[WP] A couple of strangers blossom into lovers over the years with the help of one object: Soda

The sun was just dipping below the ridge as I approached the SuperDuper Mart.

The lengthening shadows made it easy to slip inside and I moved silently into the lobby. There was a Nuka-Cola vending machine by the entrance, and I felt my throat constrict with thirst as I imagined cracking the cap off a soda and letting the sweet ambrosia rush over my parched tongue.

Somehow I just knew there would be one inside. The thought of that tasty beverage waiting for me as a cheeky bonus for my heroic efforts spurred me on and I crept forward, keeping low between the dusty shelves and dispatching the inhabiting Raiders one-by-one with silent efficient grace.

I was approaching the last vagrant when someone tore into the building, guns blazing like a desperado from the old pictures, and yelling obscenities fit to make a mercenary blush.

I watched as the Wanderer riddled the sole remaining vagrant (and the walls on both sides of him) full of holes, then proceeded to swagger around like he owned the place, helping himself to the contents of the medical safe and stuffing tins of Cram into his pants like there was no tomorrow.

The soda was where I drew the line. He was on the way out, loaded up with the ill-gotten goods like a pack mule when I saw him pause and turn back to the old vending machine by the exit.

I hadn't been out of the Vault long and the wretched wasteland heat and thirst had made me irritable enough that I forgot both my meekness and my manners and strode right up to him without thinking.

"Hey!" I yelled indignantly, stupidly, as I was a few feet away. Immediately I knew I had made a mistake as he dropped the glass bottle and flicked the rifle into his hands in one clean, practiced movement.

I froze in mid-stride, probably with a stupid look on my face, and perhaps that was what saved me. There was a tense pause and then he burst into laughter, the bass of it in that vast mausoleum nearly knocking me off my feet.

"Oh Vaultie, it's only you!" he gasped between wiping his eyes. "You scared the fuck out of me!"

I looked around awkwardly and caught sight of myself in a pane of broken glass; a skinny kid in a grimy blue vault jumpsuit clutching a baseball bat, with smears on her glasses and hair like tumbleweed.

"Aww, my boots!" I heard him groan and followed his gaze to his feet where the soda had smashed into a puddle of sticky brown sludge. "Look what you made me do!"

The sight of that delicious waste stoked the coals of my anger into bright flames once more, and I found that I had stepped forward, my voice taking on that hated imperious tone of the Overseer as he scolded us as children.

"Hey, no, wait just a second! I was just coming over here to tell you that.. that I was here first! I killed most of them before you showed up! So I think you'll find that I have, uh, exclusive rights to the..."

"Look kid," he interrupted, shaking his head. "I know you're fresh out of the box so let me give you a little piece of advice. It don't work that way out here. I'm sure it was all caring and sharing back home, but folks out here'd sooner blow your head off then share what they can just take for themselves." He shrugged, adjusting the bulging knapsack of loot.

"But I'm on an important mission!" I insisted, puffing out my chest. "To collect food and medical supplies for the good people of Megaton!"

His second explosion of laughter again took me by surprise.

"So, Moira's found herself a new errand girl then, has she?" he looked me up and down as if with new eyes. "I suppose she forgot to mention what happened to the last one?" he grinned wryly and it struck me how perfectly straight and white his teeth were beneath the dirt on his face.

My stunned silence was evidently answer enough, as he chuckled again and stooped to rummage in the bottom of the vending machine.

I tried to think of something cynical or witty to say in response, but found my usually fertile mind as dry as the desert. Nothing in my nineteen years of life underground had prepared me for what I had witnessed in the past two days, and the people up here were just...

"Well, it's been real nice chattin' to you Vaultie, but I got places to be." He flashed me that brilliant, lopsided grin again.

With a casual flick of his free hand he tossed something and I reflexively reached out and caught the smooth object without thinking.

I looked down at the bottle of Nuka Cola in my hands, then back up at him, both confused and chagrined.

"Until next time, you take care out there." With a final smile and a dip of his ten-gallon hat he pushed open the door and disappeared into the night.

/r/WritingPrompts Thread