Cassandra pulled the blanket closer around her and curled up tight. If she hugged herself hard enough, maybe, just maybe, she could stop shivering. Nightmares hovered on the fringe of consciousness, taunting her with indistinct images of death. Even the familiar scent of the sheets, with the faint lavender trace Janet loved so much, gave her no comfort. Sweat coated her skin, but still she shivered.
"Is it Nirrti?" her 'sister' asked from the adjoining bed.
"You keep moaning. Are you having nightmares about Nirrti? Shall I get Mom?"
"I'm just cold."
"Dessie, it's the middle of summer. You can't be cold."
The name felt wrong. It didn't belong to her.
"I'm... I don't feel right." Nothing felt right. Even as her body burned and chilled, she was reaching out, trying to dissipate the energy that built relentlessly inside her. She reached out and touched- No, he reached out and touched her.
Restless, tossing, his hand caught hers: cold and clammy, a touch of the grave. With the touch came intensification of the nightmares: voices talking all at once, clamouring to be heard. She closed her fingers round his and felt his awareness of her, felt him centre on her.
Cassandra. So much meaning packed into one word: love, loneliness, and desperation. And something more: the image of her mother, sharp-focused and intense.
"You said you didn't want her," the other Cassandra protested.
Cassie ignored her, clambered out of bed, wrapping the rainbow quilt that Janet's mother had made around her. Wobbling slightly on her feet, she made her way to the bedroom door and stepped into the hallway. Grateful for the light, even though she knew every inch of this place by heart, Cassandra made her way towards the living room. Before she got there, Janet met her, arms open to support her.
"What is it, sweetheart?"
An errant corner of her mind wondered if Janet chose 'sweetheart' to try and avoid guessing if she was speaking to 'Cassandra' or 'Desdemona', but she abandoned that thought as unfair.
As she held Cassandra to her shoulder, Janet's hand slid across Cassie's sweat-slick forehead. "I need to take your temperature."
"I'm fine." The protest came automatically, in spite of the dizziness. "It's Harry - I mean Colonel Maybourne, he needs you."
Janet steered her with a no-nonsense manner into the living room. "First I'm going to take your temperature. Then you can tell me whatever else is on your mind."
Submitting to the routine of thermometer and pulse check, Cassandra relaxed under the familiar hands. Some magics didn't fade. To be here again with Mom, to have someone else taking charge of the problems, that was a pleasure that a single week hadn't even begun to dent.
Janet looked at the thermometer in mild surprise, shook it, and popped it back in Cassandra's mouth.
"Your pulse rate is up slightly, but nothing to worry about."
"What's wrong with my temperature?" The words came out garbled as she tried to talk around the impediment in her mouth.
Janet said nothing, counted down the seconds, then whipped the thermometer out again and read the scale.
"You're perfectly normal. So why are you all wrapped up like that?"
"Because I'm cold!" The cold reached into her, spread into her bones. She was cold; Harry was cold. Or was it the other way round? He shivered and burned in her mind.
"It's Colonel Maybourne. He's sick."
"There's no need to play games. Colonel O'Neill is doing his best to get a pardon. You know that already - this won't speed up the process."
"I can-" feel him. The words caught in her mouth, trapped by Harry's fear. It surged over her, terrifying in its familiarity: freak, the fear of being different, of becoming something unknown.
Tell her The order drove sharp through the fear.
"He's a telepath."
"Why won't you believe me?"
Mom bent down and rested hands upon her shoulders. "Dessie, I know he saved your life, but there's only so much that we can do."
Memories merged. Her mother holding her, while Cassandra struggled desperately to control the power inside her as electronic equipment went haywire all around. Harry, struggling for control, while trying to shut out the endless minds that shouted at him.
"It's Nirrti's virus, don't you understand? She's trying to kill him." She wrenched herself free from the embrace and ran towards the window, placing her palms upon the dark glass. The glass was cold and slick under her hands. From the yard, her reflection mocked her: eyes wild, hair disordered. A prisoner trapped behind glass.
"Mom, you have to help him."
"All right." Her mother's voice had the calm, measured tones of someone dealing with an hysteric. "Tell me why you think he's infected with Nirrti's virus."
"He's..." She tried to collect herself, to let Harry's thoughts come though: a tumbled mixture of words and images, all intermingled with barely restrained panic. "The prison staff insist it's flu, but they won't touch him if they can avoid it. He hears them all the time, but when they touch him it gets worse. If he reaches out to me, it helps just a little. Remember when I had the piece from the magnetic chess set and kept turning it in the air? It's like that; he has to burn off the power. I think he always had it a little bit without knowing he had it, but now it's getting stronger and stronger and it's killing him."
Her mother's reflection looked into her eyes. "Dessie, if you're-"
"I'll make a phone call."
"Then transfer me." Fraiser gritted her teeth. "Yes, I have the required security clearance; I've already told you that."
She reached out to touch Desdomona lightly on the head. The child had been through enough already, without this to add to her load. If she was right about Maybourne's illness - and Fraiser still harboured some doubts on that score - then did she realise where the infection had to have come from? Dessie's blood had saved Maybourne from Ma'chello's bugs, but had to carry the engineered virus that had almost killed her when she completed puberty.
Fraiser shook her head in frustration and denial. She was a doctor. She'd carried out the transfusion, never even considered the possibility that Dessie might be a carrier.
"I don't care if Doctor Roberts has gone home for the night. Put me though to anyone in the hospital." She held onto the handset and fumed. The sound of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' being played down the line in tinkly, mechanical notes did nothing to improve her mood.
"Hello? Doctor Fraiser?"
"What is Colonel Maybourne's condition?"
"I'm afraid there's been some kind of misunderstanding. That particular prisoner was transferred to Area 51 this morning."
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