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Somnium

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"I'm going to bed early tonight, dad." 

"Early? On a Friday night?" John's dad looked up from the newspaper he was reading.

John shrugged and stood up from his spot on the couch, stretching a bit. "Yeah, well I was up late studying for that test last night so I'm pretty tired."

His dad nodded and went back to reading his article on pipe tobacco. "Do you want me to wake you up in the morning before I leave for work?"

John headed towards the stairs. "No, don't worry about it." He put his foot on the first step. "I'll be fine getting up by myself." Second step. "So... g'night!" Third, fourth, fifth, all the way up to the 14th step. 

He stepped into his room, shutting the door behind him and flicking on the dim light. Damn, he was going to have to get a new lightbulb soon. Quickly, he stripped out of his jeans and t-shirt, tossing them in the corner without a second thought. He grabbed some pajamas, not paying much attention to exactly what it was he grabbed and threw it on. He hit the light again and sat down on his bed, slipping his glasses of his face and setting them on the nightstand. 

With a happy sigh, John layed down. He pulled his blankets over top of him and closed his eyes. 

He fell asleep almost at once and woke up not a moment later.

He jumped up, pleased by the familiar sight of his room- his second room as he'd begun calling it. His golden clothes were vibrant as ever, standing out against the blue walls of the room. He wiggled his toes in the thin shoes. They felt more like slippers than anything- very comfortable if you were to ask John. He stepped over to the window, peeking his head out and leaning over the sill a good ways. His grin only grew as he looked over the tall buildings.

This was Prospit. This was John's dream-world.

He'd done a decent amount of googled-research on the place- trying to figure out why he woke up on this planet every night, trying to figure out if he was the only one. He'd gotten a lot of links popping up describing things like 'reoccuring dreams' or 'out of body experiences', but nothing that was really helpful. So the young man had decided to keep his world a secret.

He had convinced himself it was more fun that way anyhow.

John rested his elbows on the window sill, staring off into the gold-painted distance. 

Suddenly, a head popped up, effectively blocking his view. "Hey John! Glad to see you're finally asleep!" 

John jumped back in surprise, stumbling and falling onto his butt. Really, he had to get used to her sneaking up on him like that. "Oh, hi Jade!" he responded once he'd cleared his thoughts up. 

Jade was, as John had deducted, his dream sister. It was only the two of them on Prospit- the only two humans, anyway. There were the odd chess-like people wandering the moon, but they were about as far as human as one could possibly get.

"It took you long enough," Jade said, placing her arms where John had rested his a moment ago. "I've been waiting, you know."

"I can only go to bed so early."

Jade smiled playfully. "I guess so! But come on! You've taken long enough!" She drifted forward slightly and landed elegantly on her dainty feet, leaning down and taking John's hands in her own. 

John pulled himself up. "To the moon, then?"

"Where else would we go, you dope?"

---------

John loved flying. He had discovered this very quickly; there was nothing compared to the sensation of having the wind carry you. Maybe when he turned 18, he'd go skydiving in the real world. It was something he had often considered, but even still he had a feeling he would be disappointed. 

So he decided he would just enjoy the feeling of actual flight for as long as he could. So the two flew, staying close to the bright chain that connected Prospit to its moon, making idle chat as they did. They landed a few moments later and were greeted by the cheerful, colorfully-dressed people that lived there. One of them offered Jade a newspaper, which she took with a kind "thank you!" 

John looked over her shoulder as they walked through the crowded streets. "What does it say?" he asked, unable to read the small print at such an odd angle.

"More about Skaia. It sounds like we're not doin' so hot."

"What about the king? Is he okay?"

Jade said nothing for a moment, her eyes scanning the page quickly. "Well I don't see anything... I'm assuming he's alri- John, are you listening to me?" She turned around, folding up the newspaper. Her hands were placed at her hips. "John!"

The boy had stopped, frozen dead in his tracks a few steps behind her. 

Annoyed when she didn't get an answer, Jade stormed over to to him and gave his arm a good punch. 

"Did you feel that?" came the slightly dazed reply.

"What? Me punching you in the arm? Not really, but I can do it again if you-"

John shook his head, breaking out of his daze. "No, no not that! ...but really, you didn't have to punch me. It kinda hurt!"

"Sorry," Jade said, not looking at all apologetic. "Now what are you talking about?"

"There was a shake. Not a big one, but it was there. Coming from beneath! Hey, you think there can be an earthquake here? I mean, it's not earth or anything, so...."

"John, you're not funny."

"I'm serious! You didn't feel anything?"

Jade shook her head, giving John an odd look. "No. I didn't. Are you feeling okay?"

John was silent for a moment. "I think so?" He frowned. "I hope so."

"Yeah, well-"

Suddenly there was a tremor, one large enough to shake the entire ground and making everyone stumble. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was more than enough to keep everyone on the street freeze in shock afterwords. 

