2

Lᴇᴛᴏ ᴄʀᴏᴜᴄʜᴇᴅ ᴀᴡᴋᴡᴀʀᴅʟʏ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ɢʀᴏᴜɴᴅ, unsure of what to do as he watched the girl choke and sob. He'd never been very good with the whole comforting thing. Silently, he waited for her to calm down. Hopefully she wouldn't become catatonic from the shock; he needed to know if she had information on what happened here.

"You hurt?" he asked bluntly when her sobs slowed to hiccups. She shook her head, but he gave her a once over just to make sure. She looked to be mostly uninjured, save for some superficial cuts and scratches across her skin, and a few rips in her shirt and jeans. But a section of her dark hair looked matted for some reason. The girl flinched as he reached out and touched it. His fingertips came back red.

Blood and Scavengers… he thought, wiping his hand on his trousers with a grimace. Covertly, he moved so that he could better aim his gun. "Your head, has it been like that for long?"

She swallowed and shook her head. "Uh… no, I—I don't know. I woke up and it was bleeding."

He pulled away from her and narrowed his eyes."Did the Scavengers touch it at all? Blood, drool, spit?"

Her blue eyes widened with horror. "N-no! They'd only just cornered me when you got here. Why? What happens if they do?"

What happens? Leto frowned and took a step back. "How long since you woke up?"

"I-I don't know… half an hour, maybe less. Why?"

An hour? The mere fact that there were Scavengers here meant that this place had been in ruins for at least a week. They should have found and dismembered or turned her long before today. Something was wrong.

The girl let out a frightened squeak and crawled backwards as Leto levelled the barrel of his gun at her. "When was the Scion attack?" he demanded.

"I don't—I… I-I don't know what a Scion is!"

"Don't lie."

"No, I'm not! I swear I'm not!"

"If there wasn't a Scion then what the hell happened here?"

She swallowed and shook her head. "I don't remember. There were klaxons, and screaming, then the ceiling collapsed and I—"

Fucking hell, what is wrong with this woman? He cut her off and snarled,"When did this happen?"

"I don't kn—"

"What was the name of this settlement?"

"I d—"

"Was it established before or after the Cataclysm?"

"I'm telling you, I don't know!" she shouted, tears of frustration rolling down her cheeks. She swallowed and buried her face in her hands. "I don't know! I don't remember! Just don't shoot me… please don't shoot me…"

He hovered silently, uncertain as she curled up in a ball and shook like some kind of frightened little animal. He felt a stab of guilt—but it was only small so he ignored it. Lowering his tone a little, he questioned her again, "Do you know where the food stores here were kept?"

She shook her head without looking up.

He sighed exasperatedly; well, he'd tried. "What's your name, girl?"

Another shake of the head.

"Does that mean that you don't know or that you don't want to tell me?"

"Don't know…" was the mumbled reply.

Was there anything she did know? Leto was starting to feel genuinely bad for scaring her now. She must hit her head hard to be this out of it. He sighed again and lowered his rifle. "Alright, relax. I'm not going to shoot you," he told her. Not yet, anyway. If her skin started going clear and her blood rotted into slime then that was another matter entirely.

She bit her lower lip and peeked up at him, then looked back at the tops of her knees and mumbled something incoherent.

"What was that?"

"…Don't trust you."

Leto stared at her for a moment, and then let out a chuckle. The girl jumped in surprise as he shouldered his rifle and extended a hand to her. "Well I don't trust you either, nameless girl, so I think that makes us even."

~x~

Fennick stood on the rumbling hood of the jeep with a shotgun in his hands, scanning his surroundings for signs of movement when he saw Leto round the corner. He raised a hand to wave, and then paused to raise an eyebrow when he saw the girl Leto was towing behind him.

"I thought we were here to pick up food, not pick up chicks," commented the youth, jumping down to give his companion a playful slap on the back.

Leto returned the gesture by cuffing the boy over the head. "Stop acting like a dumbass," he snapped. He gave the girl a shove towards the car. "Into the back seat with you."

Fennick frowned. "What's the hurry?"

"Killed a pack of Scavengers, and you know the saying: where there's one, there's twenty. Since the jeep's back up and running, I say that we get our asses back to base before it craps out on us again."

The youth stared at him sceptically. "You find a woman in a Scavenger nest and you decide to bring her back with us? Did you hit your head or something?"

The girl's eyes widened in alarm as she looked from Leto to Fennick. "I-is there something wrong with bring me with you?"

"Huh? Of course, you might be infect—"

"She's fine," cut in Leto, flashing the boy a stern look as he gave the girl another push towards the jeep.

Fennick pursed his lips. He knew the meaning behind that glare; he'd seen it on his mother's face more than once when helping her attend to scouts who'd been attacked while out scrounging. We'll kill her if she turns. He grunted as the bottom of Leto's boot hit him in the backside.

"Stop standing around and get into the damned rust bucket."

Fen frowned. "You shouldn't talk about the car like that, old man, you might jinx us." Then he grinned. "Shall I drive to save us from your bad karma?"

Leto snorted. "Yeah right, do you remember what happened last time I let you jump behind the wheel? You can sit in the back and keep the girl company."

