Wise men wonder.

So erestorjunkie suffered from writers block, and in the light of this we decided to challenge each other with a 5 tunes, she pick 5 for me, and I pick 5 for her. We could write whatever the hell we wanted and however long we wanted. So here’s the second.

Fandom: Fallout NV

Warnings: none (T rated)

Tune: Breaking Benjamin – So Cold

When Vulpes woke he was confused, he remembered screams, pain, the smell of blood, the smell of freon from energy weapons – War. He blinked in the half-light, he clearly recalled dying. His hands felt like balloons and his legs felt detached, was this death? He licked his lips and found it a harder task than it should be. Turning his head slightly he could see white blobs walking about talking softly. He listened closely, and to his horror they spoke in common, he pulled his arm to get up and investigate. But to his surprise his movement was sluggish at best, and his hand was stuck, he rose his head as much as he could and saw he was tied to the bed. His mind raced. He was very much alive, he didn’t know how, but he was. And if he was tied down it meant that he was not amongst his own. Alright, he told himself. You have been in worse places than this, right? Keep your wits about and you might get out of here alive.

”Arcade!” A woman called, ”He’s awake!”

Vulpes steeled himself, glaring up into a slightly unfocused face of a man with a pair heavy-set glasses. ”How are you feeling?” the man asked.

Vulpes opened his mouth to answer but found his mouth was all cotton, and only a broken croak made it past his lips. ”Sister, go get some water.” Arcade barked at the woman who still stood behind him, glaring down at the infamous Vulpes Inculta. ”You can’t be serious, for all I care he can -”

Arcade turned towards the woman, ”No one asked for your opinion, I just gave you an order, get him some water.” He crossed his arms over his chest, ”Now please.”

”Of course doctor.” The woman answered, her voice dripped with venom, but none the less she left to get the water.

And Vulpes would have been hard pressed to name a time when water had tasted better. Arcade sat down on his bedside and asked again. ”How are you feeling?”

”Where am I?” Vulpes asked with caution, but he had to get as much information out of this man as he could.

”A field hospital at the Hoover dam.” Arcade answered, ”You are in the settlement of the followers of the Apocalypse.”

Vulpes closed his eyes. So a prisoner of war it was.

”There.. there is a handful of your men alive, some are imprisoned, but two are here.” He nodded to Vulpes left side.

Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was fatigue, but Vulpes let out a sad sigh. ”The Legion does not negotiate, so why do you keep us alive?”

”Vulpes.” Arcade said softly, making no attempt to hide the fact he was well aware who his patient was. ”There is no Legion anymore, they are all dead, and whose who live are either here or scattered.”

”Caesar? Surely..”

”He is dead.” Arcade said, ”What I know is that a man called Cato is in the prison cell, but I only know that because some of the other survivors knew who he was.”

”I see.” Vulpes said softly.

”We meet again.” The Courier said coming up behind Arcade.

”Yes.” Vulpes just said, annoyed that his vision was blurry and couldn’t quite make out her facial expression. But he could hear the glee in her voice.

”So Arcade, tell me again why you’re wasting valuable recourses on this shitstain and his companions?” The Courier said casually, never taking her eyes of the incapacitated man in the hospital bed. She made no mistake, she knew how dangerous he was.

”Because I took an oath as a doctor, I am saving lives which can be saved.” He didn’t even look at the Courier, ”I am not interested in your political games.”

”Oh please.” The Courier rolled her eyes, ”Don’t give me that bullshit, you do realize who your patient is right? The cruellest man the wasteland have seen to date. I am sure if you asked around everyone here would have a loved one, killed or enslaved by this – this.. man.”

Arcade frowned, ”So it was okay to hunt down old Enclave soldiers to do your dirty work. But you can’t give someone from the Legion the same courtesy?” He turned his head and looked at the Courier now. ”I am pretty sure that if you ask around camp, everyone’s lives here have been touched by the Enclave too.”

”You’re an asshole.” The courier hissed, but none the less eased up and shook hear head. ”You really are a sucker for lost causes, aren’t you?” She smiled and placed a friendly hand on Arcade’s shoulder. ”But who am I to take your twisted selfrighteous pet project from you.”

”Thank you.” Arcade said, his voice thick with sarcasm.

”Now excuse me, I have some political drama to attend to.” The Courier grinned and shook her head amused as she sauntered out of the tent.

