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The Witch's Tower

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Tommy hates every inch of the tower. Its the worst building ever constructed by human hands. All cold stone and spiral staircases, dusty and drafty and lonely. No fortress alongside it, no town at its base. Just the tower. 

Just Tommy and Dream. 

And now this fucker. 

Tommy turns a critical eye to the witch. He’s dressed for traveling. In a heavy coat with a full pack on his shoulders, but it doesn’t look like he was planning to go far. 

He’s probably from a nearby coven, the original owners of the tower if Tommy has to make a guess, sent out to patrol their territory.  Which just makes him worse in Tommy’s opinion. He might have even helped build the wretched thing. 

Tommy scowls down at him. He looks ridiculous too. Tall and spindly like the tower itself. He isn’t stone and cold distance like the tower though. He’s dressed in warm browns, a few hints of green and yellow-gold. Warm, earthy colors.

 Like the ivy vines and flowers that used to crawl up the outside of the tower, the only redeeming quality of this stupid fucking building before Dream tore them all down. 

Tommy nudges the witch with his foot. He gets a mumbled protest. He’s gonna have to carry this fucker up all those goddamn stairs isn’t he? 

“Take him to the spare room,” Dream says, “Take his gear, and any components he might have, be thorough.” 

Suddenly having to carry the stupidly tall witch doesn’t seem so terrible. Not if Dream is going to talk to him. 

“Okay!” Tommy practically chirps. Maybe a few months ago he’d be embarrassed to be so blatantly eager for Dream’s interaction. Maybe a year ago he’d have laughed and told Dream to haul the heavy asshole up the stairs himself. 

A lot has changed since last year, since a few months ago. 

Dream grunts, he’s already turning away but the warmth lingers, filling up every inch of Tommy like a flower that is finally seeing the sun after far too long. He misses Dream. Misses the way he used to be. Misses the time before left and never really came back. 

(Dream tried to leave again, but this time Tommy went with him, and he thinks Dream resents him for that.)

*** 

Tommy flops the witch down on the bed--his bed, not that he’s really been using it-- and goes about stripping him of every pouch, pocket, and possible channel that he has. 

The big brown coat obviously comes off first, that thing is definitely loaded with spells and ingredients and who knows what else. There’s a dagger on the guy’s belt that Tommy is definitely keeping along with a million other bits and bobs.

 Clearly he was traveling, or planning to be traveling for awhile. Maybe this isn’t even his tower, maybe he’s another wandering witch, away from his coven, away from his familiar. 

Tommy ties him by one wrist to the bedframe. Serves the fucker right. 

And then there’s nothing to do but wait for him to wake up. Nothing to do but wait and tell Dream that Tommy’s done as he asked. 

He creeps up the tower stairs, he swears that they get colder beneath his feet each one he ascends. The air itself seems chillier too. There is a light beneath the door at the top of the tower. Thick and oak, carved with images of woodland animals gathered around a massive tree. Tommy knocks on the face of a hare. 

“Dream?” 

There is no reply. 

(There is never a reply.)

Tommy pushes the door open, “its done,” he says, and once Dream might have looked up at him, might have smiled and thanked him and let Tommy see what he was working on. Would have let Tommy slip into his other form and lounge on his shoulders, narrating as he worked and telling jokes, laughing and shouting to the other members of their coven. 

Now Dream only grunts and continues trailing his fingers down the pages of an ancient grimoire. Something he’d picked up on his travels. The only thing he seems to care about now. 

“Do you want some lunch?” Tommy asks hopefully. 

“No,” Dream says, “go away Tommy, you’re distracting me.” 

Tommy swallows down the hurt, needy thing in his chest. His witch, his witch, has changed. He hardly feels like Tommy’s anymore. Its like he left all over again.

(Tommy resents him for that as much as Dream resents him for staying.) 

***

He makes lunch for Dream. Who knows when he’ll tear himself away from the book, but he’ll be hungry when he does. Tommy picks at the food as he’s making it, but he isn’t really hungry. He puts his food on Dream’s plate. 

A final portion, he takes up to the witch in the spare room. He doesn’t expect the man to be up yet, he walked straight into the stun-wards and got a solid hit of them, but at least he can have something when he wakes up. 

Only when Tommy enters the room, the guy is awake. He’s awake and he’s standing by the bed looking completely and utterly pissed.  

Tommy freezes, bowl nearly slipping out of his hands as he stares wide eyed. The guy looks. A lot taller when he’s actually standing up. His eyes are brown, blazing with anger. 

“Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you think you’re doing in our territory?” 

Shit.  

Tommy swallows and carefully lets the door fall shut behind himself. Shit, shit, shit. 

“Um,” he croaks. Fuck this guy is pissed. There is something instinctive in him that cowers from the anger of a witch, even if its not his witch.  The last time he saw a witch this angry was when Dream realized that Tommy had followed him. When Sapnap realized that Tommy was going to follow him. 

The witch has untied the rope around his wrist. That’s not ideal. Fuck. 

“We thought this place was abandoned,” Tommy says desperately as the witch takes a menacing step forward. “We didn’t know it was yours.”

The witch pauses, regarding him with narrowed eyes. “We?” 

“My--Dream and I. We...left our coven.” 

A hint of tension drops out of the man’s shoulders. “I see. And you’re...Dream’s, what, apprentice?” 

“No,” Tommy snaps, irrationally stung by the assumption. “I’m his--he’s my witch.” 

The man blinks and actually takes a step back. “You’re a familiar?” 

There’s something about the shock in his voice. The way his eyes flick to the door behind Tommy, like he expects someone to come through it. The way he immediately unclenches his fingers so they’re no longer in fists but hanging harmlessly at his sides. The way he bows his head for just a moment. 

Tommy has met witches from other covens before. Before Dream left, before everything changed. He remembers this, the reverence, the way that witches saw him as something precious and worthy, even if he wasn’t theirs. The way that Dream used to hold him close whenever they went out. Like he was something worth protecting, cherishing. 

It makes something in him ache, and Tommy suddenly hates the brown haired witch. 

“What?” he snaps, “now you’re too good to talk to me bitch?” If he were in his animal form he would be bristled, back arched, tail lashing, teeth bared. 

“No, no,” the man says, taking another step back. “I just--I didn’t realize, my apologies.” 

Tommy grinds his teeth and looks away. “Whatever.” 

He can feel the man’s eyes on him, studying him. Tommy bites at the inside of his cheek. He feels ashamed, all of a sudden. It was one thing to be so messy when it was just him and Dream. Then it wasn’t so bad for his clothes to still be travel-ragged, for his cheeks to be sunken, for his eyes to have bags under them. 

Here, now, under the eyes of this stranger he knows he looks terrible. Dream used to ruffle his hair and then gently fuss it back into place, used to get him presents and clothes and food, used to let Tommy fall asleep curled in his lap. 

“My name is Wilbur, may I speak with your witch?” Wilbur asks suddenly, his voice respectful, “my coven and I can probably find a place for you both to stay until you get back on your feet.” 

Tommy’s magic flares. He doesn’t want this witch to talk to Dream. Dream is his, Dream barely talks to Tommy, why should he talk to this asshole instead? 

Its already impossible to pry him away from his study for food, let alone this. He doesn’t want Wilbur to get the words that Dream won’t give him. The attention that Dream won’t give him. Dream is his.  

“No.” Tommy snaps, “he’s busy, you can’t talk to him.” 

Wilbur blinks at him, shocked, but he holds his hands up in surrender. “Okay, I won’t then. It can wait until he has time.”

“He’s mine,” Tommy hisses, slamming the bowl down on the table. He doesn’t wait for Wilbur to reply before he leaves, sealing the door behind himself with a flare of magic. 

(is he? Part of him wonders, is he really yours at all anymore?)

Chapter Text

“Dream?” 

There is no answer, but he doesn’t expect one. 

“Its getting late,” Tommy says hesitantly, “you didn’t get lunch, aren’t you hungry?” 

Dream sighs, aggravated, and sets his quill aside. “I told you not to disturb me.” 

Tommy wilts, “I know. I’m sorry. I was just worried about you.” 

“I don’t need you to worry about me!” Dream snaps, “I’m fine on my own.” 

Tommy flinches back, “I know,” he says softly. “I just--” 

Dream sighs again, “alright. Fine. Fuck it.” He stands and Tommy skitters out of his way as he storms through the door. 

He trails in Dream’s wake as he descends the spiral staircase that runs through the tower, but Dream doesn’t go down to the kitchen. Instead he hesitates at the second floor. “That witch,” he says, “did he wake up?” 

“Yes,” Tommy says promptly, “I--he wanted to talk to you but I told him you were busy.” He looks at the back of Dream’s neck hopefully. Aching for a simple word of praise or gratitude, even a grunt. Some acknowledgement. 

Dream silently steps off the stairs and heads to Wilbur’s room. Tommy follows after him, like always. 

Dream tries to open the door but its still sealed. Oh. Whoops. 

“Sorry,” Tommy mutters, slipping forwards to touch the handle. For one shining, glorious moment, Dream’s close enough to touch. For Tommy to feel his warmth, for his shoulder to touch Tommy’s the way he used to bump them together. 

Dream steps away, and the moment is over. 

Tommy has to focus to unseal the door. Its harder to do magic on purpose now, without Dream to drain away the excess, to help settle him. To help direct it. 

Dream says he doen’t need Tommy anymore, but Tommy still needs Dream. He needs him so badly.

Finally, the lock clicks and he opens the door. 

Wilbur is sitting on the bed, looking bored. He is lounging against the headboard, one arm flung over his eyes, but he sits up as soon as the door opens. He frowns as Tommy walks in, but then his eyes find Dream. 

There is a split second where something odd crosses his face. Something almost offended, almost confused. It goes by too quickly for Tommy to really tell. 

“Hello,” Wilbur says, his voice perfectly calm, “you must be Dream. Your familiar was telling me you were busy. I’m so glad that you made time in your busy schedule for me.” 

Dream snorts softly, “who are you?” 

Wilbur stands and offers a small bow, “Wilbur Soot. My coven owns this tower, but your familiar tells me that you’ve left your own coven so we won’t take this as trespass.” 

“Used to,” Dream says.

Wilbur blinks, “pardon?” 

“Used to,” Dream repeats, “your coven used to own this tower. Now its mine.” 

