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
Chapter 30: Round 2, STRIFE!
As you turn to face the Midnight Crew, you see four identical smiles of pure evil. You want nothing more than to detach their heads from their bodies.
But that’s not part of the plan. You would say fuck the plan, because that’s just how pissed you are right now, but something stops you from doing that.
It’s hard to ignore two towering dragons when they crash down to the ground beside you.
Terezi and Latula respond to the signal you worked out earlier. They saw you run into the heat of battle after Dirk and Jake disappeared, and now they are here to join you. Terezi is easily recognizable with her gleaming red scales. Latula is a vivid aqua color. Standing side by side, they are formidable foes.
Spades Slick’s eyes narrow to little white slits as Terezi opens her mouth full of piercing razor sharp teeth and snaps at him. He’s quick, which you remember from seeing him fight before, and he manages to dodge out of the way in time to avoid being dragon food.
Hearts Boxcars’s grin morphs into a wider, more demented look that you can no longer call a smile. His teeth are bared back at the dragons, and when Latula snaps at him, he catches her lower jaw with his bare hands, shoving her up into the sky.
Even though she’s a hundred times his size, Latula goes flying up into the air. She spreads her wings, steadying herself and hovering in the sky. She sneers at them, and you can see the fire building behind her slightly open mouth.
“Not yet!!!” Jane screams, running in from beneath the aqua dragon. She is carrying a long red spear that is far too reminiscent of the Condesce’s trident for your comfort. She’s wearing jean pants today as well as a gray t-shirt sporting her favorite ectoplasmic blue ghost. It’s clear that she’s here today to fight. Jane points the weapon at the Midnight Crew and says lowly, “death is too good for them.”
Latula understands, and she swiftly flies up higher, giving Jane plenty of room to work.
The Midnight Crew look smug as shit when they see the little girl that is supposedly their foe.
“Such a cutie, Jane,” Slick says, pulling a long serrated knife slowly from its sheathe at his side. “Tell me, ya think dis time youse got it in ya ta fight? Or youse gonna run home an hide again like a good little gal?”
Clubs is snickering beside him. “Yeah, ya tell ‘er.”
Jane is less than amused. She brandishes her spear, taking a battle-ready position, and says, “I’m not running away.”
“Neither are we.”
Though it’s Karkat’s voice that you recognize, the rest of your friends all appear at the same time. Porrim, Kanaya, Karkat, Kankri, Cronus, Rufioh, and Tavros complete your circle around the Midnight Crew, surrounding them with an intimidating arsenal of weaponry.
Spades cackles. “Oh! Oh dis is just too precious!” He leans over to Diamonds and says, “look at dem, dey think dey got us surrounded. Like dis was a plan a deres.”
The rest of the Midnight Crew chuckle back. Lowly. Maliciously.
Spades’ grin splits like a knife across his face again. “Gents, ya know what ta do.”
As one, Diamonds, Hearts, and Clubs smile in that eerie way that matches Spades.
“Yeah, we know,” Diamonds replies. He straightens his white tie with a swift tug and pulls a wicked looking cuestick from the air. “I’m gonna enjoy dis.”
“We’re gonna CRUSH ‘em!” Hearts says, pulling what looks like a TV antenna and a battleaxe, also out of thin air.
“Dey’ll have a very bad day!” Clubs pipes in, pulling out a golf club and what you would swear looks like a cane made out of bull penis. Of course, these also appear out of thin air.
It would seem the Midnight Crew also have Sylladexes, just like Jake. You’re going to have to score one of those sweet air pockets someday. You’ll ask Jake about it later, but for now you have far more important things to think about.
“Gents,” Spades says, his eyes narrowing to slivers. “Cut da deck.”
In a flash, they all vanish.
You warned everyone that this would likely happen. The eyes of your friends and companions turn to you for leadership.
“The Midnight Crew is NOT made of cowards. They haven’t really run. Find them before they find you!” You command quickly. “Keep them occupied until Jane and I get to them, and for fuck’s sake, don’t get yourselves killed!”
They all understand you. Wordlessly, they separate into their teams and disappear.
You turn to Jane and ask her, “think you can still do it? There’s no shame if you can’t. We’ll just kill them as usual and try this again later.”
“I’m not backing down,” Jane says, setting her jaw with grim determination. “This ends tonight. For the sake of the world. And for Roxy.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear,” you reply. With a smirk, you hold out your fist to her. “Let’s get ‘em.”
Jane fist bumps you back, and you’re off.
Listening carefully, you still hear the sounds of battle from the building above you. Hal is still fighting off what’s left of Damara and Meulin.
Hal seems to recognize that you’re thinking about him, probably through your link as usual. He sends his thoughts through your shades, “If you’re coming up here, watch out for the fire escape stairs. Meulin and Kurloz are working their way back down, but I’ve almost got Damara.”
“Kurloz? You’re shitting me. You literally cut him in half,” you think back. “And I cut off Meulin’s arms.”
“And somehow Kurloz grew that half back? And Meulin… I don’t know anymore, but I’ll take care of this mess. You get Jane to the Midnight Crew,” Hal sends back.
You’ll leave him to it.
If you listen further, you can hear the sounds of battle in a few other locations. Four different places, no doubt representing the four agents of the Midnight Crew.
There is no time to lose. You have to get to each agent before either your team kills him, or he kills your team.
You turn to Jane and say with the utmost seriousness, “if we’re going to reach them, we have to move. Faster than you can move.”
Jane seems to understand, and when you bend down low enough, she jumps onto your back. You hold her securely by the legs and wait for her to lock her arms around your neck, trying your best not to reflexively swing your head back when she brings that giant crimson trident around in front of you. “Ready when you are,” she says.
“Hang on tight,” you tell her, standing back up to your full height. You feel her clutch onto you a little harder, and then you flashstep away.
Jane takes it like a champ. After a short squeak at first take off, she is silent the entire way.
Your first stop is at an old abandoned factory building not far away. You can hear the sounds of scuffle from inside. The characteristic sound of Kanaya’s chainsaw roars through the air, and you know that it’s her and Karkat inside. Wasting no time, you bust through the broken-down factory doors.
The place seems even bigger on the inside than the outside. You aren’t sure what they used to build here, but it’s been a very long time since anybody has been inside this place. A layer of dust covers the cracked cement floor, and the iron beams that support the place look suspiciously rusted-through. Weeds have grown through the floor, and several window panes are broken or missing.
