Nora sighed as she tried to make sense of the schematics and scribbled notes in front of her.

She had gotten pretty good at reading these things- mostly because of Sturges' help with them, but... the man wasn't here now, so she was on her own. There were a lot of secondary notes hastily scribbled into the margins and her eyes were already pretty strained from trying to read them; half of them were smudged beyond recognition, which made the rest fail to make sense since the message wasn't complete.

Fingers had already dug into the skin of her temple as she rubbed at it, hoping maybe it would jumpstart something inside of her brain.

Damnit.

She was a lawyer for Christ's sake, not a mechanic- or an engineer.

"Problem, General?"

Nora glanced over her shoulder at the question and smiled briefly at the man standing halfway in the doorway behind her. She ushered him in, before she waved her hand over the faded blue paper in front of her. "Ronnie retrieved some more schematics from the armory, and she wants me to build whatever this is, but... I can't make head or ass of this design. I'm not even sure I know what I'm looking at here." she gave a mildly frustrated groan before she looked back to him. "Come look at this for me so I know I'm not just going crazy."

Preston gave a quiet chuckle and walked into the opened office- slinging his musket back over one shoulder. "I'm sure you're not going crazy," he encouraged, "Ronnie just has a knack for finding... and demanding next to impossible equipment."

She humored him with a matching laugh and pushed the half-pinned down schematic towards him. "Test your luck, cowboy."

Nora watched as he slightly pushed his hat back and moved both hands to the desk as he studied the wrinkled and faded paper. She could see the way his brow wrinkled in question and saw how his eyes scanned over the barely-preserved design. A slight frown caught onto her as she watched him move one hand to a cluster of margin notes; his finger briefly tapped each message, before he moved onto the next cluster- as though linking them together.

Perhaps he was following a train of thought that she hadn't picked up on.

She cocked her head and slightly scooted herself closer to him- hoping maybe it would make sense to her as well.

"I know exactly what this is," Preston announced.

"Really?" Nora spoke, perhaps too excited by his answer, before she looked back to the still jumbled schematic on the desk. "What is it?" she pressed, hoping for the moment of enlightenment to dawn onto her as well.

"It's... something we're going to need Sturges to look at."

...

It took a few seconds for his answer to click, and when it did, she looked to him with an exasperated glare- to which he replied with a somewhat sheepish grin. She tried to hold it in, but ended up failing and gave into the light laugh at his expense- and her own for that matter. "You're useless to me," Nora teased, as she lightly slapped him on the arm with the back of her hand. "What do I keep you around for?"

Preston shared in her laughter before he turned to face her, keeping one hand remaining on the desk. "I don't know, General, why don't you tell me?"

Nora grinned and shook her head, before she inched herself closer to him- taking up the space where his other arm had previously been. One hand pushed the schematic aside, while the other moved to dance fingertips against his waist. "Well, it's not for your schematic reading skills- then again, I can't depend on myself for that either. But... there are a few other things that you're pretty good at."

"Is that so?" he queried, as though teasing that he didn't know where she was going with the conversation. "And just what might your list be?"

She felt the weight of his arm as he slipped it around her shoulders and eased her in closer to him.

Nora could feel the heat of his body as she drew in, which was much appreciated in the stone cold walls of the Castle. It got a lot colder inside than she thought it would- which might bring relief on a hot day, but it would leave one uncomfortably trembling half an hour later. Regardless of the heat he put off though, she loved being close to him; she loved the smell of his jacket, and how his taller frame could almost shield her completely- how he could wrap her up in his arms and she could practically disappear into them.

She loved the easiness in his eyes, and the gentle words on his lips.

"Ah, Preston, sliding into the General's 'quarters' I see."

Nora had to bite her lip at the off-guarded expression that came over him before the two looked to see who had so rudely interrupted their schematic reading session. And it didn't take long for her to catch the wired grin of Piper, as the news reporter leaned against the open doorframe- a notebook and pen ready in hand.

"Should I write that down, or save it for an after hours special report?" Piper questioned, still putting on a mock tone of professionalism. "Or perhaps," she stopped long enough to pat at the camera that securely hung from her belt, "a picture would be more appropriate."

