Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11
Dirk ==> Wake up
Over the past few months, you’ve become accustomed to waking up to a few things. The first is waking up alone in bed, and the second is the smell of Jake’s cooking.
Neither of those is true today.
The scent in the air is that of burning. (Dave must have tried to cook something again.) And Jake is most certainly still sleeping peacefully beside you. Gently, you caress the feather light wisps of his hair. As your fingers trail down to his cheek, you wonder why he’s so sleepy today.
And then you remember.
It hits you like a punch to the gut. Jake’s still under your influence, isn’t he?
You frown, pulling yourself out of the bed. Thankfully, you didn’t take your pants off until you reached Jake’s room, and you slip into your jeans while you think of what to do.
You really don’t know what the fuck to do. Do you release Jake from your influence now? What if he flips out at you again? And just what was that last night? You’ve heard of people not being themselves when they’re under another’s influence, but that was something else.
You do the only thing you can do. Reluctantly, you walk across the room and pick up your shades.
TimaeusTestified [TT] began pestering TimaeusTestified [TT] at 4:35
“Hey. AR. What the fuck do I do?” you think to your computer counterpart.
TT: Oh, I don’t know, you could just discard me like some piece of trash. Like last night.
“Sorry about that. Jake wasn’t himself.”
TT: You think? I was literally spelling it out for you.
“I figured that out. Look, normally I wouldn’t ask you for a damned thing, and you know it. But I actually need your help right now.”
TT: Take Jake off your influence.
You furrow your eyebrows together and think back, “What if he flips out again?”
TT: So what? Put him back under your influence.
You might not always agree with AR, but he does have a point. It couldn’t hurt to try.
So you go to Jake, lightly shaking him to alertness. “Hey, wake up.”
He slowly, sleepily, opens his eyes. They’re green, but you wince, seeing them still clouded over from your influence. Time to fix that.
You slip down your shades enough to lock gazes with him. Like ripping off a band-aid, you pull your suggestion from him.
Yours. Be you, Jake.
Sleepily, he blinks. His eyes rake over you, and he hesitantly murmurs, “Dirk?”
You breathe a sigh of relief. He’s Jake again. Your Jake.
“Hey, how’re ya feelin’?” You ask cautiously, a southern tenderness in your voice that would make you feel embarrassed if you weren’t so fucking worried about him.
“I feel a bit—drowsy,” Jake murmurs back, bringing a hand to his head. Slowly, he shakes his head back and forth, as if he’s shaking off a bad dream. “Strider, what happened last night? I recall meeting your friend Roxy, and we came back here. But after that—”
When Jake’s voice trails off, you debate what to tell him. Of course, nobody would know what’s going on with him better than he would, but do you really want to tell him everything that he did? Everything that you did?
You wince, remembering that relationships are a two way street. Yes, it’s your responsibility to tell him, as much as you hate to. So you open your mouth and reluctantly let the words spill out. “Jake, you weren’t yourself last night. I had to put you under my influence again. I’m sorry.”
Jake frowns then worries his lower lip for a few moments. Eventually, he says, “I wasn’t myself?”
“We started having sex and you got—aggressive?” you murmur.
“Aggressive?” he asks, his brows furrowed in an adorable way that is absolutely your Jake and definitely not whatever he was last night.
“You put your dick in me without any preparation or lube? I mean, I’m an incubus and I can take it. But that’s usually considered pretty aggressive?” You find yourself averting your gaze from his. Jake has somehow managed to make you uncomfortable with one of your most familiar topics: sex. You sigh with frustration and move along. “Look, anyway, I don’t know if that’s normal for you, but your eyes also changed color. They were red. Pretty sure that’s not normal.”
When you gaze back at Jake to gauge him, you’re a little surprised with what you find. Jake looks scared.
“Oh, oh God,” he murmurs. You can’t imagine what is going through his mind right now. He’s a shaking, perspiring, quivering mess. But tenderly, he reaches out for you, pulling you into a gentle warm embrace. “I’m so sorry, Dirk. I didn’t—hurt you, did I?”
