“Say, what’s in this drink?” Nora’s voice drifts up from Piper’s living room, careening off the metal walls of the structure to the small loft where Piper sits, organizing the complimentary copy of Publick Occurences she’d promised her new friend. Piper had worried about this, had agonized over how to best approximate the old-world cocktail, had even taken two trips to Goodneighbor to talk with Daisy and to try recipes. Making this damn thing hadn’t been easy, and somehow she’d still managed to mess it up.
She stuffs the papers under her arm and turns to the ladder, climbing down one rung at a time and trying not to beat herself up too much.
“What do you mean?” She turns to Nora, sees her perfect rosy lips parted in a smile, and her stomach does a flip. It always does that when Nora smiles at her, but can you blame her? The other woman looks like she stepped out of that pin-up calendar Piper found when she was nine, the one that made her realize it wasn’t the local boys she was interested in, that her friendship with Patti up the road might be more than she thought (it wasn’t, but oh, that had been an exciting summer).
“I mean this is wonderful . I can’t believe you made me an Old Fashioned! I haven’t had one of these in...well, I guess about two hundred years.” Under the easy humor, Piper detects a thread of sadness.
“Well, I read somewhere that that’s what they drank back in your time,” Piper sets the copy of the paper down on the coffee table and picks up her own drinker. She’s not really much of a drinker but she takes a tentative sip and almost spits it out. What the hell? This is what they drank back then?
“We did,” Nora replies absently, taking another sip of the drink and smiling again. “These were my favorite. Where in the world did you get bitters from?”
“Oh, you know, I know a guy who knows a guy,” Piper says as casually as she can, trying to ignore the fiery thrill that goes through her as she looks at Nora’s smile. Nevermind the ridiculous amount of caps she spent to get ahold of the tiny bottle of bitters, or the way she whined to Daisy about were they really necessary?
“Oh yes,” Daisy had croaked with a knowing smile. “Without the bitters it’s just whiskey and sugar water. I don’t know where we’ll get an orange from, though. Maybe there’s something we can do with a mutfruit…”
Nora’s leans back into couch as if this is the first time she’s been comfortable since she crawled out of that vault two months ago. She’s already taken her shoes off and her sock feet are curled under her. There’s just enough room for another person on the loveseat and Piper wants nothing more in the world than to sit next to her but she doesn’t dare; instead she pushes the stack of papers into Nora’s hand and paces as the other woman lazily reads them.
It gives her a chance to study Nora more closely - the vault dweller reminds her of a film star that’d been popular long before the war, Lauren Bacall. She’s got the same cat-like grace, the same light brown hair flipped over one eye, the same way of tilting her head down and looking up through her lashes in a way that turns Piper’s knees to jelly. It can’t be an accident, that look - and what it does to her - can it?
She does it now, in fact; with her face still pointed at the paper, she peeks up at Piper, a small smile working at one corner of her mouth. Piper takes another sip of the foul whiskey concoction in her hand and almost gags, prompting a real laugh from the gorgeous creature on the couch.
“Not your type of drink?” Her voice is infused with amusement, even though she doesn’t laugh right in Piper’s face.
“No, I guess not,” Piper finally gives up, setting the glass down on the coffee table.
“More for me, then,” Nora says sweetly as Piper turns to the cabinet in the corner to mix herself a rum and Nuka, like a sane person might drink. She takes the time to try to cool herself down, to try to get her breathing steady.
“So, what did you think of the story?”
“It’s beautiful, Piper.” Nora’s voice is soft and is she imagining a quaver in it? Maybe it’s just her own nerves. Piper doesn’t trust herself judgment where the vault dweller’s concerned; it’s like her hormones take over. The Nuka-Cola fizzes into the glass and Piper sets the bottle down, picks up her drink, and turns back to the siren on her couch.
“Hey, I just wrote what you said. All that stuff about hope? That came from you, Blue.” Piper stands nervously against the cabinet, the corner digging into her back, and sips her drink.
Maybe Nora notices her nerves, maybe she’s just being friendly. Either way, she pats the seat on the couch next to her, one slim pink hand on the faded and worn red velvet. Piper winces as she sees a bit of dust puff into the air, but Nora doesn’t seem to notice; her eyes are on Piper, glinting green jewels in her perfect, smooth face.
“Why don’t you come sit down?” There’s a purr in her voice and for a moment Piper feels like prey. It’s not an entirely unpleasant feeling.
Piper may be jittery (and she’s not sure why, it’s not as if she’s never felt this way about another woman before) but her feet aren’t - they carry her over to the couch with no qualms, and in a moment she’s seated next to the vision, so close she can feel the other woman’s body heat. Inside she can feel her veins vibrating with yearning. She takes a sip of her drink to calm herself and somehow her hand is steady, even as she sets the glass down on the coffee table.
Why is she so nervous?
Nora sits with her back against the armrest and one slim arm along the back of the couch; in a moment, she reaches up and pulls Piper’s hat off, setting it gently on the table.
“I’ll take your hat. I’m sure your hair looks swell.” Those hands with their deliciously long fingers are already untangling the scarf around Piper’s neck, even as her own hands fly to her hair, smoothing the dark locks as she blushes. Hat hair is the worst and in winter -
“I’m not sure -” Piper’s not even sure where she’s going with that, but her voice cuts out entirely when Nora’s hands take her own, stopping their frantic combing.
