The Mojave was like the beads of sweat making slow trails from the nape of her neck to the dimples of her lower back. It was everywhere, it was inescapable, it was a part of her inside and out. The sense of omnipresence it had in her life and soul went beyond her memory loss. With her past gone she would never be able to reconnect all the pieces, but she had a sense that the desert meant something to her before. There was no denying it meant something to her now. All her friends were there, her home at the Lucky 38, and her future. Everyone’s future. She hadn’t asked for power but she’d be damned if she would waste it. As she watched the sun set and the small campfire rise to take its place, she felt as sure as ever of her convictions and goals.
Six made a name for herself. Literally, by choosing Six to be her new and permanent name. But also figuratively. To begin with it was vengeance that fueled her, but she discovered herself to be a compassionate person. With no regret she let that kindness lead her all over the Mojave. Answers and revenge took the back burner. In the matter of only a handful of months she had become something of a guardian angel (an old cultural concept nobody entirely understood, but everyone somehow knew a little of) roaming the sands. Six was happy to help protect and maintain small communities however she could. This inevitably led to her earning her place in helping larger factions, like Freeside and the NCR. More places in the desert welcomed her than not. With a few exceptions. Six was also a name of terror and fury in certain mouths.
Boone was the first real friend she made outside of Goodsprings. While he seemed to go out of his way to be as impenetrable and miserable as possible, they bonded over a shared taste in whiskey and justice. Six didn’t have to have her memory to know that slavers and raiders deserved hot, fast bullets from her guns. They went out of their way to track down Legion and other violent groups who raped and murdered like there were no consequences. With his aim and her ferocity those assholes never stood a chance. As she picked up other companions along the way Six found that they were not the only two to share that sense of morality. So it came as no surprise to her that when the enemy tracked her down on the Strip, weapons were drawn and voices were raised.
It gave her a weird sense of pride, remembering how vehement they were in protecting her from any perceived threat. Her friends were her family, and they were as willing to fight for her as she was for them. Six smiled at the memory as she bit into a juicy hunk of roasted gecko meat. She was lucky their loyalty included standing down against their better judgement when she asked them to. Whatever happened, she had little choice but to scope out the situation and see this through. It’s as important to know enemies as it is friends.
“A denarius for your thoughts?”
Her travelling ‘companion’ pulled her out of her memories. Happier memories, better than present circumstances. He sat across the fire and waited for her to answer, as still and impermeable as stone. Same as he had been for days, except when he declared that he would be escorting her to Caesar and there would be no stopping him. Inculta had been a hell of a lot more animated when he demanded to know why she had ignored Caesar’s summon two months prior. But since then there had been few words exchanged between them. The trip felt eons longer with the tense yet lifeless truce between them.
She chewed on her thoughts and her dinner before asking him to share first. Why he was so interested in talking now, Six couldn’t pinpoint. But without a doubt it had something to do with the fact that Cottonwood Cove was a day away. She was familiar with its location because she and Boone slaughtered every last Legion soldier there.
At first the denial of an answer caused his curious stare to turn into a heated glare. But the sigh that followed sounded sincere. He dragged a dextrous looking hand down his face before settling on his stubble with a twinge of annoyance. The previous times she had seen him he had been entirely free of facial hair. She imagined the stubble was less a stylistic choice and more one of necessity. There had been an increase of NCR patrols out (thanks to her), delaying their arrival. Six was sure they wouldn’t know who he was or notice him with her there, but he didn’t want to take any risks. He rubbed along his jaw, the strong jawline that Six went out of her way not to notice, and then gave her his best approximation of sincerity.
“I am known for my many accomplishments,” Six rolled her eyes at that. “but in this I fear I am failing. Caesar told me to assess you and win you over.”
“If these past few days are representative of your charm skills, Spy Boy, then nobody has anything to fear from the Legion.” In normal conversation Six was almost always polite and friendly unless given a reason not to be. She had seen his handiwork more than once. He didn’t deserve any pleasantness from her.
“I assure you, this is not.” He scoffed at her, seemingly more irritated by the hit on his ego than the stubble. It piqued her curiosity more than anything else had in days past.
“So why aren’t you ‘wooing’ me?” She took the final bite remaining on the bone and then tossed it away. The flames cast shadows on Inculta’s face and it made her nervous about whatever was about to come next.
“I having been debating with myself and waiting for Mars to give me a sign.” He finished his own food and placed the bone on the ground behind him.
“So has your god told you anything, Inculta? Perhaps your conscience? If you have one.” She smiled then, never one to resist a well-earned insult.
