Chapter 1: Glimpses from someone else’s past
I splash water on my face, leaning over the bathroom sink. Water drips down my face, and I stare at my eyes. Silver. Of course they’re silver. They were silver in the dream, too, so that doesn’t help. My nightmares were a lot more fun to deal with when I had brown eyes, or when I’d wake up and the eyes in the mirror looking back were.
That doesn’t make those dreams very fun at all, it just places how bad these really are.
Sweat drips down my forehead, and I splash my face again. It’s warmer now, so it feels a little better. That didn’t feel like a dream. It wasn’t a dream.
“…More nightmares?” Valerie. I tense up, and nod. I don’t trust my voice right now. Not with her. Not with what’s going on inside of my head.
Everything was feeling so great for a while, too. I was responsible and went to Mystic until everything felt better. I let myself cry. I let myself really, actually focus on healing. Silver Girl was officially on hiatus for what felt like an eternity. It’s not like I don’t still cry about Olivia sometimes, or wake up and start sniffling because she isn’t there to cuddle. Recovery takes time. Dealing with loss takes a long, long time.
All of that was finally under control when this bullshit hit. It seemed to be perfectly fine and safe too. There wasn’t any sign that something like this was going to flare up. I think if she’d had any idea that quick little burst of magic would have this sort of effect she wouldn’t have done it.
“What happened this time…?” Valerie starts stroking along my back. Her hand isn’t misting. She knows this is not a good moment for that. I shake my head, splashing my face again. “Sarah… Remember what Rae said about—”
“My sweet little Raine drop, please, not now. I can’t.” Groaning, I splash my face with more water. Fuck. That’s why I didn’t want to speak. Her hand on my back quivers, staying incredibly still. Her amethyst eyes in the mirror look about ready to start quivering and filling with tears. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I… That’s… I can’t do this right now. I can’t… I can’t hold onto who I am yet. It’s all still too fresh. I need… I need to breathe. Please.”
Does my voice sound half as scared to her as it does to me? I can’t tell. I hope not, because I feel fucking terrified. I didn’t mean to let it slip into my voice, but I don’t know how I expected myself to be able to hide it.
It’s probably because I can still feel all of her confidence. I can still taste being her in my mouth, and in my mind. As intense as it is it’s not exactly a bad feeling. It’s dangerous, but nothing about it is unpleasant. Nothing about it is the sort of dangerous that makes you feel guilty every single time that you give into it a little bit more until it’s everything that you ever were and everything that you can ever see yourself becoming. It’s more…
Valerie pulls her hand away from my back. I don’t blame her. That’s pretty much the very last thing that I should have said to her, but seeing her sad eyes in the mirror they were the only ones that I could find. Seeing my precious little Raine drop feeling so sad, how could I say anything else?
Instead of leaving the room, she moves closer. Her arms wrap around me. Being hugged by someone taller than me is really nice. Something about being held by her, even if she’s so soft, when she’s so tall… So much tension washes away.
Breathing is easier, even if I’m still scared. Tears start to well up in my eyes as I stare at the way it makes the sparks inside twinkle. Her eyes meet mine in the mirror.
Valerie squeezes me a little tighter. I wish it wasn’t so easy to remember the times she’d do this for her and then they’d end up tangled together on the floor. The memories used to be easier to distinguish, to take single elements out of, to process carefully, but something about that is breaking down and I don’t exactly understand it. Okay, I don’t understand it at all, but I’m not ready to admit that easily even to myself. “I’m going to call Doctor Keeneson. It’s late, so she’s going to be angry and snarky like always but—“
“Let her sleep. I’ll call her first thing in the morning, okay? I’ll just… make an appointment.” I sigh. It feels like all of that was one big a failure. It feels like everything that I fought for over those… what was it, six months…? It feels like all of that time was for nothing.