“Dream--?” Tommy begins, but Dream shoots him a dark glare and he shuts his mouth with a click, taking a step back in surprise. Dream hasn’t looked at him like that since he caught Tommy following him. 

Wilbur stands, his eyes narrow. “Would you care to repeat that?” 

“This tower used to belong to your coven,” Dream says, “now it is mine. And I know that your coven isn’t going to do anything about it.” He takes a step closer, confident, arrogant. “You know how I know?” 

“Enlighten me,” Wilbur says stiffly. 

Dream smiles, but it isn’t the way he used to smile. It isn’t mischief and laughter and fun. Its dark, sharp, angry. “Because they don’t even realize you’re missing, and when they do? I have the perfect hostage. You,” Dream practically purrs. “They won’t so much as crack a brick on this tower, or I’ll crack open your head.” 

Tommy takes a sharp breath. This-- this is beyond staying at a seemingly-abandoned tower. This is beyond a misunderstanding. This is practically a declaration of war.  

“Are you insane?” Wilbur asks, voicing Tommy’s own thoughts. “You’re alone, in the middle of our territory, and you want to start a fight? Think of your familiar!” He gestures emphatically to Tommy, “he’s already lost a coven, are you going to make him lose you too? Because I assure you, you will not win this. You have no idea whose territory you’re on. Let me go, and we can forget all of this.” 

Dream turns cold eyes to Tommy. He’s looking at him, he’s paying attention to him. Tommy soaks it up hungrily. 

“He chose to come with me,” Dream says, “I’m not responsible for that.” 

(He doesn’t say “he’s not my familiar” and Tommy is pathetically grateful.) 

Wilbur gapes at Dream, but Dream is apparently done talking. He turns on his heel and sweeps out of the room, only hesitating for a moment at the door. 

“Tommy?” 

“Yes?” Tommy asks, taking a hopeful step forward. Maybe Dream is waiting for him to come with, maybe he wants to apologize, get Tommy away from this strange witch that he has made into their enemy. 

“Make sure he stays here,” Dream says, and then the door shuts behind him. 

Tommy feels like he’s ripped out his heart and taken it with him. ( Again, whispers a spiteful part of his mind) The room is silent for a long moment, two long moments. Tommy stares at the door, waiting, wanting, wishing, that Dream would come back. Would laugh that stupid tea-kettle wheeze and say it was all a joke. 

“Okay,” he whispers, far too late. Dream is gone, and he isn’t coming back. 

“Are--” Wilbur says behind him, but Tommy ignores him. He leaves and seals the door behind him. 

*** 

He brings Wilbur food and water. Dream didn’t tell him not to and hopefully, hopefully when Wilbur’s coven finds them they will find some mercy in their hearts if Wilbur was at least treated well. Maybe they won’t kill Dream if Tommy begs them not to. 

So every day he goes out and he hunts and he gathers, its hard to find food for three on his own, but really its more like food for two and a half. Tommy isn’t hungry much these days, and Dream hardly pries himself away from the stupid fucking book long enough to eat. 

Every time he comes into the room, Wilbur tries to talk to him, and Tommy hates it. Because Wilbur actually does speak to him, acknowledges him, looks at him instead of through him. 

Like Dream used to. 

“Hi Tommy,” Wilbur says, quiet and respectful when he comes in with lunch. “That smells really good, did you make it?” 

Tommy grits his teeth and shrugs. 

“You’re a good cook,” Wilbur continues with a small laugh. “My dad tried to teach me but he’s not that great at cooking either.” 

Dream had taught Tommy to cook. They’d learned together. Standing shoulder to shoulder, puzzling over a recipe book like it was a tome of ancient, unknowable magic. 

They’d burned a lot of stuff in the beginning, but everything always tasted better for having made it themselves. 

Everything tastes like ash and cinders to Tommy now. 

Tommy hands Wilbur the plate roughly and pulls away. His head feels light all of a sudden and then Wilbur catches his wrist in his hand.

 Tommy freezes, stiff and uncertain. Another witch is touching him, not his witch, and he should hate that. But he doesn’t. It makes him feel weak at the knees, like he wants to collapse into  cat form and crawl into Wilbur’s lap and let him run his hands over his fur, let him soothe Tommy’s magic. 

“Sorry,” Wilbur says, letting go of his wrist. They were probably only touching for a split second. “It looked like you were gonna fall. I’m sorry for touching you.” 

He should snap and snarl, tell Wilbur never to touch him. 

“Its--” his voice is hoarse and ragged, “its fine.” 

Its better than saying “please do it again.” 

Wilbur frowns, from the corner of his eye, Tommy can see him trying to look at his face. He doesn’t let him. He keeps staring down at the bedspread. 

“Are you okay?” Wilbur asks, his voice soft, gentle. “You don’t look too good. Have you been eating?” 

“Not hungry,” Tommy mumbes reflexively. 

“I think you are,” Wilbur says, still in that soft, gentle voice, “when was the last time you ate?”  

Tommy shrugs. He picked at the food while he was cooking, but he doesn’t think that actually counts. 

“Why don’t you sit down for a second,” Wilbur says, “just until you feel a bit better, you don’t look steady.” 

And Tommy should glare at him, should shout and snarl and storm away. Instead, like a puppet on strings, he lowers himself to sit on the far corner of the bed. Out of Wilbur’s reach, but still there. He can feel Wilbur’s eyes on him like a physical weight, grounding him. He is seen.  

He feels like he’s been invisible for far too long, barely tethered to the earth, liable to float away. 

“Good,” Wilbur says in that same low, gentle tone. Tommy shivers. “You’re doing good,” Wilbur repeats. 

Tommy shakes his head and feels a bit more grounded for it. “Fuck off,” he snaps, struggling to stand. Fuck, his legs are being weird. Rubbery and numb like he sat on them for too long. 

“Easy,” Wilbur says, “I’m trying to help.” 

“I don’t need your fucking help,” Tommy snarls, “I’m fine. I’m fucking fine.” 

He manages to get his body to cooperate enough to stagger to the door and slam it shut behind him. His magic flares out, catching his intent but he has no witch to guide the energy. No witch to soothe the ragged edges of it.

 He gets the door sealed, but it leaves him shaky and exhausted, and he has to lean on the wall across the hallway. Gradually, his knees give out, and he slips to the floor. 

Wilbur is in the bed he was sleeping in anyway, there’s no real problem with falling asleep here. Its not that different from sleeping at the bottom of the tower, and this way he doesn’t have to go down all those fucking stairs. 

*** 

He makes soup for...whatever meal this is. He’s lost track of time and he hasn’t been outside in awhile. He doesn’t have the energy or the drive to go out and collect things. Neither food, nor spell components that will sit and wither away at Dream’s side. 

He used to bring his witches spell components, or pretty rocks, trinkets and knick knacks and magic and they would accept each one like the gift that they were. They would hold them reverently, use them wisely, or display them prominently. 

Sapnap and Dream used to play-fight over who got the best shells when Tommy would gather them from the shore. George had a whole terrarium for the hermit crab that Tommy brought back for him on accident. 

Now the herbs he brings wilt, the rocks he finds are untouched, be they mundane or gleaming with magic. 

Dream won’t accept his gifts, but he will eat, sometimes, if Tommy reminds him enough. So he makes soup. Its easy to keep warm over the fire, so that Dream doesn’t have to eat cold food. 

Tommy isn’t a witch, he doesn’t do magic through herbs and lines, he is a familiar. He is energy and potential, his magic is unharnessed, Wild, it spikes and flares with his emotions, but overall it is unfocused. 

As much as he tries, he can’t imbue the soup with the soft comfort that it would have if he and Dream had made it together. As witch and familiar. 

At most, the soup tastes of too much salt and bitter sorrow. 

He doesn’t want to bring it to Wilbur. He doesn’t want to see Wilbur again. He wishes that Wilbur wasn’t here, wasn’t respectful and kind and worried. Wasn’t everything that Dream used to be and now isn’t.  

But Wilbur’s coven is going to look for him at some point. Not for a while, probably, because he was dressed for travel, but they’ll come looking eventually. Tommy’s only hope of getting them to spare Dream is for Wilbur to vouch for him. So he has to treat him well. 

He probably gets too much food for one person, he reflects as he carries the tray upstairs. A large bowl of soup, two rolls, a salad made from greens he found in the tower’s garden a few days ago. 

Dream won’t eat, but Wilbur does. 

Tommy tries to ignore how much that soothes part of him. 

Its hard to unseal the door. He’d sealed it through brute force last time he was here. His emotions, running high on the desire to get away from Wilbur had made it easy to seal him away behind the door. 

He isn’t as eager to open it again, his magic is slippery and uncooperative. Tommy sighs as the seal again refuses to break. At this rate Wilbur is going to starve to death and his coven is going to come and kill Dream and Tommy too and then it won’t even matter that Dream hates him now. 

Tommy rests his head against the door and takes a deep breath. 

Once Dream might have rested a hand on his back, might have murmured, easy and confident, “you can do it Toms, just focus, I’ll help.” And he would have steadied Tommy’s magic and made it easier to make it do what he wanted. 

Dream is still up in the top of the tower. With his stupid fucking book.  

Tommy hates that book so much he’s surprised his magic hasn’t made it combust in Dream’s hands. 

“Tommy?” Wilbur calls through the door so suddenly it makes him jump. The dishes rattle on the tray and he nearly drops the salad. 

He grits his teeth and firms his hold on it. Just open the door, give him his food, and walk away. That’s all he has to do. 

He takes a deep breath and forces the door to open. It sticks and hesitates, but it finally opens. Wilbur is standing, halfway between the bed and the door, like he was coming closer. As soon as Tommy gets it open though, he returns to his usual place sitting on the mattress. 

“Hey,” he says, “you okay?” 

“Food.” Tommy grunts, ignoring the question. He dumps the tray on the bed as carelessly as he can without spilling it and spins on his heel. 

“Tommy?” Wilbur says and Tommy freezes without meaning to. There is gentle worry in Wilbur’s voice, like he actually cares. “Thank you,” Wilbur says, “for making food. Have you had anything?” 

Tommy should leave. Should walk away. That was the plan: go in, give the food, get out. 

Instead he shrugs a little bit, his shoulders tense, his back still turned to Wilbur. 

“Do you want to have some of this?” Wilbur asks, “I mean, its a bit much for me,” he laughs a little bit. Its a warm sound, a little hesitant, but nice all the same. Its nothing like Dream’s stupid wheeze-laugh that Tommy hasn’t heard in so long. 

