Sunshine hated visiting the Castle.
It wasn’t the humidity or the constant sound of the waves-she was used to that. She’d just constructed yet another settlement along a beach, up Nordhagen way. There was something wonderful about arming a line of turrets along the water and internally daring Lurks to try their luck. While you were out there, standing in the cold surf up to your knees with your hands on your hips, you could just stare out into the horizon, and pretend the bombs had never dropped, if you ignored your geiger counter ticking. The location had it’s advantages.
It was just that, well-the place was crawling with Minutemen. It wasn’t fair, probably, to hold that against good old Independence. It was technically their base, even if she did remember old museum tours.
She still wasn’t quite sure how she’d gone from Clueless Babbling Woman With Dog, to General Solomon Who Fought Deathclaws, in such a short time. Preston was a menace. How could a man so bad at lying be so good at convincing you to do anything?
“General, may I-can we talk?” Speak of…well, certainly no devil.
Sunshine, sprawled on a bunk, after the initial moment of being startled to attention, lifted her forearm from her face. Preston-always the gentleman-lingered outside the doorway, his hands clasped behind his back. It was difficult to see his face with his hat brim blocking the meager light the single bulb in the room provided, but just the silhouette of him was comforting, put her at ease. He was the only Minuteman who she always had time for, even if he did always have her running her damned legs off.
She sat up, cringing at a muscle in her lower back protesting. You didn’t have to be this thorough about aping humanity, guys. “Of course. Please,” she indicated the chair next to the bed, “make yourself at home.”
He sat down, but shuffled awkwardly in his seat after a moment, clearly uncomfortable. Not for the first time, Sunshine thought about how young he was for his position, and her heart hurt for him again. He wasn't a child, by any means, but she didn't know how people grew up out here. What was healthy, at the end of the world? Who did Preston talk to, aside from her? She hadn’t been around very long herself, of course, but she felt every second of the age she was supposed to be. He seemed about as comfortable in his own skin as she was in hers. “In your own time, no need to rush,” she said quietly, glancing at the doorway instinctively, and then checking it twice.
He seemed to relax, but not entirely. Whatever was bothering him was something big. Sunshine tried to project casual reassurance, but she was at a loss for how to do that. Oh boy, General. Get ready.
“Please understand, I hold you in the highest respect. You helped the Minutemen get back on our feet when no one else thought we could.” His voice was quiet. It carried the cadence of lines practiced. “You also personally helped me believe I had something to offer the world again. You showed me that I wasn’t a failure, despite Quincy.” Preston’s hands were twisting, just barely perceptible, in his lap. It was unusual to see her second-in-command so unsure of himself, but when it came to personal matters, he lost the assurance command gave him. It was the only reason she was holding this spot for him, until he was ready for it, if she was honest with herself. Sunshine wanted to reach out to him, but he seemed so focused that she didn’t want to derail him.
“You have done so much good, General, that I have seen with my own eyes. More in the short time since you got out of the Vault, than most people do their whole lives. You have helped so many, despite your own troubles. You are…a good person.”
Sunshine struggled to remain composed.“I-thank you, Preston. But you were the one who made me think that wasn’t a crazy notion to have out here in the first place,” she replied awkwardly. Sunshine felt slightly panicky. She didn’t handle direct compliments well-she felt too focused upon with them. Preston’s sincerity-which was usually nothing but endearing and charming-lent a weight to his words that was difficult to ignore. “Yet I think I hear a ‘but’ in there.”
Preston nodded, not quite meeting her eyes. “Like I said-I think that you are a good person. That you take difficult situations and difficult people and try to do your best with what you’ve got. But, ma’am-that Deacon guy’s got trouble written all over him.”
Sunshine blew out a breath, relieved to think about her asshole of a partner instead of something icky and emotional. “You’re damn right he does,” Sunshine muttered dourly.
“I’m not joking around, General. I believe you mean well, trying to recruit him and…whoever he’s with.” Preston carefully looked at her, finally.
Her heart sank. Shit. That put him in danger just by itself. She thought she’d been so careful. The part of her that seemed to have Deacon’s voice these days said, I told you so.
“Now, I haven’t been asking questions, because you vouched for him privately when I asked you, and, like I said-I respect you, and I know you can do some frankly miraculous things with very little. But, I’ve got to ask again. There are a lot of people who need you to be around, and if…his group starts tangling with dangerous elements, and you get roped in, innocents are going to get hurt. You’ve got a face, General.”
The silence when Preston finished was deafening.
“How long have you known?” Sunshine found herself asking. Her voice sounded very far away. Does he know I’m-
Preston shifted, his arms crossed. “Not very long. We were getting reports of very particular hardware passing through places, you mentioned some places you’d been. It all seemed to add up.”
Damn coursers. Damn squads. Damn.
“And what would your advice be, where my conscience is concerned? You say you respect me-but it’s always been mutual, Preston. What would you do in my place?” Sunshine leaned back on the mattress, suddenly exhausted. Preston’s eyes followed her. She tried to ignore it.
He was good, handsome, and sad. They had had some…well. Things had happened, both less and more than she’d like. But like all things and all relationships here in the Wasteland, it was a lot more complicated than her memories had indicated they should be. Nothing was simple or as it seemed out here.
Maybe someday, they’d figure it out, but for now, they needed each other exactly as they were. She wondered if she’d forgotten that was a two-way street, off gallivanting on rooftops with Deacon, getting shot at and laughing as they saved synths. Deacon was all lies, smoke and mirrors, even if he was all goodness too. It was easy to forget the amount of failures the Railroad had, because of it’s compartmentalized nature. The Minutemen were something else-and stood for more. Preston represented something bigger that often seemed insurmountable most ways she looked at it.
Damn it all if she didn’t miss Piper and her small time paper right now.
Preston considered his answer. “I think…I’d do the right thing, and that’s-the right thing isn’t always just in the big ways you help people. You’ve got opportunities to help on the big picture, and in the small details. But I’d be careful, General. And I wouldn’t trust Deacon.” He snorted. “I’d also consider more trips to the surgeon, though…” he faltered. “I’d miss that face.” He huffed out a laugh, rubbing the back of his neck, and stared through the floor like he wanted to disappear through it.
Sunshine felt ridiculous, felt giddy-she was at least kind’ve a mother. She was a version of someone's mother. But, it was nice. “I’ll take that into consideration.” Preston got up to go, hurriedly, like he still wanted to get away from his own earnest flirtation. “And, Preston-don’t worry about Deacon.”
He looked at her, eyebrow raised incredulously. “Should I not? He seems to have y..you two seem close," he finished flatly.
Sunny couldn’t quite keep the smile off her face. “You sure your interest is entirely for the sake of the Minutemen, Mr. Garvey?”
“No, it’s nothing like that,” Preston replied quickly, spinning his hat along it’s brim in his hands. She noticed it picked up when she flirted back. “You know I have no issues with Piper, or…whatever you've got going on with Curie, or Magnolia down in Goodneighbor. I just-" Preston sighed. "I know you’re trusting, General, and you move the world for the people you care about. And I think…” he hesitated. “I think Deacon knows that. Just, be careful, ma’am.”
Preston gave a short nod of the head, put his hat back on, and was off down the hallway. Sunshine could almost see his shoulders square up as he returned to a more comfortable, less personal, place.
She sat back down on the bed, stared at her boots as she considered going for a walk along the beach outside the wall. Maybe get some light scavenging in, stare at that skyline.
Don’t worry, Preston. I’m not sure if I trust him, either.