Frayed Threads

Chapter 1

AN: Crossposted on Archive of Our Own by V0ID115


"You don't appreciate anything I do!" And with that, Star stormed off, angrily brushing past the source of her frustration.

"Star, wait!" Marco twisted around, reaching out with regret on his face. "I-I-I didn't mean-" He flinched as she slammed the door in his face.

"Marco Diaz," a voice rang loud and clear, prompting Marco to raise his head and turn to look at the knight calling him. "Are you ready for your first quest?" Sir Lavabo asked solemnly, putting his arm over Marco's shoulder.

"...Yeeeah? Sure..." Slightly uncomfortable, Marco removed the beefy arm from his shoulder and smiled uncertainly at Sir Lavabo. "What are we doing?"

Eyes wide open, Sir Lavabo gestured at the huge device in front of them. "You must empty the lint catcher," he said breathlessly.

Marco looked up and down at the contraption towering over both of them. A round door sat at the top of the massive brown cylinder with several metal plates positioned underneath it. In addition, what appeared to be a kind of torch with a crystal bulb was placed to the left side of the machine, and a lever stuck out of a small base that held up the entire lint catcher itself.

Overall, Marco wasn't too very impressed, especially with the worn, beat up-looking machine. "Just cleaning lintout?"

Almost expectedly, Sir Lavabo just nodded seriously at him. "Aye. 'Tis a dangerous but important task for a squire of the wash." Walking away, the knight beckoned for Marco to follow. "Come with me. We must gather your equipment at once."

Sir Lavabo took a few steps before realizing he didn't hear any footsteps behind him. Turning around, he looked back at Marco, who hadn't budged from his spot with an unsure expression. "Marco Diaz, is something troubling you?" he asked questioningly.

"Uh," Marco started slowly, raising a finger, "do I really need equipment for this?"

Sir Lavabo blinked owlishly at him. "What do you mean?"

"I never need anything to take care of some lint when I do laundry every week," Marco said plainly. "…And why are you staring at me like that?"

Sir Lavabo stared wide-eyed at him. Astonishment graced his face as he looked up and down at Marco. "You can work the laundry without armor? Already?"

"…Yes?"

The knight crossed his arms and stroked his beard, humming in thought. "Maybe this time," he mumbled quietly, "maybe this time…"

Glancing at Marco, his eyes crinkled as they matched Marco's. "Well, let's begin immediately then," Sir Lavabo noted, walking towards the lint catcher. After he pulled the lever at the base of the device, a low rumble echoed in the room as the metal 'plates' below the door extended out and formed a small set of stairs, though strangely starting several feet off the floor. With a loud hiss, the door burst open and let out a blast of sparkling steam.

As Marco watched the display, Sir Lavabo positioned himself next to the steps. "Avoiding the lint and getting the fan moving ought to be an easy task for you, but if my assistance is ever required, just let me know."

"Thanks," Marco said, waving off the knight's concerns half-heartedly, "but I think I'll be fine. I can handle this."

"…I see," Sir Lavabo said, his face turning blank for a moment. Marco wasn't sure why, but the knight sounded less energetic than before. Closing his eyes, Sir Lavabo nodded respectfully, almost as if to himself. When he opened his eyes, it seemed as though his vigor had been restored. "In that case, would you mind if I take a break?"

"Yeah, sure, go ahead," Marco said indifferently, walking towards the lint catcher's odd staircase. He questioned the reasoning behind making stairs that didn't start on the ground, but he simply shrugged it off as a quirk of Mewnian engineering. Reached up to the stairs, he was about to climb up when a loud screech of wood upon stone came from his left.

Turning around quickly, he saw Sir Lavabo sitting down behind him, having pulled out a chair and a rolled-up newspaper from somewhere. At Marco's stare, he looked up apologetically. "Ah, please excuse me Marco Diaz, I didn't intend to startle you," he said, placing his hand over his chest. Sitting back in his chair, he straightened out his newspaper. "I will just be taking my break right here."

Rolling his eyes and turning back to the lint catcher, Marco grunted as he jumped and pulled himself up onto the bottom step of the stairs. All the while, he was oblivious to the long glance thrown his way, as well as to the confident 'nah, not this one' from behind him.

After standing and making his way to the entrance of the lint catcher, Marco looked into its depths. The light from outside threw long shadows across the dark, dank insides, the contrast preventing him from making out much. Stepping over the strangely thick doorway-likely another Mewnian engineering quirk, though Marco couldn't help but draw a comparison to the door to a giant safe vault-and down a second staircase, his vision slowly adjusted to the low level of light inside and let him see.

Purplish bronze metal plates and pipes of every size haphazardly lined the cavernous interior of the lint catcher, twisting and stretching all over the place. In between them were dim lamps, spread out periodically along the walls to provide just barely enough light to see. But ultimately, they all led towards the back, where a gigantic fan sat in the middle of the wall, outlined by the soft glow of machinery behind it.

Said glow, in turn, also helped Marco make out the mounds of purple, sparkling lint everywhere. Some clung to the pipes and walls like moss on a tree while others clumped together in huge piles out in the open. Even at the entranceway of the lint catcher, several large towers surrounded Marco, looking like they could fall and bury him under a literal mountain of lint at any given moment. Not wanting to chance his luck, Marco made his way deeper into the room, all the while making sure to step around any lint he encountered.

With the accumulation of lint everywhere, the inside of the lint catcher somehow felt both empty and full at the same time. The soft sound of rubber soles upon metal filled the space around Marco with noise, but not by much, being overpowered by the echoes of the occasional hiss of steam and creak of metal eerily rebounding off the walls. Normally, such a room would have begun to unsettle him at this point, but another sensation had already started building up in its place.

Marco couldn't pin down exactly what it felt like, but it was like a combination of being numb and lost to the world while also trying to warm oneself with a fire that would not stop growing. Now that he was alone without someone to distract his focus, the past few hours or so started to trickle to the front of his mind. Though he tried his best to push down and ignore the conflicting feelings they gave him, they still tore away at his gut.

