Arthur Maxson, Elder of the Eastern Branch of The Brotherhood of Steel, would never allow a Vault Dweller , of all people, to undermine his rule. He was not a man to be trifled with. Juliana, however, was not the kind of Vault Dweller he’d grown to know. From the moment Paladin Danse personally sponsored her, he knew she was a rogue variable. Danse, being a long time friend, caused him to give her a chance. It was a gamble he didn't know the odds of. He didn’t know immediately if he would regret it. It wasn’t as if he was expecting a completely subordinate wastelander to be standing in front of him, but he didn’t expect a pretty slip of a thing with such a sweet face. He was expecting at least one gnarly scar on her cheek but hers was smooth and blemish free. He imagined the Council would approve if he courted her simply for that reason. Close-minded, backwards thinking, old fools, thinking only of appearances and fertility. It was as if she was made of prewar porcelain.
Her short stature was oddly alluring compared to his burly self. The way her eyes were hidden behind shades made her stand out amongst the new recruits wearing Brotherhood uniforms. It took deliberate determination to not spend too long glancing at her during his speech. Once he finished his speech with a salute and dismissal, he ordered for Danse and herself to remain. Only then did he allow himself to size her up as they approached in tandem. There was an uncommon fullness to her figure. She clearly hadn’t lived with a food shortage in her Vault, as well endowed as he could tell despite her bulky armor that seemed too big for her. Danse had mentioned something about her being the only survivor of her Vault in his report that he had skimmed over, Arthur wrote off her full figure with the incident possibly being recent as the reason. The Council would think her hips are good for birthing, as if that's all a woman's purpose is. A woman is just as capable as a man for Steels sake. With a furrowed brow at his train of thought, he finally took his eyes off of her to address his Paladin, hoping his scowl would prevent any attention to his intrigue.
“Paladin, this is the new recruit you so highly commended in your report?” Hands clasped firmly behind his back, he made a point not to glance over to the recruit in question.
“Yes, Elder. I have field promoted her to Initiate after observing her good judgement and excellent aim extensively in the field. I believe she will be a fine addition to the Brotherhood. There is no doubt in my mind that Initiate Harding will be pivotal in our assault on the Institute. She has prewar information Quinlan would love to get his hands on as well as having good relationships with Diamond City and... Goodneighbor. Harding answered Squad Gladius’ call for help during a particularly heavy feral attack. I dare say that it is thanks to her that we survived. If not for her quick thinking and kindness, Scribe Haylen wouldn't have been able to fix the transmitter at the police station or discover what happened to Paladin Brandis and his team.” Danse spoke confidently, no hint of doubt in his voice. Arthur found such praise from Danse to be odd. Never before had the man spoken so highly of a civilian. Maxsons brows were raised before he narrowed his eyes as if to dissect the reason from his expressions, he watched as his closest friend gave nothing up.
“I have read your report, Paladin. No need to bolster our introduction with flattery. I will make my own judgements on her performance after a time.” It was then in the lull before Danse could reply that Maxsons brow twitched. He could feel the weight of her scrutiny on him so he turned to return it. Danses own brows were drawn into a frown as he hoped she wouldn't do something inappropriate like laugh or hurl an incriminating clause while in the Elder's presence.
“Is there something you wish to add, Initiate?” She pressed her lips into a flat line and her sculpted eyebrows drew down in what he assumed was a furrow. He couldn’t help but let his gaze linger on the full, rosey mouth of hers for a noticeable few seconds. Arthur wondered what those lips could do. Suddenly, she cleared her throat. She'd caught him staring like a fool. Damn those sunglasses. He let his signature scowl harden, the mail from the Council he received the night before was making him short tempered. It'd been another warning to get hitched and provide a suitable heir for the Maxson line, and of course a relatively suitable, attractive candidate appears before him the very next day.
“Paladin,” he began swiftly, “see to it that Initiate Harding is afforded proper Brotherhood attire along with her bunk and orientation of the ship.” Danse saluted as sharp as steel. “You're dismissed, Paladin. Initiate Harding will meet you in the mess hall shortly.” Her staying went unspoken, the slight pout of her resting lips returned to a line as she and the Paladin glanced at each other. Her sponsor lingered a little longer than necessary as if conflicted. Peculiar. A look of concern flashed briefly before the tin man left. Maxson didn't dare speak until the sound of heavy stomping grew faint. Turning to gaze out his magnificent viewport, he gestured for her to do the same.
