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Well, fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck, fucking shitballs.

Deacon’s brain utterly fails to provide anything else in his hour of need, just a nonsense stream of increasingly uncreative curses as a spray of gunfire spatters above his head. He scrambles backward and away, ducking behind the crumbling concrete wall of a pre-war house that’s still somewhat intact. Pinned down by Gunners on one side, a pair of spectacularly pissed off Supermutants on the other, and not for the first time Deacon thinks he should’ve just sat this one out.

The whole mission had been fishy from the start — Deacon’s seen his share of creepy, insulated settlements in his time, but Covenant was something else entirely. The psuedo-intellectual ‘entrance exam’ was enough to set his teeth on edge, but even after he was inside everyone was locked down and closed off in a permanent, opaque way that had him burning every trick in his book to get anything more than polite chitchat. Three months of dedicated undercover work and Deacon’s got zilch to show for it other than a vague, nebulous something, something to do with synths and money and the metallic tang of violence.

And now this, a spectacularly unlucky dead-drop placement, and as he hurriedly shoves another magazine into his pistol and glances up for a half a second at the chaos around him he can see how it’ll all play out. Like Foxtrot’s fancy-shmancy VATS overlay, time slowing down and spreading outward, a puzzle he could solve if he was faster, smarter, if he were just twenty percent better.

Grizzled Gunner Captain will find a better position, maybe getting her footing up on that mound of rubble, and Deacon will try to duck, will try to squeeze behind every inch of cover he can, but even he won’t be able to wriggle out of this one. She’ll hit hard and precise, and her bullet will rip through his low-quality ballistic weave like wet paper (he should’ve upgraded — why didn’t he? Stupid of him. Should’ve listen to Glory, should’ve let one of the new agents take this on, should’ve should’ve should’ve). Her lieutenants will mop up the Supermutants — one of them’s already limping from a well-placed shotgun blast — and then she’ll methodically strip him down for anything useful and leave him here to bleed out in the dirt.

Joe. That’s the name he was using in Covenant. Joseph “Call Me Joe” Pinard. They might find his body, those Covenant people. Could even bury him with the rest of their damned secrets if they were feeling generous, under a stranger’s name in a settlement he hates on a cold day in February, and all for nothing. Deacon thought he was at peace with that inevitability, with the Dada-esque pointlessness of it all, but hey, apparently not. Getting all sentimental here at the end.

Deacon blinks once and the world snaps back into focus, instantaneous and knife-sharp: debris crunching under his boots, the crashing thud and roar of a downed Supermutant, his entire body screaming danger run move go go go. But before he can do more than suck in another breath and his gun toward his best guess of Grizzled Gunner Captain’s location, he’s knocked backward by the impact of her shot in his shoulder.

It burns, rippling hot and acidic down his arm, and when Deacon’s head smacks against the ground the world goes blurry, his vision smearing around the edges. The sky swerves up above him as his gun clatters against the hard-packed earth, every thought blown out of his head, empty except for — snow — ?

Incredibly, impossibly, Deacon feels snowflakes brush against his face, cool and oddly dry.

Snow. It’s snowing.

It hasn’t snowed properly in the Commonwealth in decades. Some flurries here and there, but whatever nuclear weapons ripped the sky apart fucked up the weather patterns so badly that, even though snow used to be a regular feature in Boston, it’s as rare as a pack of untouched cigarettes these days.

Beautiful, he thinks, before the whipcrack of pain in the back of his skull jolts him back.

Shakes his head once, filing this miracle snowfall away to be considered later, if and only if he makes it out of this alive. He scoots backwards, wounded arm dragging uselessly at his side, and with his other hand grabs a spare Stimpack from the bottom of his pack. Jams it just below his gunshot wound, the needle sinking in effortlessly, and starts counting backwards from thirty, gritting his teeth against the instantaneous, unbearable itching.

