Chapter 1: ROSE
Waking up in dank darkness with a headache that made her want to dip into some of her ecto-brothers coarse language, Rose Lalonde; sat up. Wherever she was, it definitely didn't belong to the meteor she'd been calling "home" for several years now. Feeling around, her hands touched rough rock, slimy rock and oh-more rock. sighing in aggravation, she wondered if this wasn't some sort of "prank" before casting that idea aside. Why anyone would go to the trouble of making a cave to dump her in was beyond her reasoning-not even Dave who so enjoyed his irony, would think to do something like this (besides, how was this in anyway shape or form ironic to anything they've gone through recently?).
Pushing herself up from the ground, her knees wobble and she cursed quietly when her head bumped into a cave wall. Taking a few tentative steps, she hesitated in deciding her course of action-chances are she'll get more lost, not un-lost (if there is such a thing in this case). Chewing at the inside of her cheek, she almost thought to yell out-see if anyone responded. That idea, she quickly squashed, what if there was some half-crazed troll waiting to murder her? She'd like to get out of here, not end up dead to be never seen again like in those juvenile ghost-stories.
Just as she was going to make the decision of walking until she found an out or collapsed from exhaustion, a new factor made itself known. From the corner of her eye, she spied a faint light and when she realized it was coming in her direction, Rose fell back against the cave wall and crouched low. As the glow came closer, the quick tap of hurried feet began to echo off the walls around Rose; soon, she was close enough that the light cast against the oddly colored rock giving the blond a glimpse of the being's silhouette; it was tall-too tall to be a kid or teenager-and...they hadhorns, but not just any kind of horns, Kanaya's horns.
Frowning as this troll comes closer and closer, Rose realized she needed to make her decision. If this was Kanaya (but it couldn't be) she may be her only hope out of here-so as that body came by and she could see them holding what appeared to be a make-shift torch in front of Kanaya's but not face; the blond reached out and pulled on her skirt.
They whirled around, a wide smile eclipsing their mature-faintly lined-face. "Carmine!" The troll gasped, sounding pleased.
Rose actually felt bad as her so very green eyes looked to her. She wasn't this Carmine and she hoped that it wouldn't be the death of her. Clearing her throat, the girl said "Erm, I am not 'Carmine'."
The adult Kanaya's smile dropped. Bringing her torch so it was hot and flickering a mere inch from Rose's face, she crouched down and demanded, "Who are you? What are you?" Pressing with all her might against the stone so it may absorb her if it so wishes, the girl attempted to find a good answer to give the grown troll. Obviously finding something that the blond didn't even know she was showing, the troll put a hand on her knee. "You are young yet, aren't you? Do not worry, I will not hurt you unless you give me reason to."
Actually feeling marginally better, she let out a slow breath and muttered "That's...comforting."
The grown-Kanaya's lips flicker up for all of a moment before her eyes pierce her with solemnity. "Now, who are you?"
"Rose Lalonde," she answered, "One of the last surviving humans of planet Earth."
This made the troll cast her gaze away. "I've never heard of either such thing-then again, I've never seen someone like you either, so I shall believe you." Turning back, she smiled at her. "I am Dolorosa, how did you end up here child?"
Rose shrugged. "I don't know," she replied and then, she thought to question, "Who is this Carmine?"
Her mood wavered.
"My grub," she answered, "I don't know what happened! I put him down just a bit ago for a nap and...then he just disappeared a little while later when I went to check on him!"
It clicked then. "A dream bubble..." Rose mumbled.
"A what bubble?"
"A dream bubble," the girl repeated, "They happen sometimes, it takes you from where you are and transport you into someone else's world..."Looking again to the green eyes staring at her intently, Rose had to shake her head. "But it does not seem right to call it that either...usually-" she stopped. Dolorosa didn't need to know the people she usually meets in dream bubbles are dead.
The woman seemed even more upset by this information. "Are you saying my Carmine has been spirited away to who knows where?"
It was the blond's turn to comfort this grown-Kanaya, gripping her wrist, she told them troll. "He will be alright," she soothed, "He probably just got misplaced around here somewhere. I will help you look for him even. Just don't-" she closed her mouth. Leave me here. Don't ever let someone know that you're scared of something, they can use it against you; that's always been something she knew.
"You will," the woman stated.
The girl nodded. "Yes," she concurred. "I have nothing better to do," other than die in the obscurity of this dark cave, of course.
Her eyes narrow before she stood up, bringing Rose along with her. "Come along," she ordered, "Day break will be here soon."
Rose doesn't fully comprehended why it being day or night matters in a cave, but she figured that this adult Kanaya knew more about it than she ever would.
Walking the block of a familiar street, John wasn't sure what to make of it. He's both completely freaked out and giddy. It looked as if it hadn't ever left! Like the game never happened...Nearly running down the block, he came to his house and went to the door fully intending to open the door and yell "I'm home! I'm home dad!" When a little voice called;
"Mister, what are you doing?"
Twisting around, John felt his stomach drop. The girl, she couldn't be more than eight or nine, but...but he knew her. Letting his hands drop to his side, he smiled widely at her and took a step closer. "I was just-you live here right?"
She nodded her head, scuffing her feet on the ground as the tire-swing warbled beneath her. "Yeah I do!"
"With your dad?" He pressed.
She pouted. "Uh-huh..." Pulling herself up, she scrambles over the tire so she is standing precariously on the top with her arms wrapped around the rope. "How come you know that?" She demanded.
John doesn't have an answer right away. It's bad enough that he's home, but it's not his home any longer. Now to have his nanna interrogating him like he's some kind of creep might just be a bit too much. "I-I knew him a long time ago..." he whispered.
The girl stared at him for a long moment before launching herself from the tire and running over to him. "Don't be sad!" She cried, wrapping her stubby kid-arms around him. "Dad'll be home real soon! Pinky-promise, okay?"