Thankfully, a new distraction had come up to divert his attention, if only for a short while.

Reaching the end of the corridor, a huge fan stood in front of Marco. Each enormous blade, big enough that he could lay down in the middle of one without his hands or feet touching the side, was almost an entire foot thick. This close to the fan and the light that came from behind it, Marco could make out several ridges and bolts sticking out of the wall around the fan blades, forming a circle that extended all the way to the floor. It reminded him immensely of the marks on the rim of a clock's face, with the blades as the clock hands, the ridges as the hour marks, and the bolts holding the whole face together.

He looked around to see if there was any way to get the fan moving, but he found nothing to use. There wasn't even a lever or magic 'press-this-to-fix-the-lint-catcher' button like he expected to see in Mewni. "Do I really have to move it myself?" he groaned, then sighed. "Of course it wouldn't be that easy, just like everything else today."

At first, he tried pushing the bottommost blade himself, but it failed to budge. Marco grunted, the muscles in his arms and legs straining with the effort until he had to let go to take a breath. After a few moments, he tried again, this time pulling the blade and leaning back so his weight would bring it with him. "C'mon-" Marco yanked hard on the blade-"move you stupid-woah!"

Stumbling back, Marco took a few steps to regain his balance after his hands had slipped and he almost fell. Placing his hands on his knees, he panted as he glared at the fan. Again, angry thoughts started to bubble up in his mind in between pants, and once again, he quashed them down as best as he could.

Tearing his eyes away from the offending hunk of metal, Marco looked for something else that could help him with his task. Quickly, he latched onto the ridges surrounding the fan in a circle, and an idea started to form in his head.

Hauling himself up the circular 'ladder,' Marco now stood on a narrow metal ledge and faced the blade nearest to him. It had taken a few tries and the occasional unintentional rock climbing experience on the bolts next to the ridges, but he had finally found the best height to jump from that wouldn't immediately injure him if he accidentally fell. Backing up to the 'rim' of the circle, he took a few stabilizing breaths to center himself. Then, with a burst of energy, he jumped and landed on the blade, bringing it down with his weight and finally getting it to move.

At least, that was what would have happened had his cape not gotten snagged on on one of the nearby bolts mid-jump. On a good note, it had quickly been dislodged before any serious harm could be done by the fall of its wearer, who now laid on the floor with-thankfully-only a sore neck and a tender back.

"Uuugh..." Marco moaned as his cape fluttered down on top of him. The noise from the impact kept ringing in his ears, and his body felt like all it wanted to do was keep lying down. Unfortunately for his body, he had other plans, and so he hissed as he slowly sat up, his back muscles stinging as they flexed with the effort. Tenderly rubbing his back, he scowled at the still unmoving fan in front of him.

Something was boiling up within him, and this time, Marco made no attempt at suppressing it.

Darkly, he muttered, "Stupid fan. Stupid lint catcher. Stupid knights, stupid squires, stupid capes, stupid-rargh!" With a loud cry, he squirmed angrily, trying to untangle himself from the farce of a cape still attached to his neck. "All I wanted was to hang out with Star and try to be a knight, but as it turns out, it was all just a lie!" Marco shouted. His body ached horribly, but he didn't care as he tried to stand up.

"Star is mad at me, I'm stuck down here in the basement as a squire, and my 'cape'-" Marco struggled with the latch-"is a freaking meat blanket!" Balling up the piece of fabric, he gave an enraged shout as he threw it as far as he could into the depths of the lint catcher. It didn't reach far though, as it had unfurled mid-flight and was now spread out on top of a pile of lint just a few feet away, landing perfectly as if to give Marco an eyeful of the almost all but mocking embroidered M on its back.

His chest heaved as he stared at the blanket. For so long, it had been his most prized possession and joy, and now, it was just a symbol of unfulfilled promises, heartaches, and disappointment. The fire that had been growing within him over the last hour had finally burned itself out, and though the sensation of his muscles crying out from his forceful movements was beginning to ebb away, Marco would have gladly taken it over the emptiness he now felt. He forced his gaze away from the fabric and lint pile as he leaned on his side on a nearby pipe while his breaths slowly evened themselves out.

"What happened?" he mumbled quietly. Marco's brow furrowed slightly at the thought of the knights and the sting of their laughter. "I thought a knight was supposed to defend the kingdom. Didn't I do that? I mean, I worked on overthrowing Ludo, I defeated Toffee with Star, and I helped save Mewni! Wasn't that good enough for River? For anyone?"

A drained sigh escaped his lips as Marco closed his eyes. "What do those knights do that I didn't?" he asked quietly. For a moment, everything was silent as he pondered that very question himself, trying to find an answer. However, the multiverse had a different plan in mind.

shuffle

Marco raised his head quickly at the sound. With a raised eyebrow, he looked from side to side, but he eventually shrugged as he couldn't find anything that was out of place. The pipes continued to hiss from time to time, some of the lint piles kept twitching, and the fan was still in the same position as he lef-

He stopped.

Slowly, Marco tentatively stepped closer. Stopping, he stared at the lint in front of him. "What the heck?" he muttered.

Several purple mounds were twitching, pulsating rhythmically to the same unknown beat. Even though the lint catcher was quiet, Marco felt as though he could hear that very same beat. In a way, it was almost like watching a heart pump blood; disturbing yet mesmerizing.

In fact, the display was so mesmerizing that he almost didn't pick up on the presence of a rather strange detail. Or, to be more precise, the lack of one.

"Wait a minute. Where's my cap-"

SWISH

Startled, Marco spun around, his hands up and ready to strike. This time, it sounded like something big had fallen, and the echoes from the noise made it hard to tell where it came from. His gaze darted across the room, but saw nothing except the same heaps of lint surrounding him. "Who's there?" he yelled out tensely. "I have a red belt in karate and I'm not afraid to use it!"

