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Rough and Soft

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He is rough.   Not in the way most would think.  He doesn't hurt me, he doesn't yell or get in my face.  But he's been touched by the Wasteland, changed by it.   His hands are calloused, his shoulders always tense, his torso and abdomen marred by scars.   And I am there to soothe him. 

He avoids the colors of the Vault, having cast aside his suit in favor of hardy, sun-bleached leather.  Jacoren's betrayal at the Vault hit him hard.  The tattoo on his neck, "Vault Reject," speaks to it.   He won't say how he got it, only that it was from someone living in the ruins of a Pre-War city far to the south.   It's permanent, not like my makeup.   But I leave kisses over it just the same. 

He is rough with himself, pushing himself too hard during the heat of the day, teaching how to hunt, how to build, how to survive out here.    He holds tension in his muscles when he talks to the nomad tribes, his jaw set and brow furrowed in such a way that makes people want to avoid trouble around him.   But I am there to remind him that we are safe in these mountains, in this valley.   

He is rough at night, when the terrors of what he's seen make him physically launch himself from his bedroll, reaching for his weapon and calling names no one has heard: Ian, Katja, Tycho.   He wandered alone when he found us after leaving Vault 13.   I can only assume they were his friends, people who helped him or he helped.   People know better than to ask for details about what he's seen.  His eyes go distant, and he gets more tense, as if keeping himself on edge would keep the memories away.  But I am there to bring him back to reality, ease him back to sleep. 

His voice is rough.  Coarse, as if the sand of the Wastes lodged in his throat and could not be banished again.   He says the children of this new village, Arroyo, will be afraid of him.  He says he sounds like a 'Ghoul'.    I kiss away his worries in the dark of our tent. 

His scars are rough against my lips and hands in the black of night, but I don't care.  He is mine, my Al.  The roughness comes with him, is part of him. I love it, just as I love him.  Without it, he would not be the same and I would be alone. 

She is soft.  Nearly untouched by the Wastes, and stubbornly refusing to allow it to mar her outlook on the world.  Her hands remain uncalloused, used to heal rather than to dig or hunt.  Only a few small freckles disrupt the expanse of her skin.  And I am there to protect her. 

She wears 13's colors on her face, a stripe of blue across her eyes, yellow just underneath it; painted meticulously each morning with steady hands.  It's not permanent, not like my tattoo.  But I am happy to kiss it away at night just the same. 

She is soft even at her worst.  Even when she's spent all day with the sick or injured.   She comes back to our tent, exhausted and hungry, holding tension in her jaw at the sorry state of medicine in the Wastes.  But I remind her that she is using her Vault education for good, to heal those who would otherwise perish in this gods-forsaken desert. 

She is soft at night, waiting for the visions of blood and gore and things that should never have been to fade from my mind.   She was the first to welcome me when I wandered into the valley where they'd been staying.  One of the few who didn't revere me as a near-god, coming to me and reminding me that I am still human.  She holds my head to her breast, letting her heartbeat push away the angry memories of what I've seen an allowing me to sleep once more.  I am indebted to her, a debt I will never be able to repay. 

Her voice is soft, like ancient birdsong.  Sweet and melodic, never harsh or angry.  Always understanding and steady.  Welcoming anyone who would speak to her.   I kiss her at night, and I hear her sing that tune that exists only for me. 

Her skin is soft against mine in the black of night, and I revel in it.   She's mine, my Pat.  Her softness is a part of her, integral to her very being.  I love it, I love her, more than my mind can comprehend.   Without her softness, she would not be the same and I would be alone. 

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