This made him pause, hand between her shoulder blades. "You're dad isn't home? Where is he?"
Pulling back a little, she puffed cheeks out at him and brought her eyebrows together for a mean scowl. "At the store, duh! He's buying milk an' eggs an' bread an' stuff 'cause we're out!"
John didn't remember with absolute clarity, but he was pretty sure he still had to go with his dad when he left the house at her age. "And he left you home." He stated dubious.
she took herself away completely and put her hands on her hips as she boldly glared up at him. "I'm a big kid! I can take care of myself just fine!"
"I'm sure you can," the teen agreed distractedly.
"No!" She snapped, "I know not to go with strangers who have puppies in their car or candy they want to share at their house!"
"But-" he stopped; the rest of the sentence rattling through his head you're talking to me, aren't I a stranger? He doesn't want to set her off, he doesn't want to give his nanna reason to fear him or to scream and grab some neighbor or passerby's attention.
Suddenly the girl's giggling and John snapped his mouth close before frowning. When she continued to giggle, he asked; "What? What's so funny?"
"We have the same teeth!" She crowed, "They're both beaver-teeth!"
He chuckled a bit too before leaning down and whispered in an exaggerated conspiratorial tone "Maybe we're related!"
Nanna blinked, big eyes blinking hopefully behind her glasses. "I always wanted a big brother," she admitted.
And I always wanted to know my nanna. The teen kept that to himself, though, and stretched his smile. "Yeah? I could be your pretend-big brother, if you want;" he offered.
She cocked her head to the side. "How do play pretend-big brother?" She questioned.
"Well," John started, "First, I live under your bed;" because he had no money on him and needed a place to stay while he tried to figure out why he was here in the Alpha Kids' timeline. "Second, we play pranks on each other and eat a lot of junk food in your room when your dad isn't watching." It's the best plan he could come up with in such a spur of the moment situation and he didn't want dad to come around in the middle of a lengthy explanation he can figure out with more time.
Jane frowned. "Okay...but I'm going to have to clean out the underneath of my bed, first."
John nodded eagerly. "I'll help," he offered.
This made her smile as she took his hand and opened the front door. "C'mon! It's this way!" She shouted, tugging him along up familiar stairs as his eyes took in the minute differences of the home he grew up in. It sees their dad had a similar design plan no matter what timeline he lived in. Taking him to her room, John found himself taken back by the similarity of arrangement. He kept his room the same way.
Already on her knees throwing stuff out left and right from beneath her bed, Jane lifted her head towards him; curls falling in her face. "C'mon! I thought you said you'd help!"
Jolting into reality once more, John came over to her feet. "I am, I'll put this stuff where it belongs; how's that sound?"
The girl paused with a stuffed animal of some sort in her hands. "Most of it's just dirty clothes," she explained.
"That's okay, I don't mind the smell;" he teased as her face turned a soft red. "You're hamper's right over by your desk, right?" Or at least he assumed it was; he always kept his there.
Slowly, she bobbed her head. "Uh-huh," she muttered; "After we clean it out, can we play a board game together? Dad always lets me win when we play together," the girl begged hopefully.
John swallowed thickly and agreed; "Definitely, that's what pretend-brothers are for, right?"
I hope you like it, I didn't have the patience to wait until tomorrow to post the second chapter :p
Plus, thanks for the kudos thus far; I appreciate it!
Chapter 3: DAVE
Thanks for all the kudos this far and the bookmark as well! Let me know how you liked this chapter with a kudo or maybe a comment? ;)
Sloshing through sand under the fading light of a pink and green moon, Dave kept his cape tightly wound around him. Unsurprisingly, Alternia deserts got cold just like Earth deserts. Hunching a little further as the rock cropping became more evident in the sun's early morning horizon, Dave hoped he got there before the sun was all the way up (trolls were crazy hardy, but even Terezi lost her sight to Alternia's sun upon looking at it; no way was Dave with his puny eyes going to attempt something like that).
By luck or maybe by speed, the blond teenager managed to trudge all the way there and with an exhausted grunt; he collapsed face first into the hunk of rock. It was too bad he wasn't short enough to squeeze in that big ol' crack there. He bet it was nice and cool-which'd be great when the sun was beating down on his back like a heat lamp on a day old pizza slice. Shifting as the day wore on, he cracked an eye open and nearly threw himself back at what glowed out at him from inside the rock's crevice.
"Shit!" He swore, staring at glowing yellow orbs. "Oh my god," he wheezed; "Don't kill me, I haven't convinced Maryam that my beats are the sickest thing in two universes yet."
There was a small sniffling sound from the hole. "You know mother?" A tiny voice warbled.
It sounded like a kid. Like a little kid. Dave sure as hell didn't know a thing about them, but he figured he should give an answer before the troll-kid decided to tear out his throat. Trolls were freaky vicious and he was willing to bet being all of six-years-old didn't change that. "Uh, maybe?" He answered. "What's her whole name?"
There was the scraping of claws and knees, the teenager tensed to run; but a moment later, a tiny, round familiar face popped out of the crevice to gaze down on him. "The grown-up trolls just call her that, but mother told me to call her Mother Dolorosa." He told him with the gravity only a kid his age can pull off.
Blinking back his shock, the boy desperately tried to regain thought. "Uh..." Dave fumbled. He could see wariness returning to the boy's eyes, knowing he had to think quick, he blurted. "We go way back, like prehistoric way back; with dinosaurs and shit."
"Yeah, I know what you mean; there names are insanely hard to say," The teenager covered up as he inched a little closer. "So kid," he started; "How'd you end up here?"
A disdainful pout comes to the boy's face and it's so much Like Karkat that Dave knew the little troll had to be him. "I don't like you," the small troll growled. "You say a lot of weird things."
"It's a talent."
Furrowing his little brow, the mini-Karkat nodded. "Like that," he said; "That's weird."
