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Gill had always thought that when he fell in love he’d probably know when it happened. And yet, he knew he’d never be able to know for sure just when he’d fallen in love with her.

Her. Jesse

Gill could remember his mother saying that you don’t get to choose who you love, that your heart will just do as it wants, and he could see now just how right she was. If he did have control, he wouldn’t have chosen her.

It wasn’t like he hated her. Really, he never had, but their rivalry had gone too far, he could see that now. Gill had never given her, or any of her friends, a real apology, and yet she forgave him so easily, was willing to be friends. It was just another thing he would never understand.

Their friendship had started out awkwardly, no surprise there. Once they had grown comfortable with each other though, something just clicked for him. If someone who hadn’t known them before saw them now, they’d never know that once they hadn’t gotten along. They’d become friends, not just hanging out because they wanted Lukas to be happy, but really friends. And somewhere in that time, he started loving her with no way to stop.

But sometimes love comes slowly, and for Gill it was just too slow. He’d come to realized his feelings much too late and he missed his chance. 

You can’t do much when the girl you love was already in love with one your best friends, now can you?

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“I’ve gotta take a break Jesse. I don’t know where you get your energy from, but you’ve got way more of it than me.” He’d never understand how a girl so small could dance so much and still not be tired.

“Fine. That doesn’t mean I can’t dance, though.” Jesse informed him as they made their way to the side of the dance floor. Every year the town held a big celebration in honor of the witherstorm’s defeat, which always included one of Jesse’s favorite things: dancing.

“You’d better be careful Lukas or someone might try and steal your girl while you just sit here.” He immediately recognized the voice as Gill’s.

“What, like you?” Jesse joked with him before Lukas had a chance to respond. “Actually, you should dance with me since someone is too tired to be any fun.” She cast a sidelong glance at Lukas, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

He rolled his eyes at her, though he wasn’t really annoyed. “If you wanna go dance so bad, go ahead. I won’t even be offended if you dance with Gill.” 

“I guess I can fill in for Lukas for a while.” Gill, for his part, just shrugged and gave his seemingly indifferent reply. As soon as he agreed though, Jesse was leading him out onto the floor.

“Okay, but you’re gonna have to dance with me again later, Lukas!” She called to him, grinning wildly as she did.

Lukas could see it in his friend’s eyes as he and Jesse danced, no matter how much he wished he didn’t. Gill loved her. He loved her and he would never say it because he didn’t want to hurt a friend. Maybe it was because he knew his friend so well, but it was all too obvious to him by the way Gill watched her laughing and twirling around the dance floor how he felt. 

And Jesse, sweet, naive Jesse was oblivious to it all. 

Sometimes he wondered if he should say something to him about it. This time wasn’t the first that he’d seen it, and he was sure it wouldn’t be the last. Should he tell Gill that he’s seen the way he looks at her? That might hurt him even more, and Lukas didn’t want that. Part of him already felt guilty for being the one keeping him from telling her. 

He didn’t need anyone to tell him that was what was happening. He knew Gill well enough to know that it was exactly what he would do, pretend like it didn’t hurt to see them together, pretend like he wasn’t completely in love, just because he didn’t want to hurt them.

So once again he decided to pretend he didn’t see the way his friend pined for a woman who’d never know how much he loved her.

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“Don’t be alarmed, but I’m being followed. Act normal.”

“I’m sorry, did you just say you were being followed?” Petra questioned as the smaller girl pulled her along by the arm, the sense of urgency incredibly apparent. “What did you do, Jesse?”

“I don’t know why you’re assuming I did something.” Despite the situation, she couldn’t help but smirk a little at the pout on Jesse’s face. “There are just these two guys who were looking at me strangely earlier, and I swear they’ve been following me.”

And just like that, her expression turned serious. Ever since they had become the New Order of the Stone, all of them had been getting more attention, some of which that was less than favorable. She could handle it when she was the one with creepy ‘fans’, but if it was Jesse, that was a different story.

“Who are they?” She’d stopped walking, her arms crossed over her chest.

“It’s not a big deal-”

“Like hell it’s not a big deal. Tell me who they are, Jesse, I’ll make sure they don’t bother you anymore.”

“Please don’t do anything. I might have been wrong, I haven’t even seen them in a while. It’s okay, really. There’s no need.” Jesse was frantically attempting to calm her down, and much to her relief, it seemed to work. Somewhat.

“Fine, but next time someone bothers you, they’re getting a talk from me.”

“Does this talk involve your fists?”

“Maybe.”

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“I suppose it’s a bit too late to ask you for your forgiveness, isn’t it my friend?”

Ivor knelt before the grave. His friend’s grave. True, they hadn’t spoken or even seen each other in a very long time and they had parted on bad terms, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still care about them, not that he would ever admit it aloud. He’d let himself be consumed with bitterness and anger, driving him on his mad quest to finally let the truth be told. “I never meant…no one was supposed to get hurt.” Not that is mattered now. What was supposed to happen didn’t and dwelling on it could never undo all the damage that had been dealt by his creation. Even if things had gone according to plan, would he have really been happy? Ivor was beginning to doubt that. He was beginning to doubt he’d ever be happy.

“A heart’s a heavy burden.” A voice broke him from his thoughts. He didn’t need to look to see who the voice belonged to, but in his surprise, Ivor whipped his head around to see Jesse standing a small way behind him.

“Jesse! You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that!” She had a habit of it, it seemed. But then, so did Ivor.

“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to surprise you.” Jesse held up her hands in defense as she slowly made her way closer to him. He could see the hesitation in her actions as if she were uncertain of her welcome.

After several uncomfortable moments of silence, she spoke again. “But you know, there is one good thing about it. Even if it can be a burden, it means that it still works, that you can still feel something. It means you’re not just surviving, you’re…living.”

Ivor felt an odd feeling tugging at his chest, and he found himself smiling, however small it might be, as he recalled something Jesse had once told him. “Yes, there’s more to life than surviving, isn’t there?”

“Whoever told you that must have really known what they were talking about.” And suddenly she was smiling too and he detected a hint of mischief in her big brown eyes and in her smile, too, something that both surprised him and didn’t at the same time. Apparently he had a lot to learn about Jesse.

Part of him wanted to make some snide comment, but he instead found himself merely shaking his head in amusement at the girl before him. “Perhaps they did, Jesse. Perhaps they did.”

Maybe there was hope for Ivor after all.

Chapter Text

“You’ve gotta stop, Petra.” Even if Jesse hadn’t told him the truth about Petra being sick, it didn’t exactly take a genius to see that she wasn’t herself.

“I’m fine. Right now we have bigger things to worry about.” Lukas found himself shaking his head with a strange mixture of exasperation, frustration, and concern. A blind man would be able to see that Petra wasn’t fine.

But she was too stubborn to stop despite her worsening condition. It was clear that she was growing weaker as they went on, and despite what Jesse had said, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was his fault.

She opened her mouth again to speak, another reassurance of how fine she was, Lukas was nearly certain, cut he cut her off, speaking instead. “I’ve already lost most of my friends, Petra. That storm took all of the other Ocelots; Maya, Gill, Aiden. All gone. I can’t lose you, too!”

That got her to shut up rather quickly, though it was only for a moment. “Lukas. I’m not going anywhere. We’re gonna beat this storm and no one is going to lose anyone.”

And oh how he wanted to believe that but Petra’s sudden cough and the pained expression that came with it made it difficult. He couldn’t help but look around the room anxiously as the others prepared to build Soren’s formidibomb.

Everyone was doing their best, but he wished they’d hurry, because if things kept going like they were, Lukas feared he wouldn’t have any friends left when this mess was over.

Chapter Text

Isa was having an off week. Two groups of strange outsiders had shown up in her city, clearly at odds with each other, she’d mistakenly put her trust in the wrong group, was thrown from her city along with her daughter into the void, and instead of falling infinitely as she expected they would, they discovered the land below that she had so long believed to not exist. This was certainly not how she’d expected things to go.

She was still reeling at the events that had so recently unfolded, and even if she was sharing control of the new community there was still so much to be done to ensure to safety of her people. And yet there was something more important she had to take care of.

