Actions

Work Header

Group Project

Chapter Text

You know all those sayings about high school? That it's the "golden opportunity" in your life before college, and it's the greatest moment in your last couple years as a kid?

Well, whoever said all those things is a goddamn liar.

I've barely been a freshman for a month, and I already want to just crawl in bed and sleep for the rest of my life. Is this what seniors feel like, after three stinking years of this bullshit? Maybe that's why they looked so sympathetic when they saw all of those other underclassmen on the first day. They just became lambs to the slaughter the moment they walked in, not knowing that they just walked into the fiery pits of Hell itself.

Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration. But you got to admit, high school is probably the worst thing to happen to me since, well, ever. After the first week was over, I was so tempted to throw my bag with all my school stuff out my bedroom window, like a saw in a Vine when I was in seventh grade. God, I would literally kill somebody if it meant I could be in junior high again.

Especially during English, with Ms. Toriel Dreemurr.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't hate English. I'll admit, it's one of my favorite classes here at Monarch High. Ms. Toriel is really nice. A bit strict, at times, but she's also very fair. She tries to make class fun, by reading out short stories in funny voices, letting us choose our own books for reports. She's also close friends with Nightmare, my older brother, who teaches French, a class that I'm also in, so I guess that's an added bonus. 

The problem here is that who I have English with.


 

Cross was already there when I got to Room 108.

Ms. Toriel had assigned seats based on who sat where on the very first day. I happened to be sitting next to him, so when she announced that these would be our permanent seats for the rest of the school year, I tensed and looked at him. He looked at me sideways, then took a very sudden interest at the Japanese comic book that he was reading.

Don't get me wrong, he seems nice and all, but I don't think we could ever get along. I consider myself a "people person", though most don't know that, since I'm kind of a quiet kid. But I like talking to people, though I'll admit, I'm more confident when talking on the Internet or texting. Cross looks and acts like the type of guy who likes to stay inside and watch anime, like an introvert. And speaking of anime, he is obsessed with anything from Japan. Manga, anime, K-pop, he probably loves it all. I never got into the stuff myself, never saw the point in it. I actually heard a rumor from Noelle Holiday, a girl from my French class, that he and a bunch of other people were petitioning to start an anime club, for all the weebs to hang out and talk about Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Kissy Cutie. God, I really hope the principal turns down that idea. It would be like a real-life flame war. The weekly food fights in the cafeteria are enough for the staff, we don't need Coach Undyne tearing two kids apart just because one kid likes the reboot better than the original.

We avoid each other as much as possible, which is kinda hard, given that we have English, History, Pre-Algebra, and Debate together. But as long as we sit on opposite sides of the room during our other classes and avoid each other's eye contact, and pray to The God Of Class Partners that we don't get paired up together, we are good as gold.

I took my seat, avoiding eye contact. Cross was busy reading his manga, so he either didn't notice me or he did and pretended not to.

Ms. Toriel stood up and clapped her hands. The noisy classroom immediately went silent, everyone's attention on her. I could see Cross closing his book from the corner of my eye.

"Alright, class, now that we're settled in, let's begin by discussing our new assignment," Ms. Toriel's voice was strong and confident, reminding me of a female politician that I saw speaking on TV once. She picked up some papers from her desk and continued. "We're going to be doing passion presentations. You will be choosing a school appropriate topic, research and write a report about said topic, and give a presentation, complete with visual aids. This will be worth thirty percent of your final grade for the quarter." She held up a paper, which highlighted the important parts of the assignment. The class groaned.

Ugh. I hate presentations. I'm a pretty good student, but writing a research paper and give a full-out presentation? Bit of a pain in the ass, but it seems too... simple. Like there's a catch to this.

"But this is not a solo project. You will be working in pairs that I will be randomly selecting for you,"

Wait. Pairs? Randomly selected? Aw, shit. This is not good, for me and Cross.

Our teacher opens the supply closet that she keeps all her supplies in. She's pulling out a glass cookie jar, with tiny slips of paper inside of it. I cross my fingers. I'm panicking inside my head. Please, please choose someone else. I don't even care if it's Susie, the girl who eats chalk and lets her partner do all the work. Even she's better than getting Cross.

She begins pulling out names. "Let's see...Chara and Frisk, Kris and Susie..."

Crap, that's four off the list.

"Epic and Color, Killer and Dust..."

I hear Cross swear under his breath. I'm not familiar with any of those names. Cross must know one of them.

"Dream aaanndd.."

Oh God, please don't be Cross, please please please.

"Horror? Oh, I think I've made a mistake, he's in the AP class. I'll just pick another, then."

She raised my hopes and dashed them to pieces in an instant. Oh Jesus, she's pulling out another name. As long as it's not-

"Cross!"

Oh bloody hell.

I look at him. He's staring at me with a petrified look on his face. I can hardly imagine the look on mine. Ms. Toriel is still reading names. It's just background noise to us now, like a white noise machine in a therapist's office. "I'm your partner?" Cross finally speaks, in a harsh whisper.

I slowly nod. Fear is making a pit in my stomach. We barely know each other, we turn in the other direction if we see the other coming when we're in the hallways. And we just got paired for a stinking group project.

I want to crawl in a hole and die.

"Okay, everyone!" Our teacher's voice rips us out of our nightmare. "We have ten minutes left in class. Get with your partner and decide what you want to do with your project! Remember, it has to be school appropriate!" Everyone scrambles, and the classroom starts buzzing. I can hear snippets of other conversations, words like "anime" and "pop culture" floating around.

"Isn't your dad the French teacher?" Cross hesitantly asks, rubbing his arm as if he had just gotten slugged there. "We could do...like, French history?"

"One, he's not my dad," I reply. "And two, he only knows French because he studied abroad in college. So, that's out of the question."

"Oh."

We exchange looks, an unsettling pause shared between us. "How about art history, then?" He suggests, fidgeting a little.

"I didn't take you for the artsy type."

"I'm not, really," Cross's face goes purple. "I mean, I take the class, yeah, but it's mostly because my dad's the art teacher-"

"Wait, you're Ink's kid?" That kind of took me by surprise, to be honest.

He nods. "That's why I keep to myself. He's really weird, which is one of the nicest things I've heard people say about him. I don't want to be picked on, so I just lay low. That's the key to surviving high school."

"True. So, he can help us?"

"We have an entire room in our house full of art books and journals. I am literally living with a primary source when it comes to this stuff." A slight eye roll.

I smile. "Art history it is, then."

The bell rings. "Give me your phone," Cross looks at me dead in the eye.

"Wha-" I'm a bit startled.

"I need your info so we can call each other, dude. You know, to talk about the project and stuff."

Oh. Right. I hand him my phone. He turns it on, presses the contact icon on the screen, and types in his name and number. He hands it back to me. "Text me your info later?" It seems like a statement that comes out as a question. I give him a thumbs up.

"See ya later, then." He walks up to the teacher's desk, probably to tell her about our project topic. It's our lunch period, so I walk to the cafeteria. That exchange... went better than I thought it would go. We actually got along okay. Maybe this whole group project thing will work out, somehow.

I really hope it does, at least. I don't want to crash and burn.

Chapter Text

What the hell just happened?

I mean, me and Dream, the friendly, quiet kid that a lot of people stay away from because he's related to Nightmare, the kinda scary French teacher, got assigned a group project together. And we actually got along.

This. Is. Absolutely. Insane. If God is real, he did us both dirty.

We have avoided each other since the first day of high school. Our first meeting was an accident. I was trying to find my way to Biology, when I bumped into him. Literally. I didn't knock him down, or anything. But he looked at me. We just stood there for what seemed like ages, waiting for one of us to say something. I remember mumbling something to myself and then dashing off. Talk about bad first impressions, am I right? I was so anxious that he might think I was weird, that I just started to avoid him as much as possible. He began doing the same, until it was the norm. 

That is, until our English teacher drew my name to be Dream's partner. Dream's partner. I could have been partners with anyone and I'd put up with it, even if it were Killer, that creepy kid who just screams "serial murderer". But Dream. God, I want to dig a hole for myself and die. I'm pretty sure Dream felt the same way, given how pale he looked. Well, on the bright side, at least we're researching a subject I have some basic knowledge about.

I gave Dream my number so there wouldn't be any more of those awkward moments. Maybe I should've asked him in a less intimidating tone, but I just wanted to get it over with, you know? I mean, it's not like I'm asking for the number of someone I like. I'm getting it to give our "partnership" some privacy, so Nightmare wouldn't answer the phone if I called their landline or something. Being partners with someone you barely know is one thing, but talking to your teacher that happens to be related to said person on their landline is another story.

Ms. Toriel said that the project is due October 5th. Today is September 15th. That gives us half a month to research, write the paper, make the visual aids, and prepare the presentation. This monster of an assignment is worth thirty percent of our final grade for the quarter. I'm averaging an A- for this class, with a GPA of 3.6, all A's and B's. I want to get in this really good tech institute for college, and I am not letting one little project slow me down. If we want to get this done, and I mean done well, we need to start now.

After I let Ms. Toriel know about our topic choice, I plow through the hallways, trying to find Dream. I find him by the cafeteria, talking to Nightmare. The French teacher towered over the yellow-clad freshman, his single, glowing blue eye focused on him. I hesitate for a minute. Did Dream tell him about the project yet? If he doesn't know, should I tell him? He lives with Dream, which is common knowledge since Dream sometimes stays after to help him with photocopying worksheets, so he's probably noticed that we avoid each other. I'm on Nightmare's "good side", and I don't even want to know what his bad side is like, if any of the rumors I've heard about him are true. I take a deep breath. I should go now. Take the bull by the horns, so to speak.

I walk in their direction. "Hey, Dream?" I call out to him. He flinches and looks my way, surprised. Nightmare turns his head, his eyelid raising a bit, but he's silent.

"Yeah, Cross?" Dream fidgets a little bit, looking at Nightmare, and then at me.

"I-I just wanted to talk with you?" My sentence turned into a question. "About our, uh, English project?"

I glance at Nightmare. His hands are behind his back, and the ends of his tentacles are curling up. "You're his partner for the project?"

I nod, tensing up. Was it too late to switch class periods with someone?

He smiles. Not his "I-think-it's-time-for-a-pop-quiz" smile, one I'm rather familiar with, but a normal, friendly smile. "And I assume Ink will be helping you? You two are focusing on art, am I correct?"

"Art and it's history," Dream pipes up.

"Y-yeah," I stutter, releasing my tension a bit. I turn to face Dream. "Do you think you could come to my house after school today? We don't have that long, and we have a lot to do. I think Ink has his old copy of Art In Theory in his office."

"Sure, I don't have that much homework anyway," He shrugs. "At least, so far."

"Great. I rode my bike here, but I can ask-"

"YOU RODE YOUR BIKE HERE TOO GREAT SO DID I WE CAN JUST RIDE TOGETHER!" Dream's tiny outburst makes me and Nightmare jump a little. I silently thank the God Of Awkward Situations for sparing me this time. We did NOT need any more awkward scenarios, such as a car ride from Ink. God, I hope that doesn't happen anytime soon. I don't need Ink telling Dream about my irrational fear of cows from when I was six.

Nightmare looks at me and nods. "I have to go now. Papers to grade and all that. Make sure Dream gets to your place in one piece, alright, Cross?"

"You have my word," I swear.

He smiles and walks off to his classroom. Dream sighs in relief. "I'll be honest, that was more awkward to me than it was to you."

"Have you forgotten that I live with our art teacher?"

"...You have a fair point."

Ink is the school's art teacher, and also my adoptive father. Honestly, I have no idea how he even got the job in the first place. He's basically a hyperactive seven-year-old kid in a twenty-year-old's body. His art ideas are crazy in all capital letters, and once a week, the art classes have a "Free Your Mind Day", where "as long as you're making art and not poking some kid's eye out with a ruler or setting the place on fire, I really don't care what you do". Ink's words, mind you. Not what people look for in a high school art teacher. I actually heard a rumor where they refused him the job, but they gave it to him when he showed up at the principal's door the next morning carrying a baseball bat covered in nails.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't believe the kid who told me. Ink can be scary when he wants to be.

"Did you, uh, need anything else?" He asked.

"Nah, not really," I rocked on my feet. "I'm eating lunch with Ink today."

"Okay, then. Uh, meet me at the bike rack after school lets out?"

"Sounds good."

Dream walks into the cafeteria, giving me a small wave. I return it, and walk in the direction of Ink's domain, the art studio.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. I could barely concentrate in class, my mind focused on the study session Cross had "organized" for after school. I really didn't want to spend the next two to three hours after school studying in a bedroom with Hatsune Miku decor on the walls. But then again, I didn't have the right to judge on what posters he decided to decorate his walls with; after all, I did have a large poster of my favorite musical hanging in my room. 

Suddenly, the bell rang, snapping me out of my thoughts. I looked down at the piece of paper I was drawing on. It was supposed to be a self-portrait, but the haze of my anxiousness, I had scribbled out the area where my eyes would have been. I scowl at the page, and stand up to leave.

"Alright, there's the bell, I'll see you all tomorrow! Dream, could you stay behind for a minute?" I tense as Ink called my name out. I stand there nervously as the rest of the class files out, talking to each other. He looks me in the eye as I start pulling bits of stray fuzz off the sleeve of my pineapple-colored sweater, extremely nervous.

"You're doing a group project with Cross, correct?" Ink asked me, one of his eyes staying a question mark, while the other kept shifting back and forth from a orange triangle to a purple square, giving me a little smirk.

How on earth could I forget? It was just the only thing that I had been thinking about for the last half of the school day. I nod my head, gritting my teeth a little. Cross must have told him about it. 

"Did you two need a ride? I'd be perfectly happy to drive you two! Cross rode his bike here, but I can put it in the trunk." Ink smiled at me, and I felt dread building up in my non-existent stomach.

"No, that's fine, Ink," I sweat a little bit, praying to God that he doesn't ask anything weird, or insist on driving us. "I rode my bike, too, so there's no need for that at all." It was true; I like to ride my bike or walk to school and back home instead of riding the school bus or getting a ride from Nightmare. The summer before I started high school, I was exploring the woods behind my house, and I found a route to school through there, which took about fifteen minutes, while going the standard route takes twice as long. The woods are quiet and peaceful, and I like going that way to be alone, nothing but me, my thoughts, and raw nature.

"If you insist, then. If you guys want to ride your bikes, I won't stop you," Ink shrugs his shoulders. "I have some grading to do anyways, so I won't be home for maybe a couple hours."

Thank God. At least Ink won't be there to make things really awkward and embarrassing.

"That's all I needed. You're free to go," Ink waved a hand at me, and I left the messy classroom. "See you later!"

I ran down the hallways, my anxiety going through the roof. I can't wait to get home tonight, that's for sure.

But first, I have a study session to get over with.


Cross was idly leaning against the empty bike rack, save for two bikes. His eyes caught mine. "Hey," he nodded at me.

"Sorry I'm late," I apologize. "Ink wanted to talk to me real quick."

"Don't worry, it's cool," He flashes a smile. "I'm kinda late too, your brother wanted to talk to me about my schedule."

"Your schedule?" Nightmare usually didn't handle students's schedules.

"He's switching me to one of his more advanced French classes. I'm pretty far ahead of the class." My brother had three levels of French that he taught: French I, French II, and French III. I knew the basics of French, so I'm in French II, seventh period. Cross must be in French I, his eighth period class.

"Nice, dude." I congratulate him.

We unlock our bikes and wheel them out of the rack. I swing my leg over the seat. Cross does the same. "Lead the way, Cross," I nod at him.

"This way," He pushes his foot off the ground and starts to pedal down Tallis Lane. I follow his lead, my legs pumping up and down. Tallis Lane goes on for ages, so it's more of a main street. We pedal for six blocks, and then Cross makes a turn on Cohort Terrace, which is a couple of blocks from my street, Dole Lane.

Cross stops at a small, white house with black finishing. "Here we are. Home sweet home," he announces. He gets off his bike and walks it over to the side of his house. I follow him, and I lean my bike against the wall of the house. 

"So, we're doing research today?" I ask him, trying to break the ice a little bit.

"Yeah," he nods at me as we walk towards the front door. "I made a little outline on what we should cover in our report during lunch, so we know what we're looking for."

"And what are we covering, exactly?" I want to make the visual aids, so it would be nice to know what I need to create.

"The different art periods of the past, various artists that were famous and/or made an impact in the history of art, a bit of background on some famous paintings, and how art has shaped real life today," Cross's voice was strong and confident, like he had been studying fine art for several years.

"I take it that Ink had a little help?"

"Did Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa?" he asks.

"Of course he did," I roll my eyes a bit. I knew the answer to that question because sometimes Ink would just rant about famous artists at the drop of a hat.

Cross reaches inside his hoodie pocket and fishes out a key ring, with some chains and a single house key on it. He unlocked the door, opened it, and went inside. I followed him.

"Wipe your feet," he instructs me.

"Why?"

"Ink doesn't like it when I go inside before I wipe my feet first."

"Fair enough," I wipe my gold-and-white sneakers on the mat. I look around the house. Surprisingly, it's pretty clean, for the most part. Cross's bag is even hung up on a chair in the dining room. Some of the decor is unusual, like the abstract painting of what looks like Bart Simpson hanging over the couch, but it looks like a normal house, for the most part.

"Hey, do you want something to drink?" Cross asks. "I think we have some soda in the fridge."

"Soda's fine." I follow him into the kitchen. He opens the fridge and grabs two cans of soda. He hands me one and I thank him. I open the tab and take a sip. Cherry Coke. Score! He doesn't open his, at least, not yet.

 "My room's this way," He walks back into the living room, up to the stairs and starts climbing them. I follow him, drinking the cherry-flavored soda, and we stop at a door with a drawing of Akane from that really popular anime Blade Crafting Network taped onto it, along with a piece of paper that read, "Cross's Room, knock before entering-INCLUDING YOU INK!"

I laugh a little at that last part. I guess Ink doesn't exactly get the fact that us teenagers need privacy, being high on hormones all the time and all that.

"What's so funny?" Cross looks at me like I just said that I was an alien or something.

"Um, it's nothing," I take another sip of my Coke, feeling instant regret. "We should, uh, go in, I guess."

He shrugs and opens the door to his room. I shift my messenger bag that I use for school off my shoulder and lean it against the wall. The room is surprisingly neat. A pile of dirty clothes lies in a corner, but other than that, it's more clean than I expected. I scan the walls, noting his anime-themed decor, when a different poster catches my eye. I nearly spit out my drink in shock. The poster has a golden background, and there's a black star, but instead of the top point, there's a man standing on the top, pointing up towards the sky. And in the middle of the star it reads...oh my God...

"You have a Hamilton poster?" I turn to face him, and he flinches a little, but then looks at me with a look of confusion.

"You've heard of it, too?" I can see him brightening up a little.

"Uh, duh! It's only the best musical of all time!" I laugh, feeling the awkward feelings melt away. "I have that poster too, actually!"

"That's pretty cool!"

"I know, right? What's your favorite number from the musical?"

"Ooh, that's a tough one," Cross rubs the back of his skull. "Alexander Hamilton is really catchy, but Burn had me in tears when I first heard it. Still does sometimes actually. Yours?"

"Alexander Hamilton is one of my favorites, too," I admit. "But I like to sing My Shot in the shower."

"Really?" He looks interested. "I didn't know you could sing."

I put down my can of soda on his desk, close my eyes, and start rapping.

"I am not throwing away my shot,

I am not throwing away my shot,"

"Yo, I'm just like my country, I'm cold, scrappy and hungry, and I'm not throwing away my shot!" Cross joins in at the end, and we start laughing. After a while, our giggles die down, and Cross plops down on his bed, while I claim his swivel chair. 

"Holy shit, your singing is amazing!" Cross gasps. "You should do choir or something."

"I dunno," I shake my head. "Singing cheesy songs about peace and love in front of the whole school? I don't want to kill my social life, thank you very much." It was true; the choir teacher was a huge hippie, and had everyone sing songs that she wrote about world peace and loving each other. All the kids in choir were constantly picked on and bullied, and were at the very bottom of the school's "food chain", even below the nerds and geeks, and only God knows how that managed to happen.

"Yeah, I'd be a pretty shitty person if I led you to your social death, wouldn't I?"

"Dude, that is the dick move to end all dick moves," I chuckle at Cross's phrasing. "But I think I have an idea for our project."

"You do?" He kicks off his black and powder white sneakers, looking at me. "What is it?"

"You know how musicians are considered artists?" The other skeleton nods at me. "Well, what if for our project, along with other visual artists that had different areas of interest, like Da Vinci, we find some musical artists that are also visual artists?"

Cross stares at me, bug-eyed. I start to have second thoughts, and then he speaks.

"That. Is. BRILLIANT!" He shouts. "This idea could open the minds of other students, and we could get EXTRA CREDIT to boot! Dream, you're a GENIUS!"

Woah, he's getting really excited over some extra credit.

"Well, we got some research to do, then," I chuckle. "This project won't get done by itself."

"You're right!" He runs out of the room and returns a few minutes later, carrying a bunch of books in his arms. He hands me the stack, and I take it. The title of the book on top of the stack reads The Marvels of the Renaissance

I put the stack on his desk, and pick up the Renaissance book. Cross goes back to his bed, reaches underneath his pillow, and pulls out a laptop covered in all sorts of stickers.

"I'm looking for articles online that'll help us," He explains. I nod in response, pulling out my phone, opening the Spotify app.

"How about a little motivation music?" I suggest, selecting the Hamilton soundtrack and pressing "play". The opening notes of Alexander Hamilton echo through the room.

"Nice selection," Cross cracks his knuckles. "Now let's get on it."


Everything went smoothly for the next two and a half hours. We exchanged information and compared notes, and once in a while, sang along to some of the tracks on the playlist (Cross started beatboxing while I rapped along to My Shot, which was an interesting five minutes and thirty seconds.). After we had played the entire soundtrack, we started making small talk, and we learned bits and pieces about each other, realizing that we had more in common than we thought. Cross told me that Ink had adopted him when his dad had gotten arrested for murder when he was a couple months old, and I told him that Nightmare had raised me on his own when my mom died when I was a baby.

"Holy shit, I'm sorry about that," He had said when I told him that. I told him that it was alright, and that I didn't know her that well, and changed the subject quickly. A while after that, when Cross was telling me about the time that Ink almost got arrested for disturbing the peace when he decided to practice his flute at the park, my phone buzzed. I picked it up.

It was a text from my brother.

Nightmare: Are you coming home soon? Dinner's going to be ready in half an hour.

I look at the time at the top of the screen. 5:30 already? Wow, time sure flies.

"Who is it?" Cross asked, pointing at my phone.

"Just my brother," I respond, getting up from the chair. "He wants me home for dinner."

"Okay, can I text you my notes? I have these digitally..."

We clean up all our papers and books. I gather my things and send Nightmare a text telling him that I'm on my way home.

Cross returns all the art books to Ink's study, and we both walk downstairs, running into Ink.

"Oh hi, you two!" Ink grins at us. "How did your studying session go?"

"It was... great," Cross smiles weakly.

"That's nice to hear!" The shorter skeleton's eyes turn into stars. "I can't wait to see your final result!"

"Yeah," I chuckle. "I, uh, gotta go." I make my way to the door.

"Aww, already?" Ink starts to look a little disappointed.

"Well, dinner's in a half-hour, and Nightmare'd kill me if I was late home, so..."

Ink sighs. "Alright, then! I'll see you tomorrow, anyways, so I guess it's nothing to be sad about!"

"See ya, Dream." Cross waves goodbye at me.

I smile and return the gesture, and walk out the door. I go to the side of the house, get on my bike, and ride off to my house.


I walk in through the front door, out of breath from the bike ride. The smell of garlic and other spices greet me as I pass the kitchen, heading towards the stairs.

"Greetings, Dream. How was your study session with Cross?" Nightmare pokes his head out from the doorway and looks at me.

I pause for a minute, before turning towards him and smiling.

"It was pretty great, Night!" I say, heading towards my room. I really enjoyed that study session, spending time with Cross included.

For the first time in my life since August, I was looking forward to school the next day, and seeing Cross.

 

Chapter Text

I thought after that, we would just be meeting to do our project together, but I was very wrong. The very next morning, at 7:15, I was finishing up my breakfast while listening to the morning K-pop playlist on Spotify when I heard the doorbell ring. Ink had gone to school early today, so I supposed he had forgotten something again. I put my cereal bowl in the sink and pressed the pause button on my phone. I put my headphones on the table and went over and opened the door, and did a double take.

"Uh, bad time?" Dream asks, putting his hands in the pockets of his mustard-colored hoodie. Dream seems to wear a lot of yellow clothing. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen him without long sleeves. I even remember him wearing a white long-sleeved shirt underneath his Bring Me The Horizon T-shirt on the first day of school, in August. Kinda weird, to be honest. 

"N-no, you're good, dude," I reply. "I was just about to head to school, though, so I can't stick around long."

"About that.." He rubs the back of his skull. "I was on my way to school, and I started to pass your street, and I thought we could, um, walk... together?"

He just wants to walk with me? I'm pretty sure that there's another motive, but I'm not gonna turn him down. For one, we got along pretty well yesterday. I don't want to risk ruining our friendship by turning his offer down. I honestly don't know why, but I have this feeling about Dream. A feeling that tells me that if someone pushes him too hard, he might "break", or do something awful to himself. I'm not sure if I should trust my nonexistent gut on this, but better safe then sorry.

"Sure, why not," I shrug at him. "Just let me go get my stuff." I gently close the door and head up to my room. I'm out as quickly as I went in, grabbing my black and white backpack and volume 5 of one of my favorite manga, Stone Goddess Fortress, putting it in my bag carefully. I also snatch my wireless headphones from the kitchen table on my way out, putting them around my neck. I hate the fact that headphone cords get tangled up all the damn time, no matter what you do, so I saved up my money and bought a nice, reasonably-priced pair of cord-free headphones. (That was when I was ten. It's been five years, and they still work perfectly, which is a bonus.)

I open the door again, silently noting the fact that Dream was still standing there. So he's really serious about this walking to school thing, huh? Well, at least Ink isn't here to make things all awkward and stuff. "Ready?" I ask him, slinging my bag over my shoulder. He nods at me, and we walk towards the end of my block.

"Thanks for letting me join you," He smiles at me shyly. "I was kinda afraid that'd you'd say no."

"What? You're pretty cool, tibia honest," I seize the chance and crack a little pun in my reply. "My only rule is that you don't fall in love with me, like in those cheesy visual novels."

Dream and stared at me, like I was fused with someone else, resulting in a weird, gooey mess. "What?" I ask him.

"You think visual novels are cheesy? You?" He raised his voice, causing some other people that were passing by to look at us. 

"Well, there is Doki Doki-" I start to reply, but stopped myself from answering.

"Doki Doki? Is that the full name, or is that an abbreviation?" Dream tilts his head, looking curious. I was afraid of this.

You see, the game I had vaguely mentioned was called Doki Doki Literature Club. I discovered it a year or two ago, when it had first come out. I was talking to some people on the official Mew Mew Kissy Cutie Discord, when one person mentioned a game that they called DDLC. They seemed to enjoy it, and recommended it to me. I thought it wouldn't hurt to check it out for myself, but I was furious when I saw that it was a visual novel. However, I thought it was weird that a visual novel, a one that was supposed to be a fucking dating simulator, had a warning that said "This game is not suitable for children under thirteen or those who are easily disturbed". I decided to play the game, assuming it would be the same old dating sims I was used to.

Boy, was I wrong. And that was what I loved about it.

The game was full of twists and turns that I didn't expect. First my childhood best friend committed suicide, then that girl with the wine-colored hair stabbed herself to death, and the tiny girl with the pink pigtails who I nicknamed "Bubblegum Bitch" due to her smartass attitude snapped her own neck. And it turned out the club leader caused all of it. In my opinion, DDLC is the best visual novel ever, but I don't want Dream to play it, on the grounds that he might freak out, and that Nightmare would pulverize me on the spot if he found out I recommended it to him.

"I don't think that you could handle it," I finally respond, praying that he would drop it.

"Hey, I'm tougher than I look," Dream scoffs. "I think I can play a visual novel just fine. It's not like you said it was a scary game."

"Dude, your brother would kill me if he found out I recommended that game to you," I argue.

"Oh, does it have sex scenes?" He asks.

"What? NO!" I feel my cheekbones grow warm. "Ink looks at my Steam library! If Doki Doki Literature Club was... that kind of game, I'd be grounded until I graduated!"

"Then why don't you want me to play it?" His yellow eyelights seem to burn a hole in my skull. Did he inherit Nightmare's famous death glare or something?

"Ugh, fine, then!" I throw my hands in the air in frustration, giving in. "It's free, so you don't have to ask Nightmare for any money or anything. Text me when you finish the first act."

"A free game? Fagioli freschi!

"..Was that Italian?"

"I spent the entire summer in Italy with some relatives a year ago. I just said 'cool beans'," He explains.

"You think you could teach me sometime? I wanna have some clever comebacks for when somebody on Discord insults me."

"Oh, you're in luck," He cracks his knuckles. "I know tons of insults in Italian."


"And 'piccolo coglione' means 'you little jackass'," Dream says. Impressive, I think. I am so going to use that in my next flame war.

"Dude, you're a total badass," I nudge his arm. 

"Damn straight!" He laughs back at me, turning forward, and deflates a little. "Aw, we're at school already."

I look up. Dream was right. We were so engrossed in our conversation, I hadn't noticed that we had arrived. I check my watch. It was a quarter to eight, giving us fifteen minutes until we had to go to class. We both had History with Mr. Gerson first period, so we'd be going to the same place. Which reminds me...

"So, you ready for the History test today?" I ask him as we enter the school.

"Ugh, I hope I am," He sighs, rubbing a hand up and down his right arm. "I honestly forgot about it until Nightmare mentioned it at dinner last night. I was cramming for hours."

"Well, Mr. Gerson's tests are kinda hard, so I can understand," I reply.

"I think 'kinda tough' is an understatement," Dream nods, and stops walking. "This is your locker, right? You can get your stuff, I can wait."

"Oh, thanks," I reply, turning to face my locker. "Speaking of Nightmare, what's he like? Outside of school, I mean." Nightmare was one of my favorite teachers. He has a bit of a bad reputation around Monarch, because of all the pop quizzes and surprise tests he gives to students. I don't really mind it, since I like being challenged, but a lot of students hate him anyway.

"He's the best brother anyone could ask for," He leans against a neighboring locker as I open my own, grabbing the textbooks I need. "He's kind, understanding, and one hell of a good cook. He studied abroad in France for a year, he loves kids, which made him want to teach French to high schoolers. Oh, and he loves scented candles."

"Wow, you're a really lucky kid, to have him as a brother," I say, closing the door of my locker, and we continue the route to Mr. Gerson's classroom. "I'm not sure if you know already, but he gets a bit of a bad rap here. I don't really have anything against him, I'm just afraid to get on his 'bad side'. If he has one, that is."

"Yeah, I know about his reputation," Dream smiles, but it looks a little melancholic. "Nightmare knows, too, but he tries to not let it get him down. He just wants his students to try their best, after all. Though I'll admit," He pauses for a second, turning to his locker, which we almost passed, opening it and getting some books. "it gets me down quite a bit. I'm proud of my older brother, and I just want him to be happy with what he does. When I hear other students talking shit about him in the halls, I feel really bad about myself, like they're talking about me instead of him. Is Nightmare not good enough? Am I not good enough? Would anybody even care if I didn't show up to school one day?" He slams the door of his locker shut hard as he finishes talking, and I can see yellow tears beading at the corners of his eyes as he squeezes them shut.

"Well, I think you're cool," I tell him, putting an arm around his shoulder. He opens an eye, and looks up at me. "Don't listen to those punks. You and Nightmare both are amazing people. Don't let them get you down." I smile at him.

"Thanks, Cross," He smiles back at me. "We should probably get to class. The bell's gonna ring soon."

"Alright, then," I reply, and we hurry off to class.


We hung out with each other for the rest of the school day. We walked to classes together, sat next to each other, stuff like that. We've only been class partners for a day and a half, but after our little Hamilton sing-along, and Dream's little rant-and-near-breakdown, it's kind of an unspoken rule you have to stick with each other after stuff like that happens. Besides, Dream is perfect friend material. In Debate, I was trying to get into an argument two kids were having over which was better, anime or manga, and I asked him if he could help me get their attention, and he accomplished that by standing up on his chair and screaming "FALSEHOOD!" at the top of his lungs like it was nothing. Needless to say, I easily took charge of the debate after that.

There were some times where we had to separate, like when I had to go to Physics and Dream had to go to Bio, but that was okay. We had a bunch of other classes together, anyways, something that I hated in the past, but now, I'm just fine with it. At lunch, instead of sitting alone, like the introverted weeb that I am, I sat with Dream. We had made a bunch of progress on our research during English today, including making a rough outline of what our paper would be like. Professor Hands told us we were having a test tomorrow, and since his tests are absolute hell, I told Dream that we couldn't meet after school today because I had to study. He was surprisingly okay with it, saying that we could meet tomorrow or Friday.

"Besides, it gives me a chance to check out Doki Doki Literature Club!" He added as he took a bite of his sandwich. Oh, I wish I never brought up the game at all, Dream's probably going to scream his head off. I wouldn't blame him if he did, though, since some of scenes are pretty graphic.

After lunch, we had four periods left in the day. I was starting French II today, so I was a little nervous. As I approach the French classroom, Pre-Algebra and Health out of the way, I see Dream standing by the door, one hand hovering over the handle, as if he was hesitant about opening the door. I feel dread growing in my stomach, but I knew that there was no use in avoiding the situation, so I kept walking towards the door.