"Well sorry little-Karcrab, tell me how you'd react to a mini-Dave," The teenager snapped. Uneasy again, the small troll made to skitter back; however Dave grabbed his arm. "Wait, hold-up!"
"Lemme go!" The little Karkat screamed; a claw slashing at his hand.
Dave quickly retracted. Hissing at the sight of the wound. "Ouch man," he grumbled, only a little hurt (emotionally, anyway).
There was silence for a few minutes. Then, a very very tiny voice called; "Why's your blood so red? That's strange."
Lessons from the trolls coming back to him, the blond teenager remembered the stories about mutants and cullings. "Because all humans do," he answered.
Yellow eyes staring out at him, the little troll whispered; "Mine's the same color. That's why mother named me Carmine."
Dave hummed. Carmine. Where in Alternia is Carmine Vantas (and Dave Strider)? It didn't have as nice a ring to it as Where in the World is Carmine Sandiego?, but he bet with a game of twenty-questions the two of them could figure it out. "That's cool," he complimented. "So, Carmine, where are we right now?"
He shook his head. "Dunno, was gonna wait 'til mother found me-or came back for me, I guess."
Welp. There went that plan. "Did you wake up there?" He prodded.
"Nu-huh," Carmine answered. "Was out in the desert-like you."
"Well then, did you spy any places someone like me could hide?"
There was silence for a little while. "Yeah, but it was a short walk away from here."
"I don't know how much longer me just lying here is going to work," Dave explained. "Either I go out there myself and die...then I won't be able to tell your Mother if I see her where you are and then you'd die and-"
"Don't leave me alone!" The boy begged, tiny hand coming out to grasp his shirt with inhuman strength. "Don't leave me!"
Prying the claws out of his clothes, the teenager nodded. "I won't," he asserted. "Does that mean you're going to show me where this hiding place is?"
"It's really close to the Jade-blood caverns, if they find me..."
"Look, if you stick with me, you won't have to worry about it;" Dave told him. Not that he knew for sure he'd be able to protect the mini-Karcrab. He'd definitely try, though.
His little face peered out again, eyes big and scared. "You swear?" He demanded.
"Cross my heart and hope to die," he replied.
A wrinkled, frustrated face was what he got in answer. "What does that mean?" Carmine grumbled.
"That I'm not lying," Dave sighed. Jeez, didn't trolls have any similar sayings? Messing with his hood, the blond decided it was good enough and looked once more to the crevice. "You comin' or what?"
"I am!" He piped up as he fell out of the shadows and in front of Dave. Bending down, the older boy fixed Carmine's hood around his tiny face and grabbed his hand. "Lead the way kid," he muttered vaguely waving his free hand out at the expanses.
The small troll's nose curled up and he could see that he wanted to say something, but surprise of all surprises, this little Karkat bit his lip with those doofus teeth and bobbed his head as he tugged them out into the Alternia's baking sun.
Chapter 4: JADE
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She woke up under water. Fighting the urge to gasp, she struggled against the tangle her hair put her in and oriented herself. Air. She needed air. Now. Pumping her legs, the teenager felt herself go lightheaded when she broke the surface. Gasping for hard-won air; she took off her glasses and pushed her sopping hair. Where was she? Looking around, Jade was half-relieve and awed to see that it was Earth.
God, how long had it been? It felt like forever since she'd laid eyes on familiar territory (or just earth territory in general). Swimming herself around in a circle, she squinted at the distant green. Was that...? It was. Or she thought it was anyway. Looking either way, she realized she really didn't have any other options. Hopefully, it wasn't as far away as it seemed...
Several hours of swimming, crying and grunting later; Jade realized she could put her feet down and stand if she wanted to. Putting her feet beneath her, she finally stands and she laughs. She'd made it! It didn't matter if she'd been at it until the sun was high in the sky, she'd made it to shore alive and whole. Sloshing through the water to the sandy beach, Jade collapsed in the sun with a sigh. Maybe...maybe she could sleep for a while? Or at least rest for a few minutes. Home was still a long way off; she also knew walking through the forest wet would only attract bugs.
Yawning, she curled on her side not caring where the sand slipped into her clothes and closed her eyes as the sun beamed down nice, earthly, light on her shoulders and back. The slosh of the ocean's tide, the breeze running through the tree canopies and the occasional caw of a bird soon put Jade to sleep; the noise to soothing and familiar not to.
A metallic click caused Jade's eyes to snap open. A barrel of a gun was in her face. Scrambling back, she lifted her gaze to see the weathered one of an old woman. The girl gasped, she looked like her.
"Where did you come from?" The woman demanded.
Trembling, Jade shook her head. "I don't know! I just swam here!" The old woman pushed the rifle into her face. "Really!"
"Grandma?" A little voice broke in, popping out from around the elderly woman's hip.
She jerked. "I told you to stay behind me!" She hissed at the boy.
Seeing him for who he was, Jade jumped on the chance. "Jake!" She cried, "You know me, don't you? I'm your penpal!"
His little head cocked to the side. "...Jade?"
His grandmother lowered the gun and looked between the boy and teenager. "Jade, huh? Funny how we have the same name."
"She's you from the past grandma!" Jake piped up with a smile.
Skeptical, the old Jade takes a few wary steps to inspect Jade in a more appreciative light. "Are you really a past me?"
"Of a sort," The girl replied relieved. "It's a lot more complicated than that, but yes in a sense I am."
A smile lighting up her wrinkled face, the woman offered Jade a hand. "You'll have to forgive me," she said; "But you can't be too careful these days."
"Right," the girl conceded. "Um, y-our home is still where I remember it being right? It hasn't like shifted to the other side of the island or something; has it?"
The old woman shook her head. "I don't know," tucking her rifle away, she commented; "We'll just have to find out, won't we?"
Jade sighed and began to follow the grandmother and grandson as they made the long trek back to her-their-home. As they walked the worn paths leading to the house, the girl noticed how the boy kept peaking looks at her around her older self's hip.
