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Chapter 18: Save the World
Dirk ==> Be Bro
Yeah, you’re still not really sure how to do that. Bro always had all the answers. He knew what he was doing and he got shit done. He was cool.
Sitting huddled in the damp cellar of your parents’ home, whose deaths earlier today were entirely your fault, makes you feel less than cool. In fact, you feel the exact opposite of cool. But you’re not about to admit that.
Dirk wears himself out and falls asleep against you, just as Dave begins to wake. Slowly, Dave opens his eyes and blinks at you. “Hey, lil’ bro,” you murmur to him softly.
Dave, naturally, doesn’t respond. Instead he opens his mouth, yawning and working up the beginnings of a cry.
And you see them. Two sharp little teeth.
You shouldn’t be surprised. You have them too, but you’ve never had to use them. Usually, you forget that they’re even there. It’s not like they are usually much longer than your other teeth or attract any kind of attention. You don’t smile wide enough for anyone to see them anyway. Only in rare circumstances has Dave ever bared them at you. In fact, the only time that comes to mind is when you took John away from him after he had been trapped and starved in that Derse cell months ago.
But in infancy, Dave’s fangs are definitely pronounced, especially since he doesn’t seem to have any of his other teeth. You didn’t think babies were supposed to be born with teeth anyway. What the hell?
Rose’s words come back to you. She could feed him her milk, but you’re going to have to feed him another way: your blood.
It starts to make sense. Frowning, you reach behind you, where you realize your katana and your father’s are both still strapped to your back. Did you really never take them off this whole time? Apparently you didn’t.
Gently, you nick the skin of your thumb enough to draw blood and place it next to the baby’s mouth. Instantly, he begins to suck at your thumb, gurgling happily as he slowly pulls your blood into him.
This is so not your favorite feeling in the world. But at least it’s keeping Dave quiet so that you can think about what to do. Just what the fuck do you do?
You’re stuck in the middle of a war zone with two children, one that isn’t even a day old. Your parents are dead, your boyfriend is currently a universe-destroying monster, and the guardian that you were counting on to save you from this whole mess is actually you.
Just. Fucking. Fantastic.
You sigh. You’re not even sure how you’re going to get out of this cellar.
“C’mon Bro,” you murmur to yourself. “What would you do here? What did you do?”
You think back to Bro’s last conversation with you. It was a long time ago, but you dig back into your memory and try to pull out what he said. Because somehow you know he wouldn’t have left you without some kind of clue. Think, did anything sound weirder than usual?
“She’ll help you.”
Oh fuck no.
There’s only one she you know in the past that isn’t dead right now. You wrack your brain for someone, anyone else that Bro might have been referring to.
But you come up empty handed. And knowing just how—close— Bro was with her makes your skin crawl. It also makes you realize that there is absolutely nobody else it could be.
Her Imperious Condescension. Betty.
“She’ll help you. 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.”
You sigh a lamentable sigh of defeat, because you know that you have nowhere else to turn right now. You literally don’t know a single other soul in the past. And, with the war between humans and demons happening, finding a safe place for your brothers is critical.
What place could be safer than the Condesce’s castle in Derse?
Dirk is still sleeping beside you, and with Dave still sucking greedily away at your thumb, the small incision you made earlier hasn’t closed yet. You can’t leave for her castle until the kids are ready.
Suddenly, you feel very confined by it all. Is this the feeling that parents have when they first realize that their time isn’t their own? That everything they do from this moment out will be for their children? That they might not be able to take legendary infinite showers ever again?
You sweep the feeling away. Nope. Not worth thinking about it right now. You have other things to think about, such as what you’re going to do with your universe-destroying boyfriend when you eventually run into him again.
By now, you know that you can’t kill Jake. But somehow, the universe is fine in the future, which means that you must figure out a way to deal with Lord English.
Think. What did Bro do? What will you do? There must be something that’s happened in the last few days that can help you. Something you realized or something you learned.
Maybe something your father told you?
Suddenly, it hits you. You think about your father’s words. Something that you can do but have never really done before. That you have dabbled in but never to this extent.
You know how you are going to defeat Lord English. It will be risky, and you might fail. But you would rather chance it all and die trying than let the universe end knowing that you never tried.
But if it works out the way you’re thinking in your head, you can defeat Lord English and save Jake.
You really hope you don’t fuck this up.
* * *
Dirk ==> Calm Dave down
That is an exceedingly hard thing to do when you’re trying to clear away enough debris to escape the cellar. You’ve been working at it for a couple hours now, slowly moving the remains of the collapsed walls above you out of the way while Dirk plays with Lil’ Cal and Dave struggles uncomfortably in his swaddling on the bed.
