Chapter 1: Part One
It all began, in a sense, when you were newly ten. You were on Pesterchum, which you’d only recently downloaded under the name ghostyTrickster, playing around, when you came across three people – tentacleTherapist, turntechGodhead, and gardenGnostic. The friendship that sparked between the three of you was almost instant, and strong, stronger than anything. Even before you had the confidence to exchange your real names, it was like you’d known them forever. Then, not long after, came twelve other people. You think they hacked Pesterchum somehow – they showed up as “trolling” rather than “pestering”. Their Pesterchum moods were always set to “Rancorous” even when they were happy and kind. You’re not sure if you ever understood why. They claimed to be aliens, gleefully calling themselves trolls. You…weren’t really sure if they knew that was an insult. At one point, a comment from the one who went by gallowsCalibrator caused you to change your handle to ectoBiologist – and you used that from then on.
Those days, though, were cheerful. You talked to most of them fairly frequently, forging rivalries and friendships, even if you were never as close with them as you were with your first three friends, whose names you soon learned – Rose, Dave, and Jade, as they learned yours. You knew that you had, somewhere out there, a soul mate. One, like Rose, as was the usual. Dave and Jade both had two. Some of the self-proclaimed trolls had more than one, too. Some of them had as many as four or even five. You could never claim to understand having more than one soul mate, but you wouldn’t judge. You wondered, time to time, what your soul mate would be like. You knew that she would be a girl – Rose told you not to assume that so easily, but you liked girls! You weren’t a homosexual – you had nothing against them, but you definitely weren’t one. You liked girls; you knew you couldn’t like boys too. It was one or the other, and you assumed the others knew too. You knew she would be wonderful, but nothing else. You didn’t think about it that much – at ten, you had so much else to do and focus on that it rarely came up, and the age of sixteen seemed like it was an entire eternity away.
When you turned thirteen, though, everything began to change. Your friends sent you gifts, and you did likewise for them, but when you went to get Jade’s gift, you abruptly found yourself across the house from where you’d been a second earlier, with no idea how you’d gotten there. From then, strange things started to happen around you and your friends. Rose seemed to know – even more than guessing usually gave her, that is – what was happening and going to happen. She seemed a lot more willing to believe the trolls about their being aliens, which was weird, especially for Rose, but you didn’t comment. Time seemed to act strangely around Dave, and he mentioned having weird nightmares. Something about miniature planets, a game, and dying – or all of you dying. It was creepy, to say the least. Jade slowly gained the ability to change the size and speed of things around her and started having weird dreams of a golden city. As for you, you found yourself gaining power over the wind, causing both storms and clear skies. The so-called trolls started getting powers as well, but they didn’t really seem as surprised or interested by them as you and your friends were.
Together, at the tender age of a little after thirteen, the group of you made a pact. You would learn all your new powers, and not tell anyone else about them except for your guardians. Learning, with how little you all had to go off of, came slowly but surely. Mastering your teleportation – which soon showed itself to be through time as well as space – proved nearly impossible. The days, the months, the years; all passed like lightning before you. Your sixteenth birthday, the time when you would begin to be led to your soul mate, careened closer and closer at a rapid clip.
You thought about your soul mate much more often now. She was somewhere out there – and you could, in theory, track her down with your powers once you’d mastered them. It was a great motivator, much better than pretty much any else. Jade’s powers operated off of specific locations, but yours off of ideas. If you thought of someone or something, like your dad, when you teleported, you could appear near that person or thing, though the time tended to err. You even met yourself a few times, which was weird the first time…and still weird every time after that. It was rough and far from easy, but the possibility of teleport-dropping in on your soul mate kept you going. Jade, however, had less of an uphill climb mastering the odd green flames that comprised and powered her greatest abilities – unlike the rest of you, she had a teacher in her dog Bec. She was, at fifteen, able to teleport herself and all of you between all your homes. Only a day or two after she proudly announced that fact, the four of you met for the first time. Seeing your friends in person at last was an experience you’d never forget. After that, every week or even more often than that, at least two of you would meet.
Dave began doing better in his strifes with his Bro, even winning them here and there as his fighting skills increased and his time-manipulating powers leveled the playing field. Rose soon began her own business telling scarily accurate fortunes over the Internet and also started writing her own book. You kept the weather around you from becoming too much of a problem and frequently practiced at your teleportation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly easy. Thankfully, your dad – as well as the guardians of your friends – were as supportive and helpful as they could be under the circumstances.
