Author's Note: I don't even know where to begin explaining this. This fanfiction is essentially a massive Fallout 4 AU, where a lot of things are different from the game. The biggest one is: Vault 111 is a control Vault, one that functions exactly as advertised by Vault-Tec. The aim of this story is to explore how Nate and Nora's lives might have gone if this were the case. It's not explicitly a romance fic, but Nate and Nora's relationship will be heavily explored. I'm a HUGE Fallout fan, and I've always wanted to write a story like this. Hopefully my passion for the setting and characters will come through. With that out of the way, please enjoy the story, and remember to review and comment.

MARCH 18, 2068. Nate couldn't stop staring at the date on the form. 2070. If I do this now, I can be out some time in 2070. It seemed like a hundred years. He looked up from the paper and glanced around the recruiting office. Three others, two women and one man, sat at the other tables, filling out their forms. Nate sighed, and gripped the pen for the fourth time. Come on, Nate, for once in your life, help your fucking family. He began scrawling his information out on the form. Signing away his future, and potentially his life, for what would probably be another pipe dream.

It had been a death march all week. Their house being foreclosed was news to both Nate and his mother, which led to one of his parents' most vicious fights yet. Then, they had to pack everything they could into the Highwayman, and make the long drive down to Boston to beg Nate's uncle to let them stay with him for a while. From there, his father's latest scheme took form. One last desperate gamble to stay on their feet, and Nate was the linchpin.

He made the final signature. If you turn this in, you will be sent to Alaska. At least on a fishing boat, he could stay in the mainland. No. No more what-ifs. He rose from his seat and marched to the intake desk. The walls in the office were lined with patriotic posters, most of them featuring Uncle Sam or Lady Liberty. The newer ones depicted a soldier in power armor. It was quiet, except for the drone of the fans above him. He handed over his army recruitment form to the woman at the desk.

"Thank you," She said. "If everything checks out, you'll receive a call soon to schedule your physical exam appointment. Until then… try not to break any bones or anything, son."

"Uh… can do." Nate replied.

Twenty minutes later, he was back in the car with his father, speeding down the road. "So, that was step one." His father said. "Step two will take place down at the car dealership. We're gonna sell this piece of junk Highwayman, and use the money to buy up as many war bonds as we can get. When you get out of the army, we'll make a fortune when they cash out." Nate stayed silent. And step three is, you go home and get drunk, and I get shipped off to Alaska to freeze and die. "What do you think?" His father said.

"It's very patriotic, Dad." Nate grumbled.

"Look, there's loyalty to your country, and then there's loyalty to your family. Someday you're gonna realize… you gotta put one above the other."

"Really? Because it seems to me like you're fucking over both right now."

"Hey! Language, young man. And how the hell do you figure that? I'm giving money to the war effort, giving the US of A one more soldier on the front line, and giving my family a shot at a better future." His father shot off.

"You're using us. All you want is money." Nate spat.

"God damn it! You and your mother! You're so ungrateful! I have done nothing but bust my ass for twenty goddamn years, and the two of you can do nothing but pout and complain. You better hope the army straightens you out, boy. Or at some point, you're gonna find yourself with nothing. Now, you can go, run off, be like one of those deadbeat hippie kids in California. I won't stop you, because I won't be your father anymore. It's time to make a choice, Nathan." Nate clammed up. His father never called him Nathan. God, he's serious. It was at that point that Nate realized he wasn't serious. He was never going to cut and run, he was just angry.

"Dad…" He thought about his next words carefully. "You know there isn't a choice." He said. The rest of the car ride was silent.

JUNE 5, 2072. Nora couldn't help but snort. I'm feeling it now. "So… that was four years ago? Why are you still in the army? Unless you're not anymore, and you just like wearing your uniform to bars."

The soldier chuckled. "That's a longer story. Maybe I'll tell you later."

Nora laughed again. "Oh… you think there'll be a later?"

He leaned in. "I do, actually." Damn. He knows my every weakness. Keep it together, Nora. The soldier was tall, with dark hair and a roguish look. Handsome. Manly.

"So… did it work out? Your father's scheme?" She asked.

"Well, it didn't really need to. Obviously." He said.


He gave her an odd look. "You don't read the papers, do you?"

"Well… no. I spend most of my time studying."