“Just because your concept of morality and mine do not always agree does not mean I do not feel anything.”
“I’m pretty sure we don’t have any common moral ground.” For all the things she had forgotten and will forget in the future, the pure terror she felt when she came across Nipton and first met him would never leave her brain.
“We do. You kill those you believe use violence unnecessarily. I do the same. It’s just that our views on what is necessary differ. I also find certain practices of my fellow brothers distasteful.” He shrugged as though it were so obvious and simple.
“I thought you had a raging hard on for Caesar.”
“My loyalty to the cause and the son of Mars is unwavering. But I am not interested in forcing intercourse where it is unwanted.”
“You’re telling me that one of the leaders of the Mojave’s most notorious gang of misogynists is not a rapist?” Six found that hard to believe for a multitude of reasons. His moral compass seemed like a mess and he also didn’t strike her as the kind of person not to stick his dick somewhere when he wanted to. But her view of the latter was probably skewed after some conversations she had with Arcade about the more attractive folks they had met in their travels together.
“I only take the willing.” Six couldn’t tell if he sounded ashamed or offended. He was a tough nut to crack.
“A slave can’t give consent.”
Inculta wandered off somewhere out of sight and Six took that as the end of the conversation. When he returned after a few minutes she felt the intensity of his gaze still on her. Cleaning guns wasn’t an adequate distraction. It gave her confusing sensations. Warmth between her legs and a chill at the top of her spine all at once. Six tried to put the strange interaction out of her mind and instead focus on her next move towards making a better Mojave.
“Caesar did not ask me to rape you.”
“Wow. What a relief.” Her tone conveyed one thing but her dark brown eyes couldn’t disguise the shock she felt at his abrupt and creepy conversation opener. Six had removed her jacket earlier because it had been a particularly hot day, but she felt a strong urge to put it back on now.
“But he did imply that I should use any and every method to assure your loyalty. Or your submission.”
“Ah. Is this where that dilemma you’re having comes in?”
“Great.” Six nudged the sand around her boots to keep from squirming.
“Depending on my assessment when we arrive, Caesar could accept your loyalty. Provided some sort of evidence, of course.”
“Of course.” Six mocked his serious tone.
“Or he will demand punishment for ignoring his summons, and use that punishment to ensure your submission.”
“Goddammit Six. You could have listened to your friends and let them kill him in the streets, but nooooo, you just had to go alone into enemy fucking territory.” The only person she was mocking now was herself, without a trace of humour.
“From our brief interactions I knew your loyalty could not be bought with flirtatious touches or compliments to your intellect.” Yeah none of it would mean shit coming from you, Spy Boy. “And I don’t wish to see you…punished…for my failure.”
“That’s an oddly specific kind of honour you’ve got there.”
He scoffed and opened his second bottle of Nuka Cola for the night. Mr. Fox had a sweet tooth. His response sounded as tired of this whole situation as she felt. “High praise.”
“Why are you telling me this? Why do you care?”
“There is a way we can help one another out. I can ensure your safety, and you can help me gain position over any of Caesar’s other successors.”
Six thought about pointing one of her guns at him the moment she began to suspect where this was going. She could blow his head off and run as far away as possible from Legion territory. Or she could take a big risk and get inside information. The type of information that could help win a war with a somewhat smaller cost in lives. Well, the lives of the good guys. So she put the gun down and sat up straighter, crossing her arms over her chest. At the very least she could hear him out and then decide whether or not to kill him.
“Why would I want to help you do that?”
“The Legion is powerful and far reaching. Arizona is ours. So much territory beyond just the Mojave. Winning the dam would guarantee a swift and unchallengeable expansion. Losing it would not prevent us from building up strength elsewhere and striking again. We are as immortal as the gods.”
“Hm.” Six didn’t view it that way. When the Legion were defeated there, it was only a matter of time before their twisted empire began to crumble. It would be easy to take over their home territory and put it in more responsible hands. But he didn’t need to know what she was thinking.
“Whoever Caesar’s successor is controls the fate of the Legion. Certain practices could be banned, laws could be changed.” He raised a dark brow, pushing her to ask though she knew he was going to tell her anyways.
“Like what?” She hated to even pretend to consider his offer, but she could see the potential usefulness of having a different Caesar.
“There are certain things about the Legion that cannot change. But I would allow for the right aspects to evolve. In some circumstances perhaps slaves could earn a lower tiered citizenship. Some women could be allowed more options than priestess or slave. We could strengthen our armies by using some of the old world medicine. Rape as punishment or sport would no longer be tolerated.” For the first time since Nipton he seemed to allow genuine enthusiasm to colour his features.
