“I’ve never been you, Nasir,” Hadi said, though he didn’t look up. There was a cold and distant edge to his voice and it rattled the syrian, straight down to his bones. This was not the brother he remembered. Hadi had always been quiet, removed. He’d always been the big brother, the strength and reason, but still warm, still safe. But all traces of the boy he had been were gone now.
“You never could bow, even as a child,” his brother continued, fingering his wet hair, “never had enough sense to cower when it was good for you.”
“I didn’t need to,” Nasir said, coming to sit next to his brother, “not with you around, not in Domina’s house.”
Nasir reached for the comb but his brother scooted away and made to stand.
“And she died,” Hadi snapped, “just like momma and papa. And then I wasn’t there to protect you anymore. Do you know how that haunted me? I used to dream about you. I saw what they did to the young ones, the ones to helpless too fight back but too stupid not to try.”
“I survived,” Nasir said tightly.
Hadi snorted, eyeing his younger brother.
“Indeed. But you haven’t changed. That german fuck can’t protect you forever, he will die in this war. Just like everyone else. And you, still picking fights with those you can not hope to win against. Except now they have you convinced you’re a gladiator.”