My head might be immune to external influence now thanks to being the light bearer—and I am so thankful for that if only because it means I still have my Aurora—but that doesn’t mean that I can’t fall apart all over again. Apparently. This is so fucking embarrassing. I can’t stop crying. I want to think “I should have known better” but it wasn’t me that did it, even if it almost feels like it was. It was, sort of. In a way.
Headache does not describe the level of dissonance I’m feeling. I can’t have this happen now. This is one of the worst times for this to possibly happen.
So of course now is when I don’t have any choice and need to confront it.
Valerie kisses the top of my head. Some of her mist starts to seep into me, and I don’t fight it. Warm soothing mist isn’t quite like anything else. It’s warm, and fragrant, and gentle. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t overwhelm. It just makes some things a little bit softer and I need that. Valerie knows it. “Promise? I know you were really good about seeing Rae before, I just… I’m worried about you.”
I nod. How can I not? I’d be worried too. I am worried and I am me. I’m probably more worried because I am me. This is not a very comfortable feeling. “I promise. Seeing her now won’t make any difference. I need time to breathe. I need time to convince myself…”
“Convince yourself what?” Valerie kisses the top of my head again. A part of me still feels guilty that I haven’t been fighting the way I feel about her. It isn’t like she was the only one who fell in love with Valerie. She was the one who saved me after the Infidels shot me full of drugs and nearly killed me because of my old heart condition. Just thinking about how that felt makes me clutch at Lida’s teardrop pendant. I still never take it off.
Nothing else makes me feel quite as safe.
“I need to convince myself that I’m not the Domina. I need to convince myself that the Sarah Lucia LaSilvas in this bathroom was never the Domina Argenti, and never will be. I was Patina. I was Silver. I was even Argentia as a teenager… but I was never the Domina Argenti.” I know the words I’m saying are true, but no matter how deeply I look into my eyes as I say it, no matter how firmly I try to convince myself that it’s true…
It sounds like a lie. It sounds like a lie that even I don’t want to believe… and I can’t exactly blame myself for it.
That dream I had when I was soaking in so much of Quillspawn’s ink floods through my memories. Thankfully that doesn’t feel any more real. It wasn’t a very happy dream, but it was just the kick in the ass I needed.
My teenage self was wrapped around me, and then she was suddenly how I imagined Sylvia would look once she was given a chance to grow up. I was confronted with how frightening I was becoming as Patina. I was confronted with how I was trying to do good things. My time with Chronos and the way I was still viewing those memories as so perfect was making me… anything but a good person.
Quillspawn might have been terrifying to deal with as she tore away all of my support structure and then overwhelmed me with numbers and raw force… but I don’t know who I’d be if she hadn’t done that. I wouldn’t have Aurora. Without Aurora, I don’t think I would have been able to fight against The Lady if she’d wanted me back for… any reason.
That makes me feel guilty, and turned on, but that’s okay. Mystic taught me that it’s okay to have complicated physical reactions. I can take that a lot easier than this memory problem.
“Aurora needs me, Valerie. Sylvia needs me. I can’t… I can’t let this get worse.” Worse. I wince. She can probably see in my eyes that I’ve been having these nightmares for a week. It’s just never been bad enough that when I woke up I wasn’t able to fight the feeling off.
This is the first time that when I look back in the mirror I see The Domina looking back at me. She’s just… waiting. She’s a predator, made one out of necessity.
She doesn’t know any other way to be, even if she wants so much better… The last thing she did was tell me to take care of Sylvia for her. I don’t see how I could do anything else. She’s so special. Such a beautiful, soulful, gorgeous little girl.
Valerie leans forward and kisses my cheek. Her arms around me squeeze so much tighter. “Thank you. Do you want me to stay awake with you? I have work in the morning, but—“
Loud crying sounds from her bedroom. It sounds like Aurora can’t sleep. Sylvia is so much of a calmer baby. I’d make a joke that I’m glad to take care of her because at least she’s so much more mellow, but that’s mean to even think. Aurora is great. She’s just a baby.
I’ll still look forward to her more reliably sleeping through the night.
