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Under The Linden Trees

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“Alo.”

Scott Summers recognized the voice as soon as he answered. The hint of an accent licked his ear through his cell phone, denoting the presence of someone familiar. It was with haste that he replied, voice slightly pressed and urgent.

“Where are you?”

“It’s me,” the other man said, as if it were not obvious. “From the Brotherhood.”

“Where are you?” Scott repeated, clutching the cell phone against his jaw. There was a long pause, during which the man on the line did not speak. Scott sighed, knowing his companion’s reluctance. “Please, Pietro. Come home.”

“I have no home.”

Scott couldn’t refute his claim, so he just continued with his plea.

“Pietro, please. Meet me somewhere. You can come over to the institute; we can talk.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I don’t have to. I know that I want what’s best for you. I want you to accept happiness.”

There was another long pause. This time Pietro spoke more convincingly, the tone to his voice bolder.

“I just wanted to call you. I’m feeling fairly brave today. I want to say… I’m not expecting anything from you.”

“Pietro,” Scott replied urgently, knowing the other man was seconds away from hanging up. He needed to keep him on the line. “I know you want to leave. I know you don’t want to stay at the Brotherhood. Please consider it. We would love to have you here.”

“I… do want to leave. But I can’t take Wanda away from that place. I… I just can’t.”

“Pietro… I’m thinking of you right now. When I last saw you… I remember your eyes.”

This pause was slightly more uncomfortable than the last few. This time the response was halting, weak.

“I just called you to tell you what I feel.”

“It’s me!” Scott cried desperately. “Your friend!”

Pietro took a sharp inhale, and then sighed slowly.

“It’s just me again, Scott. Pietro. I would have thought you’d have gotten tired of this by now.”

“I am not,” Scott said hotly. “I assure you.”

“I just wanted to give you a call. I’m feeling stronger tonight. But I still don’t need anything from you.”

“I want to help you leave,” Scott insisted. “Please accept that from me.”

“I told you I do want to leave,” Pietro repeated. “But I can’t save my sister that way. I need to focus on her. I can’t just leave for myself.”

“You won’t change your mind, will you?” Scott asked, resigned to the other’s strange mental process. His words were more of a statement than a question. Pietro acknowledged them nonetheless.

“I won’t.”

“Please,” Scott begged helplessly, but it was in vain. When he next heard Pietro’s voice, it froze the blood in his veins.

“If I knew you would take it this way, I wouldn’t have called you.”

“No, no, I didn’t mean to…”

“I’ll catch you later—”

“Wait!”

Pietro halted, waiting for Scott to finish his thought. The other man took a deep breath and collected his thoughts.

“I do want you to call me again.”

“Alright,” Pietro relented. “I will.”

“Pietro?”

“Yes?”

“…Thank you.”

Pietro hesitated, then replied with “You’re welcome. Good bye.”

Before Scott could reply to the farewell, the line went dead. In that moment, as Scott was hanging onto the click of the line, he remembered one thing. The last time he had seen the other man, he had really recognized the look on his face. The pain, the longing, and the resignation to his fate. Most of all, he remembered his eyes.