In December, on the fourth, third, and first respectively, Rose, Dave, and Jade turned sixteen and gained the ability to find their soul mates. On the fifth, Jade brought you all together on her island to celebrate – and Dave’s name promptly appeared in red ink on Jade’s arm, and hers in bright green on his. For a long moment, there was a stunned silence as both slowly processed it – and then both started practically screaming as the blank shock passed. You and Rose had a good laugh over the two of them being so surprised. You guessed it only made sense for at least two of you to share a bond, considering how close you all were, though you’d have guessed it would be Dave and Rose what with all their playful flirting. That day was consumed by celebration, but also by awkwardness between the abruptly-bonded friends. You wondered who their other bonds might be – maybe even someone you knew. For some reason, you liked that thought, even though it felt strange. Despite that, the four of you were all smiles when you finally parted ways late into the night.
Months later, as your sixteenth birthday dawned, you were on your feet almost as soon as you were awake. Despite the early hour, your computer was already buzzing with messages. The others wanted to meet up, and you gleefully agreed. Dealing with your dad’s ever-present enthusiasm took most of the morning – it was past noon by the time Jade appeared just outside your door. Usually, she would gleefully show off her ability to teleport you from afar, but for your birthday she’d apparently decided to put forth the effort of one extra jump. Hellos and goodbyes to your dad took another few minutes, but it overall didn’t take long before you were gone, this time to all gather at Rose’s home, as her mother was out for the day. You braced yourself – at this point you half-expected to become soul mates with Rose – but no bond formed. It felt like a weight off your shoulders. As great as Rose was, you just didn’t have those kinds of feelings about her, and you doubted she saw you as more than a friend either. Whoever your soul mate was, she wasn’t one of your closest friends.
Despite your half-formed hopes of your soul mate abruptly dropping in Jade or you-style, the party continued without incident beyond the general, expected celebratory shenanigans. At least, until a bit after four. The clock struck 4:13, and everything went very dark. Lights danced behind your eyes, power flooded your very bones, and when it faded, the four of you stood right where you had been; all four confused and blinking. Under the unusual circumstances, it took you a moment to register that you all were dressed very differently than you had been mere moments earlier. It took even longer to realize that you weren’t on the ground, but nearly a full foot above it. You nearly had an entire panic before it hit you that no, you weren’t falling, and that you could in fact control this weird hovering. Naturally, the first thing you did was loudly note the fact that Jade now had dog ears. You could almost hear Dave restraining himself from making a crude joke. Your powers, as it happened, increased exponentially – experimenting at the very limit of what could be passed off revealed no apparent limit, and the range of your teleporting increased beyond any bounds you tested, where before you could barely cross the neighborhood on a good day.
A happy accident revealed that you could now also bring things and even other people with you, though it was draining. Your control also got better, though the improvement was nowhere near as drastic. In addition to that, any injury you got, as revealed by a small accident involving the realization that you could now dissolve into wind and move freely in that form, vanished after a minute or two in a flash of technicolor flame. The party and the excitement of experimenting with your abruptly-stronger powers – your friends had experienced much the same, and your troll friends contacted you to tell of a very similar experience – took a long time to wind down before you returned home, utterly tired. The next days passed in blurs of figuring out what you’d so oddly gained and practicing teleporting. You tried, of course, to teleport to your soul mate – but all you got was first utter failure and then empty ocean and a heavy feeling of exhaustion like none you’d ever felt from your jumps.
Your Pesterchum, installed on the phone your dad had given you a few hours earlier for your sixteenth, didn’t work either – you figured you’d made some kind of temporal error. After that, you slept for almost an entire day, and you couldn’t get up the strength to zap for three. Wherever she was, it was apparently pretty far. Days turned into weeks, which became months. You noticed – you didn’t change anymore, not physically. No new hair grew on you, and what you had didn’t lengthen except back to what it had been when cut. You didn’t gain height; your voice didn’t shift – it was as though you didn’t age.
Your soul mate, occasionally, struggled. You picked up on her pain and her immense loneliness, and it was a lot worse than you could easily express to your friends. She got hurt quite often – even more than Dave did these days, as he had gained enough advantage over his Bro that he was relatively rarely even scratched. As rapidly as everything seemed to heal – as fast as your rare scrapes and bruises did – you still worried some. You wanted to find her as soon as you could. Even not knowing who or where she was, she was still your soul mate, and you understood what that meant. Seeing Jade and Dave grow closer, you understood it all the better. A soul mate pair were supposed to be able to be there for one another and depend on each other, and you couldn’t help but feel helpless, not even knowing where to look for your own. Rose knew, in a way, what you struggled with. Her soul mate appeared to also be absolutely nowhere, as did Dave and Jade’s second mates. However, assuming that they spoke honestly about their soul mates, neither of theirs had as much trouble as yours did. Your jumps through time and space grew, until you were relatively accurate on the temporal front, and you could cover the entire world with the range of your zaps, but actually jumping to the locations of any of your friends’ soul mates remained frustratingly inaccurate and tiring, and reaching yours seemed all but impossible.
