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Danse watches Preston stuffing a bag for about two minutes. He hovers in the doorway to their shared bedroom like he's waiting for an invitation he doesn't really need. He just wants Preston to say something, and he feels so pathetic for it with the weight of the situation pressing down on him.

“How long ago?” He asks, finally, voice quieter than he'd like.

“A few hours. They sent one of their people. We have him in holding.”

Danse nods. “And what do they want?”

“Caps,” Preston says. Not like it's obvious – he pauses, then he says, “Shells. Food. Our fortress. They want it all, Danse. We're not giving it to them.”

The way his face twists up when he says that last sentence hurts Danse physically. A stabbing in his gut, and he pushes off from the door frame and crosses the room to him. Reaching out, and Preston takes his hands the minute he's within range and pulls him close to kiss him. Quick, gentle, reassuring – then he pulls Danse against him and holds him. Tightly, so tightly, burying his face against Danse's neck.

“I won't let them hurt him,” he says, and it sounds tender. A double promise, because it means I won't let them hurt eitherof you.

“I know.” Danse says, because he trusts Preston above anything in the world. Preston pulls back from him a bit, still pressed close to him; he reaches up to cup Danse's jaw in his hands.

“I'll bring him back. You don't have to worry.”

But Danse shook his head. It wasn't enough that Noah was out there – and helpless, captured, ransomed; Noah of all people – but now Preston was going to roll out there, too. Danse felt the panic deep in his chest and he reached up, putting his hands on Preston's wrists. He didn't raise his eyes to meet Preston's as he pleaded, “Let me go with you. I can help.”

Preston was shaking his head before Danse got the words out. “No, no,” he pulled back just a bit, but not far enough his hands dropped. He tilted Danse's head until they were looking at each other eye to eye. “I can't do that. The ruins are crawling with Brotherhood soldiers. I'm not putting you through that.”

“But I can help. Preston, please,” but Preston was pulling away again, going back to his bag and his laser rifle.

Danse crossed his arms, fighting a lot of erratic thought and impulse as Preston finished packing, and finally said, “Then who's going with you? You're not going alone.”

Preston didn't pause as he put on his pack and slipped his rifle over his shoulder. “I'm taking X6,” he finally replied. He wasn't looking at Danse as he said it.

Danse felt his jaw set, his nails dig into the meat of his arms. X6 was ideal, of course. Preston would likely stall the guards, have X6 sneak in and free Noah, maybe pass him a weapon, execute a few guards… they'd be in and out of there in no time. But it was almost insulting. Preston didn't trust X6, made it clear repeatedly and frequently. But he'd trust X6 over Danse? He'd trust a still-loyal-to-the-Institute Courser over one of his own boyfriends?

Danse felt a lot in a single moment, trying to rationalize it, before he forced his brain to just shut up for a moment.

It's instinct, self preservation. He doesn't want to think of himself as a burden – if he looks at this as Preston not trusting him, not trusting his skill, he's not another weak spot. But that's what he is at the core. And he's right, it would be safer to take X6, or even Deacon or maybe even Piper. It was wise to take someone the Brotherhood wouldn't look twice at.


Preston stepped back to him and wrapped his arms around Danse. “You're coming back,” he insisted, giving up the fight a lot easier than he'd like. He wasn't used to just lingering around like this. He wanted to fight and roam and he wanted to be there for Preston and Noah and the others like he used to be. He missed his armor, missed exploring, missed it all.

Preston kissed him again. A lot deeper this time, a lot more tenderly. “I'm coming back,” he echoed, “ we're coming back. You don't have to worry about that, babe.”

Danse gave himself a minute to swallow the upset feelings, then nodded. When Preston pulled back he followed him up and out to the courtyard; he didn't step outside of the door, but he lingered and he watched Preston meet up with X6 toward the front ring. They exchanged a few words before leaving, neither of them looking back.