There are giant chunks of leftover rusted scrapmetal from factory machines that have long since gone out of use. The machines have decayed so much that you can’t even recognize what they used to be.
You duck just in time as a large piece of rusted scrap metal is thrown your way. Your senses sharpen, honing in on Hearts Boxcars’ towering shape as he heaves up another large piece of scrapmetal with his bare hands. “I’m gonna END YA!” he shouts, throwing the metal your way.
Again, you dodge the second piece. After flashstepping safely out of the way, you put Jane back on the ground. “The three of us will distract him. You do what you’ve got to do.”
You hear the confirmation in Jane’s thoughts, and you don’t wait for her to say it outloud. You’re already flashstepping away from there, drawing Hearts’ attention away from her and back to you.
Hearts Boxcars is a brute of an agent, and he walks purposefully down the length of the factory, chucking piece after piece of metal at you. After throwing another piece at you, he blocks Kanaya’s chainsaw attacks with a large battleaxe. Karkat swings in quickly after Kanaya, timing his attack so that he’ll catch Heart’s arm with his sickles.
Hearts doesn’t even wince as the sickles draw bright red blood. He doesn’t seem the least bit deterred from hitting Karkat in the side with a TV antenna, throwing the smaller troll back into the wall with a loud crack. Kanaya is more incensed after seeing her friend thrown into the wall, and she comes at Hearts again with her chainsaw. Hearts may not be as fast as Spades, but he’s not slow by any means. He manages to swoop to the side and avoid her attack, rearing up his battle axe in retaliation with the same movement.
By this point, you’ve flashstepped over to them, and you slice Heart’s right hand cleanly off his body before he can swing the battle axe at Kanaya. He roars in fury and uses his left hand to deck you hard. When his fist collides with your chest, you go flying into one of the old factory support beams.
The rusted beam crumbles away easily from the force of your weight, bringing down a section of the ceiling above you. Thankfully, you’re not so disoriented that you can’t recover, and you manage to flashstep out of the way just before the metal and plaster crashes down on top of you.
The destruction of that section of the ceiling lets in the moonlight, which refracts off the cloud of dust and ceiling particles that is kicked up around you. Karkat looks like he’s out for the count, but Kanaya is still keeping Hearts’ attention with her chainsaw. Hearts is fighting her viciously with his TV antenna.
Together, you have bought enough time for Jane to sneak up behind the agent. She makes no battle cry. In fact, she makes no sound at all as she plunges the trident into his back. Only the gleam in her eyes expresses the pure fury in her soul and the passion she has for what she is about to do.
Hearts roars, twisting around this way and that, but Jane holds onto the trident harder than ever as it begins to fill with a blindingly bright glow.
You recognize this feeling, and quickly, you flashstep in, grabbing Kanaya by the torso and pulling her out of the way.
You make it to the wall where Karkat is starting to come to just in time to avoid the holy attack. A five foot radius of blinding white light surrounds Hearts and Jane, and finally you hear her screaming words in an ancient lost language out loud. From the sky, blinding white swords rain down around Hearts, piercing the ceiling with fine precision and trapping him like a fence.
The holy energy picks up further, and you’re suddenly very thankful for the immunity Feferi placed on you long ago. You realize, suddenly, that Kanaya is not so lucky, and you try to shield her body with yours as the light increases to a blinding luminescence.
There’s a crash, like lightning, and suddenly the light is gone. Jane is standing alone in the center of the factory, panting heavily. After a few seconds, she finally lowers her trident.
Karkat is coming to Kanaya’s side, assessing the burns that she sustained from the holy damage. On a quick glance, you realize that she is already healing and will be fine.
“Did you kill the fucker?” Karkat asks. He’s clutching his right arm, which is bent in an unnatural direction, but he seems otherwise ok.
“Worse,” Jane states, shaking her head. When she looks up, there is a look of vengeance on her face, and you know that her revenge is far from over. “I sent him to Prospit where he will burn in torment forever.”
You always knew Jane was a fighter. You even knew the details of her little plan, since her mind is an open book to you. But what shocks you is the hardened sound in her voice, and the grim determination in her rage-filled disposition.
Jane is out for more than blood. Jane is out for revenge.
You want to caution her about that, but you know it would do no good. Jane is stubborn to a fault in many ways, and you know that she will never have second thoughts about what she is doing to Roxy’s murderers.
So instead, you simply tell her, “we have to move if we’re going to catch the others in time.”
Jane understands and is quick to jump back onto your back.
Karkat also understands and waves you off with his good hand. “Get outta my face, and put those douche-nugget agents in their place.”
You grin at him, “you rhymed. Dave’s gonna love that.”
Before Karkat has a chance to sling a mouthful of expletives at you, you’re off.
Your feet flashstep you both to the next place of battle. When you put Jane down on the grass, she looks back at you. Though she doesn’t say anything, you can hear her thinking, “really? HERE?”
You’re at a children’s playground. At least, what used to be one.
You remember when this place was new a couple hundred years ago. Now, all that remains are the sad metallic infrastructures of slides, with poles that used to support large play structures sticking haphazardly out of the ground. There are large chunks of plastic buried in the dirt that were once colorful tubes and slides. The weeds are deep and come halfway up your legs, swaying sadly in the breeze.
Dave and John used to play here. Ironically of course. You used to bring them here in your free time, but once you got busier, Dirk took on that responsibility.
Dirk. Fuck do you miss him already.
“Bro!” Jane hisses at you, pulling you out of your memories. “Are you sure this is the right place? I don’t see them!”
“I’m sure,” you respond quietly, scanning the area. You know you heard a tell-tale explosion characteristic of Clubs Deuce’s handiwork. And you only know one person who loves to shout “Bangarang!”
The air is tense as you wait for them to make a move. The wind rustles the weeds. A lone soda pop can rolls down the road nearby.
Suddenly, there’s a loud whoop and an explosion of color. Your eyes widen in disbelief as you watch Rufioh burst out of the weeds, flying with his multi-colored wings and lifting a shocked Clubs Deuce into the air with him.
Clubs is waving that bull penis cane at him, swatting at his hair unhappily.
“Found ya, doll!” Rufioh says, winking and flying a few loops in the air purely for fun. “Hide and seek, good game to play! It’s a shame the playground’s a little broken, but I’ve seen worse in Derse. Right Tav?”