It was a little less than eight months after your gain in power, the birthdays of your friends having just passed, when things went rather badly wrong. You were home alone, practicing zapping back and forth across your house. The feeling of your soul mate’s pain started on your back, like being slammed against something, and it felt like any other time she’d been in pain – wrong and terrible because you knew it what it was, but not painful. Unfortunately for you, this time, it didn’t stay that way. Pain exploded in your gut, utterly blinding. You crumpled like a ragdoll to the floor, too stunned to even scream. You fought to reach your computer, but pain won out and you dropped into unconsciousness before you could gain the strength to even move. It was, according to your very worried dad, almost an hour after he’d gotten home when you finally came to. You promptly panicked – a person only felt their soul mate’s pain when that person was in mortal danger.
You felt fine, and you knew that she had to be fine – you would be incapacitated if she weren’t – but the fear remained. You reached for your power and zapped straight to Rose. In a tizzy of fear, you rapidly told her what had just occurred. Thankfully, as usual, she had a solution. Work towards trying to hit longer distances by attempting to reach her soul mate as well as Jade’s and Dave’s, and then go for yours, as theirs seemed somehow a bit less distant. It was an arduous process – you tired quickly attempting the longer jumps, but shorter ones got you almost no progress. Every day, you zapped, and every other day you attempted to reach one of your friends’ soul mates, taking turns at locating each. At last though, about two weeks after you began your intense practice, one of your attempts to reach Dave’s second soul mate yielded reward. The night was intensely dark, the home you hovered over was like none you’d ever seen-and neither was the…person? Pacing on one of the numerous balconies.
His skin was ash-gray, his hair deep black, and he had what looked to be small, nubby orange-yellow horns on his head. He spat what sounded suspiciously like curses as he walked back and forth, before looking up at you with bright, piercing yellow eyes which promptly bugged out at the sight of you. You must have cut quite a figure, thirty feet in the air, radically different from him in what seemed, alarmingly enough, to be species and dressed in the weird pajamas you’d mysteriously acquired on your sixteenth birthday. Thankfully, all it took to convince the mystery person of your identity and intention was to mention your name and chumhandle – he revealed himself to be the troll Karkat, of the handle carcinoGeneticist. You took a moment to take in the conversation you were having. With an actual alien, who’d been telling you so since you were ten. It took you several minutes to calm from your laughing fit enough to actually speak again, much less gain Karkat’s permission to zap the both of you to Dave’s house, where you startled the living shit out of both Dave and Jade.
The names that appeared on the trio’s wrists seconds later, connecting Karkat to both Dave and Jade – and the fact that Rose zapped in via Jade, still holding a pair of needles and a small, incomplete Cthulhu yarn doll – only cemented the moment. Finding out that Dave had a soul mate who was a guy as well as one who was a girl threw you for a loop. You…hadn’t actually known that a person could like both guys and girls. Expressing that actually made Rose cry from laughter – and, okay, you couldn’t exactly blame her. Or Karkat, for the fifteen straight minutes of ranting he promptly launched into when what you had just said clicked in his head. Or Dave, for his increasingly interesting expressions over the next several minutes. A couple days later, you managed to do much the same for Rose’s soul mate, a lady troll known as Kanaya. The two of you abruptly appearing in Rose’s living room gave her mom the surprise of her life – only exacerbated by Rose part-running part-floating and part-falling down the stairs in her haste to reach the confused alien. Thankfully, the sight of Rose’s name on Kanaya’s wrist and vice versa did wonders for smoothing things over.
The two didn’t seem to have much of the awkwardness Jade and Dave did – hell, Kanaya casually let on that they’d been flirting for some time. Needless to say, despite your exhaustion, you quickly went home to let them have their moment in peace, instead pestering Jade and Dave to let them know before collapsing into a nap. The next couple of weeks were rather hectic. You learned that the trolls you knew came from a planet called Alternia – and all twelve were very interested by the prospect of moving, for one reason or another. It took far too many exhausting trips, really, between the number of zaps you needed to do and your many misses; moving all the trolls, their homes, and their monstrous guardians to Jade’s island. By the end of it, you were thoroughly exhausted, and very thankful that you only had to handle transport to Alternia and back rather than also zapping people across Earth, and also that the trolls had agreed to stay on Earth for the time being. It felt like you slept for days when it was all over. All in all, almost a week passed from your last Alternia trip and the time when you felt strong enough to go for another long jump.
