Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Into the Darkness of Derse
Dirk ==> Save your lil’ bro for real this time!
You’re working on it, all right?
You’re halfway down the road when it hits you. The uncertainty. It’s a part of you that you hate and desperately try not to show anybody. To this point, you don’t think anyone knows about it, though let’s not kid yourself, Bro knows everything about you. Dave probably does too.
You’re feeling this way because you have no idea what you’re up against. You don’t even know if you’re headed in the right direction. You think Dave probably would have picked up a pizza and headed home, but you’re not sure. He might have wanted to go somewhere with John tonight. Maybe he decided to pay Rose a visit? You couldn’t say for sure that he’s anywhere.
You don’t know for certain, and it’s driving you mad. You’re a fan of numbers. You like having a definite answer. You’re great at robotics for a reason, because you’re fantastic at deducing, problem solving, and finding the correct solution.
None of that quite fits in here. You could play the percentage game, but you hate knowing that your baby bro’s life rests on a 68% chance that he went home. That there’s a 35% chance that whatever he and John couldn’t take down is more powerful than you and Jake can handle. You don’t even know what the percentage is that Jake will freeze up on you again, but that seems to be happening more as of late than you’d like too. If he freezes on you, that number goes up from a 35% to a 73%…
You suddenly realize that Jake has been talking to you. “Huh?” you answer smartly.
“You seem deep in thought. I apologize, I shouldn’t disturb you,” he murmurs in a way that is so not Jake that you find yourself frowning.
“Don’t apologize for my inattention. What did you want to say?”
“I umm, heh,” Jake laughs half-heartedly, scratching the back of his head in that tell-tale manner that he’s extremely embarrassed about something. Not that you really have to look for his tells, though Jake has so many of them. You just happen to look for these things now after decades of dealing with Bro. Also Jake’s little tells are cute. “I wanted to say I’m sorry, mate. You know, for being a ninny again. I wanted to help, but I couldn’t—”
You realize he’s talking about Kurloz. And your fight with Bro. If Karkat hadn’t shown up, you have no doubt that you’d both be sliced to pieces on the basement floor by now.
“It’s ok,” you interject, not wanting him to have to continue on that line of thought anymore. It makes you feel a little bad to see him so uncomfortable. “But a little warning next time?”
He nods. “I’ll try.”
You realize right after you say it that he has been trying to warn you, in his own Jake-like way. His apprehension, when he’s usually so gung-ho about jumping into the thick of adventure. The way he stammers over his words even more than usual. His odd silence. They’re all so not Jake that you’re not sure how you missed it before.
You give him what you hope is a reassuring pat on the arm. You’re not sure if it is though, because as soon as you touch him, you instinctively recoil. Touching his bare skin with yours, you couldn’t help but taste his energy.
You’ve tasted Jake before, just earlier tonight in fact. He’s wild, exciting, and innocent. It’s part of what you love about him.
But what you taste isn’t quite right. It’s still Jake, but there’s an underlying bitterness now, hinting ever so slightly of Kurloz and… Damara?
You want to doubt yourself, you really do, but you’ve never been wrong before. It’s one of the many gifts and curses of your kind. You can tell when someone’s left their influence laying around, mentally, physically, or spiritually.
Whether he realizes it or not, Damara and Kurloz have definitely influenced Jake. You aren’t sure why you didn’t pick up on Damara’s influence before. Maybe Kurloz’s added effect brought hers out more?
Maybe Damara’s back?
You inwardly shiver at both of the possibilities. You have to check his energy again. You have to be sure. There’s no way to be inconspicuous about it, but right now you don’t care. So you reach out for him again.
Jake laughs lightly as you pat his arm again. Giving you a shy smile, he says, “Strider, I appreciate the concern, but I’ll be all right.”
Like flipping a switch, the influence is gone. Jake’s energy is clean again.
What is going on?
