The carnival.

A sickly sweet torture stadium of hundreds of sticky, yelling children, all as hyped up on cotton candy and freedom as the next. The smell of corndogs and vomit were in the air, and by the roller coasters, and a little on Brock's shoes. It was a horrible, horrible place. Little children as far as his arm could throw ran amuck, knocking over sodas and old ladies and pushing and shoving and laughing and crying and screaming and Oh God I think one touched me-

Brock Sampson was in hell and it had a carousel.

"This is lame," Hank announced when they'd arrived, frowning. "Everyone here is like, five or fifty. I don't even see any carnival freaks. What kind of lame carnival is this?"

"It's a youth festival, dingbat; not a traveling circus. What'd you expect?"

"Hey, if I see a flyer with Criss Angel, I'm there, ok? How many times are we going to have this discussion?"

Dean scoffed. "Depends. How many times are you planning on falling for a "mind freak" by a complete stranger and getting us kidnapped?"

"Oh, three times-"

Brock took a good hard look at the roller-coasters. Maybe if he threw himself from the very top, the impact would kill him. Maybe.

"Go find your boyfriend. Me and Brock are going home," Dean tugged on Brock's sleeve, unsuccessfully pulling him to the parking lot. "Right, Brock?"

"Home?" Brock whispered. He remembered a place, far, far from here.

"Yeah, Brock…home," Dean raised an eyebrow. "Brock want go home?"

"Yes," Brock agreed, staring into the blankness of space and also probably the small child who had thrown up in a wastebasket and then fallen in it. "Brock want go home."

Hank, whose cheeks had turned red at the implications Dean had made, stomped his foot. "One? Stop calling Dermott that, you're not funny. Two? Fine. Take Brock. I don't care." He sniffed. "Don't think I do, because I totally don't."

"Fine." Dean replied, a little frustrated. "Let's go, Brock."

Brock followed in a daze after Dean, and Hank sighed deeply. Great. Now to find Dermott.

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It had been maybe ten minutes of searching for Dermott when Hank encountered a large purple tent. Sequins glittered the outside so much that it hurt Hank's eyes, like when he sometimes stared into the sun. He though about entering, and was considering it when he saw IT.

IT was the….the most spectacular….the coolest thing he'd ever seen.

"How much…." He stammered, fingers shaking, pointing desperately at the object, "How much for that?"

The man turned. "That?" He asked, and turned to where this weird kid was pointing. "What, the Batman cape?" It was still in packaging and had some kind of fake electronic signature on the label. "Are you sure? I got a cardboard cutout of Megan Fox right here-"

"The cape, sir." Was he drooling?

"Aren't you a little old to-"

"NO. HOW MUCH, MAN?"

He sighed. Why did he always get the weirdos? "Knock over the pins and you win it. Or pay ten bucks, I don't care."

He slapped the change on the table. "Hit me."

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"And what makes aerogel so incredible are it's applications: you can use them to insulate windows or even the spacesuits designed by NASA, plus it can hold up to 4000 times it's weight! Amazing, isn't it?"

"Yeah!" Dean agreed enthusiastically, handling the ball of solid air between his fingers. "This is so cool! You made this? How?"

Steve pointed to the various equipment on the table. "It's very simple. All you have to do is remove all the liquid from silica gel, which leaves it's molecular structure intact."

Dean thought for a moment. "So that means that it's an insulator which also means-"

"It's fire-proof, yes." Steve smiled. It was rare he actually did any science, and having someone genuinely interested in it made him feel important. "You sure know a lot about chemistry, Dean. Did your father teach you?"

"No, not really. So far he's only taught me about the scientific importance of progressive rock."

"It is very important." Steve stressed, nodding his head solemnly.

"Well, in any case, I've been reading some of his books from college, and chemistry sounds amazing. I think that would be better than what my dad does." he admitted.

"What does he do?"

