He panicked then, and threw himself wholesale into the effort of trying to alter the future—shouting aloud at his dream-self to turn away, to run, to grab Vanner's arm and—
But it was no use. The dream rolled on, inexorable, toward its foreknown tragedy.
He opened the door, as he had done, awake, and was doomed to do, again, asleep: walking down the aisle lined by gem-filled cases, to the back of the store, where the proprietor awaited him.
Spirit and soul afire, he fell, though that had been the least of the things that had happened in that place—and lost consciousness.
He tried to shout himself into sense, but the dream rolled on, crushing his feeble attempts to wake back into a world where this was the past, and not the living present.
He did not scream when Vanner died, murdered by his own hand, though he surely did so when the links he had cut rebounded against his soul, and the lash struck—struck, and struck again.
Even as he felt his life ebbing, and the frail flutter of wings inside his chest... Even as another power, glittering dark and diamond-sharp, harried him toward defeat—even then, he heard her voice; grasped it and held to it with all of his remaining strength.
"Shan. Wake now, love."
So simple a thing, he thought, as a cool hand cupped his cheek.
With her touch, the dream unraveled, and he was free.
Free to open his eyes; free to draw a deep, shuddering breath, as he looked up into her face. He had fallen asleep in his chair. Foolish thing to have done.
"Priscilla," he said, his voice raw. "I do beg your pardon."
"Because you had a nightmare?" she asked, slim eyebrows arching over black eyes.
He blew out a breath, nothing so humorous as a laugh.
"Because I had a nightmare, again," he told her. "Really, of all the bad habits you might have expected me to adopt, screaming in my sleep cannot have been among the first dozen."
"I don't know that I've ever wanted you to adopt any more bad habits at all," his lifemate said meditatively. "I'm perfectly satisfied with those that came with."
He did manage something nearer a laugh this time. "Wretch."
She smiled, and he was struck to the heart.
It was a weary thing, that smile, filigreed with worry he could See clearly even in his diminished state. He raised a hand to touch her face.
"Do not overspend yourself, Priscilla," he said gently.
"Now, how would I do that?" she asked, with almost credible lightness. "I'll have you know that no less a person than the first mate has informed me that my melant'i as dramliza and Healer stands before my melant'i as captain."
"There's an impertinence," he murmured, sliding his fingers into the storm-cloud curls over her ear.
"Well, yes; but she's right. For the moment. She's a perfectly competent officer, and an excellent pilot. I don't expect that anything very terrible will happen before we make the Jump point, do you? And she does have Lonan and Dil Nem as backup."
She gave him a slight smile. "Not to mention myself."
"Indeed." He closed his eyes, trying to recall the schedule, but it eluded him. Such forgetfulness was new since...well, and Lina had said that he might expect such lapses, had she not? He had taken wounds. In fact, he had nearly died. There were consequences to such adventures, such as low energy and a vulnerability to nightmares. He would recover, in time; his body would heal, his memory would rebound, the nightmares would fade, his gift would reassert itself as strong, or stronger, than ever.
All this, Lina promised, though she failed of committing to when. Pressed, she had obliged him with votitzen'—in Low Liaden, as one might speak to a child—which meant in good time.
So, in the midst of acquiring new bad habits, he must exert himself to acquire a new, good habit.