"Uh, hey," I call out to him. He turned around to look at me, and looked a little shocked.

"H-hey, Cross," He replies. "I was just...about to go to French."

"Um, funny you should say that..." I trail off, cursing myself at this bad luck.

"..You got switched into French II, didn't you," Dream deadpanned.

"Yyyeeeaaahhh..."

"Dannazione, I thought we were done with these awkward situations!"

"Me too, Dream," I groan. "But look on the bright side, this can't get any more awkward, right?"

"You have a point. Let's just get this over with; it's not like it's the first day of English, right?" He answers, opening the door, walking in the classroom with me following him. Most of the class is already there, though I only recognize a handful of them. Nightmare is sitting at his desk, reading something written on a piece of paper, mouthing the words to himself, his tendrils tensed up, as if he was about to impale something with them, a telltale sign that he was frustrated or upset. We pass him, Dream heading to a desk by the window and sitting down. I take the empty seat behind him as the bell rings.

"Good afternoon, class," Nightmare greets the class, putting down the page and picking up a blue folder and a pen. Most of the class responds with the same greeting, but without the word "class".

"We'll start with attendance," He says, standing up from his chair, opening the folder. "Noelle Holiday?"

"Here, sir!" A deer-like monster raises her hand. I'm sure she's a junior or a senior at least. Nightmare writes something down in the folder and continues reading names, with different responses greeting him. Catti responds with a monotone 'here', not looking up from her phone, which he confiscates; and Kris just raises their hand.

"Dream Joku?" Nightmare looks in Dream's direction as he says it aloud.

"Here," Dream raises his hand, visibly nervous.

"Alright, now that everybody's here, I'd like to introduce Cross Jakei," The black skeleton motions towards me, and I feel as if I just got cold feet as the class turns to look at me. "He's not a new student, but he has transferred from my eighth period class to this one. Welcome, Cross." Nightmare smiles at me, just like he did yesterday in the hallway, but I feel like jumping into a pit full of hungry, angry rattlesnakes.

"Well, it can't get worse," Dream whispers to me as his brother tells us to clear our desks for a pop quiz. I just hope Dream's right.


Dream was very wrong. When Nightmare switched me into French II, he had to put me into another class. Unfortunately, the period I usually had before his class before I got switched was art class, and Ink was very willing to put me into his eighth period, which Dream was also in. Not a big deal after the French class fiasco, right?

Well, it wouldn't have been a big deal if it weren't for the fact that Ink hugged me when he saw me walk in the door and introduced me as his son. To the whole class.

"Well, my social life is pretty much dead now," I deadpan as somebody throws a balled-up piece of paper at the back of my head, followed by laughter. "So much for this not getting any more awkward."

"Sorry I jinxed you," Dream apologizes as he doodles on a piece of paper. "They'll probably leave you alone when they find out you're friends with Nightmare's little brother." He raises his voice at the last bit, and the giggles immediately stop, tension thickening in the air.

"Did you call me your friend?" I ask him.

"Y-yeah," Dream replies, and I notice he's gripping his pencil tighter. "I mean, you don't really care that I'm related to the French teacher, you're pretty nice, and you even comforted me when I started belittling myself in the hallway this morning. You're a really great person to have as a friend, y'know?"

"Well, you're more to me than 'the little brother of the French teacher'," I say, wrapping an arm around him. "I feel like you're the best friend I've been looking for my whole life. So yeah, I know."

"So... friends?" He grins at me.

"I was leaning towards 'best friends', actually. You fit that role much better, in my opinion," I respond, and we high-five each other, sealing the deal. "So what're you drawing, anyway?"

"Uh, Hannah Baker from Thirteen Reasons Why," Dream taps his paper, which had a pretty good drawing of a teenage girl on it, with prescription bottles and pills doodled on the sides. "It's just my interpretation of what she looked like in the book, though."

"They made that into a book?" I was familiar with the name Dream had mentioned. It was one of my favorite Netflix series, and I'm pretty psyched for the third season, which is due to be released in January. The fact that there was a book based on the series was new to me.

"Actually, it was a book first, and then they made the series based on that..."


 

"You're sure you want to lend me this?" I ask Dream as we walk home, holding a copy of Thirteen Reasons Why that he had lent me after learning that I had watched the Netflix series, but never read the book.

"It's no big deal. I bought the e-book version of it a few years back, just in case I wanted to read it and I couldn't find the physical copy," He shrugs. "I won't rush you, either. Everyone reads at their own pace, after all. Call or text me when you finish it, though. This is one of my favorite books, and I want to know what you think about it."

"I didn't know you were even into 13RW," I say, turning the book over to glance at the summary, even though I knew what the book was about, since I watched all the episodes of both seasons. "It seems a little, I don't know, dark for your tastes."

"I'll be honest with you, Cross," Dream tells me, turning to look me in the eyes. "I've kind of always wondered what goes on inside of somebody's head, right before they die. Are they scared about what's happening around them, as they feel the life draining from their body? Do they not know that they're about to take their last breath, and think like we normally do? Or do they know it's their time, and are ready to pass on, not knowing what happens after life? Thirteen Reasons Why was like a mindblow for me, sharing the final thoughts of a teenage girl who had recently committed suicide. She was open and honest about the reasons she decided to end her life, and that was what makes this book so special to me."

"I..." He took me by surprise there, to be honest. I don't know what to say, at first. "That's pretty deep, honestly."

"Well, I feel like that there's a lot of hidden meaning and power in last words," Dream continues. "You could say a phrase that seems simple, but it actually has a deeper meaning."

"What if my last words were 'Damn it'?" I ask. "Don't really see anything deep about that phrase."

He remains silent for several minutes. "Alright, gray area."

"Although, could we stop talking about last words and stuff? Since I'm going to read a book that. Y'know. Is practically a giant suicide note?"

"Yeeah, good idea," Dream agrees. "So, since you know what Nightmare's like outside of school, what's Ink like?"

"You know what Ink's like in school, right?" A nod from Dream. "Well, imagine that, but times ten. And more parent-like."

"Honestly, I don't know what I expected," He admits. "You know, Ink being the way he is. One time, Ink T-posed in front of our class."

"He did what?" I can't help it, I just burst into laughter. "That is insane! Even by his standards!"

"Who even told him what that was?"

"Guess he just wanted to assert his dominance," I chuckle.

"Not. Funny," Dream facepalms. "Hey, this is your street, right? Cohort Terrace?"

In our conversation over final words and Ink's T-posing, we had almost passed my street.

"Yeah, this is it," I nod. "Wanna meet here tomorrow at 7:20 so we can walk to school together?"

"Sure!" He replies, and continues to walk on Tallis Lane. "See you later, Cross!"

"See you later, Dream." I walk down my street, feeling good. I didn't have to be anxious around Dream anymore. We were comfortable just the way we were now.

I loved my new best friend. Well, platonically.

Chapter Text

I curl up tighter underneath my yellow comforter, tears rolling down my cheeks as the Weeknd’s “Hurt You” played through my yellow Bluetooth headphones. It was really melancholic, but I really needed something like that right now, after I finished playing Doki Doki Literature Club. 

I don’t wanna hurt you,” I sing along as I remember the ending of the first act, where I witnessed Sayori’s death. I imagine that Cross screamed when he saw the scene, but my reaction wasn’t the one that you might expect. I’m not even sure how I reacted was normal. 

I knew that something bad was going to happen. Sayori’s poem for the festival had just had the words “Get out of my head” written over and over, and ending with the phrase, “But a poem is never finished. It just stops moving.” That was the moment I noticed that there was no background music, only silence, which made me sweat a little. I’ve played enough video games to know that wasn’t a good sign.  

When I got to her house, I was greeted with the familiar black screen that I saw before the scene where Sayori told me that she had chronic depression. I took a deep breath, before I continued the dialogue, and what I saw completely shocked me. Her body was hanging from a rope on the ceiling, her eyes dull and devoid of life, and her fingers were bloody from clawing at the rope after changing her mind, which Monika told me later. I should have screamed then. But that’s not what I did. 

I began to laugh instead. 

It started as a little chuckle, and then it grew louder and louder, and then my laughter turned to gross sobbing, burying my face into my hands as tears fell. Dead. Sayori was dead. She killed herself, and I couldn’t do anything about it. The game quit itself, signifying the end of the first act. I thought the second act would be at least a little more lighthearted. 

I was wrong. Act 2 was much, much more awful. The game got all glitchy when the game started to run sans Sayori, and then everything went insane when I started to go after Yuri. She started to become extremely obsessive over me, giving me a poem with several bloodstains and some yellow spots which looked like human urine, and confessing that she touched herself with a pen she stole from my character, both which made me throw up in my mouth a little, and I nearly fainted when I saw her stab herself to death, which totaled up to two characters who committed suicide. Now I knew why Cross had tried to avoid the subject when he was about to blurt out Doki Doki Literature Club. The game was complete and utter nightmare fuel. And it was even worse for people like me. 

I had my “Melancholia Mix” playlist on shuffle, so when “Hurt You” ended, it went to another random song on my playlist. By some strange coincidence, “Strawberry Gashes” began to play. I had stumbled across that particular song because it was in the recommended songs section at the bottom of my playlist on the desktop version of Spotify. It was about a girl who was cutting herself, and I started crying harder, the image of Yuri and the self-inflicted wounds on her arm fixed in my mind. Through teary eyes, I look at the time on my phone. A quarter to one in the morning. I’d been crying and listening to music for hours. 

I pause the music and take my headphones off. I should get some tea or something to clear my mind. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, all of this sad and depressing music was clearly worsening my mental state of mind at that moment. I slide out of my bed and leave my bedroom, wiping the tears from my cheeks.  

I walk down the hallway, and I pause when I get to my brother’s room. I gently open the door a little and look inside. Nightmare had changed into his passive form, as he always did when he was at home with me. His lavender-colored sheets were tossed to the side a little, so I could see him wearing the purple sweats that he’s worn to bed every night ever since I got those for him. Every fifteen seconds, Nightmare’s chest rose and fell as he took a breath. I clenched my teeth, guilty. He was at a bunch of parent-teacher conferences, so he wasn’t there when I played the game. But he didn’t turn a blind eye when he saw my state when he came home with pizza at six-thirty that night. 

I had on the Netflix adaptation of Thirteen Reasons Why, but I wasn’t focusing on the show at all; I was just staring at the screen, my mind elsewhere. I’m sure my brother stood there for at least five minutes before putting down the pizza box and shaking my shoulder, snapping me back to reality. 

“Dream? Are you alright?” Nightmare had asked, worry in his eyes. 

“D-don’t worry, Night, I’m okay,” I said, biting my tongue, looking up at him, trying to fake a smile. 

“You don’t look okay to me,” He replied. “Do you want to talk about it?” 

I sat there in silence for several minutes before responding. “Not really. You can't help with this one, Nightmare. My head’s like a goddamned carousel right now. I just need some time to think.” 

“Alright,” My brother still looked concerned. “But I’m going to talk with Asy tomorrow morning and see if he can squeeze in an appointment for us this weekend before I go in to school, okay? I know you’ve been struggling since you started high school, especially concerning your mental health.” 

I had only nodded in response, keeping silent. If only he knew what was going on in my head. I probably should have told him, but I felt really awful back at that moment, and I didn’t want to feel like a burden. If I had known it was going to get worse, I would have told him right then and there. I sigh, and shut his bedroom door quietly. I go downstairs, making sure to avoid the creaking seventh stair on the way, and I head straight for the kitchen. 

I’m not usually a morning person. I mean, I’ll get out of bed, but I’m not really “awake”, in a sense. I don’t really drink coffee, either, since I don't like the bitter taste, so I drink a lot of tea instead. Anything from golden flower to lavender, chamomile to spearmint, I’m not picky when it comes to tea, oh no, I’m such a tea snob, we have an entire cupboard full of different kinds of tea, both leaves and bags. 

I get out the tea kettle and fill it with water. While the water begins to boil, I climb up onto the kitchen counter and rummage around in the tea cupboard until I find the tin with the jasmine tea leaves in them. I hop down from the counter, and I go around the kitchen, gathering a tea strainer and a cat-shaped teacup.  

I open the small, pink container, and put a few teaspoons of the tea leaves into the strainer. The strainer is the kind that’s in a little mesh ball, so I close it and put it in the mug. The kettle whistles, and I carefully take it and pour some of the extremely hot water into the cup. 

I put the kettle back on the counter, and carefully carry the teacup to the small table we have in the kitchen. While the tea is steeping, I put the tin of leaves back in the cabinet, and get out a saucer. I take a seat at the table and begin to dunk the strainer up and down in the tea like a cookie. I set the strainer on the saucer, taking a sip of the tea. It’s hot, but I’m used to the temperature.  

Tea usually makes me feel better in times like these, when I’m feeling really depressed, but I’m still in a blue funk. Ever since I started high school, I’ve been feeling kinda down. I can usually “fake it till you make it”, but there’s some days where I just want to...give up on everything. School, life. I'm pretty sure that my therapist thinks that’s suicidal, but I don’t think I’m anywhere close to that. I know the signs by heart: doing worse in school, giving away stuff they value, isolating themselves from family and friends. 

I’ve handled my depression just fine for most of my life. It’s not like I’m going to become outright suicidal in the span of a couple weeks, right? 

I finish my tea, and put my teacup and saucer in the sink, still carrying the strainer, which I open and empty out into the trash. I open a drawer and put it inside it, but before I close it, I pause. 

Nightmare’s small, silver Xacto knife sits there in the drawer, light shining on the blade. I remember Yuri and the cuts on her arm, and I remember Monika said that Yuri cut herself whenever she gets too excited. An idea forms in my mind in an instant, but I hesitate. I really shouldn’t do this. This idea is really, really dangerous. But I need to do something. Something that’ll distract me from all of these emotions. 

I leave the kitchen and head upstairs to my bathroom, the knife feeling cold and unfamiliar in my hand.


I wake up several hours later in a tired haze, my arms feeling awfully sore. I get out of bed and head for my bathroom to get ready for the day. I take off my sweatshirt, and I wince as I look at all of the thin, red cuts that covered my radius and ulna, recalling what happened last night. I can't believe I did it. When me and Nightmare found out that I had depression, he told me to let him know immediately if I hurt myself or thought about it, so we could stop it before it got any worse. I had told him that it wouldn't be a problem, since I would never even think about cutting myself. But I did think about it, and I went through with it to try it out, see what it felt like. I had planned to do one cut, maybe two if I could handle it, but it didn't turn out like that. I was driven by some strange feeling, some kind of lust that I couldn't describe, that seemed to replace all the negative emotions that I was feeling, as if I was taking a bunch of happy pills.

But why? Why did I like it so much? Was it because all the misery that hung over me seemed to fade when I felt the pain? Was it masochism? I didn't know, and it scared me. Screw Monika. Screw Dan Salvato. Screw my depressed, fucked-up mind. Screw it all. I step into the shower, the noise of the running water drowning out my sobbing. After five minutes of crying and five minutes actually showering, I turn off the water, grabbing a towel and wrapping it around my pelvis. I look down at the tile and notice dried blood on the tile. I made a mental note to clean that up later as I hurried to my room.

I hang the wet towel up on the foot of my bed and get dressed, putting on some jeans and a yellow sweatshirt. I grab my school bag, but I linger in my bedroom for a minute. I put down my bag, heading for my closet, grabbing and throwing on a worn-out blue hoodie. I zip it up halfway before leaving and heading downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. Nightmare's already dressed, but he hasn't changed into what I call his "corrupted" form yet. He holds his phone to one side of his skull with a shoulder while he hovers over the stove, cooking breakfast. I slide into a chair, yawning a little. I don't intend to, but I listen in on his conversation.

"Well, I've noticed Dream's been in more of a funk lately," My brother says into the phone as he puts something from the frying pan on a plate. He must be on the phone with Asy, my therapist. "And he'll have his days, but sometimes he'll be, I don't know, out of it. On Tuesday, he was happy as a clam, but yesterday I came home from parent-teacher conferences and saw him on the couch. He was completely zoned out, I had to shake him to get his attention. How soon can you get him in? ...Oh, really? I think we can do that. Alright, we'll see you then." He pushes a button on his phone and puts it down on the counter.

"Was that Asy on the phone?" I pipe up. Nightmare suddenly turns around, staring at me with a shocked look on his face for a minute before smiling.

"Oh! Good morning, mon petit reve!" He greets me in French, as he picks up the plate and sets it down in front of me. "And yes, that was your therapist. He managed to fit you in for an appointment on Saturday at eleven. But just focus on eating your breakfast right now, alright, my sunshine?"

"Okay," I say, my voice flat. He had made scrambled eggs and French toast, which was kinda funny since he taught French, but I just felt numb and tired as I ate. At least I had walking to school with Cross to look forward to.

"Are you and Cross going to work on your English project after school today?" My brother asks, putting the pan into the sink.

"Yeah," I smile a little at the mention of my friend's name. "We're still doing some research for the report. There's a lot that we want to cover."

"Glad to hear that you two are taking this project seriously," Nightmare nods, clearly impressed. "Though I'm not surprised; Cross is a really great student, after all. With all the time that he spends studying, I'm surprised that he has time to read those... strange Japanese comic books."

"They're called manga, Night," I roll my eyes, but it's not out of annoyance. "Or is it mangas? I'll have to ask Cross what the plural form of that is."

He chuckles. "Okay then. I'm going to, er, change real quick, and then I'm heading off. Be sure to take your meds before you head for school, alright?"

"Sure thing." I give him an okay sign as he leaves the room. It's an unspoken rule between me and Nightmare that he has to shift forms in private; it's more comfortable that way. I remember one time, I accidentally walked in on Nightmare while he was doing that, and I was so freaked out that I screamed like a little girl and fainted. He had to revive me with some smelling salts. Needless to say, we both learned a lesson that day.

I head over to the cabinet that resides under the sink, which is where we keep things like my antidepressants and the three to four giant bottles of aspirin we always seem to have on hand--and I'm not joking, either; each bottle has 1,000 pills at least, the reason why my older brother swears by this brand--and get out a small, orange prescription bottle. I take out two pills from the container and pop them into my mouth. I get up onto my feet and turn on the faucet, cupping some water into my palm and taking a sip to wash down the medicine. I shake my hand dry from any remaining water, and walk back to the table and sit down again.

Nightmare pops back into the kitchen, grabbing his phone and car keys. "See you at school, Dream," He says as he kisses the top of my skull.

"Bye," I reply as he hurries out the front door, hearing him start up his car and drive off to work. I continue to eat my breakfast, yawning a little. Maybe I shouldn't have stayed up so late last night. I feel like a sleep-deprived zombie. I pull out my phone, noting the time as 6:15.  I unlock my phone and open the contacts app, selecting the name "Cross Jakei", but my thumb hovers over the "call" icon. Cross is probably awake by now, isn't he? Yesterday morning, he looked like he had been awake for a good hour or two. And besides, I had a good reason, didn't I? He told me to call or text him when I finished DDLC, and I haven't done that yet.

I push the button to make the call and sit there, hearing the phone ring until it picks up. 

Chapter Text

I never thought that space would be this beautiful. I'm standing on some kind of floating surface, with groups of shining crystals poking out of the ground every so often. I look up, and see stars and galaxies swirling around everywhere in the indigo-colored heavens, a really breathtaking view. I turn around, and see another person standing there, a skeleton. He's a good distance away from me, so I can't see his face. The other skeleton's had on some kind of light yellow robe, fastened with a blue-green belt with a golden buckle which had the initials DS on it, over a black shirt and pants. He was also wearing some kind of pullover with a pink brooch on it, yellow boots and gloves, and a golden circlet.

Oh God, this is the dream with the alternate versions of me and everyone else I know wearing weird outfits fighting to either protect or bring balance to some kind of "multiverse", isn't it?

I take a couple steps towards the yellow-clothed skeleton, and out of nowhere, he pulls out a bow and starts firing glowing arctic-blue arrows at me. I exclaim in surprise, running and rolling somersaults on the ground to avoid them, but the edge of one of them grazes my cheekbone as I land on my back hard. I wipe away the blood with my finger, glancing at it from my spot on the dirt. That's when I notice I'm wearing weird black and white clothes, with strips of white cloth creating X's, with a really fuzzy jacket and scarf to top it all off.

Yep, it's the multiverse dream again. Dammit. This other skeleton looks awfully familiar, in some strange way, but I can't put my finger on it right now.

The other guy, who I silently nickname Mr. Dresses-In-Yellow-And-Shoots-Arrows-At-Fifteen-Year-Old-Boys, suddenly stops the barrage of arrows, and starts running towards me at full speed, still holding his bow. I quickly get up on my feet, breathing heavily, and stare at the rogue-looking skeleton as he grows closer, his eyes fixed on me. Wait a minute... I squint my eyes, and I notice that his eyelights were yellow. And not just any yellow; it's the same shade of yellow that Dream's eyes are.

Are you kidding me right now? 

First my French teacher appears in my dreams as one of the most feared people in whatever and wherever this "multiverse" thing is, now my friend shows up trying to kill me? At this rate, Ink'll show up with his famous "blank stare" and try to wipe out the goddamned multiverse!

"Dream" bares his teeth at me, and starts to pull on one part of his bow, and my soul skips a beat as some sort of cover slips away and falls to the ground, revealing a long, thin blade. Time seems to slow down as he jumps up in the air, raising the spear above his head and letting loose a battle cry as he brings it down, aiming for my skull. But I'm prepared for this. A large, red knife that's twice my size materializes in my hand, and I swing my own weapon upwards in a counterattack. The alternate version of my friend is sent flying through space, but he lands on his feet like a cat would.

You know what? Fuck this! I'm not gonna fight my own friend! I didn't even do anything to him in the first place, both in my dream and in real life! I drop the blade, and it disappears in a big flash of red light. I do what any other sane person would do in this situation and flee, running as fast as my legs can carry me. The floating area where me and "Dream" are is like a little plain, so there's a lot of ground for me to cover. I turn my head to look behind me and panic when I see the other Dream making chase after me, hot on my tail.

"Aw, shi-woah!" I start to curse, but then I stumble and fall. I start to get up, but I just collapse in the dust again. I look down, noticing that one of my feet is stuck in a cluster of the floor-crystals. I try to pull my foot out of the shiny trap, but it's really stuck. I pull harder, and harder, but it just won't budge. For the love of Christ, why am I so clumsy? I mumble to myself, but then shut up immediately when I hear some rustling sounds.

I look up just in time to see a light blue arrow speeding in my direction, with no time to dodge.


I wake up in a cold sweat, panting heavily. Eventually, my breathing returns to normal, and I heave a sigh of relief. I glance at the Hatsune Miku alarm clock on my bedside table. It's 4:17 in the morning. I rub my eyes, feeling tired. I was studying like crazy last night, preparing for the Physics test today. I didn't go to bed until eleven-thirty, a lot later than usual. I had only managed to get in four hours, but I never get any proper rest when I have those strange dreams. I wouldn't call them nightmares, since they don't really spook me, but every time something will happen that'll make me wake up in a pool of my own sweat.

I turn on the lamp that sits on my nightstand and get out of bed. I can never go back to sleep after those dreams, so I might as well catch up on this new manga I found at a bookstore over the weekend. I intend to head to my bookshelf to grab it, but I stop at my desk instead, grabbing the copy of Thirteen Reasons Why that Dream lent me. The cover is old and worn, like the book had been carried around with him everywhere he went. It probably had been, since he had talked about it so much in art class yesterday afternoon. I flop back on my bed, crack open the book, and begin to read.

I've binged the series countless times, so I'm familiar with the plot of the book. However, the book was written in Clay's point of view. I don't know how to explain it, really, but reading about Clay's inner thoughts as he listened to the tapes that his late crush had recorded and arranged to have sent to him was heartwrenching. I'm not the type of person who'll cry over what happens in a book or short story, but by the time my alarm clock rang, an hour and ten minutes later, I was staring at the final words of the last page in the book with watery eyes. I shut off the alarm and slam the book shut, blinking tears out of my eyesockets, a little thrilled by the story.

My favorite books - and I'm talking about real books here, not manga - have always been the ones that have the characters deal with actual, real-world issues. For example, I've always been a fan of Mirror Mirror, a book written by a movie actress. It was a really heartwarming story about a girl named Red, a lesbian, who was trying to find out what happened to her fellow bandmate, Naomi, who was found nearly drowned in a lake, while dealing with an alcoholic mother and a father who's never there. It's also one of the reasons I like DDLC so much; it deals with serious topics like depression, anxiety, and abuse in the three dateable characters: Sayori, Yuri, and even Natsuki. Maybe Dream feels the same way, too? Not about Doki Doki Literature Club, because I hope he didn't play it yet, but about books like these.

I put the book down on the table and get out of bed, heading for the bathroom Ink and I share. Ink is up exactly half an hour before I am on school days, and is almost always on his way out the door when I come downstairs, so I have the shower to myself. But he isn't exactly an early bird, though; he sleeps like a teenager on the weekends and days off. I close the door, making sure to lock it behind me. I peel off my black sweatpants and T-shirt, tossing them on the toilet before jumping in the shower (Why the hell do we even have a toilet? Most of the town is populated by skeletons, we only use it if we need to puke! I don't get it!).

I shower for ten minutes, then turn off the water and step out. I grab a towel and dry myself off, wrapping it around my pelvis, though I don't really need to, since I don't have anything to hide. I grab my bedclothes, unlock the bathroom door and leave, heading for my room.

"Cross, sweetie, where do we keep the Tylenol, again?" Ink calls from downstairs.

"The medicine cabinet in the bathroom," I reply. "Why?"

"One of the parents at the parent-teacher conferences last night was really obnoxious." I can hear him heading for the bathroom, and I hurry into my bedroom, shut the door, and start to get dressed.

"Linda again?" Linda was the town's "Entitled Parent". I can't remember which kid at school has her as a mom, but she's a real jackass, and I'm pretty sure she would cheat on her husband, too, if she even had one. Ink usually gets along fine with everyone, but he flat-out hates her guts, and isn't afraid to show it.

"Yyyep." He groans. "Just being in the same room as her gives me one hell of a migraine, and I'm pretty sure skeletons don't get migraines."

"Well, she is kind of a jerk, so I don't blame you." I laugh, pulling on some pants.

"Cross Jakei!" Ink was scolding me, but I could hear the smile in his voice.

"She is one, and you know it," I argue, digging through my dresser drawer for a T-shirt. "When you got home last night, you were really pissed off because she insulted your teaching methods, and you locked yourself in your room."

"I wasn't that mad, just a little miffed." I hear the water faucet turn on and off.

"I could hear you screaming profanities into your pillow. In French, mind you." Ink's parents, Zephyr and Top, used to live in France. They actually raised Ink there in his early years, so he was familiar with the language. I'm pretty sure he rivals the school's French teacher in fluency.

"You could hear that?" Ink's voice went a little quiet.

"I could only understand bits and pieces of what you were yelling, but yeah." I pick out the shirt that says "All My Japanese I Learned From Anime" in Japanese  (which is only partly true in my case, I learned Japanese so I could understand the animes that didn't have English dubs). "What does 'Va te faire foutre' mean?"

"Not important."

"Bu-"

"I'll tell you that when you're older." Ink says that in a rush as he slams the bathroom door. "I'll see you in art class this afternoon, alright, sweetie?"

"Okay. See you then." I grab my favorite hoodie off my chair, pulling my arms through the sleeves. He probably said a really, really awful insult that I wasn't supposed to hear or something, given how he said that he would tell me when I'm older. I put all my school books in my bag, and head downstairs to the kitchen. Ink always makes too much coffee, so maybe I can have a cup or two before I have to meet Dream. I treat myself this morning by making Nutella grilled cheese, which is made with Nutella and ricotta cheese, which is Zephyr's recipe. It's been my favorite since I was a kid, and Ink even taught me to make it when I was learning to cook.

Suddenly, my phone starts to ring. I pick up my phone with one hand and hold my sandwich in the other.

"Konichiwa, koreha Crossdesu," I answer the phone in Japanese, a habit of mine. There's silence at the other end of the line for a minute.

"What?" Dream nearly yells. I flinch.

"I meant, hi!" I laugh nervously. Way to go, Cross. Way to go. "Sorry about that. Force of habit."

"Nah, you're cool," He replies. "You're not the first person. Nightmare has a really bad habit of answering his phone in French. It's scared away a lot of scammers for some reason."

"Huh." I take a bite of my grilled cheese. "You alright? You sound a little tired."

I hear him inhale and exhale. "Promise you won't freak out?"

"Why would I?" I ask, waving my breakfast in the air.

"Alright, then." One more breath. "Last night I played Doki Doki Literature Club."

"YOU WHAT?" I nearly choke. He played it so soon?! Oh dear Lord...

"You promised you wouldn't freak out!" Dream sounded hurt.

"I'm not freaking out! I'm just surprised, 's all." Which wasn't a lie, really. "So, uh, what did you think? I mean, did you like it?"

"Yes? No? Maybe?? God, I don't know, dude!" He sounded like he was going to cry. "It put me in a really bad spot! I accepted Sayori's confession, but she went and killed herself anyway! Just because of Monika! And no matter what I did to make them happy, I hurt them! I-it was..." He took a deep, shaky breath. "I'm sorry, I'm just...really emotionally fragile right now. I barely got any sleep, and I just feel like shit."

"That bad, huh?" I sigh.

"Yeah."

There's silence between the two of us for a minute, only the sounds of my chewing and Dream's breathing. I glance at the kitchen clock, which reads 6:15. Then, I get an idea.

"How long have you been up?" I ask.

"Uh, forty-five minutes," He responds.

"Could you meet me at my street?"

"Why?" Dream stretches the word out a little.

"I wanna take you somewhere before school. It's not bad, I promise." Ir really isn't, unless it turns out he doesn't like coffee.

"This isn't a date, is it?"

"Do you want it to be a date?" I reply. He remains silent. "Thought so. That's probably the last thing you want to do anyway, go on a date with your friend."

"You're right, you're right." Dream agrees. "I'm on my way."

"Sure. Just give me a few minutes."

"Great. See you there!" He says before the line goes dead.


When I get to the corner of Cohort and Tallis, Dream's already standing there, scrolling on his phone. He's wearing a faded blue hoodie today, instead of his usual yellow palette.

"Hey," I greet him. He looks up at me and pockets his phone. I can see bags under his eyesockets.

"Hey." He replies. Jesus, he sounds worse in person. "So where're we going, exactly?"

"Thought I'd take you out for some coffee." I shrug my shoulders. "You know, as a little apology for what I put you through last night."

"You don't have to do that, Cross," Dream gives me a sad smile as we start walking. "It's my fault, really, not yours."

"Well, if I had never mentioned it in the first place, you wouldn't be such a wreck right now." I point out. "You'd probably be just fine."

"If only you really knew," I hear him whisper.

"What was that?"

"Uh, nothing," He says quickly. "I don't look that bad, do I?"

I avert my gaze. Dream pulls out his phone and opens the camera app.

"Woah," He does a double take, seeing his face. "I really need some caffeine, don't I?"

"Well, you're not alone," I smile at him. "I had this strange dream last night. Don't feel that well-rested, honestly."

"'Tis the life of a high schooler."

"Amen to that. Turn here," I say, pointing down Victoria Gardens, and we turn. "How'd you react to playing DDLC?"

"Honestly, better than I thought I would," Dream responds. "After it was all over, I was so upset, I just curled up in bed and listened to music."

"Really?" I'm a bit impressed. After I finished playing the game for the first time, I locked my laptop in my closet and stayed up watching the shut closet door, as if I was afraid that Monika would try to break down the door. I was really convinced that she was real the first time I played the game for some reason.

"I use music to help me feel better when I'm down. I've done it for as long as I can remember. I usually choose sad and depressing songs, though." 

"Why, though?"

"I dunno." He shrugs. "It's just, oddly comforting for some reason. Listening to some of those lyrics is like a coping mechanism for me. Especially Bring Me The Horizon's stuff, like Drown and Happy Song."

"You...really like dark and melancholic things." I note.

"Hey, I'm not bright and bubbly all the time." Dream laughs a little. "I have other emotions too, you know? I just wear yellow a lot because it makes me feel good inside."

"I always wondered why you wore yellow every day," I smile. I stop at a familiar location and open the door. "In here." Me and Dream head inside the cafe.

"Oh. My. God," He looks all around the cafe, at all of the cats walking around, meowing and purring.

"'The Cozy Cafe'. It's a book cafe and a cat cafe," I say. "Thought you needed some cuteness after all that horror I made you experience last night."

"Nightmare is going to kill me when he finds out I went to a cat cafe without him." He replies as he picks up a small kitten in his arms and begins to pet it. The baby cat mews and starts to purr. Dream starts to make strangled, squeaking noises.

"You alright?" I ask hesitantly.

"I think my soul just exploded via sheer cuteness..." His voice comes out in a high squeak. Dream must've inherited Nightmare's love of cats.

We head to the counter to order our drinks. It's pretty early, so the only one working the counter is the owner, Ccino, who's eighteen and really cute, in my opinion (Yes, I have a crush on the owner of a cafe. But there's only a three-year difference between us. So sue me.).

"Welcome to the Cozy Cafe, my name is Ccino, how may I help you two this fine Thursday morning?" He beams at us.

"Can I get the usual, but with a shot of espresso?" I ask. I'm a regular here, so Ccino knows what I like.

"One small hot chocolate, light on whipped cream and a shot of espresso," Ccino writes my order down on a little pad before looking at Dream. "And you?"

My friend looks at the menu above the owner's head. "How good are the cappuccinos?"

