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Chapter 20: The First Year
Dirk ==> Survive
You’re good at surviving. It’s what you were born to do, you swear.
But after the next two days of diligently feeding both Dirk and Dave your energy and blood, you get your second transmission from your older brother. AKA: future you. You’re still not really sure how to take that.
“Hey, lil’ man, don’t tell me you’re doing something fucking retarded again,” Bro says, coming up in your vision as you watch Kanaya and Dirk spar in the forest outside.
“I’m taking care of these kids,” you murmur back to him, remembering that he can respond to you across time. You know he can probably hear your thoughts through AR, just like he always has, but nobody is listening to you anyway.
“Yeah? Well how’re you gonna take care of those kids if you don’t take care of yourself?” Bro asks pointedly.
You don’t grace him with a response. After a while, you hear him sigh.
“Look, I know you love Jake. I—” Bro pauses, and you wonder if he’s actually going to say it. “I love him too.”
He said it. Holy fuck he said it.
“Yeah, I said it. It’s true. I fucking love Jake to pieces,” Bro says, and though you know he must be feeling extremely emotional about it, he doesn’t show it at all.
You marvel at his amazing Strider skills.
“That’s right, you’ve still got work to do before you’re half as cool as me,” he agrees. Then, he sighs and continues. “But that wasn’t my point. The point is, I know you love Jake and don’t want to be with anyone else. But you are an incubus. You need sex to live. Those children are incubi too. They also need your affection, or they won’t live. If you die, they die. You know what that means you have to do.”
You take a deep breath and sigh it out slowly. Yes. Unfortunately you do know.
“You could go out every night and snack on some mortals or other demons, but with those kids to feed, you’ll need to do it EVERY night. Sometimes multiple times a night,” Bro waves his hand offhandedly. “And I know you’re gonna try it anyway, because I did. So go ahead. Try it. See how hard it is. When you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, go back to her.”
Wait. Her? As in Her Imperious Condescension? Fuck no.
“Fuck yes,” he responds, folding his arms across his chest and staring pointedly at you. “The Condesce will never get tired of you. I don’t know why the fuck she won’t, but she won’t. And the energy that you’ll get from her is 1,000 times stronger than any you’ll get from a mortal or another demon. You’ll only need it every couple weeks or so. Less, once Dirk and Dave are old enough to get it themselves.”
You don’t really know what to say to him. You kind of always suspected this shit was true, but you didn’t want to believe it. You still don’t want to believe it. Bro’s probably right, he’s always fucking right, but you aren’t ready for this yet.
Instead, you bring up something else that’s been on your mind. Quietly, you ask, “why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me that this was going to happen?”
“Because the decisions you made had to be your own,” he says. Sighing, he takes off his cap and rakes a hand through his hair. But rather than replace it on his head, he sets the hat on the table with the shades that are recording the transmission. “And you’re a stubborn fuck just like me. You’d have done things the exact same way even if I told you.”
You look at him. Really look at him. And it’s almost like looking in a mirror. His hair is mussed from being shoved under a cap, his eyes are tired, and you’re pretty sure you don’t own that particular white dress shirt. And you’ve never popped the collar like that before.
But all of those things aside, he’s you. The way he averts his eyes, that are usually hidden behind his shades, while in thought. The gentle yet concerned way he looks at you. Even the way he’s folding his arms across his chest.
You realize you’re doing that right now, as you watch Kanaya land a stab on Dirk. Defiantly, you unfold your arms and place them at your side.
“Too late to not be me,” Bro says with a bitter chuckle. “You already chose this path. Time to commit to it. You can start by feeding yourself. Fucking hell, I thought you were over this emo shit.”
“I am,” you say with a sigh. “I’ll do it. But I’m not going back to her anytime soon.”
Bro raises his hands in the air. “Suit yourself, lil’ man. Just remember that she’s there. When you’re at your wit’s end, you know where to go.”
“Yeah? It’s going to take a long time before that happens,” you promise him.
That very night, you begin feeding your incubus urges again. You spend longer in the village at night, and you are thankful that Porrim is around to watch Dirk and Dave while you’re gone.
