She'd stop if she really thought about it.

But she didn't.

And for fuck's sake, he was selfish, but he wanted this one moment for himself. Just this one little piece.

So, he gave her hand a squeeze and grinned. "Just thinkin' about the good 'ole days."

Nora laughed, "And which days are those?"

"Ah, you know," he said with a grand flourish of his free hand and a teasing smile. "Back when we first met and we traveled through Boston and the rest of the Commonwealth. Kicking ass and taking names."

She scoffed and rolled her eyes slightly. "We practically came an inch away from death every single day. My expiration date lowered by years the second I met you." She took in a long drag, unimpressed. Something she'd picked up from Fahrenheit, no doubt.

"Hey, it was less paperwork. Now we're both practically Mayors who sit around and organize what goes on the back of a brahmin," he reminded her.

Smoke exited her mouth in a quick huffs as she chuckled, "That's true. I think we finally made it to the point where if someone kills us, it's no longer 'murder', but 'assassination'."

Hancock hummed. "Movin' up in the world."

"Indeed," she nodded. "Quite the accomplishment, I would say."

He glanced at her and caught a teasing grin and a wink. She squeezed his hand once more and began brushing her thumb across his knuckles.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a moment. Nora smoked her cigarette and watched the stars. Hancock laced her fingers with his and watched her. Her expression was calm, serene even. He offhandedly had the thought that he hadn't seen her this relaxed in... well, maybe ever.

Hancock was so busy thinking and paying attention to Nora that he didn't even notice when Valentine strolled around the corner of the house below them.

"I think Dogmeat and I will take the watch tonight," he said, glancing up at them. "Everyone else has pretty much gone to bed now."

Hancock felt his hand jerk involuntarily, trying to pull away from her guiltily as if he was being caught stealing. But Nora didn't let go. She held on even tighter and gave Valentine a smile. "Thank you, Nick. I really appreciate that."

Her shepherd barked softly.

"You too, Dogmeat," she cooed, her smirk widening.

Hancock's chest squeezed tight as Valentine looked between the two of them, his glowing amber eyes watching raptly. However, he returned Nora's grin with one of his own, nodding and continuing, "Well, someone's gotta take care of the place while you guys clock out. You two should get some rest."

"We'll head that way in a bit. Thanks for taking the lookout tonight," she replied. Her hand had loosened slightly when she apparently decided Hancock wasn’t trying to pull away anymore, but that didn't make his chest feel any less tight. We will head that way in a bit?

"It's no problem," Valentine declared. Hancock watched as the detective eyed him knowingly. Hell. Of course he knew. He had probably known before Hancock did. But Valentine didn't say anything, or make any obvious gestures that gave it away. He simply tipped his battered hat at them both and said, "You two have a good rest of your evening. Try not to stay up too late."

Well, that wasn't suggestive at all.

"Thanks, Nick. Goodnight," Nora responded breezily.

Yeah. Thanks, Valentine.

The detective walked off, Dogmeat trotting happily behind him. Even after they had rounded the corner, Hancock kept his eyes trained on that spot. He was afraid to see what sort of expression was on Nora's face. She could see through him so easily sometimes.

Her hand still held his though, and she once again rubbed soft circles against his fingers with her thumb. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her finish her cigarette and stub out the butt of it against the roof. A silence descended upon them once more. Hancock could feel the evening winding down for the night. He could feel the disappointment already wrapping itself around his heart as he waited for her to let go and leave him up on that roof, never the wiser. And he’d go back to being cowardly and never confessing how he felt about her.

"You're doing it again," she interrupted softly.

His eyes met hers, "Doing what?"

"Thinking."

It took every ounce of control not to clear his throat. She'd know something was up then for sure. Instead, he put on what he hoped was his most convincing smirk. "It's just the mentats. Feeling all intellectual and whatnot," he lied.

Nora saw right through him anyways. She gave him a dry look, her eyes narrowing. "John."

That was all she said. And that was all it took.

Hancock sighed and dropped the act. "Sorry, sunshine. You don't deserve that."

She squeezed his hand. Already forgiven, then.

He swallowed thickly and continued, "I was just thinking of how lucky I am."

"Yeah?" she asked, curious. "Lucky how?"

"Just... having you in my life. You're a helluva friend to me." Another lie.

Nora hummed. "And that's what we are?" she questioned. "Friends?"

Hancock's eyes snapped to hers but he somehow held his cool. He looked at her face for any signs of mockery but she gave nothing away. Surely, she wasn’t suggesting…

His voice was hoarse and rough when he replied, "What do you mean?”

Her head cocked slightly and she turned her whole body towards him, her expression staying neutral. “I mean, I’ve caught you staring at my ass before and I think we could do something about it.”

Shit.

Wait. What?

Hancock was sure there were a million different things he could say in this situation. He could have said fuck yes and rutted her into the roof right there like he did in his late night fantasies, or he could have asked her to clarify and see what her intentions were, or he could confess his feelings for her, or literally he could do anything. But he didn’t say or do any of that stuff. He just went, “Uh…”

“Come on, Hancock,” she chuckled, “I’ve seen you look at me sometimes. And we could make this into a… friends with benefits kind of thing. It could be fun.” Nora’s smile was salacious and enticing then, and he couldn’t help the way his eyes shot down to it when her teeth played at her bottom lip. She leaned towards him, resting her free hand against his thigh, making him shiver.

This wasn’t happening. Surely he was dreaming.

“And,” she continued, still smiling, “if you don’t want that, we could just make it a one-time thing. No big deal. It could be like a birthday gift to me.”

Sex with him? As a birthday gift?

Things were turning on him so fast. First, he’d been wallowing in the fact that Nora could never possibly want him and now she was… propositioning him?

What the actual fuck.

His voice was stuck in his throat. He felt like he was drowning. “What if-…” he started, his voice coming out ragged. Hancock cleared his throat, trying to dislodge the disbelief sitting there. His tongue flicked out across his lips and he watched as steel gray eyes flashed and narrowed in on his ruined mouth. The intensity he saw there about made him choke.

“What if I… wanted it to be more?” he tried again, cursing himself. What the fuck was he doing? Christ, he was going to ruin the whole thing! Just kiss her already so your traitorous mouth doesn’t dig you deeper into your own grave!

Her smile widened and she leaned even closer. “More than one time?” she asked, half chuckling.

He should have said yes. His head screamed at him to just say yes. Her lips were practically on his, teasing at the very edges. Her warm breath smelled like tarberry wine and cigarettes and for fuck’s sake, he just wanted to get lost in it and never find his way back.

He should have said yes.

But he didn’t. Instead he said, “More than friends with benefits.”

Shit. Shit shit shit. SHIT.

Nora stopped. Her eyes went wide and her smile dropped completely. Whatever effects the alcohol had previously had on her were gone, replaced by a stone cold soberness that Hancock wanted to shrink away from. She leaned back, searching his face. Both of her hands left him, and a dark pit sank into Hancock’s stomach.

“Hancock…” she said softly, her eyes beginning to water.

Oh fuck. He’d really done it, hadn’t he.

“I didn’t… uhm- I shouldn’t have-…” Hancock mumbled. He shook his head, his mind racing.

She blinked.

He tried to think of something to say, some way to get himself out of what his treacherous mouth had just given away. But nothing came to mind and he just sat there, jaws agape like a fish out of water.

