Fever Dream


sf_asami2_icon.gif sf_nicole2_icon.gif sf_zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Fever Dream
Synopsis Asami brings Nicole home to a different home than she remembers… a different home than Zachery recalls it having been even moments before their arrival, for that matter.
Date February 25, 2021

Dorchester Towers

Upper West Side, Manhattan

It had taken Nicole some convincing which set of memories to trust. Her home in Bay Ridge sure as hell wasn't where and what she thought it had been. It'd taken reviewing Nicole's driver's license for the car they'd left behind back across the river to start solidifying things— the direction they really needed to go.

Walking in the front door of the Dorchester Towers was out of the question, but there were multiple 'rooftop' access points available on the tiered luxury apartment building. With direction from Nicole, Asami landed on the closest one, and the two of them made their way inside by walking through the access door.

Coming up on the door that matches the number on her ID now, she doesn't wait for Nicole to produce her keys. Asami knocks three times on the door and then hits the bell for good measure— expecting that'll overall work faster and better in their favor. She glances sidelong at Nicole by her side, thoughts focused on her and her overall state of mind rather than anything else. She wants to say the blast of cold air on the trip across the river and up two dozen stories off the ground had helped, but…


Inside the apartment, Zachery Miller is in a state of quiet but progressing worry. By now, he should have heard from Nicole, and there's been no answer to his texts— his phonecalls have gone to voicemail. Even on nights she works late, there's communication. Overcommunication, even, given the lingering concerns still about her health, her missing time.

When the doorbell rings, he looks up from his phone and begins to move from in front of the dresser. He makes it all of a step before a young girl steps from the spare bedroom he and Nicole set aside for an eventual nursery. Golden ringlets of hair bounce as she turns to Zachery.


"I've got it," the perfect stranger of a child says, upbeat and calm. Then she starts down the hall, head half-turned over her shoulder. "I got Harvey down, but I think Avery's fever came back. She's sweating and starting to fuss." There's an element of good luck in that warning before the young girl, maybe eight or nine years old, heads for the front door. When Zachery perplexedly takes a half-step after her, the empty room in the periphery on his left is suddenly a fully-realized nursery— a room full of toys and clothes, cribs and flesh and blood, rather than boxes and half-realized wishes and the frustration of no success yet.

And just like the girl had said, one of the cribs is home to the sound of a fussing infant on the verge of wailing, one tiny fist waving above the soft mat that curves up the side of the crib.

Asami turns to the door when she hears the deadbolt shift and a chain slide undone. The door opens in, and perplexingly— a child stands on the other side of it. Her eyes flicker in confusion, but without missing a beat, the girl turns to Nicole.

"Mom!" Pippa exudes in relief. "Zachery was worried he hadn't heard from you. Is everything… okay?" It's at that point the young girl really notes Asami, taking in her presence. Her little brow starts to pinch in confusion, and over her head, Zachery can be seen down the hall wearing a not-dissimilar expression.

Asami makes a third one, blinking back to the woman at her side. Nicole didn't have any children.

Not for the first time tonight, she whispers under her breath, "What the fuck?"

This is not helping with the cognitive dissonance in Nicole’s head. This isn’t where her family should be. The Millers — the ones with the curly blonde daughter — live in a house in Bay Ridge. The Millers — the ones who have been trying for months to conceive their first child, with no luck — live here, in the penthouse of Dorchester Towers. It should just be her reproachful husband greeting her at the door. Not—

“Pipsqueak!” Nicole crouches down and hoists the girl up into a hug, the kind delivered with the sort of fierceness only a mother can muster. “I didn’t mean to worry you,” she murmurs into the girl’s hair. Her posture gives suddenly as she has to bend forward to plant Pippa back down on the floor. “Gosh, I keep forgetting you’re getting too big to do that anymore,” she sighs.

It’s taken every shred of self-discipline she’s learned and been taught over the years to maintain this facade that everything is normal. “I’m sorry. I was working late and lost track of time. I promised my friend here that I’d make us a late dinner if she’d let us finish up here!” Nicole keeps her tone cheerful, a smile on her face as she ushers Asami in from the hall and locks up behind them.

