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I Summon the All-Seeing Eye

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Part I: A Story Retold

Chapter 1: Star, Gazing

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place between “Running With Scissors” (S02E16b) and “Just Friends” (S02E20b) - and it was first written before “Just Friends” aired.

“Sooo... bored!” cried Star. She looked up at her feet, propped vertically against the side of her bed, while the rest of her small frame lay sprawled on the bedroom floor. Both her hands gripped the wand, pushing it forwards and backwards, as if she were lazily taking aim to blast the high ceiling, adding yet another hole to the roof of her host family’s house.

Suddenly, she let both arms fall to her sides with an exasperated sigh. “Where are you Marco Diaz?!” she grumbled aloud.

She had been waiting for her best friend to come back from his big important date with Jackie. No, of course she didn’t care that Marco was out with Jackie, jeez! He was her friend, she was happy for him. But she was also alone, and bored, and had planned to drag him to a cloudceratops race or something equally exciting as soon as he got back.

But he was instead at the stupid boring movies, with stupid awesome Jackie, while she was in her stupid boring room, waiting for him to get back. She had thought of calling Pony Head, or Janna. Hell, she had considered calling Tom! Tom!! But she didn’t want to hang out with Tom, or Pony Head, or Janna, or any of her other friends in Echo Creek or Mewni. She wanted to hang out with Marco!

As a matter of fact, she wanted to hang out with Marco a whole lot these days. She especially wanted to hang out with Marco on those exact same occasions he decided to go on dates with Jackie. Whatdoyoumeansuspicious?! Nah, it wasn’t like that. Was it? It was just that, well, Jackie was cool and all, but it was always going to the movies, or skateboarding, or going for a dance. Why did Marco want to go on dates with Jackie so much, when Star could actually take him somewhere really fun? They literally could go anywhere in any dimension. He might have the scissors now, but she knew where things were at.

Maybe Marco was bored now too, or maybe Jackie was bored, or maybe they had gotten into a fight and they were both miserable. Or maybe they got attacked by monsters! Oh, no!

Well, if they had been attacked by monsters, Star reasoned, then she needed to know. Didn’t she? It was for the good of her friends! For their own protection!

And it’s not like Marco would ever find out...

She jumped onto the bed, flipping herself around so that she was now sitting on the bed all boring-like. But that was needed for what she had to do now, she had to be able to focus, just for a little while. She pointed her wand forward. After all, this was for Marco’s own good. They had been gone for four hours. The movie should have lasted only two at most. Surely, there was evil afoot!

“I summon the All-Seeing Eye, to tear a hole into the sky...”

She could hardly believe she was doing it again. It was wrong. Dark magic under the best of circumstances, and even worse under these circumstances. He was her friend, more than that, her bestie! If he ever found out... no, what was she thinking? She was simply protecting her friend. From monsters! Looking out for him, you know? Like friends do...

“...reveal to me that which is hidden...”

Plus, it was either this or calling again, and at least this way didn’t leave fifty plus notifications on his phone. So no chance of Marco learning what she was doing, which was important, because, after all... He just shouldn’t know, alright? Even if this was all for his own good, even if she was doing absolutely nothing wrong.

“...unveil to me what is forbidden!”

Dark clouds burst out of her wand and swirled wildly around the middle of her room. A tumbling mass of black smoke and purple light coalesced ahead of her, abruptly cut in half by a slit of blinding yellow brightness, looking quite a bit like the pupil of an inhuman eye opening wide before her. The mewman princess had to admit, as far as the her spells went, that one was certainly the creepiest! But, whatever, it wasn’t really that much worse than a rain of flaming kittens when you actually thought about it.

Star’s heart was beating like crazy. Of course, Star’s heart was always beating like crazy. But this wasn’t excited-beating, it was more like anxious-beating. Well, worst case it was Jackie and Marco having a great time, and best case it was monsters! Wait, no, she meant the other one, the other way around! Right? If they were having fun, then she ought to be happy for her friend. Besides, it’s not like she ever thought of Marco that way when they first met, and yet...

The view in the portal became clear, interrupting her thoughts. At first Star could only see Marco’s face and torso, he was wearing his usual red hoodie, but the hood was pulled backwards. His cheeks flustered bright red and a few drops of sweat shining on his brow.

“Oh Marco, Marco, Marco. Good old Marco, always sooo nervous over nothing at all,” thought Star, her frown turning briefly into an amused smile. “You two have been going out for over a month, you can’t spend aaaall your life getting nervous around Jackie!” she chuckled.

If anything, he seemed more nervous than he had back when she had scryed on them during their first date. She had been bored at the cemetery and, and... well, she didn’t want to relive that night! The Marco thing was confusing enough on its own, the last thing she needed right now was beating herself over losing Glossaryck.

Wait, why was Marco still staring ahead with that flustered expression? Why was his mouth hanging open like that? He usually couldn’t stop talking when he was nervous, but this was the first time Star saw him freeze like that. Maybe there was something wrong with her spell? Was she doing this to him, like when she had caused them to fall from Jackie’s skateboard? Or, maybe she had been right all along and they were in trouble!

“Well, Marco, what do you think?” came Jackie’s voice from somewhere outside of the viewing window created by the vortex of Star’s spell. Marco seemed to only stutter in response, “eh... uh... well... wow! Those are... I mean... you are... I mean...”

Then it dawned on Star that the wall behind Marco didn’t seem like any part of the movie theater at all. Nor did it look like they were outside. The wall was too close, and there was a shelf there, and two skateboarding posters. Nah. It couldn’t be. Right? Could it? Star focused on her spell, tried to zoom out or move it to the side or somehow find Jackie in the picture. When she did, her mouth went just as wide as Marco’s.

“Heh, dude, relax,” said the platinum blonde girl. Her eyebrow raised in a quizzical look. In her hand, hanging to the side, was a white and green cotton t-shirt. She let it fall to the floor. “If you keep staring like that, you are going to make me nervous too,” she admonished him with a shrug.

Despite her words, the girl’s body language spoke of a confidence that Star could only admire. It was not the only thing the princess of Mewni had to admire either. Through the black clouds, she could now see Jackie’s exposed upper body, covered only by a matching green bra.

Jackie was hot. Flat stomach and a lean toned body product of a very active lifestyle. Her chest was astoundingly well developed for a fourteen year old. She completed the picture with her expertly tossed around hair and big smart green eyes. Yet, what really made it work was the way she stood there, straight yet relaxed, looking at Marco with a face that said ’yeah, you bet it is your lucky day’. Few girls Jackie’s age were this sexy. Even fewer knew it.

Star’s heart-shaped cheeks went bright glowing red. She shouldn’t be seeing this. They shouldn’t be doing this today. They had said they were just going to the movies. She shouldn’t be seeing this. She shouldn’t be annoyed that his friend was having a good time. She shouldn’t be seeing this. She shouldn’t be comparing her body to Jackie’s. She shouldn’t find the view arousing. She shouldn’t be seeing this!

“So, Marco, are you at least taking that hoodie off?” Jackie asked with a chuckle.

Star was totally going to keep seeing this!

“Yeah, I...” Marco fumbled with the red hoodie. He got a hand out and then back in, then tried to pull it while holding on to one of the arms. Jackie laughed again, until Marco, face completely red, managed to fully take the hoodie off and throw it almost violently to the floor. “Done. See! Hoodie gone. Yeah! Told you, no problem.”

Jackie only smiled as she slowly walked towards him. Her eyes looking right into Marco’s. His own glance remained focused significantly lower than hers until the skateboarder girl was right in front of his face. “Okay, Marco. But I think you still have at least some catching up to do here,” she said playfully as she slid her hands under the boy’s grey t-shirt and planted a kiss on his lips.

Star felt very strange watching this. There was the pang of jealousy she didn’t want to admit to herself, and the pang of guilt for spying on her friends like that. “It’s not spying!” her own mind corrected her, unconvincingly. But there was also an overriding curiosity to see where this would lead. A curiosity that only increased as Jackie pulled back from the kiss and began lifting Marco’s shirt.

Star had seen older Marco’s bare chest during that brief interdimensional jaunt with Hekapoo. What she saw now shouldn’t have possibly compared to those incredible chiseled abs and hot action hero body. However, Marco was still in pretty good shape despite her poking fun at him. In fact, due to years of karate and months of monster fighting, he was in rather great shape! Besides, Star thought, there was something different about this time; this was somehow, in a hard to define way, more real than future Marco had been. The context was a lot hotter too, even if it was Jackie and not herself who was actually directly involved.

“Oh,” Star heard Jackie mutter appreciatively as she finished relieving Marco of his t-shirt, and for a moment it was the cool girl that had her mouth open. She composed it into a smile almost immediately. “Well, I am very glad I invited you up.”

Star realized then that Jackie likely had never seen Marco shirtless before. Well, not recently, at least. She had to remember they were friends since they were children, which, by the way, annoyed Star, for some strange reason. But, well, the thing was, she herself saw Marco shirtless all the time. They shared a bathroom after all, and they often got ready together. She had seen him with only a towel like a million times! So had Janna... for some reason. But this might be a first for Jackie. “Enjoy the view, girl...” she whispered to the empty room, and she truly honestly hoped Jackie did.

“Eh...” Marco seemed a lot more self-conscious than his date about being exposed like this, even if it was only his upper body. “Do you, do you do this often? Invite boys up, I mean?” A split second later, he realized with horror what he had just implied. Star knew him well enough to know his mouth had just been running in automatic, but she wondered if Jackie would understand that, and give the boy a chance to retract the metaphorical foot he had just inserted in said mouth by accident. “I mean... I didn’t meant...”

Jackie chuckled. “No. First time ever, actually. You?” she asked with an eye twinkle that made it pretty clear she knew the answer.

“No! I mean, yes! I mean no! I mean, first time too. With girls, I mean. Not with boys. I mean, not that I have done it with boys either...” Marco stammered, and Jackie laughed. She pressed her body against Marco’s naked torso and leaned in for another kiss. This one much longer and much more passionate than the first. The roundness of her breasts compressed ever so slightly against his slim but toned body. Her hands cupped the seat of his jeans, while Marco’s awkwardly found their way to the small of her back.

What Star was feeling now was so much more complicated than jealousy. She felt flustered bright red, and her face was literally glowing. Not figuratively glowing, mind you. Shut-down-the-lights-and-use-it-as-a-lamp glowing. She felt the palms of her hands holding the wand begin to get sweaty. She felt curiosity and excitement overpower her poorly suppressed envy as her eyes were glued to the scene unfolding before her. She felt this was so wrong, in the best possible way.

“Uh. Bad girl,” she joked aloud, and even she wasn’t sure if she meant Jackie or herself.

Marco’s hands climbed up Jackie’s back, until they reached the clasp of her bra, and after feeling around for just a few moments, they undid it. The girl backed away from the kiss then in surprise, the bra still hanging there, covering her nipples and most of her breasts but flowing down perilously low over them. “Wow, Marco. I certainly wasn’t expecting that!” she blurted, with genuine surprise in her expression. “I thought guys usually had trouble with that bit,” she chided, seeming both amused and impressed.

Marco was smiling at her. “Well, it is a long story. You wouldn’t want to know, believe me,” he said, as he self-consciously ran his left hand through his own hair.

“No way! Now you have to tell me,” Jackie retorted. Her eyes seemed to smile even more than her mouth. “Come on, Marco. Tell me!” Her voice lingered on the last word for added emphasis.

“Well... it’s just, this is going to sound really weird...” he began, nervously shifting his posture. “I... practiced.“

“You practiced?” she said, sounding confused. Then, after a few moments, “but I thought this was your first time? I mean... not that it is bad if it isn’t, dude. I have at least kissed boys before. It is just you just said...”

Jackie seemed a bit awkward herself now. Star noted. There was something in her, something petty and childish that drew some measure of satisfaction about the fact the cool girl was not always so damn cool.

“It is. It definitely is, I promise,” Marco rushed to reply. “I didn’t practice with a girl having them on or anything like that. I kinda. Well... I kinda practiced on Star’s bras, from her drawer, put around a chair.”

Jackie’s face seemed only mildly shocked. Star’s eyes went wide like saucers. She took a hand off her wand and subconsciously reached to the back of her own bra, feeling the clasp. Had Marco been unhooking it? It was, soooo weird. But at the same time, she didn’t mind. No, she realized, she didn’t mind at all. Besides, she did weirder things than that. Not underwear related, but surely weirder. She could have helped him with that if he had asked... as a friend, of course.

“It wasn’t a perverted thing, I swear! I wanted to know how to do it. Precisely so I wouldn’t fumble like all the guys in the movies or the stories, and ruin things, so I practiced. But now I realize you must think I am a gigantic creep, and I messed everything up again!” ranted Marco, panic rising in his voice, making him speak faster and faster.

Finally, Jackie’s roaring laugher interrupted him. “Chill, Marco, relax. Yes, it is a bit weird, but not any weirder than the cat pictures, or the truth-or-dare box, or well... the neck guy.” They both shuddered and she grinned at him. “Besides, it was pretty hot before the explanation. You were right, I shouldn’t have asked,” she made a shrugging movement and slid the bra through one arm and then the other, pulled it in one hand, extended her arm outwards and, with a self-assured move, let it fall to the floor. “Well, show me, what else have you practiced?”

Star curled inwardly a little bit. Her joy at learning about Marco’s use of her underwear suddenly deflated as she observed the sight before her. It wasn’t just that Jackie’s assets made her feel insecure by comparison, which they did, and that did not help. They were not only quite the handful for a girl Jackie’s age, but super round and super perky, with perfect pink nubs on top… But also, Star couldn’t help but notice the way Marco was looking at his date now. Part deer in the headlights, part ravenous wolf.

He was completely out of words and completely out of his normal range of expression. His eyes fixated on the girl’s breasts, his mouth opening and closing on its own, a bulge in his pants visible even through the magical portal. He looked entranced, ensorcelled. Star thought to herself that this was a spell Jackie could cast and she couldn’t. She wished there was anything that would make Marco look at her like that. Without her noticing, the wand began glowing bright green.

“No, no, no, you don’t!” she shouted and the green glow dissipated as she fought to regain self-control.

Star wasn’t about to let her wand blast her two best friends, ruin their date and, perhaps worst of all, stop the show! As jealous as she was of Jackie, what Star Butterfly wanted more than anything in the world right now was to see her “bestie” in action.

Some part of Star briefly realized something quite interesting in the moments that followed: When it came to dating Jackie, nine times out of ten, Marco was a wreck of insecurities, babbling and fumbling around. However, there were those rare moments when something else seemed to take over him. A cool elegance, a way to move like he was a dancer confidently entering the dance floor. She had seen him do it when he had received Jackie at their home for their first date, and she was seeing it now.

He gently guided Jackie into her own bed, his arm holding her back as he slowly lowered her down and placed himself on top of her. It was there in way he smiled at her before going in for a long passionate kiss as he gently placed Jackie’s head directly on her pillow. It really felt like he was leading her into a strange form of slow dance, and for a second it seemed to the Mewni princess like she could hear faint Waltz music in the background. Then, whatever part of Star was processing the realization immediately forgot it, as the rest of her took in the view.

“Oh, Marco... you are doing... a-mazing!” Star grinned with barely restrained joy, as her best friend started trailing kisses down Jackie’s neck.

She was glad for her friend, she really really was. Also, admittedly, she was getting quite into watching him do his thing. The princess’ cheeks where literally glowing scarlet now. Where again, literally meant literally. Yes, quite into it, concluded Star to herself.

Jackie only let out a soft gasp, but her hands seemed to grasp the bedsheets far more strongly than required. Now Star wondered what it would be like to be in Jackie’s place, with the boy’s lips pressing and sucking against her own neck. Her hands let go of the wand and she too grasped the edge of the bed.

In that moment, the portal should have vanished. Her wand should have fallen to the floor. Neither happened. Instead the wand remained floating in mid air, projecting the view before her, and Star didn’t care one bit to investigate the why. She was not one to question her own magic much when it was working to her advantage, and especially not right now.

“Ah Marco. I am really really glad I asked you out,” said Jackie. As the boy lifted his head from her neck, the blond girl took his left hand on her own and calmly placed it against her right breast.

“Oh...” Marco seemed to snap back from whatever trance he was in, and Star once again recognized the nervous boy she shared a home with. Which was just as good, since otherwise she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep any composure while watching such an arousing scene. “I, oh... thanks. I am glad too.”

“You know? It’s better if you play with them. Like this,” Jackie took Marco’s hand again, stretched out two of his fingers and slowly guided them so that they were describing a circular motion over her nipple.

Marco was flustered beyond belief, and as adorable in his own nervous Marco way as he had been hot in his take-charge dancer trance. Jackie kept eye contact with the boy while letting out a very soft satisfied gasp. Damn, Star thought, this girl really was cool. She could understand why Marco liked her. She also really needed to remember that move for, well, reasons.

“Eh, Jackie. How far are we planning on taking this?” Marco asked.

Star observed that his hand kept circling right where Jackie had left it, even as Jackie’s own hands both came to rest behind the girl’s head. Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much, Star thought.

“Depends, dude. How far you want to take it?” the girl replied, as she lay in bed in what would pass for a perfectly relaxed manner if not for the hardened peaks on her chest.

“Ok, enough. No one has any right to be this cool as a teenager on her first time, in any dimension!” thought Star. At the same time, she was also looking at Marco for a response. She wasn’t really sure what she wanted his response to be. Did she want this to end here and now, or to have it continue to its last consequences? Even if that meant her bestie was going to lose his first to someone other than herself? It was barely a whisper when Marco said it, and even softer as Star spoke, exactly at the same time. “All the way?”

Jackie’s mouth opened briefly into a small circle shape of surprise as she looked at Marco. Then he started backpedaling, “I... I mean, if you want. Only if you want... sorry... shouldn’t have...”

Jackie’s arms pushed him back to the bed and her face rose up to shut up Marco with a deep passionate kiss. Then, with a move that Star almost missed, the skateboarder girl managed to roll both of them around, so that Marco was lying on the bed and she was the one sitting on top of him.

“I want to, Marco. All the way sounds great. But let’s take our time to get there, ok? I mean, we have all night.” She didn’t so much wink as, well, twinkle her eyes at him. Marco’s face went red and he quietly nodded.

Jackie had started kissing and caressing down Marco’s chest. She worked slowly, pausing often to look at him. His face, Star intently noted, alternated between surprise and bliss, and Jackie hadn’t even done much yet. Star wondered, with a pang in her chest that felt partly like drinking something too cold too fast, if Marco would react that way to Star doing something like that, or if he did only because it was Jackie Lynn Thomas.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Marco gasped abruptly. Star took a moment to notice Jackie’s right hand, grasping something in the middle of the boy pants. Star noted with surprised glee how the cylindrical shape extended on the fabric well beyond the area around which Jackie’s hand was closing. It looked pretty big. The girl moved her hand up and down the length of it a few times through the fabric and then let it go. Star’s face frowned briefly in disappointment as Jackie seemed to go back to kissing Marco’s chest. Then, with a swift movement, she unbuttoned Marco’s pants and pulled them down, as well as the boxers beneath. It was Star’s turn to gasp. Her eyes went wide once more.

“Marco, Marco, Marco... where were you hiding that?” Star noted with astonishment, after composing herself a bit.

Well, truthfully speaking, she didn’t have many points of comparison. She and Pony Head had seen pictures, and Marco wasn’t as big as the pictures, but he was still a teenager, and the pictures seemed, well, overly-optimistic. It just seemed bigger than Star expected it to be. When she had thought about it. Once. Or twice. Well, a few times, but just out of curiosity. Well, plenty of times but curiosity was sort of her thing.

“I do not often fantasize about Marco’s penis!” Star shouted to the empty room, unconvincingly.

Jackie was handling it with a lot more composure. Literally and figuratively. Her hand was directly around it now and moving very slowly. She was halfway back to a sitting position, as she used her free hand to finish helping the boy beneath her out of his pants and underwear. She was looking at him and, when their eyes met, she gave the flustered boy a broad smile.

“Have I mentioned yet that I am really glad I asked you out?” she tossed out casually.

“I... eh. You have…” he replied. He held his arms stiff at his sides, and looked very uncertain of what to do next. Jackie chuckled. Star would have too, if she had been looking at her friend’s arms at all, instead of, well, elsewhere on him.

“Marco. I just wish you would relax. You got a girl half naked, on top of you, holding your dong.” He seemed to tense even more in her hands at this, but Star wasn’t sure if she had just imagined it. “I think you are way past the point where you can mess it up,” declared Jackie. Then a mischievous smile seemed to form on her face. “Well, I think I figured a way to help you relax, handsome...“

“Ah... and, how would you do that, eh... Jackie?” his face contorted a bit and then he flashed a strange expression at Jackie that Star was sure was Marco’s attempt at a sexy smile. Well, not a bad first try, Marco, I guess. She thought.

Jackie’s response eye twinkle was a whole other level, though. She let go of Marco’s cock. “Well. I am going to rub your shoulders, like this.” She proceeded to do just that, as she leaned over Marco again. “And I am going to kiss you, like this.” She proceeded to demonstrate.

Then, she separated her face from Marco’s and looked right into his eyes. “And now I am going to go down your chest kissing it again, and when I reach the bottom I am going to take your hard cock in my mouth and blow you until you are so relaxed you cannot lift yourself off this bed,” she declared in total seriousness.

Marco went bright red all over, eyes seemed about to fall out of his sockets. Figuratively, of course, Star noted, not like Glossaryck’s, thankfully. She dismissed that disturbing thought with a quick shudder. Then she looked at Marco babble for a few seconds without hearing much what he was saying. He was way tenser than he had been before and Jackie was laughing once more. She had said the previous line with a completely straight face and even a sultry tone that seemed out of place coming from the high school girl, but was now trying hard to repress her laugh. Star, however, wasn’t, “oh, you sneaky girl... hahaha... that was priceless. The look on his face. Awwww poor easily-embarrassed Marco!”

“W... Uh... eh... you, what? I mean... eh...” Then it finally dawned on him. “That’s mean! You did that only to see me get even more nervous!”

“What can I say? You are too cute when you are flustered.” Marco’s face seemed annoyed for a moment. That is, until Jackie clarified, “I am still going to do it, though,” at which point he went back to flustered.

Jackie’s kisses went lower and lower through Marco’s chest and the boy seemed to shiver a little as she did. Star was frozen now. Was Jackie really going to? Well, duh, of course she was, that was part of doing what it had been pretty obvious for a while they were about to do. Marco himself had explained her that whole thing with the bases, and it’s not like she didn’t know how it went on Mewni (it was, all in all, pretty similar, there was that whole step with the oils and silk that they seemed to skip on Earth, but in general...).

Then Star realized that she was seeing Jackie’s lips close around her best friend’s cock, and her mind went blank.

She should have been hurt at the fact that she was losing Marco this way. Or maybe horrified that she was looking at a friend doing this without his knowledge. But Star wasn’t either of those things. She was mostly just staring, eyes big as saucers and face glowing so hard you could probably use it to read a book... “Marcoooo.” She pulled her hands up from the bed and slowly roamed them through her own chest over her shirt.

She was, she decided to admit to herself, after long moments of indecision, very very horny.

Jackie’s mouth eased down Marco’s shaft and then back up. Slowly at first. Taking in only half length. Then deeper. Then faster. Then slower again. She tried flicking her tongue at the tip. Then breathing on it. Then moving her tongue around as she took it in. Star’s mind only half realized what Jackie was doing. She was too focused on taking off her own top and looking at Marco’s flustered face, taking in the gasps and moans from her bestie. She allowed herself a brief spot of fantasy, in which it was her, not Jackie, the one making her bestie shiver with excitement in that very same way. Would she be able to do that half as well as the human girl could?

Star did realize, however, that Jackie was unsure of what to do, that she was learning what worked by Marco’s reactions, that she had never done this before and that she was nervous as hell. She was a quick learner, and there was no way Marco would notice her small hesitations and some of her sillier attempts while he lay in bed, eyes closed taking in the pleasure. Still, Star could see that this was clearly Jackie’s first time for anything after this point, and that the girl herself wasn’t nearly as relaxed as she pretended to be. None of it mattered, of course. Jackie was doing great. Marco was on Cloud Nine. Well, Star thought, she had been literally on Cloud Nine once and it didn’t seem quite that enjoyable, so maybe Cloud Ten or Eleven. Eleventy even!

Star was leaning over the edge of the bed. Left hand playing with her naked chest. Eyes darting from Marco’s expressions to Jackie’s movements. Her hand had somehow managed to get trapped between her legs, which now pressed it firmly against the middle of her pants. She hadn’t planned of touching herself that night until way after Marco returned from his date and everyone had ostensibly gone to sleep, but at this point it wasn’t a conscious decision anymore, it was a need. She was sure the images she was now seeing would be burned into her mind for future use as well.

Marco was panting now. Now it was his turn to grasp the blanket and Jackie’s movements became faster and faster. “Jackie... you should probably know... I am about to... you know...”

The girl took that as her cue to go even faster. Then, Marco seemed to shudder and let out a single additional moan. A moment later, Jackie’s eyes went wide with surprise. Not that she hadn’t been expecting it, Star reasoned. She was warned after all. “Which, by the way, was pretty thoughtful. Very Marco,” Star thought with some appreciation as she twisted her nipple between her fingers.

Although Jackie was still inexperienced at this whole thing, she still gave it the good college try. She looked at Marco in the eyes, gulped it all in, and then slowly went up to hug the boy laying on her bed.

“Well... how was it?” she seemed hesitant. For a rare moment, Jackie seemed unsure of herself, her cheeks red as well. Marco didn’t respond at first and kept his eyes closed, Jackie seemed to start to frown. “I didn’t, you know, mess up, right?” She laughed nervously, trying to pass it as a cocky joke.

Marco kissed her. He had lifted himself of the bed and kissed her right on the lips and held it for a long time as the kiss became one of their most passionate. Star looked with approval, somewhat tempered by a slowly rising jealousy now that her hands were back to gripping the bed and her arousal was getting back to reasonable levels. “You so are a good guy, Marco Diaz, you know that, right?” She imagined for a moment having had to do what Jackie just did with Tom, her ex-boyfriend. How would he have reacted? What if she hadn’t been as good at it as Jackie seemed to have been?

“You know where my mouth just was, right?” asked Jackie raising an eyebrow as her lips and Marco’s became separated.

“I will probably remember that for the rest of my life. So, yeah,” Marco said. He smiled at Jackie and ran his fingers through her hair. “Jackie, that was amazing. I have been fantasizing about you doing that to me since, well, since I fantasize about anything, really, and it was still better than I had ever dreamed of...”

Jackie was red. Bright red. Jackie Lynn Thomas, professional cool person, was flustered from cheeks to ears. Marco seemed to notice. His expression became surprised for a moment, then faded into a content smile. If Jackie had intended for him to relax, she had succeeded.

“You know. I wanted to ask, though...” he said innocently, “... that thing previously, the words, the whole ’take your hard cock into my mouth’ bit. Where did that come from?”

Jackie went red once again. “Well, it is a long story...” Then, realizing what that sounded like, she smiled and seemed to regain a measure of confidence as she echoed Marco’s words, “you wouldn’t want to know, believe me.”

“Well, you know about the bra thing. Seems only fair,” Marco pressed.

“It is from porn, Marco. I just tried my best to come up with a line like the ones I have heard in a porno,” Jackie shrugged, but the effect was only partial, she still seemed a bit embarrassed about it.

“You watch porn?” Marco said surprised.

“Who doesn’t?” said Star.

“I mean. Nothing bad with that,” Marco hastily added. “I watch porn. I just didn’t think girls did!”

“Awww, Marco,” said Star.

“Well, I do, at least,” offered Jackie. “I know sex doesn’t really turn out like in pornos... usually,” she laughed. “But, well, they are hot to watch.”

“Not nearly as hot as what I am seeing now, though,” said Marco, his voice a bit deeper for a second as he looked Jackie up and down. He rolled himself to be on top of Jackie once more, which was easier than what she had done, since they had started sideways this time. “I think is only fair now,” he paused, “if I return the favor.”

Jackie seemed confused for a moment, then she smiled at Marco. “Romance movie?”

“Aw, come on!” Marco complained. “How did you guess?”

“Well, you are still going to do it, right?” said Jackie, smiling at him. Star gasped in anticipation.

Moments later, Marco was pressing his right hand against Jackie’s left breast, rubbing around in circular motions as he suckled on her neck and slowly made his way down until reaching the same height with his mouth as well. He was looking Jackie in the eyes as he flicked his tongue a couple of times over her right nipple, then lowered his mouth on it and began some slow motion that Star couldn’t see but was all too happy to imagine. The princess hands once more reached for her own chest. “Go get her, tiger!” she said with a bittersweet smile.

Jackie just pulled her head back and began moaning, first rarely and softly, then more and more desperately as Marco’s hands and mouth attacked her chest. He alternated sides with his tongue and lips, speed and intensity increasing in tandem with the girl’s noises. One hand always focused on the remaining breast while the other one unbuttoned Jackie’s pants and caressed her legs. With a grunt, the blond girl began thrusting herself out of her own pants and pulling away her own underwear.

“Marco. Get, the fuck, down there already!” she shouted. Star hoped the girl parents weren’t home. Fortunately for her, Mr. and Mrs. Diaz had gone away for the weekend, because the mewman girl was also making no effort to be quiet.

Star pushed her hand into her hastily-unbuttoned pants just as Marco lowered himself onto Jackie’s pink slit. Wait, did Earth girls not have hair there? Or had Jackie removed it as a fashion choice?

Star didn’t get to hold that thought for long. All she could concentrate on now was Marco’s face between Jackie’s legs, again seemingly moving slower at first then rapidly picking up tempo as Jackie began to thrash around the bed and moan even louder than before. Her naked chest panted furiously and a shiny layer of sweat began to form over her. Star was rubbing herself furiously but she was getting to where they were both going a whole lot slower than Jackie. She was on the hand local and the skater girl was taking the Marco express!

Jackie exploded with a shout into a convulsing orgasm then and the action in the portal stopped, leaving Star at the halfway station. “How was that even possible? Marco was a boy and this was his first time...” thought Star frustrated. There seemed to be no way he could be this good at it. Except. Star cheeks lit in realization, briefly flashing in the shape of two pairs of maracas, “Oooh... dancer mode...”

“Ahh... ahhh... Marco, that was...” Jackie panted, “I never... well, I have, but never like this. Damn, Marco, if I had known we would have started dating ages ago!”

“So...” Marco raised his head from between Jackie’s legs were it still rested. “You are basically saying you are only with me for the sex?” he asked, seriously.

Jackie blinked. “Eh... no... I mean, I am with you because you are kind, and brave, and always lift yourself up no matter what. I...” Marco was smiling. Star was laughing to herself, if still a bit bummed she had not been able to finish herself. She had gotten the joke before, but Jackie was realizing just now.

“Heh, you just wanted me to say that stuff, right?” Jackie smiled. Marco smiled back.

“Well, if you had said you were with me only for the sex that would also have been good for my ego,” he joked.

“Fine, Don Juan, I am in love with you both because you are a great guy and because that tongue of yours is a weapon of mass seduction, happy now?” she smiled broadly at Marco and then giggled as he went once again a hundred percent non-verbal.

“Eh, uh, ah...” he stammered.

“But honestly, Marco,” added Jackie. “I only hope this was nearly as good for you as it was for me.”

“I... eh... of course it was! It was awesome and you are awesome and... wait? did you say love?” Marco finally caught on.

Star’s mouth had been hanging open since Jackie’s confession.

“I mean...” Jackie started. “Dude, no pressure. I don’t need you to say you love me as well. I also don’t mean that I think we are soulmates or destined together or anything like that. But, Marco, you are my boyfriend, and you know I like you, and I know you at least have had a crush on me for a while. I think you said once that you wanted to get to know me better, and I am not sure if you know me better yet or not, but I have gotten to know you pretty well these few days, and I like what I see, a lot. So, yeah, for the time being, for now, I am in love with you. Hopefully nothing too scary for either of us, right?”

Marco opened his mouth, then closed it again.

Star opened her mouth, then closed it again.

“I... Jackie, it is not scary,” Marco seemed to struggle to explain himself a lot more than his girlfriend had. “Or, I mean, rather, it is, but only because I don’t want to hurt you. Not that I think I will hurt you. It’s just.... Well, Jackie, you know I have liked you, a lot, for years. These few weeks have been a dream come true and this we just did is what all my fantasies have been about since I reached puberty. They were all about you Jackie, and they don’t compare one bit to the reality. You are the coolest most awesome person I know...” Star frowned, “... and I think I am in love with you too. But there is a chance that I am still too infatuated with you to know for certain that I am in love with you and not just with the idea of dating you. I don’t want to tell you that I am in love with you, with you really, until I am absolutely certain that I am. I think I am, just, well, playing it safe... hopefully that’s not too bad an answer...”

Jackie’s smile told Star that it wasn’t. The princess herself listened to the whole explanation with some amount of surprise. So, Marco wasn’t sure he was in love after all? Maybe he would fall out of love with Jackie, or fall in love with someone else. Nah, no way! He was in love, it’s just that he didn’t want to tell Jackie that unless he was extremely sure about it. He was just being the...

“Safe Kid!” Jackie laughed. “Awww… Nah, Marco. I can understand not yet having had enough time to tease apart the fantasy from the reality. Especially this early in the relationship. Maybe it is easier for me, since you weren’t my fantasy before, after all.”

Marco looked crestfallen.

Jackie raised and eyebrow. Right, kinda hard to complain after she had told him she was in love with him. “That was not a bad answer at all,” she continued. “Especially because now I know, that if and when you say it, you’ll really mean it.” She smiled at Marco and they stared into each other’s eyes for a few moments.

Star was feeling left out again, before realizing that she should be left out. She wasn’t supposed to be seeing this at all!

“By the way, Safe Kid,” Jackie asked after a few moments. “Do you have any condoms around?”

Marco blinked a few times, “... yes.” Then got up from the bed and picked his wallet from his pants. A moment later he was back in the bed, holding a strip of five condoms.

“Five?” Jackie asked.

“You can never be too prepared!” Marco answered. “What if we break one while opening it, or it falls behind the bed or...”

“Just fuck already!” Star cried.

Moments later, Star got her wish. Jackie had been jacking Marco back to full length while he again sucked at her breasts and caressed her insides until a finger or two slid slippery and easily into her. Star had begun rubbing herself as well, hand inside her pants, legs pressing against it. She saw the quick movement with which Jackie opened the wrapper and rolled the condom down Marco’s length. Again, Star wondered what it would be like to touch Marco’s stiff member herself and the thought sent a shiver down her spine. As Jackie lowered herself back onto the bed and Marco positioned himself to enter her, Star wished it was her there instead of the other girl. That it were her wet folds that her friend were about to plunge himself into instead of Jackie’s, her body pressed under his strong arms, her legs spreading to grant him entrance.

For a moment, a very brief moment, there was nothing else that mattered, nothing else that she wanted. Star wished, with all her heart and soul, not quite that she could replace Jackie - she couldn’t bear to wish heartbreak upon the boy - but to have Marco like she did, to somehow be with him in the same way the other girl was. Not just the sex, either, the entire thing: their banter, their nervous laughter, the way their eyes lingered on each other’s. But also, yes, the sex too, definitely! To be with him was in that instant her deepest heart desire. Suddenly, she was pushed backwards onto her bed and she felt the first slow but sure thrust enter her.

Star’s eyes opened wide. She was laying on her bed, as if an invisible force pinned her there, a force she couldn’t fight no matter how much of her strength she put into it. She had her pants on, her underwear too, and yet she felt something enter her through them, something thick and hard going in and out of her. She looked up at the portal, saw Jackie with her arms around Marco’s back as he rhythmically thrust into her. She felt the same rhythm pounding against her own cunt, sliding in and out of her with perfect synchronization to what she was seeing through her portal. Her wand was glowing a bright green, bright enough to cover the entirety of Star’s vast room.

“Oh no, Marco!” Star didn’t meant to do this. This was too much. Seeing it was one thing, but this, this was not right. She heard Jackie moan and she felt her own breath quicken. The thrusts came faster and faster now. She tried to go into herself, to dip down, to use magic to get her wand back or to cancel the spying spell. Her mind was going crazy, this was too intense, too fast, too wrong. “Oh yes, Marco!!“

Star had stopped fighting it. Her moans mixed with Jackie’s and with Marco’s grunts. Her friend was reacting to the flesh and blood girl there with him, but for some reason it seemed his movement was in perfect synchrony with Star’s as well. She could feel her wetness drenching her underwear as her best friend’s ghost dick fucked her to a climax. All three of them riding the same intense roller-coaster. Back outside Jackie’s room, a red light illuminated the sky, but in Star’s room only green brightness prevailed.

“Jackie, I am going to...” Marco shouted, his voice breaking.

“Me, toooo... Marco!” Jackie shouted. Her legs going around to embrace Marco’s body and push it even more firmly towards her own.

“Me three!” exploded star.

Marco collapsed atop Jackie. Sweat drops glistening on his back. Jackie panted below him, her eyes almost rolled back completely into her head.

“That was... amazing!” Star was the first to recover. Then realized what had just happened. What she had done. Had she just... used her friend? Her smile turned into a frown and she began pulling herself off the bed. She grabbed her still floating wand with one hand and readied herself to yank it away. Her expression was one of anger, red hot anger at herself. This ended now. She shouldn’t have done that. Friends didn’t do something like that. Well, not without their friend’s permission at any rate.

“Marco...” Jackie was still panting under the karate boy, “... this is probably weird timing, but can I ask you a question about Star?“

A pale hand let go of the floating wand.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Old Flame

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place between “Running With Scissors” (S02E16b) and “Just Friends” (S02E20b) It also takes place immediately after Chapter 1. This story so far is considered compatible with SvtFoE season 2 events up to that point.

“About Star?” Marco asked surprised, as he rolled himself off of his date and onto the bed beside her.

“Well, I mean...” Jackie seemed unsure for a moment. Her cool facade once more slipping away. Star thought the girl maybe hadn’t yet fully recovered from the powerful emotions of the afternoon, or from her recent climax. On the other hand, perhaps she was just nervous about broaching this particular topic, whatever it was. But, Star thought, why would Jackie be nervous about something that involved her? And why on Earth or Mewni was she even thinking about that at a time like this, when she could be relaxing and cuddling with Marco? Because, well, that’s what Star would have done. As friends, of course! Besties could cuddle too, right? “It is just, Star is a cool girl, Marco. Heck, she is literally out-of-this-world. You two live together and do everything together...”

Star’s hand trembled over the wand, her cheeks glowing bright at the girl’s description, both of herself and her relationship with Marco. She could see Marco’s puzzled frowning look, though, she new what was coming. She really ought to give them some privacy now. But she couldn’t. What was Jackie about to ask? Was she jealous of the time Marco spent with his bestie? And if she was, what would Marco’s response be? Star could not imagine Marco not being her bestie, but then again, what would he chose, if the one asking was Jackie Lynn Thomas…?

“Jackie, what are you trying to say?” replied Marco. His tone was serious but calm. He laid a hand on the girl’s shoulder, reassuringly.

“Well, Marco, it’s just that a lot of people at school always assumed you two were, well... a thing,” Jackie turned to look at Marco, and Star couldn’t help but notice how vulnerable the usually cool girl looked. She imagined she herself must not have looked too different, alone in her room, her heart half-stopped in anticipation of the oncoming hit. “I assumed that too. You know, before the sleepover thing. So... are you two or have you two ever...”

Star braced herself. Marco was a nice guy, a great guy, and he almost certainly truly loved Jackie, so there was no reason to expect him to do anything but the obvious. Right? He had to reassure his girlfriend.

He wouldn’t be lying either, Star knew. They had truly never been anything other than friends. She had realized things way too late to have it be otherwise. She had no reason to hope Marco would say anything else.

Yet, Star wanted it to be different. Marco had just been inside her, he had just made love to her, even if he didn’t know it. Well, he also had made love to Jackie, Star reminded herself. The difference was, with Jackie, he had done so knowingly and intentionally. Star felt a heavy weight in her gut. She ought to yank the wand at once, before she heard something that would punch her like a narwhal blast to the stomach. There was absolutely no way Marco was going to say anything she wanted to hear right now.

“Jackie, Star is one of a kind. She is amazing and every day of hanging with her is a super cool adventure.” Star begun to smile. Awww, Marco. She suddenly felt light. Jackie slowly began looking down, away from Marco, and Star could no longer see her face. “She is frustrating at times, but she is brave and cool and, more importantly, a really good person at heart.”

Guilt shot through Star’s entire body like lighting. A good person? After what she had just done? What kind of good person would ever use someone like she just had? No, Marco was wrong about that at least. She was not a good person.

“Yeah, Star is great, Jackie. As a friend.” Star’s heart sunk, bruised and constricted. Jackie slowly looked up to Marco again, surprised. Her cheeks still looked a bit flustered, probably from their earlier activities. “She is the best friend I could ever hope for. But in the end that’s all there is, we are just friends.”

Star’s entire body began to tremble. A tear fell down her left cheek. Of course, Marco, good-friend Marco, was just talking up his bestie, even to his girlfriend. But he still didn’t see Star that way, and in the end...

“I don’t love Star, Jackie...” Marco finished, and something fragile broke inside the Mewnian princess chest. “...I ...I love you.”

Star hit her flying wand with the back of her hand, sending it spiraling against the wall of her room. The green light flickered, the dark clouds exploded all around her, and the image of stupid smiling Jackie, and stupid misleading Marco finally fizzled away. Star knew he had done everything right, he had stood by his girlfriend while not putting down his best friend in the least. Yet she was angry at him. She had wished for something very different, something unreasonable and wrong. But knowing that what you wish for is wrong does not make you wish it any less.

Star sat alone in her bed. Marco liked Jackie, and she was just his friend, and she ought to have known that. Instead, she had used magic to spy on him, to insinuate herself in his most intimate moments with the girl he loved, a girl that was most definitely not Star. She had had every chance to stop: when she saw they were alone and beginning to get intimate, and then when things escalated sexually again and again. She hadn’t even ended it right after she inadvertently... she couldn’t even think it! She had stayed there, uninvited, until he had to explicitly tell her what was what: ‘I don’t love Star’.

In her huge dark room, she brought her hands up to bury her face in them, preparing to let herself cry for a while. She had to let the pain and frustration out, to deal with the confusion between what she knew to be true and what she felt she had just experienced. However, that was not to be, as she was soon interrupted, by the worst possible person.

“Ouch, Starship. I am truly sorry. That really must have been harsh to hear...” spoke a low voice from behind the girl. It sounded sincere enough, concerned even, but that didn’t register inside the princess’ mind at all.

She was supposed to be alone in the house!

Star jolted into full alertness. She jumped up from her bed and grabbed her wand again, pointing it at the intruder. “Who is that?! Come out or prepare to get narwhaled! Wait... Tom?!”

Her demon ex-boyfriend sat on the windowsill, small flames coming out from the palms of his hands and traveling up the window frame. In the light of her wand, Star could see that he was wearing his usual ripped shorts and pentagram tee. He was staring at her with a sad look in his eyes.

Wait! He was looking at her while she was shirtless! In her room! When she was supposed to be alone!

“How long have you been there?!” she yelled indignantly, while she covered her chest with her left arm. With the right, she kept her wand trained on Tom. “Don’t you know it is super rude to spy on people?!”

Tom smiled and raised an eyebrow. Actually, he raised two, but you could only barely see the one in his middle eye when he did that. He waited for Star’s mind to process what she had just said.

“Oh...right...” Star lowered her wand and blushed in shame, realizing exactly how hypocritical she was being right now. “How... how much did you see?”

“More than I probably should have,” answered Tom with a sad expression. It dawned on Star that Tom liked her, really liked her, and he had just seen herself having... well, magic-proxy-sex with Marco or whatever.

“Mmm. Yeah. Me too,” commented Star quietly, lowering her wand. They stared at each other in uncomfortable silence. Tom looking dejected and Star covering her chest and withdrawing into herself. She turned her back to him, facing the opposite wall as she stood in the middle of her room. “You still should go away now, Tom...”

“I probably should,” he admitted. “But, are you sure you want to be alone after that, though?”

The demon boy shrugged himself up the window frame. He floated slowly towards Star, a trail of fire following his wake through the room. Carefully, he extended his arms and put his hands on top of Star shoulders and begun massaging her back.

“Star, I know you like Marco. I get it. Any other day I would be firing up in rage over that. But I really can’t stand seeing you like this. We had something, Starship, and maybe it is long over now.” His hands moved from their positions, a single finger in each tracing a line of flames over Star’s skin, stopping just above her mewberty wings. The flames left a red trail, but no real burns. Star shivered, in a good way. That felt pretty good, a little bit of pain followed by a whole lot of soothing warmth. “But I’d like to think I can still at least make you feel a little better.”

“Oooohhh...” moaned Star appreciatively, and her eyes opened wide as Tom traced the side of her wings with a clawed finger.

He wasn’t half bad at this, and for a second she wondered why she had ever broken up with the fiend in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t so bad that he was around now. Tom wasn’t who she had hoped for, but she had to admit, she was glad to not be alone in the house right now.

Five claws danced through her back, leaving a trail of light scratches and flames. It was just barely painful, but in a good way, or perhaps in a deliciously bad way.

“Star, what you did just now was pretty bad, we both know that.” Tom’s words hurt Star more than his claws, and in a less pleasant way. “Fortunately for you, I know a thing or two about being bad.”

The demon pulled back on her hair and kissed her neck, nibbling carefully with his pointy teeth, stopping right before piercing the skin. A single claw reached to the front began tracing one-finger flaming circles around the mound of her right breast. It started far away from the center, but slowly worked inwards closer and closer, following a sweetly torturous spiral. She felt her heartbeat quicken again and a wetness begin to build up in her crotch, one unrelated to the whole seeing eye affair.

Tom’s left claw grabbed at her ass through her pants, and she could feel a burning heat going through the fabric. His breath also felt impossibly hot on her neck, in both a literal and figurative sense.

“Face it, Starlight. You don’t belong with Earth-boy, Jackie does. They are both nice safe kids. But you, you are a rebel, you live for danger, for transgression. You belong with me…” he whispered in her ear, commanding and in charge in a way whispers had no business sounding. Guilt trip aside, that voice was so deliciously not safe.

Maybe Tom was right, maybe she did belong with him. And, would that even be that bad? Marco didn’t think of her that way, he just thought of her as a friend. Tom desired her, and the way in which he showed it was really turning her on right now. Besides, they had had lots of fun when they dated. He was always so confident and so dangerous. Why was it that they broke up in the first place? The claw reached her nipple and pressed in, with a sharp pointy nail. Star gasped, losing her train of thought.

She felt a claw going into the back of her pants, raking against her buttocks, pressing firm trails of fire and measuredly hurt skin. The hand slid out from her pants again and she felt it slap her through the fabric. Why on earth was him spanking her ass making her feel so good right now? It was not usually one of Star’s turn ons. At least, she didn’t think it was. Was it because right now she wanted to be punished? Because Marco was wrong and she wasn’t a good person? Maybe this whole Tom thing wasn’t really such a bad idea. Perhaps she had made a mistake breaking up with him, they did have much in common. They were both bad deep down. So, why had she ended things?

Of course, there was the anger thing. That wasn’t fun. One second Tom was being great, the next he was exploding in flames and threatening to hurt her. Yeah, that was not a good thing, but she was, well, Star. Even back when they had been dating, before her birthday, before she got the wand, the princess hadn’t been exactly defenseless against him. She had one mean kick, if nothing else. Now? Well, now Star had magic powers far stronger than the demon prince’s own. Tom couldn’t hurt Star, unless she wanted him to.

She felt a bite, on the other side of her neck, deep enough to draw a single drop of blood. Another smack on her ass that left it tender and red through her pants. Oh yes! Tom couldn’t hurt her unless she wanted him to and, right now, she did want him to hurt her. To punish her for what she had just done to her best friend, and to soothe her wounded heart all at the same time.

“You were always more at home in the dark with me,” Tom reminded her as his hand reached around to the front of her pants, undoing the button with a literal magic touch. “Just let me show you how much...”

But there was another thing, though. A small voice in Star’s head was trying to remind her of something. It was not just the anger management issues, not just the rage and the fire and the threats. That was the easy part. The hard part was the plotting. The most infuriating thing about Tom Lucitor was how deceptive he could sometimes be. Not so much just that he lied, but that he manipulated, almost by natural reflex. He was always running some kind of mind game or another, not caring who he hurt to get what he wanted.

“No! Stop it,” Star demanded and slipped sideways from the demon’s embrace. “Tom, I know what you are trying to do,” she explained, summoning the last shreds of determination left in her. She had to set things clear, for herself and for him. To stop this all before it went too far. “This is not about making me feel better. This is about you coming on to me when I am vulnerable, and confused. This is you trying to get us to get back together, and you are doing so in a really sneaky way!”

Tom paused, the flames dancing around him turning up, eyes glowing red for a second, then he recovered back to a controlled but frustrated expression. “Can’t it be both, Star? Can’t I want you both to feel better and to be mine?”

“No no no, a million times no. We broke up, for good!” Star answered firmly, but not without some internal regret at not having let the demon prince’s seduction scheme play out at least for half an hour longer or so. Her backside, chest, and neck ached, but not nearly as much as her nether regions did. But it was not worth it to get tangled with Tom again. “And things like, well, like this, are part of the reason!”

His eyes glowed bright red once more, his claws tightened, fire danced in between them. For a moment Star feared she would have to deal with another Tom tantrum. That would certainly be the shitty cherry on top of this confusing painful night. Then, as suddenly as he flared up, he calmed down, and sat on her bed.

“Yeah, ok, I guess I get that,” he said finally. Then paused for a bit and looked down at the floor. “It sucks to like somebody that doesn’t like you back, though. Doesn’t it, Starship?”

Star sat on her bed, leaving a small token space between herself and him, feeling a lot less worried now. “Yeah. It really does,” she answered in a slow monotone.

“Can’t even blame you on Marco, you know? He is a great guy to hang out with... pretty good taste in music too,” Tom offered. Perhaps his version of an olive branch? There was a brief moment of silence. Star wondered if that was another ploy. It sounded like a sincere concession, but that was the problem with Tom’s schemes, they always sounded sincere. “Well, you are right, I should be off now.”

Tom took out a tiny bell from his pockets and hit it with an equally tiny hammer. Moments after, an elevator pulled up by a flying demon materialized in flames in front of Star’s window.

“Wait, Tom?” Star said hesitatingly. “We are not getting back together, no matter what. But, you know... if you want it... we could, you know. I could do this for you. For old times sake.”

“Thanks for the offer Star... but no. At least not today,” he extended his arms, and a second later he had floated into the elevator and it had been engulfed in flames. A moment after that, Star was again alone in her room with all her bittersweet thoughts.

She was feeling better now, at least compared to what she felt after listening to Jackie and Marco’s last conversation. Tom had actually truly cheered her up a little, whatever his ulterior motives were. And she? She had just offered him pity sex. ‘Wow, Star, you really do mess everything up!’, she thought to herself.

But, had it truly been pity sex? Or had Star been genuinely excited about the idea of a one night stand with Tom? He was hot, literally and figuratively, and he could do things to her that even Marco, if she had him, would never dare do. Things that Star was pretty sure she wanted done to her. But Tom was a package deal, and she didn’t want a lot of what came with it.

She took off the rest of her clothes, threw a nightie on herself and got into bed.

Forgetting to even cry, Star fell asleep from exhaustion.

----

Star opened her eyes to find the canopy of her bed missing, replaced by a canopy of green leaves, illuminated from behind by the red and purple of a sky under a double sunset. She felt the bright emerald grass against her skin, cushioning her body as it lay there in the open forest. She heard the chirping song of birds she couldn’t quite recognize, harmonizing against the background sound of a waterfall which she couldn’t quite see from her position. From the looks of it, the princess was in a pretty great place, but not on Earth exactly.

“Uh. This is weird. Cool, definitely cool... but weird,” she told herself aloud, on reflex.

She reached around for her wand. Her eyes opening wide as she failed to find it under her pillow. She failed to find her pillow too, for that matter.

‘Ok, Star... either you are dreaming, got captured in your sleep, or something very fishy is going on,’ she thought, jumping to her feet. She began making her way out of the trees, towards the sound of the waterfall. Maybe, if she could get out of the forest and somehow get a better look at the sky, then she would be able to figure out if she had been in this dimension before.

Her hands pushed aside a few final branches of thick undergrowth and then she saw... well... she saw Marco. Except, not her usual Marco.

It was older Marco: sixteen years older, battle hardened, ripped, bad-ass, hot as all hell Marco. He stood there, bathing under a shallow waterfall, submerged inside the river up to his waist, showing his entire naked torso, flowing brown hair tossed around by the light breeze. He didn’t seem to have yet noticed Star, whose own form remained mostly hidden from him behind the last few layers of unfamiliar vegetation. He used one hand to wash the length of the opposite arm’s rather impressive bicep muscles.

“Dream. Definitely dream,” Star muttered aloud as her heart cheeks began flaring up with an almost blinding red glow.

“Got that right. But not your dream, princess,” said a voice behind Star, in a tone two parts annoyance and one part surprise. “So, I have to wonder, what’s Moon’s kid doing in here? Pretty sure her royal lameness would disapprove.”

Star turned around to see a short buxom woman glaring at her. She had pale furry skin, long flowing flame-red hair that almost reached the ground, and an unmistakable pair of huge yellow horns which dwarfed her tiny black crown. The flame floating atop her head was dimmed to a small candle, an arm set on the sorceress own waist.

“Hekapoo?!” Star recoiled in surprise at seeing the ranking member of the Magical High Commission here, of all places. Never mind the fact she didn’t know where here was to being with, other than, apparently, inside a dream. “Wait... not my dream? How can I be dreaming a dream that’s not my dream? That doesn’t make any sense!”

Then, after a brief pause, she added, “uh, does that mean it is your dream?”

“Oh, no, not mine,” Hekapoo said with a satisfied tone and a huge grin that showed her tiny white fangs. She pointed a stubby finger towards the waterfall. “His dream, actually. I am just, kinda, well, you could say I am guest starring. Notsorry.”

Star looked back at Marco, following Hekapoo’s gesture, just in time to see a second Hekapoo emerge through the woods on the other side of the river. That Hekapoo walked a few steps towards the waterfall and then stopped to sit in a nearby rock. The thirty-year-old warrior that was also Star’s bestie looked up, directly at that version of Hekapoo and raised an eyebrow.

“Hello H-poo. Care to join me?” he said with his smooth deep voice, his arms throwing his hair back against the falling water, as if he were simply continuing his cleaning routine.

“Tempting as that sounds, muscles, you know I don’t much enjoy getting wet,” the flame sorceress sitting on the rock replied with a grin and pointed a finger to the flame floating above her head.

Star looked between that Hekapoo and the one besides her in confusion, before remembering that the sorceress could create clones of herself. It was sort of her specialty. Well, that and the dimensional scissors thing, of course.

“Fine, I am coming out, H-poo,” Marco replied with a grin and begun wading towards the shore. “But I can make no promises about not getting you wet.”

Star got it immediately. Especially because she was nowhere near the waterfall, nor Marco for that matter, and yet already getting quite damp herself.

“Look, this show is not exactly going to be for kids, princess. You know that, right?” said the voice of Hekapoo behind her. She sounded more amused than annoyed now.

Star tried processing the situation around her, but her eyes kept going back to Marco, whose waist was slowly emerging from the water. His back was to her now: deliciously broad shouldered, well-toned, and covered in strange but intriguing tattoos in a language she didn’t recognize.

Notwithstanding that excellent view, Star felt very confused. Were these Hekapoos actually Hekapoo, or was she just part of the mewman’s dream somehow? If she was, then her mind had gotten really messed up. This was not her first wet dream about older Marco, not by a long shot. But it was the first in which she imagined any third person there, especially another woman, and especially Hekapoo of all people!

Maybe watching him and Jackie had given her a thing for, you know, ‘looking stuff’? Nah, that couldn’t be it! Could it?

On the other hand, maybe somehow she had indeed gotten into Marco’s dream. Magic like that was always a possibility, especially around Star. But then, it meant that even if Hekapoo wasn’t a figment of Star’s imagination, then she would part of Marco’s, which meant Star was still safe.

Either way, the real Hekapoo wouldn’t know anything about Star being here, and thus would not be able to tell her mom about this. Her mom must neeeveeer know, Star thought with a shudder.

Star’s train of thought derailed and crashed that very moment, when the perfect ass emerged from under the water, as Marco made his way up the opposite river shore. Star’s eyes went wide like saucers as she took in the toned buttocks of the man her bestie would, or at least could, become. The Hekapoo currently standing on the other shore with Marco also seemed to be looking down, composed, yet naughtily expectant, her small fangs protruding from a closed mouth smile.

“My, my, my, that’s quite the sword you got there, muscles,” she teased.

“Turn around. Turn around. Turn around,” Star muttered under her breath. But Marco didn’t seem to notice her. Then, a chilling thought broke through the horniness and Star herself turned around to face her copy of Hekapoo. “Wait, he doesn’t know I am here. So, if you know I am here, and he doesn’t know I am here, then you are not part of him! Are you?”

“Afraid not,” Hekapoo said, smiling at Star as she raised an eyebrow. “Although I fully expect to have a part of him in me quite soon,” she joked.

Star gave her a strange tilted look. Half of her wanted to groan at the terrible pun, half of her was green with envy.

“Both of me here are, well, me. And before you ask, I am not doing much to his mind, just getting my real self involved on something that was going to happen anyways. This is his dream, after all, I am just guest starring on it. This is just my way of getting a piece of the action his dream version of me was going to be getting either way. But, speaking of guest Stars,” she stressed the Mewman princess’ name, “I still don’t know what you are doing here…”

Hekapoo moved in an instant, seemingly disappearing in a blur, and then she was right in front of Star, standing between her and the clearing with the river. She moved her hand through the air, trailing a path of flame. Suddenly the flame seemed to illuminate a partly translucent thread of blood red light going from Star’s chest to the entrance of the clearing, becoming invisible again in direct sunlight. Slowly, a second beam appeared, a dark greenish shadow, gossamer thin, coiled around the first.

“Well, that’s unexpected,” the sorceress noted, looking down at the two translucent strands. As her hand finished the motion, the threads disappeared again.

“What was that? Did you do something to me?” Star jumped up and her eyes narrowed as she looked at the sorceress. She had instinctively raised her arm and taken aim, even though she knew she didn’t have her wand.

“Calm down princess, I was only checking something!” Hekapoo shot back annoyed. “Like I would do any harm to Moon’s kid! Imagine how awkward that would make high commission business alone, not to mention… never mind. The point is that, frankly, these are some pretty dark magics you got mixed in here. I really don’t know how you got yourself linked like this with... oooohhh… wow!”

Hekapoo gasped seemingly out of nowhere, which interrupted her stern admonition. Star saw the sorceress blush and smile. The mewman’s eyes darted to the other shore of the river, where Marco’s lips were pressing against his own copy of Hekapoo’s and a firm hand was gripping her left horn, pushing her close into a passionate kiss.

“So, linked, you said. Right?” said Star. Eyes narrowing again in suspicion.

“Well, yeah, the different versions of me are also linked, of course,” Hekapoo smirked back. “But what I was... ahhh… trying to say is… oh… nice… oooh!”

Star looked back at the clearing and saw Marco’s other hand on the inside of his Hekapoo clone’s right thigh.

“Keep. Talking,” the princess demanded, in a surprisingly imperious voice.

Her own eyes did not move from the scene on the other side of the river. She wanted to know what Hekapoo had to say, but there was no way she was taking her eyes away from older Marco. Why wouldn’t he just turn around already!?

“Whoa, ok, commanding much? Guess it runs in the family. But, well, what I was trying to say is… mmmmhhh... you two are linked, somehow, by magic… it’s complicated,” Hekapoo replied, with some difficulty.

Star would be lying if she said she didn’t enjoy the older woman’s discomfort as she tried to divide her attention, even more so because she could see the scene which caused such effect on the member of the magical high commission. Honestly, come to think about it, if you asked her, she would lie. It was kinda weird that Star was enjoying this, and yet… “What do you mean linked?”

On the other side of the river, Marco had pulled away from the kiss, if only briefly. They seemed to be bantering some more, but Star wasn’t paying attention to their words. Then Hekapoo got up, did something to the ribbon of her dress, and the entire thing fell to the floor, leaving her completely naked and only partly hidden from the princess’ point of view by Marco’s own nude body.

“Linked, as in, well, it’s hard to explain, but you are connected to one another by some form of old magic,” Star’s version of Hekapoo continued in a serious tone, as best she could. “Two links actually, one about a year old, standard soul-bond stuff, one true love, blah, blah, no big deal all things considered. The other one is very recent, however, and it is fairly dark magic too...”

Star’s heart skipped a beat. The All Seeing Eye spell? It was the only thing she could think about that might qualify as both recent and ‘dark magic’. Had she done something permanent to Marco and herself back then somehow?

“Give me a second,” Hekapoo interrupted her explanation. “Be right back.”

Star saw the other Hekapoo, the one with Marco, snap her fingers and the copy beside her flickered out of existence and right back again a moment after. Then, on the other shore, two more Hekapoos also appeared out of thin air, already fully naked.

“Three on one. Think you can handle it, muscles?” one of them asked the boy, no, the man before them.

“You know I can handle all of you, Hekapoo,” Marco answered confidently, his voice was melting Star’s... well, it was significantly further down than her heart.

“Look princess, dark magic is not a toy,” continued the voice behind Star. “Unlike many common spells, the dark arts always come with a price, with consequences. Many are just minor inconveniences which only add up with frequent use, but some can be outright catastrophic...”

The princess was barely paying attention to that lecture. Instead, she stared at the three naked devilish forms and Marco’s firm posterior. Each Hekapoo was a compact toned busty bundle of mischievous smiles and sex appeal, and they now moved on Marco like a well coordinated ensemble. Unfortunately, most of the action was still facing away from Star, but she could see arms rubbing in front and around the man’s toned form. She could spend days just staring at those shoulders, and especially at that ass.

“Also, even if this is not one of those spells, dark magic, as a rule, is powered by a small set of strong emotions. So, I am going to guess…” her Hekapoo continued, in the background of Star’s distracted mind, “... a dark spell powered by lust. So, what the blazes have you been getting up to with that kid, princess?!”

Star’s cheeks went even brighter as she spun around despite her fear of missing out on the view

“It was not on purpose! I messed up. Please don’t tell my mom!” Star managed to say.

Her eyes went wide with fear. If the queen ever found out about this. Well, St. Olga’s wasn’t as bad anymore, but Star was sure she would be pulled away from Earth, at the very least. Which meant, she would be pulled away from Marco!

“Hahahaha... tell Moon?” Hekapoo just fell to the floor guffawing, a single finger clearing a tear of laughter from her eye. “Why would I tell Moon about anything of this? Like I want to explain what I am doing here to her either. All I am saying is, tone it down with the dark magic. Plenty of ways to have fun without the summoning and deal-making… mmmm… case in point.”

Star looked back at the other side of the river, where one copy of Hekapoo kissed Marco, while another ran her hands through his backside and the later knelt down towards his crotch.

“Look, kid, you are not putting the multiverse in danger by casting a spell on a boy you have the hots for, dark magic or not. Which, you know, is the kind of thing I’d actually be forced to report to the magic high commission: threats to any major dimensions and the like. I have no intention of tattling on you just because you are using magic to play with your human boyfriend, and happen to be a gigantic dream voyeur, princess. I am not that kind of hypocrite,” she smiled impishly. “Besides, speaking of hypocrisy, let me tell you: you have no idea what your mom got up to when she was your age, no matter how much she denies it all now. Perfect princess Moon my furry ass!”

Wait, what did her mom get up to when she was her age? Nah, couldn’t be anything like this. Mom just got married to dad and that had been it, right? Right? But then, Star remembered what Moon had said to her about joining the game of flag, “Star, I did a lot of things you won’t be doing.”

For a moment, Star though of pressing Hekapoo for more information, then decided that she really didn’t want to know that much about her mom. Suddenly, another part of what the sorceress had said finally registered in her mind.

“Wait, Marco is not my boyfriend. He is Jackie’s... I mean, he and I are just good friends! And I am not a dream voyeur!” she shouted indignantly and, as always, unconvincingly.

“Oh, really? Just friends? Are you sure?” Hekapoo raised an eyebrow and smirked at the young princess. “This should be amusing.”

Star heard a deep low grunt behind her and turned around to see the three other Hekapoos had grabbed Marco by the arms and turned him around. Two of them began kissing his chest and roaming their hands through his arms, the remaining one winked right towards where Star was hiding.

Star almost missed the wink, her gaze darted directly downwards, to the hard manhood of her crush. She had seen a lot of it that time with Jackie, but still, apparently Marco had grown quite a lot between fourteen and thirty. It was, well, intimidating was an apt way to put it. Not that Star would ever be the one to back down from a challenge if the opportunity ever, well, arose.

“So, you were saying, just friends, and…” a sardonic voice behind her begun, as the three Hekapoos sat Marco on the rock one of them had been occupying before and ran their hands down his chest. One of them going up until she was able to plant a kiss on the hunk’s lips, two of them going lower and lower, until their faces reached the height of his member. A tongue traced each side of the shaft. Star’s eyes glued to the scene. Suddenly it seemed that it was way too warm out here, despite it being around sundown. “... that you are not into watching. Right?”

“Yeah. Uhm. Friends. Not. Into. Waaatchiiing,” Star trailed off without thinking.

She barely noticed Hekapoo getting closer to her, the sorceress also staring towards the scene where she was thrice a participant. Marco’s powerful hands seemed to have grabbed hold of the breasts of the Hekapoo that was kissing his mouth, while the other two began taking turns taking the tip of his cock into their lips, while the remaining one licked the underside.

Whether because this was just a dream, or because older Marco was never really what she thought of as ‘her Marco’, Star didn’t feel anywhere as conflicted as she had when watching him and Jackie. This was not painful and confusing, just plain hot. Sure, Star was jealous of Hekapoo, but it was more like the kind of jealousy you got when you saw someone eating something that looked delicious. Well, exactly like that, actually.

Even across the river and the clearing she heard her best friend grunt and her heart raced. She wondered if Marco was already at his limit. After all, there were three Hekapoos there, and she seemed, well, experienced.

What happened next surprised her. His two hands left the middle Hekapoo’s breasts as Marco’s entire body moved lower and with a swift movement his hands reached at the two remaining copies, lifting them up by their backsides, which he also begun massaging.

“Got you!” he exclaimed. A small remnant of childish amusement was mixed into the deep forceful voice.

“Get on top, H-poo,” Marco commanded the middle clone. His hands grasped around the other two, until two fingers began rubbing the outside of each copy’s crotch.

“Don’t call me, H... ooohh. Ok.” The middle clone wrapped her arms around Marco’s neck and pulled herself up, only to then begin lowering herself onto his dick, just as Marco’s hands begun probing the other two clones, inserting one and then two fingers, while rubbing circular motions gently with his thumbs just above the entrance.

Star heard the breath of the Hekapoo she had nearby quicken, and saw she had pushed her own hand under her dress. The princess was severely tempted to do something quite similar, but that just seemed too embarrassing with the sorceress around, besides, wouldn’t that prove her point?

Marco’s movements started slow, but picked up pace quickly, both with his hands and with his hips bouncing the middle Hekapoo up and down, until it looked like she was riding an out of control warnicorn. Star could hear the moans from the other side of the river, except when they were drowned by the moans of the Hekapoo behind her. “That... ahhh... kid... uff... is... incredible! You are a lucky girl, princess Butterfly!”

“Yeah... lucky. Totally. Totally,” answered Star, a bit sullenly.

The middle clone flame seemed to grow and then go up and up and up, until, with a long moan of orgasmic bliss, she faded out of existence.

“One done. Two to go,” smiled Marco. “How was it, Hekapoo?”

“Do you even need to ask?” the clone to his right responded. Then the three of them got apart and begun to shift position, until Marco was laying on the grass and the two remaining Hekapoos lowered themselves on top of him. One over his crotch the other over his face.

The clone near Star seemed to catch her breath momentarily. “Wait. You can’t be serious! You mean you two really haven’t done it yet?! I thought that whole ‘friends’ thing was just you being coy, princess. I mean, you obviously have the hots for the kid… so, what’s holding you?”

Star felt a pang in her chest. Wait, was the woman, a member of the magic high commission and a friend of her mom, no less, telling her that she should have had sex with Marco? It wasn’t like Star hadn’t considered that, but she had figured it out too late that she was into Marco, and by then, Jackie had already asked him out. So they couldn’t even date now, or kiss, let alone well, what he was doing now with three Hekapoos.

“He. He has a girlfriend... who is not me.”

“And you are letting that stop you?” Hekapoo smirked. “It would not stop me. Clearly it doesn’t here, and it wouldn’t in the waking world either if I were in your place. That boy is too good to let go of the chance. You... aaaahhh... you don’t know what you are... aaaahhhhhhhhh... what you are missing!”

On the other shore of the river, the Hekapoo sitting on Marco’s face had vanished with a long moan and a flame explosion. A moment after, the one sitting on his cock exploded as well.

Marco was sweating, and panting. Nonetheless, he stood back up almost immediately, glancing around expectantly, like a warrior expecting an ambush. “Another clone? So, there are more of you around, H-poo? Are you coming out, or do you want me to find you? Because you know I can play that game too…”

Besides Star, Hekapoo began walking towards the clearing. Then, suddenly, she stopped herself and threw one last, broad smile in Star’s direction, fangs showing. The princess was flustered, cheeks flaming red, legs pressed together, wondering what else she was going to see Hekapoo and older Marco do tonight. But nothing could have prepared her for what would happen next.

“Actually, princess, do you want to give it a try yourself?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: The Man of Her Dreams

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place between “Running With Scissors” (S02E16b) and “Just Friends” (S02E20b). It also takes place immediately after Chapter 2. This story so far is considered compatible with SvtFoE season 2 events up to that point.

“Actually, princess, do you want to give it a try yourself?” Hekapoo had crossed her arms and was looking at Star with an eyebrow raised.

The Mewman princess felt instantly torn between enthusiastic agreement and conflicted restraint. She stood on the tips of her toes, clenching her fists right in front of her mouth, holding in a scream of joy. Her heart told her to say yes to the sorceress’ bold offer, her well exercised sense of adventure pushed her to seize the opportunity, her arousal bid her to not hesitate. Yet, something in the back of her mind disagreed, demanding her to think through her actions.

Star had a reputation, perhaps more well deserved than she often liked to admit to herself, for being reckless and irresponsible. But, over the last year, she had learned some painful lessons about actions and their consequences, and gained a measure of responsibility, especially where Marco was concerned. This, unfortunately, meant that, as much as she wanted what Hekapoo was offering her, she had to consider what this all meant for her and her bestie.

“Wait. What? Really? But, you? I mean, of course yes! But him?” Argh! This shouldn’t be a hard choice at all!

Since when did Star intentionally walk away from fun and excitement? And this was fun and excitement of the best kind! But, well, Marco loved Jackie, not her. He had said so himself. Then again, he had just fucked Hekapoo instead of Jackie too, three times! What did one go with Star change things? It didn’t. It shouldn’t. Not one iota. Right? Right?

“It’s only a dream, princess,” the sorceress goaded her on. “He doesn’t have to know you are not a figment of his imagination. Come tomorrow, you can pretend all this was a figment of yours for all I care. As for me, well, I could very well go another round myself if you say no to my offer, so either way he is getting some. But well, I expect that seeing the two of you will prove more... entertaining.”

“So it is you who is into watching, then?” Star asked, momentarily glad she could bounce back the older woman’s accusation. Hekapoo only shrugged, seemingly quite unembarrassed to admit so. “And, you said it is just a dream, right? Marco is not betraying Jackie if it’s just a dream, and I get this stupid crush out of my system, and no one’s feelings get hurt, correct?”

Hekapoo shrugged. “I make no promises on all that other stuff. But I guarantee you it is just a dream, princess.”

With a wink, the Forger of Scissors pushed the last few branches aside and slapped Star’s back with her other hand, just below the wings, propelling her forward into the clearing by the river. Where Hekapoo’s palm had made contact, a burning mark began spreading through Star’s shirt, then her tights, then her boots. She barely felt the flames on her skin, but within seconds her clothes had burned to ash.

“Wait, what...? Hekapoo!?” Star turned back in surprise. She hadn’t said yes. True, she was about to. But still, what the hell? ‘Just a dream’, she reminded herself and turned again, looking up, ‘just a dream’.

“Star?” Marco called from the other shore.

His tone once more resembled that of the fourteen year old boy she knew, albeit on a deeper vocal register, with a note of surprise and confusion mixed in as well. Yet his body remained that of the hunky adventurer he had become while chasing the scissor maker.

“Star, what are you doing here and... oh, wow, I am so sorry!” he exclaimed, realizing something about the current situation. His hands darted downwards to cover his erection. He directed his eyes upwards and to the right, pointedly averting his gaze from his best friend’s own naked form.

Star had rushed to cover her chest and crotch with her arms as well, remembering only too late that her clothes were not there anymore. But when she saw Marco’s bashful look and embarrassed body language, she began to laugh. Apparently, even older Marco, when dealing with his best friend, rather than Hekapoo, was still, well, Marco. Star let her arms fall to her side and begun walking towards the edge of the river, feeling slightly more at ease. In a way, his shyness dispelled her own.

“Hey, nothing to be sorry about, believe me,” she said with a bright glowing blush.

“But, I mean, well, this is... I am not decent and, you are... well…” he was still looking away, towards the sky, still covering himself. “Star, you are naked too.”

“I noticed,” Star said as calmly as she could, even as her heart felt like it would beat itself out of her chest. She sat on a ledge by the river’s shore, dipping her feet into the water. “How do I look?”

“You are... well, you are too young for me to be looking…” he answered, nervously.

Star felt a pang in her chest. Crap, now this was embarrassing for real. Of course Marco wouldn’t look at her. She was just a little girl and her chest had had barely anything to cover, especially compared to Hekapoo’s. Ugh, this was such a bad idea! What was she even thinking?

She quickly noticed, though, that Marco didn’t seem disgusted or uninterested. He mostly seemed embarrassed and, well, conflicted.

“I mean, Star, I am thirty years old now, and I definitely don’t want to be a pe... a pervert,” he clarified.

Star looked up in surprise. Then back down, towards the water, checking out Marco’s reflection. Maybe he was right. This kind of age difference was something her parents had once warned her about. Even in Mewni, a princess was not supposed to allow herself to be seduced by anyone more than half again her age, unless her parents agreed to the suitor. Then again, her parents had not thought of the case in which Star was doing the seducing and, well, Tom was actually much older than thirty, chronologically, which came to show age and wisdom where not one and the same and... wait a second!

“Marco, do you even remember those sixteen years?” Star asked with a quizzical look. Marco turned to look at her, a puzzled expression on his handsome face. “What do you remember of yesterday? Or of your last birthday?”

“Star, my last birthday was before you came to Ea…” Marco began, then his eyes opened wide. “Wait, no, that doesn’t make sense. I remember chasing Hekapoo through that portal, I remember Nachos, I remember getting the scissors, and you finding me right after. There is also other stuff, a sense of dread and a sense of struggle in between those two other moments. But those memories are vague, like, like a dream. And yesterday, I think I was on a date with Ja…”

“See!” Star jumped, pulling her feet out of the water, a little too eager to stop Marco’s train of thought there. “This is just a dream, Marco. You are not thirty, not anymore that you were yesterday. You are just inside a thirty year old body again, because you are dreaming you are! But you are still fourteen in real life, like me. Which means you can swim over to this side and plow me without guilt... if that’s what you want…”

Star tried to sound confident when saying that, but her word choice just felt jarringly out of place to her, once heard aloud. She had considered adding something about how he clearly did want to ‘plow’ her, since he was dreaming of her. But it felt too manipulative, too unfair and confusing for Marco, too, well, Tom-like of her. He hadn’t really dreamed of her. She had somehow sneaked into his dream.

Still, Star hoped Marco would not say no to that, because as bold as the Mewman princess was prepared to be right now, as much as she needed this… a direct rejection from Marco while being there, naked for him to see and asking him for sex, would be a brutal blow to her heart and her ego. Besides, you know, leaving her more frustrated than hitting mewberty at Saint O’s!

“A dream?” Marco seemed to be looking at her again, up and down, as he processed the implications of her speech. “Oh, I don’t think I’ve had this dream before…”

Star’s heart sunk. But then she saw Marco’s smile. At once childish glee and smoldering hotness when coming from that handsome new body of his. He began walking towards the river, and then never stopped, as he seamlessly transitioned into swimming breast stroke until he was right by her side.

“I mean, I usually don’t look like this when you show up, but I guess dreams are weird like that,” he clarified.

“Yes, yes, totally, totally, weird dreams... always doing weird things,” she managed to reply. Star’s eyes were just glued to Marco’s biceps beside her, and then to his chest, and then, through the water, down to his very adult cock. But even so, eventually, she got to the point of actually processing his words, “wait, where do I usually show up?”

Marco held up a hand and began counting with his fingers. “School dreams, inter-dimensional dreams, bounce-lounge dreams, at-home dreams…”

“Ok, ok, Marco, but are any of those dreams, you know, this kind of dream?” Star asked, turning around in the water to face Marco as he leaned against what had previously been her shore. She placed her hands on those magnificent pecs of his. She wasn’t sure she wanted him to answer. Partly because she felt a bit guilty interviewing her best friend under false pretenses, and partly because she was more than ready to stop talking and get into the action. Still, she wanted to know.

“Not that I remember,” Marco said, making Star feel deflated once more, until he suddenly grabbed her by the chin and pulled her up for a kiss.

Star felt the blood rush to her face and a sort of electric current flow from her chest to her cheek hearts. She felt Marco’s lips press gently against hers, opening her mouth as his tongue darted inside. It was not a forceful kiss, but it was not shy either. The touch on her chin was gentle as well, even though Star sensed a strength in that hand she had never associated with the boy.

There was a deliberate carefulness to Marco’s advances, like he feared hurting her or scaring her, but at the same time there was raw animal power behind every movement. He might not have the mind of a thirty year old dimensional adventurer, but he had the body and the muscle memory. Star pushed back into the kiss with hungry desire and all the force she could muster. They held there for long blissful moments.

“But this seems like a good place to start,” Marco concluded after their mouths separated.

“Woah! Way to go princess!” Hekapoo cheered on unabashedly. She had reappeared on her rock, on the farther shore, fully dressed once more. She looked at the two friends with a smug expression and a double-fanged grin. She flourished with a hand in front of her and a huge bucket of popcorn emerged from a swirling portal of flames. She begun grabbing a handful. “Didn’t really think you could be so bold, kid. I underestimated you.”

“Hekapoo?” Marco seemed surprised and conflicted, “I, well, you went away…”

“Oh, don’t mhmind me, humhman,” she said, through a popcorn stuffed mouth. She paused for a second and then continued only after swallowing. “You just take care of your princess there. I don’t know what stories you read, but I don’t think she is just after a kiss from the handsome knight, if you catch my drift…”

Marco looked at Hekapoo some more and blinked, not quite getting the situation. Star felt herself annoyed at the interruption. But then again, she kinda owed the whole situation to Hekapoo to begin with, so…

“Apparently, she, well, she likes to watch, Marco,” whispered Star a bit self-consciously. “I guess I don’t mind, if you don’t. After all, is just a dream.”

Marco looked back and forth between the sorceress and his friend, dumbfounded. Star felt like she could just read his thoughts on the boy’s face. He thought that there was something very weird going on with his subconscious if this was his dream, and that perhaps he was kinkier than he thought he was. Well, dreams were dreams, after all, he seemed to conclude.

Star felt a bit guilty to be causing her friend such confusion, but, well, come the morning he might not even remember, and if he did, it was likely he wouldn’t think much of it. Dreams were dreams, after all.

“If that’s the case, Star, what you say we give her a show?” Marco winked at his best friend and then, as if making sure he was not scaring her away, ran a gentle hand through her soft golden hair. The princess shivered with expectant delight, and that was it for any remaining ethical concerns she might have had.

Star was no longer sure if Marco was dreaming or she was. She moved like in a trance, and things seemed to flow differently from the way they did in reality. She felt Marco’s hands roam her back through the water, fingers massaging her wings and gently falling on her lower back. She felt her own hands touching Marco’s muscular thighs, pushing her weightless floating body to press a kiss on his mouth and her chest against his own. An instant later, the kiss had pushed the two of them unto the grass, somehow softly transporting them outside of the water and more than a meter away from where they started. Star was on top of Marco and was kissing down his neck. As she went lower, her ass made contact with something hard and upwards pointing, and she wasted no time to rub herself against it.

Marco’s hands stopped her. They grabbed her from under her arms and pushed her back up. Before she could protest, she felt his hands press against her chest, a strong pressure that gave way to individual fingers. A circular motion, a pinch, another press. Marco’s hands were playing the princess sensitive nipples like a fine instrument, and her moans were the music they produced. She felt like the ground had disappeared from them and they were floating among the clouds.

They, in fact, were. Somehow they were going up as they played with each other, laying on a white fluffy cloud. Both Marco and Star noticed, neither of them cared. He rolled her around, so he was on top, and began applying his mouth in earnest. To her neck, her arms, her breasts, her belly, her legs, her...

“Oh god! Marcooooo!” Star felt the man’s tongue go into her, and a shiver of pleasure flow from between her legs all the way to her fingers and toes.

He had just gotten started and it was already almost too much. It didn’t hurt, not at all. Star didn’t know if it was even possible for anything they did here, in a cloud in a magic dream, to hurt. But even if it were possible, Marco was being incredibly gentle, and she was probably wet enough that he could have stuck far more inside of her than his tongue and she would have been ready ages ago. But, for now, she just felt Marco kiss her sex, his breath on her insides, his tongue on her folds, and, eventually, his lips around her most pleasurable nub.

Star was melting into pleasure, and the sky itself seemed to change colors to the tune of her moans. It was still sunset. Eternally sunset. Clouds changed from red, to gold, to purple, as the Mewman princess’ breath quickened and the mounting pressure inside of her rose and fell, slowly gaining intensity through each loop. In another cloud, sitting with a knee over another and a half empty bucket of popcorn, Hekapoo was idly humming a song Star couldn’t quite make out.

Faintly visible through the multicolor sunset, shone a full moon, tinged slightly red, as if the celestial body itself were just as Star herself: aroused and blushing, blood shining through from below the surface. Even easier to miss - and in fact both Star and Marco did miss it - was the lone green star which managed to remain visible under the light of two setting suns. An omen which went unseen in the throes of their pleasure.

Star felt something powerful building up inside her. No, this was too soon for an ending, Star decided. This was Marco’s dream, she didn’t want to be greedy with his bestie’s dreams. Star’s hands roamed Marco’s hair and then she tapped on his arm. Somehow, he knew. He immediately knew what to do, and lifted himself briefly and turned himself so that his face stood in the same place, but his body reoriented so that his legs rested on the cloud above Star’s head. Stretching a little to make up the height difference, the princess positioned herself so that her mouth could kiss the tip of Marco’s member.

She licked a few times along the shaft and tried pushing her lips around it. After a few tries, she managed to get most of that monster into her mouth, and began instinctively going up and down. Whether from having watched Jackie do this before, or because of the magic of dreams, Star felt that she got the technique mastered in no time at all. Her best friend’s grunts confirmed to her that it was not just wishful thinking.

Marco himself had also gone back to eagerly lapping Star’s sex and the princess could feel both of their bodies convulse with small waves of pleasure as they both built up to something larger and larger. She heard more humming from the sorceress’ direction. Suddenly, she recognized it. It was from a really cheesy and really annoying movie Marco had showed her three weeks after she got to Earth. A movie about a princess, but, you know, one of those princesses, the ones that were there just to be rescued. Marco had thought she would find it funny, but she mostly found it annoying at the time.

A pair of powerful hands gripped her ass and pushed her up towards Marco’s mouth. He was not just licking now, he was practically penetrating her with his tongue. It was not as intense as him sucking on her clitoris, but it was a strange sensation and, in her mind, she felt Marco’s hunger for her, and almost got over the edge on just that thought. She for her part picked up the pace, taking Marco in and out of her mouth in rapid desperate movements, darting her tongue around the head whenever she could. Lightning seemed to jump from cloud to cloud now as they changed to brighter and brighter colors, with no sign of approaching rain.

In the background, supremely amused, Hekapoo kept humming. And, despite her focus being otherwise occupied, Star could make the lyrics in her mind: ‘... but if I know you, I know what you’ll do… You’ll love me at once… the way you did, once upon a dream…’

The small part of her that still noticed felt annoyed at the Forger of Scissors.

“Maaarcooo! Let’s…” Star knew she was going to be done soon. She worried that if they finished, they might wake up. There was something the dream was clearly building up to. Something that was happening while they were this high on the clouds. She couldn’t explain how she knew, but she knew that once what they were doing came to a conclusion, so would the dream, and she didn’t want to end it this way. “... Marco, please, get inside me!”

“Star? Are you sure?” Marco seemed hesitant.

“Marco Diaz!” Star cried impatiently. “I am very very sure. This is just a dream. Your dream! So get on with it!”

Marco blinked. Star felt the guilt pour on her like a bucket of cold water. She hadn’t lied per se, but she was implying Marco wanted this and that it was just his fantasy, while it was her that had maneuvered him into the situation. Still, she would deal with the guilt later, right now she needed this. Like Hekapoo said, this was only a dream either way. Marco held her up by the shoulders. She opened her legs to give him access. He looked right into her eyes as he lunged himself forward.

Star woke up.

Star looked up. Saw the canopy of her bed. Felt her pillow under her head, and her precious wand still there. She swore copiously.

“Come on! Not even in my fucking dreams?!” was what the princess of Mewni said after exhausting the more colorful expletives.

----

Waking up extremely frustrated, Star had taken matters into her own hands. For the second time that night, she came alone in her bedroom, and this time, she had only the memory of Marco, rather than whatever weird magic projection had happened earlier. It had calmed her down somewhat, physically. But in a less immediate way, it had left her even more deeply unsatisfied.

She had hoped getting the crush out of her system in the dream would have helped her get over the whole Marco thing. It was really not good that she felt that way about her best friend, especially when he was happy with his new girlfriend. Star knew this could only end badly. And yet, she had to admit to herself that she was not over it, not by a long shot. If anything, that confusing dream had dragged her even deeper into the West Mewnian Swamp of emotions that was ‘the whole Marco thing’.

The worst part was, Star realized, that she wasn’t sure now that had really been Marco’s dream. Most likely, it had been her own dream. All she had was Hekapoo’s word that they had been inside Marco’s dream, and for all the princess knew, that Hekapoo was just a figment of her quite overactive imagination. That meant that, in the span of about eight hours, Star had: spied on her best friend while he was having his first time with his girlfriend, who was also her friend; involuntarily magically violated him without his knowledge; and then had a dream in which she creeped on him a second time and then manipulated him into having sex with her. A part of her mind reminded her that she never even got to the sex. Another part retorted that that wasn’t the point at all!

Maybe Tom had been right about her, maybe Star was just like him after all: impulsive, selfish, manipulative. Oh right, that too, she had also managed to hurt Tom’s feelings in the same night. He hadn’t even yelled at her. Not even gotten mad, and Tom always got mad!

Seeing him sad and hurt had been far more unsettling to Star than any rage explosion could have been. He had just told her that he understood her crush on Marco and that he would go away. Sadly, Star realized, that was what she should be doing about the Marco thing herself: just let him go out with Jackie, and don’t get in the way. If she could not do at least that much, well, then she was actually a worse person than Tom had been!

Then, why was it so hard to do just that? Why did she feel the impulse to cast the Seeing Eye spell again and see if Marco had woken up at the same time she did? To check if maybe the dream had been real? Or if he was instead sleeping at Jackie’s place, without a care in the world while Star needed him here…

“What’s wrong with me?” the princess thought to herself.

----

Marco woke up sweaty and confused. Where was he? This wasn’t his room! Who was?... oh!

He looked down to see Jackie’s head resting on his chest, using it as a pillow. They were still naked, and the covers were nowhere to be found. But, then again, Jackie’s parents were away for the weekend and it was almost Summer, in California, so the covers were more cosmetic than anything else.

He remembered the whole date. The movie had been great, but he had scarcely paid attention to it, he had instead been focused on Jackie the entire time. He still couldn’t believe his luck just to be dating her. Jackie Lynn Thomas. When she asked him to walk her home, he figured he was just being a gentleman. When she told him to come up just for a bit, well, he had had his hopes, but quickly reminded himself that it was probably not what he thought and to not ruin things with the girl of his dreams just because he was getting horndog thoughts. When Jackie had taken off her shirt, well, at that point Marco’s brain had fully given up. There was no way he could be this lucky, and yet, he was.

The events of the previous night played on his mind. Jackie had been amazing, and he, well, Marco thought he had managed to not mess up things too badly at any rate. And, she had said, she had said she loved him! And he had said it back! And then they had fallen asleep and… and Marco had dreamed about two other women while laying there with the girl of his dreams.

He had somehow gone and reverted to the Hekapoo-dreams, which he had had for weeks after the dimensional scissors incident, way after his memories of the time in her dimension had mostly faded away. He didn’t know why, is not like he had ever done anything with Hekapoo during the time he was away from Earth, at least nothing he could remember. With holes in his memory the size of oceans, he couldn’t quite say for sure.

He hazily remembered their bantering, their flirting, their chase across entire continents, but nothing quite like that. Yet he had dreamed about fucking Hekapoo many times after he got back to Earth. Then again, the dreams had gone away for a while now. Maybe having his first time with Jackie triggered a weird association in his mind? Still, did dreaming about other people constitute cheating? Would Jackie be mad if she knew? It is not like he could control it, but…

Shit, Star! He had not only dreamed about having sex with Hekapoo. He had dreamed about, well, about sixtynining Star, and possibly intended to do more than that. He had dreamed about creeping on his best friend while being a thirty-years old guy. That was fucked up. Man, if Star ever knew he had dreamed something like that, she would kill him!

The worst part was, it had felt alright. It hadn’t been a nightmare or a crazy messed up dream. Well, it had been crazy and messed up, but he had enjoyed it.

He had never thought of Star that way, or, well, at least not more than he suspected most teenage boys thought of their teenage female friends in that way. Which is to say, only very occasionally, if the situation put his mind into a strange place. But now, he couldn’t stop thinking about that dream. How Star had looked naked, how she had acted, and what she had said to him, what she had asked him to do…

He reminded himself that it was a dream, that the real Star would never ask for something like that from him. Well, not unless Mewberty was something you could go through twice, which he thought unlikely.

Then he looked down, to his girlfriend, sleeping on top of him with a relaxed expression. Not a care in the world. The girl that had just confessed love to him. The girl who was way way out of his league. The girl that had just given him her first time. The girl he didn’t deserve. And he was laying there with her, thinking about sex with his best friend instead.

“What’s wrong with me?” the karate boy thought to himself.

----

An hour or so later, Marco was again fast asleep, snoring. Jackie woke up and gently lifted her head from her boyfriend’s chest. Last night had been great. The movie had been kinda lame, but the cute boy being adorable and bashful had more than made up for it. ‘Ah, Marco Diaz, if only you realized how charming you actually are under all those insecurities of yours.’

She had seen that in him before, and last night, she had seen a lot more of it.

True, she had had to put some effort to contrive the right situation for him to finally sleep with her. The boy had spent the last few weeks being first charmingly, and then frustratingly, oblivious to any hint even slightly more subtle than her undressing in front of him. But, after they got started, there had been a few times when Marco had really taken charge of the situation. Especially near the end, Jackie recalled, and her toes curled involuntarily. ‘You are smoother than you let on, Diaz,’ she thought.

But well, she was the opposite, wasn’t she?

She had been so afraid during the whole thing, even if it had been her idea, afraid that she might not know what to do, or how to play it off, that her mask of coolness might slip. Many in school would say Jackie was an effortlessly cool girl. She knew better, she knew that ‘effortlessly cool’ took the most effort.

That was part of why she liked Marco. Marco could fail, he could fail spectacularly and make a fool of himself and then dust himself back up and try again. She had learned to do that herself when she learned skateboarding, but somehow, she felt she had forgotten how. Now she did not dare make a fool of herself, especially not in front of others. Except perhaps, maybe sometimes, with Marco. The boy really acted like he thought the sun shone out of her bottom. But what if she failed to live up to that? Well, that was the thing, she didn’t think Marco would think any less of her even if she did.

Still, there was one girl in the whole Echo Creek school that was actually effortlessly cool. As in, she didn’t care about the concept of cool at all and yet she was intrinsically cool, just by virtue of what or who she was: Star. That was the other thing that Jackie saw in Marco, if she forced herself to be honest about it. She saw his friendship with Star. The two were inseparable, and Marco might not realize it, but he reflected Star in more ways than one.

Now, most girls would be jealous to know their boyfriend lived with another girl, especially if it was as amazing a girl as Star Butterfly. And maybe, maybe a little bit of Jackie was jealous, or worried, or unsure about it. But there was one part of her that felt strangely happy about it. A part that had felt disappointed, rather than relieved, when Marco had said he wasn’t in love with Star, or even interested. She had even had to hide her face when asking, so that Marco couldn’t notice the eagerness she felt in asking. She had let him believe it was uneasiness instead.

It was not that Jackie was attracted to Star, not at all, she was pretty sure she was exclusively - or at least very much primarily - into boys. And she did love Marco, either way, for who he himself was. Whatever self-esteem issues he had, Jackie had no doubt she was in reality the one getting the better deal. The boy was smart, brave, and way cuter than he himself knew. Yet there was something about the idea of Marco and Star that made him even more attractive to her, even as it worried her and confused her. It was majorly weird, impossible to explain, and probably the opposite of how any other girl Jackie knew thought or ought to think, but the feeling was there.

“What is wrong with me?” the skateboarding girl thought to herself.

----

In another dimension. A certain flame sorceress woke up with a wide grin. She lifted a hand and the cover magically slid away from her body. She sat up while humming to herself, a song she had learned while keeping tabs on the quite amusing boy from Earth. It was the same song she had hummed while watching the princess seduce her best friend. She walked down stone stairs in the palatial temple she was currently using as a Summer home, and proceeded to make herself some breakfast.

“What? Me? There is nothing wrong with me,” Hekapoo spoke aloud to the empty room.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Plots within Plot within Porn

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place mostly during and around the SvtFoE episode “Just Friends” (S02E20b). This story so far is considered compatible with SvtFoE season 2 events up to that point.

The next morning turned out to be majorly awkward. Marco arrived when Star was having breakfast. She had been slowly nursing her cereal while sitting in front of their TV set. Her thoughts left her with little appetite, so it had been a slow going. She had been sitting there for half an hour and still was only halfway through the bowl when Marco showed up. He seemed to avoid looking at her, and Star was having trouble with how to act towards him as well, given all the confusing scenes playing inside her head.

“Hey, good morning, Marco!” she said, hoping she sounded cheerful enough.

It tore at her heart to pretend that last night had not happened. But, she realized, to him, it hadn’t. None of it. Not her spell, nor her weird dream. She had decided it was unlikely that it had truly been his dream. It must have been just Star’s own mind playing cruel tricks on her.

“Hope you had a fun date with Jackie last night…” she added, as casually as possible.

“Ah, ahem, yeah, watched a movie,” he replied.

