At First Glance
Dirk was feeling bored.
It had been easy slashing and kicking those stupid imps around –he couldn’t even say it was funny anymore.
They just kept coming, assaulting him, and he slayed them one after the other, no strain at all.
None of these imps had given him even the slightest trouble, which was really a disappointment. From that stupid game, he’d expected something better.
Still, he didn’t dare voicing his thoughts out loud –Jake, as he’d cheerfully stated in their last pesterlog chat, had been knees deep into a blubbering pit tar, shooting at those pesky imps, having the time of his life; Roxy and Jane had been also taking their sweet time, even though the lack of alcohol in this new world had upset Roxy enough to turn her into a very sour, moody sober bitch… and Dirk really, really didn’t want to throw on his friends anything they couldn’t handle.
If it were just him, taking on harder battles would be nothing, but…
He slashed another imp and pirouetted through a series of large, metallic rings to fall on a small, elongated platform.
He glanced around, satisfied to see there was no immediate danger, and promptly turned his attention inwards, to see how his Dream Self was doing.
The abrupt change of light only caused him a minute flinch, and Dirk checked where he was; he was floating next to his tower, and wondered if Roxy’s Dream Self was awake or if she was still on her planet, cursing imps with her sober ass.
Knowing her, both possibilities were equally alarming.
Taking off from the tower and into the sky, Dirk floated over the silent city, ignoring the many Dersites below him.
Roxy’s tower was silent, and there was nobody in there, sign she’d just wandered off on her own again.
Sighing in distress –as he ironic master puppeteer, he had a lot to do– he looked around, trying to spot her.
Something else attracted his attention instead.
There were flashes of green coming from somewhere in the distance, far from the city, and they were growing more frequent, flashing against the dark sky every few seconds.
Licking his lips, preparing his sword in case something was going on –this was the game, anything could happen– he took off.
As he got closer, he realised there was some sort of battle going on; the air felt heavy and oppressive, and it sent a shiver down his back.
He was not afraid –he was Dirk fucking Strider, coolest person ever, of course he had no fear– but despite that, there was something eerily creepy in this situation.
There were… three figures on the ground, too far away to recognise, but none of them looked anything like the Dersites.
He stopped, his heart suddenly beating a weird off–tempo, mouth incredibly dry.
Not wanting to get any closer, he decided to employ an external aid, momentarily switching over to his real body, keeping his attention evenly split between the two selves.
-- TimaeusTestified [TT] began pestering TimaeusTestified [TT] at 15:43 --
TT: I need you to switch over. Right now. I do not care if your blossoming feelings of consecrated independency are calling your attention towards other matters that in truth are far less important than this, but I require your robotic aid onto my other shades.
TT: it is not like I’m doing anything else. Everybody is so busy fighting with imps, my metallic circuits are getting rusty and lonely.
TT: even shades have a heart.
TT: not sure where it’s placed, but there is one.
TT: this is not the time to show your advanced individuality to me. Shove over to my other shades. I have something unusual going on over there, and I don’t want to get any closer without knowing what it is.
TT: if I wasn’t dying for some sort of human contact, I would let you do your stuff, I know you’re capable since you’re me, but I can feel your urgency prodding on my lens like sharp swords on a dismembered body.
TT: I’ll let myself in.
TT: good shades.
-- TimaeusTestified [TT] ceased pestering TimaeusTestified [TT] at 15:48 --
With that, Dirk returned his full attention to his Dream Self.
Ever since waking up on Derse for the first time, Dirk had worked on those Dream shades, knowing that he might end up needing AR to move between pairs once the game started.
Thankfully, it had worked, and once the game had started, the AutoResponder had managed to switch at command between them.
“Activate zoom,” Dirk murmured, feeling the soft buzz turn fractionally louder.
Instantly, his sight focused on the figures ahead, and he could finally make out the details.
One of the figures was what had sent shivers down his back –it was almost inhuman, although it had a vaguely humanoid appearance, but it had giant wings and a head shaped like a dog’s.
It was completely black, not unlike the Dersites, and with a shudder, Dirk assessed that this new guy’s powers were incredible.
