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Drawing Keys With Water

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"I am awful.

I am heartless.

I am scared those things are actually true."

-Unknown


 

Raw, agonized pain splits between the open gash, a fresh pool of blood beginning to trickle down his back like sorrowed tears.

He flinches, drawing away sharply away from the touch. The cool metal of Nebula's cybernetic hand stings against the open, salt-touched wound along his spine and he can't repress the shudder of agony that ripples through his shoulder blades. Nebula's fingers stop, but he's already done damage. The thin leather she was sewing between his skin yanks sharply and he hears it snap a moment later.

His sister swears, and then, "Stay still. Are you incapable of managing that?"

Yes.

It hurts. He wants to writhe, coil on the ground and howl, but that won't do any good. He holds his tongue when something nasty threatens to come pouring off of it, and straightens, dipping his head. "My apologies," he murmurs, his voice barely audible. He's learned better than to speak up now, and its hoarse anyway. At least this way she can't really tell.

Nebula sighs and he hears her shift behind him, grabbing something out of the bag she brought with her into his ce—his room. 'He's going to make infection inevitable if he'—her thoughts start off in a tangent of annoyance that's quickly quieted once she seems to realize she's blaring them everywhere. She's trained to keep her mind quiet, and unless he pushes, he won't have to listen.

The thoughts he can't stop reading.

The one's he'd rather can't.

But his magic—his punishment, and gift—is a hazardous waste now, and it's to be expected. Thoughts are just a byproduct of that, something Ebony promised would stop if he'd focus harder. He is focusing, but it isn't helping. He remembers having such control at some point, but he's lost it ever since Father—

"Don't apologize." Nebula demands sharply, moving towards him again. He feels her fingers lightly brush against the skin and he winces again, wrapping his arms around his ribcage and trying to ignore the smell. It's strangely sweet, when he thinks it should be tart and bitter.

Nebula shoves the needle in again, and he bites on his tongue. The skin is inflamed. He can feel it. Even with Midnight's merciful bucket of salt water thrown on top of him, infection feels like it's seconds from sprouting and conquering his back with a firm hand.

He has half a mind to let it. Maybe that's part of the reason he didn't try to do anything himself, and Nebula found him less than thirty minutes ago, feverish and attempting to sleep off the worst of the sting. The latter wasn't working. It has before, but it won't here.

"You need to be more careful, Nova," Nebula chides softly after a few more minutes of silence has passed. She's almost to the top of the wound, but he keeps holding his breath in anticipation for her to stop. The needle is making his skin crawl for reasons he can't pin down. He would have rather she simply used cauterization. "You're insubordination doesn't do anyone any favors." She continues, but her tone is slightly distant. He can tell she's focused on other things.

Nova sighs, blowing the breath between his teeth, but unwilling to admit she's right. He should have just listened to Father's orders and been where he should have, but, because he was a fool, he'd insisted that he'd known better. Even if Nova did get the mission done with less casualties, he wasn't where he ought to be when Midnight turned around for backup. That's unacceptable.

"It will when someone takes me seriously." Nova mutters, picking at a loose thread on the edge of his black glove. They don't cover all of his fingers, and he thinks that rather removes the point of them. His magic makes his veins glow when he uses them; they're supposed to be there for stealth.

Nebula huffs. "Father will never take your input. You're not Gamora."

The words sting, but he refrains from spinning around and saying something nasty, solely by the fact that she's attached to him. In him. "Because she turned out so well." Nova sneers. "A traitor and coward; running off with some pathetic vigilante group."

Nebula tugs digs the needle in deeper than she needs to pointedly, and Nova snaps his jaw shut.

There it is again.

Shut up.

"You barely knew her." Nebula says sharply. "Don't talk of her that way."

Because she's the favorite. The golden child. The one Nova is never going to be. He's fallen from Father's graces far too many times. Gamora was here for two years before she abandoned them for her Guardians. Nova knew her well enough that he's content to say he can judge her character. His magic may not have been such a mess then, if it had been, it would have offered him the advantage of a few of her stray thoughts, but she wasn't awfully complex.

She started his training, pulled him into the Order. And then she left him here to rot.

He shouldn't have been surprised by the abandonment, but it still hurt.