Should Star tease him on that? He had arrived the next morning! Even without spying on him, she should suspect he had stayed at Jackie’s place, and tease him. Right? It was the proper friend reaction. Maybe it would be suspicious that she didn’t. Then again, what if it wasn’t obvious from just when he came back? What if he lied about it and then Star had to walk the fine line between not believing him, but also not not-believing him too strongly, since she wasn’t supposed to know for certain and…

“Hopefully you weren’t too bored without me around, Star,” he interrupted her thoughts with a disarmingly apologetic smile.

“Me? Bored? Pfff! No way!” she replied, a little too vehemently.

Nice save, Marco. Now she could pretend his little distraction worked and they didn’t need to even get into the topic.

But, well, what to talk about instead? Every topic that came to the princess’ mind was related to her feelings for him, or to her overwhelming guilt over the last twelve hours. She supposed she could mention Tom showing up, but what if Marco pressed for details, or insisted on going after the demon? Yeah, that would be totally awesome, Marco chases Tom to hell to let him have it for creeping into his best friend’s room at night, and Tom just calmly explains to him what kind of per...son Star really is. No, no thanks.

“So... see ya later, best bud. I have plans, to go to the mall, with Janna! Yeah! So, later!” was all she managed in the end.

The weird thing was that Marco had seemed as relieved as she had been when she actually headed out. Was he really that nervous to admit he had slept with Jackie? Most guys in school would be bragging about that. Maybe he just didn’t want to brag to Star? Or maybe... did he remember the dream?

Star waved her magic wand to summon her trusty friend cloudy. She hopped right in and waited until she had put some distance between her and the Diaz’s home before dialing.

“Hey, Janna banana, want to go shopping right now and pretend we had planned to do that all along since well, about two hours before this conversation happened?” she spoke quickly into her phone as she floated towards the mall.

Janna’s response was far more laconic, “Sure, Star.”

----

Eventually, after a few hours of browsing randomly at the mall, they ended up at Janna’s place. The room shared the girl’s aesthetic: metal band posters, a glass box containing her pet snake, three skulls, plenty of candles and weird looking talismans, a wardrobe full of mostly greens and blacks, Marco’s library card on top of the bedside table, a large bookshelf full of old poetry books, and, perhaps most surprisingly unless one really knew her, bright pink bed sheets.

There were also a pair of fettered chains that Janna had asked Star to magic up, attached to one of the walls. When the princess had asked what Janna wanted those for, she had just winked and then made up a story about them being decorative. She had insisted on a key for them and having them be functional, though, so Star didn’t quite believe the pretense.

“Ok, Star, so, I believe this is the part where I ask what was really going on this morning,” Janna said with a shrug, as they both sat on the floor.

“Janna... well, I kinda do need to tell this whole mess to someone, because I am afraid I will go crazy otherwise or do something... extreme,” the princess began.

Janna raised an eyebrow. Star Butterfly had once placed mines in a football field, and she routinely blasted people with horned whales. She was not about to judge, but she was not sure she wanted to know what her friend considered extreme.

“Calm down, Star, you can tell me anything,” she reassured the mewman.

Besides, she loved secrets. She knew most of Marco’s. She had managed to extract some very juicy stuff from Jackie over the years too, despite how private the skateboarding girl suddenly became when you dug pass the first few layers of relatively tame secrets. She also knew all about Ferguson’s obsession with furry porn, which was just a bit more than even she wanted to discover. So, really, nothing Star could tell her should be able to shock her.

Then again, this was Star we were talking about. She ventured a hopeful guess, “you killed a person and need help hiding the body?”

“What? No! But, Janna, I really need you to swear an oath, on your life, that you will not repeat to any living soul what I am about to say…”

Whoa, Star seemed serious. Which meant, this was going to be seriously juicy stuff. No way Janna could say no to that!

“Sure, I swear,” she shrugged like it was no big deal. Star seemed to look at her expectantly. “Ok, ok... Star Butterfly of Mewni, I swear to thee on my life that I shall not speak of what you are about to tell me with any other living soul. How was that?”

“Well, my mom would have some corrections on the wording. And the ‘thee’ is a bit unnecessary. But you know what? It is good enough for me!” Star seemed excited, she took a deep breath and then… “So-last-night-Marco-and-Jackie-were-out-on-a-date-and-I-was-bored-and-they-said-they-were-only-going-to-the-movies-so…”

Janna nodded and said ‘aha’ at all the right moments. Except for that, it took all of her concentration to keep up with the hundred miles per hour of Star’s tale.

In the end, she thought she had managed to understand most of it, although the princess herself seemed confused about what had happened with the whole dream bit. Well, that part probably mattered very little, actually. Her mind began running through the possible courses of action once it seemed clear that Star’s tale was drawing to a close. Of course, the easiest would be to tell Star to forget all about her crush, but that would not be fun at all. Besides, given what she just heard, Janna did not think suppressing the feelings and waiting for them to go away was going to work for Star.

“Ok, so, you are in love with Marco, right?” she confirmed the obvious.

“Well, I wouldn’t say ‘in love’, he is a great friend, and he is cute, and I might have the teensyest, tiniest crush on him…” Star corrected her, unconvincingly.

“Do you want to date him, or do you mostly want to fuck him?” Janna pressed on. After all, one was easier than the other.

“Janna!” Star shouted, seemingly shocked. Then she placed one hand under her chin and seemed to ponder for a second, “Well, since you are bound by an oath of secrecy and all… I think I want both. Perhaps I’d really settle for the second one right now. Maybe just that would be enough to, you know, get over the whole thing, then go back to the way things were before. But, Janna, he is with Jackie! And he loves Jackie, and she loves him back. Even if I could compete... which, I don’t think I could... I don’t want to ruin that for him!”

“Ok, so the priority is that Marco should not be hurt by this, correct?” Janna asked and Star nodded. She ignored Star’s assessment of her competitive chances for now. Honestly, the princess probably had more cards to play there than she realized, but it would not matter unless she had the guts to go for the kill. “How about Jackie? How much do you care about her getting hurt?”

“Janna! Jackie is my friend too, and she is not doing anything wrong. Of course I don’t want to hurt her!” Star seemed genuinely offended at Janna’s question. The troublemaker girl smiled at that.

“Calm down, Star. Remember, Jackie is my friend too. Way before we two met. I am not sure I would even help you if you wanted her hurt... but it does complicate things,” the dark-haired girl admitted.

She thought about it some more. This was a significantly harder problem than, say, cracking Marco’s latest computer password, but also more fun, and probably more rewarding. That guy was into some pretty vanilla porn anyways, so the best thing in his computer were actually his embarrassing childhood pictures, and that cheesy poem about Jackie he wrote ages ago.

“Ok, and you said Tom tried to manipulate you into going back with him, right?” Janna confirmed, finally figuring something out. “What about him? Do you care if he gets hurt?”

“No, of course I don…” Star hesitated. “Well, not like I care about Marco and Jackie. But I don’t think I want to hurt him too much either…”

“Any chance you want to go back to dating him instead of Marco?” Janna had to ask. It was the easiest solution in any case.

“Ugh, no way! I mean... maybe he is what I deserve, but, he is not what I want, ok?” Star looked down, guiltily.

“I mean, from your story it sounded like you regret not sleeping with him, Star,” Janna commented, setting the bait. “The claws thing sounded wicked hot!”

“Oh, it was! Super hot. Way hot. But, well, Tom and I, is not really a good match, you know, as people…” Ok, ok, getting somewhere now.

“But you would still fuck him just the once if you could, right?” Check.

“What the hell, Janna!?”

Pause.

“Yeaah... I totally would.”

That was it! Checkmate!

“Ok, Star. I got it all figured out. I can’t promise no one will get hurt, but it has the best chances to work out for the best for all five people involved. Here is what you are going to do, you are going to get three concert tickets to that band Marco and you love so much, which is, coincidentally, coming to Echo Creek soon, and you are going to invite Marco. Then…” this was the delicate part, “... you are going to invite Jackie too!”

“What?!” Star’s eyes went wide. “Oh, I see, maybe if I include her in our friendship I can make it up to her for, for spying on them and stuff…”

“Sure, you can think of it like that,” Janna ran with it. The plan would work best if Star was unaware of where things were going anyways.

Now Janna only had to make sure what she knew about Jackie was still current, maybe give a push or two to the other people involved. This was an ambitious plan, she knew, way more moving pieces than most of what she usually got up to, and very little chance to influence things personally after they were set in motion. She knew that, after Star left, she would have to run through the whole scenario a few times before she even called Jackie over to talk.

Of course, it was not as if she could tell the other girl anything directly, an oath was an oath after all. Also, was she so sure that she could predict how he would react? She had some clue about it from what she knew from Marco, and what Star herself had just told her, but what if she got him all wrong?

“Hey, Janna... by the way... do you think I am a horrible person?” Star asked, suddenly teary eyed.

What?! Janna was taken by surprise, her mind was elsewhere. Her train of thought was halfway across Siberia when it was forced to a screeching halt. Well, she could always plan the details later, right now she focused on her friend’s question.

“What? No way, Star! You are sometimes a bit brash, sure, but you are one of the most pure hearted people I know!” Janna spoke truthfully.

“But, but I spied on Marco!”

“Who hasn’t?”

“And had magical sex with him without his knowledge…”

“By accident!”

“And hurt Tom’s feelings real bad…”

“After he tried to guilt trip you into dating him. If anything, he deserves far worse.”

“And tried to seduce Marco…”

“In a dream,” Janna concluded. “Star. Please. Based on the evidence presented I, as your judge, conclude that you might be a great rebel princess… but you suck at being a bad girl! Believe me! I mean, I actually am one, you know? You do not even qualify for consideration to the bad girl club.”

Janna tried her best to have Star not being that bad of a person sound like an insult. “Bad girl card application rejected! Try again never.”

They looked at each other in silence for a moment, and then, both girls started laughing. Star seemed worlds more at ease now. Maybe calm enough to survive the next few weeks. Janna almost felt bad for what she knew Star would need to go through even if the plan succeeded. But, in the end, it was for the princess’ own good and, more importantly, Janna’s as well.

----

Jackie made her way to the Diaz’s home carrying two extra skateboards in her arms. She had spent the whole morning designing them and getting them printed by her uncle on his break. She was really excited about this, she had been since Star had called her and told her that Marco was inviting her to go to the Love Sentence concert, and whether she minded if Star went with them. Well, of course she didn’t! She had made sure to have a skateboard for Star too, just to make sure she felt included.

It had been a few weeks already since she and Marco did it for the first time. Their dates ended at her place or his a lot more often now that they did before, but the requirement to keep things secret from their parents meant that they hadn’t had any other opportunity to let themselves go at it quite like that time. Jackie got the feeling Marco’s parents were mostly truly oblivious. Hers just purposefully ignored things in a way that required the two kids simply to maintain plausible deniability about what they were doing, if only to avoid mutual generational embarrassment. But either way, they couldn’t be quite as brazen or quite as loud as they had been that one time. Making out was easy, and some level of heavy petting was sometimes within reach, but sealing the deal required more privacy than they were usually afforded.

Well, it was only a matter of waiting for another opportunity like that, when either set of parents went on vacation or something. Funnily enough, when she had mentioned the Love Sentence concert to her mom, she has made a point of letting her daughter know that she and her father would be out for the night, and not to hesitate to bring her friends home after the concert. Jackie had to admit that sometimes having ex-hippie parents paid off. The admonition to wear protection, and the revelation that she herself had been conceived after a concert were, however, somewhat less welcome.

She pushed the doorbell and Star opened the door wearing a t-shirt with what seemed to be the three of them on it: Marco, Star, and herself.

“No way! You made concert tees?” she asked excitedly. “That’s so funny, ’cause I made concert skateboards!”

For some reason, Jackie felt a jolt of joy and relief when she saw the funny t-shirts. So Star had included her on her design? Well, it made sense since they were all going together and they were all friends. But still, Jackie hadn’t hung out much with Star since she started dating Marco. She had begun to worry that maybe Star resented her in some way deep inside. The tee gave her reason to believe that was not the case.

She traded gifts with the mewman princess and went past her to say hi to Marco, who seemed to be struggling with his own t-shirt. Apparently Star hadn’t taken into account that the boy was a bit larger of frame than the two girls and had simply made all tees the same. But honestly, Marco looked hilarious with the t-shirt and Jackie was not about to criticize Star’s gift, so she just reassured Marco on it a little bit. Marco took a lot of reassurance, but he was cute, so she didn’t mind.

Moments later, they were all skateboarding towards the arena. Well, she was skateboarding, Star was on her cloud, with the skateboard between her and the pink floating puffy critter. But hey, if it worked, it worked, and Jackie had to admit it looked pretty cool. Marco was, well, a bit behind them. But maybe that was good. This was Jackie’s chance to ask Star a few things alone.

Of course, before she could bring herself to say anything beyond small talk, Marco ran over some baby ducks.

----

“So, Star, can I ask a random question?” Jackie finally worked up the courage to ask as they waited for Marco (and the ducks) to come out from the doctor’s office. Sure, the doctor was a veterinarian, but she had agreed to look over his injuries too in a non-professional capacity, in case there was anything that needed someone else to look at him. “How do you feel about Marco?”

“What? What do you mean? I mean, he is my bestie!” Star reply had started in a note of shock, but ended cheerfully. After a pause she seemed to think a bit and add, “He is super awesome and you are a very lucky girl to have him. And he is lucky to have you too, of course!”

“Heh, Star, dude, I know. But well…” Oh god, what was she saying? There was no way she was bringing this up. She just couldn’t. “You two do a lot of stuff together, and have been to a lot of places, and have all sort of wacky cool adventures…”

“Awww. Yes, we do, sometimes. As friends, though! Best buds. That’s us!” The princess sounded nervous.

Was she thinking that Jackie was accusing her of something? Or that she was being the jealous bitchy girlfriend that got between her boyfriend and his friends? Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. How to explain that that wasn’t it at all, without saying something that would make her sound like a crazy person!

Star seemed to ponder for a while. “You know, Jackie, we can include you in our adventures too. If you want, of course. Although, fair warning, it might get a bit weird, and a bit wild!”

“Well, I am fine with weird,” Jackie remarked, managing to keep her cool. Understatement of the century, though. Right now, pink floating cloud or not, Jackie wondered if perhaps she wasn’t so much weirder than Star, just based on the way she felt. “I mean, if you don’t mind. If it’s not weird to have me along.”

“Whaaat? No way. Why would that be weird? That isn’t weird. Not at all!” Star replied enthusiastically, although Jackie felt something was off. Maybe she imagined a twitch on the princess’ left eye? “Marco would love it.”

“Then I do want to join you adventuring! Just some of the time, no pressure, though,” Jackie said. It wasn’t what she had wanted to ask. But it was close enough, for now. “You know something, Star?”

“Eh, what?” the princess replied reflexively.

“He is also very lucky to have you as well,” Jackie said with a smile.

She saw Star smile widely as well. But then, for a split second, she looked conflicted once more, almost… guilty. There was something Jackie was missing. She had thought Star might have feelings for Marco, but her reaction was off if that was simply the case. Maybe she and Marco had already done something she thought she ought to be ashamed of?

But that couldn’t be. Marco hadn’t told Jackie anything that could have caused that, and the boy had the most transparent body language ever. He was literally too nervous to ever be capable of ‘cheating’. So there was something else, something that Jackie was plainly not seeing.

“The ducks will be fine!” explained the doctor, emerging through the back door, Marco walking all hunched up behind her. And with that, the conversation was over.

----

Jackie hadn’t had another opportunity to talk to Star about anything significant before they got to the concert. They had gotten along pretty well after that, and bonded over releasing the ducks back to the Echo Creek, well, creek. Star had the most funny stories about the place, and Jackie had to wonder if even half of it was for real. Magic or no magic, Star’s stories sounded too incredible to be fully true.

Oddly enough, it was Marco who had felt a bit left out there. Jackie was sure that was at least in part because he was bummed over the accident with the ducks. Well, as always, plenty of reassurance did the job. As well as an impromptu group hug instigated by Star.

Now they were finally there, sitting down as the stage lit for their favorite band. Marco was excited like a little kid in a candy shop, and Jackie couldn’t take her eyes of him while he fanboyed about the teen band. Hell, the boys on the stage were the kind of guy Jackie daydreamed about just a year or so ago, and now she was paying more attention to the ‘Safe Kid’ sitting beside her. Not that Justin Towers wasn’t dreamy, but well, he had nothing on her Marco.

Her favorite song started and she took her boyfriend by the hand, picking him up to start dancing, “Whoo! Dance with me, Diaz!”

She didn’t quite notice when Star grabbed Marco’s hand. Or had it been the other way around? But somehow the three of them where soon bouncing to the rhythm. It was a bit weird, but not in a bad way. Then Marco turned away from her, and he and Star began lip syncing to the lyrics.

“It was no secret,” Marco began.

“The way that we feel,” Star continued.

“A love that’s so pure.”

“A love that’s so real.”

Jackie arched an eyebrow in surprise, but they weren’t looking at her, and she wasn’t about to interrupt them. Sure, the song was ostensibly, if only barely so, about friendship. But it was also about falling in love, romantic love, with your best friend, or at least that’s how Jackie had always interpreted it. Despite Marco’s protests, he and Star had a very strong kind of chemistry, one that didn’t exactly spell friends. You needed to be blind not to see it, and Jackie always considered herself fairly good at observing people.

“You showed me your world and it felt like a sign.”

Star had taken Marco outside of Earth, into other dimensions. Of course, she had also taken the whole school once, but she took him there every week. What had she shown him? And, wasn’t Marco showing Star Earth too?

“But you acted too slow and you ran out of ti-ii-me.”

Jackie’s eyes went wide. Did Marco not realize what he was saying? If Star did have a crush on him, even if he did not, then that was almost cruel. But the mewman didn’t seem to mind one bit.

“And now we’ll be…” they both sang as the reached the chorus.

“Just friends”

“We will be”

“Just friends”

Jackie wasn’t sure what to feel. She held on to Marco’s hand, but he wasn’t there, not really. He and Star seemed to be in their own world and she was watching from the outside, moving to the beat. It was so strange.

“And now we’ll be”

“Just friends”

Maybe they were. Maybe that was all. But, even as friends, there was something between the two of them inside of which Jackie would never be able to enter, whether she accompanied them adventuring or not. A closeness to their relationship that wasn’t there for herself and Marco, even at their most intimate.

“Be just friends”

It was scary. No, it was terrifying.

Jackie didn’t feel jealous about Star. She couldn’t. Marco was amazing, but yet she herself had only started noticing him this year, and, the reason she had noticed him, was Star. Star made Marco a different person, a more confident, happier, braver person. So, whatever they had, Jackie would never wish to take it from them. In a way, she wanted them to have more of it. But, she was also afraid. She was afraid that one day Marco would realize he had something with Star that was more important than what he had with her, that he would change his mind about what he had said two weeks earlier.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Star sang.

Then don’t, Jackie thought, please don’t.

“You didn’t have a clue,” Marco continued.

You both are clueless!

“So you went out and got busy,” Star retorted.

Jackie’s face flushed slightly. Maybe she was reading too much into the lyrics, but still, that was one way to put it.

“And found somebody new. New. New. New.”

They seemed to go closer and closer as they sang that last line, almost as if they were about to turn to each other and kiss. This was too much. She had wanted to have a look into their… well, friendship, maybe? And is not that she didn’t like what she saw, not exactly. But, this was too much, too early.

“And now we’ll be”

“Just friends”

Jackie pulled Marco towards her. Sweat running through her hands. She was chickening out. She had prodded Marco about liking Star, and Star about liking Marco. They both had denied it, while she had secretly hoped for confirmation. But now, now she wasn’t sure that was what she wanted.

“Oh we will be, just friends”

Marco was dancing with her now. Star had let him go without any trouble. She still held Marco’s hand too, but like Jackie before, she was leaving the two of them alone and dancing on her own.

Jackie’s heart was hammering in her chest, she didn’t let it show. She needed to reassure herself that Marco was hers, that he did love her. Right now, them singing the same song he had just sung with Star, Jackie’s favorite song, wasn’t enough. She felt the guitar solo start, and pulled Marco towards her. She put a hand on his chest, and kissed him. She needed reassurance.

Her lips pressed against Marco’s, the heat of his skin was soothing. She had half expected Marco to be annoyed when she pulled him away from Star, or for his mind not to be on the kiss. But it was. It felt just like when they were alone. It was not their most passionate kiss, but it was a caring, loving one. Jackie felt her worries melt away, and closed her eyes.

“Wow,” Marco said when their lips finally separated. They both gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes for a split of a second, and then... “Star?”

Star had gone away, and Marco ran after her. Strangely, Jackie was ok with it. She no longer felt worried about her boyfriend chasing down the stairs after his best friend. She considered following too. But then she realized why Star had gone away. Jackie felt guilty, very guilty.

This wasn’t the plan, Star and Marco had both invited her, and at best she had just made Star uncomfortable, and at worst, well, at worst the princess did have feelings for Marco, and Jackie had just rubbed salt on the wound. Not only that, she had done so just to reassure herself over the two of them singing a song together about simply being friends. Shit. Way to mess it up Lynn Thomas!

The last thing she wanted was for Star to hate her, or for them to stop hanging out all three together. Or, even worse, to cause a fight between Marco and Star. Jackie liked what the two of them had, she truly did. She had thought she could handle it even if the two friends had been in love, and yet she had felt overwhelmed by a freaking dance routine. So much for keeping her cool.

She saw the two of them talking. Star was smiling, she was pushing Marco to go back up. What would Jackie do when Marco came up? She could always play it as being clueless. Marco would just make some excuse for Star, and Jackie would pretend to believe them. She would also pretend that she had only kissed him because she was at a concert with her boyfriend and ‘it just happened’.

Meanwhile, Star was walking towards the exit now, removing herself from her own plans so that Jackie and Marco could be alone. Star was definitely a better person than she was, and Jackie never felt so small in her life.

----

Star was trying her best not to cry, bottling up her frustration and the turmoil of jealousy within her. It was just a freaking kiss! Nothing at all when compared to what she had seen a few weeks before through the Seeing Eye spell. But it had been right in front of her, right while holding her hand.

Well, what did she expect? She had arranged this whole thing, as an apology to Marco and Jackie. What, had she supposed that her bestie wouldn’t want to kiss his date at a romantic pop music concert? Hell, she had almost tried to kiss Marco herself! She avoided it by her last thread of self-control, actually, and she then had the audacity to get shocked when his actual girlfriend kissed him?

But the emotions raging through her were not rational. Star hurt, badly. She wanted Marco, and for a few minutes she had felt that the entire world was only the two of them. He had given her his hand, he had sung with her. Why couldn’t he just have ignored her from the moment the song started playing!?

She lifted her wand, and let her fury and regret flow through it, visceral, uncaring for all his reasons and all her mistakes. A blast of green energy flew out from the tip of the cleaved wand, and the promotional sign for the concert went up in a fiery explosion.

It would have been less painful if Marco Diaz had meant to hurt her. The fact that he had still cared enough to leave his date to try to make sure Star was ok somehow made it worse. If instead of her caring but clueless friend, Marco had just behaved like a straight up asshole, he would never have been able to wound her half as deeply!

“Wow, Starship. And they say I have anger issues…” Speak of the devil, literally.

“Fuck off, Tom!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: What are Fiends for?

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place immediately after the last one, meaning the night following the SvtFoE episode “Just Friends” (S02E20b). This story so far is considered compatible with SvtFoE season 2 events up to that point.

“Fuck off, Tom!” she growled at him.

The three-eyed demon had just emerged from the concert arena, right behind Star. With little more than a thought, he dismissed the glamour that disguised him as a normal human teen and continued walking towards her. He knew this was a bad idea, particularly after their last meeting, but something seemed seriously off with Star. He had to know what was going on.

She, however, didn’t seem particularly appreciative of his concern. “When are you going to stop stalking me?!”

“Stalking you?! I am not…”

Tom hadn’t actually come to the concert to keep tabs on Star. In fact, he had been surprised to notice her as she ran down the stairs in the middle of the first song of the night. He had seen her stop right in front of the stage. He had seen Marco go after her. He had seen them hug and him go back up alone. Tom had noticed that Star had seemed, well, strange, even after their hug, and decided to follow. Even he had failed to realize just how distressed Star truly was, until he watched her hex the sign to pieces.

So, well, he was honestly looking out for her wellbeing here, and she responded by accusing him of following her around!? How dare she!

Tom felt the anger flare up and counted to ten in his head. It was almost a reflex nowadays, the year with Brian had helped him sense when he was getting angry and stop himself momentarily, until he could think properly. If only Star gave him even a little credit for that!

Oh well, it wasn’t like he hadn’t given her plenty of reasons to expect the worst from him. Now that he thought about it, better that Star believe that he was following her, it was easier to explain in any case.

“I mean, I am not ‘stalking’ anyone, just, you know, keeping a friendly eye on you. Why else would I be at a Love Sentence concert, right?” he lied, chuckling nervously. “But hey, it is a good thing that I did, Starship, because you look like you could use someone to talk to…”

“Not really in a talking mood, Tom,” Star said coldly. She began walking fast away from the stadium. The demon boy followed a few meters behind her, cautiously. “Not in a mood for you at all. Never am, now that I think about it.”

She didn’t sound like Star. There was no energy behind her words, no enthusiasm and no indignation, just dispassionate annoyance. True, Star usually rejected his advances, often with far more emphatic denials. But this was different.

Frankly, when he first saw how sad she had looked, Tom had considered testing his luck again. You know, trying to comfort the princess with a shoulder rub, and just take it from there. It wasn’t just him being selfish either, he truly thought he could maybe find a way to make both of them happier.

There was a sharpness to her tone, however, that told him that would not, in fact, be a good idea.

“Star, no tricks, no schemes. I am honestly worried about you. This doesn’t sound like you,” Tom tried, fully aware that he didn’t sound like himself either.

The truth was that he did care. Maybe his love for Star was a selfish one, but it was still love. He wanted her to be alright, to snap out of this coldness. This was not the Mewnian princess he knew and coveted.

“What, no speech about how I am terrible and should be with you because we are both garbage?” Star retorted, picking up the pace. “Because, you know, that’s the way to charm a girl… ‘you are evil, I am evil, let’s make babies!’” she shouted, her previous indifference quickly replaced by fury, and yet the ice in her words remained.

Normally, that kind of tone, coming from anyone, would have caused the underworld prince to incinerate the foolhardy mortal who even dared speak to him like that. Under the circumstances, however, it didn’t even occur to Tom that he should be mad. He was just worried. It was just so unsettling to see her like this. So much that even Tom didn’t dare making this about himself.

Star had never been this angry. Even when they broke up she had been… well, she had avoided him for a while and then simply told him she couldn’t keep dealing with his angry outbursts. But she had never before intentionally used her words like that to hurt him, even when he himself did it to her. Now Tom almost expected to see flames coming out around the princess instead.

“Starship, I am really sorry about that, I never really meant what I said that night. You once had a thing for bad boys, and I just thought…”

Tom was not used to being the gentle one. Star was impulsive, and she could be very direct, but she had never been mean. Sure, a few times in the past he had had to apologize to her and got immediately punched for it, but she usually got her anger out of her system with just one, usually symbolic, punch.

Wait, that was it!

“If you want to take out your anger on me a bit, I can deal, Star. You are probably right, I deserve it.”

Star looked back at him, a murderous glare in her eyes. Tom did not know that glare. Toffee and his monsters had seen it once, right before Star freed Marco from a certain glass prison. But for Tom, it was new, and it scared him. Tom, who had seen that which lay below the foundations of the world, who had spoken face to face with the archangel of death himself, who had called upon the names of the unnamable, shuddered at seeing that expression on the face of Star Butterfly. She turned around again and continued briskly walking away. He followed in silence for what seemed like hours, but could have been just five minutes.

“You know, Tom, I am not angry at you.”

There was a short pause. The demon prince did not dare say a word, he just waited for her to continue.

“Well, no, let me rephrase that: I am angry at you. But this particular anger is not about you.” She spoke slowly, frozen words, and a voice as sharp as steel. “I am not mad at Marco or Jackie either. It really is not their fault. This is about me. I am angry at myself. For feeling this way, for not being able to be happy for my friend. For doing things I never should have, and for wanting to do even worse things. So, maybe you are right and Janna is wrong, maybe I am indeed a bad person.”

“Star, that was me lying to you. You know what I was trying to do? Right?” Tom decided that coming clean on it would be better than having to see Star like this. “It was just me guilt-tripping you to get back together, just like you said. You are not a bad person. Come on, I’ll prove it to you! If you truly are bad, then why aren’t you taking your anger out on me? It would be easy. Just blast me until you feel better or something! I would do it to you in an instant, you know that!”

That was a lie, he would do it to anyone else, for sure, but not to Star.

“And, you think I won’t?” Star asked, surprised.

Was she surprised at him, at what he was saying? Or was she surprised about herself, that she would not hurt him? Or, maybe, Tom realized, she was surprised that she was considering doing what he had suggested. Well, either way, if that snapped her from this state, it was well worth it.

“I know you won’t,” Tom lied.

Star turned around, fast as lightning. Perhaps she feared she wouldn’t go through with it if she thought it through for more than an instant. She pointed her wand straight at Tom’s chest. She narrowed her eyes and in a moment they glowed bright emerald. Her cheekmarks shone as well, in the same unearthly hue. A huge spiraling blast of green and black left the wand and hit him squarely in the chest. He made no effort to block it or avoid it.

Incredible pain shot through his body. This was nothing like being encased in ice or having his hand chopped off. It was probably not like getting blasted by narwhals or trampled by warnicorns either. Star’s spells were brutal, but when she cast those, she mostly meant to win a fight. Causing harm was only the necessary side-effect. Right now, though, she had meant to hurt him and, largely, she had succeeded.

Maybe she had even meant to kill him. It certainly felt that way. It was like being struck by lightning and, immediately after that, having your blood freeze and your skin turn to acid. He felt his nerves overload with agony. He felt his consciousness fade.

----

Tom Lucitor opened his three eyes slowly. His body hurt all over. It hadn’t hurt like this in a very long time. He saw the stone arch above him. Was he back in the underworld? No way! No, he was under a bridge. A small river flowed in front of him. He looked to his left. Star was there, sitting on her knees, eyes looking down, tears flowing from them. “S... Starship?”

“Tom! I am so so sorry! I don’t know what came over me! I didn’t mean to do that, not really.” The demon prince knew that was a lie. You simply could not cast dark magic like that and not mean it.

But he was not about to tell Star that right now. Besides, he realized, he had deserved it. He had tried manipulating Star time and time again. He had tried to get their souls bonded under the Blood Moon without her knowledge. He had once kidnapped and almost killed her best friend. In a way, it felt cathartic to feel that kind of anger and hate coming from her, a long awaited punishment.

“Star, no biggy. You needed to let that kind of anger out on someone. That’s not the kind of hurt you want bottled inside of you. Believe me, I would know. Besides, I am not exactly fragile, and you knew that. I was the obvious target.” Tom shrugged, then winced in pain from the effort. “How long was I out, though?”

“Well... no more than three or four…” Star looked to the sky nervously, then at her phone, “... hours.”

What? Four hours?! What kind of a spell had that been? Tom’s eyes glowed red in annoyance, but the searing pain that shot through as his muscles tensed snapped him out of yet another ‘episode’. “You... you are a lot stronger than I remember, Starship.”

”Sorry,” Star repeated, genuinely apologetic. She extended her hand and touched Tom’s chin, who flinched in response. Her eyes looked into his own with a worried expression. Star’s eyes were puffy and red with crying. Over Marco? Or over him? “I would have tried to heal you, but I have never been able to do healing magic right.”

“It doesn’t matter, Starship. I heal fast,” he assured her.

It was true. If he was awake, then it meant that his internal organs had finished regrowing where needed, and mayor broken bones had mended. The rest should be a matter of minutes, really. In any case, no amount of physical damage could end him permanently. Tom was, for most intents and purposes, immortal.

That said, that sort of thing did come with caveats he did not care to fully test.

“Would you tell me now what has you so down? You owe me at least that... no, sorry, old habits, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want,” he corrected himself. He was being truthful. He also realized that if he were trying to guilt trip someone, he could have hardly done better than that.

“Well, we three were at the concert together and... Marco and Jackie kissed…” Star answered. “That… um, that was it, pretty much, really.”

They both blinked. Tom began laughing, his ribs ached like, well, like home, but he couldn’t help it. He laughed a thunderous laugh. After a few moments of surprise and confusion, Star joined him.

“But you saw them have sex before!”

“Saw it? I felt it! I have seen Marco kiss every inch of Jackie Lynn Thomas with a shit eating grin on his face!”

“And you went all Queen of Darkness over a peck on the lips?”

“Yeah... well, it was a bit more than a peck, but still, yeah, just a kiss at a concert! A concert to which I invited the two of them in the first place. Well... except she didn’t know it was me, I think. She thinks it was Marco’s idea!”

“Marco’s idea? Starship, he is a great guy and all, but he couldn’t plan a romantic date to save his life. This Jackie girl obviously knows what’s going on!”

“And what is going on? Besides me totally being an idiot, I mean?”

“I mean, clearly, that you were trying to get her jealous when she saw how much Marco and you act like a couple!” It made perfect sense to him.

“Wait? What?! No. Marco and I don’t act like a couple!” Star looked at Tom in surprise.

He grinned at her. Oh my, could it be that Star really hadn’t planned it like that? It was what he would do, if he were in her position. Well, in her position and able to keep his temper in check long enough. Go to the date as the third wheel, make ambiguous moves on the crush the whole night, wait for the girlfriend to get jealous, then play innocent and try to convince the boy that his date was being a bitch over nothing. It was, well, not quite the oldest trick in the book, but right up there.

Star still looked dumbfounded. “So… so that’s why Jackie pulled him over and kissed him? Because she thought I was making moves on him?”

“That’s actually a pretty good block on her part,” Tom noted. “But, honestly, I don’t know. Depends on what was actually happening there. So, you really were not planning anything of the sort?”

“No! No way! I would never do that!” Star looked at him first confused, then thoughtfully. “Do you think it would have worked?”

Tom shrugged, then smirked at Star. She seemed to be looking at him in a different way. She had stopped crying a while ago, and seemed, a bit nervous. Sometimes, her gaze was avoiding his even when looking in his direction.

At first, the demon was just confused, even if he didn’t exactly find the attention unpleasant. Then, Tom looked down and saw, first his torso, then his stomach and lack-of-bellybutton, then his...

“Star! I am naked! Why am I naked? How long have I…”

Tom realized that Star hadn’t been avoiding his gaze. She had been sneaking a peek! Multiple peeks, actually. What the hell? Now she was into him?

“Sorry! Your clothes kinda, sort of, maybe... got destroyed in the blast,” she looked up and away, but Tom saw her cheeks brighten just a little.

“Starship, if you want to look, then look,” Tom goaded her.

He had no plan, no strategy. No scheme of his called for him to be naked and bruised under a bridge while Star chatted about her crush on the human boy to him. But you played the hand you were dealt, and he did not intend to be bashful little Marco about the whole situation. He was sure Star had been looking before.

She turned slowly again and began staring at him, shamelessly. He smiled at her, lifted his arms to the back of his head and spread his legs further apart. “Like what you see?”

“Yeah…” Star blanked. “No. Wait. I like Marco, and you and I broke up!”

“Well, Marco is not here, Starship. Actually, you said three or four hours, right?” Tom smiled at her maliciously. He didn’t have a great hand, but he had one good card to play. “Bet you anything you care to name, right now Marco and Jackie are back from the concert, having all kinds of fun. Together. Alone.”

Star seemed to get a bit sad again hearing that. Tom, however, wasn’t done.

“We two are here now, though. Together. Alone.” He faked thinking out the matter for a moment. “As for us breaking up... I did not ask you to date me again, Starship. I only asked if you like what you see.”

The Mewman princess blushed deep crimson, her cheekmarks glowing like tiny stars in the night. “Well… I…”

“So…” Tom suggested casually, “How about we have some fun? I already helped relieve your anger. Perhaps I can give you other kinds of relief as well?”

“Ok,” Star relented.

No, that was not correct; she had agreed to his proposal, no hesitation, and no tricks needed. Well, not yet.

“With one condition!” she added. Tom arched two eyebrows. “Don’t call me Starship!”

“Fine!” Tom said, slightly annoyed at her vetoing his favorite pet name for her. “But I have one condition of my own: Say that you want me!”

----

Star felt surprised to hear the demon’s demand. Why ask her to say that, when she had already agreed to sleep with him? Oh, dammit, her mind was just now catching up to her mouth as she realized she had indeed agreed to sleeping with Tom. It was one thing to imagine it when gossiping with her friend, or alone in her room after that super confusing night the other time, but this was different, this was happening for real.

Her blush expanded through her face as she replied. “Tom... I want you!”

She wasn’t lying either, Star realized. Maybe having admitted that to Janna before made it easier to admit it to Tom, and to herself. He was hot, after all, and she didn’t mean it just in the literal, fire and brimstone, sense either. Star had just been admiring his well defined chest and abs in that deliciously slender body of smooth purple skin. She had stolen many glances at his cock, semi-erect and shamelessly displayed for her gaze.

He smirked at her and made no effort to conceal himself, his eyes looking directly at her face, narrowing ever so slightly, bright with a mysterious emotion, opaque windows to an inscrutable soul. Tom was enigmatic, and he was dangerous. It was the reason Star had dated him in the first place and the reason they had stopped being together as well. It was also the reason she still felt attracted to him, despite it all, despite how bad he was for her, or how bad they were together.

He slowly got up, leaning against the wall of the tunnel for support, keeping his clawed hand under Star’s chin, pushing her to stand up as well. She felt the need to say something, before the inevitable. “Just to be clear, Tom. This is not about getting back together, and it’s not about liking you.”

Tom smiled at her, a sharp grin full of sharper fangs, “Starsh... I mean, Star. I am a demon. Do you think you have to explain these things to me?”

His hand pressed against her chest for only a second. She felt a nipple harden against the fabric. Then Tom drew his hand away, extended two fingers and poked at Star’s shirt. She didn’t feel the claws touch her, but saw them go into the shirt. They burned two fiery holes on her custom concert tee, erasing the faces of Marco Diaz and Jackie Lynn Thomas.

“This is about frustration. It is about getting even,” Tom remarked. “I can help you with that.”

He drew nearer, breathing on her neck, his hot naked body pressing against her still clothed self. ‘Still’? Star realized how much she was treating what was to come as a foregone conclusion now. She felt Tom’s heat envelop her, his inhuman yet not at all unpleasant heat. Star hadn’t quite noticed how cold the night air had been just a moment before, even in the California summer, or how much it bothered her.

He whispered in her ear, “But I need this to also be about desire, Star. To be about need. I don’t need you to love me, or even to like me, just to want me.”

She blushed, and nodded. It was strange how much Tom had her figured out, when he was not blinded by a fit of rage. It was indeed about all those things.

Tom had just reminded her a moment ago that Marco and Jackie were probably together now, doing something like this. She could feel in her heart that he was right. She needed someone tonight, she just couldn’t stand to be alone while the boy she loved was with another girl. If she could have Marco, then she would have never agreed to being with Tom. But she couldn’t. Marco was with Jackie. Tom was here, with her.

She pushed her head backwards slightly, until she felt the demon prince’s breath slide away from her neck. Then she moved forward again, stood on her toes, and hungrily kissed Tom against the wall. He grunted and winced as his shoulders impacted the stone, but still pushed himself forward as well, kissing back.

She pressed herself against him, eager to feel the heat. She parted her lips and felt his tongue go into her mouth, playfully fighting her own, pushing and retreating, dancing and fighting. She felt hands against her back, a comforting embrace. Then claws danced down her back, ripping her white concert tee to shreds. She pushed back slowly and felt the pieces fall to the ground.

“Sorry about that, Star. I hope you didn’t want to keep that one?” Tom said in a serious tone. A smug smirk belied the insincerity of his apology.

“No, I didn’t,” Star replied, understanding the symbolism in the gesture, “and I have a skateboard you can incinerate later, too.” Maybe ‘later’ she would change her mind, but right now she wanted nothing from Jackie. “Let me take off the rest myself, though. I don’t think I want to walk home from here naked.”

Tom’s eyes went wide for a moment, then he laughed. “Star, we both know you could magic up some clothes afterwards. But that is quite the mental image.”

Star looked down at Tom’s hard-on and smiled. She wondered if that was her words or the kiss.

“Well, I still like these clothes.” She was wearing a light blue dress and tights, not quite her favorite outfit, but also not one she wanted to go up in flames.

“Ok, Star. Then do that. Undress for me!” Tom commanded her more than asked her, leaning against the wall once more.

Star felt herself go red with embarrassment. She thought back to the night she had seen Marco and Jackie do this. She remembered how confident the skateboarder girl had been when undressing for Marco and wondered if she could even put up such a display for Tom, or for anyone else. Was Jackie undressing for Marco right now? Sliding the concert tee Star made and her own green and white top off her head with a swift self assured movement? Star imagined she was. She could imagine it very vividly. It made her blood boil.

She pushed her boots off from her feet, and forcefully yanked the dress above her head, throwing it to the concrete floor. She knew it hadn’t been graceful or sexy, but Tom didn’t seem to mind, he was looking hungrily at her chest. Star could only wonder if right now Marco was looking at his girlfriend’s much larger breasts with a similar expression. She knew he was. She could almost see it.

“Star, you are beautiful…” Tom began.

She raised a hand, cutting him off. That was not the kind of words she wanted now, not from Tom at least. She pulled down her tights until she was standing in front of her ex-boyfriend in only a pair of cotton panties with a golden star in the middle. Tom seemed to regard her expression for a moment, then he smiled and switched gears.

“Ok, Star. So you are now naked, outside, at night, under a bridge, with a naughty, evil, demon,” he pushed himself up from the wall with both hands and advanced towards her. His eyes fixed on her chest, small flames dancing on his claws. “What exactly is that you said you wanted?”

“You,” Star said, trying to put all her conviction in her voice. She knew her cheekmarks were literally glowing now, with both embarrassment and anticipation.

She let Tom advance on her. She let him grab her by the hands and guide her back to the wall. Except this time, he pinned her against it, holding her arms above her head. She held on to her wand. She could feel the cold concrete on her back, but also the warmth from Tom’s body pressing against her from the front. She felt his kisses on her neck, then light bites, then a painful but exciting sucking sensation on the right side.

“Star, put the wand on the floor,” Tom said as he let her go. She hesitated for a moment. Tom grinned at her. “What, you mean you don’t trust me?”

Star felt cold as Tom retreated two steps back, giving her space to kneel down and deposit her wand safely on the ground, carefully setting it away from both of them and from the creek which passed under the bridge. She did as he wanted.

“No. I don’t,” she replied as she walked back to the wall were she had been just moments before and raised her arms above her head. She grinned at Tom. “I don’t trust you one bit.”

The demon walked towards her again and once more closed his claws around Star’s wrists, holding her in place.

“You know, Star? Without that wand of yours you are entirely at my mercy. I can do to you right now. Whatever. I. Want.” he whispered in her ear.

It was not true, Star knew. She could always dip down if she really needed to, and overpower Tom with or without the wand. Yet, for some reason, being at Tom’s mercy, at least for now, was a strangely exciting thought for her.

It helped that what he wanted to do to her seemed to be to slowly kiss down her collarbone until reaching her chest. Tom’s tongue was hot and soft and it felt incredible as it started tracing little flicks on her small mounds, making her wait in agony for those moments when it quickly darted for her hard nipples, before retreating again to explore the flesh around it. Soon those touches became more frequent and, moments after, she felt the unearthly warmth of the demon’s breath as he easily took her right breast into his mouth and began sucking on it, swirling his tongue around its center. Star opened her mouth and a loud moan escaped into the silent night.

Were Marco and Jackie also doing this right now? Star was sure they were. She could practically see them in Jackie’s bed, his face buried in the other girl’s far more developed rack. She shook her head. Then she had an idea. Star closed her eyes. She begun to imagine that the kisses in her chest came from Marco, that the tongue around her nipple was Marco’s. She moaned once again. She had already been hot and bothered, but for some reason, imagining Tom as Marco made it even more intense. She felt her wetness spread through the cotton panties.

A hand went into her underwear and a finger began cautiously exploring her entrance. Marco’s finger, she thought, lying to herself. She opened her legs and lowered herself slightly on the wall to give him better access. She felt a finger go in and out a few times, then arch up, touching something inside her that made her whimper. She felt her strength leave her legs and opened her eyes in surprise. She saw Tom, not Marco, grinning at her, holding her up with just one hand. She blushed hard.

Tom drew his other hand up to show it to the princess. She hadn’t even noticed when he let go of her left arm. Tom’s fingers were drenched in her juices. He lifted them up to his mouth and licked them clean.

“You taste so sweet... and innocent.” Tom smiled malevolently.

“Hey, you take that back!” Star retorted, in mock offense. She lowered her now free hand and closed it around the demon’s cock. She pumped him up and down a couple of times. “Still think I am innocent?”

“Y... yes. Yes, I do,” Tom replied hoarsely. He raised two eyebrows. “Do you want to prove me wrong a second time today?”

“Of course I do.” Star smiled, with a mixture of genuine interest and feigned confidence.

“Then, Star…” Tom smiled at her, a nasty yet hopeful smile, “... get on your knees.”

Star blinked for a moment, not understanding. Then, a second later, she got it.

She looked around nervously. She ought to have expected this, of course, but, then again, she had never done that before. Ok, once in a dream. But dreams were weird, and it had felt different, like she always knew what to do there. Was she really trying that, for the first time, with Tom? Then she saw it, a small wooden box two meters or so from where they were.

“Ok, Tom. You got it. But you have to sit... there!” she pointed at the box.

Tom looked at her with a puzzled expression, but he let her go and, without further question, proceeded to sit down on the wooden crate. He smirked at her, daring her to come to him. Star was pretty sure that was the same box Marco had been sitting on earlier on the day, when the three of them had come to release the ducks. Which meant this was the same bridge.

It was perfect.

She walked up to the front of the box, she knelt on the cold cement in front of it. She opened her mouth, she thought of what she had seen Jackie do a few weeks ago, and about what she herself had dreamed doing. She imagined doing this to Marco.

Star was taking her best friend’s penis in her mouth, or at least half of it. She tried pushing her lips further down, but failed. Instead, she began running her tongue over the head. Then going up and down, lubricating it with her saliva. Slowly, she found that she could take more and more of it without gaging. She pushed her lips further together and alternated moving her tongue around and flicking it below the member. She imagined herself doing this for Marco. She wanted to do well for him, to have him enjoy it. She wanted to be better at this than Jackie.

Why was she still thinking of Jackie? She could imagine the two of them, though, in vivid Technicolor in her mind: Jackie Lynn Thomas expertly sucking Marco’s dick as he laid in her bed and the boy squirming in pleasure under her ministrations. It wasn’t fair!

Star felt two hands push her head against Marco’s lap, fixing her in place. She kept doing what she was doing, thinking only of making her bestie feel as good as possible. Ignoring the voice in the back of his mind that reminded her where or with whom she was. She could hear her best friend grunt and moan with satisfaction, see his expression of pleasure. Watch him tense up with the inevitable approaching climax, and explode completely... in Jackie’s mouth. She saw the cool girl give Marco a satisfied grin and swallow. Star hated that grin! Then she felt something flood her own mouth, something bitter and thick that dribbled down the corner of her lips.

She heard Tom’s voice, “Whoa, Star. Not bad for the first time!” A claw ran along her chin. “Now, now, Star, don’t waste it. Swallow properly. You wanted to prove you are not too innocent, right?”

Star felt annoyed, and sad. But it mostly wasn’t Tom’s fault. She did as asked and quickly gulped down the demon’s cum. She felt it, warm and sticky, going down her throat. It honestly wasn’t that bad of an experience, but it certainly wasn’t an enjoyable one either.

There was something wrong with her imagination. She had meant to imagine Tom as Marco, which, ok, wasn’t really the kindest thing to do to the boy currently with her, but, well, that wasn’t the issue. The question was why Jackie kept popping in her head as well, and why it all seemed so, so real? Sure, Star’s imagination was pretty good at painting vivid pictures, but this was something else. She could had sworn she had seen Jackie blowing Marco. She had felt it too, sort of. In a weird way she had felt his pleasure. Not like she was orgasming too when he did, well, when his fantasy of Marco did, but she knew exactly how he had felt.

“Well, well, I stand corrected,” Tom said, looking down at Star with a pleased expression.

Wait, what was he talking about? Oh, right, their whole ‘innocent’ thing, their obvious game of chicken. Ok, Star, focus, you are with Tom now. He is no Marco, but imagining otherwise is just turning up super confusing anyways, and even less fun. So let’s stop fantasizing, ok?

“You should have let me known you were about to do that!” Star said, honestly a bit bothered, if not very surprised.

Tom shrugged unapologetically, then began running his hands along her face, arms and breasts. It felt good, not really that strong sexually, but soothing. She felt and saw traces of flames linger wherever the demon touched. Two hands went under her armpits and tried to pull her up. Tom grunted and gave up.

“Star. Climb on me, please,” Tom asked.

Not seeing why not, Star complied, removing her underwear before straddling the demon boy. She was soon sitting on his lap, facing him. Tom started kissing her again. Apparently the prince of the underworld didn’t care what had been in her mouth before either. He reached back with his hands and Star felt a surge of pain and pleasure shoot through her. It started near her shoulders, teasing her wings, and surged back towards her lower back, caressing her backside, going under her to lap her folds. She knew she was enveloped in fire, and that the fire was caressing her skin, all of it, and her insides. It did so gently, but it was still fire. It could not but hurt, but it did not harm her, and with the light pain, it also brought heat and pressure, and gratification.

Star lost track of time as she let Tom’s magics pleasure her. It was not as intense as even his fingers had been, not in any given point of her body, whether inside or outside. But it was pervasive and constant, and slowly bringing her higher and higher. When he was done, she could barely think straight. Tom, Marco, it didn’t matter, she needed someone. She needed someone in her, right now!

“So, what did you say you want?” Tom asked, almost mocking her.

She only grunted in response, but he seemed not to mind. He lifted her with some visible effort and slid himself under her. Star felt something press inside her crotch, she parted her legs to give it access. Barely aware that, as it pertained to a real, flesh and blood, boy, this was her first time.

It hurt, but only a little, only at first. Not that much more than the flames had hurt. Then she felt movement, and pleasure, and need. Tom pushed her up and down as he went in and out of her, without noticing, she began to push herself up and down as well, atop him. He grunted, shouted something she could not quite hear and pushed her down to the ground. His own body followed, inside of her. She impacted the pavement and she barely noticed. The crate broke and splintered under them and she barely noticed. Star withstood harder hits than that every other day in battle. The only thing she noticed was the emptiness in her when Tom withdrew from inside her, and the ecstasy as Marco entered her again.

She was seeing Marco again, not Tom. Feeling Marco inside her, like it should have been. She was happy. Her senses overwhelmed, her mind clouded. She saw his smile, his big brown eyes looking down at her, she smiled back. Jackie smiled back. Wait, what? Reality seemed to split then for Star, she was experiencing a single thing, but it was something that was happening in two places at once.

She was outside, under a bridge, naked on the cold concrete path, her back pushing pieces of wood as Tom fucked her with animal hunger, eyes glowing red with a feeling that was not anger but also, in some way, was. She did not hate that, it felt strong and raw and wild. It was exciting, it was transgressive, it was payback. She was also on a soft bed, hands caressing her, Marco’s mouth kissing her lips as he made love to her in a dim lit cozy room. Except there she was sometimes Star, and sometimes Jackie, and sometimes she was Marco too, feeling the warm bliss inside his lover’s body. She enjoyed that, it felt comforting, loving, intimate. It was beautiful, it was passionate, it was solace.

Soon it all dissolved together. The hard concrete floor. The soft bed. The transgression. The comfort. The payback. The solace. Tom’s desire. Marco’s love. Jackie. Tom. Marco. Star. Tom. Marco. Jackie. Star. She felt it all blend into the white noise of overwhelming climax.

“Staaar!” she heard Tom grunt, hungrily.

“Maaarco!” she heard Jackie moan, joyously.

“Staaar!” she heard Marco shout, lovingly.

“Maaarco!” she heard herself cry out, wishfully.

Star opened her eyes. She was back outside, in the cold night, under the stone bridge, against the hard cement and broken wood. Three blood-red eyes glared at her with apocalyptic fury. She saw the fire flare up and sideways, blackening the stone of the arch, burning the remains of the crate and her discarded clothes. The flames lit up the night, they consumed everything around them, except for right around where she was lying down. She knew these were not caressing flames, these burned with rage and contempt. Tom was holding them back from her, and only barely so.

“Star... I had one request. Just one. Just for tonight,” Tom said with a forcefully restrained tone. That portion of his self-control didn’t last long. Soon, he was shouting, “Just. This. One. Time!”

The flames went from red, to orange, to yellow, and even though they remained far from Star, she could feel the searing heat. She eyed her wand, far away from her, too far to reach. She tried to dip down, but her mind was in turmoil. She could not summon all of herself, not now, not after what had just happened.

“What did you said you wanted?!” Tom asked.

She could feel the indignation, but also the pain, in his voice. She couldn’t answer.

“Who did you say you wanted?!”

No answer.

“Just for tonight! Just this once! I let you take your anger on me! I offered relief! I did everything to please you! Was it too much to ask for you to be mine for just a few moments!?”

Star closed her eyes. Normally she would have at least tried to kick him off of her, to defend herself, but she felt exhausted. She waited for the flames to burn. They never did. She opened her eyes moments later, to see Tom limping away from her, getting away on the far side of the tunnel. Wait, limping? Was he still hurt from her spell? Had he been hurt the entire time? Had he done, all of what they did, while in pain?

Star scrambled to her feet and ran to grab her wand. She thought of going after Tom.

To do what? Apologize? ‘Hey, sorry I shouted Marco’s name when we had sex, hope you don’t mind, since you are in love with me and all’ Yeah, right...

She felt the night air around her. When did California get this cold?

The only warmth she felt, came from something fiery and sticky, running down her leg.

----

“Staaar!” she heard Marco shout, lovingly. It hit her like a punch to the gut.

“Marco?” Jackie asked. She felt surprise and hurt mix into her voice.

The weight of his body on top of her felt oppressive. Just a second ago it had been comforting and reassuring, now it was just heavy. She saw him blink twice, confused. Did he not realize what he had just said? In their most intimate moment together?

The girl felt her cool exterior crack. She could feel her eyes wetting, a tear sliding down her cheek. Jackie saw the horror of realization in Marco’s face as he pushed himself off her. He sat on his knees on her bed, looking at her, unsure what to do. He lifted a hand to cover his mouth. It was much too late for that. She looked away from him, maybe facing her bedroom wall would make this conversation easier.

“Marco, we need to talk.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 06: A Tale of two Set-ups

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place the day after the SvtFoE episode “Just Friends” (S02E20b). At the end of this chapter, the story will have begun to diverge from the SvtFoE season 2 mainline in ways that have yet to be fully explained.

Tom counted to fifty in his mind. Then he counted to fifty again, and again. It didn’t matter, the inferno inside of him raged on. He had been mad with fury since he realized Star had been imagining herself with another. He had been ready to let his rage fall on her. To hurt her like she had hurt him.

Twice that day she had struck him. The first time it had been so painful he thought he would die, that he would cease to exist. It was an almost alien thought for one such as him. The second time had been so much worse. He felt like something in him had actually died that night. Yet he hadn’t been able to bring himself to make Star die with it as well.

The strange thing was, up to that point, up to that last second, that last cry, he had been happy. He had had Star, in the way he had wanted her for over a year, in the way he had pictured since so long ago. He had thought she wanted him. Maybe she did not love him. But, for a night, maybe she could want him. In that last moment, though, he realized he never had her, and she would never truly want him again, not even for an instant.

He dragged himself back to the now empty and dark stadium, to the parking lot where a carriage pulled by an undead horse awaited. He had all the time in the multiverse to process what had just happened. He would talk to Brian about it if need be. Although, right now, Tom couldn’t imagine himself saying a word of this to anyone, trained professional or not. For now, getting home was enough.

He opened the door and climbed inside the hearse-like vehicle, only to notice a stranger sitting in his favorite chair - his throne, if you will.

“So, how did your date with the princess go? Got any action?” a dark haired girl wearing a green beanie asked him casually. She looked him up and down. Tom realized he was still naked and growled in annoyance. “Right. Seems to me like you did. Good for you!”

“What are you doing inside my carriage? Get out of here, mortal fool, before I obliterate you!” Tom saw red. Flames lit the room as he made his threat. He was not in the mood for this crap.

The girl looked directly at him and blinked twice, very slowly, unimpressed.

“Janna,” she corrected him. “This mortal is named Janna, prince Tom.”

How did she know who he was?

“I was just leaving anyway,” she shrugged. “But first, maybe I can tell you how I think your date went. Sounds good?”

Tom considered blasting her into the depths of the abyss for her insolence. But then, he realized, no one, not even he or Star, knew they were going to meet that night, and Star couldn’t have told this girl about their ‘date’ between the time it ended a few minutes ago and when he got here. There was something very strange going on.

“Star and I weren’t on a date, we ran into each other…” he observed, unsure why he felt like explaining that to the annoying trespasser.

“...at the Love Sentence concert, I know,” Janna interrupted him. “You attended the concert because you are secretly a huge fan of a certain Earth boy band, which is something you consider a dark shameful secret of sorts. There is a signed photo of yourself with Justin Towers in, well, probably that cabinet,” she pointed to it, accurately.

Tom glared at her. He wasn’t sure who this girl was or how she even knew that, but he hoped, for her sake, that she had a better reason for this little stunt than trying to blackmail him over his love of Love Sentence or something equally asinine. Once more, he was really not in the mood for this right now, and the girl seemed to be in no hurry to get to the point.

“So, you spotted Star as she was leaving the concert alone, looking dejected, and decided that it was your perfect chance to get into her royal knickers, if only you found a way to cheer her up. She told you she got beaten to her crush by another girl and you, selflessly, offered yourself as a replacement.” She laughed bitterly at that last part. “Surprising even you, she accepted without much prodding, and you two bumped uglies. Say, in a park somewhere?” Pause. “Except, when it was all over and done, she gently clarified to you your role as the rebound guy and told you, gently again, to get lost.”

She paused one final time and looked at him straight in the eyes. “How am I doing so far?”

“A little too well,” Tom replied.

His eyes narrowed in suspicion. Anger seemed to give way to puzzlement and the strange sensation that he had, somehow, been played. Only one way to find out for sure, though: keep the girl talking.

“But you are wrong on the last part,” he admitted. “We did not talk afterwards. She... she yelled Marco’s name as she... finished.”

Janna gave Tom a strange look, then seemed to be suppressing a laugh.

“Wow, that had to hurt!” she remarked. “There’s no accounting for taste, I guess. I mean, Marco is a fine boy and all, but going for that instead of well…” She looked him up and down again and licked her lips. “What is Star even thinking?”

Tom would never let it show, but the words soothed his wounded ego a little bit, even coming from a stranger. He noticed, for the first time, that said stranger was a fairly attractive human girl, of around Star’s age, which was also in her favor. Surely nothing special in the grand scheme of things, compared to the Mewman princess, but attractive on a more simple - normal, was perhaps the word? - level. Unfortunately, she would not be around to compliment him much longer.

“Well, now that I have told you about that, I hope you do realize I have to kill you,” he mentioned casually. In fact, it was the only reason he had felt free to discuss his humiliation with the stranger. Dead girls only told tales when he wished them to do so.

“Sure, sure, you definitely could do that,” Janna replied calmly, seemingly not at all bothered by her imminent demise, “...or you could get back at Star.”

Get back at Star? Tom hadn’t realized how much he wanted that, until the strange girl brought it up. Yeah, she had hurt him twice that day. Granted, he had thought the first time actually made them square, balanced out what he had done to her in the past. But that also meant the second time was completely unjustified. Tom deserved revenge.

Well, it couldn’t hurt to hear what the girl was going to say, especially if he was going to incinerate her afterwards anyways. “How?”

“Mmm, dunno. Lots of options. If I were you I would simply try to make her jealous somehow, make her realize what she missed on, what she discarded,” Janna began, perilously prodding at his ego. “I mean, look at the facts. Evidence indicates she only notices the guys in her life after they are taken by someone else. Don’t tell me you don’t see that nifty pattern? Over half a year of ‘Marco and I are just friends’, then Jackie asks him out and suddenly Star wants the D...iaz. Meanwhile, you are following after her like a lovesick puppy, and of course she feels you are worthless! It is a clichè so old the pharaohs probably complained about it!”

Tom reflected on her words. They sounded true. There was definitely a type of girl like that. But he didn’t think Star worked that way. Maybe he was wrong? Blinded by love, had he perhaps misjudged her?

“What you have to do, Tom, is find someone else. Preferably someone from Star’s life, so that she cannot forget you exist. The closer the better,” Janna continued, there was an almost hypnotic quality to the girl’s voice now.

“Hey, I know!” She conspicuously pretended to just figure something out. Tom had done that often enough to recognize when someone else was pulling that trick on him, still, he listened. “How about her best friend?”

“Marco?!” Tom asked, disgusted.

“Well, that would be hot,” Janna observed with a chuckle. “But I was thinking about her best girl friend.”

She made an obvious dramatic pause. Frankly, Tom thought she was laying it on far too thick, but he wouldn’t deny that she had kept him interested in what she had to say.

“Oh, what a coincidence, I just realized, Star’s best girl friend is, well... me.” The last word had sounded almost like a question, yet it conspicuously wasn’t one.

Tom’s eyes widened. So that was the girl’s game? Well, she was cute, and she might be fun for a date or two, especially if she could actually help him make Star even a bit jealous. Wait a second!

“If you are truly Star’s best friend, why would you help me make her jealous?” he asked.

“Maybe I find it fun. Maybe I am a bad friend. Maybe you are just that hot. Maybe I have ulterior motives I can’t yet tell you about,” she listed calmly, counting with her fingers. “One or more of those.”

“How do I know you really are a close friend of Star? She never mentioned you,” Tom retorted. He couldn’t believe he was considering this.

“Well, I knew about your night, didn’t I?” Janna explained like it was obvious, and the demon felt a bit slow to not have figured it out before. “Whom other than a close friend could have arranged all those happy coincidences?”

“Wait, what?! Arranged? You planned this?!” Tom’s eyes went red with rage once more. “Are you saying that you not only knew what happened, but knew it before it happened, because you planned it?!”

“Point Tom,” Janna replied, amused.

He again had to pause to wonder how much she knew, which was probably the whole point of making that obvious reference. On the other hand, it gave him time to count to ten in his head once more.

“But, how?” Tom honestly couldn’t conceive how anyone would know he was going to be at the concert, or predicted his interactions with Star this well.

“Mmmm... do you consider yourself a living soul, Tom?” she asked.

“Not really. Not exactly living. Plus, I don’t have the other thing either.” What kind of question was that, though? “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Then, maybe, one day I will explain it to you,” she winked at him.

“Wait, you are telling me, that you somehow contrived a scenario where Star would get her heart broken, run into me, decide to have a one night stand with me, and then completely and utterly humiliate me!?” Flames exploded out of every pore of his body. He saw the girl flinch, just a little bit. Ironically, that made him feel a bit more in control again.

Then he realized he was missing something: motive.

Sure, someone who could plot something like that was impressive, but no one went to those lengths unless they had something to win. He was sure she had told him what it was she wanted already, too. The final piece clicked in his head.

“You manipulated your best friend into a dark enough place to do something she normally wouldn’t do, to hurt me to the point to which I would seek vengeance. Then you have been pulling and prodding at those desires for revenge this entire conversation. Playing me to... to... to convince me to go out with you?!” he asked incredulously.

“You got me there.” Janna lifted both palms in the air. “Honestly, I thought we would already be mid date by the time you figured it all out. You are a lot more perceptive than Star or Marco make you out to be. But then, the real question is: did it work?”

“Honestly? That’s pretty fucked up…” Tom said with a serious face, then grinned at her, “...and I have never felt more flattered in my life.”

He held his own chin with two clawed fingers, thinking it through. It didn’t seem like he had much to lose humoring this girl, and he had a lot to win, including a chance to get back at, and perhaps even back with, Star.

“Ok, you know what? You win,” he said finally. “One date, in exchange for your honest effort at making Star jealous. Truly, you got my attention, now let’s see how long you can keep it.”

“Let’s see how long you can keep mine,” Janna retorted mockingly. “But, how about you pick me up tomorrow night at, I don’t know, seven O’ six? Right now is late, and you are a mess and smell of Star. I don’t think I am quite into that,” she shrugged.

“Fine,” Tom retorted, slightly annoyed that she was still controlling their interaction.

He definitely needed to go back home and think a lot of things through before any new dates, though, so it wasn’t exactly a bad idea to wait till the next day. Tomorrow might even be too soon, but what the hell, going out with this crazy chick was definitely better than mopping about Star in the underworld. Janna hopped from his chair and started heading out of the carriage.

Then, Tom realized he hadn’t given her a way to call him, and he didn’t know how to find her either. “Wait! There is something I need to give you first!”

“No worries! I already got them,” Janna shouted from the parking lot, waving a tiny bell and a little hammer. She turned to run away.

Tom sighed in confusion and, with an exasperated gesture, ordered his ride to go to hell. Home, sweet home.

----

It was late in the afternoon the next day, and Star had not left her room. She had arrived through the window last night, clad in a hastily conjured gray cloak. She had tried to magic up a copy of her old outfit, but for some reason that’s how the spell came out. She put the ragged ugly thing on and summoned cloudy. Even the usually friendly cloud seemed gray and depressed, with a slight green tint to it. It hadn’t gone haywire or anything, it just didn’t talk to Star at all as it dragged her back to the Diaz’s place. That was fine, Star wasn’t in a mood to talk either.

She had felt so tired, but still, she forced herself to get under the shower. The water flowing down her face hid her own tears, as they slid down her cheekmarks. She felt dirty in some undefined way, in a way the water falling on her would not clean. She knew it was ridiculous. She was not usually ashamed of her decisions, even when they got her into trouble, and it had been her decision to sleep with Tom. It had even been fun at times, especially when she had imagined Marco instead. She had mostly enjoyed herself, except for at the end, when it all came crashing down. Yet, she knew she regretted it. She tried to figure out what exactly she regretted. Doing it with Tom? That it had been her first time? That she had been thinking of Marco? Hurting Tom? Betraying Marco?

She had been surprised at her last thought. Of course she was not betraying Marco. Marco wasn’t her boyfriend, he was Jackie’s. Nonetheless, even after she finished showering, even after she had gone to bed, even after she woke up the next day, she could not get rid of that foolish thought. Now it was the end of the afternoon and she was still thinking it. She felt even sillier for it.

She was hungry. She had snuck in a box of cereal and snacked on it through the morning, but now she was not in the mood for more cereal. The Diaz family had called her down to eat, both at breakfast and at lunch, knocking on her door or shouting her name. She hadn’t answered, and they had mostly let her be. That was at least an advantage of the Diaz household. Back in Mewni her mother would have dragged her out of her room to some royal function or another, or order that she be dragged out by servants. Of course, back in Mewni she could also have had run away to the Forest of Certain Death and hid there the entire day. She thought of running away now, maybe go to the Bounce Lounge or even visit Pony Head in St. O’s. But, she realized, the only scissors she had access to here were in Marco’s room. He was the last person she wanted to talk to right now, even to ask for them.

Just then, as if on cue, she heard three quick and forceful knocks on the door. “Ok, Star, I am sorry, I don’t know what’s the matter, but I need to talk to you!”

“Marco, go away! I don’t want to talk right now!” Star shouted back through the locked door.

He had come up six times already that day. First when he got home early in the morning, and most recently just an hour ago. Each time more insistent than the last. Each time she told him to go away, and he reluctantly let her be. It was not really true that she didn’t want to see Marco, it was more like she couldn’t face him. Would he ask about last night at the concert? Or about what was going on with her? He sounded concerned, and hurt, but how could she explain to him what had happened? There was no way Star could tell Marco about how she had felt when she saw him kiss Jackie. There was even less chance that she would be able to talk about what had happened with Tom.

“Star, you don’t have to talk about anything if you don’t want to,” Marco insisted. “Look, I am worried about you, my parents are worried about you, and I would really like to know what is bothering you.”

No, Marco, you really wouldn’t.

He continued, “if you need something, or if I can help, please, please let me know. But if you don’t want to talk, then don’t talk. But I. Still. Need. To. Talk. To. You.”

He had put a lot of force behind that last sentence, and emphasized the ‘I’ and ‘you’ parts. Star blinked for a moment, peering out of the bed sheet that she had bundled herself into as she sat in a corner of her room. Wait, so Marco wanted to talk about something other than what was going wrong with her? She wasn’t sure if that made her feel relieved or hurt.

“Star, Jackie and I got into a fight last night…” she heard him say.

Marco sounded genuinely distraught. Something pinched at the princess’ heart. She felt guilt pooling around her like a cold mist. Guilt at not being there for her friend, or guilt about Tom? Or guilt that she secretly had, for a split of a second, felt happy that Marco and Jackie were fighting, before realizing that must be horrible for her friend? It was so infuriatingly hard to pick her feelings apart right now!

“Give me a second, Marco,” she answered after a brief pause.

In the end, it didn’t matter how she felt, because all of her was in agreement on one thing: if she failed to be there for him now, she would forever regret it. She walked to her bed slowly and took the wand from under the pillow.

“Radiant Shadow Transform!” she shouted, conjuring an outfit for herself.

She hadn’t bothered to dress yet that day. The spell fell short of its usual level of fashion forwardness, but nonetheless Star found herself dressed in a fairly decent plain black dress and white leggings.

“Defensive Gate Withdrawal!” she yelled without much enthusiasm. The giant padlock and portcullis vanished from her bedroom door. “Ok, you can come in now, Marco. What happened?”

----

Janna had to admit to herself she was nervous that afternoon. She was never nervous, either about mischief or about boys. Sure, her courtship techniques might have lacked a certain finesse, but she had never exactly been shy in front of boys she found attractive. In fact, she usually managed to put them in the more uncertain position. It helped that the only men who truly managed to leave her speechless had been dead and buried long before she was born. It was hard to feel insecure with Keats, when she could only reach him through the pages of a book, his words already set in place where her response to them would never taint their truth. After that, it hardly mattered what opinion flesh and blood boys might have of her. It was not that she was not interested in a few select cases, but if they did not reciprocate, well, it was no big concern of hers.

Tom was different. Tom was not human. He was a mystery not the way the silent hunk at a party was a mystery; that is, in that the only mystery was what you had to do to get him to open up, and immediately reveal himself to be as boring as any of a dozen more idiots her age.

Marco was interesting, to an extent. He had been outside of this dimension, apparently once for sixteen years straight. He had had a demon bound to his arm. Janna felt a tingle remembering how it had felt when she was holding the eldritch appendage. Star was mysterious too, of course. The magic that she took for granted fascinated Janna. But, even compared to them, her date tonight was a whole different deal. Tom was not a human, or a Mewman, or a handsome stranger from some random foreign dimension. He was a demon. He was mysterious like the night is mysterious or like death is mysterious.

Now, Janna was not fooling herself. At least she did not believe she was. She knew Tom was a jerk, an anger-management basket-case, a manipulative bastard, a ticking time-bomb, and, perhaps worst of all, a guy that very often acted just like a moody human teenager. Nonetheless, there was definitely a lot more to that particular teenager than there was to any of the idiots at her school. Tom was also very dangerous, a taste Janna realized she shared with her best friend Star.

She had fished the only truly presentable item from her wardrobe: a vintage dark green dress with knee-height skirt and a black velvet trim. She had gotten it at a thrift shop months ago and never wore it. In fact, the only reason she had taken that particular dress home, other than the color, was the the owner had told her some lady had died in it and that was why it was so discounted. She would have paid double for that!

Ok, well, she shoplifted it either way, but it was the thought that counted.

She completed her look with green heels and a black choker with a ceramic skull in the middle. Hopefully that look would not be out of place wherever Tom intended to take her out on a date. The underworld, most likely, she thought with an excited shiver.

Janna glanced at her phone. Six forty-five, still some time before she planned to ring up her ride. She wondered how the rest of her little plan was unfolding. She was sorry about what she had had to put Star through, but she knew her friend would forgive her after it all resolved for the best. The only truly unfortunate thing was that she herself could not be around to see Marco’s face when it all fell into place. The boy should be beyond himself with excitement right about now!

----

“I really don’t know where to start, Star,” said Marco gloomily, as he sat in the bed beside an equally downcast Star.

They both stared at the floor for a while, sitting there together, as close as they could get without touching each other. Star’s mind was still a jumble of awful thoughts. She wanted to break through it, to be there to comfort her friend, but she simply couldn’t.

“Do you want to tell me what the fight was about?” she ventured the question, glancing in his direction.

“Well, after you left the concert,” Marco began. Star flinched. “Sorry, maybe I should skip some of it. The concert doesn’t matter. Unless you want to talk about it?”

Star kept quiet.

“Ok, so, anyways, after the concert Jackie and I went over to her place, to you know, say goodnight and stuff...”

Even bummed as she was Star couldn’t help but to chuckle a little bit at Marco’s embarrassed fib.

"‘Say goodnight’, Marco? You got back this morning. That must have been some long good night,” she chided.

Marco blushed, but then seemed sad for some reason. Star regretted her joke almost immediately.

“Ok, well, so, Star, just to be clear, you know what people who are dating and, well, are attracted to each other, do, right? When they spend the night together, I mean?” Star blinked at this. Was he asking if she knew what sex was? “You see. At least on Earth, boys and girls are a bit different, in that the boys have a…”

Star began laughing, despite herself. There was some bitterness to the laugh, but it was overpowered by the sheer amusement at how innocent her bestie’s mental picture of her seemed to be.

“Marco! We fuck on Mewni too!” she shouted at him. Her cheekmarks immediately lit up, and then she felt a cold pang of regret remembering the previous night. “I mean, I don’t mean I have, I also don’t mean I haven’t or wouldn’t... let’s just say I understand the concept, Marco. Congrats on doing it with Jackie, by the way…” she forced the words out “Hopefully it went well?”

Marco shook his head. He stared at the floor some more. He seemed very nervous, more so than usual, more than he was even when Jackie was around.

“That’s the thing, Star. I mean, we actually have slept together before,” he confessed in a quiet whisper. Star tried her best to pretend that was news to her. Either because she did a good job of it, or because he was otherwise distracted, Marco didn’t seem to notice anything amiss, “But, last night, I did something wrong when we were, well, when we were having sex…”

“Did you do anything to her she told you not to?” Star asked. It seemed unlikely, it was Marco after all.

He shook his head and seemed a bit hurt at the implication.

“Ok, then it can’t be that bad, Marco.” She thought for a bit. “If it’s a performance issue, just take it slow and give it time, that was a pretty hectic day and I am sure Jackie would understand that you were nervous…”

There she went again, the good friend offering her bestie help in getting back with his girlfriend. Good, she thought, that’s how it should be.

“No, Star. It wasn’t a performance problem!” Marco replied, annoyed. Star flinched a bit at that. “No, sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. It is just, it was something very weird, and I can’t say it to you, even if I try. It was... well, it felt like my mind was playing tricks on me, and I said something I shouldn’t have, and that led to a whole long discussion where I realized something about me. Something that makes me even more confused. Something that I can’t say, that I think I knew but I didn’t know I knew, that I can’t spit out even though I have been planning to tell you since I got back home this morning…”

Star looked at her friend. For a moment she forgot all about Tom, about her confusing night and about her complicated feelings. She was just worried about Marco. He looked completely distressed. She wanted to figure out what to say that would make him feel better, or get him back with Jackie or somehow fix whatever it was that was hurting him.

“Star. I have been trying to ask you all day... will you go out on a date with me?”

----

Janna stood in the curb outside her house. She had just finished collecting a few items into her small black purse. She had applied some dark lipstick, as well. Makeup was not her forte, but she figured this much at least she had gotten down by now.

She took out the bell and hit it with the ruby hammer. Immediately a fiery abyss opened up from the street in front of her, noxious fumes and searing flames exploded up into the dark sky. She heard the cries of agony of billions of ancient souls and the maddening laughs of their immortal tormentors. “Cool!”

Then she saw a large red demon chained to a wooden pillory, which was in turn attached by ropes to a small black elevator. The doors opened and she climbed inside. “Which floor, mortal?”

“Name is Janna, and, well, wherever your boss is at,” she told the creature.

She knew well to act unimpressed, but she was just a little impressed. She had friends, peers, acquaintances, occasionally pawns. Tom? Tom had minions. Well, Star probably had minions too, she thought, of both the magical and mewman kind. Janna had never been intimidated by Star, so why should Tom be any different?

“Ah, Janna, so glad you could join me,” Tom greeted her as the ‘elevator’ stopped just a few centimeters above the black stone floor of an enormous underground cavern. He was dressed in a black suit, with a white shirt and a tie, and three-eyed sunglasses over his face. He extended a hand to help her out of her ride. “Welcome, to Hell!”

She felt herself blush slightly. This wasn’t good. She reminded herself that there was still plenty of work she still had to do on Tom, this was not the time to become complacent.

“Woah, Tom, don’t you clean up nicely?” she replied.

It was a weak neg, and not really her style. But Star had told her Tom had said it to her before, so maybe just the fact Janna knew would be enough to throw him off balance a little bit. Unfortunately, she was running out of smug callbacks to flick at Tom after last night.

“Funny, I was just about to say the same,” he retorted, raising at least one eyebrow.

His expression was hard to read behind the glasses. Intentionally so, Janna concluded.

“Since we are apparently going for a reenactment of sorts, let me offer you this,” he said, and reached with his free hand behind him, producing a nasty looking spider larger than his fist. Nice.

“Neat,” Janna smiled. Tom explained that it went on her hair and Janna allowed him to place the spider over her head. It probably did look wicked cool, even if the legs tickled a bit. “Is it venomous?”

“Deadly,” Tom assured her, “but it won’t bite unless I command it to.”

Ah, so it was only their first date and he was already putting himself in control of whether she lived or died. Oh, Tom, who knew you were such a hopeless romantic? She thought to herself. Mostly, but only mostly, in jest.

“Well, where to now? Pretty sure we are 666 years and a few months too early for the next Blood Moon Ball…” she noted.

Tom seemed caught up by surprise by her comment, despite their previous interaction. That was good, keep him guessing how much you know, Janna. The more curious he is, the less likely you die from a spider bite and all that.

He seemed to ponder things for a second. “It depends. If you are hungry I can always take you to the Faust. It is the best restaurant in this side of the underworld, and only half of what they serve is poisonous for you or would doom your soul for all eternity. After that, we can go for drinks to the Vermilion Viper Club.”

“Sounds good, but, Tom, I am fourteen, no fake ID is going to conceal that. Also, I don’t really drink…” she admitted.

“Janna, first of all, this is Hell, of course they serve alcohol to minors. Second, we can figure it out once we get there. I am sure they’ll have... juice,” he muttered disdainfully. “If that is all you truly want. So, shall we go then?”

----

“Yes! Yes, of course I will, Marco!” Star shouted, surprising even herself with how emphatic her response had been. It felt, for a moment, as if all her worries were blown away by a soothing breeze. Marco had just asked her out, and she said yes!

Wait, wait a minute. This wasn’t right. It didn’t make sense. Unless, “Marco, wait, are you asking me out just because Jackie and you broke up?”

She felt sick once again. She loved Marco. Well, no, not ‘loved’. But she had maybe a super big crush on him, she told herself, unconvincingly. If he was only asking her out to get over being dumped by Jackie, if he was about to treat her like, like... ‘like I treated Tom’ she thought to herself, then she didn’t want it, not like that.

“Actually, Star, that’s the really weird part,” Marco continued. He seemed nervous, like he expected Star to suddenly grow fangs and bite his head off. That, by the way, was not likely to happen, well at least as far as she knew. “Jackie and I didn’t break up. We had a fight, maybe our first real fight, but we, sort of, resolved it? She was the one who told me to ask you out.”

What?! That didn’t make any sense!

“Marco, is this an Earth thing?” she asked. “Because if it is, you might have to explain it to me. I am lost. You are dating Jackie, and she told you, to ask me out on a date?”

Also, did that mean Marco didn’t really want to go out with her? It was only because Jackie had asked? She felt her gut going crazy as her mind raced ahead with excuses for both why Marco actually wanted to go out with her, and excuses for why he did not and this was all a cruel misunderstanding.

“Well, I don’t fully understand it either, Star. But basically, last night I realized that, well, that I... that I like you, and I like Jackie too. It came up at the worst possible moment, but it had been on my mind since, well, since a dream I had a few weeks ago. Maybe since way earlier than that, even if I hadn’t fully understood it before,” he stammered. He seemed a little bit afraid.

“Jackie said, well, she said that she knew,” he continued. Star was a little worried he might forget to breathe, as he rushed through the full explanation. “She told me, that she thought you liked me too, and that she was happy about that, and also not happy about that, but that we would figure stuff out. She told me to ask you out, and that if you said yes, to figure out what our feelings were, you and I, I mean, and then to talk to her tomorrow.”

Then he paused, and his eyes went wide. He looked mortified. “Oh, and, I am sorry. She also told me to tell you all of this before I asked you out. I kinda messed up that part. It is sort of my first time asking anyone out when you think about it, really, sorry…”

“Oh,” Star blinked a few times.

That was, complicated, and weird, and had Jackie just, I don’t know, lent her her boyfriend?

“Well, Marco,” she said very quietly, “she is right on one thing. I... I... I do like you.”

“Oh,” said Marco.

They both stood there, looking at each other, blushing bright red.

“Then, maybe,” Star continued, with some difficulty, “maybe she is right about other stuff too. This is all super weird. I think I like you, and I am glad you like me back. I get that you like Jackie as well, and I don’t really want you two to not be together, although, if I am being super extra honest, sometimes, only sometimes, I feel like I do. I have no idea how this works, but I want to go out with you tonight, and we can figure the rest tomorrow. So, basically… my answer is still yes!”

“Oh. I am really glad, Star,” Marco said, looking at her. He still seemed a bit worried, but he also was smiling. “I do still love Jackie, though, and that means I have no clue what will happen, and that I cannot promise that we won’t all get hurt, that I won’t hurt you. If I do... if I do I am so sorry in advance, and I hope whatever happens won’t break us up as friends…”

“Marco, the end of the world couldn’t break us up as friends!”

She saw him smile, the tension inside of him seeming to ease a bit. She felt herself grow calmer too, as she realized the truth in what she had just said. Even if this did end badly, it wouldn’t be like her and Tom, it couldn’t be. She and Marco were besties. Whatever was about to happen, they would always have that.

“Then, there is one more thing Jackie told me to say. She told me that after I explained to you what happens tomorrow, I should shut up about her and tell you that tonight is all about the two of us, and ask you if you wanted to go for fancy dinner and then dancing afterwards.”

“Marco, Jackie is awesome.” She meant it, she really really did. “But she is right, if you tell me one more time tonight something she told you to do or not do... I will punch you. Tell me where you want to take me out to!”

“How about tacos and then dancing afterwards?”

“Sounds awesome!” she replied beaming him a smile. Then, Star realized she was wearing a dress that looked like she was about to attend a funeral in it. “Maybe we both should get ready first, though. Check again in thirty, Marco? Tell your parents we are not having dinner at home!”

----

“So, how do you like the Hors d’oeuvres?” Tom asked from across the table.

Janna had just tried one pentagonal shaped cracker with some raw bits of meat on top of it. Surprisingly, it was delicious. But she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what kind of meat it was. At least she had made her dietary restrictions clear to Tom before they got to the restaurant. In addition to nothing that would kill her or damn her soul forever, she had insisted on no human parts, nor any other creature capable of speech or otherwise similarly intelligent. She felt that wording was probably airtight enough that she wouldn’t need to break the mood by asking about every dish. Besides, she had some trust that Tom would understand and follow the spirit of her request, at least to a degree.

“Well, I like them so far,” Janna said noncommittally. “Cool place, by the way.”

The Faust was an extraordinarily luxurious venue. The black marble walls and blood-red vitrails, depicting demons and other unearthly denizens, made it look like some perverse imitation of a medieval church. Apparently it took years to get a reservation, if not decades, but Tom had simply commanded they be given the best table in the house, and two poor undead saps had had to find themselves another place to have their 300th anniversary dinner. Janna could certainly respect the theatricality of such a conspicuous display of power, if nothing else.

“Ah, Master Tom, it’s been far too long. What a pleasure to see you back in our humble establishment,” a tall pearl-white demon with ebony hair, bright azure eyes, and curled goat horns walked up to their table and received them with a vow. “And, may I add, with such a lovely lady! It is good to see your highness is, oh, how do the kids say these days, ‘getting back in the saddle’?”

“Are you mocking me, Adorjan?” Tom’s eyes lit up in red for a second.

The waiter remained impassive, an arm in front of him holding a napkin, another extending forward the menus and depositing two leathery volumes in front of each of them.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, master Tom,” the pale demon replied in perfect deadpan. “After all, I am but a humble servant. One who pays no heed to scurrilous rumors regarding the romantic travails of my betters, no matter how widespread. Rather, shall I offer the two of you anything to drink? Madam? Sire?”

Janna stifled a chuckle, and quickly asked Tom about ordering recommendations to, less than artfully, but effectively enough, distract him from the bad mood he was beginning to show. Tom sighed and rattled off a series of quick orders, which Adorjan wrote down as fast as the demon prince was able to name the dishes. After that, with the utmost professionalism, and only the faintest hint of a triumphant smirk, he bowed to the two guests, and dashed towards the kitchen.

“So, you mentioned helping me make Star jealous,” Tom said offhandedly after the waiter had left. Evidently his insinuations had brought the princess back to the forefront of the demon prince’s mind. “Pretty sure she doesn’t even know we are here, though. Was that just a ruse to get me to invite you down here or do you intend to hold up your end of the bargain?”

“Tom, don’t you think that it would be too obvious if we simply walked up to Star the day after, well, you know what, and told her to her face we were dating? She is naive, but not that naive. She would know what’s up in an instant.” It was a plausible excuse, the truth usually was. “No. Here is how it is going to work, if you must know: we are going to go on a very real date tonight, and we are going to bond, so that I know enough about you and you know enough about me that Star will believe we have been dating. Whether we go on a second date or not, we will also need to wait at least a week before ‘casually’ running into Star. Then I will hold up my end of the bargain, as you say. I’ll simply pretend to be really into you and see how Star responds to that.”

“Pretend? You mean you are not really into me,” Tom asked, slightly surprised, unable to avoid the bait.

Janna kept her face unreadable.

“Well, right now, I am mostly just curious,” she played it cool. “But my point is, when we finally meet Star, I should be able to act like I am really,” she looked directly into the dark glasses, “really,” she touched his arm and leaned forward, “into you.” For a second, her face lingered right in front of his, and she basically breathed the last part over his closed mouth.

A moment later, she was leaning back in her chair again and casually pondering one of the vitrails. “You know, really sell it. For Star, of course.”

Tom was silent, unreadable behind his dark glasses. Janna still felt she had probably made her point.

“But Tom,” she added. “I think it is you who does not want to hold up his end of the bargain. I did not ask for a business meeting at a fancy restaurant, I asked for a date. I assume you don’t normally spend your dates talking about your exes, right?”

“Well, it’s honestly been a while since I have been on a date with someone new…” Tom admitted, embarrassed.

He was kinda cute when he opened up like that. Janna did not have much time to enjoy it, however. She needed to press him for a bit more, keep him talking, before he realized his mistake and closed up once more.

“How about you tell me about yourself? Or about your life here? It must be so cool to rule over all the Underworld!” Flattery and getting others to talk about themselves were both good ways to put them at ease, and in this case, it helped that Janna was genuinely curious about this whole Prince of Hell deal.

“Well, I don’t really rule all of it, not even close. You see, ‘the Underworld’ is a vast meta-dimension, older than Earth or Mewni, much older than myself. But my family has always had an important place in…”

----

“Whoa, Marco, I am honored that you are sharing so much of your culture with me, on our date!” Star nearly shouted the last three words.

She knew the whole restaurant probably had heard it, and it made her a bit giddy. But mostly, she wanted to say it for herself, just to make sure she believed it.

“Star, was that really necessary? Also, my culture? I mean, my dad’s family is from Mexico, but I was born in California…” he responded.

He didn’t actually seem angry at her, more like, well, nervous. Nervous like when he was on a date with Jackie, Star observed with pride. Ok, not really the same way, but close enough.

“Mexico? I meant your Earth-culture, Marco!” she clarified.

‘La Fonda de Don Alberto’ was probably a more authentic Mexican place than Britta’s, their usual taco joint. The food here was spicier and less greasy, and there were more private places to sit close together. But, to Star, it was mostly just a new place on Earth. Besides, Marco had promised to teach her a new Earth dance afterwards. Something called Salsa.

Marco chuckled, “I guess sometimes I forget you really aren’t from around here.”

He did? Star thought it was still pretty obvious that she wasn’t really from this dimension, although she had gotten a bit better at blending in, when she didn’t use magic.

“Maybe I had gotten so familiar with you, that I forgot there are still so many more things I haven’t showed you…” he trailed off, looking directly into her eyes.

“What would you want to show me, then?” Star said blushing.

Marco didn’t respond. He seemed to be staring at her, seemingly lost in thought, or maybe like he was seeing her for the first time.

Star felt her cheekmarks lit up just a little bit. “Um, Marco?”

“Ah, yeah, uhmmm,” he snapped out of it and began fidgeting with his fork. “Well, right now, I guess I want to show you this Pollo con Mole,” he laughed nervously.

Star laughed too and focused on her plate. She cut a bit of the chicken and tried it more to defuse the tension than because she was hungry. Although, well, that was true too.

“Whoa! Is this spicy chocolate sauce?! Marco, this is truly a marvel of Earth cuisine!” she declared, jumping from her seat.

“I knew you would like it!” Marco beamed at her.

Of course, that was the thing about Marco. He knew her so well. They knew each other’s likes and dislikes. They could usually predict what the other would say about almost anything. They shared all their... most of their secrets, Star thought, guiltily. So, what did that mean for their first date? Was there anything left for them to talk about that was different from what they talked about as friends? How was this different from two besties just hanging out?

“Star, is anything the matter? You went all serious for a moment there. Did I say anything wrong? I thought you liked the food. I thought it would make you smile, since you have been sort of... sad these last few days. Not that you should smile if you don’t want to,” Marco babbled on. “Is just, I like it when you smile, Star. I feel that when you do, it lights the whole room. Yeah, kinda like that.”

----

"... and because I lost the game of dice, I had to revive the soldier’s wife. But what the idiot didn’t know is that she had been fucking his brother the entire time he had been away from home. So, out of spite, I offhandedly mentioned that little detail and, wouldn’t you know it, she was back down here the week after. The brother too!” Tom concluded his latest story and they both laughed.

He had long ago gotten rid of the sunglasses as he became more and more at ease with the girl. Janna indulged him, it was definitely better stuff than what she usually heard from her classmates, and the food had been delicious. The apple tart at the end was pure paradise, maybe literally.

“You know, Janna, Star never really had the patience to listen to my stories like this. It is always ‘let’s go to another dimension!’ or ‘yeah, yeah... boring, let’s play at something’ with her,” Tom added. Janna made a show of raising an eyebrow. “Oh, right, not saying that name tonight. Sorry. How about you, anything I should know about you?”

“Well, nothing as exciting as ruling a hell,” she emphasized the ‘a’, showing she had been listening. “I guess I am sort of into witchcraft stuff, but most things I do don’t really work. Me and... a friend, held a seance for a dead clown once. That one worked, actually, but it got interrupted by an idiot bird-man-midget-thing. I like poetry and metal, which is maybe not the most common combination, but also less rare than you might think. Dunno, I am also sorta good at messing with people.”

“Ah, so resurrecting the death and manipulating mortals. I can see why you are drawn to, well, this,” Tom indicated their surroundings. “Is that all you are after, though? The magics of the Underworld? There are easier bargains you could have struck for that than this date, mor... Janna.”

“I imagine so,” she shrugged her shoulders. “This seemed more fun, though. I guess I figure I have my whole life to go after the powers of the occult the usual way, but how many girls can say they have actually dated a prince of darkness? Besides, it is not just the title, I also think you are hot. I guess I thought so since the first time I saw you, when you were floating down the hallway the day you... went to our school.”

A gleam in Tom’s eyes told Janna of her mistake. She had said too much. Crap, she was so stupid! All these manipulations and mind games and she had been the first to admit to something like that. She might as well just had come out and said she had a long-time teenage crush on Tom!

“Well, I suppose it is nice to hear that,” Tom said, infuriatingly noncommittal. “I think we should move to the Viper now. Get some drinks, loosen up, maybe tell each other how we really feel,” he teased. “Adorjan, you may now bring the check.”

Janna felt like she wanted the earth to swallow her. Then again, this was probably the place you ended up when that happened, anyway.

The demon waiter arrived almost instantly. He seemed to notice Janna’s predicament and shot her a mysterious look.

“Ah, I see, Sire wishes to pay in kind, rather than keep balances in the royal tab? One must wonder whether this is so that his human date might be suitably impressed.” A pale white hand produced a small black leather booklet. “Shall I make a gesture of showing her the zeros? There are quite a few of those…”

“That,” Tom interrupted the server with a furious look, “will certainly not be necessary.”

He took the booklet, looked at its contents and discretely slipped a bunch of red banknotes and silver coins into it, making sure Janna couldn’t actually count them.

Adorjan took the booklet from him, with a raised eyebrow. “A less discrete servant than myself might comment on how his highness puts far much effort into a pretend date that is, ostensibly, part of a dastardly scheme. In fact, such servant might observe that master Tom looks far more cheerful today than in the whole of last year. But, of course, I am not one to say any such thing.”

Tom glared daggers at the waiter. Janna gave him a silent look of thanks, and received the faintest of winks in return.

----

The place Marco had taken Star after dinner was also new to her. It was not really a dance club in the way the Bounce Lounge was, or a fancy dance hall like the Royal Waltz Hall in Mewni, but a strange mixture of the two. Most of the place was covered only by a dimly lit wooden dance floor, with tables set aside only on one end of the room. The music was unusual as well: it sounded older than pop or rock music, but it was also surprisingly fast paced and rhythmic. People were dancing in complicated patterns of rapid twists and close embraces. Their movements did not seem vulgar at all, but they still felt sensual in a way that was hard to describe.

“Whoa, I really have never seen this kind of dance!” Star observed, enthusiastically. It looked, well, it looked kinda intimate. She blushed slightly.

“That’s the point, Star. I wanted to show you something new tonight,” he looked at her with those big brown eyes and Star felt herself melt. “Now, I am not like, super good at this or anything. Some of the regulars here do this every weekend, for years.” Star noticed then an older couple where the man seemed to be holding the woman mostly upside down along the line formed by his outstretched leg. “But I know enough to teach you the basics, if you want.”

“Of course I do!” Star nodded vigorously. She was always up for learning new things, and only like a million times more so if it also meant dancing with Marco. “So, how do we begin?”

“Well, first, you hold my hands like this. Now, when I move my feet like this, you move back like so,” Marco began.

Star was a quick learner, and she enjoyed how confident Marco sounded as he explained the moves or corrected her form. He was also very careful in how he guided her through the dance floor and through the turns. Besides, unlike that time, long ago, with the bicycle thing, there was absolutely no danger of him letting go without warning here.