"Oh. Well, then let me introduce myself. Nate Winters. I, uh… well, according to General Chase, I single handedly stopped a Red offensive through the Chugach Mountains. See, when they ran into me, I basically panicked. Started blindly firing at them. I was about to start retreating... when they did. Apparently, I fired off so many rounds the Chinese thought the pass was much more heavily defended than it actually was. I didn't stop the whole attack, but apparently an entire division or something was sent on their heels. So, they pinned a medal on me. For panicking."

Nora smiled. "That-" She couldn't contain herself, and burst out laughing. "I'm sorry, but that sounds like the biggest pile of bullshit I've ever heard. How many women have you told that story to tonight?"

"Well, you and one other. But that doesn't mean it's not true! I can show you the medal."

"Let me guess. I just have to come over to your place?"

"Come on, look at me. Do you think I need to make up stories to get women to come home with me?" The soldier wore a big grin.

"Well, you're a handsome guy. I still think you're trying to pull a move on me, though."

"Alright, I'll tell you what. Forget everything I just said. Let's start over. Hi, I'm Nate. What's your name?"

"Nora." She told him.

"Oh. A pretty name for a pretty lady."

Nora laughed. "Cute."

"What do you like to do for fun, Nora? Besides go drinking." He asked.

"I'm a college student. I don't get to have fun."

"Oh yeah? What are you studying?"

"Law. I want to be a lawyer. Someday." She said.

"My uncle was a lawyer. In Boston." He sounded like he was getting drunk.

"Is that where you're from?" Nora asked him.

"Me-? Oh no, I'm from Colorado originally. My family lives in Boston, though."

"What are you doing in New York?"

"It's just where they sent me on leave. And not a moment too soon, if you ask me." He seemed to tense up slightly.

"Why's that?" Nora pressed him.

"Oh right, you don't read the papers. You gotta get into the news, Nora. Keep up with the times. The good old US of A… just announced its plan to annex Little Amer- Canada." Nate slurred.

"Holy shit, are you serious? Why?"

"Well, it's the pipeline. The oil pipeline, only thing keeping our planes and tanks running. Those sneaky little Canadians don't like all the American soldiers running around in their country, so they tried to sabotage it. One of the only sources of oil left in this world, and they tried to destroy it. And you know what? I don't even fuckin' blame 'em. Anyway… well, that was the last straw." He seemed considerably more grim now. Suddenly, the two of them seemed out of place, sitting in the bright, chatty bar. God, he looks even better when he's brooding.

"So, what, you're afraid they'll send you up to Canada next?" She finally piped up.

"Shit, I have no idea. The only thing I know is, the second they tell me to go put down some riot, I'm gone. I didn't sign up for that."

Nora set her drink down on the bar. Okay. He's definitely not just another blockhead soldier. She took a deep breath, and smiled at him. "What do you say we get out of here?"

AUGUST 1, 2076. "What do you think, honey?" Nora asked.

Nate sighed. "It's… what's the difference, besides the color?" The day was clear, and relatively warm. Nate was starting to sweat in his uniform.

His wife frowned. "The color is what I'm asking you about. These houses are all prefab."

"Oh. Well, then the blue is definitely better. More… modern."

"Yes sir, these houses are as modern as they get, no matter what color they are. Built in, modular kitchen system, state of the art HVAC, and specialized plexiglass windows. No looter's getting in here, that's for sure." The realtor pitched.

"Looters? We drove all the way up here to get away from the chaos in the city." Nora said.

"Better safe than sorry, honey." Nate told her. If we're gonna be raising our kids here, I want the works.

"I guess you're right. So, if we're going for blue… how about this one?" They stopped at one of the houses near the bend of the road. "I don't want to live in the cul-de-sac, but I want to be close to it." Nora said.

"This house is available." The realtor informed them. Nora looked at Nate.

"And, the GI discount is still in effect, right?" Nate asked. I didn't put on this uniform for nothing.

"Of course, sir."

"Great. Then… I think we'll take it." Nate smiled at his wife. This is it. The rest of my life. He couldn't be happier with the way things turned out. War hero. Beautiful, funny, smart wife. Picturesque house. I think I finally understand the "American Dream".

"Splendid!" The realtor announced. "Just a few signatures, a little paperwork, and you'll be all set." The realtor walked off to his car to get the paperwork, and Nate and Nora hugged.

"Just one more tour, honey." Nate said. "Then we can finally start our family. All the food riots, the energy crisis, the martial law… we can just put it all behind us."

"When do you ship out?" Nora asked.

"October. One more year, then I'm out. Maybe even sooner than that. I hear China's on its last legs. We'll be set for life." Nate said, almost pleading with her.

