Actions

Work Header

Either Way You're By My Side (Until My Dying Days)

Work Text:

The sun still rose on the day the world crumbled around them. 

George’s knuckles were gripped white around his bow as he dove behind rubble. A bead of sweat tracked his temple while he tried to catch his breath, fingers sore as he reached for one of his last arrows. The smoke stung his nose, his lungs threatened to seize from the onslaught of soot and dust lingering amongst craters of fire and ruined buildings. Everything around him burned with destruction, a voice ringing out hollowly amongst the carnage. 

“Oh George!” Wilbur chimed. “Come out, come out wherever you are.” 

His throat squeezed as he turned to check his corner, saw the red hands of the newly resurrected man. Wilbur’s hollow eyes turned to his hiding spot just as George ducked behind his cover again. 

Wilbur will find me, his mind screamed. He’ll find me, he’ll find me, he’ll find me-

George ran.

He pushed himself from the dirt and sprinted blindly across the ruined path, coughing through the smoke and ash. 

Distantly, he heard someone scream.

His heart ached, feet pounding beneath him and carrying him away. Somewhere, Wilbur was laughing. 

Every ruined building blended together, everything looked the same; scorched and ruined, craters where trees had once been and a sky painted orange with flame. How could this have happened? Was the world truly ending in fire?

George finally stopped atop a hill, the bow slipping from his fingers and clattering against the ground as he stared out at the murky water and familiar beach. 

Standing like a tombstone amongst the waves was the ruined prison. The obsidian walls were decimated and scattered across the world in dots of black ink. Even from here, George could smell blood and gunpowder.

His head swam with a fog as his knees met the dirt. No matter where he ran, everything was gone. Wilbur would find him, he would not stop until everything was turned to dust. 

“Tommy was right.” A voice cracked around the words, as if they had to force them out.

George’s eyes immediately snapped to Dream.

His green eyes were staring out at the horizon, dull and absent. Blood was caked to his dirty blonde hair, sticking it to the side of his marred face and staining his calloused hands. Hands that held a broken axe, hands that had once held George. 

Slowly, his gaze met him.

“Wilbur should have stayed dead.” Dream’s voice was raw. 

George stared, his fingers pinching his arm, trying to remember when Dream became the man standing before him now. If he was truly standing before him.

“It’s over.” As the words left him, the axe dropped from Dream’s fingers with a heavy thud, laying beside George’s bow and bringing him back to reality. 

If the world weren’t collapsing around them with each earth-rumbling explosion in the distance, George would have found the silence deafening. All he could do was stare, piecing together the parts of Dream that still remained the same. 

But, he found nothing. The man before him now was a shell of what he was. George realized, after a long moment, that he would never be able to recognize who was standing before him now. And in the end, it didn’t matter. Because this was the end. 

“At least say something!” Dream suddenly yelled, his voice wavering. 

“There’s nothing for me to say.” George slowly stood and, for the first time, found that Dream seemed small in comparison. “There’s nothing to say now.” 

“So that’s it?” Dream let out a strangled laugh. “This is it?”

George faced Dream. “Don’t act like you deserve any last words.” He tried not to let his voice raise, but it quivered. 

And despite it all, the hurt that flashed across Dream’s expression cut him deep. 

“Then at least tell me you hate me.” He threw back, eyes darkening. 

“Don’t do that.” George spat.

“What?” Dream’s voice rose over the roar of a dying land. “What if I said it like you told me to? Would you tell me then?” 

“Dream.”

“I hate you.” Despite the venom, George could tell he didn’t mean it. 

“Dream.” 

“Say it!” He yelled now.

“Look what you did!” George finally yelled back, his hand flying out towards the red horizon. “All of it is gone! Everyone will be gone.” 

“Because of me.” Dream said flatly.

“Because of you! ” George screamed. 

A particularly strong explosion shook the earth and caused them to stumble. It blew up a cloud of debris that attacked their lungs and it wasn’t until it cleared that their eyes finally met again with ice, stinging against the dust as it settled again.

He watched as Dream’s eyes flickered down and, impossibly, softened. “George... your arm.” 

It took a moment to register the burn and slow roll of blood tracking down to his wrist. George’s eyes darted to the indents of fingernails and the drag of scratches where he had punctured the skin of his bicep. The pain, real, the stain across his arm, real .

He shuddered a breath. It was all real.

Dream took a step towards him, arm extended. It wasn’t until his fingertips brushed pale skin that George jerked away.

“Don’t fucking touch me.” He hissed.

Dream retracted, only slightly. His hands clenched into fists at his sides. 

“Say it.” His voice was steel.

George’s shoulders folded inwards. “No.” He felt like collapsing as the ground shuddered beneath them again. 

“Why not?” Dream took another step closer, ignoring the tremor, his figure looming over George, taller than ever. 

Blood pounded in his ears as George slowly looked up at Dream. His eyes tracked the stubble across his jaw and the scars littered across his face. George’s heart clenched, then hardened with fury.

“Because I don’t hate you!” He shoved his hands against Dream’s very real chest. Dream stumbled back, only slightly, face unreadable. 

“I hate what you did.” George shoved again, and Dream took it. “I hate that you left.” Again. “And I hate that you didn’t listen to me!” George’s eyes were stinging, the back of his throat burning with unshed tears and watering his vision. 

“And I hate that I can’t hate you!” His voice finally shook with a final push that nearly sent Dream tumbling backwards. George was panting, his hand rested in a fist against Dream’s chest as he finally let his tears fall. “I hate this.”

