I am a masochist. That's why I'm starting another fanfic. But I just…want to write it, so I am. My goal though is for chapters to be self-contained. So while all events are in the same universe/connected, there shouldn't be cliffhangers or anything.

General Notes: Nate is my Nate, so basically the default Male Sole Survivor, but with Charisma & Intelligence maxed to 10 at start of game, nicely kept hair, (when facing him) black right eye, scar over his left & he has two white face splotches (right forehead, and one on the left cheek). Story is generally based on my own gameplay & things I did/wanted to see happen.

I hang out with MacCready the most (and I'm romancing him), so expect a lot of that dorky ex-gunner. Whether or not I romance him in story will be up to comments left on the fic (or marked so you can skip it). So if you want to see that—let me know! In the meantime, mostly platonic stuff. Chapters will all be from Companion POV's, so expect quite a few showing up other than MacCready, though. :D

Anyway, long notes because it's the first chapter. They're done now. Let's get on with this show! ;D

Chapter One: MacCready and the New Boss

"Don't take this the wrong way, boss," MacCready said, whistling at the excess of bullet casings around their feet in the last of the three warehouses they'd 'cleaned' out of 'rats.' MacCready mourned the wasted ammunition, but at least he hadn't paid for them. "But I'm starting to see why you didn't even bother to try haggling down my running rate. You can't shoot for sh—you're really bad at aiming."

"Yeah, I was always better at talking my way out of things than shooting." Nate glared at his 10mm pistol (that he had named Nora for some reason), as if it were to blame for his inability to shoot straight. "But, that's what I hired you for, right?"

"Right," MacCready agreed. "Though if I'm going to be doing all the work, we might be renegotiating payment terms."

"Fair enough," Nate said, laughing. He opened a drawer and whistled, pocketing a handful of caps and some 10mm ammunition he desperately needed with the way he wasted bullets. "Though hopefully sharing spoils along the way will help curb that."

"You wish," MacCready said, joking back a bit. "I don't bargain."

"So you said." Nate holstered the weapon and fixed his hair in a mirror. MacCready couldn't remember the last time he'd met someone face-to-face who even bothered with their appearance, but there was always a first time for everything. Though the hair was the least of Nate's problems when the guy was running around in a Vault Suit.

Talk about giant targets on your back; that thing made him stand out more than a super mutant around most places.

"Though it's not all my fault my aim is so bad. I'm just ridiculously out of practice," Nate spoke up again, bringing the subject back around to his dismal aim. As if MacCready cared whether or not his cap provider could aim. If the guy could defend himself, what would he need MacCready for? All the same, the guy spoke while he looted. "When I was in the army, I did more work in the power armor suits than with handguns. That meant nine out of ten times I was using a mini gun. Aiming isn't really a thing when you're using one of those things."

"Yeah, I get that," MacCready admitted. He slung his sniper rifle back over his shoulder and considered the Vault Dweller in the downtime. They were always weird when he ran across them, but this one was taking the cake. MacCready almost couldn't help himself when he took a step into business that wasn't his own. "What I don't get, is why a guy like you is cleaning out warehouses. When you first hired me, I was thinking I was playing bodyguard, which kinda turned out to be true, but that's not that point. What's a guy who can't shoot need to do this kinda work for?"

"Connections," Nate said, taking a seat in an empty chair. He tugged over a few loose caps from the table and tossed them up and down in his hand before throwing them in MacCready's direction. He caught them and stuffed them in his pocket. Nate rolled his finger around in the air, leaning back in the chair and crossing his feet at the ankles. "Normally I wouldn't do this sort of thing, would rather not at all if I can help it. When I heard the client was Hancock, though, I knew I had take it."

"That so?" MacCready asked. "You need something from him?"

"Not yet," Nate said. He pressed his lips together. "But, in the future I'll be doing something big, and I feel like having as many contacts as possible is going to come in handy.

"Hancock has contacts. Being able to talk your way into goods or information is great and all, but it only works if you can get in to see the person and actually do the talking.

"Hancock knows people, so I need to know Hancock. Thus, I needed your wonderful assistance to give me a hand because, as you said, I can't aim for shit."

"Well, long as you keep paying me, I guess that works for me," MacCready said, almost whistling at the speech thrown his way. Guy wasn't kidding when he said he was a talker. MacCready tipped his hat down and laughed. "Because I'm pretty sure you're going to die without me."

"I'd argue with that, but you were there when I tried to shoot that triggerman in the head and ended up hitting his waist," Nate said. He leaned on the side of the chair, halfway posing as he rested his chin on his hand. "Would it make you feel better if I said my aim now is worlds better now than when I first picked up my pistol?"

