Category: For the contrelamontre Deux Ex Machina challenge.
Spoilers: 'Divided Loyalties'
Summary: 'Deux Ex Machina: in Greek and Roman drama, a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation.' Taken literally.
Disclaimer: If I owned them, would I be letting you watch?
Author's Note: Set somewhere in what would have been Crusade, after the Psi Corps fell.
Archive: Want, Take, Tell.
It came back to her in vivid flashes, colour-blinding in their strangeness. She remembered moments of another life, another place, other times, a life not her own. She remembered outside the box, and it was wondrous enough that she didn't care if it might not be real.
The moments left her, sometimes, if the tests had been bad. She learned to coax them back to her, to feed them crumbs of hair darker than her own; scraps of a deep, quiet voice and warm hands. She learned to hold them tight and squeeze them into hours; later she could grate them thin enough to last days, without knowing. They told her that soft hair was long, thick, a chestnut wave; that the voice had spoken more anger at her than love, but only for the loss of time.
Loss, she understood.
Days, months, and she forgot the box. Closed it and buried it and sat on it for good measure. She lived life as the dreams told her, happy and loved. She knew people she never remembered forgetting, saw places she never knew she'd never been.
When the tests and the food and the needles stopped coming, she'd already forgotten they were ever there.
The dust tinted everything red, even her thoughts. Dream space when she dreamed looking from a dream window to a dream world outside, all of it red. There were moments of another life, another place, a rusted nightmare. She tried waving them away with warm hands on a supple body, buried in the fall of brown hair longer than her own, her mouth crushed to lips that she barely knew had ever driven her away.
They turned into minutes before her eyes, and when they came everything was rust-red and cold. The hands she knew couldn't warm her any more, and on those lips she tasted red grit and icy winds.
When she woke up one day, the nightmare was real, black and red. Red for the grit and the sand and the winds, black for this lonely place of burned and twisted metal. She remembered a box, and crawled out of it alone.
In the dreams she had lived days so long, she forgot when the sun should go down. That it didn't for days at a time was no worry at all to her, pale and blistering in the red desert of dust. There was light, and she went to it, and it blessed her that it never went away.
She curled up to sleep and dreamed another someone with hair as hers felt, red and dusky falling at her cheek. She remembered, this was a memory. The red hair made her fearful; when she woke, every inch of her was softly clean.
Sometimes the light would speak, but she knew that could only be a dream.
They took her to the closest hospital, when no one could explain her. She was feared, she felt it in her head and couldn't say why. You are special, the light whispered to her in the darkness of night. You are ours, and they cannot understand. It comforted her to know, when she understood even less than they. The light could not lie to one like her.
They moved her when the ward complained of strange dreams, a light and a darkness profound enough to terrify in their minds while they slept. She heard them say she was a telepath, and it came to her fully born, the knowledge of that. Yes, a telepath.
The light spoke only in her mind, now. She knew what she was; it coaxed her back to who. The dreams floated in her and she recalled friends, voices, worlds of herself she had thought lost forever.
She gave them a name.
A man came, and in relief she knew him. Garibaldi.
He looked at her as if she were a ghost, and for the first time she wondered if she were. If ghosts could be taken by the arm and driven to a Mars-domed palace she'd never seen. He told her this place was his; he told her the date. It dug at her how much she didn't know. When she questioned it with the light, she felt it gone.
Garibaldi kept her talking for days. She met his wife, congratulated them both, again when they told her about the baby. He pieced together her lost years without being asked, convinced her that she wasn't a ghost but a miracle. A friend. Sitting with him she felt like one; he was the first she told about the light who didn't think her crazy.
A month, and then two, and then three weeks more, but the house never grew boring or small around her. She marked off the days with a pleasure that she had known each one.
Michael told her his story, what he knew of it. At moments she thought it might just be hers, chewed up and spit out a different way. He told her the years of other people, some she knew and some she barely remembered. Sheridan. Delenn, both of them on Minbar, raising a child. G'Kar, lost somewhere. Lennier was a strain to recall until he showed her pictures. Stephen, on Earth. It surprised her to remember Earth, after all this time. Michael promised to take her.
She asked after everyone she could remember, except one.
It was a hundred and twelve days, when Michael didn't come and sit with her at breakfast. Lise told her where he'd gone and then took her shopping. She didn't remember what she would like; Lise picked out everything, paid as well. Michael would be pleased, she told her. He'd always hated the uniforms she wore.
Looking into the mirror was an experience she hadn't expected, when her own self looked back at her with bare hands. Years had passed since the last time she'd seen that. She took to placing mirrors in every room.
One afternoon she glanced into one and there was someone already there.
She wasn't sure why she was there, she said. It took every remembered strength of days crawling the red desert to listen. She was a Captain now, she said. She hadn't been back there in years. She wasn't sure she wanted to go back.
"I don't know what I am, now." Truth slipped out all on its own. She hadn't spoken like this, yet. "I don't know what there is for me."
"You're alive." That, apparently, was enough of a start. Susan sat beside her, watching them talk in the reflection; this time convincing her that she could be, maybe, more than a miracle.
More than a friend.
"I have to know." Susan said it for both of them, out of Michael's hearing, when the light had already died and she was standing to go. "I'll find out. Soon."
She waited for the strength to reply with a kiss, but it refused to come, and then the door was closed.
Michael flew the shuttle himself, as far as Io. When he bid her goodbye and pressed a calling code into her hand, his lips were hot on her cheek. The transport home was the Retour: she took that as a good omen.
Twelve days later she was wandering the corridors, and it felt as if she'd never been gone until she turned a corner and saw everything she didn't recognise. Doctor Hobbs ran her medical check; Lochley was the one who greeted her coolly when she was found in Blue Sector. She couldn't bring herself to acknowledge the rank that should have been Susan's.
The color scheme, the menu, the waiter was different, but the café was still there. She went for breakfast every morning. She was crossing off the start of a third week in her mind when Susan sat down.
It was all about a crystal and a light and a favor and having known someone born without death in mind, and her heart speaking to her in the dark when she'd forgotten its voice. It had Vorlons, battles, Rangers, and she listened to it all without struggling to believe. It was too amazing not to make sense.
The Titans shipped out with them both on board. She didn't know what Susan had told her crew. No one said she shouldn't be there, and she wasn't sure she dared ask; she wondered if Sheridan could somehow make her legal, and if they looked at her so curiously because of it. Bare hands felt a hot and shameful thing when she walked these corridors.
It took two days to find gloves she could wear; three hours for Susan to come and demand why. She couldn't explain what it was to be looked at that way, until she had it told to her in the softening of dark eyes and fingers quietly between her own.
It surprised her that Susan was the one to tell her that part. After she'd heard it all, she threw the gloves away.
She applied to Minbar for amnesty. When she woke up in Susan's bed, they were in orbit.
She still marks off the days as they go by, on a longer calendar now. She's younger since she's been here, in semantic silliness and at heart. The house is built of crystal, which somehow seems appropriate.
It's not strange to be who she is here; here, who she is isn't what she is, and if she works as hard as she ever did it's only for wanting to feel useful. Sheridan likes having at least one telepath he can trust, and she likes working for him. She's starting to pretend that's all she ever did.
There's a double bed in that crystal house, well-used and well-jumped on by a nine-year-old boy with too much energy to burn. Babysitting is a good job to have, when it gets you a White Star in return. Someone else is doing well in the chair she used to sit in; she hardly cares any more. Going native, they used to call it.
She smiles, and Talia smiles with her. They don't have to speak why, any more.
Took long enough.
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