Tubbo deserves a sunrise.
On the first sunrise that peeks over L’Manburg, he’s woken up by the roof of their cramped van shaking and an empty glass bottle shattering on the floor instead of the pinks, purples, and oranges that bounce off their crooked windows. He flinches at the sudden noise. Tubbo had fallen asleep at the potions table in the back, an unfinished bottle of swiftness half-brewed in front of him. He never remembered drinking it, but his memory of the night before was spotty at best.
He picks himself up off the table and stumbles out into the morning air, which tastes like salt and soot. There’s a wistful grin that creeps up the corners of his mouth, a dream of laughter and music fading into the back of Tubbo’s mind. Tommy and Wilbur’s voices replaced the silence. Tubbo wanders out a little further, twisting around to walk backwards until he can see familiar bright red sneakers and a beanie hanging off the edge of the van.
A stray bundle of sticks snags on the back of his own tattered shoes, nearly making him fall flat on his back, but he’s caught by an arm reaching out to grab the edge of his suit. The jolt pulls a laugh out of Tubbo, who twirls around to face his saviour: Tommy, dangling halfway off the van, and Wilbur- holding onto Tommy’s waist to make sure he doesn’t topple with Tubbo.
Wilbur’s face brightens considerably when they lock eyes, and Tubbo walks closer to the van’s walls so Tommy can be safely placed back on top of the van’s roof. The closer he got, the more the air smells like gunpowder and night vision positions- both probably stolen. It tastes bitter in the back of his throat.
“What-” Tubbo laughs, tilting his head back and giving Tommy a tooth-gapped smile, which the latter shared, “-the fuck are you guys doing?”
“Join us, man!” Wilbur responds. Tubbo can hear the scraping of metal and a quiet curse before Wilbur extends both his arms for Tubbo to grab. Too built up with sleepy adrenaline to decline, he grabs Wilbur’s forearms with both hands. He’s hoisted up and scrambles for purchase on the side of the van, creating an ugly scratch on one of the windows with his boot heel.
It adds character, Wilbur would tell him later, examining it proudly with crossed arms, scars do that to things.
“We’re about to watch a proper sunrise in our new nation.”
Tubbo sits on the far end of the van roof, closest to the engine, away from the half-drunk potions and clumsily corked bottles. Whatever happened with them last night made the sight of them cause a god awful ache in the back of Tubbo’s skull. He faces Wilbur when he talks, and then twists his body to look at the sun that was hidden behind clumps of oak and birch.
“Like some Lion King shit?” He jokes as Tommy crawls over to plop down beside him. They affectionately bump heads together, trading greetings in silence.
Wilbur cackles, and Tubbo feels like he’s accomplished a hidden objective he wasn’t aware of. That’s what you get for having someone as awesome as Wilbur as an older brother, Tommy always says. Tubbo watches as Wilbur takes out a well worn guitar from his inventory and plucks away at the fraying strings. It makes a dissonant clutter of noises. “Sure, Tubbo.”
Tommy elbows Tubbo in the ribs, distracting him from attentively listening to the way Wilbur croons out a tune he doesn’t recognize. He giggles and paws at Tommy’s shoulders, shoving him further onto the van roof and getting tugged along by the cuff of his suit. The boys land in a heap of tangled limbs together. Tubbo can’t catch his breath fast enough.
A single red square of fabric is tightened around Tubbo’s wrist when Tommy yanks his arm from underneath him and settles it into his lap instead. It matches the same size as the piece of shirt he had torn off and gifted to Tommy, but made out of wool instead. “Tommy-?”
“Wilbur suggested we match.” He explains, blue eyes shining with the same sort of pride he held when playing those discs he found a few days prior. Tubbo’s heart grows warm. “Isn’t it fucking pog? I did it myself, you know.”
