Marrying a high class girl had never really been something John had planned on. Or considered as a possibility. He hadn't even been thinking about getting married period, not for a good long time yet anyway, let alone plotting how he might be able to win the heart of some noble lady.
But when he heard the news that the Marquise had announced that she would give her daughter's hand in marriage to anyone who could build her a flying ship he decided to set out into the world and give it a shot. Because even if he wasn't much interested in getting married yet he did like the sound of adventure, and finding a way to make a flying ship sounded like the best chance at it he was likely to get. It would mean traveling the world at least, instead of hanging around his father's house trying to avoid being stared at by harlequins.
Anyway, he'd heard that the Marquise's daughter was about his age so he bet he could talk them into a long, long, engagement. He didn't really get why they were even trying to marry her off already.
He would have thought it would take some convincing to get his dad to let him go, but his dad managed to surprise him. He stared down at John, clasped his shoulder, and told him, "I'm so proud of you, son."
"Uh... okay?" John said, blinking at him. It was kind of jumping the pride gun a little, he thought. He hadn't even proven that he wouldn't turn around and come home the first time he had to sleep outside yet, and he definitely hadn't shown any sign that he'd actually succeed in making a flying ship. Madcap adventures with a Howie Mandel-type figure that ultimately taught him that his life back home had been where he could find true happiness all along seemed a lot more likely.
Not that he would be running straight back home, or didn't plan on giving making the ship his best shot, but still.
"I knew that the day you'd choose to leave home was coming, but I never thought you'd be ready so soon," he went on, and there actually seemed to be tears of pride in his eyes. "I'll prepare a bag of supplies, and you'll be ready to go by this afternoon."
"I wasn't planning on starting that soon!" John protested, but it was no use. As soon as he'd announced his intention to journey that journey had begun, and there was no way to stop it until it was complete, and so that afternoon he found himself walking down the road away from his house with a hammer in his hand in case he needed to defend himself and a pack full of cakes strapped to his back. He would have been happier with a pack full of just about anything else, but hoped that before he got hungry he could find someone to trade a cake to for something better. It was a habit that had gotten him through years worth of lunch breaks at school and made him the most popular boy in the cafeteria.
But he went for hours and miles without seeing anyone, just quiet houses with empty yards that gave way to a quiet forest crisscrossed with dark rivers. It wasn't until night was starting to fall, as far as he could tell through the treetops, that he finally saw another person.
It was an old woman sitting on a fallen trunk, not the type of person he'd expect to find in the middle of the woods in the evening. But she didn't seem at all worried about being caught there alone by a strange boy, looking up at him with a smile. "Hello there, young man," she greeted him.
"Hi!" he said, stopping to look at her. What he saw was a little surprising. "Wow! You look a lot like my Nanna does in pictures I've seen of her."
"Hohoho, what a coincidence. I have a grandson about your age myself," she said, chuckling. "Would you mind sharing the food you have in your pack with an old nanna, young man?"
"It's John, Mrs. Somebody's Nanna," he said, shrugging off one strap out his pack then hesitating. "I don't know if you'll want to share. I only have cake."
"Why don't you just open your bag, and then we'll see?"
He supposed that it wouldn't hurt anything to just let her see the cakes and decide if she wanted one, so he did as she'd suggested. Only instead of cakes packed in until the pack was bulging with them, he got a faceful of spring snakes when he opened it.
"Hohohoho!" the nanna laughed again. "A strange thing you're calling cake, John! But why don't you bring out whatever else is in there?"
He looked at her with new respect as he tossed out the rest of the snakes which hadn't sprung and revealed what was beneath them; he had no idea how she could have pulled that prank off when the bag was on his back and he'd been facing her the entire time they talked. But it didn't take long for him to be distracted from that by something even better.
Instead of cake his bag was full of a wealth of Gushers in all types of flavors. "Have as much as you want!" he said, pulling out several boxes. In the front pocket he found a few bottles that said they were full of apple juice and let her have them too; though the smell of it matched the labels on the front he just wouldn't trust magically appearing clear yellow liquid. Especially when the magic had already pulled one prank on him.
"Thank you, John," she said, accepting what he gave her. "While we eat, why don't you tell me what a young man like yourself is doing wandering the woods alone at this time of day?"
He told her the story of the Marquis and her daughter and the quest she'd set to anyone who felt like taking it up. The nanna listened intently to the whole story, and when he was done she asked, "And do you know how to make a flying ship, John?"