Nebula may have fond feelings for their wayward sister, but Nova suspects this isn't because they're friends. Nebula practically worships the woman like she was some sort of deity. Especially since she returned from her three-year rebel stint. Father had welcomed her back with wary, open arms, insisting that "I know that I'd done right by you." She took the vacant seat that Gamora was filling; hence, the fondness. If she hadn't left, then Nebula never would have risen in rank. Before then, she was hated almost as much as Nova. Now she is the prodigy.

The beloved.

Wanted.

(Unpunished.)

Perhaps this is why she feels the confidence to help him. She never would have lifted a finger for him before she left—Gamora had, but only once—yet Nebula now stands here; putting him back together even though he deserved the punishment. He'd been the fool. The idiot. And Midnight paid the price. Father will be most unpleased when Nova has to face him again, but this isn't much of a change, is it?

Nova is just a mess, and he's never going to land anywhere but being the annoying stain on Father's boot. How ungrateful Nova is to have failed him this much. Father saved him from death, forged him through the brutal fires and has made him something better. Stronger.

And Nova still makes a disaster of everything he touches.

"If you'd stop setting them off…" Nebula trails slightly, something almost forlorn in her tone. "You're making this worse for yourself."

"I don't mean to do it." Nova snaps, lifting his voice from the harsh whisper for the first time in weeks. It cracks, and he hates himself for it. "I could wipe out entire cities for him and Father would still be furious with me for breathing."

Nebula makes a quiet noise of agreement.

"I'm trying," Nova hisses, "what more does he want? He already has my undying fidelity."

Nebula is quiet for a moment, as if carefully thinking over his words or disturbed by them. "His patience is wearing thin with your attitude...he's talked of sending you back to the Other if you keep this up." Nebula warns after a moment. "I can only do so much to persuade him otherwise, you should know." Nova freezes, a placid panic swishing through him. His body burns at memories of the training, and his teeth set. "He said it might help your magic-problem."

"It won't." Nova breathes. "Sister, please, I can't—" he cuts himself off, biting on his lower lip.

Begging. Like the dog you are.

Nebula's needle stops moving, and he hears her fumble with the leather to tie it into a thick knot on the top. The thread cuts a moment later, indicating that she has at last finished. Nova releases a sigh under his breath in relief and shifts forward towards the abandoned cot, reaching for his shirt. He doesn't feel cold—never feels cold—but he hates leaving his scars exposed to the light. Not like other members of the Order. They bare their father's corrections with a sense of pride.

Nova is ashamed. There's so many, a network of proof to how much he slips up. How, even after the Other perfected him, he still can't get it right.

His shoulder burns from the movement and Nebula grabs his thin wrist to stop him. "Don't." She commands sharply, and Nova stiffens. "Let me get it." She appends and snatches the thick clothing from off of the cot and flicks it out before throwing the green shirt towards him. Nova reaches to grab it, but bites on his tongue to withhold a cry of pain and watches as the clothing lands in his lap when he can't get his limbs to catch it.

It's bloodied, but not terribly. Midnight, in a rare consideration, commanded him to remove his shirt while she delved out the reprimand. Nova rolls his shoulders, breathing out sharply and trying to ignore the hitch that keeps attaching itself to every inhale. Midnight did nothing to damage his lungs. He should be breathing fine.

"Is there still blood?" Nova questions, trying to keep his tone as calm and even as possible. "On my back?"

Nebula gives a small nod, moving towards him. "I'll clean it—no, stop. What did I tell you about moving?" his sister demands harshly, grabbing his shoulder and yanking him back into place when he tries to reach for her small bag.

He flinches, shoulder coiling beneath her touch.

Nebula sighs and draws in a breath like she's trying to gather patience together. "L—Nova." If he hadn't been listening so closely to the intones of her voice, then he would have missed the slip up. As it is, he brushes it off. People used to do it frequently in the past, their tongues locked onto that stupid "L" before remembering the name Father gifted him with.

Nebula's done it more and more frequently since she came back.

Her hand reaches to touch at something—the leather, stitching his back together—and he flinches, drawing away from her. He doesn't expect her to comply, or for her hand to snap away when he does so. Nebula is quiet for a moment, waiting for him to unclench before she murmurs softly, "I'm not going to hurt you."

Ha.

No one who says that keeps the promise.

Nova says nothing, pulling his gaze away from her familiar hard expression and lifts it to the room beyond her dark eyes. It's hardly anything above a cell, but he can choose when he leaves—most of the time—and that's enough for him. There's a small washroom, a cot and a pile of belongings thrown into one corner without any order. At one point he'd been bothered by the mess, but now he doesn't care.

