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Burning Bridges (Never Felt So Literal)

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***

“We’re headed for Hangman’s Alley in the morning.” Nate said around mouthfuls of brahmin stew.

MacCready looked up from his own dish, immediately put on guard by Nate’s tone of voice, although he couldn't say why.

They were sitting on either side of a cooking station that some Gunners had set up on top of one of the many crumbling freeways scattered across the Commonwealth. They both had their jackets done up tightly, collars up to ward against the cold wind that was blowing in a storm just as the sun was sinking behind the horizon. They had spent the afternoon cleaning out the nest of Gunners, and had finished later than expected, so Nate decided it was as good a place as any to bunk down for the night. There was a small wooden shack set up nearby, complete with an already burning oil lamp and a serviceable enough bed.

“Okay…” MacCready finally responded after swallowing the bite he had been chewing on. “We were just there last week. What now?”

The sky suddenly opened up, cascading sheets of freezing rain on them both. They grabbed their guns and food and bolted into the shack, where Nate took off his jacket and shook it out before draping it over the head of the bed frame. He flopped onto the bed and let out a groan when the ancient mattress ended up being no softer than a piece of plywood. MacCready hid a grin with another bite of stew.

“Getting spoiled with those downy mattresses you've been making lately?” MacCready asked casually, chortling when Nate flipped him off. MacCready sat down at the small table just inside the door and continued eating. “So what's this about Hangman’s?”

“They're getting more settlers in everyday, and there isn't enough beds or roof to go around. I asked the provisioners a couple weeks ago to send word to anyone with extra lumber and other supplies to send it to them, so they should have it by now.” Nate sat up and reached for his food again. “But I also promised Piper I'd help out around Diamond City, so I need you to stay at Hangman’s Alley and help them out for a few days.”

“What?” MacCready dropped his spoon into his bowl in surprise. “You're benching me?”

“It's just for a few days, and then I'll be right back to help finish up and we’ll hit the road again.” Nate didn't look up from his bowl.

“Just take me with you then.” MacCready argued, food forgotten. “We can go to Diamond City, and then the Alley. They can wait a few more days.”

“Last time we were there they had been sleeping in shifts for over a week, RJ.” Nate wouldn't raise his eyes to meet his. “This can't wait.”

MacCready felt his temper flare.

“You need someone to watch your back.”

“I'll take Piper. She's no crack shot like you but you know as well as I that she can hold her own in a fight.”

“C’mon, Nate-”

“MacCready, I don't want to argue about this!” Nate cut him off. “We’re just doing stupid little errand jobs, for Abbot and Sheng and whoever else for probably little to no pay. I know you hate that shit so I thought I'd let you off the hook.”

“D-darn right I hate that crap!” MacCready snapped. “I hate it when people try to take advantage of you, and you let them! Every cap we make is another cap I can send back to Duncan. You know that!”

“That's why I'm sending you to Hangman’s Alley.” Nate said flatly. “You'll be paid fair wages for your work.” MacCready opened his mouth to argue further, to point out that Nate deserved fair wages as well, but Nate finished firmly. “That's final, MacCready.”

MacCready snapped his mouth shut, glowering. He eventually grabbed his spoon again and shoveled the last of the stew into his mouth before shoving away from the table, flipping the collar on his jacket up, and grabbing his rifle.

“I'll check the perimeter.” He said shortly, headed to the door.

“RJ-” Nate started in exasperation, but he was already out the door, plunging into the deluge as lightning cracked across the well and truly darkened sky.

Great, MacCready scowled to himself, just what we need: more rads.

He all but stomped across the cracking pavement, already soaked with rivulets running off his hat and down his neck, which only further fouled his mood but he refused to turn back. He wanted to hit something. He could only hope something was poking around tonight; he'd take molerats at this point.

He had been traveling with Nate for nearly three months non-stop by now, watching his back in firefights and helping build settlements until he could assemble a generator in his sleep. They danced the fine line between factions, somehow allying with the Minutemen, the Railroad, and the Brotherhood without actually committing outright to a cause- although MacCready sensed that that would be a dance that would be ending soon.

