I wanted to write a happy Nate fic, so here you go! Nate and his favourite book, in his first year in the Commonwealth.
The Month was October
The man raised his head, two hours up, and he hadn’t even taken the pills yet, his body trembled around him, exhausted. He was a spot of stillness in the rushing mob, numbed calm in the screams.
“Run!” Her eyes burn, her mouth a red circle around the world. The boy is crying. The words run down the man’s spine to his legs, bypasses his slack, senseless brain. He runs up the hill.
She takes his arm, pulls him faster even as his legs tremble and cramp, he staggers, almost falls.
The sun is bright, staining everything gold. The trees wave above them. A heartbeat.
The light, when it comes, is too much to bear. The man shuts his eyes and the skin of his eyelids turns white.
The clocks stopped at 1.17.
In the silence and dazzling glare inside his head, the memory is coughed up, fragmented, full of holes.
He opens his eyes to the cloud, a cathedral spire rising.
A long shear of light and a series of low concussions.
The frail, skeleton of self looks up in benediction. His mouth twitches upwards, weak and drawn. It’s over. It’s finally, finally over.
He’s dreamed of this since he was seventeen.
A dull rose glow on the windowpane.
The lift rattles down, the shockwave roaring just past his head. She’s staring at him in confusion. “Why are you smiling?”
She’s very still as they fall together, holding the boy. Her heart to his, those dark, alien eyes staring out of Nate like black marbles out of chiffon.
Each others’ world entire.
“I’m not.” Nathaniel Brooks smiles.
The light is the first good sign. Nate raises his hand to shield off the glare, blinks and blinks watery eyes until he squints through to the blue, blue sky above. His damp skin steams as the heat of the world hits, a baked in, ancient fire. He peers through his fingers and the sun is a blazing white star high above.
The banished sun circles the Earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.
The birds come next, curious crows on the hanging slackwires from the pylons, and that is a good sign. One of them arches its opalescent black wings and hops up, a flash of dark against the brassy sky and gone.
Th names of birds.
Nate steps out uncertainly. The world around him a blasted, desertlike.
Ashen scabland. Cauterised terrain.
The ground crunches underfoot. Ants and lizards scurry for cover under the rusted hulk of vehicles, the sunken struts of a construction cabin. Nate’s body flows liquid around him, after the frozen juddering of the pills. He wanders aimlessly around, finds three rations of army rad-away in a petrified crate and it’s a moment’s work to touch them, pick them up. His mind trembles, threatens to snapback however many years.
Look around, to make sure the world is still there.
Like ancient frescos entombed for centuries suddenly exposed to the day.
The world is exactly the same and Nate snorts at himself. He might be mad but he’s never started seeing things. Best not start now. The crows watch him, the tiny animals rustle in brownsnap grass. The trees overhead are bare sentinels, leafless as Nate makes his slow way down the hill.
The low bushes hang with strange flowers. Nate snaps a leaf off and sniffs it, bites. His stomach roils warningly but the taste is good. Rich, fragrant. His pipboy beeps and he tastes the warning sickness of radiation at the back of his throat. He spits it out. Okay. His stomach kicks rebellion. Okay.
But it’s food, at least. He passes a strand of wild bluestained corn, looks down to a sparkling, crystalline steam and oh. Nate squats in the path and looks around. The world is half alien around him and hey, maybe he might as well be on another planet?
“Burroughs.” Nate’s voice cracks. “McCarthy.” Maybe the cold had frozen his vocal cords. “I name this world Brooktopia.” He laughs, low at his own joke.
The world is barren from pole to pole, no sign of human life for miles. Maybe anywhere.
They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.
“And thank fuck for that.” Nate answers his own head. Maybe he is alone. Maybe he’ll just live here, go mad and starve to death. Okay. He can live with that.
His body is taut and easy around him, muscles and nerve fluid and quick to answer. He hops down to the stream, jumping from rock to rock like a child.
