It starts with Nate falling through the floor.
This corner of Boston has been more or less left alone by scavvers, most likely due to the nest of enormous ants currently leaking ichor into the hubflowers. Most of the houses are gutted, but there’s a little blacked out shop that looks untouched.
“Here you go.” Dogmeat whines miserably. Nick upends the bottle of water into his muzzle, washing out the bitter stink of ant blood. The whining turns to pants, Dogmeat’s tongue lolls, then licks Nick’s hand. “Better? Good boy.”
“You guys okay?” Nate is trying to peer in through the window, around the edges where the old paint is peeling. “Don’t think anything’s in here.”
Nick pats Dogmeat and walks over. He tries the door, it’s locked.
“I can-” Nate starts, reaching in his pocket for lockpicks.
Nick shakes his head, digs his metal fingers into the rotting wood, and pulls the lock out with a wet cracking sound.
“Or you could do that.” Nate crosses his arms across his chest, his eyes glint. “Show off.”
“It’s an insult to your fingers.” Nick tosses the rusted, jammed lump of garbage to the ground.
“I can think of better things I can do with them.” Nate bumps into Nick as he walks to the door, very lightly, but just enough so Nick can feel the length of his body against his.
“Hmm.” Nick runs his metal fingers down the back of Nate’s coat, catching on the juts of his shoulder blades. “Later.”
The shop inside is pitch dark, Nick digs out his old flashlight, Nate turns the light on his pipboy. The ancient, dusty shelves are light up in a mixture of green, underwater glow and strobe flashes. “Liquor shop?”
“Liquor shop.” Nate agrees. The place is silent, no chittering of radroaches or scrabbling of molerats. He lowers his gun, strolls in towards the ancient counter.
The floorboards crack under his boots like firecrackers, Nate jumps back and nearly falls over Dogmeat. “Oh-kay. Leave the bags here. Dogmeat, stay.”
The floorboards are creaking even under his weight, Nick sticks to the walls and starts sidling down towards the back rooms. Nate has the cash register open, and is putting his lockpicks to actual use cracking the little safe in the back wall.
Something pings in the back of Nick’s mind. Maybe it’s the layout, or maybe there aren’t many blacked out liquor shops in Old Nick’s past. “Think I might remember this place.”
Nate glances back from pulling the pile of ancient banknotes and a nice 10mm from the safe. He looks around the shop as though noticing it for the first time. “Vice squad?” There’s a long line of tension in those two words.
Nick hesitates. “I don’t know. Would it have been?”
“I think this was the place that sold dirty pictures.” Nate starts checking the back doors- but it looks like the back of the house has caved in. “Pity.”
And- maybe Old Nick had been in the Vice Squad, Nick pinches the bridge of his nose. “I think it might have been downstairs.” Nate looks at him. “If it helps, I don’t think it got beyond tip-offs.” Vice squad. He would have sworn Old Nick had never been part of it, but- there are too many blank spaces, “I’m not sure.”
Nate sighs, “Not surprised.” He walks over, and kisses Nick’s cheek. “You’re too nice, s’not something I’d want to remember either.”
Arresting streetwalkers and smut dancers and beautiful young men in dresses. Wrecking lives pointlessly in the name of a law so utterly bankrupt- Nick winces, no, not really.
Nate lowers himself to the floor carefully, fingers splaying on the cracked wood. Nick kneels down and points the torch down through the cracks. “Looks like something’s down there.”
Nick smiles. “Want to come down there and look-”
The floorboard cracks like a gunshot. There’s a cloud of dust and Nate vanishes in a startled gasp.
“Nate!” The hole is about a meter across. It’s hard to see anything through the dust, but Nate’s pipboy lights up the room below green through the floorboards. “Are you hurt?” He points the flashlight through the hole.
“Um-” he’s fine. “I think so.” Nate coughs. “I landing on something- flexible.”
Nick looks around, the cupboard. He knocks the drinks bottles to the ground, and slides it across to the hole. “Make some space!”
The floorboards crack and splinter under the weight. Nick braces the cupboard and slides it down into the basement. It creaks warningly, but settles with a foot or so standing clear. “Okay?”
“Um, yeah.” Nate sounds like he’s trying not to laugh. “Nick- you really, really have to see this. Bring the bags.”
Nick gets their things and pats Dogmeat. “Don’t think you can climb ladders boy, you stay and keep watch.” Dogmeat pants, then whines as Nick gets his legs down into the hole and slides down carefully. The cupboard has settled on top of a pile of half rotted pile of brightly coloured plastic- clothes? They slip under his feet and smell strangely sweet and decaying.
Nick steadies himself on the wall and looks around. The room looks like- Nick has no idea. A cross between a raider hideout and a really strange weapons store, with books thrown in.