Nate and him had grown… close. Closer than he ever thought possible after Lucy. Nothing had gone past fleeting touches, warm hugs and reassuring hand squeezes, but they had talked and both knew they were caught in each other despite their pasts. But while MacCready has had a little over two years to adjust to life without Lucy, Nate has lost Nora what seemed like only six months ago to him. Not only that, his infant son had actually surpassed him in age by over 30 years, and had become the terror that gripped the Commonwealth. Nate had closed his eyes mere moments away from his cozy home on a clean street with perfect neighbours with perfect lives and opened them to the end of everything as he knew it over two hundred years later, and hasn't had the time to actually grieve his loss. His new life only afforded him moments between harrowing life-or-death fights and situations.

And now he wanted to leave MacCready behind, while he took on pointless errands for people that would barely grace him with a ‘thank you’, let alone well-deserved payment. MacCready white knuckled his rifle as he carefully picked his way across a plywood and board crossing the Gunners had rigged across a particularly wide crack in the road. The rain made the wood slick and shiny, and from what he could see through the inky darkness below he did not want to mess that particular step up. He continued down the highway, checking for any movement both below and on the highway. He doubted anything would be out and about in the storm, but he needed to stew and think.

“MacCready!” Nate called from surprisingly close. MacCready squared his shoulders and kept walking, not ready to talk to him yet. “Wait-”

MacCready whirled, ready to give him an earful, but the words died in his throat. Nate stepped out onto the soggy plywood and board bridge that suddenly decided enough was enough, and splintered under his feet. Nate lunged ahead, managed to hit the other side of the gap with his chest, body dangling, hands and arms scrabbling to get a proper grip on the wet pavement. His PipBoy was lit up in flashlight mode, lighting up his face in a sickly green, enough for MacCready to see the stark terror there.

“RJ-” Nate gasped, and then he was gone.

MacCready froze, unable to process what he had just witnessed. It had all happened within seconds.

Nate!” MacCready cried out as reality finally caught up and he bolted towards the gap, dropping his rifle before falling to his hands and knees to look over the edge. Lightning struck, lighting up the scene for a split second; a motionless body laying amongst vehicle wreckage and broken concrete, too far away. “Nate! Answer me!”

There was no response from down below. MacCready grabbed his rifle again and ran for the lift a fair ways down the highway. He had always thought they moved with reasonable speed, but at this moment it was the slowest lift ride he had ever endured. He dropped down before it reached the bottom and ran full tilt towards where he had last seen Nate, wishing he had a light of some sort. The dark storm clouds were blocking all light from the moon and stars, the lightning only providing split seconds of clarity.

MacCready scrambled over rusting vehicles, still yelling for Nate, trying to judge his approximate location by the barely-visible crack in the highway above. He finally spotted the green glow of the PipBoy, and was at Nate’s side in moments.

The Sole Survivor was sprawled limply on his back where he had fallen, limbs bent at awkward angles, his right arm bent at an awful angle. The rain was falling straight onto his face from above, but his face was lax and lifeless, not even flinching in the downpour.

No, don't think like that. Not lifeless.

MacCready carefully felt for a pulse at Nate’s throat, trying not to move him by accident, afraid of unseen damage. He found a pulse, weak and fluttering under his fingers, but it was there.

“Nate, Nate, you gotta stay with me, okay?” MacCready leaned over him, trying to keep the rain off his face. “C’mon, open your eyes. Tell me what hurts. Nate!

It was no use. Nate didn't even twitch. MacCready choked back a curse, but quickly went to work, unclipping Nate’s PipBoy and putting it on his own arm to better employ the flashlight function. It only took him seconds to find the next big problem. A rusted and jagged piece of metal protruded from Nate’s side, dark and shiny with blood. Further inspection revealed that he had fallen onto the roof of a nearby semi trailer before rolling off and landing on what looked like wreckage from another vehicle crushed by falling concrete.

MacCready briefly squeezed his eyes shut, trying to take calming breaths. Hold it together, he needs you, just hold it together. The ‘how’ didn't matter right now. He needed to assess and treat Nate’s injuries as best as he could right now. Their packs were in the shack up on the highway, but MacCready knew that Nate always carried a spare stimpack in his pocket and he quickly retrieved it and a fortunate syringe of Med-X, putting them aside within easy reach.

The broken arm looked nasty, but it wasn't the priority at the moment. MacCready carefully checked Nate’s neck, fitting his slim fingers under him to feel where he couldn't see, moving up to his skull when he was satisfied there was no major outward damage. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said of Nate’s skull. MacCready’s fingers almost instantly found blood matting Nate’s hair, the skin of his scalp badly torn. MacCready shone the PipBoy to look, and almost threw up. Blood pooled under Nate’s head, the rain only serving to thin the puddle and spread it even more grotesquely.