“What? No, I’m fine,” you reassure him, gently working your arms around him and hugging him back. As you thread your fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck, your fingers brushing his skin, you taste his energy a bit. You’re relieved when you sense that he’s completely himself, but you frown when you feel what a nervous mess he is right now. Jake is feeling guilty, sad, and upset.
Jake is worried that he might lose you.
The thought hits your head with the utmost clarity. You would wonder how you know that for certain if you weren’t so distraught yourself that Jake is feeling this way. “Jake I’m not goin’ anywhere. Calm your shit down, bro,” you murmur into his hair, hugging him tightly to yourself.
“I’m so sorry—so so so sorry—” Jake murmurs, his voice a broken record.
You aren’t really sure what to do. You’ve never really been in such a serious relationship before, and you’ve never had one of your lovers break down on you like this. Usually, with your record, you get in, fuck, and get out before any of the emotional stuff can hit. It makes you sound like a heartless bastard, but you kind of are, which is why you’re completely at a loss right now.
So you do the only thing you can do. You keep holding him, gently reassuring him that you aren’t going anywhere. That he’s ok. That you’re ok. Neither of you were hurt. You’re both ok.
You hold him for at least half an hour.
Slowly, you feel him ease down from whatever panicked state he was in, until Jake is softly sighing, entwining his fingers in the tendrils of your messy morning hair just for the hell of it. When you sense that he is calm enough, you pull away, looking at his face. You aren’t surprised to see streaks left over from tears.
Holy shit. You made Jake cry. A twinge of remorse hits you in the gut.
Worst boyfriend. That continues to be you.
It isn’t until you both sit up that you even realize Jake is still naked. He looks a little flustered, stammers a small apology, and then hurries to throw some clothing on.
You’d be lying if you said that seeing Jake’s naked body doesn’t slightly turn you on. You’re still a bit peckish, but you aren’t about to suggest doing anything right now. Instead, you distract yourself by finding and pulling on your own shirt. You get the feeling it was somehow your fault that this happened anyway. That Jake probably tried to warn you again yesterday and that you didn’t listen to him.
TimaeusTestified [TT] began pestering TimaeusTestified [TT] at 5:15
TT: Maybe that’s because he DID warn you and you DIDN’T listen. Again.
You take off your shades and fold them, clipping an arm through the nape of your shirt. You were thankful for his advice earlier, but AR’s bullshit is absolutely not what you need right now.
When you’re both dressed, he pauses with a hand on the doorknob. “Ready to go out and face the world?” he asks, a bright smile on his face. Oh, how you’ve missed that smile.
You give him a small grin and nod back.
Unfortunately, facing the world actually translates to dealing with Dave and John, who have somehow managed to destroy your kitchen. They sit at the kitchen table silently watching as you walk into the kitchen, then walk out carrying a pan caked with black goo. “Which one of you am I blaming for this?”
Immediately, Dave and John point to each other.
Before they can even say anything, you set the pan on the table. “Doesn’t matter, you’re both either cleaning this one or buying Jake a new one.”
“Jake?” Dave asks, quirking an eyebrow. “Thought those were your pans, bro.”
“We all know who does the cooking around here, chap!” Jake responds, poking his head out of the kitchen and smiling brightly. Then he waves an unmarred pan around happily. “Look, I found one they didn’t ruin!”
You give Dave and John a look. John yelps and flies backward into Dave’s chest, and even your lil’ bro looks a little nervous. Oh that’s right. No shades. They can see exactly what look you’re giving them right now.
Good. You don’t bother leaning forward or doing anything else that could be seen as slightly intimidating. All you say is, “you’re lucky.”
Though really, you think that you’re all lucky to have Jake around. His breakfasts continue to be amazing. This morning he prepares you all French toast, topped with peaches and an apple glace that looks extremely Jane-inspired. It seems like he’s trying extra hard with his breakfast this morning, measuring the ingredients out with precision rather than just eyeballing it and dumping whatever he feels like together.
When he sets the plates of French toast on the table, you distinctly hear it.
Jake’s sorry. He feels terrible about last night, and he wants to make up for it.
You furrow your brows, glancing up at him. “No need to be sorry, English. Keep making breakfasts like these, and we’re completely golden,” you respond, doing your best to make him feel more at ease.
