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The Dog Days (are over)

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His brown hair falls in front of his eyes, and when he pulls the long locks of hair behind his ears, he almost cannot recognize himself. A large scar is seen, and so are the dark shadows under his eyes. He will get a nose earing soon, it was one of the first things he wanted to do when they left.

But first, Dream will cut his hair. So, he is a little less recognizable, and so they will not get caught.

The Academy will find them, sooner or later. But Dream and he was the best of their classes. They made a promise a couple of years ago, that once they left, they would not have to return.

Dream returns with a pair of scissors he has found. He grimaces.

Gradually, the boy’s hair falls. They are both silent during the process, the only sound being the metal cutting into the matted hair, and Dream’s shoes against the marble flooring as he moves around to get the best angles to cut. If there was a sound from their small living room apartment, or outside their door, they would hear.

He did not spend six years (twelve for Dream) at The Academy for nothing.

Dream eventually places the scissors on the tabletop, after he has finished. The boy’s hair is significantly shorter, and his face is no longer covered. A bleach bottle is taken out. Soon, his hair will be blond.

The boy stares at his face afterward. He almost cannot recognize himself.

But he does. His name is Theseus - now Tommy, and he escaped The Academy. He is not safe.

He must continue. He must persist.

Theseus - Tommy - must survive.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy can hold his breath for six minutes underwater. Seven at his best.

His life flashes between the minutes of drowning.

One minute. He faintly distinguishes a life before. He remembers a mother, a father. He remembers the feeling of love.

Two minutes. There are twenty-nine other children with him. He is told they are his new brothers and sisters. They are this family; he writes on rows until his fingers are numb.

Three minutes. He holds a knife for the first time and is now familiar with going to bed starving. He is taught that this is survival, and he must be three steps ahead to leap.

Four minutes. They learn to use guns and shoot blindfolded. They shout words in classrooms until the teachings are engraved into their souls. The siblings that cannot keep up are taken away. He does not see them again.

Five minutes. He notices the classroom, once of thirty students, now reduced to twenty. Sometimes, he can hear his brothers and sisters’ voices and see their smiles in his sleep. Their failure is his success. Flowers are planted by unmarked stone. Soon, they wilt.

Six minutes. He understands that he must not be a second behind or a step too late. He fights for himself, for his future. He fights to survive. He teaches himself to persist, to allow the memories of his dead siblings to be a reminder of a possible fate.

Seven minutes – and urging arms force him upwards from the water. He gasps for air and can no longer feel his heart.

Tommy drowns in his sleep. For longer than seven minutes. He drowns in the previous faces of his siblings and the blood, sweat, and cold tears of his past.

There is a boy with salt-colored eyes. His name is Finn, and he does not make it past the anechoic chamber. There is also Lucifer, a boy who had once shared a piece of bread with Tommy, who had died in his sleep. Two flowers had been planted for them.

Strong arms do not pull him up, this time, as he drowns. Tommy wakes himself up, gasping for breaths and his heart racing. He cannot panic; he is not weak he must remind himself.

Tommy stumbles out of bed, grabbing the doorframe. He clutches his stomach, where under his plain shirt is a litter of bruises and stitches. Dream stands in the kitchen, staring at the wall opposite him rather intently.

The two boys do not say anything, as Tommy sits down. They don’t need to, as Dream has heard him from the hallway. They are trapped inside their minds momentarily; Tommy burying his head in his arms while Dream just stares.

Dream is the first one to speak. “We can go explore the town if you would like today. I need to find a job.” Because the money he has stolen will last them a couple of months. If Tommy had followed every part of the plan, they would have collected more.

Tommy squeezes his eyes closed and wills himself to forget. “Sounds good,” he mutters under his breath.

“Tommy–” Dream’s voice turns soft. It is sudden and strange because Tommy is not used to a lack of harshness in his tone which was present at The Academy. “We’ll be okay. I promised you before, did I not?”

“You did,” Tommy nods his head, but he’s hesitant. “What time are we leaving?”

Fall results in colorful trees and cleaner air. Lighter skies, and preparation for the cold nights of Winter. It means layering, thick jackets, and long socks.

Tommy and Dream go to a local clothes store first. Tommy’s eyes dart around the unfamiliarity, whereas Dream’s experience allows them to reach the clothes aisle rather quickly. He tells him, of the one mission that occurred at the back of a Walmart.

Dream drops sweaters and shirts into the bags, glancing at Tommy for confirmation every so moment. He has only owned a pair of black shorts and a white shirt, accompanied by a dark-colored blazer. They’d also have a set of pajamas, and grey pants for the colder evenings.

The siblings then go and buy shoes. “Pick anything you want, Tommy,” Dream says kindly. “I’ll be back soon.” It’s natural; communication. During their missions, communication was survival.

Tommy exhales and awkwardly shuffles by the rows of shoes to find a pair that he likes. He is used to the black tennis shoes he owns now, but a change would be nice.

(For a moment, he thinks of what shoes will help him run the fastest and will help him move around stealthily during missions. But he isn’t there anymore, he has to remind himself.

He has escaped. He is free.

It doesn’t feel that way, though.)

Dream returns, frowning when he notices Tommy hasn’t selected a pair. “I’ll help,” he offers. “You should be a size thirteen.”

Tommy finds a white pair of shoes with red stripes across the edges. He likes them. When he shows Dream, he grins. They pay and leave the store with a pile of bags that the older has offered to carry since Tommy’s arms are still bandaged from the aftermath of their escape.

They find themselves strolling by town, tall shops, and orange trees bringing newness to their lives. A reminder of what it is now, and what will be their future. Well, until they are found and must hide again.

“You can find a job,” Dream offers after a comfortable silence has passed. “Only if you want to.”

Tommy’s time will be spent in his apartment, staring at the walls. So, he nods his head, because anything is better than spending hours in space, he cannot call home just yet.

“What will happen?” Tommy says.

“What?” Dream glances at him.

He repeats his words. “What will happen after we are safe?” Because they are not safe yet. But there will be a time that comes when they will be.

“We will live,” Dream declares. Simple words: but Tommy realizes they won’t have to be reluctant when leaving the apartment, or hesitation when they must leave each other for a couple of hours. Tommy realizes they won’t have to survive anymore. They will be able to live.

The brothers end up at a park, surrounded by tough trees and a playground nearby with screaming children. They sit on a red bench, and Dream drops the bags by their feet.

The older boy nods towards the direction of the playground. “Go play.”

Tommy scowls. “I’m not a child, Dream.” He hasn’t been one since the age of ten.

“I’ll push you on the swings,” Dream chuckles again, earning a light punch by the younger. “I’m joking, I’m joking!”

Tommy sighs, and he finds himself relaxing. The Academy would be displeased. He’d be punished for being so light-minded around so many people, in public. They are taught to hold stoic faces and ignore vulnerability. 

“Breathe,” Dream says, next to him. Tommy must be shaking, then. Thinking about his past does that to him. “Breathe, Tommy. You don’t have to think about that place anymore.”

But he does. Because familiar faces still haunt him, and the burns of skin will always be a painful reminder of his past. The nights starving, the brothers he left behind, the lessons that will be forever engraved in his soul.

“See those kids over there?” Dream’s words are like arms that grab him from the water. It was him who pulled Tommy out of the water.

("You’re an idiot! You could have killed yourself!” Dream shouts at him the day afterward. “What have I told you, Theseus?”

“Five minutes. To count in my head.”

Dream sighs. “Promise me, you won’t do it again." Theseus stares at the new marks on his brother's skin, a result of tampering with Theseus' progress during the lesson. The Teachers would have shouted at the older boy, he was likely reprimanded by the Headmaster for pulling such a stunt. "Promise me, Theseus."

If it had been any other person, who’d assisted a student, they could have been killed. But Dream is Dream. He is an exception.

“I promise,” Theseus eventually says.)

“Yeah,” Tommy blinks, glancing at the group of boys who run around the field in front of them. They’re in the middle of a game of soccer and look around Tommy’s age.

“Join them,” Dream offers. “I won’t go anywhere.”

“Dream,” Tommy groans. “Please, don’t make me.”

He nudges the boy. “C’mon. I don’t have all day.”

Tommy groans again and stands up. He crosses his hands against his chest and glares at his brother. “I hate you.”

“I know you do. Give me your knife." The one strapped to his ankle. "You wouldn’t want to stab yourself when you run.”

Tommy hands the knife to Dream and sighs.

“Go easy on them, Tommy,” Because they both know Tommy is faster and can outrun most kids his age. Some lessons, they’d make them run until they collapsed. But this is not a lesson, this is a game.

“I hate you,” Tommy reminds his brother – so he doesn’t forget. He turns around and slowly jogs to one of the boys who stands to the side. For a moment, he wants to turn around and stay within the comforting presence of Dream, but he’s too far in and the short boy notices him approaching.

“Hey,” Tommy says uneasily. “Can I join?”

“Yeah, sure!” The boy is even shorter up close. His hair is the shade of Tommy’s before it was dyed. “I’m Tubbo, are you new around here?”

Tommy nods his head stiffly.

“Makes sense,” Tubbo nods his head, and Tommy wants to know how he knows this fact. But he concludes the town is tight-nit, and Tubbo would have seen him around

“You can be on my team,” Tubbo says, after tying his shoelaces. He stands up and beckons Tommy to follow. He is briefly introduced to everyone, but Tubbo reassures him not to remember their names.

Tommy remembers every name. He is a former member of The Academy, after all.

The blond-haired boy soon finds out that the game isn’t as strict, and rule-ridden as he used to play. They mess around and shove each other over when someone gets a goal. Tubbo stays by him for a bit, laughing around and shouting. Tommy doesn’t know how to feel natural, feeling on edge throughout the game. He can’t concentrate, and his mind spins.

The ball then lands by his feet. “Tommy, over here!” Tubbo is across him, a few yards away, his arms waving in the air. A boy, his name is Fundy, charges towards Tommy to capture the ball off him.

Tommy takes a deep breath in and rushes forward. He dribbles the ball between his feet and outruns the ginger-haired boy who runs after him. Tommy then slows down, kicking the ball to Tubbo who sprints forward, dogging a taller boy. Tubbo kicks to ball back to Tommy, as they edge near the goal. Tommy doesn’t have to think twice about kicking to the left of the keeper. He can see how the goalie – Purpled (It’s a weird name, but he grew up with a boy named Sapnap, so it’s nothing he’s not used to) is edging towards the left, thinking he can read Tommy’s movements well. He can’t because the boy hides it well as he kicks.

He scores a goal. Tommy can hear Tubbo shout in the background, and a couple of guys rush to Tommy. He doesn’t grin, but he feels lighter.

(He’s still ready to push someone to the ground and attack someone who threatens.)

The game progresses not long after high fives and cheers of congratulations. Tommy finds himself in the background, not wanting to draw much attention to himself again. The game proceeds for twenty or so minutes, Tommy definitely does not find the seconds pass by in his head. As some of the boys start heading home, he turns to leave too, once he realizes Dream probably does not want to wait too long.

He knows Dream, doesn’t mind, though.

“You’re leaving!?” A voice calls after Tommy as he leaves the field. Tommy tenses for a second and turns to find Tubbo jogging after him.

“Um, yeah,” Tommy nods his head once Tubbo stands in front of him, once again. He nods his head at Dream who is watching them carefully with an indecipherable look in his eyes.

“You should join us another time,” Tubbo grins, combing his brown hair out of his eyes. “You’re cool, Tommy.”

“Thanks,” Tommy mutters, remembering what closeness meant. (Closeness was a connection. And connection meant death.

Dream was always an exception.)

“I’ll see you around, then,” Tubbo eventually says when Tommy doesn’t say anything else. “Bye!”

Tommy nods his head and turns around to meet Dream. For some reason, his brother is smiling.

“Are we going?” Tommy questions uncertainly.

“Oh – yeah,” He picks up the bags. “Did you have fun?”

Tommy doesn’t say anything, glancing away. He doesn’t like that he’s been the most vulnerable he has been in years. He doesn’t like how he’s changing so much.

They stop at a bakery near their apartment. Dream buys Tommy a chocolate bun and cream cheese bagel for himself. They enjoy their meal, as they return back, starting a short conversation.

Tommy doesn’t know he’ll get used to this. But Dream will help him, and together, they will.

 

 

 

 

 

His name is Dream and he escaped The Academy.

The wind ruffles his brown hair, and his tired eyes meet the sky.

Dream, a voice echoes in his dreams. When we leave, watch the stars with me.

One day, he will whisper the name that burns his frosted lips, back to him. But now, he can’t. Because his two best friends are still trapped, and the man will not stop until they are all free.

Dream watches his younger brother in the distance. A part of him is still a student at The Academy; watchful eyes calculating the distant figures and the potential harm that can be inflicted to his brother. He’ll devise a plan in seconds and execute it in a matter of moments.

But the other part of himself, the softer, more calm side, watches him with fondness and he is relieved because Tommy finally has a chance to be a kid. He won’t be able to go to school, nor will be able to attain the experiences that others will, and he will be forever burdened by moments of his past that no person should go through – but right now, him running through a field, careless and carefree, is enough.

One day he hopes that they all can enjoy a moment like this together. Of lightness, of no worry. He hopes for someday, his hand will be with his other, and his smile will match another. The four of them, against the world.

The wind picks up, and the orange and red leaves fly past him. Dream’s eyes dip closed, the sound of laugher sudden music to his ears.

Dream exhales.

Chapter Text

He gets a nose piercing.

Dream doesn’t like it.

“It makes you look older,” Dream grips his chin and turns his face ten different angles before Tommy shoves away his steady arms. “You look like you’d sell weed.”

“And what’s wrong with that, bitch?” Tommy rolls his eyes, kicking Dream’s foot. Dream grins and rolls his sleeves up. The boys fall to the floor in a tackle. Dream wins. He pins Tommy down in a matter of seconds but makes sure not to hurt his injured arm. Tommy can practically hear his smile.

“Stop slacking,” Dream commands, but there is softness in his voice. “You’re better than this.”

Tommy remembers Dream’s tough stares and harsher conditions back at The Academy. He led a couple of classes. Under the eye of the other Teachers, they were strangers. When they were accompanied by George and Sapnap, or alone, they were brothers.

“I have an injured arm,” Tommy complains. “I’d beat you otherwise.”

“It’s getting better,” Dream notes as he pulls the younger boy up. “We can start to spar properly in a week or so.”

Tommy nods his head. He can’t get out of shape, and they must prepare for the worst. Besides, it would be a shame to avoid a lesson from The Academy’s best-graduated student. Dream was always the best. Then George, and then Sapnap.

Tommy would have been the fourth. Dream always saw potential in him, and the other older boys told him he was miles above the rest in his class.

“What do you want to do today?” Dream questions Tommy over breakfast. Two slices of toast, and a boiled egg under the soft colors of the sunset. They wake up at six because it was how they were taught.

“The bakery,” Tommy thinks out loud. “I think I’ll ask to work there.”

“You do know you won’t be able to eat on the job.”

“Shut up, Dream.” Both of them know Tommy has never had an appetite, other than for sweets. He can eat three chocolate croissants, a blueberry muffin, and a bar of caramel chocolate in one sitting but will struggle to finish a plate of rice for lunch.

“Will you be okay, alone?” Dream has been looking for a job for the last week and has fortunately found one under a name, Quackity. Tommy doesn’t know the details yet, he hasn’t asked.

“Yes,” because Tommy was alone for years of his life. He didn’t always have Dream. He didn’t always have Sapnap and George.

The older is hesitant, but he shouldn’t be, because he knows that Tommy can hold himself. He learned how to use a knife in combat years ago, and always carries a gun on himself.

(There’s one under both their cushions as they prepare for the inevitable.)

“Be safe,” Dream makes him promise.

“I will.” He does.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream survives because he is quick and calculated. He is honored because plans are devised in his mind in seconds. He executes them perfectly. He is considered the best.

George survives because he is intelligent. He can learn languages faster than his other siblings, and his mind is deemed a wonder. He learns that his difficulty in areas of fighting and weapon use can be redeemed through Mathematics, Arabic, French, and Mandarin. He stores information in his mind, and he stays quiet and disciplined because he can control himself. He must, to persist.

Sapnap lives off anger and fury, but he survives because he is the only one that can match The Academy’s best student. His knives are like fingers, and his gun work receives praise from the Teachers and Headmaster. But he’s hot-headed and disciplined until he’s put in his place. The fire inside of him is dimmed after countless punishments, and he learns to manage the raging fire within his spirit.

There are Graduates after them, but they do not fit under the expectations of the Headmaster. His heart is of stone, and he expects a fourth; a student who can fulfill the footsteps of the three.

Then, comes Theseus. Dream is the first to notice him.

“Him, he’ll be our fourth.”

It’s usually Sapnap who points out a kid who slightly excels above the rest of the students. One time, their name was Lucas, and he can take down half his class with a knife before he is stopped. But Sapnap is wrong when the boy does not return another morning.

George had picked last time, selecting a taller boy with sharp eyes and an intense face. He was taken away and did not return.

After their failed selections, they stop their game.

But then Dream chooses a boy with fiery eyes like Sapnap and a face similar to George’s. This is Dream’s first time choosing and his last. He sharpens his knife while Sapnap and George stare uninterestedly at the class in front of them.

The class is introduced to knives. A brown-haired boy, tall, not seeming any different from the rest, grips the weapon carefully in his hand while his surrounding siblings test the weapon by swinging it around.

Sapnap and George stare at Dream oddly. “What?” They say when they register his words.

Dream nods his head at the boy. He is number sixteen. Later, they find his name: Theseus.

The three men watch as each boy lines up. The Teacher tells them to throw the knife. When it comes to Theseus’ turn, he misses the bullseye by a couple of inches.

Sapnap laughs lightly. Not at the boy, but Dream’s assumption. “Are you sure?”

Dream’s eyes are calculating, as he observes the student with a small frown. He crosses his arms over his chest and stands strong. “He’ll learn. He’ll become better.”

“Okay then,” George shrugs calmly as they leave the room once they are called to assist with another class. “And if you’re wrong?”

Dream is not wrong. He never is.

Because unlike anyone else, Dream can see the flame in Theseus’ eyes, that shines with such determination to continue. He may not be the most skilled and smart, nor is he disciplined yet, but he has the most courage to continue. He has the most will, persistence, and stubbornness.

Theseus will survive.

 

 

 

 

 

The bakery’s front is lit up with welcoming lights decorated around the purple flowers that are bedded in front of the large windows. ‘Niki’s Bakery’ are the words displayed on the sign, with pink, curly letters. Two wooden tables are stood by the front, under a light shade.

Tommy watches carefully from across the street. To anyone walking by, he is a phone-addicted teenager who is ditching school. But he’s surveying the store itself, watching customers come and go before he will cross the road and walk inside.

The boy remembers the taste of the sweetness of the chocolate bun, and wonders if Dream will be mad if Tommy buys himself a treat instead of lunch, which the crumpled ten-dollar note in his pocket is for. Tommy used to trade his sour buns with George’s vanilla puddings. When Dream found out, he was not pleased.

Something about a healthy diet, Dream had said. If he wanted to outperform others he had to eat properly, apparently.

Tommy finds himself in front of the store in between thoughts. He pushes the door open, and the bell chimes. The walls are decorated with paintings of sunsets and flowers, hiding the soft tone of wallpaper that Tommy doesn’t like. Rows of baked bread and cakes are displayed behind glass and the scent of coffee drifts.

“I’m Niki, how can I help you?” Tommy remembers her from yesterday.

“I was looking for a job,” Tommy darts his eyes around. “Are you hiring?”

Niki hesitates before her eyes light up. “You came in yesterday, with your brother, didn’t you?” Tommy does not appreciate how they are so recognizable. But he nods his head anyway. “Did you enjoy the treats?”

“They were good,” Tommy nods his head. “My brother said he wanted to come around again.” Dream had not said so, but Tommy assumed that the lie would help him a little more.

“I’m glad,” Niki smiles, surveying the boy. She likely wonders why he is not at school. “Well, I’m usually the only one here, but I have been in need of a helping hand recently.”

Niki asks him for his name and basic details. His name is Tommy, and he is sixteen, words he recites from his mind which Dream had made him learn.

(The hail knocks on the roof of their car, and the radio is light, it can barely be heard.

Dream speaks. “Your name is Tommy, and you are sixteen. You moved from the country with me, after we sold our farm. You finished high school early. You have lived with me for the last four years.”

Theseus recites his words. Dream does not expect him to repeat the words until his mouth is dry, as The Academy would have done. Because his brother knows he needs to speak the words once, to recall.

“My name is Tommy, and I am sixteen. We moved from the country after we sold the farm. I finished high school early and have lived with my brother for the last four years.”

Theseus - now, Tommy - exhales. Dream smiles.)

Niki thanks him after the information is given. “Let’s go to the back, I’ll close up early so I can show you the basics.” Although Tommy is wary, because he will be alone in a room without a straight exit, he is trained and can hold himself.

Niki then asks for his phone number, and his guardian’s, in case she needs him to take an extra shift or in case of an emergency.

“I don’t have a phone,”

Niki quickly frowns but covers it up with a hesitant smile. “That’s okay. What’s your brother’s?”

Tommy tells her, and Niki shows him around the lounge. There is a small couch, and a table, and a fridge with soft drinks, for breaks.

“I thought you worked alone?” Tommy eyes the stack of drinks and snacks around. The place looks messy, and since Tommy is observative, he notices that it seems someone else has been here.

“My friends come around sometimes. Don’t worry, they won’t disturb you too much.”

Tommy is a fast learner and picks up things fairly quickly. He knows how to use the machines and memorizes the steps to make a few of the drinks. Give him a moment alone, and he will memorize the whole list.

“I’ll be here during your first couple of shifts, to help out. If I’m not here, ask one of my friends.” Tommy assumes they are around regularly. “You look like a good kid Tommy, don’t let me down.”

“I won’t.” Tommy nods his head.

“You know, I should ask why you’re not at school,” Niki laughs lightly, as Tommy practices making a cappuccino for her. She sits on one of the wooden tables, a cloth in her hand as she leans back to observe Tommy’s skills. She is impressed, sharing the same look as Tommy’s Teachers used to have when he came back from missions successful or held his own against some of the Graduates. “But I trust you, Tommy. I really do.”

 

 

 

 

 

Later that evening, both brothers lay down on their small couch as they watch a random program on the TV that Dream has just installed. Tommy had not helped, only laughing at his older brother’s struggle.

“She had told me she trusted me, so easily,” Tommy’s eyes flicker to Dream’s, whose eyes are on him in thought. “I don’t get it; she doesn’t even know me yet.” They lay on opposite sides of the couch, Tommy’s legs dangle in his older brother’s lap, while his arms are sprawled behind a cushion. They aren’t listening to the program that runs, but it helps fill the void of silence that both despise.

“People are like that,” Dream says after careful concentration. “They will trust easily because they don’t have a reason not to.”

“I could have robbed her or threatened her at knifepoint.” Tommy stretches his arms to pick up the weapon that is hidden under the couch. There’s a gun in the fruit bowl and a pocketknife hidden somewhere in their fridge. Tommy doesn’t know why they do it, maybe out of intuition.

“You’re a child, you’re not expected to rob her,” Dream explains to the younger boy, but he does not tease Tommy for not understanding, because he recognizes that Tommy has never been exposed as he has. Dream has been on many more missions in public, the most for a month, where he owned a house himself to discover the location of an organization The Academy wanted him to research.

Dream has talked to people and learned to understand his surroundings. Whereas Tommy is somewhat newer to this, as he was restricted between the walls of The Academy for the majority of his life.

(One of the many reasons, Dream hates their past. Because Tommy never got to live life as a normal kid.)

“But I could have,” Tommy plays with the knife in his hand, until Dream swats his legs.

“Stop doing that.”

“Or what?” The younger boy grins, aiming the knife at his brother’s head.

“Tommy,” Dream warns.

“Dream,” Tommy mocks but he puts the knife down. He pulls his legs up and turns his body, so he lays on Dream’s side. Dream scoffs, but he ends up wrapping around him, as he put on a movie. Tommy would not be caught dead ever being so close to another being, while Dream would never show this side to anyone else.

Tommy’s eyes flicker to Dream’s green. He can recall the same soft eyes echoing back icy and cold. The Academy made him cold and strict. Dream would yell at the students if they slacked or did not pay attention. They were disciplined by their Teachers and older siblings – the Graduates.

Tommy would hate his Lessons with Dream, Sapnap, and George. Like a lesson, he was taught to appreciate them, because the Teacher’s hits were harder, and their punishments were crueler.

(Over time, Tommy enjoyed the times Dream would come in for lessons, appreciating the validation and the appearance of the man when he was proud. Not that Tommy would admit it out loud, ever.)

“We’ll watch ‘Die Hard,’” Dream suggests, but because he holds the remote, it’s an order. “Number two, though. Live Free or Die Hard because it’s just better.”

“Sure,” Tommy doesn’t care. Occasionally, Dream interrupts with an explanation, and Tommy buts in with unneeded comments. Then Dream tells him to be quiet, and Tommy retaliates by threatening him with a knife.

The night is warm and both brothers bicker under the watchful eyes of the moon. They fall asleep by the credits close, and maybe, for the first time in their lives, they are asleep with smiles.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream always follows the Lessons of his Teachers. When he meets Theseus, it changes.

He knows connection means death. He knows that his friendship with George and Sapnap is already thin ice. At The Academy, you don’t have friends – you have siblings. But those siblings are ripped away from you, and never seen again if they cannot hold against their own.

It is impossible to love, they are taught, if you could not love yourself. They were monsters, the worst of the worst. They are taught to hate their skin and every part of themselves.

The first time Dream meets Theseus; is the first time he regards his Teachers wrong.

“He’s just another kid,” Sapnap tells him. “Why is he so special?”

Dream cannot answer him. Nor can he answer his Headmaster, when he is asked which kid, he had an eye on. Which of them stood out.

Dream lies. “Number Thirty,” because he is not allowed to use their names.

Afterward, Number Thirty is treated with harsher conditions and ruthless punishments. Number Thirty did not return one evening. Dream does not flinch, nor does his heart burn with guilt. Because he is strong, he is a monster.

Theseus teaches Dream, that not all of them are monsters. Theseus has big dreams and lights his passions with fire. He trains harder than most of his siblings, he has the most stubborn to live. As their years went on, Theseus changes. His face grows to stone, Theseus no longer smiles.

Dream then promises an escape. To get them out of there.

Once, Theseus agrees with his plan. Once, he’d share Dream’s plan to leave and never come back. But Theseus changes, and he no longer holds the same obstinacy he once did. Theseus grows tired. He grows exhausted.

Dream goes to his friends one night, with a final mission. “We’re escaping. Before Theseus’ Graduation. We are leaving.”

Sapnap is on board. George, not so much.

“It’s dangerous, you know that Dream. They won’t kill you, but they’ll kill us if we’re caught.”

“Theseus has to leave,” Dream says, and has not realized until then how his connection to the younger boy grew strong. Because Theseus isn't some random kid. Theseus is his brother.

The Academy did not allow connections. Dream did not care.

“Little brother,” Dream had once said to the boy, who slapped his arm and shouted at him to be quiet before a Teacher heard them.

“He will die,” Dream mutters quietly to his friends. Theseus had to survive. “Their last Lesson is the hardest. Barely anyone comes back from it.”

“We did,” George reasons. “You know he can. He’s our fourth.”

“You need to understand,” Because they didn’t. “We have to go.”

Sapnap and George had listened because Dream directed their plans most of the time. They listened when Dream had said Theseus would be the best, and they listen now. Because as much as they hate to admit it, they care about Theseus too. Behind George’s blank eyes and Sapnap’s attitude which forces anyone away, they care about the kid.

Care is connection. Connection is death.

Dream had not understood the significance of the lesson. Not when Ryder, a kind boy who always told stories at night, had not returned from a mission. Even when Arlo, a Graduated who had become Dream’s mentor, was killed.

He understood it when he and Tommy left, and George and Sapnap were left behind. He understood the pain and suffering that came with it when he was separated from his best friends, expecting to never see them again.

He understands it then, and he understands it again.

Dream follows the Lesson of his Teachers. Connection is death, and Dream has a connection to Tommy, George, and Sapnap. They are his brothers – his family.

Dream survives, but he will die for his family.

Chapter Text

Tommy wakes up from another nightmare.

His heart races and he cannot breathe. Strong fingers grip his hands, but he can’t feel either.

Tommy can hear a soft voice between the madness. His chest heaves, and he gasps for breaths, spluttering in disorientation. The Academy made Tommy strong, yet Tommy still feels weak. He feels powerless, like a pawn. Tommy will forever have hidden fears, even though The Academy drove all emotion out of their students.

Tommy fears drowning. He fears death and losing the people he loves.

He is weak. And now, he drowns in the previous faces of his siblings, and can still feel the harsh reprimands of his skin, in consequence.

“Breathe,” Tommy makes out the familiar voice. “Breathe, Theseus.”

“Dre-am–?” And his voice cracks, but he can’t help it because he can’t feel his thoughts or control his heart.

“Yeah, it’s me. You’ll be okay, just breathe with me.”

He does because it’s Dream.

Tommy is meant to be their fourth. He is meant to be strong, but he crumbles in fear of his memories and his darkest secrets. He still trusts people, and cares, and loves. He isn’t what The Academy raised. Sapnap was forever wrong, he isn’t miles above the rest of his ex-siblings.

“I’m sorry,” Tommy apologizes, again and again. “I’m sorry, Dream. I’m sorry –”

“Kid, stop apologizing,” Dream holds his shoulders, secured. “I want you to breathe. C’mon.”

Tommy passes out.

He wakes up again, his throat dry and his head dizzy. When he adjusts to the light above his eyes and his surroundings, he notices the glass of water and pill on the wooden table in front of him.

He does not freak out at the new setting, because Dream speaks from behind him (and because he's trained to custom easily to new experiences). He stands in the kitchen, but Tommy’s back is to him, so he only hears his voice.

“The medicine will help with your headache. Don’t swallow it dry.” Tommy does anyway, rubbing his eyes, his breaths light. He wants to know why he is in the living room because he remembers passing out on his bed after a shift at Niki’s. He’s been working there for a week or so, and he’s found it manageable so far.

Dream comes around the couch and sits next to him. “You good now, kid?”

“I don’t remember,” He doesn’t really, rubbing his face. “Did I have a nightmare or something?”

Dream is silent for a moment. “Yeah,” his voice is very quiet. “You had a, um, panic attack. But you passed out after, and I took you here so I could keep an eye on you. In case you woke up again.”

Tommy’s cheeks heat. He doesn’t like showing weakness – he was taught against it. Especially to his older brother. He’s embarrassed.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Tommy mutters, ducking his head to stare at the weirdly shaped stain on the carpet. “And I’m not a child.”

“I never you said you were,” Dream says, before laughing lightly under his breath. “But you are.”

Tommy’s too tired to punch him in retaliation. All he can think of is the haunting faces of his past. Because in the midst of the siblings, are Sapnap and George who are still stuck there. And although they make up two-thirds of the top Graduates, The Academy has always valued Dream’s life the most.

“It’ll be okay,” Dream reassures him, rubbing his back carefully. “I promise, Tommy.”

“Don’t fucking make promises you can’t keep,” Tommy snaps, regretfully. “You can’t promise a thing, Dream.”

Dream leans back in his seat, calm and collected, unlike Tommy’s sudden heat. He is similar to Sapnap in that sense. The older boy used to deny being alike to Tommy in any shape or form.

“When am I ever wrong?” Dream says back. Because he’s kept every promise he has made, and his words will never and have never had a trace of doubt.

Tommy is ready to snap back, but he pauses when he cannot think of anything. “You said we’d leave. All of us. You promised we would all be safe, but Sapnap and George are still stuck at The Academy.”

“They told me they didn’t want to come.”

And the words hit him.

“What?” Tommy’s eyes furrow and his heart skips a beat, as he grasps Dream’s words. “What the fuck did you just say?”

“They didn’t want to come,” Dream replies plainly, tension drifting between them. “George helped me make the plan, it was always going to be you and me. Sapnap agreed.”

Tommy remembers leaving the agency. He remembers the despair he had felt when George and Sapnap could not be found. He remembers almost ruining the plan of escape. He remembers feeling so fucking empty in the car, as they left his life. He remembers not being able to speak for days, as Dream and he had hidden, and waited.

Tommy remembers feeling like he was on a mission. He was a student of The Academy, and his mission was to escape. He was Theseus. He is Tommy now.

“And you fucking let them?” Tommy exclaims, not able to believe what Dream says to him. “You let them say no. You let them stay behind?!”

Tommy almost forgets Dream is the best. Dream does not care because care is connection which is why he survives.

“Tommy,” Dream is still calm and soft-spoken as if he’s talking to a zoo animal who has left its enclosure. “I didn’t have a choice; I couldn’t force them to do anything.”

“You’re Dream,” Tommy shouts. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have – I could have talked them out of staying. I could have done something.”

“No, you couldn’t have. They were adamant about staying.”

Tommy scoffs and is ready to storm out of the room. He stays for his dignity and because he doesn’t want to see immature and childish. Those were the words The Academy used to get under his bones, to finally discipline him. He can act out now because Dream won’t hit him like they would make him before. But Dream didn’t have a choice, none of them did.

“Then we should have stayed,” Tommy says strictly. “We should have stayed.”

“No, we shouldn’t have.” Now Dream stands up and strides up to the boy, who is only about an inch shorter than him. A couple of years ago, Dream would almost have to kneel lower to speak to him. But now Tommy only must tilt his head slightly, for their eyes to lock.

Brilliant blue eyes meet forest green.

“Dream –”

“No Tommy,” The man interrupts him with a frown. “It was my choice to leave, and it was the best choice. Sapnap and George will leave soon, we’ll figure out a way to get them out there as well as everyone else. But I don’t regret for a second, taking you with me.”

“Why?” Tommy says gruffly, looking away. Dream grips his chin and forces him to look back at him. He had used the same gesture when they were younger when Dream forced Tommy to listen to him and make sure he did not forget.

“Because,” Dream says slowly. “Because I couldn’t bear seeing you hurt anymore.”

The words hit him again, and Tommy doesn’t know what to think nor say. “I’m not weak –”

“And I know that. But you were only a month from the last Lesson. Barely any students make it out alive.”

Tommy had been training for it, for months in preparation. He listened harder in classes and stopped eating for a period of time, to test his stomach. The final Lesson was their last test of endurance. The last exam before Graduation. It was gruelling standards, Tommy would only hear Sapnap and George tell stories about it, never would he have to endure it.

Because of his older brother.

“You didn’t think I could make it out alive.” Tommy accuses.

“I didn’t want you to go through it.” Dream exhales, seeming finished with the conversation. “Tommy, are you listening to me?”

“What if I’m not?” The boy snaps, because he’s angry and can’t handle the niceness that radiates off the man by him. “Will you hit me? Will you lock me in my room? What will you do, Dream?”

“No,” he replies softly. “I won’t.”

“I was prepared. I was ready, I was meant to be your fourth. But you guys never really saw me as one of you guys, right? I was always lesser, childish.” The words of his Teachers echo through his mind. Their words inked through his mind, and he realized how much the feeling of failure hurt. The Academy used their worst fears against them, to shape them into the version they wanted. Young ten-year-old would appear with their eyes bright and dazed, to only turn stone-cold and depressed as the years went on.

“That isn’t true,” Dream denies.

“Then we could have left after Graduation. After I finished the final mission.” But Dream doesn’t think he’s good enough, which is why Dream made sure they left. Tommy is angry, although the anger should have been driven out of him. They would use his rage, and it should have disappeared to a clear feeling of nothingness. Because assassins don’t feel – assassins cannot let emotions control them.

Sapnap became controlled. So had Tommy.

But he’s angry now. Angry that Dream left, and left his best friends – family – behind because he believed that Tommy could not make the final mission. They could have left months afterwards, together. If Dream had trusted him to survive.

Tommy shoves Dream’s off him and leaves the room. He can hear Dream’s shouts as he exits the apartment. He pretends he does not care about the hurt that momentarily flashes on Dream’s face, to only disappear a second later. Tommy does not care. He will not feel.

Tommy is trained to be an assassin. He was for six years. He will prove Dream wrong. That he is strong enough to be his fourth.

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap speaks of a story. He is the youngest between him, Dream and George. His story is the latest, and he can remember his the best.

“Our class began at a desert, blinded and cuffed to each other.” Egypt, he tells quietly – unlike him. The Sahara. Where day was night, and the sun burned their skin. “No water or food. It was day three when we first ate. I remember – camel meat and milk. It felt like the best meal I’d ever had.”

Sapnap tells how the assassins would eventually split up, as they would be shot if found in groups. They work separately, as they grew up in The Academy and this is how they are taught. Sapnap speaks of finding a village and with the only gun strapped to his belt, he shoots a man and his family in his home, to raid their drawers and kitchen. He finds food that lasts a couple of days.

Their final lesson is the hardest. It will last from a couple of weeks to months. George recalls their anticipation as they waited for Sapnap, and how there was never a true time to tell when the students would return. George had only graduated a year before, Dream the year previous. They stay up, with memories of the fateful final exam, and can only hold hope that Sapnap returns every night.

Sapnap does. They are the first two notified of his finish, and they meet him in a helicopter with a couple of The Academy’s medics. Sapnap is in slightly worse state than the two others had been previously with more burns, cuts and bruises. He grips onto the right side of his stomach, where he had ripped off a piece of fabric to stop a large cut from bleeding through. He can barely open his eyes.

However, he is more tanned, and Dream notices a difference in him. He is injured and will need bed rest for weeks, but he will come back stronger than before.

Sapnap graduates, the top of his class. Months pass and other students return slowly. Sapnap becomes their third, and Dream stops needing to look out for him so much. Not since Sapnap has proved himself and his friends.

Sapnap has survived.

 

 

 

 

 

A year passes. Then two. For once, Dream feels complete. Because he survives, and so does his friends. But then he is told that the headmaster is looking for a fourth. He hopes to complete his set of perfect students. They are referred to the Elites by a few; the ones who have set the standard for the rest of the students. But years pass, and no students can match up to the expectations of the higher boys.

Then Dream, Sapnap and George meet Theseus and they decide he’s their fourth. Because he’s smart and calculating and can hold his own. Sapnap watches him carefully between classes, and George keeps an eye on him during mealtimes, as he sits alone, sometimes with silent classmates.

Dream is the first to speak to him.

“I’m Dream,” He is not soft, nor does he smile.

“Sixteen,” The boy clears his throat, glancing around the room uncertainly.

“Well, what’s your name?” Dream knows the answer, but he asks because he can.

The boy hesitates because they do not use their names in The Academy. But he must not refuse to answer a question of a Graduate. “Theseus.”

Dream likes his confidence. Although he can work on it a bit. “Chin up. Speak clearer." He almost smirks. "Theseus.”

Theseus does not frown or scowl. Maybe, in another life, he would have.

He does seem startled though. Because no one refers to the younger students as their names – they have their numbers for a reason, the ones tattooed on their skin. Wrist and stomach. “Yes, sir.”

After Dream speaks to Theseus for the first time, he tells George and Sapnap to keep an eye on him. They update him every few so days. He’s improving in his classes, George says while Sapnap tells Dream that the boy can last the longest underwater compared to his classmates.

Good, Dream thinks. Any advantage will assist him to survive.

He shouldn’t become so attached. He should not care. He is Dream, and he is cunning and uncaring. He has killed children, babies, mothers and fathers. He has stabbed his classmates and stolen food from some, to survive. But there is something about the brown-haired boy with blue eyes that ruins every teaching and every lesson he is taught. And he hates it.

Dream should not hesitate when he must use Theseus as a demonstration for a class, punching him in the jaw. But he does.

Dream should not talk to the boy in between him in classes. Tell him tips and teaches him to improve. But he does.

Dream should not grow close to the boy. But eventually, he does.

And Dream should not save him from the swallowing waters, as the boy is seconds away from drowning under the time underwater. He is the strong arms that grip the boy to pull him upwards. He is scolded and punished. But Dream will save him in the same situation, in every life, and he will not regret it.

“You care about the kid,” Sapnap announces. “You didn’t have a weakness, Dream. Everyone has a weakness. And now you’re like everyone else.”

Maybe he is like everyone else. Because for years, he is forced into a position and title, which he has never been able to control. But Dream is human. He feels and cares for a boy who has taught him that he is not just a cold assassin.

He hides and denies his true thoughts because it is how he is taught. Their life lives on lessons. “No,” he lies. Dream is a good liar, but Sapnap knows that he is. He denies it because no one must know. No one must know that under his mask, he has a weakness. And one day, he will learn to love again. 

To anyone else, he is Dream. He is cold, heartless and ready to kill.

But Dream is also human.

Chapter Text

During their missions, Dream wears a mask. It is white and has two holes poked for his eyes.

Tommy does not recognize him when it is on. He is no longer Dream; he is an assassin, and he has a mission. He will not stop until it is completed.

“Ready?” Dream asks, his mask is pulled up, his dirty blonde locks of hair out of his face. Tommy will forever remember this first mission he witnesses with the older boy. He will not ever forget it.

“I’m ready,” Tommy replies.

Dream smiles. Maybe it’s the first time the younger boy has seen him do so, but he does not have time to think about it because the elder’s face is covered quickly, and he slips into a new body. He raises his gun from his belt, and his words are made of ice. Tommy follows behind him, but this is Dream’s mission, he is simply there for observation.

Dream does not hesitate when he kills.

 

 

 

 

 

“Tommy?” A light voice, laced in concern interrupts his thoughts. “You okay there, bud?”

Tommy glances up. He is shaking a chocolate milkshake for a waiting customer, and Niki has noticed his faraway expression. He regrets allowing so much emotion display on his face, even though it is not much.

“I’m okay,” he says, lowering the drink and taking out the whipped cream. Niki’s careful eyes rest on his movements, as he swiftly applies the topping and pushes a plastic lid onto the to-go cup. He slides it to the customer and hands them a straw.

Niki has been impressed by his ability to adjust so well. He’s memorized all the drink recipes and doesn’t need her assistance anymore. He can locate the baked goods and identify the contents of each drawer with his eyes closed. What can he say – he’s a quick learner.

“Have a great day,” he says politely. The customer smiles back and leaves in a rush.

“What’s on your mind?” Niki asks, still watching the boy as he wipes the counter.

Murder, Tommy thinks but he cannot say so aloud. He doesn’t want to be fired. So instead, he says, “Nothing really. I’m just tired.”

He isn’t tired at all. He has no reason to be, not when his life used to be a repetitive cycle of waking up hungry, continuous lessons of training, classes, and the occasional mission, to only go to sleep starving. He is not tired, he tells himself. Because his life is much easier than it used to be.

(But there’s a feeling inside of Tommy which he can’t decipher. It makes him sad, drowsy, and exhausted. The feeling grows in his stomach and makes him want to lay in bed all day and hope to never wake up again. He ignores it though.)

“I can tell,” Tommy’s eyes snap to her, as she agrees with his lie. “Sit down, I’ll make you a drink.” Tommy is ready to interrupt her, to refuse, but Niki never takes no for an answer.

As Niki walks around to prepare a hot chocolate for the young boy, Tommy pulls off his apron and slumps on a barstool, leaning his chin on his palms as he watches Niki maneuver around, humming lightly under her breath. Making drinks is like a second nature to her, just how killing is to Tommy. It’s natural, instinctual, and can be done with closed eyes.

“You look tired, kid. Are you getting much sleep?” Tommy would call her out for the names – ‘kid’ because it’s only Dream and Sapnap who has ever referred to him as so, and he’d usually throw a jab back. But for some reason, he doesn’t react to when Niki does.

“Yeah,” he replies slowly, glancing around the store as his foot taps the metal leg of the seat. He goes to sleep around midnight, and his mind is programmed to wake up not a minute after six. Six hours of sleep is decent enough.

“That’s good,” Niki smiles. “I hope you’re adjusting well. Have you talked to any other kids in the area?”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. He doesn’t have to lie, because he remembers talking to a brown-haired boy called Tubbo and his friends, not too long ago. “I have.”

“For some reason,” Niki laughs while she mixes the hot chocolate carefully. “I don’t believe you.”

She has a reason not to. Because Tommy has admitted before that he spends most of his time in his apartment, reading or watching TV with his older brother. Niki is always asking him questions, and he lets small statements slide, not knowing she would use them against him this way.

“I talk to a lot of people,” Tommy attempts to reason with her.

“Your brother doesn’t count,” Niki rebuts. “And he’s one person.”

Tommy stays silent as she finishes making his drink. She places the mug gingerly in front of him and smiles. Tommy sighs, lifting the cup to his lips before she interrupts.

“Careful,” she says. “It’s hot.”

It’s not anything Tommy is not used to, and he takes three large swallows, setting the cup down to see Niki rolling her eyes. Before she says anything, the door is shoved open, slamming against the wall as the bell lets out a loud jingle.

Tommy freezes and his hand reaches for his boot – where his knife is secured – but once seeing Niki’s nonchalant attitude, he reminds himself that he’s not on a mission and that he doesn’t have to be so on edge. It’s just a customer, who has made a rather dramatic entrance.

“Niki!” The voice exclaims, and Tommy realizes instantly that it’s not just an ordinary person. “I have one hell of a story to tell you,”

“Will,” Niki huffs, although her eyes shine fondness. “You’re going to break the door if you keep this up.”

“I’ve replaced it three months in a row, I wouldn’t mind keeping the streak up.” The man strides towards the counter, and Tommy finally turns his head to watch him. When was he was an assassin, his brain was wired to pinpoint a target’s weak points and strengths immediately. He forces himself to ignore his teachings, and rather stare curiously at his brown hair and thin glasses.

“Oh,” the man – Will, Niki has revealed his name to be – says quickly, finally noticing Tommy’s presence. “I didn’t know you were dealing with a customer.”

“I’m not a customer, bitch,” Tommy mutters under his breath. Will is startled by his abrupt attitude.

“He’s working here,” Niki explains quickly before her friend can get a word in. “Tommy, this is Wilbur. One of my friends.”

Tommy nods his head disinterestedly, taking a sip of his hot chocolate. It tastes good, even better when he reflects that it’s free.

“I didn’t know you were collecting children,” Wilbur teases. “If you needed that much help, you could have just asked me,”

Tommy snorts. “And you think you’d be any good?”

Wilbur is ready to shout back, but Niki laughs. “He isn’t wrong Will; you did break the coffee machine last time you touched it.”

“How the fuck did you manage to pull that one off, chief?” Tommy smirks.

“Listen here, you child–”

“Okay!” Niki says loudly. “Let’s not start anything, I don’t want to scare off any customers.”

“What customers?” Wilbur teases again, and Tommy immediately hates his smile. The man’s whole presence annoys him, and he wonders how someone like Niki can be friends like the prick. “If anything, Tommy started it.”

“I didn’t give you permission to use my name,” Tommy snaps back. “Bitch.”

“You’re twelve, you should not be swearing. Did your mother teach you manners?”

Tommy freezes but doesn’t let the comment get to him. “I’m sixteen, you old-ass man.”

“I’m twenty-five!”

“Old man,” Tommy repeats.

“Niki,” Wilbur complains. “Fire him.”

“No,” she laughs lightly. “He’s my favorite employee, Wilbur." Tommy is her only employee, he would say but he doesn't. "And he’ll be around for a while, so you guys have to get along.”

Tommy is not particularly fond of that idea. Wilbur is a bitch. He’s annoying and doesn’t want to be around him anymore. Luckily, Niki says that she has to talk to him in the back room, so he’s free from his presence for a while.

They leave the door open slightly, and Tommy hears hushed whispers from the other side. He has good hearing though and can hear every word out of their mouths. A skill he picked up over the years, one that all the assassins must have to be deemed useful and go on missions.

“He moved here recently, Will. He’s a good kid,”

“Doesn’t he have school? Do you even know anything about him?”

“Yeah, he moved with his older brother. And he finished school earlier. The point is that you should try and get to know him.”

“He’s a child, Niki.”

“Look, I didn’t say you had to be his friend. But if I’m out running errands, or busy, and you’re around, I want you to keep an eye on him. He’s reserved and I don’t think I’ve seen him smile until you’ve come around. Please? For me?”

Tommy scowls and drowns the rest of their conversation out. When they return back, Niki’s smile is wider, and Wilbur isn’t frowning anymore, as if he’s tolerating the young boy’s presence. Tommy didn’t join the bakery to befriend anyone. He’s here for the money, and to help Dream out so that he doesn’t have all the pressure on him to provide for them.

Tommy notices how he keeps thinking about Dream, and how his stomach turns when he does. Fights between them don’t ever last too long, but the process is excruciating as Tommy’s fear that Dream hates him. But at the same time, Tommy is still angry and frustrated.

“Tommy, you can head home early today. Rush is over, anyway.”

Tommy nods his head and moves to the backroom to retrieve his coat. When he returns, the two are still standing there, as if they are waiting for something.

“What do you want?” Tommy glares at Wilbur who is staring at him oddly. It’s like he’s trying to analyze the boy, but Tommy won’t allow it.

“Nothing,” Wilbur shrugs innocently, turning to Niki. “Do you want help with storage?”

“Yeah,” Before Tommy leaves, Niki keeps him behind for a second. “Stay safe, Tommy.”

Tommy is a former student of The Academy. He used to be an assassin. He will be safe.

“Okay,” he responds, before he leaves the bakery, the crisp Autumn air ruffling his blond hair, making him feel more numb than before.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy remembers the first person he kills. He is Theseus and is only thirteen.

The man he kills is twenty-two. He dies alone in his apartment and won’t be found until the next day. Maybe his sister or mother will find him. Or maybe it is his only daughter, who he had raised alone.

Tommy does not go to sleep that night, nor the following. The man’s face haunts him in his sleep, and he wakes up to the whispers of his ghost. But Tommy must kill, to survive. His peers do not begin missions as early as he does, but his number is Sixteen and he is different. Sixteen is smart and quick like the Graduates. The Teachers catch on early, and send him on missions with Dream at first, lurking in the background, before he completes his first, alone.

Tommy remembers the cold nights and numb skin. He remembers feeling hotter than the scorching sun, but cold enough for his heart to freeze. He is too young.

The next time Tommy goes on a mission, Dream comes with him. Dream wears his mask, the same white one with holes poked through. All assassins did, to hide their identities from cameras. And if the cameras did pick them up, then The Academy wants them to be known. They want to show off their students in vain, as the objects; the trophies they are, as if screaming: ‘Look at us. Look at what we’re capable of.’

Tommy wears a red and black mask. Red is his favorite color. It’s also easier because the blood that stains will not be seen.

Tommy remembers the second person he kills, this time a woman in her late forties.

He hesitates at the trigger.

“Shoot,” Dream whispers beside him. “Shoot, Theseus.”

But Tommy can’t. She is asleep and will die alone. She appears younger in her sleep, seemingly in her early thirties. She may die once loved, yet she will be forever alone.

“Theseus,” Dream says again, louder. “What have I taught you?” His voice turns hard, solid. He is no longer the Dream that smiles between corridors and whispers to persist. He is not the Dream that makes sure he is eating correctly or checking on his bruises after tougher exercises. This Dream has his mask on and is a ruthless killer. But he is also a survivor.

And so will Theseus if he shoots.

“To survive,” The boy eventually replies. “You told me to survive.”

“So, shoot.” And he does.

The night is dead, and Tommy is cold. He’s lost track of time, but it’s too late and he knows.

He finds memories surfacing, slowly. Of the first mission, he completed, of the first sibling he kills. He remembers it all and hates himself for it.

(Because one day, Tommy forgets. He forces himself to lose the memories of his past, and when Sapnap asks him a question of the man he killed weeks ago – the boy cannot remember. Sapnap tells George, who tells Dream.

They promise to not tell the Headmaster or Teachers. Because if they find out, the boy will be dead.

Dream watches the boy, his eyes calculating. He concludes that his mind has chosen to repress the memories, and they will return within time. The boy can remember his lessons and teachings – he would be dead if he couldn’t. But the faces he kills, disappear.

“It might be for the best,” George whispers, with concern. “They’re using him for more missions than we ever did at his age.”)

But now the faces return. Rain pelts down, it may be midnight.

A man in his thirties. Killed in his home. He dies alone.

A single mother to four. Dies at work. She dies alone.

A teenager, Tommy’s age. He works at a gas station and will not return to his younger siblings. He dies, alone.

Tommy’s head spins. He doesn’t know why he went on a walk after his shift at the bakery, and he has no clue why he did not attempt to go home. And now he’s lost, in an unfamiliar street, a situation alike the many he has killed. A bullet to the head and an ‘A’ slashed on a wrist with a sharp knife – The Academy’s routine for deaths – and Tommy will receive what he deserves.

Although truly, Tommy deserves a harsher punishment. He’s killed more than he can count, and the repercussions are their haunting faces and whispers. Tommy’s heart races, he struggles to breathe. He wants Dream. He wants him to know that Tommy’s not angry, he just feels confused, alone, and sad. The emotions are simple words, but they feel worse. They rush through his veins and pump through his blood.

Tommy stumbles into a corner store. The lights are dim, flickering every once or twice. There is a man at the counter, but Tommy doesn’t pay him attention.

“You okay, kid?” His words are not warm like Niki’s, but they do show concern. It confuses Tommy even more because people should not care – even a little bit – because he is a stranger and they do not know that he’s a killer, a murderer. They do not know of the things he has done, and the people he has hurt. Yet, the man still shows concern deep within his voice. “It’s quite a storm outside, and late. Do your parents know you’re out?”

Tommy doesn’t respond, clinging onto the aisle, as he stumbles. The man walks from around the corner, a hand on his shoulder. Tommy flinches.

“Who do you want me to call? Do you have your father’s number with you? Your mother’s?”

Tommy’s throat swells and is raw. He can’t utter out a word, and the man passes him a bottle of water. The boy takes it with shaky hands and almost collapses.

“Sit down,” The man instructs. “I’ll call someone, for you.”

Tommy’s eyes dip closed. His breaths are soft, and light. He remembers a young girl, killed at her birthday party. He remembers a boy with blue eyes, who cries before he dies.

“Give me a number. It’s too dark to let you out alone.”

Quietly, Tommy recites a number. Between his light breaths and chattering teeth, he says the digits that Dream has made him memorize. Dream had to recite the ten numbers once, for Tommy to recall.

Tommy keeps his eyes squeezed closed, but between the darkness he sees, he catches faces of his past. More, as they pile up before he can’t see anything else. He hates who he has become and that his survival equals his selfishness to live whilst the world around him crumbles.

The man speaks behind him, on the phone. “He gave me your number, but he hasn’t told me his name. Yeah, he looks about sixteen. Twelve Guardian Street. Okay.”

There is a girl who is fourteen. She will not graduate or have her first crush. She will not get married and will not have kids. She will not be remembered for the life she lived, rather for the way she died.

It comes back to Tommy quicker. The faces, and the fucking memories that don’t stop. He can’t breathe.

But then strong arms grip his shoulders and gentle whispers reach his ears. “Breathe, Tommy, breathe.”

The same strong hands gripped his shoulders and saved him from drowning waters. They save him from the depths of his mind.

“I’m sorry,” Tommy struggles to say. “I’m sorry, Dream.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” he repeats before his voice seems distant and tough again. His arms are still around him. “Thanks, man, appreciate it.”

“No worries. Take care.”

And then they’re back at the apartment, Tommy is changed out of his drenched hoodie into softer clothes that make his numb skin feel a little warmer. Tommy doesn’t realize the time has passed, nor when he changed, but his mind is quite occupied. Luckily, Dream stays with him wordlessly. The TV stays on, neither of them speaks.

“Tommy,” Dream then says quietly.

“I remember.”

His words cause Dream to snap upwards and his arms to drop from the back of the seat. “What?”

“I remember their faces, Dream. All of them.” Tommy opens his eyes. “It hurts. You’re right, I’m fucking weak. I can’t fucking do this.”

“You’re not weak, Tommy,” Dream reassures. “When have I ever said you were?”

“You didn’t think I could make the final mission. I could never have been your fourth because I was too mindless and weak. I couldn’t forget missions while you and Sapnap – and George could complete it so fucking easily. I can’t do it, Dream.”

“You don’t have to, Tommy,” And Dream’s words cause his breathing to quicken. He promises himself that he will not cry. “You’re not an assassin anymore, neither am I.”

“Just because I’m not one anymore, doesn’t mean I can be weak.”

“Well, you don’t have to go through that shit again, you hear me? You don’t have to be as strong as you were before because we’re never going back. We’ll save Sapnap and George, and we’ll be free.”

But Tommy is still tired. He’s tired of feeling like shit all the time. He’s tired of his past and pretending to be okay. He doesn’t want to be weak, but it’s the only thing he feels.

“I’m sorry,” Tommy apologizes again, rubbing his eyes.

“You’re allowed to cry, Tommy. You’re not there anymore.”

“Why aren’t we?” Tommy desperately wants to know. “Why did we leave so soon? Why couldn’t we stay for Sap and George? Why couldn’t you fucking believe in me, that I could graduate?”

Dream presses his lips together, and his green eyes seem a little dimmer, a little less closed, and a little more open to sharing.

And then he says it. “Because I wanted you to be safe.”

“What?” Tommy questions with fire and pain.

Dream combs his dirty blond hair and his green eyes flicker around the room, unable to maintain eye contact. “We all knew the last mission was the hardest, Tommy. It was a possibility we didn't want to risk, so we left.”

“You didn’t believe I could make it.”

“No, I did." Dream promises. "I just didn’t want you to.”

“Why?” And Tommy’s tired. So, so tired.

Green eyes flicker to his. Tommy used to think Dream’s eyes seemed like a dark rainforest, surrounded by hail and deadly creatures. But he sees a lightness, an escape from the darker trees to the hope of the bright sun.

“I care about you, Tommy. You’re my brother, and I care about you.”

“Assassins don’t care,” Dream knows this. He followed the teaching for years. “Care is connection and connection is death.”

“You were an exception, Tommy,” Dream admits. “You, Sapnap, and George. I believed in you, but I couldn’t let you go through the shit we did. Because it’s unfair we were forced into that life and I promise you, I promise you kid, that we won’t ever have to go back.”

“I just needed someone to believe me,” And Tommy starts to cry, the first time since the age of ten.

And Dream doesn’t stare at him in disappointment. He’s not strict and bold like he used to stand during training sessions when he’d have to hurt the students if they could not complete their tasks. He’d done so to Tommy a couple of times. Staring with hard eyes and cold fingers that burned Tommy’s cheeks, but he is different now.

He looks at Tommy with love, because he is allowed to. Because they are not at The Academy anymore, and he is allowed to love his little brother.

“I believe in you.” Dream expresses, an edge of his voice which displays the true him. “We’ll figure out a solution to your memories, and the nightmares that you pretend you don’t have." His words allow a small smile from Tommy, which turns into a grimance.  "And I promise that you’ll be okay. Because I fucking believe in you, Tommy.”

 

 

 

 

 

He is Dream and he does not feel.

But then he meets George, Sapnap, and Theseus. He falls in love with his best friend and learns to care for others. He hides it behind his scowls and unreadable expressions.

His breaking point is Theseus’ second mission. After the first mission, the boy lays in bed all day and skips meals. So, he offers a proposition to the Headmaster, to assist with him. His request is accepted, and he joins Theseus.

Theseus hesitates at the trigger.

“Shoot,” Dream whispers beside him. Because if he doesn’t, he will die, and Dream cannot let that happen. “Shoot, Theseus.”

Eventually, Theseus will shoot. Theseus will survive but will be plagued by their faces. George, Sapnap, and Dream had been but would learn to slowly get over their faces. But Theseus is much younger than them and cannot handle the blood, sometimes screaming, and silent aftermath as they do.

Theseus forgets their faces. Today, he remembers.

His name is Tommy now, but he is plagued by the actions of his past. Dream lays beside him, watching his plain face under the light of the living room. He looks younger in his sleep; he does not look sixteen.

Dream slowly stands up, to walk to his room. His footsteps and careful to not wake up the exhausted boy, because Tommy deserves a good night of sleep for a start. The man walks to his room and collects his guns from his drawers and cupboard. He lays them on his bed and takes out the ammunition. He counts each gun, each bullet, and pulls them back. It’s an exercise, which calms his nerves. Which puts his mind to rest before sleep will take over.

Dream returns back to the living room with a blanket. He wraps it around the boy and stares at him for a second. The Academy taught them that the root of all kills was lessons and obedience. To become the best version of assassin they were, required training and exercises. It required teachings from the more experienced. The better fighter was the better taught. The more intelligent, quicker, and cunning individual.

Dream realizes at that single moment of time; he does not need any of those things. He does not need to be the quickest, even if he is. Because as the rumbling spark at the pit of his stomach threatens to explode, Dream realizes that the burning feeling of revenge will allow him to succeed. The fire of vengeance, to protect the ones he loves and avenge them will allow him to remain on top.

And Dream always receives what he wants. Even if he has to die trying.

Chapter Text

Tommy catches a cold. He does not go to work for a week, and Niki only returns him with warm words and a promise for chocolate cookies when he can come back. Tommy uses Dream’s phone to talk to her, and hands it back to him afterward, with thought.

“Can I have a phone?” Tommy questions, as he is sprawled on the couch. Dream sits next to him, Tommy’s feet by his lap as he types on his laptop.

“No,” Dream responds with no hesitation.

“Why not?” The boy lets out a loud exhale and raises his arms up to stretch. He is bored out of his mind and Dream won’t let him leave the house because of his sore throat and coughs. It’s because he had walked in the rain and was stuck in drenched clothes when he took a walk after his shift at Niki’s. Now, he pays the consequences. “If I had a phone, then Niki wouldn’t have to keep calling you and I wouldn’t have to annoy you. Oh, and I could call you if something happens like at the gas station.”

Dream doesn’t even glance up from his work. “You don’t annoy me,” Because that’s what he extracts from Tommy’s statement. “And it won’t happen again.”

“What if I’m in an emergency?” Tommy racks his brain for reasons a teenager would ask their parents for a mobile. Or in this case, what he’ll have to say, to convince his older brother.

“We both know you can defend yourself,” Dream says, and he’s anything but false. Tommy can defend himself well and won’t need help to do so.

“You don’t train with me anymore,” Tommy groans. “I’ll start slacking and forget how to defend and attack. If I keep this up, then George might actually catch up to me.”

“Fine, if this gets you to stop annoying me.” Dream pushes his laptop to the side and shoves Tommy’s dangling feet to the floor. “Get up.”

“I thought I didn’t annoy you, bitch?” Tommy mutters.

“Thirty pushups,” Dream smirks. “I’ll grab the mats.”

Tommy would complain usually, but not today because he has missed training with Dream and doesn’t want to get out of shape. George would make fun of him for a lifetime if he ended up better than the boy, and Tommy will not let that happen. He was in prime shape before they left, not better than Sapnap, but he was getting there. (Of course, he isn’t exactly as better as George during sparring, because George is smart and can use with brains to end out on top, but he likes to state that he is.)

When Dream brings out the maps, he forces Tommy to do fifty sit-ups and a hundred jumping jacks for warmup. Training is their game, an area that brings out their specialties. It is a moment that they can bond over, glance and grin. Because although killing is in their blood, exercises, and sparring can still hold as a moment between them.

After their warmups, Dream shows Tommy a new technique which Tommy hasn’t learned before. It extends from a headlock to Tommy’s legs being swiped back and pulled down. However, instead of pushing him to the ground, Dream shows him how to flip him over, swipe his gun and pocketknives from him, then restrict him to the ground, and use the weapons against him.

Dream demonstrates the technique twice. Tommy gets it in his first go. He leans quickly because at The Academy, he could not afford even the smallest mistakes. So, he learned to analyze movements through his mind, as the other students would do.

“Well done,” Dream’s voice isn’t bold, as it used to seem during the classes he would teach. They stare at Tommy with fondness, which is quite confusing because he’s unused to his older brother being so layed back. “We’ll spar now.”

And they do. Tommy’s never beat Dream, before. Dream has never lost to Tommy.

Tommy waits for Dream to start first. He starts off hard and fast, swinging his arms to catch Tommy off guard, and aiming for Tommy’s jaw. But he misses purposely, wrapping his arm around his neck to slam his head downwards.

Tommy stops him before he can do so, his left arm reaching for Dream’s torso, and his legs pulled upwards to kick his face. Dream stumbles, but he stands strong, his legs locking around Tommy’s neck to shove him down.

Tommy breathes in for a second as Dream throws a punch, rolling so he narrowly misses. He pulls his leg to swipe him down, but Dream has always been smarter and faster, able to connect Tommy’s future steps and using them against him.

They continue, Dream using his strength to knock Tommy down and use his arms to deflect the hits Tommy brings his way. His stance is more attacking, while Tommy defends himself as he is shoved around. But then he uses Dream’s technique, twisting his arm back to hear a yelp, and locking his arms around his neck, before swiping his legs down.

Only Dream has the upper hand. He is the Teacher and Tommy is a student. Before Tommy can flip him over, he grips onto Tommy’s arm, pulling him down with him. He then uses his leg to keep Tommy’s legs down and uses his free arm to swipe the knife strapped to his leg.

He uses to weapon against Tommy, holding it to Tommy’s chin. “You lose.”

“I haven’t tapped out, bitch.” Tommy mutters under the harsh glare of the glittering knife. But he does once his struggles to escape Dream’s grip fails. He would have had a slap to the cheek, or wrist if he was lucky if they were back at The Academy. But today, Dream pats him on the shoulder and smiles.

“Good work,” Tommy doesn’t know why, but compliments from Dream, Sapnap, and George have always meant the most to him. Maybe he craves validation from his elders, whose opinions truly mattered. “Now go rest, I don’t want you to be sick forever.”

Tommy helps Dream return the mats back to their spare room before they both collapse on the couch again. Instead of laying down, facing the ceiling, Tommy sits by Dream, his face in front of the older’s laptop screen to see what he’s doing. Dream exhales loudly, pushing Tommy’s blond curly locks away, as he covers the screen.

“What are you even doing?” Tommy’s eyes scan the small words on his screen.

“Grown-up shit,”

Tommy pulls a face. “Is it the shit for Quackery?”

Quackity,” Dream corrects. “His name is Quackity, and well, yeah it is.”

“What even is your job? You never really explained it to me.”

Dream’s fingers stop typing for a brief moment. This spikes Tommy’s interest rate from mildly interested to curious. “He has a type of investigative business. I help him find people and research about them.”

“Investigating? What?”

Dream is really thinking out his answers. “I’ll tell you the truth, but I don’t want you–”

“Shut the fuck up and tell me already,” Tommy interrupts. Dream flicks his forehead, and he scowls.

“Quackity finds bad people. Well, I find them for him. Then he hires others to get rid of them.”

Dream stares at Tommy, waiting for a reaction. He almost looks nervous. Maybe he thinks Tommy will lash out and tell him that he’s against what he’s doing.

But Tommy ends up bursting out in laughter.

“What?” Dream chuckles, not expecting Tommy’s outburst. His eyes gaze at the boy’s face, not exactly used to his laughing expression. Because at The Academy, he was always frowning and tough looking. When he was around them at least he would crack a couple of jokes here and there. But finally, Tommy can be a kid. He can be sixteen and not told otherwise.

“You looked nervous,” Tommy explains between chuckles. “Dream is never nervous, and you were then.”

“What are your thoughts on it?” Dream seems sincere.

Tommy shrugs his shoulders and folds his hands behind his head, comfortably. “He gets rid of shitty people, so I’m okay with it. If they deserve it, then there’s nothing wrong with it. A better change from The Academy.” Where they’d kill whoever, they were told to. Tommy had found out exactly the extent when they left – rich people paid The Academy to complete tasks. The harder the jobs, the more money they made.

“Although,” Tommy then says. “How did you even get a job this good?”

Dream sighs as if he was expecting a question like this. As assassins, they are trained to ask important questions. “He, well, he knew Sapnap.”

“What the fuck?” Tommy exclaims.

“Yeah,” Dream scratches his forehead, thinking. “I don’t know the exact details, but while we were planning an escape, Sapnap told me about him so I could maintain a steady income and we wouldn’t be kicked out of here.”

“I want to meet Quackity,” Tommy nods his head, a glint of mischief playing in his blue eyes.

“Maybe once you’re not sick.”

“I feel better!” Tommy thinks the universe hates him because he starts a round of coughs as soon as the words leave his mouth. Horrible timing, considering the coughs had been on the down low all day. Before, he could not afford to be sick. It wasn’t an excuse to skip classes and lessons, so the Teachers made sick students go through each class until they collapsed. Even so, they’d be forced up and continue. Weakness was prohibited. Any type of it.

This reminds Tommy of George’s colorblindness. He had to hide it from everyone because if he had been found out, it would be his diminish. George could not afford it.

Tommy remembers how he found out. While George told Sapnap and Dream, Tommy discovered on his own. He had made George return with his green gloves, he had forgotten in a training room, and he returned with a bright shade of yellow that belonged to another student.

Small memories like those made Tommy chuckle lightly. Because although The Academy was pure, and utter shit and consisted of days in which dying seemingly was a better option than continuing – his brothers made it a little better. Tommy hopes one day, to see Sapnap and George again. So, they can create more memories, and enjoy life together.

Though, what he has with Dream, is enough for now.

 

 

 

 

 

Theseus arrives at the swimming center at the early hours of the night. Students must return to their dorms at ten sharp, to wake up at six the following morning. Eight hours of sleep cannot be taken for granted especially due to the harsh repercussions if one was found slacking off.

Theseus lives off three hours of sleep and can still perform at his best. He is not able to fall asleep on his hard bed and cushion of rock. So, he finds himself at the swimming center, where at day, students complete endless drills. He had witnessed one of his siblings drown in the following waters. His name was Benjamin, and his class watched as he died.

They were not allowed to help him and watched as he helplessly sunk under the dangerous waters. He was taken away not long after, his body was buried outside, and an unmarked tombstone and a wilting flower to take his place.

In the day, the water is lurking. It has strong arms, and an even stronger grip, ready to create the same fate as Benjamin’s for any other student. At night, Theseus notices how the water seems gentler. There is no longer the harshness, as the water drifts slowly, the center seeming less like a prison for the students. Lessons included swimming laps and laps until your stomach pained and your feet felt stiff.

But Theseus isn’t here to practice laps. His form is as good as it can be, and his endurance is one of the best in the class.

He’s going to practice holding his breath underwater.

Theseus throws his white-sleeved shirt to the floor and edges closer to the water. His feet dip through, and the hairs on his back freeze.

“Theseus?” A voice. “What are you doing up?”

Theseus knows it isn’t a Teacher. He is Sixteen to them. He is Theseus to Dream, Sapnap, and George.

But he knows it’s Dream as soon as he hears his name leave his lips. “Hey Dream,” Theseus doesn’t look back.

“You should not be here.” Dream stands next to him, crossing his arms across his chest. His muscles bulge, and he frowns. “Are you practicing laps?”

“No,” Theseus shakes his head, staring down at the water. He is reminded of a couple of days ago when he’d been in the water a second too long and Dream had saved him from a horrible fate. The new scars on his arms are a reminder of the repercussions Dream faced, for tampering with the exercise.

“Then what are you doing?” Dream questions, calculated.

“I’m going to practice holding my breath,” Theseus mutters. “You got a problem with that, bitch?”

“Wait for one of them to catch you with that mouth of yours.” Dream sighs. “Go to sleep, Theseus. I don’t want to call a Teacher on you.”

“I know you won’t.” Dream knows that too. “I’ll be quick, Dream. You can go now.” It’s a lie, he will be here for a while. Until he can hold his breath for long enough. He will not make the same mistake twice.

Dream must know Theseus will not back down from his words. “I’m supervising. You need one after last time.”

“Fuck you.”

“Start before we’re caught.”

Theseus does. He jumps into the water and waits a couple of seconds. Dream takes out a timer from the storage room. Once Theseus’ whole head sweeps under the water, Dream will start the timer.

Underwater, Theseus comes to peace with his mind. It’s just him and the water. Maybe Dream will be by the pool, but it does not matter right now. Because a memory appears in the boy’s mind. One, which he only witnesses when he is alone with himself.

He sees a mother and a father. He sees a past, a family. He sees love.

During the early minutes underwater, he sees their blurry faces in between the void of blackness and nothing. The following faces have been programmed out of his mind, just as his life before the age of ten. Because he was born again at the age of then. His time before was another life.

Sometimes, Theseus will remember more. When they were eleven, the students who asked for people from their past were taken away, returned a week later with patches and bruises and emotionless faces. So Theseus keeps it to himself. He cannot remember much, though.

But today, the blurs of his mother and father duplicate, two new faces standing beside them. He sees long hair and tall figures.

Sisters, his mind echoes.

He has never seen the secondary blurs before, and they disappear quickly. He loses track of time and has forgotten to start counting, to control his time underwater. Dream will be displeased when he hears.

What Theseus doesn’t expect is for the blurs to reappear. Only their faces seem rougher, and names ring through his eyes. Names that he can’t decipher yet feel so familiar. They ring through his mind and wash the water out of his ears. They are his past brothers, he concludes. Two, from the life of before. Like Dream, Sapnap, and George, they are his brothers.

Theseus cannot breathe, then. His body lifts from the water suddenly, and he gasps for air. He hears Dream stop the timer and state a number – somewhere within six minutes. But Theseus does not care, he only recalls the two faces of the past and the names which he cannot pinpoint.

“Theseus?” Dream calls for Theseus, as he gets out of the pool, wordlessly. “You did well.”

Theseus nods his head wordlessly. Two faces. Two faces he can’t recognize, although he wishes for more than anything he can. Dream tells him to go back to bed, and for once, he does not resist.

Once, he had a family. A mother, father, love, and now, two siblings. But Theseus will never remember them more than the blurs of his memories. His mind is wiped when he enters The Academy. They are not his family anymore.

Theseus falls asleep that night with wet hair and dreams of a life which he cannot have. Maybe in another universe, in another lifetime, he will experience this. But now, he is a student of The Academy, and his future is to become an assassin and kill for a chance of survival.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream gives Tommy two rules in the car, as he expects the younger boy to follow when they arrive at Quackity’s. Tommy is only now finding out that this guy runs Las Nevadas a huge company, which owns multiple casinos, nightclubs, and complexes around the whole state. Their central hub is located not too far away from their apartment, where they run their secret business.

Dream’s first rule for Tommy is to not talk to anyone. His second is for Tommy not to wander off anywhere without him.

Tommy doesn’t appreciate being behind kept on a leash. “C’mon Dream,” Tommy pleads. “At least let me gamble shit.”

“With what money?” Dream raises an eyebrow in his direction, but his eyes stay on the road. “You’re underage anyway.”

“I look twenty-one,” Tommy reasons.

“You have a babyface,” Dream says, before adding calmly, under his breath. “Little boy.”

“The fuck?!” Tommy shouts. “I don’t look a day over eighteen, you fucking bitch.”

“Colorful words for a child,” Dream deadpans and Tommy punches his shoulder. “Promise me that you’ll follow my rules. They’re simple for a child like you to follow.”

“Shut the fuck up.” Tommy groans.

“Tommy.”

“Dream,” Tommy snaps back. “Fine, I’ll follow them.”

Dream nods his head, thankfully. It doesn’t take long for huge letters to appear right in front of their eyes. ‘Paradise’ the sign says as they enter the district. Huge buildings come in view, more hotels and houses. They drive until a huge center labeled ‘LAS NEVADAS’ in large bold words stop Dream’s car. He parks in an empty slot, waiting for Tommy to stand by his side.

“Don’t talk to anyone and stay by me,” Dream recites his rules.

“I want to know how Sapnap found out about this guy,” Tommy mutters as they enter the building. Tommy watches Dream’s carefree stance turns stricter, and his face is passive. “Sapnap out of all people? I’d expect George to have connections, but this seems surreal.”

Dream does not say anything. They pass through a reception area, and Dream does not even glance at the woman who sits by the front desk, instead of walking to the elevator with Tommy at his heel. He presses the highest button, and they stand in silence as each room passes.

“Quackity’s an interesting guy,” Is all Dream says. “I think you’ll get along.”

The highest room couldn’t come fast enough. Tommy’s excited for some reason. Dream tugs his arm, and they walk through the hallway, stopping at metal doors, guarded by a man with gold chains.

“Dream,” the man nods his head. “And Tommy. I’ve been waiting to match a name to a face, nice to meet you.”

Tommy is about to respond until he remembers Dream’s first rule. Dream responds for him. “Is Quackity inside?”

The man chuckles lightly. “No introductions, then. He’s waiting inside.”

Dream nods, and the man opens the door for them. He smiles at Tommy as the boy steps inside the office.

Tommy does not expect a short man with a large scar across his eye and a large beanie. He expects an older man, with professional attire to match the fanciness of the room. The Mona Lisa could fit in with the room’s décor. The wallpaper is a deep maroon, contrasting the light leather cushioning of the couches. The ceilings are high, and there are huge windows to capture the chaos of Paradise.

“Dream,” Quackity exclaims. Tommy goes stiff by his brother’s side, and his face turns blank. Something about the man brings the inner assassin out of him. “And you’ve brought your brother – Tommy, correct?”

Dream nods his head. “Tommy wanted to see the place.”

Quackity grins, revealing his shiny golden teeth, worth more than their apartment rent as it seems. “Well, Tommy, how do you like it so far?”

Tommy glances at Dream, who nods his head as if silently telling him that Quackity is okay to speak to. “Nice so far,” His voice is monotone. Dream is not surprised at Tommy’s personality change. He’d regularly swap his expressions at The Academy. Grinning around Dream, to frowning as a Teacher passed by the boys.

“Just like your brother, huh?” Quackity raises both eyebrows. “Not unexpected.”

“Did you want to discuss the event next week?” Dream then asks.

“The Red Banquet? It can wait, we have more important things to discuss. Have you located the individuals I spoke about last meeting?”

“I have.”

“Great,” Quackity grins. “You know Dream, with skills like yours, you could always help around in the other fields. My people need a good teacher. I know you fight well.”

Dream freezes. “We made an agreement, Quackity. I’ll complete your dirty work. The rest is up to you.”

“I wouldn’t consider it dirty work,” Quackity sits in his large brown chair and gestures for the two to take a seat. “How about you, Tommy? You want a job?”

“He’s sixteen.” Dream buts in. “He’s too young.”

Tommy and he both know that’s false. Sixteen cannot be too young because they started at the early age of ten. They were stripped from their families at that age and forced to forget a life of before. Then they trained for hours every day to become the assassins that The Academy expected them to be.

“I know you have experience in this field, Dream. My team would really value your expertise. Plus, you’ll have permanent residence on our grounds – the same for your brother.” Quackity bends one of his legs over the other, and leans forward, somewhat to show off his status in the room.

Dream grits his teeth, but he does not allow anger to spread across his features. He is taught against that. Tommy notices the emotion, it’s hard not to when they’ve known each other for so long.

Quackity adds, “Double your current payments as well. A damn good opportunity if I say myself.”

“That’s enough, Quackity,” Dream interrupts. “As much as I value your offer, I can’t take it. You know that.”

Quackity frowns, and sighs. But regardless, he relents. Tommy zones out as they speak, observing the room a little closer. He takes in the suspicious bookshelf in the corner, untouched books with a layer of dust covering them. His eyes then go to the paintings around, noticing how some of them feel out of place, one with a frame engraved with small and intricate patterns, while a newer one has a blocky frame.

He had been taught this way. Notice the little things out of place. The teachings had assisted him in many missions. One of them being an assassination of a millionaire – one of his more prestigious missions which George accompanied with. He’d been tasked with finding the location of his vault and had calculated every inch of the room to find the location.

When Tommy zones back into the conversation, Quackity is on the phone and drops it down suddenly. “You’re wanted on the second floor regarding your research.”

“Okay,” Dream says, monotone, standing up. “Let’s go, Tommy.”

Quackity stops him, pulling his arm out quickly. “No, it won’t take long. Tommy can stay here with me.”

Dream is ready to deny the request, but Tommy quickly interrupts. Maybe he’ll be able to get more information out of him. Something about him seems weirdly odd, and he wants to figure out what without Dream interrupting his questions.

“It’s fine, Dream. Go.”

Dream sends the boy a warning glance. But Quackity steps around the table and places a hand on his brother’s shoulder with a strong grip. Tommy’s eyes focus on Dream, who stands still. “It’s fine, Dream. Leave him with me for a second, I’d like to catch up with the kid.”

Dream leaves, however, hesitantly. The glance that he sends Tommy practically screams along the terms of ‘I trust you, but I don’t trust him. Be careful.’

As soon as Dream leaves, Quackity sits back down, sending Tommy a lazy smile. His scar on his eye seems more prominent under the harsh glare of the office light, and the boy must refrain himself from questioning him about it.

“You can ask me,” Quackity grins. Tommy will not admit he is unsettled by his pinched eyebrows and sharp teeth. “About my scar. Everyone does.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. “If you want.”

“An old friend. Now, enemy, I guess. You ever heard the saying kid, keep your friends close but enemies closer? An important lesson, I learned after the predicament.”