Dream’s bloodied hand rose over George’s, cradling it to his chest. He wanted to pull away, wanted to shove him again. But what he said was true, despite it all, he couldn’t hate Dream. Despite, despite, despite.

“George...” 

He flattened his hand against Dream’s heart, felt it fluttering beneath the ruined fabric of his prison jumper. He was warm, and he was sickeningly real. It took everything in him to choke back a sob as Dream slowly tugged him closer to his embrace. Ruined and frayed, they rested their foreheads together with shaky breaths. 

“You’re a nightmare.” George murmured, letting the tears track through the soot on his cheeks. 

Dream only squeezed his hand tighter. “We might as well enjoy the weather...” He chuckled, voice wrecked. 

The weather , it was so menial it caused the smallest of laughs to escape George. His tears were uncontrollable now as he clutched Dream closer and let them fall against their tangled fingers.

George didn’t register what happened next until Dream’s weight nearly collapsed against his own and painted his shirt red. He sputtered in George’s ear, hand jerking towards his side as his boots scuffed against the grass. 

Dream. ” A new voice called out over his shoulder.

George lurched away, eyes wide as he stared down at his blue shirt now stained with blood. Dream’s blood. George watched as it dribbled through his shaking fingers, clinging to the arrowhead lodged through his stomach.

Dream gave a wet, red laugh as he turned towards the man behind him. “Sapnap!” His voice was eerily cheerful. “It’s so good to see you.” 

Sapnap tossed his bow aside, unsheathing a blade. “I told you I’d kill you, Dream.” 

“So you did.”

George watched Dream sway, struggling to stay upright.

In another place, with more time, his stomach would be doing flips at the idea of watching his best friends kill each other before his eyes. He would have grabbed Dream’s axe, he would have stood between them. Maybe he could have convinced them to run, to stay a team. Maybe together, they could have outran the end of the world. 

But there was no time, and this was not the place.

Just as Sapnap’s blade flashed red through the sky, a mushroom cloud burnt white hot fire through the atmosphere. The world scorched and screamed through the impact of the blast that burst George’s eardrums and laid waste to what was left.

In the blink of an eye, everything went blind.

Incinerated. 

Gone.

And the universe said I love you because you are love.

 

—-

 

Flowers danced with grass blades in a gentle breeze.

Bees hummed and the brush of calming air caressed his cheek. 

Instead of blinding lights and smoke that burned, he felt the warmth of the sun kissing his skin, calling to him.

Telling him to wake up. 

George gasped, greedy for air, as his eyes opened to the world around him. 

Expecting craters and ruined buildings, he stared in disbelief at a blue sky embracing a mountainous horizon. His fingertips brushed against soil beneath his palm and felt grass from the open field tickle his arms. Overhead, leaves rustled with the changing wind and cast splotches of golden light across his head. 

At the very edge of a forest, in a very new place, George was alive. 

It took him a long moment to catch his breath, feeling the fresh air rush through his veins and give a flush to his cheeks. A bee buzzed by his head and settled atop a flower nestled between his fingers. 

He waited, watching as pollen clung to its fuzzy body before it bumbled off again without a care in the world. Briefly enraptured by the bees trajectory towards another patch of flowers a few yards away, it took him a moment to remember where he was. 

Where... was he? He rubbed his forehead, finding his thoughts hazy and jumbled. As the breeze caught him again, the stem of the flower brushed against his knuckle.

George stared down at it. Something about it was familiar, calling to him, telling him “I’m here.” Ever so slowly, he picked the flower and held it to his face. 

The bright yellow dandelion stared back at him. For the briefest of moments, he was somewhere else. The flower became one of many, being handed to him along with a gentle embrace and a kiss placed atop his forehead.

“I know they’re your favorite, Georgie.”

He scrambled to his feet, the flower discarded. The voice wasn’t real, some distant memory of his. He had died. He was dead . George remembered it all so vividly, the realization cutting into him and clearing the fog. Why was he alive? Where was he? What was happening?

The questions drifted away from him, out into the open world. A world completely untouched, unmarked.

George threatened to spiral, his knees almost buckling. To focus, he patted himself down. What was he looking for? He wasn’t sure, but he instead came to a bitter revelation: his collar was neatly set, his goggles no longer cracked, the blood and ash clinging to his body had disappeared. Shaky fingers rose to his cheek, expecting the tough skin of a scar from an archery accident. Instead, found the spot smooth and unmarred.

He was as pristine as when he first spawned.

As he turned in a slow circle, he found the land around him entirely unaware of his presence. The sun cast everything in a warm glow that would have eased his nerves, if he didn’t still feel as though Dream’s blood was stitched into his skin.

George felt his stomach lurch as he stumbled out into the open field, pinching his arm hard enough to draw blood because there was no one there to tell him not to.

“Sapnap?” He yelled into the wind.

No response.

“Wilbur?” 

His hand clutched the front of his shirt, buried his fingers into the fabric. 

“Dream!” His voice cracked. “Dream! Where are you?” 

Nothing but the wind from the mountains called back to him. 

It was there in the field that the first stab of fear struck his heart. Fear that he had truly died and everything would dissolve into some sort of hell. Fear that everyone else was dead and he would have to carry those ghosts through a new beginning. 

Fear that none of this was real, that he would wake up to the end of the world all over again.