“It’s fucking awesome.” Tubbo agrees, nudging Tommy with his knee in thanks. He cradles his wrist close against his chest, effectively protecting it from nothing. His best friend shuffles away and goes back to hanging off the van, eyes keen on the horizon. Neither of them comment on the clammy hands or light pink flush on each other’s cheeks.
Wilbur gets up and walks between the two, crouching to Tubbo’s height and obscuring his view of the potential sunrise with his guitar: fully tuned, and ready to be played. When Wilbur deliberately shoves it into Tubbo’s hands with an eager look in his eyes, he takes it with trembling fingers. There’s a beat of silence punctured by an encouraging punch to his shoulder before Tubbo begins to play.
To put it kindly, it sounds terrible. Tubbo learns hands-on more than he does by ear, and this was his first time playing an instrument and holding something that wasn’t half his size. A few of the strings get caught on his fingers, panic clutching his chest at the idea of being the final straw at breaking the family hand-me-down. It at least draws him closer attention to the intricate details; if not to break it further, of course.
Tubbo manages to play the first five chords of something that could be interpreted as Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars, when he’s interrupted by Tommy shouting.
“Tubbo! Tubzo, you’re awful at this,” Tommy jests, and at first Tubbo thinks he’s making a sly comment about his half assed guitar skills. He humours him anyway and looks up, coming eye to eye with the sun peeking through the treetops. It’s only then that Tubbo realizes Tommy meant the sunrise: he had missed it, too focused on getting the music right.
“Tommy!” Wilbur scolds, reaching behind him to smack the boy on the back of his head playfully. They share a grin that passes through Tubbo, speaking like he was still asleep and tucked away inside the van. “My main man- don’t be mean to Tubbo .”
He chuckles good-naturedly and sets down Wilbur’s guitar beside him, pushing it towards the man. “It’s alright Wilbur,” Tubbo reassures him with a roll of his eyes, “I don’t mind! There’s always another one.”
Wilbur ruffles his hair and Tommy looks at him with so much unfiltered joy that Tubbo can’t find it in himself to be too upset anyway. Tubbo just hopes that whatever noise he made as the sun rose was good enough for the three of them. Prime knew Wilbur and Tommy certainly made enough every morning.
Tubbo should deserve a sunrise.
He wakes up midday to the taste of ash crawling in the back of his throat, scrambling out of bed and dropping to his knees as he hacks up blackened soot. Tubbo could barely get a handle of the situation, eyes screwed shut to prevent the thick smoke from making them water. Crawling on his stomach towards the stairs was the only option amongst the sound of crackling flames.
A nauseating settles in the bottom of Tubbo’s stomach, and there’s an instinctive urge to save all his shit. Piles of chests lay a few feet on the other side of the room, packed to the brim with necessities: armour, tools, pieces of freshly baked goods and seeds, unmarked maps of areas Tubbo still wanted to explore, piles of redstone still unused. But the smoke was dense enough to choke on and he could feel the heat on his face worsen, so Tubbo kept crawling forward.
Tubbo reaches the stairs in the next thirty seconds, in which two things manage to happen.
First, the tail end of his shirt catches fire, engulfing the green into something more of a charred brown. Tubbo smells the burning fabric before he feels it burn his back, and the scream that rips out of his lungs is high pitched and disorienting. Fear jumpstarts something in his bloodstream. He just about hurls himself down the stairs in a mock drop n’ roll scenario, the flames even higher on the bottom floor. It leaves Tubbo to wrestle out of his shirt and dodge quickly decaying wood that dangled from the roof, sticking to a far wall.
There’s muffled screaming coming from outside his house, and Tubbo shuts his watery eyes. He has to take a moment to calm down, even if the smoke coaxes him to do otherwise.
Secondly, Tubbo remembers the empty hives he had stashed under his bed, and there’s a split second where he considers risking his life and his lungs to go back for them. Most of his belongings at this point had to have been destroyed. The only thing left would be the stash of honey and hives underneath his bed. Tubbo didn’t want to leave his bees without a home too, right?