“Looks like we’d be up anyway.” I sigh and squeeze her arms around me as snugly as I can. “I’ll go see what the loud ray of sunshine needs.” Every time Aurora cries a part of me feels… not guilty, not anymore, but sad that I can’t bring Olivia, or promise her that she’ll see Olivia soon. I sigh and pull away from Valerie and give her a quick kiss on the cheek. “After we put her back down, I want to try to get some more sleep. Seeing Rae half asleep won’t help anything.”
Valerie nods, and kisses my cheek back. Her lips are so soft... All of her is so fucking soft. She’s so soft and smooth and warm. Before I can pull away, her lips press harder to mine, and her mist teases out across them.
I want to spark my lips. I want to spark my lips so hard that we both collapse into dripping wet flesh that needs to grind and squeeze and feel. I want to let all of her thoughts grow quiet and just take care of her needs while fulfilling my own need to feel in control. The Domina and Patina were different sides of the same coin, even if I’d argue that Patina did a lot more good, or at least was more honest with herself, or…
Either way, we both did so much of what we did to feel less out of control.
Sparking her now would be bad. Aurora would keep crying. She’d cry louder. She wouldn’t be alone—Sylvia is in the same room. But that isn’t the same. She needs her mother.
Olivia can’t do it. She needs me. I can’t let her down. She’s been the only thing keeping me from yielding to that gaping hole in my mind that begs me to just dive in and forget my sorrow over losing Olivia by just becoming the other Sarah entirely. She redeemed herself. She deserves another chance. Part of that is going to be through me, but I can’t give up myself for that.
Aurora needs me.
That’s enough for me to just hold on tighter.
I break the kiss, fluttering my eyes as the light inside of my head clears away the fuzz of Valerie’s mist. For a moment she looks guilty, but I just smile and kiss her forehead. “You can come with me, if you want.”
“It isn’t often that I get morning cancellations.” Mystic adjusts her glasses. She still wears the same turtle shell glasses. She might be aging a bit more than some of us, but she’s wearing it gracefully. With how mature and professional she’s always dressed she just looks more and more… her. It’s not so much like she’s growing older so much as she’s just becoming more Mystic. Doctor Keeneson. That probably doesn’t make any sense. “But it’s good I did today, because you really should have called my last night.”
“I thought being called at 3 AM was something you were glad went out the window alongside Patina.” I smirk as I wiggle into the chase. It’s comfy, but it’s hard to get comfortable knowing what’s coming.
Even after so many appointments talking about grief and anger and pain and abusive relationships just wearing a t-shirt and some jeans talking with someone that has a meta identity just feels weird to me. That little girl part of my brain that’ll never grow up is telling me that I should be wearing the right uniform.
I tell her to sit down and shut up, but she just crosses her arms and huffs.
Mystic raises an eyebrow. “Yes. I also said that I wanted you to talk to Jade. You did that. You finally actually did the smart thing and got therapy. A lot of what I said to you back when you were Patina doesn’t really apply anymore. And problems like this… can be serious.” She leans back, and rubs at her temples as though I’m giving her a headache. Knowing me, I probably am. It’s something I’m pretty good at. “Can you go over everything… from the top?”
“Of course.” I’m not really entirely sure where the top is, but I can try. It’s a reasonable request, at any rate. I slide a spark out of a fingertip and idly dance it between my spread fingers to have something to concentrate as I speak. It’s a bad habit, but it’s better than erasing my self-identity, so I can give myself a break. “After Olivia… After Red fired that lethal red ball of light that Olivia took instead of me, Sarah—the other Sarah, I was going by Lucia at the time to make things easier—figured out a way to stop her from doing anything else. It was a risky, and she’d only get one shot, but it was all she could think of doing.
“I said I’d ask her to take care of Sylvia… No, she said she’d make me promise to…” I shake my head, moving the spark slower. It’s a sort of Zen thing to do, at least I think that’s what zen means. I could really use some of that right now. “Sorry. It’s hard when I think of places our memories… overlap.” Rae shakes her head and motions me to continue.
