Piper sighed happily as she began to wake. She didn't have the strength to open her eyes just yet but she was conscious of the warm morning sun on her face and the surprisingly comfortable mattress beneath her. She pulled the thin blanket up to cover her bare shoulder as she nuzzled the pillow she was resting on. Her olfactory senses delighted at the familiar, comforting smell that her hazy brain couldn't quite place. She adjusted her head and nuzzled in further but suddenly didn't feel so comfortable anymore. Her pillow felt…bony?
Confused, her eyes flew open and she quickly closed them again. They'd repaired the house walls enough to offer better privacy (especially since the bedroom faced the main street of Sanctuary Hills), but not enough to keep out the bright white rays of the early sun. It shined through every crack, every hole, and the section of wall near the ceiling that was still missing a number of panels. Piper hadn't been prepared for the onslaught.
She turned her face down and right, away from the brightness, and cautiously opened her eyes again. She was met with a softer glow. The colour of the golden hour before sunset. It didn't take long for her brain to catch up and identify the "pillow" beneath her as the lean shoulder of one very beautiful, ginger-haired, ex-vault-dweller. Piper blushed furiously at their close proximity.
They hadn't always shared a bed. The first time Piper had visited Sanctuary Hills with Jack, the older woman had retreated to her house from before the war and Piper had found a spare bed in a share-house that had been temporarily built to shelter the influx of new settlers. While travelling they tended to stay close when catching some sleep out in the open, sleeping bags on opposite sides of the fire or one person asleep while the other kept watch. But when they happened upon old buildings Jack often sought some space. Piper knew Jack had nightmares, flashes of traumatic scenes from before the war. Piper suspected they had something to do with the large burn across the middle of the older woman's face and the scar that began above her left eye and ran down her cheek. So she never objected when Jack wandered off.
Their habits changed after the night that they were ambushed by raiders. They were asleep in an abandoned home, separate rooms. Piper woke to rough hands covering her mouth and dragging her from her bed. She hadn't been strong enough to fight them off and they were close to suffocating her to mask her attempts to scream. On the way out she'd kicked at a rotting wooden table and sent it crashing to the ground, hoping it would be enough to wake Jack. The last thing she saw before passing out was a steel-capped boot colliding with her head. She'd woken up hours later by a crackling fire, her head bandaged and resting in Jack's lap. Jack's eyes were puffy as though she'd been crying and they lit up with relief at Piper's whispered, "Blue?"
She never did tell Piper how she'd managed to take down the three men that had taken her, and the ten others waiting outside, but Piper was eternally grateful. She'd heard the stories and seen the results of the things raiders did to the women they captured before killing them. Jack had begged her to go home, to return to Diamond City and be with Nat, but Piper was stubborn and wasn't going to let some filthy raiders stop her from travelling the Commonwealth and exposing injustices…And she couldn't possibly leave Jack alone, knowing what was out there. Nat was safer in Diamond City than Jack would ever be while wandering the wilderness. Jack blamed herself for putting Piper in danger and Piper argued that she made her own choices. Jack eventually gave up trying to convince her to leave but Piper knew she held on to her guilt.
During their next pit-stop in Sanctuary Hills Jack had added an extra bed to her crowded room. The beds had to be pushed together to fit in the space with Jack's dresser, desk, and giant vault-girl statue (she never did tell Piper where she got that or why she felt the need to keep it). Piper didn't argue when Jack led her into the home when they arrived at the settlement late one evening and pointed at the joined beds, grunting, "I sleep on the right" before removing her armour and passing out from exhaustion. It became an unspoken rule that Piper would sleep beside Jack to alleviate her worry. Piper had to admit that she felt safer with Jack beside her, and she couldn't help but hope that her presence made Jack feel safer too.
Jack had eventually found a larger mattress to span the width of the two frames that she had bound together after Piper had once rolled and fallen into the space between the two beds, having been startled by a brahmin nosing at their window. They'd never touched, though. They'd always fallen asleep and woken up the next morning on their own sides of the bed, facing away from each other…Until today.
Jack was laying on her back but her head was turned away from Piper. The reporter found the temptation to run her fingers through her friend's short, messy hair overwhelming. She'd once teased Jack that if her haphazard style had a name it'd be called 'unscrupulous', though it wasn't a reflection on the woman's character.