It was impossible to miss the pure joy in her daughters face as she stood with the group of heroes who’d saved them, but even more so the longing in her eyes and she stood next to her mother as they prepared to leave, no matter how much she wished she could.

As Isa looked at the girl beside her it struck her suddenly that she wasn’t a little girl anymore, but a young woman, one who was far more capable than she could have imagined. She watched her daughter closely, studying her as if it would tell her when the little girl she loved so dearly had decided to grow up. What had happened to the tiny girl she’d read stories to and tucked into bed, whose childish laughter had filled the halls of palace they’d called home?

It pained her knowing she wasn’t a child anymore, it pained her seeing Jesse so happy and at ease for a moment only to have it taken away from her, but mostly it pained her knowing what she had to do next.

She stepped away from Jesse, whose face bore a look of confusion and surprise as she did, and approached the Order of the Stone. It would be easiest to speak to one of them rather than all five of them at once she decided and she turned her gaze onto the blonde man, Lukas. “Walk with me.” She continued walking past them, assuming he would get the message that this was not a request and she was not asking.

He hesitated for a moment, the confusion apparent in his face, but he nodded and followed her. When they had made it out of earshot of the rest of his group, he finally spoke. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“You can give me your word that you will do your very best to protect my daughter.” There was no use dancing around the subject. It would only make things harder, and if she waited any longer, she feared she might change her mind.

“Woah, woah, woah. What? She’s coming with us?” The man was clearly flustered, and Isa couldn’t help raise an eyebrow at his reaction. It wasn’t quite what she’d been expecting. “Not that I have anything against her joining us! I think I speak for everyone when I say she’s always welcome with us, but…you’re okay with this?”

“As much as I still wish her to be at times, she is no longer a child.” A sad smile formed on her lips at his question. “I will miss her terribly, but sometimes a parent must make sacrifices for the sake of their children and their happiness. I’ve seen the way she is with you and your friends. It’s like…she was always meant to find you, and I will not stand in the way of that.”

“Well we’ll do whatever we can to make sure she’s safe, I promise.” And his answer felt sincere, much to her relief. He and his friends had already proved themselves to be honorable heroes, but it was still reassuring to hear it.

“Thank you, Lukas. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that if I should ever find out that any harm has come to my daughter there will be dire consequences.” Isa felt a small, smug sort of satisfaction as a look of fear flitted across the young man’s face. Her point had been made.

She nodded briefly at him and strode briskly back to Jesse, the bewildered gazes of her friends watching her as she went, finally taking up her previous place by her side. “You don’t want to keep them waiting long, Jesse. I’m sure they’re anxious to get back home.”

Her head snapped up to meet her mother’s gaze. The shock and disbelief on her daughter’s face weren’t enough to mask the small spark of hope in her eyes. “You can’t be saying what I think you’re saying because you’d be saying…“

Isa reached out and brushed a stray piece of Jesse’s hair back behind her ear. “I am. I know you wouldn’t say it, but you forget that I’m your mother. I know you, and I can see how much you wish to go with them. So you should go. And don’t stay for my sake, or anyone else’s. You’re a grown woman now, and if this is what you want, then you should take this chance and go.”

When Isa had mentally prepared herself for her daughter’s reaction, she hadn’t prepared for the hug that she received with Jesse slamming into her with all her might. After a long minute of just holding each other, Jesse’s voice broke the silence, soft and almost timid. “I’ll miss you so much…”

“And I’ll miss you, more than you know. But it’s time for you to make your own path.” Isa pressed a kiss onto the top of Jesse’s head for what could well be the last time. “Now go before I change my mind and try to keep you here.”

They finally pulled back and after a brief smile Jesse went off the say the rest of her goodbyes and join her new-found friends. She couldn’t hear what they were saying from where she stood, but Jesse’s radiant smile told her all she needed to know. She was happy with them, and despite the ache in her heart, it brought her an odd sense of peace. And all at once, they started towards to portal to their world. Just before she entered, Jesse turned back to wave at her mother before she followed the group into a world that was yet unknown to her.

Isa looked out at her people, building and discovering their new home around them. Yes, things would be very different now, and it had not come without some pain, but it would be a new start, for everyone.

Chapter Text

Lukas loved being with the New Order of the Stone, he really did, but their adventures could get crazy sometimes, and their lives could be even more so. Because of the hectic nature of their lives it really shouldn’t have surprised Lukas when a strangled, high-pitched scream fill the otherwise quiet building where the Order resided. Before he even had the chance to investigate though, the source of the scream and more importantly the reason for it presented themselves.

Jesse tore down the hall and her face was the very picture of rage. From the fact that she was still, or perhaps again, wearing her normal sleep wear and the fact that her hair was dripping wet that she had just been attempting to take a shower. He assumed it was only an attempt from the most strikingly different think about Jesse. Her normally chestnut colored hair was a startling shade of pink, and he could only assume that was the cause of her ire.

“Uh, hey Jesse. How’s it going?” Lukas feebly attempted to make conversation with her. He hoped, rather foolishly he knew, that if he could talk her down from her rage, at least a little, they wouldn’t end up with a murder on their hands.

But of course she ignored his question altogether, which in the end was probably better for him anyway. “Where is he?” She seethed, looking as if she were about to explode.

While she never outright said who ‘he’ was, it didn’t take a genius to know that it could only really be one person; Axel. “I think he left for Boomtown early this morning.” This was apparently not the answer she wanted to hear because after a moment of sputtering Jesse attempted to storm passed him, muttering darkly something he probably should be glad he hadn’t heard. Rather than just let her go and do…whatever it was she was planning like it would’ve probably been wise to, Lukas quickly grabber her arm as she tried to get by. “Woah, woah, Jesse calm down! You can’t just run off to Boomtown like that!”

“Why not?” Jesse had whirled around to look at him so quickly and no less angry that for a moment Lukas thought she would start going after him.

Well, it was too late now and his only hope was to calm her down before he did. “Well first of all, you’re not even wearing real clothes.” Apparently this had actually been the right thing to say, because when she looked down and realized that he was, in fact, correct about her state of dress he could see some of the anger draining from her face. Jesse opened her mouth to say something, but Lukas held up a hand to stop her. “And besides, what are you gonna do when you get there and find him, punch him? You know he’d probably just laugh no matter how much it hurts. You’d be doing exactly what he wants.”

Jesse narrowed her eyes at him skeptically, considering his words. “…What do you suggest then?”

Lukas grinned devilishly at her. “I’m glad you asked.”


Several days and a lot of hair dye later no one was even able to tell Jesse’s hair had been such a vibrant shade of pink, and even better, Axel had yet to return therefore leaving plenty of time to put the plan of retaliation into motion.

This was the day Axel finally did return from Boomtown and Jesse was ready for him.

It wasn’t hard to spot him on his way back, as the way from the front gates to the Order Hall was a straight stretch of road, and when he finally made his way into the common room in the section of the building where the group lived, Jesse was sitting calmly on the couch reading a book.

Axel, for his part at least tried to act like he wasn’t surprised that she was not only calm when she looked up from the book and greeted him off-handedly before returning to her reading but also that her hair was not the shade he’d been previously expecting. Apparently for all his trying though he ended up staring instead, causing Jesse to look back up at him, eyebrows quirked in askance. Axel floundered uselessly for a moment as he struggled to think of say but in the end his mouth was quicker than his brain. “Your hair! It, uh, it looks different, yeah definitely different! Did you, uh, do something different.”

Jesse still looked at him with an expression of confusion, though now mixed with a touch of amusement as well, though not for the reasons he thought. “Nope, just the same old same old.” 

“Oh uh, my mistake then! I’m just gonna….go to my room! Yup see you later dude!” Axel was pretty sure he couldn’t have gotten out of these fast enough. He had no idea how she’d managed to not get gotten by his clearly expert prank, but she also didn’t seem any the wiser about it, and he didn’t exactly want to tip her off. After all, if it didn’t work this time, he could always try again, right?

His thoughts were interrupted when he opened the door to his room only to be greeted by the sight of a very large, very angry looking spider. Jumping back with a yelp, Axel slammed the door shut in a blind panic. How it had gotten there he didn’t know and he wasn’t sure he really wanted to.