My forehead feels wet. Hot. This got a lot worse than I thought it was. Putting off taking care of it was just so much easier than dropping everything to go back to therapy.
“So she says that… and then she touches me. It’s…intense. Silver slams into me like a jackhammer of memories, of images, of… ideas. It’s too much to process, so my brain just… shoves it to the back. I’d been given memories before—Lida did it when I first met her… and I still remember them. I remember the day I was born from her perspective.” It’s weird to say, but I do. I remember looking over my still pregnant mother, Nesatealia surrounding her. It’s such a weird feeling. “So I know how it should work. It’s not… You don’t think they’re yours. They’re… From the other person’s perspective. It’s clearly not you. But…”
“But Lida wasn’t an alternate version of Sarah LaSilvas.” I nod and bite my lip. I close my hand around the spark, making it pop like a breaking light bulb with a flash of light. Rae winces, and I mouth a silent apology. “But that happened… That must be almost a year ago now.”
I nod. So much has happened, even if I tried to lay it all out in my head I’m not sure that I wouldn’t leave things out. Valerie helped me move into her place. So many little memories of Aurora and Sylvia that I’ll never forget happened… Then I started working with the rest of the active heroes in Midas to try stamping out the Syndicate presence. They’re more than just a human trafficking ring, and they don’t just exist in this city.
If I was younger, and didn’t have two kids and someone special to me to protect, I’d probably be ready to try purging them entirely. As it is, I’ll settle for kicking them out of my city. Even that’s going to probably take years.
Every big project has to start small and local.
Mystic nods, still rubbing at her forehead. “I’ve been keeping up with the news, by the way. You’ve been doing good work… But it sort of reminds me of when we met. Doesn’t it remind you?”
I bite my lip and nod. Jade and Nightshade saved me from the Syndicate. The Domina paid them to send the Slut Squad to nab me up. She was overconfident. She broke their rule, and was sold right alongside me. Well, not right alongside. Somehow she ended up in Yanuka’s clutches instead of Mind Bore, but… that detail isn’t important. “We raided that facility, actually. It wasn’t… exactly the same one? But it was set up almost identically. We saved the women they were going to sell, but…”
“But what?” Rae’s face tenses. I can see she’s thinking so very intently. She’s probably glad that she isn’t the kind of psychic that hears everyone’s thoughts like Psyche. From what I’ve heard from her it’s a real pain in the ass.
“I kept remembering that I’d done it before. Busted it up before. On instinct, I sent my sparks off on the same volleys, I… I wanted to turn to Amethyst and tell her what a good job she was doing, but…” I sigh, rubbing my own forehead. “She wasn’t there. Of course not. She was at work, or home with the girls, or… But I fought it down. I kept on knuckling through. Then… the nightmares.
“I can’t remember them perfectly, but I remember… feelings. Experiences, in my muscles, in my bones, not… mentally. I remember being bound, I remember something flowing into me, something being sucked out, but it wasn’t like when I was with Mind Bore…” I shiver, and wrap my arms around myself. “Everything is so cold and all I can do is chatter my teeth. It feels like I’m dying, and a voice keeps saying things I can’t hear. I wake up, and I’m not… I’m not me. For a second, I’m her. I wake up, and I remember going back in time to save The Lady. I wake up and… and I’m the wrong Sarah.”
Mystic nods and frowns. Her expression doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, but I know that if anyone can do this, it’s her. If anyone can help me be me again, it’s her.
For a long moment there’s only silence.
It gives me time to remember the first time I went to see her on my own. I wasn’t silver skinned with silver hair and silver eyes. I had pale peach skin, dark black hair, and sad brown eyes. I’d come here, begging for her to rip my mind away. I knew that she could do it. She was the one who’d sunk her nails into the control in my brain and freed me from what the Slut Squad were trying to do to me. She didn’t, but what she said to me lead to me becoming Patina.
