He was fighting for her, fighting so damn hard. "I love you," she whispered.
He stroked his hand down her back. "Yep, you do."
"You're supposed to say it back," she said, pretending to be offended because the silliness kept the fear/hope at bay.
"Why?" He scowled down at her. "You know you're my heartbeat."
The blunt words cut her off at the knees. Reaching up, she kissed him, uncaring that the other couple might be watching. But when they parted, she glanced at the screen to find Sascha's eyes still closed and Lucas focusing on her. "I wonder what she sees."
"Faith told me once - our minds are like stars, each one connected ultimately to Lucas. That's why Sascha calls it a web."
"And I'm in there because of my bond with you." It gave her a sense of peace to say that. "I'm glad we're mated," she said, speaking the truth for the first time. "I know that's selfish, but I'm glad."
"Good, because there's no getting out."
It was at that moment that Sascha's eyes flicked open. Talin was startled to see the blackness cascading with color. The wonder of it astonished her, made her want to reach out and touch the screen in delight.
But what Sascha had to say eclipsed even those magnificent eyes. "Clay was right."
Her knees would have collapsed had Clay not been holding her upright. "What?" she croaked out. "Did you see something?"
"It was hard," Sascha said, her smile growing so wide it was in danger of cracking her face. "Your mind is different - we thought it was because you were human, and we were mostly right, but our preconception kept us from seeing the whole truth. You don't suck in the biofeedback the same way a Psy does. The flows aren't obvious. It's like" - she paused her rapid-fire explanation - "like you need a misty rain, while we need a downpour. Do you see?"
Talin was so dazed, she had trouble formulating speech. "Not enough to die immediately without, but not quite right unless I have it?"
"Yes!" Sascha's expression glowed with excitement. "What we saw around you is a slight, very slight, draw on the biofeedback. Your brain is taking in what it needs through your link to Clay and therefore to the Web." Her eyes sharpened. "Are you feeling much better?"
She didn't have to consider the question. "Yes. I can think so clearly. Ever since - " Blood rushed out of her face. "Clay's headache."
"That explains it," Sascha said, smile not dimming. "There had to be a strong draw at some point, because, if we go by your symptoms, your brain was well into starvation mode. I didn't notice a shift in the Web that would have alerted me to the truth, but that's because you took it directly from Clay."
Terror spread through Talin's veins. "Did I hurt him?"
"No, no, it's like a blood donation," Sascha assured her. "If you'd been taking in that much constantly, it would have hurt him."
"Can it kill?" Talin asked, mouth full of cotton wool.
Sascha's eyes grew poignant. "Yes. For the PsyNet born, yes. But you don't need as much. You would have simply made Clay very tired. As it is, you only took a big bite" - she smiled - "from him once, and he's had time to regenerate. With the bond settled in the Web, you're soaking it in from the general extraneous buildup, like me and Faith. It harms no one."
"Okay." Now that she knew Clay was fine, it was all she could say, her mind numb.
"Clay," Lucas said, "how about we pick this up tomorrow?" His eyes were intent on Talin. "I think your Tally needs time to recover, and my Sascha darling needs to work off some of her excitement."
There was a gasp and a chuckle from someone, but Talin was barely aware of it. As she was barely aware of Clay ending the call, peeling off her robe, and dropping it to the floor along with his own clothes. But when he kissed her, it was as if a switch had been thrown inside her. She came to life and what exuberant life it was. She laughed and they played and when it was over, she lay with her head on his heart, and thought about forever.
In the PsyNet, the third emergency session of the Psy Council was taking place.
"We can't have a repeat of the situation we had last year with Enrique," Shoshanna said, referring to the Councilor whose death had led to Kaleb's ascension. "We need to swear in a new Councilor before anyone starts questioning the true circumstances of Marshall's death."
"Yes," Tatiana agreed. "Though the populace does seem to be accepting the explanation of accidental death very well."
"There's one more thing we need to discuss," Ming interrupted. "We may have a situation with Ashaya Aleine."
"She's controlled," Kaleb said, brushing the issue aside. "We have her son, correct?"
"Yes. However, I'm not sure how long that's going to hold her."
"But it does for now," Nikita responded. "Shoshanna's right - we need a new Councilor fast."
"Agreed," Ming replied. "But unlike with Kaleb, there's no one ready to step into the role. We considered Gia Khan in the last round, but she's since proven weak, unable to stop unrest in her local region."
A taut silence.
"I have a suggestion," Kaleb said. "He was once a Council candidate, is now powerful enough that he defies us, and he's strong enough to take on Marshall's responsibilities."
"You're talking about Anthony Kyriakus," Shoshanna said. "The man is a thorn in our side, but you could be right. Make him Council and we gain access to his considerable resources and business network."