As he looked around warily, his gaze lingered on the piles surrounding him. Surely there used to be more of them lying around, right? And were they always this big in the first place?

His eyes narrowing, he started to slowly walk towards the exit, making sure to stay away from any lint. However, he stopped when he neared the door. Several of the tall stacks of lint that surrounded the door earlier had collapsed into a miniature sea around the entrance, now flowing through the opening and all but blocking Marco's way out. That is, unless he wanted to wade through several feet of questionably safe lint, and he didn't know what else to do.

On the other hand, he did know someone else who would. "Sir Lavabo!"

"Marco Diaz?" the knight's voice called from outside. "Is everything alright? You made sure not to touch any of the lint as I instructed, correct?"

"I'm fine!" Marco shouted back. "And no, I didn't touch any lint!" Unexpectedly however, the piles of lint around suddenly shuddered, making him reflexively jump back. An undercurrent of static in the air made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

"Uh…Sir Lavabo?" he responded carefully. This time, he yelled at a much lower volume. A sneaking suspicion started to come over him as the memory of throwing his ca-meat blanket, he reminded himself-away filled his mind. "Actually, what would happen if I did touch some lint? N-not that I actually did, but I was just wondering."

"Well, depending on how much magic and grime needs to be cleaned from the royal laundry, nothing to anything. Why, I recall the first time I accidentally cursed myself with a magical lint affliction. It took several hours for the queen's mother, bless her wings, to figure out a counterspell, though my siblings did enjoy all the bubbles I made," Sir Lavabo said fondly, still as nonchalantly and loud as before.

Marco could only listen in silent horror as Sir Lavabo broke into a hearty chuckle at the memory. As the laughter echoed its way through the entrance, several large lint piles trembled before Marco, causing him to take a step backwards. Massive slits longer than Marco's body appeared alongside the lengths of the mounds while a few smaller ones stretched themselves out into tendrils as thick as his arm, sluggishly flailing about and all but forcing him deeper into the lint catcher, much to his dismay. With a low yawn, one of the giant slits revealed hundreds of arm-long, dagger-sharp teeth, all nestled within an enormous gaping maw at least the size of Miss Skullnick's classroom. The terrifying sight filled Marco with dread as the sound of Sir Lavabo's now uncomfortably faint laughter started to die off.

"Aye, but seeing as today's wash did not include any of the royal linens or the king's food cloths, there unfortunately won't be as much excitement as you were probably hoping for, I'm afraid." The knight's words, as hard to hear as they were now, made Marco's eyes widen as the image of an angrily thrown meat blanket falling onto a pile of lint flashed in from of them. "In any case, I shan't keep you from your duties with tales about myself much longer. Until then, long live the wash!"

Despite how much Marco wished to call out to the knight, he had no choice as another slit in a nearby pile gave way to an eyeball as big as a car, almost as if in response to Sir Lavabo's exclamation. It blinked lazily as it slowly looked around, though with mild irritation clear in its slitted yet unfocused pupil. Tendrils of lint, now as thick as his torso, emerged from the sides of the pile. Heart pounding, Marco ducked quickly behind a pillar, hoping with all of his might that he was out of its line of sight and that it hadn't noticed him.

As tendrils creeped around the edges of his pillar, Marco heard a loud rumble come from behind him. He froze in place and struggled to slow his breathing, trying to hide his presence as best as he could. 'Crudcrudcrudcrudcrud...' Marco thought to himself. Never had he been more thankful for his younger self's love of comfy and, most importantly, quiet cotton hoodies.

When the appendages retreated with a rumble, Marco waited several seconds with bated breath before he crept slowly to the edge of his pillar. Peering around the corner carefully, he saw the cycloptic pile of lint had moved farther down in the depths of the lint catcher near the fan he so wished was spinning right now. However, as it moved, Marco saw lines of lint from other mounds slowly draw themselves towards the creature, where it absorbed them into itself and grew a new pair of eyes.

With a start, he realized that some of the same lint lines came from his very direction, and as he followed the trails to the front side of the lint catcher, his heart dropped. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of inert lint still coated the walls, floors, and pipes everywhere, especially the entrance, which still had a sea of lint surrounding it, and the creature was already near the size of a small one-story house.

Getting the fan moving had failed, and even if he managed to not make a sound while avoiding the lint piles that were still all over the place, he would still have to wade through several more feet of lint just to get to the door. With that, he had no intention whatsoever of finding out whether or not the sea would swallow him up literally. Calling Sir Lavabo was out of the question as it would only alert the creature to his presence, and that was without even mentioning how much ground he and his voice would have to cover to reach the entrance, or how Sir Lavabo had deemed his task "easy" enough for him to take a break.

Simply put, he had no choice but to stay still and hope for the slimmest chance that someone would come and rescue him. Peering around the corner once more, Marco saw that the lint creature seemed like it was settling down and dispersing itself, but the terror and dread that still gripped his heart heavily outweighed any amount of comfort he found in the sight.

Now, the only thing that filled his mind were regrets. Regret for not saying a longer goodbye to his friends and family before he left for Mewni, regret for everything he had done because of his dumb "cape," and most especially, regret for barging in on Star's life and making her mad. He should have just been thankful for what he already had, and now, he had finally bitten off more than he could chew.

All he wished was that Star could be in front of him so that he could see her one last time. 'I'm so sorry, Star,' he thought, 'I swear I'll go back to Earth and I won't ever bother you again.'

Unfortunately, the multiverse had answered his wish, and not in any way he wanted.

"Marco! There you are!"

Eyes snapping to the unexpected princess near the entrance of the lint catcher, Marco looked in confusion at her presence before he screamed internally as he saw her begin to wade through the sea of lint towards him. Behind and all around her, lint piles shuddered at her shouts, and they continued to shudder with every step she took.

"No, don't. You're gonna wake it up," Marco hissed as softly as he could. He motioned for her to stop, but to no avail.

