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A burning pain blossoms in Boone’s left shoulder. Damn, one of them got too close. He swears quietly before severing the Cazador’s wing with a machete. The stinger breaks off in his shoulder, and he hisses through clenched teeth. He can already feel the poison flying through his veins. The burn is a pain he can appreciate.

“Heh,” he laughs. Lola turns in his direction.

“Boone?” she questions. Rex growls, and he tears a Cazador in half. He feels his blood catch fire as Lola catches his eye. Her face morphs into an expression of pure panic.

“I always knew you’d be the death of me,” he says affectionately, and then his world goes black.

Lola screams his name as Boone falls to the ground. She begins shooting at the Cazadors that hover over Boone’s unconscious form, waiting for their meal to die. One by one, they fall to the ground next to him. Lola runs over to him, stumbling and sliding over the loose dirt. She falls to her knees when she reaches him.

“Boone. Boone!” She touches his forehead. His skin burns to the touch. “Shit!” She rummages through her pack. In her desperation, she begins knocking items out of the pack during the frantic search. Her fingers finally close around a cool, curved bottle. She yanks it out, and can’t help but notice the haunting contrast between the bottle and Boone’s skin. She pulls him in to her lap. She pushes his cheeks together to open his mouth. She pours some anti-venom in.

“Come on,” she murmurs, rubbing his throat. “Come on, swallow it.” He coughs, spitting the anti-venom into the dirt. She swears vehemently, and begins rummaging through her pack once more until she finds a syringe of Med-X. She pulls a leather belt out next, and wraps it around Boone’s arm. ` She tightens it, waiting for the veins in his arm to pop out. Once they do, she injects it into the crook of his arm. She then dips the syringe into the anti-venom, pulling it into the empty cylinder. She injects that into the crook of his arm as well.

Now, she has to get the stinger out. Boone groans as she presses her hands on both sides of the wound. There isn’t enough of the stinger to wrap her hand around. She gently pushes down, and Boone cries out. She swears, but pushes harder. The stinger moves up with agonizing slowness.

“Come on, come on,” she says, even though her words are overshadowed by Boone’s cries. When enough of the stinger is out for her to get a good handle on, she wraps her hand around it. She sucks in a deep breath, and pulls the stinger out as quickly as she can.

Boone’s scream pierces the silence that had fallen over the Mojave.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Followers safehouse comes into view. She tries to stave off the relief that builds in her chest. Boone is limply draped over her shoulder, his feet dragging behind. He’d been drifting in and out of consciousness, muttering things that she couldn’t understand.

Or preferred to pretend she didn’t understand.

Her shoulders and arms were aching, and she felt damn glad they were almost to the safehouse. Rex couldn’t carry Boone, and she wasn’t sure if she was strong enough to carry him much farther. When she reaches the door, she fumbles with her key ring, and tries to support Boone with one arm. Miraculously, she manages, and the door swings open. A Follower’s doctor looks
up from her reading. Her eyes travel to Boone and she whistles.

“Hot damn. Cazadors?” she asks nonchalantly, as if Boone didn’t almost die.

“Yeah,” Lola answers stiffly. The doctor stands up.

“Here,” she says genially. “Let me help you get him to a bed.” She swings Boone’s other arm over her shoulders and the two women carry him to a bed in the adjoining room.

“You give him any anti-venom?” the doctor asks, inspecting his bandaged wound.

“Yeah. Had to give it to him through a syringe. He wouldn’t swallow it,” Lola answers. The doctor nods.

“Good call. That got the anti-venom into his system faster. He’ll probably still feel the side effects of the Cazador’s poison, though,” the doctor says while moving the bandages over.

“What kind of side effects?” Lola asks.

“Nausea, headaches, possible hallucinations.” Lola winces as a whispered “Carla” escapes from Boone’s lips.

“Do you have any stimpacks?” the doctor asks.

“No,” Lola says ruefully. “We were on our way to Freeside to resupply.”