Dean scoffed. "Mostly sit around and complain about his life. I mean, I get that Grandpa was kind of a jerk, but he just mopes around the house and sells his old stuff to whoever pays the most," He bounced the tiny ball on the table, enjoying the clacking noise as it projected back into his hand. "Brock says he used to be a great scientist, and that he almost surpassed his dad, but then he had us. I guess it's kind of our fault."

Steve felt uncomfortable. He'd never had any issues with his father, so he couldn't really relate. "Have you tried talking to him?"

Dean bit his lip to keep from laughing. "Oh, yeah, sure. It's on my to-do list." He shook his head, and from the corner of his eye some paperwork caught his attention. "Hey, what's that?"

"Hmm?" He checked next to him. Oh shit…in his excitement, he had forgotten about the whole reason he was sent here in the first place. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it."

"Oh." Dean looked disappointed. "Are you sure I can't help?"

Well, maybe he could…"Depends. Have you seen a viscous like substance, kind of like black tar only thinner? It should be around thick vegetation."

Dean thought for a bit, and then shook his head. "Nope. Not a thing."

He groaned. "Great. Well, I guess-"

"You know where there might be, though? In the toxic waste dump by the Indian burial ground," Dean rubbed his chin in thought. "We've had more than our fair share of problems with it, one of the least being pollution, I can tell you that."

It earned him a look. "This town has a nuclear waste facility by a graveyard?"

Dean grinned, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "Welcome to my hometown."

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"Hit me again!"

"I think you've had enough, kid-"

"I'll tell you when I gosh darn had enough! Now hit me!"

The booth handler sighed, but willingly exchanged another round of the blonde kid's quarters for the tiny baseballs. "Step up, step up, everyone's a winner, maybe, whatever." He called out lamely. "So play or go home, who gives a-"

"Darn! Again? Hit me!" Hank, who had spent more than some people earned in a day on a game rigged to lose had been at it all morning. His antics had earned himself a crowd, and the young men in it were anything but altruistic. "Boy, this game is hard!"

"Hey," one called out, a beefy tall brunette with a letter jacket called out, "Want me to win one for you?" He gave a charming grin, one that no doubt had been designed to melt the hearts of parents and the pants off teenagers without fail. "It's no problem.."

"Whoa, really?" Hank gave a dazzling smile. "That'd be way cool! Thanks, man!"

That had done it. One look at his baby blues and the crowd of teenage boys had lost it.

"I can do it-"

"No me, I'm stronger-"

"What's your name, sweet thing-"

"Let me try-"

"Get out of the way, retard: why are you even into him, he's way out of your league-"

"Why don't you fuck off so I can show you just how into him I can get-"

Hank's smile waned. "Uh, guys? Guys?" They were starting to crowd him, and Hank had been kidnapped one too many times for the situation to be comfortable. "Look, you guys, really, I can get it myself, ok? Guys?"

"Everybody, fuck off. He's taken." A familiar voice rang through the chaos.

Dermott stood menacingly against the game booth, narrowing his eyes. "What, are you all fuck-tarded? I said beat it, numbnuts. All a you."

Every guy but the jock from before left mumbling. He chuckled.

"This guy bothering you?" The handsome young man asked Hank, cracking his knuckles.

"No," Hank's eyes narrowed at the threat of his best friend.. "But you are. Beat it."

The guy gave an easygoing smile. "Okay, okay. I can take a hint. See you around, babe." He winked, several girls cooed, and he was on his way. Maybe the skanky chick from the dippin dots stand was still there…

Dermott was less than amused. Less than a day by himself and Hank had already gathered a harem. "The hell was that about, man? "

"I dunno." Hank shrugged. "I was just trying to get this wicked sweet cape, and then all these guys showed up." The realization of what had transpired hit Hank like a 747. His eyes widened. "Dude, I just realized…were those guys-"

"Yeah?" Dermott answered cautiously.

"Were they-"

"Yeah…"

"Were they trying to steal my cape?" He crossed in arms in anger and gasped. "Those jerks! I can't believe this! Can you believe that Dermott?" He shook his head. "Unbelievable. Did they think I wouldn't notice? They must think I'm stupid or something. Right, Dermott?"

