Theseus had found a mouse in the garden, but not just any mouse, Theseus had found Clementine. Supposedly, it was his new best friend and soulmate, but Phil wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.
The Angel had always hated mice, for a reason that he could never quite place, but their little beady eyes were definitely a driving factor.
“Please don’t let him keep the mouse.” Odysseus pleaded with Phil, also perturbed by the presence of the new rodent in this house. The boy had taken to perching on the couch as far from his brother as possible without looking like a complete fool.
In the corner of the living room, Theseus sat cradling the mouse in his hands. In the end, it was the way the boy’s eyes filled with such adoration when he looked at the small creature that drove Phil to his decision.
“Clemetine can stay.” Where Theseus started grinning from ear to ear like a fiend, Odysseus looked positively distraught.
“Why can’t we just fly into town?” Tommy whined as he pulled on the sleeves of his jacket. Phil chuckled from where he stood in the doorway to the outside.
“If I fly we will scare all of the people. Plus, it's a secret, remember?” Tommy muttered something under his breath that the Angel couldn’t quite catch. He believed it to be something along the lines of ‘flying would be easier’ and ‘if only people weren’t stupid’.
“Take your time Tommy, it's not like we have anywhere to be.” Wilbur shouted, rather sarcastically, from where he stood at the edge of the front garden beside Technoblade. Tommy rolled his eyes and marched out of the front door, past Phil, who shut the door behind the boy and locked it.
“Shut up Wil.” The young boy shouted back as he approached his brother. “We’re not in a rush.”
The Angel didn’t know how long the walk into town would take them, but at least it was getting the boys out of the house. He didn’t know how their father had dealt with the shear volume of energy contained within both of them.
Ever since they had found out about the wings, Tommy had been practically bouncing off the walls. He seemed to think that Phil would take him flying one day, or maybe even help the boy grow wings of his own. The second one was, of course, a childish wish, but the Angel found it flattering none the less. It had been a long while since someone had found his wings so enthralling.
“If this walk takes us more than half an hour,” Techno grumbled, “I don’t think either of you will make it to town.” Phil laughed out loud as he walked to catch up with the three of them, who had now already started to leave the garden.
The path to town was the same one that ran through the centre of the whole forest, and the same one that, if they walked in the opposite direction, would take them to Samael’s grave. They had visited it again two weeks ago, all four of them. Wilbur hadn’t talked for days after that, in fact, the next real time the boy spoke was the day Phil’s wings were revealed.
The Angel had yet to make any progress when it came to Wilbur’s emotional stability. The boy shut down as soon as anything happened, so Phil hadn’t been able to ever ask. Tommy, however, was as close to an open book as a child could come. He wore his heart on his sleeve.
“Hey Phil.” Suddenly the younger boy had appeared at his side, and was tugging at the corner of his cloak. His wings ruffled at the friction caused between the feathers and the fabric. The Angel smiled down at Tommy.
“Hey mate, what’s up?” Phil pulled the brim of his hat down lower to shade his eyes from the light glaring through the branches of the trees above them. It was green and white to match the clothes he so often wore, and it had been a gift from Technoblade, at least that was what he suspected. Phil had woken up one morning and the hat had been sitting on the table in the living room where he sometimes slept.
Technoblade was glad that Phil liked the hat, and that he wore it regularly enough to warrant the sizeable price tag that had come with it. Techno had abandoned his mask, opting to leave it on his pillow for the first time in what would be over a year now.
“They won’t talk to me.” Tommy said accusatorially from behind Techno, drawing a deep sigh from Wilbur who walked beside him.
“I’m going to make this walk take more than half an hour.” The older boy muttered under his breath, and Technoblade huffed a laugh. From behind him, he could hear Phil chuckling at the small boy that was clinging to him like he had imprinted on the Angel.
“I’ll talk to you then Toms.” Phil swept the small boy up into his arms, who started giggling uncontrollably. Techno still hadn’t been able to work out just how old both boys were, because where Wilbur seemed far more mature than he needed to be, Tommy was the polar opposite. Not only was he short for his age, but his mannerisms around Phil were almost juvenile.