There was dead silence as people waited- waited for another tremor, for something else to happen.

And then it came. Perhaps 60 seconds after the first. Another shake, one so powerful it knocked most everyone off their feet- including John. He fell backwards, his head smashing against the stone street. 

He woke up back in his bed in Washington, cold sweat on his brow and his hands shaking uncontrollably. "No!" He glanced at his clock, squinting in an attempt to make out the red numbers- 2:42. He still had time to sleep, then. Good. He threw himself back down on his bed and squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to fall back asleep. But he soon found out that he was too excited to slip back into unconsciousness. 

"Shit," he whispered, flipping onto his side. "Shit, shit, shit." He flipped onto his other side. He had to get back and he couldn't fall asleep. In a panic, John reached under his pillow and pulled out his iPod. He set it on his piano playlist and shoved it back beneath the cushion. Then he leaned over the edge and opened up the bottom drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a bottle of nighttime cold medicine. 

Desperate times called for desperate measures.

He uncapped the bottle and took a few swigs of the bitter liquid. He'd been told many times not to take it simply to cure insomnia, but just this once wouldn't hurt, he figured. 

A very long and anxious 14 minutes later, the medicine finally kicked in and John was once again awake on Prospit. 

Everywhere he looked was pure and absolute chaos- people were running screaming, buildings were starting to show signs of crumbling, and everything was shaking awfully. Everything was so hectic, it took the boy a good moment to realize that Jade was leaning over him.

"Oh thank god you're okay!" she exclaimed, pulling him into a hug. 

The sudden movement made John's head swim. "Jade... what's going on?" he managed to slur out.

"I don't know," she admitted, looking around worriedly. "But I have a feeling there's nothing we can do about it."

"We should... we should get off the moon." 

Jade nodded. "Can you stand?" It was a silly question really; hardly anyone was able to stand on such unstable ground. But if she could get him to stand, she'd be able to get him off the ground and into the air. 

"I think so. But I need your help."

Carrefully, Jade stood up and took John's arm in her hands, pulling him up. It was a difficult task, trying to keep them both balanced, but eventually they managed to make it work- Jade standing up as best she could and John draped over her shoulder. 

"On the count of three, we take off." 

John nodded.

"One... two..."

Suddenly the two were up in the air, not by choice, but by a blast that sent them flying back from the moon. The two kids lost their grips on each other and were left reaching for each other as they fell towards Skaia and the battlefield. 

"Jade!"

And then, everything went black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

For the second time that night, John's head collided with a hard brick pavement. It didn't seem to matter that he was in a dream; it still hurt like a bitch.

"Shit..." he muttered. He sat up slowly, his eyes squeezed shut in reaction to the throbbing pain he felt in his skull. Hands rose to massage his temples, willing away the headache. It didn't work. John let out an airy breath. Perhaps if he just didn't think about it, then it would go away- mind over matter, right? It was just too bad that his mind was the matter. It seemed that the power of positive thinking just wasn't strong enough for the situation.

Letting lose another sigh, the boy opened his eyes, letting out a small yelp in surprise and almost falling back over.

There were a few places at which he would expect to wake up. This was not one of them.

John had grown so accustomed to the gold and yellows of his dreamland, he had forgotten he was able to dream in purple. This world was here simply to prove him wrong it seemed; everything was dark- purples, magentas, blacks...

"Jade, I don't think we're on Prospit anymore," he whispered, fully expecting Jade to snap at him for making such a dumb joke in this kind of situation.

No response.

"Jade?" He looked around, but saw no sign of his friend. He stood, probably too quickly as it made his head spin. He sat back down before he stumbled and hurt himself, putting a hand to his head and waiting for it to pass. Eventually it did and he tried standing once more, slower this time. Unfortunately, the short sensation of vertigo had left his skull in more pain than it had been a moment ago.

"Stupid..." John mumbled, willing the throbbing away. Much like last time, it didn't listen.

He looked around more for Jade, spinning in a slight circle. Still no sign of her. It seemed that he was alone. Alone and on Derse. Not the most favorable of combinations. At least he was almost sure he was on Derse; he had read and heard enough about the amethyst-colored kingdom to be able to identify it if ever he landed there by some stroke of luck. Whether it was good or bad luck he had yet to see, but the boy had a feeling it was the latter.

John looked around again, this time trying to pay more attention to his actual surroundings than the absence of his companion. The buildings greatly resembled those on Prospit, looking as though they had been pulled straight out of some kind of ancient city. But that was the only similarity that he could spot. The streets weren't full with busy, prosperous people; in fact, the city seemed to lack activity.

Or perhaps I'm just in a dead part of town, John thought to himself as he began making his way down the street at a leisurely pace. He wasn't sure where he was going or what he would do when he got wherever his feet took him, but he figured staying put wasn't going to advance his search for Jade very well.