Your friends, human and troll alike, wished you luck over Pesterchum when you let them know about what you were about to do. Standing in your front yard and ready to leave, you hesitated. After all this time, you felt like you were closer to finding her than ever, yet you paused anyway. For the first time in a long time, you felt truly nervous about the prospect of actually meeting her – especially with the danger and pain she was regularly put through. Abruptly, you shuddered as you registered yet another small injury, this time a bruise-worthy whack to the leg, that wasn’t yours, and that focused you. Regardless of your reservations, she was in danger. You armed yourself with a very large hammer you’d made for yourself as a weapon a while back, tucking it into your strife deck, corralled your strength, and zapped.
You appeared, again, above an ocean with no shore in sight, but this time there was a key difference. It wasn’t quite empty. A tall apartment building, mostly just metal supports with the top floor or so intact, stood out from the dark water. Flying around it were several of what appeared to be large, red, slightly insectoid but mostly humanoid robots, wielding various melee weapons. One of the flying ‘bots looked rather different, more human-like, all steely silver with a deep black cape, and at your glance appeared to be fighting the red robots with missiles. Unfortunately, you weren’t in any circumstances to be floating there admiring the coolness of the fast-paced fight, as in the center of it all, leaping from roof to robot with what looked like an entire fucking ninja sword in hand was a person.
Chapter 2: Part Two
Dirk and John meet at last. From there? Confusion.
It took you a second to realize that the person was in fact a boy who looked to be about your age with pale skin, well-styled hair so blonde it was almost white, and a pair of ridiculously pointy anime shades. In a weird way, he reminded you of Dave, almost like they could be related. He was dressed in a magenta hoodie with a flowy cape, green shoes, a weird heart-ish symbol on his chest in lighter pink, and what you could only describe as little poofy asshole pants. They didn’t look bad on him, you just didn’t have a better way of describing them. His jump took him a practically supernatural amount of distance, to the back of one of the large robots. It reached up behind its head and tried to grab the boy, but he was much faster than even the nimble robot. A pinkish-lightning-accompanied movement too rapid for you to follow both got him out of the way of the grab and sent the ridiculously sharp sword scything clean through the hard metal skin of the bot. He sprang halfway off the bot’s body, pausing as if standing in midair to captchalogue his katana and use his bare hands to wrench the gash in the robot’s back wide open. He then dove clear as a missile from the darker bot struck home right into the large tear, the violent explosion buffeting you but not seeming to bother him at all.
By the one well-aimed shot, the robot had pretty much been ripped apart, and the pieces freefell into the ocean. You watched, unsure what to do, as the kid soared back into battle, this time carrying his weapon in one hand and stretching out the other. From his fingers discharged a huge flash of magenta lightning to match his outfit, striking another robot and causing a massive outwards burst of power – when you’d blinked the flash-blindness out of your eyes, there really wasn’t much left of the struck robot. It promptly hit you like an oversized train-he was like you. Flight, weird outfit, crazy powers – it all well enough checked out. Unfortunately, while you were distracted, you’d missed something – the boy was furiously crossing swords with one of the robots, katana versus broadsword. He had the advantage, nimbly dodging the strikes and returning with his own, but then, as a reaction to one particularly close call, you cursed aloud.
You must have been louder than you thought – maybe that explosion was louder than you’d realized and had messed with your hearing, because he near-instantly turned to look at you, sword raised. Watching his anime-shades-covered expression go from very slightly angry to pure and unguarded shock would have been funny in absolutely any other circumstances. If anything, it would have been an excellent prank, just showing up totally unexpected and unexplained, flying and dressed weird as you were. Unfortunately for both of you, these weren’t other circumstances. Distracted from the fight, your fellow kid-with-weird-powers didn’t notice the incoming strike until it was very nearly too late. He managed to mostly block it despite that, and got away with only some embarrassment, getting shoved back, and a scratch on his arm. Immediately, an all-too-familiar feeling of your soul mate’s pain manifested itself on your arm, exactly mirroring the cut.
Oh. Oh shit.
You abruptly remembered what exactly had brought you here in the first place.