So, he screamed. George yelled into the spring-painted oblivion until his voice ran hoarse and his ears rang from the strain of his own cries. He called for every name of anyone he could think of. Sapnap, Wilbur, Tommy, Tubbo, Techno, Ranboo, Punz, Niki... Dream.

Anyone, yet no one.

He fell to his knees, the skyline just as imposing as it had been when it was licked with fire. His throat burned and his lungs heaved, leaving him sore and alone in the roaring stillness of the valley. 

What was that saying? He thought to himself bitterly. If a tree were to fall in a forest with no human beings, would there be any sound?  

He let out a weak laugh, halfway towards a cry. 

Somehow, in some way, he was the first and only of a new world. 

Somehow, in some way, he had been reborn. 

He wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse. The inevitable loneliness of it all was already threatening to pull him apart, whether or not his fears would ring true.

Yet, even if this was real or not, he still remembered. Staring out at the new world, created just for him, he remembered the place he had once called his home. He remembered his friends, he heard Dream’s voice from somewhere far away. In an unreachable void he had once said, “I just want peace.”  

George thought now, after seeing everything unfold, peace became a lot like control.

A small part of his mind whispered to him, told him: this is his world, this is his new beginning, perhaps it could be a second chance. 

George slowly rose on shaky legs, cradling his arm that had been pinched raw. Would he be worthy of it all? A second chance to make things right... for what? For him? Alone in this world, would any of it be worth it? If there is no one to share his joys, his sorrows, would he truly feel alive?

Dream would have wanted him to make the most of it, he thought. Maybe that wouldn’t be enough.

But for George it would be. He would make it enough. Even if it was just in the memory of his friends. He would make it worth it all, if it meant he could still hold onto Dream in some way.

So, he got to work.

It wasn’t unlike when he and Dream first created their world. As George went about collecting wood, stone, and other materials, he sometimes thought he could still hear his voice; his quips, how he kept telling himself to slow down, the way his eyes glinted every time they met George’s. It was Dream’s laughter though, that seemed to float across each breeze and curl against George’s ear as he tried to get things done. He wasn’t entirely sure if it was motivating or painful.

Around the third time he turned to make a joke towards the empty field, he decided it would be excruciating until he finally forgot the sound of Dream’s voice.  

He sat one night in the maw of a cave, bandaging his side where a skeleton had nicked him with an arrow, and thought perhaps he should build a house. 

It was something he had been putting off, he had wondered if he’d be better as a nomad. So he could wander without anything to tie him home. But he’d already struggled enough keeping the mobs at bay on his own, and maybe if he built the house small enough, it would not be so hard to fill the rooms with life. 

George sighed heavily as he tied off the bandage, pulling the book and quill from his pack and flipping to the newest page.

In cursive, it read:

It’s quiet without you all here.  

Below it, he slowly wrote:

I almost forgot how to bandage my own wounds without you here. Dream, what would you do if you were here?

George gripped the quill tighter, pulled his bottom lip between his teeth as he thought. 

You’d probably already be in the nether by now.

He couldn’t help but laugh as those words reached the page. With another soft sigh, he packed the journal away and rose to his feet. 

This was something he had been doing lately: writing to everyone who wasn’t there. Partially to keep him sane, partially because he had decided someone ought to record the past.

Someday, he hoped to write the history books. Even if no one would be there to read them. It felt important that some physical part of the life left behind was recorded somewhere. Especially if anything were to happen to him in the vastness of this infinity. 

Though, he also thought it unfortunate that his memory consistently blurred the line between dream and reality. He was bound to mark down inconsistencies, and it left him in doubt if it was even worth it. 

By the time his house was constructed, he made his decision. 

George wiped the sweat from his brow as he stepped through the front door, the sun setting behind him and basking his front room in golden light. His house was a small thing, only about two rooms and a kitchen, exactly as he had intended. Mushrooms were already growing in little pots on his windowsill and he made sure to keep the wooden floors clean of any dirt tracked in from the cow pasture just outside. 

He took a pit stop at the kitchen to grab an apple, then made his way back to his room where his book and quills were waiting across empty shelves. 

The small chair creaked under his weight as he settled at his desk, nestled in the far corner away from his bed and single dresser. Blank pages stared up at him, awaiting. Once again, self doubt began to creep into the corners of his mind as he reached for his quill. 

He paused with the tip pressed to the paper. 

When he closed his eyes, he saw the fire and explosions. But he also remembered the moments when they were laughing so hard their faces hurt, the times where they fought side by side. The time where he lay beside a warm body, telling himself to always remember when he felt the most loved.

George opened his eyes again with resolve. Someday, he would forget. 

Unless he did something about it.

Those first few words, the first few moments he spent writing their lore, their story, turned into minutes. The minutes turned into hours, the hours into days until a week had passed him by and the shelves slowly filled with finished books and his wrist was sore from writing. 

The only breaks he knew were wandering outside to care for his cows and tend to his wheat fields. Sometimes, on nights where the words had left him and sleep wouldn’t come, he’d wander out into the forest to grow his mushrooms. It was those nights when he got the most done, he thought, as he’d come back to write some more before passing out on his desk.

More than once, George worried over the things he missed in his limited point of view. Yet each time, he kept going. He recorded the history of their world, the rise and fall of L’manburg, the discs, the prison, even the end. All of it . He felt maddened by the chase of the end, as if the words wouldn’t come fast enough for his racing thoughts as he recounted their lives from beginning to the bitter finale. 

