Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22
Chapter 23: A New Old Nemesis
Dirk ==> Follow Jake
That’s exactly what you do for the next few decades. You watch as more and more shady figures begin to follow Jake around. Like a silent sentinel of death, you take them down one by one. Damara was just the start.
You also take down Kurloz. And Meulin.
And agents. More agents than you care to count.
It doesn’t take you long to come to a conclusion that makes you bust through the doors to the Condesce’s throne room, a deep scowl on your face. “Why are you sending agents after Jake?” you demand.
The Condesce regards you with amusement. “I’m not, but that’s certainly an interestin’ problem you’re havin’.”
“Cut the bullshit,” you growl, stalking up to where she’s sitting, grinning at you on her throne. “Nobody else has the power to command the agents but you. Why are you sending them?”
“Dearest Bro, I don’t think you quite understand,” she murmurs, her eyes narrowing in a way that makes you suddenly acutely aware that you’re shouting at one of the most powerful beings in the universe. One that could kill you in a heartbeat if she wanted to.
But you suppose that’s one of the perks of knowing the future. You know she won’t do it.
“Enlighten me,” you say dryly.
“Sure, I tell the agents what to do, but I don’t always have work for them. And when they’re not followin’ ma orders, whose do you think they’re followin’?” she purrs at you.
“Who?” you ask her.
She simply shrugs at you. “Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s not ma problem.”
Like a child throwing a temper-tantrum, you growl at her with fury and slam the doors behind you.
You return to watching Jake carefully, eliminating the people following him. Jake never realizes that you’re there, but he does get the feeling that people are following him. In the next few years, when you meet with him, he is more apprehensive than before. He does less adventuring and more fighting. Soon enough, players that you recognize begin to show up.
The Midnight Crew.
You loathe to take them on, knowing just how powerful they are. Of course, your skills have improved dramatically in the centuries since you last fought Spades Slick. You’re pretty sure that you can keep up with him now, and you would like nothing more than to slice that smug smile off his face.
But the Midnight Crew doesn’t work like the other demons or agents that follow Jake. Their approach is far more destructive, more overt. They split up, making it impossible for you to get to them all even if you wanted to. Worse, they cover their tracks, and they hide.
Even if you wanted to kill them all, which at this point you do, you can’t. And they begin to cause problems. Lots of problems.
They try to attract Jake’s attention. They destroy villages and kill hundreds to do so.
Eventually, it gets to the point that Jake notices and begins to seek them out. Since they literally come to him, it’s not hard for him to do. He’s actually far more competent than he was letting on when he fought Spades Slick with you. Jake kills a couple of the Midnight Crew, but it’s never permanent. Just like all the other demons and agents of Derse, they respawn in the dark depths of Derse, clawing their way back to the surface. They find their way back to the mortal world quickly.
It becomes too much for Jake to handle by himself, even with your behind-the-scenes help. You hear it in Jake’s thoughts. His anguish that people are dying. That civilizations are being destroyed simply because the Midnight Crew is trying to get to him. He knows that as a First Guardian he has to do something to protect the world.
Jake starts the Felt.
Like a team of rag-tag heroes, Jake assembles sorcerers, demons, and fighters with moderate abilities but good hearts. They band to him like flies on jelly, caught up in his positive spirit and his impossibly huge hope for the world. They all wear snazzy green suits, far ahead of the times, and as Jake would put it, “the most dapper hats.” The camaraderie you sense among them is admirable.
And they start winning. Together, they hold the Midnight Crew at bay. Cities are no longer threatened by their destruction. The world is safe.
You meet Jake in the springtime a few months after the stability of the world has begun. He is, as usual, overjoyed to see you.
“Strider!” he exclaims, beaming from ear to ear as you settle into a seat in a wooden booth across from him. Jake is far from alone. The Felt are all in the city with him, but you’ve managed to catch him on an evening where he is at this pub alone. You wouldn’t be surprised if he did this purposefully, knowing that you might come by soon.
“I thought you might come by soon,” he says, confirming your suspicions. “Boy do I have a lot to tell you this year!”
Jake goes on to tell you about how he recruited each member of the Felt. He tells you a lot of things that you already know, such as the battles that they have won. But the way Jake says it fills your heart with warmth. He tells you little bits and pieces that you didn’t know, since you don’t tune into his thoughts all the time. And honestly, even if you had heard Jake tell this exact story a million times already, you would listen again.
