Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: I don't own any of the normal Hero characters, but there are a couple here that I do own. The plot line is also all mine.

Violence: It certainly has violence in it.

Sexual Content: There is sexually explicit material in here. It is also femslash so move along if you don't like it.

Summary: Niki Sanders has returned home to Las Vegas after her horrifying experience in New York City. She tries to carry on a normal life again and move past her husband's death. But any solace is short lived when Niki meets the famous Doctor Toni Kevin, who is notable for her psychological cures. Niki develops an interest in Toni, but Jessica isn't too keen on the psychologist. Suddenly, everything becomes skewed when Micah is kidnapped, and it seems like the good doctor has all the answers.

Started: October 28, 2007

Ended: October 31, 2007

Series: One Shot

The Urge to Merge

by Red Hope

Chapter 4

"She was a younger sister?"

"Yes," Niki softly replied. She was obviously nervous because she had brief flashes of a similar conversation with Dr. Witherson. She didn't want the same results again.

"How did she die?" Toni carefully inquired.

Niki licked her lips and glanced over at the psychologist. "Do we really need to get into that?"

Toni took the warning for what it was, and she shook her head. "I just find it interesting that your alter ego follows that same name." She hoped her response would trigger Jessica Sanders to speak up. She could sense that Jessica wasn't dormant but indeed quite aware of the session. It was exactly how she wanted it, if she could get Jessica to talk too.

"Where is your father now?" Toni tried.

"I'm not exactly sure," Niki confessed. "He'd came over for a visit not long ago."

"How did it go?"

Niki stretched out her long legs. She tried to be comfortable in the sofa chair, but it was hard. "It was okay until the end." She felt that aged sting in her throat return. "He... he gave Micah a laptop and offered to help pay for Micah's schooling." She met Toni's gaze off to her left. "The tuition is pretty high."

"What made it go ugly?" the psychologist probed.

"Well Hal went into Micah's room, and Micah had taken apart the laptop."

Toni imagined Hal's reaction, which was shortly confirmed.

"He was furious, and I told Hal to leave my house." Niki crossed her legs at her ankles. She combed her damp hair back with her fingers. She'd taken a quick shower at home before coming back to Toni's house. "I tried to call him the next day, but he never called back. It's kind of strange actually." She had a crease along her brow. "He just disappeared."

Toni laced her hands together and rested them in her lap. She filed that bit away for later. She sensed some kind of gap there that needed to be checked, but not right now.

"Can I ask you about something?" Niki turned her head to Toni. She was grateful that Toni wasn't like most psychologists and psychiatrists, who typically sat so doctor and patient faced each other.

"Go ahead," Toni encouraged.

Niki composed her words and thoughts properly then brought up something Dr. Witherson had told her. "If I have MSP then is it possible for Jessica and I to merge?"

"Clinically speaking, yes," Toni replied. She shifted some then explained, "It goes case by case. There are three groups that a MSP patient may fall into." She unlaced her hands and held out her right index finger. "The first group usually have dissociative and post-traumatic symptoms, and they can recover fairly easily. The second group have the same symptoms plus other things coupling like eating disorder or mood swings... substance abuse. The treatment for the second group takes longer, and it's more intense... the results aren't always positive."

"Then the third group is screwed," Niki summarized.

Toni sighed, yet she explained it anyway. "It is the most extreme group. Anybody in the third group is considered to have a disease... they most likely will never recover. And doctors more or less try to make that patient's life as easy and manageable as possible." She now lowered her hands back to her lap. "If this was a true disorder for you then you'd fall into the first group."

Niki nodded, but she had her head bowed. "You really believe it's a power?"

"I know it is," Toni corrected. "It's possible that the power was invoked in the same format as MSP would for most people. It's why it mimics MSP to anybody that doesn't understand what you really have." She stopped and considered another aspect. "Had it been invoked in another way, then it is possible Jessica could have shaped with a different personality." She unfolded her hands. "Just as you could have been shaped differently if certain events had or hadn't happened in your life."

"That's a lot of if's there," Niki argued.

"There are various views that a person is automatically molded by genetics versus how outside forces mold a person."

Niki turned back to the psychologist. "Nature versus nurture."

