She startles him awake. He feels her standing over him. He opens his eyes. He screams. And then he is flattening himself against the headboard, eyes huge. He knows because he saw her, seeing him. His huge eyes. He looks afraid in her head, but he’s not; he could take her. Like, really.
“What the fuck?”
He’s panting. He draws his knees to his chest. He hears her think Hiding and Shielding and then, like a long bus turning a corner, the words slowly reveal their length, their many passenger cars, the thought pathway by which she arrived at the language. She’s thinking of a psychological study that classifies defensive postures in children. The one where they hide behind chairs or in their mothers skirts when afraid: Hiding and Shielding.
Jackson, as she sees him, eyes huge, knees to his chest: Hiding and Shielding.
But she sits silent and still, processing his terror—though he really could take her—and only blinks.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“How did you get in here?” He’s raising his voice, and she shushes him, suddenly harsh.
“Whooo the fuuuuck aaare youuu?” he says, deliberately slow—perhaps patronizingly, sarcastically slow—in case she’s special.
“Shut up,” she snaps. She speaks urgently, and so quietly he has to lean closer to hear her. “Get out of here,” she says.
And then she just looks at him. Stares, deadly serious. There is something creepy, still, in her eyes—like they are too open, blink blink. But the rest of her affect is flat. She’s ghostly.
“What?” he demands.
“Be quiet,” she says, and he realizes that her breaths are short and fast, as if she were in the middle of a panic attack. As if she were him, terrified, reading her mind, right now. Or as if she were him, in so many of his memories, practicing that… dark wizardry.
As if she were him, alone. Hounded by like, literally the Illuminati, some crazy shit. Alone. Shot in the water. Dead in the water. Dead in the water. Please let me be dead, please let me be fucking dead.
Ginger’s voice over his dead body. Ginger screaming over his dead body.
Ginger cradling this girl’s dead body. As if she were him. As if she were him.
They sit there, looking at each other. Reading each other’s memories; as if they were each other. Watching each other watch their own eyes, huge.
“Who are you?” he whispers to her. Jesus. “What happened to you?”
Because he just… knows. It’s gonna happen to him.
She doesn’t answer. He feels dread, and he wants to shut it off but he’s still with her—with everything that ever happened to her.
The long, slow bus of shit. Its many passenger cars.
She feels him worry about her. “I’m twenty-four,” she tells him. Older than you. She doesn’t want his worry.
But she’s really skinny. She’s wearing jeans and a thermal shirt and a sweater and a big Goodwill blazer-coat thing overtop, like she’s really cold. She looks really sick. She’s ghostly.
“Who are you?”
“You need to go to them.”
“You need to leave here, right now,” she says. Her voice is tight and desperate, but her face is… just this blank. And that’s not what’s inside her, he knows what’s in her, he feels her mind, she is not blank. She is not empty, not like she looks, and it’s scaring him.
“What happened to you?” he asks her. She reaches out and touches his face.
“Don’t cry,” she tells him, soft. Like a hushhhh across his heart.
“What happened to you?”
“They will come to get you. They will not stop. You will never escape them.”
After all, he has come here, alone, to this shitty fucking motel to escape Them.
“They will find you,” she says.
“The man…” he shakes his head at her; she’s wrong. “He’s dead, I saw him. M… Mulder shot him. I saw.” He had felt the man so strongly—his hate and his roiling mind—and then even underwater he heard the gunshots, and then he felt nothing.
“Mulder.” She mouths the word, silent. Like she hasn’t heard it spoken aloud in a long time.
Then she looks back at him, recomposed. But he sees: Mulder carrying a much younger… this girl. She’s in footie pajamas, and she’s moaning. Something’s wrong.
“Don’t look,” she says. Their breath keeps syncing when their eyes lock.
“Who are you?”
But he knows who she is. He knows who she is.
“Don’t look.” Her chin quivers. She’s begging.
When he reaches out to touch her, she flinches. Like no one has touched her in a long, long time.
She’s ghostly. He wipes her tears away.
“Don’t cry,” he tells her.