What a paragon of progress. Nonetheless Six couldn’t deny the ways that installing him as the ruler could spare the wasteland some pain in the immediate future. Taking out Caesar before the inevitable battle at the Hoover Dam would change a lot for the better. “How do I know this isn’t all just some elaborate ruse to trick me into siding with you?”
“You don’t.” His grin was as wide as vicious as a wolf’s snarl. There’s the man I know and loathe.
“Why do you want to change anything?”
“Sustainability. If the Legion is never willing to bend in the wind, even our great empire will break on a strong enough gust.” It was a practical answer, not an empathetic one. That was something Six could believe. He was nothing if not a strategist, and so was she.
“So how do I factor into this?” Here it comes. Inculta left his side of the fire to sit closer to her. They had a clear view of one another as the sun dipped deeper beneath the sands. No shadows or flames to obstruct their view.
“None of Caesar’s potential successors have sons. No woman survives an encounter with Lanius long enough to produce him an heir. Lucius has not been able to conceive any despite his efforts.”
Six gave a solemn nod at that. The world was so irradiated that kids were rare. She met more than a few people who were struggling to start families. The difficulty people faced only seemed to make them more eager to try. It’s the main reason she didn’t give the King a second night, and had become wary of Boone when he was in a certain mood. People called her a black widow but she wasn’t the one trying to trap someone in her web.
He acknowledged her nod with the slightest shift of his features, and marched on. “I am very selective with my partners. Much more so than many others.” The implication was clear to Six. “Between slaves and the profligate women I must speak with in New Vegas, I have not found the right partner.”
“Are you really asking me to have your baby?!” This whole disaster of a mission was going far worse than Six had imagined. She leaned as far away as she could get from him on the worn down metal scrap that served as their seat.
“I am asking you to at least pretend to belong to me.”
“Belong to you? We’ve never had a real conversation and now you want…This is coming out of nowhere.”
“Is it really?”
Six didn’t want to try to match his stare anymore, or really dig in to whatever he meant by that.
“Okay. So let’s say I pretend to be your girlfriend-”
“-your girlfriend, what would that involve?”
“You would have to stop calling me Inculta and ‘Spy Boy’ at the very least.” He hit her with that smirk that she and Cass definitely never talked about after splitting a bottle of something.
“You drive a hard bargain.” Sass was her coping mechanism when she couldn’t be kind or violent. It was either sarcasm or one continuous scream.
“It is not unheard of for higher ranking men to seek out a woman from outside the Legion wife. I admit, the living conditions for slaves does not usually aid fertility.”
“Shocked. Just shocked.”
“Yes well, infertility through avoidable causes is something I will address.”
“So I just have to pretend to want to marry you and make mini spy boys until you’re in a position to take over?”
“More or less.”
“I’m going to need specifics.” More or less was a dangerously vague sentiment.
“I will not force you to marry me. After the battle at the dam and guarantee of my position, you will be free to do whatever you please. I would grant you more freedom than any woman has ever received under Legion rule.”
“But…?” Without a doubt there was a ‘but’ at the end of that.
“As I said before, Caesar will need proof.”
“How much proof are we talking?”
“You will need to sleep with me at least twice, and stay in my tent when you are at the Fort. You also cannot have sex with anyone else until this is all over. There are spies everywhere. For him to believe that I have claimed you, I will have to do so for the time being. And you will have to follow my lead without questioning me in front of anyone else.”
“You want to fuck me?” She couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice,
“Yes. Is that so hard to believe? You are not like anyone I have met before. You would give me powerful sons.”
“Okay back right up. You get, you fully understand, that this is just a business transaction.” A dirty, shameful, sexy kind of business transaction. But one nonetheless. “You can’t actually expect a real marriage or kids out of this. You can’t become obsessed with me, and you can’t expect me to develop feelings for you.”
She watched his jaw clench as she waited for his response. This couldn’t happen if there was the potential for it to get any more complicated. Technically this shouldn’t happen at all. But given the opportunity Six couldn’t deny the overwhelming desire she felt for him now. Even though they hadn’t had a chance to bathe in days and had sand places they didn’t want it.
“I can’t believe I’m fucking doing this.”
“I’ll set up one bed roll for the night. I put traps and mines up around the camp and we’re isolated enough that neither of us needs to take watch for the night.”
“You can still set up two bed rolls. Just because we’re…doesn’t mean I am actually going to sleep next to you.”
Without seeing his smile she could hear it in his voice. “You won’t want to be going anywhere when I am done with you.”