This won’t save him, he thinks bitterly. A lucky break, his girl’s a worse shot that he thought, but he’s running on empty now. Band-aid on a gunshot wound — didn’t Foxtrot say that once? Some prewar saying? Deacon should know, should remember, but...

fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven

Then the weak sunlight goes dark for a split-second, heartstopping and quick as lightning, and he realizes it’s a shadow. A person is standing above him. Dark coat, tall, their back to Deacon and a rifle in their hands, firing away from Deacon, firing at his attackers, and for a harebrained moment Deacon wonders if he’s seeing the legendary Commonwealth Mysterious Man, mythic fever dream and local cryptid, come to save him; even more stupidly, a childlike voice he thought was long dead whispers angel...

“Glory?” he moves his lips soundlessly, and the figure turns toward him just enough for Deacon to catch a sliver of sunglasses, of snowflakes resting on high cheekbones and full lips, and he goes limp with shock and relief and other things he’s not too keen on examining right now.

X6; beautiful, deadly, standing over him like a goddamn superhero while Deacon tries to summon the energy to do anything other than gape at his rescuer.

He draws in a breath to speak, to say what exactly he doesn’t know, but X6 beats him to it.

“Stay down,” X6 says calmly, in that voice that Deacon’s spent months clinging to, trying to conjure alone in his room after their bittersweet parting. “And stay quiet.”

Right, Deacon thinks, the snow falling heavier now around them, and feels a crazed urge to laugh. Stay quiet. Death was moments away, but sure. Quiet it is.

Regulating his breathing, he gently moves his injured arm, ignoring the discomfort and his suddenly painfully dry mouth, confirming that yep, he’s all healed, or at least no longer dangerously incapacitated.

It probably takes only a few moments for X6 to take the rest of them out — Deacon could list the virtues of X6 all day long, but above all else he’s efficient — but to Deacon, prone on the ground and hyper-aware of the rush of stims in his system, it feels like an hour. His breathing is loud in his own ears, scrape of breath in his lungs, and even when he hauls himself up to get a better view his sightlines are blocked by the bulk of X6’s body.

Finally, mercifully, it goes quiet, and X6 crouches down on his heels next to Deacon.

“Hey,” Deacon croaks. “What’s a fella like you doin’ in a place like this?”

X6 ignores him and turns his gaze to Deacon’s arm, already reaching for another Stimpack, but Deacon doesn’t miss the twitch of his lips. The patented X6 Almost-Smile. Gotcha, he thinks giddily, blearily. Gotcha, big guy.

“I’m fine, by the way,” Deacon keeps going, head still swimming slightly. “Not that I don’t appreciate the assistance, mind, but I already patched myself up. I can walk once I catch my breath.” He really doesn’t want another dose of stims.

“Hmmm,” X6 makes a doubtful noise and reaches with one hand to cup Deacon’s head, his fingers pressing delicately around to the back of his skull. It’s oddly soothing, until —

“Ouch! Jeez, easy there,” Deacon yelps, sitting up suddenly to escape the probing fingers, and X6 releases him.

“I — apologies.” X6 says, backing away slightly before resettling. The snow is accumulating in little piles on the shoulders of his jacket. “You’ve suffered a moderate head injury in addition to the gunshot wound. You need medical attention.”

“Yeah,” Deacon says, every muscle in his body protesting as he struggles to sit up straight. “Well, we’re a long way from HQ. We’re a long way from everywhere far as I can tell, so I’ll have to make do.”

X6 stands in one fluid, enviable motion, extending a hand to Deacon.

“Thanks,” Deacon says, taking X6’s hand with his good arm and feeling that startling strength haul him gently up to his feet. “Seriously. You uh. I mean, you definitely saved my life, and ‘thank you’ seems entirely inadequate, but…”

He trails off, rubbing his itchy, injured arm, trying once again to give X6 the space Deacon knows he needs. It’s a tricky balance — sincere but casual, friendly but distant. Offering everything, but asking very little, stifling that tiny, howling cry of 'more, more, more'.