"I know. You do what you need to do." His wife said. It's time. It's time to put family above country. "Just promise me one thing, Nate."

"Anything." He breathed.

"Come back."

OCTOBER 23, 2077. 9:21 A.M. "It's all over… but the crying…" Nora opened her eyes. Sunlight bled in through the curtains. She instinctively reached for the alarm clock behind her, and brought it to her face. Oh man, I slept way too long. She rolled over to face her husband.

"Why didn't you-?" But he wasn't there. Nora sat up in the bed, and threw the blanket off of her. She opened the closet and put on a bra and underwear before heading into the hallway. The sound of the shower running grew louder as she approached the bathroom door. A smile curled across her face. She looked back into Shaun's room, then in the kitchen, where Codsworth was probably making breakfast. Then, she crept into the bathroom, and shut the door behind her. The shower curtain was drawn.

"Honey?" Nate called as Nora slipped out of her clothes. She pulled back the curtain and stepped inside. Nate's black hair was hanging in front of his eyes, sopping wet. He flipped it back and smiled. "Hey you." He said.

The shower began to soak Nora's hair just like Nate's. She smiled back. "Hey you."

Fifteen minutes later, they were both dressed, and squabbling over the mirror. "Hey-" Nate grunted. "I'm the one who's gonna be going on stage."

Nora conceded. "Ah, you're right."

Nate looked down, made a big sigh, then raised his head, sporting his most solemn look. He made eye contact with himself in the mirror. "War… never changes." He recited. Then he sighed again, looking nervous.

"You're gonna knock 'em dead tonight, hon." Nora told him.

He looked at her through the mirror, and grinned. "You think?"

"Absolutely." Two weeks ago, Nate received a letter from the mayor of Concord, inviting him to give a speech there on the Resource Wars. He gladly accepted, and had spent most of his time since drafting his speech. Nora had only heard part of it. According to him, it was "blunt, but hopeful". Either way, she was sure the people of Concord would be wowed. "When are we leaving for this thing, anyways?"

"At five. The whole thing will take a few hours. I'll give the speech, we'll have dinner, drinks, then go home." He told her.

"Not too many drinks, I hope."

"Obviously." He pushed his bangs back with his hand, giving him a casual kempt sort of look. "Until then, we've got time for pretty much anything."

The smell of frying bacon brought them to the kitchen, where Codsworth was finishing up breakfast. He spun around as they entered. "Ah, good morning!" He called. One arm stoked the bacon, another flipped a pancake in a pan. The third was scrambling their eggs. In all, every part of the stove was being used. As Nate and Nora sat at the counter, Codsworth lifted the coffee pot off the stove, scooped up two mugs, and poured their morning coffee. "273.5 degrees fahrenheit. Brewed to perfection!" He boasted.

"Thanks, Codsworth. " Nate said. He reached over and unfolded the morning newspaper. Hm. If the newspaper was delivered, the milk probably was too. Nora got up and went to the fridge. Sure enough, the milk was there. She retrieved a glass and poured herself some.

"Hey, save some for the cereal." Nate said after swallowing some coffee.

"The cereal? What, are you having cereal too, along with your pancakes, bacon and eggs?"

"Not today, but… I think we should start getting used to non-perishable foods."

Shaun began fussing in the other room, which quickly turned to crying. "Codsworth, go change Shaun's diaper." Nora said. He floated off down the hallway. "Non-perishable foods? Why?"

"In the army, they told us that radiation after an atomic war could take years to go down. We wouldn't be able to live off bacon and eggs for five years." Nate said.

"We can't live off of Sugar Bombs, either." Nora folded her arms.

"Well, it's the principle! Being prepared in case something does happen." His voice defensively went up an octave.

"I don't know if you noticed, but our bomb shelter isn't exactly stocked… or built, even."

Nate stood up. "I'll tell you what. Tomorrow morning, I'll call… what was his name? The guy we met at the hospital. He gave us his business card. Scott something." He walked over to the stove, and brought down two plates from the cabinet. "I'll give him a call. His guys will go to work right away building one of their shelters." He loaded a plate with their breakfast, and handed it to Nora. "Then we can stock it with as much food as we like. Hell, come to think of it, they have powdered eggs, right? Freeze dried bacon?" He made a plate for himself. "We'll be fine."

Nora raised her hand. "Why are you talking about this like it's already decided?"

"Don't you want a bomb shelter? We have the money."

