[Panel description: Jake stares blankly toward the viewer. This is a repeat of the last panel he appeared in.]
[Panel description: Jake holds his phone in one hand and looks down at it.]
[Panel description: The phone's screen registers that it is 11:11. The lock screen Caliborn drew for Jake is visible. Then the screen changes to an image of the Pesterchum app. A speech bubble with Jade's atom symbol appears and hovers above the phone. The word Unlock is written next to it.]
[Panel description: Jake looks down at his phone, where the speech bubble continues to hover. Then, Jade appears next to him in a flash of green light. Jake looks over at her.]
JAKE: Oh. Jade!
It’s uh. It’s good to see you alive.
JADE: yes, I am glad to be alive too!
and I am glad to see that you are ok now.
no more teams or mind control or any of that.
just us winning the game together. (smiling face).
JAKE: Yes. Teamwork! Whoo hoo!
Whatever this is!
Either way I guess I’m all for it?
that is the enthusiasm I remember from all your letters.
whenever I got one of your notes it brightened my day.
you had such a positive outlook on things it made me feel better about everything too.
that’s something we can all use right now.
JAKE: Oh... well I’m glad you think that of me.
I’ll be honest a lot of that was bluster and bravado on my part. I had no idea what all... this. Was really going to involve.
I don’t think you’d think that way of me if you could see how I’ve been since my last letter.
JADE: I didn’t see a lot of this coming either...
skaia was a lot more sparing with what it showed me than I’d imagined.
it has been hard and sad and frustrating.
but I’m still glad I met my friends.
and I’m still glad I got to meet you!
in person anyway.
we never knew each other perfectly through our letters and it has been a long time since your last one.
I’m not surprised that you feel different.
but we have time to talk right now!
JAKE: Do we? I don’t want to hold you up.
We seem to have very important things to do! Much more important than talking to lil old me.
JADE: I’m not in too much of a rush... I already did a lot of my planet quest, and karkat and kanaya are picking up where I left off.
I do have something to do, but I’m not in a hurry.
it’s a little intimidating. (concerned face).
or. (concerned face with dog ears).
so first I want to catch up.
it has been three years since I have heard anything from you.
back then I wasn’t sure exactly who you were,
and I don’t think you were sure who I was either.
but now we know and now we are here and now we can talk face to face,
JAKE: I sure wasn’t. I thought you were my grandma growing up on my island as a chitlin!
Which seems silly now considering everything but I was fuzzy on the details and well...
I sort of liked that explanation.
Anyhow now I’m still a bit fuzzy on the details. Of everything.
I’ve had the entire situation explained to me countless times but this whole doomed timeline shenanigans just threw a whole new wrinkle onto things and its making my head spin!
JADE: he he I’ve had three years to get the hang of it.
and john’s nanna told me some things about what it was like to grow up with my grandpa, even if I knew by then that you weren’t him,
so I got a little bit of a head start on this reunion.
it must be a lot more sudden for you.
JAKE: I don’t know it’s like everyone around me somehow has knowledge of the entire situation but...
I don’t know. Timeline shenanigans has always been such a quagmire to me.
Suddenly alternate universes and split timelines and god damn it it was simple when it was just dirk and Roxy being from the future!!
Them in the future, you in the past. Easy!
JADE: I didn’t have any friends from the future. (surprised face).
until Dave started time travelling and things got complicated anyway.
but you were my friend from an alternate universe!
and I was yours,
so I guess in that way we were used to all this timeline and universe silliness without even knowing it,
which must mean we are secret geniuses.
JAKE: Maybe... maybe I was used to it without even knowing it? I did believe our friends were far off temporally a lot quicker than Jane did.
Then again she’s the super sleuth skeptic and I’m... well. Me.
Leaping off the turnip truck headfirst into whatever jackknife strikes my fancy. Or something.
JADE: see that’s a big advantage right there.
this game is so surprising in so many ways being open to possibilities helps.
JAKE: That is certainly what I was...
JADE: I remember john always tried to trip me up when I was sharing information I’d seen in the clouds.
he was so suspicious because he didn’t understand that I was only seeing things that he could see too if he just woke up!!!
JAKE: Yes! And that sounds exactly like Jane!!
JADE: it is nice when people believe in you.
I bet your friends appreciate that about you.