You mean keep an eye on her, thought Fennick with a sigh. Nevertheless he followed the girl into the back seat and surreptitiously laid the loaded gun across his lap with the barrel pointed in her direction.

The girl eyed it nervously and opened her mouth as if to ask something, but then she caught Leto's eye in the dirty rear-view mirror and reluctantly closed it again.

They drove out of the city in silence.

~x~

The ruin was a mere pinprick in the distance when Fennick finally decided that he couldn't stand it anymore. The girl had been staring him—or rather, the gun in his lap, since they'd gotten into the jeep. He could practically feel the anxiety radiating off of her and it was making him just as nervous. Desperate to lighten the tension, he ran his fingers through his shaggy hair, cleared his throat and asked, "So, uh, what's your name?"

She blinked at him, taken aback by the sudden question, but kept silent, her blue eyes darkening slightly as she mulled over the answer.

The teenager fixed her with a smile. "Hey, no need to be shy; we survivors have to stick together. I'm Fennick—Fennick Fitzroy. You can call me Fen, or Fitz, or—"

"Brat," suggested Leto from the front seat.

The boy scowled. "If you call me that then you have to call him 'old man.' Anyway, what's your name?"

She shook her head and looked away.

"What's the matter? You're not mute or something, are you? Just nod or shake your head if you want."

There was an exasperated sigh from the driver's seat as Leto rolled his eyes. "This here is why I call you a brat. She's not mute; she's got amnesia. She doesn't know the answer to that question herself."

Fen glanced at her. "Is that true?"

She hesitated and then muttered, "Yes."

"Wow, that… sucks."

The girl blinked. "Err—it does, I guess…"

"Smooth…" drawled Leto, voice laced with sarcasm.

"Sh-shut up," hissed Fennick as a flush crept up his neck and to his face. He glanced at the girl. "Anyway, we can't just call you 'you' or 'girl' all the time, so… should we give you a name or something?"

She stared at him for a moment and then caught Leto's eye in the rear-view mirror.

"Say no," he warned. "He's probably planning to give you some stereotypical girly-girl name like Mary, or Nancy, or Candice."

"Hey, give me some credit; I've got more creativity than that! How about… Ein?"

The girl blinked at him. "Ein?" she repeated, her brow slightly creased.

Fen grinned. "Yep. It means 'one' in some language or another… I think…"

"How stupid," muttered Leto. "Why would you call her that?"

"Well she's the first survivor I've ever found and taken back to the settlement, so it makes sense, doesn't it?"

"Moron, I was the one that found her, not you."

"Don't ruin it, old man; it's the thought that counts."

The girl watched them bicker. "You two get along really well, don't you?" she observed.

Leto turned around in his seat to scowl at her. "As if. Don't go putting me on the same level as this idiot."

"Hey, at least I'm trying to help!" Fennick exclaimed indignantly. "I don't see you trying to come up with a name."

"Because I think it's a stupid idea. She'll remember her real name at some point and then we're going to have to call her that. So until she does, 'girl' and 'you' both work fine for me."

"That's because you're a rude old guy, whereas I'm a gentlemen," retorted Fen, pulling a face.

"Gentleman, my ass. You're just smitten because you think she's pretty."

"That's not it!" hissed Fennick, the tips of his ears turning red. He turned to the girl and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Alright, from now on your name's Ein."

~x~

"Your name is Ein…"

"Sarah, are you listening to me?"

My name is Ein.

She blinked as someone put a hand on her shoulder. "Sarah? Darling, can you hear me?"

My name is...

"Sarah?" She looked up as her mother gave her a gentle shake. Everyone had always told her that they looked alike; pale skin, sandy hair, and tired grey-green eyes set on her wrinkle-laden face.

Unconsciously, Sarah put a hand to her head, checking for the bloody, matted knot that should have been there. Nothing. She twirled a finger through a stray lock of hair. It was light-brown, almost blonde.

She checked her surroundings; she was in the clinic's waiting room, sitting in a hard, uncomfortable plastic chair. There was no jeep, no barren wasteland. There was no Fennick sitting beside her, no Leto at the wheel…

My name is Sarah Manning.

"Honey, is everything okay?" Her mother peered at her worriedly.

Sarah nodded without meeting her eyes. "Everything's fine," she said quietly.

"Are you ready to go home then?"

Sarah nodded again. She'd been ready to go home the moment she'd crossed the clinic's threshold, but her mother had insisted that she attend these sessions, useless as they were. How many hundreds of dollars would they funnel into Meryl Winchester's bony hands?

"Mrs. Manning!" Sarah looked over her mother's shoulder to find the therapist's head poking out into the hallway. Speak of the devil. "I'd like to have a word with you before you leave. It's important!" she called, and retracted her head back into office without so much as waiting for a reply.

Sarah frowned as her mother handed her the car keys. "Go wait for me outside, sweetheart. I'm sure this will only take a moment."

"She's just going to tell you I'm crazy," replied the girl quietly.

Her mother stroked her hair. "You're not crazy…"

"Just traumatised," finished Sarah, voicing the words that she knew lingered in the back of her mother's mind. The words that made the woman treat her like a fragile, broken doll. She got to her feet as her mother stood there, hesitating, unsure of how to respond. Sarah brushed past her, keys jangling as they hung from her fingers. "I'll be in the car," she said, and let the door slam shut behind her.