Normally, you would ask Jake about it, but you have other things to be concerned about right now. It leaves you wary as you pick up the speed to Dave’s place.
The Jeep peels to a stop in front of the ritzy high-rise condominium complex. Dave, showboat that he is, lives in the top penthouse of this premium lakefront property. It takes you all of .02 seconds to decide, “we’re taking the stairs.”
“The stairs?” Jake blanches, gazing up at the 95 story building. “Didn’t someone warn you about the stairs? Bro, perhaps?”
“Bro’s a wimp when it comes to stairs,” you scoff. “Besides, the power’s out.”
Jake blinks, likely just realizing that the entire building is dark. “Why so it is. Stairs it is, then!”
You lead the way, easily slipping into the building through a side maintenance door and beginning the long ascent up to the top floor. It doesn’t take you two very long to get to the top. You’d like to think that you’re in pretty good shape, but even you start to feel it a bit when you reach the 95th floor. Jake is breathing a bit hard beside you too, and when you gaze at him, you can’t help but wish that he would be beside you breathing like that for an entirely different reason.
His warm body next to yours, his breath hot on your neck, saying that he wants you, his cheek pressed against yours, fingers digging into your hair as you pull his hips closer to you and—
You push your inner incubus away and ignore Jake’s sexy pants beside you, focusing your attention on what lies ahead. Slipping into the hallway, you take a small breath when you realize that the door to Dave’s house is ajar. Dave, like you, is a fan of his own personal space. He would never leave the door open like that.
Looks like you guessed right. Your little bro went home. Now it’s time to see who’s threatening to hurt him and to kick some major ass.
You indicate toward the door with your head, silently drawing your katana, and Jake nods in understanding, bringing out his double pistols. Stealthily, you sneak in.
The power is out, unsurprisingly, leaving the room nearly impossible to see, especially with your shades on. But you won’t take them off. You know Dave’s place well enough to get around without tripping. You keep your senses alert, watching for any signs of movement.
With a nod of your head, you send Jake toward the kitchen while you check out the living room. It’s clear, and the guest bathroom and bedroom are both clear too. You meet up with Jake again at the hallway. He shakes his head, telling you that he didn’t find anything either.
Together you turn down the hallway. The study is clear, his DJ room is clear, the second guest bathroom is clear.
Tension is beginning to build in your stomach. There are only two more rooms left. You’re not sure whether you will be more or less relieved to find something, or someone, there.
Slowly you creep forward. John’s bedroom is clear. That leaves only one room left.
Your ears perk up. There’s a slight rustling coming from Dave’s room. Some twisted part inside you really hopes that you walk in on your little bro having sex. He might hate you a little for it, but it would certainly beat finding him dusted on the ground. Stealthily, you slink inside.
The room is dark. Too dark to make out anything, but you can tell that something is alive in this room. Something that might have killed your little bro. Something—
Jake walks in front of you, putting his guns away. “You can come out,” he says in a way that almost sounds—friendly? “It’s just Dirk and I.”
A small ball of blue light peeks out from the top dresser drawer, illuminating the room in a soft blue glow. “John,” you breathe a sigh of relief, sheathing your katana and walking over to him.
“Hey guys,” he says quietly. His voice is soft and a bit raspy. It sounds like he’s been crying.
Jake reaches out to him, scooping John up in his hands from amidst the piles of Dave’s unmatched socks. “Are you all right?” he asks gently.
“Yeah,” John says, though he sniffles, affirming your thoughts from before. “I’m glad you guys came, but—but it’s already too late. They already took him.”
John looks at you and pulls his signature move, flying into your chest and hugging your clavicle, his tiny little tears moistening your skin. You don’t need to taste his energy to tell how he’s feeling. John’s an absolute mess. “Who took him?” you ask, forcing your voice to remain calm despite the fear and anger burning inside you.
