Jake tossed and turned in his bed, groaning in joy and giggling to himself. The aroma of smoke in a cold pine forest was entering his nostrils, causing them to flair and sniff. He dreamt he was a puppy, wandering around the forest, sniffing for the smoked ham he dropped in the crystalline snow. The crunch under his tiny paws echoed through the forest, as he continued to walk and search for the ham he dropped.
"Jake!" Said Joshua, the dog's father. "Boy, stop your dilly-dallying and get your tail-butt over here, son! There's more ham at the house!"
Jake turned his head and stuck his tongue out, panting. He yipped and crawled over to his father, who was walking with Jake's older brother, Jermaine, and his mother, Margaret, holding her adoptive son, Finn. The baby boy in the woman's hand giggled at Jake.
"Jakey droop ham!" Finn said, using poor, baby English. Jake grimaced.
They all walked through the forest, appreciating the surrounding ambiance. The trees were covered in snow, and the crunching snow provided the only noise on the quiet walk. The quiet was all of a sudden ruined by a cracking. Jake looked up and yipped again.
"Mama?" Finn asked, clutching to his adoptive mother.
?" Jermaine inquired inquisitively.
Jake, try as he may, couldn't seem to speak. He could only bark and yip like a puppy.
The parents kept walking, ignoring their children. Blank expressions were plastered all over their face as the cracking sound grew louder and louder... An orange hue began to illuminate the night sky as it began to illuminate the night sky more and more. The source of the light finally came into view. It was a fire. A house fire. Specifically, Jake's house. He yipped and yipped in fear.
His dear mother, Margaret, handed Finn to Jermaine, who watched on in confusion as he accepted the little boy. Then, Margaret and Joshua turned to each other, stabbed each other with their vision, and then walked forward, facing the fire.
Jake yipped and yipped, as Jermaine slowly became more alert and concerned. Finn began sobbing, his wails piercing the loud crackling and the sounds of the foundation collapsing onto each other. The crunching of snow became weaker and weaker as Joshua and Margaret walked into the flames, their pace not faltering.
The flames embraced them, as if giving them a tight bear hug. The skin began peeling away in the inferno, as their eyes and bones began to melt. The kids looked on in fear, and Jake began to retreat.
The dog jerked awake, panting and sweating. He rubbed his brow and looked to his left: Jermaine was snoring, quite loudly, actually. He looked to his right: His little brother Finn was sucking his thumb under his blanket.
Jake rubbed his eyes. What a horrid nightmare. He took a deep breath through his nose in an attempt to regain himself. The night air filled his nose, with a hint of
He paused, noting the observation. He breathed again. What was that smell? He sniffed repeatedly, the smell taking him out of bed, and moving towards the door. That smell
that familiar scent
was a heavy smoke.
Joshua ran through the house, listening to Margaret's scream. The sound of cracking became more and more prevalent through the house. Joshua turned and charged down the stairs, the screams of his wife had ceased
. No, no, no, no
. Joshua burst through the door, and his fears were confirmed. Margaret was gone. Her body laid, being turned to ash by the fire that erupted in the family room.
Joshua's mind faltered for a moment, trying to regain the composure it had all but lost. Then, a new priority popped into his mind.
Joshua charged back upstairs as fast as he could, desperately trying to get to his children. A stair he was climbing up collapsed under the strength he applied under his legs. He lost his balance, and fell over. He got up and sprinted towards the door as the fire proceeded to coat the house at an abnormally fast rate. He broke the door to his kids' room open.
Jake was already awake, staring at his dad in fear. Jermaine lazily woke up, drooling, and groggily asking what all the ruckus was. Finn was crying in fear, unaware of what the screams and strange noise were. Joshua sighed in relief.
"Boys!" He yelled, adrenaline coursing through his body.
"Dad?! What's going on?!" Jake yelled, cowering under his blanket.
what he said
" Jermaine said, rubbing his eyes.
Finn continued to cry, the tears blinding his vision in a blurry haze.
Joshua's mind raced as he picked up his kids and headed toward the door, as he opened it, the flames danced around the hall, causing heat to fly at them like a flock of birds trying to head south. Joshua slammed the door and panicked once more. He looked around the room, desperately searching for a way out. The beds, no
The window! Perfect! Joshua opened the door and peered down
A big fall, but there was no other choice. He set his kids down, and looked at them, ignoring the flames eating the door away with their burning, gnashing teeth.
