During the trial, they had called him CR-S01. When he was being transported to his specially-made cell, they had called him CR-S01. Once he arrived, the guards had called him CR-S01. And when he was alone, locked away behind bolt after bolt, freezing in his cement room, nobody called him anything.
Without a memory, without a purpose, he’d wasted day after day memorising each imperfection in the walls, each creak of his bed frame, smoothing his hands over the sheets over and over again. The only thing that ever changed was the fog that coiled and curled at his ankles, but even then, staring at it as if he was cloudgazing on a sunny afternoon in a field of flowers, it got old.
When he’d arrived at the hospital, however, when he’d been allowed to get to know the staff - who became colleagues, and then friends - they never called him by his number. He was always ‘doctor’, or ‘kid’, or some other affectionate nickname. Around them, he never felt belittled, or less than human; a concept he was at the mercy of way too often back at his cell.
So it was almost pathetic, when he realised he couldn’t remember his name.
Gabe was the one who ended up asking, while they were all crowding around RONI’s new human form, admiring the clean joints and the way her eyes glowed.
“Look,” Gabe had exclaimed, grinning, “‘RONI’ is engraved on the back of her neck. That’s nice.” Noticing this, RONI reached around and felt where the letters were engraved into the hard plastic, everyone turning to look.
“Mm, I don’t think I’d like my name tattooed on the back of my neck,” Maria piped up, “Then just about anyone would know.”
At this, CR-S01 thought about the way his cuffs and his cell has been labelled with his number, like a name written on the tag of a school shirt.
“Speaking of names, kid,” Gabe started, turning to look at him, “We never were allowed to learn yours. It’s been long enough, don’t you think?” Everyone - Hank, Tomoe, Maria, even RONI, looked expectantly towards him.
And then horror struck in.
They had to have seen it - the way his shy smile warped into a look of despair, and he stumbled backwards, until his legs hit one of the tables, and he lifted his head up again once more, only to barely be able to choke out a whisper of, “I don’t- I don’t remember. I don’t know my name.”
All of them looked so worried, and Tomoe reached forward, but he had already turned on his heels and ran out of the room.
Only once he had reached the roof, let his knees buckle and his hands shake on the familiar feeling of rough concrete, gasped and breathed in the fresh air, did he let himself come to his senses.
Gabe followed him, because of course he did, shooting a pained look and a weak ‘sorry’ at Holden on the way out. While his brain told him this wasn’t too bad, he knew better than that - he knew that the kid hadn’t remembered anything until a few weeks ago - a name was a lot.
After taking the stairs three at a time, Gabe finally found him, huddled against the side of the door, glaring out over the rooftops.
“It’s okay, you know,” Gabe muttered, trying to keep his voice low and his tone level, “We understand.”
“I know, I know,” he replied, gasping out pained breaths that worried Gabriel, “But it’s not fair. I should remember - I’m sure they called me by name, they must’ve.”
Fuck. Sartre. Obviously.
“I’m sure they did, and it’s not your fault for forgetting it,” he said, kneeling down, “it’s not your fault for how you’ve been treated.”
Although his breathing had evened out somewhat, he still fiddled with the plastic ID card, running his fingers along the edges, his voice barely audible, “I don’t want to be a number anymore.”
Something in Gabe’s heart that had lain dormant for what felt like years, had finally awoken and was clawing and gnawing at the edges of it, fighting to escape. That same thing, that hadn’t been so
since Joshua was young, made him blurt out;
“How about I give you a name, then? Just for now,” but he didn’t have time to continue before CR-S01 was wiping his eyes and offering a small, but hopeful, smile.
“I’d like that. Okay,” he said, his fingers moving from the pointed plastic of the ID card to one of the buttons on his lab coat. “What’ve you got for me?”
Gabriel thought back to Sartre. German, wasn’t it? Sounds german, he thought, Edward? No, that’s too-
“Erhard,” Gabe settled on, setting his brow and looking down for the kid’s reaction. “How’s that sound?”
Surprisingly, he smiled, a fully-realised motion. “I love it. Erhard,” he said, testing out how the syllables sounded, “Thank you.”
“How about we go back and start on that reintroduction,” Gabe encouraged, rising to his feet, stretching out his back, “ Erhard.”