I randomly got this idea a few days ago, so I thought I'd try to write it. But you know how sometimes stories seem to take on a life of their own, and they tend to write themselves? That's what happened with this one. It didn't turn out how I expected, and to be honest...I'm not sure how much I like it. It just didn't go the way I wanted to (I blame the voices in my head).
But I figured...well, I wrote it down anyway, so I might as well post it up. Please go easy on this one, because I don't like it all. So I'll just stop now and let you guys decide for yourselves (providing I haven't scared anyone away yet).
The war against the newly revived Skeleton King was difficult to be sure, and most often the main priority on their minds. However, there were occasional lulls in the battle, when both sides spent time recovering and planning their next move. It was also during these quiet moments when some members of the Hyperforce would return and check on Shuggazoom. Though the war took place outside of the city, they couldn't forget their responsibility to the people there, and wanted to make certain their enemy wouldn't attack during their absences.
It wasn't often that Sprx found himself teamed up with Antauri to inspect the city. But this time, it was his own doing. When the silver monkey was assigned to go check on the city, he had quickly volunteered to go with him, much to the surprise of everyone else. Luckily they were the only two required to go, which is exactly what Sprx wanted.
He needed to talk to Antauri about something that was bothering him lately, and he figured that this was his only chance to do so alone.
They spent a good while scouring the city, looking for any sign of Skeleton King's troops. But after finding nothing, they finally landed on the roof of a building for a short break.
Sprx inhaled deeply, trying to calm his nerves. Now was just a good time as any. "Hey…Antauri?" he said.
The silver monkey, whose cobalt eyes continued looking over the city, replied softly, "Yes, Sprx?"
"Listen, I, uh…" Sprx swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump in his throat. "I just…I wanted to say I was sorry…for what happened before…Y'know?"
Antauri nodded, knowing exactly what the other meant. "You mustn't keep blaming yourself for that, Sprx," he said. "You were under the influence of the Fire of Hate, and unable to think clearly."
"Gibson tried to warn me…He tried to tell me, and I didn't listen." Sprx closed his eyes, placing a palm to his forehead. "I couldn't even…I couldn't even fight it. I just let it…take over me."
The second-in-command shook his head. "You were simply tired of the constant struggle. The Fire of Hate manipulated that feeling and turned you into something you're not." He looked up at the sky, sighing softly. "We all have sacrificed much for this fight against evil."
Sprx winced, glancing at the sterling body as it glittered under the sunlight. 'Some more than others,' he reminded himself. "Be honest though…Did you really hate me when I was evil?"
"No," Antauri replied with no hesitation. "I never hated you. I only hated…what you became."
"What's the difference?" Sprx asked with a scoff.
"There is a major difference. The Sprx I have always known is loyal and courageous. Even when moments were doubtful, you were always there to help when we needed you. And when it came down to it, you always meant to do the right thing."
The red monkey stared at the other for a moment, then looked down at his feet. "Yeah…we all know how great that turned out," he muttered.
"You meant well, Sprx. You simply made a mistake. We all make mistakes."
"Not like that one, you don't…"
"Sprx…" Antauri said, his tone low, but gentle, "instead of condemning yourself for the error, try focusing on what you can do to fix it. We have all forgiven you for what happened. Now you must learn from it…and move on."
The pilot clenched his fists tightly for a moment, closing his eyes again. He let out a slow breath, trying to expel his own anger at himself as he listened to the other's words. Opening his eyes again, he looked at the silver monkey. "So…you're not mad at me for what happened?"
Antauri shook his head. "No."
Sprx frowned, biting his tongue as he debated to ask about what was really bothering him. "If you're not mad at me, then…why won't you look at me anymore?"
He swore he saw the silver body in front of him stiffen, and even though he couldn't see Antauri's face, he felt the other wince.
Quickly, Sprx ploughed ahead, wanting to force the words out before he lost his nerve. "It's just that, ever since I got back…and this whole war with Skeleton King started…I can't help but feel like you've been avoiding me for some reason. I mean, I thought it was because of everything that happened. But you just said that you weren't mad at me for that. So what is it? Was it something else that I've probably done, or didn't do, or…?"
He sighed, trying to calm his pounding heart. "Do you realize that this is the first time we've talked in a long time? I mean, really talked? Even though you're not saying anything any more…But it's like all those times before, when I needed someone to talk to and you were always willing to listen. Whenever I screwed something up, I could always go to you about it, and you'd give me some advice…and everything would be fine. Now though…something just feels different. I feel like I can't talk to you anymore…because you don't want me to…"
He saw Antauri's head turn slightly, and he thought – hoped – that the other was going to face him. But instead, the silver monkey looked down at the city below.
Shaking his head, Sprx sighed again. "Fine," he said. "Listen…I really am sorry…for whatever I did." He turned and jumped into the air as his jet pack activated.
He stopped, however, when he felt a hand wrap around his wrist. "Sprx…" Antauri said, so soft that he barely heard anything. "Just…wait…"
Slowly Sprx turned to look at the other, and found himself looking into the cobalt eyes for the first in a long time. The pain and confusion he saw there was enough to force him to land again.
