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Too Late To Love You Now

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Leaving the Tops is taking way too long, mostly because the people with her weapon take their time. Smiling at her and making comments just lewd enough to confirm to her that they know what happened. Fuck, they work for Benny, she shouldn’t be surprised that they know he took a woman to his room, yet their leering stares make her want to scream. Or maybe to just crawl under a rock and die. Heart in her throat she avoids the stare of one man, his eyes hungry as he takes in her figure in the tight dress. His gaze makes her sick, and her pistol is barely in her hands before she turns on her heels, slightly torn dress exposing more of her thigh to these strangers than she would have liked, and exits into the cool New Vegas night.

Their leering eyes, now hidden behind a glass door, still feel like fire on her skin as she leaves, and she moves faster, already focused on the brightly lit doors of the Lucky Six.

When the elevator doors close she relaxes, but with that comes the memories of what just happened. What she just did. What she just let him do .

And ultimately, what she couldn’t do.

Jackie needs a shot, or some sleep, maybe both, but then the elevator doors are opening up and she startles. Boone is there, leaning casually against the wall, but when he recognizes her he stands up straight. His gaze drops down to take her in, hair askew from where she had put it up into something fancy and sweet only a few hours ago, dress tight against her breasts and waist before billowing out from her hips, feet wrapped in strappy heels better for a woman of the night than the killer he knows she is, makeup smudged beneath her eyes.

Normally, she’d be thrilled to see him looking at her with interest, and on any other night she might have flirted, teased, even invited him to her bed.

But instead Benny’s face flashes through her mind and she knows she’s going to be sick. Without a word she rushes past Boone and into the bathroom. Her knees hit the ground hard, but the pain there doesn’t matter as she pukes. Tears burn behind her eyes as she heaves over and over, spilling the contents of her stomach into the bowl below her, knuckles white from where she grips the sides.

Jackie can sense Boone in the doorway, knows he followed her in from the hall, but she can’t be bothered with that now. Her mind is too full of confliction. One second she sees Benny’s face as he pulls the trigger, the next she feels his mouth on hers. Hears the gunshot that should have killed her, sees Benny’s eyes from where he had looked up at her from between her legs. Remembers the pain Benny caused her, but also remembers the pleasure- how she had wanted him- how she had begged for him-

Her shoulders shake as she throws up again, nothing in her stomach but bile, and it burns , all the way up from her stomach to her throat, until the bitter taste of acid is resting on her tongue. She spits, not caring that she looks a mess or that her tears are dropping into the toilet, echoing off the porcelain. All she wants is to go back. To when? She’s not sure, but certainly to before she left the Lucky Six, before she walked into The Tops, hell maybe all the way back before she ever met Boone.

But she doesn’t have a time machine, just regret.

For another moment she heaves, but there’s nothing left for her body to give, and she falls back, letting herself come to rest against the bathroom wall. Boone kneels in front of her, face awash with concern and - is that fear? Without speaking he hands her a cloth, where he got it from she doesn’t know, but she can’t be fucked to care as she wipes her face clean of tears, snot, and vomit.

When she’s done she places it next to her on the ground, not sure she’s done with it yet, and then looks at the man in front of her. But as soon as she sees him she feels sick again, and she closes her eyes, fights to get her breathing back under control.

For a moment, there’s nothing but the not-quite-steady sound of her inhaling and exhaling. Then Boone talks.

“Six, what happened out there?” Feeling a bit more under control, Jackie raises her head to look at him.

He’s staring right into her eyes, and she feels exposed, cut wide open. How does she admit to him what she’s done? Boone doesn’t even know why she left, has no idea that she just let the man who nearly killed her- no. She has to stop, or she’ll be sick again.

“Nothing.” They both know it’s a lie. You don’t wind up on the floor, crying and throwing up over nothing, but she can’t- she won’t tell him what she’s just done.

“Six-”

“I said it was nothing!” She snaps, leaning forward a bit to project her voice.

His eyes widen, and at first she thinks he’s just shocked at her outburst, but then she realizes that he’s not meeting her gaze. That right now his eyes are focused on her collarbone. The spot where Benny’s teeth and tongue has left her with a decently sized bruise. His eyes narrow, then they drop to her leg, where not an hour ago Benny had ripped her dress so he could slid his hands up her thighs, eyes sultry and damn near predatory. They move again, this time to her lips. Red, kiss bitten, and raw. She sees the moment he stops examining her and puts together his own version of events.