John’s voice is a little muffled as he talks into your chest, but you can tell what he’s saying. “Agents from Derse. They came for Dave and took him. Dave threw me inside his sock drawer. They must not have noticed me. By the time I got out, they were gone. I found his phone and called you.”
A chill runs up your spine. Agents? You’ve heard of them before. The Agents are Derse’s most elite hunters. Usually they stay in Derse, and rarely do they ever show themselves outside. You’ve never had to face them before, and to your knowledge, Bro hasn’t either.
“Agents,” Jake murmurs, his expression darkening as his eyes narrow.
“Have you fought them before?” you ask.
“I have unfortunately had that pleasure,” he responds, quietly.
“You have?!” John perks up, his voice a bit on the hysterical side. “What are they going to do to Dave?? Are they gonna—”
“They won’t kill him,” Jake interjects quickly. You feel John’s apprehension dissipate just a little bit. “They’ll take him back to Derse and lock him in a cell.”
“Lock him in a cell?!” John squeaks. “He’ll die if they don’t feed him!”
“They should provide sustenance,” Jake reflects, gazing off to the side deep in thought. “Bread, water…”
“Bread and water?! Do they know what he eats?!” John laments, falling down into your waiting hands. Miserably, he gazes up at you, his bright blue eyes filled with sadness. “Dirk, we have to save him! I don’t want Dave to die.”
“I don’t want him to die either,” you softly agree. “We’re going to get him back.”
“It’s possible,” Jake nods in agreement. “Not easy, but possible. We need to find a stable portal to Derse. One that will support transferring us there and back. Most of the portals the demons use don’t fit that bill. I would suggest talking this through with your Bro first. He might have a better idea where we could find a stable route of travel.”
“Bro’s gonna flip his shit,” you mutter, sighing as you start the slow descent back down the stairs.
* * *
Dirk ==> Save your lil’ bro!
You’re trying ok?!
Admittedly, you’re more relaxed after hearing what Jake has to say. The Dersites tend to prefer locking up their enemies for unknown lengths of time instead of killing them. You’ll have to assume Dave is in the former group over the latter.
Bro does indeed flip his shit. By the time you get back, he has the place largely cleaned up. Even some of the coworkers you had passed by before, very dead coworkers, are very much alive now and are helping clean the place up. There’s no sign of the patrons whose bodies were laying around the bar. Either they’ve moved on to the next realm, or they hightailed it out of there once they were revived.
You find the cause sitting on the couch in Bro’s office, sipping a cup of coffee. “Hiya boys,” Jane grins, glancing sideways at you and John from behind thick glasses and waving at you with two fingers. She’s dressed in a casual t-shirt boasting her favorite ectoplasmic creatures and a short denim skirt. Though the weather doesn’t necessitate it, she’s wearing a fashionable thin beige scarf that shimmers when it hits the light right and matching boots.
“Long time no see,” you offer, holding out your hand for a fist-bump. Her grin widens as she bumps your fist back.
“You’ve been MIA for a while,” she comments with a pout. “Talking to AR is cool and all, but why haven’t you been online lately?”
You shrug, accidentally knocking John a little off balance from his perch on your shoulder with the motion. “Been a little preoccupied.”
Jane looks skeptical, but she seems to buy it. Truthfully, you’d consider telling her about your little Jake crush if he weren’t standing right behind you in the doorway. And if Bro wasn’t surely lurking around somewhere nearby.
Jane’s a good friend of yours. Though technically you’ve only known her for a few years, she quickly became one of your best friends. Gifted with the ability to give life back to the dead, she’s one of the few humans that ever graces this place. Some would call her a witch. You would call those people jealous.
“Jane?” Jake asks, his voice filled with disbelief.
“Oh my god, Jake? Jake English? Is that you?!” Jane’s off the couch pronto and leaping into Jake’s awaiting arms. Something small and uncomfortable twinges in your heart at the sight, but you do your best to ignore it. Jane pulls back from him and she’s all smiles. “What are you doing away from the homeland?”
