Initial amusement fading, Thaal tilted his head to the side and asked, "Arkillo, darling, what are you attempting to do?" for his lantern was valiantly tugging on the door handle that clearly read 'push'. Of course, Ranx had said nothing to point this out, nor had he relented and opened his door himself, no doubt he believed it unworthy of his time,
"I am - opening this door - Lord Sinestro," Arkillo grunted, and yanked on the door one last time, throwing his full weight back as though it would make any difference. It didn't, and Arkillo tripped backwards, almost crashing into Sinestro. "It's impossible." Teeth grinding together, Arkillo fixed the door with a furious scowl.
Astounded by Arkillo's lack of intelligence, Sinestro rolled his eyes to the side. "Have you lost all ability to read? Assuming you had it in the first place, of course." This was idiocy worthy of Hal Jordan himself. "Ranx, if you would." Sinestro indicated the door with a wave of his hand which opened without further prompting and caused Arkillo to stare in amazement.
Then the door slammed shut again, along with every other door of Ranx's Thaal could see. "Sinestro! The planet killer approaches, you must destroy him!" Was that a hint of fear Sinestro heard, from one of his own lanterns? How disgraceful.
Nails digging into Ranx's console, Sinestro corrected dangerously, "I must not do anything, and certainly not at your command. Do not presume to control me, Ranx." Yellow lights flickered, Ranx was silent, and Thaal narrowed his eyes. "Do you hear me?"
"Yes, Lord Sinestro," the sentient city ground out, and his console shuddered. "I would be eternally grateful to you if you removed Green Lantern John Stewart from my presence." The meeker tone of voice was more acceptable, Sinestro supposed, and he nodded.
"Of course," Sinestro agreed, pulling his hand away from Ranx's console. "Fear not, the situation will be taken care of." With a flick of his finger, Sinestro beckoned over Arkillo who had apparently forgotten his trouble with the door. "Do not allow John Stewart anywhere near my city. Deal with him appropriately, and by any means necessary. Go."
Yellow Lanterns lingering around him flew off, following after Arkillo, which left Thaal alone in the command center. Even Ranx was no longer with him, attention diverted to guiding Arkillo in the fight against John Stewart. Why would the Green Lantern attempt an assault on Ranx? It was a foolhardy mission, one that made little sense, and had no chance of succeeding.
But they had tried it. Perhaps the Green Lantern Corps was growing desperate, finally giving up on their 'diplomacy', on trying to convince Sinestro they were not working with Brainiac to destroy him. As if the Guardians and every single Green Lantern didn't have it out for him. Never would he be fooled by Green Lantern liars, they had no right to his attention, not after destroying the usual perfect functionality of his rings.
The teleporter on his right flared up and yellow energy deposited the user into the circular area. It took Thaal a moment to realise who it was, and then his ring came up, directed at Hal's chest. There were no other Yellow Lanterns around, John Stewart had drawn them away. A crude method of distraction, if effective, and Thaal had no doubt Hal was responsible for this.
How dare Hal come here like he owned the place? Wearing a yellow ring like he had any right to, Hal had managed to force Sinestro into what could be perceived as a vulnerable position. It would not be tolerated. "Don't move," Sinestro warned, teeth bared, moments from attacking.
"Sinestro," Hal started, raising his hands, eyeing the ring pointed in his direction. There was a ring on each of his hands, one yellow, one green, and Sinestro guessed Hal had acquired the yellow as a means to use the teleporter. That was a problem that needed addressing. "I'm not here to -"
"I will not hear any more lies from you and your Corps, Jordan," Sinestro interrupted. "You will leave, you will remove your planet killer from Ranx, and you will all get out before I kill you." It would be easy, wouldn't it? Over in one simple command, no more trouble from Hal Jordan ever again. His rings might even return to order. "In fact, while you are here, perhaps you could tell me what you and Brainiac have done to my rings."
"I haven't done anything to your rings!" Hal exclaimed, like every Green Lantern had before him. It still didn't sounded true. "You can't tell me you haven't noticed our rings are just as bad as yours. Are you blind as well as stupid? There is a giant spaceship in the sky, Brainiac is invading my planet, why would I be working with him?"