"Yes!" he said defensively, but when she looked at him with a small frown he went on more correctly, "I know how to make a ship fly, anyway! It's just getting the ship that might be kind of hard." To prove his words a sudden huge gust of wind sprung up beneath them, lifting the tree trunk they sat on a few feet into the air while holding it so steady that they were in no more danger of falling from it than they had been when it was flat on the ground.
"Why, you are a talented young man," she said as the trunk drifted gently back to earth. "And as a thanks for giving away part of your supplies to an old nanna, I'll help you find a boat to fly. Go on with your journey, and at the next tree you see on your way stop and hit it with your hammer than lie down and go to sleep. When you wake up your ship will be waiting to carry you to the Marquis' manor. One final piece of advice, John; on the way if you're as clever as you are talented you should stop and offer a ride to every person you see."
"The very next tree? Because there's one right there," he said, looking at the closest tree to their stump. It didn't really take much of a walk to reach a tree in a forest.
But the old woman didn't answer, and when he turned back to her he saw only empty space beside him, an empty apple juice bottle and an open box of Gushers the only sign that anyone had been there to begin with.
He guessed that tree must have been the one she meant or else she would have at least stayed long enough to say something like 'No, the next tree after you leave the area you can see right now' or 'The next tree outside of this forest' to make sure he got it right. So he packed his bag back up and continued his journey, for all of the three steps forward it took to reach the tree.
He felt silly lifting his hammer against a tree, but this was an adventure! You did strange things on adventures at the direction of strange people or else it didn't even really count. He'd known that going out. And even if it turned out to just be a trick it wasn't like he'd be losing anything except the couple more hours of distance he'd probably have gotten before he chose to go to sleep on his own.
John struck the tree and it exploded into what seemed like a thousand gleaming pieces, shaped like even more of his magical Gushers. He wanted to look at them, maybe try a bite of them to see if they tasted as delicious as they looked, but he hadn't already forgotten what he'd been told just a minute before. He dropped straight to the ground from where he stood, and shut his eyes.
And though John would have sworn that he wasn't yet sleepy at all he drifted off in only seconds. He was asleep so quickly that he never even heard the giant salamanders that crept out of the forest around him moments later and started to work.
John woke slowly the next morning, muzzily confused about why his bed was so cold and lumpy, then his memory of the events the day before came back and he flew to his feet. He half-expected to find out that the old woman's instructions were really a joke and she was off somewhere tittering to herself about getting him to fall for her prank, but there it was right in front of him: a small ship inexplicably sitting in the middle of the forest clearing.
It was made of the same strange gleaming blue wood of the trees around him, and as he stood back to look at it a rope ladder unrolled down the side from the deck though he couldn't see anyone or anything there to have let it down. He took that as an invitation to climb aboard and took a quick look around. It didn't have a captain's wheel the way ships in movies always did, or any type of rudder, but there was a great sail with the symbol of a gust of wind painted across it. The deck was empty, and when he found the hatch that allowed him down into the body of the ship he found that there was next to nothing there too, just six hammocks hanging from beams across the ceiling. Satisfied with his exploration he decided that it was time to get on with things.
Time to do the windy thing.
The ship lifted off the ground like it was made to sail the wind, rising swiftly and smoothly at only the tiniest touch of his power. He barely even needed to pay attention to keep it flying in the direction of the Marquise's castle, giving him plenty of time to keep his eyes open for any people on the ground below so he could take the next part of the Nanna's advice.
Even so, when after several miles he passed the first other person he'd seen on that day's journey he almost missed her. She was sitting so perfectly still that even with the bright red of her clothing she almost seemed to blend into the background. He only noticed her just in time to keep from passing her by because the burnt-out shell of a house that she was sitting beside caught his eye.
"Hello!" he yelled down as he brought the ship to the ground right in front of her. "What are you doing, practicing to become a living statue?"
She opened her eyes and looked up at him, then surprised him by smiling brightly. "I was listening," she said.
"Listening to what?" he asked, straining his ears to make out any interesting noises around them but hearing nothing.
"To the voices of the dead." The girl stood up and walked to the side of the ship, and even though John didn't touch it the ladder lowered itself down to her. But she stopped there, not touching it.
"The voices of the... Oh! I get it! So you're like Robert Downey, Jr. in Heart and Souls, right? Dead people can talk to you, but other people have no idea they're there?"
