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I Hated You Least

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She found Nebula where she expected to find her. Blue skinned cyborgs were rare, and an aggressive feminine one missing her right hand was not entirely inconspicuous.

She found Nebula in the seediest salvage yard in Xandar, sorting through the rusted and broken remains of cybernetic hands while the proprietor pretended she wasn’t there with the kind of tense, fearful manner of a person who desperately wished she would take what she needed and leave him alone.

“Sister,” Nebula greeted her without looking up from her search.

Gamora paused, just outside of Nebula’s range, and tried to parse her tone. Nebula’s voice was flat and lacking any inflection, which told Gamora absolutely nothing, but her movements had become short and jerky as she shoved her way through the pile of discarded parts.

“Nebula.” Gamora braced herself incase Nebula chose to attack, but moved closer anyway. She crouched down at her sister’s side and began to help her sort through the pile. They worked in tense silence, the only sound was the clatter of metal parts moving around as they dug through the mess. Gamora’s eyes were on the scrap metal, but her attention was on the cyborg beside her.

‘Of all our siblings, I hated you least’ Nebula had said, back at Knowhere. It was almost a declaration of love and affection, coming from Nebula. There was a reason Thanos would send them out together. Of all of his children, they worked together the best. Gamora never trusted any of her siblings, Thanos's teaching ensured that, but of all of them Nebula had been her favorite.

Nebula made a small sound of triumph, drawing Gamora out of her thoughts. The mechanical hand was less rusted than the rest, and the casing was the right approximate size to fit Nebula’s arm. Nebula stood and strode out of the junkyard, bypassing the flinching proprietor without a second look. Gamora took a moment to hand him a fistful of units before following after her sister.

Nebula wound her way through the narrow alleys and streets, Gamora falling in step beside her, while people scurried out of their path. Nebula gave no sign that she either noticed or cared that Gamora followed her, which was almost as good as an invitation.

The boarding house was seedy and ramshackle, but also an easy place for one to disappear. Nebula’s room was small and contained nothing more than a cot with ragged blankets. Nebula dropped down on the ground beside the cot and hauled a bag out from under it, yanking out the tools she needed before shoving it back. Gamora settled on the cot and watched in silence as Nebula began the work of attaching the new hand to her arm.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Nebula’s voice was so quiet that Gamora almost didn’t hear her. But she did hear, and she also heard the low growl and anger in the question. Nebula didn’t look at her, her dark eyes riveted on her arm, but her jaw was tight and her shoulders hunched.

Gamora had never seen her sister hurt before. In pain, yes. Injured, of course. But never hurt, not like this. After a lifetime of service under Thanos she’d thought it was impossible to for Nebula to hurt. Of all of their siblings she was the one who always seemed the least affected by what they did at their Father’s behest.

But right now, despite her efforts to hide it, she was hurt. And angry, and Gamora was stunned to realize that she had that kind of sway over Nebula.

She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, her hands clenched between her knees as she looked at the bare wall. “I thought you would betray me to Thanos,” she answered honestly. “I didn’t think you would…”

Nebula’s lips twisted in a snarl as she slammed the spanner down on the floor. “That I wouldn’t…what? I wouldn’t want to get away?” she snapped. She lunged to her feet and paced the small room. Gamora held herself still, her eyes tracing Nebula’s steps back and forth across the small space.

Suddenly Nebula whirled on Gamora, her good hand closing around Gamora’s throat, hauling her up and slamming her back against the far wall with enough force to knock the breath from her lungs. Gamora grabbed Nebula’s wrist but didn’t try to free herself, if Nebula wanted her dead she would have tried already.

Nebula’s eyes were dark and wild, her hand shaking. If she still had tear ducts Gamora wondered if she would have been crying.

“You abandoned me,” Nebula snarled. Gamora felt the words like knives, cutting deep into her chest as she struggled to breath.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice hoarse with lack of air and with the weight of her guilt. “If I’d known you would come with me I would have told you everything.”

Nebula sneered. “Would you really? You were always a skilled liar, sister.”

“I would have,” Gamora insisted. “Nebula, I am so sorry.”

Nebula snorted and stepped back, releasing her grip. Gamora braced herself against the wall and breathed carefully, watching Nebula warily as she went back to her tools and her new hand with feigned indifference and derision.

“I know you won’t believe me,” Gamora said. “But you have to know that you were the only thing keeping me sane for all these years. That if I didn’t have you I would have truly become the monster Thanos intended me to be.”

Nebula didn’t look up, didn’t acknowledge Gamora’s words in anyway. She pushed away from the wall and turned towards the door, her heart aching and heavy with fresh guilt. She paused in the hall. “We’re staying at the Nova Corps barracks,” she said, not looking back. “If you…if you’re looking for a place to go…you can find me there.”

Nebula didn’t answer, and Gamora didn’t expect her to. She closed the door and walked away.