There was no room for doubt, Thaal was too busy worrying for his rings, worrying for his lanterns, and worrying for the loss of power if the Green Lanterns succeeded in taking it all away. And there Hal was, standing with Sinestro's enemies but expecting to be believed. It hurt, especially when taking into account how Hal had only put on a yellow ring to break in.
"Perhaps you deem defeat of Sinestro more important than your own planet," Sinestro suggested, and he was disgusted by the thought. How low Hal had fallen, to sacrifice his planet in pursuit of such a hopeless goal. Sinestro would not be defeated, certainly not by a disloyal traitor such as Hal Jordan.
"Of all the paranoid -" Hal muttered, then exploded with, "We're on the same side, you idiot!" All that caused was Sinestro bristling at the insult. "OK, fine." Hal tugged off his yellow ring, tossed it on the ground, and then did the same with his green one. "You happy now?" He tried to move forward, but Sinestro backed off into Ranx's console, ring still threatening the human. "Oh, for crying out loud - I am not working for Brainiac! Do I look like a robot to you?"
It could all be a trick, Sinestro wouldn't be fooled, and he continued to eye Hal with suspicion. "What are you hung up on now?" Hal asked, and he was beginning to sound desperate. "I'm not trying to hurt you, or your creepy cult - except that one lantern but I needed the ring so I could talk to you. John will have retreated by now, he was just a distraction - but don't get any ideas, the Corps will come after me if I haven't returned in an hour."
"I could do a lot to you in an hour," Sinestro threatened. Still, just in case, he did check, fiddling with Ranx's console to see if John Stewart really had retreated. Though he kept an eye on Hal, his ring was lowered, an unarmed human wasn't much of a threat.
There was no sign of any Green Lanterns except for Hal, but Thaal kept in mind it could be a trap. Somehow. "Sinestro!" Ranx's attention had returned. "There is a Green Lantern in the command center! You must destroy him - I mean," Ranx hastily corrected himself as Thaal's eyelid twitched with annoyance, "I would be appreciative if you did not allow him to hurt me?"
It was an acceptable correction, so Thaal chose to ignore the slight. For now. "The Green Lantern will not be hurting anyone," he promised, keeping his eyes on Hal. "What of John Stewart? Has he retreated?" Not once did Sinestro look away from Hal, watching for any sudden moves. But there were none, Hal waited patiently, like he really did intend to keep his word. Perhaps he was trustworthy. Any other Green Lantern would've attacked by now.
"My atmosphere is clear of Green Lantern interference," Ranx reported, but he didn't sound too happy about it. No doubt he would've preferred John Stewart dead. "There is, however, the problem of Hal Jordan -"
"Enough," Sinestro ordered, and Ranx immediately fell silent. "Lock down this room. I wish not to be interrupted." The order was obeyed, doors clicking into place once more, and the yellow lights of Ranx's attention flickered and faded. Again, Hal and Sinestro were left alone. "Speak then," Sinestro instructed. "What do you want from me?"
A lot of Hal's previous impatience and frustration seemed to drain away, just like that, and he took a step forward. "Your help. Your cooperation. We all need it, Sin. I know the rest of the Corps won't admit it, but I will. I need you." There were no falsities there, but Sinestro was still hesitant, so Hal continued, "My lanterns are dying, and I know yours are too. We're going to destroy each other. The killing needs to stop. Help me defeat Brainiac instead. Together, I know we can fix this. We can save Earth, your Corps and mine. Help me. Please."
From anyone else, the words would've had no effect, Sinestro would've found it easy to turn the appeal aside. Not with Hal. The human had a way of worming his way in, making Thaal care when he really shouldn't, and having him believe in the sincerity, having him believe Hal wasn't working with Brainiac to destroy him. Which meant Earth really was in danger, and the source of all Sinestro's problems was Brainiac, and Brainiac alone. Destruction of the Green Lanterns could come after.