“Please go home to them,” she says. She closes her eyes and breathes in deep. “Please please go home to them.”
“Who are you,” he whispers.
“Who are you?” She pins him with those big eyes. And answers for him. “You are their child. Be with them.”
“Say who you are,” he accuses.
“You will die out here,” she says. “Alone.”
“Say who you are!” He could shake her.
“They will hear me,” she sobs, then covers her face for a moment and is not crying when she looks up.
“I did not come to upset you,” she says, too stilted. Like she’s never talked to anybody in her life.
“Come with me,” he begs her. He feels her wanting to. And he feels her afraid. Irrationally, terribly afraid.
“Please,” he says to her. He sees them in her head: Mulder and Ginger. Jesus Christ, she’s a dead ringer for Ginger. “Please come.”
She shakes her head. “I have to go,” she says. And stands, stiffly.
He stops feeling her, like a switch has been flicked. She’s turned it off. She is better at it than he is; she’s older.
“Please.” He’s whispering.
She leans down. Kisses his forehead, fixes his hair. Looks at him, looking at her, blink blink, for a long time. As she leaves, he feels himself stuck—unable to move from the bed, unable to grab her wrist and stop her.
“Go home,” she says, and shuts the door to his motel room.
In the morning, he does.
“Hey hon,” Mulder calls from downstairs, his voice a little urgent.
She sets aside the glass cleaner. The bathroom mirror will keep. From the bottom step, a moment later, she sees Mulder. And a girl.
He’s got her by the arm, but not roughly. Just such that she will not dart away.
“Look who I found eating one of your tomatoes,” he says.
Red goop, a few small seeds stick to the girl’s face. The woman’s. Her eyes read feral. Guileless. Unsocialized. The knees of her jeans are brown where she crouched in the mud.
Scully double takes.
Charlie and Bill and her father’s straight straight hair. Melissa’s long neck. Melissa’s. Melissa’s.
“Dana,” Emily says, for she has floated across the room, ghostlike; for Mulder has released her. She touches the hollow of Scully’s neck and comes away holding the cross. She looks Scully in the eyes.
“Dana.” She is sure this time.
“Yes,” Scully whispers, and her eyes fill.
“Tomatoes,” Emily says.
“My tomatoes?” Scully throws her arms around her, pulls back to look, embraces her again. “Are you okay?”
Emily pats Scully’s elbows.
“Are you okay, baby?” Scully repeats, desperate. Touching Emily’s hair roughly.
She’s touching me, Emily thinks. She bends to lean her head on Scully’s shoulder.
After her shower, Emily had come downstairs and pointed at Scully’s little ponytail. “This,” she’d said, and grabbed it.
“You want this?” Scully had asked, and Emily nodded.
Now Emily rests her head on Scully’s lap, sleepy. What had started out as the perfunctory styling of a ponytail had turned into the sort of extended please-play-with-my-hair session that Scully remembers from sisterhood. Most of the time, Emily feels confused as to whether she would like to be touched very much or not at all.
When the baby kicks, she jumps.
“It’s okay, sweetheart,” Scully says, but Emily sits up.
“It’s just the baby, see?” Scully places Emily’s hands against her tummy.
“It’s hard,” Emily says.
“Yes, it’s very hard,” Scully explains. She covers Emily’s hands and presses down to show her. “When my uterus grew to fit the baby, it put pressure on my abdomen.”
Emily stares. “I didn’t want to have one,” she says, barely a breath.
Horror. Immediately. Scully holds on tighter to Emily’s hands. “Honey, what?”
“I didn’t want one,” Emily repeats, and looks from Scully’s belly to Scully’s eyes.
Emily does not answer questions like this—where were you, and when. She doesn’t know. She says, “When I ran away.”
They did more tests today, Scully remembers from Samantha’s diary, but not the horrible kind.
The horrible kind.
They’ll kill me if they catch me. Running for my life, for the rest of my life.
“You don’t ever have to have one,” Scully whispers, imagining Samantha’s Emilys. Emily’s Emilys. “Not ever.” She cups her daughter’s face. “Only if you want.”