He stumbled along the path, almost tripping several times over some cracked pavement, determined to keep moving forward.

It wasn't long before he caught his first glimpse of a Dersite- crossing the upcoming intersection. As soon as it had caught his eye, John had immediately jumped into a nearby alley between a few of the buildings, watching until it had passed. Another passed not two seconds later. He waited a few moments as if to ensure he remained unseen.

It seemed that while the Dersites greatly resembled the people of Prospit, they were the more threatening race. Everything about them- from their menacing sneers, to their black as night skin- screamed I WILL KILL YOU.

Still, John kept his hopes up, his foolish optimism suggesting that not all citizens of Derse were heartless beings intent on ripping apart the first sign of Prospit they laid eyes on. And they most certainly wouldn't stab him 37 times in the chest if he were discovered.

Fuck he needed new clothes.

John slumped against a wall, putting a hand to his still aching head. He weighed his options. He was not, and would probably never, be good at hand-to-hand combat. On top of that, his sylladex- along with anything it contained that might even be remotely helpful- was non-existent in this dream world, so a strife with one of the strange Derse people was out of the question. Maybe he'd get lucky and find a clothing store.

He snorted at the stupidity of the idea.

The thought of flight occurred to him, but that was a sure fire way to get noticed and also held the possibility of leaving Jade behind. That idea was quickly trashed.

And so that left the Prospit-dreamer to continue wandering the bleak streets of Derse. Instead of advancing on the main roads, John decided it would be better if he stuck to sneaking around the alleyways; that way he was less likely to be seen. At least, that's what he hoped.

The backways were like a labyrinth, always turning and suddenly coming to halts at stone walls. Every so often he would come to a point where he was forced to cross a main road to continue on. He made sure the chance of him being seen was minimal before he would break out into a run, dashing across the cracked streets. At first it was easy, but as he progressed, John noticed that the crowds slowly gained more people. So far he had yet to see anything like the crowds back on his world, but even a few extra Dersites made crossing a huge pain in the ass.

He figured that he was heading in the general direction of the heart of the city. Whether that was a good thing or the worst and most horrible thing a human being had yet to experience was still uncertain. Regardless, he kept moving.

After a while, John couldn't help but notice that all the citizens were heading in the same general direction he was, confirming his suspicions of heading towards the capitol. Cautiously, he stuck his head out from between a couple of buildings in an attempt to see if there was anything that might be of some interest to him, or something that would help him figure out a way out of the kingdom.

He pulled back suddenly, not because of one of the figures on the street, but because of a sudden sound of quick feet behind him. John stood there nervously, eyes scanning the area but seeing no one. He took a few steps forward, looking around as he did.

Nothing.

The boy let out a short, airy laugh at his own foolishness. He was getting so paranoid he was hearing things! He shook his head, making his way back away from the street and into the maze once again.

He went along in a random pattern, choosing whichever direction struck his fancy. Left, left, straight, right, straight, left, and so on, always keeping a careful eye out for a black figure.

John walked along contently, more confident now that he had mastered the art of avoidance and his headache was weakening. He still had yet to find Jade, of course, but all in due time he reminded himself.

Once more he thought he heard footsteps behind him, but when he had turned to look, there was nothing but an empty alleyway. Again. He began to turn back to face forward, his eyes lingering on the spot for just a second longer. He wasn't sure what he was expecting to see, but he certainly never would've expected he actually did see; or at least thought he saw.

Yellow.

It was blurred and only there for a moment, but John could've sworn he had seen just a hint of that gold color he was so familiar with. He stared at the spot it had appeared, waiting for it to show again. When it didn't, he simply turned away.

And then there it was- not five inches from his face: that splotch of yellow.

John inhaled sharply in surprise, taking a step back from the figure that had appeared so suddenly. He saw now that the gold he had seen was in fact blond hair, gelled into shape perfectly by what seemed to be a good deal of hair product. Of course the hair was connected to a head, the head connected to a body wearing purple clothes that were strikingly similar to John's. Sunglasses effectively concealed the other's eyes, but by the height- not much taller than John- and the small traces of baby fat still visible on the face, it was easy to see that the two were probably close in age.

John swallowed. "Who are y-"

A pale hand quickly covered his mouth, much to his displeasure. The blond raised his other hand to his lips, placing his index finger over them and tapping a few times.

John nodded, understanding.

The other took his hand from the other, allowing both his arms to drop back at his side. Follow me, he mouthed.

For a minute, they both stood there, taking in each other's appearances, the blond waiting for some sort of response and John trying to sort out his thoughts. Finally though, he obliged, nodding again.

Chapter Text

Not another word was spoken between the two. The blond simply grabbed John's wrist and pulled him along through the alleyways quickly.

