I reached out to touch his cheekbone with the tips of my fingers. He didn’t flinch away, although I couldn’t have blamed him if he had. “I don’t want to hate you anymore.” I whispered.
“I know,” his voice was clear and steady. Last time I’d been this close to him, I’d stabbed him in the stomach. A loud part of my brain still wanted to stab him—repeatedly. But he wasn’t afraid of me. Maybe he should have been. “I don’t even care if you want to hate me. I just want you to think completely for yourself again.”
I’d been convinced of facts that weren’t facts. I had memories of events that had never actually happened. They’d wanted me to destroy people who used to be my friends from the inside out. To be perfectly honest, at this point I didn’t know if I would recognize when I would be able to think for myself again—I’d always be afraid that someone was making me think it. But more than anything, I wanted to know what I used to be like. “Did I hate you before they messed with my head?”
“No. No, I don’t think you did.”
“How do you think I felt about you?” I asked, although I knew already from the way he had always looked at me.
“I hope that you loved me.” He raised his hand, resting his thumb along the back of my jaw, wrapping his other fingers gently, lovingly, around the back of my neck.
And I had a memory of him. And it felt real because it came in a rush and in a moment and I could practically feel the blanket I was laying on, and it was almost blurry around the edges, like it was something I was supposed to experience, not just something I was supposed to remember.
Most of all, it wasn’t the fear, hate, and anger fueled moments that had I become so used to over the last couple of years. It was something so much more complicated.
He laid next to me, younger, his hair longer, his hand rested against my jaw and neck. I felt warm and safe, and laughed as I reached out and lifted a lock of hair away from his face.
“You’re going to have to cut your hair soon,” I said with a laugh, “I don’t think that I have a stable enough ego to have a boyfriend with hair longer than mine.”
“I thought you said you liked the long hair,” he teased, lifting himself and leaning over me slightly, tickling my nose with his hanging hair.
“I do. Increased sex appeal, very nice.” I blew out a little puff of air to make his hair swing away from my face. He wrinkled his nose adorably as the air hit his face, but then dropped back down to his elbows, leaning in a little closer, casually, like he’d done this a hundred times before. He was going to kiss me.
This man had committed atrocities. This man had killed many helpless people. This man had tortured people weaker than him and he had taken pleasure in it. This man was a big part of what was wrong with the world. I shoved him hard in the chest, breaking the contact from his hand to my neck. He stumbled back, almost falling but managing to keep himself upright.
“I hate you,” I could feel myself screaming, and I went to lunge at him but someone caught me by the arm. I wheeled around and took a swing at Mittan, but she was stronger than me and had my arms pinned behind my back before I could even blink. So, I screamed, ranted, railed, and threw every obscenity I could think of in Lio’s direction before Mittan injected something into my wrist and I slowly lost my ability to do that too. I watch Connal approach Lio who was still rubbing his chest from my sudden hit. Together, they watched me fall back in Mittan’s grip, and when my eyes were shut but my mind wasn’t completely gone yet, I heard Lio mutter, “I thought this time. I thought for sure.”
“I know,” Connal reassured him quietly, and then I was gone.