"No. I just wanted a glass of milk, and you turned it into a conversation about atomic war." Nora was getting frustrated.


"God, don't you have any hope?"

"Don't be dramatic." Nate scolded.

"I'm sick of hearing you talk about things in the past tense. We have a son, Nate."

"You think I've forgotten that?!" His anger seemed to turn to sadness. He sighed. "I'm sorry, honey. I'm thinking of- when you hear the speech tonight, you'll understand where I'm coming from."

Nora looked down. "I'm sorry too. You know I'm just scared." She said. There was a long silence as they sat at the counter. "Are things really that bad?" Nora finally asked.

"No." Nate replied without thinking. "Or… I don't know."

"That salesman from Vault-Tec keeps showing up at the door, and I turn him away. Should we… think about that?"

"Come on, we don't have the money for that. Backyard bunker is cheaper." He said. Nora stared down at her food, which was getting cold. "Look at me." Nate said. She did. "We are going to be alright. No matter what. Okay?"

"Okay." Nora said quietly.

OCTOBER 23, 2077. 11:43 A.M. "Nate!" Nora called from the living room. The sound echoed into the bathroom, where Nate was styling his hair. I just have to strike a balance between 'formal' and 'military', he thought. Nate was desperate to impress the veterans at Concord tonight. Or at the very least, not earn their scorn.

"No, that won't do…" He muttered to himself.

"Nate!" Nora yelled again. He noticed it this time.

"Coming!" Nate called back. Screw it. He tousled his hair into his normal style. Nora was still in the living room, loading Shaun into his stroller.

"Honey, do you remember where we put the coats and stuff? They're not in the closet here." She asked.

"Oh, yeah." Nate wheeled around. "They're in the bedroom, I'll go get them." They were heading to the park, now that it was a little warmer outside. Nate returned to the living room a few moments later with two coats, two pairs of gloves, and a scarf for Nora. Shaun already had his warm clothes. "You ready to go?" Nate asked when they were all dressed up.

"Yeah." She began pushing the stroller out the door.

Nate turned back into the doorway. "Codsworth! Don't burn down the house while we're gone." He called, jokingly.

Codsworth chuckled back in the kitchen. "Yes sir. To be sure!" He said, before Nate shut the door.

Nora had already brought the stroller to the sidewalk. "Here - I've got it, honey." Nate took control of the stroller. "I know how your hands get cold."

Nora chuckled. "Oh, what a gentleman!" She said playfully. "Thanks." She put her gloved hands in her jacket pockets.

Nate didn't mind the cold of Boston. Compared to Alaska, this might as well be Hawaii. It was a clear day outside. Only a few wispy clouds on the edge of the horizon. Barely a breeze to rustle the leaves (He was sure Nora was thankful for that). There was a path leading into the woods next to the Richardson house, with a construction barrier blocking it. Nate could spy the top of a tractor on the hill, past the chain link fence. "Wonder what they're building up there." Nate said.

"Donna said she sees people heading in and out of the woods almost every night. Whatever it is, it must be big. Abby Rosa bets it's a dedicated power station for the neighborhood, so we don't get blackouts." Nora gossiped.

"That'd be nice" Nate replied. They passed a mailman on the sidewalk, who gave them a disarming smile. Some kids were playing in the Sumner's yard. Nate had always loved this neighborhood. The serene, family oriented feel of it beat the hell out of living in the city. Especially these days, with riots every month.

Nora grumbled as they approached the old bridge to the south. "When are they gonna replace this bridge?" She asked rhetorically. "Every time I drive the car across it, I feel like it's gonna collapse."

They finally arrived at the park a little after noon. It was pretty far from Sanctuary Hills, but the walk there was easy thanks to the clear skies. "Here's hoping this weather holds up until Halloween." Nate said.

"Yeah. Good baseball weather, too."

"Oh, shit. The World Series! I can't believe I forgot about that." Nate sighed. "God, I would kill for tickets."

Nora chuckled. "You probably would have to kill someone, just to be able to cram yourself into that stadium."

"When's it come on TV?"

"I think One. We'll be able to catch part of the game before we head to Concord at Five."

"You think the Sox are gonna win?" Nate asked.

"You tell me. They're your team." Nora was never as big a baseball fan as Nate.

"I think they've got the biggest shot of our lifetime." Nate looked to the South. Boston was actually visible in the distance. When he squinted, Nate could just make out Fenway Park.

