…Sloppy. Sloppy sloppy, god.
But, he still had given me a ‘commandment’ so that meant I had to listen through to it to the end.
“You know how weird that sounds?” I said.
Gus averted his eyes, rubbing a hand on his upper arm. “You know I can tell when you lie, right? Even if I’m not touching you.”
I just slumped there. At this point, I didn’t know what was going on. God told me not to say anything, even saying I shouldn’t talk about where I’m from because Gus would find out, but then he gave the stupid kid mind magic—just what was he expecting from me?
“Look,” he said slowly, “I…you…I was just thinking other countries were really something when I was looking around for stuff—I was just really curious about where you were from and so I…I don’t even know if you noticed, but I looked a bit into your memories while you were asleep the other night and—that’s part of why I wanted my own bed because it was just too much of a temptation—I didn’t see all that much, but I just…what I did see didn’t make sense, I mean, with how you act about magic and then what I know about magic and I thought that other lands are just different but then…” he took a deep slow breath. “But then you lied.”
“Can you always tell when someone lies?” I asked, feeling a cold sweat on the back of my neck. I suddenly doubted myself. Should I have tried harder to keep this a secret? Didn’t Nehcor know how bad I was at that?
“No! No, only if there’s eye contact.”
So basically, just me, Hal, and Milly, since he was trying to not advertize his eye color.
Gus’s wrung his hands. His eyes darting back and forth, though not quite meeting mine.
Which confused me. I had every right to feel like I was in trouble, but what about him? Hadn’t I only ever been open with him?
“Hey, what’s up? Why are you acting so nervous?”
He bit his lip, then cautiously looked up at me. It was so unlike his usual devil-may-care attitude that it made me feel anxious too.
“I just…have this weird feeling—but it’s overwhelming too, that if I—if I know too much…” his eyes were wide and fearful on mine. “That you’ll disappear somewhere.”
So that’s how Nehcor was going to play it.
I ran a sweaty palm down my face. A visit to the temple was in order tomorrow.
“I mean, other worlds don’t even exist,” he said, with an edge of nervous laughter. “And if they did, how would you even be here? That’s just stupid.”
“Why can’t there be other worlds?”
I settled my gaze on him. This was a hole that simply couldn’t be ignored. Nehcor would just have to clean up after himself. I’d keep as much as I could.
“Logically, why couldn’t there be other worlds?”
Gus’s knees pinched together. He rolled his lip so hard it looked like he had eaten a course of strawberries.
“Are there?” his voice had gone quietly, as though being told the most protected of secrets.
In answer, I just smiled.
Even as Gus shivered, he smiled and his eyes sparkled.
“Is…is it okay?”
I lowered my head to him.
“As long as you don’t ask how I got here,” I said, just as quietly, “I think it will be okay.”
“So something really will happen if I know?” And with the flash-quickness of a teen mood swing, he was suddenly angry. “Why did you let me into your head from the beginning if that were the case?”
“Who else could you have practiced with?”
“Hal? Milly? I could have not practiced at all!”
“We both know that’s not an option. Hal accepts you being here, but I saw how he looked at you when he knew you’d used mind magic. You saw it too. Isn’t that why you don’t throw attitude at him?”
Gus said nothing, which was answer enough.
“Still…” he said, voice cracking with emotion. “Why’d you…you could have protected yourself more. You just opened up everything to me, what is wrong with you? Do you…do you really not care about me?”
I jerked upright, as though hit by lightning. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
“How could I not!” he cried. “You keep looking forward to dying still—I didn’t want to see it, but I can hear it whenever I’m in your mind, I hate it, you don’t care at all about what I—and then if you know you’ll disappear if I learn everything, but you just opened up everything like that—“
“I don’t think I’ll disappear, and I didn’t open everything. You’re the one who looked while I was asleep.”
“Then you should have told me not to!” he cried. “Or kept me far from you! Or—or—“
His shivering had increased till he looked like he might shake apart. His red eyes had grown bright and he’d reached up to clutch at his head.
“If you don’t care, why’d you have to make me care!” he all but yowled.
My heart broke. I threw myself forward to hold him as close as possible. It was a testament to how much he had grown already that I had to crouch over his lap.
“I love you,” I said. “Look into my mind, you know that.”
“Then you suck at loving—“
“I was just advised against letting other people know because it could cause me trouble,” I said, squeezing him harder. “No one ever said I’d disappear if someone knew. Just think about it, people would think I was crazy, right?”
“Then—why’d you—why’d you give me that look when I suggested you’d disappear?”
“I was thinking what to do. I’m sorry, Gus, don’t be scared, I’m not going anywhere.”
Only then did he hug me back, choking back the sobs that wanted to take away his ‘manliness.’ Which made me smile.
“It’s okay to cry.”
“I’m not crying, I’m holding back the urge to punch you. You’re so stupid sometimes.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“I feel like I’ve freaked out for no reason.”
“You didn’t. I’ll probably be in a bit more trouble from now on. Just don’t let anyone know, yeah?” Nehcor can do the clean up. “Though, from now on, don’t look in my head while I’m asleep. There’s one last secret I think is best for you not to know.”
What had Nehcor said? Because it would adversely affect his agency to know god had sent me. It was important that Gus be allowed to become who he wanted to be because it was what he wanted, not because he was scared into it. And I wasn’t all that keen into Gus seeing me as some heaven sent angel anyways, though it might stop him from being such a smart aleck.
After a while, when Gus’s shivering had subsided, I sat back and once more offered my mind to him, this time with my memories unblocked.
For the first time, I felt another person bathe themselves inside me. I could see the memories he dipped into, first with one tendril, then two, then, probably overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time and life before him, he threw himself in entirely.
As his entire stream of magic filled me to the brim, I came to feel his mind as well. His consciousness began to trickled in at first, in rain drops of images, like watching me pet a chicken hunched on the ground, listening to Hal point out hard to see spots that needed cleaning that no one but him would have noticed, holding a knife in one hand and thinking how funny it was to be using it to cut carrots—
Then a wave came and I saw myself again through the kitchen window, standing bare naked in the rain, my nipples taught like soldiers at attention and my long hair streaming down past my round hips—
Gus jerked everything back. The sensation of our minds untwisting from each other in fast motion made all my senses black out and my head cramp in pain. It was like a rug burn, except on my thoughts, and it trailed down all the way to my heart.
When I finally came to, Gus was on the other side of the room, his back pressed up against Milly’s bed, his face so flushed I wouldn’t be surprised if his very knees had gone red.
We came to the same conclusion at the same time.
“We probably shouldn’t—“
“I don’t think I’ll be looking that deep—“
We closed our mouths. My face felt hot as well.
Milly came in then, having finished up her prep work in the kitchen. She gave us both an odd look.
From that day forward, we mutually agreed to not have Gus diving into my memories that deep again. He tried other things in practice, like controlling motor functions or transferring sensations, but we both figured he’d had enough practice with memories.
Instead, he settled for having me tell him about my world out loud.
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