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Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Another day, another hangover…’ RJ MacCready thought to himself as he walked through the door to the Third Rail. 

“Good to see ya, MacCready.” Ham, the ghoul bouncer of the bar, said as he tipped his hat towards the merc.

RJ gave him a nod as he made his descent down the steps of the old metro station. He usually arrived around mid-day to early afternoon, he hardly ever was awake before then anyway due to his drinking pro- ‘No, not a problem… more like a hobby.’  He trudged along the floor of the establishment past the tables to his usual hub, but glanced behind his shoulder to Magnolia- she was the only thing decent about Goodneighbor. Besides Mayor Hancock, of course. He stood in the archway connecting his area to the main bar and glanced around. There were always drifters and drunks, ghouls and gamblers-the usual. But there was one patron who was out of the ordinary. They sat at the bar, right in front of Whitechapel Charlie and had their head faced towards Magnolia. He assumed it was a woman since there was a long ponytail of unkempt and curly brown hair, and they didn't have a super large stature- in fact, their feet hardly reached the floor of the relatively low barstool. They donned a brown leather jacket and some taupe cargo pants that were tucked into brown combat boots and had some sort of assault rife on their right side in almost a side-satchel sort of situation. But, most interestingly, there was a large german shepherd dog laid at their feet. The dog brought its head up as MacCready stared at it, and MacCready stared back, blinking. ‘Can that mutt read my mind?’ He thought, shaking his head.

Some time passed shortly afterwards as he sat on his couch in his back room-as he always did. This shtick was getting really old, but he needed to stick around. After all, he was in a very dangerous neighborhood in the Commonwealth and if there was anyone with just enough caps and just vicious enough to hire a mercenary for a quick job, this was the place they would be. Besides, it wasn't like he could go back to his old job. 

In a sickeningly ironic moment after he thought about those good-for-nothing Gunners, two of their douchiest bags walked in. ‘Jesus Christ..’ He thought as he took a swig of some mediocre beer out of a shanty metal tin. He eyed them menacingly as they approached him.

The pair- Winlock and Barnes- were some of his former colleagues, with a very heavy emphasis on the former- and they certainly weren't anyone he wanted to see anytime in his life. 

The one with the worse haircut, Winlock, crossed his arms as he looked around the room. It had a red glow due to the fluorescent lights and was poorly decorated. “Can’t say I’m surprised to find you in a dump like this, MacCready.”

He snorted. “I was wondering how long it would take your bloodhounds to track me down, Winlock.” He placed the tin on the wooden desk next to him. “It’s been almost three months…” He eyed them with a mischievous look in his eyes. “Don’t tell me you're getting rusty?” The pair just glared at him. “So…” he continued, “should we take this outside?”

“It ain’t like that.” Winlock replied instantly. “I’m just here to deliver a message.”

MacCready licked his lips in irritation and stood up. “In case you forgot, I left the Gunners for good.”

Winlock snorted. “Yeah, I heard.” He took a step closer towards the merc. “But you're still taking jobs in the Commonwealth. That isn't going to work for us.”

“I don’t take orders from you… not anymore.” He pointed at Barnes, still facing Winlock. “So why don't you take your girlfriend and walk out of here while you still can.”

Barnes snapped his head at his comrade. “What?! Winlock, tell me we don't have to listen to this shit…”

“Listen up, MacCready-“ Winlock said, a furious fire in his eyes, stepping merely inches away from his face. “The only reason we haven't filled your body full of bullets is that we don't want a war with Goodneighbor.” He gestured towards Barnes. “See, we respect other people’s boundaries… we know how to play the game. It’s something you never learned.”

MacCready smirked at him. “Glad to have disappointed you.”

Winlock chuckled. “You can play the tough guy all you want. But if we hear you’re still operating inside Gunner territory, all bets are off. You got that?”

RJ raised his eyebrows. “You finished?!”

“Yeah,” Winlock said, turning around and towards the exit. “We’re finished.”

It was only then when the pair got out of his personal space that he realized there was someone else in the room-it was the stranger he noticed, and her dog. She was leaning against the wall beside the entrance to MacCready’s little hub with her arms crossed, and she was staring right at him. Her piercing blue eyes were trained on him even as the Gunners brushed past her. “Get a haircut,” she spit at Winlock as he passed her.

He swiveled around, gawking at her. “‘Scuse me?!”

Unfazed and still staring at MacCready, she untucked one of her arms only to reveal a .44 pistol and nonchalantly poked it against his ribs. “Keep walking.”

Winlock huffed like a child, looked back at MacCready for some reason, then stomped forward, muttering “…isn’t worth it.”

The woman’s facial expression didn't move as she holstered the pistol at her hip, then crossed them once again. “What was that about?” She asked coolly. Her face was one he couldn't seem to read- her lips were ever so slightly downturned into a frown, but it looked a little forced. She had quite a few lip scratches, now that he noticed, and she had a few scars scattered over the left side of her face with one beginning on her hairline, across her nose, and almost to her jaw line. ‘Damn, what’d she do?!’ He stood where he was and looked down at the german shepherd, who was now sitting obediently next to the woman. “Forget it.”

She cocked her head and pursed her lips. “Why, do they make you nervous?”

He was taken aback by her boldness. “How bout you back off, or tell me what you want?”

“I heard you’re taking jobs.” She said cooly. “And I’m offering you one.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What for?”

She shook her head. “You’ll find out. I have caps, though, and can pay you upfront for your services ahead of time- and, if perform adequately, you’ll get 100 more every week.”

RJ snorted. “IF? Look, lady, I know my way around with a gun.” He looked her up and down. “But what about you? How do I know I won’t end up with a bullet in my back?”

The woman shrugged. “You don’t. That’s part of the risk right.”

He nodded. “Can’t argue with that.” He cleared his throat. “Well, price is 250 caps, if you’re paying upfront-” He was interrupted as a cloth bag flew towards him. He caught it, and as he did, he could hear the familiar and beautiful sound of Nuka-Cola bottle caps rustling around in the bag- and it was a big bag.

“I assume that’ll suffice?” She said, her husky voice asking him, a grin creeping on her expression.

MacCready grinned. “Yeah, that’ll do.”

She sauntered her way over to him, a smile on her face as she looked up to him- she was tiny. “Excellent.” She extended her hand. “Gemma. Gemma Slade”

He took her hand (which was much smaller than he had thought) and shook it. “That sounds made up, but hey, you're paying the bills now, right? RJ MacCready. All right, boss…” He said, the bag of caps being held delicately under his arm with his free hand, “You point, I’ll shoot.”

Gemma smirked. “That’s the plan.”

He returned his hand to his side and looked down at her. “So, where to?”

She had a wicked gleam in her eyes. “The Institute.”

The sack of caps nearly dropped to the floor as soon as she spoke. He blinked at her, wide-eyed. “Excuse me?!”

Gemma grinned. “Let’s go.” She turned around, the dog immediately following behind her. 

MacCready stared after her as she walked. ‘What in the goddamn have I gotten myself into?’