You raised your arms, and sure enough, there was a name in orange on your left wrist – Dirk Strider. You very nearly dropped clean out of the sky before the harsh clang of metal on metal yanked you back to the situation. The kid – no, Dirk, you knew his name now – was back to fighting, glancing at you as soon as he had a second’s respite before being forced back into action by yet another hair’s-breadth miss that probably would have cut him in two had it struck. You decided to panic over the fact that your soul mate was a guy later – right now, there were other worries, not least being that one of the red robots had noticed you. You absconded yourself into wind and dove, rematerializing in the midst of the action, fetching your overlarge hammer as you did. You swung it at the nearest red bot – as it happened, right near Dirk, who’d reentered combat – with all your weirdly enhanced strength. The strike knocked a truly massive dent in the metal and sent the thing flying backwards, almost to the water before righting itself.
There were still quite a few of the unusual foes left, so you decided to let loose a bit with your abilities and end this, something you really couldn’t do back home in a well – occupied neighborhood. You needed no gesture to call up a fierce gale, but you waved your hands and hammer anyway. A harsh wind sprang up, and clouds quickly covered the sky. You reached for more of your power – even tired from the long jump, you knew somewhat instinctively that you were capable of serious destruction. The weather worsened with extreme speed, clouds whipping themselves into what looked like a miniature hurricane as the wind speed at your level became enough to have to actively brace against just to stay in place. You glanced at Dirk to see how he was holding up in the tempest and found him looking back at you.
You didn’t really know what to do in this situation, so you shifted your DIY war hammer to one hand and waved at him with the other, accidentally flashing the boy with his own name on your wrist. He stared for a couple seconds, before looking at his own wrist, and then somewhat awkwardly waving back. It was a bit hard to make out the exact name on his arm, but the shade of blue and general appearance of the text was familiar enough that you recognized it as your own name in your text and eye color. Holy shit. Okay. That felt…real. This person who you’d never met, Dirk Strider – wait, you just realized, that’s Dave’s last name, okay what the fuck – was your soul mate. And a guy. And hot. Holy shit. Okay, okay, freak out later, not now, you had a storm to control and a fight to win and oh shit he was talking you totally didn’t even hear him just now oops fuck okay he looked like he was going to talk again, and you needed to actually listen this time.
Nope, didn’t quite catch it that time either. He paused, drifted a bit closer to you, and tried again.
“How the fuck did you get here?”
Your first thought was that he had a nice voice. Your second thought was that that really wasn’t the most appropriate first reaction for the situation. You decided to reply,
“long story! tell you later?”
Dirk nodded, and then pointed up at the sky.
You nodded, pouring a bit more energy into the storm. The roar of wind grew ever louder in your ears and you grinned, waving to indicate the general storm and then the remaining robots. Sparks flew from Dirk’s hands and a small smirk flitted across his face – the expression of mischief if you’d ever seen it. No words were necessarily needed – he knew your plan and had added to it. Fighting the slowly-building exhaustion, you focused the storm into a swirling pattern rather like a tornado, the clouds themselves dragged down from the sky. You’d practiced this before over empty ocean some miles off Jade’s home island, and the speed at which your heart was going only helped. Dirk raised his arms high, and the rapidly-becoming-familiar magenta lightning leapt from his fingertips, lacing itself near-seamlessly into your storm.
You corralled it with a raw instinct not really born of practice but working together with Dirk – as cliché as it was – felt easy. Easy as breathing, like you’d been fighting and combining your powers all your lives. You guessed that was how it was meant to feel, though soul mates didn’t often meet and immediately charge into battle together, much less aided by ridiculous superpowers. That might even have been a first. The fight itself blurred right by in a cavalcade of explosions, flickering lightning, and raging wind.
Your metallic assailants didn’t stand a chance, not when the two of you leapt through wind, summoned lightning, flashed through at speed beyond what the eye could follow, and delivered blow after blow with supernatural strength. It seemed to take only a few minutes – though you knew it was, in fact, quite a bit longer – before the final red robot was plunging into the sea, sparks flying from the massive gash Dirk had cut in it, head dented beyond recognition by a particularly well-placed strike of your hammer.
Exhaustion wore on you – you weren’t certain you’d be able to muster another jump for some hours, especially not the taxing trip home. Maybe you shouldn’t have been so…extra with that storm. You glanced over at Dirk. His minor wounds were already gone, and even as you watched, the sweat, spray, and general mess faded from his clothing, though his skin was still stained with it and his hair was an utter disaster – as yours probably was. It would probably take quite a long shower in order to get the smell and stickiness out. His katana, gleaming in the returning sunlight as your storm dissipated, hung loosely in his hand, at least until it vanished into his sylladex. Somehow, despite all the mayhem, his shades remained perched on his face and undamaged. After a few seconds of watching the robot sink, as though to ensure it wouldn’t rise from the depths like a monster in a movie, he turned to you, expression flickering back to confusion. You realized that in just a few seconds you would very much have to deal with the fact that your soul mate was a guy. You forced back your instinctual reaction – you liked girls, you couldn’t like guys too – with the memory that Dave, your best friend in the world and the one that Dirk eerily resembled, was soul mates with both a guy and a girl. It was perfectly possible, perhaps not quite normal but not wrong. This was right, and it was okay.