“That’s uhh right!” Tavros says, bursting through the weeds from somewhere else with, holy fuck, rocket propelled legs.
“Hey Tav, wanna play some catch?” Rufioh asks. Without waiting for his brother to respond, he tosses Clubs his way.
Tavros easily catches Clubs, who immediately starts smacking him with his cane. Tavros frowns. “He’s kind of mean. Can I just uhh, drop him?”
“Drop him and we’ll lose him again!” Rufioh tisks back. “Then he’ll set up more bombs, and that’ll be such a drag.”
You watch the two brothers interact for a short while. The way they fluidly drift through the air together makes it clear that they’ve practice these sorts of moves many times in the past. Though they never really worked for you (and seeing the fact that they’re not actually damaging Clubs in any way, you’re glad that they didn’t) they are undeniably a close-knit team.
It reminds you of the days you and Dirk were partners. Before you gave him Roxy. Before you gave him Jake. Before you decided to do solo missions on your own.
You and Dirk were unstoppable. You dare say you knew each other even better than Rufioh and Tavros.
Being the same person will do that.
Finally, Rufioh notices you and Jane standing in wait, and he swoops down to greet you. “Bro!” he says, giving you a high five.
“Look, I know it’s fun to play with the little shrimp, fuck any other day I’d say go at it for a week, but we’re on a tight schedule today,” you remind him.
“Ohhh riiiiiight,” Rufioh agrees. Then, turning, he waves his hand to his brother. “Tav, toss him here!”
Tavros eagerly tosses Clubs your way.
Rufioh opens up his arms to catch him, but Jane pushes him out of the way. “He’s mine,” she says lowly, narrowing her eyes at the agent. As he comes flying through the air, Jane holds her trident aloft.
With precision that is admirable, she stabs him as he flies through the air and throws him to the ground. She wastes no time beginning the holy spell.
You and the Nitram brothers are quick to clear the area. You watch with moderate relief as the second member of the Midnight Crew disappears in a flash of blinding light, surrounded by holy swords.
“Baller, dude,” Rufioh says, high fiving you again.
“Yeah, I know. Jane’s pretty awesome, but we’ve gotta go,” you say.
“Do what you’ve gotta do, Bro!” Rufioh agrees, waving you off.
You nod at the Nitrams and turn your attention back to Jane, returning to her side swiftly.
When she sent Hearts to Prospit, Jane’s expression was one of determination. Though she still has that same ferocity, there’s a weariness behind her eyes that you don’t think was there before. Not just the usual lack of sleep weariness.
It’s a lifetime weariness.
Jane tries to move over to your back, but you stop her quickly, catching her wrist with your hand. There isn’t much time, but you look her in the eyes with the utmost seriousness and ask, “Jane, is there something you aren’t telling me?”
She doesn’t say anything, and you don’t wait for her to. You plunge into her thoughts, finding what you were looking for right on the surface of her mind. Your eyes widen. “Jane—”
“You can read my mind, I know,” she says. “So you know the truth. And you know that I won’t back down.”
Your eyebrows furrow slightly, and it takes a good deal of concentration not to let the corners of your lips dip into a frown. “We don’t have to continue,” you impress on her. “Trapping two of the Midnight Crew is enough to stifle them significantly.”
“Yes, we do,” she says stubbornly. “These people killed Roxy. I won’t let them get away.”
Quickly, you poke into every inch of her mind, and you find her resolve to be firm and true. Jane won’t stop now, regardless of the consequences.
Maybe it’s because you just lost two people very close to you that you’re acting this way. Losing two brothers will do that. You know Bro would laugh at you for the way you’re acting now, but you don’t give a fuck because you’ll never see him again. He’ll never have the opportunity to taunt you again now that you’ve finally caught up to the time you left.
You’re worried about Jane. You’re worried as fuck, but this is her decision. You have to respect her wishes and let her make it.
Finally, you give her a swift nod. You don’t say anything, because nothing is left to be said. Instead, you lean down low enough for her to jump onto your back again. Once she’s secured, you flashstep away.
The next battle is difficult to miss. You wince a little when you realize where you are.
Dave’s old penthouse condominium.
After the incident when he was kidnapped, you insisted that he live either with you or with Dirk. He chose to live with Dirk and has been in your now nonexistent younger brother’s place since. You always wondered why the agents went after Dave and never Dirk. Obviously they were trying to get to Jake, so wouldn’t going after you have made more sense?
Now you realize that it was a bit more than that. Due to a horribly ironic coincidence, it was all too convenient to go after Dave first.
Having a portal from Derse on the roof of your building will do that.
You wonder how Dave missed the rooftop portal as soon as you get there. But you suppose that if the portal was new, he might not have had the chance to discover it before he was attacked. Just thinking about that night leaves a pit at the bottom of your stomach. You wish that there was more you could have done for your lil bro. You wish that he didn’t have to go through the agony he endured, but you know that as terrible as it was, Dave came out of it for the better.
The experience brought Dave and John that much closer.
Realizing that you don’t have time to think about this, you shift Jane on your back and ask, “you ready for this?”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice,” she murmurs.
“You are so right,” you agree, gripping onto her tighter. Flashstepping to the back doors, you kick through them and begin ascending the fire escape stairs. You remember climbing the same stairs 1000 years ago with Jake by your side. At the time, taking the stairs up to Dave’s penthouse floor left you and Jake slightly out of breath. Even with Jane on your back, that doesn’t happen anymore, but climbing all of those flights still isn’t fun.
As you ascend, you notice that the building is empty already. It’s not like people stopped living here, so you know they must have left on their own at some point. When you feel the building shake violently, and an overwhelming pulse of evil energy follow behind it, you know why the residents all left.
You don’t blame them. If killing demons wasn’t your job, you’d want to leave too.
You arrive on the rooftop and immediately sense the danger and destruction below. There is broken cement and plaster everywhere. You see some training equipment Dave left up here strewn about. Aww, you’re so proud of the kid.
But you don’t have time to bask in your brotherly pride. Instead, you have to pay attention to important things, like the giant gaping hole in front of you. With Jane still on your back, you peer down.
Below you, you see the broken wooden panels of Dave’s kitchen. The kid’s going to be so thrilled to hear about that. It leaves a very large hole in his floor which has broken through to the floor below it. And the floor below that. And the floor below that.
Far below, you can see the blurred movements of fighting. You estimate it to be at least fifteen stories below.