Tommy has heard that saying before. Slightly differently though, because at The Academy, all of them were siblings. Tommy had to have a level of trust for each of them, as future missions would include working together. Some must help others, and loyal was deeply valued. However, they were also taught to keep their classmates closer. Because during lessons, and sparring, they were classmates, and everything was a competition to see who would appear on top.

“How’d they do that?” Tommy questions, glancing around the room quietly. Quackity’s eyes are on his every movement. “A blade?”

“Of some sort,” Quackity snorts.

“It makes you look badass.” Tommy compliments.

“I like you, kid. You’re a breath of fresh air, around here.” Quackity smiles, beckoning the kid closer. “Between you and me, some of my employees can be a bit uptight. Especially your brother over there.”

Tommy grins. “Dream is like that, sometimes.” Not all the time. Around George, he’d laugh until his cheeks were pink. “Quackity – Big Q – tell me what my brother really does.” Now his eyes focus on the man, paying close attention.

Quackity brightens at the nickname. “Well, I’m sure he’s spoken to you ‘bout the basics of the company. I would be surprised if he didn’t, but he’ll research and investigate people we get calls about. One of my locations in Chicago will send us basic information of the individuals, and your brother makes our jobs much easier, so we can track them down – and such.”

Dream’s good at a lot of things, unsurprisingly. So Quackity will value his position because he will be good at what he does.

“I know about Dream’s past, Tommy. Not all of it, but a decent amount. I apologize for what you had to go through.”

“Not your fault,” Tommy shrugs his shoulders, not wanting sympathy. He drops the topic quickly. “How much does he get paid, anyway?”

“Now, now,” Quackity smirks. “I can’t tell you everything.”

Tommy thinks to himself. “Okay then. What can you tell me?”

The man laughs lightly. “That I’m looking for people to hire. People like your brother. I’ve realized after hiring him, that my team could really use an experience like him. What do you say, Tommy?”

Tommy will not have to deny him because Dream will do it for him. Besides, he’s not exactly fond of the idea of continuing assassination work after leaving with Dream. Of course, Quackity’s business seems more morally right, but he left for a reason and will not want to return unless he must. But the money is tempting, so is proving to himself that he can be Dream’s fourth.

“I’m sixteen,” Tommy shrugs his shoulders. “That’d be illegal.”

“Tommy,” Quackity grins. “Nothin’ I do here is legal.”

Tommy hasn’t let a genuine smile let out on his face in a while, but Quackity seems so easy-going and amusing, it’s hard not to.

“I don’t mind the sound of that,” Tommy says. “I’ll consider your offer, then.”

Quackity seems to like the boy because he isn’t afraid to get comfortable with him. Unexpected, since he probably knows their background and how they were highly trained assassins with no mercy. But Tommy doesn’t mind being treated like a normal person, and not identified with the past he was forced into. He begins a story, speaking of how he managed to get his company to where it is today.

Dream returns soon after. His lips are straight, and his eyes are glossed and emotionless. Tommy realizes that he is like that around here, putting up a bricked wall so no one else can analyze him and his past.

“Dream,” Quackity announces. “How did the meeting go?”

“Well,” Dream says strictly. “They’ll finish it off tonight. Is there anything else you wanted to discuss?”

“Nothing we haven’t already. Your brother and I were having a lovely conversation, weren’t we, Tommy?”

Tommy nods his head, ignoring Dream’s searching eyes, to make sure Quackity hasn’t pulled a stunt on him. They both know that Tommy can take him down in a second. Being in a room alone, has allowed Tommy to pinpoint his weaknesses. The limp in his knee and the poorer eyesight from the eye with the scar – and that’s only the start of it.

“We’re leaving,” Dream determines. “Tommy.”

“Bye Tommy,” Quackity grins.

Tommy salutes. “Big Q.”

As Dream and Tommy leave the office, Dream nudges his younger brother with his eyebrow raised. “Big Q, huh?”

“Yeah,” Tommy snorts but his face is blank as they pass two people who Dream nods at. “He gives me a weird feeling.”

“Same,” Dream agrees. “What did he ask you?”

Although Tommy knows Big Q would probably prefer Dream not to know, Tommy has more loyalty for Dream. “Bunch of shit. Asked me to work for him too many times.”

“You said no.” Not a question, a statement.

“Yeah, yeah, I did.”

“Good.” They step into the elevator, and thankfully, it’s empty. “He gets a lot of money from his business; it allows him to work and expand on his casinos across the country. Pretty sure that’s how him and Sap met.”

“No way,” Tommy chews the inside of his mouth before bursting with the realization. “Sapnap has a gambling addiction.”

“No,” Dream rolls his eyes at Tommy’s guess. “A mission ended up with them befriending each other. Even I don’t know most of the details.”

They are silent on their way back to Dream’s car. When they enter, Tommy asks the question on his mind for a while. “You should take it.”

“What?” Dream hums as he turns on the engine.

“I know you don’t want to take the promotion because of me. Would be stupid not to, with the money he’s offering.”

“Tommy,” Dream exhales. “We’re financially stable. Quackity pays me enough already – you don’t need a job either. There’s no point for me to take it.”

“Okay, then,” Tommy nods his head, turning his head to stare out the window. It doesn’t make sense for Dream not to take the job. Because killing is a second nature, a sixth sense. They kill because they know how to without being caught. They’ve been taught since the age of ten to analyze their surroundings, how to use weapons with their eyes closed, and take out someone with three directions.
Killing is in their blood. It flows through their veins and wires their mind.

“Taking Quackity’s offer will put us in more danger than we’re in already. The free accommodation here isn’t an offer, it’s a necessity in case I’m targeted and found out. Besides, once we free Sapnap and George, we’ll only have enough pairs of eyes. I expect you to ignore any offers like that in the future, I already regret letting you come.”

Dream will sometimes forget that Tommy is not a kid. Legally, maybe not, but experience-wise – yes.

“I won’t,” Tommy promises with a dramatic sigh, mocking Dream’s protective words under his breath.

“Tommy,” Dream warns, because saying his name always sounds more threatening.

“I won’t take Quackity’s offer. I won’t put us in danger.”

“You don’t put yourself in danger.” Dream refuses to start driving until he recites his words. “In Arabic.”

“I won’t put myself in danger,” Tommy recites in Arabic. He’s reminded of the long lectures of learning the painful languages and the burns on his skin in consequence when he’d get a phrase incorrect or if he could not perfect an accent.

“In French.” Dream says. Tommy says it in French. His back straightens, but he reminds himself that Dream will not hit him if he’s wrong. So, he rolls his eyes instead when Dream asks him to recite the words in German. And then Spanish.

“You could work on your pronunciation, Pequeñito peligro.”

Tommy scowls at Dream’s words. Little danger, he has said, because Dream will always make fun of his age. “Shut the fuck up.”

“You’re slacking,” But Dream is joking because he isn’t expected to remember and recite all the languages he is taught. He’s not expected to know or do anything. Dream isn’t The Academy. He’s only been kind and caring.

It's strange because this is what both the boys have been taught against. Dream should not be so kind, and Tommy should not be so trustful.

But as Dream recites the following lines in the other fifty languages, Tommy knows that one day he can undo the teachings wired to his mind. One day, he can let the past go.

Not today. Not tomorrow. But one day, he will.

Chapter Text

Tommy begins to adjust to his new life.

He wakes up at six every morning and joins Dream to train and occasionally spar before his older brother leaves for work. He will then read a couple of books they have borrowed from the library, the TV usually playing in the background. Tommy does not like the silence.

Afterward, he will go to the bakery. Niki is sometimes there, greeting him in the morning. He helps her set up, and then they chill in the back room, Tommy sipping a soft drink while Niki tells him about her busy plans for the day. She usually encourages him to contribute to the conversation, but Tommy likes to listen.

Sometimes, Niki leaves early, and Wilbur arrives. The luckier days are when he takes a table at the back to listen to music and work. On the less lucky days, he joins Tommy by the counter and annoys him to no end with stupid questions or stories that the boy couldn’t give a fuck about.

After work, Tommy goes home or to Dream’s workplace. He usually takes the bus majority of the way there and ends up walking the rest. Dream is wary of the people around and will join Tommy by the reception of Las Nevadas, and they will spend the rest of the day in his office. It’s quite big and has comfortable couches which is always a bonus. Occasionally, Tommy talks to Quackity.

Dream drives Tommy after the long day and asks him about his day at the bakery. Tommy complains about Wilbur and will give him a summary of his day. They go home and take turns choosing take-out. Tommy tries pizza for the first time a couple days ago. He likes it, but Dream says he’ll start cooking at home more because apparently, the shit they’re eating is unhealthy.

Tommy doesn’t know how to feel about the sudden adjustments. Although he likes being able to go to sleep at any time he wants, and not be forced to complete exercises anymore (it’s all optional now as Dream will only spar with him, if he wants to), there is still a part of him which waits for the burns and bruises on his hands and waits for Dream to lash out. The same part of him waits for the blood and murder and anticipates coming home to find people from his past, ready to drag him back.

But he will put up a fight if he does. Tommy likes his life. He likes his job and his conversations with Niki. He likes spending time with Dream and feeling human.

One thing about The Academy is that they always had a timetable. Days were repetitive cycles, and they did not change. Dream announces a change in their timetable, one morning. They eat eggs and toast in the kitchen when Dream reveals the news.

“Quackity wants me to go to Chicago for a week. He wants to introduce me to the main location and speak to some of the higher-ups.”

Tommy goes silent, glancing up from his half-eaten toast. “Okay.” He says suddenly monotone.

Dream continues. “I don’t want to, but he’s made the meeting compulsory for the whole team. I don’t want to leave you alone, though.”

“I’ve been alone for six years, I’ll be fine,” Tommy shrugs and his stomach stirs.

“You weren’t alone,” Dream reasons. “You had us.” Sapnap, George and him.

“Yeah but,” Tommy hesitates. “We didn’t in a way.” They weren’t lonely, Tommy thinks. But they were alone.

Dream drops the topic, knowing Tommy will not budge. “I’ll tell Quackity I can’t make it.”

“No,” Tommy shakes his head. “This is a good job; you won’t find another one like this. I’ll be fine alone – besides, it’s only a week.”

“What if something happens?”

“I can’t hold my own,” Tommy sighs because Dream will never remember so. “I could call you if I had a phone.” He smirks.

Dream stays silent. “I’ll get you a phone, then.”

Tommy is surprised. “Wait, really?”

“I’ll need to contact you, and I want you to contact me if anything happens.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tommy doesn’t know why he wants a phone. Maybe it’s because he’s sixteen and believes that whatever annoys Dream (in this case – pestering him to no end) is a better use of his time.

“I’m leaving in two days.” Dream then says. “We’ll go over the rules later.”

Dream likes rules. He likes structure and coordination, and Tommy doing what he tells him to do. Dream also likes control, feeling rather lost without it. It’s why he balanced Sapnap and George so well. Sapnap was a catapult of chaos and George was too laid back. Dream controlled Sapnap and made sure George was putting effort into all his tasks.

Tommy and Dream are different. But at the exact time, they’re exactly the same. Maybe that’s why they work well together, maybe that’s the reason why Dream’s eyes shine with pride when he glances at the younger boy, and Tommy only wants to make the older proud.

Although Tommy appreciates Dream’s presence and feels better with him there, he will be fine for a week. Seven days. He can’t say he isn’t used to relying on himself, because he is.

 

 

 

 

 

Work is slow, as usual. Tommy wipes down the same counter for the fifth time and rearranges the storage room twice. He cleans the coffee machine and microwave, which are the go-to tasks he completes when he’s waiting for customers. Friday evenings are their slow days.

Niki’s in the backroom with Wilbur. They discuss something under their breaths and if Tommy could give a fuck, then he’d step closer to the unclosed door to listen. He’s not too bothered though, because they’re friends and they talk as friends do. In all honestly, Tommy doesn’t know because he hasn’t had a friend before. He has had Sapnap, George, and Dream but they’re more like siblings than anything else. And his ‘family’ at The Academy could not be considered friends either, as he kept them as rivals and competition at the back of his mind.

Tommy doesn’t care though. He has Dream and doesn’t need anyone else. Although Dream will be gone for a week from tomorrow, and then he’ll have no one.

The door opens and the bell chimes. Tommy musters a smile. “Good afternoon! What can I get you for today?”

“Hey!” A brown-haired boy with recognizable eyes replies with a bounce in his step. Tommy takes a couple of seconds to remember his name, and why he knows him. His name is Tubbo and he played soccer at the park. Tommy scowls himself for being so slow – The Academy taught him better, taught him to be fast.

“Do I know you from somewhere?” Tubbo continues with furrowed eyebrows.

Since Tubbo knows him, well, isn’t a customer who he could scare away, he drops the façade and returns to his blank face and tight lips. “I’m Tommy,” he answers. “I met you at the park the other day.”

Tubbo opens his mouth and lets out a loud ‘ohhh’. “That’s right! You haven’t come around in a while.”

“I’ve been busy,” Tommy shrugs nonchalantly. “Um, did you want to order something?”

Tubbo nods his head and grins. “I know Niki personally. She lets me have free brownies.”

Tommy can tell he’s lying, he could from a mile away. “She’s at the back. I could go get her.”

“No, no,” Tubbo waves his hand to dismiss his statement. “We’re friends, aren’t we, Tommy? Let me have free shit.”

Funny how the universe works, Tommy thinks to himself. He’ll be thinking about friends and then this happens. Although Tommy doesn’t think they’re at the friend stage yet, or really acquaintances. He knows Tubbo’s name – and that’s really it.

“Tubbo,” Niki makes an entrance. “Please don’t tell me you’re harassing my employees.”

“Tommy’s my friend. We’re simply conversating.” Tubbo says the last word like he’s unsure it’s really a word. “And I wasn’t harassing him, Niki. You think so poorly of me.”

Niki smiles, leaning on the counter, her eyes on Tubbo as he sits on a stool. “So, if I ask him if you asked for free brownies, he’ll say no?” She interrogates.

“He’s my friend!” Tubbo reasons.

“Friend?” She glances between them, unsure if he’s telling the exact truth.

“He played soccer with us the other day. Well, a few weeks ago.”

Niki looks at Tommy, to see if Tubbo’s really telling the truth. “Dream made me,”

Niki smiles at him, then. “I’m glad you’re talking to others, Toms. I was going to call Tubbo down actually.”

“How do you guys know each other?” Tommy questions.

“He’s my younger brother,” Niki says just as Tubbo sighs, “Older sister.” Small world apparently because Tommy’s already met two members of their family unknowingly. He won’t say he is surprised. They have the same eyes.

Niki goes to grab a brownie for Tubbo, knowing he’ll persist until she gives up. Tubbo bombards Tommy with questions.

“How long have you worked here?”

“A couple of weeks.”

“Have you met Wilbur?”

“Unfortunately.” A loud ‘hey!’ is heard from the backroom.

“What’s your favorite food, here?”

“I don’t know,” Tommy shrugs. “The chocolate buns.”

“That is simply incorrect,” Tubbo shakes his head, frowning. “The correct answer is the chocolate brownies, but I won’t fire you.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. “I haven’t had brownies before.” The Academy had strict diets and deserts swapped between sour fruits or pudding. But Tommy adores sweet things, so Tubbo’s answer is probably right even if the question is subjective.

The bakery stills for a second. Maybe the fridge stops working.

“You’ve never had brownies before?” Tubbo gasps, wide-eyed. Tommy swears at himself because he didn’t think it was so irregular. “Niki, I don’t want one anymore. Give it to Tommy.”

Tubbo makes Tommy sit down on the stool next to him and shoves the treat in his face. Wilbur comes around, leaning on the doorframe to watch Tommy’s reaction.

Tommy takes a careful bite, looking away from the three pairs of eyes on him. Niki has said that he’s allowed to grab an extra treat during breaks, but he’s never done so before. At first, Tommy tastes the chocolate, which soon melts in his mouth. Sweetness explodes, a swift taste of bitterness balancing out the sweet.

“What the fuck?” Tommy mutters.

“Do you like it?” Tubbo asks, excitedly.

“Yeah,” Tommy swallows. “It’s good.” He takes another bite, and then another. “Niki, these are the shit.”

“You could have told me,” Niki laughs lightly, but something in her eyes looks dull. “I’d let you try all the other treats if you haven’t tasted them before.”

Tommy does not tell her he has not.

Wilbur pipes up, joining the group. He stands by Niki and his eyes do not leave the blond-haired boy. “You really aren’t kidding?”

Tommy thinks of an excuse, quickly. “My brother’s a bit of a health freak.” Is what he can come up with instead of stating he was raised at an academy for assassins, and due to their provided meals and repetitive meal plans, they did not have the opportunity of eating desserts and treats like this.

Niki looks unsure and Wilbur looks like he doesn’t believe him. Tubbo is the only one who smiles brighter, tapping his fingers on the counter. “Have you tried muffins and caramel cakes? Oh god, and lava cakes, those are to die for.” Tommy has had sweetish-savory foods, like waffles and pancakes. He has already had muffins, chocolate, and the same puddings that The Academy provided. That’s pretty much it.

“Uh,” Tommy hesitates. “Maybe?”

“We had to go, big man. I know a good place near here. Well, Niki’s are good, but I don’t think she’d appreciate us eating her whole store.”

“I still have to finish my shift.” Tommy doesn’t mind Tubbo, but he wants to spend as much time with Dream before he leaves. Even if that means laying on his office couch, watching the man type away as he reads a book from the shelf.

“No, no,” Niki interrupts. “I’ll let you off early today. Anything for you to talk to someone your age.”

“Niki,” Tommy groans. “I’ve missed enough shifts already.”

“It’s fine,” Niki wavers her hand. “Maybe I can teach Will to make a coffee without breaking another machine.”

Tommy really doesn’t want to, but Niki persists, and he has no choice but to go. Tubbo says he’ll wait outside, as Tommy retrieves the jacket that Dream makes him bring everywhere because of the windy weather.

“Niki,” Tommy makes sure Tubbo isn’t close enough to hear. She turns to him, her blonde hair flipping from the ponytail that holds her hair. “Can I use your phone to text my brother?”

“You don’t have a phone?” Wilbur’s very fucking nosy, and judgmental. Another reason to dislike him.

“Are you always so judgmental?” Tommy voices his thoughts.

“I just haven’t met a kid without a phone or tasted brownies before.” Niki glares at Wilbur. “What? I’m just saying the truth.”

“You’re a prick, Wilbur,” Tommy passes the phone back to Niki and scowls at the man.

“Stop you two,” Niki places a hand on Tommy’s shoulder, and he tries not to freeze. Even a small ouch of contact will beckon him towards his boot, where his knife is kept. The Teachers used to press their nails down on his shoulder, and whisper things he did not want to hear. It triggers something inside of him, and he’s close to snapping. But he used to be an assassin and he used to not feel. He used to endure the contact and be forced to keep a still face.

He's not Theseus anymore. He’s only Tommy.

“Tommy?” Wilbur looks concerned and Tommy might gag at the way his eyes look at him warily. “You zoned out for a second.”

“I have to go,” Tommy doesn’t miss the exchange between them. “Don’t want to keep Tubbo waiting.”

“Stay safe” Niki says lightly.

Tommy gives her a two-finger salute, the wind ruffling his hair and the sight of the fallen Autumn leaves, a reminder of the passing time.

 

 

 

 

 

“Somethings up with that kid,”

“I know Wilbur,” Niki sighs, exhausted. “He comes to work tired and zones out a lot. I see it too.”

Wilbur frowns.

“I am really worried. I’ve tried to give him more breaks and cut his hours.” Niki walks around to one of the chairs and sits down. Wilbur leans on the counter, his chin on his palms. “I’ll give him time; I wouldn’t want to scare the kid off.”

“He’s never had brownies before,” Wilbur says in disbelief. “So maybe his brother is a health freak, but something isn’t right.”

“I’ve met him before,” Niki says lowly. “His name is Dream, but he didn’t seem off. Tommy didn’t either when they came to the store.”

“Dream,” Wilbur says slowly, under his breath. “Weird ass name.”

Niki chuckles lightly. “I’ll keep an eye on Tommy, and he and Tubbo are already friends – I think. When I’m not around, make sure he’s doing alright.”

“You know I will,” Wilbur nods his head and reaches for an apron. Since he has the time, he might as well take Niki’s lessons. Even if it’s learning how to prepare a white coffee. “Although he has a tenancy to call me a bitch, I’ll look out.”

“That’s the spirit,” Niki claps her hands once. She hopes Tommy is okay. She hopes he goes home to a warm bed and that his older brother treats him right. A part of her sees herself in him; a teenager looking for help but too scared to ask. She remembers turning eighteen and driving Tubbo away from their old life and finding a small motel to stay. She remembers struggling to make ends meet and then meeting Wilbur. He had introduced her to his family, and she and her brother moved in with them.

Niki then reached out. Niki spoke to people and opened up. Niki opened a bakery – the sight of her dreams and finally moved into an apartment. It will get better; she wishes she could tell her younger self. Maybe, one day, she can tell Tommy.

 

 

 

 

 

Tubbo is not bad company, Tommy is just not used to it.

With Dream, conversations run with him speaking about a topic and Tommy interrupting. But Dream doesn’t mind and listens. They both do, regarding topics they share. The other day, there had been a knife-throwing contest playing on the TV. While Dream went on about their technique was wrong, Tommy stood up, swinging his knife around, showing off as if the man on the television could see him. Dream made him put the knife away, but they ended up rolling in laughter at the commentators not understanding shit.

Dream’s laugh is weird. It’s like he forgets to breathe for a second. Tommy’s is too, not that he’d admit it. It’s sometimes weird, realizing that not too long ago, Dream’s eyes would have frowns of their own as they stared at the TV since he never did laugh.

With Tubbo, he goes on and on about random shit, mostly which Tommy does not understand. But he won’t interrupt because he doesn’t want to be rude.

(“Let Theseus be Theseus,” Dream defends him from Sapnap. The boy with fire eyes had shouted at the boy for bursting into laughter at one of George’s jokes.

“You can’t be serious,” Sapnap deadpans. “If a Teacher catches him, he’ll be dead. Surely, you’re not this stupid.”

Dream’s lips thin. “They won’t hear him.” He defends, but turns to Theseus, anyway. “Sapnap is right, though. You don’t want to be heard.”)

Tommy can joke around with Dream because he puts up with him. Tubbo may be different from him, he may feel frustrated cutoff. But Tommy sees his laughy smile and cheery eyes and knows he won’t mind.

Tommy’s not used to this. So, he takes it in, before he will let go. And he lets Tubbo speak, while he listens to his voice and the distant sound of the tree leaves rustling under the gentle touch of the wind.

“You good, big man?” Tubbo glances at him as they walk down the sidewalk to the place that apparently has the best muffins (apart from Niki’s bakery, since he’s biased and cannot say otherwise). “You haven’t spoken in a while.”

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Tommy shrugs, shoving his balled-up hands in his pockets.

“If you say so,” Tubbo gives him a side glance. “We should hang out and place soccer again. Oh yeah, I think they’re all planning to meet up tomorrow. You should join us.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” Tommy asks.

“My friends,” Tubbo says. “Wilbur can come if you want since you’re not very familiar with anyone else. He’s funny considering his age.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Tommy will not spend more time with Wilbur than necessary. “I’ll see if I can make it, man.” He’ll have a shift at Niki’s, but afterward, he will be free since Dream will be gone by then. Although Niki will likely cut down his hours if Tubbo brings it up in front of her. He needs to talk about that with her, he reminds himself.

“What do you do in your free time?” Tubbo questions out of the blue. Tommy forces his mind to escape the train of thought of assuming Tubbo’s asking the following questions for the wrong reasons. He is asking the questions because they are ‘friends’ and friends ask each other questions. “Besides working at Niki’s.”

“I read,” Tommy thinks. He also spars with his brother, relives his traumatic past and dreams of death. “I watch movies, but that’s pretty much it. I’m boring.”

“What type of movies?” Tubbo questions and he sounds genuinely interested.

“Horror, thrillers,” Tommy thinks he’s being awkward. He’s an extrovert when he wants to be. Tommy won’t add that he and Dream watch murder mysteries together and pinpoint every mistake that the movies preface. They used to do the same thing at The Academy, which was more considered lessons instructed by their Teachers. A slap to the back of their wrist if they got an answer wrong. Now, they just chuckle at the inaccuracies of the fiction.

“That’s cool,” Tubbo nods his head. “There’s a new movie that came out last week. I forget what it’s called, but we can go watch it.”

Now Tommy isn’t afraid to show his apprehensiveness, hidden before. He furrows his eyebrows and doesn’t know what to say.

“Tubbo?”

“Yeah?” The boy turns to him again.

“Are we friends?” The Academy was meant to teach them everything. But Tommy’s social skills are poor, and he can’t figure this out because he is so unused to it.

Tubbo does not hesitate. “Yes. We are.”

Tommy will not smile, but he wants to. “Okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

The shop is named ‘Bad’s Muffins’ and Tubbo makes an unfunny joke about the name.

“The muffins aren’t bad, I promise.”

He’s not wrong, though. The owner’s name is Bad – hence the name – and he greets the boys like they’ve known each other for years. Though, Tommy realizes that he and Tubbo are good friends by judging their mannerisms and body language.

They order muffins and extra treats, on Tubbo. Tommy finds himself relaxing for the first time in a while, without Dream present. Although his hand may check his knife is securely in place once or twice, he finds himself enjoying himself. The Academy will be disappointed when they see him. He speaks with Tubbo closely, and they make jokes as they talk about meaningless discussions. Tommy steers away from uncomfortable topics and Tubbo does not push.

Tommy has never had a friend before. It’s nice, he realizes. Speaking to someone and not being on edge. Not having to see them as a rival or talking about something he does not want to. Tommy forgets The Academy exists during their conversation, which is a first. The muffins are really good. Tubbo smiles a lot. Bad joins them, properly introducing himself to Tommy.

Outside, the orange leaves fall.

Tommy wonders how long this will last.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream is leaving.

He hands Tommy a burner before he does. “Call me when you need me. Or well when you want to. I promise I’ll pick up.”

Tommy takes it. It’s his first phone.

“Keep the key in the fruit bowl so you don’t lose it. And close the curtains in your room because you somehow manage to forget.”

“Dream,” Tommy says, softly. “I’ll be fine.”

“I know you will.” His green eyes are worried, but there is always a first for everything. “I know you are fine by yourself, but you shouldn’t be. You’re only seventeen.”

“’M not a kid,” Tommy tries to sound playful. When did he become so dependent? So reliant? The Academy may not recognize him, but even he cannot recognize himself.

“Yes, you are,” Dream says back. “If you’re in trouble, then call me. And if for some reason, then tell Niki. Tell someone, Tommy. You’re not at The Academy anymore.” You’re not alone, is what he says but won’t admit aloud.

“Go already,” Tommy jokes, shoving his shoulder. “You’re so fucking dramatic, Dream.”

“Be safe,” Dream lectures, before adding. “Idiot.”

And then, Tommy is alone.

Tommy glances around the room, wearily. He breathes in, taking in the cold surroundings. The rooms seem dimmer that Dream’s left. Lonelier. It’s only seven days, Tommy reminds himself. Five days, if Dream can finish everything up fast enough.

Tommy despises Quackity for a moment. For causing Dream to go away. But the same man had offered Tommy come with them, only for Dream to decline, so he shouldn’t be angry. He used to do missions alone, for goodness’ sake. He would sleep in his empty chamber for years, the surrounding rooms emptier as the other students… passed.

Tommy is tired. He is exhausted. He should sleep more.

Tommy sees faces at night, in his dreams. So, he stops closing his eyes. Tommy stops sleeping.

(“Tell me,” Dream pushes. “What’s wrong? Tell me about the nightmares.”

“I see their faces,” Tommy squeezes his eyes closed. “Make it stop.”

“Talk to me, Toms,” But Tommy doesn’t, because he can’t.)

He stays up that night, sitting on his soft sheets and he stares at the empty walls. Faces dance around him. One has a bullet through his right eye. The others don’t have eyes, black voids that make Tommy fear sleep.

Tommy is disgusting. He is a monster. He peers down at his hands, the reddest blood sinking to his skin. Whispers travel around the room.

Look what you did to us, they say. Look at who you are.

Don’t forget, they remind him. And he won’t.

He doesn’t deserve to live and move on, when the people of his past and buried under their graves. Dream says he wants Tommy to live like a kid, be sixteen because if he deserves anything, then it’s that – but Tommy doesn’t agree. He doesn’t fucking deserve the second chance he has. He doesn’t deserve his friends, his jobs, and his caring brother who fucking cares too fucking much.

So, Tommy drowns in silence.

 

 

 

 

 

“You are Sixteen,” The Teacher states.

“I am Sixteen.”

“You are a student of the Academy. You are an assassin.”

“I am a student of the Academy. I am an assassin.”

“You don’t feel. You don’t deserve to.”

Tommy recites their words.

“You are a monster,” They tell him. “You don’t deserve love. You don’t deserve anything. You are replaceable.”

He is Sixteen and he does not deserve love or anything. He is replaceable. But he is only ten years young.

“Today, you will learn to survive. If you do not think you can, say now.” And they will kill him.

“I will survive.”

“Good,” they say. “Join your siblings. They will show you to your chamber.”

As he leaves, he hears the boy after him. “You are Seventeen,” he hears them say before he is taken away.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy relives the memory, alone. He wonders why he wanted to survive so badly. He wonders why he is allowed to be so selfish because his survival always meant others’ deaths. Dream wants him to survive, though. He wants him to live.

But what if Tommy is sick of living? Feeling like shit and nothing at all at the same time? He’s sick of running and feeling not like himself and being someone, he is not.

What does Tommy do, if he doesn’t want to survive anymore?

Chapter Text

George is made of calculating eyes and quick thinking. He assists in lessons, and Theseus sits up straight, his eyes edging into the dark brown eyes of the boy. He asks a question and picks on a student. He must use their numbers, as everyone does.

When he is alone with him, he calls him Theseus.

“Sixteen,” It’s Theseus’ turn now and he sits up straighter. “Recite it in Russian.”

Theseus recites the statement in Russian, the words rolling from his lips. He does not make a mistake and George does not smile. “Correct. Eighteen–” He picks on the next student.

George shows the least emotion of the three. Dream may not like to admit it, but he will at times, have a light in his eyes when he accompanies his friends. His façade is strong and bold so no Teacher will see through it. Sapnap shows anger and fury at times with burning eyes. But George is cold and blank-faced.

Theseus admires him. He admires his strongness and perseverance. He admires George’s lack of care, and ability to finish a task without caring if he fails. Theseus wonders if George has accepted his fate already and recognizes the consequences of his failure. Theseus wants to be like him.

He asks one day. He is the last in the training room and asks George a simple question. “How do I be like you?”

George gazes over at him with plain eyes.

“How are you so uncaring? I’ve seen you be stabbed by Sapnap before, you pulled the knife out and could not give a shit.” It had occurred in one of their demonstrations. George’s skin was red of blood, yet his eyes did not show an ounce of pain or hurt.

“I knew the truth the day I arrived here,” George explains as he pulls the knives lodged into the targets from practice. “I knew I was going to die here, so I forced myself to accept it.”

George is ten when he accepts death.

“Teach me,” Theseus pleads.

“The difference between you and I,” George continues. “Is that you have a will to survive – a strong one, maybe the strongest. Dream sees it, recently Sapnap has too. The other students fear the future, they believe that they will die here. They have not accepted it yet, though. While you, Theseus, are determined to live.”

Theseus says nothing.

“I envy you and Dream in that sense,” George shrugs lazily and stretches his arms back, playing with the knives between his fingers. “I wish I could want to live more than you, but I can’t. I’m okay with dying.”

George stops caring out of acceptance. He will be stabbed, he will be shot over and over again. He knows there is a timer above his head. He knows his death will be here. But George is okay with that.

“We do not care. We do not feel. But we do.” George says. “We are human, of course, we do.”

Theseus says nothing.

“Maybe I’m not, then – a human.” George sighs. “Because I don’t care anymore.”

 

 

 

 

 

One day, Theseus kills and feels nothing.

He does not see their faces again. Nor does he the next mission. Or the other one after.

He recalls George’s previous teaching. We are taught to not care, but we do because we are human, he says in the past.

Theseus is a monster. He will kill, he will pull a gun to someone’s head and will no longer hesitate when he kills. He is a monster because he is not satisfied. He is satisfied that he is like Dream, George, and Sapnap. He is happy to be their fourth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy lays surrounded by the people of his past and feels.

He sees their faces and his heart is on flames.

Between them, he sees George’s whispers. He is told that he is human and is meant to feel. But Tommy has murdered and doesn’t deserve to be labeled as one because he is a monster.

“I envy you,” George of the past says. “You, Theseus, are determined to live.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” he mutters and passes out.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy hates the apartment. Maybe, it’s because Dream is gone, and everything feels dead. So, he leaves.

He does not have a shift today. Dream has only left early this morning, and Tommy has been asleep all day. The sun in the sky reminds him that he still has time before darkness will conquer the sky.

He has two messages on his phone, both from Dream who is his only contact. The first one asks him if he’s okay and the second asks him if he has eaten. Tommy will not break one of his immediate rules and texts him back a quick message – that he’s fine and hasn’t eaten yet, but that he will.

He shoves the phone in his hoodie and walks through the town alone. He will head to the main part of town and find something to eat. Something healthy, so he does not have to lie when Dream asks him.

He ends up at a burger shop, and stares at the menu, his eyes threatening to close and for him to fall asleep. He hasn’t slept for a week. There are only three others in the store. One of them sits on the corner booth with their computer, while the two others wait for their orders.

Tommy’s eyes blink to concentrate, but the screen with the menu makes his eyes hurt. He can hardly read the small words and relies on the pictures to make his order.

“Are you ready to order?” The woman with red uniform questions Tommy.

Tommy sighs quietly. “I’ll have, a, um, vegetable burger.”

“Toppings?” He recalls Dream’s order from the other day. Another one of their take-out nights, when Dream’s burger tasted better than his.

“Uh, tomatoes, onions, and pickles.”

The woman nods and Tommy passes the correct number of coins to her. He is quick at math and does not have to glance at the coins for more than a second, since The Academy would force equations into his mind. They were trained to be the very best and excel in every form.

George was always the best. Tommy was okay at languages and did quite well in mathematics, but George stood strong above the rest.

Tommy’s order number is called. He takes the paper bag wordlessly and leaves the store. The food in his hands feels like a heavy burden he must carry, but he will eat for Dream. He doesn’t want the older boy to return home with a wonder why the money he has left behind is unused.

Tommy also doesn’t realize how much Quackity pays him until today. The money he has left behind is quite an excessive amount. Tommy could buy deserts from a more expensive store every night, with what Dream has left.

The town square is filled with people, teenagers laying on grassy fields in circles and adults on dates. He passes the park, where children ride on scooters and throw objects in the air for their dogs to catch. The sound of children’s laughter and parents scowling bring a light feeling to the air, which Tommy avoids as he dodges past people with his paper bag secured firmly in his grip.

He finds a park bench located away from the majority of people. He slumps on a seat and unwraps the burger. The first bite reveals that it tastes well, not as good as the one he had the other day, but he does not dislike it. Tommy pushes himself to finish, and his eyes grow heavier. He can’t go to sleep though, he refuses to. He needs something to do, something to take his mind off… everything. He’d usually have Dream in this situation, and back at The Academy, he had Sapnap and George to rely on.

Now, he’s alone again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Teachers aren’t the only obstacle that the students face. Nor is it the lessons they are taught or the missions they must complete to continue. One of their biggest obstacles is each other.

“You are siblings,” They are introduced to each other by. “These are your brothers.” Their sisters are taken away after the first day. Theseus will not see them for a long time. “But you are also rivals. You are each other’s competition.”

They are taught of the tight bonds of family and the fierce loyalty that comes with it. But they are also taught to keep enemies closer. They must not be friends and taught against it. However, The Academy is not against alliances. A bare trust, which is needed to proceed through lessons.

But they are taught against trust. They are disciplined and controlled. They learn that loyalty has its limits.

Theseus does not want friends. He pushes through alone until he meets Dream. Dream is not competition, as he has already graduated. He can rely on him and learns to along with Sapnap and George.

Loyalty has its limits, he writes on lined paper until his fingers are numb and his thumb is sore. But how can he untrust someone who is more loyal than him? He becomes what he is taught against and must hide it.

“We must not make friends, to survive,” Dream tells him one day. “But you can rely on me, and I will always help you.” So you live. So you survive, he does not say.

Sapnap hates him when they meet. But now, they like each other. “George and I are here too. After all, you are our fourth.”

Over the years, Theseus notices how his siblings change. His eyes watch in observance, and he notes how the spread-out students, who would sit far apart from each other, now sit in groups. He used to share a table with other silent students, but they have either disappeared or found others to sit with.

They make alliances, not connections.

Theseus finds out the hard way.

They corner him after three hours of training. Their faces are made up of jealousy because they know Theseus is the predicted fourth and the best. More graduate, but Theseus will be the most honored. In Dream’s year, ten of thirty graduated. Sapnap’s was the same, ten. George’s was only five.

They will keep the strong. The weak do not graduate.

“What?” Theseus questions them as he is tasked to clean up after training. They must return to the dining hall, otherwise, they will skip mealtime – which is the part of the day that cannot be devalued.

“You,” One of them shoves him, but Theseus does not stumble, staring at them with disbelief. He covers it up quickly, turning stone. “Sixteen, the one who thinks he’s so good.”

“Theseus,” The shorter one with dark eyes blurts out loudly. There are many Sixteens, due to the separate graduating classes. They refer to each other by their names sometimes, not around Teachers or the Headmaster. “You think you’re good enough to be their fourth?”

Theseus stays silent, staring them down.

“Too good to speak to us?” They say and knock him down. The middle one has a height advantage and pushes him down. But one thing they are taught is that height does not matter if they are not strong. Nothing matters if they aren’t good fighters. And Theseus is considered the best for a reason. He does not allow any of their punches to reach his face, as he rolls to the side, throwing his arm out to shove the others to the ground.

Their unbalance pushes him upwards. He presses his hands to the shoulders of the taller guy and kicks him in the stomach.

As they fight, his name comes to Theseus’ mind. He is One. His name is Curtis. Theseus observes his classmates and remembers him well. He is a natural leader, but his downfall is his dependability and poor aim. He depends on his two other assistors and will need them with him to prove a point.

So, Theseus lets Curtis fall to the floor and aims for the other two boys. A quick punch to their jaws and he twists their arms. They are strong, he has seen them fight. But this is not a battle they are willing to fight for, and they stumble away and out of the room.

Curtis groans, getting up from the floor. “How does it feel, to know you will waste your life away here?”

“So will you,” Theseus replies plainly, watching him stand up again.

“I will die here,” Curtis glares. “You won’t, until long after than us.”

Theseus stares.

“So don’t think you’re better than any of us,” Curtis spits. “Because you’re worse.”

A voice comes from the shadows. A man with a white mask. Curtis flinches, but Theseus stays still.

It is Dream, who pulls off his mask. “One, Sixteen. You should be in the dining hall.” The mask in his grip makes him appear more daunting because all the students know of the Graduate who kills with no hesitation.

“I apologize,” Curtis stands up straight, and his voice is no longer hard. “Theseus started a fight.”

There is no loyalty between the boys. They were meant to be brothers, but they are also rivals. Curtis knows Dream is deadly and emotionless. He knows he must lie, to avoid the consequences. To throw Theseus under the bus, he saves himself.

“Very well,” Dream states. “You’re dismissed, One.”

Curtis leaves and does not look back.

Dream strides over to Theseus. Any other student will be forced to not cower under his sharp gaze and intimidating presence.

“What happened?” Dream asks, first.

Theseus is monotone. He turns away from Dream, to finish his task of cleaning the mats. But Dream holds his shoulder and forces him to look at him. “He and his friends started a fight; you know I don’t start shit.”

“I know,” Because Dream does. “What did they initiate it over?”

Theseus hesitates. “Nothing, really.”

“Are you lying?”

Theseus smirks. “Yes.”

“You’re an idiot.” Dream rolls his eyes. He assists the boy clean up the hall and forces him to go to the dining room, so he won’t miss a meal.

“You had a mission?” Theseus questions the older boy before he is forced to leave. He points at his mask, which is only used when he does.

“Yeah, I did. Nothing special, I went with George.” They are considered partners during missions. They complete kills together because The Academy knows they will get the job done. It isn’t as if they won’t alone, but they are utilized together to ensure the mission finishes swiftly. “I’ll speak to you later.”

“Okay.” The lonely dining room is not Theseus’ favorite place to sit. He sits alone and he eats alone. The other students will speak to one another and glance at him. He is not an outcast, but he refuses to hold a connection with people who he will not be able to trust.

“See you, Theseus.” Dream refers to him as there are no Teachers alone. “Stay out of trouble.”

“You know that I do.”

 

 

 

 

 

“I don’t know, Theseus,” Sapnap says, after hearing Theseus’ story. He is forced by Dream to tell them why One had pulled him aside and they had gotten into a fight. “Maybe you should speak to some of them.”

“What?” Theseus lifts his head from the mat he lies on. It is leisure, which is a period of the day which cannot be held to grant. The Graduates assist the class with techniques, or students go to classrooms for study. Freedom, is a sweet taste that can be taken from them at any given moment. “What the fuck, Sapnap?”

“Maybe he’s right?” George shrugs. He throws knives at the wall and goes back to retrieve them. They all hit the bullseye. “They will all turn against you at some point, if that kid – One and his friends, have already.”

“Don’t trust them. But speak to them,” Sapnap tells him. “We know you sit alone during meals like the loser you are. It’s not bad to have allies.”

“I’m not a loser, you prick,” Theseus is seconds away from tackling him. “What if I don’t want to speak to them?”

“Then no one will side with you, if something happens,” Sapnap says, before calling. “A boy in my class, he’d speak to no one and stepped out of line a few times. He was sent away after everyone turned on him because no one liked him.”

George collapses on the map next to Theseus and stretches his arms above his head. “We can keep an eye out on them, but what if One had a knife on him?”

“I have a knife on me,” Theseus says plainly. “He has no advantage.”

Sapnap punches his shoulder. “Stop acting like Dream for a second and listen.”

Theseus does not. He pushes Sapnap over, their shoulders colliding as they wrestle. Sapnap laughs as Theseus attempts to pin him down.

“Why must you act like children?” Dream reenters the room, his face laced with mock disappointment. He sits next to George, while Theseus and Sapnap continue. They don’t stop until the younger boy taps out because he has never won to Sapnap.

“Finished?” George questions.

“Shut up, Loverboy,” Sapnap comebacks, and Theseus snorts because they will both throw insults at each other, yet Sapnap’s will always reign victorious and simply better. “Now, Dream, please explain to Theseus why he should at least talk to his classmates.”

Dream frowns, glancing at George. “Hm?”

“He’ll need someone to back him up. He doesn’t have to rely upon or trust them, but it’s always good to have a person like that with you,” Sapnap explains. “I made friends with George, and he saved me from various situations.”

“It’s okay to have allies,” Dream shrugs his shoulders, and his eyes do not leave Theseus. The younger boy will always listen to Sapnap and George, but it will be Dream’s words that he follows. “I wouldn’t be against it.”

“I already have you guys,” Theseus shrugs. “That’s enough.” He shoves away Sapnap when he makes an annoying 'awww' sound with his voice and rolls his eyes when George makes fun of him.

“There’s nothing wrong with speaking to them,” Dream tells him. “And you may have us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have others. Some of them will survive with you, and you’ll be competing missions with them soon enough. You want them to trust you enough, even if you don't trust them.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Tommy?”

Tommy blinks.

“Tommy!” And Tommy snaps out of his daydream. “Dude, I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Tommy blinks, adjusting his eyes to the sunlight. Standing in front of him is Tubbo, his hands holding tightly to the handlebars as if he’s scared the bike will roll away without his firm hold. To be honest, Tubbo is small and the thing looks like it could topple him over.

“Hey Tubbo,” Tommy rubs his eyes. “What are you doing here?” He isn’t expecting to see the boy.

“Niki made me go run some errands,” Tubbo explains. “Went to buy bread and shit. What are you doing?”

“Well,” Tommy hesitates. “I was eating…” His eyes roam his discarded paper bag and breadcrumbs on the table. “Yeah.”

“Oh,” Tubbo says oddly. “Well, do you want to hang out? I know it’s getting late and you don’t have to say yes, but we can chill at mine if you like.”

Tommy is ready to say no. He’s tired, he might lay on the couch and watch hours of meaningless TV. But he remembers Dream’s words of the past.

“There’s nothing wrong with speaking to them. You may have us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have others.”

So, Tommy, unexpected to Tubbo (and even himself), says yes.

Tubbo holds his bike as they walk through the park, to his house. It’s far, he says, but they’ll arrive before the sunset.

“Are you sure your parents are fine with it, big man?” Tubbo asks, unsure. He is still surprised Tommy agreed to the whole ordeal.

Tommy rips the bandage off quickly. “Tubs, I don’t have parents.”

“Oh,” he momentarily stops walking, but Tommy continues, and he quickens his pace to match steps with him. “How about your brother?”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah, he’ll be okay with it.”

“Okay then.”

“Look,” he takes out his phone and shakes it. “I got one of these things. He’ll know.” No, he really won’t, because Tommy won’t tell him. Dream should be focused on whatever he’s doing in Chicago, instead of him.

“You got a phone?” Tubbo exclaims. “And you didn’t tell me?”

“Well–” Words do not leave his lips, because Tubbo snatches his phone to enter his contact. He marvels at the flip phone, although it’s nothing to be jealous of because it’s old and cheap. Tommy’s still grateful for it, though.

After Tubbo enters it, he speaks about his day. “We played soccer again today, you should have come. At least I can text you next time – oh yeah, I got three goals. I’m getting better, I hope, I’m still better than Fundy.”

Tommy nods his head, yawning into his mouth.

“Do you not sleep, at all?” Tubbo questions. “You look exhausted, man.”

“Can’t really sleep,” he does not elaborate.

“Oh,” Tubbo bites his top lip. “Oh.”

“I’ll be fine. Just a little dizzy from walking much, but I’ll be fine.” I always am, he does not say.

“No,” Tubbo refuses. “My house is too far; you’ll pass out beforehand. And I don’t think I’d be able to carry you and the bike at the same time, big man.”

Tommy sighs. One downside of no one knowing his past is that they will continuously underestimate him. He’s survived on no sleep before and been forced to be awake for days. He’d be acting as he did at ten, if he is complaining about being tired on a simple walk back to Tubbo’s.

But Tubbo refuses to let him walk. “I’ll call Wilbur.”

“Why the fuck would you call Wilbur of all people?” Tommy groans.

“So, he can drive us home. Niki's car is at a garage, getting fixed.”

Tommy does not want to see or speak to Wilbur. But the phone is already by Tubbo’s ear and Tommy’s arms are limp by his side.

“Hey Wilbur, could you please pick Tommy and me up? Yeah, we’re alright…. No, no, shut the fuck up, I don’t care you’re busy… No, I can’t just walk home! He’s going to combust from sleep deprivation….” Tommy glares at him for being dramatic. “Please come quick, he looks like he’s plotting my murder. Yes, thank you!” Tubbo lowers the phone and sends him an innocent smile. “He’s coming to pick us up.”

“I gathered.” The two boys sit on a grassy field, waiting for Wilbur to arrive. Tubbo’s bike leans beside them awkwardly, and Tommy stares at it.

“I got it for my thirteenth birthday,” Tubbo smiles proudly. “It’s my most prized possession. Wilbur’s dad got it for me.”

Tommy nods his head slowly. “Cool.” He’s not so good at small talk, or any talk with anyone he doesn’t know well, really. Does he know Tubbo well? He’s unsure.

They stay in silence, admiring the soft patterns of the sky and sound of the world. Tommy is taught young, to appreciate and show gratitude. Never take anything for granted. Whether that was leisure time, a bed to sleep in, or his life. So he does not mind appreciating their surroundings, with the presence of Tubbo. It’s quite nice.

Tommy is exhausted. He has an ongoing battle with his eyes to stay away. He was his shields and swords up and will not succumb to their persistence. Tommy does not want to see the faces of his past. He does not want to deal with that right now.

“You, okay?” Tubbo asks.

“Yeah.” Is Tommy’s reply.

Tubbo doesn’t say anything. The next time he speaks, Wilbur has arrived to pick them up.

They walk to his car slowly, although it’s just Tubbo matching Tommy’s slow pace. He puts the bike in the boot of Wilbur’s car, and the two of them hop in. Tubbo sits at the front, while Tommy resides in the backseat.

“Hey, you two,” But Will’s eyes stay on Tommy through the mirror. “Are you okay, Tommy?”

“Alright,” he nods his head stiffly and stares out of the window.

Wilbur sighs. “Tommy, you look sick. Maybe it’s best you go home and sleep.”

“What are you, my father?” Tommy mutters. “I’m fine, Will.”

“Is your brother home?” Wilbur tests his words carefully as if he’s worried Tommy will leave the car because of the number of questions that are projected in his direction. “He’ll agree with me.”

“He’s not home.”

Tubbo turns around too, an eyebrow raised. “I thought you said he was.”

“I didn’t.” Maybe he did. His head is drowsy, and he can’t think straight. Tommy doesn’t like not being at his prime and thinks that going home may be the best situation. He will feel unsafe if he has to depend on others in this state. “He’s on a business trip.”

“Yeah, I’ll take you to Tubbo’s then,” Wilbur announces, reversing from the parking spot.

“Why?” Tommy asks. As much as he hates to admit it, Wilbur is right. He should go home. Although he would prefer not to.

“You shouldn’t have to be alone,” Wilbur says softly, and that’s that.

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur drops Tommy and Tubbo and Niki’s house. He enters after them, watching the boys rush to Tubbo’s room. His eyes linger on Tommy carefully, before he looks away, searching for Niki.

She's in the kitchen, papers scattered across the bench. She is usually in this predicament, due to her passion for baking and creating new recipes to introduce to her shop. Wilbur admires her, and the effort she pushes into her work.

“Tommy’s here,” Wilbur tells her.

“Yeah, Tubbo texted me,” Niki’s eyes don’t leave the dough she needs with her palms. “Is the kid okay?”

“I’m not sure. Apparently, his brother is out of town for a business trip, and he’s home alone.” Wilbur says in disbelief. “He’s ready to pass out. Surprised he hasn’t already.”

Niki looks up and furrows her eyebrows. Her blonde hair falls in front of her face and Wilbur laughs lightly at the flour on her cheeks. “Can you tell him that he can stay the night? I would but–” She raises her doughy hands and Wilbur chuckles, nodding his head. “Oh, and one more thing – please tell Phil to talk to me first before allowing Tubbo to hack into another government. I’d like to know if I’m going to get some unexpected phone calls soon.”

“Not the government,” Wilbur shakes his head. “Nevadas.”

“Oh,” Niki pulls a packet of chocolate open. “Anything new, then?”

“Well,” Wilbur leans on a wall opposite her. “Tubbo’s helped with everything he can do, but we haven’t found anything we haven't already known.”

“Haven’t you guys been on this case for months?” Niki’s words aren’t condescending, rather thoughtful and curious.

“We have,” Wilbur sighs, pulling his hair back before it bounces in front of his eyes again. “Phil’s in Chicago right now, talking to them. I think he’s preparing a couple deals with them – but you know how they are. They’ll gain our trust and stab us in our backs.”

“If you need my help, then you can ask, Will,” Niki assures. “Tubbo had to pick up his skills from someone.”

“Thank you,” he says sincerely and means it. “I should check up on the children, then.”

“Go,” she laughs lightly.

Wilbur turns around, his mind a mess from work, but he’ll get over it soon. Soon comes, when he hears an argument burst from Tubbo’s room, and he soon forgets the stress that he’s been holding onto for so long.

Wilbur doesn’t knock on the door and barges in. “Hello?” He notices how Tubbo stands in front of the TV in his room, while Tommy lays lazily in a beanbag. “Is everything alright, in here?” he leans on the doorframe.

“Just go to sleep, Tommy. You’re exhausted.”

“I’m good here,” 

“Niki said you can stay here and sleep the night.” Wilbur nods his head in the boy’s direction.

“I don’t want to intrude.”

“You don’t have to,” Wilbur glances at Tubbo. “Are the sheets in the spare room?” Tommy deserves to sleep in a bed tonight, even if he wants to sleep on a sleeping bag in Tubbo’s room. Tommy deserves some sleep.

Tubbo leaves to ready Tommy’s room for the night. The blue-eyed boy frowns.

Wilbur smirks, collapsing on a beanbag next to him.

“Move,” Tommy grits his teeth. “You’ll break the bag and I’m not paying Tubbo for new ones.”

“I won’t,” Wilbur leans back, resting the back of his head on his palms. “Why haven’t you been sleeping?”

“Just can’t.”

“Insomnia?” He has that too.

“No, bad dreams.”

Wilbur drops his hands by his side. Up close, there are heavy bags under the boy’s eyes and his eyelids lower.

“We’ll be here, Tommy. You shouldn’t worry.”

“I like to sleep alone,” Tommy mutters. “In an empty room.”

Wilbur’s lips press against each other thoughtfully. “Okay, that’s okay.”

“I am really tired, Wilbur,” Tommy groans. “I just don’t want to sleep. I can’t.”

“You’re sleep-deprived, Toms,” And for some reason, Wilbur finds himself caring a lot more than he should for a boy he hasn’t known for so long. He doesn’t trust too easily, which says something. “If you do have bad dreams, or can’t go to sleep, I’ll be in the living room with Niki. We can watch a movie or something.”

“Really?” And he sounds so tired.

“Really,” Wilbur confirms. “I promise.”

Tommy finally goes to sleep in the spare bedroom, after Tubbo returns. Wilbur notices how he locks the door but does not say anything of it.

“Is he okay?” Tubbo asks him.

“He will be. I hope.” Wilbur is worried for this kid. He has a lot of shit to worry about nowadays. Firstly, Las Nevadas, Quackity, and a case he’s been working on for months. On top of that, he has his older brother and father to concern about – and now this mysterious kid who’s entered their lives.

Sometimes, he forgets to breathe in between the chaos. 

Wilbur exhales.

Chapter Text

Tommy is not in his bedroom when he wakes up.

There is an unfamiliar clock hanging on the opposite wall and he lays on sheets that he is not used to. Expectedly, the time is six exactly. He remembers where he is after he regains his senses. He is asleep in Tubbo’s bedroom after Wilbur and Tubbo had realized he hadn’t had a wink of sleep.

Wilbur. Tommy isn’t vulnerable around many people. He is an assassin, he should be. Vulnerability is weakness, which would have gotten him killed at The Academy. He recalls telling Will that he doesn’t like falling asleep with other people present (he physically can’t because of the way he was for years), but Tommy doesn’t know if that’s something he can use against him.

(“Do not reveal your weaknesses,” the Teachers demand. “Do not share any part of yourself.”

They end up tearing the students apart until they are stripped of fears and themselves. Soon, they are no one but numbers who do not have a purpose but to kill. Taught to be emotionless, and replaceable, there is no part of themselves that they can display to the outside world.)

Maybe Wilbur isn’t here, Tommy thinks to himself. He has probably gone home already.

He is anything but true. Wilbur is seated in the dining room, accompanied by Niki on his left. Tubbo lounges by the TV, a bowl of popcorn on his stomach. Tommy takes a moment to survey the surroundings. His eyes pinpoint the doors to lead to the backyard and a possible escape route. It’s a necessity, a procedure drilled into his bones.

“Tommy!” Niki notices Tommy. “Glad to see you awake.”

He nods his head and looks anywhere but Wilbur’s eyes. “I think I’ll go home now–”

“Don’t be silly,” she refuses. “You haven’t eaten all day. Sit down so I can cook you something.”

Tommy stands in silence. “It’s only six?”

Tubbo snorts from the couch. “Six in the afternoon, big man. You’ve been asleep all day.”

Tommy blinks once. Then twice. He hasn’t gotten so much sleep before. Niki ushers him to sit down, unfortunately right beside Wilbur, whose calculating eyes do not leave him for a second. Tommy has always had a sharp gaze, but his mind is still hazy and adjusting, so he cannot match Wilbur.

“You okay?” the man asks quietly.

“Yeah,” Tommy coughs into his fist. “I’m not used to… so much sleep.”

“Well, I’m glad you got it, you needed it,” Wilbur smiles and Tommy misses his annoying presence, replaced by a careful and excessive worrying demeanor. He reminds the boy of Dream for a second.

“Tommy!” Tubbo yells from the couch. “Watch a movie with me. You owe me one after being asleep for the whole day.”

“Tubbo,” Niki scolds.

“I know,” Tubbo states quickly. “But Wilbur is shit company, he’s my only option during boredness.”

“I think the correct term for that is boredom,” Wilbur corrects.

“See what I mean!” Tubbo exclaims dramatically. While Wilbur and Tubbo continue arguing, Niki sets down a plate in front of Tommy. Consisting of a small portion of noodles, vegetables, and chicken, Tommy feels hungry staring at it.

“Thanks, Niki,” Tommy thanks softly.

“Do you want to spend the night again?” She questions.

“I should really go home.” The home shouldn’t be unprotected for so long. And Tommy doesn’t want to interfere more than he has. He’s already spent a whole day at theirs, they won’t want him around for so long.

Then, the daunting realization comes to the boy.

“Fuck,” he swears, and Niki watches him, worried. “I missed my shift, today. I’m sorry – fuck.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Niki reiterates. “Tubbo helped me out today. You deserve the sleep, Tommy.”

They keep telling him that he’s deserving of things. First Wilbur, and now her. Tommy disagrees – he does not deserve anything. He does not deserve life when he has introduced death to so many.

“Tommy?” Wilbur interrupts his train of thought. “Eat.”

“Fuck off,” Tommy mutters but still shovels a forkful of chicken into his mouth. Between bites, he adds, “Bitch.”

Wilbur rolls his eyes. “You are a child.”

“No you, prick.”

“I’m twenty-five!”

“Okay?” Tommy shrugs slowly. Wilbur groans, but he doesn’t leave his company, so it’s his fault if insults and food come flying his way because he doesn’t sit elsewhere. Tommy would not waste Niki’s food though, it's all Wilbur's fault if anything happens. 

He was taught manners at the early age of ten. Chin high, back straight, no elbows on the table. It doesn’t mean he has to follow those rules around the man.

They join Tubbo for a movie after Tommy has eaten, as much as he asks for them to start without him. Niki brings another bowl of caramel popcorn, and Tubbo and Tommy stuff their faces. Wilbur sits by Niki on the other couch, his eyes flickering between the boys and the TV. Tommy knows the real reason why Wilbur keeps looking at him; he’s suspicious. He wants to know why Tommy is so odd and figure out the mystery behind him.

Too bad Tommy is a trained assassin and won’t give him a thing to work with.

The movie that Tubbo puts on is a crime film, which has Tommy laying back and observing the screen carefully. It is based on the life of a murderer, and his childhood leading up to his adulthood, when he commits his first kills.

Tommy is silent the whole time while Wilbur and Tubbo talk from time to time. At The Academy, films like these would be used to pinpoint all the mistakes as one day, the following students would complete tasks of their own.

(“Sixteen?” A Teacher questions him from the front of the classroom. Theseus sits up.

“His overestimation and carelessness.”

“Elaborate,” They demand.

“He believes that his target will not fight back, which results in his DNA left behind. And due to his carelessness, surrounding security cameras will be able to determine his similar located murders. He was concentrating on concealing his identity, therefore did not anticipate this.”

“Correct,” The Teacher says and turns away.)

Tommy wants to laugh through the movie and holds himself back. The mistakes are so clear, that he could go on about them if asked by a Teacher.

By the time the credits roll though, Wilbur and Tubbo are grinning. “That was sick,” Wilbur is impressed. “We have to watch the sequel, now.”

“What did you think, Tommy?” Tubbo turns to him.

He shrugs. “It was okay.”

“Just, okay?” Tubbo smirks. “Your standards are high.”

He wants to tell the boy that the murderer’s motives aren’t clear throughout the movie, and for someone who had researched for the perfect murder since an early age, they had completed many mistakes.

Instead, he says, “I think I’ll have to watch the sequel. Left on quite a cliffhanger.”

Niki shrugs her shoulders. “It’s only eight. We can do that.”

Tubbo grabs the remote and turns on the movie. Tommy is watching and calculating. He looks out for mistakes and pinpoints the lack of logic.

At some point, his shoulders unhunch and he stops counting the mistakes with his mind. No one will ask him questions, and he will not go to bed hungry if he can’t answer a question about it. So instead, he allows himself to relax.

 

 

 

 

 

Theseus and George go on their first mission together. They are usually assisted by Dream, however, today is their first time without him.

“Ready?” George questions as they wait for their transportation, their bags packed and their heads high. Theseus must contain his excitement; he will not let it show.

“I am,” Theseus nods his head. “A shame you couldn’t do this with Dream.”

“I don’t mind,” George rolls his eyes at Theseus’ implication. “Today, I'll see if you’ll live up to being our fourth.”

At his words, Theseus stands up straighter and conceals any emotion. Today, he must complete a mission but prove something to his elder. He must prove that he is worthy.

Their transportation arrives. They revise their background silently. George will sneak into a bar and drug a man’s drink. His name is Bailey Adams, and he is twenty-six. He is built, and six feet tall. He is not a match for George.

George will bring him outside. They will kill him and bring his body to a hotel, where they will frame his murder on another man. Kalvin Davis. A rich man in his forties. It is not explicitly stated in his files, how rich he is. Theseus guesses that he is a millionaire.

George reads his thoughts. “The third party is paying six figures. He’s important. Not famous, but important.”

The hits placed are done for a large sum of money. If they aren’t, then The Academy wants to have fun. They want their marks remembered; their names to be known. They want to display fear and their students to be known as the best in the world.

The mission goes ahead. Theseus lurks outside the bar with an empty suitcase in one hand, a cigarette in another. He must appear older, although he hates the taste. They are taught to blend into the scene, and Theseus does exactly that.

George will not take long. He will introduce himself to Bailey and carefully slide a packet of powder into his drink. He will then ensure it has dissolved, before sliding it to him.

“What’s the suitcase, for?” A drunk man passes Theseus.

Theseus shrugs his shoulders and smirks. “Going on holiday.”

The drunk man laughs and stumbles. “Where to?’

“Sacramento,” Is the first place that enters his mind. “California.”

The man staggers away. He will forget Theseus’ presence in the morning. If he was not intoxicated, he would have had to kill him. He makes no mistakes and leaves no witnesses.

George comes back, a tall man leaning against his shoulder, his head tipped back. He looks asleep.

Soon, he isn’t. Soon, he is dead.

At the dead of the night, the two assassins place the man in the suitcase and bring him to the hotel. They dispose of his body at Kalvin’s hotel room and rearrange the room to create evidence. George is more trained so he moves around the room swiftly, his gloved hands carefully placing weapons and stains around the room. All while Theseus hovers by the man, flicking his knife out.

An ‘A’ cut into his palm. The police are unaware of their existence, but other agencies will find about this kill. They will discover the murder and hire agents, from The Academy to complete their missions.

The Academy will grow stronger. They will rise to the fall. The Academy must be the best because it’s how they train their students. The Academy will grow until they are unstoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy is forced to spend the day with Wilbur.

He’s at Niki and Tubbo’s house more often, after they find out that Dream will not return for another six days. They offer for him to sleep there, but Tommy denies.

Tommy spends a lot of time with Tubbo, playing video games and sports in their backyard. He wins every round. (Tubbo is confused after Tommy reveals that he’s never played many video games in his lifetime. He accuses him of cheating.) Other times, they spend time at Niki’s bakery, doing shifts together. Tommy suspects Niki has told him to keep him company, but he later realizes that Tubbo’s a clingy little shit and stays with him willingly.

The only person he does not get along well with is Wilbur. So Niki forces them to spend a day together.

(“For the sake of my bakery,” she sighs. “You will guys will be scaring the customers off at this rate.

Like they don’t already, Tommy thinks but agrees.)

Wilbur keeps glancing a Tommy. He thinks he doesn’t notice, but his eyes will stay on him for a second too long, before looking away, moments later glancing back.

Tommy blatantly ignores him, focusing on the text message Dream has sent him. He thinks of a response to: How are you? Will be back in four days.

“What are you doing?” Wilbur nudges, before adding. “You got a phone now?”

“Fuck off,” Tommy mutters. He responds quickly, something along the lines of I’m fine. See you then. His fingers fumble across the small keyboard, his hands numb from the winds. He presses send and stuffs his phone away.

Wilbur keeps staring at him. Tommy is apprehensive when he side-eyes him, but he knows Wilbur isn’t deadly and practically harmless. Tommy can take him down in a second, with his eyes closed.

Although, he is taught to never underestimate anyone. Wilbur can be an exception.

“Are you okay?”

Tommy whips his head at the older, who’s stops walking as he does. “What? Why?”

“That isn’t an answer,” Wilbur laughs lightly, the air fogging up at his breaths.

“Why are you asking?” Tommy doesn’t continue walking even though Wilbur seems as though he wants to.

“Tommy,” Wilbur responds lightly. “I’m just asking – I care.”

Tommy scoffs and starts walking down the footpath again. Wilbur shouts a ‘hey!’, startled, before he catches up to the boy again. Tommy attempts to ignore him, wishing that he could just go home to his apartment and wait until Dream comes back. But he knows he shouldn’t be alone; he definitely shouldn’t be alone with his mind.

“You should not care,” Tommy snaps at him.

“Well, you should have someone,” Wilbur reasons, stumbling over his words at the younger boy’s harshness.

“I have Dream,” Tommy says curtly.

“Do you?” Wilbur questions. “Because he left you alone for a week, Tommy. He shouldn’t do that.”

“Shut the fuck up, Wilbur,” Tommy scowls. “You don’t know shit, so don’t pretend you do.”

Wilbur sighs. “Sorry, sorry.” Tommy looks away, forcing himself to ignore the words that now circulate his mind. He won’t let it get to him like he’s been trained to. “Let’s go to the park, we can talk there.”

“No,” Tommy denies. “I’m going home, I know you don’t want to be here either.”

“Tomm–”

But Tommy is off, jogging away so that he doesn’t have to see Wilbur’s stupid face and his stupid fake glasses and hear his stupid voice and questions. He takes only four steps forward when an arm tugs him back.

Tommy’s instincts kick in. His body turns, and so does his hand, ready to twist the arm around and secure it behind his back.

Before he does, he registers it is Wilbur. Not a threat. So, he grips onto his hand tightly, glaring at the man.

“Don’t fucking touch me.” And he lets go.

Wilbur blinks twice, startled again. He probably regrets ever meeting him now. Tommy won’t blame him. “Okay, okay,” He pulls his hands in the air, in surrender. “We’ll go to the park. I know you want to go to your apartment, but I don’t want to go back to an unhappy-Niki. For both our sakes, we should talk,”

Tommy’s lips thin and his face remains blank, his voice monotone. “Okay.”

They go to the park. Wilbur can navigate himself pretty well here since he’s lived in the exact town since he was a child and Tommy memorizes the road names and locations quickly. He routes a map into his mind and keeps it stored safely. George taught him a trick when he was younger.

The park they sit at is the same one Tommy went to with Dream. They sit at the same bench, and Tommy can almost vision his brother sitting by him.

“Hey,” A shadow looms in his mind, not of a face he’s killed for once. Then, it disappears.

“My brother and I used to come here a lot,” Wilbur says to divert the tension. “We’d climb trees and all that kid shit.”

“You have a brother?” But Tommy isn’t even slightly interested.

“Yeah, he’s older than me,” Wilbur says. “By three minutes.”

Tommy doesn’t know much about him, he realizes. He probably should, in case he needs to for the future. So, he asks more questions.

“What’s his name?”

“Techno.”

Tommy snorts. “Shit name. Runs in the family.”

“Hey!” Wilbur shouts, but it’s in a joking tone. “My father’s name is Phil.”

“He's a shit namer,” Tommy mutters. His name is Theseus. Named after a hero who killed the Minotaur. His name is pretty shit too.

“Don’t disrespect Phil like that,” Wilbur nudges his shoulder, his eyes lightly glaring at the boy. He has to lean his head down because he’s so tall and Tommy has a stupid slouch. Tommy doesn’t bother correcting it, as The Academy would do.

(They sit at the table, Tommy’s back straight and his eyes on the food Dream has laid in front of him. He’s meant to eat when he is told to.

Dream comes back, a fork in his hand as he hums under his breath. “What are you waiting for? Eat, Tommy.”

Tommy eats.

Dream then realizes he was waiting for permission. At The Academy, they’d have to wait until they could. Usually, a Teacher would give them permission. “Tommy, you don’t have to wait for anyone, anymore.”

“What?” He doesn’t look up from his food.

Dream makes him, tugging his face upwards. “We’re not there anymore. You don’t have to wait for me to start eating, and you don’t have to sit straight or any of that shit. We’re free.”)

“What’s the story behind your brother’s name?”

Tommy doesn’t tell him. Dream’s real name isn’t Dream. He’s called that because he was the dream of the Headmaster. Dream is admired and everyone strives to be like him. Sapnap comes up with the nickname, and it sticks.

“Just a name, innit?” Tommy shrugs his shoulders. “Not everything needs a backstory.”

“What about your backstory?” And now Wilbur’s asking for too much from him. Like he hasn’t before.

“I’m not telling you, shit.”

“Tommy,” Wilbur sighs. “We should get to know each other. You’ll be stuck with me for a while.”

Not if Tommy can help it. They’ll free Sapnap and George with Dream and they won’t ever see this stupid town again. They’ll drive away and find a better place to stay. They’ll be free together.

“I’ll go first,” Wilbur suggests. “I live with my brother and father, and we’ve lived here since I was born. I studied Criminology at college before I dropped out. I have a dog and read in my spare time.”

“That’s a shit backstory,” Tommy responds, rolling his eyes. “Why’d you drop out?”

Wilbur shrugs his shoulders. “Too much work, I guess. I work for my father, now, though.”

“Oh, what does he do?”

Wilbur falters. Bullseye, Tommy thinks. “He runs a small company. A security-camera business. I used to work at Niki’s too until you stole my job.”

“How the fuck?” Tommy shouts. “You don’t know how to use a coffee machine without breaking it! Thank god, I took your job, otherwise, Niki wouldn’t have coffee to sell.”

“Shut up, child,” Wilbur flicks his forehead. “I brought in the customers. You scare them away.”

“Now, that’s a lie. I have my amazing looks and wonderful personality; you have nothing on you.”

Wilbur rolls his eyes and nudges him. “Your turn.”

Tommy sighs. He glares at the sun, threatening to set on the horizon. He thinks of a story to tell.

“I used to live in the country with Dream before we moved here,” he says very carefully.

“What about your parents?” Wilbur asks softly.

“Out of the picture. I don’t remember them well.” Which is the truth. Tommy will never be able to remember his parents. The Academy forced the memories out of their students. “Dream raised me.”

“Oh,” Something settles in Wilbur’s eyes. Tommy watches the emotion carefully, yet to decipher it. “I don’t remember my mother well either.”

“Oh,” Tommy bites the inside of his cheek. “Sorry.” He’s not used to showing sympathy. Usually, when he finds out about death, he’s meant to ignore it and reveal no emotion.

“She’s not dead. Out of the picture too. I also – I also had a younger brother.”

Tommy is silent as Wilbur speaks.

“He was taken from a young age,” Wilbur says lightly, and slowly. Remembering a memory, hard to remember. “It’s fine though. It happened years ago.”

“Sorry,” Tommy apologizes again because he doesn’t know what to do. “I also, well, I also have two other brothers.”

He swears at himself for the information he’s given. For the vulnerability that he’s passed around, which he should know very well against.

“Oh,” Wilbur says. “I haven’t heard you mention them before.”

“I haven’t. They’re not around anymore. But – but they will be, soon. It’s just Dream and I for now.” 

Tommy doesn't know if he's thinking of Sapnap and George, or the two figures that he distinguished as his brothers, from a memory a while ago. 

“Maybe we have more in common than we thought,” Wilbur smiles. “Truce, Thomas?”

“That isn’t my name, bitch.” Tommy groans but he ends up agreeing with the man. “I guess we do. But no fucking truces, you’re still a wrong’en.”

“What the fuck, man?”

“Your name is Wilbur,” Tommy says the name like its venom. They both stand up, and Wilbur volunteers to walk him back to his apartment. “Of course, you’re one.”

 

 

 

 

 

“The–Tommy,” Dream is still getting used to his new name. “You have to eat.”

“I’m not hungry,” Tommy lays on the couch, his arm and legs sprawled out, his fingertips grazing the carpet.

“You’re eating,” Dream demands, standing by the small table in the hotel they’re staying at. They will leave tomorrow morning. “Come sit with me.” It’s a small room, the kitchen and living room connected together. They share a room and there is a tiny bathroom connected to it. Tommy is used to small spaces, but he wants his personal area for once.

“I’m not hungry,” Tommy repeats, his voice hollow. “I’ll throw it up.”

He hopes Dream will leave him alone. His eyelids flicker closed. When they open, Dream stands by the couch, his face over his. Any other person would be startled by the sudden presence, but he only closes his eyes again. “Get lost, prick.”

“You know I can’t do that,” Dream frowns. “You need energy, Toms. You haven’t eaten all day.”

“And?” Tommy sighs. “So what?”

“We have a long day tomorrow. I need you to pull up against your own in case something happens.”

“Who cares?” Tommy yawns. “Who cares anymore?”

Dream grabs his shoulders and pushes him up. Tommy almost flinches but Dream doesn’t let go. Tommy knows that Dream is hesitant with the sudden contact too. A week ago, they could not touch. Dream could not ruffle his hair or hug him. Touch is hesitant, because of the looing worry that a Teacher will catch them – or someone will stop them, and they will both be punished.

“Listen,” Dream stresses. “And listen closely.”

Tommy listens.

“We left to be free. Because if we didn’t, you’d graduate and be committed to killing and missions for the rest of your life. We would both be trapped, Tommy, and there wasn’t going to be a possible way to escape. It would slowly destroy us, kill by kill, until we were nothing but assassins.” Dream exhales and he shakes his shoulders. “We are people, Tommy. You deserve to be a kid, we deserve to be free.”

“Dream–”

“Don’t tell me you’re not going to try. And don’t tell me you won’t care because you will. And I’ll make sure of it – you will live Tommy. You’re going to be a normal sixteen-year-old kid or so help me god.”

“It’s my fault,” Tommy mutters. “That Sapnap and George didn’t make it out.” He didn’t follow their plans; he had made a mistake. Assassins do not make mistakes. Students of The Academy cannot afford so.

“We’ll get them out,” Dream promises. “Until then, promise me you will be free with me.”

“What?” Tommy doesn’t understand his words.

“You won’t die. I won’t let you; I won’t let you not try or care because we can finally live freely.”

“Okay,” Tommy sighs numbly. “Okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur leaves and Tommy is alone again.

He lays on the couch, and his memories relive through his mind. Dream tells him to care, in their past. The nights following their escape, he’d repeated to Tommy again and again that he deserves to live like this. He deserves friends like Tubbo and to be a kid even if he couldn’t.

Tommy does not like being alone. He grew up with twenty-nine other students. He had Dream, Sapnap, and George. But in times like this, he is truly alone with himself. He remembers his past and the cruel he has committed. He recalls the horror of the past; the horror he has committed.

Tommy misses Dream. He misses George. Tommy misses Sapnap. Because if anyone deserves to be free, then it’s them.

“You’re a monster,” his mind echoes and he is. So is his mind, as it eats up his memories and forces him into the darkest dreams and the nightmare of his past.

 

 

 

 

 

On the other side of the country, a boy with fire eyes grows restless. He is not a boy anymore though; he is a man – soon he will be twenty-one.

He tosses around a lighter in his left hand, his eyes caged with flame. His sharp teeth are revealed through his devilish grin, but his eyes are colder than the stone of his heart.

He waits.

Chapter Text

“Tubbo,” Wilbur enters the room without knocking. “I need you to find everything you can about Tommy.”

Tubbo turns in his spinning chair, disbelief ridden on his features. “You’re not serious. That’s an invasion of privacy!”

“That’s not what you said to the last hundred people you dug up,” Wilbur collapses on the chair next to him and nods his head, a silent usher for him to start his thing. He’s only seventeen himself, but Tubbo helps Phil and their business out a lot. Wilbur won’t admit it, but the annoying teenager’s skills are quite impressive.

“That’s my job, Wilbur,” Tubbo stretches out his words, very slowly as he thinks of Wilbur’s motives here. “I do that because Phil tells me to and because I get paid.”

“I’m not paying you.”

“And I’m not helping you with this shit,” Tubbo turns on his hair and stares at his computer, where he’s in the middle of a game of Tetris. “Ask Niki or Ranboo. Someone else but me.”

Wilbur sighs and leans back in his chair. “I’m worried about the kid.”

“I’m not surprised,” Tubbo hums.

“You can’t tell me that Tommy confuses you too. I don’t want much, Tubbo. I just want to make sure that Dream’s a good guy and that Tommy’s safe at home.”

Tubbo sighs and pauses his game. “And here I am, thinking I was on break since Phil’s not here. You’re not getting much though, I’m not going to invade his personal life and whole history.”

“Thanks,” Wilbur smiles, patting the boy’s shoulder. Tubbo shakes his hand away and gets to work. Tubbo is good at what he does and an integral part of their assignments. Wilbur finds himself by Phil’s side most of the time, but he’ll find himself returning to the computer lab of their Headquarters to have a scope of what Tubbo does. His eyes fly through his monitors and his fingers have a mind of their own, as he completes his task.

They don’t know much about Tommy, though. They know his first name and age so it will be harder to scope enough information. 

“Niki told me his last name is Taken,” So they have his last name too. “Don’t have much here to work with. Give me a bit.”

“Okay, thanks Tubbo,” Wilbur lays back in his seat and closes his eyes. He thinks he has a short nap, but he doesn’t remember exactly as his eyes fly open one second and Tubbo is still staring at his screen, frowning.

“I can’t find him.”

“What?” Wilbur exclaims and stares at the screen in front.

“Usually, I’d be able to find something. His birth details or his name in graduated students of his year. I can’t find him anywhere though. Not a trace.”

“The fuck?” Wilbur mumbles.

“I looked through his brother, Dream, too. A unique name, so you’d think that there was something – right? Nothing, nothing at all. No voting applications, no prior registered car or home requests. I can’t find a single school with their names clear in their databases.”

“What’s going on here?” Red eyes and pink braided hair enter the room. He’s sweaty, signaling he was at the gym or working out downstairs. But Wilbur doesn’t glance at his older brother, Technoblade, because his mind spirals in wonder.

Who is this kid? He thinks. And where the hell did he come from?

“Wilbur’s forcing me to do his dirty work for him and wanted to find shit about Tommy. I couldn’t find a thing.”

“Tommy?” Techno stands by his chair and stares at the screens in front of them. “The kid you’ve gotten attached to?”

“No,” Wilbur says as Tubbo says, “Yes.”

“Why are you so interested?” Techno scoffs. “There’s nothing about him that you can’t just ask.”

“That’s the thing, Tech, he’s closed off. Really closed off, and I’m worried for him. He and his brother showed up out of nowhere and there’s something going on.”

“Wilbur,” Techno exhales loudly. “You’re overthinking this. You’re too attached to this kid and coming up with wrong conclusions.”

“Tubbo can’t find anything about him, though!”

“And? There are a lot of possible explanations for that. Did you ever conclude that Tommy wasn’t born here, or he hasn’t been telling you the truth of his name? It isn’t that deep.”

Wilbur sighs and Tubbo agrees. “I don’t feel right about searching him up. It doesn’t seem okay.”

“Give it a break,” Techno demands. “Unless you want Phil to get involved, when he gets back.”

“Okay,” Wilbur stands up, brushing the front of his shirt. “Fine.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy finds himself getting closer to Wilbur over the next couple of days.

Not the trust-type of close. Neither the I’ll-let-you-into-my-apartment close. But it’s getting to the point where Tommy will be on shift and await Wilbur’s presence. He’s expecting the man to show up, but because he enjoys his company.

Wilbur’s glasses are fake, and his face is still ugly. But Tommy doesn’t mind hanging out with him. As long as the questions are nonexistent and Wilbur sops delving into his personal life, their conversations won’t be tension-filled.

Niki may be pleased that they’re getting along too. Although, she is probably reconsidering it because Tommy is the embodiment of chaos and Wilbur is the human version of chaoticness. 

“I’ve watched a few movies,” Tommy responds to Wilbur’s query as he places a chocolate muffin and sugar biscuit in a paper bag for a customer.

“Then how have you never heard of Harry Potter. Everyone knows Harry fuckin' Potter!”

“I watch crime and mystery,” Tommy deadpans at Wilbur’s disbelief. “Harry Potter sounds like a kids' movie. Some shit show about pottery.”