Dirk glanced at his wrist again, and then back to you, seemingly a bit less than certain about how to handle the situation. Unfortunately for the both of you, you were even less certain. Probably. You couldn’t exactly read his mind to get a handle on which of you was less confused. You let your eyes wander to the horizon – you could see for what seemed to be miles, but there was nothing there to be seen. You wondered how far that emptiness stretched. You hadn’t seen another person around, though you supposed there might be another occupant of the apartment that you hadn’t seen. You wondered if this was why she-he, he, you needed to remember this, had always felt so lonely. If this was why you had felt pain from he-him so often. Was he really alone out here, with not another person as far as the eye could see?
You were jerked from your thoughts by his somewhat awkward approach. He paused one final time before speaking.
“I’m guessing, based on some substantially obvious evidence, that you’re John?”
You nodded, albeit a bit stiffly, before you answered.
“yeah. you’re dirk?”
He nodded back, even more stiffly than you had. Seemingly gathering himself, he spoke again, at last losing his slightly awkward cool to practically shout,
“How did you get here? There’s not another person for two thousand miles – shit, I didn’t know there was a third person alive on this damn planet! Where the hell were you? How in the actual hell did you survive? How did you find me? What the fuck took so long?”
You couldn’t quite help lurching back a few feet at the sudden outburst, and the abrupt change that had overtaken him. He seemed…upset, confused, angry, even a shade of hopeful, every trace of calm gone from his expression. You stammered for a few seconds before you managed proper speech. You wanted him to explain what that was about, but you almost feared knowing.
“you – what? only two-? survive? what are you talking about?”
Dirk’s expression went right back to half-angry confusion. The pieces, terribly enough, were falling into place. The effort it had taken to get here, the advanced robots, the building in the middle of the sea…this wasn’t Earth, or at least not the one you knew. Somehow, your soul mate had been in a different world or different time all along. And from the sound of it, this…world? Place? Time? You didn’t know – wasn’t a good one. Dirk was thrown, that much was clear. His pointy shades flickered with red light for a moment. You decided to speak, and explain your weird power, and your situation. It would probably help if he knew.
“maybe i should explain how i got here? i can teleport, like across space and time and stuff, i’ve gone to other planets before. i think that's what happened. i don't know what's happening here, because i'm from somewhere…really different.”
Dirk visibly processed the information for a moment, before slowly speaking, like he could barely believe it.
“So, I take it you’re from the distant past? This is the year 2427.”
You blinked. Apparently, in finding your soul mate, you’d zapped yourself more than four hundred years into the future.
“i guess so, where i'm from it's 2014.”
Dirk opened his mouth as if to speak, but stopped himself for a moment, and then tried again.
“How about we land?” He gestured, offhanded but still a bit stiff, towards the roof of the building.
“I don’t know how you’re doing for sure, but I can only guess you’d be down to chill a bit after that fight, and however difficult – or not, I don’t know – it was for you to get here.”
You nodded, feeling somewhat awkward. He was right, you were getting pretty tired by then. You followed Dirk as he glided back to his building. He landed more lightly than you did, but by that point you were feeling the exhaustion to the point where you couldn’t really even care. His expression was a veiled one. You figured he was processing what you said.
“So,” he began with an air of faint resignation, “I guess where – or when – you’re from, the Rebranding has already occurred? The Baroness already has her obnoxiously magenta talons in the highest echelons of government? Civilization has already crested the hill of the rollercoaster, and is spiraling slowly into the depths of antiquated biblical hell?”
You had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.
“the what now? the who is doing what?”
Dirk looked somehow even more off-kilter than he had moments earlier. He actually stopped in his path towards what looked like a trapdoor to turn and stare at you.
“No Crockercorp? No Batterwitch? All that didn’t happen?”
You shook your head.
“i mean, there is a batter witch, betty crocker. she's up to something bad, i just know it, but nobody else believes me. but i don't know what crocker corp is.”
Dirk didn’t seem to know what the hell he was supposed to do with this information. Muttering to himself, he swung around and dropped into the trapdoor like there were no stairs – which, as it turned out, there weren’t.