Worlds rich or fearful as such might offer themselves but never one to be.
It was a good dream. No memories in it. Nate can’t remember when he’d last dreamed. Half a decade and two hundred years, probably.
He’s warm in the bed. He’d found old tarp in the truck stop, and an oil stained blanket. But the real source of the heat in the heavy, soft body slumped against his legs.
Nate opens his eyes and the first light of the newborn morning glances across the shattered window panes, paints patterns on the far wall. Ancient faded posters, screaming dead ideologies against vanished enemies.
There’s a faint warning against perverts tacked up above the ancient telephone. Another proclaiming the black menace. Nate sits up and pulls them down, tears them up and tosses the rotting paper out of the window. The dog pricks up his ears and looks at him, a low, curious whine.
“At least you’re happy to see me.” Nate strokes his ears, and Dog whines happily. Nate picks up the telephone and turns it in his hands. Wonders if it has enough power left to call up his old home, tell Codsworth what he could do with his pills.
He lifts the handset.
He picked up the phone and dialed the number of his father’s house in that long ago
Nate looks down at the rotary dial. Circles a finger over and over and finally puts it back. He has no idea what the number was. He has no idea of any number. The memories cracked and cauterised and frostbitten. Gone utterly.
“If they wanted me to remember they shouldn’t have made me forget.” He smiles at Dog, strokes his head again. Dog pants. He turns the phone over and pulls it apart, picks out the circuitboard and copper wires. Maybe they’ll find someone, him and Dog, someone who won’t want to kill them like the last few had. Maybe they could trade.
Dog pants and jumps off the bed, coming back with a haunch of the dead molerat things they’d found off last night.
Nate’s stomach growls but the castaway food around them might as well be stone when he looks at it. He shakes his head sadly at Dog and drinks water from a canister to fill his stomach, clinches his belt again, tighter than yesterday.
The holes in it marked the progress of his emaciation
The stimpacks keep off the worst of the damage, but he’s going to be a skeleton within a week. Oh well. Nate shrugs. There’s a world out there. Maybe he can find something his mind can accept as food.
Dog eats the meat happily, then jumps about, eager to be off. Nate smiles.
The storm buoys up out of nowhere. “Ah hell.” Nick groans and they dash for shelter under a wooden lean-to under the trees. Barely in in time before the skies open and the rain comes in sheets.
Nate pulls out the old tarp from the Red Rocket, all those months ago, and between the two of them they throw it over the shack to keep the rain out. Dogmeat barks and runs about outside, jumping in the lake before charging back in the shaking himself vigorously over the pair of them until Nick throws a tarp over him too.
“Lovely.” Nick grumbles, flicks through his cigarette packs to find one that isn’t soaked. Selecting one, he leans over to Nate as he fumbles with a lighter in wet hands, their shoulders bumping a little more than companionably. In the gloom of the stormclouds his eyes glow gold. His lips quirk into a small, appreciative smile.
If he is not the word of God God never spoke.
Shut up. Nate snarls at the memory. Not here. Not now. Close and too far. Nick leans back against the rough earth behind them, blows out a stream of blue smoke. Nate watches the smoke, if only as an excuse to look away.
“You might want to look out.” Nick points out into the rain. “It’s worth seeing.”
Nate frowns at him, a faint smile, wondering if he’s being teased. He pulls the tarp off the grumbling Dogmeat and throws it over his head, it rattles like turretfire under the rain. It’s not a radstorm, and the sky is a simple, sullen grey, heavy and swollen with water. Nate squints and looks around. A lot of mud, the lake pocked and shimmering. The smell of dead leaves and moss. Quiet but for the falling rain. Air fresh and cool and sweet.
This is a day to shape the days upon.
“Up there-” Nick’s ventured far enough to point up, the rainwater coursing off the sleek steel of his hand.