Well perhaps previously yes.
JADE: (double question marks).
JAKE: Oh it’s a very long and sad story.
There was a debacle and now I’m sure they’d rather not speak to me.
[Panel description: Jake steeples his fingers, looking off to the side. Jade puts her hands to her hips and raises one eyebrow. Her ears are angled back.]
JADE: did you ask them that?
JAKE: Its- I don’t know it’s more implied??
Jake certainly I must have taught you better than this!
JAKE: But two of the three have yelled at me and then they’re over there talking about me while they were dealing with the condesce...
JADE: if you start assuming things about your friends you might assume something wrong,
especially if you jump to the worst conclusions.
have you TRIED talking to them??
JADE: you used to talk to stuffed dolls I think you can talk to your friends!!!
they are alive and can talk back and everything, that should be a lot easier.
JAKE: I did what?
you used to have tea parties with these,
blue stuffed women?
JAKE: Blue stuffed women?
JADE: it was a little unsettling actually, but I assumed you were lonely and needed the company.
I probably wasn’t any good for conversation when I was a baby.
JADE: your creepy doll collection is not the point here,
and for the moment we will table this silly idea about not talking to your friends.
you are supposed to be telling your story!!!
come on I have not had letters from you in years.
I deserve some sort of update.
JAKE: Okay okay.
Sorry it’s difficult to tell.
But the basic set up is that it’s the four of us right? I’m out here on my desert island, Roxy and dirk are alone in the future because the condesce went and offed humanity, and Jane was none the wiser to... most of it.
She knew I lived out in the pacific but probably had her rightful doubts about the more fantastical elements of the whole ordeal.
What was NOT fantastical was the situation that emerged from a bunch of up and coming hot-blooded youngsters!!
Now without getting too personal owing to the predilections and preferences of involved parties...
I was the only viable romantic candidate they foresaw.
And then DISASTER struck.
JADE: (surprised face).
JAKE: The day we entered the game everything came to a head!
Quite literally at one point but I’ll get to that.
I finally had non ironic confirmation that my best buddy dirk strider, a most standup gent, was indeed into me in the like-like sense.
So here I am pondering about confronting him about it when all of a sudden Jane messages me with something important to talk about!
And to make a long story short through some extraordinarily fantastical jumping through verbal hoops I asked her if she was perhaps interested in me as more than a friend as well as I’d gotten inklings of it from her.
She said no.
But in very suspicious proceeding context that I realized much too late did not make it an honest "no".
So under that climate I asked her about dirk like the big buffoon I am and she gave me a full steam ahead!
Again in less than honest wording that I didn’t see at the time.
And then everybody died.
JADE: (triple exclamation points).
JAKE: Yes it’s a very confusing and upsetting story but it gets worse if you can believe it!
JADE: oh no!
JAKE: Yes. (sad face).
So I in my naiveté decided that I’d be punching my ticket at the strider station so to speak!
And then we started up the game. Jane made it in a-okay but I guess something went wrong...
There were these evil red licorice tentacles that I guess started tearing up the place both in the game and in the future?? Somehow??
JADE: the red miles.
I was on prospit when they attacked it.
it was so sad. (sad face).
JAKE: And then Jane and Roxy died??
So dirk ever being the man with the plan,
Decides for SOME godforsaken reason to chop off his own head and send it to me to facilitate some plan to corpse smooch everybody back to life!! Which of course involved me puckering up as well.
That sort of set the tone for the whole relationship come to think of it.
Oh and he had this robot thing called an auto responder who now calls himself Hal who kept yelling at me to kiss the stupid head when I just wanted answers about what happened and why everyone was dead and WHY me kissing the stupid head would magically make everything ok!!
I understand NOW that we were pressed for time but getting these vague answers from him when it was all going down,
As per his usual modus operandi I might add,
Was just infuriating!!!
I mean I like skulls yes! But not in that way.
JADE: dirk sure sounds like an
JAKE: He’s very interesting yes!
JADE: maybe I should talk to him.
although I am not sure he will want to, considering I punched him.
JAKE: You did what.
JADE: it was when I was evil!!!
I was not in control of myself.
JAKE: Oh! Well he’s a smart guy I’m sure he’ll understand.
JADE: I hope so...
[Panel description: Jade makes a fist and punches her open hand.]
