Tommy’s ears perk up.
The hissing sound of the nearby Nether portal opening is a welcome one, and he scrambles to his feet. The portal means visitors. Well, more like visitor . He hasn’t had any other guests on his island aside from Dream since… well he can’t remember.
Tommy can’t remember much anymore. If he thinks too hard about the time before Logstedshire his head begins to hurt and his stomach feels squeamish. He is acutely aware that he wasn’t always here. That he did something wrong, and was sent here as punishment, but the details have become hazy over the years. Dream tells him not to worry… not to think too hard about it. So he doesn’t.
Instead he builds, and swims, and hunts, and waits for Dream’s next visit. The visits used to be more frequent, and he longs for those days. Back when he and Dream would play games together for hours on end, and explore the Nether, and take turns soaring through the air with his enchanted trident, but Dream is busy- he knows. He’s not sure exactly what with, but he has learned not to question his friend. Whenever Tommy asks a complicated question, or tries to pry into where Dream goes when he isn’t on the island, the masked man simply gives him a hard look and changes the subject. So Tommy stops asking.
But today Dream is here, and it’s wonderful, and for at least a few hours he will have someone to talk to besides pumpkin heads. Tommy goes to meet him at the portal.
“Hello Tommy,” Dream greets him, putting his axe away.
“Hi,” Tommy replies, trying to swallow his excitement. “You’re back. It’s been a while.”
“It has, sorry. I’ve been busy.”
The same excuse as normal. Tommy is hardly bothered.
Dream steps past him and makes his way to the campsite. Really, it’s more than a campsite now. There are several intricate structures filling the space- for sleeping, for storage, for cooking. But Tommy continues to call it a campsite. An old habit really. He doesn’t know why it gives him comfort. He has vague memories at one point telling… someone… (who would it have been? Dream? It must have been Dream) telling them how he would only be in Logstedshire for a short time. That one day he would go back. Go back where was the question- one he didn’t care to answer.
“You gonna drop your stuff?” Dream asks, stopping at the usual pit. Tommy passes by him, going to dig inside a nearby chest.
“It’s already in there,” he replies.
Dream looks down. “Oh! So it is.”
The slight tremor of explosives doesn’t even make him flinch.
He sets up the chess pieces absentmindedly. “Black or White?” He asks, already setting up the white pieces on Dream’s side.
Dream sighs as he relaxes into the wicker chair across the table. “How have you been Tommy?”
“Fine,” Tommy says. And he is fine. Fine feels different now than it once did. Fine feels hollow, and foggy, and so very lonely. But he is alive, and Dream is here, so he is fine.
Dream makes the first move ( Pawn 6 forward two spaces- Tommy knows it by heart) and leans back. “What have you been up to?”
Tommy is aware that they’ve had this conversation hundreds of times. But he loves the time spent talking anyways. It’s like a broken record. Dreams asks what he’s been up to, and he says “building,” or “swimming,” or “hunting.” Dream will nod, rub his chin, and move Pawn 2 forward one. Tommy will echo the question and he’ll shrug. “Oh ya know, lots of stuff.” Then Tommy-
He snaps his head up. “Hm?”
“You gonna go?” Dream asks, gesturing to the chess board.
“Oh right, sorry.” He ghosts his hand over Pawn 1 out of habit, before pausing and moving Pawn 7 instead. Dream raises his eyebrows and pretends not to notice the change in routine.
“How long are you staying for?”
Dream doesn’t answer for a long moment, and Tommy tries to not fidget in his seat waiting for a response. Dream makes another move.
“That’s actually what I came to talk to you about. I’m going to be gone for a while, and I wanted to make sure you don’t need any materials before I go.”
Tommy feels his heart sink. “How long will you be gone?”
“Hm…” Dream rubs his neck, looking up. “At least a week. Maybe two.”
Tommy takes Dream’s knight, and Dream lets out a noise of disappointment. He tries not to think of two whole weeks of solitude. He had been alone for longer periods in the past- one time Dream had even been gone for an entire month. (He had bonded with the pumpkin scarecrows a great deal then.) But he can’t help but feel sorrow thinking about the days of loneliness ahead of him. On the lonely days he talks to himself almost constantly, until he can't bear the sound of his own voice. Then he’ll be silent for hours at a time, with only the sounds of water lapping against the shore filling his ears. The days blend together, and the nights are unbearable.