"They once won an award in the town paper for best drinks."

"Then I'll have the Kitty's Cappuccino." Dream decides.

"Are you sure?" I ask him. "That has double espresso, y'know? Like, super coffee."

"I'll be fine, Cross," He scoffs.

"That'll be twelve fifty-nine," Ccino rings us up, and I put a twenty-dollar bill on the counter. After he hands me my change, we go to a nearby table and sit down. Dream sets the cat down, wiping cat fur off of his hoodie.

"This place is amazing," He says. "I just love the atmosphere here. Books, cats, coffee..."

"Cute owner," I add, and then freeze up.

"You think Ccino's cute?" He cradles his chin in his hands, and he looks a little like Monika.

"Yeah." I blush, gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut.

"Huh," He replies. I open one eye a little, hesitant. "Do you say that as, like, you're gay, or what?"

"Uh, no," I open both eyes. "I'm, uh, bisexual."

"You're bi?" Dream puts both of his hands on the counter. "That's pretty cool!"

"You're not gonna make fun of me?" I ask. "Or judge me?"

"I'm not gonna judge you. Hell, I would never judge anyone based on who they like!" He leans back. "And besides, there's a bunch of possibilities!"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, bisexual means you're attracted to both genders, right?" I nod. "Well, you could end up with a girl, or a boy, even someone who defines as nonbinary, like Kris is!"

"You're...really accepting about this." I smile. "Just curious, what's your sexuality?"

"Oh, I'm pan/demi." Dream replies as we receive our drinks.

"Huh?" I'm a little confused. "I've heard of pansexuality, but I don't know about demisexuals."

"Demisexual means you only experience sexual attraction unless they have a strong bond with someone." He says as he sips his drink. "Honestly, the only person that I have a strong bond with is my brother, Nightmare. He's perfectly okay with it, though, and always tells me that I'll find that special soulmate someday."

"He's really okay with that?"

"What are you talking about?" Dream asks. "He's my brother. Why wouldn't he support me?"

"Well, you see, I have this...fear." I take a drink of my hot chocolate and sigh. "I'm not exactly, you know, 'out of the closet' just yet. I want to tell Ink about my sexuality, but I don't know how he'll react. As far as he knows, I'm as straight as a line. I've known that I was bi for one, maybe two years now? And I'm kinda scared to tell him."

"You should tell him sometime." My friend smiled at me.

"You really think so?"

"Teenagers might always complain about their parents, saying things like 'They never understand'," Dream says. "But they just fail to realize that adults get it, you know? They understand how hard it is to be a teenager, with raging hormones and all that."

I drink some more hot chocolate, feeling the rush of caffeine. "You're right," I sigh. "I should tell him."

"That's the spirit, amico mio!" He claps his hands and clasps them together, praising me in Italian. "Prendere il toro per le corna!"

I stare at him for a minute.

"That translates to 'take the bull by the horns'." He clarifies.

"For the brother of the school's French teacher, you speak a lot of Italian."

"It's an easy language to learn, what can I say?" Dream takes a long swig of his cappuccino, tilting his head back. "Holy shit, I think this is the best cappuccino I've ever had!"

"Ccino makes the best drinks. I haven't been disappointed once."

"So, what else do you like about him? Ccino, I mean?" He asks.

After a while, the topic drifts away from my crush and towards things like our project, stuff in our other classes, and eventually, Thirteen Reasons Why - the book version, that is. Dream was really pleased to learn that I liked it. When I asked him if he could recommend any other books, he got up and ran over to the owner. They talked for a few minutes, and Ccino walked over to a different area of the store, returning with a book. Dream gave him some money, and he came back to our table, handing me a book with colorful Post-it notes on the cover.

"All The Bright Places?" I read the title out loud. "Sounds like a teen romance novel."

"Well, it has a little bit of romance in it," He admits. "But it's really good! It's like Fault in Our Stars with hints of Thirteen Reasons Why in the mix! I was originally going to get you Playlist of the Dead, but they didn't have that one."

"I'll check it out later tonight," I say, putting the book into my bag. A small, black kitten tries to climb in, too, but it keeps struggling. The feline loses interest after several minutes, and walks away. I turn and see Dream holding his phone.

"I'm gonna show this to Nightmare," He giggles, playing the video he had recorded. "That kitten was so adorable, I thought I was going to die."

"That was pretty cute," I agree. "Send that to me, too, won't you?"

"Sure. What's the time, anyway?" Dream pockets his phone.

"7:15. Maybe if we hurry, we can get to school early."

Since we already paid and finished our drinks, we just grab our stuff and leave. Victoria Gardens isn't that far from our school, at least three to four blocks away, so we don't have to go that far.

"Thanks for that, Cross. After last night, I needed something to distract me from... all of that." Dream thanks me.

"How could I not?" I ask, nudging his arm a little. He breathes in sharply, wincing. "Hey, are you okay? I just touched your arm." Then I remember one scene in DDLC where I saw Yuri with a bunch of cuts on her arm. The game didn't affect him that much, did it...?

"I'm okay, I'm okay." He smiles. "Just slept on my arm kinda funny, that's all. Still hurts a little."

"Alright then," I reply, but I doubt that's the reason that his arm hurts. "Listen, if you need to talk to me, I can always make time for you. It's the least I can do for a friend."

Dream's silence is bone-chilling. He takes a deep breath before he speaks. "Cross, can you promise me something?"

"Sure," I blurt out, not thinking. "Name it."

"Could you promise to be there for me?" He looks me square in the eyesockets.

"Really?" I ask, surprised. "That's all?"

"I've never had a real friend before," He says. "I won't go into details, but I'm struggling mentally. I have my brother to support me, but other than that, I'm all on my own. So what I'm trying to say is, will you always be there for me? Be a metaphorical shoulder for me to cry on?"

I can see him shaking a little. Some of the words that Dream had said to me were bouncing around in the back of my head. Struggling mentally. All on my own. He needed someone. Someone to help him through whatever he was going through. I recognized a call for help when I see one.

Well, guess what, Dream Joku?

"Don't worry, I promise." I beam, grabbing his hand in mine.

I will always be there to answer it.  

Chapter Text

Thursday caused me to spiral into a weird cycle of emotions. I was happy when I was talking with Cross that morning, but I felt somber when he asked me if I was okay after he touched my arm, which still hurt a little. Then, after Cross promised to be there for me, I was happy and a little melancholic at the same time. My emotions kept shifting at the drop of a hat, and I hated it. There's no use denying it; after I played Doki Doki Literature Club, my depression has gotten worse, and I've been struggling ever since I started high school. I'm sick and tired of feeling this way. I'm stuck in a stupid rut, with no way out. My friendship with Cross helps, but I still end up crying myself to sleep at night.

I stare out the window of the car, reflecting on my thoughts as I glance at the other vehicles on the freeway speeding by us. The chorus for Weathers's Happy Pills echoes through my headphones. It's one of those songs on my playlist that sound happy, but the lyrics are actually darker. For example, as the title implies, this song is about somebody's experience with "happy pills". I did some research on it a while ago, and it turns out happy pills - which is usually a slang term for antidepressants - was used as a metaphor in the song to describe something that you shouldn't be addicted to. It can be drugs, but it can also be love, or a habit.

I grind my teeth. I'd picked up some happy pills myself. I had put Nightmare's Xacto knife back where I found it, not wanting to make my brother suspicious, but I ended up taking a butter knife from the silverware drawer, which I've been keeping hidden in my bedroom. My radius and ulna held a myriad of cuts, which made my arms sore and had yet to heal. The pain from the wounds made me feel like I had some control. I knew that my antidepressants was supposed to help keep my emotions in check, but I when I take them, something inside of me feels so wrong. I turn off the music and take off my headphones, breathing out of my mouth.

"Are you feeling alright, Dream?" Nightmare turns to look at me. "You've been awfully quiet."

"I'm fine," I mumble, still staring out the window. "Just a little tired, that's all."

"What time did you go to bed last night?" He asks as he changes lanes.

"I didn't really stay up that late. I didn't sleep that well, though." I wasn't lying; lately my sleep had been plagued with awful nightmares that made me wake up in a cold sweat, sometimes with tears running down my face. The dreams change every time, but in the end, either Sayori or Yuri end up appearing.

"Do you want to tell your therapist about that?" My brother asks. "Maybe that's a side effect of your antidepressants."

"Yeah, I guess I can tell him. I got a lot of things to get off my chest." Which I do, but some of them I don't intend to tell him about.


 Twenty minutes later, I'm sitting in a chair in my therapist's office. Asy, my therapist, sits across from me, holding a notebook and a pen. Two glasses of lemonade and a small bowl full of miniature chocolates and other small candies sits on a small table between us. Even with the refreshments, I still feel a little uneasy.

"So, how have things been lately?" Asy asks, clicking his pen. "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your week?"

"Six." I reply, taking a small chocolate out of the bowl and unwrapping it.

"Six," He repeats, writing on a new page. "May I ask why this week was a six?"

"This week was...complicated, emotion-wise," I start, popping the candy into my mouth.

"Complicated?"

"Yeah. You know that kid I told you about? The one that I was avoiding?"

"It was Cross, wasn't it?" Asy taps the page he was writing on with the tip of the pen. "Why do you ask?"

"We got paired together for an English project."

"Ah, I see. I can imagine that you weren't very happy about that."

"At first." I fiddle with the candy wrapper. "But that afternoon, we had a study session together and something just...clicked."

"Clicked?"

"Uh-huh. It turned out that we have more in common than I thought."

"Oh, really?"

"He's a fan of the musical Hamilton. And I recommended some books for him to read, and he said he really liked them. Which means a lot, since I've only seen that dork read manga." I laugh a little at the last part.

"I recall you telling me that," Asy says, taking a sip from one of the lemonade glasses. "And how have you been feeling since you and Cross started hanging out together?"

"I'm doing a little better, I guess."

"You guess?" He asks in the type of tone that therapists have as he scribbles something else down in the notebook. "Is there something wrong?"

"Uh, I'm not really sure." I stare down at my lap. "I wasn't feeling so good Wednesday night."

"Mm." Asy nods, scribbling in the notebook some more. "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, how bad were you feeling?"

"Somewhere between eight and ten." I grab the other glass of lemonade, taking a drink.

The room is silent for a solid thirty seconds as my therapist continues to write. "Do you have any idea why you were feeling so bad?"

"I played this video game recently," I find myself saying. "Doki Doki Literature Club."

He looks extremely concerned. "Is it okay if I bring your brother in here?" I nod silently. "Alright then. I'll be right back." He gets up and leaves, shutting the door behind him.

I take another piece of candy from the bowl, one of the cinnamon-butterscotch ones, and unwrap it slowly, hearing the oddly satisfying crinkling noise. As I pop the small yellow disk into my mouth, Asy returns, my older brother following him.

"Is there something wrong?" Nightmare asks, taking the remaining chair, which was next to me.

"It depends," Asy took the seat he was sitting in before. "Now, before we begin, have you heard of the game Doki Doki Literature Club?"

"Of course." My brother nods. "I've read a lot of articles about it. Why do you ask?"

"Well, Dream just told me that he played the game the other day."

"Ah." Nightmare looks at me. "Is that why you were so spaced out Wednesday night?"

I nod again. "It didn't seem like a big deal at the time."

"Oh, Dream," He sighs. "You need to tell me these things!"

"Didn't want to bother you about it," I mumble. "Thought I could handle it on my own."

"Dream, Doki Doki Literature Club handles a lot of serious issues, including depression," Asy says. "On the Steam page, some of the tags include 'psychological horror'."

Wait, what? I didn't bother reading the tags at all, since I thought I was just going to play a cute visual novel/dating sim. God save my soul.

"Judging by the look on your face, I'm guessing you had no knowledge about the game before you played it." My therapist acknowledges.

"How did you even find out about Doki Doki Literature Club, anyway?" Nightmare asks me.

"Cross said he didn't like visual novels because they were boring, so I tried to find one that would prove him wrong," I lie. "I found the game, and it looked kinda cute, so I decided to check it out for myself. It looked pretty harmless."

"But it wasn't." Asy shook his head. "Do you feel like your antidepressants are working?"

"Not really," I admit. "I just feel kinda dull when I take them."

"Hmm." He scribbles in his notebook some more. "Let's up your dosage of Zoloft to fifty milligrams. Your current dosage is normally for people a couple years younger than you."

"So do I have to take bigger pills?" I ask.

"You can take two pills until the end of your prescription, and then we'll get you the pills to fit the dosage." Asy responds.

More pills to shove down my throat. Sounds fun as jumping on a trampoline made of bricks.

We also end up increasing my Lexapro dosage from ten milligrams to twenty milligrams. When me and Nightmare leave the office fifty minutes later, I just feel miserable. I get into the passenger seat of our little minivan and buckle my seat belt.

"Are you feeling okay?" He asks me, starting up the car and driving out of the lot.

"Physically, I'm fine," I reply, my voice flat. "Mentally, however, I don't really know. I don't feel any better than I did earlier."

We drive in silence for a while. I pick at some of the fuzz on my sweater, trying to distract myself.

"Dream?"

"Yeah?" I look up at Nightmare.

"Listen, I know that middle school was kinda rough for you," My brother starts, his voice soft. "And I can tell that you've been struggling this past month, with starting high school and all that. I'll always be there if you need someone to talk to."   

My middle school years were pretty tough. When I was about to start my sixth grade year, which would be my first year in middle school, I began to experience some common symptoms of depression: I started to feel more negative emotions, I had trouble sleeping, and I just couldn't bring myself to eat, even though I was hungry. The past three years of my life felt like a trainwreck, with starting therapy when I was only eleven years old, still barely a kid, trying to get a grip on my emotions, and taking and switching to a huge assortment of pills with long names that I couldn't even pronounce right, no matter how hard I tried. I thought that high school would maybe be a little bit better, since I was going to the school that my sibling was teaching at, but unfortunately, so far the whole high school experience has not been so good for my mental health. Nightmare would try and comfort me whenever I was having a really awful day, and he always tried to be there for me whenever he could.

"Okay." I eventually respond. "I think I'll be fine, though. I just need a break."

"Do you wanna have a Hulu marathon later tonight?" Nightmare asks. "If I remember correctly, it's your turn to choose the series this time." Me and Nightmare are huge binge-watchers. On the weekends, we'll boot up Hulu or Netflix, choose a show, and spend hours watching...well, anything, really, as long as it isn't sexually explicit.

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine," I answer immediately. 

"Of course." He rolls his eyes, chuckling. "Isn't this the third time in a row that you've chosen this one?"

"Yeah, because it's one of the funniest sitcoms ever made, duh."

"It is pretty hilarious," My brother admits. "I liked the part in one episode where Jake tried to get a criminal to confess by playing the guitar horribly out-of-tune and screaming at the top of his lungs."

"You should do that if one of your classes completely bombs a test," I propose, half-joking. "Just rent a guitar or something and play it super awfully, and yell at the same time."

Nightmare fails to stifle his laughter. "Oh my God, I feel embarrassed just by hearing you suggest that to me."

"Embarrassment! An emotion that Ink never seems to have!" I say in a cheery voice, doing some jazz hands for good measure.

"You might have a point there. Once he showed up to school wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt."

"What." 

"The way he was dressed, you would've thought he was in college or something," Nightmare clarifies.

"Jesus Christ, Ink is a complete and utter enigma," I sigh. "Sometimes I wonder what goes on inside his head."

"I think that falls under the category of the mysteries of life that you don't want to know the answers to. You know, stuff like 'what are hot dogs made of?'."

"I think you might have a point there," I agree.

"Is it okay if we stop at the grocery store real quick?" My brother asks. "We can get some snacks for our marathon later tonight, if you want."

"Yeah, I don't mind." I answer. "And Nightmare?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks for all your support."

Nightmare smiles and rubs the top of my skull. "Anything for my sunshine."

Chapter Text

 

It's been almost two weeks since we became friends, and two weeks since I made a promise to him. We've grown a lot closer over that time. We're not exactly inseparable, but we trust each other enough that we could change in the same room as each other, if the moment happened to arise. We even started our own Discord, just for the two of us, named "Starcrossed Chat". Dream's username is IsLifeJustADream?, and mine is XtraordinaryWeeb. I created the server so we could talk in private, without the prying eyes of our guardians reading our conversations.

Though most of the time, they're really silly. For example, we had a weird and yet funny conversation late one night while Dream was a little bit tired.

IsLifeJustADream?: hey, would it hurt if your leg got cut off?

XtraordinaryWeeb: Yeah, it would!

IsLifeJustADream?: but why tho

XtraordinaryWeeb: DUDE, YOUR DAMN LEG JUST GOT CUT OFF!

XtraordinaryWeeb: WHY WOULDN'T IT NOT HURT??

IsLifeJustADream?: yeah but

IsLifeJustADream?: where would you feel the pain?

XtraordinaryWeeb: um

XtraordinaryWeeb: Your leg??

IsLifeJustADream?: my point exactly!

IsLifeJustADream?: how can you feel the pain if your leg is cut off?

I remember having to literally bite my tongue to avoid laughing out loud and waking Ink up. Our friendship had really blossomed in that time, but I couldn't help but be worried for Dream. Sometimes, when I see him at the corner of my street every morning, he looks like he hadn't slept at all, or he had been crying. And I have some suspicions about why he wears long sleeves all the time. Once, during our after-school study sessions, he started acting strange. I tried to ask him what was wrong, he just ran out of the room. He returned twenty minutes later, looking anxious. I began to comfort him, and he made a small noise as I touched one of his arms, as if he was in pain. He couldn't be...

No, I told myself as he left that afternoon. He wouldn't hurt himself, would he...?

I pulled an all-nighter that night to watch anime, in an attempt to distract myself from that intrusive thought.

I stare at my ceiling, looking at the Hatsune Miku poster that I had stuck up there for some reason. I was tired, but I couldn't sleep at all. I shift my position in bed, bringing my knees to my chest, as if I'm a human child still in their mother's womb. I try to take slow, deep breaths, hoping that would help me get some rest. Spoiler alert; it doesn't work.

I grab my cell phone from my nightstand, and open Discord, selecting the "Starcrossed Chat" server. I scroll up, reading all our various conversations, including the one about cutting off your leg. Then, at the bottom of the screen, the words "IsLifeJustADream? is typing.." catch my eye. I didn't take Dream for the type to pull an all-nighter.

I type up a greeting first, hitting send once I finish.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Hey, didn't know you were awake.

Dream replies after a few minutes.

IsLifeJustADream?: same here

IsLifeJustADream?: why are you up? i thought you went to sleep at ten.

He was right. It's around two in the morning, and I'm usually in bed by nine-thirty or ten.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Insomnia. It can be a real bitch sometimes.

XtraordinaryWeeb: How about you?

I don't get a response immediately at first, but Discord says that he's typing his answer.

IsLifeJustADream?: nightmares.

IsLifeJustADream?: not the person, mind you, as in a bad dream.

XtraordinaryWeeb: I gotcha.

XtraordinaryWeeb: What was it about?

Dream's reply comes in small bursts of one to two sentences.

IsLifeJustADream?: i was on a tiny boat on the sea. but it wasn't like the oceans that you see in photos. the ocean water was blacker than my brother's goop, if that's possible.

IsLifeJustADream?: and the boat was barely a boat; it was tiny and cramped, and i had to bring my knees to my chest to make enough room as the ocean tossed the boat around, like it was a football or something.

IsLifeJustADream?: and then all of a sudden, there's this HUGE wave, and i'm sent flying out of the boat, and i land in the water, making a huge splash.

XtraordinaryWeeb: And then what happened?

IsLifeJustADream?: i started to drown.

Those four words seemed to hit me right in the face, as if someone had tossed a brick at me and yelled, "Heads up!"

XtraordinaryWeeb: You started DROWNING?

XtraordinaryWeeb: Oh dear God, that sounds scary as all hell.

IsLifeJustADream?: it was. i was treading water like crazy, trying to reach the surface.

IsLifeJustADream?: and i almost made it, too.

XtraordinaryWeeb: What do you mean, almost?

IsLifeJustADream?: when i was just inches away from the surface of the water, where my fingertips met the cold air, some kind of tentacle thing grabbed my leg and yanked me deep underwater, with a deep, dark voice whispering strange and awful things in my ear, until i couldn't breathe anymore.

IsLifeJustADream?: then i woke up.

I stare at my phone screen, not knowing how to react. That sounded absolutely terrifying. Then my phone pings.

IsLifeJustADream?: hello? you still there?

IsLifeJustADream?: did you fall asleep or something?

I quickly type a reply.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Sorry, just trying to process all of this.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Do you have these dreams often?

IsLifeJustADream?: yes, i do.

IsLifeJustADream?: every night, in fact.

No wonder Dream looks so tired a lot of the time. With nightmares like the one he just described to me, I probably wouldn't get much sleep either.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Every night?

IsLifeJustADream?: yeah. they just started recently, though.

IsLifeJustADream?: and they're just so terrifying.

XtraordinaryWeeb: They are?

IsLifeJustADream?: they're different every time i go to sleep.

IsLifeJustADream?: once i had a weird dream where natsuki, yuri, and monika were singing "yo girl" to me while i was in a dark hallway, full of nothing but doors.

XtraordinaryWeeb: "Yo Girl"? You talking about that song from Heathers: The Musical?

IsLifeJustADream?: yep. and natsuki and yuri were using their "jumpscare" sprites. yuri had a bunch of stab wounds on her stomach and chest, and there was blood coming out of natsuki's eyes.

IsLifeJustADream?: and as for that bitch of a club president, she was just smiling creepily the whole time, like she was some kind of doll in an antique shop.

That kinda reminds me of my nightmares, I find myself typing.

I stare at the phone screen for several minutes, until I see my friend's answer.

IsLifeJustADream?: you have nightmares, too?

XtraordinaryWeeb: I don't think they fall into the category of nightmares. They're not scary, just really unpleasant.

XtraordinaryWeeb: You've been in them a couple of times recently.

Wait, did I just type that and send it? Aw, shit. Dream doesn't reply for a couple of minutes, but I wait, bracing myself for his response. Finally, it comes.

IsLifeJustADream?: you dream about me?

IsLifeJustADream?: that's kinda creepy.

I type my side of the story in short bursts of two sentences max.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Well, you're right, but it's not exactly, how do I put this, you-you.

IsLifeJustADream?: what do you mean, it's not exactly me?

XtraordinaryWeeb: It's pretty complex, if you don't know the context. I'll just give you a little background info first.

XtraordinaryWeeb: You see, when I was eleven, I was a huge conspiracy theorist.

IsLifeJustADream?: so you believed that the moon landing was fake and stuff?

XtraordinaryWeeb: What? No! I still might've been a kid, but I wasn't delusional!

XtraordinaryWeeb: I was a huge believer of the Illuminati and thought that 9/11 attacks were controlled demolitions, you know, little stuff like that.

IsLifeJustADream?: oh, sorry. and what does that have to do with your dreams about me?

XtraordinaryWeeb: I'm getting to that part. So anyway, when I was about to start middle school, I wrote a conspiracy theory of my own.

XtraordinaryWeeb: To put it simply, basically, the theory says that this universe is an alternate universe of a whole multiverse, where people are at war with each other, and there so little humans around that they're hunted in most universes for their SOULS.

XtraordinaryWeeb: I didn't start dreaming about that "theory" until I started high school, though.

IsLifeJustADream?: i'll hand it to ya, that's pretty interesting, for a conspiracy theory.

IsLifeJustADream?: but what do dream-me and you even DO in these "multiverse dreams"? do we fight?

I try to stifle my laughter. Dream saying the phrase "dream-me" when his name is Dream is kinda funny.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Well, the first couple times you appeared in my dreams, yes, we did fight.

XtraordinaryWeeb: But you always wiped the floor with my ass, damaging my pride in the process, even though it was a dream and not real life.

XtraordinaryWeeb: But after a while, we stopped fighting, and we teamed up, working together to stop your brother.

IsLifeJustADream?: stop him from what?

XtraordinaryWeeb: Oh, in my dreams, Nightmare is the most feared person in the multiverse and has slain hundreds, creating negativity wherever he goes.

Okay, reading what I just wrote and sent makes me think I could have broken the news to Dream a little lighter than I just did. So I'm really not surprised when he responds with what seems to be swear words in Italian, though I am surprised to see that he used all capital letters.

IsLifeJustADream?: CHE MERDA FOTTUTA?

IsLifeJustADream?: that makes no sense!

XtraordinaryWeeb: Exactly. Dreams aren't supposed to make sense.

XtraordinaryWeeb: They can be about anything, without any sort of logic or cognitive thinking involved in it.

XtraordinaryWeeb: They're just random stuff our brains create while we sleep.

IsLifeJustADream?: so my brain isn't trying to tip me over the edge?

XtraordinaryWeeb: Why would your brain want to tip you over the edge?

IsLifeJustADream?: i don't see a reason why it wouldn't want to.

IsLifeJustADream?: just look at me, cross! i'm just a mess!

IsLifeJustADream?: i have a great friend, a brother who is willing to support me no matter what, and i'm practically on the honor roll! i've got everything a kid my age would want.

IsLifeJustADream?: but in the end, i'm so fucked-up in the head that i can't go to sleep at night without having nightmares.

I sense an aching feeling in my soul. I never knew Dream felt that way about himself. He sounded really depressed.

IsLifeJustADream?: i'm already labeled at school as the 'teacher's pet', all because i'm the little brother of the french teacher.

IsLifeJustADream?: i could just go jump off a bridge and nobody in the whole school would even give a shit!

That's not true, I type out and send.

IsLifeJustADream?: how do you know? He eventually replies.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Dream, you're the best and only friend I've had in my fifteen years of life, and you've done a lot for me.

XtraordinaryWeeb: You've stopped people from bullying me, helped me opened my eyes to new kinds of literature, and you're the one that convinced me to come out to Ink about my sexuality, which I was hiding for two years.

XtraordinaryWeeb: You've really made me come out of my shell. If we never had gotten paired up for this English project, I'd still be an awkward introvert who just reads manga all day on the weekends.

IsLifeJustADream?: i knew it! you used to only read manga all the time!

XtraordinaryWeeb: Go ahead, laugh about it. You need some positivity.

XtraordinaryWeeb: And speaking of the English project, we just have to do one more thing.

IsLifeJustADream?: shit, i almost forgot about the visual aids!

IsLifeJustADream?: don't we have to get those in to ms. toriel on the friday before the project's due?

Dream was right. Ms. Toriel had specifically asked the class to have the visual aids in on the second, so she could see them before we begin the presentations on Monday. We had barely made a dent on them.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Yeah, we do. Don't worry, we got this.

XtraordinaryWeeb: We'll try to get as much done as we can today after school.

IsLifeJustADream?: did all of that anime clog up your brain, you dweeb?

IsLifeJustADream?: our project is on art history! we've got a lot of paintings and other art pieces to recreate!

IsLifeJustADream?: if we don't have our visual aids, our dicks are cooked!

XtraordinaryWeeb: Uh, first, the phrase is "goose is cooked", not... THAT.

XtraordinaryWeeb: And second, that's why you're sleeping over at my place tomorrow night.

IsLifeJustADream?: wait what

XtraordinaryWeeb: You read the message. You're sleeping over at my place Thursday night.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Just two friends, who happen to be partners for an English project, working on visual aids. Nothing more, nothing less.

IsLifeJustADream?: are you sure about this?

XtraordinaryWeeb: What do you mean?

IsLifeJustADream?: i'm just saying, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. murphy's law and all.

IsLifeJustADream?: and the risk is even higher when ink is involved.

Once again, my friend is right. Ink is a walking example of a disaster waiting to happen.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Hey, you just show up and help me with the visual aids.

XtraordinaryWeeb: I'll make sure Ink doesn't show up and try to play matchmaker.

Ever since I came out to Ink about being bisexual, he's been trying to convince me to go on dates and get a boyfriend or a girlfriend. And for some reason, he thinks that Dream is perfect boyfriend material for me, which I admit is kind of true, but I don't think Dream is looking for a special someone right now. Plus, he's practically my best friend.

IsLifeJustADream?: okay, i'll talk to nightmare when i get up and ask him if i can stay over.

XtraordinaryWeeb: Sweet, I'll let Ink know, too.

IsLifeJustADream?: i'm going to try and get some sleep before i have to get up.

IsLifeJustADream?: meet you at cozy cafe at six for coffee?

XtraordinaryWeeb: Mochiron! I'm gonna do the same thing, too.

IsLifeJustADream?: see ya in a couple hours, then.

IsLifeJustADream?: as always, this is dream joku, signing off. <3

I shut off my phone and set it on the nightstand. I glance at my postered ceiling as I drift off, the shock of me inviting Dream over to stay the night still seeming to linger.

Chapter Text

I wake up at 4:50, ten minutes before my alarm is supposed to ring, as usual. I go through my usual morning routine of getting ready for the day, still a little tired. As I grab my briefcase full of papers from my study and walk down the hallway, I start to pass my younger brother's room, but I pause. The door is slightly ajar, giving me a small glance inside of the yellow-themed bedroom. I smile and continue to head downstairs to the kitchen, where I start to brew some coffee. I'm digging in the dish cabinet for a mug when Dream comes in, looking a bit worse for wear. His movement is rather sluggish, and he has a jaded look in his eyes.

"'Morning," He mumbles, opening the makeshift medicine cabinet.

"Dream, you look awful." I set a mug down on the counter, one of the portable ones. "Is everything alright?"

"Don't worry about me. I'm fine," Dream replies flatly as he pops open his bottle of Zoloft. "I'm just tired."

"What time did you go to sleep last night?" I ask, pouring myself some coffee. A few weeks before the doctor officially diagnosed that my brother had depression, he began struggling with insomnia. It isn't that big of a concern these days, but some mornings he'll come downstairs with huge bags under his eyes.

"I dunno." He shrugs. "Couldn't get to sleep last night. I probably fell asleep around midnight, or something?" He takes his medicine dry, which is unusual for him.

"I have some melatonin in my bathroom, if you want to take some before you go to sleep tonight," I tell him. "Do you want me to make you something to eat before I leave?"

"I'll be fine," Dream waves me off. "I'm on my way out, too. I'm meeting Cross for coffee this morning. But I do need to ask you something."

"Oh?" I take a sip of my coffee. "Hit me, then."

"Me and Cross are almost done with our project, and we just have to finish up the visual aids, which might take a while. So Cross wants to know if it's okay if I stay the night at his place tomorrow night to get them done?"

Cross invited my brother over to his place for a "study sleepover"? Don't get me wrong, I trust Cross completely, but I can't help but feel like something smells fishier than Coach Undyne.

"This is a study sleepover?" I give Dream a look that would have been accompanied with an eyebrow raise, if I had eyebrows. "Just to get homework done? Nothing else?"

"Nightmare, I barely got any sleep. I don't think I could lie to you right now even if I tried." My brother deadpans. "I don't even consider myself a good enough liar to pull off the classic 'fake study sleepover' trick."

"Wow, where's my genes?" I joke. "I used that trick all the time when I was in high school!"

"All the genes that I got from you was your height!" Dream snaps back playfully.

"Hey, don't be so salty about it!"

"Don't you remember the last time we went to the mall?" My brother points out. "A security guard thought we were kids that got separated from our parents, and took us to the lost kids booth!"

"Yes, I do remember. I'm not sure what would have happened if I didn't show them my identification," I admit. "Just let me talk to Ink about it first before I decide anything, alright?"

"Fine, but I'm sure Ink interrogated Cross already." Dream sighs, leaving the room. "Probably said something weird, too."

"Bet you ten bucks he asked if he set up this sleepover so Cross could confess his undying love for you."

"Gah!" He tenses, his face turning more yellow than a lemon. "Nightmare, what the hell?"

"Calm down, I'm only kidding. What are the chances that he said that, specifically?" I say, digging in my pocket.

"Have you forgotten about the fact that we are talking about Ink Comyet here?" My brother folds his arms, turning to look at me dead in the eyes. "The man who is known around Monarch High as, and I quote from Cross, who is his adopted son, by the way: 'The true example of chaotic neutral, and, dare I say this, the embodiment of Murphy's Law.'"

"Murphy's Law?" I've never heard of that in my life.

"'Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.' Most things that Ink has done in the past have ended up in a disaster, correct me if I'm wrong?"

I don't. Ink has been teaching at Monarch longer than I have, and in the many years that I have been a teacher there - and probably even longer than that - there have been many, many incidents where Ink has been involved, some of them which I can still not believe to this day have happened; for example, the "paintball incident". Two or three years ago, Ink brought a paint gun into his classroom. Now, that doesn't seem like a big deal, since paint guns are used for, well, painting, but he's kind of on a permanent ban from using any type of power tools on school property, after the "chainsaw incident", which is another story. But there's a little twist. I don't know why, let alone how he did it, but apparently he modified the gun so it was as powerful as a leaf blower set on maximum power. So when the cheeky little bastard of an art teacher went to demonstrate how the paint gun worked, he ended up breaking every single one of his windows, and on top of that, somehow punched a hole in the classroom ceiling. I, for one, am surprised he never got fired after that incident. Or any of his other incidents, for that matter.

"You're right," I roll my eyes, and reach in my pocket. "Where are you going for coffee, exactly?"

"We're hitting up that cat cafe again," Dream replies. "They have really good cappuccinos."

"Alright, then. Here, take this." I hand him a twenty. "Just a suggestion, if you need a pick-me-up, ask for a dead eye."

"A dead eye?" He tilts his head.

"That's cafe-speak for coffee with three shots of espresso," I explain. "Two shots is a black eye, and one shot is a red one."

