A small smirk, barely noticeable if you weren't very familiar with the wicked man, spread across the Frumentarius's face. Legionaries had tied up the women, lining them against the walls of the Mojave Outpost buildings. It was fairly quiet, most of their whimpers had given into defeat, which was certainly encouraged by the beatings inflicted upon them. The smirking man was pleased to see obedience so early in their capture. These will make great slaves, he thought.
It wasn't the easy capture or the effectiveness of the Legionaries' work that caused his smirk. Nor was it the breeze that brought sand to the eyes of the weak captives, helpless to wipe their itchy orbs clean as their bound hands jerked in response to the discomfort.
It was the sight of a particular woman, once brash and brazen, now slumped and sullen. Her hair, like fire, whipping in the wind. Her signature rattan hat was long gone, allowing the smirking man to see the softness of her cheeks, brushed in pink from the hot Mojave sun (or perhaps one too many whiskey shots). He admired her defiant scowl, pleased that she wasn't completely broken. He wanted the opportunity to do that himself.
The Legionaries had begun directing the captives away before the smirking man called for them to stop.
"This one," he said coolly. In an elegant raise of the hand he pointed to the pale angry specimen.
One of the younger legionaries brought her to him then swiftly returned to his fellows.
She dared to glare at the man, making his small smirk widen to a sick grin. Her blue bloodshot eyes only inspired amusement from him. She was silly to think herself threatening, while bound and hopeless. No more shotgun, no more Courier to save her this time. She was alone now, her life belonging to the Legion. No, not just the Legion. She now belonged to a noted Frumentarius, responsible for great justice across the Mojave.
"Do you remember me, dear Rose of Sharon Cassidy?" he asked, eyes piercing her core.
She responded with a snarl, giving no indication of either knowing the man or caring if she did.
"I am Vulpes Inculta."
He glided his calloused fingers along her cheek, pulling her chin up to better see her face.
"Well, let me just say that now, I am someone you will never forget."
Cass could not understand the shit she had gotten into. It was one thing to be captured by cocksucking slavers, but to be singled out by a man with a dog on his head? His name, Vulpes, was vaguely familiar. Something to do with that courier she had followed around. Her sides ached from punches she received. She had attempted to shoot the scrawny skirted soldiers as they came in, all high and mighty, but her shotgun was snatched from her back before she got the chance. She had been surrounded, along with the other bar patrons that afternoon.
"Anything I can help you find?" She was tied to a locker, sitting on the floor, staring mournfully at the smashed bottles of whiskey. All she heard were men shouting outside and Vulpes going through drawers and cabinets in the back of the bar.
"I'm sure there are some table scraps around if you're hungry. Maybe a bone or two you could chew on."
Vulpes liked her smart mouth. He found it funny that she wasn't quite aware of what was happening to her. That she was going to be his personal slave for working for that ridiculous courier. It wasn't enough to kill the thieving man that thought he could destroy Caesar's empire. Vulpes wanted to ruin his companions, too.
"Oh, I'm finding everything quite well, Miss Cassidy," he spoke in her ear, making her jump. She hadn't even heard him come up behind her.
He liked making her flinch and shift uncomfortably in her already uncomfortable position. He smoothed out her knotted red hair, placed his chin on her shoulder, cheeks touching. She froze, unprepared for such closeness. He listened to her quick shallow breaths for a few moments before speaking.
"I do find your antics amusing. But for reasons you do not know."
His voice vibrated through her shoulder and into her chest.
"Oh please, enlighten me, you dog-headed fucker. Why am I so funny to you?"
He moved from his crouched position behind her and straddled her thighs, hands firmly pressing down so she couldn't move, caught in his grasp. She noticed his dog hat was gone, revealing a sharp, angular face. His hair, thick and dark, did not match the age of his slightly worn face. There were thin lines spreading from the edge of his eyes and a harsh crease in the middle of his brow.
"You are funny because you are a foolish woman. You owned a caravan company, only to see it destroyed. You joined a courier, only to see him slaughtered by the righteous. And now you sit in a ruined bar, wrists bound, legs chained, and you tease your captor."
He sighed when she twisted against his body in a sad attempt to push him away.
"Fighting with me will only make it harder for you."
Vulpes moved his hand up her thighs to her waist. She felt her skin burn at his touch.
Her eyes looked everywhere but his, trying to avoid the heat between them.
She knew he was enjoying making her squirm, but she couldn't go without a fight. She pulled her head back as far as she could and slammed her forehead into his nose.
The force of her hit caused Vulpes to lose composure and fall back. Cass quickly pulled her knees to her chest and thrusted her feet at Vulpes, sliding him across the floor.
He looked at her, fairly surprised before chuckling loudly. This is going to be more fun than I thought, he smiled to himself.
"Oh, profligate. One mistake after another. You are such a fun toy to play with." Blood dripped from the bridge of his nose, down his cheek. He got to his feet, not even bothering to wipe the blood from his face, and slowly stepped towards her.
The shouting outside slowed, as the soldiers waited for orders from their decanus.
"You are powerless, Miss Cassidy. From the moment your wrists were bound, you became a captive. If you attempt to flee, you will be a captive on the run. If, by some horrific change of events, Legion is dissolved and you become citizen to a new rule, you will be a former captive. That word now defines you, no matter which outcome. You have lost any control of your destiny and any identity you once claimed."
He rolled his broad shoulders, readjusting his frame.
"You know, I think you're the funny one here," Cass replied.
"Is that so?" Vulpes was pleased she continued her retaliation.
"I bet you think your dick gets bigger with every slave you round up. You've already fucked the NCR with it. The whole Republic is just crying about its torn asshole 'cause the blood that was spilled in this desert didn't work as any sort of lubricant. And now you're getting your jollies off by pickin on little old me? Tell Caesar that we get it. We all get that he's got a big beautiful cock. If he could just run on home and go fuck himself, that'd be great."
"I will be sure to give him your advice."
Vulpes untied her from the locker, careful to watch for kicking feet, and pulled her out the door.
Cass thought it would be a good idea to go limp, like a 3 year old avoiding bath time, make him drag her until he got tired. A swift kick in the stomach changed her mind.