"Very well," Sinestro agreed, seeing reason in the idea. It would be prudent to have a Corps he could sacrifice in pursuit of Brainiac's defeat. "No more killing. My help will be yours, and yours alone, until the defeat of Brainiac has been achieved and my rings have returned to normal."
Now Sinestro moved forward, more relaxed, confident, to stop in front of Hal. The human's head tilted back, remaining in eye contact with him. There was relief there, no doubt Hal had been shouldering all the responsibility for Sinestro, guilty for not being able to do this sooner, and it was habit to try taking his stress away. "Tell me where you want me, and I'll be there, if I consider it in my best interests," Sinestro pledged.
Hal's lips quirked into a quick smile, he relaxed into the pattern they couldn't get rid of despite the time that had passed. Partnership, trust, the remnants of the connection remained, ravaged as it was. In that moment, killing Hal was the worst thing Thaal could imagine, like ripping out his own heart. Disturbed, he shook the thought away.
"That easy, huh?" Hal asked, apparently unaware of Sinestro's distraction. "Don't see why no one else could've done this." Clearly frustrated with his own Corps, Hal set his hands on his hips and glanced down. "I would've done it sooner if I hadn't had to deal with the Spectre."
In case that information was required later, Thaal mentally noted it down, then he knelt to scoop up the two rings Hal had dropped. He heard a sharp intake of breath and, arching an amused eyebrow, sent an inquiring look back up to Hal. Brown eyes avoided his gaze, turning the inquiring look into a smirk.
"Your lanterns are not you," Sinestro stated, pushing himself back to his feet. Once more, Hal's eyes returned to him, and there was definite curiosity now. "They have none of my trust, my respect, or my loyalty." His hand found its way into Hal's, calloused warm skin rubbing against his as he pressed the two rings into the other man's hand.
"Are you saying I have it?" Hal was quick to infer, hand closing around the rings and Sinestro's hand, trapping him there. Far from being annoying, the touch was familiar, and Thaal found himself wanting more of it. So he pulled his hand away, causing Hal to drop both rings again.
Laughing a little, Hal muttered, "whoops," and picked the rings back up. When he straightened, Sinestro hadn't moved, standing stock still. "I did ask you a question… feeling shy?" Hal prodded lightly at Sinestro's shoulder, and a grin spread over his lips when the other man didn't pull away.
"What do you think?" It was an answer to both questions, and quite genuine, Thaal was interested in knowing. And it seemed, Hal was interested in telling him, adopting a thoughtful expression as he slid the rings back onto his fingers.
"I think…" Hal said, pressing forward now, hand sliding up to Sinestro's shoulder, "our partnership is gonna be awesome." His smile was genuine, he really believed in it, and he had Thaal believing it too. But then Hal hesitated, and his hand fell away. "Until you leave again." Now, the smile was forced, like Hal trying to convince the both of them that he really didn't mind, even as he turned away. "I'll call you."
Letting him go should've been easy, Hal was an enemy, good riddance. But he was so much more than that too, and Sinestro couldn't ignore the sad hunch of Hal's shoulders, he never could. It was hard to resist reaching out, hard to resist offering anything to help, and before he knew it, his hand was on Hal's shoulder, holding him back.
"Don't go." His request was coloured by desperation, and he felt Hal hesitate, so he pushed onward. "I want you to stay." Despite everything, despite mistrust, uncertainty, none of it mattered, Thaal ignored it in favour of the feeling of being worth something when Hal glanced at him with that hopeful look in his eye.
Somewhere, somehow, Thaal decided to move forward, right up in Hal's personal space, where he'd always been invited. Logic had abandoned him, there was no reason, all he could think about was Hal, the sound and scent of his breath, and the two hands now resting on his chest. That brought on a frown, the assumption being Hal was trying to push him away. But no.
"I still have most of my hour left," Hal relented, hands moving up to wrap around the back of Sinestro's neck, entwining together. "I know it's not enough - it's never enough -" Their lips met, smothering Hal's choppy attempts to explain himself, which weren't needed anyway. Like Thaal didn't know, like he didn't feel the exact same way.