"I'll keep that in mind," Dream says, pocketing the money. "To be honest, the dead eye sounds like a bit too much caffeine for me to have all at once, but I'm tired, so I'll probably give the red or black eye a shot." He pauses for a minute, before adding, "I mean chance."

"Sure you did, pun-master," I snicker, pointing finger guns at him. "At least take a granola bar from the kitchen on your way out, okay? You hardly touched your food at dinner last night, I don't want you passing out from hunger during school."

"Fine, I guess," He sighs. "I'll grab one real quick, and then head out. Cross is waiting for me."

"Have a brew-tiful day, my little sunshine!" I head upstairs to my bathroom to change, the pun expertly delivered.

"Nightmare, oh my God!" My brother cries from downstairs.

"Mugs and kisses!" I shout back. I can hear Dream scream out of frustration.

"I love you, but at times like this, I hate you!" He screeches.

"Je t'aime aussi!" I reply, and I lock the door behind me. I take a deep breath and stare at myself in the mirror, the smile falling from my face. No more laughs or giggles. It's time to get serious. I close my eyes and begin to focus.

I find it easier to change when I imagine negative things, so I do; I start to think of war, hate crimes, and all the things going wrong in politics. I feel the dark, black goop drip down my skull, and I wince as tendrils shoot out of my back. I curl my hands into fists as the thick substance covers my body, breathing heavily all the while.

Finally, the shifting of forms is complete. I bring myself to my feet, trying to control the non-Newtonian liquid so it doesn't drip all over the bathroom tile. I look at the mirror once more. A glowing cyan blue eye glares back at me. Dream doesn't really like this look, and honestly, I don't, either. I only change appearances when I have to be serious, like when I'm at work. Before my grandfather passed away, he used to say that nobody would take you seriously if you didn't look serious. I brushed it off when I was younger, but now since I'm a high school teacher, I practically live by that rule.

I leave the bathroom and walk downstairs. I snatch up my briefcase and fish my car keys out of the little dish that sits on the coffee table in the living room. I head out the door, making sure to lock it behind me. Dream can still unlock it when he gets home, since he has the other key. I get in my minivan - which I am very proud of, by the way - and start it up, hearing the engine purr. I pull out of the driveway and begin my commute to work.

Traffic isn't too heavy today, so it only takes me fifteen minutes to drive to the school. I park the car in the faculty lot, checking to make sure that it's locked before heading inside. The students don't arrive until seven or seven-thirty, so us teachers have a good hour to an hour and a half to plan for the day's classes before the hormone-induced student body begin to storm the halls.

I stop by the office to sign myself in using the clipboard with the teacher sign-in sheet, and then make my way through the school, heading for the teacher's lounge. Ink always hangs out there for a little while after he arrives, so if I'm lucky, I might be able to grab him before he heads to his classroom to...do whatever he does to prepare for his classes, I guess. I never know what he has planned for any of his classes. For all I know, he probably brought in all the things that you need to make homemade wine. I know it's illegal for minors be given alcohol, but is it also illegal for minors to make alcohol?

I open the door to the lounge.The room isn't really that fancy, contrary to the belief of other students. There's a sink with a countertop, a little microwave, an old fridge, and a couple of tables. I notice some of my colleagues, including Ink, the walking disaster himself, sitting at a nearby table, making small talk.

"Well, if it isn't the pieuvre noire!" Ink grins as he calls me a black octopus to my face. "Was wondering when you'd get here!"

"Ha-ha. Very mature, elfe coloré." I reply. "I don't know what you're doing, but I need to talk to you about something."

"Alright, but in my defense, I thought that Undyne's shampoo would taste like apples." He raises his arms up in the air.

"Wait, are you saying that you drank shampoo?" One of the teachers sitting next to him exclaims, looking horrified.

Ink suddenly burps, and a couple of small bubbles fly out of his mouth. The room becomes so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

"You know what?" I finally speak up, breaking the silence. "I'm not gonna ask."

"Oh come on, it's basically a milkshake!" He points out. "A milkshake that you drink in the shower! Like, a shower shake!"

"I. Am not. Going to ask," I groan, putting a hand to my face. "Just...come with me to my classroom, alright? This is kind of a private discussion."

"If you insist." Ink gets up from his chair, gathering his stuff. "Lead the way, My Chemically Imbalanced Romance!"

"I am willing to pay you to never call me that again."

"You wish," He scoffs.

"Whatever."

My classroom is in the same hallway as the lounge, but it's all the way on the other side, so it takes us a while to walk over there. I unlock and open the door, and I stroll in, my co-worker following me. The air is thick with the scent of pencil shavings and lavender essential oil, two of my favorite smells in the world.

"So, what's up?" Ink asks, pulling up a nearby chair and taking a seat. "Is something up?"

"You could say that, I guess," I sigh, sitting down at my own desk.

"Is this about Dream?" Ink is the only other teacher who knows about my brother's depression. He hasn't told anyone else about it, which makes me feel better, since I really don't want anybody else to know; at least, not yet. He always asks me how Dream is doing, and I appreciate his concern a lot.

"Yes, it is," I admit. "Has Cross told you anything about some sort of study sleepover?"

"Uh-huh," He nods, rubbing the tip of his index finger and thumb together, as if he were sprinkling fish food into an aquarium. "He told me about it this morning. I couldn't help but feel suspicious, so I started to ask him some questions."

"Good to know that I'm not the only person who feels like something's fishy." It's kind of surprising that Ink is actually taking something seriously for once. "What questions did you ask him, exactly?"

"Um..." He rubs the back of his skull. "I don't think you'll like it if I tell you one of them."

"Ink, I promise I won't be mad," I assure him. "I just want to know what you asked him."

"Well, don't take this one too seriously, but I may or may not have asked Cross if he set up this sleepover to confess his feelings for your brother because he has a huge crush on him..." Ink starts off, sounding nervous.

"Damn it," I curse under my breath.

"Nightmare?"

"Now I owe Dream ten bucks," I explain. "You don't want to know the context."

"Well, at least you're not mad about it," He sighs. "I also asked Cross what he and Dream were going to be working on, if you gonna be okay with it, you know, stuff a parent would ask if their child asked them if they could have a study sleepover on a school night."

"You're really taking this seriously."

"Hey, I may be reckless at times, but I consider myself a responsible parent," Ink shrugs.

"Says the person who drank an entire bottle of shampoo." I deadpan.

"Cut me some slack, that shit's delicious," Ink declares, clearly not ashamed or embarrassed of himself. "But enough about me and Cross. Are you going to be okay with this?"

"That's the problem!" I throw my hands up in the air. "I don't know if I can be okay with this."

"What do you mean by that, exactly?" The small and petite art teacher leans back in his seat. "I thought you trusted Cross."

"I do trust Cross," I start off slowly. "Dream talks very highly of him. They're almost inseparable. I don't know if Dream has told Cross about his depression, but your son has helped my brother out a lot these past two weeks. Granted, Dream still has days where he acts like he doesn't want anything to do with the outside world, but ever since he and Cross became friends, he's only had one or two days like that in that span of time. I can tell that he's happier, but I can't help but feel...I don't know, hesitant."

"Well..." Ink scoots his chair closer to my desk. "What do you want? For your brother, I mean."

"I want Dream to be happy," I answer immediately. "I try to do all that I can to try and make him feel some kind of positive emotion. I make time in my schedule to spend time with him, I try to comfort him when he needs it, but it seems like no matter what I do, he still views the world around him in a negative light."

"I know how you feel," He says, his voice soft. "All I want is what's best for Cross. Sure, I might do things that Cross would think is embarrassing, like drinking shampoo, but I'll do my best to support him and his choices. I'm willing to do what's best for him, no matter the cost. You would do the same thing for Dream, wouldn't you?"

"He means everything in the entire world to me," I nod. "Of course I would."

"I'm not asking you all of these questions to pressure you into saying yes," Ink clarifies. "This is under your judgement after all. But I know that any sort of decision that you make involving Dream is very important to you, when you take in mind the state of his mental health. I'm positive that you'll make the right choice here."

"You really think so?"

"Hey, I might act a little insane in the membrane a lot, but I know what I'm talking about! I raised Cross all by myself since he was a baby bones, and look at him now; he's got a friend who's real close to him, and he's on the honor roll! If I can do it, so can you!"

I smile at my co-worker. "Thanks for that, Ink. I'll keep your advice in mind while thinking it over."

"You're welcome," He grins back. "And if you do give this sleepover the a-okay, let me know and I'll keep an eye on them. I trust that they'll be working on their project, but I know you won't sleep easy if you don't know that Dream's alright."

I chuckle. "You're the best friend I could ever ask for."

"Damn straight," Ink replies. "I should probably go and prepare for my first class."

"Yeah, I gotta do that, too. See you later, I guess."

He bolts out of the room. I'm only alone for about five minutes before someone knocks at my door.

"Come on in," I answer.

Undyne, the gym coach, storms into the room, holding a empty bottle of shampoo.

"Have you seen Ink today?" She interrogates me. "I heard from some other teachers in the lounge that the little punk drank all of my damn shampoo!"

I grip the pencil that's in my hand tightly.

"Sorry, I haven't," I lie. "I'll tell him that you were looking for him when I do though." The fish monster mumbles some words of agreement and stomps out. I return my focus to the worksheets that I'm correcting.

"Looks like you owe me one for that, Ink stain," I muse aloud.

Chapter Text

I ended up having another nightmare, but it wasn't as bad as the one I had had before. I was keeled over on the floor of a strange, white room. Then out of nowhere, fresh cuts opened up on my forearms and I started to bleed. I tried to cover the wounds to try and stop the blood from flowing, but the bleeding grew heavier as I began to hyperventilate. My vision started to get fuzzy, and as soon as I felt myself start to fade away, slowly losing my grip on the mortal coil, the alarm on my phone rang, jolting me awake. That was when I glanced at my arms.

Some of the cuts on my arms were bleeding again, dripping all over my golden yellow sheets, and the tips of my fingers were covered in blood. I must have been subconsciously picking at the wounds on my arms, which could be an explanation for the dream I just had.

I drag myself out of bed and stumble towards the bathroom. I only got three or four hours of sleep, and I didn't get any rest on top of that. I never liked looking at myself in the mirror. I had always struggled with self-esteem issues, and when depression took its seat at the table of my many mental health issues, I only used the mirror when I absolutely had to. But for some reason, I just couldn't stop myself from peering in the mirror, and I did a double take at what I saw.

My eyes, which were once bright yellow, looked dull and tired. There were huge bags underneath them, and my face was looking a little pale as well. I tried to smile, still looking at myself, but it looked forced and out of place. Man, I looked like shit.

"I feel like shit, too," I mumble to myself, stripping out of my bedclothes. "'Tis the life of a depressed teenager."

I usually look forward to going to school, since it means I get to see Cross, but I'm not really feeling it today. I start to sing "My Shot" while I shower, trying to motivate myself, which usually works on days on these, but I still don't feel any better. Today feels like one of those days where all I just want to stay home and lie in bed all day, but I'm just going to grin and bear it. You know, pull a John Mulaney.

"I'll keep all my emotions right here," I quote the comedian, still talking to no one. "And then one day, I'll die."

I know repressing your negative thoughts and feelings isn't healthy, but I’m completely sleep deprived, which is never good when you’re depressed, because all of your most intrusive thoughts become even more intrusive, which is what usually happens to me. I continue to trudge through my morning routine, struggling to stay awake. I'm meeting Cross for coffee this morning, so at least I can have some caffeine so I don't fall asleep in class today.

I try to stifle a yawn as I head downstairs to the kitchen. Nightmare is already there, rummaging through a cabinet. He notices me, looking concerned. I mutter a "good morning" as I bend down to open the cupboard under the sink.

"Dream, you look awful. Is everything alright?" Worry laces his voice.

"Don't worry about me. I'm fine." A lie, of course. I feel anything but fine right now. "I'm just tired."

"What time did you go to sleep last night?"

"I dunno. Couldn't get to sleep," It was partly true; I ended up staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars that covered my bedroom ceiling for several hours before I eventually fell asleep. "I think I fell asleep around midnight or something." I take my meds dry, something I don't usually do.

"I keep some melatonin in my bathroom, if you want to take some before you go to sleep tonight," He offers, pouring himself a cup of coffee.

Thanks for the offer, Nightmare, but melatonin won't work for all the nightmares I've been having as of late.

"Do you want me to make you something to eat before I leave?" My brother asks.

I remember the little chat me and Cross had last night, and about the impromptu study sleepover.

"I'll be fine," I say. "But I need to ask you something."

"Hit me." Nightmare takes a sip of his coffee.

I tell him that me and Cross need to finish our visual aids, and how my friend wants to know if I can stay the night tomorrow to get it done. I don't know if it's me, but something tells me that my older brother smells a rat.

"This is a study sleepover?" Nightmare gives me a look. "Just to get homework done? Nothing else?"

"Nightmare, I barely got any sleep. I don't think I can lie to you even if I tried." I'm not that good of a liar in the first place, anyway. I'm a pretty honest kid. "I don't even consider myself a good enough liar to pull off the 'fake study sleepover' trick."

"Where's my genes? I used that trick all the time when I was in high school!"

We have a little conversation for a while. Nightmare bets me ten bucks that Ink said Cross set up this study sleepover to "confess his undying love for me". I can feel my face grow warm. After handing me a twenty-dollar bill (and making two very awful coffee puns), he heads upstairs. I go back into the kitchen and grab a granola bar from the pantry, like he told me to do. The Cozy Cafe sells a bunch of breakfast pastries like muffins and bagels, but I stuff it into a pocket of my messenger bag anyway as I leave the house.

Cross is already sitting at the table in our usual spot when I get there. Whenever we go to the cafe, we always order together. We never judge what the other gets, though sometimes we'll be surprised. Once Cross ordered an large espresso, and me and Ccino just stared at him, like he had just said that he had a ghost following him. I wish I had at least protested against his order, because he got an extreme caffeine buzz, and "crashed" during class that day.

He catches my eye. "Hey, Dream. You okay?"

"Why do you ask?" I set my bag down.

"Well, you look like shit."

"I feel like shit." I deadpan.

Cross stares at me with wide eyes. "Didn't sleep that well, I'm guessing."

"My mental health problems plus a lack of any proper rest is a recipe for a real fucked up day."

"So coffee?"

"Certo."

We go to the counter to order our drinks. Cross, the huge chocoholic, orders a small hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant, his usual.

"Do you ever get tired of chocolate?" I ask him as Ccino writes down his order.

"The day I refuse anything with chocolate in it is the first sign of the apocalypse." He shoves me playfully.

"And you, Dream?" The young cafe owner looks at me.

"Give me a cappuccino with three shots of espresso," I answer, remembering my brother's advice.

Cross stares at me once again, looking completely shocked. Ccino looks a little nervous.

"Are you sure about that?" He asks hesitantly. "That's a lot of caffeine..."

"I want a cappuccino with three extra shots of espresso." I repeat my order. "And a double chocolate chip muffin."

"Okay then."

He hands us our pastries and rings us up. As usual, we split the payment between us. "Your drinks will be out shortly," Ccino says as he hands us our change. We thank him and head back to our table. We start up a conversation pretty quickly, Cross stopping now and then to take bites of his croissant.

I stare at my muffin. I don't have a good relationship with eating. Before I got diagnosed with depression, it was either a struggle to eat, or I didn't have an appetite at all. It didn't turn into an eating disorder, but there would be times where my appetite was perfectly normal, but the next day I just couldn't bring myself to eat. I was feeling really bad last night and didn't have any dinner, but despite being hungry, I didn't want to eat at all. I saw no reason to.

"And then Ink pulled out a bottle of shampoo out of nowhere and started chugging the whole thing down like it was booze or something!" Cross finishes his latest story about Ink's crazy antics.

I burst out laughing. I can always count on Cross to help me feel better. Over the span of the conversation, I manage to eat the entire muffin.

"So did you let Ink know about the sleepover?" I ask him as I sip my cappuccino, feeling the buzz of caffeine.

"Yes, I did." He grits his teeth. "And he thinks that I asked you to spend the night so I could tell you that I liked you. As in crushing on you."

I chuckle a little.

"What?"

"Now Nightmare owes me ten bucks," I explain.

"W- You know what? Not gonna ask."

"Just so you know, Nightmare said he was kidding."

"Right," Cross takes a long drink from his hot chocolate. "So what did your brother say about the sleepover?"

"He said he was going to talk to Ink about it first," I reply. "So there's a fifty-fifty chance that it could go haywire, given that Ink is, well, Ink."

"True." He nods. "But I guess we'll just have to wait and see."

"Yeah," I agree. "So, has Ink gotten into any other shenanigans?"


 With a lot of espresso in my system and Cross by my side, I manage to get through most of the school day. There were a few bumps here and there, but those weren't that big of a deal. But sometime during French class, while we were in the middle of a surprise test, the caffeine wore off completely. It just came out of nowhere; I was in the middle of translating sentences written in English to French when I suddenly felt really, really tired. Is this what having a caffeine crash feels like?

Fortunately, I was almost done with the test at that point, but it took me a lot of effort to finish it, even though it was pretty easy. As soon as I finished the last question, the bell rang, signaling the end of the period, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

"You okay?" Cross whispers in my ear as we gather our things, preparing to head to our final class while the teacher goes around the room, gathering all of the tests as the rest of the class files out. "You're usually finished with these tests before now."

"I think I caffeine crashed," I mumble.

He winces. "That really sucks. How're you feeling?"

"Extremely tired. Irritable. Every single emotion you felt when you crashed from all that espresso you had last week."

"So...not good."

"Basically."

Nightmare starts to head our way, gathering our papers. "Dream, could you stay behind for a moment?" He asks me, pausing for a moment. "I need to talk to you." I nod, and he continues down the aisle.

"Just go on ahead without me," I tell Cross. "Tell Ink I'll be there in a minute."

He looks hesitant, but nods. "See you later," He mouths at me silently before he leaves. I'm the only other student in the room now. My brother sets all of the papers down at his own desk, and I head towards him, trying to stifle a yawn.

"Are you trying to hold back a yawn?" Nightmare gives me one of his famous looks, the one that's the equivalent to an eyebrow raise.

"Caffeine crash," I explain. His goop noodles curl up. Pfft. Goop noodles. I try to hold back laughter and a yawn, which is as hard as it sounds.

"Dream?" My brother starts to look concerned.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," I wave him off. "You wanted to talk to me?"

"You remember the study sleepover that you told me about this morning?" Nightmare puts his hands behind his back.

Ah, he must have kept me behind so he could give me his answer. "Uh-huh. What about it?"

"Well, after having a very interesting conversation with Ink, I think I have made my decision." He sighs. "I was a bit hesitant at first, but after he gave me some advice, I have decided to give this whole study sleepover thing a chance."

Wait. "Are you saying..."

"You have my permission to stay over at Cross's to finish your project," Nightmare nods. "Just...try to get some rest tonight, okay? Don't take this too harshly, but you look absolutely awful."

"No offense taken. I saw my reflection in the mirror this morning."

He chuckles. "Alright. You can head on to class now. I'll see you when I get home."

I point finger guns at Nightmare before leaving the room and heading for the art studio. By some weird coincidence, it's only a few doors down from my brother's classroom, so it only takes me a short while to get there.

I slide into a seat next to Cross, who is already doodling away on a piece of paper. I lean over a little bit to get a small glance. On the page is my brother in his negative form, everything from his goop-covered appendages to his glowing eye looking menacing.

"Is that the multiverse version of my brother?" I ask.

His head spins around quickly to look at me, his face turning a dark shade of purple. "G- Oh, it's just you, Dream."

"Yep. It's me." I do a little blep. "Update on the sleepover situation. Nightmare agreed!"

"Hell yeah." Cross pumps his fist. "We're gonna nail this."

"Mm-hmm." I yawn. "Sorry. Just tired."

"On a scale of one to ten with ten being 'I just binge watched the entirety of The Simpsons all at once', how tired are you?"

"Seven."

He clicks his tongue. "Okay, maybe you should go straight to your place and get some rest."

"Yeah, I don't think I'd be able to do anything without messing something up right now. So what're you gonna do, then?"

"I'll be checking to see if we need any more supplies. If we do, I'll ask Ink to drive me to the craft store."

"If that ever happens, you have my sympathy." I pat Cross's shoulder, and look at his drawing again. "Is this your first time drawing tentacles?"

"Uh, why?"

"Because when I look at them, I immediately think of 'wiggly hentai joy worms', which is kinda disturbing."

"Eww, what?"

I burst into laughter.


 At four-thirty on the dot Thursday afternoon, I walk up the steps that lead to my best friend's house, feeling butterflies in my stomach. Me and Cross are on good terms, but I've never had a proper sleepover before. Not that I haven't stayed away from home; last year, I stayed with my aunt Arial for most of the summer. I never really had any friends though, so I never really had the experience of having a sleepover with someone who wasn't related to me. I take a deep breath and let it out. It's just me and Cross, working on our visual aids. There isn't much that can go wrong, right? I push the doorbell, trying to keep myself calm.

Almost immediately, I hear footsteps pounding towards the door, which swings open with enough force to yank it off its hinges. I jump a little, staring at Ink, who is panting heavily, as if he had just ran a marathon.

"Um, hi, Ink," I greet him. "Are...you alright?"

"Yeah. Come on in," He says between breaths, waving me inside. "I'm good, I just...wanted to be the first one to see you."

"Okay then." I rub a hand up and down my arm as I enter the house. "Cross is here, right?"

"Yep! Hold on a second!" Ink breathes in deeply before yelling, "Cross, sweetie! Your friend Dream is here!"

Was it really necessary for him to use that motherly tone? I bury my face in my hands, and I feel my face growing warm.

"Yeah, yeah!" I can hear the embarrassment in Cross's voice as he comes down the stairs. I look up at him as he reaches the bottom, noticing that his cheekbones are glowing a light purple. "Hey, Dream."

"Hi," I grin awkwardly. "Sorry, I would've been here sooner, but Nightmare needed me to do some things first."

"Eh, that's alright," He waves me off. "You can put your things in my room, then we can get to work."

"What are you two doing for your visual aids?" Ink asks us.

"We're going to be making some pieces of art that represent different art periods," Cross explains. "And we're also going to draw some pictures of famous artists."

"Don't forget the recreation of 'A Starry Night'!" I add. That last one was my idea. We wanted to have something special for our project, something that would leave the class in awe. Of all the different painting that we saw pictures for online, I liked Da Vinci's A Starry Night the most, so we decided to do that one. We had already gotten a head start on that one earlier this week by putting in the outlines, which took us a while, and we had already gotten started by doing the actual painting, which was what I was going to be working on.

"That sounds amazing!" Ink beams. "I agreed to let you two use my office. I think Cross has everything set up there already."

"Nice!" I pump my fist in the air a little. "Come on, let's do this!"

Cross leads me up the stairs to his bedroom. I set down all my stuff next to his bed. I unzip my duffel bag with my other stuff in it, pulling out some Oreos.

"Heads up!" I shout at him, tossing him the blue package.

"Aw, yeah!" He catches the cookies in midair. "Holy shit! Are these double stuffed?"

"I've got a huge sweet tooth," I shrug. "I keep a lot of sugary stuff underneath my bed. Peanut butter cups, Oreos, nearly every single Hostess and Little Debbie snack cake known to man and monster...Honestly, I'm surprised that I've never had a single cavity in my entire life."

"You must love Halloween, then," My friend chuckles as he opens the package and eats an Oreo.

"One of the best holidays ever," I say proudly, pulling out a package of Nutty Bars. "I will literally fight you if you try to convince me otherwise."

"I can't blame you, either," Cross says as he heads towards Ink's office, me following him like a duckling. "I love Halloween, too. Hell, I still go trick-or-treating so I can show off my cosplays and get free chocolate."

"Sounds like a win-win."

"Damn straight."

As Ink said, Cross had already gotten out everything that we needed, so we just sat down and got to work. I quickly busied myself in painting one of Da Vinci's greatest masterpieces, while Cross did all the smaller stuff. The room was nearly silent for the next several hours; with one of us occasionally asking for the other to hand them some kind of art supply. We took a ten minute break at six to eat a couple slices from the pizza that Ink had ordered for us, but after that we went straight back to work. I had finished painting in the large black mountain and all the hills, and was just starting to work on that rather small excuse for the village. I had decided to save the sky for last, since it would take the longest to do.

At this point, Cross was a nervous wreck. I could hear the color pencils scratching furiously on the paper as he drew. I looked up from my painting to look at him, and oh boy, judging by the look on his face, if he was a human, he would probably pop a vessel or some other important thing in the human body that regulates blood flow. I seized that opportunity to start up a conversation, a semi-lighthearted one, and I was successful in calming his anxious nerves.

Sometime around ten-thirty, I started to get tired. I didn't really sleep that well the night before, so that wasn't much of a surprise. I set the paintbrush that I was using down and rubbed one of my eyes.

"Hey, Dream?" Cross looks at me, pointing below his eye. "You've got a little bit of paint right here..."

"I do?" I wipe the area below my eye. "Did I get it?"

"Um, you just smeared it." He chuckles a little.

"Give me a minute," I stand up. "I'm gonna go wash it off."

He nods at me and turns back to his work. I leave Ink's study, heading to the bathroom. There's a small blue smear below my right eye, where I had rubbed it. I splash some water on my face to wash off the paint, which also wakes me up a little bit, as a bonus.

"Come on, Dream, keep it together," I pep talk myself as I wipe the water off my face. "You're almost done with the painting. You just gotta stay awake. Don't fall asleep. Not now."

I return to our little work area feeling really determined to finish our 'The Starry Night' recreation. A little while after I came back from the bathroom, Cross finished the smaller pieces of art, and started to help me out. I ended up being right about the sky part of the painting; it was pretty difficult to paint, and it didn't help that we were pretty tired. Me and Cross had to slap each other in the face several times over the span of the next two hours so we didn't fall asleep on top of the painting. The stress was kind of overwhelming.

Finally, sometime around one in the morning, we put on the finishing touches to the artwork. Me and Cross stood up to observe the painting.

"Finally, we're finished," Cross sighs, looking relived. "It took us forever, but we did it."

"Yeah," I chuckle. "Dude, I can not tell Nightmare how long we stayed up. I'd be lucky if he even let me see you again if he knew how late we stayed up."

"My metaphorical lips are sealed," He yawns. "C'mon, let's clean all of this up and go to bed. I'm really tired."

"Sure thing."

There isn't that much to pick up; Cross had already picked up all of the stuff that he had used to make the rest of the visual aids, so all we had to clean up was the brushes and the various bottles of paint that were scattered around. We left our magma opus out to dry, and headed for Cross's room to get some rest. I changed into my nightclothes rather quickly, on the account that I didn't want him to see what was on my arms.

We were extremely tired, so silence was exchanged between us as Cross climbed into bed, and I crawled into the sleeping bag that I had brought over for me to sleep in. I was rather anxious to fall asleep because I was afraid of having a nightmare, and I was sleeping in my best friend's room to boot, and I didn't want to wake up in a panic and worry him.

Even despite these fears, I found the lids of my eyesockets growing heavier and heavier, until I turned on my side and took a final breath before falling asleep.

Chapter Text

For the second time this week, I couldn't sleep. I was pretty tired, but I couldn't close my eyes. Dream was curled up in his sleeping bag on the floor next to me, mumbling gently in his sleep. He was kind of lucky, in a way. He may have nightmares, but at least he knows that he can get to sleep each night. For me, it's kind of a gamble every time I get into bed; will I be able to sleep, or will I end up staring at my ceiling for the next six to seven hours, like I'm being forced to do right now?

"No...stop it...fuck the hell off..."

I turn on my side so that I'm facing Dream. He was tossing and turning violently, his voice growing louder and louder. He was crying for whoever was tormenting him in his dreams to stop as yellow tears streamed down his cheeks. Jesus Christ, Dream's nightmares sounded bad enough when he described them to me, but witnessing him having what seems to be a really awful one right now is making me even more concerned.

I get out of bed, kneeling at Dream's side. "Dream?" I call out his name, shaking his shoulder gently. "It's okay, Dream. Wake up."

"Stay the fuck away from Cross, you whores!" He shouted, thrashing around. "And don't you take another step closer, you grape-haired, knife obsessed slut!"

...Grape-haired, knife obsessed slut? Oh God, Dream's having a nightmare about the girls from Doki Doki Literature Club, isn't he? And it seems like I'm involved as well. I shake him harder, but it doesn't look like he can hear me.

"It's just a nightmare, Dream!" I'm practically yelling as I shake him. I'm surprised that all of this racket isn't waking Ink up. "C'mon, snap out of it!"

"Let him go, damn it! Don't you dare hurt my best friend!"

Those words were what did it. I slapped Dream across the face, hard. His eyes snap open, and he sits up, panting heavily. He wipes the tears away from his face as he looks at me, horrified.

"Uh, Dream?" I reach for his shoulder. "Are you okay? You were having a really awful nightmare."

"I-I'm fine," He shook his head. "Just...give me five minutes, okay? I'm going to go downstairs and get some water."

"Alright." I nod as I watch Dream get out of the sleeping bag and leave the room, noticing that his fists were balled up tightly, as if he wanted to punch Monika or one of the other cute waifus in the face.

I don't climb back into bed. I want to wait until Dream comes back, so I can talk to him if he needs some comforting. I would go downstairs too, but he looks like he needs some time alone. I take out my phone and open up Reddit, browsing through some memes. Some of them are really funny, so I download them to my phone to look at later.

Five minutes turn to ten, and ten to fifteen, and I start to get worried. Don't get me wrong, I trust Dream completely, but my gut is telling me something bad is going to happen if I don't check on him, and with the nightmare he just had, I'm not going to ignore this feeling. I get up on my feet, sliding my phone in my pocket as I walk out of the room and down the hall. The house is nearly quiet at this hour. I can hear Ink snoring the night away in his room on the other side of the hall, mumbling about different shades of yellow and blue. Man, my adoptive father is really devoted to his work.

Then, clear as day, I hear a cry of pain, followed by sharp breathing, probably from someone clenching their teeth. That makes me even more concerned than before. Dream and I were the only people awake in the house. He wasn't doing anything to severely hurt himself, or even hurting himself at all, was he?

"Gah! Fucking hell..."

Oh God, that definitely is Dream, no doubt about it. It looks like the noises are coming from the bathroom. I force myself to take deep breaths, trying not to panic. If it turns out that he really is hurting himself, just like I suspected and feared, I need to keep my cool.

"Stay calm, stay calm," I mutter to myself as I hurry over to the bathroom. "Come on, Cross, you have to stay calm. Do it for your friend." I don't even hesitate as I knock on the door; once, twice, three times.

"Dream? Is everything okay?" God, I must sound like Ink when he acts all motherly, like he did earlier when Dream came over.

"D-don't worry about me, Cross. I'm okay," I can hear him shifting around, followed by the unmistakable sound of something metal falling to the floor. "Uh, just...ignore that."

"What's going on in there?" Wow. Guess Ink's parenting skills are starting to rub off on me. "I heard something fall."

"Nothing! Everything's fine!" Dream's voice is shaking, as if he's on the verge of tears.

"Don't give me that crap! We both know you're lying!" I'm almost yelling, but I don't care. So many thoughts and feelings are swirling around in my head as I try to think straight, despite being bisexual. "I'm coming in!"

"Cross, don't!" He cries, but I ignore him as I push the door wide open.

Almost immediately, I regret my decision.

Dream is kneeling on the floor, the sleeves of his yellow sweatshirt rolled up to reveal many, many cuts on his arms. Some of the wounds are fresh and oozing blood, which trickles down his arms and onto the bathroom tile. And right in front of him sits the source of the noise and the pain, a slightly dull butter knife with a bloodied blade.

"Nantekotta?" I'm so terrified at the sight, I start speaking in Japanese. "What the fuck, Dream?"

"I told you not to come in." Dream's voice comes out in a whisper. "I didn't want you to see me in this state."

"Dia goddo," My inner weeb is shining through once again, as it does sometimes when I'm upset. "How...how long have you even been doing this to yourself?"

He doesn't respond at first, taking in a deep breath as his shoulders shake.

"I cut myself for the first time the same night I finished playing Doki Doki Literature Club."

The same night he played DDLC? But that was...

"You've been cutting yourself for two whole weeks?" I exclaim.

Dream nods, finally looking up at me, tears running down his face like a waterfall. "I never intended to have it become a habit in the first place. I couldn't sleep, so I went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea. I saw my brother's Xacto knife in a drawer, and my mind instantly flashed to Yuri."

I think I know where this is going from here. "One thought...led to another, didn't it?" I walk over and sit down next to him, sitting like a five-year-old during story time. "You remembered the scene where Yuri cut herself, didn't you?"

"Monika said that Yuri cutted when her emotions got too out of control for her to handle," He nods his head again. "I felt like I was in a rut that I couldn't get out of. I was just going to make a single cut, to see what it felt like, and maybe a second if I thought I could handle it, but it all spiraled out of control."

"What do you mean, 'spiraled out of control'?" I ask, a little curious about what had driven my friend to this point.

Dream inhaled, then exhaled. "I actually went through with it. I made two small, clean cuts a few inches below my right wrist, right about...here." He traces a finger in that exact spot. "But for some reason, that wasn't enough. For some strange reason, I enjoyed the pain. It was addicting, and it still is. It became a coping mechanism; if I was having a really bad day, or if I just woke up from a really bad nightmare, I would take a butter knife from the kitchen and just keep on maiming myself until my arms were completely numb from the pain."

Oh dear God.

"Holy fucking shit." My language isn't really the cleanest, but I have enough decency to only use one swear word in a single sentence, so it's kind of surprising for the both of us that I said that. "Doki Doki Literature Club really affected your mental health negatively, didn't it?"