As if on cue, a large crack of wood against metal is heard from behind him- the beginnings of his roof starting to cave in early. It kicks up another gust of debris and smoke, the fire roaring back to life. Stunned into silence, Tubbo can only listen as the pathway to the beehives gets blocked by more and more falling wood. Tear stains and ash coat his cheeks, and Tubbo runs.
He escapes through a lower floor window, tumblng to the ground and landing roughly on the carved out pavement in front of his home, if Tubbo could even call it that now. Hunched over with knees bent, Tubbo starts to cough up sobs that tear through his throat. Despite the tears, nothing in the past few minutes feels real. Raw markings on his hands and the sweat on his brow suggests nothing but the result of another nightmare Tubbo always had; but he doesn’t wake up this time. Panic claws at his chest and forces him into hyperventilation.
Nobody comes for two minutes, and then he hears Tommy.
Relief floods Tubbo’s system and he’s stumbling towards his best friend’s voice, eyes closed. He collapses into arms that are uncomfortably cold after the warmth of the fire, but he sinks into them all the same.
“Tommy.” He mumbles out, shock numbing out at least half of his emotions. Tubbo’s pretty sure he’s still crying, but he tastes copper on his tongue. “I’m-” A cough feels like a punch to the gut, and he’s gently lowered to the cool earth. There’s shouting around him that Tubbo doesn’t want to process yet, “I’m here,” Tubbo reassures him, “I’m safe.”
Tubbo feels like he’s getting tossed around by Tommy, hands grabbing at his shoulders and cheeks to check for any burns or bruises. “Holy shit man,” Tommy’s glaring at someone Tubbo doesn’t want to look at, instead squinting up at him with teary eyes. “You scared me to death-”
The commotion that follows is a blur in Tubbo’s tainted memory. He clings to the outstretched arms of Tommy and asks for Wilbur- for his supplies- for his pets. No response is given. Tubbo tastes copper again, teeth digging into his bottom lip. He registers Dream and Sapnap’s voices shouting something akin to victory and a sinking feeling curls in the bottom of his stomach.
Tubbo’s home was alight with the reds, oranges, and yellows of a beautiful sunrise; yet the sky above him was smothered by the blackened ash and thick char from the fire. It succumbs to the beauty of destruction in a matter of minutes, leaving a pile of ash and an ache in Tubbo’s lungs that’ll last for months.
He learns quickly that anything he touches could be in imminent danger; Tommy goes without a hug for a week before Tubbo’s paranoia dulls down to a simmer.
Tubbo might not deserve a sunrise.
Dusk had just started to hug the horizon when he entered President Schlatt’s large office, the rough noise of shutting spruce doors making it sound more like an execution chamber than a mandatory meeting.
The room itself is pitch black save for a small, barely lit torch perched in the middle of Schlatt’s desk. His chair is facing away from Tubbo, and Tubbo has to squint to make out the various shadows, but the elder ram’s two horns poke out from the chair silhouette to signify he has to be on his best behaviour. Not that he ever wasn’t! Tubbo prided himself on being the perfect kid for the job: quiet, resourceful, and very polite. Schlatt told him so!
Schlatt’s chair squeaks when it turns, and Tubbo has to stop himself from greeting the President before being spoken to; a habit he’s only half broken out of.
“There you fuckin’ are!” Schlatt’s voice is rough from his recent smoke break, making Tubbo have to resist the urge to scrub the scent away from his nose. His fingers twitch despite himself. Schlatt sounds happy; a sharp grin on his face as he saunters over to Tubbo and claps a hand on his shoulder. Fingers dig into the edge of his shoulder blade. Tubbo holds back a wince.
A pro of being his right hand man was the sickly sweet praise that dripped from the other man’s mouth; a con- well... anything else.