“I’m fine,” Tommy croaks, probably too long after Wilbur’s question for it to sound natural. Whatever. 

“Please?” Wilbur says, “I’m bored, man, I’ve got nothing to do but sit around in here and count bricks. At least talk to me for a bit, even if you’re not hungry.” 

Tommy should say no. Should just ignore him even. But...well. If he wants Wilbur to talk his coven into sparing Dream they should be...at least aquaintances, right? Maybe even a little bit friendly? 

Besides, it isn’t as though he has anything else to do. 

“Fine,” he says, and sits on the edge of the bed. 

From the corner of his eye, he can see Wilbur smile at him. 

Tommy hates Wilbur so fucking much.

Chapter Text

From the way Wilbur is eating it, you’d think the fucking soup was made of golden apples and ambrosia. He’s going slow about it, like he’s savoring every fucking bite. 

“This is really good,” he says for the sixteenth goddamn time in the past minute.  

Tommy grunts and keeps staring at the wall. 

Fucking finally, Wilbur leans back with a sigh, like he’s just had the most satisfying meal in the godddamn world. “Well,” he says, “I think I’ve eaten all I can. There’s still plenty here though.” 

Tommy grunts again. 

“Do you want it?” Wilbur asks. 

“‘M fine.”

“You sure? The bowl’s still kind of full, It’d be easier to carry it back down all those stairs if it was a bit more empty right?” 

Tommy stares at him blankly. He hadn’t even thought about the stairs. He’s going to have to go back down them. He looks at the bowl. It is pretty full. 

“I could just dump it,” he mutters, mostly to himself. 

“Oh come on,” Wilbur says, “that’d be a waste of food, just have some.” 

Tommy sighs, but Wilbur pushes the tray closer and he doesn’t really feel like arguing. He rips off a chunk of the second roll and dips it in the broth. 

The soup is still warm at least, but its tasteless in his mouth. Tommy sighs and tries to gather up the will for a second bite. 

“You’re doing good,” Wilbur says, so quietly Tommy almost doesn’t hear him. “Have another bite, come on.” 

For some reason, Tommy obeys. Its still tasteless and sits in a sickening lump in his belly, but Wilbur smiles at him and says, “one more? For me?” 

Tommy shouldn’t be doing anything ‘for him’ but he finds himself tearing another bit off the roll anyway. And then another, and another. Suddenly he realizes that he’s starving. 

“Easy,” Wilbur reminds him, “if you haven’t eaten in awhile going for too much at once will make you sick.” 

Tommy hesitates, spoon halfway to his mouth--the roll is entirely gone now, far too quickly. He can definitely feel his stomach protesting, but he’s so hungry. 

“You can have more later,” Wilbur says, “right? You’re the one who’s cooking.” 

Tommy nods, letting the spoon fall back into the bowl. He’s exhausted, too, now that he’s full. The bowl is gently taken out of his hands and Tommy grunts a thank you and then lets himself curl up at the bottom of the bed. For the first time in months he feels...content. Taken care of. 

Its easy to fall asleep like that. 

***

He wakes up and knows its midnight. Some things familiars just know, this is one of them. Midnight on the Full Moon used to be...it used to be something. A celebration, a gathering. 

When he was younger, newly Happened, Dream and Sapnap and George had woken him up for Full Moon Midnights and they would go out and bask in the light of it. Laugh under the moon, run through the sand, barefoot and wild. They would walk along the shore and listen to the stories the waves whispered if you listened close enough. 

When he got older, he was allowed to stay up with them. All of them laughing and talking even after Midnight was over, eating special treats, whispering ancient spells to renew the earth of their territory. They’d stay up until dawn and then collapse in a heap together on the dry sand and sleep til noon. 

Tommy wakes up at Midnight on the Full Moon. Alone. Dream is probably awake, but Tommy knows he won’t want to do anything. Not talk, not go outside, not eat. He only wants to read that stupid fucking book. 

Only this time, Tommy wakes up to Midnight on the Full Moon and he technically isn’t alone. Wilbur is sitting up in the dark, cross legged on the floor, bathed in the light of the moon coming through the window. 

He looks lonely and sad too. He’s away from his coven too. 

But he’ll go back to them. He’ll go back to laughter and joy and forest secrets whispered by the trees. Tommy will be here, or somewhere else, with Dream. But not with Dream. 

Not as with Dream as he wants to be. 

Like the moon, he is alone, distant, abandoned. Not even the stars will come close enough to comfort him. 

Tommy sighs and sits up, the bed creaking underneath him as he pulls his knees up to his chest. Wilbur jerks a little bit and his eyes flutter open. “Hey,” he says in a quiet whisper. 

Tommy nods silently. He doesn’t want to talk to Wilbur. 

“Its good you’re up, your witch is probably gonna be looking for you.” 

Tommy hugs his knees, “no he isn’t.” 

Wilbur blinks at him, surprised. “Oh,” he says, turning back to the window. “I’m sorry.” 

“Shut the fuck up,” Tommy snarls, but there’s no real fire in it. “I don’t need your pity, he’s just busy.” 

Dream is always busy. 

“Its not pity,” Wilbur says, turning to look at him again, “I just--no one should be alone on Full Moons.” 

“Yeah, well we both are,” Tommy snaps. 

“We’re alone together, at least,” Wilbur says with a hesitant smile playing at his lips. 

“No we’re not,” Tommy snarls, and he storms across the room. Unsealing the door takes even longer this time. His magic wants to answer the call of the moon, wants to celebrate and dance, wants community and family. 

But Tommy has Dream. 

( Do you, though? Part of him wonders.) 

Tommy rests his head against the stupid fucking door that won’t fucking open and tries not to fucking cry. 

“Tommy,” Wilbur says softly, “you don’t have to leave. You can stay.” 

“I hate you,” Tommy hisses, whipping around to face him. “Why did you have to come here?” 

Wilbur doesn’t even flinch, “it was just a patrol of our territory, my first one on my own,” he gives a wry smile, “doubt they’ll be letting me do that again any time soon.” 

Tommy snorts and lets his back fall against the door. Slowly, he slips down, until he’s sitting on the floor like Wilbur, his knees hugged to his chest again. “You don’t...no familiar?” 

Wilbur shakes his head, “nah, my dad, our Heart, he has Techno, but I’ve never bonded with a familiar on my own.” 

Tommy’s heart aches at the mention of its brother. Not a heart of flesh and blood, but one of magic and love. 

Every coven formed around a Heart. The witch that they all connected to, that they all were connected to each other through, witches and familiars both. The Heart bound them all, the Heart kept them all. The Heart led, the Heart mitigated conflicts, bound familiars, made the magic of the coven flow smoothly. 

Tommy’s Heart ripped himself out. 

Dream left them, and George and Sapnap stayed behind, but Tommy couldn’t. So he snuck along after him. He followed his Heart, even when his Heart abandoned him. 

“Tommy,” Wilbur says softly, “hey, come on man, c’mere.” 

Tommy looks up, his eyes so blurred with tears that he can barely make out Wilbur holding out his arms. 

“Fuck off,” he chokes out. He turns and tries to unseal the door again. It still won’t fucking budge. He slams his fist against the wood. “Stupid fucking--” 

“Tommy,” Wilbur says, “don’t hurt yourself, come on. You’ve got to calm down, its not gonna work when you’re all mixed up inside. Focus, you’ve got to be steady.” 

“Shut up,” Tommy snarls. 

“I’m just trying to help.” 

“I don’t need your help!” His voice rings off the cold stone walls until even that falls silent. 

“I think you do,” Wilbur says softly, “and I’d like to give it to you, if you’d let me.” 

“You’re such a fucking bitch,” Tommy mutters, scrubbing furiously at his face. This is stupid. Wilbur is stupid. Full Moons are stupid. He wishes all of it would just stop.  

“You’re a gremlin,” Wilbur says. 

“Fuck you!” Tommy snaps, irrationally offended. Its not even a hard hitting insult, and Wilbur says it with this stupid fucking hint of fondness in his tone. 

“Come sit with me,” Wilbur says. 

Tommy glares at him silently and stays right the fuck where he is. 

“Please?” 

“Fuck. Off.”

“Okay,” Wilbur says, turning back to the window. 

Tommy ignores the ache in his heart that makes him wish Wilbur would turn back around. Would ask again. Even if he would say no. 

“The moon is pretty tonight,” Wilbur says quietly. 

“Yeah,” Tommy agrees.

“Probably can’t see it very well all the way over there,” Wilbur says. 

“No,” Tommy agrees. 

Wilbur silently scoots over a little. 

Tommy silently sits beside him. 

Wilbur doesn’t wrap his arm around his shoulders like Dream would have. He doesn’t lean on him like Sapnap would have, or hold his hand like George would have. They just sit together. A witch and a familiar, but not a witch and their familiar. 

It isn’t enough, it isn’t Dream, it isn’t what he had. 

But its something, and its better than nothing.

Chapter Text

Tommy stalks through the forest on four familiar paws. He snorts softly to himself, flicking his ears at the pun. Its good to be back in his native form. 

He was born a cat, and as much as being a human is nice--thumbs are a wonderful thing--there is something about being in his birth form that is just. Comfortable. Like coming home. 

Sometimes, Tommy wonders what it would have been like if he never Happened. If he just stayed a cat. No magic, no witches, no coven, no Heart that tore himself out. 

Familiars aren’t born, they just Happen one day. He had gone to bed thinking cat-thoughts and woken up as a Familiar, and he had gone seeking a witch. 

Dream had been the one to find him, lingering at the edge of the woods. He’d offered him food and shelter, as all witches do with new familiars. 

There was no obligation for Tommy to stay, but when he’d left the next morning, he’d come back by sundown with a shell in his jaws that hummed with magic to his senses. It was probably off of some mermaid’s jewelry, hardly worth much, but Dream had accepted it with all due reverence and then some, and Tommy had been his. Had been theirs.  

Now he is no ones. 

Dream had shredded their bonds when he had walked away from their coven. Dream isn’t his witch any more than Tommy is his familiar. Dream let him go, but Tommy refuses to do the same. 

So he is in the woods, in another coven’s territory, seeking out magic and herbs that he knows will wilt. Things that Dream used to use in his casting. Before he found the stupid book. 