Putting on the biggest smile she could, she asked; "What is it Jake?"
Popping around to her side, the boy wrapped his arms around her middle and decreed "It's just awesome that you're here!"
"It's nice to meet you too," Jade agreed, patting his head.
He looked up. "I thought you'd be closer to my age, though."
"Oh?" Grandma pestered.
The boy bobbed his head and took the hand that Jade's old self offered between the two of them. "Uh-huh! All the stuff I get from her feels like letter's I'd get from a kid if they were my age-maybe even younger.."
The keen eyes on her from the wrinkled face didn't go unnoticed. "Remember what I said?" Jade insisted. "It's not like I just popped right out of my timeline to visit you...something happened where I was and somehow, I'm not only in the past, but in a different timeline altogether!"
"A different one?"
Jade sighed. "In mine," she muttered; staring at the little boy sadly, "Jake's my granddad."
He crinkled his nose. "That's weird!" He declared, laughing at the end as he ran ahead to the house which had come into view.
"Truly?" The boy's grandmother inquired.
The girl nodded. "Yes," she murmured.
"...You can stay until you've gotten yourself where you belong, I couldn't rightly kick you out when all I can think about is where I was when I was your age..."
"Where was that?" Jade demanded.
There was a shift in the air and her old self looked away. "On the run from the woman who 'raised' my brother and I."
"Oh," the girl whispered. She had a lot to learn about this alternate version of herself it seemed.
Chapter 5: ROSE
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Tapping her chin, the Dolorosa sighed. "You're skin is so fair..." she mumbled. "And doubly breakable."
Listlessly fussing with the veil the adult-troll had procured for her. Rose listened with half-ear, she didn't understand why they were braving the Alternia sun if it was so dangerous-especially if the Dolorosa thought this "Carmine" was lost inside the caverns. Approaching the glowing coals of a fire, the troll reached down and scooped a handful of ashes up.
"...Maybe if we coat you?"
The teenager frowned. "What exactly are you trying to do?"
"I fear what will happen if we come by another troll. Not all are as level-head as I," she admitted.
Propping a hand on her hip, Rose rolled her eyes. "You are so modest."
A smirk pulled the Dolorosa's face. "And you are a mouthy creature," she parried.
"You should see my brother!"
A small groove came between the troll's eyebrows. "...brother?"
"Ah yes, I had forgotten that such relations were unfamiliar to your kind;" tapping her fingers upon a cave wall, Rose thought over how to explain the concept to the adult. Broadly. But quickly also. "...this Carmine, he calls you mother, yes? Well, in human society a mother is like Lusus-but they are related by blood to their charge. And there is often a father too, he and the mother create a 'grub' together and raise it together. Sometimes a mother and father will have more than one 'grub'. If it is male, it is called a brother. If it is female, sister."
"...that sounds horribly inefficient. How does a mother or father raise more than two sufficiently?"
Rose could only shrug. "I don't know." Blinking, the girl remembered the handful of dirt in the troll's grip. "Are you going to coat me in that or not?"
Green eyes went to the ash. "Ah yes..." she murmured. Stepping forward, she tilted her head and said; "You should take off your shirt and roll up your pants; the more seamless it looks the better." Without complaint, Rose pulled off her top and folded her pants up to her knees. The teenager then stood completely still as the troll rubbed the dirt into her skin. As the Dolorosa coated the skin around her eyes, Rose could see the reservation the woman held.
"What is it?"
"...your eyes, they could be mistaken as the color of they royalty."
She frowned. "That is bad, no?"
The green-eyed woman hesitated, but eventually nodded. "If not that, you'll be called a mutant and killed on the spot."
"If I covered my face with a veil, it would obscure it some; don't you think?" Rose asked.
Dolorosa nodded. "We'll need to find a way to feign horns too."
"That is going to take too long, if this troll is out in the deserts; is he in danger?"
"Very," The troll agreed, biting her lip.
Fixing the veil, Rose stepped away. "We' will simply say the horns are tiny. It is pathetic to your kind, I am sure, but as you said; we do not have time."
"This way then," Dolorosa replied stiffly. "Don't get too far behind and don't stop. Once we get to the more traveled caverns I can't promise we won't pass someone."
The teenager nodded. "Yes, yes I understand..." she fumbled after a moment in which the green-eyed troll neither moved or spoke. Once said, the taller took a step into the caverns. Her skirt fluttering behind her and a light burning brightly in front of her-guiding them to the dessert. Heart beat thrumming just under her skin, Rose forced her feet forward and raced along behind the woman. She didn't know if they were truly running or if it only felt that they were, but it was surreal.
The Dolorosa's yellow light casting moving, shifting shadows along the caverns' walls; some of the shadows glimpsed past events (she saw herself running, Dave's bro falling, their first meeting with the trolls, Kanaya, Karkat, Terezi, Gamzee...then all twelve) and she glimpsed unknown people and unknown events as they ran. For a moment, Rose thought she heard footsteps behind them and in another minute, she swore she saw a darkly robed person trudging along to the left of them; later she saw eyes witnessing and heard whispers...
Shaken, the girl re-focused, all her attention on the back of a woman she did not know; but knew too. It was her Kanaya helping her, but a different troll altogether as well (there essence was the same and that's all that counted). Struggling along, Rose barely realized that they'd come upon an exit until they were standing under the blistering sun's light. Looking at the vast world of sand, her chin tilted up and then her eyes-
"Look and you'll be blind."
The girl tensed and Rose's gaze went to her toes. "...That was disorienting."
A hand came and lifted her head. Forced to look up, she saw the Dolorosa's weary face. "You are well youngling, aren't you?"
The grip went slack; but the hand that held her quickly went to work at re-arranging her veil. "I hope the dirt will be enough to keep you from getting burned..."