However your response seems to have exactly the opposite effect. Jake looks shocked. “Strider I never said—”
But before Jake can finish, John does a fucking face plant into the giant stack of French toast placed in front of him, which is easily 10 times his size. “Yeah!!!” He whoops with joy, getting covered in the syrupy mess of apples and peaches.
“Gross dude,” Dave says between bites of his French toast. Without missing a beat, he glances up at you, “so, fairy forest today?”
You roll your eyes at him. “Maybe later this week.”
Dave sighs heavily. John makes a small embarrassed noise and hides his flushed face in a pile of peaches.
* * *
Dirk ==> What the fuck is Bro doing?
Yeah, what the fuck is he doing?
You hear his voice as you walk down the hallway to his office. When you enter the room, he glances up at you, then glances at his computer screen. He quickly says, “Yep, thought so. Gotta go.”
He snaps his laptop shut in an extremely suspicious way. Even though you’ve decided to put your shades back on, so you know he can’t see your eyes, you still eye him in question. “Bro, what were you—”
“You’ll see later,” he responds, abruptly cutting you off. Then, he glances at you up and down. “You’re both in one piece. Good. You had a visitor last night?”
“Yeah,” you murmur back. But strangely, you don’t feel the choked feeling you usually do when you think about Roxy. Somehow, knowing that she’s doing just fine out there all on her own gives you solace. Now that you think about it, it’s exactly as she would have wanted things.
Roxy always fought for those revolutionary ideals. Being an angel puts her in a position to impact some of the most influential beings in the world. It gives her a chance to fight from the other side.
And you suddenly realize, Roxy is exactly where she was always meant to be.
Bro smiles at you and ruffles your hair. He snickers and jumps back when you scowl and slash your katana at him for daring to mess with your perfectly styled locks. “Glad to see you figured it out,” he murmurs back.
For a moment, he simply looks at you fondly. Like he’s extremely proud of you. Suddenly, you’re getting flashbacks to John’s dad.
“Oh no, don’t you dare lump me in with him,” he says, waggling a finger at you. Then, without another word, he shoves your assignment paper in your face and ushers you back out the door.
* * *
Dirk ==> Chill with Jake
Fuck yes. You will do all the chilling with Jake.
Your targets were painfully easy, and you’re sitting on your futon playing Call of Duty before you know it. Jake is actually a little bit better at this game than Halo.
He still doesn’t match your skill though.
After dying for the twenty third time, Jake finally tosses the controller aside and announces, “I’ve finished with this one, Strider!”
You snort back, “Oh? I couldn’t tell.”
“Oh sod off,” he chuckles back, leaning in closer to you. “You know, Dirk, I was wondering. Did you—last night—that is to say, do you need—?”
“Good for another day or two,” you respond to his horribly worded question smoothly, placing your own controller down on the table. Slowly, you turn towards him, slipping off your shades so that he can see your eyes and the true feeling behind your words. “Jake, I know you’re blaming yourself for last night, but don’t. It was my fault things happened like they did. You tried to warn me, and I didn’t listen to you. I’m sorry.”
“Dirk,” he murmurs, his voice trailing off as he quietly chews his bottom lip. He’s on the verge of telling you something. Something big. You just know it.
He can’t tell you yet. He can’t lose you.
Somehow you know that’s what is going through his mind. Again. Just like earlier this morning.
You sigh, “Jake, hey. You know I’d never leave you, right?”
Jake blinks at you from behind his glasses, a look of shock similar to the one he wore this morning on his face. “Dirk, how do you keep doing that?” He asks.
“Doing what?” you ask.
“You keep—” Jake begins.
And with perfect timing as usual, Dave busts loudly through the door, going on about how he needs some applejuice after today.
Whatever. Like everything, you know Jake will tell you later.
In fact, weeks pass by without him ever bringing anything like that up again. Fortunately, he never doubts that you’ll stay with him. And after waiting just one more day, he is more than eager to pull you back into bed for your favorite reasons.
The following days are simply divine. In the least holy sense of the word. You haven’t loved this much, or fed this much, in decades. You’d forgotten what an impact it has on you.