X6 grits his teeth against the compliment, swallows once, and finally says, “It’s nothing. I would not...I would be sorry, if you had died.”

“Me too, buddy,” Deacon says easily, and then finally takes a good look around the area. “Uhhh. Is it snowing...kinda hard?”

There's a distinct, Deacon-shaped outline on the ground where he’d been sprawled out, white powder scattering outward around his Almost Died spot. Overhead the clouds are a thick, grey blanket, and the snow is falling faster every second.

“Affirmative,” X6 says without looking. “We need to get you to shelter as quickly as possible. Snowstorms like this can become dangerous.”

“But — ” Deacon protests, holding out a hand and shivering as the flakes melt against his skin. “It’s so pretty. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen snow — this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

“It certainly will be if you die of exposure,” X6 says, deadpan as ever, and Deacon laughs. “There’s an abandoned outpost a few miles away — I can’t speak to its comfort, but it will be preferable to enduring the storm out here.”

Abandoned Institute outpost. Christ Almighty.

“Fair enough. Would be pretty rude of me to die on you now, after you went to all this trouble,” he says, letting the rest of the obvious question hang between them, delicate as the chime of an unrung bell.

How did X6 find him? And why?

The Institute proper has been gone for almost a year now, the radioactive crater in Cambridge a perfect memento, but it hasn’t been fully eradicated — there were Institute scientists who made it out of the main assault, as well as pockets of researchers and sympathizers who went deep underground after the fall of their leader. Those remnants have been doing what they can to regroup and rebuild, have been scouring the Commonwealth for escaped and lost synths and consolidating their impressive resources to begin again. He hasn’t been on those missions, but he knows Foxtrot is up to his elbows in that mess.

It’s possible they’ve found X6. Recruited him. It’s more than possible.

No. No. Deacon’s so not going there, isn’t even for one second considering that X6 would go back to that, to being an object, a gun in someone else’s hand, a tool for his own oppression. Not after everything that’s happened since…well, Sanctuary wasn’t exactly a paradise for him, but still...

Who the fuck is he kidding. Of course he’s thinking it.

The only two people who knew where he was going were Foxtrot and Des, and now his favorite ex-courser and one-time lover just happens to show up out of nowhere to save his stupid life. It’s bizarre, off-kilter, so coincidental it’s statistically impossible, and Deacon knows damn well what it could mean.

If the Institute sent X6 after anyone, it’d be him.

That's just the worst case scenario, he reminds himself. There are other possibilities. Maybe X6 got lovelorn and missed him and followed him here (yeah, right). Maybe Foxtrot sent him out on something else entirely; maybe Foxtrot thought he’d been in Covenant too long and needed extraction. Maybe. Maybe. He shivers again as the cold wind knifes through his chest.

“Come,” X6 says, turning away and walking west toward the hills. “The longer we wait, the worse it will get.”

No kidding, Deacon thinks ruefully, and for half a second weighs his choices. Stay out here, injured and limping, and die of exposure? Or roll the dice with someone he sort of trusts. Someone he likes, someone he admires and still desperately wants to kiss, someone who once would’ve killed him without a second thought.

Not much of a choice.

Deacon nods, takes a moment to double-check that his gun is loaded and secure in the holster inside his jacket, and follows X6 out through the swirling snow.

———————

By the time they reach the safehouse the snow is falling fast and thick, and he’s shivering so hard he can barely walk. His clothes are soaked through, ice crusting over his arms and legs, and it’s only with help from X6 that he can stumble in through the door.

“Okay...I’ve reversed my opinion...on snow,” he says through chattering teeth, barely even seeing the room, just registering the glorious lack of wind. “Snow is not...magical. Snow is horrible...on par with Foxtrot’s singing... And that’s saying something...believe me. That man can’t carry a tune...in a bucket...with a lid on it...”