He lingered on the end. 

Throughout it all, he lingered on Dream.

The nights he spent spilling over the pages, he hesitated on the memories of contentment and devotion. His fingers trembled as he reminisced on the gentle nights and welcoming mornings with Dream at his side. Laughing with him, protecting him, loving him. The sound of his voice was deafening, the memory of his love sharp. 

George paused over the final few lines, just below where he wrote of adrenaline and fear. 

I didn’t recognize Dream in that final moment. I don’t think he recognized me either. He paused, closed his eyes, then continued.

He told me he hated me, but I couldn’t say it back. I told him he was a nightmare, my final words to him. 

The lines blurred in George’s vision.

He let me die in the end. But even then, I still loved him. I wish I had said it more. 

The confession smeared with a lone tear that fell onto the page. George sniffed, angrily rubbed his wet cheeks as he quickly closed the book and shoved it back against the desk. 

Night had long since fallen, his house quiet save for the creak of his chair as he tipped back against it and stared at the wooden slats of his ceiling. A hollow feeling was already settling in his chest, carving out the parts of his heart that still burned and snuffing what remained. 

Bitterness is what came to mind when he thought of those words they shared at the end of the world. Maybe George was still a bit wounded from it all, but he wished that he could forgive. He wished that they’d had more time. Another chance to make things right. 

“I’d stay awake this time.” George spoke into the open air. “My dream.” 

Of course, there would be no response. So, he rose from his chair and went to find a spot in the middle of his bed.

Sleep would not come easily to him that night, even with everything complete and shelved. Though, if he were honest, he didn’t get too much sleep anyways. George tossed and turned, trying not to think about how cold the sheets were and how empty his house was. By the time moonlight spilled in from his window and illuminated his room in a white glow, he was out of bed and moving to rummage through his kitchen. 

George was muttering curses to himself at his lack of snacks when a sound cut through the silence of the night. 

Outside, startled and rustling loudly, George could hear his cows in a fuss. 

Normally, he would chalk it up to a mob that wandered too close, or a predator getting a little too cocky in the field. Maybe phantoms had begun to make an appearance, with how little sleep he had gotten. 

But as George grabbed his shoes, equipped his axe, and trudged outside to see what the problem was, there was nothing in sight. 

“What is it?” He asked as he rounded towards the fenced pasture. 

The cows continued to skitter away towards the far corner of the field, away from George, away from the forest at his back. He watched them for a moment, noted their obvious distress, before slowly turning towards the looming shadows behind him. 

It’s just a mob, probably. George told himself as he stared up at the mushrooms peeking over tree tops. 

He never considered himself to be a paranoid guy, but as the wind brushed its fingers through his hair, he felt an unnatural chill run down his spine. His stomach did a flip. 

George wasn’t sure how, but he felt deep in his bones that somehow, something had just changed.

With a quick glance over his shoulder, and wavering confidence, he slowly turned to step towards the forest. 

It wasn’t unfamiliar to him. He knew the path in the dark, passed the spots he had spent hours worrying over the dirt. With only the light of the moon to guide him, George quietly traversed between the trees and away from any mobs that waited in the shadows. 

He wasn’t sure where he was going, letting his quiet feet carry him over rogue roots and rocks. It didn’t feel as if he was wandering blindly though, he wasn’t necessarily walking with a destination in mind but it felt as if he knew he would end up somewhere. 

What he expected to find, he wasn’t sure. But what he came to stole his breath away.

The clearing was basked in moonlight, his mushrooms spread across the vibrant grass in rings amongst the thicket. The foliage only giving way to a patch of dirt in the center, a soft indent in the earth that seemed to draw him in with unabashed curiosity. 

George stepped towards the patch of soil, leaned down to find it darker than the ground around it. When he reached towards the dirt, it shifted soft and pliant beneath his fingertips, as if recently disturbed and asking to be reopened. 

A lump had formed in his throat and, with bated breath, he hesitantly started to dig.

His hands quickly became caked in grime, jamming under his fingernails and smearing across his face as he wiped his brow. The smell of fresh earth reached his nose and called out to him. He had only gotten through several handfuls before George felt something solid. 

Whatever it was, he found it was just barely buried beneath the surface.

In his haze, he had not registered what he had felt. George did not distinguish the distinct softness of flesh. 

So, when he brought his hands back to scoop out another handful of dirt, his whole body went rigid. 

Beneath the open sky and the palm of George’s hand, laid a tanned face littered in freckles.

Against the darkness of the earth, Dream laid motionless. 

A shuddered breath escaped George, his fingers moving quickly to pull away more dirt. He brushed it from dirty blonde hair, exposed the rising and falling of his chest to the sky, and slowly lifted his shoulders up from the grave. He let Dream slump against him as his hands scrambled to check for injuries, to check for more signs of life. 

George’s breath was heavy, fingers trembling as he found the pulse in his wrist. Beating strong and alive. 

Dream was alive. 

“Dream?” George cradled him as best he could, an arm across his back as he reclined him gently in his lap to see his face. 

The scars were gone, his lips parted slightly as his head tipped back into George’s palm. Other than the dirt caked to his body, his skin was pristine and untouched. Everything about him was just... Dream.

Just as the day he first spawned. 

Dream? ” George muttered breathlessly, brushing his hair back from his forehead and trying to clear some of the dirt from his cheek. 

