if you fall, know i've got you. - sunsetsomewhere (2024)

1.

it's hard being both wilbur and techno's brother at the same time. they have different policies, different love languages; tommy often struggles to appease both at the same time. wilbur doesn't like it when tommy wears armor, but techno absolutely loves it when he wears gold.

it doesn't quite have to be goldarmor, per se, but it needs to be something made of that metal. apparently it's a piglin thing– it affects techno much more than it affects wilbur, though. he doesn't quite understand why.

wilbur has other little piglin quirks– he needs tommy to be close at all times, he often prefers hotter areas to cold ones, and his crossbow can always be found at his side. sometimes, though, when tommy wears a particularly shiny gold item, he can see the way wilbur's eyes sparkle in adoration.

techno's a lot more sensitive on that front. he often tells tommy that he needs to keep his hair clean becausegold deserves to be properly taken care of. he gives the boy little trinkets, drooping earrings and expensive necklaces.

and tommy wears them all, because he knows how happy it makes his brother.

they're hanging out at the cabin– he never understood why techno moved here; piglins hate the snow– when tommy casually mentions that dream blew up some of his jewelry back in exile.

it's not a huge deal– well, it is, but dream is his friend, so he was just doing what he thought was right for tommy. or, well, maybe. maybe not–

maybe–

"what do you mean he blew up your jewelry?" techno asks, setting down the book he'd been reading (something aboutpersephoneandpomegranates), "why?"

tommy shakes his head subtly, and he hopes it relays the message of not wanting to talk about it. "he just did," he says, no further explanation, "that's why i haven't been wearing any, if you hadn't noticed."

techno hums contemplatively. he reaches out, pulling tommy into his side. "i can get you some more."

"thanks," tommy says genuinely, "i didn't want to ask, but like," he shrugs, attempting a grin, "man's needs his drip, you know?"

"out of my home," techno groans, nudging tommy away. the blond instantly tucks himself back under his brother's arm, which the piglin smiles at. "insufferable."

"your face is insufferable," tommy mocks, beaming at techno's growing faked-annoyance. after a second, he lets his head lean against techno's ribs. "thank you, tech. seriously. i miss having jewelry."

i miss the look in your eyes when you see me in it. i miss how you look at me like you love me.

(do you still love me?)

"i noticed," techno says, out of the blue. when tommy hums questionably, techno continues, "you asked if i had noticed that you hadn't been wearing any. i noticed."

tommy doesn't quite not what to say to that. a part of him is happy his brother noticed something about him. another part is scared that techno's mad he hasn't been wearing gold. he wonders if techno's love is conditional.

he knows it is.

"sorry," he apologizes hastily, "i wanted to, but like–" he gestures wildly, "couldn't. blown up."

techno makes a noise at the back of his throat. "don't you worry about that, runt," he says, tightening his grip around tommy's shoulders, "i'll deal with it."

tommy instinctively flinches away, scooting just a bit further away. techno glances down, concerned, but doesn't question it much. it's good– tommy doesn't really want to talk about it, about dream. not when it's so confusing, and nothing makes a lot of sense. how can you explain something you don't know?

"let's get you that jewelry," techno says, and he stands up. he makes his way to an enderchest, and digs around for a bit. tommy tracks his movements with his eyes. "do you want rose gold or white gold or–"

"rose gold," tommy answers, then tacks on a, "please." when techno lets out an amused huff through his nose, tommy bristles, barking out, "what?"

techno's head turns to face him, and the piglin is smiling. "i just don't even know why i asked," he confesses, "i knew what you would pick."

tommy settles down, letting out a small, "oh." techno turns back around, looking for the jewelry. they sit in silence for a while, save for the scuffling of items. tommy briefly wonders if his brother has any wither skeleton skulls in there...

eventually, techno turns back around with an assortment of jewelry in his hands. rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets; even some hair clips, here and there. all made of rose gold, the material shiny and light pink. it made tommy's raccoon brain preen– shiny stuff was cool. and rose gold has always been a long-time favorite of his. it's nice that techno remembers that. it makes his heart warm. he reaches out for one that catches his attention the most- a gold ring with tiny emeralds etched into the sides- when techno reels back.

with panicked dismay, he flinches back, waiting for techno to yell. but he doesn't. he just says, "sorry. piglins are protective of their stuff and," he hesitates, "i haven't given you jewelry in a long time, i guess. they're still not used to it."

"i don't have to take them," tommy rushes to fix, "it's really not a big deal, genuinely. it's not that-" he swallows, lying, "it's not that important to me. sorry."

"tommy," the older says, resting a hand on tommy's shoulder. tommy preens at the affection, despite the terror of being touched. "it's alright, kid. i'm just saying that i got back instinctually, not because of anything you did. you're okay." he drops his hand from the blond's shoulder and extends the ring tommy had reached for, "go on. take it."

tommy tentatively moves his hand closer. techno doesn't startle this time, so he goes ahead. the metal is cool, but he doesn't mind much. the ring slips on easily, and tommy admires how the jewels shine in the daylight. "techno," he breathes, because jesus f*cking christ this must've beenexpensive. "this is gorgeous."

techno lets out a rumble, a familiar light in his eyes that makes tommy preen with pride. "i need to get you more emerald stuff. maybe phil has some; he probably does, actually. i could go ask him, but..." he trails off, looking uncertain.