X6 ignores him, just gestures for him to sit down on the only chair in the room before returning to the door, clicking the locks in place and probably something even more high-tech to barricade them in here. Deacon glances around, too exhausted to do more than wheeze and drip all over the floors.

It’s smaller and more Spartan than he expected; barely more than one room, with a mattress, a desk, and shelves of canned food all crammed together. No windows, but electricity and some terminals that, were Deacon not currently using all his available energy to resist freezing his ass to the chair, he’d be itching to check out. The room is definitely insulated, is miles better than outside, but even in here Deacon’s struggling to get a full breath, his chest tight and aching.

“You need to get out of those clothes,” X6 says, coming over and kneeling in front of him. Before Deacon can really process what’s happening, X6 is bracing Deacon’s booted foot on his thigh and picking the laces apart with nimble fingers, slowly working the sodden knots apart.

“Just...tryin’ to get me naked again...huh,” Deacon says. He can’t really feel his toes. Tries to wiggle them, but he isn’t sure it’s working.

“I am trying to prevent you getting hypothermia,” X6 says, a rare note of strain in his voice. He seems almost...nervous.

That can’t be good.

“Hey, I’m not complaining,” Deacon says. “Any opportunity is...a good one...in my books.” X6 peels his sock off and holds his foot in both hands for a moment. It’s strangely intimate — no one’s ever touched him like this before, and he almost ruins the moment by laughing at the expression on X6’s face: frowning down at his foot, disapproving of how cold it allowed itself to get, sternly and wordlessly demanding that it simply become warmer.

“You’re still shivering, at least. Your body’s internal heat regulation systems are behaving normally,” X6 says, moving on to Deacon’s other foot. The muddy, icy water from Deacon’s boot is soaking into the fabric of X6’s pants. Black, like his jacket. Not a Courser uniform, not quite, but closer than the clothing he’d wear in Sanctuary. Deacon’s heartbeat kicks up another notch.

“Wait a minute,” Deacon says, automatically keeping the conversation going. “How come you’re not...shaking apart from the cold? Don’t we have...basically the same internal equipment?”

X6 finishes pulling off Deacon’s other boot and sock, and stands to his full height. Not for the first time, Deacon registers just how tall X6 is. He’d be tall even pre-War, and compared to most of the shorter, slighter people around today, his height is even more striking. It still sends prickles across the back of Deacon’s neck, sets him on edge, fizzing like a shook-up bottle of Nuka Cola.

“I was designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. It’s uncomfortable, but not like it is for you,” he says simply, then pulls Deacon up to his feet.

“Huh,” Deacon says, shrugging off his jacket clumsily, and testing another wiggle of his toes. Something, but not much. “Another perk for you guys, I guess.”

“Indeed. Now strip,” X6 says calmly.

“E-excuse me?” Deacon splutters, only somewhat joking. Sex was one thing, but huddling in bed naked and pathetic with this paragon of handsomeness in the same room isn’t something he’s exactly thrilled about.

“Strip. And get in the bed,” X6 says again, with just the slightest trace of a tease in his voice.

“This is starting to sound...medically unethical,” Deacon complains, stalling. He wants his gun nearby, just in case. Just in case it’s not his impressive paranoia but his survival instincts setting off alarm bells left and right. Surely he’s not that close to freezing to death, and X6 would know that.

“Feel free to register your complaint to the Board of Directors,” X6 says, and even Deacon can’t hold back a chuckle at that one.

“Fine,” he says with a theatrical huff. Keep it light, keep it silly. Just in case.

His fingers aren’t as bad as his toes — he manages everything, even the zipper to his jeans after an embarrassing fumble, and only the barest hesitation for his underwear. No enticing blushes on X6’s face, at least none that Deacon can catch, but he’s definitely got his attention. Deacon debates whether to do a quick, sexy spin — I’m watching you watch me — but with his luck today he’d probably overbalance and twist his ankle.