But it didn’t matter anyways. Because the next thing he noticed was her hand, the hand that had just held his, the one that had rubbed circles into his fingers and clutched at his even when someone was watching, was worrying at the necklace she wore.

The necklace with the wedding bands belonging to her and her dead husband Nate.

Hancock let out a hard breath and looked away.

She was still in love with her husband and he’d just been a greedy fucking jackass. He’d undoubtedly just ruined her birthday. He’d most certainly just ruined any chance he’d had of having those lips on his or anything she’d been offering to him. But more importantly, he’d probably just ruined his relationship with his best friend.

The realization made his heart hollow with pain.

There was a moment of silence before Nora simply stood. Clutching at her rings, she stepped away from him and headed towards the stairs leading off the roof. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled thickly, her voice catching.

She left him up there. With empty hands, two unused jet inhalers, and a heart that had shattered into a million pieces.

“Yeah,” he said quietly once she was out of earshot. “Me too.”

 

 

Hancock made it three days.

Three days of watching Nora actively avoid him. Watching as she spoke with all of their friends and the other settlers as if nothing had happened, but then making sure she never met his gaze. Making sure she was never in the same room as him. And if she was, he could see her shoulders tense. Could see the way she searched franticly for an exit.

He didn’t try to talk to her. He didn’t try anything. He just watched and let his heart break over and over and over as she pretended he wasn’t even there.

On the third evening, he decided maybe he could reconcile things. Say that he hadn’t meant it or that it’d just been the drugs. That he still wanted her friendship. They wouldn’t have to bring up the other night ever again. Everything could just go back to normal. Surely, she’d at least be okay with that?

After dinner, he tried looking for her. The sun was beginning to set and it was getting dark out so maybe that contributed to it, but for some reason he couldn’t find her anywhere.

Hancock finally found Preston sitting at the edge of the perimeter, staring up the hill not too far off.

“Hey,” Hancock started, “have you seen Nora?”

Preston held his gaze steady but his voice was anything but. “She… went up the hill.”

He must have looked confused because the Minuteman continued, “The Vault. It’s-… he’s still… down there. In one of the cryo chambers.”

Hancock felt like he just had the breath punched out of him. His chest clenched painfully. “Oh,” he replied.

Oh.

He had started to walk away when Preston spoke again, concern lacing his words. “Do you… want me to tell her you were looking for her? When she comes back down?”

“No,” he replied quickly. “No, it wasn’t important. Thanks anyways, Garvey.”

The Minuteman nodded, “Yeah. Sure thing.”

Hancock decided to go get high out of his mind.

Chapter Text

A few hours and several jets inhalers later, Hancock groggily sat at the edge of one of the roofs. A different roof than the other night, it was one of the abandoned houses at the edge of Sanctuary Hills, but a roof nonetheless. He nursed a warm bottle of whiskey, letting it make his head spin heavily. It wasn’t good whiskey really, but it got the job done. Sort of. The job being, to stop thinking about Nora and how badly he’d fucked up.

He took another drink at the thought of her again.

He’d been sitting there ever since Preston had told him she’d gone down into the vault. Since she’d gone to see her dead husband.

Another drink.

Shit. He couldn’t blame her. She loved Nate. She’d been married to him. Had a child with him. If Nora ever died, Hancock would go to her grave every single day. He’d mourn her every moment for the rest of his miserable life.

He shook the last jet inhaler he had and took a long hit, letting the slowness seep into his bones and wash over him.

He was fucked up. He had fucked up. He was a fuck up. And right now he was doing everything he could to forget all of those things. To forget about Nora. To forget about how goddamn badly his chest ached every time he saw her or thought about her. And none of it was working.

Time to add another vice, then.

Hancock chugged the last of the whiskey and lit a cigarette. He let the smoke burn his lungs, the hot tobacco hitting him even slower because of the chems and booze. Sitting silently on the edge of that abandoned house, staring up at the stars, Hancock felt himself relax just a small fraction.

That was, until a noise caught his attention.

It sounded like… radio interference? It was below him so it must have been someone who was in the house, but there was nothing in the building so who’d be in there at this hour of the night? Well. Other than him.

Damn. Was he really that smashed that he hadn’t heard them approach?

Hancock stubbed out the cigarette. He was just about to make his presence on the roof known, call out and ask who it was, but suddenly, an unfamiliar male voice spoke.

“Oops,” it chuckled. “No no. Little fingers away,” the voice said over the sound of… a baby cooing. There were no babies in Sanctuary, it had to be a holotape with the way the voice was garbled. “There we go.”

A rustling sound, like someone was adjusting their seat, came through the speaker and the man said, “Just say it. Right there, right into there, see? Go ahead.”

The baby fussed and then giggled. Which apparently made the man happy because he laughed. “Yay!” he exclaimed, chuckling. “Hi honey! Listen, I don’t think Shaun and I need to tell you how great of a mother you are… but we’re going to anyway.”

Hancock froze. And it was in that very moment that he knew exactly who was on the holotape. And he knew exactly who was sitting below him in the abandoned house listening to it.

“You are kind,” he continued, “and loving.” The baby, Shaun, giggled once more and the man on the tape mentioned through a laugh, “and funny! That’s right.” There was a momentary pause and then he spoke again, his voice much more soft this time. “And patient,” he said, “So patient. Patience of a saint, as your mother used to say.”

“Look, with Shaun, and us all being at home together… it’s been an amazing year. But even so, I know our best days are yet to come.” There was a huffed breath and the man sounded like he was making a concession as he supposed, “There will be changes, sure. Things we’ll need to adjust to. I’ll rejoin the civilian workforce. You’ll shake the dust off your law degree… But, everything we do, no matter how hard… we do it for our family.”

Hancock felt his eyes fall shut as a soft weeping responded to those words.

Baby Shaun gurgled over the tape once more and the voice said, “Now say goodbye, Shaun.” More gurgling. “Bye bye? Say bye bye?” the man tried to encourage. Shaun simply giggled, and below him, a choked laugh replied, sounding thick with tears.

“Bye honey! We love you.”

The tape fell silent but quiet, muffled sobs made their way up to his ears. The baby on the holotape had been Shaun. Which meant, that the unfamiliar man on the tape had been her husband, Nate. Which made the woman sitting beneath him in the abandoned house, trying to keep her crying as noiseless as she could after listening to the voice of her dead spouse, was Nora.

Hancock stood and as silently as he could, snuck his way down the stairs off of the roof. He barely made it off the last step before his mind was made up, and he started heading towards the bridge that led out of town. It didn’t matter that it was the middle of the night or that he was sort of fucked up.

He stumbled. Okay, mostly fucked up.

He couldn’t stay here another second. Not while… not while he was in love with a woman who was in love with someone else. Not while she couldn’t even stand to look at him anymore because she was mourning the loss of a better life. A life without Hancock.

His foot hadn’t hit the first plank on the bridge before a voice interrupted his thoughts. “Hancock?”

He turned to see a set of glowing yellow eyes staring at him.

“Hey, Nicky.”

Valentine’s eyes narrowed slightly, “What are you doing?”

“I gotta go,” Hancock said, looking away from his friend. “Gotta get back. Goodneighbor needs its Mayor and all.”

