“Sure.” Rhys shrugged, trusting me immediately.
“What do you mean, ‘practice’?” Matt asked with a concerned edge.
He moved a bit closer to Rhys, and I realized with some surprise that he finally believed Rhys was his brother. He wanted to protect Rhys from me. I felt some relief and happiness knowing that he’d started accepting him, but it hurt a little—okay, a lot—to know that Matt thought of me as a threat.
“I haven’t done it very much.” I didn’t like the way Matt scrutinized me with his gaze, so I paced the room, as if that could deflect his attention somehow. “And it’s been a while since I’ve done it at all.”
That last part wasn’t entirely true, since I’d just used it on Rhys the day before, but I didn’t want him reacting the way Matt had. This whole process would go a lot easier the less people hated me.
“So what do you want to do?” Matt asked.
“I don’t know yet.” I shrugged. “But I just need to practice. It’s the only way I can get stronger.”
Despite Matt’s obvious reservations, Rhys went along with it. It felt very odd to have someone witnessing persuasion, especially someone clearly against it, but I had no choice. It wasn’t like I could send Matt into the next room or something.
I could see Matt watching me intently out of the corner of my eye. It was distracting, but that was probably better practice for me. I doubted I could get any of the Vittra to step aside to a quiet place while I tried to use a bit of mind control on the guard.
I decided to start simple. Rhys and I were standing, facing each other, so I started repeating in my head, Sit down. I want you to sit down.
His blue eyes met mine evenly at first, then a fog passed over them. His face seemed to slacken, and his expression went completely blank. Without a word, he sat down on the floor.
“Is he okay?” Matt asked nervously.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Rhys sounded like he’d just woken up. He looked up at me, his eyes dazed. “So, are you gonna do it or what?”
“I already did it.” I had never talked to anybody about it after using persuasion on them, and it felt strange to be open about it.
“What are you talking about?” Rhys’s brow furrowed, and he looked back and forth between Matt and me, trying to understand.
“You got all spaced out, then you sat on the floor,” Matt said.
“Why did you sit down?” I asked.
“I…” His face scrunched up in concentration. “I don’t know. I just … I sat down.” He shook his head and looked up at me. “You did that?”
“Yeah. You didn’t feel anything or sense anything?” I asked.
I had never known if what I did hurt people. They never complained of pain or anything, but maybe they couldn’t because they didn’t understand what was happening.
“No. I didn’t even…” He shook his head again, unable to articulate what he meant. “I expected there to be a blackout or something. But … I knew that I was sitting. It was more like a reflex. Like, I breathe all the time, but I don’t think about it. This was the same.”
“Hmm.” I looked at him thoughtfully. “Stand up.”
“What?” Rhys asked.
“Stand up,” I repeated. He stared up at me for a second, then looked around. His eyes hardened and his eyebrows pinched up.
“What’s going on?” Matt asked, moving closer to us.
“I … I can’t stand up.”
“Do you need me to help you up?” Matt offered.
“No. It’s not like that.” Rhys shook his head. “I mean, you could pull me up. You’re stronger than me, and I’m not physically pinned to the floor. I just … forgot how?”
“Weird.” I watched him with fascination.
Once before, I had made Matt get out of my room, and it’d been a while before he’d been able to go in there again. Which meant my persuasion had lingering effects, but it did eventually wear off.
“‘Weird’?” Matt scoffed. “Wendy, fix him!”
“He’s not broken,” I said defensively, but Matt glared at me in a way that made me want to crawl under a rock. I crouched down in front of Rhys. “Rhys, look at me.”
“Okay?” He met my eyes uncertainly.
I wasn’t even sure if I could reverse the process. I had never tried to undo persuasion before, but I didn’t think it’d be that hard. And if I couldn’t, then he’d just have to sit down for a week or two. Maybe.
Instead of worrying about the possible repercussions, I focused all my energy on him. I just said, Stand up, in my head over and over again. It took longer than it did last time, but eventually his face started to fog over. He blinked at me a few times and got to his feet.
“I am so glad that worked.” I let out a sigh of relief.
“Are you sure it worked?” Matt asked me, but his eyes were on Rhys. Rhys stared blankly at the floor, looking more out of it than he had last time. “Rhys? Are you okay?”
“What?” Rhys lifted his head. He blinked at us, as if he’d just noticed we were there. “What? Did something happen?”
“You’re standing up.” I pointed to his legs, and he looked down.
“Oh.” He lifted one of his legs, making sure it still worked, and didn’t say anything for a minute. Then he looked up at me. “I’m sorry. Were we talking about something?”
“You couldn’t stand up. Remember?” I asked, but my stomach twisted. I might really have broken Rhys.
“Oh. Yeah.” He shook his head. “Yeah, I remember. But I can stand now. Did you do that?”
“Wendy, I don’t like you playing with him like this,” Matt said quietly.
Matt faced Rhys, but he gave me a sidelong glance. He tried to keep his face hard, but his eyes betrayed his fear.
I had scared Matt, and not in the same way as when I’d run away. Then he’d been scared for me, but now he seemed scared of me, and it created a painful knot in my chest.
“I’m done now.” I stepped away from Rhys.
My dark hair hung around my face. I had a tie around my wrist, so I pulled my hair up into a loose bun.
“What?” Rhys asked, sounding alert.
He had fully come out of the trance I’d had him under, but I didn’t want to look at him. Matt made me feel ashamed about using persuasion, even if Rhys was aware of what I had done.