Bright light seeped in through his closed eyelids, slowly bringing him to consciousness. He wrinkled his nose; he was somewhat startled by this phenomenon, but not nearly enough to go through the trouble of opening his eyes. There had been too many times where he had opened them, only to see utter darkness before him. No, he wouldn't be so foolish this time round.

He couldn't even recall how long he'd been in this state. The last thing he remembered before this darkness enveloped him was defeating Yog Kathak. Well, no, not precisely. He remembered watching his niece defeat Yog Kathak. Though, in his defense, he had cheered her on. With much vigor and zeal, he'd have you know.

But then the darkness came, enveloping him, his partner (business partner, as he often had to remind people), and that odd person whose house was crushed by Fruit Fucker Prime. Or Yog Kathak. It was pretty interchangeable, name-wise. He would even venture to guess it had swallowed up all of New Arcadia. And he had been here, drifting in and out of consciousness, ever since.

Oh, sure, he'd had glimpses of things since then. A lot of them involved incredibly homoerotic acts between Gabriel and himself, all of which he really would rather not have seen. But there had been one long instance that involved Yog Modaigh, who was the god of doors, a secret society led by a spirit woman, and Doctor Blood with a sweet cloak and flying machine, along with several memories of his days as a youth. But there was just as much chance of it being a dream as there was of it being reality; there was no way for him to tell. If he recalled correctly, he had brought about the end of the world (by being ripped apart, naturally), and met up with his long-dead father to snuff out the final god of the Four Below. There was no possible way that could be real, because he wanted it too much.

Except for, you know, being ripped apart. That could've been handled better.

He sighed, still refusing to open his eyes. That light was probably just another picture of him passionately kissing Gabriel's mouth…or dick, now that he thought about it…and he didn't need that right now. What he needed was for this consciousness to stop. To just be put out of his misery and go somewhere else. He had a feeling that, in some alternate universe, there was an alternate form of him—perhaps one that, instead of being tasked with bringing about the end of the universe, enjoyed games of some sort and harbored an unfortunate obsession with giraffes. If he was snuffed out, maybe he would fuse with this other-self and be rendered invincible, leading to his domination of that universe. A man could dream, couldn't he?

Even so, the worst part was missing things. He missed the feel of his tommy-gun and rifle; he missed his eloquently worded conversations with Anne-Claire; he would even go so far as to say that he missed swapping insults with Gabriel. And his books! Dear God, did he miss his books!

The more he thought about his past reality, the easier it came to imagine he was in it. Yes, he vividly pictured being in the Agency, reclining in his rather fancy chair with feet propped up on the table. He could practically feel the slight weight of a book resting on his knee, opened at where he had left off in the prose. And that song…oh, what was it called? Ah, that's right: "The Beginning of the End". It had played nigh incessantly on that second-hand record player, and he remembered the tune so well he could hear it right now.

He smiled and stretched, enjoying the memory of what used to be his life. If only it could come back, just for a moment…

Tycho Erasmus Brahe jolted up as a loud thunk—rather like the sound a book makes as it hits the ground—sounded out about him, his dark eyes flying open. For a long moment, he sat perfectly still, not breathing, not blinking, and scanned the area around him in absolute shock.

He was in the Agency.

There was no doubt about it, this was the Agency. Every detail was perfect: Gabriel's punching bag, the knife on the wall, the d20 on his desk, the map of New Arcadia, the coatrack no one used. And, much to his delight, their record player was playing "The Beginning of the End", just as it always had before their adventures.

Tycho grinned, broader than he had in a long, long time. He shot up to his feet, wobbling slightly from having floated so long. He quickly bent over and picked up his book, dusting it off quickly before lovingly running his forefinger over the engraved title.

"I missed you," he said softly, noticing a large white bubble forming beside his head. Ah, it would seem he didn't have a voice yet. Damn. Some other-verse form of him had to have a voice somewhere, and he hoped that it had caused a lot of uproar.

But that didn't matter right now. Still caught up in the whirlwind glee of existing, he picked up his d20 and enthusiastically rolled it. Though, since enthusiasm wasn't something he usually partook in, he was a tad overzealous, and the die ended up rolling off the desk. It sounded as though it collided with something soft before hitting the ground.