"You have…nothing to be sorry for," the silver monkey said, carefully relaxing his grip. "If anything, it's I who should apologize. I never intended for you to feel that way. But unfortunately…you weren't entirely wrong." Dropping his hand, Antauri turned away again. "There were moments…when I have been avoiding you…"
Just the idea that Antauri was avoiding him was painful enough. To actually hear Antauri admit it was more than he could stand. He had so many questions that he wanted to ask the other, but at the moment he could only manage one: "Why?"
Antauri hesitated. "There are…certain reasons," he replied softly. "One of those reasons…is my own shame."
"Shame?" Sprx repeated, his eyes widening. "Why would you…?" He let his question trail off as he watched the sterling tail shift from side to side, a subtle but definite sign that Antauri was uncomfortable. He frowned a little, thinking for a moment. Then he gave an exaggerated sigh and shrugged. "Is this one of those it's-my-fault-because-I-wasn't-able-to-protect-you-or-help-you kinda guilt trips? Because I told you a thousand times, Antauri, you don't need to –"
"No, Sprx," Antauri said. "It's not that."
Looking at the other, Sprx frowned and lowered his hands. He was used to others shooting down his attempts to lighten the mood…but not like that. Something in Antauri's voice made him just…stop and listen.
The silver monkey sighed. "Recently, I have been unable to face you, partly because…well…" He closed his eyes. "I have never…been afraid of anyone on the team before."
"Afraid…?" Sprx pointed to himself with a trembling hand. "You…are afraid of me?"
Antauri turned away from him again. "In truth…I fear more of what you can do."
He stepped forward and stood next to the silver monkey. He wanted – needed – Antauri to look at him. "I don't get it. Why would you be afraid of me?"
The second-in-command was silent for a moment, his cobalt eyes still cast down. "The night…when Mandarin exposed our greatest fears," he said. "Do you remember…when I had attacked you and Nova?"
"Somewhat…" Sprx replied. It was hard for him to remember most of that night since he was blind.
"Do you remember when you were forced to attack me?" Antauri prompted, finally looking up at the other.
"Um…Yeah, I think so. Nova needed to take your battery out."
The silver monkey nodded. "It was that attack…that first made me realize…"
Sprx was getting tired of beating around the bush. "Realize what?"
"Your magnetic abilities are great, Sprx, and you wield them very skillfully. I have always known that…but it wasn't until that night that I realized the true damage you could inflict."
Sprx frowned. "I just stunned you. That was nothing compared to what I can do in an actual fight."
Antauri nodded. "I know. You restrained yourself enough to simply daze me. But you must understand the complications that your abilities can cause to machines."
It was always hard trying to follow Antauri-logic. He carefully pieced together what the other was saying; trying to figure out what the other was talking about. Then suddenly, the meaning hit him full force. "Your silver body…"
The silver monkey nodded again. "Yes."
"But I didn't…!" Sprx stuttered. "I mean, I wasn't trying to…! I only meant to knock you out for a bit…! I didn't wanna hurt you!"
"But you meant to hurt me when you were influenced by the Fire of Hate."
The red monkey winced; he wasn't expecting the other to bring that up again. Feeling a little defensive, and not wanting to remember that again, he demanded, "Would you stop jumping around and just tell me what you mean?"
"That night, I first realized the true effect your abilities. I understood that for as powerful as this robotic body is…it maintains a significant disadvantage against your magnetic capacity. With the right amount of force, you actually have the potential of permanently shutting this body down."
"But…I can do that to the others too," Sprx replied, trying to understand what the other was getting at. Quickly he added, "Not that I'd want to! I'm just saying –"
"You can shut down the others' mechanized systems as well," Antauri finished for him. "But their organic structure would remain more or less untouched, and would provide enough time to replace and fix their automated parts. I no longer have that safeguard. A soul…cannot remain long in an empty vessel."
Sprx's eyes widened as he finally realized what the other meant. "I could…really kill you…couldn't I?"
Hesitantly, the silver monkey nodded. "With your magnetic ability, you could effectively damage this body beyond repair. Essentially that would signify to my soul, the same thing as if your heart were to suddenly stop beating. If this body was not repaired in time…my soul would be forced to move on."
"Oh man…!" Sprx muttered, placing a hand to his forehead. "I guess I'd be afraid of me too…"
"It's not you I'm afraid of, Sprx," Antauri corrected softly. "What truly frightens me is how easily you could do this if your power is unrestricted. I realized that when you were still under the influence of the Fire of Hate…when you felt no need to hold back."
Sprx looked away from the other, the memory of his attack flooding back to him. "Was…it close?" he wondered.
"There was some considerable damage…but luckily it wasn't enough for any immediate danger."
The red simian nodded, sighing slightly. "That's good…" he said. Looking up at the other, he added, "Man, Antauri…I'm really sorry. I never knew…I mean, I never thought that I could ever take you out. You know that I'd never do…or I'd never want to do anything like that. But…" Sprx shook his head. "I guess I can understand now why you've been avoiding me."