"If I find that in a report, Piper, you will be the next one to go missing," Nora chuckled, before she turned to fully face the woman now- leaning back against the desk as she did so. "You're here early for your 'exclusive' report."

"The news doesn't wait," the woman reminded. "Not to mention, the Minutemen are a pretty hot topic as of lately- which is ironic considering the frozen banana that's now in charge of them."

Nora wrinkled her nose at the uncommon moniker, before she grinned once more. "Did Nick pay you to say that?"

"I wouldn't say 'pay'."

"Did Nick really call you a frozen banana?" Preston questioned, as he moved to somewhat mimic her position, only crossing his arms and stretching his legs out slightly further than hers could.

Nora briefly gestured with her hand. "He... eluded to it," she replied, catching the quiet laugh that escaped him, which lead her to gently nudge her elbow into his side. "Now then, back to the interview," she announced as she turned her attention back to Piper. "What exactly do you want to write about?"

"Well, ever since that first story about you came out, 'Woman Out of Time', the people have been asking a lot of questions," Piper started, as she began to flip through her notepad. "You're a one-woman army going straight against the Institute, Blue; not a lot of people have the guts, or balls, to do so. You've already caused quite a bit of mayhem with them- I heard the rumors about the Courser kill you made, not to mention your supposed 'connections' with the Railroad. You've got a lot on your plate right now... how exactly do you manage to balance so much work? I mean, the Minutemen are growing again and showing up in old parts of the Commonwealth- that can't be easy to manage, nor delegate."

She should've anticipated that Piper would've put in a lot of pre-work for this interview.

Just how the hell did she manage to root up that much information in such a short amount of time? They practically scheduled this interview yesterday.

"It's not, and there are a lot of sleepless nights involved, but... the sacrifice to protect the Commonwealth is worth it," Nora spoke, before she lightly elbowed Preston again. "It doesn't hurt that I have an equally, if not more, dedicated right hand man to help me. As for the rumors about me and the Railroad, I have no comments on them. All I can tell you is that I can't fight the Institute by myself- despite what I may think from time to time. I'm going to need help, I'm going to need friends and allies who can back me up; I'm going to need the Commonwealth on my side. And the only way to ensure that is to make sure these people feel protected and... safe enough to put their necks on the line for me if the need to ever arises."

"Hm, interesting," Piper mused as she hastily scribbled down her words the moment they left her mouth.

Nora watched the woman work, and watched as she flipped pages when it was necessary- occasionally dabbing the tip of her pen on her tongue to make it run smoother. "Before we go further with this interview, do me a favor and just avoid mentioning anything about the Railroad. I don't know how you heard rumors about it, and I will neither confirm nor deny them, but... it's a topic best left uncovered."

"Oh?" Piper remarked with mild interest, before she seemingly scribbled something out of her notes. "Is this... a Railroad initiative?"

"No comment," Nora insisted.

"You're killing me- and you're killing the news here, Blue."

She chuckled lightly at the woman's semi-frustrated remark. "I need to keep some mystery to me, or else the public will lose interest."

"Ha, I think they'd rather read about you than about Mayor McDou-" Piper started, before the blasting sound of an alarm outside cut her off and drowned out her words. She briefly shielded her ears at the surprising sound and turned to look down the hallway behind her- as though expecting the source of the noise to be there. "What's that?!"

Nora jumped at the sound of the alarm, but quickly got to her feet and scrambled to collect her shotgun from where it had been propped against the desk. "Something's outside," she briefly explained, as she cocked the weapon once before she started out of the office. "Stay inside where it's safe; we'll handle this. Hopefully it's just a false alarm- the wiring here is pretty buggy."

"Hopefully it's not more Mirelurks," Preston replied, quick on her heels as he followed her out.

"Christ, I hope not."

"Are you kidding me? And miss out on some prime Minutemen combat reporting?" Piper called after her, before she too followed her lead. "I should've warned ya, Blue, I always wanted to cover wars!"

"Fine! You can report- but from a safe distance!" Nora replied, as she tore through the stone corridors of the Castle. It didn't take long for her to get outside into the center courtyard, and she winced as the heavy sun above her burned her eyes. She had forgotten just how long she had been inside- she would need a few seconds to adjust, which could be problematic depending on what was going on out here.