The smile turns bitter the longer Tubbo stares at it, but he’s learnt to take things at face value if he wants anything at all. “I called you ‘bout ten times already!”
“Right-” Tubbo agrees with a curt nod, keeping his head bowed when Schlatt’s goat eyes burn into the back of his neck. It was unnerving to watch them never blink. He and Quackity used to joke about the guy never needing to sleep- but Tubbo hasn’t seen Quackity in a while. “Sorry, sir.”
“Better be.” He almost growls, and oh. Oh. Was Tubbo in trouble? Fear sinks his heart down to his stomach and Tubbo digs his blunt nails into his palms to curb the sudden vertigo. No, he can’t fail. He’s so close.
Tubbo barely regains his footing before Schlatt starts to talk again. The hand digging into his shoulder was going to leave a bruise in the morning, and Tubbo briefly considers asking Schlatt to stop. He doesn’t, because last time, his complaint was stupid. “You weren’t thinkin’ of bailing on me, were you?”
“N- no Schlatt!” Tubbo exclaims a little too enthusiastically. It earns him a raised eyebrow and a gentle shake, getting pushed against Schlatt’s side. He clears his throat. “Never.”
For Tommy. Tubbo has to remind himself. For Wilbur. Not you right now.
The hand leaves his shoulder and rests on the crown of his head, ruffling his hair and brushing gently against Tubbo’s budding horns. Schlatt looks proud, and Tubbo feels sick at the swelling warmth in his chest. “Well, get to it.” Schlatt sounds proud, Tubbo almost doesn’t recognize the tone at first. ““You’re not leaving this room until the paperwork is done- you do it so much better than me.”
The mood change switches so quickly Tubbo thinks he’s dreaming, trying to pin down that yes, the last few seconds actually happened and no, Schlatt wasn’t being nice right now. A soft noise of confusion escapes the back of his throat. He gets chills.
“You challenging me, kid?” Schlatt asks, and Tubbo feels like he’s teetering on the edge of a cliff. He opens his mouth, but before he can defend himself the hand resting on his head pushes down a little harder. It’s subtle enough not to be noticeable, but he feels it. Tubbo hunches his shoulders.
“No, President Schlatt.”
Tubbo knows better to make much noise anymore. Quiet equalled safety. When he arrives in the depths of Pogtopia the next day and Wilbur throws an arm around his shoulder, asking about TNT and fire and destruction, Tubbo keels over and gets sick. Wilbur gives him space.
Tubbo shouldn’t have a sunrise.
It takes the president of the New L’Manburg about a week and a half to fuck up his sleep schedule to the point nobody sees him anymore, not that they ever looked. Midnight becomes his new afternoon, and Tubbo often finds himself wandering the docks and small makeshift marketplace of his country- the stalls dry and deserted. Sometimes he’s accompanied by the shadow of his minute man, others he’s- lonely.
He’s not too sure which he prefers yet, sitting on the dock the furthest out and dangling his legs over the side. Tubbo’s shoes brush against the surface of the water and he watches the moon’s reflection waver. If a moonrise existed, at least that would be his and his alone.
Isolation lasts a full thirty seconds before Tubbo is interrupted from his thoughts by the sound of a guitar strum and a man upside down in a yellow sweater. He dangles in front of Tubbo’s face with a bright smile, a broken down acoustic guitar tucked under one arm. There’s blue handprints all over it, and in his other hand is a little blue stone held out as an offering. Tubbo doesn’t take it.
“Oh,” Tubbo pretends to be pleasantly surprised by his appearance, raising his legs and hugging his knees close to his chest. His suit is definitely going to end up uncomfortable and damp later, but it’s the only thing he owns. “Good morning Ghostbur.”
“Morning?” The ghost echos, swooping down and hovering just above Tubbo’s right shoulder. He rolls over mid air and a shiver crawls up Tubbo’s spine when Ghostbur’s hand passes through his cheek. The man looks almost invisible at nighttime. “But Tubbo! The sun just set!”
