Chapter 1: everything before us, and all that's about to unfold
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It's a nice day out. Hot, sunny, but with just the right amount of clouds. Dirk can tell he's going to get a sunburn working on the roof, repairing the AC unit. Right now it only works half the time, and half the time is unacceptable when you live at the end of the world and global warming bites you in the ass literally every day of the spring, summer, and fall. It's fuckin' unconscionable.
It's also time to take a break and go back inside, because he's sweating like a pig and needs a shower- and because his phone just pinged at him from his sylladex, in the specific tone that means it's Jake. Dirk tries to keep his heart from leaping into his throat, but it has no regard for the wishes of its employer, and jumps like it's going for a goddamn Olympic record, hurdling straight through his ribs and strangling him from the inside. Thank whatever gods dubiously exist that he doesn't have to reply to Jake verbally, because his tongue would get so twisted he'd just embarrass himself. Not that he doesn't do that well enough over a textual format, but at least in text he can pretend to have some sort of control.
Right. Jake messaged him. Dirk should probably look at that instead of looking at his phone with a mixture of excitement and dread. He unlocks his phone.
-- golgothasTerror [GT] started pestering timaeusTestified [TT]! --
GT: Howdy dirk! Bit hot out today isnt it? Im practically sweating my skin clean off! Jungle heat is the worst its terribly humid.
GT: I hope youre having a good time! I abolutely cannot bring myself to do anything whether productive or not. Its simply too friggin hot!
GT: Youd think thered be rules about this sort of thing. Like this area can only reach so and so degrees maximum and anything over that is just right out!
TT: That's what I was thinking, yeah. It's too fucking hot. My air conditioning unit is broken, too, so I'm pretty fucked until I fix it.
GT: Well at least you have air conditioning in the first place strider! Im practically baking in this concrete orb i call home! Sometimes i wonder what grandma was thinking not installing air conditioning in this darned thing.
TT: That is pretty weird, yeah. You'd think a woman as tech savvy as herself would install an air conditioning unit in all the rooms. It's a tropical island.
Dirk puts his phone back in his sylladex and strips, leaving his clothes scattered along the path to the bathroom. He'll clean them up later. Probably.
His phone pings at him a couple of times, insistently. He ignores it for the moment and turns on the shower, making sure the water is just the right temperature to cool him off without being freezing. Once that's done he mutters a rap to get his phone back out and scans Jake's reply.
GT: Exactly!! Goodness gracious gravy on mash.
GT: What are you up to on this terribly hot day? Nothing at all?
TT: I wish. No, I was fixing the AC until you messaged me.
GT: Well i certainly didnt mean to interrupt such terribly important work. Carry on and i will be on my merry way.
TT: No, it's fine. I was going to take a break anyways. I need to shower. Again.
TT: This is the third one today. I've given up on styling my hair.
GT: What!!! Dirk strider not styling his hair! Has hell frozen over? Is that a pig i see out the window flying on its own power???
TT: Laugh it up. It's too much of a pain to keep styling it when I know it'll be plastered to my head with sweat in like, an hour and a half. It'd be insanity to persist.
GT: And a waste of hair gel.
TT: That too. I mean, I have a lifetime supply, just like with everything in this apartment, but that's if I use the stuff reasonably. Gotta moderate myself. Maybe if I don't I'll run out in....
TT: What, thirty years, instead of seventy or eighty?
GT: Ha! Wouldnt that just be terrible. Dirk strider at age forty four and finally out of hair gel. How will i spend the majority of my mornings youll ask yourself with a hand pressed to your forehead in dismay. How will i survive youll say and ill tell you well strider you should have used it in moderation like you said when you were fourteen and a half! You foretold this and you only have yourself to blame!
GT: And then ill order more hairgel and
GT: I dont know send it to your brother somehow so he can stock your apartment better!
TT: If you did it'd create a time loop. I'd still have the same amount of hairgel. You'd be where he got the idea from.
TT: Also, don't do that. He's not famous yet, in your time. He'd be super fucking weirded out by some random Pacific Islander dude sending him hairgel and telling him his brother who won't be born for four hundred ish years desperately needs it.
TT: At best, he'd probably think you're nuts.
TT: I need to shower. I'll be right back.
GT: Right yes! Ill let you get on that pronto.
Dirk sets his phone down and steps into the spray, sighing in relief when the cooling balm hits his skin. It'll be better once he fixes his AC, but he has to.... actually do that, not just while away the hours talking to his best friend and crush. He sighs again. At least he's got an idea of what the problem is and how to fix it. Hopefully he'll be done before nightfall.
