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 Chapter 24 Chapter 25
Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29: The End of an Era
Bro ==> Give a rallying speech
In your forced chicken scratch handwriting, you copy down one final assignment for Dirk.
April 5th. Old Plaza Mall. Zombies.
You stare at the paper in your hands, thinking about the finality of this whole situation. This will be the last time you ever get to see Dirk, the younger brother that you raised with your own hands. Even though he’s technically you, he is your brother in every way.
Dirk always believed it too. Aside from an angstful week of his teenage life when he hoped against all odds he wasn’t related to you, he never doubted you were his older bro. Why shouldn’t you believe it too?
If Bro’s last message to you was any indication, you’re going to miss Dirk.
You’re going to miss him a lot.
But gathering from his message, there is quite a bit of preparation you need to do before you can say goodbye to your brother. Haven will be attacked tonight, and you need to warn your friends.
There is still a bit of time before Dirk and Jake will arrive. It’s long enough for you to gather all of your employees into your office again.
You look at them one by one, remembering just how you met them and all the crazy times you shared.
Porrim. Kanaya. Terezi. Latula. Rufioh. Tavros. Karkat. Kankri. Cronus. Jane.
Even though Cronus isn’t one of your employees, you’ve known him so long that you consider him a friend too. And really, he’s worked hard for you too, gathering information off the streets and bringing it in. Seeing him sitting on the couch beside Kankri, you know that this is exactly where he was meant to be.
Jane happened to be in the City when you called her this evening. All you had to tell her was that you needed her. She was here within the hour.
For a moment, you debate leaving your shades on. They’re your image and a part of you, but these are your dearest friends. You want them to know that you mean what you are about to say. So slowly, you reach up and slide the shades off your face.
“Gasp. He does have eyes,” Hal says, slipping into the room and shutting the door behind him. He looks a lot like you now. His hair is the same platinum blonde color and its even styled like yours. His skin is the same color, and he’s wearing a rather ironic My Little Pony shirt that you kind of admire, if you do say so yourself.
“Thought you were halfway across the world?” you ask, grinning at your computer counterpart.
“Maybe I lied because I didn’t want my ass kicked?” Hal suggests.
“Thought computers couldn’t lie,” you retort.
“I’m not just any computer,” he says, grinning back at you finally. “Besides, I couldn’t miss this.”
“If you two are done with the fucking bantering, would you mind filling the rest of us in?” Karkat grumbles.
You nod, your bare eyes falling on each of your friends as you begin to talk. “You are all my dearest friends. I wouldn’t have called you in here tonight if you weren’t. Because I actually give a fuck about you, I’m going to tell you what’s to come and let you decide what you want to do.”
They wait in silence for you to continue. After a short meaningful pause, you continue, “tonight Haven will be attacked by the Midnight Crew. I don’t know who will survive and who will die. Those of you who have been brought back to life by Jane can’t be brought back again. Need I remind you, the Midnight Crew is dangerous, especially when they are all together. You can be assured that they are planning something big tonight.”
You pause, letting them take in all of that info.
“Let that sink in. You might die tonight,” you say pointedly. “I won’t think any less of anyone who wants to leave. You have all given me so much more than I ever could have asked for. Haven has thrived all these centuries, protecting the humans and innocent demons of The City, because you made it happen. You’ve always been free to do what you please, but if that wasn’t clear before, let me make it clear now. Haven’s runtime is over. You are all free to go.”
Again, you pause, and wait. You aren’t certain what you are expecting. Maybe a few of them will leave. Maybe all of them will get up and duck out. Maybe they’ll be angry at you for not sharing this with them sooner.
But what you get is a communal feeling of dedication. Of bonding. Of friendship.
None of them leave.
“Really? Not one of you fuckers is leaving?” You ask incredulously. “Did I mention you might die tonight?”
“Bro, we’re demons,” Porrim points out. “Worst case scenario, we’ll be stuck in Derse for a while.”
“Party at my place if that happens!” Rufioh announces, grinning and holding up his fingers in the shape of devil horns.
There are a few cheers of agreement around the room.
