Chapter 1: Instancy
You kick on the thrusters and the board jerks forward but you manage to keep your balance. You lean forward and hold out your arms in a pose that's both practical for balance and assuredly badass to anyone who would hypothetically be watching your noble rescue from afar.
You feel like a superhero, cutting through the air like this, unbound by gravity! Much like your beloved Spider-Girl, albeit male--though that idea is completely without novelty and would undoubtedly pale in comparison to the original.
You're brilliance, you're dashing heroics, you're the young and the reckless, the brazen and the bold!
You cut over the edge of the canyon where Dirk had taken his tumble due to a surprise interference from a group of those atrocious skeleton creatures. You'd managed to blast the skull off of the last of them and in a split second decision grabbed Dirk's discarded rocket board. Dirk has been teaching you how to ride the bally thing due to your insistence, because fuck did Dirk ever look cool riding it.
You finally catch sight of Dirk's flailing body down below you, and you quickly angle the rocket board downwards into a dive. The rocky scene of the canyon blurs into colors as you speed towards your falling target, keeping an eye on the fluttering blotch of white that constitutes the contrast of Dirk's body against the ragged rock bottom.
You'll save him the moment before he bashes his head bloody against the rocks--just the right amount of tension to keep the audiences on the edge of their seats!
You get closer and closer, narrowing your focus for the final catch. Once you get close enough you reach out an arm an hook it around Dirk's waist before sharply changing the angle of your descent and kicking the rocket board up into an ascent.
Once out of the canyon you bring the board down until its hovering just above the grass, before you hop off it onto the ground.
Dirk seems unusually limp in your arms, but you figure maybe he's still in shock so you crouch and lay him down onto the grass so you can give him the once over once you pop the rocket board into your own sylladex. You cast about for any more of the skeletons lying in wait, but all you see are the piles of mossy bones and cracked skulls of the beasts you dispatched moments early. Convinced that the coast is clear, you crouch back down next to Dirk.
It's only at this moment that you notice the queer twist of his chin.
It occupies your attention, holding it rapt for a moment because it's just so odd and not particularly Dirk-like. And he stranger still he seems to be holding it that way, at that peculiar angle. Wrenched off to the side and just a tad tilted up.
Dirk also really tends to move a lot more. A lot more than nothing, which is the precise amount he's moving right now.
You creep closer, folding forward on all fours as you gently begin to nudge at Dirk. His head shifts a bit, like his neck is made of wet noodles.
By then you've started to realize exactly what you've done.
Dirk, eyes. Flat. Dull. Done.
Cracked. Snapped. Struck dumb--
--Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Oh God you are so stupid.
Foolish. Reckless. Reckless, wrecked, wrong.
You whimper like a lost puppy, gently prodding Dirk's shoulder, trying to encourage him back into consciousness.
Oh you know it, oh Christ you know it, you know he's gone and you're stricken. Reduced to the most basic reactions, all rational thinking flown out the window.
You scrub your eyes with your sleeves before curling in on yourself, hands folded over the back of your neck.
Your name is Jake English, and you just killed your best friend.
What will you do?
Chapter 2: Wet Dream
Dave didn't remember. He brushed it off as a unusually severe case of deja vu, his brain imprinting familiarities where there really were none. The blanket touch of the wind, heck even his own movies were starting to remind him of a place worlds removed from his own, of a ghost boy and a life that was like a photo negative--inverted and wrong but somehow so very right. Dave had never been much of a spiritual kind but he was starting to think that maybe those New Age types were on to something with all that. He figured someday he should go to a psychic, maybe have his palm read or his chakras opened or whatever the hell they would do when he threw enough money at them.
He slumps onto his bed one night, Dirk still up in the other room, eyes glued to the computer screen, and instantly he's out like a light, which is unusual since lately he's been tossing and turning and thinking for at least a couple of hours, kept up by the persistent notion that there was something wrong, something wrong with him even as he was just lying doing nothing in his bed---
Also unusual is the fact that Dave almost immediately slips into a dream.
The image of the dream comes in slowly, like a film dissolve and suddenly the scene is set before him.
It's the very picture of decadent film noir--everything in your dream is saturated in black and white. The chiaroscuro brings out a figure-thin and slim and soft and white against the folded black of what you figure is bedsheets. Dave sees the pale, smooth sliver of a leg against the bed, alluring and beckoning. He must be moving forward, because soon he is face to face with the dream dame and--
And he can clearly see that this is not a dame.
Not a dame, not even a full-grown dude. Nope. No dice.
