In the months I had been hiding inside my own mind, Ethan had grown a lot. At first I had been afraid he wouldn’t survive, but he was a strong, healthy baby, just like Kimball had promised. While I nursed him I felt a connection with him that I couldn’t even describe, it was like we were alone in the world, like everything in life was perfect. It was my happy time, a time when I had no worries, when all I needed was him.
I wasn’t sure why I was nursing in that room. It had been two days since the attack and Kimball’s people had done a good job restoring the place, it was almost as if the fight hadn’t happened. No one had questioned my return or tried to tell me what to do. Those who didn’t know me from before were surprised by my new personality, those who knew me were relieved that I was back. No one tried to question my authority or bother me in any way, but I knew some, like Mbali, were dying to question my actions, before and after arriving back in Mzansi.
Ethan finished his meal, but he wasn’t sleepy, the food had filled him with energy. He was restless and moving in my arms, he took my necklace with his little hand. The necklace that had grabbed his attention was a gift from Kimball, it was supposed to be a gadget capable of disarming any power suppressor. It was just one of his attempts to show me that he would never try to control me again, but I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth. What if it was more than that, what if it was a suppressor, something to control me? I had no technical knowledge that would allow me to see if what he said was true. And then there was the cape, another gift meant to help and protect, but I could feel the technology in it. What if it did more than what he said? What if he could use it to control me?
I was confused. I had the chance to leave, but I was waiting for Kimball to wake up, and why? What was I expecting? I was angry at him, I couldn’t forgive him, or trust him, but I couldn’t leave him either. I hated him, but I hated myself for staying. Why I was even thinking about him? Why was I even considering staying with him. He had betrayed me once, he would do it again. Maybe he was trying to make me feel safe before attacking again. But Sklave’s memories showed a kind, considerate Kimball, a man that had done his best to make sure that Sklave was safe and happy, he hadn’t tried to take advantage of her even once, he had worked on making her stronger, more confident.
Ethan was getting frustrated with the necklace, his mind was so basic, his thoughts undeveloped, but sometimes he showed his Mzansier heritage, blocking his mind from me, it wasn’t the case, I could see his thoughts, he was mesmerized by the sparkling stones in the necklace, he wanted to capture it, take it for himself. His little hands started pounding on my chest, taking out his frustration on me, not able to contain it anymore. I couldn’t help but laugh at his tantrum, and that distracted him, he was no longer concerned about the necklace, he started babbling at me, as if we were discussing something important. I loved how easily he could change from one line of thinking to another.
I was startled when the door opened, too focused on Ethan to notice someone was approaching the room. The nurse that was taking care of Kimball got into the room and went to the bed to check on him. Once she started moving him, he started to react, I heard him moan in pain. The nurse informed him that he had been injured and explain the extent of his injuries and what they were doing about them. My head was down, focused on Ethan, but I could feel Kimball’s eyes on me. Once the nurse left, Kimball moved in the bed until he was seated, his back against the headboard.
“How are you Sklave?” His voice was gentle, as every time he spoke to Sklave.
“She is back where she belongs, at the back of my mind.”
“Kaiserin!” He was glad I was back, but I could feel his confusion and apprehension. “What happened? Why are you back? Did my messages finally reach you?”
“They were going to kill Ethan, I felt Sklave’s worry through my mind and I knew I had to come back and protect him. You did all you could, but they defeated you and I had to fight.
“I’m sorry, I failed you again, I did my best to keep both of you safe, but I couldn’t. I’m glad you’re back, though, you should never have left. I’m surprised you didn’t take off to the Empire as soon as you got back.” One of Kimball’s many presents was an airplane and the crew to fly it to wherever I wanted to go, I knew I could have gone to any place I wanted with Kimball’s full support.
“I should have, I’m not sure why I didn’t. Maybe because there is no place for me to go, I don’t belong anywhere.”
“I thought it meant that you had forgiven me.”
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do that, I can’t forgive what you did. I don’t understand, I don’t even know who you are anymore. At first you were this wonderful person, and then you changed completely, you showed Sklave your softer side, but I’m not sure who I will find. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to trust you again.” Ethan had heard Kimball’s voice and was twisting in my arms, looking for him, his little arms extended, wanting to go to him. I got up and closed the distance between us, letting Ethan go into his arms. At least something I could fully believe in was Kimball’s love for his son. “I don’t know if I can trust me, to make a good decision on what you are concerned.”
“I know I made a mistake, I noticed too late. I love you Kaiserin, I would anything for you, but I was scared, after we were captured and I was forced to see them torture you, I changed, I couldn’t let go of my fear of losing you. When I knew that you were pregnant with Ethan that fear only got worse. Do you have any idea of how I felt when I heard you had been hurt in battle? Losing you and my son was my worse nightmare, and I felt like it could become reality any moment.”