Anything he doesn't store in his cache goes there, which is very little.

Nebula snatches her bag off the cot and moves behind him again. He hears her pour water before a rag begins to mop up the mess of blood again. Nova twitches, but manages to refrain from tearing himself away or cringing again. He's not a child. He shouldn't be shying away from pain, he's well accustomed to it now.

The room settles into silence again. Nova clenches his fists, digging his nails into his palms and breathes.

Nebula makes a slight clicking noise, sighing under her breath. Nova half turns around—carefully, the last thing he needs to do is break the stitching and start spurting blood again—a question on his lips about what the problem is, but it drowns in his throat as the door suddenly hisses open. He hadn't even heard someone coming and curses himself for his inattention.

Nebula's hand goes to her belt where Nova knows she keeps her sword and he snaps his wrist to slide the dagger up his sleeve to his open palm. He jerks up to his feet, but sways so much from the blood rush that Nebula has to grab his elbow to keep him upright.

A shadow stands in the doorway for a long moment before the light settles and Nova makes out the familiar features of Proxima Midnight. His stomach churns with apprehension and he hates the way that his gaze shifts up to Nebula for the briefest moment, seeking protection. Stop it. She won't save or protect you. You don't deserve it.

"Oh." Nebula's hand snaps away from her sword. "Just you."

Midnight bares her teeth, jaw clenching with something obviously unhappy. "What are you doing in here? Nova wasn't granted quarter for what he did to Father. Or to me."

Nebula shifts slightly, head tilting in a way Nova knows means she's furious. He shies away from her slightly, but knows that her anger is better than Midnight's. Nebula's is painful, but not as much since she returned from Ronan fiasco. "You dug an axe into his back. Father never gave you permission to delve out the punishment."

Nova's head whips up. He hadn't? But Midnight said—

Midnight's fists curl around the doorframe. Her chin lifts, "It won't matter anyway. He'll be pleased."

Nebula scoffs. "I doubt that. You keep playing harshly with Father's favorite pet and you'll find yourself on the wrong end of his wrath." Nova clenches at the words, and digs his teeth into his cheek. Pet? He's beyond that now. He's in the Order. He's one of Father's sons. A general. A trusted member.

Not a pet.

Midnight makes a face of visible disagreement and tosses her hair over one shoulder. "I guess we'll see. Father wants to talk with you, Nova. And me. He said it's urgent."

Nova says nothing. The only person he talks to anymore is Nebula, and Father when it's required. His voice has only brought him pain otherwise. He's learned. Survival is measured by obedience and staying away from enraging anyone. His blatant ignoral of Father's strategy on Ria is only going to get him into trouble, especially coupled with the fact that Midnight took the brunt of his mistake when the opposing soldiers ambushed her.

Nova was supposed to be protecting her flank.

He wasn't there.

Hence, the axe.

"So soon after Ria?" Nebula sounds skeptical. "What could possibly be so pressing?"

Midnight sneers, "I haven't the faintest. You'll have to keep wondering, sister, because you weren't on the guest list. Rat," she gestures at him, "get over here. I won't be late because you were lazy."

His back is splitting open. How is this "lazy"?

Nova sighs between his teeth and bites at the tip of his raw tongue before painfully slipping into his chest plate, strapping his staff into the sheath on it's back. The actions take less than a minute, but Midnight's expression makes it seem like he drew the task out for hours. Nebula grabs his arm when he moves for the exit.

"Don't be stupid." She demands.

Nova offers her a faint smirk in reassurance, but it falls flat. He says nothing because Midnight is still there and the Luphamoid's gaze briefly flicks to the other woman as if recognizing this. He nods once and squirms out of her cybernetic grip, moving for Midnight.

She grabs his arm as soon as he's close enough and yanks him forward, throwing him a few steps. He staggers, but manages to catch his balance and walks at a rapid pace, trying to figure out a way to balance his weight that doesn't make his upper body burn. Rolling his shoulders forward makes it worse, but simply letting them hang as they normally would isn't the solution. Nothing seems to help.

He's not going to be able to give Father his full attention if he's too focused on how much the wound hurts. Thanks a million, Midnight.