 Making his way halfway back down the hall, he called out to Jesse. “Uh, hey dude. You wouldn’t happen to know why there’s a really angry looking spider in my room or how it got there, do you?”

Poking her head around the corner, Jesse once again raised an eyebrow in confusion. “You’re telling me there’s just a spider sitting in your room? If you’re trying to pull something you’re not fooling anyone, buddy.”

“If you don’t believe me then come look for yourself, it was huge! Don’t blame me if it jumps out and eats your face.” Jesse rolled her eyes and started towards his room, Axel trailing behind her.

As she reached for the door he took a step back, expecting to once again see the menacing spider only to be greeted by a more unnerving sight as Jesse flung the door open: nothing. She stepped inside, fully inspecting the room only to be met with nothing. Seemingly satisfied she exited the room, shaking her head at him in exasperation. “Yeah, that sure was some big spider that I didn’t see in there. Very funny, Axel.” Jesse pat him on the arm as she made her way in the opposite direction leaving Axel eyeing his room more nervous than Jesse was sure she’d ever seen him in all their time of knowing each other.

Rounding the corner and away from him she was greeted to the sight of Lukas, grinning from ear to ear with a large, fake spider in his arms. “You think he’s gonna get any sleep tonight?”

She grinned back in kind. “Not a bit.”

Chapter Text

Lukas shouldn’t have been surprised by these things by now, really he shouldn’t. He knew Jesse well enough by now to know that she was incredibly stubborn. He also knew that had a tendency to take on too much, two things that could be a terrible combination, and now happened to be one of those times.

For as much as she worked too hard, he really couldn’t blame her for getting sick, not this time. A nasty strain of the flu had spread through the town and while there had been no fatalities, almost everyone it seems had had it and been out of commission for a week or so at some point. The Order was no exception to this, nearly all of them having it at some point except for Jesse and Petra who’d been away on a mission during the brunt of it. They’d all hoped that it meant they would’ve been spared from the epidemic as nearly everyone was healthy by the time they returned, but Petra was it seemed was luckier than Jesse who got sick in less than two days of being back.

Getting Jesse to sit down and rest was an ordeal in and of itself. The young leader had to practically dragged into bed and be kept there by the stern and watchful eyes of her friends, particularly Ivor who was in charge of caring for the sick regardless. 

And for the first few days it at least seemed to be working. Someone sat with her the majority of the time to keep her from doing anything she shouldn’t and making sure she got the rest and care she needed. Of course everyone also had things they needed to take care of as well, which left some times when she was left by herself which theoretically shouldn’t be too much to worry about, but then of course, this was Jesse.

Lukas knocked gently on the door, not wanting to startle her if she was asleep, and when he received no answer he slowly opened the door and stepped inside. The first thing he noticed was that she was not in her bed where she’d been sleeping the last time anyone had been in to check on her. It didn’t take him long to spot her, thankfully still in her room, hunched over the stack of papers on her desk.

Shaking his head in exasperation he stepped further into the room and addressed Jesse, who was seemingly very concentrated on the work in front of her. “You know if someone catches you out of bed you’re gonna be in big trouble.”

Lukas had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself from laughing when she jumped in surprise, now sitting straight up and searching wildly for a moment for the person who’d startled her. When her eyes landed on him, Jesse relaxed slightly but the look she gave him was a guilty one, knowing there probably wasn’t going to be any explaining her way out of this. “The paperwork…there are so much from when I was gone and if I don’t do them now I’ll never catch up.” And somehow the guilty looked shifted to a wide-eyed look of pleading, begging him to understand and let her continue her work.

Normally the doe eyes could get her out of a lot, and being sick just made her look even more sad. As hard as it was to say no to that face he couldn’t very well let her work herself into the ground. “Jesse you’re sick, you need to rest. And no, sitting at your desk filling out paperwork doesn’t count as rest.” Ignoring her protests he gently pulled her into a standing position and started ushering her back towards her bed.

“It’s not that bad, really.” She wasn’t physically fighting him to get back to her desk, which Lukas was grateful for, though it was entirely likely that it was only because she simply didn’t have the spare energy to try.

“Jesse you look like you’ve been through the Nether and back. Plus you’re forgetting that I just went through this too and I’m willing to bet you feel like it.” She opened her mouth as if to speak only to furrow her brows and close it again and to repeat the action once more, clearly trying and failing to come up with a response that he wouldn’t immediately see through.

“I was feeling better so I decided to get some work done?” Lukas really wasn’t sure if she thought he’d actually believe that or if she was just arguing for the sake of saying that she at least tried at this point, but he definitely wasn’t buying it.

“Uh huh, sure you were, Jess.” Rolling his eyes, Lukas made sure his tone conveyed exactly how much he believed that, which is to say not at all. “Now can you please stop being so stubborn for once and just relax?”

“But the paperwork-” Jesse looked back at the daunting pile of things to be done still sitting there on the desk.

“If it’s really that important we can help you with it, Jesse, no one will mind.” He said and patted her arm in an attempt to be reassuring. He wasn’t sure why, but Jesse hated asking anyone else for help, like they’d resent her for not being able to do everything herself.

“But I’m supposed to be the one who signs a lot of that stuff.” She argued weakly. Lukas could see just how worried Jesse really was about getting things handled but he also couldn’t and wouldn’t be the one who let her work herself to death.

“I’ll tell you what,” Lukas told her gently as he steered her to sit on the bed, “how about you actually stay in bed and rest and I can read all these forms to you. That way you can know what they are and then all you have to do is sign them. Later.” 

Jesse sighed and deflated slightly. “…I guess that’s a fair compromise.” She answered finally. Satisfied, Lukas went back to the desk and grabbed the stack of papers and the chair so he could sit beside the bed while he read to her.

Returning to bedside where Jesse was still sitting on the edge looking like she’d get up any second, Lukas gave her a look, nodding slightly back towards the bed. “I’m not going to start reading stuff until you actually lie down you know.” 

She looked like she wanted to argue but hesitated, sensing that Lukas wasn’t going to back down anytime soon. She finally gave in, deciding that if she was going to choose her battles that this one wasn’t worth fighting, but she was at least going to look annoyed about it.

Chuckling slightly at her irritate expression, Lukas started to read the top paper on the stack keeping his voice as soft and as low as he could, at least without being completely obvious to Jesse. He had no idea how long she’d been working in the first place but regardless it didn’t take a genius to see that she needed sleep and if he had to bore her to sleep, so be it.

Luckily between his calm voice, the uninteresting nature of the papers, and her own sheer exhaustion it didn’t take long for her to drift off. Lukas had to admit he was impressed she lasted as long as she did. When he looked up somewhere during the fourth form to see her sound asleep, he let out a sigh of relief.

Setting aside the paperwork, Lukas smiled softly and adjusted the blankets on his friend’s sleeping form before pulling out his current journal and settling back in the chair. He knew it was only a matter of time before she’d wake and insist on getting back to work though for now Lukas was content that she was sleeping peacefully. She certainly had a way of keeping him on his toes, but somehow he found that he didn’t really mind.

Chapter Text

Some days Jesse really didn’t mind her job. She never could quite say she loved it, even on the good days, but there were certainly times when she really didn’t think the whole hero-adventurer thing wasn’t so bad; sometimes you could even call it fun. Today was not one of those days.

Today Jesse absolutely hated her job. It wasn’t so much that Jesse minded helping people; there was very little she wouldn’t do to help someone in need (something that would eternally vex her friends). It was rather the monsters that came with those pleas for help that Jesse really minded, and this particular occasion came with far too many for her tastes, and strong ones at that.

Maybe she wouldn’t be so annoyed by the whole thing if it hadn’t been caused by one man’s extreme carelessness. An alchemist and makeshift apothecary in the small village half a days ride from their own had been experimenting with potions, much like Ivor had a tendency to do, the stark difference being the fact that this particular man used mobs as his test subjects.

