George stands outside the prison.
The server is quiet for once. Everyone is on their way to the Red Banquet, and those that aren’t are far enough away that it won’t matter before it's too late.
He inhales. He can do this.
The terracotta echoes when he steps onto it. The axe on his back is heavy. He steps into the portal and he has the entire future stretching in front of him.
The portal spits him out in the lobby of the prison. He stumbles on his exit, tripping onto cobbled stone and quartz. It echoes even louder than the terracotta.
The prison seems lonely, he thinks. Without Sam behind the desk, it seems haunted. George hears footsteps that aren’t his on the floor behind him.
He flicks the levers on the furthest wall. They’re labelled - for his convenience, George thinks, although that wouldn’t be the case. It’s certainly an oversight on Sam’s part, and it’s almost funny. The piston door opens and he passes through it easily.
He takes all of Sam’s shortcuts, by-passing the spawn points. He won’t need them, and his suit is too nice to wrinkle. The open floor corridor is easy too - Sam’s labelled controls make it almost too simple, and George continues deeper into the prison.
He opens the vault door, and passes all the empty cells. Spares a thought for who might end up in one of them once everything is over; if there will be any faces he recognises.
After that, it’s just the water tunnel, the lava corridor, and then.
There’s another row of levers to his left, and George stares at all of them for a moment. He flicks one, the one that will pull the lava wall down, and watches as it slowly starts to work.
He wonders if Dream is expecting him. Probably not. He hasn’t even visited yet. Dream has no idea how the server’s been. How George has been.
The lava is gone. Dream is watching him from his cell. George smiles at him, pulling the lever to set the bridge off and leaping onto it before it leaves without him.
The lava doesn’t fill in behind him. They’re alone in the prison.
“I didn’t think you were ever going to come,” Dream says. His voice is raw from the heat, and even George can feel it burning.
“Neither did I,” he admits. “But we have a job to do, now. Are you ready?”
Dream nods. He looks tired, drawn and burnt, but there’s a very particular sort of fire burning in his eyes, and George knows he thirsts for it.
“Good,” George says. He hands over the suit he’d brought with him. “Put this on. And quickly - I don’t want to be late.”
Dream takes it, and starts changing quickly. “Don’t want to be late for what?”
“Bad’s holding a banquet,” George says, “a big one. For the egg. We’re going to gatecrash it.”
George shrugs. “I don’t know yet.”
“You don’t know yet?” Dream laughs. George watches him start to button up his shirt, leaving the top few undone, before starting to roll the sleeves up. “What do you mean, you don’t know yet?”
“I mean, I haven’t decided what I want to do with him yet,” George says. He passes Dream his tie. “We’ll choose on the way. Maybe it’ll take care of itself before we even turn up.”
“You sound hopeful,” Dream says.
“I wouldn’t say that.”
George smiles at him. “Well, there will always be things to do afterwards. We’ll see. Are you ready?”
Dream leaves the tie on the ground of his cell. He steps on it as he passes, grinding it into the obsidian with his shoe. “You clean up well, you know.”
“Yeah?” George looks at him, allowing himself a small, almost proud smile. “So do you.”
The exit is almost easier than the entrance.
George gets Dream back on solid ground soon enough, and they step out onto the Badlands territory with even strides. He looks at Dream out the corner of his eye, sees the set of his shoulders and the steel in his jaw. If George wasn’t who he is, he thinks he might be afraid of him.
The sun is hot and the sky is blue. Everything is perfect.
“Here,” he says, handing his axe to Dream. “Have this. You’ll do more with it than I will.”
Dream takes it with a nod. “Do you have a weapon?”
“I won’t need one,” George says. “Don’t worry about me. You’ll have bigger issues than me.”
“If you say so.”
George scoffs. He steps onto the Prime path, leading Dream through the centre of the SMP. “All this time, and you’re still underestimating me.”
“That’s not true,” Dream tells him, keeping pace easily.
“Isn’t it? Then what is?”
“I love you.”
George bites his tongue. “That’s cheap. I know you love me. I want to know if you underestimate me."
“Maybe you’ll just have to prove me wrong then,” Dream says. He curls his fingers on the axe’s handle. “You always liked a challenge, huh?”
“What makes you think that?”
Dream spreads his arms, brushing the blade close to George’s side. “You broke me out, didn’t you?”
“And you think that was a challenge?” George raises his eyebrow at Dream, before turning away, stepping off of the path and onto the grass. “Honestly.”