"What?" Star called out, continuing to brush up against mounds of lint as she walked. The wake of disturbed piles left by her feet sent a wave of sweat to run down his back.

"I said 'No. Don't. You're gonna wake it up," Marco repeated with more force than before. The pounding in his ears felt like it did the job for her instead though, as behind Star, he saw several massive tendrils form and spread across the floor in one big chain reaction.

"What?" Star asked sharply. Finally out of the lint, she stopped just a few feet in front of Marco.

He sighed exasperatedly. "I said, 'You're gonna wake it up," Marco repeated, not even bothering to be quiet this time. Too late to keep the piles from waking up, the lint around their feet shuffled away and gathered together with a long raspberry, forming a humongous mountain of lint that loomed over the duo in front of it. An almost comically small and wall-eyed head topped off the whole thing, wearing a sock like one would a hat.

'Nothing in Mewni is easy, is it?' Marco thought to himself. Almost as if in response, the lint monster grew a colossal mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and roared, waving its many tendrils at them.


"Fantastic Exit Beam!"

Shooting out of the lint catcher, Marco and Star couldn't help but scream in excitement from the adrenaline rush before they barreled into a pile of clothes. As the duo shifted their way out from under a couple of sweaters and pants, they were greeted with the sight of Sir Lavabo approaching them.

"Bravo! Fantastique!" he applauded loudly. "Only one other squire has survived the lint catcher: ME!" After gesturing to himself, the knight looked at Marco with pride. "Marco Diaz, you will make a fine squire for the Knights of the Wash," he said as he saluted by putting his hand over his heart.

Marco laughed hesitatingly, unsure of how to take the compliment. "Great...Thanks, I guess?"

Almost immediately, Star stood up from in front of Marco. "Uh, Lavabo, can you give us a sec? I need to talk to Marco alone."

"As you wish, princess," Sir Lavabo replied. Giving her a respectful nod, he spun around in one fluid motion and marched away briskly with a hearty "Long live the Wash!"

Now alone in the huge washroom, Marco and Star stared at each other for a split second. The adrenaline from their stint in the lint catcher had finally started to dissipate, leaving them uncertain of what to say to the other as thoughts began to swirl in their heads.

Rubbing her arm uncomfortably, Star exhaled heavily. "Okay, listen Marco, here's the thing. A lot has changed in my life since you left," she said. She turned away from him, almost as if she couldn't bring herself to face him. "It's complicated, but I finally figured out that I just need to be the best princess I can now. And with you here, it's really hard to-"

"Yeah, I totally get it. It was a crazy bad idea for me to do this without giving you a heads up," Marco finished for her.

He frowned guiltily. Although he could no longer feel the now familiar weight of his once trusty 'cape,' it felt as though the burden upon his shoulders had just been replaced with the problems it had caused, both for him and for Star. "...I-I'll go back to Earth," he said as he made to excuse himself from the room and, eventually, the dimension.

However, a firm hand stopped him before he could get very far. "That's not what I meant," came Star's flat reply.


"So, uh, can you tell me where you're talking me please? I feel like I'm gonna run into something," Marco said as he tagged behind Star, who had been leading him somewhere in the castle for several minutes now. For some reason, she had insisted that he should cover his eyes the entire time without exception, which had led to a couple of stumbles and near-falls here and there.

"Okay, stop. This is the place." Star said, placing a hand on his chest and halting their walk. As she whispered something quietly, Marco could see a faint light coming from around his fingers, the recognizable sound of a spell going off in front of him. "Okay, you can look now!" Star said excitedly.

Marco uncovered his eyes and gazed at the white door in front of him. Raising a hand, he opened it, revealing a very familiar sight, one he never would have expected to see here on Mewni.

"...What?" Marco asked quietly as he slowly stepped in. As he cast his gaze around, it almost felt as though he had never left Earth. Everything was as he remembered it. Only the Mewnian sky outside the window reminded him where he was. "It's...it's my room. All my stuff," he said slowly. Around his feet were several laser puppies, circling him and barking excitedly.

Though the sight had filled him with amazement at first, his surprise quickly drained away and was replaced by a sense of confusion and discomfort. It just felt...weird receiving such an incredible gift, especially after he'd barged in and made a mess in her life.

"Star, I-" Marco opened his mouth to speak, but Star's hand firmly on his shoulder and turning him around made him lose track of what he was going to say.

"Marco, kneel." Star commanded.

"Uh, okay?" Perplexed, Marco did as he was told, getting down on one knee while several laser puppies followed suit.

"Head down, please."

Tentatively but dutifully obeying Star's command, Marco started to get a heavy feeling in his gut about all of this. Said feeling only got stronger as a bright glow came from behind Star and enveloped both of them.

"I hereby declare that you, Marco Ubaldo Diaz, shall henceforth be my royal squire, to stay by my side in times of peace or danger, as my most trusted confidant and advisor." Star said, gently touching her wand to both of Marco's shoulders. At the last few words, Marco's eyes opened wide. Keeping his head down, he looked up at her, but stayed silent as Star continued.

"...To go clubbing with me even when he's too tired, to share his late night nachos, but most importantly, to be my very best friend, so long as we both shall live. Amen," she finished with a serious look on her face. "Do you accept?" Looking down, she stared at Marco expectantly.

The entire thing came as a shock to him. His churning stomach made him pause and frown in thought. Here he was, kneeling before Star in a perfect replica of his room back on Earth and facing the opportunity to be her squire-no, not just her squire, but her own personal advisor too.

It was perfect. Too perfect in fact, to the point that something felt off inside him. He wanted to accept, but being handed even more than what he had wanted not just half an hour ago, and all but on a silver platter so easily after he'd angered Star with the very same demands at that? It all felt a bit too much.

"Star, I...uh, I've been thinking recently, and-"

"Marco, it's just a simple little 'yes' or 'no' question. It's not that hard to answer it you know," Star said playfully, the edge of her lip starting to curl. However, for just a moment, a current of confusion graced her features.

