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Not Quite Yourself

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After you finish wiping Sierra’s mind, she frowns up at you and, instead of asking if she should go now, says, “I know you.”

“I’m Topher Brink,” you say, and it’s true, isn’t it? You’ve got his skills, his memories, and his favorite flavor of Pringles; his fear of crowds and his knowledge of every X-Men team lineup since the ’70s. (Spinoffs don’t count.) When Sierra reaches toward you, and her fingers hover centimeters away from your face, it takes you a minute to remember that it’s not really your face at all.

“Victor?” she whispers.

You sigh. Out of all the Actives who return from engagements while you’re on duty, you would have to end up with the one who has feelings for the body you’re wearing. “Sorry,” you tell her, and realize that you mean it. “Not right now.”

“Is he coming back?”

“Sure, he is.” You pat her hand. “He comes back to you every time. You remember, right?”

“I’ll wait for him,” she says with a soft, fond smile. “We always wait for each other.”

“I know.” She sounds so certain, even though that’s never been in their control and never really will be. But for her, for now, it’s true. “Why don’t you go downstairs and paint a picture for him while you wait?”

“I like to paint,” Sierra agrees, and gets to her feet.

When she’s gone, you run your hands through your (Victor’s) hair, and are rescued from your thoughts (he’ll come back to her, and then where will you go?) by the ringing of the phone. For now, you’re the only Topher this house has, and you have a job to do.