The look Dream gives him is slick. Intense. George feels it boil the blood beneath his skin. “Like I said,” he says, “you’ll have to prove me wrong.”
“Like you ever liked being wrong,” George says. He approaches the spider grinder, peering into the cobblestone top.
“For you, I wouldn’t mind,” Dream murmurs from just behind him. “Are we there?”
George leans back against the cobblestone, looking at him for a moment. “Yeah. Nearly.”
“Then why have you stopped?”
“We’re going down,” George says. He turns back to the cobble, peering down at the water at the bottom. “Come on.”
He jumps. It’s easy. So easy. He lands in the water and immediately rolls to the side so Dream can follow. The spiders are hissing in their spawners, and Dream drops down in front of him.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done that,” Dream says.
George offers him a grin. “Then don’t worry. You’re not losing your touch.”
“Thanks. So it’s around here?”
“Somewhere,” George nods. “Down here, I think.”
He steps up to the tunnel staircase, peering down it. The blood vines are creeping further up it. Their closeness is unsettling, and George does his best not to touch them as he starts to descend.
“Are you sure?” Dream whispers. “This is kinda creepy.”
“I’m sure,” George replies - he lowers his voice too; the closer they get the more he starts to hear chatter and music and, most distinctly, Bad.
“He sounds terrible,” Dream says.
George ducks under a particularly low part of the tunnel. “I don’t understand the Egg. I don’t know what it’s done to him. But that’s what I want to stop tonight. We’ll deal with the Egg, free Bad, and then we’ll… we’ll go from there.”
“Have you thought about if everyone tries to kill me first?” Dream asks, brashly. Like he doesn’t care.
George stops dead on the stairs, turning around to glare at Dream. “Don’t even say that.”
“Why not? It’s a reasonable concern, you know, after everything-”
“I won’t let them touch you,” he says, fiercely. “So don’t say that.”
Dream meets his gaze easily. “How are you so sure, George? We’ve done this sort of thing before, haven’t we? And you saw how that ended up last time.”
“Just trust me-”
“If everyone is going to die again, George,” Dream says, “if this is going to go wrong, we’re never going to get out of it. We’re going to be stuck. They won’t let us out of their sight for a moment. We might not even be together.”
George takes Dream’s face in his hands, hooking his fingertips into the flesh around his cheeks and jaw and digging in as deep as he dares to. He leans closer, too, up on his tiptoes as far as he can. “They won’t catch us. They won’t. For once in your life, just tell me you trust me.”
Dream is quiet for a minute. George feels him swallow beneath his hands. They breathe. “...I trust you.”
“Thank you,” George nods. He steps back. They continue down the staircase.
The Egg Room has been done up. George gestures for Dream to stay back once they reach the bottom, leaning around the entrance himself, ready to jump back at any moment. The guests are all gathered around the table beside the Egg. They’ll all see if they go in that way.
He steps back. “We need to find another way in.”
“What do you mean, another way in?” Dream repeats. “This is the only entrance. Isn’t it?”
“I thought so,” George says. He bites the inside of his cheek, leaning back around the wall quickly. He scans over the far walls this time, looking for any loose stones or holes.
There is one, close to the Egg. He pulls back and grins.
“Is there one?” Dream asks.
“I think so,” George says, “it looks like an entrance anyway. We just have to find it.”
Dream’s face drops slightly. “Well, it has to be around here somewhere, right?”
“Right. There can’t be that many secret tunnels around here.”
“So which way first?”
“This way,” George decides, electing to follow along towards where the new entrance seems to come out. “Maybe we’ll find something.”
He pulls out a pickaxe to start mining into the walls, letting Dream pick up the stones and pack them back into the tunnel they leave. Neither of them have torches, and the darkness is cold, but George feels hot all over. He shakes his wrist out, picking into another chunk of stone, carving out their path.
It isn’t long before the smooth stone changes to red nether brick, and Georg stops. “This looks like it.”
“They’ve built a fortress down here,” Dream says. George hacks a hole into the brick, and passes through it, stepping into a long corridor. Dream follows, and they peer down one end, and then the other.
“There looks like there’s a path that way,” George says. He can still hear Bad and his guests, so they can’t be too far out.
“Then we go that way,” Dream says. He takes the lead now, and George falls a half-step behind him. The nether brick is warmer than normal stone, and George doesn’t like the heat. He clenches and unclenches his fist, straining his biceps against the fabric of his shirt.
