Leyah's hip hurt when she woke up, and she felt warmer than usual.
Her eyes slowly fluttered open and she almost jumped when she realized that she had fallen asleep leaning against Maverick.
She didn't know why, but she had wanted to just be close to him after he told her what happened and that urge was stronger than her fear of what he would think.
Her heart started to thud in her chest as she slowly looked up at his sleeping face. She shifted a little so she could get a better look and took in the sight before her. Maverick looked younger when he was asleep. The deep lines in his forehead and the eternal frown he usually had were nonexistent now. Her eyes followed the stubble along his sharp jawline toward his slightly parted mouth. His dark eyelashes fanned out on his high cheekbones and his slightly crooked nose actually looked charming from this angle.
His hair was a little tousled too and she had to resist the urge to reach up and push it away from his face.
Her whole body started to feel warm in a different way as she stared and she mentally smacked herself. No, she couldn't be doing this right now. Maverick was her friend. Her mentor. Her guide. Not a potential boyfriend.
Hell, he probably saw her as another little sister, since he said she reminded him of Rachel and all.
Leyah's heart sunk at the thought and she inwardly groaned. No, this couldn't be real. She was probably just feeling this way because he saved her and is helping her. Nothing more.
She had to study psychology a little when the G.O.A.T said she was cut out to be a doctor. She knew the signs of the 'White Knight syndrome'. Yet, she couldn't stop her heart from flopping around in her chest from just being close to Maverick. She noticed that these reactions started right after he actually called her by her name, and they haven't left.
Without realizing it, she had dug her fingers into the fabric of his shirt while she was contemplating her new feelings and the blush on her cheeks only burned more. His body felt like it was made of stone beneath her hands and Leyah found herself wondering what he looked like underneath the shirt.
Shit, she had to get away.
Somehow, she managed to get out from underneath his arm and she stepped out into the hallway. Leyah checked her Pip-boy and flinched at the time. 5:30…she couldn't remember if she had ever been awake at this time in her entire life.
She leaned against the wall and took a deep breath, trying to get her emotions under control. She wasn't stupid about sex and stuff, she dated Wally Mack for crying out loud and she wasn't exactly innocent.
Leyah inwardly flinched at the thought. That was one of the worst decisions she ever made.
But, her experiences in that part of her life were limited and she had no idea what to do about the way she was reacting toward Maverick. This was a completely different game that she didn't know how to play. She thought about the age difference between her and Maverick as well and her heart dropped even more.
Maverick had to be way more experienced than her in everything and he probably saw her as a stupid kid.
Leyah pinched the bridge of her nose. She had to stop thinking that actually having something with Maverick was an option, because it wasn't. And it never was going to be. There was no way in hell he would even consider her. These thoughts swam in her mind for more than a few minutes.
Leyah jumped and looked up to see Maverick standing at the threshold of the doorway. He yawned and ran his fingers through his hair, causing it to stick up in the front a little. "What time is it?"
Leyah mentally cursed when she momentarily thought the action was cute. "It's about 5:45. You want to get ready to head out?"
Maverick nodded and stepped back into the room. "Yeah, let's see what we have to work with and then we'll get going."
It was almost 6:30 by the time they counted out all they had and planned out what they were going to do. Before the mutants took over the Museum of Technology, the Brotherhood had used it as a research base for a while, so Maverick already knew its layout.
Leyah tried to avoid being near Maverick as they stepped out into the faint morning light. That was hard to do since they had to basically crawl down the broken down side of the building toward the metro. Maverick had reached up and helped her down a ledge more than once and she cursed herself for feeling breathless each time he did.
She started to feel queasy when they approached the metro and grumbled a little as they finally made it down the hill. Why did the metro have to be the only way to travel everywhere? It was dumb.
A heavy breathing noise and quick footsteps caused her to freeze in her tracks. "Maverick-"
"I hear it," he growled, cocking his gun.
Sure enough, there was a feral ghoul high tailing it toward them. Maverick raised his shotgun and it was down before it could get 20 feet away from them.
He looked over at her and Leyah's breath hitched in her throat when the morning sunlight managed to hit his eyes just right, making his eyes look more green than blue. "You okay, Vaultie?"
Leyah mentally shook herself and forced out a, "Yeah, I'm good."
He nodded and started to walk toward the metro entrance. "This metro is notorious for its bastard ghouls because it leads toward the Museum of History. You'll have to be on your toes, okay? Remember all the shit I taught you."
Leyah nodded and tried to use the trick she used yesterday. Just focus on how calm he is. Just focus on him.