“Will you be alright?” Dream asks, meeting Tommy’s gaze.
He looks away.
Sleepless nights wracked by vague shifting nightmares. Sleepless nights of pained and familiar- yet unfamiliar- voices calling out for him. Sleepless nights of running himself to exhaustion across an imaginary landscape. Desperation clutching at his insides as he tries desperately to escape through the familiar shimmering purple portal, only for it to close before him. He never tells Dream about the nightmares. He isn’t quite sure why.
Tommy’s throat runs dry. Same as always. “I’ll be fine.”
Dream seems satisfied with the response. “And you don’t need anything?”
“You’re all stocked on food and weapons?”
“I wouldn’t mind taking that enchanted diamond sword you’ve got there,” Tommy replies, pointing at the sheath on Dream’s belt with a grin.
Dream takes his queen. “Fat chance.”
Tommy laughs and shrugs, ignoring how foreign the sound is to his own ears. “Worth a shot.”
Tommy watches him leave and tries to look content.
Dream waves once before slipping one leg into the portal. “Don’t do anything stupid!” He calls.
“I most definitely will!” Tommy fires back, and Dream wheezes out a laugh.
“See you in a bit Tommy.”
And with that, he is gone.
Tommy suddenly feels very tired. The smile on his face droops. He swings his arms back and forth, to try and wake up his body. “Ayooo Hotter Girl!” He shouts, bounding across the sand to where the familiar scarecrow resides. He knows he’s only tricking himself with this false burst of energy, but that knowledge only makes him run faster. Because in exile, survival means distraction.
The night comes surprisingly quickly. Despite the fact that Tommy’s muscles beg for reprieve, and he can hardly keep his eyes open, he forces himself into the small tent that has existed since the conception of Logstedshire. Pulling out a shovel and a pickaxe he gets to work unearthing the trap door underneath the sleeping mat. He looks around before opening it, despite knowing that Dream is long gone.
The underground cobblestone room smells of dust and soil. Tommy runs his hands along the cool stone walls as he walks to the lone chest in the back of the room.
The chest glitters a deep green, it’s surface reflecting the dancing torchlight on the walls. It takes both hands for Tommy to open the heavy golden clasp.
Dream doesn’t know about the room. It is the one secret he has kept from his best and only friend. (Well that and the nightmares).
Tommy rifles through the chest, pushing aside an assortment of random items. Music discs… ender pearls… faded letters addressed to him. He would never admit it, but sometimes Tommy reads the letters aloud to himself, creating different possible voices for the mysterious “Ranboo,” who had once written to him. He wonders where Ranboo went. Why the letters stopped. Why he couldn’t remember Ranboo in the first place.
Finally, Tommy’s hands close around something cool and metallic. He pulls it out and rubs a thumb across its surface, his skin pressing into the engraving on the back.
Tommy clicks open the compass and holds it steadily in front of him, watching the needle quiver then still, pointing steadfastly toward the beach. He slips the device into his pocket and closes the Ender chest. For once, he is glad for Dream’s absence. Only when he is gone does Tommy keep the compass on him, in fear of losing it.
He douses the torches and makes his way back up the ladder to the surface, then carefully re-hides the trap door. At this point, only a sliver of sun is visible on the horizon, quickly dipping beneath the water. Tommy takes off his sandals and steps into the cool sand, relishing in the way it squishes between his toes. Once he has reached the water’s edge, he sits.
A breeze passes by, ruffling his hair and making him shiver. He could easily have grabbed a jacket, but he doesn’t mind the cold. It reminds him starkly that he is alive.
Tommy pulls out the compass, holding it gingerly in his lap, eyes focused on the little red needle. He traces the line forward with his finger until his hand stretches towards the setting sun.
“What’s over there that could be so important?” He mumbles, squinting.
