Seeing the woman sitting before him makes Porter Gage certain that karma is bullshit.

She's perched cross-legged on the Fizztop patio bar, wearing nothing but a smile. Dark curls bounce on her porcelain shoulders as she tilts back her head, showing off her delicate neck. Perfect teeth. Perfect skin. She's a pinup come to life.

Yeah, karma says he should never have this. But to hell with karma. Gage is a raider; he takes what he wants.

And what he wants is to fuck her hard and wild like any other raider or whore he's been with. Wants to bend her over the dirty counter and make her moan. Wants to hear the table scratch on the floor. Wants to make her scream for it.

He grabs her and pulls her hard against him. And yet, something goes awry. He isn't rough with her - he's never rough with her. Instead, he kisses go soft and sweet. His touch is light as it whispers against her skin, drawing goosebumps and shivers alike.

"Porter," she sighs, and it's heaven to hear. No one calls him Porter anymore.

He reaches beneath her thighs and lifts her against him. She wraps herself - fresh and bare and pristine - about him, dirty clothes, Wastleland wear and all. He carries her to the bed.

Later, when the sweat is drying cool and tight upon his skin, Gage holds her to his chest like a lover. Before Nora, he never stayed - usually just redressed, left the gal with a tip of his hat and maybe a handful of caps, and never saw 'em again.

But now, he can't seem to leave Nora's bed. Can't seem to stop pressing kisses along her brow. Can't stop stroking her hair between his fingers. Can't let go.

The new Overboss is a brave little thing. She's small enough that Gage can rest his chin atop her head with ease, and yet he's seen her take down men and monsters he wouldn't have ever dared challenge.

She doesn't talk much about where she came from. Shank's passed on some rumours from the Commonwealth: they say she took down the Brotherhood. They say she blew the Institute into a mile-wide crater of dust. They say she has an army. They say she cannot die.

But for all her guns and violence, it's clear she's no raider. She doesn't use chems, rarely drinks. Never steals or demands "tributes" or protection money; she pays fair price for anything she buys without complaint. She doesn't brawl or fuck with the other raiders. She's a goddamn model citizen in the wilds.

Still, Gage is willing to give her a shot. She was smart enough not to trust his offer of help (however genuine) in the Gauntlet, and clever enough to shoot out the connector-rod powering Colter's armor. Seeing her vault over an upturned car and unload a 45 into Colter's stupid stunned mug? Just about the damn sexiest thing Gage has ever seen.

And maybe that was Colter's problem from the start: they didn't need a raider to run raiders, they needed an Overboss. And yeah, she's bossy as all fuck.

From Day 1, she's made it damn clear that she won't tolerate violence towards the slaves. She meets with the gang leaders for maybe five minutes each, tells them to get their shit together, and then fucks off before they manage to get their own two caps in. On the way back to the Fizztop, she passes two Operators and tells them to get their asses up to the patio and clear all of "Colter's creepy ass shit" out of her loft. The place is damn near sparkling when Gage sees it next.

It's clear she doesn't care for raiders - would much rather share a drink with the slaves than any of the gangs. So it comes as a surprise when she starts clearing out the parks. Sure, they've hoisted three flags so far (damn diplomatic of her), but Gage gets the feeling she ain't doing it for the raiders. In the Safari Zone, she's more concerned about stopping the gatorclaws from spreading out into the Commonwealth. In Dry Rock and the Galatic Zone, it's damn obvious she's searching for the merchant hold-outs; she curses beneath her breath each time they find a corpse.

Nora stands out like a candle in the night among the raider filth of Nuka-World. She's goodness and beauty that the Wasteland should have chewed up and spat out long, long ago.

And so, when halfway through a shared bottle of rot-gut, she climbed onto his lap and kissed Gage like he was actually worth something, it damn near shocked the life out of him.

