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Note: The point of divergence from continuity here is uncertain. The astral-ghost Madelyne, however, is actually Madelyne instead of an alternate Jean.
Explosions came in many colors depending on what exactly was blowing up. Green was a bit unusual. Unless there was copper or something involved in large quantities... which was also fairly unusual.
Domino sat up on the floor and put a hand to her head. Something was seriously wrong.
First of all, there was the green explosion. Cautiously opening her eyes revealed the information that the room did not appear to have had an explosion in it recently. Nor did her person or clothes bear signs of having been close enough to one to have been knocked down. No scorch marks or anything--no bruises except some half-healed ones from hitting the floor hard in a workout yesterday.
Great, just great. An *imaginary* green explosion. That had apparently caused her to fall on the floor in the middle of fixing a sandwich.
She wondered if she had been out long enough for the fish to spoil.
~I don't believe so, but I'm not sure I'd be able to tell. Perhaps you should smell it.~
That was NOT Nate's thought-voice. He'd been known to sound a little strange sometimes, but never like a woman. Besides, it was green instead of gold. ~Who are you and what are you doing in my head? Get out!~
She'd been told her thoughts were purple before, but she'd never seen it herself except when she was talking to Nathan. Until now. And she was shielding the link pretty frantically. Whoever this was didn't need to be finding it and trying to use her to get to him or....
~I know it's there, Domino.~ The green voice felt a little tired, and somehow rather... nonplussed. ~I am Aliya--or Jenskot--and we have met before. At least, I have met a version of you.~
Domino swallowed. ~Um... yeah. I've met a version of you too. Aren't you... dead, though?~
~Or not yet extant, depending on your perspective... but, yes, I have died. I'm not entirely sure why I seem to have been transferred from that state of being to tenancy in your brain. I believe I could return, but it may be... jarring.~
~To which one of us?~ Her head was already pounding, although not as badly as she would vaguely imagine ought to be the result of having a dead woman's mind dumped on hers. Especially if it had knocked her out. ~Wait, if you leave won't you be dead again?~
~You couldn't be some kind of... loose psi-being?~
~I might be able to manage that, but I don't have the energy reserves to create a body, so I would essentially be a ghost. This qualifies as dead in your parlance, does it not? I would probably drift back across at some point.~
~The boundary between life and death for the mind. I was... near it, and in this time, because my link-mate still lives. A short time ago, I was pulled through--at least I believe it to have been a very short time. Were you going to examine your fish?~
~Examine... my fish. Right.~ Domino eyed the cabinets to one side of her, then the wooden chair and table legs on the other side, and carefully stood up. Her head still didn't hurt as much as she suspected it should.
The fish she'd left on the table still smelled fresh. She poked it with a finger. Still almost as cold as when she'd taken it out of the refrigerator. She must not have been out long at all.
She plopped the piece of fish she'd prodded onto the bread she'd already gotten out, then put the rest away. She had had a tomato slice... which appeared to have come to rest under the table when she fell down.
~You got dust on my tomato,~ she told Aliya, and went to rinse it off in the sink.
She was about to get a paper towel to clean tomato juice off the floor when one floated purposefully into the stream of water--hadn't she just shut off the faucet?--and then dived for the previous location of the tomato slice.
~Aliya. Are you doing that?~ She hoped Aliya was doing that.
~Yes. Is this a problem?~
~Not... really. I didn't know you could do that in, well, from in my body.~
~I said that I do not have the energy reserves to build a body, not that I have none at all. And I imagine that a scan right now would show neural activity in areas of your brain normally associated in psis with the use of their powers.~
~Right.~ Domino stared at the paper towel as it hovered for a moment. ~It goes in the trash can, by the way.~
~Thank you. I could tell it was disposable, but I am not familiar with this location.~
~Riiiiight. Look. Uh, listen. Whatever.~ She did NOT like what she was about to say. ~I can't ask you to leave. Not if it'll just kill you again.~
~It is your mind and body. I think if I left now, however, it might knock you out again.~
~That's... not the point. Just stay put for now. I guess you probably don't like it either, do you.~
~It's... strange. I thank you for your hospitality, though, and will try not to be too intrusive.~
Domino assembled her sandwich and bit into it, holding the bread a little too tightly. She needed to think. Unfortunately, she needed to think about the telepath currently squatting in her mind, and Aliya would probably be able to hear every word. Or idea.