Piper rolled her eyes and reminded herself that she'd pledged to work on not ogling her friend so much. The woman had lived in a sophisticated era of proper social etiquette and outstanding personal hygiene. Piper reminded herself that there was no way a woman like Jacqueline Taylor would ever be interested in a plain Jane like her. Or any Jane, if her marriage to a man was anything to judge by. Not to mention that she was a woman out of time mourning her spouse and searching for her child.
Piper began to move away from the sleeping woman beside her as she snickered to herself at the look she imagined Jack would give her if she ever found out that Piper knew her real name. Jack stirred at the movement and Piper froze.
Piper chuckled awkwardly as Jack's head turned towards her. "Uh, hey, Blue. Morning. I was just, uh. You're a real blanket thief, you know that?"
Piper's rambling came to an abrupt halt when Jack sleepily slid an arm beneath her and pulled her back towards the shoulder she'd woken up on. Jack's eyes remained closed and Piper realised that she hadn't quite woken up. Not knowing what else to do, Piper adjusted her cheek against Jack's shoulder and relaxed against the sleeping woman.
Piper fought the urge to touch the almost imperceptible lift of the corner of Jack's mouth, but she lifted a finger and traced the air over those plump lips without brushing against them. Piper didn't think she'd ever seen Jack look this relaxed while awake. The large burn scar starting above Jack's right eyebrow and travelling over the bridge of her nose always made her look so stern. It marred some of the freckles on Jack's nose, which were darker and more pronounced than Piper's own faint spots. The scar over her left eye looked like it had been a deep cut and Piper wondered what in the world this woman had done in the past to earn such wounds.
The sight of the vault-dweller's scarred face had startled (okay, and maybe frightened) Piper at first. She could never quite tell if Jack was smiling, sneering, frowning…She'd eventually learnt to look for those smaller signs – the curl of a lip, the faint laugh lines at Jack's eyes, and the way her green eyes sparkled with mirth.
Piper felt her eyes grow heavy. Jack didn't seem like she would be waking any time soon so Piper allowed her eyes to close as she drifted back to sleep.
Piper guessed that about an hour had passed when she woke up again. She could hear the sounds of the settlers going about their work, including Sturges hammering away at those damn walls again.
She had rolled in her sleep and was facing away from Jack. She could feel the other woman moving behind her and she realised Jack was trying to reclaim the arm Piper was laying on. Oh man, I hope I haven't made her uncomfortable.
Piper sat up in a panic and greeted Jack cheerily as she briefly stretched her arms above her head. "Morning, Blue! You know, I never would have thought you were a cuddler."
With Piper no longer leaning on her arm, Jack pulled it away quickly, guiltily, as a blush crept its way up her neck. "Piper! I-I'm so sorry! I don't know h-how-"
"It's okay, Blue", Piper reassured her more softly. "It was kinda cold last night and I tend to run a bit warm. I'm not surprised you would try to use me as a human heater".
She chuckled at Jack's burning cheeks while looking down at her lap to mask her own. She felt guilty for letting Jack take all the credit for their intimate position; it had, after all, been a team effort. But she'd panicked and reached for levity and now Jack thought she was solely responsible. Piper was terrified to take it back or correct the situation because she was sure Jack would see right through her. She couldn't bear the possibility of ruining this friendship or having things grow awkward between them, which they surely would if Jack realised Piper was crushing on her like a pubescent teenager.
Jack got out of the bed and self-consciously pulled down her tank top that had ridden up above her belly button. Piper swallowed back a sudden flood of drool at the sight of the toned plain of Jack's abdomen.
Thankfully Jack didn't notice as her eyes darted around the room. "I, uh, I'm gonna go collect some water for the tub".
"Good, you smell worse than a brahmin".
Piper was relieved when Jack made eye contact at last and smirked. "Yeah? I'd rather smell like a brahmin than a mirelurk."
Piper clutched at her chest and gave her best 'I'm wounded' expression, causing Jack to laugh. The sound tickled something in Piper and she couldn't help but chuckle along. It's okay, we're okay. Nothing's changed.
"Don't worry, I'll get some water for you too, stinky," Jack teased as she headed out of the bedroom.