A/N: Wow, it's been a while.

I'm so sorry for the delay in uploading anything on my fanfiction page. Between lifestyle changes, huge drama in my life, and a lack of motivation, getting any writing done has been a bit like trying to get blood from a stone. This story's something of an AU, with Jane and her mysterious little companion surviving together close to a decade into the apocalypse. Nothing too drastic, but if this ever gets updated I'll be exploring it more. Which I should be, eventually.

A huge thank you to Foresee Obstacles, for being a continued source of inspiration and advice, and for beta reading this chapter. She's a great friend, and an awesome writer, and I can't begin to express how grateful I am for their help in pretty much everything.

And thank you. For reading, for your patience, and for being awesome people. I hope to see you soon!



The fire burns lower with every passing hour. Every now and then, Jane glances up at the girl sitting opposite her. How the fire paints flickering shadows across her young face, brown eyes shining orange every time the inferno flashes. The forest that wraps around them, all tall trees and falling leaves, is mostly silent, save for the occasional bird taking flight or deer padding through the woods. The young girl glances over every time such a noise is heard, her eyes wide and shining, pausing in her 'art' with a stick in the dirt.

The log she's perching on is damp, wetting the back of her pants. Jane wriggles, a little. The girl wriggles her 'paintbrush', humming a little song. The woman's lip twitches. Not one of the songs she knows. She's heard a fair few from the girl in their travels together, from nonsensical out of tune jingles to music she can vaguely recall knowing herself, once upon a time.

"Sit closer. You'll get cold."

"I'm okay."

Jane raises her eyebrow at the nonchalant voice from the kid, before glancing down at the mud drawing. A house with the letters 'NY HOUSE' underneath it. A cartoonish flower is scribbled next to the walls of the 'house', as well as what looks like a dog. Two figures holding hands. Jane clears her throat.

"It's an 'm'. Muh, for 'mom'. Not an 'n'," she speaks with a soft voice, smiling gently.

"What?" the girl looks like she's been wounded, her eyes widening and her lower lip quivering. Jane swallows, before standing from her log and crossing around the fire, finally sitting next to the girl and holding out a hand wordlessly for the stick. The girl holds it to her chest possessively for a second, until Jane gives a slight beckon from her fingers.

Quickly, she digs the stick into the mud, sloppily correcting the offending letter. The girl watches confusedly, only to mumble out an awkward 'oh' as the stick is held back out to her. Jane does her best to smile, focussing back on the fire. She grimaces, before looking at the stick held in the girls' hands. She wrinkles her nose, watching as another flower is doodled next to the first.

"Why're you drawing your house?"

"'Cause I wanna go. Daddy told me it was nice."

Jane inhales, watching the girl carefully. Surely she has to know - she has to know - that the idea of going home is bullshit. She doesn't know what the kid's dad had said to her, but she knows it was probably hopeless idealism. Talk of trips to the seaside, climbing trees in the woods and snowball fights in winter. If she had to guess.

"What'd dad say about houses?"

The little girl doesn't answer straight away, her tongue poking between her teeth as she focuses on squiggling a tail onto the dog she'd drawn earlier. Jane watches the little girl with a slight smile, tapping her foot gently as she waits for an answer. After a minute or so of drawing, the little girl takes a little breath and starts talking.

"He said that they're nice. And that when he lived in his house he used to have his friends over and play guitar and look after a puppy, and in the winter he'd throw snowballs at his mommy and daddy."

She lists all of them off in a single breath, Jane unable to stop herself from grinning a little. As she'd thought, everything the kid knows about the old world is idealism and happy days. Not the undeniable - yet grimmer - truths about it. That homes changed, that it wasn't all puppies and friends, that it was rent and shithole apartments more than warm and cosy fireplaces in big country homes.

Still, hope is a rare thing. Jane doesn't want to be the one to extinguish it.

"Sounds nice, right?"