There was no holding her upside down, or even lifting her from the dance floor. There were, however, plenty of touches on her shoulders, or her arms, or the small of her back as Marco guided her from one move to the next. It felt, to Star, like loving, almost sexual, caresses. She wondered silently if Marco intended them that way. She gasped as he pushed forward and held her, one feet up, laying on air, horizontal to the dance floor. Wow, Marco! I wish we were alone now and then I would show you a move or two, she thought to herself, biting her lip.

After a while, Star realized that most of her existing dancing skills, honed over many years of Silver Bell Balls and other such events, translated quite well to this strange Earth dance. Even her Bounce Lounge moves came in handy once in a while, although she wasn’t sure if that was how it worked in general, or if she and Marco were simply doing their own thing, as they often did.

“You know, Star, I don’t think I have ever been on a date like this,” Marco told her as he lifted her back up. “I mean, a date where I am the one teaching things or planning stuff.”

“Well, do you like it?” Star asked nervously. “I could have done the planning if you prefer. There are tons of romantic dimensions I could show you, but you kinda sprung this on me by surprise... do you know there is a spa on the cloud dimension? I mean, not that I dislike you taking me here, or teaching me this dance, or the food, not at all... I kinda like you planning stuff... but if you prefer the other way around…”

“Star, I do like it. Planning stuff, I mean. It is a nice change of pace,” Marco smiled at her, sweetly. He was looking at her in a way she didn’t think he had before. Well, maybe once, the day she went to the Blood Moon Ball. “Besides, Star, I think you were kinda rambling.”

“Yeah…” Star admitted, her mind half lost in Marco’s eyes. “Is that bad?”

“No. But, Star,” he leaned forward, “that’s usually my thing.”

She barely realized when he planted his lips on hers, or when she parted her own to give him access. She noticed, as if in a trance, that they were indeed kissing. It was a sweet, caring kiss, but in no way could be mistook as friendly. It was a loving kiss, with the smallest hint of passion building up between their barely open mouths. The older woman in the couple they had seen before winked at Star as they passed them by. The princess felt like she was in a trance again. She saw the scene both from within and from outside of herself, she felt Marco’s lips against her own, but also something else, a feeling of surprised bliss that added to her own but was not her own. It didn’t matter. It was perfect. Marco Diaz was kissing her and it all was perfect.

----

Tom and Janna sat besides each other on a long black marble bar, under a fluorescent purple light. The Red Viper was packed with demons, undead patrons and indeterminate fiendish creatures, but they all gave the underworld prince and his date ample space. The stools at either side of them remained unoccupied, even as furtive glances were often cast their way.

In front of Tom was a half empty glass of some fiery amber liquid. Literally fiery, as the surface seemed to constantly be in flames, and the demon drank it that way. Janna herself was slowly sipping from a pink concoction set in a martini glass. It was mostly full still. She was trying to pace herself. Despite all her bad girl creed, she did not really drink. In fact, she made a point of principle not to. But Tom had insisted and, not wanting to disappoint her date, she had let him order something light for her, just this once. A little desecration was perhaps in order, after all, seeing as how she was in hell. The cocktail tasted pretty sweet, fortunately, and didn’t seem anywhere near as terrifying as whatever sort of hard liquor the demon prince was having.

“So, Janna, I was thinking,” Tom smiled at her mischievously. “How about a game, to pass the time and to get to know each other better. After all, we should, how did you put it? Bond? For the plan, of course.”

“Of course,” Janna replied, raising a disbelieving eyebrow. “What kind of game?”

“Oh, a very simple one: you ask me a question, any question. I either answer it truthfully or I take a big swig at my drink. Then I get to ask you a question, same terms,” Tom explained. “Sounds simple enough?”

“Why would I agree to that, when I can just ask you stuff normally?” Janna stalled.

She understood the benefits well enough, actually. But she also suspected she would fare poorly against Tom in any kind of drinking contest. Besides, challenging him on this, at least a bit, seemed like a good move, even if she planned to acquiesce in the end.

“Because, you get to ask stuff you wouldn’t normally ask, and since it is a game, and you are just trying to get me to drink, I can’t get mad about inappropriate questions,” Tom explained. “Also, because it is fun.”

“Ok, fine,” Janna raised her hands in mock surrender. So, the plan was to make Tom uncomfortable, well, she could do that. “So, was Star your first, and if not, who?”

Tom’s three eyes widened as he regarded the smirking girl sitting besides her. “Didn’t you say we weren’t mentioning that name tonight?”

“I said I didn’t want you to spend the date talking about Star. You can still answer if I am the one asking about it,” Janna observed. Then her smile went wide as she realized her play had gone even better than she had expected. “By the way, that was not an answer, and you asked me a question. Which means you drink and I get to ask again.”

Tom groaned, but to his credit, he lifted the glass and took a big mouthful of the blazing liquid. “Fine. As you said, your turn again. You cannot repeat the question, by the way.”

“No need for that,” Janna replied.

Honestly, she had not cared for an answer, she was just aiming to shock the demon into drinking for now. Problem was, he was probably ready now for her to try to surprise him, so any other question about Star would probably be met with a more careful response now. She thought back to her books on demons and their curses, surely there were also questions Tom would not answer.

“Tom Lucitor, what is your true name?” she asked, loudly.

The entirety of the bar’s eyes seemed to be on Tom now. He just chuckled.

“Yeah, right,” he commented, made a nod towards their curious audience, and took another swig. “You play dirty, Janna Ordonia.”

“Uh, you know my last name?” she muttered. “Rats!” she exclaimed just after, once she realized her mistake.

“Yes, I do. Also, I get two questions now,” Tom stated matter-of-factly. “First, how did you know Star and I would... ahem... get together after the concert?”

It was a pretty open-ended question. Janna considered giving a cryptic explanation, but that did not seem to be the spirit of this particular game.

“Well, I knew you would be there because you are Hell’s biggest Love Sentence fan,” she proclaimed loudly, taking pleasure in watching Tom squirm as the bar went silent for a second.

She knew about the prince’s music taste because Marco had written a brief note about it in his computer, one of the few times he had started, and then soon stopped, trying to keep a journal. But Tom had not asked about that and thus he did not get that information.

“I also knew Star would not be able to handle being with Jackie and Marco when they were on a date. I mean, those two are PDA-central and Star is practically Egyptian, since she lives in denial about how much she likes Marco.” Denial, the Nile, it was hilarious, Janna thought to herself. “So, all that I needed to do was ensure that they would all go together, wait for the inevitable to happen and for you to see it... and well, I had to plant the thought on Star about the possibility of sleeping with you…”

“You…” Tom began surprised, almost asking the obvious question. He stopped himself with a smile, “... are quite resourceful. Alright, second question, what does your plan for Star entail now, from this point forward? All of it.”

Janna sighed, reached out for her glass and took a generous sip.

----

It was late that night when Marco and Star finally made it back to the Diaz’s home. They had spent the entire evening dancing, talking and, Star recalled with a strangely pleasant sensation in her stomach, kissing copiously. Her legs were tired now, but she was beaming with happiness. More importantly, Marco beamed too.

“That was amazing, Star!” he remarked, making her blush. “I don’t think I have ever seen anyone pick up salsa so quickly.”

“Well, Marco, we have lots of dances like that back in Mewni,” Star pointed out. “Ok, I mean, not exactly like that. If my mom saw me moving my hips back there, she would totally flip...”

It was his turn to blush, if only a little. It wasn’t like Star had never shaked it when they went out to party at the Bounce Lounge, but that was just her having fun dancing with friends, moving for the sake of moving and riding the high energy. This had been different. For one, this time there had been a lot more close contact while said hip-moving was going on.

“I guess it has been a while since I’ve seen you dance this kind of dance...” Marco’s words trailed off.

Star knew what time she meant: the Blood Moon Ball. It really wasn’t a memory she wanted to dwell much on right now. Fortunately, it seemed Marco also didn’t feel like bringing that up tonight.

“I just sorta forgot you could move so… gracefully.” It was obvious he had substituted the word in the last minute.

As curious as Star felt about what Marco was originally intending to say, she decided to just take the chance to break away from the topic of her dancing altogether.

“Hey! I am a magical princess, remember? Grace is kinda my thing!” she boasted, as she unceremoniously launched herself at the couch, knocking the remote.

It flew several feet into the air, bounced once on the table in front of it, and hit the floor with a loud thud.

“I see that,” Marco retorted with a raised eyebrow.

Star just smiled at him.

It was weird being with him like this. One moment she was speechless princess Butterfly on a date with her long time crush, half-incredulous it was even happening. The next she was Star, hanging out with her forever bestie, not worrying at all what he thought of her, because well, nobody knew her better. She wondered if Marco felt the same way. It was strange, but not altogether unpleasant. Not at all, in fact.

“Uh,” Marco said suddenly, looking at a note that had flown to the floor from said living room table, following Star’s antics. He lifted it up, and began reading.

Star looked quizzically at him.

“It is a note from mom and dad,” the boy confirmed. “Apparently they decided to also go out for dinner tonight, since we weren’t going to be here. It says that they might be out late, and to not wait up. Looks like we have the house to ourselves...”

“In that case, Marco,” Star said with a big smile, “let’s just go up to my room.”

“W...Wha... I mean... you mean?” Marco began.

Star stared at him for a second, quickly realizing what the boy must have thought, her cheekmarks glowed slightly.

“I didn’t mean it like that!” Star chuckled. “Marco, you have been to my room a thousand times already! It’s just, my legs hurt right now, and my bed is more comfortable than the couch...”

Now that she thought about Marco and her bed, she herself wasn’t entirely sure she really hadn’t meant it that way, actually. Certainly it hadn’t been a conscious plan on her part. But, well, maybe if it happened now it wouldn’t be too bad. Then again, would that be rushing things? Certainly it was too soon, right? Right? Too soon after…

“Right. Sure thing, Star. It’s just, well, last time I thought nothing of an offer like that, it ended up being... woah, I guess that’s way T.M.I. Never mind, I said nothing,” he stammered.

Star raised an eyebrow. She was about to make a quip about his first time with Jackie, but she neither wanted to bring that up now, nor was sure she could keep it a secret how much she really knew of the matter.

“Hey, you know, if your legs are too tired, I could probably carry you up,” he added with a smile.

“Really? Such a gentleman, Sir Diaz,” Star affected a mocking tone, even though she knew her blush probably betrayed her. “Please, proceed.”

He lifted her without problems and carried her in his arms up the stairs without much effort. Star was not heavy and Marco had once thrown Man-arm flying through the air, so this was not surprising. What was surprising, to Star at least, was how comfortable she felt letting him move her around like that. She was not exactly down with the damsel act as a rule, but somehow, with Marco, right now, it felt alright. He let her down in her own bed, far more gently than necessary, considering how Star normally ‘landed’ on her bed herself.

“Well, Star, this was an amazing night. I am so glad I asked you out,” he said, then he seemed to trail off, pensive. “Hope it was fun for you too. Maybe it is time we both got some rest?”

Star felt cold as he said that. It was like something was leaving her body, something warm and important, and below it there was a bad thing...

Right. She hadn’t thought about Tom or the last night at all since dinner. Even when the topic of her dancing, and the Blood Moon Ball, had almost came up just now, she had instinctively avoided thinking about her ex. But if Marco left now, then she was alone with her thoughts again. She wasn’t yet ready to face them.

There was also the matter of the next morning. Wasn’t Marco supposed to talk to Jackie then? Then what? Would Jackie be mad after all? Was Marco supposed to choose then? What if he didn’t chose Star? Or if he did, but then regretted it? This whole date had felt like a dream come true, but now that it was ending, Star realized something horrifying: you woke up from dreams. She couldn’t do that, not again.

“Marco... don’t go,” she whispered at him as he began to walk away. He turned back to look at her. She needed to say something, anything, that would prolong the dream. “Marco, if you want to, how to put it, heh, say goodnight... we can do that, you know?” Star said, trying her best to give him a confident smile.

She wasn’t sure that was what she wanted, not so soon after last night, after Tom. But somehow, if it was with Marco, then it would be ok. Better than ok, she realized, giving her ‘bestie’ an up and down look. It would be literally a dream come true, and if the timing wasn’t quite right, then well, that was just a minor detail...

“Star... don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d rather not.”

She felt the rejection hit her like a slap to the face.

He seemed to take notice of her reaction because he flinched as well. “Is not that I don’t want to, I do. Hell, after all that dancing I definitely want to... well, you know. But we are talking to Jackie tomorrow. I am not sure how she would take something like that. Even if that wasn’t the case, I am not sure I am ready, not yet, not tonight. Star, please don’t be mad, but, could we, could we take it slow?”

Star felt confused. On the one hand, she wasn’t sure she was ready herself. On the other, ‘taking it slow’? What if this was their first and only date? What if things didn’t work out well tomorrow? What if...? But Marco had talked about it like it was a done deal that there would be time to take it slow, or at least like he hoped, just as much as she did, that there would be.

“Then, Marco, can you stay here anyways? Just, you know, sleep together. I mean literally just sleep?”

She had turned around as she said it. For some reason she didn’t want to face him as she asked, just in case he said no again. She felt him sit on her bed, and then lie down, and then hug her from behind.

“Sure, Star, that sounds lovely.”

“Hey, Marco?” she asked after a few minutes of heavenly silence.

“Yeah?”

“You know we are fully clothed, right? We should at least change into our pajamas...”

“Right...”

---

“You are, like, soo evil,” Janna complained loudly, leaning on Tom’s shoulder for support as they walked down the long black staircase. She sounded like a fool, and she knew it. Walked like one too, and yet could not avoid it. “I think... I am drunk... Why am I drunk? I mean, I answered like a hundred of your stupid questions and you just drank each time, like a freaking chicken! A thirsty chicken! Hah! So why am I drunk and not you?”

“Two reasons,” Tom grinned at her as he helped her walk. “First, I hold my alcohol way better than you do. Second, that pink sugary thing I ordered for you? Second strongest hitter in the whole cocktail menu!” He let out a nasty snicker.

“Pure, undiluted, evil!” Janna bemoaned, and chuckled, for no freaking good reason.

“So, Janna, just to be clear about what I learned tonight: You manipulated Star into sleeping with me so that she would then be ready to agree to go out on a date with Marco. Which you didn’t think she would do until she...” he began, angrily.

“Yeah, yeah, until she touched rock bottom by sleeping with you, so that her stubborn pride and denial could not possibly get in the way!” she shouted, carelessly.

Something in the back of her mind was yelling that she shouldn’t have said that. But who cared now? It was the truth and she had explained it to Tom already. If he wanted to know that fucking badly, then he better be able to handle the truth. The truth about what he meant to his oh so precious Star.

Tom’s eyes glowed red, his pace was quicker now, almost dragging her feet along the stone steps. It actually hurt, but she felt the sensation muffled by something, probably her own state of intoxication.

“I see. And you said you also arranged for Marco to ask her out, by making sure Jackie noticed Star liked Marco?” he asked. “Explain again to me how in Azrael’s ten thousand names that is supposed to work...”

“Well, the real trigger was that she needed to realize Marco liked Star back, even if he, dense motherfucker that he is, did not yet get it himself. You see, Jackie is pretty perceptive, and she has this big thing about... heh... I forget the word right now. But she will actually push Star and Marco together... at least I think she will...” Janna continued.

Oh god, oh god, why was she telling Tom that? He was going to murder her for it! Literally. Somehow it did not seem to matter as much anymore, though. She felt this all didn’t matter, like it was happening in a dream. A spinning dream.

“So, you never had any intention of helping me get together with Star. Correct?” Tom asked as they reached the bottom of the stairs. “None at all!”

Fire danced around the two of them. It was pretty.

“I mean, I never promised that. I promised to try and make her jealous, and I was going to do my best. But she is not whom I want you to end up with, Tom...”

She turned around to look at him. Their faces were so close now, she looked intently at his beautiful blue lips. He seemed less angry for a second, and then he shifted to look away nervously.

He continued to help her walk, through a long corridor and a second flight of stairs, leading to a small metal door embedded in a pentagram frame. He was a bit gentler with her now. Not terribly so, but at least he was not dragging her around like she was made of rags. He remained silent the whole time, probably doing a second mental pass over the information she had just carelessly revealed to him, again. At the end of it, he seemed more downcast than mad.

“Anyways, Janna. I guess I can’t really blame you for the fallout. It’s not like I didn’t know I wasn’t the one Star wanted...” he spoke with a voice full of defeat and resignation. “And, well, I had fun tonight. I really did. You are certainly a here of a girl. Besides, I have to admit that, as much as I hate the outcome, your plan was surprisingly well thought out.”

He paused and ran a hand over the back of his head. “How about I fetch you a big glass of water, don’t actually kill you, and instead send you back home?”

That wasn’t quite what Janna had hoped for, but she had to admit it sounded nice under the circumstances.

A few minutes later, she was sitting in a red leather chair with horns sticking out of the sides of the headrest, in Tom’s bedroom, drinking from a large Greek vase. He was sitting on his surprisingly plain bed, looking down at the floor. In the wall closest to them, an endless waterfall of molten lava flowed from a large horned skull into a pentagram pool. There was also a disc-shaped wooden torture rack of some sort there. The opposite wall had a series of shelves and glass displays, as well as the room’s lone bookcase. There were also three different arcade game machines and a ping pong table, for some reason. It was interesting how surreal and at the same time how mundane that room was.

“Why so glum?” she finally spoke.

She was not exactly fully herself yet, but felt a lot better than moments ago. They had been sitting there in silence for a very long while, and it was becoming unbearable. In a way, Tom being irate would have been easier to deal with than him being this desolate. Did he truly love Star so much?

“I mean, you won,” she admitted, as much as it pained her to do so. “You got me all figured out and I feel I barely scratched the surface. I guess I don’t really measure up to demon standards with the whole intrigue game, after all…”

“That’s not exactly true,” Tom replied unhappily. “I don’t really have you all figured out, not even close. All I really got you to tell me was your plan for Star. I actually didn’t ask that much about you.”

Somehow, rather than her making him feel better, his words had managed to make Janna feel much worse.

“Yeah, well, I guess there wasn’t that much to know there, especially not much you would care about knowing,” Janna sighed, sullenly. “Just an ordinary girl playing games with things she doesn’t understand. Guess you get that sort of thing all the time...”

“Heh, I wish,” Tom shot back. The briefest of smiles crossed his lips. “I mean, there are plenty of mortals looking for a deal with the devil, for sure. Some of them come to me, and well, I have gotten tons of calls from girls ready to offer their body in exchange for the powers of hell and stuff, if you must know. But honestly, this is the first time where being with me seems to be the boon, and not the price...”

Ah, so that answered her question about Star being, or rather, not being, Tom’s first. Well, maybe.

“Why would being with you be considered a price to pay?!” Janna asked, genuinely surprised. Sure, Tom had his issues, but then again, they all did. At least he was not boring. Then, in a more sly tone, she added, “also, out of curiosity, how many of those offers did you accept?”

It wasn’t that she really cared all that much about whether or not he had, well, ‘dated’, anyone before Star, of course. It’s just that, by now, having evaded answering that question twice, the demon prince had made figuring out that part of his past somewhat of a challenge for her.

“None! Come on! I won’t say I was never tempted, but I can’t think of anything more annoying than a demanding occultist who thinks she is doing you a favor by telling you exactly how she expects to be ravished by the evil demon and then asks for a ton of magical crap in return!” Tom made a face of disgust. “Brimstone diggers! They are the worst.”

Janna drank some more water, a bit frustrated that she was once again getting no information. Well, no, that wasn’t exactly true, actually. Maybe she hadn’t gotten the information she wanted, but, in a way, she had gotten just the one she needed. She looked at a glass display on the other side of the room. Inside it were a ruby the size of her head, a dragon skull, and a black iron urn decorated with snakes, along with a dozen or so smaller items.

“Magical crap like that?” she pointed at the display.

“I suppose. Is that what you are after too, after all?” Tom glared at her, taking the bait.

“No. I am curious about it, sure, but the thing I really want in this room is not behind glass,” she quipped.

It felt weird, being so honest about it. Must be the stupid drink still.

“Are you sure?” Tom teased her. “That’s the Ruby of Aeons, which can produce inextinguishable flames. That’s the skull of Tareth the Vile. That’s the Urn of Midra’Apep, which can raise dead kings. Are you saying none of that is what you are after?”

He smirked. She held his gaze and smiled back.

“Tempting, but no, not at the moment,” Janna said, standing up from the chair.

She was feeling much better now. Not clearheaded enough to avoid making bad decisions, but stable enough to see them through. Besides, she was going to need all that liquid courage for what she was about to do.

“Right now, the most tempting thing in this room, is right, here,” she grabbed at his tie. “So, how about we flip the script, and you let me ravish the evil demon.”

Tom raised two eyebrows. “Well, if that’s truly all you want...”

“It isn’t,” Janna admitted, still honest, “but it will do for now.”

She walked up to the edge of the demon’s bed and sat atop Tom’s lap, facing him, straddling his sitting body between her legs. She pulled his body forward using the tie, and kissed him hungrily. She saw a triplet of eyes open wide in surprise, then relax to a half-closed state. She felt the demon prince return the kiss. His tongue was soft and warm. Was it warmer than that of other boys? It had to be, but Janna could not really know. Perhaps her bad girl reputation was greatly exaggerated - she preferred to think she had earned different merit badges there - but Tom was her first.

Would he be able to tell? Well, she was sure Tom would be able to tell she wasn’t very good at this, but perhaps she could blame it on the alcohol. She felt him pull out from the kiss and for a second she felt worried. Was she bad enough at kissing he was getting bored? She saw his smile, a single fang escaping the corner of his lips. Then she felt a hand pushing on her left shoulder and another pulling on her right. In her dizziness, she realized what had happened only after she was laying in the bed, Tom atop of her. She bit her lower lip.

“I think it might be better if I do the ravishing, after all,” Tom smiled at her. She had no objections to that. His hands left her shoulders to roam across the length of her arms, resting finally on her wrists, immobilizing her against the mattress. “So, I guess I really never did ask about you. Never had a boyfriend yet?”

Janna’s face flustered.

“Was it that obvious?” she asked, trying to not show her concern.

“And yet, you are the one coming onto me,” he continued, ignoring her question. “You get curiouser and curiouser,” Tom mused.

He lowered his face to Janna’s and kissed her again, his tongue dancing on her mouth. A hand left her left wrist and she could feel a single claw tracing a line on her neck, just above her chocker. On instinct, she broke the kiss and sought the finger with her mouth, using her now free hand to guide Tom’s own. He let her catch it and Janna sucked lightly on his finger, running her tongue around the digit, avoiding getting a cut from the sharp claw-like nail at the tip. She might be inexperienced, but she was sure she could make the difference with eagerness and imagination. The opportunity was too good to pass up, after all.

Janna did not believe in saving herself for a steady boyfriend, let alone for marriage. If she had done nothing like this before, it was only because she had never found a partner who was both game and hit her very particular type. Tom fit both categories. She was well aware that after spilling all the beans on her plan, this was probably her last date with the demon prince. Her excuse about making Star jealous was not likely to hold up now that he knew her whole plan. It was tonight or never. Seize the godforsaken moment and all that. When in hell, do as the sinners do.

“Heh, is there anything you are trying to tell me, Miss Ordonia?” Tom commented with an infuriating smirk.

“Yes,” she said, letting Tom take his finger out of her mouth. “That we are both overdressed for this party.”

That got her a double eyebrow rise in return. Tom let go of her remaining wrist, lifting that hand to rip the tie off his own neck. He then let jacket fall behind him.

“Wait, allow me,” asked Janna, as he started unbuttoning his shirt.

He leaned forward again and she began undoing the buttons, one by one. It was her first time undoing buttons from this angle, but that did not faze Janna in the slightest. She pick-pocketed for fun and undid complex knots with those fingers every other weekend, ridding Tom of his shirt was child’s play, even when partially under the influence.

She tried kissing his chest as she uncovered the flesh beneath the shirt. It was warm and soft, despite the firm muscles underneath. Tom was thin, but not entirely scrawny. He breathed heavily, either pleased by her actions or by the thoughts they probably evoked. Taking her cue from the demon’s earlier play around her neck and from what Star told her before, she ran her own nails along his abdomen. She pressed hard, noting that she did not seem to be able to hurt the fiend’s skin, even if she had wanted to do so. Thus, no need to hold back.

He laughed at her, “so, you are into a bit of pain?”

“Well, I know you are,” Janna observed.

She looked directly into his eyes, defiantly. She motioned him to lift his weight from her, so she could slide her dress over her head, without leaving her spot in the bed, under Tom. As the fabric covered her face, she felt a sharp nail trace the inside of her leg carefully, probably leaving a faint calculated scratch, stopping right before her underwear.

“Guilty,” she heard Tom reply.

She felt his eyes roam over her underwear clad body, a lacy black matching set. She knew there was not much to look at, at least in terms of the bust area, but then again, if Tom’s type was Star, she probably need not worry too much. He seemed pleased, at any rate. She felt a fingertip, not a claw, trace the front of her panties, pushing the fabric in slightly, damping it with her building wetness.

“I believe,” he said mockingly, “that I was given a preview of something.”

Janna blushed. But summoning all her courage, both natural and from the ethylic variety, she lifted her hands to undo the demon’s belt and pants buttons. He helped her slide the remaining clothes away and soon she was face to face with his hard purple member. Looking up at Tom, trying her best to put on a hungry lustful look, she proceeded to lick the tip with her outstretched tongue. After a few moments, he began pushing forward, and she took it as her cue to take more and more of the thick shaft into her mouth.

It was a new experience for her, but not all that unintuitive based on porn or literary descriptions. In and out, a roll of the tongue here, a flick there. Whatever she was doing seemed to be working, because Tom was grunting and breathing heavily atop of her. He also was trashing around and thrusting himself towards her face from time to time, which proved challenging at times, but was also exciting in a way. There was something so obviously savage and primal to the demon prince’s movements now. Janna had been craving for dangerous and risqué, and getting your face fucked by a demon in hell certainly qualified for both.

Suddenly, a deliciously naughty thought crossed her mind, about something she once read about in a book. She pressed her left hand against the demon’s stomach, pushing him out of her mouth. She knew he could overpower her if he wished, but he responded to gesture by backing off willingly.

“Too much?” he asked with a grin.

She rolled her eyes at him. She took her right middle and index into her mouth and practically spit on them, then she got her other hand out of the way and resumed her earlier activities. Tom gladly obliged, pushing himself onto her welcoming lips once more.

She continued to work her tongue around the hell prince’s cock, but at the same time, she reached around with her wet fingers, placing a probing index directly between the fiend’s butt-cheeks. Tom’s eyes opened up again, glowing red. But his mouth made a circle of surprise, rather than a grimace of fear, and Janna took that as her cue to push forward, inserting a finger first and then the other into her date’s puckered asshole.

“By Baalzebûb below, you are filthy!” Tom cried, somehow making it sound like a compliment.

Feeling encouraged, she continued pumping him from the front as she penetrated him with her fingers from behind. He grunted and thrashed around until she felt him tense inside her mouth and around her fingers. In the last second, however, he pulled out from her, and began spurting wildly all over her chest, face and hair.

“You fucking asshole!” Janna felt the hot liquid smear her bra and muck up her hair. She ought to have hated the sensation, she knew Tom hadn’t done that to be nice. It was probably his idea of a joke: she was now literally filthy. Joke was on him, though, it gave her a thrill to feel soiled. “You better not expect to get away with not returning the favor.”

Tom did not reply for a few seconds, he was panting, recovering from his explosive climax. Then he looked at her and laughed. It was not a mean laugh after all, more of a surprised laugh. He seemed to consider her words for a moment.

“You know what? I guess it is only fair...”

Slowly, he slid himself off from over her, ripping down her underwear and lowering his face until she could feel his unnaturally warm breath in her sex. Then a wet hot flexible thing parted the lips of her cunt apart, and she felt it dance among her folds. She felt something rush to her head completely unrelated to the alcohol. As her wetness spread and her breath quickened, she felt his movements become faster and bolder. His tongue at times danced right over her sensitive clit, and at others went so deep in her that she felt something stretch inside her virgin pussy.

As she felt the wave of her pleasure begin to crest, Janna grabbed Tom’s horns with both hands and crossed her legs around the back of his head. He continued as if nothing happened, except perhaps for going even faster. With his head between her legs, he missed the malicious smirk that accompanied her climaxing face. As she yelled in indulgent bliss, she blasted his mouth and face with her wet messy ending.

“Sorry, guess I forgot to tell you I am a bit of a squirter,” she eventually told him, after she recovered herself. ‘Payback, bitch,’ she thought to herself.

He coughed as he tried to respond. “Ugh. Ahg. Fuck you!”

“Don’t mind if you do,” she retorted.

He jumped at her. Soon his arms were on her wrists again and he had climbed atop of her with the speed of a hungry animal, eyes red in supernatural fury.

“Wait, Tom!” she shouted, suddenly terrified. It was easy to be cocky when it was rhetorical fucking, not so much when a demon in a furious trance was about to claim her by force.

“Yes?” he sounded exasperated, but to his credit, he held back.

“First, I am not exactly on the pill or anything. Dunno how it works with you, but, I think I am a bit young to give birth to the antichrist or anything like that...” she began.

He chuckled, despite the situation.

“Not an issue. Demons do not produce life by nature. I mean, there are rituals, and there are also some curses I could choose to put on you if we do this... I promise you an explanation at a better time... but trust me, this is not about any of that. No long term harm will come to you from this, I promise.” He sounded sincere, albeit impatient, as he rushed through the lengthy explanation. “And, was there a second thing?”

“Yeah, sorry if this is lame, but... please be gentle, just this one time...”

“Sure, ok.”

Tom stood there unmoving for a few seconds, it made her slightly nervous. She had not wanted to stop their power games short, but it was her first time, after all, and as much as she put a brave face so far, she was truly quite scared. She wondered if the demon would find her request disappointing. But when he opened his eyes, they were normal again. He seemed calm and even gave her a gentle smile as he aligned himself with her own body and slowly pushed forward. Janna bit her lip. She felt a short sharp pain, and then a somewhat uncomfortable feeling as her walls stretched around the intruding object. As he pulled out, she felt the emptiness hurt almost more. He entered again and it hurt a little bit less. Out again and even less. Soon the pain was gone and there was only the pleasurable sensation of his slow thrusts.

“I think... you can be rough now,” she eventually admitted, in an almost pleading tone.

Tom did as she asked, first gradually, methodically increasing the speed and the force behind his movements thrust after thrust. She felt his hands grip her shoulders from behind. Eventually, the calculated increases gave way to bestial fury, to clawing fingers and hungry plunges. She closed her legs around his waist and her arms around his back. She felt his hands roam her back looking for something. Looking for wings. She felt a bit sad about that, in a deep corner of her mind she could mostly push away. It didn’t matter right now. She felt her elation build up for a second time and soon nothing mattered but his grunts and her moans and the unholy bliss that raptured them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 07: It Takes Three to Tango

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place the morning after the last one, meaning two days following the SvtFoE episode “Just Friends” (S02E20b). The story has now begun to diverge from the SvtFoE season 2 mainline in ways that have yet to be fully explained.

For the first time in months, Tom slept like an angel. Which, sure, theologically speaking, was all kinds of blasphemy. But, that morning at least, the demon didn’t care. Last night had been fun, and it had ended with, well, with a bang. Janna might not quite be Star Butterfly, Tom thought, but she certainly was a remarkable girl. She was interesting to talk to, shrewd in a way that kept even him on his toes, surprisingly adventurous in the bedroom given her previous lack of experience and, perhaps most important, she actually enjoyed, nay, desired, being with him.

Tom hadn’t noticed before just how much chasing Star around for over a year had wounded his ego. The indignity of two nights ago had just been the culmination of his parade of humiliations in trying to get the princess back.

Then again, Janna was not really in the same league as Star. The witch wannabe was certainly fun, but she was a step down from the magical princess, wasn’t she? So, was Tom settling? Was he giving up on what he wanted to be comfortable with what he had within reach?

That wasn’t like him. No, it wasn’t like him at all. Tom was used to getting what he wanted, sooner or later. Star could not be the sole exception. He would not allow it for her to be. He was sure eventually he would find a way to convince her to be with him.

But perhaps there was no harm in taking advantage of the company of the human girl for a while. She had pretty much told him that Star would date Marco now, and Janna was still willing, in theory, to go along with trying to make her friend jealous. Maybe he could still make that plan work in the long run. Let Star be with Marco for now, and he would date Janna instead. Eventually Star would realize what Tom already knew, that the two of them were better for each other than their respective human lovers. Except, this way, he would also get to have his fun too, while he waited for the princess to understand the obvious.

Now that he thought of it, perhaps he and Janna could even go at it a second time before he took her back to the surface. He turned around, naked in his bed, expecting to see the aforementioned source of fun beside him. He was alone. She was gone.

Tom sought her with his mind, but quickly realized she was no longer within his domain. Finding a particular human within the hell under his rule was an easy feat for the demon prince, but those powers did not extend all the way back to Earth. Damn it! How dare the girl leave without telling him so? Wait. Actually, now that he thought of it, how had she even managed to get out of hell on her own?

He rubbed two fingers on his temple and counted to ten. This was certainly not ideal for his plans, but he really ought to stop letting every little setback set him off. He would find her again. At Star’s school, perhaps? Besides, it wasn’t as if it mattered too much if this had actually just been a one night thing. Janna had served her main purpose: she got him to de-stress and to feel a bit better about himself. Having her around to counterweight whatever Marco was to Star was just one of many ideas he could brainstorm now, given the basic insights he had gained the previous night.

Then Tom’s eyes noticed something about the glass case on the opposite wall from his bed. Inside of it, there were: a huge red ruby, a dragon skull, and an assortment of other smaller objects. He blinked. There was a large and conspicuously empty space besides the dead creature’s head. The Urn of Midra’Apep, an eldritch artifact older than the Great Pyramids of Giza or the Ancient Obsidian Temple in Mewni, was missing!

Tom’s vision turned red as he violently sat up on the bed. An instant after that, the entirety of his room exploded in flames as he cried out in burning rage, “Janna!!”

----

Unlike most days in the last few weeks, Jackie had slept terribly. She had found it extraordinarily hard to fall asleep last night, only to experience a restless slumber, full of disturbing dreams she couldn’t quite remember once awake. In the end, it was barely past sunrise when she decided to get out of bed. Usually, she slept in until late on weekends, and today was a Sunday, but she had given up on getting a proper night rest at this point. In any case, she knew that no amount of shut-eye would relieve her unease this morning. Only two things truly had any chance of calming her discomfort.

The first, and most important was talking to Marco. But that was still hours away. They had settled on brunch at a nearby diner, at 11:30 to give both of them a chance to sleep in and get ready without hurry. It was almost ironic that she wouldn’t need the extra time after all. Usually Marco was far more of a morning person than she was. Then again, Jackie thought, odds were he was actually sleeping in today, considering he had gone out last night. Would he be waking up with Star in his arms? The image made her feel... conflicted.

Jackie took a quick shower and dressed up in shorts and her favorite white and green t-shirt, getting only slightly more carefully made up than she did for school. She wanted to look good, of course, but it would be a bit silly to get all dolled up for brunch. Besides, she was not sure whatever she did now would hold up until then. If nothing else, her hair would be messed up. Fortunately, she had years of experience in making messy hair look good. She grabbed her skateboard, and her helmet, and headed out.

Skateboarding was the only other thing that had any chance of calming her nerves. So that was what she planned on doing until she got a chance to talk to Marco. ‘And Star,’ she mentally added. He had not called her last night, which meant one of two things: either Marco had decided that Jackie was crazy and was no longer interested in talking to her, or, he had followed her instructions, and that meant...

“If she says no, or the date ends early, please call me. If not, bring her tomorrow,” she had said near the end. Marco had tried to say something in protest, but she had cut him off, she didn’t even remember with what. It felt surreal. Like the whole conversation had all been one of her anxious dreams. But no, she reminded herself, it had happened two nights ago, and it had been no dream at all.

Why had she pushed Marco to ask Star out? What could she possibly have to gain from that? Jackie frowned and kicked back the pavement, picking up speed. It had hurt so badly when Marco called Star’s name. She had been angry and wounded. Marco had been apologetic and guilty.

“Marco, what the hell dude?! I know I asked you about Star before, but yelling her fucking name while you nut in me is not exactly what I was hoping for!”

“Jackie, I am so sorry, I really am, I don’t know what came over me... it was weird, it just popped into my mind... I swear... and God, that sounds even worse aloud...”

He had said he hadn’t been imagining Star, not on purpose at least. That he had somehow simply seen her face just jump into his mind. Jackie didn’t know what to believe, but he had seemed genuinely confused and contrite. She knew, when she looked into his eyes, that he felt terrible about it, perhaps worse than she herself did. She was hurt - that the reflex had been subconscious didn’t make it less painful - but she found it hard to stay mad at her boyfriend. It took them several minutes of awkward silences and wounded looks to get to the crux of the issue.

“Alright Marco, say I believe it that thinking of Star just now was a brain-fart. Are you telling me, in all honesty, that you do not like her?”

“Jackie, I like you! I love you!”

“I believe that, Marco. But it is not what I asked...”

“...”

Jackie was going steeply downhill now, approaching the upwards slanted porch of a house. The contrarian sixty-degree angle with the rest of the road made it her favorite natural ramp. Skateboarding was indeed clearing her mind, removing the non-essential from yesterday’s conversation: the unbearable pauses, the hemming and hawing, the hesitant guarded phrases, their mutual attempts to dance around the issue.

“Marco, I think you can love more than one person. I mean, at the same time. And... and... I think you might be in love with Star...”

Denials, at first. But only at first.

“I... I don’t know... I mean... maybe, maybe I do like Star in a way too, but Jackie... I choose to be with you. I mean, if you will still have me after, well, after just now...”

She remembered pausing a long time before replying to that. It wasn’t that she didn’t know what she wanted to say, and it certainly wasn’t to prolong Marco’s obvious terror and guilt. She had wanted to hug him, to reassure him that of course she wanted him. But that would only have pushed the true issue further down the road. She had needed all of her courage to force herself to make her next suggestion instead.

“So, Marco... what if you didn’t have to choose?”

She felt the wheels lose their final contact with the ground. She dropped her own body low while the board took her meters into the air. She felt the adrenaline pumping and her heartbeat accelerating. She thought of Marco, waking up beside Star, relaxed, happy. Her beloved Marco, basking in the morning afterglow after spending the night with the princess. Jackie felt elated, in her mind, as she flew through the air. For a moment that thought was nothing but beautiful to her. She wanted him to be as happy as he could be, and she knew Star could be part of that happiness.

Then she felt the impact. She shifted her weight to avoid falling off from the board as it touched the pavement once more. Back down to earth, Jackie had an ugly afterthought, “but, what if it is me that is not part of his happiness? What if he decides he doesn’t want me after that?”

----

Jackie finally went into the diner at 11:20, taking the most isolated table she could find, placing her skateboard against the wall and her helmet on the table. She had gone around the block more than once before, decided it was too early for her to come in and done lap after lap on her board. Hours of tracing the streets of Echo Creek had helped her relax significantly, yet nothing could truly remove the knot in her stomach, not until she had talked to her boyfriend. She ordered a vanilla milk shake and spent the time fiddling with her phone. There was a message from Janna, ‘Yo. Come to my place by 5. Got something wicked cool to show you...’

She was about to reply, when she saw them walking down the street. Marco was getting there a few minutes early, and he had truly brought Star. She felt her throat getting dry and quickly drank some more milkshake. They looked so happy, smiling at each other and chatting loudly. Oh god, they were holding hands! What had she just gotten into?

Just before they came in through the door, she noticed Marco saying something to Star, who quickly let go of his hand, blushing slightly. He came in first, his eyes scanning the place until they met Jackie’s. “Hi Jackie,” he greeted her, almost apologetically. He had the most adorable nervous smile.

“Yo Diaz!” she replied, flashing him her own best smile. She waved her hand at both of them. “Hey Star! How have you been?” she added, in a hopefully casual tone.

“Oh, hey Jackie,” Star beamed at her. “You know, doing well!” Jackie reflexively raised an eyebrow at Star and the princess laughed nervously. “I mean, eh, how about you?”

“Same old, same old,” she lied.

The two other teens sat together on the opposite side of the table, and Jackie tried not to read too much into it. Marco was visibly tense, he almost looked like a rabbit about to bolt from the whole scene. Star was probably doing the same thing she was, trying to appear casual despite feeling everything but calm. The mewman was her usual bubbly self, except her eyes kept darting from Jackie to Marco and all over the place, and she occasionally had a weird twitch in her right eye. The two of them kept the small talk going as they ordered breakfast, while Marco just sat there in tense uncomfortable silence. They eventually got scrambled eggs for her, sunny-side up for Marco, and a huge stack of pancakes for their resident magical princess.

“So...” Star began, once they were all eating, seemingly unable to bear it anymore. Jackie swore she saw Marco flinch slightly. She waited a few moments for the other girl to finish the sentence, but it soon became apparent that she was expecting her to lead this conversation. Well, Jackie imagined it was only fair.

She looked at Marco, just to be sure. He nodded.

“So,” Jackie echoed. “I assume you two went out last night? How was it?” she asked. Maybe she should have asked Marco to talk separately beforehand, rather than put them both in the spot like this, but well, this was going to be awkward either way, for all three of them, and she wanted to see both of their reactions first.

“Jackie...” Marco tried to say something, but seemed to stop midway.

“It was amazing,” Star said. She looked at Marco, smiling nervously, “at least for me. Thank you, Jackie!”

“Eh? Me?” Jackie replied. The princess’ candor and strangely heartfelt gratitude had taken her by surprise. She was not sure the later was well placed, in the end it was Marco that had taken his roommate on a date, Jackie had at most gotten out of the way for that to happen, no more.

“Well, I mean, he said you told him to ask me out, so, if you hadn’t, then he wouldn’t have, right? So, well, so thank you!” Star continued, she stared down at her pancakes. “And well, I don’t know how this works. I think it is an Earth thing and you two will have to explain it to me, because I don’t think we have it in Mewni. I don’t know if I get to, you know, borrow Marco again? Some sort of concubine type deal? Or if it was a one time thing? Or if I now need to, like, joust you for him? Or whatever else. But either way... thank you!”

‘A concubine type deal’? The Earth girl was surprised the future Queen of Mewni would even consider that kind of role, even if she probably didn’t mean it the way Jackie had interpreted. Also, hopefully Star was not serious on the jousting thing either!

Jackie wasn’t sure if she had imagined it, but she swore she saw a thin teardrop fall on the pancakes. Before she herself could say anything, Marco’s arm was around the princess’ shoulder, as he hugged her close. “Star...” he finally seemed to find his words, “it was amazing for me too. It is amazing.” He shot Jackie a sheepish look. “I mean... you both are amazing.”

The human girl smiled back at her boyfriend, assuming he still chose to be so, then took a deep breath. Clearly her own hang ups around talking about this plainly were making it more confusing than it needed to be, for everyone involved. Well, time to come clean. “Star, this is not an Earth thing. I think, I think it is a me thing, or, maybe, hopefully, an us thing. All three of us,” she explained the best she could.

“As for how it works, well, I think we all decide that. I mean, Marco and you could decide you want to only date each other, exclusively, and well, I am prepared to cope with that, if that’s the case,” she looked sadly at her adorable and kind boyfriend. She was truly prepared to let go, if that made him happy, but she definitely didn’t want to. She knew it would break her heart in two. “Or, you could decide this is too weird for you, and we could go back to where we were before the weekend, with Marco and I dating, and you could find something less... complicated. But, what I think I would want, personally, is to still be Marco’s girlfriend and then, well, if you two want, you can keep dating too, and whenever you two decide to be boyfriend and girlfriend as well, then I guess Marco will have two girlfriends and we will have a time-share of sorts...” Jackie laughed. Her bottled up nervousness seemed to all go into that laughter, because it began as a nervous giggle, turned into a happy chuckle and ended with her in a relaxed smile. Whatever they replied now, whatever they thought of it, she had finally gotten it out her chest: her weirdness, and her wild suggestion. “Hopefully you both don’t think I am nuts?”

“Jackie, I think you are crazy...” Star replied, looking down. Then she lifted her head to look at Jackie and the Earth girl could have sworn she had never seen someone smile so brightly. Wait, was Star actually, literally, glowing? “... crazy awesome! I mean, there are a lot of weird things about Earth, you know? Parking meters, electric lights, football, chicken with spicy chocolate, that cereal with the tiny marshmallows!” she actually counted with her fingers as she spoke. “They are all weird, but they are also awesome. And, ok, you say this is not an usual Earth thing, and I hear that, but it is still weird-awesome, and I love weird-awesome. It might be the most weird-awesome thing I have ever heard. So, what I am saying is, I am in. I am in all the way... co-girlfriend?”

Star sincere and untroubled reaction made Jackie smile in return. She knew that if someone would ever be ok with her own weirdness, it had to be Star, so she was lucky it was her whom Marco fancied. Well, that settled it! Or, actually, that almost settled it, there was one more person involved in this whole arrangement, after all. “Marco, penny for your thoughts?”

“Uh... Jackie, are you asking what I think about a plan that involves me dating the two most incredible girls I know, simultaneously?” Marco asked with a grin. “I think I must be dreaming. I think there is no way I could ever be this absurdly undeservedly lucky. I think every guy at school is going to hate my guts. I think I am for sure going to mess this up somehow, but even knowing that I can’t say anything but yes!” She hadn’t seen him that excited since the Love Sentence concert, and maybe not even then. “One thing, though, if either of you ever have some other guy you like, then, well, we should talk about it, and have the same... deal... apply. I would feel like such a jerk otherwise...”

“Hehe, sure, sounds fair, dude. But I don’t have anyone else in mind right now,” she replied.

“Yeah...” Star seemed weirdly uncomfortable for a second, a hand rubbing the right side of her neck. “No one else for me now, either.”

“Well, so now that that is settled,” Jackie began, directing a devilish grin towards Star. “How would you describe Marco in bed? Wouldn’t mind hearing a second opinion!” She honestly wouldn’t, and she figured out if Star was truly so thankful, then she had earned the right of making the princess squirm a little bit.

“Jackie!” Marco protested, turning beet red. Speaking of people she loved making squirm.

“Eh... I’ll have to get back to you on that one,” Star finally spoke, after a few moments of shocked silence. Jackie looked back confused. She had expected Star to maybe not answer her question, of course. But it didn’t sound like she was avoiding giving an answer, it sounded more like she was saying she didn’t have one.

“We haven’t... I mean, we didn’t... you know...” Marco started. It was the cutest thing how he couldn’t even fucking say it. “We got dinner together, and we danced, and well... we kissed, more than once,” he almost whispered that last part. “I guess we also sort of cuddled a bit. But, I guess I wasn’t sure, what exactly was or wasn’t fair game there. You said to ask her out on a date, and is not like we did anything beyond kiss on our first date...”

Honestly, they could have had, Jackie thought to herself, if Marco had pushed for it. Well, and if they hadn’t had to save Star from a bird-man midget in a clown suit, a spider the size of a large dog, and a literal army of rats. “Fair enough, dude,” she replied. It was actually a bit of a relief in a way. Not so much because she would have been mad if Marco had slept with Star, but because it was good to know that even out on a date with another girl, he was still thinking about her feelings. It made this all so much easier. “It is actually very sweet of you. But, well, from now on, you two officially have my blessing, alright?”

Had Star just silently mouthed ‘thank you’ at her? Jackie laughed. Star quickly followed suit, and then, nervously, Marco joined them.

“So, Jackie, Star, clarification: how much should I say of this at school?” Marco asked. “Not that I want to brag or anything... I mean, unless I do get to brag?”

Jackie rolled her eyes, sweet guy or not, still a guy. She thought it out for a moment. “Well, I mean, it’s not going to be a big secret or anything. I don’t think that would be fair to Star. But I rather you not brag too much, school rumors are going to be a pain to deal with either way, no need to make it worse...”

They discussed the details for the next few minutes. They would keep it reasonably discreet, not involving anyone else without talking it first with the other two, etc. It was surprising how natural the conversation seemed to flow from there between the three of them, even Marco. Soon they all seemed to decide that it was enough of that and just naturally switched to other topics. Marco and Star ended up telling Jackie about the Bounce Lounge and something called a Goblindog. They talked until long after they had finished their food and paid. Star seemed to be trying to reciprocate Jackie’s opening of her relationship with Marco to her, by sort of inviting her into their friendship. It was a bit like what she had been doing the day of the concert. Except this time, it seemed to Jackie like the air between them was finally clear, no big weight on her chest bothering her anymore.

“So, I kinda told Janna I’d hang out with her later today,” Jackie said eventually, cutting short a discussion about the virtues and vices of the Mewni Game of Flags, “and I think I am going to have to get a nap before that if I am going to be awake enough to handle whatever she is up to. So, how about I head home now and give you the rest of the afternoon on your own? I am sure there are plenty of things the two of you want to... talk out today, before getting back to school for the week.” She flashed them both a conspiratorial smile as she got up of her seat and fastened her helmet.

“Wait, Jackie, one thing first,” Marco also got up. He ran his hand through the back of his hair as he got closer to her. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment. “Are you absolutely sure you are ok with all of this?”

“More than ok, Marco...” Jackie replied. “We can talk more about it later, but dude, believe me, this conversation went so much better than I expected.”

“Jackie, you are awesome,” Marco stated, matter-of-factly. He leaned forwards and they kissed. It was a short kiss, but Jackie felt herself blush. It gave her... reassurance. She glanced at Star, the princess gave her a brief nervous smile and a nod.

“You are pretty awesome yourself, Diaz, and I know people here who can back me up on that,” she joked, winking at Star. They said their goodbyes again, and she walked out of the door, jumped on her skateboard and felt like she was flying without even leaving the ground.

----

“So, do I get one of those too?” Star asked eventually.

Marco sat down beside her, wrapped his arm around her, and kissed her for a long while. Out of the corner of her eye, Star noticed that one of the cashiers was giving the boy a thumbs up.

----

“So, how does it feel to go from Safe Kid to playboy extraordinaire?” Star teased the boy beside her. They were both back home, sitting on her bed, in her room. Her heart beat fast. Then again, Star’s heart always beat fast, and this was some fine excited beating, albeit of a different sort than usual.

“Honestly, Star, it’s like I said this morning, I still don’t believe it. Can’t wrap my head around you two being ok with this,” Marco replied, seriously. “Are you sure this works for you, Star? I can’t even believe it works for Jackie and well, it was her idea, not yours...”

“Marco, would you have asked me out yesterday if this didn’t work for Jackie?”

She awaited his response, knowing she would not get it.

Eventually, she smiled and continued, “I see. Then it has to work for me too, doesn’t it? Besides, Jackie really is pretty awesome, and you like her, Marco, you’ve had a crush on her since forever. Pretty sure I don’t want to be the person that gets in between that, I never wanted to be. This way I don’t have to, and I still get you for myself too!”

“Well, to be perfectly honest, she is not the only person I have had a crush on for a while,” Marco said as she got closer. “Even if I was too much of an idiot to realize it.”

They leaned in at the same time, lips pressing against each other. She felt herself melt on contact, her arms falling on the boy’s shoulders. She had been worried that the previous night would be their one and only time to kiss. She opened her mouth and felt Marco’s tongue begin to search for her own. She pushed more deeply into the kiss, pressing her body against his chest. Despite her insistence, she was still a bit unsure about what their arrangement with Jackie truly meant, but she knew it meant she got to be with Marco, and right now that was all that mattered. She roamed a hand through his hair and felt his mouth respond with increased passion.

Something inside Star caught fire on that kiss. She pulled back from the hug, while maintaining the kiss, and quickly thrust her hands under the front of Marco’s shirt, caressing his flat stomach and the compact but toned muscles of his chest. With a force that would have surprised anyone else but her bestie, the princess pushed him down on the bed, laying atop of him as they continued to make out. Finally, she couldn’t resist anymore and broke the kiss, “Marco, is this, you know, still too soon for you?”. It felt just right for her.

Marco struggled to catch his breath. “Well, Jackie said we have her blessing, Star. I... I think I am ready when you are... if you are sure you want to...”

“Marco! I am sure,” she responded annoyed. How many times was he going to make her say it? It was worse than Tom! At least the demon didn’t treat Star like he was shocked she might be interested in sex! Ok, that was bullshit. This was a million times better than Tom. The fact that she could even look back at two nights ago and laugh rather than crumble in guilt and disgust surprised Star, but then again, it was hard to feel bad with Marco under her like that. “Don’t be the Safe Kid, Marco! Be my Wild Man...”

He blinked twice, then smiled at her. “Alright, Star,” he replied. He caught her by the shoulders and, before she knew it, he had rolled her around on the bed, placing himself on top. She felt his hands roam her legs through the fabric of her purple striped tights and then the pressing of his lips against her neck. It was not dancer-Marco, she noted, it was still her bestie being his usual methodical self, but he also felt leagues more confident and more skilled than the night of his first time with Jackie. Apparently he had learned a thing or two in the intervening weeks with his girlfriend, and Star found herself surprised that the thought did not bother her much. It helped that she was being the main beneficiary now, as the kisses in her neck trailed lower and lower until they reached the collar of her green dress. She gasped, delighted. Marco frowned.

“Star, actually... I just realized, my parents are downstairs,” he seemed conflicted. “Maybe we can still do a bit more, but we have to keep it quiet.”

“Oh,” Star blushed, suddenly uncomfortable. She had forgotten about Mr. and Mrs. Diaz. They had been out of the house so often these last few days, and they were so often ok with the weird magic stuff the two teens got to on a daily basis, that Star had pretty much forgotten about the risk of being overheard. But, she realized, no matter how cool Marco’s parents were, it was very unlikely that they would be alright with the two of them having loud sex with them on the house. She felt herself frown.

“Marco, I don’t want to be quiet...” she thought about it for a moment, “...get the scissors. I know a place where we won’t have to worry about being loud at all!”

It was Marco’s turn to blush, and nod at her. “Sure, Star. I’ll get them from my room. But... man, I kinda wanted to...” he trailed off, nervously. “Well, I wanted it to be in your room.”

“You did?” Star felt surprised and somehow flattered at once.

“Well, Star, this is going to sound kind of silly but,” Marco trailed off, as he moved away from her so that he was sitting in the bed besides the resting princess. “This place is intimate and familiar, and absolutely you. It brings up so many memories, and, in the last few days, whenever I thought of you... you know, that way... I pictured it all here.” He looked around. “Besides, and this may be a wrong thing to wish for but, I guess I also kinda want you to associate this place with a memory of me as well...”

Star laughed at him. “Marco, memories of you are what I associate this place with already! It is my room in your home, and you have been here more than anyone else by far...” Well, maybe not if you counted Glossaryck, but Star felt that wasn’t the same at all. “But, I get what you mean, I would also want it to be here... wait!”

The Mewni girl jumped out from the bed and grabbed her wand. She was Star Butterfly after all, wasn’t she? If this room was what they wanted, and her bed was where Marco wanted her and she wanted him, then this room is what they would have!

“Defensive Gate Summoning Spell!” she shouted, pointing her wand to the door. A portcullis and a giant padlock appeared in front of the door. Marco jumped, surprised.

“Star?” he said, looking at her quizzically.

“Shh, let me concentrate,” she admonished him. This next part was tricky. It was not something she had practiced before, and it had better work the first time, they had already interrupted things for too long if you asked the mewman princess. “Sound-Proof Parent-Repelling Anti-Clam-Jamming Glitter Bubble!!”

A wave of pink light shot out of her wand in every direction around them, stopping right before it expanded beyond the walls of the room. It lingered there, a thin layer of bright pink magical energy with shimmering specks of gleaming dust interspaced through its soap-bubble-like interface. She waited a few moments, making sure the spell held and then flashed Marco a victorious grin.

“No way that is a real spell,” Marco commented.

“It is now,” Star retorted, sitting back on the bed and leaving her wand back on the bedside table. “Now, where were we?”

She barely had time to say that when she felt Marco kissing her lips again, his hunger for her quickly getting her back into the mood as well. She closed her eyes and focused on the sensations of the kiss. Moments after, she felt his hands roaming under her skirt, pushing the entire dress up. She lifted her arms to help the boy relieve her of her clothing. Marco broke off the kiss to push the dress entirely off of her, and she reluctantly let go of the contact.

He stood up from the bed, calmly taking her dress and laying it on a nearby chair, then headed back towards her and begun removing her boots. Star felt self-conscious, exposed in her underwear in front of her bestie. He smiled at her and looked her up and down, causing her cheekmarks to glow. “Marco... what are you doing?”

“Making memories,” he replied simply. He sat down again beside her and kissed her closest cheek. It was but a chaste peck, but he quickly began trailing down from there, through her neck, to her shoulder, down the strap of her bra... Star shuffled around and sat on her knees, so that she was facing Marco, with both of them atop the bed. She pulled her chin up and kissed him on the lips again, then began pushing his characteristic red hoodie off of him, and then his shirt up. They broke the kiss and she lifted the gray t-shirt over his head, throwing it towards the far side of the mattress.

She let her gaze linger over every inch of that chocolate-milk colored torso. Then pushed Marco back once more, getting on top and roaming her hands and mouth all over the boy’s exposed skin. He smelled good, and tasted even better. She heard him breathing heavily and felt something poking at her through his pants and her underwear. She pressed and wiggled on it, feeling the wetness build up in her crotch.

Marco’s hands reached behind her, and with a swift movement opened the clasp of her bra. She chuckled, knowing full well why Marco would never have any problem removing that from her. “Practiced that one a lot?” she asked, innocently.

“Uh... ah...” there it was, nervous Marco, Star smiled inwardly but kept her expression neutral.

“With Jackie, I mean,” she lied. She was being mean teasing him like this but, unfortunately for Marco, it was way too much fun.

“Ah... yes, I guess,” Marco replied, visibly relieved.

“Well, Marco,” she raised herself up until she was sitting on his lap. “I know I don’t have as much as Jackie does, ok? so... hopefully this is not too... underwhelming,” she said nervously, as she removed the straps from her shoulders and let the bra fall on the bed.

The bra in question was an A cup, and even then, when she and Janna had gone shopping for it, the dark haired girl had called it ‘aspirational’ in her case. She truly hoped it wouldn’t be a disappointment for the boy, considering how much more developed his actual girlfriend was.

He stared at her, silently. Star felt the heat on her face as she turned red with embarrassment, “Come on, Marco, say something!”

“You look... amazing,” he pulled himself up and kissed her left puffy nipple briefly, then opened his mouth to easily take the whole mound of flesh into it.

Star felt him suck, and kiss, and flick his tongue at her chest. She felt the heat build between her legs and let out a long moan, thankful for the shiny bubble around them. Marco had begun alternating between sides as he hungrily devoured her chest. If Star had any remaining doubts her bestie liked that part of her, they were quickly put to rest.

His hands gripped her back hard. It was nothing like Tom’s clawed fingers, though, and even if Star could feel his roughness, it was not as if he could hurt her. For a magical princess, she was built of pretty strong stuff. In most places, at least. She winced, however, as Marco accidentally grabbed one of her wings. “Ouch, careful there... those are... sensitive,” she protested, briefly, and Marco’s hand quickly let go.

“Sorry, Star,” he said, lifting his head from her chest long enough to look at her in the eye and make sure she was ok. “Guess Jackie doesn’t have those,” he commented sheepishly. Star raised an eyebrow as she looked back at him.

Despite the brief mistake, the boy continued his ministrations towards her front, pleasuring her nubs with his eager tongue, while keeping his hands on her remaining breast and on the side of her body. Then, very carefully, a finger began probing the outline of her left wing. After a few seconds, another started tracing the right one. She felt her breath quicken and a whimper escape her lips. Marco seemed to be taking cues from her sounds and she made a point of being very vocal with her wordless moans. The boy rapidly mastered stimulating her upper back just as much as her upper front and the combined sensations were driving Star crazy.

“Maaaarco,” she moaned. He took that as his cue to try even harder. Time seemed to stretch forever as he kept softly playing with her wings and licking her breasts. It was very much unlike with Tom, who had passed through those areas mostly as stops on his way to the next stage, or as a means to warm up Star for what he really wanted. Marco seemed to enjoy taking his time there, slowly kindling her sensations for what felt like hours; if not on the clock, then at least inside her head. She whimpered and moaned and grunted, and at some point she felt a powerful but brief shudder. Even after it passed through her, she wasn’t sure that was what she thought it was. It had not been a particularly strong one, but... had she just came from only having her wings and nipples pleasured?

Either way, what she knew for a fact was that this was driving her horny out of her own mind! “Marco! Stop,” she said hoarsely, surprising the boy who seemed for a moment to be trying to figure out what he had done wrong. “My turn!”

She pushed herself down and almost ripped the pants from him, barely taking the time to unbutton them, pulling the boxers at the same time and pushing it all carelessly on the floor. She pulled her own soggy underwear down and discarded it with equal inattention. Star looked at her bestie’s hard long thick member and licked her lips. She felt like she was in the throes of Mewberty all over again. She needed the boy, particular, singular, boy.

“Star? Are you all... oooohhh!” Marco shouted as the princess practically slammed her mouth on his cock and began to slurp messily on it. In a way it was weird, that she had been so methodical and careful when imagining this while blowing Tom, but now that it was the actual boy she liked all the technique gave way to an unquenchable savage thirst. She was thirsty for Marco, for what she wanted to suck out of him now. She wanted him to explode in her mouth, and only part of it was wanting the boy to feel good. Marco didn’t seem to mind in the least, however, and quickly peaked from her wild attention. “Star, I am about to...” he grunted.

She barely heard him, and did not stop until a few moments after she felt the first shot hit the back of her throat. She drank it like it was the sweetest milkshake she could imagine. In reality, she knew it tasted nothing like that. But, she told herself, she needed this, she wanted this, to wash away the taste of Tom.

“Marco! I need you, please,” Star begged, opening her legs to him, still in a dazzled heat. A part of her was burning with embarrassment at the side of her she was now showing her best friend. But it was too much: the months of pent up desire, the feeling that this somehow absolved her from the Tom thing, Marco’s earlier prolonged slow-boiling teasing!

“Star... I kinda cannot do that right now,” Marco replied, with visible regret. “I sort of need a few minutes after... well, after what just happened. But... I can do this,” he added, rolling around on the bed until he was laying face down, with his head almost between Star’s legs. She felt his smooth flat tongue describe a broad trail up her cunt, parting her lips as it went. She pushed her feet forward and arched back, until she was laying down comfortably. Marco then began to eat her out in earnest.

Once again he was careful and methodical, but she could also feel his desire in every flick and movement. He began slow, but soon seemed to realize that was not necessary at all, as Star was already drenched and ready from their earlier acts. She felt him lap her up rapidly, his tongue moving all around her folds. Every so often, his mouth sucked on her clit and she gasped loudly and lustfully. It took no time at all for her to reach her peak, and this time there was no doubt about it. She exploded with a loud shameless howling moan.

“Fuck, Marco! That was incredible,” Star finally said.

“I just hope that bubble thing is really soundproof,” Marco joked. “Otherwise we are in trouble.”

Star blushed. Her climax had brought her back somewhat from her altered state, and now she felt unsure about it. That had been a bit too weird and bit too wild.

“Marco, I...” she tried to put her thoughts in order, “hopefully what you just saw doesn’t change, you know, your opinion of me or anything?” After all, a night ago he had thought her too innocent to even know what sex was!

Marco blinked, confused. “Star? What are you talking about? You were amazing... I...”

“You were too, Marco, super amazing!” she smiled at him a huge grin. “But, well, I guess even I am going to have to look at my bestie a little bit differently, now that I know he can do... that, to me...”

“I see what you mean,” Marco seemed to ponder. “I guess I also just got a lot more memories than I expected. But, is that bad? Or is it good?”

“Honestly, I guess it is...” Star begun.

“...Amazing!” they both said at the same time. They laughed.

“Hugs!” shouted Star, and they shared a brief friendly hug. Star found it strangely reassuring. They were still best besties. It was just that they were also something else now as well.

“You know, Star? This is seriously the weirdest relationship,” Marco commented.

“It is about to get even weirder,” Star observed.

“Oh really?” Marco asked. “How?”

“Well, for one, I kinda still need you to fuck me,” Star announced nonchalantly. It was hard feeling embarrassed about that, considering how she had just acted before. However, Marco reacted to it by becoming quite flustered still, which only amused Star further.

“Oh,” Marco managed to mutter, turning red. “Sure, of course, if you are still up for it...” He walked up from the bed and retrieved his pants from the floor, producing a wrapper from the left pocket.

“Well, someone was prepared,” Star joked. “Nice one, Safe Kid!” She winked at him.

“I mean, someone had to be,” Marco retorted. “Unless you have a spell for that?”

“Well, Marco, those sort of spells are a bit like... well, like healing spells, I guess,” she confessed honestly. “Not my forte. Also... super uncomfortable to read through with Glossaryck looking over your shoulder, let me tell you...” she grimaced. Although, truth be told, she missed the annoying little magic man. She frowned, casting aside the thought for a less inappropriate time.

“So, Star, before we get to it, I kinda want to ask... is this going to be a first for you?” Marco interrupted her thoughts as he sat back in the bed. “Is not that I want to pry, or anything, but well, just want to know if I should be extra careful...”

“Not my first,” Star confessed, her frown deepening as she thought of two days before: the hard cement, the wood splinters. Tom had not been careful in the least. He had not even asked, or cared. Sure, Star Butterfly was much tougher than almost anyone knew. She took punches and bites and fire breath from monsters about as often as most people took baths and, as it turned out, her first time hadn’t been particularly painful to her. At least, not physically. But still, she appreciated Marco asking.

“Tom?” he ventured. So much for not prying, Marco, Star thought, feeling a bit annoyed.

“Yeah...” she answered in a grim monotone.

“Well, I supposed you two dated for a long while. So it is not too surprising,” Marco commented, and she did not try to correct him. “Anyways, I am glad this won’t hurt for you, then.” He smiled at her. Star felt relieved he did not judge her about Tom, even knowing he might still react differently if he knew the entire story.

She guided him atop her in the bed and they began kissing passionately. She felt his hands on her breasts and quickly lowered one of her own to begin pumping him to full mast. It was surprising how little time it took them to go from two friends joking at each other to two lovers ready for one another. Marco smiled at her as he used one hand to aim himself at her entrance, and slowly thrust into her. Star gasped and tightly gripped the boy’s back.

Marco was slowly going in and out of her, and Star felt as if back in the dream, floating on multi-color clouds. Yet somehow, this was even better. She felt her own arousal build up with every deep thrust, and at the same time, she slowly became aware of something else: a growing feeling that matched her own from the distance. She closed her eyes and felt it. It was like there was a big ball of light floating inside infinite darkness and it beat to the rhythm of her heart, expanding more and more as her arousal increased. But there was also another ball of light, seemingly smaller if only because it was further away, but she could see it beat and grow too. “Maaarco...”

He grunted in response. “Already, Star?” he asked.

“No...” she replied, panting slightly. It wasn’t that, not yet. “But, Marco, let me try something...”

She held his arms by the wrist and pushed herself up, deliberately tipping both of them around, rolling them so that she was now on top. She had tried to be as gentle as she could, while still not pushing Marco out of her. Then, she began lowering herself up and down on Marco’s cock. She closed her eyes, and began timing herself to the rhythms of the more distant light. She heard Marco gasp and his breath quicken. She smiled.

She felt his hands roam her chest, and then move to her back to caress her wings. Star moaned with abandon, but quickly focused back on the lights inside her mind. The princess barely paid attention to the sickly looking green mist that begun to form and flow between the two spheres. It didn’t matter, she knew the distant one was Marco. Marco’s desire. Marco’s arousal. She could guide herself by it, she could feel his pleasure.

Soon she didn’t need to close her eyes and see the lights anymore, she felt his sensations as well as her own with every time she impaled herself on him. She went deep when he wanted deep and fast when he wanted fast. She knew he was about to explode moments before he even tried to warn her, “Star...”

“Shh. I know,” she looked directly at his eyes. She slowed down, dragging it along, confidently keeping the boy at the very brink, then stopping to let him fall down from it. As soon as she felt his disappointment in her heart, she began moving again, deep and fast, slowing again as he approached climax. She was barely able to keep herself from ending things every time, her own build up quickly reaching the limit, but she made it into a challenge. She knew it would be worth it. Time after time she took them to the edge of the precipice, and back again.

“Oh god, Star, please...” Marco shouted. She grinned at him, and with a wink began going at full speed again. This time she did not stop, she let herself go completely. Her own desire exploded just an instant ahead of Marco’s. Her moans mixed with his grunts and soon she felt him twitching and pumping inside of her. Eventually, she fell to his side, exhausted.

They lay there for a while in silence. Star couldn’t believe her luck. Somehow, she wasn’t sure exactly why, she was able to feel what Marco felt, at least when they were both doing this. Was that what had happened two nights ago, when she had felt - maybe even seen - him and Jackie together when she was with Tom under the bridge? How was that even possible? Either way, it gave her an advantage, the princess thought, and without thinking, she asked a selfish question. “So, Marco, was that better than Jackie?”

She felt horrible the moment the words left her lips. Jackie had been nothing but kind to her that day, and here she was, thinking about using sex and magic weirdness to, what? Out-compete her for Marco’s affections? Why did she even need to ask Marco to compare? And, what if he still said he preferred Jackie? She had been his girlfriend for months now, after all.

The boy said nothing. He didn’t even seem to acknowledge the question. The sickening part was, that was what she expected Marco to do if she had been right. She shook her head, her own selfishness was now making her feel miserable, when she should be happy, basking in the after-glow of the moment she had dreamed of for so long. She had been so stupid!

Wait! Dreamed of? That was it! ‘A dark spell powered by lust’ Star recalled Hekapoo’s words. She remembered the green thread between her and older Marco that had appeared when Hekapoo had “inspected” her. Green like the mist between the light spheres, green like dark magic, green like the Seeing Eye spell!

This was not good. Well, it had been good so far, for her, but there was something ominous about a dark lingering magical connection. She wasn’t one to think too deeply about how her spells worked, but even Star knew enough to realize that somehow casting dark magic you did not fully understand was the sort of thing you ought to worry about, especially a spell that seemed to last weeks at a time.

A pair of arms closing around her interrupted her reflection, as Marco drew the princess into a tight embrace. “Star, I love you!” he said, and the edifice of her thoughts collapsed like a sandcastle.

Chapter Text

Chapter 08: You Set the Snakes Loose

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place two nights after the SvtFoE episode “Just Friends” (S02E20b). The story has now begun to diverge from the SvtFoE season 2 mainline with stakes both personal and cosmic.

“Space unicooorn... Soaring through the stars... Delivering the rainbooows all around the wooorld!”

Star felt her heavy eyelids stubbornly refuse to open even as the song labored to jolt her awake. She was only vaguely aware of Marco jumping up behind her, rushing to get out of her bed, scrambling around the messy room searching for his phone. She felt really groggy, and a peek out of her window told her it was the middle of the night. “Uh. Marco?”

He didn’t reply, and the ringtone stopped before he could find the blasted device. Star felt herself begin to fall asleep again, as she heard Marco rummaging through his discarded pants.

“Star! Wake up!!” he yelled suddenly, in an unnerved tone, jolting her back awake scant seconds after she had resolved to doze off again. “Get dressed! We need to go, now!”

The princess did not understand what the fuss was about, but if it had her bestie this worried, it must indeed be important. She forced herself to open her eyes and sit up, then reached around for her wand, just in time to see Marco smash head first against the pink shimmering bubble that still surrounded the middle of her bedroom.

“Star!” he complained. “Take it down, quickly! The scissors are in my room!”

She didn’t even ask, not before she dismissed both of her spells, dropping down her sound-proof shield as well as the lock on the door. But as Marco darted towards the now unlocked entrance, she begun to feel something was indeed horribly wrong, and she did not want to be left in the dark about it. “Marco! What’s happening?”

He tossed her his phone at her as he ran out of her room. She unlocked it. Two missed calls, four text messages, all from Jackie.

MARCO, STAR, HELP!!
AT JANNA’S
ZOMBIES!!?? BIG SNAKE!
NOT A DUCKING JOKE!!

Shit! Jackie was in danger! Janna too. Never mind half the stuff in those messages did not add up, they would figure it out when they got there. Star summoned herself an outfit, no time to dress the old fashioned way, or otherwise get ready. Just as she did, she saw Marco come back into her room, practically bashing the door in, pulling another red hoodie over himself and holding the dimensional scissors on his right hand.

“Star, sorry for yelling...”

“Marco! No-time-for-unnecessary-apologies. Open that portal!”

----

The tear in the fabric of space happened to open up to Janna’s front yard. The place was unrecognizable. The grass was burned down to a black amorphous waste all around them and a fiery chasm had opened in the ground in front of the door. Beside the crack on the earth lay a large broken wooden box. Star recognized it immediately as Tom’s underworld elevator. She saw the demon who usually lifted it up, Tom’s pet gargoyle, fighting for its life a few meters away. Around the fiend were six or seven rotting corpses, risen from the ground and walking, each body surrounded by a shadowy purple halo. The shambling bodies were covered in ornate jewelry and decayed rags of what millennia ago might have been fine clothing. One of the undead creatures was biting into the demon’s shoulder.

“Ky-yaaa!” Marco shouted, and with a kick sent the offending zombie’s head flying into the air, separating it cleanly from its torso.

“Mega Narwhal Blast!” Star followed soon after, throwing four others back, slamming them into the ground so strongly their limbs fell apart from their decaying bodies.

“Point Marco, and, ahem, four points Princess Star,” the gargoyle announced surprised. “Um, also, t… thank you…”

Normally she would have made a comment to Marco about the score but, until they found their friends, it was no time for jokes. “You! What is going on, and how is it Tom’s fault?” she asked the demon.

A pillar of flame spiraled out of the fissure in the ground and the aforementioned prince of the underworld came flying with it, propelling himself up by shooting flames from both his hands, eyes glowing bright red. He landed in front of his slave and blasted the remaining two corpses attacking it, one with each of his outstretched hands. After he finished, he turned off the flames. Right after that, his eyes went back to normal. “Hey! Why would this be my fault?!”

“Zombies, demons, chasms to hell,” Marco enumerated with a sarcastic tint to his voice. “It could be anyone, really!”

“Point, Mar…” the gargoyle began, only to be cut off by a glare from his master.

“Now, where is my girlfriend, Tom?” Marco continued, not paying much attention to the interruption.

“Uh,” Tom looked at the boy, then at Star. He huffed annoyed. “Right there, I guess?”

“My other girlfriend, Tom!” Marco shouted. “I mean Jackie!”

Wait, had Marco just called her his girlfriend? Had Tom? Star dismissed the wonderful, scary, and confusing emotions the word was bringing up from inside her. She tried to focus on the situation at hand. Reminding herself that Jackie and Janna were in danger did the trick.

“Tom, explain now what the literal hell is going on here, or I am going to blast you so hard you’ll leave a whole new crater on the way down!” She had no patience for Tom, or for how weirdly guilty seeing him now was making her feel, much less when her friends were in danger!

“Fine... Starship,” he almost spat the pet name. It suddenly sounded to her almost like he meant it as an insult. “Your friend... I mean Janna, not the other one... took something from me, and apparently she made a mess with it. She, or someone else, called the elevator up, but I am afraid whatever they did was already too far along. In fact, if we don’t hurry, this royal morons are going to be the least of our problems... Also, ‘my other girlfriend’, what the hell Marco? You fucking pig!”

“Point, master T...” began the demonic servant.

“Shut up!” shouted back Tom and Star at the same time.

“You, enough of that. Take the lift, go back down. Don’t dare tell…” Tom stopped, considered his orders for a second, then added. “If I am not down there in an hour, tell my mother.”

The lesser demon bowed to his prince and proceeded to comply. Star’s anger at Tom was cut short by more pressing priorities. If he was considering telling his family about this, even with a delay to cover things up, well, then he thought they were all in danger. Which meant, that Jackie and Janna were probably really in danger.

Star moved quickly. Before the gargoyle fiend had even finished grabbing his broken elevator box, she was blasting down Janna’s door and jumping over the precipice. They had to be in there somewhere. The hordes of zombies that came pouring out of the living-room told the princess she was likely right. “Flesh Eating Moths Hurricane!”

Between her wand and Tom’s pyromancy, they made quick work clearing the place. Hopefully they weren’t too late.

“Jackie!” Marco shouted. A distant muffled cry came from the second floor, and the boy rushed up the stairs, kicking and punching shambling cadavers along the way. Star rushed behind him, blasting the remaining zombies with rainbow punches and terrifyingly fierce woodland creatures. Tom flew up behind her, surprisingly also in a hurry.

“So, what exactly are we looking for?” Star asked.

“Well, if we are early enough, it should be a black funerary urn. Give it to me and I can stop this in just a sec,” Tom observed, calmly.

“And if we are not early enough?” Star retorted.

“Then, let me guess: we are going to see a huge ghostly snake?” Marco asked, from farther ahead.

“Well, yes, something like that...” Tom confirmed. “How do you know?... Wait, nah, don’t answer that, I can guess too...” he added, with a resigned expression.

The two of them joined Marco inside Janna’s room. The second thing they noticed was that the roof was missing now. The third thing they noticed were the candles and the blurred circle and pentagram drawn on the floor, broken apart by cracks on the wood beneath them.

The very first they noticed, was, of course, the snake. The shadowy semi-translucent shape of a gigantic cobra, coiled around the bodies of Jackie and Janna, half as thick as they were tall and long enough to probably reach the houses on the other side of the street if fully stretched. Blood red eyes glowed sinisterly against the night sky as it turned to regard the three new arrivals. It opened its mouth to show two huge ivory-white fangs.

“Marco!” Jackie shouted.

“Star!” Janna followed.

At least they seemed relatively unharmed.

“WHO DARES DISTURB MIDRA’APEP, DEMI-GOD OF TORMENT, SPAWN OF THE INFINITE CHAOS, THE BEAST OF THE MAUSOLEUM OF STONE KNIVES, HE WHO COMMANDS TEN THOUSAND DEAD KINGS?!” The snake spoke in an ominous tone. “KNOW THAT THIS WORLD IS NOW MINE, I CLAIM IT AS MY DOMAIN, FROM NOW UNTIL ALL FLAMES IN HEAVEN GO DARK!”

“Oh, great,” Tom muttered, more annoyed than afraid. After throwing an exasperated look Janna’s way, he began speaking back at the cobra in a commanding tone. “Midra’Apep, I, Tom Lucitor, command you to withdraw. I invoke my right of reign and domain...”

“YOU HAVE NO DOMAIN IN THIS DIMENSION, PRINCE TOM, AND THUS NO RIGHT TO COMMAND ME!” It spoke back. “I HAVE CLAIMED DOMAIN, I COMMAND YOU TO WITHDRAW!”

“I am afraid that doesn’t work for me, either,” Tom responded, taking a single step forward. “I reject your domain, by the way, it was improperly claimed. Which means,” his eyes glowed burning red and his voice became deeper and echoing, “that we are doing this the hard way!”

“Oh, I can’t believe I am agreeing with Tom,” Star’s face took a scarily fierce look, “But, the hard way sounds great right about now! First... let go of my boyfriend’s girlfriend! Warnicorn Stampede!!”

A herd of terrifying one-horned horses came charging out of thin air. The shadowy serpent’s tail shook violently and swiped horizontally like a titanic whip, meeting the entire stampede head on, throwing warnicorns flying into the air. Tom and Marco took the opportunity to jump ahead, avoiding the viper’s tail. When they reached the coil that held the two girls, Tom pressed his claws against the serpent’s translucent mass and blasted it with a fiery shock-wave. It twitched involuntarily, long enough for Marco to pull Jackie free and jump away. Without the extra body between the coils, Janna simply fell, right into Tom’s arms.

“Woah, my hero,” Jackie said in a half-joking tone, sounding surprisingly calm under the circumstances. Star saw her smile widely at Marco as he carried her away from the monstrosity.

“Hey, Tom, funny story...” Janna spoke to the demon prince as if they knew each other. He groaned in response.

Star realized this was her chance to get a clear shot. The warnicorns had barely done any damage, and she figured a laser cannon might not help too much this time either, but she had recently learned something that seemed to work pretty well against demons. She focused her anger into the wand, letting it produce a blast of emerald and shadow, a wordless spell of dark magic.

The ray came out thin and feeble, it hit Midra’Apep without effect, bouncing off of its shadowy scales. The demi-god seemed slightly more solid, more corporeal, now. It laughed thunderously at Star.

Tom groaned and glared at Marco. “Let me guess, you two just slept together and now she is not angry or frustrated anymore?”

Jackie and Janna looked at both her and the human boy. Jackie seemed a bit embarrassed but smiled faintly. Janna had an almost deranged expression of glee, and gave them thumbs up when Tom was looking elsewhere.

“Fortunately,” Tom continued. “I am having absolutely no problem being angry right now!”

He was glaring at Janna, still in his arms, as he spoke. She barely had time to get back on her feet as he let go of her and began muttering something in a strange guttural language. Chains of flame and lightning sprung up from his claws, wrapping the giant snake’s body. He began to float up, into the night, dragging the monstrous demi-god with him, breaking down one of the room’s walls as he pulled it out into the yard, and then down towards the chasm in the ground. In the last minute, however, Midra’Apep began floating up, of its own power, opposing Tom’s pull.

The two seemed evenly matched in their tug of war. Star tried to help her ex-boyfriend, without much success. Her narwhal blasts seemed to bounce against the snake abomination, and her dark magic blasts kept coming out too puny to make the slightest difference.

“Marco...” Tom spoke, voice strained by the effort of holding down the chains on the monster “... kiss Jackie! Don’t ask why, just do it!”

“Eh...” Marco answered surprised.

Jackie, however, still in his arms, quickly took his cheek in her hand and pulled him down for a kiss. Star looked at that and felt a pang in her stomach. Ok, she got what Tom was trying to do. That blast she had used on him the other day had needed a lot of anger as fuel, after all. And this was literally recreating the conditions of the one she blew a billboard with.

But seriously, couldn’t he have found a more discreet way? Given their conversation earlier in the day, Star didn’t really want Jackie figuring out that it still bothered her when the human girl and Marco kissed. It really wasn’t fair that it did, especially given that Jackie was willing to go out of her way to share Marco with her. Summoning all of her annoyance at both Tom and herself, as well as her jealousy, she tried blasting the serpent again. This time she managed a solid bolt of dark magic, but still nothing like what she had done to Tom two nights ago. The shadow snake flinched in pain, but held its ground. Or its air, as the case may be.

“FOOLS! EVERY SECOND I SPEND IN THIS WORLD, I GROW STRONGER!” The demi-god shouted. It proceeded to affirm its boast by flying up a bit higher, dragging Tom up into the air this time around.

The demon prince looked at Star, and she could see he was unsure about something. He closed his eyes briefly and, when he opened them again, his regretful sad look was replaced by a bright red iris-less glare of fury and determination.

“Dammit, Star!” Tom shouted. “So now it turns out you don’t even mind Marco wrapping tongues with his side girl? Or, really, his main girl?! Since you are the side-dish, from what I have heard so far. Which, by the way, seriously, Star? That’s kinda pathetic...” He pulled himself back down until his feet made contact with the ground again, muscles tense and arms trembling with the effort, ruby eyes glowing brighter than any other light around them. “Speaking of pathetic, you do realize you and all your friends are now going to be in deep shit for basically all eternity, just because Marco gave you a happy, right? Hell, wish you were back to being a mopey snappy bitch and seeking your comfort in the streets like a common fucking wh...”

“Shut up!” Star shouted at him. She felt a cold sensation spread through her body. Her cheekmarks shone emerald, her wand as well. “Tom, I understand what you are trying to do and, to be absolutely fucking fair, it is working. But damn it if you are not truly the biggest asshole in all of hell!!”

A thick twisting blast of green and black energy emerged forth from the front of her wand, carrying all of her frustration and hate for Tom. Star called upon her memories of that awful night two days ago and her annoyance at his current comments, as well as the fact that she now would have to explain what the demon had just said to Marco and Jackie (and, well, to Janna too, probably)! The powerful beam hit Midra’Apep straight in its open mouth, blasting the serpentine leviathan down into the depths of hell, where Tom reeled it in. The demon prince made a gesture with his hand, and the crack sealed itself after him.

“Wait, what the down there was he on about?” Marco asked, looking at Star confused. She felt a weight inside her stomach. “And why did he want Jackie and I to kiss? ... Not that I am complaining,” he clarified, looking down at the skateboarder girl, who smiled back at him.

“I... he... emh...” Star did so not want to talk about any of that right now, or, well, ever. “Hold that thought, Marco. Janna? Jackie? First, are you two alright? Second, what was going on here before we arrived?!”

“I am fine. As for the second question... Star, it is a bit of a long story... maybe we should get back downstairs first, make sure Jackie is alright too... get you all some tea?” Janna looked around. “Oh, and I really need to figure out how to explain to my parents what happened to the house when they get back... on the one hand, they will never believe the truth... on the other, not sure how they will even explain me doing any of this...”

While Janna was pondering the pro’s and con’s of supernatural home devastation, Jackie finally spoke. “I am fine too, a bit shaken, perhaps,” she admitted, not sounding shaken in the least, for the standards of what she had just experienced. “But I have a question. Well, like a million questions, really. But, one in particular: how come you all seem to be on first name basis with a purple horned demon from hell?”

“Ex-boyfriend,” Star explained.

“We went out last night,” Janna added, getting an incredulous look from both Jackie and Star.

“Wait, so all of you have dated not only a demon, but that particular demon?” Jackie pressed on.

“Demon prince,” Janna corrected her, proudly.

“Not all of us!” Marco protested, just as quickly.

“Well,” Jackie pondered it for a second. “That would be kinda hot, actually.”

“Yeah...” Star agreed, absentmindedly.

“I said it first,” Janna pointed out.

----

“Here,” Janna handed Star a cup of tea, before turning toward the other sofa to offer the remaining two to Marco and Jackie, who were sitting together. She ventured a sideways glance at Star. If the princess was bothered by that display, it did not show. “Well, glad at least the kitchen is still mostly there. No gas leaks either, I think.” Tom probably would have set those off if that were the case, she reasoned.

“So, ok, Janna, I get the part where you went out with Tom... sort of... and I am going to assume I can’t talk you out of that one, but I am going to need you to explain the snake thing!” Star began the interrogation. Janna had sort of expected it to be Marco, but the boy seemed too busy looking at his other girlfriend and trying to reassure her. Jackie did not look like she needed reassurance, but she was also not complaining, the troublemaker girl noted.

“Well, Star, so Tom was telling me yesterday about this magical urn that brought dead kings back to life,” she said truthfully. “It sounded pretty interesting, so, after the date, I decided to borrow it...”

“Steal it,” Marco corrected, rolling his eyes.

“Whatever you want to call it, Safe Kid,” Janna grumbled. “Anyways, it sounded fun. He said nothing about giant snakes or anything like that. So, well, I looked the thing up online and, again nothing about snakes, or any real specifics, but there are some general rituals you can do to unlock an unknown magical object. It kind of needed two people, so I called Jackie over too.”

“Pro-tip, dudes: unlocking rituals are long, choral, majorly weird, and vaguely homo-erotic,” Jackie commented, causing both Janna and Marco to blush. Star threw the skateboarder girl a strange, somewhat worried, look. Jackie shook her head.

“Honestly, I would have tried getting Star for it,” Janna spoke. Jackie raised an eyebrow. Star shuffled uneasily. “Not like that! I just mean it would have been safer with her around. But honestly I was expecting it to not work at all, like most of my stuff, or at most to get us a ghost inside the summoning circle. We had Tom’s bell on stand-by and everything, just in case. I was not counting on dark, long and megalomaniacal showing up!”

“Janna, honestly, even I know to not go around poking at Tom’s random hell crap,” Star admonished her. “But whatever, next time let me and Marco know, ok? First, it looks like you two were in over your heads with this. Second, some of it was honestly kind of exciting! At least once we knew you two were safe...” The princess smiled at her and punched up in the air with her wand.

Janna was glad Star was in a good mood, after all. She had been worried her friend would take a much dimmer view of her activities, specially after they had called her and Marco in the middle of the night, and after all the stuff Tom had ranted about just a few moments ago. But Star’s happy go lucky demeanor seemed to be back as the default, after months of relative absence. Janna was about to ask herself what had gotten into the princess, but then quickly glanced at Marco, chuckling at her own involuntary and unspoken joke.

“Actually, Jackie, just, could you never scare me like that again, please?” Marco spoke out of the blue, suddenly sounding very serious. He was staring at Jackie in the eyes and holding her tightly. Star glanced discretely away, but not discretely enough for Janna not to notice.

“Marco,” Jackie began, looking back at him, thoughtfully and sadly. “Well, I kinda didn’t know what Janna had in mind at first. I suppose I could have refused to go along with it once she mentioned magic rituals, but it didn’t seem that bad at the time. I will probably be a bit more careful with this sort of stuff in the future, but well... no. I mean, my answer is that I cannot promise never to scare you again. What can I say, sometimes I want a little danger in my life! Aww, don’t make that face, Marco. You do this kind of thing all the time, with Star. Hell, based on what you have told me, you spent sixteen years in another dimension, risking your life every single day, and I never even knew! Could you promise me then that you will never again put yourself at risk?”

They all stood there, speechless. Even Janna or Star had nothing to add. The witch wannabe had been about to reassure Marco that she would not involve his girlfriend on something like this again, but now saying that seemed unfair to Jackie.

Eventually, Marco sighed in defeat. “Ok, Jackie, that’s all true. I can’t promise that either. How about this: can you promise to at least try to let me know when you are going to do something this dangerous again? That way we can at least be there for each other.”

“Sure... if you are willing to promise the same?” Jackie countered, with an excited twinkle in her eye.

Marco looked at Star, as if asking for confirmation.

“Oh... eh... Of course!” the princess eventually beamed back at the both of them, still seeming a bit unsure but trying to appear decided. “I think I kinda already promised Jackie she was invited to go on adventures with us, after all...”

Janna could tell Star’s heart was not in those words. The problem was, if she could tell, so could the other two. Marco knew Star better than anyone, and Jackie was actually fairly perceptive as a rule. A long uncomfortable silence descended over the four of them. She was saved from having to do anything about that, however, by a ‘whossh’ sound erupting outside, followed by the ringing of her doorbell.

Janna stood up and, carefully, peeked through the peephole. On the other side, the purple demon looked impatient, his hair messed up and shirt half shredded, presumably from the fight with the snake demi-god.

“Hey, Tom, glad to see you back,” the dark haired girl spoke quickly, in an ambiguously apologetic tone. “Please, come in! Can I offer you some tea?”

“No,” he replied simply. “I just wanted to make sure you all,” he looked at Janna, then at Star, “were doing ok.”

“Pfft,” Star huffed. Her good mood suddenly again dissipated. “We are fine, Tom. By the way, thanks for the peptalk earlier, real classy stuff!”

The demon’s initially neutral expression turned into an angry glare in response. “Well, thanks for not leaving me to finish the fight on my own... oh, wait, that’s exactly what you all did!” Tom retorted, eyes glowing and flames spewing out of him. Jackie looked around nervously, Marco just rolled his eyes and mouthed silently: ‘drama queen’.

“Figured you got things under control. I threw him square inside your dominion or whatever the word is,” Star served back.

“Domain! And I did have it under control,” Tom replied, with contained annoyance.

“Then? What was the problem?!” Star shouted, with open irritation.

“They really did use to date, didn’t they?” Jackie joked at Marco, finally getting a bit more at ease with the whole demon prince situation.

“Well, yeah,” Star admitted, glancing back at them. Then, nervously, she added, “A long time ago, though!”

“Oh, sure,” Tom smirked viciously, stepping towards the princess. He spoke in a mocking, sarcastic tone. “Long long ago. You know... water under the bridge?”

Star tensed in response to those words, her hand gripping her wand hard enough that her knuckles were starting to turn white. Her back was to Marco and Jackie, but Janna could see half of the horrified expression she wore. The troublemaker girl was not sure exactly how the dots connected, but she knew that was her cue to intervene, before Star blasted her ex or he let out any information the other teens would regret hearing.

“Tom,” she began, looking at the floor. “I... I am sorry about the urn, I didn’t know what would happen.” That was true, as far as it went. “Thanks so much for saving me...” Ok, she was maybe overdoing it just a tiny bit.

She moved towards him, placing herself between the demon and Star, touching a hand up to his left cheek and winking at him. “It is just, after last night, I needed a way to make sure I would see you again. I thought taking the urn with me would ensure you showed up. I wasn’t planning on using it at first. I am so glad you did come back,” she ranted, perhaps a bit melodramatically. That said, that was two truths and one lie, so she was at least statistically honest.

“Oh, really?” he asked. Tom’s smile became broader and only slightly less sinister. Clearly he was catching on but, Janna observed, he also seemed genuinely pleased. “Didn’t figure I made that much of an impression.” He was smirking, at herself and at a probably disconcerted Star behind her. Good. “Next time just ask for a second date. I’d rather you not release imprisoned demi-gods every time... seriously, Janna, most people would have earned an eternity of torment for just the one!”

Janna grinned mischievously at him. “Well, I am already going to be grounded for fifty years at least for what happened to the house. But how about you ‘torment’ me for the night?” she purred. “After all, I just learned today you are pretty handy with chains!”

Unable to resist it, Janna sneaked a peek back at the other three. Star and Marco were both making a face, though Star’s disgust seemed a bit exaggerated, and perhaps mixed with something else, if you asked the dark haired girl. Jackie just played it cool and sipped her tea.

“Oh, is that truly what you want?” Tom teased, with a pleased smile. “Fine. I have my own reasons to not want you grounded, and I am pretty sure my servants and I can get most of this mess sorted out before your parents show up. In exchange, I shall personally punish you for your thievery...” he added gleefully, and a shiver ran between Janna’s legs.

Jackie calmly put her cup on the table. “Well, I think that’s the cue for the three of us to leave. Marco? Star?”

----

Well, that had been a truly strange day, thought Star to herself. No, not the fifty feet snake or the undead hordes. That was well within the range of a normal Sunday for her. But, Janna dating Tom? And, had he been, sort of, worse than his usual self? Sure, he had needed her pissed off for the fight, maybe. But he didn’t even think of apologizing after, he just kept sniping at her! And had Janna taken his side? Also, what was that about chains? Were Janna and Tom now going to... she didn’t want to even think of that, she told herself, unconvincingly.

“Well, Jackie, I guess we should walk you home now,” Marco interrupted the princess thoughts. “Actually, I can walk you home. Star, thanks so much, for everything. I understand if you’d rather go back to sleep now, sorry for dragging you into this.” He offered her the scissors.

Oh, right, that was the other weird thing that had happened today. She and Marco had become lovers, at the very least. Star blushed.

“Awww, Marco, no need to apologize. I drag you into stuff like this all the time!” she pointed out. Then a thought crossed her mind. There was one other very weird thing about this day that Star felt she needed to address, sooner rather than later. She took a deep breath. “Actually, you should go back to sleep! I will take Jackie back to her place. I can always sleep in class!” She smiled.

“Star, that’s not...” Marco began admonishing.

“Yeah, yeah, you know it will happen either way,” she stopped him. “Besides, I kinda want to talk to Jackie. You know, girl stuff?”

Jackie raised an eyebrow at her and smirked. Marco shuffled nervously. “Ah, Star... ok, sure. Jackie?”

“Sounds good to me!” the skateboarder girl replied. She leaned towards Marco and kissed him smack in the lips. Well, that made this even harder, but also, even more necessary, if you asked Star. The other blonde just seemed to look at Star expectantly. “Well, aren’t you going to kiss him goodnight too?” she asked.

“I... ah... eh...” Star stammered.