Nick’s voice was sharp when he replied, “No it doesn’t. And we both know that’s not why you’re leaving.”

Hancock paused for a long moment. “You got the Sight now or somethin’?”

Valentine scoffed, “I’m a detective, jackass.”

He huffed, defeated. “I fucked up, Nicky. I fucked everything up. And I thought after a couple days, maybe I could fix it, but I can’t. So I gotta go.”

His eyes met with the synth once more and the yellow irises widened slightly. “You’re high,” Valentine stated.

“I’m always high.”

“Not like this.” Valentine took a step closer to him and Hancock felt like he wanted to flee. His friend’s nose furrowed and he spoke again, “And you smell like a goddamned brewery.”

“Yeah. Well. Ain’t nothin’ I haven’t done before,” he replied, his foot scuffing the wood underneath him.

Nick let out a long sigh. “Hancock. It’s the middle of the night. You’re high. You’re drunk. You don’t even have your shotgun or any supplies to make it back. You’ve got no business leaving right now.”

“You don’t understand,” Hancock started, his voice rising.

“At least wait until morning.”

He shook his head, panic starting to set in at the thought of staying here another minute. Would Nick really stop him? “I can’t. I can’t Nicky. I have to go. I have to!”

Valentine’s hands went up, attempting at nullification. “Okay. Alright. Let’s just breathe for a second, it’s fine,” he said softly, as if speaking to a wounded animal. The anger and annoyance that had just been there vanished, or it was being well hidden, because now Nick just looked… concerned. “Tell ya what. You stay here, on this very spot, and I’ll go get our weapons and some stimpacks, alright? And then, I’ll take you to Goodneighbor. Stay here, don’t move, and I’ll be right back. Got it?”

Hancock nodded mutely. Valentine had only made it a few steps before he spoke up though. “Hey, Nick?”

The synth glanced over his shoulder at him.

He swallowed hard before continuing, “Could you… grab some jet too? And… maybe a Med-X?” Hancock didn’t ask for mentats. He wanted the pain to dull, not heighten or be studied too closely.

There was a short pause before his friend simply said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

Nick was only gone for a couple of minutes. When he returned, he handed two jet inhalers and Hancock’s shotgun back to him. He noticed the lack of Med-X but he didn’t say anything. There’d be some in Goodneighbor. He took two long huffs before shoving both inhalers into his coat pocket.

As the world slowed around him, he sighed at the weight of his weapon back in his hands again. It made him feel more at ease. “Thanks,” Hancock said softly, lifting his gun as they trudged away from Sanctuary Hills.

Valentine glanced at him with furrowed brows, “Yeah. Well. Try not to shoot me with it if anything goes down.”

 

 

Valentine hadn’t tried to talk to him on the way back to Goodneighbor. Hadn’t asked what was wrong or what happened. Maybe he already knew. Or maybe he was scared Hancock was going to bolt on him like a radstag if he did. Either way, he had said nothing. He had just dropped him off at the front door and headed back home. And Hancock was grateful for it.

Fahrenheit had been suspicious as fuck of course, when he showed up unannounced, stating to all of Goodneighbor that their mayor was back and ready to serve. The folks had cheered, and he’d gritted a smile through the show, doing his best to put that mask he’d been wearing for so long back in place. But his second had narrowed her eyes at him.

It was… surprisingly easy to throw himself back into work. Maybe it was just because he was so eager to stop thinking about her. To stop thinking at all. He shook hands and gave hugs to everyone who congratulated him on being back. He looked over trade manifests and had Charlie bring him up to speed on everything. He joked with Daisy and KL-E-O and told them he’d make sure they got the supplies they needed. He… tried to avoid Fahrenheit when he could, just because she scrutinized him so hard. With good reason, if he was being honest. They’d had an agreement that the worst thing you could do in this line of work was put your heart on the line. It was best to keep the most important pieces close to your chest. That’s why she was so good at her job.

Guess that’s why he was so bad.

For the most part though, Fahrenheit kept things completely professional. She never brought up the fact that Hancock had turned off every radio tuned into Diamond City or the Silver Shroud. She never brought up that every morning he woke up, he put on a poorly held together mask, plastering as much swagger as he could onto himself. She never brought up that every evening, he tried as many drugs as he could, and even added in copious amounts of alcohol, just to see how fucked up he could get. She never brought up how he’d started to visit the Memory Den every single night, after everyone had gone to bed.

She certainly never brought up her.

Hancock was more than grateful for it.

And this was how it went. Every day, Hancock would wake up, hungover. He’d dig himself into as much work as possible, getting more done than he ever did prior to leaving Goodneighbor. He would come home, try everything he could get his hands on. He’d drink some booze. And then, when he was good and fucked up, and only then, he would show up at the Memory Den. Amari would scold him, but he could see the concern there on her face.

It didn’t matter.

The memories he was seeing were good ones usually. Well, actually they were torture. But it was only because they were always of her. Of the first time they met. The first time he realized he respected her. He saw memories of her laughing, and smiling at him. He watched as she saved his life time and time again. And he saw himself fall in love with her all over. Rinse. Repeat.

And this was how it went. For two weeks.

 

 

The sun was beginning to set. It had been an incredibly long day. So, when Hancock trudged up the stairs and fell into a heap on his couch, he’d ended up dozing off instead of getting into his chem stash right away like he normally would. Not that it mattered too much, he kept jet on his person at all times so he wasn’t ever jonesin during the day while he worked. It kept him high enough at least.

His eyes had drooped low and he must have ended up sleeping somewhat because when he was awoken by a scuffle outside of his door, it was dark.

Heavy boots heading up the hall were stopped by even heavier boots.

“Not a chance,” Fahrenheit’s muffled voice said through the door.

Hancock’s head lifted groggily and he sat up as the other person replied. He couldn’t hear what was said though, their voice was too soft.

“No,” Fahrenheit repeated. “I don’t know what you did to him, and frankly, it’s none of my goddamned business, but whatever it was, you fucked up. And I’m not letting you in there.”

What the fuck?

Hancock groaned. Hopefully Fahrenheit wasn’t breaking one of the new trade deals he’d just brokered, that shit had taken endless amounts of meetings and way too much posturing on his part. For fuck’s sake, it was after work hours anyways, what could those assholes possibly want?

He marched over to the door, intending to rip someone a new asshole when he threw it open, but what he saw there stopped him. Or, more accurately, who he saw there.

Hancock felt his lips part in surprise as his eyes widened. “Nora?” he rasped softly.

Relief seemed to wash over her frame, and a small smile lifted the corner of her plump lips. “Hancock,” she replied, reaching her hand out to him.

He stepped back.

No no no no no. This was the universe playing tricks on him.

“Fahrenheit,” he murmured, “write down whatever I took today. This high is giving me some wild hallucinations.”

Hurt crossed over Nora’s face and her hand dropped down to her side. “This isn’t a hallucination, Hancock. This is real.”

“What are you doing here?” he asked. He shook his head to clear it, and realized that he was feeling mostly sober. And that made him want to flee.

“I… came to talk,” she said hesitantly. “If you’ll let me.” Her teeth worried at her lower lip.

Fahrenheit rolled her eyes and turned to Hancock, arms crossed over her chest. “You want me to toss her out?”

Bit blunt. Before Hancock could even mull over that question and make a decision, his traitorous mouth answered for him, “No. She can come in.”

