I released chapter 72 on the 8th. Since I've posted this so close to the last chapter, I felt it was only fair to let you guys know there's a chapter before this one that you might want to read.
"So what makes you think you're suitable for this position?" Danse said, scribbling down a few sentences on his form. It was uncomfortably hot in his office, and Danse was tempted to close the interview now. He already knew the outcome. But he'd be damned if he put minor discomfort before proper procedure.
By the book. Always by the book.
"As I said, sir, my dad is the best shot in Sanctuary."
Danse looked up from his notes and raised his eyebrow. "I've known Robert almost twenty years now, and he is a brilliant shot. But you aren't your father. Tell me about you, Duncan. Why should I be putting Sanctuary's safety in your hands?"
Duncan went scarlet. Danse almost relented there and then, but MacCready had been very specific with his instructions.
"Dunc's more than capable, but he's had it easy. Ridden on my reputation. One day I won't be here, and then what? Make him work for it, Danse. It'll do him some good."
Danse stayed silent and waited.
"W-well," Duncan managed eventually, fidgeting under Danse's desk. "I, uh…"
"Do you have a tutor?" Danse said, deciding to offer some kindness. "Have you won any competitions or been in any combat?"
"Oh yeah!" Duncan said at once, seizing the opportunity. "My dad taught me! Ever since I was a kid I could shoot! And I've every shooting competition in the settlement in the last five years! And—"
Danse let Duncan rattle off his many achievements, holding back a smile. He'd always intended to give this job to Duncan, had been leaning on MacCready for years to let his son leave his cleaning post and move onto the security team. But MacCready was adamant Duncan worked his way up first.
"We all had to do it. It's the only way he'll learn."
Duncan paused to take in a breath, and Danse held up his hand. Duncan stopped, looking worried.
"I've heard enough," Danse said, straightening up his papers and keeping a straight face. He leaned back in his chair and met Duncan's eye. He hesitated, then said, "You've got the job."
Duncan made a noise of shock, and a wide grin split across his face. "Really?"
Danse nodded, leaned forward, and held out his hand. As Duncan shook it vigorously, Danse said, "I want you at the barracks 5am sharp tomorrow so we can fit you up in a uniform."
"Yes, sir," Duncan said, getting to his feet as Danse did, still grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you, sir! Thank you so much! My dad's gonna be so impressed!"
"Best go tell him quick then," Danse replied, and smiled as Duncan nodded and hurried from the room. As soon as the office door shut behind Duncan, Danse walked over to the window shutter and cranked it open. Cool air seeped in, and he gave a sigh of relief. He didn't like having it open when he was interviewing people. Everything in his office was a private affair.
Some affairs more private than others, a mischievous voice said in his head, and he glanced at his desk with a guilty grin, thinking of Quinn's last visit here. The memories made his heart beat faster, and suddenly he was eager to go home. Danse opened a button in his collar as he walked down the stairs, still lost in his thoughts. He wondered if Quinn would finish early today, but as he reached the door leading out of the building—mumbling some response or other to the guards acknowledging his departure—he remembered they were due to have dinner with Josh and Emily tonight, on top of everything else he still needed to prepare for work tomorrow. Weariness hit him like a ton of bricks.
I'm not as young as I used to be.
If it wasn't his back twinging every time he tried to lift something heavy, it was his knees aching during his morning run. He was still in top shape, and proud of that fact, but pride couldn't stop the effects of age. At least he was aging, though, unlike other synths. A blessing compared to Sturges, who only discovered the truth when it became apparent how young he still looked next to Preston.
Not that Preston cared. He helped Sturges through his identity crisis the same way Quinn helped Danse through his, so many years ago.
"Hey boss," rasped Mordecai, a tough old ghoul who was a permanent fixture in the security team, "so am I fitting up body armour for the kid tomorrow or not?" Danse nodded, and Mordecai grinned. "You were always gonna—"
"Keep your voice down," Danse said quietly, glancing around. "I don't want to knock his confidence."
"Ah, gotcha." Mordecai motioned zipping his mouth shut.
Danse nodded, glad his friend had some tact. It was for this reason—and also because Mordecai could swing a bat like nobody's business—he was Danse's right hand man.
Danse walked on, responding to countless greetings that always accompanied his evening walk home. As head of security, he'd personally assessed each and every one of them before they'd been given a place in the city—ghoul, synth, and human alike. The result was that everyone knew his face.
It was a nice feeling, being known and respected, although it did add an extra half hour onto his journey wherever he was going.
He walked past the Sanctuary branch of the Valentine Detective Agency, the red, glowing sign just as tacky as Nick's head office over in Diamond city. Danse squinted at the neon sign and grinned. Piper always complained about it whenever she visited, loudly grumbling to the homeless ghouls she often escorted to the city.
People from all walks of life flocked to Sanctuary these days. People wanting to make a fresh start. People who were outcast from their own settlements for not being 'human' enough, or for sympathising with the 'others.' People who were simply curious about the settlement open to everybody, and decided to stay.
Quinn had been careful, so careful from the beginning. All were welcome, but that would make Sanctuary a target. And yet, aside from a short-lived conflict with Diamond City, no one ever bothered them. Even the Brotherhood kept away, though Danse couldn't understand why. After a few years, he stopped questioning it, but always kept himself and his men on guard.
The medical clinic came into view, conveniently down the road from Josh's home. Josh's tendency to abandon dinner or run out in the middle of the night sometimes caused bickering in his household, but nothing serious. Emily knew what Josh was like.
So did Danse—Josh was as stubborn as Vivian and Quinn combined, something Quinn seemed almost proud of, despite it causing numerous arguments throughout Josh's childhood. When both Josh and Charlie had dug their heels in together, it was like a bomb being dropped on the house. Although Danse missed the boys when they eventually moved out, he did love the peace and quiet that came with their absence.
