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Now We're Even

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"Oh, Cecil! I wish you had known me before...before Strex. Before it all, when I was just a dedicated community radio host like you. I wish you had —"

Kevin flicks a switch on his vintage radio equipment, a model that hasn't been in production since 2047. The signal from the past cuts out, fading into static, just as he hears footsteps on the stairs.

A second later the door to his little hobby room slams open, and Cecil exclaims, "That was you?"

Kevin spins in the chair to face him, smirking like a man who just won the prank war of the century.

"You jerk." Cecil grabs the nearest handy object, a stuffed raccoon, and whaps Kevin on the shoulder with it. "Oooh, ~my name is a strange figment, I'm not myself anymore, I am so old and withered and sad~, when all along you were sitting in a room with family photos and ergonomic furniture and flowers in the window! You complete and total ass."

"I may have exaggerated my decrepitude a tiny bit," says Kevin innocently.

His friend isn't done. "You gave a perfectly articulate Revolution Day speech last week! You're in a bowling league. You own a parakeet. I thought you were alone, a wasting half-mad shadow of yourself, doomed to be trapped that way forever, when the only thing you're trapped in is your Verizon contract!"

"Really should've read the fine print on that one," mutters Kevin. Who would've thought it would stay in force even after human society stopped using phones? "By the way, you can get around to 'oh, Kevin, I'm so happy, it turns out the Smiling God isn't going to soak irrevocably back into your brain after all' any day now."

Cecil makes a strangling gesture in midair. "When it was me on the line with a past version of you, I told you happy things at the time."

"And I got to learn in realtime that you'd been lying through your teeth, and it sucked," says Kevin. "So I made things suck a little for you in return. Now we're even. Nyah." He sticks out his tongue.

It's still out when Cecil tackles him, arms flung around him. They've come to look more and more different over the years — Kevin has the scarring on his cheeks, Cecil has unique scars of his own, they have separate haircuts, distinct wardrobes — but in height and build they're so identical it's like hugging a mirror.

"I'm so happy the Smiling God isn't going to soak irrevocably back into your brain after all," says Cecil. "You jerk."

Kevin returns the hug. "Me too, old friend. Me too."