Your (more than fair) reluctance to accept Dream into your home (even if temporarily) wound up with you leading the guardian into your kitchen.
For… Tea. And snacks. You were basically about to have a tea party with a man who had not even 20 minutes ago invaded your home and private life.
Stars help me. But, in fairness, what else could you have been expected to do with him?
Dream attempts to move in next to you, all-too-cheerily declaring his wish to provide assistance, but your dealings with Nightmare have made you efficient at shooing away skeletal hands.
“No, thank you,” you hip check him as he tries to reach over you again, “just sit down.”
There’s a brief moment wherein the stare he gives you is hard to place.
And then he makes a grab for the plates again.
“I said no,” your voice is firm, even if the smack at his hands isn’t.
It takes more resolve than you care to admit, really, to not cave into his responding puppy-dog face - and that’s with you purposely ignoring the way his mouth curves into a pronounced pout. If you didn’t know better, you might have even thought the expression was a bit too practiced.
“please? i just wanna help!”
“No,” you repeat, resolutely brushing away how shook it makes you feel when he brings his hands up in a pleading motion.
The way he tilts his skull is damnably endearing, and it’s all you can do to shake your head in response.
Is it normal for somebody to be this pushy about helping? You’re not sure. Probably not.
“aw, okay… i’ll sit down now. i’m sorry.”
You’re hit with an unreasonable surge of guilt as Dream visibly deflates, shuffling over to the table as though you’ve dealt him a life sentence. His reaction even kinda makes you feel like you have, damn.
The way he seats himself and twiddles his thumbs like a man on death row doesn’t help.
“Uh… Don’t be,” you find yourself feeling like you need an excuse for your actions, “it’s just, uh… You don’t know your way around the kitchen? Wouldn’t want more of a mess than there needs to be.”
“yeah,” the monster agrees with a restrained sigh, and you find yourself wondering just how he manages to make a single word sound so forlorn.
Fuck. What now?
“Maybe,” you start with a bit of a voice crack that has you cringing, “maybe… Next time?”
Wait, wait, no, not that-
“really?!” His head whips back to you faster than ought to be legal, brightening in the most unsubtle way possible.
Oh no. His eyelights are stars again.
“Yep, next time. Totally,” you manage to choke out. You can’t help but feel the way this guy exudes sunshine really, really ought to be outlawed. Somehow.
But then, his expression takes on a strangely melancholic shift.
“you think… there’ll be a next time? that it’ll be okay if i come back? if i visit you and,” his voice becomes uncharacteristically quiet, “and… my brother?”
As his last word slips out, the grief in the air becomes nearly palpable, and something inside you feels like it’s suffocating under the sheer weight of it. The fragile hope that his questions carry only makes it worse.
What the hell is this day becoming? Why you? It’s not as though you’re necessarily bad at comforting others, but you don’t know this guy. That fact alone has you feeling like a fish out of water.
“Uh,” you begin, once more quite intelligently. The way his eyelights dim and he flinches back, looking down at the table as if guilty, well…
Quite frankly, it breaks your heart.
Fuck, I’m in way too deep.
“Well…” You try to start again, desperate to bring joy back to his visage, but trail off at a loss for words. Your hands flit over the counter even as your mouth stills and seals itself shut.
“no, no, it’s okay,” the smile he gives is so obviously forced and sad you think you might cry, “you don’t have to… say anything. or lie to me. trust me, i understand.”
He looks like he’s going to stand up, sockets taking on a very different kind of glow at the corners as he starts to shift.
“i think… i know i should go, i’ll leave-”
Well, unfortunately for this skeleton, you’re faster and already moving towards him.
“Shut up,” you free hand is pushing him down at the shoulder as the other places a plate in front of him, “and sit back down.” You curse inwardly at your gruff language- Nightmare really has been rubbing off on you. Dang.
The way Dream looks down at the plate of cookies, confused as if the treats were the ones talking to him, could’ve made you laugh... If only he didn’t now have full-fledged golden tears shimmering down his face.
You hastily come to the conclusion that you were wrong, and you are bad at this.
At least you’re trying though, right? That counts for something.
“No buts, mister, you don’t even have one.”
You begin to regret the joke even faster than it came out of your mouth, but you take advantage of his bewildered silence and press on.
“Look,” and look at you he does, “you came here, for… Whatever reason. You wound up finding me instead of Night. You even managed to bug me into staying for a little while.”
He opens his mouth to speak, tears still running freely, but you’re quick to press a finger to his weird bone-lip-teeth
(now’s not the time to think about it) and shush him.
“Nuh-uh, no talkies. You listen.”
You wait patiently for him to nod in agreement, his face growing ever more perplexed, before you remove your hand.
“Good. So… All of that, and now you decide you wanna leave?”
The part of you that’s still somewhat sane is questioning why you’re bothering with this, especially given the circumstances, but you manage to quiet it.
A choice you may or may not regret later, but that’s a problem for future you to deal with.
“Ah, ah, ah. What did I say? No talkies. It’s called a rhetorical question,” you toss an arm over his shoulders in the most awkward Christian side-hug of your life, tugging him into you in a way that… Would probably be kind of intimidating to the average stranger.
The newfound glow decorating his skull - most definitely not from the tears - tells you he’s not particularly upset by it, though, and so you carry on without pulling away.