"We've got Greenskins!" one of the Minutemen called as he ran along the top of the outer wall- rushing to get back to his heavy artillery piece.

Super Mutants.

While they were... a hassle to deal with, the right distance and aimed position of a shotgun could easily put them down.

They might not even need their artillery.

Between her and Preston, this should be an easy job- and something to make Piper's report a little more interesting.

"Oh shit!" one of her watchmen shouted, as he nearly took a tumble off the wall in his sudden backwards retreat. "Cut the alarms! Now!"

Nora just managed to run past the radio tower in the center of the courtyard and watched as the controller fumbled to cut the alarm- barely doing so seconds after the order was called.

What was the point though?

If it was just Super Mutants, it wasn't like the additional noise would attract them; they were already on their way here. And by the time they reached the wall, if they were lucky enough to get that close, there would be over a dozen guns waiting to blow them apart.

"Everyone hide!"

"What the fuck is going on?" Nora started, as both she and Preston drew closer to the Northern wall that remained mostly in shambles- thanks to a very large Mirelurk Queen. Weeks of constantly saying that they would have it fixed only proved that repairs had been pushed further and further back on their to-do list.

She figured one day that'd probably regret the delay... and it would seem that that day was today.

...

She heard the warning signs.

The sudden, muffled screams of surprise coming from the advancing Super Mutants themselves.

There was spitted gunfire, but it didn't sound as though the bullets had hit anything other than the wall of the Castle. But over the roaring chains of a minigun, she only heard more screaming, and... a sound she couldn't quite identify, but was certain she had heard it before.

But just as soon as the noises had started, they ended- quite quickly in fact.

...

Then she heard something else.

She heard something that forced her heart into her throat and made the ground tremble underneath her.

Barely sliding to a stop, Nora dug her heels into the ground as one hand quickly reached behind her- stopping Preston from following her, and barely stopping him from running into her just the same. She barely heard the sharp breath that escaped him- no doubt he had just figured out what kind of predicament they had run themselves into.

...

Seconds after the screaming ended, she watched as the massive, semi-glowing Deathclaw charged through the opened wall of the Castle- all four legs pumping and tearing through the ground and rubble. It let out a heart-stopping roar as it swung its curved horns and knocked the closest turret aside before it even had a chance to fire; a heavy swing of its thick tail just about destroyed the remaining two turrets.

...

She understood the call for the alarm to be shut off now.

The alarms had been for the Super Mutants.

The Deathclaw either just happened to be in the area, or had been tracking the Greenskins- and once they were dead, it came for the noise.

...

Shit, they didn't stand a chance.

Against a normal one, maybe, but the glowing green patches of skin on its body said it would be a lot tougher to kill. And it wasn't like they could risk shooting artillery rounds directly into the Castle- that would be suicide.

Then again, so would going up against a Glowing Deathclaw.

...

Even if they did, by some miracle, manage to take this thing out, they would end up losing most of the men stationed here- herself and Preston included.

...

If the two of them died that might be the end of the Minutemen- again.

It would be yet another blow to the faction, another leadership taken down.

If they lost the Castle for a second time, after all the struggling and bloodshed they put into getting it back... it would be over.

...

No.

She had spent too long running her fingers until they bled to get the Minutemen back to where they were now. She had spent too many nights traveling and planning, trying to figure out what their next move would be.

She had seen too many faces broken with relief after gunning down Raiders and Super Mutants- driving them away from half-established settlements. She had escorted too many weary and tired, but thankful, settlers who had been kidnapped and held at gunpoint in the middle of the night. There were too many people pledging themselves to the Minutemen after seeing their revived worth in the Commonwealth; she would not have these people left disappointed and heartbroken if everything were to end now.

...

She had experienced a wealth of emotions she had long thought dead at the sight of pure relief and joy on Preston's face after they had reclaimed the Castle; it was a motion he had considered a lost cause for so long. He had dealt with the heartbreak of seeing the Minutemen rot apart and scatter- destroying the one dream he had clung onto for so long in such a shit world like this.

When they had first met, she had thought him to be a strong, willful man who fought for what he believed in.