Marco was red like a beet, but seeing Star’s conflict, he walked towards her. “Star, we can always kiss later, in private, if this is being too much on the spot. For now... hugs?”

“Hugs!” Star laughed and hugged Marco. Then, feeling his now familiar arms around her, she changed her mind. What the hell! She tilted her head upwards and kissed him softly.

“Whoa, go Diaz!” Jackie chuckled.

Star felt super embarrassed, but she didn’t feel Jackie had meant anything bad by her comment. Eventually, Marco separated from her too and, after asking if they were sure and shooting them both an apprehensive look, opened a portal back to his bedroom and disappeared through it.

“So, what’s up, Star?” Jackie asked immediately. “Going to trade racy stories about our boy Marco?”

“What? No, Jackie...” Star begun, confused and flustered.

“Please, don’t even try to tell me you don’t have any this time!” the other girl continued nonchalantly, amused even. “I knew you two were back from doing it the moment he barged in through the door, his hair always gets messy in a weird way after it. Sorry if we interrupted, by the way! But, well, it was kinda life or death...”

“No! Jackie, stop!” Star shouted frustrated. The human blinked at her and looked back, hurt. “I mean, yeah... we kinda... well... we did...” Oh God! Why was she telling Jackie that?! Well, I mean, it was obvious they had, but still, to come out and say it that way, to her, was weird. “I just, I just wanted to talk about other stuff...”

“Oh,” Jackie stopped on her tracks, stood there in silence for a moment and turned back to face Star. “Sorry. What do you want to talk about?”

“I... well... why are you so alright with this? With me and Marco, I mean,” Star asked. It took effort to get each word out.

“Are you not alright with it, Star? No, wait, you asked me a question, I should answer first,” Jackie took her hand to her chin, pondering. “I am not always alright with it. Sometimes I am scared that Marco will decide that he likes you much more than he likes me, or that you two will want to be a normal couple after all and shut me out of it. But, on the other hand, I see that you make him happy, and that he makes you happy, and I wouldn’t feel right stopping you two from making each other happy.”

“And it doesn’t bother you, when... if I make him happy, at all?” Star pressed.

“No,” Jackie replied, almost too simply. “Not really. It never has, not with Marco, not with the boys I have been interested in before. It is not for lack of caring about him, I mean, I think I am in love with him, at least as much as you are. It is actually the other way around: because I care about him, when you make him happy, it mostly just makes me happy too. I guess I am just wired that way? I dunno, I already told you, I think I am weird...”

“Jackie, you are weird-awesome!” Star said, a bit too forcefully. “The thing is, what happens if I am not? If I can’t be awesome about it like you are? If sometimes I worry or fret when Marco is happy with you? If I get jealous or feel selfish? If sometimes I feel like I am in a competition with you, that for me to win you would have to lose? If... I guess, if I am a horrible person?”

“Star, I think that’s all just you being normal...” Star blinked. There was a first for everything, and certainly that was it for her name and that particular adjective. “But, well, I doubt very much you are a horrible person, or even that selfish, really. I mean, if you were, why are you telling me this? If you wanted to, I dunno, steal Marco from me, then the last thing you should probably be doing is telling me, right?”

“No, no, no, I don’t want to do that!” Star answered, horrified. Then she remembered her glee at the advantage her magic connection with Marco could give her, and felt even more awful. “Ok, sometimes, a small part of me wants that. But I could never do that to Marco, or to you. I’d rather go back to how things were before than hurt you two, or abuse your trust... that’s why I wanted to tell you how I feel, guess to... warn you? I dunno... not that I want to change things now, but...” She wasn’t sure what she expected the human girl to do with the information, actually.

“Star... would it help if I told you how I felt this afternoon? When I was with Janna, knowing you and Marco were probably doing it? I am not asking you to feel the way I feel about this sort of thing, just to understand, and maybe, if you can come at it from my point of view, it will help you feel less bad when the situation is reversed.” Jackie spoke and Star nodded. “Basically, I got reminded of the times I have seen you and Marco interact, how he looks at you, the stories he has told me about you, how he can’t really stop talking about you. I imagined him having a good time, being happy with you, and, usually, when I know he is being happy, I feel happy too. Let me put it this way, if he called you and told you he was having really good ice-cream, and you knew you couldn’t be there to have ice-cream with him or you didn’t like ice-cream, would you be annoyed that he was enjoying ice-cream without you or just glad he was having a good day?”

“Who doesn’t like ice-cream?! Also, Jackie, I don’t think that’s quite the same...” But Star wasn’t sure she could quite pinpoint why exactly it wasn’t.

“Maybe not. I guess I don’t know how to explain it, then. I just don’t necessarily connect him being happy with you or liking you with him not liking me... except...” Jackie went a bit somber for a moment. “I guess there was a time it bothered me. Friday, actually, when he said your name when we were having sex. Today doesn’t bother me, or yesterday. If he is alone with you, it doesn’t bother me, but it did bother me when he was with me... and maybe thinking of you...”

“He said my name?” Star tried processing the information. That had been the night with Tom, hadn’t it? When she had seen Marco and Jackie, and she had called Marco’s name. Had that really happened? Had she been seeing them through her bond with Marco? Had he seen her back? Was that why he had said her name and nothing else? Had he seen her... with Tom?

“He didn’t tell you?” Jackie asked, interrupting Star’s train of thought. “Oh, sorry, I shouldn’t have brought that up with you before he did, Star, never mind that.”

“Jackie,” Star finally was putting the pieces together. “I, I don’t think that was because he was thinking about me...” she begun, but the words died in her mouth as the next realization hit her. “Wait! Was that why you two fought and why you told him to ask me out?!”

Jackie stared back in silence, then nodded. “It was when I knew for a fact that he liked you too, Star.”

But, but Jackie has said that had been something that bothered her. So why ask Marco to get closer to her? It didn’t make any sense! But for all the sense it didn’t make, it had made Star happy last night and earlier that day, and it had made Marco happy, and it seemed to make Jackie mostly happy. So, perhaps there was something to the other girl’s way of thinking that Star was just not seeing.

Either way, neither of them seemed to be able to find their words for the rest of the walk back to Jackie’s place.

----

“So, Janna, how much of that was putting an act for Star, how much putting an act for me, and how much was real?” Tom asked, darkly. His demeanor seeming a lot less friendly with her after the others departed. “You know I can coax the truth from you eventually, so this would be the time to come clean...”

“Mmmm,” she made a show of thinking it out. She saw no point in making things too easy for the demon prince. “What if I prefer it for you to coax the truth from me, after all?”

“Fine,” Tom sighed. His lip curved to the left and he opened his mouth slightly to show off a single sharp fang in an unnerving smirk. “Let’s do this the hard way, then, seems like that is the order of the day. After all, you asked to be punished, didn’t you?”

She did, of course. But Janna hoped Tom had gotten that she meant fun sexy punishment and not, well, literal torture. Right now, given the way he looked at her, hollow eyes smoldering dark red, it was not clear that he understood her intent, or cared. He lifted a hand and snapped his fingers. Two pillars of flame emerged to the thieving girl’s sides, gracing her arms. The fire hurt and burned, but much less than she would have expected it to, more like an excessively hot shower than flesh-charring blazes. When the flames stopped, there where two heavy chains going from the floor of Janna’s living room to a pair of shackles on her wrists. She looked down to see an identical pair holding her legs.

“I want you to understand, Janna, that stealing that urn was incredibly stupid, and that attempting to use it without knowing anything about it was beyond idiotic...” he said, advancing towards her.

He lowered his hands and the chains slid downwards through the floor and backwards along the surface, forcing Janna on her knees and bending her arms towards her back in an uncomfortable position. He extended his left index then and pushed the tip of his claw into Janna’s forehead, until it drew a single drop of blood. Tom licked his finger, murmuring something in a language she couldn’t understand.

“Do you understand the kind of trouble you could have been in if Star and I had gotten here even minutes later?”

“Yes.”

“Did you understand it before you took the urn?”

“No.”

Tom seemed to hesitate at her response, clearly it was not what he expected to hear. “Would you have taken it anyways, had you known?”

“No.”

“That’s a LIE!” he growled. Eyes glowing fiercely, fire burning around him. Janna felt the shackles tighten and pull even further back, stretching her arms in a very painful manner. She felt afraid. For the first time since they had done it, she felt genuinely scared of the demon prince.

“Fine,” she spat. “I would have taken it anyways, but I would have probably not unlocked it if I knew what was inside!”

He seemed surprised again. But he raised a hand and the chains gave out just a little bit, easing her pain back into a more bearable level of discomfort. “Why would you have still taken it then?!”

“I told you,” Janna said, looking to the side, as annoyed at him as she was afraid. “Because I wanted to make sure I’d see you again. Didn’t think the bell would necessarily be enough...”

She felt a powerful grip around her chin, as Tom forcefully turned her face back to look into his hollow burning eyes. But when she looked back, she saw the eyes were back to normal and Tom had a confused but calm expression. “That... that wasn’t a lie...”

He leaned forward, pressed his lips against her and kissed her. Despite the chains and the awkward position, Janna found herself reciprocating the kiss. Fiery passion flowed between the two of them as they welcomed and fought each other in the space between their mouths. Eventually, Tom pulled himself back up, smiling downwards at her.

“I believe, you still deserve to be... punished, some more,” he winked at her. “But if you want it to stop, feel free to say so.”

She most certainly did not, especially now that she knew for sure she was in no real danger. Or, at least, she had reason to hope that was the case. “Oh, believe me, there is still a lot of punishment you have left to do here, Tommy-boy! Besides, aren’t you like, reading my mind now or something?” The way he seemed to know which of her words were true and which weren’t was suspicious, to put it mildly.

“Not exactly. I can mostly just tell when you are lying for now.” he explained. Well, that was interesting, Janna thought to herself.

“Fine. I hate you!”

“Lie!” Tom shouted and slapped Janna’s cheek with the back of his right hand. Hard. Probably not as hard as he could, demon and all, but hard enough to send a confusingly exciting jolt of pain through her face.

“That did not turn me on!” she protested, on purpose, trying to keep a straight face.

“That... is a lie,” Tom replied, grinning. “You are a freak.”

“Well,” she paused, “that is not a lie...”

Tom hit her again, on the other side, and at the same time she felt the chains tense behind her. The pain shot through her face and her arms at the same time. Janna felt herself getting wet. She knew Tom was truly phenomenally dangerous, that he could hurt her for real if he wanted, that he had the temper and he had cause. For some reason, that made Janna giddy inside. But also, the hottest part, truly, was the he was controlling himself, hurting her only as much as she could handle. Perhaps, less than what she could really handle.

Tom grabbed at the collar of her dark green t-shirt. He pulled down, using his claws to rip it open, letting her chest free without undoing the chains. He stared at her exposed breasts for a while, as if deciding what to do with them. Then he lowered both hands and began softly twisting her nipples. Janna felt the urge to squirm, but she could barely turn around given the way the chains pulled her back, pushing her exposed chest forward. Tom twisted and pulled for what felt like hours. Eventually she could not take it anymore.

“Tom, I want your cock!” she shouted. It was like a line out of a porno, but surely that would make him switch tracks.

“That... wasn’t a lie.”

The demon raised an eyebrow and removed his pants. He walked over to Janna, until his purple member was right in front of her face, firm and pointing towards her. She had to stretch her neck to even begin to wrap her lips around the tip. But, as soon as she did, Tom trusted forward violently, pushing against her throat. She tried taking his dick deep, but he thrashed around, making her gag, seemingly more interested in keeping punishing her than on making her job easier. She felt herself reduced to sloppily fighting the intrusions with her tongue as Tom carelessly fucked her face.

Suddenly, she felt claws pinching both nipples. Janna yelled in pain and surprise, only to find that the demon took the opportunity to ram his cock deep down her throat. She felt nauseous, and found it hard to breathe. But as suddenly as it had entered her, Tom pulled back, taking his prick out of her mouth entirely. That’s when Janna noticed the chains were gone. How long ago had Tom made them vanish?

“Crawl on your knees!” Tom commanded her, and she was only too eager to obey.

Janna felt a claw rip her underwear off. Then a pair of probing fingers pushing inside her wet folds. Moments after, she felt Tom’s hands on her shoulders and his hard erection poking at her entrance. She thrust herself back at him before Tom had a chance to surprise her again. They moved each of their own volition, slamming violently against each other, mating like animals in her family living room’s floor.

She felt her own climax building up, and moaned loudly. She felt Tom’s hand forcefully slap her ass, causing her to contract around his cock, increasing the pressure and friction. Then a second slap came, and then a third, and soon it became part of their discordant rhythm together.

“I hate you!”

“That was a lie.”

“I think you are a jerk!”

“... Lie.”

“I only want power and magic from you!”

“... Lie.”

“I want you, Tom!”

“...”

He grunted. She moaned. They came together and felt to the floor, exhausted. Janna felt bruised, and sore all over, but strangely satisfied.

They almost fell asleep like that, until she realized there was still an issue they needed to address. Two issues, really, but first things first. “So, Tom... about getting the house back in one piece...”

He groaned, tiredly. “Oh, right, sure.” He began getting dressed, and she followed suit. “Janna, I can have demons guide every pebble of rubble, every splinter of wood, back to where it belongs. But I am going to need you to give me permission to see your surface thoughts, and I am going to need you to remember how everything looked before, room by room and wall by wall, until we have this whole thing fixed. I can’t make plants grow, but you can always blame the garden on a car driving over it or something...”

“Do you need my permission to read my thoughts?”

“Usually, yes.”

“And it will only be what I am thinking about, right this instant?”

“Yup, nothing but surface thoughts.”

She thought it for a while. Well, it couldn’t be any worse that what she had already revealed, could it? She shrugged her shoulders. “Sure. Go ahead!”

“Ok, good,” Tom stopped, his eyes going wide. “Janna, you perv!”

“Sorry,” she said with a smile. That was a lie, which he of course knew. But she focused on the house from then on.

Chapter Text

Chapter 09: Acts of Compersion

Continuity stardate: This chapter takes place a week after the SvtFoE episode “Just Friends” (S02E20b) and shortly before “Face the Music” (S02E21). The story has diverged from the SvtFoE season 2 mainline.

The week that followed was surprisingly normal, almost eerily so; school, homework, family dinners, the works. To the troublemaker’s girl relief, Janna’s parents had arrived to a house almost in better shape than the one they left. The only exception being the barren and dead garden, which she managed to effectively blame on older drunk teens driving over it. Tom had even helped her fake the tracks.

Janna’s parents were not the attentive type to begin with, which came useful in situations like this. Granted, her usual shenanigans did not tend to involve risking the end of the world as we know it, but this wouldn’t really even be the first time she had to cover up gross property damage to her family home. Not, she would proudly note, the first time she had succeeded.

Her parents obliviousness had a secondary benefit too: it made her exceptionally self-reliant. It had made her clever, and not only, nor even primarily, in the book sort of way. She had been running circles around mum and dad since the fifth grade, and around her classmates even before that. Marco in particular. And, in the last two days, she had proved that she could hold her own against the fiendish cleverness of a prince of hell itself!

Well, more or less. She had, looking at it objectively, outsmarted Tom at a couple plots, then been solidly beaten down in return. Pun very much intended. But, if perhaps she had lost, she had, in her own assessment, also won. Won in every way that mattered.

All in all, her plan had worked almost flawlessly, giant snake or not. Tom had told her to keep the bell, and that he hoped to see her again. Jackie and Marco were still officially a couple at school, with Star seemingly keeping her own relationship with the boy under wraps.

The later was greatly helped by the fact that Marco and his roommate had always been ambiguously close. It had taken months for the students of Echo Creek to come to accept that Star and Marco were not secretly making out after like the first week she moved in to Earth. So, now that they actually were, no one would even think about the possibility. Besides, if anything, the two of them would have seemed, to a casual observer, less close than the week before.

So, victory sweet victory, dance puppets dance!

And yet, Janna could not help but feel a bit out of her depth.

That Sunday night had been intense, in a way she had not expected it to be. Sure, the unlocking ritual going out of her control and summoning a snake monster was a bit unsettling and all. But really, the scariest part had been what happened after, with Tom.

It was not just the chains and not just the forcefulness, but how it made her feel. Sure, Janna owned her own pair of chains, and Tom had made some comment about it when she had him restore that part of her room. But, she always had thought that, well, if there was going to be any tying up in her sex life, whenever it begun, she would be the one doing the tying. Now, in a weekend, most of her fantasies had gone from hypothetical to very much real, and her role had not been the one she had expected. The strangest thing was that she had enjoyed it; very much so, in fact. That was, she thought, the part that scared her the most.

Yeah, that must be it. It scared her how much she could get lost in the sensations of pain and pleasure, in the excitement of surrendering control, or the fun of their banter and back and forth. What if she lost control completely? What if Tom did? He had not harmed her, not really. The demon could kill her in an instant, and yet he had hurt her just enough to satisfy her own personal cravings, without so much as leaving a mark for the next morning. But was he not still dangerous nonetheless? Was he not unstable? Upon later reflection, Janna was, literally enough, playing with fire.

Star had tried to tell her to stay away from Tom, more than once over the week.

“I mean, Janna, I guess he is not that bad as a friend,” the princess had said, grimacing as she forced herself to be fair. “He hangs out with Marco sometimes and it goes... alright. But, dating Tom? It can get seriously un-fun, believe me, I have been there.”

“So, is dating the Diaz-Thomas hive-mind a much better idea, then?” Janna had sniped back.

That managed to throw the mewman girl off her case. First, because she had to explain to her she didn’t mean a literal hive-mind. Second, because Star had always made a weird face and excused herself whenever Janna asked about her relationship with Marco, or about the skateboarder girl in general. The princess and Marco had arrived together from his home every morning that week, which was not unusual. But, whenever they were in school, the princess mostly left him and Jackie alone together, and hung out with Janna or Starfan. Whenever the former tried probing her about it, Star found a way to avoid the subject altogether. She seemed in a good mood. In fact, Star was visibly happier and bubblier in general these days, compared to any in the weeks right before, and she seemed to be in good terms with both Marco and Jackie. Still, she would not talk much to them or about them, while in school, not even with Janna.

Despite it all, Janna had to admit Star’s advice regarding Tom seemed worth heeding. The magical princess had a pretty high tolerance for danger, and she could take care of herself far better than Janna could. Exciting as Tom was, what if he took things too far? If he got angry? Could she stop him? Get away?

But, in the almost three days straight she had spent with the demon, menacing as he was, he had never truly harmed her. He had never harmed Star either, Janna thought, despite his anger issues, despite the years of knowing each other. From what she knew, Tom had truly tried working on those problems too. In fact, that last night, after they had done it, after the violence and the punishment, he had been almost sweet. He had helped her repair the house, wall by wall, brick by brick, careful with the access she had granted him to her thoughts. After they were done, he had held her, and he had roamed a clawed hand through her hair, more mellow than she had ever seen him. He told her to call him again soon.

What if this was what scared her, then? She was attracted to Tom, sure, that was old news. But, was she falling for him? She knew he was not falling for her. Tom’s true crush was Star, always would be. Janna would be a fool to forget that.

Too many questions, too many perils. Her plan had worked too well for her own good.

----

Friday arrived and Star was still hesitant about her decision.

Not her decision of dating Marco, of course. She would not miss their new situation for the world! Sure, she had opted for giving him and Jackie as much space as she could at school, but that was because, after all, she and her roommate had the afternoons for themselves.

The weird thing was, even in their time alone, things hadn’t been too different from their dynamic before. Sure, there were more smooches now, on top of the friendly hugs, and they certainly had made use of her glitter bubble spell once or twice over the week. Yet, ninety percent of the time, they were what they had always been up to that point, the world’s bestest besties. They laughed together, watched movies together, went hunting for magical gemstones together, and, ok, occasionally, just occasionally, made out together. A lot.

But there was one thing they hadn’t done yet, a place they hadn’t been to, which Star was saving as a surprise. Well, as half of a surprise. Carefully, she took Marco’s scissors out of her purse and waited, leaning against the porch of the school. She waved at StarFan and Janna as they passed her by, but kept on waiting. She waited until it seemed like every student had already come out through that door. Every student except two. She waited some more.

She did not mind the wait. It was not like her mind was making up ideas about what the other two teens might be getting up to inside the school buildings or anything of the sort, she told herself, unconvincingly.

Eventually, Marco and Jackie emerged through the door, holding hands. The boy’s hair looked only slightly tousled, and it was pretty obvious, to Star at least, that they had been making out back there. An understandable delay, all things considered. She shrugged.

“Whoa, hey Star! Sorry to keep you waiting,” Marco spoke hesitantly, looking down. He seemed about as not used to this whole thing as she was, which, in a way, was a relief. “Next time I can catch you home, I mean, if you prefer... or I can hurry up too... I...”

“I believe,” Jackie said, with a smile and a raised eyebrow. “That this is where I hand him off. As he said, sorry for the delay, Star. But you get it the rest of the day, so I hope you don’t mind too much!” She beamed a knowing grin at Star.

Star grinned back. “Actually, Jackie, are you busy this afternoon?”

“Well, I was planning to go do a few ramps, but nothing set in stone, really,” she replied, a bit surprised. “Want to hang out? All three of us, or...”

“Actually, Jackie, I was thinking the two of you might want to get this afternoon, since it is the weekend and all. And well, I think I know just the place!” Star added, dramatically revealing the scissors she had hastily hid behind her. Her palms were sweaty on the handles and she had to make a small effort not to show her nerves. Well, fake it ‘til you make it, she thought to herself.

“Star?” Marco asked surprised.

“Just trust me, ok?! You’ll see, no need to take anything, or worry about missing dinner. I’ll explain to your parents that you are out on a date, Marco!” she added, in a quick torrent of words. She had put some thought into her plan. But perhaps, not enough. “Jackie, you might want to text yours now, I guess?”

“Um. Sure, I’ll let mom know,” Jackie shrugged and pulled out her phone.

“But, why, Star?” Marco pushed. “Not that I am complaining, but I thought you said you had plans tonight...”

“I did,” she admitted. “Plans for you two! This is it, or well, these are them!”

“But, I thought... I mean...” He looked at her, then at Jackie. He exhaled loudly. “I am not sure how to put this, Star, but, well, I am not complaining, I just don’t understand...”

“Marco,” Jackie raised a hand, shutting him up. “Let me handle this, alright?”

The human girl grabbed Star and huddled close, as to not be overheard.

“Star, are you sure about this?” she whispered into the princess’ ear. “I thought you weren’t too comfortable with, well... with Marco and I, so, why?”

“Yeah, well, that’s part of the reason,” Star replied, not bothering to whisper back. “I guess I have been thinking about what you said, last time, and want to give that a try. You know, your thing, whatever the opposite of jealousy is...”

She eyed Marco, waiting for his reaction to her tacit admission of having been jealous before. He didn’t look surprised. Mostly, he seemed relieved. ‘Ok, so much for being discreet and inconspicuous, Star,’ she thought to herself. Sometimes it was a pain how well Marco could read her.

“Anyways, the point is: there is this place I had been thinking of visiting with Marco for a while, but this whole week I have been thinking about it, and the more I think, the more it feels right that it is the two of you going there instead! There are plenty of other fun places left to visit in the wide wild multiverse, so you are not entirely off the hook on me taking you out on dates, Marco Diaz,” she jokingly prodded the underside of his chin with a finger. “But, well, I think, today, it should be you two! I really hope you like it and...”

She was interrupted by a hug from Marco, and a deep kiss. As soon as he let go, Jackie quickly jumped at her and hugged her too.

“Thanks, Star! But, if you feel uncomfortable, now or in the future, let me know, alright? You don’t have to prove anything to us, or pretend you are ok unless you truly are,” she spoke. “Plus, well, you know I don’t want to monopolize Marco either!”

Star laughed. Honestly, in the time since their first date, Star was sure she had been spending more time overall with Marco than Jackie had been, specially time alone with Marco. Hell, even before they were dating, Star and Marco spent more time together than he did with Jackie.

“Yeah, yeah, alright,” she pushed the scissors forward and concentrated on their destination. “No more time to waste. Off you go!”

She pushed Marco first, then Jackie, closing the portal after them. With a sight, she let herself collapse, sitting on the floor. Once she stopped focusing on smiling, a look of worry and doubt settled on Star’s face.

Was she doing the right thing? Could she handle it?

What if she couldn’t handle it?

----

The oval pink portal opened up on top of a large circular pillow, far too large to fit on any normal-sized living room, let alone to sit atop a sofa or chair. A giant’s seat cushion. It stood among an infinite sea of similarly outlandish pillows of all shapes, sizes, colors and, presumably, degrees of softness, judging by their appearance. The pillows extended in every direction over the plane and, peeking below those at the surface level, they also seemed layered on top of even more pillows. Pillows all the way down, into unknowably deep, yet fluffy, strata. Gargantuan ones, as well as mountains of more moderately-sized ones, rose up as mountains here and there in the far distance.

As far as Marco’s eyes could see, Jackie and himself seemed to be alone in the entire cushion ocean. Above them, an endless space was softly illuminated by bright balls of multicolored light. They seemed far too close to the surface, and too well defined, too three-dimensional, to be stars. In between the spheres, ran endlessly long ribbons of translucent fabric, wider than the two of them were tall. Every color seemed to be represented in the canopy of ribbons, giving the landscape a vibrancy of hues that seemed almost excessive, but stopped short of overwhelming the senses, remaining pleasing to the eyes. The air was similarly saturated with sundry pleasant, yet reasonably subtle, aromas, that seemed to come from nowhere in particular.

The particular pillow they landed on was red: the exact red of Marco’s hoodie. It was hard enough to walk on if needed, but soft enough that when they had originally landed on it, sitting, they felt no harshness on impact. The silky ribbon right on top of them was ocean green. Clearly Star had planned this to the last detail, at least in choosing their landing location on this strangely comfortable dimension.

“Whoa,” Jackie muttered, wide eyes looking around in every direction. “This is... incredible.” It was no overstatement.

Marco, more used by now to the amazing vistas of far flung dimensions, was the first to recover his focus long enough to notice the items and the notes in the middle of ‘their’ pillow. He grabbed one of the notes and glanced at its contents, “Hey, this looks like Star’s handwriting!”

“Oh, what does it say?” Jackie finally replied, once she was able to pry her gaze away from the rivers of reflective multicolored silk in the sky. “You know, Marco, when she did that field trip, I thought she was showing us the best dimension. Like, she called it the dimension of Wonders and Amazements. But this, this is something else... are all the dimensions you two travel to this cool?”

“Well...” Marco started. Certainly there had been worse places they had visited. “All are kind of amazing in their own way, really, but not all this comfortable,” he said after some consideration. It was the truth, and if it made him sound cool and knowledgeable to Jackie, all the better.

“So, Marco, the note?” she reminded him after a moment.

“First, take of your clothes.”

“Woah! Ok, Diaz, sure, but, you know, we have the whole afternoon for that...” Jackie replied, with a laugh and a shrug.

“No, no... I mean, that’s, what Star’s note says,” Marco clarified, flustered once more. “I was just reading, I didn’t mean...”

“Oh, well, if Star says so...” the girl shrugged again and began pulling up her t-shirt. Clearly Jackie didn’t exactly dislike the idea, either way. “Is there more to it, though?”

“Second, eat some food, parenthesis: not too much, don’t want to be too full. Smiley face,” he read on. Looking down, he noticed there was a picnic basket. He opened to find two sandwiches inside. For some reason, they seemed somehow unearthly, yet familiar, to him. There was also an assortment of fruits, some he recognized from Earth, a few he did not, as well as a few sodas, juices and two mini champagne bottles. “Seems like she left us provisions...”

“Very thoughtful of her,” Jackie murmured absentmindedly, somewhere behind Marco.

“Third, use the vials. Parenthesis: it is oil, it goes on your skin,” Marco kept reading. He looked down to see a ribbon around two ornamented glass bottles and an opaque black crystal. “Fourth, hold onto the crystal. Do not touch until after the oils. Triple exclamation mark. I will fetch you both tomorrow morning, try to be decent. Winky face. P.S. There is a restroom booth behind the big green triangle cushion... Man, she did plan this one through...” It was not like Star to be this detailed in her ideas. She usually made things up as she went along. Then again, Marco thought, it wasn’t as if she was going to be along for this particular trip. Maybe she felt more compelled not to leave things to chance if it was Jackie and Marco who would be left to their own devices in an unknown dimension, especially after the Hekapoo incident...

“So, it would be a shame if we don’t follow her instructions, right? Given how much effort she clearly put into this,” Jackie remarked, slowly, almost whispering on the boy’s ear. “With that in mind, aren’t you a bit behind on the list, Marco?”

Marco turned around when he felt her hand on his shoulder. His eyes opened wide and his mouth hung low as he took in the view. Jackie had fully disrobed as he read Star’s letter, and now stood at arm length from him, entirely naked. Perky breasts and toned slim body drawing his eyes, soft skin beckoning to be touched, sparkling eyes beaming at him over her smile. Long lean legs ending in a bare smooth triangle. Marco had been seeing a lot of Jackie these last few weeks, yet it still always left him speechless, particularly now that he had been caught by surprise.

“Wow,” he replied, somewhat dumbly.

“So, Marco Diaz, still into your boring old girlfriend?” Jackie joked at him, clearly pleased with his reaction. “Or does that become too ordinary after dating magical princesses?”

It took Marco a few moments to process the words, and to collect his thoughts back from the sight in front of him. “Jackie, I’ve always been into you, I can’t imagine not being into you. You can’t ever be ‘boring’ or ‘old’ anything to me. Honestly, what I still don’t get is what you, well, either of you, see in me.”

“Plenty of things, Diaz,” she retorted, with a smile. “Can’t speak for Star, but I can see that you are brave, and caring, and handsome, and open-minded, and well... clearly well traveled,” she looked around. “But right now, I think I’d like to see a lot more of you. After all, Star’s orders, and it’s only fair.”

She winked at him and Marco went red once more. Then, smiling calmly back, he began removing his hoodie, as Jackie walked towards the picnic basket and grabbed one of the sandwiches.

“Mmmmhh... wow, I fthink, this is ’e besth sandwich I ’ave ever had, like, ev’r!” she spoke, with her mouth still full.

Eventually, Marco sat besides her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Jackie nested herself comfortably against the boy’s naked torso and ran a hand through his leg. The sandwich was indeed extraordinary, and Marco now had a pretty good idea of the kind of trouble Star had probably gone through to get it. If he had known it was this good last time, when she first told him about these, then perhaps he would have not given her so much grief about risking their lives pulling the stuff out of sleeping monsters. It was hard to believe, but it was absolutely worth it.

“So, Jackie, are you still sure you are ok with it all? Me and Star, I mean?” he ventured. Marco was still incredulous at his luck, and maybe a bit worried that by asking the two of them so often, such luck would come to an end. But it didn’t feel right to not check on how Jackie felt about it.

“Yeah... I mean, clearly you still seem to like me and, well, look around, this place is incredible. So, it is pretty obvious that there are perks of sharing you with Star!” Jackie declared, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Honestly, I kinda wanted to ask about the two of you. I... I want you to tell me everything.” She bit her lip.

Not without significant awkwardness, Marco managed to relate the events of the past week to Jackie. A lot of it was fairly mundane: movies, nachos, inter-dimensional hunting trips. At first, it was difficult for him to even tell Jackie about making out with Star, or, worse, sleeping with her. It felt wrong to say that to the skateboarder girl. He was pretty sure he would feel at least a bit bad if Jackie were talking about another guy to him. But instead of seeming uncomfortable, she actually pressed him further whenever he mentioned anything in that direction, with a curious look and a smile in her lips. At first he had tried to keep it to the bare minimum, mentioning the fact of when he and Star had slept together and when they hadn’t. But, soon enough, Marco found himself giving his girlfriend a detailed account of his escapades with, well, his other girlfriend. As he described Star riding atop him, Marco felt himself getting aroused by the memory, despite his best efforts. He worried that the girl now sitting on his lap would notice. To his surprise, Jackie reached back and stroked him.

“Heh, sorry,” he muttered.

“About what?” she smiled at him, and turned around to kiss him. “Actually, that does sound pretty hot. Glad you had fun, dude.”

“Are you sure it doesn’t bother you, Jackie?”

“Hey, as long as you don’t get bored of me, and as long as I have you for myself right now, it mostly just turns me on,” she commented. Marco was sure that reaction was getting him harder than even her hand’s attentions. “But, well, is Star alright with it, though?” she added, suddenly pensive.

“I... I don’t know,” Marco replied truthfully. “But, well, she basically arranged this for us. I... I think she is trying to be alright with it. Not sure if that’s a good thing...” Again, Marco wondered what he would do if it were the other way around, if Jackie, or Star, were dating someone else and he had to choose between not dating her or sharing her with another guy. He thought he could do it. Thinking otherwise just felt too hypocritical to consider. But he wasn’t sure.

“Well, Marco, I think it might help if you keep her reassured that you love her too,” Jackie replied. “I mean, it is pretty obvious to me that you do, but it might not be so obvious to her.” She paused for a moment, looking up into the uncanny sky of the dimension. Finally, she turned back to him with a broad smile. “That said, how about you do that after we have finished enjoying her generous gift. I am getting really curious about that oils and crystal bit.”

They stood up and walked back to the center of the pillow. Marco took his bottle first, looked at it carefully, opened it and smelled its contents. “Wow, this looks like pretty fancy stuff, Jackie, whatever it is. The venetian glass, the full-bodied fragrance, the rich texture of the oils! It is exquisite!”

“And they say Star is the princess,” joked Jackie, amused, as she opened up the other vial and poured a slight stream into her hand. Marco felt her touch on his shoulders, the oil was warm on contact, and he felt quickly relax as it spread on his skin. Jackie’s hands continued along his back. She slapped his glutes softly with damp hands, which for some annoying reason reminded him of Janna. Finally, he caught on and began pouring some of the oil on his own hands, before starting to apply it to Jackie’s torso and soft chest. She gasped, and smiled an easy bright smile at him.

They took a long time to cover each other in the soothing warm liquids, caressing each other’s body calmly as they went along. They explored slowly, comfortably, in a way they had not yet done before. Not on their first time, when nervousness and anticipation prevented such leisure. Not any of the nights Jackie’s parents had been at home, forcing them to be discreet and alert. Not the night of the concert, where excitement and unspoken worries prevailed. They kissed as their hands roamed every inch of each other’s skin.

Their excitement was such that they almost forgot the note, or the steps, or the crystal. Eventually, however, Marco remembered. He grabbed the opaque gemstone-like object with one hand, and pressed the other side against Jackie’s palm. They both felt a jolt of electricity. Marco, more experienced in those matters at least, recognized it as a touch of magical energy.

He felt light. Literally light.

Both of their feet left the ground, as they floated upwards towards the streams of silk.

“Oh, woah, what is this?” Jackie yelled in surprise.

“I don’t know,” Marco replied. He smiled at her reassuringly and pressed on for a deep kiss. After their mouths separated once more, he added, “but I trust Star, so let’s go with it.”

----

Star felt it when the two of them rose above the pillow covered ground. At least, she thought she could feel it.

She had been feeling things all afternoon, things that scared her, and excited her, and amused her. In truth, she was not sure how much was just her imagination, and how much was the link. She had begun thinking about her connection with Marco by that noun: the link. It seemed more palatable to her than considering it a magical bond, or chain, or even string. It was complicated stuff, alright? And it’s not like she had Glossaryck around to ask. Nor would she ever bring this stuff up to her mom, which was the only source of information on her magic she had left!

Whatever it was, it had gotten stronger that whole week, though. Star had often felt a tingle in her lips while in the cafeteria, sitting with Janna, only to look around and catch a glimpse of Marco and Jackie kissing. She still felt a bit envious when that happened, hard as she tried not to. But she also felt a feeling of happiness within her. Likely, that second sentiment came from Marco, through their link. Still, after her conversation with Jackie, she had tried to make that feeling her own. She wanted to be happy for them, she really did. Sometimes, she even succeeded. Their date tonight was her latest, and most ambitious, effort on that front.

The dimension she had picked was artificially created. A sort of magical extreme version of a popular courting tradition in Mewnie. The place had existed for a long time, and most of the required magic was weaved into the dimension itself. Still, Star had spent a good deal of time at night that week practicing the levitation spell that went into the crystal centerpiece. It was a simple spell, but one she had long been stubbornly uninterested in learning, until she had a real use for it.

She had anticipated getting emotions back from Marco, even across dimensions, as a possibility. She had counted on it! It still surprised her how strong they were. A few minutes after they went through the portal, Star had felt herself blush, for no reason. Then, she briefly sensed the taste of her favorite sandwich in the whole multiverse. That was strange, by the way, since she had never gotten any emotions from Marco regarding food, only regarding things like makeouts and him being in bed with Jackie, or with Star herself. Maybe just eating with someone he liked triggered the link? Maybe the sandwich was just that good!

Not long after, she had felt herself getting warm, and wet. She had wondered if that meant Jackie and Marco were already doing it. She closed her eyes, as it sometimes helped her sense things better, but felt only a wave of calm and reassurance wash through her mind, while still leaving her slightly aroused. Her mind seemed to vividly recall her first time with Marco, as if someone where recounting it to her.

Now she sat in her bed, in her room, and she felt herself surprised out of nowhere, followed by a happy light elation. She was pretty sure they had used the crystal. There was no way for her to sense the crystal itself, of course, but the feelings had to be coming from Marco and matched her own when she had tested the spell. Star felt her heart quicken and her cheeks glow bright red. She wondered if the arousal came from Marco, or from her own fantasies about taking the boy out to that place. The princess felt regret at having given that up by sending him with Jackie instead, then she felt guilty about that regret. Those feelings, clearly, came from within.

She closed her eyes and opened them in shock once again! She had seen a flash of Jackie’s naked body pressed against an ocean green silk fabric, Marco’s delicious naked torso pressing against her, kissing her passionately. Was she imagining that, or could she really watch them? No, it clearly was the truth. The image had been unmistakably real. She had seen them once, when actively casting the All-Seeing Eye spell, and that was clearly the origin of the link. She had also caught some very vivid flashes that night with, well, with Tom. But this time the images were even more detailed and clear, so much so that it was impossible for her to honestly confuse them with her own imagination. How much stronger was the link now than then?

The mewman girl took a deep breath and closed her eyes again. At first, it was only darkness. Then she saw the bright pulsating spheres of light and green mist she had seen a week ago, when she was with Marco. Except this time, fainter, dimmer, further away, there was a third sphere. Star focused on that sphere and was hit by a wave of strong pleasurable sensations, mostly centered around her left breast. Then, the picture shifted again.

“Oooh, Diaz,” Jackie exclaimed, as her boyfriend’s lips and tongue enveloped her left nipple. Star could see it clearly now, from a comfortable third person perspective. The naked human girl sliding upwards slowly along the silk ribbon, skin glistering with sensual oil. Marco’s lean muscular body pressing against her, shiny as well with the scented liquid. His hand was reaching between his girlfriend’s legs, easily slipping in between her folds, given the external, and internal, lubrication.

Star felt those fingers too. Sort of. The sensations seemed muted compared to being there, but only barely. Still, instinctively, she reached between her own legs, adding her physical stimulation to the psychic one she was receiving. Emotions vied for control of her mind: jealousy at Jackie, which she tried to fight; guilt at spying on her friends once more, which she sought to ignore; overpowering elation, which she attempted to kindle.

“Jackie, slide up!” called Marco. With great athletic dexterity, the girl complied, pushing herself faster upwards along the floating fabric. As her belly reached face height with him, Marco stopped her with his hands on her waist, and began kissing the inside of her thighs. Star felt herself shiver and her mouth wet, somehow linked now to both of their sensations. A green gleam seemed to pervade the edge of her vision, but it left the scene in front of her unimpeded.

Marco’s tongue darted inside the skateboarder girl, eliciting a loud moan of pleasure. As he moved under her, Star felt his tongue lap around her own crotch, tracing an intricate dancing pattern. She felt her legs buckle, even as she sat, and then, she felt them not at all. She discovered, briefly, that she could not move or open her eyes. But instead of terrified, she felt at ease, and yet, hot.

Jackie moaned in pleasure and Star’s mind replicated the sensations. Marco and the girl rolled over, sliding out from a side of the silk ribbon, falling slowly upwards. Floating in mid air, they climbed atop each other’s body, until their mouths met in a kiss and, seconds later, Marco’s member penetrated her. For infinitely long seconds they made love in mid air: weightless, unconstrained, impossibly intimate. There, tethered to nothing but each other, Marco rhythmically thrust into Jackie, as she wrapped her arms and legs around him, pulling him towards her with all her strength and desire. Eventually they landed into another, higher, silk ribbon of a soft pink hue. There they continued the motions, faster, more savagely, racing together towards the inevitable release.

It was impossible for Star to feel jealousy then. How could she envy Jackie, when she felt every wonderful thing the human girl felt? How could she be angry that Marco was with someone else, when it brought him such joy and pleasure, and she felt what he felt as well? With every thrust, every moan, every pair of hands grasping the aerial sheets, she felt both of their sensations. An overwhelming mix of emotions and physical stimuli, too strong for a single mind to contain.

There was an instant there, in which Star knew, truly knew, that Marco did love her, and that he loved Jackie too. She also knew Jackie liked and admired Star, on a visceral level. She knew as well what her own feelings were. Star knew she could make this work, this whole thing. Marco, Jackie, the spell, the link, whatever it was. Dark magic or not.

But then she knew something else. She knew there was a fourth mind in there with them, alien and distant, laughing at the smallness of her epiphany. A green smirking chasm of unearthly force, that knew the horrifying cost behind all happily ever afters. That thought slipped from her mind just an instant after, as did her certainty about the other two. Forgetting all but the scene she now witnessed.

A level removed, however, she could still see their movements, and feel their mounting arousal. She could feel Marco inside of her just as well as Jackie herself could, and she felt also the, to her, strange sensations of doing the same act from Marco’s perspective.

“Maaaarco!” she called, exactly as Jackie did.

“Jackiee!” she heard Marco call, and almost followed suit herself.

A synchronized wave of pleasure hit all three minds as their bodies climaxed as one. Two together in a silky support, one alone in her room, in a dimension far away.

“Wow, Marco, remind me to like, get Star the biggest gift I can possibly come up with for her birthday...” Jackie finally spoke, gasping. Slowly, their bodies began descending back into the ocean of pillows. Marco smiled and held on tightly onto his girlfriend’s frame. “Better yet, bring her here, and... eh... thank her on my behalf.” She laughed.

“Oh, don’t worry, I plan to!” Marco announced, with a smirk, which earned him a mock punch on the shoulder.

Star smiled at them, as the scene faded from her mind and she felt herself return to her body and to her room. She felt her jealousy melt, at least for now. She felt so happy about her friends, so hopeful for the future, and only slightly embarrassed about having spied on them again.

She also felt scared, somewhere deep in her mind, and she didn’t know why.

----

END of Part I

Chapter Text

Part II: Princess Song

Chapter 10: Under the Shimmer, and Rubies and Pearls

Continuity stardate: Chapters 10 to 12 take place during the span of SvtFoE episode “Face the Music” (S02E21), but the timeline has diverged enough that some important scenes will play out very differently from canon. Previous episodes are in continuity for this fic, episodes after S02E21, generally speaking, are not.

The boundless topography of pan-dimensional space stretched out in its unimaginably vast cardinality, yet his eyes surveyed all of its limitless contours. The endlessly forking streams of possibility and converging river mouths of inevitability extended into the unfathomable horizon of time itself, yet his gaze could travel far among the paths, to the deaths and births of universes. For he was mighty Omnitraxus Prime, master of space and custodian of time.

Today, however, the great Omnitraxus found himself vexed and perturbed. For weeks he had peered into the structure of infinity itself, trying to find the destination of the magical drain. Now, a terrifying new layer had affixed itself to the issue. One that was completely unforeseen, even by one such as himself, mighty among the mighty, wise among the wise.

Somehow, magic had started flowing out of many regions of the cosmos at once, across dimensions, sometime around a month and a half ago, relative to the Mewni time stream. His core region of the multiverse, spanning Mewni and a billion other major dimensions, seemed to be central to the disruption. But it was not the drain itself that preoccupied Omnitraxus. The original drain was a foreseen event, tied to a fate he understood, even if only in the broadest of strokes. It was a fate that involved him and the royal family, and which would lead to his death, albeit perhaps only temporarily. But, more importantly, it would also lead to a satisfactory conclusion for a long standing wrinkle in this part of the great infinity. It was a shock that had to happen; a necessary stanza in the symphony of existence. He could read that much in the big picture, in the larger scale of the flows of destiny through the multiverse, and so, he had not dared look any further into his own role.

Today, however, the song of the multiverse was discordant. The streams of possible futures had shifted, and the entire tone and direction of all that was, all that would and could be, had been yanked towards a much darker conclusion, with all the elegance of a reluctant dog being forcefully pulled by the leash. The magic drain was flowing somewhere else. Fate and destiny had been altered. The continuum itself had been knocked from its primordial tracks. Worst of all, it had happened right under Omnitraxus’ skeletal nose.

There were safewards to the health of time and space, custodians of the correctness of the cosmos. Omnitraxus was one of them. For the sake of the more linear beings he called his friends, he hoped he could fix this, before any less gentle hand had to become involved.

Despite his vast powers, Omnitraxus Prime was not all-knowing. With but a thought, he could see any one place in space and any one point in time along any of the many paths of probability which lay before him, but that did not help him when he did not know at least the general nature of that which he sought. Neither did Omnitraxus know which locations or events were involved in the cosmical aberration at hand. Thus, he had already begun the laborious process of following the threads in the tapestry of time towards the origin of the change, tracing each unexpected event to its proximal cause, then that one to its own.

The dissonant elements went back further than he originally had expected. Large alterations were perceptible through a period of many weeks, once he was aware of the general bent of the change. It was possible that the more subtle origins of the abnormality stretched into long gone millenia, but they had grown the most in the last dozen days or so, incubating barely below the threshold of his powerful awareness. Nevertheless, he would locate the original damage and correct it, for he was Omnitraxus Prime. What were to him a few weeks, or even a thousand years, out of eons of time? What were a few dimensions out of the incalculable expanse of multiversal space?

But what the boundless Omnitraxus did not anticipate, was that, as he himself pursued, the source of the change sought him out as well.

It was a split second before he noticed the viridescent malignancy embedded within his own core, the spider web of corrosive magic crisscrossing the crystal fields near his nucleus. He felt the drained magic converge into his core self with supernal force, with undeniable purpose, and saw the path of his own existence approach its final destination.

He became suddenly aware that the streams all converged in front of him, into an inescapable future that excluded the possibility of his own permanence. In the face of true and final death, his greatest regret was to never have figured the mystery of such an unexpected unraveling of providence itself. And that he hadn’t been able to spare his friends the cataclysm that would surely follow.

“Who are you?” Omnitraxus asked, with his last words.

“I am hope, triumphant!” the voice in the void responded.

Then the mighty Omnitraxus Prime was no more.

-----

“Perfect Princess Moon, she’s great in every way. Everything she says and does is absolutely right...”

Star made a face and tried her best to suppress an annoyed groan. Her mother, Moon the Undaunted, Queen of Mewni, and the subject of such a saccharine paean, either did not notice, or pretended not to. On the other side of the magic mirror, Star’s mom kept looking at the aging songstrel with a pleasant, although entirely non-committal royal smile. Moon also seemed not to hear the faint stifled giggling coming from the left of Star.

“Her hair is silky soft. Her favorite color’s pink. She flosses every day, and she never needs to sleep!”

Did her mom even like pink? Star rarely saw Moon wearing anything other than blue. The barely visible bags under Moon’s eyes also told Star that, whatever the song said, her mom would certainly benefit from some more shut eye time in her busy schedule.

“The perfect Princess Moon, she’s nice in every way. Always in a sunny mood, even on the cloudy days.”

A sunny mood? She could count the times a week her mom wore a genuine smile with the fingers of one hand, and that was when she lived with her in Mewni. Wait, was it because Star lived with her in Mewnie that Moon did not smile regularly? The self-doubting thought wormed into the mewman girl’s mind before she quickly dismissed it for the falsehood it was. Nah. As much as the young princess caused Queen Moon no end of troubles, she was fairly certain that her mother loved her and was happier with Star around than without her. It was just that there seemed to be very little joy that the job of ruling Mewni didn’t take away from you. Star grimaced. That was a depressing thought that she found much harder to suppress.

“Her sugar-coated heart of gold will make everything fine. She plays with puppies and kisses kitty cats, eats her veggies and smells like lavendeeeer.”

Star grimaced again. But it was a less heavy frown than the last, directed mostly at how absurd and forced those lyrics were. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Marco silently lifting up a laser puppy, while Jackie leaned towards the boy to exaggeratedly smell his hair, parodying the verses. Now it was the princess time to be forced to conceal a chuckle. Fortunately the angle of the mirror did not allow her mom to spot the two humans, who were sitting on her bed, so long as they kept quiet.

“Perfect Princess Moon. She’s a fan of smiles. Perfect Princess Moon will be our que-ee-e-e-e-een!”

The songstrel ended the awful piece, and Moon clapped approvingly. Star could not stand it any more, “Ugghh! Mom! Worst. Song. Ever. Do I have to have one of those written about me?”

“Yes, Star. It’s a tradition as old as the kingdom itself,” her mother calmly explained. It was a tradition due for abolishment, if you asked the princess, like so many corny pointless old ceremonies. Her irritated face made her opinion on the matter amply clear. Moon, undaunted, continued with even greater enthusiasm, “and is your official introduction as Future Queen to the people of Mewni!”

Star’s mocking response about how generic the song was, was met with a much less approving tone from the queen. Mother dear made it pretty clear that plans for Star’s Song Day were well underway, and that she had already sent one of those awful songstrels her way. Moreover, the princess’ feelings on the matter did not make a lick of difference on that either.

“Hmmmmmm... fine,” Star relented, or seemed too. There was no point in arguing with her mom when it got to this point. She would deal with the songstrel instead, or rather, not deal with him. Avoidance and making herself scarce had always worked better for her in the past, when she had to get out of annoying ceremonies and royal events, compared with trying to change the queen’s mind.

“And remember, Star, the people of Mewnie like their Princess Songs light and fluffy,” Moon added, unhelpfully. The last thing that Star wanted associated with her right now was a light and fluffy piece, specially if that also meant one as devoid of any individual personality as her mom’s had been. “Do you think you can handle that?

“Yes, mom,” Star said by way of sullen goodbye and hung up on the mirror, carefully choosing words that her mother would interpret as an agreement on the course of action, while she could later claim to have meant only as an acknowledgement. She could handle it. She just wasn’t going to. She would not even meet the damn songstrel, if she could help it.

“So, Star, dude, are we going the be able to go see this Song Day of yours?” Jackie asked with a grin, clearly oblivious to the plans brewing in the princess’ head. “I’ve never been to Mewni. Sounds way fun!”

Jackie’s head leaned to rest on Marco’s shoulder, as her hand rested on the boy’s upper leg. Though there were clear limits they did not cross, both Star and Marco had become a lot more comfortable respectively seeing and partaking in that sort of affectionate displays when the three of them were alone together. Jackie herself probably had never had a problem with Star and Marco showing affection, but the princess was still in the process of getting fully used to that part, beyond their effusive friendly hugs. So, mostly, it was the princess watching the two human teens flirt and show their affection.

It surprised Star how quickly such gestures had gone from making her feel envious and insecure, to feeling just right. Truth be told, Marco and Jackie were adorable together. It also helped that Marco’s love for Star seemed just as genuine as the one he displayed for the other girl, and that Jackie and herself had been becoming closer and closer as friends as well.

Nonetheless, despite their recent closeness, Star had not even thought of inviting Jackie. Originally, she had figured out that if she had to bring a friend, if she absolutely was unable to extricate herself from that awful Song Day tradition, then it would be Marco. Then again, why not invite both him and Jackie? Again, she was a very dear friend, and is not like the three of them hadn’t learned to be discreet about their arrangement. Maybe Janna could go too? But still, there was a part of Star that did not want to have to introduce Jackie, or, if she was fully honest with herself, Jackie’s relationship with Marco, to her family. “There is not going to be a Song Day, Jackie! There is no way I am getting one of those insipid awful songs written about me!”

“But...” Marco pleaded, giving her puppy eyes - double puppy eyes, since he was still holding the laser puppy too, who eyed her as well. Then, breaking into a good natured mocking sing-song voice, the boy added, “But, perfect princess Star, you are supposed to be nice in every way!” He laughed.

The princess would have been hurt hearing that from anyone else, but something about Marco mocking how little the song applied to Star actually made her feel better about the whole thing. That said, no way he was going to get away with making fun of her like that. Star walked up to Marco slowly, with a bright cheerful smile... and punched him in the arm. See if he found that ‘nice’.

“Oww,” Marco winced. Jackie gave him a sympathetic look, followed by a shrug. She knew he deserved that one, and so did he. “Ok, ok, Star, fine, that song was awful, and obviously it says nothing about your mom, or you for that matter. But I still think it might be easier to just go along with it and don’t let it bother you. It will keep your mom off your back, and, well, what’s the worst that could happen?”

----

“Well, this is... unexpected,” the monster spoke in a deadly cold voice. It was not to his advantage to show his surprise in his tone, and thus, he did not. But truth was, he was puzzled. Everything up to this point had gone, generally speaking, according to plan. His manipulations had worked almost to perfection so far. The princess and Ludo had both proven utterly predictable: puppets unaware of their own strings. Up until now, Ludo knew nothing, even as Toffee extended his pawn’s hand to use the wand he now inhabited.

The ‘borrowed’ magic under his command had been growing by the day. That is, of course, until earlier that morning. Now he felt it being pulled away from him, redirected somewhere else. Maybe Star had found a way to fight him? To drain the magic from the other end of the wand? No, impossible, the child could not possibly understand enough to do so, she had not even realized he was siphoning the magic away, not once had she noticed in all these months. Moon then, perhaps? Preposterous! The high commission? No, they all put together couldn’t find a giant hydra in the middle of a shallow corn field.

“Glossaryck, I don’t suppose you’d tell me what is happening,” he ventured. He hardly trusted the little man. ‘I don’t have a side’ meant he wasn’t secretly looking for a chance to help Star, and maybe, just maybe, he was even truthful about that. But it also meant he had no particular reason to look after Toffee’s interests either.

“Well, the magic is flowing elsewhere,” Glossaryck replied, without elaboration. Typical. Well, it was better than a direct refusal.

“I see that,” he observed. Two green glowing eyes, not truly his own, but no longer Ludo’s either, narrowed dangerously. “Where is it flowing to, and why?”

“Hard to tell,” the little blue man replied, unfazed. He sat crossing his legs, floating in mid air.

“Is it flowing back?” Toffee pressed on.

“Well... no, not exactly,” Glossaryck replied, as his whole body rolled around an axis parallel to the ground, his head ending upside down as he seemed to examine something on Toffee’s wand crystal.

“Then, where?” the monster kept his tone controlled, there was no use in angry demands when it came to the book’s inhabitant. Besides, if Glossaryck was trying to hide something, calm and care were what was called for, in order to spot the evasions and to ask the right questions.

“I don’t know,” was the response. Ludo’s eyes grew wide under the other monster’s control.

“You don’t know? Does this mean you don’t know now or you can’t know, little man?” Toffee finally grinned, feeling sure that he had figured out the magic being’s game. “I know you can see into the future. Are you saying there is no way for you to answer my question, despite that?”

“See into the future? See into the future? Mmmm... Toffee, there is not such a thing as ‘the future’, not in the singular at least,” Glossaryck declared by way of a response, rolling on the spot again so that he was no longer upside down, then floating to position himself at arm length from the immortal monster’s borrowed face and emphasizing the quotes around ‘the future’ with his fingers. “You see, time is like a stream, one which is constantly bifurcating...”

“Yes, Glossaryck, I understand possible and probable futures well enough,” he cut him off, annoyed. No way he was going to let this discussion get sidetracked into a lecture, specially one as basic as that one. “Are you saying time took a path you were not expecting, one that was different from the future or futures you foresaw, then?”

“No,” Glossaryck shock his head. Then his tongue slowly flowed out from his mouth, scratching his own left ear, before he continued. “Toffee, yesterday the most likely future had Moon confronting you tomorrow night. In all but a few streams you kill her... she gets better,” the little man clarified as he saw the monster’s malevolent smirk.

“That future no longer exists, nor any of those around it,” Sir Glossaryck of Terms continued, in a grave tone. “It doesn’t exist even if you were to muck around with time. It is no longer a possible future, not even in the past. Mmmmhh... how do I explain this? We didn’t take ‘another path’ down the stream of time. This is more like, well, like somebody threw a bunch of boulders on time, blocking the river altogether, and now we are flowing down completely unexplored paths through the mountain’s cliff-side...”

Well, that was worrying. Very worrying indeed. Decades of planning, gone. His future, a future in which he apparently won, gone too. For the first time in years, Toffee’s controlled facade cracked ever so slightly, and he groaned in frustration.

----

“Greetings, princess Star! I am... Ruberiot!” the man introduced himself. He looked like he had been pulled right out of a ren faire, dressed in the most stereotypical minstrel costume imaginable. A lute hung in front of him, supported by a strap on his shoulder. Without so much as looking or taking a step inside, he began playing a few cords. “And maaay I just saaaay, thought we have much to dooo, how much of a pleasure it is to meeeet...”, the tune broke abruptly as he finally looked up, “...you?”

“So... she is kinda not home right now,” Marco answered wearily. His arguments, and Jackie’s for that matter, had fallen on deaf ears. Star was determined that no stupid song should be written about her, not today, nor any time soon. Meeting the songstrel in the flesh, Marco could see why his best friend felt that way.

“But, that can’t be right! Maybe she did not know I was to be sent here today? You see, the Songday Ceremony is tomorrow, and...” Ruberiot rambled on, visibly anxious.

“Oh, I would say she knows,” the boy cut him off.

“Well, kind sir, would you know where I may find princess Star today, then?” Ruberiot asked apprehensively. “Please, I assure you this is urgent.”

“No clue,” Marco answered honestly and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, if that’s all. It was nice meeting you, have a great day!” He made a gesture to close the door and extricate himself from the whole situation as soon as possible.

“Actually, perhaps I could wait for her inside?” the songstrel pressed on, and putting a foot on the door, he saw himself in before Marco could reply.

“Man, I don’t know where Star is, or when she is coming back, really! I swear!” Marco protested.

“Well, she does live here, right? So I have a better chance of meeting her on time if I wait here than if I try to search for her in an unknown dimension. Oh, I just hope she has not traveled far,” Ruberiot bemoaned. That seemed, to Marco, like the right verb, for that peculiar person: bemoan. “Pardon, but, what did you say your name was?”

“I am Marco, Marco Diaz,” he answered with a sigh, as he walked back to sit on the couch. “I am Star’s roommate and,” he paused, unsure, “...and best friend.”

“The princess’ best friend? What an honor!” Ruberiot exclaimed. “Forgive me, I didn’t mean to be so rude before. You must understand, I am quite nervous to finally get to meet her as well, and to perform such an important task as writing her Princess Song!”

Well, yeah, it sort of was an honor, Marco thought to himself. But not for the reasons the songstrel probably thought. It was not an honor because of the fact that Star was a princess, let alone the type of perfect princess described in the sort of song he had heard last night. Rather, it was an honor because of who Star was as a person: boundlessly enthusiastic, generous, adventurous, trouble creating and trouble resolving. Star was the best friend one could ever hope for, and an amazing girlfriend as well. Plenty of times these days, Marco still had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that someone like Star liked him back, an honor indeed.

But even for the sake of Star, dealing with the annoying minstrel was a test to Marco’s patience and nerves. Ruberiot spent hours on end playing his lute and singing at him increasingly desperate songs asking about where Star might have gone. If Marco had known the specifics, he would have cracked after the first two or three hours, such was the depth of the torture involved in listening to that man. He could not watch tv, he could not even do homework. He tried distracting the songstrel with conversation, but somehow he always seemed to break into song at the third or fourth response and it was even worse than what he got by ignoring him.

So when the doorbell finally rang again, it was Marco that bolted up to the door like lightning. “Star! So glad you are back!”

“Whoa, Diaz, wrong girlfriend,” the blond girl at the door replied chidingly. “Guess now I know who you miss the most.”

She was dressed in white. A white, padded, seemingly single piece, suit. A fencing suit, actually. She carried a training foil in one hand and her trademark skateboard in the other.

“Jackie... I didn’t mean... it’s just...” Marco stammered. “Wait, why are you wearing a fencing uniform? I thought you stopped taking lessons before 6th grade.”

“I know you didn’t, Marco,” she laughed. “I am just pulling your leg. And, well, I am trying to get back into fencing. I guess the whole giant snake thing got me thinking... you have your sweet karate moves, Star’s got magic, I need something more than my board if I am going to keep up with you guys. I don’t want to make a habit of being the damsel in distress, even if you make a pretty sweet handsome knight. Mmmm, by the way, how did you know I took fencing lessons back in elementary school, dude?”

“Well, ah, Jackie, you know I paid a lot of attention to you since back then,” Marco ran a hand through the back of his hair.

Jackie smiled, moved the sword to one side and pushed forward to plant a deep kiss on Marco’s lips. “Stalker!” she jokingly admonished him.

Behind them, lute silent for once, Ruberiot stared at the two in quiet surprise.

----

“Hey, Janna Banana! So glad to see you!” the princess greeted her with a hug, as she literally landed in front of her, having jumped from a pink talking cloud.

“Yo, Star,” Janna replied, briefly returning the hug before offering her fist to be bumped. To her surprise, Star handled the gesture perfectly and bumped fists with her without a hitch. Clearly hanging out with Jackie was rubbing off on the princess. Speaking of which, better to cut to the chase “So, Star, is this by any chance a boys’ trouble shopping trip again?”

“What? No! Why would you think that?” Star asked. Janna resisted the urge of saying something sarcastic, but the mewman sounded sincere enough. “Things are going great with Marco. Weird, but mostly weird-awesome. No. It is, well, it is this stupid royal tradition... apparently I have to have a song written about how I love puppies and kitty cats, and smiles! Ugh!”

“But, eh, Star, well... don’t you? Love puppies and kitty cats, and smiles, I mean?” Janna questioned her, a bit surprised. Star might be a rebel, but she did love all sort of girly things, like puppies and rainbows.

“Well, ok, yeah, I do. But, well, they will make it sound like that’s all there is... to... to me. You should have heard my mom’s song, there was nothing about the real her in that song, and there will not be anything about the real me in mine!” Star griped. “The people of Mewni will never know me as more than another perfect, flawless, boring, princess!”

“Well, fuck them then!” Janna replied without hesitating.

“Janna! I don’t think that’s the part of me I want the people of Mewnie to know either! And besides, that’s a lot of people, and most are kinda not my type, like, at all,” Star replied, surprised and quite flustered.

What? Oh, right, seemed Star was still not completely used to Earth, apparently. “No, Star, I don’t mean literally. I mean, who cares what they think!? If you don’t want to do a Song Day, don’t do it! Aren’t you the future queen? You have the power to do whatever you please, and off with their heads or whatever if they don’t agree!”

“If only it were that simple. My mom is forcing me to do this Song Day stuff. I am trying to hide from the whole thing right now. Hopefully, if they can’t find me, this stuff will eventually blow over,” Star explained with a sigh. “And, Janna, I mean, I wouldn’t be chopping any heads over this, even if I could.”

“Well, you take all the fun away from being a witch queen,” Janna retorted, trying to distract Star from her bad mood.

“Being queen takes all the fun away from being queen, Janna,” Star retorted sourly.

“I doubt that!” Janna insisted. Ok, the law was not fun. But, being the law was a completely different matter. “If I were the magical queen of Mewni, I would make it fun! I would use the power to get everything my heart desires. All shall love me and despair!” she quoted, dramatically.

Star laughed. “Whatever you say... Eclipsa.”

“Who?”

“Let’s just say you would probably like her,” Star replied mysteriously.

They walked around the mall some more, and Janna’s ever more brazen jokes about how she would abuse Star’s power and what she would do to anyone who tried to tell her what to do seemed to slowly help lift up the princess’ mood. Star might have a problem with being thought of as a perfect princess, but when compared to Janna’s outrageous declarations of what she would do with the crown, and the wand, she had to admit she was a good kid at heart. Then again, even Janna suspected, that in the real situation, she herself would also be less willing to walk the tyrant walk than she was to talk the tyrant talk.

“So, Star, now that we have established how terrible of an idea would be to give me any kind of power, how would you feel if I told you I am going to be learning magic?” Janna suddenly asked. She had been thinking on how to bring up that particular topic the entire morning, and while her segue ended up not being the smoothest, it would have to do for now.

“Uh... Janna, that would be great and all, but... I don’t think magic, at least my kind of magic, is something that humans can learn,” Star answered hesitantly. “Most mewman’s can’t, either.”

“Well, Star, I don’t think it will be exactly your kind of magic,” Janna explained, carefully. She herself had her doubts about whether what she had heard last night was possible. However, given any chance, she chose to believe. “But Tom says he knows a way, and he is going to teach me. Starting late tonight he is going to be tutoring me on doing some magic.”

Star made a face, a show of discomfort quickly morphing into the rictus of contained laugher. Janna knew Star didn’t like her talking about Tom, specially since the troublemaker girl never paid heed to the princess’ heartfelt warnings in that regard, but this time there seemed to be something else to her reaction. “Suuure you are, Janna... sorry, but are you sure ‘tutoring you on doing magic at night’ isn’t just Tom’s way of, you know...?”

“Of getting me alone at night for a quick game of bury the third horn? Of inviting me into a dark deserted area so that he can have his way with me? Of getting me chained and on all fours again to fuck me?” Janna asked Star loudly and unashamedly, and the mewman made an expression of surprise, revulsion and something else, far less innocent. Janna felt a tingle of delight in teasing Star this way. “Frankly, Star, I am kind of hoping it is both that and actual magic.”

----

It was sunset by the time she got back, so hopefully by now that whole annoying business with the songstrel had long resolved itself. Hanging out with Janna had been good for her nerves. Unlike her other friends, and to Star’s surprise, the troublemaker girl had encouraged her to ditch her royal duties as much as possible, or at least ignore the responsibilities inherent in them, which was a refreshing point of view to hear. Then again, Janna was also the person who couldn’t stop telling her about how great was to date Tom, so Star had to admit the dark-haired girl’s judgment was extremely suspect. Still, she would rather go live of toads in the Forest of Certain Death than have a ridiculous song made about how she was sooo perfect, and flawless, and boring.

Star walked the last few blocks on foot, after dismounting Cloudy, which allowed her to see Jackie leaning in through the door, kissing Marco. Star smiled. It had taken her a while to get to that point, but she no longer felt panicked or threatened when she saw the two of them being affectionate with each other and, she had to admit, once she got past that particular reaction, she found the two lovebirds actually looked quite sweet.

“Awwww, you two,” she said, coming up from behind Jackie’s back, after they were done kissing.

The other girl turned around with a smile. “Hey, Star, how’s it going?”

“You know, same old, same old,” Star replied, not wanting to talk about either the Song Day or Janna’s dating life. “Sweet sword, by the way, the point looks a bit dull, though!” she commented. Honestly, the compliment part was mostly her being polite. The sword was a pretty flimsy thing, and it didn’t look like it would do much in a real fight. Maybe she could help Jackie get a better sword later? It seemed to be one of those things that Mewni craftsmen did way better than Earth ones, for some reason.

“Princess Star, you are back!” a voice from inside the house interrupted her planning and brought a frown to her face.

“Ah, the songstrel... well, good-bye,” she replied, and turned on the spot. Maybe she would have to be gone until after Song Day had passed altogether. She could do that.

“Please, princess, I have a job to do, and I can’t leave until it’s done,” Ruberiot scrambled after her.

“And I won’t stay, until you are gone.” she replied, annoyed.

Soon she was arguing back and forth with the songstrel, her good humor gone. Eventually, Marco, also visibly annoyed, pulled her into the kitchen. Apparently the insufferable man had spent his time throwing song after annoying song at the boy too. Didn’t Marco get that was partly why she didn’t want that kind of creep writing a song about her? Specially one as fake and barf-inducing as the one her mom had?

“It’s ok, Star. Even if the song turns out really dumb, that’s not what the people of Mewni will remember you for,” the boy reassured her. “They will remember you as the girl who set a rainbow on fire!”

“Gee, thanks, Marco,” she replied rolling her eyes. She really should have never told him about her fourteenth birthday, or about how exactly she had ended up being sent to Earth.

“...and as the rebel princess who fights monsters. And as the princess who burned Ludo’s castle to the ground to rescue her best friend, who faced Toffee and won.” His tone became softer and more serious now. He brushed a hand over her hair as he spoke, “They won’t remember you as a boring perfect princess, because you won’t let them. You will keep on riding wild unicorns, fighting monsters, and kicking all sorts of butt. Who cares about what a dumb song that says about you, when everyone that’s actually looking can see who you really are!”

“Aww, thanks Marco!” she beamed back at him, surprised how much it helped her to hear him say that. To be reassured that she was not another cookie cutter princess in a line of cookie cutter perfect princesses, or, more precisely, that the people she truly cared about in her life didn’t and wouldn’t see her that way, no matter what tradition and dumb princess songs said. She couldn’t hold herself from hugging Marco and planting a long passionate kiss on his lips.

“He’s, uh, he’s staring at us, isn’t he?” she asked after they pulled apart.

“Yup,” Marco answered.

Ruberiot looked at them, then looked at Jackie who was sitting right besides him in the couch, her sword resting in the small table in front of them. The human girl just shrugged like it was no big deal.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: The Forces of Evil, that Lurk in the Night

Continuity stardate: Chapters 10 to 12 take place during the span of SvtFoE episode “Face the Music” (S02E21), but the timeline has diverged enough that some important scenes will play out very differently from canon. Previous episodes are in continuity for this fic, episodes after S02E21, generally speaking, are not.

Janna sat immobile in the darkness, eyes closed. She could hear the rustling of the leaves and the beating of her own heart. She could feel the hard cold barren ground under her buttocks and crossed legs, even through the black fabric of her tights. She could remember the position of the gravestones around her, the markings for the tombs beneath. Or maybe, just maybe, she could sense them.

It was not her first, not even her second time attempting to cast a spell in the Echo Creek cemetery. But it was her second time to do so with help, and unlike the clown séance with Star, this time her instructor seemed more experienced in the kind of arts that she sought out, the kind that could be taught.

“Don’t open your eyes,” Tom instructed as he grabbed her hands and positioned them in front of her, making her cup the air within her palms and placing her two thumbs touching each other above the form. “I want you to picture all of the sources of energy close around you: me, yourself, the trees, the grass, the worms in the Earth, the bodies interred here, the maggots inside those bodies. You might also be able to feel the animals of the forest or the people back in town, but ignore them for now. Draw energy from those close to you. You should probably try to ignore my energy too, at first, since the forces in your own dimension should be easier to control. Got it? Can you feel it all? Once you can, try to form the flame.”

Janna felt the things Tom described. It had taken her five or six hours just to get to this point, but she could indeed sense the living energies around her. She felt the slow pulsing power flowing up the trunk of a nearby tree. She also felt the background magical radiation of the dry grass around them. Although insignificant individually, each blade of dying grass added its own power to a surprisingly large and powerful whole.

The burrowing worms and the human corpses below were much less comforting to her senses than the plant life was. In the case of the worms, as in that of the maggots, the main problem was the speed at which their energies moved through their diminutive bodies, brisk and electrified, tiny sparks of restless animus.

The force in the corpses, by contrast, was stagnant and deep. It was a water well which bottom she could not see even as her mind skimmed the surface. She had the distinct impression of there being something ancient and terrible on the far end of that abyss, something that looked back at her from an unfathomable distance, even as she peered into the slowly shrinking pools of vital power left behind inside the inanimate bodies. She shivered. Touching the energies of the dead felt instinctively wrong to her mind, in a way that had no analogy to any other sensation of which she knew. Janna did not believe in any one single god, and her own faith was, let’s say, complex, as to the subject of cosmic transgression. Nonetheless, there was only one word that truly fit the feeling, regardless of rationalizations: sacrilegious.

She could sense Tom too, like a huge eclipsing dark shadow in the corner of her perception. Yet her mind refused to focus on him directly, or to feel out any details about his unearthly energies. Tom was the most powerful source of magic for miles around, and yet her own senses refused to let her draw from that vast wellspring. The demon prince had explained that it was to be expected, that it was a good thing. It meant Janna’s own instincts were shielding her from doing something that could hurt her.

Minutes passed by, and nothing changed. She could feel the energy in the tree, in the grass, in the corpses and the maggots, but she could not do anything with those forces. She focused on the task at hand, her first spell: a simple candle flame floating inside the palm of her hands. Nothing happened. No flame and no magic. It was no use. She could touch the energies around, but it was like grasping at currents of water with a fishing net, the power simply slid out of her grasp at every attempt.

Janna felt stupid, and more so with each passing second. Perhaps she had only imagined that she could sense the magic around her. Perhaps there was nothing more here than a foolish girl sitting in a graveyard with her eyes closed, playing make believe for most of the night. Could it be that Tom was playing a prank on her? Was he laughing at her as he made her sit for hours and imagine that she felt sparks inside of worms?

She felt her anger break her concentration. She could no longer even feel the damn tree, let alone all the things in the ground below. She grunted annoyed and tried once again. She pulled forth the power, hastily, desperately. She grasped out at any source of energy she could still sense and drew it to her hands with all the willpower she could muster. She felt a hot painful sensation in her left palm, a fountain of tiny sparks sprouted briefly from her flesh, vanishing a second later. “Ouch!” she cried, opening her eyes in surprise.

Tom looked at her, frowning. “Mmmhm, let me see!” He yanked her hand towards him and examined her palm. “Here it is burned,” he said, carelessly pressing a finger against the damaged skin, causing Janna to wince, “and the rest of your hands are cold as a dead woman’s. That’s not good, at all. We can’t continue today.”

“But...” Janna protested.

“No buts!” Tom replied with haste and annoyance that admitted no argument. “Janna, you just tried to draw energy from your own core self. You should never ever be doing that. If you had used your own life force to light the entire flame, you could have easily passed out, or worse. The whole point of the exercise is to draw magic from the outside, then guide it to do what you want, not force through with your own limited reserves. I told you, right at the beginning, it is extremely foolish for you to cast magic that way!”

“Isn’t that how you do it, though?! Or how Star does it?!” Janna replied, matching the demon’s annoyance with her own. She was frustrated and tired of all this fruitless trying, and even more pissed off at the fact that they were going to stop now, after the first undeniable sign of progress. Even if the only thing she had been able to cast was the ‘Burning (My Own) Hands’ spell.

“Yes, and no,” Tom replied, pressing three fingers hard against his forehead. He was probably counting again, trying to regain his calm. Janna had learned to spot some of the demon’s anger management techniques. “I can call enough personal power to summon flames, among other things. It is just part of my nature as a demon, Janna. But there are plenty spells where I need to draw forces from... well, from elsewhere. Star channels most of her magic through her wand, and even I don’t know from where that thing, or her, really, draws power. In general, all spellcasting is some combination of your own magic and that which you can draw from the environment and, like I said, you don’t have a lot of the former, so you should master pulling from the later as much as possible...” he explained once more, speaking slowly, as if to a child, making visible effort to keep his tone level.

“And,” Janna asked, “even if I don’t have much magic of my own, if I do learn to draw magic from trees and corpses and worms, will I be able to cast spells like you... and Star?”

“No,” Tom responded bluntly. “Janna, how much magic you can control also depends on how much magic you naturally have and what sources you can reasonably access. You could spend your entire life practicing this sort of thing and you will never be able to call forth one tenth of the power Star could summon the second she got her magic wand. I never said you could. You are a regular human and she, well, she is something quite rare and quite extraordinary in this universe... I mean, Mewni royal magic is incredibly powerful, in general, and so is Star in particular. She is truly an amazing individual, so is not really a fair point of comparison for a normal human girl...”

“So, no matter what I do, I won’t ever be a tenth of what Star is then, Tom?” Janna asked, and somehow she knew the conversation was not about spellcasting anymore. It was extremely childish of her. She knew that as she spoke the words. But, the more time she spent with Tom, the more she resented the knowledge that the demon prince loved Star, and thought of herself just a temporary distraction while the princess was otherwise occupied. She could not fault Star, of course. Neither for her magic, nor for her effect on the demon boy. She could also not really fault Tom, at least not if she was trying to be fair. Being a distraction from Star was the deal she had originally offered him, so it was not reasonable to expect more now. But what had sounded like a great deal when she was only sort of attracted to the idea of Tom, somehow did not seem enough now that she was starting to fall for him, and for all the wrong reasons.

Tom looked away from her. Then, as if he had not understood, he spoke, “Well, the world isn’t fair. But confirmation that you can learn to cast magic at all was news to you last night. Isn’t it good news to know it is at least possible? Perhaps you should focus on that for now?” He seemed throughly irritated. Janna only felt even more angry at him in return. He was obviously missing, or avoiding, the point.

----

“Argh! Wack! Wack!” came a series of grunts and squawking noises from far beyond the boundaries of the dark sea. Toffee found the racket most annoying, but he endured it, as always. He was nothing if not patient. He could see through Ludo’s eyes, for as long as the Avarius child held the remains of his own arm and the half-star crystal. He could watch the... lesser... monster using the wand to stir the awful broth he had prepared for himself, and to bludgeon a giant bug. One half of the most powerful instrument in all of Mewni, and the foolish bird-brain was using it to cook dinner and smash beetles! No matter, Ludo could not harm the wand, not even if he tried.

“She is here, you know?” Glossaryck spoke. “She just saw the wand.”

A dark smile formed within the oily black liquid as Toffee dared manifest his head and peek further towards the outside world, through Ludo’s eyes. Right now, he was mostly just a toothy lizard grin plastered on the crest of a slow rolling wave of corrupted magical essence, black as tar. In all directions, the sea of tainted magic flowed into a boundless expanse, the few remaining large icebergs of golden pure light quickly melting into the darkness. Atop it, the little blue man floated, while the monster lay below, merged with the malignant substance.

“Moon is here?” Toffee confirmed, spitting out the name with slow deliberate venom. Moon the Undaunted, who had scattered his armies and robbed him of his finger. Little did she know that she herself had shown him the way to defeat her, and her entire cursed family. “If she is here, then the timelines can’t have diverged that much yet. Perhaps history shall carry on as intended after all.”

“I’d be careful with what you wish for,” Glossaryck commented with a shrug. “But no, like I said, that future is long past.”

“Is it?” The lizard retorted, genuinely surprised. “The way I see it, we are almost back on schedule. Unless, I am missing something?”

Toffee had retreated into the depths of the wand to stop the outflow of magic, and so far it seemed to be working. While he remained hidden from the outside world, pulling and corrupting Star’s magic, and the rest of the power flowing through Mewni, he could feel himself winning the cosmic tug-of-war against whomever or whatever else was trying to redirect the magical power. It was only a matter of keeping his concentration here, rather than letting himself be distracted by talking to his unwitting servant or by his new found chances at corporealness.

“Mmmm, you know, Toffee, for someone who is literally submerged in magic, you seem to be only looking at the surface of things,” the magical being explained calmly. A look of resignation in his diamond eyes.

“The surface? I don’t stay at the surface of anything, little man,” the flowing lizard face spoke as it disappeared into the sea. Then the voice came from nowhere and from everywhere at once. “I can go as deep as I want, and I assure you, the magic is all here, and is all corrupted, right down to the bottom!”

“Yes,” Glossaryck conceded. “Yes it is.”

It was only after hearing that, that Toffee noted the bright emerald solid core at the bottom of his dark well of magic. A sickly glowing thing of unearthly beauty and incredible malevolence. The magic was there, and it was corrupted, but it was no longer his corruption, or his magic.

----

The silence had grown thick between them. They stared at each other, glaring daggers of annoyance and frustration. He felt the anger rising inside, embers burning within his chest and gut.

Not even Star was this stubborn! And it wasn’t just stubbornness. Frankly, Tom hadn’t had anyone be this unfair to him in quite a long time. Not since he stopped dating within his own kind, at least. He was being nothing but helpful, and this was what he got for his efforts? Yelled at for telling the girl the unfortunate truth about her own potential?

How could she be so damn unreasonable!

“Janna, damn it, I am trying to do you a favor here,” he finally spat. “I don’t need an attitude on top of it!”

“Doing me a favor?” Janna rolled her eyes. “You mean by teaching me magic? Or by going out with me?”

Tom contained the urge of yelling ‘both’ at her out of spite. He noticed that he wanted to hurt her, to let out his frustration on the troublemaker girl. He took a deep breath. What exactly was he frustrated about? What in particular was riling his temper, other than the blazing rage that always burned in him, just below the surface? Brian had taught him that sometimes just knowing what made him angry, in each particular occasion, could help him calm down.

“Of course I meant teaching you magic! I don’t need to do it. It will be hard for you to learn and I don’t have the patience to be a good teacher, Janna!” he retorted. And is not like she had the patience to be a good student either, he thought, but bit his tongue on that one.

That was it, though. He was frustrated because they had been practicing for hours and Janna had made no progress. He saw her own frustration and felt frustrated himself, frustrated at not being able to teach her better or have her make progress faster. He had been so eager to get Janna working some basic magic, to fulfill that desire of her, and also, if he had to be fully honest, to reap the praise and admiration she would bestow on him for helping her with that. Instead, now she was angry at him, despite all his efforts, rather than grateful for them, and it wounded him.

“It will be hard for me to learn,” she repeated, coldly. “Unlike Star, you mean?”

Oh, for fuck sake, that was it! Tom stopped even trying to calm himself. If the dark haired girl wanted them to fight, then they would fight. “I wouldn’t have anything to teach Star about magic! Star was meant to do magic, from the moment she was born. You weren’t!”

“So, you would still rather be dating Star, then. Is that right?” Janna asked, a threatening undertone to her voice concealed a faint touch of doubt. She glared at him, and he glared back.

“Well, yes! Of course I would! But magic has nothing to do with it,” he shot back, without hesitation. But then he caught the hurt look in the human girl’s eyes.

It was brief, replaced in an instant by an even harsher scowl. Still, for a second, only for a second, it looked as if Janna was about to break down crying. Tom felt guilty about his admission. It was no lie, however, and she had been the one to push him into saying it, even when she should have known better. It is not that he didn’t like the human, but Star was precious to him, in a way that she couldn’t possibly understand. No one else had ever been that precious to Tom. Not even close.

“Too bad she prefers half of Marco to all of you, then,” Janna spit back. It was a low blow. Painful and bitting to his ego and to his heart. She kept going, “Hell, she has spent the last two weeks telling me what a terrible idea hanging out with you is, and I am starting to see her point!”

Tom had no response to that. He felt his heart sink into his chest. He felt furious, and humiliated, but mostly, he felt sad and heartbroken. The human girl’s words rang true. Star did not want him anymore, and maybe now Janna didn’t either. He felt his body react to the pain and the sadness, turning it all into the emotion that was the most familiar to him: rage. His clawed fists clenched, flames danced around his knuckles. He was seeing red, literally.

“Then again, who could blame her? I mean, let’s be honest, Tom, you got more issues than a weekly magazine!” the girl continued to shout viciously at him. At the same time, her face was turning red, a thin tear felt from her left eye.

“I have issues, Janna? I have issues?!” Tom growled. He felt the fire welling up inside his core. Something ancient and instinctual in him bade him to attack, to harm, to go for the kill. “You knew I liked Star, even before we met! You made this whole elaborate plan to get together with me. A plan that involved, I remind you, having me sleep with Star! A plan that you told me was going to get me Star. You started this whole ‘relationship’, if you can call it that, under false pretenses, and now you have the fucking nerve to spring this crap on me when I am doing my damn best to help you achieve your stupid wish of learning magic!? Janna, maybe you are right and I do have issues, but you are even more messed up than I am!”

She stared at him, silently. Her angry glare softening and avoiding his own. She looked down.

When she finally spoke, it was in a very quiet, distant, voice. “Yeah, well, Tom, of course I know that. I know I manipulated you, and I manipulated Star too. I know I am being selfish, and I know I have no right to ask you for more than you agreed to when we first spoke.”

She paused and took a deep trembling breath. “But Tom, that is the problem, you are already giving me more than what you agreed to originally. You helped me fix my home after I stole from you, and that same night, I mean, after... well... you know, it felt so right and comfortable, at least to me. And now you are taking your entire night to try and teach me to cast spells, even if I am not the best person to learn and you are not the best person to teach. You are already putting more effort into this than what you agreed to the night of the concert. The thing is, Tom, I have feelings for you, and all of this stuff we are doing is not helping me keep those feelings in check. So at which point do I get to ask if you also have any feelings for me? If I am something more than a ploy to make your ex jealous, or a replacement goldfish for Star?”

Tom felt his anger abate, slightly, as he heard the girl explain herself.

“Janna, you are not a replacement for Star, and I don’t think you could be,” the demon prince replied calmly. “But that does not mean I don’t have feelings for you. That night, in your house, after the whole thing with Midra’Apep and, well, what we did together in what was left of the house,” he smirked a single fanged smirk, “I don’t know how to explain it, but I have never felt that relaxed or that calm. There is a lot that is wrong with me. You are right on that. But, that night, I felt like, like I had let it out of me for a while, like opening a valve and venting out all the fire and all the darkness in me, without really harming anyone or doing anything I would hate myself for doing. At least, I thought I didn’t harm you back then. Maybe I was wrong...”

“No,” Janna replied, still looking down. “You didn’t harm me. I enjoyed that night, Tom. I enjoy you using me, and yelling at me, and being mean. It is you being kind to me that I have trouble handling right now.” She seemed to stop to think for a few moments. Then, smiling weakly, she added, “Wow, aren’t we both a mess?”

“Heh. Yeah,” Tom smiled at her, walked toward her and lifted her face up, carefully cleaning the tears from it with the back of his clawed hand. “We are both pretty fucked up.”

----

“Whoa. So you’re, like, a totally tortured artist. Cool!”

Star felt she had seriously misjudged the songstrel after all. A few hours earlier, she had shouted him out of her bedroom, unable to follow through with getting one of those saccharine princess songs made about her, not even for Marco’s sake. And then, well, then he had hit her back in the last way she had ever expected. He had explained his intentions of writing a genuine song about a real princess. He had said that was his wish, that the people of Mewni deserved to know who their future queen truly was, that he didn’t want to write the same kind of princess song other songstrels had before him. He noted that Star had misjudged him, jumped to conclusions because of what he was, not bothering to try to learn who he was. Ouch.

He had left in a huff, and she had followed him back to Mewni, feeling somewhat guilty about not even having given him a chance. Now that she saw him, burning through paper, still giving it his best effort to end up with something other than a cheesy boring perfect princess song, she regretted it even more.

“What do you want?!” He glowered at her, and the future queen felt pretty damn small, if only for a second.

She had thought of him the whole day as one more songstrel in a long line of awful interchangeable songstrels. Which, whoa, perspective, was exactly what the people who saw her just as another perfect little princess did to her! Well, as if she didn’t feel bad enough already.

“You, uh, you forgot your stupid notebook,” was all she could think of replying. Incredibly lame, she had to admit. She hadn’t planned what exactly she would tell him when she opened the portal and bolted after him, and it did not help that this was the first time she was even considering Ruby as a person, rather than as a symbol of a stuffy old tradition. Now that she was truly seeing him for him, he seemed like a pretty interesting artsy guy. Looked kinda cute too. Like, not Marco-cute, maybe not even Oskar-cute, but cute. Still, priorities, Star. “Ruberiot, do you really hate Princess Songs as much as I do?”

“I do, Princess. I thought I could change them. I know they can be better. I can do better.” He seemed hopeful for a second, before suddenly becoming crestfallen again. “But, the show is tomorrow, and I have nothing!”

“Ruberiot, nothing is that bad when you have a magic wand!” Star smiled at him. “Like, I can literally freeze time with this thing! Although, well, on second thought, maybe we better just like extend it, or duplicate you, or do something less risky than the full clock-freeze, ok? Messing with time can get kinda weird...” she rambled for a second there before she caught herself. “Actually, first, you said you wanted to know the real me, right? So, what do you want to know?”

“Ah, sure, princess, well, lots of things, but let’s start simple: any unique hobbies?” he asked, sounding uncertain. Like he didn’t yet buy Star’s sudden change in attitude towards his own appointed task.

“Sure! I fight monsters! And tame wild unicorns!” Star replied, proudly.

“Whoa, that’s good, that’s really good. Bold. New. Unexpected. How about...” He put his fingers to the keys and began improvising a tune as he sang, “And under the glimmer of bright shining pearls, lies hidden a brave and adventurous girl!”

“Uh, we are going to have to do something to update your beats, Ruby,” Star groaned at the tune. “But... I do like the lyrics.”

“Update? Oh, right, like, music from other dimensions. Bold, super bold. I like it. Say no more!” Ruberiot exclaimed. Then started musing, almost to himself, “I am going to need instruments, and stage work, then, maybe... animatronics? But, princess, we are getting side tracked. Themes first, notes second, lyrics third. So, what are you most proud of, Princess Star, of all you have done thus far?”

“Uh,” Star looked sideways at her wand. “Oooh, I know.” She smiled a broad, dangerous, smile, and aimed at a wall. “Nar-whal BLAST!”

A full horde of tiny horned whales emerged from her wand and blew up a hole in the tower’s brickwork. The outside wind sucked out the troves of draft paper. Bits of wall fell all over the place, one of them hit the piano, breaking all the keys in the left side.

“Oh, oh, sorry, sorry, I’ll fix that in one sec. But, isn’t that pretty neat, though?” the mewman girl asked, running a hand down the back of her own head.

“That’s, that’s... inspiring!” Ruberiot shouted excitedly. “Maybe something like, I dunno: ‘She is casting magic like a born spellcaster, crashing walls like a natural disaster!’ No, not walls, mmmhmm... well, we will work on that. But, the thing is, princess, if the song is going to be real, about the real you, it does also need to include more than your strengths, it needs to include your flaws, your struggles, your failures! Princess, I am sorry to have to ask, but art demands it! What would you say is your greatest regret?”

Star blinked. Her biggest regret? Well, if you had asked her a month ago it would have probably been, dunno, not asking Marco before Jackie did? No, actually, it would have been losing Glossaryck and her book of spells. That was the one time she felt she had failed at something important, it had cost her a precious family heirloom and, more importantly, her friend. Traitor or not.

Then again, as the princess went over the events of the last few weeks, she realized that was no longer her biggest regret. There was another, more hurtful, more personal, more intimate. A mistake she brought upon herself not by failing to do something, but by doing something she would, in retrospect, not have done. She remembered the cold stone floor, the sound of water running, the splinters, the heat. She remembered laying under Tom, imagining she was with Marco. She remembered how cold and insufficient it had felt, in her heart of hearts, if not on her flesh and blood. She remembered Tom’s furious and hurt look, as she yearned and cried out for Marco instead. She had hurt Tom that night, and hurt herself, and even though things turned out alright, that was one episode of her life she could have done without.

Ruberiot was staring at her, looking carefully, as if measuring her reaction.

“My biggest regret is the time I let my best friend be kidnapped,” Star said, not wanting to dwell any more on the other thing. She spoke rapidly, forcing a nervous smile. Then, realizing that it was supposed to be a sad tale, she tried switching it to a frown half-way through, and ended in a sort of bizarre grimacing rictus. “He was held in a dark dirty monster castle, and could have gotten hurt. But I managed to save him, and…”

“Princess,” the songstrel interrupted her, quietly. “I would much rather you told me of the first thing you thought about. The one you switched out for something safer and less embarrassing. The one that’s real.”

Damn! Ruby was apparently a lot more perceptive than he looked like. Ugh.

“That was real! Marco really was captured by Toffee,” Star protested.

“Princess, I am not accusing you of lying. I am sure all you said did happen,” Ruberiot explained. “What you told me is true, but it isn’t real. A song doesn’t need to be truthful, it needs to be real.”

“Well, Ruberiot, it is a long story, and it’s personal. I don’t want to put it in a song that the entire kingdom will hear...” she fretted. Sure, she wanted her subjects to know the real her, but did they really need to know that?

“Then we won’t put the story. We will use metaphor. We will use analogy. We don’t need the story. We only need the feeling. True art is saying something real, not necessarily something literal. But, Star, I am going to need to know. Otherwise, how can I understand the feeling well enough to weave it into the song?” Ruberiot pleaded.

“What if I am not sure I want that part weaved into the song?”

“Then I guess you don’t really want it to be a song about the real you, princess”

Star sighed. Well, she could probably trust Ruberiot’s judgment on this. He seemed like a nice enough guy, and he really did get her. Besides, it was what she wanted: a song about a real princess, with all her gifts and flaws. As long as it was only alluded to indirectly. “Ok, Ruby, I guess I have to tell you about my ex...”

----

“So, what you are saying is...” Tom begun asking, slowly. He paused, unsure of how to continue paraphrasing her offer. Janna’s lip curved into a smug smile, feeling surprisingly satisfied at causing the demon so much hesitation. She loved teasing him with the brazenness of her words, as much as she enjoyed being teased by the boldness of his actions.

“I am saying that I want more of what we did that time in my house, only this time it won’t be ‘punishment’. It won’t need to be this controlled, carefully dosed out sort of performance you put for my benefit. Not saying that I don’t want that in the future, far from it. But, tonight, it will simply be you venting, Tom, letting the anger out, at me, at Star, at whatever you want,” the human girl reiterated. “How does that sound?”

She let her arms fall to her sides, standing in front of the demon prince, presenting him a purposefully exposed and vulnerable position. She tilted her head ever so slightly, literally sticking out her neck to him, like prey tempting predator. She gave him her best inviting sexy smile, and she did not have to act to show him the excitement in her eyes. Janna wanted Tom to do things to her, the kind of things that came from the darkness and fire he said lived within himself.

People thought of the demon as having a short fuse and being quick to let his anger out. But, if she was right, then Tom was actually a master of self-control, bottling up things inside of him that humans, or mewmans for that matter, simply did not have to deal with, just because of what he was.

“Sounds...” Tom shifted around uncomfortably, “... intriguing. I mean, it is a great offer and all, but, Janna, are you doing this to get me to like you instead of Star? If so, I am flattered, but you don’t need to...”

It wasn’t like that! Well, alright, maybe it was partly like that. But that wasn’t her main reason. “Mostly, I am asking because I want to see. I want to see you let loose. Scratch that. I want to feel you let loose. For my benefit as well as yours. Come on, Tom, wouldn’t it feel good to let go, for once?”

“Yes, oh yes, you have no idea how tempting that is, Janna,” Tom replied, in a carefully subdued tone, which barely restrained the arousal in his voice. He shook his head. “But, what if I go overboard? No offense, but you are more fragile than... Anyways, I really don’t want to end up causing you actual harm.”

“Then don’t, Tom,” Janna shrugged. “I mean, I am not asking you to throw fireballs at me, or crush my bones to dust, or anything like that. Just, be mean the way you want to be mean, rather than the way you think I want you to be mean to me. Just this once. If I can’t handle it, or think you are close to hurting me in any permanent way, I’ll yell, I don’t know... avocado!”

“Avocado?” Tom raised an eyebrow, or two.

“Yeah, avocado!” Janna chuckled. “It is called a safe-word, Tom. If I beg for mercy or plead with you, from this point on, then I will be doing it to turn you on,” the girl winked and the demon blushed, slightly. “If I say avocado, though, then I do mean for you to stop, right then and there. As long as I don’t say that, you will know I am having a good time. Does that work?”