“Hmm,” the doctor hums, crossing her arms. “The wound will probably heal without infection without the stimpacks, but I’d rather not risk it. I’ve been meaning to do a supply run anyway. I assume you want to stay with your friend, Carla?” Lola jerks back as if the doctor had slapped her.

“Name’s Lola. And, yes, I’d prefer to stay.” The doctor doesn’t ask anymore about her name, opting instead to pack a bag.

“I’ll have to go to the Old Mormon Fort, and it’ll take me about a day. You have food enough to last until then?” Lola nods wordlessly as the doctor swings her bag over her shoulder. “If he runs a fever, there’s spare Med-X in the drawer of the desk. Half a dose should bring it down.”

“Thank you,” Lola says gratefully. The doctor eyes Rex.

“Keeping that thing from defecating inside will be thanks enough,” she replies. Rex whines, and Lola makes a face, but keeps her comments to herself. The doctor reaches the door, and turns to look at Lola over her shoulder. “Try to get some sleep. You’re no good to him if you aren’t well rested,” she says sympathetically, and then shuts the door behind her. Lola looks over at Boone, who mutters unintelligibly in his sleep. She manages to catch the words “Carla”, “love you”, and “forever”.

“Damn it,” she swears. She looks over at Rex, who has made himself comfortable on the floor by the foot of Boone’s bed. “Good dog,” she murmurs half-heartedly, collapsing on the bed next to Boone’s. She kicks off her boots, and lets them haphazardly fall to the floor. She closes her eyes and, without meaning to, falls asleep.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

She jerks awake to the sound of a body hitting the floor. She immediately sits up and swings her legs over the side of the bed, her gun at the ready. Boone is curled on his knees on the floor, and his arms reach out in her direction.

“Boone?” she asks, dropping her gun and kneeling next to him.

“Carla?” he croaks. Shit, she thinks.

“Boone, you have to get back in bed,” she says gently, grabbing his uninjured shoulder. His skin burns like the high noon sun. “You’re running a fever. Here, I’ll get-“ her words get cut off as his arms lock around her waist.

“No,” he says hoarsely. “Don’t go. Please, Carla.” She feels his dog tags poking her through the thin fabric of her shirt, and she realizes that he is bare-chested.

“Boone, I’m not Carla,” she intones softly.

“Why would you say that?” he whispers, and his arms tighten their hold on her. “You’re my wife. Why are you calling me by our last name?”

“Please,” she says, and he buries his face in the crook of her neck. “Let go.”

“I’d never thought I’d see you again,” he says, unaware of her struggling. His voice shakes, and he sounds like he is close to tears. He presses a kiss to her cheek.

“I love you,” he murmurs against her skin. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“You have to realize that I’m not her,” she pleads. She tries not to think about how good it feels to be pressed up against him. She tries to tell herself she doesn’t like the way he smells. He runs his hand through her hair, and she sees an unfocused madness in his eyes.

Hell of a hallucination.

His other hand slides from her waist up to her chest, and it comes to rest in the valley between her breasts.

“I can feel your heartbeat,” he says, his voice full of awe. She hopes that she can talk her way out of this, and defuse the situation before it explodes.

“Listen, Boone,” she starts, but he doesn’t give her time to say anything else. He covers her lips with his own. A strangled cry escapes her lips, and Boone greedily deepens the kiss. He wedges his knee between hers. The hand that rested on her chest begins to trail lower, lifting the hem of her shirt. She moans quietly as his hand brushes her breast.

“Carla, look at me,” he murmurs. Lola reluctantly meets his gaze. She sees a flicker or something that she hopes signals Boone’s return to sanity, but her heart sinks as a smile cracks over his face.

“You are so beautiful,” he says as his free hand starts to unfasten the button on her pants. She ruefully glows at the compliment, even though Boone is talking to a woman long since dead. Her hands wrap around his wrists, trying to still their movement. She can’t let him do this. But her hands might as well have been paper for all the good they did. They slide over the muscle of his forearms. She tries to speak but his fingers find their way to her clit. She moans as they move in a slow circle.