For the fifth time, Dave cries. You sigh, setting aside a large piece of timber so that you can come to the baby’s side. Gently you pick him up and bounce him a bit in your arms. The last few times, this calmed him down quickly enough, but this time his cries aren’t stopping. “Hey lil’ man. What are you crying for?”
“Dave is hungry,” Dirk answers for him.
You glance at Dirk sharply. Were your senses really that sharp already at the age of 3? Focusing on Dave, you realize that Dirk is right. You can sense his tiny lick of hunger. As if Dave were giving you more clues, he opens his mouth again, showing you his tiny little teeth, though he doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. He cries in frustration.
You had been so wrapped up moving the debris that you hadn’t been paying attention to your little brother’s needs. You hadn’t noticed, but Dirk had.
With a sigh, you make a small cut on your thumb again and offer it to Dave. He quiets his cries as he slowly takes to sucking at your thumb. You’re going to have to figure out how to feed his incubus urges soon too, otherwise you’re certain this child is going to bleed you dry.
“Dirk, you should eat something too,” you tell him, indicating with a nod of your head toward the cabinet where you found the dried food. “Eat what you want from there and gather up the rest. We’ll need it soon.”
Dirk turns to Lil’ Cal, taking a moment to readjust the puppet so that it’s facing him. After staring into its lifeless eyes for a moment, he turns to you and says, “ok. Lil’ Cal thinks it is a good idea too.”
You watch with morbid fascination as Dirk carefully collects Lil’ Cal and carries the puppet with him. Then, he sets it gently to the side while he opens the cabinet doors and starts snacking on some dried apricot slices. Haphazardly, he stuffs other dried fruits into his pockets for later.
Dirk always liked the puppet, but you didn’t think he liked it this much?
Unless—oh shit. This is your fault too, isn’t it?
“Lil’ Cal’s gonna protect you, ok? He’ll make sure your momma’s ok. That everything is ok.”
You influenced him, and now he believes that. This is the beginning of that unnatural obsession you always had with Lil’ Cal, for all of those years.
Your obsession with Lil’ Cal freaked the fuck out of some of your lovers, especially Caliborn. As much as you bickered with Caliborn, he was eventually the reason you gave up Lil’ Cal and delegated him to his box in the closet. You moved around a little bit in that time with Caliborn. Gained and lost a few things along the way. After you broke up with Caliborn, you searched for the box, but it was missing. You hated yourself for that for a while, and you never fully got over it.
Now you finally understand why it was so hard to give that puppet up. It was your fault. You put the suggestion there in your own 3 year old mind.
But you’re not about to try and remove it now. Dirk needs to continue believing that you’re Bro. And if he happens to have a little bit of an infatuation with Lil’ Cal while he’s at it? Well. Worse things could happen. Besides, Lil’ Cal is the shit.
Dave finally decides that he’s sampled enough of your blood, and he spits your thumb out, drooling a bit on himself. Your thumb heals up in a matter of seconds now that he isn’t drawing from it, and you search for something to wipe away his spittle.
Eventually, you settle for the orange scarf that you’re still wearing around your neck. Rose washed it for you along with all your other clothes when you first arrived in the past, so you figure it’s clean enough for Dave.
A small sad smile crosses your lips as you think of who gave you that scarf. Jake meant to give it to you on your birthday, and you suppose it kind of is your birthday. You sort of cheated your way to the date, but it is likely still December the 3rd.
You can just imagine Jake standing there with a gift, wrapped half in green paper and half in tape, smiling that fucking adorable bucktooth smile at you while he holds the present out to you and says, “Happy Birthday, old chap!” You can see his anticipation, the rapt fixation of his eyes on your hands as you slowly, tantalizingly, tear away the tape one piece at a time. You can hear his whine of impatience as you tease him with the agony of waiting to see your reaction. And you can imagine the look of happiness on his face as you pull the scarf out of the wrapping, allowing a small smile on your lips because you know how big of a smile you get from him when you do that.
You want that smile now and forever. You want Jake. You want him all for yourself, and it’s not fucking fair that he’s trapped inside Lord English’s body. But you’re going to get him out. You’re going to save Jake, if it’s the last thing that you do.
And it literally may be the last thing you do. Especially if it doesn’t work out the way you plan.
But you can’t do any of that while you sit here holding a now softly cooing Dave. He’s looking sort of at you, you think. His eyes cross slightly as he tries to fixate his gaze on you. He’s so freakin’ cute that you have to remind yourself of what a little shit he’s going to grow up to be. You carefully move the baby back to the safe place in the center of the bed, where he can’t possibly roll off. With a heavy sigh, you return to your work.
Another hour later, you finally see the light of day. It takes you another ten minutes to clear a large enough path for you to get through, but finally it’s done. Carefully, you collect Dave, holding him close to your chest. Then, you turn to Dirk. “All right, lil’ man, ready to get the fuck out of here?”