You don’t know how you would have made it through that first few months without her.
Porrim and Kanaya become like sisters to you. You find out that Porrim is a couple centuries old, but Kanaya is relatively young. The two aren’t related, but Porrim couldn’t resist taking in the orphaned Kanaya a year ago.
The village that they live in is small and consists of several other vampire families that you slowly become acquainted with in time. You never say more than the typical pleasantries because you don’t have time to. You don’t have time to because Bro was right.
Bro’s always fucking right.
As time passes, Dirk and Dave need more of your energy than before. Physically, mentally, and literally.
Dirk and Kanaya are slowly becoming more proficient with swordfighting, but that doesn’t mean that they stab each other any less. If anything, the injuries they give each other are worse than before. This means Dirk needs even more of your blood.
Meanwhile, Dave begins crawling and moving around at record speed. You didn’t think babies were even supposed to be turning over until 4 months, and yet, Dave is already crawling and getting into trouble at 3 months. His favorite pastime is crawling into the fireplace, getting soot all over himself, and tracking it all over the house. You swear he knows exactly what he’s doing and how much it annoys you. Little shit.
It isn’t long before both Dave and Dirk begin waking you up at night. Dave with his need to feed and Dirk with his nightmares. You’re actually a little surprised that the nightmares didn’t start sooner. You do distinctly remember having them. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do for him. Much as you hesitate to put him under your influence every night, it’s starting to sound like a better option. But every time you contemplate it, you remember Rose’s look of disapproval.
You refrain from using any of your dark abilities on Dirk. You won’t do that again unless you really have to. Instead, you hold him when he comes to you with his nightmares. You gently stroke his hair and tell him it will be all right until he falls back asleep.
As for you, life becomes increasingly more difficult. You find yourself feeding more than you ever have. You’d forgotten how little energy mortals give you. Jake’s bright viridian energy was always so filling, and it provided you with more than enough to get by for weeks on end. But the mortals are an entirely different story. You discover that you have to seduce two mortals per night just to be able to feed your brothers, let alone yourself. By the end of the night, you have often fed from three or four different lovers.
And you hate to think of them as that, because you know that you will truly only have one lover again that you truly love. Every time you lay with someone else, you think of Jake. Of his bright green eyes. His soft charismatic smile. The way he touched you. Pleasured you. Loved you.
Suddenly, every time you lay with another, it’s agony. You feed because you have to, but you find no pleasure in the act. Quite the opposite, you begin to hate and resent that you need to do this to keep living. You can’t take that every night you spend hours giving your body to someone who isn’t Jake.
You can’t keep it up. You can’t.
And that’s how you find yourself back in Derse, alone while Porrim watches your brothers. You are full of doubts and uncertainties every step of your walk through Derse’s castle, but your feet resolutely bring you to the throne room. Left with no other options, you push open the doors.
Her Imperious Condescension grins at you when you enter, her smile wider than you think you have ever seen it. “Changed your mind, Bro? Have you come to work for me?”
You don’t answer her until you have walked up to the throne. You have a hard time even looking at her. “I’ll do what has to be done. This war must end. And—”
She laughs, deep and long. The Condesce’s eyes narrow in a predatory manner as she murmurs, “I know what’s really brought you here. I’ve been watchin’ you. Waitin’ until you came back to me.”
Every muscle in your body feels tense. On edge. On fire. And not in a good way. You’ve never felt this way before when it came to sex. Not even your first time.
You wonder if it’s because you’ve never had sex with a woman. Or maybe it’s because there’s something that you fundamentally hate about the Condesce, despite the fact that she’s never truly done a thing to you.
“Good, the less explaining I have to do, the better,” you finally say. “But—I don’t know if I can—”
Your voice trails away in your own uncertainty. It’s extremely unlike you, but fortunately, the Condesce doesn’t seem to care.
“Oh Bro, don’t you think I know? I told you, I’ve been watchin’ you. I’ve seen how much you love men,” she murmurs. Slowly, fluidly, the Condesce rises from her throne. In a way that is surprisingly gentle, she places a hand on your cheek. “But fortunately, I know a thing or two about you incubi.”
