Draw Down the Moon 4
She was dreaming. She had to be, because there was no other way Emily could be standing in Dana’s old apartment living room with William in her arms.
“Emily,” she whispered, and the word seemed to drift across the room.
The little girl smiled and jogged the baby, who was almost too heavy for her to hold. They had the same dimples, the same round cheeks, the same blue-green eyes. “Look, Mommy, it’s my brother.”
“Yes, sweetie.” Dana approached the children cautiously, and knelt down to look Emily in the face. “His name is William.”
“I want to keep him, Mommy.”
Something constricted in Dana’s throat, and she whispered, “But so do I, Emily. I want to keep him with me.”
“I want to play with him, Mommy.” She hugged William closer, making the baby squeal and squirm with discomfort. “He’s got such tiny hands.”
“He’s only five months old. Emily, may I hold him now?”
Emily’s eyes blazed at her. “No, Mommy, he’s mine! He’s mine now!” Her voice changed as she spoke, becoming deep and cavernous and echoing—and she grew, no longer a little girl but something horrific, something gray and ancient and dead.
The creature towered over Dana, and in its arms William screamed with terror. “He’s mine, Mommy!” it croaked as dust swirled in the air around it and the ground shook. “I want to keep him! He belongs with me now!”
Dana closed her eyes at the force and stench of the creature’s breath, and screamed with all her strength, “Give me back my baby!”
But when she reached out her hands to snatch William from the creature’s grasp all she touched were dust and ashes.
The air around the creature churned like a tornado, with William and the creature’s malevolent face at the core of the fulcrum, rising into the ai
r. “Please,” Dana begged, “please, give me back my baby . . . Please.”
The creature only continued ascending to the sky, William little more than a pink blur behind the curtain of dust. “He’s mine, Mommy! I’m keeping him now!”
“No . . .” Her arms outstretched, she screamed, “William—”
“William,” she whispered through a dry mouth, and was five steps away from the bed before she realized she was awake.
It didn’t matter—she had to hold William, had to smell and touch him before she drew another breath. She ran down the hall and scooped him into her arms, causing him to wail. “You’re okay . . . you’re okay,” she whispered, stroking his head. He smelled like he always did, like sour milk and baby powder and fabric softener. He was warm and solid, real from his soft fontanel to his clenched toes.
“You’re okay,” Dana whispered, clinging to him. “You’re okay.”
She was so tense that once again she started when John laid his hand on her back, but she was grateful at least this time she didn’t scream. “It’s me,” he said a moment too late, but she rested her forehead against his shoulder anyway. “Is he okay? I didn’t hear him cry until a second ago.”
“He’s fine.” I’m the one who’s a mess, she thought as John wrapped his arms around them both. She pressed her nose against his chest, inhaling the warm sleepy scent of him.
“Shh, shh,” he murmured, and Dana had the feeling he was talking to her, not the baby.
She sagged against him, suddenly tired to her bones. It had been such a good weekend—even if her mother seemed determined to dislike John and had questioned him on Sunday about everything from his education to what ended his first marriage—and Dana had been happy. She’d had hopes of peaceful days and loving nights, of her little family only growing closer as the years went by.
Now this—nightmares as terrible and intense as those she’d had just after Mulder died. She could still taste the ashes in her mouth. It did not speak to her of a peaceful mind.
“Did he have a bad dream, do you think?” John murmured. “Is that what woke you?”
“No. He didn’t—I did.”
He sighed. “Dana . . .” and stroked her back. “Here, give me William. Maybe I can calm him down.”
Wordless, she handed over the baby and sat in the rocking chair, drawing up her legs beneath her nightshirt. John held the baby to his bare chest and whispered to him as he slowly paced back and forth. After a while William’s harsh frightened sobs calmed into whimpers, and then light snores. “Okay, Willie boy,” John said as he carefully laid the baby back in the crib. “Sleepy time now, okay? That’s a good boy.” He stayed by the crib a moment, looking at William with a thoughtful expression, and then raised his head and smiled faintly at Dana. He tilted his head towards the door, so Dana rose and followed him out of the nursery.