It was clear that this man hadn’t meant for things to get so out of hand, but all the good intentions in the world couldn’t stop the mutant zombies and and skeletons from breaking out of their containment and terrorizing the nearby innocents.

Things had started off relatively well, all things considered. The monsters were strong, but they’d faced things that were decidedly much worse. The whole fight was going rather routinely, each of them taking on mobs and dispatching them with relative ease. 

The trouble came when it seemed like Petra would be overtaken. Three of the overpowered mobs had her surrounded and while fighting normally wasn’t a problem for her, Petra looked like she was starting to struggle. Jesse never wanted to assume that Petra, or anyone else for that matter, couldn’t handle themselves in a fight, but even the best fighters could get caught in tough situations.

Mind made up in less than a second, she was about to rush to Petra’s aide whether she really needed it or not, when a knock from behind stopped her plan before it could even begin.

The hit came seemingly out of nowhere, and it was hard. It was so hard that it sent Jesse flying into the nearby wall, her head slamming into the solid stone making her world go black in an instant.


When Jesse came to, everything was hazy and she couldn’t quite recall what had happened, but something was definitely different. It took her a moment to remember the knock to her head, but the distinct lack of pain was suddenly the most confusing part of it. Either she’s been out for a long time or Ivor had somehow given her one hell of a healing potion.

Things were slowly becoming less hazy and more details came into focus, things like the fact that her head was resting in what she could only assume was someone’s lap and someone, presumably the person she was using as a pillow, was running their hand gently through her hair.

Finally opening her eyes, the sight that greeted Jesse was not quite what she’d been expecting. It was not the alchemy lab where they’d been fighting or anywhere in the temple, and yet it was oddly familiar, though she couldn’t place why.

Everything was put into perspective when she turned her head upwards to greet the last face she ever thought she’d see again. She was home. Not the temple, or her treehouse but home with the face of her mother staring lovingly down at her.

“Am I dead?” It was the only thought that would come to her now as she lay there in shock. After all, it seemed like the only logical explanation she could come up with suddenly being face to face with a woman who’d been dead for the greater part of her life.

“Not yet my beautiful girl. It seems like there are quite a few people who don’t want to let you go yet.” So if she wasn’t dead, was she dreaming? It certainly didn’t feel like she was dreaming. 

Sitting up to face her mother Jesse furrowed her brow as she tried to sort out what was happening. “So if I’m not dead then what is this? Why am I here? Why are you here?”

Simply smiling gently, Jesse’s mother brushed back a stray bit of her daughter’s hair as she spoke, answering but not really answering any of the questions she’d asked. “I have so many things I want say to you, and so little time to say it.”

“Say what? And what do you mean so little time?”

“I want to say how proud I am of you, sweetheart. I never wanted to leave you, especially when you were so young. Things were so hard for you after that and still, you grew into such a remarkable woman, a hero just like I always knew you could be. I remember when you used to run around telling me you were going to be Gabriel the warrior when you got bigger.”

“How could I forget after the time I snuck out of my room at night to go fight monsters. That was the only time I ever remember seeing you get really mad and boy did I deserve it.” They both laughed at the memory, glad for a bit of levity before they both go too misty-eyed.

“You always did have a knack for getting yourself into trouble, didn’t you? Oh but you’ve come so far since then.” Gently stroking her daughter’s cheek, Jesse’s mother smiled. “You’ve done such great things and I know you’ll do so many more.” As if she’d willed it, Jesse suddenly started to feel herself being pulled into the realm of unconsciousness once again.

“Wait…” Things were fading quickly now as Jesse felt like she was being pulled into a state of sleep, even as she tried to fight it for a few more moments of clarity.

“Don’t fight it sweetheart, it’s alright. There are people waiting for you, people who love you. We’ll see each other again someday. But for now there are people who need you around for a while longer.” Jesse couldn’t keep her eyes open now as she slumped against her mother’s shoulder, but she could hear the smile in her voice. In the last moments before the darkness claimed her again, Jesse could feel her mother press a kiss to her head and her subsequent words, soft as they were. “I love you, Jesse, never forget that.”


The next time Jesse came around the first thing she registered was the pain suspiciously absent when she first ‘woke up’. It was much harder to pry her eyes open this time, but when she managed it she was greeted with a much more familiar and expected scene.

Immediately Jesse could tell that she was in one of the infirmary beds, the infirmary being a sizable room in the living quarters of the New Order’s temple with a handful of beds for the inevitable times when more than one than one or even all of them were hurt to some degree. This time it looked like she was the only one who needed to be here, but she was by no means alone now.

Sitting in a chair on one side of her bed was Lukas with his journal open to a blank page as if he had intended to write something but never got around to it. In a chair on the other side of the bed was Petra, much to Jesse’s great relief, with her arms crossed and looking incredibly unhappy, in the usual Petra fashion. Then there was Olivia on the floor leaning against her bed and Axel facing her, leaning against the bed next to Jesse’s. Every single one of them was sound asleep.

The only conscious person besides herself appeared to be Ivor who was currently too busy fussing with his potions to notice that she was awake. “So you decided not to join the group nap, huh Ivor?” Her voice came out quieter than she intended with a slight rasp to it, but it was more than enough to get his attention.

It was clear that Ivor was trying his best to look stern but the surprise and relief on his was much more apparent. “It’s about time you rejoined the living, Jesse. You’ve been out for days you know.” He informed her, answering the question she’d wanted to ask before she even had to ask.

“We’ve got to keep you busy somehow, right?” 

Ivor scowled in response as he leaned over her, checking bandages that Jesse hadn’t even realized she had yet. “For a group who’s supposed to be heroes, you all certainly know how to get yourselves into mess after mess. I’m the one who has to fix you up when you get hurt, would it be too much to ask for a little consideration?”

Jesse couldn’t help but laugh at that, which she quickly learned didn’t help her pain any. Her helmet-less head may have taken the brunt of the damage, but the rest of her armor only did so much. The pain must have showed on her face, because Ivor wordlessly left her side, returning with a healing potion that Jesse knew Ivor wasn’t going to let her get away with not taking.

Sure enough he helped her into a sitting position and put the potion into her hands. “Drink,” he instructed her, this time with a much more effective stern look. Normally she’d try to argue but considering how bad she’d been and how bad she still felt, for once she complied. 

Once he was satisfied, Ivor removed the empty bottle from her hands, setting it on the nearby table and Jesse wasted no time slumping back into the pillows. “So I’m guessing from the gang of uninjured people in the infirmary that I scared everyone pretty bad, didn’t I?”

“Damn right you did.” To her surprise it wasn’t Ivor who answered but Petra now quite awake. “And you better not do that again, got it?” Despite her arms crossed for emphasis of just how serious she was, a tiny smile worked it’s way on to Petra’s face.

And Jesse smiled back, both relieved that Petra seemed to have made it from their previous fight at least relatively unhurt and that she didn’t seem too mad at her for getting herself knocked around. “Got it.”

“Everyone else is gonna want to know you’re awake. You think you can handle all of us at once?

“Isn’t that what I do on a daily basis anyway?”

“Fair enough.” Petra conceded with a grin. She leaned over the arm of her chair to shake Olivia’s shoulder. Olivia slowly blinked awake, taking a moment to fully awake up. 

Once she realized why she’d been woken up though, she wasted no time jumping up with the full intent of hugging her now awake best friend. In her excitement though she accidentally woke Axel with an unintentional kick in the shin. This did nothing to stop her from all but tackling Jesse in a hug as soon as she was up. “You’re okay! We’ve been so worried.”

Axel wasn’t too far behind her being very quick to bear hug his small friend a little too hard, not that she had the heart to tell him that. “Oh man, dude, it’s so good to see you. Not that I was worried or anything, I totally knew you’d be fine.”

Realizing that there was only one person left asleep, Axel’s face turned to a devilish grin as he grabbed a pillow from a nearby bed, lobbing it straight for Lukas’s face.

Lukas sat bolt upright in the chair upon impact, flinging his journal and pen off behind him somewhere, forgotten while he searched frantically in the moment of panic for the culprit. “Who, wha-” His panic was cut short when he laid eyes on Jesse, now propped up and trying not to laugh rather than the concerning state she’d been in the last time he saw her. “Jesse! Oh man is it good to see you up.”