"Exactly." Toni showed a smile because Niki knew her psychology.

Niki shook her head and argued, "Tell me how this is a power... a gift?"

"First," Toni started, "you have to get the notion out of your head that it is MSP. It's not, Niki." She tilted her head. "If you can start there then you'll be able to accept this easier." She then finally tackled the question. "When you look at a personality, every last one has characteristics that have pros and cons. A personality has strengths and weaknesses." She paused then added, "An individual has strengths and weaknesses... and not many individuals are satisfied by their weaknesses."

"We're always trying to change and perfect ourselves," Niki agreed.

"Yes, and it doesn't always work out either." Toni chuckled because she could attest to a few of her personal attempts. She became more serious and finally went to her point. "But you have the ability to harbor and nurture two separate personalities inside of you. It gives you an edge over individuals, who can't accomplish such levels. You have the chance to reach limits that average individuals can't achieve."

Niki seriously considered the concept.

Toni saw the gears turning inside of Niki. She sensed she was close to winning Niki over on the thought process. "If you and Jessica can learn to work together then you're both at a higher advantage. It may be possible for y'all to... seamlessly switch between personalities without really noticing. It could open a lot of possibilities and opportunities that aren't apparent right now." She leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. "But if you keep fighting against each other then my bet is you'll end up destroying each other."

Niki breathed deeply and slowly let out her breath. She watched Toni sit back in the chair again. She weighed the good and bad plus how her personality was so opposite of Jessica's. She then murmured, "Her and I do balance each other out."

"Very much so," Toni agreed.

Niki's head bobbed a few times, but she decided to back track. "So," Niki carefully tried, "you think Jessica's particular personality is key to my past?"

Toni tilted her head then honestly replied, "Yes. I think it points in a general direction to your upbringing and past events. Plus how she instantly reacts to negative events in your life also says plenty." She noticed that Jessica had stayed silent so far. She'd hoped the topics would pull Jessica out, yet it seemed Jessica was being stubborn.

"And here I thought I wasn't getting shrinked," remarked an edgy voice.

Suddenly Toni jumped in her seat at the duplicate twin sitting in the sofa chair to the right of Niki. "Oh my god," she gasped and covered her pounding heart.

Niki looked from Jessica to Toni and asked, "You can see her too?"

Toni still kept her hand over her racing heart. She stared across at Jessica. "Yes."

Jessica crossed her legs and slowly shaped a grin.

"I thought I was hallucinating images of Jessica." Niki turned back to Jessica and completely scanned over her duplicate features and body.

Jessica rested her arms on the arm rests, and she tilted her head at the psychologist. "How interesting."

Toni lowered her hand from her chest, but she kept staring at Jessica. She recovered from her initial shock of Jessica Sanders just appearing out of thin air. She cleared her throat some.

"We're not so crazy after all," Jessica declared. She amusingly looked at Niki and chuckled. "It must be a power." She then uncrossed her legs, stood up tall, and slowly approached Toni Kevin. "If it is a power, and you can see me... hear me... then that adds up to something." She loomed over the psychologist.

Niki climbed to her feet too, yet she doubted Jessica could actually do anything.

Jessica grabbed the armchairs on either side of Toni, and she leaned over her. "What does it add up to?"

Toni couldn't believe she was actually seeing Jessica and Niki simultaneously. She lifted her chin and looked Jessica right back in the eye. "I'm not sure."

Jessica tilted her head and leaned in slightly closer. "Come on, Dr. Kevin."

"Jessica," Niki argued.

Jessica ignored her alter ego. She held Toni's eyes with her own. "You really don't know what your powers are, do you?"

"They're still changing," Toni agreed.

Jessica let the tip of her tongue touch her lips for a beat. She then suddenly grinned. "Let's see what your powers will do to Niki and I."

"No," Niki snapped. She came over and tried to touch Jessica, but her hand passed through Jessica's body.

"They won't do anything," Toni fought. "Y'all don't have a mental disorder."

"Perhaps not," Jessica murmured, "but the fact you can detect powers and not just mental disorders says something." She bent forward even closer so that was little space between her and Toni's face. "Let's see what you're made of, Dr. Kevin."