"No," MacCready said.

Nate laughed before getting up and dusting his hands off on the base of his Vault Suit. He made one last sweep around the room, stuffing fans and hot plates into a bag. MacCready scrunched his nose as the man stared to stuff his bag full of random junk, but at least he remembered to grab the caps and ammo, too. And when half of that portion of the stash was handed to MacCready without prompting, he figured playing bodyguard for a Vault Dweller wouldn't be too bad of a job.

Better than his old clients any day.

"So, where are we headed anyway, Boss?" MacCready asked as they stepped foot out of Goodneighbor. Daisy had hooked Nate up with a better set of over-armor as well as some ammo (bless that ghoul for giving them a discount on account of Nate's polite nature), so they were pretty prepared to hit the road. "Don't think you said."

"Back to Sanctuary Hills for now. I've got other business I'll need your help with, but that'll come later when I've got a bit more of a handle on this shooting thing." Nate said, patting his gun in its holster. "So for now, I wanted to check in on how everyone is doing back home, and then I'm headed out to a potential settlement location called the Starlight Drive-in. Shouldn't be too much trouble to secure it, if what Preston told me is true."

"And that has to do with your connections thing?" MacCready asked. He scrunched his nose and tagged along, wishing he could connect the dots better when it came to his Boss and what this guy was trying to do. Clearing out warehouses in Goodneighbor and helping out settlements didn't seem to mesh. "If your business is with all of them, what were you doing out in Goodneighbor?"

"Truth be told? I seem to have found myself in charge of the Minutemen, which means I'm helping clear raider dens and super mutant camps for settlers whether I like it or not." Nate checked his Pip-Boy for their location on his map. He looked over his shoulder licked the side of his perfect teeth; MacCready pressed his own lips together tighter, aware of the difference. Nate tapped the top of his gun handle. "I knew I was going to need help with that, and Diamond City isn't exactly in the business of lending out their security. Got a tip I might have a better chance running into someone at Goodneighbor, and they were right. Lucky me!"

"If you say so," MacCready said.

"I'd say so," Nate replied, smiling directly at MacCready.

MacCready wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he didn't. He adjusted his hat, and looked out from under the brim at the sun. He had a feeling this was going to be an eventful job in the long run, but as long as it paid well, MacCready would deal with it.

They'd traveled for an hour before MacCready broke the silence.

"Did you guys have any gangs in your vault?" MacCready asked, jumping down from a rock. He had scanned the area, and found it clear of raiders so they were good to chat without drawing unwanted attention. "Because I knew this guy once from Vault 101 who was involved with a gang called the Tunnel Snakes. Always wondered how similar the Vaults were to each other."

"No, there wasn't anything like that," Nate said, his voice quiet. MacCready trotted next to his side to hear the man better as he began to mumble. "There wasn't much of anything."

"Must have been boring then," MacCready said, almost hesitant. Maybe comparing Vaults to Vaults wasn't the best idea? Who knew what went on in those stupid things. "Locked up in a tin can all those years with nothing to do but stare at each other couldn't have been great. Bet time passed by like being on perpetual Jet."

"It actually went by pretty quick," Nate said. He hopped up the steps of a house as they passed, and pushed the door open with the butt of a shotgun he'd found on a raider. "I blinked and 200 years had passed."

"How's that work?" MacCready asked, almost ignoring the slip of Nate saying "200 Years". The guy couldn't have been past his mid thirties. He was probably exaggerating for show, or something. Vault Dwellers tended to be weird like that. MacCready stayed just outside the house, long enough to secure the area. That done, he followed Nate inside, checking his back in case there was anyone squatting in the building. "Have something to keep you busy?"

"I wasn't awake," Nate said. His voice sounded weary, and MacCready wasn't sure he liked that. "Vault 111 was a Cryo-Vault. Everyone who went in was immediately frozen in a small chamber. Long story short, the units malfunctioned and everyone died, except for me, due to misplaced luck. When it opened due to a glitch, I found out that the people who worked in the vault had been slaughtered by a group of raiders. I was the only survivor of Vault 111."

"Wow." MacCready hopped up the steps and set his gun on the floor when he saw the empty room and the two beds. Nate had already taken a seat on one, and had his bag on the floor. It wasn't too late in the day yet, but from the slump of his back and the tone of his voice, MacCready had a feeling that they were calling it night. "That's fu—really messed up."

"Tell me about it," Nate said.

Though it did explain why Nate looked so great. Even the Vault Dweller from 101 that MacCready had known as a kid wasn't this well put together. Clean teeth, nice hair, good skin, and a clean Vault Suit. The guy had money, but he didn't have that much money to have explained those things otherwise.