After a few circuits around the park, Shaun fell asleep in his stroller again. Nate and Nora sat down at a nearby table. Nora pulled a thermos out of her bag, and began sipping on something. "Want some?" She asked, in between sips.

"What is it?"

"Hot cocoa. Codsworth won't make it as hot as I like, so I had to heat it on the stove."

"Alright." Nate took the thermos. The steam whipped around in the breeze. He took a sip.

Nora cleared her throat. "There's also a… small amount of whiskey in there, too. Just for some extra warmth."

Nate coughed and laughed as the whiskey burned his throat. "God, you really can't handle the cold, can you?" He croaked out.

Nora burst out laughing. "No, I really can't!" The park was big and nearly empty, so they were both able to laugh without feeling self-conscious. Shaun shifted in his stroller, but his eyes remained closed. The scene brought Nate's thoughts back to his speech. He watched Nora's smile, as he handed the thermos back to her. She doesn't even realize it's all for her. He was eager to impress the vets, yes, but the real reason he accepted the invitation to Concord was for Nora's sake. If he was being honest, the state of the world today frightened him. Ever since Anchorage was liberated, it was like the world was holding its breath. What would China do next? The reds pressing the button was a very real possibility at this point. Nate wanted to impress that upon her in a way that didn't seem confrontational or alarmist. He felt like he would accomplish that today, and he was glad. But he was more glad for the opportunity to spend a happy, peaceful day with his family. The truth is… I live for days like this.

OCTOBER 23, 2077. 9:18 P.M. The drive back from Concord was short. The road was dark and empty. As they tumbled over the wooden bridge leading back home, Nora tried to think of something to say.

Nate broke the silence first. He chuckled to himself, and said "I can't- I can't tell you how relieved I was when the other vets started clapping. I was terrified the only reaction I was gonna get was mortified silence."

"Are you kidding? Your speech was the highlight of the evening." Nora replied. War never changes. If that's not the truth… "You told people what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. That takes guts." She continued. He smiled at her as they pulled into the driveway.

"So… you liked it?" Nate asked tentatively.

They both climbed out of the car. "I think it was exactly how you described it: blunt, but hopeful."

"Good." Nate said, sounding relieved. Nora could tell the speech was important to him. The way he shut himself away for hours at a time, writing it. They entered the house through the side door in the kitchen. Codsworth stood ready to greet them. "Truth is, I'm kind of relieved. I had it bottled up for so long, it was becoming a burden."

Codsworth took Nate's hat and coat. "Well, I'm proud of you." Nora said. She handed Codsworth her coat, and he floated to the closet by the front door. Then she slumped into a stool at the counter. Nora was exhausted - today had been an eventful day. Across from her, Nate picked up the newspaper on the counter. His daily ritual of scouring international news had been interrupted today. Every morning for the past six months, he'd check on the progress of the "War". As if it's going anywhere. She studied his face. Handsome, rugged, weathered features. His heavy eyes glazed over the morning's newspaper. "Hm, more of the same…" He muttered. "Even after Anchorage…"

Nora perked up. "You didn't really think that would solve everything, did you?"

"I expected something to happen. Anything- I just thought things would change. I'm starting to think we might just be stuck in this status quo." Nate said, frustratedly.

Nora frowned. "This isn't the status quo. And I do think Anchorage changed things. It'll just take time for things to feel normal again." Nora hadn't met Nate before he became a soldier, but she understood his experiences in Alaska drastically changed his worldview. It was what caused him to become so concerned with the state of the world. That was one of the things Nora admired about him. He genuinely cared. He wanted to change things.

Nate sighed, then chuckled. "You know, I'm not really sure I can remember what 'normal' feels like. Can you? I mean, even since we were kids... it's like people are losing their minds." He set the newspaper on the counter.

In a way, she knew he was right. The Resource Wars began when they both were barely older than Shaun, and hadn't let up since. It started out as skirmishes between poor countries fighting over oil fields. Then it spread to Europe… then Anchorage. Is it getting closer to us? No. No, she couldn't think like that, not with Shaun. Mother has to be optimistic. She has to believe that her children will grow up in a better world than she did.

"Honey?" Nate asked, a thousand miles away.

Nora noticed she was staring at the floor. She looked up, and smiled at her husband. "It's gonna be okay. Us, the world, everything. In ten years, no one will even care about oil. Shaun's gonna grow up driving... an electric car." She smiled, and put her arms over his shoulders. "Driving across shiny streets and glowing towns, in a world where no one worries about China, or food rations, or energy riots."

