Sunny’s mind was racing. She took a breath. “So you say you’re not like humans. Are you like aliens?”
Eli didn’t answer, looking a little offended by the word.
“Do you think that we’re aliens?” Tod said.
She paused, and her lip quirked up slightly. “I mean, you, yes. Eli, I thought he was an angel.”
She turned to Eli at that moment, and missed Tod’s crestfallen look entirely. “But wishes? You say you can grant them?”
“Well, not on Earth,” Eli said. “We’re not strong enough here, and we need more than two Setareh anyway.”
“What planet do you even live on?” Sunny said, shaking her head.
“It’s called Dross,” Tod said.
“So can you go back there?” she asked.
“Yeah. Technically,” Tod muttered, rolling his eyes.
“But only together,” Eli said. “And if we’re here too long, we lose the ability to go back.”
“Oh. And how many years is that?”
“Maybe six or seven,” Tod said with a shrug. “Hard to say.”
In her head, Sunny counted the years Tod had been with them. Five. No, maybe it was five and a half now. Had to be. “So you guys have to leave?”
There was a pause, and Eli opened his mouth to speak but Tod was quicker. He shook his head. “No. We don’t have to. I mean, Eli wants to, but that’s just because he’s Eli. I want to stay,” he said. He stepped closer to her.
Sunny didn’t look at him. She leaned against the truck. She tilted her head against the window. She looked up at the night sky. She sighed. “Oh. Well. That’s fine then.”
It wasn’t fine. She didn’t want them to leave. Sure, they’d probably be better off up there, but…it was so much to process. She didn’t even know if she could believe it; it felt like she was dreaming. She stole glances at them while she drove, staring at Eli beside her, stock still in his chair, shoulders straight, ankles crossed. Tod fidgeted every five seconds, scratched the back of his neck.
“So you guys – when are – were – you planning to go back?” she said finally.
“We were thinking about going on the day of the eclipse,” Eli said. “At least then people wouldn’t be paying attention if anything weird happened.”
“Got it,” Sunny said. “But…you would have just left without even saying goodbye? Why would you do that?” She stared at Eli, her mouth dropped open.
“Look,” Tod said. “I wasn’t okay with this idea in the first place.”
“Yeah, but you went along with him,” she said. “Anyway, you’re not going.”
“But if we don’t, the world will descend into chaos,” Eli said, the tone of his voice perfectly reasonable. Sunny nearly agreed but came to her senses before then.
“Pshaw. Like I haven’t heard that one before from my parents.” She didn’t understand how two scientific people could resort to so much conjecture half the time.
“No, it literally will,” Eli said, not even blinking. “What happens when the sky falls apart? Everything.”
“Sheesh, you’re even worse than Chicken Little.” She took one hand off the steering wheel to press her fingers into her temple.
She sighed. It kind of made sense now that Eli and Tod lacked some cultural literacy. “Never mind…”
Tod cleared his throat. “He’s being ridiculous. The sky and the world are not going to fall apart without us there…they’ll be fine.”
Sunny pursed her lips together, knowing that she had to do something to lighten the mood. “So, um, you were talking about the line of Gemini? Does that mean you…have kids?”
“Uhh…no…” Tod said. “Not really. Well, not like humans.”
“But you’re humans now.”
“Right, we have human forms,” Tod said.
“But we’re not human,” Eli said, emphasizing the point as best he could.
“But Setareh just come into being – well, through, I don’t really know actually,” Tod said.
Eli rolled his eyes. “Like stars. Fusion.”
“Oh.” Sunny winked at him. “I knew that.”
He raised his eyebrows, a little confused by the wink. He’d found out that humans did that when they were flirting. But Sunny certainly wasn’t flirting with him.
“So, do all Setareh have human forms?”
“Yes, as long as they have enough energy, they can turn into a human,” Tod said.
“Oh. Okay. Hm.” Sunny wondered how her parents were going to take this news. Probably not too well. They definitely wouldn’t believe her until they saw what Eli and Tod could do. “How do you get energy?”
“Sunlight, any kind of light or heat works, but sunlight works the best, and as a human, obviously we have to eat real food,” Tod explained. “And then how you saw me take that woman’s power – that helps too.”
Sunny swallowed. “Will there be more attackers? Like that lady?”
“Cassiopeia? Maybe,” Tod said. “We just have to keep our guard up. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”