Jesse looked around at her friends’ faces, all some mixture of joy and plain relief and her mother’s words echoed through her head. Whether it had been a dream or not, it was true that what she’d said. There were people here who loved her and she loved them, the crazy mismatched group of people they were.

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After convincing Lukas to stay in their little make-shift dirt hut, saying that things were uncomfortable was an understatement by a mile. Everyone present was tense and varying levels of angry at someone or other in the group. Jesse considered it a blessing when everyone eventually fell asleep; everyone but her that is.

At least she’d thought she was the only one still awake until a cookie was dropped into her lap, followed by the head its gift-er, Reuben. “Hey buddy, you didn’t want your cookie? You should eat too, who knows when we’re gonna get another chance to.” 

In reply Reuben oinked in annoyance because he’d eaten the carrot she’d given him earlier and he knew she hadn’t eaten since before they left the tree-house that morning. The disgruntled oinks were accompanied by what Jesse was sure was the angriest looking face the little pig could muster, a face that never failed to amuse her (not that she had the heart to tell him that, of course). “Okay, okay, you win! I’m eating the cookie, see?” Jesse said, making an exaggerated show of picking the food up and taking a bite. Reuben gave a nod and grunt of satisfaction before shifting to himself settle more comfortably against her side.

Absently scratching behind Reuben’s ear as she finished the meager excuse for a meal, Jesse found it hard not to think about the frightening and dangerous situation they were in, the thing that had kept her from sleeping in the first place. “Do you think we can do this?” She wondered aloud. “I mean, our group is already falling apart. Maybe Gabriel trusted the wrong people.”

In a lot of cases, Jesse and Reuben were in agreement on things, especially when they were important. In this case, however, Reuben very much disagreed with his human companion, and made sure to tell her through more annoyed oinks. They may not be The Order of the Stone, but they’d stayed and done their best to help while others ran in fear of monster that now threatened their world.

“I guess you’re right, it doesn’t really matter now anyway. We might be the only chance the world has now. No pressure, right?” Jesse let out a humorless little laugh. “Reuben, don’t tell the others but…I’m scared. That monster, I mean what if there’s not a way to stop it? Ivor couldn’t even do that, and he was the one who created it.” She sighed and slid a little further down the dirt wall. “But someone’s gotta keep us together, or we really won’t stand a chance. I wish Petra were here, she should be the one leading us. She actually knows what she’s doing.”

Once again Reuben couldn’t really agree with what Jesse was saying. Sure, Petra was much more experienced with fighting and surviving, but she was also used to working alone. He had a feeling that with or without Petra there, the rest of the group would still be looking to Jesse to lead them.

“I don’t think I’m really the leading type, Reuben. Keeping us all together and not trying to kill each other is hard enough.” Jesse sighed as she continued to rub his head, slower now as she was starting to drift off, he realized.

Jesse may not see it, but Reuben did. After all, she was the one who was making the decisions when everyone else would rather bite each others heads off over who was right, and despite her own fear, she was the one keeping a level head and keeping their little makeshift group together. Jesse was a good leader, even if she didn’t know it yet.

Reuben wanted to tell her so, to reassure her again of what he knew they could do, what she could do, but as he lifted his head to do so he found that his human was finally asleep. He lay his head back onto her lap deciding instead it was better to let her. Who knew what challenges they’d face in the morning? One thing was for sure at least, for as rough as the group was, they weren’t going to let anyone face them alone.

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As Axel and Olivia made their way down one of the seemingly endless hallways in Soren’s base with a distracted and silent Lukas trailing slightly behind, though she didn’t say it out loud, Olivia couldn’t help but feel that something about their present situation was strange, even beyond the “giant world-eating-monster” that seemed to pursue them at every given opportunity.

It wasn’t really just “something”, but rather Petra. None of them were particularly close to her despite knowing her for such a long time but all of a sudden after finding their group again at the temple, she seemed to be gravitating much more towards Jesse. Olivia supposed it wasn’t really surprising; Jesse was an quirky one, anyone who crossed paths with her could surely see that, but anyone who took a moment to get to know her could also see how likable she could be with her innocent obliviousness to (or simply uncaring about)  what most people thought and nearly infinite amounts of kindness.

What was surprising was the concerning whispers they shared just before Jesse suggested they split up, taking Petra and Reuben down the opposite hallway. Clearly whatever happened the night of Endercon between the two of them in the woods and the subsequent events had caused Petra to trust Jesse above the rest of the group, not that Olivia was jealous, of course. Why should she be when her best friend was getting close to someone as cool and mysterious and Petra?

If Olivia were being honest, she was worried. She never thought’d she’d be concerned that a notorious loner like Petra was going to replace her, but her life was full of surprises lately. 

She shouldn’t really be worried, should she? Jesse was far too nice to just up and decide Olivia wasn’t good enough to be her friend anymore, but Olivia had a bad habit of expecting the worst. Jesse and Axel were the only friends she had. Technically she had Reuben too, but as far as Olivia was concerned, being a pig he didn’t really count.

Olivia was pulled from her unpleasant musings when Lukas spoke, breaking the silence. “Do you guys hear that? It sounds like…fighting?” He said, the first one to speak up since they’d parted ways with the rest of the group. His brow furrowed, clearly concentrating in an attempt to better hear what was going on.

“Oh man, do you think it’s Magnus and Ellegaard?” Axel asked, his curiosity clearly piqued as he too picked up on the noise. Despite having gone of in two different directions, it wasn’t totally out of the question for it to be the two of them. After all, none of them knew how Soren’s base was set up, so the possibility of the two of them running into each other and starting their squabbling again was entirely plausible.

“No it doesn’t sound like them, is that…Ivor? That can’t be good.” Lukas replied, taking off down the hall in pursuit of the commotion. 

Olivia sighed and after a quick, silent exchange with Axel they both took off after him. Could nothing about this whole mess be simple? Of course not, she thought as the sounds of Jesse, Petra, and the fighting grew closer. In line with the common theme of the past few days, things were about to get a whole lot more complicated.

Chapter Text

Technically speaking, Axel had the better of the available jobs, but somehow it wasn’t very reassuring when the only two options were to distract the giant, tentacled abomination or to get right in its face with the most powerful bomb to ever come into existence.

The explosives part Axel definitely wouldn’t have minded; he loved explosions. Really any self-respecting Magnus fan would. It was the very real possibility of being pulled up by the creepy purple beams of light and eaten by the monster that he wasn’t particularly fond of. It was still a possibility that it could happen during their distracting, but it still seemed less dangerous than what Jesse was doing.

Although it was clearly with reluctance, Jesse had volunteered to risk her neck with the F-bomb, and who was he to argue? And so he didn’t, and neither did anyone else, despite half the group being The Order of the Stone, a legendary group of heroes. He wouldn’t find out the reason for their seeming lack of heroism until much later, and he had no time to dwell on it now as he was building alongside Magnus, Soren, and Petra as fast as their arms would allow them.

Thing were going well, all things considered, at least until the point when their distractions weren’t enough to keep the focus off Jesse, resulting in her being swept up in one of the monster’s purple beams. In an attempt to pull the attention off her once more, the entire group, unspoken, made the decision to pull together again to work on one build instead the several they’d been doing before. That, too briefly seemed to be going well until one of the many tentacles flailing about the area struck where they were building, sending both Magnus and Ellegaard flying. Axel was incredibly relieved when Magnus quickly got up and rejoined them, not having time to spare a thought about Ellegaard.

Despite being suspended the way she was, Jesse still managed to finish crafting the formidibomb, something Axel’d have to remember to tell her he was impressed by after they saved her life.

Thankfully, Magnus was one step a head of everyone else. No sooner had Jesse finished her crafting did he pull out a fishing rod, casting it in Jesse’s direction. The others needed no prompting, pulling together in a tight group to help him pull their friend to safety. In an instant the bomb went off just as they’d started pulling her back, sending her flying.