Nate smiled back. "Yeah. Shaun... and all his brothers and sisters." They didn't buy that station wagon for nothing. He kissed her. For a moment, nothing else mattered but Nate and Nora. She treasured those moments.

Then, the doorbell rang. The world came knocking. Nate groaned. "Who's at the door at this time of night?"

Nora laughed. "Do you think they would talk to Codsworth?" Then she glanced out the window. The blue Vault-Tec van sat in front of their driveway. "Oh, god, it's that salesman again."

"The Vault-Tec guy? Damn, he's persistent. Well, I guess you're up. He always asks for you."

Nora sauntered toward the door. Nate was in the army, not me. Moron. She would have to turn him away again. They simply didn't have the money for entrance into a Vault. The door cracked open, and there stood the salesman. Ginger hair, sweaty face, even at 52 degrees.

"Good evening!" He chirped. "Vault-Tec calling!" Clearly a rehearsed greeting.

"'Evening' is pushing it, but... hello. Can I help you?" She tried to seem rushed, not even opening the door all the way.

"Actually, I think I can help you. If you haven't noticed, ma'am, this country has gone to heck in a handbasket." Fucking commie. Or maybe just someone trying to sell something. Either way, she had to resist the urge to knock him on his ass. "If you'll pardon my language. The 'Big Kaboom' is... it's inevitable, I'm afraid. And coming sooner than you may think. If you catch my meaning." Hell of a sales pitch. Was he listening to us talk? "Now, I know you're a busy woman, so I won't take up much of your time. Time being a, um, a precious commodity..." He was sweating even more now. "I'm here tonight, to tell you that because of your family's service to our country, you have been preselected for entrance into the local Vault! Vault 111."

"Wait. Preselected for entrance? What does that mean?" Nora asked.

That seemed to throw him off. "Oh. Uh, well, simple. It's just a fancy way of saying you get in for free, ma'am."

"Really? So you're saying because my husband was in the army, we get spaces reserved in a Vault without paying a dime?" Nora was incredulous. Vaults were state of the art underground shelters. Not cheap, like a homemade bunker or a Series 1000 shelter. Atomic war, viral plague, meteor impact, you name it. They could all be ridden out in a Vault. According to the commercials, anyway. She recalled the little cartoon mascot, waving at the screen, safely tucked away under a mountain.

"Yes, that's exactly right."

"Honey, did you hear that?" Nora called back at Nate, who had the TV on. She finally opened the door wider.

Nate came to the door. "Hm?"

"He says we can get into a Vault for free."

"Are you serious? How? Or- why?"

"He said it's because you were in the army."

"Well, guess that was worth something after all." Nate joked.

The salesman gave a genuine-sounding chuckle. "Yes sir. fact, you're already cleared for entrance. It's just a matter of verifying some information." The salesman continued. "Don't want there to be any holdups, in the unforeseen event of uh, 'total atomic annihilation'. He gave a nervous laugh. Just like the commercials. "Won't take but a moment." He finished.

"Sure. Let's do it." Nora said. I can't believe how lucky we got.

"Splendid, splendid! Let's see here..." He handed her the form and a pen. She scrawled her name at the top. Below, there were a series of questions, like an aptitude test. A little blurb on the side read "Tell us about yourself! Vault-Tec needs to know what kind of citizen you are to ensure your future happiness." The questionnaire was short, only seven questions. She handed the clipboard back to the salesman. "Wonderful! That's everything. Just gonna walk this over to the Vault. Congratulations on being prepared for the future!" Before she could respond, he was off. What about Nate's form...?

"Uh... thanks again." She said, far too late. She shut the door, and turned around to see Nate giving her a huge grin.

"Do you have any idea how much money we just saved?" He asked.

"A shitload?"

Nate burst out laughing. "Probably even more than that."

"Does that mean we can keep making out?"

"Fuck yeah it does." He grabbed the remote and turned up the volume on the TV, and they went at it.

Before it got too steamy, Nora opened her eyes. "I just realized something."

Nate didn't stop. "What?"

"That construction project on the hill. I bet it's the Vault."

Now he stopped. "Holy shit. That's gotta be it."

Down the hall, Codsworth emerged from the nursery. "Miss Nora," He called. "Shaun has been changed, but he absolutely refuses to calm down. I think he needs some of that 'maternal affection' you seem to be so good at."

Nate sighed. "We just can't catch a break, can we?"

Nora laughed. "I guess not."

"I'll be there in a second to help." Nate said. I guess a boy needs his mom.