There was some sort of crackling green electricity around him, the cause for the weird flashes that had attracted him there, and it just spelled danger to him.
The sharper the zoom got, the more details he could make out of this figure –there was something on the guy’s finger, and it looked dangerously like one of the Rings Dirk knew only the King and Queen wore, and there was something like a sword embedded into his chest.
“Shit, who the hell is this guy?!” he hissed out, overwhelmed by what he was seeing.
This felt like a final–level boss, not just…
As an afterthought, he remembered the other two figures, and sharply looked towards them.
His heart skipped a beat at what he saw.
One of them was dressed in blue, with a stupid–looking hood, and was showing his back to Dirk, but it was the other one who attracted his attention like a moth to a flame.
Dressed completely in red, from head to toe, in some weird knight–y looking attire, with a shitty, broken sword in one hand and blood rolling down his arm… was his brother.
Dirk knew instantly this was Dave –the hair, the fucking Ben Stiller shades he wore, the way he moved and held himself, his guarded stance…
Except that this Dave was younger. He didn’t look a day older than sixteen –the same age as Dirk.
It was him, in all the things that counted, but at the same time, he was not.
With a dizzying clarity, Dirk realised that what Roxy had said, back when they had both been outside of the game, was correct.
Brother but also… son…?
In the span of a heartbeat, Dirk connected all the dots.
Stupid ectobiology shit, obviously.
But… despite being completely sure of that, he still could not understand.
This was it, though. The teasing hints UU had dropped around, snippets collected bit by bit…
This was it.
That was the enemy, and those were…
Then, the moment of calm passed, and all three figures swirled into a fight, attacking and shielding and evading, like an orchestrated dance.
The teen in blue held his hands up and wind picked up from nowhere, offsetting the black enemy as his bro attacked him head on with his sword.
The dog–head ducked, though, a snarl on its inhuman face, and spinning underneath his bro he lashed out with one arm, almost grazing his arm, but Blue–Hood rushed forwards, and the wind helped his bro shift away from the hit.
It was fast –they were moving so quickly, and Dirk could easily see they were not really dancing, more like desperately trying to stay alive and land one on the black dog.
This was what his bro had only showed him a few times –his speed, his skills, as sharp and as enviable now that he could see them, but a bit rough on the edges, because he was Dirk’s age–
And then, in the middle of a lunge, his bro’s hands flew out to the sides, something round –turntables?- appeared there, and with a flip, bro flicked is fingers, and…
Time seemed to slow down around the black dog, almost as if his bro was controlling it –and he could have, because fuck, the man was cool enough for this shit when he was alive, even if Dirk would never say that to his face– and then…
Blue–Hood attacked, a flash of teeth that reminded Dirk of Jake…
The dog growled, forcing his muscles against whatever time bogus his bro had done
His bro was moving again, attacking together with Blue–Hood, coordinate and perfect, fighting side by side like once he’d done with him…
Dirk swallowed, entranced, envious, fingers twitching–
His bro looked up.
Their eyes, both hidden behind thick shades, met.
For a moment it felt like the world had stopped around them –as if his bro had used those weird powers on him too.
Dirk felt his heart lurch painfully.
Not his bro, but his bro all the same, and he was there, alive. Not dead.
There was something nailing at his insides, wanting out –anger, rage, pain, happiness, all of it pushing
Why did you fucking die and leave me
It was not cool
Why didn’t you tell me more
Why couldn’t I save you
Why couldn’t I tell you that you were my–
And then, the air flickered, and there was another bro right there.
Blue–Hood turned around, clearly surprised, and the new bro simply pointed one thumb towards Dirk; after a second, the derpy–looking face moved from shock to understanding, and he nodded.
Dave was already flying towards him, tense and urgent, but as unreadable as Dirk remembered him being.
He stopped close by, emotionless, cool despite the blood running down his arm, and they simply stared at each other.
Dirk didn’t know what to say, but apparently, neither did Dave. Bro.
That voice –younger than his bro’s had been, that of a teenager, but with an edge of steel, different yet the same, and Dirk felt all the pent up emotions he refused to show calm down instantly.