It’s a good place to start. Nate’s crouched down beside a half collapsed shelf. Most of the books actually seem intact. “Well, we’ll have something for the library.”
Nate looks up, his shoulders are shaking and his face is flushed deep red. He’s biting his lip. “No way are we letting kids near this stuff.” He holds up a book.
It’s an art book. The drawings are ink, clear and crisp and precise and very good. Two very muscular men in leather are having sex on a motorcycle. Nick grins. “Ah, that kind of dirty picture shop.”
“What, you think I’d go to a place to see naked ladies?” Nate crosses his eyes, sticks his tongue out.
At least it looks like it didn’t get raided. Nick glances through the titles, erotic art books, hand printed pulp fiction, some rather interesting how-to manuals. Nate is flicking through happily and Nick imagines, for a moment, a young Nate. Not all that younger than now, with a stash of dirty books under his mattress, flicking through the pages under the covers.
Then Old Nick breaks into the reverie, Old Nick, leased out to the Vice Squad. Kicking the door down, charging in with guns drawn, down on the ground! Hands up! Hands up!
Or maybe a underground nightclub, men dancing with men, women with women, and maybe a nice young man, in a red dress, a little too young, a little too out of his depth.
Nick can’t feel sick. He doesn’t eat. He doesn’t have a stomach. But something feels wrong in his coolant. He pulls Nate in a little closer, Nate cuddles against him happily, flicking through the book. “I love this artist.”
It’s not quite Nick’s style, he likes things a little more teasing and less blatant, but yeah, he can see it. It must have been nice for young Nate to see a world in which people like him were- open and unashamed and happy, even if it was in hand drawn porn.
He’d seen John having sex with Fred on a motorcycle once. Had more than slightly public sex himself with Nate in the Third Rail. Honestly privacy did seem like something of the past now he thought of it. Looking down as Nate flips through the pages, he’s probably seen most of these situations, actually.
“Nateling.” Nick murmurs, and kisses the crown of his head. Nate hums happily and presses up against him. “What were they selling in the rest of this place?”
“Um,” Nate looks up, smiles. He presses a kiss to Nick’s lips very lightly. “This is- you know our, um, games? In bed?”
Oh. Those games. Yes. “Yes.” Nick manages.
“They sell props.”
Nick looks around. The only thing he can halfway recognises are the handcuffs. Actually- he gets up and checks. Padded handcuffs! Nate might like having bloody wrists but it always makes Nick’s coolant churn. He picks them up, the leather padding is slightly cracked, but they still look good.
He glances back at Nate, he’s hovering a few paces back, uncertain. “You- like them?”
There’s something hopeful there. Nick looks around. There are things here he can’t even begin to imagine what they are meant for. “You bought a lot from this place?”
“I wish.” Nate grins. “Just the books. But I did… day-dream.”
Okay. Nick looks around. The ropes, he gets. Most of them are half rotted, but there are some nice nylon ones still in good condition, and- oh, is those silk ribbons? He likes Nate in silk. They are faded, but a few still hold up in bright red. Mmmm. Yes.
Nate grins, picks up his pack, and empties it on the ground. Half dismantled cameras and typewriters and far too many packs of abraxo cleaner pile on the ground. “Here.” Nate grins. “You go shopping.”
“And what about you?” Nick picks up the choicest pieces and starts packing them away.
“Um,” Nate looks around. “There isn’t anything here I wouldn’t want to try.”
Nick glances around. Picks up a huge black whip with six tails that looks like something you could kill deathclaws with. Looks at Nate.
Nate bites his lip. “I am so turned on right now.” He takes the whip, “It’s really soft, you’d have to put nails in there to do any damage. It wouldn’t even bruise.” A pause. “I’m not into nails.” Another. “Your cigarettes though, that’s um- I’ll shut up.”
Nick takes it back, lets the tails trail over Nate’s hands, his cheek. Nate’s eyes drift closed and his exhales shakily. He is really, really into this. Nick weighs the whip in his hands, it is soft, but the leather is thick and sturdy even after all this time. He looks at Nate, pictures him naked, and Nick, with the whip, striking him. It might not bruise, but it would raise welts and- Nick is feeling two very contradictory emotions to this.
“Don’t know if this is my scene.” He hands Nate the whip back.
Nate hesitates, looks away. He’s trying to find the right words. “I’d like it.” He says carefully. “But only if you were enjoying it too. If you aren’t, I don’t want to do it.”
Nick nods. “We can try, who knows? It might be after all.” And gets a brilliant smile in return.
