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To Make A Life Beyond This Pale

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Jason frowned in the aftermath of another mindquake. He had grasped something, something of importance in Talia. He needed to see her one last time, needed to protect her... if he could just remember what from. She'd need shields; that much had stayed with him. And more. He'd know when he saw her.

He had to reach her in time, had to stop... had to stop them. She was counting on him, even if she didn't know it yet. Fortunately for her, when he did find her, she already had one shield he could work from, the one that feared being alone for all time, and work it to his advantage. Hopefully, with the pieces he built into it, Talia would find the corresponding pieces she needed to make the shield more complete in time to protect her... from whatever it was he could feel threatened her.

`~`~`~`~`

Susan wasn't sure what to expect in that moment she met Talia so intimately in her quarters. Either she was about to be exposed fully, or make a liar out of the supposed fact that a telepath was laid bare by sex with another one.

She closed her eyes as they kissed, and the feel of a brush against her mind was there, not quite a scan, but more than she'd felt from anyone since her mother. She was so weak on the receiving and sending ability, but all her life she had shielded to hide.

Talia pressed into the feel of Susan's unexpected resistance, begging for trust, caressing at the shields that by all rights should not be there, and felt as Susan consciously gave way to her, opening who and what she was.

The PsiCorps-raised telepath looked at her lover in astonishment, watching Susan meet her eyes guiltily and defiantly all in one.

"Shh," Talia said aloud, reassuring her. "For tonight, let us be what we are, and come the morning, Susan, I'll teach you how to help me hide that deep inside me too. It will be our safe place, for each other to take refuge in."

Susan hesitated, but the secret was out, and she had given the trust in letting her mind open for the first time in so long. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak, and was swept away into something far more than either of them could have bargained for in the making of who they wished to be to one another.

`~`~`~`~`

Susan's eyes opened first. She looked at the woman lying in the bed, hair tousled and lips slightly parted in sleep. The desire to just leave, to pretend this had never happened was strong.

"Don't."

Talia opened her eyes, fingers reaching for Susan's hand between them.

"It would be easier... in the long run."

Talia tipped her head a little, questioning without speaking.

"You're right. I don't take the easy way, do I?" Susan answered. She closed her hand in Talia's, then pulled her closer, savoring the peace of the morning. Later, she had to face duty and Sheridan and a briefing. Now, was for the pair of them.

`~`~`~`~`

Talia's eyes met those of Lyta as she came into Sheridan's office, just before there was a strong mental compulsion thrown at her.

Lyta's voice tore through Talia's mind, reaching down, below what she knew herself to be, and forced a rip in her psyche. She clutched at her forehead, feeling all that was herself spiraling into oblivion, her body trying to obey savage, violent commands.

Talia, hold on! Jason's voice was stronger, overriding the code implanted in her mind, making a platform in the swirling chaos for her to reach out to, a solid space to catch herself and do battle with the invasion of her mind.

The beachhead was too solid, setting off explosions that ripped at memory and personality, trying to destroy all she was, but Talia was stronger than she had been when it was placed inside her. More, she had found something outside the Corps to hold in reverence. Just as Jason had prodded her to with that command in her mind, she turned, reaching one hand out, her mind casting forward to the woman that had become more than the Corps.

`~`~`~`~`

Susan, still shaken from her own encounter with Lyta, saw the struggle and anguish, hesitating, because Michael was already moving closer. Susan's own mind was frayed, both by the worry that she was the traitor and because of the showdown with Lyta, but Talia was in pain, losing to fear and an attack that had to be PsiCorps' making.

PsiCorps was trying to take someone else she loved, someone who was reaching for her in need now. That cleared the last of the anxiety and Susan strode forward, taking that reaching hand and holding on.

"Fight, Talia! Fight, for me!" Susan hissed. "Fight for us, for you!"

She could not have cared less about the gaping jaw of Michael, or about the frown Lyta was showing. She vaguely heard Stephen ordering a med team up, and thought she heard Sheridan telling Lyta to help them both, but Susan didn't need any of them. She got Talia's eyes caught in her own, and pushed hard against that hidden place inside Talia that was for her and Talia and all the honesty they could only give to one another.