“Not all of you are demons,” you say, looking meaningfully at both Jane and Hal. “Hal, I know your program’s backed up, and I’ll build you another body if this one gets wrecked. But Jane, nobody can bring you back. And if you die—”
“I want to be here, Bro,” Jane says decidedly. There is a formidable fortitude behind her calm sky blue eyes, which tells you that she isn’t planning on changing her mind. “I stand on the side of justice and order. I have hunted the Midnight Crew my entire life, and I will not let them get away this time.”
“You say that as if you can actually kill them. Didn’t you hear Porrim? They’ll just go back to Derse. Unless,” Terezi says from where she is standing beside Jane. Leaning in closer, she sniffs the other girl and says, “ohhh you do have a plan!”
“I do,” Jane says, regarding everyone calmly. “Tonight the Midnight Crew will disappear for good. For everything they have ever done. For killing Roxy.”
Your heart wrenches a bit hearing her name again. You watched your best friend die again not long ago, and you know that Dirk recently told Jane about the incident too.
Dirk told her about how a figure dressed all in black attacked them. That he suspected it might be an agent from Derse, but that the agent never gave his name. That the sadistic agent was fond of machine guns and cuesticks.
Dirk told her about how he was cut and beaten until he couldn’t move. That Roxy gave everything she had to kill the Agent, and then everything else to heal Dirk. That her death would have been merely heroic, but because she died to save him, a demon, that her death was also just.
The only reason Dirk won’t recognize Diamonds Droog later tonight is because he will never see him. If he were to see the agent, you’re certain he would remember. He might not be so distracted thinking about you. He might remember that this is the agent that killed Roxy, and he might fight.
But you suppose the end result would be the same. There is no way Dirk and Jake can win against all four of the midnight crew. Even Jake never took out all four of them at once.
It will be hard, but you’ll have to let your brother get captured. You’ll have to stand back while the Midnight Crew’s terrible plot is put into play, throwing the wretched timeline that you’ve had to live all these centuries into motion.
But you know that in the end, he will come out of it ok. He will rise up to meet the challenges that face him. And some day, he will be the one standing here, in a room filled with the friends he has made over the past 1000 years, ready to take down the Midnight Crew once and for all.
Clearly, Jane has put the facts together for herself. She must have known who killed Roxy as soon as Dirk told her the story of her death. And knowing Jane, she’s been plotting ever since.
“It sounds like you have a plan,” you say, turning to Jane and giving her the floor.
“I do,” she says. “I can’t do it alone, but with all of your help, it just may be possible. I don’t suppose Dirk and Dave—?”
“They won’t be a part of this,” you say with a sense of finality that nobody questions.
“I didn’t think so. Very well,” she takes a deep breath, seeing that all of the eyes are turned to her. “This is what we will need to do.”
* * *
Bro ==> Say goodbye to Dirk
The bass of Dirk’s music grows in volume until it suddenly stops. They’re here.
You sense Dirk and Jake squeezing their way through the populated bar and lounge area. When they make their way into the back, you grab Dirk and pull him into your office alone. You regretfully shut the door on a very bewildered looking Jake. Doing things like this to him has never been your favorite, but now that you know you will see him again soon, it bothers you less.
Dirk’s situation, however, bothers you far more. After this, you’ll never see the kid again.
He turns to you in confusion and shrugs, thinking about how he’ll just explain that you’re weird to Jake later.
“No, you won’t explain to him later,” you respond quickly.
Dirk’s waiting for you to say more. To elaborate on that. He can tell that you’re nervous about something and that you’re scared.
Shit, really? The kid’s gotten so much better at reading feelings. And he’s just beginning to learn to read thoughts. That’s a skill that will be invaluable to him later, but unfortunately you don’t have time to explain it to him. You’ll have to count on your dad, your real dad, to do that.
Dirk wonders what could be making you, his ultimate badass brother, afraid.
“Heh, you do know me better than anyone,” you chuckle quietly. “And you know, it takes a lot of Strider cool to be the ultimate badass. You sure you’re man enough for that?”
“You know I’m game,” he responds smoothly. “What’s the deal?”
You sigh out your frustrations in one breath and say, “the deal is that it’s April the 5th, and your assignment today is the Old Plaza Mall.”
You hear it when AR begins to pester Dirk through his shades.
“You ready to go, Hal?” you think to your own computer counterpart through your shades.
“Born ready,” Hal responds through your shades directly into your mind. “Just run the file and I’ll do the rest of the work.”