The walk is taken in mostly silence, the only break being when Midnight pauses to share a quick word with one of the Outrider's generals. The crypt language of their clicking tongues makes Nova's teeth grit, but he says nothing, waiting in silence. Their discussion is something regarding a weapon failure on Ria. Blasters seemed to be firing slower than normal and she wants him to fix that. Nova doesn't really pay attention. It doesn't concern him, so he doesn't care. Let her rant her little heart out.

At least this way it's not his fault that they'll be late. It's hers.

Midnight finishes and sends him a sneer when she sees his expression.

They reach their Father's throne room a little less than fifteen minutes after parting ways with Nebula. He has to grasp at the thoughts that softly bombard his head and throw them to the side, noticing that there's a strange humming power present. It wasn't here when he delivered his report yesterday, but a visual check confirms that the room has not changed since the last time Nova was here. The window opening to space beyond is almost blinding with all the colors and his gaze lingers on the sight for a long moment before he tugs it away.

The sight always unsettles him, even with the knowledge that Father caught him. He can still remember falling with no reassurance that he'd ever stop.

As expected of them, Nova and Midnight sink to their knees in front of the dais, heads bowed. Nova's shoulders burn in disagreement of the head movement, but he bites his tongue and quietly prays the hair falling from its messy braid hides enough of his face from view when he can't quite catch the grimace that escapes.

Their father remains seated for only a moment more. He slides to his feet with ease and Nova sees the Other, on the Titan's left, fidget from the corner of his eye. The room is empty—including guards—save them. It's strange. Whatever is on Father's mind must be something important. Nova's privately flattered he trusted him enough to tell them.

"Children," Father sighs the word as if it's the bane of his existence and Nova's fingers anxiously twitch. He keeps his head bowed. He wants to look up, but he doesn't. "My son and daughter. Proxima. Nova. I most unpleased with you."

Just before Nova's eyes squeeze shut with shame, he sees Midnight snap her head up from the corner of his eye. Anger. They will be punished. It is inevitable. Midnight's only going to make the severity of it worse by speaking up. Nova knows this well now.

"Father—" Midnight starts heatedly. Clothing rustles; he thinks she's starting to get to her feet. Nova resists the urge to grab her wrist and yank her back down, only because it would be breaking protocol himself. He opens his eyes and down turns his gaze, focusing on the polished floor beneath his feet, but far enough forward that he can ignore his reflection.

"Silence." The Other snarls. "Your father didn't give you permission to speak."

Midnight hisses angrily. It takes a moment before she finds her voice again, "You are not my commander, creature."

"Daughter." Father says stiffly. Midnight twitches, and turns to face him better. Nova keeps his eyes pinned religiously on the floor despite how much he wants to look up and openly gawk. Midnight has always been arrogant; he's not awfully surprised by her assuming control in this situation when she has none, but to attempt such with their father?

"What did he do to enrage you so, Father?" Midnight questions, jerking a finger back at him. Nova bites on his tongue, frustration pouring through him. Of course she'd try to pin the blame of this onto him. He's not even surprised. "I did nothing but follow your orders on Ria. He was the one who ran off—"

"I know very well of your brother's actions." Their father cuts in sharply, taking a slight step. Midnight draws back, and Nova's privately relieved to see that her sense of self preservation isn't completely dead. "As I know full-well of yours."

What did she do? Nova was the insubordinate idiot who tried to lessen their casualties and nearly got her killed. She didn't do anything that wasn't justified.

Midnight huffs angrily, but says nothing in response. If he were to look, Nova is more than certain that she would have been scowling at the back of his head.

Their father releases a heavy sigh.

"Nova, look at me." He jerks at the sound of his name and lifts his head with hesitation to his father. The Titan's expression is unreadable, as it often is, but there's the faintest edge of frustration around his eyes. Nova keeps his lips pressed together firmly. He won't talk unless it's required of him. His father is fully aware of everything Nova did; he gave the Titan a mission report when he returned back to Sanctuary yesterday.

He has no truths to hide.

"Your injury?" Father questions softly, and the rumble of his voice draws Nova back into attention. His thoughts wander far too much when he's in pain. It's a habit he needs to stop—and here he goes again.

Nova swallows along his suddenly dry throat. "Well enough off, my lord." He murmurs. He thinks about adding that Nebula helped him, but decides against it. If he wasn't granted a penance, getting his sister into trouble won't help anyone, favored or not.

