Author's Notes - First, let me take a moment to thank the lovely Ms. Shadow-Ocelot for beta'ing this chapter for me, and for giving me some awesome pointers. She's amazing, you guys. Go read her stuff. You will not be disappointed. And while we are on the subject of awesome people... Fortunesque is a great writer and bouncing ideas around with her has helped me tremendously. I heart you guys.
Enjoy the chapter, and please review! It makes me happy to know people actually like my work! /end fluffy rant
She wasn't like the other whore, shamelessly throwing herself at him. That one, he'd forgotten her name already. His peace offering from Mayor Joseph Steyn. Vulpes refused the other one, despite her adamant pleas. He had no use for one that was already broken, a lost cause.
It was impulsive, his fascination with her. Vulpes wouldn't deny that fact. His instincts, his ability to know and understand people before they even uttered a word to him, were always correct. Yet this one, she'd surprised him. Instead of being a dissolute whore under the guise of an innocent, she seemed to merely be a victim of poor circumstances. Forced to do things that she wanted no part of, it made him curious to know why she was even there in the first place. Everything in him, all the discipline and well thought out planning that had been instilled in his way of life, so quickly he forgot about it on a whim. This sweet little girl, so strong yet so weak... She needed him. The emotion that had taken him when she'd struck him, it wasn't the standard swell of anger most would expect. No, it was something that stirred within Vulpes even still, robbing him of sleep for the past two nights. A consuming, delirious pulsing that kept his body tense and dampened with sweat. A fervent sense of pride spattered against corded stomach muscles.
Vulpes loosened his tie and unbuttoned a few buttons on his shirt. His clothing stuck loosely to parts of his body and his tongue scratched roughly against the roof of his mouth. When had it become so hot in his room? He looked over to the window from his spot on the sofa and was thankful to see the waning sunlight. It would cool off a little within the next couple of hours or so. Maybe what he needed at the moment was a quick stroll. Perhaps that would clear his mind.
The air was slightly less stifling outside, thankfully. A weak breeze brushed against his face as he walked, cooling the perspiration sticking to his temples. Maybe he should go to Mayor Steyn. He needed to thank him for his thoughtful, albeit unwanted gift. It was only common courtesy.
To say that the mayor's office was an unpleasant place to be was an understatement. Vulpes could handle the stench of infected wounds, decomposing flesh and even burning corpses, but this he could not. The room's atmosphere was fitting for its inhabitant though, a sickening aura of stale cigarettes, cheap alcohol, sweat and sex clinging to every cracked wall and floorboard.
Steyn was a bit surprised at Vulpes's arrival, springing from the seat behind his desk. "Mr. Fox! To what do I owe the pleasure?" he said, waving his guest over to a seat closer to him. "Please, come and sit."
"Thank you," Vulpes replied as he sat down. "I simply wanted to come to you and apologize for any misunderstanding my coming here may have caused."
"That's not necessary," Steyn told him. His attention was drawn to the man's lower lip and the barely visible bruise that spanned about half of it. "Damn, she got you good, didn't she? I'm really sorry about that."
The memory came creeping back into his thoughts. "...Think nothing of it," Vulpes finally said, though it wasn't entirely clear whether he was speaking to Steyn or himself.
Mayor Steyn shifted in his seat. "That little bitch's more trouble than she's worth sometimes," he grumbled. "Doesn't have the common sense to lay down and spread her legs." He chuckled a bit under his breath, taking a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow before it trickled down into his eyes. "Still in the process of breakin' her in, you see. Gotta keep her hopped up on jet so she doesn't end up kicking the guy's ass sometimes... No offense, of course."
He'd figured as much, but actually hearing the words tumbling so carelessly from Steyn's mouth... The taint of addiction was a serious one to the Legion and one that Vulpes took especially seriously. The poison that flowed in her veins was a disease, a slow death. This man, no- This degenerate was guilty of raping her in more ways than one. All crimes will be punished accordingly; he repeated the words like a mantra in his head. "Of course," Vulpes repeated rather flatly. There was a small pause between the two. He'd faltered, letting the smallest amount of disgust lace into his voice, and Steyn had noticed.
"I-Uh... Look, Fox," he stuttered, fidgeting in his seat. "I don't want us gettin' off on the wrong foot or anything. I tried sending you Rosie to, y'know. Make amends. But she comes storming back in here saying you wanted nothing to do with her."