“Go grab a seat in the kitchen,” Nicole directs in a lowered voice. It’s the further she can get her away from the sprawling windows that dominate the rest of the living space. “I’ll, ah…” She sweeps her arm out carelessly to encompass the impressive expanse of her little sanctuary. “Make yourself at home. I’ll just be a minute.”

There’s worry and confusion in the look she shares with Asami, a helpless little shake of her head that conveys, no, she also has no idea what’s happening here. By the time she turns back to where her daughter can see her face again, however, Nicole is all smiles. “Zachery?” she calls into the penthouse. “I’m home!”

There is no response.

Zachery stands as if on a stage from which the curtains have been drawn away too readily — except, at least a stage presents the ability to walk off.

His phone hits the floor without him even realising it's slipped from his fingers, the colour drained from his face. There is no warmth in his eyes when he looks into the nursery, no haste when he stiffly enters it with a complete lack of compassion for the infants to whom he never bonded, even in concept.

"Did I…" He starts, finding himself standing over Avery's crib with little to offer her for her efforts except a fixed look of dread. A feeling only compounded by the fact that he's heard his wife's voice down the hall, acting as if this is a situation with all the puzzle pieces firmly in order.

His gaze loses focus somewhere in between a drift of focus from one twin to the next, a whisper only just barely managing to find its way out in a questioning of, "How much… time… did I lose?"

Nicole moving into the home to head for Zachery leaves Asami and Pippa to turn and stare at each other. One warily regards the other. Asami views Pippa's existence as an aberration, Pippa views Asami as an anomaly in her expected worldview. Her mom hated Asami after what happened in January. Why was she here now?

The stand-off is made one-sided as only one of them can read the other's thoughts. And influence them, for that matter. Asami narrows her eyes at Pippa. You should listen to your mother. Sit down in the kitchen and have a snack.

The little girl's eyes narrow, gaze shifting back and forth while she thinks. She lets out a tone of suspicion, but slinks off to do what Nicole asked. Asami hears from afar Zachery's distress, head turning. Waiting along with Pippa isn't a thing that happens, her feet carrying her in Nicole's wake.

All she does is wait in the doorway to the nursery for now, listening rather than looking at Zachery. She spares him that yet, taking in the details of the fully-realized nursery with visible confusion.

When she sees the nursery painted in a twilight indigo, dotted with stars that will glow when darkness falls, the A & H on the wall, it feels like someone’s reached into Nicole’s chest and taken hold of her heart. Taken hold and begun to squeeze. Her throat is the next thing to constrict. “Oh my god,” she breathes out.

It’s with an instinct she didn’t know she possessed that Nicole strides across the room and scoops up the fussing twin from her crib. “Ssshhhh,” she urges softly, bouncing the child gently. “Avery~” she coos. “It’s okay.”

That’s a hollow promise. Nothing is okay.

Tucking the infant against her shoulder, blue eyes lift now to her husband, letting him see her fear and confusion. “Don’t panic,” Nicole begs him. “I need you to- to— If you can pretend not to panic, I can try to keep my ducking nonsense together.”

She’s censoring herself. Mommy Vocabulary.

Nicole turns now to Asami in the doorway. “What is happening?” Her eyes glisten, but the tears haven’t come yet. “Am— Am I doing this?” She isn’t sure how she could be, but there’s a small voice inside of her that says this isn’t right, and that there’s some balance she’s upset.

"That isn't your power," Asami answers numbly from the doorway, certain of this. "—your ability." The correction is automatic, coming from that part of herself that believes superpowers are normal, a truth recognized by the world for almost fifteen years now. Bewildered by how comfortable and foreign that all at once is, she finally looks to Zachery.

And falls silent.

Your what, Zachery mouths silently, having stepped back both from his wife and from the strange infants in his home - or what felt like home up until a moment ago. Now, he stands rattled with his back up against a wall of an unfamiliar shade, aiming a bewildered look at Nicole as his expression only grows more intensely dismayed. Displeased.