Dermott stared at him the way his Dad sometimes stared at him when he'd make a suggestion about something. "You're lucky you're cute, you know that?"

A faint blush made it's way into his cheeks. "Shut up. Guys aren't cute."

"Whatever. C'mon, lets book it. I'll buy you a corndog."

"Neat!"

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"BY THE POWER VESTED IN ME, I NOW PRONOUNCE THAT THE MEETING BETWEEN THE ORDER OF THE TRIADS NOW COMMENCENTH! BEGIN THE CEREMON-"

"Do you have to shout? Really? We're all right here. We can hear you just fine."

"Come on, let him do his shpiel. You know he looks forward to it."

"IT IS NOT A "SHPIEL", AS YOU SO QUAINTLY PUT IT! IT IS AN ORDER AMONG THOSE WHO WALK SILENT AMONG US THAT-"

"You know what, never mind. Yeah, you really need to quit yelling. Jeez."

Jefferson leaned against the sofa. "Told you. Now why are we even here, exactly?"

"GENTLEMEN-"

"Christ- Inside voice!"

"Yes, very well. Gentleman, as I am sure you are aware, the dimensions between this world and the next several hundred have been severely out of balance," He waved his arms in a grandiose manner. "Something is knocking the very nature, the very structure of time and space, manipulating and stretching thin the very fabric of time with it's fat, muffin top body of evil-"

"Boy," whistled The Alchemist appreciatively. "Did you major in allegories or minor in similes?"

"I majored in Communications and minored in Woman's Studies and you know it," he snapped. "Now, I propose that we locate the source of this mayhem-"

"Ahem," Jefferson coughed loudly. "I hate to interrupt-"

"Yet you do it so well." Al mumbled.

"Shut up. Like I said, hate to interrupt, but I didn't notice anything. Or hear anything. In fact, before I got the phone call, I didn't even know we had meetings like this." He pointed to the television, which had, unwillingly, been turned to mute. "There's nothing on the news either."

Orpheus sat on the red leather couch, hands forming a triangle on his forehead as he concentrated. "I myself would not have noticed, had I not been here alone." he admitted, "I'm usually far too busy to notice rips in continuums, but ever since I've been living the "bachelor life" I've been in more tune with the spiritual world."

"Huh?"

"The spirits," Orpheus began explaining, "Have been communicating their discontent all over this dimension. They have been leaving signs-"

"Signs? What signs?" asked Al, skeptical.

"Not really signs, more like…post-its." Orpheus pinched his thumb and forefinger. "The little tiny ones, that you leave on pack lunches to remind others whose is whose-"

"The point," Jefferson demanded, arms crossed, "If you please."

"Of course. There have been clues, such as the change in electromagnetic atmospheres, the vast change of temperature throughout decades, the re-occurring of events in natural history-"

"The Red Sox beating the Yankees-"

"Aw, geez man, you gotta let that go! It was years ago!"

"I know what I know." Jefferson glared heavily at nothing and scowled. "And I know that call was bullshit."

"Shut up. Even if you're right Orpheus, and "ghosts are talking to us", that doesn't really explain why there's no evidence of it, Haley Joel." Al pointed out. "There's almost no proof at all. None."

He waved his hand and alerted their attention to the paperwork on the cedar oak coffee table. Waving them over, he pointed out the indiscrepancies between occasions.

"The significance behind each action by themselves is almost unnoticeable- only when you combine the occasions do you notice the glaring inaccuracies- simply put-"

"Not even close."

"Simply put, there are things occurring, things appearing that simply should not be."

