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He stands in front of you, an impassable force, not by physicality, but by nature. In the months you’ve been apart, he hasn’t grown an inch.
Your well overdue transition into adulthood kicked in, and you’re almost a head taller. Although you’ve bulked up, you feel powerless under his gaze.
It’s not a manipulative or dangerous expression. There’s so much left unsaid, simmering beneath the surface.
The precious seconds drag into hours, yet still you stand still, unable to think, let alone breathe. He opens his mouth to speak.
“You’ve cut your hair,” he says, and you laugh at his casual tone.
He’s terrifying in how calm he is. Even his home planet exploding in front of his eyes doesn’t phase him. So these last months haven’t.
You lift your chin to look down on him. “You’ve grown out yours.”
It’s true. You remember a tight fuzz of curls clinging to his sepia-brown scalp. Now he has the beginnings of dreads, tied back with a bandana.
“Astute as ever,” he replies, quick with retorts as he is with a gun, though his inherited violence and capacity to be cruel never rears its head.
Unlike his mother, the right-hand woman of the Destroyer Of Worlds.
You never know whether to punch him or laugh. Such a reaction is common, yet his charms never land him in any real danger.
When you roped him into your ridiculous scheme of blowing up the weapons factory a few years ago, you’d never guess how much he’d change.
He’d always be a threat to his enemies, without them even realizing it. He’d been a worthy foe of the alliance, but now he’s an asset. Your people are lucky.
It’s not pride filling your chest with air; you’re not used to being at a loss for words. He’s always been so straightforward, comfortable in his skin.
He’s still the embodiment of a tour de force, but his edges are smoothed out, and his quiet sincerity hums with certainty.
The silence lingers as you look at the sand and the moons.
“What do you need?” he asks, and you look up, jolted back to reality by the familiar question. He poses this to everyone he deems worth knowing.
Your crew made you call him here, because they knew he’d do anything (within reason) for you. Still, the request shrivels on your tongue.
How can you ask him that? It’s too much, even for your most enduring friend.
He’s still waiting, patient as you’d expect. You don’t want to insult him, but you can’t let this opportunity pass.
“A favor,” you begin, before the words dry up, caught in your throat. He’s nodding, the beginnings of a smile tipping the corners of his mouth up.
“We need to infiltrate the Destroyer Of World’s headquarters.” You will your tongue to regain its normal size, but it feels like it’s swollen to breaking point.
He stands there, waiting for you to finish. You’ve known him for years, yet he has never interrupted you. Or anyone.
“We need your help.”
He nods, holding his hand out, ready to seal the deal, but you wave him off. “There’s also someone I need you to shoot.”
“Again?” he replies. “Are you getting soft?”
You shake your head. “I’m afraid no one else can do this one justice.”
“Tell me why,” he says, pulling the guns from his holsters. They’re beautiful, lethal tools, an extension of his body.
You can’t. You can’t tell him. His mother’s been visiting him; he swears she’s changing; you don’t want to destroy what little peace they have.
His guns are still waiting, though you’ve been silent for far too long.
You need to tell him. “Because she’s dangerous.”
“So am I.” He’s not glaring now, only looking at you. Looking through you, like he’s imagining something beyond.
“It’s not that simple. This one’s evil. It’s her job to brainwash every living thing in the universe, and she’s a natural at it.”
“Does she have a name?”
It makes you sick how casual he is, but he’s always been like this.
“A name no one should ever speak.”
He smiles, and it’s terrifying and comforting, a dichotomy you’ve always known but rarely acknowledged.
“The alliance is determined to kill her. They think she’s the root of our problems. She’s not, but I can’t convince them otherwise.”
His eyes flash with understanding. “What are you asking?”
You take the deepest breath of your life and push the words from your mouth. “They’re asking you to kill your mother.”
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