I brought Olivia to her when she got full of Ink and couldn’t move. I came to see her when I lost Olivia. Mystic is really my last hope, now.
“All right. It’s not going to be pleasant, but… I think I can do this. You’re going to be experiencing these over again… but if I do it right, it’ll be like watching her home movies.” Mystic forces a smile. She adjusts her glasses, mostly just so that her hand has something to do. It’s cutely awkward in the way only someone so professional can really pull off. “It’ll mean combing through them, and having your mind reintegrate them… And that won’t be easy. It might be harder than dealing with the Syndicate. It might be harder than dealing with the loss of Olivia…”
I nod with a sigh. “I don’t see what other choice I have. It’s been getting worse.” Even if it’s the most terrifying thought in the world. I have to try.
Rae nods, and stands up. She sits down beside me, and places her hands on my forehead. Every small detail of her face looks apologetic. “During this process, there may be periods where it may be hard for you to… separate then and now. I know that basically sounds like what’s already happening… but this has an end date. Once we get everything into the right place, you should be able to continue with your life as normal. Until then hower…”
“I know, I know…” Hanging up my boots again. Silver Girl being put on hold. No more adventures until my head is screwed on right.
Even with an immunity to mind control, I’m still ripped out of the action. Aurora needs me to be better than this. Sylvia needs me to be better than this. Valerie needs me to be better than this. Unfortunately, like every other problem, the only way out really is through.
I take a deep, slow breath and give her a nod. This isn’t going to be fun… but it’s important. Important matters. That’s part of being an adult. It’s one of the shittiest parts, but it’s something I need to keep in mind. I can’t just follow the path of least resistance. I can’t hope that if I let these memories consume me—which I don’t even think the woman who gave them to me would even vaguely want—I’ll be able to make the right choices.
The Domina redeemed herself, but she didn’t give me these memories to take me over. If she had, it would have been more insidious. If it was… then I wouldn’t be able to feel a pang of regret from the part of me that remembers, vaguely, distantly, deciding this was the only way to give my daughter her mother.
My whole mind trembles. I remember feeling the cracks when Yanta shattered me apart. I can remember how it felt to be wrapped around that pole between my eyes. Both of those feelings were less scary than feeling my own mind tear itself apart over my memories.
If chanting “Obey!” with a hand between my legs would fix it, I’d do it. Who even knows if those memories would be stable? Maybe I’d just keep cycling back and forth.
“Silver Girl can wait. The Syndicate can wait. If we don’t deal with this…” I sigh. “No. That’s not even an option.”
Mystic smiles, very gently smoothing out some of my hair. She can be pretty abrasive, but I guess with all we’ve shared it’s hard to see me as just the jerk that used to call her in the middle of the night. I told her about the drinking, the loneliness, the longing. I told her about everything. There’s no one that knows what I’ve been through better than Mystic, and she’s going to get an even better look into my mind.
It’s a strange feeling.
“Then let’s get started.” Her lips quirk into a smirk. “This is going to be me controlling your mind, and you are going to be feeling like you’re passing out. Think you can handle it?”
I roll my eyes. “Take a number, Rae. Fire it up.”
We laugh, but my laughs get quieter and quieter. I can feel the pressure of her forcing her way into my mind. It’s not gentle, but it isn’t violent or vicious either. It’s pressure, and a kind of pressure that makes my special light want to flare up. I clench around it, tightening my grip. If she wouldn’t control me when it would entail less responsibility, just sex, or whatever she might have wanted from me… I can’t see her doing it now. Rae might be a bit curt and professional sometimes, but she wouldn’t hurt Aurora and Sylvia.
My body tingles, especially my fingertips. I bite my lip. They don’t feel like my fingers. I don’t really feel like me. Nothing is… right. I feel… cold? Flashes of wires and straps and laughs shudder through me, and Mystic’s hands shake against me.