Dirk looks at you. Then, he looks at Lil’ Cal. He looks back at you and nods. “We are ready.”
Yeah. That’s not going to get annoying at all. But whatever, you’ll deal.
“Also Lil’ Cal wants to know what a ‘fuck’ is,” Dirk asks.
You freeze in place. You are so not ready for this conversation yet.
“I’ll tell you later,” you brush the question off, urging him out of the room toward daylight.
You walk down the stone passageway to freedom, up the wooden stairs, and bask in the light of the sun above. From here, it’s going to be a little bit difficult to pick your way through the debris. Dirk is ahead of you, and he seems to be having the same thoughts as you. Uncertainly, he glances back at you.
“Get on my shoulders,” you tell him. It takes him a few seconds, but eventually, he manages to maneuver Lil’ Cal around enough that he can still hold onto him, climb down a step or two, and work his way onto your shoulders. “Ok, hold tight, because I can’t hold you and Dave and climb up at the same time.”
When you feel him grasp his little fingers tightly around your neck, you are thankful once again that you don’t have to breathe. Carefully, you begin picking your way up through the wreckage of the home. When you finally reach the top, you step out onto a pile of rubble.
The entire house was flattened above you. You’re lucky, actually, that neither of the chimneys fell across the top of the trapdoor. That would have taken much longer to clear away. As it was, you only had one wall and part of the roof to remove.
When you’re finally free of all the wreckage, you think about setting Dirk back down on the grass, but then you decide against it. Instead, you ask him, “have you ever flash-stepped before?”
You feel him shake his head above you. You grin and murmur, “hang on tight.” His grip on you tightens again, and just to be on the safe side, you put your free hand behind his back to keep him in place.
Then you start the flash-stepping journey to the portal to Derse.
Dirk lets out a squeal of surprise at first, leaning over onto your head and clinging to you tighter. Then, you hear his laughter, and feel the light fluttering of happiness in his heart. Oh yes. You are going to teach this kid to flashstep ASAP.
Dave surprisingly sleeps through the entire trip. In a little over an hour, you’ve reached the same copse of pine trees that your father brought you to. You know that Derse’s portal is buried within.
“This is going to hurt a little bit, but you’ll be ok,” you murmur, finally pulling Dirk off your shoulders. You cradle him and Lil’ Cal in the arm not holding Dave. Then you turn your back to the trees, using your body as a shield for your brothers. Dave is small enough that he doesn’t get pricked at all. Dirk winces a couple times, but he doesn’t complain. Lil’ Cal continues to look at you with those unblinking eyes.
You smile. Lil’ Cal’s cool as shit.
And then you’re through the trees. The dark portal swirls in front of you, beckoning you to jump in.
For the first time during this trip, Dirk makes a small sound of protest. You look at him, and he looks back at you. “It looks scary in there.”
“Trust me, there are scarier things out here,” you mutter. “But I don’t want you to have to deal with them. That’s why I’m bringing you here.”
Dirk frowns and asks, “Bro, are you bringing me to a babysitter?”
You laugh and say, “I guess I am.”
You walk through the portal, instinctively holding your brothers tighter to you. You remember the way through the castle to the throne room, and though you don’t recall any dangers, you still keep your guard up. The guard at the door tries to stop you, but you flashstep past him into the throne room.
Her Imperious Condescension is lounging on the throne, spinning her golden trident absently as she eyes a glowing sphere in her hand. She doesn’t bother looking up at you. She knows you’re there. Her voice drifts lazily across the room as she says, “you’ve caused a lot a trouble, Dirk Strider.”
Dirk furrows his brows and looks up at you in question.
“Bro,” you correct her. “My name’s Bro.”
At this, she actually does look up and cackle. Then she lets out a short sigh, and in a drawling voice, she says, “call yourself whatever you want, Bro, it doesn’t change what you did. Or rather. What you didn’t.”
Slowly, you start to approach the throne where she is sitting, watching her and carefully keeping all your senses sharp to gauge her reaction. The atmosphere is tense, and you know that she’s watching you too. Judging you. One wrong move and you and your brothers could all die in a matter of moments.
But you know that Bro wouldn’t lead you wrong. He said she would help you. That this would be the last thing he would ask you to do. So as much as you don’t want to, you are going through with this now. You’ll listen to him, because you have no other options.
“I know,” you murmur. “It’s my fault that my parents are both gone, because I couldn’t pull the trigger.”
“Oh, I saw that spectacle,” the Condesce says, holding her glowing magical ball aloft. “I can see anything my demons see. And a lot of them saw you.”
You continue walking forward across the long hall to her throne, your footsteps echoing off the high ceilings made of dark stone. “But I’m going to fix it. I know how.”