As she squirmed so sweetly against him, her lips soft and warm against his own, Gage had thought about throwing her to the ground and fucking her into the floor boards. Maybe tossing her over the countertop and railing her from behind. Instead, he'd closed his eyes and kissed her until they were both breathless and then carried her to the bed like a fucking princess.

Raiders don't 'make love'. They fuck. They screw. 'Go for a ride' or 'take a tumble' are about the nicest euphemisms they'll use. So whatever he does with Nora, Gage has no idea what to call it.

Afterwards, still too heated and sweaty for it to actually be comfortable, Gage had pulled her against his chest, and with one hand stroked up and down her back, and with the other, entangled her fingers with his own, kissing each in turn.

That was the first time he ever spent the night with a woman. In the morning, when a ray of sunlight had scraped his eye open, he thought about sneaking out before the Overboss awoke. Simpler that way. Gage had no time for complications. And yet, then she had rolled sleepily against him, clutched him closer, and pressed that flawless skin against his own battered hide. Maybe there wasn't such a rush to leave after all. His hands found their way down her sides and onto that perfectly rounded ass he'd been watching for days, and he again thought about bending her over dirty counters or maybe pressing her against the window to overlook the town while he pounded into her.

Before he had come to a decision, she awoke, kissed him with a smile, and then set off to make breakfast.

Gage has spent every night there since. And hell, things were pretty good. They made slow but steady progress on the parks. The Overboss is a damn good shot and clever as all hell. Half the time they don't even have to fight: she can hack or talk her way out of most anything. And fuck if Gage doesn't actually like spending time with her. She's fun in a manner completely foreign to a raider - lighthearted and kind in a way he should not find appealing. And more than anything, she listens to Gage - actually fucking listens. She doesn't always agree, but she always takes his counsel and that's all he's ever wanted.

Yeah, things are pretty damn good.

Whatever they're doing has been going on for a few weeks now. She's learned his penchant for an early morning walk just outside Nuka-Town. He's learned to let her sleep until the sun is well into the sky. As he pulls on his boots this morning, Gage dawdles a bit, watching her slumber. She lies on her stomach, the sheets pushed low, leaving him a clear view of the vista of her back. Like the rest of her, it's too perfect for this world.

Gage draws a slow finger up the curve of her spine, and she shivers in her sleep. When he reaches her neck, his hand skips up to sweep back the stray curls that have tumbled onto her face. Something draws him in deeper - the flushed coral of her lips, the faint dusting of freckles across her nose, the curl of her dark eyelashes resting upon her cheeks. An unfamiliar feel wells up inside of him and he leans down to press a kiss upon her forehead. The action startles him. She's still asleep. So who the fuck was that for? He shakes off the moment, stands a bit too quickly, and carries on his way.

Last night, Nora had asked him to stop by the Dunmore Homestead and grab some 'real food'; she's not one for living on tunnel cakes and promised him a nice dinner for his efforts. Dunmores don't much care for raiders, but they take Gage's caps all the same.

As he passes the Junkyard and the rusted husks of Nuka-World's discarded dreams, his thoughts drift back to when he took a hit from a Nukatron on their first expedition into the Galactic Zone. The fucker snuck up behind their cover. When it aimed its sites on the Overboss, Gage had tackled it and took the shot instead, the laser searing an ugly fissure up his thigh.

And yeah, Nora fussed. After putting two rounds in the bot's core, she had pushed Gage back under cover and cut open the remains of his pant leg. Fuckin shame too; he liked those pants. He swallowed down the growing feeling in his chest when she wasted an extra Stimpak on him - not like he was going to notice a couple new scars anyways.

On the way back to Nuka-Town, she insisted he lean on her as they walked. He's got a nearly a foot and a hundred pounds on her, but she pulled his arm awkwardly over her shoulders and together they stumbled onward.

It hurt like a sunovabitch, and maybe - just maybe - he was a tiny bit grateful for the help back to base, but it doesn't make up for the taunts and jeers he heard as they entered town. That big bad Gage has to be helped home by the little ol'Overboss tickled the shit out of the raiders lazing about the pond.