Rose shrugged. "I am not unfamiliar with sun burn." At the troll's dubious look, the teenager sighed. "Shall we begin looking for Carmine? If you think he's out here, he could not have gotten far right?"
Green wandered the dunes. "No," she finally replied. "No he is small-smaller than you. He would not have gotten far and he would know better than to travel in the sunlight."
"Then he will be alright until."
A smile was what she was rewarded for her troubles. "You are right Rose, my wriggler will be just fine."
Chapter 6: JOHN
Looking past the bed curtain, John could make out the faint shapes of the familiar, but unfamiliar room. Sighing, the boy wondered how much longer he could get away with hiding in his Nanna's room and sleeping under her bed. This version of his dad wasn't too suspicious yet, sure Jane had slipped up once or twice and referenced things they did (like checkers and knock knock joke contests), but at this point John felt her (his?) dad just thought she was playing some sort of game. Or maybe he thought she had an imaginary friend, though, she might be a bit old for one of those...
Either way, it was only a matter of time. As much as John hated too...he had to leave. Shuffling out from beneath the bed, he got up in the dim light of his young Nanna's nightlight and stared at her in her bed. She was...cute. Little. Innocent. He doubted she had any idea what was going to happen to her in a few years; but had he any clue he'd end the world with a stupid game when he was her age? No.
All he had been thinking about was learning how to do stupid card tricks and beating his latest high score in Mario Carts.
Bending down, he smoothed out her blankets and whispered quietly; "Goodbye." She didn't even stir. Stepping back, he went to her bedroom door and opened it; letting his feet carry him through the near-identical home he was passing through the living room on his way to the front door when a voice croaked;
Jolting, the teenager found himself laughing. Turning around, he realized his laughter was far too loud and panicked (he was going to wake Jane). Biting down hard, he flinched at the pain he caused himself as he accidentally bit his tongue. The voice that called him out belong to his post-scratch father. The man, blue eyes squinting in the dark light pulled his pipe away and cradled it.
"You're this 'John' my Janey's been talking about, aren't you? It wasn't just a game or something she was playing."
Trembling from so many emotions, John can only shake his head. The man got up and came closer, slowly circling him; eventually he stopped and smiled at the teenager. Reaching out, he tried to touch his face. John backed away.
Retracting his hand, his-Jane's-whoever's dad smiled sadly. "You look just like the pictures I have of my dad."
"Do I?" John whispered.
The man's blue eyes twinkled as he chuckled. "Right down to that deliberately messy hair."
He finally smiled back at the man who once (is) his father. "W-What are you going to do with me?" The teenager asked, he couldn't imagine that his dad was happy with him for all the sneaking around he-Jane-did.
Before John could move, the man was hugging him. "I am going to give you a room and you are going to stay here with Janey and I as long as you want and need to." His dad promised him.
"Dad.." he warbled, gripping the man with just as much intensity. He'd missed the man, missed his nosiness, baked goods, everything. But here he was now promising him a place in this different world despite the fact he'd never once met him and that he looked uncannily like his own father.
His dad pulled away and looked at him in the dark with uncomprehending fear and compassion. "A lot's happened to you, hasn't it son?"
"You don't even know!" John laughed wiping away his tears.
Gripping him by his shoulder, his dad lead him towards the kitchen; "Let's get you a cup of cocoa and then I'd say bed for you."
Smiling, the teenager just let the man have his way and didn't object to anything he did or said (not even when he put a slice of cake next to his hot cocoa).
Walking into the kitchen, Jane rubbed at her eyes and passed the breakfast bar without a thought as she made a beeline for his fruit loops. But when she turned around, she gasped at who she saw.
"John!" She yelped; "What are you doing!? Dad's going to catch you!"
The older grinned around his mouthful of cereal. "Too late."
"Oh, hello Janey;" her father greeted as he came into the room holding the newspaper.
Frowning, the girl looked between the two males. "What happened?"
"I just figured it out is all." Her father explained as he helped her up on to the breakfast bar's stool.
Pouring herself a bowl, she accepted the milk John passed her and narrowed her eyes at the two. "...How?"
"Him and your poppop have the same name. I thought it was strange-of course, I was suspecting he was a ghost wandering around the house or something but...well, I like this better." Jane's dad admitted as he picked up his cup of coffee.
"...You aren't going to kick out John then?"
The man laughed and grinned. "No," he answered. "You're both my kids as far as I'm concerned," he declared reaching over to ruffle their hair.
"Dad!" They cried in unison.
Jane peaked around her mused bangs as her pretend big brother fixed his glasses. Maybe John wasn't a pretend brother after all, maybe he was for real. And wasn't that even better?
Jane sure thought it was anyway.
Chapter 7: DAVE
"I'm hot," baby-Karkat whined as he wriggled his little fingers up at Dave.
Shoving him away, the teenager sneered at the troll. "No? Really?"
"Yes," he replied after a moment with a dubious pout. Like he didn't know if he should push his luck or just shut up. Sighing, the blond reached down and swung the kid up in his arms. He couldn't blame him for being tired. And little. Even if he was as heavy as a shit ton of rocks. Christ, what were trolls made of?
Before he can stop himself, the blond actually asked his question aloud. "What on earth are trolls made of?"
"Earth?" Mini-Kar murmured, having latched onto the unfamiliar word.
Stumbling along in the hot sand, Dave said dumbly "Uh..." Little hands tugged at his hood and the teenager batted away the hands. "Stop that man, my skin ain't sun-resistant like yours. I got delicate skin. Two seconds in the sun and I'll go up in flames."
"Really?" The child gasped, sounding half-fascinated and half-horrified. At least he thought it was horrified from the way he kicked his feet and looked considerately to the ground-like he was going to hop down in case Dave was going to burst into red and orange right now. Smirking as he squinted in the day's light, he saw the outcropping that Karkat had told him to got did look a little bigger than it had a few minutes ago.
Bouncing the kid on a hip that he doesn't have, the teenager sighed. "We'll never get there, will we Kar-crab?"