Finally, Danse reached his destination. He paused, listening to the muted voices inside, and then knocked on the front door. The voices stopped at once, and footsteps drew near. The door flew open, and a bear of a man stood in the doorway, with long auburn hair tied back in a ponytail, and kind, crinkled eyes.
"Danse!" Josh exclaimed, dragging Danse into a tight hug. Danse hugged him back, smiling to himself. Josh had never called Quinn and Danse 'Mom and Dad,' and they had never pushed him.
Danse grinned up at his son as they broke apart, and turned to see Emily standing next to her husband. She smiled at Danse and kissed his cheek, before beckoning him into the house.
It was clean and tidy, as always. Emily's work—any surface Josh went near inevitably ended up an explosion of doctor's tools and patient notes, much to Quinn's horror. Quinn herself was sitting in the antique armchair near the back wall, directly under the display plaque that held Vivian's old rifle. Seeing the rifle always gave Danse a twinge of comfort and regret.
Brotherhood through and through.
Quinn got to her feet as he approached and kissed him, resting her hand on the back of his neck. "How was your day? And how did Duncan do?"
"Fine," Danse replied, dropping himself down onto the sofa in the centre of the room. "On both counts. He starts tomorrow."
"Like there was gonna be any other outcome." Charlie walked into the room carrying an armful of Nuka-Colas and wearing a smirk. He moved the bottles around and held one out to Danse. "Here, Dad. Glad to see Mom's not working you too hard."
Quinn settled down next to Danse with a roll of her eyes as he took the bottle, and accepted a drink of her own from Charlie. "Always the smartass."
"Of course," chipped in Josh before Charlie could answer. "Look who raised us—ow!" Josh was interrupted as Emily whacked him across the arm.
"Don't speak to your mom like that!" she said, the corners of her mouth twitching as she gave him a forced glare.
"Thanks, Em," Quinn said, not bothering to hide her smirk.
"No problem." Emily turned back to Josh and pointed to the kitchen. "Go get dinner, Darling."
"Alright, alright," he muttered, pretending to be annoyed, before kissing her on the nose and smiling. He left the room as everyone made their way over to the table.
Emily was a fantastic cook—better than Quinn, though Danse would never tell her. Not that she'd disagree, but some things were better left unsaid. Danse ate his stew while everyone else chatted away. He didn't really talk at meals, preferring to listen to the conversations of the others and join in only when he had something to say. It was a quirk his family accepted, and when they were at the dinner table, it was rare for someone to speak to Danse first.
Quinn and Emily discussed recipes, while Josh and Charlie went over the plans for the clinic. Thanks to Sturges' tutelage, Charlie was a fine handyman in his own right, and often filled in for Sturges when he was busy. It meant Josh could get almost any addition he wanted for his building, turning the clinic into a place capable of housing a good chunk of the city all at once. With Quinn's blessing, Josh employed more staff to help him run it, and eventually hired Emily.
Danse glanced at Emily and smiled. Young love. He remembered being that age, and finding the right person. His eyes trailed over to Quinn and he watched her for a little while. Age hadn't dampened her fire, and she still looked as beautiful as ever. Aside from the wrinkles, the only real difference was the streaks of grey in her hair. Maybe she had changed more than that, but Danse knew he'd never see her any differently.
When everyone finished, Charlie and Josh cleared the plates away, Josh flapping down Emily's help and insisting she stay seated. Danse raised an eyebrow at this. Normally Emily bit Josh's head off at being told to sit down and be waited on, but instead, Emily sat. He caught Quinn's eye, and she mirrored his surprised expression.
Josh came back into the room and handed out drinks to everyone. But instead of sitting down, Josh rocked back and forth on his heels, playing with the label of his bottle. Emily nudged him with her elbow, and he said, "Uh, I have an announcement to make."
He stood there for a few seconds, getting redder with every passing moment, until Emily rolled her eyes and said, "I'm—"
"Emily's pregnant!" Josh blurted out.
Stunned silence. Then Quinn jumped to her feet and shrieked, "Oh congratulations!" She hugged Emily and peppered Josh with kisses, while Charlie leaned over the table and shook his hand. Danse did the same as Charlie walked over to Emily and kissed her on the cheek.
Josh still looked nervous, though. He coughed awkwardly and said, "I know I've never called you my parents, but…"
The room went quiet again. Charlie glanced from Josh to Quinn and Danse uncertainly, and Emily took hold of Josh's hand and gave it a squeeze. Josh nodded, took a deep breath and said, "Well...you're the closest thing I have to parents. And I'd love for you to be my baby's grandparents, if...if you don't mind."
Danse blinked. "Josh," he said incredulously, "you don't even have to ask. It would be an honour."
"'If you don't mind,'" Quinn said with a snort, and hugged Josh tight. Danse saw Josh give Emily a look of relief over Quinn's shoulder. Emily smiled back.
"Does this mean I get to be the cool uncle?" Charlie piped up, grinning.
"Only if you promise not to teach my kid how to make a gun from scratch," Josh retorted, shaking his head.
"Well that's boring."
"I still remember what happened the first time you made a rifle."
"I kept all my fingers, didn't I?"
"Any names?" Danse asked loudly.
"Yes," Emily said quickly, shooting Danse a grateful look. "Cade if they're a boy, Yara if they're a girl."
"Not gonna name them after your mom or dad?" Charlie asked. Everyone looked from Josh to him, and both men went red. Charlie quickly said, "Sorry, I didn't think—you don't have to answer that."
"It's alright," Josh said with a shrug, not looking at Quinn or Danse. "I just...it didn't feel right."
"I'm guessing 'Cade' after the Knight-Captain?" Danse said, trying to move the subject on. Josh had always been conflicted when it came to his parents and Quinn and Danse.