Suddenly, the Condesce rises from her throne. “You come to me sayin’ the same things as last time, but why should I believe you? Tell me why, when you’re so enamored with—”
She’s behind you before you can register that she’s moved. Her lips are so close to your skin that you can feel her breath as she growls lowly into your ear, “—Jake.”
You stand your ground firmly. Not just because of your Strider pride, but also because you know it’s what you have to do with the Condesce. She likes powerful men that keep their cool like your father. Like Bro.
And knowing that is your one advantage. The Condesce likes you, and she might be willing to hear you out if you have something to offer her.
“I’ll get rid of Lord English this time. I swear it,” you say, your conviction strong in your voice. “But I need something from you in return. The warzone is no place for children.”
You hear her gasp in surprise and step back from you. When you turn around, the sight that greets you makes you frown.
The Condesce is doubled over in laughter. “You want ME to watch CHILDREN?” Her laughter grows louder, echoing off the walls and ceilings, bouncing around chaotically through the room.
“Yes, I do,” you agree.
Dirk clings to you a bit tighter, and you can tell even without dipping into his mind that he really doesn’t want to be anywhere near the Condesce. You don’t blame him. You hold him tighter and try to send him reassuring vibes.
Eventually, her laughter dies out and the Condesce regards you quietly. She cocks her head to the side, as if observing you from a different angle. “Strider, I like you, and because I like you I’m goin’ to give you a chance.”
Your body tenses as you wait for her conditions. Betty never gives something for nothing.
“Kill Lord English, and I won’t kill your babies,” she says, grinning at you in a far too predatory manner. “If they scream, they die. If they cry, they die. If they move—”
“I get it,” you interrupt crossly. She’s making Dirk all the more fearful, and you are starting to really despise her for that. “Don’t worry, they’ll sleep the whole time I’m gone.”
She continues to smile at you, showing you her rows of gleaming sharp teeth. “Like father like son. Don’t fail me.” With that, she turns around and walks back to her throne.
It’s done. Your brothers’ safety is secured. You breathe a short sigh of relief and carry your brothers over to the side of the room. Carefully, you tuck them both behind one of the pillars by the wall.
“Bro, I cannot sleep. And I do not want—” Dirk begins to say.
But before he can say anymore, you’ve already slipped your shades down and caught his eyes with yours.
Mine. Dirk, you’re mine.
Instantly, he stops talking, and his eyes glaze over. You hate to do this to him, but you’re going to take his memory of this too. There’s no reason he should have to remember the Condesce threatening to kill him and Dave. He already has enough bad memories for the day.
Dirk’s eyes close, and you lay him carefully onto the stone floor.
Dave is next. You pause for a moment. You’ve never tried putting someone so young under your influence. You’re not even sure it’s possible. But you have to try.
Gently, you rub the side of the infant’s cheek with your thumb, coaxing him to wake. Sleepily, unhappily, he whines and opens his eyes to you.
It’s all you need to catch him and put him under your influence. Seconds later, you’ve coaxed him back to sleep.
You frown as you lay him down beside his sleeping brother. You really don’t want to leave them here, but there isn’t much you can do. If you take them with you, you know that they’ll die.
With resignation, you turn away from them and make your way to the throne. The Condesce is waiting for you when you get there. In an almost bored voice, she says, “English has destroyed three more villages in the time it took you to get to me. He’s on his way to the fourth. Take the portal five rooms down to the left, then head east. You should arrive at his location within the hour.”
You nod at her. “Thank you.”
She flicks her gaze up at you languidly and says, “do not fail me. Again.”
You turn and leave.
* * *
Dirk ==> Save the World
That’s exactly what you’re going to do. The universe, in fact. All the universes.
The Condesce was good on her word. After using the portal and heading east, you see signs of Lord English’s passing within fifteen minutes. The smoke is thick in the air as is the scent of burning wood and flesh. The smell of war and death fills the entire countryside.
Follow it, and you know you’ll find Lord English. Find Lord English, and you’ll find Jake.
You think back to the last time you faced Lord English. You’re not sure how long ago that actually was, because you lost track of time in the cellar shelter. But if you had to guess, less than a day has passed.
You weren’t ready to face him those other times. You didn’t know how heavy the consequences of your failure would be. And, as much as you are ashamed to admit it, you don’t think you would have done anything differently even if you did know.
It isn’t that you didn’t love your parents. Or that you didn’t care that they died. You may only truly remember the past 3 days with them, but it was long enough for them to make a significant impact on your heart. You truly miss them and wish that they were alive.
But, as you’ve come to realize, life just loves to shit on you. As is evidenced by what you are about to do now to the one you love the most. To Jake.
Five minutes later, the burning village comes into sight, filled with demons, humans, and bodies. This village is very similar to the one your parents lived near, and with the thrum of battle heavy in the air, it is almost indistinguishable.