He needed to get the metal out of his side and a stimpack into him. MacCready could feel panic building up. He was terrified to move Nate, afraid of unseen injuries that could kill him the second MacCready moved him. But with the metal still embedded, the stimpack would only make things worse.

MacCready took a few harsh breaths, psyching himself up, and jabbed the syringe of Med-X into Nate’s neck. He gave it a few seconds to make sure it was working, then went to work on setting the arm first. For how bad it looked, it locked back into place relatively easy, much to MacCready’s relief. He then braced himself and lifted Nate off the metal, swallowing bile when he felt how flesh sucked at the metal, and put a massive effort into moving Nate over a few feet into an area where the rain wouldn't fall directly onto them. Blood immediately began pooling under Nate’s head and torso, and he still hadn't stirred.

MacCready grabbed the stimpack and jabbed it into Nate’s neck, wishing he had thought to get more from his pack. He carefully tugged Nate’s clothing away from the wound on his front before sliding his hand under his back to do the same for the entry wound, to keep the fabric from getting caught in the rapidly closing injuries.

Nate suddenly sucked in a stuttering breath, back arching for a second before he started coughing. His neck muscles tensed as he tried to lift his head but he yelped before he could actually move, screwing his eyes shut as his brow furrowed in pain.

“Hey, it's okay, don't try to move.” MacCready slid his hands under Nate’s neck and the base of his skull and eased his head up a bit to allow the stimpack to work on the wound without interference there. Nate opened his eyes a bit just in time to catch a flash of lightning, and he squeezed them shut again, breathing hard and swallowing convulsively. His lips moved as if he was saying something, but MacCready couldn't catch it over the sound of rainfall and thunder.

“What was that?” He leaned in, putting his ear close to Nate’s mouth.

“N-Nora…” Nate managed to get out. “Where- where's Nora…”

MacCready’s heart sank.

“I need to- She’s got Shaun-” Nate got his eyes open but his gaze was distant and his pupils looked odd. MacCready wasn't sure if it was due to the massive concussion or the dose of Med-X he had given him. “Please- Have you seen my family?”

“They're someplace safe, Nate.” MacCready tried to keep his voice from shaking. Nate stirred again, mouth opening in a silent cry of pain as he squeezed his eyes shut again, and MacCready did his best to hold him still. “Just hold still, Nate. Trust me. It's going to be okay. Do you trust me?”

Nate managed to open his eyes again to focus blearily on MacCready’s face, and the corner of his mouth twitched up.

“Y-yeah.” He breathed, then frowned. “Do I- do I know you? You seem-”

His breath hitched, back arched, eyes rolling back in his head as he went into convulsions. MacCready panicked, not knowing what to do, he didn't know what to do.

A few months ago, they had come to a settlement that had been attacked by feral ghouls. One of the settlers had been bitten and clawed, and the wounds festered and became infected, triggering what Nate had called a ‘brain baking fever’. It had gone so far as to induce a seizure, not unlike the one that wracked Nate now, and MacCready suddenly remembered the first thing that Nate had done for the unfortunate settler. MacCready carefully rolled Nate onto his side, cradling his head in one arm to let his mouth drain of saliva and blood so he wouldn't choke as he spasmed. He hoped the blood was from where Nate had bit his cheek or tongue but it was impossible to know right now.

Fortunately the seizure only lasted about twenty seconds, but it felt much longer than that. Once he was sure it was over, MacCready gently let Nate’s head down and arranged his limbs so he laid more comfortably in the recovery position, wincing when Nate moaned painfully.

A gust of wind blasted them with more raindrops, as if the storm wanted to remind them that it was still there. MacCready debated on what he should do next: bring Nate to the rest of the stimpacks or bring the stimpacks to Nate?

Nate groaned and coughed, shivering on the cold stone. Mind made up, MacCready shuffled and hoisted Nate up into a fireman’s carry and hauled him to the lift, settling him upright against the railing before hitting the button. As they lifted into the air towards the highway, Nate stirred and muttered but didn't open his eyes again.