Watching Jesse land, Axel decided he really didn’t want to think about what might’ve happened if Magnus hadn’t thought of the fishing rod to pull her away from the blast. As it was, the time she spent face down, un-moving on the ground was nerve-wracking enough, leaving them all uncertain if their rescue mission had even done any good. He wasn’t quite sure how long she stayed like that before she finally started to push herself up. She looked dazed and confused, but she was alive and that was what mattered.

“Oh man, you really had us worried! I mean not me of course, I knew you’d be fine. Everyone else was worried.” He threw out hurriedly. Jesse was a pretty amazing person, it was true, and was able to get herself out of all kinds of scrapes, but truthfully he had been worried for a brief moment that he might lose his best friend. But she was lucky, like she always seemed to be.

“Yeah, sure you did, Axel.” Lukas quipped, but there was no hostility, not from him and not from Axel in return.

“Of course I did, Jesse’s one of the toughest people I know.” And it was true, at least to Axel it was. She may not look like much, but he absolutely believed anyone who underestimated Jesse was making a big mistake, and the events of the past few days only further solidified that belief.

“No arguments here.” There wasn’t time to say much beyond that as their handiwork became more apparent, one of the monster’s giant heads falling to the ground not far from where their group was standing.

“Is that it? Is it over?” Axel asked, turning his attention to the carnage before them. It seemed so unreal that the beast was gone, but the sight of the giant body among the flaming battlefield gave a different impression. It wouldn’t last long, of course, but for the moment it was good, feeling like they’d managed to pull it off, like they didn’t still have so much left to lose.

Chapter Text

The first week following the defeat of the witherstorm was a hectic one full of rebuilding and assisting others in finding their lost friends and family. During that time Jesse wasn’t always quite sure what to feel. In public it was easier because she did what she had to. People had deemed her and her friends heroes and like the Order of the Stone before them they were held to very high expectations and so Jesse pushed the turbulence deep inside and keep appearances up.

When she was alone or even just among her friends things were a bit different. She could keep ignoring it and pretending, but some wounds were too fresh, too deep not to mourn. Jesse had lost Reuben after all, one of her best friends. It felt almost wrong not to mourn him properly. He’d been the real hero, at least in Jesse’s eyes. No one else but her now knew what it was really like inside the witherstorm or how truly, without Reuben everything would’ve been lost.

And while nothing could ever hurt as much as Reuben, it wasn’t the only part of their journey that weighed on her. Whether Jesse wore the armor or not now, she’d carry that choice, and all the others she’d made over the course of their journey, with her for the rest of her life.

Jesse wasn’t sure if everyone else knew just how much was eating at her, but the pain that came from Reuben’s death was obvious enough. Keeping busy helped, and luckily there was thankfully plenty to occupy her time. She pushed herself, pouring all her time and energy into helping others rebuild, enough that her nights were mercifully dreamless most of the time.

Her friends were a comfort too. It seemed at least one of them was always close at hand, keeping an eye on her, ready to offer their support or sometimes just a distraction when she needed it. Jesse wasn’t one to want to burden her friends, but she was grateful nonetheless, appreciating their attempts to lessen the pain of her grief.

Whether she liked it or not, Jesse had been changed by this whole mess. Gone was the carefree girl, the nobody who got sideways glances wherever she went and in her place stood a hero, regarded with awe and shaped by her experiences and her losses. But even more so she was a woman who was still full of hope for the world, full of second chances.

“Are you ready for this?” Olivia asked her, mild concern showing. They stood together as a group, Jesse, Olivia, Axel, and Petra, alongside the remaining members of The Order of the Stone. It was time to address the people now, the survivors, a full week after the witherstorm was defeated. They were not going out as just themselves, but as heroes who’d surely be as revered in legend much like The Order of the Stone before them, no small undertaking for people who’d not long ago been considered nobodies by almost all who knew them.

“Yeah, I think I am.” She replied with a smile, small but sure. The world had it’s wounds now, ones that would surely shape what was to come next, but it would heal and maybe, Jesse thought, maybe she would too.

Chapter Text

So this was how Lukas died: being thrown into the void by a man he’d once called a friend. Maybe it was hubris, thinking he could take on Aiden all by himself, or maybe he was just so blinded by the sting of the knife Aiden had put in his back that his own thirst for vengeance that made him want to put a stop to Aiden’s madness on his own. It didn’t really matter either way now he supposed, he was as good as dead now regardless of what led him to it.

After the initial shock of the fall and rush of falling wore off, it became an uncomfortably strange affair, the endless free fall. How long would he fall for, Lukas wondered. Would he starve to death eventually? Would the void simply swallow him up? There was no way to tell.

No sooner had he started imaging all the terrible ways he’d meet his end that Lukas was met with a shock even greater than his initial shove off Sky City. Below him was not an endless void, as everyone believed, but land. And even better it wasn’t just land, but a lake and it was directly below him. He was going to live.

Lukas was going to find a way back up to Sky City if it killed him and end Aiden’s reign of terror once in for all. Now just for the wounds, physical and otherwise, he’d inflicted on Lukas, for for his friends that Aiden was determined to drag down out of jealousy and spite, not to mention the countless innocents in the city that had no choice but be caught in the middle.

He landed in the world’s most conveniently located lake with a resounding splash, hyped up on adrenaline and more determined than ever, at least until he tried to pull himself out of the water that he realized his grand plans might not be as easy as he thought.

Getting onto dry land was a struggle, mostly because of the number Aiden had done on him. If he could barely get himself out of a little lake, how was he supposed to figure out a way back to Sky City? He may be alive, but that didn’t mean things were good.

Lukas’s only choice now was to find somewhere to heal up and pray he could figure out a way back later. He only hoped that if he did manage to find a way there’d be something to go back to.

Only a few paces from where he’d initially hauled himself out of the water now, a sound met Lukas’s ears that simultaneously made him cringe and filled him with an odd sense of relief. The splashes he heard meant that some other poor souls had been hurled from the city. Turning back towards where he’d come from, Lukas was greeted to the sight of Jesse, The Founder, and an uncaring sheep.

The founder, or Isa as they soon found out, was understandably in a state of shock upon learning that everything she’d believed about the “void” turned out to be wrong the whole time. They did their best to help her deal with the unexpected development, something cut short by mobs raining from the sky, no doubt courtesy of Aiden.

Luckily Jesse was quick to think of plan on how to get then back up to sky city. They’d build their way up, using vast amounts of dirt, something Lukas was unfortunately not in good shape to help collect.

When it came time to start the building, Lukas reluctantly decided to sit it out. Jesse didn’t seem too fond of leaving him alone, but accepted his decision nonetheless. Now he was left waiting, watching Jesse and Isa get smaller and smaller the higher their towers grew. Lukas had no doubt that Jesse and the rest of the group would put a stop to Aiden’s madness and bring the people of Sky City safely to the ground. Now he just couldn’t wait to get his hands on Aiden when they did, if Jesse didn’t end him first.

Chapter Text

So Lukas had thought things couldn’t be much worse after being thrown into the “void” by his former best friend. Now, as he was sitting alone in a closet, accused of several counts of murder, and being guarded by a perfect stranger and Ivor of all people, Lukas realized he was oh so wrong. At least Jesse and Petra were working on uncovering the truth, and if anyone could do it, they could. He just hoped they could do it before everyone else got too anxious and decided to throw him to the zombie hoard outside.

Technically he could probably clear his name, he supposed, but not without making his group the primary targets of the real murderer. So now it was just sitting and waiting, praying there were no crazy death traps in the closet of all places. With how this night had been going so far, it really wouldn’t surprise him.

“Do you think they’re having any luck?” The silence was starting to get to Lukas, the tension between the three of them almost palpable, and he had to say something.

“Worried, blonde guy?” Lukas could only see part of Ivor’s face through the iron door, but he didn’t miss the slight raise of his eyebrows with his response. 

“Hey, things look a little different when you’re on the other side of the metal door.” Lukas said, crossing his arms. Could anyone really blame him if he was? He could have all the faith in the world in his friends (which he did) but that didn’t mean he wasn’t allowed to be worried, especially consider how close he’d already come to being zombie food.