"Yeah." Josh stared at his feet. "You know why."
Danse did know why. He'd always thought that Josh would follow in Vivian's footsteps, become a soldier or a security guard. Instead, as he hit his teenage years, he began studying medicine instead. One day, Danse asked why.
"I remember what Cade did for my dad. And my mom. I'll never forget that."
Danse never forgot it either. He shook son's hand again, gripping a little tighter this time "You'll be a fantastic father. You'll make your parents proud."
"Thanks," Josh said with a small smile, finally meeting his eye again.
"But more importantly," Quinn said, eyeing Charlie shrewdly, "when are you bringing home a nice girl for me to meet?"
Charlie went from red to beetroot. "Mom, I've been busy. Sanctuary isn't going to build itself."
"Sturges can pick up some of the slack."
"I have different projects than Sturges. Haven't worked with him for years." Charlie rolled his eyes. "You know that."
"Don't you raise your eyebrows to heaven at me!"
Josh snickered. "Busted."
Charlie punched him playfully in the arm. Danse smiled at his sons. Josh was a talented doctor, but none of Quinn's ambitious plans for the city would have been possible without Charlie. Despite being grounded repeatedly as a child, mini-structures kept appearing in the living room, or Danse's guns suddenly had new, mysterious 'modifications.' Finally, when Charlie tried to upgrade Danse's X-01 helmet and broke it, Quinn shouted herself hoarse at her son, and then asked Sturges to train him and find a new outlet for his uncontrollable tinkering. The result was Sanctuary's progress jumping ahead of schedule.
Now Charlie ran his own workshop, and spent most of his time designing new buildings and finding new ways to make every resource count. Sturges still did a majority of the repairs, but the two of them shared ideas, problems, and staff regularly, combining their strengths to keep the city going.
The laughter and talk continued, Josh bringing out a bottle of whisky to celebrate the occasion. Only he and Charlie drank, Emily looking on wistfully with a hand on her stomach while Quinn and Danse politely declined. Quinn drank one shot of Bowmore a year from her now dwindling bottle, around the date she first came into the Commonwealth. Other than that, both she and Danse stayed away from drink.
Finally, Charlie staggered out for some fresh air, and when he didn't come back, Danse offered to check on him.
The night was balmy, the day's heat still clinging to the air. The road was lit by the streetlights, but still dark enough that Danse had to squint. He spotted a figure sitting hunched over in the doorway to the school, and went over to investigate. It was Charlie, sitting with his head in his knees.
Had he passed out? As a family, they didn't drink much—alcohol had been banned in their house until the boys reached twenty-one. Danse crouched down and gave Charlie's shoulder a little shake, and he immediately looked up, his eyes unfocused.
Danse grinned. "Had enough?"
Charlie blinked up at Danse, and then stared at his hands in his lap. Danse felt the grin slip off his face. Something was wrong.
Ignoring the clicking of his joints and the pain in his back, Danse sat himself down next to Charlie. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing." Charlie swayed slightly where he sat, and then said in a slurred voice, "No, not nothing. Everything's fucked up."
It was rare for Charlie to swear, but Danse didn't comment on it. Instead, he waited for Charlie to speak again.
Charlie glanced at his father, and then back to his hands. "I guess...I'm just wondering what I'm doing with my life. I'm nearly thirty, and I have nothing to show for it."
Danse raised his eyebrows. "Nothing to show for it?" He gestured to the pre-war street lights Charlie had personally set up only two years ago, to the school he and Sturges constructed together. "What do you call all of this?"
Charlie shrugged. "That's just work."
Charlie shrugged again in response.
Danse shifted in his seat and frowned. This wasn't right. Charlie had always been happy and invested in his job, and took Quinn's teasing about being single in his stride. Danse opened and closed his mouth, trying to find the words. "I don't...you always—"
"Josh has a wife and a kid on the way. I have no one."
"I know I can't have kids. I've accepted that. But still…" Charlie bowed his head, shutting his eyes.
Danse glanced over to the house. With any luck, the others would stay inside. He turned back to his son and clamped his hand on Charlie's shoulder. "You can't rush these things. Some people find the right person early on. Others, it takes years. A relationship isn't the be-all and end-all, and it won't always bring you happiness."
Charlie didn't reply.
God damn it. Quinn is better at this than me, Danse thought. He tried again. "When I found your mother, I thought I was well into my thirties. She thinks she was at least twenty-nine. Just because Josh managed to convince his poor, unfortunate wife to marry him doesn't mean you're falling behind."
This earned a laugh from Charlie, so Danse pressed on.
"And we were friends first. We both went through hell and back before we finally realised we were right for each other. I'd convinced myself that I didn't deserve her, and she didn't want to rush me." Danse gave Charlie's shoulder a squeeze. "You might have already met the right person, and you just don't know it yet. Give it time. When you find them, you won't care how long it took." He paused. "As for children...I think we're proof synths can raise a family just fine."
Charlie looked up sharply, staring at Danse. Danse smiled at him. After a few seconds, Charlie's gave a lopsided grin back. "Thanks, Dad."
Danse nodded. "No problem." Slowly, he got to his feet, wincing as his limbs clicked and ached again. He held his hand out to Charlie and pulled him to his feet.
Charlie staggered, nearly knocking them both over, and leaned on the school wall. "I think I should go lie down."
"I think you should," Danse replied, biting back a laugh. "Stay here. I'll just tell your mother I'm taking you home."
"I can walk—"
Charlie grumbled, but nodded, so Danse quickly ran across the road and stuck his head through Josh's front door. Josh was snoring on the sofa, while Emily and Quinn were now talking about babies and pregnancy. Emily seemed nervous about the thought of mood swings and cravings. Danse quickly let them know where he was going, and returned to Charlie.