“Ok?” Dirk says, clearly confused. He’s listening to AR telling him that something is wrong with you. He’s starting to agree.
Can’t have that.
Quickly, you walk up to him. For a moment, you look into Dirk’s eyes behind his shades, but then you focus your attention on his program. “Hey AR. Run file Broistheultimatebadass.exe”
You hear AR’s confusion through Dirk’s mind, and then he vanishes.
“Bro, what’d you do to AR?” Dirk asks, frowning slightly in suspicion.
“Nothing much,” you admit. “I just wanted him to shut up for one fucking second. He’ll be back before you know it.”
Silently, Dirk agrees. He knows how stubborn the computer program he built is, and though he also knows you’re a programming genius, he doesn’t think you have the capability to find every place AR hid his program.
Little does he know that you have your own copy of the program on your side. With him on the mind, Hal’s thoughts blip into your brain. “It’s done. The copy of me is in Dirk’s shades. His AR is awake too, but he knows not to respond to him yet. He’ll play the videos to wake him up in the cell and then stay silent until he’s in the past.”
You send a silent thanks to Hal and then focus your attention back on Dirk, who is wondering why you decided to shut AR up today and not any other day.
You decide not to answer his question. Instead, you ask, “Dave’s staying with John in the fairy forest today, yeah?”
Again, Dirk is surprised. He knows that he didn’t think about Dave at all, and he’s perplexed about how you managed to pick it out of his mind. “Yeah. He just left. How do you know—”
Before he can finish, you remind him, “info is what I do, remember?”
Seeing Dirk standing there, completely grown up, completely in love with Jake, it hits you. You’ve done everything you can to prepare Dirk for this day. You’ve given him the strength and the skills that he will need to do everything that you did. To survive. To endure. To become a leader.
It hits you hard just how much you’re going to miss him.
Without a word of warning, you sweep in and capture him in your arms tightly. You give him the biggest hug you possibly can, and fill him with all of your love and energy. As much as the kid can hold.
This isn’t like you, so naturally, Dirk is a little weirded out. “Dude, you’re freakin’ the shit out of me. You’re never like this,” he murmurs. “What’s going on, Bro?”
How you wish you could tell him. But you can’t divulge all of the details of his future to him. He has to make these decisions for himself. He has to be free to love, hate, live, or die all on his own terms. You know that he won’t make all the right choices, but he’ll come out ok in the end.
After all. He’s you.
“Striders look out for each other,” you tell him, repeating the words you’ve ingrained in him since he was a child. “Striders stick together. Remember that.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I could forget that if I tried,” he says back with his usual sarcasm but also a slight sense of unease. “Seriously, Bro, is something going down today I don’t know about?”
Again, you ignore his question. Instead, you pull away from him, looking at him with care and love. “You’re going to the Old Plaza Mall today to take care of some zombies that have been congregating there. Dust them, and come straight back here. Don’t get distracted. No detours.”
Dirk assesses your statement quietly, but he can’t figure you out. He will soon. Eventually, he
gives up and says, “ok, but do me a favor and chill a little. Gonna freak everyone around here out with that attitude of yours.”
Then he does it. Dirk turns around to leave. And you don’t think you’ve ever been sadder to see the back of his t-shirt and his stupid hair that he spends way too much time on or the way he slightly swings his arms (but not too much, can’t be uncool) as he walks just like you do.
And before you know it, you’re saying something, anything to make him stay just a moment or two longer. “She’ll help you!” is what you end up shouting across the room at him.
It’s so random that Dirk is completely baffled. He looks back at you and asks, “what?”
“She’ll help you,” you repeat a little softer than the last time. You don’t bother identifying who she is. Dirk will figure it out. “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’re such a liar. Not even a couple hours ago, Bro just sent you his last message, telling you that this would be the last thing he’d ever tell you to do. You actually think he was serious this time.
“The last time?” Dirk repeats, completely turning around to face you. He walks up to you filled with determination, and importance, and anger, and fear. Dirk doesn’t know anything about what’s to come, but he does know you. And in that moment of anger and self-righteous strength, Dirk realizes it.
For the first time, Dirk truly realizes that you’re not really that glorified person he always believed you were.
Dirk realizes that you’re no better than him.
You’re his brother. Nothing more. Nothing less.