You wish you had known. You wouldn’t have bothered with all those extra stairs.
“Hold on tight,” you tell Jane. “We’ve got a long fall ahead of us.”
You hear Jane gulp behind you and feel her fingernails dig into the skin of your arms. Even if you weren’t an incubus and couldn’t read thoughts, you would know that she is petrified of the fall ahead. “You’ll be ok,” you reassure her, though you know that nothing you could say will take away her fear.
There isn’t time to calm her down, and you decide that it wouldn’t be possible anyway. So you tell her, “We’ll go on the count of three, ok?”
“O-ok,” Jane agrees.
“One,” you murmur. Jane clings to you tighter.
You lean over the edge and fall hands first through the hole in the floor.
Jane is screeching in your ear, and you hear her thoughts loudly in your head, “he jumped on ONE. Oh fuck oh fuck oh FUCK HE JUMPED ON ONE!!!” You do your best to ignore her, focusing on the fighting below you. Diamonds Droog is definitely in the building, and it looks like Porrim, Kankri, and Cronus are fighting him.
The floor comes into focus all too soon. It’s an ugly black and white checkered tiled motif. You reach out and touch the cold tiles with your fingertips first, curling your legs beneath you. This is definitely not the best way to fall, but with Jane on your back, rolling isn’t an option. You’ll have to make do with what you have.
Your arms and legs take the force of the blow, absorbing a majority of the shock. You land as smoothly as possible, but the air is still knocked out of your lungs as you fall flat onto your chest. Pain blossoms in your torso, and you hear the telltale sound of some of your ribs cracking. It’ll heal quickly, but ouch.
It seems your little entrance attracted some attention, because you now have four pairs of eyes looking at you two. Quickly, you get up, setting Jane to her feet. You’re relieved to see that she’s shaken but unharmed.
Diamonds Droog is a classy gent. Despite literally crashing through the floor several times, very little dust has settled on his pitch black suit. He brandishes a wicked looking metal cuestick in his hand, the end covered with purple the same color as Cronus’s blood.
You take a second to glance at your surroundings. You’re in the center of what used to be a nice, but tacky, condo. The entire thing is themed with the same checkered pattern, giving the illusion that you’re in a giant chess game. Diamonds is standing not far away, facing off Porrim with his cuestick. Porrim has a metal circular chakram in each hand, and though she looks worse for wear, the small scratches on her are nothing compared to Cronus.
You almost wince when you see how badly Cronus is hurt. It looks like he’s taken a few bullets as well as several cuestick punctures. He’s sitting in a large pool of his own blood, and you don’t know if he’s going to make it. You wish you could have made it here faster. You’ll have to thank Cronus for his sacrifice later.
Kankri is meanwhile completely at a loss. He’s kneeling beside Cronus with his sickles completely forgotten at his side. He’s saying something to him, but you don’t have time to listen to what it is. You feel kind of bad for dragging Kankri into this mess at all. You know he’s not really a fighter, and this battlefield is not the place to start.
“A newcomer ‘eh?” Diamonds says, his grin widening. “I was wonderin’ when youse was gonna show youseself, Strider. An’ look, ya brought dat dame wit’ ya.”
“My name is Jane,” she says beside you, facing off Diamonds in a way that is nothing but menacing. “Remember it while you’re burning in torment for the rest of your life.”
“Sassy. A lot like dis one,” Diamonds replies, indicating towards Porrim with a jab of his thumb.
With a growl, Porrim flings a chakram at him, but Diamonds stabs it quickly through the hollow center with his cuestick, letting the chakram circle harmlessly around the metal pole. He tisks at her, “fightin’ wit a distracted foe? Ya fight dirty.”
He grins, whipping the cuestick around and flinging the chakram away. “I like it.”
Kankri screeches as the circular metal blade slices through half of his abdomen and embeds itself into Cronus’s arm behind him.
Diamonds has been around for a long time. Long enough that he could have gone for the kill with that shot if he wanted to.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he chose a place that would hurt Kankri. Just like the stabs he took at Cronus were in painful but nonvital areas. Eventually they’ll both bleed out and die, if they aren’t cared for. But it will take a while. They will suffer first.
Outside, you show no emotion, but inside you are livid. Diamonds Droog. This has always been his way. Sadistic and cruel. You can’t wait to let Jane put him away forever.
“Jane, let’s finish this one,” you mutter to her.
“Gladly,” she agrees, gripping her trident tighter.
It’s going to be more difficult getting to Diamonds, since he is quicker than both Hearts and Clubs. He’s craftier. Of the four, you’ve actually seen Diamonds fight the least. Usually, you only saw the horrific aftermath of one of his battles.
But over time, you’ve grown stronger. You’ve become faster and more capable. Your skills with a katana have improved dramatically. The version of you that Diamonds sent away earlier this evening, the version 1000 years younger, couldn’t beat him.
In a flash, you’ve pulled your katana from its sheathe and moved across the room. You stand in between Diamonds and Porrim. “Change of plans.”
“Oh?” he says, smiling at you eerily and spinning his cuestick for fun. Cronus’s blood splats off it onto the ceiling and floors.
“Time for you to die,” you finish.
As you lunge at him, Diamonds is quick to parry with his cuestick. You’re a little faster than him, but he’s no easy foe. His blows knock you back, but they don’t dislodge you off your feet. You’re certain that to the others, and especially to Jane, you’re both just a blur moving around the room parrying and attacking.
That isn’t what you’d hoped for. You wanted to give Jane a chance to move in and deliver the final blow, but at this rate, she will be lucky just to see him, much less kill him.
“Ya know what I like about ya, Strider?” Diamonds asks, swinging at you with his cuestick. You step out of the way and let him break a wooden dining table cleanly in half instead of your head. He grins, “ya got a soft spot for yer friends.”
The pistol is out and in motion before you have time to react. While the wooden splinters of the table are still flying around in the air, you can only watch as he aims at Porrim and pulls the trigger. You flashstep to him immediately, of course, but he’s anticipated your move. Diamonds only gives you a casual glance and a grin before jumping over you and diving at Porrim.
In one charged shot, he strikes her through the chest with the cuestick and stabs her into the floor. The force of the blow causes the floor to crunch below them. Suddenly, you understand why Cronus has so many puncture wounds.