When Tubbo laughs, it’s forced and makes his tongue feel heavy. “Hah-” He pushes his chin in between his knees and squeezes his eyes shut, before lifting his head and giving Ghostbur his best grin. “It did, didn’t it?”
“I guess I’m just a night owl.”
“I guess!” Ghostbur parrots back with equal enthusiasm, flipping himself around and settling down to sit beside Tubbo on the dock. They share a few minutes of silence before Ghostbur rests his head against Tubbo’s, and the boy lets him. “You look a little tired.”
“I’m fine, Ghostbur.” That was a half-lie, but Tubbo didn’t have the heart to lie to the friendly ghost or tell the truth to himself. He fiddles with the edges of his suit sleeves, picking at a frayed thread. With a sigh, Tubbo pushes himself to stand and snickers when Ghostbur promptly falls through the dock without Tubbo’s shoulder for support. “Thank you though.”
Tubbo makes six laps around the SMP and builds another redstone contraption just outside his home before he sneaks back inside. Except for the faint light in the minute man’s home, nobody blinks an eye. This repeats for as long as it needs to: which is to say, until he’s forcibly woken up to screams about another fire.
There’s grey bags under Tubbo’s eyes when he exiles Tommy. He’s spared two looks that day before he shuts himself in again, and they’re both wrathful glares. New L’Manburg docks creak under the weight of holding up a president that wanted nothing more than to have fun with friends. It feels ironic that Tubbo befriends ghosts and shadows the easiest.
Tubbo doesn’t deserve a sunrise, and maybe he never did.
At least the universe decides to agree with him this time, because he walks back from Logstedshire with thick grey clouds as far as the eye could see, and the dreary weather stays stagnant for longer than normal. Even the flowers that stick out from the Prime Path look an inch away from death, a stench of a storm hanging in the air.
He makes it two steps into the entrance of his Bee Dome, runs face first into Ranboo’s chest, and something in him breaks. When Tubbo collapses, he can feel two arms snake around his waist to catch him before he hits the ground. The scream that falls from Tubbo’s mouth dissolves into a coughing fit.
“Tub- Tubbo?” Ranboo asks, trying to coax his attention away from his current breakdown. It didn't work, but the attempt was sweet. “Are you alright?”
He’s not, obviously. Tubbo’s face is caked with tears that make his cheeks feel gross and sticky, and his lungs hurt from the anguish he had just dumped in front of Ranboo. His suit pants were going to get mud and grass stains on the knees, not that Tubo particularly cared. Carefully, Tubbo reaches inside his suit jacket and pulls out the compass he had tucked into a pocket.
The needlepoint spins as if it’s been possessed, and Tubbo can only blankly stare as fear claws at his chest. Almost as abruptly as it started, the needle slows to a stop, and it never moves again. He almost wants to throw it, but he can’t.
It’s pointing directly at Tubbo.
Tubbo’s face is pushed into Ranboo’s chest, and he vaguely registers that he’s getting hugged. A soft hiss is heard when tears drop from his cheeks onto Ranboo skin, but Tubbo doesn’t have it in him to wrestle away from the hold. After he finishes crying, he makes a mental note to apologize.
It takes a second for Tubbo to find his words, talking more to himself than the person holding him. “When will it be my turn?”
“I don’t-” Tubbo’s not talking to Ranboo, but his responses are creating a feeble back and forth that stops Tubbo from spiralling too hard at least. “I’m not quite sure what you mean.”
He shakes his head, trying to push himself away from the comfort of Ranboo’s arms. Tubbo having that, while Tommy- Tommy had dirt, it didn’t seem fair. Life wasn’t fair, and all he wanted to do was at least make it even. “That’s a bit selfish of me, isn’t it?” Tubbo asks, answering his own question, “I didn’t even see the message.”
Recognition flashes in Ranboo’s eyes.