The journey was difficult, not helped by Charlie's inability to walk straight, and also being half a head taller than Danse. Eventually, though, Danse managed to deposit Charlie through his front door. Charlie mumbled a thanks, and fell face first on his bed. Seconds later, he was asleep.
By the time Danse left the house, Quinn was waiting for him outside. He considered telling her about Charlie's worries, but then decided against it. The conversation felt private, something Charlie might even be ashamed of. He could confide in his mother later, if he wanted to. Instead, Danse took Quinn's hand, and they walked through the silent, deserted streets of Sanctuary all the way home.
When they reached it, they both stopped dead, staring at the front yard. Outside the house was a huge mound of dirt, the back end of a brahmin corpse sticking out of it.
"Oh for the love of…" Danse glared at Quinn. "That's the third time this week! I'm not cleaning this up!"
He knew damn well he would be the one cleaning this up.
Quinn frowned and investigated the dirt pile, before shaking her head. "I think I need to do some more training with Spuds."
Quinn kissed him on the cheek. "We can worry about it tomorrow."
Danse eyed the half-buried brahmin corpse with apprehension, wondering how long it would take for it to smell, and then followed Quinn inside.
"I can't believe Josh and Emily are going to have a baby! I'm so happy for them," Quinn said when they reached their bedroom. "And I'm going to be a grandmother. Good god."
Danse nodded, but the night's good news was driven from his head as she turned her back on him and removed her pants. His eyes trailed to her lips, her neck, where she loved to be kissed. The curves of her waist and hips, only half hidden by her loose shirt.
She began to talk about work and her plans for the settlement, but Danse was barely listening. He was supposed to be preparing for his own work tomorrow, too. He still had to arrange things for Duncan, sort out the change in the shift pattern, let Mordecai know about...
Danse walked over to Quinn as she continued to talk about her duties, and stood behind her. "Work can wait," he said, and started slowly kissing her neck. Quinn stopped talking at once, tilting her head to the side as he nipped gently at her skin, his hands sliding up the front of her shirt. She leaned back against him and ran her hand along his thigh, but not venturing any further.
"Tease," Danse murmured, lifting her shirt up and pulling it carefully over her head. Quinn shivered, and then whipped around, pushing him back. He cried out in surprise, his legs hitting the edge of the bed so that he toppled backwards onto it. Before he could ready himself, Quinn was upon him, straddling him and unbuttoning his shirt, pulling impatiently at his belt buckle until he moved her hands aside and tried to do it himself. This proved difficult, as she began massaging his crotch. She laughed when he gave up, leaning his head back, and closing his eyes.
Quinn undid the damn belt, but then took her time undressing Danse, pushing him back down when he tried to sit up and help. The look in her eyes said 'wait,' so he obeyed, trying to control his cravings.
She took him into her hands, moving up and down, her tongue trailing after her fingers. All Danse could do was hold onto her hair, wanting to give something in return, but not wanting her to stop. Eventually, though, she did stop, and Danse took the opportunity to drag her onto the bed, pulling off her underwear and slipping his hand between her legs.
Work could wait, Danse thought idly as Quinn's breath grew heavy in his ear. For one night, it could all wait.
Danse stirred from his sleep. He blinked a few times, staring up into the darkness, and then reached out to Quinn. His hand fell into an empty space, the bed sheets still faintly warm. Danse frowned and propped himself up, squinting. No sign of her. He glanced down to the floor and saw her clothes and shoes were gone. Danse hesitated, wondering if he should just go back to sleep. She'd return. But something didn't feel right, so he slipped out of bed, got dressed, and headed downstairs. As he suspected, she wasn't there, and the front door wasn't locked. There were a few places she might visit without telling him, but only one at this time of night. Biting his lip, Danse picked up his keys, locking the front door as he left, and striding off towards the graveyard.
Since the restructuring of Sanctuary, the pre-war buildings been demolished, including Quinn's old house. The city's graveyard stood on the foundations of her destroyed home. Quinn never really said anything about it and avoided the area, except when she went to visit Nate.
The air felt heavy in the graveyard, betraying Danse's every move. He walked slowly and carefully, weaving in and out of the graves of all those who fell in the battle against Sanctuary. It was pitch black, and the ground was pitted and uneven—one bad step and he could break his ankle. No one would likely find him until morning. With this sombering thought in his mind, he took extra care, heading to the back of the graveyard, where Nate lay.
Danse hesitated and shivered. He hadn't thought about her in over a decade. Old feelings erupted up in his chest, the shame of his failure gripping at his heart. He'd searched for Sarah for months. Years. Went as far as the Glowing Sea and the edges of the Commonwealth, before Quinn finally put her foot down.
"Arlen Glass is no combatant," she'd said, "and Sarah is a child. If they've gone that far, they're already dead."
As much as he hated it, Danse agreed with Quinn. And so he'd stopped.
He'd promised Marguerie and let her down. Danse visited her grave when he gave up and tried to explain, but it sounded like nothing but weak excuses to his ears. Quinn insisted if Rachel was alive, she'd understand he tried his best. Danse thought if Marguerie was alive, she'd tried to kill him. He kept her holotags and journal, though. Just in case.
Danse shook his head and moved on. Now was not the time to be lamenting over the past. He had to find Quinn. He stumbled and groped his way through the darkness, until he heard the sound of lapping water. He was close. "Quinn?"
"Danse?" she sounded surprised, and he followed her voice until her hand was in his.
"Everything okay?" he asked, squeezing her fingers. Now he was close to her, he could just make out her face.
"Yeah, I just…" She bit her lip and looked down at Nate's grave. "I had a nightmare about Nate and Shaun, and I just...Shaun never had children. Nate never became a grandfather. And I…" Her voice cracked. "I wanted to visit him. It's been a while."
Danse glanced at the grave and back to her. "Do you need to be alone?"