Was that when the doubt started? As they rode the lift up to the Fizztop, Nora had reached for his hand and he pulled away. Hard to say. He hadn't had time to notice the flash of hurt in her eyes; Overboss was too damn efficient as always. Before Gage even realized they had reached the top, she had him sat down on the couch, another Stimpak in his leg, a dose of Med-X in his arm, a cold drink (somehow, mercifully not a Nuka-Cola) in his hand, and then...

And then, she crouched down between his knees, unbuckled his belt and with no damn warning at all, had him in her mouth.

Gage has had his fair share of blow jobs in his day. But thinking back, he can't remember another woman looking up at him while she worked, lips curling up like she's actually fucking enjoying herself. But of course it's different with Nora; she's all sultry smiles and burning eyes. And, well, he sure as shit didn't kiss the other women afterwards like he does with Nora.

Gage is nearly back to town when he sees the flowers, blue and faintly glowing, just as he's seen and ignored a thousand times before. But now, he sees them. He sees their vibrant blue, and can't help but think of her. The blue of her vault suit and the way it hugs her form. The blue of her eyes as she looks up at him with something terrifyingly close to affection.

Before he can stop, he stoops and plucks the blossom from the thorny brambles. And then another. And another.

He has a half a handful before he asks himself what the fuck he's doing. Gathering flowers like some dandy Diamond City boy? She's the Overboss, and yeah, sure, they're fucking on the side. That's it. That's all. They ain't ... whatever else you might think.

He drops the flowers in the mud, pretending like he doesn't care enough to stomp on them.

What the hell is he doing out here anyways? Sure, Colter sent him on errands now and then. Whatever, it's what Overbosses do. But Nora hadn't demand he go as his boss. She had asked. Requested, even. Offered to what? Cook dinner? Make it a fucking date? The way she had asked with a coy smile? Bullshit. Pure bullshit. That ain't what being a raider is about.

Gage trudges on to Fizztop. A group of Disciples snicker as he passes by. Somehow they catch the tension in his shoulders, the stiffness in his gait. They see weakness and pounce on it.

"Lost your balls, old man?"

"I hear Overboss keeps 'em in her powder box."

He growls at them to fuck off and they only laugh harder. More taunts. More jeers.

He reaches for his gun and hates his own hesitation. Overboss doesn't like unnecessary violence. The gangs can do as they like in their own keeps, but out here in the streets of Nuka-Town, the Overboss wants it left clean.

It was never like this before Nora. Maybe the raiders didn't like him, but they respected him, knew he was the only one keeping order with Colter being too busy doing Jack-shit. But now, Nuka-World doesn't need him anymore: Nora, the great Overboss tends to their wants. And Gage? What the fuck was the point of him now?

He makes sure to shoot them in both kneecaps.

Atop the lift, Gage tosses his sack on the floor. Doesn't even care enough to kick it.

She's up now, dressed in that too-tight vault suit, hair brushed and shining. Her step is light as she comes to greet him. "Porter," she smiles at him, reaching up on her tiptoes to draw him down for a kiss.

Despite how soft and warm her lips feel against his own, Gage doesn't respond. Her kisses go on and on as her hands begin to roam, and fuck if she isn't all over him.

Hands on her shoulders, Gage pulls back from her.

She looks up at him, passion turning to confusion, and worse: concern. "Porter? What's wrong -"

He cuts off when he spins her about and pushes her rough against the bar. They're done playing whatever game this has been. If she wants to fuck, fine. But no more bullshit.

As he grinds against her, he can feel the stiffness in her. He ignores the scent of her worry in the air. So be it. He doesn't care, he tells himself as he grinds again, kneading at her chest and then moving on her zipper. One hand slips inside to roughly palm a breast, the other moves up to grasp her jaw, tugging her face back round. They kiss, but it's not like before. It's anger and resentment and confusion. It tastes like lust and guilt all at once.