It's only after several seconds of this that he even looks at the doorway to see, "… Asami? I was just—" He gestures halfway up with one arm toward the bedroom he'd left, but the thought is abandoned. None of this makes sense.

His previous concern of time is dismissed as easily as it came, swallowed by the fear turned anger that squares his shoulders and raises his voice when he demands in partial echo of his wife, "Enough— this is enough! What is happening?"

Asami crouches to pick up the phone Zachery had dropped, keeping it in hand while she mulls how to answer this. Her eyes flit left and right while she rolls the phone over in her palm. At least it can't be used against her currently.

"I don't know anymore," she confesses first, because this goes so far beyond understanding, or even pretending to. She won't make excuses for this reality that doesn't make sense anymore. What happened to her she'd had enough trouble with, but this…

"You don't remember this happening?" she asks, but she knows he doesn't know. The echo is just… habit. Consensus-building. Her eyes lift back to Zachery, looking at him more curiously than before. Her scrutiny is absent-minded, almost like she looks through him rather than at his person and his human reaction to the alteration to his reality. "I didn't do this," Asami feels the need to make clear.

She's capable of many inhuman things right now, but this isn't one of them.

The sound of the fussing child in Nicole's arms breaks that look away from Zachery, keeps her from doing anything rash without explanation. Poor baby Avery's back is hot, clothes sticking to her with sweat. That she isn't squalling is testament to how tired she is. How weak she is from whatever it is she's fighting.

"Zachery, you're not crazy," Asami abruptly answers, looking down at his phone with a deepening furrow of her brow. "Something is just … wrong. Very wrong."

Nicole’s mind — her heart — is pulled in several directions at once. “She’s burning up,” she declares. This impossible child in her arms is sick and she has to do something. She’s already heading toward the hall when she catches Zachery’s eyes again. “This… I don’t know what’s happening, but I can try to explain what I know. You just— I need to get her fever down.”

Hurrying to the bathroom across the hall, Nicole pulls open the medicine cabinet and looks for the liquid Tylenol. “Asami!” she calls over her shoulder. “Look for birth announcements! They’ll be Harvey Damian and Avery Colette Miller.” If they’re real, and the child in her arms feels as real as anything Nicole’s ever encountered in her life, there’ll be some evidence of them somewhere.

Shocked doesn't begin to describe the unfeeling laugh that leaves Zachery, though the fire in his eyes when he looks between Asami and Nicole remains just as unyielding. "I'd noticed," he says through his teeth, in reply to there being something wrong.

He visibly struggles to get his thoughts in order, starting and stopping the beginning of a word three different times before he finally settles on saying to Asami, "None of these children were here a moment ago, not the babies nor the girl nor this entire fucking room!" Despite the fact that Nicole's rarely heard him curse, and that there is another baby still nearby, the word leaves him at the top of his lungs.

"And from one step to the next, they appear and I've not gone mad? How do you fucking figure?!" He smacks a hand onto his forehead, expression warping to a desperate mockery of amusement— the only further response he has to the attempts at logic from others around him.

Pippa, not one but two Snack Packs demolished on the kitchen table before her, slips out of her seat when Nicole heads for the bathroom. She has a look of quiet concern on her face, slowly looking back and forth between the pockets of adult activity in the apartment.

"Mom?" she asks with some trepidation. She sidles into the bathroom beside Nicole. "Is Avery gonna have to go back to the hospital again?" She might have more to say, but she's not deaf to the shouting Zachery suddenly carries on with in the other room, her shoulders hunching up as she shrinks away from the harsh words.

The distractions of the moment prove enough that the fascinating nugget of brokenness within Zachery miraculously does not end up the only thing Asami is capable of focusing on. Nicole's call over to her snaps her head away from him, and when she cycles back, the agitation in his response keeps her from letting that compulsion take hold.

The formerly sleeping baby in the nursery is startled awake by it, too. Asami tsses out a sigh of "Son of a bitch." and looks over to where Harvey has started crying.

She doesn't know how to handle a child. She looks quickly back to Zachery in the hopes that he might.

