Summary: You can never go back.
Notes: 500 words. Unbeta'd. First line from 'The Go-Between'. No plot to speak of... which is par for the course, for me. *g*
The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.
He'd heard the line when they crept into some swish performance on Mlbara Prime. The actress had been some pompous Sebacean wearing an absurd attempt at Kellarc Fourteenth Dynasty costume, overblown ego far outstripping her meagre talents. Their muffled laughter and whispered commentary had alerted the guards, and they'd clambered out and lost themselves in the tangled alleyways before the frellniks ever laid eyes on them.
They'd laughed about it for cycles after, the experience slotting into their outwardly inexplicable brother/sister shorthand.
Now, as much as he hates to admit it, he thinks that maybe the bloated kaznik had a point, buried somewhere beneath the claggy makeup and preposterous wig.
Life then had been strangely carefree, in a paranoid, run-for-your-life kind of way. They'd hopped from planet to planet, monens flipping by in a blur of hunger, relief, and muted pleasure. Ate what they wanted whenever possible, stole foreign delicacies through kitchen windows just because they could. Because the rich didn't guard their food as desperately as the poor. Because they'd preferred not to steal from one of their own. Any number of reasons, and he hadn't lost sleep justifying it to himself.
But there had been laws back then, unbreakable laws. He could never have provided protection for novatron gas smugglers, plotted assassinations of minor public officials. Could never have killed hundreds of starving people whose only crime was being under the wrong leadership. Respect for life and liberty had been unquestionable. Paramount.
He can't name the point where it changed, can't give the name of a planet or a city or a slum town. But somewhere along the way, they ended up in the wrong place. Chiana's smiles became blade-edged. Dangerous. He'd never believed that he would see a day when he would fear one of little sister's smiles more than find joy in it. He'd barely recognised her by the end – the sly little nixa who gave up on posturing and relying on her brother to do the dirty work, and instead learnt how to play the game of the streets as well as anyone.
Not that he can talk. His own sires probably couldn't identify him now. Even if they wanted to.
And so, he comforts himself with memories, washed-out images fading into a sort of fuzzy nostalgia. Chi stealing a loyya for him, just because it was his favourite. Shoving him playfully into the canal at Eromal.
Another life, another world. Another frelling universe. Armed soldiers bar the way back, looking more like his friends and comrades – desperate, proud, clutching mismatched weapons – than the dispassionate, glazed-eyed brutes of the Establishment's death squads.
He'll never again understand that grinning girl in his mind, the gasp of her breathless laughter in his ear as they sprint from a market, loot in hand. They lost each other long before Salis came along.
He moved on, found his own way. He can only hope that she found hers.