This isn't the first bit of fanfiction I have ever written, but it is the first I have ever shared publicly. As such, any comments are appreciated. Just be gentle with me. I bruise easily.

Also. I do not own Fallout. At least not in an intellectual property sort of way. So there.

Something in her mouth tasted awful. Like sweat and blood and desperation.

Things were blurry; slow. A rhythm sang steadily and paced, timing itself with the beating of her heart and the blood pounding in her ears which she was, quite suddenly, acutely aware of. The sound continued deeply, pulsing up through her knees with deep strokes, the timing perfect; steady and unbroken even as her eyelids slowly raised. Two regions of black expanded out to the right and to the left, with a brilliant pillar of light cutting through the middle. A stairway, her bleary mind mumbled to itself, fumbling incomprehensibly as it tried in vain to sort the plethora of information it was suddenly receiving. The horizon shimmered with the stairway, slicing deftly through the black expanse that pressed on all sides, and colorful words like 'drowning' and 'suffocating' came to her muddled mind to describe the situation she found herself in.

A moment of desperate sorting later she realized those words weren't as applicable as she had originally perceived them to be. At least, not literally applicable. She found she could breathe, even if every breath tickled her nose with specs of dirt and the smell of decay, and each breath brought new pain to her dry lips and the cracked corners of her mouth. The world was black and stank of dying flowers and dirt, and that single shaft of light in the distance could offer no hope to cut through the smell as it had the darkness. As she brought her unfocused stare upwards she realized it was less of a shaft and more of a ... A blob, really. A mass of softly glowing white like the moon had decided to take a little vacation and bury itself in the unforgiving sands of the Mojave.

Things were coming together much too slowly. Somewhere beyond the ringing in her ears she could hear voices; the deep baritones of men speaking insidiously between themselves, but the words were coming to her much as her sight was - out of focus and too far away. And the sound - the rhythm, the deep, steady strokes - was becoming sharper, more recognizable. Something stabbing into the Earth and dragging back at a measured pace, ticking at memories in the back of her mind. Her thoughts held a word to her and she timidly fitted it to the situation, though it came on slow as all else was; shovel. Dig. Someone was digging.

Though small, a triumph. She gathered herself, feeling her back ache in protest as she straightened, bringing her eyes to level with the men she could still hear speaking - but not yet understand. A figure, bright and glowing unlike the others that had gathered, was turning towards her - as best she could tell - and taking notice of her new found alertness. She called on her voice to address him but was greeted only with a pathetic mewl that muffled itself against the gag that held her mouth open.

He was speaking to her, but his words didn't make sense. She tried to force them to, but couldn't focus still. Pain was suddenly a sensation she was much better acquainted with as her brain decided that dealing with that was more important than understanding what Mr. Shiny was trying to tell her. Not that she could necessarily blame her body - she ached everywhere. Her cracked lips, her pounding head, her stiff wrists, her sore knees. Nothing seemed to feel as it was supposed to, and with that quiet acceptance came, of course, the question as to why nothing felt right.

And then something glinted maliciously in the moonlight and none of that mattered - and it got her attention. It got all of her attention.

The silver barrel of the gun shone against the backdrop of New Vegas, the glittering gem on the horizon that had seemed so much closer before it became crisp and defined. She could discern the features of the man in front of her now - dark hair, dark eyes, dark intentions with that decidedly not-dark gun of his. He shone in detail where the others with him seemed to fall back into the darkness, light from the moon and from the city reflecting off the polished white of his coat. The gun flickered away and seemed darker for a moment as he adjusted it, moving the barrel from light of the city and -


She struggled against the ties on her hands, crying out against the gag as the gun swooped lower and leveled with her head. He was still speaking but she couldn't hear him again - couldn't hear anything besides the pounding of blood in her ears and the rhythm of the shovel diving into the Earth. In a terrible moment all the pieces her mind couldn't place came crashing together, and she wished she could shake them apart so that they didn't make the sense they made. Hot tears clouded her eyes and she cried out against the gag, begging, pleading, even if he couldn't understand her, even if she couldn't understand herself.

There was no reason - there was no reason - to kill her. Who was she? No one! A waste of ammunition! If she could just explain, if she could just reason with him, make him see, understand - she couldn't be the person he thought she was, couldn't be meaning to aim that fancy gun at her head, couldn't -

Twin shots rang out and somehow, she heard at least the first one. The second was a drowned out scream of indignities that her mind listed even as she pitched forward. Scrambled bits of memory and thought coalesced into badgering nonsense, flickering on and off as the last, tingling vestiges of sensation passed her fingertips and left, buzzing, from her face. Dirt kissed her cheeks and she lay motionless, her mind noting the warmth spreading down the back of her neck to be blood and how knowing that didn't really matter anymore.

But all this was a matter of seconds because the black returned quickly. Two eaves of darkness pressed in, one from the right and one from the left, and through a single eye she saw the glowing, fading brilliance of a city she would never see.