Vulpes had not said a thing, but he wondered why Arcade would let a woman speak to him like that. Given that the Courier was an extraordinarily infuriating one. She just need to put into her place.

”Okay so.” Arcade said, picking up where they left. ”You hit your head bad. Really bad actually, enough to crack your helmet. I uhm.. I had to stitch a part of your face back together. Should heal alright if it’s given time.” He smiled a clean-cut doctor smile. ”The rest of your injuries are minor, broken bones, and some wounds, cuts and bruises.. I do congratulate myself on getting your face back together though, I think you took a direct hit from a laser weapon.”

Vulpes didn’t even answer, he just turned his head and closed his eyes. He didn’t care about his face being marred, or that the doctor had stitched him up. He didn’t even care why they had carried him back here. He assumed they did it to humiliate him, to deprive him of a soldier’s death. Most likely they would get him well enough to do some sort of tribunal, hold him accountable for the evil they felt he had done, and if he was lucky they’d shoot him on the spot, and if he was unlucky he got to live out his life in some prison cell. That would not happen, that he wowed to himself, he would take a cowards way out before that, he would rather end his own life, than rot in an NCR prison.

Arcade nodded to himself seeing that his patient was done talking. ”If you are in pain, just let me know.” He said softly, ”I’ll check in on you later.”

-#-

For the next two days Vulpes wouldn’t say a single word. Arcade asked him how he was, if he was in pain, if he was comfortable, if the stitches itched. But no answer. Arcade had to do something! He would sit at his desk and look over at the obstinate Legionaire in the bed, and really he couldn’t even call him that anymore since the army was gone, the fraction was gone. But he had to make them all see that underneath all that indoctrination of Caesar’s legion, there was people, and people who could do a lot of good things, have a normal life if they’d only let them. But he knew that for now, he had to pull all strings he had to keep them from being executed. Arcade knew, he knew what it meant being on the run just because you once believed in the losing team. Not so much him, but his mother, and his father’s friends. And even to this day, were he to let everyone know he was Enclave born, people would distrust him and look at him differently. Old wounds take a long time to heal. But it didn’t mean they wouldn’t heal! And he would be damned if he saw Vulpes and his men killed for simply being slaves to a man with a god complex. He could almost hear the Courier nag him for being soft, but so be it. He just had to get Vulpes talking, maybe something would still hold value to him?

Going out on a limb, the next day Arcade brought a young man who had suffered a complicated injury to his right side, causing him to lose his ear, and his arm had been so damaged that they had been forced to amputate to Vulpes bed. Arcade looked at the young man as he stood there, shuffling his feet, looking down at the gaunt looking Frumentarii. This kid couldn’t be more than 16 or 17, and if that didn’t make Vulpes react, Arcade just didn’t know what would.

”Hail.” The kid said softly.

Vulpes looked up at the kid, and his frown turned to a weird mix between anger and sadness. ”Hail.”

”Look at this kid, Vulpes.” Arcade said, when his patient didn’t seem to have more to say, ”Look at him!”

”I am.” Vulpes sneered back sourly. ”I should kill you for letting him live as a useless cripple.”

”Oh really?”

”Really.”

”Say kid.” Arcade said, addressing the young man, ”What’s your name.”

”Quintus Tullius.” The kid said.

”Alright Quintus, so are you ready to die? Have you accomplished what you wanted in life?”

”Yes.” Quintus said without blinking.

Vulpes just turned his gaze to look at Arcade with a ‘told you so’ glare.

Arcade smiled knowingly, ”Very well, Quintus is there really nothing you’d want to experience? Like seeing the lights of New Vegas? Maybe a woman?”

And to both their surprise, Quintus blushed weakly looking down at his feet, ”I wouldn’t mind taking a wife.” He squared his shoulders, ”But that is of no importance.”

”I see.” Arcade smirked, ”So you have never known the embrace of a woman.” He smiled, ”What if I told you that when you are all done here you are free to do just that?”

A weak smile tugged at the kids lips.

”I rest my case.” Arcade said, and placed a hand on Vulpes’ calf, ”Underneath the doctrine of the Legion, this kid just wanted a life, and a woman, are you the one to deny him that?”

”No.” Vulpes said, dragging out his answer to a question.

”I am telling you that the Legion is no more, there is no reason for you to stay true to a master which is dead. Or his teachings.” Arcade said, ”And if you do not believe me, I can take you to see his body.”

