Gil was tired, shaky, and in pain, but that was nothing new. All things considered, it was no worse than the way he had woken up most mornings recently. At least he wasn’t naked, and he was pretty sure that the danger to his life had passed. He could even view the pain with some perspective. A week ago it would have been the worst he had ever endured, but his horizons had been expanded since then. Now it only ranked second, though its after-effects were likely to stay with him much longer.
He had forced himself to eat, despite his lack of appetite, and soon the numb light-headedness began to fade. Alfvin had made no effort to recover his knife, but kept up a steady monologue that helped Gil calm down while he ate.
“I really should have warned you what to expect, but I was quite distracted by the hunger. It is not always like that. There is a reason why I usually prefer to approach young women. The sight of a man looking at them with hunger in his eyes is one they are familiar with. They feel the fear, but it is mixed with excitement. And so the pain – or at least some of it – spills over into pleasure. Men are rarely so accommodating. If the… subject is unwilling, then it is, alas, unmitigated fear and pain.
“You, on the other hand, are something quite unusual. You volunteered for the experience, but did not give yourself over to it. You felt the fear, but stood up to it. You felt the excitement, but did not embrace it. And your pain…”
“Was just pain. Maybe a little discomfort and embarrassment in the mix. But, as you know, I’ve had worse. At least I didn’t have to wait as long to regain the use of my hands this time.”
“Yes, though the physical injury will take longer to heal. It is small, but you will need to be careful not to aggravate it. If I had taken more time to prepare, I could have saved you some of the pain by using a sharp knife. But a dirty knife would likely do you more lasting damage than the rest of the experience combined.”
Gil didn’t want to send Alfvin on another guilt trip, but needed to acknowledge what had just happened.
“You nearly did some very lasting damage as it was.”
“I doubt it would have come to that. You may have passed out, taken a little longer to recover. But I am almost certain it would have been no worse than that. Nonetheless, I was carried away, and I am glad you drew my attention to the fact.”
“I’m not sure I share your optimism, but then the same goes for my impending execution a few days ago. It feels to me like I’ve narrowly escaped death twice: once at your hands and once by your intervention. But maybe you’re right and I’m exaggerating on both counts. Either way, I figure this makes us even.”