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Though I've Named My Fear

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After she and Tony order breakfast, Priya reaches for the little cup of crayons in the corner of their table, and uses every color available to draw tropical fish on the paper place mats. She gives each fish a different pattern, and fills every corner with their brightly colored bodies and swirling fins. When she looks up, Tony is staring at her.

“Just what do you think you’re looking at?” she asks.

“You,” he says without missing a beat. “I like watching you draw. I think… I always have.”

Ever since they turned their backs on the Dollhouse and drove away toward whatever comes next, they’ve both been surprised by those flashes of memory. Priya can usually tell, from the look on Tony’s face, when something has wrenched him away from the here and now, and most of the time, she’s quick enough to reach for his hand and pull him back. A few of her own memories have reduced her to seething rage or made her want to scrub at her skin until it’s raw, but others fill her with unbelievable peace and certainty. She tries not to worry about which ones are real.

“Are you going to watch me all the time, then?” she inquires.

Tony covers his eyes with one hand. “Is this better?”

She snorts with laughter and blows her straw wrapper at him. To anybody else in the diner, she thinks, they must look like any normal couple having an adventure together. It’s wonderful to not be recognized, or monitored. Maybe someday she’ll get used to it.

Then again, in her other life (or, really, her other lives), she didn’t know that she was being monitored, did she? The thought sends a shiver through her.

The waitress sets down their plates, and Priya closes her eyes. She tells herself that nobody is coming after them – not anymore. She concentrates on the smells of coffee and grease, the twang of the music coming over the loudspeakers, her first bite of pancake heaped with syrup and strawberries. None of those small realities quiet her fear that she’ll open her eyes to the sight of black vans outside the window, and a man or woman in a suit standing over their table with a sickening smile. Victor, Sierra, would you like your treatments now?

Her eyes snap open, and she realizes that her hands are clenched on the table. Tony pauses, with a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth, concern creasing his forehead. “Nothing, it’s nothing,” she says, and if he isn’t convinced, he doesn’t say so.

Once they’re outside, he squeezes her hand tightly and presses a firm kiss to her hair, and she's reminded that he probably understands, after all. Being near him feels as familiar, and as right, as the first time that one of them reached out to touch the other. Of all the voices from her half-forgotten past, his is one of the few that she welcomes.

“Sierra, this feels better.”

“Better?”

“It feels safer. Safer than being alone.”

Hoping that those words are still true, Priya lifts her head to look Tony in the eye. “Let’s decide where we’re going next.”