"Two months ago, I woke up with a superpower, I can see into other people and wake up powers of their own, and I don't need to read your fucking mind to know you're having a perfectly reasonable reaction to surprise children in your home," Asami snaps back in his direction. Then she points to the crying child. "But can you make it stop crying or do I have to try?"

Literally no one wants her to do that, least of all herself.

Nicole turns to Pippa and shakes her head slowly. “I don’t know, Pip.” The plastic bottle of cold medicine is pulled from the cabinet behind the mirror, its label studied for a moment so Nicole can determine how much of a dose she needs to pull out with the provided eye dropper. “Did I tell you what they think is wrong with her?” she asks with as much caution as she takes while measuring out the syrup.

"She was sick for a while, but then they did the surgery and she came home," Pippa answers cautiously. Because this is something they talk about, but also don't talk about at the same time. "When she went a few days ago, though, it was for something different. Coughing and fever. You said they think she has the flu now." Her eyes lift up, on the verge of asking if her mother needs help.

She does. On so many levels. For a moment, Nicole flounders, unsure of whether she should set the bottle and dropper both down so she can shift Avery in her arms, or if she should hold on to the dropper and take the baby back to her crib, or maybe ask Pippa to hold onto the medicine while she wrangles her?

“Do you remember when she had her last dose?” It suddenly occurs to Nicole how important that is. She remembers, doesn’t she, how the doctors cautioned her against accidental overmedication with Pippa?

"Um…" the young girl murmurs, uncertain but also not wanting to let her mom down.

This is nerve wracking. Pippa doesn’t belong here. Neither do the twins. Nicole is treating all of this as perfectly normal, because if she’s somehow the one who’s out of place here, how unsafe would it be to give that away to someone? Somehow?

Her gaze moves across the hallway to where Zachery’s been shouting. Getting Avery back into the nursery wins out, if only so she can stay close to the exchange happening between her husband and Asami. “If he’s being too loud for you,” Nicole tells Pippa, “go ahead and go to your room. Listen to your music or play a game or whatever is going to help. If I need you, I can come get you.”

Nicole offers an encouraging smile to her older (but not… eldest?) daughter. “I love you.” That’s the only thing that feels true in all of this.

And it is, coincidentally, also the one thing that breaks the silence that Zachery has fallen into.

He's been standing stunned, face frozen on an involuntary wince at the sound of the cries, but staunchly failing to look in the direction of its source. "I'm not touching a stranger's child!" He decides, words clipped and solid with certainty, once his wife is back in the room. For a moment, he levels look of confusion at her - a look of hurt - before her pleas for him to stay calm are either ignored or deemed impossible for him to agree to. The hand on his forehead is dragged roughly down over his face before he fumbles to grab hold of the phone in his pocket, "I'm calling—"

No, he's not. The phone's not there, and his eyes find it in Asami's hands just as the realisation hits and knits his brow further. "I'm leaving. This is madness! Superpowers aren't— I don't know how both of you've done this, but this is unacceptable." Resolute steps forward carry him close enough to grab Asami by the arm, so as to retrieve his phone on the way out.

It hurts. The way that he looks at her, that he shouts at her, that he treats her like she’s betrayed him somehow after everything she’s given up for him. The way she’s put her entire career in jeopardy for him. How she gave up on her dreams so they could be together. And now he wants to look at her like that? He wants to fuck off again?

Nicole turns to her compatriot in this madness, a hardness and coldness to her gaze that’s matched by her voice.

Show him, Asami.”

Warnings would do well here. Advisement that whatever she wakes up in Zachery, she won't know until it happens. Won't know if it's innocuous or dangerous or will damage his psyche just as much as Nicole's awakening is hurting her.

But no, Zachery's already closing the distance to Asami and Nicole invites her to pay heed to the broken thing in him once more. She needs no further encouragement. With a hand that is stained at its fingertips with a substance registered all too late as blood, her hand snaps out to grasp the side of his face.

He's occupied in the meantime by how Asami's eyes abruptly glow the color of molten gold. The corner of her mouth turns up in the smallest of smiles and then—

Both Asami and Zachery disappear. His cell phone hits the ground.