Toni suddenly felt her wild heart in her throat just as Jessica leaned in the rest of the way. She remained wide eye but suddenly Jessica disappeared. She sunk down in her seat and closed her eyes. She was breathing heavy.

"Damnit," Niki hissed. She came over and knelt down in front of the shaken psychologist. "I'm sorry, Toni."

Toni had her head in her hands. She ran her fingers through her hair then lifted her head. "It's okay." She'd caught her breath and muttered, "Jessica has her own style."

"Mmmm." Niki touched the older woman's knee. "We don't need to do this."

"No, it's okay." Toni collected her thoughts and decided, "Maybe Jessica has a point."

"You can't be serious?" Niki argued.

Toni picked up Niki's hand and held in hers. "I don't know the extent of my powers." She searched Niki's soft eyes. "But I won't do it if you're not willing."

Niki lowered her gaze, and she thought about what could or couldn't happen if Toni tried this. For some reason Jessica wanted to test it, which surprised her. If anything, Jessica consistently protected her so for Jessica to agree to it would mean it was safe enough. She peered back up into curious green eyes.

"Alright," Niki softly replied.

"Good choice." Jessica's voice echoed.

Niki stood up and so did Toni. They faced each other and didn't move for a second.

"Uh... let's do this in open space," Toni decided. She stepped into the open, center of the room and Niki joined her. She stood toe to toe with the taller woman.

"How do we do this?" Niki asked.

"It's more of a 'me' thing," Toni joked, but she and Niki didn't laugh. She held up her hands. "It may take a little time because I'm not sure what I'm doing or anything." She watched warm, large hands fill hers. "But it'll be easier if y'all both relax."

Niki nodded and kept a decent grip on Toni's hands.

Toni closed her eyes but whispered, "You may feel funny... so just go with it." She took a deep breath. "Here goes." She focused internally on her power and brought it to life.

Niki already felt a prickly feeling in her hands, but she didn't let go. She peered down at them, but she couldn't see anything strange. She lifted her head and now found obsidian eyes gazing back at her. She tensed at seeing the color change to Toni's eyes.

"Relax," Toni murmured. Suddenly two red rings formed in her eyes.

Niki sharply shut her eyes from the sudden sensations coursing through her body. "What's... happening?" She squeezed Toni's hands harder, but she was careful not to be too tight.

Toni inhaled deeply as if finding some release. "There it is."

Niki collapsed to her knees, and she dropped her head backwards.

"Don't stop!" Jessica yelled through the haze.

Niki started to scream from the intense pain. She felt as if she was being ripped in half. Then her scream was echoed by Jessica's. Niki watched several flashes go past her that were not her memories but Jessica's. Finally, several countless emotions were stripped from her then it all stopped. Niki started to collapse to her right but strong arms grabbed her.

Toni had let go because she was so weak now. She stumbled backwards and fell to her knees. She was bent forward and gulped for air. She slowly lifted her head, and she gawked at the scene before her. "My god."

Jessica Sanders was on her knees and in her arms rested Niki Sanders. She cradled Niki and studied her before she lifted her head and met Toni's gaze.

Toni breathed deeply then softly repeated, "My god." She shook her head. "You're..."

"Real?" Jessica questioned. She had a grin slightly curl her lips, but she gazed down at Niki.

"You're separate." Toni lowered her eyes to Niki. "Is she..."

Niki was breathing heavily, but she started to lift up. She focused on who had caught her, and she almost fell back, yet she was caught again.

"Easy," Jessica instructed.

Toni stumbled onto her feet, but she came over and knelt back down. "Niki?" She gingerly touched the blond's shoulder.

Niki glanced at Toni, yet she turned back to Jessica and stared at her.

Jessica was amused and had a smirk because of Niki's astonishment. She tilted her head and joked, "We're twins."

Niki didn't seem to believe it. She stretched out her hand and touched Jessica's cheek. This time her hand didn't pass through, and she felt warm flesh. "Jesus." She traced her fingertips down to Jessica's jaw. "How..." She dropped her hand and looked at the psychologist. "What did you do?"

"I..." Toni shook her head and simply stated, "I corrected the evolution gene." She looked between the twins and finished, "I turned it off."

"That's why we separated." Niki touched her forehead, which pounded.

"What about our super strength?" Jessica inquired.