"Don't call me that," the boy grunted as he squirmed some more. "You don't know how to carry wrigglers do you?" He inquired as his little claws began to dig into his shirt as he tried to get comfortable.
Dealing with the squirming body, Dave snapped; "Cut that out kid!" He did. Putting a hand to his face, the blond made a disgusted noise and rolled his eyes behind his shades. "No kid, I haven't hung out much with 'wrigglers' believe it or not, most people wouldn't consider me a good influence on impressionable minds."
Staring at him intently with big yellow eyes, Karkat-or rather Carmine-remarked; "You talk too much."
"No shit!" Dave barked with laughter. It was hilarious to hear that coming from someone like mini-Karkat who was known for his long-winded rants.
This seamed to startle the child troll, but with a puff-cheeked huff, he fell silent for a minute. After that, he tugged on the teenager's hood and whispered; "you have to be really careful when we get close okay? Sometimes Jade-bloods like to come out just 'cause they can."
"What do we do if one comes out?"
Karkat didn't look sure for a moment, then he answered; "Drop. Fall down and stay down. Don't get up unless you hear them coming close. You're colors are all wrong, people are going to think something's wrong with you even before they get a good look at your stupid pasty skin."
"You really know how to make a guy feel good," Dave muttered, glowering at the wide-eyed troll.
The boy's eye wandered for a brief second. "Drop!"
Dave dropped. About a moment after dropping to the hot sand, little-Karkat began to giggle. "Sh!" He hissed.
Karkat continued to giggle and that's when the blond realized he'd been played. Pushing himself up, he gaped at the kid and then with a grin on his face, reached out and tickled the boy. Baby Kar-Crab began to squeal and Dave started to chuckle along; a few minutes later, he release the panting boy and muttered; "I can't believe you tricked me!"
Still smiling a doofus smile, the small troll pulled away with a sudden weariness. "Are you mad?"
No squirt," Dave answered. "That was too well played. Man, I think I might actually be proud."
His mouth pulled back in a wide smile and he wriggled forward on his tummy until he was tucked back against Dave. "That's actually a really old opening. No one uses it - except mother and I sometimes."
Standing up, he looked down at the kid. "What're we waiting for?! Let's get in there!"
Suddenly, the small round face turned somber. "Even if no one uses that opening, there's a path about twenty feet in that everyone uses. It leads to one of the hatching caverns."
"Okay, no probs," Dave replied as he picked Baby-Kar up. "We'll just hang out around there and hope your mom shows up."
Resting his sun-flushed face on the blond's shoulder, Carmine whispered; "I'm hungry. Thirsty too."
"Me too, me too," the teenager muttered as he forced himself to make the final stretch to the cave. Once there, he all but tumbled in and sighed at the icy temperature change. "What the hell is wrong with this world? In one place I can be frying like an egg and in the next freezing my ass off like a bag of forgotten carrots in the back of the freezer."
Blinking glowing eyes at him, little Karkat yawned. "Hm?"
Dave pushed his head back now. "Sleep, okay? I need you awake for later when we need to find stuff to eat and drink."
"M'kay," the small troll agreed dozing off without further fuss. Brushing a hand through his cowlick-filled hair, Dave let his head thump against the stone wall. What the hell had he gotten himself into? What the hell had they all gotten themselves into? Looking to the familiar, yet unfamiliar body attached to him, Dave wondered where his Karkat was. His Kanaya. Terezi. Hell, his Gamzee. And damn did he hate that clown-fucker.
But all of them would be much preferable to this seemingly resurrected Alternia with a kid Karkat and a grown up Maryam that Kar-Crab called "mother".
Chapter 8: JADE
With an overwhelming relieved sigh, Jade flopped on to the couch in her alternate-self's living room and curled up with her back facing the world. A hot shower and a change of clothes had really helped her, now if dinner would only hurry up...Her ears twitched, someone was standing in the doorway. Lifting her head, she saw her grandad looking at him.
Smiling, she asked the little boy "What's up?"
"You have doggy ears," he told her, his small face scrunched in deep thought.
Turning away from the couch, Jade touched them and laughed. "I do," she replied. "You aren't bothered by that are you Jake?"
"Nu-huh," the boy replied as he took a step into the room. "Can I touch 'em?"
Jade thought about it. As long as he didn't try and pull on them, she should be alright. "Sure, just don't try and tug on them!" The girl smiled.
"Okay!" And Jake pretty much ran to the couch and jumped up into the spot next to her. Running his fingers over the dog ears, he told Jade; "they're actually really warm."
Sighing at the gentle fingers, Jade leaned her head back into her grandad's stomach. "I would hope so! If something went wrong with them I'd probably end up deaf."
One of Jake's hand left her ear and pushed back her hair. "You don't have people ears!" He exclaimed thoroughly shocked.
Taking her head back so she could smirk at the boy, she questioned "Would I though? I already have these ears here, so..."
"I guess not," Her little grandad admitted. "It just feels weird not to see any." Then he cocked his head and asked; "How'd you get doggy ears anyway?"
Jane felt something in her heart twinge. Did she tell him? Or did she not? What would her other self think of Jade telling her grandad (her grandson) about what happened to Jade in her timeline and what could happen to him here in his timeline as well? Reaching out, she ran a hand down Jake's baby smooth cheek. "I think that's a story I should tell your grandma first, kiddo."
He crossed his arms. "Okay..." he huffed as he jumped off the couch. "By the way, dinner's ready if you wanna come eat."
Jade felt her stomach growl. Yup, dinner sounded perfect right about now. "I'll come eat," she told her grandad with an offered hand. "Shall we?"
"Yeah!" Taking her appendage, he lead her through a fairly familiar house.
Hours later, Jake long ago asleep and now somewhere in the midst of dreaming; Jade wandered the halls of her home. As much as she dreaded it and avoided it, she eventually came to the study her alternate self had told Jade was her study.
