End: Second Chance for Paladin Danse
They awoke more tired than when they’d gone to bed. She’d lost track of how many times they’d made love, how many times he’d brought her to climax, and how many times she’d wished her conscious would simply let her marry him.
The thought made her smile, and while wanted it, wanted him, she had to make sure he wanted her. She would have to give up her Vault and the people she loved to be with him and his brothers and sisters. It was a hard choice, but one she’d make. She just didn’t want him to regret asking her to spend the rest of their lives together.
Conversation quieted between them as they walked southwest of Diamond City and came to a small ghost town. No signs of squatters or even raiders.
“Lots of the scientists lived here before the war. We lived in the next town over because Mom didn’t want to be too close to Dad’s work colleagues. She said he worked enough already.”
“Do you want to go up and see it?”
“I left that life behind 200 years ago, and I may be starting a new one in a few months. But this is where we must part ways.”
“I love you, Tesla.”
“And I love you.” She hugged him, and even through the power armor, she felt the tension in him. He didn’t want to let her go, and his every instinct was to fight for what he wanted.
She turned away from him and walked into the silent and abandoned town. She didn’t look back, knowing she didn’t have the strength to continue if she did.
Danse watched her go until he couldn’t see her anymore. He waited another hour, maybe more, before setting the flare that called a veribird.
Paladin Danse returned to the Prydwen, silent and brooding, and found Elder Maxson was waiting. After making a full report to the Elder, Maxson shook his head.
“Shame about those Wastelanders. Holotags were barely dry. Two deathclaws,” Maxson shook his head. “I’ll send a squad out to retrieve the power armor. When you’re ready, I have another mission for you at Fort Strong.”
“Reporting for duty, sir.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
Danse listened to the mission briefing on Fort Strong. Another dangerous mission. Another chance he might not make it home. Once he wouldn’t have cared, but now… He touched the holotags around his neck.
“Before I send you to Fort Strong, tell me about this Vault Dweller you recommended for admittance into the Brotherhood.”
“Nate, Sole Survivor of Vault 111 and a veteran of the Battle for Anchorage. Skills are sharp. I saw him in action in ArcJet against synths.” Danse paused, considering Nate’s proclivity to pick up junk. “Still acclimating to the wastes after his time in cryostasis.”
“Sounds like a solid addition to the Brotherhood. I’ll have you head back over to the police station. See if you can recruit him. Keeping Knight Rhys and Scribe Haylen there to oversee the outpost.”
Danse slapped his fist over his heart in acknowledgment. He turned to leave, then paused. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“Of course. What’s on your mind?”
“Back at the Citadel, soldiers and their families were permitted to dwell together.”
Maxson stilled. “Did you get a girl in trouble?”
“No, nothing like that.”
Maxson let out the breath he’d been holding. “In time, after we get the airport fortified, yes, we’ll work on setting up a place for families. Only rare exceptions like you have the same drive and commitment as those born into the Brotherhood.”
A rare smile curved Danse’s lips as he thought of a son of his as a Brotherhood squire. All the more incentive to make it home alive.
But if he didn’t… Elder Maxson wasn’t the right person to ask. Maybe Scribe Haylen. If he didn’t make it back, he wanted Tesla to know that’s why he hadn’t come for her at the end of the six months.
With his mission briefing in hand, Danse went back to the police station in search of Haylen.
***After the story events leading to Blind Betrayal***
“Still thinking about him?”
Tesla looked up from the detail schematic she’d stopped seeing ten minutes ago. She pressed her lips together as glanced at her father and shrugged.
“I want to punch the bastard that hurt you like this, but from the sounds of it, that wouldn’t end well for me.”
Tesla smiled and hugged her father.
“Have to say, though, I’m glad you’re not going back to the Wastes. You made robotics team lead, and with all of the advancements this Institute has made that we’re getting our hands on, it’s going to take a strong person to keep us on the straight and narrow.”
“I know the answer to Turing’s conversation. A machine can have a soul, Papa. I met one that did.”
“All the more reason for us to be careful.” He hugged her and looked down at the tiny receiver she wore around her neck. “And if he ever finds the sense he was born with, maybe you can convince him to join us. I’d rather gain a son, even an unruly one, than lose a daughter.”
“His transmitter is undamaged.” She shrugged. “Perhaps his feelings changed after returning him.”
“Or things in the Wastes are more unpredictable than here in the Vault. If he does stop being stupid, at least consider asking him to join us here.”
“He would never…”
“Did you ask him?”
She looked down.
“At least give him the choice, Tes. And I promise not to hit him. I’d only hurt my hand.” Her father hugged her again and left her to her work.
Tesla’s head jerked up when the tiny receiver around her neck kicked into life. Six months had come and gone so long ago that she’d given up hope. Perhaps not entirely, as she still wore the radio, but…
“Is he really dead?” an unfamiliar female voice asked.
“He’s dead to Brotherhood,” a man said.
“Not the same.”