"but?" tommy prompts, looking up at his brother.

"my instincts are being weird," his brother whines, something tommy hadn't heard in the longest time. "i just-" a sigh, "cuddle?" he stretches his arms open, looking at tommy hopefully. "chat wants you close."

tommy sinks into techno's welcoming arms, grinning. "ayup, chat," he greets. he hasn't said hello to chat in forever. "how is everyone?" techno winces, clutching at his head for a second. tommy realizes his mistake instantly. "oh, sh*t, sorry! chat, how about we all talk later. individually," he stresses. he waits for the look of pain on techno's face to mitigate, then continues, "sorry. i forgot."

"don't worry about it," techno dismisses. "they're just excited to see you."

tommy hums. "are they? what've they been saying?"

techno shrugs. "the usual. blood, e, crab rave--"

"about me," tommy corrects, burying his head into techno's collarbone. the man always seems to be so warm. must be a piglin thing.

he seems to hesitate, but then he continues. "they've been asking about you a lot recently. talking about exile, about you needing help." tommy freezes. techno must feel it, because his grip on tommy tightens. "you wouldn't happen to know anything about that, right?"

"i didn't need your help," tommy says, even though he did. even though he does. "i can fend for myse--"

"that doesn't matter," the piglin interrupts, voice growing into something rougher. "what matters is that someone is messing with one of my things." tommy suddenly remembers that piglins- specifically brutes, like techno, who grew up protecting bastions- are territorial creatures. they protect their gold, their weapons, their chests.

(their runts.)

"sunshine," techno croons when tommy's been quiet for too long, "you would come to me if someone's hurting you, right?"

i did. tommy wants to say.i'm here because of that very reason. but dream didn't want to hurt him, and if he told techno what dream did to him, dream would be dead before he could even apologize. dream doesn't deserve to die, he's tommy's friend--

yes, yes, he's tommy's friend, tommy's best friend. tommy'sonlyfriend.

(only here to watch you, only here to watch you, thorn in his side, outlier, traitor—)

"tommy," techno snaps, tapping hard against the blond's arm. tommy hopes he doesn't look as startled as he is. the piglin's voice softens once he has tommy's attention. "you're not answering my question, sweetheart. what happened in exile?"

i'm being abused, a voice in tommy's head screams.and it's all you and wilbur's fault. you two ruined everything. you were supposed to protect me. you tried to kill me. i don't owe you answers. i don't owe you the truth.

i don't,tommy agrees silently.

so he lies. "nothing is happening," he says carefully, then, "nothing that affects you, anyways."

"i see you, tommy," techno says. "i see that you're weak. i see that you're frail. i could kill you."

tommy looks up defiantly. "do it," he answers, because he's wilbur's brother, so he muststick it to the man. "do it, right now."

techno's eyes flash with something akin to annoyance. "see, that's the issue. you shouldn't be so ready to bark out that order. i don'twantto kill you-" (if you want to be a hero, theseus;) "-thus, you're alive. chat doesn't want you dead, tommy. idon't want you dead." (then die like one.)

"i don't know what you want!" tommy bursts, frustrated, "you blow up my home, and then you swear to protect me? are you the sole person allowed to hurt me, is that it? i don't know what the f*ck you want from me!"

"the bare minimum!" the other promulgates, "i just want you to be safe, and warm, andby my side!"

"safe, huh?" tommy snarls, tone lowering to something deadly. "then what the f*ck was the pit?"

he watches techno's nostrils flare angrily as he inhales sharply. maybe it's a sore subject- tommy doesn't care, though.techno is a hypocrite, and he's f*cking tired of it.

"you never wanted me to be safe," he spits. "you just wanted me to align with your beliefs. that's the only way you can love me, right? that's the only wayanyonecan love me; it's if i'm a little puppet willingly handing over my strings."

"you were so cold," techno suddenly says, voice desperate. "i found you outside in the snow and you wereso cold.i think the only reason you didn't die of hypothermia is because mom refused to let you." he clutches tommy close to him, and tommy feels some of his anger simmer. "please. just this once, can we not fight?"

"i just want an apology," tommy mumbles. "no one ever apologizes."

"i can do more than that," techno says. "i can make it up to you. with love and safety and fairness. i just," he presses tommy closer to his chest, "i need my runt."

tommy...

tommy sighs.

"alright," he concedes, because he's been fighting nonstop for years. a break sounds quite nice. "alright."

that night, they sleep curled up against each other, shirts bunched within the clutches of fingers. the following day, they talk.

theyheal.