He knows this isn’t an ordinary compass. It has clear marks of enchantment, and refuses to point north no matter how much he turns in circles. Once, when Dream had left on a week long trip, Tommy had taken a boat out and started to paddle in the direction of that needle, but he had been quickly seized with fear upon seeing how small his Logstedshire had become. If he couldn’t return to Logstedshire, then Dream wouldn’t be able to find him, and without Dream… then he would really be alone. Nowadays Tommy settles for studying the compass in quiet moments of solitude, reading and rereading the words Your Tubbo. He hopes one day it will conjure up some important, breathtaking memory that will explain why he feels like crying each night the sun disappears behind the waves.
The sky finally begins its change into dark purples and blacks as the sun disappears, and Tommy begins to shiver. He snaps the compass closed and pushes himself to his feet.
The exhaustion from earlier drags his feet along the sand until he finally reaches his room. He doesn’t even have the energy to change before collapsing on his bed, drifting off almost immediately, the enchanted compass pressed to his chest.
Technoblade leans against the thick tree trunk at his back, surveying the area. He has been looking for a place to stop for the night for hours now, and the time before the sun sets is growing short.
“How he has so much energy is beyond me,” Techno grumbles, searching the ground for signs of his attacker. Once he is sure that the other man is far behind, Techno sits, letting his legs dangle on either side of the branch below him. He pulls out some leftover dried meat from the satchel at his side and begins to eat his meager dinner.
“Maybe tomorrow I can trap you long enough for me to hunt down a decent meal,” He thinks, longing for fresh cooked meat and fruit.
It has grown cold in recent months, and Techno draws his cloak closer around him, grateful for the warmth.
Dream has been hunting him for over a year now, tracking his every move across the countryside. Technoblade allows himself to feel a surge of pride at evading capture for so long. Of course, that same pride is wounded by the reminder that he has been forced into a state of constant running and hiding, like some sort of frightened prey.
Techno bets he could take Dream one on one. The other man is skilled in his own right, but Techno can say with absolute confidence that he is better. However, Dream has something he does not: allies.
The moment Technoblade had spawned those withers in the Battle of Manburg, he had severed what little ties he had left with the occupants of the SMP. And while Dream likely had his own bad blood, he held enough influence among the people to carry the favor of at least a few decent fighters to back him up. At the very least he would have his two shadows (Techno hadn’t bothered to learn their names). And besides, Techno had Philza to think about. Phil, who was likely still waiting for his son to return to their cabin in the woods. Phil, who warned at Dream’s approach in the early hours of the morning last year. Phil, who unsuccessfully tried to stop Techno from leading Dream far into the mountains instead of targeting their home.
Techno had seen the prison. The great black shadow of a building meant to hold whoever stood in Dream’s way. He knew that that prison meant surrender or flee. So he fled. It meant never return. So he didn’t.
Dream will have to stop for the night soon if he has any sense left- (which, Techno admits, he might not). After weighing his options, he opts to tie himself to the tree and sleep for a few hours at least, before moving out again.
What Dream doesn’t know, though, is that while he has been tracking Technoblade, Techno has been tracking him. He has memorized Dream’s sleep schedule, walking speed, and most common methods of travel. He has noted that Dream tends to disappear entirely for a few hours every couple of days, before travelling by portal to where he had left off. Through Phil, and Phil’s connections, he is able to account for the time spent in L’manburg, but there are other gaps. Varying periods where no one sees or hears from Dream. Phil has seen him a few times near their home in the wilderness (much to Technoblade’s displeasure), but he never approaches- merely runs by.
“Why in the world would he…”
Techno traces and retraces Dream’s steps in his mind as he drifts off to sleep. Why not interrogate Philza about his whereabouts? Or at least stop by to investigate? Where would he be going…?
Then it hits him.
Technoblade jolts awake, the realization taking the air from his lungs.
It has to be.
He feels it in his bones.
Tommy is still alive.
By the time Tommy comes to consciousness the sun is already high in the sky.
“I overslept…” he thinks to himself, feeling mild concern before realizing he has absolutely nothing to do today. No visits from Dream, no hunting trips, no resources to be gathered.
Tommy rolls over and debates going back to sleep. He replays the latest nightmare in his mind. In this variation, he was being torn apart. His legs had stuck to the sand like it was cement, while the compass in his hands pulled him forward, towards the sea. It was as if both ends of his body were magnetized, stretching and tugging in different directions, lighting his ribs and ankles on fire as they splintered. If he could only let go of the compass, he knew the agony would be over, and he would fall back into the sand as if nothing happened. But even in sleep, Tommy couldn’t seem to let go, only tightening his grip around it, until he woke sweating and shaking.
