Sometimes, when he slept, he could hear his brother’s voice.
It was never a cheerful conversation. He was always just yelling, begging and pleading for Dream to help him. To save him. It echoed in his head over and over again so fervently Dream would often startle awake, drenched in a cold sweat.
Tonight was different.
“Dream?” His dear brother’s voice rang out warily.
“Night?!” Dream yelled out.
“Shhhh!” The voice quickly quieted him. “He’ll hear you.”
“I don’t have a lot of time.” He sounded pained. “You have Cross?”
“Cross? He’s with me, yes.”
“Good. Use him.”
“The SOULs. He did it, Dream. He’s the one who did it. He knows you know. Be careful.”
“He knows? Who’s he? Cross?”
“I don’t have time!” Nightmare hissed. “Be. Careful. I have to go.”
“Nightmare please! Is this really you?!”
“It’s me. Goodbye, brother.”
Dream’s eyes flew open and he sat up immediately, breathing heavily. He looked to the other side of the bed, where Cross was splayed, mouth open and spit dribbling out the corner of his mouth. He looked peaceful. Calm. Relaxed.
He reached out a hesitant hand and trailed his knuckles down Cross’s cheek.
Nightmare… If that really was Nightmare and not just the dreams of a madman lonely with grief, told him to use Cross. For the SOULs. What did that mean? Dream didn’t want to use Cross… but he wondered…
He might have already been using him.
Cross eased the icy loneliness he held in his own SOUL since losing his brother. Sleeping next to him… feeling a peculiar serenity when being held in his arms was foreign and wondrous and he never wanted to let it fade away. He wanted to take Cross’s hand and run with him, AU after AU, escaping the tainted beast he had once called kin, never putting him in danger’s way.
He was going to. Cross followed him. Followed his orders. Was that all he was to Cross? All he wanted Dream to be? Someone who commanded him? He considered Cross a friend. A good friend, too. Wasn’t he just hurting him?
Dream felt a tear roll down his cheek and fall onto the knight’s forehead, anointing him with gold. Cross’s visage scrunched up, his mouth closing and his brows knotting together at the sensation. But he simply turned his head to the side and continued sleeping. The guardian smiled and gingerly wiped the stray tear off, letting his touch feather over the sturdy bone of Cross’s skull. He fixated on the spot, his body beginning to move as the yearning to place a kiss on it overwhelmed him…
But, luckily, he heard the crash of a dish being dropped in the kitchen, startling him. He looked to the door, then back at Cross, frowning softly before getting up to investigate the noise.
What he found, however, was just Ink, having accidentally dropped a plate that he was currently painting over the cracks and restoring it back to its former glory.
“Oh, hey Dreamy.” Ink turned and smiled at him. “I was going to cook everyone breakfast before we leave.”
Dream looked passed him to the kitchen counters, where newly created pancake mix, eggs, and uncooked bacon were leisurely waiting for their turn on the stove.
“That’s… nice of you. I’ll help.” He smiled at his friend. Ink perked up and quickly grabbed his brush.
“Let me make you an apron!” Ink didn’t wait for Dream’s agreement before beginning to paint it straight onto him.
Dream was expecting some frilly horror, but instead ended up with a simple apron, yellow apples polka-dotting the fabric and the words, ‘The Pomme-Diggity’ embroidered on the chest. Ink laughed the entire time he was writing the words out, proud of his bilingual pun.
“I’m surprised you remembered we were here.” Dream noted once his friend pulled back.
“I wrote it down after I went into my room.” Ink shrugged, moving back to the stove and beginning to crack eggs. “If I didn’t, I’d forget we were going up against Error today.”
“Do you think he’ll attack an AU today?”
“I think we’re going to have to summon him... He’s been quiet since the X-Event. I think he’s tired.” Ink laughed again. “But don’t worry, I know how to piss him off.”