“Bro, what are you planning?” he asks again, and you see the agitation in his eyes and the furrowing of his brows. “For fuck’s sake, tell me.”
But you don’t tell him. Instead, you shake your head. “It’s not about me lil’ man, it’s about what’s in here,” you tell him softly, tapping your index finger to his forehead.
And finally, finally, Dirk seems to realize it. That you may never see each other again. He realizes it deep down, but he doesn’t want to believe it. You’ve been his protector forever. You’ve always been a part of his life.
He doesn’t want to lose you.
You both shake away unwanted thoughts, and slowly Dirk nods at you, showing you that in some way he understands. “Bro? Don’t do anything crazy, ok?”
“Never dream of it,” you assure him. Then, you look at him with fondness and finally say it outloud. The thing that you’ve wanted to tell him forever but have always been too cool to voice.
“Dirk, I’m proud of you.”
Ok, that wasn’t exactly the thing you meant to say. But Dirk knows what you really mean. He knows that you’re telling him you love him.
Dirk gets a little choked up and almost gasps, but he holds it back, thinking of how Striders are too cool and definitely don’t gasp in front of you.
“No, they don’t,” you agree. “But you do remember what Striders do, right?”
“Striders stick together,” Dirk says, murmuring the mantra you have ingrained in him and Dave since they were children.
“Damn straight,” you agree, patting him on the back. You hold onto his shoulder just a moment longer than is really necessary, because you want to keep this moment forever.
You never want to forget Dirk, the brother that you sacrificed 1000 years of your life to raise and love.
Then you tilt your head to the side and give him a lopsided grin. “Now go get ‘em, lil’ man! Make your older bro proud!”
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” he agrees. Slowly, he turns and walks out the door, not bothering to say goodbye, because somewhere deep inside him, he hopes that his suspicions aren’t true. He hopes that today will be like any other and he will see you again.
“I know you will,” you murmur quietly, just before he shuts the door behind him.
And just like that, your younger brother is gone.
* * *
Bro ==> Fight the Midnight Crew!
If someone were to walk into Haven now, they wouldn’t recognize the place. After chasing all of the customers (except Cronus) out, you and your friends stripped it clean of anything that could possibly be of value. You’ve taken everything you want to save and thrown it through your Derse portal, knowing that it’s safe in the Condesce’s castle and that you can always get it later.
After all of these centuries hiding it, you finally showed your employees the portal that you kept hidden in your closet. Most of them were shocked. A couple were unsurprisingly angry. You don’t blame them.
You didn’t tell them about your association with the Condesce, but after quickly scanning their minds, only a couple of them even suspect it. Karkat and Porrim, the same ones as before.
After Jane finished explaining her part, you took over and explained your strategies for the upcoming fight.
Your friends thought you were crazy when you told them your plan, but after running through the entire mess twice, they all seemed to catch on. You really don’t blame them, though. Had someone told you yesterday what you would be ready to do today, you’d have laughed at them.
And yet, here you are, tearing your place apart. The place you worked for centuries to build. The dream your parents gave you of protecting the world being literally ripped apart at the seams.
It’s in this disorganized state that you sit down to film the very last video for Dirk. Hal assured you that he could send the file to the copy of himself in Dirk’s sunglasses without your brother knowing.
You’re such a mess right now. You miss Dirk. You miss Jake. You miss your parents. You miss the dreams that you always fought for.
Really, you’re in no state to be giving a friendly brotherly lecture to Dirk, but you do it anyway. You tell Dirk that you miss your little brother already. You tell him to hug the shit out of the little brother that he’ll have raised by this point.
It’s weird knowing that you’re really talking to yourself, in a strange and convoluted way, but in the moment, it’s Dirk you’re talking to. It’s the little brother that you just let slip through your fingers.
When he says he’ll miss you, you smirk at him, and tell him you know. Really, you know better than anyone. The sound of your friends tearing apart the place reaches your ears, and you know that you have to go. That there isn’t much time left.
You warn him of the attack on Haven and salute him. “You did good, kid. You did good.”
With those final words, you end the video and leave Dirk behind forever. You look down at your desk. At the gold plated plaque that Dirk gave you engraved with your name, “BRO STRIDER.”
Quietly you blink away a few tears.
When you look back up, it’s with a renewed sense of purpose. You don’t have the time to mourn the loss of two brothers. You have a job to finish.