George’s breath caught in his throat as he watched Dream’s eyes slowly open to the world around him. They glowed green in the dim light and met his wide look. 

He tried not to feel disappointed when Dream’s expression did not immediately morph into recognition. His eyes seemed distant, as if staring past George with uncertainty. Between his racing thoughts, George registered he was still entirely out of it. 

Obviously, some things were different in the way they came to this world, but it seemed to be taking a larger toll on the man beneath him. 

“Can you walk?” George asked, hoping his voice wasn’t shaking too hard. 

Dream’s head lolled into the crook of his elbow and he gave a weary nod. 

Slowly, George helped them rise to their feet. He held Dream as if he were made of glass and let him slump against his side in support, uncaring of the dirt staining both of their clothes. The moon watched them disappear into the darkness of the forest.

Dream was stumbling more over the spots George knew well, he tried to warn him under his breath but found it wasn’t helping much with how Dream’s feet were dragging. His weight was cumbersome as well, and George was close to tripping several times himself as he grit his teeth and pushed forward. All he cared about was getting Dream back to the house, somewhere safe and warm.

They had finally cleared the forest and came to the field of his home when Dream spoke.

“Where... am I?” His voice was raspy and slurred, eyes squinting against the lights of the small cottage. 

“Home.” George replied easily as he led them inside. 

Dream collapsed onto the couch, George brushed his hair back again to feel his forehead and found it cold. A soft sigh escaped the man beneath him and his eyes opened again to look up at George. 

He felt his breath hitch at that look, a look that seemed more lucid, as if he was studying him. He wondered if Dream knew, if he was going to start yelling or panicking just as he had. But he only stared, and George slowly pulled his hand away again.

“I’m going to run you a bath.” He muttered, wringing his fingers to keep them from shaking as he escaped to find the washing basin.

In the time it took to heat up the water and fill the makeshift tub, Dream had kept his eyes open in minute intervals. George watched him carefully as he stared down at his hands, flexed them, as if unaware of his own body. Something about it all made him uneasy, as if there was a catch to this that George hadn’t quite picked up on yet.

His mind ran through the worst case scenarios as he grabbed his soaps, helped Dream undress, and lowered him into the tub.

Maybe he was only remembering the worst? Perhaps something had possessed him in his time between dead and alive? What if none of this was real at all and George would wake up within the next few minutes? 

The answer came to him as he started to gently scrub the grime from Dream’s back. 

“Who are you?” He asked.

George’s movements came to a sudden halt, his heart jumping up into his throat as the words sunk into him. And despite all the possible ideas his mind had run through, this might just be the worst.

Dream didn’t remember anything at all. 

The only thing that stopped George from spiraling into a panic was Dream’s eyes finding him over his shoulder. They looked as clear as ever, and it sent a punch of dread into George’s gut. 

It took him a long moment to find his voice, his hands pushing up his sleeves again to slowly rub the cloth across Dream’s shoulders. Revealing more freckles with each wash of water.

“George.” He said, hoping he didn’t sound strained. 

A look crossed Dream’s expression at that and, for the briefest of moments, George let a pathetic flicker of hope spark in his heart. Only to be extinguished as Dream turned around again and muttered out a soft, “nice to meet you.”

George finished bathing him in silence. Dream let him wrap a towel around his warm body and bring him to bed where George laid him against the sheets. All of it too familiar and all the more suffocating knowing that Dream did not remember. 

“Thank you...” he had muttered tiredly just before George turned away.

George only nodded, unclipping the small curtain that sectioned off his room and letting it fall to seclude Dream from the light. Hopefully, giving him some peace to sleep. The soft snoring that followed only minutes later echoed in George’s mind as he collapsed into his desk chair.

He stared at the ceiling again, the words on the tip of his tongue but no longer promised seclusion from listeners. 

George grabbed a rogue sheet of paper and dipped his quill in ink.

I don’t know where you were, or where you came from. He wrote. But you are weary and tired as if the years you don’t remember still weigh on you

He pinched the bridge of his nose for a brief moment, willing off another bout of useless tears. 

Wherever you are, you have a place with me. 

But if this is our second chance, I want you to only know my love. Please, let me take care of you. 

George folded the paper once, twice, thrice. Then tucked it into the back of his most recent journal and stacked it on his desk with the others until his shelves were empty. It took several armfuls but, after quiet maneuvering, he had moved them from his room to the front of his house.

There, he pulled up his rug and then the loose floorboard beneath it. A small compartment of space lined in iron and sealed with obsidian yawned up at him. George carefully slid his journals in snug and locked the lid on tight. He repeated the process with the floorboard and then the rug until the evidence of his long nights were buried under his floor. Untouchable, hidden away. 

If Dream truly did not remember what had happened, then George would try to make things right. He would write a new history, whatever it might bring.

Maybe someday he could show him the journals, but for now he thought it best if they stayed hidden. 

George curled up on the couch, tugged the quilt up to his nose and stared at the spot on the floor where his skeletons hid. 

Someday, he would tell him.

The next day came with little sleep for George. He managed to nod off for a few hours but it was the crack of dawn shining into his eyes that woke him up yet again. He had shuffled into the kitchen and began preparing fruit bowls for breakfast when Dream finally made an appearance.

It was a good thing George had more than a few pairs of largely oversized clothes, because the sweater and pants Dream came out in seemed to fit him just right. 

They didn’t exchange words, and George tried not to stare as he passed him his bowl. Dream’s eyes squinted at the fruit.