His second simply rolled her eyes again and stalked off.

His eyes met Nora’s steel gray for a brief second before he turned on his heel, leaving her to walk in and shut the door behind herself. She was probably here on business. Best to stay… unattached. He threw himself down onto one of the couches, taking a hit of jet to settle his nerves. When he glanced at her once more, her eyes were wide.

“Jesus, Hancock,” she murmured, looking at the abundant supply of chems and empty booze bottles littering the room.

Predictably, he used humor to get himself out of giving an entirely honest explanation. “Oh yeah,” he started, throwing up a wide grin to hide behind, “I threw myself a party when I came back to Goodneighbor.”

A pity party.

Her brows furrowed together and she nodded with a wariness that would have made him flinch if it weren’t for the fact that he was working hard to stay neutral. His hands were shaking slightly and he lit a cigarette to keep them busy. “You can… sit, if you want,” he said.

She nodded again, sitting down across from him, and he took a moment to just look at her. Her armor was more scuffed up than usual and it looked like she hadn’t really slept much lately. Where her gunmetal eyes normally held a passion, a fire that could always be seen despite their color, they were now shielded behind a listlessness that also settled into her shoulders. A smudge of dirt sat at her left temple and he noticed that she wasn’t wearing her trademark cherry lipstick. There was a small cut across her cheek bone. He wondered if it would leave a new scar.

She looked like she hadn’t exactly been taking care of herself. She looked tired.

“Did you… come here alone?” he asked hesitantly.

“No,” she replied, “I brought Dogmeat. I left him with Daisy though.”

He nodded, and there was a long, awkward silence. He cleared his throat and took a drag off his cigarette, “Why’d you come?”

“Why’d you leave?” she countered, meeting his gaze.

He tensed. “Goodneighbor needed its Mayor.”

“No, it didn’t.”

“Why does nobody ever agree with me when I say that?” Hancock muttered irritably.

Nora frowned, “Fahrenheit was running the place just fine.” Hancock grunted noncommittally, and he watched her take in a deep breath. Her voice was low and tired when she spoke again, “I don’t…- I didn’t come to fight with you Hancock. I just wanted to say some things but… I need you to tell me why you left first.”

“Valentine didn’t tell you?” he mumbled, huffing on his cigarette once more.

She shook her head, “No. He said that we worked enough cases together that I could figure it out myself.”

“And you haven’t?”

“I need to hear your side. I just want you to be straight with me.”

He scoffed, “Yeah, cause that’s worked out for me so far.”

“Hancock,” she pleaded.

He cringed. Christ, at least be civil, he scolded himself. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I… left after I heard the holotape…”

Nora’s brow furrowed, confused. And then after a moment, her lips parted softly in realization, as if something had just dawned on her. “You were up on the roof.”

Hancock shifted uncomfortably and looked away from her, not wanting to watch her reaction to his shame. “Yeah. I, uh, didn’t mean to eavesdrop or anything. Didn’t even hear you come into the house. I thought I’d be okay since it’s always been empty but… I heard his holotape to you.”

“Hancock…-“

“I shouldn’t have said anything that night,” he said, stubbing out the rest of his cigarette into an ashtray. “When you asked, I should have just agreed and not said anything else because I lost my best friend that day.” He put his head in his hands then, continuing, letting himself just be truthful with her, “To be honest though, it’s what I deserve for the life I’ve lived. Even what you were asking from me, just sex, no strings attached, that’s more than what I deserve. You are everything good about this world, and I am the exact opposite of that. I don’t-“

He was interrupted by the sound of swift movement and heavy boots. Hancock lifted his head in time to see Nora cross the distance between them in a few short strides. She looked angry, and for a second, he thought maybe she was going to hit him. But, she surprised him completely by leaning down, grabbing onto the collar of his coat, and kissing him hard.

It wasn’t the kind of kiss she had tried initiating on her birthday. That one would have been slow, and languid he imagined. This kiss was rough and sudden and he felt like he was floundering.

It definitely shut him up though.

When she pulled away, he dazedly looked up at her, seeing her expression for the first time. The passion in her eyes was back at least, and tears were spilling down onto her cheeks. Her voice was thick with emotion, and ragged when she said, “Don’t ever say that about yourself. Not ever.”

“Nora-“

“Please,” she said, dropping down in front of him, to his complete and utter shock, and putting her hands in his. “Just let me say something and then if you want me to go, I will.”

He was so… stunned that all he could manage was a nod.

Nora gave a sad smile. “Hancock… you are everything good about this world. You are kind and passionate and generous. You, and the people here in Goodneighbor,” she said, gesturing around the room, “You don’t judge and you help folks who need it.”

Both of her hands returned to his once more and she squeezed them. “You, John Hancock, are strong and capable and deadly, but you are also compassionate and clever. And I know that you think the death of those ghouls from Diamond City was somehow your fault. Or the drifters here in Goodneighbor when Vic was still in charge. Hancock, it’s not your fault, it’s never been your fault.”

His breath was caught in his throat and his eyes were stinging something fierce. His chest was clenched painfully, his heart was thumping so loud he could hear it. How could she possibly think all of this?

The corners of Nora’s mouth turned upwards a little bit more, and if he knew her as well as he thought he did, then that was the expression of hope on her face. “You are what’s good about this post-apocalyptic world, Hancock. Not those assholes in Diamond City. Not those people who refuse to see ghouls as equals. Not those motherfuckers in the Brotherhood. You.

Her words made his throat close up, and he had to loosen and work his jaw to keep himself from choking on the emotions he was feelings. “Nora,” he said, his voice tight and hoarse. “Why are you telling me all of this? You… you couldn’t even look at me a couple of weeks ago. I thought-… I thought you hated me,” he ended softly.

Her eyes shut and she hung her head, looking ashamed. When she met his gaze again, they were heavy with tears once more. “When I first left the Vault,” she began, “I was so completely devastated. I loved Nate, and I had just watched him get murdered right in front of me. Everyone I had ever known was dead. I was so heartbroken, and I told myself that I would never go through that ever again. I told myself that I would never get attached to someone, never let someone close enough to ever be in that much pain again.” He let out a sharp breath when one of her hands lifted up to his cheek, “And then I met you.”

He leaned into the contact, letting her brush her thumb against his rough cheekbone, unable to say anything.

“And you were so… charming and… honest. I couldn’t have stayed away even if I wanted to,” she said, shaking her head. She met his eyes through her tears and continued, “The day after I listened to that holotape again, I asked Nick to go down into the Vault with me.”

He must have tensed a little bit because she looked sheepish, and brought her hand down from cheek to rest it against the seat of the couch. Her other hand loosened in his slightly. She was giving him the chance to pull away, but he realized his apprehensiveness was foolish and he rubbed his thumb against hers, attempting at encouragement.

“We… brought him back up top, and I… finally buried him.”

A breath punched out of his lungs and his fingers twined with hers. “Nora, I’m sorry-“

“-It’s okay,” she replied, stopping him. She swallowed hard, “He was in that tomb for over two-hundred years. He… deserved to be put to rest. I owed him that much.” She paused for a moment, her brow furrowed in contemplation as if she was searching for the right words. “You… opened up your heart to me. And I shut you out because I was so fucking scared. Because… I was a coward.”