The man’s voice dropped to little more than a whisper. “I convinced Maxson to spare him, but if anyone in the Brotherhood ever sees him, they’ll shoot him on sight.”
“You found him at Listening Post Bravo,” the woman said.
“Don’t tell anyone else. Don’t even breathe it. Give him time to escape.”
“The Brotherhood was his life,” the female voice said. “I don’t care what they say he is. Danse is a good man.”
“One of the best,” the male voice replied. “Which is why I would’ve gone to blows with Maxson if he hadn’t spared him.”
The tiny battery on her transmitter died and she missed the rest of the conversation, but she knew the Brotherhood had learned the truth about Danse. That they could have cast him out after all they meant to him, all he’d sacrificed for them…
She pressed her lips together as she hurried out of her workroom. Yanking off her clean suit, hairnet, and gloves, she tossed them into a bin as she hurried through the Vault to her room. The glittering power armor stood quietly in the corner. Her bots had been busy, even if she’d lost hope she would ever need it.
She paused a moment as she looked at the suit. Danse hadn’t actually called for her. Hadn’t actually said he wanted her to come back to him.
To hell with it.
If the Brotherhood had kicked him out, he’d be in more pain than when the deathclaw had ripped apart his leg. And if she knew him at all, she knew he’d be destroying himself, blaming himself, because he’d lost everything he loved.
He may not want her as his lover anymore, but she could still offer him the comfort a friend. And he’d need that.
Donning her power armor, she clomped down to the newly built relay station. Hadn’t been too hard to purchase the remains of a dozen synths the Sole Survivor had destroyed. The Institute’s technology was impressive, far more advanced than theirs is some ways, primitive in others.
But once they’d had access to the Institute’s leavings, Vault 010 had been working furiously to unravel how it worked. How and if to use this technology was still being hotly debated by the ethics committee, but the one thing they’d unanimously agreed on was copying their teleportation technology.
When the security officer saw her walking towards him in the power armor, he stepped in front of her and crossed his arms over his chest. “We’re still proving it out, Tesla.”
“You can either send me to Listening Post Bravo, or I am walking there.”
“You’re a research lead. You can’t go traipsing through the wastes!”
She folded her armored arms over her chest. “You going to stop me?”
The guard glanced at the relay technician and then back at the faceless armor. “Lemme call this in.”
“You have ten minutes.”
Danse sat on the sagging mattress, head in his hands. Why had Nate decided to spare him? The Sole Survivor should have taken him out rather than standing up to Maxson for him. Danse looked down at his hands, still unable to believe he was a machine. An abomination. An example of everything that was wrong with humanity.
How many of his memories were even his? Clearly, he’d never been child. Had his time in Rivet City been real or were they another man’s memories? He couldn’t be sure.
He looked at his laser rifle sitting next to him. Almost impossible to take his own life with it. He looked toward the dead yao guai rotting in the broken ruins of the bunker. Tesla had warned him about it, but he hadn’t wanted to end up here. He’d wanted to go down to the third floor, the one they’d shared for those few weeks. A trip down memory lane before he ended it all. But he hadn’t been able to figure out how to make the elevator go there.
Tesla. She’d probably forgotten him by now. The six months had come and gone. He’d been so wrapped up with dealing with the Institute and helping Nate that he knew he couldn’t have married Her and brought her within the Brotherhood fold. Especially as the airport was being prepared for war with the institute.
She deserved better than that, and he was sure someone in her Vault would give it to her.
Besides, better that she not know the truth about the ‘man’ she thought she loved.
He ran his hands through his hair.
He’d lost everything and everyone who’d ever mattered to him. While it would be easier to just give up, Nate had fought Maxson for his life and won. Nate saw something in him worth saving. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t, but Nate was the last man he’d called a friend since Cutler.
Standing, Danse collected his laser rifle, provisions, and ammunition. Maybe he’d head out to the countryside, start a farm or something. Damn the Institute for creating him, for letting him feel pain and loss. He couldn’t quite damn them for having let him love, even if it was a short time.
Hefting his pack, he paused as he heard the elevator engage. It slid past his floor, but he could hear nothing through the rock.
Rifle drawn and aimed, his heart thudded against his ribs. Someone had gotten past Tesla’s security protocols to get down to the third floor. Had Nate come back to end him? Only the Sole Survivor would have the skills to hack past Tesla’s security parameters, and even then, Nate would have to know there was a third floor to get to.
The elevator lit up again, and when the doors opened, a vaguely familiar suit of power armor emerged. The suit held up its hands. It wasn’t Nate. “Don’t shoot.”
“Tesla? What the hell are you doing here?” He lowered his weapon.
She took off her helmet and smiled at him. “I heard you were here.”
She was even more beautiful than he remembered. His chest constricted. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t.”
Her lips pressed together, and the hurt on her face pierced his heart. He reached out for her, then yanked his hand back. She deserved better than a machine.
She stepped out of her power armor and walked over to him, the top of her head brushing his shoulder. Wrapping both of her hands around one of his, she looked up at him.