People truly do the most peculiar things for love.
When he finishes his story, Jake gives you an intriguing look and says, “I have something for you, old bean.”
You try not to show your surprise when Jake holds it out to you. “Holy fuck, Jake—” you murmur, taking it in your hands and turning it over.
It’s an orange hat. And not just any orange hat. You can tell just from seeing it that it’s the orange hat Bro always wore. That you know you will wear forever.
“Do you like it?” Jake asks.
“It’s perfect,” you say, flipping it onto your head. It fits snugly, as if he had it tailor made just for you. “Love it.”
“I had it tailor made just for you,” he admits. You’re starting to wonder if he’s the one with the mind-reading abilities. He beams as he watches you adjust it on your head. “I’d have given you a number and asked you to join my crew, but I know you have responsibilities.”
“If I didn’t, you know that I would have,” you murmur truthfully, then look at him curiously. “You knew that I couldn’t join your crew. Why did you have this hat made for me?”
“Because you’re my best friend, Strider,” Jake says softly. “And even though we may not see each other very often, I consider you part of my crew. You mean a lot to me.”
“You’re my best friend too, English,” you don’t hesitate to say. It takes all of your Strider skills of self-restraint not to react to that more than a tiny smile.
Wait a second. Something about what Jake said strikes you as odd. The words were nothing special, but the way he said it–
Worried about what you might find, you prod into his thoughts and feelings. You find exactly what you feared.
Jake likes you. More than as his best friend.
Though he is feeling that way, he doesn’t seem to be thinking that way. His thoughts don’t seem to support the same conclusion as his heart. Jake English, it seems, hasn’t realized that he likes you yet. But his heart is full of warmth and tender feelings. Not love, not yet, but you know that if you aren’t very careful, it could bloom there soon.
You spend the rest of the evening relaxing in Jake’s company, wishing more than anything that you could tell him how you really feel about him.
Such a love-sick fool. That is you.
* * *
Dirk ==> Return to Derse
After seeing that Jake has things under control with the Felt, you return back to your projects in Derse. You decide, unfortunately, that you’ll have to avoid seeing him for a while. As much as you want to, you can’t let him fall in love with you.
And so time passes. You spend a few decades in Derse. The mortal realm experiences a few years. It gets a little lonely. You check very infrequently on Jake, now that he has the Felt to take care of him. Your transmissions from AR grow less and less common as he becomes ensconced in his life with Terezi. You continue to be a shitty-ass older brother and keep your younger bros in a deep sleep. To stay alive, you feed from the Condesce, but only as little as you need to survive. You become a verifiable hermit, awaiting the passage of the years until you can see Jake again.
After several long decades alone, an unexpected visitor finds you working in the room you claimed as your robotics shop.
“If it isn’t Bro Strider!”
You whip around quickly at the sound. When you see who is standing at the doorway, you crack a small smile. “Rufioh,” you grin, standing up and taking his offered hand. “Good to see you, dude.”
“Yeah you too, man!” he says in that ever so chill way you remember.
You step back and take a second to bask in the fact that you actually have a visitor. It’s not that common because it’s not like you advertise your location or anything. Derse doesn’t have a phonebook or white pages. “How’d you find me here?”
Rufioh shakes his head and laughs softly. “That, my friend, was not easy. You keep yourself on the down-low so it took some searching.”
“I bet,” you agree, looking behind him. “Where’s Tavros? I thought you said you had to take care of him?”
“Tav?” Rufioh laughs. “Bro, he’s over 500 years old! My little baby bro can take care of himself.”
It hits you like a cold wave. Tavros is over 500 years old. That means your kid brothers should be over 500 years old too.
At least, they would be if you hadn’t put them to sleep. They’d be mature adults by now (you hope) if you’d only had the fucking decency to let them live.
Such a shitty parent. That’s you.
Rufioh’s been talking while you reflect on your failure as a parent, and you are quick to nod along and catch up with what he’s saying.
You spend weeks chilling with Rufioh, building robotics projects together and catching up on life in general. You even hit a couple of his parties in Derse.
At first, you resist the temptation of the party-high he cultivates with the masses of demons he gathers together. But eventually, you allow yourself to get completely swept up in the tidal wave of euphoric energy. It feels so fucking good to immerse yourself in the raw pleasured energy of the crowds at Rufioh’s hit parties that you find yourself quickly addicted to the high.