Her voice started to choke at the end and he tried to pull her in, to hush her, but she kept going. “I was a coward, and you suffered because of it and I am so sorry.” Her eyes met his and the tears were coming down in earnest now. “I hurt you and I am so, so sorry Hancock. I am so sorry. Please forgive me,” she begged.

Hancock did pull her into a hug then, crushing her into his chest and wrapping his long arms around her body. Her shoulders shook with sobs and his own eyes began to water as he held her there against him. “Sunshine,” he said gruffly, sentiment threatening to break him. “Ain’t nothin’ to forgive.”

Nora buried her face into his neck, and the two of them sat like that for a while. Crying and clutching to each other like the world was going to end all over again. After a few minutes, he pulled back from her, placing a hand under her chin to catch her gaze. Her eyes were puffy and red now, but she gave him a small smile. “You are a lot of things,” he said, “but a coward isn’t one of them. Besides, you weren’t the only one who ran away from their pain.” He wiped tears away from her cheeks and spoke again, “I know you love Nate and I was being a greedy jackass to ask more from you right away. So, I’m sorry too.”

She shook her head vehemently, “You weren’t, Hancock. You weren’t being a jackass. I was just terrified.” She hesitated then, her teeth worrying her lower lip before she continued, “And… it finally helped me close a chapter of my life that I thought I’d never get over. But I had to because-… well, Nate will always be a part of me but… my heart belongs to someone else. It… has for a while now.”

Hancock stilled. His heartbeat felt like it echoed in the silence of the room and for a split second, he thought he’d just done a huff of jet unknowingly.

He swallowed, “What are you saying?”

Nora’s gray eyes were wide, and she looked unsure. She looked scared. “I’m not… I’m not asking anything from you or wanting you to make promises or anything. I know I hurt you. I just…” She paused, taking a short breath, “I would like to have a second chance at this. At being… more. Because there’s not a single person in the world that I’d rather have at my side.” She stopped, her gaze holding his. Her voice was quiet, but held with conviction when she added, “You're my best friend and I'm head over heels for you. I’d rather be down in that goddamn cryo-pod for the rest of my life, than spend another second without you, John.”

He knew any words he could think of would fail to accurately portray how he was feeling. So instead, he kissed her.

Chapter Text

Now, this kiss. This kiss was the kind he had imagined when he thought of Nora. It was soft, and filled with all of the things he couldn’t find the words to say. Her plump lips pressed against his gently and he felt her sigh, sinking deeper into him.

He pulled back slightly to look into her wide, gray eyes, “You… sure you want to wake up to this ugly mug every morning? Never wish that on anyone I cared for.” He added a chuckle to the end of it but it sounded nervous and he knew she could see right through it.

A faint smile pulled at her mouth, causing the freckles on her face to dance. “Hancock,” she breathed, leaning up into him, “I’ve never been more sure about something in my life.” She pressed a hand against his cheek, stroking softly. “Can I tell you one more thing?” she murmured.

He nodded, “Anything.”

“When we met, my first impression of you included many things,” she said, grinning. “I thought you were dangerous, the way that you killed someone for me right inside these gates. And then I thought you were charming and incredibly easy to talk to.” Nora’s eyes followed her fingers as she led her nails gently down his cheek, over his jaw, and let them rest at his pulse, causing him to shiver. Something in her gaze flashed, and her husky voice dropped an octave, “And then I thought you were so exceptionally handsome.”

Hancock swallowed, unable to try and challenge that statement with the way she was looking at him. Her pupils blown wide, her eyes on fire, her plump lips parted as she stared up at him. “Being a ghoul makes you different, not less,” she continued, “and I know it will take some time before I can convince you of that but I need to say this one thing, just so you know exactly where I stand on the subject.” She leaned back slightly, letting her fingers roam farther down his pulse to the collar of his coat and shirt, her other hand gripping his thigh.

“Hancock, you are…” she started, before breaking off into one of the most unashamed, brazen up-down’s he’d ever received in his life. When her gaze slowly met his again, an easy grin spread across her face and she finished, “… so goddamn attractive.” Her teeth tugged at her lower lip slightly before she continued, “And I’m not just saying that because I like you. It’s just the truth.”

His lips crashed into hers once more, opting for action over words. She responded enthusiastically, bringing both arms up to wrap them around his shoulders, her nails scraping at the back of his neck. The air around them was heavy and the passion that had always been between them seemed to be winding tighter. Her lips parted and he felt her tongue tease at the edge of his mouth, hoping to entangle itself with his no doubt.

Well, fuck it. Go big or go home, right?

His tongue brushed against hers and he deepened the kiss significantly, causing her to hum in surprised appreciation. He turned that hum into a soft moan however when he tugged her bottom lip in between his teeth, having watched her do it to herself enough times to fantasize about it. He gently sucked and her arms tightened reflexively around him.

Christ, he couldn’t even remember the last time he’d kissed someone, especially like this. Sex was easy, detached. Kissing always seemed so… intimate, so he refrained from it just out of sheer principle. But the way it felt to kiss Nora? To taste tarberries on her tongue and to have her kiss him back? Anything could walk through the door and it wouldn’t be able to pull him away. Super Mutants. Deathclaws. Fahrenheit. Nothing was going to drag him away from her.

Except her, apparently, cause she pulled back slightly to look at him. It wasn’t out of disgust though, thankfully. Her eyelids were hooded, barely covering the hunger in her gaze and Hancock had to hold back a groan at the fact that it was directed at him. Her husky voice was heavy with lust when she spoke, “I… don’t want to push you too fast.”

He swallowed thickly. “I don’t want to push you either,” he responded, the guttural tone betraying the desire he was trying to hold back.

Nora’s freckled cheeks were flushed beautifully, and the pout of her lips were swollen ever so slightly from the kiss. “An impasse, then,” she said, sounding almost unsure despite the way she was looking at him.

“If you don’t want to-“

“-I do,” she interrupted.

“Thank God. Can we keep going, then?” he asked.

“Fuck yes,” she replied, closing the distance between them once more to kiss him.

The absolute glee he felt at her reply was only matched by the eagerness to continue where they left off. His hands began to roam this time, running up her back and digging themselves into her thick, tawny locks. He tugged gently and was rewarded with a hitched moan. It was so quiet that he almost missed it though, and that simply would not do.

He tugged again, just a touch harder this time, and pulled his lips away from hers. She whined pitifully at the loss of contact, which only spurred him on. It was quickly hushed when he bared her neck to himself, and laved at the pulse beating wildly there. This time, she really did moan. He placed kisses and soft bites all across her neck and jaw, if only to hear her do it again.

When he ran his tongue up to an earlobe and softly sucked, a full body shudder passed through her. Apparently that was a weak spot, and the point of no return for her, because her fingers possessively clutched at his chin then and she dragged his mouth back to hers, fervently snaking her own tongue with his in a sloppy kiss. Her hands left him, even when her mouth didn’t, and he heard the unsnapping of the fastenings of her armor. He broke the kiss to help her and it was in that hazy moment that he remembered he was still sitting on the couch and she was still on her knees in front of him.

His pants felt tight at the thought.

“Let me,” he said, pushing her own hands out of the way to finish unbuckling her chestpiece and shoulder guard. Nora was anything but lazy though, so instead of waiting around for him to finish, she set out to trying to take his clothes off instead. Christ, he could barely keep up.

