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I May Not Have Answered Truthfully

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It all started when Paladin Danse walked into the Red Rocket Truck Stop that Candy used as a home, opened the door to the garage, and found her being thoroughly fucked over her workbench by a ghoul in colonial clothes. 

As soon as he'd clicked open the door to the garage, he'd immediately regretted it. The ghoul's hat was a little askew, his coat open, and his pants--thankfully--still around his hips. But Candy's bare legs were spread wide open, her torso pressed hard to the surface of the workbench, her shirt unbuttoned enough to reveal the smooth, tawny skin of her breasts and collarbones. Her black hair was loose from its usual bun, falling over her shoulders and neck. She jolted with each hard thrust of the ghoul's hips. It was insane. It was horrific. It was mesmerizing.

Candy's eyes were wide open, and when the door slid loudly ajar, her eyes snapped to him. He was transfixed by the dazed look on her face, the smeared lipstick, and the blush rising to her cheeks. He stood there, numb and dumbfounded, unable to tear his look away.

And then the ghoul threw a look over his shoulder, still pounding away. Danse looked at him, his surprised glance turning into a glare. That was his subordinate. That was someone he sponsored, someone who was Brotherhood, and someone he cared about. 

The ghoul had the audacity to grin. "Like what you see?" he croaked, and Danse finally found the strength to turn around and leave, slamming the door shut behind him.

The hot, arid wasteland of the Commonwealth was comforting, for once. Each breath he took cleared his head, and the barren view of the dried grass and desolate tree trunks around him served to place him in neutral territory. Out there, there was nothing, and in this wealth of nothingness, he could place all that moved him and become still.

He scanned the sky, but the vertibird he'd hitched a ride here with was long gone, probably a quarter of the way toward headquarters. With his distance from the Prydwen, he doubted any signal he threw out would get a prompt enough response to avoid the inevitable conversation he'd have to have with Knight Candy. He squared his shoulders, his power armor clanking. He'd face this head on, as he should. Candy was his responsibility, and as much as matters of the heart eluded him and made him uncomfortable, Candy needed to be told that who she was doing--what she was doing--was wrong. 

Or rather, he supposed, who she was fucking. The cloudless state of his mind came to an angry, screeching halt, and he scowled, deciding not to waste his time thinking. He unholstered his laser rifle and set about securing the perimeter.

The sun was nearly setting when Paladin Danse heard Candy call his name. He'd not gone far, traveling north up the road past the truck stop to investigate the small settlement there, but it was far enough to be out of sight. He hadn't felt inclined to stay near the perimeter once he'd made sure the coast was clear for reasons he kept firmly in a place far away from his attention. He made his approach clear, holstering his gun and doing little to mask the heavy footfalls his power armor produced as he made his way back.

Thankfully, when he could see her, he noticed the ghoul was nowhere to be found. He would not have minded berating him for his behavior as well, nor would he have minded talking to her about her misdemeanor in front of him. A ghoul like that, taunting him while knowing very well he was Brotherhood, ought to learn his place. But this seemed like a rather delicate situation, and something in him stirred in an unpleasant way when he thought of the ghoul being anywhere near her, even in a simple, non-sexual capacity.

"Paladin Danse," she said, her tone somewhat chipper, a small grin on her face. Her hair was pulled away from her face, but the lipstick was totally gone, and while her clothes were back in place, it was evident that she had not put her bra back on. Her breasts fell slightly over her folded arms, nipples poking at the fabric. He tore his gaze away as soon as he noticed he was staring. Luckily, Candy didn't seem to notice.

"Knight Candy," he replied, even-toned. "I apologize for the intrusion."

"I wasn't expecting you to call," she replied, leaning against the weathered brick, looking at home. "What's going on?"

“Elder Maxson is requesting a follow-up on your status,” he replied. “Since you did not take me with you when you left the Prydwen, and it’s been a few weeks since we heard word from you, Maxson ordered me to come find you.”

Candy cocked an eyebrow. “Maxson ordered you?”

“Affirmative,” Danse replied. “I am your sponsor, after all. Should something happen to you, or should you do something against the Brotherhood’s wishes, it is my responsibility to deal with the consequences.”

Candy pursed her lips in an effort to stop her smile, but it was fruitless. “I don’t think Maxson would care a whit if I lived or died, Danse. I think you came out here of your own accord because you were worried about me.”

Danse closed his mouth on his reflexive retort. She was right, of course. Maxson hadn’t instigated the search, but he’d been receptive once Danse had brought her silence to his attention. Never mind that Maxson had asked for a status report on her mission to find Dr. Virgil in the Glowing Sea and not on her actual welfare—it still remained that Maxson had approved a check-up, and Danse had felt he should be the one to do it.