"The offer was appreciated, but not necessary," Vulpes told Steyn, taking great care in calming the strain in his words.
"You sure? She's a firecracker in the sack. Real open-minded. Flexible too." Steyn snorted, leaning back into his chair. "You wouldn't be disappointed with that one."
The Frumentarii leader, again, refused. "I'm afraid she just isn't my type," he said. Vulpes needed more of a challenge than what Rosie could provide. Rosie. Maybe he would remember her name this time.
Steyn shrugged. "Your loss, my friend. If gettin' smacked around is your thing, I'm in no position to judge," he laughed, lacing his hands behind his head as he lounged backward. "Hell, why don't you take Sylvia for another ride?" he joked, a wide grin stretching across his lips. "I bet she's fired up n' ready to go about now..." Steyn figured that Boxcars character wouldn't let him down. After all, they had a deal. A free go at Sylvia, and all the Powder Ganger had to do was rough her up a little. She needed to be taught her place, and that place was under Mayor Joseph Steyn's thumb.
That telltale crooked smirk was all the mayor needed to see to realize perhaps he'd said a bit too much.
"C'mon, Fox. You can't be serious," Steyn said, straightening his posture. "Now, don't think those marks all over her face went unnoticed. It's kinda hard to move damaged goods like that, y'know." He sighed at the man's unwavering expression. Maybe playing the role of concerned ol' Joseph wasn't what the situation called for. Besides, no one believed that shit for a second anyway. No, if Mr. Fox wanted another shot at Sylvia, he was going to have to pay for it. "I'm gonna have to pick up some antiseptic for that face of hers, don't want it scarring or anything. That stuff costs a pretty penny..."
Vulpes pulled a small pouch from his side and tossed it onto Steyn's desk. It fell open upon impact, and a few caps came rolling out. "Count it out, if you wish," he instructed the man.
Caps of all sorts tumbled out of the bag, even a few of those Sunset Sarsaparilla star caps. Those could go for quite a bit just by themselves. Steyn counted them up with meticulous care, going as far as separating them into their own different groups, because old habits die hard. He finally looked back up at Vulpes and narrowed his eyes in disbelief. "There's almost 350 caps here, Mr. Fox," he stated, trying his best to hide the grin curling the ends of his lips. Gotta love the rich, fucked up types.
"Is that enough to quell any concerns you may have?" Vulpes asked.
Steyn glanced down at the pile of caps once more before answering. "Sylvia's down in the trailers with some fuck named Boxcars. Go get her, and she's all yours."
As Vulpes stepped quietly through the court, he couldn't help but notice the activities going on within some of the ravaged trailers. They did little to provide any sort of shelter, much less privacy. The dissolute feeding their addictions, whether they be chemical or carnal. His attention was drawn to one trailer in particular as the flimsy screen door, or what was left of the door, flew open. A familiar face came scrambling out, a subtle glimmer of terror pinching her features. Sylvia stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of him, obviously confused by his presence in such a place. A sudden wave of shame overtook her upon his inspection of her disheveled appearance, prompting Sylvia to wrap her arms around herself in some weak attempt at decency. No, not like this. He wasn't meant to see her like this.
The look in her pale hazel eyes gave Vulpes a sick feeling deep inside. It made his chest ache and his stomach twist into knots. He'd felt this before, both before and after his life in the Legion's service began, this overwhelming sense of pity. He kept such emotions hidden as best he could. Caesar had no room for such mercy in his Legion.
A dark-skinned man exited shortly after, struggling with the button on his pants. He was an abhorrent excuse for a man, stomping and yelling like some sort of neanderthal. This must have been Boxcars. Vulpes noticed the belt he held in his hand. The Frumentarius didn't need to analyze the situation much further to understand what was going on. This subhuman was going to pay the consequences for touching, not to mention abusing, something Vulpes had already marked as his own.
"Where the fuck do ya think you're going, you little bitch?" the man growled, catching Sylvia by her hair as she struggled to escape him. He pulled her back roughly, and Sylvia tried her best to bite back a yelp of pain. Boxcars pressed his mouth against her ear and whispered obscene warnings involving that belt if she didn't settle down. Vulpes took an involuntary step toward them, catching the man's attention. "Mind your own business if you know what's good for ya, friend. This is between her and me," he warned him. A Powder Ganger making petty threats against a servant of the Legion? The man's ignorance was the only thing that kept his neck from being snapped right then and there.