"Susan....it's breaking me apart!" the telepath managed to choke out, fighting the whole while, clinging to the anchor point Jason had placed, shoving it and the part of her that was bound in Susan toward one another.

I'm not strong enough! Susan, then as a child and now as an adult, wailed into the darkness of her mind, but there was a light. It flickered darkly, ever in danger of snuffing out as the hurricane of PsiCorps' program beat at it, tearing at it with cutting knives of wind it seemed. Susan could see it all there in the corner of the shared mind-space between her and Talia. She knew, in the next heartbeat, that no matter how weak or strong she was, she could not let that flame snuff out completely, or the descent into madness would be there for her after.

help me was the small response from the light that grew smaller with the effort. Susan surged forward, taking up more and more space within Talia, merging her will to the light, becoming the shield against the winds, no matter how they flicked across her own psyche, drawing blood with the knowledge of all the secrets Talia had kept as they were lovers, friends, antagonists. Susan would not bend, would not break, would not let go, for she would not lose this love as she had lost her mother.

We are one came the declaration, voice in light and shield both, defying the destruction whirling in on them.

`~`~`~`~`

Susan crumpled to her knees, even as Talia did, their bodies secondary to their concerns of winning the internal battle for Talia's existence. Lyta moved, as Sheridan ordered, and focused on them, her own eyes going wide in shock.

"This shouldn't be possible...."

"What?!" Garibaldi barked at her in fear and tense anger.

"They... they are using a bond, one they built and hid... so strong, as if it was crafted specifically for this," Lyta said softly. "They are fighting the programming. That's just not possible."

"It is with a little help," Franklin said, catching Garibaldi's eyes. A nod passed from the security officer to the doctor, and a mouthed 'Jason?' with an eyebrow raise. Franklin smiled, just slightly, but Lyta missed the entire exchange, focused on the war within the two women.

"This is..." Lyta looked over to Sheridan. "I do not know if either woman will survive, but if they defeat the program... there is hope for all telepaths not in the shelter of the Corps."

"If they survive it. If you can learn just what they are doing. If we can catch the traps in others quickly enough," Sheridan pointed out to her. "Right now I have two friends, one of whom is my officer as well, in danger of their lives! So find some way of helping them, Miss Alexander!"

Lyta focused back on the pair, turning to her gifts...

`~`~`~`~`

... and she found herself in the midst of a maelstrom that was being held back by the power of interlaced shields. The maelstrom had a face, much like Talia's but distorted by lies and hatred, full of the shadows the program had been created in. The two women joined could hold the storm away, but could not stop it, and then Lyta understood. The storm was too much a piece of Talia, written into the codex of all she was, by taking all of her negative traits and using them as the binding on the program.

Ivanova...Talia! Lyta's voice cut across the space between, slicing through the shriek of the maelstrom. It is a piece of Talia! Talia, you must face your shadows, to beat it!

Susan's mind-self wrapped closer around the light of Talia's, and they pulsed with awareness. Talia was afraid, but Susan would not let go. Susan would be strong for her, if Talia would have faith in Susan. Together, they looked into the dark.

`~`~`~`~`

It was quiet, and Talia was sleeping peacefully in the other room as Susan sat with her commanding officer and Michael. Stephen had left due to a medical emergency, but not before prescribing rest to both women.

"What now?" Sheridan asked softly.

"Lyta didn't find a trace of the program, even with the password, on her sweep," Michael said, holding his glass of water with introspection on his features. "Talia should be safe."

"She is..." Susan said, trailing off. "I thought it was me...and then, for it to be her?"

"Lyta's sworn not to reveal your secret," Sheridan told her. "I still don't know how I never realized you and Talia were..."

Michael chuckled, coming back from his own thoughts. "Come on! All that bitching at each other, the catty comments, the excuses to leave around the same time after fighting over something? I knew."

Susan pinned him to his seat with one of her patented looks. He squirmed a little, then shrugged with a grin.

"Okay, I kind of wished that I knew."

They all laughed, a soothing balm after a stressful day, before finishing their drinks. The two men left, and Susan took a deep breath. So much had changed, in one day. She felt as if this was a new beginning, though, not an ending, and went to go sleep with her lover, safe in that bond they had forged.