"Was it really like that?" the girl asks, smiling hopefully up at Jane. Jane raises an eyebrow, tilting her head. Usually, the girl treats her father's words like gospel. What he says has to be true, and whatever Jane says is to be taken with a grain of salt. To hear her questioning her dad is honestly a weird experience, to say the least.

"... yeah," she mumbles after a moment, trying to smile. Arguments with parents and crying little sisters echo in her ears. "When my sister, Jaime -" the girl's ears prick up at the word, and she looks over eagerly, "- was your age, I had to do that kinda stuff a lot."

"Did you and your sister have a doggy, too?"

She makes to correct the child, to tell her to say 'dog' like a big girl, but she finds herself pausing with her mouth open. Remembering begging her dad for a dog, when she was young and not old enough to know what 'rebelling' even was. When her hair'd been long and she was only at her dad's hip height, and she still wasn't quite trusted with her baby sister by herself.

"Nah, my dad didn't like them. I had a kitten, though, before … all this."


She squeals the question so excitedly, the girl's voice an excited gush, that Jane can't help but smile. She nods wordlessly, and the girl whispers out a 'woah', her gaze shifting to one side and her eyes widening. Jane looks back at the fire, rubbing her hands together slowly as she thinks about before. When her sister was alive. When her parents were alive. Before the world collapsed around her.

"What was it called? What did it look like? Was it cute, I bet it was -"

Tibbles, a grey tabby cat, and she was extremely cute.

"I'll tell you some other time." The girl pouts, folding her arms, and Jane sighs through her nose. "C'mon, help with the fire."

When the child hesitates, still fiddling with her rudimentary paintbrush, Jane sighs through her nose and holds her hand out for the stick. The kid continues to just stare with those big brown eyes, the stick still stuck in the dirt. Halfway through drawing a stick figure holding hands with the smallest, middle, figure. Jane glances between it and the child, her throat bobbing in her neck.

Eventually, the kid relents with a tiny sigh, dropping the stick into the flames. Her shoulders slump as she looks down at the drawing, her eyes downcast. In a vain effort to cheer her up, Jane tweaks the kid's tiny denim jacket, straightening it out. The child smiles shyly.

"You'll be warmer, now."

Her eyes dart to the girl's hands as the kid shuffles closer to the fire, rubbing them together. She glances between the hooded coat and the bare hands, before lightly clearing her throat. The big eyes return, wide and full of unasked questions, and then the kid follows her gaze and -

"Oh, uhm…"

She lets the kid stew over her 'mistake' for a five-count in the back of her head, before continuing to talk slowly.

"Where are your gloves?"

The girl shuts her eyes. Jane sighs patiently. The kid has this idea that, if she shuts her eyes, she's briefly invisible. The woman nudges the skinny child's shoulder with a bump from her own, raising her eyebrows.

"I can still see you."

The girl gasps, a betrayed sound, opening her eyes - she has his - and blinking sadly. Something tells Jane that the silence that follows the girl's blinking is not borne out of stubborness or some young and wide eyed indignation, but rather from a genuine loss for words. So she gives a small sigh and starts talking again, her voice as patient as she can make it.

"Did you lose them?"

She starts to shake her head, her eyes wide. Then pauses. After a long moment of thought, the girl gives a tiny meek nod, ducking her gaze and pouting. Jane sighs.

"When d'you lose them?"

A delicate shrug answers that question, and Jane pulls a face, glancing to one side. Wherever they are, they're probably long gone now. Or filled with dirt and shit, stuff that the kid'd refuse to put her hands near, even after years of this life.

"I'm not gonna be mad, if you lost them a while ago," she tries a different tactic, one she remembers working a long time ago, when Lu … other people tried it with the girl. "If you know, you need to tell me. Maybe we can find them."

"... I think I dropped them at the … the big house."

"Which big house?"

"Um … we went there when it was bright, earlier." She's staring at her shoes, her little brow furrowed in determination. "There was a big tree…"

"Do you mean when we looked for breakfast?" And found nothing, again, and we had to go hungry.