Toni shook her head. "I didn't touch it."

Jessica now slowly stood up on her slightly weak legs.

Toni did the same, but she needed Niki's help. She looked at Jessica, who had walked away.

Jessica held out her arms and looked over her body as if it was new.

Niki carefully watched her alter ego, who was now her identical twin. She took one step towards Jessica and stopped.

Jessica faced the pair and grinned. She came back to them, however, she was focused on Toni. "You can detect and control the evolution gene."

Niki realized that fact too. "Do you know what this means?" She gazed down at Toni.

Toni looked between the twins and whispered, "I'm a cure."

"Or a threat depending on who you are," Jessica clarified. She raised an eyebrow at Niki. "A big threat for some."

Niki slightly narrowed her eyes, but she instantly understood what Jessica meant. There were evil people with abilities like Sylar. She focused back on Toni. "This could be really dangerous, Toni."

Toni looked at her hands for a second then lowered them. She shook her head. "But it could be really good..." She exchanged looks between the twins. "For people who don't want their abilities. Who just want a normal life."

Niki furrowed her eyebrows at those words. She studied Jessica, who was now separated from her. Was she one of the people that didn't want her ability? Did she not want Jessica?

"How about it, Niki?" Jessica tested. It seemed like she could read Niki's thoughts. "Is this really good? Do you feel... normal now?"

Niki approached her identical twin, who had the opposite personality to her. "You are real."

Jessica held out her arms. "Flesh and blood." She dropped her arms to her side. "As real as you."

Niki searched Jessica's ash eyes, and she started to feel some ache in her. She swallowed and whispered, "You're free, Jessica."

Jessica folded her arms and gave a crooked grin. "Finally."

Niki parted her lips slightly as if to say something. She hesitated yet found her courage. "Do you feel normal, now?"

Jessica dropped her arms then started to slowly circle Niki. Her eyes stayed on Niki.

Niki briefly spotted the Symbol on Jessica's right shoulder, but she made no comment.

Jessica paused beside Niki's left side and murmured, "No." She stopped her circling in front of Niki.

Niki shook her head because she seemed to be putting her thoughts together. "Why doesn't this make me feel good?" She blinked a few times and looked at Jessica. "Why don't I feel good to have you separated from me?" She swallowed down her rising emotions, but it was hard. "I've tried so hard to stop you and get rid of you."

"Now you're gettin' attached huh?" Jessica for once wasn't condescending.

"I just... I can feel apart of me gone." Niki placed her hand over her chest.

Jessica stayed quiet for a moment then offered, "We're connected, Niki."

"Yeah," Niki hoarsely agreed. She dropped her hand off her chest.

"We could make a good team." Jessica watched Niki's expression, but she already felt exactly what Niki felt. "We did against Linderman once I understood what you were fighting for."

Niki silently agreed. She'd been truly proud of Jessica when they'd entered Linderman's office with D.L. After Linderman offered Jessica millions of dollar, Niki swore that it was all over and yet Jessica released her control before the temptation let her make a mistake. Jessica had shown trust in Niki's ability to make the right choice for them both.

Toni remained silent, but she carefully observed the pair work out their differences. Just maybe separating them was a perfect way to let them work out their differences. It would be a step in the right direction.

"No more lies?" Niki asked her twin. "No more secrets?"

Jessica slowly nodded her head. "You have to trust me to protect us and Micah." She searched Niki's soft blue eyes. "I love him, Niki. I know that."

"I know that too." Niki licked her dry lips. "And I know you've been trying to protect me for a long time."

"Since you were a kid," Jessica confessed. She stepped closer then revealed, "You don't remember Hal beating you."

Niki closed her eyes and turned her head away. She felt a soft hand on her cheek that turned her head back. She forced herself to look because she'd said she didn't want anymore secrets or lies.

"You would blackout," Jessica explained, "and I would takeover. I took all his punches so you wouldn't have to remember it."

"Why?" Niki emotionally whispered.

Jessica was a mix of sadness and bitterness. "Because I love you." She huffed and pulled her hand from Niki's cheek. She waved her hand at her and Niki's bodies. "We're the same yet different. I can handle the things that are too hard for you... the things you don't want to see."