" Joshua began, patting their heads. "I know you're scared, but you need to be brave for me. When I jump out the window, you kids need to run. Forget about me and your mother and get away from the house, okay? I need you kids to do that for me." He smiled, thinking of his last words.
what're you saying?" Asked Finn, concern and fear escalating in his voice.
" Joshua began, "I know you're not ready to live on your own yet, but trust me, it's not that bad as it seems. You'll do fine in this world, sonny."
Jermaine looked at his dad, and hugged him.
"I love you, dad
" Jermaine choked, tears in his eyes.
"I love you too, son." Joshua said, returning the hug, and patting his sons head.
"Jake?" Joshua said, looking at his youngest biological son. Jake immediately hugged his father.
I don't want you to go
" Jake said. The flames had eaten their way through the door, and slowly began to envelop the room.
"I'm sorry, son
" He cooed softly, "I have to protect you boys." He said. "I love you, Jake. I know you'll be a good brother and look after Finn." Joshua said.
Jake looked up and nodded at his dad, tears forming in his eyes. Joshua wiped the tears away from Jake's eyes. Joshua moved to Finn.
"Finn, son," He said, smiling at the boy.
?" Finn sniffled, trying to stifle his crying.
"Finn, you may not be my biological son, and you may be smaller than a flower, but I have a feeling you'll do gr-"
"DAD!" Jermaine yelled, interrupting his father's speech. The flames were getting close. Very close. The fur on Joshua's back began to singe.
"No time!" Joshua yelled. "Jake! When you get out of here, take Finn to the summer tree house in the Grass Lands! Understand?!" He yelled, the flames making him more and more apprehensive.
"O-okay!" Jake yelled in response.
Joshua acted quick. Just as the flames caught his tail, he scooped up his children and smashed through the window. As the wind blew in his face, he flipped himself around, to make sure he met the ground before his kids did.
"BOYS! NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, DO NOT COME BACK FOR ME OR YOUR MOTHER!" He yelled.
"WE LOVE YOU BOYS WITH ALL-" He began, before his voice was cut off by a loud thump, followed by a menacing crack. The father gagged, and fell limp, the fire growing from his tail instantly put out.
The boys rolled off their father and fell to the ground. Jake looked up, realizing what happened to his father
The term "Grass Lands" rang through his head, as he saw Finn approach their now dead father
?" Finn asked, shaking his father's corpse, eyes burning with tears. Jake grabbed Finn and ran.
"JAKEY!! WHAT ABOUT DADDY?!" He wailed, not wanting to abandon his father. As he left, he saw Jermaine run in a different direction, aimlessly.
Jake ran for a long time, until the tree house began to take shape on the horizon.
Jake carried some things he stole from the Grocery Kingdom
Some food for him, for Finn, and some fancy gossamer socks he got from a civilian trying to get some cabbage. It was two days ago when disaster struck and took his parents away from him. Now responsibility immediately fell onto his shoulders. He had no idea how to take care of a baby like Finn. What was he supposed to do? He opened the door to the tree house, the now former family's summer home.
"Finn?!" He yelled. No answer. "Fiiiiiiinnn?!"
Jake sighed. His guess was that Finn was still crying in his room.
He walked into the kitchen and set his things down, the socks he had acquired remained cozy on his feet. He climbed up the latter to the room he shared with his baby brother. His guess was confirmed. Finn was still crying over some old family photos he found. Jake questioned it at first, but then noted the open cupboard next to him. Finn must've gotten nosy and investigated the treehouse.
" Jake said. "I got some groceries
come on, Finn. You haven't eaten anything since yesterday."
" Finn began, but was interrupted by a sniffle. "I'm
Jake tilted his head a bit in confusion. Finn wasn't a dog
so what was he supposed to do? Jake wasn't much of a parent to begin with, anyway. Why didn't Joshua ask Jermaine to do this? He sighed.
"Finn, I know you're upset, but you're gonna starve if you don't eat. Do you wanna die t-"
Finn sobbed loudly now. Jake cringed a bit at the sound. He didn't know what to say
Now he was worse off than he was before. Jake was getting frustrated now. He hated crying. Especially the loud kind. He managed with the death this easily, so why wasn't Finn?