“More excitement and adventure to be had over here, my girl!” he says, winking at her.
“No kidding!” she says far more enthusiastically than you’d like.
“Nope, no kidding at all!” he agrees, in a statement that frankly baffles you but has them both laughing. What the hell is going on?
“You know each other?” you ask.
“Oh yeah, Jake and I go way back!” Jane exclaims.
“Way way back,” Jake agrees, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. Wait. Suggestively? What?
Jane giggles and you think you’ve had enough of this. You clear your throat, drawing their attention back to you. “Any idea where Bro is?” you ask impatiently, reminding Jake, “we still have a little bro to save.”
Jane looks over at you with concern. “What happened to Dave?”
Like a phantom, Bro’s suddenly standing by your side too. “Yes, what happened to Dave?”
You can feel John getting worked up again from his perch on your shoulder. “Derse agents took him back to Derse!” he exclaims, fluttering in front of Bro’s face. His eyes are the biggest you think you’ve ever seen them, and the bright blue depths look at Bro imploringly. “Is there a portal around stable enough to take us to Derse and back? We have to save him!”
Bro tenses, his body knotted up like a tight spring beneath his simple popped-collar white shirt. You can tell he’s thinking, weighing the options. It takes him a moment before he replies, “yes, I think there is one.”
You feel a spark of hope ignite in your chest. “Where?” you ask.
“It won’t be easy to get to,” Bro murmurs cryptically.
The heat sears at your skin as you ride your rocket-board straight into the lava belching maw of the volcano. Normally, you’d be thrilled to have Jake pressed against your back as tightly as he is, gripping your waist with an iron hold. But right now, you’ve got something bigger on your mind. Something like properly steering this thing into the tiny portal only slightly bigger than a child’s hula-hoop.
“Not that I don’t trust you, but do you think we can fit in that itty bitty hole?” John screams into your ear over the rush of the wind, clinging desperately to your sleeve.
“I’ve fit into smaller holes,” you instantly respond, unable to resist despite the situation.
“Groooooooooooss! You AND Dave both—ugh!” You can feel John’s eyeroll. “That is SO not what I meant!”
Whatever he was about to say is suddenly lost in a scream as you dive closer and closer to the lava, spiraling into the volcano. The intense heat would be unbearable for a normal human. Luckily, none of you are. You’re not sure what Jake is, but he seems to be fine though he clings to you even tighter. Jane wanted to come along, but it was this very reason that kept her back at the lounge with Bro. He also wanted to come but reluctantly admitted that he was needed here in the unlikely (but possible) case that you don’t return.
But you will come back. You’re sure of it. And you’re bringing your little bro back with you.
The lava is now only a few feet away, and your whole body feels like it’s on fire. The portal is just a bit bigger than it looked from above, but it still leaves very little room for error. Good thing you have lots of practice using your rocketboard. You duck down, pulling John and Jake with you as you grip the bottom of your board. “Hang on,” you instruct them, like they’d do anything else, as you dive through the portal.
The heat reaches an almost unbearable degree, and suddenly you’re through. A wave of cold air washes over you and the bright light of the volcano vanishes into the dreary darkness of Derse.
You don’t think there are any lights in this city. Instead, a deep purplish glow seems to emanate from the very buildings and ground, casting a soft light on everything. If Bro were here, he’d surely be taking notes on how to jazz up his lounge.
Luckily, the portal dumped you into a secluded back alley. You don’t think anyone saw you arrive. Why a portal leads from a volcano to this alleyway is really beyond you, but you’ll take it.
Jake uneasily steps off your rocketboard, looking just a little dizzy. “Strider, that was quite the ride!”
After AR’s little speech about being bolder, you decide a little flirting wouldn’t hurt. After half a second of hesitation, you say, “glad it was good for you too.” You smirk at him suggestively, and watch as his delicious throat swallows down whatever words he was about to stammer out.
He manages to respond with, “you do seem to be a pro.”