"I'm sorry, but I...," Marco trailed off apologetically. At first, he averted his gaze, but then, he tilted his head back so he could lock his eyes with Star. Though a part of him didn't want to say it, he knew what he had to do deep down, and so, he steeled himself with a sharp breath. "...I can't."

Star's smile fell. "What."

Silence filled the room.

Glancing around uneasily, Marco slowly stood up and opened his mouth to speak, but Star cut him off with a raised finger.

"Marco, I-" she started. Wordlessly, she closed her mouth and inhaled sharply through her nose in an attempt to calm herself, but then she clenched her hands into fists. Her face twisted with a mixture of hurt, anger, and disbelief as the laser puppies scrambled to hide from the oncoming explosion, whimpering as they did. "I just don't get you! After everything that has happened today, you're still doing this?!"

"Wait, Star-" Marco reached out to calm her down, but she wasn't done.

"First, you come to Mewni and interrupt my life so you could become a knight. Then, when mom and dad allowed you to be a squire, I got you, well, a bad choice, sure, but it was still something! Then, you tell me you wanted me to 'princess you up' even though you had a knight of your own already. And then, when I do offer you that, you suddenly don't want it anymore?! I don't even know what to think anymo-"

"I do want to be your squire, Star!" Marco yelled suddenly, interrupting the princess' rant. "That's what I was trying to tell you!" At that, the two stared at each other. Both breathed heavily as they stood there, wondering who would be the first to break the tension.

With Star's incredulous look however, Marco knew that the action would fall to him. "Star, what I'm saying is…" he trailed off. Rubbing the back of his head, he exhaled softly, trying to sort his thoughts into an explanation that would be good enough for her. "I'm sorry. I should have told you that I was coming ahead of time instead of just barging in out of nowhere, and I shouldn't have been so demanding of you."

Marco broke his gaze with Star and looked away with a frown. "I mean, how can I be a good squire or an advisor for you when I haven't exactly been a good friend lately?"

Wide-eyed, Star blinked. As her feelings began to cool down, she bit her lip in thought, then her hand reached out. For a moment, it paused and pulled back, but eventually it landed on Marco's shoulder. "Marco, it's okay, I...I forgive you." As he looked up at that, surprise clear in his expression, Star tried to give him a comforting smile. "Besides, it's not like it would be all that different from being friends. We'd still get to hang out together, and you wouldn't have to worry about protecting me with Toffee gone. We beat him and we'll beat anything else that pops up, just you and me."

"But Star, it was you who beat Toffee, not me. You were the one who destroyed him!" he exclaimed. "My punches barely did anything to him, and he almost killed you! If you hadn't come back somehow..." Marco shuddered. The crunching of a blackened wand crystal being broken into a pile of dust echoed loudly through his head. Pursing his lips, he swallowed and shook his head. Taking Star's hand from his shoulder, he gently gripped it and looked earnestly into her eyes.

"I want to help keep you and Mewni safe, Star. But the thing is, I'm just not sure I'm able to. What if another magical evil attacks and I don't have you to help me, and what if my karate skills aren't enough to stop it? Heck, I can't even do laundry in Mewni right on my own, and you had to bail meout of there."

After saying that, Marco did not expect for Star to withdraw her hand and scrunch up her face in confusion. "What are you talking about Marco?" she asked. Her fingers started to fidget with a few loose strands of hair as a tone of regret entered her voice. "If anything, that was all my fault. I should have known about how dangerous the laundry room was already, but I didn't even know that until half an hour ago when Eclipsa told me. I shouldn't have brought you there in the first place." She rubbed her arm in shame, the feeling of guilt obvious on her features.

"No, no, it really was my fault and-wait. Who's Eclipsa?" Marco furrowed his brow hearing the name. For some reason, it struck him with a strange sense of familiarity and dread.

"Huh?" Tilting her head at the switch in topic, Star's face brightened, excitement quickly replacing remorse. "Oh, right! Eclipsa's my great-great-great-great, er, many 'great's grandma, and she's really cool! As it turns out, she got crystallized several hundred years ago and just got free recently, though everyone keeps saying stuff about how she 'deserves' to be crystallized again even though all she did was fall in love. Can you believe that? Some people, I swear."

As her mood dimmed temporarily, Star rolled her eyes and shook her head. "At least I managed to convince mom and the Magic High Commission to give her a fair trial, so now we just have to wait to prove that she really is innocent."

"Hold on," Marco said, putting his hands up to pause Star, "let me get this straight. She's your great-great-great-something grandmother?" He tried to think of where he had heard that name in regards to Star's family. Then, suddenly, his eyes snapped wide open and he gasped. A pit formed in his stomach as he stepped back involuntarily from Star.

"Wait a minute, are you talking about Eclipsa? That Eclipsa? The Queen of Darkness?!" He looked up and down at her, worry evident in his face. "Are you okay? Did she hurt you?" Marco moved to take Star's arm and check for any damage, but she just shoved his hands away.

"Ugh, not you too!" Star groaned. "You even sound like mom!" She huffed and crossed her arms at him. "Why are you being all judgy like everyone else is and thinking that she's evil? I talked with her, and she didn't even do anything to me. Heck, from the look of things, she didn't even do anything wrong!"

Shocked, Marco stared at her. "What? Why are you saying that? This is Eclipsa we're talking about! She wrote a whole chapter on dark spells and suffering in your spellbook like you told me when you wanted me to turn the page for you! I mean, you even had to cure me after I got possessed by it!"

Marco shivered at the memory. Though most of the memories of what had happened after he turned the page were a blur up to when Star used a spell to help him, he still clearly remembered the uncomfortable sensation of just plain wrongness flowing through his body. "...Are you sure that she's not, like, you know, tricking you or anything?"