"Something like that!" she told him, laughing. "They told me that you'd be coming, and that I'd be going on a ride with you. So aren't you going to invite me up?"
"Well, I'm bringing this flying ship to the Marquise's castle to win the hand of her daughter and you can come if you want, but you don't have to if you don't want to ride there. I just need to ask people, the old lady didn't say they needed to say yes." But it looked like her mind was already made up, because she was climbing up before he could finish talking. He held out his hand when she reached the top and added, "I'm John."
"Aradia," she told him, accepting his handshake.
He set sail again, and the next time he saw someone it was even stranger. This time it wasn't even a person but a puppet moving strangely across the countryside. It would be sitting in one spot one moment then flicker out of sight suddenly and reappear a few yards away, traveling in a more-or-less straight line in the same direction John was.
John didn't know if a puppet really counted as an 'anyone' but guessed that it was better to be safe than sorry so he stopped the ship and yelled down, "Hey, um, do you want a ride?"
The puppet vanished completely at his words, and an instant later John yelped like a doofball when a voice behind him said, "Sure."
When he whirled around there was a strange man he'd never seen before standing in the middle of the deck holding the puppet. "Who are you?" he asked when he stopped freaking out enough to get the words out. "And where'd you come from?"
"Always there," he said. "I'm Bro. Lil' Cal here lets people know about where I am when I'm moving too fast for them to spot."
"Oh, okay! I'm John, and if you go downstairs you can meet Aradia but she's kinda talking to ghosts right now..." he tried to say, but Bro had already flickered away, moving so fast that John could only see Lil' Cal zooming around the deck.
The next person he saw was a man holding a bow. As John watched he nocked an arrow and began to draw back the string only for the bow to snap right in half at the grip. He scowled and threw it aside, onto a pile as high as his waist made up of similarly broken bows. John didn't know why he was even trying fire one, when he couldn't see anything to shoot at.
"What are you aiming at?" he asked when he landed the ship behind the man. "There's not even, like, rocks nearby!"
The man frowned up at him, and said, "Anything nearby would be too close for my strength, if the bows would only cooperate. Observe." He picked up the arrow he'd attempted to shoot again, and instead of trying to use a bow this time he just threw it forward. John watched it as long as he could, but it didn't take long for it to disappear into the distance. "It has struck a knothole in the first tree of an apple orchard three miles away," he told John a moment later.
"Wow, I'm meeting people who can do all kinds of cool things today!" John said. "Would you like to join me on my ship? I'm flying to the Marquise's castle."
"I wouldn--" the man began, only to stop in mid-word, his mouth still slightly open.
When John looked around to see what had distracted him he saw that Aradia had come up to the deck and was looking down at the man. "Come onboard with us," she said, her voice soft but firm, and for the first time John saw the rope ladder actually getting lowered by a human when she tossed it over the edge of the deck to him.
"I..." the man said, then cleared his throat and began again, "Very well, I will." He ignored John entirely when he came on board, focusing on Aradia as he said, "I am Equius."
"I'm Aradia," she said, pushing her hair back from her face and offering him a faint smile, "and our captain here is John."
"Nice to meet you," John said, though Equius still seemed to be paying no attention to him at all.
This time when they set out again John kept his eyes peeled for more than just other people, and sure enough three miles along he saw the distinctive bright blue fletching of the arrow sticking out of a tree at the beginning of a small grove. And it was a good thing that he was looking for it, or he might have missed the figure moving among the trees, a small man swathed in dirty grey cloth with a basket full of green pumpkins strapped to his back. He was standing under one of the apple trees, hopping up and down as he reached for the lowest hanging fruits.
"Are you hungry?" John called down to him.
The man's white eyes grew wide when he looked up at the ship but he managed an answer in spite of his surprise, nodding his head and rubbing his stomach.
"Why don't you eat one of those pumpkins?" John asked.
The man twisted his head around like he was trying to look at the basket on his back and all at once the pumpkins disappeared. He looked back at John, shrugging with a confused look on his face as if to say 'What pumpkins?'
"Ooookay," John said. "Well, here, I'll help!" He sent a strong burst of wind through the tree, shaking the ripe fruit from its branches. The man darted around grabbing up the fruit as it fell like he was afraid that it would vanish if it hit the ground and stayed there for long. Only about half of the apples made their way into the basket, the rest disappearing like the pumpkins as he grabbed them. When they'd all been gathered John called down again, "Do you want to come with us? We don't really have much food now, but we're going to the Marquise's castle where I bet there'll be a whole feast."