Nate blinks rainwater off his lashes, and peers up. Through the heavy drops, the trees around them are flecked green.
He rubs his eyes, looks up at the tree above. The barren branches are opening, putting out tiny green shoots in the storm.
“Hah!” Nate half laughs, like desert plants, dry and apparently dead until the rains come, and then blooming to life.
-out of a green and leafy canopy-
Nate glances back to Nick, then looks away too quickly, in case his friend can read his mind, or maybe read the same book. But Nick is looking up with him, rain running down his face, coiling in and around his broad, purely happy smile. “Always liked the rain.”
“Yeah.” Nate breathes. He extends the tarp out and Nick ducks under it. They sit together, watching the trees bloom as the rain hammers down on and around them.
There’s a line from his book for this moment. But Nate doesn’t think it. It’s not right. Not yet. Besides, both characters died at the end.
“And we’re looking for what in here?”
“Not really sure?” Nate shrugs. His cheek hurts from the brand and he feels- strange, fey. The world runs under his skin and he feels alive. As though everything he thought could just leap to life around him.
Which would be a nightmare, in any other world, but right now, all Nate feels is wonder.
The little tunnel they’re in is low and narrow, forcing both of them to bend double as they buckle down into the bowls of Far Harbor. “Don’t you just want to look?”
Nick snorts, runs a hand over Nate’s shoulder. Rests it there, in the crook of his neck. It’s the work of a heartbeat for Nate to lean over and press a kiss to those metal knuckles. Nick smiles.
“I read a book once,” Nate continues. “Where the two characters went into a cave. There was an animal down there. You could see through its skin.”
“What sort of animal?” Nick ducks under trailing roots.
“They didn’t say. Always imagined it a bit like a Deathclaw, only on all fours.”
“Hope we don’t run into one here.” They turn a corner. “What happened next?”
“Um- they woke up. It was a dream.”
“Not a great ending.”
“It wasn’t the ending. Came right at the beginning, I think.”
“Ah. Good book?”
“My favorite,” Nate tells him the title.
“Catchy. I’ll keep an eye out for it.” Nick smiles.
Nate can only smile back, turning his back to the tunnel for a moment.
Unfortunately while there weren’t any Deathclaws in the tunnel, there were a large number of feral ghouls. They had to put a temporary end to book week.
“Do you know your birthday?” And maybe Nate’s too used to how things work for them, because that seems the best way of asking that question.
the names of things slowly following those things into oblivion
He rests his hands on his bag and reaches into his mind, tries to parse out the beggarly collection of memories, trace comparisons to holidays, to weather, to cold or summer. Finally, he shrugs. “No idea.” Slip away through his fingers and gone. He smiles sadly at Nick. “You?”
Nick shakes his head. “I use April 14th. He sits down beside Nate, on his haunches. “Day I- we-” he stumbles a little over the words, still uncertain, “escaped the institute.”
Nate nods, “Yeah.” His lip curls. Escape. Flee away into the dark and away from the light. Nate looks around at the dusty road, the nodding trees, their leaves shriveling quickly and falling after the rain.
nothing in his memory anywhere of anything so good
“I guess mine’s October 23rd then.”
Nick nudges him in his ribs and Nate rolls with the blow, catching Nick’s coat in both hands and pulling him down, down to the the dust and steaming sunlight and the hubflowers nodding over them.
His hands finding Nick’s body, taut and still and warm with living processes. Nick’s mouth warm and dry and sweet.
Each others’ world entire.
Nate laughs when the pass through the Outskirts into the Glowing Sea. He looks around at the trees and those are definitely dead. Nick gives him a slightly concerned look, but then this isn’t Nate’s usual breakdown warnings.
“Nah, just-” Nate waves at the vista. “All the books I read-”
“You kidding? This is the first bit that’s come close.” Nate pops a rad-x. It’s not so bad this far out, but he’s glad they packed a hazmat suit for later.