Father's dark eyes shift to Midnight again, the edges of a frown tipping on his face. "That is good, my child. And yet, I cannot recall giving you, my daughter, the explicit command to deal out his punishment. You acted rashly, as you are so prone to when it comes to Nova."

Midnight coils. "You know he needed someone to bring his head down. He disobeyed a direct order."

"And I would have dealt with it. On my own terms." The Titan counters sharply. Both of them quiet, stiffening at his anger. Their father releases another heavy sigh, glancing towards the Other for a moment. "I wrestled with what to do regarding the two of you for some time now. This is not the first incident that has ended this way; but I want it to be the last."

Part of Nova wants to speak up, insist that their disagreements are not his fault and Midnight is constantly trying to blame him for everything that is of the slightest offense to her, but his words stick in his throat and get no further.

Midnight shoots him a scowl, "And I assume you've come to a conclusion."

"I have." Father promises, sitting back down on his throne. He looks between the two of them for a long moment, "It is of great importance to me that you succeed, failure to do so will only invoke my wrath further," he glances towards Nova pointedly at this and he remembers Nebula's earlier words with the beginnings of a panic. He's thinking of sending you back to the Other. "And you are treading on a very thin line as it is."

Midnight quiets, a remarkable feat.

Nova rolls his shoulders to ease some of the pressure and looks up towards their father, giving him his full attention. So he was right. This is of the utmost importance to their father. The trust he's placing in them is sobering. Nova refuses to disappoint him.

The Other takes a step forward, the metal plating in his clothing clinking together. "Your father has located not one, but two Infinity Stones."

Two? Nova feels his lips part with surprise. He glances up at Midnight for the briefest moment seeing a similar expression on her face. His sister snaps her jaw shut after a moment of gawking and asks, "Where?"

The Other sends her a scowl and Nova can almost hear his voice snarling speaking out of term. He's quiet a moment longer, glancing at their father before answering, "A backwater world. Terra."

Something in him stirs at the name as if he's vaguely familiar with it, but he can't place from where. He's heard of the world, he's positive about that. He just doesn't know from where. Perhaps this is from before. Before Gamora found him as little more than a gasping corpse and brought him to Father. Before he fell. Before the stars swallowed him.

He remembers scarce little about that time, a woman's gentle laughter and the scent of roses, red, blue, bright flashes of light, an old man's silver hair...mostly, though, just laughter. So much laughter, and so frequently mocking. He remembers the feelings of rejection, of so much pain, and though his curiosity aches about who he was, he's...grateful he has so little. Father has treated him better than they ever did, of that he's almost certain.

A sharp pain to the side of his knee jerks him back into reality and Nova realizes with a jolt that he'd wandered off again. Midnight's kick was nothing pleasant, but at least she did him the decency of bringing him back into focus.

Stop wandering off in your head.

There's nothing there.

Nova swallows and settles his gaze on the Other again. The creature is eyeing him in a way that makes him uncomfortable, but he brushes it to the side. His father is staring at him. Midnight is working valiantly to burn a hole into the side of his head with her scowl. Pinning his fists by his side, Nova swallows his embarrassment.

"As I was saying," the Other grits out, "their signatures have been collected on your father's scanning technology at long last. From what we can tell, it is Mind and Time. Your mission is to slip in and out of Terra with the Infinity Stones. Leave no trace of yourself. The Terrans should have no reason to suspect you were there."

Midnight makes an audible noise of annoyance as Nova gives a slight jerk of his head in acknowledgement. Nova shoots her an annoyed look from the corner of his eye. Why does she have to make everything harder? If she would just accept the terms their father gives them faster instead of fighting every step of the way, then perhaps their father would trust her.

Because he trusts you so much.

You, who have followed every order to the letter until Ria.

The Other shifts his heated stare to her. "Have you something to say, Proxima?"

"Why should we keep this silent? What is the worst that Terra will do to us? They're a primitive people. Ronan would have had successes there, and he barely had the intelligence to stand. We should purge the planet, cleanse them and take the Infinity Stones as a prize."

Something in his stomach opens with panic, but he doesn't know why. The back of his mind insists that Terra is precious and must be guarded, but reasoning evades him. He keeps his tongue pinned between his teeth before he can speak out of turn, but glances frantically towards their father.

"No." Father says firmly.

