Title: No Exceptions

Summary: The Courier dies at Bitter springs, and Boone sees it as a continuation of his own punishment.

Disclaimer: I don't own Fallout New Vegas, or any of its characters.

The Courier picks up a machete, dead Legionaries piled all around him. He catches Boone's eye and grins. He pumps the fist gripping the weapon in the air and a war cry bellows out from deep in his chest. Boone relaxes his rifle, the smile contagious.

Then fate happens.

The Courier's cry cuts off, and gets replaced by a strange gurgling. Boone catches the blood-stained glint of a machete sticking out of the Courier's chest.

Legionaries, dozens of them, come out of the shadows, crawling over the rock formations like deadly spiders. Boone screams as his companion, his friend, falls to his knees. He begins shooting every Legionary within his range of vision. He isn't as accurate as he normally is because his vision is clouded. He focuses on the crimson he can see, and not on the hot streaks running down his cheeks.

When he runs out of shots, he doesn't bother reloading. He begins swinging his rifle like a man possessed, hitting solid flesh until the gun breaks. Throwing it in the face of an attacking Legionary, he pulls his machete off of his hip.

He tries not to think of the Courier's smile as he gave him the machete after they took back Nelson from the Legion.

He attacks wildly, and feels a hollow satisfaction as limbs fly past his head, and blood spatters his face. Boone hears an awful, guttural screaming, and hopes that the Legionary who made it is suffering.

Boone hasn't stopped screaming since the Courier fell.

Legionaries begin to turn tail and run. Boone kills the ones who weren't fast enough to get away by shoving his machete through their back and out of their chest.

He has always been a fan of poetic justice, probably because he has lived it every day of his life since Bitter Springs.

And today is no exception.

He falls next to the Courier's body, and sees that he is still breathing. Boone doesn't allow himself to hope.

"Hey," he says, his voice shaking. He gathers the Courier up in his arms, his heart breaking at how fragile he feels. He tries to fight the impulse to staunch the wound, but his hand finds his way up to it anyway.

God, but he had forgotten how much blood could come out of a person. It flows over his fingers onto the dirt below, and Boone can see the Courier's future in the red stains.

"We should have never traveled together," he says softly. The Courier shakes his head, and Boone's grip tightens on him. "Don't move. It'll be easier on you."

"Boone," the Courier says weakly. "Craig."

"Don't talk either," Boone says, and his throat aches with grief. He can't bear to hear what his friend has to say. The Courier shakes his head again.

"Craig," he says again. "Not your fault."

"Don't be stupid," Boone answers. "'Course it is." He judges the distance to Bitter Springs. Maybe he can get the Courier there in time, but he doubts it. The Courier's luck left him the instant he decided to travel with Boone. A hand clutches at his chest as he stands up. He looks down. The Courier's face is drawn and pale. Boone knows he isn't going to live.

"Listen. You can-" The Courier's eyes widen, and a sense of panic fills them. Boone's grip tightens on him as he goes limp, and the light leaves his eyes.

Boone stands there for a long time, holding his last victim.

When he finally makes it back to Bitter Springs, he doesn't notice how quiet it is. He doesn't notice the grim faces as he walks past. All he can focus on is the weight in his arms, and how he's holding what used to be so full of life. He doesn't stop until Lt. Markland steps in front of him.

"Boone," he intones softly. Boone doesn't answer. He just looks through him. "Boone, give him to me. We'll bury him." He reacts by gripping the Courier's body tightly as Markland tries to take him. Markland speaks quietly, and soothingly, but Boone can't make any sense out of what he's saying. Finally, his grip weakens, and the Courier's body is taken from him. Markland carries him over to the graves that line the entrance to Bitter Springs. Boone wants to object. He doesn't want his friend to lie with his previous murder victims for all of eternity, but he can't find his voice. It is fitting, after all. Boone helped kill the people lying in those graves, just as sure as he killed the Courier. He silently follows Markland, pausing only to grab a shovel.

He'll bury him. He owes him that much.

Boone watches the sun rise over the Mojave, the freshly dug grave a haunting reminder that he couldn't escape his punishment. He knew what the Courier was going to tell him.

He was going to say that Boone couldn't change the past, but he could choose to work toward a better future. That he could take his grief, and make it coalesce into a purpose. That might have worked, had the Courier lived.

But he hadn't, because he had been with Boone.

Boone hated the Mojave Wasteland. He had lost his life here, and inherited the wasteland's quality of burning the people around him to ashes. He followed orders at Bitter Springs, had killed the love of his life, had doomed his best friend to a life of loneliness, and now, he had taken the life of the last person who had cared about him.

Boone had a purpose now. He would leave the Mojave. After all, he couldn't be late for his engagement in Shady Sands. He had two bullets to give as a gift.