"So?" scoffed Jefferson. "There's shit all over the place that should not be. There's a cemetery made of human remains, a bridge where dogs commit suicide- hell, I slept with this white woman one time and she wrote a book about my life and named it after me. You think I want that shit out there? She made half that shit up, I never said vampires sparkle, not once, that mother-"

"You're rambling, Jefferson-"

"The point, is that a few minor things have been happening, one by one, in different places, over the course of a decade. It could be anything. And until you prove it is something, I'm gonna finish my Heineken and drink until I forget my last name." He stood and walked away, grumbling.

"Don't you see?" Orpheus cried out. "There is something amiss! We must correct the imbalance-at once!"

"He's got a point," Al shook his head. "Listen, call me if you get somewhere. I got a date with Destin-"

"Destiny?" Orpheus asked, puzzled.

"No, Destin. He's my plumber." He waved goodbye. "Later."

Orpheus sighed. If only there were some way he could confirm his suspicions-

Wait-

Very slowly, the door to his only daughters room creaked open, revealing the very shut door to her closet.

He raised an eyebrow. That could work.

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"That," Dermott burped, "Was the corndog. Of corndogs."

"I'll say. You had, like, twenty. How are you not barfing?"

"Practice." He admitted. He ran his fingers through his hair. It was getting dark out. "Did your dad call your cell yet?"

"Nah, just Hatred. Like, five times." He checked his phone. "And one from Brock, but whatever.

"So it's safe to say no one's expecting you home?"

Hank looked at his phone warily. The sun was almost setting, and if he wasn't home by curfew Brock or Hatred would probably go nuts and start a searching party, which would be totally embarrassing. On the other hand, he liked spending time with Dermott, the only person he knew of who actually appreciated his company. He bit his lip, and was so lost in his thoughts he didn't notice Dermott staring.

His eyes remained focused on Hank's lower lip, sharp white teeth biting into it neatly. "So are you staying or what?" He asked, distracted.

"I dunno…" He bit his lip harder, and as the blood rushed to his lips they began to swell and plump. Very softly, the wind blew through the amber sunlight reflected in his beach blonde hair. Eyes dancing, he turned to Dermott, smiling. "What's in it for me?"

Dermott felt a very large lump in his throat which, he assumed, could only be his heart. That or a tumor. He wasn't sure which was worse. "Depends," he finally croaked out, clearing his throat and trying to grin cockily. "How do you feel about the beach?"

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"It's beautiful," Hank exclaimed, when they had arrived at the beach nearly a half hour later. "I mean, I never get to come here. It's gorgeous out here."

"Yeah," Dermott said as he popped a beer open, the hissing noise echoing between the crashing of waves. "Best time to come down here."

"Is this where you go? When you disappear some days?"

Dermott hesitated. "Yeah…sometimes."

Hank laid back, rested his head on his forearms and thought. "I don't know how you find the time, with all your jobs and everything."

"What?" Dermott coughed, almost choking on a sip of beer. "How'd you-"

"Please," Hank rolled his eyes. "I'm not an idiot." Leaning over on one hand, he stared up at Dermott. "So why didn't you want to tell me?"

He shook his head and took another sip. "You're a rich kid, it's embarrassing, I hate my jobs and don't wanna talk about it; take your pick."

"You wanna know what I think?"

"By all means."

"I think," Hank leaned over to grab a sip of Dermott's beer, "I think that you think too much about what I think about you." He shriveled his nostrils at the foul taste. "I think."

"Poetry." Dermott smirked. "Sheer poetry. You should write fan fiction, you know that?"

"Shut up." Hank made a face. "What's in this stuff anyway, frog pee? How can you drink this?"

"Well, when you become a man, you are dealt with a certain unfair hand in life, and you can either choose to go on a murderous rampage or you can swill it down with nature's anesthetic."

His eyes widened. "Jesus, Dermott, where did that come from?"

"The guy who bought it for me told me. Then he passed out, so I stole his wallet," He admitted, shrugging his shoulders. "But I heard him call a homeless guy a nigger, so I figure it'd be karmic justice."

Hank looked up at Dermott and smiled. "You're weird. I like you."

Finishing the can, Dermott threw it out into the ocean and cracked open another one. 'I like you too, douche nozzle."