Jake is silent for several hours. Dirk's started to get worried- the sun is setting, and Jake usually doesn't go quiet for this long, who knows what might have happened to him on that island full of monsters- but he reassures himself that Brobot will take care of any true threats, and the rest, Jake can handle. No matter what he says, the fairybulls are not a menace. They're kind of cute, actually. Jake's sent him a couple of pictures.
Dirk's just about to message him, got his phone out and everything, when Jake finally says something.
- golgothasTerror [GT] started pestering timaeusTestified [TT]! -
GT: I think i may have found something strider!
Dirk breathes a sigh of relief and slumps against the AC unit, lowering himself to the ground. He smiles, just a little.
TT: Oh yeah? What'd you find?
GT: You know im not quite sure! I was hoping youd be able to tell me.
TT: You'll have to send me a picture.
GT: Thats what i was trying to do! Hold your horses and dont get your knickers in a bunch im working on it!
GT: Okay here it is.
- golgothasTerror sent weird platform things.jpeg -
Dirk opens the image and his blood runs cold. He'd know that shade of purple anywhere.
TT: Jake, whatever you do, do NOT fuck with the purple one. Fuck with the gold one as much as you want, but don't touch the purple one.
GT: Well why not! Theyre just a couple of weird platforms dirk its not like they can hurt me!
TT: No, but.
GT: In fact i am so curious that i think ill look at what the purple one has to offer me first! So there.
TT: Jake, no!
His hands tremble, and he waits for a response, sweat of a different kind running down his spine. Please don't let that thing be what he thinks it is.
A minute passes. Then a few more. Finally:
GT: I seem to be in some sort of city? Its all black and purple and there doesnt seem to be anyone here.
GT: Oh nevermind! Theres someone over...
- golgothasTerror sent weird tiny person.jpeg -
GT: Theyre staring at me somewhat funny and not in the haha funny way!
GT: Dirk where is this??? Did you know about this place??
GT: Well then what the hollering hootenanny is it??
TT: Derse. Hold on, I'm coming to get you. Try to stay away from the carapacians- they're the tiny people. Some of them are not so tiny, and will do a lot worse than look at you in a "not haha funny" way.
Dirk stands on shaking legs and goes down to his bedroom. He lays down on the bed and closes his eyes-
And reopens them in another body. His other self had been disassociating, how it tends to when he doesn't pay attention to it- it's extremely hard to control both bodies at once- high above the tops of any of the towers in Derse, relatively safe from assassination attempts, of which he's survived many. He's considered bonding with Jane over it, but he's not sure how well she'd take it. She'd probably worry too much.
He glides down over the city, scanning the streets. There's no sign of Jake that he can see, and that sends a spike of icy fear through him. He can't afford to panic now, not when Jake needs him. He can play it cool.
TT: Where are you? Are there any landmarks that you can see? Tell me if you find one.
Jake is quiet for a worryingly long time.
GT: I think someone is following me.
TT: Okay, new plan. Climb as high as you possibly can. You can't fly in this body, but if you get somewhere I can see you, I can come get you.
GT: Right. Wilco captain!
TT: Naval terms? That's a new one.
GT: Look i might be incredibly nervous alright??? This seems to be a life or death situation or at least thats what youre making it out to be and i am not in for it!
TT: You were in for it the second you stepped on that transportalizer.
GT: The what? Nevermind i need to get climbing!
TT: Right. Yes, do that.
It takes another fifteen minutes for Dirk to find Jake, but Jake's clinging to the stop spire of one of the many cathedral-type buildings. One of the taller ones. Relief surges through Dirk so powerfully it nearly knocks him out of the sky, but then he sees something else. A carapacian, one of the bigger ones, with a knife between their blunt teeth, climbing toward Jake with purpose. They probably think they can get a promotion of they kill the Page of Prospit. Too fucking bad for them. They're going to be getting a heavy demotion of the physical and living kind in the next thirty seconds.
Dirk swoops in and launches one of his shittier swords into the carapacian's chest, then grabs it and pulls it out with a wet shlick sound. Jake, high above him, makes a disgusted noise, and Dirk ignores it, stowing it back in the same spot in his sylladex and flying up to greet him.
Wow, he's..... so different , in person. Definitely not what Dirk imagined him to be like, but..... that's not a bad thing. Kind of nice, actually. He finds the corners of his mouth lifting just a tiny bit upwards.
