There’s very few people in the void that fill me with equal parts foreboding and exhilarating joy. That smirk forever lingers at the edge of your mouth, always ready to charm and smooth over whatever trifling issue crosses your path, what’s interstellar law in the face of such a perfect expression of pure charisma. The years certainly haven’t been kind to you but they leave no visible trace, stalwart and ruggedly pristine as ever.

The trembling in my fingers won’t stop even as I fidget with the instruments in my pocket. Trying desperately to make no sound as I approach you. Of course you look as relaxed as if sitting on a sun dappled beach, lazily draped over the railing gazing over the proceedings in the dock. Like a lord over their estates you calmly view each individual, giving a reassuring nod and small gesture to each as needed easing the minds of the men & women who follow you into the abyss.

“Stealth will only get you so far, even adept as you are.” The musical voice you wield a mixture of tones that belie the power contained within. “You are impossible to sneak up on, not sure why I still try to be honest.” Trying to force my voice to be strong and resolute, worthy of matching your will. Knowing that as soon as those azure eyes meet mine the universe won’t matter and my will means nothing when set against your slightest whim.

“I had fun last night. Did you think about my offer?” Your tone is light and I can feel the genuine sincerity but there is a tinge of something more. Is it an eagerness or possible regret? Apprehension? Are you anxious to hear my answer or to leave already? What drives you from relative comfort to the farthest reaches of the quadrant, do you ever let anyone in on the passions of your life? The past few months have been a whirlwind, how can you seem so close and yet still lightyears away.

“I have.”
“…and?” Your voice is oddly not expectant.
“Please understand… I would follow you til the end…”, I say somewhat meekly.
“That’s why it has to be a no, right?” Of course you say it so magnanimously, like you knew before you even asked that this was the only way it could be. I don’t really know what I had expected, I’d hoped there would be at least a small amount of convincing, some effort on your part to show that I was at least worthy of the effort. It wouldn’t really be any fair contest of course, my resolve felt like steel this morning but each step that brought me back to you felt like dipping that rod into molten lava, again and again. My only hope & tact was to go on the defensive, “You didn’t want me to say yes?” As the words leave my mouth they feel sallow, even childish. Finally you turn to face me as if giving me your full attention for the first time, “Just the opposite , I’d hoped you would, but knew you couldn’t.”

“You knew what?” Feeling lost I hesitantly meet your gaze preparing to meet those infinite eyes, they’ve shifted to a restless grey of rolling rain clouds. “I understand. Implicitly. It’s why I had to ask. To be sure, you were sure.” The smirk rises unbidden and on cue, though it doesn’t quite reach your eyes, if only this once. Some intuition makes me murmur, “You’re still hurt though.” It’s not a question or accusation just a quiet acknowledgement that I’ve disappointed you, just as you expected I would.

As if you’ve plucked the thought directly from my head, your hand reaches mine as you voice becomes gentle and soothing, “I’m only disappointed at the loss of the adventures we would have had together across the cosmos.” The finality causes my stomach to drop through the titanium floor below us. “You don’t expect to come back.” I couldn’t keep the accusation from my voice this time as the realisation caused my throat to tighten and my breath to quicken. Real sadness flashes like a lance through you, it’s like I’ve struck you a sharp blow on a particularly raw nerve. “That’s never the goal.” The smirk turns rueful and with gritted teeth you mutter, “Unfortunately I always come back, just more likely not the same.”

Now the roles are reversed and it’s I who intently search for answers in your eyes as you turn away and stare out at the pin pricks in the fabric of pure black beyond the open maw of the dock’s hanger. “Not that I want to relive the past, but do you remember the righteous venom you had for me when I finally found you?” You say it as if it was years ago and not merely two months. “I worried that justifiably we would never get past that. The time I was away could never be replaced, no matter how much I wish, and have tried, to make that a reality.” The metal beneath your fingers starts to buckle and deform, I can almost feel the eons emitting from you like a solar flare. “Though this may make everything harder, you should know there was twice when I made it back to you.” This time it’s my turn to feel as if struck, I feel it like a physical blow directly to my heart. Twice?

“Once I destroyed the very fabric of the solar system, so blinded by my loss and need to reach you, we only had a moment before the sun enveloped the planet.” The words seem to tumble from you like a dam broken with all the water in all the worlds contained therein. “The second time was much much later for me but only moments after the launch for you. I saw you gazing up at the sky, your tiny hands held to shield your eyes from the light having left school early to see me off. Remember how you always wanted me to fly you around even after you’d grown far too big for me to comfortably hold you outstretched?” Your smile hides it well but the pools at the bottom of your eyes, which have slowly filled with hues of purple from the pupils, are evidence of the sorrow and pain reliving your greatest failures is taking on you.

For my part I’m struck dumb and immobile, caught in a hurricane of emotions given no moment of respite to think, move or speak. The years of abandonment and pent up fury wash over me just as quickly chased away by empathy and a sense of the bone crushing loneliness that you must have felt ten times over and over again as you struggled desperately to find your way home. “It didn’t last obviously” You murmur while gazing a thousand light years away. “I didn’t know”, is all I can weakly muster. “Well, you were never meant to, fucking time manipulation is always a mess.”, Your expression has become unreadable and now I fear the healing that was literally fought for over the past months for us both is becoming undone, a small tear in the stitching of a cavernous seam.

I realise I’ve grasped your hand, trying desperately to anchor you here, keep you for even just one more moment. Faster than should be humanly possibly you envelope me in a fierce embrace, surer than anything I know you’re mirroring my thoughts and emotions. Slowly pulling back there is a sad but solid smile as you search deep into my eyes, “How’s that old line go? It’s not good bye, just see you later. No child should ever have to search for their parent, let alone twice! This time I swear I’ll find you.” The joy and mirth fill you as a sunrise of orange and the familiar azure return to your eyes. “As they say, not if I find you first.” The joy is immediate as we both step back from the emotional precipice together, while it may still be fresh our bond is forge of several life times of longing to be close to one another and not even this silly little interplanetary war will keep us apart for long.

“They would have wanted me to pass this on to you” The small green stone you place in my hand seems a fairly unremarkable piece of dark striped jade. “It tethered me to you guys for all those years, gave me something personal and tangible to hold on to. It’s only fitting you should have it now as you embark on your own journey.” The gesture may be small but it feels like I’ve just received a treasure on par with any in the universe. The small flat round palm stone starts to thrum and feel alive in my hand, “I see you’re already adept at that too, I’m running out of any tricks to teach you.” The now familiar smirk falls away from your face as I produce a near identical rock from around my neck and pass it to you. Golden tears glitter spectacularly as they run freely down your cheeks as I reverently place the stone in your outstretched hand. The look of unadulterated joy and wholeness that washes over you as you clutch the stone to your chest will keep me going on the long journey ahead.

As we make our good byes it seems neither of us wants to truly go our separate ways, but there are many other lives hanging in the balance. We know first hand the sting of great loss and have each sworn various oaths and promises to those living and dead to prevent any further escalation. As the port shrinks to just another spec in the heavens around, I feel a sense of resolution matched by those emanating from the token in my grasp. As I fastened another chain to the stone and drape it about my neck I can feel you echo my sentiment and resolution across the intervening expanse. I will find you again.

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