She shouldn’t want this. She knows that. Though his fingers are rough and calloused, his touch is gentle. She begins to sway to the rhythm of his stroking. She tries to speak again, but Boone silences her with a kiss.

“It’s all right,” he says, and his lips are flush against hers. His voice sounds desperate.

“You have a fever,” she says half-heartedly, her breath coming in quick bursts. His fingers part her lower lips, and slip inside. She bites her lip to keep from crying out.

“Later,” he intones softly, nuzzling her cheek. His stubble tickles her skin.

“Now,” she says firmly, her hands sliding up his chest to push at his shoulders. He laughs.

“You always were the responsible one,” he says. He playfully nips her ear. “Be a little irresponsible with me.” He lets her slip
out of his embrace to stand, holding her only by her belt loops. He teasingly begins to pulls her pants down to her ankles.

“Let go,” she orders. He grins impishly and her heart sinks further. This man kneeling before her is Carla Boone’s husband, and not the stoic man she had come to rely on during their travels across the wasteland. What kind of woman had Carla Boone been to have the mere thought of her make him smile so unabashedly? Lola would have killed just to get Boone smile, even once, and a woman long dead had wrestled countless smiles from him in the past few moments.

She pulls her shirt down over her breasts. When she bends over to pull her pants up, Boone steals another kiss.

“Love you,” he murmurs, and her heart constricts again, leaving a burning ache in her chest.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Boone lazes on the bed as Lola searches the drawer for the promised syringe of Med-X. She tries to ignore his heated stare, and the way his gaze lingers over her like an intimate caress. Shuddering, she closes her eyes to regain her mental balance. She runs a hand through her hair while trying to banish the image of a shirtless Boone giving her ‘come-fuck-me’ eyes from of her mind.

“Damn it,” she whispers. She is so lost in her turmoil that she doesn’t hear the bed creak when Boone stands, or hear his footsteps as he walks toward her. She jumps as his arms wrap around her waist.

“Easy. It’s just me,” he says into her ear, gently pressing a kiss to it. He rubs his hands over her belly, and she remembers with a sickening dread that Carla was pregnant. “How are you and little Carla doing?”

“Better if I could just find that damn Med-X,” she says under her breath. Louder, she says, “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“Only if you come with me,” he says, and the thought is admittedly seductive. She shakes her head forlornly.

“No. We need to get your fever down,” she says, trying not allowing herself to relish the feel of his hot skin against hers, and failing miserably.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll be better if you come lay with me,” he teases, pulling her back against him. She blushes as she feels his sex press into the cheeks of her ass. She moves to pull away from him, but he holds her firmly in place.

“Are you embarrassed, darling?” he asks, his voice low and sensuous. She shudders as he runs his hands over the length of her body. “There isn’t anyone here but you and me.” He grinds against her, and she bites back a moan. He begins kissing the side of her neck. Her hand reaches up to cup the back of his head. His hands tickle as they slide down her stomach to pull the hem of her shirt up. “Lift your other arm.” His soft-spoken command causes her to come back to herself. She licks her lips, shaking her head vigorously.

“No way, Boone,” she says. His hands tighten on the hem of her shirt before sliding to the sides of her waist. Suddenly, she is facing him, her back pressing uncomfortably into the desk.

“Stop that,” he says firmly. I could say the same to you, she thinks of saying. Instead, she says,

“Stop what?” His eyes flash, and she feels her unease swell anew.

“Stop calling me Boone. You’re my wife. You should call me by my first name,” he says. Lola looks at him dumbfounded. They’ve never called each other by their first names. It’s always been ‘Boone’ and ‘Haze’, never ‘Craig’ and ‘Lola’ between them. He pulls her closer to him. Her heart breaks as she hears him whispering words that begin to string together. Words about Carla, and about the baby, and ‘oh-God-I-love-you-so-much-darling-please-be-real-please-be-real-please.’ She closes her eyes. He sounds lost, like the wrong words spoken carelessly would break him. The only thing keeping him somewhat tied to reality is the use of his last name. She can choose to force him back to reality, or she can give him one night with his wife. She sighs. The road to hell is paved with the best intentions.