One second passes where Harvey's crying is the only thing that can be heard. Then another, just like it.

Somewhere in the third, Avery's empty crib violently rocks backward into the wall as if struck by something.


Asami continues to wrestle Zachery outside the spectrum of naturally-perceptible light, hand braced on his face as she fights to catch his eyes and look even deeper into them— to try and glimpse something else beyond the piece of him she's already slotted back into place. It lasts until Zachery finally gets enough of an edge on her he first shoves, then kicks her as hard as he can in her midsection, sending her sprawling back on the floor.

To Nicole— and now Pippa— it just suddenly looks as though Asami were ejected out of thin air and sent flying back across the room, nearly hitting her head on the wall. On her back, she comes up to an elbow, fixing the area around Avery's crib with an intense stare.

But no one is there.

Not visibly.

The hands Zachery puts up in reflex as he reclaims his footing go unseen, even if those around him can hear him try to catch his breath past the words that suddenly stick in his throat. At least until—

"I'm sorry," the nothingness uses his voice to rush out, the sound of one stumbling footfall after another moving quickly away. "I'm…" He audibly struggles, anger still weaved tightly together with shock. "Is she— … are the—…"

The phone is not picked up again, and after one more sound of a frantic swipe of palm against the wood of the door frame, any signs of Zachery still being within the room come to an end.

Nicole feels the air about her shift about the same time as she hears the hand on the door frame. She wants to give chase.

Chase to what? Why is she so certain she understands what’s happened here? That’s not what he can do.

But this isn’t what she can do, either.

“Sh-sh-sshhhh,” Nicole shushes the baby in her arms with a stuttering breath, bringing her to the crib and lowering her down so she can rearrange the hold she has on her. She can sit Avery up just enough to take the dropper of medicine she’s been carefully holding between her fingers.

Pippa,” the girl’s mother addresses her firmly once she’s done administering the fever reducer. “Watch Avery. If she gets worse, shout for me. I will give you the biggest Pippa-mint mocha you’ve ever seen if you just help me out right now.” Nicole smooths a hand over her daughter’s golden hair. “I won’t go far. I promise.”

Before heading for the hallway again, Nicole helps Asami to her feet and gestures back the way they came in to the penthouse. “I have to find him. Stay close, but we need to try not to spook him.” Her face scrunches up with her frustration as she marches to the front door. “Fuck!

That was not part of the Mommy Vocabulary.

After she's helped to her feet, Asami is compelled to move in the direction of the squalling baby boy in his separate crib first. His nameless agitation spurns her on, her hand reaching down past the fence keeping him confined to his bed.

"Rest," she tells the baby softly, her hand to his forehead. Baby Harvey's cries are quelled, a calm falling over him almost instantly. Pippa watches with wide, cautious eyes, staying in the room as she's been told, even when her mother swears in the hall, and Asami leaves the nursery behind to follow after her.

The front door had fallen shut behind Zachery when he slipped out sight unseen, and Nicole might be first out and sees nothing— but Asami shortly follows after, and she doesn't take off in one direction or the other.

Her head swivels to the left, finding an invisible man with his back against the wall, perfectly visible to her. "Nicole," Asami breathes out softly, encouraging her to stay put.

"Months," Zachery forces just under his breath, a wary look aimed in Asami's direction. The way he holds himself, that wall might well be the only thing keeping him upright.

There is still anger in his eyes, but fear rings out more easily in his voice. "Months of me sticking to one glass an outing in spite of the stress, of— of obsessively checking that the surgical attending was prepared should I suddenly start slicing on auto-pilot, of— … constantly telling myself that no, my wife can't have lost her mind, because that would mean we both have. Months."

His attention stays on Asami, crisp accusation in the question that follows. "What did you do?"

She may not be able to see him, but Nicole can hear her husband. Her concerns about whatever Asami may have done to her son have all but vacated her mind now. Her blue gaze shifts to the direction of Zachery’s voice, but her eyes move sightlessly across the space she believes he occupies, guessing where his face might be.