You don’t say anything. Your body tenses at her touch.
“And I happen to know one very very important thing,” she says, slowly leaning in and wrapping her arms around your frame, trapping your arms to your side. Her Imperious Condescension leans into your body, her hot pink painted lips next to your ear as she whispers something that makes your skin crawl.
“Your pleasure doesn’t matter.”
* * *
Dirk ==> Fast Forward
With the Condesce’s energy, you’re easily able to provide for yourself and your brothers. Life actually begins to become easier, for a change. Kanaya and Dirk are both progressing with their swordsmanship skills nicely, though they still have a long way to go.
The Condesce surprises you one day when she throws two smaller swords your way. They happen to be the perfect sizes for Kanaya and Dirk. It’s no coincidence, and she never explains herself. She surprises you with gifts like that sometimes. Another time she gave you perfectly cut triangle sunglasses for Dave and Dirk that are just like yours.
You never thought about where your shades came from. Over time, you modified them, made them your own super-computer, and added AR to them. You noticed that they adjusted easily to your modifications, never broke, and never overheated despite the energy demands that you placed on them. You never thought to ask Bro where they originated from or why the metal was so perfectly adaptable.
Now you know. Time period rules are not necessarily applicable to Derse. You remember that the Condesce possessed an entire warship that she rode around the galaxy before landing at Derse. The materials making up your shades are probably more advanced than what is available even in your future time. Derse technology does make you salivate with the desire to tinker with it all, but you have to quell your wants until the kids are grown up.
Everything you do is for Dirk and Dave. Your time, blood, sex—everything.
Though the Condesce never mistreats you, you still hate the things that you have to do with her. You’re embarrassed by the marks she purposely leaves on your skin. Even though with others they would quickly heal, when she leaves passionate red teeth and nail marks, they last longer than you would like.
You’ve taken to wearing long sleeved shirts at all times, even in the heat of the summer. You don’t want Dirk seeing the bites and scratches on you or questioning where they came from.
You wear the orange scarf Jake gave you all the time. Not only does it hide the Condesce’s marks, but it reminds you of Jake. That there is hope at the end of the tunnel. It may be a fucking 1000 year long tunnel, but someday it will end.
Dave continues to progress far more quickly than you think is normal. Within a year, he is already running into the walls and furniture, climbing up the stairs, ripping down all of Porrim’s wall decorations within reach, and biting everything. And you mean everything. No person, plant, or piece of furniture is safe from his tiny little teeth.
Dave is such a little shit.
He bites hard enough to draw blood, but he never seems interested in it afterwards. Oddly, he does still accept your wrist when you offer it to him. You wonder if he has started to see you as his mother, and your thumb as his own personal milking teat. You shudder at the thought and resolve to never think it again. As soon as this kid is old enough, you’ll be “Bro” to him and nothing else.
As Dave has grown, the amount of your blood that he needs to drink has increased. Your fingers are no longer sufficient, so you have taken to neatly nicking a vein or two in your wrist for his meals.
This child is going to bleed you dry. You can’t wait until he can start eating regular food.
Meanwhile, Dirk continues to progress into the precocious little kid that you remember being. He’s far too smart for his age, and he quickly realizes that he doesn’t care to talk to other kids his age. Kanaya is the only exception, and you have a feeling it’s because he views her as a sister.
There aren’t many around, but you’ve tried to get him to interact with some of the vampire children in the village. He never does.
On occasion, you have brought him to the park in the center of the mortal village, but the result is always the same. When you sit on the wooden bench overlooking the children playing in the park, Dirk is content to follow you. He sits beside you and plays with Lil’ Cal on his own. He refuses to interact with the other children.
Dave, however, has no reserves. After having to wipe the memories of his bites from several children on multiple occasions, you learn that it isn’t worth it to bring the little monster to the park with you. Not until he is older.
* * *
Dirk ==> Skip ahead a year
It’s December the first, and you find yourself sitting on the park bench with Dirk while he quietly plays with Lil’ Cal. It’s been a year since you were thrown into the past. A year since you met your parents and Dirk.