"No." She slipped her arm around his waist and leaned into him, still looking at the grave. "Stay. Please."
They stood in silence for some time, Quinn sniffing a little in the dark. Then she squeezed his hand and they carefully picked their way back to the graveyard entrance together. She turned and hugged him, resting her head against his chest. He held her tight, the shaking of her shoulders telling him he should wait. When she pulled away, the street lamps showed the wet streaks on her cheeks. Danse wiped them away with his thumb and kissed her forehead. "Let's go home. I'll make you a drink and we—"
In the distance, an alarm sounded.
Quinn and Danse looked at each other. Then, without another word, both of them sprinted to the guard tower. Danse forged ahead, leaving her behind, and raced up the stairs to where MacCready was sat, rifle in hand, Mordecai next to him and peering at a nearby terminal.
"Brotherhood," Mordecai said before Danse could speak. "They signalled ahead to let us know they were in the area. They're asking for permission to approach."
"Permission?" Danse asked, feeling sick to his stomach. Had they been discovered after all these years? The Brotherhood could wipe them off the map without lifting a finger, without batting an eyelid. "It's odd they'd give away their location to ask us for permission."
"Permission?" Quinn said as she burst into the room. "Who's asking for permission?"
"Brotherhood," said MacCready darkly, returning to peering through his rifle.
Quinn's face drained of colour. "Brotherhood?"
"They haven't attacked," Danse said, trying to sound more confident than he felt. "They're asking to approach. They wouldn't do that if they wanted to kill us."
"Well maybe their tactics have changed, Danse!" Quinn snapped, her voice edging towards hysterical. "It's been nearly two decades since you were with them!"
Danse agreed with her, but he needed to keep his cool. He turned to Mordecai. "How many?"
"Just the one vertibird that we can see," Mordecai replied.
"Give them permission to land. Let's see why the Brotherhood wants to visit our city." Danse picked up a rifle from the gun cupboard, a visored helmet, and made for the door leading to the city entrance. A few seconds later, Quinn was at his side, a pistol and holster in her hands.
Danse glanced at her as he wedged the helmet on, the darkened visor making it difficult to see in the low light.
"I'm their sentinel, remember?" she said, answering his unspoken worries. Quinn put on the holster and slipped the gun into it. "Who better to talk them down than me?"
She was right of course, but that didn't soothe Danse's nerves. Once she'd set her mind to something, though, there was no point dissuading her. He lifted the visor up, leaned forward, and kissed her. "Be careful."
Quinn smiled. "If they try to force their way into our city, we're going to throw them out on their fucking asses."
The distant buzz of the vertibird grew louder with every passing second. Quinn stood at the gates of Sanctuary, Danse next to her, her nerves cutting into him like broken glass. She remembered the day the Prydwen left the Commonwealth, and how she'd stood hand in hand with Danse on a bridge into the Boston ruins, watching it go. He'd said very little at the time, and even less afterwards, but Quinn knew what he'd been thinking. His first real home was flying away without him. He had been abandoned. The recovery after that blow had taken some time, even though Danse expected it.
Now the Brotherhood were back, and once again the old pains were returning to Danse's handsome, weathered face. Quinn stared out into the darkness, hating the Brotherhood. Hating that they could drag up the past with just their mere presence. Danse had worked so hard over the years to get to where he was now, and they could undo it all in just a second. He didn't deserve this shit.
Finally, the vertibird came into view, dazzling lights scanning the horizon, before settling in a neat spot some way from Sanctuary. Quinn felt herself tense. A figure in power armour got out, landed with a heavy 'thud,' and began to walk over, their hands raised in the air. Quinn and Danse glanced at each other. They'd never seen a Brotherhood soldier with their arms held up in surrender before.
As the soldier approached, Quinn recognised the paint work as a paladin's, which made their behaviour even more peculiar. They slowly put their hands to their head, making sure Quinn and Danse knew exactly what they were doing, and carefully took their helmet off. Underneath was a dark skinned man with a scarred face and a big, bushy beard.
"Sir," the man said, nodding to Danse. He looked at Quinn with a serious expression. "Ma'am."
Quinn's mouth dropped open. "Carson?"
Carson broke into a wide smile and began laughing. "Thank fuck you're quick on the uptake. I couldn't keep a straight face for much long—" He broke off as Quinn shoved her pistol into her holster and ran to him, jumping into a hug. He flinched, and then very gently hugged her back, compensating for his armour. "Hi," he mumbled into her ear.
They broke apart and beamed at each other.
"You look like shit," she said, tugging at his beard. "Forget how to shave or something?"
Carson rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Tom says the same. I think it makes me look manly. Besides—" he carefully flicked at her hair, "—at least I'm not going grey."
"Tom?" Quinn said, ignoring his jibe. "You're still with Kapraski?"
"You sound surprised, ma'am!" came a voice from the vertibird. A tall, stocky man stuck his bald head out from the cockpit and waved enthusiastically.
Quinn waved back, feeling like she was in some sort of dream, but then frowned at Carson. "You brought Kapraski with you? But what about Danse?"
Carson shrugged. "Tom's known about Paladin Danse the whole time. I told him what happened a few days after you left the Brotherhood."
"You told him?" Quinn hissed, suddenly angry. "What if it had gone wrong? What if you and Kapraski fell out? What if—?"
"You told Elder Maxson about Rachel," Carson said coolly. "You told him I knew about Paladin Danse. That could have gotten me and Kapraski killed, or worse. I decided if you could trust Elder Maxson, I wasn't going to lie to Tom about Rachel. He's my partner, and I love him. I won't lie to him. Not even for you, Quinn."
Quinn stared up at her old friend. Time had given him a backbone. He would never have been so decisive when they'd been on the Prydwen together. She smiled. "It seems being an officer suits you."