Star sputtered and opened her mouth to reply, and for a few seconds, nothing came out. Her jaw shifted as she struggled to come up with a retort, but then she just shook her head determinedly. "Okay, maybe she is and maybe she isn't, but I do know that nobody has been able to give me any kind of proof that she actually did anything evil three hundred years ago. Heck, if she hadn't told me how crazy dangerous the laundry room is, then you would have been stuck in that lint catcher! Isn't that worth something?"

"Not if she's just trying to get inside your head! What if she tries to use you or something?" Marco pleaded. "I just don't want you to get hurt, okay?"

Even though Star's expression had softened, she still frowned a bit. "Even so, what about the laundry room? I mean, there was that giant lint monster. You have to admit that she was right about that at least."

Although Marco still felt uncomfortable at the idea of Star hanging out with her, he hesitantly and reluctantly nodded. "Yeah, I guess it is kinda dangerous." However, he smacked his forehead with his palm. "Wait, what am I saying? It was only dangerous in the first place because of me. I created that lint monster."

Star did a double take. "Wait, what?"

"Sir Lavabo told me that the laundry shouldn't have been too difficult mainly because he didn't include any of your dad's food blankets. All I had to do was get the fan moving and to not touch any lint, but I couldn't even make the fan budge and I threw your dad's meat blanket right at a pile of lint all because I got frustrated. If I hadn't done that and just listened to Sir Lavabo or went to him for help instead of getting angry, then that lint monster would have never existed in the first place," he explained.

Thinking about it more, the knight had alsooffered him armor earlier, yet he had decided that he didn't even need any in the first place. It would have been so handy if he did, and it made him want to kick himself. "Doing the laundry was supposed to be easy, but I just made it worse!"

He frowned. With the conversation looping back to the laundry room again, he remembered just what had started it in the first place. "...If I can screw up something like that so badly, then who knows how badly I might screw up being your squire. I could accidentally cause a diplomatic incident while you're talking with other royalty, I could fail to be there for you when you need me, heck, I might not even be able to do anything useful if you need to fight anything!" Frustration bubbling up inside, he ran his hands through his hair.

Letting his hands fall to the side, he straightened up as he shook his head. It wouldn't do to get stuck on things like that. "If I am going to be your squire, I should learn how to be a real one first instead of taking advantage of our friendship. And I know just who can help me with that."

Star tilted her head. "Who?" Suddenly, alarm spread across her face. "Marco, don't tell me you're seriously thinking of going back the laundry," she said, disbelief creeping into her voice. "We just talked about this!"

"Well, who else am I going to learn from? Your parents couldn't think of any other knights I can squire for, and Lavabo's the only open one available." Marco scrunched up his face in concentration. "Besides, didn't you tell me that Eclipsa got crystallized, like, several hundred years ago? I guess the laundry room could have been like some big scary death trap back then, but if it really was that dangerous, I'm sure at least someone would have tried to make it safer since then, don't you think?"

Still not entirely sold, Star bit her lip. "You're really serious about doing this, aren't you?" Pursing her lips, she let loose a breath through her nose and faced her friend straight on. "I want you to promise me that if the laundry room turns out to be too dangerous for you to handle, you'll get out of there as soon as you can. And if you aren't a 'real' squire then, I'll make sure to find another knight for you to squire for. Will you promise me that?"

"Only if you'll promise me that you'll try to be more careful around Eclipsa." At the princess' disgruntled expression, Marco held out his hands. "Hey, I'm just trying to look out for you. I mean, isn't that what you're doing for me?"

Star mulled his words over for a moment. Admittedly, she could kind of understand where he was coming from, even if she felt his worry was misplaced. She nodded sharply. "Deal."

All of a sudden, it felt as though all the tension had vanished from the room, leaving both of them with a clearer sense of themselves and each other. The laser puppies, no longer hiding underneath Marco's bed, finally came out and started yipping happily. As Star broke into a much more easygoing smile, a sense of levity filled the two as she held up her wand in a semi-regal manner. "Now, as princess, I command you to hurry up and climb the ranks of squirehood so we can hang out more often again!" she ordered jokingly.

In response, Marco puffed out his chest and saluted. "Yes ma'am!"

The pair held their positions for several moments before they broke down in laughter, laser puppies barking excitedly with them. Wiping a tear from her eyes, Star calmed herself down, though she still buzzed with a bit of merriment. "Well, I guess you should be going now. Don't want to keep Sir Lavabo waiting after all."

"Yeah, I really should," Marco agreed. Then, an expression of realization came over him. "Oh my gosh, we left Sir Lavabo there!" With that, he ran out the door and went on his way back to the sub-basement.

After he came back for directions, of course.


Raising his hand, Marco knocked on the laundry door in front of him. When no one answered, he knocked again. "Sir Lavabo? Are you there?" he called. Pushing open the door, he peeked inside. Several mountains of clothes looked back at him, but nobody else did. "Hello? Sir Lavabo? It's me, Marco!"

"Marco Diaz?" The knight's voice was faint, barely hearable after bouncing off the walls from somewhere distant. "Just wait a brief moment, I will be there shortly!"

"Okay!" he replied. As Marco waited patiently, the sounds of water splashing and metal clanging echoed back to him, causing him to raise his eyebrow for a second before shrugging. A few moments later after the sounds stopped, the knight appeared from one of the large openings on the side of the room.

"Apologies for the wait. One of the royal dresses was being a bit uncooperative in the wash."

Unbothered by the water dripping from his damp clothes, Sir Lavabo sported an easy grin on his face and finished unstrapping a piece of armor from his arm. "Now," he clapped his hands together eagerly, "let's begin with the rest of your duties!"

"Uh, can I talk to you about something first?" Marco asked, slowly raising a finger.

The knight dipped his head. "Ah, yes. What would you like to discuss?"

"Well, the thing is-" Marco took a breath to steady himself, "-I really messed up today, but I want to make sure that I won't mess up like I did again in the future. Could you help teach me what to do and how to do it right?"