The man nodded his head so enthusiastically that it looked like he was trying to shake it right off his body, and started scrambling up the ladder before it even fully made it to the ground.
"I'm John," John told him. "Can you, like, write down your name or something if you can't talk?"
"You can call him WV," Aradia piped up. John glanced over to where she and Equius were sitting together on the deck and saw that she had the distant look he'd quickly learned that she wore on her face whenever she was paying more attention to the dead people around her than the living ones. "I hear... many, many people who know him." Her eyes focused again, fixing on WV as she added, "I'm sorry."
But with no information of what exactly she was talking about to work from WV just looked baffled by her sympathy.
John guessed from the number of hammocks that he'd only be seeing one more person before his trip was finished, which was good since they were getting close to the destination. In fact, the peaked roofs of the castle were in sight when he spotted the woman walking down the road with a martini glass in her hand.
"Are you going to the castle?" he asked when he reached her.
"Perhaps. I'm looking for anywhere that I might find a good drink."
"What's wrong with the one your holding?" John admittedly didn't know anything about alcohol, but starting with what you already had when you were thirsty just seemed like common sense.
But the woman looked at him as though he obviously didn't know what he was talking about, and threw back the drink in one long gulp. "It isn't nearly enough."
"Well, we're going to the castle, and we'll give you a ride if you want. Castles have wine cellars and things, right?"
She seemed to consider it for a moment, then nodded. "All right, that does sound better than continuing to tramp down the road in these heels. You can call me Mom if you'd like, young man."
"That's kind of weird... but we've already got someone named Bro too, so okay! I'm John, Mom!"
The crew complete the ship crossed the last few miles to the castle, not coming across a single other person in the journey.
"You can't marry our daughter to the peasant boy on that ship."
Marquise Mindfang set down the spyglass she'd been using to examine the approaching ship and turned, her eyes narrowed. "'Can't', Dualscar?"
He swallowed, backing up a step at the dangerous look in her eye before straightening his back. "You shouldn't. It's obvious just from looking at him that he's hopelessly low-bred, and only has a hapless crew of fools to back him."
For a moment the look on her face still made him worry that she might just get a wedding party ready immediately for no other reason than to spite him, then she turned back to her spyglass and said, "As though I'd ever intended to keep my end of this deal. It was nothing more than a gamble, my dear Dualscar, to see if anyone could produce a flying ship so we might find new booty to claim on the land. It should be a simple enough matter to send the boy on his way and keep the ship." She studied it for a long moment more, then added, "I've heard of a drink called Faygo that is only made in a far away place called Michigan and I'm curious to taste it. If he's worthy enough to be our son-in-law, he should be able to bring a bottle of it to me before sundown. Send a messenger to tell him so."
On the deck of the ship, a seemingly dozing Aradia's eyes suddenly shot open. "The Marquise is trying to trick you out of your ship, and out of your prize," she told John. "If you can't make it to Michigan and bring back a bottle of Faygo cola before sunset they'll send you away with nothing."
"Man, those cheaters!" John said. "How can I get there in time?"
Cal flickered into the air in front of him, Bro appearing behind the puppet an instant later. "I'll get it," he said, "no problem." Then he was gone again, leaving John to hope he'd vanished on his way to Michigan and wasn't just flashing around the ship some more.
When the messenger arrived he let her know that he'd do what the Marquise wanted and settled down to wait.
Meanwhile Bro was dashing across the face of the world so quickly that not a single eye could make him out, but a little over halfway there he suddenly stopped. It occurred to him that just fetching the Faygo and coming back wouldn't be very ironic. Doing the whole Tortoise and the Hare thing would be much more his style. So he laid down to take a nap, doing it on top of a Pepsi van traveling in the opposite direction of his destination for maximum irony.
But there was nowhere in the world the dead could not see, and back on the ship Aradia frowned suddenly when one of the voices tracking his progressed reported in to her. "He's gone to sleep!" she exclaimed. "Doesn't he understand how important this is?"
Equius looked at her annoyed expression, sweat beading his face, and told her, "Wait a moment, Aradia. I'll wake him for you." He picked up one of his arrows, sighting across a distance that no eye should have been able to make out, and threw it with all his strength behind it.
Thousands of miles away Bro was woken up by his hat being knocked straight off his head. When he looked around and saw it pinned to the truck by a blue fletched arrow he got the message and took off again, deciding that he could always make up for it by being extra ironic the next day. A moment later he appeared again on the ship, a bottle of Mango Tango firmly in hand.