Carson grinned back at her, and the tension passed. "Yeah, I think so too. Damn near shit myself when Maxson brought me into his confidence, but I reckon he only did that so he could keep an eye on me and make sure I wasn't going to spill his dirty secret on Paladin Danse. Except we both realised I was actually competent when left to my own devices, instead of under someone else's command. He made me a paladin shortly before he left the Citadel."
"He left the Citadel?" Danse said, his tone full of shock.
Carson glanced over at Danse and nodded. "Yes, sir. Disappeared for a good while, too. Asked me to help keep things in order during his absence, because he said he would return. He just wanted to make sure power struggles were kept to a minimum, and no radical redirecting of the Brotherhood's agenda." Carson pulled a face. "Good thing he thinks ahead. Second he left, all sorts of opportunists came crawling out of the woodworks." He paused, tilting his head. "Not Kells, though, oddly enough. He didn't care who was in power, just so long as he could keep flying the Prydwen."
Carson looked back at Danse—who was still wearing his helmet—and said, "There's no one else in the area, sir, I promise. You're safe. We made a solo trip."
"You would need to refuel," Danse said, taking off his helmet anyway and scowling suspiciously at Carson.
Carson shook his head. "Doctor Li's been doing wonders with alternative fuelling methods for the vertibirds and the Prydwen, with the help of the integrated scientists you made Maxson rescue from the Institute. Some nuclear shit I don't understand, no matter how many times Li explains it to me."
Quinn blinked, trying to take it all in. Carson was a paladin. Li was still with the Brotherhood, and more importantly, so were the Institute scientists. Kapraski was flying again. Maxson left the Prydwen. Did he really take her advice on board all those years ago?
"I think we need a proper catch-up," Quinn said, motioning for her guards to stand down. "Come on. We'll go to my office."
They waited for Kapraski to wriggle his way out of the vertibird and stump over to them. Quinn saw he had a mechanised prosthetic leg, and once again marvel swept over her as he walked freely to them. His pace was a little unsteady, the weight of his new leg obviously making things unbalanced, but he reached them just fine and grinned.
"Would you mind if some of your men just keep an eye on my 'bird, please, ma'am?" He looked over his shoulder at the vertibird the same way a father would look at his newborn child. "Don't want anything happening to her. She's valuable equipment and our only way home."
"Sure. Danse, would you…?"
Danse nodded and signalled up for two of the guards to come down to the gates. Carson rolled his eyes. "Everyone used to ask if we were ever gonna adopt one of the squires that lost their parents, but the way I see it, we already have a child in the family." He looked from the vertibird to Kapraski, and the two of them chuckled.
Quinn smiled, remembering how nervous Carson used to be around Kapraski.
Once the vertibird was secured, the four of them made their way to the mayoral office, Danse keeping unusually close to Quinn and glaring at the two soldiers whenever he thought she couldn't see him. As they went inside the building, she put her hand on his arm and gave it a small squeeze.
"Relax," she whispered.
"I'll relax when they're gone," Danse muttered back. If Carson and Kapraski heard him, they didn't comment, following Quinn and Danse in silence upstairs. Carson got out of his power armour, and they all settled into chairs in her office, while Quinn handed out drinks.
"So what happened with everyone?" she asked as she sat down opposite Carson. "How is Casey?"
"Head of the scribes. Proctor Shingler now," Carson said, leaning back in his chair. He raised his eyebrow at Quinn's shocked expression. "What, you never suspected she was a high flyer?"
"Well no, I knew she was smart but…" Quinn shrugged. "The last time I saw her she was barely alive. Even when she woke up I wasn't sure if she'd ever be the same again."
"She's kicking ass at her job. Quinlan was right to pick her as his protégée."
"Is Quinlan still helping her adjust?"
"No. He died about—" Carson paused, his brow furrowing. "—seven years ago. Suspected heart attack."
"Oh." Quinn blinked. She hadn't particularly liked or disliked Quinlan, but the news wasn't welcomed all the same. "I'm sorry to hear it. What about the other proctors? Are they okay?"
"Let's see…" Carson began counting them off on his fingers, one by one. "Ingram's the same, scary as ever. Working closely with Doctor Li, even after Liberty Prime went bust and no one could fix it again. Kells is still running day to day stuff on the ship, but he's under Maxson's thumb now rather than the other way around, and Teagan…" Carson trailed off, biting his lip. "Teagan started drinking when we got back to the Citadel. Died a few years later. He was one of Cade's last patients."
The news of Teagan stung a bit more than Quinlan's, but the mention of Cade took priority. Quinn had been fond of the Knight-Captain. "Cade's last…?"
"Oh, he's not hurt!" Carson said quickly, flapping his hands, his eyes wide. "I think after Teagan went, Cade just had enough. Stepped down from his position and began training Field-Scribe Haylen to take his place. She pretty much runs the sick bay now, but Cade advises her from time to time, when she needs him."
Danse sat up straighter in his seat at the mention of Haylen. "How is she doing? Is she well?"
Carson smiled and nodded. "Yeah, she's doing fine. You couldn't ask for a kinder doctor. Knight-Captain Cade seems fond of her—very protective, like she's his daughter or something. He was with her when she got married ten years ago."
"Married to who?"
"Knight-Sergeant Karl Hewer. We all still call her Haylen, though."
The name felt familiar to Quinn, though she couldn't place why. She looked at Danse, who seemed surprised at this revelation. She saw his lips silently form the word 'Rhys?' before he gave a little shrug and sat back in his chair again.
"But things have been really moving forward in terms of technology," Carson said, swigging from his bottle and grinning lazily. "We're managing to keep all the dangerous tech under wraps, and the tech that can help improve people's lives—including our own—is being constantly developed. The Institute scientists have been a great help."
