Once inside, he sat down on the sofa with her in his arms, ignoring Sascha's frown. She narrowed those eyes so like Faith's and yet somehow completely different. He'd never before noticed that cardinal eyes were unique from Psy to Psy, had never been close enough to two of them to compare. But he knew that he wouldn't ever mistake Sascha's eyes for Faith's.
Sascha turned to Lucas and threw up her hands. "You talk to him."
Lucas looked at Vaughn. "He knows what he's doing." Vaughn wasn't so sure. He just knew that Faith couldn't be allowed to be scared of touch. She couldn't. And if there was something slightly inexplicable about his reaction, it was probably because he wasn't Psy.
Sascha cornered Lucas in the small kitchen. "Why is Vaughn acting so irrationally?" she said under her breath, cognizant of the cats' superior sense of hearing.
Her mate smiled and she felt the tug of it in her stomach. The reaction was still new, still powerful. She wondered if it would ever settle down - she had a feeling not, not when she was mated to this male.
The smile changed to reflect his knowledge of her susceptibility to him - pure feline satisfaction. "I can't read minds."
"Lucas." She found a glass and rinsed it out. "I felt nothing off Faith. Nothing."
His body went hunting-quiet. "Like before?"
Sascha didn't like remembering her first brush with the reptilian coldness of a mind that had given off no emotional feedback. The Psy might've buried their emotions, but they were there, a low-level hum most of her race didn't know existed, but which she'd always sensed on a level deeper than consciousness.
However, there were some who literally gave off no emotion . . . because they'd never had any feelings to subjugate - sociopaths given ultimate freedom by Silence. "No," she said quickly. "Not like before."
He glanced out of the kitchen and through to where Vaughn sat holding Faith. "But?"
She walked to stand in the circle of his arms. "It's like she's encased in a shell, more so than other Psy. Everything's so tightly contained, it isolates her in a way I can barely imagine." His heartbeat was a steady rhythm under her hand, but what brought her a feeling of such safety could well kill Faith.
"This woman has had literally no contact with any race other than her own, and you heard the extent of even that limited contact. We're overloading her senses and the only way she has to cope is by shutting down."
"The seizures - do you think they're a real possibility?"
Sascha took a moment to think. "I don't know for sure. The F-Psy rarely fed data into the PsyNet when I was connected, because in most cases, what they learn has been paid for by someone. But my instincts say she thinks they're real, that she's been taught they're real."
"So she could subconsciously bring one on?"
"Yes." Sascha had once believed she was a cardinal with-out power - she knew exacdy what it was like to live a lie for so long that it became the truth. "Faith has no concept of a life outside of the world in which she was raised. That she's here at all is a testament to the strength inside of her."
"Good. The weak don't survive."
Vaughn felt the woman in his arms stir. Her eyes blinked open almost immediately. "Breathe deep," he instructed the instant she started to freeze up. "If you pass out, we'll have to go through this again."
"Please let me go."
There was no vulnerability in her tone, nothing that gave away her emotional temperature. Then again, she was Psy - she had no feelings. Frowning at the jaguar's demand to continue holding her, he allowed her to sit up on his lap. When she pushed at his arm, he dropped it so she could stand.
She rubbed her hands over her pants. "Where's Sascha?"
"I'm here." Coming out of the kitchen, Sascha handed Faith a glass of water. "Drink."
Faith did so without argument, then put the glass on the table in front of the sofa. Vaughn watched and waited as she looked around for a place to sit. Lucas had already claimed the armchair and now pulled Sascha to sit across his thighs. Faith was left with the option of sitting beside him or in an armchair on the far side of the room. She took the sensible alternative, but tried to put as much distance between them as she could.
"How're you feeling?" Sascha asked.
"Fine. But please tell your pack members not to touch me. I have no capacity to process the stimulation."
Vaughn ran a finger down her cheek. She whipped around to pin him with a look. "I said don't touch me."
"When we first met, you'd have threatened to go to pieces with that one touch." He raised an eyebrow. "Now you can deal."
She looked at him. "You're saying you're desensitizing me."
"No, Red. I'm sensitizing you."
Faith looked into those cat eyes and wondered at the intent in them. "I don't understand you."
A curve to his mouth, Vaughn leaned back and slung his arm around the back of the sofa. She realized that if she rested her head against the seat, his fingers would brush her hair. It should've made no difference to her, but she found herself leaning forward as she began to speak. "I need to learn to stop the visions."
"Why do you think we can help you?" Sascha asked.
Faith tried to think past her awareness of the changeling beside her. He might've decided to act civilized, but that could change at any moment - she had to complete her self-appointed task before he went cat on her. "I don't. All I know is what I said before - that you won't turn me in to the Council."
"How long have you been having the visions?"