But looking at him now, she knew that this was the real him; he had been battered and broken before, barely able to keep himself together.

... He held the soul and innocence of someone who should've been eaten alive in a world like this... but he survived; he persevered and he continued to fight for what the Commonwealth needed.

For what she needed.

Preston always claimed that if she hadn't been there in Concord when those Raiders showed up, they wouldn't have made it.

But she knew that... if he hadn't been there just the same, she would've been lost and eaten alive in this world before she even had a chance to understand it.

...

She would not let him face more disappointment.

She would not let him die thinking that this was the end for the Minutemen.

...

Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion around her.

Her eyes were fixated on the charging Deathclaw in front of her; her ears could hear the sounds of people screaming around them, of loose gunfire that was helpless to put even a dent in the creature before them.

The hand that clung hard to her shotgun was pressed tightly behind her- holding Preston to her, and making sure that there was no way in hell the creature could get to him first.

Nora threw her left arm in front of her out of a mix of instinct and balance- as though hoping, but knowing that it wouldn't, stop the Deathclaw; if anything, if the creature decided to bite down onto it, it would severe her non-dominant arm. Not that it would matter, she supposed; it would still kill her two seconds later.

"You son of a bitch," she muttered.

She caught eyes with the creature as it reared up onto its back legs and continued towards her. Its lumbering form was oddly graceful on two legs, which made it seemingly more dangerous; it was fast on four, and swift on two- but still incredibly powerful and savage all around.

"STOP!"

There was a battered roar as the Deathclaw pulled to a stop just mere feet from her- it's massive body still casting a shadow over the two of them.

Her jaw was tight and her teeth heavily clenched, but Nora never broke eye contact with the creature- even though it had to drastically look down to see her, and she had to crane her neck up to see it.

...

She couldn't say that she felt... fear exactly.

But there was something there- something ripping and grinding a hole through her stomach.

The Deathclaw leaned down, heavy growls rolling from its throat, as its jaw slightly dropped open- revealing opened rows of teeth that could rip through her flesh and body like paper; thick, discolored salvia dripped off of its massive jaw and hung from its chin in a messy display.

... A second look revealed that it wasn't actually salvia, but blood- Super Mutant blood.

Nora bared her teeth the same though.

...

She could feel Preston's hand tight on her arm as she barely shielded his larger frame behind hers. His fingers tightened in the wrinkles of her sleeve and every inch of her knew that he would've preferred if he was the one shielding her instead.

And she knew that, if any sort of sudden movement wasn't a guarantee Deathclaw provocation, he would've willingly pushed her behind him.

Hell, if they weren't at the Castle right now, surrounded by other innocent people, he probably would've done so anyways; he'd willingly sacrifice himself for her- to give her a fighting chance to live.

If that had been the case, she doubted she would've gotten far enough away for the sacrifice to be worth it, but still... it was the thought that counted.

"It's alright, girl," Nora spoke, calm and slow now although she kept her tone stiff as her jaw remained tense; she wasn't going to show a hint of hesitation. "Take it easy."

The Deathclaw remained standing before her, quietly snarling and hissing, before it began to flicker its tongue in and out of its mouth. It was trying to smell her, trying to take in her scent... for reasons she didn't know. Maybe it wanted to save her fragrance and use it to track her down later; maybe it was trying to figure out what kind of threat she really was so it could properly judge its next move.

Or maybe it was just some large, fucked up looking lizard hoping to rip her in half.

...

It felt like every pair of eyes that could see her, that were witnessing this moment, were burning into her.

The gunfire had stopped, as had the yelling- and there were no longer muffled whispers of panic.

Everyone was too afraid to attack- afraid that any sort of provocation would cause the Deathclaw to gut her on the spot. And she was thankful that they were considerate enough to do that much.

"You do not belong here," Nora continued, standing her ground as she shifted her feet to even out her balance. She needed to make herself feel like she was the same strength and height of this Deathclaw; she needed this to feel like it would be a fair fight. "No one here wants you to hurt them, and we don't want to hurt you. So just... go home."

The Deathclaw gave a hard snort and snapped its teeth at her- in intimidation no doubt.