“How’d you know raspberries are my favorite?” He asked, plucking one and popping it into his mouth.

George knew it hadn’t flown over Dream’s head that the raspberries were only in his bowl, and he kicked himself for his force of habit. 

“Lucky guess.” He replied breezily as they ate through the morning sun.

They spent most of the day gathering things for Dream, though he was still competent as ever and didn’t exactly need help, George just wanted to be close to him. Making him weapons and tools, collecting supplies for armor, and George helped him with doing laundry by the river. When George had to pull away to do his own chores, Dream followed to help in return.

Conversation remained mostly sparse. But with each passing hour, George could physically see Dream’s energy levels rising and hear it in his voice.

“So you’ve been here alone?” He’d asked while George showed him his preferred method of planting wheat. 

“Yeah.”

Dream was placing fencing for a bigger pasture when he had called to George: “Do you think anyone else will come?”

“I don’t know.

He hauled a chest of supplies indoors as the night fell and he asked: “Do you know if anyone’s been here before?”

“No.”

It wasn’t until they were settled inside for the night that the words became more personal. 

Dream was busy making arrows on the couch, his fingers working over the sharp flint and string that tied it in place. George had been staring for longer than intended, had been all day if he were honest, and Dream’s voice finally pulled him back to reality.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?” He’d asked, hands pausing in his work.

George tensed, arms crossed as he leaned back against the wall of his living room. The fire crackled angrily in his fireplace. 

“Like what?” He let his tone be dismissive.

But Dream was sharper now, still the same even without the memories. “Like I’m going to go rabid and attack you or something.” 

“Well,” George chewed the inside of his cheek. “I did find you buried in the ground, how should I know what to expect?”

He could tell that Dream didn’t buy it in the way his eyes narrowed ever so slightly, but he didn’t push as his gaze drifted back down to work. George let out a soft sigh, assuming the crisis averted. 

“You don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight.” Dream’s voice was soft, tentative. “It is your bed.”

“You’re my guest.” George said easily.

“You didn’t invite me.” Dream countered

“You’re always welcome.”

George snapped his mouth shut before he could stop the tender words from leaving him. Dream stopped working, stared up at him again.

“We can share.” He tried again weakly. 

“The bed?” Dream clarified.

Our lives, this world. George thought. 

“Yeah.” He felt his cheeks flush red. 

Dream’s eyes flickered over his face, searching. George wasn’t sure what he found but he eventually nodded.

“Ok.”

Things came easier after that night, after waking up tangled together. He wasn’t sure if Dream had intended to wrap himself around his small frame, but George never brought it up and let it happen with each passing morning and night. 

They never got around to building a house for Dream, as George had suggested one morning in the early days. Instead Dream looked at him and said:

“What’s wrong with this one?” 

As the house grew to accommodate the two of them, Dream’s enthusiasm in the world around them grew as well. He spent many days out exploring cave systems and collecting materials, advancing their homestead faster than George had been. When Dream teased him about it, he had only laughed and tried to forget the hours he poured over journals instead of collecting diamonds and emeralds.

When Dream had built their nether portal, he’d brought George by the hand towards the new realm.

“I’m not going to get lost, Dream.” George had chuckled as they stepped through the portal into the sweltering heat of the underworld. “You don’t have to hold my hand the whole way through.” 

“But I want to.” Dream had grinned back at him. “Look! There’s a fortress right there!” 

George followed him close, watching the excitement on his friend’s face as he pulled him along. His friend, his past lover, whatever was between now.

“You’re still so clingy...” George had muttered under his breath.

Dream only squeezed his hand and said: “Follow me. Follow my every move, okay?”

Later in the days, they’d found themselves in a cave fairly far from home. Dream’s bag lay at their sides as they remained crouched near a lava pit, George sifted through pockets of ender eyes to find the stack of bandages buried beneath them and approached Dream again.

Dream, who was sitting on a stone and looking irritated, clutching a bleeding arm. 

“Are you sure you still want to find the stronghold?” George asked as he returned to his side. “We can come back when we have better stuff.”

Dream huffed out a breath. “No. I just wanted to loot the place, that stupid spider just got lucky.” He grumbled, clearly still licking the wounds of his pride.

George pried away his fingers from the bite wound. The spider hadn’t been too big, and Dream was right; it definitely got lucky when it caught him off guard trying to chase a zombie off George. 

Despite the wound being less severe than others, it was unfortunate it had landed on Dream’s dominant arm, hence his frustration. 

George set to sanitizing the area and wiping away blood before rubbing a healing ointment across the skin.

Dream winced.

“Don’t be a baby.” George muttered.

He chuckled. “I get to be a little bit of a baby when the spider bite only happened because you needed my help.” 

“I had it under control.” George said, reaching for the gauze as he slowly began to wrap Dream’s bicep. His fingers tingled where they brushed his skin. 

Dream was watching him. “Yeah.” He paused, as if considering his words. “Maybe… Maybe I just wanted to be your knight in shining armor.” 

His voice was teasing, but it sent a jolt through George’s being. It reminded him of a time where Dream was his knight, and he was his king. A time where things were just starting to land on shakier ground. A time where the uncertainty had begun to gnaw at the fringes of their crumbling lives.

“You’re still so careless...” he muttered.

“You keep doing that.”

George’s fingers stilled against his arm. “Doing what?” He couldn’t meet Dream’s gaze. 