Through it all, she stays silent, her usual sighs and gasps and those little throaty moans, so painfully absent. Gage grips her tighter, fingerprint bruises sure to follow in his wake. He shoves her forward against the bar again. And then, in a single tug, pulls down her suit and, without any other warning or preparation, pushes in.

She's not as ready as she should be. Usually his strokes glide through her like hot silk, wet and tight and fucking wonderful. Usually she's calling his name and clutching him closer. But not now. Instead, his thrusts stutter. There's no pleasure in it.

She looks back over her shoulder at him, and there's sorrow in her eyes. She doesn't pull away, doesn't complain, doesn't even tell him to stop, but the betrayal in her gaze speaks volumes. She knows what he's doing - probably even knows why he's doing it - and he can see her heart is breaking.

Gage staggers. A buck of ice water dumps over his anger and indignation. What the fuck is he doing? What the actual fuck?

He pulls out of her, and stumbles back like he's touched fire. He lands hard in one of the arm chairs, desire shrivelling, panting and wide-eyed in his shock.

Neither moves. Neither speaks.

It's then that he notices that her pistol is within reach, sitting right next to her on the bartop. She could have grabbed it and had a few rounds in his chest before he even realized what she was doing. Maybe a shot in the foot, if she was feeling damn generous. Why did she let him keep going? Why the fuck would she do that?

She doesn't look at him now, just stands and rights her clothing. She makes a show of tucking her gun back into its holster. He sees her swallow, her fists clench and tremble at her sides, before she turns and walks silently for the stairs.

Gage can't breathe. There's something that he refuses to call panic welling up in his chest and kicking the shit out of his heart. He watches her take another step, and time is all fucked up, like she's moving in slow motion. She's the only good thing he's ever had and he goes and hurts it. Breaks it. Throws whatever the fuck they had into the trash.

She's at the door now, reaching for the handle, and this is it. In a moment she's gone, and Gage is damn certain it's forever. He's going to lose her. And then what? Maybe a new Overboss appears. Gage goes back to his shitty life in this shithole of a park. Fucks some whores. Drink himself blind. That was the dream, right? His big fucking plan come to fruition.

And he spends the rest of his life miserable without her.

"Wait," he croaks.

She pauses, still gripping the handle. Does the fact she even stopped give him hope?

He stumbles towards her and falls to his knees at her side. "Wait. Please." He hasn't said that word since he was child. It tastes strange and bitter as it crosses his tongue. "I'm sorry," he manages against it. Taking her free hand in his own, he brings it to his forehead in prostration. "I shouldn'ta ... I won't ... not ever again."

Gage has tried to sell himself as the brains of the operation for most of his adult life. The smart one. The man with the plan. And now, with everything on the line, he can't manage one fucking sentence. "I don't ... I ain't no good at being what you want me to be." He swallows down the lump in this throat. "But I, ah, I wanna be what you want."

He squeezes her one hand tighter, silently begging her to let go of the door with the other.

"I'll try," he promises. Anything, he swears.

When he left home at the age of twelve, Gage swore he would never cower, beg, or apologize ever again. Twenty odd years later, atop a fake mountain, surrounded by the city of filth he helped create, he realizes first: that he'll do all three if she'll stay, and second: that it doesn't disgust him nearly as much as he would have thought.

The wait kills him. He wants to take her in his arms, hold her tight and kiss her breathless, until she swears to never leave. He wants to love her as he should have from the start.

But he doesn't move.

The low sunlight catches in her honey-brown hair, lighting it up like a damn halo as she stands above him. She lets go of the door and he nearly cries out in relief. When her hand runs along his jaw, a kindness he doesn't - hasn't ever - deserved etched into her eyes, Gage knows she must be a damn saint after all.

"Never again?" she asks.

"No," he swears. "Never. I'll be ... better," he tries.

She kneels down next to him to meet the level of his eye. It's then that Gage realizes he's not breathing.

She takes him into her arms, a comfort he hasn't earned, and holds him close against her breast. He waits for the knife in his side, the bullet in his chest, the payback for the sin he's just committed.