Jake's eyes widen, and he blinks owlishly at Dirk, his mouth opening in a tiny "o". He clings tighter to the spire and looks Dirk over, like he can't believe his eyes. Dirk is suddenly
thankful that he met Jake as his dreamself, because otherwise he thinks there'd be a lot more questions coming out of Jake's mouth right now, questions that Dirk would really prefer not to answer yet. As it is, Jake only asks him one question, to start out with.
"Dirk? Is that you?"
A soft huff, almost a laugh, escapes Dirk, and his face moves on its own, without his consent, spreading into a wide grin. He nods. Jake beams at him, and it's like a shot to the heart in the best of ways, making Dirk's grin even wider. He extends a hand to Jake, and Jake reaches out and takes it. Cautiously, Dirk draws closer, and Jake opens his mouth, about to ask him a question, until Dirk presents his back to him. "Climb on."
Jake snorts. "Are you offering me a piggyback ride, Strider? That's so gentlemanly of you."
He rolls his eyes and drapes Jake's arm over his shoulder insistently. "Look, the other option is I carry you bridal style down to the ground, so pick your poison so I can get you home."
After a moment of silence, Jake's other arm hooks over his shoulder, and a bit of awkward re-positioning later, he ends up clinging to Dirk's back like a baby koala or something. He looks down, as if only just now realizing how high up they are, and makes an alarmed noise, burying his face in the back of Dirk's shoulder. " Don't let go!"
"Don't worry," he says, snorting in amusement and patting Jake's knee. He hooks his hands under Jake's thighs, maybe blushing a little at the contact- more than he's ever had, holy shit, Jake is so warm - and starts to lower them down to the ground slowly, the breeze lifting the soft curls of his hair and the loose edges of their shirts.
By the time they reach the ground, Dirk is freaking out way more than he was when he offered Jake his hand. He's. Touching. Jake. His brain would short circuit at that fact, if he didn't desperately need it not to. It's a struggle to keep himself from outwardly exhibiting the levels of sheer panic and excitement he's experiencing right now, but somehow he's managing well enough to keep Jake oblivious to the fact that there is, in fact, something wrong. (It probably helps that Jake doesn't look up at all the whole way down.)
He kneels and lets Jake off his back. Jake dismounts(holy shit) with a nervous laugh. "That was quite the ride! I have to ask: can you fly as a normal thing, or...."
"It's just in this body," he confirms, before he corrects, "Well, I have a rocketboard that I can use to fly, but no, I can't normally fly."
Jake's eyebrows furrow, and he squints in confusion. It's really cute. Dirk's heart skips a beat. "What do you mean, "this body"? You have more than one?" Dirk nods. "Huh. Is it a.... just-you thing, or....?"
"All of us- Jane, you, Roxy, and me- have two bodies. You guys are still asleep, whereas I've always been awake. Roxy sleep-flies, though, it's a pain in the ass to keep tracking her down."
Jake just "huh"s again. Dirk shuffles his feet awkwardly, and then says, "We- I mean, you should. Probably get home. This place is dangerous, as you've seen."
"Yeah, I think the dastardly cur with the knife clued me in to that particular unpleasant fact," Jake huffs, wrapping his arms around himself. "Ah, by the way.... thanks. For saving me, I mean! My goose would have been thoroughly cooked if you hadn't swooped in like some sort of superhero, all dashing and, er, murdery." He rubs the back of his neck, looking for the world like he'd rather have finished that sentence any other way. Dirk snorts, and, well, maybe he's blushing at the complimentary description. Jake probably can't tell in the low lighting. Hopefully.
"It's no problem, Jake. I'd do it anytime." He hopes he injected enough sincerity into his tone. Talking out loud to another person is actually really difficult, after communicating for so long over text. Tone and volume modulation is
He's pretty sure his voice sounds horribly monotone and wow he really needs to focus on the fact that they need to get the fuck out of here. Still in high amounts of danger. "Do you know where the transportalizer pad you came in on is?"
Jake nods hesitantly. "I believe I could retrace my steps, yes. Follow me." He reaches for Dirk's hand, to lead him, and the second he touches him, Dirk flinches away, for? Some reason? Why the fuck did he do that. Is he just.... not used to touch? It feels so weird and unnatural, that might be it. But. Jake looks hurt, so Dirk quickly takes it, his mouth set in a determined line. Jake gives him an odd look, before leading him away.