They reach the turn in the path, and it leads into a room with a table. George wrinkles his nose at the wither rose in the centre, brushing past it easily. Bad’s voice is louder - they must be going in the right direction.
“Look,” Dream whispers. “There’s a staircase over here. What do you bet that leads right down to the Egg?”
“Not much,” George whispers back. “Come on.”
It does lead to the Egg. Bad’s voice changes out for Puffy’s, and George listens to her proclaim unity and peace for the server. He tries not to scoff. They reach the top of it.
“This is it, then,” Dream says. He turns to George, “I hope you know what you’re trying to do here.”
“I do,” George says. He inhales and exhales slowly, reaching out one hand to rest it on Dream’s. “It’ll be fine.”
“Into the Lion’s Den,” Dream says, and it’s enough of a cue that they take one step at the same time Bad begins to say:
“In the spirit of moving things forward, we were very, very happy to-”
“Oh, my God,” George breathes. He shoves his hand into Dream’s, standing tall at the top of the staircase as lava starts to drip from the ceiling, forming walls around the Egg and the table.
No one seems to have noticed yet. Bad keeps talking, and George begins down the staircase. Dream follows, holding his axe loosely in one hand and George’s fingers tightly in the other.
If George didn’t know better, he’d say Dream was afraid.
“A banquet!” he hears Bad say, “that none of us are ever going to forget.”
The lava hits the floor. Dream yells, “Bad!” Someone screams. He thinks it’s Niki.
Dream stops three steps from the bottom of the staircase. George stands at his side, exactly where he should be. “Bad,” Dream repeats. “What are you doing?”
“You’re not supposed to be here,” Bad says. He pushes away from the table, chair flying back. Ant stands too, knocking his glass over. Red wine begins to drip off of the table cloth. “You’re supposed to be in the Prison. What are you doing here?”
“We’re here to stop you,” George announces. He steps down one step. “You’ve gone too far this time, Bad. This isn’t what you were meant to do.”
Bad’s face screws up. He climbs on top of the table, stalking across it, sending glasses and bowls everywhere, until he can leap off in front of the bottom of the staircase. He still has to look up to meet George’s eye. “This is exactly what I was meant to do. And you’re not going to stop me before I’ve even begun!”
“You’re not you anymore,” George shouts. “This isn’t you. What would Sapnap think of you? Of what you’ve become? What would Skeppy?”
“They don’t matter anymore,” Bad says. His face hardens. “Only the Egg matters now, George. And soon you’ll see. You’ll all see.”
“No, we won’t, Bad!” Puffy calls. She’s dug a sword out from somewhere, but she holds it in shaky hands. Bad’s guests have gathered into a corner, away from the table. Away from Bad. Ant still sits at the head of it, and Ponk sits beside him like he doesn’t know where to go.
Hannah sits beside them. George frowns. The red flowers in her hair look, all of a sudden, like poison.
“You need to stop,” George says. He takes a step closer, waiting for Dream to take one with him. “You need to let it go, Bad.”
“Or we’ll kill you,” Dream says, before George has a chance. He swings the axe off his shoulder, holding it in both of his hands now, like a threat. “We’ll kill you dead.”
“The Egg won’t let me die,” Bad says. His voice shakes, though. Ant still hasn’t got up.
Dream laughs. “You wanna test that?”
“You won’t kill me,” Bad tries. “You won’t be able to.”
George stares into the shadow of his hood and laughs. And laughs and laughs.
It’s easy to reach his hand back for the axe. Dream gives it to him, and its easy to swing it up - up, up, up. It’s easy to stand there, holding it, waiting for Bad to step back. Out the line of fire, to surrender, to accept, or plead guilty.
He doesn’t do any of that. He says, “if you want to kill me, you’ll have to kill the Egg first.”
“You’re bluffing,” George calls.
“I’m not,” Bad says. “Ant can attest. You don’t understand the Egg’s power. It fuels me. It burns with me. I won’t die until it dies. And it’ll never die. Ever.”
“Forever is such a weak promise,” Dream says. “Come on, Bad. It’s over. Let it be over.”
“No,” Bad snaps, turning to focus all his attention on Dream suddenly. “No. You have no room to talk. You’re a murderer.”
“Like you’re any better,” Dream spits.