It doesn't come.

Instead, she strokes at his hair, tender and kind.

He's not sure how long they sit like that. When they do pull apart, habit has him leaning back in, but then he remembers where and why he is and stops just short of her lips.

She gives the smallest of smiles as she nods to him.

When they kiss, it's barely a touch. The stroke of her breath upon his lips is more forceful than the actual contact. The second time is stronger. By the third and fourth, she's grasping the back of his neck, pulling him nearer and nearer still.

As their touches grow more and more heated, Gage again pauses. Not here. Not on the dirty floor. He carries her to bed like the first time. Lays her down like a princess upon the sheets. Brushes back the hair from her brow. All of it sweeter, softer, gentler, than he's ever been before.

As his hands come to rest upon her hips, he hesitates. Does she even want him now? Not leaving is one thing, but sex is another. He gets his answer as she grabs the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head. She pushes at his pants, still open from before, and they too are thrown to the floor.

He lets her peel off his eyepatch. She's tried before, and he's always steered her away from it. He doesn't like people seeing him without it. There's a strange dichotomy to it: a man with an eyepatch is a mysterious badass. A man without an eye is a fuck-up who lost a fight.

But this time he lets her. If that's what she wants, he resolves, then so be it. Anything for her.

She traces a finger along the winding scar and he tries not to cringe under her scrutiny. She follows the trail as it cuts from his brow, over the ruined socket, and down into his cheek. Where it ends, she presses a kiss. He fights the need to crush her tight against his chest, hold her close enough that she'll never leave.

Gage is very aware that he's completely bare before her. She, meanwhile, still sits fully clothed in her vault suit, pistol at her side. He can't make the first move; not this time. So, when she does unholster her weapon and start to tug her zipper down, Gage finally helps her undress. He slides the top over her shoulders, patiently holding each cuff as she removes her arms. When she lifts her bottom, he pulls the suit down her legs, lips trailing the path down to her feet. He folds it, and places it carefully, reverently, on the chest nearby.

Wordlessly, Nora beckons him back, pulls him close so their bodies align. He kisses her from head to toes and back again. Her hips are restless as she pulls at his hair. "Porter, please."

Yes, he thinks. Say his name. Reach for him. And if that's all she wants, that's all they'll do. Gage will keep going until his damn tongue falls off.

Instead, she sits him back against the headboard and climbs onto his lap.

And this time, they make love.

She rides him, bent knees straddling his thighs. And there it is, what was so clearly missing before: the heat, the joy in the act. A flush travels up her chest and blooms across her cheekbones. Those little panting sighs, music to Gage's ears. His arms wrapped tight about her, he licks at her breasts as they sway before him.

Her eyes have fallen closed but his own pierce through her. Gage looks up at her, so fucking beautiful he wonders at what a damn fool he's been. Seeing her like this, swept away in the rise and fall of their bodies, makes his chest draw tighter still. He's known from start that he doesn't deserve this, but it's only now that he understands that he shouldn't have been trying to push it away - he should have grabbed on as tight as he could and been damned pleased that he'd gotten away with it.

And then she's coming. The way her back aches and her mouth falls open into a gasping "O" might be the most goddamn beautiful thing Gage has ever seen. It's too much. He buries his face into the crook of her neck and tastes the salt there. He holds her closer as they ride out their passions together, at peace with the knowledge that he can't let go.

Nightfall finds them still entangled in the bed. Gage lays upon his back, Nora draped across his chest, their fingers woven together, and he wonders, is this forgiveness?

He wants to say something, but he can't seem to find the right words. Some words do cross his mind - damn big words with only a few letters - but he's not sure if can he manage them. Not now. Not after what he's done.

Instead, it's Nora that breaks the silence. "I'm leaving," she says at last. "Tomorrow, I'm leaving."

A feeling that he cannot name tears through Gage's chest. So it's not forgiveness then, just a temporary stay. One last roll in the hay before she hits the dusty trail.