The kid nods once, and Jane curses quietly under her breath, rubbing at her temples with one hand and resting the other on her knee. Fucking A. Finding gloves to fit the kid had been a miracle in and of itself, let alone a pair that were thick enough to actually be useful in times like these. To just drop them, not even have her grow out of them, but to just leave them in some shithole -

- she's just a little kid. She didn't mean to -

That doesn't make it any less frustrating.

"Okay. That's …" Fucking hell. "Okay. Next time you'll know to keep an eye on them." Silver lining. Aren't many of those, these days. Not that there were many before, but… still. Better this, than lose her shit at the poor thing.

"... I'm sorry."

"I know."

Jane glances back at the drawing. At the third stick figure that's not fully drawn in. She pulls a face and looks away, folding her arms on her knees and breathing out a slow sigh. Poor kid. Being born into all this, without a say in the matter, and forced from day zero to fight to stay alive, that's … not what she'd want. Not what anyone'd want, more Jane thinks about it.

Seeing the kid shiver makes her heart sink. She's barely skin and bones, a scrap of a kid clinging on for dear life. Starved of food and of a normal life, yet here she is. Living, breathing. Living feels too strong a word. Jane hums to herself, the same tune the kid had been earlier, and she smiles when she feels a light weight against her arm.

She glances over at the child, raising a single eyebrow and smiling her thanks for the company. The kid smiles back, looking back at the fire. Jane touches the girl's shoulder after a moment of enjoying the silence, clearing her throat and piercing the pleasant silence with a gentle command.

"You need to go to sleep."

The little smile flies off her face.

"But -"

"No 'buts'." Or 'ifs', 'maybes', or 'whys'. She can't help but wonder, drily, where the kid gets that streak from. That need to always know a little more, to always have the right answer, to want to do the good thing in the face of nothing but bad decisions.

That need to be liked.

God dammit.

She doesn't realise her heads in her hands, immediately, or that the kid has cuddled up a little closer to her. Jane breathes in slowly, her eyes shut, trying to forget his smile. Impossible, when it's nearly always on her mind.

"Are you -"

"I'm … fine," Jane mutters, gritting her teeth as she moves her head from her hands and opens her eyes slowly. No I'm not. No one is. She looks at the brunette child, her smile weaker. "Just … getting lost in thought." The girl nods sagely, as if she understands, and Jane bites back a chuckle. Not entirely sure what she's laughing at, but … it feels good to know she still can. "You know a lot about that, huh?"

"Sometimes…" the kid mumbles uncertainly, and Jane immediately regrets wanting to laugh. Of course she knows. Jane swallows, and it's her turn to nod as if she has all the answers.

"Not a great habit."


They sit quietly, Jane tending to the flames carefully with the long branch at her feet. In way, she's almost - almost - thankful for the world around her. Gives her a good distraction, if nothing else, from the disaster that is her thoughts. All regrets and dwelling and thoughts of Lu - uhm - of loss.

"I miss dad."

Jane laughs through her nose, nodding. Little kid's a telepath, apparently. Or you're more similar than you think. She can't meet her eyes, so continues to stare at the fire. Licks her lips and ducks her gaze.

"I miss him, too."

They sit still for a little longer, before Jane catches the kid letting out a sleepy little yawn and rubbing at her eyes. Immediately, Jane feels her smile come back a little, and she tilts her head towards the smaller sleeping bag lying near the fire. The kid's shoulders droop, and she gets up off the log. Pauses and looks at Jane, who meets her eyes with a raised eyebrow. The kid just stares.

"You want me to come sleep, too?"

The child's smile returns and she nods quickly, and Jane decides to humor her, standing up from her perch and dusting her pants off with quick motions. Tiredly, Jane gestures to the kid's sleeping bag, and she inches over to it, her eyes wide. The older of the two rubs at her face, dropping to her haunches as the child crawls into her sleeping bag.

"You look comfy, in there."


Her voice says one thing and her eyes another, though, and Jane pauses as she looks between the backpack the child owns and the child its - her - self. The kid doesn't seem eager to vocalise what's on her mind, so Jane gives her a gentle nudge with her hand, a small smile on her face.