Stopping in the doorway, she gazed at the old woman who was a different her.
"Come in," Jake's grandma said. "You're making me nervous."
Her ears pressing close to her head, Jade took a step in; then another and another until she seated herself across from the old woman. Her older counterpart drank from a glass of what smelled like whiskey as she leaned in to get a better look at Jane.
"Those things on your head are real, aren't they?" Jake's grandma muttered.
"So kiddo, what's it like for you where you're from? I'm guessing you don't have it any easier than I did as a girl."
She wouldn't know. Not really. Tapping her fingers on her thigh, Jade looked away and offered "I could tell you about it a little."
"Please, I'm beginning to suspect you know Jake from wherever you came from too."
Jade smiled sadly at the rich fabric beneath her elbow. "I do-did," she concurred. "Now let me start from the beginning, it began with a game called sburb..."
A story later, the old woman just shook and shook her head. "No matter where I live my life's unconventional - and dangerous;" she grumbled.
"If I can get back and finish what me and my friends started..." Jade started, but she let it go before she could. Because did she really want to leave? No. It was nice being home (even if it wasn't quite hers) and in another half decade or so Jake would get involved in the game and wouldn't it be better if he had a veteran like her right beside him to help him?
Or stop him from playing all together.
Rubbing her face, Jade's older self just made a growling noise and got up. "You're a damn kid! How the hell are you going to fix it when you broke it in the first place?!"
Jade tensed. "Because we know what we're doing now!"
"Yeah?" her alternate self sneered, "How'd you end up here? You said you didn't know yourself!"
Jade bit back a snarl. "I never said that! I said I wasn't sure! I think we got here by a dream bubble, but-"
"Essentially, you don't know." Her old self insisted.
Jade felt herself losing it and so turned away from Jake's grandma. "Whatever," she grumbled. "The details at this point don't really matter, what I need to find out if the friend I was with ended up here in this universe too."J
The alternate Jade began to scratch her chin. "Where - if - he ended up here do you think he'd be?"
"I'm not really sure..." Jade sighed. "If I ended up here where I used to live, is it possible he ended up where he used to live?"
The old woman scratched at her cheek. "Yes...I think that's a good guess," she concurred. "I'll see if I can't hire a detective to go check out his home for you."
"Oh would you!" Jane smiled dancing close to the woman. "That would be really kind of you."
A wry smirk on her lips, Jake's grandma scratched Jade's head between her ears. "I don't know how kind I am to look for him, you seem to forget, but here he was my brother and I want to be sure he's alright if he ended up here like you."
"Still, thank you," The girl pressed and her alternate self just smothered a grin and shook her head.
Chapter 9: ROSE
"How far could he have possibly gotten!?" The Dolorosa worried as they went further and further out into the dessert. "He knows better than to go so far without me!"
Hot and tired, Rose reminded herself once again not to touch her face. If she did, the ashes would begin to smear and she'd look some fairytale monster instead of an alien troll. Eyes scanning the expanses of sand and oh, more sand, Rose considered being a little child that found themselves in the dessert. Would she turn back the way she came? Yes, but what if she'd gone out too far? What if she'd gotten all mixed up and couldn't recall her path any longer? What would Rose do then?
Hide. For a while, anyway.
Tapping her lip, she looked to the troll beside her. "Do you think he went out too far and couldn't find his way back?"
"There's always a chance of something like that," Dolorosa admitted with a small sniff.
Squinting, Rose could just barely make out what she bet was rock cropping or another entrance into the caverns. "I think I see an outcropping or another cavern...do you think he could have headed for one of those?"
She perked up. "Oh yes! Yes my Carmine would! We've been working on what to do if we become separated or have to part while outside the caverns."
"Then I guess we walk," Rose replied with a satisfied softening of her voice.
Dolorosa looked down on her and then off it the distance. "...not now," she whispered. "It's too hot for you and I'm afraid you'd get hurt or worse if we tried crossing the distance this way..."
"Okay, is there a different exit we can get to that would be closer to that outcropping?" Rose inquired as she crossed her arms in irritation. Sitting around for night seemed terribly inefficient and what if the troll's Carmine was out there baking like them? But only smaller?
Falling back a little the Dolorosa sent another anxious look to the expanses of sand and then to Rose. "I - there is," she agreed. "But...to get there, we have to go through a very busy path; we will brush up against trolls. I haven't risked Carmine with that one in years...not since I could hide him in my veils."
Not one to mind a bit (or a lot) of risk, Rose shrugged. "I'll put on more ash if I have to and keep my head down."
"I couldn't make you do that-"
Rose scowled. "I'm young, sure, but I've come close enough to dying in the past few years to not fear dancing along its fine line another time."
"Just what have you been doing?!" The woman murmured as she lead them back to the caves. "Even wrigglers your size and age haven't faced death too much if they fit to the usual castes..."
After a moment of taking to process all that was said to her, Rose asked "What happens if you fail to meet the caste?"
"You are culled." And her voice trembled. Taking a darting step forward she shuttered; "We have to find Carmine!"
Meeting the jade gaze, Rose said "To the caves, then."
The Dolorosa didn't say anything, but took a hesitant stride back toward the caverns; then, she took another. And another. Soon, she was several feet ahead of Rose and the teenager had to run to catch up with her.
Inside the caves, Rose followed closely behind the troll. Occasionally she'd reach out to make sure she was within arms reach as the moved and once or twice she looked up to see her tense back as they sped through the Dolorosa's home.
"Don't dare look up after we turn this corner," she warned Rose as they came upon said turn.
And Rose didn't. She trusted her.
Walking along, Rose felt herself bump into someone and she would have stopped, but the Dolorosa grabbed her arm. "Come along, we have places to be!" She snapped at her like she was some stupid child.
Rose would have snipped back if the troll hadn't tugged her forward and began pushing her through the crowds. "Hurry!" She screamed at Rose. "If we're late because of you, so help me!"
