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The signs were all there, although he hadn’t noticed them at first: the surreptitious glances she sent his way, the constant sarcastic responses to his genuine inquiries, and even the way she moved. All the signs were there, and he hadn’t read them, perhaps because he hadn’t wanted to read them.

Paladin Danse was nothing if not a man of the Brotherhood. He wasn’t as much a man of the Brotherhood as Rhys, strictly speaking, but he did hold its values and its codes in his heart the way one would a locket of a cherished one. Danse would never betray the Brotherhood’s ideals, though he wouldn’t fault others outside for not caring for them.

The thing is, Candy was not “outside” the Brotherhood. She was a Knight, and with that rank, was expected to adhere more strictly to the Brotherhood’s requirements. She didn’t become a Knight by accident; her hard work and effort were channeled directly into benefitting the Brotherhood. It puzzled Danse, then, that someone who worked so hard to become part of something greater than themselves would choose not to follow in the path clearly laid out for them.

It was a simple thing, following rules, or at least Danse thought so. Rules were put in place to give people guidelines to live by, whether those guidelines be innocuous social courtesy or life-altering regulations. You listen to the rules of those whose society you want to live in--or whose organization you want to join, or whatever the case may be--and you adjust your behaviors accordingly. It was a fairly simple process.

The Brotherhood was abundantly clear on its rules, and made them all the more apparent when someone decided to join the Brotherhood. Candy had looked Danse’s superiors in the eye and said she understood those rules implicitly, would follow them to the letter. And then she turned around and entered a relationship with a ghoul.

It was beyond comprehension. Why would someone with so much potential choose not to follow orders, choose to break the rules? Why would Candy risk all she had worked for just for a man--and not just any man, but a ghoul ?

Danse had spent the entire day he and Candy had been wandering around the wasteland cleansing various locations and marking them for sweeping by Scribes pondering this conundrum. He hadn’t expected Candy to come looking for him, especially so shortly after he’d caught her in a rather inappropriate situation with the ghoul, who, if Danse recalled correctly, called himself “John Hancock.” He hadn’t been too good-natured once he and Candy had a moment to speak (after she and “Hancock”... finished ), so he doubted she’d want much to do with him for a while.

But a few days later, she’d turned up at the Prydwen, packed and armed to the teeth, asking around for Danse. Danse was never one to leave a sister waiting, especially one he sponsored, so despite his trepidation, he’d come to see her. She’d asked him to come with her out to run some more errands for Rhys, which he had agreed to. Things had been pretty normal after that, and Danse had let himself think that maybe things were alright between them. Candy didn’t seem tense or uneasy. She was her usual chipper and sarcastic self, enjoying working on her marksmanship and laughing at every silly thing they came across in the wasteland. Everything seemed okay, so Danse had let his guard drop.

That’s when the signals started coming in.

At first they were subtle: the occasional too-long stare at Danse (which could just be attributed to getting lost in thought), the closeness to which Candy stuck to Danse (he was wearing power armor and she was not, so it’d make sense for her to stick close by), the occasional compliment instead of her usual dry quips. It had all been out of place, sure, but not enough for Danse to chalk it up to anything other than an off day for Candy.

But then the hours dragged on, and the occasional strange behavior turned into an outright assault on normalcy. Candy had been far more brash about removing her jacket and shirt to stitch up a wound she could have just as easily pushed the fabric aside to work on, and in the midday sunlight, she’d decided to pour some of her rationed water over her face to stave off heat, seemingly disregarding the white shirt she was wearing underneath her military jacket. She kept making pseudo-sexual comments that left Danse’s hair raised and his teeth on edge simultaneously, and he caught her looking at him far more often with a far more easily-recognizable look in her eyes.

Why she would be acting this way--assuming it actually was what Danse thought it was--was beyond him. She had told him herself, in the setting sun just outside the Red Rocket she called home, that “Hancock” made her happy. She’d called him her “boyfriend,” and as much as that left Danse ill at ease, he had assumed nothing had happened between them to make Candy reconsider her feelings. And besides, even if she and “Hancock” had “broken it off,” that didn’t mean that she would suddenly be looking at Danse this way. If anything, she would most likely want her space, and take time to heal. Danse was more than willing to be a friend in that, were that the case. He didn’t understand her relationship, but he did understand heartbreak.

But Candy wasn’t asking for a consoling friend and a shoulder to lean on. She was looking at Danse like he was something she wanted to taste, and it was driving him insane.