Her deft fingers untied the American flag sash as his waist, tossing it aside, and made their way to the buttons of his shirt. When he felt the last button come loose, he suddenly faltered. He hadn’t been without this mask, this… Old World regalia, in… forever. He hadn’t been naked with someone he gave a shit about since before he became a ghoul. When he had sex now, he was almost fully clothed, only moving the necessary shit out of the way to get the deed done.

And he wasn’t usually this sober. And it was usually in the dark.

Shit. What if she… thought he was disgusting once she saw what was underneath?

His own hands stopped, having only gotten one button of her fatigues undone before they hovered there nervously. Hancock glanced to her face, hoping beyond all hope that she didn’t find him completely revolting.

But the lust hadn’t left her eyes at all and she tentatively reached towards his chest. Her hands mirrored his, suspended, as she gazed up at him. “May I?” she asked quietly.

Hancock swallowed, “You sure?”

“I want to see you,” she murmured, “All of you.”

He cleared his throat at that. Hancock nodded and she placed her hands gently against his skin. The pads of her fingers traced all the unfamiliar grooves of his chest, working her way slowly down his abdomen. It made his heart clench at how tender she was being, despite the passion she wore so openly. He could see it plain as day on her face. As if it were natural for her to just… want him.

His breath caught as she went lower and lower. Her hands made it down to his belt and she tugged slightly, slipping her fingers into his waistband. When she let them rest against his skin, a quiet grunt left his throat at the sensation. She leaned in, glancing up at him with her wide gray eyes, before placing a soft kiss right above his belt.

Unable to stand it any longer, Hancock placed his hands under her arms and lifted her up into his lap. He almost didn’t, because she was still on her knees in front of him and oh, the possibilities, but he did anyways, making sure to capture her mouth in a bruising kiss. His fingers set back out to unbuttoning her fatigues and she toed off her boots before settling completely against him. Hancock pushed her top out of the way to reveal a plain black bra supporting very… ample breasts, already flushed red. He simply let himself stare for a moment and Nora let out an amused huff, slipping her top completely off and unhooking the back of her bra. Tossing both garments to the side, he watched as they bounced slightly from the movement, her nipples already taut from their activities.

His imagination had always filled in the gaps with the assumption that the rest of her was just as nice as her ass. Boy, was he right.

“Hancock?” Nora said, catching his eyes. She was smiling but she seemed nervous at his pause.

Hancock smiled, “Sorry Sunshine. You’re just… one of the most beautiful people in the world.”

The flush on her chest spread up her neck and into her cheeks as she gave him a shy smile. “You’re beautiful too, John,” she murmured quietly. It should have seemed like an odd compliment, but it warmed his heart immensely to know she thought so.

He kissed her once more, running his hands up her back and drawing her bottom lip into his mouth with a suck. She hummed and he was aware of her hips shifting slightly. Hancock parted from her and let his ruined lips roam. Her jaw, her neck, her shoulders, her collarbone. Nothing was left untouched and she shivered under his attentions, her skin pebbling as he kissed his way down her chest. He glanced up to see her lost to the sensations, her faint smile parted somewhat, her eyes half closed. Without warning, he closed a mouth around a dusky nipple and laved at it with his tongue.

The reaction he was hoping for was instant. Her hands immediately flew to his head, knocking his hat off and running her nails across his scalp. She pulled him closer and a moan fell from her throat as her hips bucked into his, causing him to groan at the responsiveness. His brain nearly short circuited when she did it again and he cursed internally at how close he could feel himself getting.

He wanted to tease her until she was shaking. Until she was begging. Begging for him. John Hancock. Chem addict, failed brother, liar. A bystander who had let ghouls get murdered in the streets. A man with a rotting face and a cowardly past that haunted his nightmares…

But.

Also, someone that… she cared for. Someone that she thought was dangerous and charming. Someone who was easy to talk to and handsome.

He-… he could be okay with being these things too.

Hancock wanted to take his time with her but she seemed to have other plans because she pulled back, letting his mouth come away with a soft pop. Her chest was heaving, her lips full and parted, her eyes hooded with want. “Please, Hancock,” she whispered.

At her plea, he wrapped an arm around her and lifted them both, earning a surprised yelp from her. Nora clutched onto him and he let out a soft chuckle, kissing her pulse as he turned to lay her down on the couch. He leaned down to kiss her lips before standing up.

She watched him then, bottom lip in between her teeth, her eyes roving over him appreciatively as he shrugged off his coat and shirt. Letting them fall to the floor, he toed his boots off, leaving both of them in only their pants. At least they were on a level playing field now.

Hancock caught her eyes devouring him once more and he felt a roguish grin pull at his ruined mouth despite himself. “See something you like, General?”

Nora was the picture of wanton. Like some sort of Pre-War pinup. Her arms were lifted over her head, draped lazily over the arm of the couch. Both knees were bent, leaving one foot up on the sofa, and one placed against the floor. Her skin was flushed red even in the soft glow of the lanterns and she gave him a crooked smile. “Definitely. Although you’ll have to take off some more clothing for me to make a… thorough assessment, Mayor,” she supplied slyly.

He chuckled and his pants tightened at her using his title. Something to explore at another time. But for now, he decided to indulge the voyeuristic side of Nora. His hands went down to his belt, pulling at the buckle agonizingly slow even as her gaze snapped down to it intensely. He dragged it through each loop, deliberately trying to look unhurried even as his body tried to rush him, muscles jumping from adrenaline.

Dropping the belt to the floor, he started in on the button and zipper of his pants. Nora’s eyes flicked up to his when he took the couple steps back towards her, and he couldn’t help the glee he felt at her expression. Pupils dilated, cheeks rosy, chest rising in barely controlled breaths. She looked fucking beautiful.

She sat up, knocking his hands out of the way impatiently. He chuckled, but it was cut off into a choked groan when she shoved them down his thighs and took him into her mouth. Hancock’s head lolled back and a hand unconsciously dug into her chocolate locks. She swirled her tongue, licking along his length like he was the greatest thing she’d ever tasted. Nora hummed appreciatively against him and he felt his knees quake. Her mouth was hot and wet and eager, and Christ he was so fucking close already. He wasn’t going to la-

NO. No, fuck it. He was fine. He could control himself.

“Nora,” he growled, raising his head to look down at her. Gunmetal eyes gazed up at him through thick lashes and she took that moment to suck long and slow, pulling an open-mouthed moan from his throat. His empty hand closed itself around her chin, lifting her head and pulling softly at her hair. Her mouth popped off of him and he could see a satisfied smirk edging at the corners of her lips.

Pushing her back down into the couch, he pressed his mouth to her, kissing her deeply. He was going to return the favor for sure, already eager to turn the tides after that proud smile she tried to hide. His ruined lips made their way down her neck and he let his teeth graze her pulse. She groaned softly and he decided to play dirty. Running his tongue a long line up to her earlobe, he laved at it and she shuddered, her hips bucking.

He made his way down her neck and chest, only stopping to suck on both nipples before lowering himself even further. Hancock unbuttoned her pants, and slid them down her legs along with her panties, throwing the garments over his shoulder unceremoniously. She snorted in amusement before letting out a soft squeal as he nipped at her hipbone. He didn’t even give her time to recover before he pushed his tongue into her folds.