Driving the cuestick straight through Porrim, Diamonds pumps so much force into the blow that the ground below them cracks and falls out from beneath them. In a flurry of plaster, concrete, metal piping, and dust, the two disappear to the floor below.
Quickly, you glance at Cronus and Kankri, but you know that as much as you want to help them there isn’t time. Jane seems to have figured that out too, because she’s already running to your side. This time, you opt for simply picking her up with your right arm before jumping to the floor below.
You land cleanly on your feet, avoiding the place where Porrim is laying in a pool of her own jade blood. She’s not gone yet, but with Diamonds’ cuestick through her torso, the wound is being kept open. Sadistically, he drives the cuestick into her, twisting it around to break open more of her skin and make her writhe in pain. Porrim is losing blood at an alarming rate.
You hate what is happening, but you know an opportunity when you see one.
While Jane holds her trident steady, you flashstep the weapon straight through Diamonds’ back.
But just when you think that this mess is almost over, he surprises you by tearing forward, ripping the barbed ends of the trident back through his chest and stumbling forward. Diamonds finally pulls his cuestick from Porrim and turns to face you, his eyes narrowing with hatred. He coughs and speckles of bright red blood fly from his mouth.
“Ya ripped my suit,” he snarls at you, his voice filled with venom. “Yer gonna pay for dat!!!”
Quickly, you set Jane back down and resume the fight. This time, Diamonds is even more vicious with his strikes. Gone are his playful quips. Now he’s out for blood. Your blood.
You’re ready for this fight. Now that he’s angered, Diamonds isn’t as focused as he was before. You’re able to land a few strikes on him, ripping more holes into his suit and making him growl at you in rage.
And finally, you’re able to work him into a corner. You knock the cuestick from his hands and hold your katana up against his neck, pinning him in place so that Jane can come in and finish him.
Then he starts chuckling, a deranged sound if you have ever heard one. “Ya know what else I like about ya, Strider?” His eyes narrow at yours and he smiles a bloody and vindictive looking smile. “Ya never see da back attack comin’.”
Suddenly, the large windows behind you crash open. The roaring wind sweeps into the place, sending fragments of glass and pieces of debris everywhere.
Like a dark pulsing wave, you sense another presence. A deep, malevolent, evil presence that you have come to associate with the Midnight Crew. You know without a doubt that there are two of them here now.
Spades Slick is here.
You hear the sound of Terezi and Latula’s dragon cries in the background but you don’t dare turn around. Diamonds is crafty. You know he has more than one gun, and if you don’t finish him now, he will kill you.
“JANE!” you shout at her.
The gleaming trident is in Diamond’s stomach before you say anything else. Clearly, Jane had the same idea. Or maybe it was her idea and you just picked it from her mind. Things are moving so swiftly that you’re not sure. From behind you, you hear Jane beginning her holy incantation.
There is an unmistakable tearing sound of the floor being destroyed behind you. You’re not sure how many levels of this place are being taken out at once, but it sounds like more than one floor breaking.
The heat of Latula’s flames singes your back a little bit, and you hear Terezi’s claws crushing furniture and walls in massive fell sweeps. Porrim’s voice enters the mix, even though you know she is badly injured, and when you concentrate, you hear the sound of her chakram whipping through the air.
It’s one giant shitstorm, and somehow you’re stuck in the middle of it. Though you know from watching Hearts and Clubs that he must be in excruciating pain right now, Diamonds doesn’t seem to show it. He only continues to look at you as Jane sends surge after surge of holy energy pulsing around you. You silently thank Feferi for granting you immunity to holy energy, because you have a feeling you wouldn’t be able to tolerate this otherwise.
The chaos accelerates behind you, and you feel the ground beginning to slip away from your feet as this floor starts crashing into the one below it.
Jane begins to slide. You grab her by the waist and attempt to hold her, but you’re sliding too.
Diamonds grins at you more, his look becoming one of triumph. And suddenly, his expression sours.
“How do you ever manage without me?”
You have never been happier to hear Hal’s voice. He firmly locks you and Jane into place. You still don’t dare turn around to look, but you feel his hands at your back, and you hear the sound of rocket propulsion in the air. If you had to guess, he probably installed something similar to what Tavros has on his feet.
“Way cooler than that, Bro,” Hal assures you, still hearing your thoughts through your shades. “But I’ll fill you in later.”
The light from Jane’s trident brightens, and you see the burning holy swords fall from above, forming a circle around Diamonds.
“Burn in Prospit forever!!!” Jane screams.
Finally, Diamonds seems to understand the gravity of the situation, and for a fleeting moment you see his eyes widen in absolute horror. He opens his mouth, but no snarky witty retort comes out. He doesn’t even have time to scream.
In a flash of light, Diamonds Droog is gone.
Jane slumps forward, and you catch her quickly in your arms. Her skin has taken on a pale, almost ashen, color. She’s perspiring heavily, but you feel goosebumps on her skin. You’re no expert on human anatomy and physiology, but you can tell that Jane is in bad shape.
“Jane, you got Roxy’s killer. Diamonds was the one that did it,” you tell her seriously. “You can stop now.”
Weakly, she shakes her head. “I know but—I have to stop them all. The world won’t be safe—until they’re ALL gone,” she says, pausing to breathe deeply in between phrases.
“Much as I hate to interrupt, might I point out that there’s no floor below us anymore?” Hal says. “And there might be a giant dragon-vampire-demon-fire-fight going on a few floors below us.”
Finally, you look behind you.
Hal is the only thing keeping you and Jane suspended in mid-air where the floor used to be. The entire condo that you fell into is demolished, as are several floors below. There are scorch marks on the remaining structures, which you now notice are swaying far more than a building should be swaying in the breeze. The remnant fire is still burning the walls, and you feel the heat from the flames below you.
“At the rate we’re going, I’d say we have about 7.492 minutes to finish this up before the place is leveled,” Hal assesses.
Below, Terezi roars loudly and swipes her claws at Spades, demolishing yet another wall.
“—make that 6.339 minutes,” Hal adjusts.
“Let’s get down there,” you decide quickly. As Hal brings you down for a much smoother descent than you made falling, you look at Jane and say, “last time I’ll ask. Are you sure?”
“Positive,” she says with steadfast determination.
Hal is about to place you on the floor when a large swipe of Latula’s tail knocks out the ground, causing both dragons, Spades, and Porrim to all fall down yet another floor. Unshaken, Hal drops down another floor and places you on the ground. While you hold Jane steady on her feet, you turn to him and say, “Cronus and Kankri—”
Hal shakes his head. “It’s too late for them. We have to keep going.”