He shifted in a way to try to lock eyes anyways. “Saying things like you knew me before... before something. Before I woke up.” 

George didn’t say anything, finding the words lodged in his throat. He made the mistake of glancing at Dream’s face and found his green eyes pierced through the parts of his soul he tried to keep hidden under a floorboard. 

“You know me.” It wasn’t a question, but a realization. 

George finally found the will to look away and finish bandaging his arm. 

“Please tell me.” Dream pleaded, reaching for him just as he drew away.

In silence, he packed their bags and lit a torch to guide their way back through the cave. Dream, tense at his side, stopped pressing but seemed to be ready to burst at the seams with questions. Maybe he knew George wouldn’t answer, maybe he knew George a bit too much already. 

Maybe, in their time together Dream had already begun to fall in love with George all over again. 

It’s that realization that led him to seek out Dream later on in the night. Found him in their storage room, still sifting through the loot they had uncovered in the stronghold. Despite the light jokes and teasing they had made then, the air became heavy again as George slowly stepped into the light.

“Oh.” Dream said, straightening. Despite it all, his eyes still brightened when he looked upon him. “Are you okay?”

George was supposed to be asleep.

“I don’t know.” He tried to answer honestly.

Dream’s eyes softened and he took a step closer, another. Seemed ready to completely close the gap between them but stopped himself short. 

“Is there anything I can do?” 

The seams of their carefully crafted world would burst if he kept it in any longer. Despite Dream’s desire to fall into him all over again, George could not hold the parts of himself that threatened to pull apart and cry out with “I miss you.” Perhaps it was cruel that the universe led them here all over again, led George here without his other half. 

He wanted to make it whole again.

“You’re right.” George said quietly, ready to fall apart. 

Dream tilted his head in question, looking into him like he was ready to hold everything together.

“I did know you.” He paused. “I do know you.”

Before Dream could respond, it all fell out.

“I know your favorite color is green, I know you were born in the summer yet winter is your favorite time of the year. I know you get overly competitive, and cocky sometimes, and maybe you’re a bit of a hothead but your heart is always in the right place.” He paused, then continued with a stuttered breath. “I know you always try to see the best in people, and sometimes you care a bit too much. You long to see the world and god, I loved seeing it with you.”

George’s head fell into his hands.

“I fell in love with you, and you wanted me to hate you.” He tried to rub the heel of his palms into his wet eyes. “But I still love you.” 

Dream had wrapped him in an embrace before the last few words had left him. George shuddered against the warmth of his body, clung to the back of his shirt and let his tears stain the fabric as he held Dream like he wished he had all that time ago. A hand was brushing through his hair and Dream held him close, held him together.

“I wanted to tell you more.” George choked out. “That I love you.” 

“It’s okay.” Dream muttered into the top of his head. “It’s okay... I’m here.”

George let himself be carried to bed, let Dream lay him down atop the blankets as he had done the night he found him in the forest. Only this time, they laid together, and Dream cradled him close as he brushed any remaining tears from his face. 

“I wish I could remember.” Dream had murmured, and George didn’t have the heart to tell him that some things weren’t worth remembering.

Instead, he wrapped his arms around his shoulders and pulled him close.

“I know.” He whispered back.

Dream’s eyes dipped low, George’s lips parted. 

A hand came up to cup his jaw and Dream brushed his thumb gently across the light freckles. “What does... what does it mean when I say I knew I loved you the second I opened my eyes in that forest?”

George’s heart fluttered. 

“Maybe you remember more than you know.” 

Dream gave a half smile. “Or maybe I’m just destined to always be with you.” 

It hurt, hearing that, but George felt himself laugh a little nonetheless. A weak little laugh that made his eyes well up again. Dream’s expression crumbled, already opening his mouth to backtrack before George cut him off.

“Kiss me and find out.” 

Dream obliged.

He tasted like home and felt like salvation. 

George tangled his hands into his hair, held him close and let himself get lost in the feeling of Dream

Dream, whose body caged his and explored his sides with hesitant hands. 

Dream, who trailed kisses down George’s neck when he started to squirm and breathed fire across his skin.

Dream, who loved George like he would never let him go.

They woke up late into the next morning, basking in the sun and trading kisses across expanses of soft skin. They shared laughter and breathless pleas before finally dragging themselves out of bed and into their new beginning.

“You told me I’m still clingy.” Dream said against his cheek, arms wrapped around him from behind while George tried to focus on putting together their breakfast. “Am I clingy enough now?”

“Dream.” George chuckled as his hand slid up his shirt. 

“What?” He pressed kisses to his jaw, up his cheekbone, to the tip of his ear. “I just want to know if it’s any different.”

George shook his head, thinking fondly of the times Dream had barged into rooms and butted into conversations that didn’t involve him but required his presence since George was there. 

“Not really.” He laughed as Dream’s hands left a tickling sensation up his sides.

“Has anything changed?” The question was lighthearted.

George was becoming tired of the way his stomach dropped, and he was beginning to wish it wasn’t just Dream who had forgotten. He went silent, his laughter fading. 

Dream seemed to pick up on it, slowly moving away and coming to his side. “Hey.” He muttered. “Did I say something?”

George refocused.

“I’ll tell you someday, okay?” He met Dream’s gaze, let him see the weight of his emotions bare through his eyes. 

“Okay.” Dream tried to smile reassuringly.

But if he were honest, George was terrified. Someday turned into some weeks, some months. He’d probably let it turn into some years because the fear of it all would eat away at him, the guilt would consume him if ever told Dream the truth.