When the Marquise received the message that her request had been fulfilled she frowned slightly, but didn't seem especially phased, as opposed to Dualscar who went purple in the face. "Prepare a feast to celebrate their success," she told one of her servants while Dualscar sputtered at her. "Fill eight banquet tables with food and bring out eighty casks of wine, and let our guests know that if they don't finish every last bit of it we will see it as an unforgivable insult."
Aradia let John and the others know about the newest task that they were about to face, but this time John didn't even have time to worry before WV was scrambling down the ladder and Mom following right behind after saying, "It looks like you've found me my drink after all, young man."
The rest of the group followed behind and were shocked at what they saw; whole platters of food seemed to vanish even as they were brought out while WV hovered around the tables with a euphoric expression on his face, while Mom drank glass after glass of wine at an only slightly slower pace. Everyone else needed to rush in just to get a single plate for themselves, although there was sadly nothing else to drink besides the wine and Mom swatted everyone save Bro away with a warning that she would not allow underaged drinking when any of them even tried to get close.
As John picked away at his food, more interested in watching his strange crew laughing and chatting as they ate, he was startled by an unfamiliar voice behind him saying, "Heyyyyyyyy, they won't let you win you know."
He turned to see a strange girl leaning against the side of the ship, her long black hair and bright orange clothing standing out against the shining blue wood. "Who won't?" he asked.
"The Marquise, and Dualscar even more," she said, tossing her hair then flashing a toothy grin. "I snuck out to see who has them fussing soooooooo much. It is you, right?"
"Yeah, I guess! I'm John and this is my ship anyway. I don't know why they'd be fussing about it though, I just did what she asked!" He glanced at the castle, where lights were blazing out the windows all throughout it, then back to the girl, "So, you work there or something?"
"Or something!" she agreed, snickering like he'd just said something hilarious. "So, John, why did you do what she asked? Do you like the idea of having a pretty girl as a prize?"
"No!" he said quickly. "I mean, we can, like, get engaged or something I guess, if she wants to, then spend a lot of time together to see if we'd ever want to get married or anything, but I wasn't just trying to marry Miss Mindfang. I wanted an adventure!"
She studied him through narrowed eyes for a long moment, like she was trying to judge the truth in his words, then she grinned again and said, "Okay, Mr. Adventurer, then maybe I'll give you a little advice. Dualscar's going to come after you next, and he's a giant bore who doesn't like playing games when he could just kill you outright. Hope you have a way to stay cool!" She hopped into the air and suddenly spread wings he hadn't noticed before to catch the wind and make her way back to the castle.
"Wow," he said, staring after her. Out of all the cool things he'd seen that day shiny wings were probably the coolest. And so was finding out that there was somebody else out there who could glide along on the breeze.
He was still staring off towards the faint sparkling trail she left in her wake when Aradia came up to him and said, "They're going to try to boil you alive with a fire built under your bath next."
"Ooh, so that's why I need to stay cool," he said, turning to face her. "Hey, that one's easy! I don't even need anyone else for it."
So when the messenger came again after all the food and wine were gone and said that the Marquise's consort had been kind enough to have a bath made for him before he met his bride, John went along and climbed in without any type of argument. After relying so much on everyone else that day it was nice to do something of his own power. He let the bath grow warmer and warmer under him, but just before he could get hot enough to be uncomfortable he called up the wind, drawing all the air out of the boiler under the bath in a rush and stifling the fire all at once.
Apparently whoever was meant to be tending the first had just stuffed it full of fuel than left because the water slowly but surely went cold around him without ever warming up again, until he was shivering when someone finally came to let him out. "Tell the Marquise that she really needs to find a new guy to heat up the water!" he told the servant as he wrapped himself in as many towels as he could grab to try and stay warm until he was dry enough to get his clothes back on. "I was totally freezing in there!"
He was let out onto the castle grounds and left to make his own way back to the ship, but he hadn't gone three steps when the now recognizable voice said, "Good job making it, Mr. Adventurer! I didn't really think you had it in you."
The girl was leaning out on of the first floor windows, the glaringly orange tunic and leggings she'd been wearing earlier replaced by a dark blue dress. "Hah, that one was so easy it wasn't even worth calling part of an adventure," he told her.