You aren’t sure how much time passes. Years? Decades? More?
You build your robotics.
You chill and party with Rufioh.
It’s so much easier this way. You don’t have to think about anything. You don’t have to worry about your brothers sleeping their lives away. You don’t have to think about Jake, living his days away without you.
All you have to do is go with the flow.
* * *
Dirk ==> Wake the fuck up
“Now, Dirk. Wake the fuck up now.”
You come to suddenly, sitting up covered in a cold sweat. Your shades are crooked on your face, but you can clearly see Bro’s disapproving look.
“You’ve been partying with Rufioh again, haven’t you?” he asks, his voice full of stern disapproval.
“Yeah maybe,” you drawl back slowly, shifting and stretching lazily. “What’s it to you?”
Rufioh murmurs something from where he’s sleeping in the bed beside you, and you force yourself to get up and trudge out of the bedroom. You fall onto the couch in Rufioh’s main living room and squint at Bro as he continues to berate you.
“It’s everything to me. You are me. And Dirk is you. If you fuck this up, you fuck Dirk up, you fuck everything up,” he says lowly.
“You know what I don’t miss about you? I don’t miss your fucking lectures,” you snarl back at him.
“Wake the fuck up, Dirk!” Bro growls at you, and you can see the fury in his livid tangerine eyes. Even though he’s nowhere nearby, and he never will be again, you still can’t help feeling that nervous pit in the bottom of your stomach when you see him like this.
Bro is pissed at you. He’s really pissed.
“Better believe I’m pissed!” he agrees lowly. “Dirk, you cannot spend all of your fucking life partying and forgetting about everything.”
“I haven’t spent my whole life—” you mutter.
“It’s been one hundred fucking years!” Bro roars at you.
That makes you pause. One hundred years? It’s been one hundred fucking years?
“Yes,” he agrees basely, his voice full of barely contained venom. “You’ve forgotten about Jake for one hundred years, and now it’s time to stop taking it out on your brothers.”
You’re floored. How does Bro always do this to you? How does he always know what to say to make you feel like the scum of the earth?
“No, right now you’re the scum of Derse,” he corrects you. “But you don’t have to be. Go clean yourself up. Put your head back on straight. There’s some big shit coming up, and you’ll have to deal with it soon. Once that’s over, you can think about making all of this up to your innocent brothers.”
“They’re shits,” you mutter.
“You’re shittier,” Bro snaps back at you.
It’s silent for a few heavy moments. Much as you hate it, you’re inclined to agree with him.
Finally, he sighs and says, “look, you won’t be a fuck-up forever. Go back to your robotics. Stop hitting Rufioh’s parties. You remember what those do to you.”
“Yeah,” you grudgingly murmur in agreement. Slowly, you get up from the couch and make your way to the door.
“Hey,” he says, making you pause with your hand on the door. “Be hard on yourself but not too hard. Next time I see you, things will be better.”
* * *
Dirk ==> Clean your shit up
You listen to Bro. You believe him. Because Bro’s never been wrong before. (Except that one time that he was totally wrong.)
You do it for yourself. You do it for Jake.
But most of all, you do it for Dirk and Dave, who are still awaiting the return of Bro, their older brother.
And somewhere, sometime a few days down the line, you’re caught off-guard when someone unexpected finds you in your workshop. You are expecting Rufioh, wondering where you’ve disappeared to for so long. But a quick gauge of the energy in the room tells you that it’s not your long-time friend.
You look up from your work and actually do a double take. “Never thought I’d see the day you left the throne room,” you murmur.
Her Imperious Condescension is standing in front of you while you sit at your work bench, and she looks less than pleased. Her usually coy demeanor is replaced with a somewhat harrowed annoyance, and her lips curl into a displeased sneer. “Bro, there’s trouble in the mortal world.”
“Since when do you care about the mortal world?” you ask sardonically.
“Since that trouble involves Lord English,” she growls back.
In an instant, you drop the project that took you weeks to build on the ground and flashstep next to her. “What do you mean trouble involving Lord English?” you demand.
“Clearly you haven’t been payin’ attention to that crush a yours. You’ve been spendin’ so much time—partyin’,” she says back flatly. “He’s back. Lord English.”
“But how—” you murmur.
“Damara, Kurloz, and Meulin did it behind ma back,” she replies. “Much as I hate to say it, you’re the only one that can defeat him, Bro. I’ve never seen and incubus with abilities quite as powerful as yours.”