"And what if I can handle it?"

"Then... you don't need me anymore," Jessica answered.

Niki grabbed Jessica's hand and argued, "Yes I do." She paused. "We need each other... we're too much apart of each other now to be apart." She felt that twist in her stomach since she was separated from Jessica. "You're apart of who I am."

Jessica sadly smiled at the truth.

Niki smiled too but more confidently. "You're my greatest strength."

Jessica softened for the first time ever because the precious words from the one that meant the most to her drove deep into her. She shook her head and truthfully confessed, "And you are my strength, Niki." She had unshed tears in her eyes, and she whispered, "I am because you are."

Niki moved forward and hugged her twin tightly. She felt strong arms encircle her, and a few tears rolled down her cheeks. A nagging weight slipped off her shoulders at that moment because she finally accepted Jessica and ultimately herself.

Jessica came out of the hug and looked over at the silent psychologist. "Fix us."

Toni felt a smile curl at her lips. She lightly jested, "And here I thought this was fixed." She neared the pair and became more serious. "I'm glad to see you two work this out." She smiled.

Jessica hesitated but replied, "Me too."

Niki could tell these recent events would alter Jessica. And it would open new dynamics to her relationship with Jessica. She set her thoughts aside and asked, "Can you reverse it, Toni?"

The psychologist took a deep breath and replied, "I hope so." She backed stepped once. "Let's sit on the floor for this one."

The twins agreed and followed Toni back to the middle of the room. They sat side by side and faced Toni. Toni raised her hands up and asked Jessica and Niki to hold hands as well. She wasn't sure how this would work out, but she was confident that if she could turn it off, then she could turn it back on too. Everybody closed their eyes, and Toni began to focus again.

Jessica this time felt the sharp pain first that originated in her head. She grounded her teeth and squeezed Niki's hand for support. Then her body felt like it was broken into shards of glass so she closed her eyes tightly. Finally her scream ripped through the quiet house.

Niki felt like she was on fire then gradually it was like a cool liquid was poured over her. Suddenly her head was slammed by Jessica's memories, personality, and emotions. She struggled to breathe, yet it felt so hard. She rasped for air and leaned forward.

Toni now only held Niki's hands because Jessica had disappeared. She had wide, black eyes and the red rings were back. She seemed to stare deep into Niki as if she could see something else. Whatever she saw in her mind was moving at an incredibly rate, but Toni easily understood each detail. She was a psychologist, and it all made sense to her. She made her last adjustment to Niki's brain so that the evolutionary gene was fully functional again, then she backed out.

Niki gasped for air when it all stopped. She could breathe easily again, and her frantic heartbeat tried to come back down. She used her hands to hold herself up.

Toni crumbled to her side and rested on the floor as if in pain. She shut her eyes, which were easing into a leafy green again. She was far weaker than last time, but she noticed her recovery was faster.

Niki straightened up slightly and touched Toni. "Are you okay?"

The psychologist nodded and rasped, "Give me... a second." She now rolled onto her back into a more comfortable position. She placed her hands over her rapidly beating heart. "That was very intense."

Niki swallowed against the dryness in her throat. "Tell me about it." She breathed deeply once then a thought occurred to her. "Jessica?"

"Right here," Jessica answered. There was pain that threaded her voice.

Niki gingerly touched her forehead. "Are you okay?"

"Besides feeling like I was just shoved into a jar, I'm great."

Niki slightly grinned. "No place like home huh?" She heard Jessica's grunt, and she imagined Jessica would have rolled her eyes if it was possible.

Toni turned her head to Niki. "Well, that sure was fascinating." She now sat up. She groaned at the slight pain in her head. "This may require a lot of aspirin though."

"I thought psychologists didn't use medicine," Jessica taunted.

Toni mock glared and remarked, "This one might." She glanced at Niki. "Do you need any?"

"I think so." Niki got to her feet and helped Toni get up. She paused once she was up again, and she stared down at Toni. She sensed that her cheeks were rosy. "I... thanks, Toni for..."

Toni grinned and tried to lighten the mood. "For the headache?"

Niki laughed and smiled, but then she warmly replied, "For helping Jessica and I."

Toni gingerly touched the younger woman's arm. "It's a start... a really good start."