And she would lie if she said it didn't make her entire body twist in fear.

She could feel Preston's hot breath on the back of her neck; she could almost hear the ragged breaths he took through equally clenched teeth.

She swallowed hard as the Deathclaw remained stationary in front of her- it didn't so much as budge at her words.

Shit.

It wasn't like she had any other plans here- she didn't even know what the hell she was doing in the first place.

"I said: Go. Home," Nora sternly spoke, as she stepped forward, somewhat arching her back and lifting her chest as she did so- all in the hope of making herself appear bigger. It wasn't like she had any other options right now... maybe she could drag this out long enough for everyone else to get to safety.

The Deathclaw released a low growl, snapping at her once more, before it slowly backed off- eventually turning away completely.

Nora watched in disbelief as the creature lumbered out through the broken wall; it paused long enough outside to stand up and sniff the air, before it dropped onto all fours and took off- very quickly disappearing from sight.

She wasn't sure if she wanted to run inside to safety first, or give into her nerves and puke instead; everything inside of her was going haywire and she wasn't sure how her legs were still supporting her.

She spotted a few of the artillery men slowly returning to their canons and quickly signaled with her free hand for them to stop. It might not be the best of ideas, but... the last thing they needed to do was kill the retreating Deathclaw and potentially aggravate the pack that was bound to be somewhere close by. She had a feeling this was a one-time luck thing- it would not happen a second time; and she hoped it wouldn't because she never wanted to be in this kind of position again.

She didn't move until one of the spotters on the tower gave the all-clear signal.

Which was also her signal to finally breath again.

Her jaw and teeth were sore from having them clenched so tightly.

Nora could hear herself breathing rather hard as she turned back towards Preston; one hand desperately grabbing at his arm. And she felt herself grab again and again, even when she grabbed fistfuls of his sleeve each time- it was like she couldn't quite bring herself out of that panic-laced haze. She constantly felt like she needed to make sure he was still there, that he was still behind her...

And he was.

His face was tense and pale, as though fear and panic alone had drained all the blood from his dark skin.

And she had no doubt that she looked the same.

"Concrete."

It was the first word out of her mouth when she found her voice again.

It took a moment or two before Preston's expression looked back to her in confusion.

"We need concrete," Nora elaborated. "We are patching up that wall right now- and I don't care how much it's going to cost us, or how far it's going to put us back. I don't even know why it's taken us this long to do it... We need all of the concrete- as much as we can get."

Maybe she was a little more hysterical than she was willing to believe.

But it was enough to draw concern from her second-in-command.

Preston moved his hands to her arms and lightly gripped them, as though needing reassurance himself that she was still there- that she was still alive. "General, now just... hang on a minute here. Do you... you maybe want to slow down with this? Maybe sit down and register what just happened- what you just did?"

"I don't have time," she blurted out. "I need to put up a wall. I need to hit up Diamond City, and Goodneighbor, and Bunker Hill- whoever I can snag concrete from." she didn't wait for him to speak again, or possibly object to anything she was saying, before she stepped past him and headed back across the courtyard. If it wasn't her heart going a hundred paces at a time, it was her brain. "We'll also need cinderblocks- Private Mathis! Private Price! Put together a couple of teams for me and go search for some cinderblocks! There should be plenty around!"

Nora ducked back inside of the Castle like nothing else was wrong and hurried into the General's quarters.

Her hands were absolutely shaking and she was pretty certain that she was going to throw up now.

She kept her shotgun tightly grasped in both hands; at first, she was afraid to put it down until she remembered that she hadn't fired off a single shot of it. This weapon that had kept her alive and had watched her back for so long now felt powerless in her hands; it felt useless and too heavy to be of much worth to her now. A close-range shot at that Deathclaw would've been like her spitting on it- it wouldn't have done anything to that glowing son of a bitch.

Nothing would've worked against it.

...

Her head was pounding so loudly she didn't even hear him coming in a few mintues after her.

But she felt his hands on her shoulders as he turned her around to face him, before his warm palms moved to cup her jaw. And despite the situation that was over now, although it still repeatedly played in the back of her mind, she found herself lost in the easiness of his eyes once more.