MacCready took the other bed, and rested his head on the backboard. "So you're what? Old as a ghoul?"

Nate pulled a mutt chop out of his bag, and split it in two. He handed MacCready a share and shook his head. "Funny you should mention that. I met a ghoul I'd known before I got frozen at the inn in Goodneighbor. He's going to meet us at Sanctuary."

"Small world," MacCready said.

"Boy is it," Nate answered. He tugged at his meat, eyes half-lidded like there was something else weighing on his mind. Something he couldn't share just yet. Nate settled on a neutral end to the conversation. "Almost too small some days."

They ate in silence after that, and MacCready took the first watch. They'd be in Sanctuary Hills tomorrow, and he'd see where things went from there. MacCready looked over at his new boss and hummed to himself. So far, it wasn't so bad. Almost made MacCready miss the old days of Little Lamplight when his first Vault Dweller paid him a visit.

Never a dull moment with one of them, that was for sure.

MacCready had gotten way too used to Goodneighbor. The wholesome attitude and behavior of everyone in Sanctuary Hills was going to ruin his already rotten teeth.

Even the Robot Butler was obnoxiously polite, and offered to take MacCready's coat and hat when he arrived in town to hang up. He'd refused, of course, but that wasn't the point. Between that Garvey guy, Sturges, and his new Boss, MacCready was slowly losing his mind in a sea of nice people.

"Either pick up something and help or get the hell out of the way," some lady said, shoving him aside as she headed to a garden of mutfruits. MacCready smacked into the wall of a shack, and gaped as she hissed over her shoulder, "Freeloader."

Well, they couldn't all be nice.

But that didn't mean MacCready had to take direct insults either. He pushed off the wall and had his hands in fists ready to go. "Why that—"

"Don't mind Marcy," Nate said, putting a hand on MacCready's shoulder. Nate tugged MacCready back until he had hit Nate's chest with a steady thump. Nate lowered his voice, and spoke with a sense of empathy that was greatly missing in the Commonwealth. "She just lost her son a bit ago in a raid. She's not taking it well, so you'll have to forgive her if she comes across as rude or angry."

"Oh." MacCready snapped his mouth shut and felt a twist in his chest. He dropped his tense posture and nodded, leaning on Nate. Duncan's smile came to the front of MacCready's mind, and his heartbeat picked up. That was an entirely different story then, wasn't it? "Guess that can't be helped then."

"Thanks," Nate said, squeezing MacCready's shoulder. He stepped back and came around to face MacCready's front and talk face to face. "Sorry for making you wait so long, but I've got all the details from Preston about the new Settlement we're going to found at the drive-in. Should be easy."

"Good. Then I'll make sure to sit back and let you get in some shooting practice," MacCready said, clapping his hand on Nate's arm.

"Hey now, if I get better at this whole shooting thing, I'm going to have to start haggling a discount for your services," Nate laughed. "Wouldn't want that, would we?"

Nate had already dashed off to collect supplies from the community hall he'd set up before MacCready could get him back. But, he was finding himself getting a little fond of his new Boss, smiles and all.

As said man stepped out of the house, gun holstered and ready to go, MacCready was pretty sure he could be doing worse.

"There is an irradiated pond in the middle of your new settlement," MacCready said, throwing a cigarette butt off to the side. The dead corpses of the five fu—freaking thousand mole rats that had been in the area ("Should be easy" his as—rear) saved it from hitting the ground. "Looks like things are going great so far."

"Shut up, MacCready."

Preston Garvey was merciless when it came to finding settlements who needed help. And MacCready, who was now one hundred percent sure that his good deeds for his lifetime and been fulfilled, found that he was sick of them whether he was getting paid for his efforts or not.

But even his new Boss had limits, thank you, and finally told Preston that he'd help out with settlements some other time. What MacCready hadn't been expecting, was his new Boss' reasons had less to do with getting worn out on charity, and more to do with new plans.

Big plans.

"I'm going back to Diamond City tomorrow," Nate said, setting his bag down on the edge of his bed. They were in one of the houses far from the main hub of the Sanctuary Settlement, to get some privacy MacCready assumed. The building was small, only one room and a couple beds, and was far away from any prying ears. The sun had set, and Nate's tone had an edge to it that MacCready wasn't sure he liked. "And I wanted to give you a chance to back out."

"Back out?" MacCready asked, sitting on the bed across from the boss. He wasn't sure what he was feeling right now. Hurt from being told to leave, or insulted for the implication what Nate was going to do was too big and too much. "You think I can't handle it?"