Wilbur snorts as slams his mug on the table. “You’re unbelievable, kid. I can’t believe you haven’t heard of it.”

“I watched Die Hard the other day,” Tommy reasons. He now regrets telling Tubbo he’s watched many movies, thinking that the boy would ignore or forget the piece of information. It turns out, he has told Wilbur.

Tommy has watched many movies, in all honestly. The Teachers never told them the names though. He’s watched thousands of crime and murder.

Die Hard?” Wilbur scoffs. “C’mon man, that’s a Christmas movie. Strictly forbidden from any month that isn’t December.”

Tommy groans. “Nothing will satisfy you.”

“Come over to mine,” Wilbur suggests. “I’ll introduce you to the wonderful world of classics. We’ll fit the whole Harry Potter series in there sometime,”

“I’m not going to your fucking house,” A customer enters the store and Wilbur leans back, watching Tommy as he musters up a smile and grabs a vanilla and white chocolate muffin for them.

“That, or yours,” Wilbur says when the customer leaves.

“You’re not stepping foot into my fucking apartment.”

“Fine, we’ll go to the movies. You can bring Tubbo along and I’ll bring my brother.”

Tommy furrows his eyebrows. He recalls Wilbur mentioning his older brother with an odd name. He asks, while rearranging the front row of muffins. “Why would we invite him?”

“He’ll kill me if he finds out I’m going without inviting him.”

Tommy doesn’t know if he’s up to it. Dream will be back home the following day, and he should tidy up the apartment beforehand. But he also does not want to be left alone. Tubbo is a clingy shit and Wilbur won’t leave him alone – benefits of ‘befriending’ the two. He does not feel alone with them, and his mind won’t take over.

So, he agrees. Not for Wilbur’s sake, but his own.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy does not think, feel or breathe when Dream slices his leg open with a knife. He waits for the man to pull out a metal chip, placing it down on a paper towel beside him once he’s found it. It’s hard to grip onto it, he has to use extra force with the tweezers to lodge it out from inside his skin.

Blood is everywhere. Nothing they are not used to,

“Almost done,” Dream reassures as he grabs the sterilization kit and begins to clean his needle. Blood is stained to the seats and table. It will be a bitch to clean off. Tommy sits still, his fingers gripping onto his rolled-up pant leg and his mind frozen. He does not feel the needle poking into his skin nor does he hear Dream’s soft breaths as the man finishes the job.

Dream finishes. Now, it’s Tommy's turn with the needle. Dream pulls up his own pant leg and smiles softly. (He does that a lot nowadays since they've left The Academy) “Don’t cut too deep.”

Tommy does not. His slice is swift and steady. He does a good job, having experience from dealing with this situation before. Although Dream can clean up well, Tommy’s hands are still, and his precision is on point.

He finds the metal tracker quickly. Soon, they will drive and deposit them far away for bait. They will then drive and find another apartment to stay in before they leave again. They must run and hide and track the agents that are coming after them. They have already encountered one (Dream had knocked him out), they do not want to meet another.

Tommy finishes his job, and Dream lets out a deep breath he is holding. It doesn’t hurt, this is nothing comparable to the pain they have witnessed, Dream is probably nervous that Tommy will screw up.

“Tommy?” Dream asks as they throw away their bloody clothes and change into comfy sweatpants and white shirts they have bought from a cheap store. This will be the first time the pair do not wear their uniforms. Tommy feels a breath of fresh air as he buttons up his shirt. “Where did you get this one?” Dream points at a thin line traveling up his arm.

Tommy stares at it in the mirror. They all have their fair share of marks and bruises. Tommy hasn’t noticed this particular one though and squints at how precise and careful the cut is. Nothing he would have received during a mission.

“I don’t know,” Tommy concludes. “We all have our fair share of scars.”

“I saw a similar looking on your legs.” Dream says slowly, testing Tommy’s reaction. The boy stares down at the carpet. “It doesn’t look like it was made on missions. It’s too, how do I put this? Exact.”

Their scars from training are jagged and uneven. Tommy sees what Dream does but does not comment on it as he does.

“It’s nothing, Dream,” Tommy sighs tiredly. “Just another one.”

“Okay then,” Dream replies, uncertainly, and they go to sleep to prepare for tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy stares at the scars on his arm. He is reminded of the moment Dream asks him where the particular one came from.

They all have scars, though. He ignores the taunts in his mind and shoves on a black shirt. He rethinks going to the movies with Wilbur, but he can’t back out now. Tommy ends up matching his dark shirt, with black jeans and his red shoes. He leaves his hair as it is, and fiddles with his nose ring as he contemplates leaving the house, and if he’ll end up calling out.

His phone rings. Tubbo calls him. “You better not be bailing on us, Tommy.” His voice is static due to Tommy’s phone condition. He had been practicing throwing knives at a target board Dream has bought and had accidentally dropped and stepped on it as he was aiming.

It's still in a bearable condition. “I’m not,” Tommy responds. “I’d never bail on you, Tubbo. Wilbur Soot on the other hand? Every time.”

He can hear Tubbo’s chuckle and Wilbur shouting at him in the background. “Hurry up, man. We’re all here.”

“On my way.” And he ends the call. One last look at himself, and he leaves his room. He grabs Dream’s black jacket laying lazily on the couch, before he leaves, not wanting his arms so exposed. A reason why the cold days are so nice; he won’t be questioned why he wears long sleeves. He’s not ashamed of his scars, Dream flaunts the one on his face almost proudly. He just doesn’t want extra questions – especially from Wilbur.

Tommy knows Wilbur is apprehensive and filled with queries. He sees it in his eyes and hears it in his tone.

The boy leaves the apartment complex promptly, his eyes surveying his surroundings as he crosses the road and enters a shop to grab a soft drink. He sips on it, as he makes his way to the cinema. He will not admit he’s never been to one before, and he won’t admit he’s excited either.

Tommy doesn’t want to be late, so he ends up jumping over a wired gate and crossing through a field he probably should not be in. He ducks under a hole on a metal fence and watches the people around him as he does. The cinema is in sight, and he notices a familiar shorter boy, a taller one, and a man with pink hair.

Techno; a man with a weird name and weird hair.

“Tommy!” Wilbur exclaims as the boy approaches, but the boy’s eyes are glued to the man he is unfamiliar with, observing him and pinpointing his weaknesses. He’s built and tall. But he is no match for Tommy. “I really thought you were going to bail on us.”

“I was,” Tommy takes a sip of his drink, finally looking away from the pink-haired man. “It was a last-minute decision.”

Wilbur smirks and glances at his brother. They exchange glimpses. Tommy is good at hearing, and hears Techno between Tubbo and his conversation, as he mutters to Wilbur, ‘You didn't tell me the kid was emo.’

Tommy rolls his eyes. “I’m not emo, bitch.”

Techno blinks, turning away from Wilbur quickly as the boy calls him out. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

“You were talking about me,” Tommy mutters.

“He is right though,” Wilbur laughs and points to his dark clothes and piercing. Tommy scowls and drags Tubbo into the cinema with him, to get away from them. Dream used to call Sapnap it all the time, and George would laugh. So, Tommy assumes that it’s nothing good.

“What movie are we watching?” Tommy questions his friend as they stand in line after he throws his empty can in the bin. He surveys the room of people slowly, figuring out the location of each exit.

“It’s called Wander,” Tubbo explains, checking his phone. “Seems pretty cool.”

“Okay,” Tommy nods his head, frowning as Techno and Wilbur enter the waiting line. They stand behind, leaning on the wall as they whisper to each other. His eyes narrow towards them before he looks away.

After Tubbo grabs his tickets, they approach the two other boys. Tommy manages to make out clips of their conversation as they approach. “He’ll take a while to warm up to you, don’t worry.”

“And you’re talking about me again,” Tommy rolls his eyes at the two. “Tubbo, how the fuck do you put up with them two?”

Tubbo shrugs his shoulders, smiling. “They’re tolerable when they buy me shit.”

Wilbur rolls his eyes and takes out a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet. “Grab food and drinks. Meet us there.”

Tubbo nods his head and hands them their tickets. Techno’s eyes stick on Tommy until they leave.

The two boys buy large buckets of buttery popcorn and thick shakes. They marvel at the sight of the food but Tubbo ushers Tommy to hurry up, otherwise, they will miss the starting ads apparently.

“The best part,” Tubbo says with importance. Tommy rolls his eyes but nods along.

“We could eat all this ourselves. Do we need to share it?” Tommy smirks as they enter their cinema room.

“I don’t want Wilbur to throw a fit, so we should,” Tubbo sighs. “Next time, we’ll hide the food for ourselves.”

“Good idea.” Techno and Wilbur are seated by the back, whispering to each other. Tommy furrows his eyebrows when they stop talking as they arrive.

“We got the snacks!” Tubbo pushes them a bucket and shake. “How much did we miss?”

“Nothing,” Techno mutters. “It hasn’t started yet.”

“See Tommy,” Tubbo nudges him on the shoulder. “He doesn’t get it like we do.”

Tommy probably doesn’t get it. This is the first time he’s seated in a cinema, food in his hands and a friend by his side. It feels surreal because weeks ago this wouldn’t be fathomable.

He’s had his fair share of experiences over missions. Sometimes George and Dream took him to theme parks or diners in between their kills. That, or they would have to spend a couple of days at a particular location and one of the older boys would manage to fit in something special. It was rare, very rare. Barely ever happened, but when it did, Tommy felt really lucky.

The room dims down and Tommy tenses momentarily. There aren’t many other people in the room. There is a couple seated at the front and a group of girls a couple of rows ahead of them. Tommy glances over at the other three, noticing how their eyes gaze at the screen in front of them.

It's huge. Tommy is used to small box TVs and the tiny television Dream had found at a garage sale a while back. This is cool.

Tommy finds himself enjoying himself. He may keep an eye on Techno from the corner of his eyes, and almost flinches when the violence seemed a bit too much like his past, but he almost really relaxes.

That is, until the movie finishes. The group leaves the darkroom with smiles, except Tommy. He’s still processing the ending and reassures himself that the violence is not real and it is all fiction. He should not be on edge – Dream would be disappointed if he found out he was so on edge. Maybe it’s the premise of the movie or the fact that it felt so much like what he's had to do in his past.

It takes him back to the blood and scars. The screaming and haunting faces. He’s with people, this should not be something he worries about. But he does.

The hairs on Tommy’s back freeze. He feels eyes on his back. He turns his body and notices a man leaving the room he was just in. When was he in there? Tommy had scoped out the whole room and hadn’t seen the figure.

But he was probably the man on the date with the blonde-haired woman.

“Tommy?” Wilbur nudges him and he almost freezes again. “You okay, kid? The movie wasn’t too scary for you, was it?”

Tommy doesn’t process his words as he says them. He's not in his element, he is still focusing on every sound and face around him. He isn't thinking straight, as he should be. “It was good, I’ve never been to a cinema before.”

“What?” Techno and Tubbo stop their conversation when Wilbur’s voice goes stiff. “You haven’t been to a cinema before?”

Tommy snaps back into reality. His coverup story is delivered like it's the truth. “I lived in the country; we didn’t have much shit around there.”

“Oh,” Wilbur is still in disbelief. “Tommy.”

Tommy’s heart races. “Yeah?”

Wilbur is silent. 

"What?"

“We’re going to watch so many movies,” he says suddenly and grips the boy’s shoulder. “And you don’t have a say because I’ve already decided. We’ll try all the food you haven’t tried before and do the shit you haven’t done. Sound good?”

Tommy’s eyes land on Tubbo who has a toothy grin and Techno who still stares at him with interest and carefulness. 

“You don’t think it’s weird?” He says lowly, playing with the sleeves of his hoodie. 

“A bit,” Wilbur shrugs. “But it’s fine. I realize you’ve grown up differently from us, which is fine.”

Tommy still thinks Wilbur is annoying and a prick. But Wilbur is also tolerable, Wilbur is nice. He hasn’t always been used to that.

“Thanks,” Tommy says because he doesn’t know what else he can do. “I’d like that.” A lot. 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream does not wear his mask, but that does not mean he is not the assassin he once was.

His knife skills are quick, and his technique has not changed. The blade pushes through the heart of the man and he falls to the floor. Dream pulls his knife out and the blood pools.

He calls Quackity. “I finished.”

He can hear shuffling on the other hand before he is met with sounds of surprise. “Already?!”

Dream rubs his cheeks. His face is smeared with the blood of the man. He’ll clean it out later.

“Yeah,” he mutters and looks away from the death. “You underestimate me, Quackity. I’ll finish the job when I want to.”

“This is why I need someone like you, Dream. You’re fast and you get the job done. You’re someone I need!”

“Shut the fuck up,” Dream glares into the phone. “We had a fucking deal.”

“We did,” Quackity sighs. “I hope you consider it. You know, your kid brother – with the money I’m offering, he could afford college. And not some community one, I’m talking big. He'll have a promising future, which is indeed what you want.”

Dream is taught to lack hesitance. But when Tommy is mentioned, he considers it for a split second.

“Quackity,” Dream expresses. “I’ll find the money another way, I’m not killing anymore. This was a one-off deal between you and me, it won’t be happening again.”

“Admit it,” Quackity hisses. “You were born for this. I’ve run my business for years and you’re incomparable to anyone else. They’re sloppy and need shaping – and although they’re good at what they do, I need great.”

Dream exhales and his eyes linger on the body once more. Quackity’s deal with him is simple, he’ll complete this one kill for him, and he’ll receive full protection for Tommy. Although the kid can carry himself, he knows he won’t always be there for the kid. Especially with the presence of The Academy on their back.

Plus, Quackity wants to help him take down The Academy. Dream won’t admit it to anyone, but he needs help. He’s the top Graduate, he is quick on his feet and his mind works wonders. But Quackity’s helpful. He’s informative and has the equipment he needs.

“I need you to come back now. I hope you’re not sloppy with your work, Dream. You know that I have people on my back after me.”

Dream does. He grunts into the phone and begins to clean the mess. His blade almost pokes into the man’s wrist, and he almost traces the ‘A’ into the skin as his mind will do with no doubt. He won’t leave his mark, this is strictly Quackity’s business and nothing else.

The man he has killed is a corrupt businessman who exploits his employees. Dream refuses to kill anyone, anymore. Even with what Quackity is offering. This kill was a little easier knowing he wasn’t a good person. Every kill is easy, though. But this one doesn’t unsettle him as much as it would. He's no longer forced to kill the innocent, so the least he can do is kill the guilty to repay for his past.

“Get back,” Quackity instructs. “I’ll treat you to dinner, on me.”

“We’ll leave tonight,” Dream needs to get back home as soon as possible.

“You’re not the one who should be demanding things from me, but I guess I’ll make an exception for you.”

Dream ends the call and cleans his kill.

Chapter Text

Dream comes home. Tommy doesn’t know when he starts referring to their apartment as ‘home’ but if it isn’t, then where is?

Dream appears the same when he enters through the wooden front door. He still stands strong but there is a burden on his back, the journey a likely tiring experience. It is three in the morning, the birds haven’t woken, and the sun hasn’t seized the sky, not for a few more hours. Yet, both boys are awake, and they observe each other’s moments.

Tommy should be asleep, the dark circles under his eyes evident of that. But nightmares keep him awake, and so does the arrival of his big brother.

“Miss me?” Dream breaks the silence first. He drops his bags on the marbled flooring and raises his arms. “Am I going to get a hug?”

Tommy scowls. “In your dreams, bitch.”

Dream does not take ‘no’ for an answer. He strides to the boy and wraps his arms around him, much to the younger’s protests. Tommy attempts to push his arms away, and kick his stomach, but Dream has always been stronger. He ends up laying on the couch by him, but his left arm stays tightly around the boy’s shoulder.

“You should be asleep,” Dream says, glancing down at the boy. He notices the lack of sleep immediately.

“Well, I’m not tired,” Tommy lies. “Tell me about your trip. Who did you go to meet again?”

“People who work with Quackity. Had a couple of meetings with them, they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to take down their company.”

“I bet they were a bunch of pussies,” Tommy mutters, and Dream snorts.

“You could say that.” Dream shrugs his shoulders. “Tell me about your week,”

They used to have conversations like this at night. Tommy would manage to sneak out of his room (he was the best in his class for a reason) and meet the boys. They’d ask him questions about his day, and Tommy would respond. When they could not, Sapnap and George would find a way to talk to him during mealtimes and Dream would whisper with him between classes.

(He tells them about challenging tasks and the lessons they are taught that day. Sapnap gives him advice and George makes him recite words in Arabic because apparently – his words, not Tommy’s – he can always get better.)

“I worked at Niki’s for a couple days. I also slept over at Tubbo’s once and went to the movies with Wilbur.”

Dream raises an eyebrow quickly. “You slept over?” He knows that Tommy can’t sleep with anyone else present. He must sleep alone, or in the presence of Dream, Sapnap, and George. Otherwise, he cannot. None of them can.

“It was in a guest room; I didn’t really have a choice.”

“How come?” Dream questions suspiciously. He trusts Tommy, he does not trust any of them.

“They could tell I hadn’t been sleeping,” Tommy sighs.

“Tommy,” Dream complains. “I gave you three rules to follow.” Tommy recites them in his mind. To respond to his messages, to eat, and to sleep well.

“I think two out of three is a brilliant effort,” Tommy says back, leaning away from Dream to no prevail as he won’t move his arm. “I physically could not sleep, I tried to. Don’t blame me.”

“I wasn’t,” Dream mutters. “Is it…?”

He doesn’t finish the question. He is mentioning the haunting faces and the murders of the past. He will not ask aloud, though. Tommy barely nods his head.

“Go to sleep,” Dream reaches for a cushion and tosses it at the younger boy. He knows that Dream’s presence has always somehow saved him from them. Like the assassin he was, he fights the nightmares away. "I'll be here."

Tommy does not remember closing his eyes, but he does remember falling asleep.

Tommy awakes the next morning to the smoke detector going off.

Dream stands in the kitchen, smoke in the air and a loud ring echoing around the apartment. Tommy groans into his cushion, as the time he gets a decent sleep, he is only interrupted.

The ringing continues, and Dream grabs a broom from the pantry to make it stop. Tommy gets sick of the noise and reaches under the couch to grab their spare knife. One flick of his wrist and the knife hits the dead center of the smoke detector, the sound drowning into the air.

“Let me sleep,” Tommy pushes his face into the couch cushion with complaint.

“It’s late anyway,” Dream tells him. “Get up, you can nap later.”

“Naps are for children.”

“Exactly,” Dream replies and Tommy flips him off, not looking up yet. He needs a moment to adjust to the harsh sunlight spilling into the room and the crying birds outside their balcony. “Get up, I’m making waffles. You can help if you want.”

Tommy begrudgingly stands up and stretches his back before he joins his older brother in the kitchen. They are taught many things at The Academy. Many languages, how to kill, how to breathe underwater for longer than five minutes. What they are not taught, is to cook.

But Dream’s good at everything he does. And the kitchen doesn’t smell too bad, apart from the apparent smoke.

“I burned the first batch,” Dream explains. “The second one came out okay though. Help me cut some fruits.”

Tommy nods his head, waiting by the counter as Dream grabs the bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. He washes them for the younger boy and hands him a kitchen knife with a wary glance.

One downside of growing up at The Academy is that they are taught to be the best assassins possible. They are not taught normal things, that any other person would learn. Dream knows most of these things though, so he helps Tommy when he can. It makes Tommy wonder if this is how it’s like to be human. To be normal.

Tommy chops the fruits carefully, and both boys dissolve into chatter.

“I’ll be at Quackity’s this afternoon. We can go do something afterward if you want.”

Tommy bites his tongue, carefully removing the stem from the strawberries. “Wilbur said he wanted to go the arcade with me.”

“Wilbur?” Dream hums. “I want to meet him.”

“He’s a bitch, you’ll hate him.”

Dream chuckles. “That’s okay.”

Tommy continues to cut up the fruits, and Dream turns around every so often to see how he’s doing. “You don’t have to cut the strawberries up much. The bananas into smaller pieces, like this.” He shows him, and Tommy follows. “Well done, kid.”

“Not a kid,” Tommy retorts absentmindedly. “Can you drop me off at the bakery, today?”

“Sure,” Dream shrugs.

“You know, they’re a bit suspicious of you. Wilbur thinks you’re a bit of a wrong’en,” Tommy speaks. “He always asks questions about you, it’s very annoying.”

“What?” Dream asks slowly, but Tommy is too busy cutting to notice the wariness set in his tone.

“Yeah, I don’t try and give anything away though. They’re all persistent though, even Niki.”

“Tommy,” Dream deadpans. “You haven’t given anything away.” He does not ask it as a question, it’s a statement.

“I haven’t,” Tommy looks up and multitasks. “I’m not going to fuck up again.”

“You didn’t fuck up the first time,” Dream mutters.

“Yes, I – oh fuck,” Tommy sees red on his hands and the knife drops. He missed the fruit like an idiot and cuts into his hand. It’s the first time he has seen his own blood in a while. At The Academy, the sight was a usual occurrence. “Fuck.”

Dream steps to him, to see the damage. There is quite a bit of blood, so he grabs paper towels and forces them into Tommy’s other hand. “Sit down.”

“It’s a bit of blood,” Tommy pushes him away. “Nothing I’m not used to, was just startled, that’s all.”

Dream exhales. “Sit down, Tommy.”

“I’m fine, Dream!” Tommy blurts. “I can handle it.” He used to handle his scars and burns. He does not think of the times Sapnap had sat beside him, to wrap up his bandages, or when George would sneak him medicine during his colds. He does not think of when Dream would look out for him, making sure he wasn’t alone.

But Tommy is fine, now. He’s dealt his worse.

“You shouldn’t have to handle it yourself!” Dream shouts back. “I don’t give a fuck if you’re used to it, just sit down.”

Tommy freezes. The loud noise reminds him of training lessons when Dream would shout, and Dream would hit. Tommy sits down.

“I’m sorry for shouting,” Dream returns with bandages. “Shit, I’m sorry, Tommy. I just don’t want you to handle that yourself.”

“It’s only a bit of blood.”

“And you’re only sixteen.”

Tommy glances away from Dream as he holds his hand to treat it. “Sorry for ruining the fruit.”

“Don’t worry about that,” The older reassures. “I’ll lay off next time, I promise. You’re my kid brother, it’s an instinct to look out for you.” Tommy lingers with his words, under Dream finishes and brings the two plates back. They eat their meal, the tension dying when Dream asks about Wilbur again and Tommy begins to rant about him. Soon, their fight is forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Theseus is shoved into a white room. The doors close behind him and he stands, emotionless. Waiting, counting. He counts to sixty, and then back to zero. He does not stop.

A test. They are shoved into a white room with white walls and a white floor. They will go insane. Only the greatest students will make it out, sane. The rest will be killed.

It is Theseus’ turn. He stands for hours, in the middle of the room. He watches the walls and breathes. They are not told of the time of this test, so they cannot prepare. They are not told when they are allowed out either.

Theseus recalls a boy in his class, who had entered the white room a few months ago. He returned a week later and had forgotten everything. He is killed.

Rumors say they are kept here before they join The Academy. They remain in the room until they forgot about their past, and until then, they are not allowed out. That is why many of the students in his class start late because it takes them a longer turn to stay and forget.

Today, Theseus must not forget. Otherwise, he will not survive.

Dream’s words echo through him. Do not stop counting, and don’t lose track of your time. It will be your downfall.

Sapnap had then retorted, He’ll stop counting, eventually. Just try and remember.

Theseus stops the memory, to continue counting. His feet will stay cemented to the floor until he cannot stand.

It is five hours when he finally sits down. He crosses his legs and continues to stare at the wall. Twenty-three. Twenty-four. Twenty-five.

The first stage is the easiest, his other classmates have said. The ones who have completed the white room first. They brag and inform each other of the stages. The second stage is doubt. Is the worry that you are forgotten. That the Teachers have forgotten that they trapped you in the room and will be found unbreathing and dead.

The thought creeps up on Tommy. He ignores it as he is told.

The third stage is when voices are heard. He hears Dream’s first. Small whispers that creep up his skin, yet he forces his body to remain in position. Sapnap’s taunts are next, and then George’s disapproval.

Theseus rubs his hands on the ground, his skin burning. They are derived from sensation, from touch. The floors and walls are bare.

Then, Theseus sees faces. He will go insane, so he closes his eyes.

He continues to count. He opens his eyes eventually, so the cameras know that he is not asleep. They are not allowed to, otherwise, they are disqualified – they have failed.

More hours pass. Theseus eventually stops counting. He grasps his mind and forces himself to remember.

Under his breath, he repeats the words, George, Sapnap, Dream, until his mouth is dry. He will continue.

The doors open ten hours later. Strong hands grip his shirt and push him into the open. Theseus has lived.

 

 

 

 

 

“Hey Tommy,” Wilbur arrives at the bakery, scanning the boy before he sits down on one of the stools.

“Hey bitch,” Tommy mutters back. “Stop looking so happy.”

Wilbur frowns immediately. “Geez, sorry.”

“Bad apology, two out of ten.”

Wilbur takes out his book. A literature that he is obsessed with and won’t stop speaking about. “What’s with you today?”

“A Monday, innit?” Tommy sighs. “Tubbo’s not fucking responding to my messages.” The reason is because Tubbo has promised to give him a DVD from the other day. Tommy remembers watching it at his house, and Tubbo refuses to drop it at his apartment, and instead deliver it in person.

“Aww, Tommy,” Wilbur’s grin is ugly. “Your first friend.”

“I hate you.”

“He has school, he’s coming to the arcade. Did you forget?”

“Oh,” Tommy sighs. “I thought it was just going to be us.” Not that he cares. In fact, he's happier that the boy is coming along.

“And Tubbo. And Techno.”

Tommy smirks and starts on Wilbur’s latte. The man no longer asks for one, Tommy just has to make it. “I’d assume Techno didn’t want to come. Isn’t he too good for us?”

“He is, but I guess he wants to get to know you more.”

“Gross.”

“Tell me about it,” Wilbur agrees, and Tommy almost reaches over the counter to punch him. As he makes the older man latte, Wilbur mentions his hand. “What happened?”

Tommy sighs. “I stabbed myself.”

“You stabbed yourself?!” Wilbur exclaims incredulously. “How did you manage that?”

Tommy’s cheeks heat in embarrassment. “I was trying to cut fruit.”

“You’re such a fucking child.”

“It’s not my fault!” Tommy frowns grabbing the milk. “Dream was talking to me, and I can’t fucking multitask.” He can, he’s just out of practice. That, and he overestimated his cutting abilities. He can use a knife well, all for the wrong reasons.

He can poke someone’s heart with his eyes closed. Today, he found out that he cannot do the same with fucking fruit.

“Dream’s back?” Wilbur raises his eyebrows.

“Yeah, he came back early this morning,” Tommy passes Wilbur his latte after attempting to do the cool trick Niki does with the milk. It isn’t too bad. “Why?”

“I want to meet him.” “I want to meet him.” Dream had said before.

“Why the fuck?” Tommy mutters, leaning on the tabletop.

Wilbur shrugs his shoulders. “Invite him to the arcade with us.”

“Only if Techno doesn’t come,” Tommy mutters, not particularly liking the addition to the Soot family. “It’ll be as awkward as hell.”

Wilbur shrugs his shoulders. “Okay then.”

Tommy smiles to himself because he knows Dream will not agree. 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream agrees to go to the arcade with Tommy.

“I told you I wanted to meet up with Wilbur,” Dream says while shoving on a black shirt. “Are you ready yet?”

“No,” Tommy grumbles. He doesn’t want them to meet. Wilbur has shown his obvious disliking for Dream, the same vice versa. He wants to have fun for his first time at the arcade and doesn’t want anyone to stop him. Luckily, Tubbo will be there so he can just ditch the two.

Dream combs his dirty blond hair back and takes his black jacket. “Did you use this?”

“Yes,” Tommy does not deny the claim.

Dream rolls his eyes. “Remind me to take you shopping later.” Tommy despises shopping. After their first time, he does not want to go again. He’s content with stealing Dream’s clothes anyway.

Dream helps Tommy pick out clothes, and it ends up being simple dark jeans he owns and a red hoodie. He doesn’t want to be called emo again.

Which reminds him. “Dream, what the fuck is an emo?”

Dream wheezes because his laugh sounds like a dying train on the brink of breaking. “It’s basically Sapnap.”

“What does that even mean?” Tommy mumbles.

Dream shoves a red cap on his head. “Don’t worry about it.”

They leave the apartment and take Dream’s car to the location, which is close to Las Nevadas, so Dream knows the way there. Tommy’s knee bounces in anxiousness until Dream tells him to stop, and that it’ll be okay.

“I won’t embarrass you in front of your friends,” Dream promises with a laugh.

“Wilbur’s older than you, I think that’s the most embarrassing part of it all.”

“Oh,” Dream thinks. “How old is he?”

“Twenty-five.”

They arrive at the arcade, and Tommy directly sees Wilbur standing outside, on his phone. Tubbo is not around.

“Where the fuck is Tubbo?” Tommy gets out of the car and walks to Wilbur, Dream on his tail.

“He has work,” Wilbur explains.

“Tubbo has a fucking job?” Tommy exclaims.

“Can you speak a single sentence without swearing?” Wilbur diverts his question.

Tommy ponders. “I don’t fucking know.” Wilbur rolls his eyes, but before he responds, his eyes settle on the man behind Tommy. Dark eyes meet with vibrant green, and both their stances become defensive. Wilbur is taller than Dream and stands up straight, but Dream is much more built.

“Dream,” Wilbur nods his head slowly, his arms crossed and his eyes looking at Tommy’s brother from head to toe very carefully.

“Wilbur,” Dream replies. Tommy sends him a look. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Wilbur nods his head and frowns. Tommy sighs. “Tommy let’s head inside. I’ll show you the art of arcade.”

Tommy follows quietly and as soon as they step inside, Tommy’s excitement bursts. The room is darker, the walls a dark blue and the arcade games flash neon and bright colors. It’s huge, not many people around but the games are loud and the possibilities, endless. Tommy is about to reach for one of the games, but Wilbur drags him away.

“Follow me, kid.” Wilbur grins and takes him to the front desk, where the rows of toys and their purchasing costs are. Wilbur explains. “We have to play certain games to get tickets. With them, we can afford different prizes. What do you like from here?”

Tommy’s eyes scan the list. “Holy shit, a gun.”

“Seriously?” Dream stands by them. “Out of all the options, Toms?”

Tommy glances back. “Fuck yeah.” He looks over at Wilbur who has emotion stirring in his eyes. “Can we do it?”

“Sure,” Wilbur shrugs. “I practically grew up here. We’ll try.” So, while Wilbur takes Tommy around to the different games, Dream follows behind them slowly. Tommy wants to tell Dream to lay back and relax, so he doesn’t have to stay by Tommy the whole time, but Dream doesn’t trust Wilbur yet so there is no way to stop the older man from coming with them.

“We’ll start with easier games,” Wilbur says. “So, I can get a scope of how good you are. They won’t give us as many tickets, but we’ll work our way to the top.” Wilbur explains how redemption games will get them tickets while other games will not.

“Get ready to get beaten, bitch,” Tommy grins.

“I’d like to see you try, kid.”

They start with air hockey. Tommy has never played this before, and when Wilbur finds out, he makes a weird face again and explains it to him. Before they begin, Dream whispers pointers in Tommy’s ear, which Tommy will follow because Dream’s teachings have always been useful. He ends up winning the game. And the next one.

Wilbur then challenges Dream. They go on for a while because Wilbur doesn’t like losing and Dream is competitive as shit. Tommy watches for a bit, cheering on Dream and then Wilbur when he starts looking sadder but eventually leaves. They will be going on for a while and Tommy wants to enjoy the experience while he can.

He finds out that many games are rigged as shit while others are too easy to give him a large number of tickets. Dream and Wilbur are calling his name at some point and find him with a bundle of tickets in his hands.

“How the fuck did you do that?” Wilbur stares wide-eyed at the boy. He glances at Tommy as if he has hit a jack point.

“Easy, innit?” Tommy shrugs.

“Basketball next,” Dream mentions. “Tommy, you’re going down.”

“Wait,” Wilbur instructs, his eyes still on Tommy. “We’ll fold these up, so it’s easier to hold that way.” After Wilbur teaches him how to, they move over to the basketball hoops. Wilbur and Tommy go first.

They never had basketball hoops at The Academy. The large field at the back was for running and drills. There was an obstacle course that was used every once in a while, but they never had hoops. But Tommy is fast and quickly gets used to tossing the balls in the air and getting it through. Once he finds his rhythm, he can’t stop.

He beats Wilbur by a landslide.

“You’re unbelievable,” And for once Wilbur isn’t mocking or teasing him, genuine impress laced in his voice.

“Wilbur,” Dream says strictly. “Let’s go.”

“You’re on,” Tommy notices how Wilbur’s voice isn’t playful or kind. The rivalry is what Tommy fears. But he still watches as Dream begins to throw quickly, his arms swift and making it seem easy. A couple of people stand around to watch as the numbers flicker upwards, but they leave soon after. Tommy notices how Wilbur can keep up well, but not well enough.

“I beat you,” Dream does not look at Wilbur, he looks at Tommy instead, because his points are larger than what the latter had gotten.

“I have an injured hand,” Tommy rebuttals.

“It was an easy game,” Wilbur admits when Dream wins more tickets than he does. “C’mon Tommy, let’s try something else.”

Before they escape deeper into the room, Dream grabs Tommy’s hand. “Hey, I have to make a quick phone call with Quackity. Will you be okay with him?”

“Yeah, don’t sweat,” Tommy reassures, and Dream leaves. The boy meets Wilbur and they walk to one of the car games. As they sit down in the seats, Wilbur nudges the younger boy.

“Are you good?”

“Yeah,” Tommy nods his head. “This is fun.”

“I’m glad,” Wilbur smiles softly. “Where’d your brother go?”

“To make a quick phone call,” Tommy deposits a few coins in, and the game starts. He thinks that by starting the game, that Wilbur will lay off and start talking about the game again, but he is only proven wrong as this is a type of trap, and he can’t avoid the questions without throwing the game completely from the lack of concentration.

“Okay then,” Wilbur bites the inside of his cheek. “Are you okay with him?”

Tommy sighs loudly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It’s just…”

“Yes?” Tommy doesn’t glance from his game. He likes winning, just as much as Dream. “Of course, I’m alright with him. He’s raised me for practically my whole life. Lay off,”

“Sorry,” Wilbur apologizes and that’s all he says.

Dream eventually returns but Tommy’s mood is ruined.

“Hey, you okay?” Dream glances at him, noticing that Tommy seems slightly uncomfortable. “I’ll take over the game. I want to talk to Wilbur.”

“Okay,” Tommy escapes to the bathroom. There, he stares at his reflection, his empty eyes and emotionless expression. Once he sees haunting faces when his eyes blink closed, he decides that it’s best to return to Dream and Wilbur. He expects them to be fighting or shouting at one another. Instead, they sit close in hushed whispers while in the middle of the game.

Tommy can read people well. He had long hours of lessons to observe people and understand body language. From across, they are having an important conversation. Dream does most of the talking, so he is the one who initiated the conversation and leads it. He is frowning, seeming unimpressed.

Tommy finds a smaller arcade game to play himself. Soon, both the older boys join him.

“We have enough tickets,” Wilbur says lightly. “Hey,”

“Okay,” And Tommy joins him at the front desk. Instead of getting a larger plastic gun, Tommy resorts to two smaller ones.

“Are you happy with your toys?” Dream teases.

“Watch out, or I will shoot you.” Tommy threatens.

On the car ride home, after their awkward goodbye to Wilbur, Tommy asks Dream a question. “What did you ask him about?”

“Nothing really,” Dream avoids the question. “If you want to open them now, you can, but don’t make such a mess with the cardboard and plastic.”

Tommy will anyway. As he rips the package open, he asks again. “But what did you talk to him about?”

“I don’t know Tommy,” Dream exhales as they stop at a red light. “I made sure he was an okay person.”

“He’s a dick,” Tommy mutters and plays with the toy bullets. “He asks too many questions.”

“Yeah?” Dream turns to him.

“He doesn’t fucking stop, it’s so annoying.” Tommy has secrets but Wilbur doesn’t need to know them. Wilbur hides things too, and Tommy doesn’t give a shit so he expects the same back for him. If only that were the case. “I can’t feel normal if he asks too many things.”

“Do you want me to do something about it?”

“No!” Tommy exclaims because asking Dream to threaten Wilbur is definitely not on his to-do list. “If worse comes to worst, I’ll just stop talking to him.”

Dream furrows his eyebrows. “I thought he was your friend?”

Tommy’s back straightens and his shoulders hunch. “I don’t have friends, Dream. I shouldn’t.”

“You’re not an assassin anymore,” Because sometimes Tommy needs reminding. “The guy cares for you – and I guess if he’s your first friend, then I’ll tolerate it for now.”

“Well, you were my first friend,” Tommy grumbles because the thought out loud – of having his first friend at the age of sixteen does not sound the best.

“You’re my brother, it doesn’t count.”

“Well, not blood brother,” Tommy mutters. “Technically, you were.”

He glances at Dream when he does not speak. “Dream?”

“Have you ever thought about your real family, Tommy?” Dream questions. “The one before The Academy?”

“Not really, since they got rid of our memories of them,” Sometimes Tommy will see shadows of his brothers, father, and mother in his dreams. They disappear faster than they appear. “Why are you asking?”

“I’ve been thinking about it recently,” Dream explains. “I just wanted to ask, that’s all.”

Tommy squints his eyes at him and hums in response warily. He drops the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream is trusted by the Teachers and Headmaster. They teach their students that trust should be limited, as it is the easiest factor to be used against them. Dream uses their trust as an advantage for himself.

He finds a hidden room in The Academy. One stacked with files and heavy codes locks the room away from all the students. He knew the existence of the room; he knew that there was a place that stored the memories that were stolen from them.

He must be quick. He cannot be caught.

Dream walks over to the first row of files in his sight. They are boxes of papers and boxes worth of information. He can’t read through much; his time is limited as the clock above his head ticks through his soul.

The first file belongs to a boy of the youngest class. He is One and his real name is Matthew. The paper lists his blood type, the name of his mother and father. His strengths and weaknesses. His fears and background. There is more, but Dream does not have enough time to see through.

He travels into the darker of the room. He finds that as he progresses, there are larger boxes, more paper worth for each student. He guesses it is because of the collected information over the years. The younger class of 10-year-olds will have a small amount of information, while the Graduates will have stacks of paper for each of them.

Dream finds a box that belongs to the 14s. He is Twenty-six and his name is Mohammed. More information is listed, but not much. Details stop when he finishes his third year. Dream knows he does not make it past then.

Dream keeps searching. He must not run out of time.

He keeps digging. Even Dream, who is swift on his feet cannot locate the mixed categorization of the boxes. He knows he only has time to search through a few more papers before he must return.

He then finds Theseus’ class. He is in the class of 15-year-olds. One year from Graduation, one year before their final exam. Dream has enough time to find his own papers or stay here to look through Theseus’.

He does hesitate to look through the younger boy's. Flickering through each student of the class, he stops at Sixteen.

Theseus’ face stares back at him. His memory is wiped in the photo, what is left is a lonely boy with empty eyes and pale skin. His eyes struggle to stay open, but he will be the strongest and most committed in his class.

Dream can hardly look away. Because before that photo was taken, Theseus would have been a normal kid who had family, who had friends, and wondrous life. Now, he is destined to be a killer, he is destined for stained red hands and teachings or murder.

Dream flips to see his father’s name. Phillip, it says, and Dream scowls a little. Because this is the man who gave up Theseus, who left him for The Academy without a second thought. His mother’s name is not disclosed, Dream assumes it is because she has passed.

Dream finds more. Theseus’ strengths listed are his courage and confidence. Then his weaknesses, his lack of discipline, and inability to follow orders. His fears, of being alone. Of being forgotten.

Dream has a sick taste in his mouth when he remembers Theseus’ nights after the white room. He had not spoken to anyone and stuck to Dream like a lifeline when he could.

There is more. Unlined in thick red marker on the bottom of his papers and states, prediction.

Not expected to pass Graduation.

Dream swallows thickly, his bones turning to ice. Theseus will not live past sixteen, he is not expected to. He will not grow up; he is not expected to. Dream knows he is at the top of his class, though. The facts do not make sense when Teachers use him as an example for his class and the Headmaster’s eyes linger on him the longest when he watches lessons.

Dream’s eyes flip the page. Once he reads the red ink, his eyes widen, and he realizes that he can’t breathe.

Dream stumbles out of the filed room. It will seem untouched, even if Dream has felt the future and the previous lives and the predictions of the students.

Sapnap is suspicious when he sees Dream seem on edge. Dream is never on edge. “You alright, man?”

Dream ignores him and passes through the hallway to the training grounds. He bumps into George, and instead of stopping to speak, he rushes through the white hallways.

“Dream?!” George calls from behind him, before asking Sapnap who must have caught up. “What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know,” Dream pushes the large doors and steps outside, to where Theseus’ class has a lesson in the field today. His eyes scan through the boys, and he visibly relaxes when he notices the familiar mop of brown hair.

Sapnap and George stand by him after they catch up. “What happened?” They notice that Dream’s eyes won’t leave Theseus’. “Did something happen to him?”

“No,” Dream denies but decides he will observe the rest of the lesson. The unsettled pit in his stomach relaxes, although still seeming on edge. Sapnap stays for a while, but he has a class to teach and leaves. George stays for a little while longer before he goes.

Dream does not forget the written words inked on the white paper.

Will be killed by Graduates, it had read.

Because Dream, Sapnap, and George’s last test hadn’t been the final exam before Graduation. The Headmaster would have noticed their closeness with the boy. He always watches, he always lurks. He notices their friendship and will use it to his advantage and against them.

Their last test is Theseus.

They will kill him, to prove that they are perfect. They will kill Theseus and he will not make it to Graduation.

Chapter Text

They smile.

“Sixteen and Graduate One. You will bring them back.”

“Yes sir.”

“They will kill you, or we will.”

“Yes sir.”

“Very well, you are dismissed.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dream knows he shouldn’t go threatening Tommy’s friends, but he can’t help it. Call it big brother intuition, but something feels wrong about Wilbur.

(“So, if I find out you’ve fucking hurt him,” Dream’s sharp glare and harsh tone make the man cower. “The situation won’t be so pretty,”)

Dream is protective of Tommy. Tommy can throw a knife with his eyes closed and has been trained by The Academy for almost his whole life, yet Sapnap, George and he have always had an extra impulse to make sure he is okay. And although he may not have needed the extra medicine that they snuck him or the careful tips, it was always a little better knowing that the shit he was in, was less bad than it had to be.

Red ink and flashing words enter his mind every once in a while, reminding the man that he has some fears which he cannot admit. One of them being his family getting hurt. Another being hurting the people he loves.

He could not live with himself, knowing his mistakes lead to Tommy’s death. Knowing that it was his carelessness of holding a friendship with the younger boy, resulted in the Headmaster finding out and ready to turn it in a test to rip all his connections from him. He doesn’t allow it, so he escapes with Tommy, and they promise to never go back.

But now he is back where he has started. He is in a whole predicament with Quackity, and he must face his past to let go of it.

Dream watches the younger boy sleep, laying down on the floor by his bed. He returns sometimes because Tommy isn’t the only one with bad dreams.

Dream dreams of blood and murder. He dreams of himself with a gun, and his friends lined up in front of them. He is told to shoot, otherwise, they will do it for him. He takes pills to put him to sleep (he does not suggest them to Tommy, because the last time he took any type of medication not for a cold, it didn’t turn out too well) but tonight, he is content to stay awake.

He hears Tommy’s light breaths and watches the moon’s spotlight through the bedroom window. Sometimes, hearing his younger brother alive and well, is enough air for him to breathe again.

 

 

 

 

 

Theseus is unmoving, underwater.

He has been under for four minutes, so far. Dream can only watch helplessly, and stare at his body submerged in the water. They are thick tanks that each of the students is trapped in separately, so they cannot track each other’s progress. There are only small windows at the front, tinted at the back, so the Teachers can tell if one of them has submerged and stopped breathing.

It is a twisted game. They all watch, while the students in the water can only hope they are not the first ones to emerge from the waters. If they are too late, then they are in the water too long and will suffocate themselves.

Theseus is inside for five minutes now. Three students have raised at the same time. Dream watches their facial expressions, and they realize their fates, ignoring the fact that they are out of breath and close to collapsing. The Teachers wait for them, and they are taken away.

The rest of the students may stay underwater, knowing they cannot be the first ones out. They do not know they are safe if they escape now.

Sapnap walks up to Dream who stares at Theseus’ tank. He never looks away. “Six minutes now. Theseus, still in there?”

It isn’t a question worth answering because Theseus is usually one of the last out.

“He’ll be okay,” Sapnap reassures. “He always is.”

Six minutes pass. Dream’s eyes watch Theseus’ closed eyes and unmoving figure. He leans forward, but Sapnap grips his upper arm before letting go quickly. “Don’t.”

Six minutes and thirty seconds. The last boy who is not Theseus emerges. He gasps for air, but nothing is on his mind other than survival because he has succeeded. Failing a task is sometimes considered worse than death itself.

“Almost seven minutes,” George walks to them, his arms crossed. “He’s never made it past then.”

The drenched students around leave the tanks and stand with water and sweat dripping down their bodies and foreheads, waiting with the Teachers and Graduates. Some of them are excused, others must stay cold.

“Seven minutes,” someone says and Dream steps forward again. Sapnap stops him quickly.

“Dream,” He warns quietly. “You can’t interfere.”

Dream glares.

Seven minutes and ten seconds. Teachers look away, more of the students are taken back to their dorms.

Seven minutes and fifteen seconds is when Dream moves. Because he notices Theseus hasn’t twitched in a long time and he will not let the kid drown. He hears Sapnap shout and the Teachers who are ready to steer him away, but Dream has his mind set on Theseus and he will not stop until the kid is breathing again.

He leaps for the tank and his feet leap over the steps. Soon, his arms grip into the water and he pulls the kid out. At first, the boy does nothing. He lays limp in Dream’s hands, light and weightless. Then, he splutters and heaves for air.

Dream is dragged away and taken to the Headmaster’s office. They stare at him with a mix of disappointment and an indecipherable emotion because the students have never been able to read them.

“Dream,” they say his name slowly because all Graduates are referred singularly by their names. They have enough honor. “You know the repercussions of tampering with an exercise. I expected better from you.”

“I apologize,” Dream looks at their eyes because he knows the Headmaster dislikes it when their students look anywhere else.

“You will not avoid your punishment. I expect this to be a singular occurrence.”

“Yes, Headmaster.”

“Why did you do it?”

Dream blinks. “Excuse me – sir?”

They sigh. “Basic first-year teachings, Dream. You must know the consequences of connection. Sixteen may be predicted to be your fourth, but I expect you to treat him as you do with the other students.”

“Yes sir,” Dream nods his head. “Apologies, sir.”

“Sapnap and George are exceptions because of missions, and nothing else. We are quite lenient to allow this, do you not agree?”

“I agree, sir.”

“I expect high things from you, Dream. You are dismissed.”

Dream is beaten and bruised. He is taught his lesson, but he knows that he will repeat his actions in an instant if he must. They go easily, luckily, because he is a Graduate and honor goes a long way between the walls. They all know that he has endured the worst, the punishment will never be considered harsh.

The next time Dream sees Theseus, the younger's eyes glaze over the extra wounds on his arms and legs. Dream is not happy with him and forces him in into another room where no other Teacher can hear them. “You’re an idiot! You can have killed yourself! What have I told you, Theseus?”

“Five minutes, to count in my head,” Theseus says with guilt.

Dream sighs. “Promise me, that you won’t do it again.”

“I promise,” Theseus’ eyes linger on his skin. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry,” Dream speaks. “You and I are working with the 10s today. Basic training, the Headmaster wants you to accompany me for today.”

Theseus seems lighter at the change of topic. He always does when he spends time away from constant lessons and tiring classroom work.

Dream knows that when Theseus has a slight spring in his step and chats on before they reach the classroom, that he has made the right decision. He does not regret a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Quackity enters Dream’s office without knocking. He doesn’t usually and will not start now. “Dream, my man, I need to speak to you about a few things.”

“Can it wait?” He stares at his computer and his eyes flicker at the man with the ridiculous beanie and spirited eyes. “I’m almost finished.”

“No time for that, I need you to tell me as much as you can about The Academy.” The rare times his boss is careful and serious is when Dream pays extra attention. He falls on the chair in front of his desk and leans back. “Start talking, I’m listening.”

Dream shrugs. “What do you need to know?”

“Everything.”

“I need more than that,” Dream stops typing. “There was a lot.”

“I’ve spoken to my company about it. Considering Sapnap is still there, and other factors – they are very willing to assist in your endeavors. However, we need to know what we are dealing with first.”

“The Academy is the best and most successful assassin agency in the country, if not, then the world,” The words roll of Dream’s tongue. “Children are taken there at the age of ten and are taught, trained, and study to become the best agent they can, until they turn sixteen, when they officially complete missions. However, some students start beforehand; the students who show potential and success.”

“Tommy was one of them?”

Dream stiffens. “Yes, he was.”

Quackity exhales. “Well, shit.”

“They teach fifty different languages, education subjects to a higher extent, and the basics of killing before lessons and exercises are introduced. Only the strongest survive.”

“Survive?” Quackity folds his arms.

“If a student lacks or falls behind, they are killed. If they are not strong, they are killed. If they perform the worst in their classes, they are killed. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Quackity nods his head, but Dream knows he never will. Unless you are a student yourself and unless you undergo the experiences and feel the pain; the bruises, burns, hits, and punishments, then no one will ever understand.

“Why are you so interested, all of a sudden?” Dream stares calculated. “I know this isn’t because of Sapnap. You can’t care of someone you haven’t spoken to, for years.”

“Admittedly, I do worry for him.” Quackity shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly, but Dream’s eyes are trained well enough to pipe out the genuine concern and care that he has hidden from his relaxed exterior. “But it’s about something else, too.”

“I’m listening.” He never is not.

“We assumed that we were the only one who knew of the location. Of course, we are aware of other agencies that require child-assassins, but none of them are a threat for The Academy.”

“No one can be a threat,” Dream states. “The Academy is unstoppable.” They grew until their walls until they were sturdy enough, to not crumble. And although their best assassin has left, they still have an army of children training every day. They still have Sapnap and George who have only been beaten by each other and Dream.

Quackity slips his hands behind his head and relaxes into them. “That’s not what I mean, Dream.”

“Then, what do you?”

“Not one assassin agency will be a threat. We’ve had firsthand experience, that they create alliances and bonds that are almost unbreakable. However, we’ve found a certain… person who wants to take them down.”

“If they aren’t an assassin academy, then there is no possible way for them to be aware of The Academy.” Because although The Academy’s assassins would leave slashes of ‘A’’s on the wrists of their targets, the police had not yet discovered them. They were always left on an empty trail and would never figure out so. So, it can't be them.

“Who is it?” Dream slides his eyes closed and sees red.

“His name is Phil.” Quackity’s voice goes dark. “I knew him well in the past, and lately, I have found of his endeavors. They are preparing to take over the agency themselves and arrest all of them. That will include yourself and Tommy soon enough.”

“A random fucking guy,” Dream says in disbelief. “He can’t possibly believe he can take them down himself.”

“He’s willing to inform the police of them. His company has some of the best hackers in the country, and some individuals I’ve wanted on my team for a while. They’re preparing to bring justice after his wife was killed by one of their agents herself.”

“He’s not strong enough,” Because no one is strong enough even for The Academy. Even to take down them, they must take down other high assassination agencies in the process because of the tight alliances that have been created over the years.

“You’d be surprised,” Quackity stands. “I’ll prepare a meeting for tomorrow. Clear your schedule, it will be important.”

“Quackity,” Dream asks before he leaves. He stands up so their eyes lock. “Why are you so interested in this shit? You could let him arrest them all, yet you’re very keen to take him down.”

“I guess I could say Sapnap is a factor to it all,” Quackity shrugs. “But that would be a lie since I’ve forgotten how to love. I’ll say it’s for a better future for those kids. I won’t say anything you don’t want to hear, Dream, but those kids are highly trained, and I could use their help in the future. If they want to, they can join, but they do not deserve to live in prison.”

Dream doesn’t know how to feel about Quackity wanting to use the kids for his gain. He says it’s a choice if they want to join him, but is there really one?

They never have a choice; freedom, at The Academy. He wonders if those same students will have one and if they will ever escape. Or if life is a cage, and all they are waiting for, is to be set free by a key.

“Bring Tommy,” Quackity volunteers. “I know he’s gotten familiar with a bit of the staff here. I’ve warmed up to that kid, as well.”

Dream frowns and knows he won’t consider it because Tommy won’t step foot into that meeting room.

“Think about it,” Quackity catches the regard on his face. “I’ll send you the details about Phil, later.” He leaves the room, leaving Dream to bury his head in his thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur continues to apologize.

“I’m sorry,” he says for the tenth time and Tommy wants to roll his eyes and bury his head seven feet under, so he doesn’t have to hear Wilbur anymore. (Six feet doesn’t seem like enough). “I shouldn’t have pushed, I’m sorry, Tommy.”

“If you fucking apologize one more time, I will shoot you.” Tommy glares and Wilbur finally leans back in his seat.

“With what? Your plastic child-gun?”

You have no idea, Tommy thinks to himself. “Yeah, it will do enough damage to take you out, too.”

Techno snorts beside him, because apparently, he has decided to come to the bakery with his brother. Tommy still doesn’t like him, but he doesn’t think he will like anyone from the Soot family. Although Wilbur isn’t exactly redeemed yet, he’s forgiven him for being so overbearing at the arcade.

A customer comes in. Tommy switches quickly. “Hello, welcome to Niki’s bakery. What can I get you for today?”

“Could I please have an iced tea and three cinnamon rolls, love?”

Tommy smiles. “Will that be all for today?”

“Yes, thank you,” She enters her card details and sits by a back table as Tommy starts heating the cinnamon rolls from the counter. He notices Wilbur and Techno staring at him, closely.

“What?” he snaps.

“You change up very quickly,” Wilbur smirks. “From one annoying child to a polite kid.”

“Not all the customers are dicks like you, Wilbur. I have no reasoning to be annoying.”

“He keeps roasting you,” Techno notes at his brother. “I’m quite disappointed that you can’t find anything in yourself to say anything back.”

“He’s a gremlin,” Wilbur leans back in his seat. Tommy hums to himself lightly, a familiar song, and takes the cinnamon rolls to place them on the white plates he has. He then grabs a flavored tea and ice, finding an extra paper straw with it. He’s more comfortable with his job now and finds everything so easy. Consistency allows him to perform at his best. Niki is impressed, and so is Wilbur when he pays extra close attention sometimes.

He hums to himself, to keep him going. A song that he can’t remember where from, but he knows it.

He places the tray onto the woman’s table. She grins. “Thank you.” After she leaves, she leaves a large tip, and instantly, Tommy’s day is brighter.

“Do you want to come over to ours, and watch a movie today?” Wilbur asks the boy. “We have to start on Harry Potter soon enough.”

“I’m not hanging out with you for at least a week,” Tommy rejects. “Your fault for being an invasive prick yesterday.”

“I’m sorry for that, Tommy.” Wilbur apologizes again and Tommy groans.

“Stop apologizing!”

“Sor – okay.”

Techno rolls his eyes. “Tommy, can you make me a coffee?”

“Fine,” As the boy does, his eyes linger on Techno’s book. Mythology; the story of Icarus, it says.

“You a mythology nerd, Techno?” Tommy pipes an interest.

“Yes, I am.”

“Nice,” And Tommy goes back to making his coffee.

Techno raises an eyebrow. 

“I’m aware of a few deities and their stories,” Tommy recalls. “Apollo, Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hermes,” Then he stops. “Theseus.”

Techno does not speak for a second. Tommy assumes it is because he is surprised. “Interesting.”

“Don’t you two start nerding out on me,” Wilbur grumbles. “I already have to deal with this at home.”

“Shut the fuck you, you literature fuck.”

“I can hear you guys from inside,” Tubbo enters the room and Tommy hides the utter excitement in his face. “I got the DVD, Tommy, since you refuse to meet up with me.”

“Thanks, Tubs,” Tommy takes it from him and is ready to shove it in his backpack before Wilbur snatches it out of his hands.

Up?” He questions confused; however, he does not tease.

“Give that back, you prick.”

“If you give Techno’s coffee to me, then sure.”

Tommy does not, and hands it Techno because he is a paying customer and Wilbur is not.

“Guess I can’t give it back, then,” Wilbur sighs dramatically. “We should watch it. A movie night.”

“I was going to watch it with Dream,” Tommy says plainly.

“Oh,” Something settles in Wilbur’s eyes, and he passes it back to the younger boy. It almost seems as if he’s scared.

Techno voices his thoughts for him. “Wilbur is scared of Dream.”

“You met him!?” Tubbo widens his eyes and sits on the other side of Wilbur. Tommy gives him a chocolate brownie before he starts asking. He notes down on a paper for Niki, to bake extra for the next morning. “Was he as mysterious as Tommy? I bet you, he’s like, an undercover spy for aliens.”

“What the fuck is that meant to mean?” Tommy grumbles.

“Well, if he’s anything like you, then surely.” Tubbo reaches over the counter and pats his shoulder slowly.

“He’s okay,” Wilbur gulps.

Tommy rolls his eyes. “Of course, the fucker threatened you. Ignore him, he doesn’t mean it.”

“Wilbur’s idea is good,” Tubbo pipes up. “Let’s watch it at Wilbur’s. Only if I can use the chocolate fountain, though.”

Tommy blinks. “What the heck?”

“They have a chocolate fountain, god Tommy, you have to try it! You can dip your strawberries in it, and it tastes so good.”

“Tubbo, you know we only use that for special occasions. For parties and not regularly.”

“How rich are you?” Tommy asks incredulously. “Count me in.”

Wilbur’s face goes from disapproving to happier. “Okay then, movie at my place.” He explains to Techno after, that he’s ready to introduce the wonderful world of every classic to him, because apparently, Tommy needs educating.

The Soot’s house is as grand as he expects it to be. It’s a triple story house, with a huge front yard and enough garage space for four cars.

Dream is apprehensive of the idea of Tommy going. He promises Dream that the knife strapped to his leg is still present and that he’ll leave immediately when he doesn’t feel comfortable. Dream reluctantly agrees.

Tubbo has been inside enough times before and leads Tommy to the living room while Techno and Wilbur go to their father’s office to speak to him.

“This place is huge,” Tommy whispers in Tubbo’s ear.

“Yeah, the first time I came inside, it was hard to adjust from being so used to sleeping in the back of Niki’s car so often.” Tommy knows Tubbo doesn’t have a good past, like him. Tubbo speaks about it from time to time, as if he hopes that one day, Tommy will speak to him about his life. “You’ll get used to it. Wilbur’s very persistent in inviting you over.”

“He’s weird.”

“He gets attached easily,” Tubbo says, and he is about to say more but he stops himself. “I’m going to go get snacks. Anything you want?”

“I don’t mind.”

“Okay bossman, make yourself at home – what Wilbur would say.”

Tommy glances around their huge living room, the size of Dream and his whole apartment. They have high ceilings and long couches that bring the décor together, to make the room feel a little homier. Paintings are hung up around as well as family photos. Tommy stifles a laugh at Wilbur’s school photos hung on a wall, his grin wide, revealing his bring colored braces. There are more of Techno, his glasses on and off over the years. He shuffles around, seeing their father in one. The man is taller than both his sons, but as the years go on, he appears shorter. It makes sense since Wilbur and Techno are giants.

Tommy’s eyes scan on a particular picture, of the two guys and their father. Their mother is in the picture too. He remembers Wilbur mentioning that she had been out of the picture from a young age. Wilbur seems around six in the photograph.

One family photo grabs his attention. Another thing that Wilbur had told him, is that he used to have a younger brother. The boy is only a baby in the given photo, wisps of curly brown hair on his head, and his eyes closed. In one photo, his mother holds in. In the next, he’s slightly older, and Wilbur has him in his arms.

Tommy feels as though he’s invading their privacy and takes a seat on the couch. As soon as he collapses, Tubbo enters with packets of food and a bowl of popcorn balanced in both hands. Tommy helps him set them down on the small table in front of them.

“They’re taking fucking forever,” Tubbo groans. “Let’s start without them.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders, not particularly caring. “Sure.”

They start the movie. Tommy hears Wilbur’s shouts behind them, yelling to not start without him. The older man arrives in the room, the movie already started. He sits next to Tommy and scowls. “You two are so impatient.”

“Don’t be so slow next time,” Tubbo watches the TV. “And shut up.”

Tommy passes Wilbur the bowl of buttery popcorn. Wilbur smiles and takes it. Techno does not join them until much later, about halfway through the movie. He sits on another couch and takes out his mythology book to read. Wilbur rolls his eyes and throws him a packet of salt and pepper chips. Techno catches it with one hand and shoves it by him.

Tommy enjoys the movie more than the first time he had watched the masterpiece. He allows himself to get attached to the characters because they are not real people, but he always regrets it because the ending is so sad yet happy.

The ending credits roll by. “They say that the whole story is about Carl’s journey to heaven,” Tubbo mentions. “To his afterlife.”

“Well shit,” Wilbur swears. “Good movie. What did you think, Tommy?”

Tommy stares at the screen, blankly. Sadness is an emotion he is taught against, yet he enjoys the movie because of it. “It was alright,” because he won’t admit that he will watch it over and over again with Dream.

Tommy then stands after they dissolve into small chatter after the movie. “I guess I’ll go home, then.”

“It’s getting dark, Techno and I can drop you off if you like,” Wilbur offers.

“It’s okay, I think I’ll just take the bus.”

Wilbur frowns, seeming to disagree with the idea. But lately, Tommy notices he will back off if Tommy wants him to. “Okay then,” he says unsurely.

Tommy is relieved because he isn’t looking forward to another argument with the man. They always do, but he knows that their conversations without fighting so much, can be quite enjoyable.

“I can come,” Tubbo stretches.

“Tubbo,” Techno stops him. “Phil wants you in his office, to discuss…”

“Oh, alright.” The brown-haired boy interrupts him quickly and leaves with a promise he’ll stop by the bakery soon, and makes Tommy promise to catch up with him later. Wilbur had offered Tommy to meet the man on their drive to his house, but Tommy doesn't want to interrupt the busy many in the middle of a meeting and leave a bad impression.

Tommy watches the retreating figure carefully before he grabs the DVD and leaves.

The night steadily approaches as he reaches outside. He waits at a bus stop, his hood over his head, and his hands locked in his pockets. He will go home to Dream, who will have dinner ready, and they will speak about their days while watching another movie.

Sometimes, in moments of calmness, Tommy allows himself to relax. To breathe the night air in and let the gust of wind rustle his hair without worry. He allows himself to ignore his teachings and does not glance up and down the street three times over. He does not study the faces of the bus and he does not track every person he sees.

When he does, Tommy can feel normal for a few moments. In those few moments, between the sound of the birds and the gust of wind, Tommy can feel free.

 

 

 

 

 

He watches the apartment complex.

A gun tucked carefully in his suit and a knife in his back pocket.

He is One. He is prepared to die tonight.

He glances up at the white moon, for the last time, and sighs.

Tonight, he will be free.

Chapter Text

Tommy hears another voice in his apartment, and he is Sixteen again.

He grabs the knife strapped around his leg and straightens his back. Without hesitation, he shoves the door open and charges into the living room.

Dream is there, and a person with a black stealth suit is bound in thick rope next to him. He sits on a chair and Tommy rushes into the room with his stare blank and his knife flashing to reveal the sharp blade which he sharpens every morning.

“Dream,” Tommy states stiffly and the assassin in him runs through his veins.

Dream watches Tommy before he stares back at the boy tied in ropes. He is from The Academy; he notes because the look of him is enough evidence to know.

“Who are you?” Dream questions slowly and grabs a gun.

The boy gulps, but his face is stoic. “One.”

“And why might you be here?” Dream cocks his gun and points it at the boy’s temple with no thought. He will kill him, and then they will run because they know The Academy is on their tail and they can no longer stay here.

Tommy notes the inner assassin on Dream’s bruised face. One had gotten a clean punch on him, yet Dream is faster, and likely took him down in a matter of moments.

“I was given the task to bring you back,” One states, before adding. “And Theseus.”

Dream inches the gun closer. “Don’t fucking look at him.”

One stares away.

“For someone who’s Graduated, you sure do value connection,” he says. “Although we are taught against it.”

Dream is done playing nice. Tommy would feel sorry for the kid if he hadn’t come into their apartment to take them back.

“Give me one good reason,” Dream says with a mix of cold ice and fire. “One good reason, why I shouldn’t kill you now.”

“I’m here for another reason,” One interjects. “Sapnap wanted to send you a message.”

Dream’s gun lowers, and Tommy’s eyes widen.

“Sapnap?” Tommy mutters. “You’re fucking joking.”

“I’m not, Theseus,” One has a lot of drive to grin with a gun to his head. A lot, considering the gun belongs to Dream, The Academy’s best assassin. “I’m Curtis. I was in your class.”

Tommy remembers his name. A second later, he recalls a tempered boy who was one of the larger, taller figures in the class. He remembers the exact boy in front of him, causing fights and receiving many extra bruises from the Teachers.

“What did I just fucking tell you?” Dream spits. “Eyes on me.”

One’s flicker to Theseus quickly, but they return to Dream once again.

“Tell me Sapnap’s message,” Dream growls.

“You’ll kill me anyway,” One – Curtis – sighs.

“I’ll consider,” Dream says, and although he knows Curtis was forced into this predicament, the kid could have done anything if Dream was unaware. His mind rotates with possibilities that if he hadn’t been so careful or aware, their fate could have been slightly different. “I have a gun, Curtis. My friend Theseus here has a knife. I wouldn’t be so cocky if I was you.”

Curtis complies. “He told me to say that he’s getting out. He has a plan, and it will happen soon.”

“I’ve known you for ten minutes kid,” Dream lowers the gun though, but he is on high alert and will shoot him through the head if he tries anything. “Five of them, you were attempting to take me down. I don’t trust a word out of your mouth.”

Tommy is silent throughout the whole discussion. Maybe because he is Sixteen now, and Sixteen is silent and watching. Sixteen won’t speak unless spoken to.

“The Academy doesn’t know your location. They sent me to Northern California, but Sapnap had told me the real location of your whereabouts to pass the message.”

“He’s a fucking idiot,” Dream mutters and sighs loudly, unimpressed. Because there is always the possibility Curtis has been tracked or followed.

“Don’t worry,” Curtis sighs. “I took the tracker out and deposited it in another location. I made sure I wasn't followed; I’m prepared to die tonight.”

Tommy eyes Curtis carefully. His words are nonchalant, and his face is passive as he has accepted his fate of death. He is sixteen now, and he is already content with leaving this world.

“Sapnap knew that you weren’t going to believe me. So, he told me to tell you ‘Hotter than the Sahara and colder than the Arabian night’ to confirm it.”

Tommy thinks of the message. He knows of Sapnap’s final exam before Graduation, located in Sahara. His missions were located all around the world, so it may hint at a mission in Saudi Arabia. Tommy doesn’t fully understand it, but Dream does, nodding slowly,

“Okay,” he says. “Okay.”

“The Academy has imposed higher restrictions since you’ve left. They’re training the students harder, hoping one of them can live up to be a fourth.”

Tommy visibly flinches.

Curtis notices. With the training he is given, there is no way he doesn’t. “Since you never graduated, they consider it a failure to succeed. If you come back, Theseus, they’ll kill you. They only want Dream alive.”

Tommy gulps and lowers his knife. He does not share any emotion, not to an analyzing Curtis, or to a concerned Dream whose eyes scan him quickly. He should have expected this. Because Dream, Sapnap, and George are valued, they mean something to the Headmaster.

Tommy could never be their fourth. He wasn't ever enough.

“Can you tell us more, Curtis?” Dream questions. “We will let you go.”

Curtis laughs. “You’re joking. They expect you to kill me. If you don’t, they’ll do it themselves.”

“I won’t kill you,” Dream shakes his head, and his words are lighter than before. He has gotten the information needed; he just wants more. “We kill because The Academy told us to. I have no reason to not let you go.”

“If I go back, they’ll torture me until I tell them everything. I’ve spoken my fate after I took the tracking device out. I’m dead.”

“Curtis,” Tommy finally speaks. “You can live.”

“I don’t want to,” Curtis shakes his head. He is not One. He is not an assassin of The Academy. He is just a boy who has been taken away from his family and forced to kill for life.

He is like Dream and Tommy. He is like Sapnap and George, and the rest of the students in The Academy.

Curtis is just a boy, yet he is willing to die sixteen years young.

“I have a friend,” Dream considers his thought. “He kills for the good. He will be willing to take you under his wing, to help you out. Propper accommodation and you will be free. He will keep you safe.”

“I don’t understand why you’re so willing to let me go,” Because it’s unfathomable to Curtis why a man who is so capable of killing, will not. “You shouldn’t.”

“You can’t go back, you’ll be dead otherwise,” Dream tells him. “Theseus, untie him.”

Tommy does, reaching for Curtis’ ropes behind his chair. They are knotted perfectly; Dream hasn’t lost his touch. But they are also taught how to untie them, and considering Tommy has two working arms, he completes it very quickly. The ropes drop, and Curtis stands finally.

He’s slightly taller than Tommy, shorter than Dream. He stares at his hands as if he’s unaware of what to do with them. Tommy eyes his leg and notices the fresh stitches applied. He isn’t lying about removing the device from inside his skin.

“Do you actually trust me?” Curtis questions suspiciously.

Dream corrects him because he does not trust anyone but three people. “I know you won’t go back.” He leaves to give Curtis another set of clothes.

Curtis turns to Tommy. “Why?”

“Why what?”

Curtis pulls his charcoal hair. “I don’t have fucking time. Will he follow me? They told me, they told me that I’ll be killed here or there. I have to leave.”

“Curtis,” Tommy sighs and grabs his arm. Curtis will twist it back out of reflex, but Tommy expects it, and his grip tightens. “Dream will give you a future. Take it.”

“Theseus, I can’t fucking live. I came here, prepared to die. I can’t go on.”

Tommy knows he’s made a decision. Curtis edges towards the door, but before, Tommy stops him. “Curtis, you deserve to live. I hope you know that.”

“Theseus–”

“I go by Tommy now.”

Curtis stops and turns slowly. “I went by Eryn. But another boy had the same name, so they changed mine.”

Tommy blinks. “You remember?”

“Our names are from birth,” Curtis sighs. “It’s a part of us, they could never take away.” Tommy wants to know how he knows this information. They are given names to be rarely used, as well as their numbers.

“Eryn,” Tommy says lightly. “You have a choice now.”

Eryn smiles. “I know.” He grabs the door handle and pulls it open.

Tommy watches him hesitate. “Thank you, Tommy.” He wonders if, in another life, they’d be friends.

Eryn eventually leaves. Dream returns, but he does not come back with a set of clothes. Tommy stares at him, numbly.

“We let him go.”

Dream nods his head, and stares at the seat One – Curtis – Eryn had been sitting in. “I left him with his own choice to stay because he’s lived without having any.”

“He’ll die,” Tommy says plainly because Eryn had liked the thought of death.

“So, we hope, he doesn’t. We can hope someone stops him, and that he finds someone.” Dream slowly wraps his arms around Tommy, and he leans into the touch. “It’s been a long night.”

Tommy forgets how to feel. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”

“I’ll be with you,” Dream doesn’t offer it, because it’s already a truth between the boys that Dream will stay with Tommy whenever he needs him.

“I could never be your fourth,” Tommy sighs. “Even now, and to think I even had a chance.” To think that he had hope, he could.

“I don’t want you to,” Dream cuts him off. “I just want you to be Tommy.”

They fall asleep. And although Tommy has learned through life lessons, that hope leads to nowhere; that hope leads to crumbling expectations that prove true gullibility, he still hopes that Eryn is free.

 

 

 

 

 

The moon watches him.

He smiles. He lays on a park bench and watches the stars.

“Hey, is that a kid?”

He freezes.

“Are you okay, dear?”

 

 

 

 

 

Hotter than the Sahara and colder than the Arabian night.

He wonders if Dream has gotten his message.

It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t. Sapnap is tired of waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

He is named after a god who killed villains and centaurs. Whom killed the Minotaur to save the children. Theseus was determined, strong, and fearless.

Tommy realizes he hates his name now, more than ever. He is glad to be called Tommy because he doesn’t believe that he deserves the title of a courageous god.

“Your parents must have liked Greek mythology,” Dream comments. “I’m still surprised you didn’t know.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tommy grumbles.

“I thought it was obvious that The Academy hadn’t given us our names,” Dream flicks his cheek and stands up. They reflect on the night before, that following morning.

“But they stripped everything from us before,” Tommy complains, standing up with Dream to head to the kitchen. “I assumed the names came along with it, and they provided new ones.”

“It was one thing they couldn’t take away. They likely couldn’t risk us remembering, as it would lead to more memories reappearing.” Dream explains and Tommy understands. “Don’t think about it too much.”

Tommy still does. “Never call me Theseus again.” He says with no room for objective, his voice stiff and hard.

Dream turns to him and raises an eyebrow. “Okay. I wasn’t going to, anyway.”

Tommy doesn’t want the name that his parents had given him. The name that was forced on himself by the people who had given him up. “Thank you.”

Dream ruffles his hair and tells him to sit down. He prepares breakfast alone today, so they do not have a repeat of the day before and so that Tommy’s hand can heal fully before he picks up a kitchen knife again.

“Shouldn’t we leave?” Tommy asks after quietness. He buries his head in his arms, in exhaustion. “If they’re sending Er-Curtis, they’ll be sending more for us.”

“I considered it,” Dream states. “But if Sapnap is planning to leave, then we have to be somewhere he knows.”

“What about George? I’m surprised if he knew Sapnap wanted to send a message along, that he did not.”

“Gogy is fine,” Dream pauses cracking eggs into the pan, as he ponders before he replies. “Sapnap will establish the plan, George will allow him to lead. Although…”

“Although what?”

Dream takes out the salt and pepper and responds nonchalantly. “Quackity had already started a plan to free them. It will alter a few things, to what he had been planning.”

“What the fuck?” Tommy yells. “You’re telling me now?”

“Chill kid,” Dream rolls his eyes. “I was going to tell you last night.”

“Fine, but you better not be keeping anything else.”

Dream continues. “He is planning a meeting day, so I can go over details about The Academy with his colleagues. I promise I’ll explain it all, over breakfast.” Tommy trusts Dream. He will tell him. “He asked me to take you.”

“I’ll come,” Tommy offers.

“I don’t think you should.”

“If it can help them, then I will,” He doesn’t want anyone to end up like Eryn. Lost and trapped. He wants them to be free like he is. Or at least, freer than he is now.

“Okay then,” Dream places bread in the toaster and flips the eggs on the pan. “If you want to.”

“I do.”

Later, over breakfast, Dream explains how Quackity is aware of a man who is looking to take down The Academy, to bring justice for his wife. He will involve the police, and the children will be arrested. If his plan works accordingly, then Dream and Tommy may also be caught in the crossfire.

Tommy doesn’t know how he will be powerful enough. The Academy isn’t an easy target. Dream doesn’t know either. But regardless, if Quackity is willing to help out and bring a future to those kids, then he’ll do anything he can to help.

“Eryn said they implemented tougher restrictions and classes,” Tommy says with his mouth full of egg. “I wonder how Sapnap will figure out how to escape,”

Dream rubs his chin. “I have a couple of thoughts.”

“What?”

“There was a particular reason Sapnap and George wanted to stay behind – they never told me why, though. But there were things in the building, that once destroyed, would help us out. The white room hadn’t been used by other schools and wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to build as it had to be soundproof and had to be in perfect condition to work properly.”

“So, you're saying,” Tommy plays with his fork. “That he’s planning to destroy The Academy? They’re going to take it down?”

Dream nods his head. “Then they’ll relocate, into a smaller place where the students will be. If this is Sapnap’s plan, then it might just help Quackity.”

Dream continues. “Eryn’s message was a clear indicator of it too,” Dream glances at Tommy. “During Sapnap's final exam, he had… lit a couple of things on fire. He told me afterward that he was so close to the flame, that it was hotter than the temperature of the desert itself. Although I haven’t quite figured out what he means about the Saudi Arabian nights.”

“How did you know Curtis wasn’t lying?”

“Sapnap had told me, that if we were in trouble that something like that was going to be a code word. In this case, he gave it to him.”

Tommy nods his head, "So Sapnap's going to burn the place to the fucking ground?"

"I hope so."

They lapse into silence.

“That wasn’t the only thing the kid said,” Dream says lowly, and Tommy almost misses it. “And I don’t want you to worry about that, we’ll keep you safe.”

Tommy doesn’t want to tell Dream how he feels about the whole 'finding a new fourth' thing. He knows that if he is found, he will be found dead while Dream will be left alive. But it isn’t that that has bugged him. It’s his knowledge, that he was never seen as their fourth. He was never good enough.

“I don’t want to talk about this,” Tommy stands up, with his plate.

“Tommy,” Dream stresses. “You didn’t want to talk about the nightmares, so I let you. And with the situation at the gas station, I let it slide because you asked. But if you’re caught up about not being our fourth – then you can talk to me about it.”

Tommy ignores him and walks to the dishwasher. He sighs. “Well, I don’t want to talk about it with you. It’s nothing.”

“It is something if this is your reaction.”

“Drop it,” And Tommy turns to leave. His arms itch and he desperately wants to scrub his body until he can’t feel the dirt and past on it anymore. “I’m heading out.”

“Tommy!” Dream calls but Tommy slams the door.

 

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t always going to be their fourth.

Until he is.

They prod him with needles and put him to sleep. When he dreams, he lays on a grassy field and watches the clouds. People are around him, and they are unrecognizable. But he is there with him and feels something for the first time.

He wakes up attached to wires and machines.

He is startled sometimes, and when he wakes up struggling, they put him to sleep again. He awakes calmer, forcefully.

“Don’t worry Sixteen,” They whisper when they think he is asleep. “You will soon be their fourth.”

There is a reason why Theseus has long scars on his legs and arms. They are not from missions or the punishments of The Academy.

The first time, they give him a sedative that makes him forget. They fumble a few times, and Theseus can remember being taken to a glassy room and poked until all his skin burns. The drug they give him also manages to assist in forgetting the dead faces of his missions. He desperately drinks every last drop.

He does not tell anyone that the drugs assist him in forgetting the faces of the people he kills. The Academy makes them tough, and Theseus is weak if he cannot endure his missions. Instead, he allows them to force him to drink it, for him to forget.

All Theseus’ scars and marks have a story. The one under his locks of hair is when a boy in his class had used a knife in a hand-to-hand spar. The burns on his wrist, by his number, are from the punishments he faced when they first disciplined him. It is the first-ever pain he feels.

Theseus’ long scars on his legs and arms are from a failed attempt to make him like Sapnap, George, and Dream. He says that Dream and he are not blood-related, yet he probably has his blood inside of him during one of their experiments to make him as perfect as they are.

One day, their experiments stop. They do not give Tommy the drug anymore. He forever forgets the faces, and Sapnap thinks it’s because he is repressing trauma as he is so young during his first mission.

However, he begins to remember the experiments. The needles and the wires poked into him. The knives that cut into his skin, and people with white lab coats who stared at him with no remorse.

They fail.

And Theseus will live on as their failed fourth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy calls Tubbo.

“Hey man,”

“Tommy!” Tubbo shouts and Tommy pulls his phone away from his ear to avoid deafness. “What’s up, big man?”

“I’m at the park,” He says plainly. “Do you want to hang out?” Anything to get away from his memories he wants to avoid and the conversation waiting for him back at the apartment.

“I’m a bit busy right now, big man,” Tubbo exhales. “Are you okay?”

Tommy does not want himself to be vulnerable. “It’s okay, I just needed to… be with someone right now.”

“I’ll call someone. The park by the bakery, yeah? Don’t worry!”

“Yeah,” Tommy says quietly, but Tubbo has already cut the call. He sits on the grassy field and stares into the air, lonely. It’s a sight of his dreams, where he would go when they put him to sleep. A grassy field under a light blue sky and white clouds. There is a reason why Tommy’s favorite color is blue.

He almost dips his eyes closed for a moment, but he hears a noise approaching him and he is aware once again. The situation at the apartment is a reminder to be on high alert all the time. If Dream had not been home, and if he hadn’t noticed a weird noise coming from inside, then he could have been dead.

A figure sits next to him. Their long legs and light sighs tell him that it is Wilbur without needing to look up.

“Tubbo said you wanted someone to talk to.”

“Not talk,” Tommy refuses because he feels so tired when he must. He’s not going to cuss Wilbur out or complain that this is Tubbo’s choice. Instead, he bathes in the company for how long it lasts.

“That’s alright,” Wilbur inhales the air. “Look at that cloud. Looks like a kettle.”