JADE: although I will have more punches on the ready if he messes with my grandfather son!!
JAKE: No no that’s quite unnecessary!
You don’t need to go getting involved in my messes grandma.
I mean jade.
JADE: yes I do!
we are family and family is supposed to get involved.
even if they are annoying and embarrassing while doing so. (sticks out tongue).
that is what family and friends are for.
for watching out for each other and keeping each other safe and everything else.
good families anyway.
I liked to think about having a family that did that.
JAKE: Oh. Well I suppose grandma did that... just not for a long while.
I guess we both lost our families young.
JADE: oh no... did something happen to your me too?
JAKE: Yes. (sad face).
JADE: I’m sorry.
it’s no fun growing up by yourself, is it?
JAKE: No... no its not.
JADE: now we have a chance to make a new family,
a good family!
and no one has to get left out or die this time,
JAKE: I’ll try.
But be ready for me to muck it up!
I’m not so good in the people department I will warn you now.
Did I tell you our botched romantic tale actually gets WORSE?
did you get so mad you kicked someone’s best friend off a cliff and had someone stabbed??
because otherwise I think I win in the bad at people department.
No but I was the one getting kicked off the cliff and stabbed.
Not fun. (sad face).
JADE: see when you had your will stolen all you did was believe in your friends even harder.
JAKE: Ehhhh... about that "believing in people thing"...
I don’t think I’m as good at it as my words led people to believe.
JADE: I am sure you are being too harsh on yourself.
finish telling me your story, and I will be the judge of that.
JAKE: It got worse!!
So I kissed the stupid bloody head (which was totally gross by the way) and then out of nowhere pops the entire gang in silly pajamas from behind a rock!
Because apparently that was the plan the whole time?
THEN we actually entered the game.
Then dirk and I... well. We started going steady!! Sort of.
It was a lot of questing and fighting monsters together and I don’t know in films I think couples do that sometimes? But with more kissing.
At least when there wasn't poisonous gas everywhere!
JADE: (distressed face).
How did dirk explain it...?
It’s not poisonous by itself there’s just no oxygen where it is? Because of molecules or something.
Atoms!! Chemistry!! Science!
I don’t know he’s a super genius who makes super genius robots.
JADE: that makes sense!
you need oxygen to breathe and so if another gas crowds it out you can’t breathe anymore,
so you will suffocate even if the gas itself is not particularly deadly.
like how you can drown even though water is a good thing.
JAKE: Yes exactly!
So we had to wear the gas masks!
JADE: that’s good.
although I don’t know how much I trust things we alchemize.
sometimes all the details aren’t quite right...
JAKE: It was mostly on dirks planet though.
On mine there was just the big xenon canyon where it all collected.
JADE: oh yes xenon is heavy so it should sink down and stay out of your way.
JAKE: But that’s where I need to go now!! (sad face).
well I guess your gas mask is better than nothing, even if I am not sure it is top quality.
is the xenon inert?
JADE: usually it should be invisible, but you know it’s there somehow.
noble gasses you usually can’t see or smell or anything,
so how did you know?
JAKE: It glows!
JADE: that means it’s electrified,
like how they make neon signs glow.
JAKE: Uh huh.
That sounds bad.
JADE: you should be very careful if you go down there.
as your grandmother I am not sure I can advise it.
JAKE: I know...
I don’t know if I want to.
But I have to right? So we can win and get out of this awful awful game!
JADE: sometimes our quests can be scary or even seem impossible,
but I think that skaia usually doesn’t give us anything we can’t do.
I thought what echidna told me to do was impossible, but when the time was right I knew how to do it.
so if you have to do this then there must be a way.
but that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe...
you can still get hurt if you are not cautious.
it is up to you whether you go down there,
but if you do take care!
JAKE: Cautious isn’t something I’m good at though!
Do you know how many traps I’ve nearly set off?
JADE: you have made it this far after living on an island full of monsters.
you must have been doing SOMETHING right.
JAKE: That was mostly me staying inside or letting a butt kicking robot fight them off!
Also dirk makes butt kicking robots.
you mentioned the robots.
you made me a robot once!
anyway I got blown up by shaving cream.
that was really embarrassing.
so sometimes things happen and you look silly, but you keep going!
I am sure that if you keep going you will do great, no matter what you choose to do,
because you did in my world.