It doesn't take long for them to find it, and Jake stares at it for a long moment, unaware of Dirk trying to memorize his face and the swoop of his hair, the set of his shoulders. This might be the last time-
"Do you want to come with me?"
The question catches Dirk off-guard, and he blinks, surprised. "I- what?"
Jake turns back to look at him, something unidentifiable in his eyes and the tilt of his head. "Do you want to come with me? It's not like you have much better to be doing here, besides looking after Roxy, and you can bring her too. I've just been thinking, if we have a way to do it, why not? We've been sorely deprived of mano-a-mano time together, and I'll be fucked three ways to Sunday if I'm going to let the opportunity slip out from between my fingers!"
Dirk's pretty sure he's having some kind of face journey here, as he tries to process this. He... wants him? To come with him? To the island? It's a possibility? It's just- that's never been a possibility before, so the fact that Jake is asking in the first place is not something Dirk is prepared for at all. How does he respond? He wants to say yes. Should he? He doesn't know what kind of, of social protocol is appropriate??? Is there any response that would be okay besides yes? Jake would surely be disappointed; he's looking at Dirk expectantly, waiting for- shit , waiting for an answer, Dirk's been staring at him like an idiot for at least a minute.
He shakes himself out of his temporary processor shutdown and nods. "Uh, yeah. Sure. Let me just find Roxy. Actually, you go home, block the transportalizer to make sure nobody goes through, while I get Roxy. When I've found her and come back, I'll message you, and you can unblock the pad. Sound good?"
Jake grins, and Dirk's heart skips a beat again. He might need to have AR check him for arrhythmia, with how much it's been doing that, today, even if it's because of Jake. "Sounds like a magnificent plan! And then we can block the pad again."
"Right. Okay. Go home, and I'll go do that." They're still holding hands. Dirk lets go, his hand tingling. He swallows hard, and shoots off into the sky, leaving Jake behind.
It's an hour of searching before he finds Roxy, floating dangerously low between the buildings on Derse's moon. He grabs the back of her shirt and tugs her towards the main planet. It isn't the same, making contact with someone who's asleep. Usually he doesn't touch Roxy, just monitors her to make sure she isn't getting killed, because it feels.... weird. Wrong. Not because she's a girl, or anything. But because she's not awake to enjoy it? He knows she'd be all over him with hugs and squealing and all the love he could
handle(not much, apparently), if she was awake. Doing stuff like holding her hand to drag her home just feels.... sad. Empty. Not like holding Jake's hand, fuck, that was so.....
Nice. It was so, so nice. He wants to do it again, but he's kind of afraid to, at the same time. What if Jake doesn't want it? He did offer his hand when leading Dirk, earlier, but that doesn't mean anything. Does it? Dirk's not sure. Anxiety bubbles unpleasantly in his stomach.
He reaches the pad.
- timaeusTestified is online! -
TT: Okay, Jake. You can unblock the transportalizer.
GT: There you are! Should work now.
Dirk takes a deep breath to steady himself, and steps forward. A crackle of electricity surrounds him and Roxy, and then he's.... somewhere else.
The humid, hot air hits him like a wet, warm blanket to the face, and he makes a disgusted noise. "You live like this? Holy shit, Jake, you weren't kidding." Jake laughs, patting him on the back. "I'm serious!! I don't get fucking- god , I'm already sweating. It's so fucking humid, my hair's going to frizz."
"Oh, yes," Jake teases, "That's the worst thing about this type of heat, of course. Your hair will frizz. However will you live?"
"I'm going back to Derse," Dirk deadpans, turning back to the pad. Jake makes a panicked noise and lunges, catching his hand. He blinks, looking down at their joined hands, then at Jake. "What? Jake, I was joking. I'm not going to immediately leave because of my hair, that'd be stupid."
It's hard to tell, but he's pretty sure Jake's dark skin just got a little darker with a blush. He scratches his head sheepishly with his free hand. "Right, sorry! Got egg on my face, now don't I." He laughs, but it's not a happy laugh. He won't meet Dirk's eyes. "I just. I want to show you around, have a good time with you. Hang out like friends do."
Fuck. Now he feels bad. He bites his bottom lip briefly, and then squeezes Jake's hand to make him look up. "I'd like that. C'mon." He hesitantly hooks an arm under Jake's armpits and lifts off, ferrying him and Roxy up to the top of the pit the trasportalizers are in. He sets Jake down, but keeps a firm grip on Roxy. They'll have to.... find somewhere to stash her, he supposes, to keep her from wandering off and getting eaten by the local fauna. He gestures to Jake, then out into the night. "Well, lead the way. You know where home is better than I do."