“You’re different from what I thought you’d be, shit,” Dave’s hand clenched into a fist, blood dripping down. Dirk fought the urge to grab his fingers to clean it off.
There was a weird undertone of irony that was completely lost on Dirk. As expected from his bro, even if this wasn’t his bro.
“You’re not really what I had expected you to be, either,” Dirk stated, inwardly pleased at his even tone. “Who are you?”
Dave’s lips twitched into an amused, wry smirk. “Dave motherfucking Strider”.
Dirk felt his own lips curl upwards. “Well, that just is the icing on the proverbial fucking cake,” he replied. “You’re not my bro”.
“And you’re not mine, either,” and again, the bitterness that his Dave never would have let him hear. “But we made this shit and we gotta clean shit up”.
Dirk’s eyes narrowed behind his shades, urgency clawing at him.
His attention moved to the second Dave fighting together with Blue–Hood, and the smoothness of their movements sent another spike of envy through him.
“John’s got everything under wraps,” Dave commented without turning, shrugging a bit. “There’s Future me helping him. I know that shit”.
The ease that name rolled out of not–bro’s lips –as if this John was a close friend, as if he mattered so much to him –Dirk felt something inside him clench and twist.
“This is not the best time to have sweet heartfelt reunions, though,” Dave rubbed the blood away from his hand almost as if it was something usual to do, and his lips moved without a sound coming out. “I have… three more minutes until I have to go back there to aid Past me, so listen carefully. That is the enemy. We’re trying to stop him, but it’s not easy. Fucking get down to business and level up, you slow idiots. The BatterWitch is not your main problem –Bec Noir is”.
“Who is Bec Noir?”
Dave shrugged. “Our session’s Jack Noir,” he replied easily. “We fucked up great time”.
Behind them, Blue–Hood cried out in shock as the second Dave –Future Dave, not–bro had said– suffered another wound to protect him.
Dave winced slightly, and Dirk felt his blood boil.
“I want to fight,” he grunted, not wanting to be left out from the fight.
“There will be time later,” Dave murmured, cracking his knuckles. “We’ll talk, and we’ll see this thing through the end, and be back where we belong. But you’re stinking weak right now, and you know it”.
The raw, not disappointed, simply tired, tone hit Dirk square in the chest like a punch.
Spotting the differences between his Bro and this Dave was painfully easy.
This one was his equal, young and less experienced, and it was obvious to Dirk that probably this Dave had looked up at his own Bro –his Dirk– with just as much devotion as Dirk himself had for his Dave.
It tasted like blood in his mouth, and bitter disappointment, but most of all, longing.
This bro was someone else, but Dirk wanted to be part of his life anyway, because while it was not his bro, this was still Dave.
It was simply… different.
“We’ll catch each other later on, bro, when you’re fucking worth it,” Dave smirked, and with a soft flicker, he disappeared from sight.
On the ground below, Bec Noir was suddenly forced into an impasse, and with a soft growl, he also flickered out of existence, with nothing more than a soft waver in the air to signify he’d ever been there.
‘John’ as bro had called him, instantly held Dave in his arms, mindful of the fresh, still bleeding wound, and Dave –as opposed to the Dave Dirk knew– let himself be held
Stupid Jake–lookalike, daring to be close to that Dave… it didn’t matter which universe he belonged to.
It was unfair.
Unfortunately, not–bro was right. Compared to him, to the ‘John’ kid, Dirk was not strong enough.
But damn it all if he didn’t want to get there.
Take that Blue–Hood’s place as the one not–bro trusted the most… fight once again side by side, even if it would be the first time for both of them…
The longing in his chest roared to life, and Dirk found himself flying away, ignoring the two teens below him knowing they would be ok –of course they would. He wanted to get away, anger eating him from the inside.
He had still a lot to do in order to level up –all the levels, all of them.
He would take that place at his bro’s side that he could never have before, even if this wasn’t his bro, even if this Dave was different.
This Dave would learn to depend on him instead.
Dirk knew how to do that –he’d had a good example, even if he’d died too soon to know.