You gaze at Dirk, and your lips pull into a small frown. He’s taller than before. He’s stronger and more capable. He’s everything you remember being.
But he isn’t smiling anymore. You don’t know when you saw him smile last. What happened to the happy little kid that laughed so freely, jumped on top of your mother’s kitchen table, climbed your father, screamed with joy, and laughed with that open-mouthed smile and the happiest brightest orange eyes—
You stop when you feel a single tear roll down your cheek. You know what’s happened to Dirk.
He’s become you. The kid that you remember being.
Parentless. Lonely. Miserable as fuck.
But you remember that it isn’t always this way. It gets to the point that Bro and Dave are the only family you need. That all you really remember of your parents are shadows of the past. Shadows that can’t hurt you anymore.
But how do you get to that point? How do you get Dirk to think more about the present and not dwell so much on the past? What will keep him in this moment, on his toes, actively thinking about the here and now and not about the past?
Suddenly it hits you, and it’s so obvious that you don’t know how you didn’t think of it before. You know what you need to do.
You turn to Dirk and rest a hand on his shoulder. When he looks up at you curiously, you tell him in a very serious tone, “today is a very important day for you, lil’ man. Today you will be fully initiated into the Strider family.”
“I don’t understand what’cha mean,” he murmurs. Dirk scrunches his forehead a bit, and you can hear the confusion in his thoughts. “Thought I’m already a Strider?”
Dirk has long since picked up your way of speaking, for better or worse. You actually think it’s a little cute when he draws his words out at times into a thick relaxed southern accent. That is, until you realize he must have learned it from you, which means that you’ve been doing it a lot.
Damn. Time loops are hard on the soul.
“You’re not really a Strider until you’ve experienced this,” you tell him sternly, rising from the bench. “Stand in front of me and take out your katana.”
He still looks confused, but he does as told. After carefully situating Lil’ Cal on the bench, he hops onto the ground. Slowly, he draws the katana that you’ve told him to keep on him at all times.
“Hold it up,” you tell him.
Uncertainly, he does so.
“Perfect,” you say, grinning in anticipation. “Now you’re ready for your first—”
In the blink of an eye, you pull out your own katana and fluidly swing it forward in an arc. It clashes loudly with Dirk’s blade, startling him and the other children in the park. “—STRIFE!” you finish.
Dirk gasps and does his best to parry your moves, but let’s face it. The kid’s only three. It isn’t long before he falls to the ground from the force of one of your strikes. You think you actually see fear in his eyes as you plunge your blade towards his head.
You drive the sharp katana into the ground right beside his ear.
He’s breathing quickly and sweating from the surprise attack. His eyes are wide behind his sunglasses, which are jarred crooked on his face from falling onto his back. “Bro, what the fuck was that?”
Oh yeah. Dirk might have picked up your swearing too. You can just see Rose frowning at you from the great beyond, but it’s hard enough raising two incubus children. You’re not going to change the way you speak too. Thankfully, neither Porrim nor Kanaya seem to care.
“That was a strife,” you answer, kneeling beside him and pulling your blade from the ground. “Expect a lot more of them in the future. I warned you to have your sword ready because this was the first time. Next time I won’t.”
“You’re gonna attack me outta nowhere?” Dirk asks incredulously.
“Yeah, that’s the gist of it,” you agree.
“But why?” he asks, whining and complaining like the 3 year old he is. He’ll get over it. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“All a part of your training,” you respond, standing and helping him up. “You’re almost four. You’re old enough to strife.”
“So you’re gonna do this to Dave when he’s four too?” Dirk asks.
You think about it. “Maybe sooner. He’s such a little shit.”
For the first time in a while, Dirk cracks a small smile. “Yeah he is. He bit me again this morning.”
“Only once?” you ask, adding a note of surprise to your tone.
“Three times before I could get him off me,” Dirk replies crossly.