He silently bares his teeth at the leaflitter. The stupid fucking book. He hates that thing. More than he hates Wilbur, even. Which is saying something because Tommy is really starting to fucking hate Wilbur.  

He’s just…

He’s kind. And he listens and he doesn’t ignore Tommy, and he looks at him like he sees him. Like he sees more than him. Like he sees someone valuable and precious, like a familiar is supposed to be.

The way Dream used to see him. 

It hurts. It fills up a hollow space in him but it fills it wrong, he doesn’t want Wilbur he wants Dream.  

But Dream doesn’t want him. 

Tommy’s ears fold back, his tail drooping. Dream doesn’t want him, but Tommy doesn’t know where else to go, who else to be. He was Dream’s, Dream is still his. Even if he doesn’t want to be. Tommy can’t make himself let him go. 

Tommy sighs and continues his search. 

In this form, magic is so much easier to sense. He can feel it humming on the air against his fur, the earth beneath his paws. The coven that holds this territory has done so for a long time, and they’re powerful. 

He comes back to the tower with a few mushrooms and a stone that hums against his whiskers. He leaves them at the doorway to Dream’s room and turns away without calling for him. 

Once, he might have yowled and proudly sat before his gifts, waiting for the gratitude and praise. 

He knows he won’t get that now. 

Instead Tommy goes to the kitchen and makes lunch. He puts too much on Wilbur’s plate again, but its not like anyone else is eating, Wilbur may as well have it. 

Its a bit easier to unseal the door this time at least. 

“Food,” Tommy announces, holding the tray out. 

“Ooh, thank you,” Wilbur says, flashing a genuine smile. “This smells wonderful.” 

The praise soothes and hurts Tommy in equal measure. 

He hates Wilbur. 

But he sits at the end of the bed while he eats, one leg pulled up to his chest, his arms wrapped around it while the other dangles. 

“You feed me more than Techno does,” Wilbur laughs, “and that’s saying something, he’s a real mother hen. Maybe its a familiar thing.” 

Tommy twitches. It is, it is a familiar thing. 

Dream used to like the stuff he made too. 

“Seriously,” Wilbur says, “I love it, but this is way too much for me. You have some too, okay?” 

Tommy sighs, but he doesn’t bother arguing. Wilbur always insists that he eat half of the food he brings. There’s no point in fighting, if he tries, Wilbur will pout at him like some overgrown fucking toddler. 

Tommy hates him so much. 

The food is okay, not nearly as good as Wilbur makes it sound but its edible at least. Tommy scarfs it down, ignoring Wilbur’s reminders to go slowly and not choke. Fucking bastard. Tommy will choke if he goddamn feels like it. 

“You’ve got--” Wilbur says softly, and then he reaches for Tommy’s head. Tommy freezes, fork hovering in the air halfway to his mouth, as Wilbur’s hand comes closer. He gently brushes his fingers over Tommy’s hair, soft as a beam of sunlight landing on him. A bit of moss falls onto the bed. “Bit of moss in your hair.” 

“Oh,” Tommy says, his voice soft and choked. He swallows around the sudden lump in his throat. “Thanks.” 

“No worries,” Wilbur says, leaning away. 

Tommy has to fight with himself not to chase after him. To keep himself from grabbing Wilbur by the wrist and making him run his hand through his hair. To keep himself from slipping into cat form and curling up in his lap. 

“Were you out gathering?” Wilbur asks, snapping Tommy out of his thoughts. 

“Uh, yeah.” 

Wilbur hums and nods, “find anything good?” 

Tommy wonders if its rude to tell a witch that you are holding hostage what you stole from his territory. Wilbur is the one that asked though. 

“Not really. Couple mushrooms. A rock.” 

Wilbur nods, “you should check along the creek, you know the one that runs past the tower? There’s a cave that it flows to that’s got some good crystals in it for attuning. They’re also really pretty.” Wilbur says with a wink, like he is telling a secret. “When I was little dad used to always have to ask me for his crystals back because I’d steal them.” 

“Oh,” Tommy says. “Cool.” 

He hasn’t brought Dream a crystal before, maybe he’d like one? Maybe that would be useful, even if the herbs and stones aren’t? 

(It could be, but Tommy doubts it. He also knows he’s going to try anyway.) 

*** 

Wilbur...fits into the pattern. As much as he is a prisoner, and him being here means that Dream is in danger. He’s another person in the tower, which makes it seem less lonely, and he actually talks to Tommy. 

Dream only withdraws more and more as the days go by. He starts locking the door and Tommy’s magic is too wild to make it open, and he doesn’t quite dare try too hard. When Dream does come out of the room, he is angry and...strange. 

He mutters to himself, about adjustments and spells. His hair hangs lank and oily around his head, unwashed, longer than he used to let it get. His eyes are sunken with deep bags under them, his cheeks have started to hollow. 

There is an aura around him. That is the worst thing. Something cold and slimy. Tommy can feel it even outside of the tower when he is a cat. 

Deep down, he knows that Dream is doing something wrong. Something bad. Against the natural order. That whatever is in that book is something that shouldn’t be read, shouldn’t even be touched.  

Tommy has always hated the book. 

But now he fears it too. 

He knows that Wilbur can sense it too. He sees him looking up at the ceiling, as if he could look through the layers of stone and see what Dream is doing. He makes excuses to keep Tommy close. He tells him stories, he sings him songs, anything to keep him in the room. 

Tommy doesn’t fight it much. 

He asks about Dream. What he is like now, if he’s touched Tommy (if he’s hurt Tommy, they both know he’s asking,) he wants to know what Dream mutters about, and he always accepts Tommy’s answer with a grim look on his face. 

He asks once, what Dream was like before. Tommy doesn’t answer, he snarls and storms out of the room and doesn’t come back until the next meal. Wilbur doesn’t ask again. 

Wilbur does ask how he’s feeling. How his magic is, if he’s hungry, tired, bored. For all that he is technically a prisoner in Tommy’s care, Wilbur seems to be the one intent on taking care of him. 

As the cold feeling of the book’s magic seeps through the tower, Tommy clings to that more and more. As much as he hates Wilbur, he is warm, and kind. 

Everything that Dream isn’t. 

“How come you don’t have your own familiar?” Tommy asks, his head on Wilbur’s thigh, Wilbur’s hand brushing through his hair, gently pulling apart tangles. 

“Just never found one I clicked with,” Wilbur says after a moment. “A few have Happened here but they all moved on. Phil found them places with some of our friends and we still talk and all, but they were a better fit there.” 

“Oh,” Tommy says quietly. “So its not because you don’t want one?” 

“No,” Wilbur says, “I’d love to have a familiar choose me. I’ve seen how dad and Techno are, and how others are with their familiars. Its a special bond, and I would cherish it.” 

“Really?” Tommy asks, his voice so soft even he can barely hear it. 

“Mhm,” Wilbur says, his fingers slow to a stop in Tommy’s hair, and his hand is just resting on his head, warmth leeching from Wilbur’s palm into his skin. “If I had a familiar of my own,” Wilbur says, almost as softly as Tommy had asked, “I’d probably drive them up the wall. I’m very attached to my people. Possessive, some might say.” His hand curls around Tommy’s cheek, gentle and soft. “I hold too tightly, sometimes,” Wilbur confesses.

Tommy stares up into his eyes, they’re intent, there’s something in them. A hunger. A shiver wants to run down Tommy’s spine, but he holds absolutely still. He hardly even dares to breathe. The hungry thing in Wilbur’s eyes is nothing compared to the starved thing in his chest. 

“Familiars--” Tommy says, “familiars are possessive too. Its our nature.” 

Wilbur hums, acknowledging. 

Tommy should drop it. Should let the conversation end there. Instead he presses. “What if you did find a familiar you click with? One you’d want to keep.” 

One you’d let keep you.

Wilbur laughs softly, there isn’t much humor in it, but it isn’t angry or bitter either. “I’d keep them forever,” Wilbur says slowly, “I’d take them when I went traveling, and show them off to everyone, and they’d all be jealous, but they’d be mine and not theirs. Most of all, I’d take them home.” 

Tommy’s breath catches. 

“And I’d keep them close,” Wilbur says, “Safe and loved and mine.” 

 Tommy desperately tries to cram the starving, desperate thing in his chest back down into his ribcage, but it wants to crawl up his throat. Wants to lean into Wilbur wants to dig its claws into him and say. “Me, make that me. Be mine and I’ll be yours.” 

“Cool.” Tommy says, choked and small. 

Wilbur laughs and the tension that built around them falls away with a sigh. The starving thing in Tommy’s chest retreats grudgingly to its cage. 

“I’m gonna go. Gather.” Tommy says. 

“Okay,” Wilbur replies, letting him go easily even though Tommy wishes that he’d hold him, make him stay. “I’ll see you later Toms.” 

The starving thing leaps at the bars of his ribs at the nickname. 

“Bye.” Tommy chokes out.

Chapter Text

He actually does end up going out. Not to gather, really. Just to think. Or try. 

He doesn’t--he doesn’t like Wilbur. He hates Wilbur. He does. He’s a jerk, and he’s annoying. And he’s always poking and prodding and sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. 

Tommy hates Wilbur. 

But the way he was talking. About having a familiar. About keeping a familiar. Holding them tight and secure and loved. 

He wants that. 

He wants it so fucking badly. 

But he can’t have it. Dream is his witch, not Wilbur. 

(Dream left him, Dream isn’t his witch anymore he ripped out their Heart, he tore apart their bond.) 

And he doesn’t want Wilbur as his witch anyway. He hates Wilbur. 

Doesn’t he? 

Wilbur is rude, and nosy, and in the way. 

But he’s kind. He cares. 

He’s not Dream. Dream is Tommy’s witch, even if Tommy isn’t his familiar. He isn’t letting him go. He can’t. 

His magic crackles around him, Wild and untamed. He’s heard of what happens to familiars who go too long without a witch to anchor them. 

Familiars come from Wild magic, and without a witch, they will return to it. There was one of them that wandered the coast where they lived. A horse, or it looked like one, from a distance. 

When you got closer, you could just tell that there was something off about it. It moved too gracefully, its hooves sank too deeply in the sand but when it lifted them, there were no prints. Its eyes watched you with too much intelligence for a horse. There was seaweed tangled so thoroughly in its mane that you couldn’t be sure if it was really tangled in, or growing there and fish scales flecked across its hide.  