"It is," Niki whispered, "it really is." She watched Toni's expression, and she felt that pull return. What was it about Toni? She was nervous to follow it, but then she felt a surge of courage from somewhere in her. She leaned down.

Toni forgot about her head. She raised her hand up and touched Niki's cheek once she was close enough. Then her lips sealed against Niki's in a light kiss.

Niki shifted closer and slipped an arm around Toni. She drew them together and deepened the kiss. Small fingers threaded through her hair, and she was invited into Toni's mouth. She and Toni passed soft moans at the instant contact. Niki let her tongue sensually move across Toni's before she had to withdraw for air.

Toni inhaled deeply after the kiss. She prayed nobody could hear her heartbeat, which was more erratic than earlier. She peered up into sky blue eyes. "I... I told myself I'd never get involved with anybody again because of my work... because I can't be hurt again." She faintly shook her head then admitted, "But there's something about you that makes me want to be involved... to try again."

Niki was silent, but she finally found her words. "I know how you feel." She traced Toni's defined jawline. "Let's take this slow... give it some time... a few more dates."

"I didn't realize we ever went on one," Toni teased. She chuckled at Niki's returned blush. "Oh, I see." She grinned but Niki's fingertips traced her lips. "A few more dates then," she murmured.

Niki lowered her head again and softly added, "A few more kisses." She met Toni for another long, sensual kiss.

Toni came out of the kiss with a slightly dreamy look. She quirked a grin and joked, "Maybe a few more than a few."

"Maybe," Niki murmured, and she grinned back.

"This is real sweet and all," Jessica interrupted, "but I could use the aspirin, love birds."

Niki rolled her eyes and sighed.

Toni chuckled and separated from the blond beauty. "Come on." She led the way to her kitchen where she had a small cabinet with a few minor medicines. She handed Niki the bottle of aspirin then went about getting cups of water.

After Niki took the two pills, she glanced at her watch. She looked over at Toni, who was putting the bottle away. "I should be going... Micah will be home soon."

Toni turned around and came back over. "He's done at three-thirty?"

"Yes, and he'll be there around four." Niki drank the last of the water, and Toni took the glass. "Thank you for everything, Toni."

Toni set the empty glasses by the sink. She shrugged as she came over to Niki. She slipped her hands into her pockets. "It's the least I can do after getting Micah kidnapped."

"And you helped save him," Jessica broke in again.

Niki flashed a grin at Toni. "And that's coming from the hard ass's mouth."

"I'll remember that comment," Jessica warned. Her voice was positioned off to the right.

Niki turned her head that way and saw Jessica's reflection coming off the black oven's glass door. "You do that." She winked at her reflection then walked away.

Jessica remained reflecting in the glass, and she slowly developed a wry grin as her alter ego left.

Toni joined Niki on the walk to the front door. "I'll... call you tomorrow."

"Yeah." Niki bobbed her head. "That'd be good." She stopped in front of the closed door. "Call at anytime."

Toni nodded, and she grew slightly nervous. She wasn't exactly sure how to say goodbye.

Niki resisted the chuckle that wanted to come up. She stepped forward and gave Toni a soft kiss on the lips. "See ya," she whispered, then she headed out the door.

Toni grasped the door's handle, but she stood there and watched Niki go. She had a silly smile on her face.

Niki was almost in her car, but she waved at Toni then got in quickly. She started her car and reversed out of the driveway. She soon was on her way home.

"You've really fallen for her," Jessica taunted.

Niki grinned this time around compared to yesterday. She slightly adjusted the strap across her chest then put her hand back on the wheel. She peered up in the rearview mirror and instantly saw Jessica in the backseat.

Jessica saw that sly smirk on Niki's face, which was rare. "What?"

"You find her attractive," Niki brought up.

Jessica huffed and folded her arms. "She's... not half bad," she revealed.

Niki laughed and shook her head. "You think she's hot, Jessica. I can tell." She stopped her car at the intersection light that was red. She peered back up in the mirror.

Jessica considered her alter ego's words. She bit her lower lip then suggested, "Call her." She grinned at Niki's raised eyebrow technique that mimicked her own. "Tell her to come over tonight."

"Micah is home."