As night began to take over, the two of them had settled just outside a small settlement belonging to the Minutemen, full of people who knew Candy by name and knew all of her affairs, it seemed. She’d stopped in to barter a few supplies off of them to tide her and Danse over for the night, during which time Danse had secured a perimeter before setting up camp for them. Then, with little else to do, he stepped out of his power armor, removed the fusion core (for safety’s sake), started a fire, and settled down to wait.

Inevitably, Danse thought. He thought about Candy, about her situation, about rules, about what all of this could mean. He thought so deeply that he didn’t hear Candy’s footsteps through the underbrush until she had plonked down next to him.

“Is something on your mind?” she asked, handing him a small can of purified water. How the settlement managed to get some of this out here was beyond him, but he accepted it without a word. His eyes were fixed on the fire. He was afraid if he looked anywhere else, he would get burned.

“Yes,” he replied. “Today has been a strange day, thanks to your actions.”

Candy snorted. “My ‘actions?’ What did I do now?”

With courage flaring to life in him, Danse looked at Candy, unsurprised to see her expression one of deriding amusement save for the strange look in her eyes that carried its own heat. It had been there all day.

“Your behavior today has been confusing,” he replied. “I don’t mean to be critical, but we are in dangerous territory. We have been with every single step we’ve taken today. A single slip-up of any kind could mean our deaths. Thus, any behavior that could endanger our lives must be acknowledged and amended.”

Candy’s amusement faded, leaving only defensive contempt. “What, I’ve been ‘endangering our lives,’ then? How the hell have I been managing that? Because if I’m remembering correctly, I’m pretty sure I’ve been operating exactly how I always do.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Danse said, and Candy’s eyes narrowed. “While you have been managing combat situations as you usually do, your behavior toward me outside of those situations has been distracting and confusing.”

Candy adopted a neutral expression almost immediately. “What about my behavior has been confusing, Paladin?” she asked, almost too innocent in her tone.

It was Danse’s turn to narrow his eyes. “Don’t act like you’re unaware. I may be someone who places the Brotherhood first, but I’m well aware when someone is acting lascivious. Your behavior has been provocative since the moment we left the Prydwen. It would be wise of you to stop this while we’re both still alive.”

Candy gave a half-aborted laugh, something flickering in her eyes. It looked a bit like… fear. Danse could work with that.

“You’re saying my ‘lascivious’ behavior is making you so distracted that you feel like your life’s in danger?” she asked.

“I’m saying the consequences could be deadly for both of us, should either of us falter in our concentration,” Danse said. “And fraternization is frowned upon by the Brotherhood, as well.”

The fear dampened a little, and Candy scoffed again. Her fear wasn’t of punishment by the Brotherhood. So what was it?

“I think I made it abundantly clear I don’t really care about the Brotherhood’s rules, Danse.” Candy said, looking at him with a lazy sort of smirk on her face. “Remember? I said I joined the Brotherhood for you, not Maxson. I don’t care about what they say I should or shouldn’t believe. I believe in what I choose to believe in, and what I believe in is you.”

Danse could feel the millisecond the ideas clicked in his head. Ah. There. That’s what it was.

His cheeks burned with the realization. Candy’s fear wasn’t of what would happen should Danse say no. Her fear was that hopeful sort of fear, the fear one has when one is pleased, but out of their depth. She was afraid of what would happen if Danse said yes .

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t test these waters, couldn’t tread them. Thoughts of the ghoul “Hancock” flashed through his mind, including the last he saw of him: that ugly face contorted into a clear warning to stay away, to not push his luck. Danse didn’t fear the ghoul, not in the slightest; he’d taken on Glowing Ones and lived to tell the tale. No, he was afraid of what would happen to Candy if he did push his luck.

Candy. Danse took a moment, one he felt he earned from dealing with the confusion of the day, to really look her over. Black hair pulled into a tight bun; a squared jaw with strong cheekbones, eyes hidden behind aviator sunglasses; her army fatigue jacket unbuttoned and tucked into her pants, her breasts visible beneath the thin white fabric of her shirt, her nipples poking slightly through the worn fabric of her bra; the mild cinch of her waist where the pants were belted; her thighs, nearly invisible beneath the bulky fabric of her pants. The old feeling he’d had, one he’d pushed deep down inside himself every time he looked at Candy, swelled to a dull roar that flooded through his veins and pounded in his ears.