The nursery was brightly lit. It was well past Shaun's bedtime. He laid in the crib, swaddled but still wailing. When Nora dangled her hand over him, he stopped, his curiosity getting the better of him. He took his mother's finger in his hand, giggling.

"My boy isn't giving his mother any trouble, is he?" As promised, Nate was in the doorway, leaning on the door with one arm. Handsome as ever. "Hey, I fixed that mobile on his crib the other day. Why don't you give it a spin?" Shaun giggled some more as the little rockets spun above him. Nate paced over to the crib. "That's my boy. On his best behavior, just like his dad. Well, most of the time, anyway…" Nora couldn't help but chuckle. The men in my life.

Nora could faintly hear the news anchor droning in the living room. It had been a long day, longer than Nora was used to. Soon, they would shut the TV off and go to sleep. "So… tomorrow is Halloween prep. Decorations, candy, and mostly importantly, Shaun's costume." Nora said. After some bickering, they decided that Shaun would be a little red devil this year. "I made a list of supplies to get. We'll make a craft project out of it." Nora smiled at Nate.

"No arguments from me. I just can't wait to carve pumpkins, though. I-"

Suddenly, Codsworth cut him off. "Sir! Mum! You should come and see this!" He shouted. Yes, shouted. Codsworth had never shouted in the 13 months they had him. Her blood ran cold. It was an instinctual, primal reaction that filled her with dread.

"Codsworth? What's wrong?" Nate shouted back. He could feel it too. She saw it in his face. They exchanged a look, and Nate lifted Shaun in his arms. Together, they walked to the living room. Codsworth was parked in front of the TV. The news was still on. Her stomach continued to fall.

The usual newscaster was huddled up in his chair, staring down at a piece of paper. His voice piped up, tense and shaky. "Followed by... yes, followed by flashes. Blinding flashes. Sounds of explosions... We're... we're trying to get confirmation…" He paused. Nora's head was spinning. He didn't have to say it. No. "But we seem to have lost contact with our affiliate stations." No, no, no!

"What? What did he say?" Nate's eyes widened as the realization set in. "Oh no." He whispered. Nora looked down at her son, swaddled in his father's arms. Not now.

"We do have coming in... that's confirmed reports, I repeat, confirmed reports of nuclear detonations in New York and... Pennsylvania." The newscaster choked out. Nora was frozen. She just gazed blankly at the TV. "My god…" The man laid his head in his hand, and the broadcast cut out.

Nora finally snapped to. She realized she had been holding her breath since Codsworth shouted. She exhaled, and her wits came back. "The Vault." She blurted out. We can make it. "The Vault! We have to get to the Vault! Now!"

"I've got Shaun! Let's go!" Nate was of two minds now. Soldier and father. Nora dashed to the front door and ripped it open. She was ready to head for the hill when she noticed Codsworth, still floating in front of the television. They would have to leave him behind. She felt terrible about it.

"Codsworth, just... try to find somewhere to hide, okay?" It was hardly good advice, but Codsworth had a real chance of making it if he survived the blast.

"Don't worry about me, mum! Just get Shaun to safety!" She tried to tell herself that Codsworth was just a robot, that he was never even alive.

"Good luck." Nora finally said. With that, they were off. A strange helicopter-like vehicle flew over the neighborhood, shining a spotlight down on the houses. The bomb sirens began blaring. It was chaos outside. They must have been the last ones out. Their terrified neighbors filled the street, packing suitcases, boarding up their houses, or just plain running for their lives.

"RESIDENTS OF SANCTUARY HILLS. IF YOU ARE REGISTERED, EVACUATE TO VAULT 111 IMMEDIATELY." An authoritative voice blasted over a loudspeaker. Down the street, Nora could see soldiers and military vehicles parked in the road. Nate and Nora made their mad dash to the construction site. The Vault-Tec van was still parked in front of their house. Across from them, the Jahanis were huddled together by the sidewalk. Oh god, they're not registered. They don't have anywhere to go. They just held each other, seemingly in one final embrace. Nora felt sick. Down the road, the older couple were frantically loading up their car. The woman was in a robe. They must have been sleeping.

"We'll drive to the coast! That's gotta be far enough!" The man shouted.

"What if it isn't?!" His wife shrieked back. Godspeed, you two.

