Raven held Missy’s hand. His thumb stroked her skin over and over. “I am unsure if I have already told you this information, but Ambrose found another XQ. She is far younger than you are. She is but a child. Ambrose…He told me that I ought to speak to you before letting her move in with Robin and me. She is not here right now. She is staying with Miss Addleston.”
He paused and waited for a reaction.
For her to speak.
For any indication that Missy had heard him at all.
She did not react or speak.
She slept on.
“Missy.” He cleared his throat. “She is unable to speak. Her voice is gone. Yet, she is still able to communicate. She speaks through her own form of sign language. It takes a bit of trying to understand her.”
He paused. ‘I would like her to stay with us. Would you mind? Is that what you would want me to do? I do not know what else to do with her. She is an XQ, but her control over her XQ self is not as strong as yours. No one else would understand her the way we can. Ordinary humans would fear her ability. She would be caged. I am certain of it.”
His hand went still.
“Can you hear me? Are my words getting through to you? Missy. Missy, please come back. Come back to me. Let me hear your voice again. Let me see that sparkle in your eyes. Let me feel your touch on my bare skin. Kiss me again. Hold me in your arms again. Call me your pretty shirtless Raven again. Tell me that you love me still. I love you still.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I am here, Missy. I am here.”
Barbara put the black box back in her underwear drawer and buried it deep.
Her skin tingled at the memory of the material’s sheer touch.
She blushed as she imagined wearing it in front of Ambrose. Her mind tried to take that imagining further and further.
I can’t. I can’t think such thoughts.
She closed the drawer.
Not before Sunday.
She walked over to the bed, dressed in her striped pajamas. They were thoroughly unprovocative. There was no way that they’d inspire such thoughts in her head.
It just wasn’t possible.
Sarah slept on top of the blanket. Her hands were all curled up – silent and still.
Barbara sat on the bed and watched her sleep.
Who are you, Sarah?
Where did you come from?
Who are your parents? Do they miss you? I’m sure they must, if they’re still alive.
How long were you at The Institute?
What did the people there do to you?
These are questions I can’t ask you, because you don’t know the answers. Maybe you will never know them. Maybe you will always be your own unsolvable mystery – Who is Sarah XQ?
Barbara gently shook her.
Sarah’s arms flared out in a startle. She opened her eyes wide.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s just me. I’m going to bed now. Do you want to sleep under the blanket with me?”
Sarah sat up. She held her left hand out – flat with her fingers stuck all close together. She tucked her right hand under it and gave Barbara a puzzled look.
The gesture baffled Barbara. “I’m not sure I understand.”
Sarah eye-rolled and repeated the gesture.
“You…” Barbara frowned. “You’re asking me…if…”
Sarah repeated it again with emphasis.
“You’re asking me…why? Why are we sleeping under the blanket?”
“Umm. It’s a lot cozier than sleeping on top of them. It’s safer. Makes me feel less exposed to all the world.”
Sarah made an uncertain, thinking about it face.
“Haven’t you slept under a blanket before?” It was a strange question and Barbara knew it.
She must have done it at some point in her life.
“Do you want to?”
Sarah looked down at the blanket and repeatedly smoothed a crease.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to.”
She raised her head.
“It’s up to you.”
Her hands went still, but flames flickered along the edges of her fingers.
“I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Sarah frowned. She pointed at Barbara, at herself, and pounded her fist against her arm. The flames crackled with each movement.
Barbara shook her head. “I don’t know what that means, but no. I will not hurt you. You’re safe.”
Sarah’s frown lifted and her flames sank under her skin.
The small girl crawled to the head of the bed, pulled the blankets down, and burrowed under them.
Barbara smiled. “Do you want me to join you?”
Sarah uncovered her head and nodded.
Barbara’s smile grew.
Sarah snuggled up to Barbara under the blankets and sighed.
She smelled so good and clean.
She felt so soft.
She felt so safe.
Sarah smiled and hugged her.
Maybe she could be trusted after all.
Barbara hugged the small girl.
Is this what it would be like if Ambrose and I have kids? My daughter and I all curled up in bed together as he’s out there hunting.
She closed her eyes.
And he would come home.
My Ambrose would come home to us.
He’d come home to me.
She fell asleep and dreamed of running into Ambrose’s arms.
There was laughter.
There was joy.
There was love.
Simple, wonderful love.