John mostly found himself stumbling behind the other- he wasn't quite as fast as the mysterious boy in sunglasses. They weaved through the buildings, the blond shielding John as best he could so his golden pajamas weren't seen. At one point a Dersite managed to spot them, he must've caught a glimpse of the bright yellow fabric.

"Shit," the blond said under his breath. "Hold on." In less than a moment, he pulled John to him and hoisted him up in his arms.

Before John could even think about opening his mouth to argue, they were moving faster than he could ever imagine. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around the other's neck, his eyes closing tightly. It was a strange sensation; he couldn't see it, but he could definitely feel the world rushing past the two of them. So quickly that John was afraid his glasses would go flying off if he didn't hold onto them- so he did, though he was reluctant to let his grip on the boy lessen.

Suddenly, the motion stopped. John opened his eyes. As soon as he did, he was suddenly very glad that he had the other supporting him. "Is it just me, or is the room spinning?" he mumbled, trying to see straight. Shit, he couldn't make out anything.

"First time experiencing a flashstep, huh?"

"I guess...?" All John could think about was 'what the hell is a flashstep?' and 'holy shit, my stomach suddenly doesn't feel that great'. "I think I'm gonna throw up..."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the boy sprung into action. He gently placed John down on something very soft and comfortable, grabbed something out of the corner of the room, thrust it into his hands, and pushed his face towards the opening.

Within a few moments, John began to retch into the cool, metal pail. Thankfully enough, there wasn't much in his stomach and he was finished with the unpleasant action as quickly as the nausea had hit him. He rested his forehead against the edge of what he'd deducted to be a trash bin. "Please tell me you have some water or something," he muttered unhappily.

The silent response came in the form of a bottle nudged up against John's arm. The boy glanced up at the drink being offered to him. Apple juice. That would do, he decided.

The other took the pail from him and set it down on the floor, pushing the cold juice into John's hands.

John sipped at the liquid carefully, not wanting to upset his stomach again. "I'm John, by the way," he said before taking another small sip. The sweet taste was welcome on his tongue and it took a lot of self-control to stop himself from chugging down everything in the bottle.

"...Dave," the blond said after a short moment, watching John carefully from behind his shades. "Sorry about that, but we had to get out fast before we were killed."

He nodded, understanding.

"You have a lot to learn if you're going to survive here, kid."

John looked down at the bottle in his hands, fingers picking at the peeling label. "So I guess there's no chance of getting back to Prospit, huh?" Next thing he knew, there was a newspaper on his lap. Where had that come from?

"Not if you want to go back to golden rubble."

John picked up the paper, looking at the headline in disbelief "PROSPIT DESTROYED". He let out a pained, breathless laugh. "Not a very original headline, is it?" he choked out. There was no doubt that he was upset- devastated, even- but there was no way he was going to lose control of his emotions in front of a stranger. Before Dave could respond, he quickly changed the subject. "You haven't seen a girl running around in Prospit clothes, have you?" John asked.

Dave shook his head. "Just you. And I scanned that city like I was searching for Derse's most wanted." He glanced over at the other. "Didn't know I'd actually find him."

John made no effort to hide his disappointment. He dropped his gaze down to his feet and let out a soft "oh". What was he going to do without Jade around?

"But hey, man, we can look around for your girlfriend if you really want to. Her clothes would be a bright, sunny give-away. It'd be real easy to spot her."

John nodded. He was right; it would be easy to find her. The only problem with that was that it'd be easy for someone else to find her, too. Hopefully, they would get there first. "Can we go now?" he asked.

"Well, not now. First you have to acquire some fine Dersite threads- they may be purple, but they are comfy as fuck. You look like you might be able to fit into some of mine. Might be a little bit of a stretch, but hey, desperate times. Then once you're rockin' the proper attire, I'll have to give you a little tutorial. A little Dersite Etiquette 101. This ain't no Prospit; you gotta lay low. And I mean real low."

John smiled a bit. "So then, we can go looking for her?"

Dave shrugged a bit. "Yeah, sure. Once you know how to go out there and keep yourself alive, you can search for your little girlfriend until your heart explodes from separation anxiety."

"She's not my girlfriend!"

"Whatever you say. Let it be stricken from the record that John is not infatuated with a Prospitian lady, nor is he having romantic relations with said person."

John could've sworn he saw a wink from behind those sunglasses. "Whatever," he responded finally. Man, this kid was weird. "Can we start now? I mean..." He paused, thinking he heard a thump. "What was that?"

Dave quirked an eyebrow. "What was what?"

Another few thumps. "That!"

"Is this some weird, delayed reaction from the flashstepping? Because-"

"Shhh!" John cut him off, waving his hand violently. He listened closely waiting for another sound to ring through his ears. This time, instead of another thump, he could've sworn he heard someone calling him. And that someone had a very familiar voice.