They were almost at the forest path now. The sirens continued to wail overhead. Lacey and Donna Richardson were also out on the sidewalk. "The nukes are coming! Those Communist bastards!" Donna screamed. She sounded on the verge of tears. You have to at least try, Nora thought. She tried to steel herself. Nate and Shaun were the only people she could focus on now. Her family.

At the path leading into the forest, there was a soldier, directing people up the hill. "Vault participants! This way!" He shouted above the sirens. Nate went first. Nora trailed behind as they scaled the hill leading to the Vault. She noticed Abby and Gabriel Rosa on the path. In fact, there was a surprising amount of people there. How many people will we be sharing this place with?

"Hold on, little guy! Hold on…" Nate said as they crossed the creek bridge. Then, Nora saw it. The crowd of people gathered by the gate at the top of the hill. Frantic, half dressed, shouting over each other. Above them stood the large billboard, with all the calm, happy people filing into the Vault single file, as mushroom clouds soared up just behind them.

"That's absurd! I AM Vault-Tec!" A familiar voice rose up. The salesman was at the gate, arguing with a soldier holding a clipboard.

"You're not on the list. You don't get in." The soldier growled.

"I'm going in. You can't stop me." He tried to push past the soldier, but the other men in power armor spooled up their miniguns. Christ. These people mean business. The salesman threw his arms up in surrender. "Whoa! Oh- oh- okay! Okay!" He turned around and sprinted off back to the neighborhood. "I'm reporting this!" He yelled as he ran.

One of the soldiers in power armor stepped forward. "If you're in the program, step forward, otherwise, RETURN HOME!" He boomed. Not many people left. They had nothing to lose by staying.

Nora pushed through the crowd of people to meet the soldier with the clipboard. Nate was just behind her. "We need to get in!" She said, as commanding as possible. "We're on the list. Nora and Nate Winters."

The soldier peered at his clipboard. "Winters… infant. Adult male. Adult female. Okay, go ahead." He stepped aside to let them through.

"Thank you!" Nate breathed.

"Good luck, sir. And God help us all." The soldier said grimly.

A Vault-Tec security guard approached them as they crossed the final stretch to the Vault. "You two, with me! Come on!" He waved them on.

"What's gonna happen to all those people outside the gate?" Nate asked him. Even now, he's still concerned. Nora couldn't help but feel pity for them as well, even as she tried to block it.

"We're doing everything we can, now keep moving!" The guard assured them. Which is to say, nothing at all. The top of the hill was strewn with construction equipment, trailers, a few cars. On the opposite side of the clearing, another of those strange vehicles landed on the ground. Nora wondered how they would enter the Vault. The commercials showed the Vault door just sticking out of the side of a mountain. But that couldn't be how it really was. As they reached the peak of the hill, She noticed a group of civilians standing on a big blue hatch. Then it hit her. An elevator. They would take an elevator underground. "Step on the platform! In the center!" The guard shouted as he headed into a control station by the elevator. Nate and Nora joined the others in the center. Nora recognized a few of them. Mr. and Mrs. Able. Mr. Russell, the bachelor. There were eight of them in total. Eight survivors. There has to be more people already in the Vault. There couldn't just be eight of them…

"Alright! Send it down!" Another guard shouted. Finally.

"Almost there! Is Shaun okay?" Nora asked one last time.

"He's fine. We're gonna be okay. I love you." The trees behind him lit on fire. Nora shut her eyes just before the blinding flash turned night into day. It didn't take long for the sound to reach them, startling Nora into opening her eyes. "Oh my god!" Nate shouted. Behind him, the fireball bloomed upward, somewhere west of Boston. The clouds parted around it. As the blast wave steadily rushed toward them, Nora didn't feel anything. Not fear, not shock, not anger. She was entranced by the destruction. The world was orange and yellow. Then she noticed Nate, trying to shield Shaun from the heat.

"Hold on!" Nora tried to yell over the sound of the blast.

"NOW! NOW! SEND IT DOWN NOW!" Someone cried behind her. The elevator began descending. The blastwave flew toward them, eager to kill.

"Can't this thing move any faster?" One of the men Nora didn't recognize shouted. The wall of death was almost upon them.

"Oh god! Oh god oh god oh god!" A woman wailed. Just as their heads went below the surface, the blastwave swept above them. They all instinctively ducked. As they descended down the dark shaft, Nora took one last look up. A storm of fire and dust raged just overhead. No one could survive that. So they were it, then. The last people to be saved. Nora felt like she was floating in the darkness. As the elevator sealed itself from the surface, she wondered if she would ever return. She wondered if there would be anything to return to.