Janna had been doing some reading online, ever since their previous time together. Having a way to stop their games made sense. It made them safer to play. Tom seemed like a decent enough, well, demon, that he would acknowledge the word if and when she needed to use it, even if he was still having a good time. At least, that’s what Janna hoped. Still, in the back of her mind, a voice was telling her that she was doing something incredibly dangerous, asking Tom to release control of his anger on her, asking him to loosen control on purpose. That voice, annoyingly enough, sounded to the human girl like a certain Star Butterfly.

“Ok, we can do that, if you are sure that’s what you want?” Tom answered hesitantly. When Janna nodded in agreement, his face quickly changed. He smirked a smug and knowing smirk, suddenly switching into the living image of self-assuredness. He walked towards her and slowly ran a clawed finger through her jaw. “So now I can make you pay for all that crap you said before, and for the time wasted on useless magic lessons...”

Hearing those words, Janna frowned. Then, thinking it through a bit more carefully, she purposefully laughed to his face. That ought to work better to stop him on his tracks, without having to start screaming produce, she reasoned. The demon prince looked back with a confused stare.

“Didn’t I say not to do what you think I want you to do?” she asked. “Come on, Tom, I may not know you as well as Star does, but I do know when you are faking it.”

She considered for a while on what the best course of action would be. Then, a thought occurred to her, a dangerous and nasty thought. She looked up at Tom, closed her mouth, gathered saliva with one quick take and, without warning, spat on his face. Tom’s eyes glowed red, fire surged around him, and in one rapid movement he slapped her face with the back of his hand. It felt deliciously raw and brutal. So intense. So real. “Yeah, now, that’s what I am talking about, Tommy boy!”

“What?!” Tom shouted. “You can’t be serious... you want me to just hit you?”

“Not ‘just’ hit me, Tom, but it is a start,” Janna quipped, as she slowly lifted her banged head back up.

“Oh, fine, then see how you like this, you crazy bitch!” He grinned, slowly getting into the spirit of things. He raised his hand again, and slapped her opposite cheek. Her skin burned, both from the force of the impact and from the intense heat pooled into his still partly scorching palm.

“Aww, Tom, such a charmer, you are going to make a girl blush,” Janna retorted once her teeth stopped shaking and her jaw felt like moving again. She wondered how long she would be able to keep goading him on.

Tom jumped towards her, moving forward through the air as if propelled by some unseen force. Closing his firm iron hands around both her wrists, he pinned her against the tree. Now she really felt the tree for sure, no magic-sense required: she felt every inch of hard rough bark against her thin summer clothing. The fabric of her shirt and tights tangled against the rind’s groves and protrusions. “Oh, Janna, I am going to do a lot more to you than make you blush.”

“Hey, I thought we were doing what you wanted, not what I want?” the human girl replied, only half seriously.

“Oh, don’t worry, we are!” Tom’s eyes went red again as he grabbed a fistful of her dark hair, and pulled down, forcing the troublemaker on her knees. With his other hand, he undid the front of his pants and pulled his dick out through the open buttons of his black boxer-shorts. “I trust that you get the idea?”

Janna smiled and leaned forward, running her tongue along the length of the demon’s rapidly hardening cock. “Tom, tell me, how do you feel about Star?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer, he took the demon’s twitching member into her mouth and began moving up and down on it.

“What? About Star? Are you asking now? Why?” Tom retorted surprised. “Fine. I love Star, I admire her inner strength and her energy, and the fact that she does what she wants. But also, these days I mostly feel frustrated with her, frustrated that she keeps turning her back on me, ignoring what we had... ugh, are you really going to have me talking about Star while you do that? Right now, fuck Star!”

That was what the girl wanted to hear, and she picked up the pace and pursed her lips tighter in encouragement. She tried to take him deeper, like last time, back at her place. She found she could not do so without help, her mind was willing, but her throat muscles were utterly uncooperative in opening up. Instead, she tried running her hand around the demon’s buttocks and legs. Eventually settling on massaging his unnaturally warm balls through his underwear.

“Fuck Star! Fuck Marco! Fuck your questions! And. Fuck. You!” Tom shouted. He reached down and pulled at Janna’s t-shirt, ripping it open with ease. She felt the cold night air against her breasts immediately, followed by the painfully hot touch of the demon’s hands and claws. He began pulling and twisting her nipples, while at the same time pushing against her face with his hips, quite literally fucking her mouth. She felt it slide easily down her throat now, after his hands made her scream from the pain and he began thrusting hard through her lips. It was a painful, almost suffocating sensation, yet also exhilarating. She felt used. She felt sore. She felt like she was about to puke. She felt like she was about to form a puddle through her pants just from how wet this was making her.

Then, as sudden as it begun, it stopped. Tom pulled back. Janna opened her mouth to protest, to beg, to demand that he returned to banging her face. A slap on her left cheek shut her up before she could even say a word.

“On your feet!” Tom shouted. Janna hesitated and she immediately felt him brutally pull her up by her hair. A clawed hand reached down and carelessly ripped a hole in her tights, right over her melting crotch. The demon prince slammed into her without so much as a warning, and Janna was surprised to discover that she was so aroused that it glided in effortlessly, despite Tom’s impatient forcefulness.

Tom fucked her against the tree, her back scratching up and down the rough bark. He held her up by the hair with one of his hands, while the other dug claw marks into the side of the trunk. She rested her own arms on Tom’s shoulders, and parted her legs as much as she could without falling. Tom’s motions were fierce but regular, as he quickly picked up pace in his thrusting. She felt him hitting all the right spots inside of her, delving deeper, perhaps, than he had ever before. But what really did it for her were his almost animalistic grunts and his forceful hunger. The demon prince seemed and sounded feral, savage. He was out of his mind and it drove her out of hers.

Janna closed her eyes. The whole world dissolved into sensations too intense to describe in words. The racking bark behind her, the burning hot pulsating rod going in and out of her, her own flesh opening and closing around it, the pain from her hair being violently pulled up, the pleasure building inside her. But most of all, she felt Tom. He was wordless now, breath irregular, grunting through his gritted fangs, pupil-less red eyes glaring at her. He seemed lost in a trance of anger and pleasure. And she was in a trance of her own.

Suddenly she realized she could truly feel Tom. She did not mean just Tom’s cock inside her, or his skin against hers, but the fire deep within his being as well, burning with anger, frustration, lust, and magic. What had been an enormous ghostly shadow in the corner of her eye before, was now clear to her, down to its finest contours. She pulled at the fire inside her lover with hungry abandon. Letting go of Tom’s shoulders, she let both arms fall against her sides. In front of each of her hands, a sphere of purple flame the size of a fist sprouted instantly out of thin air.

Tom grunted and tensed, and as he exploded inside her, emptying himself into her. As he did so, the two fireballs flew forward from her palms. They hit two separate tombstones, turning them instantly into dust, leaving the area around black with soot. The exploding spheres seared the grass and blew up clouds of dust and ash with a thunderous roar.

Tom blinked, surprised, as his eyes returned to normal as his orgasmic bliss faded. He looked back at the damage, dumbfounded, “Shit, Janna! I think you just drew some major magic from me!”

“Yeah... and also some fireballs, I think,” Janna said with a chuckle, and let herself slowly fall to the floor besides the tree. Tom groaned.

----

The mountain surrounding the ancient temple was unnaturally quiet, without the call of a single bird or the buzzing of a single bug. Toffee stood there, in Ludo’s stolen body, floating in mid air, fully in control, wand at the ready. He had felt it approach, whatever it was. One of the advantages of being connected to the entire stream of corrupted magic was that he could sense when so much of it was nearby in the outside world. He was sure Glossaryck could sense it too, although he did not know how exactly the diminutive magical being did it.

Over the last few hours, the immortal monster had seen his dark ocean reduced to a shallow pool over the frozen emerald crystal permafrost. Now only a few feet of the oily black substance remained, pierced everywhere by towering spikes of viridescent glass which sprouted from the ever growing solid core. Whatever was the force that opposed him, it had done in a day what had took months for him to pull off.

Toffee was angry, but more than anything, he was determined. Now it came for him, it sought him out. He would fight it, whatever it was, and he would win. He was the one who made the plans. He was in control. This... this meddler, would pay!

A diffuse fluttering sound, as if millions of gossamer wings flapping in the air, reverberated softly around them. Sparks of green light shone all around in the night sky, like ghostly fireflies. Quickly they all began converging in front of the monster, slowly assembling into a tall slender humanoid shape of bright green light. Soon it became clear that the resplendent figure was female, but none of its features could be seen through the brightness. In place of a face, a beautifully ornate but expressionless silver mask shimmered into existence. It had blank emotionless holes for eyes and a solid metal lip permanently curved into a slight smirk. The various reliefs on the false face were rendered unreadable by the intense backlight, which shone blindingly through the edges and eye sockets of the strange mask.

“This, you see, well, this, is... quite bad,” Glossaryck deadpanned, looking up at the apparition.

“Oh, it is,” Toffee agreed. “For her.”

Guiding Ludo’s hand, he aimed the wand straight against the intruder, hitting it squarely in the masked face with a formidable green and black blast of corrupted magic. A nasty smile crossed the lizard face as he anticipated his victory. It quickly vanished. As soon as the spell connected, he felt a jolt of electricity go up through his body, his real body in the handle and the inside of the wand. An instant later, he was half-deafened by a booming metallic sound, like the tolling of a humongous bell. As he reeled back in pain and the magic beam faded away, the womanly figure calmly advanced towards him, gracefully gliding through the air.

“What, what are you...?” Toffee asked in surprise, pain, and terror.

“I am will, unbending,” the form of light replied.

It raised a hand and a beam of unearthly green flame sprung forth from it, it hit Toffee, and the wand, and the book of spells. The lizard in bird clothing fell backwards, towards the temple, charred and consumed. His back hit a huge pillar of stone, which cracked under the magical energies still surrounding his body and fell upon him, entombing Toffee beneath its huge weight. The crystal in the wand turned black as void and disintegrated into a million pieces. Meanwhile, the book slowly burned to ashes.

“Well, what do you know?” Glossaryck pondered, in calm resignation, as he ignited too, burning up as one with the book’s pages. “The more things change, the more they stay the same...”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: When this Shooting Star Ignites

Continuity stardate: Chapters 10 to 12 take place during the span of SvtFoE episode “Face the Music” (S02E21), but the timeline has diverged enough that some important scenes will play out very differently from canon. Previous episodes are in continuity for this fic, episodes after S02E21, generally speaking, are not.

“Are you sure you know where we are going?” her companion asked.

“Shhhh!!” she shushed the other princess. She was so not lowering herself to even dignify that question with a response. Of course she knew where they were going! Whether or not she was sure of how to get there, exactly, was not the point!

Her own admonition, admittedly, came off way louder than the tiny pixie’s voice. Not that anyone cared, though, because this particular hallway was as deserted as a party half-an-hour after she left.

Anyways, it wasn’t like her to sneak around!

Oh, who was she kidding? It was totally like her to sneak around! She was baaad like that!

But that didn’t mean she had to do it quiet-like, though. Not her style. Too cool for that shtick. Plus, no one had actually bothered being in this part of the manor in a very long time, not since the old owner was, ahem, forced to tend her resignation.

Little did they suspect, back then, all the ways in which the new management would turn out to be even worse. But, hey, at least she knew just the person to help them out of that particular bind. The problem was getting the message out to her!

She was the one who saw the door first, obviously! The ugly thing somehow managed to be, at once, the most ornate, and the most depressingly square door in the whole mansion. That was square as in boring, by the way, not just the shape. Well, at least it meant they hadn’t gotten lost!

Of course they hadn’t gotten lost! She was awesome like that.

Her pixie friend - or, well, like, much less cool acquaintance, really - pulled a pin out of her belt, as if unsheathing a sword. She proceeded to quickly apply herself to picking the tumblers on the lock with it. Thank god she was quick with it! She saved her the effort of just ramming the damn door with her horn, after all. Which was a thing she totally could do, because she was awesome like that!

They both walked, or, well, flew, into the former headmistress’ bedchamber. The room was old and dusty, and it showed no signs of anyone having lived there in months. She felt somewhat nervous to go inside, even now, not that she would ever ever admit that. They all had bad memories of when this room was inhabited, back when the school was still a school. Well, more like a jail, really. Like, even more jail-like than your average school!

They moved quickly, opening drawers, unlocking chests, taking perverse pleasure in untidying the damnably stiff room. Until she finally found what they really needed.

“Ohhh scoreee, Giiirl! Look what I just found!!” she shouted, not caring in the least if anyone heard.

Even if someone did hear, they would be far too late to stop her now. Inside the cabinet was a small basket, and inside the basket a dozen or so pairs of scissors. And not just any scissors. Those were all dimensional scissors, confiscated to all of the former students of Saint Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, by old hag Miss Heinous herself. Those were their ticket out of there.

“Now we can go fetch my home girl... and when we do, I swear White won’t know what hit her!” she boasted to her diminutive hanger-on, who smiled in relief and, she expected, heartfelt admiration and gratitude.

As she picked up a pair of scissors with her tongue, Pony Head let out a loud whine, which soon morphed into a bout of maniacal laughter. Thunder and lightning, both common features of St. O’s magical weather, echoed her cackle from outside the castle’s windows.

----

“Get your exclusive Star Butterfly merch here!” a vendor shouted as their carriage passed by its cart. Jackie looked out of the window, aware that she was probably gawking around like an inexperienced tourist. She couldn’t help it. Try as she might to keep her usual cool, there was nothing usual about her first visit to Mewni. The entire place looked like it came from a cross between her history books, a fairy tale animated picture, and literal Disneyland. Especially what with all the food stands and glowing Star Butterfly branded products.

“Yo, Manfred, could you please get us some of that sweet swag?” Marco asked, leaning out through the window and passing their driver a large handful of dollar bills. Six hundred and fifty dollars, apparently. He had counted them right before.

“Certainly, young master,” the servant replied.

Marco thanked the man, and soon they found themselves surrounded by Star-themed trinkets. Jackie was holding a wooden replica of Star’s wand with a glowing star in the middle, while Marco held on to a similarly adorned wooden sword. He was also wearing a horned diadem on top of his hair, which contrasted with his otherwise impeccably prince-like attire.

It was really surprising how handsome the boy looked in that whole getup. He was even wearing shoulder pads and a cape, atop a regal looking white vest. Star’s blue and white dress was even more ornate, and she was wearing an actual gold crown atop her massive updo. Compared to the both of them, Jackie, even in her best sea-green formal dress, felt way underdressed.

“Marco, you know this is all for kids, right?” Star groaned, as Marco brandished the wooden toy around, badly. The princess seemed used to the commotion around them but, at the same time, bothered by it in a resigned sort of way. She sat in the long cushioned seat facing backwards from the front of the carriage, clearly uninterested in the view of Mewni’s castle, which the opposite seat offered the two humans. Jackie wouldn’t miss that majestic sight for the world, but she figured that, to Star, it was just home. “This whole thing is going to be so boring, and so pointless...” the Mewman gripped.

“But Star,” Marco smiled at the other girl, giving her a fake pleading look. “How can we cheer on for your Princess Song, if we are not waving around the merchandise!” he joked, getting a broad smile out of the magical princess despite her sulky mood. Jackie laughed approvingly. Oh Marco, he was such a cute idiot sometimes!

“Marco, you are not going to be wearing those,” Star took off his horns. “Or waving any of this stuff out there. As part of the royal entourage, you are supposed to wave politely, smile measuredly, and be proper and regal. Honestly, it really really sucks. Sorry to drag you guys to this!”

“Come on Star, this is pretty cool! I mean, I feel like I am hanging out with a celebrity,” Jackie said, making it sound like a joke. In reality, it was a bit intimidating. Mostly because it was true: she was hanging out with a famous celebrity. No, more than a celebrity. These people weren’t Star’s fans, they were her subjects.

Even if the princess didn’t make a big deal of it, and even if Jackie never gave it that much thought when they were on Earth, it was pretty clear that Star came from a very different social class than the two humans did. And, well, of course, that didn’t matter: she was her friend, and Marco’s other sweetheart, first, magical princess second. But the human girl would be lying if she said that, now that she found herself confronted with the reality of Star truly being a magical princess, with a kingdom of her own, she didn’t find it at least a bit intimidating.

“Yeah, Star, besides, weren’t you saying you and Ruberiot changed a lot of stuff on that song?” Marco asked, and the princess’ eyes lit up. “Can’t be boring if you helped write it!”

“Oh, yeah, can’t wait for you guys to hear it!” She beamed. “It’s going to be so much better than my mom’s old song! Just hope she doesn’t have a heart attack from it... I mean, I don’t think even her can get an actual heart attack from a song, but...” she trailed off and laughed nervously.

Taking full advantage of the lull in the conversation, Jackie pulled Marco closer to her side of the couch. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders and turned to kiss him. Their lips met and they melted into each other briefly. It was a reassurance thing, again. Just making sure Marco still thought both of his girlfriends were cool enough. She felt a bit guilty about it but, fortunately, Star’s reaction was nothing like that at the concert.

“Awwww, you two!” the mewman grinned. “Better get the smooches out while you can, though. I think it might be better if we all keep it friends-like in front of my mom...”

Star had mentioned that, if they needed to introduce anyone as a couple today, it would be Jackie and Marco, just as it was in school. But she had also asked if they could all just act like friends. She seemed nervous about showing any part of their complicated relationship around her people, and specially around her mother, the queen. Jackie could understand that. What if some day Star had to introduce Marco as her boyfriend? She would have a lot to explain if they previously introduced him as Jackie’s, particularly if she was still in the picture. Jackie’s own mom might not mind that explanation in principle, and even that felt like it would be an awkward conversation, but Star’s parents were likely a fair bit more conservative than that. They sort of were medieval royalty, after all. Given that Star was doing her a really big favor simply by inviting her to the Song Day celebration at all, Jackie felt that following her request not to flaunt her relationship with Marco was the least she could do. That didn’t mean, however, that Marco and her didn’t get to be boyfriend and girlfriend behind the privacy of the carriage doors and curtains.

“Oh, right,” Marco quipped at Star as soon as Jackie let go of his lips. Then, in his best imitation of Queen Moon’s voice, he continued, “Star, public displays of affection aren’t a Butterfly virtue.”

Star rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, not-a-Butterfly-virtue this!” she shouted and jumped from her side right on top of Marco’s lap, straddling him. One of her legs falling atop Jackie’s own.

“Star, that sentence made no sen... ooh,” Marco began to complain, but Star shut up their boyfriend with a deep kiss.

Jackie laughed. Princess or no princess, magical kingdom or no magical kingdom, it was hard to see Star as anything other than the happy-go-lucky friend she knew. Feeling appropriately reassured, Jackie was left only to ponder how comfortable the three of them had grown with one another in such a short span of time.

----

“With all due respect, Moon, we need to talk now!” Hekapoo asserted herself, angrily stomping her foot on the ground.

“Hekapoo, I told you, we will reconvene after the celebration, it is starting as we speak...” Moon replied impatiently, as she tried frantically to adjust her hair.

“Omnitraxus is gone!” the sorceress argued. “We can’t get ahold of Glossaryck either, turns out nobody has seen him in months. I assume he is with your daughter, in which case she must bring him here immediately!”

“Omnitraxus, gone?” Moon replied, pausing for a moment, sounding genuinely surprised. “Are you sure of this?”

“Sure as can be, my queen,” Romulus interrupted. “Thought glass ball might be on the frizz. Went to find him in person. Not in time dimension! Not anywhere!”

“We need Glossaryck,” Hekapoo continued exasperated. “He and Omnitraxus are the only two who can find someone instantly across dimensions, and since Omnitraxus is the one who is missing...”

“Alright, alright,” Moon raised a hand. “Hekapoo, there is some stuff I need to tell you, and you are not going to like it. I promise to explain it all, but only after Star’s song is done. We have this under control, an hour is not going to kill anyone, alright?”

“But, Queen Moon...” she began, angrily, but was swiftly cut off.

“Hekapoo, I have my duties to my kingdom and my responsibilities as a mother. One hour. One song. After that, I promise you I’ll make this whole high commission business my first priority,” she looked at the short sorceress directly in the eyes, then placed a hand firmly on her shoulder. “Trust me, Hekapoo: I. Will. Do. My. Job.”

The Forger of Dimensional Scissors held the gaze briefly, then she smiled, nodded, and gave her queen a deep bow, “Of course, your majesty.”

Hekapoo was not easily appeased, but she had learned to trust the word of Moon the Undaunted, specially when she used that tone. Without further argument, they all walked out together into the castle’s balcony, leaving only the empty crystal ball behind, as to not alarm the other guests with the dark empty formless void it now displayed.

----

“And now, Mewni’s newest court composer, the songstrel, Ruberiot...” shouted the announcer. The crowds below clapped loudly. “In honor of the royal family...” The spotlight went up, shining on Queen Moon, and King River, and Star, and, well, on him.

Marco nervously shuffled himself out of the bright radius, almost crashing into Jackie, who sat to the right of the whole row, and begun clapping towards Star. The princess of Mewni simply waved around, like it was nothing, while the two human teenagers exchanged an uncomfortable look. Clearly, this was way too much exposure, for either of them. Although, Jackie, as usual, seemed to be handling it better.

Besides a general discomfort about being the center of attention at this scale, Marco also wasn’t sure he wanted to create any implications that he was part of any royal family. Dating Star was one thing, and it was amazing. But, well, he guessed neither of them were thinking at all about the future… not in that way.

Hell, for all he knew, Star might be just thinking about him as a fling of her teenage years, before she actually set to look for the kind of guy that would be able to handle her life as Queen of Mewni. That seemed pretty likely, now that he thought of it, specially given their unconventional relationship. When the Earth boy thought of that, he wasn’t sure whether he felt sad, or relieved. It was clear that the crown weighted pretty heavy on Star, and she was like ten times stronger than he was, metaphorically just as well as literally. If she could barely handle that life, then what hope did he have?

Such grim and rather premature reflections were interrupted by the sound of slow chords on a lute, amplified by god knows which magic to the point to which the notes actually reached all the way to their balcony, together with the songstrel’s words. A ridiculously happy marionette of Star, with literal hearts for eyes, glided into the stage as Ruberiot began singing. The puppet dramatically mimicked along with the lyrics.

Who is the maid with the buttercup hair?
Who sleeps on moonbeams and dances on air
With tears made of honey and a heart full of bunnies
Whose infinite virtues are known near and far
It’s Mewni’s own sweetheart, our dear Princess Staaar

Even Marco felt weird hearing his best friend described that way. Sure, that was Star, kinda. She was indeed a happy joyful girl that could, sometimes literally, dance on air. But there was also so much more to her than that! He glanced at her, to gauge her own reaction, and saw her cringe and grimace. A second later, though, she turned to him and Jackie and sent them a brief wink.

Marco wondered what kind of changes Star could have made to the song. She had refused to tell him much about the plans she had made with the annoying musician the other night, except to say that they had reached an agreement, and that it would be nothing like her mom’s princess song. Marco was a bit worried, considering how Star sometimes got carried away with expressing herself, and how important this event seemed to be for her and her family. But on the other hand, deep down she knew all that much better than he did, and he trusted Star. Besides, if worse came to worst, surely the songstrel would make sure the show went well. The other day he had seemed, well, terrified of not being able to do his job properly, which meant he would probably make sure to strike a balance between pleasing Star and Queen Moon, right?

And under the shimmer and rubies and pearls
Lies hidden a fierce and adventurous girl
The forces of evil that lurk in the night
Will cower in fear when this shooting Star...
...ignites!

Marco was thinking to himself how those verses fit Star so much better than the previous ones, when Ruberiot jumped forward and literally smashed his lute against the floor. The bold gesture drew oh’s of surprise from the crowd, including Marco and Jackie. In the confusion, the musician seemed to pull a guitar out of thin air, and the stage exploded into a light show and a really sweet rock beat.

“Whoohoo!” Marco yelled, and he wasn’t the only one.

Queen Moon looked a bit surprised, but not angry. This was just perfect, this was Star!

----

Weaving magic like a born spell-caster
And wreaking havoc like a natural disaster
She rocks her Narwhal Blast and Warnicorn Stampede
She’s gonna earn her crown, so hail to the quee-e-e-een!

Wow, now that was cool! Jackie had to admit she was impressed. Not just by the song or the elaborate visuals, but by Star herself. She might not know the mewman girl as well as Marco did, but she knew the song was all true. Star was not only royalty, she was some sort of magical fantasy warrior-girl! Again, Star was cool and popular back in Echo Creek too, but it was easy to forget there just how incredible the girl truly was, just her intrinsically, without putting an ounce of effort into it. Like, how on Earth was that Jackie still held on to her cool girl title when she had someone like Star around? She herself didn’t understand how that was possible.

‘No, come on Jackie, be chill, you are not competing with Star’ she mentally reminded herself. Her eyes drifted towards the girl, and she saw how the princess carelessly danced punching the air. She looked then at Marco, who stared intently at the stage below and cheered. Ugh, she felt a sickly gluey sensation in her stomach, like if she had eaten something bad. Jackie wasn’t happy with how she felt about this now. It wasn’t like she had anything against Star, or against her being royalty or famous, and she didn’t worry about her and Marco. Jealousy wasn’t her thing, right? She was happy when her boyfriend was with someone cool, it made her cool by transitivity, did it not? Then what exactly was this feeling eating at her now? Why wasn’t she happy for Star like everyone else was? Like she should be?

’Cause she’s a rebel princess, she’s the best
She’s a ball of lightning in a hot pink dress
She’s a thunderstorm roaring through the night
She’s our shooting Star, and she’s lighting up the sky!

Yeah... yes she was, and Jackie was, well, what was she? A moderately popular high school girl in a small town in California? How had she managed to get to Marco first? And what had made her think it was a good idea to open her relationship to Star? I mean, Marco might like them both equally now, or so he said, but one day he would figure out how much cooler Star was than her, and then what? Maybe this whole thing was a mistake, and she should have kept her big mouth shut. Even if the three of them were pretty happy together for now, how could she be sure it would last that way?

Jackie took a deep breath. Wow, Star was right, this jealousy and self-doubt stuff was way heavy. She reminded herself of the advice she had given the other girl when the roles were reversed and it was the princess that, for some unknown reason, had felt jealous of her. ‘Well, Lynn Thomas,’ she silently chided herself, ‘don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk…’ She would learn to feel happy about Marco having someone like Star too, and deal with her own doubts on the matter. It just maybe was a little bit harder than she had anticipated, specially after witnessing something like this.

----

The princess looked at her friends and family, and was pleased to see happy faces all around. She loved her song, and they loved it too! Even her mom seemed pleased.

“What a delightful little ditty. Good job, Star!” the queen declared appreciatively.

“Uh, right. It’s not over yet,” Star replied, a bit apprehensively.

It really wasn’t, and even she didn’t know what to expect. Ruberiot had asked her for help with all of the bits so far, particularly with the stage work for that last part. He had needed some serious Butterfly Light and Magic to get those Narwhals and Warnicorns ready in time. However, for the third act, he had shooed her away. Something about true art needing solitude.

She only knew one thing about the third act: that it would be a darker contrast compared to the previous two segments. That’s why she didn’t feel too worried when she heard the slower mournful chords coming from the songstrel’s guitar, or saw bright red light overflowing the stage from behind the musician’s frame.

Of royal secrets - sadly I must tell,
of our princess under a tragic love spell...

She blushed a little. Well, Ruberiot had said this was necessary, for it to be real, and that he would keep things hidden and metaphorical. She was sure she could take this, in the name of the people of Mewni truly getting to know something about the real her. She just hoped her mom would not be too shocked at the result.

After all, Moon already knew about her dating Tom before being sent to Earth. That was all she really expected to hear put into her song. She had once dated a demon, big freaking deal!

And who is the boy in the earthly attire?
Attached once already to the one he admires
Our princess with longing, watching from afar,
the prince who unwittingly stole her young heart!

Wait, What!? What was a puppet of Marco doing there? And a puppet of Jackie? And, they were dancing, waltzing around on literally tangling strings. Around the third line, puppet-Star had glided back into stage too. She glanced at them from the ground, then fell on her knees, clutching her heart.

It hadn’t been like that at all! Star told herself, unconvincingly. Ok, alright, it had been a little bit like that. But why was this in her Princess Song!?

This wasn’t what she and Ruberiot had talked about! It was supposed to be about Tom, about her previous relationship with him, with a demon, as kids. That was scandal enough! She had barely told Ruby anything about Marco, let alone about him and Jackie. Star glanced at Moon, who had one eyebrow up in a regal gesture of surprise and mild confusion. Besides her, River was glaring daggers her way. Wait, no, he was glaring daggers at Marco!

The princess turned towards the two human kids, and saw that they had the same awkward confused expression on their faces as she did. “Sorry-Ruberiot-never-told-me-about-this-part!” she apologized.

Down in the streets the people were silent, and the tune picked up into powerfully deep and somber tones. The puppets representing Marco and Jackie left the stage floating upwards, while Star’s marionete replica remained kneeling on the floor. A dense cloud of ominous smoke, tinted red by the light, rose from the ground, covering the sobbing doll and obscuring the arena. Ruberiot advanced slowly to the edge of the platform, only partly emerging from the red fog. After a pause that seemed to go for just a heartbeat too long, he resumed singing in a low foreboding pitch.

Falling star heartbroken by her love unwise,
She hides her aching chest and her teary yearning eyes,
Talking to an ex-lover, in old flame defrosts,
Wants to be with someone, no matter what the costs!

A powerful light turned on behind Ruberiot, right on cue. It projected the shadow silhouette of Star’s puppet, still kneeling on the floor. Then, a second shadow rose beside the first. A tall walking shape with two small horns upon its head. The two shapes were framed by the illuminated red smoke. Huge pantomime giants behind the diminutive songstrell.

So, this was about Tom after all? Wait! About Tom after Marco and Jackie? Oh, no! No, no, no, no! This is not what she wanted. She had told Ruberiot this stuff was a secret. Surely he wouldn’t dare include it. He had promised! He had told her he would use metaphor and allusion. He’d said he would put something real into the song, sure, but not the naked truth.

Wrathful demon prince of dour hells,
She knew he deeply wished her heart was for himself!
She proposed thus an option, all full of dread,
She gathered all her courage and this is what she said.

This is what she said,
This is what she said!!

On the stage, Star’s shadow rose up to face Tom’s. The real mewman princess looked panicked at Marco. She hadn’t told him yet! She had meant to, but, it was never the right time. This was not how he was supposed to find out about that night!

‘I’d like to lay together, if that’s fine by you:
There burns no more honest fondness, yet there’s passion in hate too.
To soothe my pain, let us play a game.’
Royal secret from royal shame.
Royal secret from royal shaaame!

A powerful chord and a piercing cry punctuated the end of the verse. Suddenly the stage lights turned outwards and blasted red at their maximum brightness, blinding everyone in the audience, before going dark in one fell swoop.

Star was horrified. He had said he would keep it all veiled behind metaphor and allusion but, if anything, that verse was worse than what she had actually said to Tom. Wasn’t it? That’s not what she had proposed, and she hadn’t been the one to propose it, and it certainly hadn’t been what she intended! ...Had it?

Well, anyways, at least that seemed to be the end of it. Star tried to collect herself. Maybe she could still explain things to Marco. It’s not like he even was her boyfriend at the time! What she did back then was none of his business!

As for her mom, and her people, well, Ruberioth had not outright said that she had sex with Tom. Maybe they could all be convinced they had, I dunno, like, cuddled together or something. This was bad, but it could have been so much worse.

As soon as Star thought that, the stage begun lighting up again. The fog seemed much thinner this time, and it was a light gray rather than bright red. Ruberiot was there in the middle of the platform once more, his guitar laying on the floor, and he had changed his outfit again. He wore loosely fitting jeans and a ragged t-shirt with a musical note inside a star on the middle. He also wore an impractical amount of golden jewelry for some reason, and a blue baseball cap turned backwards on his head. He looked down at the floor and counted the beat with his left foot. Apparently, he wasn’t quite done yet.

Then Star saw the painted curtain behind the songstrel. It showed a crude rendering of an irregular stone brick wall, and a small river, and a bridge. She recognized it immediately, and her heart almost jumped to her throat. She felt paralyzed. It was a graffiti painting of the bridge where the three of them had released the ducks back into the creek, and where later that night she and Tom had... No, no way! It couldn’t be! Ruby wouldn’t do that! Would he?

With beats so inspired, and verses so fly,
I rap of the dalliances of Star Butterfly!

He would! Oh damn it, he would! Also, a rap? What the hell, Ruberiot? What the hell?! Star considered for a moment just taking her wand and blasting the stage, or creating a distraction somehow. Or plain just running away herself. But she couldn’t move a finger. She felt her palms get sweaty. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw the shocked, huge-eyed expressions on Jackie and Marco’s faces, as they begun processing the next few lines.

Under moonlight she craves alleviation,
Heart, loins, both need consolation.
She knows she is a liar, and feels like she cheats,
Got the harsh stone floor, not her silky bedsheets!

As Ruberiot busted out such crude lyrics, a shadow play unfolded behind him, cast on the wall drawn on the curtain. The figures were smaller than before but more sharply defined. Star wasn’t able to see the marionetes casting them, but she could clearly make out the shadow representing herself as it embraced and kissed the shadow representing Tom.

She saw the projected shapes fall together into the floor, in a clear depiction of two people having sex together. What was Ruberiot thinking?! How on Mewni was this any sort of metaphor?! Star was now hoping the chair she was sitting on would swallow her whole. She could not wait for this torture to end.

And he pushes and pulls, he cuts and he bruises,
Demon prince’s charms with deep carnal uses.
Release that she finds, amidst all this harming,
it fails to replace her one true prince charming!

A second spotlight shone on the stage, far up and to the left. Now it was shadow-Marco and shadow-Jackie, hugging each other while they sat together on the outline of a shadowy bed, clearly making out.

Star ventured a look towards her friends, and saw that they were also beet red and looking around uncomfortably.

Everyone else in the entire kingdom seemed transfixed, silently looking at the scene in front of them, in a mixture of shock and morbid curiosity. Star saw her shadowy doppelganger conspicuously look up towards the scene involving Marco and Jackie, even as shadow-Tom still laid atop her.

Our princess so valiant, our princes so bold,
she slays down her foe with an action so cold.
For her lips do reveal, what her touches must hide,
the name of the boy that lits her inside!

A red heart lit up in the middle of her shadow and Marco’s, and the shadow representing Tom stood up and ran away, in obvious pain and anger. The lights dimmed down. The shadows vanished, and Ruberiot took up his guitar again.

‘Please be over... please be over...’ Star thought to herself.

Then again, how could it not be? Ruberiot had already sung everything she had told him, in excruciating and indecent detail. There literally could not be anything worse to come!

The wooden puppets from earlier floated into the stage: Star, Marco and Jackie. They looked at one another and then down towards the floor as if sad. The next few chords were slow and acoustic, sounding almost like waltz music. Ruberiot continued in a soft melodious voice.

Our story has a happy ending,
for our princess and her future king,
confession and feelings requited,
that result in a triangular swing.

The puppets acted as if they were speaking to each other, until finally they all held hands and begun floating up, rotating as they all danced together.

For Marco is Jackie’s and Staaaar’s!
And it works for our princess
...so faaar!

And with one last guitar riff, Ruberiot fell silent and bowed deeply to the audience.

Moments passed, and not a noise was heard. Then a steady confused murmur rose from the crowd.

“What’s wrong? You are supposed to be clapping!” the songstrel spoke finally. His pleas immediately drowned by angry shouts from the audience.

Star heard some very unkind words used to describe her and her friends, and those were just the one’s she recognized. She looked at Marco and Jackie. They both stared back at her in shock, without saying a word. Eventually, she couldn’t help but avoid their gaze. She looked at her mom, expecting to see anger in her eyes, but Queen Moon’s regretful expression hurt her even more than the fury she expected.

The queen lifted herself up from her chair and motioned everyone to go back into the castle, Star and her friends first. Star’s dad looked like he was about to chase after them, his angry stare still trained on Marco, but Moon put her arm in front of him, stopping his husband.

----

“Star!” Moon was the first to speak. “What was that?!” She seemed furious, genuinely confused, and very uncomfortable, all at once.

“Mom, I am sorry, I didn’t know, I didn’t think... I am sorry, ok?” She was.

Under other circumstances she would have argued more, reminded her mom she could not have done the kind of fluffy pop song she expected. But this time she was truly sorry, and she didn’t even know what for. For the song? For Tom? For Jackie and Marco?

“Star, as a ruler, there are some things you don’t say about yourself. What you tell your people has implications, for you and for your friends,” Moon explained, angrily. “I can’t believe you would be so foolish as to encourage these sort of rumors about yourself!”

“Mom, I swear I didn’t know Ruberiot would say anything about that,” Star replied. Then, she processed what her mom was saying. Rumors? Did she think the song was fake? Or was it that she wanted to pretend it was fake? Was it only the citizens of Mewni Moon cared about? Or did her mother too wanted to pretend Star was a perfect little princess? Star knew this was hardly the time to make things worse, but something in Moon’s words just angered her, beyond the shame and dread she now felt. “But well, mom, they are not rumors. Marco is my boyfriend! ... mine and Jackie’s...” The Mewman princess shot her mother a determined look.

Queen Moon sighed and lifted a hand to her forehead, massaging her temple. “And I suppose you have given full thought to what it would mean for Mewni to have a king regent with a second wife? Or for your other friend to accept a more, let’s say, secondary position, for the sake of the monarchy?”

“What?! Mom, no, I mean, I haven’t even thought about... he is my boyfriend, but well... we never talked about...” Star protested. King regent? She was pretty certain she loved Marco, but that sounded too, well, permanent. She wasn’t even on board with the idea of being queen herself. Thinking about a royal husband was the furthest thing from her mind.

“I know, I know, sweetie. But well, that’s what a lot of people in Mewni are going to be discussing tonight. And they will discuss it again, whenever Marco comes to visit, or for how ever long you stay on Earth. Incidentally, they will also discuss whether consorting with demons makes one a dark queen, in the same way consorting with monsters does. It is all nonsense, of course, but it might just be how they see it.

“Star, the magic wand guarantees your own right of succession, no matter how many traditions you break, or how flagrantly. But that doesn’t mean there are never consequences. Honestly, in the long run this all could lead to pretty bad things happening, mostly to her, and perhaps to the boy. Unfortunately, there are people in Mewni that would see harming your friend as a reasonable precaution to prevent future issues with the royal succession. Some would even see it as a service to you.” Moon looked to the side, as if embarrassed of what she was about to suggest next, “Perhaps the best course of action is for you to distance yourself from your Earth friends. Maybe if we do that, further rumors can be avoided...”

“Mom?!” Star was shocked. Was her mom saying she could not date Marco anymore? Or that she could not go back to Earth? “No, I love Marco! I might not know much about the future, but I don’t want to not see him again, or Jackie either! Not over a stupid song!”

“A song that has put them both in danger, and you and me in a very delicate political position,” the queen retorted, sounding as tired and frustrated as Star was feeling. “What do you want me to do, Star?!”

“I want you,” a fierce voice remarked behind the princess, “to do your job!”

Hekapoo walked between Star and Queen Moon, cutting through the tense atmosphere like a hot knife through butter, staring up at the monarch of Mewni with a fierce glare.

“Hekapoo, I am sorry, but this is kind of an emergency...” Star’s mom began.

“So is Omnitraxus being missing!” Hekapoo remarked. “An emergency you promised to handle before anything else. Certainly before the political implications of your daughter’s teenage indiscretions. Or is the kingdom going to fall tonight just because some people are going to be talking badly about the princess’ private matters? Because, well, if so, certainly a lot has changed since the days when you first took the throne...”

Moon’s cheeks reddened slightly, and Star felt like she was missing some subtext to this conversation, a lot of subtext, actually.

The queen coughed briefly. “Yeah, well, you are right, of course, Hekapoo. Star, we will discuss this fully sometime soon. It might yet be salvageable, somehow. But please, try to not drop any more shocking revelations on the kingdom, at least for a while...”

Hekapoo followed Moon through a huge double door. Lekmet, Romulus and even King River followed close behind.

After they were all gone, Star felt a hand drop on her shoulder. She looked back to see, well, Hekapoo again! No matter how many times she did that, her whole cloning thing was always super weird!

“Well, nicely done, kid, you really fucked up this time,” the sorceress smiled at her, giving her at once a mocking grin and a comforting wink.

“Yeah, I know,” Star replied with a half-smile.

This Hekapoo just gave her a nod of acknowledgement and poofed out of existence. The princess was unspeakably thankful at the high commissioner for running interference like that.

Unfortunately, her mom wasn’t the only one Star had to talk to right now. She heard a voice behind her way before she was done processing the previous exchange, “Eh, Star...”

It was Jackie, but she seemed very un-Jackie like. She was looking at the floor and her voice felt flat and uncertain.

“Jackie, I am so sorry, I...” Star begun, but Jackie cut her off with a hand gesture.

“Actually, Star, I am sorry too. First, I sort of overheard your conversation with your mom right now, so, well, sorry about that,” the human girl apologized. “For the record, I understand if you decide not to go back to Earth because of what is best for yourself, for your mom, or for Marco. But, as far as I am concerned, I don’t care what kind of crazy political danger our relationship puts me in on Mewnie. We will figure stuff out if there is ever stuff to be figured out, but it is not anyone else’s business but ours. If your subjects disagree, they can go suck on a big fat juicy...” she trailed off.

“... lemon?” Star suggested. She hoped her tone made it perfectly clear she knew that wasn’t where the other girl was going with that sentence.

Jackie chuckled briefly, before getting back into a very serious expression. “Also, I want to apologize too for, well, for not really believing you when you said being a princess sort of sucked? I don’t know if you noticed at all but, today I’ve been, well... lets just say I got impressed by your life here, and how much people care about you and look up to you, and I sort of got a bit envious of that, you know?”

“Ptfff,” Star almost laughed. “If it were up to me, you could have it instead, all of it, Jackie.”

“Yeah, I know,” she looked around nervously. “Not sure I want it anymore. I think Marco knew already why you felt like you did about being a princess... I just didn’t fully get it, until now.”

Oh, right, Marco! “How is he doing?”

“Not well,” Jackie replied with a frown. “He is not really talking to me right now...”

Star felt a weight drop in her stomach. She turned around to see Marco with his forehead against a wall, fists closed. Oh, fuck. Guess he was taking the Tom thing worse than she had expected? Again, it wasn’t as if it was really any of his business, it was before they started dating, even if only by about twenty hours or so. Then again, considering how she had felt about him and Jackie...

Plus, even back then, Star actually liked Jackie. Marco hated Tom. Well, not as much a few days ago as he did when they first met. But those two, they were, well, on complicated terms. Competitive too. This was so not going to be an easy conversation. Star sighed.

“Hey, Marco!” She put her best happy face forward. “Guess that wasn’t as boring in the end as I feared. But, well, it was sort of terrible for a different reason...” she babbled at him.

“Star,” Marco spoke slowly, without turning back, looking at the floor, his clenched fist trembling in anger. “It’s just... well, why didn’t you tell me?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: ’Cause she's a Rebel Princess, She’s the Best

’Cause she’s a rebel princess, she's the best
She's a ball of lightning in a hot pink dress
- The Songstrel Ruberiot (both continuities)

“Star,” Marco spoke slowly, without turning back, looking at the floor, his clenched fist trembling in anger. “It’s just... well, why didn’t you tell me?”

Deep hurt dripped from the boy’s quiet voice. He seemed to carefully weight every word, as if trying to hold back something of which he himself felt ashamed. Star thought she could hear the tiniest hint of an accusatory note, lingering just below the surface, but she wasn’t sure. She knew him better than just about anyone, and yet, for once, she couldn’t read him. The princess took a deep breath.

“I am sorry, Marco, alright,” she mustered. She was sorry about the whole Tom incident, and not only because of what the people of Mewnie might think of her now, or because of how much it apparently pained Marco. That night had ended up in nothing but bad feelings for everyone involved, and apparently her decisions that day were not yet done messing up her life. Fuck Tom! Well, no, actually, don’t fuck Tom. That was what caused the problem in the first place!

Then again, if she hadn’t done that, would she and Marco have ever gotten together? Without Janna’s bizarre plot, without that night of imagining Marco while laying with Tom, without the magical link she had not yet even told him about, without him shouting her name to Jackie, without Jackie’s crazy-awesomeness... without all of that, would they have ever come to date? If the answer was no, then no matter the bad feelings, and no matter the song, and no matter the kingdom, and no matter her mom, she had to stand by her decision. That night with Tom was worth it, but only because it brought her and Marco together. Unless, of course, it was now about to break them apart.

“Star, is not about you being sorry, it’s just...” Marco started to say something.

He was probably going to go on to say how she was a terrible person for sleeping with Tom, or at least to ask why she had chosen Tom specifically. She didn’t want to hear that. She didn’t have an answer. She couldn’t even explain to him how it had, in the end, been for the best. At least, she couldn’t do so without telling Marco her last shameful secret, that of the seeing-eye spell, at a time where it could only worsen things.

Instead, Star cut him off. “Look, Marco, I really am sorry,” she apologized again, lamely. If only Janna were here. The troublemaker girl always knew what to say in this kind of situation. “I am sorry, but, well, Marco, honestly? It is not really any of your business. It happened before we started dating, while you were dating Jackie. It was my choice, and perhaps it wasn’t a great choice, but well, since when I am known to always make great choices? It happened, it’s over. Can we just move on?”

“Wait, what? No, Star, Tom isn’t the problem!” Marco burst out, surprising Star. He turned around. He looked so angry, and at the same time, he seemed to be making an effort to stop himself from crying. Star was trying to contain her own tears as well. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trust Tom, and if he did anything to hurt you... if he mistreated you in any way... well, never mind. You once said you could handle a demon, and I know you can take care of yourself. I know you don’t need a hero, Star...”

The mewman girl thought back to when she had said that to her best friend. It seemed so long ago now, another lifetime almost. The night of the Blood Moon. It had been her last date with Tom, and her first dance with Marco. She had made a foolish decision in accepting the demon prince’s invitation and Marco, concerned for her safety, had followed after her. She had been annoyed at her friend. Annoyed that he didn’t trust her to take care of herself, to make her own mistakes and fix them on her own. Frankly, even if she didn’t exactly regret Marco having been there, she felt that, back then, she had been mostly in the right.

She was much less sure of her ability to handle Tom after that night under the bridge, however, after how defenseless she had felt in the end, unable to even dip down into herself. But Tom had not, in fact, harmed her. If anything, it had been the other way around. Star wondered if Marco somehow intuited that, if that was why he was angry. Did he perceive that she had, in a way, used Tom to get him instead? Would he think she was a horrible person for it?

“Ok, Marco, if Tom isn’t the issue, then what is it?”

“Star, it’s just, I wish you had told me. I mean, I wish that you had told me about...”

Marco’s words were drowned by an unexpected ‘Whoosh!’ sound, and a surprised yelp from Jackie.

The skateboarder girl had drifted towards the other corner of the huge hall, giving Star and Marco space to sort things out, literally. She had been looking away from the both of them, in what Star thought was her best effort not to eavesdrop, without actually having to leave the room. Star figured her friend didn’t want to risk running into Moon, the high commission, or basically anyone in the entire kingdom who had listened to the song and now probably thought of her as the concubine of Mewni’s future king, the spare they had to get rid of, or whatever such utter nonsense.

However, the way the girl had positioned herself meant she was easily taken by surprise as a tear opened up in the fabric of reality, right behind her. The tips of a pair of scissors materialized themselves in mid air, quickly cutting a shimmering blue portal through the empty space.

Jackie was even more surprised, evidenced by a wide-eyed open-mouthed break of her usual cool composure, when a disembodied horned horse head came out flying from the portal, its tongue still somehow holding on to the dimensional scissors. Star herself barely noticed the diminutive winged pixie girl that emerged next, following the first intruder.

“Whatsuuup B-fly!?” Princess Pony Head shouted. She glanced up and down at her Song Day outfit. “Looking goooood, girl!”

“Pony Head?!” Star shouted back, partly in surprise, partly in excitement. Despite the awful awful timing, it was good to once again see her best bestie in all of Mewnie. “What are you doing here? I thought you were partying it up in St. O’s!”

“Well, yeah, about that... well, Star, don’t get too worried or anything, but we might have run into a little bit of trouble over there...” Pony Head did that nervous looking around thing she always did whenever she got involved in some truly bad stuff and didn’t want to admit it. “Things are not as good as when you two left. Turns out we might need a seriously baaad-ass princess to come and set some heads right. Ya know what I mean?”

“I have absolutely no idea what you mean...” Star admitted. “But I am in!”

She twirled her wand around in her hand and gave her best attempt at a menacing look. If they needed a seriously bad-ass princess, they had come to the right place.

Ok, sure, she really really needed to finish having this talk with Marco first. But, then again, the talk was super mega awkward. So, maybe this was for the best? And, well, if the princesses of St O’s needed her, if her bestie needed her, then how could she say no?

Marco scowled, not so much at her, but rather at the interrupting unicorn princess. It was clear that he hadn’t gotten what he needed off his chest. Unfortunately, Star wasn’t sure she wanted, or could handle, to hear it right now. Perhaps if she ignored the issue long enough, Marco would forget, or at least, calm down somewhat.

Avoidance! Just as she originally planned to respond to her song day. And well, hadn’t she been right back then? If she hadn’t talked to Ruberiot, then none of this would have happened! Of course, it wasn’t like she was planning on never again talking to Marco. She just needed to, like, give both him and herself a little time to think. That was a good idea, right? Right?

“Actually, B-fly, don’t take this the wrong way, I know we are both best besties, and totally super-tough badass princesses and all... but I kinda meant Earth Turd...” Pony Head admitted sheepishly. He shot a quick look Marco’s way, and rolled her eyes.

“Me?!” Marco glanced confused at Star, then back at the body-absent princess. “This is kind of a bad time for jokes, Pointy-Head...”

Before he could say another word, the pixie girl came up flying towards them. She quickly positioned herself so she was hovering in between Pony Head and the two kids, and gave Marco a deep supplicant bow.

“Please, Princess Marco! I am Princess Glintwisp of Pixtopia. I am sorry to ask, especially if we have indeed come at a bad time. But, for the good of the revolution, in the name of all princesses everywhere, I implore you! We need your help once more. Some of the girls have gone astray, and I fear that without your inspiration and leadership, we might soon lose the very individuality we fought to achieve!”

Seeing as how this was now anything but a private moment, Jackie walked towards the group. She shot their boyfriend a quizzical look. “Princess Marco?”

----

“So,” Jackie finally spoke, once Pony Head first, then Star, were done bringing her up to date with the situation, more or less. “Let me see if I got this all straight: There is, or used to be, an inter-dimensional school dedicated to literally brainwashing princesses - which, by the way, fuck that!”

“You can say that again,” commented Star, with a shudder.

“And flying horse-head over here, which happens to be Star’s childhood friend, was sent there by her own family,” the human girl continued her recap.

“Excuse me?! Friend? I happen to be Star’s bestest bestie overall! And it is Flying Princess Horse-Head to you, monkey-face!” Pony Head retorted.

“Whatever,” Jackie shrugged. It had been clear for a while that the pony princess didn’t like her much, and it was getting to be fairly mutual. From what Marco had said, she never liked any of Star’s friends at first. She was, ‘possessive’, whatever that meant. In any case, Jackie Lynn Thomas wasn’t going to be pushed around by a disembodied horse head, at least not now that the initial shock wore off. “The point is, Star and Marco went there to throw horse-head a birthday party, and in the process he ended up leading a rebellion. While dressed like a princess, for some reason.”

“Oh, you should have seen it, Jackie!” Star shouted excitedly. “You have no idea how well Marco pulls off a pink dress!”

“Star!” Marco protested. The mewman princess seemed to suddenly remember she and the boy were not in the best terms right now, and begun to stammer an apology.

“Actually, I can see that, Star,” Jackie tried to make the save. Honestly, she wasn’t sure what Marco’s issue was. Yes, the song had been uncomfortable, for everyone involved. But if there was anyone who should be in a sullen mood over that, it was Star. Marco and herself had at most gotten splash damage from that particular bomb. “And he, or rather ‘she’, somehow became an icon of a revolutionary movement of princesses. Which, incidentally, mostly consisted of turning St O’s into a party school. Correct so far?”

“Not just a party school, monkey-face, the best party school in the multiverse!” Pony Head insisted. “Mostly because it had me in it! Of course!” The disembodied horse head made a puckered lips expression that Jackie assumed was meant to be sexy, but was instead disturbing in the extreme.

“Sure, whatever. Anyways, the problem is that it is not about having a party school anymore, not since this Miss White appeared and took over the ‘movement’, correct?” Jackie finished. “And now you want Marco to go chase this person away, just as he did with Miss Heinous.”

“It’s Princess White, not Miss White, and, well, not quite. We want Princess Marco to remind the girls of the ideas of the revolution: individuality, self expression, freedom!” Princess Glintwisp finally interjected. “White claims to care about that, but everything is about power and control for her in the end. I think the girls know that. But they won’t listen to us. They are too scared. But with Princess Marco to inspire them again, I think we have a chance!”

“So, basically,” Jackie reasoned. “You had a revolution, which ended up propping a dictator of sorts, and now you are asking the original revolutionaries to come back and oppose this character? Uh, Marco, I know you are not as much of a history nerd as I am, but, well, you know this is a bad idea, right?”

“Uh, why would it be a bad idea?” interjected Star.

“Nah, she is right, Star,” Marco sighed. “I can see this ending badly. But I guess if things are as bad as these two say they are, then we don’t really have a choice. I mean, we kind of created this whole situation in the first place. Sorry to ask now, and... well... sorry to postpone... you know what, but... could you… um, princess me?” He gave Jackie a concerned look. “Hopefully this isn’t going to be too weird?”

“Yeah, right, of course, Marco,” Star stammered awkwardly.

What the hell was wrong between the two of them? Jackie thought to herself. This was far more awkward than Marco in a dress could ever possibly be.

Star raised her wand, gave it a swirl and...

“Radiant Shadow Transform!!”

Marco’s body rose up into the air, coming to stand seemingly suspended right below the hall’s tall ceiling. His skin and clothes became covered in blinding bright purple light, dissolving into it. Further streams of white light crisscrossed all over his body as it contorted in midair like a ballet dancer. It was impossible to see properly through the spell’s light show, but it seemed like it first made his princely suit vanish, replacing it then bit by bit with a distinctly feminine attire.

Honestly, it was surprising how well Marco could pull that off too. The magical glow gradually faded away as he floated back towards them, revealing a puffy pink dress with a huge ribbon over his waist. His heeled feet gracefully touched down on the ground, almost silently. He had a determined and confident expression Jackie had only occasionally seen on him. It was almost like he was wearing a battle outfit of sorts, rather than a frilly pink dress.

“Alright, Pointy-Head, Glitterwisp, let’s go set things straight, my wayward sisters!” Marco remarked.

The pixie princess saluted him, while Pony Head simply took out the scissors again and attempted to hand them to Marco. He shook his head, taking his own pair of scissors from under the dress’ skirt. An embossed name gleamed on them in fiery letters: ‘MARCO’. With a quick movement, he cut a doorway in the air, and confidently strode through it. The two St O’s princesses followed after him.

The Mewman princess was about to follow suit, but Jackie stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. “Wait, Star, are you alright? What happened with you and Marco?”

“I,” Star paused, uncomfortable. “I am not sure, Jackie...”

“Well, he will come around, I am sure of it. He loves you, Star, and you love him too. A stupid song isn’t going to change that, right?” the human girl tried to reassure her friend, and was glad to see Star smile faintly and nod in response. “But... Star, and I know is not the best timing... before we jump in through there, I sort of have a favor to ask from you....”

----

THROUGH UNITY, VICTORY

Saint Olga’s had always been a grim gray place. It was grim and gray, if luxuriously outfitted, when Miss Heinous administered it. It had remained grim and gray, and far less cared for, when the princesses took over, no matter what Pointy-head said about her own brief tenure as unofficial leader of the rebel princess movement. But now, it looked grimmer and grayer than ever. To the prison-like barbwire fence that surrounded the complex, someone had added protruding bits and pieces of broken glass, and the decor became only more oppressive and martial once you went past the gate.

Once inside the courtyard, Marco noticed that the old posters, showing her as Princess Marco, had been ripped off from the walls. Instead, imposing black placards showed a clenched red fist holding a crown. Disturbingly bellicose slogans were often printed atop, or around, the insignia.

DOWN WITH THE TYRANTS! PRINCESSES RULE

Ok, that one didn’t even make sense. Or maybe it made too much sense?

Of course princesses rule, or well, they were going to rule. So, who the hell were the tyrants, then? Their parents? Star and Moon might not have always seen eye to eye on everything, and he had the vague impression that they had ended in especially bad terms after Star’s song. But, as he looked at the posters along the courtyard walls, Marco felt these princesses were taking things way too far.

SOME FREEDOMS MUST BE POSTPONED FOR THE CAUSE

“Freedom is the cause...” he muttered his own spontaneous retort, as he walked past that particular sign.

Pony Head and Glintwisp floated close by, almost huddled around him. The pixie princess nodded in silent acknowledgment of his ‘wise’ proclamation. They both looked cowed, even more so that they had been under Heinous and her solitary conformance chamber.

Marco wondered where Star and Jackie were now. He had left the portal open for them, but when they didn’t immediately follow, he decided to go ahead and take point. He needed to survey the situation before their group attracted any attention, to move while they still had the element of surprise, just like his favorite war movie hero, Rick Resilient. From what he could see, the two resident princesses had not been exaggerating when they described how bad the situation was.

“You got to be kidding me, there is no way that one is not on purpose!” came a voice from behind Marco.

As he turned around, he saw Jackie casually leaning against the inside of the courtyard walls, just past the outer door, pointing at one particular slogan he had completely missed:

ALL PRINCESSES ARE EQUAL,
BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

Now, Marco would normally have commented on the absurdity of the poster. He had read Animal Farm too! Ok, alright, he watched the cartoon movie, same thing.

However, he was momentarily rendered speechless by the version of Jackie that confronted him. Short hair, combed back. A pair of dark green pants and matching shoulder pads, adorned in gold trimming. A white vest, buttoned in gold to her left side, and embroidered with a coat of arms: two swords crossing atop a skateboard bursting out of a seashell. Black gloves and black equestrian boots. A short red velvet cape. Jackie was standing with his feet, sorry, her feet, more than shoulder width apart and glancing at Princess Marco with a cocksure grin on his, no, her, face. She was pulling the whole ‘Prince Charming’ look better than Marco was comfortable admitting. In fact, he was uncomfortably sure that Jackie looked far better in her own prince outfit, than he had in his, merely hours ago.

“Jackie? What are you doing?!” he stammered in confusion. Did it meant he was gay if he thought she was handsome? Or did it mean just the opposite? Marco had long come to feel comfortable with being in a dress, even as he worried what his long-time crush might think of him for that. Turns out he needed not worry. But, instead, seeing Jackie in such a masculine presentation was a new and surreal experience for him. He liked it, and frankly wasn’t fully sure what that said about himself.

“Matching my beautiful and brave princess, of course.” Jackie grinned as she advanced towards him in surprisingly large strides. “I figured, if you are going to be Princess Marco, then I shall be Prince Jackie... at your service milady!” She put a hand behind her back and bowed dramatically. Before Marco could protest that he was, in truth, not a ‘milady’, Jackie continued, “Or should it be Prince Jack?”

“I’d keep going with Jackie,” chimed up Star as she finally came in through St O’s gate, in the same ‘bad princess’ getup she had worn the first time they were here. “Matches ‘Princess Marco’ better.”

“Are you sure?” Jackie asked, after seeming to ponder the question for a second. She made a gesture of stroking her, nonexistent, beard. “I feel like a Jack.”

“Oh, don’t you worry about them gorgeous! I’ll call you whatever you like,” came a nasal voice from way above their position. “Right after I deliver these traitors to Princess White!”

Following the voice, out of one of the manor’s windows, jumped a huge monstrous purple woman. She had an elephant trunk for a nose and a blue hairdo larger than her already gargantuan head. She wore a blue frilly dress the size of a small camping tent and was covered in jewelry, including a gem-encrusted golden crown. Out of the corners of her mouth, protruded two pointed tusks. Moving faster than could reasonably be expected from her size, she positioned herself behind Jackie, grabbed her from the waist and pointed a strange device directly at the human’s face. A blinding flash exploded around them as she pushed the trigger.

“Ca-me-ra phone!” the ugly princess shouted as she took a selfie of herself with the newly minted handsome prince of the group. She then grabbed Jackie’s arm, and twisted it behind her. “Now, deserter Princess Marco, traitor Princess Pony Head, traitor Princess Glintwisp, and,” she looked at Star up and down, confused, “and you, whoever you are! Follow me, or I will be forced to remove this hunk’s dreamy face!”

Marco looked at Jackie first. He felt calmer when he saw she seemed more disoriented than actually afraid. He glanced then at Star, and finally at the criminal princess holding ‘her prince’ hostage. He and Star had met her once before, when she tried to steal the mewman princess’s face in a harebrained scheme to escape from St. O’s. Fortunately, they managed to throw the book at her that time, literally as well as figuratively. Frankly, after Heinous, and Toffee, and whatever that snake-thing Tom had sprung on them the other week was, Marco was not too scared of the old dizzy monster.

“Sure, fine,” Princess Marco spoke defiantly. “Take me to your leader!” Truth be told, he always wanted to say that. “...and make sure the rest of the girls are there too! I think they are going to want to hear what I have to say to this ‘Princess White’ of yours.”

It was soon clear that didn’t need to worry about that. As they made their way through the manor’s halls and passageways, the six of them seemed to accumulate an ever growing crowd of curious onlookers among St. Olga’s former students.

Most of the princesses gave their captor a wide berth, but gawked from a safe distance at the group. Jackie played the defiant hostage well, an arrogant scowl on ‘his’ princely face. Princess Marco marched right behind the trollish princess that held ‘her’ prince captive. He herself held her head tall and fists clenched. Pony Head and Glintwisp seemed far more intimidated, marching a few steps behind Marco. Finally, Star brought up the rear, just ahead of the accumulating spectators.

They passed more and more red-fist posters on their way up the manor.

THE REVOLUTION IS MORE IMPORTANT,
THAN ANY INDIVIDUAL

“Embrace the princess mentality...” Marco heard Star mutter under her breath.

----

“So, that’s it, Hekapoo, the whole truth, in as much as I myself know it,” Moon admitted with a deep sigh.

She took a seat at the edge of her bed, and prepared herself for the onslaught of fury that the sorceress was sure to unleash upon her.

So be it. It would hardly be the first time she found herself on the receiving end of the other woman’s displeasure. It came with the territory. It was the other side of the coin, the one Star didn’t understand yet: having the power to make the big choices, but also having to live with the consequences. If it were up to Moon, her daughter would have been spared learning that lesson for a while longer. But, even as queen, it was not just up to her.

“You could have told us this months ago,” the Forger of Scissors noted calmly. She was looking out through the balcony of the royal bedchamber, giving her back to Moon, purposefully concealing her facial expression, rendering herself even more unreadable than usual. “You could have told me.”

“Yes, Hekapoo, I could have,” the queen admitted. She knew it was a mistake to not have brought the high commission in on this sooner, or at least the crafty sorceress in particular. But she had done what she did to protect Star, to protect her family from additional exposure. Fat good it had done, in the end. “I had it under control. I still do. Ludo has half the wand, he has the book, and he has Glossaryck. Admittedly, this is quite bad. But I assure you, even with all of that, he is hardly what I’d call a threat.”

“He was enough of a threat to steal the book from your daughter, Moon. Enough of a threat to drain the magic from many worlds. Enough of a threat to go after Omnitraxus...” Hekapoo retorted. Her flame crackled and sizzled atop her head, betraying her displeasure at her old friend and confidant.

“We don’t really know if those things truly are related,” the mewman reasoned, evenly. “Frankly, it disturbs me to think they might be. Lord Brudo didn’t give any indication that the young Avarius represented that kind of menace. He is not, well, you know...”

“Toffee?” Hekapoo completed the thought Queen Moon did not dare speak aloud.

It was a name that brought far too many unpleasant memories: the death of her mother, her deal with Eclipsa, the weight of leadership, the coldness in her own heart as she drew forth power from darkness, and from ancient evil. Then again, in way, being reminded of that fiend, of that monster in every sense of the word, also helped remind Moon of what and who she was.

“Not even close!” she responded forcefully. “And must I remind you, Hekapoo, that I dealt with Toffee as well? Without assistance or advice from you, or from the high commission.”

“With all due respect, Moon,” Hekapoo turned back, glaring at her, “you dealt with Toffee by dabbling in dark magic, by bargaining with the Queen of Darkness herself! It is only by the sheerest luck that your way of ‘dealing’ with Toffee did not doom us all! What makes you think Star will be just as lucky, if it comes to it?”

“It wasn’t luck, Hekapoo. I told you then, and I’ll tell you now, I know what I am doing!”

She didn’t. Not now, and definitely not back then.

She found the loophole in her deal with Eclipsa only in the last second. By failing to kill Toffee, she avoided having to fulfill her own end of the bargain with the imprisoned queen. Yet, had she hesitated only a second less, had she been a smidgen less or a smidgen more afraid, then Toffee would have died that morning by her hand. If he had, then Moon would have been left to deal with the consequences.

“Star won’t have to get lucky,” she swore, mostly to herself. “I will deal with this, without dragging her into it, and do it right. I will protect her. You need to understand... there is no way she will ever have to... to deal with what I dealt with... when my mother...”

The cool warrior-queen mask crumbled then, the unbreakable armor of Moon the Undaunted, and for a second she was princess Moon again. Poor little orphan princess Moon. Tears fell down her eyes, tears only three people in her life had ever seen before. One was her husband, River. The other was Glossaryck, now missing. The final one was with her now, in this room. The fiery glare of the Forger softened as she walked back towards the Queen of Mewni.

“No, she won’t, Moon. Because we will protect you. I will protect you,” Hekapoo placed a hand on the monarch shoulder. “But you need to let me do that, and that means you don’t hide the truth from me, or from the high commission.”

“Yes, you are right Hekapoo,” Moon finally admitted, in full. “It’s just, it seemed like something we should be able to handle within the family. I didn’t want to expose Star to, well, you know. Not this early. I suppose she manages to get into enough trouble on her own... That awful song! Now she probably thinks I am a monster, but what would you have me do?”

“The hardest thing, Moon,” Hekapoo replied, somber, accepting the other woman’s sudden change of topic. “Nothing.”

“What?” the queen asked, not understanding.

“Let her and her friends deal with the consequences of what was in that song. Let them deal with the people of Mewnie if they must. You could have handled it when you were her age. Those kids can handle it too. You’d be shocked out of that hard royal skull of yours by what they can handle. Star is a strong kid, same as you were. What she can’t handle, though, is a mother she believes disapproves of her every choice,” the sorceress spoke with surprising insight, as she took as seat at the edge of the bed, right besides Moon.

It was ironic, the more she tried to shield her daughter from the harshness of the world, the more she herself became the face of that harshness. “Disapprove? What right do I have to disapprove? I just wish she were... a bit more thoughtful, and discrete, about the whole thing...”

“Well, that’s your style, Moon. But it is not Star’s. Don’t worry, she will find her own way. It is not my style either, by the way, but a deal is a deal,” Hekapoo remarked with a smile, right before she leaned forth to kiss the lips of her royal lover. In familiar warm lips, Moon found a measure of peace, after one of the toughest days she had had in a good long while.

----

The only way to describe it, was to say that it was a throne room improvised out of a mansion’s dining hall, or out of a very fancy school cafeteria. All the walls were lined with tables and chairs, pushed aside to make room for a ragged red carpet, which itself looked as if it had been ripped out from the floor of a different room.

The carpet led to yet another table, atop which someone had affixed a sofa-chair and two normal wooden chairs. Of those, only the leftmost chair was empty. The walls were lined with some more of those disturbing, almost self-parodying, posters.

All in all, it was much less impressive, and far more disturbing, than the Butterfly Castle’s throne room. Or so thought Jackie, despite having been inside the later only briefly.

“Princess White! Glorious leader of the princess revolution! I bring you back the traitors, and the famed Princess Marco!” the bizarre woman that held her by the arm claimed, in a bored but practiced tone, and took a deep bow. Then, she extended the other arm, and with a quick movement took a picture of herself and of all the people behind her, including Marco, Star and Jackie, and a few dozen onlookers. “Ca-me-ra phone!”

The person sitting in the sofa chair, atop the table, raised an eyebrow, and silently regarded the presumptive captives. She was a slender goth-looking girl, seemingly not that much older than the three of them. She had long disheveled raven-black hair, skull-pale skin, and blood-red lips that easily twisted into a dangerous smirk. She wore an open spiked leather jacket and embroidered leather pants. Her top was a white blouse, with the now familiar fist-holding-a-crown symbol painted in red ink atop it. The crown in the symbol matched in design with the crown she wore atop her head, in bright shimmering silver. Hanging to the left side of her belt, glinted a wicked looking sword, with a skull atop the handle. ‘Princess White, I presume’, Jackie thought to herself.

“Princess Marco?” White spoke, bemusedly. She had a surprisingly melodious and inviting voice. “An honor, and a pleasure, for sure; to meet the foremother of our glorious revolution. Perhaps we could offer her and her two companions something to eat? Then we might bring her up to date with the progress the cause has made, in her, I assume quite explainable, absence?”

Dammit, whomever this girl was, she was a good public speaker. Jackie couldn’t help but notice how she was both appearing to politely welcome Princess Marco, while at the same time casting doubts on the other princesses’ minds about her. There was something more as well... wait, two companions? Jackie saw the goth princess surreptitiously make a gesture with her hand. Two other girls walked through the crowd towards them, throwing a muzzle and a bug net, respectively, on Pony Head and Glintwisp.

“Wait, what are they doing?!” Star protested in a surprised shout.

“Oh, surely Princess Marco would not be in any way associated with these traitors, now, would she?” the sitting princess smiled calmly.

“Of course they are with me!” Marco shouted. “Let them go. And, for the record, I think I have seen enough of your so called progress, thank you very much!”

Not precisely a master diplomat, thought Jackie, but he sure managed to pull off the defiant rebel leader role.

“Yeah, let my bestie go!” shouted Star, leveling her wand at the princess holding Pony Head. Not wanting to be outdone, Jackie elbowed the huge princess holding her, and quickly moved to grab the other girl’s bug net out of her hands.

To the side of the sofa-throne, in the one wooden chair that was occupied, a scrawny brunette of sharp features and piercing green eyes leaned to whisper something in White’s ear. “Ah... I see. Princess Star Butterfly, yet another honor!”

“Wait, you know who I am?” the Mewman asked, surprised.

Presumably, she was talking about her disguise, but the dark-haired princess decided to interpret it quite differently.

“Of course. Your reputation precedes you,” White stalled, attempting to distract them from their friends being dragged around. Only when she saw that further attempts would likely result in an all out brawl, she quietly gave the signal to her cronies to let go. Even then, that barely registered in her polite conversational tone. “Frankly, it is a miracle you did not end up among us, here in St. O’s. Or a shame, as the case might be. You would be such an asset for our revolution...”

“A revolution against whom, exactly?” Princess Marco interrupted. “Way I see it, Heinous was gone, the girls were free to embrace their individuality, then you came along and this is now what? A princess Soviet Union?”

“I am unfamiliar with that kingdom,” White replied, calmly. “As for against whom... well, against our oppressors, of course! Same fight you started, sister. Sure, you helped our sisters get rid of Heinous. Although, from what I have heard recently, you didn’t do as... permanent a job as I would have in your place...”

Permanent? Was she suggesting that Marco ought to have killed their former headmistress? The savage grin and the way White’s hand drifted towards the pommel of her sword, told Jackie the answer. Now, that miss Heinous did sound like a horrid character, but surely that was taking it a step too far. Then again, if she had to judge this whole thing by the standards of actual revolutions...

“In any case, Heinous was nothing but a lackey of the true oppressors!” White voice swiftly rose into a booming tone. “The ones who sent these princesses here, to be brainwashed, to be enslaved to their lineages and to their subjects! Who are they to tell us who we should be?! What we should do?! I say we pay them back! No longer shall any princess be beholden to the whims of her line or her kingdom!”

“Yeah!” shouted Star, as did many other princesses among the crowd. Most of the observers, however, wisely kept silent. Then the Mewman’s princess expression seemed to change, as she realized to what she was agreeing exactly. “Wait, no! You cannot mean that we should... hurt our parents?”

“No, of course not,” White’s face softened. “Not your parents, princess Star. Like I said, your reputation as a rebel, as one of us, does you great honor. But I will admit that your parents, whatever their faults might be, never sent you to a place like St. O’s. However... the parents of most of these girls did do just that! They willingly subjected their kids to imprisonment and brainwashing! If that doesn’t make them, and their entire kingdoms, evil, if that doesn’t make them worthy of being overthrown, then what does?!”

“Look,” Marco raised a hand. Standing on the floor, as the other princess straightened herself atop her throne, he looked much feebler by comparison. Jackie figured that was entirely intentional on White’s part. It was probably the whole point of setting up this makeshift royal hall in the first place. “I am not saying that it is right to send anyone to a place like what this used to be. But I don’t think these girls’ parents are expecting their daughters to be brainwashed. They think this is a place to teach them the skills that they need, to be good rulers...”

“There is only one skill necessary to rule,” the goth princess smirked. “Strength! And together, we have strength in abundance!”

“No,” Princess Marco asserted herself, not willing to let that one slide. And Jackie felt no small degree of admiration for her frilly-dressed boyfriend. “Ruling through strength only makes you a tyrant, or a dictator. Look, I am not saying each princess shouldn’t be free to be themselves, to be who they truly are, each and every one of our wayward sisters. They should be free to use their gifts to be the best versions of themselves instead of a cookie-cutter extension of their respective royal families. But when they rule, and they rule their way, they should still be doing what is right for their people! If you use strength to intimidate and cow others into submission, then that makes you the oppressors!” Princess Marco paused her speech, and Jackie noticed a few murmurs of agreement within the gathered crowd. “Besides, are you truly suggesting that these girls kill their own parents?”

“Why not?” White retorted. “After all, I killed my mother!”

More murmurs. Star gasped. She suddenly looked pale, and horrified. Even Jackie felt sick to her stomach, and she was neither a princess, nor had ever been caught agreeing with the lunatic in question.

“So yes, strength, and resolve, are all that stands between each and everyone of us and complete freedom and independence, the kind that only comes with power,” she continued. “I would know. I now rule my kingdom, and I do so entirely my way, without lineages or tradition. Without being beholden to anyone but myself!”

“And I assume your people love you for it?” retorted Marco, sarcastically.

“Absolutely,” the other princess responded with a smile. “You see, my mother was an evil queen.”

“Then I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Princess Marco quipped.

Suddenly, the sitting princess jumped out of her throne, her hands gripping the sofa armrests until they broke under the pressure into a shower of splinters. Her eyes were wide open and her teeth clenched in a furious rictus. “What. Did. You! Just! Say?!” Her previous composure had gone in an instant, and she seemed to barely keep enough self control not to jump down from the table and charge against Marco.

At first, Jackie thought White simply resented the comparison to her mother. But then it hit her. It wasn’t just being compared to her mother that bothered Princess White. It was the saying itself!

Rather, it had been a single word in the saying: apple. She had reacted as soon as that word was mentioned.

Everything seemed to fall into place all at once then for the Earth girl: ‘My mother was an evil queen’. Apple. Princess White. Coal-black hair, blood-red lips, skin as white as snow... “Oh, you gotta be fucking kidding me! Marco, I think you are debating Snow White!”

The goth blinked twice, and seemed to calm down, momentarily. “I haven’t been called by that name in a very long time... and you are?”

“Prince,” she thought for a second, “Jack. Jack as in the giant killer.” She spoke with the utmost bravado, or at least all she could muster. Then, mentally, she added, ‘and if you believe that, I also have a bag of magic beans to sell you’.

“Well, princess Marco, prince... Jack,” Snow White spat the name, “I see my arguments fall on deaf ears. So I propose we put our ideals to a test, a trial on the morrow!” She smiled wickedly. A wicked queen smile, thought Jackie. “Cass, tell me this, and only this, will our dear Princess Marco once again flee from us unseen during the night?”

The green eyes of the woman sitting besides White turned her piercing gaze towards Marco, as she seemed to concentrate.

“She will stay,” she answered simply.

“Of course! I will debate you any day you want, sister!” Princess Marco quickly retorted. Jackie, however, smelled a rat.

“It is set, then,” Snow White proclaimed, “tomorrow at dawn. A trial by combat!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: A Thunderstorm Roaring Through the Night

She’s a thunderstorm roaring through the night
She’s our shooting Star, and she's lighting up the sky!
- The Songstrel Ruberiot (both continuities)

After Princess White’s latest proclamation, the five of them were quickly escorted to three separate rooms within the mansion. Pony Head and Glintwisp were locked in together, as were Marco and Star. Jackie was shuffled into her own room, in what the princess of Mewnie suspected was an ironic attempt at enforcing some bizarre ’no boys allowed’ rule.

If you asked her, that was closer to Heinous’ way of thinking than that of a true rebel princess, specially the party princesses of St. O’s. But it seemed that, for all her talk about fighting oppressors, Saint Olga’s under White’s leadership was even more oppressive than it had ever been before. Was that even possible? How was that even possible?

Anyways, that all didn’t matter, because there were two things right now that seemed more important to Star Butterfly than the future of the St. O’s princess’ rebellion.

The first was that, come tomorrow, Marco was supposed to fight some crazy mother-killing princess from hell. And, well, is not like Star doubted her bestie’s fighting skills - which were, like, totally super awesome - but she had never seen him fight with a sword, much less in a formal duel. She was sure White would declare herself the challenged party, despite calling for the trial, simply because it was Princess Marco coming into her... kingdom? dominion? or, like, her little fiefdom? As opposed to vice versa. So, Star needed to advice Marco both on sword fighting, and on royal dueling norms, and is not like she ever had paid much attention to either of those things herself!

Then, of course, there was the second thing. The part that made her sad to room with her best friend in the whole multiverse, with her... was he even still her boyfriend? The question itself made her chest hurt and her stomach twist like she needed to puke. It was the question that she had been trying to ignore the whole night. The part where Marco maybe hated her now for being a manipulative skank!

They waited there, in long uncomfortable silence, standing inside a somberly decorated room that was twice the size of Marco’s, yet smaller than Star’s own. Neither of them quite able to bring themselves to be the first to speak.

“Star, we need to talk,” Marco offered. He walked in and sat on the jacobean chair, by the mirror, leaving Star to take over the huge bed in the middle.

She barely noticed the furnishings herself. Marco loved this old-fashioned overly-ornamented royal crap that was all over the place in St. O’s. Honestly, she liked Earth furniture way better. There was even some you could assemble and disassemble, without using magic! How cool was that? But, yeah, not the time for thinking about cool things. Rather, it was the time to finally face the music, as it were. Or maybe, maybe she didn’t even have the time for that.

“We don’t, Marco,” she spoke. “If I hurt you, then I am sorry, and if you hate me... well... never mind, my point is that tomorrow’s duel is what we should be talking about. A duel is not just like a regular brawl, Marco. In this case, I think it might be way more dangerous, like, not fun-dangerous, dangerous-dangerous,” she tried to explain, but he cut her off.

“No, Star. All the more reason we need to talk. If tomorrow I am going to get skewered by a fairytale character turned twentieth century dictator, then there is something I need to tell you first! I’ve been thinking about it all night...” He looked up at her, pausing as if he still couldn’t find the words to say what he had decided to say.

“You can say it tomorrow, Marco!” Star protested, tearing up a little. She didn’t want to hear it. She knew whatever the specific reason Marco was angry at her, no matter how valid, it would shatter her, and she needed to be whole right now, for his own good if nothing else. “Look, just let me make sure you come out of this thing alright. You can hate me all you like after we deal with this Princess White stuff, ok?”

“No! We can’t do that, because you got it all wrong! Please, just listen for a second.” He took a deep breath and crossed one leg atop another underneath his princess dress. “First of all, Star, I don’t hate you, and you didn’t hurt me. I am really sorry I caused you to think that was the case. Apparently even now I keep messing this stuff up! It is just, I didn’t know, or I don’t know, how to begin... I guess the first thing I should have said, actually, is that it’s me that needs to apologize. So, well: I am sorry, Star.”

“Wait, what?!” He was making no sense. What would Marco have to apologize for? “But then, why did you seem so angry earlier? About me not telling you about Tom?”

“Star, I already told you, I don’t give an opossums’ ass about Tom!” Marco shouted. “And, I was angry at myself, alright? At being so stupid! At ignoring the way my best friend felt! Why didn’t you tell me, Star? Why didn’t you tell me that I was making you miserable when I began dating Jackie?!”

“Uh?” Star thought back to their conversation earlier that same night. Had Marco ever truly said he was angry at her, or had she just assumed he was? Then again, he truly had nothing to apologize for, other than perhaps being a misleading idiot just now! “Marco, you were not making me miserable, ok? I was happy that you were dating Jackie, because it made you happy. And ok, so I was a bit jealous of her, and a bit worried that you didn’t like me the way you liked her. But well, surprise, you sort of did! It is pretty much the one thing Ruberiot got right with his stupid song: that story did have a happy ending! At least until earlier tonight...”

“I did like you! I do like you! It’s just, I am ashamed it took me so long to realize it, Star,” Marco blushed, and shifted her, his, ponytail, uncomfortably. Honestly, it was kind of adorable. “I am sorry if I hurt you by being so oblivious!”

“Marco, I was fooling even myself back then about how I felt, so of course I fooled you too!” she reasoned. “Anyways, suppose I had told you then, what would you have done? Dumped Jackie for me?”

Marco fell silent, and they stared at each other for what seemed like forever.

“I am such an asshole,” he said, simply.

Because he wouldn’t have? Or because he would? He didn’t say, and Star did not press him on that. For once, she managed to keep her own impulsiveness from making her do something she knew she would later regret.

“Marco, I know assholes, ok?” she grimaced, recalling a certain demon ex-boyfriend. “You really, really, aren’t one. And hopefully you don’t think I am one either...”

The Earth boy, St. O’s rebel princess, her bestie, got off his chair and walked towards Star. He was crying and smiling at once, and so was she. He extended his arms and was about to lean down towards the bed, when Star jumped to meet him.

“Hugs!” she cried.

Suddenly, things between them felt right again. He was her boyfriend, and her best friend. He cared about her so much that the thought of having made her miserable, even if it was basically by failing to read her mind, was the one thing that disturbed him the most about that entire gross messed-up song. Tom didn’t matter to him, and the reaction of the people of Mewnie didn’t matter to him, so why should those matter to Star? If it ever came to that, she would find a way to get the citizens of Mewni to accept Marco and her, and Jackie too, for that matter. Whether she had to bend tradition to do so, or re-invent it, they would find a way, together.

As they embraced, a flash of inspiration hit her. “Wait, I got it! You don’t really have to fight Princess White tomorrow!”

“I don’t?” Marco asked, visibly taken aback by the magical princess’ rapid change of tracks.

“No,” she reassured him. “I just remembered! From my lessons. Guess I wasn’t always asleep! Traditionally, under most kingdoms dueling standards, you can designate a proxy to fight for you. Which means... that I can take care of the problem for you!” She made a swift wand-shooting motion, with her non-wand hand just in case.

“Wait, Star, didn’t you say that was dangerous?” he reminded her.

Thing was, he wasn’t wrong. If the other princess’ weapon of choice was swords, then that banned magic wands, and what were the chances Snow White would chose wands? Well, if worse came to worst, she could dip down and blast her, with or without a wand. Then again, she reminded herself, doing that required a moment of concentration she might not get right in the middle of a fight. At any rate, Star was much more comfortable with it being dangerous for her, than for Marco.

“Oh, Marco, don’t worry, I can handle a little danger!” she put her best smile forward. She was not exactly the best princess to spot you in a formal duel, but Star was sure she would do much better than ’Princess Marco’ could, no matter how cute he looked in a dress. Speaking of which, “For now, less worrying, more smooching!”

Star turned the two of them around and pushed her boyfriend onto the bed, climbing atop him as she pressed her lips, and her torso, firmly against his own. A growing bulge between the folds of his pink dress told the true princess that, at least as it pertained to her ‘no boys allowed’ plan, Princess White had already been foiled.

“Wait, Star, just for the record: I haven’t agreed. I am still fighting tomorrow!” he protested. “I got us into this whole mess, remember?”

“Oh, really?” Star grinned at him as she cocked her head. “Tell you what, Marco. You show me you can wrestle me here tonight, and I’ll consider letting you fight other princesses,” she joked. “Besides, I got us into this mess first!”

“Wrestle you, Star?” the karate boy raised an eyebrow. The mewman girl grabbed his wrists pushing him down, kissing him fiercely. The look in his eyes told her he got the idea. “Mmm, Star, not to rain on that particular parade, but I don’t think there is any connection between a formal duel and, well, this.”

“Well, I dunno Marco, they both involve some... ‘sword play’“ she wiggled herself atop him suggestively and chuckled.

Marco groaned at her pun, but soon his groans became panting, and acquired a whole different meaning. Star herself felt her own excitement build up. There was something about the whole situation, and their respective costumes, that made her feel so, so, wicked. Tomorrow she would face Snow White, no matter what Marco said, but for now, she herself was going to be the bad princess.

“Star, wrestling doesn’t involve swords...” Marco remarked. Before the princess could finish thinking of a retort, mentioning how much of a spoilsport the ’Safe Kid’ was being, she felt his arms slid from under her hands and grab her own wrists in return. With a quick movement, he flipped her over, and before she knew it the positions were reversed, “... it involves grappling moves.”

From his position straddling her, he bowed and placed his right fist on his left palm. Star was about to protest that that wasn’t wrestling either, but his lips quickly shut up her own. She felt his hands slid around her shoulders, removing the two suspender straps of her costume. He was doing something else with them. Something that Star couldn’t focus on, because his arms kept softly brushing against her mewberty wings, and his hips kept grinding on hers as both their skirts hiked higher and higher up. Soon she could feel his ’sword’ poking her through only the fabric of their underwear.

A moment later, she remembered their playful competition, and moved to pounce Marco back on his back, reversing their positions. Except, it turns out she wasn’t able to do that. In fact, Star discovered, she couldn’t move her arms from behind her at all, even as Marco’s hands let go of them to concentrate on caressing her breasts through the black top of her costume. She gasped and moaned in pleasure, and it took her a second to realize what the boy had done just a moment before. Both her arms were tied against her back using her own suspenders.

“Hey, that’s playing dirty!” she shouted.

“It’s called strategy, Star,” he smiled at her, a smug Princess Marco smile. “So, do I win? Do I get to fight White tomorrow?”

“Sure, sure, Marco,” she groaned. Maybe she would regret giving in so easily later. But what could she do? If nothing else, Marco was resourceful, and if he wanted to fight, then who was she to stop him? She had told him once that she needed a friend, not a hero, perhaps that was true in reverse as well. “Just... well... continue what you were doing just now, alright?”

“Gladly,” Marco remarked.

Star didn’t know if it was just a matter of having significantly more practice, or if the Princess Marco persona made her bestie more confident, even in such a bizarre context, but he seemed so much more sure of himself than usual. She liked it. She liked it a lot. He was not being a cocky asshole like Tom, or suave dancer-trance Marco, he was being her bestie, just, you know, bolder! He roamed his lips along her neck, suckling and kissing. He moved his hands along the edge of her wings, and dipped into her top to trace circles around her nipples.

Star felt herself getting hotter and hotter, and she could feel the boys own excitement without even needing to concentrate. She knew, through their mysterious link, that he found the idea of her being bound and vulnerable just as exciting as she found the idea of him being bold and in control. She could perceive that he indeed felt powerful in pink, and that he was reluctant to do away with either of their costumes. “Just push it aside,” she suggested.

He understood and did as she asked. A hand went in between their skirts, and pushed aside their underwear. Star felt Marco’s cock slide into her through the mess of fabrics and begin to move inside her. She felt an instinct to embrace him as he begun fucking her rhythmically, but was quickly reminded of her immobility by the tight grasp of the leather straps around her wrists. Her brief struggle excited them both even more.

As he picked up pace, their sensations once again blended together. She could feel herself around him as much as himself inside of her, both perspectives becoming one and the same as he rode her towards climax. Realizing she could still move her legs, she lifted them to embrace his, pushing him deeper inside her. Her vision became a series of flashes, half from his perspective, half from hers. She could see both their panting sweating faces as the other saw them, hear their moans and grunts from either side.

A flash of green and she was Marco, feeling rebellious and in control, and at once more like a girl and more like a guy than he had ever felt before. A flash of green and she was Star, getting lost in the sensations, happy to be completely at the mercy of the one person she trusted the most in the whole world, excited to feel him inside her after having feared she would lose him. A flash of green and she was up in the air above the forest of certain death, flying at vertiginous speed towards the center of Mewni.

Before she could analyze that last scene, her mind went blank completely, as the powerful wave of both their orgasms hit her, not quite simultaneously this time, but in quick succession. She felt him pulsating and pumping into her even as she rode a long climax. All the muscles in her body tensed at once, and then became incredibly relaxed. Marco fell by her side and, summoning whatever strength he had left, he undid the knotted straps holding her arms in place. As soon as she could, she turned to hug him.

“Well, Marco, guess it was not the best idea to get you this tired the night before your big fight,” Star observed, conceding the point that started the whole wonderful struggle.

“I’ll be alright, Star. We are still like, what? Four hours away from dawn?! Oh, man...” Marco grimaced. “Well, Star, just promise me what we did just now won’t end up as a song,” he joked.

Star punched him in the arm. “No more songs! Not now, not ever!” she declared. “But, Marco, are you sure you are ok with, well, with all of that?”

“If you are ok with it, Star, then so I am,” Marco shrugged in response. “Although, if you have any other shocking revelations I should be aware of, now would be a great time to bring those up. You know, when there is not an entire kingdom for an audience...”

Star though back to their mysterious link, to the flashes she had just seen. Why had she seen Mewni, and the forest of certain death, of all places? She considered, for a second, to tell Marco about the visions. But that would require mentioning the All-Seeing Eye spell, and that was an explanation she still didn’t want to get into, not now, and hopefully not ever.

“What? Marco, don’t be silly! That was all of it, I swear it, all of the shocking revelations. No more secrets, I promise!” she blurted, after a while.

The boy in the pink dress arched an eyebrow at her, in clear disbelief. She forced a nervous smile.

“You know what, Star, never mind, I’ll learn them when I learn them. I guess that’s the thing about being your best friend, or your boyfriend, it is always going to be a surprise after another, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he smiled a relaxed smile at her. “Let’s sleep now. We have a fairytale dictator to overturn tomorrow.”

----

Tom looked up from the stash of envelopes on his hands, pausing to observe Janna’s focused movements. She sat on the floor of his room, in the lotus position, waving her arms in intricate patterns around the flickering ball of ghostly blue flames that floated in front of her.

She had her eyes closed.

Did that help her see them? The dead souls swarming around them, circling her sitting body as she drew from their power?

The demon prince was sure she could not see them with her eyes open. Humans, as a rule, could not. But, perhaps, she already could sense them in her mind eye. If not, she would likely soon learn to do so.

It wasn’t as if she was consuming souls to power her sorcery, of course. Not even close. The power required to permanently destroy a true soul was enormous, as was the arcane energy liberated in the process. But she was attracting them to her, and sipping away some of the remaining life-force of the long deceased, little by little spinning it into her phantasmal yarn of flames. It figures that the damned girl would have an affinity for the energies of the underworld, rather than those of her own dimension.

He brought his focus back to the letters, as he sat quietly on his sofa, wary of interrupting the apprentice witch. He had in front of him many bills (’To: Tom Lucitor, One Lucitor Palace, #666’), petitions from mortals seeking favors from dark powers (’To: His Grace, Tom Lucitor, Dark Prince Most Unhallowed’), and more junk mail that you could even imagine (’To: Whomever it might reach’). To hell with advertisers! Actually no, that they were all down here was the problem in the first place.

“Tom, catch!” yelled Janna, as she let go of her fiery hex in his general direction, probably seeking to startle him.

The demon smiled a single-fanged smile, and caught the fireball in his hand with ease. He closed his fist around it, holding on to it. He then took a stack of letters with his other hand and slowly burned them into the flame, before extinguishing the blue orb with his palm.

“Cool,” he remarked evenly. “That’s some pretty good progress, Janna.”

“It is way too slow,” she retorted, unconvinced. “Come on, Tom, the other way is faster... and way more enjoyable!”

She gave him a seductive wink, and vulgarly roamed her hands around the curves of her small breasts. The demon prince raised an eyebrow in return.

“Janna, last time we got lucky,” no pun intended. “It was like being a lightning rod. The only reason you didn’t hurt yourself is that you fired off the power as soon as you got it. I am pretty sure you don’t actually want to take a risk like that again.”

He sighed and directed his attention elsewhere, away from the teasing mortal. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a black envelope, labeled simply ’To: Tom, From: Sam’. A familiar feeling of dread nested itself in the back of the demon prince’s skull. Despite the simple informal addressing, the letter was sealed in blood red wax, displaying the flaming blade and pentagram symbol that the young prince knew only too well.

“So,” Janna’s words took him out of his contemplation, “you are saying you are going to have me here for three days and not fuck me, Tom?” She mock-pouted.

“I said no such thing,” he grinned, devilishly. “It’s just that we might have to exercise a bit more self-control than that night. I am sure we will find ways to enjoy ourselves, without me going full agro every time,” he teased her back. “Speaking of which, I can’t believe your parents let you stay in here for three days! I mean it. I literally didn’t believe you when you told me they were ok with this, Janna.”

“Eh, fair enough. I told them I was going to be staying with Ingrid,” she shrugged. “Do you really care?”

“Lying is not nice, Janna,” he noted, with a sarcastic smirk.

He was neither surprised, nor disappointed, of course. The human girl was a rebel, and that’s probably a big part of why he enjoyed being with her. As soon as the thought was formed, he realized, to his annoyance, that it meant he had a type.

“Oh, right, like I have never lied to my parents before,” she chuckled. “Besides, what am I going to tell them? That I plan to spend the entire weekend in bed with the devil?”

The devil, eh? Tom’s eyes fell back into the black envelope.

It wasn’t just black. It was dark enough that it sucked in the light around it, permanently casting a bubble of shadows on itself even as he waved it closer to the candle flame. Chances were, it would not burn either, not to worldly fire. Knowing Sam, it was made of something like the darkness from the deepest depths of creation. Or maybe from a piece of the fabric of the firmament, taken before the first stars were placed there. Janna thought she was getting in bed with the devil by dating him. She didn’t know what the literal hell she was talking about.

“Tom, what’s that?” she startled him. In his contemplation, he didn’t realize when she had gotten up and walked towards him. Now she was looking right over his shoulder. “Letter from an old girlfriend?”

He scoffed at that. As far as he cared to count, his only ex-girlfriend proper was Star, and they weren’t exactly in speaking terms these days. He supposed there was one other person who might qualify, if he was using the term ‘girlfriend’ very loosely. One who could maybe send light-devouring black letters of her own. Between her and Sam, Tom was not sure who he preferred dealing with, to be honest. Of course, objectively speaking, the missive’s actual sender was by far the more dangerous of the two.

“From an old friend of the family. A party invitation, I think,” he added, waving his hand dismissively. It probably was. One that Tom planned to decline.