Not eager to experience the nightmare again, Tommy crawls out of bed, wincing at the daylight.
Today is warmer than the previous day, and he stretches gladly in the sunbeams, yawning. He checks his empty To-Do list, nailed lopsidedly to the wall.
“What shall I do today Liz?” He asks the portrait of Queen Elizabeth hanging over his bed. The Queen does not respond. (She never does).
“Nether road trip?”
Tommy is sure Elizabeth would have nodded if she could from her place on the wall.
“Sounds good to me! You always have the best ideas.”
After a light breakfast, Tommy fills a pack with useful items he might need to traverse the Nether. He has done it hundreds of times by now, but it never hurts to be safe. He debates taking the portrait with him for company, but decides against it.
“Then I would have no one to come home to,” Tommy explains to Queen Elizabeth, who is likely very hurt that she is being left home. “Oh except for you Hotter Girl,” He calls out the door to the scarecrow, who would have blushed if she were not a pumpkin.
As he closes the last chest, Tommy pauses, feeling the weight of the round object in his pocket. He takes it out, ignoring the way his hands tremble slightly. He looks once at the tent where the ender chest hides deep in the earth, then determinedly puts it back in his pocket.
He waves goodbye to the dolphins along the shore as he makes his way to the portal hidden within the trees. Reaching the obsidian doorway, Tommy finds his joints freezing up suddenly as he remembers the nightmares. Being stuck on one side of the portal, banging uselessly against its solid surface. His cries and pleads falling on deaf ears.
“It’s just a dream,” he tells himself, taking in a shaky breath.
Sure enough, as Tommy reaches a hand out it goes through easily. He sighs in relief, “See? It’s fine. I’m fine,” then steps the rest of the way through. A blast of heat hits him as soon as he passes to the other side of the Nether portal. It is a familiar sensation, but it makes him lose his breath for a moment nonetheless.
The screeching of ghasts and zombie pigmen mingle with the hissing of lava below him.
“What shall we do today?” Tommy wonders to himself, jumping from one Nether brick to the next. He nearly slips on one, but catches himself. He longs for his old easily accessible cobblestone path. Like most everything else, it had been destroyed by Dream ages ago, along with the original nether portal. Dream had said something about wanting to make sure his enemies couldn’t use it to get to him and Tommy. Tommy had tried rebuilding a smaller path once, just to get across one particularly tricky pool of lava. He had ended up on the other end of Dream’s blade for that. He can still remember trying desperately not to swallow in order to keep the sharp metal from nicking his neck. Dream had yelled at him then. Really yelled.
“How could you be so stupid?!”
“Why couldn’t you do this one thing for me??”
“Are you trying to get us killed??”
He didn’t build in the Nether any more after that.
Still, as Tommy picks his way past steaming holes in the ground he grumbles and complains about how he’ll likely fall in, or get lost one of these days without a proper walkway.
It’s easy to get lost in the barren, burning wasteland. Once the portal is out of sight, mountains and valleys and lakes of lava all start to blend together. One time, Tommy had gotten lost for a few days. Dream had finally found him curled into an alcove, too weary with hunger and thirst to move. The masked man sat with him as he plunged his face into a bucket of water, and forced down some leftover steak (he had to stop a few times to heave it back up, his stomach shriveled from lack of nourishment). Dream carried him back with Tommy’s arms slung around his neck, and his heavy head resting on one plated shoulder.
Now, Tommy knows to keep an emergency pack on him with plenty of extra food, water, rope, and even a compass leading back to the Logstedshire portal in it.
He doesn’t really need materials after his trip to the Nether a few days ago, but Tommy collects assorted ores anyways, sure he will find a use for them somewhere in camp. He wanders around for a few hours, starting fights with random monsters just to find something to do. Soon enough though, he has bigger problems to deal with than boredom.
“Yeahhh bitch!” Tommy shouts before leaping off a ledge and bringing his sword down on the magma cube below him. The creature shudders and splits into smaller versions of itself, which immediately lunge at their attacker. Tommy shrieks, stumbling backwards as one chunk of boiling hot slime attaches itself to his leg.