“You see… Dream. Buddy. Amigo. Pal. Not to be mean, but this is an opportunity you'd have to be stupid to pass up. And you’re not stupid… Right?”
The blink of hesitation before the guardian slowly shakes his head kinda makes you want to fight somebody, but... You suppose it might just be that he doesn’t know how to respond to the situation. Same hat? Maybe.
“Of course you aren’t,” you add just in case, “but I’ll be honest, you’re acting like it.”
The baffled “h-huh?” he lets out before slapping his hands over his mouth, sockets snapping open like a kid that’s said an exceptionally bad swear, is seriously so worth it.
It’s just enough to drag a snort out of you, and motivates the hand that isn’t on Dream’s shoulder to start wiping some of his tears away. You graciously overlook the way he leans into the motion.
“I haven’t even talked to Night yet, and you’re already acting like all is lost,” you finally explain, “which… I mean, thanks for the vote of confidence, but we don’t know how he’ll react.”
You definitely have some ideas as to what your funky basement buddy’s reaction could be, and none of them are pretty, but you aren’t technically lying. You’ve long since come to understand that few things are truly certain when it comes to a being like Nightmare.
A tiny smile, confused and wavering, but still all too genuine falls into place on Dream’s skull. It’s remarkable how much it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world… Just enough so, in fact, that it keeps you from pulling away - even when he sniffles and very casually nuzzles the hand still on his cheek.
“you… you really think so?”
“Uh... Yeah… So, uh, save the waterworks for later, y’know?”
You finally start to remove your arm and hands from his person, only to be reminded of how this situation began when he throws his arms around you instead.
Uh oh. You freeze.
“y-yeah… you’re right,” he squeezes before thankfully letting you go.
You barely have time to get your sigh of relief in before he starts talking again.
“i, heheh, shouldn’t be getting upset over this, should i? i’m sorry. literally my one job-”
The cookie you shove between his teeth nets you the exact “hrrmph?!” you were going for, and you’re glad to be feeling your confidence coming back.
“No, dude, none of that in my house. Not allowed. I’ll fight you.”
It takes him several rapid blinks and thoughtful chewing before he manages to look up at you quizzically.
“Positivity-schmositivity. I’ll tell you like I tell Night,” you punctuate your speech with a gentle flick to the top of Dream’s skull. You can’t help but grin when he puffs up his cheeks in return, swallowing down the cookie with blatantly played-up irritation.
“tell me what?”
You pause only long enough to make sure you have his full attention.
“I was getting to that part. You’re more than an idea, Dream,” you shrug in a put-on display of nonchalance as you continue, “you’re a person.”
Something about the manner in which his sockets widen at you, and his whole countenance practically morphs into astonishment, makes you intensely uncomfortable. It takes actual effort to not visibly recoil.
Even your good ol’ buddy Nightmare hadn’t reacted so strongly when you first said it to him, scoffing at you before making a quick exit out of the room.
… Who did this? What hurt them? You don’t know. You want to know, though - in fact, you feel a growing need to go out on some kind of multiverse-wide manhunt.
Your thoughts are interrupted when Dream looks like he’s about to speak, face twisted up in enough concern that you figure he picked up on your mood shift. You’re quick to interrupt him before he has a chance.
“You’re a person,” you repeat, ”which means you’re allowed to feel things… Things that aren’t, well, y’know. Good. It’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
Your voice grows soft with your last sentence. Stars know you need the reminder too, sometimes.
“it… it is?”
Like right now, for example - you feel ready and raring to go punch whoever or whatever it was that had your friends thinking this way. It’s not a good feeling, and that’s alright.
It won’t be a good feeling for whoever’s responsible either, you think.
“Yep,” you pop the p, making a show of turning and leaning back against the table, looking him in the eye… lights.
You try not to dwell on how you were now including this odd little skeleton in your list of friends.
“So, y’know… Positivity-schmositivity. Roles-schmoles. You do you, Dream, and don’t you dare apologize for it while you’re in this house.”
You’re really trying so, so desperately hard to ignore how his eyelights blast back into stars as an almost cautious smile overtakes his face.
“if you say so…”
“I do. Don’t make me repeat myself.”
Seriously, you pray to nothing in particular, please don’t make me go through this again.
His careful smile is now a considerably more genuine grin, determined in a way that looks far better on him than it has any right to look.
“then… okay! i won’t let you down!”
The stare you give him in response is probably way sharper than you’re trying to make it, but he giggles regardless.
“i know, i know. don’t worry. i,” he flushes into a vivid dandelion hue as he glances away, “i’m me...”
The downward tilt of his head multiplies the effect when he looks up at you again bashfully, clearly seeking support for words foreign to both his tongue and SOUL.
What were you supposed to do, really, other than give him what he was looking for?
“Damn right you are.”
The resulting melodic tittering that graces your ears, shy but heartfelt, stirs feelings within you that you really wish weren’t there.
It’s in that approximate moment that a booming SLAM rattles the very floor you stand upon, both you and Dream snapping your heads to the battered remains of a door…
And the shadowy figure that lurks within its emptied frame.
“well, well, well. i knew i smelled a rat.”
Your brows shoot up while you can practically hear Dream start to sweat behind you.
Nightmare isn’t even looking at you, neon eyelight staring daggers into the skeleton at your side.
“come to steal away what isn’t yours to take, little brother?”