“Where is he?” you ask.
“Third room on the right in the grand corridor. Fifteen minutes north. The ridge town in the summer aisles,” she says.
You’re gone before she can say any more.
* * *
Dirk ==> JAKE!
The Condesce is good on her directions, as usual. As soon as you cross the portal into the mortal world, you sense the death and destruction all around you. There is smoke in the air and the scent of burning flesh strewn across the countryside.
How many towns has Lord English already destroyed?
As you make your way north, you feel his ominous presence growing stronger, more powerful. That foul bitter darkness that you never wanted to sense again encroaches into your very being like a plague, filling you with anger and dread. If Lord English is here, what is he making your boyfriend do?
Your Jake. Your happy and carefree boyfriend.
Almost boyfriend. Whatever.
Your vision is a little bit blinded, but you don’t care. You’re furious at Lord English, and you’re equally upset at yourself for not bothering to at least check on Jake these last hundred years. He probably thinks you’ve forgotten about him.
It hits you like a frigid wave of dread. When Jake told you his story of this event, he said that he was alone. He mentioned the Felt. He mentioned Lord English. But he never once talked about Bro. He didn’t mention you.
Has Jake forgotten about you?
You’re really not even sure how many years have passed in this realm. Bro told you one hundred, but he probably rounded a little. You only intended for it to be enough for Jake to lose his interest in you. You never anticipated anything else.
But now isn’t the time to be thinking those thoughts. The last thing you need is for Bro to video-feed himself into your shades and give you a lecture on “being too emo.” You have a Jake to save.
So you make your way into the town, where Lord English has taken a prominent position in the very center. Most of the homes are already destroyed, and you can smell the scent of blood and burning flesh in the air.
And the bodies. The bodies are everywhere. This was a larger city, with bigger buildings than the ones that existed last time Lord English roamed freely around the world. The chaos he has left in his wake has grown exponentially as has the world.
You aren’t going to waste any time. You can’t allow yourself to be distracted by any of the mayhem going on, and you zero in your focus on Lord English. The demonic monster is somehow less terrifying now than he was before. Now that you know you can rip out his soul, you’re filled with a sense of confidence that you didn’t have the last time you faced him.
But even if you didn’t know you could forcibly pull Lord English’s soul from Jake’s body, you would still do this anyway, because you could never abandon Jake. Even if it meant giving up your life.
Your feet flashstep you to the monster in a matter of seconds. “Hey, Lord English! Turn your ugly face here!”
That might have been a little bit immature of you, but who cares? It’s not like anyone’s really listening to you right now.
Nobody except the monster, who is quick to whip his gaze over to you. You have to remind yourself that at this point, Lord English doesn’t know you. Perhaps he knows a bit of you, through what he has seen through Jake’s eyes, but he has never interacted with you. He doesn’t know that he will someday be the reason you come back into the past. That you will someday again rip his soul from his body and send him back into the future.
Fucking hell. Time loops are confusing.
Rather than think any more about that, you focus on Lord English, on those terrifying flashing multicolored eyes, and you dip into his consciousness.
ANOTHER CHALLENGE? YOU LOOK LIKE. THAT OTHER ONE I SQUASHED. LIKE A BUG. DIE BUG!
Nice to know that Lord English’s impressive vocabulary and grammatical structure never changes.
You take a moment to think about what he said, and in the fraction of a second it takes you to dodge a swing of his claws, you realize that “that other one” is probably Hal. You did make him in your likeness, and he has been existing in this mortal world.
You suddenly try to remember the last time you interacted with Hal. You think it was only a few years ago? You think. But you’re not sure. And being in Derse has warped your sense of time. You growl lowly, angered that Lord English would have done anything to your brother. Because, you realize, that’s basically what Hal is to you now. Another brother.
If Lord English did anything to him, he is going to pay.
Lord English continues to claw at you painstakingly slowly. When he realizes that he’s getting nowhere, he removes a flashing multicolored gun from somewhere within the folds of his oversized green cloak and tries to shoot you with that.
The gun is faster than his lumbering swipes, but you’re still too quick for him. Lord English levels more buildings as the never-ending bullets he spews from his machine gun follow you in a mechanical spray of destruction. You focus on Lord English again, listening for his thoughts.
STAY STILL. JUST STAY STILL. AND FUCKING DIE.