2.

piglins are pack creatures. veryfamily-oriented.some piglins (full piglins, not hybrids like wilbur and techno) can physically feel when one of their packmates are injured. it's some kind of developed trait that they earned through evolution. then, when their packmate is being attacked, they can go and help. techno and wilbur can't quite do that, but they still inherited the wholeyour pack is your lifementality. they protect the runts the most, which is why tommy often got special treatment.

another thing about piglins is that, if they live in places not near lava, they need to hibernate occasionally. since wilbur and techno live in the overworld, they hibernate during winters. it helps conserve energy or some sh*t- tommy kind of spaced out when techno had explained it. he only knows that on the winters, tommy's existence essentially parallels that of a teddy bear. exploited for snuggles, cuddles, and general sleeping comfort.

he knows wilbur's gonna need to hibernate, soon. he knows the signs- constant yawning, subtle shivering, deeper eyebags. so he does what he knows he needs to do- he starts wearing softer clothing, starts bringing wilbur snacks a lot more frequently, and finishing up loose ties. he knows that wilbur's going to be sleeping for at least three or so weeks. during that time, tommy needs to have his business sorted. if he leaves wilbur alone while he hibernates, he risks wilbur getting distressed. that can disturb homeostasis or something; biology isn't his forte, alright? all he knows is that he needs to finish off everything he's been working on before wilbur inevitably approaches him and sayshey king, be my hibernation buddy?

the day comes, as he knew it would. they're at the hq, counting off stacks on stone. they didn't have a heater- wilbur had insisted on those being for tories- and so they were freezing their f*cking asses off. it was a quarter into winter, meaning the temperature had dropped fundamentally. and since it snowed near las nevadas, it was always cold at the hq. wilbur's body must've gotten sick of it today, because suddenly, he announces, "i'm going to hibernate tonight. which, essentially, means i'll be out for three or so weeks."

tommy hums, continuing to riffle through blocks. he'd seen it coming- wilbur seemed a lot more tired recently. "got it." he can feel wilbur staring at him, but he doesn't bother looking up. the question will come whether he meets wilbur's eyes or not.

and it does. "do you wanna come?" it's never been this hesitant; usually, wilbur states that he's going to hibernate and doesn't even check to see if tommy's following him, just knowing that he is. this time it's different. tommy almost mourns the change.

"sure," he says, nonchalantly, "why wouldn't i?"

"you could be busy," wilbur defends.

tommy deadpans, "my boss is going to be out-of-order for three weeks, my best friend is dead, my other best friend is mourning. what the f*ck would i be doing?"

"got it," wilbur mumbles. "so yes?"

"sure."

-

they meet at phil's cabin. tommy nods curtly to techno, and apprehensively greets his father. it's all just common courtesy; tommy knows that they would never kick either of them out no matter how many wars they've gone against each other in so long as hibernation is coming up. techno's is probably going to be in the next month. phil doesn't need to hibernate, mostly because he'll leave town if it gets too cold. birds migrate, and all.

(he sure did during their childhood.)

they settle into a spare bedroom. tommy's told he's allowed to have anything he wants from the chests as long as it's food (golden apples not included, tommy learns soon enough). wilbur changes into some warm, cotton-made clothing, and tommy follows.

"have you noticed," wilbur starts as soon as he's buried under the bed's sheets. "that phil's blond hair has been looking a lot more... artificial lately?"

tommy gets into bed with him and ponders it. now that he thinks about it, phil's roots have been looking rather different than the rest of his hair. just a shade or two lighter, maybe. he hadn't really thought about it. "yeah, i guess," he answers, moving closer to his brother. "why do you ask?"

there's an arm thrown over his hips, and then his back is almost flush against wilbur's front. tommy sighs contently at the warmth. "found dye in a chest earlier," wilbur discloses, and tommy can hear him grinning. "looks oddly like his hair color. crazy, huh?"

the grin must be infectious, because soon, tommy's wearing one, too. "crazy," he drags out the 'y.' "you don't think he--"

"i do, toms," wilbur says, laughing. "the angel of death isaging. mom must be angry at him, or something."

"wonder why," tommy rolls his eyes, "he's been anexcellentfather."

"don't trash talk father dearest, sunshine," the older chides playfully. "i still need a cabin to hibernate in. and this is the only place we could go where dream wouldn't bother you."

what? "you thought about that?" tommy asks, surprised. "i thought we just came here out of habit."

shockingly, wilbur shakes his head. "we would've gone to your embassy if dream wasn't out there. he would've bothered you, and thus, bothered my hibernation."

"thought dream was your hero," he says bitterly.

"he is," wilbur answers, "but you don't like him. i don't understandwhy, but i know that i don't want that happening."

tommy sets his hand on top of where wilbur's is, which is just above his hip. "thank you," he says genuinely. "that means a lot."

"of course, darling," the brunet smiles, "i care about you, you know. maybe more than anyone. or anything."

the younger feels something in him preen, and another part of him freeze. that's the most affection he's received in maybe a year, not even from wilbur. it's.. strange. "thank you," he says carefully, "i think. i care about you, too. i think i always will."