The truth about what he did in his past life. What he became. What he could still become.

That thought sent a chill down George’s spine. The idea of Dream becoming what had ultimately destroyed them. As the days melded together, he slowly started to believe again that it was a mercy Dream didn’t know, he wouldn’t know.

He couldn’t .

George stared at the books strewn across the floor, in Dream’s hands. 

Dream, who sat by the open floor and stared up at George with a look of horror.

“Dream-“ George tried to get out.

“What did I do?” He whispered, his gaze distant. 

The book fell away from him, the last book. George watched as his final letter fell from the pages, opened and bared to the world. He felt sick, his hands trembled around the doorknob and all he could see was carnage.

“What did I do?” Dream asked again, louder this time. 

“Dream, I can explain.” George stepped inside, left the door ajar as he dropped his things to the floor and quickly came to his side. “I can explain, how did you find these?” 

Dream was trembling, for the first time since he awoke in this world, his whole body was trembling. He let George grab his hands, stared into his eyes with a wild look.

“I...” He tried to find his words. “I wanted to fix the floorboard and I just, I don’t know. I don’t know George. I don’t know.” 

Dream. ” George tried to sound forceful, to ground him. 

“You didn’t tell me because you knew, you knew about it all. You were there.” Dream was scrambling for words, his grip tightening on George. “I let you die.” 

George tugged him into an embrace, held him tight as his frame quivered as if he would collapse. “It’s okay.”

It wasn’t, and they both knew it.

“Why don’t you hate me?” He whispered into George’s chest.

“I told you.” George said, as sure of anything he would ever be in this world. “Because I could never hate you.”

Dream clung to him. The fear, his own fear, not quite reaching him as all he could focus on was taking care of the man in his arms. At the end, and here on the floor surrounded by a twisted history, George would only focus on Dream. 

He wasn’t sure how long they sat there, his voice had gone raw from whispering reassurances to him.

“It’s in the past.”

“I’m okay, we’re alive.”

“You’re not the same person anymore.”

“But I could be.” Dream had whispered back, voice hoarse. And George felt his heart sink as he slowly pulled away to look at him. “I could still be him.”

As George searched his eyes, he found only sorrow. It wasn’t the power hungry desire that drove him to where they ended up, it wasn’t the fire that burnt hatred into their friends, it was resolution. Dream looked at him like he was already dead again.

“What are you saying.” George barely got out. 

Dream drew in a breath.

“All those people, George.” He grabbed his arms now, his shoulders dropped as if heavy. “They’re still gone, somewhere. Because of me.” 

“I hurt you, I hurt everyone.” Dream’s voice was wrecked. “What if it happens again, what if I lose control again?”

“You won’t.” George said immediately.

“You don’t know that!” Dream’s voice rose, only slightly. “You don’t know that. I don’t know that. I can’t...”

George’s hands found their way into his hair as his head fell heavy against his chest. 

“I can’t risk it.” He breathed out.

As soon as he was there, he pulled away. George stared at the empty space, then up at Dream. He looked hollow in the way his eyes avoided his, George watched as he stepped around him, stepped towards his axe, stepped towards the door.

“Dream, no.” 

George scrambled to his feet just as he reached the threshold, grabbed for purchase and found his fingers tangling in Dream’s shirt, trying to pull him back.

“Don’t leave, please.” He wasn’t crying, but his voice was desperate as he tugged. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you, I want to help you now. Please, let me.”

Dream turned in his grasp, tugged his hands away, yet held one close.

“George.” His back was to the door, but a foot was already out. “I can’t risk it.”

“You’re not him, you won’t be him. Please.” George pleaded.

“He’s just as much me as I am him.” Dream countered, his voice cracking around the words as if they physically hurt him to say. “I can’t hurt you again.”

“You won’t!” George’s voice rose, he tried to reach for Dream and thank god Dream let him.

He tugged him in, heard the axe hit the floor with a heavy thud. 

“Please.” George breathed into the air over and over and over again as he buried himself into his lovers stoic embrace. “Please, please stay... stay with me.” 

It was several, long, minutes later that Dream finally relented, his arms bringing George closer, tighter. The collapsed in a heap at the front door, clutching onto each other like they may disappear or some divine force would tear them apart again.

“I love you.” George was truly crying now, and he thought Dream was also with how his shoulders shook.

“I love you too.”

George did not leave Dream’s side the rest of the night, clung to him like a lifeline and dragged him to bed early. The three word phrase did not stop passing through George’s lips, he whispered it against Dream’s when they stayed up in bed. He continued to tell him until he fell asleep in Dream’s arms, like he couldn’t utter it enough times to make up for what he had hid from him. From what he had lost.

From what he was going to lose.

As soon as George drifted off to sleep, Dream stared down at him, slowly disengaging himself from his tight hold. He looked peaceful, he looked content.

Dream thought, in that moment, someone so beautiful and so right deserved better than whatever he could give. 

He knew George would never hate him for what he did. But he would not risk what he could do.

“I love you.” Dream said, choked, as he leaned down to press a kiss to his cheek.

“I love you.” He said again as he pulled away for a final time.

In the silence of the night, he collected his things. 

Below the moon and stars, he left a note.

Dream stared out at the world beyond him. 

“I will not let myself become him again.” He said to no one in the dark.

Without turning back, he left.

The pieces of their hearts, their world, laid bare in a withered flame.