Tommy opens one eye. “No, it fucking doesn’t.”

Wilbur deflates.

“It looks like a cat.” Tommy glances at him. “You’re blind as hell.”

Wilbur smiles softly. His brown hair hints that he had been sleeping in all day, but Tommy wakes up at six, so anything past eight is sleeping too long for him. He wears the same red hoodie with white words that he usually wears, but it’s rolled up to his sleeves. He has a white collared shirt underneath, and Tommy knows that if he cared about his fashion style a bit more, then he’d go to him for advice.

“I usually wear glasses,” Wilbur says.

“Oh,” Tommy glances at him. “They help you see shit?”

Wilbur laughs loudly. “Yes, Tommy, that’s what they do.”

No one at The Academy wore glasses, because their eyesight had to be perfect, to be perfect assassins. They are tested monthly.

“One of my brothers is colorblind,” Tommy explains. “He didn’t have glasses though.”

“Dream?” Wilbur questions.

“No, another one.”

“I guess they help, but they don’t fully reveal the color to one’s eye.”

Tommy nods his head slowly.

“Tell me about him,” Wilbur then offers, pulling his brown hair back. It bounces forward again.

“Wilbur–” Tommy doesn’t want him to dig for more information.

“No, no, it’s not like that,” he stammers quickly. “You just, never really smile, and you did when you spoke about him. He’s someone very important to you.”

“Yeah,” Tommy looks back at the sky. He keeps his demeanor strict because he doesn’t want Wilbur to notice him so vulnerable. “He was smarter than all of us. Really fucking smart, he kept information in really well and could recite facts from the back of his hand.”

Wilbur looks impressed. “You said ‘was’?”

Tommy frowns. “No, he isn’t dead. I just haven’t seen him in a while.”

“Okay,” Wilbur nods his head. “Tell me about what he was good at.”

Tommy doesn’t know why he listens, but he does. “He was fucking good at geography. We would show him a random picture in the world, and he’d be able to locate the country immediately. He could do America states as well, and sometimes cities.” Tommy doesn’t disclose the information that they did it in real life too. Dream wouldn’t tell him the location of the mission, and when they arrived, George would guess by staring around.

Sapnap and he was always baffled when they came back, Dream admitting that George had guessed correctly.

“He sounds cool,” Wilbur smiles. “Thanks for telling me about him.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders.

“Do you want to tell me – you don’t have to – why you called Tubbo? He had gotten quite scared that you weren’t okay.”

“Oh,” Tommy bites his tongue. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Tommy doesn’t know why Wilbur is being so gentle and nice. He’s calm and nice, which is not like their swearing competitions and constant fights. “Did you get into a fight with your brother?”

“How did you know?”

“Usually, when Techno pisses me off, I leave the house too,” Wilbur says. “I get away from my family because it’s nice to talk to someone else sometimes.”

“I don’t like answering questions. Dream asks me too many,” Tommy pulls his legs to his chest. “He says I need to talk to him when I’m perfectly content of keeping it to myself.”

“He cares about you, Tommy. I don’t think you can blame him for that.”

“Well, I never asked him to,” he grumbles.

“But he does. It’s unconditional, and he wants to make sure you’re okay,” Wilbur keeps his eyes on the boy, but Tommy stares at the grass. “And if you talk to him, he’ll feel a bit better because he knows of what’s going on.”

Tommy knows Wilbur is right.

“You should talk to him. Talk to someone, at least. Because if you’re thinking about it, or worrying about it, then he will help you figure things out.”

“Okay,” Tommy sighs.

“I’ll walk you back to your apartment,” Wilbur stands up and gives the younger boy an arm out to stand. “Let’s go.” Tommy doesn’t need Wilbur here to walk him. He’s capable on his own. But maybe he just doesn’t want to admit it aloud that it’s nice that the man is here, with no judgment, and speaks to him like they’ve been friends for a while. Even if they’ve known each other for a month or so.

“Thanks, Wilbur,”

“No problem, kid. You can talk to me, or Tubbo. Even Techno.”

“I’m not a kid,” Tommy mutters. “And fuck no, I’m not speaking to your brother voluntarily.”

“He’s grown a liking to you, ever since he’s found out about your mythology interest.” And Tommy won’t admit he brightens at that. “You should come around sometime soon.”

“You’re so fucking weird,” Tommy mutters and Wilbur raises his hands behind his head to lean on them.

“I don’t think I am.”

“I disagree.”

Wilbur pats his shoulder when they arrive at his apartment. “Have fun, remember what I told you.”

“Yeah, yeah, fuck off.” But for the first time, in a long time, Tommy smiles at Wilbur.

Chapter Text

Theseus’ mind is blank when he takes down his classmate. He is Four and does not stand a chance as Theseus flips him to the ground and punches him into the stomach. The Teacher yells, and Theseus stands up and watches as Four struggles to stand.

Theseus feels the eyes of people with clipboards and his Instructors’ eyes on him. He ignores them and stands back in line.

After class, they take him back to the glassy room. He is prodded with wires again, and he stares at the unnatural fluids reaching his body. He is not allowed to speak, and instead, he breathes. He hears the monitor next to him buzzing, and as the lab-coated people scribble onto their clipboards.

Theseus waits patiently. He is not expecting the Headmaster to walk in.

Their presence is rare. They stare at Theseus with calculating eyes, and Theseus only stares back, blankly.

“Please leave Sixteen and I for a moment,” They demand, and the lab-coated people leave in an instant. Theseus attempts to hide his discomfort as they carefully walk into the room.

“Sixteen.” They speak.

The students are taught to analyze facial language and observe every movement in a room they are in. Yet, it is impossible to read the Headmaster as they face says nothing.

“Sir,” Theseus responds clearly.

They sigh. “Did I give you my permission to speak?”

Theseus stares and does not open his mouth again.

“I expected my students to be disciplined, especially at your stage, Sixteen. We wouldn’t want the Graduates’ fourth being undisciplined, would we now?”

Theseus gulps. The Headmaster’s gaze is sharp and he must stare away, at the white room behind him, to resolve the tension that consumes his body when he stares at the eyes of whiteness.

“Sixteen, if you cannot be their fourth, that what are you? What is your worth?” They ask for no response. “We expect great things from all our students, yet Dream, Sapnap, and George are our most honored because of their high capabilities and abilities. Yet Sixteen, you are not fully disciplined and do not hold the strength they did when they were your level,”

They continue. “The testing will continue until you are perfect. If you cannot reach the stage, we must. Our students are remarkable, many of them are. But we require perfection. You, Sixteen, are not perfect. And if you cannot reach this, then what are you to us?”

Theseus stares.

“Then you are nothing. You are replaceable. You are worthless, Sixteen.”

Theseus is not enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy reaches the apartment floor and hesitates.

He glances back at the elevator door. Wilbur’s words ring through his mind, as he knows that opening up to Dream will not only help his older brother but himself. He has never spoken about the testing with anyone. Not to Sapnap, when he had asked why he had been missing from a couple of classes, or with George when he expressed concern when Tommy had not appeared at the usual meeting spot in over two days.

He knows he should speak to Dream. But he still hesitates.

Before he can turn back, a voice from the other side of the hallway shouts at him.

“Tommy?” He rushes to his side. “I was just going to look for you.”

“Dream,” he says painfully.

Dream leads him back to their apartment. There, he closes the door behind him and sits on the couch by Tommy.

“We’re going to talk,” Dream starts.

“Dream–”

“No, Tommy, we can’t put this off.” Dream’s face is stoic, and Tommy would have laughed if this wasn’t the circumstances. He turns his head, considering walking away, but he knows Dream won’t let him off so early. “We have to talk about whatever’s bothering you. I’m worried.”

“You’re Dream. You shouldn’t be worried.”

Dream rolls his eyes. “For being the top student of your class, you sure are dumb.”

“Call me ‘dumb’ to my face bitch,” Tommy says in German.

“Tommy,” Dream says in Hindi. “I know at least ten more languages than you.”

Tommy gives up because it isn’t a fight he’s willing to continue. “I hate you.”

“I know you don’t.”

Tommy’s eyes flicker away, staring blankly at the wall in front of him. “Can I go to my room now?”

“No,” Dream refuses. “Why did you come back soon?”

Tommy grumbles under his breath. “Wilbur told me to.”

Dream laughs. “And what did he say exactly?”

Tommy can’t lie to Dream. Not when he’s desperate struggling to avoid the emotion settling on his features. “He told me to talk to you because it will help the both of us.”

“Maybe I don’t dislike the guy anymore,” Dream mutters. “But he’s right. The Academy drove a message into us that we could not feel. But since we’re not there anymore, and we can, then you shouldn’t keep it to yourself.”

“That applies to you too,” Tommy frowns at his brother.

“I know, I know,” Dream wavers his hand in the air. “Not about me at the moment, though. Do you want to stay talking?”

Tommy sighs.

He thinks about the glassy room and lab coats. The prodding and needles grazing his skin. The hairs on his skin freeze at the memory and he desperately wants to itch his skin until all the past feelings leave.

“Hey, stop that.” Dream pushes his hands to the side. “You’re scratching yourself.”

Tommy doesn’t realize he’s scratching himself. He drops his hands. “Sorry.”

“You said I shouldn’t be worried because I’m Dream,” The older says very quietly. “It was expected of me, of all of us not to feel. I was expected to be the best, Tommy. The Headmaster had expectations for me and so did the Teachers. When they caught me joking with George once, they got angry. So, it didn’t happen again, and I learned. But I’m changing because I can smile, and I can laugh, and I can ruffle your hair and annoy you without being punished or losing my reputation.”

Dream sighs. “And I do worry. Because we’ve left there, and I’m allowed to – and show it. You were taught to keep things to yourself and rely on yourself, but now you can rely on me and I can worry for you.”

Dream is making it harder for Tommy to admit the truth. He leans forward, his eyes gazing at the floor, desperately avoiding Dream’s eyes and words.

“Look at me, kid.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” Dream edges closer, and his breaths are cold against Tommy’s skin. Tommy gulps.

“I can’t,” Tommy murmurs. “You’d be disappointed.”

“Why would I be disappointed?” Tommy doesn’t have to see Dream’s face to know that he’s frowning.

“Because,” Tommy’s voice cracks. “I could never be your fucking fourth.”

The tears stain Tommy’s eyes. Something inside him, snaps.

“Tommy,” Dream sighs. “How many times do I have to tell you? You don’t have to be your fourth. Forget what Curtis said, I don’t want you to be.”

“That’s not- that’s not–” Tommy’s tears spill. “I failed, Dream.”

“How, explain how.”

“They tried to make me like you. They tried, and they fucking failed.” Tommy cries and the tears roll down his cheek.

“Tommy,” Dream says slowly, stiffening. “What do you mean?”

Tommy gulps for air. “They tried to make me like you. With tests and fucking experiments. They’d – they’d do shit to me. And put me to sleep and when I woke up, I didn’t look different, but I felt different and–”

“Tommy,” Dream whispers in disbelief. “They tested on you?”

“They tried to make me your fourth,” Tommy cries. “And I failed.”

Dream grabs Tommy’s hands and lets him lean on him. The younger boy’s chest rises and falls fast, and his breathing is all over the place as his mind is taken to the lonely nights in the glassy room as he felt disgusting and dirty. He wanted to rip the tubes and wires out desperately, but he’d get reprimanded if he did.

“Can you explain it?” Dream asks, rubbing his back slowly. He lets Tommy cry because he is sixteen and because he’s allowed to – unlike what they were taught before. “Can you explain to me, what they did? Everything.”

“Why?” Tommy wants to raise his hands to wipe away his teary face, but his body is trapped in between Dream’s protective arms, and he can’t move. He doesn’t mind, though.

“I want to know,” Dream says. “So I know exactly my limits when I deal with them.”

Tommy bites his tongue. “At the start, it wasn’t so bad. They’d put me to sleep and I’d only notice what had happened after because they drugged me.”

“Drugged you?”

“It made me forget a lot. It’s why I started forgetting the faces.”

Dream swears under his breath. “That’s why you started to remember them again. Since they can’t provide it to you anymore, you're regaining your memories again. How long did this go for, Tommy?”

Tommy is silent for maybe a minute. “A couple of years.”

“A couple of years?” Dream questions incredulously. “Why didn’t you tell any of us?”

“I wasn’t allowed,” Tommy sighs, closing his eyes. “And I – I wanted it to work.”

“This wasn’t right,” Dream pulls Tommy away and forces him to look into his eyes. Tommy may complain when Dream calls him a kid, but right now, Dream hasn’t felt so older. “What they did, was fucked up. The whole Academy is fucked up, but this is fucking gross.”

“It’s okay,” Tommy forces Dream’s fingers off his chin, so he can look away at his skin. He shows him the thin straight lines traveling up his arm. Dream watches closely. “I got used to it after a while.”

“Tommy…” Dream says quietly. “You shouldn’t have had to be what they wanted you to.”

“The Academy wants perfect assassins. And I wasn’t perfect.” I’m still not, Tommy wants to add. And I never will be.

“You don’t need to be perfect, none of us need to. You shouldn’t have had to go through those fucking tests to change for those disgusting people. You’re a fucking kid, not a test experiment.”

“I was to them,” Tommy says, rubbing his face. “And for once in my life, I felt useful. Because if I couldn’t be what they wanted me to be – like you guys – then at least I could be something. But I failed – I wasn’t enough.”

“You are useful, you are enough,” Dream ducks his head, and Tommy wonders why. “I’m sorry they made you feel that way.”

“I deserved it, didn’t I? I wasn’t disciplined and trained enough. You and Sapnap were much more skilled than I was at my age and George has always been the smartest. They needed me to be a fourth, and now since I can’t be it – they want to kill me.”

“I won’t let them,”

Dream's voice breaks and he lets out a sob.

This is the first time Tommy has seen Dream cry. Maybe it’s the first time he has ever.

Tommy decides he doesn’t like seeing him cry because of him. “I’m sorry,” he apologizes.

“It’s not your fucking fault, I wish you could get that in the thick skull of yours,” Dream chuckles lightly, rubbing his knuckles between Tommy’s curly locks of blond hair. “Never apologize again. You’re not allowed to.”

“Oh – oh, okay.”

“They will, though. They can apologize one hundred fucking times, and at about a thousand, I’ll consider going easier on them.”

Tommy stares at his hands between Dream’s bulky arms circling him. Tommy suspects he does it because the older doesn’t want him to see his tears.

“You know, I say we’re not blood-related brothers sometimes when I make fun of you,” Tommy mutters. “But we have the same blood.”

“What?” Dream lifts his head and his arms loosen for a moment.

“Yeah,” Tommy laughs in between tears. “I guess we are really brothers, huh Dream.”

Dream rolls his eyes and exhales. “I can’t believe you.”

Tommy smiles. “Brothers.”

“Little danger,” Dream mutters. “Little brother.”

Tommy laughs and he finally feels a little lighter than before.

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur is talking to Niki when he gets a call from Tubbo.

“We’re in.” And he ends the call in an instant.

The two words are enough for Wilbur to know. He almost rushes out of the bakery, if it isn’t for Niki pushing a bag of treats in his hand and telling him to call her later. They had been in a middle of a conversation, speaking about Tommy. Wilbur had briefly mentioned Tommy’s low mood and their conversation at the park, while Niki listened with careful consideration to cut back his hours.

“Bye Niki!” Wilbur rushes out, hearing a ‘Don’t slam the door!’ on his way out. The man isn’t quite fond of replacing the door again, and Phil is going to make him pay the next time he does, so he closes it carefully and turns to where his car is parked.

He calls Techno as he drives back to their main computer room – located in Phil’s office, or ‘Headquarters.’ They still need to find a better name for the place, but it will do for now.

“Are you with Tubbo?”

“We’re waiting for you, hurry up.”

Wilbur drums his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently as he waits for the color light to turn green. “I’d like to keep my license, thank you very much. Someone needs to drive you to get your coffee.”

“Phil refuses to start without you, get here.” And he cuts the call. Wilbur rolls his eyes, waits for a green light, and drives.

He doesn’t get there soon enough. Tubbo is sitting by the large screens, while everyone peers around him. Techno and Phil are present. So are the rest of the organization – Ranboo, Sam, Jack, and Puffy. While Phil is the current leader of the Syndicate, everyone else is here because they obtain higher ranks.

Sam assists in the background; he helps keep the location in check and is constantly advancing the surrounding technology and designs and making their suits. Jack is a trained fighter, not skilled like Techno, but he’s high up there. Puffy works with Phil quite regularly, and an often connection between other organizations and forces. Techno is Phil’s right-hand man.

Wilbur’s retired. He used to work regularly, and now he assists Phil around when he can.

They make up the Syndicate, well, only a small fraction of it. They have a whole group of ex-policemen and former assassins and hitmen. Wilbur would brag if he could, about their ranks. But Phil isn’t like that, and keeps everything on a down low, away from media attention and the public eye. So they can balance normal lives while working together to bring justice forward.

“You took long enough,” Techno sighs loudly as Wilbur moves to stand next to Jack. “Tubbo, can you finally start?”

Tubbo glances at Phil for affirmation. Phil nods his head, and he begins.

“I’ve found their location,” Tubbo says, typing quickly into his computer. “We couldn’t find a name at first, but I’ve managed to pinpoint it and figure out exactly why it was so hard to trace.”

“Well?” Jack furthers.

“The Academy,” And everyone is silent.

“Interesting,” Phil rubs his chin. “They’re sworn to secrecy so it’s hard to trace with the technology the police have since their name is very subtle.”

“It can also be covered for a normal boarding school,” Tubbo adds, swiping his finger across his mini screen, the larger screen in front of his following his movements. “I’ve tracked their location through satellite lookout, but these are the only available images that exist from the property.”

There are three pictures of large stone walls and wiring fences. “To keep people out,” Tubbo assumes.

“Or, to keep their students in,” Phil frowns.

Puffy reminds them, “The slashes on the wrist of victims match with the logo of their school. They’re not so sworn to secrecy with such a not-so-subtle action.”

“I believe it’s because no one knows of them, but each other. Since the police aren’t on their tail, the marks are almost a boast to the people who do know about them – to show off the extents they go to, and what they’re capable of.”

“Except us,” Jack adds. “Since we know, we have evidence.”

“Not quite,” Puffy shakes her head. “The slashes still don’t prove anything. Until we brought it up with the police, they had no clue any of these organizations existed.”

“Puffy’s right,” Phil adds. “We need proof, more evidence. Tubbo, is there anything more you could find?”

“Yes,” Tubbo smiles, and rows of words appear on his screen. “Once finding their location, it wasn’t so hard to find their IP and get into their databases. Although they do have sufficient firewalls, it wasn’t too hard. It may take a while, but I’ve managed to find their first class of students.”

“Wait really?” Ranboo speaks for the first time, leaning forward.

“Yeah, here.” Tubbo presses a few buttons and faces appear on his screen. There are thirty in total. They all seem young. “They are ten years old here.”

Some of them gasp. “That’s the age they were brought there,” Phil mutters with disgust.

Tubbo presses a few more buttons. “It’s going to take a long time to delve into the rest of the classes. I assume this class is the easiest to access because it isn’t the information that they need to keep a secret as much as the rest.

Wilbur scans the names. Rex, Julian, Rupert, Arlo. They all look so young. Something boils inside of Wilbur, with the thought of knowing that the following children are subjected to kill and fight for their lives.

“They’re all boys,” Sam gulps and everyone’s eyes settle on the boys as unsettling as it is. “There had to be girls.”

“Maybe they were separated?” Tubbo guesses. “If it’s a completely different location, then it may be a bit harder to find but I’ll try my best.”

“You’ve done good, Tubbo. I’m proud,” Phil acknowledges, receiving a grin from the younger boy. “We’ll take a break for today. Techno, can you come with me back to the agency? I’ll inform some of the instructors of the current standards. Puffy, I need you to contact Nevadas again. I need to be able to contact them before something happens.”

They disperse, leaving Tubbo, Ranboo and Wilbur left. The man walks up to the younger boy and leans his hands on the back of his chair. “They’re so fucking young.”

“They’re deceased,” Tubbo says softly. “The first generation of students are dead.”

Wilbur had thought the same thing too. “We’ll find out soon.”

“I’m right, Wilbur. They take pride in keeping their kills away from the public – from us. They wouldn’t showcase their best agents like this."

“They’re ten here, I wonder how long they would be now,” Ranboo thinks.

Tubbo shrugs his shoulders and Wilbur looks at him. “We haven’t spoken in a while, Ranboo. How are you?” Ranboo is Tubbo's best friend and almost one of Phil's own since he was adopted by Puffy.

“I’m doing well. Techno’s training me now since Phil refuses any formal training. It’s going well.” Phil refuses to let anyone under eighteen participate, and Wilbur doesn’t blame him. He must be distraught knowing those kids are only ten when they’re taken to the assassination academy.

“That’s good,” Wilbur responds, nodding his head.

“How was Tommy?” Tubbo then asks.

“He's okay. He just wanted to speak about a few things.”

“Tommy?” Ranboo asks. “Ohh, is that the guy you’re friends with now? I still haven’t met him.”

“’Cause you’re always studying,” Tubbo mutters under his breath. “I don’t know why you give a shit about school, it’s pointless.”

“It’s not pointless,” Wilbur interjects but Tubbo rolls his eyes.

“Says the dropout,” he deadpans.

“Finish your homework,” Wilbur turns to leave the room. “I’ll see you two later.”

“I hope not!” Tubbo calls before Wilbur closes the door behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

He is Arlo and he is twenty-two when he dies.

He hopes the flower that will be placed by his stoned grave will last before it wilts.

He wonders if Fourteen will escape this madness. He knows Fourteen is smarter and stronger than he was at his age.

He dies inside trapped in between the white, strong walls, and will be free the day they crumble.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy is introduced to three new faces.

Their names are Karl, Slimecicle, and Antfrost.

Karl sticks by Quackity, and they whisper in each other’s ears. He smiles a lot and Tommy guesses it will take approximately ten seconds to take him down.

Slime’s favorite color is of Dream’s eyes. His clothes are vibrant green and so is his hair. The words that escape his mouth are confusing, yet psychological. He reminds Tommy of a boy from his class. Andre, whose words had a weird meaning behind them all.

Antfrost is stricter and his stares are solid. He talks to Dream, so Tommy assumes there must be a mutual understanding between the two, as Dream doesn’t seem so closed off and apprehensive (as he seems when he speaks to Quackity) when they speak. Antfrost wears a black uniform and his posture hints that he is trained. He will be harder to take down, but he will never be a match for Dream.

Quackity brings them to a large room, with a long table and a few chairs. Quackity sits by the head, while Antfrost, Slime, and Karl sit on one side. Dream is seated on the other side, Tommy by his side.

(“Stick with me,” Dream whispers in Arabic before they enter the room. “Swap languages so they don’t have a chance of understanding.” He then says in Russian.

Tommy nods his head.)

“I’m glad we all have gotten to meet,” Quackity says firstly. “Tommy, if you did not know, Slime here helps with administrative stuff and Antfrost is one of our lead agents. Karl here is my fiancé.”

“Not fiancé, not yet,” Karl refuses and Quackity rolls his eyes.

“We’re here to talk about the Syndicate,” Tommy has not seen Quackity so straightforward and serious before. “We’ve had a few run-ins with them before, and they’ve desperately tried to establish their position between my men and theirs, many times before. It’s safe to say, that they’re willing to take us down – but we’re not their main priority at the moment. The Academy is.”

“We have knowledge that they’ve been on this case for years,” Antfrost explains. “But inside sources have told us, that they have furthered into their research.”

“Inside research?” Dream asks. “I can’t say that does not sound questionable.”

“Sam, one of their lead inventors and constructors – he makes machinery and weapons for them has a connection to Antfrost. Sam doesn’t know Antfrost works for me.” Antfrost nods his head at Quackity’s fact.

“I believe it,” Tommy says quickly in French.

Dream glances at the boy, murmuring in Mandarin. “We’ll have to hear what they say first,” As he does, Quackity frantically glances at Slime, Karl, and Antfrost to see if they understand the unknown language. They all shake their heads.

“Lucky for us,” Quackity then says. “We have you two, so our information won’t have to be hacking into agencies and illegal databases.”

“They work for the police?” Dream raises an eyebrow. “Doesn’t sound so legal.”

“The police are on their side. They don’t work for them, but they’re in close contact,” Quackity explains. “Which isn’t so good for us, in this case,”

“How are our numbers against theirs?” Dream questions. “We’ll take them down, and then reach for The Academy before they can.”

“We’re more skilled, however, they do have larger numbers,” Quackity frowns and Antfrost nods his head. “They have an institution where they train anyone over eighteen. Although, they do not kill as we do.”

“And this is legal?” Dream raises his eyebrows but does not show any emotion.

“Not entirely,” Antfrost says. “But nothing we do is legal. Many organizations exist like us, and many of them are more illegal, while a lot of others are very tight with the police force. It varies.”

“How do you know this exactly?” Dream asks.

“The Red Banquet,” Quackity leans back and takes out a cigarette. “Many representatives from across the country come for a formal dinner to discuss business.”

Dream nods his head. “The Academy participated once. I recall being sent with our Headmaster. It was our first and last appearance.”

“Interesting,” Quackity raises an eyebrow. “Your agency was never stated in the invites.”

“We must have gone anonymously,” Dream explains and Quackity nods his head.

“Possible. Although, we never do attend. I know for a fact that the Syndicate does.”

“Is it possible we can construct an agreement with them?” Karl folds one of his legs over the other. “If they are our main obstacle before The Academy, then we can figure something out between us.”

“We’ll be working against them, not with,” Quackity tosses his lighter in the air and then lights his stick. He pinches it between his lips and dusts the front of his suit. “Phil wants to get rid of those kids, one by one. We can’t work with him on that.”

The name goes over Tommy’s head.

“How about, we convince him that we’re on his side?” Dream queries. “We’ll use him to reach The Academy. After that, we’ll go our own way.”

“That might work,” Antfrost nods his head slowly. “It’ll be enough to train our agents further and we’ll set up a connection between us to then break it.”

Quackity grins and breathes out. “See, this is why I need you people here.”

“Sapnap and George are planning an escape,” Dream then tells Quackity. “I have no clue when they’ll leave, but it will happen soon enough. Sapnap’s planning to destroy the location – blow it up I assume.”

Quackity and Karl’s eyebrows shoot up. “What the heck?”

“He’ll light it on fire,” Tommy smirks. “Sapnap’s always loved a little arson.”

“Phil will assume that they’re located at the old location. We’ll split up then, and cut our types – knowing the correct location and letting the agents free.”

“Sapnap saved the day,” Karl smiles and Tommy detects a sight in his eyes that he sees in Dream when the man speaks of George. “This might work.”

“Guess we’ll be participating in Red Banquet,” Quackity pinches the cigarette between his index finger and thumb and blow out. “Dream, I would appreciate your company. Although Antfrost is an honored fighter for us, I’d appreciate you coming along.”

“I’ll come,” Tommy presents.

Karl laughs quietly. “Tommy, you shouldn’t. The people there won't be so pleasant,”

“It’ll be dangerous!” Slime exclaims, speaking for the first time.

Tommy frowns and between air he takes out a knife and throws it at a wall behind Quackity. The room holds their breath as the knife pieces into a painting, slicing through it, inches away from Quackity's head. 

“Was that necessary?” Dream rolls his eyes.

“I’m going,” Tommy leaves no room for hesitation. “You won’t mind extra protection, would you Big Q?”

Quackity glances at the painting behind him. “Nice throw, kid.”

“Quackity, that was expensive,” Antfrost disagrees.

“It’s fine, under five digits anyway. I’d appreciate the protection, Tommy.”

Tommy nods his head. Slime and Karl still seem slightly apprehensive, though.

Dream fills in the blanks for them. “Tommy was an agent too. He isn’t just my younger brother; we both grew up there.”

Karl gasps and Slime’s eyes widen. “Oh god, I’m sorry.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly and turns away. “It’s nothing.”

“We’ll go over the Red Banquet another time. If I’m not mistaken, it’s two weeks away. I’d appreciate more time, but this will have to do. Phil will be attending, as well as his son Technoblade and–”

“Wait,” Tommy stops him and gulps. “Techno?”

“Yes?” Quackity tilts his head. “Is there a problem, Tommy?”

Tommy feels the room closing when he remembers that Wilbur has a father called Phil – and that Techno is his son – and then everything clicks.

“Techno is Wilbur’s brother,” Tommy says. “Phil’s their father.”

“Wilbur!” Quackity laughs. “Wilbur and I go way back. Although, I have not spoken to him in a longgg time.”

Tommy gulps. He glances at Dream who isn’t moving yet thinking. Tommy knows what this means – he knows that Wilbur’s whole secret with his mother is that she died to The Academy – to Tommy’s former Academy. He knows that he works with his father, and they’re willing to take down a group of kids who are forced into a life they do not want and arrest them. Everything clicks, and he hates it.

Wilbur, his friend. One of his first fucking friends, and now this happens.

If Wilbur and Techno are a part of the Syndicate, Tommy wonders if Niki is a part of it too. And Tubbo. He rethinks his previous conversations and wonders if he can figure anything else.

Dream excuses himself and Tommy. “It’s been a long day,” he explains because it has. “I’ll be in tomorrow.”

They leave, and Dream’s arm does not move from an unspeaking Tommy.

“Tommy,” he voices in the car. “Tommy, can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” Tommy’s eyes dart around. “Fuck.”

“I know,” Dream runs a hand through his face. “This isn’t the best circumstances.”

“Nothing about this is good! I thought I fucking trusted him, but he’s so willing to arrest children. Innocent fucking children.”

“We will figure something out.” Dream sighs and Tommy wonders how the taste of disloyalty will be when he betrays Wilbur and his family. “Until then, stay away from him. Don’t speak to him.”

“I can’t,” Tommy exhales and swears in his mind for getting close to a stranger. “I have to see him at work.”

His teachings have proven him right. “I can’t believe I got fucking close to him.” He can’t forget their earlier conversation – when he had thanked, he had smiled at Wilbur.

“We’ll figure something out,” Because they always do, Dream reassures. “Until then, we will stop talking about this. It’s been a long day for you.”

Words ring through his ears.

Care is connection and connection is death.

Tommy won’t say they he cares about Wilbur – but they’re somewhat of friends, they talk. He wonders if The Academy is right because this connection may lead to a disaster.

Tommy does not want to know.

 

 

 

 

 

He is George and he loves the stars.

When he leaves, he will watch them with Dream. As the moon and starry sky stare down at them, he will embrace the freedom and future they have together.

Until then, he waits. He stands in lines and assists during lessons. He is blank-faced and cold, and no one remembers any other way. He shouts at undisciplined students and keeps an eye on everyone in the room with him. When he completes missions, he ignores the lack of company and completes his kills.

He waits for the day of their escape. He may be able to leave the grounds, for missions, but he will always return. The Headmaster will always greet him with a nod and the Teachers will always lead him through his day.

Winter approaches. The stars disappear, and the night sky gazing back at him is empty.

The walls haven’t felt so high before.

Chapter Text

They stand in line, their chins high and their backs straightened. They must not move or speak. They must listen.

“Fifteen,” Dream calls out. Fifteen steps forward, in front of the Graduate. Dream watches him carefully, his eyes boring into Fifteen. He is pale but he does not look away from the green eyes that analyze him and wait for him to blink. However, Fifteen is not weak-willed and will not resign.

Dream then takes a step back and Fifteen moves into a correct position. Theseus watches as in only a moment, Dream flips Fifteen to the floor and pins him down. Fifteen groans and cannot get back up.

Dream stands and waits for Fifteen to do so. When he does, Dream hits him and Fifteen will return in line, with a red mark on his cheek and his legs throbbing.

“Sixteen,” Dream calls and Theseus steps forward. His classmates will observe as they both stare each other down. Theseus notices the familiar glint in Dream’s eyes, and he knows that Dream will make the first move.

He does. Their staring match finishes as Dream pulls his leg up to kick Theseus’ upper body. Theseus ducks in time and raises his arm to tug Dream off balance. Dream stumbles, however, he only stands up straighter and pulls out his leg to knock Tommy onto his knees, then uses his arms to settle him on the floor in a quick sweep.

Theseus analyzes his position to expect this. Dream is always one step forward and keeps Theseus down before he can rise, and pushes his body to the floor, pinning him down with his arms. Theseus struggles, pulling his arm out to square Dream in the face, but Dream’s grip is tight and he has lost.

Dream stands up. Theseus after.

Dream hits him and Theseus returns to the line. He ignores the fatigue settling within his bones and the sting of his cheek.

The rest of his classmates finish the exercise. Some return with aching cheeks, others are crumbling on their feet.

During their lunch period, Sapnap and George join Theseus on his empty table. They have started joining his class for mealtimes, as there aren’t available times for them to, due to the new classes of ten-year old’s arriving. The Teachers do not question why they sit with Theseus, as he sits on the only vacant table with two seats together.

“Dream,” Theseus grumbles.

George snorts and bites into the salad on his plate. Theseus stares down at his plate of the food provided; two slices of bread, a cup of yogurt, vanilla pudding, and a dry salad.

Theseus eyes the pudding on George’s plate. George rolls his eyes and hands it to him.

“Thanks, Gogy,”

“I told you to stop calling me that.”

“And I told you I’m not listening to you.” Besides classes when he must. George cannot hold back, none of them can. Like this morning, Dream has left a nasty bruise on his left cheek.

Theseus rips open his first vanilla pudding and takes a bite. He will never get sick of them.

“You know,” Sapnap says after swallowing a bite of bread. “I heard a kid from one of the new classes appears to be the new Dream. The Headmaster’s got an eye on him.”

“What’s his name?” George questions with an eyebrow raise.

“I don’t know. Might be our fifth, a few years to come.”

Theseus rolls his eyes and takes another bite of his pudding. “Shut the fuck up, Sapnap. I haven’t graduated yet.”

“Yeah, so?” The boy smirks. “You’re completing missions with us and excelling in all your classes. Well, excluding Dream’s by the looks of things.”

Theseus rolls his eyes. “He’s a tough teacher.”

“Really?” George smirks. “Are you saying Sapnap, and I aren’t tough enough?”

“I did not say that.”

“You implied it,” Sapnap gives Theseus his pudding once he finishes both of his. He hands Sapnap his bread, which the man teases in George’s face. The older rolls his eyes and shoves Sapnap away.

Then Dream enters the cafeteria hall. His eyes scan the room, his eyes lingering on the students who stare away, sporting the same bruises at Theseus. He grabs his tray, and utensils and joins Theseus’ table.

The other students will watch Theseus in distaste, while others will look away in fear of being caught by the Graduates. But they all know that Theseus will be their fourth one day and that he has already completed missions with the others. To an outsider’s eye, them talking and sitting together is nothing.

Yet, to them, it is everything.

Sapnap almost bursts out laughing when Dream sits next to Theseus. “You didn’t hold back, did you?”

Dream stares blankly at him, ripping open his yogurt container wordlessly. “What do you want me to say?”

“What was the training exercise?” George questions curiously.

“Simple combat,” Dream mutters staring down at his plastic spoon. “They all failed.”

Sapnap has to hold his mouth before he erupts into laughter. “Holy shit Dream, you can’t expect them to beat you.”

“I wanted them to impress me. None of them did.”

Theseus rolls his eyes and examines his pudding.

“Sapnap,” Dream frowns. “What did I tell you about giving your dessert to Theseus?”

“George did it first, I am simply a follower.”

Dream sighs and places his bread onto Theseus’ plate. “Eat and stop that.”

“Thanks,” Theseus mutters and finishes his food.

Sapnap and George finish eating their meals first and go to assist with the new ten-year-olds. It leaves Dream and Theseus alone and eating.

Theseus fills up the silence. “Sapnap said there’s a kid that they think will follow in your footsteps.”

Dream grumbles. “I’ve heard.”

“Have you trained them yet?”

“Not yet,” Dream has always taught the older students. Theseus doesn’t know why, but it’s likely because, during their final years before Graduation, they must form into the shape of a true assassin. 

Theseus finally turns to Dream, after finishing his food. He doesn’t notice Dream is staring at the bruise on his face. Sapnap and George may tease him for not holding back, but it is life or death. Dream cannot be relentless or favorable for any of the students. The look that is seen in his eyes is enough for Theseus to know that he’s regretful.

They must survive The Academy. Dream may need to hit, and punch, and push him into shape but he must do it to survive.

They make a promise years ago. To survive, both of them – as well as George and Sapnap – will hold onto it. They will not die between the walls of The Academy, and they will not surrender to the life that is this. Because they are stubborn and strong-willed. They won’t let anything get in the way of future freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream punches a hole into the bathroom wall. He still feels angry.

They are taught to keep their anger hidden, to be calm and collected. They must not show emotion because it is easy to be used against one. But Dream has also realized he’s changing a lot, recently. He had attempted to ignore it at first, but it's inevitable.

Dream is angrier nowadays. He is more on edge.

Sapnap was always the spitfire. The anger of the flame, whose eyes were of fire and his hands were matches. Dream witnessed firsthand how it impacted his fighting and overall capabilities. Although it allowed him to have an extra passion and urge behind his fighting, simple taunts and mocking could anger him up, until all he could see was red.

But Dream is angry and changing. He punches the wall and almost shatters glass.

Dream has always been on top, but now, he feels like a failure. He fails to protect Tommy and forces him to endure a pain which he’s kept on himself for years. Dream recalls the straight scars on his arms and asks Tommy about them. He would shrug them off and state that they were nothing.

Dream hadn’t pushed enough. He hadn’t done enough. So, he promises he will be more, from now on.

(“It won’t be easy when you leave,” George says a couple of nights before they leave the walls forever. “It will be hard to adjust to change. Theseus, and yourself.

“I’ll make sure we’re fine.”

“That’s not it,” George continues in a whisper. “You say it all the time, Theseus is only sixteen. He doesn’t understand shit as we do. It will especially hard for him to move on, so you have to help him do so.”)

Dream wraps his arms with the extra bandages he has bought the other day. He promises to be a better brother.

Brother, a word which hasn’t felt so real before. He and Tommy may share the same blood – same something – because of the testing, and it makes him sick. He wonders that if it has happened to Tommy, then who else had witnessed the same. The Academy wants a fourth, someone equal or better than him, Sapnap and George. They are tired of waiting around and will make them, themselves.

Tommy wakes up soon. He stumbles into the room, rubbing his eyes. “Did you punch a hole through the fuckin’ wall?”

Dream should have covered it up. “I don’t know, are you hungry?”

“The fuck do you mean that you don’t know?” He sits on the counter stools and buries his head into his hands. Dream won’t admit that the events of the past day had gotten to him and had released a wave of growing anger inside of him, which had been boiling for a few previous days. He won’t admit that the state of the wall was the consequence.

“We can go out for breakfast,” Dream ignores his question again. “Do you have a shift at the bakery?”

Tommy is silent. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can trust Niki.”

Dream sighs. “You don’t have to trust her. But we don’t know if she’s a part of the Syndicate either. Once we find out more, we’ll make the decision. Plus, if we’re taking down The Academy, we have to get into shape again.”

“I’m in shape,” Tommy shows off his muscles. “See,”

Dream rolls his eyes. “I mean daily exercises. I’ll admit, I’m more out of shape than I’d like to be.” Dream won’t mind starting again, his legs and arms jolt to perform a flip and pin someone down. His fingers twitch to hold a knife and use it. Tommy seems apprehensive though but knows that it will come eventually.

“I drove past a good breakfast bar the other day, coming back from Las Nevadas. Not any greasy food, it looked better.”

“I like greasy food,” Tommy complains as they leave the apartment. Dream ruffles his hair, earning a slap from the younger.

“We’ll also have to change our diets. Nothing too drastic, but we’ll stop eating out so much.”

“Okay,” Tommy says lightly, with thought. Dream is almost going to conclude that he will ask about it later, but he remembers what he had told himself the following morning.

“What’s wrong?” He asks.

Tommy glances at him and frowns. “Nothing.”

“Tommy,” They reach his car, but Dream doesn’t unlock it. “You look like you’re holding back from saying something. Tell me.”

“Why are you acting so weird today? Open the car,” Tommy grumbles and pulls the handle. Dream doesn’t want his car broken, so he does. But when they sit inside, Tommy has nowhere to go and both of them realize the predicament.

“We will tell each other everything,” Dream tells the younger boy. “We made that promise yesterday.” He hides things of his own, but he will tell Tommy. It will take time though – he can’t throw it at once when the kid is still going through yesterday’s admitting.

Tommy sighs. “I guess.” Dream waits. A minute passes. “When we, when we’re training again, it won’t be like The Academy again, right?”

Dream furrows his eyebrows. “Elaborate.”

Tommy groans. “I mean – you won’t hit me, will you? If I do something wrong or if I’m not good enough.”

Dream thinks that another hole will be damaged when they go back to the apartment. He’ll have to call to get them both fixed, later.

“Tommy,” and he struggles to keep his voice flat. “Why would you think that? We’ve trained before. I’m not going to hit you.”

“I was just making sure!”

“I did that because I had to, not because I wanted to,” Dream sighs and closes his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

He still hates the fact that Tommy doesn’t think he’s good enough.

“You are good enough. I promise nothing will happen like that. I promise.”

Oh – okay,” Tommy mutters. “Thanks,”

Dream starts driving and his fingers are white from the pressure he places on the wheel. For Tommy, his grip loosens, and he attempts to relax. It’s not easy when your kid brother thinks that you’ll hit him because he’s used to it. He hopes that one day, the teachings of their past will disappear or be forgotten.

Now, it doesn’t seem like they will. They still wake up at six sharp and trust is still a hard concept to grasp upon. But they’ll get there.

The breakfast bar is retro, and the prices are higher than Dream would usually pay for. But it’s a treat and Tommy deserves it. The two brothers enter the glass door, a checkered floor and bright yellow, blues, and reds meeting their eyes.

They take a booth in the back corner. They have a nice view of the comforting trees and sky, and Dream glances around before he picks up his menu. He scans it, noticing the basic breakfast foods of pancakes, waffles, toast, and muffins. There are juices and soft drinks as well.

“Can I get a coke?” Tommy glances up with a shit-eating grin.

“It’s seven,” Dream deadpans. “Get an orange juice. Maybe they’ll bring you the small juice boxes for children.”

Tommy pulls his arm across the table to shove him, but Dream is fast and catches it before he can. “Nice try, kid.”

A waitress comes over and Tommy orders a stack of pancakes with maple syrup and a juice. Dream has to stop him from ordering a coke and is returned with an eye roll. Dream orders a black coffee for himself and toast.

“I can’t wait to show Sapnap and George all the good food,” Tommy says once she leaves. “And I thought the puddings at The Academy was good,”

“George will be hard to show,” Dream chuckles. “He won’t like to try new food. He threw a fit once when they changed dinner from steak to fish.”

“Did he actually?” Tommy leans forward in his seat, thinking of the story as blackmail material.

“Yeah, he was considering going on a strike.” It was all jokes though because the last time someone had attempted to go on strike – they were taken away and killed.

“No way,” Tommy laughs.

Dream tells Tommy more stories as they wait for their food to arrive. Although Dream has known Tommy for his whole life (the life he started at ten), Tommy hasn’t known Dream for all his. Dream was sixteen – barely a Graduate, and Tommy was ten, a small kid who kept to himself.

Then, in the middle of his conversation, Tommy cowers and swears. He slides down his set, an attempt to hide under his seat.

Dream kicks him under the table. “What are you doing?”

“Wilbur,” Tommy hisses and Dream turns to see a large group enter the breakfast bar. “Why the fuck are they here?”

Dream recognizes Wilbur. There is a shorter brown-haired boy by him, and a taller one with mixed black and white hair dye. Three other guys walk behind them, all similar heights.

“Stop, sit up,” Dream instructs. “Just ignore them.”

“I can’t just ignore them,” Tommy hisses but he sits up, seeming uncomfortable. “They’ll recognize and try and talk to me. And you told me not to – with the Syndicate thing.”

“Tommy,” Dream mutters. “You’re being loud.” He doesn’t mean it to say Tommy is loud and annoying – but rather that the whole room will soon be able to hear him.

Tommy switches to French quickly. “You told me to stop talking to them, Dream. And they’re against Quackity.”

“I admitted that in the spur of the moment,” Dream acknowledges in Greek. “You should continue talking to them.”

“Why the fuck?” Tommy continues in Greek.

“It would be too unusual for you to stop. You talk to them a lot, almost every day. Besides this way, you’ll be able to scope as much information from them as you can.”

“It’s safe?” Tommy furrows his eyebrows.

“They haven’t made any moves to hurt you,” Dream reassures. He swaps to Portuguese for the fun of it. “We may move with Quackity after the Red Banquet for safety. You won’t have to speak with them afterward.”

Tommy deflates a little, but Dream notices. “It won’t be for long, and after Sapnap and George get here – if they come before the banquet. We have to keep them safe since The Academy won’t be too happy with their best-performing Graduates gone.”

Their food finally arrives. They are huge portions and Tommy marvels at the food while Dream smirks. “Look good?”

“Yeah,” and they dig in.

Dream continues with stories and occasionally asks Tommy questions as he zones off and glances off at the group on the other side of the diner. But Dream knows how to handle Tommy well, to take his mind of them. Tommy never used to be the best at paying attention, but Dream knows Tommy, better than himself at times and can remove his thoughts from the table near them.

Dream sips his black coffee. “You want a sip?”

Tommy nods his head and tries. He scowls. “I’ll stick to making them, not drinking.”

Dream devises. “Then you can make me coffee every morning.”

“Yeah, no thanks.”

“I would have never known that breakfast could be sweet,” Tommy says then. “We almost missed out of this.”

“Yes,” Dream rolls his eyes. “The reason why we left was for your sugar addiction.”

“You’re a bitch,” Tommy responds. “At least it wasn’t a drug addiction. Although that does sound rather appetizing right now.”

“You’re an idiot,” Before Dream finishes his statement, a brown-haired boy stops at their table with a big grin. Dream turns his head slowly while Tommy glances quickly.

“Tommy!” The kid seems shocked. His brown hair and friendliness with his brother hint to Dream that he’s Tubbo. He’s the only person besides Niki and Wilbur Tommy has talked about.

“Hey Tubbo,” Tommy pulls his blond hair out of his eyes. He opens his mouth to say more but doesn’t.

Tubbo does for him. “I texted you this morning, asking if you wanted to come with us for breakfast. What a coincidence.”

“Yeah,” Tommy rubs the back of his hair and glances at Dream quickly. Dream reads his expression quickly.

“Tubbo,” Dream says, testing his name out slowly. “I’m Tommy’s brother.”

Tubbo’s eyes widen. “Oh, you’re Dream. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Dream responds politely. “Tell Wilbur I’ve said hi.” It’s a subtle usher to leave.

Tubbo snorts, and an inside joke runs through the two boys. Dream will ask about it later. “Sure thing. I’ll talk later, Tommy.” And Tubbo retreats to his table. Dream slyly eyes them; and how the whole table has stopped talking to watch. They do not stare at Tommy, they stare at him.

Wilbur doesn’t. He looks away and pretends to not notice. The pink-haired man next to him; Dream recognizes from the pictures Quackity had sent him earlier. His full name is Technoblade, and one of Phil’s best agents – and his son.

Dream concludes all participants are a part of the Syndicate. Although two of them seem Tommy’s age, he isn’t so sure about them.

“They’re staring,” Tommy mutters.

Dream cleans the air. “Is there anything about Wilbur I should know?”

Tommy visibly relaxes. Slightly. “He’s scared of you.”

Dream nods his head once and takes another sip of his coffee. “Good.”

“Whenever I mention you, he visibly shrinks,” Tommy starts laughing. “It’s funny as hell.”

Tommy talks to him more, and Dream half listens to him, and half zones into the other table. His hearing was always the best.

“He’s Dream,” they say. “He looks like he could take you, Tech.”

“I’m not so sure about that.”

Dream snorts to himself at that remark and nods at Tommy to show he’s still listening.

“Wait so that’s the Tommy that Wilbur doesn’t stop talking about?”

“Shut up,” Wilbur grumbles. “He’s a cool kid.”

“Tubbo couldn’t find anything on either of them. Then they show up randomly, and Wilbur is right – it is a bit strange.”

“You’re defending me now?”

“No, I’m pointing it out. Maybe Phil should know.”

“You guys are ridiculous.”

“Dream?” Tommy pipes up, and Dream’s half-listening has stopped. “Are you listening?”

“They’re talking about us,” he mutters in Greek.

“Oh,” Tommy blurts, in English. “What are they saying?”

Dream stops his question. “Tommy, do you know what Tubbo’s job is? Does he have one?” One of them from the table stands up and walks to the front counter. Dream keeps an eye on them from the corner of his eye and stays speaking in Greek. “Any clue?”

“No, Wilbur’s mentioned a few times he has a job but I don’t know what it is.”

“Interesting,” Dream takes the last sip of his coffee and drops the cup on the small plate. “We’ll discuss this in the car. We’re heading to Quackity’s now, anyway.”

“Okay,” and they stand up, their eyes flickering to the man with green hair, similar to Slime’s as they pass to pay. When they get to the car, Dream identifies names to their faces.

“The green-haired guy is Sam, their tech guy. I'm assuming the rest are a part of the business - although Quackity doesn’t know any of the others.” 

Tommy then blurts out, “Tubbo can’t be a part of the Syndicate.”

“Why not?”

Tommy sighs. “I haven’t trusted anyone apart from you, Sapnap and George. And I’ve been trying so hard to be fucking normal and thought I could be his friend and trust him.” Tommy isn't saying that Tubbo isn't a part of it, he just wishes he isn't. 

“We still don’t know for sure,” Although if Dream had to bet, he would on it. “Did you know who that other kid was? The taller one?”

Tommy shakes his head and sighs. “I have a headache.”

“We have medicine at home. Do you want to stay at the apartment or go to Q's?” Dream gives him a choice because he’s used to not getting any.

Tommy contemplates to himself. “Yeah.”

“Okay then,” And they drive off.

 

 

 

 

 

“Sapnap,”

He turns and meets George’s eyes.

“We’re ready. It’s time.”

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur watches Dream and Tommy walk out of the diner, and his heart hurts.

It shouldn’t. He wouldn’t call it jealousy, but he wouldn’t call it nothing either. Techno says he’s grown a usual attachment to this kid he hasn’t known for a while – and others like Jack call him out for being so close with the child he hardly knows anything about.

But Tommy’s fun. He gets angry, but he’s also endearing at times. It reminds Wilbur of a life he never had, a brother he never got to grow up with.

Theseus was ten years old when he was taken.

When Wilbur had seen Dream and Tommy interact at the arcade or when Tommy spoke so fondly, so kind of his older brother, Wilbur won’t deny it was nothing. Maybe, he should stop denying it was jealousy as well.

He cannot remember Theseus well. When he does, it’s when he looks through old photo albums. Wilbur was fifteen when he was gone, but those years were stolen from him. Whether it was mourning over the death of his mother, or the disappearance of his younger brother – he had blocked those years out of his memory.

Phil says that Theseus was a younger version of him, even if everyone thought he was going to carry after Techno. His brown hair was styled just as Wilbur’s, and his blue eyes reflected his father. They would mess around all day, and apparently, he’d follow Wilbur around all the time.

There are things Wilbur remembers. Like Theseus refusing to leave his side or wanting their father to buy the same clothes (only smaller sizes) as his. Wilbur remembers his loud laugh and screams when he’d tickle him ‘to death.’

Nowadays, Wilbur doesn’t feel like himself. He feels like he’s missing a part of him, that was never there at all.

He concludes that he is jealous. He’s jealous of Dream because he has this cool kid brother who would do anything for him. Who fears opening up, and afraid of burdening and disappointing him. Dream is lucky to have such a passionate younger brother who has a funny sense of humor and makes Wilbur’s days more bearable to live in.

So, Wilbur watches Dream and Tommy leave the store and frowns, wondering he’d be doing the same things if Theseus were still with them. If they’d be going to the arcade or hanging out during breakfast.

He knows that he would – because Theseus was the clingiest kid ever and refused to leave his side.

Theseus could be dead – he might as well be. They’ve been searching for six years, and the moment that the police declared searches off, Phil persisted them to continue and raised the price of reward if he was found.

Theseus is never found, and they learn to live on. Phil forces himself into workload and Techno is more reserved than ever.

And Wilbur waits and hopes.

Sam sits back down after walking to order extra drinks. “Tommy’s Greek.”

Wilbur stares away from the door. “He is?”

“I heard them speaking Greek,” Sam shrugs. “Him and Dream. Wanted to know if you knew.”

Tubbo raises an eyebrow. “He’s never mentioned that before.”

“He’s a weird kid,” Techno mutters. “Wilbur, you get attached to the weirdest people.”

“No, I do not.”

“You were the first one to speak to Ranboo – I think that speaks volumes.”

Ranboo glances out and sighs. “You know what? I won’t even take offense to that.”

“You think you’re so funny Techno,” Wilbur rolls his eyes at his brother. “Besides, you’ve liked the kid after he mentioned his liking to Greek mythology.”

“Guys,” Sam interrupts. “I think we should get back on topic?”

“Right, sorry,” Wilbur says as Techno nods his head. Jack looks up from his menu, and Ranboo and Tubbo stop talking to listen.

“Phil talked to us about the Red Banquet yesterday. He’ll be bringing two people, one other person than Techno.”

“It’s usually you, isn’t it?” Tubbo frowns. “Besides, those things go on for hours, no one else here has the capability of lasting that long without falling asleep.”

“Speak for yourself, man,” Jack responds, puffing his chest out. “I would personally love to be selected as–”

“Phil will be confronting Quackity,” Sam interrupts. “I’ll be back at the Headquarters, speaking to Phil through an earpiece. Antfrost will be positioned outside for backup. It might get messy there, especially with the history of the meetings.”

“Ranboo should attend,” Techno says firmly. “He’s trained enough to hold against his own, and a little experience of these things should be good.”

The table nods their head. Even Jack, who had wanted the position himself. Ranboo seems slightly timid, but he sits up a little stronger when Techno’s eyes him. “Yeah, okay.”

The food arrives and they dig in straight away. As much as Wilbur and Techno bicker, they get along through similar interests, such as music and books they’ve read recently. When the food arrives, work-related issues are off the table.

Wilbur isn’t as involved in the business as everyone else is. Yet, they all bond well after knowing each other well for years – apart from Ranboo. Wilbur likes music and reading books. He doesn’t want to waste his life doing a job he isn’t as passionate about or good at as the others. He had tried it once, waking up early with Techno and training with the others. He doesn’t think he’ll go back to it again.

Sometimes, when he’s alone, he wonders if Theseus would join their business, or focus on school. Wilbur’s throat closes and his head hurts when he thinks about it. So, he stops.

When he hurts a little too much, he is reminded of Phil finally being able to take down the agency that took away their mother. To put a stop to it, and free those kids who are forced into lives they can’t control.

After breakfast, they move on with their days. Techno goes to the gym, and Ranboo and Tubbo must go to school. Jack will go back to the Headquarters with Sam and Wilbur ends up in his room with his guitar.

He strums the song and recalls a song from his past. Humming under his breath, and closing his eyes, he recalls a song his mother used to play him and Theseus.

He promises that he will never forget it.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy will throw knives at the targets at the wall while he makes Dream coffee.

He will hum a familiar song under his breath as he does.

“What song is that?” Dream will ask but Tommy doesn’t know himself.

He shrugs his shoulder and Dream tastes the coffee. “This is good.”

Tommy smiles and the humming stops.

He can never finish the song because he cannot remember the ending.

Chapter Text

Tommy will throw a knife and hear Sapnap whisper in his ear.

“Aim a little lower. Picture the target when you throw.”

He hears George when he practices French.

“Work on your accent – use your throat when you pronounce your r’s.”

Tommy and Dream wake up and start sparring every day. They then go on jogs, which then turn into sprints on the way back. He uses Quackity’s gym at Las Nevadas and works on his skills with a knife.

Tommy hasn’t held a gun in so long. The first time he does, Antfrost gives it to him and shows him the targets they use. He shoots them perfectly and Antfrost nods his head, expecting the good results he provides.

Tommy works on his languages to pass the time at the apartment. He and Dream develop a game, where they must not repeat the same language in a conversation.

Dream always wins.

“You should go on a walk,” Dream tells him in Spanish. “You only leave when we go on jogs and your shift at the bakery. Get some fresh air.” Tommy’s phone blows up with messages from Tubbo and Wilbur, scheduling times to hang out. He would, but there is a part of him that claws into him, and forces him to store his phone away, unable to communicate. He cannot bear the fact of betrayal or having to stand against them in a couple of weeks.

He talks to them during his shift when he must. Wilbur seems worried, but Tommy forces himself not to think about it. It is the repercussions of forming connections or beginning to care about others.

“I don’t want to,” Tommy responds in Hungarian. “I think my time outside is enough.”

Dream sighs and swaps to Mandarin. “Take a break, you’ve been training all day.” Dream does not lie, because Tommy has been either at the gym, with Big Q to discuss the Red Banquet more, or with Antfrost to practice with some of their other agents. Although Tommy does take a walk to the bakery when Dream does not drive him, himself.

“At The Academy, we trained all day,” Tommy retrieves the knives sticking from the wooden board on the opposite wall. “You know we’re used to this.”

Dream continues. In Russian, “I want you to take a break. You might not need one but you’re going to wear yourself out.” In Tommy’s other ear he hears Sapnap telling him how to improve his aim and work on throwing the weapons with his back towards the target.

“Fine” Tommy grumbles and gives up their game to speak in English again. Dream will always win everything. “After a few throws.”

“Tommy,” Dream comes up next to him and takes out a knife from the board himself. “Let’s go for a walk. Put on a coat.”

Tommy almost does not want to, but Dream leaves no room for discussion. He pulls the knives away and pulls on his red shoes. Dream comes back with his black jacket on, and a think blue vest in his hand. “It’s cold out.”

Tommy rolls his eyes and shoves it on. They turn off the lights and leave the complex.

The two brothers walk side by side across the footpath, Tommy watching Dream as he takes a deep, long breath in, to then exhale. Tommy looks away, and the cloudy sky and lack of blue in the air. He imagines a day when Sapnap and George will walk with them. Any day soon to come, Tommy thinks, knowing the message that Eryn had passed on.

“What are you thinking about?” Dream hums, turning to him.

“Nothing,”

“You do that thing when you pinch your eyebrows and your eyes don’t concentrate,” Dream nudges his shoulder. “I can read you better than anyone else. What’s up?”

Tommy sighs at the truth. “Just thinking.”

“About…?”

“Sapnap and George. We know that they’re escaping, but we don’t know when." Quietly, he adds. "I miss them.”

“Aww Tommy,” Dream wraps his right arm around him, and Tommy shoves him away, shouting ‘lay off man!’ “I’ll be happy to see them too. Although, we’ll have to figure out either a room coordination or one of them will have to sleep on the couch.”

“Sapnap,” Tommy says. “You and George will be sharing a room, after all.”

Dream shoves him this time and Tommy laughs. “You have a bigger room! That’s what I mean!”

“Sure,” Dream deadpans but ends up smiling lightly. They go to a café and take a back table because sitting near the middle of the store has them exposed at all angles. It’s a precaution, almost an intuition to book for the back.

“You tell me to take a break,” Tommy tells Dream, “Yet this is your fifth cup of coffee today.”

“You’re keeping count?” Dream smirks after they order.

“Yes, I am,” Tommy frowns. “Coffee is shit; I don’t know why you like it so much.”

“It tastes good,” Dream stands up. “I’m going to the bathroom. Don’t go anywhere.”

Tommy nods his head and Dream leaves. He would usually have his phone to text Tubbo when he waits – but there are two problems. He leaves it in his phone and hasn’t texted the guy back in a while. He would, but Tommy can’t put himself to text him back knowing the secret of their lives which Tubbo does not.

Unless they do. Dream mentions that Tubbo and his family had searched into him – meaning that surely, they knew something. But Dream doesn’t seem to think they know anything yet, so Tommy will conclude with that statement too. What they know is that they could not find anything, courtesy of The Academy’s strict methods to keep the identity of their students hidden. Especially the Graduates – it’ll be hard as shit for any of them to find any dirt on Dream, even his name, as they want to keep their star students away from the eyes of anyone else.

Tommy resorts to watching the room around him. He recalls a game he and George used to play.

(“Everyone has a story,” They wait at a park during the aftermath of one of their kills. “You only have to watch, to learn.”

Theseus nods his head and listens carefully.

“See that couple over there?” George nods his head at the couple who lay on a picnic rug, whispering to each other. “They’re engaged and expect a baby on the way. That’s what anyone can see; although. But the more you watch, the more you know.”

“Like?” Theseus questions.

“He’s in love. He keeps peeking at her like she’ll disappear. The woman, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about. She plays with her engagement ring like she’s nervous; as if she’s holding a couple secrets from him. She can’t meet his eye either, an easy sign of concealed secrets. Watch, the man is leaving to take a phone call.” Theseus watches. “Now she’s sitting up and checking her phone, angling her body away. She’s still playing with her ring.”

The man returns. The woman’s phone rings, and the man questions “who is that?” but she does not respond.

“We learn to analyze our opponent’s body language and read faces. But Theseus, everyone has a story.")

Tommy watches the café carefully, and his mind recalls the memories of after or before missions when George will speak stories of the people around them. Whether they were people on vacation or the deepest things you could think of a person.

He almost hears George beside him. “See that man outside? Tell me his story.”

Tommy’s eyes scan the man outside. His eyes rest on a black car in his vision and perks an eyebrow at it. He looks away when Dream returns.

They eat their food once it’s ready and take a walk to the park. Dream’s reason is because, “Knife throwing isn’t the only sport you’re good at.”

“I’m good at all sports, prick.” Tommy excels at swimming and running the most. He can hold his breath underwater for a long time, which means there are fewer breathing gaps between his strokes. He’s pretty fast too, but Dream’s always been faster.

“We’ll buy a ball,” Dream tugs Tommy into a sports shop, where he grabs a soccer ball. He leaves tossing it in his hand. “Everything used to be a competition, so we’ll play for fun.”

“I know how to play for fun,” Tommy grumbles.

“Come on then,”

Dream places the ball down on the grass in front of him. He watches Tommy stand awkwardly in front of him.

“Where’re the goals?” Tommy glances around because they don’t have any. It’s a huge grassy plain, unlike that one time he played with Tubbo and there were nets on both sides. “We can use those trees over there, I guess.”

“No,” Dream denies and grins. “No points.”

Tommy crosses his hands over his chest. “Then what’s the point of this?” Dream kicks the ball, and Tommy stops it with his right foot.

“I told you, we’re playing for fun.”

Before Tommy can even think, Dream runs up to him and kicks the ball away from him. Tommy thinks fast and shoves him, an attempt to regain the ball back. But Dream dribbles the ball between his two feet, wheezing when Tommy fails to even touch the ball.

“Dream,” Tommy huffs and one of his legs stretches to regain the ball. Dream turns his body, so his back is on Tommy, and he laughs at his failure.

“C’mon kid,” Tommy can almost hear his grin. “I thought you were better than that.”

Tommy doesn’t like to be proven wrong. He rushes towards Dream, as he starts kicking the ball away, his strides wider to catch up. Dream then stops, turning his body around, so that Tommy will never access the ball. He makes it seem easy; his hand stretched out to shove Tommy when he comes close. Tommy hasn’t heard him laugh so loud in so long.

He manages to get the ball off him for a split second. He shoves the older's arm away, and kicks the ball between Dream's feet, leaning away.

Dream wheezes. “Come here, you idiot.”

Tommy doesn’t and sprints off with the ball. He kicks it forward, catching up to it again and spreading a distance between Dream. He stops by the edge of the field, and glances back at Dream, to make sure he can turn at the right time.

Dream isn’t behind him though. He looks back on the ball, to find it gone.

“Looking for something?” Dream is behind him again with a snort. “You’re shit.”

“You’ll be eating shit,” And Tommy tackles him to the floor. He rubs mud in his brother’s face, who shoves him back, groaning at Tommy for getting his clothes dirty – since he loves that jacket. They both stand up, mud caked on their jeans and their hair grassy.

“You’re a child,” Dream deadpans. And they lay in the glass to regain their breaths. Dream shoves Tommy every so moment, while his chest heaves for air. 

Tommy hasn’t felt so free in a while. And although they have The Academy on their backs – he relaxes and barks out a laugh because he can. Dream shoves him when he stands up, but he allows Tommy to rest under his bulky arm, and they make their way home together.

“I’m glad we could do that,” Dream comments. “Even if you did roll around in the mud. Take off your shoes before you step into the apartment.”

“What if I don’t want to?” Tommy asks cockily.

“Then you’ll clean it up,” Dream smiles softly and Tommy wonders when he got so used to seeing Dream so casual and peaceful. “You know, George, Sapnap and I made a bet before you and I left. They told me that they didn’t think you’d be a kid.”

“What?” Tommy asks.

“I thought they were right for some time. Because for the first couple of months, you were still Theseus. You refused to open much, and you stayed in your room for straight days.” Tommy doesn’t like that name anymore, but he understands why Dream says it in this context. “But what can I say? I’m always right.”

Tommy rolls his eyes.

“I’m glad you adjusted, Tommy, because you deserve this change,” Dream says. “You deserve to live like any other sixteen-year-old kid, so I’m glad you can now. And I know you sometimes don’t think you deserve it, but what our past was – was never our fault. I know you realize that, but I know you’re still guilty.

“But it is okay, it’s okay to feel guilty.” Dream explains. “I’m just glad, you know?”

Tommy sighs. “You’re so weird.”

“You don’t want to admit that I’m right.”

“No, I don’t,” Tommy grumbles.

“After the Red Banquet, and Sapnap and George come and we take down The Academy – when we are truly free - you don’t have to pick up another gun or knife again. You don’t have to train and practice your languages. You don’t have to do shit anymore. If you want to, that’s okay – that’s up to you.”

Tommy’s throat closes. “It’s hard to realize we have choices now.”

“I get that,” he holds Tommy’s shoulders closer, the other arm wrapped around the soccer ball. “And I’m glad you tell me this like I want you to tell me when you have nightmares, or when you don’t feel so well. Even when you’re remembering what those shitty people did,”

“Sometimes, it makes me feel weak.”

Dream nods his head. “I feel that way too, we all will at some point. Sapnap and George when they leave – they’ll have to adjust. But they’re expecting to leave the shit behind, so they’ll adjust a little easier.”

“Where is this coming from?” Tommy questions, then.

Dream shrugs and the edges of his eyes crinkle slightly as he smiles. “I just wanted you to know.”

 

 

 

 

 

George watches the walls.

They will escape tonight.

He wonders how their first sunset free will feel.

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap won’t say he’s nervous. If anything, the nerves fear him.

“Don’t mess up,” George tells him as if that will make him feel any better. But Sapnap doesn’t need reassuring words and validation, he just must do what he’s best at, following orders and completing them swiftly. He will follow their set plan and he will not mess up.

He was Eleven. He is a Graduate now. He’s come far.

Sapnap is often described as the least of the three – yet today, he will show them better.

There are two parts to their plan.

Hotter than the Sahara and colder than the Arabian night. George and he use the code words, to keep their plan hidden.

Colder than the Arabian night; Sapnap recalls a rooftop during a mission. Their legs dangled from the edge, and they gazed at the moon in complete wonder. The sun had surrendered, and the full moon fell in front of them.

He remembers it was cold.

“Sapnap,” And Dream tells him. “I found the file room.”

Sapnap blinks. He usually isn’t speechless since he’s usually shouting. A firecracker, George used to refer to him as. “When?”

“A while ago,” Dream doesn’t elaborate. “I know you and George wanted to start looking for it, there’s no point. They’ve locked it up well and it's near a corridor the Teachers usually are by.”

“What did you find?” Sapnap and George have attempted to locate the room for months, now. This is the reason why Dream was never on board. “Do you know your family? Your past?”

“I didn’t have enough time. I found Theseus’ files, though,” Dream exhales, and Sapnap knows he has been holding something in for a long time. “Sapnap, don’t react.”

“I won’t.” The words are what Dream asks when he doesn’t want Sapnap firing up, as hard as it will seem. It isn’t news Sapnap has a temper. A close breaking point.

“I found in his files, that Theseus is our final mission. The Academy knows we’re closer to him than any other student – and they want that connection dead. Graduation wasn’t our final test, he is.”

Sapnap reacts.

“What the fuck?” Sapnap growls, and he grips onto Dream’s shirt, edging his face closer. “You better not be lying; this isn’t fucking funny.”

“Let go, I’m not.” Sapnap lets go and Dream frowns. Sapnap remembers the cold sweeping through his skin and his heart burning. “We’re planning to leave, but it has to be sooner.”

“When will it happen?”

“Theseus won’t make it to Graduation, that’s all I know.”

Sapnap grits his teeth until they hurt. “We don’t have enough time.”

“We’ll make time.” And the night is cold.

Hotter than the Sahara; and Sapnap will watch The Academy burn in flames and satisfy his heart. His fingers have twitched for years, and finally, he can complete it fully. He will feel the heat of the Sahara again, but he will close his eyes near the flames.

Sapnap blinks. The heat becomes a coolness of the room.

George stands in front of him. “Sapnap,” he breathes.

“George,” And the night has started, the plan following soon after.

George reveals the gasoline. He has been collecting it for a while now.

“I said I was ready,” George smirks. They stare at each other, and then they smile.

George takes out his hand. “If this doesn’t go well, it was a good ride.”

Sapnap ignores the hand and hugs him. It is awkward, but when George unfreezes, Sapnap relaxes. “Don’t say that Gogy,”

“Don’t call me that.”

Sapnap leans away and they stare at each other silently for a dead moment. Brown eyes meet green. This may be the last time they see each other, but they both make a silent promise it won’t.

George leaves to retrieve the files. Sapnap will watch The Academy burn.

(“We’ll get those files,” Sapnap tells George. “Dream wants all of us to leave – he’ll refuse for us to stay to retrieve them.”

“It will take a long time, Sapnap. We can’t find the file room anyway – it’s guarded well, with cameras as well.”

Sapnap sighs and raises an eyebrow. “I have a plan Gogs, listen close.”)

The Academy teaches its students to have no weaknesses, yet the building itself has a big one. Wooden floorboards. Sapnap will pour gasoline and light a match. While the Teachers must escape, ensuring no child is left behind – George will find the files.

Amid the madness, they will escape.

Sapnap has gone through the chances of failure. George may not be able to escape in time, or the Teachers will find a way to put out the flames.

So, George must be quick and Sapnap’s fire must be big.

Sapnap pours the gasoline, watching the liquid sink between the cracks. He has never been so silent in his life, unscrewing caps and carrying the large containers. The smell is worse, what is worse is staying longer than they must.

He hopes George has found the file room. He hopes he can retrieve the files. It won’t be an easy job for either of them. Dream had described inside of the room, to be an eruption of chaos. Papers and boxes everywhere. George will retrieve his, Sapnap, Dream, and Theseus’ files. They complete what Dream couldn’t.

(“Why can’t you come?” Dream asks for the last time.

“If we all leave at once, then The Academy is more likely to target and find us. George and I will come in our own time.”

“There’s another reason, isn’t there?”

Sapnap nods his head.

Dream sighs. “Very well. Be safe.”

“You know I don’t make promises,” but he does.)

Sapnap won’t use all of the gasoline. He hears noises and creaks. He awaits the worst.

He hopes he has given George enough time to find the files. He knows inside of him, he hasn’t. But Arabian Nights cannot fully commence until The Sahara Desert part has. Teachers are awake at night, and the cameras above the room will find George.

Sapnap inhales. He takes out his lighter. His fingers twitch. The match in his other hand is stiff.

Sapnap lights the match and will exhale.

“I’m ready, George,” he murmurs and throws.

(He comes into The Academy alone.

He will leave with George and will find Dream and Theseus.

When he was alone, he would say he’d watch the world burn for what they did to him. Now, he is willing to light his world on fire for them, his family.)

The Academy soars in flames. Bells ring and a siren echo through the walls. Sapnap grins and envelopes the heat of the flame before he disappears to the student dorms.

He won’t let these kids die. They should be free. One day, they will. Sapnap will make sure of it.

“There’s a fire!” He shouts at them. “Everyone, get out!!”

The bells chime louder, and the children wake with straight backs. Teachers rush into the room, in their sleepwear. The students file out, Sapnap will follow them fast.

The Academy is a flame when they reach outside. Sapnap glances around quickly, with a hope George has made it out. He must remain patient as the Teachers gather the students and force them into lines. He notices how pale their faces are, how they sweat, and how they seem older than ever before.

The Headmaster is seen not far away. He is holding his phone, and Sapnap witnesses it all with the flames. He stands away from the crowd, near the forest by the edge of the field. He won’t be seen. They must believe he has died within the flames.

He waits for George in the spot they agree upon.

(“Don’t wait up for me,” George instructs. “Do what you have to do, and run.”

“I won’t leave you behind.”

George grips his shoulders. “If I can’t make it out alive, then you must.”)

Sapnap waits helplessly.

Time passes too soon.

The flame is large. Sapnap holds onto the tree before he collapses. He should have started the fire before; it was too soon. George couldn’t have made it out in time – he replays the scenario with the match and flame again.

He should have given George more time.

He waits longer, with hope because George has always been the smartest, and he will get out. He is George. Sapnap has never admitted it aloud, but he’s always admired the older. He regrets never telling him.

“Sapnap,” A voice whispers. “You have to go, find Dream and Theseus.”

Sapnap is stubborn. He watches as The Academy crumbles in front of him with the lingering words of George’s promise for them both to be safe.

“George,” he crumbles. Deep inside him, the denial forces him to move. To know that George would want him to leave in case he was inside for a little too long.

Deep inside of him, he also knows George is no more.

He executes the rest of his plan with shaking hands and a foggy mind. Then and there, he isn’t Eleven. He isn’t a Graduate or assassin. He is only Sapnap, and he mourns the death of his best friend.

George would have made it out in time. He said if he saw the flames, he’d ditch the files in time.

It is Sapnap’s fault, and he will leave for the both of them.

He makes it out of the walls and ducks out of the sight of cameras. There are cars and long trucks that pull onto the grounds, and he manages to rush past the eyes of others.

George would ask him sometimes, “What do you think freedom will feel like? The sight of liberty beyond the walls?”

Sapnap watches the sunrise alone and spits onto the dirt.

He doesn’t feel free, he wants to say. Nor does he feel escape.

“It hurts,” he sobs between gritted teeth and it does.

Chapter Text

Tommy stirs at night, and his eyes blink open to see darkness.

He is Sixteen again once his eyes lock onto the figure sitting by his door and with no hesitation, he throws the knife from under his cushion, at it. He does not take a second to react, shoving his bedcovers out of the way and throwing himself towards the intruder. He growls when they catch the knife mid-air, and Tommy shoves him, for the man to stumble on the ground.

He ignores the man’s incoherent words, and he swipes the knife from the ground, ready to stab him somewhere that will make him incapable to fight back. But the figure gives up talking, using their strength to throw Tommy off him, and swipe the knife out of his grip.

Tommy rolls onto the wooden floor and hollers for Dream before the intruder can attack. The man attempts to hold his palm over his mouth, but Tommy bites him and kicks his arms away.

Dream is in the room in a matter of seconds, the door slamming against the room, a gun pressed in his hands.

“Stop!” The man shouts. “Don’t shoot!”

Tommy stops panting and struggling against the tight hold. He recognizes the voice.

Dream drops the gun. He pants, “Sapnap?”

He flickers the light on.

Sapnap drops the arms that have secured Tommy into place and pushes away from where he has pinned Tommy down. He stands in the middle of the room with his academy uniform on.

“Hey,” he greets in Greek. “Fancy meeting you guys here.”

Tommy’s chest rises and falls, and the adrenaline dims as he focuses on the new presence. Sapnap.

Dream still glowers at Sapnap, as if he’s a ghost. All that is heard is their heavy breathing and tough realization.

Then Dream roars. “What the fuck were you thinking? We have a door!”

Sapnap grins and tips his head back, shaking his black, sweaty hair out of his face. “The window looked more appealing.”

“You broke into his room?!” Dream shouts incredulously. “You could have told him it was you!”

Sapnap blinks. “I did, the kid wasn’t listening.”

“I thought there was an intruder in the room!” Tommy shouts.

“I’m the victim here,” Sapnap grumbles loudly. “Theseus threw a knife at me; I almost lost my left eye.”

Dream scoffs and Tommy leaps over to Sapnap. Sapnap thinks he will fight again, but when Tommy’s arms wrap around him, instead of throwing a quick punch, Sapnap relaxes.

“Good to see you, kid,” Sapnap pulls him closer and notices his new colored hair. “Your poor hair.”

“Dream made me,” Tommy grumbles and as he moves to let go, Sapnap won’t. He pulls his hands through his blond curls, and Tommy lets him. “Do you like my piercing?”

“Yeah, it’s sick.”

Tommy grins and Dream exhales loudly beside them. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighbors woke up. You could have at least come at a more sensible time – not three in the morning.”

Sapnap stands up and smiles at Dream. “I know you want a hug.”

Dream does not say anything and Sapnap stands to walk to him. They stare each other down, and then, Sapnap reaches his hand out, pulling him into a hug.

Tommy sees Dream smiling faintly, concealing it quickly when Sapnap lets go to look at his face.

“How was the journey?” Dream raises both eyebrows

“Not bad,” Sapnap hesitates, and Tommy wonders why because he expects their reunion to be loud and laughs. “I–”

“Wait,” Dream stiffens. “Where is George?”

Sapnap gulps and Tommy analyses his body language to know that something has happened.

“He’s not here,” Sapnap mutters and rubs his shoes on the floor. “He couldn’t come.”

“Why not?” Dream dares him to speak. “Where is he?”

Sapnap sighs. “It’s a long story.”

They decide to talk in the living room, because of Sapnap’s confession. Dream is on edge and Tommy fears something is wrong.

Sapnap stares around the room. Tommy notices how he eyes the exits and windows, an assassin’s intuition. Dream ends up standing, while Sapnap sits on one of the kitchen stools, and Tommy pulls himself up on the counter.

Sapnap is silent and Dream waits.

“Did you get my message?” Sapnap questions.

Tommy nods his head.

“George and I planned to burn down The Academy. A collective decision, because we realized that escaping and taking it down later was never going to be enough. We couldn’t risk the white room and other things. While I’d bring it down – George was going to locate the file room and break-in.”

Dream frowns and crosses his arms over his chest. “This is the reason why you refused to come with us?”

“Partially. I told you before; we all could never leave together. It would not be possible since they’d do everything in our power to bring us back. With this, we could leave successfully. You told us that you had found the files before, and we wanted to finish what you couldn’t.”

“Files?” Tommy furrows his eyebrows. “What files?”

Sapnap clamps his mouth shut. “You never told him?” Dream looks away from Tommy as he nods his head, and Sapnap explains for him.

“We all have files, Theseus. It states the information they took from us, the names of our family, and our past lives. Last time Dream went in, he could only find yours.”

Tommy is too shocked to correct his name.

“Tommy,” Dream corrects for him. “He goes by Tommy now.”

“Tommy,” Sapnap tests the name out and nods his head.

“Why the fuck did you not tell me?” Tommy questions Dream. “How long have you even known?”

“I was going to tell you, eventually.”

Tommy scoffs, tempted to flip him off and leave the room. Dream is all about making him open up but won’t apply the same for himself.

Sapnap continues before they will start something he doesn’t have time for. “We completed the plan a few nights ago. I’d pour the gasoline and light the place on fire. George would find the files and make it out in time for us to get out and run.”

Dream connects the dots. “Sapnap,” he hisses, and his hands make fists. “Sapnap.”

Tommy sits speechless. He cannot do anything when Dream charges at Sapnap and grips his shirt. He cannot do anything when they shout at each other, and Sapnap pushes him off. He stares away as chaos ensues and Dream crumbles and Sapnap chokes on sobs.

Dream still grips onto his shirt, tightly, while Sapnap exhales. “I waited for him, to come out. He didn’t.”

“How long?” Dream shakes him tightly, his voice louder. “How long, Sapnap?!”

“I think an hour,” Sapnap chokes. “By the time I left, the fires were all that was left.”

Dream collapses.

(Agents would say, Dream would stand strong until the end of time. However, not many people knew that George is his breaking point.)

“George is dead,” Dream’s eyes gloss over and this may be the first time they will mourn over the death of a classmate.

(Dream, at sixteen, stands with the ten other students. They are all that is left as twenty have died before him. But he does not feel or mourn. He only stares forward as his name is called.

Sapnap watches as the boy in front of him dies. He forces his hands to stop shaking and looks away. He is the first one dead, and nineteen will die after him.

Theseus kills a classmate and feels nothing. He sees blood and he must step back, for them to take the unalive student away. Soon is their final year as students of The Academy – before Graduation and only the strongest will stand near him.)

Sapnap stands quietly. “He could still be…. he could still be alive. George could have made it out.”