Instead of telling the entire truth, he said, “Maxson approved the airlift to find you. I was the most appropriate choice to go.”

Candy chuckled a bit, a stray hair falling from behind her ear, and there was a warmth in her eyes that belied the seriousness of the situation. “Okay. Well, my situation’s just fine, thanks.” She shrugged. “I’m not sure what exactly you’re looking for. I’m alive and kicking. Still loyal to the Brotherhood.”

“Your actions don’t seem to support that notion,” Danse said, unable to help the tone with which he ground it out.

Candy cocked her head. “What?”

Danse jerked his chin toward the building. “That display in the garage. Upon entering the Brotherhood, you answered the questionnaire regarding your health, which included your sexual history. As your CO and sponsor, I was informed of your passing the health inspection ‘with flying colors,’ as Cade put it. Either this—” He punctuated this with another jerk of his chin. “—is a new development, or you were not entirely truthful when answering questions for your evaluation.”

Candy shrugged, a small grin on her face. “I may not have been entirely honest when answering Cade’s questions. I figured it wouldn’t be that much of a problem. I’m still a Brotherhood Knight, still picking up technical documents for Quinlan.”

“I’ll be frank with you. The relations you’re having with the ghoul are against the ideals of the Brotherhood. Our order strives to protect and maintain humanity.”

“And me fooling around with my boyfriend endangers the entire Brotherhood ideal?”

Danse bit his tongue. “I understand that you have a life outside of the Brotherhood. And I don’t blame you at all in wanting to pursue that life. The Brotherhood, while a large part of my own life, isn’t everything to everyone else.” He breathed a sigh, measuring his words carefully. “I respect your decisions. But I worry that your actions may arouse suspicion within the Brotherhood about your allegiances, and what you would be willing to do if the situation called for it.”

“Listen, Danse,” Candy said, adjusting her position and coming to a stand. “The whole reason I joined the Brotherhood was because you and I made a good team. I didn’t do it for the mission statement, and I certainly didn’t do it for Elder Maxson. I did it because I believe in you, and Scribe Haylin.”

Candy smiled, and Danse’s chest filled with warmth. “Danse, I don’t believe in Maxson’s mission statement. I don’t believe in his ideals. I believe non-feral ghouls are good people, synths are not just evil machines, and there are decent super mutants out there.” Danse’s face darkened. “I’m not willing to sacrifice that for Maxson, or for the Brotherhood. That’s mine to have. And Hancock makes me happy.” She let a little grin slip out, one that was all for herself, and Danse’s irritation slipped away. “You’re right. My life is mine to have. And I appreciate your concern and respect. But I’m not in the Brotherhood for honor or duty. I’m in it for you.”

She stepped forward, and her skin caught the dying sunlight, glowing a warm terra-cotta hue. Her hair, smooth and no doubt soft, shined beautifully. Danse wanted to stroke her cheek and watch the changes in her face until the night took her from him.

He recognized his developing feelings, but he also recognized the ghoul rounding the corner of the building. His tricorn hat was settled properly on his head, his coat still wide open, and an old American flag rested on his hips.

He leaned on the garden hoe he was carrying, tipping his hat to Danse. “Paladin,” he said, and Danse was unsure how anyone could look at something like that and want it.

Danse’s revulsion was immediate, but for Candy’s sake, he could play nice. Danse sent an uncertain nod his way in return. “Ghoul,” he replied, and the ghoul laughed.

“The name’s Hancock,” he replied. “Notorious mayor of Goodneighbor and protector of the weak. And don’t you forget it.”

Danse turned to Candy. She was looking at Hancock, a large smile on her face, and Danse disengaged. The night was coming. He needed to get a move on if he wanted to return to the Prydwen by vertibird. The nearest place he could call a lift was probably somewhere past Concord, and darkness was not his friend.

“Knight,” he said, and Candy’s eyes snapped to him, her gaze keen.

“Leaving so soon?” she asked, and as tempted as he was to fall for it, the cocky ghoul not ten feet from him sent off clear warning signs with the mock-friendly smile on his face.

“I have a lot to attend to, and with this matter being settled so quickly, it’s only right I go do it.” He pressed his closed fist to his chest. “Ad victoriam, Knight.”

Candy did not salute in return. She never did. “Take care of yourself, Danse. I’ll report to the Prydwen when I have any substantial updates.”

“You do that,” he replied, and with that, he headed out on foot toward Concord. Candy and the ghoul’s voices drifted to him, talking about something meant only for them, and Danse did not turn around.