DISCLAIMER: Fallout New Vegas © Obsidian & Bethesda
A/N: Vignettes concerning Courier Six.


VII.

Leavin' this mornin', if I have to ride the blind
Babe, I've been mistreated, baby and I don't mind dyin'
Well, some people tell me that the worried blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' I most ever had.

...

There was this boy, see. He was a good kid, made do in the best way he could with what little the wastes gave. He was born small but it didn't stay that way for very long. The wastes didn't give much and what it did you had to toil for. His parents were toilers. His father had enlisted with hopes of bringing them a better life - he left them widowed two years into that dream. The wastes swallowed up his body somewhere out in that western heat. His mother floundered for three years more until she couldn't hold the world at bay any longer - went into her room one day and fell into her bed and never got back out. Just laying there until the one day he would try to rouse her and she wouldn't wake. He had put her in that hard, unforgiving earth. Cracked and scarred like everything else. Somewhere in that western heat she found his father again. He had felt pretty certain of it. So this boy, with nothing left for him, gathered the little he had and went. If there was one skill he had honed early on, it was rifle play. For food or for what little work he could find, he toiled at the trigger to survive. On the day that he left, his father's rifle went with him.

You look forward a few years from the day the boy set off into the wastes. You squint through heat rippling off a sun-bleached hide of dust. You glare through the sun glaring through you and you see the progression of things. He glares and all he sees are things passed and gone. Sees all the cracked and bloody scabs of a life spent stumbling through a desert. You see something like a man but not quite a man. He sees something like a fork in the road. He sees his father, sees his mother. Glares through the sun glaring through him and knows that its only time between now and the bleached ivory maw. Knows it's only time before the wastes eventually swallow you with all the rest. He sees his father, sees his mother. He picks one path. Sticks to it. This boy, see, doesn't play by halves. He enlists. New places to catch and tear. New scabs to collect.

There's a boy who's a man who's lost in the desert. He stumbles through sun-bleached dust but never changes course. The sun has darkened him, hardened him. He's gotten used to squinting at life. Used to the catching and the tearing. He stumbles but he never falls. He's familiar with the rippling hide, hardly has to watch where his feet land. He's almost content with the unending sea of barren heat. Almost forgets that he's lost. They recognize his talent; they like how he's darkened, hardened. He enlists and it isn't long before they take notice. Notice all that toiling at his father's rifle. He never plays by halves - he's gotten used to squinting at life. Eventually they stick him with others accustomed to squinting at lives. Lives they send down into the mouth of the Mojave, swallowed up like so many more to come. He was good but he gets better. Almost forgets he ever was lost. He's not stumbling any longer, he's marching. You blink and they pull a carpet up from under him. Didn't even notice it was there. This time, he doesn't just stumble - he falls. He hits dirt. You look back and remember his mother. He looks back and remembers that hard, unforgiving earth. It catches and tears at places he never thought it could. There's a boy who's a man who's hurt in the desert. He suddenly remembers that he's been lost all along.

You look at the boy who set off in the wastes and you see a man on his knees in the dirt. You squint through heat rippling off a sun-bleached hide of dust. You glare through the sun glaring through you and you see the progression of things. He glares and all he sees are things passed and gone. Sees all the cracked and bloody scabs of a life spent stumbling through a desert. You see something like a man but not quite a man. He expects to see something like his father, his mother. Just as damaged, just as used. He sees something else. There was this boy who was a man, you see, and one day he tripped and fell and landed in an oasis in a desert. A place maybe everyone's been looking for, trudging through the waste just to stumble into it. This is where he finds her. He sees her smile at him. She kisses to make it all better. She tells him he looks lost. He thinks maybe he isn't anymore.

There's a man who's still a boy who thought he found an oasis in a desert. One day he wakes up and finds that the oasis is gone. It was only a mirage. The girl is gone with it. He doesn't fall this time. Maybe he never got back up. You look back at the boy who set off in the wastes and you can't find him anymore. He's not there. What you see is a man who's darkened, hardened by the heat. Accustomed to squinting. A collection of scabs - some that never seem to heal. He's always picking at them. Can never leave well enough alone. You look for that boy but all you see is a man who sets off in the rippling heat. Gone into the sun-bleached dust of the Mojave, squinting. Glaring through the sun glaring through him. Squinting and hunting for that ivory maw of hard, unforgiving earth; cracked and scarred like everything else. Looking for where the desert will finally swallow him up. This man, see, doesn't play by halves. He takes his father's rifle. He hopes to find her again, somewhere in that western heat. This time, he doesn't feel so certain of it.

..

This is the man Rukkis sits atop a hill with. Canyon 37. She huddles close to a meager fire and watches how the ghosts plague him. He can't sleep. Even if he could, she suspects he wouldn't. As if all those graves whisper out to him in the growing dark. Like he's looking back, searching for a boy that doesn't exist anymore. She finishes the last of her cram. He hasn't eaten today. Doesn't want to. She sets the can aside and inches closer to the heat, to the sad little heap of brush and flame. She's suddenly very tired.

"You okay?" she asks instead. She already knows the answer, though.

He gives her something she wasn't expecting, however. He turns and looks at her and even with those dark lenses she can see something there. Something's come back... but it isn't the same thing that had brought her out here. It's something that drives a stake into her gut.

"Something's wrong," he murmurs. "Got a group coming our way. Looks like a Legion raiding party. It's big. Might be too big. Even for us."

It's a warning. He wants her out. Without saying it he wants her out and she can hear it in his voice... and she can hear how eager he is for this. Eager to at last embrace what he came out here for. She knows this is what he's been looking for out in the desert. Maybe it wasn't this in the beginning... but maybe because this isn't supposed to be a beginning. Never was. That bleached maw reaching up one last time. Looking for where the desert will finally swallow him up. Maybe she's bad with goodbyes. Maybe she always has been. Maybe she's just selfish. Her mouth sets into a hard line. She knows she won't allow it. For all his faults, she won't put him in that hard, unforgiving earth. Something whispers at her then and asks her why he matters so much. Why this one? She refuses to answer the voice; pushes it out of her mind. Instead:

"What are we waiting for, then?"

Something falls into place.

"Tell the truth... I think this is exactly what I've been waiting for."

Maybe he's selfish too.

..

It's not easy. He doesn't make it easy for her in any way. He's reaching for that abyss and she's desperate to keep it just out of reach. It's hard and she hates him for it. By comparison it's an easier ordeal to cut through the raiding party. Funny how easy it's become to forget the Bull. She almost doesn't think about Vulpes as she kills the Legion boys. Almost. She doesn't have time to reminisce. Not now. Maybe she's selfish. Maybe he is too. She hates him for it; hates him because he can never let go. Like she can never let go. She's working on it, though. Maybe she hates it because he can remember it - remember why he can't let it slip away. He doesn't make it easy for her, but he doesn't die either. In the end, Rukkis still has Boone.


"Walkin' Blues"