“You are many things, Lukas: cocky, understandably bitter, a bit of a coward at times,“ what he could see of Ivor’s face was unreadable then, but there was no judgement in his tone, perhaps because he was remembering his own moments of cowardice, “someone who spends far too much time on his hair, but what you are not is a murderer, and I have no doubt that Petra and Jesse will prove that.” Lukas was sorely tempted to comment on the distinct lack of ‘blonde guy’ or ‘Louis’ in the place of his real name, proving his suspicions that he as messing up his name on purpose, but something in the somber sincerity of Ivor’s word’s stopped him. If that hadn’t, Cassie Rose opening her mouth to rudely interrupt would’ve anyway.

“Will you two be quiet? He’s a prisoner. And for all I know you could be his accomplice.” She snapped, glaring at them both, though Ivor got an especially pointed look with the implication of him also being involved in the murders.

“Neither of us were speaking to you, Cassie, so I think perhaps you’re the one who needs to be quiet.” Cassie’s mouth snapped shut, looking mildly surprised by his fighting back. She didn’t look any less angry of course, but the fact that she refrained from speaking again for the moment, instead standing there with her arms crossed and glowering at no one in particular, seemed enough to satisfy Ivor.

“You know what,” She said after a moment of silence, “you two can have fun with your little love fest, I’m out of here. And you’d better not let him out of the closet.” And with an air of finality and one final warning look at Ivor that didn’t affect him whatsoever, Cassie stalked off with Winslow in tow.

“I don’t trust that girl.“ Ivor muttered quietly as she disappeared from sight, and Lukas couldn’t help but agree. She’d been awfully quick to suggest throwing him to the zombies with the only proof to go on the white pumpkin in his hands.

The two companions fell back into silence, this time a more comfortable one until a short while later Stampy showed up, looking as excitable as usual. “You two should come quickly, we’ve found something!” He waited anxiously, seemingly intending for them to follow him back.

Lukas and Ivor exchanged a glance as he was freed from the closet. “See, I told you those two would figure it out!” Ivor told him more than a little smugly.

“Hey, I wasn’t arguing with you there.” Lukas held up his hands defensively, though he was smiling slightly as they made their way back to where they’d all been together previously. It felt good to no longer be the prime suspect. All that was left now was to hear who the real murderer was and put an end to the plotting before anyone else had to suffer.

Chapter Text

Ivor found himself learning a lot about the new order that he hadn’t known before. For instance while none of them particularly like being swarmed by bats, no one in their little group hated them more than Jesse. When they’d found their exit portal from one of the countless world’s they stumbled blindly into, they left pursued by dozens of the fuzzy, winged creatures. While the rest of the group was by no means happy about it, swatting and dodging them, Jesse went one step further than the rest in the most literal fashion. She’d sprinted down the hall as fast as her legs would take her in an attempt to get as far away as possible.

Lukas, he learned, as not a fan of the cold. Their trip into the ice-world hadn’t been a particularly fun one (except of course for the snowballs Ivor’d snatched on the way out), but Lukas seemed to have to worst time of all of them, regularly lamenting on the snow and ice lakes, especially the latter. Ivor would forever be curious about that one; it was as if Lukas were afraid the ice would break beneath him and drop him into the icy water below.

And Petra, despite her previous loner, wanderer lifestyle, had the least patience for all of the portal hopping madness. She grew more and more frustrated with each failed attempt at finding their way home, the final straw finally being the aptly named fire world. It was her subsequent loss of temper that led them to where they were now, hiding from PAMA-controlled mobs while Jesse executed their TNT plan.

“We all want to go home you know.” Ivor said out of nowhere, turning to Petra from where he’d been watching Jesse.

“What?” Petra quirked an eyebrow in mild surprise, not expecting to be having this sort of conversation, especially not while they were in the middle of trying to destroy something like PAMA.

“You’re not the only one who wants to go home, despite how it might seem sometimes. We’re all just trying to make the best of a unfortunate situation.  Everyone has their way of coping with this…unexpected turn of events. Like Lukas and his little journal full of terrible world naming. It gives him something to focus on. And Jesse…well she’s trying Petra, the only way she can think of. Systematically going through the portals might be tedious but it’s not a bad plan.  In fact it’s quite logical! It just…takes a while.”

“We’ve been at this for weeks and we’ve gotten nowhere, and Jesse’s the only one who’s been deciding which portals we go through and calling all the shots and look where’s its gotten us! At least the portal I picked got us to someone who might actually know how to get us home.” She argued, her arms crossed in annoyance with a scrunched up expression to match.

“So you’re saying you think you should be the leader of the New Order then?Yes, it must be very nice to be in Jesse’s shoes, calling all the shots, don’t you think? She gets to make all the fun decisions like whose armor to take in a crisis, who to save from being eaten by the witherstorm, which of her friends to save from the angry machine.” He said, giving her a pointed look on the last two.

Petra crossed her arms with a huff. “Alright, you’ve made your point, Ivor.” She replied, wincing slightly. Okay, so maybe calling all the shots wasn’t the greatest job, but wasn’t that all the more reason for Jesse to share the burden once in a while? But that wasn’t Jesse’s way, instead choosing to carry those choices so no one else would have to. 

“She didn’t go asking to be the leader of your group, you all looked to her during the witherstorm and she’s just doing her best to live up to that all this time.” Ivor said, gentler now. “I know it’s not easy for you either being used to going about things on your own, but everyone’s trying their best, Petra. There’s only so much anyone can do in a mess like this.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of TNT exploding not far off before Petra could reply. Jesse it seems had finished their plan, which meant it was their cue to join her. “Well let’s go. It sounds like Jesse’s ready for some back up.” Ivor looked like he wasn’t quite finished with what he wanted to say but knowing she was right, he nodded seriously and the two of them took off running to what they hoped would be the final fight,t he final showdown before they finally returned home.

Chapter Text

Lukas couldn’t sleep, no matter what he tried. He’d thought the night before had been bad, anxious about what sort of “game” Jesse and Ivor would have to go through, but that was nothing compared to what he was feeling right now. Now Jesse was going at it alone, relying only on the other competitors when no one knew if the speech would be enough to get through to them. And to top it all off, Jesse had taken Hadrian’s deal for her freedom in exchange for theirs, which now included the imprisoned Axel and Olivia.

And apparently he wasn’t he only one unable to sleep, not that it was really surprising. When he heard someone get out of their bed, he truthfully expected it to be Jesse, the one who probably had the most to worry about at this point. When he opened his eyes though, he was instead greeted to the sight of Petra, and though it was dark, there was just enough light coming in through the window that he could see in her body language just how tense she was. That or it was the anxious pacing that gave her away.

With a sigh Lukas sat up and swung his legs over the edge of his bed. It wasn’t like he was really going to get much sleep tonight anyway. “Something must really be eating you if you’re not even going to pretend to sleep like I am.” He said quietly as he stood, a shaky attempt at humor.

Petra huffed in annoyance as he approached, though she at least stopped the pacing. “Wow, I wonder what gave you that idea. It’s not like our friends have been kidnapped and another one just sold herself for them and the whole plan for getting us all free relies on a bunch of people we know nothing about.”

“Petra-” Lukas tried to speak, to say something to try and calm her down and ease the situation, but as he was quickly interrupted, which was usually not a good sign when trying to get through to Petra. If she didn’t listen it kinda made things just a little bit harder.

“I just can’t believe she’d take that creep’s deal, what was she thinking?!” Petra whispered, loud and harsh.

Lukas stole a glance at their two sleeping companions, making sure they wouldn’t wake. Once satisfied, he replied as softly as he could manage, grateful she was actually letting him speak this time. “You know what she was thinking, Petra. She was thinking she was saving Axel, Olivia, and the rest of us from being stuck in those mines for the rest of our lives. You don’t honestly think she’d have even considered the other option for a second, do you? And what would you have said if she had?”

“I would’ve said…good for her for not falling for his stupid lies!” Petra hissed, crossing her arms with a sufficiently annoyed expression on her face. The moment she got defensive with her answer, they both knew she didn’t mean it.