“Tubbo?” He tries again, tentative. Now Ranboo’s hands were shaking as he held Tubbo, cradling the young ram’s body like he was about to bolt.
A thunderstorm rolls over their heads, and Tubbo’s hands instinctively reach for his trident. It was perfect travel weather, with a chance of burning so harshly he could relive the execution if he really wanted to. Going out with a bang was his specialty these days, and it was still instinctive to extend his life to Tommy’s. But if the compass no longer has a destination, where was Tubbo supposed to wander?
It hadn’t even been ten minutes and the president of New L’Manburg already felt like a living ghost; which reflected the dirt beneath his feet more than he’d like to believe and admit.
He pushes off Ranboo, who doesn’t waste half a second following after him as he ambles out of the Bee Dome. The trident in Tubbo’s hand is held with a white knuckled grip, and the rain that falls masks the fresh tears trickling down his cheeks. When Tubbo speaks, it’s to the server itself: a challenge, a promise, a dare to the mechanisms that bend and sway to the whim of gods he never sees.
“I wonder if I’ll get one too.”
For the next two weeks, the thunderstorm never dissipates. Tubbo manages to get struck fifteen times, and he just keeps counting. A death message never comes.
Tubbo gets a sunrise anyway.
“Come,” Ranboo coaxes, slumped lazily against the stone brick walls of the outpost Tubbo just finished building. One of his hands hangs outstretched in the air, an open palm facing upwards for Tubbo to take if he was so willing. The readiness in Ranboo’s mismatched eyes scares him. Or maybe it was the fondness in his smile; the trust he never understood. “Watch the sunrise with me.”
Tubbo’s internal clock is fucked, but faded orange and purple sunlight filters through the glass windows and his throat closes up on instinct. Ranboo lets him stare at his hand, eyes wide, like a doe in the middle of a highway. Patience Tubbo didn’t deserve, love Tubbo was worried he’d break much like everything else.
Options were futile and Tubbo knew he was stalling the inevitable. They had never shared a proper sunrise before: if Ranboo wasn’t busy with Michael and gathering materials, Tubbo would make himself busy, building contraptions while stuck in boxes of his own creation. It was the only option he ever had- if only to avoid situations like this. In any other circumstances, the scene would be romantic. Life-changing, even.
But of course Tubbo has to be Tubbo, right?
He doesn’t know what to do, so he tells the truth. It tastes bittersweet. “I can’t.”
Ranboo lowers his hand. “Oh.”
The way his husband’s face falls even though Ranboo clearly tries to mask it adds an extra layer of hurt on top of his past memories. Tubbo’s heart surges against his ribcage.
“I’m kidding.” Tubbo playing with his silver tongue now, silently begging for Ranboo not to catch on. Perhaps in due time, he could finally shed the last few instincts he held onto as a spy. Today though, Tubbo took his husband’s hand and prayed that the shaking wasn’t his. “Let’s watch the sunrise.”
Ranboo almost buys it, but he squints at the boy as they walk to the ledge of the outpost and come to a stop at the railings. “Tubbo?”
Tubbo watches Ranboo bend down and grab his hand, curling a pinkie around his own. Their rings rub against each other; the diamonds scratch against the gold. It feels like cheap comfort, but Tubbo knows that Ranboo doesn’t understand why his husband acts three worlds away most days. To be fair, the feeling was mutual. “We’ll watch it with Michael next time.”
But this was an attempt, like the countless offers before it. The slowly climbing heat makes his skin prickle. Tubbo feels hollow despite the space that his family holds in his heart, and he bitterly wonders if something is wrong with him. There’s a dull ache on the side of his cheek; the scar pulsing as he tries to mimic Ranboo’s soft smile. Even after so many months, what he loved had been his downfall. What if he starts to love waking up like this?
Tubbo realizes he’s scared of sunrises when he responds with gritted teeth, “Yeah,” He promises, “we will.”