Wordlessly, you grab the plaque and throw it through the portal to Derse. You’ll lament over your brothers later. For now, you have a talented team of friends who need your leadership.
When you meet the others outside Haven, staring up at the beautiful sign you just installed earlier this year, Porrim says, “it seems like such a shame. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Positive,” you respond confidently. One by one, you look at each of your friends, making sure that none of you were left behind. “Last call. Anyone need anything from inside?”
They all shake their heads at you.
“Then, ladies and gentlemen,” you declare, turning back around to face the place, “we are closed.”
You hold up a single match, strike it on the side of the matchbox, and flick it toward the building.
At first, the fire springs up from the concrete pavement outside. Then, it quickly follows a trail along the ground and works its way inside. Within seconds, the entire place is ablaze with brilliant orange flames. Naturally, the place was doused with all of the liquor from the bar, making it extremely flammable.
“I still don’t see why you had to set it on fire,” Karkat says, indicating toward Haven with a wave of his hand. “Seems a little counterproductive to me.”
“It’s a signal,” you respond darkly, drawing your katana and taking a defensive stance. “A sign that I know the Midnight Crew is coming. A sign for them to attack.”
Recognizing your sign, everyone quickly disperses, leaving you alone in front of the burning building.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon…” you murmur, your eyes darting to the empty rooftops, to the darkened shadows of trashcans and lampposts, into the deep foliage of trees planted in this urban jungle.
You know the Midnight Crew is out there. Watching. Waiting.
You hear a light scuffling sound and turn sharply around, your eyes focusing on the dark shadows behind parked cars and the sharply demarcated metal fence surrounding a park nearby.
There is the sound of the fire raging behind you.
There is silence.
This waiting is agony. Intense agony.
You’re already on edge from losing Dirk. And you’re alert as fuck, because Jake’s coming back tonight. Losing Dirk hurt worse than you thought it would. You’ll never see that kid’s smile again. Never get to scold him for being too emo. Never plan another birthday party.
You’ll never have another chance to actually tell him how much you care about him.
You wait for some time, but nothing happens. The Midnight Crew doesn’t make a move. And in the distance, you hear Dirk’s Jeep roaring down the street as fast as it can go.
Time to make your exit.
You jump up onto the rooftop of the building across the street, watching the scene below. You watch as Dirk runs up to Haven, with Jake at his side.
Dirk is scared shitless. And not for his own safety, which really should be his concern right now.
He’s scared for you. The only thing in his mind is guilt about how he left you. About how he should have seen this coming.
And Dirk isn’t the only one who is upset about this mess.
Jake is anguished too. Dirk is so preoccupied with running and screaming your name that he doesn’t see the expression on Jake’s face.
He doesn’t see the way Jake’s eyes are tearing, not just from the smoke. He doesn’t see the way Jake is curling his hands into tight fists. He doesn’t see the look of pure rage in Jake’s brilliant emerald eyes.
Because Jake thinks he’s lost you too.
Jake is heartbroken.
And you know now, without a shred of doubt, that Jake loves you.
Jake loves you.
Jake loves you.
The pain in his thoughts is bright as the sun as he holds Dirk back, keeping him from running inside the burning building. “You can’t go in there, Dirk!!! You’ll be roasted alive!!!” he exclaims loudly, his eyes wild and filled with purpose.
Jake can’t lose Dirk too. You hear it in his thoughts. He’s lost you, and he has to do everything he can to protect Dirk from suffering the same fate.
But Dirk doesn’t hear any of Jake’s thoughts.
“Bro’s in there!” Dirk shouts back angrily. “I have to help him!”
Such a good kid. You raised such a good kid.
As you watch your lil’ bro and Jake standing in front of the burning remains of your dreams, the juxtaposition of the past and present snaps into perfect clarity in your mind.
This is your past. This is Dirk’s present. But the future, Dirk’s future, your future, is yet unwritten.
Suddenly it hits you.
You’ve made a terrible mistake.
Why are you letting them get taken by the Midnight Crew anyway? Why are you perpetuating the cycle of grief and pain for Dirk? For yourself?
If Dirk and Jake never get captured, then they will never go to the past.
Lord English will never appear in the past.
Lord English won’t kill your parents and force you to stay and raise yourself and Dave.