JAKE: I certainly have had my fair share of looking silly.
Like turning trickster and trying to get all your friends married.
THAT was embarrassing.
And a thing that happened.
aren’t you a bit young for that?
Yes we are.
But when you’re a trickster suddenly EVERYTHING is sugar and love and...
I don’t know but it makes my head hurt.
JADE: I don’t know what a trickster is, but it sounds like I do not want to know.
I mean I have nothing against sugar and love, but the way you say it it sounds like something bad.
JAKE: Picture a screaming peach-skinned candy lunatic shouting her love for you before kicking you off a cliff family jewels first.
That sounds silly but it was actually horrifying.
She was just so...
we sure missed a lot.
Tricksters!! Agree to crazy marriage schemes and make people they care about feel terrible!!
So if you see any suspicious lollipops lying around...
Just say no.
JADE: I will remember.
but we are getting diverted.
I am sorry.
I keep telling you to tell your story and then I say something.
I’m just so excited to get to talk to you face to face instead of waiting for a letter to arrive.
but tell the rest of your story now.
I promise I will shut up!! (zipped lips face).
JAKE: No no its okay!! It’s sort of nice to have someone to talk to like this!
And it’s difficult to tell the next parts because it happened so recently...
Ugh. I should stop pussyfooting around and get to the point.
So come around to yesterday... is it still yesterday? God it feels like it’s gone on forever.
JADE: he he I know what you mean.
it has been a long day.
(double zipped lips face).
I’ve got trouble on the romantic waters so I go to Jane like I’ve been doing for the past few months.
Mistake number one!! As I hadn’t yet figured out my blunder from months earlier.
Not until she snapped at me while I was blabbering about dirk which in hindsight I probably earned...
At which point I realized my earlier misconstruation!!
And promptly attributed it to her being into DIRK instead of you know.
The obvious answer.
I guess you could call that mistake number 1.5?
Also mistake zero which has to do with the whole dirk issue but oh goodness gracious this is such a mess.
So she signs off in a fit of rage and it’s at that point I realize I’ve also forgotten it’s her birthday tomorrow.
So now I’m unsure of what to do on the Jane AND the dirk fronts and then to make matters worse Roxy up and vanishes!
And our friend calliope hasn’t answered us in months and her brother isn’t interested at all in any of this.
So here I am sitting on a cliff feeling sorry for myself when out of the blue...
Something peachy this way comes.
[Panel description: Jake presses both hands to his head, biting his lower lip. A red and green spiral swirls around him, and the trickster faces of Jake, Jane, and Roxy wiggle back and forth around his head. Trickster Dirk's head bobs listlessly in the bottom right corner of the panel.]
JAKE: She’d somehow acquired the aforementioned perditious lollipop which had turned her into a horrifying candied visage!
And like a bat out of pastel hell she floats down, declares her undying love for me, and punts me off a cliff!
JADE: that is
not how I would declare my love for anyone.
it seems like a mixed signal.
JAKE: I know.
But I’m not processing that at the time because before I know it I am also one of the sugar fiends.
Just as peachy! Just as shrill! With LEDERHOSEN!
Like a zombie virus except it also makes you agree to crazy marriage proposals and then hit your friends over the head with a pumpkin so THEY turn trickster too!
So before long all of us are tricksters and were closing in on dirk who is trying to talk us down.
But to no avail.
[Panel description: Jade stares blankly.]
JAKE: Soon he is one of us. But it doesn’t work as intended! Somehow he’s just as peachy keen as the rest of us but in hue only without the added madness. He was totally lucid while the rest of us were hollering.
So I’m all excited and saying how great it is that he can join our polyamorous escapades and I guess how I’d...
Not been in the best touch with him...
Well it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
JADE: I see...
I am trying to keep my lips zipped now but it is hard!
JAKE: Well for one he broke it off with me but in the process brought down a lot of things that hurt but that I probably needed to hear.
Yanking my head out of my rear and all.
JADE: I am sorry to hear that.
unless I guess you wanted to break it off?
I don’t know Jake it sounds like this has all been pretty crazy!
maybe you should declare a time out.
JAKE: Putting a pin in it was a thought I DEFINITELY had but I never got around to deciding if I really wanted to or not!!
