A True Romantic


Barrett is a solider. An old merc with more enemies than skin and the cheerful disposition of a rabid yao guai with heatstroke. He hates just about everything in the world there is to hate. Like the way his armor finally rubbed off the last real patch of skin on his back. Or that too-cheerful asshole that comes down every other week with that freak from Underworld and a wagonload of Sugar Bombs. He hates watching her prance around asking if there's anything she can do to help, giving Murphy bedroom eyes he's too dense to notice. He hates being stuck in a goddamned subway tunnel breathing in the same used-up jet fumes again and again and having to trek outside for a smoke so he doesn't blow something up. He hates the way Murphy makes him go sit by the radioactive waste bins when he comes back smelling of cigarettes. But somehow…

Somehow he doesn't hate Murphy.

And it doesn't mean anything. Because really, law of averages and all that—there's bound to be something in the wasteland he doesn't hate the sight of and it just so happened Murphy was it. It doesn't mean anything. He's not a goddamned pansy. He just sorta likes the guy and there's not a whole lot more to it. And yeah, so he wants to strangle the Sugar Bimbo every time she comes down. So maybe he stopped calling her the Sugar Bimbo in front of Murphy because every time he did the guy left mumbling, "I dunno. I thought she was kinda nice," with that goddamned kicked puppy look. And sure, if he had a heart, maybe he'd even admit staring into those sad brown eyes did something to it.

But he doesn't have a heart. He's not that kind of guy. He doesn't like anybody and damned if there's anybody in this godforsaken wreckage that likes him. And it's just as well anyway. He doesn't need to be going soft. Not at his age—not at one hundred and forty fucking years old. The last thing he needs is to wind up at the wrong end of a shotgun because he was too damn noble to let some other asshole take the blast.

Except that if it came down to it, he's pretty sure he'd take that shot for Murphy. And he doesn't like to think about it because he's really not that kind of guy, but the thought's still there, just sorta sitting quietly in the corner and waiting for him to realize it. And it doesn't help that it gets up at the worst times. Like when Murphy tests a new batch and ends up high and sobbing in his arms and he can only think of one never-in-this-goddamned-lifetime way to fix it. Or when another fucking mirelurk comes up from the trap door and he can't help thinking what if I'd been smoking when he wastes more ammo than he has splattering its guts against the wall.

He's not that kind of guy. But if he was that kind of guy, the Sugar Bimbo would be two seconds away from a bloody mess right now, leaning on Murphy like he's some kind of fucking sex on legs.

He takes a deep breath through his nose instead and ends up trying not to grope for his gun as her hand just happens to fall on Murphy's thigh. And apparently she's been sleeping with the freak from Underworld because when Barrett glances over, he's got the same look on his face, glaring at Murphy like he wants to squeeze his head off.

Which is just not fucking okay.

And yeah, he's not that kind of guy, but it doesn't stop him from catching the other guy's eye and making it deadly clear just what kind of line the Sugar Bimbo's crossing. The other guy—who most definitely is that kind of guy but too damn programmed to show it—just nods and strides across the room. Barrett doesn't hear what he tells her. Something about Meresti and Rivet City with a mistress thrown in for good measure and Murphy looks almost… relieved. Barrett blinks and looks again, wondering if his head's finally going and he'll turn feral in the morning, but the look on Murphy's face never changes.

He's glad the Bimbo's going—he looks relieved.

"Thought she'd never leave," he says when they've gone and laughs that awkward chuckle that always sets Barrett's not-heart going. "I mean, she's a sweet girl and all, but uh… not exactly my type."

And Barrett would have thought anything with tits and skin was Murphy's type but the guy's fixing him with that look and suddenly Barrett's painfully aware just what an idiot he is.

"Yeah?" he asks with an awkward smile of his own—it's been so damn long now, he's nearly forgotten how. "Since when do you got a type?"

Murphy leans against the counter, grinning at him like he's missed some sort of giant secret and just laughs. And he's not that kind of guy—he still has a thing for tits and skin and beyond that and he's not especially picky. But somewhere along the way he's picked up a thing for big brown eyes and ruined smiles and suddenly he's across the room before he knows it, his mouth locked against Murphy's like he's dying for a hit. And now with the lingering taste of jet and sugar like fire in his mouth, he hates his goddamned armor more than ever—why the hell do either of them wear clothes anyway—and he's half way to ripping them off when he hears Murphy laugh, low and breathless in his ear.

"I always knew you were a true romantic."