The boys are gonna get some quality meatspace time together!! :DD
Roxy and Jane will get some good screentime too once Roxy wakes up. It'll be a friend party!
So, Dirk knew, before coming here, that Jake lived on an island with a bunch of alien monsters on it, but it's one thing to know something, and another to experience it. It doesn't really sink in until Jake says they have to keep to the woods to avoid the centaur herd that lives out on the plains.
"Excuse you, what? Centaurs?"
Jake looks back at him like he's knocked his head on something: concerned, and slightly amused. Dirk flushes at the attention. "Well, yeah? C'mon, Dirk, I've told you about the creatures here, haven't I?" Dirk opens and closes his mouth for a moment, scrambling to come up with an excuse, and then just nods. Jake smiles, shaking his head a little, and turns back to the rough path ahead of them, which he's having to clear with what Dirk can only qualify as a machete. Jake is pretty noodly, but Dirk can still appreciate the way he cuts through the vegetation like butter. He must keep his machete really sharp.
The island is gorgeous, if you can get past the suffocating humidity, which Dirk's personal jury is still out on. The lake- lagoon?- that the frog temple was situated in was bright, surrounded by a beach and a ring of emerald grass. Dirk had expressed concern at the idea of getting from the temple to the shore with Roxy in tow, but Jake assured him that the water was shallow enough that they could wade through. Dirk is an experienced swimmer, but he doesn't think he could have towed Roxy while swimming. He's more used to towing inanimate junk that doesn't need to be kept above the surface, and he does not want to drown one of his best friends.
Turns out the water was only waist-deep, and it was pretty warm, too. Wading was a different kind of workout than swimming, and as they wade through a similar sea of vegetation, the fatigue sticks with him, pulling him down, until he gives up the ghost and just fucking floats along behind Jake, giving his muscles a well-needed rest. He's not used to walking so much.
Silence hangs between the two of them like a thick blanket, while the rest of the jungle raises a cacophany of white noise around them. How does Jake sleep, Dirk wonders, with such a racket? Dirk's apartment is silent, except for the occasional creak of the support beams, and the noises he himself makes. Drones are the loudest event that happens on any given day, which is why he usually has a while to prepare for them, even if he isn't outside while they approach. He can hear them from miles away.
"Are the centaurs... dangerous?" He tries not to sound too eager, but, uh. They're fucking centaurs. What isn't there to be eager about?? They're centaurs!!!
Jake latches on to the conversational topic with more grace and enthusiasm than Dirk expected. "Uh, not.... really? Well, okay, so, some of them get really big, like, fuck-off big. The type of big where you look at it and think "isn't that a bit much?" I avoid those ones, not because they're hostile, because most of them aren't, but because they simply won't see or notice little old me down here on the ground unless I nip their ankles, figuratively speaking, and you know how horses are, or, well, I suppose you don't, or maybe you do, I don't know? In any case, they tend to bolt when they get hurt by anything, and me, being the tiny mouse sized fellow I am, comparatively speaking, well, I would get crushed! So usually I avoid the centaurs. You're welcome to get to know them after we get settled in to my place!"
That's a lot more words than Dirk expected, but he still takes them in like he's a man dying of thirst and Jake's words are the sweetest of waters. Which is true. Or, well, the first bit about thirst is true.
It takes Dirk a second to realize, wow, maybe he should respond to Jake, instead of watching his back as he hacks at vegetation. He clears his throat and says, "Oh, uh, yeah! Yeah, that'd be awesome. Are the smaller ones safe? Do they talk?"
Jake shrugs, and makes an "ehhh" gesture with his non-machete-occupied hand. "Semi-safe. I do avoid the whole field in spring, because that's mating season, so they get.... really aggressive." Dirk can see the creeping blush spreading across his bare shoulders, and he starts to wonder what that's about, but then Jake ploughs on, unaware. "They talk, I think? But whatever they're speaking, it's not English, and I haven't had much luck communicating with them. They seem to want to keep to themselves, so I mostly let them alone." He shrugs again. "No skin off my back. I like to keep to myself, too." He pauses, and then seems to realize what he just said, and adds, "Not that there aren't exceptions! I am positively over the friggin' moon that you're here, Dirk. Roxy, too, of course, but she's.... not awake."