She inwardly groaned after the thought.
She was digging herself a bigger hole without even trying.
Women were a big mystery. Maverick knew this and he discovered this the hard way during his first serious relationship many years ago.
They were the best mysteries to solve though, and Maverick was trying to do just that as he sat at the top of the Washington monument while Leyah fixed the radio dish.
He was contemplating his current mystery while cleaning his shotgun, occasionally glancing up at Leyah to make sure she wasn't about to fall or anything.
She had been acting weird and distant all day and he had a little idea for the reason she was. It had to be because of something he said or how they accidentally fell asleep last night.
Either way, it was his fault. He learned to just accept that fact during his previous relationships.
Shit, why was he categorizing his problems with Leyah with the problems he had with his previous girlfriends?
Maverick sighed and put his gun back together, crossing his arms as he looked away from the vault girl. No, this could never be a thing. He was almost 15 years older than her, not to mention that she thought the idea of them actually being something as a joke. She had laughed when the Pride teased them yesterday and Maverick knew what that meant.
It meant that it was never going to be something and that was that.
Leyah wasn't drop dead gorgeous, hardly anyone in the wasteland was, but that didn't mean she wasn't pretty. Maverick noticed that she was attractive from the start, but that didn't mean he had really thought about it until now.
She had more curves and flesh on her due to her upbringing in the vault and her short stature gave her a slightly stocky but cute look. Maverick also started to notice how her nose would scrunch up a little when she laughed and how passionate she was about stupid things like technology and science. He had also noticed how the weak sunlight today would cause her hair to shine in a way dim lightbulbs couldn't and that was when he knew he was in trouble.
He inwardly groaned.
Maverick wished that he didn't basically tell her his life story now, because he felt that it was impairing his judgment when it came to her now. He basically covered everything in the metro and she actually got irritated with him at the Museum of Technology when he was starting to get a little protective. She actually shoved him out of the way so she could take out a mutant herself at some point.
The little vault girl was getting under Maverick's skin in a way he never anticipated and he surprised to find himself welcoming the feeling instead of pushing it away, and that meant accepting the fear and doubt that came with it.
Sure, it would never be something, but Maverick hadn't felt this at ease or happy in 8 years and he was okay with just being around her as long as that feeling remained.
Leyah jumped down from the ladder, wiping the dirt off her hands. "Alright, Three Dog should be getting his signal now."
Maverick nodded and pushed himself up. "Perfect, now let's go give that bastard hell. I'll be a bigger help this time around," he joked.
Leyah shook her head with a grin. "Actually, I'll let you take care of it since you slacked the last time. I have a feeling that you'll get somewhere with the jerk faster."
Maverick shrugged. "I don't know, Vaultie. You gave him a run for his caps last time."
Leyah rolled her eyes and walked toward the elevator. "Sure. And I'm also 7 feet tall."
"No, you just don't know when to shut up and that helps with assholes like him."
"So glad to know you think that way."
Maverick couldn't stop his grin. There was the spunk he didn't hear all day. Maybe her behavior the rest of the day had nothing to do with him. Maverick mentally hit himself. Why was he overthinking this shit? He was starting to sound like his sister.
The elevator ride down seemed to take even longer than the ride up.
Maverick glanced down at her and started to wonder what she was thinking. Her head started to move and he quickly looked away before she could catch him looking at her.
"Maverick…will you tell me when it's okay to ask you more about the Brotherhood and stuff?"
"What do you want to know?" he asked. He honestly didn't mind telling her that shit now. It was probably because he knew she wouldn't use it against him somehow later on like any other wastelander would.
Leyah stared up at him with an incredulous look and Maverick suddenly realized how blue her eyes actually were. "Seriously?"
"No, you only have this window," Maverick replied, going deadpan.
Leyah frowned and pinched his arm.
"Ow! I'm going to start telling people that you're abusive to your friends!"
"Don't pick on me!"
"You make it too easy."
"Fine, I'm not going to ask you questions now."
Maverick scoffed. He suddenly remembered a game he and Rachel would play when they were kids. "How about this; any question you ask, we both answer. That way you might get to shut up a little."
Leyah arched a brow. "Why do you want to do this? I already told you a lot."
Maverick shrugged. "Jesus, I was trying to give you an opportunity to bug me more than usual, but you obviously don't want it."
Leyah gently elbowed him. "Well excuse me for being incredulous when you wouldn't tell me jack before!"
Maverick opened his mouth to argue, but she was right for once. "Fuck," he hissed, looking away.
