Emily is eleven years old when she sits down with a computer and searches the internet for special places.
She starts out with the ones she remembers best, like Beacon Hills and Stilinski and Hale, or Mystic Falls and Gilbert and Lockwood and Salvatore. Nothing pops out. Not even as fiction, which is a pity because she'd have liked to watch those shows again and it'd tell her if those specific actors she's fond of are real here. It takes her an hour to remember to search for P3 and Halliwell Manor in San Fran.
There's a mention of a P3 but no Halliwells as far as she can figure out, but that's still hope and she'll keep a hold of it until she can one day go there. There's a Rosewood but no missing DiLaurentis.
Buffy, however, she'd never been a fan of. It takes her an entire week to remember the name of the place that had been set in and even then she's not sure if Sunnydale is right or not. It doesn't pop up as a thing, but it's not a bad thing if it's not real.
She's in the middle of searching for mentions of the Winchesters when her dad interrupts her, clearing his throat and crossing his arms like she's in a lot of trouble.
"Something wrong, dad?" she tilts her head, blinking cutely at him, and smugly watches him fold like wet paper.
"No, no," he waves off. Probably doesn't mean it but doesn't want to worry her. Typical dad.
"Okay, if you're sure," she turns back to the computer with a shrug, knowing he's going to jump in any time now anyway.
"What you looking at?"
"Oh, just looking up words I overheard and didn't know."
"Yeah? Find anything interesting?"
"Yep, tons. I don't have the time to explain it to you, though."
"Why not?" that doesn't sound anything like the innocent question she suspects he's trying to make it seem like, so she raises an unimpressed eyebrow at him, waiting for him to get it. "What, your dad not cool enough to spend time with?"
"Dad, please," it's positively unfair how exasperated her parents are capable of making her. Her worries of being as good as the real Emily had been are clearly unfounded and she kind of wishes she'd known this ages ago. To be fair, she really does love them as much as she thinks Emily would have. Maybe more, they're not the same as her previous parents and the change is... Nicer, maybe.
There's a lot of drama involved, that hasn't changed a bit, but it's different and she knows she's their first priority no matter what.
She is eleven when she realizes Iron Man is an actual thing in this world. And so is Thor, the actual God of Thunder. Trying to figure out how to react to any of this is hard, but at the same time she feels pretty damn satisfied that she'd been right. There's no such thing as reincarnation in a world without magic.
She is fifteen when she for the first time in this life thinks she really might die.
"We've got to go," she grasps her hand, heedless of the dead man they leave behind as she tugs her along to what she thinks must be the exit. It's not the way she'd come from, and she hadn't seen any exits there, so it's got to be here somewhere.
"Maybe we can get out of a window. We're not that high up, did you see any rope around?" the other girl shakes her head, but doesn't say anything. That's alright, though, Emily can talk enough for the both of them when she's nervous. Or scared. And she's a lot scared right now.
"We'll figure it out. Come on."
The girl doesn't answer as Emily drags her around, turning corners quickly when she spots people. It's not until she hears a child's voice call something out that's either a name or another language entirely that she stops, forced to by the girl pausing and tugging at her hand, apparently recognizing the voice. It worries her that the child is followed by an adult with a gun at his hip, but she lets it go for now given that neither of the other two children seem worried. Just happy to see each other.
"Time to go," the man says. He mustn't speak often, with that kind of voice, but he sounds kind so she follows them.
The kids, they're absolutely kids more so than she is with her current looks, run faster than she'd thought they'd be able to. She's the one struggling to keep up, so of course the world throws a wrench in her ability to keep up at all.
A sudden pain spreads throughout her stomach, not too unlike her period cramps, but worse. She looks down as she stumbles and sees red, and she thinks that maybe because she's older now it'll hurt more, but it doesn't make sense because the red is on her actual stomach and she knows, alright, she knows she wasn't wearing red today.
Emily hears a curse and a loud noise and then she's lifted up and it hurts so, so much but the arms around her are careful.
And then she blacks out.
She doesn't expect to wake up again but she wants to, so when she does she smiles faintly, relieved to see she's not starting all over again. She's not dead again just yet. She's still being carried, though. She can't see the other kids, either. Are they behind them? Did they split up? Has he already sent them off somewhere safe? Is he going to bury her somewhere because she's actually going to die?
She might. Getting help will probably take too long and she doesn't know if he knows any way to do it himself. Probably not something like this. All she knows is that she should probably keep pressure on the red but she's too scared to look down again and confirm the sinking suspicion that she's been shot.
If she dies, well, canon has been changed plenty and it'll just have to do. Gibbs won't let her parents go insane, they'll figure out a way to move on. She'd already decided to believe this when she was first taken, so why change her mind now?
