It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
Ambrus swum back to consciousness, although he had the feeling he wasn’t yet supposed to. His body, at least, wasn’t moving; he couldn’t open his eyes and could barely feel his back, much less his extremities. He examined his recent memories for a command to sleep, or be still, or be numb, and found no commands, indeed, no recent memories. He reached back further and found… no memories at all, nothing but a kernel of self.
Shh. He trusted that voice, and so he lay quietly, staring at the inside of his eyelids, listening.
“I’ve stabilized him, the core that makes him what he is.” It was the same voice, but spoken aloud. Only then did Ambrus realize the first “voice” had been entirely in his mind. “If he were to awaken right now, it would be as if he had complete amnesia – he’d be, more or less, the Ambrus you know, but without any of his memories. Of course, our memories shape our personalities. Without, say, the memories of that monster Ian, he’s less skittish, less prone to fear harsh words.”
Skittish. The words brought to mind not an image so much as a feeling, sadness with an overtone of pragmatism and chagrin. Some of those emotions were his; he was a grown man, wasn’t he? Not some sort of beast who was shy of the harness.
Harness actually brought forth a memory, or, at the very least, a set of images, images connected to that name the voice had mentioned – Ian. He shuddered, or, at the very least, thought of shuddering.
Hush. Sorry about that, son. Not where I wanted you to start remembering things.
“You’re going to explain to me now why we don’t want to leave those memories out, despite how they torture him.” The second voice sounded flat and tired, and there was no questioning in her tone. He knew that voice. He loved that voice. That voice meant that…
He faltered. He loved that voice. But why? That voice meant restriction. It meant control. It means filtering out thousands of words for one crumb of affection. It meant everything was in her hands, everything that might possibly make him a man.
We’re getting there. Relax and trust me, okay? I know your mind better than you do.:
The voice shifted smoothly to speaking out loud. “His memories of Ian shaped large parts of who he is and, on a more personal note, how he reacted to you. A tryst here, a child here – those memories encompassed tiny portions of his life, and yet they left holes that hurt his mind and his memory when we took them away. Ian, Lana, Lee – those people created the boy he was when you-” Here, the voice paused to cough uncomfortably “-Pardon. When you bought him. Take away those memories, and you don’t, truly, have Ambrus.”
He shifted back to the mental voice. It’s not easy. But, here. There was a sensation oddly like someone steering one of his senses, or moving one of his limbs, and Ambrus felt… Feel that? She’ll never be that open again, son. Cherish that one.: Concern, that’s what it was. Affection. An underlying protective anger. All of it directed at him. He quailed for a moment, then, made bold by the way the voice had presented it to him, looked again at those feelings.
Love. She wasn’t mad at him, she was mad for him, this woman for whom emotions were foreign. She was concerned for his well-being. She was, as uncomfortable as it made her, in love with him.
“It seems cruel, though, to leave him with all that pain.” That, too, seemed foreign and strange from that woman, though he could remember so very little of her, nothing but these tantalizing impressions.
“Letting him be a whole person? Giving him the chance to find out what it’s like. Kinder than the alternative, Regine.”
“Regine,” she’d corrected gently. “You do not need to call me 'mistress.'” But she was his mistress, wasn’t she? He reached for the memory, seeking to find a face to put with the voice, the name, the strange and convoluted feelings.
“I trust you to do what’s right for him, Reid.”
“I’ll do my best.” Hey, wait, where are you going, son? The voice seemed to grab for him, but he wanted to know, needed to know. He stretched…
…and slammed into a wall of sharp force. The pain was sudden, and excruciating. Just as suddenly, it was gone, taking with it his consciousness.
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