He let himself think. Maybe after today, he’d earned a moment to let go. Maybe after today, he could allow himself to think it, perhaps to even live it: a moment or two of sheer feeling, of finally grabbing Candy and pulling her to him, of whispering in her ear and tasting her on his lips.

He looked into Candy’s eyes, finding them full of that fear, and also slightly glazed, the same way she had been when Danse had caught her with the ghoul bent over her, fucking her so hard she could barely think. It was the same kind of blind ecstasy, just waiting to be unleashed.

Danse murmured, “You believe in me?”

Candy was paralyzed, a radstag caught in a firefight. She wordlessly nodded, her tongue darting out to lick her lips. Danse caught the motion with his eyes, and he could feel Candy watching him watch her.

“What I mean is,” she began, but Danse grasped her by the hips and hauled her into his lap, adjusting where she landed with two hands on her ass. She yelped somewhat loudly into the dim light, and then moaned as he pressed his face to her neck, squeezing her ass in his hands.

He breathed in the heavy scent of her sweat before biting down gently, eliciting a low groan from deep inside her throat. He trailed a series of bites and kisses down the entirety of her neck, his hands shuffling toward her lower stomach, untucking her shirt from her fatigues and starting to shove her jacket off her shoulders and down her arms.

“Danse,” she exhaled on a wispy breath, her tone confused and her heart jackhammering inside her chest. Her hands gripped his shoulders tightly, and she made no move to get away from him, panting hot breaths against his ear.

Danse got her jacket off before starting work on her shirt. She moved her arms over her head to accommodate the white tank top sliding away from her body, and Danse tossed it to the side, pulling her flush against him and nipping at her collarbones. Her fingers dug into his shoulders, no doubt leaving small bruises in their wake that would appear by morning. He didn’t mind, setting his hands to work unfastening her bra. As soon as the clasp was undone, the thin garment slid down her arms, and Danse wrapped his arms around her back to steady her before leaning in low and taking one brown nipple in his mouth and giving it a firm suck.

The volume of her moan was shocking, and it lit a fire under Danse. All pretenses of going slow, of taking it easy and taking his time, flew out the window. He cupped her right breast in his hand as his mouth worked her left nipple, sucking and nipping at the sensitive skin there. Her hands threaded through his hair as she moaned, half-sentences stumbling out of her mouth as he worked her into a frenzy, her whole body submitting to him.

He released her after a bit to slide his hands down low, undoing her worn belt and unbuttoning her fatigues. He pushed her to a stand, leaning in to take off her pants, but she beat him to it, leaning down and shucking her pants, bringing her underwear along with it. As soon as she was upright again, Danse pulled her tightly to him again, leaning down a little to claim her lips in his, his hand wandering down the planes of her body (careful not to press on her injuries) and, without hesitation, sliding between her legs.

Candy broke their kiss to let loose a high moan, looking down with an expression of shock as Danse worked his finger over her clit, her slick fluids already dripping from her. Her legs shook as he rubbed her, her hands gripping onto his shoulders tightly again, this time as if it was all she could do to maintain sanity.

After a bit of her shaking, during which she tried and failed again to speak, Danse slid his finger further back, sinking deep into her with one fluid motion. She gasped, moaning on her exhale, her eyes snapping to Danse’s with that glazed-over look he had been craving since he first saw it. And he had it--he had her , naked and willing in the wilderness, bathed in firelight that anyone could see from a good ways away. A jolt of electric fire shot through him, and he watched her face, glancing occasionally down to watch his middle finger disappear into the tight caverns of her body, as he fucked her with his hand.

She scrabbled at his body for purchase, her legs shaking even more now, and when she seemed to be evening out, adjusting to his hand, he slid another finger into her, and she started all over again. His pace was even and mild, a steady rhythm that still spun her out of place, left her breathing heavily and moaning loudly into the darkness, left her needy and begging for him.

With one final show of strength, she threw her arms around his neck and whimpered on shaky, uneven breaths, “fuck me, fuck me, please fuck me, please,” and Danse grunted, pulling his hand away from her. She moaned a bereft sound from her throat, and he pulled her toward their tent, ushering her inside before he followed.

He grasped the back of her neck, pushing her gently but firmly toward the floor, and she took the hint instantly, leaving her ass in the air while pressing her shoulders to the ground. Danse worked the buckles on his uniform quickly, stripping himself efficiently, all while watching what little firelight bled through the walls of the tent gleam off the slickened folds between Candy’s legs.