The room you followed him down into was an assault on the eyes – robot parts, computer apparatus and brightly colored puppets crammed everywhere the jerry-rigged desks and massive sound system weren’t. The walls were an abstract collage of posters from movies, magazines, and what looked suspiciously like Dave’s Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff comics, save for one wall taken up by a massive TV, across which cycled seemingly random but somehow decidedly suspicious images of people and animals. On his sound system perched a couple seagulls, unbothered by his presence but visibly wary of you. By the closed door was one robot that actually moved, looking from Dirk to you and back. Dirk shrugged at it, and then vaguely gestured at his left arm. The ‘bot seemed to startle, before nodding and doing what looked like shutting itself off. He turned back to you and gestured at the room in general.
“I apologize for the mess, I didn’t exactly have much reason to expect company,” he said with an air of bitterness that confused you again.
You wondered, not for the first time, what his deal was. He seemed so confused, angry, and off-kilter…you didn’t know what to make of him. And as your mind unhelpfully reminded you, he was also your soul mate. You thought for a second before speaking.
“are – or were – you really all alone here?”
He went very still.
“Well. No. I’ve got Sawtooth,” he gestured up towards the roof, “Squarewave,” he continued, indicating the robot in the corner, “these dumbass birds,” by which he apparently meant the gaggle of gulls, “and Cal. Can’t forget the C-man.” He said, pointing out a rather creepy puppet. “And Hal, too,” he abruptly added, “though that particular fucker’s busy actually being with his soul mate.” He paused, looked at you, and then looked at his arm. “Fuck, right. Sorry.”
You still had a lot of questions, but you sure as hell didn’t like any of the answers you’d gotten so far. You realized his hands were shaking very slightly, though his face still betrayed no emotion. Before you could ask anything else though, he changed the subject. He offered you a couple things, though three things became painfully obvious. First, he didn’t have much in the way of supplies, food, drink, or anything else. The only things he seemed to have plenty of were flat orange soda and hair gel. Second, he couldn’t have entertained many – or maybe any – people before. Third, he wasn’t anywhere near as calm and unbothered as he wanted to seem. The longer you both stumbled through basic and meaningless conversation, the more it seemed like he’d just collapse or something. He reminded you of Dave somewhat: nearly impossible to bother, but with a breaking point, and one he was approaching.
You excused yourself to the bathroom to clean up, and as you were doing so you realized. You hadn’t mentioned that you could get him out of there. You rushed through the rest of getting yourself clean and back to presentable, practically running out of the cramped room and – oh. Dirk was sitting in a chair in front of one of the desks, elbows on the desk, head propped in his hands, shades pushed up and into his white-blonde hair. He was shaking, clearly fighting emotion you didn’t even understand. You didn’t know what to do. You stood there for a moment, unsure how to handle the situation, but he noticed you hanging there like a moron. He immediately put his shades back into their regular position, wiped his face with his hand despite the fact that it didn’t seem like he’d been crying, and straightened up, turning the chair to face you with a totally neutral expression. His mannerisms were almost painfully reminiscent of Dave – you were almost violently reminded of the few times you’d seen Dave lose his cool. Two memories in particular stood out to you.
The first time Dave had managed to beat Bro in a strife was one of them – the way he’d celebrated, laughing but shaking, unsure and confused by his own emotions, until he’d cried. Hugged you so tightly that it hurt, done the same to a very confused Jade and Rose, even asking the three of you what was happening to him, why the hell what “should” have been a little celebration caused so much raw emotion in him. The second was the memory of precisely why – when he’d explained to you all, yourself and Rose and Kanaya and Jade and Karkat, what his Bro had been like. How he never really understood it – but even then, knew never to invite you all into his home. You remembered how his calm tone had shook, and then shattered, into tears and admissions and long-held secrets, until eventually he’d calmed and you, Rose, and Kanaya had slipped from the room in order to allow him time with his soul mates.
You felt like you should be there for Dirk like Karkat and Jade had been for Dave, but you didn’t know how. You didn’t know him – you’d never spoken to him before. You didn’t have six years of friendship to fall back on like you did with the others, like they did with each other. And he was a guy, which still made your brain feel like it was glitching. Instead of address the awkward situation you walked in on, you decided to get on what you’d run out for.
“so…i don't know the situation but i'm guessing you're kinda stuck here?” You ask.
Dirk slowly nodded.
“I’ve been stuck here, yes. I’ve been out a few times, flew and swam but couldn’t make the two thousand miles to the only other person alive, otherwise I’ve never left.”
That was your moment.
“well, that could change if you'd like," you said.
He adopted a confused expression, raising an eyebrow.
“The hell do you mean?”
You promptly launched into a rapid, fumbling explanation.
“well, see, i teleported here and i can like bring people and things with me, i could…bring you back?”