"I know," Hank responded smugly, "That's why you keep checking me out."

Dermott quickly looked down at Hank. "What?"

"You heard me. You wanna tap me like a ketchup bottle, you want to be the maple syrup to my cabbage, the Raid to my anthill, the Leno to my late night talk show-"

"All those things go horrible together, Hank."

Hank scoffed. "Well, you steal from alcoholics and I still sleep in my aqua man pajamas, we're not exactly a perfect fit either."

Dermott stayed very still, and then abruptly stood. "Fuck you."

"Dermott? Dermott!" Hank called after him. "Dermott, come on-"

"Fuck off." He snarled and walked a little faster to the car, throwing his empty can at Hank only to miss. "Walk home, asshole."

"Dermott, geez, calm down, it's okay-"

Hank grabbed Dermott's hand, only for Dermott to shove him away, hard. "What, are you deaf or something? Huh? I said fuck off, Hank, I'm not a faggot like you-"

Hank stood, shocked. "How am I a faggot, you're the one who wants me so bad-"

"Fuck you!"

"You wish." Hank replied, furious. "Y'know, I don't get you. First you get mad at me for calling you a fag, and then you scream it at me like it's gonna make any difference. You're the one who has a problem with who you are-"

"You don't know shit about me, Henry, so don't even fucking pretend for a second that you know what the fuck you're talking about." He sneered. "You never do."

"I know that you're insecure," Hank said very quietly, taking small steps toward Dermott. "I know you say a lot of stupid stuff and you act really badass, but you're not, you're just like every other teenage boy, Dermott, full of anger and resentment and fear and nothing to take it out on so you take it on your friends and your family but most of all yourself."

"Yeah fucking right, you got me down, Dr. Phil, now get off me, man, I said get off-"

"I know you like me. I know you like me because you're not the same as you were when we met, you're nicer and smarter. I know you're just embarrassed and you don't mean half of what you just said, because I know you like me. I may be a little slow, and I may not know much, but I know you like me." Hank held Dermott's face between his hands.

"Well?" Hank asked again. "Do you?"

He moaned and covered his eyes with his free hand. "I'm only on my second beer, can we talk about this after I've killed a few more brain cells?"

"Dermott," Hank's normally bright blue eyes looked stern. His hands were cold on his cheeks, but his face never felt warmer. He could hear Hank ask again, but only barely; they were close enough now that Dermott could see his every freckle, and they seemed to be sharing a single breath. The speckled blue in his pupils were larger than he'd ever seen them, and for a brief moment Dermott closed his own and just said, fuck it.

"Yeah," he admitted. "Yeah, ok, yes. I like you. There. I said it. I like you, the fat loner kid with chubby hands and a mild case of backne likes you, okay, can we go home now or what?"

"Not yet." And then Hank bit his lip again and right before Dermott could tell Hank just how much he hated when he did that, Hank leaned in and kissed him very softly, and very gently on the lips. He pulled away, blushing madly. "Okay," He said, walking away briskly and refusing to lift his head. "Now we can go."

Dermott heard a car door faintly slam in the distance, and a few minutes later could just barely make out a car horn honking respectively, but he couldn't move. The concept of leaving where we was and what had just happened seemed ridiculous. He just stood there.

"Well, fuck my shit." He muttered, and then a few minutes later settled his beer can in the sand and made his way to the car.

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"Son of a monkey's titballs," Steve gritted his teeth, wiping the mud from his eyes in vain. "Fucking waste of a trip. Shit!"

"Language, Mr. Potty Mouth. And it wasn't that big of a waste." Dean argued. "We got some dirt samples!"

"Not the ones I was looking for." Steve grimaced. "Jesus, what is in this mud, superglue?"

"Close," Dean chanted in. "It's goop.'

"I'm not sure I'm familiar with the medical term, 'goop'." Steve deadpanned. "Elaborate?"