“So you decided to make MY nightmares real? Were you punishing me for scaring you? For going into battle without your approval? For not obeying you? You knew how your actions would affect me, you knew how much I sacrificed just because I wanted to avoid what you did. I was willing to do anything I could to prevent what you did.”
“I wasn’t even thinking about you and what it would do to you, I was selfishly thinking of me. I didn’t even realize how it would affect you until you went catatonic. That’s when I knew my actions were hurting you, and I took the suppressor off immediately. I don’t blame you for lashing out at me and hurting me, I deserved it, but believe me, even without your punishment, I would be repentant. I didn’t want to lose you, I never realized that my actions were the ones that would drive you away from me.”
“If everything you say is true, then why did you go after me? If you realized your mistakes, why repeat them?”
“I wasn’t planning to drag you back, I just wanted to make sure you and Ethan were safe. By the time we reached the Empire you were already with the Naturalists, and you didn’t seem to be in trouble, so I stayed away. When we saw your brother and his army we attacked them so they wouldn’t reach you, we gave you a chance to run away from them. If you hadn’t called for help, I would have shadowed you until you reached safety.”
“Then why make me swear to do anything you asked of me? Why take my powers away?”
“You were scared and distressed when I found you, I knew that your treatment would be complicated and I didn’t want you to fight me about everything I asked of you, but I was just referring to your treatment, it wasn’t forever, just for as long as it took to deliver Ethan. And I wasn’t trying to take your powers away, that was another misunderstanding, while we were treating you, your psychic wall came up twice, it was messing with our ability to help you, and when we realized we needed to operate, we couldn’t risk you creating your barrier in the middle of the operation, you could have bled out or Ethan died while we were unable to reach you. I asked them to take the suppressor off as soon as the operation ended, but the rest of the doctors were afraid and decided to leave it without letting me know. If you have Sklave’s memories you must know that I took it off as soon as I realized you had it.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, when you realized it was Sklave you were dealing with, you knew she would never fight you. Powers or not powers you had a willing slave.”
“I know I did wrong and I will do anything to show you how sorry I am, nothing like that will ever happen again. You have your necklace, your cape, your guards, transport to anywhere you want. If you want we could go back to the Amazons, I could be your slave again, I will do whatever you want.”
“You know it’s impossible to go with them, not with Ethan. I know that was my plan when I was pregnant, but there no way I can give him up now, not after spending so much time with him. I can’t leave him in the Fortress like I did with his sisters. And I’m not sure what to think about your gifts, I know that the guards and the crew are loyal to you, one word is all they need to turn against me. And the others? How can I know they do what you say they do? The necklace could be a suppressor as easily as it could be what you claim it to be. And the cape? I can feel the technology in it, and I don’t know what it does, how do I know it won’t be used against me?”
“You have my word, everything I said to Sklave is true. Trust me.”
“The last time I trusted you, I ended up drugged and locked away. After that, your word doesn’t mean much. You know why I stayed away from my brother, I was afraid of what he would do, afraid of being vulnerable and being taken advantage of. You showed me that it was an error to trust you, that you can turn against me easily, betray me without a thought. You were one of the few people that knew just how weak I really am, how afraid I am of losing control, and you took advantage of that. You know my weaknesses and you exploited them, you used that knowledge to destroy me.”
“It’s the same for me. You know my fears, you know my past. Losing my family almost destroyed me the first time. Just the idea of losing you turned me into a monster. You have the power to destroy me. You can grab Ethan and leave, and you would be taking my very soul with you. I know letting you go will kill me, but I will do it if that makes you happy. I know that you can’t read my mind, but you can feel what I feel, you know I love you and my son, you are my everything. You are my reason to live, my strength, my weakness. My life is in your hands and you can do what you want with it.”
“I wanted to destroy you, but I couldn’t. I don’t know why, you were hurt, it would have been easy to finish you and get rid of you once and for all, but I couldn’t. I should have killed you as soon as I could, and I tried, I really did, but couldn’t. Why? What did you do to me?”
“All I have done is love you. I know I made mistakes and I hurt you, but I do love you. I think you can’t kill me because you can’t live without me, same as me. Please, give me another chance to show you I care, that I regret my actions. I won’t hurt you ever again, I learnt my lesson.”
“I don’t know if I can,” I took Ethan back and moved away. “You have to rest, I will bring Ethan later. He misses you,” before Kimball could say anything I left. Being near him was hard, I was confused and he didn’t help. I wasn’t the same old Kaiserin, I had decided not to fall for anyone lies ever again, but he sounded sincere and I was afraid to trust again just to be hurt again.