It had never hurt Tommy, or any of the others, but there was something about it that said don’t come too close. Some fishermen hadn’t listened to that little voice and they’d been found trampled and torn apart with teeth far too sharp to belong to a horse. 

Tommy doesn’t want to become something like that. He climbs up a tree and sits, his tail curled around his paws, his ears pinned. His paws flex, digging claws into the bark. 

He doesn’t want to lose himself. 

But he has already lost so much. His coven, his home, his Heart. 

Now all he has is Dream’s silence. The cold that seeps deeper through the tower with every passing day. 

Tommy sinks his claws deep into the bark of the tree. He’s tired of that stupid book. He wants Dream back. He’s going to get him back. The book doesn’t get to take what is his.  

Tommy leaps down and charges for the tower, suddenly bursting with fiery rage. He hardly stops to flicker into human form as he reaches the bottom of the staircase. He takes the steps two at a time, but hesitates, just for a moment at the top. 

He can see his breath on the air, his bare toes are chilled against the stone. “Dream?” Tommy calls. 

There is no answer. 

The door is locked, but Tommy is full of righteous determination. Dream is his witch, he’s not losing him to a fucking book.  

The lock snaps and the door swings open. Tommy’s determination fizzles against the thing that lies beyond it.

It isn’t wild. It isn’t natural its something else and its wearing Dream’s skin. It looks like him, it moves like him when it stalks across the room. But it isn’t him. It isn’t him. 

Tommy stares at it, horror choking his throat. 

“What did I say,” the Not-Dream thing says, “about interrupting me, Tommy?” 

Tommy takes a step back, but there is only the stairs behind him. There’s no way he can outrun this... thing.  

The Not-Dream thing crosses the room in a blink, the feeling of horror, of ice cold terror looms around it like a cloud. He is suffocating in it. 

The Thing stares at him from behind Dream’s eyes. They’re no longer a soft green, like new spring grass. They’re a terrible, poisonous, acid green, glowing faintly in the shadow of the tower, sunken into Dream’s face. 

“I don’t need you,” the Not-Dream hisses, “you’re just a distraction. A weakness. Do you think that you could keep me from becoming what I’m meant to be? Did you think that you could stop this? That you could lure me back to being your stupid little Heart? That you could leech off of me again? That’s what you were. A parasite. You were all just parasites.”  

The Not-Dream winds its hands into Tommy’s shirt, pressing him against the wall. 

“Well now you have no control over me,” the Not-Dream snarls. “Now I’m free and I’m going to be more powerful than you could ever imagine. You can’t weaken me again, Tommy. I’ll--” 

In a flicker and a flash, Tommy is a cat again. He drops to the floor at the Not-Dream’s feet and bolts down the stairs. It was a mistake. In cat form he can feel the magic. Pervading the tower, filling every last inch of it. Cold and unnatural and terrifying.  

There is only one place it does not reach. One haven. One beacon of warmth and light. 

The door is sealed by his own magic, but Tommy doesn’t bother with opening it. His magic sparks and hums and snaps and he passes through the wood as if it were water. 

“Tommy?” Wilbur asks somewhere far away. 

Tommy ignores him. He launches himself underneath the bed, into the safe-close-dark surrounded by the feeling of magic that isn’t horrifying-cold-wrong-wrong- wrong.  

He’s shaking, he distantly realizes, his claws digging into the wooden floors, his fur standing on end. 

“Tommy?” Wilbur asks again. His face appears at the edge of the bed. Tommy hisses and snarls, swatting desperately, claws extended. His magic crackles the air around him, rattling the bed. 

“Okay, okay,” Wilbur says softly, backing away, “Okay Tommy, I won’t touch you, you’re safe. You’re here with me. Did he hurt you?” 

A low meow rises out of Tommy’s chest. 

“I’ll keep you safe,” Wilbur promises, “I’ve got you, you’re gonna be alright.” 

Tommy’s chest heaves, trying desperately to draw in air. He licks his lips, baring his fangs at the shadows. 

“You’re safe,” Wilbur soothes again, “you’re here with me, he won’t get through me. I’ll keep you safe.” 

Tommy meows again, low and begging. 

“Oh honey,” Wilbur says softly, “come here.” He taps his fingers against the floor. 

Tommy wants to go. Desperately, he wants to answer that call, wants to fling himself into Wilbur’s chest and let him hold him close. He can’t make himself move. 

“Come on,” Wilbur coaxes, “come to me, I’m right here.” 

Tommy’s claws release their death grip on the wood. He takes a hesitant step closer to the edge of the bed. 

“That’s it,” Wilbur says softly, “that’s it come on. Right here.” 

Tommy darts across the empty space between them and climbs up Wilbur’s chest. He’s digging his claws in and he knows that he’s drawing blood but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. 

Wilbur doesn’t so much as wince. He wraps his arms around Tommy, safe and secure and he curls his knees up to his chest and Tommy is surrounded by a fortress of Wilbur’s flesh and blood and he can almost start to believe that the thing in Dream’s skin couldn’t break through it. 

“I’ve got you sweetheart,” Wilbur croons, “you’re okay, you’re safe, you’re with me.” A hand strokes down Tommy’s back, laying the fur flat again. “Shh, its all okay. He can’t hurt you while I’m here.” 

Tommy shoves his muzzle under Wilbur’s chin and trembles. It feels safe, he is protected here, in Wilbur’s arms. The miasma of terror around the Not-Dream Thing lingers in his mind, but Wilbur’s presence is like the sun, cutting through morning mist, sending it all away. 

He doesn’t fall asleep, he doesn’t think that he’ll ever sleep again, but warping the door like that had taken a lot of power. He’s exhausted, but buzzing with far too much adrenaline to actually rest. Instead he falls into a mindless haze, breathing in Wilbur’s scent, tracking the way his hand strokes over Tommy’s fur. 

He doesn’t realize when he starts purring, he’s only suddenly aware that he is. 

“There you go,” Wilbur croons, “its alright. I’ve got you.”

Chapter Text

Wilbur moves. Tommy growls disapprovingly and digs his claws into his shirt. “Its alright,” Wilbur says, a hint of a laugh in his voice, “I’m just gonna sit on the bed, I wasn’t exactly planning to sit on the floor for half an hour.” 

Tommy grumbles, but he sheathes his claws. Wilbur cradles him close as he stands and walks the few steps over to the bed. He pulls the blankets up around Tommy, so he is warm and safe and held. Tommy purrs. 

“You feeling better?” Wilbur asks softly, “you were pretty scared. You wanna tell me what happened?” 

Tommy sits in mullish silence. 

“You don’t have to,” Wilbur says, “but if you want to, I want to hear it. I’d like to hear your voice. As adorable as you purring is.” 

Tommy shifts back immediately. “I’m not fucking cute,” he grumbles. 

Wilbur laughs and adjusts his position to a more comfortable one with Tommy’s shifted form. Tommy’s upper body is cradled sideways against his chest and his legs left to fold against the wall beside them. “If you say so.” 

“I’m not,” Tommy growls. 

“Of course not, you’re a little gremlin boy, never cute.” 

Tommy shoves the covers off of his head so he can glare at Wilbur properly. “I hate you.” 

Wilbur smiles down at him and it sends conflicting waves of warmth, longing, and some terrible emotion he can’t name (but it feels like regret, it feels like sorrow, it feels like abandonment,) through Tommy’s chest. 

Wilbur’s hand cups his jaw, the pad of his thumb rubbing a tiny circle on Tommy’s cheekbone, “I can really feel the hatred, little one.” 

Tommy softly shuts his eyes and leans into the touch. Wilbur doesn’t pull away, doesn’t shove him back, doesn’t stop. “You’re a bastard,” Tommy mutters. 

“I won’t argue on that one,” Wilbur laughs. He still hasn’t stopped petting Tommy’s cheek. 

Tommy still hasn’t tried to make him. 

“So,” Wilbur says, “a cat huh? I should probably have guessed that.” 

Tommy shifts a little bit, turning his face slightly away from Wilbur, not enough that his hand can’t keep rubbing those little circles, but enough that he doesn’t have to look him in the eye. 

Familiars come in all types. From tiny frogs to regal stags, all in all, a cat isn’t the worst origin to have. But its...Tommy was the only familiar in Dream’s coven before everything fell apart, but they had seen other covens, older covens. 

Their familiars had been...more. Stags and panthers and wolves, even mighty oxen, with hooves big enough to crush a man’s head, horns for goring. 

Tommy is just...a cat. A housecat, not even a wild cat. He’s not a bobcat or a lynx, he’s just a cat. 

Wilbur turns his face back. “I like it,” he says, “your fur is soft, and it looks like your hair,” he reaches up and twirls a strand around his finger, “golden. Like sunshine.” 

“You’re a fuckin’ weirdo,” Tommy mutters. 

He doesn’t ask Wilbur to stop. He doesn’t pull away. Even though he should, Wilbur isn’t his witch. Dream is his witch. 

(Does Dream even exist anymore? Or is there only the terrible wrong-wrong-wrong thing that was at the top of the tower?) 

If the Not-Dream thing doesn’t kill them, if Wilbur’s coven comes for him and lets Tommy live, he’s going to have to leave Wilbur. There’s no way Wilbur’s coven would let him stick around. 

Tommy made his choice, he stayed with Dream, even if Dream left him. Wilbur will leave, Dream will die, or the Not-Dream thing will take over entirely, if it hasn’t already. Tommy will be alone to become a wandering spirit, untethered, returned to the Wild from whence he came. 

Wilbur will one day find a familiar that he does like. Will bond with them and they will be his and he will hold them like this, soothe them, compliment them accept their gifts and work magic with them and--

Tommy hates them. That nameless someday-familiar. Even more than he hates Wilbur. He winds his fingers into Wilbur’s shirt, as if he could hold him here forever. 

Wilbur is only kind to him because he’s polite. As all witches are to familiars. All he’s done is the things that any witch would do with a familiar that is as distressed as Tommy probably obviously is. 

Wilbur is going to leave. 

“Sunshine,” Wilbur says, “you’ve gone quiet. Are you okay?” 

“I--” He can’t say it. Its stupid. Its foolish. He’s keeping Wilbur prisoner. He isn’t going to want Tommy. He’d probably want a better familiar, an older one, one with a powerful form, a tiger or a lion, something graceful and powerful like Wilbur. Or maybe something with the same lanky grace, a stag or a doe would suit him well. 