Tycho walked around the desk and, to his surprise, saw a type of bear-man splayed out on the floor. So Gabriel was back, too, it looked like. That would make sense, really. If they were really and truly brought back, then—much as the Scholar loathed to admit it—there couldn't be one without the other. The cosmos would probably break or something.

The twenty-sided die was on the other side of Gabriel's broad chest. Tycho frowned; this could possibly lead to an awkward situation should the Brute wake up. He sighed; he couldn't just leave it there, though. He might lose it, and then how were they supposed to start their attacks on enemies? Shaking his head, he stooped down and reached across Gabe's chest to reach his prize.

Which, of course, was exactly when Gabriel came to.

The two stared at each other for a moment, Tycho's dark eyes locked with Gabriel's blue ones. Suddenly, Gabe shoved Tycho away, catapulting the Scholar into a nearby sarcophagus.

"GOD! Not one of these again!" Gabriel bellowed, the words in his bubble in all capital letters for emphasis. He looked around, bottom lip somewhat stuck out in defiance to whatever cruel god he thought was bringing yet another round of Ho-Yay to their lives. The more he looked, though, the less defiant his face became, until finally his mouth hung agape in shock.

Tycho dusted himself off, grinning. "No, Gabe. It's not one of those at all."

Gabe looked over at him, eyes wide and mouth still open. His brows furrowed, and he looked as though he was thinking hard.

"But…but it was over…" he said slowly. "After Fruit Fucker Prime…it was…just…dark."

Tycho quickly walked over to where he had kept his guns, straightening his ascot as he went. "It would seem as though our work wasn't done. I would hazard a guess and say that we have yet another adventure on our hands, with another god to kill. After all, two still sit on the windowsill, if I remember correctly. Unless that little blip a while ago was actually reality, but we won't know until the Narrator starts talking. If he actually talks this time, that is."

The former prize-fighter frowned, still thinking. "I…I feel kinda different…"

"Well, that's to be expected. While still in our reality, it'll no doubt be a bit different than the one we knew. We'll most likely look different once we begin our task. Not completely different, mind you. I'll still look like me, and you'll still look like you, but we'll definitely be different. Perhaps pixelated? That would be interesting, wouldn't it?" He pulled out his rifle and sucked in a breath. She was just as beautiful as he remembered. "Hello…" he whispered softly, pulling back the hammer and relishing in the click that threatened to swiftly end a life. "I missed you, too…"

"Hey, after you take your gun out to dinner, maybe you'd like to explain how the fuck this is even happening?" Gabriel asked impatiently, cracking his neck and knuckles simultaneously.

Tycho gently put the gun down on the desk, keeping his eyes on her. "There's no real explanation. The fact of the matter is that someone, something, or an outrage of some sort demanded our existence, and it worked. Reasoning does little but exasperate our minds, which, as has been the case in our previous endeavors to prevent the utter collapse of our dangerously fragile world—"His usual eloquence and vast vocabulary was a little rusty from disuse, but god, did he love words! "—could lead to some potentially reality-ending situations." He thought for a moment. "Reality-ending situations that would be worse than our previous one."

He finally turned away from his precious gun and walked back over to the front of his desk. Gabriel shakily got to his feet and balled his meat-like hands into fists experimentally, as if to make sure he was, in fact, still the Head Puncher of the Startling Developments Detective Agency. He nodded to himself, deciding that he still held his position, then looked back over to Tycho.

"Okay, so what the hell does that mean in English?"

Tycho stooped down, examining the d20 that still lay on the ground, untouched. He grinned as he saw the number facing him: a natural 20.

"It means that someone wants us to keep on kicking some supernatural ass," he said, picking up the die before gathering his book and gun. He cocked the gun and flipped the book open to where he had left off, then grinned at his partner. "So the Startling Developments Detective Agency is back in business."

~Bonus Vignette~

The Scholar and the Brute walked out from the Agency, to discover what awaited them in this developing world.

"So, uh, that was a pretty badass way of ending the conversation," Gabe said.

"Do you think? I've always wanted a reason to say something badass," Tycho replied.

"Yeah, um…so you know those things we kept seeing? Y'know, with you and me?"

"Gabe… Gabriel, where are you going with this?"

"Well, and I'm just curious, I swear, but is your dick really that big?"

"…I swear to God, I will shoot you in the mouth."

"I was just asking! God, you made it so weird!"

~End~