He feels another latch onto his neck, and swipes wildly at it. “Ow! This is not oka- oh owowow! Fine! Bad plan, bad plan…”
Tommy runs, flailing his limbs in an attempt to dislodge the creatures. At some point he feels a familiar weight slip from one of his shoulders. He jolts, and turns back to retrieve the bag, but finds the magma cubes hot on his tail. They rush between his legs, making him stumble. In two steps he has lost his balance. One more and his ankle catches on the discarded backpack.
And then… Tommy is falling.
When he comes to consciousness his head is pounding. He blinks away the spots of darkness in the corner of his vision.
“What happened…?” He grunts, rubbing his head.
After the dizziness has faded he attempts to sit himself up, only for his right arm to buckle in agony.
“Well shit,” Tommy mutters, tucking the arm close to his chest. “I seem to have gotten myself in a bit of a pickle.” He winces, and finally takes in his surroundings. The crumbling ledge he had fallen from stretches up unimaginably high. Tommy can almost see the bouncing cubes of molten rock peeking over the edge, mocking him.
“Screw you guys,” he says, but there is little feeling behind the words.
He halfheartedly looks around for his emergency pack, to no avail.
“Well this is just great. My arm is mangled, and now I’ve got no food, no water, no compa-” He freezes, panic welling up inside of him. “My compass.” One hand shoots into his pocket, and Tommy sighs in relief. The engraved compass is still there, a cool, calming presence amidst the chaos.
Tommy squints back up at the ledge. It is undoubtedly too far of a climb to make with one arm.
“So we take another way home then,” he says matter of factly, trying to keep the fear at bay. “I remember the general direction of the portal after all. How hard can it be?”
Very hard. Finding his way back turns out to be very, very hard. Tommy has no way to tell time in the otherworldly realm, but he knows that hours must have passed. Hours of wandering aimlessly past endless red blocks. His legs threaten to give out and his stomach growls uncomfortably.
The young traveler is about ready to dig a hole and try to sleep for as long as he dares when he spots something.
Cobblestone… in the Nether.
After further investigation, Tommy discovers that there are multiple scattered cobblestone blocks, seemingly placed with no rhyme or reason. There would be no rhyme or reason to anyone else, that is, but he would know them anywhere. Tommy is the one who put them there after all.
The bridge is hardly a bridge anymore. It is unclear where it ends or begins, but he follows it like a lifeline. The suspicious trail goes on for several minutes before he spots something. The random chunks of cobblestone lead to a strange red structure. He pulls himself up a few steps and circles what looks to be some sort of blocked up room.
“What is this supposed to be?”
A few splintered pieces of wood on the ground catch his eye.
He moves closer and takes one in his hands, running his fingers across the random divots on the surface.
No. Not random. Upon closer inspection the scratches make out halfway formed words, parts of them burned and worn away over time.
Tommy mouths the words to himself. The handwriting is familiar.
“Surely the other pieces are close by,” he wonders aloud, opting to scavenge around the area. He starts by covering the entire perimeter of the red room, flipping any and all broken clumps of nether brick in hopes he will find a piece of a sign beneath, to no avail.
“Maybe I missed it on the way here.”
Tommy carefully retraces his steps along the broken cobblestone path away from the room, scanning the ground. Finding nothing, he pauses and straightens up. The familiar scenery gives him an unexplainable sense of dread that nestles its way into his bones.
The lava below him hisses and bubbles, the heat rising past the edge before him.
Tommy takes one step forward, then another.
I’ve been here before.
A phantom breath over his shoulder.
Tommy whips around to find no one there, and shivers despite the heat.
“It’s not your time to die Tommy.”
He tries and fails to swallow the sudden lump in his throat.
I’ve been here before. With Dream.
He knows it, like he knows his own name.
Tommy can almost feel the firm grip on his shoulder as vague memories flash behind his eyes. The pit in his stomach sinks deeper and deeper.
“What happened here,” he murmurs, stumbling away from the ledge. He presses the heels of his hands into his eyes, willing the unbidden thoughts to dissipate. “Get out of my head… get out of my head…”His breathing comes sharp and quick. The heat below him is overwhelming, and he backs away from it as far as his shaky legs can take him.