He remains feigning sleep. What else can he do?

Nora's breath quivers as it brushes against his chest. "I'm going to steal the keys to the slave collars, sneak them all out through the tram, and then leave Nuka-World forever - let this place rot on its own. You can try to stop me - tell Mason or Nisha or whoever my plan. You can pretend like you're asleep and don't hear any of this. Or..." she swallows and when she speaks again her voice is barely a shadow of a whisper. "Or you can come with me."

The silence hangs heavy in the room. Nuka-World was his dream, his life's ambition. And she's asking him to walk away.

He doesn't answer.

She doesn't say any more and eventually the lull of the night's winds flowing around the tower rocks Gage to sleep.

By the time he wakes, she's long gone.

It's a new experience waking up alone in the Overboss' bed. Gage is the early riser. He's up with the sun, usually dressed and ready to go while Nora's still groaning and burying her face beneath the pillows.

Today, he lays there for a while, staring up into the ceiling. He can't help but notice how strange it is for her side of the bed to be so cold.

Outside, he can hear some of the panic and flurry of activity as it filters up to the mountain top. The Overboss is gone and the slaves with her. It will be chaos for a while. Eventually, once the gang leaders get their heads out of their asses, they'll go after them. Without the slaves, there is no market. No market, no caps. And what's the fucking point of being a raider, if not for the caps?

Busy day ahead of him, Gage gets up, dons his armor, and heads out.

It takes him a while to hunt her down. He has work to do before he leaves, and Nora's clever enough to disable the tram on her way out of the park. Gage grumbles to himself the entire hike back to Boston. He loses a couple more days heading North to her Sanctuary, only to find that she's parted ways with the slaves, having passed them on to some of her Minutemen and then headed East.

It's there at the old fortress, nearly two weeks later, that he finds her.

Despite the busted walls, Fort Independence is still a damn impressive sight. Gage nods in approval at the long open approach to its gates. No trees, no ruins, no cover. No way to sneak up to it. Smart.

He walks the centre of the road in the broad afternoon sun, nothing to hide.

Up on the walls, there's movement as watchmen inform their COs that a stranger approaches. The notice goes up the chain of command until, at last, Gage sees her appear at the parapets. A princess in her Castle.

By the time he reaches the mountains of ruble and bricks, she's come down to meet him, standing alone in the centre of the yard. She's wearing a long blue coat and a fucking stupid hat.

He makes a show of putting down his gun and long hunting knife, leaving them in the shadow of the torn wall. Keeping his hands visible, he takes only the heavy sack he's carted across the Commonwealth with him further into the keep.

Stepping through the courtyard, Gage can feel the scopes of a dozen laser muskets upon him. One wrong move and he's a pile of ash upon the cobblestones. But he stands tall, chest out, head high, taking one step after the other, until he comes to stand before the General.

They say no greetings. Instead, he throws the bag at her feet, and out tumble four heads, eyes blank and skin greyed with age. He won't bring her flowers. He can't bring her flowers. But he can bring her this.

Without the heads, Nuka-World will collapse in upon itself. They'll be no hunts to recapture the slaves, no pillaging of Commonwealth settlements. In time, the remaining raiders will drift off to greener pastures and the park will be abandoned. And then, maybe, years or decades on, some travellers will stumble upon it, set up camp, form a trading post, and the cycle will begin again.

But Gage doesn't care. Nuka-World is behind him now, and he's only looking forwards.

As Nora stares down at the scattered hunks of raider flesh and somehow doesn't pull a gun on him, Gage prays that she gets it. It's an apology and a promise. Porter Gage is a raider at his core and that will never change. He ain't a prince. He ain't soft like he knows she wants him to be.

But he loves her, and that has to be enough.

And when she kisses him, covered in the filth of weeks of travel and down the barrels of half her army, she promises that it is.

A/N: Yeah, it's pretty OOC. Just let me have my rambling Gage romance anyways, okay?