"Holy shit, I just proved a point. Yes!" The elevator door chose that moment to open and she skipped out, whooping in victory with her hands in the air.
Instead of being irritated, Maverick found himself thinking the action was cute.
So much for trying to not think of her that way.
Leyah turned around, and started to walk backwards out of the monument with her hands clasped behind her. "So are you serious? You really want to let me have free reign?"
"Fucking hell Vaultie, take the offer before I change my mind."
She giggled before turning back around to walk straight again. "Okay, first question. What was growing up in the Citadel like?"
"Tough as hell. Dad wanted Rach and I to train as soon as we could. It was okay when we weren't training though. It was safe…safer than anywhere else in the wasteland at least. Your turn Vaultie."
"Well, the Vault was same on the safe part. Now that I think about it, it was kind of depressing. A lot of people were suffering from VID and then there were the Tunnel Snakes."
"What the hell is VID? And what the fuck is a Tunnel Snake?"
"Vault Induced Depression. I had to learn about it when I was training to be a doctor. It's almost as if humans knew they weren't supposed to be underground. And the Tunnel Snakes were the 'gang' in the vault," she explained, holding up air quotes.
"You guys had a gang? Jesus."
"They didn't really do much. They literally walked around with their pocket knives and threatened people for fun. I actually punched their leader in the face once when he picked on Amata."
Maverick couldn't help but smirk. "Remind me not to get on your bad side."
Leyah lightly shoved him, but a grin was on her face.
They walked out of the monument's gate and Leyah let out a sigh as they made their way around the outskirts of the Mall. "You know what I wonder sometimes?" she said quietly.
Maverick wanted to chide her for talking while they were in Super Mutant territory, but he couldn't find the heart to at the moment. "What?"
She gestured to everything around them. "I wonder what this all looked like. It must have been amazing."
Maverick shrugged. "You can ask one of the ghouls sometime. Some of them could tell you because they're older than dirt." He pointed toward the Museum of History. "I'll take you there after all this shit with your dad is over. I bet the ghouls would love you."
Leyah looked up at him in confusion. "You mean you'll still want to be around me after we find my dad?"
"Well, seeing that you're the only decent person in the whole fucking wasteland, why not?"
Her look of confusion slowly became a beaming smile and Maverick's heart thudded in his chest.
Fuck, he was in big trouble.
The way back to GNR wasn't as bad as Leyah thought it would be. They only ran into a few feral ghouls down in the metro and Leyah found herself not shaking as bad. It wasn't much progress, but it was progress nonetheless.
They stepped out into the GNR plaza and Leyah had to use all of her willpower to not look at Maverick.
Her resolve to try not to get too close to him crumbled before they made it to the Washington Monument and she decided to just not care. She still had to act normal around him because, knowing him, he would find out why she was acting distant before she had a chance to explain herself.
Acting normal was easier than she anticipated too. At the end of it all, no matter what she felt, Maverick was still going to be his same old grumpy, sarcastic self.
Her good mood was slowly going sour as they walked up the stairs of the studio. A heavy hand on her shoulder halted her in her tracks. She glanced up at Maverick. "Yes?"
"I wasn't kidding before. Let me handle this."
Leyah shrugged. "Fine by me. I kind of want to see you rip someone a new one like you did to the knight at the library."
Maverick smirked. "Oh honey, you haven't seen anything."
Leyah's stomach involuntarily fluttered at the phrase and it took every ounce of her willpower to not blush. It was just another one of Maverick's catchphrases. He didn't mean anything by it.
They reached the top of the stairs and Leyah frowned when she saw Three Dog.
"Hey, all right! The Hero of the Wasteland returns!"
Leyah opened her mouth to make a snarky reply, but Maverick beat her to it.
"Yeah, yeah. She did it and it was a fuckin' thrill. Where is James Hunter?"
Three Dog's eyes widened from behind his glasses. "Look, there's no need to be hostile right now. I'll tell you all you need to know. Can't a man say his thanks?"
Maverick scoffed and towered over the man. "No. You can't when you fuckin' used her. It was pieces of shit like you that made me wonder why I fought my own battles. Now tell her where the Doctor is."
Three Dog's eyes widened even more. "Holy shit, you're Maverick Barrington aren't you? Sentinel Lyons said you were here yesterday. I didn't realize it was you and-"
"Where is her dad? Jesus, you're more annoying than your looped radio announcements."
"I'm not going to ask again, asshole."
"Okay! They weren't kidding about you." He paused and looked around Maverick's bristling frame at Leyah. "He came here asking for information about what was going on in the wasteland. Then he said something about a Doctor Li in Rivet City and that is all I know."