The wind warns of a coming storm and he revises that opinion. A pity. He’s hated that thing since Far Harbor. Better to feel the wind on your face, the storm on your skin. Not for the first time, Nate envies the growing number of people born immune to radiation.
The wind catches in a rotten, century old branch and the cauterised wood cracks, making them both jump. Nate snorts. “All the trees in the world are gonna fall sooner or later.”
“That’s a quote?”
“From that author I like.”
“Sounds the cheerful sort.”
Nate grins. “Yeah.”
He bends down to the first pool they find. Flecked gold and shimmering, oilslick gilt. Drinks down a mouthful and hears the giger counter scream. Atom. Your blessing. Your world. Thank you.
“Happy birthday.” Nick’s hands cast over his shoulders. The bones of his shoulderblades, collarbones still stark against his umber skin, redcast from his dress.
“Huh,” Nate glances at his pip-boy. 23rd October 2288. One year out of the vault. One year and two hundred and eleven since the nightmare ended. “So it is.” He turns in Nick’s arms. “Atom’s too.”
“Give Him my best.” Nate snorts, and gasps as Nick gently nips at his throat, the tender skin at the joint of neck and shoulder. “This is your day.”
“Hmm,” Nate smiles, relaxes in Nick’s arms, hooked around his waist. Nate rests his own hands on Nick’s shoulder. Watches him. That smile, oh, he’d first fallen in love with that smile. Those eyes, and brilliant, too-large soul that radiates from every part of him. Oh, thank you. Thank you. He will never thank the Institute for anything, so he raises that praise to Atom. “Do I get a present?” He leans in to snatch a fresh kiss, and perhaps begin said present forthwith.
The kiss comes, so warm. “You thought I wouldn’t?”
Nate pauses, honestly, he has no real idea what he would want. He has everything he wants. Most of it is in his arms. But Nick smiles, and lets go of him with one hand to pulls something out of his pack. It’s flat, and small, and wrapped in soft black cloth.
“A book!” Nate smiles. And not just a book, the cloth around it is silk, long and wound over and over. There are definitely possibilities with this silk. Oh yes.
But then Nate pulls the sweet silk off and- oh.
“Found it in the old Somerville place.” Nick strokes his back. “Decided to save it for today. Is it the same one you liked?”
“Yes.” Nate breathes. Jet black cover. White printed words. He runs his thumb over the pages and loses his breath all over again. “Nick, this is- a first imprint. Look at the way the pages are cut- handcut. This is- three hundred years old or something-”
He gets another kiss and laughs helplessly against Nick’s mouth. Atom, oh Atom how the hell is he this lucky, his arm full with his boyfriend and a silk scarf and this book. An embarrassment of riches.
“I had a flick through.” Nick shakes his head, half laughs. “Nate, what the hell? Have you read this thing?”
“Repeatedly.” Nate grins, “Or- I probably did. I basically memorised it. Don’t remember actually reading it though.”
“And you like this?”
“Love it.” Nate kisses him again, a brief flash of pure happiness. “Always makes me smile when I read it.”
Nick rolls his eyes. “The world ends- and that’s not enough and you’re got to read about it too. Makes perfect sense.”
“Yep.” Nate draws out the ‘p’, smugly.
“Got it all right, did he?”
Nate barks a laugh. He looks around their little home in Sanctuary, the stacks of books, the broad, warm bed, the chair and couch tucked away. And outside, the waving strands of razorgrain and scattered planters dripping with fruit. Brahmin cropping up dry grasses. Fish from the local river. The water running clear, the flowers nodding around the small town, the sky so achingly blue.
“Not a fucking thing.” He grins, then pauses a moment. Nick blinks, curiously. Nate puts the book down, and cups Nick’s face in both of his hand. “Well, maybe one thing.” He admits.
He leans in. Nick kisses back, gentle, oh, so sweet.
“My world entire.” Nate smiles, and kisses him again, and again.