"Subtly is hardly my forte." Midnight submits through gritted teeth. Nova represses a snort of agreement. That is by far an understatement. Midnight runs through everything weapons blazing and hardly spares a moment for stratagem. It reminds him of...someone. He doesn't know who, will likely never know who, but it does.

"Do you even know where the Stones are on Terra?" Midnight presses.

"No." The Other admits and then points a long, pale finger in Nova's direction. "But he will." Nova feels himself pale. He swallows words, and resists the urge to demand what the Kriff he is talking about. "His magic is unique among the Order, it is different than any I or your father have encountered before. For all Ebony insists his control has slipped, he will be able to sense and locate the Infinity Stones."

He doesn't know how. They're making him track when he has no idea what he's doing? How is he supposed to succeed? He will only invoke Father's wrath by his failure, but he can't see any other outcome arriving. His magic has not been functioning as it should since Father tested...tested the Stone on him.

Their father drums his fingers pointedly, the metal of the Infinity Gauntlet clinking on the cold stone and Nova's gaze is drawn to the Power Stone nestled in the crook of the pointer finger's knuckle. He hadn't realized that their father was wearing it, but he'd known the Stone was in the room somehow. The Power Stone is their father's prized possession, a gift from Nebula when she returned. (How she earned his favor. How she is no longer hated among the Order, how she—)

"You will need one another." Their father inputs, "One cannot succeed without the other. Perhaps having to further rely on one another will give you a bond to rival Gamora and Nebula's."

Oh, a crowning achievement indeed. The last thing he wants is the hero worship Nebula bathes Gamora in for Midnight.

"Unless he abandons me in the middle of our journey with the insistence he knows better." Midnight snaps. Nova flinches, flicking his gaze to the floor. He shouldn't have left her flank. If he hadn't none of this would be happening. He wouldn't be sent off to a mission he has no idea how to complete. "If we fail because your favorite pet left me for dead, the blame for that falls onto you."

"Careful with your words, daughter." The Titan warns, "Your childish whining is beginning to bore me."

Midnight wisely snaps her jaw shut.

"You leave immediately." The Other says, voice harsh. "We do not know how long either Stone will remain on Terra. It could be decades, or it hours. Your father has nothing else to say to you. Go!" He points harshly towards the exit and Nova jerks up to his feet, biting back a cry of pain as his back explodes with pain. His vision goes white on the edges, his balance tipping as his lightheadedness returns with full force.

Barely managing to keep the noise inside his throat, he gives a low dip of his head and turns to exit the room, Midnight at his side. When they're halfway to the door, their father calls out, "And Proxima," his sister stiffens, but both of them turn, "leave the punishment to me when you return."

He thinks Nova is going to fail.

"As you wish." Midnight grits out and grabs his upper arm yanking him forward a step. He staggers, the stitches pulling, but he pretends not to notice. He shoots her an annoyed glance, tugging his arm from her tight grip. The two of them exit the throne ordinate room. The doors have no sooner closed than she grabs a fistful of his dark hair and yanks him down so they're eye level.

"Get your act together. Your distraction is only going to get us captured or killed because your magic is a mess. Everyone knows that."

Nova's teeth grit together. He shoots her a heated stare. He doesn't say anything, even though his tongue burns with the edges of words he could murmur. Silvertongue, they called him once, his father had said it with such disdain.

That silvertongue is nothing but a pointless weight in your mouth.

"I'm not going to bring home failure because you are a hopeless case." Midnight releases him and begins to storm forward. "Meet me at the ship in ten minutes. I'm not going to wait for you, taciturn."

Nova doesn't doubt that. He grits his teeth together and closes his eyes, digging his nails into his palms. His back is aching, but he can't give it any more focus than fleeting thoughts. He has more pressing things to worry about. His father's trust, as always, feels more like a burden than a blessing. He needs to pack, but he can't get himself to move just yet. His hands are trembling with what he thinks is belied panic.

Midnight's strained thoughts echo around in his head, and Nova feels something cold spread up on his skin. Frost. His magic is reacting, so uncontrolled. (It has been ever since Father—)

He is going to fail, and Father may—at long last—give up on him.

His back burns. Nova forces his feet to move. He packs methodically, but quickly. His vision seems to fuzz and one moment he's in his quarters, the next he's hobbling up onto the ramp for the ship behind Midnight leaving for Terra.