In the end it feels foolish. Nicole instead turns to Asami to ask her, “Did he phase, or is he invisible?” It seems the most reasonable question to lead with. None of this is the horror show it could be to her. That it should be. There is a part of her mind that is screaming, to be sure, but there’s a stronger personality within her that keeps it at bay.

For now.

Again, Nicole attempts to approximate Zachery’s position, her chin dipped slightly and eyes narrowed with determination. In her voice, she carries conviction.

What did Asami do?

She woke me up.”

Asami turns her head once, then twice back to Nicole as she goes about guessing what's happened here, like there's a list of possibilities that all make sense for this. She blinks, reminding herself that Nicole, too, now remembers an entire other history where superpowers are normal.

It leaves her speechless long enough Nicole's answer comes first. She swallows hard and then looks back to Zachery.

"Everyone has a different power— ability— and I fixed what was keeping you from accessing yours," Asami answers him directly, quietly. She looks up and down the hallway once to check for others, then sidles a step closer to Nicole. With a hard close of her eyes, she feels around inside herself until she finds the thing that makes up Zachery's current state, and calls on it for herself. The light around her and Nicole both bends for just a moment as their beings ripple out of sight to others—

And Zachery suddenly appears again for Nicole, Asami's hand on her arm ensuring it.

"The only comfort I have for you now is you're not alone. There's others like us— others I found and woke up. Christ, at least a dozen just here in New York City. That I've found and run into."

Her brow begins to furrow up. "I— shouldn't've grabbed you how I did. I should've exercised more caution before just— dragging you into this with us." Asami looks down, a knot in her throat. "I can't control it, though. When I see someone else who's been broken, as hard as I try to stop myself— I just— can't. Faulkner accused me of getting a 'fix' off of it, a-and…"

He's right are the words she meant to say to him from the start of the evening, but they go unspoken now, too, in light of everything else happening.

"Are you all right?" Asami asks as she looks back up.

"Am I what?!" This is the first question that leaves Zachery the moment Nicole is able to see him searching her face for the source of her confusion.

More questions follow without pause, but with a look of wide-eyed incredulity darted between her and Asami. "Can we go back to the part where my wife couldn't see me? I— I have a career, I have a life— and what was that?!"

With wild disregard for any attention his shouting might earn them, he flings an arm out to his side and asks with panic more and more evident in his voice, "Do you honestly expect me to believe I've not only got superpowers but also three children? Three children!" He pulls off to the side, away from the wall, to pace back and forth while shoving a hand up through his hairline, fingers pressing hard against his scalp. "This is a dream."

It's the only thing that makes sense.

There’s a gasp and a sigh of relief from Nicole once she can actually see her husband again. It doesn’t occur to her immediately that it’s because she’s been brought along for the ride. Not until she notices Asami’s hand stays on her arm. There’s a small bob of her head in silent understanding.

“Please come inside. We need to be somewhere we can speak safely. I— I know the twins are loud, and there’s Pippa, but…” Nicole turns and looks toward the apartment door. Yes, the penthouse level is theirs, but it’s monitored by cameras, and this is already a disaster as it is.

“We do have abilities. Yours is to become invisible. Asami can see you because she has an ability that mimics the abilities of others. I can see you because she’s extending that ability to me right now.” There’s another glance toward the apartment, her gaze flitting up and down as though she can see through the wall and into the space beyond. “Mine is— I don’t know how to explain mine. I just remember things.”

There’s a feeling of constriction around her heart. “One of the things I remember is that we’re supposed to have children. The blonde is mine, from before I met you.” That should be obvious, given her age and the length of time Nicole and Zachery have known each other. “The twins, however…” Nicole reaches out a hand toward her husband. “This is complicated. Please come inside. Please let me try to explain it somewhere we can be safer.”