It seemed like it would be a lot easier than trying to talk to him and fix things but at the same time... I didn’t want to hurt him and I didn’t know what in sam hill he’d do no matter what option I went with. And the whole trickster thing happened before I made up my mind so in a way I hurt him despite my best intentions.
I could’ve stopped the whole situation from snowballing if I’d just spoken to him but I didn’t.
And now... I don’t know if he even wants to look at me.
[Panel description: Jake slumps downward, tears gathering at the corner of his right eye.]
[Panel description: Jade reaches out and puts a hand on Jake's back, smiling gently. He looks up, the tears still visible.]
JADE: with everyone going after you like that I can understand how it would be confusing,
because you might be afraid that it would get other people’s hopes up or send some kind of message when really you don’t want to send any messages.
you just want to figure out what makes you happy and do that.
which sometimes is hard to decide.
JAKE: It is. (sad face).
JADE: maybe it would be best if you declared yourself off limits for a while until you got that figured out,
and I will stand by ready to punch as necessary!
but I am sure he would like to see you.
even if he broke up with you that does not mean you are not still friends!!!
at least you should ask him.
JADE: maybe he is just as scared to talk to you as you are.
JAKE: You think?
He’s dirk effing strider as far as I know he’s not afraid of anything!
JADE: he might be.
this all sounds like a scary set of circumstances.
JAKE: So much of this game is plum terrifying!! People especially!
I thought I was so ready for this adventure but I wasn’t.
Now I just want to go home...
JADE: I understand.
after spending so much time alone I was so excited to meet my friends,
but it was a lot more complicated being there face to face,
because they’re different and you come across different and you don’t know what to say.
it’s all happening so fast and you aren’t behind a computer screen anymore.
but I still know I would rather have all that happening then be alone again...
I think no matter how much you want to be back home, what you really miss is going back to things being simple and not scary,
and not that you really want to lose everyone.
JAKE: Yes!! Yes exactly!!
I don’t want to lose anyone!
I don’t even know how to approach being a good friend let alone a good boyfriend.
But even so I’m tired of having people upset and angry with me and because of me and also dying!! The dying part is really terrible!
JADE: it is not my favorite either.
if you do not want to lose people, you need to make sure they know that!
I am afraid,
you are going to have to talk to them.
JAKE: Oh no.
JADE: but considering we have both died a few times really that should not be the most terrible thing to happen today.
As I understand it we got lucky last time.
JADE: very lucky.
I guess john messing around paid off!
I always knew he could save the world if he wanted to.
JAKE: Sure has! (Whatever he’s doing!)
JADE: Jake you are preparing to dive into a pit of deadly electrified gas.
I think if you can do that and you can walk around in those underpants you can have a conversation.
and afterwards if you want I will be here to talk about it.
you will not even have to write it down.
[Panel description: Jake wipes his face with one arm. Jade pulls back her hands, her ears angling back again. Her mouth opens in distress.]
JAKE: CLAMP DOWN ON THAT WIBBLING BOY!!
Sorry that speech had me rather choked up.
JADE: but before you go, there’s something else I need to say.
otherwise I am going to keep feeling guilty about it.
I don’t know if you could hear me after whatever aranea did to you, but I said some things that weren’t kind,
and they weren’t fair.
I said you weren’t as smart as me.
then I got my planet smashed up, which goes to show just how clever I really am.
you’re not stupid Jake.
in my world you were a billionaire and an explorer and an inventor and lots of other things.
you did that alone, without any hopey magic or friends to back you up.
so with all that imagine what you could do.
you can be anything you want to be.
don’t let anything anyone says make you think otherwise,
JAKE: ...wibbling anyway.
[Panel description: Jake closes his eyes, tears running down his face. Jade puts her hands to her mouth, upset.]
JADE: oh no I didn’t mean to make you cry!!!
JAKE: Sniffle! Sorry I’m trying!
It’s been... kind of a rough day.
I know I look like a big fat weenie.
JADE: it has been a VERY rough day.
I mean you have already been put in jail!! even if it was not on any sort of legal authority.
it is perfectly reasonable for you to cry.
I know I used to think that it made me look weak and I didn’t like it, but that only led to more problems down the road.
In all my films the strong ones never shed a tear!
Well unless they were maybe REALLY distraught by a tragic death of their lover or something.