“You gonna join me?” Deacon asks, crawling in and pulling the one blanket around him like a cocoon. “Since I’m sooo cooold.” That last with an exaggerated shiver and a wink.

X6 hesitates, and the back of Deacon’s neck tingles. A little flirty teasing isn’t usually enough to throw X6 off his game — it barely was in the beginning, and certainly not now. Something’s just off. X6 is coiled up even more than usual, and if Deacon weren’t exhausted and still aching from the gunshot wound and, fake shiver or no, very cold, he’s sure he’d have it figured out by now. Or at least have a backup plan other than ‘hope this dude is just crushing on you, because otherwise the evidence points toward him killing or kidnapping you in your sleep’.

“Yes. Combined body heat will help warm you up faster and more efficiently than the blanket alone,” X6 says, and Deacon makes sure to grin nice and big for him.

Death or sex. Sex or death. Man, mild hypothermia really mellows a guy out.

For once Deacon lets it sit, doesn’t quip back or wiggle around, just watches while X6 takes his clothes off and folds them neatly. Sunglasses still on, Deacon can’t help noting, and slides his own off. He turns to put them gently under the bed frame (on top of his gun, the gun deliberately within reach under the arm of his jacket), and closes his eyes when the mattress dips and X6 slides in.

He should stay hyperaware. He should certainly stay awake and conscious and on alert for anything that feels like a setup. He should keep asking X6 questions. He should, if he’s being honest with himself, start asking X6 questions. He shouldn’t worry that his probing would scare X6 away, or that X6 would see this as a betrayal of trust.

Deacon doesn’t trust. Deacon’s spent the last twenty years teaching every agent not to trust, to put their faith in themselves and no one else. This isn’t trusting X6, not really. This is just Deacon, falling asleep next to the most dangerous person he’s ever met, because right now he’s useless.

Just a few hours of rest and he’ll be up and running again; his mind will be clearer, won’t be so hobbled by pain and shock and the disorienting, drug-like happiness at seeing X6 again. He knows himself, knows he’s barely holding on, and besides, it’s not like X6 needs to wait for Deacon to be asleep or incapacitated to kill him. Deacon wouldn’t stand a chance, if that’s what X6 is really after. He’s only got one card with him, and he’s playing it right now.

After a moment, X6 tentatively wraps one arm around Deacon, warm and strong, and Deacon sighs and presses in closer, velvety sleep already pulling him under.

“Thank you,” Deacon whispers, and he means it. Whatever comes next, X6 saved his life. That’s not nothing. That’s never nothing.

“You’re welcome,” X6 says quietly, his breath ghosting across Deacon’s skin.

———————

He wakes with a start, eyes flying open, heart drumming a panicked tattoo in his chest as he scrambles up. Wisps of a dream are still clinging to him; painfully white walls and the overbright splatter of blood, straps holding him down with nowhere to hide. He dimly registers X6’s body next to him, then glances around the room to reorient himself.

Deliberately slowing his breathing, he twists around to see X6, awake and watching him, his face unreadable as ever, but he’s slid his sunglasses off. Dark brown eyes, as beautiful as every other part of him, and Deacon’s uncomfortably aware of how nice it feels to see X6 first thing after waking up. It feels...safe, which means he’s in even more danger than he thought.

The corner of X6's mouth twitches upward, and Deacon can’t help smiling back. More odd behavior, more warning signs? Or genuine affection from someone who’s had very, very little affection in his life? Even odds, I’d say. X6 sits up, the blanket sliding off his chest, and Deacon swallows hard as his morning erection gives a decided, interested twitch.

“Sorry,” Deacon blurts, willing his voice to smooth out. “Did I wake you?”

“No,” X6 says, and before Deacon can keep going with the chitchat X6 is reaching for him, wrapping one hand around the back of Deacon’s head and gently pulling him closer.

“Oh,” Deacon breathes, more taken aback than he’d ever admit. X6’s face is inches away from his own, one leg pressing up against his under the blanket. He’s warm, he’s so deliciously warm, the air between them like liquid gold.

