.passing the torch. | .piper.

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Piper took the freshly washed shirt from Dean and hung it beside her own drying laundry. "That the last of it?" she asked Dean and Danse, who were coming to their feet after having knelt over washboards in soapy buckets all morning. Piper dried her hands on her pants and picked up two of the four laundry buckets they'd used in their operation, each with their own varying degrees of feral blood, dirt, and residual soap bubbles. Piper hated cleaning up after a nasty fight, because the clothes had to be washed separately from anything else, and had to go through a "de-gunking" before getting a proper washing. Sometimes, she wondered if she could slip the Bobrovs a few caps to access their washers. "We just need to dump these out back, and we're set."

Danse lifted the other two buckets before Dean could get to them. Piper led them outside and around the back of her home, then had the dirtiest buckets dumped first, which she rinsed out with the water from the cleanest buckets. Leaving those to dry, she waved her guests over to towel off their hands and arms, then put a few caps into Nat's hands before taking the men through the market to Nick's office.

"Nick's probably the best in his field," she said, passing Moe Cronin's store and rounding the corner onto Nick's street. The Valentine's Detective Agency sign glowed in the morning shadows. "Don't leave anything out, seriously. You might think a detail is silly, but you'd be surprised what leads he can snatch from those things."

"Were we in any other situation, I'd caution against such an action," Danse said to Dean.

"Right, because he's a synth or a 'spy' or whatever. I'm sure he's never heard that before."

"Piper, if I'm not mistaken, I'm sure it was your reckless speculation that caused Diamond City to be wary of any who might be a synth, resulting in the death of a man."

Piper swallowed. "I had a duty to talk about the boogeyman, Danse. It's not up to me to teach people how to manage their emotions."

"I agree. I merely think it is unwise to let speculation run wild. I have never seen Nick in action on the field, but I hope it at least knows well enough to not let speculation overcome rational thinking, or in its case, rational processes."

"He, Danse. Nick is a he, whether you like it or not. He doesn't respond to 'it,' so try to cut it out before we get there." She stopped before the door. "You know, it can get a bit cramped in here. I'm thinking you should wait out here. Yeah, let's do that."

Danse took the order. "Yes, Piper."

She gave the door a knock before opening it. Inside, Ellie stood beside the corner desk, nursing a steaming mug of coffee and a thick, open file.

"Ms. Wright, please, come in!"

"Hey Ellie," she said. She motioned to Dean. "This is Dean Winchester. He's looking for a missing person, and uh, actually I'm looking for a missing person too."

"Two separate-"

"Ellie?" Nick's voice, upstairs, coming from the bed he didn't sleep in. "Is that Piper?"

"It's me," Piper shouted over the sounds of his feet hitting the stairs. The group collectively waited for Nick to arrive. Once he did, he nodded at the chair opposite the one he took. Ellie leaned on the desk. Piper shrugged her brows at Dean to take the chair. She leaned on the wall behind him, more to guard the door than to take comfort. Once everyone was settled, she answered Ellie's question. "It's two separate people, Ellie. One is Dean's...uh, Nick Valentine, Dean Winchester, Dean, Nick."

Nick offered his skeletal hand, and Dean shook it after eying it warily.

"Sorry, Nick. Don't take offense." Piper didn't really want to defend Dean, but she figured his hesitation had less to do with Nick being a synth and more to do with having never shaken a robotic hand before. "He's not from around here. Like really not from around here."

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