Her fingers looked so small, pale and fragile compared to his. He laid his other hand overtop of hers, and when he looked up, he found himself caught by eyes as blue as her Vault suit.
“You’re hurting more now than when I found you the first time.”
He couldn’t bring himself to say the words, to tell her the truth about what he was. The lie he was.
“Where’s your power armor?”
His face fell.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered and wrapped her arms around him.
“I’m not a man,” he choked as he pulled away from her. “You should go. You deserve better than a machine can give you.”
“I knew you were a synth long before I fell in love with you.”
His head snapped up. “You knew?”
“You can’t fool my Fixers.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to cause you pain. To see you hate the man I love. And the only way anyone would’ve known would’ve required technology similar to Vault 010s. The Brotherhood meant so much to you, but with 200 year old tech, they could have never learned…”
Danse heard her unasked question and shrugged. “I was helping the Sole Survivor find his son. He hacked into the Institute’s databases for the Brotherhood, and that’s where they learned…”
“That they’re racist bigots?”
Danse’s head snapped up, defense of the Brotherhood on his lips.
“One night, when I was missing my mother particularly badly, I asked my father why God would let the world end.”
“What did he tell you?”
“That sometimes the world is so corrupt, so evil, that God must flood it to start anew. I hated God for letting the war happen for a long time.”
“Do you think the Wastes are an improvement?”
“I don’t know. The evil that permeated the old world…” She shook her head. “ And when anyone stood up or questioned, they were labeled a communist and carted away. So many atrocities, and people stopped fighting them.”
Danse reached into his pack and withdrew a handful of holotapes. “Speaking of atrocities, the information on Vault 75.”
Her eyes widened. “How…”
“You wanted it, and when the Sole Survivor had to go there, I was with him.”
“I thought of you most nights. But the fight with the Institute, helping the Sole Survivor… I had to protect you, and you were safe in your Vault. Besides, if I didn’t make it home…”
“Trying to protect me even after death?”
He looked down at his hands.
Holding up the holotapes, she shook her head. “I thought you said a whole Brotherhood squadron couldn’t get into Vault 75.”
“You haven’t met Nate. He’d have leveled half the Commonwealth to get his son back. And when he finally found him…” Danse shook his head. “Still not sure what he’ll do.”
“Nate has to make his choices, just as you have to make yours.”
“I…I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’d expected Nate or Maxson…”
“To call you a communist and destroy you?”
Danse ran his hand through his hair. “It’s not like that. I’m not even human.”
“Stop.” The sharpness in the single word had him staring up at her. “Not even you are allowed to hurt the man I love.”
“You still love me? Even knowing…”
“I already told you I knew before I kissed you. Before we…” Her cheeks colored.
“I love you, Tesla, but I have nothing to offer you.”
“Do you really love me?”
He looked at her, pain etched across his face. “I don’t have the words to tell you how I feel. You are the last thing I think of at night and the first thing on my mind every morning.”
She touched his cheek. “I had been willing to give up everything to be a soldier’s wife.”
“You aren’t a soldier anymore.”
He sucked in a breath.
“So come back to the Vault with me.”
“The Vault? I’m not a scientist.”
“You are an effective commander. We could use you in project control. And on the ethics committee, especially since we came into possession of Institute tech.”
His eyes widened.
“Haven’t done much with it yet, but the ethics committee will decide how we proceed.”
“And our security staff is lax. The entire Vault should be trained to shoot straight and care for a weapon.”
“And we could use help trading in Diamond City. The demand for clean water is high, and we can clean irradiated water and trade it. The guards of Diamond City have come to recognize my armor and make sure I get safely into the city, but I could use a partner.”
He framed her face in his hands and kissed her.
Her eyes fluttered closed and she melted against him, her mouth yielding to him as her arms wrapped around him.
“Are you sure you want me?”
A smile curved her lips, and her arms tightened around him. “More than anything.”
She slipped out of his arms and tugged him toward her power armor.
“I have a set of X-01 hidden away…”
“We’ll get it later. I’ll have them teleport us there if you can give them the coordinates.”
His brows knit together.
“Some of the institute technology we acquired,” Tesla said as she turned on the radio of her pipboy. “You take my armor. You’ll feel better in it, and I’ll feel better out of it.”
Danse frowned but did as she asked and stepped into the power armor. He studied the armor. It was lighter and more responsive than any he’d ever stepped into, and yet…
She smiled at him. “Stronger than anything I’ve come across, even modified. And it reflects energy weapon damage. My bots were very busy.”
“You really were preparing to leave your Vault. Your family…”
“I just hope you like life in the Vault.”
A smile curved his lips as he looked into her blue eyes. “I’ll be with you. We’ll figure it out.”
She picked up the helmet, slipped her arms around him, and with a flash of blue lightening they appeared at the relay station inside Vault 010.
He was there. And Tesla was with him. Danse let out a breath he felt like he’d been holding a lifetime. He was finally home.