“Do you…” X6 pauses, and for a moment his mouth curls downward like he’s grimacing, like he’s fighting against something. “I want to kiss you. Do you want…?”

Yes, God yes, and before he can stop himself he’s saying it out loud. A bad idea, definitely a bad idea, and judging by the flash of surprise in X6’s eyes they both know it.

Wasn’t expecting me to take him up on it, huh? God, we don’t really know each other at all.

“Yes, yes, definitely yes on that one,” Deacon says, deliberately not letting his brain catch up with his instincts, deliberately ignoring why he’s having nightmares about an Institute-led horror show, and holy hell he’s grateful for the gamble when X6 grins, fully grins and kisses him.

And oh, it’s as good as he remembers. Better maybe. X6 kisses him greedily, hungrily, and Deacon lets his shoulders and head fall back against the concrete wall behind them. X6’s tongue is in his mouth, hot and slick, and Deacon’s already embarrassingly hard cock jerks when X6 shifts until he’s on top of Deacon, straddling him, sitting in his lap. Deacon feels pinned, trapped, and god that shouldn’t be as much of a turn-on as it is.

“I — uh,” Deacon murmurs, breaking away to gulp some air, and presses up into the weight of X6’s body, hands sliding up and around X6’s hips, his thumbs drifting close to the triangle of X6’s dark pubic hair. Thinks they should probably stop, or slow down, or talk about this, because he feels almost drunk with how surreal this moment is: making out with X6 again in an Institute safehouse, when he’s 100% sure that X6 is hiding something from him and about 30% sure that thing is ‘by the way, I’ve rejoined the Institute and have been tasked with your removal.’

But it feels good, it feels so good to have X6 on top of him, his lips trailing down his neck, and his cock is right there. Deacon reaches out and wraps his fingers around X6’s dick, not moving, just holding him, and even that light touch has X6 gasping and pushing forward, and it’s all Deacon can do not to pull him up to his knees and get his mouth around him again, ask X6 to slide his cock past Deacon’s lips and fuck his mouth up against the wall.

Dangerous. Inadvisable. Compromised.

“So just kissing? That’s all you want, huh?” Deacon’s voice is hoarse, his hand tightening around X6’s cock, deliberately not playing fair.

“No,” X6 says again, and bites down on the juncture of Deacon’s neck and shoulder, running his tongue against the skin caught between his teeth. Deacon moans, wrapping one arm around X6 to pull him closer and tilting his head to the side, giving X6 more access, giving him everything. “I want to fuck you.”

Fuuuck. Deacon groans, and feels X6 breathe out hard against his shoulder. Yeah. You got me, he thinks, and then X6 is kissing him again til he’s panting, til his tilting his hips up to get some friction on his cock. When X6 pulls away he’s as breathless as Deacon, lips a little swollen and even more enticing, but he’s looking at Deacon like he wants to eat him, like he’s a delicious prize. Deacon shudders untouched.

“On you back,” X6 says huskily, and even through the arousal twisting hot and heavy in his gut, Deacon hears the order in the request. Wonders if X6 has ever gotten to call the shots in bed before, has ever gotten to set the pace. He shoves the rest of that thought away; that X6 is unbelievably handsome, that he’s certainly been used by the Institute for personal gratification, that some of that sexual experience X6 had teased him about before was the direct result of some highly questionable acts by people who didn’t even see him as sentient…

But X6 is urging him down on his back, his hands pushing Deacon’s legs apart then reaching down into his jacket for a small tube, and Deacon reels himself back into the present.

“Is that...lube?” Deacon asks, laughing a little to cover his surprise. “You carry that around with you?”

“I am always prepared,” X6 says smoothly, sexily, and Deacon’s brain ticks one more dash in the ‘this is a set-up’ column.

Damnit. Maybe I really need to get out of here, he thinks through the haze of arousal, right as X6 finally reaches out to touch his achingly hard cock, and fuck him sideways but it feels so good he stops breathing for a second.