All it took was a blink. In that split second it took for him to blink, he had transported himself from the Kingdom of Derse to his room back on Earth. Confused momentarily, John looked around, eyes squinting from the bright sunlight entering in through a hole in his blinds.

There was a knock on his door. "John? Are you alright in there?"

John blinked. "Wha...? Ye-yeah. Come in," he said groggily. He stretched, limbs stiff from those motionless hours asleep.

The door opened a crack and his dad peeked in. "John, it's almost ten," he informed his son. "I understand your need for a good night's rest, but you can't sleep away your Saturday, and I made breakfast."

"Right... Thanks, dad."

The man nodded, smiling. He pulled his head back and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as his dad left, John flopped back onto his pillow. He knew there was no use in going back to sleep now; he'd wake up to more knocking in five minutes. At least his dream self was safe for now, though. What was that kid's name again? He thought about it for a moment before it hit him. Dave! John rolled onto his side, eyebrows furrowed in thought. He wasn't sure why, but he was sure he could trust the mysterious blond. Even if he was just a figment of his sleeping imagination, he still had to make sure his dream self was in good hands.

Dave... John smiled a little bit. Crazy as it sounded, he was eager to get back to Derse. The sooner he returned, the sooner he would be able to find Jade. And get to know Dave a little bit better, too. He seemed interesting.

After a few minutes of thought, John pushed himself out of bed, stretching a bit more once his feet were on the ground. He had a lot of daylight ahead of him, but once the sun went down, he had a kingdom to return to.

Chapter Text

John picked at his pancakes. His dad had put too much syrup on them. Again. If he didn't know any better, John would've sworn- on multiple occasions, under oath, the whole she-bang- that his father was trying to make him fat. But thanks to a fast metabolism, the only thing he had to worry about from constant sweets was some sort of disease. 

He kept waiting for the day he'd wake up with diabetes. 

But thankfully, he could add as much salt to his eggs as he pleased; that sort of balanced out the disgustingly sweet taste of maple. 

"Do you have any plans for the afternoon?" his dad asked, looking up at his son from behind a newspaper. 

John swallowed a bite of the pancakes, his face making apparent that it was a difficult task. "No," he replied, pushing the remainder of the breakfast away from him. No way he could eat any more of that. "I was just gonna take a day to play video games. I'm pretty beat from exams last week." He took a sip of his milk to try and wash away the awful sugary aftertaste in his mouth.

Mr. Egbert nodded. "It's good to give yourself a day to relax every so often." He looked back at his paper. "It's supposed to be cold, rainy day anyhow."

Good. That meant that John didn't have to go out and mow the lawn. He downed the rest of his milk and stood, leaving his plate and the unfinished food on the table. "Well, I'll be in my room. Call if you need me." And please don't need me, he added silently; he wanted some time to himself to do whatever his heart desired. When his father nodded, he casually walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to his room. Content with the fact that his father would most likely leave him alone for a while, he shut the door. 

John crossed the room, making a mental note to pick up the stray articles of clothing and papers littering the floor tomorrow. For now, the only tidying up he planned on doing was picking up a pair of sweatpants- which he slipped on over his Ghostbuster boxers. 

Unsure of what he really wanted to do, he flopped down onto his bed and stared at the ceiling for a good few minutes before that bored him. So he decided to actually try and play some video games. Perhaps that would get his mind off his dreams. He couldn't help but laugh. Really, it was just a dream, right? Who was he? Fraud? Or was it Freud? Regardless! He was a teenager with better things to do than obsess over some imaginary people and occurrences. Better things like a Pokemon Elite Four to battle.

Leaning over a bit, John dug in beneath his mattress, pulling out his old Gameboy Advance. 

He didn't even last ten minutes. 

"Ugh!" He turned the game off and tossed the heavy plastic to the foot of his bed. He was too distracted even to concentrate on a simple game, even. He considered getting out one of his shooter games- Left for Dead, maybe. But that held no appeal. He peeked over to his window, the glass splattered with water droplets and continuously gaining more. For about half a second, he thought about just going out to sit in the rain, but the only thing that idea was good for was giving his dad a heart attack. 

Not wanting to admit to himself that his thoughts were clearly engrossed with his dream situation, he fell back onto his pillow and huffed, frustrated. 

He contemplated taking a nap, just to look around Derse for a while. But then he remembered he wouldn't be able to do that until he learned "proper Dersite etiquette," or else he ran the risk of finding a knife in his gut. Well, his dream gut. And while John didn't believe in the suspicion that if you are killed in a dream, you die in reality, he didn't want to take any chances. Especially when the oddity of his dreams were already taken into consideration: most people (aka, everyone John had ever spoken with over the subject) could only remember sporadic, random snippets of dreams John was pretty convinced were induced by LSD.