Solemnly, you nod and turn your attention to the fight ahead. This is it. This is the last one.
Like Diamonds, Spades looks relatively unscathed. He’s much faster than Terezi, Latula, and Porrim, and he’s making that known. You narrow your eyes when you realize that he’s toying with them. He catches your gaze and smirks.
“Finally decided ta join da fight ‘eh?” Spades asks, moving away from the dragons in a blur of movement. Half a second later, he’s standing next to you. “I tell ya, dis fight was gettin’ so borin’! So I brought it ta youse!”
A loud thunderous sound of twisting metal and falling cement crashes somewhere above you. A second later, a large piece of flaming wreckage falls nearby, quickly catching the wooden floor on fire.
You don’t have time for his games. Spades slick has to go down now.
After setting Jane on the ground, you slash at Spades with your katana. He dodges aside quickly.
“Dat was such a cute thing ya did back dere, tryin’ ta save youse brother,” Spades comments, parrying your attacks with a pair of knives. “Too bad he’s gonna die.”
“Actually, he’s not gonna die,” you snarl back at him, taking an especially hard swing at him.
Even though Spades manages to block it, the force of your swing knocks him hard into the wall.
You’re quick to flashstep over to him and swipe the knives out of his hands with your katana, leaving his hands empty and bleeding. “He’s going to live, and so is Jake.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, Strider,” he says, grinning despite being buried literally in the wall. “Dere’s only one way outta where we sent dem.”
“I know,” you say, your voice lowering into a deep menacing growl. “Dirk won’t let Lord English have his way. He’s going to save the world.”
“Ya sound awfully confident,” Spades remarks lowly. “Didn’t youse mudder ever teach ya that overconfidence makes ya—”
Suddenly, you feel a sharp burning sensation in your abdomen. You gasp, realizing that Spades had somehow slipped out another knife from somewhere while you were talking. That knife is now currently jammed into your stomach. A second later, you feel another jab of pain, this time in your left leg. Another knife.
“—careless,” Spades finishes, taking advantage of your distraction to dislodge himself from the wall. He leaves the knives in your body and dances away in a blur of movement.
You wince, grabbing first the knife in your leg and removing it. While you’re working on removing the knife in your chest, you see Hal step in and take your place fighting Spades. Hal fights with a technique that is a little different than yours, but it’s efficient. He certainly gives Spades a run for his money, but it’s clear that even with all of the advancements Derse has to offer, he won’t be able to win.
Terezi, Latula, and Porrim work their way back into the fray. Most of the floor is on fire now, and the five battle between the flames. Watching Spades, Hal, and Porrim dodge swipes of Terezi and Latula’s tails and claws is like something out of Jake’s action movies. You don’t doubt that if you could film this for Jake, he would watch it over again and again.
“Technically, I’m recording everything you see,” Hal reminds you in your shades. “You can always show him later.”
Right, you can. But you have more important things to be thinking about right now.
Like Jane. She’s coughing from the smoke in the air, and the fire is surrounding everything at a quick pace. Really, she’s in no condition to even think about stabbing Spades with her trident.
But somehow you’ve got to make it happen. You feel the wound on your leg closing, and you waste no more time jumping back in.
Your clothes are not fireproof, but that’s the least of your concerns. You’re an incubus so you lost your shame long ago. You could think of far worse outcomes than ending this battle completely nude.
For a couple minutes, the five of you are not in synch at all. It’s difficult dodging Terezi, Latula, and Hal while trying to fight Spades. But quickly, Hal starts reading your thoughts and adjusts his motions accordingly. Terezi, Latula, and Porrim begin working less to attack Spades and more to trap him, leaving you free to give this fight everything you’ve got.
Finally, Latula and Terezi’s tails come down hard on either side of Spades. The floor cracks from the pressure, and you’re all falling again. For a fleeting second, you think about Jane. Immediately, Hal picks up on your thought and hurries to catch her.
When Spades hits the ground, you follow him, stabbing your katana through his chest and pinning him to the ground.
You’ve done this before. Your mind flashes back to long ago, the first time you ever fought Spades Slick.
Bro sent you and Jake to an address far away where Spades was entering the world through a little girl’s nightmares. Jake obviously knew him, but at the time, you had no idea how deep and terrible the history between the two of them was. You had no idea what Spades Slick was capable of doing or just how ruthless he was, even with his own body.
You pinned him to the ground just like this, but you made the mistake of looking away from him. In the short few seconds you took to look at Jake, he used your own blade to cut through himself and escape.
You won’t make that mistake again.
Taking the two knives you painfully acquired a few minutes ago, you plunge one through his left hand and the other through his right foot, using his own weapons to pin him to the ground.
Spades roars in fury. Then he cackles in a way that is even more deranged than Diamonds. “Youse think dis is it? Do ya? DO YA???”
“Yes, for you, this is,” Jane says solemnly. Then, using the remainder of her strength, she plunges her trident through Spades’ chest, pinning him further to the ground with her three prongs. More debris crashes down beside you, and the flames circle around you dangerously. Jane wastes no time beginning her holy incantations.
“Dis ain’t da end! I just STARTED tormentin’ youse!” Spades insists, laughing and coughing up blood at the same time. “Yer wrong, Strider. Ain’t NOTHING dat can stop Lord English! Once he’s back—”
“I can stop Lord English, or did you forget that already?” You murmur lowly.
Spades laughs, “I never forget, but ya ain’t yer bro—”
“I am,” you say before he can finish. Kneeling down low next to Spades, you tear off your shades and face him with your orange eyes. Your faces are so close together that you can smell his vile breath and feel the evil essence radiating off him. “I am the one you sent away with Jake earlier tonight. I am the one who will face and defeat Lord English twice. And I will be the one who kills Lord English forever!”
“Y-yer DIRK?!” Spades roars, his eyes wide.
“Damara never told you?” you murmur, a small grim smirk tugging at your lips. “Don’t tell me you have trust issues.”
The holy swords from Jane’s incantation surround Spades, and the air becomes charged with an overwhelming amount of holy energy. Despite your immunity, it is so strong that it makes your skin tingle and your eyes burn. Spades must be in agony.
“YER DIRK STRIDER?!!!” He screams, completely ignoring your question.