“You know how to piss everyone off…” Dream grumbled, stirring the pancake batter. “By the way, why were you provoking Cross like that last night? He doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
Ink had to think, then looked to the small journal he had written down last evening’s events in before he could respond.
“Oh? That?” He chuckled. “I wasn’t necessarily trying to provoke him. It was a two-for-one deal.”
“He got mad, you got jealous… I got to make two people upset at once.”
Dream puffed up, his frown deepening.
“I was NOT jealous. Cross can be friends with whoever he wants! You were just making him so mad I had to interject.” He cried.
“You were jealous, Dreamy. I mimic emotions all day, everyday. I can spot jealousy when I see it.” Ink winked at him. “And don’t deny it; you were holding his hand.”
Dream was silenced, thinking back to only twenty minutes ago and his wish to kiss Cross, even if it was simply on the forehead.
“Dream?” Ink blinked, his face showing concern.
“It’s just… Even… if I did… I can’t be with him. Someone… like me… I only hurt people.”
“Wow, I didn’t expect you to be the self deprecating type. Your thinking’s moronic, Dream.”
Dream looked up at him sharply.
“Why would you say that?”
“Because it is.” Ink laughed under his breath. “You’re the only person in the entire Multiverse that’s always thinking about others. I’m surprised you let Cross come with you, anyhow.”
“He insisted…” Dream frowned. “What if I’m just using him to help me get my brother back?”
“I don’t think he minds…” Ink glanced over his shoulder, then back at Dream. “But, I’ll raise you a better question: why are you using a soulless monster as your moral compass when you could have just asked him yourself? He’s been listening for at least half of this conversation.”
Dream’s eyes widened and he spun around, facing a still sleepy Cross standing in the entrance to the kitchen, rubbing one of his eyes.
“Dream, I don’t think you’re using me.” He echoed the artist’s sentiments. “We’ll both get your brother back… And next time, please talk to me about it and not this freak of nature.”
Dream nodded bashfully and Ink grinned manically.
“See, Dream? He gets it!” Ink cackled.
After an awkward breakfast with Cross only eating the items Dream had cooked and completely shunning anything Ink had put effort into, they decided on an AU to visit and a plan of action to follow.
They were going to visit an AU that was average sized yet only contained two people. With only two residents, there was less of a risk of someone getting hurt or seeing them. If Dream’s dream had been a sort of premonition, he wanted to take as many precautions as possible. And… he decided to tell Cross about the strange whisperings of his brother while he had been unconscious. He needed to trust Cross, completely and fully, if they were going to act as a team. But it would have to be after their ordeal with Error. He didn’t want to falter and he didn’t trust Ink after the X-Event. He loved his friend dearly, but with something like this…
He couldn’t trust the artist.
Not with something as important to him as this.
“Ready?” Ink asked, grabbing his brush and getting ready to paint a portal onto the floor.
“Wait!” Dream said quickly and closed his eyes, feeling for the universe. Just as he guessed, the resident Frisk was happy at that exact moment. His eyes flew open and he created a portal himself, knowing full well Cross would rather make another deal with Nightmare than to use one of Ink’s portals.
“Come on!” He grinned at his companions and moved through the portal first, followed by Cross who unceremoniously shoved his way in behind him so Ink was last, and finally Ink crossed through, finding Cross’s annoyance amusing.
Cross looked around at the desolate landscape as he felt his code memorizing the access route to the universe.
“Echotale?” He asked Dream, eyes continuing to roam the scenery, grimacing slightly at the apocalyptic devastation surrounding him. He knew there were only two inhabitants, but he hadn’t expected them to have survived absolute destruction.
“It’s actually rather sweet.” Dream smiled at him. “You see, Frisk and the resident Sans end up falling in love-” He stopped at the absolute look of horror written on his companion’s face. “Frisk is an adult here!” He amended quickly.
“Ah, yes.” Ink chimed in. “A beautiful love story… But it’s also quite tragic… The moral is…” He looked to Dream. “You should tell someone how you feel before it’s too late.” He laughed merrily. “Let’s go set up an Error trap now! I actually have a lot to say to him.”
