You want to die by Peter’s hand, but he hesitates. He stops and you cry, because that’s when you grow afraid.
You forgive him for hesitating. You love him too much not to.
He tries to shoot you; kill you and make do on the promise he gave you.
But bubbles float around you like crystals glistening in the twinkling darkness of space.
You die, but you don’t know it yet.
A part of you die, because that’s the last time you see him.
(Cubes and ribbons.
Ribbons and cubes.
Soap bubbles are supposed to be pretty, fragile things. Not be the proof that you just lost the universe.)
The god is gone and so are two of your friends. You beg that they never learn the truth of what happened to you.
But Groot is the first to find you, Mantis the second. Peter is the last.
Peter is the first to go back. You are the last (if you ever you back at all).
You are afraid to die, but your father doesn’t seem to care. All he sees is the relief on the universe’s everlasting face. (There is no relief. You know this better than him.)
He calls you ‘little one’ and there used to be a time when your heart fluttered, and your smile grew wide at the very thought of being his true daughter. There used to be a time when you loved him.
Your heart is deep and shallow at the same time; there’s not enough space in your heart to hold the love for a mad man with a complex for saving a Universe that does not wish to be saved.
You have just enough space in your heart for a tree with a teenager’s agenda, a racoon with the worst case of kleptomania you’ve ever encountered, a man who hold love and pain in each corner of his eye, a woman who feels your very soul and a man who could see the whole of the universe if he only opened his eyes.
You love a woman who’s more machine than Luphomoid and you suspect that she still loves you too.
But you don’t love him. You can’t.
Yet, you still cry when you kill him with that little blade he gave you.
Perfectly balanced as all things should be and with edges sharper than your own tongue.
When you first met them, you thought you knew everything there was to know of the universe and those it held dear.
And then you met them; the most volatile of people and for the first time you felt at home.
You thought you knew the truth, but you’ve never really known anything past your father’s walls and his words.
He is not your father, yet you keep to calling him that.
The power of the purple stone flows through you and those you’ve come to know. It ebbs and it flows, and it never stops. Not really.
Close your eyes real tight and feel that little tug at the edge of your soul, as if there is something the stone wants you to do.
Or the universe.
But you don’t understand. Not yet.
And the universe loves you all the more for it.
There’s a man with a monster’s face, his voice low and accented in a language you barely understand. There’s no life behind those eyes, no love for the world he once tried to conquer. There doesn’t seem to hate simmering under the black hood; just quiet resignation and that small part of understanding only those who have seen infinity seem to share.
You only see the pain of imprisonment and the power of magic stones. It’s what you feel too.
For a moment you feel kinship to him, but the space between you grows rigid and cold when your father grasps your arm and pulls you further from those you love. Pulls you closer to a being you have given to freely; closer, to that line you’ve been willing to cross so many times and then never again.
You scream. It can’t be helped. But it’s not an all-encompassing fear; it’s the fear for the universe, those you know and those you love. You’re afraid. Just not so much for yourself anymore. You are at first, and then it’s over.
You know the universe; it’s never over.)
It’s a soul for a soul and the sky burns an amber red and the water drips in droplets between your fingers; proof of existence where nothing exists in a realm numb of everything and nothing.
You love the universe, and it loves you in return.
You protect it and the galaxy with the fierceness for which you’ve been known, and the universe wants nothing more than to protect you too.
You fail each other, in a way, without meaning to. You fall through cold air that numbs your senses and you scream in sync with the universe that will soon feel the pain of its many losses.
Half the universe, that’s all your father wants.
Half the universe, and a chance to spare those left behind.
But he does not spare a single soul, you think when you reach the realm you claim, watches the small ripples roll over your feet in even smaller waves. He spares no one when he snaps his fingers, because the universe cries out in just as much pain as those the stones chose to spare.
The universe is an infinity field, filled to the brink with life and death and the beauty and the ugliness of everything.
The universe is an infinity field, filled with nothing. It’s just dust; it’s just filled with everything that’s been left behind.
All departed things find you. They stumble, scream and cry and some are far too quiet, and it tears your soul apart from the inside. You haven’t been there any longer than they have, but you don’t want to call them dead. They’re not dead. They have just fallen for far longer than you have.
You close your eyes and look up again, see the stars in an amber sky and you breathe in air that has not been tainted by the hatred the universe will, one day, spill.
(There’s a building not too far away where you meet yourself, a little girl with grief in her eyes and a knife in her hand.
You only watch each other, but you don’t speak, and you don’t touch.
Innocence lost can’t be returned and you don’t dare to reach out to the girl you once were.)
There’s a voice high above and close below that whispers to you in what you assume is the dead of night. It whispers before everything happens, before everyone appears before your eyes and before there are stars in the distant sky.
It calls you, names you, weighs you down with a burden you couldn’t possibly care for.
‘Stonekeeper’, it whispers, and its voice sounds just like your father’s, just like a monster on the top of a mountain.
‘Soulkeeper’, it names you when the first one falls.
It hurts to see them. You knew you would die one day, and your soul had tugged at you the moments before it happened, but these souls didn’t know.
Murderer, brother, outcast.
Adult, in between, child.
Hero, guardian, leader.
Painter, builder, healer.
Teacher, mother, lover.
These were the souls who had never been touched by the power of the Universe.
Neither were touched. Neither were spared.
You’re all trapped, you more than most. But neither one of you are alone.
You can’t bear to search for those you know, but eventually you do and finding Peter hurt more than losing him.
You let them go as years passes in moments and leaves you alone with some few distant stars. You come to know those who stay, and it pains you to leave them behind.
You don’t go. Not yet.
But, then again, you’re not quite sure you can.
Your father is dying, trapped between forever and a moment and you take the stone from the gauntlet, hold it in your hand, flips it around and studies the beauty of the soul. You fold it into the palm of your hand, holds it there until it burns like fire and then you hold it just a moment longer because feeling anything, but pain and regret and joy is a better than face your father’s dying eyes.
You let it go and it drops from your hand into the shallow waters below. Your father reaches, but it’s nothing but water and golden dust.
You can’t leave, you know that now. The man on the mountain is gone and so is your father and there’s no one left to take his place.
You stay, your family gone and free, and smiles into the world the stone makes for you.
You smile with your mother, laugh with your friends and you dance with Peter. There’s a song on his lips and he sings it aloud, shimmies this way and that as he goes, and you can’t help but sing along too. It’s a song, one of the good ones, so smile and sing is all you do.
Nebula smiles too, takes your hand and twists you into a fight not meant to be cruel or feral; a fight for something that isn’t life or death and has little to do with what happens in the world you left behind. She wins.
Of course she does.