You listen harder, focusing with all of the mental skills that you have accumulated over time. But all you hear is that single solitary voice, like broken glass in your brain. Desperately, you try to listen harder than you ever have, concentrating solely on those flashing multicolored eyes. A small, panicked and angered breath escapes your lips as you realize it.
You can’t hear Jake.
Where the fuck is Jake???
How long did Lord English take over Jake’s body this time? How long did Her Imperious Condescension allow him to destroy the mortal realm before she finally came to you and asked for your help?
Has it been so long that Jake has become lost in Lord English’s consciousness?
You force yourself to calm down, because you know that in the future Jake is fine. Jake exists. You’ll introduce him to Dirk someday, and everything will be fine.
The thoughts provide you a minimal amount of comfort, but they do little to settle your unease.
You had better finish this fight fast.
So you flashstep squarely in front of the monster himself, feeling small but powerful against the enormous shadow he creates. You pull the shades down from your face and capture his gaze in your own.
Mine. Lord English, you are FUCKING MINE.
You remember what Lord English’s putrid soul feels like, and you remember the exact frequency you will need to rip the soul from his body. You don’t allow Lord English any more than half a moment’s surprise before you do it.
Electricity sparks from your fingertips, forming a bridge as you connect your hands to his soul from several feet away. With an enraged cry, you pull the monster’s soul with all of your strength, tearing him quickly out of Jake’s body.
Like last time, the foul soul coalesces into a black tar-like consistency. When you listen, you can tell that his soul has lost consciousness. With one hand, you keep his soul suspended in the air, and you flashstep quickly to the body that the monster left behind.
Also, as before, the monstrous reptilian form melts slowly away, leaving behind the body of your beautiful Jake. Like last time, Jake is silent and still. He isn’t moving. He isn’t breathing. He isn’t anything.
Holy fuck are you scared.
You release Lord English’s amorphous soul, letting it fall to the ground with a squelching splat. Carefully, you cradle Jake in your arms, feeling for his soul, any indication that he’s still alive.
It’s faint, but you think you catch a tiny glimmer of emerald green, deep within him.
You reach out to him, to his soul, trying desperately to kindle its warm fire and wake up the man you love. But something is stopping you. Something is keeping his soul dampened, alive, but at bay.
“Is that not adorable? He thinks that he can wake his lover up.”
The Japanese voice hits your ears and a cold wave of dread runs through your body. You came here alone, expecting Lord English to be alone. You were so blinded with getting to Jake that you didn’t even consider that he might have company.
Turning around, you find Damara, decked in her favored red kimono, grinning at you in a sultry way. Behind her, Kurloz looms like a massive impassible tower. Beside him, Meulin stands, curled into his side.
This is absolutely not what you wanted to see. What the fuck are you supposed to do?
“What the fuck indeed,” Damara agrees, continuing to speak in Japanese. “How about you die?”
As one, Damara, Kurloz, and Meulin all lunge for you.
You’re just barely able to flashstep away with Jake in time. Gently, you put him down on the concrete and keep moving. You know that they won’t do anything to Jake while their attention is on you, but how the fuck are you supposed to beat them?
You free your katana from its sheathe and parry Meulin’s claws. Damara attaches herself to your back, driving her fangs into your neck. You slam your body hard into the ground, hearing a few of her ribs crunch below you when you do so. But she isn’t letting go. With a grunt, you grasp her right arm with your right hand and roll to the left, hurling her away from you with your momentum and brute strength. Finally, Damara goes flying off your back.
But Meulin is already back on your case, and her claws dig into your leg as she pulls you across the ground. She’s fast. Holy fuck, is Meulin fast. Your head is spinning as she tugs you across the ground, running and giving you the worst case of road-burn you think you’ve ever had. The dirt flies up into your eyes, and all you can register for a few seconds is that your head is constantly thumping against the hard cobblestone pavement.
Gathering your wits to yourself, you curl in on yourself and grasp her claws with both hands, prying yourself free of them. Your leg is bleeding, but you don’t have time to attend to that when you finally come to a stop on the ground.
Damara has already flung herself on top of you, pinning you down and fixing you with a far too sultry look. You know what comes next, and you can’t be caught in her trap.
Closing your eyes, you voluntarily blind yourself to the world for a few moments. You can’t look into her eyes. If you get caught in her influence it’s all over.
Kicking you knee up, you dislodge her enough to free your hands. Groping blindly in front of you, you find her torso and throw her forcefully into the cobblestone road beside you.