"Oh that never stopped you with D.L.," Jessica thoroughly teased.

Niki released a long sigh then pushed on the gas pedal. "It's too soon."

"You don't want to screw this up." Jessica clearly understood what was the problem.

"Yeah, I don't." Niki combed her hair back with her left hand. "I really like her, Jess."

Jessica had a soft grin at hearing the nickname for the first time. She realized that her relationship with Niki was going to get better. It already was on the way. "I know." She tilted her head and tried again. "Just invite her over. Get to know her more... let her get to know us."

Niki turned the wheel to make a right turn. She thought about how Jessica phrased it. "This is an us... isn't it?" She glanced in the mirror. "I mean we're both going to have to like her."

Jessica was quiet, and it seemed like she was staring out the front window. She eventually spoke though. "Yes." She met Niki's stare in the mirror. "The fact that she's pretty hot is a plus, Niki."

Niki laughed despite the serious topic. She breathed deeply and nodded once.

"Give me some time too," Jessica confided.

Niki couldn't agree more. She had no idea where any of this would lead and it was a lot to take in right now. She simply wanted to get to know Toni better and see where it would take her and Jessica. She considered Toni's power and mentioned, "You know, this could be dangerous... for Toni."

"You mean her power," Jessica clarified.

"If the Company finds out about her..." Niki shook her head. "Between Toni and Molly Walker, they could control all of us."

Jessica felt a faint anger bubble to the surface. "We need to keep a close eye on Toni."

Niki understood Jessica's very logical attitude. She was glad that Jessica agreed with her on the idea of making sure nobody from the Company came after Toni. "We should tell Toni more about the Company."

"I don't think she needs to get anymore involved than what she knows now," Jessica argued. "Ignorance is bliss, Niki."

"It can also be dangerous," Niki reminded. "I should know."

Jessica sighed deeply and tried to make some kind of choice. "Let's just wait it out first. Maybe the Company won't even notice her."

"And if they do, all bets are off." Niki sped up her car.

"We can't go against the Company, Niki." Jessica became darker because her protective streak showed. "We have too much at stake."

Niki shook her head and mentioned, "For once it's me that wants to put up the fight, and you want to hide."

"I'm not hiding," Jessica snapped. "I'm being smart about this. What do you think the two of us can do against them? They're far more powerful than us... and Micah got involved last time." She hesitated but uttered, "He got involved because of me."

Niki silently cursed herself for even bringing this up. She flipped her blinker on and turned into the short driveway in front of her house. She parked the car then looked up in the mirror. "All I'm saying is if the Company comes into our life again, then we need to put a stop to it. Because if we don't then they'll just keep coming back... again and again, Jessica. You know I'm right."

Jessica lowered her head, which broke her eye contact with her alter ego. She knew it was all true, and she would do anything to protect Niki and Micah from the Company. She just didn't want to even consider the consequences at the end of it all. They'd lost D.L. and now Niki was falling for this Toni Kevin. Just what would it cost them if the Company showed up again?

Niki unbuckled her seatbelt and twisted around in her chair. She was relieved to see Jessica still there. "You're right that the risks are high."

Jessica peered up at Niki.

"And you've taught me the costs are higher if I hide from my problems." Niki studied her reflection, and she saw the clear concern in Jessica's ash eyes.

Jessica slowly released her breath then nodded. "Alright." She bit her lower lip. "If it happens, we'll deal with it... together."

Niki sadly smiled at getting a promise now. "Hopefully we won't cross that bridge."

"Hopefully," Jessica muttered. Then she and Niki both turned their heads to the right.

"Micah," Niki murmured. She turned the car off and climbed out of the car.

"Hey, mom," Micah called. He was hurrying down the sidewalk after walking home from school.

Niki came around her car and met him. "Hey, cutie." She knelt and gave him a large hug. She kissed him on the forehead and asked, "How was school?"

"It was good. I got a lot of homework."

"Yeah?" Niki took Micah's hand and walked with him to the house. "What you feel like for dinner?"

Micah stood on the stoop and waited for his mom to unlock the door. "I'm kind of in the mood for chicken."

Niki chuckled and opened the door. "I'm feeling the same."

"Ask him about inviting Toni over," Jessica suggested.