“He’ll get better eventually,” you promise, chuckling. As you begin to leave the park, you realize that you might have attracted a bit of an audience with your little display. Several children and parents are looking curiously your way. But after quickly scanning their thoughts, you realize that none of them suspect that you are an incubus.
They all just think you’re a deranged and terrible parent.
Thank fucking goodness.
* * *
Dirk ==> Do something AWESOME for you lil’ bros’ birthdays like you planned!
Yeah. About that.
It’s December the third and you don’t really have anything planned. You don’t even have a present for either of your brothers, and nothing upsets you more, because DAMNIT you wanted this to be a special happy day for them!
You remember the terror that was their last birthday, and you’re certain that Dirk does too. It’s a memory that you’re not sure you could pull from him now even if you tried. You’re not even sure if you can do anything to lessen his pain. Time, you think, will be his only remedy.
Dave seems blissfully unaware that today has any meaning at all. That is, until he runs into Dirk.
As usual, Porrim and Kanaya are sleeping during the day, and you are sitting in the living room on a chair in the corner. Dirk is quietly playing with Lil’ Cal by the fireplace, and he seems completely oblivious to the fact that Dave is stealthily sneaking up on him from behind.
Dave is surprisingly quiet, which actually makes him even more of a terror. You never know he’s done something until it’s already long done. And so, Dirk isn’t suspecting anything as Dave slowly walks up behind him.
You decide not to alert Dirk to anything. The kid has to learn to watch his back anyway. Dave quietly toes over to him, opening his mouth wide to bite the exposed skin of his brother’s shoulder. His tiny little teeth gleam in the light, and he looks WAY too happy for a one year old who is about to attack his brother.
But suddenly, Dave stops. He sits down on the floor and starts choking. Concerned, you flash-step over to him and lift him up into your arms. Your eyes widen with what you see.
Tears. Dave is crying. You quickly poke into his thoughts and his feelings, but Dave isn’t hurt. He isn’t even sad. Why is he—
Slowly, your gaze falls on Dirk. With a heavy heart, you plunge into his thoughts.
—miss them. I miss them so fucking much. Mommy, Daddy, why did you have to die? Why did you have to leave us all alone? Didn’t I love you enough? I tried to love you enough. Why did you have to die? Why? Why???
You can’t believe such heavy thoughts are coming from Dirk. On the outside, he isn’t even crying. He’s just holding Lil’ Cal, turning him around in his hands and moving his puppet arms and legs around.
Dirk holds one arm up, and lets it fall.
He holds the other arm up, and lets it fall.
He stares into Lil’ Cal’s eyes with a look that is as empty and soulless as the puppet’s.
Before he can think any more of those thoughts, you sweep him up into a hug. You feed him your love and fill him with as much happiness as you can. “Don’t ever think you didn’t love them enough. You are not the reason our parents died, Dirk,” you tell him solemnly. “They died to protect us from Lord English. They died because they loved you so much and didn’t want to see you die. And now you have us. You have me and Dave. And we’re never going to leave you. Ever.”
Dirk curls into your embrace, wraps his arms around your neck and clings tightly to you. “Promise, Bro?”
“Promise,” you murmur, ruffling his hair. “And Striders keep their promises.”
Thankfully, even though you epic fail Dave’s first birthday, Dirk’s fourth, and your number that shall not be mentioned, Porrim doesn’t.
She has put together a delightful picnic that you five take to a Cliffside outlooking the sea far away. You may have used a couple of Derse’s portals to get there.
Dirk is thrilled to see the ocean for the first time, even if it is at night. You’ll have to remember to take him here sometime during the day so that he can fully appreciate the scenery and the waves.
Dave is eating the grass. You remember your mother saying not to feed him cow’s milk until he turned a year old. You wonder if it’s ok for him to eat other things after a year? Hesitantly you hand him a tiny piece of cheese.
Dave makes a happy sound and devours the cheese. He holds his little hands out to you, opening and closing his fingers to show that he wants more.
Well, what could it hurt? You tear apart a block of cheese into small bits and place them on a cloth in front of your baby brother. Dave eats all the pieces, laughs with delight, and then falls quickly into a gentle post-food sleep.