For so long, you’d skated by on the bare minimum, just feeding when you needed it to survive. You had long come to grips with your nature, but it didn’t mean you had to like it. But once Jake decided to show you his affections every day, sometimes more than once a day, you started to notice the difference.
You’re stronger. You’re faster. If Bro tried to strife you now, you think you might actually win. Ok, probably not. Bro is one tough motherfucker. But you would definitely give him a run for his money.
And best of all, Jake doesn’t seem to be affected at all. If you do it right, and by now you’d hope that you do, your lovers never feel the draining, listless feeling when an incubus feeds from them. Quite the opposite, if you do it right, your lovers are extra charged after you make love to them.
You didn’t think it was possible, but Jake is even more energetic than before. Which means, he’s twice as reckless as before, and five times more likely to jump head-on into danger.
In short, Jake is becoming an increasingly difficult partner to work with. He seems to have lost what few inhibitions he had. PDAs are now nearly synonymous with Jake, which you appreciate but find highly distracting. It’s especially bad when he shows you affection and then doesn’t hesitate to charge blindly into danger.
Thankfully, none of your foes have been very challenging yet. You think that Bro’s given the more difficult adversaries to Dave, and you’re silently grateful for that. Quite a few nights, Dave has come back fuming and ranting. Your stores of applejuice have diminished significantly.
The weeks waltz from one to the next, and you’re happily high on Jake the whole time. You love him. You love him you love him you love him, and if he has some horrible secret to hell with it. You don’t care.
You’ll always love Jake, and nothing will ever come in between you two.
* * *
Dirk ==> Go to work
Three months go by. Three of the happiest months of your life. Your targets are simple, Haven is thriving, and your relationship with Jake brings an unabashed smile to your face every time you think of it.
Jake has only hesitated to show you love on a couple rare occasions, both times on the night of the full moon. It’s too much of a coincidence to not notice now, and your mind is going crazy wondering. So you just do it, you ask him.
“Jake, are you a werewolf?” you ask, the first night of the full moon after he shows a bit of hesitation removing his shirt.
Jake laughs, and flexes back. His taut muscles ripple desirably, accented by the moonlight as he pulls off his shirt and tosses it aside. You drink in the sight of your fucking gorgeous boyfriend.
Oh fuck, that’s not even fair. You want him, and you really hope he isn’t about to tell you that you can’t have him.
“A werewolf? Goodness, no,” he says. You’re about to sigh with relief when he continues, “I wish it were that simple.”
“Jake—” you murmur. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
He catches your drift, rather quickly this time. “A-another time, all right, old bean?”
Reverting to calling you silly things like “old bean” and “my good fellow.” Things Jake does only when he’s really nervous about something now. You slowly sigh and nod. You aren’t going to push him. Jake shouldn’t ever feel threatened by you. “Sure, whenever you’re ready. And if you don’t want sex, we don’t have to. I mean, you’ve given me plenty to get by for another couple weeks.”
“I—appreciate that offer,” Jake murmurs, walking up to you and pulling you into his arms. He rests his head on your shoulder with a soft sigh and kisses your cheek. You feel the warmth of his love blooming inside you, the gentle licks of his passion radiating from his kiss through your whole body. Fuck do you love this man. “In truth, these nights are a little—difficult for me. Perhaps we could engage in some spectacular cuddling instead?”
You won’t lie, you’re disappointed. But at the same time, the thought of just being next to Jake, drinking in his warmth and love, gives you more happiness than sex ever could. So you murmur back into his hair, “I’m gonna cuddle the shit out of you.”
And you do. Every night of the full moon you do. You’ve tried extra hard to be conscious of Jake’s feelings, and you are pleased to say you’ve gotten better at picking up his uncertainties. At recognizing when something makes him uncomfortable.
It’s not that hard, really, since Jake is always so enthusiastic about anything and everything. If he ever hesitates with anything, you know it makes him uncomfortable. AR teases you about that every now and then, chiding you on how long it took you to figure that out. But hey, you aren’t going to discredit yourself. You were Jake-blinded.
And you suppose you still are. Jake Jake Jake. He’s your entire world now, and you are loving every minute of it.