Vulpes looked suspicious, ”Why?”

”Because I want you to believe me.” Arcade said with a shrug.

-#-

And so it happened, Arcade along with the Courier and two NRC soldiers, took Quintus and Vulpes to see the dead body of their Caesar. The Courier had her gun aimed at Vulpes for the entire time. Arcade would have objected if he didn’t know that it was necessary, both for the Courier and the camp.

Arcade waited as the soldiers handcuffed Vulpes to his bed again, but this time only with his right hand. Quintus had been moved to the bed right next to him, he just sat there staring out into the air, as was he trying to process all this.

For a long time there was silence, and Arcade went about his business, eventually returning to his desk. ”Doc.” Vulpes said behind him, ”Could you get me a mirror?”

”A mirror?” Arcade asked stupidly.

”I’d like to see.” He poked his stitches in his face.

”Sure.” Arcade said as he picked up a piece of mirror from his desk and came over to Vulpes in the bed. ”Ready?”

Vulpes didn’t even grace him with an answer, he just looked at Arcade, he had already asked for the damn mirror, of course he was ready. Arcade shrugged and tilted the mirror so Vulpes could see his face. Vulpes said nothing, he just stared at his reflection, a long jagged scar that he could tell would never be really good, in a too skinny ashen face. Was this really him. In a second’s confusion he looked over at Quintus in the bed next to him, and then up at Arcade.

”It was bad, I’m sorry but this was the best I could do.” Arcade said. ”It’s a miracle that it didn’t hit your eye.”

Vulpes went back to studying the scar, and indeed it was a miracle that it didn’t take out his eye. ”I’ve had worse.” He said, when he really meant to say thank you. And even then he wasn’t sure what he’d thank the doctor for, nursing him back to getting a bullet between his eyes, it seemed pointless.

”Yeah.” Arcade said with a little snide huff, keeping from any crude remark that Vulpes would misunderstand, such as I saw your naked ass, I know you had worse. Truth was that the man was riddled with scars, any half of them looked like they had been lethal to anyone else. ”You’ll be back to your womanizing ways in no time.” Arcade said, settling for humor.

Vulpes actually smiled and huffed amused.

Arcade put the mirror away and got up from the bed. ”We’re packing up camp in the next days, going to travel back to New Vegas.” Vulpes just followed him with his eyes, as he walked about putting things away, talking. ”I am taking you and your men with me.”

”Why?” Vulpes asked, ”This makes no sense.”

”Maybe not to you.” Arcade said, ”But to me it does.” He turned around and looked at his patient, ”I want to give you a chance to redeem yourself.” He gestured at Quintus who slept in his cot. ”And Quintus too, don’t you think he deserves a second shot at a life?” Archade sighed, ”Look I know that most of you originally came from other minor tribes, but this also meant that most of you probably used to have a trade, or that you know about trades that you can perfect, and give back to the people of the wastelands, what you took away.”

Vulpes’ didn’t answer, but he did scratch his beginning beard with his free hand. ”Your father was Enclave, and your mother had to run and your fathers old unit chose to go with you and protect you untill you had to split because it got too dangerous.”

”You did your homework.”

Vulpes just shot Arcade an arrogant look. ”If you think I didn’t, then you forgot who I am.”

”True.” Arcade nodded, ”We’re both intelligent men, so I bet you know why I think you’re worthy of a second chance.”

”You want to poke around in my head?” Vulpes said flatly. ”Legion intel.”

”That would be nice, sure.” Arcade shrugged, ”But that’s not really it. My father was a good man, his unit are and were good people. But the wasteland hated them for the ideology they once believed in.”

”And you think that we are good men as well?”

”Yes, underneath all that which was dictated by Caesar.” Arcade said adjusting his glasses. ”I know that most of my father’s unit fought for the Enclave because they thought it was a way to do right, to give justice and order back to the wasteland. They were just soldiers fighting for a cause they thought was right.”

”You sound like you wish you could have joined them.”

”Hell no.” Archade grinned, ”But what I am saying is that they were all someone else before they joined, someone’s mother, sister, child, father, lover. And some did it because the Enclave promised three meals a day.” He studied Vulpes, ”What about you? Who were you before you became Vulpes? And did you really have a lot of choice in the matter? Did you become Vulpes because anything else meant death?” Archade shrugged again. ”Well you better get some rest, and I should help with packing the camp up.”

