Tod and Eli didn’t talk for a while. Eli stayed inside, and Tod stayed on the balcony railing, resting his arms on it. Tod, especially, was tired of talking. The same old arguments, going around in circles. Same old Eli. And same old Tod. He ran a hand over his face, staring out at the buildings, glowing orange lights, river, stars sparkling in the water. He closed his eyes, remembering his home.
There were mountains, not like where Sunny lived, but sharp jutting ones made of black rock. Their planet was home to nearly five hundred active volcanoes. There were lava flows too, rivers of it. Deadly to a human, of course, but not to him. Since he was part of the Line of Gemini, they lived in the palace, made of gold and white stone. He remembered the giant glass doors and the covered entrance way, glowing with the heat of a thousand suns. Huge man-eating plants to his left – Tod hated those things. Eli had threatened to feed him to the plants more than a few times. Getting fed to one of those plants would be better than this current situation. Anything would be.
He nearly leaped out of his clothes when a voice said, “You’re thinking about home.”
Taking a breath, and hurrying to calm his panicking heart, Tod turned around to face Eli, barely illuminated by the stars above.
“Don’t sneak up on me like that. You should know better.”
Eli didn’t answer.
“But yeah, I’m thinking about home. It’s pretty. And not as cold.” He really hated the cold.
Eli set his jaw. “Also, our people really need your help.”
“Me? And all of a sudden you’re leaving yourself out of the equation? That’s not like you.”
Eli made an awkward sound. He wasn’t sure what to make of Tod’s sass sometimes. “No, obviously, they need me too – but…” He sighed. “We need a balance. You…you provide that.”
Tod narrowed his eyes. “I don’t trust you.” When Eli rolled his eyes, he snapped, “Can you blame me? You tried to kill me.” He remembered the cold all too well. The flickering in his body, weak and tired, about to go out. All his strength was spent creating his human form. He couldn’t be a Setareh on Earth, just a human, and that body was dying, too cold, too beat up from the fall.
He owed Sunny and her family his entire worthless life.
“Don’t think that I’m going to forget that. Don’t just act like we can go back to normal – ”
Eli shook his head. “You’re turning into a human. I cannot believe you.”
Tod clenched his fists, anger pulsing through him. He would have punched Eli’s face in if it wasn’t for his ounce of self-control. Turning into a human – did he really think that he was turning into one because he had feelings all of a sudden? What a concept. “You don’t understand me. And you’re not even trying to, because all you care about is yourself!” Tod snapped.
“And it’s the same with you,” Eli said. “You won’t even look at it from my point of view.”
“Yeah, because you’re a heartless monster. You don’t care who you end up hurting. You say you need me for a balance, whatever that means, but you would never listen to me in a million years.”
Eli shook his head. “How do you know that? You always exaggerate.”
“Whatever. It’s true,” Tod said, rolling his eyes, though he knew he was exaggerating. He just wanted to hurt Eli, to make him feel the way he had felt. It had been so hard seeing him again for the first time in five years. No, his life with Sunny wasn’t perfect. Yes, it sucked that people were coming after him on Earth, trying to remind him of his duties on his home planet. But he’d rather be on Earth than spend a day in that hell hole again. It was one battle after another, what felt like five different factions complaining and arguing. It would never change.
“Tod, I understand. You’re scared to rule after being here for so long, but I promise everything will be fine. You’ll get to see Mom and Dad again.”
“Oh goodie. I know they’ll be thrilled.”
“That’s sarcasm. They always liked you way more. I bet they didn’t shed a single tear.”
Eli swallowed; he didn’t have much of a response for that. The truth was, they hadn’t cried at all and said that it would probably be better for the Setareh anyway. “So?” he managed to say.
Tod struggled for words, a lump gathering in his throat. “So? They hate me.”
“It doesn’t matter if they cried or not. What matters is that your people need you and you’re about to turn your back on them.”
“Yeah. Just like you turned your back on me when you cut me off and threw me down here. I almost died.”
“Tod – get over it,” Eli said, throwing his hands up in the air.
“No. I owe my life to Sunny. Not you.” He gritted his teeth.
“I’m stuck on Earth if you don’t help me.” Eli grabbed Tod by the front of his shirt, pulling him closer to his face. Tod yanked away, his back banging against the railing. He ignored the pain.
“Shouldn’t have tried to kill me.” There was a bitter taste in his throat.
“Look, Sunny’s right about one thing. If people from Cassiopeia are coming after us, trying to take over – we need to stay together. We can’t fight back if we’re in an argument ourselves.”
Tod sighed in annoyance, but Eli had a point. Somehow Cassiopeia must have overheard their plans – he didn’t know how. But they had their ways up there. “Yeah. I know. We have to protect Sunny.”
Eli nodded. “For Sunny.”
There was a long pause before Eli said, “So Sunny doesn’t know you have feelings for her, right?”
Tod shook his head. “No, of course not. That would be like shooting myself in the foot. I’m sure she’d say no. And obviously, I know how you feel about the whole thing, so.” He shrugged. “It’s – ”
He didn’t have time to finish. He saw a woman from Cassiopeia out of the corner of his eye. She hovered above the railing and then smacked Tod hard across the face. Eli yelled his name but he didn’t even have time to grab his hand. The woman picked Tod up, flinging him over her shoulder. Eli grabbed onto the woman’s electric whip, hauling her towards him, even though the cord bit into his flesh, making him wince. The woman was stronger and pulled away from him, and he fell to his knees, watching her vanish. He swore loudly. No. No. This couldn’t be happening. He was so close. It seemed like Tod was maybe, just maybe, starting to become a little less stubborn – if he could have just pushed a little harder, but now –
“What’s going on?” Sunny’s voice rang through the air.
Eli looked up to meet her eyes, at a loss for words.