"You just stared down a Deathclaw and didn't even bat an eye," Preston started, his hands moving to cup her cheeks now. "You even forced it out of the Castle without even raising your gun or calling in the artillery... How the hell did you do that?"

She could hear the slight tremble in his voice, because despite how proud of her he was... he was still scared.

Nora stared at him for a few passing seconds, taking in his sense of fear and recognizing her own. "... We could've died," she whispered.

It took a moment before he snorted slightly and gave into a short, brisk laugh- slowly nodding with her words. "Yeah, that's... that's putting it pretty lightly."

Hearing him laugh gave her the urge to do so as well, before she tossed her shotgun onto the desk behind her- slightly crumbling the forgotten schematics underneath it. "You know, when I joined the Minutemen it was to protect the Commonwealth- I didn't mean to protect them from Deathclaws," Nora started, as she lightly hit him on the shoulder, before she leaned into him and pressed her forehead against his chest; her hands moved to grasp at the front of his jacket, and she had to resist the urge to bury herself into it. "Don't ever let me do that again."

Preston wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in tight against him- resting his chin on the top of her head. "But just think, only the General of the Minutemen would stare down a Deathclaw like that and then immediately go back to work."

Nora gave into another laugh and hooked her arms underneath his. "Maybe- but we really do need that wall now."

"I second that, General."

"Holy. Shit!"

The two of them pulled away at the words and watched as Piper strolled into the quarters once more- one hand holding up her camera triumphantly, and the other... holding a small mess of papers.

"You are not going to believe the pictures I just got," Piper grinned, as she flashed the handful of photos at her. "The people of the Commonwealth are going to love this. In fact, I can see the headline now: 'Woman Out of Time Conquers the Worst of the Commonwealth'. It's a working title of course, I'll think of something better when I get back to my office. Man, Nat is going to kill me for not letting her come along for this interview."

"You're kidding me," Nora started, before she grabbed at the photos and shuffled through them. A few of the pictures were blurry, or from too far a distance, but... most of them were of decent quality. In quite a few of them, it was evident to see where she and Preston were standing... and how just a foot or so away was the Deathclaw.

It was an odd scene to look at from a different perspective; she looked much more in control than she had felt in the moment.

Piper had even gotten a picture of the creature running away.

"Don't go spreading rumors that I'm some kind of... Deathclaw whisperer," Nora spoke, as she handed the pictures back. "That back there... that was a one time thing. I doubt I will get lucky like that again."

"I don't know about that, General," Piper teased, "you know why big bad monsters run away, don't you?"

Nora frowned and shook her head.

"Because they've encountered a bigger, badder monster," the woman finished, before she flashed the photo of the Deathclaw retreating, and made a point to tap her finger on its large silhouette. "So something in your eyes told it that you were meaner, and stronger than it was... and it ran away out of self-defense. So, tell me Blue, what exactly were you thinking that made you put a Deathclaw in its place like that?"

...

Yeah, that was the golden question there.

Just what the hell had she been thinking?

Nora looked to Preston and found the answer in his still unsettled features, and worried eyes.

"We all could've died back there," she slowly answered. "That Deathclaw could've ripped us all apart, and we all know it. But then what? What happens after that? No more Minutemen, no more safety... no more battle against the Institute, no more Commonwealth- everything would've ended." she paused, finding that her voice was shaking again as she spoke. Giving off a quiet sigh, she pushed her fingers through her hair- not surprised to find herself sweating. "Call it being dramatic if you like, but this could've been the start of a domino effect for all we know- after all, a simple change can turn everything upside down; I would know." she paused again and felt Preston's hand on her shoulder once more. "I can't tell you everything that was going on through my mind out there, but I can tell you this: I needed to protect, and I damn well did."

Piper gave a smile, and dropped her camera onto her belt before she pulled her notepad out once more. "You got a way with words, Blue; the people are going to love this interview."

"They damn well better," Nora huffed- drawing a laugh from both Piper and Preston.

The news reporter jotted down a few more lines, short handing whatever it was she had just said. "I'll tell ya one thing, Blue, if this doesn't make the Commonwealth support the Minutemen, I don't know what else will," Piper grinned, before she finished her train of thought and slipped the photos into her notepad; she carefully closed it and stuffed it back into the inner pocket of her jacket. "Now then, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my shop and start making some noise as soon as possible."