"No, I think you can," Nate said. He laced his fingers together, and rested his arms on his knees. The man's knee bounced, and he got up to start taking off the armor pieces from overtop his suit. "But I'm going to be doing something risky, and frankly, I did not pay you nearly enough caps to stick your neck out for what I'll be doing tomorrow."

"Why don't you let me decide that," MacCready said. He leaned back on the wall, his feet on the mattress and nodded his head toward Nate. "Out with it, buddy. What's up?"

"I should probably start with some backstory," Nate said. He took in a deep breath and exhaled. MacCready held his breath, fairly certain he wasn't going to like whatever came next. Nate locked eyes with him, and started the other half of his Vault story: "I didn't go into Vault 111 alone."

Nate talked for a while, slow and vacant, like he was talking about someone other than himself. Bare facts and a cold tone that spoke of how hard he was trying to keep it together as he talked of a beautiful woman named Nora (oh lord, that explained his stupid 10mm pistol), and his little baby boy Shaun.

MacCready hadn't expected that the biggest thing he and Nate had in common was that they were both dads. Heck, they were practically fighting for the same thing when it came down to it; keeping their kid alive.

Only MacCready at least knew where his kid was.

"So you're going to this Nick Valentine guy, to follow up on the information you got by killing Kellog," MacCready said, summarizing the event. He still hadn't quite internalized that a guy who couldn't shoot straight to save his life had managed to kill one of the worst, most dangerous people in the Commonwealth. Maybe there was something to be said about the inner strength a parent gained when it came to their kids. But where was it when MacCready needed it? He shook his head and sucked in a breath. "And that'll take you to a fight with the Institute?"

"Most likely," Nate said. He drummed his fingers together, and the weight on his shoulders turned Nate's expression lost and sad. It was a bad look on the confident charmer; MacCready didn't like it. He didn't like it one bit. Nate ran his hands through his hair, messing up the perfect style. A loose strand of it fell between his eyes, and he looked even more lost. "Like I said, it's going to be risky, and I'm not sure I can afford to pay your way, let alone guarantee there won't be other consequences. So if you want to settle tabs and keep your head clear of this business, this would be the time."

"Fu—heck, no," MacCready said. He scooted to the edge of the bed, slamming his feet on the ground. He pointed straight at the Vault Dweller's chest, and thought for maybe a second, that parental boost of strength had found him. "I'm the best damn gun in the Commonwealth. You won't find better than me, and then you'll just get yourself killed. And considering you're one of the nicest bosses I've ever had, I'd rather you keep breathing. I'd rather work on the cheap for you than hitting it big with a total ass—jerk, you know what I'm saying?"

"Maybe," Nate said. He smiled, something warm, and MacCready had a feeling that if Nate said he was going to go storm the Institute with nothing more than a pistol and a dream, that MacCready'd be following him right on in with his head high, caps or no caps. Man, he was fu—screwed, wasn't he? Nate held his hand out and smiled. "So, we go together then?"

"You better believe it," MacCready said. He took the hand and shook it hard. Well, if he was going down, he was going down. But MacCready was heck as sure going to make sure he did his very best to keep them both above water. You couldn't make caps if you were dead. MacCready tugged Nate closer and knocked his fist into Nate's shoulder. "So don't go dying on me, you hear?"

"Only if you promise the same," Nate said. He kept squeezing MacCready's hand and grinned. "I'd hate to lose a new friend so soon after meeting him."

"Let's, let's not get too hasty there now, Boss," MacCready said, pulling his hand back. He felt the heat flush his cheeks and crossed his arms with a huff. Where was that nonsense coming from? Was Nate for real? He'd spent too much time in Sanctuary Hills, that's what had happened. MacCready sniffed, waving his hand back and forth. "We don't need to get any of that sappy stuff involved."

"If you say so," Nate said.

"I say so," MacCready replied.

"Either way," Nate said. He reached over and smacked MacCready on the arm before collapsing on his bed. He put his arm over his eyes and exhaled, looking like it was easier to breathe. "Thank you. I'm really glad you're coming with me tomorrow."

"What'd I just say about that sappy stuff?" MacCready said. He tugged off his hat and coat, setting them on the ground next to his stuff. It was odd being in a place where he could sleep safely, but he found himself not hating it too much. MacCready huffed. "Get some sleep, or you'll be dead on your feet tomorrow."

"I thought keeping me alive on my feet was what you were coming with me for?" Nate chuckled.

MacCready threw a pillow at Nate across the room and huffed as he curled up on his now pillow-less mattress. This was his new Boss. For better or for worse, he was stuck with the guy.

"I'm raising my price another fifty caps," MacCready mumbled into the bed.

Nate's answering laughter was a pretty good answer, all things considered. MacCready could be stuck with worse.