"Something wrong?"

"It's cold…"

Jane nods, snorting a little. The girl pouts as Jane goes back to rummaging in the child's pack, the woman frowning at some of the stuff inside. Keep what you need and not what you want. Clearly the kid doesn't believe in that philosophy, judging by the scrap bits of paper with faded crayon drawings scribbled on them. She can't bring herself to look at them, so instead keeps looking for -

"Here," she hands the child her water bottle, and the kid immediately looks to see how much is inside. "That needs to last you 'til at least tomorrow." The girl nods, frowning at the half empty container for a moment, before holding it against her chest and watching as Jane quietly zips the bag up. "Got that?" Another tiny nod, and Jane finds herself nodding too.

After quickly checking the kid's temperature again with the back of her hand, she smiles her 'good night' to the little girl and drops into her own bag next to the kid, yawning and wrapping herself up as best she can. Kid's got a point. It's fucking freezing. Still, fire helps. A little. Until it burns out in five minutes. Better than nothing, though.

"Get me if you need something."

"I will…"

Jane pauses. Quietly hopes the kid'll ask her for something - anything - to keep her distracted from the thoughts bumping about in her head, just like whatever's bumping around in the woods. But the kid seems content to try and get some rest, and Jane sighs quietly. Hello nightmares, my old friend.

"Okay, well …"

She watches the child curl around herself, holding herself tight and shivering the tiniest amount. She almost gets up to try help warm her up. Then she hesitates. Surely, if … if the kid wants help, she'll ask. That's the way these things work. Right? After another couple long seconds, Jane relents, trying her best to relax - pff, what the hell is relaxing - staring up at the stars. A tiny sigh spills from her lips, and she wordlessly traces out three words with her lips.

I miss you.

She shakes herself. She can't dwell. The kid needs her to be the same tough bitch she always pretends to be. To keep her safe and make the hard decisions that the kid isn't prepared to make, yet. If that means putting everything else on the backburner then … so be it. Kid'll outlive me, anyway. She rubs at her face, again, grunting a little and rolling over. Fucking itchy piece of -


That lasted long. Jane smiles despite herself, looking over at the girl. The title 'mom' is a weird one. She didn't think she wanted it, when she was younger. Now, though? She'd be lying if she said she wasn't at least somewhat proud of herself for 'earning' it. It took two to tango, though. She sighs, a little. The kid's dad should be here. He'd be a better parent than her.

"Yea, kiddo?"

"Can I … uhm… can I sleep in your sleeping bag? W - with you?"

She shuffles over, and she feels her lip twitch into a warm smile as her daughter scurries to her feet and hastily nuzzles up to her in the too small sleeping bag, wrapping an arm around the kid as she shuts her eyes. Jaime's hair tickles Jane's chin, the girl's tiny hands clutching together as she shivers. Tiredly, Jane takes the girl's hands in her own, smiling warmly as she lets out a tired yawn.

"Told you you'd get cold."

The girl inhales, and Jane can practically hear the gears in her young brain turning as she tries to think of a suitable comeback. Jane opens her eyes, smiling wryly. She presses her lips against the top of Jaime's head, listening to the kid as she lets out a little sigh.

"... sorry," the girl faintly whispers, nuzzling under Jane's chin. The woman winces at the 's' word, instinctively giving her daughter a quick squeeze by way of silent apology. She clears her throat, speaking in a gentle tone for the dark haired girl curled up against her.

"'S'okay. Just stay close, I don't want you getting any colder."


"Get some sleep."

"Tomorrow, before we go find water …" Jane 'hmm's to show she's listening, and Jaime presses on. "... you'll help me finish my drawing, right?"

If it's still there.

"... Sure."

"And, and, can you tell me about your c -"

"Shh…" Jane whispers, feeling her heart twitch when Jaime shivers in the cold. She squeezes the girl's hands, both her tiny hands fitting in one of her own. "Get some rest."