It’s all too much. His head hurts .
A piece of cobblestone outside the red room catches the backs of his calves, and Tommy flails, throwing out his arms to catch himself. His back hits the wall, and to his surprise, it crumbles behind him. Tommy falls, dust and debris raining down around him as part of the room collapses inward.
He lays there on the ground for what feels like hours, but is likely only a few minutes. With enough time, his heart rate slows, and the offending memories fade. When Tommy finally forces himself to sit up, the first thing he notices is dark obsidian blocks. Where they once formed a perfect rectangle, the pattern is disrupted, leaving only fragments of glittering black material behind.
Intriguing. Worrying. “A broken portal? But why?”
He scooches closer to the structure, resting his hand on the base. Any previous teleportation properties are long gone, leaving the thing eerie and desolate.
Tommy uses the remaining obsidian to help him to his feet, scanning the area for clues as he does so.
The place is ransacked, devoid of anything but the portal and a few overturned chests. Tommy looks through them absentmindedly, but finds them all empty.
“Thought so,” he sighs, turning away. However, something stops him. “Or not.”
The boy reaches out with curious hands, lifting one of the chests.
Underneath… is an envelope. Yellowed, but intact.
“What might you be?” Tommy says, pulling the envelope into his lap and sitting cross legged on the floor.
The envelope is a decent size, carefully sealed. Scrawled across the front is:
To Whom it May Concern.
“I am definitely very concerned, so I’m sure it wouldn’t do any harm if I take a peek… right lads?” He says to no one in particular, other than the grunting zombie pigmen outside.
After looking over his shoulder once, Tommy tears open the envelope, and pulls out a paper within. The handwriting is different from the one on the signs. It is neater, more compact. And… he’s seen it before. Somewhere. Where has he seen it? He reads the first two words-
And stops in his tracks. He feels the breath leave his lungs for a moment. The letter is addressed to him? How? Why?
“It must be from Dream or something,” he mutters, but something about this feels different. He reads on hungrily.
It’s me. Again. I’m not sure if you’re getting these letters anymore; you’ve stopped replying.
I’m not sure you’re alive.
He sucks in a breath. The letter continues.
I think you are I hope you are. It’s been so long though, it’s hard to believe it. Not after what Dream told us. Not after...
Dream? What did Dream…
Tommy feels shaky all over, and swallows hard.
We miss you Tommy. We’re sorry. We’re so sorry. I wish I got the chance to say goodbye… and to say thank you for being my friend.
Signed R. R…
Tommy wracks his brain when it suddenly hits him. Ranboo. Ranboo from the other letters! His very own imaginary friend.
Tommy scans the letter desperately for something else, any other indication of who Ranboo might be. Nothing. Disappointment leeches into his bones. He checks the backside and almost misses it: the little note scrawled on the bottom. His heart skips a beat.
Tubbo wanted you to have these. He says he misses you. He says he’s sorry. He says he wants you to come home.
The compass weighs heavily in his pocket. Tommy hastily pulls it out, fingers tightening around it as if it might disappear with the new revelation. Sure enough, the letters are still there, dug deep into the metal.
He misses you. He’s sorry. He wants you home.
Tommy looks back and forth between the paper and the compass for a long time, at a loss for words. He feels like he holds in his hands a missing puzzle piece. And he knows… he knows that if he can just find where it goes, everything will fit together. Everything will be right again.
He nearly forgets about the envelope, discarded at his side. When he finally snaps out of it enough to pick it back up, something shifts across the paper from within.
More movement. One- no, two- thin, circular, black objects slide onto the ground at Tommy’s feet.
His feet stay firmly rooted to the ground.
Tubbo wanted you to have these.
He reaches for them as if in a trance.
“ Tommy!! ”
The deep, guttural yell tears across the Nether. Tommy jumps, tripping over his own limbs, and falling to the ground. He groans in pain, as he catches himself on the bad arm instinctively. Cradling it to his chest, he looks around fearfully for the source of the voice.
A tall, armor clad man runs toward him, his expression set somewhere between relief, fear, and desperation. His long, pink hair trails behind him.
“Technoblade,” his brain supplies him. He isn’t sure how he knows the name.