Yes you’ve been caught grinning like an idiot on more than one occasion. Dave gives you shit for it, but he stops when you threaten not to let him go back to the fairy forest. You’ve actually let him borrow your rocketboard quite a few times now. It didn’t take long to teach him how to use it, and soon he was more than capable of flying himself and John back to the forest without your help. He’s made the trip a decent number of times now. Each time, you both conveniently decide you won’t bother mentioning it to Bro. Not that he can’t pick it out of your minds anyway. But Bro doesn’t seem to care.
Tonight is one of these nights. You’ve just waved Dave and John off before their trip to fairyland, and you’re swinging into Haven with some of your favorite sick beats pumping through your stereo. Jake is attached to your hip as usual, and even though you had sex earlier today, the look he is giving you makes you heavily anticipate getting back home from work tonight.
When you get to Haven, Bro pulls you into his office. Alone.
Whatever, he’s weird. You’ll explain to Jake later.
“No, you won’t explain to him later,” Bro says, plucking the thoughts rudely out of your head.
You wait for him to elaborate on that, but he doesn’t. Bro is being oddly silent, pensive almost. On the surface, anyone else would think that he is calm, cool, and collected as usual. But you know the truth. You know Bro better than anyone, you think.
Bro is nervous and scared. What the fuck could be making your ultimate badass brother nervous and scared?
“Heh, you do know me better than anyone,” Bro chuckles, but it’s a hollow laugh. “And you know, it takes a lot of Strider cool to be the ultimate badass. You sure you’re man enough for that?”
“You know I’m game. What’s the deal?” you ask.
“The deal is that it’s April the 5th,” he says, as if that makes perfect sense to everyone. “And your assignment today is the Old Plaza Mall.”
TimaeusTestified [TT] began pestering TimaeusTestified [TT] at 7:45
“Ok?” You say, not really understanding what the big deal is. April the 5th has never been an important day. And it’s not the first time Bro’s sent you to the old plaza mall.
TT: DIRK! Hey listen to me for one fucking second! Something’s wrong with Bro.
You pause. Something does seem to be really off about him.
TT: I’m telling you be careful he’s—
Bro walks up to you, and for a second, you think he’s looking into your eyes. But his words surprise you. “Hey AR,” he says, clearly not talking to you. “Run file Broistheultimatebadass.exe”
TT: What the fuck? How does he know my name? How is he—
Suddenly, the chat box disappears from your view.
AR is gone.
“Bro, what’d you do to AR?” you ask, frowning, suddenly suspicious.
“Nothing much,” Bro reassures you. “I just wanted him to shut up for one fucking second. He’ll be back before you know it.”
That sounds about right. AR is nothing if not tenacious. Bro might be a programming genius, but there’s no way he could have known every single place AR probably backed up his program. Still, you wonder why Bro decided to shut AR up today and never any other day.
Bro doesn’t answer your unspoken question. Instead, he asks, “Dave’s staying with John in the fairy forest today, yeah?”
“Yeah. He just left,” you answer slowly. But he left in secrecy, and you know you haven’t thought about Dave since entering Haven. Bro couldn’t have possibly picked it out of your head. “How do you know—”
Bro reminds you, “info is what I do, remember?”
Before you can do anything, he leans in and captures you in a tight embrace.
And he pumps you full of more love and energy than you think he ever has.
His energy is warm, it’s soft, and it’s full of the tenderest brotherly love possible. Bro’s showing you his gentle side, another unusual occurrence. You’re certain you must be glowing with the radiance of his energy. “Dude, you’re freakin’ the shit out of me. You’re never like this. What’s going on, Bro?” You ask hesitantly.
“Striders look out for each other. Striders stick together. Remember that,” Bro tells you, repeating the mantra he’s inducted into you for as long as you can remember.
“Yeah, I don’t think I could forget that if I tried,” you respond uneasily. “Seriously, Bro, is something going down today I don’t know about?”
When he pulls away from you, Bro is back to his usual stoic self. But you felt the emotion packed behind the energy he handed off to you. You felt his love, his care, his fear. “You’re going to the Old Plaza Mall today to take care of some zombies that have been congregating there. Dust them, and come straight back here. Don’t get distracted. No detours.”