Finally, you can open your eyes.
When you do, all you see is purple.
The purple deep depths of Kurloz’s eyes. You see his silent smile as he effortlessly places thoughts into your mind, and you’re not sure whether they were always there or whether he just put them there now.
You’re on the wrong side, clearly.
Why are you fighting them when they’re just trying to help Jake too? They’re trying to help Jake reach his full potential. Once he’s Lord English, nothing will be able to stop him. He’ll be perfect.
Isn’t that what you want? Don’t you want Jake to be perfect?
You do want Jake to be perfect. You think he already is perfect and couldn’t possibly be any more perfect, but you will become a tool of his perfection. You’ll let your body and your hands and your soul pulling abilities make Jake the most perfect being imaginable.
You feel yourself rise to your feet, slowly walking toward where you threw Jake’s body. Your leg is on fire with pain, but you don’t care. It was your fault that Meulin had to do that. She needed to bring you to your senses. You don’t blame her.
Finally, you reach Jake, and you slowly come to your knees beside him. The bright green flame of his life is still subdued, but that’s perfect. This is all perfect. If you put Lord English back in him now, then Jake doesn’t have to worry about anything at all.
Lord English will take care of everything.
Lord English will make Jake perfect.
You extend a hand toward Lord English’s unconscious soul and pull him to you. Slowly, you bring his soul down toward Jake.
And then something bats your hand away.
“Can’t let you do that, Bro. Not till Jake’s awake.”
You turn angrily to the source of the voice, swinging your arm (that’s still holding Lord English’s soul) out at him. The offending thing jumps back, dodging your attack easily. “Woah easy there. That was so not the nicest greeting. I’d say there’s a 99.1% chance that you’re being mind-controlled right now.”
You release Lord English’s soul, letting it fall back to the ground, and turn toward the offensive being that dares make such accusations about you.
“What’s that? No cutting remarks? No sick burns?” The thing asks with mock surprise. “Make that a 99.99% chance.”
You’re lunging at him with your katana in hand in the blink of an eye. But somehow, he manages to get the better of you. He’s not even carrying a weapon, but he moves in perfect time to dodge your attacks, swings of your sword, punches and kicks. All of your surprise attacks aren’t a surprise to him.
It’s almost as if he can read your mind.
And before you know it, you’re on the ground, struggling to get up while he sits atop you. You can’t let him hold you back. You have to get UP and do this! You have to put Lord English into Jake’s body. Jake has to be perfect.
Kurloz steps forward and you know that everything will be all right. He’ll make this annoying creature see the truth just like he helped you see the truth too. You watch as they lock eyes.
A few tense seconds pass by, as Kurloz fixes his eyes onto your nemesis.
“Funny thing about being a robot, you don’t have to worry about things like mind control,” he says, then looks up at the sky. “Any time, Rezi.”
Suddenly, a large fiery-red dragon with magnificent gleaming scales swoops down and bites the top half of Kurloz’s body off. It snaps at the flailing torso and arms several times before deciding it dislikes the taste and spitting it out into mangled pieces on the ground next to its forgotten legs.
Color suddenly bleeds back into your vision, as the world comes back into a jarring forced clarity. It takes you all of half a second to realize who’s sitting on you.
“Hal, get your fucking heavy robot ass off my back!” you growl at him.
“There’s the Dirk I know,” Hal says, rising smoothly and offering his hand to help you up.
You don’t take it, cause no. But you do look at him incredulously.
Despite self-proclaiming himself a robot, Hal passes as a human beautifully. He’s wearing clothes that, you think, are fitting for the times. You haven’t been in the mortal world for a while, so you’re not really sure. But unlike you, he’s chosen to color his hair jet black. He still wears the same ironic shades as you, and his smirk is just as cocky as you remember.
You’re about to ask Hal how he found you, but you remember that he can see everything you can see and hear your thoughts through the link with your shades. Damn it. That’s why he could anticipate all your moves.
“Yep,” he agrees. “I’m just fuckin’ perfection like that. Raw power. Strength. Beauty.”
As Hal goes on to talk about how amazing he is, you notice in your peripheral vision that the giant red dragon doesn’t hesitate to fully devour Meulin and a couple of Damara’s limbs. But after a taste of the succubus, the dragon decides to chew and spit out her masticated body into a slobbery heap on the cobblestone. In a matter of seconds, Damara expires into dust.