The figure is a kid, wide blue eyes the only splotch of color in the monochromatic setting. A kid. He's having a wet dream about a kid and fuck despite that he's never felt enough wanting in his life.
He feels sick at himself. Dave Strider may be a lot of things but he sure ain't no fuckin' pedo, and yet right now this god damn dream kid is the hottest thing he's ever seen and what is this damn need that is bursting in his chest?
"Shit, ----. You look so fuckin' good like this." He can hear himself talk in the dream, but the name or whatever of the person he is about to fuck is blotted out. Fuck, he's about to fuckin' fuck a kid and…and fuck.
Where the hell does this guy--dream or not--get off looking so fucking coy and come hither? Kids aren't meant to look so goddamn attractive, they're supposed to be sticky stupid little dickwads with gummy mouths and Cheetoe fingers. But not this kid, no--this kid here was ripped right off of the world's sexiest milk carton. God damn, what subconscious hole was this hot little nightmare dredged out of?
Musing about the enigmas of his brain had to wait, however, because the kid holds up his skinny arms and beckons you forward with a fan of his fingers and you're gone. You pull his lips between yours and make the specks of his eyes shut in want and as you fall forward he tugs the black around your twined bodies.
Chapter 3: Reversal
The guardians play the game instead of the kids, and suffer similar consequences.
You hadn’t expected this.
Your boy had gotten the new game for his birthday, and you had been surprised but it was okay, because if being online and playing games made your boy happy, then you were happy and proud of him and you would never not be proud of him, no matter what happened.
But then suddenly you found yourself and your little suburban domicile spirited away, with only the inexplicable spirit of your late mother to give you any clue as to what was happening. But the laws of the universe and the fate of your planet were secondary to the fatherly instincts you were seized with upon being thrown into an unknown and potentially dangerous dimension. But when you had tried to find John you had heard a loud cry and had entered his bedroom only to find a chunk of his wall missing and no sign of your son.
So, with the dearly-departed spirit of your mother helping you you managed to find your way out of the blackness, descending onto a planet inhabited by black and white gecko-creatures possessing the same fine sense of style as you do, complete with fedora hat and black tie. And as remarkable as all of the information being relayed to you by your nebulous mother was, you knew that it couldn’t consume all of your concern.
You needed to find him—you imagined he was out there on his own, alone and scared and needing protection.
Through the game you meet a woman much like yourself, who has lost a daughter to the madness you have been thrown into, and the two of you travel together, navigating the game and fighting your way through the hordes of enemies that you are confronted with. You communicate with a host of other strange individuals (including least of all a gang of aliens with odd methods of conversation).
You die once and come back, this time with a host of powers and dominions and a new title, but the only one that will ever matter to you is dad and you have to find John—
You play the game, meeting the other two heroes fighting in your session—a younger man and, surprisingly enough, an albino dog, but you welcome all the help that you can get navigating the planets and dimensions and dangers—
You plan to find your boy, reunite with him and protect him, find a way to get both of you back home and make sure that he’s safe.
You plan to find him, but the boss of your game finds him first.
You find him, along with your female compatriot’s child, lying together in some Skaian mockup of a playground. You see the towering black enemy agent of your game floating over the area, staring you down with pale, slitted eyes. But your eyes quickly fall to the red strewn about the landscape and then a body and oh—
Oh God, no.
You see John lying down on his side, mere feet away from Lalonde’s child, his face turned upwards. You can’t make out to much from where you are but you can see that his face and his shirt and everything seems soaked in blood.
When you attack the agent, blood boiling with parental vigor, he kills you in one swift stroke but for some reason or another you find yourself awake and alive again, with the archagent gone and Lalonde woozy and wounded but alive next to you.
You help Lalonde up, holding her delicate hands in yours, and the sight of blood on your intertwined digits reminds you of the red covering your children only a ways away.
You help her to her feet and together you run, separating only to fall to your knees at your boy’s ragged side. John doesn’t move, doesn’t recognize you’re there and for a moment you cling to hope that he’s just been knocked unconscious, but—
As you gently shake him, you see. There’s a big, gaping hole thrust straight through his chest, blood staining his shirt and pooling in the floor below him. His eyes are closed, his glasses broken and hanging lopsided on his nose, his mouth slightly opened to allow a trail of red to fleck over his chin.
All you can hear is the quiet, reserved sobs of Lalonde behind you—the rest of the area is all silence. You slip your hands under John’s body and lift him up, bringing him to cradle against your chest. You gently fix his glasses so that they rest more comfortably on his face. He’s so small in your arms, like when he was no more than a child—and in reality, he still was no more than a child. You gently pet his hair, lifting him up to kiss him gently on the forehead. Most of you still can’t fully comprehend—comprehend that this is your little boy you have in your arms, bloodied and broken and you can just imagine his last moments, small and scared and crying out for you to protect him.