"i know," wilbur says, "i'm sorry about that."

tommy shakes his head. "not your fault. i just love everyone a bit too much, i guess." he moves on, because that subject is a bit too heavy for right now. "see you in three weeks, then? i'll be here the whole time."

"swear?"

"swear."

tommy hears one last yawn, and then wilbur arm around him loosens. it's always shocking how quickly wilbur can fall asleep once he's ready for hibernation. he wonders how often his brother puts off doing it.

he figures he might as well sleep, too. after all, it was too warm to resist sleeping here, next to his brother. he has three long weeks ahead of him, he'll take as much sleep as he can get. he spends the next three weeks either stealing food from phil and techno's chests or staying huddled against wilbur's sides, leeching off of his brother's warmth. he reads a bit, and he knits; sometimes, he even talks to phil. but he mostly stays with wil.

three weeks later, when his brother wakes up again, they find themselves staying an extra day; just to cuddle, and talk.

3.

growing up with two possessive, overbearing older brothers, tommy rarely saw his father. if he wasn't with techno, he was with wilbur, and vice versa. in his free time, he'd go as far away from his house as possible, usually to hang out with wild rabbits in widespread fields.

still, though, phil is his pseudo-father; he spends a good amount of time with the man. phil's a bird hybrid (made obvious by the wings tucked together on his back). he does little bird things, like migrate to warm areas during the winter, cut his food into tiny portions before digging in, and, most importantly, nesting.

it's weird, how no matter what type of hybrid his family members are, they all have the instinct to cuddle with their young. it's really cool sometimes; and overwhelming at others. sometimes tommy really just wants his alone time, which is why he doesn't go to phil's cabin unless he's in a good mood.

his father must be sensing a disconnection in their relationship (no sh*t, the man blew up his home), because he's reaching out for tommy more than ever. tucking the boy under his wing, messing around with tommy's hair until it was deemed "brushed enough"; all kinds of stuff that tommy both longed for and squirmed away from. it was... unnatural, almost, to have his father be this affectionate out of nowhere. he knows the man's compensating in acts of service to make up for his lack of apologies, but tommy just wishes he would stop and communicate with him (god, puffy would be proud).

tommy's over at phil's to get away from dream today. he successfully avoids techno, thankfully. he can't deal with his brother right now; dealing with his father is enough. "i'm here!" he calls out, stepping through the front door. "phil?"

there's a pause, and then, "tommy?" the voice is warbled, kind of rough. it's coming from upstairs, so tommy makes his way up the ladder.

"hi, phil!" he shouts, "i'm just here to talk about your son's smoking problem." he huffs, climbing up faster. "he's like a f*cking chimney, phil. cigarette after cigarette,quackity this,quackity that. snap him out of it!" he whines, "it's so annoying to deal with, and he's always talking about his limbo–" he knocks once on the man's door when he gets to it, and then just barges in with no warning.

phil is sitting on the bed, which is actually quite large. tons of blankets are scattered around, along with more pillows than tommy has seen in years. it's rather warm inside, he notes. the heater must be turned on high. it sinks in all at once:

phil is nesting.

"hi, mate," the man croaks, voice still cracked by sleep. he sits up, peering at tommy with half-lidded eyes, "nice to see you. need something?"

tommy's rather flabbergasted. he hasn't seen phil's nest since he was much younger. his father didn't like to nest with him much, since he was rather rambunctious. nesting was reserved for his other brothers, who weren't as... energetic (read: annoying). nesting always felt private, in the way that he wasn't supposed to be a part of it.

seeing it was a bit much. tommy took a step away from the door. "no, no, i don't. just dropping by to chit-chat, but you're clearly busy, so—" tommy starts to close the door in front of him, but;

"wait!" his dad exclaims, and tommy stills. "come back, come back."

nervously, tommy reopens the door. "what?"

his dad smiles gently. "we can talk in here. come sit, mate." he pats a spot on the bed next to him.

tommy almost gapes. a spot... in the nest? what the f*ck? tommy can sit in the nest? no f*cking way,no f*cking way! "alright," he accepts giddily, rushing forward to sit.

"what'd you wanna talk about, sunspot?" phil asks, draping a wing over tommy's shoulders. it makes tommy preen, scooting closer to his father. sure, he can be an asshole at times and he isn't the greatest, but it's affection from a family member; it means the world.

in all actuality, he'd come to the cabin in order to get away from dream. phil's place was probably one of the only places dream wouldn't dare touch him, not with technoblade there. though, tommy doesn't quite know if technobladewouldprotect him against dream if his abuser ever came looking for him. still, he has phil, he's pretty sure, and that's someone. the cabin is safe.

for now.

tommy continues his little lie for phil's sake. "just wanted to talk, phil," he rests his head against the man's shoulder, sighing contently, "didn't mean to wake you, big man."

phil goes to shrug, but must realize he couldn't quite do that with tommy's head on his shoulder. "it's alright," he says, "i had to wake up soon, anyways. lots of chores to do around the cabin."