Dream closes his eyes and Sapnap collapses on the floor by him. “I don’t want to hope.”

“Neither do I,” Tommy stares at his hands as Sapnap says, with tears. “But I have to. For George.”

Dream cries. Tears rest on Tommy’s palms, and he does not want to admit that they are his. He hopes Sapnap’s story is false – although the older boy would never lie of instances like these. He then hopes that George had made it out later, but if Dream is on the floor crying, and Sapnap joins him – he knows that he only holds false expectancy.

“Tommy,” Dream mutters, knowing his mind is spiraling. “Get here, kid.”

He joins his brothers, on the floor. He leans on Dream’s side and lets Sapnap move beside him. For the first time in their lives, they sleep between each other’s company, George’s presence lingering in their minds.

 

 

 

 

 

George feels flame.

One day, he tells Theseus that he has no will to live. That he does not care about death and will accept it when it does.

George realizes then that he wants to see Dream one last time. He wants to see Sapnap and shout at him for his terrible plan. He wants to tell Theseus that he was wrong all those years ago.

George just wants to live.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy wakes up in his bed and when he sees Sapnap, he falls off.

The memories rush into him, as his head knocks onto the bedside table. He swears and stands.

“Sapnap didn’t want to sleep on the couch,” Tommy’s eyes raise to Dream, who sits on the floor, and he stumbles in shock again. He’s out of it, his mind is foggy and unclear. “You, okay?”

“Yeah,” Tommy mumbles and rubs his eyes. “It wasn’t a dream, was it?”

“No,” Dream sounds resigned. “We’ll figure something out.”

“George is strong,” Tommy bargains. “He would have made it out, he’s quick enough.”

Dream sighs.

“What does Sapnap think?” Tommy digs his nails into his skin.

“Sapnap doesn’t know what he thinks, he’s tired,” Dream stands. “Bear with him, he’s not going to be himself, so we’ll give him a bit of space.”

Tommy nods his head and looks away. “Can I go back to sleep?” He asks for permission.

Dream nods his head. “You don’t have to ask,”

Tommy goes back to bed, and Dream leaves the room. He lays, staring at the ceiling before his eyes flicker to Sapnap. Tommy notices the youngness on his face, how he is twenty but does not look a day over eighteen. When his eyes look away, he wonders why this must be so hard. He’s tired of feeling so tired – and seeing his siblings feel the same.

George is always there. His presence is always lurking and watching. Tommy hadn’t realized it for a long time, but George cares a lot. He hides it behind his stoic faces, but gaining his loyalty is the most trust he could give to a person.

Tommy is reminded of George’s soft and reassuring words, the way he would give Tommy his puddings and sneak him food between classes, and how he was always there.

And how now, he isn’t.

Tommy sleeps.

 

 

 

 

 

They were all deprogrammed to forget how to feel.

Yet now, Dream’s heart soars, and his heart hurts and he realizes that this is what it is. To feel, to love, to mourn.

Sapnap sits by him and stares into wonder. He figures it out too because at twenty and twenty-two, they feel hurt for the most time. Not the physical, where their skin tears and bleeds and their legs pain from the constant training and movement. Their heart burns now, cast on fire by a single match.

Even though Dream is twenty-two and mourns for the first time, he wishes he doesn’t. He cannot contain the overwhelming pain and wants it driven out of him.

They can ignore the physical bruises and burns. Dream has learned control and uses it to his advantage. But he cannot control the emotion that spreads like a wildfire and continues to grow. It wraps around his thoughts and heart, and tugs.

They mourn now because they do not have a chance to later.

Not when their kid brother is hurting and going through shit himself. Not when they have the burden of the Red Banquet to attend to, and The Academy to take down. Tommy is first, Dream puts himself second. Tommy can’t see him cry – or be weak, because Tommy needs someone strong to be there for him.

Dream’s always cared for the kid. Always looked out for him, and desperately ignored it when Sapnap pointed it out or when George smirked. Tommy cannot have the same fate as George, neither can Sapnap.

Dream had made a promise to himself. That he will put himself in front and risk his life for his family. But since George is dead now, Dream will put more effort in. He will try until he cannot.

“Dream,” Sapnap mutters and pushes his black hair behind his face. He looks less like an agent for the first time in his life. He wears Dream’s clothes, grey sweatpants, and a black shirt. He keeps his white bandana on because he refuses to take it off. “I’m sorry.”

Dream’s eyes flicker over.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything,” Sapnap’s eyes water again and he mutters helplessly. “The plan wasn’t safe enough; it shouldn’t have happened.”

Dream is quiet for a very long time.

“Don’t apologize.”

Sapnap glances at him.

“It’s not your fault.”

(“This is your fault, Eleven,” They spit in Sapnap’s face with distaste. “You’re out of control, you fight with your heart and not with your head. And because of you – now we all have to bear the consequences. How have you made it this far?”

Sapnap is a ball of fire. They attempt to train him, to force him into the assassin they want him to be. Sapnap remains the same and faces the consequences.

So, they shout at him, they discipline him more. They blame and shout at him because it is his fault, that he’s so reckless and careless. That wildness is his nature, and this is who he is.)

Dream finds it on Sapnap’s face. That he blames himself because he believes he was out for revenge and the fire inside of him was uncontrollable.

“It’s not your fault, Sapnap,” Dream repeats and Sapnap will listen.

 

 

 

 

 

Before Tommy wakes up they wipe their eyes and shove each other playfully.

“Is he alright?”

“He’s gone through a lot,” He has secrets as they do. “He’ll tell you in his own time.”

They promise that even if they hurt, and so will Tommy – they will help him to hurt a little less.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy wakes up alone.

He almost pulls on his uniform to begin the day. Tommy had done that when they left, for weeks straight. He would get out of bed, stretch, and pull on his black uniform until he remembered he was not at The Academy anymore. Today is the first day in months, he thinks to do it.

He stumbles out of bed once again, scratching his arms. He notices how they’re red, and scabs litter his skin. He finds himself digging his fingers into his skin, which he used to do all the time back then in his sleep.

Tommy doesn’t know why he’s resorting to his old habits. Everything is getting to him, and he can’t let it. He must stay strong, and he can’t worry Dream or have Sapnap hold more guilt than he does.

They are speaking in the kitchen when Tommy enters. They stop when they notice him.

“You were asleep for the whole day, Theseus,” Sapnap snorts, before correcting himself. “Tommy.”

“He sleeps in a lot more,” Dream mumbles to Sapnap before watching his younger brother. “We were about to have lunch.”

“Okay,” Tommy groans and rubs his eyes.

This is the first time they will eat lunch after The Academy. However, George will not be with them.

Tommy expects it to be tense and awkward. But Dream grabs the plates and spoons, while Sapnap takes the put of pasta and bread, and they talk happily. It doesn’t seem as if anything’s happened – as if last night had not happened, and Sapnap had not admitted to George’s death.

Tommy takes a seat carefully on their small table, Dream on his left and Sapnap on his right. The chair in front of him is empty but everyone ignores it. Usually, Tommy will serve for himself but when he doesn’t, Dream does for him.

“I called Niki,” he says once they start eating. “She knows you’ll be missing shifts this week.”

“Shifts?” Sapnap leans back lazily in his seat. “Where do you work, Tommy?”

“A bakery,” he mutters and stares at his food.

“Really?” Sapnap seems shocked. “Bring me free food next time.”

“I don’t think there will be a next time,” Dream sighs like he doesn’t want to have this conversation now. “The Red Banquet will happen at the end of the week. If it goes accordingly, we’ll move to Paradise to be safe.” Tommy assumes they’ve filled each other in with the Quackity situation for the time he has been asleep.

“How do you know Quackity?” Tommy then asks. “He mentions you, sometimes.”

Sapnap barks out a laugh. “We had a thing.”

“A thing?”

“I can’t go into detail.” Sapnap shrugs his shoulders.

“They dated,” Dream interrupts will an eye-roll and Tommy almost drops his fork.

“What the actual fuck?” He speaks. “You’re lying.”

“Dream,” Sapnap complains. He laughs lightly, and Tommy stares at his red-rimmed eyes and tired smile. He thinks they’re keeping their hurt from him; he knows that this is the case. They cannot be okay with this predicament – they can’t act like something hasn’t happened when something has.

“What’s on your hands, Tommy?” Dream inches closer and Tommy stills. Dream grips his hands and pulls them towards him. “What happened?”

Sapnap peers over and Tommy’s cheeks heat from being worried over. He’s had larger bruises and burns. He’s had tubes stuck to him and rub through his body. Yet, Dream will ignore the past and continue to care.

“It happens sometimes,” Tommy tries to shove his arm away. “I don’t realize it.”

Dream sighs and stands up, the chair dragging behind him as he looks for the bandages.

“He worries a lot,” Sapnap smirks. “You know, Tommy, I thought when I did see you again – I assumed you were going to be the same kid that left. I’m glad you aren’t.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He squints his eyes.

“It’s not to say anything bad – I mean that I thought you were going to refuse to adapt and change. I’m glad you had Dream with you, to be able to. ‘Cause, you may think he’s being overbearing and worrying too much, but if any other kid had scars and blistering arms – their parents would get concerned.”

“I guess we can’t relate, with the parents part.”

“I guess we can’t,” Sapnap agrees, chuckling. He nudges the boy. “But you have Dream. And me, now.” He would say George’s name afterward if he was here. Tommy feels cold again.

Dream returns and Sapnap stands to put his plate in the sink. He takes out the bandages and passes them to Tommy for him to put on himself. Tommy rolls his eyes but reflects on Sapnap’s words and complies.

“You know there’s no point doing this,” He then grumbles. “I do this absentmindedly; I can’t help it.”

“Tommy!” Tommy’s eyes turn a fraction and a knife flies his way. His arm raises and he catches it, not a single moment's hesitation.

“Sapnap!” Dream shouts, and steam will soon escape his ears from how red his face is. “What the fuck?!”

“He deserves it,” Sapnap reasons. “For last night.”

“You don’t throw a knife at him!” Dream exclaims.

“He can catch one with his eyes closed,” Sapnap rolls his eyes. “Stop being so pressed.” They shout at each other, and Tommy sits back down to eat his untouched pasta.

“You don’t throw a knife at him! He was distracted.”

“I was testing him, making sure he kept his training up.”

“And?!”

“I can throw more knives; Tommy won’t give a single fuck.” Tommy hums loudly to agree.

Dream collapses on the seat next to him, and grumbles. “Put the plates in the dishwasher, you fuck.”

Sapnap barks out a laugh.

Tommy sees George seated in front of him. George listens to their banter and smiles.

Tommy blinks, and he’s gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Number Sixteen. Theseus.

Phil stares into his eyes. Blue, as the color of his sky during his birth. The clouds had disappeared, and the world had welcomed him through another bright day.

Blue eyes, alike to the color of his own.

He can’t look away. He sees the kid staring at the camera blankly, the emotion and life driven out of him. He has a long scar across his forehead, and the same brown curls he remembers so well.

Suddenly, Phil is very angry. This is his son, once a boy, and now an assassin. He seems as if he hasn’t smiled in years, and he knows he hasn’t experienced the love and warmth that he should have.

The anger that surges within him, is painful. Phil can’t help but feel like a failure, for allowing his son to end up this way.

Phil will not make the same mistake twice.

He will bring Theseus home.

 

 

 

 

 

As Tommy throws knives at the wall, he asks Dream, “Why did you never tell me about the files?”

Dream stands beside him, to correct his form. However, he’s on his phone and only looks up when he asks.

“I didn’t think the information in there would have done anything.”

“It would have been good to know,” Tommy grumbles. “Can you tell me now?”

Dream halts. “It had your parents’ names if I recall correctly. Your abilities and backgrounds. A couple of notes as well, taken over the years. Do you want to know what it said?”

Tommy drops his arms to his side. “Maybe not, then.”

“Why?” Dream questions, curiously.

“I don’t want to know now. Maybe later, though.” He’ll ask Dream when he builds the courage to do so. “Can you tell me, when I want you to?”

“Okay, I can do that,” And they come to an agreement.

Sapnap rushes into the room, Dream’s black jacket on. “Are we leaving?”

“Someone’s in a hurry,” Tommy smirks and leaves to his room, to change into more protective wear. They are going to Quackity’s, and he prefers to arrive prepared, in case he can hit the gym or practice with Antfrost.

He returns to shouting again.

“That’s my jacket, Sapnap.”

“You said I could take any of your clothes!”

“Not that one! You know what? Fine. But after, you’re going to buy shit for yourself.”

“Deal, I’ll waste all your money.” Tommy straps a knife to his leg and rolls down his pant sleeve to hide it. “Are we leaving, then?”

“You just want to see Big Q so bad,” Tommy teases. “Love really changes you.”

“You’re a gremlin,”

“We’ll go,” Dream checks his watch, and they decide to go. Tommy walks in front of the two older boys, Sapnap taking his first long scope around the hallways and Dream explains the rooms to him.

“An older married couple lives in this one. If we’re worried about anyone, then it’s the teenage couple down the hall who doesn’t shut up all night.” Tommy snickers at that one. “But you get the idea.”

“Did you do a background check on everyone, before you chose this complex?” Tommy hadn’t even come to Sapnap’s realization until he mentions it.

Dream smirks. “You know me well.”

They leave the complex, and just as they are about to approach Dream’s car, a black vehicle catches Tommy’s attention. He stops dead in his tracks, and Sapnap bumps into him from behind.

“Kid?”

Tommy narrows his eyes at the car. He remembers it from the café, from the other day. He catches it around sometime. The number plate is the same too.

“Wait, I’ll be back,” he mutters. “Wait for me in the car.”

“What do you mean 'wait for you'–” Tommy ignores him and crosses the road. He swipes the knife from his leg and cracks his head to the side, prepared for the inevitable. When he arrives by the car, he knocks on the window of the driver’s seat. He notices through the windows, that a man lays back on a seat, asleep.

Tommy knocks again, only harder. He finally gets the man to open his eyes, however, he scowls and rolls down his window.

“What do you want, kid?” He doesn’t say the term like Sapnap and Dream, and instead, in distaste.

Tommy flickers out a knife and presses it to his neck. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t stab you through the fucking neck.”

The man’s face turns red, and Tommy wonders if he’s stopped breathing. He moves the knife back, so he can breathe a little better, but his gaze only turns sharper. “Well?”

“I haven’t done anything,” the man grits out.

Tommy presses a hand against the roof of his car so he can squat a little lower and remain in eye contact with the balding man. “I notice you’ve been fucking following me. I’ve remembered your license plate, so don’t start that bullshit with me.”

Tommy is ready to inch the knife closer because the man’s eyes flash and he knows something, but a shadow looms above him, and his knife is snatched from his grip.

Tommy turns around and glares. “Dream.”

“Tommy,” Dream states politely. “I don’t think you should be threatening random civilians.”

“He’s been following us,” Tommy deadpans. “I saw him at the café, and I’ve seen his car before.”

Dream exhales, and the boy hears him murmur something under his breath along the lines of, ‘I can’t deal with this, today.’

“I know that,” Dream resigns. “He’s your bodyguard.”

“What?!” Tommy shouts.

“Quackity hired him for me,” Dream pats the top of his car. “Jim – you’re not doing that well of a job, are you, man?”

Jim still seems pale.

“And I told Quackity to hire someone competent,” Dream rubs his forehead. “Look, I didn’t want to explain it to you like this – but it was a precaution to be safe.”

“You don’t fucking think I can hold up against my own.”

“I know you can,” Dream reassures. “It was to be safe. Jim, you’re not needed right now. I’ll call Quackity, to find your replacement.”

Jim is startled. “But I–”

Dream says with a blaze, which reminds Tommy of Sapnap, “Quackity didn’t hire you to sleep on the job.”

They return to the car, Tommy frowning and Sapnap glancing between them curiously. “What happened?” he asks, to be kept in the loop.

“Dream’s a protective arsehole,” Tommy isn’t too happy with having to move to the backseat, since Sapnap is older and takes a higher priority, but will take it without fuss this once so he won’t have to have Dream’s eyes lurking on him. “He hired me a fucking bodyguard! Why would I need a bodyguard?”

“You never passed any of his classes,” Sapnap resolves, and Dream who is present through the whole conversation, rolls his eyes. “Maybe he thinks you’re not good enough.”

Tommy gulps. He knows Sapnap is joking, but it cuts deeper than that.

“I think Tommy’s good enough,” Dream interrupts quickly because he knows more than anyone else how the words hurt more than a knife to his skin. “I needed someone to look out - Jim did a shit job, though, not reporting when Curtis – an unregistered person to the apartment – entered.” Tommy realizes they still have a lot more to tell Sapnap. Dream still has more to tell Tommy as well, if the bodyguard thing was another secret he was willing to keep away.

“Curtis is a good kid,” And they start their drive to Las Nevadas.

Is?” Does he not mean ‘was’?

“The Academy would have reported him dead, but they haven’t.”

Sapnap,” Dream seethes. “You’re telling us now?”

“I forgot! And it’s fine – they don’t know your location, yet. If they found you and wanted you two so badly, they wouldn’t have only bought Curtis. He’s a Graduate, but they could have at least brought someone more experienced. And considering it’s you and Tommy – more than one.”

“So do they want us or not?” Tommy gulps. “Curtis said that they wanted Dream alive. And me, not so much.”

“I couldn’t tell you. The first couple of weeks you two were gone, they kept an extra eye on George and me; we didn’t go on missions of a solid month. Then they ended up realizing that no one as reliable as us could complete the missions, so they had to,” Sapnap thinks. “I don’t know their reasoning for not wanting you alive, Tommy. You were always going to be our fourth – you’re as valuable as we are to them.”

Tommy stares out the window.

“They’re training the younger students more. They found three really good students – a potential collection to their elite students. One of them was your protégé, Dream. That one kid who everyone thought was like you.” Tommy remembers seeing the younger kid for the first time, the same vibrant green eyes, and similar facial structures. It was eerily similar – they could have been brothers.

“Quackity’s accommodation will keep us safe,” Dream reassures. “It’s heavily guarded and his agents live on the same grounds, so we won’t have to worry,” His eyes meet Tommy’s through the mirror. Tommy desperately turns to look away.

“They won’t get to you,” Sapnap grins menacingly. “They’ll have to get through us first.”

And the bodyguard Dream hired,” Tommy grumbles.

Sapnap laughs as Dream throws his hands in the air dismissively. “You know why I did that, Tommy.”

“No, I fucking do not,” Tommy’s been at The Academy for years, he was raised by his Instructors and Teachers and it didn’t take very long to learn how to kill. He can hold up against his own.

“We’ll talk about this later,” They approach Paradise. “Quackity has to go through final preparations of the Red Banquet with us. And, Sapnap will finally have his reunion with him and Karl,”

Sapnap grips onto his seatbelt with widened eyes. “Karl’s here too?”

“Is this a love triangle or something?”

“Shut up, Tommy,” Sapnap freaks out. “Karl can’t be here – fuck.”

Dream smirks and the large sign comes into view. Paradise, with large white letters, is a welcoming area that may not be as welcoming as they come inside. “A final reunion, I guess.”

Sapnap punches him in the shoulder and Dream swerves the car and shouts at him.

“What’s their story?” George’s whispers ring through Tommy’s ear. Because everyone has a story, including Sapnap, Big Q, and Karl. “What will your story be, Tommy? How will it end?”

Tommy thinks of The Academy wanting him dead, and the Red Banquet, and George’s fate, and his fate of being their failed fourth.

If George was still here, Tommy would say he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know how his story end will nor does he how many pages he has left.

And maybe if George was here, he could give him the answers he desperately desires.

Chapter Text

Sapnap’s hair grows longer. Every month, there is a period of the day when all students have their haircut. But Sapnap’s hair grows faster than everyone else’s and falls in front of his eyes when he spars.

George and Dream teach their next lesson. They are his teachers for this class, but they are also his friends.

Sapnap hasn’t had friends before, until them. Others are deterred by his loudness and intensity. For once, he has someone to joke with, and another to tease.

They line up. They will enter their final exam next month. Twelve students stand with them, and they all know some of them will disappear soon. There has never been a year where twelve students have graduated – the most are ten.

Dream calls out numbers. Usually, they stick with the number after or before them on the class roll. But Dream changes them up and Sapnap quirks an eye.

Eight and Seventeen spar. Dream shouts occasionally when one lacks, or the other’s kicks and punches aren’t as powerful as they can be. George only watches carefully. The class may fear Dream’s shouts and corrections, but a silent George can be even scarier.

Eight manages to kick Seventeen in the face and flip him while he regains from shock. Seventeen stands up with a bloody nose and a bruising face. They then stand back in line.

“Eleven and Twenty,” And Sapnap stands forward, eyeing the shorter boy who he has not sparred recently. They face each other, and Dream shouts at them to begin.

Sapnap has always been the best fighter in his class. He is punished because he does not use his mind when he fights, he doesn’t think situations through and analyzes situations. Fighting is the blood under his skin, and he fights with passion and his heart. He does not need to use his mind, when his legs and arms have a sense of their own and will punch Twenty in the shoulder, twisting his arm around to then floor him.

Twenty struggles under his hold. Sapnap grins to himself until his hair that he has secured in a tight ponytail falls in front of his eyes and he goes blind for moments.

Those moments, they are advised to use advantageously. Twenty uses the loosened hold to pull out of the hold and punch Sapnap in the face. He stumbles back and Twenty squares him in the side and raises his knee to reach his face.

Sapnap pulls the hair out of his face and reacts before Twenty can. He grips onto his knee before it collides with his cheek and twists it for Twenty to let out a yelp. He then shoves Twenty backward and pins him down, when he falls to the ground.

Dream shouts for them to stand. Sapnap does, and Twenty struggles after him. Twenty glares at him, but he doesn’t expect anything else because his class does not like him.

They return to line and their class is over quickly after. Sapnap is left to pack up the mats, while the rest of the students will begin on their recreation period.

“Do you want to go over the exam later?” George comes up to him and asks. “It’s only a month away.”

“Sure thing, Gogs,” Sapnap pulls his hair back and hopes they will have a haircut beforehand.

Dream pats his shoulder before he leaves. “You did well.” George assists Sapnap to finish rolling the mats and pulling them into the storage room.

“You know,” George then says. “I have something that can help you.”

“With what?” Sapnap glances upwards and George has something in his hand.

Sapnap picks it up. “Since your hair won’t stop growing… I was planning to give it to you before you left for the exam, but I guess I’ll give it to you now.”

Sapnap holds it and his eyes widen a fraction. George has gotten him a white headband. He has never gotten a gift before. He likes it a lot.

“You're speechless, for the first time in your life I assume.”

Sapnap punches George’s shoulder. “Thanks, Gogy,” he says and pulls it on. “I won’t ever take it off.”

“Uh, you most definitely should,” George frowns. “It’s unhygienic.”

Sapnap laughs.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy watches Sapnap’s reaction as he comes face-to-face with Karl. How his face morphs into twenty different emotions at once, and he is left with clear disbelief and shock. Sapnap is rarely speechless, and this is one of those instances.

Dream rolls his eyes and tugs Tommy’s hand. “Let’s let them have their reunion,” he whispers in his ear and Tommy nods his head.

As they leave, they hear Karl whisper, “Sapnap.”

“Karl,” Sapnap chokes, but they turn the hallway and leave the two behind.

“I’m confused,” Tommy looks up at Dream. “Did Sapnap date Karl or Quackity?”

“Both of them,” Dream responds, staring straight forward.

“Oh,” Tommy exhales in understanding. “Is he still in love, or...?”

Dream raises an eyebrow. “Why are you so interested?”

Tommy smirks. “Interesting, innit? Besides, I’ve always wanted to be an uncle.”

“You’ve never said a thing about wanting to be an uncle.” Dream corrects him and Tommy puffs his cheeks out.

“Answer my questions, Dream, you loser.”

Dream shoves his head lightly. “He’s in love.”

“With who?”

“Both of them.”

Tommy raises his eyebrows. They reach the meeting room Quackity announced them to meet him at. As he is not there, they stroll in and take a seat on the spinning chairs. While Dream takes out his phone, Tommy spins his chair and continues his questions.

“Who did he date first?” he asks.

Dream snorts to himself. “Both of them.”

Tommy takes a while to process his words. When he does, he stops spinning the chair and gasps. “You’re fucking kidding me.”

“I’m not.” Dream finds Tommy’s reaction humorous.

“Sapnap’s a homewrecker!”

Dream bursts out in a set of wheezes. Tommy does too. “He’s not a homewrecker, they both knew. It was a – three-person relationship.”

“Ohh,” Because that makes more sense. “How the fuck do you know, anyway?”

“Sapnap told me when you were asleep.”

“That bitch!” Tommy leans back in his seat. “Why didn’t he tell me? I’m more trustworthy with information – and I can keep secrets longer.”

“Really?” Dream hums and places his phone down on the table to lean forward. “And what are these secrets, you’re keeping?”

Tommy opens his mouth and then stops. “Nice try, Dream.”

Quackity, Slime, and Antfrost head into the room before they can conclude their conversation. What catches their attention, is that Quackity isn’t smiling, and they seem tense. A man with a black uniform and golden chains follows them to their door, and Tommy remembers his name to be Punz. He’s one of Quackity’s guards, and Tommy notices him talking with Antfrost from time to time.

“Big Q?” Tommy greets, but it ends up as a question to understand why Quackity is frowning.

“We have a big problem,” He says, and Tommy pushes his chair near the table, and Dream sits forward. “This isn’t good.”

“What is it?” Dream requires as Quackity sits at the head of the table. Punz stands behind him, and Slimecicle and Antfrost seat in front of them. Antfrost takes out his computer and connects it to the projector that reflects on the large white screen behind Big Q.

Karl and Sapnap stroll into the room then, with not the best timing. If Tommy wasn’t so stressed and Big Q’s next words, he would tease Sapnap for the goofy smile plastered on his face and expression settled in his features.

“Sapnap?” Quackity stands up in disbelief and the urgent news is forgotten monetarily. “You’re here.”

“Quackity,” Sapnap looks like his heart has stopped beating. The students in his class would often whisper to each other, figuring out Sapnap’s drawbacks and how he’d be ever taken out in a fight. Sapnap will be expected to survive. If only Tommy could tell them that the sight of Sapnap’s boyfriends is enough to stop his beating heart.

Quackity walks to them and does not hesitate to wrap his arms around him. Sapnap’s taller than Quackity, shorter than Karl, but their embrace still seems comfortable.

“You’re staying?” And Tommy knows there is more behind his words. “You’re not leaving this time?”

“I’m not,” Sapnap promises. “I’m staying.”

“We’ll catch up,” Quackity doesn’t blink, as if he’s afraid this is all a dream. Tommy can attest that it’s felt like one. “Don’t think you’re off the hook.”

Sapnap rubs the back of his head. “I didn’t think I was.”

“As much as I’d want to interrupt this,” Antfrost calls. “We have a slightly large problem, and we can’t start until you guys finish.”

Quackity nods his head, and Tommy watches as he changes like a light switch, and returns to a more professional, stricter side. “Has Dream filled you up to date?”

Alike to Quackity, Sapnap's face morphs into strictness. Although that’s because the teachings have been drilled into him and he had to be able to change to a calmer and orderly side, to survive so long. Sapnap sits next to Tommy, and Quackity sits at his front seat.

Tommy watches as Karl sits down. He would assume the man would sit on the other side of the table, where they have made a silent agreement to split off with their respective groups, but he sits next to Sapnap instead with a smile. Antfrost raises both eyebrows but finally continues typing.

“Before I present the information,” Antfrost sighs and leans back in his seat, stretching his arms to rest the back of his head. “Dream, I may need you to confirm that you won’t get angry.”

“Angry?” Dream scoffs.

“This is regarding Tommy,” Tommy sits up straighter and stares at Antfrost. Sapnap who whispers with Karl, stops to lean forward in intrigue. “And knowing you, you’re going to set off a reaction.”

“It’s true,” Slime agrees. “You’re very caring of him.”

Tommy’s cheeks heat and Sapnap stifles a laugh.

“Just tell us,” Dream rumbles. “I might get angry if you put this off any longer.”

Antfrost takes one of the cables and pulls it into the computer. The white screen behind Quackity flashes, and he pushes his chair to the side to watch the screen. Punz walks to the other side of the wall.

Tommy’s face flickers on the wall. Tommy tenses.

He’s not Tommy in the picture, though. He is Sixteen. He is Theseus.

“The Academy sent out his picture to agencies.” Tommy gulps and cannot look at the picture any longer. His skin is purple from bruising and he has brown hair. His eyes are what push him to glance away. They're cold blue and made up of nothingness. “They want him – they sent out a reward for anyone who can bring him to a location stated.”

The room does not speak. Antfrost stares at the photo, his eyes flickering to Tommy slowly.

Tommy’s fingers grip the wooden table and he stares at the wooden table in nothing but shock.

Dream growls from beside him. “Antfrost–”

Antfrost does not allow him to interrupt. “I know you’re going to shout at me, and I’ll say it now before you ask me. No, this isn’t a joke. No, I am not making this up. The email was sent through to us, untraceable.”

Tommy sweats and his hands feel clammy. He’s going to hyperventilate.

“How much?” he dares to ask. “How much is the reward?”

“A hundred thousand dollars.” Dream swears very loudly and Sapnap is about to jump out of his seat, but Karl restrains him. “They said they’re willing to increase the price, though.”

Tommy’s going to hyperventilate, very soon. But his shoes are cemented to the floor, and he needs to stay to hear more.

“We’ll kill them,” Sapnap cracks his knuckles. “We’re going to the location, and we’ll kill every single person there.”

“Okay,” Dream agrees and if Tommy was conscious enough, he would realize how ruthless his older brothers are. Dream, who promised to stop killing, does not hesitate to mention death now.

“The location will be guarded, and you’ll be outnumbered,” Slime reminds them. “Why do they want Tommy? It seems as if you two know.”

Tommy’s ears ring. He forces himself to listen.

“We know they want him,” Dream says reluctantly. “They want him dead, for whatever reason.”

“They want me dead because I failed,” And Dream finally notices that Tommy’s not doing to best. He is at his side in an instant, forcing the younger boy to listen through his pounding heartbeats.

“Breathe,” Dream must remind him. “Copy my breaths.”

Tommy does. He feels like he’s dying.

“Again, again, Tommy,” Dream repeats and grips his hand. The room dims, and it’s just them again. Tommy in his seat and Dream kneeling next to him, his eyes boring into the younger’s. “You’re doing well, keep going.”

Tommy follows. “I’m going to be sick.”

“I’ll call medical,” Quackity says with softness.

“No,” Tommy gulps. “I need to listen.” He will stop being so weak and uncontrolled and stay. Dream seems unsure, so does Quackity. But Tommy refuses to leave.

Sapnap scoots his chair closer to him. “You okay, kid?” he asks as Antfrost types on his computer again, and Slime talks lowly to Punz. Sapnap speaks in Greek, so no one else understands but them three. “Tell me – what did you mean you ‘failed’?”

“I failed,” Tommy whispers in Greek.

“What do you mean?”

Tommy glances at Dream and nods his head, for him to explain.

He does. “The Academy had expectations for Tommy to be their fourth until they realized he wasn’t 'enough.’ When they did, they did it themselves – to make him in our fourth.”

“What?” Sapnap whispers, and they swap to Arabic. “How did you – what did they do?”

“They tested on him,” Dream says as painful as it for him to admit it. Tommy’s breaths fasten again and before they escalate, Dream wraps his arm around the younger’s shoulder and forces his head into his shoulder. Tommy calms down. “They forced him into their fucking experiments because they wanted him to be of higher standards.”

“Tommy,” Sapnap seethes, and he knows the anger is not directed at him. “What did they do exactly?”

Tommy’s throat closes and he can’t respond to Sapnap.

“They,” Dream chokes. “They wired him and injected him. Tommy told me before – they’d given him our blood and-”

Sapnap stands up and leaves the room. Everyone else, including Punz, stares at Dream and Tommy, with a wonder of their exact conversation. They don’t understand Greek or Arabic, so they cannot identify the contents of the situation.

“He’ll be back,” Dream leans back, and Tommy sits back in his chair again. His heart has settled down and he won’t be surprised if he has heart problems after this whole ordeal. “I hope.”

“I’ll go get him,” Karl stands and turns towards the door.

“Karl,” Quackity sighs. “We’ll give him a bit of space for now. We have more to discuss, and we will have to inform him later.”

“There’s more?” Dream rages.

“Tommy was going to come with us to the Red Banquet,” Big Q starts off by saying. “Although, that isn’t the best idea now, as all people at the meeting will connect that Tommy is Theseus easily.”

“Tommy won’t go,” Dream refuses to no questioning. “It won’t be safe enough.”

For the first time, Tommy agrees with Dream. He craves action and was looking forward to pulling out his knives. But the thought of death unsettles him and leaves a dreadful feeling at the pit of his stomach.

“That’s the thing,” Quackity hesitates. “Tommy’s presence can come in hand when dealing with Phil–”

“No,” Dream denies immediately. “No, that won’t happen.”

“Dream,” Antfrost interrupts. “Quackity has a point. To earn Phil’s trust, then we’ll need an ultimatum. We will be working with his agency for a while, and his numbers will back us up through resistance. For him to agree, we need Tommy with us.”

“That won’t do anything,” Dream denies with a scowl. “Phil doesn’t like us – he wants each student gone and arrested.”

Antfrost glances at Quackity warily, like he's confused of a fact, and Big Q interrupts very quickly. “See, and Tommy with us, will show that we’re willing to do this without him. With him or without, we’ll go ahead. But we’ll both benefit together.”

It makes sense, Tommy understands fast. Something about the room feels unsettling as if everyone is holding their breaths and awaiting something that has not come yet. A tenseness, Tommy doesn’t know how to feel about. He likes Quackity, but he doesn’t trust him fully. And he doesn’t know Karl, Antfrost, and Slime enough to say anything more about them.

Although Sapnap does trust Karl and Quackity. That means something, somewhere.

“The Red Banquet has a different dress code and theme every meeting,” Antfrost suddenly says. “And this year’s themes are masks and animosity.”

Quackity laughs and pulls his legs onto the table. “That’s good for us, isn’t it?”

“It’s mandatory,” And they all stare at Dream who scoffs. They likely assume he will refuse to dress up. “If you’re not wearing appropriate clothing, they kick you out.”

“How prestigious,” Dream mocks. “I guess we’ll be there then.”

They devise a plan shortly after. Sapnap returns with Karl, and he sits down wordlessly, ignoring the glances sent by both Quackity and Dream. It doesn’t take long for him to start talking again although here is a familiar sight of orange behind his green eyes.

They will arrive near the location, thirty minutes after the event has begun. Quackity states to come fashionably late, as any earlier can cause more attention. Tommy assumes they will be sat at tables and food will come around, but Quackity clears their assumptions and explains how food is stretched across long tables and how everyone stands around, talking.

Quackity says that approaching the end of the night, they will lead Phil and his associates to another room, and then they will discuss their plans. Antfrost and other agents will be located outside, for backup. Punz will accompany to and stand outside the door to ensure that no others can hear them.

“I’d recommend not to touch the food,” Quackity explains. “One year they were drugged. Another, poisoned.”

They all nod their heads. Tommy knows he should pay attention, but his mind wanders off every so second, and when he tunes back into their conversation, he does not understand what they are speaking about. He hopes that Dream will explain it to him afterward.

“We’ll all be armed,” Antfrost goes through their procedures and signals. “Everyone present is either business representatives or from agencies themselves.”

“That’s where they make their deals,” Dream says, speaking into the conversation after being silent for a while. He’s thinking and analyzing the plan and ready to pinpoint any present mistakes that he can identify. “I remember when I went – they introduced me to the business partners. Sometimes, they will hire us.”

“Hire?” Karl asks, confusion laced through his tone and interest.

“They’ll hire the Graduates,” Sapnap explains to him. “Some come back, some do not. It depends on how much they are willing to pay.”

“How much?” Quackity tilts his head. “Are they willing?”

“Depends on the assassin,” Sapnap smirks. “A standard one of us will be approximately one hundred thousand. Dreamy-boy over here, their star student – I’d say a million.”

Quackity’s eyes widen and Karl gasps.

Dream sighs and glares at Sapnap. “You didn’t have to tell them that, Sapnap,” he mutters in French.

“I trust Quackity,” Sapnap responds in Greek with a grin. “He won’t do anything.”

“Okay,” Quackity interrupts. “One of us has to pick up a language. Multiple, in fact.”

Sapnap laughs and Tommy’s lips quirk upwards. It isn’t easy to speak or understand a language fluently. It was easier for them, with the repetitive lessons and thought of death looming about their heads.

The meeting is over, not long after. Antfrost says before they exit the room, “Sam has mentioned the banquet. I know Phil, Techno, and Ranboo will be present.”

“Ranboo?” Tommy asks.

“I don’t know why they’d bring a kid,” Quackity grumbles, and his eyes meet Tommy. “Okay, that isn’t what I mean–”

Tommy grins. “I agree Big Q, I’m not a kid.”

Sapnap ruffles his hair and Dream rolls his eyes. Antfrost and Slime leave, then. Tommy tells Antfrost he’ll be training with him later and receives a nod in response.

“Punz,” Quackity glances at the blond-haired man who has stood silently the whole time. “You are dismissed.”

Punz’s eyes flicker to Dream, Sapnap, Tommy, Karl, and then back to Quackity. He leaves.

“I’ll clear a couple of rooms in our accommodation,” Quackity tells Dream. “Many of my agents live there at the moment, but I will be able to clear a floor for you.”

“Thanks, Quackity,” Dream nods his head and is sincere because Quackity does not have to do what he’s doing. But they’re all in danger, and even if they are previous assassins of The Academy, nothing can be safe anymore. Until The Academy is down, the Teachers and Headmaster captured the students free, and George avenged, will they live.

“I think I’ll stay with Quackity this afternoon,” Sapnap gazes at Dream for approval. “If that’s alright.”

Dream smirks. “Sure, Sapnap.”

Dream waves and Sapnap ruffles Tommy’s hair. “We will talk when I get home,” Sapnap murmurs quickly in Greek because it is the language, he is most familiar with. (Tommy assumes it is because of a 6-month-old mission he spent in Greece). “Stay safe.”

They promise and then they leave.

 

 

 

 

 

They spend their afternoon watching the sunset.

It is just as old times. Quackity will remain stoic and tense until he baskets in the warmth of company. Karl will say stories and push Sapnap to stop being so quiet.

And Sapnap will appreciate all. He will appreciate the sight of the sun, and his boyfriends finally with him, and the love and warmth that spreads through him and makes him feel something again. After the numbness and emptiness of fate of George, he can inhale and exhale clearer.

“Can you tell us what happened to Tommy?” Karl asks softly as the orange mixes with the bright yellow skies, a reminder of what the color of the leaves used to be until they had fallen. “Is he okay?”

Sapnap’s eyes flicker open, and his eyes meet the concerned eyes of his other. “I don’t know how to answer that.”

“You left the room,” Quackity notes. “Can you tell us?”

Sapnap won’t. “He might tell you; it isn’t my place.”

Quackity and Karl both respect his wishes. “When you said you had a kid brother, I didn’t expect him.”

They would think Sapnap was a normal person, with normal goals and normal passions. They thought he had been traveling the world when they met him. Quackity had large ambitions, and he’d begun a business which was skyrocketing, Karl with him for the journey. The two met in college and dropped out three days after, on the same day.

(Sapnap is everything they don’t think he is.

Once he leaves, he has to admit the truth. He feels horrible for lying to them, but at the same time, he misses the feeling he had attained being with them – the unusual feeling which was very unlike the sour and low moods he felt usually.

He doesn't know what it is until Quackity tells him over the phone,

“It’s love,” Quackity explains.

“I’m not used to it,” Sapnap replies. “I’ve never felt this way before.”

“Do you not have a family?” Sapnap’s lies unravel.

“I have brothers,” Sapnap confesses. “Two older and a kid one.”

“Then you love them,” Quackity says like it’s simple, but Sapnap has never been so confused before. “The love we have is different, Sapnap. You love them because they are family.”

“I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can be who you think I am or want me to be. I don’t know how to love – and I don’t know what love even is.”

“That’s okay,” Quackity says with kindness. “Come home, Sapnap.”

Sapnap can’t. He has The Academy. They will find him and bring him back. Sapnap has always resigned to his assassin agency, but for once, he wants to break out.)

“We’re all affected by The Academy, and unfortunately, Tommy got the worst of it,” Sapnap says after a silence. He enjoys what he has now. Before it’s too late. “Thank you Quackity.”

Quackity is startled slightly. “Uh – no worries.”

Karl smiles. “Quackity and I will help you when you need it. Don’t forget.”

Sapnap isn’t so used to help and having people present for him. He has always had Dream, George, and Tommy – but Quackity and Karl are different.

He wonders how they will react that Sapnap prepares to die. He knows that taking down The Academy is not easy and may result in death. He will protect the people he loves and save those children. He wonders how they will react, and if they accept it.

He wonders about the length of love and if they will understand why he will do, what he plans to do.

Sapnap wonders if it will be enough for them to stop loving him.

 

 

 

 

 

Phil won’t tell anyone of his discovery.

He knows three things about Theseus, currently.

He knows the boy has run from the academy he has grown up in. A place no young boy should grow up and endure, yet he has.

He also is informed that Theseus is in California. He knows Theseus can be so close, yet so far.

And lastly, Phil knows he is one of the best assassins. He knows that Theseus is not used to family, and love, and kindness. He is used to cruelty because it was a cruel world, he grew up in.

Phil is a smart man. He has been in this business for years; he knows how this place works. And he certainly knows that the Red Banquet will involve parties coming together and discussing splits in the reward prize for capturing him. This is one of the largest pays for a wanted student, Phil has heard of. There will be tension, and the event will not run smoothly. He will be prepared and be safe.

One day, he will take Theseus back.

Until then, he will wait. He will scheme and plan. Soon, he will inform Techno, and then Will.

Soon, Theseus will come home, and finally, he will have his son back.

Chapter Text

Tommy is forced to wear a white shirt and dark red blazer. He pulls on black pants and keeps his red sneakers on because Dream can’t force him to wear ugly brown shoes with pointed tips.

“You have to wear a tie,” Dream sighs exasperatedly. “Tommy.”

“I’m not wearing a fucking tie,” Tommy rushes away before Dream can protest further. They stand in the living room, where Dream holds the packaged and custom-made clothes that Quackity has sent today. Dream calls for Tommy, but the younger boy ignores him, shoving his bedroom door open and heading towards his closet.

He frowns at Sapnap who lays on his bed, staring up at his phone. He wears a black and golden shirt, and his dark-colored sweater is discarded on the edge of the bed, forgotten. Sapnap has already managed to have his ironed shirt crumpled, however, he shows no care. Tommy assumes he’s texting Quackity and Karl because when he’s not around them, he’s either talking about them or texting them.

Tommy takes out his black duffel bag from his closet, and unzips it while grumbling at Sapnap, “How come you get a phone?”

“You have a phone too.”

“It took months until Dream brought me one,” Tommy frowns and tests the knives he has stored in the bag. He flickers them out, staring at the edge before dropping them back in. Technically, they’re Dream’s weapons too.

“You’re a child,” Sapnap sings while scrolling. “Be grateful.”

“Well, you have a better one,”

“Tommy!” Dream shouts from the other room. “Stop complaining and put the tie on!”

“Are you purposely being difficult?” Sapnap laughs and drops the phone beside him to stretch. Tommy pauses his search to glare up at him.

“No.”

Tommy eventually finds the knife he’s been looking for. The sharp edge glistens under the escaping sunlight into the room, and the engraved handle feels nice between his fingers. He straps it to his leg and finds another to hide in his shoe. He then collects a gun to hide by his belt.

It’s a second nature to him. Alike the countless missions he has prepared for before, the Red Banquet will be just like one.

Dream comes marching into the room, forcing the door open. He holds the tie in one hand and his phone in the other. “Tommy,” he lectures.

Tommy has no escape. Dream blocks the door from his exit, and with proper bribery, Sapnap will join his side.

“I can’t wear a tie,” Tommy complains. “It makes me feel suffocated. And old.”

“Lay off the kid,” Sapnap agrees with him and stretches his arms above his head.

Dream’s eyes snap to him. “That shirt was ironed, Sapnap. And where are your shoes?”

Sapnap gets out of bed, complaining at Dream as he passes him outside the bedroom. Dream’s slightly taller figure towers over him and watches his movements until he leaves.

“Sapnap’s right,” Tommy complains when it’s just the two of them.

“No,” Dream disagrees. “If I have to, then so does the both of you.” Dream has made it his mission to make everyone suffer along with him. He doesn’t like dressing up, and since he is forced to, he will force Tommy into a tie and Sapnap into an ironed shirt.

“I’m not putting on the tie!”

Tommy ends up putting on the tie.

He complains the whole time as Dream does for him, watching a YouTube video on his phone because none of them know how to. His older brother rolls his eyes but does not respond to his remarks. They don’t take long to figure it out, because Dream is a fast learner, but Dream blames the hard-to-follow instructions of the tutorial anyway.

Tommy then must use hair gel to slick his curly blond locks back and frowns at his appearance because he looks so unlike himself. He uses pins to pull back the stray curls, but they end up flying in front of his eyes and Sapnap must help.

Once he finishes, Sapnap and he walks back to the living room where Dream pulls knives into the pockets of his blazers. Sapnap finally puts on his sweater, tucking out his golden collar and pulling the dark sleeves to his elbows.

“Take these,” Dream tosses Sapnap a knife, and he catches them midair with one hand. “Quackity will supply us with more when we meet.” He then goes to grab his mask and Sapnap eyes Tommy from head to toe.

“You clean up well, kid,” Sapnap nods his head approvingly. Tommy pulls on his tie, glaring at it.

“Keep it on,” Dream does not hesitate to say when he returns with their colorful masks. Tommy would shout at him again, but the presence of objects in his hands is enough to keep him keen.

Dream hands Sapnap his first. It is a dark red and pointed mask with golden edges that match his shirt well. The dark red changes to orange under the glare of light and the contrast makes Tommy’s eyes widen.

Dream hands Tommy’s next. A crimson mask that covers half his face and upper nose will conceal his identity and ensure he won’t stand out. When he tries it on, it’s a bit tight, but Dream tells him it’s to make sure there’s no chance of it falling any time of the night.

Dream’s mask is last, and it covers his whole face. It is white and plain, and eerily similar to the one he would wear at The Academy. Tommy almost is reminded of the countless missions they would go on together and the ruthless killer he was when the mask covered his face. But it has many differences because Dream cannot be recognized. The mask is a shade darker and shaped differently.

“We’re ready,” Dream makes sure that everything is well and perfect. He fixes Tommy’s collar and makes sure Sapnap’s mask fits. “Only ten minutes late.”

They book out of their apartment room, nerves flying in the air. But then and there, as soon as their polished shoes leave the bedroom, they become the assassins they once were. Sixteen, Eleven, and Fourteen. Theseus, Sapnap, and Dream. They do not fear because they are feared. They do not hold back with their knives and won’t think twice about pulling their guns out to shoot.

In the car, no one speaks. They are silent because they must think the night over and have a moment to themselves. Tommy does not argue with Dream about his tie and Sapnap does not bring his phone out. They will sit in silence and think and understand the situation in front of them.

As they approach the meeting spot with Quackity, Dream turns the radio low and starts a conversation. “Tommy, I want you to stick with one of us tonight. If you can’t find Sapnap or me, then at least stick with Quackity and Karl.” Dream waits for confirmation. “I know you can hold yourself well, kid. It’s the Academy reward, and you being a target for all the people there being my concern.

Tommy understands. “Okay, Dream,”

“Keep your phones with you at all times. If a fight does break out – or something happens, get out of the building and find somewhere safe.”

They both nod their heads.

“We should regroup every hour or so,” Sapnap suggests as he sharpens his knife, and lifts it for a better look. “If we speak to other representatives, it will give us more of an insight of the people who are with The Academy and will participate to find Tommy.”

Dream agrees with his idea. “And Tommy? No alcohol.” He adds, “Although that should be obvious enough.”

Tommy scowls. “Sapnap isn’t twenty-one yet.”

“I trust him to drink responsibly,” Dream eyes his friend daringly. “He can pass for it, as well. We don’t want unnecessary questions and you don’t know how to pace yourself either.”

Tommy frowns but nods his head anyway.

Dream continues with his speech as they pull up. Their car is hidden under the shade of a tree and away from any eye. They get out of the car and start walking towards the meeting spot. Tommy stands in between his brothers and watches their surroundings carefully.

“We have to have a clear mind,” Dream reminds Sapnap. “Don’t drink too much.” He cannot risk having his mind foggy in the middle of a fight. Lucky for them, procedures similar have been taught, as they once had to spar while drugged. It wasn’t easy, but over time they got used to it.

Quackity and his group are seen in a distance, then. Tommy makes out bright-colored clothing and fancy wear, and soon they stand in front of them.

Quackity wears a golden blazer with black buttons. Accompanied are black pants and golden shoes. He coordinates with Sapnap, although Quackity sticks to sparkly colors, including his silver mask. Karl wears grey pants and a purple and blue blazer. His mark covers his eyes, and he wears bright contacts. And lastly, Slime is with them with a vibrant green suit and mask.

Punz and Antfrost are not present, and Tommy assumes they are already in position, away from the building. Quackity confirms their thoughts. “They’re there already, you guys are late.”

“Blame Dream,” Sapnap strolls through them and smirks in Karl’s direction. “The motherfucker doesn’t know how to hurry up.” Dream is used to everything being perfect.

“Very well, then,” Quackity sighs and checks his watch – gold. “We’ll start heading there, then.” Tommy pulls on his mask, and so do his brothers.

They walk together, Sapnap chatting with Karl, while Quackity leads the group with Slime. Dream and Tommy stick at the back.

Dream’s eyes stay on him. “Are you okay, Tommy?”

Tommy nods his head and his eyebrows furrow. “Yeah, why?”

Dream tosses his arm around the younger’s shoulder. “When you push yourself into training and going to the gym all day, I can’t help but worry.”

“I did it to prepare for tonight,” Tommy informs him, fixing his mask higher.

“I know you did, but I’ll worry anyway,” Dream chuckles. Tommy can’t see his face, but he knows that he smiles. “I don’t want you to push yourself into training again, to take your mind off things.”

“That applies to you too,” Tommy retorts. “You tell me to talk and open up, but I know you’re not over George, even if you act like you are. I’m not going to have a nervous breakdown with the mention of his name. He was my brother – but he was also your boyfriend.”

Dream shoves him, but Tommy does not stumble. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Dream,” Tommy’s eyes become intense, maybe it’s because of the mask that covers his other features. “Talk to me about George. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that you’re human. You have emotions as we do.” Tommy brings his hands up to play with his tie that feels tighter against his neck, while Dream slaps away.

“Don’t touch it,” He scolds. “I can’t redo it if you take it apart.”

“Good,” Tommy mutters but drops his hands.

Their conversation drops and Quackity who stands at the front of the line turns around. “We’re here,” he announces and takes out their invitation slips.

The Red Banquet is situated in an abandoned building at the edge of town; or at least, that’s what it appears to be. They most provide their tickets to the front guards and take the elevators to a lower level. There, Quackity must tell them a secret code only invitees will know – and they are led to the large room.

Tommy’s eyes analyze every inch and exit of the property. He marks the position of the elevator and notices the exact weapons on the guard’s belts.

Oak doors painted in a thick layer of gold meet them at the end of the long hallway. Carved with intricate designs, they shape words and hidden pictures between the edges. The golden handles almost look too breakable to touch, but Quackity reaches for them with his gloved hands and pushes the handle.

Tommy does not know what expects when he steps in. But his eyes are certainly… compelled with the sight in front of them.

The room is crowded with men and women with fancy suits and dresses, and odd-shaped masks. What surprises Tommy the most is the thick red walls and carpet, embracing the title of ‘Red’ in the event. The tables are red themselves, and there is an odd odor that lifts through the air. Tommy’s eyes lock the food on the table, a chocolate fountain, weirdly shaped strawberries, and widespread of small deserts that he could have hundreds of.

The music is low, and the stage by the back of the room is empty.

This will certainly be interesting; Tommy thinks as he feels for the knife in his pocket.

“Dream,” Quackity then speaks in Spanish, his accent spilling through his words. “We will regroup near two.”

“Okay,” Dream’s eyes glue to the right side of the room, Tommy wonders what. “Stay safe,” he responds in Spanish and walks away.

Slime grins. “The food looks so good, Q.”

“Don’t eat it,” Quackity reminds but rubs his forehead. “If you can’t hold back, then at least aim for packaged food.”

“I’ll sniff out the poison,” Slime jokes, but maybe it isn’t one, and leaves. Karl and Quackity go their separate ways and Sapnap is left with Tommy.

“Guess I’m on babysitting duty,” Sapnap sighs but he doesn’t seem too mad. “Let’s go then,” He drags Tommy’s arm away, and Tommy yelps, keeping his distance. He sticks by his brother as they scurry through the crowd. They end up near the stage, observing the other people around them. Tommy notes the long dresses and black tuxedos he sees, accompanied by different shaped masks all around.

Sapnap begins to talk to Tommy, while his eyes dart around but Tommy drowns him out until Sapnap is nudging his shoulder and they look up at the stage.

There, a man walks onto the podium with black attire, black pants, a shirt, and a cape. The mask he wears has a red lining that matches the color of the walls, and his arms raise to reveal his black rings.

Sapnap mutters to Tommy, “He’s Halo. The organizer.”

Tommy nods his head and watches as he taps the microphone, all eyes turning to him. The music in the background fades to a stop. “Good evening, everyone!” His voice echoes and bounces off the red walls. “Thank you all for coming to the Red Banquet. Many new faces – or I’d put it, masks here today.” A round of chatter returns his joke, and Tommy doesn’t know how they find his words so funny. Sapnap doesn’t either, and Tommy can hear his eye-rolling from behind his disguise. “I’ll keep this short and sweet – enjoy the night! Drinks will be coming around soon, and we’ll have a couple of performances near the end of tonight. Let the Red Banquet commence!”

Clapping starts, and Tommy raises his hands to follow. His eyes scan Halo’s mask, noticing the deepest shade of black allows him to blend within the shadows. An eeriness radiates him, as well as suspicion.

“Don’t talk to him if he comes near,” Sapnap frowns, clearly not one to enjoy the sudden speech. Everyone around continues back into their conversation once again. Sapnap’s eyes stay at the back of the stage, and he thinks. “Something feels off.”

“Everything feels off,” Tommy agrees. The chattering, and raised wine glasses, and the eerie sounding music create an atmosphere of unfamiliarity and strangeness. He is on edge and ready to pull out his knife. He must remind himself that everyone here is trained as him, at least most of them. They come from organizations and agencies themselves and likely know of his other form – Theseus.

Sapnap continues talking to Tommy. However, they both glance around and edge their fingers towards their knives. Their eyes lookout for noises, and they will whisper to each other if they think anything out of the ordinary appears. They have trained together and completed missions with one another before. (Very rarely – Tommy may add, as The Academy usually only placed him with George and Dream). They are trained for the inevitable, they are prepared for the worst.

 

 

 

 

 

Across the room, Dream lurks between walls and shadows. He watches and waits.

He can hear all the conversations around him. He picks the one of two men in similar colored ties and expensive suits. “Where is Institution Laurance? I heard they’re bringing their best agents today,”

“We’ll speak to them. The boss did want a more experienced agent for their next job.”

“How much is he willing?”

“About ten thousand.”

Dream stands closer as their words turn quieter. “That isn’t much. Did he not bid a hundred thousand for that other student overseas?”

“He did,”

Dream moves away. No one sees him, he is a shadow. Today, he is not Dream. He is Fourteen and he is on a mission again. He takes the earpiece from his pocket and taps it on. “Antfrost?” He mutters and keeps his eyes trained on his surroundings.

“Dream,” Antfrost is heard. “I hear you, and we have a slight problem.”

“What is it?” Dream furrows his eyebrows.

“I don’t want to alarm you or anything – but The Academy is arriving.”

“What?” Dream hisses and pushes deeper into the shadows. No one will see or recognize him. “How do you know?”

“I intercepted calls from the radio tower, and they’ve called in to confirm their attendance. Their cars have not arrived yet, but I’m on the lookout.”

Dream is calm. He will remain collected. He is the best assassin of The Academy, after all. “Keep me updated. We have to finish the deal with Phil before we can leave.”

“Okay,” Dream taps his earpiece, and all is silent other than the chattering.

Dream slides his rings through his fingers and watches. He is trained and experienced. He is ready.

 

 

 

 

 

Slime stares at the food in front of him.

He notices how the strawberries seem tampered with and the food appears glazed.

There is a reason why Quackity had hired him years ago. His senses are enhanced, he was born with better smell, taste, and sight than many. And watching the food now, he knows that there is something wrong with them.

Slimecicle’s eyes move to a woman who takes a strawberry and dips the fruit in the fountain of chocolate. She takes a careful bite and hums and the sweetness. He assumes they are not drugged by her reaction.

Slime takes one for himself and raises it towards his eye. A man across from him stares to watch him. The bottom half of his face is covered, his eyes furrowed as they question his odd gesture.

Slime drops the strawberry and laughs. “I’m allergic,” He walks off.

The last time the food had been tampered with, he is aware of an assassination attempt of one of the leaders of another agency. Another year, when they were drugged, it had put people to sleep and a drowsy mess, for a kidnapping to occur.

Since then, the event has become more confidential, and food is tested and treated beforehand. Slime will inform Quackity and then Antfrost.

To say the least, he thinks, tonight will certainly not be boring.

 

 

 

 

 

Quackity and Karl cannot keep their eyes off each other.

The music is slow, and so are their feet as they move their bodies to the sounds that project out of the speakers. Quackity does not know the song, but he knows that this is his dance.

“You know,” Karl says with a sigh and touches the disguise that covers his face. “I would have liked to see you,”

“Yeah?” Quackity grins

“Your face, it’s a shame your mask is covering it.”

Quackity holds his hand, and they join the other couples who dance together. There, their hands meet one another’s, and their shoes have a soul of their own and move to the rhythm.

“We need a holiday,” Karl says. “You’re always so busy at work and we haven’t spoken to Sapnap in ages. A long-deserved holiday.”

“Once this is over,” Quackity says and that’s a promise. “We’ll go anywhere you want to go.”

Quackity cannot see Karl’s smile, but he knows that he does.

For a second, they will dance and listen to the music, and forget of the pressures and burdens that lay on their shoulders and in their future. They hold this memory and moment before they must let go.

The music is louder, and their heartbeats are faster.

They enjoy the calm before the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

A man walks to the stage, with a violin.

There, he positions the instrument under his collarbone and hesitates.

His fingers gently press the bow, while his fingers will rely on memory. The music through the speakers has stopped, and watchful eyes of invitees will watch with fascination and intrigue, as the man’s eyelids flutter closed, and the music begins.

As soon as the music reaches Tommy’s ears from across the room, he recognizes the sound and his mind slows.

“Tommy?” Sapnap, next to him, has noticed he has completely zoned out of their conversation. “You good, man?”

“The song,” he whispers and recalls a song of his past. He hums it under his breath, but he can never remember the ending. It is a song from his past life before he lost his memories and soul. Tommy has not fully been fascinated by the facts of his previous self.

He had a father, a mother, and two brothers. That is all he can remember and wants to. Yet the song tugs his heartstrings and mind, and urges a memory out of him. A memory locked away, and the key hidden.

“Can we listen?” Tommy asks. “Can we?”

“Uh, sure?” Sapnap is confused but follows Tommy as he pushes the crowd to reach the pack of people, who stand around to listen to the piece. Bodies are in the way, and Tommy can’t afford to miss the ending. Lucky for him, he can squeeze his away through, and dodge past the glasses of drink and people who stand around, to meet the front.

Sapnap has lost him by the time he reaches the sound. It will only be a couple of moments until the song finishes, and afterward, Tommy will look for his brother again.

Until then, Tommy listens.

The violinist's body sways, and their head is tilted downwards. A commotion stirs around him, and Tommy desperately attempts to ignore it, standing closer.

But then there is screaming, and the song stops.

Glass shatters somewhere and the violinist disappears. Screaming is heard and Tommy can smell the scent of blood.

Someone grabs his shoulders, and Tommy is Theseus.

He grabs the hand, and twists it away from him, to pull out his knife and aim it at the man’s skin.

But the man is Dream. “Isn’t Sapnap meant to be with you?” He shouts as the screaming continues and chaos ensues.

“He is!” Tommy cannot recall where he went. “What’s going on?”

“The Academy,” Dream declares. “They’re here.”

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere else, someday sooner, she sings a song for her sons.

Her youngest is asleep before she finishes. Her hands comb his brown curls, and she will wonder about the boy he will one day be.

Her other sons rest awake beside her; however, they will soon be asleep too. Until then, her flowery words become whispers and she holds onto this memory forever.

She will be gone soon. Death will await her, and she will embrace it when they come to collect her.

The song finishes and her oldest mumbles incoherently under his breath. She will simply kiss their foreheads and wish that one day, they will be able to play the song back to her. One learns the violin and is a copy of his father. The other learns guitar and has a voice like her own. And one is made of innocence and will ask for her to sing the song before he sleeps.

She hopes that when she is gone, her sons will play the melody for him. One will take out his violin, and the other will sing and will finish the song when her youngest is asleep.

Somewhere else, someday later, the song ends incomplete.

Chapter Text

There is a lot of blood and screaming.

Tommy shoves a man out of the way and kicks another as he spins to dodge a woman who stumbles into him. Tommy doesn’t know how this has started. One moment, his ears capture onto a remembrance of his past, and the next, Dream was his side, shouting through the screams and noises.

“The Academy,” Dream declares. “They’re here.”

Tommy does not know how the chaos has erupted in the room; he does not know when it will finish either. What he does know is that he will be killed if he cannot defend himself and do anything. So, he dodges the people who attack him and swings his knife at people who jump at him.

At first, his mind goes to his identity. He assumes that they know he is Theseus; they have come to collect him. But it does not make sense, as he is concealed by a mask and the people around him are fighting each other. Chaos ensues and they are caught in the wildfire.

Tommy cannot focus on his thoughts though, as there is a man in front of him with nails of knives. He dodges successfully and jumps onto the man’s back to shove his head into the ground. Tommy goes falling, ignoring the burn of his knees as he scrapes the carpet, as he pins the man down, and takes out his other knife to point at his forehead. Before he can think of anything, he hears Dream’s voice, and harsh hands push him to let go.

“We need to get out of here!” Dream shouts in Spanish. “We will find Sapnap and run!”

“We can’t leave,” Tommy flickers open both his knives and rubs the stain of blood from his cheek. “The Academy will know we’re here.”

But it does not make sense. The Academy’s actions do not make sense.

They dodge past fighting bodies, to the back of the stage. Dream leans against the wall and Tommy takes off his mask to breathe. “Why the fuck are they here? Who even is?”

“Three agents and an Instructor,” Dream gulps for air, his heart soaring. “I don’t think they were here for us.”

“Then who are they here for?” Tommy shouts.

“The Academy attends the Red Banquet rarely, it’s usually for business deals. I suspect – due to Sapnap, George, and I not being able to complete missions and bring in profit, they’ll be putting Graduated students for hire.”

“Then what’s going on?” Tommy gulps, asking if The Academy is not responsible for the fire of people outside – then who is.

Dream takes out his earphones and tosses one to Tommy. He then double-taps the piece. “Antfrost? Are you there?”

“I’m inside,” Tommy notices how there is a struggle in his voice, as he is likely fighting off others. “Slime figured it out. The food was tampered and drugged with; enough inside to kill a person.”

“What?” Tommy mutters in disbelief.

“Tommy!” Antfrost hears his voice. “The Academy is here; you have to leave. If they recognize you–”

“They won’t,” Tommy promises and puts on his mask. He stands up and watches Dream, whose mask covers his expression. Tommy assumes he is blank-faced and deep in thought. “What does the food have to do with anything?”

“Well,” Antfrost groans. “Fuck – get off me!... There was an attempt at murder. When someone realized, it started chaos.”

“Are there any safe exits?” Dream asks.

“Not to my knowledge, Halo is nowhere to be seen. This is uncontrollable though, it’s every agency for themselves here. I haven’t seen Quackity yet, though – I assume he’s on a higher level with Phil, to finalize their agreements.”

Dream nods his head at Tommy, and he stands straight. “We’ll find them, Antfrost.”

“Stay safe,” The man grunts. “No one is holding back – and avoid the Academy agents. There are three of them and they’ve joined in. You can’t get near them.” Antfrost knows Dream and Tommy can take them, he is not worried about that. What he is concerned about is their recognizable nature and their location being detected. As far as they know, The Academy is not here for them.

The revelation allows Tommy to breathe better. But another problem arises; the madness outside.

Tommy tosses the earpiece back to Dream, and he says goodbye to Antfrost, before shoving them in his pockets. Before Tommy can leave the back of the stage in preparation to use his knives and fists, Dream pulls him back.

His words are sharp like blades, and he grips Tommy’s shoulders tightly. “Do not leave my sight! We will fight together, and if you see an academy assassin, you will not stop to fight them – you will call for me, and we’ll leave. Our aim isn’t to take anyone down, it is to find Quackity’s location in one piece. Is that clear?”

Tommy nods his head.

Dream grips his shoulders, almost enough that it hurts. “I need a verbal answer. Am I fucking clear?!”

“Yes, Dream.” Tommy swallows.

Sixteen and Fourteen return. They are Theseus and Dream, and they are also partners in crime. Dream had always had George, but he had Tommy too. They completed missions together and would have lived a life of kills and murder if they had not left The Academy when they did.

As soon as they exit the safeness of backstage, a man charges towards Dream. He has a knife out, and Dream dodges without hesitation, to then swipe the knife out of his grasp and throwing it their way. Tommy comes face to face with a woman his height. She holds her dress, so she does not trip on the length of her skirt, and her fighting style is elegant and sharp. Tommy counters her attack, having learned such grace when practicing the female students of The Academy.

(He cannot remember them well. They are brought to face off one day, and some students meet death in the process. They leave the next day.)

The woman does not expect Tommy to pull his leg to stumble and kick her to the floor. He pins her arms down, and she uses her legs to knee him in the stomach. Tommy ditches her, back at Dream’s side who is fighting against two other agents at the same time. It will be easy for the older, but Tommy decides to help him out, throwing himself onto the one behind Dream and shoving him onto the floor. The man groans at impact, and Tommy throws a knife into the oak floor, which barely grazes their ear. Dream has floored the other man and nods in Tommy’s direction. They are swift like assassins and fight like they were once taught.

Tommy almost gets himself into a hard predicament with two men, both double the size of him. They growl and their faces are red from blood, their masks discarded. One has a knife and does not think twice when throwing it towards Tommy’s shoulder. But Tommy can dodge a knife and catch many with his eyes closed. He grabs the blade by his fingers and aims it back at the man.

Dream fights another pair of assassins next to him, who own blank, white masks with small holes poked in their eyes. He does not struggle, but Tommy almost throws himself into their battle when one grabs his shoulders and pulls him down. Dream deals with it well, but then there is a graze on Tommy’s shoulder, as thick arms wrap around him.

The man he has thrown a knife at grabs him harshly, and his face is anything but nice looking. Tommy pushes his grip away and fails. There is sudden pain in his left shoulder, and then he feels blood.

He sees it too, then. His skin spills with the red liquid, staining through his white shirt into his crimson color blazer. He would have joked that it was a good thing he was wearing full red clothing – but considering he has been stabbed through his skin with a blade, he thinks against the joke for now.

Tommy groans and grits his teeth. His tongue bleeds from the pressure he has placed on it, to stop from letting out a yelp. Tommy doesn’t have to rely on himself to pull the large man away from him, as Dream has seen his situation, and targets the maskless man immediately.

Tommy manages to stumble away, as Dream lays consecutive punches and throws to his body, taking out his knife to repay what he has to Tommy.

Tommy has felt worse pain before, he reminds himself. He does not let an unusable arm work as a disadvantage and uses his knife to slash between the skin of another man’s face who approaches him. The harsh sting grows, and Tommy pulls the knife out of his shoulder, for crimson blood to spill.

He does not care. He is a former assassin of The Academy and has felt the pain of fires and death. He has drowned and has been stabbed more times than he has broken bones. Tommy will be fine.

The blood stains deeper into his blazer, however, the clothing is the last thing on Tommy’s mind, as he throws it away, due to the restraint of his arms. Dream had taken his blazer off before, and currently squares a man in the nose. Tommy clutches to his shoulder and kicks a person who charges towards him.

Then, to the side of him, he sees danger strike.

A boy with skills as of his own, a knife in his hand as he cuts a man with a green mask in front of him, who attempts to fight. His technique is clean, and his weapon use is recognizable. Tommy does not have to glance at him again, to know the boy is from The Academy.

He has a mask, similar to Tommy’s old one. It’s a thin layer of disguise, yet Tommy can still notice he is a part of the place he was raised. The boy raises a knife to one man's ear, while his other elbow pushes into another’s face. It is almost mesmerizing, to see a student in their habitat, between chaos and the sight of destruction. The Academy students will always end out on top.

Tommy almost leaps towards the boy. He almost pulls out his secondary set of knives to prepare for a battle. He needs to prove to himself, that he is enough. That he can take down a Graduate and is enough to pass the final exam. Only the best assassins succeed, and he wants to prove by taking this one down – that he is.

But Dream grips his right shoulder and pulls him away. “Theseus,” the forbidden name bubbles in Dream’s throat, because the situation they are in, reminds Dream so much of before. “Hurry up.”

Tommy’s eyes reach away from The Academy’s assassin and meet Dream’s masked face. Dream is his mentor and leader. He teaches him everything he needs to know and will be there to protect him. Tommy listens to him, because he knows what he is doing and because Dream is the person he trusts most.

They rush away. Tommy gulps for air and ignores his shirt, soaked with sweat and blood. He forces his eyes away. “The stairway is close.” Dream tells him before a group of people head their way, and they must fight.

Tommy comes face to face with a black-masked man with red eyes. The look is enough to give Tommy chills, and he knows that this won’t be such an easy battle to win, with an injured shoulder. But if anything, The Academy has taught him, is that nothing is a disadvantage if they are a better fighter, a faster thinker, and a better learner.

Black Mask has a row of knives on his belt. Tommy picks it up immediately and knows that that’s his strength. For Tommy, it is his too. He has always excelled at knife work, and it took years to get to the position he is today. They spin at his fingertips and edge towards the exact part of the wood he aims at.

Black Mask grabs one of his knives and hurls it at Tommy. The man notices right away his injured shoulder, and he probably smirks. Tommy slides in the opposite direction, making sure that Dream is in his range before he charges at Black Mask with three knives within his fingers. Black Mask pulls out a longer one, and his fingers flick as the object flies in the air and aims towards Tommy’s shoulder. The boy flips, with a stumble for a landing, due to his lack of use of one of his arms. His shoulder pains, but he pulls himself up with his left hand, and fights through the pain. Tommy then takes out another knife from his pocket and aims it at Black Mask’s shoulder. He doesn’t see it in time and flinches back as the blade tears into his skin.

Tommy does not allow him to regain his footing and charge again. Instead, he can finally put the extent of his knife skills to the test. Dream beside him throws someone off the banister and screams at Tommy to follow.

Tommy’s arms throw the knives that rest on his fingertips. The fatigue settles, and he almost collapses when the spike of energy focuses on throwing them at the man. Black Mask is pushed against the wall, and the blades splinter into the wooden walls next to him. Two are centered by his ears, and another, an inch above his head.

Tommy almost collapses then. The adrenaline and energy that has been used up, leaves his body and finishes with an exhausted soul, seconds away from unconsciousness. Dream slides down the staircase and assists him upwards.

“We have to go, Tommy!” He shouts and shakes the boy’s chin, so he focuses on his words. “Listen to me, kid!”

Tommy fights the exhaustion and follows the last hope of Dream’s words. He allows himself to be tugged up the stairs, to come to a silent floor, away from the shattering and screams. It is a bliss of silence.

Tommy doesn’t realize he’s sitting on the floor until Dream kneels beside him. “Let me check your shoulder.” He doesn’t wait for an answer, moving towards Tommy’s left, adjusting to the horrific sight. “Does it hurt?”

“No,” he says strictly. He recalls the times the Teachers would question their students if they hurt or complained. They’d be slapped on the wrist if they agreed.

“Tommy,” Dream says carefully. “You can be honest.”

Tommy sighs and squeezes his eyes. “A little.”

Dream nods his head and takes off Tommy’s tie to wrap around the wound, as his own is discarded someplace unknown. Tommy chuckles, tipping his head back as Dream secures the tie between the blood. “Guess the tie came in hand, then.”

Dream manages to let out a small smile. “Maybe you won’t complain next time you have to put one on.” He doesn’t put too much pressure, but enough so that the blood won’t flow. He then helps Tommy stand up. “I know where Quackity will be. Let’s go.”

Dream is not lying when he states he knows of Quackity’s whereabouts. It’s not too long of a journey, but Tommy finds himself stumbling and tripping over his feet from nausea that spreads through him. Dream holds him tight and promises he won’t let go.

When they see Punz in a hallway, Dream calls for him. Punz turns his head slightly, and his eyes widen a fraction.

“Are they inside?” Dream asks, but he knows the real answer. There isn’t a reason why Punz would be guarding an unattended room. Tommy opens his eyes and meets the color red.

“Yes, they are,” Punz responds. “Are you sure–”

Dream cuts him off and turns to his brother. “You are Theseus,” They will not refer to him as Tommy, to conceal his identity. His disguise helps, but inside the room, he is Theseus again. “And I am XD.” Tommy does not know where Dream has gotten his nickname from – he doesn’t particularly care either. Punz opens the door for them, and the two assassins walk inside.

Tommy’s ears ring when they step into the room. He hears someone talking.

Quackity stands, Sapnap by his side. A figure is behind him. On the other side of the room, is Karl and Slime. Karl grimaces in their direction, likely targeted at the wound on Tommy’s shoulder, while Slime gives them a small wave.

Tommy’s eyes travel around to the opposite side of the room, where there is also a taller boy, who Tommy knows is Ranboo. His black and white disguise him well, and his nervous stance displays his inexperience.

But the man standing next to him is who makes Tommy’s heart stop. Technoblade stands with a sword hanging loosely between his fingers. As soon as Tommy’s eyes connect his, he almost stops breathing. He has not seen him in a long time, and Techno stands tall, with a sense to intimidate the room. Tommy gups when his red eyes connect with his, through his pink mask.

Maybe he can tell, Tommy thinks. He knows he is Tommy.

“We have guests,” The man that Tommy can’t see, says toughly.

Quackity turns. His skin is stained red, but he stands comfortable in his golden clothing. He stands up straighter, at the appearance of Tommy and Dream.

“XD,” Quackity greets. “Meet Phil.”

Quackity steps aside, and Tommy meets Phil’s eyes for the first time.

Phil’s are blue, like his own. But his face is covered by his green mask, and he wears dark-colored robes, shades of green and black lining. As Tommy watches him – he feels different. As if some part he’s forgetting or met this man somewhere. But the thought is gone before he can think into it, as Phil speaks.

“Who is the kid?” He questions, but Tommy is too tired to respond to the comment. And because Dream would want him to stay silent in a moment like this. “Well?”

“That does not concern you at the moment, Phil,” Quackity glares and his voice is sharp. Tommy thinks he’s going to faint from the blood loss any moment now. He grips onto Dream’s arm tightly, as he feels his feet crumble. Dream doesn’t mention it. “Well? Are you going to agree to this arrangement?”

“Phil,” Technoblade steps forward, and his sword glimmers. “Quackity is no use to us. There is nothing he knows that we don’t by now.”

“Well then,” Quackity interrupts before Phil can say anything. “I had a feeling you were going to bring that up, Blade.” His voice edges into another emotion, Tommy hasn’t heard in his voice before. Old friendship, to new enemies. Tommy wonders if they once they each other well. “XD here – was a student of The Academy.”

Ranboo almost jumps in shock, and Techno’s glassy eyes snap to Dream’s. He stares into his soul as if he depicts the truth from the disguise that hides him. Tommy has not met Phil before, but he’s met Technoblade and knows enough to say that his position is valued and that the words out of his mouth next can make or break anything.

“Prove it.”

Quackity sighs – Sapnap interrupts.

“With all due respect, Technoblade,” Sapnap dares. “I think there’s a lot more we know that you do not.”

Quackity grins, Sapnap smirks. “We will find those agents with you – and we’ll assist with whatever you are willing to do.” Arrest them, Tommy thinks bitterly. Because they don’t see past the children from the murders they were forced to complete. They ignore that and will bring a so-called justice that the students cannot control. That at some point – he himself, could not control.

“You’re the opposite team here, Quackity,” Technoblade snaps. “We can’t trust a word out of your mouth, after the lies you’ve spoken.” He raises the sword he holds, and Sapnap swiftly moves in front of Quackity.

“I won’t try anything,” Sapnap hisses. “We have seven trained agents in here. You’re outnumbered.”

“Seven?” Phil asks oddly and stares at Tommy.

The underestimation came first, it always did. It gave Tommy an upper hand because he was never the tallest or strongest. He isn’t built like Dream and does not have a strict face like George. He doesn’t even have eyes that burn like Sapnap’s do – to prove that he is as fearless and cunning as they are. But then they see him fight, they see his knives and training, and are proven wrong.

“You are outnumbered,” Quackity repeats Sapnap’s words. “As good as you think Technoblade is – XD has the training of The Academy. He isn’t the only one from The Academy in this room.”

Phil holds his breath and Techno’s deadly eyes survey each person in the room.

Quackity continues, “The Academy will not be easy to take down. Their best-performing assassins are on our side, willing to take them down with us. It’s up to you – if you will join us.”

Techno stares at Karl, whose face is watching, yet he is unskilled and watches hesitantly. His eyes dart to Slime, and then to XD. He stop at Sapnap, who smirks and cocks his head to the side, menacingly. Sapnap can be threatening when he wants to be.

Techno knows Sapnap is the second assassin without needing to ask. He thinks of the third. Tommy notices the question in his eyes, the speculation.

His eyes stop at Tommy.

“It seems we don’t have a choice,” Phil resigns. “However, I won’t give up the loyalty of my agency just yet. We’ll have conditions.”

Quackity grins. A loud grin, to show off he has won this battle, without the presence of a sword like Techno’s, or a single weapon. He pulls off his mask, almost mockingly. “And what are these conditions you suggest?”

“My agency cannot trust your own,” Phil deadpans. “We know your capabilities, Quackity. It is obvious what you’re known for.”

Tommy glances at Dream and spikes an eyebrow. Dream nods his head, thinking the same thing – what did Phil know about Quackity that they did not?

“For every meeting, you will be discussing your plans – we will come. Your agency will have a free ground for my agents, and in return, ours for yours.”

“Phil–” Technoblade almost stops him.

Quackity laughs with question. “Why would I agree to allow your agents on Las Nevadas? You are requesting the impossible, Philza.”

“Your groups are infamous for their resources. And you have fewer agents than us, it will allow proper training. If we will be working together – then proper training will be applied.”

Quackity rolls his eyes and mumbles Spanish words under his breath, Tommy would be able to pick up if he was closer.

“Very well,” Quackity resigns. “Although we will complete the conditions another day. Do we have ourselves a deal, Philza?” He sticks out a hand and leans forward, raising an eyebrow tauntingly.

Phil takes it. They shake.

They leave the room silently afterward. Tommy’s brain is foggy and his mind circles with questions of the recent events. Dream whispers in his ear, in Latin, “We’ll get your shoulder checked soon, kid.”

Punz steps away from the door, watching each agent and individual exit threateningly. He dares someone to come forward with a weapon, as he will retaliate without warning.

“Before we leave,” Phil announces. “We would like a word with XD.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let that happen,” Quackity refuses.

“Why not?” Phil raises an eyebrow. “We are business partners after all. He is from The Academy; he can handle himself.”

Quackity presses his lips together and nods his head with hesitation. He tells Punz, Slime, and Karl to leave. Ranboo nods at Phil and follows slowly behind them. Dream whispers at Sapnap and Tommy in Arabic, “Sapnap go with Quackity. Downstairs is not safe yet, and I can’t trust that everyone will stay out of trouble. Antfrost is outside, waiting.”

“And Theseus?” Sapnap whispers quickly back.

“He will stay with me,” Dream says. “His shoulder is injured, I’ll protect him.”

Tommy ignores his words, and Sapnap smirks, before leaving.

Philza and Techno watch them mysteriously, and Tommy – past his hazy mind and tired state, can read them well. Techno seems so closed off, the other times he has met him when it is easy to say what he’s thinking and feeling at the current state of time.

“Well?” Dream asks, crossing his shoulders.

Technoblade throws a knife from his pocket.

Tommy sees it before he throws. He catches up with his left arm, an instinct. Although it does not help that his left shoulder is the one that is hurt, and he drops the weapon in retaliation.

“You both are from The Academy,” Phil concludes. “How much is Quackity paying?”