“All right, Craig. Let’s go to bed.”

The smile that breaks over his face is breathtaking. He laughs, and all sense of doubt has vanishes. He sweeps her into his arms. Flailing at the unexpected gesture, she narrowly avoids striking his wound. Rex sleepily pokes his head up as Boone sets her on the bed, crawling over her. She silently begs Rex to bark to pull Boone from his hallucination, but the dog simply rolls over and goes back to sleep, as if this turn of events is expected. He pulls at her shirt again, and this time she lifts her arms and allows it to be taken from her body. He kisses his way down her body, starting with the top of her head. She winces as his lips linger over her bullet scars. Her breath hitches as his lips brush over her chest.

“Let’s get rid of this,” he says, fingering the faded material of what passed for a brassiere in the wasteland. She lifts her arms again, and he grins. He grasps the ragged thing in both hands and rips the weak material from her body. She gasps, and he laughs at the dumbfounded look on her face.

“B-Craig!” she catches herself. Her arms instinctively go to cover her chest. He tsks, pulling her arms away.

“Am I going to have to tie you up?” he asks good-naturedly.

“You wouldn’t dare,” she says, and she can’t keep the laughter out of her voice. He holds up what used to be her bra.

“I have restraints right here,” he offers. She sticks her tongue out at him, forgetting for a moment the misgivings she has about this situation. He kisses her breasts, pulling one taut nipple into his mouth. Her laughter turns to quiet moaning. His fingers dance down her stomach, and undo the snap on her pants. He rubs her sex through her panties as he moves his ministrations to her other breast. He chuckles.

“So wet already, darling,” he murmurs. She melts at the seductive tone of his voice. He pulls her pants, along with her underwear, down her legs, dropping them unceremoniously beside the bed. He presses a kiss to her vaginal lips. Her hips arch unwillingly, and he holds them down. “Be patient,” he says, licking her sex. “We have all night.”

Her only response is a bitten back cry. He lovingly teases her clit with his tongue, and gently sucks at it with his mouth. She squirms, trying to escape the ironclad grip of his hands on her hips. The only sounds she can focus on are the echoes of his ministrations, and the soft, high-pitched cries that tumble from her own throat. His tongue slips inside of her easily, and she tenses. He groans at the taste of her, pulling her hips closer. His tongue plunges in and out, in and out, and the feeling is more than she can stand. She wants him to stop, wants to say that this is too much for her. She knows she should turn back before it becomes too late. But she contradicts herself with soft-spoken words.

“Faster. Don’t stop.” He happily obliges, and a booming cry escapes her before she can silence it. As she feels her orgasm about to overtake her, he stops. She cries out at the loss, but his mouth covers hers, leaving little room for protest. She trembles at the taste of herself on his lips. She locks her arms tightly around him. He laughs.

“Do you want me?” he asks against her lips as he fumbles with his belt.

“Yes,” she whispers, and the sound of her voice is deafening to her ears. He pulls back to stare into her eyes, and for a moment she is fearful that he is going to pull away from her entirely. That all of this would turn out to be some sort of sick joke, or a test that she had failed. But Boone only smiles down at her. He pulls away from her completely to rid himself of his pants, and she takes a moment to appreciate the naked figure before her. His form is lean and wiry. The sweat glistening on his skin is visible with the light of her Pip-Boy. When he turns his eyes to gaze at her she feels the breath catch in her throat, and for a moment she can pretend that his lustful look is for her, and not the memory of his late wife.

But she knows better. She always has.

She has stop herself from running when he comes back to the bed. Her heart beats like a hammer against her ribcage. He slides over next to her, and gently kisses her. Her hands run up and down his body of their own accord. When she reaches his member, she hesitates. He laughs against her mouth, and he gently takes her hand.