"Yeah. It did." Dream brings his knees to his chest. "But the first arc was the roughest one to go through. I have depression, so Sayori's route kinda hit a little too close to home for my liking. I can relate to her on so many levels sometimes."

A rather awkward and unsettling silence is exchanged between the two of us. I don't know what to say, let alone what I'm feeling. I had a suspicion that Dream had depression or something related to that, and I ended up being right, but I didn't realize that until now, when I found out he had been self-harming for over two weeks. It's...a lot to take in, honestly.

"You gonna be okay?" I ask him, pointing to his arms. "Do you need me to patch you up?"

"Nah, I usually just rinse the cuts and leave them be," Dream brings himself to his feet. "Let me clean my arms real quick."

"I'll do you a favor and wipe up all of the blood on the floor," I offer. "It's the least I can do."

Dream nods, remaining silent as he turns on the faucet. I grab a rag and clean up all of the red bodily fluids that were splattered all over the bathroom tile, which doesn't take long. I clench the bloodied rag in my hands, still trying to process the situation.

"...Does your brother know about this?" I ask timidly.

"Yes and no," He sighs. "Nightmare knows about my depression, but he doesn't even have a clue that I've been cutting myself. I'm not sure if he suspects anything, though."

"Are you going to tell him?"

Dream turns off the tap, rolling his sleeves back up. He turns his head, looking me in the eye. "Should I?"

I nod. "What you've been doing is dangerous, Dream. If you don't get any help, you could hurt yourself bad enough that you could wind up in the hospital, or in the worst possible case, bleed out and die. Nightmare deserves to know."

"Cross, I can't tell him." He balls his fists, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. "I just can't."

"Look, if you don't tell him now, I'll do it myself!" I argue. "He needs to know. I'll be honest here, I don't know Nightmare that well personally, but I know enough about him to know that he'll be willing to help you out if you tell him. As you've told me before, adults get it."

He inhales, and then exhales. "Fine. I'll tell him." Dream opens his eyes slightly. "Just...give me a day or two, alright?"

"That's fine." I smile at him. "I care about you, y'know? You're really important to me, and I would jump off a fucking bridge if it meant you were safe and happy."

Dream looks a bit hesitant at first, but then he smiles back - and I can tell that this is a real, genuine smile. "Thanks, Cross."

"Anything for my best friend," I pat his shoulder. "You coming to bed? You can sleep with me if you want. That is, if you're comfortable with it."

"I...are you sure?"

"I might not be depressed, but misery does love company, after all."

"...Alright." He picks the almost forgotten butter knife up from off the floor, handing it to me as we leave the bathroom.

"Thanks again."

"You're welcome, Dream."

Chapter Text

I was awake, but I didn’t open my eyes. It was one of those moments where you weren’t asleep anymore, but you didn’t want to open your eyes and fully wake up yet. I didn’t know what time it was, but I knew that it was pretty early in the morning; probably five o’clock or something.

My arms were wrapped around Cross, and my skull was practically buried in his torso, allowing me to feel his chest rise and fall as he snored gently. I was so tired, upset and overwhelmed that I had immediately initiated cuddles within seconds of getting into Cross’s bed. And being the good friend that he was, he didn’t complain or say anything bad about it. If I could have a dating partner, I would want a guy/girl like him.

“Akumu, no nai,” Cross mumbles, shifting a little bit. Aww, he’s speaking Japanese in his sleep. That’s kinda cute in a way, and a little comforting, too. Sometimes, when Nightmare falls asleep on the couch after one of our late night binge-watching sessions, he’ll start saying random stuff in French. And when I say random, I mean totally random. One of the phrases that I heard from him and put into Google Translate was “bourrer ces ailes”, which translated as “stuff these wings”. I decided not to question it further, let alone at all.

Click.

I tense up. What the hell was that?

Click.

There it is again. Is...is it coming from above us?

“Oh my god , this is so adorable…”

I crack open an eyelid, but only slightly. Ink is standing right above me and Cross, taking pictures of us with his phone, grinning from ear to ear like a lunatic.

What.

The.

Actual.

Fuck?

My eyes open quickly, and I begin to scream, loud . Cross wakes up immediately, sputtering words in English and Japanese. Ink curses, accidentally dropping his phone, which bounces off of my friend’s skull. We stare at the chaotic neutral art teacher, who stares back at us sheepishly.

“Uhhh...Rise and shine?” Ink chuckles.

“WHAT THE FUCKING HELL , INK?” My face grows warm. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GODDAMNED MIND?”

“It isn’t what it looks like, I swear!”

“Oh, so you weren’t taking pictures of us while we were sleeping?”

“I couldn’t resist! You two looked so cute!”

“That still doesn’t make it okay!”

“Alright, alright!” Ink holds his hands up. “I’m sorry I was being a creep and taking photos of you and Cross while you were sleeping. If it makes you feel better, I’ll delete them.”

“That would be very much appreciative,” I agree, picking up his phone and handing it to him.

“Shouldn’t you be heading to school?” Cross asks.

“I’m leaving now, actually.” Ink nods. “I’m giving your visual aids to Toriel for you, so you two don’t have to carry a lot of stuff while walking to school this morning. I already have them in the back of my car.”

“Uh, thanks, Ink.” Cross rubs the back of his skull.

“No problem! See you later, kids!” He proceeded to walk out of the room, humming the Spongebob Squarepants theme song. Me and Cross remain lying there in silence.

“Ink ships us like FedEx, doesn’t he?” I sigh.

“Yeah, he does.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.”


 

As I quote Scully from Brooklyn Nine-Nine , karma’s a bitch.

I don’t know how, because I didn’t tell him, that’s for sure, but Nightmare found out about the whole photography incident that happened that morning, and he was incredibly pissed. During lunch, while Ink was on lunch duty, my brother stormed into the cafeteria, grabbed one of Cross’s open cartons of chocolate milk off of his half-eaten lunch tray, and splashed it all over the art teacher’s Bob Ross T-shirt.

“You’re lucky that my brother’s friends with your son!” Nightmare had shouted at Ink as he walked away. “Otherwise I would put you in the fucking hospital!”

Jesus Christ, I remember thinking. Nightmare must be really mad if he’s swearing in front of the whole school. Ink is extremely lucky.

“Karma came and collected his debt,” Cross had sung to the tune of Set It Off’s song Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing in my nonexistent ear, making me giggle a little bit.

But that laughter was short-lived. The scene that unfolded kept picking on me in the back of my mind for the rest of the day, my brother’s outburst being power washed into my brain, as if the memory was as important to remember as Italian and French words and phrases were. My brother tends to overreact when it comes to my well-being. It doesn’t happen often, since he’s usually calm and collected, and sometimes even a bit stoic, but if I seem even slightly unhappy, he’ll be more coddling than Ink and someone’s mother combined , which is saying a lot, since Ink is the ultimate motherly figure, despite being a man that looks like he’s in his early twenties. If he’s willing to risk his job to spill chocolate milk on Ink over some pictures (I’m not justifying what Ink did. Besides Brooklyn Nine-Nine , I’ve watched shows like Law & Order , both original and Special Victims Unit editions, Dateline , and American Crime Story . Based on what I’ve seen happen in some of those shows, I’m about 85% positive that what Ink did this morning was illegal, under the terms of breached privacy.), I don’t know how the hell he’ll react when I tell him I’ve been cutting myself.

“How do you think he might react?” Cross asks me. I was in my room, sitting on my bed with my legs crossed. I couldn’t shake the earlier events out of my mind, so I called up Cross for advice. Luckily, he wasn’t doing productive at the moment; from the background noise, it sounded like he was watching anime and writing fanfic, stuff that I imagined that he’d do in his free time before I became friends with him, so I filled him in on my dilemma, and he was willing to counsel me.

“Well, one thing that you should know about Nightmare is that he can be a little... overprotective of me at times. Which is understandable, since I’m practically the only living family member that he has,” I start off, picking at my bedspread. “And being overprotective means he will overreact. That’s why I didn’t want to tell him that I’ve been cutting myself. It’ll break his heart.”

“You’ve said that he cares about you a lot,” Cross points out, the noise of keys being pushed on a keyboard intensifying a little bit. “He’s your brother. You’ve said that he raised you since you were a babybones, and correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s been helping you get through your depression too, isn’t he?”

“He is.” I nod. “Nightmare does everything he can to help. He takes me to therapy, makes sure that I take my antidepressants, and is always willing to lend me a shoulder to cry on if I ever need it. He tries his best to care for me, physically and mentally.”

“Does he know that you played Doki Doki Literature Club?” My friend asks.

“Yes, but he doesn’t know that you recommended the game to me. As far as he knows, I found the game by myself.”

“You should tell him what happened the night you played it,” Cross says. “He’ll understand. It’s kind of a heavy game for someone with mental issues.”

“...You really think so?”

“Your conversations about him view him in a positive light. If anyone would understand the reasoning your... coping mechanism ...it would be him.”

“Heh.” I chuckle a little. “Thanks, Cross. I’ll try and tell him this weekend.”

“Okay. I’m going to go back to writing my MHA fanfic now.”

Pfft. Old habits must die hard, I guess. “Alright, catch you later, nerd.”

“Hey! That’s rude!” Cross whines before the line goes dead.

I stare at my phone for a little while, taking deep breaths.

“I’m going to tell him tomorrow morning. If I’m going to let him know about this, I need time to ready myself first.”

Chapter Text

Saturday mornings are always quiet.

Dream loves to sleep in. He doesn’t smoke, drink, or try to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to go to an unsupervised house party full of drunk upperclassmen like most kids his age would probably do, but his sleeping schedule is exactly like mine was when I was his age, sometimes not getting up until one in the afternoon. I don’t mind it, really. I’ve heard that getting enough sleep is important for people who struggle with depression, so you could say that I’m a little bit supportive of Dream’s sleeping patterns during the weekends. Besides, it gives me some free time to put grades in.

I can’t help but sigh as I start to pour myself a cup of hot coffee. Last night, Dream seemed a little...on edge. He was extremely fidgety, and had a troubled look in his eyes. He kept zoning out, mumbling things to himself that I couldn’t quite make out. My brother looked like an anxious mess. I confronted him about it, but he just waved me off. I hope that he’s-

“Nightmare?” I feel something cold touch my shoulder, interrupting my train of thought.

“Oh, putain !” I jump, dropping the coffee pot in shock, spilling coffee and shattering into a million tiny shards of glass all over the linoleum floor.

“Oh shit!” Dream swears, shaking his hands. “Sorry, Nightmare! Didn’t mean to make you break the coffee pot.”

“Don’t worry about it, I was planning on buying a new one anyway,” I shrug it off. “You’re up awfully early for a Saturday.”

“I, uh, didn’t really sleep well.” My brother stifles a yawn. “I...had a lot on my mind. Made it hard to get any rest.”

“Is school stressing you out?” I ask. “I can talk with your teachers on Monday if you need me to.”

“No. School is fine.” He averts my gaze. There are fairly noticeable bags under his eyes. “I’ve just been kinda tired lately, that’s all.”

“Okay.” I nod, but I don’t believe a word. I have been there for Dream in his darkest times, and I know him well enough to recognize when he’s lying about his emotions. But I also know that forcing him to tell me what’s wrong with him will only make him feel worse, and I trust that he will tell me how he’s feeling in his own time. I sigh as I go to find a broom to sweep up the microscopic pieces of glass.

“Nightmare?” Dream speaks up again.

“Yes, Dream?” I turn to face my younger brother. “Do you need something?”

“Sort of.” He inhales, then exhales. “I...think we need to talk.”

I knew it. Something must be wrong. “Sure thing. Do you want to go in your room?”

He nods, turning around and heading to the stairway. I follow him upstairs to his bedroom like a baby duckling following his mother. As my brother leads me to his room, I notice that he’s rubbing his arm, visibly cringing a little. Oh, I just hope that he’s alright.

Dream pushes the door open. His bedroom is decorated with a yellow aesthetic; all the furniture and some of the decorations are all different shades of yellow. The Hamilton poster that I got him for Christmas a few years ago hangs on a wall by his bed, along with some other pictures and wall decor, all advertising different musicals and/or bands. It’s a rather cozy and comforting environment, so it’s no surprise that my brother refuses to leave his bedroom when he’s having one of his self-denigrating or dissociating episodes.

We both sit on his bed, Dream sitting close to the head of the bed, hugging one of his stuffed animals tightly, while I sit on the other end, a few feet away from him.

“So what did you want to talk about?” I ask him. “Are you feeling okay?”

“No, I’m not.” Dream sighs, squeezing the bunny plushie closer to his body. “...Do you remember when we were at Asy’s office a couple of weeks ago? How I told him that I had been feeling really bad after playing Doki Doki Literature Club?”

“Yes, I do.” I nod. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, that feeling...never really went away.”

“Ah.” I feel my shoulders tense up. I should have known that he wouldn’t be alright after playing that game. I had read a lot of articles about it, with one of them saying how it drove a human around Dream’s age to suicide. That one didn’t give any background information about the child’s life before they chose to end it, but I had a strong feeling in my gut that depression had a leading role in their death. “Have you had any-“ I pause to clear my nonexistent throat. “Intrusive thoughts?”

“No, I haven’t started to have any suicidal thoughts,” Dream replies, somehow knowing exactly what I meant. “But what I have started to do in the past two weeks will probably be hard for you to hear.”

“What you’ve...started to do?” I ask him hesitantly, fear building up inside my stomach. “W...what are you talking about?”

He sighs, putting the stuffed toy to the side. “You have to promise not to freak out or get mad at me.”

“Dream, I just want to know what’s bothering you,” I give him a comforting smile. “I won’t get upset with you. I promise.”

“Okay.” Dream takes a deep breath, and rolls his sleeves up, revealing his arms. The smile instantly drops from my face, and I clap my hands over my mouth in shock.

My sweet little baby brother’s arms are absolutely covered in cuts. Some of them are just starting to fade, but most of them look like they were made several days before. And on his right arm, I can see a myriad of cuts that look at least a day old at most . I’m not sure that anything in the entire world could take back this sight.

“Oh my dear Lord…” My voice comes out in a hushed whisper as large tears stream down my cheeks. “H...How long has this been going on? Since you played the game?”

Dream nods sullenly, remaining silent. I can see tears beading at the corners of his eyes.

“Oh, my petit rêve…” I can’t believe that my little brother has been doing this to himself. I’m supposed to take care of him, how could I let this happen? I reach over and grab one of his arms in my hands, running my thumb over his wounds, trying to stifle a loud sob.

“Don’t blame yourself for this,” Dream says, as if reading my mind. “This is all my fault, anyway.”

“Dream, don’t say that!”

“It is my fault!” He shouts, tears running down his face like miniature waterfalls. “I chose to play through the whole game, even though there were multiple warnings at the beginning about not playing it if you had anxiety or depression! I was the one who decided that it was the best idea ever to ‘borrow’ your Xacto knife so I could fucking cut myself to make myself feel better, just like one of the characters did in the game! I did all of that to myself, and you think I shouldn’t be upset about it?” 

“Dream, please!” I cry, putting my hands on his shoulders. “Calm down for a minute!”

I feel Dream’s shoulders shake as he breathes in and out. I wrap him into a hug, gentle sobs escaping him.

“You’re right, you know,” I tell him, rubbing his back in circular motions. “You have every right to be upset. But belittling yourself like this won’t help you at all. In fact, it’ll just make you feel worse.”

He hugs me tighter, burying his head into my violet sweater, sniffling a little, murmuring something I can’t make out.

“Dream, I want you to know that I’m not mad at you,” I continue. “I’m trying my best to keep my cool, but I’m not upset with you. In fact, I’m very proud of you for telling me. I understand that this must have been very hard to tell me about.”

“I’m sorry,” Dream chokes out, his voice muffled by my clothes. “I...I…”

“Shhh. It’s okay.” I hold my brother closer to me. “You don’t have to apologize to me. We’re going to get through this, and we’re going to do it together. I promise.”

We remain in each other’s embrace for at least five minutes before Dream pulls himself away from me and stands up. Without saying a word, he walks over to his desk, opens a drawer and starts to rummage through it, looking for something. After a couple of minutes, he pulls out a slightly dull butter knife, the edge of the blade covered in dried, dark red blood. Still remaining silent, he hands me the piece of cutlery.

“Is this what you’ve been using to…” I try to ask, but I can’t quite finish my question.

Dream nods, looking down at the carpeted floor, tensing up. “I snuck downstairs while you were asleep to get it from the silverware drawer. I kept this hidden in some pens and pencils.”

“I’m going to keep this,” I say, clenching the handle of the silverware. “Do you have any more sharp objects hidden in here?”

“No, that’s it.” He shakes his head. “I’m not crazy enough to buy any razor blades or something like that.”

“Good.” I stand up. “I’m going downstairs to call your therapist and let him know what’s been going on. Go and take a nap for a little bit while I do that, okay?”

“Nightmare…” Dream starts to protest.

“Dream, you look like you haven’t gotten any proper rest in two weeks,” I respond. “I think a nap is just what the doctor ordered. I’ll wake you up in a couple of hours, alright?”

“…Fine.” He trudges over to his bed and crawls underneath the covers, grabbing his favorite stuffed animal and holding it close.

I rub the top of his skull. “Sleep well, my little starshine,” I whisper softly. 

Dream doesn’t answer, already in the gentle grasp of sleep. I chuckle softly, turning off the lights before leaving the room, shutting the door behind me. I don’t go downstairs, though; instead I head straight for my office.

I light some lavender scented incense and sit down at my desk. I pick up the framed picture that sits there on the corner of my desk, looking at it fondly. The picture is about ten years old, from Dream’s fifth birthday celebration at Bella Bunnie’s, a long since shut down animatronic pizza place. Personally, I never really liked the place at all; the pizza was pretty terrible, and the robot animals just looked so fucking creepy to me, but Dream loved the place. Whenever I asked him if he wanted to go there for dinner when he was younger, his eyes just lit up like a Christmas tree, and his smile was at least a mile wide.

His smile. I don’t think words can even describe how happy and overjoyed I feel when I see Dream smile. And I mean a real, genuine smile, not the smile gives me when he tries to pretend he’s feeling okay, when he’s really not. My brother doesn’t think that I can tell the difference between the two, but I can. What I really want most in the whole wide world is for my little brother to be happy, and I try my absolute hardest to bring the former smile to his face, no matter what the cost.

I look up at the ceiling, smiling melancholically, tears spilling down my cheeks. I run a hand down the glass of the picture frame, deep in reminiscence of Dream’s happier times before his depression took such a major toll on him and his life.

“Don’t worry, Dream,” I say out loud, to nobody in particular. “I’m going to help you get through this, even if it’s the last thing I do. I promise.”

Chapter Text

“A club, huh?”

Dream rummages underneath his bed. He’s in a better mood today; he told me yesterday afternoon that he had told Nightmare about his self-harming habit. I’m really happy that my friend gathered the courage to tell his brother about the cutting. He called me up today and invited me over to hang out for a little while as, and I quote, “a thank you for being able to talk some sense into me.”. We’ve been hanging in Dream’s room for the past couple hours. Nightmare had just left to run a couple errands when I arrived, so it’s just been me and Dream.

“Yeah! I think it’d be really fun!” I smile. “We do have a lot more time to kill, now that our English project’s completed. There are a lot of benefits to joining an extracurricular activity, too; it’ll improve our chances of getting a scholarship for college, we’d get to make some more friends, and-”

“It’ll keep me busy so I don’t cut myself again,” Dream deadpans, pulling out a large package, the kind that Halloween candy is sold in.

“...I was going to say ‘we’d get to try out new things and have new experiences’,” I say, clenching my teeth and looking off to the side, my face growing warm. “But to be honest, that’s one of the first things that came to mind when I thought of joining a club with you. I...don’t want you to get hurt. At least, not again.”

“You don’t have to be ashamed. I appreciate your concern,” Dream smiles sadly at me, opening the packaging. “I mostly self-harmed as a coping mechanism for the nightmares. I took a three hour nap yesterday, and today I slept in until eight, and I didn’t have any bad dreams. They were actually pretty sweet. Tootsie pop?” He offers me a chocolate-flavored sucker.

“Thanks.” I accept the candy, tearing off the wrapper and popping the treat into my mouth, letting the stick hang out like a cigarette. “But we could also start our own clu-“

“We are not starting an anime club,” My friend stares at me with a glare as cold as ice.

“Is it because of DDLC?” I ask him.

“Actually, it’s mostly because I don’t want to hear you go into full-blown weeaboo mode every afternoon,” Dream rolls his eyes. “And it’ll be even worse when I’m in a room full of anime nerds.”

“I’m not that obsessed with anime, am I?”

“I heard you watching anime and writing fanfiction over the phone Friday night.”

He was...right.

“How’d you know that I was writing fanfic?” I question. “I could have been doing homework.”

“You thanked God that you didn’t have any homework so that you could take a nap when you got home.”

I had completely forgotten that I said that.

“Send me the link, will you? I don’t know shit about anime, but I kinda want to read what you wrote,” Dream requests.

“Share me the link to your playlist.” I’ve always wondered what was on Dream’s playlist of sad songs.

“Deal.” He takes a cherry flavored lollipop out of the bag before tossing it underneath the bed. “What kind of club do you wanna join?”

“I think the school website has a list of all the extracurricular stuff with all the information,” I tell him. “Do you have a laptop or something?”

“Yeah.” Dream pulls a yellow laptop from under his pillow. It’s covered in all sorts of kawaii stickers, from bunnies to kittens. He boots up the computer and  types in a password. I slide over next to him, looking at his screen.

“Is that a  Brooklyn Nine-Nine  wallpaper?” I ask, pointing at the laptop background.

“It’s only the best sitcom ever!” He laughs. “Peralta/Santiago for life!”

“Oooh, is that a canon ship I smell?” I joke as my friend clicks the internet icon and types in the school website URL into the search engine.

“It’s more canon than Terry loving yogurt,” He nods. “Let’s see, staff members, school events...a-ha! Extracurriculars!” Dream clicks on the tab, and a long list of clubs and sports pop up.

“Wow. That’s a lot of activities,” I say.

“Let’s rule out the sports teams,” Dream suggests. “I don’t think I could handle the pressure of a big sports game. Besides, my endurance is terrible.”

“Fair enough,” I shrug. “So, what’ve we got here?”

“We’ve got the yearbook committee, the poetry club, Nightmare’s French club-“

“Nightmare runs the French club?”

“He’s the French teacher, who else would manage it?” The yellow cladden skeleton scoffs. “Hey, how about the—Oooh. Never mind.”

“What is it?” I ask. “Maybe it’ll be fun.”

“It’s the art club.”

We look at each other and wince. Ink is the staff member in charge of the art club. Two whole hours of art doesn’t really sound that bad, but throw Ink, who Nightmare once described as walking discord incarnate into the mix, and you have a recipe for chaos.

“Yyeah, we should consider a different activity,” I say, biting through  the sucker.

“Yeah. We should.” Dream scrolls further down the list. “Oh my god! There’s a drama club! We should totally do that one!”

“The drama club?” I’m a little skeptical. “I’m not sure about that one, Dream. I’m not that good of a singer.”

“Aw, don’t bullshit me!” He waves me off. “You’re a great singer! We’ve sang together plenty of times, and you always nailed it! You could probably snag a lead in this year’s musical!”

“You really think so?”

“I don’t think so. I  know  so.” He closes the laptop.

“Alright, I’ll give it a shot, I guess,” I shrug.

“I knew you’d come around,” Dream nudges my shoulder. “C’mon, let’s get some lunch, then I can show you how great of a show  Brooklyn Nine-Nine  really is.”

“You really like that show, huh?”

“Remember how I said that our dicks were cooked on our server the other day?” I nod. “That was a quote from the show.”

“It was?”

Suicide Squad,  season six, episode fourteen. Last segment of the episode.” He stands up. “We’ve got leftovers from this taco place we went to last night—“

“You have tacos?!” I scramble to my feet literally seconds after hearing the words “taco place”. “Let’s get those shits!”

“Okay, taco addict.” Dream snickers, rolling his eyes. I choose to ignore the comment, my mind focused on one of the best foods known to human and monster.

The kitchen is practically spotless, save a half-empty cup of coffee sitting on the table next to a newspaper. I’m a little bit taken aback. How does he keep the kitchen clean with all that goopy crap covering his entire body?

“Nightmare reads the newspaper?” I’m not really surprised by this, honestly. How does he pick up papers and other things without getting them all sticky, though? I have a ton of questions about him concerning his...whatever the hell he’s covered in. Like, does he have to change his sheets every night because they get covered in that stuff?

“Yeah. He’s like my grandma, always depending on the paper and the local news channel to get the important info,” Dream laughs. “He also watches CNN, but he prefers local news over the worldwide type.” He opens the fridge. “You okay with fish tacos? We have a bunch of those left over.”

“Any tacos are good tacos,” I reply, taking a seat on the countertop. “Except if they’ve gone bad. I once ate a four-day-old taco out of my cousin Blade’s fridge for a dare and I got really bad food poisoning.”

“You have a cousin?” My friend gives me an intrigued look, shutting the door with his foot. “Aren’t you adopted?”

“He’s my dad’s brother’s kid,” I explain. “He actually lives with someone who went to college with Ink...I think his name’s Dye or something? I’m not sure, it’s been almost a year since I’ve seen them.” I don’t exactly know why Blade lives with Dye, but I have a gut feeling that there was some illegal activity involving his dad that caused it.

“Huh.” Dream sets the food of the gods on a plate and puts it into the microwave. The machine beeps as he pushes several buttons.

“Hey, Dream? Can I ask you a question?”

“Hit me.”

I take a deep breath. “How does your brother do...you know...everyday stuff at home when he’s covered in all that…” I trail off, not sure what to call the stuff that Nightmare is apparently made of in front of Dream.

“Ohhh, are you talking about his corrupted form?” He leans against the counter.

“His  what  now?” I do not know what I’m hearing.

“Yeah, Nightmare has two forms,” Dream explains. “His corrupted form is the one he takes on while he’s at school. He uses his regular one while he’s at home.”

“And his regular form is…?” I ask hesitantly.

Just then, a skeleton who looks  exactly  like Dream walks into the kitchen carrying some grocery bags. “Dream? I’m home!” He glances at me. “Oh, hello there, Cross! I didn’t know you were coming over!”

I can’t help but stare at him, my mouth wide open. I slowly turn to my friend.

“This,” He points at Nightmare, slightly smiling.

“Ahoka?”


The school day on Monday was kind of a blur for me. The only thing that I remember clearly is staring at Nightmare for the entirety of French class, not focusing on the lesson, but instead wondering how the  fuck  he can change from one of the most intimidating monsters I know, to someone who looks absolutely harmless at the drop of a hat.

“How does he do it?” I ask Dream during the last few minutes of art class. “How is that even possible?

He makes an “I don’t know” noise. “Magic, I guess? I don’t think Nightmare even understands  why  he can do it.”

“That’s freaky as hell,” I tell him. “You realize that, right?”

“I just try not to dwell on it too much.” As soon as Dream finishes his sentence, the bell rings, signifying the end of another dull and unmemorable school day.

“So what’re you doing after school?” I ask my friend as we gather all of our stuff.

“We’re going to check out the drama club, remember?” He reminds me, smiling like Ink does when he’s about to do or say something stupid.

Oh. Right. I had pretty much forgotten about that. I bite my tongue.

“I know a few of the members already,” Dream singsongs. “One of them is bringing chocolate cupcakes.”

I never thought that I’d say this, but right now, I hate that chocolate is so delicious. My mouth begins to water.

“Don’t expect me to sing or anything,” I sigh, not wanting to make Dream upset if I declined.

“Fair enough! Let’s go!” He grabs my hand and practically drags me along as he runs out of the room. “Error’s waiting for us!”

Who?

He leads me towards the direction of the cafeteria, but then turns into the hallway near there where several classrooms were located. In front of the door of the very last room at the end of the hall stood a kid who was taller than Dream, but shorter than me. He wouldn’t stand out to me very much if he wasn’t glitching and covered in ERROR messages.

“Hey! Error!” Dream called out to him.

The kid, who was apparently called Error, for reasons that seemed pretty obvious, turned to face us. “‘Sup, Dream. Didn’t think you would be here so fast.” He glanced at me. “Didn’t expect you to bring your boyfriend either.”

My cheeks turn dark purple, the color of ripe plums. “No,” I try to tell him, but a string of flustered Japanese comes out instead.

“Actually, me and Cross are just friends,” My yellow-sweater wearing companion explains.

“Then why are you two holding hands?”

We both look down at our hands, realizing with warm faces that they’re still intertwined. Dream pulls his hand away quickly, his entire face growing a bright and sunny yellow, while my own begins to feel hotter than the fiery pits of Hell.

“Just kiss already, you lovebirds,” Error chuckles.

“Fuck you,” Dream snarls at the glitchy skeleton, who’s eyes widen at the insult.

“Jeez, you’re bitter,” He says, averting my friend’s stony gaze. Okay, there’s no doubting it now; Dream  definitely  inherited that aspect of his brother’s personality. “Anyway, the rest of the club should be here right about now. I promised Dream that I would wait for him before I went in.”

“Then let’s do this, I guess.” I smile, feeling anxiety boiling in my stomach, not knowing what to expect.

Error grasps the door handle and pushes it open. Several other kids, mostly freshmen, it looks like, look up at us. Ugh, this is so awkward. This is why I don’t interact with other people in real life other than my only current friend.

“Isn’t that Nightmare’s brother?” A kid with a gruffly voice wearing a fluffy jacket with gold embellishments pipes up, pointing at Dream.

“I go by Dream, bitch.” He puts his hands on his hips, making him look sassier than a girl from a popular clique, and kinda cute, too.

Wait, what am I saying? Stop adorablizing my friend, brain! That’s just messed up!

“Dream  curses  now?” The jacket kid looks a little shocked.

“Hell yeah I swear!” Dream marches up to him, slamming his hands on the table in front of him. I follow him, not prepared to break up a fight, but totally willing to if necessary. Error walks in behind me with a casual look on his face, as if this kind of stuff happened every day. “Did you really think that I was a fucking goody-two-shoes, you little shit? Huh?”

“No, I didn’t. In fact, I’m kinda digging your spunk there.” The kid raises a hand. “The name’s Red. I already know yours, but I’m not sure about your friend there.”

“I’m Cross,” I introduce myself as Dream shakes Red’s hand. “Aren’t you in my Physics class?”

“Oh, yeah! I remember ya now!”

“So do I, fellow partner.” A small hand goes up in the air.

“Comic?” I recognize his signature blue hoodie instantly. Comic, my lab partner in Physics, is only twelve years old, but he ended up skipping a grade in middle school because he was so ahead of the class. I’m pretty sure all of his core classes are AP ones.

“‘Sup, criss-Cross?” He uses his not-so-clever nickname for me. I roll my eyes, but I can’t help but smile. “How’s it going?”

“I’m doing okay, Comic Sans,” I joke back. “Didn’t take you for the acting type.”

“My brother wanted me to get out of my comfort zone,” The not-quite-a-teenager shrugs. “Red seemed to like it here.”

“What a coincidence. Dream really wanted to check this place out, too.”

“It seemed like fun!” Dream defends himself.

“Dude. You’re a big piece of Hamilton trash.”

“DID SOMEBODY SAY HAMILTON?!” We all jump as a bright-eyed, bandanna-wearing skeleton bursts through the classroom door carrying a large plate covered in tinfoil in one hand. Dream says a long string of words in Italian, which I’m kinda positive are curse words.

“Jeez, Blue! Calm down!” Error shouts at the newcomer.

“Sorry, Error,” Blue apologizes. “I’m just really excited! Today we find out what musical we’re gonna perform in the spring!”

Cheers of delight explode throughout the room.

“About fuckin’ time!” Red shouts. “Are we doing ‘Dear Evan Hansen’? ‘Be More Chill’? Oooh! ‘Little Shop of Horrors’?”

“Lust’s on his way with the rehearsal packets! He should be here any minute!” The bright and bubbly skeleton sets the plate down on the table and removes the covering, revealing over half a dozen chocolate cupcakes, decorated with frosting of the same flavor.

“This is gonna be fun, Cross!” Dream looks at me with a huge smile, his eyes shining like stars. I nod in agreement, smiling back at him.

“Dibs on the first cupcake!” Error yells, quickly snatching a cupcake off the tray. The rest of us grab one as well. I slowly peel off the paper cup, balling it up before taking a bite . It tastes amazing.

“You two wanna see something cool?” Error asks me and Dream.

“Sure!” My friend replies. “What is it?”

“Watch this.” The glitching skeleton opens his mouth slowly. A bunch of weird, tongue-like tentacle things wrap themselves around the cupcake and pulls it into his mouth.

“OH MY FUCKING GOD!” Dream and I yell at the same time. “AWESOME!”

“Jesus Christ, Error, have some decency!” Blue groans as he facepalms.

“What’s going on here?”

Everyone’s attention turns to the speaker, Lust, who is standing next to a girl with dyed pink hair who I’ve never seen before. He’s the most popular and the biggest flirt. Everyone in the whole school wants him as their boyfriend, and he’s only a  freshman . I can’t help but pity him a little bit; he’s like the Heather Chandler of Monarch High at the age of  fourteen .

“Wait, let me guess. Error did the tongue thing again, didn’t he?” The pink-haired girl laughs. Her voice is melodic and sweet, like the huge clumps of cotton candy that they sell at booths at a state fair or carnival. “I don’t know why you don’t like it when he does it. It’s pretty cool, actually.”