“Not a cent,” Dream glares. “What did you want to speak about?”

“Quackity’s intentions,” Phil frowns. “Although there may be a few more things I am willing to discuss with you.”

“The thing is, Philza – Phil?” Dream asks the term of referral but drops it. “Quackity is the one with who you hold a connection. You depend on his loyalty, not mine, to succeed. I owe you nothing.”

“And what about you?” Phil eyes Tommy, and his blue eyes watch him like a hawk. “Your name?”

Tommy does not say. He remains silent, and Dream speaks for him. “None of us owe you anything. We are willing to team with you – to take down The Academy, and that is all.”

“To take down The Academy?” Techno tests. “Is that what you really want?”

It’s what they want, Tommy knows. So, they must play their game and pretend.

“Is this all?” Dream sighs, lazily. “We have a business to attend to.”

“Of course, XD,” Phil smiles, and for the first time today, he takes off his green mask.

Tommy wonders why Dream doesn’t walk off. Why he doesn’t nod his head Phil’s way and follow Quackity’s exit. Tommy stands there, with no understanding of the situation. When he peers over at Dream’s facial expression, he sees nothing but shock, to only be concealed.

“Yeah, okay,” Dream coughs, and grips Tommy’s good shoulder. “Let’s go, Theseus.”

Dream does not realize the mistake until it is too late. Dream does not make mistakes, nor does he allow slip-ups.

But he does. “Theseus?” Techno whispers in disbelief and Philza’s eyes visibly widen.

“Quackity was not lying when he said some of us were from there,” Dream holds Tommy closer.

“Theseus,” Philza repeats, and Tommy’s eyes move to him who just stares.

“Philza,” Dream scorns. “We will be off.” Tommy realizes – the reward set on him, has come to Phil’s knowledge. Quackity had not mentioned Tommy before, so Philza only finds out now that he is the student who has a reward of one hundred thousand dollars on his skull. It is a guess that Quackity decided last minute not to let his name be known. But now Dream has accidentally slipped up – and Phil knows.

“I wouldn’t dare do anything,” Dream’s eyes burn, likely like the sight of The Academy in its final moments. “You had made an alliance with Quackity. The rest of us hold no pact with you and your agency. You do not want to mess with us.”

They leave. Tommy turns his head before they turn the corner, to see a set of blue eyes, another set of red on him. One stares at him in wonder, the other shocked.

Tommy’s head hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

Technoblade remembers his younger brother.

He remembers a small boy, with soft eyes and a passion for the future. They would say Theseus would be like him one day – but he was always Wilbur’s second. Not that Techno minded, he didn’t want his kid brother following in his footsteps. Of danger and threat, and a life of hazard and weapons.

He meets Theseus six years later, and he is everything he wished he wasn’t.

“Phil,” Technoblade does not shout at Philza. He whispers his words with a vengeance and dares for him to say otherwise. “You knew.”

“I did not know,” Phil stares where the boy once was. They did not see his face, but they remember his name. Theseus, named by Technoblade himself. “I knew he was alive.”

“And you didn’t tell me,” Technoblade scoffs, and his voice is louder. “You didn’t tell me that Theseus was still alive?”

“I didn’t know,” Phil repeats. “I didn’t know he’d be here.” They collapse into wooden, sturdy chairs and they think. Because that’s all they can do.

Technoblade feels like he is falling.

His brother is alive – Theseus is alive. Yet, he is not the boy he once remembers. He is not the innocent kid, who’d stare at him with stars in his eyes, and small wishes for the future.

Technoblade suddenly feels very angry.

“The Academy?” He laughs, but it hurts. “He was taken to a fucking death institute.”

“He’s here now,” Phil says softly. “He’s safe.”

“He isn’t fucking safe, Phil. Not in a world like this,” Technoblade chuckles emptily and stands up to kick his hair. “Six years, Phil! He was there for six years!”

Theseus is only ten when he is taken. And now he is sixteen.

Technoblade punches a wall. His arm flies through before he can think. He will scream, he can’t hold back. But that kid, shouldn’t have stared at him so guarded, or stood so still. His shoulder had been bleeding through, and the kid rarely reacted. Technoblade feels so much anger he can’t contain. He pulls out his sword and slashes through the wall. He is furious.

He pushes chairs over and punches another wall. Phil watches as he causes limited destruction until the room is turned over and there is nothing left but scratched walls and broken objects.

“Did you see him, Phil?” Techno pulls his mask to the floor and his long hair flies loose. “The way he looked at us? Did you see it?”

“I did,” Phil says. “I promise you, Technoblade, and I’ll promise him too – that this will never happen again. He’ll be safe, he’ll be home.”

“He’s an assassin. He’s trained in this area,” Techno corrects him. “He’s under Quackity, he is with XD and their men. He doesn’t know anything.”

“And we won’t tell him,” Phil says, and Technoblade growls. “Not yet. We aren’t going to tell Wilbur, either.”

“Why not?” Techno snarls. “He should know.”

“Not yet,” Phil says. “I’ve taught you patience, Techno. I don’t trust Quackity – I know he’ll sign the students up for his agency as soon as he can get his hands on them. We know he doesn’t give a shit about them – he cares for his company.” They know through experience. They learn from it. “The same will apply for Theseus – Quackity will make them believe that he cares.”

“But he does not.”

“But he doesn’t,” Phil stands, and places delicate hands on his son’s shoulders. “We’ll bring Theseus home, but we can’t until he trusts us. I don’t know if that’s possible, with the boundaries he would have set in an environment like that. It won’t be easy.”

“He’s my brother, Phil,” Techno’s voice cracks.

“And he’s my son,” Phil speaks and smiles. “And he’ll be home, soon enough.”

Chapter Text

Tommy remembers many of the injuries he received from The Academy. Of course, he has too many scars and burns littered on his skin to count, but there are a few that he recalls getting when he closes his eyes.

There is a long scar across his forehead, that he usually covers with his curly hair. When he pulls his hair back, the thin line is noticeable from afar. He receives it during a hand-to-hand spar when his opponent took out a knife and sliced his face. Dream had been present and pulled the boy away before slapping his face. He is Two and never seen again, afterward. They raise assassins, not cheaters.

The burns on his palms are from when his class would place their hands on fire and forced them to keep them there. Although the burns have healed, there are marks of where they once were.

There are also Tommy’s stitches and wounds from the procedures the lab-coated people did to him.

So, Tommy is used to the marks. He’s used to the burns, scars, and stitches. He grows up with them, they remind of him who he once was and still is.

Tommy doesn’t understand why they are making a big fuss about his shoulder, then. He’s had worse experiences – truly worse – and Quackity, Dream, Sapnap, and Karl crowd into a room and watch him carefully. Although Quackity and Karl seem nervous and on edge, his brothers don’t lose the look on their faces.

“They’ll give you a drug,” Karl reassures, although maybe the reassurance is aimed at himself. “So, you won’t feel a thing.”

Tommy rolls his eyes and sits back in the hospital bed. Quackity has a clinic in Las Nevadas, with some of the best doctors apparently. He doesn’t know how many times he has to tell him that he can apply the stitches himself, and it would be a shame for the skill to be wasted.

“I don’t need the drug,” Tommy refuses.

“Are you sure?” Karl’s voice raises. “You’ll have quite a lot of stitches, the wound isn’t small, Tommy.”

Tommy rolls his eyes. “Sapnap, can you knock some sense into your boyfriend?”

Sapnap does not say anything. The traitor.

“I’m fine,” Tommy insists. “Dream and Sapnap know this already – I’ve applied stitches countless times before. This isn’t even the deepest wound I’ve had. I had to stitch up the back of my leg once during a mission. I could do that shit with my eyes closed.”

A doctor walks in then, and Quackity sighs in relief. “We just want to help, Tommy.”

“I don’t need the help!” The doctor nods their head in Quackity's direction and pulls on their gloves to access the damage.

Tommy tenses. “Stop.”

“Tommy,” Quackity starts. “We told you–”

“No,” Tommy doesn’t like hands on him he doesn’t know, and the lab coat that the man next to him wears. He doesn’t like how his skin is touched by someone he does not trust, and the bed he lays in feels uncomfortable. “Stop touching me,”

Tommy meets Dream’s eyes, and they do not need words spoken for Dream to understand the plead. “Stop,”

Quackity turns to him and glares. “Dream,” he deadpans. The doctor pulls away and Tommy breathes again.

Sapnap comes to the realization next. His eyes darken and his eyes meet Tommy’s blue. “I can do it if you want.”

“Or I can do it myself.”

“Tommy,” Dream says strictly, before turning to the doctor. “Sapnap and I will apply to stitches.” He whispers in the man’s ear, and Tommy stares at the floor until he leaves the room again. He gulps.

Dream and Sapnap stand beside him, where the doctor had originally stood. Quackity’s arms are folded, and Karl seems nervous. Dream explains to them, “Tommy doesn’t have a good experience with…”

“No, no, I understand,” Quackity says quickly, and Tommy assumes he knows to an extent. Dream and Sapnap would not have told him about his past experiences – they respect his wishes to not. Although he may conclude himself. “How can we help?”

“Keep him company,” Sapnap grins. “Can’t have the kid getting bored and moving around.”

“Shut the fuck up, Sapnap,” Tommy mutters. “You’re a bitch.”

Dream washes his hands and pulls on surgical gloves. He takes out the equipment he needs and cleans it before use. Tommy watches his face, how he seems so focused and concentrated. “So, Tommy,” he turns to the younger boy. “Who’s going to do it? Sapnap or I?”

Tommy tenses and stares at his older brother. “And I can’t do it myself?”

“I know you can, but considering one arm is out of use, I’d prefer one of us to,” Dream does not undermine his experience and efforts of his past. He simply says the truth and gives Tommy the option between the two.

“You, then,” Tommy sighs reluctantly.

“Okay,” Dream nods his head. Quackity and Karl pull stools in front of the bed and Sapnap assists Dream. “I’m going to give you an anesthetic to numb the area. I’ll give you Tylenol after.”

“No,” Tommy shakes his head. “That shit makes me drowsy, and I need to train.”

Quackity snorts. “Kid, with that shoulder – you’re not doing training any time soon.”

Tommy blinks. “At The Academy, I’d have to train with broken ribs and stitches.”

I – you know what, I’m going to leave this one up to you two,” Quackity takes out his phone, muttering.

“A week,” Dream bargains.

“A day,”

“Five days,”

“A day,” Tommy repeats.

Dream rolls his eyes. “Two weeks, then.”

“Five days,” Tommy relents.

Dream starts. Tommy stares at a blank wall as he does, Quackity and Karl’s voices in his ears and his brothers’ mumbling between. He trusts them with his life, yet as the fingers prod, and the needles touch his skin, he is reminded of the past – when they would inject chemicals into him and promise he’d be better soon.

Over time, he recalls the experiments taking longer. The doctor’s sheets filled with more notes and longer periods, of laying in the lonely room with glass and white walls. There was no TV, only his mind to keep him company.

When the experiments stop, Tommy can still feel their fingers raze against his skin at night. He can hear their hushes whispers and the machines beeping behind him.

“Tommy?” Sapnap snaps him out of it. “You, okay?”

Tommy hums, turning to him. “What?”

Sapnap frowns. “You haven’t spoken in a while, that’s all.”

“I was just… thinking.” Tommy stares at his right shoulder, where Dream is almost halfway done. “You’re so slow.”

“And you’re impatient.”

“Tommy,” Karl begins a conversation. “How did you meet Sapnap?”

Tommy meets his eyes and furrows his eyebrows. “What?”

Karl’s cheeks tint pink and Sapnap snorts and hands Dream scissors.

“I mean,” Karl says lightly. “You guys aren’t really brothers, right? How did you two meet at the um, The Academy?”

Quackity looks up from his phone, genuinely curious as well. Tommy knows their story, or at least, some part of it, of how Sapnap had lied to them about who he was and his background during a mission, to only confess the truth over the phone afterward. But they don’t his.

“Tommy’s my brother,” Sapnap says, about to punch his right shoulder lightly until Dream sends him a warning glance. His arms drop by his side, instead.

“Well,” Tommy thinks his answer carefully. “I met Dream first, and through him, I met Sapnap. I was in a class, and they had been watching, I guess. Observing, since they were Graduates. Dream talked to me afterward, was a prick, I might add. I didn’t think he cared or anything, or if it was a one-time thing. But he stuck around, even if I didn’t want him to. Then he introduced me to Sapnap and George.” When Tommy mentions George, he deflates a little and so does the room. “Sapnap hated me at first, even though I did nothing to the fucker.”

“Hey!”

“Shut up Sapnap, it’s my turn to talk,” Tommy taunts. “Anyway – before I was rudely interrupted – Sapnap lead a couple of my lessons. Mainly sparring classes because he’s shit at everything else. He’d go harder on me, sometimes, and I think he started being less of a dick when he realized I could handle it and stuck around longer.”

“Sapnap,” Dream deadpans.

“Tommy isn’t saying the full story,” Sapnap laughs nervously at Dream’s glare. “I didn’t go harder on him; I simply didn’t go easier just because he was friends with Dream. Usually, the kids who talked to him wanted an easier way out of the lessons. When I realized Tommy wasn’t, then I stopped.”

“You would throw knives at me during classes,” Tommy rolls his eyes. “You gave me two black eyes – at the same time, once. And you made me recite Greek when we trained together.”

In Greek, Sapnap argues, “You needed all the help you could get.”

Tommy responds in the language, “Fuck you,”

“Stop moving Tommy,” Dream grumbles. “I’m almost done.”

“Tell Sapnap my Greek is fine!”

Dream sighs long and loud. “Sapnap, his Greek is fine.”

“Can you teach us?” Karl smiles. “I mean if you want – so I can understand you. Of course, you can say no but–”

“Okay,” Sapnap says immediately, and they have weird signals in their eyes that Tommy pulls a disgusted face at. Hearing Dream and George flirt all the time was enough as it was.

Dream is almost done at his stitches, and Quackity must leave for a meeting regarding the more legal side of Las Nevadas. He promises that he’ll be back the following night and will give the trio a tour of their new residence on the grounds. As he says so – Tommy almost forgets that they’ll be leaving the apartment forever.

Dream finishes finally and pulls on a nonstick bandage around the stitches.

“Looks good,” Karl muses, noticing Dream’s careful skills before he will cover it up. “Is there anything you guys can’t do?”

Tommy snorts. Sapnap and he start a list. “We can’t sleep in a room with someone we can’t trust.”

“We can’t wake up late, our minds are wired to wake up at six,”

“We can’t get attached to people easily.”

“We’ll take threats seriously, we can’t identify jokes well,”

“Okay, okay,” Karl pulls his hands up. “Never mind, then.”

“Tommy,” Dream says, leading him away from the conversation going on. “Here, I’ll get you a glass of water.” Dream holds a tablet of Tylenol and Tommy scowls. “Take it,”

“Do I have to?” Tommy complains.

“Yeah,” Dream is overbearing and annoying, but Tommy will listen to him this once. He swallows it dry, even if Karl goes to fetch him a tall glass of water.

“Take a nap,” Sapnap pulls Tommy’s hair out of his face.

Tommy glances at Karl wearily, who enters the room with water. He likes Karl, he thinks he’s good for his brother and makes him happy – which is enough for Tommy, but that doesn’t mean he can fully trust him. Tommy doesn’t think he’ll be able to trust anyone enough to sleep with their presence (apart from Dream and Sapnap) in a long time.

“We’ll be here,” Sapnap promises. Dream hums in agreement next to him. “Go to sleep.”

Tommy lays back, and he’s asleep not long after his head touches the softness of the cushion.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream’s eyes rest on Tommy, as his chest rises and falls and his soft breaths as he lays unconscious. Sapnap is seated on the chair on the other side of him, on his phone, and occasionally glancing up at him. They sit in silence, and occasionally whisper to each other, as they do not want to wake him up.

Karl leaves for training at some point, with Antfrost. He asks if either of them wants to come with him, both of them refuse.

Dream notices how Tommy seems younger in his sleep. How he doesn’t seem like the sixteen-year-old assassin he was once, burdened with a life of murder. He does not seem like he should be able to pick up a knife or use a gun, yet he is fully capable and knows how. The kid by them should be in high school friends, and his biggest worry should be completing homework – not a whole organization of trained assassins ready to take him out. They will kill him, and Tommy is only sixteen.

Sapnap is thinking the same thing, or maybe he’s gotten too good at reading Dream’s face. “He’s too young.”

Dream nods lightly. “He is.”

“I hate this,” Sapnap declares, a little louder. “Trusting an enemy team – ones who don’t want us around. Or taking our chances with the relocation, or possibility of The Academy succeeding.”

“We won’t let them.”

“And if they still do?” Sapnap tilts his head upwards, at the stoned tiles on the ceiling. His eyes scan them as if he counts each one. “What if they rebuild the white room? What if they’ll make him kill again?” Sapnap and he have made a silent pact that they will kill if they must. They will make sure Tommy does not have to, however, ever again.

“It’ll take them a long time to rebuild it,” Dream reassures.

“If one of us is captured,” Sapnap says, deadly. “They’ll lock us in the room until we forget everyone, including ourselves. We’ll forget each other, Dream.”

Dream cannot remember his turn in the white room well. It is a blur. Neither George’s. Sapnap’s experience is quite clearer, he had pretended the room had not hurt him as much as it did, but Dream watched as he crumbled in front of his eyes. Tommy was worse, Tommy had been scared to lose them, and stuck with them when he could. Tommy is not quiet when he is alone with them, but he had been quiet for a long time.

Dream had caught Tommy whispering a couple of times when he – Theseus back then – had not thought he could hear. “George, Sapnap, Dream,” he would murmur lightly, and Dream’s heart would hurt.

“We’ll forget George too,” Sapnap then says, and their eyes meet each other. The only thing keeping George alive is their minds. And if they take away their memories of him, then George will be gone forever.

Dream dislikes that thought a lot. He hates it. He will punch a few more holes in a couple of other walls, but he steadies his fists and wills himself to calm down.

“I don’t get nervous,” Sapnap then says. “But I am nervous about what will happen.”

“I am too,” Dream admits, and they sit in silence, Tommy’s light breaths in between. “The Academy isn’t the only thing on my mind. So is… Phil.”

“Philza?” Sapnap questions.

“Yeah,” Dream says. “I admitted Tommy was Theseus.”

Sapnap stands up immediately and the chair behind him falls to the ground, the metal making a loud noise as it clashes with the floor. They both tense, and gaze over to the younger boy – who is thankfully, still asleep, and their conversation resumes.

“Dream!” Sapnap shouts, yet quietly. They are harsh whispers. “Phil knows Tommy. His sons do – the fuck did you do?”

“No,” Dream corrects the misinformation. “I worded it wrong – but I admitted it was him. He doesn’t know he’s Tommy.” Their words come out confusing, because of Tommy’s two names and identities. But Sapnap doesn’t take long to understand. “Quackity’s plan ensured that Phil would find out Theseus was working with them – but he didn’t mention his name.”

“Quackity thinks Phil will rat him out,” Sapnap explains. “I assume he thinks that he’ll bring Tommy forward to collect the cash reward, before arresting them. I don’t really know.”

“Something about Quackity’s story,” Dream hesitates. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Sapnap glares. “Are you doubting my boyfriend?”

“I’m doubting someone I cannot trust,” Dream corrects. “So, technically, yes.”

Sapnap sits back down. “You don’t have to trust Q, Dream, but give him a chance.” He sighs. “I want to know though when were you the one to make a mistake? The Dream is errorless.”

“I guess I’m changing,” And Dream finally admits the truth he has been thinking for a long time, yet too scared to admit aloud. Even Sapnap is startled by his confession. “I guess I am making more mistakes, and getting angrier, and I’m not as strong as I used to be. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing anymore. I’m just less of an assassin – I’m more human now.”

Sapnap is silent.

“You will soon trust people,” Dream tells his brother. “We’ll be able to talk about George, happily. We’ll be able to admit we’re hurting to Tommy, even if it will be hard to show it.”

“Who knew?” Sapnap mutters. “That you were human too.”

“What?” Dream snorts. “What am I then? Alien?”

“Considerable,” And the two laugh for what feels like the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy does not enjoy packing, he realizes.

When he and Dream had moved around frequently, after escaping The Academy, he had kept his belongings in his old backpacks to ensure they could leave as quickly as possible. But this apartment was home for a while – a place to come home to after days at the bakery, or evenings in Dream’s office. They were only here for a couple of months, yet Tommy then understands that people are not the only attachments one can have.

Tommy doesn’t mind moving, though. But his shoulder hurts a little (not that he will admit aloud) and he finds annoying his brothers, an easier task. So, Dream tells him to go to his bedroom – the last time he can utter the following words – to pack away his personal belongings. The real reason is so Tommy can get out of his hair and nag him every few seconds.

Tommy stares emptily at the room. The window he was so close to shattering that one time, and the side tables he had hit his head at after rolling out of bed. He goes to his wardrobe first and watches the clothes that Dream and he had gone to get the first time they moved into the town and wonders if they will pack themselves.

Apparently, they won’t, so Tommy takes out his bags and shoves them in. Although he does not remember buying all the clothes, some may belong to Dream.

Sapnap interrupts him, waltzing into his room. “Wow, you’re actually doing what Dream told you to.”

“Get out of my room,” Tommy mutters but he doesn’t mean it.

“Kid, you’re not meant to stuff them into your bag. You have to fold them, so they’ll fit. Like this.” Sapnap shows him and Tommy stares at him blankly and blinks.

Sapnap groans. “They won’t all fit inside if you just toss them in.”

Tommy just stares.

Sapnap dumbs it down. “Bag. Clothes. Inside. Fold.” Tommy does not respond, and Sapnap does it for him. He empties the bag and demonstrates how to do it. "Pull the leaves together and fold them into halves. 

Tommy’s not dumb though. He knows how to fold clothes, and he knows what he had been doing before, was wrong. But now, he can lay on his white covers, while Sapnap does all the work for him. And when he finishes, Tommy smiles.

“Thanks, Sapnap,” he grins and Sapnap realizes.

“Oh, you fuck.”

Tommy lets out a very manly – of course manly – yell as he slides out of the room, slamming the door to buy him some time. He rushes around the kitchen and pulls out the kitchen knives. Dream stands in the middle of the room and glances up when Sapnap walks in with a red face from running into the door. He complains under his breath, “I want one quiet afternoon. That’s all I ask.”

“Come here, Tommy,” Sapnap orders.

“Make me bitch,” And Tommy pulls a knife upwards.

“Tommy, don’t throw knives inside the house.”

Tommy drops the knives, and bolts to the other side of the apartment room. He rushes to the other side of the couch and realizes his mistake when Sapnap jumps over the couch.

“Sapnap, don’t tackle Tommy in the house,” Dream then says as he folds the extra towels.

Sapnap still tackles Tommy, and the roll on the floor, Sapnap pinning him down and Tommy shouting at him.

“His left shoulder, Sapnap!” Dream reminds him.

But Sapnap doesn’t headlock him or twist his arms back in revenge. Instead, he tickles him.

He fucking tickles him.

Tommy cackles, unsuccessfully attempting to bat Sapnap’s arms away, as he rolls over, laughing as Sapnap does. He loses his breath and yells for Sapnap to stop, but his older brother continues.

“Sapnap!” Tommy shouts. “Dream, save me!”

“Little boy,” Sapnap teases. “C’mon, I’m going easy on you Thomas.”

“You–” Tommy laughs louder. “Dream!”

“Sapnap,” Dream puffs out and shakes his head in disbelief that they’re both this childish. “Stop.”

Sapnap eventually stops once Tommy stops fighting back. The blood rushes to his head and a dash of fatigue swallows him.

“Tommy?” Sapnap’s voice changes in an instant. “What’s wrong?”

Tommy holds his breath and breathes out quickly. “Sorry, nothing.”

Dream comes to his side, and Tommy doesn’t know how he moves from the opposite of the room so quickly. “Tell me, Tommy.”

“Nothing,” Tommy reiterates. “I just lost my breath for a second.”

Sapnap and Dream glance at each other warily. “Do you want to take a breath of fresh air?”

Tommy would enjoy that a lot. He’s been so accustomed to the walls of Quackity’s medical bay, and Dream’s office, that he would enjoy some time to himself. Sapnap and Dream won’t leave him, not even when he had started training again. Very slow training, however, because of the state of his shoulder.

“Okay,” Tommy agrees. “Thanks.”

“Can you go with him, Sapnap?” And Tommy frowns. “I know you want to go alone Toms, but to be safe – yeah?”

“Yeah,” Tommy sighs but he knows Dream is correct.

“You guys can go buy lunch. I’ll try and finish up.” Dream hands them a couple of ten dollars bills and Sapnap and Tommy leave the apartment after that. Sapnap apologizes for before, and Tommy rolls his eyes and ignores the apology. He grabs Sapnap’s flipped cap and places it on his head. Sapnap doesn’t protest.

“Let’s buy spicy food,” Tommy decides and Sapnap perks an eyebrow.

“Dream hates spicy food.”

“Exactly,”

Sapnap rolls his eyes. “We’ll just get burgers. I don’t want to hear him complain all afternoon that we wasted his money.”

“Burgers are boring,” Tommy complains himself, and they leave the apartment complex.

“How about we go to the bakery you work at?” Sapnap questions. “Then we’ll get lunch and a treat afterward.”

“I quit.” Well, Tommy didn’t quit. Dream and Tommy came to a collective decision that it was the best – and safest – option considering all factors. Tommy does not know how the phone call went since it was Dream who had been the one to call Niki in the first place. He feels kind of bad for the lack of warning.

“Oh,” Sapnap says. “Well, um, that’s okay.” They decide to get sushi because Sapnap recalls a good store seeing when he had walked by the street shops. Sapnap says he’ll let Tommy order by himself, as he takes a call outside.

“Why can’t you?” Tommy groans.

“Karl called me before,” Tommy rolls his eyes and snatches the money out of his hands to step inside.

Tommy waits in line. He’d not a fast decision-maker and stares blankly through the glass at the available options. “Uh–” There are too many options to choose from.

Another person steps into the room. Tommy ignores the presence, assuming it’s Sapnap. “Um,”

“Are you going to order any time soon?”

Tommy turns his body, and his luck is just the worst.

He doesn’t know how he gets himself into these situations, because Wilbur Soot stands before him and Tommy honestly thinks at this point, Wilbur has planted a tracking device inside of him or something, because their coincidence bump-ins don’t seem so coincidental.

“Tommy?” Wilbur says in plain shock. “Tommy?”

“Hey Wil,” Tommy turns his body slowly and orders quickly. “Can I order three Alaska Rolls, three crunchy rolls with avocado, and two shrimp tempura?” As the lady packages them into plastic containers and dumps packets of soy sauce, Wilbur stands beside him.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” Wilbur says softly. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I am, Wilbur,” Tommy grits his teeth and collects the food. “Thanks.”

“Tommy,” Wilbur follows him out of the store, without ordering. “Can we talk? We’re all worried – especially Tubbo since you haven’t responded to any of his texts.” Tommy sees Sapnap, leaning by a graffitied wall. “We all want to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m fine,”

“Then look at me,” he pleads. “Please.”

Tommy sighs and does. He pulls off his cap and his curly hair bounces forward. “I’m okay, see? Can I go now?”

“We haven’t heard from you in weeks, Toms, weeks.” Wilbur says. “Maybe you’re not used to it, but we’re going to worry for you when you cut contact.”

“I haven’t been on my phone,” Tommy lies. He has, he uses it to text Dream and Sapnap where in Las Nevadas he is every couple of hours, so they know. “I’ve just been busy.”

“You can come to my house again,” Wilbur offers. “We can watch another movie – Up, if you want since I know you liked it so much.”

“Tommy?” Then Sapnap comes up to him and Tommy thinks, shit, this isn’t going to end well. “Who’s this?”

“I could ask the same thing,” And Wilbur stands defensively.

Tommy glances between them, like he watches a tennis match. “I’m his brother.”

“Oh,” And Wilbur pauses and scans Sapnap, as if he can’t believe Tommy was stating the truth about having another brother. “I’m Wilbur,”

“Wilbur,” Sapnap greets yet his face is closed off and he stands closer to Tommy. “How do you know my younger brother?”

Wilbur glances at Tommy as he pulls on Sapnap’s cap again. “We’re friends.”

“Are you?” Sapnap glances at Tommy for confirmation, he rolls his eyes.

“Sure.”

“The thing is,” Sapnap clicks his tongue. “I haven’t heard of you.”

“Sapnap,” Tommy mutters quickly in Greek. “Quit it, he’s fine. He’s uh, Phil’s son.”

“Tommy,” Wilbur says. “I didn’t know you were Greek.”

“You don’t know a lot about me,” And Tommy regrets the words out of his mouth, instantly. “Let’s go Sapnap,” He pulls his older backwards, but Sapnap does not relent.

“Is he annoying you, Toms?” Sapnap doesn’t call Tommy ‘Toms’, that’s Dream. Tommy shakes his head.

“Tommy,” Wilbur asks. “Can we talk?” He glances at Sapnap warily, as if he wants him to leave for the conversation.

Sapnap crosses his arms over his chest and Tommy wants to walk away. But he knows if he does, something not so pretty will occur between them. “What is there to talk about, Wilbur?” Tommy sighs, tired. He’s very tired.

“I don’t think he wants to talk to you,” Sapnap wraps his arm around Tommy’s shoulders, careful to leave his left shoulder without a pressure. “You can go.”

Wilbur is going to protest, but he ends up sighing and leaving. Guilt eats up Tommy’s inside, and he almost pulls away from his brother to speak to Wilbur. But he’s a connection that Tommy cannot afford to happen. And although Wilbur, Tubbo and Niki was apart of his life – he can’t think about them, and he can’t let them care. He’s going to be working with them, undercover, and it will jeopardize his identity by getting any way closer to them.

Once Wilbur has left, Sapnap glares at Tommy. “Wilbur?”

“He was a friend at the bakery,” Tommy continues in Greek as they walk back to the apartment. Sapnap takes the plastic bag of sushi from him. “And he’s Phil’s son so I’ll be seeing him more.”

“Not as Tommy,” Sapnap says. “As Theseus.”

He has not met them yet, but Quackity and Dream have discussed with them to keep their masks on. They will avoid it as much as possible, but they can’t reveal their truths to the Syndicate.

They return to the apartment after, where Dream carries the last of the bags to the living room. What is left, is the stained furniture and old beds. “We got sushi,” Sapnap declares. “We also ran into Wilbur.”

“Wilbur?” Dream looks over at Tommy, knowingly. “What’d he say?”

“He wanted to talk,” Tommy mimics his wording.

Dream purses his lips. “There’s something about him…” But he drops the topic, and they eat.

Tommy stares at the empty room before they leave. The beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning – he isn’t sure what it is yet.

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap watches the agents stand in lines. His eyes stay on Sixteen – Theseus.

They stand outside, the sky a deep blue and the wind a perfect day for the Spring. Today they will complete the obstacle course, the new one that has been built recently. George and Dream had tested it out the other day, as some students watched. The walls they would have to climb, by using bare pieces of wood seemed somewhat daunting, and if they fell from the poles, they would have to leap over, to get through each section, a bone would be broken.

Sapnap is not scared of anything though. The course may be off the air, and pacing must be quick, but it is possible to complete.

“In a line!” Sapnap shouts. “If you do not complete the course, then you will stand on the left. If you finish the course second to your competitor, you will as well.”

Sapnap watches Theseus move into line. He knows that Dream has an eye on him, that he’s Dream protégé. That doesn’t mean he will go easy on him, yet.

“Go,” Sapnap directs, and the first row of students begin. They stumble at the start and find trouble to climb the large wooden wall with their blistering fingers and burning hands. One student manages to drop down first, but cannot stick the landing.

The students on the side watch carefully, pinpointing every mistake and observing how they can complete each section the fastest. Some Instructors and Graduates walk by, and stick around, including George and Dream.

“How long did we take?” George smirks as the next row of students starts.

“Ten minutes,” Dream says. “I beat you by a second.” George scowls and turns away.

“None of them have come close,” Sapnap tells them. “The quickest has been fifteen minutes.”

Then it is Theseus’ turn. Sapnap notices how Dream leans forward and watches more carefully while George concentrates.

“Go!” Sapnap shouts at the two agents start. It is Four and Sixteen. Sapnap notices how Dream smirks and George leans back, knowing this will be easy for Theseus to win. Four is known for being weak. However, he is one of the shorter agents and very fast. It assists him to jump between the craters and rushing past the beams. Theseus lacks behind and Sapnap raises his eyes at Dream.

“He will be our fourth?” He doubts.

Dream does not, however. “He will.”

Theseus regains momentum on the wooden wall. Four cannot grip onto between the cracks of the wooden slabs and does not have the strength to pull himself upwards. Theseus does and makes it up quickly. His technique is flawless, and Sapnap is slightly impressed. What Theseus does, is he grips between two planks before throwing himself as high as he can hang. He does this to get to the top, as fast as possible.

Theseus jumps down, not a perfect landing, but he is better than most. Four manages to do the same when Theseus grips onto the thick rope, almost six feet above the floor. He swings through, and Sapnap knows his hands will burn as his fingers slide down, the sweat causing his grip to loosen.

Sapnap and Dream hold their breaths as Four uses his smaller figure to climb higher, as he has less body pull upwards. Sapnap has never seen George so invested in anything before.

Theseus catches up eventually. Sand hits their feat and Four turns to see Theseus catching up. He knows, Sapnap sees in his eyes, that he can’t win. Because Theseus is stronger and more determined. So, Four digs his hands into the sand and throws it into Theseus’ eyes before continuing the course.

Theseus is blinded and Sapnap scowls – because he had told them that this was a fair battle, that they could not tamper with the course of the opposite side. Theseus is held back, holding his eyes and unmoving.

“Move,” Dream whispers under his breath, as if he can hear him. “Move, Theseus.”

And maybe Theseus can hear him because he does. He rushes forwards, tumbling while the sand behind him makes a path for his feet. He jumps over the wooden blocks and skids by Four without breaking much sweat. Sapnap sees strength in him, willpower to finish first.

It is admirable. “Time?” George asks.

“Nine minutes,” Sapnap says, and the two Graduates watch Theseus closer as he pulls forward, one of his eyes closed and the other barely squinting. Four heaves for air, and coughs for breaths. He is stopped to watch the lead Theseus has caught on him, Sapnap thinks he will give up.

Theseus finishes in eleven minutes and thirty seconds. Dream smirks in Sapnap’s direction and George watches Theseus stare into their direction as if he asks for a silent approval for something.

Dream and George glance at him too. Sapnap turns to the next, and final pair of students. “Go!”

“So?” George asks.

Sapnap nods his head, the turns to Theseus. It may just be a nod of his head or approval, but it’s enough.

Chapter Text

Dream is stealthy and George is smart. Sapnap can fight well with his fists and fingers. Theseus’ forte is knives. He can throw them with his eyes closed, he can catch them from behind his head. He has advanced spatial awareness and possesses skills that would have taken years to achieve.

Theseus stands straight. Dream barks at him, from behind. “I’m starting!”

Dream throws knives and Theseus catches them with his fingers. By the end of their sessions, his fingers are red and ache. Dream tosses him bandages and he wraps them himself.

“Well done,” Dream says at the end of a successful session. When Theseus has not performed to standards, he will not say anything. Sometimes Sapnap and George will attend and watch.

Blades are his friend, and the handles mold into his grip. He closes his eyes and tosses the weapons in the air. He throws them at targets and does not hesitate.

Dream finds of the ability first. One afternoon, he tosses Theseus an orange, which he catches mid-air, without glancing at him. He had not realized he held the fruit in his hand until Dream pointed it out.

Then it became other objects, heavier and more sudden. Dream had told Sapnap and George, and between corridors and hallways, they threw objects at Theseus when he did not expect it. At some point, he did, waiting for the moment one of their arms appear for a ball or book to hurdle his direction. They move to weapons shortly after.

One time, it is a fucking vase, and Theseus throws it back at Sapnap in retaliation.

They continue, and to his classmates, Theseus only has better technique with his knives. But then they are taken into a large room and Graduates, and other students sit around, and Theseus knows something is going on.

“You will spar,” The Instructor says. “To death.”

This is the first time they are introduced to this. It is not the last.

They may choose a weapon of their choice. Theseus’ eyes land on Dream, Sapnap, and George’s. He is only now, starting to get used to calling them his brothers. The word seems so foreign to him, even if they are taught that their classmates are their brothers and that they are family.

Theseus notices how Dream’s eyes are pealed to the sharp knives that glisten under the harsh light of the large room. Theseus picks one up and tosses it between his fingers. They do not seem nervous at all, even if death looms in the air. Even if Theseus has seventeen other competitors before him, and they will fight for a future.

The others grab larger and heavier weapons. Staffs and batons, almost make Theseus seem weak.

They stand in line, with their backs straight and eyes forward. Their Instructor walks past them carefully, eyeing each student up and down and surveying their weapons. They scoff at bad posture and if a student cannot meet eye contact.

Theseus is one of the last to fight. He is matched with one other person, selected randomly.

Theseus is ruthless when he fights. He is matched with Twenty-One and knows that years ago, he would have hesitated before bringing death upon the other. He would have paused, and thought things through as if forcing himself into pity for his following actions. But he knows if Twenty-One does not die, then he will.

Twenty-One has selected a mace. He holds it unsure, as if thinking the deadly and stronger weapon he had chosen, the better chance he would have to live. But Theseus has knives, and he will not.

No one knows of his skills, other than Dream, Sapnap, and George. Theseus glances at them through the corner of their eye before their battle begins. Dream leans forward, while George is the opposite, leaning back while his eyes flicker around the room. Then there is Sapnap whose eyes focus on Theseus and do not stare away.

Theseus watches his opponent again. He throws his knife as soon as the Instructor shouts, “Go!”

Theseus does not miss when he aims. Twenty-One staggers backward immediately, many will ask themselves how he has lasted so long. He swings the mace at Theseus, but due to his injured arm, which has blood pouring, his stance is weak, and his aim is poor. Theseus ducks easily, and uses the grip against him, to fly him back.

He retrieves his knife and throws again. Theseus does not miss.

He almost hears Dream in his ear, “Again,” he would say. “Until this is over.”

George would state the opposite. To think things through, to watch.

And Sapnap, Sapnap would tell him to throw himself at Twenty-One until he does not breathe.

They will all tell him to survive.

Theseus does exactly that. Twenty-One throws his mace at him, and while Theseus spins to retrieve the poorly aimed weapon, his opposing student grabs the knife from the floor at throws it at him. He may throw it smugly, knowing Theseus’ back is turned.

But Theseus is better than that. His arm bends back, and he grabs the blade before it can graze his bare skin. He does not hold back as he throws the knife at the boy, using the other's weapon; the mace, to finish him off. He is lucky if his heart still beats, he is unlucky if it does not.

There are no longer seventeen students with him. Some are dead, the others barely have a pulse, and are taken away.

Theseus remains strong.

 

 

 

 

 

They move into the residence. Tommy assumes at first, that Quackity will give them separate rooms in a complex. That he will finally get an area to himself, and it will be less likely he will see Dream and Sapnap every day. He would have gone with Dream, and Sapnap to the tour of the place with Quackity, but his shoulder had swollen, and fatigue had washed over him for the day they went.

It isn’t what he’s expecting though, because Quackity is not lying when he says they have a whole floor to themselves. It is one of the highest, and huge windows greet their vision when they step out of the elevator. They have their own code onto the floor to access it.

Tommy gapes at the size of the room, and his eyes marvel at the area. A huge living room greets them, with a large TV and white couches with comfortable cushions. He rushes to the windows that spread across the whole wall and presses his fingers against them to see the view of Las Nevadas. If Quackity wakes up to a similar sight, then Tommy understands why he doesn’t quit his job, and live in retirement for the rest of his days. The area is beautiful.

Sapnap shows him their bedrooms. There are doors by the living room, six exactly. Two of them are bathrooms, the other is their bedrooms. Their rooms are finished, and their beds are soft. Tommy almost considers jumping on them, but he doesn’t want the frame to break.

“What do you think?” Dream smiles as he carries the last of the boxes of their belongings inside. “Tommy?”

“Which room is mine?” He asks straight away. Dream chuckles and Sapnap rolls his eyes, to make fun of his question.

“The one in the middle,” Dream says. “Between Sapnap and I.”

“If you sneak out, we’ll hear,” Sapnap smirks. “So don’t try anything.”

Tommy scowls, but he doesn’t say anything further on the topic, assisting Dream to unpack the boxes and bags. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t mind. They manage to get a lot done, unpacking blankets and clothes, and appliances and weapons to hide. Dream and Tommy may have left The Academy months ago, Sapnap quite a while afterward, but they will always keep a knife under their pillows.

Tommy sits on the kitchen counter, watching the view again. He sees big buildings and cars below. The sky has a life of its own, and they border between the ground and above.

“It is a nice view,” Dream agrees as he unbandages Tommy’s wound, which has become routine since he has had the stitches in. They will come out later today. “I’m surprised Quackity managed to find a place like this for us.”

“He’s dating Sapnap,” Tommy says as it is obvious. “Knowing their relationship, it’s obvious that Big Q will do anything for him.”

“You’re right,” Dream hums and rebandages the stitches. He pats his leg. “Get off the counter.”

Tommy refuses. “Can you make something? I want to go training soon.”

“Tommy,” Dream sighs.

“What? You said I could,”

“You’re not fully healed yet,” Dream reminds him, before raising his eyes expectedly, waiting for him to jump off the counter. Tommy suspects it is because Dream doesn’t want to make a mess or break anything. Unluckily for him, Sapnap and Tommy will get into a few tackles and fights, and something will end up broken anyway.

Tommy leans on one of the seats, watching Dream maneuver around the kitchen. He notices his brother take out bread, butter, and spreads, so he guesses Dream is making sandwiches for lunch and is not wrong. “Wasn’t one of Philza’s requirements, that we could use their training grounds, and he could use ours?”

“Nothing is confirmed yet,” Dream takes out the slices of toast and places them on the wooden board. “Phil made that deal, likely knowing that all our agents had different training styles and needed to make sure everyone was at the same capabilities and such. He wouldn’t benefit using Quackity’s grounds as much.”

“Makes sense,” Tommy mumbles. “When’s the meeting?”

“Today.” Dream pauses. “I don’t think you should come.”

“Why not?” Tommy blurts loudly. “If it’s because of my fucking shoulder, I’m capable of–”

“I know you’re capable,” Dream stops his outburst, calmly. “I know you’re very capable, Tommy, and I know you can hold against your own. But it’s my fault, that I slipped you were Theseus – which Quackity now believes it isn’t such a good thing.”

“I’ll wear a mask,” Tommy tells him. “And I won’t speak, it will be like I’m not even there.”

Sapnap strolls into the room, his arms over his head as he stretches. “I’m not so sure about that,” he snorts, and Tommy pulls out to whack him in the arm. Sapnap dodges. “Even your face is loud. My ears hurt from looking at you.”

“Tommy,” Dream warns before Tommy leaps out of his seat and tackles Sapnap.

“Dream,” Tommy grumbles.

“I’m the favorite,” Sapnap boasts. “I’m the favorite brother.”

Dream can’t stop Tommy this time when he attacks Sapnap to the ground. Sapnap does not expect it either or falls to the ground with a yelp. Tommy struggles to pin his arms down and yells when Sapnap fights back.

“I don’t have a favorite,” Dream informs them when they finish. He finishes making the sandwiches and passes one to Tommy, who takes it from his hands quickly.

“I’m the favorite actually,” Tommy grins with food in his mouth. “He didn’t make you one,”

“George is the favorite,” Sapnap corrects him and then, realizes his mistake. They don’t speak about George, they never do. Even if Tommy desperately wants to; he wants Dream to open up and he wants Sapnap to act like he feels something for once.

The room is tense and silent. Because of Sapnap’s mention of George, and because he says, ‘is’ instead of ‘was.’

“George would have liked the apartment,” Tommy cuts the silence with his words. “He would have liked it so he and you could share a room, Dream.”

Sapnap laughs lightly. “Yeah. He would have liked the view too.”

They know because George has always liked the stars. He mentions it a few times to them, but Tommy knows he told Dream everything.

Dream laughs, but it doesn’t sound as lighthearted as he intends his voice to be. “I think he would have stuck out every night to watch the view and taken one of us with him.”

They are basketed in silence again, but it is not tense as before.

“We’ll take The Academy down, for him,” Sapnap says lowly. “We’ll free the students, and the Teachers and Headmaster will get what they deserve.” Sapnap will always blame himself for George’s death, Tommy knows. But he will blame The Academy more.

Times like this, make Tommy wonder if he would have known Dream, Sapnap, and George if it weren’t for The Academy. Even though he hates the place with every fiber in his body, there is a singular point, that because of it, he met his brothers. They may not be blood, or they may be, but they are his.

He knows they would have not met. That George would have been on the other side of the world, as the older boy would sometimes mention a memory of cold nights and other accents. Dream and Sapnap would be close in distance, but never close enough to meet. And Tommy? Tommy doesn’t know because he doesn’t like thinking of it. He hates knowing he was so unloved, that his parents gave him up, and that he was discarded so easily.

“Hey,” Sapnap places a hand on his shoulder, snapping him out of his thoughts. Sapnap can change so fast, insulting him to then comfort. “You alright?”

“George isn’t coming back, is he?” Tommy asks and Sapnap falters.

Dream speaks. “I don’t want to give you false hope, Toms.”

“Yeah,” His brothers watch his reaction. “I just… George has always been strong.”

“Yeah,” Sapnap whispers. “He has.”

 

 

 

 

 

George smiles.

He’s never felt so alive before.

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap meets a younger boy in his first year of being a Graduate. He is Twenty-Nine to everyone else, but Gray to him.

Gray is ruthless and fast and everything Sapnap admires. Gray is only twelve though.

Dream warns him, “Sapnap, you can’t get close.” Yet he gets close with Theseus. “Theseus is expected to be our fourth, Twenty-Nine is another assassin.” Sapnap doesn’t think so, Gray is more than a violent and furious boy everyone sees.

Sapnap sees himself in Gray. He sees an image of his past in the boy.

So, he talks to him. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know,” Sapnap offers, one day.

Gray responds cautiously as if this is a test, and he can never pick the right answer. “Okay.”

Sapnap teaches him and watches the boy’s performance during classes. He takes down his classmates and is fast on his feet. He has a fire behind his eyes and a spirit threatening to spill.

Gray will Graduate. Gray will survive.

But one day, Gray doesn’t return.

“Twenty-Nine,” Sapnap asks the Instructor. “What happened?” He explains how he has an eye on the student, how he sees potential.

“Started a fight after dinner,” The Instructor explains with no other questions because Sapnap is a Graduate and is not questioned. “Stabbed another in the eye,”

They do not tell Sapnap the result of Gray, because he does not need them to tell him, for him to know.

He struggles to get out of bed, the next day. Dream finds him and sits by him. “George got attached too, once. He had just Graduated and saw potential in a kid. I didn’t think you’d be the same though, and that you’d get so close.”

“You’re attached to Sixteen,” Sapnap grumbles back.

“Theseus is different,” Dream says. They play a game sometimes when they chose students who they believe will be their fourth. Sapnap stops one day, but he has always had an eye on Gray. Gray’s purple eyes and his intelligence, and the anger that burned inside of him. Sapnap wants to let it loose, he wants to see how much destruction they can cause together, one day.

“You’ll get over it,” Dream promises and pats his shoulder. “Get up, we have a long day.”

Sapnap gets up. Afterward, he refuses to be close with anyone but Dream and Sapnap. Because he can trust them to live longer. He trusted Gray once – he trusted that Gray could survive.

So Sapnap doesn’t like Theseus. Because Theseus is like Gray, and he can’t let himself become attached. He is weak if he does, he goes against the teachings that he once ignored.

“Do you not like him?” George asks after a long day of teaching. “Theseus, I mean. Because Dream does.”

“Do you?” Sapnap grumbles curtly.

“I do,” George replies honestly. “You should give him a chance.”

“Why should I give him a chance?” Sapnap complains.

“He’s sticking around,” George says stiffly because George is always stiff and tense. “And he’s like you in some ways. But you refuse to accept him.”

“I don’t need to accept him,” Connection is death. “How do you know he will survive?”

“I trust Dream’s instincts. And I’ve seen him, Sapnap. He can fight well and he’s good with his knives.”

Gray fights well and was one of the best in his class. He is good with knives as well, Sapnap teaches him everything he needs to know. His specialty is movement and running. He would have been a good addition to the missions, as Gray blends within the shadows and is stealthy.

“You’re caught up with that other kid,” George sighs. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t give him a chance.”

For George and Dream to stop complaining, he does.

“When the kid doesn’t return one day, don’t come back to me complaining,” Sapnap snaps. “One day, when you find out he’s dead, you know I would have told you so.”

Over the next couple of weeks, maybe months, Sapnap watches Theseus fight. He knows the kid is good, but when he finds himself reaching out, he pulls away again when he sees purple eyes set behind his blue.

“Sixteen!” Sapnap barks in lessons. “Again!” Or during running exercises, he ensures Theseus continues laps when he’s finished. Even though he tells George his words of Theseus not making it out – and for him to say ‘I told you so’ – he makes sure Theseus will not take the care of the Graduates for granted. He will push Theseus until he knows he will survive.

“Why is Sapnap such a dick?” Sapnap overhears Theseus asking Dream one night.

“Theseus,” Dream scowls. “You know you can’t speak about him like that.”

“I might as well, he can’t make me run extra laps when he can’t hear me,” Theseus grumbles back.

“Look, I’ll talk to him about that. Sapnap is just wary, that’s all.”

“Why?”

Dream sighs. “He believed in a kid, once. But he didn’t make it.” Sapnap turns his head over the corner, to see Theseus frown.

“I’ll make it,” Theseus then promises. “I’ll live.”

Sapnap swiftly swipes him a vanilla pudding on his plate, the next morning. It’s not an apology, because Sapnap is stubborn as well. And it’s definitely not because Dream had shouted at him in the early morning, for what he had been doing.

Theseus glances around quickly, Sapnap notices. How he eyes everyone in the room because an unexplainable sight of a second dessert has ended up on his plate. Sapnap recalls George speaking about Theseus' addiction to sweets, once. He doesn’t know why he remembers.

Over time, Sapnap won’t admit he gets close. But he sees more of Gray in Theseus and sees more of Theseus in himself.

“I will survive,” Theseus says. “For you, and for myself.”

Sapnap believes him.

 

 

 

 

 

Quackity takes Tommy to the Syndicate’s facility.

He could have chosen Karl or even Sapnap. But he chooses Tommy. “I’ll need someone to guard me,” Is Quackity’s reasoning. “And now that Phil knows of you, it’s another thing I can use against him.”

Guards step aside for iron doors to open. Tommy’s mask is secured on tightly, and he tugs it below his chin for an extra measure. It was Dream’s precaution after hesitantly agreeing. At first, he was against it, until he realized that Tommy and Phil were going to reunite anyway, in given time.

He makes Tommy promise a couple of things, though. To never take his mask off, and to avoid speaking to anyone. Tommy can do that, even if Sapnap disagrees.

Quackity leads the way for Tommy, even if agents surround them, to ensure they do not pull any moves. “Tell me if one of them looks at wrong,” Quackity says in Spanish.

“I thought I was your bodyguard?”

Quackity smirks. “I can defend myself, kid. I thought you deserved to get out of Las Nevadas for a bit. And I want to see what you’re really capable of, with this type of equipment,” Their conversation continues in Spanish so that no one else can understand them.

“Capable?” Tommy gulps and remembers a time of capability, when he was pushed and shoved to his limits.

Quackity reassures him quickly. “I just want to see your skills, that’s all. Sapnap boasts about you all the time,”

Tommy nods his head and surveys the room. It is the main lobby, agents lounging in dark uniform. They send curious glances to Tommy and Quackity as they pass.

“Phil made an agreement to not tell anyone of you,” Quackity explains. “They don’t know who you are.”

“I didn’t think they did,” Tommy mutters and recalls the reward above his head. “Otherwise, they’d be attacking me, the moment I stepped into the room.” Quackity laughs lightly and is led to a quieter hallway, where they meet an elevator.

Quackity instructs them, “We’ll take it from here. Thank you for leading the way.”

The agents who had guided them seem hesitant, but they know that if Quackity and Tommy did try a thing – that there are other agents with Philza by his office, to defend him in case of an emergency.

Quackity and Tommy step into the elevator. Quackity mockingly salutes and grins at the agents who stand outside, blinking. “What are your thoughts on the place so far?” He presses the top button and watches as the numbers blink between their view.

“Not better than yours,” Tommy says because Quackity’s agency is big and doesn’t need so many people lurking around to seem so competitive and threatening. “Although now that I think about it, maybe you do need a bit of remodeling.”

“What the fuck, Thomas?”

Tommy groans at the name and knows that it is Sapnap who has told Quackity that the name pisses him off and gets under his skin. He doesn’t correct him.

“You have ugly colored walls, Big Q. You should change it to red or some shit.” The elevator’s floor number slowly trickles upwards.

“I’m not changing my agency to vibrant red,” Quackity spits as if the thought will make him sick.

“Not a vibrant red, what about a dark maroon?” Tommy suggests. “So, if blood gets on the walls, you don’t have to clean it off.”

“You know what? I like how you think, kid.”

The elevator stops and the doors open. They walk through a long hallway and the doors are already open for them.

“Quackity,” Phil greets as Quackity sets foot in the room. Tommy lurks behind him, his mask secured, and his eyes analyzing Phil’s face. At the end of the Red Banquet, he did not get a good look at his face as his mask was on for most of the night. But now Tommy sees him clearly, and sees his thin blond hair and blue eyes and notices how something about him feels familiar.

“And Theseus,” Phil then says with long hesitance when he notices him present. “I didn’t expect you here,”

Tommy nods his head stiffly and Philza frowns. He turns to one of the present guards and informs him to bring Techno and Ranboo inside.

“It’s only fair,” Phil recons.

“I didn’t know you were collecting children,” Quackity scowls. “Ranboo? He’s a child.”

“I didn’t know you were, either.” Phil deadpans, and Quackity stills. “Theseus can’t be older than sixteen.”

Phil isn’t wrong but Quackity will not admit he is right. “Bring Techno and Ranboo in, and we’ll discuss what we want to discuss.”

“Couldn’t this wait?” Phil sighs, tiredly as they sit down. Theseus stays standing behind Quackity. If he sits down, he does not have a view of the door and cannot let any side of him be unprotected in such untrustworthy premises. “I’m arriving at Las Nevadas, later tonight, am I not?”

“That’s the thing, Phil,” Quackity sighs. “I don’t trust you on my grounds.”

Phil laughs until he doesn’t realize Quackity does not speak a joke. “Excuse me?”

“I don’t want your agents on my grounds. We have confidential matters, and I can’t trust them to use the facility accordingly.”

“Quackity,” Phil says slowly. “What part of this agreement do you not understand? For our alliance to be set, we must grant access to both areas. It’s common knowledge until our alliance is stopped afterward.”

“I can’t trust you,” Quackity grits his teeth. “I’d assume you would understand that, after your son’s actions.”

“You did provoke him, Quackity. Tell me that I’m wrong.”

Tommy follows their conversation, until this topic and he’s led by confusion. Phil talks about a feud between them until Tommy connects the dots and remembers Quackity speaking of an old friend hurting his eye. There is a long and large scar on his face, and Tommy concludes it is Technoblade who causes it.

“Philza?” Then Technoblade steps into the room, his eyes turning to stone at the sight of Quackity. “You did not inform me that he was coming,”

“Hello Technoblade,” Big Q smiles with sarcasm. “It’s good to see you.”

“If only I could say the same.” Techno’s eyes scan the room, and he finds Tommy hiding within the shadows. “Theseus.” He blurts out.

Tommy stares at him, emotionlessly.

Technoblade glares at Quackity, again. “Why did you bring him here? Does he not speak?”

“It’s almost as if you’re accusing me of something,” Quackity spits, and Tommy thinks that Techno must deliver with the idea that Quackity is the one responsible for his cold nature and unresponsiveness. That is his own doing, and partially Dream’s. “Theseus does not speak much.”

They both know how much of a lie that is.

Tommy likes to talk. The only reason he doesn’t sometimes is that he was taught for years that he must not speak and give many words away. Tommy speaks, but Theseus does not.

Techno frowns and his eyes do not leave Tommy’s. This Technoblade is so strange and different, Tommy thinks to himself. He almost forgets how Techno is before he meets him as Theseus. But Techno is reserved and carries an unimpressed expression on his face. This Techno – shows his status through his eyes and stance. He is not afraid and will display it for all to see.

“If you two are done,” Phil stops them, and gestures for Techno to sit down on the chair next to him. He does but watches Tommy. “Quackity, as I was saying, I don’t think this alliance is working, here.”

“What?” Quackity grits.

“You’re lacking trust, and we both must understand each other’s perspectives for this collaboration to succeed. On top of that, I need the trust of all your agents – including your agency. Of course, I don’t particularly need your grounds to train on, but it should be accessible.”

“And that isn’t happening,”

“Then the agreement is off.”

Quackity blinks. Then again. “Philza, I know you need me. I have Theseus – and XD. You may not want me, but you need me.”

Phil furrows his eyebrows. “I think you’re overstepping, Quackity. You may be forgetting who I am.”

Tommy mutters to Quackity in Spanish, “Who is he?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Quackity says back. Phil watches their interaction carefully while Techno keeps staring.

“How about Technoblade takes Theseus to our training rooms?” Phil asks. “While we finish our discussion.”

“I don’t think there is anything we need to discuss here, Philza.” He says before adding, “And Theseus will not go anywhere with Technoblade.”

Phil raises his hand, wavering off any thought of his. “Theseus will be able to hold off himself if you’re worried about that. Technoblade can give him a tour. I’d prefer not to discuss any more business with him present.”

Tommy rolls his eyes. “I’ll go,” he says in Spanish, to Quackity with short annoyance. “If he tries anything, he can share the scar you have.”

Quackity smirks. “Fine.”

Technoblade stands up quickly, the legs of the office chair dragging against the floor. While he walks out of the room, Tommy follows hesitantly behind him. He keeps his distance, and his fingers twitch towards his pocket, where his dagger lays.

“I won’t bite,” Techno says, turning around. They walk back through the hallway and he notices the distance between them. “I won’t hurt you.”

Tommy scoffs and turns away when they step into the elevator, he inches away.

“People will stare, because there aren’t many few faces around the training rooms – newer recruits don’t stay here. So, stick with me.” Techno pauses. “Although, you are wearing a mask, so there will be stares anyway.” Tommy wonders how their agency runs and if it is similar to The Academy. Although it does seem different at front – as they have many older agents and agents have access to any room, he notices.

But Phil reminds him of his Headmaster, so that’s a similarity.

Tommy watches Techno through the corner of his eye. Techno’s sword is sharp, and so are his glances. He wears a simple black uniform, and his hair is loosely braided. He looks so different here, without his glasses and the usual attire Tommy sees him in.

The elevator doors open, and Technoblade strides out first. “I’ll show you the training rooms, first.”

Tommy nods his head.

“Usually, we practice here. Nothing intense, the sparring rooms are opposite. We have knives and swords – but no one uses them. We have guns in another compartment, but only selected members have the keys.” Tommy nods his head again. “Do you want to try it out?”

Tommy’s hands twitch and he can’t glance away from the sharp weapons that scream his name, to be used.

“Okay,”

Technoblade leads him to the weapons. He takes the knives carefully and chooses them precisely. He prefers a steadier grip and a sharper blade. So does Sapnap.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Techno smirks and flicks a leaver on the corner of the room.

Tommy tenses, until he realizes the leaver he has flicked, moves the targets in front of him. They spin slowly and will be easy to aim at.

Tommy has always been cocky. A trait he learns from Dream, even though the older will deny the claim.

He stares at Techno while he makes his shots. They all land perfectly.

Techno conceals his impressed expression fast. “Well done.”

Tommy does it again, with his eyes closed. He does it thereafter, with his back to the target and then with the speed faster. Technoblade pulls the leaver down lower, for the targets to move faster and in different directions.

Tommy has hands of knives and does not miss. He is once Theseus and once a student of The Academy. They do not miss, they are perfect.

“Impressive,” Technoblade nods his head. “I’ll continue my tour, then.” He hides an emotion; Tommy cannot see in time. “We have a library and gym. We also have sparring rooms, if you want to try. Ranboo is around here somewhere.”

Tommy does not want to. Not that he’s scared – he’s definitely not scared off their amateur assassin who he can bend in half. “No,” he denies.

“No, what?”

Tommy presses his lips shut.

“You have to speak up, Theseus,” Technoblade says, coughing. His eyes meet his momentarily, but then he looks away fast. Tommy could say his voice softens but he may be imagining it. “So I can hear you.”

“It’s okay,” he says, clearer. “Show me the gym.”

Technoblade does, leading him there. Tommy notices carefully each inch of the room, wondering if any information will be valuable to recite. But his memorization is well, and he can recall the layout of the room without a breath in between.

“The gym, pretty self-explanatory. All members have access here.” Techno says. “You’ll find me here.”

“Why would I need to find you here?” Tommy grumbles.

Techno grins. “Phil is a persuader.”

Tommy doesn’t have enough time to figure out what he means.

They walk up a set of stairs next, to arrive at a library. Inside, right in front, a portrait sits in front of him. Philza stands, with his two sons.

Tommy notices Wilbur with his annoying smile and thin glasses. He almost mocks the photo, until he realizes that he is Theseus, and can’t.

“That’s Wilbur,” Technoblade explains to him, quietly. “He’s my brother.”

A bitch, Tommy corrects him, in his mind.

They turn to leave, and a voice calls them back. “Technoblade!” And the man of the picture rushes to them with a scowl. “Ranboo told me that Philza had bought Quackity here, which I thought, wasn’t the case, considering one of you would have told me.”

“Wilbur,” Techno greets, almost seeming bored with his brother.

Wilbur wears a familiar yellow sweater, and his hair is combed as it usually is. He stands apart from Techno, wearing a brown trench coat which is unusual in an agency where everyone wears uniforms and black outfits.

“Techno,” Wilbur growls. “Do you refuse to tell me anything?”

“Wilbur,” Tommy then says, and almost realizes his mistake.

Wilbur turns to him. He doesn’t exactly turn, instead, his body jerks and his eyes widen like saucers. "Who are you?"

Tommy wonders if Wilbur recognizes him.

“No one–” Technoblade almost stops him, as if to deescalate a potential conversation or argument.

Tommy has two options in one split second. He can let Techno say nothing, and for Wilbur to figure out he is Tommy – because of course that is something Wilbur can recognize – or he can admit he is Theseus because it is clear that Wilbur does not know about him yet.

So he goes with the latter because Wilbur might as well know.

He does not realize the chaos he has unleashed, until afterward.

“Theseus,” he says. “I am Theseus.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Phil,” Quackity grits his teeth. “You cannot be serious.”

Phil smiles menacingly.

Quackity stands. “Philza.”

“The thing is, Quackity,” he says slowly, raising his hand to stare at his golden rings that match Quackity’s teeth. “Once they realize your true intentions, you know they will leave. I know for a fact, that you’re speaking false lies – that you will gain Theseus and XD’s trust to only rip them away later.”

“No.”

“You don’t care about those kids,” Phil spits and his blue eyes stab him. “You don’t give a shit.”

“I do–”

“You will use them, as they’ve been used for their lives. They deserve to be free, to have a choice. Not to be tied to another agency, with an owner who cares about control and improving his company.”

“You think you have an upper hand here, Phil.”

“It’s because I do,” Philza says. “Yet, all I ask for is one request from you.”

“It’s a request I can't give.”

“You know that I always get my way,” Philza says. “Because I want Theseus here. He doesn’t have to join my agency – because I will not force him into a position he does not want, unlike you.” Quackity’s shoulders stiffen, and he is ready to protest because he would never make that kid do something, he doesn’t want to do. “However, I know about the reward over his hand, and I want him here, to keep him safe. I can’t trust you to do so.”

“Phil.” Quackity glares.

“– Quackity,” Philza says back.

Quackity knows Philza well, they’ve known each other for years. Philza is known from many parts as the Angel of Death. A nickname that has come from his brutality and threatening nature. His ability to gain the trust of his students and takedown organizations and establishments for the exploitation of many sorts. But he’s known to give and show hospitality; he is a demon wearing angel wings.

“I want him here, Quackity,” Phil stands up. “Or I will show them all, who you really are.”

Chapter Text

Quackity is not a good person.

He rests on a balcony of an abandoned building, wondering when it is his turn to die. His wrists are bruised with black and blue, and he struggles to keep his eyes open. He does not have to look at himself, because he can feel the burns, scars, and wounds that cover his body. His face likely seems like a child mistook his face for a coloring book – it isn’t a pretty sight.

The moon watches him. He asks it for advice.

“What do I do?” His voice cracks, and he almost chokes on air.

The moon does not respond.

“What do I do?” He repeats and is met by silence.

Quackity drops his head on the concrete of the floor under him. He sees light. Maybe he’s finally gone. But it isn’t his time to die, not yet. He is alive and breathing, and he is surviving.

His chest rises and falls, and his palms face the smooth surface under him. The coolness is unusual to his hot skin, and he presses harder, letting the texture soothe his skin. He turns his body, grunting until his stomach lays on the cement, and he rests his forehead into his arms.

The scar on his skin hurts. The one from the blade, from the Blade. He bleeds onto his palms but does not give enough fucks to care. The scar will heal but will mark. At least it is his left eye, he prefers his right better.

“Quackity,” Phil’s voice echoes his ears. “We trust you like you are one of us. Do not use take it for granted.”

But he does.

“Quackity,” Techno then says. “If you do – then you’ll know what’s coming, I hope.”

He does, and now he faces the consequences of his actions. He laughs and the moon smiles brighter.

“You know,” Quackity tells the moon. “I knew Philza never trusted me. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, really.” He sighs, longingly. “But it’s okay.”

Quackity stands. “I think I’m going crazy. Karl would call me crazy. Then he’d laugh.” He stretches his limbs and flinches at the pain that stretches his body. “But I’ll be crazy if I have to. Philza won’t know what will hit him.”

He is Quackity and he is not a good person.

At least he is self-aware – at least he knows. Philza doesn’t know that, nor does Techno. They do not realize the bad people they are, while Quackity accepts it. He is okay knowing that he is murderer, a betrayer, and a traitor. He is perfectly fine with it.

Quackity licks his lips and thanks the moon. He leaves the building and flickers a flame to his cigarette. His lips are chapped and his mouth tastes of blood.

Or perhaps, it is the bitter taste of vengeance.

 

 

 

 

 

Phil’s daring eyes force him to look away.

“You know Theseus is my son,” Phil says slowly. “You remember.”

(Nights ago, years away, Phil admits to Quackity that he has a missing son. He says his name is Theseus.)

“You knew,” Phil furthers. “And you did not say a thing.”

Quackity remembers the feeling of cold cement and hot skin.

“You came here to flaunt,” Phil spits. “You came to flaunt that you have him, that I don’t – and that he doesn’t remember anything about his past. You are sick, Quackity.”

“I didn’t remember.”

“Bullshit.”

Quackity meets his blue eyes, which remind him of Tommy. Like father, like son after all. “So, what if I know? He’s not yours anymore.”

“He’s my son,” Phil glares.

Quackity smirks and stands up stronger. “The thing is, Phil, he isn’t really. He doesn’t know you; he doesn’t love you. Theseus finds it hard to trust people, listen to me when I say that he won’t follow a word out of your mouth.” Quackity pauses, with a sick smile. “He has his own family now, and you’re not a part of it.”

“Quackity,”

“Phil,” Quackity cocks his head. “His name isn’t Theseus anymore, did you know? He goes by something else. There is another boy under that mask. He won’t let you take it off.”

“I won’t do anything he won’t want.”

“And he won’t want to stay with you,” Quackity thinks of Dream and Sapnap. They are his brothers, and he has seen them together, to know that they would give up their lives for each other. Philza is an outside force and won’t reach them. Tommy will push him away; push the people with who he can’t trust or refuses to hold care or connection.

Quackity knows Tommy cannot even trust himself, fully. So he will not trust Phil, for a long, long, time.

“The thing is Quackity,” Now Phil steps forward as if to intimidate him. “Theseus doesn’t know how much of a danger he’s in. He’ll stay here. And you know exactly what will happen if he doesn’t.”

“I’d like to see you try anything.”

“Oh, trust me,” Phil smirks. “I will.”

 

 

 

 

 

Techno shoves Wilbur away before he can speak anything to the boy – because he can mention that Theseus is their brother and for their whole plan to fall.

“Technoblade,” Wilbur hisses, struggling against his grip. “You better be fucking kidding me. That isn’t my fucking brother out there–”

“It is,” Techno interrupts and shoves a door behind them, throwing Wilbur to the side, because Techno has always been stronger. “That is Theseus, and he’s… changed.”

“Technoblade,” Wilbur doesn’t use his full name regularly. “I’ll give you five seconds to explain.”

“Is that a threat?” Techno smirks but explains anyway. “Phil and I haven’t known for long.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?!” Wilbur shouts. “That is Theseus there. Theseus – do you hear yourself? Our brother. Our brother.”

“He doesn’t recognize us, he doesn’t remember,” Techno coughs into his fist. “I’m going to shorten this down because I don’t have enough time for you to shout at me because the kid is out there alone. But he’s from The Academy.”

“The Academy?–”

“His memory was wiped, and he’s an assassin now.”

“Assassin–”

“And he works for Quackity.”

“Quack–”

Wilbur looks like he might just faint.

“Phil and I don’t know much now. For whatever reason, you couldn’t know. And the kid can’t know we’re related – not yet.”

“Techno,” Wilbur shakes his head. “You’re saying that I can’t hug my brother, who I haven’t seen in years? Who I thought was dead – ?”

“I’m saying exactly that. Unless you want him to stab you, he’s trained and an experienced fighter. He can take you down in a second.”

“And you?” He expects Techno to say he won’t be able to.

But Techno says the opposite. “One minute. Give or take spare a few seconds.”

Wilbur slumps to the floor. He rests his head back on the grey walls and stares at the tiled ceiling. Techno watches the empty hallway, glances at Theseus through the small window of the door, and sits by his younger brother.

“You don’t tell me shit. I would have liked to know,” Wilbur says emptily.

“Blame Phil,” Techno says. “I told you.”

“An assassin – The Academy,” Wilbur is in shock, his eyes glassy and his mind likely unable to grasp the sudden revelation. “What’s going to happen? Is he going to stay? He doesn’t even recognize us – he doesn’t know who we are.”

“He’s with Quackity, but Phil’s figuring something out,” Techno promises. “Theseus will be home, soon enough.”

“Why does he wear that mask?”

“He wore it at The Red Banquet too. I’m not so sure why he still is.”

“What do I say to him?” Wilbur croaks.

“Introduce yourself. And apologize for your outburst.”

Wilbur nods his head, and the brothers stand up. They push the doors open and head towards the boy.

But he is not standing by them anymore. Theseus is gone.

“Well,” Techno scratches his forehead, awkwardly.

“Fuck.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy leaves Techno and Wilbur, to find Quackity again. As much as he appreciates the whole tour and Techno’s company – he would prefer to get the fuck out here. He’s broken all of Dream’s rules, and although he would usually be overjoyed by the fact, the hallways and empty rooms make him feel weird. The hairs on his back stand and he is cautious.

They are taught to trust their gut, and Tommy does. He finds the elevator and goes to Quackity. Phil’s office, he remembers is where he is meant to go. His training comes in hand here, as he can maneuver the exits and entrances, and get to the elevator in one piece. He takes the stairs though, not wanting to be in an awkward position with any other person, in a tight space.

(He recalls a test they take, where they are shoved into one room and deprived of food and water for days. He remembers the feeling of sweat and sticky bodies. The caving walls and lack of light make him shiver.)

He arrives at Phil’s office and strides through the door.

He blinks.

Phil stands close to Quackity, towering over him, while Quackity glares back, his stance defensive and prepared to attack back. But Tommy is here for a reason, and that reason is to be his bodyguard. He swoops in, like the assassin he is trained to be, and grips onto Phil’s arms before he can step another foot forward.

“Don’t touch him,” Tommy says plainly and forces Phil’s arm away. He ignores Quackity’s smug expression and laughter in his eyes, as he stands behind him.

To Big Q, he tells him in Spanish so Phil does not understand, “Can we leave? I don’t want to stay here, anymore.”

Quackity ignores him. “I told you, Phil.” Likely referencing a previous conversation.

“Theseus,” Phil now ignores him. “Do you enjoy working for Quackity?”

“I don’t work for him,” Tommy does not work for anyone after he has left The Academy. He works for himself, and only himself.

“You don’t?” Phil asks incredulously. “Are you sure?”

“I think you would be sure of that, Philza,” Quackity spits. “Theseus and I will be leaving now.”

“Phil!” The door shoves open again, and Techno rushes into the room. “Theseus is gone–” And the words die on his lips when he sees him. “Oh.” He sighs.

“Technoblade, we were just going,” Quackity steps back, and raises an arm around Tommy. Tommy notices how Phil and Techno both tense. Tommy does not like Quackity’s arm around him but allows it for now.

“No,” Phil refuses. “You weren’t.”

“The deal is off,” Quackity explains. “I don’t need your alliance.”

Techno furrows his eyebrows and looks at Phil. “What?”

“We’ll keep Theseus safe, that’s all I ask,”

And Tommy snaps into the conversation, from his silent position. He will not be hot-headed and shout, and instead, his words and deadly and silent.

“What did you say?”

“The Academy is after you,” Phil says with softness. “I’m offering you a place to stay, as I believe Las Nevadas isn’t.”

Tommy glares at Phil. He almost smiles when he cowers. “I don’t need protecting. I’m trained, myself.”

“And he has a family, Phil,” Quackity flaunts. “A family.”

“Theseus,” Techno then says. “We want to help you as much as possible. Phil is experienced with this and will help with your mission. But it will be better for you to stay here, so The Academy won’t find Quackity’s location – and target them.”

“And they won’t target you?” Quackity scoffs. “They won’t find out he’s here, and go for you instead?”

“When was the last time you updated your safety protocol? Or updated your security – or even looked at the protection measures placed on your ground?” Quackity’s lips seal shut. “This is what I’m saying.”

“They’re going to increase the reward above Theseus’ head. They will increase it to one million, maybe more. To ensure the mission is not jeopardized, he needs to be in safe hands.”

“I am in safe hands,” But no one listens.

Wilbur Soot makes his entrance as a debate continues. Tommy is left to stare at him, as he paces into the room, silently. But his presence is drowned by the shouts and words of the room, and Tommy can’t look away from him.

He hates to admit that he misses him. He misses their talks, and conversations, and fights. He misses Wilbur’s comfort and knowing he was one phone call away from anything. Wilbur was weird and showed up at the weirdest times, but he was different to Tommy. Because Tommy has had Dream and Sapnap and George, but they care because they have to. They care because they are his brothers and want him to survive. Wilbur does not have to.

Although Tommy will never admit it aloud; he misses the somewhat of normality he once had for a short time. When all he thought of was his shifts at Niki’s bakery, and whether or not Wilbur was going to arrive and annoy him until closing time.

As Tommy watches Wil, Wil watches him too. There isn’t much to see, because of the mask that covers his features and expression. It allows him to stand neutral and unbothered, even though his eyebrows are tilted downwards, and he frowns. He can conceal his emotion, but Wilbur’s is out to see.

Wilbur seems surprised and shocked. Wilbur has an expression on his face that Tommy has never seen before.

“Theseus,” Wilbur says calmly. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Tommy nods his head at him, stiffly. Wilbur frowns, and steps around Technoblade to him. He walks up to him and the room silences.

Tommy sees brown eyes and wonders how he feels. Maybe Wilbur does recognize him. “Hey.”

Tommy nods his head again.

“Do you…” Wilbur pauses. “Do you recognize me?”

And Tommy’s mouth goes dry because he does not know how to respond to that. Wilbur knows, his mind rings. Wilbur knows. Wilbur knows.

Wilbur asks to be recognized while Tommy does not. He is confused, momentarily. “No,” he eventually says, because that is all he can.

“Wilbur,” Quackity growls and tugs Tommy away. Tommy has not realized that the room has stopped for them to speak, and thought it was just his mind. “Step behind.”

“I thought he – I thought he was going to…”

“Wilbur,” Phil mutters. “It’s okay.”

“What are they talking about?” Tommy asks Quackity. “Tell me, or I will stab you.”

Quackity smirks. “Okay, okay.”

“What did he say?” Wilbur asks as Phil mutters, “And I need to learn Spanish.”

“Theseus,” Techno introduces. “What do you want to do?”

Tommy does not know.

“You don’t want to put the mission in jeopardy, do you? Staying at Las Nevadas could potentially put his company in harm. It could put your family in harm.”

Tommy recalls Dream telling him to survive, one day, and to himself before anyone else.

But Dream is his brother, and so is Sapnap. He puts them before anyone else. Because they safe him. He survives, because of them.

“Look, kid,” Techno strolls over. “You’re sixteen? Seventeen? I don’t know–” Something about him says that he does. “Phil has been working on his case for months, we all have. We can’t let anything get in the way of reaching our own goal.”

Tommy isn’t as affected by Techno’s words as he thinks he is. The man is attempting to control his view, and sway him into agreeance. But Tommy’s learned past that. What he is concerned about, is his brothers.

He does not agree for Technoblade. He does not agree for Philza, or for the reward on his head.

He agrees for his brothers.

“Okay,” Tommy agrees.

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur sings a song for his younger brother.

He is asleep before he finishes.

Wilbur watches his sleeping expression and stands slowly. His heart burns when he sees him because Theseus looks so much like their mother, and their mother is dead. They share the same brown hair, but Theseus has the eyes of their father.

Wilbur has the voice of his mother and finishes with his voice yearning for more. The song was never his, and now it will be.

He flickers off the light and leaves the room.

He does not know that that will be one of the last times he will sing to him.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream is furious, although furious, may not be the proper word to use in the situation.

He grabs Quackity’s shirt and pushes him to the wall. He swears his stomach and punches his eye until Sapnap pulls him away with his strength. Sapnap is angry too, Tommy sees the fire in his eyes.

Quackity staggers and almost loses his balance when Dream is pulled away from him. He clutches his face and rubs his stomach.

“Quackity!” Dream shouts. “Tell me this is a joke, or so help me–”

“I agreed to it,” Tommy says plainly. “It’s my fault.”

“Shut up, Tommy!” Dream shouts as Sapnap says, “No it isn’t,” And Tommy decides to keep his mouth closed after that.

“I trusted you,” Dream points his pointed figure in his direction. “No, that’s too far – I believed you were decent enough, to protect my younger brother. You’re full of fucking shit, Quackity.”

“Dream,” Sapnap mutters. “That’s enough.”

“You’re defending him!” Dream laughs, disbelievingly, and snaps in Russian, “You love him, but you can’t trust him.”

Tommy ponders on the thought – because love means trust, he assumes. But he’s not the best with emotions and naming what he is feeling, so he leaves the thought.

“Dream,” Sapnap snaps back. “Let him speak and explain yourself. Or leave the room.”

Dream glares. But he is silent.

“I’ll give you three minutes to explain yourself. Start.”

Quackity coughs into his fist. His hair is a mess, and his shirt is crumbled. “Phil…”

“Quackity,” Dream snaps, and Sapnap shoves him again, to lay off. Tommy wonders if he should leave the room, or say something, but the glance Dream sends him immediately after, forces him to stay put.

“Phil believes Tommy will be a danger to the mission if he’s left here. He believes that his grounds are safer, to ensure that The Academy won’t come after him, and jeopardize our plan.”

“And you agreed?”

“I did,” Tommy interrupts. “I don’t want to ruin the plan.” I don’t want to see you hurt, he wants to say. I don’t want to be the reason for your harm.

“Philza is persistent. As much as I don’t want to believe it – we need him. And if we do, he has to comply with his request.”

“Well, he’s not going,” Sapnap laughs like the situation is a joke. He walks up to the boy, and slings a shoulder around him – he can as his shoulder is healed now, or at least, better than before. “Right?”

“Sapnap,” Tommy says quietly. “I have to–”

“No,” Dream says strictly. “You won’t.”

Ever since Tommy has left The Academy, he refuses to allow anyone to control him as they did. But Dream is an exception because Dream is his brother.

“Then what are we going to do?” Quackity asks. “We can’t do this on our own.”

“We’ll leave,” Dream comes to the feared conclusion. “We’ll run.”

“No, we won’t,” Sapnap’s arm drops. “You aren’t serious.”

“What if I am?”

“Leave the room,” Sapnap deadpans. “Leave the fucking room, until you make some goddamn sense, Dream. You’re taught better than this,” he says his last words with a thick accent. “We won’t run because that isn’t the answer. They’ll find us easily because even though we’re trained, we will become sloppier and leave a trail. It is the last option we’ll take – the very last, so leave the room and come back when you’ll think with a straight mind.”