"Supposed to," Zachery repeats with flat affect, jaw rolling forward in thought before he continues with his hands up. "Let me get this straight— you've got a whole daughter I knew nothing about, which… this is an astoundingly wild way to find out about that, by the by, second only to the fact that I'm supposed to be invisible," his voice lowers with misplaced skepticism at the end of his sentence. "And— H.G. bloody Wells over here with her itchy trigger finger… is bridging the gap between us and… fucking comic books." He expels the last three words in a laugh, even if the look on his face does nothing to hint at amusement.

There is a choice between them, after all, and he is in the perfect position to choose anything but this.

But then there's that hand. And the attempted explanation. And the fact that he's stopped pacing, staring at his wife with exhaustion quickly overtaking whatever anger is left in his expression, shoulders sagging.

"I'm sorry," he says, finally sounding nothing short of defeated. "I know you wouldn't… trick me." The word leaves him with doubt, even if logic is similarly getting him nowhere. But he turns anyway, with one hand still to the wall as if for needed physical support. "Twins."

The worst part, if there's a worst part to this, is Asami has no idea why the alternate reality Nicole remembers has suddenly manifested in the form of children.

Just the children. Nothing else.

"Yeah," she agrees on the edge of a breath. Twins.

Asami sags, too, when she looks back to Nicole. "I need a minute," she says without a shred of apology. "I'll be inside in… in a minute. You should lock the door. I'll let myself in." When her hand slips away from Nicole's arm, she slips out of sight to her the same way. In the invisible space she occupies, her eyes flicker and she leans back against the wall, too, swallowing hard.

Nicole and Zachery had to be okay without her intervention eventually. No time like the present to start figuring that out.

Nicole tenses up when Asami releases her. Now she can’t see either of them. Turning away from where Asami was, she looks to where her husband was leaning against the wall, but can’t find a focal point. But knowing where he was is good enough. Stepping forward with her hand out in front of her, she reaches out blindly until her fingers collide with Zachery’s chest. At least, that seems to be what it is.

Once he’s grabbed hold of her hand, she sighs with relief. “Come on.” Gently, but urgently, she guides him back into their home, locking up behind them, just as Asami directed.

Lacing their fingers together tightly, Nicole looks apologetically at Zachery. “I don’t know what’s happening to us. I didn’t have a daughter. I wasn’t hiding her from you. This is… insane. But I think we have to play along if we want to stay safe.” Her free hand rests against the curve of his cheek and his jaw, brushing affectionately and with her concern.

“There’s another world. A world where things are different, and I remember it.”

There is a silence.

Under Nicole's fingers, Zachery's jaw shuts tight with the pressure of attempting to accept whatever the fuck this sudden narrative is, trying to put two and two together when she's able to focus on him again.

His brow knits, and he shakes his head as if things are simply refusing to fall into place.

"Alright," he eventually manages, exhaling sharply through his nose with all the force of someone who is decidedly not alright. All of his words come at once now, and with a hard stare back. "So how do we undo it? What was that about— how did Asami do this in the first place? How long's she been at this? If this— if this is a thing that's out of place, let's put it back!"

His fingers grip against his wife's, eyes rolling momentarily upward as if he's belatedly registering a new item on that unprocessable pile. "Another world, Christ. What does… that's not…"

“Asami didn’t do this.” Nicole gestures to the rest of the penthouse, nervously glancing down the hall where the children are. God, leaving the twins alone with her nine-year-old is… Unfair to everyone involved at best and almost assuredly unsafe. “If— If she could, something like this would have happened to someone else by now. She’s just as confused as we are.”

While exceptionally less confused than Zachery, this doesn’t mean Nicole isn’t confused at all. “I don’t— I don’t know.” Even though she’s the one that said the words, she isn’t sure how to explain the meaning. “I have memories of a whole different life. The skyline is different. It’s normal for people to have abilities. Like invisibility. Like… eidetic memory. But that’s not the powers we have in the life I remember.”

Now she’s finally starting to show how overwhelmed she is. Memory overlays with memory. It’s only by grace of the fact that she’s only held this power for hours that she’s able to keep that much straight. “I absorb electricity. Store it like a battery, and then discharge it at will. You have… anatomical intuition? You know what’s going on inside a person. It…”

It should make him a better doctor, a better surgeon. It probably would if he weren’t how he is. Or if he were like he is?

