Paladin Danse… no, not Paladin. Not anymore. It was odd to think about – odd to imagine my life as anything other than what it had been for the past years.
But Maxson had ruled, and there was no going against his orders. Though I had been exiled from the brotherhood, it was still my blood. I lived and breathed it… and I was an abomination to their cause. There were parts of me that wished Quinn had simply put me out of my misery when he’d had the chance. There was another part of me that remembers standing behind him, vulnerable without my power armor, and seeing his broad shoulders square, his body rigid.
I remembered the way that he stared down Maxson and refused to let him kill me.
I remembered it all so well, and the thought of it made my chest tight – I hadn’t been close to anyone since Cutler. Quinn had been a constant companion since he’d shown up at the Cambridge Police Station, gunning down ghouls as though he’d been a part of the Brotherhood all along.
Even then, I’d felt a jerk of excitement in my stomach when he’d agreed to join us. His green eyes had been vivid with excitement, and his dark hair sticking to his forehead from the exhaustion of traveling the Wastelands. We’d traveled the entire Commonwealth together, and even beyond… and at each turn, Quinn had surprised me with his bravery, his skill with a pistol, his determination to achieve his goals… and sometimes, he’d surprised me with the way he spoke.
“Does that mean you’d be there to hold me, if I ever needed it?” His full lips had quirked up into a playful grin – I was flustered then, stuttering over my answer.
I was flustered now, just thinking about the fact that he’d asked me that question. He’d left the bunker to smooth everything over with Elder Maxson – I had a feeling that he was going to come back a very promoted survivor. Maxson wouldn’t let a gap form in the ranks, and for all intents and purposes, I was dead. Quinn had killed me. There would be glory for him, whether it was the truth or not.
A part of me feared that he wouldn’t return. I was cleaning out the bunker, prepping it for a new living quarters for myself. My power armor, my belongings, everything that I’d called my own was on the Prydwen, in my quarters. I was never going to see it again.
The thought depressed me. I didn’t dwell on it though – Quinn would come back. Though I was frightened that he wouldn’t, that he would realize I was nothing more than an abomination, a machine… something in my… I suppose my programming, told me that he’d be here.
I’d cleaned up most of the bunker, and even found myself a new set of power armor, when I heard footsteps approaching.
I was instantly at attention, turning to face the intruder – and I was met with Quinn, standing in my power armor, with a huge grin on his face.
“I thought you might want this – I’ve never seen you without it.” He looked me up and down, and then gave a mock frown. “I can see that you’ve already replaced it, so my efforts are clearly in vain.” With a small sigh, he stepped out of the suit, leaving my armor – the armor that I’d never thought to see again – standing in the corner of the room. “It smelled like you anyway.” He wrinkled his nose and chuckled, but I could see the light in his eyes.
“How did you acquire that?” As soon as I asked the question, I knew. It had been his reward, his trophy for killing the hostile synth.
“Maxson thought that it was a good reward for a job well done.” I could see the indignant outrage on Quinn’s face, but I wasn’t going to let him act on it. I shouldn’t have, but I still felt loyal to my Elder.
“Let’s not talk about that at the moment.” My voice was dismissive, and I could see the way that he literally had to bite his lip. He took a moment to transfer his pistols to his person, and then stepped away from the power armor.
“Well, it’s all yours, I don’t want it.” Though his tone was full of humor, I could tell that it bothered him.
There was something bothering me, too. “Quinn?” I hesitated. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to talk about this at all. Still, if I had no other confidant, it was Quinn. “Can we talk about something?”
“Are you okay, Danse?” The concern was clear in his voice.
“I’m sorry, I really thought this would be easier to talk about. There’s so much I wanted to say, but I don’t know where to start.” I could hear the stutter in my voice, and I could see the concern on Quinn’s face deepen.
“This has something to do with you being a Synth, dosen’t it?” I hated hearing him say those words, but I couldn’t just play this off as only that. There was more bothering me, and I’d been thinking about it since Quinn had left – I’d been thinking of my place in the world, and I found that the sensation of being lost was too much – before I could stop myself, I exploded into speech.
“Believe it or not, it’s deeper than that. I’ve spent my entire life, or at least what I perceive as my life, following a plan to shape my own future. But since my banishment, I feel lost. Almost like I exist without purpose. For the first time since that moment I signed up with the Brotherhood, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a plan, and it scares the hell out of me.”
Quinn quickly held up one hand, trying to interrupt me. “It’s impossible to plan your life. Hell, I didn’t expect to wake up 200 years in the future.” He tried to laugh, tried to calm me down, but I couldn’t help myself. I still had more to say.
“Yet you’ve been able to roll with every punch that’s been thrown at you.” No matter what we’d been though together, he’d managed it all with a grace that made me admire him, and humor and honesty that made my chest ache. “Don’t you understand? Everything I’ve had, everything I knew is gone. In the span of a few hours, my identity was ripped form me and my world was turned upside down. At least what you had was something tangible, something real. Your wife, your son, they were living, breathing humans who loved you and cared for you. Those sons of bitches who created me couldn’t even be bothered to implant memories of having siblings or parents. I don’t even know how much of my past is artificial and how much is real.” My head lowered, my shoulders falling limp in my power armor. “Can you even imagine that? I started out as nothing, and I’ve ended up as nothing. And I don’t know what the hell to do about it.”
He took a step forward, leaning so that he could catch my gaze – the power armor made it easier for him to look up at me. “Hang in there, Danse. You need to fight this thing.”
