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no better version of me i could pretend to be tonight

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“…And I know someone who was in the Meritocratic Navy,” Azu continues excitedly.

Carter frowns at her. He’s not quite as old as she remembers him, but certainly not a child any more. “Well, he doesn’t sound very cool,” he says, wrinkling his nose. “Why would you hang out with him?”

“Oh, he’s very, very cool,” Azu reassures him. “Do you want to know why he’s not in the navy now?”

Carter looks reluctantly curious. “Yeah?”

Azu lowers her voice, like she’s telling him a secret. “One day he got orders he didn’t like. So, he killed the person who gave him the orders and he ran away. And he started helping my friends instead. Because he didn’t want to be cruel or unkind.”

She sees the instant switch in Carter’s expression, from suspicious to thrilled. “Really? Okay, he does sound pretty cool. He sounds alright, he sounds… really brave actually.” Carter looks down at his hands for a moment and then back at Azu with a frown. “You really think he’s gonna want to be my friend?”

Azu laughs, thinking about the conversation she’d had with Barnes before she left. “Trust me, Howard. He can’t wait to see you.”