Sylvia seized the opportunity the instant Boxcars had been distracted. She felt as if her scalp was on fire, freeing herself with one last painful tug. "Better luck next time, lover," she muttered as she hurried away from him. Vulpes seemed to be her only alternative. She approached him hesitantly, and not a moment too soon.
"Smart-mouthed cunt," Boxcars seethed, following Sylvia in strides. "Just don't know when to shut the fuck up, do ya?" He raised his belt high in the air, fully intending to let Sylvia have it right on the exposed skin of her back; she had it coming to her.
Vulpes stepped in front of Sylvia, much to her surprise, his eyes still on the belt in the man's hand. Give me cause, Profligate. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't a little disappointed when the Powder Ganger adopted a more passive stance, lowering his hand and taking a step back. "Is that really any way to speak to a lady?" Vulpes asked, smirking inwardly.
"And just who are you? Her daddy?" Boxcars asked, still keeping his distance. "Me n' her still got some things to settle..."
For a moment, Vulpes imagined what this man's head would look like on a pike, his terrified expression immortalized in his dead eyes for all his fellow wastrels to see. Or how he'd twitch and choke just so if his throat were slit. Perhaps he'd get the chance to see in the near future. Vulpes smiled. "Oh, this girl belongs to me for the night. Mr. Steyn informed me that your time was up," he explained. "So any settling you need to do with her will just have to wait until another day, I'm afraid."
Boxcars looked at Vulpes like he was crazy. Didn't he know who he was? He was a man not to be fucked with, that's who he was. "Look, man. I don't know who the hell you are, and I really don't fuckin' care," he spat, giving the esteemed Legion officer a rough shove. Vulpes didn't waver, and a spark of frustration flickered in the Powder Ganger's eyes. "I suggest you just go back where you came from before I get mad," he warned, grabbing him by the jacket collar.
"...And I suggest you remove your hands before I break all of your fingers," Vulpes replied, unblinking. "I will not extend you the courtesy of another warning."
It didn't take long for Boxcars to lose his nerve, seemingly helpless under the other man's sharp gaze. He let go finally, muttering obscenities under his breath while taking a couple steps away from the two. "Steyn made a deal with me," he complained.
Vulpes scowled at the man's remark as he straightened his collar. "Then take it up with him," he deadpanned.
"Oh, you better fuckin' believe it, I will! Some little faggot thinks he can just walk up n' steal my piece of ass, shit..." Boxcars grumbled, fuming. He wasn't even stringing together a rational sentence anymore. The Powder Ganger disappeared back into the trailer he'd come out of, slamming the door so hard that it was almost too much for the hinges to withstand.
He was no longer a concern to Vulpes. The man was just an ignorant, foul-mouthed coward. He turned to Sylvia and gently pushed her into the direction they needed to be going. "Come now, Sylvia," he told her as they walked. "Nothing more for you here."
Sylvia followed him silently until they were out of the trailer court, pausing after they'd made it past the gate. "...So, what exactly is going on here?" she finally asked.
Vulpes looked over to her once more, this time finally noticing just what kind of shape she was in. Her dress was torn open at the chest, leaving Sylvia struggling to keep it closed herself. Thick red marks spanned most of her neck, as if someone had been choking her. Similar welts were scattered along what was visible of her legs; Vulpes imagined that the majority of them lay hidden under what was left of her dress. "Exactly what I said to your... gentleman caller. I paid for your company tonight, so I came to collect you," he explained.
"I'm not going anywhere with you," Sylvia said, frowning. "Not until you tell me just what the hell you're doing."
"Do not make me drag you, my dear."
"Try me, Fox." She stood her ground, crossing her arms like a pouting child. "...Or Vulpes. Whatever the hell your name is."
Vulpes couldn't help but find her resolve entertaining. "I have missed our engaging conversations," he told her, smirking.
She glared at him suspiciously. "Sure you have," she mumbled.
"Whether you believe me or not is of no concern to me, " Vulpes chided. "And I was serious about dragging you."
Sylvia bit her bottom lip, lost for words for a moment. It was either go with this guy or spend some more quality time with Boxcars. "...Tch, whatever. Let's just go and get this over with, okay?"