It was your duty to protect him—your duty as a father, the only title that you have ever cared about, the only role that has ever mattered to you. And you failed.
The game is over for you, now.
Giving up your careful cradling, you heft his body up closer and hug him tightly to your chest, hands stroking over his torn back, like you had done whenever he had suffered from a nightmare.
But it’s not his nightmare. It’s yours.
And in it, your John is gone.
Chapter 4: She's So Mean
John/Meenah High School AU
She's not the kind of girl that you should be messing around with. She's not the kind of girl that you should even think about. Ever. She's exactly the kind of person your dad warned you about, the kind of delinquent kids prepped to derail your fast-track Ivy league road to success and send you spiraling down into smoke and squalor.
She's studded with piercings in every place you can see and probably in a few places you can't, She's lean and bony and has all the look of a starving predator in a pack of plump preppy prey. Her clothes look like skin sloughing off her body--pants bagging way below decency and sleeves clinging for dear life against bare shoulders. Her hair is a nest and her braids just as ratty, trailing down between her legs and catching dirt and leaves and scraps of paper on the ground. She chews with her mouth open and sprays you with Starkist crumbs and after leaves a trail of lipstick rings in her wake.
She smokes like a chimney, she cuts classes down like grass, she gets in fights and has a tooth count that rivals even the bloodiest of hockey brawls. The local dentists sing her praises as they count the cash for yet another cracked canine.
There's a rumor the tooth she wears around her neck isn't a shark's. You asked her if that was true once but she only laughed and bit your lip.
You usually get spared the bloodier treatment. Whenever she hems you in around the lockers she pinches your sides and slaps your ass and mocks your khakis and polos and plaid and breaths midmorning whiskey right into your nose. Sometimes during lunch she'll stow you away in the girl's bathroom where her teeth and nails definitely get too close for comfort.
She's crude, she's rude, she's mean, she's bad and rotten to the core. And you really need to let her go.
But the thing is that you just can't help but like her a whole lot.
Chapter 5: Make Damn Sure
You shake at the mere thought of him getting inside you. He's a cyborg, he can't possibly think he'll be able to feel, able to--understand what this kind of thing means. He doesn't have the capacity, he wasn't built to do this. His head is circuits rather than smoke and flesh.
One the other hand, he was built to be Dirk. An aged down snapshot of Dirk, perhaps, but a Dirk nevertheless.
And there is a quality of hunger in his eyes that you can't deny. It slips on the cliff of the uncanny, and its alien nature, it's hypnotizing. It's seized in the violent red of his eyes.
His palm pressed against your stomach is a strange mesh, something neither metal nor flesh nor fabric, but it sends chords of goosebumps trailing up from the point of contact. It's foreign. It's daring. It's a dance on the far reaches of human want. It's breaking the boundaries firmly entrenched in a familiar canon of hormone, of sweat, of genitals. Of flesh.
The valley is the dipped curve of his smile and with a tug and a tongue you tread into new territory.
Chapter 6: Perfect Harmony
Her skin is a shade between olive and sable and smooth against your own paleness, her arms muscled and lithe where yours are thin and wiry. One of her hands has your wrist pinned and the other is fisted into your hair, maroon nails digging against your scalp as she leaves traces of plum lipstick across your cheeks in a warpath towards your mouth.
Her mouth tastes like strawberries and tuna fish and cigarette smoke which almost makes you keel over and vomit, but your own mouth doesn't taste much better. The sour burn of gin and vermouth lingers in the back of your throat, searing into your nostrils as you try to gasp in air. She's got your mouth on lock, canines clacking against your own and hot breath panting along your tongue. It's good so good and yes she's the bad girl to your good girl, all piercings and scars and bloody brass knuckles and danger where you're couture clothes and Upper West Side and gold-rimmed martini glasses and loneliness.
You reach up and grab onto her, nails digging right below the tattoo on her shoulder--two crossed tridents, a mass of cerise tentacles, a banner inscribed with Latin, or Spanish, or something, you don't remember--and you pull her closer to you.
You've been this before, this mashup of ebony and ivory thrust up against the wall in your mother's penthouse, all roving hands and clawing fingernails and mashed lips. You'll both keep at it until the breath is gone from both of your lungs and you'll sink to the floor together. And in one moment of gentility she'll lean forward and press a kiss to your lips that uses neither hard-fought incisors nor guarded tongue.