Once they were at the top, MacCready moved to lift Nate again but realized he was shaking too badly. Instead, he grabbed Nate under the armpits and dragged him into the shack. Nate was trembling, making MacCready panic, but he was just shivering with cold in his soaked clothing. MacCready dug out his sleeping bag and threw it on the bed in preparation, and carefully stripped Nate’s clothing off of him. He winced at the dark bruising and gashes on Nate’s chest; probably where he hit the concrete and exposed rebar in the highway before he had fallen. The wounds where the metal had gone through him were mostly closed but still looked raw and painful, as did the back of his head. Nate shivered again with a moan, so MacCready bundled him into the sleeping bag on the bed before pulling more of the precious stimpacks from Nate’s pack. He injected another into Nate’s neck, then strapped the PipBoy back onto its owner’s arm to check his vital signs.

“What the…” MacCready breathed. Nate’s life signs were still low, especially on his head, right arm, and torso, but he was in the clear as long as he didn't take any hard hits. However, his rad levels were much higher than a single rad storm would cause. The stubborn man had obviously been fighting rad sickness for some time.

MacCready tore Nate’s backpack apart, and while he found Rad-X there wasn't a single pack of Radaway. MacCready bit back a curse, and went into his own pack for the Radaway that Nate had given him the day before. He knew that they had been getting low, but it was worse than he thought. He started an IV of Radaway with a deftness that Nate still hadn't mastered, even after six months of learning the ropes. After checking his vitals again, MacCready decided on giving him another stimpack, bringing his lifesigns up into a much better level. Nate didn't stir the entire time, still sleeping the sleep of someone drugged to the eyeballs with Med-X. He was going to make it, but it was impossible to know if his amnesia would still be affecting him when he awoke.

MacCready slid down to sit on the floor beside the bed, knees weak. He lifted his trembling hands to look at them for a moment before scrubbing them against his pants in a futile effort to get Nate’s blood off. He eventually gave up, pulled his knees to his chest and buried his head in his arms.

He wasn't sure how much time passed before Nate stirred with a groan. MacCready leapt to his feet, worriedly leaning over him.

“Nate?” MacCready called quietly, wiping his face on his forearm. Nate’s eyelids fluttered before opening a bit. His mouth opened but all that came out was a raspy gasp. MacCready quickly grabbed a nearby can of purified water and slid a hand under his head to help him get a few sips.

“RJ-” Nate wheezed. “What- what happened?”

“What do you remember?” MacCready nervously plucked at the edge of the sleeping bag, checking wounds that had completely healed over already. Nate's brow furrowed, thinking, then his eyes drifted shut again. MacCready thought he had fallen asleep when he spoke again.

“We- we were fighting.” Nate said slowly, and MacCready could have sworn he felt his heart sink. “I followed you, and I… Did I fall?”

“I'm so sorry, Nate.” MacCready squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think of how Nate’s face looked right as he began to fall. “It's my fault, I shouldn't have-”

“Stop that.” Nate feebly and fondly smacked the back of his hand on MacCready’s arm. “It was my fat ass that broke the bridge.”

MacCready choked on either a sob or a laugh, he wasn't sure.

“I got across it fine.” He tried to joke, although it fell flat in his own ears.

“You started it, I was the final straw.” Nate agreed groggily. To MacCready’s horror, he felt his eyes well up. “Hey, stop it, I'm serious. I'm… I'll be okay. I'm still here.”

“You almost weren't!” MacCready burst out. “It took me forever to get to you, and- I thought you were dead! I stormed off and you tried to follow and you fell and our last words would have been a fight and it's my fault.”

Nate freed a hand from the sleeping bag and caught MacCready’s hand, about to say something but his expression turned even more worried.

“Geez, you're freezing! And you're soaked!” Nate struggled to sit up despite MacCready’s insistence on him to hold still.

“I'm fine.” MacCready attempted to pin Nate with a glare, just as his traitorous body let a shiver run down his entire length.

“Your lips are blue.” Nate was not fazed in the slightest by MacCready’s glare. “Get out of those wet clothes and get up here.”

“I'll just make you cold.”

“Robert Joseph MacCready, if you don't strip down and climb into this sleeping bag with me, I swear I will take back every mod I have ever done to your rifle.” Nate threatened, somehow intimidating despite being unable to even sit up properly on his own.

MacCready eyed him suspiciously.