George steps down the final stair. He steps closer to Bad, close enough to touch, and he presses the axe’s blade against Bad’s chest. “I want you to lift the lava up. Let your guests leave. And then we’ll talk.”
“Why do we have to talk?” Bad says, “what is there to say? The only language on this server is violence, remember? Remember?”
“Lift the lava,” George says again. “Let them go.”
Bad shakes his head slightly. “I can’t.”
“Then get Ant to do it,” Dream says. “Ant?”
“Ant won’t do it either-”
“Then I’ll make him do it,” Dream interrupts. He steps down the final two stairs as well, stalking towards Ant. George watches him out of the corner of his eye, watches Ant scurry away to some mechanism hidden in the wall.
Slowly, the lava starts to rescind. And George turns his attention back to Bad.
“You see?” he hisses. “They’re weak. They’re all weak. You were never strong, Bad. None of you were. The Egg is a facade. And it’s killing you, can’t you see that?”
“Then I’ll die for it,” Bad declares. “It’s too far along, George. This is hopeless. You can’t stop the Egg, not now. Not when it’s about to hatch.”
He presses the axe further into Bad’s chest, until it starts to cut away at his cloak and suit. “What do you mean, hatch ?”
Bad laughs hysterically. “What do you think I mean by it? What do you think any of this has been for? We’re working for the Egg, George! And it’s going to be beautiful. So beautiful.” He pauses. “I just wish you could be here to see it.”
Several things seem to happen at once.
Bad draws a sword from somewhere, pushing it into George’s face and forcing him back. Ant pulls one out too, engaging Dream in a fight. Hannah and Ponk hang back, closer to the egg, and on the other side, the rest of the guests push their way past the remaining few dregs of lava and out of the Egg Room.
George wrenches his axe back, parrying it with Bad’s sword easily. He’s always been stronger than Bad, better at combat. But the axe is heavy, and it isn’t suited to fighting.
He was supposed to be an executioner. Nothing more.
“Leave it, George!” Bad shouts. “You’ll never win! You’re too late!”
Bad pulls his sword away, only to slam it down on the axe blade quickly. The clash rings out, and the force almost knocks George to his knees. He catches it though, pushing back as hard as he can, and Bad stumbles through it.
“We’re not leaving without a victory or your head on a platter, Bad!” he yells back, “We’re not afraid of you!”
Bad’s next swipe is harsher than before, and it forces George to leap back up onto the staircase again. Bad says, “maybe you should be!” and draws his sword downwards.
George meets it with the handle of the axe, letting Bad’s blade dig into the wood. He struggles to wrench it out, balancing on his feet, and George uses the momentum to switch their positions, forcing Bad onto the staircase.
“Never,” he says, glaring up at him, lifting the axe to prepare to bring it down. “I will never be afraid of you, Bad.”
“Then that’s your mistake,” Bad says. George hears a clatter of a sword from somewhere behind him, and a weak sort of whimper that must have come from Ant. He doesn’t dare look back though, instead forcing the axe down until Bad has to lift his sword up to catch it.
With the distraction, George reaches out with one foot to knock Bad’s legs from underneath him. It’s easy - Bad is unbalanced, exhausted, and strung tight. He falls quickly, and George pulls his sword away from him to press it at his neck.
“George-” Bad tries.
“No, Bad,” George says. He leans over him, staring into the shadows, pushing Bad’s sword against his own flesh. “No. Listen to me, now. It’s over. Let the Egg go. You can be so much more without it.”
“I don’t want to,” Bad says. His breathing is heavy.
“You have to.”
“You have to, Bad.”
Dream calls, “maybe he doesn’t.”
George turns to him, loosening his grip on Bad. Ant is lying unconscious on the floor. Hannah and Ponk are still sitting at the table - it’s like they don’t belong here.
Bad scrabbles at the staircase, pushing himself into a more upright position until he can see Dream standing beside the egg. He’s holding Ant’s sword above it, like he’s about to strike it right into the Egg’s shell. Bad scoffs, but his voice is weak. “You really think that will work?”
Dream just looks at him. It must be easy, George thinks. Watching him plunge Ant’s sword into the Egg, pushing it in up to the hilt, hearing Bad’s ragged scream as he does. It’s easy.
“It’s over, Bad!” Dream yells over the noise. It feels like the very Earth itself is screeching. “We tried to warn you!”
“It’ll never be over!” Bad shouts, “never!”
“It’s already too late,” George tells him. He drops Bad’s sword beside him. “It’s too late.”