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Breathing Anew

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Lyta closes her mouth, pinches her nose closed, and takes a deep breath--

She watches in amazement as the gills press out from her neck, fluttering in the air and drawing oxygen into her blood. She lets her hand drop from her face, and still they swell and pulse in the dry air of her quarters.

The gills are only the outward sign--she belongs to the Vorlons, now, inside and out.

She tilts her head back and continues to let the air flow into her. She is getting lightheaded. It feels different than breathing, more like sinking into a deep pool of water. The gills are a stamp of approval--a gift, implants that would cost thousands of credits, easily, and wouldn't have worked nearly as well if they'd come from somewhere else. This feels effortless, like blinking.

She opens her mouth and inhales, and the gills pull closed, seamless on her neck.

She is standing in her new quarters on Babylon 5. They're bigger than the ones she was originally assigned as station telepath, and in a nicer location. She's locked the door and is naked to the waist in front of her mirror, running her bare hands through her hair and down her chest. It feels wonderful. She feels better than she has in years. And yet--

There's one piece missing.

She was taken by the Vorlons. She was healed by the Vorlons. Her mind is sharper, stronger; she no longer needs to be in her own atmosphere to breathe. But she's been shaped specifically into a vessel, and she feels empty now without the connection, the contact, the purpose that she has been molded for.

She rests her hands against her neck again, feeling the tendons shift under her palms as she tilts her head backwards. She wants to open herself to that feeling again. When Kosh touched her, after it was done, it was like her entire soul had opened up to receive him; he had slid tendrils of thought and dream and memory into her mind and she had inhaled the smoke of aeons like an oracle. She had opened his eyes with her eyes and seen with his thoughts the intricate tangle of present possibilities fanning out from past choices into knots of probable future.

She has been attuned to him like a compass-point, changed in ways she can't explain or measure. Her mind feels almost hollow, like a bowl waiting for Kosh to pour in the universe.

She loves him. She loves them all, but especially him. Ever since she touched his mind that first day, when he was still and nearly dead on the operating table, and still singing with all the voices of the universe. She's been waiting for him since that day, and now she's finally been made ready, like a bride washed and disrobed on her marriage bed, terrified and expectant.

She reaches for her shirt and pulls it around her shoulders. The collar hides the tiny slits on her neck, but she can still feel the light burning inside her. She's ready, now. She's never been more frightened in her life.