Turnabout was fair play, after all.

A lustful moan left her and she bucked into him, her head falling against the arm of the couch. Nora’s hands flew to his head, dragging her nails across the marred skin there. He circled her clit and she moaned loudly as her body jerked against the onslaught.

Her fingers tightened against him and their eyes met. Her pupils were blown wider than he’d ever seen, nearly looking as black as his own. “Hancock, please,” she begged, her voice a near pitiful whine.

He laughed quietly, a smug smile sitting itself across his features then. “Please… what?” he asked cockily, kissing her inner thigh.

She snarled, her expression somehow erotic and frustrated at the same time. “Please fuck me,” she practically ordered.

And who was he to ignore an order from the General of the Minuteman? The woman who had practically turned the Commonwealth into a better place near single-handedly. The woman who always helped when she could, and then still helped even when she couldn’t. The most generous and giving woman this world had probably ever seen.

The woman he was in love with.

He stood, stepping out of his pants completely and grinned. “My pleasure.” He crawled up her body, looming above her as he lined his hips up with hers. Hancock looked at her then, and without breaking eye contact, hilted himself into her.

They both moaned at the sensation, and her hands ran up his back. Nora’s arms clutched at him and she pulled him in for a sloppy kiss, all teeth and tongue. Hancock had to grit his jaw when she wrapped her thick, soft thighs around his hips. His eyes screwed shut and he stayed still. He tried to concentrate on something other than the warm heat that was engulfing him, but apparently Nora had other plans. She didn’t seem to care that he was about to come like a teenage boy, because she ground her hips against his trying to get some relief. “Hancock, move,” she growled.

A breathy laugh escaped him and he opened his eyes to look at her. Pulling out almost completely, pleased with the way her brow furrowed as he dragged along her walls, he asked, “I’m sorry, what was that, sunshine?” It was okay to torture her a little bit. He needed to have some control of the situation. Not that it really mattered, she was without a doubt running this whole thing. But it felt nice to have her begging underneath of him.

Her jaw clenched and her eyes narrowed in challenge. “Hancock-” she warned.

Only to be cut off as he slammed his hips into hers. Hard.

A gasp punched out of her lungs and he watched as her irritation devolved into a shameless moan. Her head slumped back and her thighs tightened reflexively. He kissed along her exposed neck, relishing in the pulse beating uncontrollably there.

“Keep-.. keep doing that,” she pleaded.

“What,” he asked innocently, pulling out. “This?” His hips slammed into hers once more and a long moan was the only response he received.

Hancock set a merciless pace then as she let him take control. In every fantasy he’d ever had of Nora, he’d always imagined her on top. That she’d be the one doing the fucking. Because even though she was kind and generous, you would only have to spend a moment in her presence to understand that she wasn’t somebody who put up with people’s shit. Which was definitely something he considered incredibly sexy. But this? Her being a bit submissive? Having her writhing underneath him, moaning his name over and over? Her skin flushed and breasts bouncing as he rammed into her? This was definitely a nice surprise.

Both of them were breathing raggedly now, caught up in the sensation as their hips crashed together. Her nails dragged hard against his back and he knew it was going to leave welts, which somehow made the whole thing that much sexier. Her calves pushed into the back of his thighs, urging him on and matching him stroke for stroke.

“Oh fuck, you feel so goddamn good John, please don’t stop,” she babbled huskily. He kissed her then, his tongue dancing with hers momentarily as he slammed into her again and again. He let a hand roam down so that he could grab a fistful of the greatest ass he’d ever laid eyes on. How could he not? He’d fantasized about it since the first time he’d met her. It only seemed to spur her on because she started fucking back harder, rising her hips to meet his. The slaps of their skin meeting was downright obscene and he regretfully had to let go to keep up with her.

“Christ, Nora,” he growled. He fell to his elbows above her, bowing his back slightly to hit her at a deeper angle. Nora moaned and she pressed her lips to his throat in a wet kiss. He could feel her coiling tighter, her walls clenching down on him harder now. Her hands had stilled completely, clutching at him as if he were her lifeline. Her tongue dragged across his neck and she planted tight kisses into his skin. The biggest surprise however was when she cut off a wail by clamping her teeth down onto his shoulder.

Hancock saw stars.

His eyes flew open in shock and he fucked her with complete abandon. Every deadened cell in his body suddenly felt like it was alive and on fire, and for the life of him, he couldn’t remember a time he’d ever felt like this. It was like being on every drug known to man all at once. For fuck’s sake, she was going to turn him feral.

His teeth gritted and then gnashed, trying to keep himself at bay. Not wanting it to end. But suddenly her mouth unlatched itself from him and a long, low moan fell from Nora’s throat. Her head and arms went slack, even at her hips ground up against his. A rhythmic clenching around his length was what started to send him over the edge.

Hancock turned to bury his face into her neck, knowing he couldn’t fight it anymore, when he caught her gaze. Their eyes met and he had the realization that this was the most vulnerable he’d ever felt. He had never let someone watch him finish. Not like this.

“Come with me, John,” she whispered, the words coming out in a rush.

He couldn’t have disobeyed even if he’d wanted to.

He still had enough willpower to fuck them both through it though, pulling in and out as he spilled himself inside of her. Her walls milked the last of his orgasm out of him and when he was finally spent, he collapsed down onto her, both of them trembling hard.

They stayed like that for a while, breath ragged and sweating. His cheek laid against her chest as he came down from one of the best highs he’d ever had. Hands fluttered up to his head then and her fingers rubbed gently at his scalp. Nora placed a soft kiss to his forehead. “I am such a fool. Causing you so much pain. And you’re amazing enough to still give me a second chance? I couldn’t have asked for a better man,” she murmured against his skin.

His breath hitched and he wrapped his arms underneath her in a tight hug. “And I was a fool for running away, sunshine. We can only go up from here,” he replied. Hancock cleared his throat nervously, “Words don’t begin to do it justice. You? You’re the best thing I’ve got.”

When he glanced up at her, a blinding smile had crossed her face, even as unshed tears welled up in her eyes. She sniffed and wiped at them. “Sorry,” she mumbled, “these are good tears, I promise.” Her lips met his in a tender kiss and he sunk into it blissfully, his heart clenching tight at the emotion running between the two of them.

Hancock began to get up, pulling out of her slowly, causing them both to groan and her to chuckle. “I’m going to be so goddamn sore tomorrow,” she said with a crooked grin as he stood.

He watched as their combined fluids seeped out of her a bit as he lifted his arms above his head and stretched. His back creaked in vague protest and he caught her admiring him as he did so. He smiled, “Yeah, me too sunshine.”

“Worth it,” she said dreamily, her eyes crinkling at the edges when her gaze met his.

He leaned down to kiss her again. He couldn’t help it.

Hancock walked to the other side of the room, grabbing a towel. He returned to Nora, helping her clean up before using it on himself. She blushed beautifully and gave him a shy smile. It only made Hancock’s grin widen because she was anything but shy, and somehow this had managed to bring that reaction out of her.

Tucking the towel into a safe place where it could get washed later, he grabbed a blanket in its stead and headed back towards Nora. He handed it to her before reaching down to get his pants.

