"Everything all right?" Merlin asked as Nimue returned to the CAVE control room. His arm was resting along the top of the back of the couch where Nimue had been sitting.
"Oh, just fine," Nimue didn't say. "Repairing the alternate history you and I are working to undo may or may not depend on us sleeping together for the first time within a fraction of an hour," Nimue failed to inform him. "And, while you don't seem to have any more problem with that than I did until a moment ago, I've just learned that I'm really you from the original history," she utterly neglected to explain. "Now I must for the greater good perform an act which to appearances is the reunion in the new timeline of two soulmates, but in actuality amounts to the same thing as if I were to have locked myself in the other room - and I must do this without disabusing you that it is a union of soulmates," she didn't wrap up.
"Sorry. I'm just a little nervous," Nimue said.
Morgan pondered the situation over a snifter of port. She hoped Nimue - Merlin? No, Nimue now, whatever the soul's birth identity - was not so disoriented or so stubborn as to disregard the importance of this event-resonance. Nimue certainly would have been bullheaded about it and ruined everything had Morgan said nothing, but Morgan's discovery had distressed her, and not without reason. Morgan found herself regretting the necessity personally as well as for the resulting danger to the cause. She and Nimue would never become fast friends, but something more than respect had grown between them since Nimue's naturalization ...
Whether it was her own train of thought, or that she was gazing unfocussed at the dual horoscope chart as she mused, or both, Morgan realized that something wasn't adding up.
Nimue's naturalization? No, it was Merlin's.
But, when the object had been to unite Nimue's oldhistory and newhistory souls into one identity as Morgan's had been, and that identity was Nimue, and that soul was Merlin - what of the leftover Merlin identity?
Nimue crossed to the couch with what must obviously have been a false smile plastered on her face, though apparently not obviously to Merlin. She sat down next to him, hating that she hated doing it.
"Was there something you ... were thinking, before you left?" Merlin suggested. His hand had dropped quite naturally from the back of the couch to her shoulder farther from him.
"Yes," said Nimue, breathless for all the wrong reasons. "I hope ..." She began to lean toward him again. "I hope it doesn't seem wrong to you ..."
"Never," Merlin whispered, "in all of space and time."
Nimue touched her lips to his. The kiss was magic. It was what she had been imagining, remembering all along. It was, after all, the reunion of soulmates she had been dreaming of and hoping for.
Then Nimue realized what had happened. All that had happened. How could I have been so stupid, she thought to herself. So she stopped.
"'Merlin'," said Nimue, back in Morgan's helix cell, "now holds the soul of Nimue."
Morgan frowned, wind stolen out of her sails. "How do you know?"
Nimue only smiled.
Morgan nodded. "In any case, you're right." She turned to her horoscope hologram. "When the Nine - well, I - decided that you needed to be naturalized to the new history in order to assist us in dealing with it, we were unaware that yours was a time path that had transferred identity."
"Of course you were unaware!" said Nimue. "Even I didn't suspect."
"We ought to have known," Morgan said drily.
Nimue declined to repent for boredom while being informed of what she'd already worked out for herself. "When you were naturalized to the new timeline," she said to Morgan, "the two manifestations of your soul - the one who lived out of time as Lady of the Lake, and the one who was a biologist in the new timeline's Excalibur crew - were united. There was no conflict of identity, except in that now the Lady of the Lake was obliged by her own plan and duty to pretend to be the biologist."
Morgan nodded and worked the display cursor. "When we rigged Palidomes' device to accomplish your naturalization, naturally it united your original time path with your time path as it was manifested in the new timeline - that of Merlin, Arthur's CMO - the same thing that we had done for me -"
"Except," Nimue interrupted eagerly, "unbeknownst to us all, my soul isn't whose we thought." She seized the cursor control from Morgan and ran it over markings Morgan had made earlier. "Naturalizing the identity of the newhistory Nimue to my soul left Merlin's identity without a soul -"
"And left Nimue's soul without an identity. The unmatched soul and the unmatched identity snapped together like magnets, since nature abhors a vacuum."
"I prefer brooms and scrubbrushes myself."
"I owe you an apology," Morgan said. "If I had noticed this in the horoscope before you called me, it would have saved you a lot of distress. But my interest was investigating the anomaly surrounding Merlin's death and I neglected to look at the big picture."
"Pish tosh," Nimue dismissed. "No harm done. It all came out right in the end."
"That has yet to be seen," Morgan remonstrated, "but this event-resonance has been accomplished."
"L plus eight hours and forty three minutes," Nimue confirmed.
"You know, that puzzles me," said Morgan. "What possessed you to refer to it as 'liftoff'?"
Nimue started to speak, turned red, and started again. "The L stands for 'love'."
"Aaah." Morgan nodded sagely. Then her gazed dropped unconsciously to the baby picture she'd shown Nimue earlier.
"I'm sure your reconciliation with Arthur will resonate too," Nimue said encouragingly, "if we haven't got the old history back before that time. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if that resonance wasn't what'll snap it all back."
"Originally Arthur and I reconciled because we all discovered I'd been under alien influence during the years of betrayal. What excuse do I have for betraying him this time?"
"There is the small matter of setting history to rights," Nimue suggested. "He's a little touchier now - but he's got the same soul. He'll understand. If this history even remains when all's said and done."
"And that," Morgan said, "is what has yet to be seen."
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