“Lord English said he squished you,” you murmur. “Like a bug.”
“He thought he squished me,” Hal says, and you can tell he’s rolling his eyes behind his shades. “But he squished me into the dirt. With my body, that’s like squishing you into a lake.”
You don’t disagree. You built Hal’s body to last.
The dragon stomps over to you, and in a shimmer of light, it turns back into a familiar sight. You almost smile.
It’s Terezi. Of course. Who else would it be?
Terezi is thankfully clothed, though you really don’t understand how. She’s wearing her typical red shades, which leads you to believe that whatever caused her to be blind has already happened. Her clothes are long and flowing crimson garments, befitting this era, you believe. Despite being a female, she chooses to wear pants, which you don’t knock in the least.
She’s a dragon. You’re glad she’s wearing anything at all.
Terezi sticks out her tongue at Hal and complains, “did you know exploding demons taste really gross? Like super gross.”
“Yeah, the grossest of gross,” Hal agrees. “My tongue sensors tell me that every time.”
“You liar,” Terezi snickers and shoves him lightly. You notice that Hal allows himself to be pushed and stumble a bit. You’ve missed out on a large chunk of their relationship, but you can see how they would get along well.
“You really are a dragon,” you comment. You’ve never actually seen Latula or Terezi turn into dragons, though Bro always told you that they could.
“Sure am!” she agrees, sniffing at you. “And who might you be, Mr. Orange?”
“Bro Strider,” you respond, holding out your hand to her.
Terezi grins at you widely, showing off her rows of sharp teeth. “Nice to meet you, Bro!” She sticks her hand out just a tad to the left of yours. You move yours a couple inches over so that you can grab her hand and shake it.
“You too, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to talk right now,” you say.
You really don’t. When you turn back around, you find that the pile of Lord English is starting to move a little bit. He’s beginning to regain consciousness, and you have to trap him back inside Jake before that happens.
Quickly, you make your way to where you left Jake, kneeling beside him and collecting him into your arms. You place your hands on his face and focus on his soul again. This time, the people who were influencing him are all gone. His bright green soul burns radiantly, and it only takes a slight nudge to wake it up.
Jake moans softly. You glance over at Hal. What are you supposed to do? Hal shrugs at you.
You look back at Jake, who is just beginning to flutter open his brilliant viridian eyes. He looks at you, and it’s a look of confusion. “Strider?”
Jake remembers you. Jake remembers you, and it’s the most wonderful beautiful feeling you’ve had in the last century.
“Yeah, I’m here,” you admit. “I had to take Lord English’s soul out of you, but I’m going to put him back in you now. Do you understand?”
Jake comes to his senses quickly and nods. “Yes, please hurry.”
You don’t hesitate to pull Lord English’s soul to you, wiggling and writhing, and press it into Jake’s chest. You cringe, hearing Jake cry out in pain as he traps the demon inside him again. The dark foul energy of Lord English’s soul swirls around him, piercing through his skin and bones, into his very essence. You wish that there was something you could do to stop his agony, but all you can do is hold him through it.
Jake clings to you, his eyes pressed tightly shut to ward off the burning.
A few moments later, it’s over. The land is calm once again, and all that is left is Jake, blinking up at you with those fucking sinfully gorgeous green eyes. He sighs, “it’s done.”
You stay beside him, holding him, longer than you probably should. He was in pain, and you don’t want to leave him alone.
You don’t ever want to leave him alone again.
You’re just so fucking happy to see him that you don’t want to let him go.
It’s been so long. So very long.
And you were so broken.
But now that’s over.
And Jake’s here.
And somehow everything’s going to be all right.
And before you realize what you’re doing, you lean over and do it.
You kiss him.
Jake makes a small surprised sound, but it isn’t long before he is pulling himself to you, tentatively melding his lips to yours.
He’s kissing you back. You fucking knew it. Jake’s kissing you back, which means that he likes you despite the hundred years apart, and he always has and—
Oh shit shit shit.
You’ve fucked up.
Quickly, you pull away from him, and you try to ignore the confused expression in those beautiful emerald eyes. “Strider?” he questions again.
You pull him into a hug, embracing him tightly. Remembering what it feels like to hold the man you love. It feels so fucking good. “Jake, I love you,” you whisper to him fiercely.
Jake returns the embrace, and the feeling of his warm arms circling around your back makes you want to cry. “I know, Strider, I—”
“I’m sorry,” you whisper quietly.
