August 18, 2015 by Lyn
Reid hadn’t been surprised when Ambrus hadn’t come to visit him Sunday. Convenient excuse or no, the kid was going to find it hard to get out of the house when Regine was being tetchy – and this was the most strained he’d seen her in twenty years – and with the mess going on in his head, there was a good chance he’d just outright forgotten the offer, vague as it had been.
By lunchtime Monday, when someone started knocking on his door, he’d nearly forgotten about the poor kid’s conundrum. No-one ever came to visit him down here; he wasn’t the Lothario that VanderLinden was or the mother figure that Pelletier was. But it wasn’t as if there would be strangers knocking, not down here. He turned off the TV – there was never anything on but the news, anyway – and opened the door.
Perfectly groomed to within an inch of his life, and looking two weeks dead, Ambrus stood in the doorway. He was holding something in a white- knuckled grip – was it his collar? The top button was torn off his shirt, the only stitch out of place in his impeccable appearance, making it very clear that his neck was bare.
“I…” he choked out.
Reid stepped out of the doorway. ”Come on in, son.”
Ambrus flushed, angry or embarrassed, but he stepped in. Son. Reid kicked himself. The kid was old enough to have kids himself, wasn’t he? He shut the door firmly behind them, murmured a three-word Working to activate the wards, and turned back to the boy – to the very distressed-looking young man.
“I…” Ambrus tried again, and relaxed, presumably as the wards cut off nine tenths of whatever was tying him in knots. ”You said I should come by, Doctor?” He straightened, brushing his hair back, revitalizing like reverse time-lapse photography.
“I thought it might be good,” Reid agreed. ”And, looking at you, I think you have an inkling why, don’t you?”
The defensive look was back, the naughty-schoolboy one that made it hard to remember he wasn’t one of Reid’s students. “Yes, Doctor Solomon.”
“Come on in, sit down,” he said, gesturing at the couch that was the only clear piece of furniture in the place. Obedient rather than willing, Ambrus took the seat offered, while Reid cleared some papers off of the armchair and sat down.
Reid gave him a moment to start talking on his own, trying to look non-threatening, something he didn’t normally have to work for. Most people weren’t frightened of grey-haired scientists with wire-rimmed glasses; it was why he had chosen to allow his hair to go grey and why he wore the glasses, never mind that his eyes were better than 20/20. But Ambrus wasn’t most people, and the kid – the Kept, acting younger than even his apparent age right now – had always seemed terrified of male authority figures.
Twenty years, and Regine hadn’t managed to sort that out. He’d be angry with her, if there weren’t so many other things to be angry with her about already.
“I have a problem,” Ambrus said softly, startling Reid.
He nodded slowly. ”It does seem that way,” he answered, trying to sound gentle. Still, the boy flinched.
“I… Regine can’t know,” he whispered.
“I understand.” It wasn’t a promise, but it was the best he could do. Eventually, Regine would find out. How she would react, Reid was no longer certain he could predict.
Ambrus nodded shakily. ”I’m… I’m acting oddly.” His lips twisted in a small frown. ”I mean, without meaning to. I’m not losing time, but I’m doing things that don’t make any sense, and it’s happening more and more. The more I fight it, the worse it becomes.”
He looked up at Reid, desperation in his red-rimmed eyes. ”I don’t think it’s Regine.”
You’re terrified it is her, you mean; Reid thought; you’re scared she’s decided to play with you. He’d never talked to Ambrus about his life before coming to Addergoole, but his behavior made extrapolation easy.
“Will you let me into your mind?” he asked gently, and was unsurprised but unhappy at the fear in the boy’s expression.
“Yes,” he answered slowly, and, it seemed, unwillingly. It would do. Reid began chanting the mantra that would allow him into Ambrus’ mind, resisting the urge to work a calming mantra in over the top. The kid’s mind had been fucked with more than enough already.
And… yes, yes it had. He stared at the mess he found, old tangles and new, and running through the whole thing like a scarlet ribbon, one clear, strong line of control.
“You haven’t been playing with Linden-Blossom, have you?” he asked, trying to keep the concern from his voice. Of course, the kid was an empath.
“No sir,” he said, the steel lines in his mind that were Regine’s control flaring up painfully. “Linden is off-limits.”
“Hrmm. Well then, so- Ambrus, I think we have a problem.”