The light surrounding him grows brighter and more vivid.
“FUCK YA DIRK STRIDER!!!! I’LL END YA DIRK STRIDER!!!!” Spades screams.
He’s still screaming your name as he disappears forever in a flash of blinding light.
“No thanks,” you comment wryly. “That’s Jake’s job.”
You don’t have time to bask in your victory. Hal catches Jane as she falls forward. Looking at her, she looks even worse than before. Her skin is paper white, and her breathing is rapid and shallow. Her eyes are half-lidded, and her hands are twitching unnaturally.
Hal picks up her trident and says, “we’d better get outta here. Any second now this place is gonna—”
Like horrible clockwork, the grinding sound of metal creaks above you, and a large section of the floors above falls down to yours. Bathtubs, dressers, walls, refrigerators. You flashstep back as it comes crashing down between you and Hal. You steady yourself as the building suddenly lurches unhealthily to the right.
You’ve lost sight of Hal, but you think to him quickly “get Jane out of here! I’ll take the stairs and meet you!”
You’ve already flash-stepped to the emergency exit stairs when you hear Hal’s voice in your head. “Dude, jumping out a window is a better idea than stairs!”
But there aren’t any windows for you to jump out. The emergency exit stairs are surrounded on all sides by concrete, and as far as you can tell, they’re still intact.
You put everything you’ve got into flashstepping down the stairs faster than you have ever flashstepped before. You feel the floor rumbling below your feet the entire time.
About half-way down, the dust catches up to you from the crumbling floors above. Then, pieces of the floors above you begin to crack through, assaulting you from above.
But there’s no backing out now. You’re stuck in this cement stairway and all you can do is run.
You’re on the last flight when all the rubble from the floors above finally crashes on top of you.
The sound of your own voice is in your ears as you jump for the emergency exit door.
You fall outside along with several giant chunks of concrete, a dishwasher, a broken TV, and a half-eaten frozen pizza. As the building collapses down, the force of the impact pushes you forward, skinning you along the asphalt of the road.
Your whole body is in pain, and suddenly you can’t see. Dust from the building has filled the air, completely blocking your view.
You’re really starting to get tired of not being able to see things tonight.
A couple minutes later, the rumbling of the crashing building has stopped. The pain in your limbs begins to recede as your body starts healing itself.
The dust begins to settle, and you find that Hal and Jane are in a park nearby, safely out of the way. You quickly make your way over there. Jane is lying on the grass beneath a large sweeping weeping willow tree, and Hal is kneeling beside her.
Hal looks up at you and shakes his head, “I warned you about stairs, Bro.”
“You did not just reference one of Dave’s shitty ass comics,” you say flatly.
“Hey, you’re the one that reads them. I have no choice. I’m always on your face,” Hal counters.
“Sounds dirty,” you murmur.
“It is,” he agrees. “Wanna make it dirtier?”
“No,” you respond. “How’s Jane?”
“Not good,” Hal admits, frowning and looking back down at her. “Aside from some minor smoke inhalation, she’s not hurt. But her life is ebbing away from her. I’d estimate that she only has 2.55 minutes left at most.”
You frown, kneeling down beside your fallen friend. Gently, you murmur, “Jane, can you hear me?”
“Nnn… Dirk?” she murmurs blearily.
A little surprised, you poke into her thoughts. You’re certain that she heard you tell Spades who you were, but that’s not why she called you Dirk.
Jane’s really confused right now. She’s dying, and she thinks you’re her old friend.
You guess in a way you are.
You can hear the metaphorical grandfather clock of her life ticking down to its last few beats.
You smile grimly and take her hand, clasping it gently between your own. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“You and Jake didn’t die. You made it. I’m—glad,” she murmurs softly.
“Yeah, we’re fine,” you reply quietly. “And now that you took out the Midnight Crew, the world will be fine too.”
“Heh, they sure got—what was coming to them—! Hoo hoo!” Jane chuckles, and it’s such a weak half-hearted version of her old self that your soul wrenches with sadness.
“Yeah, you showed ‘em what’s for!” You say, forcing a lightheartedness that you don’t feel at all into your voice.
“You sound—like Jake,” Jane murmurs. She smiles lightly and chuckles again. “Is he—ok?”
“Yeah, Jake’s fine,” you assure her, even though you don’t really know that yourself.
“Good,” she says quietly. “Dirk, take care of him—ok? You two—I can tell you two—belong together.”
You hear Jane’s breathing becoming more and more shallow, and you feel her lifeforce receding from her body.
“Dirk—I think—this is it,” she sighs softly. “You’ve been such—a good friend. Goodbye—Dirk…”
“Goodbye Jane,” you whisper softly.
You feel it when her heart ceases to beat.
Sighing, you bow your head in silent sadness. You’re going to miss everything about Jane.
Her determination. Her keen sense of justice. Her level-headedness.
And at the same time, you’ll miss her mirth. Her pranks. Her baking.
You’ll miss Jane.
As you close your eyes in sadness, giving a silent eulogy to your friend, you notice something unusual happen.
The air is becoming charged with holy energy. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
Your eyes snap open in time to see Jane’s body become translucent and fade away.
This. You’ve seen this before.
This happened with Roxy.
Your eyes widen as they both suddenly reappear beside you. Both of them. Jane and Roxy.
Roxy is standing in front of you in her full-fledged angelic form, complete with her glowing regal yellow gown and wings. Jane is still wearing the jeans and ghost-printed gray t-shirt that she died in. Her body is ghost-like and translucent.
“Hiya, Janey!” Roxy says, smiling brightly. Her radiant white angelic wings flare behind her in happiness. “I’ve been waiting so long to see you again!”
“Roxy, you’re—you’re an angel?” Jane says in disbelief.
“Yup! And soon you will be too!” she agrees. “Looks like your death was both heroic and just!”
“Heroic and Just? But how—” Jane murmurs.
“I hear someone put in a good word for you,” Roxy continues, winking at her.
“You?” Jane asks, touched.
“Woah now, let’s not point fingers, ok?” Roxy says. Then, she turns to you. “Dirk, you did it. Congrats, you took out the big bads!”
“Not all of them,” you murmur. “There’s still one more to go.”
“I know, but hey, I believe in you Di-Stri!” she says, reaching out with her fist. When you bump her back, she adds, “Hey, now that you’ve got immunity to holy, we can hang out again! And once you take out Lord English, I’ll have time again! I miss whooping your ass in Halo!”