“You would not.” He tried for confidence but fell short. Nate glowered, and opened his mouth, but MacCready wisely began unbuttoning his shirt before he could say anything more. It took longer than usual, numb fingers that felt too fat to bend properly fumbling at buttons and his belt. He finally managed to get down to his mostly dry boxers, and Nate just wordlessly held the sleeping bag open. MacCready snatched Nate’s sleeping bag up as well, unzipping it and draping it over Nate before climbing in and under.

Nate was warm, skin smooth and soft against MacCready’s. Nate flinched when MacCready touched him, making him stop, uncertain.

“You're so cold!” Nate grumped, resorting to manhandling MacCready further into the sleeping bag. “Get in here.”

They ended up wrapped up in each other, MacCready’s left arm folded awkwardly in between them for lack of a better place to put it. He was shivering in earnest after a few minutes, feeling coming back to his toes and fingers with pins and needles. He pressed his face against Nate’s shoulder, giving up entirely on preserving what little dignity he had left.

“Ah! Your nose! Icicle!” Nate yelped, but he didn't let go, pulling MacCready into an even tighter hug instead.

“Sorry.” MacCready mumbled, although the warmth he was beginning to feel leach into his bones didn't make him sorry enough to move away. “I'm sorry, about everything. I'm sorry. I'll go to Hangman’s Alley, you can take as long as you need in Diamond City.”

“Shut up, RJ.” Nate sighed. “You have nothing to apologize for. Honestly. Don't.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, listening to the rain drumming on the rusting tin roof. MacCready remained where he was, leaving his face against Nate’s chest, his near-violent shivering finally beginning to subside as he started to drift into sleep.

“You don't actually want to go to Hangman’s Alley, do you.” Nate stated rather than asked. MacCready’s hesitation to deny it gave him away. “You understand why I'm going to help Diamond City though, right?”

“Not really.” MacCready said honestly after a moment of collecting his wits. “I'm a merc, boss. Not that I don't have my reasons for it. Everything I do, I do it for Duncan, and I can't do much for him if I don't get paid.”

“I get that.” Nate gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling, absently stroking his thumb over the back of MacCready’s head. MacCready barely suppressed a shiver that he wasn't entirely sure was related to the cold, but Nate didn't seem to notice. MacCready burrowed even further under the covers. “Back when….” Nate’s voice faltered, but he found it again and continued. “Back when I thought there was still a chance to find Shaun, to have some sort of life with him, I felt the same. Every settlement I cleaned up and built up was for him, just in case that place would make a better home, make him happier. I scrounged and saved every cap, charged extra when I could, carried crap all over the Commonwealth to either scavenge or sell. I didn't do a thing for free. After I realized there was nothing I could do for Shaun anymore, I still couldn't stop. I went off the rails for a bit there, but then I started doing it again for the settlers and their kids.”

MacCready didn't say anything when Nate paused, but pulled his head back to show that he was still listening, thinking. He couldn't help but wonder if he would do the same, should he ever lose Duncan like that. He was pretty sure the answer was no, but it was hard to admit it.

“Do you think you'll go back to the Wasteland?” Nate suddenly switched subjects. “You said you had a farm, will you go and take it up again?”

“No.” MacCready said immediately, having brainstormed through every option available to him for the future. “There's nothing there for us anymore. When I have enough saved up, I'd like to bring Duncan here, but I'm going to let things play out for a while yet.”

“You feel it too?”

“Something's coming.” MacCready confirmed. “I can't help feel you'll be in the middle of it, which means I will be too.”

Nate tightened his grip a bit.

“Thank you.” Nate said eventually, quietly.

“For what? Leading you over a rotting bridge?” MacCready was still bitter. “Good thing I already gave you your caps back.”

“I'm going to take you to Amari and get her to wipe this whole damn day out of your head.” Nate growled. “No, thank you for sticking with me. Even when I take on the shit jobs that you hate. Even when I try to send you off so I don't have to be tempted to admit that you're right.”

“I knew it.” MacCready jabbed Nate in the chest with a finger. “But I should be the one thanking you. You saved me.”

“How do you figure that?” Nate scrunched his brow quizzically. “You seemed like you were doing fine when I ran into you the first time.”

MacCready flashed back to that night in the Third Rail when Winlock and Barnes had confronted him. He must have pulled off the cool and calm exterior even better than he could have hoped, because he only remembered concentrating on making sure his voice didn't quaver. He had just gotten another letter from Daisy from Les, the nurse that had taken Duncan under her care and protection while MacCready tried to make a way to support them. Duncan had been doing poorly, and while Les had tried to sound positive in the letter, MacCready had read the despair and hopelessness between the lines. Barnes and Winlock had been the icing on the cake, and the only thing that stopped MacCready from risking life and limb by throwing himself at them was his respect for Hancock and his town’s rules.

