One Second Chance

Disclaimer: I do not own the any of the intellectual property in the Fallout: New Vegas video game, and make no claims on the characters, locations, situations, etc. that are presented therein. I do not profit from the writing and posting of this fan fiction.

A/N: Wow, well over a year! Sorry guys. Updating was more than just sitting down and writing - I had to reread this fic and probably play some of the game again so I could figure out where I was at. But now I've reread and revised the previous chapters (tried to smooth out pacing here and there, or just add a little more description) and I'll try and get this going again.

Chapter Six - Fiery Pits of My Skull

The Courier kicked off her shoes and flopped right into her bed, then immediately regretted the latter action as pain tore through her body and particularly her head. She cursed for a good ten seconds, her volume rising and rising, until she was cut off by an enraged banging on her wall.

"Shut the fuck up!" came a voice from one room over.

"Go eat a turd!" she squeaked, more startled by the concept of having neighbors than anything. She felt a sense of longing pass through her - was this something that had been important to her? Settling down, having a place that was all her own, that sort of stuff? Well then, she was shit out of luck, wasn't she? She sure as hell wasn't going to settle down when the Republic was on the brink of war.

She closed her eyes and breathed out slowly, her mind clearing. It was so nice to just lie down. And despite the unruly mix of self-satisfaction and horror that battled beneath her skin every time she thought of Crawford's death, she was actually pretty happy with how things had gone down here. She the good guy. The Mrs. Fix-it of everybody's shitty lives.

But the best feeling of all? Getting Boone to join up with her. She thought she might've saved a life, or had at least given herself a chance to do just that. And she was very glad for the support - along with ED-E, they felt like a complete team now. Hey, maybe with a little time, she could become a force to be reckoned with. The Legion didn't really know about her existence, even though she definitely saw herself becoming their enemy eventually - assuming she survived long enough to do much of anything. And though some of the NCR troops looked on her favorably nowadays, most still thought of her as some dumbass civilian who was just itching to run off and get herself killed. All this meant she was more likely to be kept out of anything important - anything besides the sissy errand running and pest killing jobs that she'd mostly been getting.

It occurred to her that she was planning on doing something that that scary coyote-head guy had mentioned - becoming "worthy of attention" - and she shivered, literally feeling like the room's temperature had suddenly dropped thirty degrees. He had said something about becoming worthy of the Legion's attention. He had also mentioned meeting again under those circumstances.

I think I'll pass, she thought. Though she had to admit, that guy was especially...intriguing. It was like he was an alien, or a monster. Something inhuman, anyway. Boone was complex and confusing, sometimes surprising, but he was still perfectly human. To have a good talk with the legionary, to get inside his head, even just a little... It seemed like a rare opportunity.

Of course, it was entirely too dangerous - plain old fucking stupid, really - to go seeking that madman out. She didn't understand him, couldn't predict his reactions, so the next time, she might say the wrong thing and go bye-bye right then and there.

Bottom line - that particular legionary was probably the last person on earth she should ever trust.

Caesar's lead Frumentarius walked among his enemies without fear, as was expected of one in his position and vocation. It always brought him great satisfaction to see some pitiful NCR dogs wandering aimlessly in their ramshackle camp and waiting to die at the hands of the Legion. Of course, he had to be quite careful not to let his feelings show on his face. He may have been in military uniform, but his visage was not hidden - no one would ever recognize it, and he planned to keep it that way. He had to look as downtrodden as everyone else in Forlorn Hope or else one of these dimwitted meatbags might begin to wonder.

Today, he was here only to observe. He wanted, needed, to see firsthand how the loss of Camp Searchlight and especially the decimation of Nipton was affecting the NCR troops elsewhere. He had taken his time carefully depicting the future of every man, woman or child that stood against the Legion and its tenets. Nipton proved that it was not enough to merely remain neutral. Soon enough, all would obey Caesar. All would follow the Legion's ways.

Vulpes supposed the message might have been more clear if a Republic soldier had first come upon Nipton, not some woman who appeared to be confused about which side was which. However, he had no regrets. Regrets were a waste of time, and besides, the encounter had been more interesting than expected. The woman had been afraid, but she had not been a coward. She had been confused, but her mind had still been working - so unlike the usual array of squealing animals he saw when he came across civilians. And she hadn't instantly drawn herself up like some knight of justice upon seeing the carnage, as some 'brave' but still thoughtless NCR troopers were apt to do. If only she had been the correct gender, she might've made an excellent recruit, one fit to one day walk among the leaders of Caesar's army. That's assuming she could handle herself in a fight. If not, then...maybe she was already dead. The Mojave had many flavors of death for the weak and unworthy.

What the hell am I doing? the sniper wondered to himself, sitting at the edge of the bed and staring around at the room he had shared with his only love. He had to leave, he knew that much. For the sake of his sanity and his purpose. But with this...this girl? This stranger who had bitched him out for killing the mayor that sold her own citizens, who had tried to made him listen to Manny's useless bullshit, who looked at him with both pity and admiration? He hadn't known her for a day, and he'd already felt the urge to pop her one. More than one.

And yet... Yes, he'd do it. He'd leave with her. Because who else was going to come along? Who else, unaffiliated with either of the two armies, could endure the hazards of the Mojave and would also happen to stop by Novac? If he had to, he'd find someone else to travel with once he was on the road. For now, he'd stick with the one who had gotten him moving again. Whatever else she'd done, she'd found and delivered the one he'd wanted. She'd given him what he'd been searching for, waiting for, for so long.

They had a long day ahead. He settled down to sleep, expecting the usual - hours of lying awake, thinking about things he didn't want to think about, before finally passing out. To his surprise, he started drifting off almost immediately. That, too, he could thank the girl for.

When the Courier woke, it was well past noon and her whole body ached. That, she didn't care about. It was her exploding head that was really bothering her. Sitting up, she felt like she might barf and rather wished she would just pass out instead. She had to wait a minute before attempting the standing thing. That went marginally better, but goddamn, she felt like she was about to start bleeding out the ears.

"Whoa...," she gurgled miserably. She couldn't work like this. Hell, she couldn't sit here and do nothing like this. She wobbled over to her bag and grabbed a Med-X. Injecting herself with sweet, sweet chems, she carefully laid herself back down on her bed and put her arm over her face. The headache raged from all the movement, but began to settle down before long.

After about five minutes, she risked getting up. It was still quite an unpleasant experience, but she figured she'd get ready, go get Boone, and see if the chem did its trick by the time they got going. She didn't plan to lie in bed all day.

She washed up some, the cold water on her face and neck helping with the headache. Then, moving slowly, she donned her clothing and armor, pocketed stims and another Med-X, and armed herself. By the time she got out the door, ED-E's buzzing was barely reverberating through her head, and the sun only stabbed at her eyes a little.

.o End o.

I know, not much dialogue or action, but I liked getting everyone's viewpoint and status before starting back on the questing. I hope to update soon and get going on the REPCONN or Boulder City thing.