Techno jumps from ledge to ledge with a finesse and grace Tommy has only seen before in Dream. He reaches the broken cobblestone path with surprising quickness.
“Tommy, we need to go. Now,” he says, tone deadly serious. As he draws closer, Tommy feels sudden anxiety well up inside him. He scrambles to repossess his enchanted compass, and the letter, shoving them into his pockets.
“What do you want with me?” Tommy replies, trying and failing to scoot backward with one arm.
Techno pauses in the makeshift doorway, breathing heavily. His eyes widen when they see the discs on the ground. “Are those…?”
Tommy snatches them up without a second thought. “They’re mine. Stay back.”
Techno seems confused, but shakes his head, refocusing. “Whatever. That’s not important. Listen, you’re not safe here Tommy, we don’t have long before he-”
The distant sound of a Nether portal opening makes them both turn.
Techno’s voice is low, and icy. He looks… afraid.
“ Run .”
“Wh-what? What do you mean? What’s going on?” Tommy stammers.
Techno doesn’t give him room to pause, yanking him to his feet in one strong motion.
Tommy cries out in pain, pulling his wounded arm away. “Stop! Don’t touch me!”
Techno says nothing in reply, eyes darting between Tommy and the direction they had heard the familiar hiss. Tommy can almost see the gears in his brain turning, running a mile a minute. His eyes are hard and focused.
“You can’t climb with those,” He says, moving toward the glossy discs in his left hand.
Tommy steps back further, his back hitting a wall. “They’re mine,” he repeats.
Techno has both hands outstretched, as if he is calming a frightened animal. “I’m not taking them from you. I’m just going to put them in my bag. Is that okay?”
Tommy wrinkles his nose. “Well… yeah, sure. I suppose that’s alright,” he says reluctantly, as if it’s the most difficult proposition in the world. In reality, he doesn’t even know why he wants the discs. He has collected plenty of odd music discs in his time in Logstedshire. But these are different. They are something for him. From Tubbo. From “ Your Tubbo .” And he isn’t about to give that up.
But Techno is right. He can’t climb with the discs. And going by the look in Techno’s eye, the situation is dire. Tommy can’t place why he trusts the tall, intimidating man. Ordinarily he would have run or instigated a fight by now. But something nags at the back of his mind, a sort of deep rooted attachment to the figure before him. And besides, going by the quality of Techno’s gear and weapons, Tommy couldn’t resist even if he tried. So he sighs, and hands over the discs to an impatient Technoblade, who tucks them into the leather sack slung over his shoulders.
When Tommy shoots him a wary look Techno huffs, “As soon as we get to my base I’ll give them right back. I promise.” He looks behind them again, through the opening in the brick, and swallows hard. “Now let’s get going. Hurry.”
Tommy tries to exit through the main entrance, but Techno catches him by the shirt collar and shakes his head. He then proceeds to smash a hole in the back wall of the room with a pickaxe. With deadly seriousness he turns around to face him “Follow me. Stay close. And don’t look back.”
Tommy follows. They move quickly and quietly in the opposite direction of the little red room. They shimmy through holes in the ground, and up inclines so steep Techno has to dig his pickaxe into the brick as a handhold or foothold. Tommy is secretly grateful he isn’t trying to carry the music discs, as it would have been nearly impossible. Already he has to cling with one shaking arm to a makeshift rope of tied together fabric in order to get up the top of each cliff. The path they take seems aimless, but Techno doesn’t waver once. They climb, and leap, and sprint until Tommy’s lungs ache, and sweat drips down the back of his neck. And though he wants to… though he swears he hears the faint sound of footsteps hot on their trail, he doesn’t look back.
After running for around an hour, they enter the tunnels. They are like nothing Tommy has ever seen- long, dark, and twisting every which way without rhyme or reason. Tommy has traversed the winding paths of Nether fortresses before, but these are different. They are carved out haggardly, with uneven surfaces stretching out in places, making him trip, or scraping his shoulder in passing. Some areas are so narrow they have to file through single file, turned sideways with their stomachs sucked in. But Techno travels as if he knows them by heart. Tommy is sure their pursuer is lost by now, having taken a wrong turn at some point in the maze. He tries to speak to Techno once or twice, to ask where they’re going, and why he knows his name, but the older man shushes him each time, or simply ignores the question.