“Oh, lovely.” Nate purrs, stalks closer, presses against him and oh, Nick wants. And yes, suddenly the whip is entirely his scene and he wants to use it, land bright red blows across Nate’s back and chest and mark him his oh yes yes yes-
He drops a hand to Nate’s hip, squeezes maybe just a little too hard. Nate hisses happily.
“So,” Nick leans in and bites lightly at the hollow of Nate’s throat, just above the cinch of his scarf. “We’ve got our whips and chains. What else do you like?”
“Um-” Nate’s eyes are bright, he must be really aroused. “Well, there’s all this.” Nate is a little unsteady on his feet as he stumbles over to the next shelf. There are a lot of balls and straps, large blackout eye coverings. “If you want me to be quiet-” He holds one of the balls up, opens his mouth to show where it would fit.
“No.” Nick takes it back. “I like it when you talk.” He cups Nate’s cheek and Nate just melts, fluid and entirely overtaken with happiness. “I don’t like these either.” He brushes the blindfolds away. “If you want to pretend you’re with someone else-”
It’s too sharp, too cutting, Nate’s eyes go wide. “No! Just- it, you feel more. Less distractions. But yeah- you’re not into them. Forget it.”
Nick hesitates, but- no. He puts a hand on Nate’s shoulder, it’s not his fault. Nick isn’t upset. He feels the tension flow out of Nate’s body, and yes, that’s better. He casts around for something else to focus on and oh- oh.
Nate follows his gaze, and giggles. “Oh. Yes. Those.”
The leather ones are almost entirely rotten, but there are a few plastic and- goodness, glass ones- that are perfectly fine. A few harnesses hang up on the wall, and Nick can see where they would slot in, be worn low and comfortably, perfectly angled-
“Um.” Nate is distinctly red around the neck and cheeks. “If you want- if that’s okay- yes. I mean- yes.”
And oh Nick can imagine it, has imagined it. Maybe he has dreamed of this. Nate draped over his desk, open and panting. Pressed up against the wall, trembling and desperate. Here. Just here, on a pile of the soft decayed plastic, legs spread, rock hard and wanting.
He’s seen Nate like that before, of course, but only had his mouth and hands to use before. This would be- something new. Yes.
“I- oh Atom.” Nate rubs his forehead. “I love what we do. I don’t want you to think I’m not completely happy- but if you wanted, I’d really like that too. But only if you wanted it. Really. Not just for me.”
Does he? It feels- like a mockery. Nick wonders what he would feel if he didn’t have Old Nick’s memories. If he was like Dima. Would he just jump at the chance to fuck Nate with these prostheses? See it as an opportunity instead of a- a mockery? Pretending to something he wasn’t? Pretending to be a human being, with all the parts he didn’t have?
Nate hooks his chin over Nick’s shoulders, hands coming up around his waist. The trembling, feverish heat of him soaks through both layers of their clothing. God, Nick loves him.
Old Nick had loved Jenny. Nick wonders what they would have done had Nick had an- accident. If he’d ended up like Nick. Had been unable to give Jenny what she wanted. Would he have come to a place like this, and bought something like this, so she could be happy?
Yes. That feels a hell of a lot better. It feels fair, and sensible. Nick picks up a particularly nice looking number, pretty much perfectly preserved. Firm plastic, flexible. He feels Nate’s breath pick up, eager.
“Oh fuck.” Nate groans. “Atom yes.” He ruts up against Nick and even through the thick cloth and kevlar of his coat, he’s very, very hard.
“I’m not figuring this out down here.” Nick picks out a sturdy looking harness, packs it and a few of the- well, yes, dildos, in Nate’s pack. “We’re going somewhere with proper lighting, locking doors, and no chance of a deathclaw crashing the party.”
Nate nods happily, his eyes are a little glazed, just- lost in the moment. Nick smiles and gently pushes him back towards a likely looking pile of cloth. Maybe long ago it was some risque lingerie, but it’s long gone into piles of wispy cloth. “Hope you don’t want to dress up.”
“We can check it later.” Nate flumps down in a soft cloud of fluffy white. “Bet you’d like it,” he slurs, fingers fumbling with his coat. Nick settles down between Nate’s legs and gives him a hand. “I could get naughty slips and stockings and garter belts and- all that, under my dress, and then I’d take them off for you.” He grins, lopsided, “One at a time. I could dance it for you.”
Nick can’t get turned on. He doesn’t have the parts or the chemistry for it, but damn it if Nate doesn’t get close. Right now, he wants, blind and senseless and without direction. He untucks Nate’s scarf and gets his teeth into the lovely soft skin just above Nate’s collarbone.
Nate is turned on enough for both of them. His eyes roll back and he trembles, legs rigid. He’s close. This isn’t going to last long, more’s the pity. “Tell me what you want.” Nick’s voice drops, rougher. “This isn’t just about me. What do you want, Nate Brooks?”