Blue nods with a slightly frustrated sigh as he lowers his hand. “I just wish that Error would give us a fair warning before he shows other people that. He scared a few potential new members off before with that.”

“He didn’t scare me off.”

“No, Betty, he did not.” Blue smiles.

I can see Dream’s cheeks glow a faint yellow from the corner of my eye, but I don’t think much of it.

“Well everyone, today’s the day!” Lust shifts the large stack of stapled sheets of paper around in his arms before plopping them down next to the plate of cupcakes. “We finally got the musical that we’ll be doing this year!”

“Well, spill the beans already!” Red shouts. “What’s the show?”

“We’re in for a real treat this year!” Lust clasps his hands together. “We’re going to be performing Hamilton!”

A gasp echoes through the room. Dream went pale, his eyelights growing into stars.

“Uh, are you oka-?” I start to ask him.

Just then, he began to scream with ecstasy at the top of lungs, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me violently.

I try to speak, but Dream’s shaking me so fast, I can’t get a single word out.

“WE’RE DOING HAMILTON! HOLY SHIT!” The expression on his face is practically spelling out pure joy and delight, you would have thought that he was a seven-year-old on Christmas Day. “THIS IS AWESOME!”

Jesus, with the way he’s screaming, I’m half expecting Nightmare to come bursting through the classroom door, ready to kill someone with his long, black tendrils for inflicting harm on his brother.

“God! Calm down, dude! A teacher’s gonna hear!” Error shushed. That was enough to make Dream stop yelling and let go of me.

“Sorry,” He apologizes. “I’m just a really big piece of Hamilton trash, haha.”

“What a coincidence!” Betty giggles. “So am I! I sang a cover of ‘Burn’ for my YouTube channel! Ooh, I hope I get the role of Eliza! I really look up to her!”

“I’d kinda like to get the role of Alexander Hamilton myself,” Dream admits to her. “I won’t go into details, but I’ve kind of been struggling these past couple of years, and sometimes when I want to give up, Hamilton’s words remind me to keep on going.”

I don’t know if anyone else has caught on, but I know exactly what he’s talking about. I pat his shoulder in a move of sympathy.

The rest of the meeting is spent discussing the auditions; what to do to prepare for them, how they will proceed, what roles will be available, et cetera. Before I know it, everyone is packing up and getting ready to go home. I tighten my grip on the audition packet that Lust had enthusiastically shoved into my arms. Auditions were coming up on Friday, which only gave us four days to get ready, but I felt confident. I might not get a part in the musical, but it’ll be fine if I don’t. I could always ask to be part of the stage crew and help with making the set or something.

“Ready to go, Cross?” Dream asks me, his messenger bag slung over his shoulder, packet in his hand.

“Whenever you are, Dream.” I smile back, taking in how happy my friend is right now.

“Aww, you two are a lovely couple!” Blue coos.

“We’re not dating!” We chorus at him, our cheeks glowing once again.

“Denial is one of the first steps to love,” Red singsongs.

“God help you, I will hit you across the skull with my Physics textbook if you mention that again,” I scowl.

“Guys, leave them alone,” Lust sighs. “See you tomorrow, you two!”

We bid our goodbyes to the club members and leave, our faces still a little warm.

“You know what?” I tell Dream as we exit the school. “I think I’m gonna like this drama club thing.”

“I told you so, Cross,” He chuckles. “Now let’s get home. I have an audition to prepare for.”

Chapter Text

The last few lines of the finale for Hamilton, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, blasts through my headphones as I wear a hole in my bedroom floor pacing back and forth. Today’s the big day; auditions for the school production of Hamilton. I can feel some kind of emotion building up in my stomach that I can’t exactly place. Nervousness? Anxiety? Jesus, how should I know? I’m the one taking pills to keep myself from cutting myself up to the point of ending up in the fucking emergency room!

I check the time, a quarter after six. I should probably go downstairs. Blue will get all, as Red puts it, all “naggy and shit” if I’m not at the corner of my street after 6:30. Ever since me and Cross joined the drama club, we’ve all been walking to and from school together in one huge group. It’s kind of like we’re a clique of mostly guys except for Betty (who I knew as Bete Rose from her singing channel on YouTube and her smaller Spotify page. I ended up getting her autograph on the second day of club. Lucky me!), but not really. It’s kind of a good thing, since ever since I watched that “cult classic” Heathers (personally, I prefer the musical, but Nightmare, who saw the movie back before I was born, said he liked the movie better. When I asked, he said something about kids not understanding the classics or something like that.), I keep imagining cliques as the three Heathers, and that leads me to think of Heather McNamara, who tried to off herself in the school’s bathroom via overdose, and then I imagine myself as her , which causes me to spiral into a depression-induced breakdown.

I pause my music and make my way downstairs, where Nightmare is pouring coffee into his kitty travel mug. “Everything alright, Dream?” He asks me as I dump my morning dose of pills into a sweaty palm.

“I’m fine. Could be worse, honestly.” I reply with a shrug, popping the pills. Today’s a dry day. “Why do you ask?”

“Don’t think I didn’t hear you pacing a storm up there,” My brother sighs. “And you nearly had a relapse last night, remember?”

Last night, the stress of doing well at the audition kept bugging me while I was trying to sleep. Eventually, around eleven o’clock, I went downstairs and grabbed the first knife I saw so I could “de-stress”. If Nightmare hadn’t come downstairs to grab a drink of water when I was about to press the blade to my arm, I probably would have spilled blood all over the kitchen counter and floor.

“I was nervous,” I admit. “Tryouts are today.”

Nightmare makes a noise of understanding. I had told my brother about the auditions as soon as I had gotten home Monday evening, and he was just as excited as I was. He’s even helped me practice a couple times this past week in preparation for today.

“Are you sure that you’re just nervous?” He asks anyway. “Nothing else going on at school?”

“No, not really.” I slide my headphones over my head. “Just homework, pop quizzes, the occasional food and/or physical fight. You know, the normal high school bullshit.”

“Okay, if you say so,” Nightmare chuckles. “Getting coffee with your friends again?”

“Yeah. If we don’t get there before Comic does, he’ll bury himself in the section of the cafe with the scientific journals and refuse to leave.” Cross’s Physics partner is a huge nerd. Most of my friends are nerds, actually, but for different interests. Cross is the Japanese pop culture nerd, obviously; Red loves musicals so much that he practically screams ‘theater kid’; Error knows so much about that Spanish soap opera, Undernovela, that he can practically recite the lines from every episode; Betty is one of those chicks who can and will sing anywhere, at anytime, except she’s actually pretty good at it; and Comic’s personality pretty much matches up to that kid in science class who is really interested in it and is in the science club, like the cliche.

And as for me? I don’t think I could call myself a nerd for it, but I really love music, and I always have, for as long as I can remember. I use it as a coping mechanism quite often, and Nightmare told me that when I was really little, I would get super fussy if there wasn’t music playing in the room that I was in.

My brother laughs at the comment about Comic and the science journals, and comes over to me and gives me a hug and kiss before I head out the door (he doesn’t shift forms until he’s right about to leave). I select the Hamilton Mixtape album on the Spotify app as I walk down my block, where Lust and Blue are waiting for me, holding hands.

Bonjour, mon cher !” Lust greets me, waving at me like a princess in a royal march. I swear, no matter what he does, he always looks perfect doing it, like the image that people who work Photoshop in magazines try to show to the public. “Ready for the auditions?”

Immagino che io sia ,” I shrug. “ Voglio dire, sono nervoso da morire, ma sono preparato .”

The popular kid and his boyfriend look at me, and then at each other.

“Uh...could you maybe translate, please?” Blue asks.

Shit. “I was speaking Italian, wasn’t I?” I mentally facepalm as we begin our route to the Cozy Cafe, which has become the before-school meeting place for us drama clubbers. “Sorry, I do that sometimes when I’m nervous about something.”

“It’s not a big deal,” The bandanna-wearing skeleton waves me off. “Red sings random lines and verses from musicals when he gets nervous. When we were in seventh grade, he belted out the chorus to ‘Candy Store’ in the middle of standardized testing.”

“You were at the same middle school?” They must have gone to King Middle, the other middle school in town. I went to the old middle school that shut down over the summer. I guess that the closing had to do with health and safety code violations or some shit like that. I don’t remember the name of the school, though; Everyone called it Ruined Middle, even the staff and principal, and over the years I eventually forgot the school’s real name.

“We all did, except for Betty. She went to a private school,” Lust answers. “Don’t tell Red that we told you about the whole singing in the middle of a test thing. He’ll kill us.”

“My lips are sealed.” I pinch my index finger and my thumb together and make a zipping motion over where my lips would be, keeping my mouth shut. “I’m not one to judge, anyway. I sing the Hamilton soundtrack in the shower so much, it’s practically brainwashed into my brother’s head by now.” They laugh at that.

“So you’re trying out for the role of Alexander Hamilton?” Blue asks me as we grow closer to the coffee shop.

“Yep.”

“Which is a leading role?”

“Yep.”

“...Freshmen don’t usually get the leads in high school musicals, you know that, right?” Lust says slowly.

“Hey, as long as I get a role in Hamilton, I’ll be happy,” I shrug. “Hell, I’ll even settle for King George, I’m that desperate.”

“Wow. Impressive.” The three of us jump and turn to see Cross standing behind us, looking tired.

“Jesus! Don’t scare us like that, Cross!” Lust gasps.

“You okay?” I ask him.

“Don’t ask,” Cross grits his teeth.

“Why?” Blue asks.

“Actually, don’t tell us,” I roll my eyes, smiling. “It’s Ink, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” The weeb sighs. “Look, I’ll fill you guys in after school or sometime later, okay?”

“Fair enough,” Lust shrugs. “Let’s just get to the cafe before Comic does so he doesn’t make a beeline for the section of the nonfiction department where they shelve the quantum physics books.”


 

Do you know the feeling that you get on the last day of the school year? You know what I’m talking about; when you’re going through your day, but everything seems to be going at a snail’s pace, and you just can’t wait for the last bell of the day to ring? I never really got excited over the last day of school before summer break, but I get that feeling whenever there’s something I’m looking forward to happening after school, like today, for example.

I don’t think I could even tell anybody what I learned in school today if they asked. I couldn’t focus in class at all ; I was either zoned out completely until the bell rang to change classes, or staring at the clock, watching the seconds tick away like I was watching the timer of a bomb go down, except more slowly.

“Why are school clocks always so slow ?” I groan as I slam my skull on the table, causing everyone else in the art studio to turn their heads and look at us.

“They were probably made that way,” Cross doesn’t look up from his manga. He’s currently trying to draw a character from his favorite Japanese graphic novel in that very same style, and judging by the look on his face every time he goes to take a glance at his drawing, he isn’t doing such a great job. “Probably by a spawn of Satan or something.”

I can’t help but observe his facial expression when he looks at his paper. The way his eyes squint slightly, how his cheekbones seem to be lightly dusted purple is...honestly, kind of cute, in a way.

Wait, what? My face grows warm. I...I don’t think of Cross in that way, do I? I’m demisexual, I can’t develop romantic or sexual feelings for people unless I have a close bond with them! I’ve only known him for like, what, a month? That’s too soon for a person to develop a crush on their friend if they’re demi! I look at Cross. He’s put down his manga to put his complete focus on his art, working with his tongue sticking out a little.

I want to fucking scream.

Before I know it, I’m finally saved by the bell, in more ways than one. I gather all of my stuff in a rush and bolt out of the art studio, leaving Cross in the dust as I start booking it to the auditorium, where the auditions are taking place.

“Excuse me! Sorry! My bad! Pardon me!” I bump into several people on the way there, but I’m in such a rush, people can barely hear my shouted apologies. It’s kind of ironic; Last year in gym class, the longest I’ve ever stayed in during the bleep test in gym class was six times, and here I am now, running like a fourteen-year-old version of Sonic to my destination. I really can run if I want to, huh?

Most of the club members are already standing in front of the doors when I get there, practically buzzing with excitement. Blue’s eyes have turned into stars, Betty is bouncing up and down on her toes, and Red is rambling on and on about how excited he is for the auditions, his smile a mile wide. Hey, we’re the drama club, aka the theater kids, so how else would you expect us to react? Our high school is having auditions for Hamiltion, one of the best and most well-known musicals, and a Broadway one at that! So yeah, we’re all pretty damn excited.

“Dream! Wait up!” Cross yelled, running to catch up with me, panting heavily. 

“Wow, you really were in a rush, huh?” Comic grins. “Left your boyfriend in the dust.”

“Damn you, Comic!” Cross curses, but I just keep my head down, remaining silent as my face turns yellow. Is...is this what having a crush on somebody feels like? Do I have a crush on my best friend? What is even happening to me?

“Is that a blush?” Blue asks, pointing at me. “Oh my god, he’s blushing.”

“I ship it!” Error calls out. “I even have a ship name picked out! Cream!”

“Screw you!” I yell, but that doesn’t stop me from blushing harder. “Let’s just go inside already!” I push open the auditorium doors.

In accordance to the laws of all school auditoriums, the place is hot and stuffy. There are more people here than I expected, too. Kris, Noelle, and Susie are standing near the wall, Chara and Frisk have claimed some seats near the front of the stage, and a few feet away from the door stands Killer, Horror, and Dust. And that’s only all of the people that I recognize from my classes; the rest of the students I don’t really know that well. I had no idea that so many students at Monarch High were interested in Hamilton.

“I think you might have some competition here, Dream,” Betty notes as we take our seats.

“Good,” I reply. “They won’t stand a chance against me.”

“You sure?” She raises a brow.

“Betty Noire, my girl, you are in for a treat this lovely afternoon.” I boop her on the nose. “Even if I don’t get the part of Alex, I’ll still be able to score a role. You’ll see.”

“He’s right,” Cross nods. “All of you will be blown away by Dream’s singing. Trust me.”

None of the club members had ever heard me sing. Whenever we went to practice for the auditions during club, me and Cross had always gone into a different room. I didn’t want them to know how good I was at singing right off the bat. I wanted my talent in that area to be like a secret weapon of sorts. I feel like that they would have an advantage over me if they knew. I couldn’t prove it or anything, it was just...a gut feeling, I suppose.

“Guys, quiet down!” Red hushed. “Auditions are about to begin!”

“Welcome, welcome, my darlings!” Mettaton, the drama teacher (but not the advisor of the drama club, which is both a blessing and a curse) greets the dozens of students. “Who’s ready to let their inner star shine through? I hope you are! Today’s auditions will determine who gets to be in Monarch High School’s production of Hamilton! Now, assuming that you all read the audition packets, I’m pretty sure you know what to do. When I call your name, come up to the stage, say your name and what role you’re trying out for, and sing the part that’s been selected for you on the packet!”

Sounds simple enough, I guess.

“Let’s begin, shall we?” The robot pulled out a clipboard and a pen. “First up we have...Killer! Come on up!”

Killer walked up to the stage, eyes darting around the room. I could practically sense his anxiety, which would be justified. He’s probably trying out for one of the leads; I can definitely imagine Killer as Aaron Burr, especially during ‘The World Was Wide Enough’.

“Uh, hi. I’m Killer,” He said, smiling timidly. “I’ll be trying out for the role of, um. King George?”

King George? I didn’t expect that.

“Whenever you’re ready, darling,” Mettaton nodded.

Killer took a deep breath and grabbed the microphone. The auditorium went dead quiet, waiting. And then, he sang.

You say

The price of my love’s not a price

That you’re willing to pay

You cry in your tea

Which you hurl in the sea

When you see me go by

Holy shit. Killer’s actually pretty damn good! He almost sounds like the original King George from the musical! He doesn’t stop singing after he reaches the chorus; oh no, he sings through the entirety of ‘You’ll Be Back’, doing little dances all the while. He’s going to get the role he wants for sure. When Killer finishes the number, everyone in the auditorium applauds for him. He makes a big show of bowing and throwing kisses at the crowd as he walks off the stage. Talk about feeding your ego.

One by one, Mettaton calls out names, of both my peers and my fellow club members. Betty absolutely nails it, as expected. The selected piece that Eliza auditioners had to sing was the first couple lines of ‘Burn’, and I can tell you from experience that her singing sounds amazing in person. Red belts out his song in full volume without hesitating, putting so much passion in his voice. Error is a nervous wreck when he first comes on the stage, but once he started singing, it was like he had forgotten all about the world around him.

Finally, after an eternity, my name gets called. I rise from my seat and march up to the stage, looking straight ahead, trying to ignore the hushed whispers from across the room. I position my feet, as if I’m on a playbill for Hamilton. I don’t grab the microphone. Don’t need it.

“Hey everyone. All of you probably know me already, but for those of you who don’t, I’m Dream Joku, Nightmare’s little brother,” I introduce myself. “I’m trying out for the role of the bastard orphan man himself, Alexander Hamilton.”

I look out at the crowd. Everyone’s eyes were fixed right on me. I took a quick glance at one of the doors. Nightmare is standing in the middle of the doorway, cyan eye fixed on me. He gives me two thumbs up and mouths, “Knock them dead, little bro!” I smile and wink in his direction, inhaling and exhaling. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for.

It’s time to take my shot.

I am not throwing away my shot

I am not throwing away my shot

Hey yo, I’m just like my country

I’m young, scrappy and hungry

And I’m not throwing away my shot

From the corner of my eye, I see Kris recording me on their phone, with the most expressive look that I’ve ever seen on their face ever . I keep on singing, losing myself in the lyrics, making motions with my hands.

I’ma get a scholarship to King’s College

I don’t mean to brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish

The problem is that I got a lot of brains but no polish

I gotta holler to be heard

With every word, I drop knowledge

“WOOO!” A human with his hair in a messy blonde ponytail cheers loudly. “DROP THOSE BARS, JOKU!”

“Shut the fuck up, Isaac!” Susie yells at the boy, whose name is apparently Isaac. He flips her off with both hands.

I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal

Trying' to reach my goal, my power of speech, unimpeachable

Only nineteen but my mind is older

These New York streets get colder, I shoulder

Every burden, every disadvantage

I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish

I walk these streets famished

The plan is to fan this spark into a flame

But damn, it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name

I spin around on my toes, getting ready for the big finish.

I am the A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R

We are meant to be!

I finally stop spinning and land a perfect split right as I finish the song. Every single kid in the room goes apeshit; they’re all cheering like mad, demanding an encore. Isaac, the blonde kid, is the loudest out of all of them. I bring myself to my feet, take a bow, and go to leave the stage, but not before blowing Isaac a kiss. He screams like a teenage girl and passes out on the floor, causing his friends to freak out.

“Oh my god!” Red runs up to me, grinning from ear to metaphorical ear. “You were fucking awesome up there, Dream! Why didn’t you tell us you were that good?”

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” I chuckle. “Did I do well?”

“You did amazing,” Betty giggled, planting a kiss on the top of my skull, a platonic one, mind you.

“This calls for a celebration!” Cross cheers. “Watashi no basho de no gaihaku pati! Sleepover at my place!”

“You’re not trying out?” Error asked.

“I asked to do my audition in private. I’m still not comfortable with singing in front of a bunch of strangers yet,” Cross admits. “I tried out for the role of Aaron Burr.”

“Aaron Burr?!” Red echoed.

“He’s my favorite character in Hamilton. Aaron’s not as bad as people make him out to be, you know!”

“Won’t it be awkward between you two if you get those roles?” Comic asked.

“What do you mean?” Me and Cross chorused.

“Uh, Burr and Hamilton went from friends to enemies, remember?” Error reminded us. “And Burr shot the bullet that ended up being Alex’s demise.”

“It’s only a musical! It’s not real,” I wave him off. “Our relationship--I mean friendship will be just fine.”

“And you don’t need to press further!” Cross added, wrapping an arm around me. “Now who’s ready for a celebratory sleepover?” We all cheered.

I lean a little bit more into Cross’s touch. Everything is perfect right now. I have a group of new friends, along with one very close one. I don’t want this to ever change.

Chapter Text

I wake up Monday morning not to my alarm, but to the sound of Discord notifications coming from my phone.

I opened my eyes, but my vision was obscured by a page out of a volume of Bleach. I didn’t really take that into much thought; when me and Dream started hanging out more outside of school and working on that English project, I didn’t really have much time to myself. I wasn’t mad about that or anything; Ink was actually pretty happy that I was stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit, which in the eyes of introverted teenagers such as I, basically translated to “breaking out of your shell”, so I kept quiet about it. But now that I’m in the drama club, and possibly getting a role in Hamilton, free time seems rare to me. In fact, most nights I’ll either end up falling asleep while reading manga or talking on the Discord me and Dream made for the club.

I push the Japanese graphic novel to the side and sit up, rubbing my eyes as I pick up the phone. It’s a quarter to five, who on Earth is up at this early in the morning?

Upon unlocking my phone and opening the Discord app, I get my answer, which doesn’t really surprise me.

IsLifeJustADream?: guys guys guyyysss

IsLifeJustADream?: it’s time

musicals are my blood bitch: jfc Dream it’s not even 5 am yet

i am the legendary fartmaster: looks like someone’s excited

IsLifeJustADream?: ikr

IsLifeJustADream?: i was so excited and nervous about the results that i couldn’t sleep

IsLifeJustADream?: so i didn’t

Jesus effing Christ, Dream, is Hamilton making you dysfunctional?

XtraordinaryWeeb: Are you fucking serious right now?

IAmTheBête: You didn’t sleep?!? Aren’t you tired? Even a little bit?

IsLifeJustADream?: guys calm down

IsLifeJustADream?: i made a bunch of tea, mixed it with multiple cups of coffee, and drank it

IsLifeJustADream?: i’m good, i swear

glitches and bitches: i dunno about you, but i’m gonna laugh when you wipe the fuck out after the caffeine crash you’ll get afterwards xD

glitches and bitches: w

glitches and bitches: did someone change my username 

IsLifeJustADream?: in my defense, it was my brother’s idea

IsLifeJustADream?: he suggested that i prank @XtraordinaryWeeb by changing his username to ‘a dweeb without the d’

IsLifeJustADream?: but i didn’t want to do that to Cross. i like him too much to do that to him.

IsLifeJustADream?: so i just chose someone from the server list out of random

IsLifeJustADream?: sorry Error

glitches and bitches: actually i kind of like this username

glitches and bitches: i really hated ‘choke on these strings’, honestly

XtraordinaryWeeb: @IsLifeJustADream? Your brother is kinda mean

IsLifeJustADream?: eh he was just joking

IsLifeJustADream?: probably 

Ah, nothing like some Discord server shenanigans with your friends to start your morning.

I get involved in the chat for a little while, but eventually I put my phone away to get ready for school. When I grab my phone fifteen minutes later and rejoin the conversation, Dream has just brought up a specific blonde kid from the auditions.

IsLifeJustADream?: hey you guys remember Isaac?

i am the legendary fartmaster: are you talking about the blonde kid that literally swooned when you blew him a kiss after you finished your song at the auditions?

IsLifeJustADream?: yeah him

IAmTheBête: Oh, I know him! He’s in French III with me!

IAmTheBête: He’s always asking about you for some reason. I’m pretty sure it’s because he has a crush on you.

IsLifeJustADream?: ouch

XtraordinaryWeeb: That’s not gonna end well, is it?

musicals are my blood bitch: don’t worry, we’ll keep it a secret from nightmare

IsLifeJustADream?: it’s not that. i’m a demisexual, remember?

IsLifeJustADream?: i can’t develop a crush unless the person’s really close to me.

IsLifeJustADream?: i really don’t want to reject him if he DOES have a crush on me.

glitches and bitches: ooh, that really isn’t a good thing, huh?

IsLifeJustADream?: well he was probably at the auditions to egg his friends on

IsLifeJustADream?: i probably won’t see him again

The rest of the club agrees, but that doesn’t stop the doubt lingering in the back of my mind.


 

Dream is practically vibrating when I meet up with him, and I don’t know whether it’s from the caffeine or from excitement, and for all I know, it could be both.

“Uh, is he...okay?” Blue asks me, not knowing the context since he hadn’t been on the server that morning.

“Caffeine overload, probably,” I sigh. “He’s gonna crash and effing burn later.”

We all decided to spend a little extra time at our houses today and go straight to school today, since most of us knew that Dream and Red would not be able to sit still if we went to the cafe first. Dream was talking at a mile a minute, making wild motions with his hands all the while. I tried my best to listen, like a good friend, but his talking speed basically made it so everything that he was saying was going through one ear and out the other.

“Oh god,” Lust says, looking through the window of the coffee shop as we pass by.

“What?” Me and Dream unintentionally chorus, and our eyes flicker at each other for a moment.

“Don’t look,” He instructs us. “Potential crusher alert.”

But that only feeds our curiosity. Dream and I peer into the glass, and see a blonde ponytail at the back of someone’s head. I instantly recognize him, Isaac Beamer. He’s in our art class, and I’ve caught him staring at Dream a couple of times before, always from the corner of my eye. Almost every time, I try to turn around to get another look, but he always looks back at the sketchbook that he carries around everywhere before I can get a better look.

“He looks like one of the art club types,” Dream scoffs. “I mean, what about me makes me look so attractive to him, if Betty’s crush theory is right?”

Then, as if the God of Bad Timing had blessed us, Isaac turns around, holding a cup of coffee, and freezes, looking at us. I pretend to not see him, trying to make it look like I was watching the kittens that were playing on the floor.

Dream gives Isaac a friendly grin and waves at him. The human teenager blinks, eyes darting around the cafe, and hesitantly returns the gesture.

“We should leave,” Lust says in a rush as he grabs Dream’s hand and pulls him away, Blue following his lead. I pose anime-style at Isaac, complete with the cute wink and some Japanese lines; in this case, I just say “Koibito no otokonoko”, which translates as “lover boy”.

“What the fuck,” I can see Isaac mouth in my direction as I walk away, as if nothing had happened.

“What did you do?” Dream asks me when I catch up with them.

“Nothing important,” I tell him. “Just the everyday anime pose.” Lust groans.

“You’re a huge fucking weeb, Cross.” I can tell it’s meant to be an insult, but he’s grinning.

“Thank you.”

We approach the school, where the rest of the club is waiting for us. Dream doesn’t even stop to greet them; he runs right into the school, nearly causing Betty to fall over in the process. She didn’t complain or say anything negative about it, like most girls would do if they were in her shoes, but she did look a little surprised as she followed the rest of us into the building.

There’s already a small crowd at the bulletin board when we get there. Students from freshman year to senior year are trying to get a peek at a piece of paper tacked onto the board, which I’m assuming is the audition results. Dream pushes himself out of the cluster of teenagers, running up to us with star-shaped eyes.

“I did it, guys! I got the part!” He grins. “I’m Alexander Hamilton!”

“Holy shit, really?” I can’t believe it, but I know it’s true. Dream absolutely bombed it at the auditions Friday; and I mean it in a good way. “That’s fantastic!”

“I know, right?!” He jumps up and down a little, like I’ve seen Betty do sometimes. “I haven’t felt this happy in...I don’t know how long! This is the best day ever!”

I laugh. It makes me really happy to see Dream as happy as he is right now. The ways his eyes keep shining, the laughter in his voice, his beautiful smile...it brings me so much joy. Sometimes, I just want to pick him up and kiss him.

Wait, did I just think about kissing Dream? Like, a kiss with romantic intentions behind it? What is going on with me these days? I’m not falling in love with him, am I? That’s just crazy! He’s my best friend, who happens to be demi! He probably doesn’t like me back in that way.

...Right?

“Come on, Cross!” Dream grabs my hand and pulls me towards the dissipating group of students. “Let’s see if you made the cast!”

The rest of the club follows the two of us over to the board, where we all get a glimpse at the list, trying to find our names. Some of us get the roles we wanted; Betty gets the role of Eliza, and Killer ends up with King George. I find my name on the list, right next to Aaron Burr.

Oh my god. I’m Aaron Burr!

Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?” Dream sings to me.

“Hell yes I am.” I grin, gently nudging his arm.

“This guy? Really?” A voice scoffs.

We all turn, and I try to hold back a groan. It’s Edward Quinton, the school king. Normally, it would be a popular kid like Lust who’d be “in charge” of the whole school, but Lust isn’t that kind of guy, so Edward Quinton, who is already semi-popular because he’s football captain, rose up and took the throne. Standing at his side is a senior-looking boy wearing sunglasses, who bears a similar appearance to me but don’t recognize, and Isaac. They both look at us with apologetic expressions on their faces, like they didn’t want anything to do with this interaction.

“Dude, leave them alone,” The sunglasses kid says. “They’re just freshmen.”

“Chris, it’s not worth it,” Isaac sighs. “You know he won’t listen.”

“The hell you want?” Dream squints his eyes at Edward. “I’m not giving you anything, you ass .”

“Yeah, you tell that bitch!” Betty giggles.

“I don’t want anything from you ,” Edward says. “We were just passing by, and I heard that this little nerd got one of the leads in this year’s musical.”

Jeez, cliche-mocking much? Though I’ll give him credit, he’s pretty accurate.

“Hey! Don’t call my friend a nerd!” Dream retaliates, marching up to the jock. “Only I get to call him that!”

Oh god. Shit is getting real now. A crowd has started to gather, people whispering about what’s going to happen between the school king and the little brother of the French teacher.

“Edward, this will not end well for either of you two,” Isaac says, shaking his head.

“Oh calm down,” Edward waves the blonde teen off. “I’m not stupid enough to do anything to Nightmare’s brother. Besides, he doesn’t have the balls to do anything as wrong as getting into a fight.”

Dream shrugs and smiles. “You’re right. I don’t have the balls.” That’s when I see a glint of malice in his eye. “But you do.”

Isaac and Chris exchange glances. Edward looks confused, along with everyone else watching. Then, without any warning, Dream jabs a knee right in the middle of Edward’s crotch area. He makes a pained noise upon impact, moving his hands over the injured area.

“...mommy…” Edward squeaks before falling to the floor.

The hallway went dead silent, everyone processing the scene that they had just witnessed. I covered my mouth with my hands. Dream Joku just kicked Edward Quinton in the balls. Holy god.

Dream looks around. “Let this be a lesson to you all,” He says. “You fuck with my friends, you fuck with me.” He walks away, pushing himself through the wall of shocked teenagers, as if this shit happened to him everyday.

“...Okay, that was kinda badass,” Chris says.

Yeah. That was.


 

Before any of us knew it, the school day was over. Dream was the talk of the school all day; everyone was talking about how he gave Edward a knee to the balls, and if they weren’t talking about that , they were talking about the video.

Apparently, Kris had filmed the entirety of Dream’s audition, and for some reason, they decided to post the video on YouTube. It was a big hit; the film of Dream’s rapping has over 10,000 hits now and it was only posted three days ago. I can’t believe how popular Dream is becoming at Monarch High, it’s crazy.

“First day of rehearsals, huh?” I say, watching Dream draw in a sketchbook. Ink had given it to him as a gift, and Dream was making good use of it. It was mostly drawings of the Hamilton cast and portraits, but the art was pretty good.

“Yeah,” Dream replies, shading in Hamilton’s gun some more. He was currently drawing Burr and Hamilton’s duel, since the musical was on his brain. “Ready to pretend that we hate each other’s guts?”

“That isn’t until near the end, Dream.”

“You know what I mean!” His face glows a faint yellow.

“I know that,” I chuckle. “It’s just that you look cute when you get frustrated like that.”

Dream’s blush darkens. “W-what?!” His voice cracks a little.

I slap a hand over my mouth, my cheeks turning the color of fancy wine. Did I seriously say what I think I said? And out loud, too?! I sit there in silence, not knowing what to say. Should I just say, “Ah, I’m just messing with you”? Or should I apologize? Curse my teenage hormones, not knowing what to do in this situation!

The bell rings, snapping me out of my internal dilemma. Dream instantly starts to pack up his belongings, not looking me in the eye. Is he mad at me for that? Maybe I should apologize for calling him cute. I shove my things into my bag, my face warm and my emotions so confusing that they’re practically boiling inside of me.

“Hey.”

We look up. Isaac is standing next to our table, holding his prized sketchbook in his arms.

“Hi, Isaac,” Me and Dream say in unison.

“Do you mind if I talk to Cross?” Isaac asks Dream, a light blush dusting his cheeks. “In, uh, private?”

“Knock yourself out. Nightmare wants to talk to me anyway,” Dream shrugs. “By the way, sorry about the whole incident this morning. My emotions kinda got in the way.”

“It’s fine,” Isaac says. “It was bound to happen to Ed one day. We just thought that a girl would be the one to do the honors.”

I cover my mouth in an attempt to stifle a snicker at the phrase “do the honors”.

“Really? ‘Do the honors’?” Dream doesn’t sound as amused.

“Chris’s phrasing,” Isaac explains.

“Well, I don’t wanna keep Nightmare waiting,” Dream stands up. “See you at rehearsals, Cross.” And with that, he leaves.

“You wanted to talk about Dream, didn’t you?”

Isaac freezes. “How’d you know?”

“You were blushing when you were talking to him,” I tell him. “Look, if you want to ask him out, just talk to him—“

“What?! No! No, no, no!” He shakes his head, waving his hands. “I mean, I do have feelings for him, but after I learned that he was Nightmare’s brother, I pretty much had to accept the fact that me and Dream are never going to be a thing. Not with how overprotective his brother is.”

I nod. It makes a lot of sense, actually. I’m not sure if Dream will ever get a girlfriend/boyfriend, if the day ever comes. Nightmare might scare him or mher away by threatening to brutally murder them if they ever hurt Dream.

“But over the weekend, I was thinking, and I thought it would be nice if I could get to know him a little better, y’know?” Isaac says. “I mean, I have the opportunity to talk to him. I did get the role of Philip, after all.”