"like what?" tommy asks, jumping at the opportunity to make himself useful. "i could help, probably. maybe. i could try."

phil laughs, teasing, "you'd probably break something, you little sh*t. and besides," he moves a hand to tommy's face, pulling the boy off of his shoulder to cradle his cheeks. phil examines his son for a second before frowning, commenting, "your eyebags have never been so dark. what's going on, starlight?"

tommy almost laughs. whatisn'tgoing on? his abuser is out of prison, hunting him down at every waking moment. his best friend is dead, his other best friend is spiraling. his brother hates him, his other brother is using him (a voice in his head tells him that maybe, just maybe, wilbur actually cares about him, that wilbur loves him like he used to. tommy's heard that voice before. it's the voice that used to call dream his friend).

everything is wrong– tommy isalone.tommy can't be alone, he's a follower, despite what he says. follow wilbur to l'manburg, follow dream to exile, follow techno to destruction. follow, follow, follow. he's not made to stand on his own, he's made to assist. he can be loud, and he can be annoying during it, but he can't be alone.

yet he is.

"tommy?" phil asks, eyebrows furrowed in concern. he's waiting for an answer. god, tommy can't do anything right, can he?

he grins, big and forced. "no time to sleep, big man. my nights are rather occupied, if you know what i mean." he winks extravagantly, artificial playfulness leeching into his voice easily.

"is it hard?" phil asks.

"i think it's about time-management, honestly," tommy continues, "i can fit five women a night. the hard part is dealing with them crying about not wanting to leave, because i'm just too handsome and awesome and co–"

"no, tommy," the man says gently. a hand cradles his cheek. "is it hard, evading all the time? aren't you sick of it, ever?"

tommy...

tommy smiles.

"yeah," he says softly. "i do."

"then why?" his dad begs. "why not just be honest?"

tommy doesn't know. he thinks being vulnerable never goes well, to be honest. it'll always be used in some betrayal, some backstabbing. tell dream you're lonely, he'll manipulate you. tell techno you're afraid, he'll terrify you. tell wilbur you need him—

(he watches the sword go through his brother's abdomen, knees hitting the burnt land beneath him—)

things don't go well when he's honest. "i can't," he says. "but i can stay. is that enough?"

his father looks at him for a moment, and then sighs, giving in. "yes," he agrees reluctantly. "for now, it is. come nest, son."

still tucked under his dad's wings, tommy settles underneath the hundreds of pillows. he lays down contently, pressed close to phil's side cozily. it's warmer than he's ever been. he can't believe he'd ever been cold before this. "didn't you say you had chores?" tommy asks, suddenly remembering the man's previous words.

phil sounds at least a little embarrassed when he admits, "i was lying. i didn't want you to feel bad for waking me up. i don't have anything to do today, i rarely ever do."

"we should do stuff, then," tommy suggests suddenly. "hang out more. i miss you, sometimes."

he feels his dad stiffen, and the melt. "yeah?" phil asks, voice fond, "me too, sunshine. me too."

tommy stays over the following day.

4.

it's.. weird, now. it's a different weird, not like when ghostbur used to come visit him in exile to chit-chat, nothing like that at all. ghostbur made him ache, in a hollow, still grieving kind of way. but he also made tommy slightly relieved.there was good to my brother, a part of him thinks.look at him. he was good.

ghostboo makes tommy want to burst into tears. ranboo was his best friend-- completely undeserving of this. at least when wilbur was dead, there was the solace that hewantedto be dead. his brother could be an asshole, and he wasn't really nice towards the end. he had wanted to die; that had been his decision. ranboo never had that choice. he didn't choose for sam (f*cking sam) to stab him for- for what? leverage? incompetent, stupid sam- maybe if people hadlistened to him!

"i told them- i told them all; sam is corrupt and power-hungry and sh*t at his job. what did they say?" he mutters to himself as he reorganizes his chests. "nooo, tommy! sam is good at his job- are you sure you even died in there? you're alive, you know." he huffs, annoyed and irritated. "but when ranboo dies, it's all different. whenranboodies, the vault gets raided, sam's imprisoned, and peoplelisten.what happens when tommy dies?jack sh*t."

"i'm sensing that you're upset about something," a voice calls out, and tommy nearly sh*ts himself. "sorry, didn't mean to scare you there!" the voice doesn't sound very apologetic. tommy winces.

"hi, ranboo," he grumbles, not even looking up. "what're you doing here?"

"coasting. vibing. just flying about, you know?" ranboo hums. "busy ghost. lots to do."

"why are you talking in three-syllable sentence?" tommy asks, though he doesn't really care much. he just wants to organize this chest so that he can go.. do something. what does he have to do? hang out with someone? withwho? everyone isweird. he could go with quackity, probably. he still likes quackity, despite everything. but wilbur would be mad... "hey," he says suddenly, "you wouldn't happen to know if wilbur's working at the van today, right?"

ranboo just shrugs, though, cheerfully answering, "i don't know anything!" he sounds happy. carefree. tommy wishes he could be like that. a part of him aches.a part of him wishes he were dead.