JADE: I thought I should always be in control of everything so that I could be useful.
crying took up time and meant you weren’t helping other people,
but sometimes you have to help yourself.
or as I have already mentioned and demonstrated to several people you turn into an evil werewolf and threaten to eat organs.
obviously we can all agree that a little bit of crying probably would have been better than that.
JAKE: You threatened to eat people’s organs??
Good heavens grandma!!
but I didn’t mean it!!!
unlike many of the others I had no hard feelings against Roxy.
I was only trying to scare her.
she didn’t buy it anyway.
in fact she 'laughed her ass off' while in my custody.
JAKE: That’s our Roxy for you I guess.
Tough as nails!!
JADE: indeed she is.
JAKE: Good gracious even the ladies of my outfit are rough and tumble. Makes me feel...
Like I should be able to take a few more punches or something.
JADE: I think you have taken quite enough punches for the day.
JAKE: That one to the solar plexus really did smart...
JADE: how about the villains take a turn for a change?
that arrangement sounds good to me.
JAKE: You know I think I can agree with that.¬ Though I don’t know how much help I’ll be.
I’ll need weaponry first!
JADE: oh yes.
never leave your house without several kinds of weaponry and at least five computers right?
JAKE: Of course not I learned from the best!!
JADE: likewise. (smiling face).
JAKE: But sadly it was all either burnt up in magical god tier fire or was confiscated by dastardly villains. (sad face).
Unless we want to go find derses lock up I will need a trip to the alchemiter!
JADE: that sounds like a great idea.
alchemizing is fun, and I have LOTS of grist.
JAKE: We had to be a bit more strict about the grist usage I’m afraid. It was difficult to come by in our session.
Our monsters were tough cookies! Hard to kill. So we mostly did quests to find more grist.
Sometimes we even ground up the stuff in our lands. Jane had this little gadget to help things along.
Perhaps... er... I can give you the code for the gizmo. Or you could speak to Jane for it.
JADE: you guys have an especially strange session I think.
you had to wait for us to get here.
but now we are here and now we are going to win!
JAKE: If you think so...
Now that you’re here I’m sure we can pull it off.
JADE: see??? it is good to believe things.
and now we have to make them true.
and we will.
all of us together! (smiling face).
JAKE: If we’re all together... in some capacity. I guess.
I mean I still have amends to make with the others.
I hope I can find a way to make it up to them!!
JADE: first you have to talk to them,
but I am confident that if you do that they will understand.
I have done much worse things and people are giving me a chance.
if they are willing to forgive me I will try to forgive myself.
certainly I doubt anyone will hold anything against you.
they are your friends.
JAKE: Okay... I think I can do this.
JAKE: I’m pretty sure they’ve already gone out to do their respective quests so.
JADE: do your thing and I will do my thing,
and we will all do our things!
JAKE: Yes!! All of the things!!
So as not to distract them... I’ll think of what I want to say in advance.
JADE: that is a good plan.
JAKE: But first I need firearms.
Two good sturdy firearms and a minimum of five computers!!
I have always felt more secure with my guns in hand!
JADE: if you need help, don’t be afraid to let me know or let anyone else know.
I had help with my quest and it was lots of fun!
for a while anyway.
JAKE: For a while?
lots to do!
JAKE: Oh yes. Loads!!
JADE: I will see you soon. (smiling face).
JAKE: Oh yes. We do have loads more to catch up on!
I still haven’t heard all your stories.
JADE: after this is all over we need to sit down and have a good long talk.
Good heavens how long has it been since I could hold a decent-sized conversation with anyone?
JADE: I know, I feel the same way.
for the last year or so things where I was have been
but that is going to get better I am sure, and we have a family meeting to have asap!!!
JAKE: Would that be all of us?
JADE: a meeting with all of us would be fun, but I also think we should talk just the two of us.
we will have time for both and more.
we will have time for everything. (smiling face).
JAKE: Goodness me I hope so!
JADE: (sticks out tongue).
[Panel description: Jade and Jake hug.]
[Panel description: Jake walks resolutely toward the left side of the panel. Behind him, Jade waves.]
[Panel description: Jake looks back and raises a hand to wave goodbye.]
[Panel description: Jake turns back toward the viewer and continues to walk away. Jade smiles, eyes closed to indicate happiness.]