Blood Moon Balls were one thing, but Sam’s little soirees always turned out way more intense than he found, well, tolerable, really.

----

Marco woke up to an intermittent knocking sound.

He slowly opened his groggy eyes to see an unfamiliar, yet sumptuous, bed canopy above him. The mattress felt incredibly soft, fine silk sheets too, and the room had just a hint of the perfume of pine-wood that rose up with the morning.

Oh, right, St. Olga’s!

Heinous might have been a horrible principal, but she was an amazing interior decorator.

Marco heard knocking once more, and tried to get up to answer the door. Unfortunately, something was pressing against his chin: Star’s... foot?

Man, he had expected to wake up to her embracing him, or maybe vice versa. Instead, she lay splayed all around him, snoring loudly as she hugged a pillow at the base of the bed. Her left foot was basically hitting him in the face, while the other leg had somehow monopolized the blanket away from both of them. He smiled. He should really have known better.

“Marco? Star?” he heard Jackie’s voice, accompanying another set of knocks. “You two decent?”

To his surprise, the knocks came from the opposite end of the room he would have expected, away from the door. He rushed up, adjusted his ponytail and his dress. Oh man, he could do with a shower right now. But never mind that! He hurried up to the window, opened the curtains, and flipped the lock. Jackie pushed the left panel open and slid in a swift parkour movement. Outside, the light of dawn was barely visible in the horizon, but a thick fog seemed to rise with the morning.

“Jackie, what are you doing out there?” Marco asked, surprised. “Wait! We are on a third floor! You could have hurt yourself!”

“Please, Marco,” Jackie snorted, “with the amount of ledges, gargoyles, and random protrusions this old place’s got, Ferguson could have climbed between the rooms, probably while carrying miss Skullnick or something,” she observed, playing it off.

“Oh, hey Jackie!” Star, suddenly wide awake and chirp as a morning dove, greeted the other girl. “But, um, if you could have gone out of your room through the window at any time, why not come here last night?”

Jackie leaned against the wall. “Well, it seemed like you had some stuff to work out on your own last night. I didn’t want to intrude,” she remarked. “By the looks of it, I’d said you did work it out?” She chuckled.

Marco blushed. Had Jackie heard them too? After all, if she had been right inside the next room...

Star and him hadn’t precisely been discreet. Then again, what if anyone else heard them? Was Princess Marco about to be outed to the princesses of St. O’s as a raging lesbian?

“Aww, Jackie. Yeah, we kind of did. Thanks!” Star’s voice interrupted Marco’s mental tangent. “Ok, anyhow, enough chit-chat, we have a tyrant to fight!”

“Oh, right,” Marco grumbled. He felt so tired after last night. It was one thing to discuss morning duels in the abstract, a different one to wake up at the crack of dawn to fight a psychopathic rebel princess. Why did nobody ever schedule this damn things for mid-afternoon?

“I mean, if you are sure you are up for it, Marco?” Star asked, seeming to notice her best friend’s torpor. “If not, you know I can always tag in. Not that I don’t trust your fighting prowess if you still want to take White on yourself, though...”

“Wait,” Jackie asked, inquisitively, “you mean it doesn’t have to be Marco that fights her?”

“No,” Star responded proudly, “Under the fifth trans-dimensional code of chivalry and gallant conduct, on which Mewni’s own rules are based, any party to a trial by combat might designate a proxy, who may fight on their stead, if willing.” She recited, with surprising eloquence, given what Marco knew about her grades.

“Ok, then I’ll do it!” Jackie offered, almost excitedly.

“What? No!” Marco protested. No way he was going to let either of them fight his battles. “I mean, ok, I am a bit tired right now. But nothing that the adrenaline won’t solve. I have been in morning fights before at the dojo and...”

“Marco,” Jackie stopped him with a hand raised. “It is not just that I am the most well rested of the three of us, which I am. It is also that I want to do this. To take on the adventure head on, like you two do, not just being here for the ride, ok?”

“I am not sure, Jackie,” Star interjected. “Duels are pretty serious business. There is no way to back down once the fight starts, or get outside help without breaking the rules. And, besides, that Princess White seems pretty vicious. I think is better if you let me or Marco handle this one, and we can definitely spot you on a simpler first time adventure, like punching monsters, or maybe even a small hydra! You know, baby steps...”

“I see,” Jackie appeared to ponder. Marco knew that look. “So, Star, question: what kind of weapons are permitted in a duel?”

“Weeell,” the princess started, “the challenged party picks, usually, and that would be White in this case, I think. I am not sure.”

“Ok, and White was carrying a sword last night,” Jackie observed, logically, “Star, Marco, do either of you know how to fight with a sword?”

Marco groaned. Of course Jackie knew the answer already.

“Well, not very well,” Star conceded, “I can swing around a bunch of weapons, but I usually use my wand and, before I got it, I mostly punched stuff.”

“Well, I have four years of fencing lessons as a kid, and a couple of weeks as a refresher, Star,” Jackie noted. “Not going to say I am a master duelist, but out of the three of us, I am still our best sword fighter.”

“Jackie, fencing is not the same as dueling, and you are not as, well, resistant, as I would be,” Star remarked, apparently trying her best to be polite about the differences between human and mewman fortitude and constitution. “Unless... Wait! Jackie, this could actually work!”

“What could work?” Marco asked, worried about Star sudden swing towards the other girl’s case.

“Well, traditionally, the Queen of Mewnie would use the Royal Magic Wand to empower the kingdom’s soldiers,” she explained. “To fight against the evil monster hordes and stuff... except they weren’t actually always evil, but that’s another story and well...”

“Wait,” Jackie interrupted. “You mean the whole Mewnipendance Day stuff? The huge armor suits and weapons?”

“Yes!” Star shouted excitedly. “Except, I think I can make those way more discreet at this point. Unpierceable magic shield over your whole body, magically empowered strength and reflexes, enchanted sword,” she listed with her fingers. “You won’t be in any risk at all! White won’t know what hit her, and you get your first taste of ad-ven-ture! Ok, let’s do this Jackie!”

“I dunno, Star,” Jackie remarked, “isn’t that kinda cheating?”

“Not really,” Star retorted. “The rules are that I can’t intervene during the duel, and you can only bring a sword as weapon. Magic cast before duels is actually pretty common... I think.”

“Fair enough,” Jackie shrugged. “Ok, buff me up, Butterfly!”

“Wait a second!” Marco shouted, angrily. “I didn’t say I would let Jackie fight for me. The whole magic empowering stuff is fine by me, but I should be the one to fight!”

“Why?” Jackie asked, raising an eyebrow, and Marco knew he wasn’t winning this one either. But he had to try.

“Because she challenged me!”

“And you can pick a proxy, so pick me.”

“But I got us into this in the first place!”

“No, that would be Horse Head.”

“But I am the...”

“... guy?” Jackie completed his sentence. She, in her princely outfit, looked up and down at Princess Marco, her chin resting on a gloved hand. “Marco, first, that’s kinda sexist. Two, if that’s the standard, then all the more reason I should be the one defending the honor of my princess, no?”

Marco had no retort, none that could help him win the argument.

“Come on, dude,” Jackie smiled at him. “I can do this. I want to do this. I am the best suited one, and with Star’s magic it should be a piece of cake. Trust me, ok?”

----

A knock on her door woke up Queen Moon. Tiredly, she opened her eyes, noticing that no light of dawn filtered yet through the curtains. She rose to her feet, closed her nightgown and opened the door just enough to see who it was that woke her up at this time. “River, dear? Since when do you knock on your own room?”

“Well darling,” the king rubbed the back of his head nervously. “It’s just, well, it’s been a while since you two... I just thought I’d give you space for the night.”

Moon the Undaunted blushed at her husband’s comment, and at the recollections of the night before, which suddenly flooded her drowsy memory. Then, from behind her, came a yawn, followed by a chuckle. “Mightily appreciated, King River,” quipped Hekapoo, from inside the bed.

“Sorry, dear,” Moon apologized, “I know this is all terribly unfair to you...”

“Nonsense,” her husband cut her off. “Fair or unfair doesn’t come into it, I knew of you two back when I married you, and I am rather fond of old Hekapoo anyways. Besides, I relish a good night of independence!”

“I... I will make it up to you, River, I promise,” Moon said with a smile.

“You more than make it up, darling, just by being you,” the king commented.

“You two are truly a fountain of sap,” groaned the sorceress. “But, if you have waited till now, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, River, why not wait until the morning? Or maybe noon?”

“Actually,” the king coughed. “Moon, I am sorry to wake you but, it seems like you are required. The... well, the songstrel,” he nearly spat the word. “He says he needs to see you, and that is urgent. The chap seemed rather terrified too. I swear I didn’t even get to rough him up myself!”

Queen Moon simply nodded in acknowledgement. Moments later she was fully dressed and walking down the stairs beside her husband. At the bottom of those, in the Mewni royal throne room, were a dozen or so guards and a stunned, half-panicking, Ruberiot.

“Queen Moon! My queen! I came to warn you, there is a dark and terrible storm brewing over the entire kingdom!” he shouted, as soon as he saw her. Truly, he was the last of her subjects Moon Butterfly wished to speak with right now, specially after the night’s shameful performance!

“After that song of yours, it doesn’t surprise me people are in a bad mood,” she commented evenhandedly. Then, doing her best to conceal her boiling anger, letting only a hint of polite disapproval filter through, she added, “to tell the truth, I am not fully pleased with it myself, master songstrel.”

“No, my queen. You don’t understand,” Ruberiot shook his head and pointed terrified at the large balcony podium. “I am not being poetic. I mean a literal dark and terrible storm!”

“On June? In Mewni?” the queen asked puzzled, but directed her view out into the night all the same.

She saw indeed a starless sky, covered by dark thunderstorm clouds. The lightning that crisscrossed them, however, was of a most unnatural emerald color.

Before she could figure out an appropriate comment, a bright flash exploded at the center of the storm, and a green fiery meteor sprung forth from above the sky. It flew directly towards the royal palace, leaving an ominous hole on the clouds in its wake. Moon, well acquainted with the significance of certain magical phenomena, couldn’t help but notice that even the sky behind the clouds was empty of any of the usual celestial bodies of the night. “River, get my armor, and wake Hekapoo! Guards, sound the alarm!”

The meteor impacted the castle balcony, with surprisingly little effect for its size, other than a blinding viridescent flash and a splashing of emerald fire. The queen knew well enough not to mistake that for a good sign.

As Moon’s eyes adjusted to the sudden illumination, she thought she could see the outline of a woman’s body rise through the green flames that begun to burn on the balcony floor.

“Who is there? In the name of Moon the Undaunted, Queen of Mewni, identify yourself!” she shouted at the intruder.

The inhuman voice that came back through the glass window chilled her to the bone.

“I am love, all-conquering”

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: To Keep the Peace, We Will Play the Game

To keep the peace, we will play the game
Royal secret from royal shame
- The Songstrell Ruberiot (original continuity)

”I will hunt down the remains of the monster army, and scatter them, without country or leadership,” had spoken Moon the Undaunted. Moon the Lizard-vanquisher. Moon the Mighty Warrior Queen of Mewni. Moon the God-damned Fool!

Turns out that, unlike breaking The General’s siege in the first place, hunting down a disbanding army of various non-human monsters involved a lot less regal proclamations and brave last stands than one might imagine. What it did involve, however, were way too many months-long tracking expeditions through the most recondite wastelands that Mewni and the surrounding lands had to offer: scorching desert after damned scorching desert, barren tundra after miserable barren tundra, icky swamp after bloody icky swamp! They were lizards, for Selena’s sake! Of course they all went into hiding in swamps. No, not near swamps, or around swamps, in them! As in: inside the yucky leech-infested waters. And where they hid, Moon the Undaunted, Queen of Mewni, had to follow.

It was not like she could just send the royal knights, either, and use her time to focus on administering and rebuilding her kingdom. Even though she certainly had a better brain for that than half of the damned royal council. Her best friend, and ambiguous sweetheart, River, stayed on her behalf, as the queen’s chosen representative. He did so, even though he hated the bureaucracy as much as she welcomed it, and would have been much happier than her pursuing Toffee’s former goons across the land.

But, no, young Queen Moon had to go on every single hunt herself, which meant leaving someone she trusted behind. The lizards did not run from the knights of Mewni, and they certainly did not run from River Johansen, they ran from her! A seventeen year old awkward girl in ill fitting plate armor, who could barely drag around her two longswords, much less swing them at them with any degree of precision. But she had the magic wand, and she had the spell that could kill them permanently; the power which would break that which couldn’t be broken. Never mind that she did not plan to use Eclipsa’s dark powers ever again in her life. As long as the monsters didn’t know that, she could make them flee by her mere presence.

She had to admit that she sometimes enjoyed her newly found reputation as a powerful warrior and no-nonsense queen. She certainly liked that more than the ‘perfect little princess’ facade she had been forced to take on all those years prior. But either was as much a fiction as the other and, in the end, the only thing she was, behind it all, was Moon. Not Queen Moon of Mewni. Not Moon the Undaunted. Just, you know, Moon.

Right now, back at her castle after five weeks out in the wilderness, just-Moon needed a bath.

“Oh, My Queen, welcome back,” a mischievous voice greeted her from the ledge of a balcony, as she climbed the stairway up the tower to her royal bed, and bath, chambers. The inter-dimensional sorceress looked at her with both overt mockery and genuine delight to see her back.

“Hekapoo,” Moon replied evenly. “I suppose I could say the same. Didn’t know you were in Mewni.”

“Well, you know, My Queen...” She stressed and dragged out the title to the point of ridicule, never mind the fact that Hekapoo was one of the few people in Moon’s life who were most definitely not among her subjects. She had been doing that ever since Moon defeated Toffee, way over two years ago now. Then again, they didn’t cross paths so often after that. They were both rather busy people these days. “I have had my own pest control problems to deal with, dimension hopping abominations and the like. Very dull stuff. How goes, well, doing your job? I heard you are, how shall I put it? ...literally swamped with work.”

Moon suppressed the urge to groan.

“It goes: tiring, wet, and rather stinky,” the mewman counted with her fingers. “So, while I am glad you are deigning to honor us with your always charming presence and sense of wit, Hekapoo, I do really have to take a shower now.”

“Of course, My Queen,” the council member bowed, way too deeply for it to be sincere. “Let me know if you need any, well, assistance.”

“Assistance with what?” she responded without thinking. “Showering?”

She suddenly realized what she was saying, and felt the embarrassment creep up to her cheeks. She hoped the mud and dirt in her face would conceal her blush. What the hell had she just said? She looked at Hekapoo, who shrugged. Wait, had the sorceress actually been proposing, no... no way! It couldn’t be.

Moon had to admit that she enjoyed her rare verbal sparing with the Forger of Scissors more than a little. She liked River, a lot, no change on that count. But one of the things that had made him stand out, was that he believed in her when no one else would. Now they all believed in her, and Hekapoo was the one who challenged her, when no one else dared. The one person undaunted by Moon the Undaunted. The only one, well, other than Moon herself, secretly poking fun at the fiction of the great warrior queen.

Hekapoo was also the one person that could respect her royal magic, but also understand its limits. Alright, the only person that wasn’t her great-great-great-grandma encased in ice, a literal wizened old goat, a giant cosmic entity taking calls through a crystal ball, or a magical elf living inside a book. None of them counted. Not, you know, in that way. In the way in which Hekapoo’s hips moved and drew Moon’s furtive eyes to the sorceress backside every time she left the room. The way she licked her lips, and the edge of her small fangs, with slow expert motions. The way in which her smile promised wicked things to the young queen if she only ever took her up on her ever more blatant innuendos.

Dammit, Moon had thought not being able to decide between war and peace, or between which boy she liked, was hard enough. Now it turned out that winning the war was so much easier than maintaining the peace, and she didn’t even know if she liked boys or girls in the first place!

“Well, My Queen, as your humble advisor, I am glad to offer my assistance, with whatever you might desire...” Hekapoo finally replied, after letting her bright yellow eyes linger over the monarch body for a while, as she considered the question.

Moon swallowed, hard.

The sorceress had been teasing her for a while, or so she had thought, never quite certain if it was only her own overactive imagination. There was no mistaking this offer, though. It was a straight line if she’d ever heard one. The older woman was literally offering to join the young queen in the shower!

“Eh... I... I mean...” she stammered. “Look, Hekapoo, I... you are... it’s not that I don’t... Sorry! Going to shower now. Talk to you later!”

Young queen Moon raced up the stairs, leaving behind an unsurprised, even grinning, Hekapoo. She ran to her room, through the back door of her bedchamber, into the royal bath. Moments later she was alone, laying inside the tub, letting the hot water embrace her, reminding her of the heat that the fiery sorceress herself radiated, and feeling... quite daunted.

----

“I am love, all-conquering”

The words were clearly nonsense, but the cold eldritch tone with which the emerald apparition spoke them rendered them a clear threat. Moon closed her eyes for just an instant, taking a moment to collect all that she was: queen, mother, warrior, mage, wife, lover, protector. She dipped down and summoned the magic around her into a powerful shielding bubble.

Not a moment too soon. The being from the meteor raised a diaphanous hand, and the sound of thunder followed. The closed glass doors that led to the ceremonial balcony shattered into a million pieces, each becoming a fast and deadly projectile, flung towards her, the songstrel, and her royal guards. The barrier spell held back the shards, protecting Moon and her subjects. All around them, tapestries, furniture, and even the stone walls themselves were ravaged by the ferocious crystal hailstorm.

The green fiery body floated in, slowly gliding behind the glass barrage. As it left the conflagration outside, its outline became more and more clear. It was made entirely of ghostly green flames, with two obvious exceptions: its head was an ornate silver mask fixed in an unsettlingly calm rictus, and its arms ended in two silvery gauntlets of similarly intricate design.

With reflexes honed through a lifetime of experience, Moon moved to counterattack. She raised her left hand and five rays of bright blue light emerged, one from each of her fingers, crisscrossing in mid air and taking separate paths to converge on the creature’s position, giving it no way to escape or avoid the hit. They all connected. A deafening brassy sound ringed inside Moon’s head, and a sharp jolt of pain shot through her arm. It fell, numb and useless, to her side.

Moon had experienced magic resonance before, but never like this. Whatever the being was, it was not just magical in nature, it was made of magic itself. Worse than that, it was magical energy so antithetical to her own, that a direct hit with her spells resulted in catastrophic levels of backslash. Which meant... “Oh, no!”

The creature pointed at the glimmering blue bubble shield around her and the mewman soldiers. Suddenly, a green tint began spreading through the spell. A second later, the bubble popped. No, not popped. It exploded. It threw the queen of Mewni back a dozen paces, slamming her against the throne room’s back wall. She felt dizzy and disoriented.

“Protect the queen!” the guards shouted. They charged at the apparition, while Ruberiot ran for cover under a chair.

They fought valiantly, and briefly, and so regrettably pointlessly. They never stood a chance. Some managed to hit the assailant with their weapons, while it reached out to gently tap the rest with the fingers of its gloves. In both cases, the final effect was exactly the same: the merest contact between them and the apparition sent each knight flying through the air with a blinding flash. They convulsed for a while after hitting the ground, as if struck by a lightning. Whether they were in agony then, or dead before they even landed, was anyone’s guess. What was certain is that, once the spasms stopped, the brave men would never move again.

“W... what do you want?” Moon asked.

The creature turned its expressionless mask towards her. Then, by way of a response, it raised a silvery hand and pointed it at her chest. Arcs of green arcane power begun discharging all around in the magically saturated air. Moon closed her eyes, and tried desperately to summon all that she was once more, hoping against hope it would be enough.

----

“You summoned me, My Queen,” the fiery sorceress asked sardonically, as she walked into the Mewni council room.

At the end of the table, Moon sat regally. She wore her battle armor, clean and shinny this time around. No swords to be seen. Her wand, the true symbol of her power, laid in front of her on the table. As Hekapoo arrived, the young monarch made a show of moving the wand from her left to her right side, as if re-arranging a piece of tableware.

“Yes, Hekapoo,” Moon spoke, in full formal register. “I’d like to,” she paused, “conduct negotiations.”

“Negotiations? In the middle of the night?” Hekapoo pointed out to the starlit sky through the window, then at the empty seats through the council table. What was the kid’s game. Whatever it was, it was rather unusual of her, which made it all the more tempting for her to play along. “Between Mewni and who? I don’t really do ruling stuff, and you know I can’t speak for the high commission on my own. So, who am I representing, then?”

“Yourself,” the beautiful royal brat declared. “And I shall represent primarily my own interest, not that of Mewni,” she clarified. “So, Hekapoo, I’d like you to elaborate as to the nature of the offer you made to me two months ago?”

The sorceress racked her brain to figure out whatever the young queen might be referencing. Two months was a long while, particularly if you spent over a hundred years of it on a dimension where time simply ran differently. But Hekapoo had impeccable memory, and, to be absolutely truthful, she had been thinking about the Queen of Mewni far more than she did about most people, during that vast time.

“Oh!” she recalled, with a grin. So that was what this was about? This should prove rather amusing. “I offered to help her royal highness take a bath, if I recall correctly.”

“Funny thing that,” Moon spoke. Her tone was haughty and controlled, but Hekapoo could see her trembling ever so slightly. It made her own spine shiver in anticipation. “I recall water is not generally to your liking, Hekapoo. So, why would you propose such a thing?”

“Simple, My Queen,” she dragged her tongue over the uttered title, as she finally took a seat, right atop the table, on the side opposite of Moon. “It is the other factor in that scenario that would be to my liking.”

“Myself,” Moon stated, plainly, then raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

Hekapoo dragged a hand over the mahogany wood, pushing aside maps and notes, causing them to fall to the floor. “There are only a few people, of the vast many I meet in my line of work, whom I find, well... interesting. Lately, that includes you. My. Queen.” She fixed her own eyes on those of the monarch of Mewni.

It was no lie, there were only so many mortals that the Forger of Scissors didn’t come to find absolutely lame, or downright soporific, after mere minutes of interaction. When such a rare person presented himself or herself, it couldn’t but pique her interest. It had been literally millennia, in her own subjective time, since she had met someone quite like Moon: at once so innocent and so strong, hard to predict, indomitable. Undaunted they called her and, however much she made fun of it, she had to agree the title fit.

“Shall I assume, from this little ambush of yours, that you find me interesting as well?” the sorceress asked, taking the offensive.

“What if I do?” was Moon’s whole response.

“Then my offer... remains quite open,” Hekapoo stated, running a finger through her own leg.

“As I said,” the younger woman responded, in a surprisingly controlled tone. “We are conducting negotiations. I would hardly be a wise ruler if I agreed to an offer I didn’t understand, would I? What exactly are you proposing?”

The sorceress was confused. As far as she was concerned, she was being exceedingly clear.

“Let me cut to the chase, Hekapoo,” Moon interrupted her thoughts. “I am interested. Curious might be the better description. But there is another one I am interested in as well. He and I are not betrothed, and we don’t owe each other anything right now. But, longer term, I think it is only natural that I pick him, if he would have me. If I take you on your offer, Hekapoo, then I can’t promise you I will be with you long term, and I can’t even promise you I will acknowledge it to the outside world. As a queen, I have to do what’s right for Mewni. That also means, that if this would in any way disturb my relations with the Magic High Commission, in a professional capacity, then I must decline...”

Hekapoo laughed raucously, almost rolling on the table at Moon’s long monologue. So that was her concern? That was what troubled Queen Moon the Undaunted about her little offer? As the Forger of Scissors began punching the table in a fit of hysterics, Moon seemed shocked, almost offended. It had probably taken her a good long while to come up with that little speech in her head. She was sweet, and naive, and oh so young and tender. Hekapoo felt herself blush. Doing her best to keep a good thing going, she forced herself to calm down from her guffawing.

“Moon, I have been around longer than you can possibly conceive,” she explained. “You would not be able to promise me the ‘long term’ even if you gave me your whole life, and, more to the point, I am definitely not asking you to do so! You have your one - the Johansen boy, right? - I have a half-dozen right now, give or take, across as many dimensions. And I assure you, I can be professional when needed too. You are not even the first Queen of Mewni I have had this dance with. Can you handle that?”

“I can,” she replied simply, and the sorceress believed her easily, despite her young age. “How about my last request? This is between the two of us, no one else must know.”

Hekapoo wasn’t quite sure why that would be such a big deal. Then again, the internal affairs of Mewnian politics were, more often than not, too tedious for her to inform herself on them any more than was absolutely necessary. “Sure, whatever.”

“Then,” Moon smiled, with transparently forced confidence, “I believe we have reached acceptable terms.”

The sorceress licked her lips, and lazily stretched herself over the table, closing the distance between herself and the Butterfly child (and she’d be a child to her, even if she were a hundred rather than just seventeen). As she did, the forger leaned forward, showing the goods to Moon, through the low cut of her dress.

“So... ehm... now what?” the queen spoke, suddenly sounding very unsure. So much power, so much control, and yet so inexperienced. Deflowering her was going to be the most fun thing she did in ages, Hekapoo thought to herself.

“Now you shut up, Your Majesty,” she replied, “and you let me give you what you bargained so hard for.”

She leaned forward and kissed the queen’s closed lips, enjoying the way she tensed in nervous anticipation. Hekapoo inhaled the scent of the young ruler. Apparently the song was right, she did smell of lavender. But she also smelled of sweat, and determination, and over two years of pent up desire. Moon Butterfly slowly opened her lips to receive Hekapoo’s proving tongue. Soon after surrendering, she was meeting it hungrily with her own.

The forger ran a hand slowly up the length of the queen’s arm. It was indeed silky soft as well. Despite the heat she knew her own skin radiated, her touch seemed to leave gossebumps wherever it trod. Her pointy ears could hear the beating of the girl’s heart, still so pure, and yet so eager.

As their first kiss ended, they each removed other’s crown.

Carefully, Hekapoo began removing the other girl’s loose-fitting armor, piece by piece. It was harder work than most any garment, and even the sorceress could not easily break it apart, had she tried, for the armor was of course magical in nature. It frustrated her at every step, increasing her own sense of urgency. For a second she wondered if Moon had planned it so. But it couldn’t be so. The young queen was too inexperienced in these matters to plan a trick like that. Wasn’t she?

Moon ran her fingers through Hekapoo’s long hair, carefully avoiding the crackling flame, as the forger worked to unburden the queen of her steel breastplate. Eventually, she succeeded, revealing a blue cotton blouse. It rose up, just barely, with the shape of the ruler’s small breasts. She ran two white hands over them, savoring the tiny gasp which that action elicited from the mewman sovereign.

“Anyone played with them before?” the forger quipped. “Other than yourself?” she teased.

“None of your, ah, business, H-poo,” Moon retorted.

The sorceress simply took the opportunity to sneak her hands under the blouse, to tease them directly, with soft calculated pinches. However, as she began to lift the fabric, the queen interrupted her, “Wait, I want to see yours first...”

“As you command, My Queen,” Hekapoo quipped, and gladly pulled down her top, letting her, quite significant, if she could say so herself, assets, out into the night air. To her surprise, Moon moved quickly, and soon she felt the mewman’s lips close around her left breast. She suckled like a babe, with hungry abandon, and it did things for Hekapoo she didn’t think anything did for her anymore. The young queen alternated circling with her tongue and literally sucking on them, and she eventually begun switching from one breast to the other. What she lacked in technique she more than made up in enthusiasm. It also didn’t hurt that the Forger of Scissors found the whole situation unbelievably erotic.

“Queen Moon,” she eventually interrupted her new lover, “lie on the table.” she commanded.

The most powerful woman in all of Mewnie did exactly as she asked.

It took agonizing minutes to remove the lower half of the royal battle armor but, after some effort, Hekapoo had her price. She ran her hands along the length of the queen’s legs, once and again, making her whimper, then she ran her tongue over the same path.

“Hekapoo, please,” Moon begged. The vulnerable yet desirous tone almost sent the older woman over the edge from just the sound of it.

“Please what, My Queen?” she teased her one final time.

“Please... lick me... you know, there,” the mewman whimpered as she parted her legs. The armor in her words and actions as discarded as that which used to cover her body.

“As you command, My Queen,” Hekapoo replied.

She kissed Moon’s other lips and rolled her tongue over the sides and length of her opening. Gently at first, she drew the girl’s arousal, until the always composed Moon was thrashing around, yelping softly as she bit her own hand, and pushing herself pleadingly onto the sorceress face. When it seemed like the mewman couldn’t take more of her slow torture, she began picking up the pace, running her tongue in circles around the mewman’s most private nub, gently sucking into it. She settled into a much faster rhythm soon, and then stayed there, as the queen of Mewnie trembled and broke into loud lustful moans. Her hands grasped at the important papers in the table and crumpled them beyond recognition, her legs flailed and kicked down a globe and her own royal wand. She came violently, sweetly, and gloriously, under the forger’s careful ministrations.

Another day, not far from that one in fact, and many more times after that, the young queen would repay the favor. But, for now, the fiery woman was quite content with this conclusion. She had finally gotten through all the walls of Moon the Undaunted.

“Ah... ah...,” Moon breathed heavily. She was almost as red as the sorceress hair. “You don’t think... do you think... anyone heard that?”

“Probably,” Hekapoo replied. “But hey, I kept my end of the bargain. I was discreet. Not my problem if you were not... My Queen.”

----

“Moon!” Hekapoo shouted horrified as her portal opened right in the middle of Mewni’s throne room.

She spotted the queen immediately. She was laying on the floor, her eyes closed. The powerful mewman looked resigned and defeated, as a humanoid shape made of emerald blazes raised a hand ominously towards her prone body. The sorceress felt, more than saw, the devastating magical force building up within the apparition. No way to reach Moon in time, no way to block the attack even if she did, none except...

With swift movements, Hekapoo broke her own dimensional scissors into two separate blades, and with each half she cut a distinct portal through the fabric of space: one to her left and one to her right, facing each other. The far end of the first portal opened between Moon and her opponent, whereas the second portal connected only with the dark void between the stars, in some dimension far away from this. Once both portals were open, Hekapoo jumped back.

It was not a second too soon.

A huge blast of green flames emerged from the appendage of the woman-shaped conflagration. It was caught, just in time, by the far end of her first portal, the one which the sorceress had placed between the creature and Moon. The blast then emerged in the left side of the two consecutive openings that laid before the Forger of Scissors. The flames flew straight into the right-side portal, disappearing through it, flowing harmlessly into the void. And yet, Hekapoo could sense a tremor as the magics passed through her chained gateways, as if reality itself shook as the malignant spell was forced through its walls.

An expressionless silver mask turned towards her, and, fortunately, away from Moon. The abomination then began floating, slowly, in her direction.

“That’s right, come at me, you big nasty candle!” It was something someone had once said to her, but, the sorceress felt, it applied even more so to this monstrosity.

All around herself, she began summoning her clones, until a veritable army stood ready to oppose the deadly intruder. They lunged forward as one, for that was what they were. Each of them wielded the divided scissors, as if they were a pair of daggers.

She wasn’t sure if any normal blade, or any lesser spell, could even hurt the fiery being. The scissors, however, would not only cut their target’s body, but also the space itself underneath it. If need be, the Hekapoos would rip the very fabric of the dimension to shreds, right from under this phantasm’s flaming form. They would do that and more to protect Moon. Her friend. Her lover. Her queen.

The damned thing avoided every hit. Moving as fast as lightning itself - perhaps literally so, for it was a being of light and flame - it avoided each and every one of her cuts.

Where she missed, where the blades hit the empty air, miniature portals to nowhere would open up. The sorceress would then close them with her mind, her next strike fast enough that no mewman eye could keep track of the portals forming and disappearing in the wake of her weapons.

Her many clones slashed at the very foundations of space from every direction and every angle. Yet not a single one of them caught the incorporeal being. In the back of her mind, the sorceress imagined she could hear a laugh, as the expressionless mask stared back at her in contempt.

Hekapoo felt a pair of metallic fingers against her chest. The light physical impact was followed by an overwhelming magical current.

It consumed her body, burning her insides to ashes, and extinguishing the flame that was her life. She felt herself die, again and again, as the creature popped her clones like soap bubbles.

The agony of a dozen excruciatingly painful deaths was enough to paralyze her remaining selves, to cloud her thoughts, to make her unable to coordinate her one-woman assault force. Twice a dozen Hekapoos fell to the ground in unbearable agony.

----

“Thank you, Lekmet, Romulus, for your eloquent words. Mewni will of course support the Magic High Commission’s edict on this matter,” Moon proclaimed, with a nod.

It had been almost four years since she assumed the throne of Mewni, almost four years since she fought Toffee and became Moon the Undaunted. In that time, she had grown to be respected not only as a military leader, but also as one of the most competent administrators the kingdom had ever seen. Under her reign, Mewnie had grown more prosperous than it had been in over a century, at least for the mewmans, if not for the monsters. Slowly, she had gained the respect of all members of the high commission as well.

“Hekapoo, may we speak in private?” Moon asked, as the members of the commission begun making motions to leave.

“Of course, Queen Moon,” the sorceress replied, with a polite business-like nod. But, as soon as the last of their peers was out of sight, her expression turned into a knowing smirk. “Or should I say, My Queen?”

“Hekapoo... I am afraid we do have to talk, for real this time,” the mewman continued, somberly. She avoided the other woman’s eyes, knowing that, if she saw them, she might not be able to continue. Instead, she looked out through the window.

“Really?” the sorceress asked, teasingly. “We do? I thought you just wanted to recreate our first time, Moon. Do you remember? It was right here.”

The forger ran a finger suggestively through the surface of the council room’s table. In the last two years, the two had met occasionally, as their incredibly demanding lives allowed. They had joined one another in the queen’s chambers, out in the forest, across dimensions, and even in the long promised royal bath. They had never once revisited this room, except for official business. Yet, for many months after their first encounter, Moon always felt a perverse pleasure during long and boring debates around this table, recalling the much more exciting activities it had once witnessed.

“Hekapoo,” the queen spoke in a quiet, tentative tone, one she rarely ever used anymore. She had become used to being sure about so much, yet now was so terribly unsure. Not of her decision, but of its consequences, and her own ability to follow through with them. “I am marrying River before the summer solstice.”

The sorceress blinked, and she looked perplexed for a second, hurt even. But in a moment that face was replaced by a soft smile, one Moon rarely saw in the forger’s face. Not her usual smirk, and not the fake polite smile of the full officer of the Magic High Commission, but a genuine, if bittersweet, smile.

“He is an excellent choice, Moon,” Hekapoo agreed. “He will be a good husband for you, and a good king for Mewni.”

“Yes, thank you,” Moon agreed. “But, well, you realize this means we can’t continue... you know?”

“Yeah, no big deal, a brief fling for me, either way,” the sorceress replied, but the queen could notice the slight tremor in her arm. “Did he know, though?”

“Yes,” the mewman added, “he’s known for a long time now.”

“And I assume he asked for us to stop?!” Hekapoo sounded irritated, like she considered it rude for River to demand his own future wife to be loyal to him.

“No, Hekapoo, he didn’t... but, I need to do what’s good for the kingdom, and what’s fair to him,” Moon retorted. “It is my decision, not his. For what is worth, I am sorry...”

“Do you love him?”

“As much as I have ever loved anyone in my life,” Moon admitted, truthfully. But she kept to herself the rest of her thought: ‘just as much as I love you’.

----

Moon saw the bodies of her lover and friend collapse to the floor. The sight was enough to pull her back into her senses, and then a familiar voice drew her back into the fray.

“Darling, catch!” shouted River, as he threw her two swords at her, and ran down the stairs, unsheathing his own weapon. She knew he was not prepared for this fight, just as well as she knew she could never dissuade him from fighting alongside her.

Moon closed her eyes, and dipped down into her own being, summoning forth all her will to protect them all: her husband, her lover, her subjects. Radiant butterfly wings and four extra arms sprouted from her torso. She caught both the swords with the upper pair. The middle arm on her left side, however, still dangled down, immobile.

Fully transformed, she flew into the deadly circle in front of her, eyes narrowing in determination as she saw the abomination execute Hekapoo’s motionless copies, one by one, with cold precise motions. She struck at the torso of the being with one of the Royal Vorpal Swords of Mewni. It passed through the jade-colored flames harmlessly. At least, Moon observed, the magic of the swords didn’t seem to produce the same backslash as her own. On the other hand, the creature seemed to not even notice the hit, or herself, as it focused on exterminating the sorceress’ avatars.

Determined to interrupt the massacre before it was too late, the queen pulled back into the air, and then, with all her strength, she charged downwards from the sky, pointing the tip of her right-hand sword towards the back of the silver mask. It was fortunately corporeal, and metal impacted metal with a deafening sound. But while the mask showed no dent from the hit, Moon’s precious magical sword broke like glass. Pieces of steel flew all around them.

The mewman had managed to distract the phantasm, however, as the silvery face turned expressionless to face in her direction. Taking advantage of the distraction, ten Hekapoo clones rose back to their feet and lunged forwards at the same time towards the apparition.

“Moon!” she heard a cry echoed tenfold. “I know what she is! We need to get Star’s wand! I should have realized before, whatever you do, don’t...”

The being raised a single hand up into the sky, and an explosion of singular potency discharged into every direction. Moon was flung through the air once more, impacting into the ceiling. River, his valiant charge interrupted, was pushed away into the corner of the room, left unconscious by the strength of the blow. Hekapoos hit the walls all around the throne room, all but one vanishing on impact.

The fiery creature turned towards the one remaining Hekapoo, and began gliding leisurely in its direction. No! No way Moon would let this happen. She would not let her lover die before her very eyes. She would not let anyone else die. She was Moon the Undaunted! Moon the Lizard-vanquisher! Moon the Mighty Warrior Queen of Mewni! She claimed those titles and more, with all the might they might confer, and all the weight of their obligations!

She closed her eyes once more and pulled all her six hands together. Even her broken arm responded to her commands, such was the strength of her will. She dipped down into herself, deeper than ever before, and summoned all she was, perhaps all she could ever be. Her hopes and her fears. Her anger and her love. The darkness from deepest depths. The light from highest heights. Magical resonance be damned.

A ball of blue power, bright like the midday sun, burned in her hands, and from it extended forth a beam of pure magical power. A personal conjuration, wordless and nameless. The brightest spell of Moon the Undaunted!

The being turned once again to face her. From the flames emerged two other pairs of glove-less fiery arms. Six to match Moon’s own. It mirrored the queen’s gesture, and a ball of blackness, darker than the starless sky, emerged between its hands. A dark beam, contrasted by green fire, rose to meet Moon’s spell.

“Moon, no!!” she heard Hekapoo cry out.

Darkness and light collided, and a sound like the firing of a colossal cannon resounded through all the vastness of Mewni. Magical resonance like this world had never before seen reverberated through the air, before converging back onto Moon, and onto the emerald being. She felt as if her flesh was melting. Moon shed a last tear of regret, as her last thought went not to Hekapoo, or to River, but to her daughter, to Star, to a thought she had before she even met her.

And then there was only darkness.

----

Hekapoo felt the queen’s hand lazily drift across the back of her hair. Her other self, the one behind Moon, hugged her tightly in response. They were all naked in the royal bed, naked and spent. The mewman lied nested between the two clones, embracing one and being embraced by the other, while the sorceress enjoyed being at once the little and the big spoon.

“You know, Hekapoo, River and I are trying for a child,” Moon stated, matter-of-factly.

King River, bless his soul, had suddenly remembered that he had an important hunt to lead, deep within the Forest of Certain Death, for an elusive creature that came out only at night, exactly the one day the Forger of Scissors was around. Honestly, Moon had to be commended on her decision, for that if nothing else. It wasn’t even that she and the queen’s husband got along all that well. But, apparently the king was glad to get out of the way if being with the sorceress made his wife happy. In fact, she suspected, it had probably been River that pushed Moon to go back on her previous decision to end things with her, less than a year after their marriage. Hekapoo had to say, to her own credit, that she had given it her best effort to make the man’s wife very happy indeed.

“Well, glad to know you two are having fun,” she quipped. Moon laughed. It was so rare for her to laugh these days.

“We are,” Moon retorted. “Jealous?”

“Heh, pu-leeze, don’t make me laugh,” Hekapoo ran a finger along the mewman’s back. “Should I tell you about this fighter I met on the arena of the underworld pits? He fought with a wooden twig and wouldn’t even kill. He had muscles in places even I haven’t seen before. Or about this guildmaster, lord of a far off land, with rituals that do things to you you can’t even imagine? Or the gruff human colonel, deployed for years away from his wife? Or the hot blooded monster-slayer, fierce warrior princess of hidden depths? Or the dimensional priestess, sworn by sacred vows to chastity? Or the she-pirate, with the steel sharp wit and a tongue like the tide? “

“Alright, Hekapoo, I get the idea. But, well, do you tell them tales of the magical queen in the far away kingdom?” Moon asked, rather undaunted by the sorceress bragging.

“Not once,” she grinned. “Because, as I remember, she swore me into silence.”

Moon chuckled at that, but then went serious. She remained silent for a long while, and Hekapoo knew her well enough to know it had nothing to do with their discussion so far, or her own many affairs.

“You know,” the queen’s tone turned dark all of a sudden, “I am scared.”

“Scared?” Hekapoo asked curiously. “Of childbirth? You? My fierce queen undaunted?” she teased. But she turned the version of herself in front of Moon back to look at her directly, to embrace her from both sides.

“Ha! No, not the birth!” Moon rolled her eyes. “No. It’s what comes after that worries me. Can I raise a kid? I try to be a good queen, I am not sure I can be a good wife... but, I do wonder, can I ever be a good mother?”

“Are you asking me? You must truly be worried, then!” The Forger of Scissors had never been a mother, not once in endless centuries. She was ill suited to be the caring type. “Well, for what is worth, I am sure River will be a dotting father. And I know you can do anything you set your mind to... My Queen.”

“Hekapoo, Toffee is still out there...” Moon closed her eyes, her voice sounded distant. “What if something happens? What if I can’t be there, to be a mother, good or bad. I don’t want my kid to have to go through what I went through...”

Tears begun falling down the queen’s cheeks. Tears long repressed, the scars left behind the queenly mask. The fire sorceress hugged her lover tightly, from all sides.

“Moon, it won’t be like that,” Hekapoo reassured her. “Even if there were a monster in this dumb dimension capable of besting you, he would first have to go through me!”

----

Butterfly Castle was built by ancient magics, cast by powerful queens of old. That was perhaps the only reason the place hadn’t just been leveled to the ground by the clash between light and darkness it had just witnessed. Even so, cracks ran across all walls, floor, and ceiling of the royal throne room. Green flames crackled all around, burning ancient and priceless tapestries. Precious vitrails had been smashed to dust.

None of that was worth a damn, however. Not now that the one truly precious thing this place had ever held laid demolished on the ground: six motionless arms and two lifeless eyes, not even the movement of her breathing to be seen. Moon. Her precious Moon. Even if she lived to see the death of the whole multiverse, Hekapoo knew, she would never meet someone like her, not among a million lovers in a million far away lands.

In the middle of the room, offensive by its mere presence, stood a six armed body of emerald flames. It regarded the sorceress with a silvery visage of indolently rigid metal.

“I. Am. Going. To. End. You!” cried Hekapoo. It was a promise, a sacred covenant with all dimensions. She would avenge Moon. No other option existed. Not acceptance. Not failure. Not even death, except in even trade.

Her flame became a blazing bonfire atop of her. Her hair flew into a spiral, twisting violently in the air, as if lifted by a tornado only she herself felt. There was only one of her left, but one was enough once all restrain had been abandoned.

With her left blade, Hekapoo cut a portal, the far end opening right behind her foe. She pushed the same blade through the vortex it itself had created, and opened yet another portal, its destination far from here. She was counting on her foe not to realize what she was doing until it was too late, to not step away from inside the straight line segment created between her and that portal behind it.

Simultaneously, with her right blade, the sorceress cut a third portal directly in front of herself, facing away from her and towards her enemy. The other side of this portal opened to the bottom of an ocean deeper than any found on Earth or Mewni. Water sprung forth from it immediately, pushed to incredible velocity by thousands of atmospheres of pressure on the other end. The blasting stream hit the creature of flame and lightning. It pushed it into the portal Hekapoo had placed on the other side of its damnable form.

Hekapoo tore a fourth hole into the fabric of this dimension to follow in pursuit, and then closed all four portals behind her with a gesture.

The point had been to move them both away from Butterfly Castle. She did not dare devastate Mewni with what she needed to do. Honestly, she would barely have cared, except that it had been precious to Moon.

Instead, the place she had chosen to be the abomination’s tomb was an empty dimension, pure whiteness as far as the eye could see, in every direction of the map. It had up and it had down, it had something that passed for ground - a blank ice-like solid-white expanse that formed an unending floor - but little else.

The green burning cosmic shit-stain stood up unharmed, unconcerned. With but a gesture, it instantaneously turned the pooled water around it into vapor.

Meanwhile, Hekapoo had begun to open up portals to the most inhospitable worlds of which she knew. Bursts of acid, hails of snow, burning lava, and a menagerie of infernal beasts, all came out of the many doors she cut into the walls of this formerly empty dimension. Yet the horror with the silver face resisted all assaults. It stood there, impavid, taking all of her anger in silent mockery.

“Well, have it your way, you undeserving dimensional pustule! See how you like this one...” she flew up into the air, and raised her scissors, one final time, to cut a hole into the nothingness. Her very last portal.

At the center of creation, like at the center of all things, lays a raging inferno of death and fire. Hekapoo braced herself, ready to open that final door, to the place that was the forge of universes in the same way that stars were the forges of planets. She knew that, the instant the tear opened, she herself would be incinerated into nothing. She found, to her surprise, that she really did not care. Not so long as her opponent died with her. So long as she could avenge Moon.

It didn’t happen so.

The moment she lifted her scissors, a silver gauntlet caught them, forcing them shut. The creature had taken every attack so far without response, but this, apparently, it would not allow. Hekapoo felt the destructive magical force flowing through the blades of her scissors, as the phantasm held them. The magical instrument soaked the power, protecting its creator. It sent the magics far away, spreading the damage. Across universes, the forger knew, thousands of dimensional scissors were glowing green, burning up with arcane corruption, their etched names erased by a deadly hex aimed at herself.

“You know, I didn’t come for her,” Hekapoo heard the being speak, inside her own head. It finally spoke back to her now. Now that there was nothing left to say. “I came for you. She was merely in the way.”

The sorceress felt herself begin cry. She felt herself crumble. It came for her? For her!?

It meant that she had caused Moon to die. She had killed her. If only she had gone back, like the rest of the high commission, if she hadn’t spent the night on Menwni... but then, why her?

“You already know why. Because you knew me, because you would eventually understand,” the voice was cold and monotone, but the tone sounded somewhat like Moon’s kid, like Star. “Since you touched me once, upon a dream.”

Hekapoo had known what this being was, as soon as it had first touched her clones, because she had felt the magics that made it up once before. A dark spell, binding two people. A thread of lust atop a heavenly soul bond.

Hekapoo realized her mistake. Her other mistake.

She had come here to kill Moon’s murderer, at any cost. Her own life a bargain by comparison. But not only was she bound to fail against such an overwhelming foe, but, even in victory, she would have dishonored Moon’s memory. Moon would not have wanted her to avenge her death. She would have wanted her to allay her greatest fear: that her child would be left to stand alone against the night, as Moon herself once did.

Hekapoo had to survive this! To escape somehow! To be there for Star. To warn her. To, to explain to her what this foe was, and... that it wasn’t her fault, no matter what...

Summoning all her resolve, the sorceress let go of her scissors, and called upon the magics she had long used to forge them. With her bare hands, she tore a crack on the dimensional wall, just as she collapsed all other pathways behind her. It was not how it should be done, she wasn’t even sure it could even be done like this, but she had to try.

The pain was unbearable as she dug her own nails on the fabric of reality. She tumbled, rather than jumped, into her own portal. One final portal out of this place. As she fell, the tunnel began to crumble around her, and she knew she would likely not make it whole to the other end.

’Well, if I can’t do it, then perhaps that abomination will not be able to get out from that place without a pair of scissors either,’ Hekapoo thought, right before she lost consciousness.

----

Ruberiot crawled timidly from under the debris. The throne room was unrecognizable. His eyes hurt from the dryness and the flames. His leg felt painful and his chest sore. Everything around him was muted by the shock of what he had just gone through, but it remained rather hellish nonetheless. The stuff of a hundred epic and sorrowful arias. In the end, however, he had survived.

“I am alive! I am alive!” he shouted in relief.

“Not for long, boy,” came a cold furious voice from right in front of him. Ruberiot looked up to see the king, King River, bruised and singed, kneeling over a still figure in the center of the room. He didn’t turn away from the body, even as he spoke, “Not for long if you don’t scram from here right this instant and leave me bloody well alone!!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 16: The Prince of the Princess’ Deepest Desire

Who is the boy in the earthly attire?
The prince of the princess’ deepest desire
- The Songstrell Ruberiot (original continuity)

The dawn was dark and foggy at St. Olga’s. The sun was either fully occluded by the low flowing clouds, or it had not deigned come out altogether. It hid itself from sight, as if in fear, or in mourning.

Jackie wondered, briefly, why such unusually morbid thoughts came to her now. Was her own brief bout of melancholy simply caused by the weather? Or perhaps by the scary, yet strangely poetic, prospect of her incoming duel?

“Jackie, are you still sure you want to do this?” her boyfriend asked. Maybe he had read the worry in her expression, or maybe he simply felt the need to ask one final time, even when he knew the answer.

“Yes, Marco, I do. Don’t worry dude,” she replied, trying to affect her usual chill persona. She found it harder than usual.

Still, she very much doubted she was in any real danger. Jackie had once seen Star summon a herd of wild unicorns in one literal second. It was a fact that was well worth keeping in mind when thinking about how the princess had just spent the last half hour layering spell after spell over Jackie’s frame. She was as prepared to fight this duel as anyone could ever be.

’Prince Jack’ was wearing a majestic golden suit of full plate armor, which covered every inch of her body except for her head. He, or she, carried a fierce looking longsword with a golden seashell for a hilt and a blade that looked sharp enough to cut diamonds. Both armor and weapon felt surprisingly light in her hands as well, or maybe, thanks to Star’s magic, she was now too strong to even notice their weight. “Honestly, Marco, right now I feel like I could take on an entire army!”

“Well, you probably could,” the princess of Mewni mussed. “Actually, you might want to go a bit easy on her. Like, maybe you don’t want to tear her arm from her torso the first time she parries a hit?”

Star placed her wand against her own cheek and looked pensive for a moment, as if she couldn’t quite decide whether dismemberment was proper etiquette for a formal duel or not. Jackie personally would much rather have Snow White surrender. Sure, she knew the evil princess would extend her no such courtesy in return, but she still felt that an actual murder would be a bad thing to carry on her conscience. Like, bad karma of sorts. Defeating a tyrant in single combat was something good guys were supposed to do. Killing disturbed teenage girls with overwhelming magical advantage? Not so much.

The trio walked into the school’s courtyard to find a huge crowd of princesses already waiting for them there, far larger than the one they saw the previous night. Clearly the news about this trial had spread like a wild fire since yesterday, and none of the girls wished to miss it, whether they were cheering for White, or silently hoping to be saved from her by Princess Marco.

Miss ‘most ruthless in all the land’ was there already as well, flaked by her usual entourage: the green-eyed brunette and the pachydermal sycophant with the camera phone. Princess White wore black chainmail trousers and an ebony steel breastplate extending into spiky shoulder pads. Honestly, thought Jackie, didn’t the princess’ sense of fashion alone gave up all pretense of not being the bad guy? As if that weren’t enough, her blood-red lips curved into a condescending smirk as she saw them approach. Her eyes quickly fixed themselves on Princess Marco. “Ah, so you did not make off during the night, after all? I was beginning to fear Cass’ prognostications were wrong for once...”

“I told you once, sister, and I’ll tell you again, you don’t scare me one bit!” Marco replied, as he sashayed forward, taking point and showing her palm to the would be dictator. “Miss Heinous doesn’t boss these girls around anymore, and soon enough, neither will you!”

“So, am I to assume you reiterate your challenge?” Snow White retorted calmly, her expression unreadable.

“You betcha I do!” Princess Marco replied. The other princess smiled viciously at this proclamation, and pushed her own coal-black hair off to the side with a swift gesture. Star gave Jackie a meaningful and worried look.

“And I... Prince Jack, will fight in Princess Marco’s stead, as her chosen and willing proxy!” she shouted, stepping forward with large resolute strides. She spoke her lines exactly as she and Star had rehearsed.

“Ah, so you are having your boyfriend fight your fight? How droll,” Princess White mocked. “Frankly, I expected better from the once-famous Princess Marco...”

Jackie felt nervous for a moment, wondering if Marco was going to let his pride derail their plans in the last minute. Star had mentioned that Marco had to accept her self-designation as proxy, in order for it to be valid, and she was sure the goth girl’s words were hard for the boy to take in stride.

“He wanted to be the one to kick your ass, Apple Pie,” Marco replied with a shrug. “What can I say, I like a man that helps at home... you know... taking out the trash!”

Murmurs and snickers rippled through the crowd, and the evil princess’ already white-as-snow skin went even whiter at the pink-clothed princess’ comeback. Or perhaps, at the mention of apples.

“Very well then,” Snow White spat, stopping the chatter in the background with a gesture of her hand. “I accept your challenge, and I will fight your Prince Jack. You will get to mourn your love first, Princess Marco, by your own choice, and then I’ll deal with you. As I am the challenged party, I choose swords.”

“Fine by me,” countered Jackie, giving her own blade an easy swirl around her right hand.

Another round of murmurs ran along the audience. It was not unlike the wind through a row of bushes. Jackie saw, through the corner of her eye, coins and multicolor bills changing hands. It took her a second to understand: the princesses were betting on the outcome of the fight.

“Hey Cass,” spoke the uglier of the two Snow White flunkies to her green-eyed comrade. “White’s got this one for sure, right?” She was eying Prince Jack’s gleaming sword with a distrustful expression.

The girl called Cass closed her eyes, looked up and spoke with a distant and foggy tone, “This fading night has seen a clash of light and darkness, the starless sky is to swallow the moon, a pair of lovers to be separated by the grim chasm of death, and the rising sun shall find royal blood spilled...”

“Alright, alright, I’ll take that as a yes,” the blue elephantine princess interrupted her friend and shook her head. “Fine, five hundred for White!”

“I raise you, six fifty for Jacki... I mean, Prince Jack!” Marco jumped in. Jackie raised an eyebrow and her boyfriend gave her a sheepish look.

“Deal,” the other girl spoke, and walked up to them to shake hands with Marco and take yet another surprise picture. “Ca-me-ra phone!”

It was almost like being at the park again, back in Echo Creek, with people betting on whether or not she could pull off specific stunts on the skateboard. So far, ten to one, Jackie had won almost every bet. The thought brought a confident smile to her lips, one that made her almost forget that, should she fail this time, not only would Marco be $650 poorer, they both might end up being a head shorter.

“Wait,” Star spoke, suddenly. She had been silent for a while now. “Where is Pony Head?”

Then Jackie realized; they had not seen the floating horse head, nor her little fairy companion, all morning. In fact, they hadn’t seen them since last night.

“Oh,” Princess White feigned surprise, as her face turned back from anger into a smug grin. “You needn’t worry about that. The traitors are being dealt with already. We took them into custody as you all slept.”

Star gasped. Marco let out a curse. Jackie remained silent, but her eyes went wide with horror.

“Tell me what you did to them, right now!” Star demanded, pointing her wand directly at White.

The other princess scoffed and kept quiet. She knew as well as Star, and even Jackie did, that if the mewman attacked her now, the duel would be forfeit on her and Marco’s side. Star had been the one to explain that to Jackie, after all. There was one way to get an answer though, and it was through a swift victory. Prince Jack was determined as ever to achieve just that.

For a moment, she felt herself overcome with revulsion and horror at the person she was about to fight. She didn’t even like Pony Head all that much. But still, she was quite sure that whatever ‘dealt with’ meant here, it was not something she wished on her worst enemy, much less the friend of her friend. Then again, she reminded herself, she was dealing with a power-mad dictator, right out from an analogue of a bloody revolution. It had been sheer childish naivete to think they were all safe last night. She almost kicked herself for not thinking about that earlier, for not making sure they kept an eye out for each other through the night, and for having, even for a moment, forgotten to take the situation deadly seriously. She was sure Marco was feeling the same.

Well, there would be plenty of time for recrimination later. For now, it just drove home how dangerous this Princess White person was. Jackie needed to focus on the fight first, before anything else could go wrong.

Marco and Star walked out of the circle formed by the onlookers, leaving White and Jack in the middle, ten paces apart. All three of them glared at the dark-haired princess with silent and furious determination. The brunette, who the sociopathic princess and her other flunky had called Cass, begun counting down from ten, in a disinterested, or perhaps trance-like, tone. As per Star’s instructions, and drawing from her own fencing lessons, Jackie prepared herself. She flexed her legs into a solid stance, and held her own blade high, to block any opening attack from the pale princess.

The count reached zero and neither fighter moved a muscle. They stood there, examining each other, waiting for their opponent to make the first move. Snow White stance was impeccable, at least as far as Jackie was capable of judging it. She soon realized that, as it came to technique, she was probably far outmatched. Well, fortunately, she did have a secret weapon that should more than even the odds.

Prince Jack lunged forward and sliced a broad horizontal slide as his opening move. If White jumped backwards, then he might break her balance. If she parried, then she could test her magical strength and force her off balance.

The dark haired princess chose to parry. Jackie’s bright clean blade impacted the wicked looking jagged sword of Snow White with a loud clang. The Earth girl had calibrated her swing to be but a light tap, not knowing her own strength yet. Slowly, she began to apply more and more force, expecting the other princess’ resistance to give in, sooner rather than later. However, Princess White did not budge, not one bit. She held their contest long past the point at which Jackie was giving it her all. The tyrant princess smiled.

Had the spell perhaps failed somehow? Was she not as strong as Star had predicted? Jackie looked down, and saw the stone floor crack under the pressure her feet exerted on it as she dug-in to push against her rival!

“You are strong. Very strong,” Princess White remarked. She smiled. It was a vicious knowing smile. “I am stronger!”

Jackie felt the force being applied on the other side of their tug of war explode and come crashing against her own blade. On reflex, she let go, and jumped to the side. A second blow followed the first, as Snow White’s blade came swinging downwards on her position. The gold-clad prince fell to the floor and rolled away just in time, recovering her stance a second after with one swift movement.

Princess White’s strike missed her mark and hit the ground directly. A long fissure, arm deep, extended from the point of impact until right before the feet of the nearest onlookers. The crowd gasped. Star covered her mouth in surprise. Marco went almost as pale as their enemy.

----

Marco felt terrified as he saw the princess slash an incredibly deep cut on the stone foundation of the courtyard. Whatever Snow White was, it wasn’t human! Hell, by all accounts she wasn’t mewman either. Star was strong, but not this strong. He wasn’t even sure Miss Skullnick was this strong. And unlike Miss Skullnick, the dark princess was fast, horrifyingly fast.

She moved like a bladed tornado, slashing and lunging. Marco could hardly follow; by the time he comprehended the last feint, the tyrant princess had already launched her next attack. Through it all, Jackie kept parrying and evading, and the Earth boy couldn’t help but be impressed at her skill. Her magical strength must have been astounding as well, since she could withstand to block against the force of White’s hits. Unfortunately, it was also quite clear that ‘Prince Jack’ was barely holding on the defensive and had no hope in sight of a successful counterattack.

“Gotta give it to you, Princess Marco,” he heard Snow White quip as she kept on her onslaught, “you surely know how to find yourself a real catch. It is been a good long while since anyone stood this long against my blade. I will have fun skewering this prince charming, I’ll tell you that. And know that, as I rip out his still beating heart with my blade, I will be thinking of you. It will make it even sweeter!”

The boy felt the anger swell within him, and for a second he was ready to jump in, with a shout and a karate chop. Discreetly, Star grabbed him from behind his shirt, pulling him back. If he intervened, then the duel was forfeit, and is not like he would be more effective against the armed princess than Jackie was, especially with all of Star’s magic layered on top of her.

Then again, duel or not, Marco hoped Star would intervene if things got truly dire. He had taken her aside, made her promise nothing would happen to Jackie. The mewman princess had said nothing could go wrong, not with all she had cast on the other girl, but that, if for any reason it did, then she would break the rules of the duel herself, and, quote: ‘go all narwhal on Princess White’s ass’.

But, to Marco’s eyes, it looked like things had gone wrong already. A bad thought wormed itself into Marco’s mind. What if Star decided not to intervene? What if the mewman girl was ok with Jackie dying? He thought back to Ruberiot’s song, and to puppet Star jealous and hurt about puppet Jackie and puppet Marco. He thought back to a certain Game of Flags, and to the tactics Star was prepared to use to win... No! That was crazy. There was no way Star would want Jackie to get hurt!

“Ripping out people’s hearts? Sounds like quite the wicked queen style, Apple Cider,” Marco forced himself, or herself, to retort. It was a lame comeback, hounded as he was with insane, yet absurdly persistent, worries. He hoped to at least distract the raven-haired girl long enough for Jackie to gain back the initiative. “You claim not to be a tyrant, to be fighting to help these girls. But look at her, sisters, is that a liberator? Or just an even crueler oppressor?!”

Princess White threw a savage look Marco’s way, as she grinned maliciously and pushed against Jackie with ever more vicious strikes. “Cruelty is in the eye of the beholder. I merely have the will to do what I must, and the courage to fight my own battles. Unlike fake leaders who sacrifice even their loved ones as pawns!”

Marco fell silent at that comeback, partly because he could not deny, deep down, that he still felt guilty about letting his girlfriend fight for him. Whether it was Star or Jackie, it didn’t matter. It should have been him.

A chuckle interrupted his thoughts, and as he turned back to look at the fight, he saw not Snow White, but Prince Jack, grinning and laughing under her breath as she blocked yet another downwards strike. “Please, I am no one’s pawn. I fight because I want to fight. If you had a single love, or a single friend, in all of the world, you would understand that. That you don’t, only tells me, and these girls, what a miserable, quid-pro-quo, lonely bitch you are!”

“How dare you!” Snow White slashed horizontally, quickly and ferociously. But even Marco could tell her movements had gotten a fair bit more sloppy. “I am loved by millions! And I protect them, I guide them, in return! My subjects, these princesses, my friends, they all adore me!”

“Really?” Marco shouted at her, providing at least verbal backup, seizing on the nerve Jackie had apparently hit with her own declaration. “Because from where I am standing, it looks to me like they fear your crazy bloodthirsty ass!”

“You are a rotten apple, and they know it,” Jackie pressed on. “I bet not even your two cronies would put their lives on the line for you! Not one of those people you claim love you would do what I am doing now. None. Not for you.”

“Well,” Snow White replied, her tone suddenly glacial, “after what they are about to witness... they would be utter fools to follow your example!”

The dark-haired princess swung her blade furiously at the blond prince, and the jagged sword made contact, right against Prince Jack’s stomach. It hit the middle of her glinting golden armor. Princess White’s strike, powerful enough to break the ground apart, stopped a hair’s width away from the metal plate. In the air, near the point of impact, shimmered golden waves of light, looking a bit like those created by a pebble hitting the surface of water. Something around the armor itself stopped the vicious princess’ attack, something powerful and magic in nature.

In her rush to deliver a mortal blow, the goth had left herself exposed in return, and Prince Jack took the opportunity to deliver well deserved payback. Her blade came down on her opponent’s shoulder, and it tore through the steel shoulder pads and the chain mail beneath as if through butter. Whatever the jagged sword of the tyrant-princess was made of, it had held remarkably well, Marco realized, against what was surely a magical edge in Prince Jack’s sword. Unfortunately for Princess White, her armor was not made of the same stuff. Jackie’s blade dug into the other fighter’s flesh, cutting a hand’s width below the shoulder. Blood splashed around, and Marco reminded himself not to ever misjudge Star, or question her assurances, ever again.

----

Snow White stepped backwards, howling in pain. No matter how strong, this strike should have severed the nerves to her sword arm. The fight was done. Star recognized a crippling injury when she saw one, even if the two human kids did not. In a Mewni duel, this was the time where the victor was supposed to either make a spectacle of it, or, more rarely, a show of mercy.

So it came as great surprise to the mewman when Snow White lunged forward again, with her half-severed arm responding almost as well as if it were unharmed, and rammed the toothy-looking blade towards Jackie’s face.

The human girl yelled in surprise, and Star could not fault her in the least. She would have been scared too, even knowing what was going to happen. The glimmering golden waves of the magical barrier rose in front of Prince Jack’s unprotected face just the same as they would have over any part of the surface of her armor. Like, wouldn’t it be sort of pointless if the spell protected everything but her head? Duh! That was the most important part!

“Guess now I know where all that bravery of yours comes from,” Snow White commented, one part mockery and two parts exasperation. Her pointed fangs showed as her face turned into an angry frown.

Wait, her pointed fangs?! Since when did she have fangs? They were small, to be sure, but definitely inhuman. They were not, like, small cute Oskar-fangs, but sort of like, well, Tom-fangs, perhaps even longer...

“Well,” Star spoke, “and where does yours come from? Because I feel you were just dealt a-, a-, a dis-arming blow, apple... mmm... juice?”

Compared to Marco’s and Jackie’s smack talk, Star felt seriously out of the game. Perhaps she needed to practice this sort of thing more...

“Oh,” the wicked princess smirked back at her. “So you mean you haven’t figured it out? Even knowing who I am? Even knowing the legend?”

“What legend, Apple Peel?” Jackie asked in turn, now recovered from the shock and swatting away her opponent’s blade with her own. “The part about choking on fruit? Or living in a house alone with seven midgets?”

“No,” Snow White said, coldly, and Star noticed the red irises shining in the fog. “But ask yourselves, this, then: What do you make of a girl, with skin as white as snow, as cold as snow, as dead as snow...”

Thunder crackled around them, far away they heard the howling of wolves, and the evil princess dropped all pretense of humanity. Her limbs stretched and bent in unnatural ways, her face twisted into a grotesque visage, full of ridges and sharp fangs and drool. She moved faster than before, stroke more violent than before. Jackie could not block or riposte a single hit now. Hit after hit, the black sword connected against the golden armor. Or, in reality, millimeters above, against the shielding spell. But Star knew what the other princess seemed to intuit: every impact took some of the protection away. The magical defenses she had cast on Jackie were very powerful, extraordinarily powerful, but they were not inexhaustible.

“... with hair as black as coal, as black as night, as black as raven’s wings...” Snow White continued, as she kept pressing her assault. Soon they could all hear the metallic clang of the sword actually hitting the armor, even as faint circles of golden sparks still drifted out on every hit.

“... with lips as red as...” the blade hit Jackie’s cheek, and despite the magical shield, it sliced a shallow cut on the side of her face. Snow White took her own blade to her lips and licked it, hungrily “... blood!”

Every princess around the circle looked horrified now. Even Princess White’s two friends were taking a step backwards and shaking their heads in terror. The vampire looked around at all of them, and began laughing malevolently into the night.

“Oh, I so had hoped to keep the charade a bit longer,” she spoke. “Rebel princesses? A glorious fight against their oppressors? Give me a break! Fine, you win, Princess Marco, Prince Jack, you have unmasked me!” the fiend cackled with a deranged grin. Then it went silent all of a sudden and looked back down at Jackie, who stood her ground despite trembling knees. “Now, die!”

----

The next strike smashed the side of her armor, cracking it and bending it slightly inwards. A sharp jolt of pain spread along her left side as some of the impact was transfered through the metal to her ribs. Jackie had been feeling the hits for a while. The strike before this one, the one to her face, had even cut her skin. Now it felt as if the magical protection wasn’t there at all anymore. Even when White slashed only at the parts of her body covered by hard armor plating it hurt like a motherfucker. If she got hit in the fleshy bits now, even once, it would be game over, Jackie was certain of it.

She focused on every fencing lesson she had ever had, tried the best she could to block the super-humanly fast swings of the vampire’s blade. ‘Yes, Snow White is not only an aspiring dictator, she is also a fucking vampire, how crazy is that? No, Jackie, focus, come on, like your life depends on it!’ she mentally admonished herself.

Turns out that fighting for your life is not like fencing at all. You feel something awful drop in your stomach, you feel your muscles tense, you see your short life flashing before your eyes. At the same time, you are moving, and you are jumping, and you are shifting your balance from foot to foot, because if you miss a step, if you fumble a block, then you are dead. She was managing to hold off the monster’s attacks now, which she never could when the magical barrier was protecting her, not after Snow White went full undead horror on her. Funny what adrenaline and the prospect of imminent dead, combined with magically enhanced reflexes, could do for you.

But in the end, it was only a question of time. And not much time at that. Soon Jackie saw it, the slash that she would not be able to parry. The one that she could not get away from. It was headed straight for her neck. Time seemed to literally slow down as the edge of the wicked blade drew closer and closer. Oh well, maybe Marco and Star had been right after all, she was not ready for adventure. It turned out, her first inter-dimensional jaunt with them would be her last.

Wait. Time was literally slowing down! Not figuratively slowing down, literally slowing to a crawl! Out of the corner of her eye, Jackie saw Star walk into the circle of the arena, her wand glowing, her face contorted in concentration.

“Hey Jackie,” she spoke, apologetically.

“Hey Star,” the human girl retorted. Surprisingly, she could move her mouth, but not the rest of her body. It felt sort of like a dream, and so did their conversation. “Thought Marco said you didn’t freeze time anymore.”

“I am not freezing it, just slowing it, and well, it’s kind of an emergency situation, you know,” the mewman explained.

“Oh, I know,” Jackie retorted. With some difficulty, she managed to move her eyes to point meaningfully at the blade slowly inching towards her neck. She wanted to ask Star how exactly it was that she could only move some parts of herself at normal speed, even as her mind processed things about as fast as Star moved, and everything else was near frozen. But perhaps this was not the time.

“So, just to be clear, Jackie,” Star announced, apologetically. “I am about to forfeit your duel and try to incinerate her with as much solar power as I can manage to summon with this thing. Not sure if it will be enough, but I think at this point the ideological debate is settled, so I am sure none of the princesses are going to side with her, which makes this much easier and...”

“Wait, Star, don’t,” Jackie begged.

“Don’t?” the princess replied confused.

“Just, like, give me a two seconds head start when you unfreeze things,” she had to ask for that at least, as much as it pained her. Otherwise she was dead for sure. “But don’t do anything else, let me finish this myself.”

“Jackie, that’s insane! She is a freaking vampire! Probably a really old one or something, considering how strong she is. We couldn’t anticipate this. This is clearly out of your league. She might be out of my league too. So, well, let’s fight her together,” Star spoke. It was a way out, an easy way out, without Jackie having to admit she was weak, because Star herself said this was a formidable opponent, for either of them.

“No.”

“No?”

“No,” Jackie repeated. “Look, Star, I challenged her. I had my own aces up my sleeve and she still managed to surprise us. But that doesn’t change the fact that I agreed to fight her, fair and square, or at least relatively so... so, two seconds head start?”

“Jackie...” Star seemed visibly conflicted. “Are you sure? Marco would say no, if he could hear you. He would tell me to disregard everything you are saying and to blast her with everything I got...”

“Yeah,” Jackie agreed. She smiled, which was hard to do when time was half-frozen. “Hey, if she kills me, then you got him all for yourself, right?”

“Don’t even joke about that...” Star replied. “Two seconds head start, and I am not sure I will be able to stop things in time again. You better make it out alive, Jackie, or I swear I am going to personally whoop your ass afterwards, ok?”

Jackie chuckled. Then she moved like lightning to parry Snow White’s strike. Time resumed anew, as did her life and dead dance with a bloodsucking vampire. Why the hell did she need to be so stubborn? If you asked Jackie, even she wouldn’t be able to tell you. But she had to all the same.

From that stubbornness rose a fighting spirit that surpassed even that triggered by the risk of impending death. For to admit defeat after claiming this challenge, would inexplicably have been much worse than to die. Jackie was not fighting for Horse Head, or even for Marco, and she was not fighting for her own skin. She was fighting for her honor and her self-respect, and that, right now, seemed even more vital. With renewed strength, she was first able to hold Princess White’s assault, and then to press her own offensive. Soon the vampire was taking backwards steps and making use of all its unholy strength just to parry the slashes from the golden prince Jack.

As soon as she saw a clear opening, Jackie committed herself to the one final push, even at the cost of leaving herself open to a fatal blow. She planted both feet firmly in the ground, gripped the pommel of her sword with all of her enhanced strength, and delivered a punishing lunge. The strike pierced White’s armor and buried the point of her sword deep into her chest, carving a hole right through her most vital center and coming out, again through black metal, on the other end.

The undead abomination simply chuckled at the futile attempt, and slashed back towards the human’s head, undeterred. Prince Jack jumped backwards, out of the vampire’s reach. But in doing so, she had to let go of her sword, which remained stuck inside the tyrant princess’ unbeating heart.

“You don’t know much about vampires, do you, Prince Jack?” Snow White scolded her, as she advanced in her direction, without bothering to remove the sword from her chest. The pointy end was sticking through the back of the girl and it still didn’t seem to bother her. “A metal sword won’t do it. Even a wooden stake won’t work. Not on me. It would just shatter against my flesh. Only the sun can harm me, and the sun will not dare shine on this forsaken school. Not as long as I can be said to rule over here. The sun won’t save you, unless I lose, and without it you cannot win. All you can do now is useless!” she laughed, “Useless!”

The evil princess lunged towards the gold armored prince, pushing the point of her curved sword towards her face. The human managed to avoid the blow, but in doing so, she lost her footing and fell to the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, Jackie saw Star’s grip around her wand tense. She forced herself to flash a reassuring grin towards the mewman. Anything to stop her from intervening.

White lifted her wicked blade once more and followed through with a downward slice. Prince Jack should have been finished. He was in the floor, he was unarmed, he had no way to block or to dodge. But Jackie Lynn Thomas did. She did as she had done so many times in the past, as she had done the countless times she had fallen to the floor, learning to ride her skateboard: she got up. She got up by pushing down with one hand and with both her legs, rolling her body as she rose to her feet. It was a trick to get up quickly after a fall, and with a normal human strength and reflexes it would have gotten her standing straight in just a second. With a magically-enhanced body, it sent her flying into the air, above Princess White. The acrobatic maneuver ended with her falling back to the ground, on her feet, behind the raven-haired creature of the night.

The vampire twisted around to attack once more, but Jackie was long ready. With a swift movement, she kicked Snow White’s wrist, causing her to release the grip on her cruel black sword. At the same time, she lunged forward and grabbed her own blade, ripping it from the bloody monster’s chest in a single movement, then swinging it back around, until the edge was resting directly on the former tyrant’s neck.

“So, only sunlight and no stakes, right? Well... how about decapitation?” she asked, with a cold controlled tone. Her opponent froze as the blade touched the snow-cold skin. “I hear that works on vampires well enough, at least in the tales they tell where I am from. Maybe you are special, Snowflake. But, guess what? So is this sword. And we already know it can cut you. So, the question is: how do you think you’ll fare without a head?”

“Please, if you were really going to do it, you would have tried it already, like you did in your last two futile attempts at harming me. But don’t think I don’t notice what the difference is, Prince Jack: now you have the time to think and I am disarmed. I think you don’t have the guts for an execution,” Snow White replied, as she begun to smirk. “That’s what I love about knights in shining armor, by the way, so noble, so predictable, and so utterly harmless.”

“You know, it is true I don’t like killing people, so you might have been right,” Jackie pretended to concede, “...if you were alive. But you are not people, are you? Way I see it, you are a corpse already, so why should I care in how many pieces I leave you?”

Princess White remained silent, immobile, held there with a sword to her neck. In all fairness, vampires seemed sentient, so the ethics of this weren’t quite as uncomplicated as Jackie was trying to pretend. She wondered for a second if, by sparing Snow White, a literal bloodsucking monster, she would be responsible for her future victims. Then she wondered if vampires were inherently evil or had as much free will as anyone else, to be good or bad as they chose. She admonished herself that Snow White didn’t seem like the kind to ever be redeemed, then admonished herself again that it was probably not her call to make. It wouldn’t have been, if she were human.

“Tell you what,” spoke gallant Prince Jack, “I’ll let you amble on some more, on three conditions. The first is your full surrender in this duel, of course. The second, is that you tell me where Princess Pony Head and Princess Glintwisp are, and that they be unharmed. If you have hurt either of them in any way that they won’t be fully recovered from by tonight, the deal is off and, make no mistake, I will end you. The third is that you scramble out of here and never again show your ugly face in St. O’s or in the presence of myself or my friends. How does that sound? I’d say it is pretty generous, all things considered. Reject that deal, and you will find my nobility to be quite flexible when it comes to your kind.”

Blood-red lips pursed together as the princess frowned in thought, and Jackie pushed the blade closer to her neck to help her decision along. Finally, Snow White replied, “they are in the highest room atop tower three, or what your famous Princess Marco left of it. I haven’t fed on either of them, nor had a chance to torture them. I was saving that... pleasure... for after our duel.” The creature grinned and Jackie felt herself reconsider her mercy. “I do promise not to come back to this stink-hole, and to leave you and your princess Marco alone,” Jackie caught on and pushed the slightest bit further into the sneaky creature’s neck, “...as well as the mewman and all the princesses here. And... and... I concede.”

The evil princess let both her arms fall to her sides, and withdrew back her fangs. Her monstrous visage transformed back into one of unblemished fairytale beauty, except for the resentful scowl it bore. A roar of cheers erupted all around them, accompanied by a chant of “Jack, Jack, Jack!”

As the princesses rejoiced, the fog began to lift, and the sky started to brighten. Whatever held back the dawn was gone the moment the vampire princess admitted defeat. Snow White took a step backwards, and Jackie allowed her to do so. She beamed her a victorious cocksure smile. And the charming Prince Jack said, “looks like the sun is coming up after all. I’d be getting out of here while you still can, if I were you!”

Like a bat out of hell, the dark-haired princess scrambled for the gates of St. Olga’s. Thin threads of smoke began raising from her back and the top of her head. She ran out into the dead trees surrounding the school, seeking refuge from the rising sun, and soon vanished into the wilderness.

“Well, Snow White... how do you like them... apples!?” cried Princess Marco from behind her brave prince. A fair number among the audience, and Jackie herself, groaned.

But, in all fairness, hearing her boyfriend speak reminded Jackie of one thing, one thing she still had left to do, that she wanted to do, needed to do after the fight. Her heart was pumping, her breathing still fast, and she felt, well, she felt invincible! She had to prolong this feeling of victory, and there was only one way she could think of as to how. A perfect way to cap a perfect adventure.

“Star, sorry to be selfish, but would you mind checking up on Pony Head and Glintwisp?” Jackie finally spoke. She walked tiredly back towards the Mewman princess and gave her back the magical golden sword. For all she knew, it might turn into a pumpkin before the end of the day. Star had said none of the spells were even close to permanent.

“Yeah, sure, but, don’t you want to... oooohhh,” Star stopped in mid-sentence, as Prince Jack effortlessly lifted Princess Marco up and began walking back into the mansion that housed the former school, with the pink dressed rebel princess cradled in his arms.

“Jack! Jack! Jack!”

----

Marco’s heart was pounding as he let himself be whisked away through dim lit corridors and portrait-decorated stairways. They were alright. They were safe. They had won! No, Jackie had won, and she had been... amazing!

He looked up, at the girl in the princely disguise. She was carrying him through the hallways of Saint Olga’s, holding him delicately and effortlessly in front of herself, one arm under his upper back and the other under his knees. He smiled a faint nervous smile, and she gave him a confident grin in return.

It was not that he approved of it, of the risks Jackie had taken. Princess White had been terrifying, and it was doubly terrifying when you weren’t the one in the line of fire. Marco had been in many life or death fights in the last year of rooming with Star, and he had been Toffee’s prisoner once. The smug lizard was probably the only foe he knew who might have been even more dangerous than the vampire princess. And yet, he hadn’t been one tenth as scared when facing him, as he had been watching Jackie and White fight. It was always worse to see your loved ones endanger themselves on your behalf, especially when they were obviously under-prepared for the fray. He almost never worried like that about Star, not because he cared for her any less, far from it, but because, well, she was Star! She was the strongest person he knew.

But, then again, was Jackie any weaker? Was she really? Given what he had just seen, Marco was inclined to say no. A part of his brain kept nagging at him that it should have been him out there, fighting that duel instead. But if it had indeed been him, even empowered by Star’s magic just as much as ‘Prince Jack’ had been, would the result have been the same? Would he have won? Could he have won? A voice in his head told him that he wouldn’t have, couldn’t have. If he had fought instead of Jackie, then he would likely now be dead, and all would have been lost for the princesses of St. O’s. The idea that he might be, in the end, the weaker of the three, surprised him. As did the fact that he didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Not if it was Star and Jackie, as opposed to say, Jeremy, who bested him.

He had always had the biggest crush on Jackie, going as far as he could remember. He was always in awe of how confident, how athletic, how popular, how all around awesome she was. Sure, today she had literally been the day’s hero: the fairytale prince conquering the evil monster and delivering freedom onto the masses. But then again, she had always been his hero (or, well, heroine).

“You know, Jackie, that was really, really cool,” he finally said. In the battle between the side of him that wanted to tell her to never do something like that ever again, and the side of him that was overcome with awe, the second won. “But, well, are you alright?”

“You mean after nearly dying fighting a literal bloodthirsty creature of the night?” Jackie replied. She beamed at him. “Honestly, never been better!”

“That’s... good,” Marco responded, unable to think of anything smarter to say. “Eh, shouldn’t we be looking for Pointy Head and Glintwisp?”

“Star can handle that. It’s not like we would get to them any quicker if we are with her, and I think Horse Head would prefer seeing her than us,” reasoned the skateboarder girl. “Besides, I believe this is the part of the story in which the prince, having rescued his princess and defended her honor, gets his well deserved reward...”

“Oh,” was all the boy was able to say in return. For a moment it was like the last few months had never happened, and he was back to literally being unable to form coherent sentences in the presence of Jackie Lynn Thomas, or Prince Jack, or whomever she or he was.

The golden-armored knight looked down at him with a slight frown. “I mean, you know I am being tongue in cheek here, right? You can always say no if not in the mood, Marco... it’s just, you’d be surprised how much of a turn on this sort of adrenaline is...”

“No, sister, I hear ya,” replied the boy, taking on her best Princess Marco persona. Weirdly enough, he felt more sure of himself with that. He also knew, from experience, exactly what Jackie was talking about.

“Sister?” Jackie raised an eyebrow. Then, affecting what Marco was sure was her best attempt at a masculine low bass voice. “I am afraid you must be mistaking me for someone else, milady.”

Marco rolled his eyes. “I am not a...” he begun. But something in the look Jackie gave him, a smoldering desire-filled look, made him stop mid-sentence.

Soon after, they reached one of the rooms they had slept in the night before. Jackie’s room, actually, rather than his and Star’s. The girl in the prince costume kicked the door open, and as she did, Marco felt a wave of warm and light surround both of them. He blinked a few times, then realized, to his surprise, and Jackie’s as well, that the golden armor had vanished into thin air. Underneath, Prince Jack’s original green, white and gold outfit, remained unchanged.

“Wait, Jackie, are Star’s spells fading? What about the extra strength?” He asked, worried for a moment that she was going to collapse from exhaustion from the fight, without the added energy provided by the spells. “Do you need me to get off from you?”

“Heh, Marco, I can carry you without any magic, whenever you want,” Jackie boasted, in her normal voice. “Besides, I think the strength has been fading slowly ever since the end of the fight, I think I am only about fifty percent stronger than usual by now. Which I guess is a good thing...”

Prince Jack didn’t go into any specifics, but the phrase ‘death by Snu Snu’ came to Marco’s mind. He had to agree it was a good thing that his girlfriend could no longer crush rocks with her bare hands.

“So, do you really want me to...” Marco felt uncomfortable saying it, “... be the girl?”

Jackie raised an eyebrow at him, as if asking if that was going to be too different from their usual fare. Marco had to admit that, even with some practice under his belt now, the blond haired girl had always been the more confident assertive one. And is not like Prince Jack was suddenly going to pull out a golden strap-on from beneath his dark green trousers... at least Marco hoped he wouldn’t, she wouldn’t. Marco wasn’t sure exactly what Star’s magic had done to Jackie, but he knew he himself was exactly as he always was, just in girl clothes. Even so, there was still a difference, in his mind, between whatever it was that their dynamic usually was, and, well, this.

“Yeah, Marco,” Jack spoke in her ear, as he gently let her down on the large soft bed, “I want you to be my princess for tonight. And I want to be your prince. Do you want that too?”

“... Yes,” Marco responded. To his own surprise, he knew he was being honest. It was very confusing, and scary, and new, and exciting.

Now, Marco knew that he was more in contact with his feminine side than most guys. Jackie herself was a tomboy, Marco realized as well. She could pull off ‘girly’ better than almost anyone in school, and yet, she was most at ease being one of the guys. He also knew that there were people for which the gender they were born at never quite, well, fit. He didn’t think that was quite his case, nor Jackie’s for that matter (although, if it was, he was going to be there for Jack just as much as for Jackie, that was a given). No, he thought, taking stock of the kind of smirk ‘Prince Jack’ was giving him, or her, or whatever. This wasn’t about any personal revelation for either of them, it was play, and it was transgression, and it was fantasy, and it was deliciously strange. Weird-awesome, he thought, remembering Star’s phrase.

A moment later, his deliberations were forgotten as he felt Jackie’s lips on his neck, her hands roaming his torso atop the pink frilly blouse of his dress. He let himself enjoy it, wondering for a second if being passive was unfairly stereotypical of the role he was supposed to play. But Jackie, no, Prince Jack, seemed to be enjoying it, and Marco was enjoying it, and that was in the end what mattered.

Marco felt Prince Jack unbutton her blouse, he felt her hands on his nipples, then her mouth kissing him there, sucking on them. He imagined for a moment what it would feel to have breasts, to feel the sensations that he had seen reflected in Jackie’s and Star’s faces whenever he did that for them. What little it did for him physiologically, the image of Jackie ravishing him there was a surprisingly arousing one for the boy.

“Oh, woah,” the skateboarder girl almost yelped in surprise, “I didn’t know these got hard on you too! Does it feel good?”

Marco chuckled. “Well, it probably doesn’t do for me what it does for you... do you want me to, like, pretend to moan or something?”

“Dude, don’t ever fake it!” she admonished him, in her normal Jackie tone. “I mean... I don’t.”

“Ok, ok, then I got an idea Jacki... eh, Prince Jack,” Princess Marco replied. “Can you stand up from the bed? I think you are quite right, my prince, that you earned a reward, fighting for my honor and all...”

He couldn’t help but think to himself that that had been a bit forced, and a lot more meek than what Rebel Princess Marco was supposed to be all about. But it would do. This wasn’t a usual situation for the rabble-rouser of St O’s anyways, so how was Marco to know what was or wasn’t her style to say under the circumstances?

Jackie raised an eyebrow, but did as he asked. “Alright little lady, what did you have in mind?” she said. There was something Harrison Ford-esque about the look she gave him.

Then, Marco slid from the bed, his blouse still open and hanging down to the sides. He literally crawled on his knees to where ‘Prince Jack’ was and roamed his hands up through her legs. With a swift movement, he undid the button of her trousers and pulled down both the pants and a set of sea green boxer shorts. He looked up and fluttered his eyelashes, then pressed his mouth towards Jackie’s crotch and begun lapping at it in wide motions. Slow at first, then faster as he was able to confirm his girlfriend’s arousal. Soon his tongue was exploring the length of her lips, and the inside of her folds, and occasionally flicking at her sensitive nub.

“Oh yeah, princess!” shouted Prince Jack. “Suck. On. My. Cock!”

For months after, at night, before going to sleep, Marco would feel slightly and irrationally ashamed, of how hard hearing those words made him that night.

’Princess Marco’ kept going at it until Jackie, even with her still ever so slightly bolstered strength, found that her weakened knees made it hard for her to maintain the position. She, or he, or whatever, pushed a hand down and lifted Marco up, motioning him to the bed.

Just before the boy, who was a princess, sat down, Jackie pulled the skirt of his dress up, and removed the entire thing, throwing it to the side of the bed. She pushed herself out of her boots, and the reminder of her lower garments. In a superman-like move, she literally ripped her own white shirt open, sending buttons flying all over the room with the last of her added strength. Her boobs bounced free in the air.

It should have been the end of the game. She was no longer dressed like a handsome prince, he was no longer dressed like a princess. It should have been the end of Prince Jack and Princess Marco. But it wasn’t. Not yet. Not for the next few moments. The moments in which Princess Marco lied down in the bed, blushing and excited, yearning to feel her prince’s touch. The moments in which Prince Jack, after winning the battle and rescuing the princess, got his reward, climbing atop his love and embracing her, plunging himself into her. That is what it was in his mind, for all that the prince’s anatomy was rather more concave than convex. But they were united, and Prince Jack was thrusting, and Princess Marco was moaning, and there was no faking in it at all.

It felt liberating, to be able to enjoy the ride and get lost in the sensation, and be loud and unconstrained, in a way he never quite managed to do as a guy. Marco also felt wanted, hungered for, in a way that was different than any he had experienced before. Later he would ask Jackie, and she would tell him how powerful she felt, like she was doing things to him, like she was ‘the one screwing you silly’. And Marco would say that she screwed him silly every time they had sex, and she would say that it wasn’t the same. But right then, in that moment, Marco knew only his part, and he knew he was getting lost in the sensations, and he was cresting up and up. Finally, he exploded and, as he came, he came loudly and shamelessly, with a whimpering moan.

“That was... intense,” Jackie finally said, many seconds after, being the first to recover.

“Yes, yes it was,” Marco agreed. “Hey, Jackie, if you ever feel like you should have been a guy, you can tell me...”

“Nah, dude, pretty sure they gave me the right equipment. But I enjoyed playing the part today, even more than I thought I would,” she winked at him. “You can also tell me if being Princess Marco feels better than being dude-Marco, I think I’d be ok, if it was you...”

“Pretty sure I am a guy, Jackie.”

“A guy who can pull off pink better than me!”

“Hey sister, if you got it, flaunt it!”

They both laughed together at that, then stayed there, silently looking at the ceiling, taking a comfortable pause from a truly insane pair of days. Even by the standards of his life after meeting Star, Marco was pretty sure these last 48 hours had been extraordinarily wild. Once they were back to Echo Creek, he was looking forward to a week or two in which nothing much out of the ordinary happened. At least if ordinary included his impossibly good luck of dating both his childhood crush and his best friend.

“We should get dressed and find Star,” Marco finally spoke.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17: Reveal to Me That Which is Hidden

Were Star to be entirely honest with herself, she would have had to admit she felt a little bit neglected as Jackie carried their boyfriend off into the sunrise, leaving her to deal with the fallout of the duel. In a similar spirit of honesty, however, Star would also have had to admit that Jackie had well and truly earned it. If she hadn’t done so by defeating White, then she had by leaving the other two teens alone to sort out their issues the previous night.

It was exceedingly fair that it was now the skateboarder girl who got some time alone with Marco. It was also no lie to say that Star was way happier for him, and for Jackie, than she was sad for herself. She knew that she would have her own opportunities to celebrate with Marco later, when they were back home, after all. Nevertheless, and despite the disguises, having the two of them flee together so publicly, and leave her the odd girl out in front of all these princesses, was a bit irritating. Only a bit, not much; and then only if she were being honest with herself.

Star Butterfly was seldom honest with herself.

“Ok, you!” she pointed her wand at the lanky green-eyed brunette, the girl Snow White had called Cass. “Take me to where she put Pony Head, and don’t you dare make a wrong move!”

Star didn’t exactly know where the top of tower three was, not from the inside at least, having never been there. The last time they were in St. O’s, she simply blew up the transmorfidian crystal with a far reaching blast from the courtyard grounds. That was not, generally, the approach to take when rescuing hostages, and so she could use a guide. White’s former two flunkies were at this point the chief candidates, given that they would know for sure where the evil princess kept any prisoners. Of those two, Star had enough experience with the tusked purple princess not to want her anywhere near her face. So that left the other one. Better the devil you didn’t know, reasoned Star. After all, strangers were often just friends you hadn’t met.

Cass, turned out, was a princess of few words. In response to Star’s order and, well, implied threat, she simply nodded, and begun walking towards the tower. She opened the door and guided the mewman up the spiral stairway. Right before she followed her inside, Star observed that the top of the spire had actually been fully replaced: a wooden watchtower now sat atop the cylindrical stone base of the half-crumbling edifice. Whoops! She might have gone a teeny tiny bit overboard with her spells last time she was here!

They walked alone. Not because the princesses of St. Olga’s had any particular respect for the privacy of Star’s reunion with her best bestie on all of Mewni. But because, Snow White being gone and all, they had decided to throw an impromptu party to celebrate their newly recovered freedom. Despite the vague sense of irritation with which her friends’ departure had left her, Star smiled.

It seemed that not only the sun had returned the moment the vampire princess of fairy tale folklore had admitted defeat, but also, just as quickly, the true spirit of the St. Olga’s rebel princesses was back as well: that of rebellion, not against their parents, or against any perceived higher authority, but only against responsibility itself. Which, all in all, suited Star just fine. Sure, she had to get Pony Head and Glintwisp back first but, soon enough, all five of them would join the party, and then she would get to be as carefree as all the other rebel princesses. She would leave dealing with her mom, and whatever she thought of her relationship and her public image, for another day. Another day like, say: never.

“So, I was wondering,” she queried her guide, as the two princesses were about halfway up the tower and the cheers outside had begun to become too muted to hear. “Why were you on Snow White’s side? I mean, no offense, but, well, you don’t seem… I dunno… evil? Guess I can understand if you didn’t know what she was, but…”

“Her darkness was apparent to me from the moment I first laid my eyes on her, same as for you now,” Cass replied. Her tone flat as she walked forward, giving no sign of surprise or concern.

“You mean you knew she was a vampire? But then...” Star pondered, flicking her wand against her chin. Then, suddenly, in realization, she jumped, pointing her wand back at Cass. Her expression went fierce and hard, as she steeled herself for the fight ahead. “So… are you like her? A vampire?! What’s your game?”

The girl named Cass laughed mirthlessly. “My game is one with no moves left. I chose the white queen, knowing her to be a cruel one, in the hope that she would forestall greater darkness. Now the black queen has captured this simple pawn of fate, and the whole board is all but lost.”

“That didn’t make a lick of sense!” protested Star, still not letting her wand down.

“I am afraid it will, in time, Queen Star,” Cass added. “But you have little to fear from me now, I have resigned myself to the inevitable.”

“I am not a queen!” Star protested. Part of her felt that she had to add ’yet’. But another part of her reminded herself that she might wish to avoid it altogether, if she could. Particularly given that, on top of every sucky thing about being queen, it apparently also meant she couldn’t be with Marco, and Jackie. Not without carefully weighting how every single person in Mewni might feel about what, if you asked Star, was none of their damn business!

The green-eyed girl turned back, looking surprised for the first time. She regarded Star for a good long while, like she were reading the pages of a book rather than the face of a person. “Yes. Perhaps not a queen yet. Without a proper coronation, that title might yet be another’s. I could advise you to not leave the space open for those who would usurp it, for they are each and all more overtly cruel than yourself. Their depredations would only compound with those greater ones, which you can’t possibly prevent. But it matters not in truth. Your kingdom, and more than your kingdom, is already lost...”