"By what do you mean? You emptied the lint catcher on your own and came back without incident, 'no?" Tilting his head, Sir Lavabo peered curiously at Marco, who responded with an uneasy expression. "Did something happen?"

The teen rubbed his arm. "Yeah..."

As Marco explained what occurred earlier, Sir Lavabo tapped his chin. "The king granted you his meat blanket?" he asked aloud. The knight's cheerful smile had faded, replaced with a more contemplative expression. "That would explain his insistence to forget about asking him to wash it ever again semiannually."

"...I never took that thing off for weeks," Marco mumbled quietly. Staring blankly at nothing, he shuddered.

He gave a slight jolt as a strong glove-covered hand clapped down onto his shoulder. As the knight knelt down and brought his face level with Marco's, the teen was greeted by a beaming smile. "Be that as it may, I am glad you brought this to my attention," Sir Lavabo said proudly, to Marco's surprise. "In fact, I believe this incident has revealed great potential in you."

"Huh? How?"

"Although Princess Star aided you in your endeavors, surviving and defeating a raging lint monster, especially one produced directly by an unwashed meat blanket, is no easy feat," Sir Lavabo stated. "While others before you have attempted to become a squire of the wash, none has ever lasted as long as you have."

Marco pulled back quickly. "They all died?!"

For a moment, he started to have second thoughts about everything, but the cool shake of Sir Lavabo's head made them die down. "No, no, not all of all of them," the knight replied. Okay, some of them died down.

"Many were simply too afraid or reluctant to stay, whereas others just did not have enough skill or sharpness of mind to truly become a squire of the wash, so they never encountered the misfortune of death. The ones who did, however, were those who had been too self-assured in their own abilities to heed my advice and instructions, and so they unfortunately perished in messes of their own making, rushing blindly into tasks they neither had the knowledge nor the temperament for." Sir Lavabo bowed his head in remembrance of the lost lives for a moment while Marco shifted his feet apprehensively.

Then, the knight's head popped up with a twinkle in his eye. "However, you, Marco Diaz, are different. You stayed where others would have run in your place. You are skilled enough to take on a lint monster without the use of armor and have the room to grow even more. And, most importantly, you are able to admit when you have made a mistake and need help."

With those words, Marco felt warm inside, and his shoulders felt light. Unconsciously, his back straightened as Sir Lavabo continued, though with a more serious expression than usual. "With that said, though you may be willing to partake in the duties of a laundryman now, you may not be as willing in the future. The laundry room has claimed many lives in the past, both young and old, and though you may have fought a lint monster most excellently earlier today, I cannot stress it enough that you have only gotten a mere glimpse of the numerous dangers this sacred place holds.

"If you are unsure or hesitant about becoming my squire and confronting the risks that lie ahead, I would understand completely if you decide to leave and never return. But, if you feel emboldened and want to venture forth in the laundry room, I implore you to make absolutely sure that your decision is yours and yours alone. Do not let my words of praise be your sole influence on what you decide, and do not take my warnings as a guarantee of failure if you agree to stay. I wish only to inform you so that you can make a decision born fully of your own volition and of a clear understanding of what you will face."

As Sir Lavabo stood up and Marco followed suit, the former drew his arm across his chest with a loud thump. "As a Knight of the Wash, I ask you; would you, Marco Diaz, swear to uphold the practices of the laundry room, to maintain the cleanliness of the kingdom, and to pursue the standards of excellence, as set by generations past, whenever possible, all as my squire?"

For Marco, time stood still, if just for a moment. Images of armor-covered fantasies and dreams full of glory danced in front of his eyes, but so did images of potential injuries and deadly accidents. He thought about his sensei and imagined what his friend would have been like if he knew what was happening. He thought about his parents and wondered what they would say, what advice they would give him. But most of all, he thought about his best friend and what both of them had said to each other, what he wanted to do and would be willing to do for her.

It was there that he figured out what his decision would be. It was one that, no matter what, he was sure he would never regret, and so he told Sir Lavabo his choice, his arm thumping as it met his chest in a reflection of the knight's pose.

Said knight looked directly into Marco's eyes as they looked back into his. Neither of them knew not how much time passed them by for they kept still, their gazes locked with each other as if daring the other to break first.

Eventually, the contest ended as Sir Lavabo hmmmed calmly, deep in thought. He stroked his beard slowly, closing his eyes. When they finally opened, they filled Marco with a strange feeling, one he didn't think he would ever be able to describe.

"Very well," Sir Lavabo said carefully, "if that will be your choice, then I wish you the best of luck, Squire Diaz." He saluted as Marco saluted back, then a current of excited energy began to flow through him again as the pair relaxed. "So, tell me, from where did you receive your laundry training? I would like to know who to thank for teaching you the skills that allowed you to stand your ground so well against a lint monster armorlessly."

Marco blinked a few times. "Ummm," he drawled. Then, a light came on inside of his eyes. "Oh...uh...aaaactually, I don't really have any...'laundry training?'" A sheepish tone filled his voice as Sir Lavabo looked at him strangely.

"...Is that so?"

Realizing just what he said, Marco shook his hands in front of him rapidly. "WaitwhatImeantwasthatIneverreallyhadtodoanytraininglikebackonEarthbutIdoknowhowtodolaundrypleasedon'tgetmadatme!" He flinched, ready for some kind of outburst to come out. However, none came, so he peeked open an eye to see Sir Lavabo oddly nodding to himself.

"'Twould explain your hoodie's unusual thread count." The knight shook his head. "In any case, you need not fear. You would not be the first squire of the wash who didn't have any laundry training at first, and you certainly would not be the last. In fact, that you know how to do laundry, or hopefully already know the basic concepts behind doing laundry at the very least, already puts you above many of the others that attempted and failed to become my squire.

