Nate was stood, staring out across Sanctuary Hills, cradling Shaun in his arms. The sky above was azure and perfect, the wind cool as it stirred, whispering in the trees. Nora felt her throat catch, felt as though her heart might burst. Her eyes began to fill with tears as she raised her hands to reach out and touch them…
But she couldn't. She could not see the glass, but she could feel it, so cold it ached to touch it. "No… No Nate! Nate!" She was out in the open, but her voice was muffled like she was in a container. It was growing colder. Shaun began to cry.
"Nate! Shaun! Go! Just run! RUN!" Nora's voice rose to a scream. She beat against the barrier as hard as she could, the cold beginning to numb her body into paralysis.
The sky flashed and a roaring gale lashed against Nate and Shaun, stripping the trees bare, but she couldn't feel it. "RUN!" Nora shrieked, staring as a wall of fire consumed the horizon, drawing closer, yet Nate didn't move, just stood there, watching, waiting…
Nora sat bolt upright with a gasp, her eyes wide and blinded by tears. Around her, knights and scribes snored and muttered in their sleep. Gradually, reality began to sink in again. She was not at Sanctuary Hills, but aboard the Prydwen. Shaun was still missing, and Nate… Slowly, she slipped her hand beneath her tank top and withdrew a silver chain upon which hung Nate's ring.
For a few moments she gazed at it in the gloom, the soft orange glow of the night lights reflecting on the gold. "…I miss you…" She whispered, closing her fingers around it before sitting upright and swinging her legs out from under the sheets. She retrieved a set of fatigues from her metal locker at the foot of the bed and changed quickly.
"Nora, what're you doing? It's 4 a.m." She glanced up to see Knight Lucia peering groggily from the top bunk.
"I can't sleep." Nora whispered back, moving to the dresser they shared with two other knights. She withdrew a hairbrush she'd purchased from Teagan and set about taming her bed hair.
Lucia yawned again, waving her hand in sleepy dismissal before burying her face back into her pillow. Nora smiled, sweeping up a hairband and some bobby pins before setting off to find a mirror in the shower rooms.
When Nora descended to the recreational area, she had a glowing bottle of Nuka-Cola quantum in one hand and a couple of 'new' magazines in the other. It was going to be a few hours at least until someone she knew woke up, so she decided to make the most of the quiet.
She was halfway through a story in Live & Love when she heard heavy footsteps descending the steps. She glanced up curiously, her lips pulling into a smile as she recognised the tall, broad figure approaching. "Paladin Danse! You're up bright and early!" She greeted, raising her bottle.
"Nora. What are you doing up?" Danse asked, raising his eyebrows as he grabbed a chair and placed it next to hers.
"Couldn't sleep. You?"
"I never sleep." Danse sighed, running a hand through his hair as he sat down.
"Now that you mention it, you were always up at the Cambridge Compound. I thought you were just scared of ferals or something!"
"Hmph. Disgusted, certainly. Scared? Hardly. Anyway, what're you reading?"
Nora held up her magazine with a smile, hoping her cheeks weren't turning red. Danse gave it a cursory glance and raised his eyebrows. "I hadn't taken you for a romantic, Nora."
"Yeah, well, I don't get to show my softer side when we're bashing in mutant skulls or disintegrating raiders." She snorted. "What about you, Danse? Got an inner romantic under that uniform?"
"I… don't really have time to think about romance." He frowned thoughtfully. "My duties require my full attention."
"Don't you even think about it a little bit?" Nora teased, raising her eyebrows.
Danse rolled his eyes. "I'm going to grab a beer."
Nora snorted at his deflection, watching as he rose and moved towards the remaining crates Proctor Teagan had donated towards the recreational area. As he returned, she held out a copy of Hot Rodder towards him. "Well, if romance isn't quite your thing, cars and mechanics probably are."
'Paladin Danse and Knight Hart are to report to the flight deck for debriefing. Paladin Danse and Knight Hart are to report to the flight deck for debriefing. That is all.'
Nora sighed heavily, tilting her head back and letting her magazine fall across her lap. The Prydwen had livened up considerably since she had first risen and a number of knights and scribes were also on the recreational deck, listening to the radio and eating the remainder of their breakfasts.
"Do you mind if I borrow this?"
"Hm?" Nora glanced up to see Danse holding her copy of Live & Love. They had swapped magazines when they had both finished reading theirs and much to her amusement, he seemed to be enjoying it. "Sure thing! It's kind of nice to see you in touch with your softer side!" She winked at him.
Danse snorted as he rose to his feet. "We'd better get ready to meet with Kells. He hates to be kept waiting."
"…Yeah," Nora sighed, closing her magazine and standing up with a stretch. "I think he knows I lied about the missing supplies."
"He does." Danse replied, shrugging. "He just doesn't know whose ass you were covering."
"Well, make sure you don't tell him. The guy's an idiot, but the penalties seem a little… stiff."
"His performance and dedication have improved significantly since." Danse shrugged again, downing the last of his beer. "So long as he keeps it up and remains true to the Brotherhood, I'll take it to my grave."
"This is why I love you, Danse. You're a good guy, whatever Hancock says about you." Nora grinned, slapping him on the shoulder before jogging upstairs. "Will I meet you by the ladder?" She called, turning around to find the Paladin frowning up at her.
"Affirmative. Five minutes, Knight. Don't be late."