Closing his eyes briefly, Antauri then turned to look at the other. "Sprx…I admit that my fear of your ability is part of the reason I haven't been able to face you…But it isn't the only reason."
Sprx sighed, folding his arms over his chest. "You really know how to jerk a guy around, don't ya? What else could I have possibly done?"
Antauri shook his head. "It's not you…it's me."
"Yeah, how many times have I heard that one before?"
The red monkey held up his hands in defeat, understanding that the other was clearly not in the mood. "So what is it?"
The second-in-command sighed. "It's simply because…I know you would never intentionally try to hurt me."
Sprx frowned as he stared at the other. "Okay…you lost me now."
Closing his eyes, the silver monkey searched for the right words to say. "I…do not have as much control over this body as you all believe I do."
"You seem to use it just fine."
"Only because I have no other choice. This is where my soul resides now, and so I'm forced to use it. But because this is not my original body, it is more difficult to control than it appears."
"Is…is that why you're scared of losing control over it?"
Sprx bit his tongue and looked at his feet. This wasn't the kind of thing that Antauri would willing admit to anyone. And even if the other wanted to talk about it, he knew he wasn't Antauri's first choice as a confidante. So he couldn't help but wonder, "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because…my lack of control over this body makes it easy for someone else to take over." The silver monkey clenched a fist. "Mandarin readily proved that. And he only possessed the magic of the Skull Witch. For Skeleton King…who possess more power now than ever before…it could be effortless. And I doubt I could regain control from him. If that were to happen, I'd need someone to prevent me from doing any harm…" Slowly, Antauri looked at the red monkey. "And for you, that would be a simple task…"
"What…?!" Sprx took a step back, staring at the other with wide eyes. "You're…you're asking me to…?!"
"I've considered it," Antauri replied, shaking his head. "But I understand that it would be a difficult thing to do, and I wouldn't ask you to do something if I wasn't absolutely sure you could. However, that is why I've been unable to face you." He looked away again. "Because I've considered it…and I see no alternative."
As the other turned away from him, Sprx frowned and stared at the silver monkey. For as long as he'd known Antauri, he had never heard the other sound so…defeated before. Antauri always had another plan, he always found another way…he never gave up.
But Antauri also always did what was necessary…no matter what it cost him. That's just what he was doing now.
Sprx wanted nothing more than to yell at him. He wanted to tell him just how stupid the idea was, and that if Skeleton King ever did get control of him then they'd find a way to get him back. Maybe some time ago, he would have done just that.
But Sprx knew exactly what Antauri was afraid of. He had experienced it firsthand. He knew what it was like to do things you didn't want to do, to watch yourself hurting the people you cared about when you could do nothing…to feel something stronger than yourself taking over you.
And he knew what it was like…to rather die than let anything like it happen again.
It took everything he had to speak, and even then it only came out as a whisper. "I'll do it, Antauri."
The silver monkey looked at him with surprised cobalt eyes. "What?"
Swallowing, Sprx cleared his throat and repeated, "I'll do it…"
Antauri turned to face him completely. "You realize what you're agreeing to…You understand what I'm asking you to do."
"Yeah, I get it," Sprx replied, more bitterly than he intended. Taking a deep breath, he spoke as calmly as he could. "I'll do it…but only if I can get you to promise me the same thing."
The silver monkey frowned curiously. "Sprx?"
"That thing…I turned into…The way I became…I don't ever want to turn into that again." Sprx looked at the other pleadingly. "I don't… ever want to hurt Nova…or you…or anyone like that…not again. And…like you said, Skeleton King is a lot more powerful now than he used to be. Who knows what he can do?"
Closing his eyes for a moment, Sprx then looked at the other with an unwavering gaze. "If I…do start turning that way again…I need someone to stop me from hurting everyone. Someone I can count on…Someone…I can always count on."
Antauri stared at him with an unreadable expression, and he matched it with one of his own. He knew the other was thinking, debating, trying to decide what to do like he always did. But he also knew that Antauri would never ask something of someone…if he wasn't willing to do the same thing.
Slowly, the silver monkey held out his hand. "Whatever it takes…" he said.
With a nod, Sprx grasped the offer, his grip tight with sincerity. "Whatever it takes," he agreed.
They both recognized the tremendous weight of their promise. But in a way, that only served to strengthen the bond between them. They had complete trust that the other would fulfill this vow – an urgent vow where they were confident enough in each other to ask it in the first place. They depended on each other, and they had faith in each other.
It was a hard promise to be sure. But for now, they would face that road together.
A familiar voice suddenly shattered their silence. "Antauri? Sprx?"
The second-in-command opened his communication system. "We're here, Chiro," he replied.
"We need you guys back on the Super Robot as soon as possible!"
Glancing at the red monkey, Antauri said, "We're on our way." The line went dead, and he turned to the other. "Ready?"
Sprx nodded once, and the two flew back to the Robot; their promise to each other flickered in the air around them.