You slip by the skirmishes just outside the village unseen, leaving the humans and demons to kill each other without your presence. Stealthily you flash-step through the village itself, avoiding the wreckage of the flaming homes and the piles of bodies that have already begun to accumulate in the streets.
The wind picks up, swirling the ashes of the burnt wreckage through the street, obscuring everything in a thick gray cloud. Luckily, you don’t have to breathe and are not affected, but you hear the chokes and gasps for breath from both humans and demons alike all around you. You take advantage of the distraction to move through some of the more heavily populated parts of the village.
And all the while, you sense the lingering evil of Lord English’s soul thick in the atmosphere. As you grow closer and closer to his position, it almost becomes palpable, and you can taste the foulness of his energy from a distance.
How many souls has he consumed to have such a putridly palpable miasma surrounding him? Could you have avoided it all by killing him in the very beginning, like Jake told you to do?
You can’t bear to think about it. If you do, you might lose your focus, and that is something you cannot afford to let happen at this time. You are here for a very specific reason.
You are here to kill Lord English.
You find him on the outskirts of the town. He’s been moving about, lurking nearby. Bursting through the cloud of ash and smoke, you draw Jake’s gun and prepare your soul for what is coming.
Lord English is standing away from the chaos, just outside of town. He’s gripping a demon you recognize in his claws.
Rufioh. Lord English is holding him aloft, ready to squeeze the life out of him and consume his soul. You hear an ominous snap. Shit, you hope that you’re not too late.
“HEY!” You shout, drawing Lord English’s attention to you. “Forget about him. You and I have a score to settle.”
Lord English does exactly that. He turns his seizure-inducing multi-colored eyes on you and grins wickedly. Without a thought, he tosses Rufioh to the side, discarding him to the dirt ground several feet away.
You steel your resolve and tap into his mind. Lord English’s acrid thoughts are like a corrosive in your brain.
DIRK STRIDER. YOU JUST CAN’T WAIT. TO DIE CAN YOU?
But it wasn’t really Lord English you were strengthening your resolve to hear. It was the other voice that you know is in there too.
Oh no—! Dirk, no! I thought you had escaped! Why did you come back?! Why?!!
“Striders finish what they start,” you say loud enough for Lord English, and Jake, to hear you. For the third time, you hold Jake’s gun aloft.
I HAVE NEVER. HEARD THAT ONE.
“Maybe it’s an ancient fucking Chinese prophecy. Shit from legends you’ll never know,” you say. You’re rambling a little, but you think it sounds pretty cool and it comforts you a bit. And given what you’re about to do, you will need all the comfort you can get. “Maybe I just made it up. Doesn’t make it any less true. And I’ve come to finish you, Lord English.”
Please, Dirk. I hope that’s true this time. Dave is already gone and I can’t—I can’t watch you go too!
“That was my father you killed. And my mother,” you say loudly and clearly, taking aim with Jake’s gun. You cock the hammer and place your finger on the trigger. “And now you’re going to pay for their lives with your own.”
Lord English grins malevolently at you.
I ENJOYED KILLING. YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER. AND I WILL ENJOY KILLING. YOU DIRK STRIDER.
Please shoot this time! Shoot me! Kill me!
You can’t see Jake, but you can tell from his thoughts that he would be crying now if he could. He’s so torn, and all you want is to take him and hold him. You want to tell him it’ll all be ok. That you’ll be together forever. You don’t know if that will be possible, but you do know that everything hinges on one thing.
This time, you’d better not freeze up.
Lord English starts coming your way, and once again, time slows.
The sound of the war in the village becomes muted.
Lord English slowly takes a step toward you, kicking up dust and grass as he powers your way with his lizard-like clawed feet.
You take a breath to steady your nerves, and you feel the cold metal of Jake’s gun, Jake’s life, in your hands.
One shot and this can all be over.
One shot and Lord English will be gone forever.
And so will Jake.
Jake isn’t even thinking anything coherent anymore. All you get from him is an infinite sadness and misery.
Lord English seems almost gleeful as he races toward you. His presence grows thicker and more foul with every step.
Another second passes. And he’s almost reached you.
You aim the gun for his heart.
Please please please please please
Your grip on the weapon tightens.
DIE DIRK STRIDER!!!
Lord English’s soul is so putrid and so revolting that you want to retch.
He’s here. He’s almost on top of you now.
You swallow away all of your hesitations. It’s now or never.
Lord English reaches for your heart.
In one quick motion, you adjust your aim and fire.
Lord English roars and bellows a terrifying honking sound that sends shockwaves through the earth like a massive earthquake, leveling several of the homes in the village. With your senses, it still looks like slow-motion as he falls to the ground.