“I care about them, you know. The people of the Commonwealth.” She was unaffected by his attempt at pathos, choosing to stare blatantly at him instead. He cleared his throat. “They’re facing an invisible villain, or rather, a very well hidden institution.” Maxson drew a sigh from her at that and took a deep breath to keep from sneering at her lack of feedback. “Paladin Danse is putting his reputation on the line by choosing to sponsor you. I advise you to at least act like a proper soldier instead of the wastelander you are, surely they taught you proper etiquette in your Vault.” Maxson could tell that riled her up. Good, she'll quickly show her true colors. “You may have gotten Paladin Danses seal of approval, but you have yet to earn mine. I simply accepted his request because it is such an uncharacteristic thing for him to do. Basically, an experiment of sorts. If you fail to meet my standards, then the person who you would not want to disappoint will be punished.” He whispered so that no one else could hear.
“He heaped praise upon praise for your abilities, but you're proving to be just another ignorant scavenger, aren't you?” The anger drained from what little he could see of her face in the span of a half of a second. It was a small, short lived victory to have nearly witnessed her explode in a flying rage so he could have physically released some of his tension by restraining her.
“Danse told me to hold my tongue, but seeing as to how you sent him out to tell me things I already knew and have heard before I don't see the point in prolonging this strenuous attempt at a good first impression.” She spoke softly and collected. He scowled harder, turning to make sure the idling soldiers standing guard weren't eavesdropping. Maxson glared especially hard on the ones who chose to linger until they left the relative area. He bristled, having not expected this outburst to come out so sweetly soft yet stern from the petite woman. “Yes, I may just look like another wastelander to you but as a leader so esteemed, I'd have thought you would know better than to judge a book by its cover.” The disapproval and spite in her hushed voice made him uneasy for the first time in a while. He began to strongly doubt approving of Danses sponsorship.
“Everyone else around might think you're the second coming of Christ, but to me you just look like a little boy playing dress up with an ego problem the size of this blimp.” He couldn't believe what he was hearing and that someone dared to speak to him so rudely. His nostrils flared and he opened his mouth to speak but she held up a hand and he found himself shutting up. “I'm not done yet, sir .” What-- Why am I not stopping her? She seemed to be on a roll. He felt like a scolded child.
“Initiate, rethink this--” Maxson drew to his full height and puffed out his chest only to be dwarfed merely by her own much smaller presence.
“Are you trying to intimidate me? Me? Have you not read Paladin Danses report or something, sir? I am older than you by a long shot so don't give me this childish hyper masculine display. I've met enough guys like you in my time to know exactly what you are doing.” It was all he could do to blink at her gall as she scoffed and laughed coldly at him. What does she assume I'm trying to do? “You're acting like a sheltered, uptight, virginal troglodyte.” Maxson blanched before going red in the face, both from embarrassment and rage. I am not some prehistoric barbarian... An unbidden reminder of his lack of prowess sunk into his mind before he could stop it. He huffed to banish the thought.
“I should have you thrown overboard for your blatant disrespect, Initiate. Seeing as to how Paladin Danse would be disgraced, I will refrain from doing so-- for now. This conversation is terminated and never happened, if you insist on your belligerence, you will be punished in turn-- and so will Paladin Danse.” For the first time, she let him continue. Arthur cleared his throat before continuing.
“I will not deny that I am treated well and with consideration, I am a Maxson after all and the last of my line. On another note, do not allow yourself to believe you're any different from the others aboard my ship because of who your sponsor is.” He garnered no response. After giving her ample time to pipe up, Maxson narrowed his eyes at her and continued.
“I look forward to your service and accomplishments on behalf of the Eastern Branch of The Brotherhood of Steel. Don't disappoint me.” Why did I tell her that? I've already made it clear. Ah, to hell with it. Scowling in offense, she crossed her arms.
“Did you just threaten me?”
“I don't remember ever saying I was threatening you. I was simply making you a promise. Now, report to Paladin Danse for further instruction.” He smirked scornfully before he could stop himself.
“And Initiate Harding, you will find my quarters are always available if you need me. Feel free to stop by for drinks, if you want to wet your whistle between missions after you've proven your loyalty. I'll try to pencil in some time for you if you haven't monumentally failed by then. Also, I would remove the sunglasses while aboard, it deviates from the dress code. A deviation from the code is a misdemeanor.” Maxson found some pleasure at the twitch of her lip and grounding of her jaw when he gestured to her sunglasses before saluting leisurely. “Ad Victorium.” He watched her go, staring appreciatively at her retreating figure before replaying their conversation in his head. How did she know I was a virgin?