“There’s no reason to be shy, “ he says, leading her hand to his sex. She tentatively brushes the pads of her fingers against him, and he moans quietly. Emboldened, she wraps her hand around the shaft, and begins to stroke. He lets out a harsh rush of air, and nuzzles her neck. She presses her lips to his cheek, and quickens her pace. The feel of him is strange and heavy in her hand. She isn’t sure if she’s doing this right, or if she’s even done it at all before now, but the sounds Boone makes encourage her. He kisses her lips again, and a rough moan separates them. He leans his forehead against hers.

“Carla,” he sighs, and Lola jerks to a stop.

“I’m not your wife, “ she almost pleads, but he doesn’t hear her. Instead, his hands find their way to her shoulders, and he gently turns her on her side. He lifts her leg over his, and presses a kiss to the back of her head. He enters her in a single fluid motion, and she struggles to catch her breath. He leisurely begins to move in and out of her. She bites her lip, but a moan finds a way past them. Her fingers grasp out blindly and twist in the sheets. Boone groans, his hand sliding up her back to tangle his fingers in her hair. She whimpers, and leans back into his hand. His other hand grasps her hip firmly, holding her down. She squirms as he plunges into her. When he changes his angle, her moans turn into soft, desperate pants as he slams against her sweet spot.

“Craig,” she whimpers. He tugs her head back gently, and kisses along her jaw line. His breath is hot against her cheek. His chest is flush against her back, and the contact almost burns her. His lips take hers hostage. Her cries are smothered by his greedy lips. When they break apart, she pushes her face into the pillow. The coolness of the pillow contrasting with the heat of Boone’s body is a lingering reminder of the immorality of her actions.

“I want to look at you,” he growls in a low voice. Before she can make sense of his words, he’s flipped her over onto her back. He throws her legs over his shoulders as he slides into her again. A barely suppressed groan falls from his lips. She reaches up to pull him down for another kiss, slamming her lips into his. She feels his teeth scrape against her lower lip, but she relishes the stinging sensation. His eyes are full of a love that isn’t, has never been, hers to claim. He drives himself into her faster. She grips his shoulders, and grazes her nails over them. He cries out at the feeling, and lifts her hips up closer to his. Her head falls back as his thrusts become rougher, and more erratic. Her screams echo throughout the otherwise silent room, and the sound of them is enough to send Boone over the edge.

“Carla,” falls from his lips as he orgasms inside of her. She closes her eyes as she comes, and pretends the name he moaned was hers.

He is content to hold her afterwards, his ear pressed between her breasts to listen to her pounding heartbeat. She absentmindedly strokes his head as he snuggles closer. She feels strangely empty. Boone’s whispered “I love you”s echo in her head, just a jumble of words she wasn’t ever meant to hear.

“Do you recognize me at all?” Lola whispers. Craig Boone head lifts up and he looks at her, a brilliant smile covering his face.

“Of course I do,” he says, giving her a kiss that burns a hole through her heart. “You’re my wife.”

 

He passes out a short time later, and she uses the opportunity to do two things: put her clothes back on, and find that damn Med-X. She gives him the prescribed half-dose, and the rest to insure he sleeps through the night. He doesn’t even flinch, continuing to sleep with a content expression. She doesn’t remember a time when Boone’s sleeping face wasn’t contorted in a grimace. She picks up part of what is left of her brassiere, and takes it to the sink. Once it’s wet and cool she lays it over Boone’s forehead. She takes the other part of the ruined fabric, and also wets it.

She uses that to clean the evidence of their time together off of him, like a murderer wiping his fingerprints off of a gun.

It’s difficult to put his pants back on over his legs, but she manages. She fastens the belt, and lays her head on his chest. She closes her eyes to savor the musky smell of him she’s grown so fond of during their travels together. She promises herself she is only going to lay there on him for as long as it takes for his fever to go down, and then go back to her own bed.