There was something in that voice which made Star feel like a cold wind had passed through her. This whole conversation was getting more disturbing by the minute, and there was something about the way the other girl spoke, that made her think the warnings in her words were not idle threats. They didn’t really sound like threats at all, in fact. The brunette spoke regretfully, almost with pity. Star wasn’t sure she wanted to keep hearing this, and at the same time, something told her it would be unwise not to listen on.

But Cass spoke no more, and Star didn’t feel she was an immediate threat, and so they walked in silence. They arrived to the top of the stairs before the mewman princess could think of any more questions to ask.

----

“Well, what in the world took you so long, B-Fly!?” shouted a grinning Pony Head, rushing to meet them the instant Star kicked down the door. Cass, holding the key she had just retrieved from her pocket, simply sighed in resignation.

“Pony Head!” yelled Star back, a broad smile extending from one cheek to the other, her worries forgotten in the elation of finding her bestie safe and sound. “Are you ok? Did she hurt you?”

“Oh, B-Fly, she tried!” Pony Head assured her, then grinned proudly and winked at her. “But I was way too tough for her, gurrl!”

“Nobody tried anything. Princess White sent her two lieutenants for us, and they simply muzzled her and encased me in a jar,” corrected Glintwisp, huffing indignantly at that later fact, “and then they dragged us here... Wait! Watch out, princess Star! One of them is behind you!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Star waved the pixie princess’ warnings off. “She is with me. Says she is not a vampire. I believe her.”

“A what?! Why would she be a vampire? Girl, you get into the craziest troubles...” Pony Head seemed to think for a moment after saying that. But only, it shall be noted, after. “... well, second craziest! After me! But tell me, B-fly, what happened out there?! It’s a shame we missed it! You must have really whooped that witch’s ass!”

“She was a vampire, not a witch,” clarified Star, helpfully. “And well, it wasn’t me. The one who kicked her ass was Jackie... I mean, Prince Jack,” she corrected herself, a smidgen too late, as she looked at her green-eyed guide. Sure, both other princess had met Jackie on Mewni, and knew the truth, but it wouldn’t do to have their former, and perhaps current, enemy, to hear something like that. “You should have seen he... him! S...He was awesome!”

“Yes,” Cass confirmed, “the maid in the knightly attire was remarkably nimble, beyond all which could have been fairly expected.”

Well, so much for Jackie’s secret! The brunette princess’ tone was laced with mockery thick enough for even Star to catch on. She stressed the word ’maid’, as well as ’fairly’. However it was she knew things, it seemed a matter of fact that she knew well the truth behind ’Prince Jack’ and his gifts.

“What? You mean Monkey Face slayed a vampire?” Pony Head whistled, or whinnied, or something in between, genuinely impressed. “I don’t say this often, but those two earth turds are not half bad... But like, don’t ever tell them I said that!”

After that, Pony Head finally managed to stay quiet long enough for Star to tell her and Glintwisp all about Jackie’s duel with White. Cass simply walked out to the window, looking outside, seemingly disinterested. Or, perhaps, in deep thought. It hadn’t sounded to the mewman as if the vampire princess was her friend but, even so, the green-eyed girl might not have been all that comfortable with Star’s retelling of White’s defeat, or with the loud cheers and gasps from the other two princesses.

Star, for herself, felt happier the more she told the story. As she spoke about the human girl cutting a bloody gash through the night creature’s shoulder, or piercing its chest, she felt a burst of pride and excitement spread from her own heart. She felt joy in describing how the girl kicked away White’s sword, then picked her own back from her opponent’s body and held her to surrender with the blade against her neck. As she recounted Jackie’s final victory, Star felt... she felt invincible. And well, she felt a little turned on, actually.

Wait, no, that wasn’t right. She wasn’t into Jackie! So why did she...? oh. Oh! Duh. Star knew what Jackie had planned the moment she took off with Marco in her arms. She should have been ready, she should have expected it. But she had been busy thinking a million other things about them, and worrying about getting to Pony Head, and so, she forgot. She forgot all about the link!

Now it dawned on her that the pride, and the joy, and the invincibleness - was that a word? - and of course the, well, excitement, she felt, were all Jackie’s own. Or maybe what Marco perceived from Jackie? It wasn’t clear how much of the connection extended to the other human teen, as well as it did to their mutual boyfriend. But if it was hitting her this strongly, now rather than before, it meant that Marco and Jackie had probably just arrived to wherever they eloped to, and were about to… Ok, thinking about it definitely was not helping Star calm down!

“Oh! So she just let her go? Just like that?!” exploded Pony Head as soon as the princess of Mewni got to the end of her tale. “What was Monkey Face thinking?! If it had been me against that White be-yoch, I would have just skewered her with my horn! Like this!” She stabbed the air with a flourish of her head.

Star had been besties with Pony Head long enough to know that no good would come of mentioning that her horn would probably not count as a stake as far as vampires were concerned. Nor would it had been useful to remind her that the reason they were all here was because Pony Head had been here, had been faced with Princess White and her brief reign of terror, and had chosen the rather sensible course of looking for help. It also did not help that Star was beginning to blush, and feel her breath quicken. For the first time, she was regretting her strange connection to Marco.

“Wait, Princess Star, there is a part that doesn’t make sense to me,” Glintwisp observed, flying up to the mewman in an attempt to get her diminutive voice noticed against the background of Pony Head’s ever bolder statements about what she would have done if it had been just her against Snow White. “You said that after Princess White, eh, transformed, that your friend was not able to match her in speed, right? Yet, after you froze time, sorry, slowed time, and she rejected your help, she was suddenly able to land multiple hits, and block without magical shielding too. That doesn’t sound right...”

“What you talking about gurrl?” retorted Star’s bestie. “Clearly she just saw how awesome B-fly was and, trying to not let herself be totally outmatched by my girl here, she rose to the challenge!”

“Well, I think that could be part of it,” Star said, biting her lip, part because she had a confession to make, part because an image of Jackie kissing Marco’s chest had just popped into her mind. “But I might also have interpreted her request, ah, creatively. Like, she asked me for two seconds, so I gave them to her...” her voice turned to a whisper “... in every minute of the fight after that.”

She had sped up Jackie’s own personal time by an extra 1/30th for the reminder of the fight. It wasn’t much of a push at all, the victory was still Jackie’s in the end. At most, Star had only given her the chance to match White’s unnatural speed. It was not much more on top of all the spells she had cast on her in the beginning. But, since she cast that last one during the duel, rather than in advance, it did technically count as cheating. Star glanced at Cass to see if the brunette protested, but she seemed not to notice. Right, she probably knew already. There was something so very creepy about that girl!

Star couldn’t finish that thought, because that very moment she got a jolt of adrenaline as she felt Marco’s knees hit the floor. She could see, and feel, herself crawling in all fours towards Jackie, through her boyfriend’s eyes, the human girl still dressed in full prince outfit.

“Hey, come think of it, where are Monkey Face and Earth Turd?” pouted Pony Head. Clearly the implications of the mewman cheating in the fight with White had gone right over her floating head. Star loved her best bestie on Mewnie, but sometimes the Cloud Kingdom’s princess could really be rather cloud-headed. “I’d thought they would be with you...”

“Ah,” Star gasped. In her mind, she could see the answer to her bestie’s question way too clearly. For once, Star decided to go with the truth, or something close enough, “Well, Marco and Jackie are dating and, they probably wanted some time alone in private to, like, comfort each other after the fight and stuff...”

“Sure, Star, but, well, aren’t you like their girlfriend too?” Pony Head asked like it was the most blatantly obvious thing in the world.

Glintwisp’s eyes went wide in surprise. Cass stared out of the window, bored.

“What?! No! Yes!” Star scrambled to respond. “Ok, sort of... But, how do you know?”

Gurrl, it is kinda obvious from seeing the three of you. I mean, those two go without saying, of course,” the other princess explained. “But, like, you and Earth Turd had gotten into a fight before I dragged you both here and you patched stuff up - no need to thank me! I am nice like that! - and it was obviously a boyfriend-girlfriend kind of fight, and it’s obvious Monkey Face knows about that, so... you three got one of those, eh, arrangements, no? You can tell me! I won’t judge, B-fly! I mean, I would have gone with guy-me-guy or, at worst, me-guy-guy, but...”

So much for cloud-headed.

“Well, yeah, ok, it is something like that,” Star conceded. “It’s just a thing Jackie came up with, and so I get Marco, and she also gets Marco.”

For example, right this very moment, Jackie was getting to undress Marco as he laid on the bed. She was pushing the pink dress Star conjured for him and carelessly throwing it to the floor, and Marco was just looking up at the human girl with nervous anticipation.

“So, with that situation,...” Pony Head tried, “... you don’t feel left out sometimes, B-Fly? Like, who gets him the most?”

“We both do!” Star replied. Except, of course, Jackie got him now. Like, right now. Like she was plunging herself onto his cock right this very second, and Star both knew that and could feel it! It made the princess both indescribably happy and also worried in a vague diffuse manner. And the fact that it made her feel worried made her feel guilty in turn, like she was failing to live up to her end of the bargain. After all, last night it had been her and Marco, with Jackie probably within earshot, and she had not given any sign of resenting that!

“Yeah, but,” Pony Head insisted, “who gets him the mostest?”

“Jackie,” Star admitted. “No! We, we both do. And, like, I think we actually spend more time together than the two of them. I mean, we live together...”

“Right,” said her friend, “but, like, it doesn’t quite feel that way, right B-fly?”

It didn’t. Jackie had been with him first. She had gone with him to the place that Star had wanted so much to take him to, the dimension with all the hanging silk ribbons. She was with him now, and it was the two of them who had been prince and princess during this whole charade, while Star took the role of the friend, just as she did at school!

The worst part was that Star knew she was being unfair. Jackie had been with Marco first, and she had gotten him and Star out on their first date! She had gone to the pillow’s and silk dimension with him because Star had sent them there! She had him now, because Star had had him yesterday. And she had taken Prince Jack’s role... to fit into the adventures Star and Marco took for granted.

But still, it sometimes felt like Star was playing second fiddle to Jackie as far as Marco was concerned. At least, that’s what a petty and mean voice inside her head often told her. It did not help to see them now, in her mind eye. Jackie riding him and he moaning in pleasure, in a way that Star had never heard him moan when they were together. He didn’t get lost in pleasure quite that way, not with her. Was that a new thing? Or was it always like that when he was with Jackie? Star couldn’t remember.

She often found that her link with Marco made the situation more acceptable. She got to feel good when he felt good, and thus became even more open to cherish the pleasure he got with Jackie. But right now, feeling this as she had to make an effort not to show it, as she tried to convince Pony Head that she didn’t sometimes feel jealous about Jackie still, well, it was most definitely not helping.

“You know, B-fly,” her bestie suddenly spoke, sounding surprisingly subdued for Pony Head, “I think it’s true you both get him the mostest. Like, it looks like that to me. But I don’t feel that’s how you feel. You know? And, like, the facts are one thing, but the way you feel about them is the truth too! You get what I am saying?”

“To hide from one’s heart is to fear one’s own shadow,” Cass spoke, without bothering to turn back from the window.

“Yeah, totally, totally... But, I know the way I feel, and I feel great!” smiled Star, unconvincingly.

Privately, she thought that maybe her bestie had a point. It didn’t mean she wanted something other than what the three of them had. She had been willing to face up to her mom, and her entire kingdom, for her right to continue things exactly as they were with the two human teens. But perhaps it didn’t hurt to admit that, sometimes - not always, but sometimes - she still couldn’t be as perfectly chill about the whole thing as Jackie seemed to be. Now, the question was, should she tell Jackie that? Could she tell Marco?

She tried to be as discreet as possible, as the force of the other two teens’ climax hit her through the link. A gasp still escaped her lips, drawing looks of puzzlement from Pony Head and Glintwisp, and what seemed almost like a reproachful look from the green-eyed girl.

“The flipped lovers will be joining us soon,” Cass spoke. “But, then again, Her Majesty already knows that.”

Whatever else the future had in store for her, Star felt she would undoubtedly be glad to leave St. Olga and all of its creepy new princesses behind. The party below seemed less and less attractive by the minute.

----

Jackie was glad that they found Star still inside tower three. She was doubly glad that Marco had found a way to get there which did not go out of the building. She was particularly happy they didn’t have to traverse the crowded courtyard.

She did not wish to be seen by any of the princesses of St. O’s now, mostly because passing as Prince Jack had become rather difficult, now that the buttons of her vest and shirt were both in tatters. Not to mention: whatever magical force had been binding her breasts flat underneath was also gone. She hadn’t even realized that that was something included in her transformation, until now. In retrospect, it was rather obvious; a shirt and vest alone should not have been able to disguise her gender. Not that Jackie was one to brag about something like that, of course.

“Hey, Star!” she shouted as soon as they found their friend.

“Hey, Jackie!” the princess of Mewni yelled back as she turned around, smiling at them. Jackie gave her an apologetic half smile. Then the mewman spotted their boyfriend, “Marco!”

Star jumped to hug him, and Marco held her tightly in return. It warmed Jackie’s heart, every time. She also felt quite happy to notice that Star didn’t seem at all bothered by their spur of the moment celebratory escapade. Sometimes it was hard to tell with the princess, the way she always put a happy face either way, but Jackie felt she had gotten better at telling when Star’s contentment was sincere. And she thought, and hoped, that was the case today.

After all, this whole thing had been possible only because of Star. How often you met a friend who took you on an inter-dimensional adventure, gave you freaking super-powers and then let you use those super-powers to literally sweep the boy she liked off his feet? Jackie was reputed to be a cool girl, and she would admit she had her moments, but she had to agree with Marco’s frequent declarations: Star was the most amazing friend anyone could wish for! And, while Jackie was most lucky to have a rather wonderful boyfriend, she also felt quite lucky of having made such a great friend as well.

“Hey, Monkey Face!” Pony Head came out right after Star, giving Jackie a derisive glare. “Heard you are a skank!”

Jackie rolled her eyes at that, “Heard you got jailed, Horse Head. Shame we cannot just keep you locked up!”

Pony Head huffed. “But, like, glad you are not dead and all...” she finally admitted with an embarrassed turn of her head.

“Same,” conceded Jackie, with a chuckle and a knowing nod.

“Awwww, now we are all besties!” shouted Star with a huge grin, as she finally let go of their mutual boyfriend. Both Jackie and Pony Head made faces that made it quite clear that the mewman was being far too optimistic on that count. “But, well,” Star continued, “I think it is time for all us to head back to Mewni, and from there to Earth!”

“You don’t have to say it twice,” Marco agreed. “I have had enough adventure for a pretty long while. Are the girls going to be ok without us, though?”

“We can take it from here, Princess Marco, ma’am,” Glintwisp flew up to him. “We will be alright. It was an honor to meet you and we shall now be doubly in your debt!”

“You are in nobody’s debt, my wayward sister!” Princess Marco replied. Then, in his normal boy tone, “But, eh, you know I am not really a princess, right?”

“Of course, Princess Marco,” Glintwisp replied with a bow.

“So,” Jackie felt she had to ask, “how about her?”

She pointed at the brunette princess. She had noticed her a while back, as she bantered with Pony Head. But, since Star seemed to be ok with her around, Jackie had figured she was no threat. That said, she was still one of White’s goons. Not being a threat to Star Butterfly didn’t mean she was not a threat to a crowd of other, less magical, princesses. That was Prince Jack’s own expert judgment, as the second liberator of St. O’s.

“As the black queen leaves, so my role here shall be ended. None of the princesses you leave behind has anything to fear from me,” Cass spoke. “There is only one task left for me to do, and it shall be done soon. Once the veil is lifted, I shall give voice to the will of the heavens.”

Jackie shot Star a questioning look, and the mewman simply shrugged.

“Well, that’s settled then. I don’t know you girls,” Marco spoke then. “But I am starving for some nachos!”

He held his pair of magical scissors in the air. A pair that, if Jackie was to believe Star and Marco’s stories - and, given what she had just experienced, she was quite ready to believe just about anything - he had obtained after sixteen years of grueling hardships in a foreign dimension, in pursuit of a sadistic evil sorceress who also happened to be Star mom’s good friend. Those scissors were perhaps Marco’s most valuable possession, and second only to Star’s magic wand. For a moment Jackie wondered if she would ever end up owning her own magical artifact if she hung out with the two of them long enough.

“Nachos sound awesome, Diaz,” she agreed. “Well, what are we waiting for? There is no place like home!” She clicked the heels of her princely boots and her boyfriend groaned, even as he smiled just a little bit.

Marco extended the scissors out in front of himself and cut through the air in a single theatrical motion.

Nothing happened.

His smile turned to a frown as he opened and closed the scissors in mid air, to no avail. He brought them up to his face and looked at them. “Star... my name! It is gone from the blades!”

----

“What?! Marco, let me see,” Star took the scissors from Marco and looked them over. Indeed, his name seemed to have faded out of them. This wasn’t right. She had never seen a pair of dimensional scissors fail to open a portal, even on the first try. Were his dimensional scissors on the frizz? Could dimensional scissors even be on the frizz? She closed her eyes and focused, dipping down into herself, stirring the magic around her, and particularly the magic within the metal blades. She found none. No trace of power could be felt, none beyond that which lingered within mundane materials. “Marco, I can’t sense any of Hekapoo’s stuff in these. Are you sure they are the right scissors?”

“Of course they are the right scissors, Star,” spoke Marco. He didn’t sound angry, but he seemed scared, almost panicking.

He took the scissors back from Star and tried again to open a portal with them, to no avail. Marco had always been very careful with those scissors, ever since he came back from his quest for them. He would lend them to her without question, of course, but otherwise he never let them out of his sight. Star remembered how she felt right after losing the book of spells. Then she thought back to when she thought she had just been forced to destroy her magic wand forever. The realization hit her then, of just what exactly might be going through her best friend’s mind. Oh crap!

She put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and shot him a reassuring smile. “It’s alright Marco, it will be fine. I don’t know what’s happening, but I am sure we will find a way to repair those, or get Hekapoo to forge another pair. After all, you already earned them, it’s not like she can say no to that!” At least, Star hoped that was the case.

“But, eh, Star,” Jackie interrupted. “How are we going to get back without the scissors?”

“Mmmhmm,” Star thought for a while, wand against her cheek. Maybe she could do something with her magic. But, well, there was a reason even Mewni royalty used dimensional scissors to travel around the multiverse. What if she managed to open a portal but they didn’t end up where she thought they would? Or somehow got there only half-way? Or it was instead a twisted shadow of the world they had left behind? Or... No, dimensional magic without instructions and without scissors sounded like a bad idea. It was the kind of bad idea even Star Butterfly wouldn’t try if they had any other option. “Wait, I got it! Pony Head, you still have a pair of scissors, right?”

“Of course, B-fly!” Pony Head said, sticking out her tongue and showing her second pair of stolen scissors this year.

Star took them from her, and cut through the air in front of the both of them. Nothing happened. She examined the scissors the same way she had inspected Marco’s, but no magic was to be found in these either.

“These aren’t working either,” she observed, frustrated. “Pony Head, you said Miss Heinous had a whole basket of scissors?”

They resolved to go to the former headmistress’ room. Cass, Pony Head and Glintwisp showed the way, while the two humans and Star followed. In there, they found more than a dozen other dimensional scissors, all of them equally useless.

“Wait, I got another idea!” shouted Star, forcing herself to smile as she looked at the deflated faces around her.

Marco had been trying his best to help, testing the other scissors. But now he just cradled his own in both hands, looking at them with a sad expression. Jackie tried to comfort him with a hug and reassuring words, but Star could tell she was getting worried too. She knew the human girl must be thinking about the possibility that they might not be able to go back to Earth. It was a reasonable fear, particularly considering this was her first time outside her own dimension. But Star was not ready to give up just yet.

She looked around. “Of course! There!”

She took off the white sheet covering the mirror. Because, of course, Miss Heinous had to have had a mirror. How else would she know which kids to expect from their parents? Come to think about it, many of the princess’ rooms also had mirrors. All they had to do was call her mom, and she would figure out a way to come fetch them!

Or, even better, they could call Hekapoo herself and ask her what the hell had gone wrong with Marco’s scissors and the others here. Now that she thought about it, that was probably the best course of action. Given Star’s last interaction with the two of them, she felt Hekapoo might perhaps be more sympathetic to getting them all out of here with minimal fuss. After all, her mom probably didn’t even know they had left Mewni, and wouldn’t be thrilled to hear so.

“Mirror mirror on the wall, call Hekapoo!” Star commanded. Three dots appeared on top of the crystal surface, as her reflection and that of her friends disappeared from it.

’CALL SUBJECT IS UNREACHABLE’ showed the mirror’s surface.

The princess stared at the words for what seemed like minutes.

“Star,” Jackie suggested, cautiously. “Maybe call your mom, then?”

Sigh. Yeah, yeah, alright...” Star already knew what the next step was, and she suspected Jackie knew she knew. But Jackie also probably knew Moon and her had, well, unresolved issues to discuss, as Star’s mother would put it. “Mirror mirror on the wall, call Mom!”

‘CALL SUBJECT IS UNREACHABLE’

“This is bad, Star,” Marco finally spoke. “This is really, really, bad. And it’s all my fault...”

“How is this your fault?” interjected Jackie.

“Well, my scissors should have gotten us out of here, or else I shouldn’t have been so confident in them, and planned a backup, or...” Marco seemed to realize he was being silly, for once, “... ok, it just feels like my fault.”

“Maybe it is mine,” said Jackie smiling faintly. “Maybe it had to do with defeating White, or with not killing her, and now we are all sealed in this dimension with her?”

“No, Marco, Jackie. It is my fault,” spoke Star in a resolute tone. Her face turned into a scowl. “It is always, ultimately, my fault. I got you two to Mewnie first and now here, and I am going to get you both back to Earth. But first, we need to know what is happening, and I think I know just the way...”

Her eyes narrowed, and she could see in the now inactive mirror that she looked just a little bit scary. Marco and Jackie seemed nervous, but not too concerned, while Cass went pale and scrambled to get her back against the wall, as far from Star as she could without leaving the room.

In retrospect, Star shouldn’t have missed that warning sign.

However, right now, the princess knew just what she had to do. She had to know what exactly had happened to the scissors or to this place, why the mirror was also not working, and where the hell was Hekapoo during all this. She began the only spell that could offer her answers now, the one spell which could show her the hidden truth.

“I summon the All-Seeing Eye...”

A gust of chilly wind began swirling around the room, as if the windows and door were not closed, as if the sky was not sunny and clear. It lifted her hair up in the air around her. She focused, with all her might, on her desire to learn what was going on, to find a way back home.

“Eh, Star, are you sure? That spell...” asked Marco, nervously. He had seen her cast it once before, back when she used it to search for Glossaryck. It had led to a pretty awkward talk, where Star had tried to explain what she knew about what made dark magic, well, dark. It wasn’t much. Marco had noticed that. “Is it safe?” he added.

Probably not. But it’s not like they had a whole lot of options. Besides, Star had used it before, more times than Marco knew, without anything too bad happening.

“... to tear a hole into the sky...”

Her half crystal star glowed bright green. Cass gasped. A sense of dread began growing in the back of Star’s mind. That sensation was new. She had cast the All-Seeing Eye spell many times before, and it did often feel just slightly wrong. A sensation she had attributed either to the purposes she tended to use it for, or to the fact that it was dark magic after all.

“...reveal to me that which is hidden...”

But this time the sensation was different. It was not just slightly wrong, there was something awful about the magic that was flowing through her wand now, and through her body. Alarm bells rang in Star’s mind. But she found, to her surprise, that she could not stop now, even if she tried.

“... unveil to me what is forbidden!”

A huge purple vortex opened up before all of them, tendrils of green energy slowly creeping from within, the view on the other end of the portal a dark haze. Star tried to shut down the spell, to drop her wand, to dip down. But nothing worked. She was paralyzed in place, and from the looks of it, so were her friends. After a long tense instant, the view on the other side of the portal became clear.

It was Earth. More specifically, it was Marco’s house. Even more specifically, it was her room. On the other side of the portal, a perfect copy of Star was looking at them upside down, as she laid on the floor with her feet on top of the edge of the bed, playing with her wand, moving it forward and backward slowly.

Star tried to open her mouth to speak to her idle look-alike, but she could not even move her own lips. It was like having her mind pulled into slowed time by someone else, the way she had done to Jackie earlier, only even more restricting. She could barely move her eyes around, glancing at her human friends to see the shocked expressions they wore. Then, she saw the image inside the portal jump to sit in the bed, and realized to her horror what she was seeing. She didn’t know, she never knew, that the All-Seeing Eye could show her scenes far away in time as well as space. But why this? Why now?!

“I summon the All-Seeing Eye, to tear a hole into the sky,” spoke the other Star.

She could hardly believe she was seeing this again. It was wrong. A shameful memory under the best of circumstances, and even worse under these circumstances. Marco and Jackie were here with her! If they found out... no, oh no! Not like this!

“Reveal to me that which is hidden.” She saw the Star in the portal’s wand glow emerald as a second portal opened within the first. “Unveil to me what is forbidden.”

“Well, Marco, what do you think?” came Jackie’s voice from somewhere outside either vortex. The past version of the princess adjusted the portal, so that they were all now looking, through two different sets of shadowy clouds, at Jackie standing in only her bra, that fateful night, seemingly so long ago. Star looked at her friend, her real present friend, frozen in place with her, and saw her eyes grow wide with surprise. Oh no! no! No, no, no, no, no! This wasn’t happening!

But it did, all of it! They remained held in place by the spell as the smaller vortex showed Marco and Jackie’s first intimacies, their private jokes, their awkwardness (mostly his, but sometimes hers as well). The larger portal showed Star, gazing at them with an expression that she now felt looked too... well, too eager, perverted even. She felt ashamed, and disgusted at herself. A glance at Jackie and Marco told her they were both shocked, and confused, and going pale.

“Do you, do you do this often? Invite boys up, I mean?”

“No. First time ever. You?”

“No! I mean, yes! I mean no! I mean, first time too. With girls, I mean. Not with boys. I mean, not that I have done it with boys either...”

“... I kinda practiced on Star’s bras...”

“Oh, Marco... you are doing... a-mazing!”

“You know, it is better if you play with them. Like this,”

“Eh, Jackie. How far are we planning on taking this?”

“You know where my mouth just was, right?”

“Well, if you had said you were with me only for the sex that would also have been good for my ego,”

“By the way, Safe Kid, do you have any condoms around?”

“Just fuck already!” Star heard herself yell, through the portal.

Had she really said that aloud? If her face hadn’t been pale as a corpse with guilt and fear, it would have been boiling red with embarrassment.

Worse, she knew what was coming. Soon they were all watching Marco entering Jackie, trusting into her as they both sweat and moaned. They were watching Star herself laying on the bed, being fucked by some magical echo of Marco. It was beyond bizarre, and so embarrassing that Star wanted her wand to explode right there and then and erase them all from the face of whatever dimension St. O’s was in. But, more than anything, she felt guilt, guilt at having seen that, and at now showing it, against her own will, to the other two teens. And to Pony Head, Glintwisp and Cass as well!

Once it was finally done, Star could only manage to look at the floor in shame. But the Star in the vision had not averted her eyes, and so she could not claim to be as ashamed at what she had done as she was at having been caught.

“Marco... this is probably weird timing, but can I ask you a question about Star?” she heard the Jackie in the mirror ask. Fortunately, the image faded out then, not showing Star creeping in on their private conversation as well as their first time. At last, it was over.

Except, instead of the spell fading and their movement being restored, the scene simply changed. It showed her and Marco, older Marco, floating in the clouds. It showed Hekapoo’s smiling face for only a moment, and then the image broke like shattered glass.

It changed then to a dark night outside, of even darker implications. A small river flowing under a stone bridge.

“Then, Star...” she heard Tom’s voice through the portal, “... get on your knees.”

And the spell showed them Star fellating Tom, and at the same time flashes of Jackie doing the same to Marco, back in their bed. It didn’t show a continuous scene now, but jumped between one and the other, recreating that awful night as Star had experienced it, where she saw the two humans half of the time as she herself had sex with her ex-boyfriend. In the end, the spell showed all four climaxing together. Each of their faces appeared in turn, large and clear through the vortex, as they cried out.

“Staaar!” she heard Tom grunt, hungrily.

“Maaarco!” she heard Jackie moan, joyously.

“Staaar!” she heard Marco shout, lovingly.

“Maaarco!” she heard herself cry out, wishfully.

Jackie’s face, the real Jackie, the current Jackie, looked horrified. Marco seemed hurt and confused. Star’s eyes were crying through the paralysis, it was painful to force each tear out, but impossible to contain them.

The show did not end there, but it showed bits and pieces of every time Star had been with Marco, and of every time she had sensed or seen him and Jackie through the link, including this very morning. Most of the time, it was clear Star was not only aware of it, but actively seeking the link, closing her eyes to concentrate, looking for a quiet space... touching herself. They might yet believe the truth: that she did not control those visions, that she could not fully shut them down, that she had not actively cast the spell to spy on them again. But there was no way she could convince them that she hadn’t known, or that she hadn’t enjoyed what she saw, that she hadn’t repeatedly violated their privacy, and lied to them by omission.

The images in the portal became very different now, and in a way even more disturbing. A web of emerald strings, bright as lightning, constricting someone she couldn’t quite see. Star’s book of spells burning. Glossaryck burning! Wait, was that Ludo being crushed under a stone pillar? The forest of certain death, flowing beneath the view of the vortex. Butterfly Castle.

Star felt anger. A hate that burned cold like nothing she had ever felt before, and it took her just an instant to realize that it was not, could not be, part of her own feelings. Something was angry at her, angry that it was being sought, spied on, touched. Something that had not cared at all when exposing all of Star’s deepest and darkest secrets, but which would not allow her to peer into its own. The Seeing-Eye portal came crashing down, and Star felt a sensation like being punched in the stomach... by Princess White’s rock-shattering fists.

She hit the wall and collapsed onto the ground, her wand falling down in the middle of the room and rolling away from her, finally inert. Every inch of her body felt like an army of ants were crawling over it. She could not move, could not speak, could hardly breathe. Everyone else seemed to become unfrozen at just that time.

“Star...!” she heard Marco and Jackie shout in unison.

“... are you ok?!” asked Marco.

“... what the hell was that?!” yelled Jackie, trembling. Her eyes sharp even as they welled up with moisture.

“Ah, ahem,” Pony Head flew up in front of Star, “that was, that was clearly fake! Something went funny with the spell... right, B-fly? And, and...”

“That wasn’t fake,” stated Jackie. Her tone suddenly ice-cold. Her expression rigid and controlled, even as tears flowed from her eyes.

“Jackie, ah, maybe right now is not the best time. We can ask after we are sure she is alright...” noted Marco. But Star noticed he also seemed to avoid looking at her. His face was also red with embarrassment. Or with anger?

“No, Marco!” yelled Jackie. “She is fine. I know very well what Star can take. She can answer now! Please, step aside, Pony Head. I am sorry, but this is between the three of us...”

“We should go,” said Glintwisp to the unicorn princess. The floating head looked around and nodded apprehensively in response, and they made their way towards the exit.

Star felt herself recover, ever so slowly, “Jackie, oh Jackie, I am so sorry, I never meant for you to...”

“See any of that?!” asked Jackie. “Know that you have been spying on me this whole time?! Honestly, Star, that makes it worse. I feel... I can’t even describe it... used? Toyed with? Violated? Come on, I trusted you! Trusted you enough to open up about how I felt, to want us to be friends and... and... you know... to be alright with you and Marco? To feel safe about you dating him too. Trusted the both of you... I... why didn’t you tell us?”

As the physical pain began to subside, the weight of her guilt, and the realization that she had really hurt Jackie, quickly outpaced the magical resonance as the source of Star’s anguish. “Jackie, I am sorry, I am really really sorry. But... would you have said something in my place? I can’t even begin to think how...”

“Yes, Star, I would have,” Jackie responded without a thought. “Marco would have too. Come on Star, I shouldn’t have to explain to you how all that stuff is really not cool!”

Star murmured something in response, it was a lame apology, and she knew it was so even before she was done saying it.

“What was that?” asked Jackie.

“I said,” Star repeated, ashamed, “that I wouldn’t have gone out with Marco, or ended up in this weird-awesome relationship, if not for... well... for what you just saw...”

“Star,” Jackie looked down at the floor, suddenly in a calmer, but not exactly friendlier, tone. “You could have just asked. At any time, you could have asked. I know it wouldn’t have been a normal thing to do, and I can see why that would have been scary. But, well, it wouldn’t have been like this! It would have been something Marco and I at least could consider, and agree to. Rather than us having been exposed for your entertainment, without our knowledge, without being asked...”

Star blinked. Had it truly been as simple as that? If she had spoken with Marco, or with Jackie, would all this have happened, even without the link?

“And, Star... even after that, you could have said something afterwards, that day at the diner, perhaps, or any of the afternoons we were all at Marco’s home... Ah, but maybe...” she glanced at Marco, and he simply shook his head. He was still looking down at the floor, silently. “I see. Why? Why didn’t you say anything Star? To either of us? I trusted you. Marco trusted you. Why didn’t you trust us?”

“I do trust you!” protested Star. “I was, I was ashamed, and weirded out. I wanted to tell you, but, but...” She realized that the boy hadn’t said a word in a while, “Marco, yesterday you said that you were fine with learning my secrets whenever you learned them, right? That I didn’t have to tell you all back then? That it was ok if some of it was a surprise?”

Star knew, right after she had said that, that it was the wrong thing to say. She hadn’t asked Marco how he felt, she had just asked for forgiveness. No, not even that. She had called him on his promise for blanket absolution, without first even asking what he thought of... of everything he had just seen.

“Star, I...” he begun. Then he paused. He looked at the mewman princess, crying in the floor, then at the human girl trembling with anger and hurt. “You were watching us, right? Every time? This morning too?”

Star nodded, words stuck in her throat.

“Then, are we not allowed secrets as well? Only you?” Star felt hollow inside. Marco didn’t sound angry. It was much worse than that. He sounded distant. And he was still not looking at her. He walked up to Jackie and held her tightly. Then he spoke, evenly, “can we talk about all this later? We still need to find a way home.”

But Star didn’t want to go home anymore. She wanted to go back in time, to the moment before she cast the All Seeing-Eye spell again, or maybe further back than that, to the time at which she might have told Marco and Jackie of the link, without coming off as someone who disrespected and toyed with those she loved, without being a liar, and a creep. Jackie had been right, Marco would have told her, immediately, if it had been him seeing her through the link and he knew what it was. The human girl would have likely told her as well. What did it say, about Star, that she hadn’t?

Cass walked slowly towards her. Honestly, the mewman had forgotten about the last remaining princess in the room. She hadn’t left when Pony Head and Glintwisp had. Now, the brunette was almost in front of her, and she extended a finger to point accusingly at Star. Her eyes had rotated up in their sockets, so that she could no longer see the green irises. When the words came out of her mouth, it didn’t sound like her voice at all. It didn’t sound human. It was a chorus of deep echoing voices that came out of the frail looking girl.

Star understood then, why Cass knew things she had never been told, and why she spoke in riddles. Mewni had legends, as did Earth, about vampires. Mewni also had legends, as did Earth, about seers and prophecies.

“Behold the dark queen ascending,
her will the thread of fate unraveling.
Behold the force of evil incarnate,
borne of deepest heart’s desire.”

Thus spoke the girl called Cass, as she kept her finger pointed at Star, declaring her evil beyond reckoning. The words felt true, in a piercing way. They were not true because they were perceptive. Nor even because Star herself was already questioning her own moral compass. They were true because they were prophecy, true in a fatalistic sense, and Star knew that, even if she wasn’t sure how she knew it.

“Only surrender may undo the shadow,
but the price shall be too high to pay.
In the end the world itself must shatter,
and death shall be the one to claim her.”

Star rose to her feet in one jump. She could not stand it any more: the unearthly voice of the other princess, the looks of confusion in her human friends’ eyes, the guilt about what she had done, the horror about what she might one day do, about what she was just told she would become. Without bothering to even get her wand back, the princess of mewni, the “force of evil incarnate”, took off running out of that dreadful room.

As she fled, the thing that broke her heart was that, this time, she didn’t even hear Marco call after her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18: But Just to Be Certain, I’ll Say it Again

A girl with no friends, and no loved ones left, skulked through the bleak cliffs surrounding Saint Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses. Unhurriedly she made her way among the thick and prickly tangles of dead tree branches. As she did so, the evil child only thought of what had gone wrong, what she would do differently if she had only another chance. She had been thinking, and fleeing, for hours. Now the sky was dark once more, but the end of the day did not erase the damage done.

As her mind was balancing, for the eleventh time, the ledger of all of her mistakes, she heard a sobbing sound from just ahead. Cautiously, she approached the source of the noise. It came from a small valley clearing. A vulnerable position. Or perhaps a trap. Not wanting to take any chances, the girl got only as far as the edge of the dried woods, and with a swift movement jumped atop one particularly tall, particularly sturdy, elm. As it landed, her lithe body made nary a sound, none that would be heard over the ceaseless weeping.

The figure below was familiar to her. Even so, it took her a moment to recognize her now, without the long horns and the ridiculous fake eye-patch. The sniveling blond mess had curled herself into a ball in the middle of the clearing, and was likely in the process of crying herself to sleep. She could see her hands bracing her knees, as she shivered in the freezing night wind. Perched atop the tree, Princess White smiled a long wicked smirk. Star Butterfly had no wand on her person.

It would have been easy, and oh so satisfying, to drink the mewman princess dry of her sweet young blood. A palliative for her hunger, and for her bruised pride. But White recalled promising to leave the other princess alone, as part of the terms of her surrender to Prince Jack, the giant killer. White was a creature of the told story, a being of tale and myth, and she knew the traps fate and legend usually put in the path of those who violated an important promise.

There was a kind of magics, White knew, which acted like contracts with the world and its powers, and were enforced by potencies far beyond mortal comprehension. Cassandra’s prophecies had been thus. It was that the reason why she had found the brunette so indispensable an ally, despite her infuriating crypticness. Invoking similar powers, she had managed to stave away the sun from her temporary kingdom, claiming the ancient right of domain. But her domain had been broken the second she declared herself to lose the duel she had accepted to fight for its control. That meant her word and her promises had at least some weight for the ancient powers. It followed then that she should think it twice before seeing herself forsworn over a petty act of vengeance.

She had promised to leave Jack, ‘and Princess Marco, and the mewman, and all the princesses of St. Olga’s, alone’. Was there a loophole there? Anything she might try that would count as technically keeping her promise, while achieving the spirit of her revenge? Surely, the child was mewman, and the only one in St O’s, so she could not sneak out of her vow there by claiming its object was ambiguous. If she had sworn to leave her alone, what was there left, that she could do to her with impunity?

While she thought, a second figure entered the clearing, from the 3 o’ clock relative to where she kept watch. White ducked and hid further among the dry branches, as she saw a boy approach. It was not Jack, and certainly no princess.

“Hey, Star... are you alright?” the boy asked.

White noted the concern in his voice. A friend of the mewman perhaps? Well, now that she thought of it, killing her friends did certainly match the wording of a promise ‘to leave her alone’, quite nicely. Ah, the beauty of poetic irony! The vampire princess grinned at the thought. She coiled herself over the tree, ready to strike at Star’s friend, to deprive the other princess of his company, to multiply her misery without touching a golden hair of her head.

She did not attack.

It took her a moment of hesitation, a second to appraise the newcomer, to decide firmly against that first plan. For even if you were a princess of skin cold as snow, and lips red as blood, and ancient darkness of fairy tale lore, it was nevertheless unwise to attempt to prey on a boy with skin of gravestone tint, and burning red coals for eyes, and long fiendish horns. No, it was not wise at all to ambush a demon.

----

“Tom...?” Star looked up at him in surprise, her eyes red from crying. A moment later, she turned her dulled gaze back to the floor, as if he weren’t there. She continued whimpering, more softly, but no less sorrowfully, than before.

She seemed so sad, and so defeated. The demon prince could not recall ever seeing her in such a state, not even the night of... No. He forced himself to think of anything but that. This was already going to be awkward enough as it was. For once in his life, Tom wanted to be the ex Star deserved, to be something to her other than her biggest regret, her biggest mistake.

“Star,” he spoke. He felt the urge to call her ‘Starship’ and squashed that feeling with all the wrath of the Astray One himself. “I... heard what happened, some of it. Do you want to talk?”

“No,” Star replied. “Marco hates me now, and Jackie hates me now, and... and I hate you.”

To hear that, spoken so plainly, hurt almost as much as that damned anger spell had back then, the day of the concert. In some ways, it hurt even more. But now it was not the time for him to indulge his ever-burning anger, or his own self-pity. Tom breathed deeply, and kept his temper in check, without bothering to count this time. He just didn’t have the time for that. Instead, he made himself to suppress his inner fire, through force of will alone.

“Star, Jackie is, well, she is angry, but I don’t believe she hates you,” Tom spoke softly, as he sat besides Star and cautiously draped an arm around her. She did not react. He knew well enough that it was more of an indicator of how apathetic she felt right now, rather than any sign that she welcomed his touch. Still, he couldn’t help but feel happy to be holding her, then angry at himself that he still felt so.

Tom forced himself to stay the course. He had promised, before coming out to look for Star, that he would not lie, he would not plot, he would not manipulate. He had promised that he would not put any moves on Star, no matter what, that he was to be here out of concern, and out to help the mewman, as any friend would. A friend and nothing more, if the princess was willing to accept even that from him. It went against his nature, the same way calm went against his nature. And yet, he had long ago mastered calm, nonchalantness, at least most of the time. It took constant effort, but it was effort he was willing to undertake.

“And I know Marco doesn’t hate you. He...” The words dried his throat, like puking dense burning lava, “... he loves you, Star.”

“He hates me, Tom!” yelled Star, tossing his arm off of her and turning her back towards him. “And he is right to do so! Guess you have also heard about me being evil, no? Since you seem to know everything that has happened to me lately!?”

She sounded angry. Anger was good. It was much better than hollow defeated sadness. Maybe what Star needed was to hit him again with the dark vortex spell, to let the anger and the hurt out of her system. Tom was surprised to discover, that after all that had happened between the two of them, he would gladly let her do that again. Except this time, he wouldn’t mess it up by expecting any kind of affection from her in return. Star didn’t love him, and she didn’t want him. But if she indeed did simply hate him, then by the deceiver, may that hate be put to a good a use!

“Evil is relative, Star, and I say so with some personal understanding of the concept. I also have been called evil, after all,” Tom said as he shrugged. “From what I heard, you were less than forthcoming with one of your magical mishaps, and then got some ambiguous seer mumbo jumbo thrown at you. Big deal!”

It was, actually, a bigger deal than he was making it out to be, but Star didn’t need to hear that now. Prophecies were one time a blessing and ten times a curse, and it was always near impossible to untangle them until they came to happen. The girl had called Star “the dark queen ascending” and “the force of evil incarnate”, but Tom had a hard time seeing either of those come to pass, knowing Star like he did.

Not that he would care if Star ever did go dark, not really. Good or evil, she would still be herself, and that was all that mattered in his book. He was far more concerned about the fact that the prophecy also said that “death shall be the one to claim her”. That he could visualize, all to clearly. Tom Lucitor, prince of the underworld, was determined not to let that come to pass.

“Tom, you are evil,” Star said, giving him a look of disgust. “And... well, I didn’t think so back when we first met, or when we were together. I only realized it way too late. So, I think is very possible, well, that my moral compass is so very twisted that I can’t even realize that I am evil too, or turning evil. That, maybe, I have done something truly beyond the pale. Jackie seems to think so. And another reason I might be evil, is that I actually know for a fact that, right now, I am not nearly as concerned about the fact that I may become a dark queen when I grow-up-than-I-am-concerned-about-Marco-hating-me!”

Her words became quicker and quicker as she got to the last part, until there was a torrent of them stumbling one atop the other out of her mouth. She only paused because, near the end, it seemed, she had no choice but to take a breath of air. Tom sighed. There was only one way to get to her then, one way only. It was not what he would have preferred.

“Star, how do you think I know all of this? What happened back at Saint O’s, and the prophecy?” the demon prince asked her calmly.

“That’s obvious,” Star countered. “It is because you have been spying on me, again. Like evil people do! Like I did to Marco and Jackie...”

“Actually, Star, it’s because Marco called me, and asked me to find you,” he admitted.

For the first time, Star looked up and met his gaze, eyes filled with surprise and just the slightest dash of hope.

----

Princess White felt like she was going to puke listening to the two of them. So, the girl had managed to annoy her friends and now felt bad about it? And now the demon was, for some unfathomable reason, trying to reassure her it didn’t mean she was a bad person? Since when did a demon cared if someone was a bad person? If anything, he should be welcoming the fact that the girl thought herself evil. That self-perception made it so much more likely that she would fall into the fiend’s clever snare. White was sure, she could sense it in his body language, that the purple fiend lusted after the princess. It defied all she knew about the nature of the underworld denizens that he didn’t take her by force. Demons were, after all, creatures often slave to their own base emotions: lust, wrath, envy, and so forth.

It took her only an instant, after she let her bored mind tune out their conversation, to notice the rustling of the leaves a hundred or so paces away from where she was perched. The movement was almost in a perfect line with the angle from which the demon had come into the clearing.

Curious, the vampire slid unseen through branch and root, a quarter way around the clearing, and a short walk away from it. There she found a girl with hair almost as black as hers, with eyes dark green, and a black cloak around her. Her body seemed to rest against the tree, giving her back to the children in the clearing, just far away enough not to overhear even through the quietness of the night. She deliberately pretended that she was ignoring the other two teens, but her face was one of apprehension. In front of the girl, uncomfortably nested between scorched trees, was a skeletal horse, chained to a black unearthly carriage.

White gave herself a few minutes to examine the situation. She could kill the girl, of course, but to what end? To steal the black hearse? That she might do. If the vehicle belonged to the demon, then it was a way for her out of this forsaken place. And, she reminded herself, into an even more forsaken one. No, that would not do, not unless she was sure she could direct the carriage somewhere other than the underworld. She was bound to end there eventually anyways, and was in no hurry to make that trip.

Then, perhaps, it was better to learn more of the situation first. She drew her fangs back. Her face human again. Not just human, but alluringly beautiful. Snow White had once been called the fairest in all the land. Now, in what was left of her rebel princess attire, she figured she would look like a pretty rad punk girl. No way to tell for sure, of course, not without a reflection. She hadn’t had one of those for a pretty long while.

“Oh, sweet ride!” spoke White excitedly as she made her way out of the trees in front of Janna. Her voice was carefully measured to be just below the nearby demon’s threshold of awareness, even if the mewman child shouts were to suddenly stop.

“Ah, it’s alright, I suppose,” the human girl shrugged. She seemed to inconspicuously move an arm to the inside of her cloak. Looking for a weapon? White thought it unimportant. “And who are you supposed to be?”

“Princess Lumi,” she responded without hesitation. It was a name she had used before. “I guess you have heard of St. O’s, right? Used to be super lame, now is a total party school. Which, I guess is a different kind of lame...”

“Right,” Janna agreed. “Tell me about it. So you are like, a troublemaker princess?”

“Eh,” White gave a noncommittal shrug. “I guess. I mean, clearly you get into some trouble yourself,” she observed, pointing at the carriage. “Not that you seem to mind. Are you the demon’s... servant?”

White’s mask was intended to look like a far more naive girl than she herself, trying to appear to be shrewd and conspiratorial. The dark haired human smiled in return, taking the role of the more experienced one, exactly as White had hoped. No better way to make someone vulnerable, than to trick them into feeling strong.

“What makes you think it is not the other way around?” Janna asked.

’Well, for one, kid, that is clearly a demon prince. For another, I can see the chain marks on your wrists,’ thought White. But Lumi’s face reflected only surprise and what was intended to read as badly concealed admiration.

“Oh, are you a powerful witch, then? You must be! Wow, that’s actually pretty cool,” she spoke. The girl seemed like the type to be amenable to flattery. “If you are the one in control, then perhaps I could... no, I mean, we just met, it is too much to ask. But could I maybe see the inside of, of that...?” White pointed towards the infernal carriage.

“Sure,” the foolish human conceded with a smile. That’s when White noticed the flickering purple light emanating from inside the velvet cloak. “And, after that, why don’t I give you a ride to Earth myself so that you can feast on the blood of all my classmates? I mean, I’d consider it if it was only Brittney, maybe Sabrina...”

“What?” Lumi reacted with confusion and surprise to the human’s words. She paused as if to try and comprehend what the other girl was saying. Inwardly, White used that requisite pause, that pretended hesitation, to attempt to figure out how it was she had been found out. The game was clearly up, even if it didn’t hurt her to keep the charade a few more seconds. Was there anything she had forgotten in her disguise? “You are joking, right? I mean, jeez, I know I don’t dress like a goody-two-shoes, but you seriously have been spending too much time with demons if you think...”

“Oh, come on, that’s just sad. Just drop the damn act,” Janna interrupted her. “Seriously, how naive do you think I am?! You are obviously that vampire bitch Marco was talking about!”

Ah, it seemed White’s reputation had preceded her for once. She supposed that would explain her failed bluff. When Janna took her left hand out the cloak, a small sphere of burning purple flames danced in her palm. She raised her right hand as well, and half of the flames jumped there. In an instant, both spheres had grown again to the size of a large man’s fist.

Princess Lumi’s mask fell in an instant at that point, and White’s features, still human, turned sharp and cruel. She smirked. “Naive enough to oppose me openly. Which makes you at best a clever fool!”

----

“Marco called you?” Star asked, looking at Tom. That didn’t sound right. Why would Marco send Tom to her, of all people? Specially after what he knew from her Princess Song. But, but, it meant that Marco cared, didn’t it? That he wanted to have someone look after her, even if he himself didn’t want to see her. Oh, well, he had always been a sweetheart, taking pity on the evil wretch that was the wicked princess of Mewni...

“Star, he, and Jackie too, searched for you the entire afternoon, until it went dark. Then they started to get truly worried, so they went back to Heinous’ room, and they called me on the mirror,” Tom said. “I am sorry, I would have been here sooner, but I insisted on knowing the whole story before I set out to find you. Then, when I heard how she had spoken to you, I wasted even more time in saying things to that Jackie girl that I don’t really believe, but which made me feel much better. I recall a particularly good one about her having sexual congress with a dolphin...”

The mewman chuckled. She felt almost surprised that she could still chuckle. But the knowledge that her friends still cared about her was enough to lift her spirits considerably. Wait, was laughing about something like that something an evil princess would do?

“So, basically, they are angry, Star,” Tom admitted. The princess felt her heart sink back into despair for a moment. “But they don’t hate you, and they certainly don’t think you are evil. Ask Marco if you can’t take my word for it. Just like this: ‘Hey, Marco, do you think I am evil, or did I just fuck up?’”

Star thought about it for a moment. Yeah, she had fucked up, and she had doubled down on her fuck ups by not telling either of them sooner. She put herself in Jackie’s shoes, and she knew she would have been hurt, and Jackie was more sensitive about her privacy than Star was. But feeling hurt, and feeling angry, and yelling at someone, didn’t mean you considered them irredeemably evil, or even that they were no longer your friends.

She thought about Marco. He had clearly been put on the spot there, between both of his girlfriends. He had just lost his most prized possession, and had just wanted to figure out a way home. He didn’t hate her, not really. Star could almost see him, calling out after her, just a moment too late for her to hear, then spending the entire day searching for her.

Both of them would be worried, maybe even feel guilty, and here she was wallowing in self-pity rather than owning up to what she had done to hurt them. Well, fuck up number three.

“I, I think I know the answer,” Star dried her tears with one arm. “But I am going to ask, just in case.”

“Good,” Tom remarked. “Now, Star, not asking for anything between us anymore, not even forgiveness, but... do you truly think I am evil, or did I just fuck up?”

“You fucked up, Tom,” Star said after taking a moment to think it through. “But I also fucked up that night. Tom, I don’t want you to think there is any chance of us getting back together, because, I am sorry, there isn’t. But I do forgive you, and I hope you forgive me, and if all that works for you, I would want us to be friends.”

“Can’t imagine anything better,” said the demon boy, with a broad smile.

“Friends?” asked Star, nervously, lifting a fist.

“Friends!” Tom fist-bumped her.

Wait, was she the last person in all dimensions to learn that gesture? Guess that’s one downside of growing up with a bestie with no fists to bump. Speaking of which, “Oh, Tom, what about Pony Head?”

“She was with them too,” noted Tom. “And angrier at Jackie than even I was. Say what you want about that pain in the butt, but she is fiercely loyal.”

“Yeah, she is,” Star admitted, feeling a lot better now that she knew she had not lost all her friends. If anything, she had perhaps regained one. There were plenty of amends to make, but well, she could always bake the two humans cookies when they all got back to Earth! Ok, maybe not cookies. Based on previous experiences, that was not a good way for her to say sorry.

Wait! How were they going to get back to Earth? The scissors still didn’t work, the mirror didn’t work… except....

“Tom, you said they called you from the mirror?! I thought it was broken.”

“No, it reached me just fine,” said Tom with a quick shrug. “Maybe it is not reaching Mewni for some reason? Either way, we can check, right now. My carriage is just that way, and it got me here. It will probably take us to Mewni too unless there is something else wrong, no scissors required.”

----

“Those magics did not impress me eight hundred years ago, when I was young and foolish. They certainly do not impress me now.” the vampire princess scoffed at Janna’s purple blazes. “If you truly know who I am, you know you cannot hope to defeat me.”

The troublemaker felt her head burn in pain with the concentration required to keep the magical fireballs under control, to guide the forces she had stolen from her undead enemy, from her magical friend, and from her demonic lover. She knew it was just a whiff from their power, in each case, so little that they had not noticed her reaching for it. It was, Janna thought, amused, a bit like taking five dollars out of Marco’s wallet for lunch. As long as she did it only occasionally, neither would realize anything was missing.

She had considered playing along a bit longer. Let the vampire princess believe she had bought her pretense, maybe try to get some information out of her. But there was little she could ask ‘Lumi’ where the response wouldn’t be predictably useless. She could have just made excuses not to show her the inside of the carriage, to stall until Tom came back, but then she wouldn’t have a chance to ask the real White any questions. As soon as Star and Tom got involved, the evil princess would almost certainly flee, otherwise she would have gone to the clearing in the first place.

“But I don’t have to beat you,” Janna observed, trying to match Snow White’s smirk with an evil grin of her own. “I only need something to hold you at bay for long enough for me to cry out for help. Then Tom and Star will come, and kick your undead ass, Vladislava.”

Even that was not a given, that she could hold her off long enough to cry for help. She had heard, from Jackie, that the evil princess was fast, impossibly fast. She also knew she had gone toe to toe with Star’s magic, or at least with some of her spells cast in advance. Janna knew her own magic wasn’t even in the same ballpark. Maybe her spells would cause the creature no harm and her throat would be pierced by sharp white fangs before she could even yell for help. There was a pretty big chance forcing White’s hand had been a bad idea after all, that she should shout now if she was ever going to. But, there was also the issue that, well, she didn’t want to cry out. Not if there was any other option.

“Ah, but the question is, then: why haven’t you cried out already?” White observed, more amused than concerned. “I see. You don’t dare interrupt him, not while he is talking to her, not unless you absolutely must. So you are looking for an alternative, a way to beat me that does not involve them, or a way to bluff me into withdrawing. Am I right?”

Janna tried to keep her face straight. To not betray even a hint of how much White’s cold read had shaken her. But the dark princess was right. Janna definitely didn’t want to yell for Tom when he was with Star. Partly because she cared about her friend, and they had agreed, earlier, that it was better if Tom went to her to talk some sense into her without bringing up the fact that Janna had spent a weekend in hell. There would always be time to tell her that after she had calmed down. But there were other reasons, darker reasons.

First, Janna didn’t want to seem needy, or like she cared if Tom was talking to Star. Second, she thought of the possibility of Tom coming to help her, and, in her grief and confusion, Star fleeing away. It had taken them long enough to find her as it was. Not only would that be bad for Star, it would also make Tom angry at her. The worst part was, Janna knew those weren’t good enough reasons to risk her life over them, but still, she found that she could not just yell for help, not unless Snow White moved to attack. She didn’t. Not with fangs, at least.

“Pfft, I just don’t want you to go running away like a coward when they come here!” pointed out Janna. It was no longer really true. In any case, it was not wise to say it, it put White on guard about Janna’s intentions at best, and might make her angry at worst.

There was something making it hard for Janna to think, to strategize; the strain of maintaining her spell, perhaps? or something else? No matter, keep talking, keep her distracted, that was the only thing that mattered now. “How come you are a vampire? Do you automatically turn evil when you become a vampire? Why is that not part of the legend? What the hell is the deal with your green eyed freak of a friend?”

Instead of seeming mad, the dark princess shrugged and grinned back at Janna. She seemed to regard her very intently. Undead eyes gazing deeply into human ones as she sized her up. The troublemaker girl felt her body shiver with the effort of keeping the purple flames alive. White moved neither closer nor further away from her, seemingly unconcerned by the magical fireballs.

“I was born dark, a myth among the myths, but most of my kind are turned. Those who are turned are still themselves, until hunger and age strip them of their delusions of morality,” she had counted to two with her fingers, as she answered the first two questions. “And there are many tales told of me, all true in part and false in part.”

Three fingers up. A mocking smile.

“What about your friend?!”

“What about her?”

“Her riddles, how do you know what they mean?” risked Janna. It was too important to be left unasked.

“No one does. She has the gift of prophecy. What she says will come to pass, one way or another, and you can spend years pouring over every word for a way to avoid it and still be caught in the net in the end.” The vampire’s smirk told the human girl that White had spotted her own shock. The vampire was smart, smart enough to know that Janna wouldn’t have asked if there hadn’t been a prophecy and that she would not have reacted this way unless the prophecy was bad. A pale hand raised a fourth and final finger. “So, I have answered four of your questions, and I shall ask four of mine: this prophecy, the one that made you ask, does it involve your demon master? Does it involve you? How about the Mewman princess?”

“Yes, yes, and no” Janna lied.

She had never been one for playing fair. She estimated a higher than even chance that her counterpart had been honest in all her answers, but that did not mean she had to be. White seemed to buy her answer. But then again, she was known to be a good actress.

“You care for him, don’t you?” the princess smiled and glanced at a place behind Janna’s back. Not being an utter fool, the troublemaker girl did not turn around to follow that gaze. “The demon. Alright, my fourth question: Do you love him?”

“That, would be saying too much,” Janna attempted to brush off the question.

“No,” White’s face was clearly mocking her now. “I think that would be saying just enough. Also, I believe you lied about at least one other answer. You love him. He loves her. It is a story as old as tale, and it has quite a sad ending. Am I right?”

Well, Janna thought, at least she had managed to fool the monster, throw her off the scent. Cass prophecy had nothing to do with any of that. And yet, a voice in her head whispered that it was indeed probable that White’s own words would also turn prophetic nonetheless. It was certainly not a new fear for the troublemaker girl.

“She doesn’t love him, though,” the human girl replied, unsure of what compelled her to argue against the vampire, specially about something like this. She should be throwing her fireballs at her, or crying for help, now that she had gotten her answers. But she felt like she could not move a muscle. Her mind was racing with thoughts of Tom, and what he felt for Star, and not for her, never for her.

“Ah,” White spoke, “but she is pretty, and you are not. She is royalty and you are not. She is powerful and you are not. And so, even if he stays with you, his heart will always be hers, whether she ever choses to claim it or not. The instant she wishes, what you imagine to be yours, she can take to be hers...”

“I can take something of hers too!” shouted Janna back, feeling suddenly irritated. Angry at White, angry at Star, angry at reality. She wasn’t sure why she had even said that, but she could... she could... well, pickpocket Star’s magic, if you could call it that. And Star would never know! Maybe that made up for the fact that Tom was still obsessed with Star. Maybe that made them even.

“No, foolish child,” White shook her head sadly. “You can’t. At best...”

In an instant she was in front of her, having moved too fast to be seen. Her hand choked Janna’s windpipe, making it impossible for her to cry out. White lowered her own face, her blood red lips, towards Janna’s outreached hands, and blew out her magic flames like birthday candles.

“... at best you can beg for crumbs,” the vampire lifted her face and grinned victoriously. Then, she drew a finger to her face. “Now, shush, you wouldn’t want to distract your love when he is with someone he cares about. Not over something as unimportant as your life. Would you?”

Fangs sprouted out from inside Snow White’s pretty lips, her eyes turning bloodshot as well. She leaned downwards again, towards her neck. Janna tried to cry out, to yell, but she couldn’t even breathe. She felt the vampire’s lips against her flesh, and then...

White licked her neck and drew away again, chuckling softly. The creature of the night shrugged, as if implying she wasn’t worth drinking her blood, only barely worth toying with. Well, Janna thought, that’s something White and Tom had in common.

Faster than shadow, and faster than wind, White let go of her neck and jumped up, disappearing almost into thin air. Janna did not see where she went, and she did not cry out either. She just collapsed against the tree, pale with fright and feeling terrible about her lot in the world, for quite unrelated reasons. In her heart of hearts, something dark began to fester.

----

It was only a few minutes later when the other two teens finally left the clearing. Star looked slightly less disconsolate than before, Tom walked besides her, looking around nervously for, for...

“Hey, Star,” spoke a seemingly bored girl, leaning against a tree.

“Whoa, Janna Banana,” spoke Star, clearing her face once more with the back of her own dirty right arm. “What are you doing here?”

“I wonder that myself,” Janna scoffed.

“Eh, sorry Star,” Tom scratched the back of his head. “She was, ahem, at my place, you know, when Marco called.”

“Oh,” mouthed Star. “Sorry about what? Anyways, cool to see you. I am sorry I am such a mess right now, I... let’s go find Marco, and... and Pony Head, and Jackie.”

Janna seemed about to say something, but held back in the last minute. The other children didn’t notice.

From her hiding spot, already inside the demon prince’s hearse-like coach, White felt her unbeating heart sing a song of joyous malice.

All was going according to plan. The longer she waited, the less the human would be able to say anything about her encounter with her. It was all part of the suggestion, and it would take hold slowly but surely in her mind. Snow White had always had a way with words, and the mesmerizing gaze of a strong vampire, and those were often more wicked weapons than blades or fangs.

It would fulfill the wording of her deal with Prince Jack: to leave Star alone. The mewman would never see Princess White again, nor would the vampire actually be the one to hurt her. Yet, this night, the seeds of her revenge were already planted, and now all she had to do was wait. Perhaps, in time, she would find similar ways to get to the other two. If not, she just had to hope that this would be grievous enough retribution unto all of them.

As a bonus, she could now hitch a ride, making her own escape by secretly following her enemies. A shadow of victory, within the mid-day of her temporary defeat.

----

“Star!” Marco cried out as soon as he saw her emerge from the blood-red doors of the hearse. He ran to hug her, but someone cut in before him, tackling him out of the way.

“B-fly!” shouted Pony Head. “Sooo good to see you are alright! Don’t ever ever scare me like that again, gurrl!”

“Awwww, Pony Head! Nothing to worry about,” Star said hugging her older bestie, then made a gesture to punch the air. “I can handle myself, remember?”

“Right,” scoffed Tom, emerging right behind her. Star stuck her tongue at him.

“Hey, glad you found her, man,” Marco nodded towards Tom. Then, turning towards Star, “He didn’t do anything stupid, right? We couldn’t think of anyone else to call, so...”

“Yeah, no, Marco, it was alright,” Star replied. It still felt a bit awkward, she had to admit. There was so much to say, so much to apologize for. But for now she was just happy the boy was looking at her and talking to her. “Tom and I, well, were are cool now. We are friends. I mean, we fisted each other and all!”

Everyone’s eyes went huge at that. Tom gulped. Pony Head’s mouth went slack. Jackie, who had not yet said anything and stood a few steps back from the group, with her hands behind her back, suddenly seemed to cough in surprise.

“Wait, I think she means they fist-bumped,” Marco reasoned. “Please tell me you mean you two fist-bumped, Star!”

“Yeah, yeah, that...” Star shrugged.

It begun with Marco, nervously. Then Tom, who rolled his eyes. Then Pony Head, raucously. Then Jackie, who tried to conceal it, and Janna, bitterly. They all, one by one began to chuckle. Star didn’t yet get the joke, and she intuited it was at her expense, but she felt relieved as everyone seemed to relax, even just a little bit. Soon she had joined them in laughing too, even if she didn’t know why.

“I... Star, I am sorry, I shouldn’t have said what I did...” Marco begun. Star cut him off.

“Not now, Marco. You were right, we need to get home first, then we can talk this all calmly,” the mewman said, holding her hand up. “But, for the record, I know I fucked up, and I know what I did was terrible and keeping it a secret was also terrible. I know it will take more than one apology, but for what is worth, I am sorry... I... You don’t think I am evil because of it, right?”

“Of course not, Star!” Marco shook his head in disbelief, and Star smiled in return.

It was then that Jackie walked up to her, and extended both arms towards the princess. In her palms laid the Kingdom of Mewni’s most sacred heirloom: Star’s royal magic wand. The human girl offered it to her without hesitation. Not exactly the wise thing to do when you heard someone was well in her path to become a dark queen, not unless you believed that was absolute hogwash.

“Star, what you did wasn’t cool,” She said simply. “But you are still cool, alright?”

Star took back the wand from the other girl, carefully. Then, trying to remember the right Earth custom, or at least the right Jackie custom, she asked, “So, are we cool?”

Jackie seemed to hesitate for a bit. “... I think we are going to be, Star. Just, maybe give me more than a day to process all of this? I mean, this weekend was pretty crazy, you know? But, well, most of it wasn’t bad at all... so thanks for that?”

Star smiled and Jackie smiled back.

“Ok, what are we waiting for?!” Star shouted. “Tom, if you’d be so kind, could we go to Mewni first? If the scissors are not working there either, then we might also need you to take some of us to Earth...”

“Sure, Star,” Tom shrugged. “Will wait for you all there for a bit. No biggie.”

----

Tom’s hearse was surprisingly spacious on the inside; quite able to accommodate the five teens for the brief inter-dimensional road trip. It wasn’t nearly as instantaneous a method of travel as dimensional scissors were, but it was still impressively fast given the vast gulf between worlds. It was barely a half-hour trip between St O’s and Mewni, it would perhaps be twice as long to Earth.

Strangely enough, Marco and Tom passed the time together, playing video games. Meanwhile, Janna, who had remained inside before, was keeping Jackie busy by asking her, in through detail, about her fight with princess White, seemingly both curious and impressed. Since Pony Head had once again stayed behind in St. O’s, this left out Star once more. She could not join either group right now, not without feeling at least a bit awkward.

That said, it wasn’t so bad this time, not like in the forest. Sure, she was left alone to think, but this time her thoughts were calmer. She thought back to Cass and her prophecy: “Only surrender may undo the shadow, but the price shall be too high to pay”. That meant there was a price, though, right? Something she could do or sacrifice to avoid the fate that the brunette girl had predicted for her. To avoid going dark.

It was not something Star wanted to think about. Normally, the mewman avoided thinking about all the things she didn’t want to think about. Hell, right now she was avoiding thinking about the conversation she still had to have, with Jackie and Marco, when they got back to Earth. But, even then, it didn’t feel right to ignore Cass’ words in that same way, no matter what Tom had said. If her fate was to become evil, and there was a price, any price, that she could pay to avoid it, then she needed to be ready to pay that price. Right? Whatever it was, it couldn’t be worth it, not if the alternative was Star becoming... what? Eclipsa? Princess White? Someone Marco and Jackie could truly hate rather than just excuse as a mess up of a princess? Star didn’t know.

“Hey, Star,” Marco’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Are you ok?”

Star saw then that Tom and the human boy had finished her game. ‘Tom: 58, Marco: 0’ read the screen. The demon prince had then made his way to where Janna and Jackie were talking, and was now laughing with them, with an arm draped around the troublemaker’s shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah, Marco,” Star forced a smile. “I am fine, go have fun.”

“Fun? Playing any game with Tom is only fun for one of us, Star,” Marco shrugged. “But, seriously, are you sure you are fine? If this is about the spell backfiring, I... Star, it doesn’t matter to me, not as much as seeing you hurt over it. Just, maybe, can you not do that again, Star, please?”

“It is not just about that, Marco. It is about, you know, the ‘evil incarnate’ bit,” Star admitted. “And, well, I am not sure I can avoid doing it again, either. I get the visions now, whether I want them or not... I’ll try, you know? Make an effort not to watch, but...”

“An effort is enough for me, Star. Although not so sure about Jackie,” Marco hesitated. “But, Star, no matter what it is: Ludo, Toffee, gift card monsters, vampire princesses, weird sex telepathy, or even destiny itself! I’ll be there, alright? We will face it together, whatever it is. Because I love you. Because you are my best friend. But most of all, because I know you Star, and I know no matter what it is, you can do it. Screw prophecy. Prophecy never has had to contend with Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz!”

“Awwwwww, Marco!” Star smiled, and cried. They were tears of joy. She turned back to hug the best bestie a bestie could have, and the best boyfriend a girl could wish for. They stayed like that, hugging in silence, for what felt like an eternity. Only stopping when Tom announced they had reached Mewni and the Butterfly Castle.

----

The demonic carriage appeared right in front of the castle bridge. A few townsfolk ran away in fright, spooked by the sudden burst of flames and the skeletal horse. The royal guards remained at their posts, however. They were all disciplined enough, or accustomed enough to the weirdness of Mewni nobility and their allies, not to be surprised when the demon prince carriage emerged from the flames. Nor did they seem particularly confused when their princess, Star Butterfly, emerged from the hearse herself, her friends following behind her.

The first thing Star noticed, was the somber expression in those same guards’ faces. They nodded gravely at her as she emerged from the carriage. They clicked their heels a bit more stiffly, a bit more formally, than they would usually do in the presence of the princess. Then she saw the banners; all black. Then she spotted the flag of House Butterfly, flying at half-mast over the castle towers. Finally, she saw her father.

King River Butterfly of Mewni, born River Johansen, seemed to have aged ten years in the two days his daughter had been gone. Some measure of happiness and a huge wave of relief washed over his face the moment he laid eyes on Star. Even then, that did not hide the immense sorrow underneath. He came running through the bridge as fast as she had ever seen him run, even when he was much younger. His eyes were still bloodshot red, worse than her own had been earlier that night. He looked pale, sick.

He hugged his daughter tightly, and Star let herself be hugged, limply. Normally, she would have been so happy to see her dad, and so eager to hug him in return. But her mind had taken in all the signs, even as she refused to process them. She had read it all in his expression, even as she wished she was wrong, as she told herself she had to be wrong. That there was no way, no way at all.

It occurred then to Star that there was indeed a price that would have been too high to pay for the goodness of her heart, or for her own life. It occurred to her that such price might have already been paid, and that nothing that had been gained, nothing that could be gained, in exchange, would ever come close to being worth such a price.

River Butterfly let go of her daughter, and looked her in the eyes, as the horror Star felt seemed to reflect into the usually carefree blue orbs of her father.

“Dad, where is mommy?”

----

END of Part II

Chapter Text

Part III: Going Through Hell

Chapter 19: Long Live the Queen

Jackie traced her fingers softly along the contours of the boy’s chest. It had been over a week now since they last had been alone like this. Her heart thumped with excitement, as much the fiftieth time as it had the first. For someone who could pull a pink dress better than her, Marco was downright manly. Lean, sure, but also well toned, muscles trained over years of karate practice and months of monster fighting. She whistled appreciatively and leaned in to kiss the boy’s soft lips.

Their tongues sought each other hungrily, as Jackie felt herself melt out of reality for a second. His hands reached behind and down to cup her ass. The room around them, Marco’s room, seemed to vanish, and soon it was only the two of them, floating in empty space. It was not unlike that one time in between the aerial silk ribbons.

She broke the kiss, then began tracing a trail of smaller kisses, tiny pecks on the skin as she moved down his neck, his chest, his abs. When she got down to the waist she looked up towards him, and gave Marco her most mischievous smile, as her hands began to undo the buttons of his jeans.

“Wait, Jackie, I can’t do this,” Marco stopped her. His tone was regretful, but his gaze firm. “Not today.”

“Awww, Marco, having performance anxiety?” she joked. Jackie knew full well that wasn’t the issue, and Marco knew she knew. Still it didn’t prevent her from turning her frustration into a friendly jib at her boyfriend. “It happens to a lot of guys, you know? Maybe you should just relax and wait a little bit?”

Marco groaned, “It’s not that, Jackie, it’s...”

“... Star,” Jackie finished the sentence before he could. “Yeah, dude, I know.”

It wasn’t only that Star could be, would be, seeing them if they went any further than that. Hell, for all they knew of that stupid spell, she had seen what they had done just now too. Jackie herself had been hesitant to be alone with her boyfriend for the last few days, precisely because she didn’t know how she felt about the fact that, well, that any time they got busy, Star would be there, watching, whether she did that on purpose or not. But she knew that wasn’t what Marco meant. It was not that it didn’t bother him too, but still, he was even more worried about how the princess herself would feel.

“Tomorrow is the wake, Jackie,” Marco reminded her, as if she needed to be reminded. “It just doesn’t seem right, for Star to see us, you know... not when she is grieving.”

“I don’t see how that one is our fault, though, Marco,” she scoffed bitterly. It was petty of her to say it, but damn if it wasn’t true.

“No, it isn’t,” agreed the boy. “But it is not about who is at fault. She told me she literally can’t prevent herself from watching at this point. I don’t want to put any more on her plate, not now.”

Jackie nodded. Marco was a sweetheart, and he was right. The skateboarder girl was still angry at Star, angry that she had been spying on them, angry that she hadn’t told them, angry that she had made things between her and Marco so incredibly awkward. But in the end, that didn’t matter compared to what their mewman friend was going through right now.

“Right,” Jackie mussed, as she began rearranging her hair. She really should have thought about Star, should have stopped being angry at her. Her mom had died, and instead of having the time to grieve and shout and be angry like a normal teenager under those circumstances, Star Butterfly had to stay on Mewni and organize her own mother’s funeral. Not to mention the coronation. The human girl remembered the Song Day celebration, what it meant for Star to become queen. How much the other girl had wished that day never came... and now that day was right around the corner, whether she wanted or not. “Guess I am just awful.”

“Oh, come on,” lamented Marco. “Not you too. We are all under a lot of stress, alright? It is messing all of us up.”

“All of us?” quipped Jackie. “You seem to be dealing with it pretty well, dude.”

“I am not, Jackie,” he replied. “I am finding it harder and harder to talk to Star these days, even on the mirror. I miss having my best friend around and it has only been a week. I feel guilty I didn’t stay in Mewni with her, no matter what she says. And, oh, yeah, I can’t help but feel it is my fault that Queen Moon died...”

“What?! Whoa, Diaz! How on Earth or Mewni is that last one your fault?” Jackie stopped him and put a hand on his shoulder.

He paused for a moment before answering, “Well, if not for Princess Marco, there wouldn’t have been a princess revolution. Without that, no Princess White. Without that, no Pony Head dragging us to St. O’s that night. Which means we would have been in Mewni at the time, and Star would have been there when her mom was attacked and she would have the wand and...”

“Dude,” Jackie interrupted him again. “First of all, that is a remarkably long chain of events in which many more people other than you had a hand in. Second, if we had been there, maybe Star herself would have been... Look, for all you know, not being there saved us, saved Star. Third, there is absolutely no chance you could have predicted all that in advance! You can’t blame yourself for not anticipating something no one ever could.”

“Yeah, Jackie, I know. But, like I said, it is messing all of us up. Still, thanks for saying it aloud, it helps to hear it from someone else,” Marco smiled. It soon turned into a frown. “But it is messing Star up the most, though. I just wish I knew she was alright.”

“Yeah, dude, me too.”

----

“Moon Butterfly, Queen of Mewni, Honoris High-commissioner of Magic, Protector of the Lands, Preserver of the Peace, Wielder of the Royal Magic Wand, Moon the Undaunted, the Lizard Vanquisher, my mother. A week ago she left us, and in her place there is a hole in the firmament, and in the heart of every citizen of Mewni, including my own. She was just, and wise, and kind, and fierce. She put the kingdom’s needs before her own, in times of plenty and in times of need. She was our light in every cloudy day, and she would not sleep until the least of her subjects was safe from harm,” Star read to the empty cemetery, at night. The statues of former queens of Mewni, as well as their kings and consorts, were her only audience for this final rehearsal.

She paused to take a breath, and then continued, “She has left us, and none of us can ever hope to fill her shoes. Least of all me. Nonetheless, I shall try to be the best queen I can be in my mother stead. I am Star Butterfly, Princess of Mewni, Wielder of the Royal Magic Wand. I have spent the last year on Earth, and many of you don’t know me, and those who do might not have good reason to trust my words. But I promise, with Solena, and Skywynne, and Celena, and Solaria, and all former Queens of Mewni as my witnesses, that I will try to be just and kind and wise as a ruler, and to... sniff... be half the queen my... sniff... mother was.”

She had written the words over days, and practiced them until she knew them by heart, and yet every time she read them, she broke down crying. It was not her usual infantile bawling, but a slow trickling of tears, accompanied by a sharp pain in her heart like she had never experienced before; not when she lost her wand, or when she lost Glossaryck, or when she lost her book of spells, not even close.

Star was about to collapse on the ground to cry, amidst the marble tombs and sculptures, atop the soft graveyard grass, when she heard a soft slow clapping to her right. She turned around, to see Tom, in a somber black suit, walking towards her.

“For what it’s worth, Star, I think you’ll do a much better job as queen than I’ll ever do as king,” he remarked.

“Tom? What are you doing here?” the princess answered, surprised.

“Creeping, I guess, old habits...” he joked apologetically, and Star chuckled despite herself. “But really, Star, I wanted to talk to you, to see how you were doing and to, well, to offer my condolences. I don’t think I can, or should, be at the wake tomorrow, but I felt I had to say something. Only, now, I have no idea what to say.”

“Tell me about it,” replied Star.

She honestly wouldn’t have minded Tom and his family attending her mom’s funeral tomorrow. They were, after all, friends of the family. But royal wakes were open events in Mewni, which meant a large portion of the kingdom’s subjects would be in attendance. The fact that some monsters would be welcomed, by special permission of Star, was already somewhat controversial. Inviting the Lucitors too would be, how did her mom put it: bad optics. Her princess song didn’t help that, either. Star grimaced, not even a queen yet and she already had to start thinking like one, speaking like one. It was suffocating.

“Tom,” she spoke quietly, barely a whisper. “I have to ask: do you think you could help me see my mom again, even for a moment? Is there any way? I already tried on my own, everything but the Seeing Eye spell... I don’t trust that one now. Nothing I can do seems to work... I know you can bring the dead back, at least partially, could you...?”

“Star...” Tom sounded uncomfortable, and sad beyond measure. He walked towards her and shook his head, not quite regretfully. “Your mom is never going to be down there, and I can’t take you to the other place. For what it’s worth, I am sure you’ll see her again, though, when it is time.”

“Unless I do end down there,” Star mussed. She began walking towards the altar. In a table, in front of the sacred symbols, was a crystal casket, built by Rhombulus himself. Inside the casket was Moon, immobile, peaceful, as if sleeping. Not for the first time, Star wished she had at least had the chance to say sorry. For everything.

“You won’t,” Tom assured her.

“How can you be sure?” the mewman countered. “I have done some pretty bad things already, to my friends. I was never a very good daughter, either. And well, I have cast dark magic...”

“Star, your mom cast dark magic too, at least once,” the demon prince reasoned. “That doesn’t make her a bad person. It is about intent, and the lines you intentionally do or do not cross.”

But Star was no longer listening, she had stopped listening the moment Tom spoke about her mom, as if he knew her better than Star herself did. “My mom cast dark magic?”

“Ah, well, I only heard about it back then from rumors, you know? I wasn’t in Mewni at the time or anything,” he clarified. “But, well, how much do you know about how your mom got that Lizard Vanquisher title?”

Right, Tom had been around back then. It was hard to imagine. The boy looked her age, acted her age, and for all she knew might be the equivalent to her age in demon years. But demons lived far longer than Mewmans, millennia instead of decades. She wondered if that made her former relationship with the fiend like, super icky. But, right now, she couldn’t summon enough energy to care about something like that.

“Not much,” Star admitted. “I know she fought Toffee when she was young, and maybe a whole monster army, but not much more than that.”

Why had she never asked her mom about that? Why had Moon never told her? It was silly to ask. Moon never talked about the days when she first became queen, and Star never asked, because the topic was painful for both of them. It was then that Star realized that her mom had lost grandma when she was not much older than herself. She alone would have understood what Star was going through now, and now Star would never be able to ask her, because she was gone.

“She defeated Toffee with a dark spell,” Tom spoke.

“Yes, I guess I knew that: ‘The immortal monster will long be haunted by the darkest spell of Moon the Undaunted’,” she quoted the tapestry’s words.

“Except it was also a dark spell of Eclipsa, Queen of Darkness,” Tom corrected her. Then, he added with a shrug, “Not really sure if it was her darkest spell too or not.”

Star’s mouth fell open with shock, and she couldn’t think of anything to say. Eclipsa’s spell? From the book? She had read Eclipsa’s chapter, and there wasn’t anything in there like that. But Tom proceeded to tell her the story, the best he knew. And what a story it was!

Eclipsa was alive! And Star’s mom had made a deal with her, a deal for a spell that could kill Toffee in exchange for the dark queen’s freedom. But the spell had misfired, or maybe Moon had realized her potential mistake and purposefully stayed her hand in the last moment. Either way, it had been sufficient to disperse Toffee’s army. And, not having killed him, the magical contract remained unfulfilled. Eclipsa remained crystallized.

“Wow, Tom, I never knew...” Star grasped for something to say. Then, with a smile, she settled on “...Thank you.”

“No problem. I can see why your mom didn’t like talking about it, but you would have learned this sooner or later, now that you are going to be... I mean, never mind, you would have known soon,” Tom corrected himself. “But my point is, using a dark spell didn’t make your mother dark, not when used for a good purpose.”

“I don’t think that’s exactly what I did, though,” reasoned Star, thinking back to the night she cast the All-Seeing Eye. It had definitely not been for a good purpose. Wasn’t lust a cardinal sin, both on Earth and on Mewni?

“Right, Star. Let’s just say that eternal damnation takes more than a prank that accidentally went over the line,” Tom shrugged. “Cold-blooded murder, hurting the innocent in an obsessive quest for revenge, wanton acts of tyranny, those are the kinds of things I see queens and kings go down there for. The last Butterfly queen we got was Eris the Silent, who covered and approved of the abuses of Mewni’s cruelest guild for decades, and presided unmoved over the most decadent and corrupt court your kingdom has ever seen. Even someone like that is a borderline case.”

“What about Eclipsa?” the princess asked.

“Star... Eclipsa is alive.”

“Oh, Right.”

----

Marco glided through the darkness, flying above the ocean of emerald flames. Below him, the smoke rose from the ashes of the Afflicted Forest. Nachos, his trusted dragon-cycle companion, was the only thing between him and a deadly fall into the green inferno below. The last time he had been here, the air itself had been infused with the deadliest of poisons. But the dark clouds around him were completely inert, as if the fire had sterilized even the arcane toxins of the place. The earth itself burned, as if made not of rock but dry grass, down to the very foundations of the world.

“Hekapoo!” he cried, desperately. The squawking cries of a murder of five-eyed crows was his only answer.

The last time he had come here, it had been in victory, his quest completed, his prize ready at hand. Now he felt just like the crows, struggling just to keep afloat over the hell which welcomed him.

Marco lifted his right hand, keeping the left one on Nachos’ horns, his powerful muscular legs pressing against the equally strong dragon body. Sixteen years older than even an hour ago, he was in the best shape of his entire life. Neither as guild-master, nor as warrior, had he been so powerful. And yet, compared to the devastation that surrounded him, he felt so very powerless.

Still, he was not without resources. He carefully intoned twelve words of power, brought his knuckles to his mouth, drew breath, and calmly exhaled into his clenched fist. It lit up with golden light. He extended up a single finger, and all the power of the ritual began flowing slowly towards its tip.

Magic always came from somewhere. It was a lesson that Marco had learned in those long sixteen years away from home, a fact he would never have realized while he only hung around Star, back on Earth or Mewni. People like Star, like Hekapoo, like Tom, had vast pools of magic to draw from, wherever they went. Most others drew power from those around them, or from the land itself.

There was a third source of magic, however, one favored by sages and by madmen, and by the gods, when even they required help. It was the magic of barter, of treaty, of compact. It was a bargain with just but uncompromising masters. The ritual magics which Marco summoned now were one such trade: a spell to find that which had gone missing. The cost was to lose what had been found: to forget something one already knew, of equal value to that gained. The ancient powers only rule was fairness, and their taste was one for irony.

Without knowing, or caring, which memory he might have given up in exchange, he began tracing the word in the air with his finger. He began with the glyph for ‘fire’, one of the simplest and oldest in the otherwise intricate script of Riradesh, almost reminiscent of the more primal symbols of the Ancient Tongue. To the left, he continued the line to draw the blade, another simple stroke, continued into the slightly more involved glyph for ‘construction’. Around the two he traced a much more complicated pattern. It wasn’t exactly void, or universe; the literal translation would have perhaps been ‘the empty place between the many places’. The final component meant something akin to mastery, and something akin to ownership, and it implied the feminine: ‘she who knows this thing so completely as to command it as its rightful mistress’.

Hekapoo’s name, in her own script, shone bright and clear in white light, even amidst the ebony smoke and the viridescent light from the burning land. It flared for a second, and then it rolled onto itself, becoming a hollow ball of brightness, flying through the darkened sky like a comet. Nachos flew behind, in vertiginous pursuit.

The spell dragged Marco into the blackness that rose from below, to a world in which he could see nothing but himself, and Nachos, and the magic shooting star that would show the way. Eventually, the meteor crossed a wall of fire, not green but bright red and golden. Marco, without hesitation, followed behind. The flames did not burn him as he passed through.

He found himself in front of a tall dead spiked tree, the same he had visited last time he had been here, now the last one standing in the entire Afflicted Forest. Around the place was a bubble of red and gold fire, Hekapoo’s fire. It shrunk slowly, inch by inch. Calmly, as if in a trance, Marco dismounted and walked into the sorceresses home.

“Was beginning to think you would not come in time, muscles,” Hekapoo greeted him. She sat calmly, on her knees, on the floor. The furniture inside the forge-home was gone. In its place remained only a simple red carpet between round stone walls. Her flame was not but a fading candle.

“You know I will always find you, H-poo,” Marco spoke. He felt as if he were reading lines from a script. Inside his mind another voice yelled at him that none of this made sense, that it wasn’t real. “Two hundred of you, across as many dimensions. I always did find you. I always will.”

“Aw, kid, you make me blush,” she joked. Then she frowned, as if suddenly reminded of something awful. “This one is going to be a little harder than last time, I am afraid.”

“I take it I haven’t found you yet, then,” Marco continued. “This is a dream. It isn’t real.”

“It is a dream,” Hekapoo agreed. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is not real. Maybe it looks like this, maybe it doesn’t. But I am dying, most of me, and with that, so does my world.”

“How long?” asked the hero of a dozen different epics, Marco of Averx, and of K’Ahleh, and of Zonst. Marco, of Earth, the real Marco, would have been sad, and scared. In time, so would be the proud warrior as well. But now it was not the time for grief, it was the time to act, to ask any question that could help save the Forger of Scissors.

“This aspect of me will be dead by the time you wake up, perhaps for good,” the sorceress admitted. “Apparently, I entered into a bargain without intending to. A ritual of sealing, you know? For a force greater than myself. One you really don’t want to meet before you find me. The price is that I must also be sealed. Because how the hell could it be anything else, right?”

The ancient powers had a taste for irony. They could be called by men and by gods, when either required help.

“Listen carefully, muscles, this part is important: every echo I send out, allows it one of its own of... proportional magnitude. I could risk only two aspects, neither complete.” continued Hekapoo. “I would have not done even that much, if I knew I could keep this evil contained. But there are forces on top of forces here, pacts that must supersede other pacts, and a dark destiny written in the heavens that I cannot fully avert... Wow, that sure got a bit dramatic there, didn’t it?” she smiled, bitterly.

“The prophecy, right?” Marco asked. Hekapoo only shrugged.

“If there is one, I did not hear it this time,” she replied. “And don’t bother telling me. I’ll be erased soon enough, already said most of what I had to say. Honestly, we are wasting time now. I guess, mostly, I am trying to stall. Lame, isn’t it? After living this long, still afraid to die...”

“I’d trade mine for yours, Hekapoo, if the ancient powers didn’t know that for a poor exchange,” older Marco spoke, truthfully. The sorceress laughed in return.

“If that could be done, I would have already traded my life for someone else, kid,” she confessed. “But I wouldn’t do it for you, and you shouldn’t do it for me. There is one you might one day soon have to die for, you know? Save your bargain for her.”

Marco raised an eyebrow. “You said you sent out two aspects of yourself?”

“Yes, one to find you, and one to be found,” Hekapoo intoned. “One to explain, the other to reveal a worthy ally. Look for me to find yourself, and when we next shall meet, our roles shall have reversed.”

“Is the riddle necessary, H-poo?” Marco asked.

“Believe it or not, Marco, it sort of is,” she replied. Right, that was ritual magic for you after all, rules over rules over more rules. “I know, right? Lame times dek!”

They both smiled at that.

The bubble of flames crossed the walls of the place then, and all around them the stone walls became occluded by a bright conflagration, in which red and green fire danced together. Under different circumstances, it would have been almost pretty.

“Why me? Why not Star?” Marco asked, and he knew it would be his last question for her.

“Because what I have shown you is most useful to you. Because I wanted to see you,” Hekapoo smiled. “And because I could not have faced Star. Not after Moon... You know Marco? Star’s mom and I? We were close. You have no idea how much. No one was to know. But I don’t suppose that even matters now. I lo...”

Marco woke up in Jackie’s arms, crying.

----

It was the hour before sunset and, unlike the night before, the Mewni royal cemetery was packed with people. It was a beautiful place, despite its grim significance: gardens of many-colored flowers and the most vibrant greens, sprinkled with the busts of nobles and the full body statues of former queens atop their lavish crypts. Each sculpture a work of art, and each reflecting the personality of their represented monarch and the artistic style of her times. From the angular fierceness of Solaria’s warring form, to the delicate dancing effigy of Solena, to the ominous empty black pedestal representing dark queen Eclipsa.

Today everyone was here early, the high and the low alike, all wishing to pay tribute and say their goodbyes to one of the most beloved monarchs this land had ever had. And to hear, with perhaps some measure of apprehension, the words of their next queen: Star Butterfly, the Yet-Untitled. A girl with tears made of honey and a heart full of bunnies, but also known for her tempestuousness and a penchant for wreaking havoc on par with a natural disaster. She was a wild card in terms of the future of Mewni, and one mired in rumors which cast shadows over the continuation of the royal line of succession.

Star herself hung back at first, inside the royal marquee, decorated in cerulean blue but flying the black banners of mourning. King River was with her. They waited for the crowds to finish arriving, before it was Star’s turn to address her people. When it came to this sort of thing, Mewni tradition did not call for the king to speak. The king’s power was at most symbolic, while the queen wielded the wand. They needed reassurance not from River, but from Star, their true future ruler. The only one who needed reassurance from King River, was the princess herself.

“It is time, Sweetheart. You can do this. Moon Pie would be so proud,” he spoke, a tear in his eye.

“Thanks, daddy,” she replied, hugging him lightly.

Star walked out of the royal tent, chin held high, face composed. It felt like she was barely even there, acting in automatic, a puppet mimicry of what her mother would have done, while the real Star curled in inside her head. Her black dress was the perfect balance of royal elegance and appropriate somberness, as the occasion demanded. Her nods and tone controlled and reassuring, while showing just enough of her sorrow to fit the occasion.

“I am sorry. I miss her too. Hekapoo as well! I should have been there, to fight! Who is going to be there now... to... to put me on timeout? To look over us?”

“Bhaaaaaaaaa!”

“Thanks, Rhombulus, Lekmet. We will make it through, don’t worry. It is what my mother would have wanted us to do.”

The words as empty as Star felt. Her eyes scanning the crowd, projecting self-confidence, seeing nothing.

“I know your mom didn’t like us much, she had reasons. Yet she was never cruel. For what is worth, Star, am sorry. Is tragedy.”

“Thank you, Yvgeny.”

“Call Buff Frog.”

She kept sleepwalking. A foot in front of the other. Knowing that if she stopped she would fall down and not be able to stand anymore.

“Princess Star, I have composed an aria of lamentation for the fate of Queen Moon. It would be an honor if you could deign to hear it.”

“Perhaps later, Ruberiot. Thank you.”

Not even anger. Beyond sadness. Just nothingness.

“Star, thanks for inviting us, I am so sorry. If there is anything we can do...”

“Thanks, Jackie.”

“Star...”

He ran to hug her. The guards flinched, but let him through. Like her, he had no words.

“Thank you, Marco. I... I need to keep going.”

“Yes, I know.”

He let go.

----

She stood in a wooden podium. Behind her was the altar, and her mother’s casket. In front of her, forming an ocean of black and brown robes, crested by waves of sullen faces, was the entire kingdom of Mewni. Along with them were: the two remaining members of the high commission, Yvgeny Bulgolyubov and his family, the two humans from Earth, Kelly and Tad, and many more people Star recognized. Somewhere around, unseen, might have been Thomas Lucitor, prince of hell, perhaps Janna too. Janna could have come openly, but she had declined without explanation.

“Moon Butterfly, Queen of Mewni, Honoris High-commissioner of Magic, Protector of the Lands, Preserver of the Peace, Wielder of the Royal Magic Wand, Moon the Undaunted, The Lizard Vanquisher, my mother. A week ago she left us, and in her place there is a hole in the firmament, and in the heart of every citizen of Mewni, including my own. She was just, and wise, and kind, and fierce. She put the kingdom’s needs before her own, in times of plenty and in times of need. She was our light in every cloudy day, and she would not sleep until the least of her subjects was safe from harm...” Hollow words. They meant nothing. They were all true, but they still meant nothing. “She has left us, and none of us can ever hope to fill her shoes. Least of all me.”

It happened then, at that exact moment. Something inside the Star-marionette broke, and the real Star came out. She rose from the depths of her mind with fury and determination, breaking through the resignation and despair. Turning sadness into defiant anger. Crying her resistance to the heavens. Externally, Star did not move, but everyone still felt it when her look turned from one of glazed out emptiness, to a glare made of steel. Her voice boomed with power.

“So, I am not going to,” she continued, going off script. “Not yet, anyways. Not while my mother remains to be avenged. Not while the creature that took her from us yet lives. I will seek that evil out, whatever and wherever it is, and I will end it!”

Star voice roared, her eyes flaming coals that would have frightened Tom himself. The crowds murmured, some in fervent approval, some in abject terror.

“I will not take the crown, not until I have found this abomination and repaid its cruelty a thousandfold! This I promise, with all former Queens of Mewni as my witnesses: with Solena, and Skywynne, and Celena, and Solaria... and Eclipsa as well!” she yelled, her hands grasping the podium so hard that it broke and splintered.

A quiet tremor moved along the assembled people at the mention of the Queen of Darkness’ name.

“Until then,” Star continued. “You shall have my father, River Johansen, River Butterfly, as your rightful king and regent. And you shall obey him like you would any Queen of Mewni. When I return, I will try my best to be a wise, and kind, and good queen. But not until I have fulfilled my promise.

“I have mourned my mom, privately for days, and now here, among all of you.” She let go of the wooden podium and searched inside her dark formal dress. She extended her right hand in front of herself, the royal magic wand, the symbol of her power, literal and figurative, glowing dark green, pointed at the sky in defiance. “But I am done mourning her. Now, I am going to avenge her!”

