It all happened so quickly: so much all at once that there was barely time to process it.
Getting ready in the morning. They were going to go to the park – and then sirens. Running to the vault, and -
The lucky few of Sanctuary Hills were donning their clothing, taking the vault suits that the members of Vault 111 gave them. A plastic-y yet starchy material that almost felt like wearing sandpaper, if Brigid was honest.
“Come on, honey.” Nate said, who had handed Shaun to her while he was zipping up his bodysuit. “It’s what’s in style down here.” His voice was shaky, naturally; Nate tried to keep a brave face in times like these – especially after he came home from the war, in which his face was always a little bit like that. “We’ll get used to it.”
“Whatever these are made of,” Brigid looked at the suit she was wearing, grimacing, “It’s so sickeningly tacky and...blue. It’s all I can think of. I think I’m going to be sick of the word “blue” forever.”
“Hon.” Nate looked at her up and down. “You’re still just as beautiful as the day I met you.”
He zipped up the rest of his vault suit, the last of his zipper completely covering over the silvery, metallic patch of skin that was his soul mark.
Brigid winced internally. She couldn’t see his soul mark – that is, the spot where the two of them first touched – because of that damn body suit. She looked down at the palms of her hands, which shimmered with the same silver that his chest did; at least she had that.
They were one of the lucky ones. When you first touch your soulmate, it leaves a mark on your skin forever, and Brigid remembered it like it was yesterday. The night she first met Nate was at a barbecue in the summer held by their mutual friend. They were strangers and one agitated drunken word led to another before Brigid dropped her solo cup and pushed him into the pool; when they gasped for air, the area of his chest that she pushed him on and the palms of her hands that she pushed him with were both gleaming and silvery, and the situation got ten times more awkward.
They ran into each other a few more times, both avoiding eye contact with each other for a bit until Nate finally mustered up the courage to ask her out.
It would have been a happy ending if they weren’t here, and the world that they were taking on by storm together was completely, utterly destroyed.
“It won’t be that bad, will it?” It was less of a question and more of an anxious thought aloud. She looked down at baby Shaun in her arms, who, somehow, was blissfully asleep.
“Not at all.” Nate wrapped his arm around his wife, looking down at their child. “What did they call it? A better future underground?”
“Yeah. I wasn't exactly paying attention to the guy who came to our door, but yeah.”
“That's because you were too busy giving him your world famous snark.” Nate kissed the side of Brigid’s head, ruffling her blonde hair. “Regardless, we’ll figure it out.”
“Together. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“Critical failure in Cryogenic Array. All Vault residents must vacate immediately.”
The hatch swung open, and Brigid fell to her knees with a gasp.
Rime clung to her vault suit. Some kind of security system was shooting off an alarm that pierced through her skull. It felt like someone rudely shaking your shoulders as you slept, punching you in the gut while you were at it as the worst headache she’d ever had pierced through her body and -
She didn’t have strength in her legs to stand, her entire body was trembling – and horribly, horribly cold.
“Were we…?” The echo of her words reverberated around the hollow Vault.
Frozen? Kept in...storage? Where is everybody?
Where was –
Slowly, on hands and knees, she crawled over to the pod where Nate was – is, she begged internally. Brigid pleaded to every higher power and invented god she could think of as she made her way over to her husband.
It was a dream. It had to be a dream. A horrible dream about people in strange suits opening Nate’s pod. Prying Shaun from his arms. A gun. The bald man and a scar, face to face with the window of her own pod. His low, gravely voice: "At least we have the backup."
She sat at the base of the control panel that opened the pod, exhausted at the effort. With trembling fingers, she reached for the hatch, pulled the lever –
It was all happening so slowly: so much so that she hardly thought it’d ever come to anything.
Waking up to no one by her side in the morning. The lingering, pitiful looks. And the condolences –
The lucky few in the world had already found their soulmate already. Not that Piper minded – at this point, she was pretty sure her soulmate was her printing press. It wasn’t anything that she was immediately concerned about; even if it never happened, she was sure she’d be fine with it.
It seemed a little bit overrated, if Piper was honest. Everyone going around and about, seeking that special someone who’d, upon first touch, turn that precious skin silver and they’d live happily ever after.
Which led to so much tackiness that Piper felt like she was going to puke. Way too many handshakes than Piper was comfortable with – which people always complained about. She’d heard it a million times – “you’re too cold.” It was something of a medical anomaly, and Dr. Sun, after much testing, was baffled by the fact that, physically, Piper had an actual, physically lower body temperature that no one could ever figure out. It made the bulky jacket convenient at any time of year.
Too much physical contact. Not just with her, but with everyone. The kind of people extremely desperate for a soulmate would make a point of it to wear shorter sleeves, even in the winter. Accidentally brushing against people in the marketplace, offering high fives. Of course, there were a selective few success stories, but more often than not people went home alone.
Which lead to an overwhelming surplus of letters to the Publick Occurrences advice column. She pitied them a little, just because they seemed like lonesome folk looking for their other half. Still, the Publick was not a lonely hearts club and if she got one more letter of Dear Publick, I’m X years old and I haven’t found my soulmate yet she was going to scream.
People didn’t realize that it wasn’t the end of the world. Piper was perfectly fine without a soulmate, and that was something she could 110% attest to. She had the paper, she had Nat, she had adventures on rooftops and infiltrating organizations and getting away in the nick of time and running so hard that she couldn’t breathe, laughing the entire way home.
Piper locked the door to Publick Occurrences behind her, ready to hang up her hat for a day. She was trailing the case of Diamond City’s own private investigator and just why he’d gone missing, but she was at a dead end and decided to call it a night for now.
I could always talk to Ellie about this. If anyone knows where Nick was last, it was definitely her. Maybe in the morning, I –
Piper, all of a sudden, fell to her knees.
She gasped, a rattling breath that surprised her. Her heart raced as, with trembling hands – how did she become so weak all of a sudden? That also sent a spike of anxiety through Piper – she reached into the depths of her jacket for a stimpack. She closed her eyes, winced as she stuck it into her thigh, and –
She didn’t know what was happening. Anxiety through her, but she also felt...sad? Angry? Alone?
And, for the first time in her life, uncomfortably warm.