Dream is the oldest and is honored. He is Graduate One and The Academy’s best assassin. They look up to him because he is the greatest, the best. And although Sapnap may be younger, and weaker in some areas, he controls Dream and tells him what to do. His voice drips with urgency and fierceness, and his fists curl with his shouts.

Dream leaves, then. Silence resumes.

“We will think rationally and logically,” Sapnap growls. “None of the running away bullshit – we aren’t risking our lives any more than we have to.” He collapses on the seat by Tommy, and they lean back on the warm cushion of the couch.

Quackity does not know what to say. Neither does Tommy, nor Sapnap.

Sapnap’s eyes land on Punz on the corner of the room. He stares forward and never speaks unless spoken to.

So, he asks, “What do you think, Punz?”

“Excuse me?”

“What do you think we should do?” Punz may not show it, but he listens to their every word and holds all secrets.

“And you want my honest opinion?”

“Sit down,” Sapnap offers. “Tell us.”

Punz sends a wary look to Quackity, who relents with a nod. Punz carefully walks over to their circle and stands by them.

“Well?” Quackity asks.

“This is regarding, Tommy, correct?” Punz asks. “You don’t want him to go to Phil, but you want to continue the mission?”

“Yeah,” Sapnap nods.

“Well,” Punz pauses. “If my younger brother were in the following position, I would likely give him to Phil. I understand that he may be dangerous, so I would, of course, establish conditions. But Phil likely wants The Academy to be taken down – and as soon as possible, and he won’t be able to with the threatening deal that their months of plans could be reduced if he was found. An extra bonus allows an entrance into a better facility for training – so that’s a consideration.”

“You have a brother?” Quackity takes from Punz’s explanation. “What’s his name?”

Punz does not seem like he wants to respond, but Quackity is his boss, so he does. “His name is Purpled.”

“Quackity,” Sapnap rolls his eyes. “On topic.”

“I’ll stay with Philza,” Tommy interrupts before Quackity can say anything. “I don’t want to put anyone in danger. It won’t be for long until The Academy is gone forever.”

Sapnap is reluctant and Dream returns to the room. “Well?” Sapnap questions.

“I apologize for punching you, Quackity,” Dream says stiffly. “But I won’t apologize for anything else, because that’s all on you.”

“Understandable,” Quackity shrugs his shoulders. “You’re lucky your Sapnap’s brother, Dream. I won’t be as lenient if you weren’t.”

“Well, you’re lucky you’re his boyfriend,” Dream snaps back. “You’re not a fucking threat.”

“The Academy is,” Sapnap says. “And we have to make a decision.”

Dream and Quackity start talking over each other and Sapnap stands up to stop the madness.

But Tommy sighs when they’ve finished. “What’s there to discuss? I’m going.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dream comes to a realization that night.

He is awake because he does not sleep. He lays on his bed, and his back arches upwards as his mind remembers years ago. He calls papers he searched, and a name pressed by the top of the page.

Theseus, they write his brother’s name. Then they write his father’s, Phil.

Dream does not realize sooner because Phil is such a common name, and he glosses over any other facts. He had a Phil in his class, it isn’t anything unusual to name your son.

But then pieces fit together, and everything makes sense.

Phil wants Tommy – because Theseus is his son. He wants him back.

Dream almost kicks himself, for not realizing sooner. They have the same eyes.

He goes to Tommy’s room, after sitting with himself. It is late at night, so no one is awake. Except for him of course, but that is expected.

Tommy stirs and sleeptalks lightly. Dream doesn’t concentrate on his words, but rather his voice. He lays on top of the covers and pulls his hand through his brother’s blond curls.

He has a family, Dream thinks. That is not Sapnap, and I.

Dream has always been suspicious of their past. They are told that they are abandoned and taken to The Academy because their parents hate or do not want them anymore. But over the years, Dream remembers love and a family. He remembers a feeling of care, and warm hands, and wonders if he has been lied to all his life.

“Tommy,” he says lowly and wishes the boy will wake up. But Tommy stirs and moves his head to the side, and Dream decides to let him sleep. “You’re my brother,” Dream says to him. “And I–”

He does not continue, because he can’t.

Dream wonders if Phil will love him and if Phil will care. But if Philza had wanted Tommy to know, that he was his father, he would have stated the following by now. A selfish part of him wishes, he never messed up, because Tommy would still be his and Philza would not know.

But Tommy deserves a family, and he deserves love. And if Philza will give it, then Tommy deserves it more than anything.

There are many words Dream wants to say, but he can’t. He wants to say that there was a reason he chose Tommy and a reason why he can’t confess these words. Dream has always struggled with his emotion and showing people things he did not want to share.

“Dream?” Tommy stirs into slight consciousness.

“Shh,” Dream pushes his hair. “Go to sleep?”

“Why’re you awake?” he mumbles with a long yawn.

“Couldn’t sleep,” Dream whispers. “I’ll go if you want.”

“No, stay,” Tommy mumbles, and his eyes flutter closed once again.

Dream sighs and leans on the headboard of the bed. He will tell Sapnap later. After, he may tell Tommy.

Until then, he watches stars outside the window and exhales.

 

 

 

 

 

“Bye Punz,” Slime waves. “From Las Nevadas.”

Slimecicle has always confused Tommy.

(“I’m an agent,” he explains. “I may not be the best, but I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve, that others do not.)

Tommy wouldn’t call the guy weird – but he’s definitely strange. Slime does a thing where he greets people with their first names or full names. Then he says, “from the office,” or, “from the night bar,” or from someplace else.

“Why do you do that?” Tommy asks, with an eyebrow raised. “Why do you do that thing?”

Slime does not understand at first, but soon he does. “To remember,” he says. “I’m better with my sight, and touch, and smell, but not so my memory.”

“Why not me?” Tommy then desires the question because it’s been on his mind for some time. Everyone else has their own ‘froms’ but Tommy does not.

“Because I don’t know where you’re from, Tommy,” Slime laughs like it’s obvious. “You weren’t born in The Academy, and you’re not from Las Nevadas because you don’t work for Quackity.”

“And Dream? Or Sapnap?”

Slime shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know about them either. Can you tell me?”

But Tommy does not know, because they aren’t born in The Academy, nor do they belong to Quackity’s company. They do not have a home of their own, nor do they have their apartment anymore.

Tommy cannot answer Slime’s question because he does not know himself.

Chapter Text

Theseus is content. His friendship with Sapnap grows strong, as they have finally put aside their differences. Sapnap owns up to his past mistakes, and now he provides advice and jokes along with the younger boy. George is the same as ever, he smiles when he wants to, and when he doesn’t, he remains analyzing and careful.

Theseus feels something. They do not feel because they are assassins, but something indescribable stirs in Theseus’ stomach and he cannot explain it. At first, he thinks that it is fear, but fear has never felt this good. It has never made him want to wake up every morning, and sleep calmly at night.

Theseus knows that their friendships change, but so do their physical appearances. Sapnap’s hair grows even longer, and he gets taller. Not taller than George, whose eyes now seem darker and his face is slimmer. He grows a small beard but must shave it. Sapnap teases him about it all week.

“My relationship with Dream–” George stops himself quickly, one realizing his mistake. His next words are slow and careful. “I mean friendship.”

Sapnap and Theseus burst out laughing and it is that summer evening, that they find out there is more going on between the two. Theseus had always suspected it, but he never furthers on the topic.

Dream is different too. He returns from one long mission in the winter of someplace else, with a clearer face and new sight in his eyes. They decide that something happens on the mission because Dream comes back slightly different. He is still strict and bold, but something has changed.

“I just had a lot of time to think about things,” Dream explains, watching Theseus’ blue eyes. “I had a lot of time to myself.”

They mark this time, as a change in all their lives. Time moves forward, which is hard to remember between the stoned walls.

Theseus grows an inch. He ages a year and survives. George buys Sapnap another bandana, but he keeps his old one. Dream goes through three different hairstyles, one where he slicks his back, another where he pulls his hair to the side, and lastly when he cuts it short to leave a part in the middle.

Theseus improves his knife skills. George begins teaching Mandarin and Sapnap beats Dream’s personal best on the obstacle course. Time moves forward; time does not stop for them.

“Theseus,” Sapnap mutters and pushes the younger one against the corner wall. He takes out a knife, and Theseus stands still. He holds his breath.

“Don’t go on your toes,” Dream frowns, pushing Theseus’ shoulder down. They measure his height; they have for months. Sapnap shoves the knife into the wall and carves out a line. Theseus stands back, and Dream points to the distance between the last line, and the new dent.

“You’ve grown,” Dream says proudly. “You’ll be taller than Sapnap soon.”

They grow up between the walls. They do not celebrate birthdays, but many birthdays pass. Agents come, many leave and do not return. The assassins learn to adapt and change and prepare. Their lives are constant cycles, but they are satisfied with that because it is all they know.

And Theseus is content. He meets Dream every morning, and George will always slide him his pudding. Sapnap will glare at him during classes, and mess around with him afterward.

Theseus could not ask for anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

Until everything goes wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

That night, Tommy dreams for the first time in a long time. He dreams of George.

“Hey Tommy,” George says soft. 

“Tommy?” Tommy repeats his name. “I’m Theseus to you.” George will never meet Tommy – he will ever only know of a Theseus.

George shrugs his shoulders. “Keep going, Tommy. I believe you.”

“I am going.”

“You’re tired,” George says as if he needs a reminder. “You’re not the same person, as you once were. You’re exhausted – you don’t care anymore.”

“I do care,” Tommy says in his dream.

“Not as much as you used to. I see it in your eyes, you’re okay with dying. But keep going, it will be okay soon.”

But then George disappears, and Tommy wakes up.

He rubs his head as he enters the dining room. Dream and Sapnap are already there, whispering lowly among each other as Tommy comes beside them, to slump on the countertop chairs. He pulls his head into his arms and closes his eyes.

“Earth to Tommy?” Sapnap chuckles after a breath. “You good, kid?”

Tommy mumbles something under his breath, but he does not know himself because he isn’t concentrating on his voice.

“Do you want breakfast?” Sapnap then questions. “Dream’s making pancakes, right?”

Dream does not speak, and Tommy slowly raises his head. Dream’s eyes pierce into him, and his emotionless face says a story, as George would have once said. He has a storm behind his vibrant eyes, and feelings threaten to spill and escape. He holds it back and remains a tough exterior.

“Dream?” Sapnap repeats and pulls his palms in front of his eyes, moving them up and down until Dream blinks. “You’re a statue.”

“Hm?” Dream glances away at the stove, his back hunched. Tommy stares at him weirdly. “Nothing, it’s uh – nothing.”

“Well,” Sapnap coughs awkwardly. “Quackity’s meeting up with us this afternoon. You’ll be at Phil’s this afternoon.”

“For how long?” Tommy questions quietly.

“Until the mission begins,” Sapnap sighs. “I don’t know how long that will be, though.”

Tommy frowns, and his eyes move over to Dream, who is still and doesn’t say anything. In the mornings, Dream is talkative, so this is a bit different from usual. He checks Tommy’s shoulder and debriefs him of the content of the upcoming hours, whether that would be heading to the gym or his office. But Dream doesn’t speak now, and Tommy desperately thinks of something to fill the void.

“I dreamt about George,” And Tommy regrets it afterward.

“Really?” Sapnap raises an eyebrow. “What happened?”

Tommy doesn’t say anything and looks away. “Just, you know. He said something he’d say.”

“Do you dream often?”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. “It depends what you count as one.”

Sapnap leans on the counter and tilts his head, with question. “What do you mean?”

“Sometimes… sometimes I dream of the past. Memories of death, and killing,” Tommy shudders. “And the faces of… the people that I killed.”

“What?” Sapnap mutters in disbelief and turns to Dream. “Did you know?”

“Know what?”

Sapnap groans. “That the kid was dreaming of this shit?”

Dream blinks. “Uh, yeah.”

Dream does know. Tommy tells him a while ago.

“Thanks for telling me,” Sapnap rolls his eyes. “Have you tried taking medication, Tommy? You shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.”

Tommy snorts. “Don’t you remember the last time I was on anything? I almost died.”

“Don’t joke about that,” But Tommy doesn’t joke. “Well, if Dream’s going to a pissy bitch this morning, let’s go get breakfast. The café around here isn’t too bad, but I’m feeling sweet.”

“Wait,” Dream pauses before Tommy leaves the room with Sapnap. “Sapnap,”

The boy rolls his eyes. “Fine. I’m waiting outside.”

Tommy and Dream are left alone. Tommy stares blankly at the older, while Dream appears anxious to avoid the topic he will soon have with the younger.

“Tommy,” Dream says quietly. “I need to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

Dream watches him. In a last-minute decision, he says something else. “Be safe.”

“Oh-kay?” Tommy edges towards the door. “Is this it? I’m really hungry and–”

Dream walks up to him, then, and hugs him.

Tommy pauses. “Dream?”

“I want you to be safe,” He says quietly. “And if anyone hurts you, I’ll kill them.”

Tommy chuckles nervously. “Wha-at?”

Dream removes his arms and watches his blue eyes. Tommy recognizes the gesture; when Dream analyzes his eyes, an action he did in the past. When he wanted Tommy to listen really well and really understand his following words.

Tommy listens now, and he understands. “I want you to be okay more than anything,” Dream admits. “When this is over, we’ll do anything you want to do.”

“Huh?” The words die on the tip of Tommy’s tongue.

“If you want to stay here, or if you want to leave. I’ll follow you.”

Tommy nods his head uncertainly. “Okay.”

But Dream isn’t finished. “I don’t trust Philza, I don’t expect you to either. Just know that this isn’t voluntary, I’d fight Quackity on this, if I could. But I can’t.” Dream has never sounded so powerless before – it’s strange. Because he is usually the one in control, the one who knows what he is doing and dictates the plan. But now, everything is out of his grasp, and he can’t control what will happen.

Because Tommy is going to the Syndicate, and he will be staying within the protection of their agency. Anything can happen.

“It’s been just us for a little long, hasn’t it?” Dream queries “We made a promise to escape – to survive.”

Tommy would never forget. Not even if he wanted to.

“Escape. Survive. Live.”

Tommy can almost hear Dream’s haunting words of the past. He can almost feel the pressure against his skin and the intensity of his eyes.

“Yeah.”

“I’d come with you to breakfast, but I have a meeting with Quackity,” Dream tells him. “If I don’t see you before you leave, I just wanted you to know.”

Tommy furrows his eyebrows. “I won’t see you later?” He doesn’t want to sound desperate; he doesn’t want to sound like anything because Dream is strong, and he wants to show his older brother that he is strong too.

“I can’t,” Dream doesn’t elaborate further. “Have fun with Sapnap.”

“Okay,” Tommy turns around, and is about to stalk out the door, but Dream grabs his shoulders again and pushes him back. “Dream,” Tommy complains.

“I’ll see you,” Dream promises. “And I’ll kill them if they look at you wrong.” His arms feel heavy and loving. Tommy hasn’t felt love before, he does not know it feels because he’s never had a family. Sapnap is loved because he has Quackity and Karl. Dream had George, once. Tommy doesn’t know how to love or feel love.

He can’t love, he is once taught. He is a monster.

But the arms around him, and the words whispered in his ear, and the feeling that erupts in his stomach, feels so close to the emotion he can’t feel. And Tommy doesn’t know whether to accept it or not.

Sapnap drags him away, not long later. He shouts a couple of words at Dream before he slams the door closed and they enter the elevator.

“He’s pissed,” Sapnap says as they wait to arrive on the ground floor. Sapnap taps his foot on the metal impatiently and Tommy stares at the descending numbers, blankly. “He won’t show it, but he doesn’t want you to go. He hates that you have to, which is why he can’t be there when you have to leave.”

“I gathered,” Tommy notes.

“I don’t think you do,” Sapnap replies, with a small smile. “Dream cares about you, Tommy. We all do.”

Tommy does not respond and stares away. They reach the ground floor, and Sapnap leads him outside. They go to a nearby breakfast diner, and order pancakes, since they both have a sweet tooth.

Sapnap passes his packet of maple syrup, just like the days back at The Academy, when he and George would hand over their puddings. Sapnap tells him a lot of things, like what to do if someone threatens or attacks him, and to come and call him no matter what. He reminds him that it isn’t permanent, and Quackity will stop the alliance if anything goes wrong. He promises that.

“I want The Academy down more than anything,” Sapnap sighs. “But you’re my priority.”

Tommy’s cheeks heat. “Shut the fuck up.”

“How do you feel?” He questions. “About staying with the Syndicate?”

“I don’t think I care, yet,” Tommy shrugs and takes a bite of his food. “It will be fine.”

“Will it?” Sapnap furthers. “What if you get a nightmare?”

Tommy’s cheeks heat again. “Shut up, Sapnap,” he hisses and shoves his shoulder. He hates that his older has so much against him and can embarrass him so easily.

“I know,” Sapnap smiles smugly. “That he’s the only one who can stop them.”

“What the actual fuck?!”

Sapnap ignores him. “You need him, as much as he needs you. He helps you, and you help him.”

“I don’t get nightmares,” Tommy grumbles.

“Okay then,” Sapnap leans back in his seat, after finishing his meal. “But I know that dream of the past, and Dream is the only one who can help you from them.”

Dream tells him to breathe, and Tommy listens. Dream is the one who controls his panic attacks and reassures him when he is stressed and unready. He is the one there with him during The Academy, with the most faith on his shoulders than any other person. And Dream stands next to him, as he presses a gun to the temple of a man, and whispers for him to shoot.

To survive, Dream has always made sure Tommy does.

“Yeah,” Tommy eventually says. “Yeah.”

“You’ll be okay,” Sapnap reassures. “You have me. And you’ll always have Dream.”

 

 

 

 

 

They begin when the night is alive.

The moon is under the clutches of the surrounding darkness, and the stars bring a bright litter of light with the ghastly company of the quiet midnight. The moon does not shine tonight, and it hides between white clouds.

“One minute,” Dream breathes in his mind. “Start counting, Theseus. Now.”

Theseus counts. Theseus waits. Theseus moves.

He is Sixteen, and he is on his final mission; to escape. He grabs the duffel bags that have been lying with the cobwebs under his bed for weeks and pulls his black shoes. He must be fast; he must not hesitate.

Twenty seconds and he is out of the dorms. He presses the keypad with a card and presses his pressure against the noisy doors, so they do not have a loud noise when they open. He pushes his hair back and ditches the hallway and heads towards the Graduate dorms.

He meets Dream’s dorm room at twenty-seven seconds. He is two seconds slow.

He pulls the door open and notices Dream is not present. He pushes to his bed and pulls out the extra keys that hide under his cushion. He grabs the remaining money in his drawers and shoves them into his bag.

Thirty-five seconds and he is out of the door. He is an assassin, he is quiet and stealthy, and fast. His legs move and his eyes analyze, and he embraces his title as the best of his class because that is who he is.

Theseus then hears a noise, and ducks behind a wall.

“I heard a noise,” Someone says. “Check the younger dorms. Check again.”

The voice disappears, and Theseus is running out of time. He must get to Sapnap’s dorm first, and the George’s. Until then, can he join the three outside. This is a plan, and it must go accordingly. He collects the keys and cards from Dream’s room and the food from Sapnap’s. He goes to George’s, for the weapons as he does not have access for his own. They do, as they are Graduates and trusted with such privileges.

They tell him to go to each room, so he is not alone for long. They make him recite the plan until his mouth is dry.

They will escape tonight, and Theseus almost tastes the sweetness of freedom.

But then he arrives at Sapnap’s room, and the food is not there, and George is not in his location with the acquired weapons. They do not wait for him, he almost thinks. They leave without him.

They will wait, he trusts. They are his brothers, and they will complete this mission together. No one is left behind, no one.

Theseus must think of something – quick – when he finds George’s bedroom left with emptiness. But that is George’s part, to come up with the idea. Sapnap inputs and Dream leads. Theseus follows.

He decides he must go to the training halls himself. It is on the other side of the grounds, far away from Dream’s meeting spot, but he needs weapons. He must protect himself, and he cannot with bare fists and raw skin.

The only problem with his idea is that the training halls are not direct access to the weapon rooms. And he doesn’t have the available keys there, George has not left them behind.

He makes it to the training hall in one piece. His eyes scan the cold room, and he feels loneliness. He sees the blood smeared on the floors, and the dents in the corner wall from poorly thrown knives and daggers. He pushes to the room on the left and bites his lip from letting out a groan when the door is sealed closed, and he cannot enter.

Dream is waiting outside, he thinks.

Ten minutes after midnight, Dream tells him the previous afternoon. Ten minutes, and if I’m not there, then you leave yourself.

Ten minutes may pass room and Theseus knows Dream may soon be gone. So, he hurries.

He grabs the sharpest objects he can find from the training hall. Not much, as its contents are rolled mats and wooden sticks. He finds a broken handcuff to shove into the lock on the doors. When that doesn’t work, he uses the wood to yank the inside open. It doesn’t budge.

Theseus grumbles and composes himself. He is an assassin; he will figure this out.

So, he shoves the wooden stick into the door again, until he claws it into it. He grunts, as the edge of his fingers, rip into the metal, and he uses his strength the wrench them outwards.

He almost falls over when the doors slide open automatically, somehow. He does not know how he has mustered the strength, but he does not listen to the voice of his mind as he rushes in to grab the proper wear and weapons.

“Hey!” Someone shouts and a trigger sets inside of him, but Theseus takes only two seconds to flicker a knife back at the sound. He turns quickly, to see a guard staggering back, a blade to his shoulder.

He frowns, but he has not missed accidentally.

We do not kill, Dream says in their plan. We escape.

Theseus escapes. He ditches the man that shouts at him, and rushes back to Sapnap’s room, with the hope he is there waiting for him. He wears shouts from behind, and blood runs through his ears as his heart races, adrenaline spiking through his blood.

A siren rings through his ears. He makes it to Sapnap’s room, and he is not there.

Fuck, he swears and hears people. Sounds, and alarms. Theseus must remain composed. He must follow the plan set. But how does he, when Sapnap is not here, and George isn’t either?

Theseus’ breathing fastens. He clings onto the doorframe and feels like he’s drowning. But he is an assassin, and he must not give up. Dream tells him, that they will all leave because they deserve something better than this. They should not be confined between the stoned walls, because they deserve to be free.

Dream tells him that he has a chance of a normal life, to be sixteen. A real sixteen-year-old.

Theseus takes his offer with no hesitation.

But now, he hesitates.

Two guards find him and pull out their tasers. Theseus fights back, taking out his knives, and aiming at them, as he dodges their arms. He pushes one back, and swings at the other, making an effort to escape because the sounds continue, and more people find them.

He hears the surroundings become louder, and shoves the cards onto scanners to escape rooms, saluting at the people who are stopped at the doors that close behind him. Dream would be disappointed because they are meant to be stealthy and leave carefully, but Theseus has been the opposite,

He won’t make it in time, he realizes. He is too far away – even with the fast pace he sprints.

The sirens fasten. His mind screams.

Theseus, he hears Dream somewhere. To the left, then the right.

He follows his mind, his legs picking up and his eyes on wide alert. His blades flinger with his fingers, and he throws the weapons at sudden noises he hears. The sirens are only a distant memory when he feels crisp night air.

Theseus then sees the outside; the large grass field where they run until they collapse and are sick.

One last run, he must do. Then through the forest, past the trees, and climb the stoned wall. He will meet Dream past them, in a car on a road. They will escape with Sapnap and George.

But they aren’t here, Theseus almost cries for the first time since he was ten. He doesn’t, rubbing his face with his cold fingers, and running until his heart stops. His bags feel like a burden, but he can’t let go of them because he carries what Dream can’t fit in his own bags.

When he gets to the forest, Theseus jumps over roots and uses branches to pull himself off sharp rocks and edges. He hears sounds behind him, and his legs pounding against the dirt, but he knows that it is his mind.

The stoned wall will be the hardest, he realizes. He must use his upper body strength and pull himself to the other side. They contemplate taking the front of The Academy but are guarded at night and they cannot make any mistake. His heart burns and his mind is frozen, as his mind thinks of endless possibilities while he rushes. He doesn’t control himself anymore, in a state of shock with the previous events.

His legs and arms do all of the work next. He puts his training to the test and climbs the crumbling walls.

Theseus does not look back.

He groans when he must get back down, using edging rocks as support. He does not have a net under him, he never does.

Theseus jumps down, panting with sweat down his forehead. His arms are weak, and he can’t walk longer.

The car is not far away. He sees it in the distance.

He does not register he has escaped. He does not register that he will never go back.

When Theseus makes it to Dream, he finally falls.

“Sapnap and George,” he breathes and breaks down. “They weren’t there.”

“Theseus,” Dream says.

“We have to do something – they can’t stay there!” It is his fault that he did nothing, that he didn’t stay. “There were sirens, and people after me and–”

“Theseus,” Dream says slowly. “There weren’t any sirens.”

“What?” Theseus stutters.

“I would have heard them from here, there weren’t any,” he frowns. “Get in the car, we can’t wait any longer.”

Theseus is damp with sweat and he cannot feel himself, any longer. Dream drives forward, and Theseus feels the emptiest he has felt ever before.

He sees the walls disappear from view. He hates himself because Sapnap and George are back there and he didn’t fucking do anything. His mind has been crazy and sick for ages, and he imagines sounds sometimes. If he hadn’t noticed sooner – that there weren’t any sirens, he would not have been so stressed to leave. He wouldn’t have left them behind.

His brothers.

“They’ll escape,” Dream promises. “We can’t go back for them, not until we are safe. Sapnap will think of something, I believe in them.”

Theseus is silent.

“We will live new lives, Theseus. We will be new people, and one day – we will return to our old lives and they’ll be free.”

“We’ll escape,” One day, Dream promises. “You, me. George, Sapnap.”

But now, it is just him and Dream.

“It’s just you and me,” Dream voices his thoughts.

And like the walls that surround The Academy, that will one day crumble, his life does too.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy meets Phil and says goodbye to Quackity and Sapnap. Dream does not come.

He wears a mask because Phil knows he is Theseus – not Tommy. Dream makes sure he does, and Sapnap tells him to never take it off around them. Quackity pats him on his shoulder and tells him that they’ll see each other soon.

“Theseus,” Philza greets. “We haven’t formally met, have we?”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. He’s not in the mood to talk.

“I’ve been introduced to you by XD and Quackity. Never yourself.”

Theseus stares blankly at him.

Philza sighs. “That’s okay then, mate.”

Theseus has not felt so alone before. Only moments ago, Sapnap was with him, reassuring him that this arrangement would not be for long, and only to ensure Phil did not let go of their alliance. Sapnap told him to make sure he used their facility to their advantage and report back anything interesting. He also says that he does not have to do this. But Tommy knows he does.

Philza watches him weirdly. He makes the same face, he makes when Sapnap hugs him before. Tommy almost thinks that Phil is like the Headmaster and will shout and reprimand him for touching Sapnap – he was never allowed to at The Academy.

“Let’s get you settled in then,” Phil says after a silence.

Tommy won’t make this easy for him. He will be difficult; he will be silent and not speak. He will ignore him and stay in his room or train all day. He will not give anything away, and he will not certainly allow himself to get close to Wilbur Soot again.

Philza gives him a tour of the agency. It is large, as he remembers it. Large rooms and hallways and their facility are truly extraordinary. There are a couple of elevators situation around, but the one in his office can only be used by him, his close staff, and his sons.

“You can use it too,” Philza offers once.

Phil then shows him the dorm locations, and where the ranking of agents goes.

“I usually do not sleep on the grounds,” Philza explains. “But for the next couple of months, I will be.”

“Where’s my room?” Tommy asks blankly, his first words to him.

Phil brightens and Tommy almost scowls. He does not particularly like him.

“Your room will be close to my sons’, Wilbur and Techno. They’ll help you around, and get settled in.” Tommy doesn’t enjoy the arrangement, as he hopes to be far away as them as possible and to be situated in a smaller room, in another building with their other agents. “Breakfast will be at seven. If you want to avoid the rush, that’s fine, but I would appreciate your company at dinner.”

Tommy won’t attend. He has to be here, for the alliance. He does not have to comply.

“Wilbur is excited to have you around,” Philza leads him to his room and chooses his words carefully. “If you have any requests, just inform one of us.”

“And missions?” Tommy then asks.

“What?”

“Mission,” Tommy repeats. “Will I complete any?”

“No!” Philza stresses as if that is an absurd idea and he isn’t speaking to one of the best former assassins of The Academy. “You won’t complete any, you’re far too young.”

He almost deadpans, I started training when I was ten, but holds it in for Philza’s sake.

Philza arrives at Tommy’s room. “And this is yours.” Inside is a plain bed, and painting. There are drawers and uniforms on the hook, as well as spare clothes and towels. Lucky for Tommy, he has brought his own clothes with him.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Philza assumes he won’t see Tommy for the rest of the day, and he is right. He won’t. “I’ll tell Wilbur to bring you dinner.”

Tommy stares into his room and turns to Phil when he knows he is still staring. Phil’s bright blue eyes that seem like his own, watch him for a second.

“You take off your mask now,” he offers.

“No,” Tommy denies.

“That’s okay,” Phil sighs. “I hope you settle in well, Theseus.”

Tommy frowns as the door closes behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome home, Theseus, Philza thinks.

Chapter Text

Tommy glares at his ceiling. He flicks the knife in his hand, upwards, and it slices through the ceiling.

He has been at the Syndicate’s for three days now. His routine now consists of waking up in the early mornings to train by himself, eat an occasional meal, and then lock himself in his room and drift in and out of unconsciousness. The cycle then repeats.

Tommy avoids Wilbur and does not look at Techno. He stays away from Phil and keeps to himself.

He feels the most alone he has ever felt, in a long time.

He has Dream and Sapnap. Once, he had George. But now he is trapped between white walls and feels nothing but exhaustion.

He utilizes the time by training and exercise, and uses the facility and equipment to his advantage, slowly forming into shape as he once is. Once, he was one of the best assassins of The Academy, so he wishes to regain his previous form.

Tommy is an assassin again, even though he isn’t. He wakes up at six in the early morning and trains without breaking a sweat. He pushes his body to its limits and focuses on himself.

However, when Technoblade comes to watch him train, Tommy leaves in an instant. He will not show them any part of him; he refuses to give out any part of himself either. He will not get close, nor will he allow Techno to reach out as he attempts to do so.

There is a knock on the door then, as there usually is. It is sometimes Philza, asking him if he will join dinner. He will not respond, and Phil will leave.

Today, the knocking does not stop. He picks up his knife under the pillow and points it at the door, contemplating whether to throw it or not. He decides not to and places it beside him again.

“Theseus?” A voice calls from outside, that sounds familiar to Wilbur. “Can I come in?”

Tommy does not respond.

“Theseus?” Wilbur repeats.

Tommy does not like the glances Wilbur gives him, because he cannot recognize them. He is trained to, yet there is a sight in Wilbur’s eyes that he can’t pinpoint, and it frustrates him to no end. He is trained to read body language and detect gestures and small movements, yet Wilbur stumps him.

He is readable when he speaks to Tommy. When Tommy used to talk to Wilbur at the bakery, Wilbur was decipherable and easy to understand. But when Wilbur speaks to Theseus, he is more apprehensive and unusual.

“Theseus?” Wilbur repeats and Theseus almost forgets he is here. “I’m opening the door!”

Tommy is about to shout a response, to tell him to fuck off – but he doesn’t. He stays silent and pulls on his mask once again.

Wilbur steps into his bare room, and a frown fits his face when he sees Tommy’s disguise. Phil urges him to take it off every day, and they ask why he wears one. He does not answer them.

“Are you okay?” Wilbur questions, stepping awkwardly into the room and glancing around. The room is empty and plain, and Philza had to remove the painting after Tommy had torn holes into it with his knife. Apparently, it costs a lot, but he doesn’t care.

Wilbur’s eyes are brown and concerned. His words are kind. “We didn’t see you at breakfast or lunch today. Have you eaten?”

He hasn’t. He’s hungry, but Tommy doesn’t feel like eating.

“I know you don’t want to be here,” Wilbur then says. “But it’s only safe this way.”

Tommy disagrees.

“Can you at least work with us, here?” Wilbur pleads. “We’re trying to make this as easy as possible.”

Tommy picks up his knife. He still lays down on his bed, but he aims it at Wilbur, steadying his fingers.

Wilbur flinches.

Tommy smirks and throws it. It tears into the wall behind him but misses him by almost half an inch.

Wilbur turns around fast and lurches to the wall, where he pulls out the knife. He groans, “Phil isn’t going to be happy with the holes.”

Tommy shrugs and stares at the room, his arms pulled up behind his pillow. Wilbur stares at the ceiling, and groans again and the array of secondary holes he finds up there.

“You can’t keep doing that…” But he swallows the rest of his words when he realizes they don’t mean anything to the young assassin. “Get up. We’re doing something today.”

“No,” Tommy speaks suddenly.

Wilbur seems pleased to get a phrase out of him – Tommy hasn’t spoken any words for the last couple of days. “Well, you’re going to eat something.”

Tommy frowns. “Get out, Wilbur.”

“I’ll grab Phil.”

Tommy rolls his eyes and breaks his silent rule of not holding a conversation with him. “I don’t give a fuck,”

Wilbur’s eyes sparkle.

Tommy has not realized how brown they are, until now. They are the color of dark oak of a rainforest, and they become soft of caramel when he smiles.

Tommy picks up another knife. He aims it at Wilbur, who yelps.

“I’ll be back!” He calls, and his mood has brightened. Tommy scowls to himself because he doesn’t want to satisfy him like that. “Don’t go anywhere!” Tommy doesn’t plan to; he can’t really leave.

When Wilbur goes, Tommy stands up and stretches. He pulls off his mask as if feels suffocating and smothering. Tommy had scoped the area for cameras and microphones the first time he had stepped into the room and had surprisingly found nothing. He is still cautious, and eyes every inch of the walls as if any part will crash into him.

Tommy then retrieves the knives edged into the walls and spins the weapon between his fingers. His eyes keep on the sharp blade and relaxes within the hold of it. It allows him to concentrate and relax, and the metallic blade skids across his skin

Wilbur returns with a plate of food. He knocks on the door, and Tommy swipes his mask off the bed and shoves it on with one arm, the other spinning the knife. Wilbur knocks once, and then barges in, to blink suddenly when he sees Tommy is off the bed, and now standing.

“You’re good at that,” he commentates, staring at the blade. “But put it down. And eat.”

Tommy stares at the food. It is cooked vegetables and chicken. He misses Dream’s horrible cooking.

(Dream’s cooking isn’t horrible, though. He says it is, so he misses it less.)

Wilbur shoves the plate in Tommy’s hands and forces him to sit on the bed to eat. The boy keeps his knives close to him, and Wilbur notices, clearly. “You weren’t taught to not play with knives?”

Tommy glances up from the plate of food in his lap and stares emotionless at the man. Wilbur attempts to stir an emotion out of him, but Tommy refuses to budge. “No, I wasn’t.”

Wilbur bites his lip and watches Tommy carefully. “You can take off your mask, you know. You don’t want to get it stained.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders and stares at the plate of food in front of him.

“Do I need to feed you?” Wilbur teases.

Tommy glares and does not say anything. Wilbur sighs, and sits down carefully on the floor, his back leaned against the wall. “Phil said I can’t leave until you finish your plate.”

“Phil is not my father,”

Wilbur stares. For a really long time. “You’re his responsibility, Quackity won’t be pleased if he finds out we haven’t been feeding you – which we have.”

Tommy furrows his eyebrows. Do they honestly think Quackity has any control over him?

“What was that look like?”

“What look?” Tommy asks, innocent.

Wilbur sighs and leans his head back. “You pulled a face, you don’t usually.”

Tommy blinks and stares at his food again. The faster he eats, the faster Wilbur can leave, so he starts. He picks up a smaller carrot and takes a small bite.

“Do you not like the food?” Wilbur then asks.

Tommy shrugs his shoulders and Wilbur sighs again.

“You know, it wouldn’t hurt to talk,” Wilbur grumbles. “You may not like us, but you’re stuck with us for now. Techno notices you finish training when he arrives.”

“I intend for him to notice.”

“You are a gremlin,” Something flashes through Wilbur’s pupils. “You remind me of someone.”

Tommy wonders if Wilbur hints at him. Not Theseus, but Tommy.

“Shut up,” Tommy rebuts and turns away. “Let me eat in peace.”

“I can’t go, Phil’s words, not mine,” Wilbur shrugs his shoulders, nonchalantly. “Not my fault.”

“I don’t like you.”

“I know.”

“Good,” Tommy takes a bite of his potato and sits it to the side. “I finished; you can leave now.”

Wilbur stares at him incredulously. “You took two bites.”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders again.

Wilbur groans, and stands up, annoyed. “Theseus.”

Tommy is sick of this interaction and he’s sick of Wilbur. He wants to throw knives at the wall and think of the past, he does not want to talk to Wilbur who will peer into his brain and pull him apart. Wilbur is smart and kind, he will force him to open with his words, and soon – Tommy will be confiding with him as Theseus.

He won’t make the same mistake twice; he won’t do the same thing again.

“I’ll go,” Wilbur announces. “You can eat alone, but if Phil asks you, then I was here the whole time.”

“I’m not promising a thing.”

Wilbur gives him a dazzling smile, but it seems dead. “Great, okay then.” Wilbur leaves and Tommy is alone again.

He finds it humorous that he despises Wilbur’s presence yet yearns for it when he leaves. But then he reminds himself that Wilbur’s family has placed him in this situation and that he only wants Wilbur with him because he is bored and lonely. Not for any other reason, he repeats in his mind over again.

Tommy manages to get the rest of the food down, but he sets it aside with the chicken untouched. He usually has a good appetite, but he struggles today, and he is not sure why. He misses Dream’s cooking and treats from the bakery – he misses what was his past.

Tommy should not miss things. He should not grow attachments to places and people. But he does.

Wilbur returns, while Tommy spins knives between his fingers and flickers the blade, to reveal the shine.

“You keep your knives with you,” he comments.

“Don’t touch them,” Tommy grumbles.

“I won’t, I won’t,” Wilbur eyes them carefully. “Aren’t you worried you’ll hurt yourself?”

Tommy scoffs. “No,” He’s hurt himself before, the blood does not hurt anymore.

Wilbur presses his lips together and takes his discarded plate. “Let’s go, then.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“Philza’s orders,” Wilbur rolls his eyes. “Let’s go, kid.”

Tommy growls, “I’m not a child.”

“You’re not a day over seventeen, Theseus.”

He’s not wrong. But Tommy will be seventeen in a couple of months. He’s far older, mentally. His experiences will never be what others will ever have to go through – he had to develop into the changed circumstances and force himself to grow up.

Wilbur waits for Tommy to get out of his bed. His eyebrows and raised and he taps his feet on the carpet. Tommy stares back at him, knowing he won’t leave until Tommy joins him.

Tommy sighs. “Lead the way, I guess.”

Wilbur smiles and nods his head. He takes him to a lower floor and introduces him to other parts that the boy has not seen anymore. Techno’s first tour was cut short after all.

“We have a kitchen, and the cooks here make the food for meals,” Wilbur explains.

Tommy rolls his eyes – he doesn’t care.

Wilbur does, and he is not afraid to show it. They go to separate rooms, the offices and extra meal rooms. Tommy doesn’t know why this place is so big, and why they need so much room. At The Academy, rooms were fairly small, and they had to adjust to the spacing. It was only when the classes lost students, could they have more freedom of movement.

(When the other students lost their breaths, could they breathe better.)

“Theseus?” Wilbur then asks and Tommy glances at him. “Are you listening?” He nods his head strictly. “Phil wants us in his office.”

“Why?” Tommy’s voice changes, into a harder, colder tone.

Wilbur notices immediately. “Don’t worry – he just wants to check up on you.”

Tommy does not believe him, but Wilbur is right. Philza greets them with a small smile and encouraging nod. “Theseus, sit down.’

Theseus watches the seat, and then Wilbur. If he is seated, he does not have a chance of escape. However, he has bought his knives with him – he does not want to take any chances, though.

Wilbur and Phil notice his apprehension. They exchange wary glances. “Or you can stay standing,” Wilbur offers, and Tommy does.

“I want to know how you’re settling in,” Phil questions. “How are you finding the training grounds? Do you like your room?”

For some reason, Philza reminds Tommy of his Headmaster. It isn’t his voice or the way they look – but there is something that makes Tommy’s stomach stir. His chin straightens and he fixes his posture.

“It’s fine, sir.”

“You – you don’t have to call me, sir,” Phil stumbles and watches Wilbur for help. “Phil is fine.”

Tommy nods his head and Phil sighs.

“Will you join us for dinner?” Philza asks him, then. “Tomorrow?”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. But maybe Phil wants a verbal answer. (Dream reminds him to use verbal answers with the Headmaster.) “I’m not sure,”

“That’s okay,” Phil says softly. “We have time. I wanted to introduce you to the others, of course.”

Tommy’s eyes widen. “That isn’t needed.”

“Are you sure–?”

“Phil,” Wilbur cuts his father off quickly. “He doesn’t want that. We’ll introduce him to Tubbo, and Ranboo separately.”

“Of course, of course.” Tommy’s mind is away for the rest of their conversation, because he is reminded of Tubbo, and remembers the friend he once had. Tubbo – who he hasn’t spoken to, in weeks. Tubbo, who was probably worried and likely stopped caring for him, long ago.

“Theseus,” Philza then says. “I hope you know that you can speak to me of anything. We’re here to help you.”

Tommy disagrees but nods his head anyway. He is lucky when Wilbur stands, so they can leave. Although, he isn’t too lucky when he arrives back to his room, and Wilbur enters with him.

“I’m sorry about, Phil,” Wilbur apologizes. “He wants you to settle in, that’s all.”

“I don’t need to settle; I won’t be here for long.”

Wilbur frowns.

Tommy wonders what he is thinking of.

But Wilbur leaves soon, and he’s alone once more.

He falls asleep afterward. Tommy is tired. It is not sleepiness that consumes him, it is his mind.

 

 

 

 

 

They stay at the apartment for one night and leave the following morning.

Their days consist of hiding and watching. Tommy stays in the apartment alone at times, with knives out and a gun on the table. Dream returns with food and water, and they leave afterward.

Days are endless, time is one.

Their days are consistent and morph into one. Tommy – who starts to get used to his new name and a new identity – sleeps in the car while Dream drives. They sometimes swap over, but Dream does not trust his driving because it is George who teaches him.

(“George can’t drive for shit,” Dream laughs, but the tiredness in his eyes makes him sound hollow. “So, I’ll drive, and when I can’t – you will.”)

Dream does do most of the driving though and sleeps when they arrive at apartments and hotels. There, they register and book in with new and odd names.

One day, Dream says they don’t have to run for any longer.

Following that day, everything goes to shit.

They are raided with assassins. They may not be from The Academy, because life is a blur, and they arrive in their car, panting and their heart racing. Tommy has a gash to his arm from a sharp blade, but Dream is left untouched. He is the best after all.

Tommy treats the wound in the car. They attempt to make a joke of it.

“Stop!” Tommy complains. “If you do, I’m going to needle your eye.”

“I’ll throw you out of the car.”

“I’ll find you and slash your tires.”

“Did Sapnap show you how?” Dream raises his eyebrows.

Tommy’s snicker is the answer he needs.

Sometimes, through the endless traveling, they forget the mission they set ought to do, in the first place. Although, it is usually Tommy who complains and forgets to speak – as he is wrapped in his thoughts. They have been on the run for almost two months, and Tommy wonders if he is forgetting himself.

“You are Theseus – you are Tommy,” Dream must remind him. “And you are determined to live.”

He is until he isn’t.

“You know,” Dream murmurs one month, under the stars. They lay on a roof, and peer into the city.

Tommy watches Dream carefully. “What?” He asks between the coolness of the air.

“You know why I chose you?” Tommy shakes his head. “As our fourth?”

Tommy freezes, and Dream assumes it is because of the cold because he asks him if he wants a jacket. The nights are colder, in California.

Dream continues with his story. “Sapnap and George didn’t believe in me when I chose you. They saw you throw a knife at a target and figured out that you weren’t going to last a while.”

Tommy knows this part of their past.

“But I saw a lot of you, in me,” Dream says, and Tommy doesn’t know this. “I could see my younger self in you.”

“Really?”

“One day,” Dream says slowly. “You’ll be better than me. You’ll be Sapnap and George, and you will achieve greatness.”

Tommy’s eyes widen. Because Dream has never complimented him like this before. He’s strict and hardly apologizes because he finds it hard to. And Dream rarely compliments anyone.

“But,” Dream then says. “I’ve noticed recently, you’re out of it.”

“Well, all we do is travel.”

“Don’t give up,” Dream says and watches his eyes. A familiar gesture, where he searches for something inside of him. A confirmation; maybe more. “You’ll survive, we both will.”

“George says he does not care,” Tommy says quietly. “What if I want to be more like him? I don’t want to care as much.”

“Well, do,” Dream says. “George is George – you are Tommy. He cares, he is too afraid to admit it. You will persist with me, you will continue.”

“And if I won’t?”

Dream grins. “Well, wouldn’t you like to know?” They get into a fight and must stop before they wake up the neighbors or fall off the roof. Or both.

“We will do this,” Dream says. “Together.”

It is Dream and Tommy, they decide the night they leave and many months afterward. And they will survive, together.

 

 

 

 

 

Green eyes meet blue.

Together, they take on the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy cannot sleep at night.

(He won’t tell anyone, but he hasn’t slept since he’s arrived at the Syndicate.

Although there really isn’t anyone he can tell.)

He stares at the ceiling, as he does for hours every day. Sometimes he throws knives but stops since it’s dark and he cuts his palm over.

(Wilbur notices the next day and forces him to do the medical bay. He refuses and locks the door. He doesn’t try that again.)

Instead, Tommy decides that tonight, he’ll sneak out.

He’s lasted four days at their base, which is four days long enough. And of course, he’ll return the following morning. Tommy needs to see Sapnap and Dream. He needs to make sure they are okay.

He’s the youngest out of them, and Dream tells Tommy numerous times that it is his own job to make sure Tommy is okay, it’s his responsibility, not the other way around. But Tommy disagrees – and plus, he’s been meaning to do something interesting. He is bored between the walls; it reminds him of The Academy.

So, Tommy escapes when the moon meets the stars, and the clouds disappear. He steps into the darkness and is followed by silence. He remembers his way around, it’s easy with his memory.

Tommy walks through the corridor of Wilbur, Techno, and his room. He finds it strange, why he is so close to them. His mind brings it up once or twice, the strangeness of the situation but he drops it when his mind aches and fatigue hurts his eyes.

Tommy leaves the corridor swiftly; he is an assassin after all. He arrives at the elevator and steps in, to press a button fast, while glancing down each hallway as the doors close. The light above him is bright, and the mirror beside him reminds him that he is unrecognizable with his mask on – he can’t risk anyone being awake.

The elevator then stops and shakes. Someone is awake.

Tommy stands protectively and takes the knives out of his pocket, as the doors open. A boy steps in, sucking on a juice box. He does not glance at him, as he presses a button on a lower floor, and steps back.

Tommy watches him weirdly.

“I’m Tubbo,” The boy speaks randomly and Tommy blinks. “And you’re Theseus.”

Tubbo? Tommy can hardly recognize him; his brown hair is longer, and he is slightly paler.

Tubbo turns to him finally, the straw to his lips. The sound that fills Tommy’s ears is the descending sounds of the elevator and his slurping. Tubbo doesn’t stop and continues staring.

“So, you’re Theseus,” he repeats and hums. “Okay, then.”

Tommy hopes his floor can come faster. He sees Tubbo’s eyes focusing on his closer, and he knows the mask is not good enough. Tubbo is about to admit he knows it is Tommy.

Only he doesn’t. “You are sixteen.”

Tommy frowns instantly.

“Everyone is saying different things,” Tubbo shrugs and lifts the straw to his lips again. “Ranboo says you look eighteen. Wilbur says you’re a child.”

Tommy splutters.

Tubbo laughs. “Let’s go do something.” The doors open, and he steps out, his heart turned back, to wait for Tommy’s next move. Tommy follows him.

They go down the hall, and Tubbo tosses his juice into a nearby trashcan. He leads him to a metal door and swipes a card for them to enter.

Inside, Tommy widens his eyes. Bean bags are stacked across the side of the walls, and there are large-screened computers and arcades games, similar to the ones Tommy had seen when he went with Dream and Wilbur. What makes Tommy angry is that he had not known there was anything like this at Philza’s – the air hockey table and monitors, to access to the internet.

“Make yourself at home,” Tubbo grabs a juice box from the fridge, and tosses it at Tommy. His throw is bad, but Tommy catches it in one hand, without looking. “Nice.”

Tommy sits on one of the beanbags and watches Tubbo as he takes a seat down on the ground. “I prefer the floor,” is his reasoning.

Tommy nods his head.

“You know, if I wasn’t so sleep deprived, I’d think twice about letting an assassin into my top-secret base.”

“Top secret?” Tommy speaks for the first time.

“It’s not that top-secret, but not many people know about it. It’s hard to get your own privacy when there are so many people around.” Tommy nods his head – with that he can agree on. “Wilbur knows, and Ranboo. So does Techno, and a couple others you haven’t met yet.”

Tommy looks around. His eyes linger on the arcade games.

“You can play them if you want. I think I’m going to try and get some sleep – which reminds me,” Tubbo pauses, and Tommy stiffens. “What were you doing awake?”

Tommy shrugs his shoulders. Tubbo purses his lips.

“Insomnia?” Tommy shrugs at Tubbo’s words. It’s strange talking to him, and not being him. It’s weird being Theseus when he isn’t. “My sister Niki makes this good tea to fall asleep faster. You should try it.”

Tommy can’t admit he has nightmares of his past. He won’t admit it to anyone, that Dream is the only person who can stop them. Sometimes, he hates being so dependent on someone – having learned connections will kill you if you let them.

“Tell me about yourself, Theseus,” Tubbo yawns, covering his mouth as he blinks. He tosses his juice to the side and stretches his arms. “What’s your life been like? How many knives you can throw at once?”

“I haven’t tested it, yet,” Tommy ignores his former question.

“We’ll test it on Wilbur, later,” Tubbo grins. “Give me more. Philza says you won’t tell him a thing.”

“I don’t trust him,” Tommy deadpans.

“He’ll keep you safe, here,”

“He took me away from my family.”

“The Academy?” Tubbo widens his left eye a fraction.

“No,” Tommy says quickly and seals his lips closed.

“I don’t know much,” Tubbo reassures with his hands in a surrender position. “I don’t know much at all. And I won’t tell Philza a thing you tell me.”

Tommy trusts Tubbo. But Theseus does not.

“I’ll tell you a bit about myself then,” Tubbo shuffles in his seat. “I’m Tubbo, and I have an older sister, and I work for Philza.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Tommy looks away, uncertainly.

“I don’t know,” Tubbo shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t have many people to talk to around here, besides Ranboo. It’s nice to have company.”

If Tommy’s ever felt guilt, he feels it now more than ever.

“I used to like with Niki and my father. But we moved and we were homeless for a long time,” Tubbo sighs. “Phil found us, though. Niki owns a bakery now, and I work for him. He’s helped us a lot.”

“Everyone likes, Phil,” Tommy comments.

Tubbo smiles. “What’s not to like? He’s the coolest guy – the only man ever. He helps anyone he can, and he cares a lot.”

Tommy frowns because he knows Philza does not care about the assassins who are forced into this life. Philza protects him but is not willing to protect the rest of the assassins, at The Academy – which he is very willing to take down.

“Your turn,” Tubbo then states. “Go,” he cracks his head to the side, and Tommy plays with his plastic straw as he ponders if he will truly answer.

He will give information away as Theseus, and he does not know if he can afford that. But Tubbo watches him with pure curiosity and promises he won’t tell Philza. Tommy trusts Tubbo – they were once friends. Well, not exactly trust – but there was a friendship between them.

So, Tommy says, “I have two brothers,” because he can afford to give that information away.

Tubbo smiles, genuine.

“Really?” he asks. “Tell me ‘bout them.”

“I would rather not.”

Tubbo chuckles. “Fair enough.” He grabs another juice for himself. “I’ve recently been introduced to tropical juice, and I’ve formed an addiction.” Tommy stares blankly at his own juice box, and carefully shoves his straw between the hole. He takes a sip, and flavor explodes in his mouth.

“Good, right?” And they relax to silence. Tommy’s guard is silently down when Tubbo falls asleep and Wilbur storms into the bedroom.

“Tubbo!” He shouts, frantic. “Theseus isn’t in his room!”

Tubbo wakes up fast, and Tommy blinks.

“Tubbo!” Wilbur rounds the corner and almost falls back when his eyes meet Tommy’s. He splutters and his face turns red. “What the fuck?”

“Wilbur,” Tubbo groans and rubs his eyes. “Get the fuck out.”

Wilbur storms to them and points a finger at the brown-haired boy. “Did you kidnap him? I told you to give him time to settle in!”

Tubbo’s sleep-deprived and angry at the sudden noise. “I didn’t! We were both awake, fuck off. You woke me up.”

Wilbur quietens. “Were you asleep?” he asks, slowly.

“Yeah,” Tubbo grumbles and frowns. “Thanks, Wilbur.”

“I’m sorry, Tubbo.”

“Whatever,” he yawns.

Wilbur turns to Tommy then. “Theseus, why were you awake?”

Tommy watches him blankly and does not speak. Wilbur mutters words under his breath, following the words of ‘someone help me’ or along the lines, as his words jumbled and mumbled.

“Theseus,” Wilbur says plainly. “You were awake?”

“Yes,” he admits quietly.

“And why was that?” His voice is slow and almost threatening. Tommy’s fingers inch towards the knife in his pocket. Wilbur notices and stands back, his arms up in surrender. “I was worried,”

“Don’t be,” Tommy grits his teeth, and his fingers feel the blade in his pocket. The cold touch almost soothes him.

“Theseus told me about his brothers,” Tubbo says, his eyes closed, and his words stretched. Tommy stares at him, betrayed. “How he’s not with them anymore.”

“Brothers?” Wilbur echoes his words, his face forming.

“Two brothers,” Tubbo yawns and lays down again to sleep. “Am I right, Theseus?”

Tommy stills. “Yes.”

“Brothers?” Wilbur repeats, louder.

“The ones you took from me,” Tommy frowns. “My family.”

“Your family?” Wilbur blinks. “What?”

Tommy stands and flickers out his knife. He will not throw it, he simply keeps it between his fingers, for Wilbur to understand to not try anything. He doesn’t trust Wilbur. “It doesn’t matter. I’m leaving.”

“No – Theseus,” Wilbur stops him. “Tell me about them.”

“Why should I?”

“Tell me,” Wilbur repeats, and Tommy groans.

“They’re my family,” he says slowly. “And now I’m here, and you took them away from me.”

He leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

He is different from who his mind remembers. Theseus is cold and unapproachable. He is unreadable and freezes and sudden movement and touch. Scars peak from his sleaves and he speaks apprehensively.

Years ago, his younger brother is warm and happy. He grins and laughs between every word that leaves his mouth.

“Brothers?” Wilbur replies emotionlessly because that is all he can say as Theseus leaves the room, his fists formed and push in his step. Tubbo is asleep again, and Wilbur feels alone.

He tells Philza the following morning.

“XD, another member of The Academy,” His father tells him. “Their best student.”

Wilbur finds out about XD and how they likely grew a friendship between the walls of the institution. However, it grew into a brotherhood, as their horrible experiences forced each other to bond. They are brothers, Wilbur thinks and yearns for the day he can have his brother back.

“You have to wait,” Philza then tells him. “Patience, Wilbur. Let him settle in, and we’ll slowly introduce him to Niki, Ranboo, and Jack. After, we’ll work slower. We’ll gain his trust, and it will take time. Ut we’ll get there eventually.”

 

 

 

 

 

At night, when he dreams, Dream remembers a younger brother and sister. He remembers a life before.

When he wakes up, he is met with a silent reality of the false of his past and the life he will never get back.

One day, he wonders how it is to love and feel. How it is to have people around you, who aren’t trying to tear you down for their own advantage. He wonders if a reality like so exists. If he is loveable if he will ever have a family of his own.

He meets George and feels something again. He meets Sapnap and finally understands what friendship means.

Brotherhood comes, when he meets Theseus. He is a shorter brown-haired kid with eyes like his own. He has wide dreams and a determination like no other.

“Little brother,” Dream tells him, the day his heart soars and he feels complete – because Theseus is his brother and he will admit it. “Theseus.”

Theseus shoves his arm off him and scowls. Dream notices the small lingering smile, after.

They grow together. Theseus may not know Dream’s whole life, but Dream witnesses his. He watches the boy grow and learn and compete. He watches the blood stain his skin and his eyes lose the glow they once held.

Dream admits to no one, but Theseus can make him feel angry, sad, and destroyed all at once. He gets furious when he realizes that Theseus will be trapped here forever and destroys his inside when he knows one of them will have to watch the other die, one day. Whether during a mission, or lack of cooperation between classes.

One day, he figures out that it is himself, who will kill Theseus and watch as the boy dies, right in front of his eyes.

So, they flee and live.

They make a promise.

Dream will not leave him. He will not leave him, as his previous family did. He will make sure Theseus lives because he deserves to. They will live together; they will destroy anyone who attempts to stop them. He refuses to let anything happen to him – and in the process, he must promise the younger boy, that he will stick around too.

Together, they will survive.

 

 

 

 

 

It is later, when Dream breaks the promise, they hold.

A promise to survive, they once say. A promise together.

Dream prepares to die.

Chapter Text

He is Fourteen.

He is strong and smart and throws his punches before his opponent can even think of their next move. Because they aren’t his siblings, they aren’t his brothers – they are opponents and Fourteen will survive. He refuses any other option and does not hesitate when he swings his fist and lifts his leg to deliver a kick to their stomach.

They stumble and Fourteen does not.

Fourteen lives longer. He tears into his class and does not hold back.

Fourteen graduates. He is a Graduate.

He is praised for his determination and skill. The Headmaster sees something in him, and his Teachers will use him as a demonstration of the best.

He is careful and emotionless. He does not care, nor does he feel because he is an assassin, and he is trained to be the best. He eats meals alone and sits away from the other Graduates who watch him with jealousy and envy. They are resentful because they were trained to be what he is and fall, instead.

He fights when his head. He fights with his mind; he thinks and acts in a matter of moments.

Then he meets a boy called George, and then another called Sapnap.

“Dream,” Sapnap calls him, and it sticks. “Teach me how to fight.”

Sapnap calls him Dream, and that is his nickname now. George catches on fast because he is George.

“You know how to fight,” Dream wipes his forehead from sweat.

“I want to get better,” Sapnap tells him. “I’m the youngest Graduate, I’m the least experienced.” Sapnap has recently graduated, he is young. Sapnap is only sixteen.

“You don’t need to get better,” George rolls his eyes, from stretching on the floor. He pulls his arms over his head and pushes his head to the side. “You’re good enough.” And he’s not wrong because Sapnap is far better than the majority of the Graduates, he’s their third – he only lacks in experience.

“You only say that because I’ll get better than you,” Sapnap smirks.

George rolls his eyes; he doesn’t pick a fight because he doesn’t care. Sapnap riles him on, and George stays silent. Dream pulls them in line.

The Graduates. The Dream Team, they are called on missions because they do not fail. That name doesn’t stick, though.

“I’ll teach you,” Dream reassures him. “Later. You don’t need much teaching though.”

“Hear that, Gogs?” Sapnap smirks. “I’m better than you.”

George sighs. “He didn’t say that.”

“Say it again Dream. He’s going deaf.”

Later, Dream teaches him new techniques for hours, and Sapnap watches. They spar until they bruise and are tired. Sapnap watches carefully and doesn’t open his mouth to speak a snarky comment as he usually does. Instead, he watches each movement carefully and his mind turns because they are assassins when they train and fight and go on missions. Together, they are Dream and Sapnap.

When Dream finishes, Sapnap says. “George is right.”

“What?” Dream asks.

Sapnap clicks his tongue and thinks. “You fight with your head, not your heart.” Dream thinks of his words and can’t stop thinking about them.

Of course, he fights with his head – which is what he tells George. “What did you mean?”

“I told Sapnap not to tell you, because then you’d overanalyze it,” George frowns. “It’s nothing.”

“It isn’t nothing,”

“Dream,” George sighs and rolls his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

Dream grabs his arm and pulls him forward. George turns and punches him in the shoulder, and they dodge each other’s blows until one of them stops.

George does. Dream grins tasteless. “There. What’s wrong with that?”

“You fight with your head,” George explains. “Your eyes are assessing and estimating. You, yourself is never in a match because it’s your mind is working. Sapnap fights with his heart, he fights with what he has. I’d say I do both – although I’m not any better than you.”

“So?” Dream asks for advice, which he doesn’t ask for, usually, because he is the best and the best do not ask from anyone lower. “What do I do?”

“I don’t know.”

Dream frowns and the conversation ends.

Theseus is when Dream realizes what Sapnap, and George speak about.

Theseus fights with his head, and his heart. He analyzes and fights with a passion, and a burning spitfire to reign above his peers; to live. There is a fire within his soul that cogs through his brain, which together creates thunder.

Theseus doesn’t know, but he makes Dream a better fighter. He makes him better from who he is before.

Others may argue that Dream becomes worse. Because Theseus becomes a connection and an attachment in Dream’s life, who he becomes fond of – who he cares for.

It is a while until Dream learns to fight with his heart too. Then, he is unstoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream’s knives edge into walls and tear the targets apart. He has a fury instead of him, that he unleashes in the training rooms; one that he struggles to control at times.

A few times, he allows hell to release. Now, he goes easy. Dream’s capable of many things, he had to hold himself from punching a hole into the apartment wall when he found out about Tommy’s other scars. He’s capable of a lot more.

Sapnap is here to stop him. He enters the training room and snatches the weapons off him, to toss to the side. “That’s enough.”

Dream glares.

“You’ve been in here for hours. Meditate or sleep – or something else. This is fucking unhealthy.”

Dream laughs dryly. “You’re the one to speak.”

“And I’m getting better,” Sapnap grits. “Get out of the room, Dream. Breathe, for a second.”

Dream leaves the training room because Sapnap won’t. He leans on the wall outside of the room, his fists curled, and his mind is buzzing. He can’t fight with his mind when his heart burns.

Sapnap pulls him away. “Unhealthy,” he says again. “You tell me that you want Tommy to live a normal life, but you still stick to your old habits.”

“That’s not true.”

“You’re in denial,” They reach their room and Sapnap throws him an apple. “You’ve told me, that you want him to be a normal kid – and he’s trying. He found that friend, called – what was his name? Wilbur? And others. He got a job at some point and he’s doing better. But you’ve refused to change, Dream.”

“That isn’t true,” But Sapnap is right because he is in denial.

“Yeah, you got a job – but for Quackity? That was the step in the wrong direction. You haven’t made another friend, nor don’t you leave Las Nevadas.”

“It’s not safe if we do.”

“Okay?” Sapnap frowns. “What about before? Tell me, Dream, before I came – how did you spend your days, or shall, I guess? You woke up and drove Tommy to work, and then stayed in your office until night.” Sapnap pauses. “You’ve killed for him, too.”

“I haven’t killed for him,” Dream spits.

“It’s funny,” Sapnap laughs. “You think that I don’t know you. But I do.”

Dream hasn’t told anyone. Only Quackity knows.

Sapnap sees the glare in his eye. “I found out myself – it’s wasn’t hard to, when Tommy was telling me about how you got him a bodyguard, and that Quackity always expects something in return. I’m guessing you didn’t hesitate – when he offered Tommy protection, for you to kill.”

“You don’t understand,”

“What do I not understand?” Sapnap pulls out his arms. “I think I understand well, Dream. We were all assassins once; I would understand killing for protection – to save the people you love.”

“I didn’t want to take any chances,” Dream growls.

“I understand,” Sapnap says. “But you’re allowed to change. You don’t have to fucking kill anymore, Dream, that isn’t the only option. We don’t have to kill to survive – we don’t.”

“I needed to keep him safe, Sapnap,” Dream is tired. “He has to be safe.”

“He’s safer there, than he was here,” Sapnap crosses his arms over his chest. “He has Phil and his army of assassins. Phil won’t let him leave unless we say so – both of us know Tommy’s attracted to hazard, he would have figured out a way to put himself in danger, somehow. It’s practically his middle name.”

The two brothers smile.

“Tommy deserves to be a normal kid, more than anything. But that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a life too, Dream. You don’t have to keep worrying about him, worry about yourself for once for fucks sake.”

Tommy is Dream’s responsibility.

“Tommy is your responsibility,” Sapnap reads his mind and rolls his eyes. “You don’t have to tell me – I know. But take a breather, and fucking live a little.”

“I don’t think I can,” his words have another meaning. “I don’t know if Tommy is safe if he isn’t here.”

“What did I say?” Sapnap leads him out of the room. “Phil’s got this. I don’t trust him either, but his agency is reliable.”

They step into the elevator.

Dream sighs.

“Philza is Tommy’s father.”

Dream hears the sound of the elevator, as they pass floors. Then he hears Sapnap.

“What!?”

“The folder,” Dream explains briefly, as Sapnap’s face morphs and he grips onto the metal bar beside him, processing Dream’s words. “It makes sense when I put it together.”

“They have the same name,” Sapnap spits. “So what?”

“They have the same eyes,” Dream says. “They lost a kid when they were younger. His name was Theseus.”

“How the fuck did you find this out?”

“I did a little digging. I had to be sure.”

Sapnap laughs loudly. They reach the highest level and stumble onto the roof of the building. Sapnap stands still, processing, and Dream stands to watch his facial expression.

“You wouldn’t lie,” Sapnap then says. “When did you find out?”

“A couple of nights ago,” Dream says. “I had to be sure.”

“And I’m the only one who knows?”

“Yeah.”

“Well fucking shit.”

They stand by the edge of the building, where a concrete barrier stops them from their death. The sight of death is not daunting when they’ve witnessed it countless times before.

“Do you think Phil knows?” Sapnap stares into the distance.

“Of course, he fucking knows, Sapnap,” Dream rolls his eyes. “He was introduced to Tommy as Theseus.” They pause and feel the wind. Then Sapnap speaks.

“Wilbur and Techno are his brothers,”

And the realization settles deep, that they aren’t.

“I should have noticed before,” Dream pulls his growing hair back. Wilbur seems similar to Tommy, and he’s connecting the dots too late. “I should have figured it out.”

“Well, we know now,” Sapnap shrugs. “Look, we can trust Phil more now – we know he’ll keep the kid safe.”

They aren’t entirely sure, though. Philza is a parent, and they don’t have good experiences with older people. They especially can’t trust how he will treat Tommy. Or if Tommy will comply – because Phil will remind him of his Teachers or the Headmaster. All older people do, adjustment takes time.

“What if Phil doesn’t trust Theseus with us?” Dream questions. “He knows that when the assignment is over – that we’ll want him back. He’ll refuse,”

“He will,” Sapnap says.

Dream then says what they both think. “What if Tommy wants to stay with him?”

Dream is pledged to give Tommy a life he never got. Now, Tommy can have a family.

Tommy can live normally. Tommy can live a life that Dream and Sapnap couldn’t.

“Then we’ll let him stay,” Sapnap then says. “Because it’s his choice.”

“It’s his choice,” Dream agrees because his younger brother deserves that, at least. If he wants to stay, he will stay. And although Dream hopes Tommy will want to come back to them, he also wants him happy.

 

 

 

 

 

“Little brother,” Dream teases.

Theseus scowls. “Why do you do that?”

Dream pulls his hands through the boy’s brown hair, and Theseus moves away. “You’re my brother, Theseus.”

Theseus scowls and turns away, but Dream won’t not notice his smile.

“Sapnap” Theseus calls for him down the hallway. “Tell Dream to stop harassing me.”

Sapnap jogs up to them. “What did he do this time?”

Dream rolls his eyes, Theseus speaks, “Tell him to stop,”

“Stop what?” Sapnap raises an eyebrow.

“Yes, stop what?” Dream smirks and turns to him. “Stop what, little brother?” he asks in Arabic quietly.

Theseus groans and turns away.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy digs his fingers into his skin as Philza stares around his room. Holes are marked on every edge, from where his knife had pierced through not long ago. There is a pattern of holes on the roof that Tommy stares at, as he stays awake at night. Philza does not appreciate them as he does, as he frowns.

Tommy wonders what his punishment will be. If he’ll be locked in his room or made to run laps until his legs turn stiff. He yearns to do something interesting with his time, so he hopes the option will be the latter.

Only Philza doesn’t shout. He doesn’t reprimand him or scowl. Instead, his lips press together, and he sighs. “Theseus,” he says, his voice somewhat calm. “Give me them.”

Tommy blinks. “What?”

“Give me your knives,” He says, and Tommy almost flinches with expectation for something else.

“What?”

Philza sighs. “I can’t trust you with knives in your room, Theseus. You might hurt yourself.”

Tommy glares through his mask. “I’ve hurt before.”

Phil flinches this time. “Just give them. I don’t let Techno keep his swords in his room, either.”

Tommy clings on his knives. He refuses to let go of them. “No, fuck off.”

“Theseus,” Philza sighs. “You can use them to train. Quackity won’t be happy if he sees you blood and bruised.”

Quackity can eat shit, Tommy thinks. It’s Dream he must worry about, but he’ll end up shrugging it off. Actually, that’s a lie, Tommy supposes. Dream will care. He does, now.

“They’ll deal with it,” Tommy snaps.

“They?” Phil pushes.

Tommy rolls his eyes and doesn’t respond.

“Who’s ‘they’, Theseus?” Philza repeats, and Tommy wishes he’d just leave. He forces Tommy to stay here, away from Dream and Sapnap, and now he’s pestering him and taking away his knives. He’ll take away his only form of protection because he knows Tommy can defend himself well.

“None of your fucking business,” Tommy snaps and Techno enters his room as if the shouting is a personal invitation. They’ve left him in his room, and don’t come in unless they knock. For some reason, they’ve forgotten the following unspoken rule.

“What’s going on?” Techno questions, frowning at Tommy.

“The holes, Techno,” Philza sighs. “I don’t think Theseus should have his knives in his room.”

“Phil,” Techno mutters, hoping Tommy can’t hear. But his hearing has always been better than average. He was raised in The Academy after all. “Maybe you should let him keep them – he needs to settle in.”

“I don’t need to settle in,” Tommy glares. “The mission will be over soon.”

“Mate, about that,” Phil says. “There’s been a delay. Quackity’s coming over to discuss it.”

“What?” He blinks, but he hears Phil – the information has caught him off guard.

“We’ll discuss it in a couple of hours,” Philza tests his words slowly. “Quackity and a couple of his agents will be here. You can join the meeting. Until then, though, I would appreciate it if you could hand me your weapons, Theseus.”

Tommy glares. Techno watches him carefully.

“Fine,” Tommy spits and flickers his knives from his pockets. He misses the cold metal against his skin when he tosses the one to Phil. Techno’s arm darts forward, catching it midair before Phil can. He smirks in Tommy’s direction and hands it to the man.

“You have more,” And he does.

“Take them,” Tommy’s face turns passive, and he sits on his bed, crossing his legs. His shoulders are hunched, and he expects the unexpected. “You’re going to anyway.”

“I won’t search if you don’t want me to, mate.”

He does. Well, Techno does. He looks through his bare wardrobes and under his mattress. They find three there, and another two in his dresser.

Techno reaches under his pillow. Tommy tenses and pulls his arm out to hit Techno’s arm away. But he falters at the almost-contact and speaks instead. “Don’t,”

“Theseus,” Techno rolls his eyes.

“Let me keep that one.” He needs one under his pillow. He needs to be safe. Tommy does not go to sleep, but if the knife is taken away, exhaustion won’t be able to consume him – there is no way he will fall into unconsciousness.

As an assassin, they are told to expect death in their sleep. They are to expect death at any hour, any minute of any day. When they are sleeping, they are the most vulnerable – one of Tommy’s deepest fears is not having the ability to protect himself.

“Phil?” Techno asks but they both know Phil wants to remove the knives because he doesn’t want Tommy to damage the walls of the expensive agency.

Phil reassures as Techno strips the last string of hope he has, otherwise. “I want to make sure you’re safe.”

Tommy doesn’t believe him. He stays seated, frowning, and pinching into his skin with his nails. It leaves red marks but does not hurt.

“XD will be here,” Philza then says, before the two leave the room. “I wanted you to know, in case you wanted to meet him again.” Tommy sees the tone under his words – Philza knows something. He waits as if Tommy will confess that XD is family, but he won’t. He simply stares blankly at them, until they make their departure.

Outside, he hears them speak.

“Was it necessary?” He hears Techno ask. “He’s still struggling to settle in.”

“I’m worried he’ll hurt himself, Tech,” Philza responds quietly. “I didn’t want to take any chances.”

“If he doesn’t talk to you for the rest of the week, don’t blame me.” And they leave Tommy alone again.

He falls back on his bed and stretches his arms out. Tommy is tired. He hasn’t rested in days, and he starts to feel it now. They used to have lessons, where they had to stay awake for hours in order to survive. He excels, and the training pays off.

But Tommy’s tired. He’s so fucking tired.

He pulls off the mask and cards his fingers through his hair. He’s hungry too. His stomach rumbles and he cannot remember the last time he has eaten. He can’t fall asleep though – there is nothing to protect him, no weapon, no nothing. He is vulnerable, he won’t admit it – but he’s slightly frightened.

Instead of laying in bed, Tommy goes to find Tubbo again. He doesn’t forget his mask, but his fingers twitch for a weapon. He remembers the way there, by the elevator and down the hall. He knocks on the metal door because he does not have a keycard.

There is no response though, and Tommy exhales, tipping his head back. “Tubbo!” He shouts.

“Theseus?” A voice calls back. “Give me one second!”

The doors fly open then, and Tommy quickly steps back.

“I was about to head out,” Tubbo jokes, rubbing his eyes. “Get in, I’ll get you a keycard later.”

Tommy steps inside, more guarded this time because of a lack of weapon. He knows Tubbo won’t try anything – his fatigue will throw him off, but Tubbo seems tired too.

“I got barely any sleep, dude,” Tubbo yawns. “Sorry if I admitted anything, I shouldn’t have. Wilbur’s always demanded questions so–”

“It’s fine,” Tommy says and stares at the arcade game, in the corner of the room. “Can I use that?”

“Go ahead,” Tubbo falls on a beanbag and takes out his phone. “Ranboo’s coming around later if that’s fine with you.”

Tommy nods his head silently and moves towards the arcade game. It’s simple, he has a small character and must pass levels and collect coins for upgrades. Tommy’s fingers engrave into the controller, and his eyes stick to the screen. He could stand there for hours, but he passes around twenty-six levels until Tubbo’s friend arrives.

Tommy remembers Ranboo well. He is a trained assassin and arrived at The Red Banquet with Philza and Technoblade. Tommy’s guard goes up because unlike Tubbo, Ranboo is trained.

“Hey, Tubbo–” Ranboo greets until his eyes meet Tommy’s blue. “Theseus?”

“He’s hanging out here,” Tubbo explains. “Don’t you have a meeting, now?”

“In an hour,” Ranboo says, his eyes still on Tommy, who can feel them engrave into his back as he continues the video game. “Uhh–”

“Theseus is harmless, he’s pretty cool,” Tubbo introduces.

“Phil wanted me to find him actually – he says you haven’t eaten?”

Tommy mutters under his breath, “Fuck Philza,” and continues his game. Tubbo snorts and shuffles in his seat.

“What happened?”

“Took away my knives,” Tommy explains, gruffly.

Tubbo laughs. “I have a couple,”

“Tubbo,” Ranboo hisses. “I don’t think you should–”

Tommy turns and stares at Tubbo. “Where are they?”

Tubbo grins and stands. “Can you give me pointers? I’m working on throwing, and I’m complete shit.”

“He’s hopeless,” Ranboo explains. “I don’t want my eyes removed, so I’m leaving.”

“Stay,” Tubbo pleads as he retrieves the weapons. “Until the meeting. C’mon, Boo.”

Ranboo doesn’t take long convincing. “Fine.”

Tubbo takes out a set of knives, and they move towards a barer space of the room. Tubbo pulls targets onto the walls and stands a distance away. Tommy watches closely, and Ranboo seems seconds from taking them off Tubbo. In all honestly, Tubbo doesn’t do horrible. They miss the point, but not by a lot.

Ranboo goes next. His black straightens, and he watches Tommy from the corner of his eye. He throws.

Tommy’s eyebrow raises as they dig closer than Tubbo had. Not bullseye.

“Your turn,” Tubbo offers and hands him a knife. Ranboo seems nervous as he does, he doesn’t trust Tommy. The assassin doesn’t blame him.

Tommy does not have to look when landing the knives at the target. One after another, Tubbo seems impressed afterward. “Teach me, Theseus. You have to.”

“Sure,” Tommy shrugs. “Ranboo?”

The boy seems hesitant. Tommy scopes him up and down and wonders how they let an apprehensive and anxious person become one. Not that he does not have anything against them – but the uneasiness was forced out of them through training when they were ten.

“Sure,” Ranboo then shrugs, with a sigh.

Tommy hands them weapons each. He directs their arms and corrects their stance. “It takes time,” he explains. “To properly get used to it.”

“How long did it take you?” Tubbo questions, curious.

Tommy deadpans, “A month.”

“A month?!” Because that’s far too short of a time for perfect technique.

Tommy nods his head. “We had to, to survive.”

“That’s concerning,” Ranboo laughs, uneasily. “But you did grow up in The Academy–” Tubbo knocks him with his shoulder. “Ouch! What was that for?!”

“Phil said we’re not meant to mention that,” Tubbo whispers not so discretely and Tommy scoffs.

“It’s fine,” Tommy states. “I don’t care.”

“When did you learn to use a gun?” Tubbo jumps into questioning, even though he was the one who told Ranboo against it. “Or – fight?”

“Young,” Tommy notes. “I don’t know.”

He learns to use a gun at eight. He learns combat in his first week at The Academy. They pull out the children who do not have talent – who cannot learn and replace them until their starting class is complete.

They end up discarding the targets and rest on the beanbags as Tubbo says his story at the Syndicate while Tommy reveals pieces of information about The Academy. Nothing can be used against him, though, because Tommy has a feeling Ranboo and Tubbo may tell others. Tubbo informs Wilbur of his secrets sleep-deprived, it’s clear he’s sleepy often.

“You do look like shit, Theseus,” Tubbo says and Tommy glares playfully. “Hey, I’m allowed to say that because so do I.”

“How much sleep have you gotten?” Ranboo asks hesitantly.

“None,”

“What?” They falter.

“I’m used to it,” Tommy shakes his head. “The fatigue will hit in another day or so.”

“You should sleep,” Tubbo furrows his eyebrows and seems genuinely concerned. “Why don’t you?”

Tommy stays silent.

“Is it the room? Do you not like it?” Ranboo furthers.

“The room is fine.”

How does Tommy explain that he has nightmares of the previous people he has killed, and their faces keep him awake? How does he explain that Dream is the only person who can make them go away?

And how does he explain he needs to sleep with a knife? How does Tommy explain anything at all?

“You should tell Phil,” Tubbo suggests. “You should get sleep.”

“I don’t fucking trust him,” Tommy says and that’s all, as he stands. “Isn’t there a meeting, now? Should we go?”

“What’s the time?” Ranboo asks Tubbo who has a phone.

“Four,” Tubbo and Tommy state at the same time. Ranboo and Tubbo snap their heads at Tommy, who does not hold a phone nor own a watch. “How did you know that….?”

Tommy smirks. “Counted.”

“How?” Ranboo questions incredulously.

Tommy stays ominous, not explaining how a good skill was to be able to count and track time in his mind, due to missions and lack of access to technology at times. Dream forces him to learn, and asks him for the time in the hallway, between classes until he develops the skill fully.

He doesn’t say any of that though. He simply turns around and walks to the door, while Ranboo on his heel. Tubbo stays behind, telling them to update him if anything interesting happens.

“Quackity will be here,” Ranboo tells them, or maybe speaks to himself – Tommy doesn’t know. “It’s bound to be interesting.”

They want to the elevator, and Tommy pushes up his back. “How are you so fucking tall?”

“Genetics?” Ranboo says, but it’s more of a question. He doesn’t meet Tommy’s eyes, Tommy realizes that he hasn’t been able to, through any of their conversations. It can be taken as a sign of guilt for something – or well, a disliking for eye contact. Tommy assumes the latter for now. He still doesn’t understand Ranboo well. Knowing Tubbo as Tommy has helped him warm up to him better as Theseus, but Ranboo is a new boat on a fresh sea. He’s unpredictable and Tommy doesn’t know much about him still.

The elevator ride is slow, and Tommy hears voices from inside Philza’s office. He rushes through, swiftly dodging through corridors to follow the noise. Ranboo strides beside him until they burst through his doors to come eye-to-eye with Quackity, Antfrost, Dream, and Sapnap. As well as Philza, Wilbur, and Techno who stand to the side, assessing the agents.