“Your hands are just like ice.” Is this going...where she thinks it’s going? Piper’s not in the habit of holding hands with other people and she doubts Nora is either. All she can think about now is how Nora’s hands are warm around her own, her fingers rubbing gently, and her skin is so soft. How is it so soft when her own hands are calloused and cracked from the winter chill?
Piper looks up, meets those beautiful eyes under artfully arched eyebrows and falls silent. They’re deep, as green as the walls of Diamond City, but this close she can see the tawny dappling in them and even a few pinpricks of silvery gray. It’s arresting, and Piper can’t look away. This close to Nora she’s sure the older woman can feel her heart hammering in her chest - it feels like it’s trying to climb up through her mouth - but Nora’s just looking at her, rubbing her hands gently. Maybe it’s the rum or maybe she’s lost it, but Piper decides to just roll the dice.
She leans in and kisses Nora. There’s only a few inches between them but crossing that space is as frightening as sailing across the Atlantic. The vault dweller’s lips are tender, and there’s a faint waxy taste from her lipstick, but Piper presses on, teasing her lips open with a dainty probing of her tongue, and Nora releases her hands and leans towards her. Piper’s hands drift up, stroking the fine hairs at Nora’s temple, caressing her cheeks. When she leans back into her seat, Nora stays in place for a moment, a confounded expression crossing her face.
“Your eyes are like starlight,” Piper murmurs unconsciously, unaware for a moment that she’s even spoken the words out loud. Nora blushes, and smiles, and Piper feels like she’s drifting above her body, somewhere near the ceiling. To have given her that smile - it’s all she wants in the world.
“Thank you,” Nora says finally. She looks away, down at the ring on her finger, spinning the gold band, and her face takes on a seriousness that fills Piper with regret. She’s really botched things now, she realizes. The woman’s husband - her husband , a man - is barely dead and Piper’s making a move on her like a damn jackal.
In an instant, revulsion at herself fills Piper, starting at her toes and swelling upwards, a hot and heady shame that makes her feel like her brain is pressing against the top of her skull. There’s no room in her for anything but this anger and she stands abruptly. All she can think of is that she has to get out of here, has to run away -
A hand on her own. A slim hand with long fingers and a cold piece of metal around one finger.
Piper turns, and Nora is looking up at her. The expression on her face is unsettled.
“Please, don’t go.” Piper’s never heard that tone in her voice before. It’s pleading and plaintive, and she can’t say no to it. Piper sits, obediently, and the babbling starts.
“Look, Blue, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have - I mean, with your husband and all...and I don’t even know if you like girls, let alone me -”
She’s silenced again by the feeling of Nora’s lips on her own, Nora’s fingers carding delicately through her hair. This time there’s more - more passion, as if this kiss comes from a place deep within her. There’s more everything , with Nora’s tongue meeting her own, and she tastes like whiskey and mutfruit and something else, something that she’s never tasted in another woman before, something uniquely…blue.
This time when they part, Piper can barely open her eyes to look at her, but when she does, she sees Nora smiling. Blushing, again, but the smile is undeniable. And beautiful.
For once, it doesn’t send her stomach into freefall. Instead she finds herself smiling in return, a genuine grin that makes Nora’s smile all the wider. When Piper realizes this, her smile grows even bigger and before she knows it, the two of them are giggling at each other, hands clasped.
“I’ve always wondered…” Nora starts, then stops. “I’ve wanted to do that since we met,” she finally says. “I’ve wondered -” she stops again, the blush spreading back across her face and to her ears. Looking at it, Piper wants to kiss her again, but she waits for Nora to collect her thoughts. “I’ve wondered how your lips might taste,” she finally gets out.
A spark charges through Piper, flickering through her body as she tries to process all her thoughts.
“And how do they taste?”
Nora leans in again, her lips brushing against Piper’s, the two of them ganging up on her lower lip and then working their way up to taunt her with a hint of tongue before she pulls back.
“Delicious.” She doesn’t pull away this time, and Piper can feel her smile against her lips. They kiss again, a lingering, indulgent caress of lips and tongues that leaves her feeling dizzy.
“I should really get home,” Nora says when she pulls away, although it’s clear from her face, from her tone, that she wants nothing more than to stay. Even as she speaks, her fingers tangle around Piper’s own even tighter.
“It’s so cold outside…” Piper leans closer, wrapping an arm around Nora’s narrow shoulders, and rubs her back a little. “Why don’t you just stay?”
“Won’t people talk?” Nora twists in her seat so her body is finally fully pressed against Piper’s, and no, she really doesn’t want to leave. It’s good because Piper has no intention of letting her go, not when she feels like that , not with the curves she’s packing in that vault suit, not when she doesn’t want to go.
“This ain’t the old days, Blue,” Piper laughs, giddy with the idea of finally - finally! - having Nora all to herself. “Nobody around here cares.”
Nora eyes her up and down. Traces a line up Piper’s arm with one finger that sends a shiver through her.
“Is that what you want?”
Piper nods. No more games, no more nerves.