"Well, I'm not sure if you know this, but when you leave a dead body out in the sun, it starts to rot and 'goop' is just the stuff that falls off and decomposes in the mud." Dean explained. "It's quite fascinating."

Steve watched as the brown slimy substance hung off him and started to drip towards the floor, only to bounce back up into the larger mass of it, squicking uncomfortably. "That's one word for it, I guess. Another would be-"

"Shit!" A voice down the hall cried angrily. They turned to see who had called out. It was Hatred, carrying a large load of laundry and a very pissed off face. "Are you kidding? What do you people do, bathe in filth? Is this a laboratory or a field in Mongolia?"

"There's very little dirt in Mongolia, actually," Billy pointed out, walking behind him with a smaller load. "Not to interrupt your angry ranting, I'd just thought I'd point it out. It's mostly snow."

"Actually-" Steve started.

"Shut up," Hatred demanded. "Goddamn it, now I have to do another load of laundry, and I'm already out of fabric softener, but you dirty motherfuckers can stay itchy, for all I care."

"Mr. Quizboy?" Dean suddenly asked, curious. "Why are you in my house, and why are you carrying Hatred's bed sheets?"

"He's inspecting them-"

"I'm fixing a hole in them-"

"He's inspecting them for holes to be fixed. In them," Hatred said calmly. "You know. For science."

"Right," Steve raised an eyebrow. "Whatever."

Hatred dropped the load of laundry and watched the filth drip unto the formerly stain free carpet. "Great. Another mess to clean up. Am I your bodyguard or your nanny?"

The sound of a window creak turned everyone's attention to Hank, who was awkwardly trying to sneak in through the hallway window. He gave himself another push and fell to the carpet, cheeks stained with red,

"Well-Hey-Nice-Seeing-Everyone-Guess-I-Better-Get-Going-See-You-Guys-Later-Okay-Goodnight-" He said, taking off to his room, but stopping before the door. "Hey Hatred, are you doing laundry? Cause I got some really messy pants-"

"What the hell do I look like, Kunta Kinte? Do it yourself Hank, you're almost twent- I mean eighteen."

"But they're really bad, see?" He reached into the bedroom and pulled out his jeans, which were coated on the bottom with a dried up black substance. It was only on one pant leg, and it had apparently eaten it's way up half the pants. It left a strange inky paint-like substance on the floor. Steve's face paled.

"Hank, put that down, now! Drop it!" He cried out, and Hank dropped the pants almost immediately. It made a hissing sound, and then began to vibrate slowly.

"Dean, get your father and a mason jar coated on the inside with water filters, hurry!" Dean took off running in the opposite direction, and Hatred and Billy stood agape.

"What the hell is that thing-" Hatred leaned closer. Steve pushed him back frantically.

"It's a fucking abomination, that's what," He eyed the glob cautiously. "Hank," He asked, trying his best to be calm, knowing the slightest move that could be cause for alarm could set it off. "Hank, this is very important. Where did you go that night when you wore those pants?"

Hank look somewhat disturbed. "Will someone please explain to me what's going on?"

"Hank, answer me! Where did you go that night?"

"I don't know, okay, my friend Dermott drove us there- why are you freaking out, it's just mud- What is happening here?"

"Call your friend right now, I need to speak with him. Where is he, Hank? Hank?"

"I can't-"

"Why?"

"Because on the way home, I realized I dropped my keys there the other night," Hank's face got paler with every word. "Dermott went back to get it."

"Hank, listen to me, back where, damn it?"

The glurp made a crackling noise hideously, and it appeared to grow larger,

"I don't know," Hank began to tear up, "Is he going to be okay?"

The glop was now at least two feet tall in height, and suddenly let a large caw. Hatred pulled Billy behind him and reached for his gun, while Steve reached inside his lab jacket pocket and pulled out a large Super Soaker filled with an unknown substance. The creature apparently recognized it and flailed madly.

"He'll probably be okay," Steve remarked as he pulled his goggles down, creature already charging down the hall. "We on the other hand, might have a small problem."