Vulpes was left alone with Quintus, staring off into the wall. He didn’t want to admit that what Arcade said made sense. And came to the conclusion that Arcade was either really brave or really naïve.

-#-

When they started their journey, Vulpes and Quintus was brought out to a waiting truck in the middle of the night. There stood five soldiers, Vulpes recognized every single one of them, but couldn’t really remember all their names. Cato was there. ”Hail.” Cato said as he saw Vulpes.

”Don’t-” Vulpes held up his hand to stop Cato.

Cato looked puzzled and Vulpes sighed, ”Caesar is dead. The Legion is dead.”

”The Legion is an ideal which -” Cato said with a proud expression.

”Tell me Cato,” Vulpes said leaning in, ”If you are still ready to give your life up for an ideal with no glory left, then you really are an idiot.”

”They got to you huh?” Cato snorted.

”Look, as you stand here before me you are not legionaires, you are just men, prisoners of the winning army. So do you wanna die clinging to that?” Vulpes stared at Cato, ”You know better than that Cato.” Vulpes stepped into the truck without another word.

-#-

”The last remains of the army would have to be scattered, it would not be that hard to track them down and start over in Caesar’s spirit.” Cato whispered to Vulpes in the dark truck as they drove across the Mojave.

Vulpes smiled, ”Do you think you have what it takes to unite them again?”

”I do.”

”It would be easy to make a distraction so you could slip away, I don’t think this caravan is guarded that well.” Vulpes said, ”But how far do you think you’d get in the desert. No weapons.”

”I think it’s a better bet than letting the NCR take us to whatever destination to execute us in a public display.” Cato said darkly.

”Maybe so.” Vulpes said.

The truck stopped, and two NCR soldiers came back to check what the commotion was about, only to find Vulpes and Cato at each other’s throats. ”Break it up!” One soldier called, but they didn’t, instead Vulpes kicked Cato out of the truck, and two men followed. But instead of following the three men who left the truck, Vulpes sat down in his seat again and let Cato and his two men take out the NCR soldiers before the ran off into the dark desert night. It would take a couple of minutes before anyone would realise that something was off, and a couple of minutes was all that Cato and his men needed to disappear.

-#-

The rest of the trip was uneventful and Vulpes had to admit he was happy to be out of the damn truck when they finally let him out.

”So.” Arcade said, ”I pursuaded them that you and Quintus are still my patients, so you come with me.” He gestured for them to step out. ”The rest is going to the NCR compound on the strip.” He smiled a little bloodless, ”Sorry?”

The remaining two men in the truck just hung their heads but said nothing.

Vulpes and Quintus followed Arcade who assigned them a cot in the mormon fort, Arcade knew that people weren’t happy about this, but he didn’t care.

-#-

One early morning Arcade woke with a startle, sensing something was off, he went straight to the Legionaires tent, he knew that people wouldn’t stoop below assassinations at night, understandably there was a bunch of animosity against those two being here. Arcade had felt like telling people that Caesar once had been a follower of the Apocalypse, himself. Before he stuck out on his own mission.

But he found Quintus sleeping sound, but no sign of Vulpes. He spun around and started to search. Had he really been wrong to think that he could get through to the man? But when he saw someone hunched over the herbs in the patch he felt incredibly silly. ”What are you doing out here?”

”You know.” Vulpes said, running his fingers over the leaves of a plant. ”These plants would grow twice as potent, at half the time if you would raise them up above the shadow.” He turned and looked at Arcade, ”These needs lots of sun, but some idiot planted them in shade.”

Arcade smiled and sat down on the low fence, just looking at Vulpes as he tended to the plants. In the end Vulpes sighed and turned around as well. ”I was Adrian.” He said, ”My mother was a midwife, and my brother and I would help her tend to her herbs.”

Arcade smiled again. ”How would you like it if I gave you the responsibility of our herbs?”

”I just don’t understand you.” Vulpes said sitting back on his heels. ”What makes you so dead set on proving that I am something else but one of Caesar’s trusted.”

”Maybe because I know that if we can make something good out of you, we can make something good out of anything – and that is really a comforting thought isn’t it?”

”Maybe.” Vulpes said.”Maybe I will repay your kindness by killing you in your sleep.”

”Maybe.” Arcade said with a carefree grin. ”Guess we’ll just have to see.”

 

-END

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