Dream might be dead, replaced by the terrible Not-him thing, but the more Tommy thinks of it, the more he realizes that was Dream. It was Dream, somewhere in the miasma of wrong and unnatural, Dream and that book. 

He doesn’t want Tommy anymore. He hasn’t wanted Tommy for a long time. Can Tommy bear to stay with him if he is that thing? 

He has to, where else could he go? 

He will follow after Dream as long as he can, until the Wild claims his mind again, until he stops eating and drinking and caring for mortal things. Until he is Wild and Wild alone. 

Until he is alone. 

“Sunshine,” Wilbur coaxes again, “are you thinking about him? Do you want to talk about it?” 

Talking about the thing Dream has become is easier than talking about what Tommy will become. He tucks himself closer to Wilbur. “I--I thought it was a monster. It didn’t feel like his magic anymore. It was twisted and wrong and--and what the fuck is in that book?”  

Wilbur pulls him closer, “My bet’s on dark magic. I’m sorry, Toms. I don’t know how you haven’t been affected by it if you’re his familiar, but he’s deep in it. I’ve seen it before, once, and dad and Techno have told me about it.” 

I’m not, Tommy chokes back the words. I’m not his familiar, he left me, he tore out my heart and took away my Heart all in one.  

“Is there anything I can--Is there any way to get it off of him? Out of him?” Tommy asks in a near whisper. 

Is there any hope, do I have a chance of getting him back? 

Wilbur squeezes him tightly. “I’m sorry.  Maybe in the beginning, before he started channeling with the book he could have been pulled out of it but--I’m so sorry Tommy, I think he’s too far gone now.” 

Tommy buries his face into Wilbur’s chest and tries, fails, to hold back a pained sound. His eyes burn with tears and no matter how hard he tries to hold them back they fall. He holds his breath, trying to keep from sobbing audibly, even though Wilbur can probably feel his tears against his shirt. 

His chest aches and finally he can’t hold it in anymore. He exhales a painful sob. 

“Oh sunshine,” Wilbur says, pulling him closer, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He tucks Tommy’s face into his throat, tangling his fingers into his hair. “Just let it out.” 

Tommy could tell him. Tell him that he isn’t Dream’s familiar, that Dream left him, that Dream was their Heart and he tore himself out. And Wibur would have pity on him, would take him with him when his coven came. 

But Tommy can’t leave Dream. He’s his witch, even if Tommy isn’t his familiar. 

“I need--” he drags himself reluctantly out of Wilbur’s arms. 

For one glorious, shining moment, Wilbur doesn’t let him. Wilbur’s grip tightens and he pulls Tommy to his chest like he would never let anyone take him away, not even Tommy himself. 

“I need to think,” Tommy mutters. 

And Wilbur lets him go. 

It makes Tommy’s heart ache even more. “I’ll--I’ll be back,” Tommy says hesitantly. 

“Okay,” Wilbur replies, “I’ll be here sunshine.” 

Of course he will, because Tommy seals the door behind him. Locking him in the tower with the husk his Heart has become. Wilbur is his witch in the same way that Dream is: Tommy won’t let him go. 

Wilbur is his, but not in the way Tommy wants him to be. Not in the way that makes Tommy Wilbur’s.

Chapter Text

He stays in human form. He can’t bear to be back in cat form, alone, out here, beneath the cloud of the dark magic. He walks on two feet through the forest. 

Even though he isn’t wearing shoes, he is Wild enough that his soles don’t get cut, or even bruised. Maybe he’s even starting to become too Wild. 

How long does it take for a familiar to become a spirit? He never thought about it before. He thought that he was safe, that he would never have to find out. 

He walks along the creek, letting the mud squish through his toes. The forest is beautiful, even like this, without the heightened sense of magic that comes with his cat form. It is green and growing and full of life, a well-tended territory, probably home to a powerful coven, an ancient one. 

They probably have a hundred familiars, and they’re probably all really powerful and smart and not...not whatever Tommy is. Not whatever makes Tommy so terrible. 

Surely there’s something wrong with him. Why else would Dream have left him?

Tommy splashes through the creek, avoiding a rocky patch of shore that he could probably cross without a problem, but he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want the reminder of how the Spirit horse’s hooves moved over, through, the ground so effortlessly. As if they were part of it. 

Tommy sighs. 

He came out here to think. He has to figure out what he’s going to do. 

Dream--Dream is using Dark Magic, and apparently there’s nothing Tommy can do about that. Nothing to pull him back from that book. Nothing that will get through to him.

He’s only going to get worse. Angrier. Darker. 

The feeling of wrong is only going to get worse. 

Tommy wonders if he will be able to tolerate it once he is fully Wild. It doesn’t seem like something a Spirit would allow in their territory. 

It isn’t as though a house cat---even a spirit in the form of one--would be able to hurt Dream much though. 

Wilbur--Wilbur will leave eventually. His coven will have to be looking for him soon. He was packed for a trip, sure, but he shouldn’t have been out of contact for this long. Tommy is going to have to let him go, to hope that he will convince his coven to let Dream live.  

Tommy will have to let Wilbur go. 

But he doesn’t want to. 

The greedy, starving thing in his chest snarls angrily at the idea. Wilbur is his, maybe Tommy doesn’t belong to Wilbur, but Wilbur belongs to him. He isn’t giving him up, giving him back. 

Tommy wants to keep Wilbur, and all of the polite, pitying affection that he gives. The songs he hums, the stories he tells. He doesn’t want to give Wilbur back to his coven, so that he can find some other familiar to belong to. 

Tommy growls lowly to himself. He itches to have fangs to bare, ears to pin back. He slips into cat form and hisses at the feeling of water on his fur. 

He darts out of the creek, shaking his paws delicately. 

He--

“Oh, hello little one.” 

He whips around. There is a man at the edge of the trees. A witch, he knows immediately, as the witch knows he is a familiar. 

The witch is blond, like him, but his hair is straight, hanging down to his chin, stuffed under a bucket hat. He’s older than Tommy too. In cat form, Tommy can sense that he’s much older than Tommy. Much older than anyone Tommy’s ever met. 

The fur rises along his spine. This witch isn’t just a witch. He’s something powerful, something ancient. There is a well of power somewhere that he is connected to and it is far greater than something any familiar could provide. 

“Its alright,” the witch says softly, kneeling on the leaf-strewn ground. His robes drape around him. 

Tommy takes a hesitant step away. The creek is at his back, but its shallow enough he could probably bound across it. It still makes him feel trapped. 

“I won’t hurt you,” the witch says, “my name is Phil, this is my territory. I know its confusing, its alright to be scared, but you don’t need to be.” He smiles, he has a nice smile with laugh lines and sparkling eyes. “We’re a bit far out from the house, but my familiar and I are camped nearby, you can join us if you like. We have food if you’re hungry and clean water if you’re thirsty.” 

Dream had offered him the same thing, that day that they met. Food and shelter for a new familiar. 

The witch--Phil--thinks he’s newly Happened. 

He doesn’t know that Dream is in the tower, he doesn’t know that Wilbur is in the tower. He has to be part of Wilbur’s coven. He has to be Wilbur’s Heart. His father. 

“Phil?” a new voice asks, deep and rumbling. Another familiar steps onto the path behind Phil. 

Tommy tenses. He’s huge. He’s easily as tall as Wilbur, maybe taller, but where Wilbur is thin and lean, this familiar is built for strength with broad shoulders and heavy muscle. 

“Easy,” Phil says, “that’s just Techno, he’s my familiar. I know he looks intimidating but he’s a softie.” 

The familiar--Techno--snorts. “Should have known you’d sniff out something to dote on.” 

Wilbur’s father flashes him a half-playful glare over his shoulder before turning back to Tommy, “forgive his manners.” 

Tommy snorts without really meaning to. 

Phil beams at him, “will you come back with us, Familiar?” he asks formally. And Tommy--Tommy wants to, almost. They’re kind, they’re Wilbur’s and that makes them his in a way. 

But Phil is a Heart, Techno is another familiar. Both of them are Wilbur’s coven and Wilbur is Tommy’s prisoner. 

Tommy turns tail and bolts. 

He can hear Phil calling behind him, but he doesn’t listen. He follows the creek, he can’t go charging blindly into the forest or he’ll get lost--he has no Heart to tether him home--but he has to get away from them. 

HIs magic flares around him, and suddenly Tommy’s paws are barely skimming the earth. He bounds through the forest, going at least ten times the length he should be with each leap. 

A dark space looms ahead of him and without hesitation, Tommy dives in. It starts as a small tunnel, he would probably only barely be able to get his shoulders through if he were in human form. Quickly it opens though, to a larger space filled to the brim with magic. It hums against his fur, almost tangible. Tommy twitches his whiskers. 

Crystals. Wilbur had mentioned them. 

Tommy stretches forward into the dark and presses his nose to the cool, smooth surface of one. Like Wilbur said, these would be good for attuning. They have magic of their own, but they aren’t bent in a particular direction. A witch could use them to return their own magic to a more neutral state if they were going between different types. 

A familiar’s magic doesn’t work like that. There are no types for them, there are only desires and results. In their own way, a familiar is like an attuning crystal. 

Witches are good at directing magic, familiars are good at producing it, they balance each other, they help each other. 

They need each other. 

Tommy settles down next to the cave wall. He may not be able to use an attuning crystal like a witch could, but they are calming all the same. He can’t stay here forever. But maybe for a little while. 

Then it hits him. 

That was Wilbur’s coven. That was Wilbur’s coven and they were close to the tower, close enough that Tommy had stumbled across them after only a few hours of walking. 

They’re going to find the tower. They’re going to find Dream. And Dream will use Wilbur as his hostage, and they will kill him for it. There is no way that Dream, even with the horrifying thing his magic has become, could stand up to Phil.

They’ll destroy him, and they’ll take Wilbur, and if Tommy doesn’t die alongside Dream he’ll be alone. Truly, truly alone. 

And that would be worse than death. 

There is nothing Tommy can do to stop them from going to the tower, from finding Dream and taking Wilbur back. But maybe, maybe he can save Dream’s life. If he lets Wilbur go. 

He doesn’t want to. Stars he doesn’t want to. He wants to keep Wilbur forever. But he is going to lose them both if he doesn’t. 