“No, don’t,” she said, interrupting his plan to dress. He glanced up at her as she set the blanket aside and leaned up on her elbows. Her eyes looked a little bleary with sleep but her voice was clear when she said, “Just… come to bed like that.”

His eyebrows lifted and he glanced down at himself. Being with Nora had almost made him forget what he looked like. The pocked and pitted skin, the overstretched muscles just below the surface. Long gone were the days of his tanned complexion and blonde curls. He had been incredibly good-looking back in the day. Now he was nearly a monster.

“Besides, I read somewhere that it’s better for you to sleep naked anyways,” she said, husky tones interjecting into his reverie.

His eyes made contact with her and a surprised laugh bubbled up from his throat. “Lookin’ out for my health now, sunshine?” he asked even as he still halfway reached for his clothes.

“Shit,” she said, giving him a crooked grin, “looking out for mine. I’m liable to expire if I’ve gotta go ‘cold turkey’ from something as addictive as you.”

He chuckled despite himself, “Sounds pretty serious.”

“Life or death,” she nodded gravely. Her teasing expression changed then though, her smile turning soft and understanding. “You don’t have to, if it makes you uncomfortable,” she said. “But… it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Well. When she put it like that.

Hancock straightened, and the smile Nora flashed him was near blinding. She scooted over, patting the cushion next to her before unfolding the blanket. He laid down beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder as she tossed the blanket over both of them.

It was a tight fit, but with one of her arms thrown over his chest, a leg hooked over his thigh, and her face snuggling up under his chin, he just couldn’t find it in himself to let it bother him all that much. Her naked body pressed against his warmly and if he died right now, he’d still feel like the luckiest bastard in the whole Commonwealth. Hancock wrapped both of his arms around her, practically pulling her into a hug and he watched her sigh happily, her eyes falling shut.

Running lethargic circles with his fingers over her shoulders, he felt her press lazy kisses into his skin every once in a while as they lay in the afterglow. He felt his muscles start to fatigue and the warm embrace of sleep began to take hold.

But not before a thought suddenly sprang into his mind.

He looked down at her freckled face, the soft glow of the lantern casting shadows across it. “Hey, Nora?”

“Hmm?” she hummed contentedly.

He let himself give a dramatic pause. Long enough that she ended up opening one bleary, steel gray eye to look at him. A grin tugged at the corner of his mouth as he said, “Happy Birthday.”

She snorted, and he felt her shoulders shake as she devolved into husky chuckles.

 

 

Hancock awoke slowly the next morning. His eyes opened and closed sleepily as sunlight creeped in through the windows. He grumbled internally, scowling about how goddamn bright it fucking was and was about to move when he felt a warm weight against him. His curiosity got the better of him, making him look down to see what was pinning him to the couch cushions.

Lying beside him, limbs tangled up with his, was something more brilliant and radiant than anything the sun had to offer. Nora, the love of his life, was gently snoring into his chest. A few strands of dark hair plastered to her forehead and her lips were parted softly in slumber. The blanket had made its way down to their hips in the middle of the night and her soft skin contrasted starkly against his scarred muscles.

Despite this, he had the realization that this was the first situation he’d ever felt like he wasn’t in a hurry to get out of. Didn’t feel the need to run away or flee or bury himself into drugs to get away from.

He sunk back into the cushions, smiling softly as he carefully wrapped his arms around her, trying not to jostle her awake. Nora was a light sleeper though. You had to be in the Commonwealth. So, she stirred gently out of her rest, stretching slightly. He could feel her muscles tremble from the movement and he knew once he got up, he’d feel the pleasant soreness of the night before as well.

A small smile crossed her face before she even opened her eyes and he felt her arms tighten around him. Groggy gray blinked away sleepiness and she yawned wide as she glanced up at him. A tender smile graced her features then as she looked up at him, cheek still pressed against his chest.

“Well, look at you,” he mumbled softly, smiling. “I must still be dreamin’.”

Her grin widened dazzlingly and her hoarse voice spoke up, “Good morning, John.” She lifted herself up a bit then, tucking a few chocolate waves behind an ear as she leaned towards him. Her lips teased at the edge of his cautiously, asking permission. He closed the small distance between them, meeting her the rest of the way and kissing her gently.

He could stay like this forever. Waking up to her every morning. Kissing her awake. The first thing of the day he’d notice would the warm weight of her presence at his side. Her smile! The way she looked at him now would be euphoric to see every single day. This would something he’d be happy to do for the rest of life. No regrets.

He wasn’t going to run this time.

When she pulled back, he realized he needed to say so. “Can I tell you something?” he blurted out nervously.

“Anything,” she said, repeating his response from the night before. She rested her head against him once more, looking up at him through her long lashes intently.

He swallowed and began slowly, “Being here… with you, it’s made me realize. Most of my life to this point, I’ve been running out on the good things I got. Skipped out of my family, my life in Diamond City. Took up with you just to get out of Goodneighbor. And then ran out of you when things got complicated.” He shook his head, looking up at the ceiling. Hancock sighed, “Hell, running from myself is what made me into… into a damn ghoul.”

He felt her shift and glanced down to see her sit up on an elbow, placing her cheek into her hand. Her free hand rubbed against his chest encouragingly as she listened. “What do you mean?” she asked, her voice free of cruelty or pity or disappointment.

It made it easier.

“The drug that did this to me,” he said, nodding, “I knew what it was gonna do. I just couldn’t stand looking at the bastard I saw in the mirror anymore. The coward who let all those ghouls from Diamond City die. Who was too scared to protect his fellow drifters from Vic and his boys.” His voice shook and he closed his eyes for a moment to steady himself.

Nora pressed her hand against his heart, staying silent as she waited for him to continue.

“I turned ghoul to run away from that person,” he continued. He make eye contact with her, making sure she understood how important this was. “But being here with you, for the first time in my life, things have just felt… right. And running? It’s the furthest thing from my mind now.”

“Hancock,” she breathed, placing her hand against his cheek, “Running… it’s-.. sometimes it’s just part of life. The best of us do it. And I promise, that you are part of the best of us. I’ve never met anyone as brave or compassionate as you.”

He exhaled sharply in relief, leaning into the contact. “Hearing that coming from someone like you… I don’t know if you understand what that means to me,” he murmured. “Listen,” he started, “I know last night you said that you were okay with being with me. And if that ever changes, I understand-“

“John,” she cut him off. A smile rose to her lips and she said, “Who I fall for is my decision. And I’ve fallen for you.”

She sounded so proud of it too.

The grin that broke across his face threatened to crack his ruined skin. “Wouldn’t expect that kind of lapse in judgement from you,” he teased.

Nora laughed. “Crazy, he calls me. Sure, I’m crazy,” she sing-songed huskily, matching his grin with her own at the unspoken lyrics. At her unspoken words. She leaned over then, kissing him once more as they wrapped their arms around each other.

When she pulled back, Hancock brushed a dark curl back behind her ear. “Moments like this, I know all that karma stuff is bull. ‘Cause no one like me should be this lucky.”

She shook her head fondly at him, “Nah. We deserve this. It took a bit to figure it out, but we deserve us.”

He kissed her again, even as she chuckled against his lips. His heart felt light, his chest fluttering wildly with anticipation of what was to come for them.

“Come on, sunshine,” he said, grinning ear to ear. “Let’s get this freakshow on the road.”