Then you might take the time to work the tangles and kinks out of her hair and braid it together with bright pink hairbands. And she might hold yours back while you vomit up clear into the toilet. And maybe you'll even get the chance to simply curl up together like everything is all right--she would twirl your hair around her finger, and you would drape hers in a loose tie about your neck. And it will be as close to perfect as you two will ever get.
Chapter 7: Hunter and Hunted
Jake has and always had had a penchant for the more wild and savage side of life, and Dirk always thought that it was inevitable for these tendencies to carry over into the bedroom. Beyond the bites and scratches and yowls and into something far more immersive. Dirk had always figured Jake to be a hunter, given his adventuring tendencies, but no--Jake confided to him that, on the contrary, he far preferred to be the hunted.
And Dirk, never one to turn his nose up at an instance of risk and sexual deviancy, complied.
The lights in the apartment have dimmed, the furniture haphazardly overturned to create an environment more conducive to the needs of prey and the excitement of the hunt. Dirk is stripped to his dark jeans, his hands free of katana and instead equipped with a single length of rope. A bit gag is clipped onto one of his belt loops, because Jake had warned him that he can and will bite if Dirk doesn't restrain and subdue him properly. And Dirk sure as hell didn't want to see what those incommodious incisors anywhere near him. Especially with Jake currently roleplaying in the mindset of a cornered beast of prey.
He creeps through the apartment, ears pricked to every small sound and rustle, anything that could indicate a wild Jake hidden within the depths of a pile of blankets, or under a coffee table, or behind the rocket board.
Dirk uncoils the length of rope, holding it at the ready as he hears the adjacent bathroom door creak--possibly just the room settling, he reasons, but then there's a loud bang as it slams against the wall, giving way to a shadow of tan and green and black as Jake streaks away from his hiding spot, Dirk immediately on the chase.
Jake is shirtless as well, clad in only a pair of boxer shorts as he sprints away on all fours, trying to find a way to escape and hide from his pursuer.
Dirk can only assume Jake's heart is pounding as hard as his is--Dirk would have never thought the thrill of the hunt to get him as riled as he is now. He had always fancied himself the calculated planner, the man behind the scenes pulling the strings--not the sanguineous sportsman, the adrenaline junkie who lives for the thrill of the hunt, the joy of inevitable capture--
Jake is fast, but still hampered by his insistence to walk on all fours, and soon enough Dirk overtakes him, dramatically leaping upon Jake and pinning him to the floor for the sake of the histrionics he knows will only get Jake off more. He clenches the end of the rope between his teeth as he twists Jake's arms behind his back, managing to keep seat on his prey's bucking back as he spits the rope out into his palm and winds it around Jake's wrists.
Jake struggles and snuffles, letting a couple animal growls and grunts that almost sound too good to be faked as Dirk draws the bindings tight and tough against his skin--thrumming with heat and taut veins. Jake continues to struggle, even as Dirk gives the ropes a resolved pat.
A creep of a Southern drawl worms into his voice as he crouches down over Jake and sits on the small of his back, idly tugging at the binds tying his hands.
"Got you, big boy."
Chapter 8: Never
Dad and John sadstuck.
Dad would have never let you die. Ever. If the roles had changed hands and you'd gotten lost, he would have found you in time and saved you. Snatched you from Jack's cutlass right in the nick of time not spent wandering about some castle with a dopey grin on his face.
You wish the roles had been reversed. Your dad had been strong and capable and he could do things and deal with things in ways that you just couldn't. Because he had been an adult and you had still just been a kid.
What could you have possibly done to keep blood off your hands, to avoid crushing tears into your eyes as you bent at the side of your dad's body? Nothing, that's what. You couldn't have done anything because you're not like your dad. You're a kid, a stupid kid who doesn't know any better. You did nothing because you are nothing.
It's like a secret that only you are aware of. Only you really know just how worthless and useless and powerless you are. You're not so sure why everyone else didn't see it--see how much you had failed and just how terrible you were at protecting anyone that you cared about. You'd done it time and time again and you don't understand why they just don't get it.
But the worst part of it all is knowing that your dad would forgive you. You don't have an inch of doubt about that, and it burns. Dad loved you like most dads, most parents would. Unconditionally. Without scruples unless you did something really bad and meant to do it. Even then, even if you had murdered him in cold-blood there would've probably still been a scrap of love left in him as you hammered life from his body.
In the end, it doesn't matter if your dad would've forgiven you, or if he has forgiven you from some weird fluttery plane of half-conscious afterlife somewhere out there. It all rings hollow.
Because you will never forgive yourself.
Chapter 9: You'll Be In My Heart
Jake and Grandma Jade.