"How on earth did you manage to keep them?" Quinn asked, still not able to wrap her head around this. "And Li, too? She made it clear the Brotherhood pissed her off."
Carson simply said, "Maxson." There was a moment of silence, and Carson went on. "He put his foot down and made sure they stayed. Didn't make them or anything, but basically persuaded them it was safer working with the Brotherhood than roaming alone in the wasteland. Most of them had never survived in the open before, so they were just grateful for a place to live. Doctor Li and Doctor Virgil took them into their care, closely monitored, and began working on approved projects."
"Bet the others didn't like that."
"Oh god no. They had to have trusted guards assigned to them for their own protection in the end. But over time, things changed. Maxson is a force to be reckoned with, and when the scientists began working wonders for the Citadel and the Capital Wasteland, the mood changed pretty quickly."
"But you said Maxson disappeared," Danse interjected, looking interested again. "That he left. What happened to the scientists then?"
"They became my responsibility," Carson replied. "I made sure they stayed safe, just like I was asked. And to be honest, people were more concerned with Maxson's absence and the power vacuum left behind than a small group of eggheads. He didn't tell anyone beforehand. Just sent out some scheduled messages saying he was going to do some private work somewhere, and gave a list of people to run the show while he was gone. I was on that list, along with a few others. But people fought amongst themselves, of course." Carson grinned. "Lucky for you, really. Everyone was so focused on finding a leader, they disregarded the reports of a potential synth settlement in the Commonwealth."
Quinn went cold. The Brotherhood knew about Sanctuary?
"Are we at risk of an attack?" Danse said sharply.
Carson shook his head. "If you were, an attack would have happened years ago. But when Maxson came back, he was...different."
"Different?" Danse leaned forward and frowned.
"I can't explain it, sir. Just...different. He looked lighter. Like some weight had been pulled off his shoulders. And the first thing he did was drag us all away from hunting down synths and treating civilised ghouls like shit. So, naturally, a mini civil war broke out amongst the ranks. All the hardcore Brotherhood traditionalists claiming Maxson was leading us down a dark path."
"Like when Owyn Lyons decided to help the common wastelanders?" Danse asked, raising his eyebrows.
Carson nodded. "Yeah, like that. Except Maxson has the power of persuasion that Owyn didn't. Used the Maxson name and influence to his benefit, and pointed out the codex doesn't say we have to distance ourselves from ghouls and synths. He said he destroyed the Institute, and that the synths were free of being controlled. They could live their lives like normal humans. Without orders, they were no longer technology being used for experiments and weaponry, just people trying to get by."
"Did that work?"
"It shut a few of the traditionalists up, but more importantly, the neutral majority were convinced, and they kept the more radical people in line. Maxson was careful after that. He went over plans with me, and across the years we've been slowly changing things to match Owyn Lyons' way of thinking—helping out wastelanders and building good relationships with them, y'know? People grumbled, but Elder Maxson convinced them mutual aid were worth the hassle. We protect them, they supply us with food and other things we can't get ourselves."
"It didn't work when Elder Lyons tried," Danse said, frowning. "Why would now be any different?"
"The change was so gradual, no one really noticed at first," Carson replied with a shrug. "And when they did, most didn't care because they were used to it. The ones who protested, Elder Maxson accused of being no better than raiders, stealing from the helpless. He said the Brotherhood were above that: an organisation with a noble cause. But if they wanted to be common raiders, they were welcome to leave."
Quinn snorted. Carson grinned at her. "Yeah, it's a load of shit, but sometimes using the right rhetoric works wonders. Our chapter didn't splinter like Owyn's, and even the naysayers eventually came around. The only real concern we have left now are the elders in the west."
"They've always been a concern," Danse said, looking annoyed. "Interfering where they weren't wanted or needed, causing more turmoil than any other threat in the wasteland."
Carson nodded. "They're still an issue, but for the moment aren't actively working against us. They're unwilling to openly stand against the last descendent of Maxson, so Elder Maxson is pressing hard on that point to keep things in his favour."
The news was troubling, but in all honesty, it wasn't Quinn's problem. Maxson wasn't a young man anymore, and the strife within the Brotherhood was his responsibility. The very concept felt liberating.
"And speaking of Maxson," Carson said, standing up and walking over to his power armour. "He wanted me to give you this, sir." Carson removed a package and an envelope from the armour, strode towards Danse, and held the package out to him. Danse took it warily, never taking his eyes off Carson. He opened it with great care, and then drew in a sharp breath.
Quinn straightened up and saw a red book and a set of tarnished holotags in Danse's lap. He picked up the tags, grief rippling through his expression as he held them up to the light. Then his fingers closed around them, and he clutched them tight to his chest, bowing his head. An old memory surfaced in Quinn's mind like a shipwreck dragged from the depths of a murky lake.
"He kept it?"
Elder Maxson ran his fingers over the deep red book, embossed with peeling silver letters. He picked it up and tucked it carefully under his arm, his expression pained for a second, before a forced blankness took over. Then he took hold of the holotags, glaring at Quinn as she begged to keep them.
"Tags go to the next of kin. These should never have been kept."
Quinn snapped back to the present as Danse opened the book, the silver embossed letters catching in the low light just long enough for Quinn to read 'The Tales of King Arthur.'
Danse scanned the page, eyebrows knotted together in concentration as his free hand slowly slid down the open page. Then the his face lit up with something Quinn couldn't place, and he gave a low laugh before looking up at Carson. For the first time that night, Danse smiled at the Brotherhood soldiers. He closed the book and said, "Tell Elder Maxson thank you, and…" he hesitated, that strange look crossing his features again. "Tell him I have reconsidered. He will know what I mean."
Carson appeared as confused as Quinn felt, but he nodded and agreed to pass on the message. Then he turned to Quinn. "The Elder has something for you as well." He held out the envelope to her.