Her heart rate ticks up. Tears spring back into her eyes. She can’t do this- she has to go before he starts asking questions. Without much thought she stands, not quite balanced on the high-heels still strapped to her feet, and tries to push past him. Not two steps in she stumbles, and Boone’s there, because he always is. Because he never actually lets her fall, is always right there at her back ready for everything and anything she can throw at him. It’s too much.

Jackie pushes him away, winds up throwing herself backwards against the wall and not moving Boone an inch. “Don’t fucking touch me.” Her voice comes out panicked, pained, and she wraps her arms around herself, like that will protect her from the hurt that she knows will come as soon as he learns what she’s done.

He jerks like she slapped him, and that just makes it worse. Makes everything worse. It’s not his fault she’s half in love with him. It’s not his fault Benny fucked up her head. It’s not his fault that she keeps putting herself in situations that only lead to heartbreak and regret.

Neither of them move for a breath, and then Boone’s raising his hands, palms out towards her like she’s the dangerous one. And shit, like this? Maybe she is.

But then he says something she’s not expecting. At all.

“I’m sorry.”

The shock from his apology has her reeling, totally at odds at what to say or do next. She manages out a startled “what”, before losing her nerve and falling silent.

Boone takes a step forward, and she doesn’t move, mostly because her back is against the wall and she can’t go anywhere, but also because she’s pretty sure she couldn’t be scared of him if she tried.

“I’m sorry.” He repeats it, and it’s not any easier to comprehend the second time. “I should have been with you. Should have,” he sucks in a breath like he’s in pain, and Jackie is confused. So confused. Until he says, “should have been there so no one would think they could put their hands on you.” Another step forward, and now he’s next to her. Not in front of her. Not blocking the exit, not boxing her in. “Just tell me who it was. I’ll take care of him.”

Jackie would laugh if she wasn’t still a second from crying. He’s got it wrong, all wrong. But some fucked up part of her wants to play into the lie. It would be so easy, he would believe her, and she could pretend that she wasn’t completely fucked in the head. That she hadn’t slept with the man who tried to kill her, who left her in a shallow grave. But she can’t, and his honesty, his genuine concern, the anger she can hear in his tone, it makes her feel like absolute shit.

She can’t look at him, doesn’t want to see his reaction when he learns the truth, so she shuts her eyes.

 “You think-” and shit there are the tears again, “you think I was raped?”

“I think you were assaulted,” his no nonsense tone would be a comfort if she actually were a victim, but she did this to herself. “I think that someone hurt you, and I think anyone low enough to hurt a woman deserves to be hurt himself.”

She wants to scream. Instead she shakes her head, opening her eyes to see him looking both angry and comforting, and she can’t let him do this anymore. If nothing else, Boone deserves the truth.

“I wasn’t assaulted,” her voice cracks and she chokes on a sob, vision blurry with tears. She still has enough wits about her to push him away when he steps forward again, and he lets her stop him. Her voice is small, timid, nothing like she’s ever sounded around him before when she manages to speak again. “I let him.”

Saying it outloud is like it’s own revelation. It makes it real in her own mind, makes it solidify. And suddenly she’s horrified all over again, and she repeats it, a little louder, brows furrowing, and it comes out like a question. “I let him.”

It’s like Boone doesn’t exist and she cries again, tears hot against her cheeks, arms once more coming up to wrap around her like a protective shield. The wall behind her is the only thing that stops her from falling to the floor. The patterns on the wall blur and spin, tilting everything in her vision like she had downed a whole bottle of vodka.

She can hear him in her ear, breath warm and soft, whispering praise and compliments. She can see his face, the one that had been in her nightmares for weeks. Only this time she isn't scared, she’s turned on. She can feel his hands on her, holding her by the arms, shaking her- except- except- that didn’t happen. He hadn’t been rough at all, had only been gentle, soft, loving.

Jackie opens her eyes and Boone is there, he’s saying her name and it’s then that she hears herself talking, recognizes his grip on her arms. “I let him.” She says it twice more before reality sets in, before she regains control of her own body and mind.

“I’m sorry.” She whispers it.

It’s only two words, and Jackie knows that they’ll never be enough. Not to fix what’s going on in her head, or to erase the last ten minutes of interaction between her and Boone. It certainly won’t ever be enough to undo what happened in the Tops. It also explains nothing to Boone, who’s partner left a nearly whole woman, determined and confident, and returned fractured and hesitant.

But Boone doesn’t ask for any explanation, doesn’t question her any further, just lets the apology rest in the space between them. Then he once more surprises her. Raises one hand to rest behind her neck, and gently, like she’s never seen him be before, guides her forward until he’s holding her. A shaky breath escapes from her lungs and she starts to cry again, hands coming up to hold him back.

“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”

She really wishes she could believe him.