"might go see big q, then," he mumbles to himself. "but first i have to get my sh*t together. ranboo, can you help?"

"oh, sure!" ranboo agrees easily, moving towards the chests. he starts messing around with some of the blocks inside, pushing them to random piles, and tommy realizes his job is done. "you're not helping?" the ghost asks after a minute of doing the work alone.

tommy shakes his head contently. "nah, you've got this, big man. alive you would've done this with no complaint, and i'm hoping that hasn't changed."

"alive me and ghost me would do anything for you," ranboo hums. it makes tommy's cheeks flush, and he feels a part of him die at the words.i miss you, he thinks sadly to himself. "and besides," the ghost continues, "i like doing this. touching stuff is nice."

that's... odd. "what do you mean?" the blond asks genuinely, sitting cross-legged on the floor next to his friend.

"well, i've noticed these weird little urges to hold things," ranboo explains. "it's confusing. i don'twantto hold stuff, but i... do?"

tommy hums contemplatively, "elaborate."

"well," the boy says, as he continues organizing the chests, "i can't really explain it. there's just this little voice in my head yelling at me to hold stuff. but it's not so much as a voice, as much as it's a feeling, i guess."

tommy's heard enough. "an instinct, you might even say," he prompts, sure of himself. when the ghost nods, he adds, "and you felt like this when you were alive, too?"

"yep!" the ghost exclaims, "wow, you must really know me well, huh?"

tommy wilts. "yeah," he mumbles, "something like that."

"so, toms, what do i do about these quote unquote instincts?" ranboo asks. "cause they're driving me up the wall a tiny bit, which is dumb, cause i can go right through those things! well, this one's more of a metaphorical wall, if you know what i mean."

tommy tries to reason it. ranboo's an enderman hybrid, so what could be upsetting his instincts? he's not near water, he's not near endermites (at least, tommy hopes), and no one's making eye contact with him (though, tommy had recently learned that ranboo didn't really mind eye contact with his closest friends). if nothing's upsetting his instincts, maybe it's something that his friendwants.

what do endermen like? tommy tries to think, but he can't think of much. they like teleporting, they like solitude, they like...

oh.

oh.

"you said your instincts are mitigated when you're holding stuff, right?" tommy inquires. when his friend nods, tommy knows he's hit the nail on the head. "well, endermen like holding blocks and sh*t, don't they? that's probably what's bothering you. your hands are empty; you're not carrying sh*t."

there's a beat, and then an illuminated, stretched out, "oh." tommy sees ranboo's face brighten. "that must be it, cause i'm happy when i'm holding flowers and sand, but whenever my hands are empty, i get sad after a while."

"then, yeah, big man, that's it," tommy says, settling back down. problem solved! tommy's a genius. truly deserving of a nobel prize, if he says so himself– and he does. smartest man in all town, in the whole server. radiant! radical! synonyms!

and then there's a hand in his own.

he jolts, looking up at ranboo hastily. the ghost had moved closer, apparently, and had slotted his hand into tommy's. their fingers intwine carefully, gentle and soft. it's– it's achingly familiar. "ranboo?" he calls out, gently.

"please," the ghost whispers. "i've been fighting it for days."

and tommy knows how hard resisting instincts is. when he gets the instinct to burrow, he can only hold it off for a few hours at most. and when he gets the urge to steal, it's almost impossible to not. so a few days... "okay," he says. it's murmured, soft in the way the breeze rustles blades of grass during lazy afternoons. "it's alright, man. whatever you need."

"this," ranboo replies, gesturing to their interlocked hands, "is all i need. i think it's all i've ever needed."

and it's an admission tommy can understand. he's always noted the way ranboo's hands twitch in his lap whenever he sees tommy. he'd always just assumed it was a nervous tick that came with human interaction– ranboo wasweird– but the thought of it being to restrain himself from reaching out, from grabbing tommy's wrist and cradling it between calloused fingertips; it's too much.

tommy mourns, deep inside of his ribs. he mourns his pseudo-brother, his best friend, his ally. he mourns the boy who gave him an allium on a day he'd wanted to die. he mourns the boy who thought he needed to control his instincts for tommy's sake. he mourns, and he mourns, and it aches. it f*cking aches until tommy has to inhale sharply, and then;

"done," the ghost says, still holding tommy's hand. he shows tommy the chest, which was organized neatly into little stacks of objects. "i color-coded," ranboo says proudly.

"i see that," tommy says, in shock. "how did you know i like my things color-coded?"

ranboo smiles. "i guess i really knowyou,as well."

it takes everything tommy's got to bite back his tears.

5.

"sapnap," tommy whines, "it's hot. what are we doing here?"