Maverick sighed and gave the man a shove. "Now was that so fuckin' hard? Come on Vaultie. We can make it to Rivet City before it gets dark."
He started to walk down the stairs, but Leyah felt her stomach roll uncomfortably. She quickly turned around to face the radio announcer. "Thank you, Three Dog."
She didn't wait for him to reply.
Maverick gave her a disapproving look when she caught up with him down the stairs. "You're too nice."
"So?" she retorted, craning her neck to look up at him.
His hard look slowly softened as he let out a sigh. "Let's get going."
Why was she so damn nice?
Maverick kept asking himself that question even after they made it through the metro once again. And what was worse was that he was asking himself what he really thought of her now. The questions and thoughts he was thinking back at the Washington Monument were creeping back into his head and he couldn't ignore them. Yes, she was his friend, but the level of protectiveness he felt for her was different from what he had for Rachel.
He eventually shook the thoughts away and focused in on the situation at hand again. The metros were never easy to get through and he needed to focus.
Unfortunately, they ran into Raiders right before the exit. Nothing pissed Maverick off more than Raiders did. They literally did nothing for anything and they preyed on weak people.
Seriously, fuck them.
The door to the metro creaked open as he pushed against it.
Leyah, meanwhile, was doing her usual rambling as she searched a bag she picked off a dead Raider while following him. "Who are the Raiders anyway? Did they just decide that they wanted to screw everyone over one day or-"
The whine of a laser rifle made Maverick halt in his tracks and Leyah shut up.
A group of men in black armor was standing at the top of the metro stairs. "Well, well, if it isn't the little saint from the Vault. Someone's put a big price on your head," a nasally voice sneered.
Maverick quickly raised his shotgun and he heard a heavy thump as Leyah dropped the bag and then he heard a click from her rifle.
"Who are you?" Leyah bravely asked.
"They're Talon Company and that means we're in deep shit," Maverick grumbled as the guy kept talking.
"What? You think you can walk around doing the things you do and nobody is gonna notice? Time to die."
He heard Leyah start to talk, but Maverick decided that now wasn't the time for negotiations. The Talon Company wasn't known for that. He pulled a grenade out of his pack and pulled the pin and let it fly.
Maverick pulled Leyah back into the metro entryway as the grenade exploded. He then pushed her toward the corner before the mercs could recover and get a shot in.
They hid behind the corners near the entrance and reloaded their guns. "The Talon Company will do whatever it takes to get a job done. They're efficient and not as dumb as Raiders or Mutants. We need to be smart about this. How many grenades do you have left?"
Leyah quickly checked her pouch. "I only have three!"
They moved further into the metro when bullets started to ricochet off the ground.
"Leyah, I need you to take them out from here. I'll try to take the ones without ranged weapons out."
Leyah looked at him with wide eyes. "You want me to stay in here while you go out there?! Hell no!"
"But they'll keep us here until we run out of ammo and you said it yourself; you're a better shot. I'll have an advantage up close. I need you to do this," Maverick ordered, looking her in the eye.
Leyah looked back and Maverick could see the determination he was used to seeing slowly returning. She gave him a sharp nod. "Give me your pack."
Maverick quickly shucked it off and tossed it over to her. He took his last grenade out and peeked around the corner when the shots slowed down as the mercs reloaded their guns. "Ready?" he asked, cocking his shotgun.
She nodded and Maverick leapt out of the doorway and sprinted up the stairs. Leyah was able to take down the first merc that popped up. Maverick shot at the next one he saw and dove behind a pile of rubble.
A few bullets ricocheted off the edges of the concrete blocks as he reloaded his shot gun, and he prayed to God that Leyah would take care of the other bastards.
Another distinct 'pop' sounded and a cry of pain was Maverick's cue. He came from behind the pile of rubble only to come face to face with another merc, who was wielding a knife. Maverick's body moved on its own and he easily disarmed the bastard. He took the man's knife and shoved it into his throat at the weak point of the armor. He pulled it out and turned just in time to block another man's knife.
A searing hot pain suddenly bloomed on his right side and he quickly finished off the merc in front of him. He turned and Leyah took out the merc who shot him.
He looked down at his side, gently pressing with his fingers and breathed out a sigh of relief when he saw that the bullet had only grazed him. The pain was slowly becoming a throbbing ache instead. Luckily, Maverick has had worse and he knew how to keep functioning with things like this.