Wilbur glanced at Technoblade out of the corner of his eye. He was still unsure of the man, even months later, but it didn’t change the fact that he was family. They were similar enough, the two of them, that Wilbur didn’t mind his company at all. Though the boy found most people irritating or insufferable, Techno was tolerable enough to spend time with.
“You’re thinking.” Techno said to Wilbur, drawing him from his memories. But it wasn’t judgement or confusion in Technoblade’s tone; it was pride. Pride at the fact that Wilbur was finally feeling safe enough in his mind to retreat there again.
“Yeh.” Wilbur said, a small smile forming as he identified Techno’s tone of voice. “Yeh I am.”
The four of them reached the town in just over half an hour, much to the dismay of Tommy who promptly began running away through the streets to escape Technoblade who didn’t even try to chase the small boy.
Phil’s wings grew restless at his back amongst the small crowds of people that were gathered in the square at the town’s centre. Throughout the cobbled space sat a variety of small market stalls, each painted in a different vibrant colour. Amongst them, children wove between their wandering parents who seemed interested in anything except their offspring.
Within seconds, Wilbur had already wandered away from the crowds to find a quiet corner in some alley. His thoughts seemed to be growing more and more restless as they realised their new found freedom inside his head.
Technoblade, unlike Wilbur, had immediately immersed himself in the crowds. It had been far too long and, strangely, he had missed the sounds of it all. He hadn’t missed the people, not really, he could do without the people. But the life that moved around him, the laughter that rung in the air, that was what he had been longing for all year.
It didn’t take him long to find the stall he was looking for. Its banner was painted a bright blue, and the man who owned it was old and hunched over his wares. As Techno approached, he looked over the rows of leather bound notebooks sitting on the table.
“Hello young man.” The man’s eyes drifted over Techno from head to toe, seeming to hesitate for a second on the bright red of his cloak and its fur trim. Technoblade gave the man a small, tight smile and looked over the selection available.
He didn’t want one that looked the same as before, small and brown. He wanted something different, something that he could care for and hold onto for the rest of his life. Techno’s eyes landed on a book bound in black leather, with a small pink ribbon binding it shut.
“I’ll take that one please.” Techno pointed at the notebook he had selected, and the old man’s wrinkled hand reached out from beneath his cloak to pick it up delicately.
“My daughter chose the ribbon for this one.” He had with a warm smile, and Techno returned that same tight smile as before. The man extended his hand to Technoblade, who took the book carefully.
“How much do I owe you?” Techno was reaching into his pocket to retrieve the small pouch of money he had brought with him.
“For you, nothing at all.” The man said with a wink, before turning his back on Techno and returning to whatever fiddling he had been doing at the back of his stall. He wan’t one to argue, so instead of insisting, Technoblade walked away from the stall and returned to where Phil was standing at the edge of the square.
The Angel was holding two bags, one filled with some variety of clothes, and the other with every kind of seed the vendor had available. In front of him stood two children, one of whom Technoblade recognised to be Tommy. The other bore strange similarity to someone Technoblade had seen before, though he couldn’t quite place his finger on it.
“I want Tubbo to come home with us.” Phil looked a bit taken aback by this news, and without hearing most of the conversation, Technoblade already knew that Tommy was trying to adopt this child. “If Tubbo can’t come home with us, I’m going to stay here with him.” Phil was slowly starting to shake his head.
“I’m sorry Tommy, and Tubbo, but I’m only going to be taking one of you home with me.” Tommy crossed his arms and huffed, and Technoblade decided this was not a discussion he wanted to be a part of. Instead, he began to walk in the direction of home.
Techno raised a hand to Phil, who caught his eyes with a desperate look that pleaded for help. It was futile.
It took Technoblade fifteen minutes to make his way back to the cottage, and it took him less than one minute to realise he didn’t have the key to get inside. For a while, he contemplated walking back to town, but eventually decided that it wasn’t worth it. Instead, he sat down on the grass in the front garden.
In his hand, he still held the small black book that had been gifted to him. The leather was soft to the touch, the ribbon was smooth, and the pages inside were rough.
Technoblade opened the book to the first page, and from his pocket he pulled out a small pencil he had found tucked in the corner of his room earlier that day. On the page he made a single tally in the top left corner, and beside it he wrote three names.
Wilbur. Tommy. Phil.
Every mark in this book would not only be one day without death, it would be another day where he had protected the people he loved.