"Wellllllll, it you want something more tricky, I've got a little test for you too." She leaned out towards him even more, getting close enough even with the wall of the castle between them for a breeze that John wasn't controlling to catch up a tendril of her hair and close the distance by brushing its end against his face. "You know, whoever's in charge here needs to be able to boss a whole bunch of people around, and even though she's soooooooo great a lot of jerks don't like listening to what the next Marquise says so keeping them from ever mutinying will probably be her husband's job. Prove you won't completely suck at that, John! Have an army out here tomorrow, and maybe she'll decide you're worth looking at." She glanced back into the castle and grinned, adding, "And you can bet it'll get the Marquise and Dualscar off your back!"
As John made his way back to the ship he thought over the abilities of all his friends and had no idea how he'd be able to complete that task. And, okay, maybe he didn't need to do something that some random girl who lived in the castle told him to, but somehow he wanted to show her that he could. He could be a great friendleader! It was just that he only had five people to friendlead right then.
But Aradia met him outside the ship, a smile on her face. "It's finally my turn to help you," she told him.
"Huh? But you've been lots of help!" John said, confused my her statement.
But she laughed, and shook her head. "Aside for getting Equius to wake up Bro the only thing I've done is let you know things you'd have learned a few minutes later anyway. But this time I really get to help, you and the dead who've been helping you too. A lot of them have a thing or two they'd like to face Mindfang and Dualscar about. Just watch."
Moments later it because apparent that he'd been wrong when they first met and he thought she was the only one who could tell that the dead were there. The eerie forms of hundreds of ghosts appearing around them made it clear that she could have let him see them whenever she wanted.
It looked like he'd have his army, but he kind of wished that he could have found one that wasn't so creepy.
As soon as the sun started coming up the next morning, revealing the army of ghosts clearly to anyone looking at the castle grounds, he started seeing people appearing at the windows of the castle then dashing away again and hearing the occasional startled scream coming from within the walls. But it wasn't until an hour after first light that the main doors opened and the Marquise and Dualscar swept out, the girl trailing behind them to John's surprise.
Dualscar looked like he was angry beyond words but Marquise Mindfang had a lazy smile on her face as she walked over to John and looked down on him. "You didn't need to start making threats, boy," she told him. "If you're that infatuated with Vriska, fine, have the girl for the ship as offered."
"'Threats'?" John repeated. "I wasn't trying to make any threats, Ma'am. She just said I ought to show I could raise an army if I wanted to marrying the Marquise's daughter." He gestured towards the girl to make it clear who she was talking about, and in return she shot him a glare like he couldn't believe he'd just blabbed her part in it to them.
But the Marquise looked more amused than ever as she glanced between them. "So you've already met my daughter," she said to John's complete confusion, then turned to the girl and added, "And you've decided that he's acceptable enough for you?"
Dualscar apparently couldn't stand a moment more of this talk. "That boy is not acceptable! Just look at him, Spinneret, he's obviously--"
"I was asking my daughter," she cut him off, giving him a warning look.
"Our daughter," he muttered, a hateful look on his face when he looked at John again, but he fell back into a sullen silence.
"Well, Vriska?" the Marquise prodded, and the girl who'd always seemed confident before then suddenly started shuffling awkwardly under her gaze.
"Wellllllll, I guess he's okay," she said. "And he said he doesn't want to get married right away, so if it turns out he's a whiny loser we can just kick him out again."
"Wait!" John said, staring at her. "You're the Marquise's daughter?"
"Wow, John!" she said, awkwardness falling away as she snickered at him, "you just figured that out? Maybe I should change my mind before I can get stuck with a fiance who's that slow!"
John flushed and ducked his head, but then made himself straighten up and face the girl who might maybe, possibly, someday be his wife. "So, I guess this is when we, uh, start learning about if we'd get along with each other? Do you like..." he mentally spent a minute flailing around all the things he liked, trying to pick what to start with, and after a moment his mind drifted back to the true start of his journey and without even really thinking through whether it was the best choice or not settled on "...gushers?"
She gave him an odd look, but answered, "I've never had any."
"What?" Any weirdness that he'd felt melted away at the horror of the thought that somebody had never experienced the deliciousness of gushers, and he grabbed her hand and began tugging her towards the ship without a second's thought so he could remedy that terrible error. "Come on! I've got a whole backpack full of them, as long as WV hasn't found them yet!"
As they ran towards the flying ship together John didn't even hear Dualscar yelling after him, "What about these fuckin' ghosts?!"