"Why are you so upset anyway?!" Jake yelled, irritated. "They aren't even your real parents anyway!"
Finn managed to look up at Jake from his non-stop sobbing
Jake realized his mistake immediately and tried to apologize.
I HATE YOU JA-JAKEY!" Finn yelled through his sobs, feeling worse than ever. "GO AWAY!"
Jake stepped back a bit
letting Finn be alone. Jake prepared dinner for himself as he listened to the pained sobs echo through the tree house. Jake chewed solemnly as his brother was crying in agony.
As he finished his dinner, the sun finally set on the horizon past the Candy Kingdom. Jake looked out at it. Maybe... maybe he could leave. Put all this behind him and live life the way he used to. He could get by by stealing from the grocery kingdom, and he could sleep in a dumpster, or something. This responsibility, it was too much for him.
Jake looked at the monarchy off in the distance, almost sitting on the horizon. The guards blew bubbles, causing the sunset reflecting off them, creating a beautiful gleam. Jake stepped down the ladder and looked at the door. Simple enough. He could walk out, and leave. He took his first step.
"MAMA!!" Finn sobbed. "DADDY!!"
Jake stopped. He looked in the direction the cries were coming from. All of a sudden, it hit him. Finn was different than he was. He wasn't a dog, he was a boy. That insult he threw at Finn helped him understand that now. Jake looked at the door again, and remember what his father said before his untimely passing. Jake rubbed his forehead.
He had to try. For them... for Finn.
Jake slowly and methodically climbed up to his room, cautiously assessing the following situation in his head. He didn't want to burst at Finn like last time. He arrived in the room, and glanced at Finn. He wasn't sobbing as loud as he did before, but was still mourning. He coughed every few seconds. It seemed as if he'd cried himself sick. Jake frowned at the realization... Finn really needed Jake. Now more than ever.
?" Jake said, cautiously walking to Finn.
"I... I said go away
" Finn said, continuing the juxtaposition of crying and coughing. Jake slowly approached his brother, trying not to upset him. Jake kneeled next to Finn's bed, seeing a pile of photos surrounding him, with a family photo gripped tightly in his hand. Jake could almost make out a picture of the family sitting on the log outside the treehouse. It was when Finn and Jake were both really young. Jermaine was supporting the two in his lap, as Joshua and Margaret each had a hand on Jermaine's shoulders. The good ol' days...
I wanted to apologize for what I said. You... You know I love you, man. You're just as much a brother as Jermaine and I are." Jake said, organizing the words into his head. Man, he was terrible at these "parent-y" talks. He'd NEVER be good at this, he thought.
Finn looked up and wiped his eyes. "R-Really
?" Finn sniffled.
"Yeah, of course, buddy." Jake said as he began to light the lantern on the bed-side table. "I was just upset, and was being totes blooby. I shouldn't have said anything like that." Jake said.
"...blooby?" Finn asked incredulously.
"Oh... uh... I'll explain that when your older.
Finn paused, then pouted, and proceeded to hide his face in his arms, curling himself into a ball, refusing to cooperate. Jake learned from his past mistake, and didn't get frustrated. He leaned on the side of the bed, resting his head on his hands.
how about Jakey tellin' you a story?" Jake asked, a warm smile on his face. Finn looked up and sniffled again.
?" Finn inquired.
I got lots of 'em!" Jake said, as he climbed onto the bed. "From all over The Land of Ooo!"
Finn thought about it. His imagination carrying him to far-off places. A kingdom made out of ice ruled by a grumpy wizard, a unicorn made out of rainbows, a heart monster, and other crazy things popped into his head. Those sounded incredible. Finn wiped some tears from his face, and looked at Jake.
" Finn said, as Jake placed him on his lap. Jake held Finn in a gentle hug as Finn rested his head on Jake's chest. He yawned slightly, and nuzzled into his big brother's chest. Jake smiled at him and kept Finn locked in a gentle embrace.
"Alright. Get ready, Finn. This story is gonna be mathematical!" Jake said, laughing. Finn giggled. Mathematical. What a funny term. Finn continued to rest his head on Jake's chest. The fur providing a warm comfort for Finn, who had previously felt very cold, due to the chilling room. This was nice. This was safe.
?" Finn asked.
"Hm?" Jake responded, with a warm and relaxed tone.
"Can you make me something to eat when we're done
of course. I'll make you anything you want, honey."