Niki closed the door, and she decided whether or not to take the suggestion. She picked up Micah's bookbag before he disappeared into his bedroom with it. She pulled out his lunchbox. "You feel like having a guest over for dinner?"

Micah received his bookbag back. "You mean Toni, right?" He followed his mom into the kitchen.

The mother set the box on the counter and turned back to her son. "Yeah, I was thinking it'd be nice to have her over."

Micah suddenly had a smile. "She's pretty cool, mom." He then went more serious. "Do... do you like her or somethin', mom?"

Niki came over then squatted down in front of her son. She rested her hands on her knees. "It's a bit early to tell, Micah."

"What about Dad?"

Niki reached forward and rested her hands on Micah's hips. "I'll always love your father." She felt the sting in her eyes. "There's nobody that can replace him."

Micah slightly bowed his head but looked up again. "Can you love somebody else?"

"I can," Niki started to explain, "but that doesn't mean I won't stop loving your father." She tilted her head. "Will you ever stop loving him?"

Micah quickly shook his head.

"Same for me too," Niki agreed. She lifted her hand and rested her palm against her son's cheek. "There are some things I feel for Toni... I'm just not sure what they are yet."

"Did you feel those things for Dad too?"

"Similar but different too," Niki replied. "She's not like your father and your father isn't like her." She waited a beat then asked, "Does it make sense?"

Micah nodded his head. Then he honestly stated, "If she makes you happy then you should keep talking to her."

Niki sadly smiled at her son's wisdom. "Yeah."

"Mom?"

"Yeah, cutie?"

Micah was slightly apprehensive, but he questioned, "Is Jessica staying?"

Niki knew she needed to have this talk with her son. "She wants to stay, Micah." She watched his face then informed, "I want her to stay too. We're working out our differences." She tilted her head. "Are you okay with it?"

Micah had fuzzy eyes as he seriously thought about it. "She won't hurt us anymore?"

Niki sighed, but she showed a wistful smile. "She won't anymore, Micah. She didn't realize it before, but she wants to help us... protect us from bad things." She searched her son's brown eyes then mentioned, "I trust her, Micah."

Micah now nodded, and he thought back on his experience last night. He had Jessica to thank. "I trust her too." He then furrowed his eyebrows. "Does this mean I have two moms?"

Niki laughed at the unexpected question. "I guess so, cutie." She devilishly grinned and teased, "And I think you need it."

"Mom," Micah complained. He sighed and rolled his eyes.

Niki chuckled but leaned forward for a hug.

Micah warmly hugged back then after the hug, he suggested, "You should call Toni now because dinner is soon."

Niki laughed because Micah liked to keep to his schedule during the weekdays. "You're right." She kissed him on the cheek and stood up. "Why don't you get started on your homework."

Micah nodded and headed for his room.

"Micah?"

The boy stopped and glanced back at his glowing mother.

"I love you."

Micah warmly smiled then replied, "I love you too, mom." He then hefted his bookbag onto his back and wandered into his room.

Niki leaned against the counter. She still had her smile, and she contently sighed.

"Thanks, Niki," Jessica sincerely offered. She was surprised by Niki backing her up earlier. There was a pause then she mentioned, "You better give Toni a call."

Niki shook her head, yet she fished out her cell phone from her front pocket. She flipped it open, drew up Toni's name, and stared at the number. "Jess... if this doesn't work out then..."

Jessica understood that Niki didn't mean tonight's dinner. Niki was nervous about everything between Toni and them not working out right. She considered an old quote that Niki often referred to at these times. "Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile."

Niki raised an eyebrow. "I can't believe you remember that quote." She gave in and hit the Send button on her phone. She raised it up to her ear and listened to the ring then there was an answer after a few seconds. "Hey, Toni." She slowly smiled then mentioned, "I just thought if you're free tonight that you might like to have dinner with us." And that smile of hers spread wider. "That'd be wonderful." She listened to Toni, but she lifted her head and saw Jessica's reflection coming off the glossy, black microwave.

Jessica had a sly grin, and she just winked at her alter ego. She didn't realize how content she felt until Niki smiled back at her. Just maybe this whole merge wasn't solely between her and Niki. Maybe this family was about to get a little bigger... just maybe.

The End.