Well, she'd just have to deal with it. At least Aliya was being fairly polite. Domino's experience with uninvited brain-inhabitants--most of it, fortunately, not in her own brain--suggested that the majority of them were inclined to take over and generally cause trouble, not make polite conversation. The only thing Aliya had really done so far was help mop up the tomato.
Of course, it was going to look awfully funny if she suddenly appeared to develop telekinesis.
Oh, no. She was going to have to tell Nathan.
~You are his lover.~
~Your replacement, yeah.~ She didn't mean the thought to be quite as bitter as it sounded.
The soothing thought that curled through hers the next moment startled her. ~Replacement, maybe. Not just a substitute, though. I remember you. You were... impressive, particularly given that you had been thrown into an entirely unfamiliar environment.~
~Not entirely unfamiliar. He'd told me some things.~ She paused. ~Pretty much, though. But I don't think self-possession or being able to fight when weird things happen is exactly the usual way to pick a girlfriend.~
Laughter. ~Usual, no, but this *is* Nathan. I think he is predisposed to be attracted to deadliness. Besides, there's more to you than that.~
~Sometimes I wonder....~ She did, but was that really something she wanted to be telling Nathan's dead wife? It was probably silly to feel empty, too. With a tenant and a psi-link, her brain was really unusually crowded.
~Hmph. You sound as if you've forgotten how to have fun.~ A slight shake. ~Need reminding?~
Domino wasn't sure she wanted to know what would be involved in that reminder.... ~No.~
~I wasn't going to do anything alarming.~ Aliya sounded amused.
~You're worrying me.~
~Don't be worried. I know this is an imposition; I have no intention of making it worse than necessary.~
~I asked in part if you were his lover because... I believe our psi-links to him have somehow become overlaid. This may be why whatever brought me here brought me... here, to your mind.~
Domino winced. ~He already knows you're here, then?~ At least she wouldn't have to tell him. Although why he hadn't shown up yet... maybe he was hurt? She poked cautiously at the link. He seemed possibly a little shaky, but he was there....
~I don't believe he does.... No.~
~Oh.~ She wasn't sure whether she was relieved or disappointed, but the fish was getting her fingers damp through the squashed bread. ~Couldn't you tell him?~
~I could. I thought you would prefer to choose.~
Aliya meant it, about not trying to call the shots, then?
~If I didn't mean it, I probably wouldn't have brought it up at all.~
~You don't have to tell him.~
~You keep secrets from him regularly, don't you?~
~Nosy, aren't you?~ Domino retorted.