The trio moved away from their entry point and to an even more secluded part of the alternate universe where Frisk and G were even less likely to find them. Ink was still trying to keep his charade of not interfering in AUs up, and Dream was too tired to fight with him about it.
“Remember, Cross,” Dream started. “You have to be careful. If he gets a hold of your SOUL…”
“I know, I know.” The knight waved him off. “You should be careful too…” He gently put a hand on Dream’s shoulder. “You have a SOUL as well… unlike that bastard.” He threw a glaring look over at Ink, who merely grinned apologetically and shrugged.
“It’s different than yours, though.” Dream frowned.
“Okay, I’m bored!” Ink called. “Let’s start setting up already!”
“How are we going to get Error here?” Cross asked, though he wasn’t sure he wanted to know what the artist was up to.
“By creating of course.” Ink grinned happily.
He relayed to the two just exactly how they were going to call the destroyer to them. Dream wasn’t too excited for it, but Cross had to admit it was genius, considering Error still had to be on edge from the previous time.
And once their preparations had been put into place, they enacted their plan.
Error liked to think of himself as a level-headed monster who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. He worked an honest, thankless job, and came home to eat, sleep, and watch his programs. After the X-Event, and having to band together with those abominations to restore the Multiverse, he was exhausted and recuperating in the only way he knew how: sweats, Undernovela, and fuzzy slippers.
So, when he felt Ink’s Creation magic, he did not immediately rise from his repose. But when he felt Cross beginning to carve out another slice of an alternate universe right next to the artist, his marrow boiled and he jolted up, screaming the artist's name.
He opened a portal straight to the source.
“Ink!” Error yelled as he, quite literally, swung into Echotale on his strings, gazing down at a horrific scene that promised to be just as troublesome for him as the X-Event had been.
Cross was dragging his large knife into the ground, extracting its code and Ink was following him, using his own magic to bend it into the reality Cross so chose.
“Oh hi Error!” Ink called up at him giving him a small wave since Error showed no signs of coming down.
“And just what the hell are you doing?” The destroyer watched as Cross paid him no mind, like he was just a small spider in an insignificant web. It infuriated him further.
“I’m helping Cross make a new home!” Ink grinned, still weaving the fledgling universe’s code into something manageable. Error’s eyes narrowed.
“You chose for the basis of his new home to be from here? A place already destroyed?” He growled. Ink shrugged.
“This is what Cross said he wanted. I didn’t argue.”
“You have no right to.” Error scoffed, echoing Cross’s own thoughts.
“And what are YOU doing here?” Ink called up, an edge in his voice. He was ready to taunt. To incite his foe. It worked every time.
“I’m about to stop some horseshit from happening is what I’m doing here.” Error laughed.
That’s when the battle started.
Error wasted no time in sending his strings for the two of them, though he was focused on Cross more. If he could control the harbinger of the X-Event, he’d had better leverage in the fight.
Unfortunately for him, his foes had been anticipating that.
With reflexes brisk and agile, Cross cut through them and immediately summoned a Gaster Blaster. He hopped on top of it, speeding toward the destroyer with Ink not far behind on his own.
Error’s body went into motion as he moved to greet them.
“You can’t win Ink! You never have and you won’t this time!” He yelled.
“Not looking to. Now!” Ink shouted.
Dream, as if out of nowhere, appeared behind Error, an arrow notched tightly in his bow.
Error turned, eyes round.
He wasn’t allowed to finish.
Being stabbed through the chest wasn’t the most pleasant thing Error had ever felt. It was like being winded, but worse. He didn’t feel any bones crack or splinter with the blade’s entry or exit. It was a clean wound, and felt somewhat warm. Possibly pleasant. And that’s when his mind went dark.
Cross quickly pulled his knife out, letting Error’s body drop unceremoniously onto his Blaster. Ink sat on his own Blaster and Dream joined Cross on his as they watched Error’s SOUL exit his chest, a bright blue X marking its entirety.