He was throbbing, harder than he’d felt in a really long time, but he put his focus first, ignoring himself in favor of leaning low and pressing his tongue flat against Candy’s clit, just tasting her for a moment before licking in earnest. Candy cried out, her hands scrabbling against the sleeping bag beneath them, her neck craned slightly so she could watch him. She whimpered his name on almost every breath, and Danse groaned slightly into her body, relishing her moan in response. When he’d reduced her again to a shaking mess, he leaned away, positioning himself just so, and, without any hesitation, sunk deep inside her, slowly but surely filling her up.

She went eerily quiet when he entered her, not even breathing, but as soon as he bottomed out, she let out a full-bodied moan, her legs already quivering, her heat tight around him. Overwhelmed, he leaned his head low, letting out a shaky breath and trying his hardest to maintain some composure.

When he felt ready, he grasped her hips, slowly pulling out to the head before fucking into her, picking up speed incrementally with every pass, until he was finally fucking her in earnest. He watched her fall apart beneath him, her hands spasming as she tried to grasp onto anything within reach, her moans loud and high and sweet to his ears, her breasts rocking with every solid thrust into her, his hands on her beautiful ass and his length disappearing into Candy’s body.

Danse let himself get lost in the sensation of having her around him, so he was unsure how much time had passed when he was pulled back into the real world by Candy crying out more loudly than he had heard before. Her arms were stiff where her palms were digging into the ground, pushing to maintain some grounded connection to reality as she shook apart beneath him.

“Danse,” she yelled, desperation flooding her voice, her eyes squeezed shut. “Danse, Danse, I’m going to come.”

He grasped her hips by the bone, leaning over her and thrusting into her harder, as hard as he could without hurting her. “Come,” he said, his voice firm.

Her cries grew in volume and pitch, louder and higher, her body tightening like a coil on a trap, set and ready to spring. Then, she suddenly loosened, her eyes opening and staring into the distance, her arms and core growing lax. The only thing that grew more tense about her was her vagina; she clamped down on Danse, wrenching him forcibly closer to his own orgasm. He slowed his pace, carefully watching her face to gage what to do next.

For a few more moments, she was unbelievably still and pliant. Then, as if shocked back to life, she sprung into movement, her arms scrambling once again and her fingers gripping the sleeping bag in spasms, her legs shaking. She let out a pent-up cry, which dropped into softer whimpers as he continued moving within her.

His release was close, but he wanted, needed, to be sure. He slowed to a near-complete stop and whispered, “Candy?”

She responded by reaching back for his wrist, pushing his palm further into her waist and moving her hips up and down on his length, whimpering a little more.

“Come in me,” Candy said, her voice wrecked.

“Are you sure?”

She bobbed up and down his length again, this time putting more strength into it. A groan wrenched its way out of his throat, and he grabbed her hips again, resuming his pace from before. His orgasm was upon him with brutal speed this time, her soft groans helping bring him there, her hand still on his wrist, still egging him on. He came almost without knowing it was going to happen, his eyes pinching shut and his hands gripping her waist tightly. She moaned another echo in response to his own, patiently holding him inside her, panting into the sleeping bag.

When Danse came down, he grasped the base of his length and slowly slid out of her, watching the entire time. She moaned as he left her, turning her hips and letting them fall to the makeshift bed, laying on her side. Her chest was heaving, her eyes fixed on him, raking up and down his body.

With the heat of the moment behind him, Danse was immediately filled with chagrin. What had he been thinking? She was his subordinate, and in some sort of “relationship,” and whether or not he agreed with it, that was still a sanctified union that he should never have crossed--

Candy reached toward his hand, grasping his wrist and tugging him down toward the sleeping bag with her. He let himself fall, lowering himself down toward her and laying on his side facing her.

She looked him in the eye for a moment, stare slightly blank and slightly calculating, before she bit her lip and tentatively smiled. Then, she turned over in the dark, presumably to go to sleep.

Danse didn’t know how much time had passed, but their fire was down to embers, barely visible from within the tent. Outside, he could hear the winds over the desolate landscape. He didn’t know what to make of any of this, so he followed what he did know.

Getting his clothes back on and sparing one last glance toward Candy, he left the tent, putting out the fire and pulling out his rifle. He wouldn’t be able to sleep for a little while, and he knew it.