Instead of leading her back to the bedroom, however, he turned towards the stairs and went down to the kitchen. Dana hesitated: it was only a few hours before John had to leave for work, surely he’d rather sleep than talk. Still, she joined him downstairs.
He was filling a mug with milk when she came into the kitchen, that same thoughtful expression on his face. “A little warm milk to help you sleep,” he said.
“Thanks.” She wrapped her arms around herself and leaned against one of the counters.
He put the mug into the microwave and pressed the buttons, then leaned against the opposite counter and folded his arms too. “You know,” he said quietly, “for a year or so after Luke died I had dreams just about every night, where he’d tell me it was my fault he was dead.”
“I know. The department made me take bereavement counseling, you know. You can’t do your job when you’re angry. The counsellor, she was nice—a little New Age-y, but very understanding. The dreams were my own guilt, she said. I believe that. Dreams are just . . .
dreams. Just the mind talking to itself.”
“Not always,” Dana said, when the microwave dinged and John moved to take out the mug. He handed it to her and she took it with a soft, “Thanks.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes they’re more.”
“Prophetic dreams?” he said, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes. Sometimes. Or a message.”
“So, you’re afraid the dream you had tonight was a message?”
She sipped her milk and didn’t meet his eyes. “I don’t know. I hope not.” She paused. “Have I ever told you about my daughter?”
“Sometimes I think I’ve let her go. That I’ve moved on. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop grieving her, not really.”
“That’s the way it should be,” John said unexpectedly. “She was your child.”
“But just for a little while.”
“Dana . . . The length of time doesn’t make the feeling any less genuine. It’s grief. It’s hard. It wrings you out and you ask yourself a thousand times if there wasn’t just one more thing you could have done to make things different. But thinking that way will make you crazy. Trust me,” he added with a ghost of a smile.
“Besides, you’ve got Will.”
“Who’s being chased by so many factions I can’t even keep track of them.”
“We’ve always gotten him back, Dana. And now that we’ve got a better idea of what we’re looking for, we can keep them from getting that close to him.” At last he crossed the kitchen and wrapped her up in his arms again. He kissed her forehead. “Will’s my second chance,” he said softly. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt him.”
She put down her mug so she could hold him, and couldn’t resist teasing him. “I know. You only love me for my baby.”
He laughed. “Right. It has nothing to do with how much fun you are.”
“Oh, I’m not fun.”
“You’re tons of fun, once you relax a little.” He cupped her face in his hand, smiling down at her. “You’re my best time, Dana.”
Happiness, sweet and warm, coursed through her body, surprising her. She nuzzled her cheek into his hand. He was right, she thought. Just her mind talking to itself. She had to let go of her worries, accept that they were safe and nothing would hurt them while John was alive.
She stood up on her toes to kiss him, and refused to think of to whom she could turn if anything happened to John.
It wasn’t until they were back in bed, John already half asleep in her arms, that she remembered the date. Damn it, she thought, and slipped out of bed.
In the bathroom she washed her thighs, frowning because there was nothing more she could do. Pills were out of the question while she was breastfeeding, and the only method of contraception she had on hand was the box of sponges under the sink. John had offered to wear a condom more than once, but she’d been confident in her ability to remember the days and told him she’d let him know when they needed one. All things one had to plan for to use.
Dana rinsed out the washcloth and hung it over the side of the bathtub, then leaned against the sink and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked pale and worried, not like a woman who just got thoroughly and deliciously loved by her husband. She crossed her eyes and grimaced, and turned off the light. She went back to bed and eased under the covers. John, no use at all for a good half hour after sex, wrapped her up in his arms and sloppily kissed the crown of her head with a satisfied hum.
Would it be better, she thought, to tell him her worries now or wait until she knew there was something to worry about? No, this was serious—this wasn’t like deciding John would be Daddy to William or that she would take his name. This would change things, if it were true.