Meanwhile, whenever he fell asleep, he continued following a constant, linear plot line- if he could call it that. He had gone ten pages into at least five different Google searches to try and figure out some answers about why his sleeping mind imagined in such strange ways. That was dedication, if John did say so himself.

After a while, John's day picked up a sort of a pattern: find some sort of distraction, distract self for about 15 minutes, contemplate the meaning behind dream life and the dream universe.

It took about three sessions of these, deep thought-sessions for John to realize that it wasn't to much the dreams themselves that were bothering him, but the boy who'd found him.

And it took four more sessions of his self-therapy for him to figure out that he had no idea why. 

The day continued on like this, and John was more than relieved when it finally ended. He turned in for bed at about 10, hoping he'd fall asleep quickly and finally put his mind at ease. However, his body was unhappy with the lack of activity it'd endured throughout the course of the day, and apparently decided that John didn't really need rest.

So the boy spent the better part of an hour staring at the dark ceiling angrily. At about 11, he was almost to the point of making unflattering, whiny, frustrated noises. He was already to the point of tossing and turning and throwing his blankets every which way. 

He played with the idea of sipping at some cold medicine again, but decided against it. After all, who knew how many ways that stuff could fuck up your system when it didn't have a job to do? Instead, he did what any other normal teenager did when they had insomnia; he Googled it.

Ironically, about half an hour later, he finally fell asleep clutching his iPod- the Google search screen (three pages into his most recent search: "beating insomnia in the ass") still up. 

 

The next John opened his eyes, he was in a room that was not his own. He sighed; it had taken long enough to get there. 

He looked around a bit at the strange new setting, never really had gotten a good look at it the night before. The room was red. Very red. It was an odd contrast to all the purple seen throughout the Kingdom of Derse, but not necessarily unwelcome, either. There were turntables in the corner, and a computer, and a hell of a lot of wires. Basically, the room was just a big, cluttered mess.

John was sitting in the chair by the computer, and had apparently been sleeping there. He rubbed at his neck, it was a little sore from not resting in a proper position. 

Whilst massaging his neck, it suddenly hit John that he had yet to spot Dave. He looked around more urgently, disappointed when he still didn't see the strange blond. "Dave...?" he called out experimentally.

No response came.

John stood and stretched. It was in that moment that his clothes had finally caught his eye. He no longer wore gold, but those magenta pajamas that he had seen Dave wear. He frowned at the length of the pants; they were just a few inches too long. Other than that, the shirt was a little tight, but the rest seemed to fit fine. He rolled up the pant legs so they rested against his ankles instead of his heels. 

With no one there, he decided to poke around his new surroundings a bit- making faces at the odd, dead things in jars, almost tripping over at least three different wires, and experimentally pushing a few buttons and dials on the turntables. It only took a few minutes for John to deduce that Dave was a strange, strange kid.

A strange kid who still had yet to make an appearance. Climbing onto the table nearest the window, John peeked his head out. It was so much like Prospit- tall, beautifully designed towers, seemingly endless streets.... The only difference being the colors. 

Maybe Derse wasn't so horrible, he thought, climbing back off the table. Sure he'd heard lots of things about the kingdom, but it couldn't be all bad, right? 

Instead of getting into another one of his sessions, John opted to go and mess with the turntables again.

"You're doing that wrong," came a sudden voice from behind him. 

John jumped away from the turntables, yelping in surprise. "Sorry! I was just-"

"It's cool, bro." Dave said with a shrug. "But like I said, you were doing it all wrong. Maybe I can teach you sometime. Let the true master show you how it's done."

"Right..." John wasn't so sure about how that sounded. He cleared his throat and changed the subject. "What's that?" he asked, nodding to the newspaper in Dave's hand.

"Oh this?" The blond tossed it over to him. "This morning's headlines. Nothing in there about your lady friend. And I spent the better part of the night out searching of her. You know, after you passed out on me. Which made it a little hard to get you into those threads. You're like a fuckin' rag doll in your sleep, man- total dead weight." The ghost of a smirk passed onto his lips. "Nice boxers, though."

John felt rather flustered. The thought that this guy had undressed him had not occured to him before now. He wasn't sure if he was embarrassed or angry or both, but he sure did have a lot to say to the guy about personal space. Unfortunately, the long rant he had built up in his head died the moment it hit his voice box and the only thing that came out was "Fuck you, Ghostbusters are awesome!"

He could've sworn Dave chuckled. "Whatever you say, man. But back to being serious, I don't think you're gonna have any luck finding your friend. I'm pretty sure she didn't make it."

John's anger deflated at once and he almost dropped the newspaper in his hand. "Oh." He looked down, his feet suddenly very interesting. There was no way Jade could be gone, she'd been there the whole time! A dream without Jade... that was just too weird. "You're still gonna help me look, though, right?" He looked up at the other, hopeful.

