Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gladiator belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Ridley Scott.
Author's Note: I am finally out of the hospital. More explanation when I'm not quite so sick with medication.
The wound was clean of infection or rot.
Juba walked back and forth, his eyes on the girl's head where the blood had clotted and his body kept carefully out of her arm's length. Hagen sat again on the low, broken wall, looking at the girl's face.
The girl stood in front of him, green eyes empty and fixed on nothing. Matted, dirty hair hung in her face, and her blue shift stank of sweat and blood. If she heard the whispers of the men, if she felt the bodies that hung back from her, she did not show it.
Maximus—pulled at her hand, to see what she would do.
A hesitation, a movement of the eyes—and then she came, stepping lightly over the stones and dust of the yard, to still again at his side, their coupled hands hanging between them.
The top of her head barely came to his shoulder.
“It is not infected,” said Juba, stopping now, beside Hagen. “She must wash it, then bind it with a cloth to keep out the flies and the dirt.”
The girl did not react to Juba's voice, nor to anything he said. She seemed to be staring into the blue cloth of Maximus's own shift, as if at something the others could not see.
“Girl,” said Maximus. She did not look up. “Girl.”
Nothing. In the hot glare of the sun, he could see the motes of dust that settled on her eyelashes.
“Her mind is gone,” said Hagen finally, and there was regret in his voice. “She was struck too hard.”
Juba shook his head. “No. I do not think so. She is not insane. She is sick.”
She, she, she.
“Have you got a name?” he asked her, though he knew it was useless.
A slow breeze lifted strands of her hair, and somewhere behind them, the lions roared over the shouts of the beast-handlers.
“Puella,” said Maximus then. Child.
“Go and wash.”
Nothing, in her eyes or on her tongue. The grip of her fingers through his was an ache.
“Be careful, Maximus,” said Juba. His expression was strange. “She has been hurt worse than we know.”
Maximus glanced at Juba, irritated, and then, out of impatience, tried to pull his hand from hers.
The girl raised her head and looked at him.
He saw the way they changed—her eyes, sharp and alert now, the green the same green as new growth and the spring of a wet Gaulish wood. Like a blade's point through his breast, catching the breath in his throat with the violence of her look, the woman glaring out of the girl's eyes, a glimpse of the person that had fallen beneath the blow that laid open her forehead.
Then her eyes emptied, rigid over his shoulder, and the woman sank again into Puella's silence.
Maximus struggled to breathe, her hand a gladius's blade in his. Juba and Hagen were staring at him.
Puella stood, still and quiet.
He had given her the wrong name.