The assignment sounds simple enough. So what the fuck is Bro’s problem? You get the feeling that even if you tried asking again he wouldn’t tell you.
So, you don’t bother. Instead, you nod and say, “ok, but do me a favor and chill a little. Gonna freak everyone around here out with that attitude of yours.”
As you turn around to leave, Bro shouts after you, “She’ll help you!”
You turn your head and face him sidelong. That little outburst was so unlike Bro that you’re literally thrown off. “What?”
“She’ll help you,” Bro repeats, a little quieter this time. “That’s all you need to know. Trust me on this one. I promise it’ll be the last time you’ll ever have to just take my word for things again.”
“The last time?” you ask, spinning fully around and marching back in front of your older brother. He always seemed so much more important than you, so much better, so much taller. But in this moment, he’s just another incubus, no better than you, and shockingly, he’s exactly your height. In this moment, Bro is just your brother. “Bro, what are you planning? For fuck’s sake, tell me.”
He shakes his head. “It’s not about me lil’ man, it’s about what’s in here,” he says, tapping his index finger to your forehead.
You gaze critically at Bro. Your eyes see his smile, but you can feel the sadness on him. And more than all, you feel his overwhelming sense of pride.
What is going on with him? Somehow, you know that you won’t have a chance to ask him later.
This is it.
The thought is crazy. It makes absolutely no sense. You see Bro every day, like it or not. He’s always been a part of your life, always there to save you. Why are you suddenly getting this horrible feeling that you’ll never see him again?
You do your best to shake it away, nodding at him slowly. “Bro? Don’t do anything crazy, ok?”
“Never dream of it,” he says, sounding incredibly sincere. “Dirk, I’m proud of you.”
It’s the most praise Bro’s given you since—well, ever. He’s practically telling you he worships the ground at your feet.
He loves you.
There’s no mistaking it. That’s exactly what he meant when he said he was proud of you.
You catch the gasp before it makes it out of your throat. Striders don’t gasp. At least, not in front of Bro they don’t.
“No they don’t, but you remember what Striders do, right?” Bro asks gently.
“Striders stick together,” you murmur back.
“Damn straight,” he says, then pats you on the back. Bro gazes at you just a moment longer before cocking his head to the side and giving you a grin. “Now go get ‘em, lil’ man! Make your older bro proud!”
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” you murmur, not bothering to say bye as you walk out the door.
“I know you will,” Bro says back quietly as the door shuts behind you.
* * *
Dirk ==> Fight some zombies!
The Old Plaza Mall is a picturesque vision of urban decay. Scrapped storefronts and graffitied walls surround you and Jake. Escalators that haven’t functioned for at least a few decades are sprinkled about, and in many places the ceiling tiles cave through the flakey asbestos covered scaffolding. Multi-paneled windows are nothing but cracked and shattered glass now. The remnants litter the ground, crunching beneath your boots as you walk through.
For a few seconds, there’s silence.
And then, you hear the moaning, the distinctive shuffling, and you smell the putrid decay of your targets. Seconds later, the rotting bags of flesh themselves begin to pour out of the storefronts.
There are hundreds of them.
The sound of Jake cocking his shotgun reaches your ears, and you turn to see him grinning maniacally. “Ready for some target practice, Strider?”
“Born ready,” you grin back, pulling out your katana and taking a dramatic pose, just for fun.
There is no countdown. You haven’t needed that for a long time now. As one, you and Jake both rush forward, Jake with his guns blazing and you with your sword slashing.
The zombies don’t stand a chance. You split up, covering the upper and lower floors of the mall, chancing running up and down the escalators and jumping from store to store. Chunks of obliterated zombie rain on the floor like a summer monsoon.
In ten minutes flat, you are both back to where you started. Jake twirls his shotgun merrily while you wipe the zombie dust off your blade. “I’d say we accomplished that in record time, wouldn’t you?” Jake asks, stashing his gun away.
“Hell yeah. Now let’s get the fuck out of here,” you murmur, not mentioning why you’re so anxious to leave.
* * *
Dirk ==> Go help Bro!
Bro. You are really worried about Bro.
You can’t get back to Haven fast enough.
Really, you can’t. Before you’re even back, you already smell the burning in the air. You can see the light of the flames from miles away, and damn it your Jeep won’t drive any faster than 120 mph!!!