Dave shrugged. "I guess. There isn't much point, though." He paused, folding his arms. Then he decided it was more comfortable to stand with a hand at his mouth, fingers drumming against his bottom lip. "Where was the last place you saw her?"

"Um..." He racked his brain. Where was it? Last night had been so chaotic, it was hard to tell. "We were on Prospit, I thin- no!" Suddenly, it all came flooding back to him. "We were falling... towards Skaia."

The blond raised an eyebrow. "Then how'd you end up here?"

"I don't... I don't know...." Fuck, this was all confusing. "But at least let me go out and look for her one more time!" he pleaded, looking up at Dave, wishing he could see his eyes behind his sunglasses.

Dave was silent for a moment. "Alright, alright. Stop it with those puppy-dog eyes, jesus. Yeah, I'll help. But like I said last time, there're some things you gotta watch out for on Derse. We're pretty important figures in these Kingdoms, so we have to keep ourselves, you know, alive. Derse Studies 101 begins right now. I catch you snoozing, you'll be staying after class."

John smiled. He wasn't too sure what Dave meant about being "important figures," but that was a question he would save for later. "Thank you."

Chapter Text

"Here," Dave said, handing John a piece of paper. "Based on what I told you, mark out the routes that are safe to travel."

John glanced at the paper in his hands. It was a map scribbled out in red crayon- blocks and crudely drawn buildings and roads and a big star over what John took to be the center of the Dersite city. He began pointing to what he took to be the back alleyways, avoiding main roads that lead to or were close to that seven-pointed star Dave had drawn. How the hell did he manage to do that anyway?

They had been at it for hours. Dave shared just about everything he knew: from the king and queen to the archagent to the underlings. John learned very quickly that Derse was more complicated than he had originally thought. Prospit didn't have any agents and its inhabitants certainly didn't have to sneak around like criminals; out of sight and out of danger. Only go out when it was absolutely necessary or when going out to wreak subtle havoc. Which was a little anti-climactic John had pointed out, but apparently it was all for ironic purposes and probably shouldn't be attempted by anyone but Dave in retrospect. 

John had made a point to ask what kind of 'sick chaos' the other had caused, but all he got in response was a smirk and a "Don't worry about it."

"Hey, why don't you show me how to do that flashstepping thing later since you're teaching me all this other stuff?"

One of Dave's eyebrows shot up from behind his shades. "You kidding? It took me years to get to the point I'm at. And I'm not even that fast and I've been going at it over 10 years. I mean, I'm awesome still, but I'm pretty slow, too." 

"Uh-huh..."

"Plus you threw up pretty bad last time. The last thing I want to deal with is the reaction your stomach is gonna have when you try it yourself."

John made a face; he could've sworn he felt his stomach lurch just at the thought of his last experience. "Now that you mention it, it might be a bad idea after all."

Dave pushed himself up from his seat on the floor. "Yeah, that's what I thought."

John glanced up at him, not bothering to get up himself. Dave had been kind enough to let him use the computer chair as a seat. What a gentleman. 

The blond stretched, lacing his fingers together and pushing his arms high above his head. He inhaled deeply through his nose, held it for a moment, then released through his mouth, dropping his hands back to his sides. "I think that's enough Derse-ology for today," he said, cracking his knuckles casually. Slowly. One by one. 

It drove John insane, but he said nothing. He just simply watched the other's fingers with a certain, bitter disdain. This kid was going to get arthritis. Could dream people even get arthritis? Well if they could, Dave was going to get it. Oh, and he even had two ways to crack ea- scratch that, he had three ways to crack each finger. Fingers that were now snapping in John's face.

"Hello? Earth to John. Do you copy? Over."

John blinked. "Wh... what?"

"Did you hear anything I just said?"

"I-"

Dave cut him off. "Stay. Here." He pointed for emphasis. 

"Wait, where are you going?!"

"Holy jesus, John. I didn't think you'd be zoning that bad. I mean I know I'm gorgous to look at and all, but these pretty lips aren't just there for show."

"Hey! Who said I was-"

"But don't worry about it man, I mean it's perfectly understandable. I mean, if I weren't me, I'd be all over me, get what I'm saying? But anyway, where was I? ...oh right. Stay. I don't trust you out there yet."

John opened his mouth in protest again, but Dave was faster, walking towards the window as he spoke.

"I will literally be back in two minutes. Or less. Time me, I dare you." With his index and middle fingers, Dave gave the other a salute just before he jumped out the window, flashdropping (was that even a thing?) out of sight before he could fall properly like a normal person.

John sighed and rested his chin in his palm. Four hours of lectures about Derse and he wasn't allowed to go out yet? Granted, a good portion of those lectures were just Dave going off on rants and tangents about things that John could care less about. Dave liked to talk. A lot. Half of what he said wasn't even relatively important- of course to Dave it was probably all important. 