Then, just as suddenly as they had begun, Techno stops.
Tommy sputters, backpedalling. The underground lava pool before them glows a bright orange- waves of heat rippling off the surface. He peeks around Techno’s side, searching for an alternate route… but the path stops. No other way to run.
“Uh Technoblade…” Tommy pipes up worriedly. “How are we supposed to-”
Techno turns over one shoulder to respond, but freezes mid word. His eyes narrow, fixing themselves over Tommy’s shoulder.
“Hm? What were you gonna say?” He wipes a hand across his forehead, which feels damp and sticky in the heat.
He shifts back and forth uncomfortably, following the other man’s gaze down the dark pathway behind him. “Techno… what’s wro-”
Tommy’s gut turns to ice, and his whole body tenses.
The familiar lanky man is standing still, partially in shadow. Tommy can hear his heavy breaths. The mask is on, but has slipped slightly off kilter in the chase. He pushes it up to the top of his head.
“Don’t take another step,” He snarls in between gasps. His voice is dark, and foreign. Tommy is reminded of the cobblestone path fight all those months ago.
He looks between Technoblade and Dream, every nerve on fire, ready to sprint forward or collapse, he’s not sure which. Dream meets his eyes with a soft gaze and a grimace. Tommy fights the urge to run to him. Why doesn’t he run to him?
“Tommy is coming with me Dream,” Techno replies evenly, one hand on the sword handle at his belt. “I’m not letting you manipulate him any more.”
Manipulate? No, no… Dream is his friend. Techno must not understand. Dream is his friend. Dream is his only friend, and they’re both just confused.
Dream ignores the comment, and straightens up, moving further into the warm glow.
“Tommy.” A simple utterance of his name, and an outstretched hand, and Tommy crumbles. He takes one, two steps forward, his feet guiding him without thinking.
Techno flinches at the movement, throwing out one arm in front of him. “Hold on now Tommy. You can’t let him get to you.” He sounds panicked.
Dream’s offer is unwavering, his features welcoming.
Tommy takes another step.
“He’s a liar Tommy! He’s been lying to you for so long. About your past, about your friends, about the discs… everything! He’s not your friend. No matter how much it may seem that way, he is not your friend. You’ve been nothing but a puppet.”
Dream is his friend. He has to be. Why else would he have stayed with him all these years?
No, he’s not a puppet. He is Dream’s friend. He is Dream’s friend because Dream loves him, and provides for him, and visits him and no one else does so he has to be.
Techno has his crossbow pointed at Dream, teeth bared.
But… the letter burning a hole in his pocket. The letter from his friend Ranboo. The letter boasting a home beyond Logstedshire, and people that miss him, and Your Tubbo . Why hadn’t Dream told him about the letter? What was it that Dream told Ranboo that made him stop writing?
Tommy feels sick. His legs shake underneath him.
And Technoblade. This mysterious figure that offered in gentle tones to hold his discs for him without taking them; that makes him feel inexplicably safe; that is calling his friend Dream a liar. Why?
“Dream.” Is all he gets out, unable to move. “Dream. I don’t- I can’t-”
“It’ll be okay, Tommy,” His voice is silky smooth. Warm and comforting. “You’re almost there.”
He wants to lean into that voice, let it wash over him until the muddled thoughts in his head fade into nothing. It would be so easy.
“Tommy!” He can barely make out Techno’s voice above the buzzing in his ears.
Dream smiles at him. Tommy smiles back.
He blinks, and glass bottles shatter against the floor, splashing colorful liquid against his calves and feet.
Techno fires the crossbow and explosions rock the ceiling.
Dream’s face contorts into rage.
Tommy is falling, falling… falling… until he isn't- stopped by a strong arm around his stomach. The arm yanks him backwards. Someone screams.
The tunnel above Dream’s head collapses and Tommy reaches out, desperately trying to claw his way towards him, feeling a rawness in his throat.
As great chunks of rock fall, Dream calls after them once, eyes wild.
The words echo around his skull for a long time after.
“Tommy… I’ll find you.”
And then… before he can even take breath, Tommy is plunged into churning, bubbling lava.