~It goes with the territory. Some things are hard to miss, though.~
~He doesn't even know my real name.~
~Do you ever use it?~
~There you are, then.~
There was an impatient sigh in her mind. ~Right here, of course.~
Domino wondered when the conversation had ceased to make sense. ~Don't you WANT him to know you're here?~
A slight hesitation. ~I'm not certain yet. The idea is appealing, but it may complicate matters.~
~Matters are complicated *anyway*. I'm sharing a brain with a dead woman. Better yet, I'm sleeping with the man she was married to.~ Domino paused. ~Does this not bother you?~
~Well, there are considerably more disturbing thoughts available....~
~Let's not go there. And that's not what I meant.~
~As you pointed out, I'm dead. Less so than I have been, currently. I've watched you, you know. I have been jealous sometimes, envious many times more often, and angry frequently when you tear at each other. I don't like to see him hurt.~
~I don't like to see him do foolish things, either. At least when you're together you tend to call him on them, as long as they don't involve you.~
~I call him on them when they do involve me!~
Domino huffed and took another bite of sandwich, then carefully put it down and licked mayonnaise and tomato and fish juice off her fingers. Maybe she needed another slice of bread. ~So what are you suggesting?~
~Probably that you'll find I make a nuisance of myself if either of you is being stupid. How disturbed are you going to be if I pay attention when you have sex?~
She swallowed wrong and coughed until her eyes watered. She also got the uneasy feeling that it was more Aliya's telekinesis than her own luck that prevented her from having to perform the Heimlich maneuver on herself. Then again, it was Aliya's fault she was choking, so that was only fair. ~Don't ever ask me anything like that again when I have something in my mouth.~
~I'll try to avoid it.~
~Not... very, I guess. He was your husband. That seems especially weird if he doesn't know you're there, though.~
~I'm not sure it wouldn't be weirder, at least for him, if he DID know. Perhaps you're right, however.~
Domino finally recovered the ability to breathe normally and returned to her sandwich, and by the time Jean burst into the kitchen the only sign that something might be wrong with her was a slight wateriness about the eyes.
"Domino? Are you all right?"
She gave Jean a wary look. "Yes...."
~Oh Bright Lady....~
~Are YOU all right? I mean, aside from the obvious?~
~Fine. She is... one of the First Ones. You wouldn't understand; they're legends to us--I took my battle name from them.~
~Jenskot. Right.~ Domino dragged her attention with some difficulty away from Aliya having paroxysms of reverence. For some reason she'd always thought of the woman as somewhat more practical. Talk about having issues with your in-laws. Then again, maybe with a seventeen-century gap and a religion founded by their daughter, it was understandable.
Jean was looking at her funny. "Are you sure?"
"Is something the matter? I did feel a... kind of a shock a few minutes ago. Knocked me out for a little while, but not very long. I'm all right now." She'd said that when she felt worse, after all.
"Yes. Well." Jean took a deep breath. She looked exhausted. "Apparently Nathan tangled with a very *odd* psi a few days ago who started a process to push his mind out of his body. It was very subtle; we didn't notice anything was wrong until he collapsed."
And she hadn't even felt it.... "He was probably being macho."
Jean's mouth quirked. "Entirely possible." She was staring at what was left of the sandwich.
Domino held it up, eyebrow raised. "Hungry?"
"No. Just... startled. I'm glad you're fine, but I was worried.... Madelyne was here; she helped me pull Nate back. It wasn't easy even so; when it finally worked, he snapped back into his own mind with something of a jerk. Apparently there was a fireball involved, too. Everyone but us saw it, and there are scorch marks on the ceiling."
~That must have been what caused this. His move towards death strengthened the psi-link to me, across the boundary, and when they pulled him back I was carried along.~
~Oh, good, you sound normal again. This is awkward.~
~What is, is.~
~Don't even *start* that. I hear it enough from Nathan; I don't need it from inside my own head.~
~Where do you think he learned it?~ Aliya paused; Domino could hear her considering, somehow, before she added, ~Besides--if we are to discuss what is *not*, imagine how much more awkward this would be if it were anybody else.~
And what if she wanted to break up with him, huh? Then what?
~If you didn't strongly wish not to lose him, my presence wouldn't worry you at all.~
~We don't always get along.~
~I know that. I told you, I've watched. Anyhow, I couldn't stand him at first, and vice versa. Don't worry. I'll help.~
That was a slightly alarming thought, but in a very peculiar way, it was also comforting. Domino decided this was a good sign, and finished chewing the bite of sandwich she'd taken to cover the conversation.
Jean was still watching her. She supposed this *was* a rather strange way to find someone you had expected to be in some form of psionic shock.
Domino summoned a grin and said brightly, "Glad he's all right. I always knew if you two ever cooperated, something would blow up."
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