You will never have to become Bro.
You could stay here with Jake and keep both of your brothers.
Your parents could still be alive.
But that isn’t what you’ve planned is it? You’ve been so set on maintaining the fucking timeline that you didn’t even consider that option until this moment. You didn’t think that there could be another way.
Your friends will let Dirk and Jake be taken by the Midnight Crew, because that’s what you told them to do. You’re going to make them sit and watch the Midnight Crew beat up Dirk and Jake and throw them through a portal into a dimension set to self-destruct in a few weeks.
Suddenly, there is a burning in your heart. More than a burning, it’s a tearing desire, a ferocious drive that you can’t ignore.
You can’t let this happen to Dirk. To yourself. To Jake.
If you change things, you don’t know what will happen to you. Will you even live through this? Will you even exist?
The questions are muted in your mind as the metaphorical pounding of your heart picks up.
As you see the Midnight Crew stealthily begin to appear from the dark shadows where they were hiding, you make an executive decision.
Fuck the timeline.
Standing up to your full height, you grip your katana tightly, ready to make the decisive move. You’re going to do it. You’re going to save Dirk and Jake and fuck up the timeline, but you don’t care.
You’ll do it because it’s the right thing to do.
You’ll do it because you love them.
In one fluid movement, you flashstep to the edge of the building and jump off.
But something crashes into your right side hard. You’re flying through the air, and before you know it, you find yourself flat on your back. You aren’t on the ground below. You’re back on the rooftop.
For a moment, your head spins, and you see two of Damara’s face, grinning above you. The redness of her lipstick is deep as blood, and her dark horns and wings remind you of the mythical Devil that humans speak so fearfully of. Did she always have wings? Somehow you don’t think so. Her smile is malicious and simultaneously coy as she says, in Japanese, “did you really think you were alone up here, Dirk Strider?”
The fact that she even knows that name infuriates you even more. Quickly, you blink and there is only one Damara standing above you. In a flash, you’re back on your feet, facing her.
It takes you half a second to figure out what happened. She flew into you as you were jumping off the building and threw you back on this rooftop. You know that she can do it again. Though she can’t see it, you narrow your eyes at her and respond to her in Japanese. “You know that I can kill you. Get out of my way.”
“So naïve,” she laughs.“Do you really think I am alone?”
Before you can respond to that, something clawing and painful tears into your back, pushing you forward onto your face. You can tell from the manic thoughts behind you that it’s Meulin Leijon that pounced onto your back at full speed, skidding you across the rooftop several feet and burning angry red trails into your skin from the concrete. When your combined momentum stops, your face is next to the edge of the building.
Struggling, you push yourself up enough to see over the edge. You see that the Midnight Crew is out in the open now. That they’ve already attacked Jake to the ground.
You watch as Hearts Boxcars takes Dirk by the back of the head and smashes him into the ground.
With a burst of energy, you shove off the ground with your arms, and flip over onto your back, crushing Meulin into the rooftop pavement. A few gravel pebbles from the rooftop fly up around you from the force of the blow, and you hear her tiny screech of protest.
She detaches her claws from your back, and you pull free.
Dirk. You HAVE to get to Dirk!! It’s going to happen soon!!!
Again, you make a leap for the edge of the building, but this time a tall and massive force knocks you aside. You flip and land on your feet, facing the thing that came between you and your goal.
Instantly, you freeze.
You can’t let yourself get caught by him again.
Suddenly, your entire vision goes black. It takes you half a second to realize that Hal did it. He blackened your shades so you can’t see.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, but till I get there, don’t look at his eyes!!!” Hal instructs you in your mind.
You know it’s the best thing, but you hate losing one of your senses right now. You need all of them to fight optimally.
Quickly, you adjust, relying on your hearing and on your incubus senses of reading thoughts. You hear Meulin still struggling on the rooftop a little ways from where you left her. You hear Kurloz’s impassive presence right in front of you. You hear Damara swinging her talons toward your left side.
Nimbly, you deflect Damara’s talons with your katana, pushing her off you. Kurloz is more difficult to hear, but when he silently paces toward you, with a club in each hand, you are ready for him. You hear the rustling of his fabric as he brings the left club up. As he swings it your way, you roll aside, slicing your katana through his leg as you do so.