"Come out, Vaultie!" he called, walking over to a merc who was trying to crawl away. Maverick almost sighed. Leyah had missed her shot and only hit him in the arm. Oh well, it gave Maverick an opportunity at least.
The man's right arm hung uselessly and he was cussing up a storm as Maverick approached him. Maverick looked down at him for a moment, considering whether to stomp or not. But, these men wanted Leyah, his Vaultie, dead. That was not okay.
Maverick was momentarily startled at himself for thinking that way about the Vault girl, but he had more important matters to worry about.
He stomped on the man's arm.
The mercenary's shriek echoed throughout the Anacostia square. "I'm only going to ask this once; who sent you?"
"F-Fuck you man!"
Maverick rolled his eyes and shot the man in the head. "Fucker, I said 'once'," he grumbled, slinging the shotgun over his shoulder.
"Did he say anything?"
Maverick shook his head and squatted down, checking the man's pockets. His fingers brushed against paper and alarm bells started to go off in Maverick's head. He pulled the paper out, reading what was on the page. As he read, he instantly felt even more pissed than he was. "Who the fuck is B?" he grumbled, handing the paper to Leyah.
Leyah arched a brow and plucked the paper from his fingers. "What do you mean? And is your side okay? I was worried-"
"The bullet grazed me. I'll be fine, I've had worse."
She gave him an incredulous look. "Okay, but promise to let me look at it later. Those can get infected really fast and-"
She instantly fell silent as she read the paper. "Oh no," she breathed out. She groaned and wiped a hand down her face. "I guess he took me seriously."
"Who took you seriously? And about what?" Maverick asked, pocketing some ammo he took from the merc. He stood up and faced her, crossing his arms, wincing a little as his side stung.
Leyah's face turned a dark shade of pink and Maverick could literally see the steam coming out of her ears. "It's not important-"
"It's important enough to make some fucker want you dead. What's going on, Leyah?"
She coughed and scuffed her boot on the ground. "Well, there was this man named Burke at Megaton that wanted me to detonate the bomb. I obviously wasn't going to do that and I didn't want him to stick around to ask anyone else…so I pulled a move I saw from a pre-war holovideo from the vault."
Maverick really hoped this wasn't going where he thought this was going. "What did you do?"
"I might have—well, ya know—flirted with him a little. I talked him out of detonating the bomb and that was it. I got a few weird letters after he left but I didn't think about it a lot."
Maverick suddenly had an image of Leyah being seductive pop up in his head and he instantly pushed it away. She didn't think about him that way so he didn't need to be thinking about her that way.
But, Burke…that name rang a bell for Maverick. When it finally clicked, Maverick didn't know whether to hug Leyah for swindling one of the biggest bastards of the wasteland or to shake her for pissing off one of the biggest bastards of the wasteland.
He took neither option and just laughed at the absurdity of it all. Maverick couldn't believe it. Burke was Tenpenny's own right hand man and he was tricked by a naïve vault girl. "Holy shit! I never took Burke as desperate! You must have put on a show if you outwitted him," he wheezed, clutching his sides.
Leyah huffed, crossing her arms and turning away from him. "I'm not an idiot about that stuff. I know how to flirt. I dated in the vault," she grumbled, walking toward the nearest dead body.
Maverick suddenly wanted to know the little punk's name so he could go to the vault and kick his ass, but his mouth beat him to the punch. "I bet you don't."
Maverick instantly regretted his words. He knew Leyah never backed down from a challenge. And he didn't need to see her Burke-seducing skills in action; that was dangerous territory at the moment.
Leyah slowly turned around and Maverick regretted his words even more. Her eyes were hooded as she sauntered back over to him and it took all of Maverick's willpower to not look at her hips. She stopped in front of him and looked up at him through her eyelashes. She picked at the collar of his shirt. "Wanna bet?" she asked, lowering the pitch of her voice.
She stood up on the tips of her toes, bringing her face a little closer to his. "I'm not as naïve as you think I am, Sentinel." Her eyes were now flashing teasingly at him before she winked and turned away.
Maverick would have actually have enjoyed the touch if it wasn't for the wound on his side. "Wow, Burke must have really been desperate," he said, deadpan. That act did things that he wished it didn't.
It was enough to make Leyah bark out a laugh and the moment was over. She picked up his pack from where she dropped it and tossed it to him. "Come on, we've gotta get a stimpak for that wound and we have a scientist to talk to. Hopefully my jerk of a dad is waiting inside."
She smiled at him and started to walk toward the carrier and Maverick didn't know whether he should be happy or upset about the warm feeling that flooded his chest from the action.
He was in deeper shit than he thought.