"Nonetheless, training or none, I know just where your training can begin. Follow me." Sir Lavabo gestured to Marco as he started walking towards the many arches of the sub-basement. Turning right and left an inordinate number of times, he finally led the teen to a wooden door in the side of the wall. Planks polished and straight, the door looked almost new and freshly installed. Only a few signs of wear and tear were visible around the hinges, it looked like an ordinary-if a bit medieval in style-door. However, when Sir Lavabo pushed it open with a creak, Marco's jaw dropped at what he could see of the huge room through the doorway.

Hundreds of shelves filled with cleaning products, devices, and even several kinds of weapons lined every inch of the walls, all several stories high. Each shelf was meticulously labeled and organized clearly, which reminded Marco of his own well-organized mirror cabinet back home in his bathroom, though on a much, much larger scale. Overall, Marco was impressed, especially with the small writing boards affixed to every shelf that detailed just how much of each stock was left on their respective shelves.

As he stepped through the doorway, he was struck with a strong sense of belonging, almost as if he had been a misplaced cleaning supply that had finally made its way back to its rightful place. However, the rustling of paper drew his attention away towards Sir Lavabo, who rifled a thumb through a short stack of papers next to the door. Pulling out a page after every few pieces of paper, the knight soon amassed an even smaller stack of papers, which he handed off to Marco. Unconsciously, Marco noted how just about every sheet in the stack he held looked almost completely brand new and untouched.

Confused, Marco raised an eyebrow. "So, uh, what do I do with these?"

Drawing a gloved finger, the knight tapped the word 'Squire Blowout' on the top page. "You will be looking through these papers to discover what deals discounts you would be able to get as a squire for the yearly Squire Blowout at Quest Buy. Specifically, you will be looking for deals on items that are running low on stock here in the Supply Room."

Marco looked around at the shelves surrounding him and the incredibly well-organized and sorted supplies on them, then looked back at Sir Lavabo. "Just asking, but why?"

"Good question! You see, I have never been able to go to the Squire Blowouts because a knight needs a squire to participate, and though there are sales for knights-" here, Sir Lavabo frowned slightly, "-they usually don't happen during my available schedule nor are they very optimal for restocking the supply room. Unfortunately, laundry knights do not receive that many discounts in comparison to the other, more common types of knights, so it has been hard to maintain expenses and conserve supplies as much as possible every year." Though he sighed, the knight quickly perked up. "But, now that you are here... "

"I can help you get plenty of supplies with my squire discounts," Marco finished. Though the thought of being used for discounts slightly annoyed him at first, he understood completely where the knight was coming from. After all, looking for hard-to-find discounts while on a budget was how he got his favorite hoodies in the first place.

Sir Lavabo nodded in confirmation. "Yes, though I do hope that you do not find what I ask too much of a bother. It is always good to have supplies and not need them than-"

"-To not have have supplies and need them." Marco smiled. "I think I can take care of things from here, sir."

Instead of the big, beaming smiles he had come to expect by now, Sir Lavabo wore a small, subdued, proud smile. It was one that made Marco feel glad he had decided to stay with him. "I shall leave you to your duties then."

With a creak, the wooden door closed behind the knight.

And with that, Marco got to work.


IdeaGenerator: First off, I'd like to thank my co-author V0ID115 for their efforts on this story of ours. It's been a blast working with them, and I am looking forward to continue to do so in the future.

Now, if you're curious as to where our little story here came from and where it will go, it all started with me asking and thinking about a simple question last November, one I'm surprised has barely even been explored: what if Marco stayed as Sir Lavabo's squire rather than Star's?

After hearing Eclipsa refer to the laundry room as the most dangerous place in the castle and Sir Lavabo's confirmation with stating how no other squire has survived the lint catcher except himself, thinking about what kind of challenges and situations that would justify the reputation of the laundry room seemed like a good jumping board to dive in from.

You see, we figured that most of what happened in the lint catcher probably occurred about the same way for Marco in canon, save for the conclusion he came to as a result of his self-reflection and the memories involved. In canon, this self-reflection had led to Marco realizing that interrupting Star's life without warning had been a bad idea (and really not too much else, but granted, he didn't have much time to think too deeply about things) and came about from Marco focusing on other memories, so all we needed to do was give an extra boost to the push that was already there in canon, though in a slightly different direction.

We do hope you'll stick around for more, as we've both got some fun ideas for our takes on canon events/episodes AND original plotlines, all revolving around Marco's time and adventures in the laundry room. Also, we're excited to deeply explore some characters that, so far as we can tell, will stay woefully underdeveloped in canon, as Marco's reputation (and struggle to uphold it) as the first squire to survive the laundry room for more than a day since Sir Lavabo will cause some interesting repercussions and interactions down the line.

And don't worry, not every chapter is going to be as angsty as this one is, and our author's notes will get shorter from here on out.

Until next chapter,

IG


V0ID115 notes: opens champagne bottle And so it is done. Roughly one month of planning and three more on writing plus proofreading, but the first chapter of my first collaborative story is done. I always wanted to try being a part of a story with more than one main author and I must say I had a great time with it. Production obviously takes longer, since we need everyone involved to be active so the story can progress faster, but I must say that the overall quality increases as well (as long as you can work together).

I must say, this was the hardest chapter to write of anything in my entire life. And I had help. This is a story IdeaGenerator mentioned on an email about how he wanted to write it. I was really interested on its premise, since it allows us to explore something I've been wanting to take a look on myself. Still, the challenge of making a GOOD first chapter for this particular premise was something we both didn't foresee the challenges at first and admittedly struggled with it. I'm just glad things (at least seems to have) worked out fine.

I'm happy to be able to work with IG, especially since I've seen some of their work in other instances and being able to work on a fanfiction of my favorite show ever is also quite gratifying, despite still being equally challenging at moments.

I hope this chapter is to your liking. Please do leave feedback so we can continually improve the quality of our story.

Initially we wanted to release this on the new year, but delays happened, so we wish you guys a very late, yet very happy new year for everyone! \(^▽^@)ノ

V0ID115