“My head hurts.”

There is a growing absence in the way Zachery tries to maintain eye contact, his attention slipping a little more with each slow blink, despite his best efforts.

"I don't understand any of this," he admits quietly, his ability to breathe returned to him after he forces what air is left in his lungs out and draws more in anew, as if maybe that will help.

And maybe it does, because the next thing to leave him does so with much more insistence: "This isn't ours. We have a life, already." Even if he can't parse anything else, he knows that. "With plans and a future and careers and— what are we supposed to do, fill out retroactive interdimensional adoption forms?"

Nicole is given little time to answer, before he pulls abruptly away, his visible confusion blinking out of existence with the rest of him.

She’s losing him, and Nicole can see it. She’s beginning to panic, but in that quieter way that she does, just behind the mask she wears. Even though she’s already showing plenty of frantic energy, it isn’t the same as the emotion that makes her heart pound like a rabbit’s.

“I’m horrible at explaining it, but I—” He cuts her off, rightly. Nicole holds her tongue, listening patiently. No, none of this is theirs. These children that she wanted so badly aren’t theirs. They belong to some other Nicole and some other Zachery. And how is that even possible?

She’d probably be withdrawing, too, but that doesn’t keep Nicole from whining when that contact’s broken and she can no longer see her husband. “Don’t leave me alone with this,” she begs in a whisper.

Seconds pass in which Zachery just stands, still in the hall. Still with his eyes searching his wife's face, looking into her eyes looking past… or through him. He squints, looks down at his own hands one more time in confusion - perfectly visible to him - then up at her face again.

She can hear the impact with which his hands hit his face, before they're dragged all the way down to his neck. What can he say, at this point, that he can sound remotely sure of? Words end up leaving him in spite of himself, short and certain— "I'm not. I'm…"

He pauses, and when he continues again, it's with confusion once more overtaking his tone, dragging it downward. "Go take care of the children. I'll… I'll be… here. Or there, in a little while, I just… I need… a moment. Or to wake up, or…"

The door to the bedroom where he was when this madness kicked off closes, gradually. "I'm sorry."

The sound of skin on skin at least signals to her that he’s there. Nicole lifts her eyes to where she thinks his face is, blinking as though she could make him come into focus if she just concentrated enough. “Take the time you need. I’ll manage for now.”

Only once she knows he’s moved out of the way does she start to move as well. Watching the door to their bedroom close ‘on its own’ is an odd sensation. Breath leaves her in a heavy sigh and she shakes her head, lips pursed. “Me too, duckling,” she tells the door before turning and steeling herself to head back into the Improbable Nursery.

By the time that Nicole has just gotten a handle on what's going on there, Pippa jumps, finding the doorway once again occupied by the stranger from before. Asami makes no apologies for her presence or its suddenness or silence, just waits until she's noticed— and the startled young girl provides that.

She looks to Pippa with a tic of her brow into a furrow, staring long at her before managing to pull her gaze away and back to Nicole.

"I shouldn't be here any longer," Asami says as though it should be an apology. It lacks the air of one. She offers out Zachery's phone back. "I'm gonna go."

Nicole can’t help but jump a little as well, but her reaction is far more subdued than her daughter’s. She places a hand on the blonde’s shoulder and shushes her softly. “It’s okay. I’m right here. You’re safe with us.” She means for Pippa to realize that Asami counts among the people who will keep her safe.

The phone is reached for and accepted, the nod of Nicole’s head is a heavy one. “How do I reach you in case of…?”

Asami only shakes her head. "I need time. Time to… figure this out more. Sort all the noise in my head. I…" She trails off, looking past Nicole to Avery, that thoughtful knit of her brow returning.


Flexing her right hand as she pulls it back to herself, she meets Nicole's eyes again deliberately. "If you have to find me, reach out to Kaylee Petrelli. She's safe. She's like us." But that's as much as she can manage for now, too much else rattling in her head at the moment. "I'll be in touch," Asami promises before backing up into the hall again.

It's just a question of when.

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