“You tried out for Hamilton?” I didn’t take Isaac for the theatre type. I thought he was one of the art club kids.

“I’ve been in the art club since freshman year,” He explains, answering my unspoken question. “Ink’s getting a little intense. I need a break from that.”

I make a noise of understanding. “C’mon. Let’s go.”

“Wait, where are we going?”

“To rehearsals,” I say, already on my way out the door. “If you wanna get closer to Dream, you need to talk to him, don’t you?”

“Hooray, social interaction!” Isaac cheers sarcastically as he follows me.

When we get to the auditorium, where we’re supposed to rehearse, Mettaton is already passing out copies of the scripts, which are as thick as books. Dream is sitting by himself with his own script and a pencil, writing a few things in the margins of the pages. I’m not sure what they are, though, since it looks like rehearsals haven’t officially kicked off yet.

“You got your script already?” Isaac asks, causing Dream to accidentally press too hard on the paper, breaking the pencil’s lead in the process. He turns to look at us.

“Cross! Isaac!” He smiles, but I can tell that he was a little surprised. “You’re here!”

“Yeah,” Isaac says. He grips his sketchbook until his knuckles turn white, looking nervous. “So...you’re Hamilton, huh?” Dream nods.

“I’ll give you two some space so you can talk,” I smirk a little. Isaac and Dream give me looks that read “Bitch, don’t leave me alone!” as I walk away. They’ll be talking with each other like nothing in five minutes, tops.

The club is separated throughout the room; Betty is standing in a corner, pointing at her copy of the script and giggling with Noelle and another girl I don’t recognize; who I presume got cast as the other two Schuyler sisters. Error, who got cast as Samuel Seabury, is talking with Killer on the stage. I don’t see the rest of them from my spot in the room, though. 

Mettaton passes by and hands me a script. It feels heavy in my hands, and a feeling of euphoria surges through my body. I still can’t believe me and Dream got the leads in our favorite musical—which our own high school is putting on! How lucky can you get? I pull out a highlighter from my bag, open my scrip, and start highlighting my lines and parts I’m supposed to sing in various musical numbers until rehearsals begin.

Today we don’t really get that far; we just do a small sightreading of the first few songs, in which us drama clubbers do pretty well, thanks to all our practicing prior to the auditions. Although midway through “Aaron Burr, Sir”, Dream starts to stumble a little, and his words begin to slur slightly. Looks like it took him a little bit longer for him to crash from all of the caffeine he had consumed earlier today.

“Is everything all right, darling?” Mettaton asks Dream as we conclude “My Shot”.

“I’m fine, just a little tired,” He said, waving the teacher off. Then, not even five seconds later, he fell to the stage floor like a sack of potatoes. Everyone exclaims in surprise and panic.

“Oh God!” Isaac cries, covering his mouth with his hands in shock. “Is he okay?! Did he die or something?”

“He had a lot of caffeine this morning. He must’ve crashed,” I explain, helping Dream to his feet. “I’ll go find Nightmare and ask him to take Dream home.” I walk off the stage, supporting my friend like he’s someone who’s completely wasted from drinking too much alcohol.

It doesn’t take me long to find Nightmare; he’s lingering in the hall near the teacher’s lounge. He looks shocked when he sees Dream’s state.

Chers dieux !” Nightmare cries in French, running over to his brother. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“We were in rehearsal, and he started stumbling and stuff,” I tell him as my French teacher takes Dream from me. “Mettaton asked if he was okay, and Dream said he was fine, but he just fell to the ground!”

“Oh stars…” Nightmare sighed. “Dream, I thought told you not to drink that cup of that coffee-tea mixture that you made!”

“Actually, I drank six,” Dream mumbled, leaning into Nightmare’s touch. “That’s how much I could drink before I felt like I was going to puke.”

“Six?!” Nightmare shouts, wearing a look of concern, worry, and shock all at once.

“No wonder you looked so energetic this morning,” I shake my head.

“Okay, that does it. I’m driving you home so you can take a nap,” Nightmare says, turning to me. “I can drive you home as well if you want, Cross. Dream says your house is on the way to ours, isn’t it?”

“It is.” I nod.

“Well, that’s settled. Dream, can you walk on your own?” Dream makes a nearly incoherent noise of understanding. “Can you lead Cross to the van? I’ll be out in a few minutes. You can go inside if you want; I never leave anything valuable in there, so I just keep it unlocked.”

“Didn’t someone break into the van when I was in seventh grade?” My friend asks.

“That doesn’t really count,” Nightmare says. “They only stole your bag for gym class. See you at the van.” And with that, he heads down the hallway in the direction of his classroom. Dream makes his way to the exit, and I follow his lead. He walks out to the faculty parking lot, towards a small red minivan.

“This is Nightmare’s car?” I ask. “This looks like the type of car a soccer mom would have.”

Dream laughed. “You tell me. I told him that, and he looked like he wanted to flip his shit.” He opened the back door and climbed in. “You can take shotgun. You’re getting off first, anyways.”

“Okay.” I get in the passenger seat and buckle up. I look in the little mirror above the windshield, and see that Dream has curled up into a ball and fallen asleep, using his messenger bag as a pillow. I can’t help myself; I turn around to get a better look.

And with absolutely perfect timing, Nightmare gets in next to me. “Ready to go, you two?” He looks where my attention is focused and smiles. “Heh. Dream must have been exhausted. He never falls asleep in the car, not since he was a baby.”

“He looks like an angel,” I say.

“Excuse me?”

“Uh…” Shit, shit, shit ! I did it again! And in front of Dream’s brother, too! “I didn’t...I don’t...Aw, fuck!” I end up saying the F-word, something I almost never do, especially in front of an adult.

“...Do you have a crush on my brother?” Nightmare gives me one of his famous looks as he starts the car.

“Yes! I mean no! Agh!” I bury my face in my hands. Do I have a crush on Dream? Judging by how I’ve been feeling, I probably do, but if I admit that in front of Nightmare, he’ll kill me on the spot! But I can’t lie to him, either. “...Maybe.”

“Hey, don’t be ashamed. I’m not mad,” Nightmare reassures me, giving me a small smile. “I think it’s rather cute. And I think Dream might like you back.”

“Wait, what ?!” I blush for the second time that day. “H...Dream’s demisexual! He probably doesn’t like me back! At least...not in that way.”

“I oppose that statement,” He says. “You and Dream have grown awfully close this past month. He’s come over to your house countless times, and you’ve been over to our place quite a lot this past week. Hell, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and hear noises coming from Dream’s room, and when I go to check it out, I just see him lying on his bed, talking on the phone with you, looking like the happiest skeleton on Earth. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a crush on you!”

Wow. Nightmare is extremely observant, isn’t he? I don’t say anything, though, and stare down at my lap.

“This is your house, right?” Nightmare asks, the car pulling to a stop. I look up, and it is.

“Yeah, it is.” I unbuckle my seatbelt and get out of the van, walking up to the sidewalk. I turn to Nightmare. “Thanks for the ride. Can you tell Dream that I’ll see him tomorrow?”

“Of course. Have a good evening,” He says, driving away. I remain standing in front, watching the van with the Joku brothers in it speed down the street before I head inside my house.

I get a text from Ink telling me that he’s staying at school late to get some grading done, so I can order some food for dinner, using the cash that he leaves in a kitchen drawer for that purpose. I call a Chinese place and order some authentic ramen for myself, and some pad Thai for Ink before going upstairs to my room to do my homework.

Nightmare’s words are on my brain as I work, even through the trashy K-pop blaring through my headphones. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a crush on you. I place a hand on my cheekbone, which is rather hot. It feels like I have a really bad fever.

“Aw, shit.” I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my fists, tight enough to snap the pencil in my hand into two even pieces. There’s no denying it, is there? I really do have a crush on Dream, huh? “Dammit Cross, why do you gotta develop a crush on your best friend , of all people?”

The doorbell rings. Food’s here. I stand up from my desk, pulling the cash out from my pocket. Good thing I got done with my homework so fast, because the rest of the evening is going to consist of ramen and anime. I need to get my newly developed crush off of my mind.

Chapter Text

I don’t know what happened after I nodded off in the car, but a little while later, I felt myself being picked up. I opened my eyes, and I saw a single black tentacle wiggling through the air in front of me.

“Nightmare?” I murmur, my voice heavy from sleep, shifting in my brother’s hold. “Wha…?”

“You awake?” Nightmare asks, shutting the car door. I mumble a “yes”, letting my eyelids lower slightly. His goop felt warm yet sticky, and it smelled like black licorice for some reason. As far as I know, most people hate black licorice, but I like it because the smell reminds me of Nightmare, but in his corrupted form.

“Do you want me to put you to bed?” This time, I can't even hear my own answer as he carries me inside the house and up the stairs. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Nightmare pushes my bedroom door open with one of his tendrils and walks inside, heading towards my bed. He pushes the blankets aside, laying me down. I stay still as he takes my shoes off and tucks me in. Nightmare strokes my cheek with one hand, smiling gently.

Dormez bien , my little starshine,” He sighs, standing up to leave.

“Can you sing for me?” I ask Nightmare, turning onto my side to face him.

He pauses, as if he was hesitating, but his smile grows wider. “Of course. Did you have anything in mind?”

“Could you sing me my song?” When I was really young, my brother made up a song that he would sing to me at night to help me fall asleep, and it always worked.

Nightmare sits back down on my bed, and begins to stroke my cheek again. He took a deep breath, and began to sing.

Chut ma chérie, mon petit ange,

Cette journée a été longue et difficile.

Calme-toi, calme-toi, temps de dormir,

Temps pour mon soleil dormir.

I smile, and I bury my head into my pillow, closing my eyes.

Temps pour dormir, temps pour dormir,

Calme maintenant et fais de beaux rêves.

I breathe out softly out of my mouth, letting the wave of sleep wash over me. I can hear Nightmare wishing me sweet dreams before drifting off.


 

Ever since I confronted Cross and Nightmare about my cutting, my nightmares turned into dreams about stuff that happened at school that day or stuff originated from the music that I fell asleep listening to.

But this dream seems really different.

I walk down an unfamiliar street, the surrounding area looking like it was the late 1700s/early 1800s, around the time Alexander Hamilton was alive. A few yards in front of me, I see someone in a very nice, very era-like dress. The person comes closer, and I recognize the person in the dress: Cross. Well, I’m not surprised; Cross could probably pull off the dress look if he wanted to.

Wait, what did I just think?

Then the scenery changes. I’m in someone’s bedroom, and Cross is sprawled across the bed, a rather suggestive look on his face, as if he was trying to seduce me into having sex with him.

...Just like Maria Reynolds.

Is this dream trying to tell me that I’m too obsessed with Hamilton?

“What are you waiting for, Dream?” Cross says, and he makes a beckoning motion with his finger. “Come here.”

I find myself walking towards him. I would have moved away, but I’m no lucid dreamer. Kinda ironic, since my name’s Dream. I position myself so that I’m inches above his face.

“You little angel,” Cross grins, and his mouth inches in the direction of mine. I move to close the distance, my cheekbones growing warmer.


 

I wake up with a start, my face burning. I grab my pillow and scream into it as loud as I can. I don’t stop until my throat starts to feel sore, then I toss it across the room and grab one of my stuffed animals and hug it close.

What just happened in my dream? Did me and Cross almost kiss?! What the fucking hell?

I flop back down on the bed. I don’t know how to process this. I can’t be crushing on him, can I? I’m demisexual, I don’t develop crushes at the drop of a hat. Sure, sometimes I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I’m with Cross…and I wonder what his type is…and I think about how good of a boyfriend he would be—

Oh.

Oh God.

Oh God, oh fuck .

I toss my covers aside and drop the plushie like a hot potato. I leap out of bed, rushing out of my bedroom and downstairs to the kitchen. Nightmare is standing at the stove, cooking something in a saucepan.

“NIGHTMARE!” I scream, making him jump. “IT’S HAPPENING!”

“Huh?” My brother looks a little confused. “What’s happening?”

“Love!” I cry, my hands shaking out of distress. “I’ve got my first crush!”

“Really?!” Nightmare grins. “That’s fantastic!”

“No! It’s not good at all!” I slam my head down on the counter. “I have a crush on Cross ! It’s the worst thing ever!”

“...” He remains silent. “How is that bad?”

“Because Cross is my best friend! Isn’t that weird? Even a little bit?”

“People can fall in love with their best friends.”

“That only happens in cheesy rom-coms, Nightmare,” I groan as I lift my head up, rolling my eyes. “I’m pretty sure it’s a fanfic trope, too.”

“Dream, don’t panic over it,” Nightmare says, walking over to me. “You should talk to him. Who knows? Maybe Cross likes you, too!”

“Huh?!” I start blushing like mad. Cross...liking me ?!? “W-what? Me? And Cross ? Together?”

“I think you two would make a great couple!” My God, my brother’s smiling like an idiot. He ships us, too?

“Screw this,” I grimace, pushing Nightmare away from me. “I’m going back upstairs.”

“Will you at least sleep on the decision to tell Cross your feelings?”

“I’ll think about it, okay?” I sigh. “No promises, though.”

“Fair enough.”


 

Love doesn’t discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep loving anyway 

We laugh and we cry and we break

And we make our mistakes

Cross twirls around the stage, singing “Wait For It” with all of his passion. The week has come and gone, and all I remember from it is Cross. I can’t stop thinking about him; I keep finding myself daydreaming about romantic fantasies involving just the two of us, and when we’re together, I can feel my insides getting all mushy from all the weird emotions I keep feeling. It’s like I’m a teenage girl, for Christ’s sake!

“Hellooo? Earth to Dream?” Isaac calls out, a hand waving in front of my face. “You there?”

“Huh?” I turn to look at the junior. “Oh. Yeah, I’m here.”

“Alright, what the hell’s up with you?” Isaac demands. “You’ve been a real Spacey Stacey lately.”

“Spacey...Stacey?”

“Chris has been using a lot of 90s lingo this past week,” He explains. “ A whole bunch of it involves rhyming an adjective with a name.”

I sigh. “If I tell you what’s wrong, this has to stay in the room where it happens.”

Isaac makes a pun-reacting face at me and nods. “I can keep a secret.”

I look around the room before I beckon Isaac to come closer. He leans his head closer to mine. I look at Cross; he’s too engaged in song to take notice of anything. I cup a hand over Isaac’s ear.

“I have a crush on Cross,” I whisper in his ear.

The teen’s eyes widen at me. “Holy shit! Really?”

“Hey! Not so loud, Isaac!” I shush him, silently praying that nobody heard Isaac’s exclaims. “I don’t want anybody to know! Especially Cross.”

“Don’t worry, Dream. I got your back,” Isaac smiled. “Have you considered talking to him about it, though?”

“Oh my God, Nightmare said the same damned thing !”

Hamilton doesn’t hesitate

He exhibits no restraint

He takes and he takes and he takes

And he keeps winning anyway

He changes the game

He plays and he raises the stakes

We look back up at my crush, as he sings as loud as he can, going purple in the face. I can’t help but blush, he looks so amazing when he sings so passionately.

“You have to talk to him, man,” Isaac says, shaking his head. “Otherwise, some other chick and/or dude is gonna pull an Elizabeth Schyler and claim him for themselves before you get the chance to hook up with him.”

“Isaac, I can’t!” I hiss. “What would I say? ‘Oh hey Cross! By the way, I think you’re a hot piece of work and we should go out sometime!’”

“You definitely should not say that to him,” He chuckles. “Just...be yourself, and everything will be fine.”

At this point, Cross has finished his number and is listening intently to Mettaton. When the drama teacher is done with the conversation, he calls Killer up to the stage to work on “You’ll Be Back”. Cross leaps down onto the auditorium floor, walking towards us.

“So what did you think?” Cross asks Isaac and me.

“That was amazing!” Isaac says. “But Dream has something else to ask you!” He elbows me, and I give my “son” a strained smile, the kind that says, “Shut the fuck up, man!”.

“Okay then. Hit me, Dream.”

“Uh…” Come on, Joku. Say something! Anything! “Can I sleep over at your place this weekend? I’ve been meaning to show you a few episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine .”

“Of course you can!” Cross grins. “It’d be awesome to have you over again! And this’ll be the first time we’ll be having a sleepover with just the two of us!”

“I know, right?” I smile. “Let me go talk to Nightmare. Tell Mettaton I’ll be right back.” I make my way to the exit. I don’t even make it out the door before I get a message on Discord from Isaac.

Splatoon 2 letsplay: i thought that you were going to tell him!

IsLifeJustADream?: i am! do you think i would be stupid enough to tell Cross that i liked him when there are other people around??

IsLifeJustADream?: if i’m gonna tell him i’m going to do it in private

Splatoon 2 letsplay: ugh fine

Splatoon 2 letsplay: pm me if you two happen to kiss

Why the hell does everybody ship me and Cross together?!?


 

I knock on the door. Strangely, it doesn’t sound like an elephant stampede on the other side. Even more strange, it’s Cross who opens it.

“Hey Dream.” Cross greets me. “Ink went out to see a friend from college who’s in town, so we have the house to ourselves.”

“Nice. When is he coming back?”

“He said he might out until ten or something. So we have a while.” Cross leads me upstairs to his room.

“It’ll be nice to get to hang out without Ink teasing us about not making out whenever he comes to check on us.” I say, slightly blushing. I didn’t mind it before, when I had platonic feelings for Cross, but when my feelings grew more lovey-dovey, the playful remarks kind of bothered me.

I toss the duffel bag with my stuff in it at the foot of Cross’s bed. I shrug off my hoodie and hang it on the back of his desk chair. I’m comfortable wearing short sleeved clothing in front of him, since he doesn’t usually say anything about the cuts.

“Oh my God!” Cross grabs my arm suddenly. I can see why he’s panicking; there are new scabs starting to form on a few areas where there were almost healed cuts. “I thought...have you started cutting yourself again?”

“No!” I squeeze his hand. “I’ve just been really anxious lately, and I end up picking at my arms at night when I can’t sleep sometimes.” It’s true; with Hamilton auditions, my depression, and these new feelings about Cross, there’s been a lot on my mind. It probably doesn’t help that I can’t keep my hands still when I’m distracted with other matters.

He relaxes. “So everything’s okay?”

I nod. “Nightmare’s been making a huge effort to help me. He’s put me on a waiting list for this therapy group made of people who have self harmed or have attempted suicide, and he’s been checking on me constantly. I’ve come close to having a relapse several times, but either I’ve convinced myself not to do it at the last second, or Nightmare walked in on me when I was just about to. I’m two weeks clean now.”

“Dream, that’s great!” Cross beams at me. “I’m proud of you!”

Cross is...proud of me? My cheekbones color, and I smile back. “Thanks. I’m glad I’m getting better, too. But I gotta thank you; if you didn’t interfere when you did, I probably would’ve gotten to the point where I would wound up in the hospital.”

Cross averts my gaze, his face faintly glowing a light shade of purple. “Well, how could I not?” He says. “You’re really important to me. I don’t think I could take it if something bad happened to you.”

“Who knows? Maybe Cross likes you, too!” Nightmare’s voice echoes in my head. I grit my teeth.

“Is something wrong?” Cross asks, a worried look on his face.

“Uh, I’m fine,” I lie, and I pull my hand away. “I just...need to take my pills.” The part about me having to take my medication wasn’t a lie, since I hadn’t taken my afternoon pills yet. I hadn’t even taken my morning ones today because I overslept this morning and I was at school by the time I remembered that I had to take them. Surprisingly, I did just fine today without them, but Nightmare would kill me if he found out that I didn’t take my meds at all today.

“Antidepressants?”

“Yup.” I walk over to my bag and dig through it until I pull out the familiar orange bottle that holds my prescription. “I’ll be in your bathroom for a sec. Be right back.”

“Okay. I’ll wait.”

I make my way to the bathroom, locking the door behind me for some privacy. I fish a pill out of the bottle and pop it in my mouth. There’s a stack of those tiny paper bathroom cups next to the toothbrush holder, so I take one, fill it with water from the tap, and chug it all down in one breath like I’m taking a shot. I crumble the cup into a ball and toss it in the direction of the trash can, where it bounces off the rim before landing inside.

I sit down on the bathroom floor, legs crossed. I trace my index finger across my arm. Aside from the few scabs that I picked at, the cuts are nearly healed, but with all of the damage I caused to myself, there’ll be scars left on my tibias. I sigh, smiling melancholically. It seemed like only yesterday that Cross had helped stop my self-harming habit. 

I remember that night well. I had just woken up from an absolutely terrifying nightmare involving Cross nearly getting tortured by the girls from Doki Doki Literature Club, when I was chained down and forced to watch as they grew closer to him. When Cross woke me up, I felt so awful; guilty that I couldn’t protect my friend, and absolutely terrified from the dream I had just had. So I decided to turn to the one thing that would help me calm down in times like that. 

I didn’t have a butter knife on me, so I ended up searching through the entire kitchen until I found the silverware drawer, where I picked out a butter knife that seemed acceptable for the job. Then I headed back upstairs, shut myself in their bathroom, and began to do the deed. I was putting my all into it; grinding the blade into the bone as hard as I could, crying out in pain as I watched the blood flow from the wounds. There was a pattern, too; pain from the cutting, and then an unsettling numbness that I couldn’t explain to anyone else. Looking back on the events of that night right now, I probably would’ve nearly unintentionally killed myself if Cross didn’t barge into the room.

I chuckle quietly to myself. He really is something, isn’t he? I guess it isn’t that surprising that I’m falling in love with Cross. He’s everything that somebody like me could look for in a dating partner. Smart, kind, extremely understanding, a good sense of humor, and he’s kinda cute too, which I consider a bonus. I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse, though. A mixture of both, maybe? He’ll understand if I tell him, won’t he?

I hear knocking on the door. “Hey, Dream?” Cross calls out to me from the other side. “Everything alright in there? You’ve been in there for a while.”

“Um, yeah! Everything’s peachy!” I respond, bringing myself to my feet. “Just dropped the bottle by accident. I had to pick up the pills.”

“Alright! I found the show you were talking about on Hulu! I have my laptop set up, we can watch it when you’re ready!”

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get to it!” I tuck the bottle of pills into my pocket, breathing in and out. I can do this. Telling him won’t be easy, I know that’s for sure. But I can do it.

At least, I hope that I can. But I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Chapter Text

True to his word, Dream walked out of my bathroom looking perfectly fine, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

“I told you everything was okay,” He says, gently nudging me in the arm. “You didn’t have to come check on me. 

“I wanted to.” I smile. “I meant what I said before. If something bad happened to you, I’d never forgive myself for it, even if whatever happened wasn’t my fault.”

Dream rubs his arms with a look on his face that I can’t read clearly. “That means a lot to me. That you care about me so much.”

“How could I not care about you?” I ask. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t talk to you sooner! All of the other kids at school don’t know how lucky I am that I got the chance to be this close to you.”

“Hey, you’re a great person, too!” Dream says, putting his hands on his hips. “You helped me stop hurting myself, and because of our friendship, my depression is getting better! If anything, I should be thanking you!”

Dream has a valid point. I did, and have been, helping him a lot, even in the littlest of ways. 

“You’re right,” I sigh, but I can’t hold back a grin. “But I won’t stop complimenting you. You deserve all the positivity on Earth.”

Dream’s cheekbones color. “I’m not sure if I deserve all of Earth’s positivity,” He admits. “But I do appreciate all the kind words.”

“You’re welcome, my friend!” I chuckle. “You ready to watch this show with me?”

“Diavolo si!“

We take a few minutes to make everything as comfortable as possible, since we’re probably going to be cooped up in here for the next several hours. I take some extra pillows from the guest bedroom and arrange them at the head of my bed. Dream unrolls his sleeping bag, revealing a huge pile of junk food.

“Damn! Did you bring your whole stash here or something?”

“I actually bought a good part of this just for the sleepover. But I did bring some stuff from my stash. Mostly…” He sticks his hands into the sea of snacks and pulls out a package of mega-stuffed Oreos. Mega. Stuffed.

I picked the right guy to develop a crush on. He knows me so well.

“I fucking love you,” I say, in an Oreo-induced trance.

Aw, shit. I did it again!

“Anything for my fellow chocoholic!” Dream grins, gathering some other stuff from the stash along with the Oreos. He either didn’t hear what I said, or he chose to ignore it. Doesn’t matter, I’m relieved either way.

I shut off the lights and crawl on my bed. Dream slides in next to me, carrying a bunch of food in his arms. I position my laptop so it’s close enough for us to see, but far enough so we won’t bump it if we move around.

“You’re gonna love this show!” He tells me, handing me one of the Oreo packages. “It’s really funny, but there’s some heartfelt moments in there too. And there’s a lot of LGBT representation! One of the main characters is bisexual, just like you!”

“Nice,” I select the first episode in the first season, and wait for the ads to finish playing through. “There should be a lot more LGBT representation in today’s media. Like, more characters in TV shows that are trans or non-binary. Maybe a canon asexual or aromantic female character! That would be cool.”

“It would be a great introduction to other gender and/or sexual orientations for future generations,” Dream nods. “Oh! It’s starting!”

I quiet down and watch. Dream was right; it is a good show. If you asked me which Brooklyn Nine-Nine character I liked the most, I probably would’ve broken down into tears. Jake is absolutely hilarious, but I see a little bit of myself in Amy. Charles is just a disaster adult, just like Ink, and Terry is so delicate, despite being so jacked. I love them all, but I find myself being drawn to Rosa the most. I guess it’s because she’s so badass, and looks like everything that I want to be.

We’ve completed three episodes and are halfway through a fourth one when my phone rings. Dream reaches over and presses the spacebar, pausing the show. I dig my phone out of my pocket. The caller ID reads “Ink” in all capital letters. 

“Is it Ink?” Dream asks. 

“Yeah. Hold on, let me take this.” I press the button to accept the call. “Hey, Ink.”

“Hi, C! How’s it going?” I can already tell something’s wrong; Ink’s cheery tone sounds strained, and I can only imagine the forced smile on his face, the kind of smile that I know that means something bad has happened. “Are you and Dream having a nice time?” 

“We’re fine,” I assure him. “We’re just watching a few episodes of Dream’s favorite show. Is something wrong?”

Ink sighs, dropping the facade. “No. Me and my friend went to go get a bite to eat and maybe a drink or two, when my friend got harassed by this...human. I think he was anti-monster or something, otherwise he wouldn’t have done anything to them.” 

Oh my God. I start to shake, trying not to cry. I knew racism against monsters was a thing, and it was really bad in some places, but I never gave it a second thought, since we lived in a city where monsters and humans got along really well. So you can only imagine what a big wake-up call that this was, hearing that Ink was a witness to the assault of a monster.

“A..are you...okay?” I manage to squeak out. 

“Don’t worry, sweetie. We’re both okay. A couple of police officers were patrolling the area and saw the incident. Two of them took the guy into custody and the last one asked us some questions. He told us it would be in our best interest for our safety if we stayed at a hotel for the night, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

I can’t stop myself; I break down into tears, hiccuping and sniffling. Dream wraps his arms around me, hugging me tightly. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he seems dead set on comforting me, and I’m not gonna stop him.

“Cross, don’t worry,” Ink tries to comfort me. “That man didn’t get a chance to hurt me or my friend, and we’re in our hotel room with the door locked. Everything’s going to be okay. I have a spare credit card in the drawer of my desk, you can use that to order something for you and Dream. I’ll call you in the morning when I’m on my way home, alright?”

“Okay.” I wipe the tears off my face with my sleeve. “I love you, Ink.” 

Ink chuckles sadly. “I love you too, Cross.” The line goes dead. 

I let the phone drop from my hand, and I return Dream’s embrace. I try to calm myself by taking deep breaths, which helps a little.

“What happened?” Dream asks, rubbing my back in circular motions. “Is Ink okay?” 

“Yes, but…” I start to hiccup, and I force myself to breathe in again. “He and his friend got…harassed…by an anti-monster human.”

“Oh my God!” He looks horrified. “He’s not hurt, is he?!” 

“No, he’s fine, thank the Lord,” I sigh. “A group of cops showed up before the guy could hurt them. They’re staying at a hotel for the night though, just to be safe.”

“Jesus Christ…Cross, I’m so sorry,” Dream cries. “I can’t believe that happened to Ink. I don’t want to imagine how it must feel to have something like that happen to someone you love.” 

“Why?” I squeeze him harder. “Why did that human want to hurt Ink and his friend? They didn’t do anything to him.”

“That’s the way life is, unfortunately,” Dream admits. “Most people in both of the world’s species are nice, but there are others who hurt the innocent because they feel like it, or even worse, for their own personal gain.” 

“...” I think about what he said for a minute. “If most monsters are nice, like you said, then why do humans hate us so much?”

“I wish I knew,” Dream sighs. “But not all humans hate us. I mean, just take Isaac for example. He has romantic feelings for me that I don’t exactly share—because of my demisexuality—but after we talked it over, we became friends. Not as close as me and you are, but I did invite him onto the drama club’s Discord server. And a bunch of other humans at our school are friendly towards monsters, like Betty is!”

“What about Edward? He was picking on us earlier this week.”

“Oh, Edward’s just the asshole school king. He isn’t racist or anything.” 

I let go of Dream, rubbing the tears from my eyes. “Thanks, Dream. That makes me feel a little better, knowing that we know some humans that don’t want us exiled or something.”

“I’m not done making you feel better yet.” He jumps off of my bed, grabbing his hoodie. “Get your shoes and jacket. We’re going on a walk.”


 

The sun is just about to set, and the air is rather cool. Dead leaves crunch underneath our feet as Dream leads the way.

“Where are we going?” I ask my friend as we pass by a car with a teenage couple making out in it.

“To the park,” Dream answers. “It’s where I go when I need to be completely alone. Don’t tell Nightmare, but sometimes I sneak out of my house at night to sit on a park bench for a little while. I don’t do it often, though.”

“You sneak out of your house?” I never took him as the type to do something like that.

“I’m fourteen! Does Nightmare really think that I’m gonna be good 100% of the time?”

“Fair point.”

We make a turn at a street corner, and walk a little bit longer until we reach an area with a sign that says “PARK” at the bottom, with vines of ivy or some other plant covering the upper part.

“Come on! We have the entire park to ourselves!” Dream grabs my hand and pulls me with him as he runs into the park. My face turns purple, and my soul starts pounding in my chest. Why am I feeling this way? He’s just holding my hand! I shake my head as Dream leads me to the playground. 

I’ve been to this park millions of times, but I haven’t been to the playground since I was in grade school. It’s changed since then; the jungle gym is still there, along with the rocking horses and sandbox, but there’s a new set of swings and a roundabout.

“Man, I remember this place,” I sigh, reminiscing. “Ink used to bring me here all the time!”

“I loved to come here, too!” Dream climbs onto the roundabout. “I have a lot of good memories about this place. I guess it’s why I like coming here when I’m feeling down.” He grips one of the handles tightly and looks at the sky. “The sunset’s really pretty tonight.”

I sit down next to him on the piece of playground equipment and look up. The sky is a mixture of so many warm colors; orange, yellow and red. And right in the middle of it all is the sun, slowly sinking below the horizon. It’s a breathtaking view. 

“It’s like watching one of Ink’s paintings come to life,” I breathe. 

“It does look that beautiful, doesn’t it?” Dream shifts to the side, still holding on. The roundabout turns, and we slowly start to spin. “It’s one of life’s many gifts to us. We gotta appreciate them while we’re here.” 

I stand up carefully and lean against a handle with all of my body weight. We go a little faster, but not that fast. Dream leaps off the roundabout, and runs around it until it’s spinning around like crazy, then he jumps on.

“Woah!” Air rushes at my face as the playground toy goes in a continuous circle. I look at Dream, who’s holding onto a handle as tightly as he can, giggling as his hoodie strings fly carelessly through the wind. I join him in laughter, whooping and laughing as we ride, like we’re both kids again.

“Isn’t this fun?” Dream yells.

“Yeah!” I gather enough courage to pry a hand away from the bar, and I raise my arm up, feeling the night breeze whoosh through my fingers. “I feel like I’m six again!” 

He laughs, which makes me blush. The sound of his laughter is so adorable, it makes me want to scream. 

The roundabout slows down, and eventually comes to a stop. I climb off, feeling a little woozy from all of the spinning. 

“Are you dizzy, too?” Dream asks. He stumbles a bit, but soon regains his balance.

“Just a little bit,” I say. “I think I need to sit down for a minute, though.”

“There’s a bench over there.” He points to a wooden bench in an area near the sandbox. 

“Good eye,” I nod. “Need some help getting down?”

“I got it.” Dream hops off of the roundabout, and we walk to the bench together and sit down. The moon has come out, and stars are beginning to twinkle in the sky.

“You feeling better yet?” Dream looks at me, and for the second time today, I can’t read his facial expression.

“Yeah,” I smile. “I guess I just needed something lighthearted to do that would distract myself from the situation.” 

“I figured that you needed to get your mind off of what happened to Ink. And a little fresh air does work wonders for people, after all.” 

We’re both silent for a moment, not exactly knowing how to continue the conversation, our souls still racing. Maybe this is a good opportunity to tell Dream how I feel about him. We’re alone, and it wouldn’t be awkward, since we’re not talking about anything else. 

But what do I even say?

I look over at Dream. He has one hand covered over his mouth, and his face is nearly hidden behind the yellow blush covering his cheekbones. His eyelights are glazed over, and he looks lost in his own thoughts. Suddenly he sits upright, as if hit with a realization.

“Dream? You okay?”

Dream scoots closer, grabs my head in his hands, and kisses me, right on the mouth, lingering for a whole ten seconds before he pulls away.

