Jack Sturges knew what day it was. All the Quincy survivors did. The Longs and Mama Murphy were in the common house, simply sharing stories of the days before the Massacre. Preston had been there for a few minutes, but had left quietly soon after they mentioned the Minutemen there.
Sturges' eyes followed Preston as the other man slipped out into the twilight. He waited for a few beats, then quietly excused himself and stepped out after the other man.
Preston wandered down to the banks of the river and sat on a remnant of the retaining wall that had long since degraded, lay his musket over his lap and started fiddling with it, realigning the focusing lenses and tuning the scope.
Sturges pressed his lips into a thin line and walked over to him, taking care to crunch some leaves underfoot.
"Huh? Oh, hey…"
"Mind if I join you?"
Preston shrugged, and Sturges tilted his head before folding his legs under himself and settling himself on the ground beside him.
Silence filled the air around them, as Preston went through his maintenance routine twice over. Sturges watched the sun set and darkness enveloped them, with the light from Preston's illuminating his downtrodden face.
When Preston started to realign the lenses again, Sturges moved his own hand over his. "It's fine. Hasn't changed from a few minutes ago."
"No, I… I have to…"
"You've already done it twice. It's okay. Come on, let's go inside."
"I.…I have to check it again… Just a second."
Preston's lip quivered and he sucked in a breath. "I…But…"
"Come on." Sturges urged, gently taking the musket from Preston's hands. "Let's go inside." He took Preston's hand and gently led him to the cabin they shared. Sturges could feel Preston's trembling as they walked.
Once they were inside the cabin, Sturges set down the musket on its stand, and guided Preston to their shared bed. "Here, gimme your hat and coat. I'll put 'em up."
Preston nodded mutely, following Sturges' orders on autopilot. Sturges smiled and pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Lay down. I'll be there in a minute. Remember to take off your boots."
Sturges quietly stowed the well-worn hat and coat, keeping Preston within his line of sight, watching as he fumbled with his clothes until he was in just his underwear. "There now, lay down." Sturges soothed, humming an old tune as he stripped down to his own sleepwear.
Preston curled up on the mattress, rocking slightly as he tried to steady his breathing. Goosebumps peppered his skin as he listened to Sturges shuffle around their small cabin. "Jack?"
"Can… Can you get that blanket? The heavy one?"
"Sure, love. Just a sec."
He reached under the bed and pulled out the faded patchwork blanket that the General had gifted to them. She'd sewn little rocks into the edges of it, making it so it would hang heavy over the side of the bed and give some comforting pressure if needed. He draped it over his lover and crawled into bed beside him. "Better?"
Preston nodded, sniffing as he fought back tears.
Sturges pressed another brief kiss to his shoulder, reaching up and tangling their fingers together. "It's alright, go ahead and let it out. No one's here but us."
So Preston cried.
He cried for the lives the Gunners took.
He cried for the lives the ferals took.
He cried for the lives the raiders took.
But most of all, he cried for the lives that he could have saved, but couldn't.
He cried until his body had no tears left to give, and all he could do was hiccup and sniff.
He clutched at the weighted blanket and Sturges' hand, seeking what comfort he could find from them.
Sturges stroked his thumb over Preston's knuckles and pressed their bodies together. "It's okay. I'm right here." He soothed, nuzzling Preston's shoulder.
Slowly, Preston's breathing evened out and the tension began to seep out of his muscles. Sturges continued to whisper little reassuring phrases into his lover's skin and held him as they both finally allowed sleep to claim them.