Nate groans at his name. “I- I want-” he chokes, gasps. “Fuck- I want you. I want you to- to scratch me with your hands so I’m bleeding. I want you to wrap your fingers round my neck so I can’t breathe. I want- fuck fuck oh Atom- want you to tell me what to do- tell me to crawl, beg, blow you. And I can now.” Another wonderful, slipshod smile. “Oh yeah, I want to blow you. Anytime.”
Nick nods. He’s got Nate’s coat open. He always wears that red dress under it, and it's limp and damp with sweat, clinging tight to Nate’s scrawny body. He runs his metal fingers across Nate’s ribs, ducking down to the hollow of his abdomen, sharp against the protruding hipbones. Nate keens.
“Keep talking.” Nick breathes into his ear. Licks. Nate’s hips cant up desperately. “Everything you want.”
“I- I- oh fuck- I want you to- to tie me up.” Nate shudders, his whole body caught up in it, helpless. “Do- anything you want to me. Fuck me. Beat me with that- with that whip.” He’s close. Nick pulls the hem of the dress up to free Nate’s rock hard cock, pressed up tight inside his underpants. Nate’s eyes are closed, breathing coming in short, heavy gasps. “Put you- your cigarettes out on me. On my skin.”
“I’ll hurt you.” Nick murmurs.
Nate groans. “I’d like that.” His eyes half slit open, yellowish amusement and suddenly in control again. “I get hurt by way worse people. I’d like it to be you.”
Nick nods, not agreeing, but not saying no. He presses his metal hand, palm flat on Nate’s cock. The heat of it is an almost painful shock and Nate groans, so loud and sudden Nick can’t help but glance up to make sure no one else heard.
“I don’t know what I want.” Nick whispers, face pressed close until he can smell Nate’s close-cropped hair, sweat and plastic and leather from his gasmask. “But I want it with you. Whatever it is.”
Nate’s mouth pulls up into a truly brilliant smile. “Yes.” It’s breathtaking. “Anything. With you.”
Nick kisses him, reaches into his pants and grasps him. Two strokes and Nate comes like a gunshot, back buckling, cresting into a perfect arch. Head thrown back and eyes and mouth open, breathless and speechless as though Nick had just delivered all the secrets of the universe, just for him.
And so Nick just has to lean in and spoil it, taste Nate’s mouth all over again. He tastes of mutifruit and tea, and the bloodleaf roots he uses to clean his teeth. Nate breathes harder into Nick’s mouth, his body trembles and twitches, too overwhelmed to do anything more.
“You’re mine.” Nick whispers. After all this, he can say it, when sometimes he’d been too scared to think it, for fear Nate would be snatched away if he did. He feels Nate smile against his mouth. “I love you.”
It’s still difficult to say, comes out stiff and stilted, like he’s quoting from somewhere rather than just- talking. Saying the absolutely truth. Nate opens his eyes, “Love you too.” And why can’t Nick say it like that, so easy and happy and natural? Maybe it’s practice. Maybe he should try more often. “So much.” His arms come around Nick, pulls him close, Nick’s probably getting cum all over his coat but oh well, it’s had much worse.
He kisses Nate again, and again, and Nate kisses back, and for a few minutes there’s something but that and Nick is very glad he can hold off on breathing for a while. Then Nick slides off next to Nate and there’s a lot of cuddling and arms and legs everywhere and Nick gets a foot caught in Nate’s coat and Nate’s head bumps into Nick’s jaw a bit too hard but it doesn’t matter. It should be this way. It’s perfect.
“I didn’t do anything.” Nate murmurs, and digs his hands under Nick’s coat. Nick gently catches his hands, and pulls them away. Not now, it would just be a distraction and Nick is very, very happy where he is. “I didn’t do anything for you.” Nate frowns sleepily.
“You did everything.” Nick kisses him again. “I’m pretty damn happy.”
“I’m gonna fall asleep.” Nate yawns, gets his face in the v of Nick’s shirt, breath warm on his skin.
“S’as good a place as any.” Nick looks around. Dogmeat’s outside and can warn them if anything comes near, this place is warm and comfortable and dry, and after a nap they can carry on shopping.
“Okay.” Nate sighs, closes his eyes. “Don’t leave,”
“Couldn’t pay me to move.” Nick hugs him, holds on until he feels Nate’s body go limp under his arms, his breathing evening into sleep. Nick lies back beside Nate on the pile of ancient stockings and negligees and goodness knows what, and looks up at the cracks ceiling.
Funny, but he’s beginning to see what Nate means now. He does wonder if anyone, before the bombs, could have possibly been as happy as he is, right now.