“John,” she whispered, and again he hummed. She turned over to look into his face, and he looked back with sleepy eyes. “John, I think I might be pregnant.”
That woke him. He sat up, holding her upper arms, and said, “What makes you think that?”
“Because I just remembered what day it is, and we didn’t use anything.”
He looked faintly stunned. “But you
—I mean—you said you’d keep track.”
“I was a little preoccupied tonight.” A strangely ironic dream, now that she thought about it: dreaming of her dead child distracting her into conceiving again. “I mean, I won’t know for certain for another few weeks, but it’s possible and I want you to be prepared.”
“Jesus,” he said and finally let her go.
She didn’t know what reaction she’d been expecting, but it wasn’t this. “Don’t you want another child?” she said quietly.
He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “I—no. I mean—no. Do you? Really?”
“I think I do.” She leaned back against the pillows and crossed her hands over her belly. “I do. I would have preferred more than fourteen months between children, but this isn’t the end of the world.”
“Having Will almost killed you, Dana, and I don’t want to watch you go through that again.”
“Is that the only reason?” she said, quieter still. “Because of what it does to my health?”
“Yes. No.” He frowned. “Dana. I don’t know if I can do that again. With Will it’s different. Loving Will is like loving you—it’s part of loving you. He’s part of you. But I don’t think—” He shut his eyes and shook his head, sighing. “No. I can’t do it again, Dana. I can’t love another child.”
“Is this the kind of thing you’d leave me over?” Dana said, surprised at how calm she sounded.
“God, Dana! Of course not!”
“So, you’d stay with me and let the resentment build, and take it out on the child?” God, was she always this dispassionate when her heart was breaking?
“Dana,” he said again, and knelt in front of her. He took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. “I love you so much,” he said slowly. “And I wish I could be happy at the possibility but right now I am just scared.”
Dana studied him a moment, then put her hand on his wrist and turned her head to kiss his palm. Fear she could understand. Fear she could forgive. “And I could be wrong,” she said. “I may have had only the one chance.”
“You know I want to give you everything you want, baby,” he said, his voice soft and urgent. “And if this is what you want—”
“You’d have a child you don’t want just because I do?”
“Maybe ‘don’t want’ is too strong a term,” he said slowly. “Maybe it’s more like . . . ‘am afraid to want.'”
Again she studied him. “I have just realized we have a lot to talk about.”
“Yeah. I guess we do.”
She stroked his face. Not heartbreak, just a flat note in their harmonious world. They’d figure it out—despite every difference they had, they’d come so far in such a short time, and she was willing to compromise, yield, and choose her battles. Love, she thought, is also about fighting fair. She said, “But not right now. You need your beauty sleep,” and he chuckled.
“I love you,” he said with something like anxiety.
“And I can’t even start to name the ways I love you.”
He smiled and kissed her cautiously, and they lay down again, both aware of how darkness had fled the bedroom since they first awoke. John put his hand on her belly and said, “Maybe it’ll be something wonderful.”
“New life always is,” Dana said, and smiled when he squeezed her close.
For the fourth morning in a row John’s change was neatly stacked for counting on the dresser top, but Dana decided nothing was going to bother her today and made pancakes for breakfast.
“You know what I’d love,” John said as they were kissing goodbye on the front porch.
“A daughter,” she said, and he nearly smiled.
“Something simpler, for now. I’d love for you to surprise me some time, show up at the office and take me out to lunch.”
“I could surprise you like that,” she said. She kissed him all the way down the stairs, and only let him go because she was in her bathrobe and slippers and he really had to get on the highway. They waved to each other after he backed down the driveway and into the street, and she stayed on the porch, watching him, as he drove away.
When she turned around to re-enter the house, there was a little boy standing in the doorway. He was blond with a serious face, and his mouth moved without a sound.
“William?” she said, which made no sense at all.
Then the boy was gone, and there was no one else around but the baby, making noises at the ceiling as if talking to someone she couldn’t see.