John finally flies off your shoulder and flutters in between you two, looking at you incredulously. “Seriously? You’re going to flirt with him right now? Come on! We have to save Dave!”
Yeah, you know. That’s what you’re here for. You nod at him, scooping him out of the air and placing him back on your shoulder. “Best keep a low profile while we’re here,” you remind him.
John sighs, “yeah I know.”
In the interest of being inconspicuous, you hand your rocketboard to Jake, who stores it away wherever he puts his giant guns. You don’t question it.
You’ve heard details about Derse from some of the patrons of Bro’s bar over the years. They’d described this place to you and told you about the theme. Kanaya even made you some super badass Derse-themed pajamas for your birthday years ago. You decided to throw them on before you came here, and you’re not regretting it. Though you’d worn the PJ’s in lovably over the years, the soft purple moon is still on the front, and the material still blends in with the shade of the buildings. You’ll never cease to be amazed at Kanaya’s abilities to match the perfect color.
Jake had a bit more trouble finding Derse clothing on such short notice. He had to settle for wearing one of your black wife-beater t-shirts and some black cargo pants. The combo actually doesn’t look too bad on him, and you’re a little sorry you can’t take more time to appreciate it.
John decided to keep his traditional blue clothes and since he’s like a bright blue beacon when he flies around, he grudgingly agreed to stay hidden when possible in a pocket of your shirt. You feel bad for the guy though and decide it wouldn’t hurt to let him sit on your shoulder instead.
“You’ve been here before,” you murmur, leaning closer to Jake than you really need to just because. “Any idea where to go from here?”
“My guess is the castle,” he replies, squinting off into the distance. “I don’t see it from here, but once we get moving, it will be impossible to miss.”
With a nod at each other, you and Jake are silently off. Sneaking around Derse isn’t as difficult as you had thought it might be. The inhabitants are relatively simple folk, and they don’t notice your presence. You do get a bit on edge when you see people you’ve killed and sent back to Derse parading around. You’re about to round a corner when you catch Vriska’s spidery form in your peripheral view. Hastily you and Jake duck back into the alleyway you came from and wait for her to pass.
There’s no sign of the agents. For all their notoriety, they certainly make themselves scarce to the public eye. It has you just a bit concerned. You know that they must be somewhere. Waiting. Watching.
As you slink around, slowly making your way to the giant purple castle in the distance, you remember something important.
Time passes differently on Derse. As one of the many dimensions of Hell, it has hellish properties. You don’t know the exact ratio, but what may only be a day back home could be much longer for residents of Derse. It’s how all the demons you fight regain their strength so “quickly.” You wonder how old demons like Damara and Vriska actually are.
You wonder how much time has passed for Dave.
The thought has you tempted to flashstep ahead, but you don’t want to risk getting careless. And Jake is kind of leading the way.
It isn’t too long before the castle is upon you. Shadowy purple ramparts loom above the castle walls whose bricks are ridden with the same glowing neon purple as the rest of Derse. Though there are many residents of Derse entering and exiting the castle, you don’t dare go in that way. You may blend in a little, but you’re nowhere near resembling a true Dersite.
You slink around the side of the castle and scale the wall to the ramparts above. Jake appears to be a pro at scaling, and he actually beats you up to the top. There are a few short guards slowly patrolling above, but they don’t seem to be paying much attention to anything at all. You decide that their interests must be fleeting with the amount of time they spend staring at the ground, the sky above, and in general spacing out at nothing.
It isn’t hard to work your way past them. When you’re finally in the castle proper, you make your way around, sticking to the walls, and hiding in the shadows of large suits of armor when Dersites come by. Jake seems somewhat familiar with the castle, and you let him again lead the way. It somehow all feels very cliché to you, but Jake appears to be nothing short of exhilarated. His green eyes are wide and alit with an enthusiastic energy that you find infectious. Yes, tonight you will save your little bro.