DIRK STRIDER. HOW COULD YOU? HOW COULD YOU?!!!
Where you shot him, nothing remains. The gun that Jake gave you was far more destructive than you imagined. It left far more of a scar than a mere bullet wound.
It completely blew away Lord English’s right leg from the knee down.
Wasting absolutely no time, you take advantage of the demon’s shock and move in until you are so close that you can taste his sordid energy. You place your hand flush against the scaly green skin of his chest and focus.
It doesn’t take you long to feel them both inside the monstrous body. Lord English’s soul and Jake’s soul.
Lord English hits the ground. You don’t have any time to spare.
You’ve never done this before, but your father said it was possible. He said that you could. It’s a long shot, but it’s all you’ve got.
With your free hand, you tear off your shades and look Lord English in his multicolored eyes.
Mine. Lord English, you’re fucking MINE.
As the demon’s eyes widen in surprise, you grab his soul and pull.
Electricity sparks around you, between your hand and the monster’s skin as you forcefully rip his soul away from his body. He fights you, unwilling to relinquish his hold on Jake’s body, but you aren’t about to give up. You can’t give up.
Everyone is depending on you. Your brothers. Your parents. The universes.
If you give up, Jake will never get his body back. He’ll be trapped inside Lord English forever, watching him slaughter millions and millions.
He’ll have to watch you die.
You can’t let Jake suffer like that. You’ve never done this before, but you have to make it work.
Strengthening your resolve, you pump more of your energy into it and pull with everything you have.
Sparks fly all around you, and lightning strikes the nearby trees and homes, emanating from Lord English’s body. You’ll need both hands for this. Throwing your shades aside, you grasp the demon’s soul with both hands.
With a loud roar, you rip Lord English’s soul out of Jake’s body.
Lord English’s soul is so dense with pure evil, and so heavy with the souls of all the demons he has consumed, that his soul is physically tangible. It looks like an amorphous pile of toxic black sludge. You throw the deformed demon soul to the ground, not bothering to watch as pieces of him splatter across the ground.
Your attention is already back on the body the demon left behind. You turn quickly and oh fuck you hope this worked.
The demon’s form slowly begins to melt away, green scales sloughing off like a snake shedding its skin. The pieces disintegrate and disappear, leaving behind a form you’ve missed all too much.
“Jake—” you whisper hoarsely. Your voice is quiet, and you almost don’t recognize it as your own. Quickly, you fall to your knees beside him, collecting him into your arms. Your voice gains volume and strength as your fingers tense around his skin. “Oh fuck, Jake, please be ok!”
Jake just lays in your arms limply like a motionless doll. He doesn’t do anything.
You’re worried. You’re so fucking worried.
And then slowly, he opens his viridian eyes, blinking up at you.
It’s the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen. “Dirk?” he murmurs. Slowly, you feel him begin to move, leaning in ever so slightly to your body.
“Yeah, I’m here,” you say quickly, holding him tightly. You try to gauge his feelings, his thoughts, but you’re too much of a mess from finally having him back to do any of that. “Jake—fuck—”
Jake smiles and murmurs, “you want to do that already?”
It takes a second for your brain to catch up with your heart, but when you finally hear his question for what it is, you laugh. He’s ok. Jake’s ok and you don’t think you’ve ever been happier. You lean over and kiss him softly. His lips are gentle and sweet, and he tastes like Jake. Damn, you’ve missed kissing this man.
“Sorry I shot off your leg,” you murmur, finally pulling away from him.
“That’s ok. It grew back,” Jake responds nonchalantly.
You glance down sharply and realize that yes, it did grow back. Well you’ll be damned. Technically, you guess you probably already are.
Jake reaches up, brushing a few tendrils of your hair out of your eyes. Then, he cups the side of your face with his hand. You lean into the warmth of his touch. “Fuck, Jake, I’ve missed you so fucking much. You have no idea.”
“I think I do,” he responds softly, followed by a small quiet laugh. Then, your boyfriend’s expression changes. He looks sadly into your eyes, his eyebrows furrowed slightly, and you know that you aren’t going to like what he has to say. “Dirk, thank you for saving me, but I need you to do something.”
“What?” you ask hesitantly.
Jake regards you with the most beautiful and mournful eyes as he says, “put Lord English back inside me.”
“What?!” you exclaim. “You can’t be fucking serious! No fucking way I’m putting that monster back in you!”
Gently, Jake rubs his thumb across your cheek, his voice pleading as he says, “please, you have to. Lord English is powerful enough that he doesn’t need a body to wage war. To destroy universes. The only way to stop him is to contain him, and the only container strong enough for that is my body.”
“Jake no,” you murmur, clutching him tighter. “No I can’t lose you again.”