Jake pauses, and turns back to look at Dirk. "Speaking of, when is she going to wake up? With you tugging her along like that like some sort of balloon, you'd think she would come to her senses in the literal way at least sometime during this march we're on."
Sometimes Dirk's reminded why he loves Jake so much. His ability to use three times the amount of necessary words in any given sentence is kind of incredibly endearing. It's like he has a clear goal in mind, and gets a little bit lost on the way, or maybe he just likes talking. Whatever it is, Dirk enjoys listening to him.
"She can't wake up," Dirk informs him. "Or... she can't until someone kisses her real self. I guess that this self is real, too, but I don't- I mean her original body, not her dream self. I'd be willing to, if only so I don't have to keep looking after her dream self, but I can't."
"Why not? Seems simple enough, even if you're not into.... people of the womanly persuasion." Jake grimaces, like he wishes he'd phrased that a little better. He rubs the back of his neck and returns to bushwhacking. Dirk continues to follow him.
"I haven't told you before, have I?" Dirk feels like he must have. "About me being from the future. Maybe I did, and we both forgot. Not sure. I managed to sync Pesterchum up to this timeframe with Roxy's help, so that's how we're able to talk to you." He takes a deep breath. "In the time we're from, Earth is flooded. I'll spare you the details on how and why until later. Roxy is on what used to be the East Coast of the US, and I'm in what used to be Houston, Texas. We're separated by a couple thousand miles. In short, I haven't woken her up because.... I can't."
Jake looks like he regrets asking, when he glances back at Dirk. "Sorry," he says, after a moment. Dirk shrugs. It was a reasonable question, even if it sucks to rehash the circumstances. Dirk's not gonna crucify him for asking questions. Does Jake think he will? That's... an unsettling prospect, honestly. He likes to think he's not like that. Maybe he needs to look at his most recent pesterlogs.
Since he's not really looking where he's going, Dirk nearly runs into Jake, who has stopped in his mission to carve a path through the stubborn jungle. "Hold on," Jake says, squinting at Dirk in a way that makes him vaguely uncomfortable. Just as Dirk opens his mouth to ask what's up, he continues, "You can fly! And you're tugging around Roxy like a balloon, and you can carry me on your back."
Okay, Dirk wasn't really expecting that. He frowns, considering it, and then kneels. Might as well. He was kind of enjoying their conversation, and the journey, but Jake is probably impatient to show him his room. "Hop on, then, I guess."
Jake blinks, like he wasn't expecting that to work, and then he beams at Dirk, and Dirk has to squint, because his smile is blinding. Figuratively speaking, thankfully. He climbs onto Dirk's back, draping himself over him like earlier on Derse, and wraps his arms comfortably around Dirk's neck. His legs cross in front of Dirk, clutching his sides, while Dirk uses one hand to hold Jake up and the other to keep Roxy tethered. In all, it's a rather precarious situation, but Dirk feels like he's got enough of a handle on it that he can at least get to Jake's orb-room.
Instead of standing normally, Dirk achieves lifdoff and straightens his legs as he gets the room to do so. Since his ability to fly isn't really hindered by weight constraints, all he has to do is be able to give gravity the middle finger by holding Jake up. Jake squeaks something about not thinking this through, and buries his face in Dirk's shoulder, which gets a snicker out of Dirk. He asks, "Want down?"
Jake shakes his head. Dirk hums, slightly unconvinced, but he rises higher and higher, until he's just above the treeline. He can see most of the island from here, and.... it's beautiful. Dirk's never seen this much land in his life, and the thought that he might be able to see more of it eventually- if time permits- has his heart in his throat. He has to focus, though. He's on a mission.
It's easy to find Jake's orb once they're above the treeline; it's in the middle of a wide clearing, on top of a slight hill, with pumpkin vines spiderwebbing out around it and curling over its surface like the beginnings of ivy. The orb itself stands out easily against the sea of green, with its sun-beaten off-white surface. Dirk starts flying towards it, and within a couple of minutes, he's touching down. He kneels, but Jake hesitates before getting off, despite the earlier discovery of his acrophobia. Dirk opens his mouth to prompt him. Before he can say anything, though, Jake slides off and gets to his feet, wrapping his arms around himself. What's that about?
Dirk can't just... leave him like that, but he's not sure what's wrong, so he
to ask. "Jake, what's up? Why're you..." He gestures to Jake's posture, and Jake avoids eye contact, but he unwraps his arms from around himself, his hands curling into tense fists at his side. Dirk huffs softly through his nose. "That's not- I didn't mean to say you should stop, I just want to know why. Like, if something's up, can you tell me? Was.... was the ride bumpy, or something?" The ride was perfectly smooth, and Dirk knows it. He's trying to ask if he did anything wrong, without seeming like an insecure, clingy idiot.