So, much like a grounded teenage girl, John moped in his seat, expecting Dave to take his sweet time despite what he'd said before his departure. But true to his word, and much to the boy's surprise, Dave showed up again after about a minute or so. But he wasn't alone. Like the gentleman Dave probably had buried away deep in his being, he gingerly helped a girl in through the window, holding onto her delicate hand carefully as he did. She was a pretty girl.

A very pretty girl.

A very very pretty girl.

Suddenly, John wished that Dave would've taken his time.

She approached John and offered a hand. Every one of her movements seemed perfectly calculated, even when she went to brush back some blond hair that'd fallen from behind her headband.

It took John a split second to remember what he was supposed to do with her hand, but the moment it clicked, he moved quickly to make up for his moment of hesitation. 

Oh wow her hands were soft.

"You're John, I presume?"

Oh wow she already knew his name.

"Wh- yeah. That's me! John!"

"Good. Then I have some questions for you."

Oh wow she wanted to talk to him.

"John?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you please let go of my hand now?"

John glanced down, horrified to see that he was still shaking her hand. As though it were 100 degrees, he dropped her hand and pulled his back. It joined his other hand awkwardly in his lap. "Sorry." He made an effort not to show any of his embarrassment show, unsure of whether or not it was actually successful. John had never been that great at talking to girls, but he never remembered be so awful at it, either. Hopefully the rest of the conversation would play out in his favor. 

"My name is Rose," she said, not bothering to sit down. John wondered for a moment if he should stand and join her, but he figured that would just leave him in an even more awkward position than he was already in. So he stayed put. "Dave has told me about you. All that he knows anyway." 

Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Dave plop down onto the floor. "Rose is way good at gathering information around here," he piped up. "She can hear a pin drop in the capitol, I swear."

John looked his way and then back to Rose. "What does that have to do with me?" he asked.

"She's gonna help us find your girlfriend, lover boy."

John inhaled sharply. "She's not my girlfriend!" he snapped, directing the anger towards Dave- who shrugged. "Haha, she's not my girlfriend," he said laughed once his attention was back to Rose. "She's just a really close friend is all." 

"Regardless of your relations," Rose said without missing a beat, her words crisp as ever, "I'd like to help in any way I can. With our combined efforts, it should be possible to find her, or at least find out what happened to her. I'm sure Dave has already informed you your search may be fruitless?"

John bit his lip, not really eager to get in this conversation again. "Yeah. He has."

"But we're still willing to help."

"Yeah," Dave said, butting in again. "And it'll give us a little more to do than finding ways to pile up the archagent's paperwork- and that's can be a hell of a party, let me tell you." He grinned a little.

Rose crossed her arms. "But I'll need you to answer some questions, like I said."

"That's fine," John answered. If there was something he could do to get closer to finding Jade, then he was going to do it. "But I just have a quick question before you start."

Rose raised an eyebrow.

"You can't just be helping me because you're bored."

"That wasn't a question."

John didn't bother to hide how unamused he was. "Okay, then why are you helping me? Not that I don't appreciate it or anything. But I mean we literally just met and you're going to help me find my friend- another person you've never met. So what's the deal?"

The girl let out a bit of a sigh. "It's... difficult to explain. Not even I am fully aware of all the details, but I'll do my best." She took a moment to collect her thoughts, touching the knuckle of her index finger to her lips as she sorted out precisely what she wanted to say. "We act as princes and princesses of Prospit and Derse. Now you're celebrated on Prospit as some sort of beacon of hope, for it is fated that Prospit is to lose the battle against Derse. Here, it is the opposite and we are far from celebrated and have to stay hidden to keep our lives.

"The gods have told me nothing more regarding this subject, but I theorize that the prince and princess of Derse have been put here to rid of the black king and queen- hence the price on our heads. Now obviously we are not here for the purpose of saving Prospit. Were that the case, we would have failed. But now that Prospit is destroyed, I believe that our time to move is drawing closer.

"With you on our side, we may have a better chance of success. If you were to help, that is. I am by no means going to drag you into something you do not wish to be a part of. Dave and I have already agreed to risk it. You must've been dropped here for reasons other than coincidence. And as a fellow prince it, may just be your duty to assist."

John bit his lip, trying to process everything she had just said. "So you want to help me so I'll help you?"

"Basically."

Maybe it was common for people on Derse to talk more than was necessary.

"Well," John said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I don't-"

"You don't have to make up your mind about it now, of course."

John looked up at her.

Rose continued. "But when the time comes, you will have to make the choice. It is then that you will decide. I won't pester you about if futher. And neither will Dave." She threw him a warning glance. 

Dave put up his hands definsively. "Hey don't gimme that look. I wasn't gonna say nothing."

"So anyway, John," she turned back to the Prospitian boy, a small smile on her lips. "Shall we begin?"