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Nobles of Helium

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The Land of Crypts and Helium was always a desperately lonely place, but at least now you have Dirk at your side. Lil Seb scampers about out your heels like he always has, following you both as you explore the gray, barren land that belongs to you. The only land you managed to get in to the medium at all. Dirk is quiet and distracted all the time. When you make a joke or bring something up, he talks to you. He'll hold conversations with you, but the silence in between them stretches dark and tense for hours.

You can't talk about Jake. You can't talk about Roxy.

What you can do is explore the giant land made just for you, full of crypts and tombs and with the skulls of unusually large lizards. You try not to remember how much Jake loved skulls. You read over tablets with Dirk peering over your shoulder. He holds your hand to help you balance when you run over the backs of swollen balloons. He carries you in his arms from high ledges to put you safely on the ground.

"Why thank you, kind prince," you say with a smile.

"Of course, my lady," he replies.

 

When you get hungry you go back to where your house is, just as dark and dusty as the rest of the planet when you leave it too long. The two of you mess with the alchemiter and make bizarre food hybrids while you're multiplying some. You make a watermelon made of apple, and Dirk combines a box of curry mix to a package of mac and cheese and makes a combination that is not as awful as you were expecting. When you get tired, you sleep in your bed, Lil Seb always nearby and Dirk in the living room. He snoozes with his shades on so you can never tell if he's awake. He lays with his his feet up on the arm of the couch. When you come downstairs for anything, he'll talk to you no matter how quiet you think you're being. He says he's that light a sleeper. It comes with having to protect yourself from powerful troll empresses when they might spring an attack on you at any time.

"Has that ever really happened?" you ask him, with an arched eyebrow as you make him some fried eggs in the kitchen, and he looms like he hasn't eaten in weeks.

"No," he admits, and you hit his hand with a spatula before he sticks his finger in to taste the margarine. He's so smart and alert and competent but he has no idea what is food and what isn't, which is one of the most entertaining things about him you think.

 

There are still a handful of Dirks running around, in a sense, if you include Lil Seb. AR is still nestled into the glasses on Dirk's nose, but you still feel like he's the only one you've got. He has a small cluster of organized forces when all you have is him. Lil Seb will still listen to you, but Dirk is there and he has things under control. Each of his forces are under his sway, and out to look out for you, to protect you, to keep you safe. Unless you tell him to back off he wouldn't let you lift a finger, walking into a room and doing the puzzles in two seconds flat, which is no fun at all. Eventually he learns and lets you take your time, figuring out how to coordinate the lights, the water, the dark recesses of certain wall panels until you make a balloon sink, or soar into the air. Dirk stands back, holds his tongue, and lets you enjoy yourself.

There can only be so many puzzles on this planet, you think one day as the two of you walk back to your old house, observing Dirk's hands buried deep into his pockets. His arms are slender but muscled in a way you don't really see in the movies. When you run out of puzzles, what is there? Then what do you do?

You have a lot of dreams where you find your father. You also wonder what happened to that strange clown-demon. You wonder if they're still out there.

 

Sometimes the balloons float over the house and pour water down on you not like rain, but a waterfall. Dirk had to put a plug on the chimney top or else the flood would run through the house and out the front door, off of the balloon they were perched on top of. Some of it washed in through the cracks under the doors, but anything was better than the chimney. They treated those days like rainy days, even though the balloons would pass over in sometimes under an hour.

You would bake a cake or two and Dirk would loom and stick his fingers in the batter until you order him away to tinker on something. Dirk could eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner and wash it down with orange faygo and not even blink twice. He doesn't like steak or chicken. He doesn't like much, but he likes cake, and being able to do something he can't for once, to look out for him in this way, really makes you feel better about everything. You think baking him cake and teasing him until he tastes a little bit of tomato and laughing at his look of disgust is something you wouldn't mind doing until this timeline dies. Or until you die. You wonder which will come first.

You don't know what to do. You have all this time and nothing to do with it because you failed, and you're sure he blames himself. He doesn't know what to do either, so you take care of each other.

You're okay with that.

You put on a stupid movie and when he lays down on the couch, you stretch out next to him and lay your head on his shoulder. He folds his arms around you, holding you, until you fall asleep with his breath puffing a warm spot into your hair.