“You’re out of practice, Ro-Lal,” you say, grinning back at her. “I could beat you with my eyes shut.”
“You wound me. Terrible awful wounds,” Roxy says, pretending to clutch her heart. “Anyway, we’ll talk more later, k? I’ve got to help this pretty lady cross over.”
“Pretty?” Jane says, a slight flush rising to her cheeks.
“You heard me, beautiful,” Roxy says, turning to her again. She holds out her hands to the other girl imploringly. Her expression softens, and her voice takes on a more serious tone. “Jane, on behalf of Feferi, ruler of Prospit, I hereby invite you to join the angels of Prospit. It will be your responsibility to protect the world from the demons of Derse. Do you accept?”
Roxy leans in a little closer and mutters, “please tell me you accept Janey. Please please pretty please!”
Jane laughs and lightly places her hands in Roxy’s. There’s a large smile on her face as she says, “of course I accept. I’ve fought them my whole life. Why should I stop now?”
“Fo sho, right?” Roxy says back.
“Besides, if I join the angels, then I’ll get to be with you again. And Roxy I—I want to be with you because I—” Jane pauses, her voice catching in her throat.
You wonder if you’re about to witness the confession Jane has been waiting forever to make. Even without trying, you hear the panic and turmoil in Jane’s thoughts. Knowing how important this moment is to them both, you stay silent, but you try to send her encouragement. “You got this, Jane. C’mon, you’ve got this.”
“Oh fiddlesticks! I’m—I’m not backing out now!” Tears well in Jane’s eyes, and when she says the next few words, her voice is shaken with emotion. “Roxy, I love you.”
Roxy beams. Like, literally, she’s glowing with bright white holy energy. Lightly, she squeezes Jane’s hands and says, “I’ve been waiting forever to hear you say that. Janey, I love you too.”
The blindingly bright energy travels down Roxy’s arms to their joined hands, and then passes up Jane’s hands to encompass her entire body. She gasps as the light surrounds her.
It’s so bright that you literally can’t see her. For the fourth time tonight, you can’t see. What the actual fuck?
But finally, the bright light recedes, and your vision returns. When you can finally see them again, you can’t help but smile. A manly Strider smile.
Jane and Roxy are kissing. Their lips are gently interlocked, and their arms are circled around each other. They are both decked out in the same flowing golden garments of Prospit’s angels, complete with wings that have flared up and out, showing the elated emotion they are both sharing.
You think the wings suit them both well. If you’d have been told a thousand years ago that two of your best friends would end up becoming angels, you’d have told that person to go fuck off. But now you couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Their kiss breaks and Roxy looks fondly into Jane’s eyes. “Are you ready to go home?”
Jane nods, a radiant smile still on her face. “Absolutely.”
The air begins to fill again with a holy energy, and both of them become encased in a circle of light. They become translucent again, and when the light recedes, they are both gone.
You’re left standing with Hal in a dark park.
“Lesbian angels. You don’t see that everyday,” Hal comments. “Not that it was a big surprise. Bet it’s about to get hot and steamy up in Prospit.”
“Hal, how are we the same person?” you grumble.
“We’re not,” he reminds you.
“How are we almost the same person?” you amend.
“You’re an incubus,” Hal replies thoughtfully. “And I’m blunt as hell.”
You sigh, long and deep. It’s not just a sigh at Hal’s comment. It’s a sigh that expresses your fatigue after the entire night’s events.
You killed the Midnight Crew, but at what cost?
Tonight you lost two brothers and three of your dearest friends. Tonight you failed to change the timeline.
Kankri and Cronus, after years of mental and physical healing in Derse, might finally find the strength to return. And you suppose that you might get the chance to see Jane and Roxy sometime on Prospit, now that you can safely go there.
But Bro and Dirk are another story. You’ll never get them back.
But you should be getting somebody else back tonight. Someone you’ve been waiting a thousand years for.
“Jake,” you murmur out loud.
Slowly, you turn around in a circle, as if he might spring out at you at any moment. But you don’t see him.
You don’t even sense him, in any direction.
Suddenly, you’re filled with a sense of dread. All of the events of this evening wash away in a blur.
The Midnight Crew. Barely escaping the collapsing building. Your lesbian angel friends.
Everything becomes muted white noise in the background.
You’re filled instead with a panicked apprehension that starts in your stomach and works its way out to your fingers and toes. Jake was supposed to come back tonight. He should have already been back.
But even though your senses have sharpened drastically, to the point where you can feel Jake anywhere in a hundred mile radius, you can’t sense him.
You can’t sense him anywhere.
Where the fuck is Jake?
* * *
Over the course of writing this story, I’ve received several comments. Lots of love. Some hate. Some of you say you’re screaming and vibrating with happiness. Lots of you tell me your soul hurts and you’re crying. Some of you scream that you hate me and my writing. Some of you tell me to make this into an actual published story.
Regardless of what you think, next chapter will be the LAST chapter of Hopeless and Heartless. It may take me a while to write it, and it might be long as hell, but it will be the last. Hopefully, you will find all of the waiting and pining worth it.
As an author, I actually feel that these authors notes are jarring from the story at times, since I am (surprise surprise) not actually Dirk. Fear of repercussion has almost made me not do so many things. I think I’d like to share them with you all now, before the end.
I was afraid that nobody would like my story or read it. I posted it anyway.
I was afraid that people would hate the fact that Dirk is Bro. I added the plot twist anyway.
I was afraid to put so much of my own heart and soul into writing this story, because it hurts when people tell me they don’t like it. But I put it in anyway.
This story is about growth, love, and overcoming impossible challenges for the sake of goals. I could have written an incubus porn story, sure. I could have brought Jake back the next chapter after he disappeared. But that wasn’t the point of this story.
If you have felt happiness, sadness, joy, anger, or anything on the rainbow spectrum of feels, trust me, I’ve felt it too. Writing this story has not been without its challenges, but I knew that going into it. I wrote it anyway.
It’s easy to focus on the bad, because it hurts us, and to forget about the good. Hopefully by the end of this story you will all feel it was worth the read in some way or another.
One last thing before what might be a long break in updating to write the final chapter. If my story or Dirk’s story can show you anything at all, please let it show you that fear is not an insurmountable obstacle. Please have the courage to follow your heart and achieve your goals without being inhibited by fear.
I truly wish that for all of you.