“You won’t lose me, Dirk. I kept control of him for millennia before this, and I shall again,” Jake assures you. “But please, you must do it soon. I was in his head. When you were ripping him out of me, I felt his fear. I saw what he was planning to do.”
“What is it? Whatever it is, we can stop it. I know we can,” your voice picks up in both intensity and speed, and you know that you’re going to start rambling. But you can’t lose Jake. Not when you just got him back. You’ll do anything you can to keep him.
But Jake quickly presses a finger to your lips. “Not now. We don’t have time for that. Lord English is hatefully obsessed with you and afraid of you for some reason. I fear I am to blame for that. He plans to return to the future, to the day that you and I left, so that neither of us will be a threat. Then he will crush this planet, this universe, and all the adjoining universes. Eat souls. Grow stronger. He is already nigh unstoppable, so I quite frankly cannot imagine the terror if he were to grow even more powerful.”
“Can’t I kill him with this gun you gave me?” you ask, indicating toward the iridescent weapon that you hadn’t realized you discarded to the ground earlier.
Jake thinks about it, then shakes his head. “He doesn’t have a body to kill. That gun is designed to kill me. My body. If my body were to die with his soul trapped within, then he would die too. Maybe in time I could figure out a way to destroy his soul separately, but we don’t have that kind of time.”
You listen to Jake’s words, absorbing them all and quickly working out every solution you possibly can think of. It takes you a matter of seconds to figure out what you have to do, but you can’t accept it. You’ve got to be wrong. There has to be another way.
You run through your list of possibilities again. And again. And again.
No. No no no no no!!!!
Jake’s expression grows more desperate, more hurt, and he pleads with you again, “Dirk, please hurry! Do it while he is still stunned!”
But you aren’t even really listening to Jake. You’re frantically crunching all of the facts together, everything you know about Lord English, about Jake, about yourself, about the universe. Everything that anyone has ever told you that could possibly help you.
“Heh, you’d better stay in bed, lil’ man, otherwise the big bad Lord English is gonna come and eat your soul!!”
“Do you remember what your friend Roxy told us all those months ago? About how all of the angels are waging a holy war against all demons, searching for one demon in particular? I am that demon.”
“I’ve been around forever. So has he. The world destroyer. The bane of all.”
“I found a way to trap him inside my body. Safe within the confines of my soul, Lord English is unable to do a thing.”
“The monster is tearing the very fabric of reality with his existence. Either English has become more powerful than before, or there are two of him in the world right now. Kill that mothafucka.”
“You have the weapon that can kill him right? It seems your boyfriend tailored it to you and you alone. He must trust you quite a bit to give that to you.”
“Lord English will kill us all.”
Bro. Jake. Her Imperious Condescension. Your father. Your mother. You synthesize everyone’s tidbits of knowledge together again and again.
And still, you come to the same conclusion.
“Fuck, Jake—” you growl, pulling him into a desperate hug. “Fuck fuck fuck—”
“Dirk?” Jake’s arms finally circle around you. He embraces you gently, rubbing soft circles into your back. There’s a note of worry in his voice as he asks, “are you quite all right?”
“Yeah,” you murmur instinctively. Then, you groan, grasping him tighter to you and change your mind. “No.”
“You’re being extraordinarily perplexing today,” Jake says back quietly.
“Yeah, sorry, it’s just,” you pull him to you tighter, breathing in his scent, feeling his mix of bewilderment and happiness to just be near you again.
Feeling his love. You focus on that and burn it into your memory. You don’t ever want to forget what that feels like. Eventually, you sigh and say, “it’s just been a hard few days.”
“I’m sorry, Dirk,” Jake says quietly, kissing your neck lightly. “I wish that I could have stopped him.”
“I know, I don’t blame you at all, Jake,” you pull away from him and look him in the eyes, so that he will know that you are completely serious about that statement. “Don’t ever think that the things Lord English did were your fault.”
Speaking of the dreaded demon himself, you notice the amoeba-like pile of evil goo that you ripped out of Jake slowly begin to move. It starts to take on a humanoid shape, lifting the bud of a head and slowly rising to semi-formed knees. It stretches out an arm limb bud and looks like it’s trying to grow. You know that you don’t have too much time left.
“Jake, I’ll do it. I’ll put him back in you, but don’t think that this is the end. Because it’s not,” you tell him, your voice fierce with conviction. “I’m never going to stop loving you, no matter what happens.”
“Dirk? What are you saying?” he asks, blinking at you with concern. “You sound as if—”
Jake’s sentence is cut off by a loud tearing sound. You turn to see Lord English almost fully formed, crawling on his hands and knees. His clawed hand is extended in front of him where he has ripped a massive hole in the fabric of time and space.
It’s your ticket out.