“Do you still want to?” X6 asks, watching Deacon’s reactions closely.

Do I?

“Yeah,” Deacon says, with the rock-solid reasoning of ‘I can’t exactly escape now without tipping him off’ and ‘Better to die seduced and well-fucked than naked in the wilderness with my neck snapped’, and only the faintest trace of ‘X6 wouldn’t do that to me’.

“Alright,” X6 says, and Deacon can hear the smile in his voice. “Keep your legs spread.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Deacon breathes, only half-joking, and X6 rewards him with a few more firm strokes.

The brush of slick, wet fingers against his ass makes him sigh — it’s been a long time since he’s done this, too long, but his body remembers. X6 presses into him slowly, one finger at a time, stretching him open, and Deacon winces slightly against the discomfort, until —

“Ohhhh yeah,” Deacon moans, pressing down against X6’s fingers, shamelessly riding X6’s hand. X6 wiggles his fingers and Deacon gasps, his cock rock hard and leaking precum against his stomach.

“Ready?” X6’s voice is low, intent, and Deacon shivers.

“Yeah, yeah,” Deacon gasps, and is a little startled when X6 effortlessly flips him over to his hands and knees.

“Like this. I want you like this,” X6 says, leaning over him, his cock pressing into Deacon’s ass.

“Okay, yeah,” Deacon says, nearly mindless with his desire for X6 to touch him, to fuck him. “Whatever you want, baby.”

And that seems to be the magic word — X6 groans, his hands tightening on Deacon’s hips before spreading him apart. He pushes himself in slowly, thick and hot, and Deacon breathes through the stretch, turning his face sideways against the mattress. He wishes he could see it, could see the slide of X6’s cock in his ass. Just imagining what it looks like makes him groan and push back.

When he’s fully seated inside him, X6 holds still, letting Deacon adjust.

“More?” X6 says, and Deacon lets out a hard breath.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he says urgently, shifting slightly in X6’s grip.

“Tell me,” X6 says, and it would sound aggressive if his voice wasn’t so ragged with need, if his hands on Deacon’s hips weren’t gentle and encouraging. An order, but not really. More like the idea of an order.

“Fuck me, please,” Deacon says, and he means it. “I — God, you have no idea how many times I’ve jerked off to exactly this. Please, please just move.”

There’s something there, something to be examined later if he actually gets out of this alive, X6’s twisted relationship with power, and wielding it — he wants to but he doesn’t, it turns him on but it scares him, maybe.

Fuck now, get out of alive, and ponder the mysteries of X6 later.

Finally, finally, X6 pulls out and slides back in, one hand holding Deacon steady and the other moving to wrap around his cock. Once more, twice, and on the third the head of X6’s cock presses right against his prostate, and Deacon moans as the pleasure sparks through his groin and along his spine.

It spurs X6 on, and he picks up the pace, hitting that spot inside Deacon on every other stroke, and it doesn’t take long at all for Deacon to gasp up at X6.

“I’m...close, baby, I’m close.”

“G-good,” X6 says, thrusting harder, stroking Deacon’s cock and driving him crazy. Deacon’s body jerks against the mattress, liquid fire coursing through him, roaring in his ears as the knot inside him tightens to a breaking point.

He comes silently, spilling messily over X6’s hand and the sheets, voice caught on a groan and squeezing his eyes shut. Fuck. Fuck.

“Almost...almost,” X6 breathes above him, and there’s a pained hitch in his breath that sounds almost like mourning, like grief.

He bites down again on Deacon’s shoulder when he comes, muffling the sound, just on the edge of painful and definitely hard enough to leave a mark. He pulls Deacon up against him, wrapping one arm around his chest, his perfect heartbeat thudding against Deacon’s back. Deacon doesn’t say anything, just lets himself be held.

It feels good, but it doesn’t last.