Jake's eyes widen, and he waves his hands, near-flailing in his apparent attempt to physically dispel Dirk's worries. "No! No, Dirk, fuckin'.... shucks, I didn't expect you to, er, call me out on it." Before Dirk can interject that it's a fairly obvious thing and of course he'd call Jake out on it, it's weird and concerning, Jake continues. "It's just.... it's a bit nippy, up there, with the breeze and all, and I've still got goosebumps, even though it's near boiling, back down here in the forest, and I was just thinking, I guess, about how, uh, how nice. It was." He visibly swallows, his cheeks.... turning pink?
Oh. Oh. Well, okay. So... Jake really liked the physical contact. Thing. They had going on. The. Hugging? Is a piggyback ride hugging? It is a full-contact sort of... thing, like hugs are, so maybe it's sort of the same, for them, when they've been without that sort of contact their whole lives. That reasoning is sound, right? Right. So Jake.... wants hugs. Okay. Dirk can do that. Dirk can.... definitely do that. Wow.
A small smile tugs at the corners of Dirk's lips, and he rubs the back of his neck. "Uh. Well, we can.... do that some more, if you want- I don't mean, like, the piggyback ride, I mean, uh. Like, a proper hug, since we haven't really done that yet, I guess? Gotta check that one off the checklist of things we've needed to do for ages, it's been sitting there for long enough, can't keep it waiting forever, you know." He winces internally at that. "Not that there's a hurry, or anything, it's just." Awkward cough. "Uh, we should go inside, first, so Roxy doesn't.... float away, when we hug."
Jake nods, eyes wide, and finally looks at him. This time, it's Dirk who breaks eye contact. Maintaining that shit is just.... way too flustering. It's like looking into the sun; he just can't do it for long without permanent damage, only instead of damaging his retinas, he's damaging his self control re: not kissing Jake. Because, fuck, that's a thing his burning desire to do has suddenly reared its ugly head about. Jake's just. Fuck, he's so fucking cute, and he isn't repulsed by the idea of physical contact like Dirk's anxiety has been telling him he would be, and his lips look really fucking soft actually, way softer than Dirk imagined, and Dirk needs to stop daydreaming about kissing him because Jake's led him into the orb and is giving him a tour and Dirk needs to pay attention.
"So this is home sweet home," Jake says, sweeping his arms outwards, and nearly smacking Dirk in the face. Dirk drifts out of the way, and Jake looks like he wants to apologize, but there was no actual harm done, so instead, he just forces a smile and sticks his hands in his pockets so he can't do any real damage. "It's not a lot, I'll admit, but it's what there is."
It's.... covered wall to wall in posters. That's... that's pretty Jake, yep. The movies displayed are of questionable taste, but then again, Dirk already knew that Jake had shitty taste. Or rather, not so much shitty as completely indiscriminate. It's kind of mean to tease him about it when he looks so hopeful for Dirk's approval, though, so Dirk says, "It's nice, actually. Very, uh, you. It's got more space than mine, at least. Mine's barely got any floor space at all. 'S all the..." He gestures vaguely with his hand, mouth quirking to the side. "All the desk space I need to have. Can't just spill robotics shit over the floor willy-nilly, or else I can't find jack shit, you feel? Everything's gotta have a place, and I know where it all is." Pretty important, actually, that everything is where it is, because he needs to be able to find it to make repairs on Squarewave and Sawtooth, or AR, when necessary.
Jake gives him a curious look, but nods. "Pretty reasonable!" He scoots a little closer, and fidgets, and ah, right. The hug. Dirk forgot, or maybe intentionally didn't think about it, because his palms are getting kinda sweaty thinking about it, and he's pretty sure Jake doesn't want to hug a dude with sweaty palms, but maybe he doesn't care? Maybe Dirk should stop overthinking this and go for it, already.
Dirk Goes For It, Already.
He lets go of Roxy's hand, allowing her to float in midair like... yeah, Jake was spot on, she's kinda like a human balloon when she's like this. She's got a dopey little smile on her face as she sleeps bent slightly sideways in the air, and Dirk pauses to look at her fondly before he turns to Jake. He's not really sure how to initiate this, but he's gonna do his best, damnit. Shuffling closer, he lifts his arms, and Jake sorta lifts his a bit higher, and then they.... slot together, with Jake's arms draped over Dirk's shoulders, and Dirk's arms wrapped around Jake's middle.