"I bet you've got a gorgeous smile," she slurs out, determined to go out on a positive note for at least one person. She wasn't expecting to sound like that, but at least she's making sense and anyway. Beggars can't be choosers, doesn't matter if he might be a bad guy at heart, he's the only one left that she can speak to. And he can't be that bad, since he's carrying her off into the sunrise. Almost literally, if she counts the massive fire she sees over his shoulder.
She hopes everyone else got out safe, too. The kids probably did. She can't imagine this guy leaving them to die like that, not on purpose. Not with how he'd decided to not leave her behind when she got hurt.
Time passes her by and she's not sure how long it's been when he carries her into a building, a wooden hut or something, but it can't have been that long considering she's still alive and bleeding, right?
"Are you awake?"
Emily blinks up at the man, "y-yes," and regrets trying to speak.
"I need to get that bullet out," he tells her like he expects her to know exactly what that entails. She's got a pretty good idea, but she doesn't really know. Still, it's gotta get out if she wants to survive, is that it? She can accept that.
He takes her nod for the yes it is and she gets to watch him wander around in a hurry, gathering what he needs. It takes ages, even though it couldn't possibly, and gives her a moment to notice things she hadn't until now.
She is fifteen when she learns how to survive following the Winter Soldier around. Or. No. He's Bucky now. Isn't he?
She is sixteen years old when she finally gets to go home.
She knows the moment he's home, sees him walk to the door and open it. Hears him close it behind him and start walking towards her. Towards the living room, and she smiles just slightly because she knows he'll see her.
Gibbs stops walking halfway just when he's about to enter the room, and when she looks up-- he looks like he's been hit on the head. Hard.
"Emily," he says, and she no longer wonders how much he cares about her because it's all there in his tone. She might not be able to read his face very well, despite how long she's known him, but she can read his voice. She can read the relief that she so rarely hears in his tone, if ever. The fondness of her that he doesn't try to hide but doesn't always know how to show either. It's all there.
"I was expecting dad to be with you. What, did you two break up?"
"Funny. Where have you been?" he's poking at his phone as he asks, only glancing at it every now and then like she'll disappear if he looks away for too long. Probably calling her parents. Reinforcements. Whatever.
Emily still smiles. It's less bright than her horrible attempt had been moments ago, it's nothing like the smiles she used to give people she views as her family, like her uncle Gibbs. No verbal explanation will ever suffice, not really. All she can offer is a shrug and that little smile and let him read into it like he always manages to. Somewhere along the way he'll hit the nail on the head.
It upsets him. She knew it would. She remembers the most important things of the show and that is one of them. He's important, how to read him. It's only been solidified by her time growing up with him as a sort of presence in her life. He thinks she's holding out, protecting her kidnappers. It makes him suspicious of their closest, the ones she'd care about enough to protect.
"I'm home, now. And they can't hurt me anymore."
"You were there for the explosion," it's not a question. It's a statement. And it's correct.
"For the beginning part. I got help getting out. The other girls... They made it, didn't they?"
"Yeah," other than her, he doesn't say, but he doesn't need to. She can hear it loud and clear without. They probably thought she was dead for a time. She's sorry about that.
"I wasn't sure they did. I passed out and when I woke up they were gone and I couldn't go back. I couldn't go anywhere without help, they'd have gotten into a lot of trouble getting me home sooner than they managed," it speaks volumes that she'd accepted waiting, but then she wouldn't have had a choice even if she had decided to fight for returning right away. He doesn't know that, but he'll probably figure it out.
"And your help. They here?"
"No. I got dropped off a few blocks away and walked here."
It's probably best not to admit that this was her first choice, that she is here because she asked to be. She would've asked for NCIS headquarters, but that would've made it too easy for them to track James. He deserves a shot at freedom.
"This the same person who helped those other kids? Wouldn't let you call, then."
"I'm happy to see you again, too, uncle," she's up before she can decide not to, taking a page from the Emily she should've been and the Emily she's tried her best to be, and hugs him. He hugs her back like always and she knows that no matter what she says or does, she'll always matter to him. And if it's letting him believe she couldn't call, that's fine too.
"Sorry I'm late," she says as the door slams open and running steps reveal her parents and two of Gibbs' team. "Had to pick up some trauma on my way home, you know how it goes."
Gods, that sounds so flippant when she thinks about it, but clearly none of them are going to poke on it right this moment.
Her mother makes a sound that she's not sure she could describe if she tried to, and she stumbles over to hug her like she's drunk. Emily can smell no alcohol, but she also understands that Diane is a mother. Her mother. This is normal. Her father is much the same, though he makes no sound at all until he's got them both in his arms, a whispered "thank God," all he seems able to get out.
She's sixteen when she gets more dangerous secrets to keep from her loved ones than just her previous life.