Quickly, you rise to your feet, pulling Jake up with you. You extend your hand toward Lord English, and now that you’ve felt the exact chemistry of his soul, you’re able to form the electric bonds between your hands and his soul easily from a short distance. Your face contorts with exertion as you pull the revolting demonic soul toward you.
Lord English’s honking roar fills the air as you hold him in place, keeping him from disappearing through the portal he has created.
With one last glance at Jake, you ask, “are you sure?”
He nods, holding his arms out to his sides. In a firm voice he says, “yes. Do it.”
You bow your head in sorrow for a moment before amassing your strength into one giant pull. With everything you have, you heave Lord English’s soul away from the portal, back toward you—
—and back into Jake.
Your boyfriend closes his eyes, a pained cry escaping his lips as the darkness funnels into his body. He grits his teeth, tormenting through whatever is happening as Lord English’s dark energy swirls all around him, penetrating into him from every angle.
For the umpteenth time in the last couple days, you feel so fucking worthless. You can’t do anything but watch as Jake endures the agony of trapping Lord English in the confines of his soul. You wish that this didn’t have to be Jake’s burden to bear. You wish more than anything that you could just get rid of Lord English forever, or that at the very least you could be the one to carry the responsibility of being the demon’s prison.
But you can’t. Nobody but Jake can. He’s the First Guardian, not you. You remember Bro telling you about First Guardians now. About how they are incredible beings, the first in their universe to exist. About how they safeguard the universe and its beings, doing everything in their power to achieve that goal. You always wondered why Bro cared so much about them. Now you guess you know.
Finally, the swirling darkness begins to settle. As the air clears, you wait tensely while Jake stands motionless. His eyes are still closed, his eyebrows contorted in concentration. He starts to open his eyes.
“Please be green please be green please be green—” you think to yourself over and over again. You tense, not daring to move a muscle. As if that would change what happens at all.
Jake’s eyes are green. As always, the most beautiful emerald green you’ve ever seen. He smiles, and you smile with him. “Dirk,” he murmurs.
And then, he’s falling forward.
You’re quick to catch him in your grasp, holding him steady. “Jake, are you all right?”
He dips his head down once and back up in a small nod. “That took a bit more effort than I’d have liked, but otherwise I’m fit as a fiddle!”
“Thank your fucking god in Prospit. You had me worried,” you murmur, smiling and nuzzling your nose to his.
“The ruler of Prospit is not my god,” Jake clarifies. Then he smiles and kisses you chastely. “All right, are you ready for our trip back to the future? It’ll be just like those movies, Strider! I can be Marty McFly, and you can be Doc Brown!”
“Why am I the crazy old guy?” You ask, chuckling as you both walk over to the portal. It’s a bit smaller than when Lord English first created it, but there’s still plenty of time for you both to make it through.
Jake laughs and explains, “because obviously I’m the one with an eye for adventure, and you’re the one with an eye for—”
You shut him up with a deep kiss. Affectionately, you wrap your arms around him and pull him closely to you, feeling the warmth of his body, the depth of his love for you, and the interest you’re cultivating in him from your lingering kiss. The energy of the portal swirls beside you, creating an ironic as shit backdrop for your makeouts.
Jake moans softly into the kiss, tightly embracing you back and threading his fingers through your hair. His interest is hardening against your thigh, and you wish you had time to do something about it.
As it is, you pull the viridian energy of his pleasure to you, indulging in both its taste and the taste of his tongue on yours. Jake’s body is fucking gorgeous and you want him so badly. But Jake’s mind and soul are so much more beautiful. Jake’s pure, unadulterated hope for your future and that of this universe is the brightest thing you have ever seen.
It takes all of your restraint to pull away from him. Jake looks at you with a slightly puzzled expression. “Dirk?” he asks. “What’s wrong? Something you want to tell me?”
“Yeah, there is,” you murmur, noting that the portal is getting smaller by the second. Within the minute it will be gone. You don’t have much time left. You detach Jake’s hands and arms from you, then you hold his hands tightly in your own. You smile sadly and brush his lips with one last kiss.
“I love you, Jake.”
You push him into the time-rift.
* * *
Yep. Dirk pushed Jake in. You read that right, so being the awesome readers that you are, I’m sure you know what will happen next! But don’t worry, if you aren’t sure, Dirk will probably answer your questions in the beginning of the next chapter.
Yes! There will be more chapters! Some of you thought that last chapter was the end of the story, to which I say, “no way! It can’t possibly end like that!” Trust me, you’ll know the end when it comes.
Thank you so much for the sea of reviews, comments, and notes on that last chapter! You people are going to make me cry, seriously! Best readers. Keep it up! =)
PS: Just realized it’s kind of jarring to call you “you,” and not Dirk “you” in these end-chapter notes. Did anyone else get that just now?