Kurloz makes no sound, but you hear the pure RAGE in his thoughts as you inflict the wound. Meulin has recovered by this point, and as she pounces at you head-on, you catch her by her claws, letting her rip into your hands a bit and draw blood. Then, you heave her up and over you. As she flies overhead, you let go, and stab her through the abdomen, feeling her blood rain atop you and hearing her piercing cry.
Damara is coming at you again, from above this time. She dives down at you, and there is no way you can completely avoid the attack. Even with your flashstepping skills, she’s almost on top of you. Flashstepping back as far as you can, you grab the tattered remains of Kurloz’s clothing and spin him in front of you.
Damara’s talons rip into Kurloz’s chest, and the three of you all crash into the rooftop.
The force of the impact knocks you all down for a few seconds. It’s a few seconds you know you don’t have.
Frantically, you struggle to your feet, stumbling again to the edge of the building. You tear your still blackened shades off your eyes and look down at the scene below.
You’re just in time to see Dirk get stabbed by Spades Slick. He and Jake are both fully bound, though the knife stab looks as though it broke through some of Dirk’s bindings.
The entire Midnight Crew is there. Diamonds Droog, Spades Slick, Hearts Boxcars, and Clubs Deuce are all surrounding them. It looks like Diamonds and Clubs are both working on creating a dark portal, while Hearts collects Jake and Spades stabs Dirk again.
You have to get to them NOW. You only have a few seconds before they will be gone forever.
Even though you still are less than steady, you pull yourself to the edge of the building, intent on jumping over.
But suddenly there is a tearing pain in your calves that drags you backwards forcefully. Quickly, you throw your arms in front of you and are just barely able to avoid crashing your head into the cement. “Fucking damn it!” You snarl at Meulin, who you know is the one holding you back. “Get the fuck out of my way!!!”
But she does not. Now that your shades are off, you can actually see how badly you wounded her. With a gash like that from her chest down her entire abdomen, she shouldn’t be moving, much less trying to fight you. But there is a ferocious determination in her eyes that tells you this is everything to her. That she will give everything, including her life, to stop you from interfering.
And like that, everything clicks into place. Their obsession with Jake. Their devotion to Lord English.
It wasn’t chance that you found them all those years in the past when Lord English surfaced the second time. The Midnight Crew started Lord English’s revival, but they finished it.
You almost want to laugh. All of this happened right under Her Imperious Condescension’s nose, but she was too vain to ever look into it. Why should she care what mischief her demons dabbled in on the side? If her agents did her work, why would it benefit her to know who else they worked for?
Perhaps she would have cared more if she knew they worked for the one monster she detested the most. Perhaps she would have done something had she known that the Midnight Crew, Damara, Kurloz, and Meulin all worked for Lord English.
That their goal was always the same: to revive their lord. To pull Lord English out of Jake.
You realize now that Jake never had trouble with them in the past, even though they had been around far longer than a thousand years. They never bothered him, because they never knew what he looked like. Jake is far older than all of them. You are certain that he trapped Lord English within his body far before any of them came into existence.
They never knew to target Jake until that fateful day that you showed them his appearance. The day a thousand years ago that you pulled Lord English out of Jake and revealed his body to them.
Now you know why Damara knew your true name. She was watching Lord English. She was watching Jake. And after you sent him back into the future, she was watching you.
This surprisingly large epiphany takes about a second to process, in which time you quickly slide your shades back over your eyes. Now that you know the truth, there is absolutely no time for mercy.
Pushing off the cement, you flip over onto your back, kicking your legs and flipping Meulin too. You sit up, and in two careful but precise swipes of your katana, you slice off Meulin’s arms. She shrieks with fury and pain beneath you, but you are finally able to pry her claws out of your legs.
You sense Kurloz’s rage rise in the air around you, surrounding the entire rooftop with its malignant charge.
Even though your shades are darkened and you can’t see anything, much less Kurloz’s eyes, you begin to feel his influence over you. You start to hear his thoughts not just as an observer but as an active participant.
Your body starts to bend to his will.
NO!!! This can’t happen. You can’t allow this to happen!
But try as you might, you feel your arm lifting into the air, the sharp tip of your katana slowly reversing to point at you.