“Woah.” Ink whispered, fascinated by seeing the one thing he was jealous of the destroyer for possessing.
Cross scooped the SOUL into his palms, watching it flicker and glitch uncontrollably, trying to eradicate the positivity magic flowing into it.
“Maybe we were wrong…” Dream whispered, peering down at the SOUL sadly.
With a twitch, as if out of pure stubbornness to prove the guardian wrong, a pure black SOUL seeped out, hanging in midair as it dripped.
The little SOUL flung the rest of the sludge off itself with a pulse, shining brightly for the trio to see.
“Oooohhhh!” Ink gasped, truly fixated now.
The SOUL hovered in the air for a brief pause, and Dream held his breath, wondering just what exactly would happen. The Bravery SOUL Cross had been carrying went back into him, but Dream wasn’t so sure it was a good idea for this one to go back to its host.
The SOUL, without a hint of warning, began ramming itself into Cross’s chest, like a caged dolphin might be wont to do at the wall of a very small tank.
“What?!” Cross yelped, his hands dropping Error’s SOUL into the waiting hands of the artist, who smiled down at his prize gleefully.
Dream blinked, watching the frantic SOUL and was abruptly reminded of his brother’s words in his dream: to use Cross for the SOULs.
“Cross! Take your SOUL out!” Dream quietly commanded.
Cross frowned, hesitated, then summoned his SOUL into his hands.
The small SOUL wasted no time in merging with the knight’s, and Cross placed it back into his chest cavity with a grunt.
“Now that that’s over,” Ink was already pulling Error’s body onto his Blaster. “I need to get this guy home to the Void.”
“He lives in the Anti-Void, Ink.” Dream corrected.
“Whoops! Thanks for reminding me, Dreamy!” Ink laughed playfully, painting a portal on his blaster. “See ya!” He hopped in, Error under one arm and the destroyer’s SOUL in the opposite hand.
“He’s taking him to the Doodle Sphere, isn’t he?” Cross asked.
“...He’s taking him to the Doodle Sphere.” Dream confirmed. “He got what he wanted out of helping us.”
“...” Cross frowned as he began to guide the Blaster back to the foamy soil their battle luckily hadn’t seen. “What’s he going to do with him?”
Dream tilted his head slightly.
“Do you really want to know?”
Cross thought, then nodded.
“I guess it’s a bit hard to explain but… they’re kind of lovers? It’s a game they concocted ever since their truce to keep each other busy. Kind of… whoever gets the other first wins then… Well, you know what happens.”
“I don’t WANT to know what happens… But I can imagine.” The knight sighed, then his eyes widened. “Wait… so that’s why you wanted to go after Error first? Because you knew if Ink was with us it wouldn’t really be a fight?”
Dream laughed softly.
“It did make things easier, didn’t it?” He smiled.
“It did… why didn’t you let me in on the plan?” Cross frowned softly as they reached the ground, sliding off the Blaster then reaching up and helping Dream off.
Dream looked at him sadly.
“Force of habit, probably… But I do have a lot to tell you, when we get somewhere safe.” He sulked, turning away from his friend. “I’m sorry I haven’t been very open with you. I’m just not used to having someone so close… I’m going to be better, I pro-” He turned back around, eyes locking with Cross’s. The electricity he felt between them that was spurred on by the intensity in his knight’s gaze cut him off.
“You don’t need to, if you don’t want to.” Cross said flatly, reaching across and gently taking his hand. “Ink was right - I don’t mind being used.”
“But I don’t want to use you, Cross.” Dream pleaded.
Cross gave him a small, and pleasurably soft, smile.
“Then don’t. I want to be with you Dream. In anyway you’ll let me.”
He raised the guardian’s hand to his mouth, pressing a tender kiss onto its back.
He promptly lost consciousness and fell to the ground in an unceremonious heap.