"Paladin Danse. Knight Hart." Lancer Captain Kells saluted them as they entered the spacious command deck, where Nora had first met Elder Maxson.
"Captain Kells, we're reporting in, sir." Danse announced, saluting. Both he and Nora had changed into their basic Brotherhood armour in anticipation of immediate deployment.
"At ease." Kells clasped his hands behind his back, studying their faces intently. "I understand that you are readying yourselves for deployment to the Glowing Sea. How go your preparations, Knight?"
"I'm hoping to embark upon my mission in approximately two weeks, sir." Nora supplied, wondering whether the debriefing had anything to do with that mission. It seemed odd that the Elder himself wouldn't be present for such a meeting, as he harboured such a fierce interest in her mission against the Institute.
"Am I correct in hearing from Proctors Quinlan and Teagan that you are still performing extra duties whilst you are preparing?"
"That is correct, sir… Do you require any assistance?"
"Affirmative. Be seated." He gestured to the couches set around the room, watching as they sat next to each other, watching him attentively. "The pair of you have already assisted in the training of my squires before." Kells began, studying their faces intently. "I am more than satisfied with the work you have done thus far. The squires that have accompanied you have gained not only invaluable survival skills, but a burning desire to serve the Brotherhood to the best of their abilities. They look up to both of you with awe and eagerly compete for the privilege of joining you in the field again…"
Kells paused for a moment, raising his gaze to look through the window behind their heads, out over the glittering sea. "…I want to take a risk here soldiers. I'm not going to sugar-coat it for you.
"I have a… troubled squire under my command and I wish for him to accompany you on your next excursion."
"… Troubled, sir?" Danse frowned, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"… The boy was recently orphaned." Kells sighed. "His father, a damn fine knight, was killed by raiders back in the Capital Wasteland two years back. His mother, a field scribe, perished just a few weeks ago at the hands of super mutants. Ever since losing his mother, the boy has become disillusioned with the Brotherhood and I am hoping that the two of you can change this.
"Prior to the death of his mother, Squire Burke was an outstanding pupil, intelligent, brave and dedicated to our cause. Now he is contemptuous of command, treating his superiors with disrespect and doing all he can to vilify his own reputation. Recently, Elder Maxson has been considering sending him back to the Citadel, though I feel that would be a mistake.
"To send him away would only embitter him further. What he needs is to be tempered, before he becomes a lost cause. Due to your track record and unwavering loyalty thus far, I had hoped you would consider taking him with you and in doing so, potentially restore his faith in the Brotherhood."
"Well… I do still have an assignment from Knight Rhys…" Nora said slowly, frowning. "But… are you certain it would be beneficial for him, sir? To see a combat situation first hand?"
"Frankly, Knight, there is nothing else for me to try." Kells said dryly, turning his steely glare upon her. "I have exhausted all other options, from discipline to comfort. But I do not want to give up on him. He has a fine career ahead of him, if he can only be steered back towards it."
"Will he be a liability in a combat situation, sir?" Danse asked, his gaze intense.
"I won't lie to you, Paladin. The boy has proven to be difficult to control, I cannot predict whether or not he'd be a help or a hindrance. I know I am asking a lot of you. Usually only the best squires are permitted to accompany you, but he has the potential and I fear it will otherwise be wasted.
"Should he cause you too much trouble, you may return him to the Prydwen, no questions asked and I shall defer to Elder Maxson's suggestion."
"Hmmm…" Nora frowned, folding her arms as she considered the proposal. "…It couldn't hurt to at least try… Paladin Danse, your thoughts?" She asked, turning to look at him.
"I think it's risky." Danse frowned at her. "From Lancer-Captain Kells' description alone, the boy sounds like trouble. All other squires we have trained thus far have been exemplary pupils, eager to learn and please. What happens if Squire Burke refuses to heed your, or my, orders?"
"…But it sounds like he needs someone…" Nora glanced down at her hands, catching sight of the golden ring upon her finger. Maybe he feels as alone as I do sometimes… Maybe he's just as angry, but he can't fight to avenge either of his parents…
Kells cleared his throat, about to suggest that they take some time to consider, when Nora rose and saluted him. "I accept the assignment, sir!"
Danse's frown deepened, but he rose, nodding his head and saluting.
"Excellent. I shall arrange for you to meet the squire later today. Dismissed." Kells saluted before turning smartly on his heel and marching out of the room.
"As your sponsor," Danse said quietly, "I will defer to your judgement. But I have some serious reservations about this."
Nora turned to look at him, raising her eyebrows. "It'll be fine, Danse."
"What happens if he gets himself hurt, or disobeys our orders? It's stressful enough being responsible for the good squires who listen. It's going to be much worse trying to control one who is driving even Captain Kells to despair!"
Nora summoned her most confident smile to her face and reached up to grasp Danse's shoulder. "It'll be fine, Danse. If he steps out of line, we'll discipline him!"
"Captain Kells already said that doesn't work."
"I bet if you put on your 'Paladin voice' it'd work! That always stopped me and Rhys from brawling!" Nora winked, turning towards the ladders back up to the main deck. "Anyway, we'd better get prepared and suit up. I'll see you in a bit!"
A/N: Welcome to Bleeding Steel, my first attempt at a fanfic ever!
I just wanted to say that whilst there will be no *huge* game spoilers, there will be minor spoilers, relating to Danse, Brotherhood and possibly other companions as the story develops.
I hope you enjoy reading it!