This isn’t right. This isn’t right. You KNOW this isn’t right. Your arm shakes, the blade halting in the air an inch away from your skin as you struggle to point it away from yourself.
“JAKE!!!” You hear Dirk shout from the street below.
Fuck. You’re running out of time.
“Aww, ya worried about youse lover? How precious. Don’t ya worry, I’ma take real good care of him,” you hear Spades Slick croon mockingly.
“Don’t touch him, Spades!” You hear Dirk growl, mirroring your own thoughts. “I swear if you do I’ll—”
Dirk stops talking, and your own mind threatens to give in when you hear a tiny whimper from Jake. Jake is in pain. Jake needs your help.
Why can’t you break free??? Why can’t you—
Suddenly, your arm is your own again, and you swing your katana harmlessly to the side. The blackness fades from your shades, allowing you to see Hal with perfect clarity, stabbing a katana of his own through Kurloz’s back.
“JAKE!!!” You hear Dirk scream again.
Hal slides the katana easily through the demon, separating the right and left side of his body. Then, he throws his katana in your direction. You hear Damara’s cry to your right, as the blade pierces her wing and pins her to the rooftop.
“GO!!!” Hal shouts, with a sweep of his arm.
It takes you less than a second to finally jump off the edge of the building.
As you fall, you notice that Dirk is already knocked out and slung over Hearts Boxcars’ shoulder. Jake is over his other shoulder. Whatever they did to Jake unwound his binding, but he’s thoroughly knocked out.
Diamonds Droog and Clubs Deuce have finished the portal.
You have to get there in time. You have to get to them.
All these years. All these centuries, you have done everything you can to raise Dirk to be the best person he can be. This past millennia, you have worked your ass off to be the best fucking guardian ever. Maybe you didn’t always have it right. There were a few dark moments. Centuries. But you never stopped working, training yourself to be better, faster, stronger, and even more deadly than before. You’re a verifiable killing machine now, and you have no doubt that you can take down the Midnight Crew.
But try as you might, you can’t fall any faster.
Gravity, it would seem, is your weakness.
You feel the rush of air on your cheeks, flapping around the popped collar of your white dress shirt. There’s a burning in your eyes and in your soul as you realize that Hearts Boxcars is already at the portal.
As your right foot touches the ground, Hearts throws Jake through the portal.
You’re flashstepping their way. You’ve closed half the distance between you and them. But even with your speed, it’s not fast enough.
You watch, unable to do a thing, as he throws Dirk through the portal.
Your little bro is gone.
Jake is gone.
You scream with livid fury, ready to jump through the portal again. Ready to do it all again just to protect them.
Even if it doesn’t make any sense. Even if there is literally nothing you can do.
But Diamonds and Clubs just smirk at you, bringing down their hands and the portal at the same time.
By the time you reach it, you run through the open air.
“Aww, still worried about youse lover? Or maybe youse brother?” Spades asks with his mock sympathy, this time directed at you. “Don’t ya worry, we’ve sent ‘em someplace real nice.”
You remember the place they sent Dirk and Jake. You recall all too well that horrible cell in the desert, filled with nothing but sand and a destiny to explode within a month.
It nearly drove you mad, and it forced Jake to unleash Lord English on the universe. Jake didn’t have to do it, but he did it to protect you.
Because he loves you.
And suddenly you realize something. That even though you’ve failed Dirk, Dave, and yourself miserably by starting this terrible chain of events, the end you have been waiting for forever should be here now.
Jake should be here now.
The waiting is over. It’s finally fucking over.
But you have one more task to finish first. The Midnight Crew has to be put away for good.
Time to kick some ass.
* * *
No Placeholder Penis this week! (For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I posted a delightful painting I did last week in lieu of a chapter on my tumblr.) Life has been VERY busy lately, and I haven’t had much time to write. It might take a little while again to put out the last few chapters. If you’re interested in story status updates, I put those up on tumblr every week, so check it out.
On another note, I wanted the entire fight scene to be one chapter, but it was getting too long. We’ll have to see the remainder of the fight scene next time!
Lastly, Acyl has started an ask blog for Bro! Her drawings are adorable and I’ll be helping with the responses here and there, so go here and ask away!
Of course, you can also talk to me too. I don’t bite or anything, I promise! And it might take me a while, but I do respond to every one of my reviewers, so please don’t be afraid to ask me anything!