X6 releases him after a minute, carefully pulls out, and Deacon lets himself collapse gracelessly on the mattress, aftershocks still thrumming sweetly in his blood.

“There’s a bathroom back and to the left,” X6 says finally, his voice closer to normal, and Deacon turns to look at him.

The sunglasses are back on, and he’s wiped himself clean on a corner of the sheet. He’s completely unselfconscious in his nudity, standing as casually as if he were in his full Courser armor. It’s strangely charming — X6 is definitely one of the top five Most Guarded People Deacon’s ever met, and nearly everyone is even more nervous when naked.

But not X6. He keeps everything on the inside, not even a hint of what goes on below the surface. Can't forge that, hotshot.

“Thanks,” Deacon says, and grabs the pile of clothing — including his gun still tucked under his jacket — and quickly walks to the bathroom, feigning slight embarrassment.

When he emerges, freshly cleaned and newly armed and completely unsure of what’s coming next, X6 is already dressed. Standing at the door, his back to Deacon, X6 clicks a few locks and punches in a code on a small screen, then opens the door.

Cold sunlight streams in, bracing and clear, so bright that Deacon instinctively shields his eyes.

“You should get back,” X6 says quietly, and Deacon waits. Not naming Covenant, or HQ, or anything specific. No clues as to what he knows, as to why he’s here. Just an open door.

“Yeah,” Deacon agrees, blinking as his eyes adjust to the light. “You, too.”

Back to Sanctuary? Back to another Institute Outpost? The questions are on the tip of his tongue, but something in X6’s face, in the anxious way he’s running his thumb against his forefinger, holds him back.

“This was fun,” Deacon says, pulling up his best carefree smile. “We should do it again sometime.”

“You do tend to turn up in the strangest places,” X6 says, and that’s the closest Deacon thinks he’ll get to an answer. Not Sanctuary, then, but something else. Something to give him a purpose, a reason to be out in the wilderness.

Anything but the Institute. Please. Joining a raider gangs, lone wandering around the Commonwealth, running security for a caravan. Anything but them.

“You got me there,” Deacon says, kicking at the snow that had piled up against the door, clearing a path for himself. “I’m like a bad penny.”

“I was going to say the Joker in a deck of a cards,” X6 says, and Deacon bites his lip against the dopey, giddy, hopeful smile that’s tugging at his lips. X6 got his gift, left in his house at Sanctuary months ago. He remembers.

He can’t be the Institute. Right?

“That too,” Deacon says, stepping outside in the fresh snowfall. It’s beautiful — clean and sharp and obscuring everything beneath it.

X6 is still standing in the doorway; waiting for Deacon to go first, either to follow or to peel off on whatever secret thing he’s up to. Deacon turns back to him, his figure still half in shadow.

“Hey,” Deacon says. “Listen. Be careful out there, okay? Whatever you’re up to, just...take care of yourself.”

X6 stands unnervingly, perfectly still for a moment, and Deacon remembers the first time X6 had come to Sanctuary, the first time he saw him after the Institute. He’d expected wild and feral, and instead had seen this. This quiet, predatorial, grief in stillness.

“I have no idea what you mean,” he says, and Deacon grins for real at him this time.

“Right. Nevermind,” Deacon says, and before X6 can close him out he leans over and kisses him square on the lips. Just once, quick and chaste, but he feels X6’s startled, sweet inhale of surprise against his skin. Deacon resists the urge to grab his hand and squeeze, to pull him closer and press his lips against X6’s collarbone. Knows he needs to control himself, to play the long game, to dance just on the edge of the knife without plummeting down.

Slower. Not too much. And hey, they can always save it for next time. Deacon’s always been a fan of having something to look forward to.

“Goodbye, Deacon,” X6 says, after Deacon pulls away. His face is calm and impassive, but Deacon would bet everything he’s got that he’s not imagining the stretch of longing in his voice, like a song.

“See you around, sweetheart,” Deacon says, and he really, really hopes he does.