“When I met you, I had already tried to find my own way into Med-Tek. I nearly got shredded by the ferals. Barely made it back to Goodneighbour, and I'm pretty sure Daisy only patched me up because she knew about Duncan by then.” MacCready began, carefully choosing his words. “I hate to say it, but I had pretty much given up. I had gotten a letter about Duncan, and the way it sounded it was possible that he had already died and I just wouldn't know until the next letter came. I don't even know why I agreed to sign on with you, the words just kind of came out, like it was just habit. But it didn't take long before I was hoping again. Nothing like watching your new boss blast a deathclaw in the eyeball with a shotgun, I guess.”

Nate’s shoulders began shaking with laughter.

“I remember that.” He mused. “That thing got way closer than I meant it to.”

“I kinda figured, but it was still inspirational.” MacCready shrugged. “That's when I decided I'd talk to you about getting into Med-Tek, someday, when I'd learned a little more about you. Gave me hope. Saved me from those black thoughts.”

“Aw, RJ, you're so poetical.” Nate said airily, wheezing when MacCready pinched the skin over his ribs. “Ow, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. And I see. You did the same for me, you know. I came storming in there that night not long after meeting Shaun face to face in the Institute. I was ready to burn the entire countryside down. Figured I'd hire this hot shot merc that Hancock recommended since I knew most of my other tag-alongs might object to some of the shit I wanted to do. Well, maybe not Cait, but she was still strung out as hell then.” He amended. MacCready had a sudden vision of Nate and Cait trying to figure out the best way of burning down the entire Commonwealth while high on Jet and had to stifle a smirk that Nate didn't notice as he continued. “I'm glad you told me about Duncan. That smartened me up, quick. Slapped me out of my self pity, gave me purpose again.”

“Okay, okay, I get it.” MacCready sighed.

“What?”

“Why you do it. Why you take on those shi- crappy jobs for crappy pay.” MacCready flicked the tip of Nate’s nose affectionately. “I still don't agree with it, but I can respect it. I'll even keep my complaining to myself.”

It was Nate’s turn to bury his face against MacCready’s neck, hugging him tightly again.

“Thank you.” He said, muffled.

“Anything for you, boss.” MacCready promised both him and himself. “Anything you need.”

“Same to you, RJ. And don't you forget it.”

“We should take a break.” MacCready said. Nate jerked back, searching MacCready’s face with a questioning look. “You know, like a vacation? Just a couple days down time.”

“Like go to the beach?” Nate had caught on, but lost MacCready now.

“Why the hell would you want to go to the beach? Don't get enough mirelurks and dirty water on a normal day?”

“Never mind.” Nate sighed. “It used to be a nice place to go on vacation.”

“We could just stay here.” MacCready suggested. “It's quiet, Preston can't pester you with new requests, I've got that bottle of whiskey you found last week and I know you've got a couple comics in your pack somewhere.”

Nate stared at MacCready.

“What?” MacCready asked nervously after a moment.

“That sounds like the best idea I've ever heard my entire life, and I want to say yes, but I'm thinking about Diamond City and Hangman’s Alley and I-”

MacCready put his hand over Nate’s mouth.

“Fine. But still, we can take one more day. No one is going to be alarmed by one extra day.” MacCready pointed out. “You need it. I'm not carrying you when you pass out on the walk in.”

“I've carried you before.” Nate pouted.

“Yeah, well, I don't have all the pre-war padding on my muscles to help with all… this.” MacCready snaked an arm around Nate’s back to smack his butt, drawing a startled yelp and then a laugh from the man.

“Okay, fine, twist my rubber arm.” Nate caved, somehow snuggling in even closer. “We’ll take a day tomorrow. But then it's back to the grind.”

“Deal.” MacCready closed his eyes, contented. For a moment, it was quiet, the only sounds being the rain drumming on the roof and their breathing. MacCready roused himself once more just before he fell asleep.

“Hey boss?”

“Yeah?”

“I could get used to this.”

Nate pulled him close and planted a kiss on the top of his head, their bodies warm against each other.

“Me too, RJ. Me too.”

***