"oh, stop complaining, it's barely hot," sapnap retorts, continuing to drag tommy through the nether. "besides, we're almost there, you huge baby."

tommy sighs dramatically, but keeps going. he takes another swig of his fire resistance potion, which helps with the heat a bit. at least, it keeps the insufferable temperature at bay as he's yanked across mile after mile of nether-rack.

lava lake after lava lake, sapnap forces tommy to go through it. tommy'shot.it's terrible. but, it's sapnap, so tommy doesn't mind all that much. he'd do just about anything for the hybrid, especially after all he'd been doing recently. after countless sleepless nights curled up next to the man, body trembling like a leaf in wind after the slightest sign of dream being near, tommy feels like he owes sapnap something. maybe this is how he repays him.

they pass a crimson forest quickly, tommy not wanting to come near hoglins, and then a soul sand valley. just when tommy's about to ask where the f*ck they're going, sapnap exclaims, "ta-da!"

they stand over a nether-rack ledge, hundreds of blocks over bubbling lava. it's... scary. but sapnap looks so excited, and he's staring at tommy so expectantly, that the blond goes, "ta-da, indeed, king."

"isn't the lava gorgeous?" sapnap asks, staring down with awe in his eyes. tommy peers over the ledge, too. it's... lava. orangey, ugly-ass lava. just like the one in the countless lakes they'd passed.

tommy lies, though. "it really is," he answers, trying to sound excited. "very nice."

sapnap sighs, long and happy. "it is," he agrees, "it is. this is the same lake of lava i was born in, did you know?"

well, tommydidnotknow that, what the f*ck? "what the f*ck?" he voices, "really? that's sick!"

sapnap hums in agreement. "it's the same shade of fire that i have on that one shirt of mine. see?"

tommy doesn't quite see. to him it's just... orange. all lava is orange, and all fire is orange. but, apparently, to nether hybrids, shades are more distinguishable. maybe it's like how overworld people see water; in different, darker or lighter shades. maybe that's how nether hybrids see lava. "oh, yeah," tommy lies, "i thought i recognized this shade."

sapnap cheers happily, throwing an arm over tommy's shoulders. "see, tommy, that's why we're friends!" he exclaims, "yougetme."

and tommy doesn't, but sapnap's happy, so he pretends. he lets himself be wanted, for once. and it's nice, being trusted enough with something like this. sapnap must think so, too, because he starts;

"i've only taken two people here," the admission is murmured, and suddenly the arm on his shoulder seems a lot heavier. "dream and george."

that's... a lot. "they're your best friends," tommy nods sagely, but wilts at the look the other throws at him.

"were," he corrects.

something guilty stabs at tommy's gut. "were," the blond agrees, reaching for sapnap's hand to squeeze. that's what ranboo used to do to him, when he was sad. it's comforting, at least that's how he sees it.

sapnap pulls tommy closer to his side, squeezing back at the hand before letting go. "i trust you, kid," he says. "you're sweet, you know. you'regood."

i'm not, tommy answers in his head. instead, he responds, "thank you. that means a lot coming from you."

"from me, huh?" sapnap teases, somber mood suddenly gone. "am i special?"

tommy shoves the arm away from his shoulders, pushing at the man. "god, no. you suck, sapnap. stupid american f*ck."sapnap laughs, loud and boisterous. it makes tommy grin. "let's get out of here, i'm hot as sh*t."

"no," the man whines, "i love it here, come on. let's just hang out!"

tommy would say no, cause it's truly insufferably hot, but then he thinks about how techno used to complain about it being too cold in the overworld every single damn day. it must be the same for sapnap. and being in the nether must soothe the other's instincts, so he concedes. "fine. just for an hour or two."

it works like a charm. the man's face lights up, as if tommy had just given him a stack of netherite. "thank you, tommy!" sapnap chirps. "now, come on. i'm gonna teach you how to talk to striders."

tommy's attention is effectively snatched. "you can talk to striders?" he asks, letting sapnap grab his arm to pull him to their next designation.

"of course!" sapnap boasts, "i can talk to almost every nether mob, except for ghasts and hoglins. i have a few piglin, wither skeleton, and blaze friends here and there."

"maybe let's just do striders!" tommy laughs nervously, and sapnap chuckles.

"you got it, kid. let's go!"

and tommy is being pulled in a new direction. he finds that the hot doesn't bother him as much when he's distracted.

+1

the second he sees the man, even from across the street, tommy's running. he runs and he runs like he's never run before. at some point, quackity hears the footsteps and whirls around, but by that point, tommy has barreled into him, arms wrapped tight around the duck hybrid.

"big q!" tommy greets happily, contently burying his face into the man's shoulder.

quackity returns the embrace, holding onto tommy with vice-like arms. "tomás!" he says, sounding pleasantly surprised. "it's so good to see you! you haven't been around in ages, man."

tommy sniffs, "big man stuff to do, big q. you wouldn't get it."

"mhm," quackity teases, "i'm sure i wouldn't,pollito.tell me, tommy, what brings you to las nevadas."

"why, my prick of a friend lives here, big q!" tommy exclaims, grinning. "he's actually sort of important, or so i've heard."

quackity plays along easily. "oh, youmust tell me more!" he requests, arm hooking around tommy's. "who is this guy?"