Tommy drags himself to his feet and stumbles reluctantly towards the entrance. His paw bumps into something that clatters dully against the dirt. A crystal, loose from its cluster, humming with magic. 

It--it wouldn’t have to mean anything. He knows Wilbur doesn’t want him, he knows that Wilbur is a prisoner and he’ll be happy to get back to his coven. But maybe--maybe even if he doesn’t want Tommy he’ll accept something to remember him by. If only as a reminder to be cautious. 

Tommy picks up the crystal and heads towards the tower.

Chapter Text

He knows he’s dragging his feet as he approaches the tower. He knows he’s delaying the inevitable, knows he’s probably worsening the inevitable. Wilbur’s coven could find the tower at any time, Tommy was able to use his magic to speed up his return but they could have done the same. 

He sighs and looks up at the window. Behind there, somewhere, is Dream. Is the thing Dream has become, twisted and wrong. Somewhere behind there is the book that turned him into it. 

He can’t fight Phil, not magically, not when Phil has that well of power, deeper than any familiar could provide. And with how little he has been eating and resting, he probably couldn’t fight him physically either. Even if he could take Phil, Techno would wipe the floor with him. 

The only way to save him is to let Wilbur go and hope that he convinces his coven to be merciful. Tommy has to let Wilbur go. 

The door creaks as he pushes it open. The crystal tucked firmly into his palm, the sharp angles digging into his skin. It isn’t--its just a goodbye. It isn’t an offering. It isn’t a gift.

Wilbur wouldn’t accept it from him if it were. He might not even accept a goodbye. 

Tommy climbs the stairs. The stone is cold under his feet, even down here. The second floor looms ahead of him. The door sealed by his own magic. 

Tommy sighs and rests his forehead against it. Its going to be impossible to open like this. “Come on,” he whispers. 

The seal remains unmoved. 

Tommy takes a deep breath, holds it for a moment, lets it out. Dream. This is for Dream. This is for his witch. 

Wilbur is his witch, whines the greedy, starving thing in his chest, but he isn’t. 

(Dream isn’t either, the starving thing whispers spitefully)

Tommy takes a deep breath and tries again. And again. 

“Come on,” he snarls, thumping his head against the wood. “Just do it.” 

“Tommy?” Wilbur calls through the door. His voice sends a pang of longing through Tommy’s chest. He sounds worried, like he cares. “You having trouble again?” 

“Its fine,” Tommy chokes out, his eyes are burning all of a sudden and he can’t make them stop. He has to make them stop. He can’t cry. He has to do this. For Dream. For his witch. 

“You can do it,” Wilbur says, “come on, I believe in you.” 

Tommy knows he’s trying to help, he knows he is, but he is making it so much harder to open the door, to let him go. Tommy wants him, forever. The crystal in his hand buzzes against his skin. Tommy focuses on that. The steady, neutral power of it. 

He’s not letting Wilbur go, he’s just...opening the door. Like he does every day. Its fine. He just needs to open the door and he can see Wilbur, can lean on his side while he sings or tells stories, can share lunch with him. 

The latch clicks. 

Wilbur is on the other side, there is concern on his face, but he slaps a smile on over it when he sees Tommy. “Hey, there you are, good job.” 

Tommy shivers and looks at the floor. He starts to cross his arms, but the crystal is still in his hand. He ends up holding it to his chest, clenched in his fist and hidden behind his other hand. As if it might escape from him. 

“Tommy?” Wilbur says softly, taking a step closer, “are you okay? Is it Dream?” 

Tommy shakes his head mutley, tears welling in the corners of his eyes again. Wilbur is so kind and he wants to bask in it forever. But he can’t. 

“I--” he croaks. He clears his throat. “I was--” He can’t make the words come out. 

“Hey,” Wilbur says, curling a hand around his shoulder, “c’mere, come on, its alright, what’s wrong Toms. I’ll help you, just tell me what I need to do.” 

“Anything?” Tommy asks quietly. 

“Anything,” Wilbur answers, tugging Tommy into the room to sit on the bed. The door is left open, but Wilbur is distracted by situating Tommy on the bed, wrapping a blanket around his shoulders, “anything for you Toms.” 

“Can you--Will you tell your coven to spare him?” Tommy whispers, “Dream. He--I know he’s--I know he’s wrong, and I know he’s trespassing and he--he said--he practically declared war but please. Please he’s my witch.” He’s sobbing by the end of it, Wilbur probably has no idea what he’s even trying to say, its interrupted by hiccups and hitches and Tommy should make this better. Should do better. Should be formal and polite and offer the crystal and explain what’s even going on. 

“Okay, okay,” Wilbur says, tugging Tommy into his arms, to his chest. Like when he was spooked by the monster his Heart has become, he is surrounded by Wilbur, a fortress of him, held tight and secure. 

Dream once held him like this, but now his grip is loose and Tommy slips through his fingers like so much sand. Scattering as dust on the wind, no anchor, no tether, soon to become nothing at all. 

(He wonders, when he loses himself to the Wild, will he lose this pain too? Or will he be doomed to wander the Wild places aching for something he cannot name. Immortal and lost. A ghost.) 

“I’ve got you,” Wilbur murmurs, “just listen to my voice Toms. I’m right here, I’ll help you, I promise I’ll help you. Whatever you need, whatever you want, I’ll move the stars for you if that’s what will make you smile sunshine.” 

Tommy can’t help but laugh, its a rough, hesitant thing, but Wilbur is fucking ridiculous sometimes. “You can’t move the stars,” Tommy mutters. 

“I can, I will.” 

“Make them spell peni--” 

“You know what, maybe we leave the stars,” Wilbur says hastily. 

Tommy laughs and its a bit more real this time, but the humor dies quickly. He’s going to miss Wilbur. He turns in Wilbur’s arms, hiding his face in his chest. 

Wilbur doesn’t put up a fuss, he only adjusts his grip and rests his cheek on top of Tommy’s head. “You wanna tell me what’s wrong?” 

“I--your coven,” Tommy whispers. “I ran into them while I was in the woods. They’re coming. They’ll probably be here soon.” 

“Oh,” Wilbur says, he sounds relieved, but also sad. 

“I won’t--” Tommy takes a deep breath, “I won’t let Dream hurt you. You can--” the words don’t want to leave his mouth. The starving thing in his chest has crawled up his throat and is trying to hold them in. “You can leave,” Tommy forces himself to say. “I won’t stop you. But please. Please ask them to spare him. I can’t--” the tears return, but Tommy grits his teeth and forces his words to be understandable, “I can’t lose him. He’s all I have.” 

Wilbur makes a low sorrowful noise and his arms hold Tommy so tightly he’s almost afraid he’ll have bruises. Wilbur presses his forehead against Tommy’s scalp. “He doesn’t--” Wilbur pauses, takes a deep breath. “He doesn’t have to be all you have, Toms. I know you’re his familiar but--” 

“I’m not,” Tommy whispers. 

Wilbur freezes around him. 

“He--I was,” Tommy confesses, “I was his. He was our Heart, and he was mine. But he left, and I couldn’t let him go. He--there is no bond. I--I wasn’t enough.” 

That is the heart of it. The terrible, naked truth of it. Tommy wasn’t enough. Wasn’t powerful enough, wasn’t vigilant enough, wasn’t enough to keep Dream from ever opening that stupid fucking book. He was his familiar, he was supposed to--he was supposed to be enough. But he wasn’t. He isn’t. 

And now he’s nothing at at all. 

He braces for the disgust, as Wilbur realizes that he’s wrong, that despite the horror of the dark magic at the top of the tower, there is something twisted and stunted and terrible here in his arms. A familiar that couldn’t even hold onto their Heart. 

“Oh Tommy,” Wilbur murmurs, and he sounds like he’s going to cry. 

Tommy’s never heard him like that before. He’s never seen Wilbur cry. He jerks his head up. There are tears in Wilbur’s eyes, there is sadness, such aching sadness, but there is no disgust, no horror, no hatred. He raises a hand. 

Tommy trembles waiting for the blow to fall. He doesn’t know if he expects it to be physical, Wilbur shoving him away, shunning him, or if he expects Wilbur’s voice to go deep with rage, disgust, hatred. 

Wilbur’s hand touches his cheek, soft as a feather. “Oh Tommy,” he murmurs again. “Sunshine, my sunshine you’ve been so alone.”  

And Tommy breaks. He keens, high and pained and the tears flow down his cheeks. There is no thought of stopping them, no hope of doing it either. He is alone. He is alone and he will be alone. He will wander these woods, Wild, unbound, untethered, unloved. 

Free in the worst of ways. 

Wilbur pulls him close, tucks his head under his chin, and lets Tommy wail his sorrow into his chest. Wilbur doesn’t shove him away, he only holds Tommy closer and murmurs that he is there. 

But you won’t be, Tommy thinks, you’ll leave. You’ll leave and I’ll be alone.

He can’t take it. Tommy drags himself out of Wilbur’s arms--surely he is imagining that Wilbur tries to make him stay, or Wilbur is only doing it because he is kind--the crystal is still in his hand. He has been holding it so tightly for so long that it feels like it has melded to his hand. He thrusts it out to Wilbur. 

Its nothing like the way he offered Dream that shell. It had only been a little thing, gleaming with magic and promise and Tommy had set it at his feet and curled his tail around his paws and waited. He’d been so sure, so confident. Being rejected had never crossed his mind. Neither had being abandoned. 

Wilbur stares at the crystal. Slowly, carefully he reaches forward, he cups Tommy’s hand in his, cradling it like he is made of spun glass. “Tommy--” his voice is choked and Tommy realizes he’s misunderstood. 

His stomach swoops and the starving thing in his chest wails. 

“It’s not--” Tommy chokes out, “Its not--I know you don’t--its only a goodbye.” 

Wilbur looks up at him, but Tommy can’t meet his eyes. 

“I know you don’t--I know you--you can’t stay. You’ll leave and that’s okay, but please just--please take it. Its not--I wouldn’t ask you to keep me I know I’m--please just keep it.” He has to pause to breathe, but he can see Wilbur open his mouth and he rushes to get the rest of the words out. “I don’t care if---you can just--just put it in a box somewhere and forget about it but please, please just keep it.” 

“No,” Wilbur says. 

Tommy’s heart lurches.

“Not if its a goodbye. Not if I’m trading it for you. Tommy, sunshine, I’m not leaving.” 

Tommy stares at him, mute, shocked. 