“I need you to let go, Sarah. I need you to let me in. Open up, Sarah. Don’t fight it.” She sounds like she’s gritting her teeth. It’s hard for me to see. My vision keeps blurring. I keep seeing those straps. It’s so dark. My body feels so cold. She made it so I can spark as much as I need to, as much as I want and I don’t get cold… why is it so cold?! “Sarah! Don’t let the memories take control! Focus on me! Focus on my fingers! Focus on my voice!”
I nod. It’s hard, so hard, but I nod. My head feels strapped back to something hard and cold, but if I really focus on her fingertips I can bring myself to nod. “Y-yeah… focus… Okay… I-I… I need your help…!”
“Yeah. Yeah, okay…” Her fingers press harder into my skin. She feels so warm. I feel so cold. So trapped. I don’t know where I am anymore. My heart feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest. I haven’t felt like this since Sinthya cornered me. “Right! All right. I need you to focus on my words, Sarah. Focus on my words. Focus on the calm, careful direction of my words. Focus on how it feels to listen to my words. Focus on how my voice gets easier, and easier to listen to, more that you focus, the more that my words keep sliding into your ears…
“That’s all you have to do. I know you’re good at it. We’ve talked before about how you’re so very, very good at listening to a woman speak directly into your mind. When she tells you to concentrate, when she tells you to focus, you can’t resist it. You don’t want to resist it. You want to let her take control.” I moan. It’s been so long since I’ve felt like this, and yet it feels like it was just earlier today. The tubes sucking something out of my arms feel further away. “That’s good. That’s very good. Let me take control of your mind for you. Let me take control of your words.
“You don’t need to think. You don’t need to be in control any more, Sarah. You don’t even need to be Sarah right now.” Her voice is trembling. I want to reach out and soothe her, but I don’t need to think about that. I don’t need to be in control. All that I need to do is just… concentrate. Concentrating is easy. “That’s right… You don’t even need to be Sarah, much less the right Sarah.”
The last of the tubes pops loose from my arms. The room isn’t dark anymore. I feel unhinged from reality, from time, from space, from myself… but at least I’m not so cold. All I need to do is concentrate. I don’t even need to be Sarah…
“We’re going to go back now, Silver. We’re going to go back to a very special, difficult place for you to face. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to make you cry. It’s going to feel like losing everything you ever loved all over again. You might hate me. You might hate yourself… But all of that will be okay? If you trust me.” Her fingertips rub so soothingly over my forehead. It feels so good and safe. It feel so nice and caring. It reminds me of The Lady sewing my mind back together after Yanta shattered it to pieces. “Tell me you trust me. Tell me you trust me, and this will all be so much easier.”
Moving is so hard. Even moving my lips feels like such a monumental effort, but she didn’t really ask for much. I don’t have to be Sarah. I just have to trust her.
Of course I trust her. I trust her with everything. I trust Her with everything.
“I… trust you…” It feels so good. Everything between my legs squeezes together and clenches so tight. It’s almost like I can feel her words between my legs, or her fingers are down there too. It’s almost like how it felt to be drooling on Her desk. It’s so much easier to just drool and let everything fall away.
“Good. That’s very, very good… Now…” She takes a long, deep, slow breath. “Cotton pink legs, silver.”
My eyes roll back in my head. My fingers shudder and tremble and twitch. My toes curl even before it really starts to hit as I feel my nipples tighten, the pearl between my legs growing so hard and hot and warm. I’m drowning in sweat, panting, trembling, shaking. It feels like the opposite of the tubes. It feels like being liberated from them, ripped loose and shoved down to my knees in front of Her only to be pulled up into her lap.
Hot sticky wet pours out of both sets of my lips.
“Very good girl, silver. Cotton pink legs.” Pressure pushes into my mind, and it feels like she’s parting my lower lips but inside of my head. All I can do is shudder and shake as legs wrap around my mind. I can’t even nuzzle into them, even when they feel so soft and warm and good. I mewl, and feel those legs squeeze tighter and tighter around my head until there’s not a single part of me left.