“I’m not giving up. Not yet.” His eyes stayed locked with mine, and I felt my mouth go dry. There was still more I needed to say. “I suppose you’re right. Maybe I’m just missing the point. My life’s starting over, and I need to come to terms with everything I’ve lost, and everything I’ve gained. Which includes something important, which you’ve made me realize.” I lifted my gaze, but the next words that I spoke were hard to get out – my heart was thundering, and I could feel every fiber of my being shaking beneath the power armor that hid my nervousness. “I don’t know if it’s friendship, or an anomaly in my programming…” A wistful smirk crossed my features, “After all, I’m not really human… but whatever it is…” I took a breath, and then met his gaze fully. His eyes were wide, his lips parted… he was so beautiful. “I can’t deny that I’m feeling closer to you than anyone I’ve ever met.”
He stared at me, and it seemed like the moment went on for eternity. I feared that he was going to scoff, turn away. That he was going to rebuke me for my confession – my confession that held so much more meaning than what I’d said. Finally, Quinn spoke. “I feel the same way, Danse. I’m only hoping it’s more than just friendship.”
My heart seemed to stop for a moment – he’d read between the lines of what I’d said. He was confessing the emotions that I couldn’t utter. “Are you saying you’re… in love with me?” If I had misunderstood him, I didn’t want to make a fool of myself – my heart, or whatever it was inside of me, wouldn’t be able to take it. “This doesn’t make any sense. After everything the Brotherhood taught you, how could you be in love with… well… a machine?”
Instantly, his face held outrage, “I don’t care what I was taught. You’re more important to me than any of that.” His instant need to stand up for me, to defend me even from myself, caused me to nearly stagger. I’d never felt such strong emotions before. Never in my life, or the memories that had been given to me.
“I… I honestly don’t know what to say. I didn’t expect our conversation to lead to this.” Nerves instantly threw up defenses, and I did my best to tumble through the walls. “Look, I’m not going to lie to you, you’re going to have to be patient with me. Coming to terms with these human feelings is going to be a journey. But if we can tackle those obstacles together…” I felt a small smile grace my lips, “I think this relationship could last for a long time.”
Quinn stared at me for a moment, and then leaned forward. His fist knocked on my power armor, and he grinned up at me. “If you’ll come out of that suit, I have something for you.” He stared up at me expectantly, as though all of this revelation of emotion wasn’t completely overwhelming him. Quinn was taking it in stride, as he always seemed to do in hard situations. He grinned up expectantly at me… and I found myself a bit leery of getting out of the armor. I looked around, and I could actually hear him chuckling. “Come on, Danse, I’m not going to bite.” And then, after a second, he quirked a brow. “Unless you want me to.”
My cheeks burned – a full on blush. I quickly stepped out of the power armor, if only so I could hide my features from him. From the sound of his chuckle, though, he’d seen my face.
I took my time stepping down, so that my pulse had slowed just a little, “What was it, soldier?” Back to my formality – just because I’d said we could work on our relationship didn’t mean I was going to be able to dive into it immediately. I’d never had a relationship that wasn’t simply brotherhood, friendship – I didn’t know how to simply start it. Apparently, the Institute had failed to program that information for me. I was going to have to learn.
As I stepped around my armor, Quinn was suddenly flying forward. I’d seen him do this when he was disarming frags, and it had caused my pulse to jump every time. Now was no different – automatically, my hand went to my side to find my rifle – I cursed at the realization that it, along with everything else, was still aboard the Prydwen. In a burst of motion, Quinn was against me. At first, I thought he was knocking me out of the way…
And then I felt his arms loop beneath my own, going around my waist – he pulled me close, and the sensation of his facial hair scraping against my cheek, my neck, sent my skin tingling. He leaned forward, and kissed the pulse of my throat. “I’ve wanted to do this for such a long time – you’re always in that damn armor, and it hardly seemed appropriate when I was here last.”
I was stiff in his arms for a moment – I could feel the strength in his grip… and my body didn’t know how to react. I actually felt him chuckle, his lips turning up against my skin. “Loosen up, Danse. It’s just a hug.”
Slowly, my body began to relax, I felt it shift one muscle at a time, until I slowly melted against him. Nothing had ever felt so good, nothing had ever felt so right. I’d been thinking about how this would feel since he’d asked me if I would hold him.
Now, he was holding me… and I was trembling.
I felt his body tense, but the smile never left his lips. “Wow, Danse… is it because you aren’t in your power armor, or what?” I could hear the curious interest in Quinn’s voice. “I’ve never seen you shake before.”
Did I have it in me to be honest again? “I’ve faced down super mutants, ghouls, synths,” I laughed at that word, “And raiders… but I’ve never felt so frightened as right now.” I paused, hesitating. Quinn’s voice was much softer as he spoke.
“Why are you afraid, Danse?”
“I’ve never felt so happy.” My words came out in a soft rush, and my voice was ragged. “I’m afraid that now that I’ve felt it, it will be taken away. I’m afraid that you’ll realize I’m just a machine, and you can do bett-”
Quinn’s soft lips crushed against my own in a sudden rush of movement. My words were caught up, swallowed down by his passion. He didn’t push, but there was an intensity behind the feel of his mouth hungrily against my own – his arms pulled me tighter, so that I could feel the taut muscles of his body. After a moment, I pulled my head back with a small gasp. Quinn’s green eyes were warmer than I’d ever seen them, and he smiled brilliantly at me.
“Quinn, what if-”
He cut me off with a chuckle. “Danse. Just shut up,” his fingers fisted into my shirt and he pulled me closer, so that his lips were brushing against mine as he spoke. “You think too much .”