A few corridors later, you find yourself in the dungeons. Curiously you peer in through the tiny windows of the wooden cell doors. Miserable creatures are all slumped in the corners, hopeless and (in some cases) lifeless. You really hope you’re not too late.
You pick up the speed and almost pass by his room after a quick glance. But his telltale pale hair draws you back. Your little bro is sitting slumped in the corner of the cell, looking very much like all the other prisoners. His shades have been knocked to the other side of the room, leaving his disturbingly blank crimson stare visible.
You hear John’s scream, but by the time you realize what he’s about to do, you’re too late to stop him. He’s already flying through the tiny window cut into the door and into your starving incubus brother’s awaiting arms, heedless of the fact that he’s flying to his death.
John’s too small. He’s just too fucking small, and there’s no way he can possibly give Dave enough energy to live and not get himself killed in the process. If he could change his size, that might be a different story, but John can’t. He hasn’t learned yet, and Dave probably won’t even realize what he’s doing until it’s too late.
Dave really does seem delirious. His eyes are glazed over and frightfully red. Even more than usual. His arms are quivering from hunger as he holds them open, inviting John to embrace him. You know it will be an embrace of death. You’re not sure how much time has passed for him, but you’ve never seen your little bro this bad before.
It only takes an instant for John to get there. All these thoughts fly through your brain at light speed, but even though you’re a lock-picking and flash-stepping master (if you do say so yourself) you know that you’ll never be fast enough to reach Dave in time.
But in that instant it takes John to fly across the room, something happens. Something so incredible and mind blowing that you can’t react at first. Only your heart is able to do anything at all, swelling with both happiness and relief.
The tiny blue ball of light surrounding John grows. By the time he’s in Dave’s arms, he’s no longer pixie sized anymore. He’s regular human height. If he didn’t have those bright blue pixie wings, you’d never know the difference.
It takes a few more seconds before John and your bro realize what’s happened too. You see it the moment that it happens though. Dave actually pulls out of his delirium a bit in his surprise. Both their eyes are filled with disbelief, then overwhelming happiness. Their lips are together barely a second later.
You’re happy for your little bro and his boyfriend. You really are. But you also have common sense on your side, something that neither of them seem to possess right now. You quickly pick the lock to Dave’s cell and slip inside.
The look Dave gives you when you pull John away from him is murderous. You actually think he bares his fangs at you a bit, but you just shake your head ever so slightly at him. Gently, you remind him, “don’t wanna kill your boyfriend with your first kiss, now do you?”
He growls at you, lowly and predatorily, and you’re pretty sure John gasps a bit. The now-human-sized-fairy tugs against you a bit, desperate to get back into his boyfriend’s arms, but you hold him firmly in your grasp. “Don’t go to him, John. You’ve already given him enough to get going. He just needs to get his head back on straight.”
Dave growls again and flash-steps away from the wall, catching John back in his arms. He possessively pulls John to him tightly, breathing into the collar of his blue hoodie. His voice is muffled a bit by the fabric when he responds, “I can fucking control myself, Dirk. I just—I wanna hug my boyfriend.”
“Dave,” John murmurs softly, returning the embrace. It’s only a couple seconds before their lips are together again.
It’s cute, but you can sense what’s happening here. Despite Dave’s proud words, he is doing one lousy job of controlling himself right now. He’s pulling John’s energy to him at an alarming rate, and any moment now—
You catch the tiny blue fairy in your hands before he hits the ground. John’s returned to his normal pixie size, and he’s fast asleep in your palms. Carefully, you place him inside your shirt pocket, tisking at Dave, “I warned you, bro.”
Dave is frozen in place, his hands grasping the empty air where his boyfriend was just standing. His eyebrows turn upward and a look of remorse fleetingly crosses his face. “Oh fuck. Fuck I couldn’t—” his eyes turn to you imploringly, his hands reaching for your pocket. “Is he—?”