Fuck, it is so nice.
Dirk tucks his face against Jake's shoulder, taking a deep breath. Jake rests his cheek on Dirk's shoulder, facing outwards, and sighs. They both just.... kinda stand like that for a while. They're both a little sweaty, and they're slowly starting to overheat with the temperature outside combining with body heat generated, but neither of them is willing to let go, so they... don't.
"This is really nice," Dirk mumbles. Jake giggles a little, and Dirk opens his mouth to say something defending his position, but he just... lets it be. After all, Jake's not pulling away. Dirk smiles, hidden in Jake's shirt, and hugs a little tighter. After a second or two, Jake reciprocates.
All good things have to come to an end, so eventually they do have to separate, but it's a good five minutes, at least, before they do that. They look at each other for a moment, and then Dirk has to take Roxy's hand again to make sure she doesn't float away. It's not likely, given that she's stayed in one place for a good amount of time, considering her sleep-flight tendencies, but it's also best to not to take risks.
Jake says, "We really ought to find a way to secure our sleep-wandering friend. Don't want her to get into trouble because we weren't properly prepared." Dirk nods. He was already thinking of ways to keep Roxy from flying away, but the best of his solutions basically amounts to tying ropes around her ankles. Waist would be too risky; too much of a chance of Roxy accidentally strangling herself. Wrists could hurt her shoulders or make her flip upside down, which would also be bad, if they weren't there to flip her back around.
He suggests, "We could tie her to the leg of your table, or to one of your bedposts. Just by her ankles, or something. Or we could cover the window, but.... I don't think that's a good idea, with how hot it is out here."
Jake frowns. "That doesn't sound very... secure." He looks between the table and the window, and then to Roxy, and his frown deepens. "I just had a thought. Even if we tie her down...." He flaps a hand vaguely, trying to find the words. "I'm not sure if she'll be safe, asleep like this. You're sure there's no other way to wake her? I mean, the kissing thing can't be the only way, can it? It's not like anyone has smooched you as of yet to make your dream self wake up."
That's... true. "I've always been like this, though, for as long as I can remember," Dirk replies. "I don't know how my dream self was awoken, it just..... has been like that. We could try something, I guess. Uh...." He taps his foot, trying to think. "Hm. I don't really know what would wake her up."
A hum rises from Jake, and he opens his mouth as if to say something, then closes it. Dirk looks at him, and after a moment, asks, "What?"
"I was going to suggest we could slap her awake, but... That seems a bit extreme." Dirk gives him a Look, and he holds his hands up. "I wasn't going to say it before you asked! Gosh. We could..." He hums again, toneless but thoughtful. "We could use headphones to play loud music and wake her up? Or bang pots and pans? It's a bit silly, but it might wake her up. It's quiet around Derse, after all, isn't it? Was when we were there."
Dirk cocks his head as he considers that. "You know," he says, slowly, "that might actually work."
Turns out, though Dirk doesn't have such implements of impending eardrum destruction, Jake does. He has two wooden spoons, one pot, and one pan, and he explains in an absent mumble that cleaning them every time he uses them is such a bother, but doesn't elaborate. For once, Dirk is thankful. This is going to be painful; neither of them has earbuds, so they're going to be affected by the noise just as much as Roxy will hopefully be. He wants to get this over with.
Dirk guides Roxy to sit on the bed, although it's mostly useless since she just hovers in the air slightly above the bed in a vaguely sitting position. They get into position, one of them on either side of Roxy, and make eye contact over her head. On the silent, shared count of three, they both bang their spoons against their cookwares as hard as they can, repeatedly.
At first, there's no response. Roxy remains as blissfully asleep as ever. Then, her eyebrows furrow, and the small, silly smile she'd kept on her face until now slides off, the corners of her mouth turning down. She makes an unhappy sound, and shifts, getting more agitated by the minute. Jake and Dirk keep it up, desperate but hopeful, and after three full minutes of sustained pot-and-pan noises, her eyes fly open, and she snaps, "Would you stop that?! "
Roxy stops to take the scene in, sleepy and shocked and deeply irritated, and then that all slides off her metaphorical back like water off a duck, and she pulls them both into a hug.
Thank you all for being so patient while I finished chapter 2! Writing fic is HARD. I hope it was worth the wait! ^u^