Wilbur grabs his hand, folds his fingers around the crystal. “I don’t want to keep a rock,” he says, his eyes boring into Tommy’s, “I want to keep you. I’ve been trying to--to be good. To be less...Me. Because I know I’m possessive, I know I have trouble letting people go once they’re mine. But I don’t want to let you go, Toms, please don’t ask me to do that.” 

“You can’t--” Tommy chokes out. “You can’t want me. I--I’m--I’m me. And I’m--I’ve been keeping you prisoner! You’re--” 

“Toms,” Wilbur says gently, “this is a tower in my coven’s territory. You think I couldn’t get out of here if I wanted? Even with you sealing the door?” 

Tommy gapes at him. “Yes?” 

“Oh sunshine,” Wilbur says gently, “I could have left whenever I wanted. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay with you.” 

“Why?” Tommy asks softly, “Why would you--I’m just--” 

“You’re funny, and smart, and stars, you’re so stubborn, and I knew you were something special the minute I laid eyes on you.” Wilbur’s hand is still wrapped around his, holding his fist closed around the crystal. “I knew Dream didn’t deserve you the minute I saw him, and I wanted to show you how you should be treated.” 

Tommy wants to look away from Wilbur, but Wilbur has somehow frozen him, he can only keep staring into Wilbur’s eyes. They’re brown, and full of a desperate hunger.  

“I wanted to scoop you up and never let you go,” Wilbur says, “I wanted to bring you home and show you to my coven and keep you all to myself.” 

Tommy whines softly. 

Wilbur cups his face with his free hand, “I want to make you mine, sunshine, forever.” 

It can’t be real, it has to be a dream but the starving thing in his chest is shattering through his ribs and clawing up his throat and filling every inch of his muscles and veins and he is throwing himself into Wilbur’s arms and he is begging, pleading, promising. Anything, everything. 

“Just keep me,” he cries. 

“Always, forever, I’ll never let you go,” Wilbur replies. “You’re mine. You’re mine,” he sounds like he’s been given a gift, something precious that he never thought he would get the chance to hold, “you’re mine and I’m yours.” 

Chapter Text

He cries himself out in Wilbur’s chest. He thinks that he should be happy, probably. He has another chance, another witch wants him, Wilbur wants him. He should be happy. 

He is, but he’s also torn apart inside. He’s leaving Dream. He’s abandoning him, like Dream abandoned him. 

He tries to cling to that, Dream abandoned him first. Dream doesn’t want him. Wilbur does. Wilbur is holding him close, Wilbur is brushing his hair back and pressing his lips to his forehead. “Oh sunshine,” Wilbur murmurs, “its alright to be sad.” 

“I don’t want to leave him,” Tommy whispers. 

“I know.” Wilbur squeezes him tighter. “I’m sorry you have to, but clinging to him, Toms, its hurting you. I know letting go hurts too, stars do I know that it hurts, but you have to.” 

“I know,” Tommy says, curling his fingers into Wilbur’s shirt. “I--I miss him.” 

“I know you do, I’m sorry this happened to you, you deserve so much better than all of this sunshine. I’ll give you so much more than this, but we have to go. We can’t stay here. Especially if Phil and Techno are coming.” 

Tommy shivers, “they’re going to--to--” 

They’re going to kill him.  

It was always going to happen. There is no way a coven would tolerate having magic like Dream’s in their territory. 

“I’m sorry,” Wilbur murmurs, “I’m so sorry Toms.” 

“Please, please just--can they just tell him to--to move on? To go away?” 

“I’m sure they’ll try,” Wilbur says, “but he’s--he’s really far gone, Tommy. Dark Magic it--it takes a lot out of a person. He’s not himself anymore.” 

“He hasn’t been himself in a long time,” Tommy mutters. 

Wilbur makes a low sympathetic noise. “We have to go Toms, I’m sorry.” 

Tommy holds tighter for a moment, but finally he lets go and climbs shakily to his feet. The crystal is still in his hand. Hesitantly, he holds it out to Wilbur again. 

He is still sitting on the bed, at the edge now, about to stand, but he looks up at Tommy. His eyes catch on the crystal and he softens. 

“I can--I can get something else,” Tommy says. 

“No,” Wilbur murmurs, carefully reaching out. “No I love it.” He wraps his hands around Tommy’s, “thank you,” he murmurs, “for this gift, Familiar.” Like he is handling something holy, Wilbur takes the crystal from Tommy’s hand. “I will treasure it as I treasure you.” 

Tommy’s eyes sting again, but he’s already shed so many tears. His head aches, so does his heart. He is leaving Dream behind. Dream is going to die. 

(Dream, he knows, is already dying. He has been all along.) 

But Wilbur is his. And he is Wilbur’s. He isn’t going to fade into a spirit. The Wild won’t overgrow in his mind and choke out his thoughts. He will live. 

Dream won’t. 

Dream abandoned him, and now Tommy is finally letting him go. 

Dream is standing at the door, watching them with his terrible poison green eyes. 

Tommy gasps, his heart fluttering in his chest. Wilbur shoves Tommy behind him. 

“So,” Dream says, his voice rasping, almost unrecognizable. He doesn’t sound like the man who laughed with Tommy, who read to him slowly from simple books so Tommy could learn to do it himself. “You’re leaving, then?” 

Tommy swallows and clings to Wilbur’s arm. 

“Yes,” Wilbur says, as if he’s completely unbothered. 

Tommy can feel the tension running through his body. The tightness of his spine, the way his hands are clenched into fists. 

“You think I’m just going to let you do that? When your coven is so close?” Dream’s head tilts, falling to the side in a way that shouldn’t seem unnatural, but does. The motion is too slow, but too sharp at the same time. “I told you, this is my tower now. And you’re my hostage.” His eyes fall on Tommy. 

He doesn’t say, ‘and that’s my familiar’ he only snorts and looks back to Wilbur. It hurts. It hurts so much. 

“We’re leaving,” Wilbur says firmly. 

“You’re not.” Dream has the book in his hands, the pages rustling like hissing snakes, venomous and deadly, waiting to pump their poison into another body, another mind. 

Wilbur snaps his fingers and his coat--the long brown one that Tommy had taken off of him when he came here, the one loaded with components and spells enough to add ten pounds to it--appears around his shoulders. Every witch has something they cast with, some use wands, some staffs, but it can be anything. A book. Or a coat, apparently. 

“Tommy,” Wilbur says, his voice low and commanding, but there is softness in it too. “Don’t look, okay?” 

“But--” 

“Just close your eyes,” Wilbur begs, “don’t look.” He turns away from Dream to cast a pleading look in Tommy’s direction, and that is when Dream strikes. 

There is a flash of light, the air writhes and bucks, as though even it can sense how wrong-wrong-wrong the magic moving through it is. Wilbur snarls, and more magic crackles through the air and Tommy falls to his knees and squeezes his eyes shut. 

The air hums and snaps, Wilbur gasps, pained, but not badly, Tommy flinches. That’s his witch. His witch. Fighting Dream. 

And Dream is laughing. And its his stupid, tea-kettle wheezing laugh, its wrong. Everything about him is wrong. There is no joy in his laugh now. There is only a terrifying sort of madness, the sort of madness that would tear a hole in the world and watch everything collapse around it. 

And the air, the room is filling up with wrong-wrong-wrong magic. Twisting and sparking and hissing, dragging rusted talons across every one of his senses. 

And Wilbur cries out. His witch, his Wilbur. And Tommy springs up with a snarl, and his magic grows wild and thorny and powerful. It fills up the room and it wraps tight around Wilbur. 

 And Dream laughs louder, and Dream casts. And the spell hits Tommy’s shield and rebounds. And then Dream chokes. He chokes and he wheezes but he isn’t laughing. He’s gasping like he can’t breathe, his feet stumble on the stone and Tommy opens his eyes. 

Dream is still in the doorway, Wilbur standing before him. The book is floating on its own, vomiting more of the dark-terrible-wrong-should-not-be magic and Dream is absorbing all of it. He’s stumbling away, holding out a hand as if to stop it. 

And it is tugging at him, forcing itself beneath his skin, bloating his veins until they split. Dream collapses in the hall, blood pouring from his eyes, from his nose, his mouth. His breath is gurgling and gasping and someone is screaming and someone is wrapping Tommy in their arms. 

Someone is pulling him away but Dream, Dream is hurt, Dream is hurt. His witch, his witch-- Tommy sobs and the screaming stops for a moment and he realizes that he is the one screaming. That Wilbur is the one holding him, trying to make him look away. The wrong-terrible-dark is still pouring into Dream. Its eating him, devouring him piece by piece, drinking down his blood, tearing apart his flesh. 

Wilbur hides Tommy’s face in his chest, but Tommy knows, Tommy saw. Dream’s eyes, blood running from the corners like tears, fixing, for a moment on him. There was no recognition, no emotion, but he looked at Tommy. Not through him. 

The pages of the hateful book hiss as they slide over each other, and then it thuds to the ground. 

Tommy is only saved from doing the same by Wilbur’s arms wrapped around him. 

*** 

“Wilbur!? Wilbur!” 

He doesn’t know that voice. 

“Here!” 

He knows that one. Wilbur. He sounds...he doesn’t sound good. Hoarse and choked. Like he’s been crying. Tommy shifts, trying to open his eyes trying to reach for Wilbur, only, oh, he’s already in his arms. He’s already holding Wilbur’s hand to his chest. 

“Shh,” Wilbur murmurs, “its alright Toms, just stay asleep, everything’s okay.” 

It doesn’t sound like everything is okay. 

There are two pairs of feet pounding up the stairs, skidding over the stone. They come to an abrupt halt, “oh, oh shit.” 

“Dad,” Wilbur says, he sounds like he’s going to cry again. 

“Oh Will,” the voice says. “Oh my boy.” The voice sounds like its going to cry too. “Are you okay? Look at me, are you hurt?” 

“I’m okay,” Wilbur says. He doesn’t sound okay.  

There is another presence near them. Cloth falls over Tommy’s face, its soft, silky almost, it smells like forest and sky and magic. Tommy whines and buries his face into Wilbur’s chest. 

“Is this--?” 

“This is Tommy,” Wilbur says softly, “he’s my familiar.” 

Tommy winds his fingers tightly into Wilbur’s jacket. He’s his. He’s his.  

In this moment, nothing else matters.