You had led Jake to a small clearing today, one you’d never before taken him to. A small place, with a tiny, circular pond that’s only been recently filled by the diverged trickle of a nearby stream. He’d gallivanting about, armed with the tiny pop-guns you’d built him, play firing at butterflies and lizards, climbing trees as best as he could and promising you with all earnest eyes that one day he’d be big and strong enough to reach the very top. Just you wait and see, Grandma.
He’d taken a small tumble once, while pretending the pond was a flooding pool of lava he needed to escape. But you’d been ready as you always were, with a roll of gauze and swab of alcohol and a kiss and a hug to remedy the sting. Your hands have started to shake a bit but they’re still more than able to wipe away tears and turn frowns into giggles.
As usual he’d began to tucker himself out by the fifth or sixth imaginary play-quest—-really, Jake jumps from one scenario to another so quickly that sometimes it’s hard to figure out where one begins and another ends. The boy has quite the manic imagination when it comes to his little adventures.
He’s a little fussy at first but when you pick him up he curls up like a baby into your arms, his chubby little hands fisting into your shirt as best as they can. It’s getting a tad chilly, so you unravel your hair and drape it over each shoulder so that it ghosts over his tiny body. He makes no secret of the fact that he loves your hair—the smell, the touch, reminding him of comfort and safety.
You keep your steps slow and shuffling—though that does not require much effort—as to not disturb him as you make your way back to the house. He rustles and murmurs a few times but always settles back against you. He is warmth against the heat of your heart, and briefly it feels as if they are one.
Before you put him down for a nap, you bend over as best as you are able and trace a kiss on his forehead, and you swear.
As long as you’re alive, you will protect him with all that you are.
Chapter 10: Bunny Boys
Sort of Dave/John and Dirk/John.
Your name is Dirk Strider, and it's only been recently that the nights you and your little brother spent wasting have become at all worthwhile.
You'd been hanging around one of your usual haunts, a themed bar owned by a certain big name skin mag where all the servers are decked out in bunny ears and tails and tight clothes--the whole shebang. Fortunately for you and your little bro, they catered to both ends of the spectrum and your specific tastes, but even then there was little draw for either of you. Until lately, that is.
The chunks of your paycheck you've been blowing at the establishment as of late have all been due to the presence of one new addition--a certain waiter who's managed to steal the eyes of both yourself and your little bro.
His name is John, or at least that's what he introduces himself as whenever he takes your drink orders. You suppose he could just be bullshitting you, but one look into those big wide innocent peepers tells you all about the inner innocence and integrity that you need to know. Those aren't lying eyes, though the debauched appearance of the rest of the waiter could've fooled you.
He couldn't be much older than Dave, and indeed he looks younger with his rounded, youthful face and softly curved muscles on his arms and stomach. His body is fit but not cut, and just cute enough to compliment his big blue eyes and the shy way that he tugs on the fake collar hanging around his neck. He's got a mop of messy black hair, which is in turn adorned by a pair of white satin bunny ears, an uniform addition which is compliment by the tufty little bunny tail peeking out perky whenever he turns around.
And of course there's the sinfully tight pair of black shorts poured around a rear that was just perfect--fuck that little minx for slamming all of your ass man buttons with enough force to wrinkle your composed exterior.
Dave was slightly more transparent than you were--though he thought himself as great a master of the calculated poker face as you, the kid was inwardly desperate for affection and wore his emotions on a thinly veiled sleeve. This tended to be a problem whenever he has one too many of the fruity pink cocktails that John brought and latches onto the waiter's waist, trying to drunkenly pull him into his lap.
You worry for a moment that John is going to call the muscle over and get the two of you thrown out, so you slid over on the conjoined couch and try to get Dave to quit parasitizing the bunny boy before he got your asses kicked, but John didn't make a sound other than the audible quickening of his breath. You look up and see that John looks absolutely stricken, his face bright red as he stared fixedly at Dave and then at you with his front teeth peeking over his lip and damn, that's adorable. A little bunny boy, shocked into stiffness.
And of course Dave has to ruin the scene completely by shuddering and heaving and dribbling a stream of watery alcoholic vomit over his dress shirt and the part of John's hip that he had been nuzzling. John squeaks in disgust, Dave groans, and you facepalm, dragging your fingers down to your chin.
You figure that's a good time to make your exit, so you snake an arm under Dave's armpits and heft him up so he's half leaning against you. You fish around your pocket for your wallet while Dave continues to blubber apologies to John, who just looks embarrassed and grossed out as he tries to wipe the vomit from his belly with a cocktail napkin.
You tip him extra for his troubles.