"About three months. They've been coming on little by little. At first it felt like ... a heavy weight pressing down on me." It had crushed her until she'd taken to sleeping in her bed and not the monitored chair. "I began waking up with night sweats, my heartbeat racing so fast I should've called the M-Psy, but I didn't." Fingers whispered along her hair and she realized she'd somehow leaned backward without being aware of it.
"Sounds like fear to me," Vaughn said.
"I'm Psy. I don't feel fear." Pulling away, she angled her head to face him.
His focus on her was so intense, she felt stripped bare. "Then what would you call it?"
"A physiological reaction to unknown stress factors."
The slightest hint of a smile played about his lips. "So, what other physiological reactions did you experience?"
She thought he might be laughing at her but had no way of judging the veracity of that conclusion. He was completely unlike any other creature she'd ever come into contact with. "The night sweats deteriorated into what are termed night terrors. I would wake on the verge of screaming, convinced the dark visions had followed me into my waking life."
When she felt Vaughn's fingertips threading through her hair once again, she didn't shift and break the contact. He might be dangerous, but right this second, he seemed to be on her side. And she thought he might be dangerous enough to hold off the visions, unreasonable as that was.
"I don't know what you see normally. Were these different in more than content?" Sascha rested her head on her mate's shoulder, lines of concentration creasing her forehead.
Faith nodded. "Usually, my visions are very focused. Even if they don't start out that way, I can fine-tune them. But these ... I couldn't do anything. I would compare it to being in a vehicle with someone else at the wheel." That had been the most disturbing part. "They were out of my control, but not chaotic."
Vaughn's hand slid under her hair to cover her nape. She jerked, but didn't move away. He was right - she might not be able to beat back the visions, but she could strengthen her capacity to withstand physical stimulation. "But no more," she said very, very quietly, meeting his gaze.
She was practical enough to realize that she was far from being able to handle everything. For all she knew, her current immunity to the heavy heat of Vaughn's hand was being fueled by adrenaline. When the inevitable crash came, she could seize worse than she might've done if she hadn't pushed herself.
"We'll see," he said as softly, and there was a look in his eyes that she couldn't decipher. Perhaps it was challenge, something she'd read about in the endless books she'd devoured in the aloneness of her cottage. Her reading speed and voracity meant she had an incredible amount of knowledge on a multitude of subjects. But it was knowledge without context. Especially where humans and changelings were concerned.
Choosing the prudent option, she returned her attention to Sascha. "After a few weeks, the dark visions began to get more detailed. I started to see flashes, images in pieces, parts of a jigsaw." Another hobby that kept her sane. Or as sane as any F-Psy ever was. "But it was still out of my control because I couldn't put the pieces together."
Vaughn's thumb rubbed against her skin and she turned her head. "Yes?"
"Why did you wait so long to come to us?"
She was caught by the demand in his voice. That, she recognized. People often demanded things from her. "Because until Marine was murdered, I had no way of knowing whether these visions were real. I thought my mind was disintegrating - it's something that happens to all F-Psy, but generally not until the fifth decade or so of life. I believed my decline was beginning early."
"I've never heard of that," Sascha whispered.
"That's not surprising. The PsyClans don't want to be known as producing defective Psy and by the time we deteriorate, we've accumulated enough wealth to ensure discreet medical care during our decline." She tried not to think about what was coming, tried not to imagine herself being unable to speak in coherent sentences or tell the difference between foresight and reality. But that didn't mean she was ignorant of the inevitability. It was why certain NightStar telepaths had trained in the specialist area of blocking. When F-Psy crashed for the final time, it was the blockers who kept their madness from leaking out into the PsyNet, providing the shields the fractured F-Psy could no longer maintain.
"I think that's a load of bullshit." Vaughn's hand tightened a fraction, but it felt like a full-body hug to her senses.
The only thing that kept her from an overload reaction was her concentration on his words. "To what are you referring?"
His touch gentled though she'd made no verbal complaint, that stroking thumb coming to a halt. "They had Sascha convinced she was going mad just because she didn't fit into the mold they'd created for her. Sounds like the same thing."
Faith looked at Sascha. "He doesn't understand."
"What?" Vaughn's tone was more growl than sound.
It was Sascha who answered. "The F-Psy had one of the highest rates of mental illness even before Silence."
Lucas's arms came around his mate in a tight hug. Faith wondered what Lucas had heard that she hadn't, because from the look on Sascha's face, it seemed to have been exactly what she'd needed. "But highest doesn't translate to all, does it, Sascha darling?"
Faith found her eyes following the movement of Lucas's hand over Sascha's curls. Until Vaughn's thumb whispered over her skin again. She stiffened, caught off guard to find that he'd moved closer. But she couldn't speak, even to tell him to back off. Perhaps she'd exhausted her ability to deal with the amount of new material she was being forced to process.