The end of the sentence trailed off almost into a question.
“You could? And Roxy?” He asked in response.
“i don't know who roxy is but i could. i'd need some time to rest between trips though, it's pretty hard getting to here from where i live. i've even got places you could stay after,” you answered.
Dirk looked completely and silently stunned, like he could barely even process the news. You swayed on your feet a little, tiredness hitting you like a wave. Dirk, after a moment, seemed to realize that you were just standing there in awkward exhaustion. He gestured at the pair of puppet-littered, stacked mattresses in the corner.
“Dude, no offense but you look like you’re going to crash standing up. Why don’t you get some shut-eye, and I’ll make a plan to make getting the hell out of here a little easier. If, that is, you’re actually willing to drag me and Roxy back to wherever the hell kind of 2014 you’re from that doesn’t have a Batterwitch.”
You nodded, even as you saw his hands shaking again. Without a further word, you wandered over and collapsed, out of it almost before you hit horizontal. When you awoke at last, you did so fairly slowly. You noticed that a blanket had been draped over you, and the puppets you fell asleep on and around had been moved. You opened your eyes to see Dirk pacing, glasses reflecting strangely red in what seemed to be morning light. The room had been largely cleared of its things, even most of the computers packaged away.
You sat up and he half-jumped, tensing for a moment before seeming to remember that you were there. You combed your brain for something good to say, eventually deciding simple was best.
“how's your plan going?”
“It’s going well. I think I’ve got something that would be easier on you and would allow for us to get out of here plus one or two, depending on what’s best for you. I don’t know much about what you can do, but I shouldn’t be too far off if you could get here in one shot.”
You looked over what he had pulled up on his remaining monitor. He’d plotted out several possible courses that could take you back and forth through two different universes – three if you counted your own – and time periods. It looked like Dirk was trying to bring together the few people he had contact with, at least to you. You could almost feel his gaze on you as you glanced back and forth between names, places, and times, some with hastily typed reasonings beside them. You glanced back before tracing a couple of the lines with a finger. They laced between people – starting with a jump of two thousand miles to a girl named Roxy, then about four hundred years back to the deaths of Dirk and Roxy’s ancestors, then even further back to people named Jake and Jane, with a note by Jake’s name with three more names by it and one by Jane’s marked “revival abilities”. After that, the journey would take you to another universe altogether, and an alien by the name of Calliope. Lastly, there was a note asking about finding any soul mates that this plan didn’t bring together.
“so, this could work, but there's something youre missing here.”
He stared at you, which was a bit awkward for you.
“What did I miss?”
“well, you included jumps to my home and back because people would miss me. i can just go back to five minutes after I left, so that's not actually a problem.”
Dirk nodded, in a matter of seconds updating his written plan to exclude such trips. He looked back at you.
“Well, I’m ready to go when you are.”
“i'm ready.” You responded, drifting a bit up into the air.
“are you sure you are?”
He nodded, looking around the apartment and the few items left in it.
“Good fucking riddance. Let’s go.”
You reached out for his hand. He froze for a few seconds, but drifted up to match your elevation and took your hand in his. A flash of blue light, and the two of you were gone.
Not an hour later, the last two human beings native to Earth-A’s 2427 would leave it, never to return. The buildings they’d grown up in would eventually crumble into the sea, the Condesce would die, and the Carapacians would be swallowed by the waves, but you new immortals wouldn’t know and wouldn’t care. On Earth-B, however, you would live long past that year, an island of consistency in a world that would continually change around you, as contact was made with the Alternian Empire courtesy of you and the new Empress Feferi instituted friendly diplomacy.
From time to time, even as centuries blurred by you, Dirk would still hesitate to take your hand, doubtlessly remembering the formative years he spent so alone, or the hesitation you yourself had felt at first. You would still sometimes stare at him, or the worn silver band on your finger, and marvel at the impossible circumstances you two had been brought together in spite of. You would wonder, rarely, how you’d gained the powers that you did, but you never dwelt on it long. They had brought you to your gaggle of friends, to the wonderful lover you had – you didn’t have it in you to question them. Even when the group of you ascended to your Ultimate Selves and learned the truth, the real and horrible truth, behind your powers, you didn’t have any regrets. You reminded Dirk that the people he suddenly remembered weren’t who he’d become. Over time though, even the pain of remembering SBURB faded. All that was left was a family of immortals, who lived happily until time itself ticked to stop. Even then though, in your final moments, you greeted the oncoming end with a smile, and reached for Dirk’s hand one last time. He didn’t hesitate, and the two of you met your end as your bond showed you were meant to: together.