The Followers doctor comes back to find the two of them a mess of intertwined limbs sleeping in a single bed not meant for two people.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lola is awoken by a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes spring open, and she’s afraid the hand belongs to Boone. She sits up with great difficulty, and holds back a sigh of relief when she sees Boone still sleeping with his arms wound tightly around her.

“Well,” the doctor says, at a loss for words.

“Yeah,” Lola replies. She disentangles herself from Boone, and silently takes the stimpack offered to her. She injects it next to the wound in his shoulder. He stirs, but remains asleep. She thanks whichever deity is responsible for that small mercy.

“How much do I owe you for the stimpack?” she finally asks the doctor.

“Consider it a gift for all you two have done for the Followers,” the doctor answers. Lola nods.

“Thank you,” she says. “You wouldn’t happen to have a spare pack on you, would you?” The Followers’ doctor walks soundlessly to a locker, and pulls out a weathered bag. Lola takes it from her with silent gratitude. She begins to rummage around the room, gathering up their supplies. She splits the food and caps into the two packs. She drops the one with the bigger half next to Boone’s bed. She kneels down, and gently nudges Rex awake.

“Come on, boy,” she says. When she straightens, the doctor says,

“You do know your friend is going to need to rest here for a couple of days, don’t you?” Lola nods, and holds out a satchel of caps out to the doctor.

“Will you be his physician until he’s ready to travel again?” she asks, fighting to keep the pleading tone that threatens to well up out of her voice. The doctor takes the satchel with a frown.

“May I ask why the sudden change of heart? You seemed unwilling to leave his side last night,” she says. Lola shakes her head.

“I’d rather you didn’t ask.” She makes her way to the door. When she turns to make sure Rex is following her, he has Boone’s beret in his mouth. She chuckles mirthlessly, taking it from him. She walks over to the nightstand next to Boone’s bed, and sets it down. She resists the urge to stroke his cheek, instead choosing to turn away from him.

“What the hell am I supposed to tell him?” the doctor demands. Lola dully meets her gaze.

“Tell him to go back to Novac, and that I’m not the answer he’s looking for,” she replies, walking out into the Mojave. Lola leaves her confidant, best friend, and tortured one-shot lover behind the closing door.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A throbbing in his shoulder pulls Boone away from the first good dream of Carla he has had since she died. He growls, and opens his eyes to an unfamiliar ceiling. The backs of his shoulders feel raw, and his belt is fastened too tight. He moves his hands down to adjust it, and notices that Lola’s scent clings to his skin.

“So, I see you’re awake,” a vaguely familiar voice says. He sits up, and immediately notices something missing.

“Where’s Haze and the mutt?” he asks gruffly, his eyes falling on the battered pack beside his bed. The doctor sighs, and rubs her temples.

“Your friend is really fucking cryptic, you know? She told me to tell you to go back to Novac, and that she isn’t the answer you’re looking for, or some such nonsense.” He reaches up to rub his shoulder, and feels thin scratches underneath his fingers.

“That’s it?” he asks, standing up. He bends over to pick his shirt off of the floor, slipping it over his head. He picks up his beret, and notices that it is damp with dog slobber. She couldn’t have left that long ago. He wipes it off to the best of his ability, and puts it on his head. He puts his sunglasses back on his face.

“That’s it. But I’m afraid you’re in no condition to travel,” the doctor chides, trying to lead him back to the bed. He swats her arms away, slinging the pack over his good shoulder.

“My rifle. Where is it?” he asks.

“By the door. But you’re really in no-“ he cuts her off by brusquely answering,

“I’m fine. Lola has shit aim with a gun, and all she has to protect her is that stupid dog. I’m going after her. “ He pushes past her to get his rifle. The doctor crosses her arms.

“You don’t even care that she probably doesn’t want you to follow her, do you?” she asks. Boone shrugs his rifle onto his back, wincing slightly as it knocks against his injury.

“No. I only care about keeping her alive,” he answers, and with those words he walks out into the Mojave after her.