Before Jake can respond, you pull away from him and tip down your shades. Quickly, you catch his eyes with your own.
Mine. Jake… you’re mine.
Jake’s brilliant green eyes lose their focus, even though they’re still looking at you. His soul is wide open, pliable, and moldable to your suggestion.
You do it before you lose your resolve.
You take it away. His memory of this encounter.
You want to take what you can of him being trapped inside Lord English, but you find that there isn’t much to take. It looks like Damara, Kurloz, and Meulin dampened his soul so much that he wasn’t aware of much anyway.
You erase his memories for what feels like forever, gently brushing them free of Jake’s mind. You’re never so careful with any of your other lovers. Like tearing out a weed from the ground, you rip their memories of you out of their brain. But with Jake, you are cautious as an archaeologist brushing away the dirt from a priceless fossil. You don’t want to damage anything. You couldn’t stand it if you hurt Jake.
And yet, aren’t you? By taking away his memories, aren’t you keeping him from being himself? Didn’t you promise him a long time ago that you wouldn’t do this to him ever again?
You are such a filthy, disgusting excuse for a being. You loathe yourself for doing this to him.
But you have no choice. For the sake of the timeline, it has to be done.
When it’s finally over, you want to scream in rage. Seeing his glazed over expression, knowing that you did this to him that you took away his memory of your kiss eats you inside.
You’re pulled from your thoughts by a hand on your shoulder. It’s Hal. You don’t have to look to know.
“C’mon, Bro. Give him back to himself, and let’s go,” he says. There’s no mischief in his voice. No happiness, no cockiness, no pranks. Hal knows how much this hurts you. He knows because it probably hurts him too.
So you do the only thing you can do. You carry him out into a grassy field nearby and place him in the shade of a leafy green tree. He looks so peaceful. So comfortable. You’d do anything to just be allowed to stay with him and talk the day away like you used to.
You capture Jake’s gaze with your tangerine eyes and give him back.
Yours. Be you, Jake.
Before he can fully come to, you flashstep away.
* * *
Dirk ==> Be a shitty parent
You really aren’t trying to be a shitty parent anymore, but you find that it’s hard not to be after letting your brothers sleep 600 years of their lives away. After the incident with Lord English, Hal and Terezi know it’s best to leave you to your own devices. Hal promises to keep in touch better, and you don’t doubt that he will make good on that offer to annoy the living shit out of you.
At long last, you approach the bed where you laid your brothers to rest centuries ago. Carefully, you approach Dirk and sit beside him on the bed. It’s not like you haven’t come to visit them before. You keep the room clean. You make sure that the dust doesn’t accumulate on your sleeping brothers.
But it’s been so long since you’ve actually seen them. You miss the little shits.
So carefully, you collect Dirk to you and search his soul for the tiny orange flame that you left behind. When you find it, you slowly, gently kindle it awake.
But something unexpected happens. As the flame of his soul grows, you feel your own strength fading away. By the time his soul is back to the bright tangerine flame that you remember, you find yourself completely wiped.
Exhausted, you lay in the bed beside him and fall asleep.
* * *
Dirk ==> Be a less shitty parent
The Condesce is more than happy to see you again. She congratulates you on taking care of Lord English again and offers you both her blood and passion as a reward. After visiting her, you think you have the strength to finally wake up Dirk.
You should have expected it, really. What, did you think that there wouldn’t be any consequences to letting them sleep for centuries?
Again, you collect Dirk in your arms and slowly nudge his soul awake.
Dirk gasps as his eyelashes flutter open, revealing his bright tangerine eyes. “Bro—” he murmurs, and his voice croaks like a frog from lack of use. He coughs, and you wince as you see a few dust particles fly into the air around you.
“Shh, it’s ok, Dirk. I’m here,” you say, gathering him into a gentle hug. You feed him your positive thoughts and your energy as you caress his hair and press his cheek against yours. “Bro’s never going to leave you again.”
Dirk holds you for a long time, absorbing your energy and feelings, and taking comfort in the fact that you’re there. “Promise?” he finally whispers back.
* * *
This chapter was getting out of hand, so it had to be truncated here. Next chapter, my goal is to make it to the beginning of the story! Hahahaha oh time loops, I love you.
Finals are over; thanks for your patience and your support through those! It helped! =)
Please continue to let me know your thoughts, feelings, etc. about the story. I still love to see them!