The black smoke fills the air for blocks around Haven, and you hear Jake coughing a bit as you pull up as close as you dare to go. You’re both out of your Jeep and running. Concerned, you glance briefly at Jake, noting that he’s covering his mouth with his sleeve as he goes. Once again, you are thankful you don’t need to breathe.
“You ok?” you ask him as you run.
Jake’s eyes look a bit teary from the smoke, but he nods at you decisively. His voice is muffled from his shirt, but you hear him say, “Yes, let’s hurry!”
The orangish glow of fire spews from the front door and all the windows of Haven. You really hope that everyone got out of there already, because you know that even with Jane’s life magic, there’s no coming back from being completely burnt alive.
Oh shit. Bro was in there. You just know he was in there.
Suddenly your last conversation comes back to you, his words flying by at light speed. Your eyes widen with realization.
He knew he was never going to see you again. He knew this was going to happen.
“BRO!!!” You scream, about to run into the building.
But something holds you back. More like, someone holds you back.
You turn around to find Jake firmly grasping your arm. “You can’t go in there, Dirk!!! You’ll be roasted alive!!!” he shouts at you over the sound of the wreckage.
“Bro’s in there! I have to help him!” You yell back.
“You got bigger concerns to worry your pretty little selves about.”
The voice catches you off-guard. You were so focused on the burning Haven, on the thought of losing Bro, that you completely neglected the most obvious question of all.
Why is Haven on fire?
And the second question comes to your mind a few seconds too late.
Who did this?
Your face is on the pavement half a second later, and for a few moments, your vision bursts into horribly bright darkness. When your sight returns to you, the first thing you see is Jake, similarly on the ground beside you, his face pressed against the cement and his glasses crooked and cracked on his face.
You struggle to get up, only to find that your body is firmly bound up in restraints. Your arms are crossed over themselves behind your back, and your legs are tied together. You can see out of the corner of your vision that whoever did this pulled quite a number on Jake, binding him completely from his neck down. You can only imagine you are in a similar state.
Suddenly, you feel a sharp stab in your side, and your chest is on fire. You cough, and specks of blood sprinkle the sidewalk next to you.
“Hey watch it, Slick! You gonna undo my pretty little binding!” The voice is scrawny, male, and reminds you of what weasels would sound like, if they could talk. It’s the same voice that told you that you had bigger concerns just a few seconds ago. You would guess that it’s the demon responsible for Haven’s burning.
You hate him immediately. And he is definitely a demon, with the same foul energy as Spades Slick. There is no mistaking it.
He’s one of the Midnight Crew.
“Trust me, dis guy deserves everythin’ I’ma gonna do,” a voice that you recognize as Spades Slick says from beside you. A second later, you feel the sharp stab of his knife in your side again, and you bite the side of your cheek, determined not to give him the satisfaction of hearing you scream.
“Ain’t that enough? Won’t boss be mad?” a third voice, thicker, deeper, asks slowly.
“We’re all in deep shit if we don’t get back soon!” A fourth voice, smaller, meeker than the rest, declares.
Just how many of these guys are there?
Jake is hauled out of your view, and your thoughts immediately fly to helping him. “JAKE!” You shout, struggling to do something. Anything. But, once again, you find that you are completely unable to move.
And then you feel yourself behind lifted into the air. You’re thrown over the shoulder of someone very large. Spades Slick shoves his face in front of yours, so close that you can taste his evil energy and smell his foul breath. His grin is impossibly large as he slowly runs his knife from your neck up to your chin, drawing a thin line of blood in its wake.
“Aww, ya worried about youse lover? How precious,” Spades croons insidiously. “Don’t ya worry, I’ma take real good care of him.”
“Don’t touch him, Spades! I swear if you do I’ll,” you begin to shout, but you stop when you hear a sound you never wanted to hear.
A soft whimper. From Jake. He’s holding it back, but he’s in pain. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
“JAKE!!!” You scream again. You take a breath, ready to scream more, but suddenly you feel a blunt pain in the back of your head.
For a moment, the world is bright and filled with agony.
Then, there is nothing but darkness.