You flashstep away to the other side of the room, picking up Dave’s shades while you’re at it. “He’s sleeping, but he’s ok. You don’t get to touch him until you’re fully in control of yourself first,” you admonish him quietly.
Dave nods, swallowing the bitter medicine that you’ve given him. He gratefully accepts the shades when you hand them back to him and places them back on his face. After he dusts off his clothes, he turns back to you, sounding once again like your cocky little bro. “So you have a plan or do I have to break us all outta here?”
Getting back out of the castle is easier than getting in. At least, it’s a lot faster. Dave is less cautious about sneaking around, and when the guards catch sight of him, you all make a break for the exit. You’re through the portcullis before they can even think of lowering it. All of you tear through the streets of Derse, heedless of the Dersite’s open stares and occasional screeches of fury at you.
It gets a little seedy as Vriska finds you, attempting to trap you in her webs again. “Diiiiiiiirk Striiiiiiiider!!!” She screeches, knocking over two bystanding dersites as her mammoth spidery body turns the corner to follow you.
She may be huge, but she’s gaining on you. Vriska screams, swiping at you, her claws shearing off a few strands of your hair.
Way too close for comfort.
“Jake! Rocketboard!!” You shout, ducking as she reaches for you again.
It takes Jake less than a second to pull out your rocketboard. You all hop onboard, Jake and Dave clinging to you tightly as you ascend up into the sky. You zip easily over all the buildings and demons, avoiding their claws, tentacles and razor sharp teeth. In less than a minute, you’re back to the alley where your portal to the volcano awaits.
You’re through the portal and into the blazing heat of the volcano in record time. By the time you’re back at Bro’s lounge, you’re all a little worse for wear.
Bro’s already waiting outside, and he captures Dave in a tight hug, feeding him and murmuring something you can’t hear.
Jake has been silent the whole rocketboard trip, not that you would have heard him anyway over the rushing wind. He finally nudges you in the arm and murmurs, “is that what Bro did for you?”
You nod and add, “Bro gives the best hugs.”
Bro gives you a thumbs-up.
A minute or so later, he lets Dave go. Your little bro sheepishly comes back to you, holding his hands out expectantly. “Can I have him back now?”
“Show me your eyes,” you demand.
He tips his shades down a couple inches for you, allowing you to see his clear, completely lucid crimson eyes. You breathe a sigh of relief. He’s back in full control of himself now. Silently, you nod, gently removing a still slumbering John from your pocket and handing him over.
Dave accepts him carefully, his eyebrows again contorting with sorrow. “John, I’m so sorry,” he murmurs. John doesn’t respond, aside from sighing softly in his sleep and snuggling closer to Dave’s thumb.
Bro sends you all home a few seconds later. He looks tired. You doubt that feeding Dave helped with his exhaustion, but when you offer to help him work, he waves you off. “You’ll have plenty to do tomorrow, trust me. Get some sleep. Take Dave with you and keep an eye on him. And both of you,” Bro pauses for just a moment, making sure that he has Dave’s attention too. “Take care of each other. That goes without saying.”
You fistbump on it. It’s an unspoken promise.
And so it is that the four of you pile into your Jeep and head back to your place. At least, that’s the way you thought it was going to go.
“Wait!” Jane cries, waving her arms as she runs through the doors of the bar hastily. “Dirk, can I stay with you tonight? I don’t have a hotel room and at this hour—”
“Sure,” you say, indicated with a flick of your head to the back seat. “Hop in.”
Jake of course has to be a perfect gentleman. He quickly leaps out of your door-less Jeep, allowing Jane to ride in the front while he scoots into the back seat with Dave. You’re really not sure why, but you have a bad feeling about this development. Jane’s one of your dearest friends, and you’ve missed having time to chill with her. Having her visit for a few days shouldn’t be so bad.
Yet, somehow, you can’t shake the feeling that something is about to go terribly wrong. You push the feeling away and drive off into the night.