She took it, her confusion mounting, and opened the envelope. Inside were detailed blueprints, far beyond her understanding. She wouldn't have been able to deduce them at all, if it wasn't for the fact 'WATER PURIFIER' was written across the top in big, bold letters. Quinn blinked, holding them aloft, and looked back to Carson. "I don't understand. We have plenty of industrial purifiers."
Carson rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I thought you might say that. This is the mother of all purifiers, decades worth of research from Doctor Li, built upon the back of the original purifier in D.C. This baby is efficient, powerful, and most of all, has low fuel consumption for its size. Elder Maxson thought it might help your thriving community stay self sufficient, and benefit the rest of the Commonwealth in the process."
Quinn stared at Carson, and then at the blueprints. Her chest felt tight, but it wasn't with fear or anxiety. She remembered Maxson as he was, an angry, sheltered young man with too much grief and burden on his back, oblivious to his own ignorance. She glanced up at Carson and said, "How long has Elder Maxson known about Sanctuary and the people who live here?"
Carson smiled. "Years."
Quinn and Danse looked at each other, and an unspoken understanding passed between them. Quinn put the blueprints back in their envelope.
Sanctuary was safe.
Paladin Carson and Knight-Lancer Kapraski left not long afterwards. Quinn argued with them, trying to get them to stay longer, but they both insisted they needed to return back to base. Eventually, she relented, hugging them both and telling them to stay in contact. That they were welcome any time.
Danse agreed. He even shook their hands.
Danse stood with Quinn and watched the vertibird leave, their fingers entwined, like the day the Prydwen departed the Commonwealth. Back then, it felt as if a knife had been run through his chest. Now, the wound had finally healed.
When the light of the vertibird disappeared into the darkness, they walked back through the streets of Sanctuary, ignoring the curious faces silhouetted in the windows. The lights went out one by one, and soon the city was asleep again.
Danse turned over Cutler's holotags in his hands. The book was a treasure, but the tags? After twenty years, he had been reunited with Cutler. The gratitude Danse felt was inexplicable. He had Cutler back.
He had Cutler back.
Quinn stayed quiet the whole way home. She understood. He needed this moment for himself.
When they reached their bedroom, however, she looked at him and said, "I don't get what you said to Carson. About reconsidering. What does that mean?"
Danse grinned, amused. "Maxson added a personal note inside the cover. Here." He passed the precious book to Quinn. She hesitated, and then accepted it, opening the book and reading the note aloud.
"Twenty years have passed since we last spoke. Two decades to think over mistakes and regrets, and what could have been. Apologies that were never uttered. Wrongs that were never righted.
In that time, I hope your stance over Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere has been reconsidered.
May the rest of your days be peaceful.
Quinn looked up at Danse and frowned. "I don't get it. Is he apologising to you?"
"As best he can," Danse said. When Quinn still looked puzzled, he laughed, taking the book from her and shutting it. "An old joke between distant friends. Don't worry about it."
Quinn shrugged and began getting ready for bed for the second time that night, while Danse strode over to the shelf opposite him, where Marguerie's journal lay. He looked at the old, battered book for a moment, her holotags and Zippo lighter neatly placed atop the worn leather. With the greatest care, Danse set 'The Tales of King Arthur' down next to the journal, and put Cutler's tags down onto the red cover.
Some things didn't work out. And some things did. Danse hoped wherever Sarah was now, she was happy.
Danse changed for bed and settled down with Quinn, his mind buzzing with the night's events. He heard her say something about how Hancock was arriving first thing in the morning with his newest bodyguard, but Danse couldn't focus on the words. He mumbled a response, still wrapped up in Maxson's gesture, and put his arm around Quinn as she snuggled up to him.
Danse gazed at the ceiling, only faintly aware of the orange shafts of light creeping through their room. His thoughts were a tired, blissful haze. The absence of guilt, it seemed, was a hell of a sedative.
A small, snuffling snort drew his attention back to Quinn. He glanced down to see she had fallen asleep, her breath fluttering softly against his chest. Danse smiled to himself.
"May the rest of your days be peaceful."
Somehow, he suspected they would.
A/N: And that, as they say...is that.
As I've said often, I only ever intended for this story to be ten chapters long. Then it took on a life of its own, and suddenly here we are, a year and eight months later, finally at the end. Some might say I took too long, but I honestly don't care. I set out to rewrite the narrative of Fallout 4, and I'm damned please with the result, and surprised I managed to actually stick to it.
Thank you to all my readers, especially those who left comments. Without you, I probably would have stopped early on. It's hard to stay invested and motivated without any feedback.
Thank you to one particular reviewer, who helped me fine tune my research on PTSD. You were extremely helpful.
Thank you to all the people who helped me with other research, such as Spanish translations, American police stories and habits, and general betaing.
But the biggest thank you goes to my consistent beta, waiting4morning . This story would not have taken the directions it did or be of any good quality without her.
And let's say a congratulations to one of my reviewers, 'Dodo,' who recently had a cute lil' baby girl called Yara! ;)
And finally, if you're sad about the end of BNC, then fear not. I have other fanfics in the works set in the BNC universe. They won't be centred around Quinn and Danse, as their story is now over. But Quinn and Danse will crop up and be alluded to. Just not as main characters.
One fic is going to be based around Nuka World and Gage. The other will be based around Hancock himself. I will be writing these fics slightly differently to BNC, in that I'm going to write out the entire fic first and then update on a weekly basis. This will prevent inconsistent updates and save me a great deal of stress. I will be posting the first chapter of my next fic so that you can 'follow' it for updates, and then I will begin updating it when I finish writing it.
I deliberately left a few loose ends in BNC to allow me to explore certain characters without revealing what happened to them.
So without further ado, I present...
"Making One's Bones"
Check out my profile and read on...