“Yes! That’s my girl!” shouted Rhombulus, even as everyone else fell silent with shock and dread.

----

“Star, wait...” Marco ran behind her, even as the crowds parted to let her pass, cowed by the princess’ cold fury.

This wasn’t right. Rhombulus was wrong, this wasn’t Star. Not quite. Sure, she might be impulsive and fierce and often far too ready to fight. But she wasn’t the kind to just pledge murder. He could see that she had terrified her subjects. Even King River seemed disturbed. And, well, Marco was shocked too. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand, it was that he understood only too well what Star was thinking.

The moment she had raised her wand, the moment she had sworn herself to vengeance, the boy couldn’t help but hear the words of the girl named Cass. The fragment of a prophecy that ended in Star’s own death: ‘Behold the dark queen ascending…’.

“Marco, I’ll speak to you before I leave, don’t worry,” she pointed out, calmly, as he finally reached her. “Take good care of Jackie, ok? Sorry for you-know-what.”

Wait, before she left? Was Star planning to leave him behind too? Sure, things had been a little bit tense between them this past few days, but still, Marco had thought it was just a matter of some time, of letting Star grieve and Jackie process her feelings. Even if Star did become queen, he didn’t even consider, didn’t think that they would... well, not this soon.

For a second, he considered telling Star about his dream, about Hekapoo. If there was a place to start the princess quest for revenge it was there. But, well, Marco wasn’t sure he should be helping Star, not with that. He made his way past the confused guards and grabbed her left arm.

“Star, the prophecy,” he finally said, quietly, so others wouldn’t hear. His eyes pleading for Star not to go down this path. She turned around, wand leveled at him.

“Marco, I don’t care,” she replied, also a whisper. “Nothing has felt right these days, nothing until now. I have to do this. If avenging my mom is wrong, if it is the evil thing to do... then, well, call me a villainess.”

She gritted the last part through her teeth, mindful of the potential audience not too far from them. Marco sighed, and let her go. It is not as if he could blame her.

The wake went on, and the funeral as well. In the absence of the princess, it was an even gloomier affair than what it would have already been before. Marco spent the night wondering, whether maybe Star was right, and he was wrong. What would he do or not do, were something to happen to his own parents? Or to Jackie? Or to Star?

----

“I summon the All-Seeing Eye,” Star begun. As she said the words, she knew it was a terrible idea, perhaps one of the very worst she had ever had. To do this alone, in the middle of the Forest of Certain Death, after the ways in which the spell had backfired the last time she tried it... it was madness! But the spell was her only lead. It was the only way she could think of to find out anything more about the flaming monstrosity that her father had seen murder her mom.

She had seen Mewni, that last time she tried the spell. She had seen Omnitraxus die, and Toffee, and Glossaryck, even if she hadn’t seen who killed them. What was the chance all those were not connected? How likely was it, really, that those three and Moon were unrelated? Star wasn’t sure how the pieces fit together, she knew only that they did, somehow. Besides, even if the spell backfire wasn’t linked to whatever had happened back on Mewni, the Seeing Eye itself was supposed to show her what she wished to see, if only she could get it to work properly.

“To tear a hole into the sky...” she continued, bracing herself for madness.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” spoke a soft female voice behind her. The tone was firm, yet casual. Not a threat. There was no surprise, nor fear, woven into the words. It was a statement of fact. A friendly warning. “That’s not a spell you want to be casting in this state, believe me.”

Star turned around to see a young girl, perhaps her own age. Her skin was very pale, almost gray. Her purple eyeshadow matched her dress. Her flowing hair was about as long as Star’s own, but formed of green curls rather than straight blond locks.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, dark magic, yada yada,” Star countered. She wasn’t sure if she knew the stranger. She seemed, well, familiar somehow. She had met so many people that day at her mom’s wake, so many strangers offering condolences, both heartfelt as well as insincere. “Look, it is just a scrying spell, and there is something I need to find...”

“A scrying spell? Oh, dear,” the strange girl exclaimed, taking a hand to her mouth in surprise. Star had the weirdest feeling that she was missing something. “Is that what you think that is?”

“Well, yeah,” Star spoke. She felt annoyed at the stranger. How dare she interrupt her now that she had decided to do everything in her power to find her mom’s killer? How dare she presume to know what Star’s spells did? No one ever knew how Star’s magic worked! Even her mom would have known nothing about this one. “It is an old spell, and a bit spooky. But I have done this before, alright?”

“Yeah, so have I,” the stranger mussed. Her tone slow, drifting in contemplation, or recollection. “But I also didn’t know better back then. I wasn’t really that much older than you, when I scribbled that one into the book...”

“When you what?!” Star shouted in shock. She turned back to the stranger, pointing her wand straight at her. The magical instrument glowed with deadly power. It was then that the mewman princess noticed the spade marks in the stranger’s cheeks. “Wait a second! You are Eclipsa!”

“Well, yes,” the girl shrugged. “I thought it was obvious, dear. By the way, thanks for including me in that little speech of yours. It was very moving. It is selfish of me, but it feels so nice after all the other things people are saying about me these days...”

Star didn’t move her wand one millimeter. For an instant she wondered if perhaps she should be a tad bit more cautious about the names she swore stuff on. Eclipsa was evil, and like, super dangerous. Wasn’t she?

“Wait, but aren’t you supposed to be like, you know... crystallized?” Star whispered the last world, still struggling with the notion that she was talking to her ninth great-grandmother, who looked her age, and was also perhaps the greatest villain to ever have lived in Mewni.

“I was,” her ancestor admitted, looking sad momentarily. “For a long while, apparently. I only really got out recently. You see, your mom and I made a deal...”

“... that you would be free as soon as Toffee died,” finished Star. And now Toffee is dead.”

She noticed that this meant she had confirmation that the visions the All-Seeing Eye spell had shown her last time corresponded to reality. All the more reason she should cast it again, no matter the risk. Then, she thought of something, and the brightness within the wand increased, turning a sickly shade of green.

“Wait! How do I know it wasn’t you? You have been free for days! Did you...” she choked. “Did you kill my mother?!”

“Oh dear! Absolutely not!” Eclipsa exclaimed, looking genuinely shocked. “I liked Moon. She was such a sweet kid. I mean, I know she was not fond of me, but I would never hurt her...”

“How do I know you aren’t lying?” pressed Star. Anger burned through her, ready to be unleashed at the slightest sign that the woman before her was the one responsible for her mom’s death.

“Well, you don’t,” the Queen of Darkness reasoned, seemingly unconcerned about the most powerful weapon in Mewni being pointed directly at her chest. “I mean, if I had done it, I would certainly lie. Even if I were to tell you a spell to make me tell the truth, why would you believe that is true either? I can tell you I want the same thing you want, to see the creature that killed Moon gone. But I suppose only you can decide whether you believe that or not. Maybe, well, maybe I can show you. Perhaps I can be of assistance?”

“You mean helping me find the thing that killed my mom? To destroy it?” Star replied, doubtfully. But she lowered her aim an inch, and the wand’s glow slowly faded away. This was bad, recruiting the evil queen as an ally. Then again, wasn’t that the same her mom had done?

“I am afraid not,” Eclipsa answered regretfully. “I mean, I am sorry, I just got out, you have no idea what that’s like. I want a little while to just smell the roses, eat the candy I didn’t have all those years. I know it sounds horrible. I am really sorry about Moon, really, I swear, by my own mother, and my daughter, and all the queens before me or since. But I just got my freedom, I don’t want to dedicate it to vengeance...”

The princess’ heart sank. Here she was, talking to the Queen of Darkness herself, and it was Star whose heart seemed to be filled with hate, the one who longed for revenge. She though for a second, about the scared faces of her subjects, about what Marco had said. But then, she thought about the body; the unmoving body in the glass casket, the cold flesh that had been her mom.

“What if I do want to do it? Vengeance, I mean,” she asked, her tone ice-cold. “Could you help me still somehow? What about the spell you gave my mom?”

“Are you certain that’s what you want?” replied Eclipsa surprised. “I can do that. But that spell does require a magical contract. I am afraid that part is sort of... fundamental to the way it works.”

The green-haired royal seemed to ponder the issue for a moment.

“Perhaps, well, if you truly are sure...” she trailed off an instant before continuing, as if organizing her thoughts. “That speech you gave, what you said before, that would work. You can promise to me you will find Moon’s killer and destroy it, before you become queen. That would be acceptable in exchange for the spell, and it is what you plan to do anyways. Isn’t it?”

Star hesitated for a second. It was one thing to make that promise to her subjects, in the heat of the moment. It was something that she could probably still take back at this point. Her mother would have known the political cost of doing that, she would have told her it was a bad image for the new queen to be seen as going back on a promise as her first royal act. But it was at least theoretically possible. This seemed a lot more permanent somehow.

“If you are not absolutely sure, though, you really shouldn’t do it,” Eclipsa offered helpfully.

Star felt ashamed. She never even wanted to be queen! And, well, she had to stand by her words either way. She had to avenge her mom, and she couldn’t do so if she had to assume all the responsibilities of Queen of Mewni at the same time.

“I swear I will not be queen, until my mother has been avenged.” Star extended a hand. Then she smiled, “with Eclipsa as my witness.”

The former queen chuckled in response. As she took Star’s hand into her own, a ribbon of darkness coiled around their outstretched arms, and the princess felt a tingling sensation. Eclipsa leaned down and whispered the words of the spell into her ear.

“So, will that really kill anything?” Star asked.

“Any creature, and anything living or undead, and most denizens of hell or heaven,” replied Eclipsa. “As long as you hit the heart. Or well, the closest equivalent.”

“Wow, that sounds really... powerful. I am kinda sad I don’t have the rest of your chapter,” the princess admitted. “I lost the book, and I think, I am not sure, but I think, it is gone now, for good.”

“Well, I lost the book once too,” Eclipsa replied pensively. “When I... went away, from Mewni. I sort of made one of my own after that: a few things I remembered, a few things I found out after. Unfortunately, I was never diligent enough at it to get even all of what was in my old chapter in there, let alone all the other queen’s spells.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” echoed Star. Remembering her own experiences with trying to keep her own notebook of spells after losing the book to Ludo. Meanwhile, Eclipsa began rummaging through her dress.

“Here,” she handed Star a small bundle of pages, sewed together with two black covers made of what seemed to be something like fossilized rose petals. “Take it.”

Star looked surprised at the little notebook. “Whoa, are you sure about that?” she asked. Was Eclipsa simply giving away the notes she went through so much effort to reconstruct?

“I don’t think I will need this anymore.” The girl winked at Star. “Besides, it’s not really that much use without the wand.”

“Um ...thanks!” Star replied, as she took the book carefully into her hands, almost reverentially. She looked at it, thoughtfully, then back at Eclipsa. She was definitely not what the princess had expected. “You know? You don’t really seem evil...”

“Well, thank you. Neither do you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: Paved with Good Intentions

“You know, Marco, when you said you wanted to hang out today, this is not what I had in mind,” Tom spoke, irritated, as he guided the other boy lower and lower through the deepest reaches of his corner of the underworld.

He led through black decrepit stairwells, through stone bridges over burning lava pools, through pitch-black tunnels full of nameless horrors. By all rights he should hate the human, see him as a rival, and plot to dispose of him at the earliest opportunity. That was his nature.

“What did you think I was going to ask you then, Tom?” Marco retorted, as he nervously scuttled through the narrow downwards ledge, a bottomless abyss extending ominously to his right. Not quite bottomless in the literal sense, Tom knew. But the thing at the bottom of that pit would devour you before you realized you had reached the ground. So, well, the fall might as well be endless, really.

“Honestly? I thought you were here so I could destroy you at some other game. I am still trying to beat my record, you know? Pulverize you sixty to zero, or better. Come on, I know we both can do it!” He laughed and gave Marco a playful pat on the shoulder. The human yelped in terror as he lost his balance, nearly falling to his demise. Tom held him back with an outstretched arm. Nature be damned, he had grown to like the whelp. Not enough to know what Star saw in him, of course, but, well, that was none of his business. “Nah, seriously, Marco, why do you want to see it?”

“Well, Tom, I don’t know what you have heard about Star’s speech, yesterday, at her mom’s wake...” Marco began.

Tom smiled bitterly to himself. “All of it, Marco,” he replied with a shrug. “I was there too.”

The look of confusion in the human boy’s face was absolutely worth it. “Wait, you were there? I didn’t see you there. Star didn’t see you there either… I think.”

“I know,” Tom replied with a smug grin. “Unlike you, I know how to be discreet when lurking where I am not invited.” He stated, taking a friendly jab at the other boy.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Marco retorted, picking up on the tone of the words, if perhaps not the substance of the observation.

Tom gave Marco his best look of mock disappointment, trying to impress upon the boy just how dense he was being right now. It was mostly a calculated act, of course. He didn’t really care about it anymore. But it was worth reminding the human that, sometimes, Tom too had been wronged party in their interactions.

Finally, the human caught on, “Ah, oh, right… the Blood Moon Ball thing! Look, man, I am sorry I crashed your date with Star. I was way out of line.”

‘Point, Tom’, the demon thought to himself with some satisfaction.

He shrugged graciously, relishing the rare opportunity to take the human boy down a peg for once. “Apology accepted, Marco.”

After all, it really hadn’t been that big of a deal in retrospect. His plan to dance with Star that night, to maybe have their two souls chosen to be bonded by the Blood Moon, seemed awfully optimistic in hindsight. He didn’t know which lucky couple the mysterious celestial body had decided to join that night. But, as much as it pained him to admit it. he suspected it had been a wiser pairing than the mewman princess and himself would have been. Even if their relationship had somehow gone better than it did - and Tom wasn’t sure how it could have - Star simply had enough destinies to worry about, between crowns and prophecies, to add something like that to the mix.

“But, Tom, if you were there…” Marco continued, switching back to more recent matters. “Weren’t you worried about what Star said? Aren’t you worried about what she might try to do?”

“Of course I am, Marco.” The demon prince’s expression became far more serious for a moment. “But, well, I didn’t think there was much I could do back there, and I didn’t want to scare the locals. Many of them know about me, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t afraid of demons showing up, especially at funerals. Given the fright Star was putting them through, I didn’t think it was a good idea for me to make an appearance.”

Not that he hadn’t considered it, when he saw Star’s look of furious determination as she walked down from the podium and past the crowd, foregoing mourning for retribution. Whether he had wanted to advise her against it, or offer to help her, he didn’t quite know.

“Thanks for trying to stop her,” Tom added after a moment. Then, he shrugged once more. “Not that I expected it to work.”

“Yeah, neither did I,” Marco admitted.

“She just does whatever she wants,” both of them intoned in unison and chuckled nervously.

They fell into a short but uncomfortable silence, as they made their way through a cave with teeth-like stalagmites, which might or might not have once been something’s actual teeth.

Marco was the first to speak. “Do you think she is right? To seek vengeance for her mom, I mean.”

Tom shrugged. He truly didn’t know. His heart told him yes, while his mind, and Brian, would have said no. It was a treacherous road Star was taking, almost like the volcanic maw the two of them were now descending into. In the end, though, it was her road to take or not take. Tom harbored no illusions that he could influence Star’s decision there. Maybe Marco could, but he doubted even that.

There was an island inside a hellish caldera, reachable by a lead boat rowed by faceless demons. On the island stood a tower, and there, down in its bottommost basement, the room Marco had asked about.

“You know Star has one of those too, right? In upper Mewni,” Tom pointed up.

In fact, Star’s Room of Maps was far easier to access than his own. What was with demons and placing all their important rooms in the deepest and most remote corners of their domains? He would have to ask his mom someday. There were some things of demon tradition that truly didn’t make sense to him, even now.

“I don’t want to tell Star about this, not until I know I am right,” Marco answered firmly. He hadn’t told the Lucitor prince much either, just that he might have a possible lead on Moon’s killer. “If I am wrong, I don’t want to give her false hope. And if I am right, well, I still don’t know whether or not I should tell her...”

“Marco, you need to let Star make her own decisions here,” Tom replied solemnly. His words were met with a raised eyebrow and a quizzical stare on the part of the boy. Clearly, there were still some areas in which it was not exactly easy for the demon prince to credibly claim the moral high ground. “Fine, call me a hypocrite! Doesn’t mean I am wrong, Marco!”

Marco nodded, “No, Tom, you are right. It’s just... If she ends up hurting herself, I don’t think I could forgive myself.”

“I don’t think I could forgive you, either,” Tom said in a joking tone. It was no joke, and he hoped the human knew that.

“Thanks,” the boy replied, with an eye roll.

There was a long beat of silence as they started descending down the final flight of ebony stairs.

“Marco, you know you are an infuriatingly lucky bastard, right?” Tom said a second after. In truth, he wasn’t even thinking of the boy’s human girlfriend, though well, that too. He meant it because of Star. That was luck enough for anyone. “Just want that to be clear.”

“I know, man, I know,” he replied earnestly. Then, with a grin, “and you are dating Janna... my condolences.”

“Oh, come on, she is not as bad as you think,” Tom retorted as he pushed the heavy iron doors open. He smirked at Marco. “She is way worse!”

The human boy’s incipient laugher was cut short at the view of the Room of Maps. It was indeed a sight to behold, Tom had to admit. The floor was crystal glass, perfectly transparent and hard as diamond. Underneath, carved on black volcanic stone, was a perfect representation of the ten thousand domains of hell: islands of ebony rock, each detailed to perfection, connected by narrow bridges that would probably not fall to the lava below until the day of judgment itself. The endless pool of magma, underneath it all, represented the domain of The Morning Star, the core of hell, and it showed no known or fixed features. The ceiling of the cavern reflected the light through a series of golden inverted spires, only partly approximating the alien geometries of the heavenly dimensions. In between those two, floated maps of every known mortal world.

Parchment balloons and flying leaflets hung in mid air, magically suspended. Each of them was a map of the dimension it represented in the larger arrangement. If you were to look at the globes floating above the stretch of volcanic stone that mirrored Tom’s own domain within hell, for example, you would find the disc-shaped map of Mewnie, right above the miniature of the Lucitor palace. You would also find there a floating leaflet for the tiny dimension hosting St Olga’s, and a large globe representing Earth. If you unrolled the later in just the right way, it would give you a map of the broader universe of Marco’s home dimension, with all its stars, planets, and galaxies, updating in real time as their relative positions changed. There were dozens of dimensions which floated directly above Tom’s family lands. They were the ones to which his carriage could travel unimpeded. Then again, those were only a handful among the countless dimensions floating along the nearly infinite room.

“Well, Marco,” he chided his companion, who was still staring dumbfounded at the place. “Good luck finding anything in here. Let me know when you start going mad!”

To his surprise, Marco just grinned. “Tom, did I ever tell you about the time I spent sixteen years chasing Hekapoo to get a pair of scissors?”

“You did not,” Tom replied. Sixteen years? Marco wasn’t even fifteen years old! Was that a joke? He tried not to have his own confusion show, but Marco’s smug look told the demon prince he had not succeeded in that. ‘Point, Marco’, whatever!

“I was older back then,” Marco shrugged. His tone of voice had changed: more confident, more mature. Would almost have been hot, if Tom were into that. “I learned a lot of things chasing H-poo. Magic of my own. Nothing like Star, only a few spells here and there, always with a price. But when I got back, I slowly began to forget. I think I needed to forget. I would have been too damaged otherwise. But I had a dream, two days ago. I dreamed of Hekapoo, and I think she was really there, and when I woke up I still remembered a bit of who I was during that dream, of my older self... I remembered a spell, a spell to find things.”

“So,” Tom commented, still unsure whether he believed the other teen. “You are going to use that spell to locate the creature that killed Queen Moon? To help Star take revenge?”

Marco shook his head. “No. The spell can only locate things I can name, in a language understood by the spell itself. I remember about fifty words of Riradesh right now, but even if I were fully fluent in it again, I don’t think I would know the name of the thing King River described.”

“Then?” Tom asked, curious.

“I think it can find Hekapoo,” Marco suggested.

“Marco, isn’t Hekapoo...” Tom began. Hekapoo was dead. This whole thing had sounded fishy from the beginning, but now the demon prince was starting to suspect that Marco might be going mad with grief, just as affected by the events in Mewni as Star was. Tom shuddered.

“I don’t know. I don’t think she is dead, or not completely dead,” Marco said. “If the spell works, if the dream was real, then she must be out there, somehow.”

“Ok,” Tom reasoned. He had certainly known of stranger things in heaven and hell. Nothing lost with trying. “Let’s test this spell of yours, then.”

“Well,” Marco seemed nervous. “Remember when I said there was a price for every spell I knew? This one’s is bad. For everything found, I forget something of the same kind, Tom. So to use it to find a person means forgetting someone. I don’t think I lost anything when casting it in a dream, but if this works... What if it’s Jackie? What if it’s Star?”

Tom shuddered, understanding. So it was that kind of magic. The demon prince was starting to believe, despite himself, that Marco wasn’t entirely talking out of his ass. It fit too much with what he knew of certain magics to be a complete fabrication. Still, this was to help Star. Tom would have happily traded turning Marco into a vegetable to have the mewman feel better again. He might even do the same to himself.

“Look at the bright side. It could be Janna,” the demon prince joked. A moment later, a pang in his chest reminded him that he himself would never want to forget Janna, no matter how annoying the girl was sometimes.

Marco chuckled. “If I forget you, do I also forget Naysaya?”

Then, with a look of determination suddenly taking over his face, Marco began intoning a litany of twelve words in a language even Tom didn’t recognize (and he spoke well over six hundred). Golden light steamed from the human boy’s breath over his closed fist, and he began drawing a complicated script in the air, one that expanded from the center and towards all sides, without the single line of the word ever being broken. The demon prince recognized a few glyphs, like fire, which was similar to the equivalent in the ancient tongue of the lower planes. The more complicated parts were unknown to him. Clearly Marco wasn’t kidding when he said he could cast magic. Better never tell Janna of this.

The script coiled into itself, became a sphere of brightness and... fizzled out in mid air. Marco looked puzzled at his hand.

“Well, that looked magic to me,” Tom shrugged. “Maybe you got the name wrong?” He hoped Marco wouldn’t lose any memories for a miscast ritual, but he wasn’t sure.

“No, Tom,” Marco replied. “The name is right: ‘She who commands the blade of fire that crosses the empty place between places’, Hekapoo. Maybe... maybe there is not enough of her for the spell to recognize her.” The boy clenched both fists and looked down in despair.

“Well, Marco,” Tom drew closer and rested a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “It was a long shot anyways, right? Star will find another way.”

“No. Wait!” Marco’s eyes lit up again. “I know where to find Hekapoo, if she is to be found anywhere. She has to be, otherwise she would not have sent that dream!”

Tom let go of Marco as the boy began the spell anew. The Lucitor prince wasn’t sure the dream was truly a vision now, even if the magic was real. How likely was it that Marco had just gotten a normal dream that jogged back some old memories? Or that whatever had sealed those memories inside him, possibly for his own good, had died with Hekapoo? But he said nothing, and let Marco try again.

Once more the boy drew fire, and blade, and many more glyphs the demon did not recognize. But then, around what he swore up and down was Hekapoo’s name, he drew the crown of thorns, the twelve-pointed circle, Arus’Morgáth. Tom flinched in surprise, astonished by the fact that the human kid knew that unmistakable symbol. “Marco, what are you trying to write?”

“Just ‘Hekapoo’s dimension’,” he replied absently, his concentration elsewhere, going into the spell.

“That doesn’t mean dimension, Marco,” Tom clarified, unsure if the other boy was listening. “I think you just wrote ‘Hekapoo’s domain’.”

“Yeah, sure, that,” replied Marco, completely missing the significance of the fact.

As he said that, the words in the air coiled around themselves and became a ball of lightning. It began moving around the room. Tom and Marco followed. As they moved, maps moved out of their way, only to return to their places a second after. Eventually, the sphere came to rest inside a cluster of maps: three large parchment spheres and dozens of smaller strips. It divided into many lights, illuminating the whole set of charts and globes.

“Tom?” Marco asked, without looking away from the constellation of maps. “Can you take us here?”

Tom looked at the path below, the geography of hell that connected his own domain with that of the Forger of Scissors. There was a path, many even, but they all passed through the same place: the huge citadel in the middle of the floor, all claw-like castles and needle-like spires. It was a place of countless terrors, even to a prince of hell. He should have known. After all, in hell, all roads led to Dis. To Sam’s domain.

“It is not going to be easy, Marco. Not like going to St O’s, or Earth, or Mewni,” Tom shuddered. “There is someone I need to ask for a favor. It will cost me greatly. It might cost my family greatly too. And it will be dangerous, for all of us.”

“More dangerous than Star finding this same path and going on her own? Or that any other thing she might try?” Marco asked, his features harder than the demon had ever seen them before.

He had to admit the boy had a point. It was not like him saying no at this point would stop Star from trying. Tom shuddered at the thought of the princess trying to forge a way through Dis by force. Even having Marco keep quiet wouldn’t deter her from finding a way eventually. Maybe she would even try to punch a hole into the fabric of the multiverse by force of will alone. Without scissors, going through Dis, dealing with Sam, might in truth be the safest path, even if it was anything but safe.

“No, probably not,” he replied finally. He was, to his annoyance, beginning to understand what Star saw in the other boy. He also felt he now had some idea about what had really driven the human to crash the party back then, the night of the Blood Moon Ball. “Alright, Marco. I’ll do this, for Star. On one condition: you are all in, no hesitations, no divided loyalties. We both do this for Star.”

----

Marco had been thinking of Tom’s final admonition for hours by the time he reached Earth. He had asked the demon prince for one of his suit jackets, a bit of hair gel, and to borrow his royal carriage for the rest of the day.

It turned out driving the demonic hearse was easier than the boy had suspected. One needed only say where, and the undead horse did the rest. Marco even talked to the horse for a while, as he sorted out his conflicted feelings. The skeleton was still bitter that nobody had told it of its demise for years, Nonetheless, it did his job without complaint. What it definitely wasn’t, however, was any sort of particularly insightful audience for the human’s personal troubles.

As the vehicle materialized in front of Jackie’s home, Marco looked at the bouquet of roses in his hands, unnaturally red and with a light all of their own, as if flame burned beneath the petals. Hell flowers. Tom had given him his word that they were safe, but the Earth boy still had his doubts. This would be hard enough without his gift trying to eat them before they could talk, or burning his girlfriend’s house down.

He walked to the entrance and rang the doorbell. Jackie opened up, looking amazing, in that effortless way she always did. She looked him up and down, and burst out laughing, “Marco, you look so... fancy?” she said, uncertain. She paused for a moment, looking behind him. “Sweet ride, though!”

“Okay, okay,” he conceded, taking off Tom’s jacket and tousling his hair back to normal. Jackie was right, this wasn’t him. He just had wanted to make their last date special. “Jackie Lynn Thomas. I am here to take you... on the ultimate date!”

Jackie looked at him, first puzzled, then a little bit sadly. A flash in her eyes told him she was reading more in his expression than what he wished to show. Jackie always kept talking about them reading each other’s mind, and Marco was often half-convinced she could do that to him already.

She took the bouquet and motioned him over, “Marco, come on in.”

Marco followed her sheepishly, and a bit disappointed. He had wanted to treat Jackie today. It might be the last time he saw her for a while. She deserved better, of course, so much better, but a great date was all he could give her now. Maybe, if he survived, he would one day be able to make it up to her. Was there an easy way to tell your girlfriend you had to go away, for months at least, possibly forever, to cross the depths of hell with your other girlfriend?

“What is this really about, Marco?” Jackie finally broke the silence, as she put the roses in a vase. The water under them heated immediately to a soft boil, and stayed there, bubbling slowly. “No offense, but with that face you look less like you are asking me out, and more like you are on your way to another funeral.”

“Remember the dream I told you about?” Marco begun. He would have wanted to give the two of them a few more hours together, before he had to explain. But it was clear his heart wouldn’t have been in it anyways. This was already too painful for him, and in a minute he might cause the same pain to Jackie. That idea felt even worse than his own misery. “I went to visit Tom. We found a lead. I am telling Star.”

“Are you sure you should be telling her?” Jackie asked pensively. “Marco, you know she is in grief, right? She is not thinking straight. This whole quest of revenge thing could be the worst decision she makes in her life...”

“Yes, Jackie, I know,” Marco admitted. “And no, I am not sure. But if I don’t help her, I think she will do it anyways. I want to be there, to protect her if I can. If not, then at least to support her. And I want to help her honestly. It would be one thing to tell her not to do it, another to withhold this information from her.”

“Yeah, because she has always been so forthcoming with the truth...” muttered Jackie. She shook her head. “No, dude, you are right. Telling her is the right thing to do, just promise me you will try to stop her from doing something really stupid.”

“I will,” Marco swore. Then he looked into Jackie’s eyes, sadly. “Which is why I need to be going with her.”

“Well, duh, of course,” Jackie replied with a wave of her hand, completely missing the point. Marco gulped.

“It is a long journey without the scissors. I don’t know when, or if, we will be back,” he finally admitted. It hurt to speak, he felt tears welling inside his eyes. “Jackie, I love you. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to ask that you wait until I return. I think... I think we should break up!”

They stared at each other in silence for a while, then he continued. There was a lot he wanted to say, and yet nothing that could be nearly enough, “I love you, like you have no idea! But, well, Star needs me now, and... you don’t. If I do come back, and you are free then, and you still want to... no, let’s leave it at that for now. I am sorry.”

Oh god, he felt like such an asshole. Jackie didn’t deserve this. But he had to be there for Star. Jackie was strong. She would do alright. And she was kind. She would understand. Still, Marco felt oh so very small at that moment. Jackie simply stared at him and blinked.

“Marco, I love you too, but sometimes you are kind of an idiot,” she stated calmly. It was like a slap to the face.

“I know,” he agreed. He began walking back towards the door, shoulders hunched, deflated.

“Not what I meant, Diaz!” Jackie shouted. “The reason you are an idiot, is because it is obvious I am going with you two, dude!”

When Marco turned back, Jackie was smiling, and still shaking her head.

“Wait! Jackie, no, that’s even worse. I definitely cannot ask you to...” he began.

“You are not asking, Marco,” she retorted. “And I am not asking you either. Even if you do go ahead and break up with me right now, I am still going. Star is still my friend too, despite that stupid voyeur spell, you know?”

“Jackie, no! This is going to be really dangerous!” yelled Marco. He couldn’t bear the idea of Jackie dying or getting hurt, and the hard truth was that it was not an improbable outcome in the least. “I mean, the way Tom spoke of the way there... we are going through the bowels of hell, literally! And, well, at the end there is this... this thing that was able to overpower Hekapoo and Star’s mom. We could die. You... you could die.”

“Shhh, Marco, it’s ok,” she said, walking towards him, placing a hand on his shoulder, wiping a tear from his face. She flashed him what he had begun to call her ‘Prince Jack’ grin. “I will protect you.”

They kissed. Or, well, Jackie kissed him.

Marco was grateful, and guilty. He couldn’t help but think that he was still the one dragging Jackie into all of this, putting her at risk. But, on the other hand, he didn’t know what he would do without her support, without her strength. He could try to be there for Star but, without Jackie, who would be there for him? He couldn’t ask her to do that, of course. But he was weak enough not to push her away, if she insisted.

“So, Marco, are we still together?” Jackie finally broke the kiss and asked him. “Because, honestly, I would prefer that, if we ever do break up, it’s because one of us no longer cares for the other, not because you are silly enough to think I won’t follow you into hell.”

Tom was right, Marco thought, he was an infuriatingly lucky bastard.

“Jackie, I truly couldn’t ask for a better girlfriend,” Marco admitted and nodded.

“No, you couldn’t. Now, go deliver your other girlfriend the news, dude, before she does something crazy...er. We can do your fancy date when we are all back. I guess I should start packing. How do you think is the weather in hell?” Jackie laughed and pushed Marco out of the house. Then, turning serious for a moment, she added, “By the way, if you don’t come back for me, I’ll ask Janna. I know Tom is going after Star, and Janna practically lives with him now. And if you make me go down that route, Marco, I am afraid I will have to kick your ass when I do get there.”

----

Tom marched back towards his room, his promise to Marco weighing heavy on his mind. Sam was an old friend of the family, and he had a strange, sometimes disturbing, fondness for Tom. But having Sam’s friendship was like having a pet viper: that it didn’t bite you didn’t mean the venom wasn’t there, always at the ready. Sam was ancient when Tom’s oldest ancestors were young, and powerful in a way that only the Astray One himself could top. If the other demon decided to hurt Marco, or Janna, or Star, well, there was nothing Tom could do to stop him.

“Shadow chains!” cried a familiar voice as the prince Lucitor entered his own chambers. Black ribbons of living darkness coiled around his arms, tying them behind his back. On his bed, naked underneath her open black silk robe, legs crossed, Janna sat grinning. Strewn around her were half a dozen books. Ancient tomes of power, older than the Kingdom of Mewni itself.

“Where did you get those?” the demon inquired. He tugged at the arcane bindings holding him. They were strong, much stronger than he expected from Janna. But not nearly strong enough. His eyes lit red and he burned through the conjured restraints with ease.

“Come on! You could have at least pretended those worked,” Janna pouted. “It took me hours to get that spell to work!”

“You really are taking this seriously, aren’t you?” Tom replied, somewhat impressed. Even without much natural talent, the human girl practiced magic with a diligence he had seldom ever seen in anyone. After the trip to St O’s, she had, if anything, redoubled her efforts. “Still, Janna, you didn’t answer. Where are the books from?”

“Your family library, duh,” she shrugged. It was not an apology.

Tom raised a hand and all tomes floated gently to a nearby bookcase. He was beginning to learn it wasn’t even worth it getting angry at Janna’s antics and, anyways, he had more serious worries in his mind right now.

“Next time, Janna, ask,” he scolded her, uselessly. “There are books there I really wouldn’t want to have you damage... and books that are more likely to damage you instead.” The flesh-eating ones were among the least dangerous in that later category.

“Aw, someone looks sourer than usual!” the wannabe witch observed. “Heard Marco was visiting. Jealous much?”

“No! ...maybe,” Tom hesitated. “But, anyways, that’s not the point. There is a call I have to make. It is a delicate one, something that could help Star...”

“It is always about Star, isn’t it?” Janna grumbled.

“Janna, she lost her mom,” Tom observed, glaring back at her. What was with Janna and Star recently? The troublemaker girl had always resented Star on some level, both for her magic and, if he was honest rather than humble, for what she meant to him. But lately it was worse than ever. She bristled at every mention of the mewman princess, and had even refused to attend Moon’s wake. “I thought she was your friend too!”

“A friend?” Janna raised an eyebrow. “Is that what she is to you, Tom? Really?”

“Yes,” he replied annoyed, a few sparks of fire dancing through his fingers. “Yes, that is what she is to me. What I am trying to be to her, Janna. I am trying to be the friend she needs now.”

“Sure, sure,” Janna nodded. “Not like you are trying to take advantage of her grief to fuck her again, right?”

The demon prince’s eyes glowed red at that comment. A strong wind filled the room, coming out of nowhere. Tom’s hair flew around him, his body rising into the air as flames exploded below. A guttural voice replacing his usual boyish tone. “NO. I am honestly trying to be a good person, and it hurts, and it is hard, and it is driving me absolutely fucking insane! But by Satan and Belial, I am going to do the right thing this time! And I would appreciate it if, for once, you didn’t imply that I have to be the bad guy!”

Janna smirked, and got up from the bed. She let her black cloak hit the ground, exposing her naked body. “Ah, but Tom, I like it when you are the bad guy. If you are not going to be bad to Star, then how about being bad to me?”

Wait, was that what this was about? A come-on!? Now?

Tom didn’t have time for these games. There was so much he needed to do, so much to arrange. Star needed him! At the same time, he couldn’t help but notice the sunset allure of the witch’s naked body, her olive skin taking on an almost amber glow as it reflected the fires of hell. A playful impish spark danced inside her eyes.

The demon prince realized, at that moment, how, ahem, frustrated he had been this past week, worrying about Star, burying down feelings of his own that the mewman definitely shouldn’t have to deal with. That he managed to be a decent person didn’t mean the feelings weren’t there. It certainly didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt to be around his ex. Janna’s suggestion offered him an outlet.

“Fine!” he shouted. Honestly, he needed to unwind. If he called Sam in this state, who knows what might happen.

Tom raised a hand and Janna’s body began floating up towards him, like a marionette pulled from strings. She delighted in her helplessness, a grin like that of a mad woman. He moved his claw across the air, and a whip of fire lashed at her from nowhere, hitting her arm, burning the skin. She moaned. She fucking moaned of pleasure like if he had just given her the most sensual caress. Janna was such a freak. It was perhaps her best feature.

She lifted her own hand, and Tom felt himself being yanked towards her by some unseen force. He could have resisted it. He didn’t.

His body smashed against Janna’s and she wrapped her legs around him. The demon prince controlled the flames, made them vanish before he seriously hurt the human girl. No matter how fast she was improving, he didn’t trust her to put up her own defenses. She craved the pain a bit too much sometimes, it made even Tom uneasy. But, right now, as she began unbuttoning his coat and then his shirt, the Lucitor boy could almost forget the burning signs of unhealthiness in what they were doing.

He kissed her. Then, in an impulsive decision, he bit her lower lip and pulled back. A metallic taste filled his mouth as he drew a single drop of blood. He looked down into her eyes for signs of fear or distress. What he saw, was hunger. A hunger echoing his own. Janna was the only person he knew, that didn’t recoil of Tom’s darkest impulses, who didn’t want him to suppress them. She fetishized his darkest side; embraced it. It wasn’t exactly healthy and it wasn’t exactly safe, but it felt good. It felt good to let go; and to be loved for it.

She traced a line through his pants with her finger, a thin tendril of blue flame burning away at the fabric. The demon’s skin barely felt her weak spell, but the clothes ripped and smoldered nonetheless. Soon they were embracing naked in mid air. Tom dug his claws into her back.

She whimpered appreciatively. “Tom, damn it! Fuck me!”

He did. He plunged into her. Gently at first, but deep. She clamped her legs around his waist and begun her own hip motions. Tom took the invitation for what it was and began to thrust hard and fast. He could feel her heart beating even through her howling in his ear. Lightning and fire danced across her skin as she drank deep from his own demonic power. It was monstrously dangerous, but the demon prince dared not interrupt her. It was not clear to him which sensation was the most intense for the witch, the sex or the magic, or if there was indeed a difference between the two.

They floated down towards his bed, all around them a rapid twister of red flames and dark-blue bats made out of raw magical energy danced, following the rhythm of their mating. Janna’s eyes were blank. She was in trance, faded away into a realm which words or reason would not reach, only raw sensation. Tom forced himself to keep conscious, to reign himself in even as he wanted nothing more than to let go. He grunted and gasped, but stayed afloat, thrusting into her with wild but conscious hunger. He knew the girl below him was too fragile for him to completely lose control. Yet he edged towards brutal abandon, and towards his own climax.

Janna’s body tensed as she arrived to her own orgasm. Her walls around Tom’s cock clenched violently, causing him to burst as well, emptying into her. The troublemaker girl’s hands stretched out towards the ceiling, and lightning crackled all around the room, flowing out from the tips of each of her fingers.

They fell silent for a while, relaxing into each other’s arms. Tom’s muscles had turned from the hardness of stone to the softness of wet earth. Janna literally glowed, a soft reddish afterglow of the powers that had just flowed through her.

“See, Tom? I told you this way was better than the books,” she whispered, softly.

“And I told you, it was like trying to be a lightning rod,” Tom replied. Some measure of worry in his voice. The girl was playing Russian roulette with energies too destructive for her body to contain.

And he kept allowing it, because it helped him to let his own frustrations out, and because it distracted him from Star. Did that mean he was still the bad guy then, after all?

----

“I call the darkness unto me, from deepest depths of earth and sea, from ancient evils unawoken, to break the one who can’t be broken,” intoned Star.

It was not even the words of the spell what terrified Marco as he approached the princess, nor the dark clouds that seemed to gather around her as she spoke them. It was the cold fury in his friend’s eyes.

He had never seen Star so focused, so determined. Even when she had broken Toffee’s glass prison, seemingly so long ago, she didn’t look nearly as threatening. In front of her was a stone statue, crude in its shape and features, but clearly representing a tall faceless female form with six arms.

“To blackest night I pledge my soul, and crush my heart to burning coal, to summon forth the deathly power, to-see-my-hated-foe-devoured!”

A beam of inky purple darkness exploded out of Star’s wand, as she stammered the end of the spell as fast as she could. The crystal half-star turned pitch black as the power its owner had summoned passed through it, venomous and corrosive. The ray of death hit the center of the rough statue, right in the middle of its torso. With a horrible rumble, the form cracked and exploded, fragments of rock flying in every direction. Marco jumped to evade one such projectile, while those headed for Star bounced away in mid air. Waves of purple magic flashed all around the princess. They looked very much like the golden waves of the magical armor that had protected Jackie in her duel with Princess White.

Star closed her eyes and lifted her left hand from the wand. She made a fist in mid air, and opened her eyes. They shone with blinding green light, a brightness that extended to the heart marks on her cheeks as well. A second later, a new statue sprouted out from the ground itself, crude but fully formed, right beside the one Star had just destroyed. Marco noticed then the many piles of rubble around the courtyard where Star stood. It was obvious she had been doing this for a while.

“Hey Star,” Marco drew attention to himself, trying the best to sound casual. Honestly, he felt more than a bit unnerved by what he had seen so far. Star never took practicing magic this seriously before and, although her powers were often destructive, there was something different about these spells. It was as if they left a charge upon the air that spoke of fury and raw violence.

The way the princess turned her sight towards him - quick like a cobra, fixing those incandescent green eyes on his own - did nothing to make the boy feel any less disturbed. He flinched. He had to remind himself that it was only Star, his best friend, his girlfriend. She would never hurt him.

“Marco?” she blinked, and her eyes went back to their normal cerulean blue. Her expression softened. She even smiled, as much as he had seen her smile since they arrived back from St. O’s at least, which was not much of a smile at all. “What are you doing back on Mewni?

“No, that’s not it,” she muttered quietly, to no one in particular, glancing at the empty space to her right. She frowned. Slowly, she turned back towards Marco and lowered her wand. “Don’t worry, I am not leaving yet. I said I’d see you before then. It’s not like I am going to forget that, Marco.”

“Well, that’s the thing, Star,” the boy spoke, walking towards her, across the piled up debris covering her improvised training grounds. “I am going with you. Or well, we are all going together. I have a lead on Hekapoo, I think she is alive, or partly alive, and she can help us find the thing that... well... the thing that...”

“Killed my mom?” Star finished the sentence calmly, a quizzical but dispassionate look directed at Marco. It was frankly more unnerving than any other reaction he could have expected. “You can say it. I do know she is dead, you know?”

It was then that Marco noticed the blackened tendrils expanding out from Star’s hands, covering the entirety of her palms and stretching as far up as the elbow. “Star, what happened to your arms?!”

“Oh, right, those,” she shrugged. “It’s just the spell, Marco. A minor side-effect.”

She inhaled and blinked. Her eyes shone green again. Slowly, the tendrils began blurring, the darkened veins vanishing back into unblemished skin. Soon, her hands and arms had recovered their rosy color. “See? Nothing to worry about. So, you were saying, Hekapoo is alive? Are you sure?”

“Ah, well, that,” Marco stammered, still off balance. “She appeared to me on a dream and told me where to go, or at least gave me a clue. I know how that sounds like, but I swear it is not just wishful thinking. It was really her!”

“Marco, I believe you,” Star smiled. “I know she can visit you in dreams. Wonder why you and Jackie don’t consider her a creep too, but I suppose that doesn’t matter much now.”

“Wait, what?” Marco looked at her best friend, both perturbed and confused. Then he thought of a couple other dreams he’d had before involving Hekapoo. In one of them, right before he started dating Star, he had dreamed of the mewman girl too. Except now he wasn’t entirely sure it had been a normal dream. He even remembered seeing that scene again, briefly, back in St Olga’s, through the All-Seeing Eye spell. In the confusion of that horror show, and the argument that followed, he had almost forgotten. “Star, that night, when I dreamed... that I was with you, and Hekapoo. Was that real? Were you there?!”

The mewman blushed slightly, but did not avert her gaze from Marco, nor did she apologize. She simply nodded. “... yeah.”

Marco had literally no response to that admission.

“So, where are we going?” Star eventually changed the subject. Marco finally figured out what was creeping him out. It wasn’t that Star seemed scary, or angry. It was that she seemed muted somehow, distant, uncharacteristically devoid of emotion. “And why is it that you are helping me, Marco? I thought you didn’t approve of revenge.”

“Star, we are all going to hell!” he shouted, angrily, trying to elicit at least some sort of reaction. She smiled lazily back at him, awaiting any further explanation. Not that it was too surprising that she was unimpressed about that, after all, given her ex. “Tom is arranging a way to get to Hekapoo’s old place as we speak, seems like our best bet so far. Apparently it is a bit outside of where he can take us himself, though, so it might not be that easy to get there.”

“I see,” Star muttered. “Is that all?”

“No, Star, that’s not all!” Marco shouted, advancing towards her, trying to grab her arm. For a second, he made contact with the hardened air, as a flash of purple waves stood between his fingers and the princess’ skin. She glanced at him with detached curiosity. Eventually, she nodded and the barrier fell, allowing him to grasp her. “Seriously Star, you are scaring me out of my mind right now! I thought seeing you mad the other day was bad, but this is way worse. You seem cold, your arm feels cold. Like, ice cold, seriously! No matter what color you make it be. Look, I know your mom just died, I know you are partly in shock. So please, talk to me! If there is anything I can do, any way I can be there for you...”

“Marco,” Star stopped him, putting a finger to his lips. “That’s why I don’t want you coming with me. I know you don’t want to see this. I didn’t want you to see this. But it is what I need to do. To avenge my mom, and to be alright. I will be back, I promise, from the thing I promised to do, and from all of this as well. But right now, I need this, I need to master it, I need the power. So many things I didn’t learn before. So many tools I might need, that my mom didn’t have, that Hekapoo didn’t have. All knowledge is good knowledge, I think. I know how this looks, but I am not going to be the ‘dark queen ascending’, Marco, I promise. I’ll stop before that point.”

Marco nodded sadly. Then he leaped to hug Star. She tensed for an instant, as if ready to strike back at the contact, and then she let herself be embraced. For a long time neither of them said anything, they just held one another amid the ruins of so many consumed statues.

“Star, I am going with you, we are going with you,” Marco finally spoke. “You are right, I don’t like seeing you like this. But I think I would like even less to sit back on Earth while you do this, just wondering what is going on with you. I’ll be there to be your boyfriend, to be your best friend, Star, no matter what. And if you do go dark, just know that you are taking me with you as well. Jackie too, apparently. It is not what I would prefer, so please keep that in mind, Star, but if you go dark, we are going dark together!”

The princess hugged him back. Her breath suddenly erratic. She was sobbing, and yet she smiled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: Sam, I Am

They had gotten barely an hour of rest after their literally electrifying fuck session. Tom had insisted that they shower and dress up before the call. Somehow, the demon prince had gotten hold of the dark green dress Janna wore to their first date, and had demanded she put it on. On her head, he had placed again the live spider broach. The fledgling witch magically petrified the vermin this time around. It was partly for her own safety, but mostly just to show the demon prince that she could. Tom himself wore an impeccable white suit, that the girl had come to associate with those occasions in which he sought to truly impress.

Janna had thought about a lot of things as she bathed in the steaming hot waters of Tom’s shower. Fortunately, it wasn’t lava, although it felt like it might as well be. The demon prince’s shower had essentially two settings: hot and boiling. Then again, the human girl was almost used to it by now.

She had thought about their recent encounter, of course. About the pain, and the pleasure, and the overwhelming sensation of power as she dug deep into Tom’s energies. ’Unlimited powaaah!’ she thought with a chuckle, examining the burned tips of her fingers.

Was it really true that she got more power out of banging Tom that she got by studying and practicing known spells? Or was it the other way around? That the more proficient she got at her craft otherwise, the more she could draw forth from the demon during their union? After all, they had had sex before she started learning magic, and nothing like this had ever happened back then.

She had thought about Star too. About how the mewman princess irritated her so. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with that, with her own instincts regarding Star. She was, after all, or used to be, her friend. But, at the same time, she couldn’t control how much it irked her whenever Tom talked about his ex. It always had bothered her somewhat. But it was so much worse now, after that night back in St Olga’s, after she had waited alone for Tom to comfort the princess.

Janna couldn’t for the life of her say what was it that made that night so significant. Was it that Star and Tom had gotten back to being in good terms as friends? It didn’t seem like a big enough deal. Yet, somehow, it was. Alone in the woods, she had let her jealousy towards Star blossom into bitter resentment, and now she couldn’t shake it off, no matter how much she tried. And there was also the strange sensation of having forgotten something about that night, something important.

Finally, she thought about this mystery person that made Tom so nervous. ’An old friend of the family’ is all the boy had said about the other demon. But it was obvious from his reactions that the demon prince was terrified of this guy, and it wasn’t really clear why. The more nervous Tom got, the more eager Janna was to meet this ’Sam’. And now, she was about to. She had asked and begged Tom to let her be present. Finally, she had threatened to barge in either way. At that point, he had relented, admonishing her to try to be silent unless asked to speak, to be on her best behavior.

“Or as close to good behavior as it’s possible in your case,” had said the boy, with a groan. It was so weird how similar him and Marco were sometimes, not that either would welcome the comparison.

Tom Lucitor, prince of hell, knelt before his own mirror, and motioned Janna to do the same. Puzzled, she acquiesced. Who the literal hell was this guy that Tom felt the need to bow down to like this?

“Mirror,” Tom took a deep breath, “call Sam.”

“CALLING...”

A billowing wind, the crackle of distant thunder, and the mirror went dark. The many flames of Tom’s room faded out into nothingness all of a sudden. Their only source of light was now the red glow of the cascade of molten magma that served as the demon’s decorative fountain. Black spots began appearing on the mirror, until they covered its entire surface. When the glass had darkened in its entirety, a swirling maelstrom of ghostly cerulean light began reflecting upon the opal surface. A cacophony of cries and lamentations filled the air, and underneath that, Janna thought she could hear a chorus of voices chanting in an ancient tongue. As the pale teal currents became clearer and clearer, the human girl was able to see that they were formed by a mass of phantasmal human faces, all grimacing in agony.

The mirror zoomed in deeper and deeper into the haunted void, until it came to show a naked young man. Most of his features, and his nude form, were hidden from her sight by the mass of what had to be rivers upon rivers of human souls (Or were they mewman? Something else entirely?). What bits of skin she could see where white. Not white as in caucasian. White like a marble statue, and beautiful in exactly the same inhuman way. His hair was golden and shone with a brightness that would have put the sun to shame. His eyes glowed with a blue light so intense, it was literally impossible to meet his gaze.

“Who dares summon the Final Cold, the Endless Shadow, the Sword Aflame Inevitable?” boomed the unearthly creature’s voice, words that echoed like huge brass bells. He glanced at Janna, and she felt a presence so powerful, a well of magic so deep, even through the mirror, that it made Tom’s energies seem like a roadside puddle by comparison. The blue eyes fixed themselves on the Prince Lucitor and then... their blinding light went out. Two far more human eyes replaced them, albeit still ones of an unusual azure intensity. “Tom? Tom Lucitor?!”

Sam snapped his fingers and the flames in Tom’s room returned, the image inside the mirror dissolved in a blink. A rather preppy college dorm room replaced the sea of screaming faces. The boy sitting there on a messy twin bed was dressed in simple brown khaki shorts and a pink polo shirt. His face was still inhumanly beautiful and the tone of marble, but it now wore a very human smile. “Tom! Long time no see, bro! You looking good! Hit the gym recently?”

“Eh, something like that,” Tom blushed and ran a hand through the back of his neck.

The blond boy looked at Janna, then back at the purple demon prince, clearly drawing his own conclusions as to Tom’s exercise routine. “Ah, I see. Niiice. High five, brah!”

Incredibly, he actually held his palm up, on the other side of the mirror. The boy waited then, stupidly, for the second part of a gesture that definitely didn’t work at a distance. Janna felt confused, just as much as she felt disappointed.

“Sam, with all due respect, is this charade necessary?” Tom asked, timidly.

A piercing glare of fulminating blue light fixed upon the heir to the Lucitor crown. It went away again as soon as it had come, and the other boy’s eyes went back to normal. Or perhaps, the blinding light was normal, and the human-looking orbs an illusion.

“It is all a charade either way, Tom,” Sam shrugged. “It is always a charade, and then oblivion. Might as well be pleasant to my favorite Lucitor! Besides, you have no idea just how old the whole ‘Sword Aflame’ bit gets after the first few eons... Speaking of which, what are you two doing on the floor?! Stand up, come on! We are all friends!”

The boy kept motioning up with his hand until both Tom and the human girl had gotten back on their feet.

He smiled at Janna, “Hey, I am Sam, by the way, Tom’s old bud, nice to meet you!”

“Janna,” she replied, still feeling off balance at the sudden shift in tone from the boy. Damn, that was usually her job. Feeling like she had to at least try to surprise the stranger, she added, “So are you the devil? Because that’d be cool.”

Tom glared at her. Sam laughed raucously.

“Oh man! The devil? THE? No way! A devil, sure. Or, well, something like that,” he replied, making a dismissive gesture with his hand that was perhaps meant to signal humbleness, but was way too obvious to be sincere. Or perhaps, it was calculatedly insincere. “THE devil, though? Nah, J-Flame, I am not The Morning Star...”

The apprentice witch felt herself relax just a bit. In a way, it was probably good news that they weren’t having a chat with Lucifer himself. Even if a part of her had wished that had been the case.

“I mean, I know the guy. A truly inspiring bro. Really doesn’t know when to fold them, and takes it all way too seriously, but fuck me if he is not the best motivational speaker I’ve ever known! He makes you want to follow him into, well,” he looked around and shrugged.

Janna once again felt unsteady. Just who the godforsaken here was this guy? He sounded like an idiot half of the time. But it was obvious he was being an idiot on purpose, and laughing at them all the way! And he spoke of the Dark Prince of Hell the way Marco spoke of goddamn Justin Towers!

“But enough small talk,” added Sam. He sighed. “Tom, I know you. You never call unless you need something. So what is it this time, bro? What do I need to bail you out on? Let’s just hear it.”

“Sorry, Sam. I’d like to call you more often, of course, but, well, I just know how busy you always are, didn’t want to trouble you just to chat...” the demon prince apologized. Even Janna knew that was a lame excuse. The boy in the polo shirt actually rolled his eyes at it. Tom relented, realizing his attempts to butter up the other demon were worse than pointless, “Ugh. Fine, fine. Sam, I humbly request your permission to cross through the city of Dis, and through the hells within your domain...”

“Tom, you are my bro! My pal! My amigo! Your family and I go way back, like way-way back. You don’t even need to ask!” Sam replied effusively. “You are free to walk my neighborhood any time you want, man. I wish you would come and visit me, but it’s not like you have to do that either if you are not up for it, bro. Seriously, no problem!”

“... and I would like to take some people with me.” Tom added, tentatively.

Sam looked pensive for a moment, his smile gone. Then he looked at Janna, and brightened up once again. “Your chick? Sure. For you, I can do that. Only the one, right?”

“Four more besides myself,” the demon prince clarified. “And I need your word that they will get safe passage. All of them.”

Sam whistled. Then he frowned. He seemed to mull it over, or at least made a show of pretending to do so. “That doesn’t sound much fun on my end, bro. How about two out of four? You bring the four, I let you and two others out alive, my choice! How does that sound?”

It was surreal to get a counter-offer like that from a guy dressed like he was recruiting people to pledge to an Ivy League frat. Janna couldn’t avoid being a little bit freaked out as she realized, from Tom’s disturbed expression, that the suggestion was probably a serious one.

“Sam, no, they all need to get through unharmed,” Tom continued, only slightly shaken. “This is sort of important. I wouldn’t ask otherwise. Maybe there is another way? Something I can offer? Another favor I can owe you?”

“Bro, you owe me way too many favors as it is,” the other demon lifted both his palms up. “You are asking me to let four mortals through Dis, alive. It goes against everything Dis is supposed to be about. Against everything I am supposed to be about. It’s like, my thing, bro! Sorry, can’t do. No deal.”

Sam paused for a moment. He and Tom exchanged glances, three eyes on two. But it was obvious who had the final word, and by a wide margin.

“I can give you one other option,” the alabaster devil finally spoke, with a grin. She pointed at Janna. “How about this? The chick’s soul upfront, you and three mortals of your choice go through, no other conditions. Sweet, right?”

Tom balked at that, looking truly horrified, which pleased the human girl more than she let on. But before he could say anything, Janna interjected.

“My soul is not Tom’s to give,” she noted. “But I guess I could give you a good deal on it, myself. Nothing upfront, though. The five of us go through, and you still need to sweeten the deal for me personally. Then I pay up say, a century from now? No time at all from your perspective, right? What do you say? Worth chatting about?”

“Janna!” Tom yelled at her, his eyes glowing red. “I told you to be quiet! That’s not a deal you want to make.”

“It’s not a deal I would accept,” Sam shrugged. “But I like your spunk, J-Flame! Tell you what: Why don’t the two of us have a chat, alone, without your boyfriend running interference? I feel like we could reach an interesting understanding. Something way more fun than your soul or a choice of two deaths.”

“No way!” Tom shouted. “She has no idea what she is doing!”

“That’s what he said!” Sam responded, laughing at his own joke. “But don’t worry, bro. I swear I won’t seduce your chick. Not carnally, at least! I mean, you know I don’t swing that way!”

“Please, Sam, there must be something I can offer you instead!” Tom begged.

Sam looked at Tom, his eyes lingering up and down over the demon prince’s body. Eyes suddenly slitted, like those of a snake. He licked his lips. “No, Tom, there really isn’t. Not even that.” His tone carried a coldness now that belied everything about the dumb jock he had been playing up to that point.

“I’ll give you that, Sam... gladly,” the Prince Lucitor continued. Janna wasn’t sure if they were talking about what she thought they were talking, but she let her imagination run wild. “For safe passage for me and just one other!”

“The mewman princess, you mean? Don’t you need the boy warrior too, at least, to find your way once on the other side?” Sam retorted.

Wait, he knew about Star? And Marco? Janna was yanked out of her fantasy and into the grips of shock. So the other boy knew exactly what this was all about, from the beginning. He had been playing them the entire time, that much was obvious even before this point. But only now was Janna beginning to realize to what extent he was toying with them. How had he put it? ‘It is always a charade’?

“I am afraid that wouldn’t work either, anyways. Although I did want you to at least make me that offer, Tom. Nice to know there is a price for that.” The blond devil shrugged. “No. I think I like my idea better, I’ll negotiate with Miss Ordonia here instead. For what it is worth, I’ll give her my fairest deal.”

“No! Forget it,” Tom bellowed. “I won’t allow that! By right of domain, she is in my lands, under my protection, and...”

Sam smirked at that. It was as if he had just heard an old joke. “I am afraid, it is not up to you... ‘bro’.”

That instant, the entire world around Janna went dark.

----

It was like something out of an old movie: the dim lit bar, the stench of tobacco, the faceless patrons swinging around in the tiny dance floor. Janna sat on a small circular table for two, and on the other side, Sam grinned at her, dressed in a pinstripe suit and wearing a matching trilby hat. In the background, out of literally nowhere, floated the tunes of Elvis Presley’s “Devil in Disguise”. That, Janna thought, was a bit on the nose.

‘Ok, Janna Ordonia, you are having a deal with the devil type situation; you basically prepared your entire life for this moment, you got this,’ she reminded herself. Sam made a gesture with his hand and two sets of glasses appeared in front of them, already filled.

“Old Fashioned?” he asked. “Seems appropriate. But of course, I can change it...” He looked around. “All of it.”

“Sorry, I am not drinking,” replied Janna. That was a lesson from her first date with Tom she would not soon forget.

“As you wish,” shrugged the devil. “But tell me Janna, I am curious. How is ol’ Tommy Boy in the sack?”

Wait. What?! Janna had to hold herself from doing a double take again. It wasn’t just the question itself, it was the tone with which Sam had asked. He wasn’t mocking her, at least not blatantly. He wasn’t just making strangely personal small talk either. He seemed genuinely curious, conspiratorial even; a twinkle of excitement in his eyes. That’s not how she expected this conversation to go at all. Was it perhaps a negotiating tactic? Something to keep her off balance?

“What is it to you?” she retorted. Then, unable to contain her own curiosity, “Do you actually like Tom? Men, in general?”

’Right, Janna, real fucking smooth, ask the devil if he is gay, why don’t you? There is a brilliant negotiating tactic!’ she reproached herself.

“Why yes, of course. I am what you might call...” he looked at his drink, took a sip and shrugged again, “... old fashioned. Your kind only came around a bit after my time, my dearest daughter of Eve.”

Her kind? Daughter of Eve? Did he mean women? Like, in general? That had to be some bullshit! Janna frowned. “So, is that whole biblical stuff for real, or are you doing it for show?”

“Both,” Sam smiled, clearly enjoying her confusion. He gestured all around them, “It is all a show, after all. Props and actors in a comedy play with only one possible punchline. But I do try to go for things that would be familiar to you, and it is the truth that my kind predates that particular distinction.”

Intriguing as the implications of that admission might be, that wasn’t getting her anywhere. “Ok, so you like Tom, and you are annoyed at him for not calling you more often, and that’s why you want my soul or to kill two of his friends?”

When you put it like that, it was monumentally petty!

“Ah, miss Ordonia, I knew you were perceptive,” Sam retorted, seemingly delighted. “That’s some of it. I do like making Tommy squirm, and he did snub my latest party invitation, and a dozen or so before that. But I do also really loathe to let people through Dis unscathed. It is terrible for my image, you see?”

His image? What image? This guy changed faces and tone like Brittney changed clothes! Then it hit Janna. There was a third motive, one that was obvious after you had seen all this performance, all the tricks and charades. ’It is always a charade, and then oblivion’. Sam talked murder and soul bartering in the same breath as sex, drinks and even polite pleasantries, and that was the one part that wasn’t an act. He genuinely didn’t care. Didn’t rank one of those as more sacred or more foul than the others. At least, Janna hoped that was true.

“I don’t know if that’s a lie, about your image, but I don’t buy that’s the real reason either,” Janna insisted. “You don’t care about my soul, or about Tom sleeping with you, or about the lives of my friends, and I don’t think you care about your reputation. You are doing all of this just to amuse yourself! Because you are bored!”

Of course, from Janna’s perspective, her soul or her life were expensive prices to pay. So if she negotiated from her point of view only, she would have to pay an astronomically high cost to offer Sam something of equivalent importance. But if her interlocutor was valuing them for entertainment, then all she had to do is to offer something more entertaining, rather than something more valuable!

If she expected hers to be a piercing read, however, she was sorely disappointed. Sam merely laughed and clapped his hands twice.

“Bingo! Now you are getting somewhere! Yes, I have more souls than I know what to do with and, after you have killed a few trillion mortals, there is very little variety in that business as well. And I’d bet you the apples of paradise themselves that teasing Tom gives me more pleasure in the end than having him be mine ever would,” he chuckled. “What can I say? I am just trying to get a little bit of fun back into an unbearably tedious and near-interminable existence, just like you say. Some humor back into the dull long play. ’Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke,’ as you kids say.”

Smiling at that confession, Janna sat back for a moment, thinking carefully of what she could offer that might amuse the ancient demon. Her interlocutor seemed not the least bit impatient as she silently pondered her options.

“Fine,” she finally spoke. “I have an idea. How about you invite all five of us to that party you were talking about? I’ll get Tom to go, for your teasing pleasure. And how often you have living mortals there? It should amuse you more than killing two more people would, I’d think, and your reputation should not be in the line if we are there for your entertainment. The one condition is that we get to cross to where we are going afterwards, and to return the same way, and no harm shall come to any of us from it.”

“But what if you guys abuse that last clause to spoil my party? Or, with all due disrespect, Janna, to rob me blind?” Sam objected. He was completely calm. At the same time, he hadn’t needed an instant to think his objections. He had spoken the moment she had finished her offer. Either he was an unbelievably fast thinker, he could read her mind, or else this was the direction in which the conversation was always supposed to go. Any of those was a possibility with this guy, really. “If I offer you my blanket protection, I would be inviting into my home people who I am powerless to defend against.”

Janna was sure that much was a lie. Not harming them and being unable to stop them were two different things. Another charade, then? Either way, it was a cue for her to sweeten the deal, or to address the concern, genuine or not, and see where that led her.

“Then promise no harm shall come to any of us, as long as we don’t try to harm you, rob you, or ruin your party,” Janna amended. A conditional protection, rather than a blanket one. If the demon had meant it only as a bartering prod, then he would need to prod again.

“Now, that’s an idea,” the suited boy smirked at Janna in enthusiastic agreement, and she knew then that the conversation was still following his plan, not hers. “All five of you shall come to my party, this coming weekend. You will stay the night before and the night after, three days in total, and I shall treat you all like my honored guests. No harm shall befall you while you are in my domain, so long as you adhere to all rules of hospitality towards myself and mine. Afterwards you will be allowed safe passage back through my lands, should you truly need it. Do we have a deal?”

He extended his hand.

Janna left him waiting as she pondered the implications. It was not like it was her idea, although it felt like it had been. It was not like she was in control, although Sam had gotten out of his way to make her believe so. But, in the end, it really was probably the fairest deal she was ever going to get from him. Despite the feeling that she ought not to, Janna shook the devil’s hand.

----

“Don’t ’bro’ me!” Tom yelled. “I said you are bargaining with me or not at all, Sam!”

The boy in the mirror, wearing the pink polo shirt and khaki shorts, just looked back amused. Janna looked down at her hands, and at the stack of four black envelopes she was now holding. Tom looked at her with terrified surprise.

“Janna! What did you just do?! When?” Tom glared back at Sam accusingly. “You stopped time! Messed with reality in my domain!”

“Ah, what’s a little liberty like that between bros, Tom?” the other boy chuckled. “Besides, I gave her my fairest deal, man, just like I said I would.”

“Your fairest? Your fairest?! The plague is your fairest!!” the Prince Lucitor unleashed, fire flowing all around them. Sam let him be, seeming rather unimpressed.

“Actually, Tom,” Janna interrupted. “I think we are all invited to the Frat Party from Hell, and if we go and behave, then we all get to cross through.”

If?” Tom glared at Janna, eyes glowing red. “You made a deal with Sam that has the word ‘if’ in it?!”

“Ahem,” the blond boy in the mirror coughed. “I don’t want to interrupt the marital dispute, people. But I have stuff to get back too. People to deceive, worlds to destroy. You know, the usual. See you all there this weekend. I promise it’ll be a blast! By the way, Janna, you are wrong; it won’t be just any old rager, actually, but a masquerade ball! The details are on the invites. No worries, the costumes are on me. Just, keep in mind that not wearing them, or not playing along, would be real uncool.”

‘This too, is my sacred rule of hospitality, and you shall not dare violate it’ he might as well have said. Janna frowned. Tom was right. She was an idiot. She had just agreed to a game for which she did not know the rules.

There was an explosion of blue flames on the other end, some of which flew out into Tom’s room through the mirror, and then the call dropped. Tom walked towards his couch and sank into it, deflated.

“Well, I suppose that could have possibly gone even worse.”

----

The five teens had chosen to meet at Marco’s place that same night. Jackie had skated there from her own place. Star and Marco had taken Tom’s carriage back from Mewni. The demon prince himself had instead used the gargoyle-powered lift, and brought Janna along. It was the best possible logistics without a working pair of dimensional scissors, assuming they were all in. Hell, they probably where all in now, no matter what, because of the stupid deal Janna had made, Marco thought.

“Ok, let me see if I understand this,” spoke the boy, exasperated. “We can cross through the lands of this Sam person, but only if we spend three days at his place, and go to his weird costume party. And if any of us is not on their best behavior...”

He made a point of glaring at Janna, who was making a point of her own of ignoring him in return. Instead, she appeared to busy herself playing with the four black envelopes in her hands.

“... if any of us makes a faux pas, and we don’t exactly know for sure what is or isn’t a faux pas, then he is free to kill us,” the human boy continued. Tom nodded in grim agreement. “That is, assuming he even respects the deal in the first place!”

“He will, Marco,” Tom assured him. “Sam is many things, but I have never known him to break a promise. That sort of thing is a big no-no in the underworld, actually. Misleading and lying is all fair game, but vow-breaking is, well, almost unthinkable under these circumstances. That’s not the problem. The question is whether it’s even possible for us to keep our end of the bargain.”

“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be,” Jackie argued. “Don’t break things, don’t steal, wear the costumes, play along. Sounds easy enough to me!”

Marco knew Jackie well enough to realize that she liked the idea of dressing up in costume again. He knew better than anyone else that she had very much enjoyed doing so in St O’s. So, for her, the opportunity of disguising herself again was a boon rather than an obstacle. He tried to meet her eyes for a conspiratorial glance, but she was not looking his way.

The skateboarder girl had not said anything of the sort, but he could tell she was not entirely thrilled with him after their last conversation. It was not like they were fighting or anything. But, obviously, Jackie hadn’t loved that he tried to break up with her, even for ostensibly selfless reasons. Marco realized he owed the girl an apology.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s true,” spoke Star absentmindedly, scratching her left arm. She was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling without looking at any of them. It didn’t sound like she was agreeing with Jackie, but rather responding to someone else, someone only she could see. She sat up all of a sudden. “No, Jackie, you are wrong. It will be hard to do. He would not have offered that deal if it was going to be easy to comply for us. It is a game for him, after all, and you don’t make a game without a challenge.”

“Well, Star,” spoke Janna crossly. “He is bored, nothing wrong with that! It is a better deal than any of the ones he was willing to offer Tom!”

“Right, right, bored,” Star rolled her eyes. “Excellent excuse. Will be sure to remember it the next time I feel like killing two out of five of your friends because I want to be amused, Janna.”

It was obviously sarcasm, but something in the tone Star said that still gave Marco the chills. Janna glared at the princess and the mewman glared right back.

“Anyways,” Tom interrupted, pushing himself forward to sit in between the two girls, blocking their line of sight to one another. “That theory about Sam being bored? I don’t buy it. Not that anything Star said about this being a game, and thus a challenge, is wrong. But Sam doesn’t do things on a whim, not really, there is always a reason. I bet his boredom is just another charade.”

“Does it matter, Tom?” Janna spat. “I got us the only deal that does not involve any guaranteed deaths. You think you could have done better?”

Janna and Tom bickered some more, but Marco wasn’t listening. He kept his eyes on Star, who was looking towards his window and nodding. Suddenly, she turned around to glare at him. It was weird how glaring was something Star just sorta did now, routinely. It seemed like her sight had two modes: spaced out or burning intensity. “Marco, assuming we do this. Then what? What are we looking for on the other side?”

“I told you, Star,” he answered nervously. “We are looking for Hekapoo. She is out best lead to find whomever… uh… whatever killed your mom.”

“Marco, Hekapoo is dead,” Star observed. It was not a question. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that everyone was looking at him now.

“I... I don’t think so, Star,” Marco tried to argue. “Or, if she is, not all of her is dead. She told me to look for her, in the dream!”

Janna coughed. But everyone else seemed to be taking the boy at his word. Star shifted her eyes back to the window, before looking towards Marco again.

“Are you sure about that?” she asked. Marco nodded.

“Well,” Jackie interrupted finally. “I think we should all vote on whether or not we are doing this.”

Marco nodded, and so did Tom and Star. Janna crossed her arms.

“Pretty sure you all know what is my vote,” said Janna.

“I vote yes too,” spoke Jackie.

“Yes,” followed Marco.

“Fine,” grumbled Tom.

They all looked at Star, expectantly.

----

Star pondered the situation for a moment. It was as good as any lead she currently had, given how much Glossaryck was not being forthcoming about the creature that killed her mom. She looked up at the ceiling, at the floating little man. A translucent ghost, blue and green, the color of seaweed. He stared blankly at her, with infuriating indifference.

Star knew none of her friends could see him, and knew that she shouldn’t tell them about the ghosts, either of them. They wouldn’t understand. They would think she was crazy. Janna might have believed her, if she wasn’t so angry at her all the time now. Marco would balk, taking it as another sign of her slowly going evil, or mad, and, frankly, Star didn’t have the patience to deal with that conversation a third time. Jackie? Well, things with Jackie were super awkward now a days, and what did the girl even know of ghosts?

Maybe she ought to tell Tom? She wouldn’t have considered it even a week before. But the last few days Tom had been on a surprisingly excellent behavior, and he knew more about ghosts and dead people than anyone else she knew. Besides, he was the only one who didn’t get so damn freaked out with her now. He was the only one who didn’t think she was going dark. Or, at least, the only one who didn’t care.

She became aware of the expectant stares of all her friends. They had all come together to help her, and now they were just waiting for her to approve their plan. It was a nice thoughtful plan too, except that...

She glanced again at the windowsill. Hekapoo’s ghostly form smiled at her apologetically, sitting there with a leg crossed over the other. “You won’t find me all the way there, you know? I am afraid this is all that’s left of me, kid.”

Star shook her head. She didn’t know who to believe. There was something off about Glossaryck and Hekapoo. Something off since they started showing up around her. Something other than their obvious ghostlyness.

The little magic man first came to her right after her chat with Eclipsa, while the sorceress showed up right after Marco first told her he had dreamed of her. Neither had said anything helpful about the thing that killed them. Instead, the tiny magic man had offered only reproaches and admonitions to Star, mostly about her recent forays into the dark arts. The sorceress, for her part, seemed mostly concerned with reminding Star that she was dead, and her mom too, and urging the princess to move on. Every time that it looked like there was a path to avenge her mother, another phantom appeared to tell Star how that could not possibly work, how her friends were all wrong, how she was wrong. She was beginning to hate the ghosts.

“Yeah, Marco,” she voted. “I am in.”

It was still her best lead, by default, even if it was completely wrong. Besides, maybe she could ask this ’Sam’ about her mom’s killer. Force him to tell her what he knew, if need be.

Hekapoo shrugged and shook her head.

----

“Oookay,” Jackie said, after Star finally deigned to give her two cents. “Then the second step is to look at the invitations. Right?”

“Already done,” Tom said, holding up his own envelope, the only one addressed to one of them in particular, the one he apparently got weeks ago, around the time of Star’s Song Day. “There is not much in here, actually. Time: this Saturday night, which means we need to be there Friday night as per Janna’s already famous deal. Fortunately, we can take the carriage for most of that journey, so departing early that same day will suffice. Place: Sam’s palace inside the city of Dis. Costume mandatory at all times. Oh, and this...”

He passed them a black card with silver lettering. It had only two words in it: ‘The Scoundrel’.

Jackie got it immediately, “That’s the role you are going to play, right? Your masquerade costume?”

Tom nodded.

“How about the other four? How do we distribute those,” asked Marco.

“I guess we just pick the closed envelope at random,” shrugged Jackie. Seemed like the only fair way. “Then we keep whatever we got, unless someone wants to trade.”

“Sounds good to me,” Janna agreed, taking an envelope from the pile and passing the rest to Marco. She broke the seal. The cry of what must have been a tormented soul filled the air as she did. Even after all she had been through recently, vampires and all, Jackie couldn’t help but to shudder a bit at the shrill agonizing wail. But the troublemaker girl paid it no mind. She grinned as she picked up her card and showed it to everyone: ‘The Witch’

Marco took his envelope and passed the other two to Star first, walking all the way to where she was sitting, rather than handing them to the human girl directly to his side. Jackie noticed that, and it bothered her more than it probably should have. Another hellish cry and Marco was holding a card saying ‘The Champion’.

Star took an envelope absentmindedly, put a finger through the wax, and the seal melted on its own. Jackie swore she could see a flash of green where Star finger had made contact with the flaming-sword sigil. There was no cry.

“’The Countess’?” the mewman spoke with only mild disappointment. She looked up at the ceiling again, silent for a second. She shrugged, “yeah, that’s right, seems like a step down, but whatever, not like I care about that stuff.”

Finally, Star noticed she still had the final closed envelope in her hands. She lifted a finger and the envelope floated all the way to where Jackie was sitting. The skateboarder girl took the envelope in her hands. She tried ripping apart the top first, but the material wouldn’t tear. Reluctantly, she broke the much more fragile wax seal, and another damned soul cried as she did.

She took the small black card from the inside, looked at the silvery letters, and her expression fell. It read, in big bold script: ‘The Slave’. She showed the others the card with some hesitation.

The Slave? They had all gotten some awesome role to play, and that was what she got? Jackie felt disappointed. Hell, she felt downright insulted! Janna had gotten ‘witch’, Star had gotten a nobility title, and Marco had gotten something related to physical combat. There was no way those were all coincidences. Which meant the envelopes somehow predicted, or influenced, who chose which one. Which meant in turn that the damn card was either mocking her, or worse, judging her, disparaging her worth. It might as well have read ‘The Second Fiddle’, ‘The Spare’.

“Eh, Jackie,” Marco finally spoke. “We can switch if you want...”

Ok, he got brownie points for that one at least! But no, she had set the rules, and it was clear Marco didn’t want her card either, so it wasn’t really a valid swap. Besides, if she was right, then the role had somehow chosen her. Irritating as that idea was, it was probably better to play along. “Nah, dude, it’s ok. You be the champion this time around. It’s only fair.”

They talked some more about the next steps, and agreed to meet at Tom’s the morning after tomorrow’s to start their journey, aiming to arrive at the gates of Dis by Friday night. It meant that they had one more day to pack and say their goodbyes, and two more nights home. At least, Marco and her did.

Janna and Tom would instead take the elevator back to the demon prince’s castle that same night, while Star had decided to stay on Earth, rather than go back to Mewni for a single day. Ostensibly, her going back and forth would just complicate things and undermine the transition into River’s regency. But Jackie suspected the real reason was that the princess really couldn’t stand being in Mewni any more. Meanwhile, Marco was supposed to keep Tom’s carriage on Earth, so that the three of them could more easily travel between dimensions if absolutely needed.

All through their planning, Jackie paid little attention, her mind set on the card, and its implications.

----

It felt strange, to be back in her room; her Earth room. Star had only been living back in Mewni for little over a week, preparing her mom’s wake at first, then setting everything up to delegate the functions of government back to King River, and finally, studying Eclipsa’s notes, preparing for the battle ahead. It felt like so much longer than a week.

Now she was ready to leave Mewni for a long while, and Earth too, to fulfill the promise she had made in front of her people, the pact she had made with Eclipsa. She scratched her left hand. Then, realizing she was alone, she closed her eyes and dipped down, undoing the silly glamour that concealed the black tendrils of the killing spell, revealing back her permanently burned veins. It was such a relief to be rid of the illusion, to stop spending her magic and her focus on the color of her arms, to get rid of the itching sensation of having the corruption simmer beneath her skin, unseen. She hid that only for Marco’s benefit, really, and the boy was not with her tonight.

She had come up alone to her room after their little planning session, leaving Marco to say goodbye to Jackie. The girl had seemed pretty crestfallen after she read her card, and Star figured she might want to talk to her boyfriend about it. That left Tom… and Janna. The princess would rather avoid any more awkward interactions with the troublemaker girl at this point, if she could, so she had decided to excuse herself instead. Besides, let’s face it, she was avoiding awkward interactions with Marco too, and he might well be doing the same with her.

The boy had been uncomfortable around her ever since her mom died, and particularly of late, for understandable, but still frustrating, reasons. In fact, Star and Marco hadn’t so much as kissed since St Olga’s. Jackie and Marco hadn’t had sex in that time either, the princess knew, although they had certainly been closer to it than she and Marco had. She could sense every time they started making out, just as well as when they stopped themselves short. She was trying to stop herself from feeling the link, but it was in vain. It was like trying to ignore the itching of her arms. She could pretend not to feel it, but she could not actually ignore the sensation.

Telling them that she knew of their troubles would only make it harder for them to feel comfortable again, however, and so Star didn’t mention it. And Jackie didn’t mention it to Star that she was still mad at her, because she thought that the princess had enough things to worry about. Which was, she noted, rather true. The problem was that, like the itching, the fact that none of them talked about why things were awkward all around didn’t exactly stop them from being awkward.

Besides, there was a lot of stuff going through Star’s head these days: the burning rage, the suffocating emptiness, the nightmares, the ghosts, the ambivalent sensations of revulsion and pleasure she felt when casting the spells in Eclipsa’s little book of dark magic. All of those things made it even harder for her to open up to her friends like before.

Yet, despite her own withdrawal, and the ways in which she had hurt them already, they had not abandoned her. If anything, they were even more determined to help her than ever. Marco hated the idea of her revenge mission, and yet had gone out of his way to find her a lead, however flimsy it might be. Tom had moved all his contacts, and he seemed to have Star’s back unconditionally, in a way he never did back when they were dating. Janna seemed to hate Star now a days, and yet she was the one who had brokered a deal with this Sam person. They all, and Jackie too, were risking their lives in pursuit of Star’s self-imposed quest.

“Yes, Star,” spoke a familiar voice behind her, loving and compassionate, yet stern as well. “They are all willing to follow you, but that means you need to be wise in how you lead. The same goes for the people of Mewni, and even River. There are so many people who are trying to help you now. Is it really worth it putting them all in harm’s way?”

Star’s eyes welled up with tears as she turned around, to see the one ghost that had not turned up before. The one who completed the pattern that had begun with Glossaryck and continued with Hekapoo. The one she wanted to see more than anything in all the worlds. And, sure enough, there she was, regally attired, translucently green, and so very very sad, “M... Mom?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 22: Thicker than Water

“I… mom… I…” the princess choked up.

Star had no words. She had been thinking of things to say to her mom constantly for the past ten days, and now that she could finally speak to her, she had nothing, nothing at all. Instead, she just stared at Moon’s ghost, as the ethereal form blurred even further behind the liquid veil of her own tears.

What could she say? That she missed her? That she felt lost? That it hurt? That she regretted never having been the daughter Moon would have wanted to have? That she took back every single time she had complained about her rules and her advice? That she would do it all differently now if she could? Even telling her mom of her plans, to find her killer, to avenge her, even that felt hollow.

“I am so sorry, sweetie,” spoke Moon, sorrowfully. Her phantasmal hand passed right through Star’s golden hairs as she tried to comfort her daughter. The princess could not actually feel the touch, but she could imagine it, and that was almost enough. “I didn’t mean to leave you alone. Not like this. Not this soon.”

“But… but… you are here now, mommy! Aren’t you?” asked Star. “Can’t you stay? I know you can’t, like, touch things, and I think others can’t see you, but…” That had been the case with Glossaryck and Hekapoo, so it probably applied to her mom as well.

Still, it was better than she not being there at all.

“I can move things if you need me to, or let others know what you are saying. It’ll be just like before, you’ll see,” Star lied to herself, more so than to her mom.

“Star...” Moon raised her hand to interrupt her daughter’s ramblings.

There it was, behind the gentle gesture, that familiar tone of controlled exasperation, of disappointed impatience. It was one that the former queen often took on when talking to her troublesome child. But, this time, it was accompanied by a new impression, reflected more in her ghostly eyes than in her voice: that of deep, painful, regret.

A fresh pang of guilt hit the princess. Even in death, she caused her mother nothing but grief. “I am sorry, mom… I know.”

She did know. She knew that, whatever this was, it wasn’t permanent, and it wasn’t good. Seeing ghosts was never a positive sign, not on Earth, and not on Mewni. Either she was slowly going mad with grief, which was bad, or something was really causing the spirits of the dead to linger around her instead of moving on, which was, almost certainly, worse.

“Look, Star, I don’t have much time,” spoke Moon. “I wish I did. But I don’t. Star, I love you, and I am very proud of you. I don’t think I got to say that often enough, so I am saying it now.”

“Mom, I…” Star’s words failed her once more.

“But,” Moon added, sadly, cutting her off, “I also have to tell you that you must go back home. Today, if at all possible, and you have to stay there. I know it’s not easy, and I know it is not what you want. But, Star, you need to step up to the throne, and sooner rather than later, for your sake and that of Mewni.”

“Yeah, mom, I know that,” protested Star. “But, well, I need to avenge you first. I promised... I promised I’d find the thing that… that hurt you, and I would… I would…”

Moon’s expression hardened at that. “Star, right now Mewni needs their new queen safe, sound, and, most importantly, visible. The last thing you should be doing is putting yourself in needless danger. It’s certainly the last thing I’d want you to do!”

Star flinched. The rebuke hurt more than anything else her mom could have said. The princess felt her heart break, knowing that, even now, and despite her mom’s protestations of being proud of her, she was, in the end, a disappointment. She hadn’t felt right, she hadn’t felt like herself, until she told everyone that she was going to get justice for her mom. And now, now that she could tell her that, Moon herself disapproved of her actions.

“Sweetie, please. I am not trying to upset you,” pleaded the ghost. “But this is important: I don’t want you to put yourself in danger, to put your friends and your subjects in danger, to put River in danger. Not for my sake.”

“What if…” Star tried to say it, but her voice ran out on her. She gulped. It was hard to admit it. Hard to admit she really was being that selfish, that hateful. Hard to admit that it wasn’t exactly her mom that she was doing this for, even if it was about her mom. “What if I need to do this? For my sake? If I need to make them pay, to make it pay. What if I need to avenge you because I can’t live until the thing that killed you… doesn’t?”

“I am gone, Star. Killing that which killed me won’t bring me back, and it won’t make it stop hurting. Only time can do that. Believe me, I would know. I understand it better than anyone. I understand… because my mom died too, when I wasn’t much older than yourself,” the late queen admitted. “I know how much revenge feels like the answer, and how much it isn’t.”

Star remembered what Tom had said, about her mom, Moon the Undaunted, Moon the Lizard Vanquisher. She had also learned Eclipsa’s spell, also tried to use it. Maybe, or maybe not, she had missed on purpose.

The princess’ eyes scanned the ghost’s arms, but no trace of any dark tendrils could be seen reflected in the immaterial form. Not that it meant anything. After all, Moon’s arms, her real arms, were frozen in a crystal casket, buried underground below the marble base that was to hold her statue. Said statue was currently being sculpted, manually, without magic, the hard way. It was the way tradition demanded and, for once, it was also the only way Star would accept.

“I also know, all too well, that the kind of responsibilities I am leaving behind are not those any young girl should have to take for herself. I know how hard it is going to be. Believe me, I would give anything to spare you from that, Star… but… I don’t have anything to give, other than my advice to stay safe,” Moon’s translucent green visage looked at her helplessly, as if about to break down crying herself. “You will have to sacrifice so much for the sake of others. So, please, Star, let it at least be for the sake of the living and not the dead. Let time be your healer, not violence. I am gone, sweetie. Please, you need to stay safe, you need to be in Mewni, and you need to let me go.”

“But, mom, what if it comes back?” Star’s voice was quieter than a mouse’s whisper. “It... it defeated you, Hekapoo too. I... I am scared, and I am angry, but, well… isn’t protecting Mewni from this thing also my duty now?”

“Yes, Star, it is. If it comes to that. Which means it’s even more important for you to stay back home with your people, and guard them, and guide them, and reassure them, as their queen,” her mom insisted. “Again, Star, I am so sorry. I would not have you inherit that burden if I could still carry it for you. I know you don’t want it. I didn’t either. But you are right, your job is to protect the people of Mewni, from the thing that killed me and from anything else. It’s your job as it was mine before, and my mother’s before me… and you must do that job.”

“I can’t, mom! Not yet. Not even if I wanted,” replied Star regretfully. She had been feeling the weight of her decision ever since the night of the wake, and now she had confirmation that it had been the wrong one. But, even so, it was done. “I promised Eclipsa. I made a deal! I don’t think I can be queen now, even if I tried, not until, well, until I do what I said I would do…”

“Oh, sweetie, how I wish you hadn’t done that,” Moon shook her head. “Eclipsa was my mistake. You shouldn’t have to be the one to deal with her. Even so, if anything, that’s all the more reason for you not to leave Mewni. You cannot leave her alone there! You need to inform the high commission... what’s left of it! Eclipsa is evil, Star!”

She hadn’t seemed evil. Nothing Star had heard about her, before or since, pointed at her being evil either, and she had researched the records on the matter thoroughly after their encounter. Well, as thoroughly as Star could, under the circumstances.

“Actually, mom, are you sure that…”

A loud knock on the door interrupted the mewman.

“Star, is everything alright?” she heard Marco’s voice through the door. She had almost forgotten that she was back in his home, in her old conjured room. “Can I come in?” he asked, tentatively.

“Not now!” she snapped back. She felt a bit guilty about yelling like that to him. But she needed to talk to her mom, while she was still there…

Star turned around, back towards where Moon’s ghost had been just a moment ago. She saw an empty bed, a green wallpaper, a mirror that would never again show her the face she most wanted to see. Her mom was gone.

She had never been able to control when the ghosts showed up, nor when they went away, except by keeping her eyes fixed on them. Now all she could do was to wait for her to show up again… if she ever did.

“Arggggg!” she grunted. Her eyes glowed green as she pointed her wand at the door.

She dipped down hastily and, a moment later, an emerald padlock and a sound-proof barrier had been erected between her room and the rest of the house. Maybe, that way, her mom might decide to show up again.

Dammit, Marco! Why did he had to have such lousy timing?

----

Marco lazily swirled around his Captain Blanche’s Sugar Seeds cereal with his spoon. He wasn’t hungry. Part of it was that he hadn’t really slept all that well last night. Instead, he had mostly stayed up, long past midnight, worrying about Star.

He had tried knocking on her door three more times the previous night, without success. So far, she hadn’t come out of her room that morning either. Not that she had to go to school with him anymore, of course, but Marco had hoped she would at least join him for breakfast. If the scissors still worked, he would have probably used them to break into Star’s room, whether she wanted to or not, just to check up on her.

Maybe he ought to try the window?

He sighed. Well, at least he knew she couldn’t leave without him. It was the main reason he had insisted in keeping the keys to the demon prince’s hearse, after all. Tomorrow morning they were all going to meet Tom down in the underworld, to start their journey towards Sam’s ominous party. Marco was Star’s ride… and Jackie’s.

“Marco, please hurry up and eat,” called his dad from the kitchen. “You are going to be late for school!”

Right! Today he was going to high school, tomorrow he was embarking on a quest through hell. Surreal barely covered it!

Then, he realized something: he hadn’t told his parents he was going away. He was about to take off, and there was a not-small chance that he might not make it back, and he was acting to them like nothing was happening. For all they knew, this was just like any other Thursday morning, and tomorrow just a normal Friday too. They didn’t know he would not be around for breakfast next day, or the week after that, or, perhaps, the month after that...

Between whatever was happening to Star, and terrifying dreams of Hekapoo, and memories of a version of himself that was hard as forged iron, he hadn’t had a chance to think about his mom and dad. What would they feel, when they didn’t find him in his room tomorrow? What if he didn’t come back for weeks, or months, or not at all?

Star had lost her mom, without being able to say so much as goodbye to her. What if Marco never got to see his parents again? What if they never got to see him again?

The problem was: he had to do this. He had to be there for Star. And there was no way his parents would understand, no way they would allow it. How would you explain to a parent that their only child was about to go risk their lives in some literal hell dimension, only to travel to a possibly even more dangerous place in pursuit of a regicidal fire-monster? He hadn’t even told them about the sixteen years he spent in Hekapoo’s dimension the first time around, nor could he imagine doing so.

But those sixteen years had been eight minutes to them. This time? Well, at best he would be gone those three days of Sam’s invitation, assuming they spent the rest of the time in Hekapoo’s domain. That was still more than enough time for his parents to worry. Heck, it was long enough that he would be considered legally missing! And it wasn’t at all a given that it would be just those three days. If he left without saying anything, his parents might search for weeks, for months… for years, without ever knowing what happened to their son. He just couldn’t do that to them.

“Hey, dad, I think it’ll be fine for me to be late today…” Marco stated softly.

“Really? Are you sick, Marco?” Rafael asked. “You are usually so worried about leaving so precisely on time…”

Marco smiled at that remark. It was true, of course. But, well, his haste to get out of the house in the mornings had never been solely about his attendance record. Not that he didn’t care about the later, at least somewhat. But, mostly, it had been due to Jackie and their shared nod ‘tradition’. For multiple reasons, that wasn’t so important anymore. Some of those reasons were really good, like the fact that Jackie was now his girlfriend. Others, though…

“There is something important that I need to tell you guys,” he stated, taking on a calm but serious expression. “Can you get mom?”

His dad nodded. A few moments after, Angie Diaz was with them as well.

Now they were both staring at him, and he wasn’t sure exactly how to start. The last thing he wanted was to terrify his parents, or to have them try to stop him from going. He knew he would have to disobey them if they did. But, well, they did have a right to know, didn’t they? At least they should know why he was going away, if maybe not where.

“Marco, is everything alright?” asked his mom, sounding worried. Well, her concern wasn’t without reason, after all, Marco thought.

“Is it about Star?” his dad asked. “We know she had to go back to Mewni for more than a week, without saying anything, and now she is back and hasn’t said a single word to us. Not that we mind having her back, of course, but, well, that just doesn’t sound like Star. It’s weird seeing her be this… quiet. Is she ok?”

Marco smiled a bittersweet smile. Right, obviously his parents weren’t quite oblivious enough to miss everything that was going on. They had just felt it wasn’t their place to ask. Marco had been hesitant to say much about it. Back when Star had left, he had just told them she had needed to go back to Mewni because of political matters, which was true, but hardly the whole story.

“Star’s mom died about two weeks ago,” Marco explained. Both parents gasped in reaction.

“Oh, that’s terrible news!” expressed Rafael.

“Poor girl,” commented Angie. “Is she holding alright? How about you, Marco? Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

“What happened to queen Moon? Is River alright?” added his dad.

“Not sure. Yes, I think so. And, well… there is a lot going on,” Marco answered his mom’s questions first, then proceeded to address his father’s. “Look, it’s a long story, Queen Moon didn’t just die, she was killed, by… by something. And Star, well, she delivered this whole speech, saying that she plans to avenge her mom,” Marco kept to himself just how hair-raising that original declaration had been, or his own reservations about it. “And, well, I am going to go with her and help her.”

His parents stared silently at him for a moment, shocked. He took the opportunity to keep going.

“Look, I know you might not approve, or that you might worry about me. But we are leaving tomorrow, and I am not sure how long we will be away. And I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye and…” he stammered.

“Marco Diaz!” yelled her mom. “You are certainly not doing anything of the sort!”

That was what he was afraid of. He knew that they wouldn’t understand. He was afraid that their last interaction would have to be them yelling at him, arguing with him, forbidding him to go, and he having to disobey them regardless. He had to do this, to be there for Star. He was going to leave, no matter whether or not they approved. But he didn’t want to leave without saying anything. Even if the last words between him and his parents were angry ones, that was still better than leaving without them ever knowing why, and without them having any idea what might have happened to him.

“Mom, I am sorry, but, well, I am going,” he said, looking down. “I am going whether you approve of it or not, whether you try to stop me or not. I just wanted to tell you guys, well, that I’ll be gone for a while... and that I love you both.”

“Marco, I don’t understand,” spoke his dad. “Isn’t this something for King River to fix? For the knights? I remember they have knights, we went with them when… when…”

“When I was captured by Toffee,” Marco finished the sentence for him. “See? I have been doing this sort of stuff with Star for a while, you know I have, and we have been fine. I’ll be fine. This is just like that,” he lied,