Happy Birthday to you. The kid won’t bleed you dry after all.
After Dirk and Kanaya go off to explore the area nearby, Porrim finally turns to you and says, “Bro, I think it’s time you and I ended this war.”
At first, you are confused. You’ve only been on friendly terms with Porrim. She’s practically a sister to you now. You’ve never been at “war” with her.
It takes you a moment to realize that she is talking about the war between humans and immortals. Even though you are seeing the Condesce regularly, she has yet to give you any assignments. She probably knows that you won’t do them with Dirk and Dave so young and helpless. And you’re almost positive that she has said nothing to avoid babysitting again.
“Kanaya is old enough to watch both Dirk and Dave in our absence,” Porrim continues. “Despite Lord English’s death, the war has only grown worse in the last year. Have you heard, the fairies even isolated themselves from the rest of the world recently?”
“Oh,” you respond quietly. Damn. You hadn’t realized that the fairies withdrew into their little forest this year. If you had ended the war sooner, could you have changed that? Would life be easier for Dave and John in the future?
No, you can’t think about those things. Things happened this way for a reason. If the fairies never separated from the rest of the world, what are the chances that John would have found someone else? He may have never met your brother. Dave could have ended up alone.
“Hey, Strider, are you still in there?” Porrim asks, bringing you back to the present.
“Yeah,” you agree, nodding your head. “Yeah. I think you’re right. We should end it.”
It is tedious work quelling the war. It involves stealthily killing far more “key players” than you would like. That includes both humans and demons.
The Condesce is ruthless in her declarations of who must die, but you want the world to be one that is safe for your brothers to live in. You want the war to end.
And so you kill. Again and again. You’ve had plenty of experience extinguishing the life of demons from your work at Haven, but you’ve never killed a human before. You never even considered that humans could be jeopardizing the safety of the mortal realm too, because Bro never made you kill them.
But now you’re starting to wonder. Bro didn’t tell you a lot of things. More than you suspected. If humans have to die in this war, will they have to die in the future too? When Bro—when you—eventually create Haven?
It’s something you really don’t want to think about. You’ve worked all your life to protect humans, and killing them has never crossed your mind. But now, it’s something you can’t ignore anymore. The Condesce is adamant that it must happen.
You think you wouldn’t have had the resolve to kill your first human without Porrim at your side, reassuring you in a cold yet sympathetic way that this is how it must be.
You do it for Dirk and Dave.
And finally, two months later, the Condesce grins when you come to her for your next assignment. “War’s over,” she tells you, her voice a bit more amused than usual. She holds out her glowing sphere for you to see. “We won.”
You both look into the depths of her magical sphere and she shows you village after village. Some are demon villages, others are human. Some are destroyed, and others are yet untouched.
All is at rest. There is no more war.
And yet, you can’t shake the feeling that you haven’t really won.
* * *
As you can see, the fast forwarding has begun! Thank you so much to everyone who replied with input and thoughts about “Bro’s Agony” levels! That REALLY did help. The general consensus was to show some detail but not too much. Because we’re all missing Jake.
Several of you suggested putting the extra chapters in a separate story. As much as I would like to do that, look at my penname, folks. I chose it for a reason. I am, unfortunately, a slacker, and I have doubts about actually writing those chapters later. Regardless, I agree that this story might seem bloated if I add too much to this part. So, after this chapter, I’ll be adding “key scenes” that I’ve planned for a while. With any luck, we’ll get to the “present day” and the end of this story soon.
After finishing this story, I’d really like to write a Dave/John story featuring some of the events in Hopeless and Heartless, from their points of view. Love those two. I feel a little bad that they’ve been neglected this long.
Long author’s notes this chapter, oops! Apparently I don’t know the meaning of the word “short.” Wanted to give you all a heads-up that updates will likely be delayed for a little while. The upcoming chapter is going to be difficult to write. And I might also have some finals that I’ve neglected to study for as much as I should have.
Anyway, thank you for reading up to this point! Your thoughts and comments are appreciated! =)
Next chapter ==> JAKE!