"Maybe you should wait an hour or so," Preston offered, "there's no telling if that Deathclaw is still out there- or any other Super Mutants for that matter."

"Hm, good point," Piper mused, before giving a brief shrug, "well, I can always start drafting the story out now."

Nora watched as the woman walked around them and grabbed a chair from nearby before she propped it up next to the desk. Piper relocated both her shotgun and the schematics to the other side before she seemingly made herself at home; she withdrew her notepad once more and began flipping through her notes. "You know what, if you can, put an ad at the end of that interview asking for anyone with available concrete to bring it to the Castle; I'll offer a fair trade for it."

"You got it, Blue."


It took a few days for the initial excitement and praise to calm down around the Castle before they could resume work again.

Hell, even Ronnie had given her a pat on the back for the unbelievable miracle- and then quickly criticized her for not having fixed the wall in a timely fashion. At the very least, the woman took back the schematic to study on her own, figuring she had enough to deal with as it was.

Which was good, because she still didn't have a clue what the hell she was looking at.

"General!

Nora gave out a heavy, muffled groan at the call and reluctantly hoisted herself out of bed; she had barely been down for ten minutes. The past couple of days had been filled with endless planning and dealing with problems for a small number of settlements. Nothing serious, thankfully, but if she had to fix another clogged water pump, she was going to bury herself under it. She hadn't really had a chance to properly sleep, so she had resorted to taking short naps when she could... not that they had been all that successful.

Case and point.

Shuffling across the room, she did a quick re-adjust on her uniform before she opened the barely-functional door. "Something wrong?" Nora questioned. "And please don't tell me it's another Deathclaw."

"Fortunately no, General," the man spoke, "but this is definitely something you need to see.

She reluctantly nodded and followed the man through the stone corridors and out into the bright courtyard.

Using one hand to shield her eyes, Nora had to blink several times to get her vision to align correctly, before she looked out across the Brahmin-packed yard. She frowned slightly at the confusing sight, as she watched some of the Minutemen and a few of the provisioners unloading package after package off of the Brahmin. She didn't exactly... have anything like this worked into her plans for today.

"What do you think, General?"

Nora turned and watched as Preston walked over to her- and judging by the light sweat on his skin, he had just finished unloading one of the shipments himself.

"What is all of this?" she asked.

He gave a brief laugh and wiped the back of his hand across his brow before he gestured to the crowd. "It's all that concrete you were asking for. We've got traders from Diamond City, Goodneighbor, Bunker Hill, even a few from the settlements in-between."

...

Right.

When she had asked Piper to put in that ad for concrete... she didn't think the woman would take her seriously.

Still, it was good to finally have it.

They had been using Cinderblocks to fortify the opened wall for now, but it was obvious they would need something stronger to keep the thing in place; and to keep it from getting knocked down again.

...

As much as she loved the sight of package after package of concrete being dropped at her doorstep... it still left a somewhat sick feeling in her gut.

"Shit," Nora muttered, as she rubbed at the back of her neck, "this is going to cost me a fortune. I mean, I know we need it, and I know I said that I didn't care about the caps, but... I wasn't expecting a turnout like this."

Preston replied with another short laugh, which caused her to throw a questioning look his way. "Well General... you should know that, because of your heroics and bravery shown in the face of that Deathclaw, the traders have decided to donate the concrete in your name."

There are no words, but rather sputtered sounds that came out of her in return.

"They insisted on it," he continued. "They figured since the Minutemen were busy keeping the Commonwealth safe, than the least they could do was return the favor. Although, if you ask me, I get the feeling those Deathclaw photos might've had a hand in that decision making."

Nora gave a smile and then a brisk laugh as she pushed her fingers through her hair once more. "People are going to think that I can control Deathclaws now."

"I wouldn't be surprised."

She snorted before she reached over and grabbed him by the collar of his jacket. "Come on, cowboy, you and I have a wall to build."

A/N: There is nothing I love more than successfully pacifying a Deathclaw. Sometimes two if I'm lucky.