“What—“ I lift a hand to my face. My cheeks feel like there’s flames coming out from the sides of my face, absolutely seething fire. I’m just plain stunned.

“Sorry,” Dream apologizes. “It just…I’ve been wanting to do that for a while now, and…” He trails off, picking at the sleeve of his hoodie.

He’s wanted to…but isn’t he demisexual? Then it hits me.

“You’re…attracted to me?” I point to myself, my hand shaking with excitement.

“Uh-huh,” Dream nods, smiling shyly. “It’s only been a week since I came to terms with it, but I’ve been feeling this way about you for several weeks now. I just can’t get you out of my mind, and—“

“Can I tell you something?” I ask him, interrupting him.

“Yes, wh—“ The “yes” is all I need to hear. I lean forward and press my mouth against Dream’s, returning his romantic gesture. It’s like he’s made of sugar instead of magic; he tastes like honey and those butterscotch candies Ms. Toriel keeps on her desk. I stop the kiss after a few seconds, looking into his eyes.

“I love you, too,” I say in a whisper. 

Dream’s eyelights turn into huge stars, tears brimming at the corners of his eyesockets. “I…you like me back!” He laughs. “I can’t believe it!”

“Well, you’re a pretty likeable person. And might I add—“ I get off the bench, and I lower onto one knee, like I’m proposing to him. “Fit enough to be someone's boyfriend.” 

He gasps. “Cross…are—“ 

I take one of his hands and hold it in mine, holding it as if I were holding a butterfly. “Dream Joku, my best friend, will you make me the happiest teenager in the world and have the honor of being my boyfriend?” 

“Oh my God! Yes!” Dream cries, tears of joy running down his face. “Yes, yes, yes! A million times yes!” He brings me to my feet, wraps me into a hug, and we share a tender kiss. Our mouths stay locked together for five, ten, fifteen, a full thirty seconds before we separate to get some fresh air.

“You taste like chocolate,” Dream giggles. “A chocolate kiss!” 

“Well, you just taste sweet!” I tell him. “Are your bones pure sugar or something?”

“Nope! Otherwise you would have gotten a cavity by now!” He sighs, looking at me with dreamy eyes. “I can’t wait for our first date as a couple.”

“Why wait?” I pull him up, and I lead him out of the park. “The night’s still young!”

“Wait, where are we even going?” Dream asks as we head out onto the sidewalk. 

“It doesn’t matter now,” I say, looking at my boyfriend. “Right now, we’re going to have a great first date, and the best night of your life.”

 

Chapter Text

It was a spectacular night. It was quiet and cool, the stars glittering in the sky as Cross dragged me along. I felt so high on euphoria, I can’t hold back a giggle.

“What’s so funny?” My boyfriend asked me. My boyfriend .

“I just can’t believe that this is real,” I tell him. “We’re actually dating. I’ve dreamt about this moment.”

“Me too, sweetheart.” Cross stops to kiss me on the hand, as if I’m a princess. “I swear to you, with God as my witness, I will be the best boyfriend that you could have.”

“I know you’ll keep that promise,” I smile. “So, where to first?”

“Well, what kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t treat you to dinner?” He says. “Ink said he left a credit card and that we could use it to get dinner. He probably won’t mind if we use it to pay for our date.”

“Where are we going to eat, then?”

“I was thinking that you could choose. You’re younger than me, and you did confess to me first.”

“I’m only younger than you by a year!”

“Still. I want you to pick. I’ll choose where we eat on our next date.”

I sigh. Cross is pretty stubborn at times. “How about Grillby’s?” I suggest. “It’s not that far from here, and the owner makes some mean chili fries. Plus, the prices are cheap.”

“Grillby’s it is, then.” Cross looks satisfied. “Lead the way, Starshine.”

I consider telling him that Nightmare already gave me that nickname, but I decide against it, not wanting to ruin the mood.

I start to walk in the direction of the restaurant, my best friend turned dating partner right at my side. Not even before we’ve walked a block, Cross grabs my hand, intertwining his fingers in mine. I squeeze his hand, not wanting to let go.


 

Because it’s Friday night, Grillby’s is fairly busy when we arrive. The air is filled with the scent of grease and alcohol, and the sound of loud chatter from the drunks sitting at the swiveling bar stools and several groups of teenagers.

Me and Cross find a vacant booth and sit down. Almost immediately, Fuku, a fire monster that I’ve seen a couple times at school, comes over to our table with a notepad.

“Hi, welcome to Grillby’s! What can I get you this evening?” She greets us.

“Could we get a platter of chili fries, please?” Cross asks. He told me that he wanted to try the chili fries, so we agreed to get some to share and get dessert afterwards.

The fire monster scribbles our order down on the pad. “Anything else?”

“No thanks.”

“Alright! Your food will be out shortly!” Fuku smiles at us before walking away.

Cross drums his fingers on the table. “So, about us being a…’thing’,” He says slowly. “Are you…gonna tell Nightmare?”

“Yeah,” I nod. “Kinda have to. He knows that I have feelings for you. Although I’m not sure how Nightmare will react.” I purposely leave out the part about my brother urging me to confess.

“I know he’ll support us,” Cross smiles nervously. “Nightmare told me that he’s noticed how close we’ve gotten. Hell, he even connected the dots and told me that you might like me back.”

“Really?” I probably should’ve predicted that. Nightmare is extremely observant; he can tell if I’m feeling down just by the littlest things I do, or the slight change in my body language. It’s like a gift. “What do you know.”

Fuku returns to our table, carrying a platter of fries in one hand. “Here you go!” She beams, setting it down. “Enjoy!” We thank our waitress as she turns around to give an order of burgers and fries to another customer.

The fries themselves aren’t like the ones you get at fast food places; they’re cut really thick, almost the width of my finger. The fries are covered in spicy, warm chili and gooey cheese. It looks and tastes as good as it sounds.

Cross takes a fry from the plate, one with a good amount of chili and cheese on it. He cups his hand underneath it to avoid making a mess and puts it in his mouth.

“This is amazing!” He exclaims, waving one hand in the air. “Whew! This is kinda spicy, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, these fries have a nice kick,” I take and eat a couple fries. I instantly feel the kick from the spicy chili, but the cheese helps cool it down a little. “They’re not the best fries in town for nothing.”

“Your brother would like these,” Cross says. “He likes spicy stuff.”

“How do you know that?” He’s right, but I don’t think I told him that about Nightmare yet.

“Oh yeah, this was back when in French I, before we became friends,” He tells me. “Some kid gave your brother a bottle of hot sauce as a joke, and he looked the class dead in the eye, popped the cap off, and drank the entire thing in one breath.”

I nearly choke on a fry. “Holy shit, really?”

“I’m not joking. I’ll never forget the look on the face of the person who gave him the hot sauce. It was a perfect mix of confusion and horror!”

I can’t help it; burst into laughter, tears threatening to run down my face.

“Did I say something funny?” Cross looks confused.

“Sorry,” I wheeze, wiping a tear from my eye. “That just doesn’t sound like something Nightmare would do. It sounds more like an Ink thing, honestly.”

“I was thinking the same thing that day,” He waves a fry at me as he speaks before biting it. “I don’t know why he did it. Nobody in the class did.”

“Now you know how I felt the day Ink T-posed in front of us.”

My boyfriend laughs at that. “I can barely imagine the look on your face!”

“Is it possible to be disgusted and terrified at the same time?”

“Probably,” Cross shrugs. “Just curious. What kind of stuff did you dodo when you were growing up? Any fond memories that involve your brother?”

I share memory after memory with him; the time that Nightmare had to unstick my finger after I got it stuck in a parmesan cheese shaker when I was in preschool, the time I broke my arm while having a tree-climbing contest with Moonstone, a family friend, and all the places that me and Nightmare loved to go. I couldn’t stop when I started; as soon as I finished talking about one memory, I remembered another one. Cross didn’t stop me from talking, though. He kept on listening, laughing at some parts and sharing his own thoughts.

“I can’t believe you used to like Bonnie Bunnie’s!” He rolls his eyes, but there’s a joking look on his face. “I thought better of you.”

“I was like, five years old!” I retort. “Give me a break!”

“Dream, when I was that age, I was terrified of that place!” Cross takes the last fry from the plate and pops it into his mouth. “There were rumors going around that kids got murdered in there! A whole birthday party, might I add!”

“Really?” How am I just now finding out about this?

“Don’t make a big deal out of it,” He waves me off. “All that came out of it was a huge flame war on Reddit made of mostly conspiracy theorists. You didn’t miss anything.”

“Wait, why were conspiracy theorists debating over a bunch of dead kids?”

“I dunno,” Cross shrugs, waving Fuku over so he can pay. “I took a look at some of the theories myself, and apparently other people think that this is some kind of sign that the events that happened in this game series, Five Nights At Freddy’s , actually happened.”

“Isn’t that the game with the animatronics that got possessed by a bunch of dead kid-” I stop myself before I can finish my sentence as the realization hits me like a brick to the face. “Okay, I see the resemblance now.”

The only response that I get from him is the sound of his tongue clicking against the roof of his mouth as he gives our waitress Ink’s credit card.

“In my defense, if I knew about the rumors beforehand, I would have pieced it together way sooner,” I say, holding my hands up in front of me. “The dead kids in an animatronic diner really does ring a bell, in terms of similarities.”

“Hey, I don’t blame you for not knowing,” Cross scoffs. “All of the drama surrounding the rumors died down around winter break of my seventh grade year. I don’t think most people even knew anything about it in the first place.”

Fuku returns to our table, placing the credit card on the table and taking the empty platter. “Have a nice evening!” She smiles at us before heading over to the counter.

“What time is it?” Cross asks as we get up from the booth and leave the restaurant.

I pull out my phone and check the time. “Woah. 9:15. We’ve been out for almost an hour.”

“We were at Grillby’s for quite a while,” He acknowledges, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Should we go back to my place? Nightmare will kill us if he finds out we went out for so long after dark.”

I hesitate, looking at my lockscreen. The picture is a selfie of me and Nightmare when we were at the state fair this past summer. We couldn’t go on some of the rides, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time.

And nothing’s going to stop me from having a good time with my boyfriend right now.

“What’s the rush? What Nightmare doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” I shrug and smile. “Now, how about we get some ice cream?”

“That would be nice.”


 

There’s a small outdoor ice cream shop a few blocks away from Grillby’s. There’s two windows in front for people to take their orders, a few circular tables with umbrellas over them, and a single bench.

We make our way up to one counter and place our order; two milkshakes, chocolate and vanilla. Cross pays for them and we sit down on the bench while we wait for our shakes.

“Did you know that our other ship name is Dross?” Cross asks me.

“Dross?” I echo, slightly confused.

“I was playing around with our names to find a ship name for us the other day,” He explains. “There...isn’t much to go off on. All I was able to come with was Cream and Dross.”

“I like Cream. It sounds better.” Then I get an idea. “Let’s make a Spotify playlist for Cream!”

“A playlist?”

“Yeah! For our relationship!” I pull out my phone, opening up the Spotify app. “We’ll put songs that fit for us! I already have a few songs in mind.”

“That sounds like fun!” Cross grins. “What song is up first?”

“I was thinking of letting you choose first,” I say, typing “Cross and Dream Forever” as the playlist name. “You let me choose where we ate; it’s only fair.”

“Alright. Can I see your phone?” I nod, handing him my phone. “I’m gonna pick ‘Waiting For Love’ by Avicii. It fits because you waited a week before confessing.” 

“Good choice.” I reclaim the phone. “My first pick is ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ by Train.”

“Hey, I’ve heard that song before! It’s one of my favorites!”

“Medium chocolate milkshake and medium vanilla milkshake,” A bored teen calls out from the window, setting two paper cups with straws sticking out of them down on the miniature counter.

“I’ll get our shakes,” I offer. “You take your next pick.”

I leave my phone on the bench, heading over to the window and picking up our ice creams. I take a sip from the vanilla one as I walk back to where Cross is sitting.

“May I propose a toast?” I say, giving my boyfriend his shake.

“The floor is yours,” He nods.

I clear my nonexistent throat. “When I started high school, I was in a real rough spot, and it didn’t help that nobody wanted to be my friend,” I start off, looking at Cross fondly. “Then, on the fifteenth day of September, we were chosen to work together on an English project, which we weren’t too keen on at the time. But we soon turned from class partners to friends, friends to best friends, and now, best friends to boyfriends.” I raise my cup. “May our relationship last for the rest of our days, or at the very least, many years to come! To Cream!”

“To Cream!” Cross repeats. We “clink” our milkshakes together and take a long, ceremonious drink.

“Fuck!” I bring a hand to my skull, which is experiencing a major brain freeze.

“My skull!” Cross cries. “Ugh, I hate brain freeze!”

“Ditto,” I groan. “Let’s just focus on the playlist for a little bit.”

And that’s exactly what we do, the two of us scooting closer to the other until our legs are touching, huddled over my phone. We take turns picking songs that seem to fit our relationship at the moment, our milkshakes nearly forgotten. We end up choosing lot of trashy pop from the early ‘teens; Fireflies and Good Time by Owl City, Teenage Dream by Katy Perry, Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. I haven’t really listened to any pop music since my depression became a big part of my life, so the song titles give me a strange nostalgia.

“This playlist is gonna be a real bop,” Cross nods, taking a sip of his shake.

“Only way to decide that is to take a listen!” I smile widely, turning up the phone’s volume to max. I set my drink to the side and put the playlist on shuffle. Angel With A Shotgun begins to play, a song that both of us are familiar with. I snap my fingers to the beat, dancing a little in my seat, while Cross hums along to the melody, doing a little head nod. The teenager who gave us our milkshakes gives us a look, but we ignore it, laughing and singing to the chorus.

The rock song fades out, and a much softer pop song begins to play. Cross turns to look at me, and I seize the opportunity to move in for a tender kiss. My mouth remains planted onto his for about five seconds before he kisses me back, stroking my cheek. I explore his mouth with my tongue a little, savoring the taste of chocolate, as if he was an extremely rich dessert. Cross does the same, his tongue licking the roof of my mouth.

We eventually have to separate to get some air, but the kisses don’t stop. Cross takes me by surprise and starts to kiss my neck like his life depended on it. I giggle, loving this new way of showing our affection for each other. Cross lifted his head up from my neck with a huge smile, a light blush dusting his cheeks.

“I love you, Dream,” He says softly, Fireflies playing in the background. “And I always will, for the rest of my life.”

“Me too, Cross,” I smile, pressing my forehead against his. “I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

My phone rings, blasting Hatsune Miku’s Triple Baka at full volume. I begrudgingly open my eyes, silently cursing. Dream mutters and shifts around, burying his head into my chest. I rub the top of his skull with one hand and grab my cell phone with the other.

“Hello?” I yawn.

“Good morning, sweetie!” Ink greets me. His tone sounds cheery, but there’s a slight tiredness to it. “Are you and Dream doing okay? Did you two sleep well?”

“Yeah, we’re doing pretty good,” I say. I try to keep my voice down, so I don’t wake Dream up. “Slept well, too. I just woke up.”

“Okay.” I hear a long yawn from the other end.

“You sound tired,” I note. “You okay?”

“Couldn’t sleep last night,” Ink admits. “I had a lot on my mind. I’m still waiting for my friend to wake up so we can eat breakfast and talk to the police again.”

“Are you going to press charges on that human? For…you know…” I clench my cell phone tighter.

“Me and my friend talked about it, and we decided not to. It just didn’t seem worth it,” Ink sighs. “I should be home in one to two hours. I filled Nightmare in last night when we arrived at the hotel, and he’ll be stopping by to check in on you guys.”

“Okay.” I’m surprised that Nightmare didn’t come by last night. It’s probably a good thing he didn’t, because me and Dream wouldn’t be there since we were on our date, and we’d be in trouble.

“I’m going to go freshen up. I’ll text you when I’m on my way back, alright?”

“Alright.” I nod. “Drive safe, and be careful.”

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry, Cross,” Ink reassures me. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I smile as I hang up, placing my phone back on the nightstand. Dream moves around some more, then lifts his head up from my chest, blinking sleepily.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” I kiss Dream on the forehead.

Dream lets out a cute little yawn and rubs the sleep out of his eyes. “Morning,” He says, his voice still heavy from sleep. “What time is it?”

I look at my alarm clock. “Eight fifty-one. You hungry? In that case, I can make breakfast.”

“I could eat.”

We get out of bed and head downstairs to the kitchen. Dream sits down on the counter, swinging his legs. I decide to make pancakes, which I usually do on weekend mornings.

“You have any allergies?” I ask Dream as I search the cupboards for cooking ingredients. “I’m making pancakes.”

“Not any food-related ones, no,” Dream shakes his head. “I’m allergic to Advil, but that’s not a big of a deal.”

“Okay. Good to know.” I grab the flour and sugar and plop it onto the counter. It makes a loud thud. “The baking soda and powder should be in that cupboard, could you grab that for me?”

“Sure.”

We gather the rest of the supplies. I get the Nutella and chocolate chips, wanting to incorporate them into the recipe. Dream finds the ingredients that I asked for and sets them next to the flour and sugar.

“You good at cooking?” I ask Dream, wanting to know the levels of his cooking skills.

“I’m not the greatest at cooking, but I guess I’m decent at it,” He admits. “I'm really good at baking, though.”

“Think you can manage some pancakes?”

“Oh hell yes.”

I get out the griddle. “Okay, start with three cups of flour and sugar. When measuring the flour, use a butter knife to level it if there’s too much.”

“I’m a baker. I know my dry ingredient measurements.” Dream rolls his eyes in fake annoyance, picking up the measuring cups.

While he shoves the plastic cups into the flour, I turn on the heat below the griddle and spray cooking spray on it. The pan hisses as the oil heats up.

“What do you need me to measure next?”

I look over at Dream. The flour and sugar is already measured in the bowl. “Damn. That was fast.”

“I’m like Sonic! Gotta go fast!”

I laugh and kiss Dream on the cheek. He kisses me back. 

“Aww. Cute.”

We turn around to see Nightmare standing right in the middle of the kitchen doorway, chuckling into his hand.

“Nightmare!” Dream immediately inches away from me.

“How did you get into my house?!” I cry.

“Ink never locks the door,” Nightmare shrugs. “I figured that you two would be asleep still, so I thought I should come in.”

“Well, you were wrong,” Dream says dryly.

“This isn’t what it looks like!” I stutter. “We can explain!”

“No need.” Nightmare smiles slyly. “I already know about you and Dream being…you know, a thing .”

“Wait, WHAT?” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Dream starts blushing, like he had walked in on somebody changing clothes.

“How did you find out?” Dream whispers. “I haven’t told you anything about us yet.”

“I went out for a walk last night and saw you two making out at the ice cream shop,” Nightmare chuckles. “I should’ve walked away, but it was adorable. I couldn’t look away.”

Dream looked like he was going to piss himself, if he had a bladder.

“And by the way, Dream,” Nightmare starts, tilting his head. “You’ve, uh, got a little something right about…” He points at his neck.

And that’s when I see it; a small, purplish spot on the bottom of Dream’s neck, right where I kissed him last night. It looked like a bruise, but I knew better.

It was a hickey.

Dream glanced down at his neck. His eyes widened and he tried to cover it with his hands, but it was too late for that.

“Sorry,” I apologize. Dream mutters something along the lines of “it’s fine”, blushing harder.

“I see you’ve gotten pretty far in your relationship,” Nightmare says. “You know, if you want to ‘explore’ with each other—“

“OH MY GOD!” My face grows red-hot. “NO!”

At this point, Dream.exe wasn’t responding.

“Just be careful and use protection,” Nightmare wheezes.

“NIGHTMARE!” Dream screams.

“Alright, alright! I’ll stop. For now,” Dream’s older brother pulls a pill bottle out of his pocket. “You forgot your morning pills, Dream. Thought that I’d drop them off for you.”

“Thank. You. Nightmare.” Dream’s tone sounds awfully strained. “I’ll take them with our breakfast.”

“You’ll watch Dream take them, won’t you, Cross?” Nightmare asks, turning to me.

“Uh, do you want me to?” I’m not saying no, but I hope that Nightmare won’t read it as one.

He smiles. “Very well. I’ll see you later, Dream.” We watch as he turns around and walks out of the front door. Not even five seconds before he’s gone, Dream opens the cap and takes out a pill. He sets the bottle down on the counter and walks to the sink. I expect him to turn on the tap, but instead, he holds the pill above the drain, as if he’s going to toss it in.

“Are you…actually going to do that?” I ask hesitantly.

“No,” Dream sighs, popping the pill into his mouth. “I’ll feel like shit if I don’t. Besides, Nightmare will kill me if he finds out I threw my medication down the drain.”

“Nightmare is…kind of a strict caretaker, isn’t he?”

“He is, when he wants to be. He’s kinda laid back a bunch of the time.” He swallows his medicine dry, which makes me cringe a little. I literally have to hold back vomit every time I take an aspirin, and here’s my boyfriend, swallowing a pill whole and dry like a piece of hard candy. It’s kind of creepy, in a way, to see Dream so used to this.

My phone pings. I pick it up. It’s a text from Ink.

Hey, just left the station, on my way home! :)

“Is that Ink texting you?” Dream puts the lid back on the bottle.

I nod. “He says he’s on his way here.”

“Did he say anything about us?”

“No. I don’t think Nightmare told him anything yet.” I lean on the counter. “It’s for the best. I’m planning to tell him when he comes home.”

“You sure you want to do that? Don’t you think that he’ll…uh, overreact?”

“I know, but he’s still my dad,” I say, the word dad sounding foreign on my tongue, since I never call Ink dad. “He deserves to know about this.”

“I guess all that we can do is pray that he doesn’t go overboard.”

“Yeah,” I nod. “In the meantime, let’s finish making these pancakes.”

“Good idea.”

Me and Dream work together to mix up the pancake batter. We both catch each other trying to sneak some Nutella or chocolate chips, but we pretend not to see it. Despite that, we only take a little bit.

By the time the batter is done, the griddle is hot and ready for cooking. I grab a ladle, dunk it into the bowl, and pour a little batter onto the pan, in small circles. As I dig in the drawers for a spatula, Dream gets out some plates and forks. He gives me one big one to put the cooked pancakes on, and puts the others on the table.

“You got any whipped cream?” Dream asks.

“Whipped…cream?” I flip the pancakes while looking at my boyfriend.

“Can’t have pancakes or waffles without whipped cream,” He shrugs.

“It should be in the fridge.”

Dream opens the refrigerator and takes out the whipped cream. He shakes it wildly and holds it up to his mouth, squirting some of the whipped cream into it.

“Want some?” He asks with his mouth full.

“I’m good,” I shake my head and pour some more batter. “How are you and Nightmare related ? I mean, you two are so different. You’ve got a bright and bubbly appearance, and Nightmare’s corrupted form gives people the feeling that he never grew out of his brooding ‘I hate everything’ phase.”

“Once you get to know us, we’re the exact opposite of what we look like.” Dream tosses the can back and forth between his hands. “I’ve struggled with depression since sixth grade, and horror movies and other dark stuff are my guilty pleasures. Nightmare, on the other hand, is really sweet once you get to know him. Plus, he will literally die for cats.”

“No one really saw the you inside of you, huh?”

“Was that a Heathers reference?”

I tilt my head, confused.

“Oh my God, you don’t know Heathers?!”

“Yes and no,” I say vaguely. I’ve never seen the movie, and I know about the musical, but I haven’t listened to any of the songs. “I know the plot, but that’s about it.”

“Cross Jakei, you are a disgrace,” Dream shakes his head, but leaps in my direction and wraps me in a hug. “I still love you, though.” He moves in for a kiss, but we’re interrupted by the sound of the front door opening and closing.

“Boys? I’m here!” We hear Ink call out. Dream moves a generous distance away from me.

“We’re in the kitchen!”

Ink runs in, and I rush over and hug him tightly.

“Hey, easy there, C!” He laughs. “Didn’t know that you missed me that much! You okay?”

“Yeah, I…” I look up at Ink. His eyelights aren’t their usual colors; they’re nothing but dulled white pinpricks. Despite that, he’s still bearing a smile. “I’m just glad you’re safe.”

“Me too, honey.” Ink hugs me back. “Hey, after you two finish breakfast, do you think you could walk Dream home? I usually wouldn’t mind letting him stay until Sunday, but I’m really exhausted.”

“Alright,” I nod. The news can wait, I suppose. “You should probably go and take a nap.”

“You read my mind,” Ink yawns. “See you two later.” He leaves the kitchen and heads up the stairs to his bedroom.

“So, are you going to tell him when he’s all rested?” Dream asks, turning his attention to the pancakes.

"Probably better if I do. He forgets things easier if he isn’t well rested.”

“You sure you want to do this immediately? We can wait a week or two.”

“Then he’ll figure it out on his own. It’s better this way.”

Dream sighs, and moves the now cooked pancakes onto the plate. “I hope you’re right.”

Chapter Text

Not even five minutes after me and Cross enter school Monday morning, two arms yank the both of us into a storage closet. Now, I wouldn’t really mind that, usually, if not for one fact.

Edward fucking Quinton. Pulled us into said closet. If he tries anything funny, I’m giving him a vasectomy this time.

“What do you want?” I groan, glaring at him.

“I just need to take care of some business,” Edward shrugs. That’s when I notice Chris and Isaac standing behind him.

“Okay. I think I might be able to give you that vasectomy if you hold still.” I ready my kicking leg. Chris winces, and Isaac tries to stifle a laugh. Edward looks prepared to cover his crotch if necessary.

“Nice one,” Cross grins.

“Can I help you?”

“Isaac, you have the floor.” Edward moves aside, and Isaac leaps forward, looking excited.

“You two! Kiss! Now!” Isaac whips out his phone, smiling like an idiot. Edward slowly turns his head, his face twisted into a disgusted expression.

“Seriously Isaac?” I deadpan.

“You had me risk getting my ass kicked by Nightmare over a kiss ?!” Chris shrieks. “Are you shitting me right now?!”

I ignore both of them and kiss Cross, embracing him tightly. His tongue starts to explore my mouth. Isaac takes photos while the other two stare at us.

“Oh my God…are they an item ?” Chris gasps.

“Lamest item I’ve ever seen,” Edward scoffs.

I pull away from Cross, run over to Edward, and give him a really hard kick in the balls.

“OW! GODDAMMIT, NOT AGAIN!” He cries, covering his crotch. “I was hoping that I could have kids one day, you know!”

“No offense, but who’d want to have kids with you ?” I snort.

“OOOHHHHH!” Isaac and Chris whoop loudly.

“Need some ice for that burn?” I give Edward my best shit-eating grin.

“You…are so fucking lucky that you’re Nightmare’s little brother,” He hisses.

“What can I say?” I shrug. “You’re like any other jock in the cliche. All brawn, no brains. Me and bae are out.”

I grab Cross’s hand and run out of the closet. Cross lets out a snort as we hear Isaac lose it over one of my one-liners. Which one, I can’t tell.


 

“You guys are DATING?!”

“Hell yeah! Cream is canon, bitches!”

“Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod, I’m so happy for you two!!”

Me and Cross look around the table. Our friends are absolutely ecstatic at the news of us being a couple. Which I should have expected, since they were constantly teasing us about it. However, Betty has remained oddly silent throughout the entire ordeal.

“Betty? Everything cool, my girl?” Lust asks.

“Excuse me,” Betty squeaks. She leaps up from her seat and runs out of the cafeteria. Everything in the room seems to stop as we hear a loud, shrill scream of joy from the cafeteria doors. When she returns to the table, her face is red.

“Jesus, that was one hell of a scream!” Red exclaims. “You’ve been excited for this too, haven’t you?”

“I’ve shipped them together since the day I first laid eyes on them!” Betty grins. “And now, it’s finally happening!”

“You guys are really pumped about us dating,” I chuckle. “You don’t have to make such a big deal over it. It’s not like me and Cross are the main characters in a slow burn high school AU fanfiction being written by a fourteen-year-old girl.”

“Why does it have to be high school AU?” Cross asks.

“They’re the most relatable.” I shrug. “They have it all: teenage depression, awkward moments, bullies… How could you not write a high school AU when you’ve experienced it all firsthand?”

“True.”

“So, have you two gone on a date yet?” Comic asks.

“Yep!” Cross looks at me with delight in his eyes. “And it was the best night of our lives.”

“We. Want. Details.” Error leans on the table, staring at us.

“Okay, okay!” I giggle. “So, I was sleeping over at Cross’s, and I decided to take him to the park…”


 

The passing weeks soon turned into months, and before I knew it, November was halfway over. By that time, everybody at school knew about the relationship between the art teacher’s adopted son and the French teacher’s little brother. Me and Cross weren’t really surprised by this; Monarch High was fairly small, so it didn’t take long for the news to spread like wildfire, but everyone was going nuts over it. Even Page, the overachiever in our English class, interviewed me and Cross for the school’s gossip webpage, The Monarch Star .

I was getting a little bit of fame before, but now, me and Cross are nearly rivaling Lust and Edward for the most popular kid in school. It’s kind of thrilling.

“Hey Dream!”

I stop and turn around. Drew Jovel, my lab partner in Biology, runs in my direction. He’s a year ahead of me, and always stops to make some small talk with me whenever we run into each other in the hallways, so we’re remotely familiar and friendly with each other.

“Hey, Drew,” I smile and nod at him. “What’s up?”

“Edward’s parents are going out of town this weekend, and he’s throwing this huge party on Saturday. I thought that you might want to come.” He handed me a piece of paper with an address scribbled on it, which I presume is Edward’s.

“Me? At Edward’s party?” I’m pretty sure that freshmen aren’t exactly welcome at parties that seniors or juniors throw at their houses, so this kind of took me by surprise. Not that I’m nervous about this; hell, I’m actually kind of excited about it. Nightmare won’t let me go if I ask him, of course, so I’ll have no choice but to sneak out of my house when he’s asleep. “Sounds like fun! Are you going to be there?”

“I don’t know. Maybe,” He shrugs. “I know Isaac and Chris are definitely going, though.”

“Nice!” I consider that a bonus; if I happen to get a little too tipsy, he could give me a ride home. “I’ll be there for sure!”

“Okay! I’ll see you there!” Drew runs off in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, I continue down the hallway, pulling out my phone and sending Cross a PM on Discord.

IsLifeJustADream?: just got an invite to someone’s house party. wanna come?

He responds immediately, agreeing to the invite. This is going to be amazing.


 

“This party is really wild!” Cross shouts as we head downstairs into Edward’s basement. “This is kinda cool!”

“I know, right?” I grin.

“HEADS UP!” I hear someone scream. A boy that I don’t recognize that looks like Drew flies down the stairs and lands on a glass table. He breaks it on impact, causing shards of glass and alcohol to fly everywhere. My best guess is that he’s either stoned or one of those people who go fucking nuts when they drink.

“Nevin, you just broke the table!” Drew reprimands the boy.

“Shut...shut up, Drew,” Nevin’s words are slurred. He slowly gets up, stumbling a little. “You know that that was...ffucking awesome!” He turns around and throws up on a girl’s shoes. The girl screams in disgust.

“Wow. That guy looks like a real messy drunk,” Cross says, heading over to another table with dozens of red cups filled with beer. I take one and drink half of it in one gulp. Cross looks at me in shock. “Jesus Christ!”

“What? It’s our first party as high schoolers!” I hand Cross a cup. “We gotta make the most of it!”

“I’ve never had alcohol before,” He says nervously.

“Come on, one cup won’t hurt us!” I giggle. “And besides, it’s not like Nightmare and Ink are going to find out. They both think that we’re asleep in our bedrooms.” To sneak out of my house, I pretended to go to bed at nine. Then, when Nightmare went and went to his room half an hour later, I got up and shoved a bunch of clothes under my sheets, just in case he went to check on me.

Cross stares down at his cup for a minute, then tilts his head back and drinks the whole thing in one go.

“That’s the spirit!” I laugh.

“This isn’t half bad, actually,” Cross shrugs, taking another beer.

We stand by the table, talking and drinking. Cross stops after his second cups, but I drink five. Everything looks really blurry, and I feel really tired, like I’m about to black out. I lean on the table, trying to support myself. I hear Cross’s voice asking me something, but I can’t exactly make it out. Then I hear another voice, louder this time. The only word that I can make out clearly is “police”.

Everyone seems a little freaked out, but I’m not that concerned. Cross pulls at my arm, saying something quickly, but I push him aside.

“FUCK THE POLICE!” I yell at the top of my lungs.

Everyone in the room turns to look at me. I see Isaac and Edward at the other side of the room, wearing the same confused expression on their faces.

“Fuck the police!” I repeat. “Fuck them!” I keep shouting while everyone watches in silence. Then Nevin, the drunk emo, starts chanting it, and then everyone else joins in. It’s an unimaginable sight; a hundred drunk monster and human kids, saying “Fuck the police”. It’s something straight out of a John Mulaney show.

Our chanting doesn’t stop until a goat monster in a blue police uniform marches down the stairs. “Now what’s going on here?” He demands.

The chant dies down immediately. I notice a big bottle of whiskey sitting on a table. I grab it and smash it on the ground.

“RUN, YOU SLUTS!” I scream. “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE NOW!” 

Everyone scatters in different directions, causing a huge commotion. I take Cross by the hand and run into the laundry room. Cross doesn’t hesitate; he climbs up on top of the dryer, opens a window, and climbs out. I climb up, too, and he helps me out the window.

We run across the lawn as fast as we can, heading towards Isaac’s car. The blonde teen is about to climb inside.

“Isaac, we need a ride!” Cross yells at him.

That’s the last thing I hear before I black out.