"loud, funny, charming," tommy waits until quackity's face softens, and then adds, "oh wait! i'm just describing myself. silly me!"

the man thwacks him across the shoulder playfully, laughing. "you mother f*cker. you're an asshole!"

tommy giggles, unlooping his arm. "slander, blasphemy. i have never lied once, did you know that, big q? not even once!"

"oh, i believe you, hatchling," quackity returns, smiling cheekily. "too innocent, huh?"

"practically a saint," tommy agrees, holding back a laugh.

"well, then, san tomás," quackity says exaggeratedly, "tell me what you're really doing here before i kick you out."

it's a joke, tommy knows it is. the man would never kick him out; the blond's all too aware of the soft spot quackity has for him. "just here to chat," he hums genuinely. "you're my friend. i like you."

"i think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me," quackity teases. tommy grins sheepishly, but his friend continues. "okay, then. let's chat. indoors, though. it's chilly outside, isn't it?"

"oh my f*cking god, it really is," tommy's been shivering since he got here. it's probably going to snow, soon. f*ck las nevadas's weird temperatures. "do you have a jacket i can borrow, or something, king?"

quackity hastily nods, "oh, yeah– here." he shrugs off his own jacket (some long, fancy thing that tommy could never afford in his life) and hands it over. tommy takes it gingerly. "sorry, i know it's not soft or anything, but like—"

"oh, it's not an issue—" tommy interrupts, but quackity speaks over him.

"—here, come with me to my enderchest really quickly. do put that on, though, nestling. you'll freeze out here." tommy obeys quickly, because the wind starts blowing even harder in that very moment, giving tommy the worst case of goosebumps.

he follows quackity to the casino, which has an enderchest placed right outside. the older man opens it, rummaging inside for a bit. tommy tracks the movements with curious eyes, wondering what the f*ck quackity's looking for. that is, until the duck hybrid pulls out his old beanie with triumphant eyes and a grin.

"for you," he says, extending the beanie towards tommy. "it's soft, and it'll keep you warm."

tommy takes it. it... it reallyissoft. definitely made of wool, but he hadn't known wool could be so soft. is this what he's been missing out on by only wearing cotton clothing? still, though; "i can't wear it," he says after a moment. quackity's face plummets.

"what?" he asks impatiently, "why not?"

"it's yours," tommy answers genuinely, "like,reallyyours. it means too much to you, doesn't it? this is your favorite beanie."

"well," quackity shrugs, "yeah. but i like you, tommy. i care about you, and i want to give you something that's special to me. and i know you like that," he gestures to the beanie.

tommy blinks. "how do you know i like this?"

"because you're a raccoon hybrid," quackity answers, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. "raccoons like having items from friends and loved ones, don't they? something about a comforting smell."

it'smorethan a comforting smell. having items from item people makes him feel whole, loved, cherished. it's a stern reminder that it doesn't matter how lonely he feels or how miserable he is; someone still loves him. it goes straight through his skin and digs into his heart. his little raccoon brain chitterssafelovedsoft. tommy puts the beanie on, almost purring in contentment when it smells like his friend. "we do," he states finally, "you're right. how do you know about all that, though?"

quackity looks down at the ground, suddenly sheepish. "someone told me, i think, once," he mumbles under his breath. it's obviously a lie, though.

tommy grins. "big q, did you do research about raccoon hybrids in order to get me a gift?"

quackity groans, loud and exaggerated. "f*ck you, of course i did. and do you know how hard it was? i'm f*cking rich as sh*t, tommy, and all raccoon hybrids like arewarm clothing. what a waste!"

tommy mockingly croons, "aw, poor big q didn't get to show off his wealth? how tragic! by all means, quackity, buy me things!"

"no," quackity rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. "i know you'd like shiny stuff, but i wanted to get you something for your instincts. that's the stuff that matters, you know?"

and tommy nods. "i know," he says honestly. "thank you. this means a lot." he hesitates, then says, "youmean a lot."

quackity pulls him into his arms, swaying gently from side to side as they hug. "oh, god, kid. you'll be the death of me with all that sweetness. f*ck you."

tommy giggles, "i'm sensing some mixed signals, there, big q. now come on! i wanna hang out now that i'm all bundled up," he readjusts his beanie proudly.

quackity laughs. "alright, kid, let's go," he backs away from the embrace. "what do you wanna do first?"

"hard drugs," tommy says instantaneously, grinning at his friend's groan.

"you can't keep saying that," quackity complains, making tommy burst into laughter. "people are gonna think i'm a drug dealer,pollito. then what? reputation ruined. las nevadas will be put under investigation, and i can't have that. stupid, endearing little life-ruiner, you," he nudges tommy's side.

tommy's laughter echoes through the streets for the remainder of the day. when he gets home, he curls around the beanie and hugs it to his chest, the smell of his friend on the hat lulling him to a gentle sleep.

if you fall, know i've got you. - sunsetsomewhere (2024)
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