“You would’ve been angry no matter what she’d chosen and you know it.” His reply was gentle, no malice present, only soft and knowing. “Cut her some slack, Petra. She’s trying to look out for everyone else, that’s just how she is.”

“Well she should at least try and figure out a way to do it first without signing her life away like it was nothing!” Petra said, throwing her arms up in frustration. Lukas stole another glance at Jesse and Ivor, who still seemed to be unaware.

“And if she’d chosen not to take the deal, to risk Axel and Olivia’s safety? It was kind of a no win situation.” Lukas argued, not unkindly.

“Ugh, stop doing that!” Crossing her arms, Petra glowered halfheartedly at him and Lukas had a feeling he’d gotten his point across.

“What, being right?” He replied with a half smile in another attempt to lighten the mood. He almost wanted to laugh at the expression on her face, now more of a pout than anything else.

“Yes, you know-it-all.” Their eyes met and he could see now that she was smiling slightly now, hesitant though it was. “That doesn’t mean I have to like it though.”

Lukas simply shrugged in response. “I don’t like it either, but she’d give up her freedom, her life, for any one of you in a heartbeat. Sometimes I think she’s a little too eager to put everyone else before her own well-being, but that’s a fight we’ll have to have with her after we get out of here.”

“You too.” Petra said seriously.

“What?” Confused, Lukas quirked an eyebrow at her.

“She’d do the same for you too you know. Like it or not you’re a part of this group and you’re our friend and that includes being her friend. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Jesse’s friends mean way more to her than her own well-being do any day. You’d think after all everything we’ve gone through you’d know how much she cared about you by now.”

Well Lukas hadn’t been expecting that. He’d grown to care about them all after the witherstorm incident, and especially these three during their portal hopping the past few weeks but he didn’t know how much the feelings were reciprocated. Between what had happened with his former best friends and being brought along “to be a buffer” between Petra and Ivor, it was hard to trust that sort of thing. 

Both Petra and Lukas whirled in surprise when a new voice entered their conversation. "If you two are quite finished having your little heart to heart, could you please be quiet and go to bed? It’s a wonder you haven’t woken Jesse yet with all your blathering on.” Lukas had a feeling that Ivor wasn’t really all that annoyed by their conversation, but he was putting on a good show of it.

“Yeah yeah, we’re going.” Petra grumbled with a roll of her eyes. She pat Lukas on the shoulder as she mad her way passed him to her bed (a little harder than he would’ve liked, not that he’d admit it).

“Sorry Ivor.” Lukas shook his head, smiling slightly in Ivor’s direction as he followed Petra’s lead and settled himself back into his bed. He wasn’t sure if it’d help either of them sleep any better than before, but it at least felt good to talk about things, even just a little. They’d have plenty of time to talk about anything and everything later, so long as they made it through tomorrow.

Chapter Text

“Ah man, it’s starting to get dark. I should probably get going before all the monsters start coming out.” It was a pretty common occurrence for Jesse to have Axel and/or Olivia in her little treehouse, especially during the winter months when there wasn’t much else to do. It’d been a quiet day (or about as quiet as Axel’d let it be) with just Jesse and Axel, and of course Reuben. Despite how simple and uneventful the day had been though, it had apparently gone faster than she’d thought.

Jesse followed his gaze out the window where sure enough, the sun was already setting. There was no way he was going to make it back to his own home before it got completely dark. Looking out she also realized that it was starting to snow again, and in that moment she made up her mind; there was no way she was letting Axel leave tonight. 

“Just stay here.” She told him with a shrug. It wasn’t like she’d mind after all. It was only her and Reuben who lived there, and Axel was one of her best friends. Even if it was overnight she wasn’t going to say no to his company, especially in a situation like this. She’d feel better anyway if she knew he was safe instead of wondering if he’d been mauled by a mob he hadn’t seen coming through the dark and snow.

“Nah, it’s not a big deal, I’ll totally be fine.” Axel shrugged nonchalantly, continuing to get ready to leave. Jesse was not going to let that slide.

“It’s late and it’s snowing, you’re staying here tonight.” Jesse told him again, making it clear this time she wasn’t just suggesting it. To further emphasize her point, Jesse sat down on top the trap door, otherwise known as the only exit from the treehouse. “There, now you have to stay.” She said, nodding matter-of-factly.

“Oh yeah? What if I do…this?” From the triumphant grin on his face, Jesse knew what was going to happen before it did. And sure enough, in one quick motion he lifted her from her seat on the door and threw her over his shoulder.

“Hey, put me down!” She was trying to act mad, really she was, but Jesse couldn’t help but laughing despite herself.

“If you say so!” And the next thing Jesse knew she was tossed unceremoniously onto her bed. She’d walked right into that one, she had to admit.

“That’s not fair!” She got out through her laughter, which she heard Reuben joining in on. “It’s not my fault you’re like, a giant, how am I supposed to defend myself?!”

“Yeah, and it’s not my fault you’re a midget.” Axel shot back, grinning down at her. Poking fun at her height, especially compared to his own, was one of his favorite hobbies.

“So are you gonna save us all the trouble and say that you’ll stay, or are we gonna have to do all that again?” Jesse asked, still smiling as she sat up from her landing place.

“I guess I can stay.” Axel relented, still grinning in her direction.

“Good.” She said with a nod before getting up off the bed. Jesse made her way over to one of the chests along the wall, opening it to pull out the few spare pillows and blankets she had. It wasn’t much by any means, but it’d be enough for one night. 

Then Jesse made her way to her bed and started throwing all the pillows and blankets in his general direction. “Uh, what are you doing?” Axel asked, quirking his eyebrow questioningly. She wasn’t going to throw all the bedding she owned at him, right?

“Well I’m not gonna lay on the floor all night with nothing.” She replied as if it were supposed to be obvious.

“You don’t have to do that just because I’m here. You and Reuben can just do what you’d normally do, I can sleep on the floor by myself.” 

“Where’d the fun in that be?” Jesse replied, moving over to her bedding pile to start arranging it into a makeshift bed.

“Heh, whatever you say buddy. If you wanna make this a sleepover I’m not gonna stop ya, but I draw the line at braiding each other’s hair and talking about boys.” Axel told her jokingly as he started setting out his own pile of blankets.

“There goes my master plan.” Jesse said with a shrug and a grin, settling down on her “bed”. Reuben quickly joined her, laying down so that he was practically on top of her. It was fully dark now, but none of them really felt like sleeping yet.

Laying in the dark, Axel found his eyes wandering around the little one-roomed home, and though he couldn’t make out much in the dark, he found his eyes settling on a poster of Gabriel the Warrior.

“Do you think we could ever be that cool? Like The Order of the Stone?” Axel asked into the darkness. He shifted slightly towards Jesse, unsure if she’d still be awake to reply.

Clearly she was also still awake, as the response was almost immediate. “I bet we’ll be even cooler than Magnus some day, just wait. I mean, we could totally do something awesome like defeat a dragon if we wanted to. And if all else fails there’s always my poster collection.”

“Ha, no way, nobody’s cooler than Magnus! Sorry Jesse, not even you.” He teased, grinning at her in the dark. She couldn’t see it, but Jesse didn’t need to to know it was there. “Fighting a huge monster would be so cool, but I feel like we’re gonna have to go with the posters. I mean, the Ender Dragon was kinda like, THE big monster, and The Order kinda already killed that.”

“Ouch, I’m so hurt.” Jesse replied, mock offended. “Being heroes like The Order would be pretty amazing, but I think I’d settle for winning the building competition for once.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to wipe the smirks off those stupid Ocelot’s face’s one of these days.” Axel agreed. It seemed every year they lost, their rival group of builders just got more and more smug and really he was sick of it.

“We’ll just have to think of something really cool for this year, then there’s no way we can lose.” Jesse said simply. She was always the optimistic one when it came to the building competition, a counter to Olivia’s normal pessimism. 

The two fell into a comfortable silence after that, leaving Jesse alone to her thoughts. In truth being a hero seemed awesome, but also daunting. What would it be like to be known by so many people, idolized? She’d probably never find out, and that was okay. Things were good now, the way they were. No matter what came though, as long as she had her friends by her side, Jesse figured she’d be just fine.