Some people around her snickered. A few tittered. None were silent and Rose could feel the blood pounding in her ears at a steady club bass-thump. Soon enough, though, with the Dolorosa's guidance, they are once again in unused corridors and they stop to take a breath.
The troll spoke over her in an uncommonly rude way. "I will never do that again!" She declared. "It was terrible and we put your life at risk and oohhh...she slumped down." Fanning herself, the Dolorosa smiled at Rose. "Forgive me youngling! It's been a good deal of years since I've done something truly so bold!" The woman barked a laugh, "Not since I rescued Carmine in fact!"
"It's alright," Rose sighed. "So how much farther is this other exit?"
The woman stood up. "Not far at all!" She exclaimed.
Shaking her head, the teenager followed Dolorosa for a while and then-
Rose looked around the troll to see Dave.
"Dave!" She shouted.
He looked to her then and grinned. "Hey Rose!"
Looking between the two, the woman smirked. "This is your 'brother', yes?"
"He is," Rose agreed.
Suddenly, a tiny, little boy voice wailed "Mother!"
The Dolorosa kneeled down and accepted the little blur of a body that tackled her. "Carmine!" She half-laughed, half-sobbed.
Stepping around the woman and Carmine, Rose went to Dave's side.
"So?" She prompted.
He raised a single eyebrow from behind his glasses, but when the other teenager continue to just stare at him, he gave-in. "Woke up in the dessert, did some moses-like desert walking, found a Kar-Kid, a bit more walking and then we hunkered down here to wait for his 'mother', who, I guess from appearances, is a grownup Maryam."
Rose nodded as she replied; "Similar story to yours, but I woke up in the caves and was found by the 'Dolorosa' as she goes by here."
Dave looked straight at her. "Any clue how this all happened?"
"No," she answered, "Not really."
John had been helping his nanna with the dishes when the doorbell rang. Looking up from his paper, Jane's dad sat there for a moment before remarking "I wonder who that could be! It's too early for salesmen, girl scouts and bible thumpers."
Handing off a cup to Jane, John rolled his shoulders back and grinned at the man. "I guess you'll have to answer it then, huh?"
Hurrying up with her drying job, the girl all but vibrated with excitement. "Can I do it dad? I never get to see who's at the door!"
"And there's a reason for that Janey!" Their dad declared as he pushed himself up and out of his chair. "I'll be back in a moment kids, I expect those dishes to be finished!"
Pouting beside him, John nudged his nanna and made a goofy face at her. "C'mon, you'll get to answer all sorts of doors when you're grownup."
"Okay..." she relented with a giggle when the teenager did his favorite trick of crossing his eyes as he put the tip of his tongue to his nose.
Just as John handed Jane the last spoon, their dad's voiced carried from the front of the house "Kids! Come here please!"
"Why's dad want us?" The girl asked and all the teenager could do was shrug as he put aside the spoon and pulled the plug from the drain.
Guiding nanna toward the front door, John replied "Dunno! But we're going to find out here in just a sec!" Walking from the kitchen to the front of the house, John made Janey go behind him when he saw the guy in a suit standing in front of their dad. Stopping a few feet away, he asked "Dad?"
When his blue eyes find theirs, there are tears in them. "Jane, John," he croaked. "C'mere, okay?"
"Sure dad," and the two approach with wariness. John's dad had never been a crier and he suspected neither had Jane's, so this out of character display meant something was awfully wrong or awfully right.
Once at his side, he brought the girl to his left and kept John on his right as he took something from the man in a suit. Holding it out for them to see, the two realize it's a photo. In it, are two babies; one in a green onesie and the other in a blue bunting bag. "This here is a picture of your grandpa and his sister," he told them; but John could feel it was more directed at Janey. Who didn't know about her Great aunt, the teenager bet.
Hugging his daughter close with his free arm, their dad went on and said "This nice detective told me it's one of the few pictures your great aunt Jade saved when she ran away and-" he held out his hand for another photo. Placed into it was a second picture of an old-ish woman and a little boy about Jane's age. "And this is her and her grandson now."
"I got a cousin?" The girl inquired as she traced the picture of the boy sitting on the post-scratch version of Jade's lap.
Their dad nodded. "Something like that," he whispered.
While the father and daughter were contemplating a family reunion, John began to wonder about what this would do to the timeline and game. From what he understood, Jane and Jake didn't meet until the game - like he and Jade hadn't. But this...this was going to mess it all up! Oh no, was he in another doomed timeline? Oh he hoped not! Who knew when it'd blow up then!?
"You know John, in her letter to us she mentions having acquired a girl of your age."
"Jade!" He burst with glee and relief. If they got together, maybe they could figure a way out of this doomed timeline before they died and-
"Are we going to meet them soon, dad?" Janey asked.
The man ruffled his daughter's hair and chuckled. "Yes we are! This kind man is going to notify her that we've been located and she and her grandson and granddaughter are going to come out and meet us!"
"Yay!" His nanna cheered and John cracked a smile of his own.
Turning to the detective, their dad shook hands with him and said "Thank you very much sir."
With a nod, the man left them.
Closing the door, the man gave the kids a push toward the kitchen. "I think we'll need to make some cakes for celebration!"
"Ugh!" John muttered as Jane slipped away from her father's hand to run ahead. "I want to make a confetti one!" She shouted back.
Looking at him with still wet blue eyes, John's post-scratch dad asked "Are you doing alright, John?"
He gave a resolute bob of his head. "Yeah, for now."
His dad ruffled the teenager's hair. "Just let me know if you need to go off for a bit, okay?"
"I will," John agreed. It was only fair, he supposed. After all this man had done for John in his own timeline and in this one, he really deserved to be respected and listened to. If only the teenager had realized such a thing earlier...maybe things wouldn't have gone so badly in his own timeline.
Thanks for the comments and kudos guys!