Tommy’s eyes meet Dream’s and his shoulders unhunch for a second. He does not show emotion and stays stoic because there are others with him.

“Theseus, Ranboo,” Philza greets. “Just on time.” Ranboo walks over to Techno and stands by them. Tommy hesitates, before moving towards Dream and Sapnap.

“Theseus,” Sapnap says in Greek. They do not show emotion, they are all stone-faced and their words are of ice. “They haven’t hurt you, have they?”

“No,” Tommy’s eyes flicker to Phil’s, who watch them. “But he took away my knives.”

“What?” Dream swaps to Italian.

“He took them and said I will hurt myself,” Tommy’s accent thickens, and his words become faster.

Sapnap almost grins. Dream rolls his eyes.

“XD?” Phil starts, coughing lightly. “We should start.”

Tommy glares. He sits between Dream and Sapnap, on the opposite side of the table to Philza, and his sons. Wilbur’s eyes do not leave Tommy, and the boy notices how Techno’s eyes do not leave his brother’s.

“I’ve kept him safe, as promised,” Philza starts by saying. “Although you did believe otherwise, Quackity.”

“I will believe whatever I want to believe in,” Quackity grumbles, and Tommy notices his new wear and a sly grin. He assumes that the man has something up his sleeve – something to say and reveal. “I assume by the way you treat your previous employers – that the instances would be the say.”

“He isn’t an employee,” Techno frowns.

“Did they treat you good?” Sapnap mutters beside him, in French.

Tommy nods his head lightly. “They’re dicks though. When can I go back?”

“Not for a while,” Sapnap says. “Quackity has found out that his next shipment for weapons won’t arrive until a couple of weeks.”

“Weeks?” Tommy groans and quietens as the conversation in front of him becomes louder. Dream listens to both, closely. “I can’t stay here.”

“Why not?” Dream furrows his eyebrows. “I told you said they treated you well.”

“I can’t go to sleep,” Tommy sighs and continues in French. “They took away my knives, I told you.”

“You look skinnier,” Sapnap picks up his wrist. “Have you been eating?”

“No,” Tommy denies and Dream frowns. “Well, I’m fucking sorry, I haven’t been able to stomach the food.”

“Is everything okay?” Wilbur leans forward, both Tommy’s brothers snapping their hands to him. Wilbur leans back, laughing uneasily. “Uh, okay,”

“I’ll speak to Theseus outside,” Dream stands, and Tommy’s mind groans. “Won’t take too long.”

“XD,” Philza interrupts. “We do have important matters to discuss–”

“I won’t take up much of your time,” Dream promises and holds back from saying more than he should. He watches Tommy, who stays seated. “Theseus.”

Tommy frowns and follows him out of the door. They stand in the hallway, as Dream scolds him.

“You need energy, Toms. I know you’re training all day – you know like the rest of us, how a lack of nutrients can affect your fighting. You’ll collapse.”

“I don’t need you to tell me, Dream, I know.”

“Well apparently you don’t,” Dream snaps. “Tommy, you have to adjust.”

“Stop fucking saying that!” Tommy shouts. “Adjust to what? I won’t be here for long!”

Dream holds back. He has words on his tongue that he swallows. “I want you to be the safest you can, Tommy. You know this.”

“Then let me go back,” Tommy yearns. “I’m unsafe here. Philza’s fucking weird and you’ve seen Techno. They’re capable.”

“Trust me,” Dream grabs his hand. “You trust me, don’t you?”

“Well, yeah.”

“You trust me,” Dream repeats. “So trust me enough, to know that it will be okay.”

Tommy doesn’t know if he can do that. He nods anyway.

“I want you to eat and sleep well. I’ll tell Philza you need a knife with you if you explained that to him – I assume he would understand.”

“If he knows,” Tommy mumbles. “He could use that against me.”

“And if he does, we’re here,” Dream grabs Tommy’s palm, and spreads it out to place a phone in his hand. “It’s untraceable, so you can contact us in case of anything.”

Tommy stares at it. “Really?”

“Every night,” Dream promises. “I know how much you miss Sapnap.”

And I miss you, but Tommy doesn’t say that. He does not admit his vulnerabilities aloud to Philza because he doesn’t trust him. He is not vulnerable to Dream because he’s scared to.

“Okay,” Tommy says, and grips onto the phone between his fingers. “They might take it away, too.”

“I’ll make sure they won’t,” Dream pulls Tommy’s mask off, and ruffles his hair. “How’s the mask?”

“Exhausting,” Because of the questions and how suffocating it is. “But it’s only for two more weeks, right?”

“Yeah,” Dream sighs. “Two weeks. There were a couple of other things Quackity is discussing with Phil, but the main reason we did come, was to see that you were doing well.”

Tommy’s cheeks tint and he pulls on the mask again. Dream laughs, lightly. “Show me your room, I don’t think they’ll mind if we leave for a bit.”

Tommy nods his head and leads the way.

 

 

 

 

 

“They are your family,” Dream holds his breath and almost says. “Philza is your father, and Techno and Wilbur are your real brothers.”

Dream does not admit it though. He is selfish and cruel and can’t hand Tommy over yet. Tommy has brothers and a father, and Dream still wants to keep that away from him.

He wants to express that he is still Tommy's brother - but can’t because it is untrue. Dream won’t lie, but he cannot admit the truth either. “I hope you still know that after you find out.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Little brother,” Dream says one day, and cannot say again.

Chapter Text

Philza watches him, with eyes of gold. “XD.”

Dream stares back, unresponsive and unmoving. Technoblade’s eyes edge into him and Wilbur watches his mask for too long.

“Philza,” Dream then says and stares.

They have all left, including Sapnap and Tommy. Dream is left alone with them.

“What is Theseus, to you?” Philza asks slowly.

Dream almost smirks. Because he knows what Theseus is to them.

Theseus – there will always be a part of Tommy that they never get. When Tommy reveals who he is, they will not know how to calm his nerves and help him with his nightmares. They will not understand his previous experiences and realize that Tommy will not be the same kid they once had.

(“I can’t tell them,” Tommy refuses. “They can’t know.”)

“He’s my brother,” Dream admits, and the room stays silent.

“Brother?” Wilbur echoes his words, and Dream finally witnesses a world collapse in front of his eyes. He sees sparks of jealousy and crumbling walls. He sees them realizing that their son has another family.

“We met when he was younger – ten or so,” Dream must hold back his smile. Because their reactions are so fun to see. “We are brothers.”

Wilbur chokes, Technoblade glares.

And Philza watches.

Then Dream asks, “Then what is he – to you?” He tips his head forward and encourages a response.

Philza does, “I think you know, mate.”

“Phil – what?” Techno interrupts. “He knows?”

“He knows,” Philza says. “He’s fast, I would expect nothing less.”

Technoblade then asks, his eyes edging into the trained assassin – “Does Theseus know?”

Dream shakes his head. “He does not.”

“Why not?” Wilbur glares. “I’m surprised you haven’t confessed to him, yet.”

“I’ll allow him to settle in, knowing that he has no connection to you. If he discovers the fact – he won’t want to stay.” Because they are told their families leave them at The Academy and don’t want them back.

(“Bullshit,” Dream says.)

“You want him to stay?” Philza darts an eyebrow upwards. “I’m surprised, XD.”

I am too, Dream wants to say back. “It’s his decision to make, not mine.”

Technoblade mutters words under his breath and Wilbur keeps his eyes on him, envy stirring within his pupils.

“Very well,” Philza says.

“I gave him a phone for communication,” Dream then explains. “He also – he also needs his knives with him when he sleeps. Or he won’t be getting sleep. He hasn’t been – for the whole week.”

“What?” Philza stammers.

“He needs them,” Dream repeats. “So don’t take them away.”

“What else – what else should we know?”

Dream shrugs. “Theseus has changed. He’s not the same person, he was before.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy does not speak or eat. He is only recently Tommy, yet so different from Theseus. Because Theseus is loud and bold. Theseus has a strictness to his name and will listen.

Tommy – he stays silent and refuses to acknowledge Dream’s presence. He stares blankly at walls and stares through Dream when he speaks. He is quiet and does not listen.

It is two weeks and three days when Dream has enough. “Tommy, you have to eat.”

Tommy does not. His eyes move to Dream and drop to the carpet again, wordlessly. Dream exhales deeply.

“Tommy,” he repeats. “Theseus.”

Tommy is quiet.

“I’m going to start on dinner,” Dream says to him, even if Tommy will not respond. “We’ll be off tomorrow morning, so our next meal won’t be in a while. I need you to eat.” He paces to the kitchen, rubbing his eyes and rolling his shoulders back. Fatigue has settled into his soul, resulting from the countless hours awake, and making sure they are both safe. He drives for hours and rarely rests. Tommy does not either. He does not sleep and stares into space.

Dream doesn't know what to do.

For the first time, he’s utterly helpless.

He pulls out tinned tomatoes and boils pasta. He can save the remainder for later – and hopefully, there will not be much as Tommy will be eating. Their training ensures they do not need to eat for days, weeks upon end without feeling hunger. But tiredness will settle within the younger boy, and Dream needs him to be strong enough to fight.

Dream needs to do better. Dream is meant to be the best. He is meant to be in control.

He finishes the food. He seasons it and takes out two bowls. He divides portions, and grabs metal utensils, before joining Tommy back at the couch. Tommy sits still and does not move – as he has been doing for hours. Dream had tried to put the television on, but when he had returned to the room, Tommy had turned it off.

“Here,” Dream shoves a plate in his hold. “Eat.” He keeps the bowl out until Tommy has no choice to take it. But Dream doesn’t move, staying standing. “I’m not leaving until you do, Toms,”

“Dream,” Tommy speaks, his voice raspy and evident he has not been drinking water. “Fuck off.”

“There’s the Tommy we all love,” Dream deadpans. “Now eat,” He collapses on the seat next to him, and motions his fork to his mouth. “You know how to do that, do you? Take your fork and–”

“I know how to fucking eat,” Tommy gulps. “I just can’t,”

“Yes, you can,” Dream persists. “You’re not sick.”

“My stomach hurts,”

“For almost three weeks?” Dream has been nice – he’s given Tommy space and given him time to himself. Sapnap tells him before, that Tommy will need time to settle and adjust. He requires space, and for Dream to not push him. But Dream can’t watch as Tommy tears himself apart right in front of his eyes, he won’t allow it.

“Yeah,” Tommy sighs, quietly. “I’ll throw it up. I can’t.”

Dream presses his lips together and thinks. “Can you eat half of it, then? We’ll save the rest for breakfast.”

Tommy stares down at his plate, emptily. Dream doesn’t need to hear him to know what his answer will be. He’s used to straightforward answers and shouting words by the younger boy, Dream guesses that he will have to adjust.

Lucky for Dream, he knows Tommy well.

They’ve known each other for years. Ever since Tommy was Theseus, and a recruit, when he’d call Dream sir and flinch when Dream called him Theseus.

Dream stands and Tommy slowly raises his head, panic settling within him. Dream sends him a reassuring smile and leaves the room to the kitchen. He opens one of the plastic bags and pulls the contents to find what he’s looking for.

“Sorry Dream,” Tommy says quickly when Dream returns. “I’m sorry, I–

Dream throws something at him. He smiles when Tommy catches it with one hand, midair, without notice. He blinks and stares at his hands.

“Pudding?” Tommy questions, oddly.

“Chocolate,” Dream adds. “Your favorite.”

Tommy stares at the dessert oddly.

“You won’t eat the pasta. That’s fine,” Dream sighs. “But eat the pudding, kid. You need to have strength.”

“I don’t deserve it.”

Dream scoffs. “If you didn’t, then I wouldn’t give it to you. You can have another one if you want.”

Tommy does not brighten; he does not smile. But he eats, and that’s all Dream hopes for.

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap laughs. “Dude, I wish I could have seen their faces!”

Dream sighs as Sapnap continues. “That’s fucking funny, what did Wilbur say?”

“He didn’t say anything, only stared.”

“That’s even better,” Sapnap grins. “The fuckers really took way his knives.”

Dream rolls his shoulders and leans back on the couch. “I don’t blame them – there are a hundred holes in the walls.”

“You gave him the phone, right?” Dream nods his head. “What do you think about Philza, anyway?”

Dream thinks. “He’ll change him, he wants Tommy to be the same he was years ago. He won’t undermine the experiences he went through, but he’ll find a way to change him to who he once was.”

“How?” Sapnap scoffs, because they both know the boy they left, and the boy they know now are two very different people. “How on Earth will they do that?”

“No clue,” Dream shrugs and leans back.

Sapnap frowns. “And you’re just going to let them?”

“No, I won’t. They’re going to find out he’s Tommy somehow – I’ll work from there.”

“You made sure that they know he can’t sleep without the knives under his pillow? And that if he doesn’t get enough sleep for about a week – he’ll be moody and will be asleep for three days straight? And that he wakes up at six every morning and can’t have big meals?”

Dream blinks at Sapnap. “Uh, sure,”

Sapnap exhales. “Okay just making sure.”

There is a lot about Tommy, Philza will need to understand. Like how Tommy needs a reminder to breathe during his panic or anxiety attacks, and how he’ll try and eat sweets and desserts for his meals and needs someone to tell him to eat decent food. Or how he’ll speak with firey emotions when he's angry but won’t mean them.

There is a lot about Tommy that no one knows besides Dream, Sapnap, and once George.

“We know too much about that damn kid,” Sapnap laughs, jokingly. Dream rolls his eyes and stares at the ceiling as Sapnap pulls his legs up on the coffee table and sighs loudly. They are captured within boredom. They would have training any other day, or meetings to discuss agents and training programs for recruits. Tommy would have been with them, and they would not be so bored. But he’s not, and they have nothing planned – so they sit in silence.

“Do you think,” Sapnap then says. “That everything will go to shit?”

“What?”

Sapnap sighs. “If Quackity goes against Philza’s plan – which he’s planning to do, then how will that affect us, if he finds out about Tommy’s identity beforehand? We could be underestimating Phil here – we don’t know what he’s capable of.”

“Quackity’s plan does concern me,” Because betraying an agency whose owner is the father of their younger – of Tommy, doesn’t seem so appealing anymore. Not convenient. “We’ll speak to him about it later.”

“I shouldn’t trust him so much,” Sapnap then mutters, and groans. “But I do.”

Dream smirks, “You trust the people you love.”

“Fuck off,” Sapnap shoves him and fails since he’s laying down and Dream doesn’t move. “I don’t know if I fuckin’ love him, but I’m not having this conversation with you.”

“Then who will you talk to?” Dream rolls his eyes. “Idiot.”

Sapnap complies and speaks. He doesn’t need much convincing. “I think I don’t know how to love; I think. Karl and Quackity are always doing things – always together. They smile too much. I don’t know if I can do that. Going to the park with them once a week is already enough for me.”

“You’re projecting introverted tendencies, Sapnap,”

“Shut up,” Sapnap grabs a cushion. “They’ll hate me soon anyway.”

“Why?” Dream asks and Sapnap stays silent. “Why, Sapnap?”

“Oh, no reason,” Sapnap hesitates. “When they, uh, when they want me to go out with them, but I can’t.”

Dream narrows his eyes. “That isn’t what you were going to say.”

“You’re fucking annoying.”

Dream shoves him. Sapnap shouts. He stands from his seat and watches the apartment carefully. “We need to tidy this place up, it’s a mess.”

“It’s fine,” Dream doesn’t want to move.

“No, get up,” Sapnap pokes his arm. “We need something to do anyway.” Sapnap is right because Dream’s legs and arms twitch, and he waits to complete a task. So Sapnap shoves him into the kitchen and makes him rearrange the cupboards because pots and pans fall out when they open the small drawers.

Sapnap grabs papers and junk from the spare room, they have shoved useless or unneeded crap in, that they couldn’t figure out a place to keep. He flickers through old novels and rolls his eyes at broken weapons.

“Don’t throw that out,” Dream then says, and takes a knife from him. “Tommy made me this.”

“And you threw it away?” Sapnap rolls his eyes. “Be a better brother,”

The words travel deep, like a knife to his heart. “Yeah,” he says, light.

They continue. Sapnap talks and they consider turning on music until both of them argue about music preferences. Dream prefers smoother tones of songs, while Sapnap enjoys fast-paced rap music. They can’t come to an agreement and stop.

Sapnap returns with piles of paper. “Where the fuck is this from?”

Dream turns from where he wipes the stove and tilts his head to the side. “Uh fuck, most of that shit is Quackity’s old paperwork I had to complete. Throw it away.”

“All of it?” Sapnap flickers through the thick piles of paper quickly. Dream nods his head, and Sapnap does. “I’ll burn this shit. I have a couple of extra lighters in my room.”

“I think you’ve lit enough things on fire, for one lifetime.” Dream jokes, but they still go silent and still. He hates how he tries and jokes, but they can’t.

Because it’s George, his mind says. It’s George and he’s meant to be here.

“It’s fine, Sapnap,” Dream nods his head. “Light it on fire. I don’t think Quackity will be happy if we fill up the bins, anyway.”

Sapnap nods his head. The room is still.

“You loved him,” Sapnap then declares and Dream splutters.

What?”

“You loved him,” Sapnap repeats. “And now he’s gone – and I’d thought you’d cry more.”

Dream frowns.

“It’s just – George meant a lot to you,”

“I know,” Dream says. “He meant a lot to you too,”

“But you pretend it’s okay. I think I’ve cried it all out, now. You’ve barely reacted.”

Dream doesn’t tell anyone that he lays awake for hours every night, wondering of George and what their future could have been. Of the life he could have had, one together. His throat closes and he desperately wants him back – but George is gone and went down along with The Academy.

He wonders if he will ever have the opportunity to make a grave for George. But this time, the stone will be marked and the flower by him will not wilt. George deserved a life as much as they did – he deserved to live.

George deserved to survive.

Sapnap leaves to throw away the belongings, and Dream goes to his room. He stays awake and watches the stars grow cold, alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream, George’s voice echoes in his dreams. When we leave, watch the stars with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone has their own story.

So does George.

 

 

 

 

 

He is Twenty-three.

He is smart and quick.

He survives.

He is Graduate Two.

He is George.

 

 

 

 

 

The thing about George – the thing that separates him from the others and differs him from his peers – is his mind. He remembers books and papers as they practice knives and fight. He crams his neck into thick textbooks, as his siblings spar.

They glance and send him strange looks. They wonder why he is different; why he is not like them. George has never been the strongest. But George is smart.

He watches as peers leave and do not return. He is calculated through his sparring, and as his opponents have their skill and strength over him – George has his mind. He connects the pieces through his brain and surveys the body language of his competitor to anticipate their every move.

George may not be the fastest. But he strives to be the smartest.

Until one day, they pull him apart.

They change him. They mend him into what they want him to be. What he isn’t.

“Flawless.” He remembers their distant words. He forgets. “A perfect assassin,”

They pull him apart until he forgets who he once is. They make him what he isn’t.

They strive for perfection – and George is not perfect.

“George?” Dream one day asks. “You zoned out.”

Brown meets green. “What?” George mumbles, tired.

“Don’t zone out,” Dream mutters and pushes his shoulder. “Are you not sleeping well?”

“I’m sleeping fine.”

Dream stares into him. “Then what’s going on?”

George cannot say. Dream pursues his lips, and nudges his shoulder, lightly. “You don’t want to be slacking, you know what happens if you do.”

George feels the blood inside of him run, and his ears ring. He feels different.

They continue testing, they don’t stop. They poke wires into his skin, and blood runs through his veins until he can’t feel them anymore.

“To be better,” they reassure him. “To be perfect.”

And one day, they finish.

The Headmaster comes in. They stare into George’s eyes and nod their head, proud. “We appreciate your cooperation, Graduate Two. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.” However, he is not perfect yet. It will take time, months they say, until George is what they want him to be. But the main part of the testing has finished. The sharp cuts and fresh bruises will settle.

However, a downside is that George grows more restless and tired. He no longer wakes at six and sleeps earlier. He struggles to stay awake throughout the day and must fight fatigue to continue.

One day, Dream shouts some sense into him. “What is wrong with you? You’ve made it this far, George!”

“I know,” George grows restless.

“You don’t!” Dream shouts. “You need to stay alive! If you continue where you are at – missing lessons and your classes, then you won’t. I thought you fucking understood this!”

“I do,” George does not fight anymore. He does not have the energy to.

Sometimes, George watches. He watches the world move and watches himself remain. The sun rises, and the stars scatter. The world moves, and he is left behind.

Months pass.

George is tired.

“You’re out of it,” Theseus says during a mission, glancing at him with curiosity. “Your eyes are glassy. You think all the time.”

“Theseus,” George tells the younger. “Be quiet for the second.”

Theseus stays quiet.

“And watch.”

The world works in mysterious ways. Stories pass between their eyes, and George watches. He enjoys noticing the small details and exploring aspects that no one else sees. One day, George won’t be so tired. He will be perfect, and they will use him for more missions. They make him perfect, so George will perform perfect.

“The perfect assassin,” They say. “We are glad you are with us.”

He is appreciated for once. He is not just number two – unvalued for his lack of skill and strength. One particular day, he sees his performance set between his bones. He spars Dream, and for once, Dream does not win fast. They remain fighting for a while, George gaining the upper advantage as his arms have more push and his legs have embraced their hidden intensity. They end up laying on the mats, panting and looking for breaths.

“Have you been doing extra training?” Dream huffs for air and wipes sweat.

“No,” George coughs and stands. “Again?” Dream nods his head, and they spar. They are partners, and George isn’t so behind Dream. He is his own person – he isn’t only Graduate Two. He is George, and one day, he will be the perfect assassin. He will be what The Academy wants to be. He strives for it until he doesn’t.

One day, the sight of death sees appealing and he realizes that he does not want to continue. He refuses to become a mold and change himself for what they want of him. He refuses.

So, he plans.

“You and Theseus will leave,” he tells Dream. “Sapnap and I will stay.”

He waits.

“I’ll get the files,” he tells Sapnap. “You burn this place down.”

He watches.

“Soon, we’ll begin soon. Make sure Dream gets the message we’re arriving soon.”

George’s plan is faultless. He plants the idea of the files in Sapnap’s head, subtly, a while back. Before their escape, Sapnap mentions it again, and George plays into his act.

Sapnap will light The Academy on fire. He will burn the place to the ground.

George will burn along with it.

 

 

 

 

 

On the night of Sapnap’s escape, he whispers his name one last time. “Sapnap,”

And for the last time, Sapnap says his. “George,”

George takes out his hand. “If this doesn’t go well, it was a good ride.” He hopes Sapnap takes it.

Sapnap does, however he hugs him instead.

Then and there, George almost holds regret for what he is about to do.

“Don’t say that Gogy,” Sapnap murmurs.

“Don’t call me that.”

Brown eyes meet green. It is the last time they will ever see each other again.

(“Don’t wait up for me,” George makes Sapnap promise. “Do what you have to do and run.”

“I won’t leave you behind.” Sapnap persists. He does not start the fire yet, but his eyes burn.

George grips his shoulders, tightly. “If I can’t make it out alive, then you must.”)

George leaves Sapnap with the gasoline.

But George does not retrieve the files. He waits for a whisper in his ears.

He hears, “I’m ready, George,” Or perhaps, it is the wind.

But The Academy burns and George does not have the files.

(He finds them beforehand. Thick papers with information that spills black ink. He instructs Curtis to hide them at Dream’s location. He does not open the files himself. He does not want to know his life of before, the life he will never get again.)

Soon, The Academy falls. The flames surround him.

George burns.

He laughs one last time. He refuses to be the assassin they want of him. He refuses to belong to this place – he refuses a life he does not want. He refuses to be tied down between the wall and anticipate a life of murder and death. George wants freedom. He needs it.

He will not be what they want from him. George refuses.

 

 

 

 

 

He asks Sapnap how he thinks their first sunset feels.

He hopes Sapnap feels alive. He hopes that Sapnap feels free.

He hopes that one day, they can watch the sunset together.

 

 

 

 

 

(He also hopes that one day, he can watch the stars with Dream.)

 

 

 

 

 

When George is seconds away from death, he feels the most alive he has ever been.

Chapter Text

George does not die.

Between life and death, he hesitates.

 

 

 

 

 

Four agents are selected, usually. Dream, Sapnap, George, and a high-performing Graduate. They are taken elsewhere for a week and compete against other agencies, and other assassins to see who will remain, who will survive.

Four survive, thirty-six do not.

A battle of dominance, Dream informs Theseus. They test each agency, to identify which agency is on top. There are eight challenges, that involve strength, deception, and mind, Dream explains. The Academy always wins.

They hold their title proudly. Because their agents are the best, their agents do not lose.

Theseus is fifteen when he is selected as their fourth.

He isn’t officially their fourth – he won’t be until he completes Graduation. But when he is told he selected – over any other Graduate, or another student to be with them, Theseus will say that him being pleased, is an understatement.

Dream lectures him when he is selected. “You’ll complete training with us, now. Not for all your lessons – you can’t skip languages with George. But we need to train you.”

Theseus will not let them down. He must prove something – to them, to himself.

And if he can’t – then they’re dead anyway.

Dream reassures him, though. “We haven’t lost since we started competing, so don’t worry about that.”

Dream starts the Contest when he is sixteen, so does George. Sapnap starts at seventeen. Theseus is the youngest competitor on behalf of The Academy – and the whole Contest.

They train. Theseus wakes early mornings tired and sleeps exhausted. Dream is relentless and he shouts and pushes, but at the end of a couple of months, Theseus feels as prepared as he can.

They wear pull on their red blazers, with black symbols. A capital ‘A’ to mark their presence, along with the school’s logo. They wear white shirts, black shorts, white socks, and black shoes. The Headmaster stares at them before they leave, with eyes of whiteness and words that are black.

“Don’t let me down.”

“Yes, sir,” they say, and leave. Taken by long, black cars, the three Graduates speak quietly among themselves, while Theseus stays still.

Sapnap nudges him. “You okay, kid?”

Theseus nods his head.

George watches him. “It’ll be fine. The competition is easy.”

Dream rolls his eyes and speaks to Theseus. “Don’t freak out, or stress. There will be eyes on you since you’re new. Ignore them.”

Dream isn’t wrong. When they first step into the large hall, with the thirty-six other competitors, their eyes scan Theseus, and he almost freezes. But he is a student of The Academy, and he must not show weakness. So, he guards himself, and keeps a black face, mirroring George’s. Sapnap on the other hand, smiles at others, and waves at a few. Dream leads them to another group, where they are introduced to a few others.

“CPK,” Dream greets. “An old rival,” Dream tells Theseus later than they meet in a meeting between agencies a while ago.

CPK seems nervous. Theseus notices.

“Dream,” CPK nods his head. Theseus is introduced to Shubble and Smajor. They are some of the highest students at Willow College. They all seem nervous.

Theseus voices his opinion at dinner, and Sapnap bursts out laughing. “Why do you think they’re nervous, Theseus?”

Theseus shrugs his shoulders and shoves the cold yogurt in his mouth. They have a selection of foods to eat as they are here, and Theseus promises to make the most of it before they return to the same meals again. “Why?” he asks with a mouthful.

“Theseus,” Dream rolls his eyes. “Don’t eat with your mouth full.”

“Don’t eat with your mouth full,” Theseus mocks his words.

“They’re nervous,” Sapnap then explains. “Because they won’t survive.”

Theseus blinks. He sees Dream’s smirk and George’s small smile. Then he hears Sapnap’s laugh and understands.

It is to be feared, or fear.

Dream, Sapnap, and George are feared.

Other’s fear.

Because it is life or death, and there is no in-between.

“Has Dream gone through the game plan with you?” Sapnap asks and Theseus rolls his eyes.

“Only fifty-eight times.” He’s counting.

“Not enough then,” George smirks.

Sapnap tells him. “There will be an introduction meeting tomorrow when we’ll meet our competitors and the adjudicators. Others watch on screens.”

Theseus knows well. For five lessons every month, students are dismissed and watch the Contest from their respected classrooms. Theseus watches them – his brothers – compete, with aweing and hope to be as strong as they are one day.

Now they will watch them on the screens from the cameras littered around the screen.

“Our first game is tomorrow. We’ll have one game every day and on the last, there will be the final as well.” Sapnap continues to explain (although Theseus knows the premises well) that each game will test each individual aspect to truly determine how strong each selected agency is.

The games list from a range of obstacles and parkour, to fighting with and without weapons.

“The worst deaths,” Sapnap lists from the top of his mind. “Probably from the battlegrounds. There’s fire, I’ve seen people burn alive.” The lucky individuals live with injuries and close-no-death situations. They return their institution with scars, and usually alone – as their companions have not made it out. They will not either soon, as losing can cause great humiliation for their school. If they do not win, they might as well die.

“Stop scaring him,” George instructs at Sapnap. “It will be fine.”

Theseus hopes it is.

That night, Theseus does not sleep. He stays away, watching the frame of the top bunk where Sapnap sleeps and hears George’s light snores in the background.

Dream knows he isn’t asleep. Dream might as well know everything.

“It will be fine,” Dream may have to say his words a hundred times over, for Theseus to start believing him. “Trust us kid, we’ll be fine.”

They lay, lonely. Theseus turns his head to notice Dream lay on the bunk on the opposite of the room, his head resting in his palms. Theseus’ eyes flicker to George, who sleeps soundly.

“I just don’t want to let anyone down,” Theseus says soft.

“And you won’t,” Dream says. “There hasn’t been anyone competing at your age before. Trust.”

“Trust,” Theseus repeats but his stomach stirs.

The following morning is the welcoming meeting. Four agents from each agency line up in rows, and the camera pans to each, listing their names and strengths.

It gets to Dream. The audience claps, because they are expected to win – they have every previous year, after all. Dream’s name is plastered on the large screen in front and his long row of strengths. Theseus is told by his brothers to keep his head straight, to not stare at anyone else when the cameras are on them. But Theseus peers over carefully to see the nervous reactions of the other agents.

When it is Theseus’ turn, it is the first time his name is used. Theseus, the screen says. And lists his strengths including combat and quickness. The list is no longer than Dream, Sapnap’s, and George’s, but it’s enough.

After they are listed, and the rest of the agents have their turn, there is clapping and a speaker announcing the beginning of the competition.

Soon, they change into black uniforms, and it is the last time they will see all forty of each other. By the end of the day, they will have reduced to a little more than thirty.

Theseus does not know what to expect as the competition continues. He zones out for the majority of it, letting Dream do his thing, and for George and Sapnap to play in a suite. He does not stand out, nor does he do much, as Dream is always on one side of him and Sapnap is on the other. He does not believe he continues much, but Sapnap always pats his shoulder after every round and Dream tells him of how well he has worked, over dinner.

Even George, says something nice.

They make it to the final round. No one is surprised.

“To death,” George tells him, with warning. “Or injury. You catch weapons with your hands and throw them back.”

Theseus knows he will do well.

“Stand back,” Though Sapnap states. “We’ve done this plenty of times before.”

Theseus nods his head. Theseus complies.

The final match begins, and Theseus notices opposite them, is the assassins they spoke to, on the first day. There is Smajor, CPK, Shubble, and another boy called Quig who is the youngest apart from Theseus. They must throw weapons at each other from the other side of the grounds, and fight until one team stands.

Theseus stands back and lets his brothers finish them off. Dream knows CPK – but is fear or to be feared, and Dream will not hold back. He sees Dream pull his arms wide and his body firmly in position as Sapnap throws knives from behind him, his stance strong. Then there is George, who seems quick and calculated as he aims his shots.

They are the assassins that The Academy must be, the Graduates that are admired.

Theseus understands now more than ever. Because up close, he notices Dream’s concentration and Sapnap’s strongness. Theseus sees George’s calculation.

They are Dream, George, and Sapnap.

They are strong.

They are his brothers.

And Theseus hopes that one day, he can be like them. One day, he can stand strong with them and truly be their fourth.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream,” Tommy says into his phone at night. “I can’t fuckin’ sleep.”

Dream’s voice is not groggy and tired, as he thinks it will be. He assumed Dream would have woken up to his phone ringing. Instead, he speaks gently and soft.

“Do you have a knife with you?”

Tommy laughs lightly. “Yeah. Phil gave me one.”

“Then why can’t you sleep?”

Tommy’s throat closes. “I can’t,”

“Why not, Tommy?”

He’s afraid to admit of the people that watch him in his dreams. People will bullet to their brains, and blood sweeping out of his eyes. The men, the women, and the children he has killed. The people he has killed, for his selfish survival.

“I can’t tell you,” Tommy whispers.

“That’s okay,” Dream doesn’t push, which is a relief. Philza pushes Tommy to take off his mask and Wilbur pushes him to leave his room. Techno won’t stop pushing him to speak.

“They’re weird,” Tommy then admits, placing his phone on the bed, as he sits on the floor and tips his head back. He dips his eyes closed, to receive darkness. “They act differently.”

“Different?”

“They act strange when I’m Tommy. When I’m Theseus, they're stranger. I can’t explain it.”

“Are you overthinking it?”

“No,” Tommy denies. “I’m not.”

Dream stays silent. “How’s Wilbur like?”

“Why the fuck do you want to know?”

“How’s Wilbur like?” Dream repeats. “Is he as worse as Sapnap? Tell me about him.”

Tommy snorts and rolls his eyes. “When I’m Tommy, he’s a bit more bearable. He’s too invasive, but he hears me. But now, he’s a fucking dick.”

Dream snorts.

“He’s cornering me, pushing me. They tell me to take off my mask, I don’t know if I’ll be able to.”

“Your choice, Tommy,” Because he has choices now that they’ve left. “Quackity and I will be around tomorrow. We’ll do a bit of training together if you want.”

Tommy hates how desperate he feels. “Can Sapnap come?”

“Sapnap can come,” Dream confirms.

Tommy is about to ask about George. But at The Academy, he asked about Sapnap, and then George. George isn’t here anymore, though. So, the words die on the tip of his tongue, and he swallows the phrase before it leaves.

“How long?” Tommy then questions. “I don’t know how long I can stay.” It’s been longer than a week. He’s homesick, even though he isn’t sure what home is, at this point.  

“I’m not sure, kid. It’ll be a while.”

“Can Quackity hurry the fuck up?” Tommy grits his teeth. “Can they hurry?”

“Trust,” Dream says softly, and waits for Tommy’s response. “C’mon Tommy – trust,”

“Trust,” Tommy sighs, reluctant.

“How about a story?” Dream then suggests as they sit in silence. “To help you sleep,”

“I’m not a child, I don’t need one.”

“A bedtime story,” Dream teases. “Close your eyes.”

“I’m not closing my eyes.” He closes his eyes.

“Hear me?” Dream asks but doesn’t give Tommy enough time to respond. He coughs lightly. “There once was a God. His name was Theseus.”

“Dream,”

“Shut up, kid,” Dream says. “It’s the only story I know.” Dream learns it one day, to tell Tommy.

(Dream learns of mythology to tell Theseus. He reads papers and chapters of thick books, to tell the boy.)

Tommy hates his name. He hates being Theseus because it isn’t who he is.

But he listens.

“Once, there was a God, and his name was Theseus,” Dream says and the story continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George feels the heat by his skin and the fire consume his mind.

The walls fall, the ceiling burns.

George sees a future life pass between his eyes.

A life with Dream, Sapnap, and Theseus. A life they can live.

But he refuses to let The Academy take him. He is trapped in a metal cage, and he knows that death is the key to the handcuffs that tie him to the cruel life he lives.

They keep him in his cage. They prod and poke him until he is who they want him to be. They experiment and test him, because he is not perfect, and they will not stop until he is. But he is not George anymore. George is gone, the longer he lives.

George knows he will die the day he kills his first man. The first-time blood stains his arms, and their white eyes flash through his skull, George plans his death.

Death comes.

He sees his family, in what he thinks is his last moment. He sees Dream, who promises a future with him. They plan to live together one day, to learn and to love. He sees Sapnap, who does not need to be blood to be his brother. Sapnap saves him, Sapnap is once a reason to live for.

George also sees Theseus. He hopes Theseus will persist. Because he is stronger than George ever will be.

One day, George tells Theseus that he has no will to live. That he does not care about death and will accept it when it comes.

 

 

 

 

 

George accepts.

George is free.

 

 

 

 

 

He feels ash and smoke.

He wakes up.

 

 

 

 

 

Stiff and cold, the handcuffs have never felt so heavy before.

 

 

 

 

 

George,” they say his name as if he will forget. It is the last connection he has to his previous life, as they all do.

They poke wires into his skin, and George dips his eyes closed.

“Eyes open.” He opens his eyes.

The machines are heard behind him, and he feels his stomach stir. The needles and tubes are a normal occurrence now, they have been for months. This is normality to him because it must be. The researchers and testers, and the Headmasters rare occurrence. He pretends to be fine around Dream, Sapnap, and Theseus, but he is anything but.

“Testing is almost complete,” One day from another room. George’s hearing has improved over the last couple of months. He does not know if it is from the tests they’ve done, or from his concentration as the majority of the private conversations occur outside the white doors. He practices listening in until he can distinguish their voices from the deeps and whispers in the room, he lays in.

“When we’re finished, they’re bringing another in,” Another says. “He’s younger, less developed.”

“It will be more difficult,” they say, and George feels his eyes roll behind. He fixes his posture and leans backward. They speak of another subject for a while now, a couple of weeks. He assumes that once he is perfect, they will move to another student.

He is younger, they say. So, he doesn’t have to worry about Dream and Sapnap. Theseus won’t be chosen either, so his family is safe. Yet, he prays for the other person – that they will be fine.

George watches his family die. He watches his brothers shot and killed. He watches them die from starvation and thirst. Yet, he still hopes that the other person – the brother he will not know, will be okay.

George certainly isn’t. Fatigue is a constant, he does not feel like himself anymore.

If he had the will to live like Theseus or a spark like Sapnap, then maybe he’d persist. Maybe he’d fight death.

But George plans his demise, steadily. George accepts death because George does not want to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

George awakes.

His hands curl, and he can’t feel his arms. He licks the inside of his mouth and tastes blood. Wind brushes his skin, and life burns his soul. He blinks and feels ash between his eyelashes. Planks of wood lay beside him, and the ash of the school before him.

The Academy crumbles. The Academy falls.

George finally registers his soundings. There is grey and smoke, but between midst, he sees a sunset. The sun falls, and he does not taste the liberty he hopes for, once he escapes life.

Instead, he is met by cold reality. He is surrounded by loneliness, and his skin still burns.

George lifts his hands to his eyes and sees the cracks between his fingers. There are burns and bruises, but he is alive. George is alive.

“No,” He chokes. “No.”

He hopes for death, he begs for it.

Yet, he sits between the remains of his past and realizes death is not his future.

Why? His mind is numb. Because his plan is flawless and calculated. He plans this for months, for years in his mind.

Sapnap starts the fire. George burns along with The Academy.

His skin burns. The hair on his skin is gone and remains a tingling sensation that chokes him. It wraps around him and presses against his soul.

He doesn’t understand.

He’s meant to be fucking dead.

“Fuck.”

He can’t possibly understand because life is not possible when he is so close to death. Not when he is an assassin and must not fail.

George thinks he wins. Checkmate, he says before he dies, to only become a pawn on the board.

He comes to the realization, hours later. The realization comes slow and steady but hits him fast.

George realizes that he was once tested on. He is prodded with wires until he is perfect.

And the perfect assassin must live.

 

 

 

 

 

George lives. George lives because he cannot die.

Chapter Text

Tommy sighs.

His fingers twitch and his mind buzzes. Tubbo sits on his left, speaking to Ranboo who is seated across the table. He feels Wilbur’s eyes on him and Phil glance at him every so often. He hears Techno cut his chicken next to him, the metal knife cutting against the plate.

(“You’ll eat dinner with them,” Dream tells him over the phone. “Philza doesn’t want our phone calls to get tracked and doesn’t want to take any chances. So, I made a deal with him, that if you eat dinners with them – he’ll allow it.”

“Screw him.”

“You’re not eating,” Dream says. “And as much as I disagree with Philza, you need to eat.”)

Tommy does not eat. He stares at his plate, and gags at the sight of food. He had been doing better before, eating more than a few bites for each meal. But now, he can’t even pick up the fork placed in front of him.

He feels eyes on him, and words flow through his ears. Tubbo taps his fingers on the table and someone coughs to his left. 

Tommy didn’t know there would be so many people here. When Philza says they’ll eat dinner together – he thinks that he means his sons, and himself. He doesn’t know that includes Tubbo, Ranboo, and quite a lot of his agents.

“Theseus,” Tubbo’s eyes are now on him. Great. “Do you like the food?” Tubbo would have noticed he hasn’t touched his chicken or even looked at the vegetables.

“Uh,” Tommy glances at his friend before his eyes flicker away. He can’t do this. Not today. He stands abruptly, the chair skidding against the tile under his feet.

Some agent’s eyes glance and him, and then away. Phil’s, Wilbur’s, and Techno’s stay.

“You, okay?” Tubbo asks, his voice heightening. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Tommy feels his cheeks go red, but he remains composed. He gulps. “I’m going back–”

“Theseus,” Philza says from the head of the table. Tommy almost flinches. “You shouldn’t go to your room until you’ve finished.” He says with authority like he has something over the boy.

Tommy leaves anyway.

He exits the dining room, the wooden spruce doors slamming behind him, as he navigates back to his room. His hands fumble for his phone, and he recites Dream’s number, before throwing his mask on the floor.

He breathes. In and out. In and out.

Dream picks up.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” Tommy stutters quickly and grips his wrists. “I can’t breathe,”

“Take it slow,” Dream says calculated and slow. “You can, Tommy. Slow.”

Tommy’s heart races, and he gulps for air as he slides to the floor and grips his fingers to the carpet. Breathe, he reminds himself, if only he could.

“Remember our exercises,” Dream tells him, his voice distant to Tommy’s ears. Panic is not irregular for Tommy, especially after missions. Dream was always there to calm him down, because if a Teacher caught him, or another student ratted him out, he would face consequences.

(To be strong, they are taught. To be perfect.)

“I need you,” Tommy blurts out, and closes his eyes. “I need you, Dream.”

He doesn’t want to admit it because assassins do not need each other. They are independent and must be able to work alone.

But Tommy needs Dream. Now more than ever.

“I’m sorry,” Dream exhales. “That I can’t be there.”

Tommy is safer with Philza. He’s safer and away from danger.

“Breathe,” Dream says. “You know how to do that.” Dream tries to make him laugh.

“Fuck you,” Tommy splutters with coughs. His heart pounds and he can feel the blood rush through him.

But eventually, the panic settles and he’s left with a steady heart.

“Can you tell me what happened?” Dream questions. “Usually this doesn’t start unless you’re having a nightmare,”

“Does there have to be a fucking reason?” Tommy groans and pulls his blond curls back, his forehead covered with sweat.

“Yes, there usually is,” Dream tells him. “Tommy.”

“I can’t eat,” He feels stupid that he’s panicking over something so small, something so meaningless. At The Academy, he’d be killed for crying over such a useless reason. “I can’t.”

“That’s okay,” Dream says softly and careful. “When was the last time, you did?”

Tommy is afraid to admit it aloud. “A couple of days.”

“Can you give me an exact amount?”

“Four days,” Tommy expects Dream to explode, mainly because when they first escaped, Dream was always up his ass about eating the correct foods and having a right nutrition. He’d pester him endlessly and wouldn’t let him train until he put something in his stomach.

Instead, Dream takes a deep breath in and out. It comes static through the phone speaker. “Okay, that’s okay.”

“I can’t,” Tommy’s fingers dig into his wrist. “I try to, and I feel nauseous. And Philza’s always around and I don’t have any space.”

Dream gives him space. He lets Tommy lock his door and gives him options and choices. He leaves the room when Tommy needs him to and won’t keep his eyes on the younger if he’s uncomfortable.

Philza is different. He is invasive and stares a lot. So are Wilbur and Techno, whose questions are endless, and they never stop asking him to take off his mask.

“I’m staying on the phone with you, and I’m coming over.”

“What?” Tommy’s eyes fly open.

“Fuck Philza, I’ll be there.”

Dream does not lie. Dream stays on the phone line with him, until he ends the call as he has to call Quackity. He promises to be there in a matter of minutes.

Tommy lays on his cold bed and closes his eyes. When he opens them, Dream towers over him with a vanilla pudding in his left hand.

He hands it in front of Tommy’s face, and with no hesitation, he states, “Eat.”

Tommy takes it from him. It isn’t the usual packaged brand Dream buys for him, but he rips it open anyway. Dream passes him a spoon and sits down on the bed by him. He doesn’t watch Tommy, though, instead, his eyes trail around the blank room as he analyses the walls and corners carefully.

Tommy’s stomach rumbles. He takes a bite, and Dream reminds him to eat slowly. He does until the packet is empty.

Dream tosses him a bottle of water. Three sips later, he tips his head back, exhausted.

“Sleep,” Dream instructs. “I’ll be here when you wake up,”

“Dream,” Tommy laughs, tired. “I haven’t slept for days.”

“I know,” he pushes him back and shuffles over. “But you’ve always slept better when I’m here.”

“Fuck you,”

“I locked the door,” Dream says. “Sleep.” And Tommy does.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream sighs.

He does not fail to notice how Tommy hesitates between bites or how his hands shake. When he sleeps, his face rests and he is the calmest Dream has seen him for a long time.

Dream takes out his phone and calls Sapnap.

“It was Tommy,” he admits straight away. “I’m at the Syndicate’s right now.”

“That explains it, I guess,” Sapnap responds. “Quackity called me and told me that you left with no explanation.”

“Does he want an apology?”

“No,”

“Good, I wasn’t going to give him one.”

Sapnap snorts. “How’s the kid doing, then?”

Dream won’t lie. He watches Tommy’s figure and takes a deep breath in. “I don’t know, Sapnap. He had a panic attack.”

“Really?” Sapnap does not ask in disbelief, but rather shock. “What caused it?”

“I think,” Dream pauses. “I think I know?”

“Well?”

Dream thinks. He knows Tommy appreciates space and room to himself, and he knows that Philza won’t give him that – because Tommy is his son, and he doesn’t want to lose him twice. And Tommy’s now in a situation with people with who he is uncomfortable and unfamiliar within this lighting – so the kid must be confused and anxious about the next steps.

This is what Dream tells Sapnap. They sit in silence until they both think the same thing: That Tommy needs to know that Philza is his father.

“It will be a step back,” Sapnap mutters. “He won’t trust him; he’ll hate him for how his life has turned out.” Tommy will forever hold resentment for Philza’s lack of care and for his actions of giving him away. When Tommy figures out – that they aren’t given to The Academy voluntarily, he will still dislike the man for allowing it to happen.

Tommy became Theseus because of Philza – one way or another. Because of him, he receives years of torture and trauma.

“We’ll tell him,” Dream promises. “But we need him to settle him a little longer. If he finds out–”

“-he’ll want to leave,” Sapnap finishes his words. And they both Philza can protect Tommy now, even though years ago – he couldn’t.

There is a knock on the door, then. Dream quickly ends the call and reaches for Tommy’s mask, to slide on his face. He grabs his own.

“XD?” Philza asks, hearing his voice as he steps in. He does not give Dream enough time to pull his mask and stands blankly when he realizes Dream does not have a mask on. “Oh, apologies–”

Dream exhales and discards the mask. Wilbur and Techno know of Dream. To his knowledge, Philza does not know of his existence. And the expression on his features confirms his thought.

It is the first time Philza sees Dream’s face. His green eyes narrow and all his scars are visible. They stare. Their eyes do not leave each other.

“Philza,” Dream then acknowledges. And shuffles in front of Tommy, where his blond hair pulls in front of his face, as he had put on the younger boy’s mask with a rush.

“I was informed that you had made your way onto our grounds. Although I didn’t recall planning a meeting.”

“I was checking up on him,” Dream says. “Theseus,”

Philza’s eyes widen a fraction. Dream sees concern. “Is he okay?”

“He called me,” Dream admits. “He was having a panic attack.”

Philza steps closer. Dream stands up. He blocks Tommy’s view from him, and his eyes edge into him. He hopes Philza is scared by his scars.

“He needs to know,” Dream then states. “Soon.”

“Why?” Philza furrows his eyebrows.

“Because he deserves to.”

“He hasn’t settled in yet,” Philza sighs. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Philza,” Dream mutters and lowers his voice. “He hasn’t shown you his face either, I think it’s pretty obvious he hasn’t.”

“Why?” Philza pleads and Dream almost smirks. “Why is he so scared?”

“Theseus isn’t scared. But he’ll show you when he’s ready,”

“How do we make him ready?” Philza asks and stumbles on his words.

Dream takes out a knife from his pocket, while Phil stares at it. “You won’t make him do anything. He’ll come to you when he’s ready. So don’t fucking push him, or anything he does not want. Make sure Wilbur talks to him and Technoblade does not pester. And you, have to make sure you’re not constantly asking questions.” Dream glares, his eyes reflecting the sharp blade. “He’s gone through shit. It isn’t easy to talk about it.”

“You care for him,” Philza notes, respectfully. “You’re close to him.”

“At The Academy, we were taught to not become close to each other,” Dream mutters. “But Theseus is still my brother.”

“I understand that.”

“I don’t think you do,” Dream gazes at his knife. “Yet.”

“Pardon?”

“You may be blood-related, but you won’t understand him. Don’t pretend you do – don’t act like it. I’ve seen the kid’s experiences; I know the trauma he’s experienced. You can’t take that away.”

Phil sighs. “I don’t plan of it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Fourteen tastes blood and sweat.

The sweat is his own, the blood is not.

He is praised. “Well done,” they say. “We expect higher from you, however.”

Higher, greatness. Fourteen must achieve greatness. If he completes a mission, then he should have finished it faster. If he takes down a Graduate during training, then it is not enough. And if he pulls a bullet through the head of the other, then he must do better.

So, he learns. Through bruises and burns, to only be great.

If he does not, Fourteen faces repercussions. He faces punishment, he is thrown into the white room and forced to forget previous mistakes until perfection.

(“You are a monster,” they say. “No one wants you, but us.”)

Unlovable, are harsh whispers. Unvalued.

There are stories of him when he makes it to Graduation. He excels past all present Graduates and is labeled as Graduate One. Stories ensue of him being born with skill and technique. But he starts at the bottom and works to the top. Other rumors state that he is trapped in the white room for days, sometimes months, to ensure his wrongs are undone. He will not confirm nor deny them.

He is Dream now, and cruelty and death rush through his veins.

He is once an assassin; he will forever be one. He will have scars and stitches, and he will struggle to sleep some nights with the hauntings of his past. They make him who he is, whether he likes it or not.

Dream sees the trauma that Tommy must live through as Theseus, the pain that is inflicted and abuse he will fight to escape for – Dream is present through all of it. He understands Tommy, they understand each other’s situations more than anyone else.

He refuses for Philza to change him. To mend and break him.

He is Tommy now; he is once Theseus. Yet, he will never be the ten-year-old boy he was – the version of himself that Phil and his family know.

They cannot remove that life from him – they cannot fix him. They cannot make him better. Tommy does not need fixing. But he deserves love and a family, and Dream decides that Philza, Wilbur, and Techno will be that for him – not enough, but enough. They cannot change what is done and change his life – but they can help him live a better one.

Tommy will always be like Dream. They will always sleep with a knife under their pillows and freeze at familiar sounds.

(His green eyes settle on the boy. He sees himself in him, a younger self, a younger version.

He will do anything he can, to protect him.)

But Tommy and Dream are also different. Tommy can be loved. Dream can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Punz won’t say he has the easiest upbringing.

He is ten the first time he learns to use a gun.

He is sixteen the first time he must use one.

He raises his younger brother under the harsh stars of Floridian night skies and waits for the day that they can be free. His brother’s name is Gray, and he has the deepest shade of purple eyes he’s ever seen. Some say good genetics – but they never know their parents.

Punz smokes and they live fifteen minutes away from the beach. Gray is eight and he is fourteen when they first find their first place to stay. An abandoned house, which can be deemed an attic considering the main section of the housing is unsavable. Maybe if Punz is not just fourteen, he could save it. But he can’t.

They spend their days on the beach and waxing boards. He can still feel the sand pressed against his skin and the salt of the sea when he closes his eyes.

Punz teaches Gray everything he can until he can’t. They cannot afford to go to school, and he steals books from libraries to get Gray a decent education. But Gray must be street smart – so he learns how to use a knife and a gun. He learns how to be quick on his feet and lie out of situations.

They fall on the sand, under the stars, and promise each other that one day it will get better.

“I promise,” Punz says every night, as he turns to the younger boy who watches the world with wonder.

Gray is ten when he is stolen.

It happens fast, Punz sometimes dreams of the moment his world falls apart at night. He does, for years straight, as a growing pit in his stomach expands and he can no longer breathe. So, he gives up cigarettes and moves.

He makes a promise to find his brother again. One last promise. And then another for them to be free.

He uses a gun when he is sixteen, and his heart has never raced so fast, and death has never felt so close. He sees red, and feels red, and knows the length he must go through, to get his brother back. He trains, and learns, and sees the world in a vision he has not realized before. Because the world is harsh, and life is cruel, and he must come to terms with that when he is sixteen.

He is too young, but Gray is too young when he is taken and Punz will never stop until he gets him back. Because they have each other, and without him, Punz has no one.

He learns over time, of a life of exploitation and a world of fighting. Where children are taught of a world of nothing but murder and weapons, and they must kill for survival. Punz is seventeen when he becomes an assassin, and fights for his life – and to find his brother’s.

Punz discovers one day, of a mission they send the children that cannot keep up. Gray may not be a part of the mission – but it is his last chance for getting his brother back. Punz will never stop, so he goes.

He finds a deserted land, with rocks and the sun.

Eventually, he also finds his brother.

He clings onto Gray, the first time he sees him again, but gently because Gray looks weak and malnourished. (Punz has never been so gentle before.)

He cards his fingers through the boy’s brown hair and dips his nose. “I’m here,” he says again and again and promises that neither of them will leave again. “I’m sorry,” he also says and doesn’t remember when his heart has felt so strong.

It is two years since they have seen each other. Punz has changed, but so has Gray. Gray sleeps for a long time and wakes in fright.

Gray can also not remember him.

In fact, he threatens Punz at gunpoint.

“Get the fuck away from me,” Gray manages to steal his weapon, and use it. Punz’s arms fly in the air, in surrender. “I don’t know who you are – but I’m going to fucking shoot if you step closer.”

“Gray,” his voice breaks. “Gray, it’s me.”

“I don’t know who you are,” Gray shouts, but he doesn’t sound like Gray – he sounds unfamiliar. He shakes violently and he’s too skinny. “But get the fuck away from me.”

“I’m your brother,” Punz repeats, and Gray shoots.

He misses, luckily. Punz has learned a couple of things too, as an assassin. He’s fast on his feet too, and slides the gun out of Gray’s arms, and pin him away. His breaths are heavy, and he pins Gray’s arms behind his back.

He exhales and inhales deeply as Gray struggles between his grip and the sound of the bullet echoes through his ears. “We don’t do that around here, kid. We don’t shoot.” He does not mention his life as an assassin – well, former assassin now that his brother is back.

“Get off me!” Gray shouts and struggles more. Exhaustion settles within his purple eyes. “I don’t know who you are! Fuck off!”

Punz breathes heavily. “That’s okay, that’s okay,” he repeats, but maybe it’s a reassurance to himself at not the kid. “It’s going to be okay, Gray. I promise.”

“How do you know my name!?” Gray faints from fatigue, Punz doesn’t exactly know. As he lays on wooden floorboards and watches his brother – that things will be different from now on.

Gray wakes up later. “I have a friend,” Punz tells him, softly. (Punz is never soft.) “He’ll help us and get us off our feet. He’ll help you too – and maybe you can remember shit about our past. But no shooting, and no screaming. We’ll talk. Do we have a deal?”

Gray does not talk for weeks.

It is week five when he speaks for the first time.

“Purpled,” He says. “Call me Purpled.”

 

 

 

 

 

George is not free. He never will be.

Death is his final liberty. It is stolen from his grasp, and he is left alive.

Caged and handcuffed to life; he lives.

George is eternal. He tests his theory on his skin and bleeds. He flames himself on fire, and his skin is left red and swollen. He stops feeling hurt a long time ago but living has never felt so painful.

George is alone for weeks. He tries starving himself to death, and when that doesn’t work, he does not drink.

They think they will receive freedom when The Academy crumbles. But George sits between the ash of the school before him and watches the distant stone walls, carefully. The sunset is hidden and so is his escape from this all.

He decides he will find Dream and Sapnap – and Theseus. He’ll devise a plan beforehand, and he’ll take down The Academy once and for all with them. They may take away his freedom and throw away his key, but George will not The Academy continue any longer.

He has a lifetime to stop them.

Chapter Text

Tommy stares oddly at Dream. “What are you doing here?”

Dream leans on the wall opposite him, a knife spinning between his fingers as he watches him. Tommy watches the blade spin between his skin, before tilting his head upwards at his older brother, to figure out why he was in the same room, and not back at Quackity’s.

“You’ll remember,” Dream then sighs and drops the knife. “You had a panic attack.”

“Oh.”

Dream rolls his eyes. “You’re not sleeping enough, so new rule, you’ll call me when you wake up.”

Tommy squints his eyes. “How the fuck does that work?” Tommy’s lack of sleep won’t disappear, even if Dream makes him report to him every morning.

“Phil’s getting you sleeping pills,” Dream then says. “We talked about it.”

In under ten seconds, Tommy stands with a knife in his right arm, three steps closer to Dream. He reveals the blade for him to see. “You better have not told him anything else.”

“Tommy,” Dream rolls his eyes. “Put the knife down.”

“No, bitch,” Tommy grumbles. “Tell me what you fuckin’ told him!”

“Try,” Dream smirks. “Try using that knife, I dare you.”

Tommy dares.

He raises the knife and Dream steps back, flickering his weapon forward. Tommy’s stance is defensive, but he is prepared to attack, as he pulls the knife in the older’s direction, and kicks his leg in the air, towards Dream’s shoulder. He steadies his figure against the wall, and pushes himself forward, for Tommy to stumble, not fall.

They fight like brothers, not like assassins. Not now, because death doesn’t loom, and this is a game to them. It always has been, and Dream always wins. But Tommy won’t give up until the day he dies, he won’t surrender.

Until he has to. Dream kneels on his back, and Tommy feels his smirk without having to see his face. “Well?”

“Fuck you.”

“I’ll tell you what I told Phil,” Dream sings. “But don’t attack me.”

“No promises,” Tommy says, and Dream helps him up. He lays on the bed as Dream stands in the middle of the room, cracking his knuckles absently.

“I told him you had a panic attack. You were asleep when I told him to back off, and to give you space.”

Tommy’s eyebrows raise. “And he listened?”

“I think he did, but he knows what happens – if he does not,” Dream smiles, but there is a stare in his eyes that Tommy feels. “He knows you’re my brother. If he hadn’t picked that up, already.”

“And who’s fault is that?” Tommy rolls his eyes as Dream threatens him with a knife in the air.

“I’ll pin you down again, don’t think I won’t.”

“I’ll fucking clart you.”

Clart?” Dream raises his eyebrows and bursts out laughing – only his laughing is wheezing and makes Tommy laugh too. Their moment of brotherhood is cut short at a knock on the door, and a loud grunt. In seconds or less, Dream reaches for his mask and Tommy shoves his on.

“Can I come in?” Is Phil’s voice and Dream ends up throwing his mask to the side.

“What the fuck?” Tommy hisses as the door opens. “What are you doing?”

“He knows,” Dream mutters back in French as Phil steps into the room and closes the door behind him. “He saw me without it on.”

“What the fuck?”

Dream swaps to Greek quickly, watching Tommy’s eyes with certainty. “He doesn’t know of me, only Techno and Wilbur. It’ll be fine.”

“Careless,” Tommy mumbles and Dream glares.

“Say that again.”

“Is everything okay?” Philza interrupts with uncertainty, laughing lightly. “I heard a noise, so I assumed Theseus was awake.”

“He is,” Dream answers for him with a nod. “I’ll have to return to Las Nevadas. Quackity’s waiting for me.”

“Stay,” Philza suggests. “Until lunch at least? We wouldn’t mind your company, XD.” Tommy doesn’t mind the idea – in fact, he’ll be pleased with it. Because it allows him to leave his room and train with Dream while being able to ignore Techno and his requests to spar together.

“I’ll leave after noon,” Dream sighs and Tommy is glad his mask covers his smile well.

“Well then,” Philza clasps his hands together with a short glance in Tommy’s direction. “Breakfast will soon be ready. Will you join us, or are you doing to – uh, eat in here with Theseus?”

“We’ll eat in the dining room.” Dream replies and Tommy almost groans, glaring at Dream.

“Very well,” He glances at Tommy. “I’d like a word with you, Theseus if that’s alright.”

Tommy expects Dream to hesitate and ask questions, but he doesn’t. He stands with a glance at the two of them and exits the room. But the door is left partially open, and Dream has left his weapons in the room while taking his mask with him.

“I’m sorry,” Philza says first, and Tommy takes a moment to recover. “I apologize, Theseus.”

“What?” Tommy splutters. “For what?”

“I shouldn’t have pushed you, nor asked unneeded questions. We’ll step back, but I want you to know – that we’re here to help you.”

He doesn’t need help, Tommy wants to say. His family does – his future needs it. But he’s alright now because he has Dream and Sapnap. He’s fine.

“Okay,” he nods, unsurely. “Thanks.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dream’s truth is that he wants to know everything about Wilbur. Not that he cares about the guy – Dream couldn’t give two shits. But he wants to know what Wilbur is like and if he’ll be a good enough brother for Tommy, who deserves only the best.

He agrees with Phil to stay for the morning to scope out Wilbur and seek information from Technoblade.

He also agrees because he misses the kid. It is lonely without Tommy, and as Quackity’s plan continues, Dream knows they will only see each other less.

It’s a brother’s intuition – may be an assassin’s intuition too. He needs to make sure Wilbur treats Tommy right and that they’ll be able to defend him in case of harm.

(He knows Tommy can defend himself well. But he’s once hired a bodyguard, and now making sure Wilbur and Technoblade are enough because Tommy will always be the youngest of their group and he feels obliged to protect him – and make sure others do too.)

He shoves on his mask and listens to Tommy and Philza’s conversation from inside the room. He makes sure to keep the door open because he doesn’t exactly fully trust Philza yet.

“I want you to know,” He hears Philza say. “That we’re here to help.”

Dream leans on the wall and digs his hands into his pockets when Tommy exits the room. He pretends to be concentrated elsewhere, but Tommy sees through him.

“I would have told you what he said, but you listened,” Tommy rolls his eyes and Dream shoves him lightly. Philza exits the room, and Dream notices his analyzing blue eyes.

(They remind him of Tommy’s. The way Tommy is aware of the danger and surveys the room. The glimpse in their eyes is identical.)

“I don’t think you know your way around here, Dream?” Philza chuckles. “Theseus, you can show Dream, can’t you? I have a meeting this morning, so I’ll be missing breakfast.”

Tommy nods his head stiffly. Dream rolls his eyes at the younger. “Okay, thanks Philza.” The man takes another glance at Tommy before he leaves.

“He’s trying,” Dream picks up when he leaves.

“And?”

“You aren’t.”

Tommy scoffs. “Why would I? He’s a connection I can’t have.” Tommy turns to leave, and Dream is startled before he jogs up to the kid and grabs his shoulder.

“Tommy,” he forces him to look at you.

“Call me Theseus,” Tommy grits. “They’ll hear.”

They are in an empty hallway and wait for the elevator to arrive at them. No one is around, but Tommy’s right, they shouldn’t take any chances. “We’re not there anymore. Connections are okay.”

“Not with Philza, they’re not. I can’t trust him.” Tommy mutters. “I thought you were on my side with this?”

Dream is – Dream was. But Philza is Tommy’s family, and family is connection. Family is care.

Tommy doesn’t know that yet – he doesn’t know that they are his family.

“You can’t trust him,” Dream agrees, and the elevator doors slide open. As they step in, he rearranges his words. “But he’s trying to make everything easier. So are Wilbur and Technoblade. It’s not bad to talk.”

Tommy purses his lips. “Sure.”

Dream ruffles his hair. “Who knows? Maybe Wilbur and you will be best friends soon.”

Tommy’s eyes change and darken. “No,” he deadpans. “That won’t happen. Ever.”

“What about that kid? Tubbo?”

“We aren’t friends,” Tommy says but Dream can see through the lie.

The elevator doors open and the two step out.

“I remember the way,” Tommy says. “Unlike you, since my memory hasn’t turned to shit.”

“I’d take that back if I were you,”

“No,” Tommy denies. “It’s utter shit. Sapnap’s memory is better than yours.”

Dream grins behind his mask. “Is that so?”

“It is.”

Dream shoves him and Tommy shoves him back. They would go under a full-out war if they weren’t expected at breakfast. That, and Dream’s hungry.

The agency is bigger than Dream recalls. Tommy passes by agents, and pays them no attention, as they nod his way or divert their eyes. Dream has a feeling Philza has told them of Tommy’s position. If he hasn’t said his relation to him, Philza has admitted he’s important. Dream can see their fear.

Or maybe it’s because Dream wears his mask, and they know he’s XD. They know he is from The Academy and could take them all down with his eyes closed, between seconds. With Tommy, in an even shorter time.

They are seated in the dining room when they arrive. But they – is quite a lot of people. He sees Wilbur, Techno, Tubbo, and a couple of other recognizable faces as well as new ones. Dream estimates there are about thirty-five people in the room, and he’d count properly if his attention wasn’t focused on Tommy, whose eyes surveyed the room, hesitantly.

“What’s wrong?” Dream nudges him.

“Nothing,” Tommy mumbles and they find the two seats that are next to each other. Dream suspects that Philza has already told Wilbur and Techno that they will be present at breakfast. His thoughts are confirmed at their look behind their stares and their silent expressions.

“Theseus,” Wilbur greets with hesitance. “And XD,”

Tommy doesn’t say anything, sitting down. Dream follows him, nodding his head at Tommy’s brothers. It’s weird to him – their titles. He decides to ignore it. “Wilbur.”

Wilbur watches XD carefully. “When did you arrive? I wasn’t informed that Quackity and yourself were coming around this morning.”

“Wilbur,” Techno mumbles under his breath, lifting a glass to his lips as he takes a swift drink. “Drop it.”

“Just wanted to check up on the kid,” Dream says and Tommy scowls.

“I’m not a kid.”

Wilbur watches them, and Dream notices heat.

“Eat your food,” Dream mumbles at the younger boy when Wilbur and Technoblade resume another conversation. “It won’t bite you.”

“It could,” Tommy continues in French.

“You know it’s won’t.”

Their food has been poisoned before. Not here, though. Not outside The Academy. Although, paranoia was present for a while after leaving, and Tommy had only eaten packaged and sealed foods for a few months. He lived off premade sandwiches and puddings, which he surprisingly had not gotten sick of.

“I’ll eat,” Tommy then groans. “Because it will make you happy.”

“It will, kid.” Dream nods and lifts his mask a fraction to raise a spoonful of eggs to his lips. Tommy copies his action, sighing. Unlike Dream, his mask is made from thin leather and cotton and is easy to roll up past his lips. He takes one bite, and then another. Techno and Wilbur’s eyes remain on him, surprised.

Tommy manages to eat half his plate. He takes a drink of his juice and sits back as Dream finishes. “I’m done.”

“We can train then,” Dream speaks in English, so Techno and Wilbur know. As they stand, so do the other two.

Dream looks at them unimpressed at their bluntness. “We’ll watch,” Wilbur says. “I can show you the way.”

“Theseus can show me,” Dream responds, gruff.

“We insist,” Techno nods his head, and Dream glares. “Lead the way, Wilbur.”

Wilbur leads away and Dream stays alert. He doesn’t show it though, his shoulders unhunched and his eyes straight ahead, not looking out for exits as he would usually do. He does eye Wilbur and Techno’s back, keeping an eye on their weaknesses. It’s better to know them now than later.

Tommy probably knows. He asks. “What are their weaknesses?” He questions him in fluent Greek.

“Wilbur’s untrained,” Tommy mumbles. “If he is, it was a while ago. Techno’s weakness is that he relies on his weapons too much. He’s not good at reading language either.”

Dream nods and smirks. Wilbur turns. “What language was that?”

The two boys blink. “Greek,” Techno mutters beside him and there is a flash in Wilbur’s eyes, before he turns again, and continues walking. Tommy shrugs it off and Dream looks uncertainly.

The training hall is large, and the selection of weapons is extensive. Dream eyes Technoblade and Wilbur as they stand in the middle of the room before they let the two assassins do their own thing. Techno goes to train in the corner of the room, and Wilbur sits back to watch. Dream doesn’t mind an audience. He won’t pay attention to them; it was important to ignore students of Teachers who would watch his training and spars at The Academy. They provided as a distraction and Dream refuses to lose.

“We’ll stretch,” Dream conducts. “Then we’ll spar.”

Tommy nods his head. Together, they pull out mats and between blinks, Dream sees a sight of The Academy, when the two train. Tommy sticks by Dream and Dream shouts at the kid because he must do better, he must survive. They go through techniques through the morning, and during recreation periods that were so rare, Tommy, Sapnap, and George and he would do joined fights.

It had been Dream and Tommy against Sapnap and George. Tommy had a similar fire to Sapnap, and they could never pair together.

Dream and Tommy against everyone. And everything against them.

Dream stretches and watches Tommy as he does. “Don’t bend your legs,” Dream instructs. “Your back isn’t straight.”

Tommy swears and flips him off. Here, they do not shout and hit. They can laugh and tease. They aren’t assassins here, even if the murder is present within their blood.

After their stretches, Tommy asks to throw knives. Dream rolls his eyes and accepts.

He stands behind the boy as he stars. Taking the metal weapons like a personal possession, he presses his skin against the flat side of the blade, before fitting the handle between his grip. He does not hesitate after that, and his throws are consecutive.

Dream crosses his arms over his chest and nods slowly. “Fix your stance, Theseus.”

“I am.” He fixes it.

Wilbur stands and watches closer. Dream keeps his eyes on Tommy until he feels Wilbur stand behind him.

The man’s voice is soft, quiet. “I haven’t seen him do this up close before,” Wilbur admits, and Dream raises his eyebrows. “We were told about the conditions of the school you grew up in – but it’s difficult to understand until you see it up close.”

“This is nothing,” Dream deadpans.

“I know,” Wilbur replies. “But his skill. He’s good.”

“Six years of training,” Dream tells him. “It’s what six years of training does.” And the constant thought of looming death, he adds in his mind.

Wilbur’s eyes hurt. “Yeah,” he whispers and watches Tommy close his eyes and aim. He flips knives over his shoulder and turns his back.

“Aim higher, Theseus,” Dream calls as Theseus throws. “That’s too high!”

“So, you guys grew up together?” Wilbur then questions and Dream frowns, side-eyeing him at his disrupt. “I shouldn’t ask – sorry then,”

“I don’t care,” Dream says. “We didn’t grow up together. We… survived together.” Maybe they did grow up together, maybe they didn’t. The Academy is a confusing place and an even more confusing place to explain. Because no one really knows why the Teachers are there or why the Headmaster intends to carve the children into something they are not. There are only questions, no answers, and they all learn to accept that years ago.

“Was there anyone else?” He then asks.

“Anyone what?”

“Anyone else you survived with?”

There is, Dream thinks. But there isn’t because George is gone and Sapnap and Tommy are all he has left. “Yes.”

“Oh.”

At the silence, Dream says, “I didn’t know the kid well until I graduated. Took a while to warm up.”

“It’s hard to understand,” Wilbur then says.

“You won’t, you won’t ever understand,” Dream shrugs. “And that’s the honesty of it.”

“Did you see that?” Tommy turns quickly, and Dream’s full attention turns to the younger boy. “Did you fuckin’ see that?”

“I did,” Dream smiles. “Well done.”

As Tommy retrieves the knives, Wilbur watches Dream carefully. “You know him well.”

“I’d like to think I do.”

“What do I do?” Wilbur sighs. “What do I do?”

Dream thinks.

Tommy’s different from Sapnap and him. Dream can talk to others about The Academy – hence his and Wilbur’s conversation. But Tommy can’t – he will keep things to himself and only open up when he has to. Recently, he talks to him and Sapnap more – he knows that he has a support system and that they can listen.

“Don’t push him,” Dream says simple. “He doesn’t know you’re his brother, so don’t act like one.”

“Wha-at?” Wilbur stutters.

“He doesn’t need a brother right now,” Dream tells him. “He needs a friend.”

Tommy knows he has Dream and Sapnap as brothers. Dream will step down when he finds out about his family – his real family. They may share scars and glimpses of the past, but Wilbur, Techno, Philza, and Tommy – they hold a connection through blood. He is them, they are him.

 “Okay,” Wilbur says slowly. “I can do that.”

“You won’t understand. But right now, you don’t need to, to talk to him.”

Tommy returns when he finishes. He asks Dream to spar, who can’t refuse.

Wilbur stands by the wall.

“No knives?” Tommy questions.

“No knives,” Dream frowns. “Or weapons.”

Tommy grins and tosses the blade in his boot to the side. “Fine.”

They begin. Tommy pulls the first move, through a punch fast and aiming for Dream’s shoulder. Dream stumbles, but not for long. He notices Tommy’s tough posture and the cockiness that has set within him, from being able to make the first move.

So, it’s on, Dream thinks and swings.

Tommy’s always been fast. He’s able to move past Dream swiftly and keep the pace moving. But Dream is the number one Graduate of The Academy for a reason and even though he has to regain some of his form back from the lack of consistent training, he’s still good.

He won’t tell Tommy, but he’s a good fighter. (He doesn’t want to boost the kid’s ego any more than what it is.) Dream won’t admit either, that the fight is easy.

Tommy is a good fighter, but Dream is also the best.

So, they end up with Tommy laying stomach-down on the floor, Dream’s knee on his back, and his arm pressed against his head to stop Tommy from moving. Their panting is loud and disruptive, and Tommy’s body shakes, as he struggles for breaths.

“Give up?” Dream questions in German.

“Fuck you,” Tommy breathes out. “No.”

“Do your best.”

Tommy attempts to move his body, and push against Dream’s knee. He can’t, and Dream presses harder, grinning behind his mask.

“That’s enough,” Techno appears. “You’re hurting him.”

Dream glances up and blinks at the shadow looming from above him. Technoblade stands before him and does not seem pleased. “XD.”

“I’m fine,” Tommy groans from the floor.

“You aren’t, you’re going to get hurt.”

Dream scoffs. “He won’t get hurt.”

“How do you know that?”

Dream stands and pulls Tommy to his feet. “I won’t hurt the kid, Technoblade,” he spits his name. He knows he has. He knows he’s hurt Tommy and he’s not proud of it. But they do it to survive, Dream does it to live – as fucked up as it sounds.

“What the fuck is going on?” Tommy questions, clueless. “So, what if we hurt? We did it to survive.”

Technoblade’s eyes snap to Tommy’s. Emotion stirs in his eyes and Dream doesn’t feel right about the guy. He doesn’t feel right about anyone here. A part of him wants Tommy to come back, to come back to the apartment, and for him to wake up to Sapnap and him fighting again.

But he needs Tommy to be safe, and he is safest with Philza.

Technoblade leaves the room then. Wilbur follows behind. Tommy watches Dream with confusion, but his eyes extend to the knives that rest on the floor, excitedly. “Can we?”

Dream rolls his eyes. But he smiles anyway. “Sure.”

 

 

 

 

 

Before Theseus – it is only Dream, Sapnap, and George.

Dream had watched George’s graduation, with a knowing they’d spend their futures together. They would die on the same paths, together or beyond.

(Dream later finds out how horribly wrong he is.)

George is smart and carries his own, and Dream knows that he can survive on his own if worse comes to worst. Because George’s mind is extraordinary, and he hasn’t seen anything like it before.

Then there is Sapnap, who is slightly shorter, yet stronger. He’s high in his class and he screams to be seen. Dream vows then and there, to protect him. To save him before himself.

(He does not tell anyone else of this promise.)

“You know,” Sapnap says once, under the night. “I thought you were once a test.”

Dream hums, turning to him. “What?” They watch blue skies and morning birds, as they await their mission to commence.

“Yeah,” Sapnap chuckles. “I saw you as a test, I thought you were once. You got close too easily, so I assumed that the Teachers put you and Gogs as a challenge – to see if I’d get close or not.”

“You failed,” Dream says.

“But so did you.”

They do not care, nor do they hold connections.

Yet Dream does.

He sees love in his past, he sees life. Dream hopes to have it one day, to feel it within his soul and smile within their presence. So, yearns for it – people, people to call family.

Dream is meant to be the strongest assassin, but maybe he’s the weakest of them all. Because death has never felt so reassuring if George and Sapnap stay alive. Dream has cold stares at his words are hard of boulders, they cause agents to crumble and fall. Yet, all Dream wants is love.

He finds it with Sapnap and George. Then one day, Theseus.

Theseus, who is young and deserves a bright future. Theseus, who is undisciplined but will learn his ways soon. Theseus who deserves a life better than this one.

He’ll make it to graduation, Dream promises himself. So, he shoves the kid and forces him to train more, to rise higher than his class. He makes sure that he does not fall behind and persists.

The day Sapnap saves Dream during a mission, when they bleed and bleed and their death awaits – and Sapnap saves him, is the day Dream knows he has to worry about him less. Sapnap can hold his own, and he focuses on making sure Theseus lives. He is the youngest – he is so young.

Dream cares. Dream bleeds and Dream feels family. He does what he is not meant to be, and he realizes he will never be a perfect assassin because of his connections. Not that he cares, Dream accepts it. He accepts that his fate will be because he will save his family. He knows that he will die to protect them. He knows that he won’t go out any other way.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream is gone when Wilbur approaches Tommy.

He sees him from the corner of his eyes, he feels him a long time before. It’s an assassin thing – he feels Wilbur’s presence in the room and his eyes dig into his soul. But the feeling isn’t as haunting and suffocating as it is usually when it comes to Wilbur. Something in the air is different.

“Theseus,” Wilbur approaches with delicate words. Tommy sits on the mats in the training fall, doing lazy stretches. He has been here all day. “Can I sit down?”

“If you want.”

Wilbur sits down.

“How are you?”

Tommy glares. “If you’re going to ask me shit like that, you can leave.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Wilbur chuckles. “It’s weird hearing your voice so much.”

“I can stop.” Tommy deadpans.

“No,” Wilbur almost shouts. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way,”

Tommy rolls his eyes and drops his arms from behind his head. “Did you need something? Is it dinner or did Philza need me?”

“No, I just wanted to talk?” But he phrases it more as a question.

“Just talk?”

“Just talk,” Wilbur confirms, and they both stare away momentarily. “I won’t ask anything you don’t want me to ask. We can just talk.”

“Okay,” Tommy mutters.

“You’re good at fighting,” Wilbur smiles. “I did expect it of course, but you are good.”

“I learned from the best.” He learns from Dream and Sapnap and George. The best in The Academy.

“XD?” Wilbur asks, but without prying and without a tone of wanting for information.

Still, Tommy isn’t going to give information so easily. “Yeah, I guess.”

“I can fight,” Wilbur then says. “Techno’s better, but I can hold up my own.”

“I doubt that,” Tommy smirks.

“You’re too cocky.”

Tommy is not cocky. They are taught against it. “We can fight then.”

“No,” Wilbur refuses. “I don’t want to be beaten by a child – Techno beats me enough,”

“I’m not a child,” Tommy mumbles and there is a shine in Wilbur’s eyes. He chuckles lightly and smiles wider.

“You know, you recognize me of someone,” Wilbur says. “Someone.”

Tommy. But he is Theseus here, not Tommy.

Is he really Theseus, though? Tommy doesn’t know. Because Theseus would not get close to Tommy or speak to Philza. Theseus is calculated and does not speak with emotion and pain. He is quiet and reserved and nothing like all the versions he pretends to be.

“You remind me of someone,” Tommy then says, and Wilbur’s eyes widen a fraction. He doesn’t expect such a reaction from him.

“I do? Who?”

Tommy shakes his head. He won’t admit that Wilbur is somewhat like George. They aren’t too similar, but he sees his older brother’s eyes behind Wilbur’s brown. He sees some part of George in Wilbur, or perhaps it is his mind letting go and realizing that he doesn’t have George anymore.

“We’ll leave,” Wilbur announces and stands. “You haven’t left in a while.”

“I’m not finished training, Wilbur.”

“You are,” Wilbur frowns. “And I don’t mean the training hall. I mean outside.”

“I can do that?” Tommy’s eyebrows furrow. “But it’s dangerous.”

“So, we’ll be safe.”

So that’s how it goes. Wilbur tells Tommy to go to his room and change out of his raining gear. They will be safe, Wilbur promises, and they will be quick. So quick, that no one will know they’re gone. It doesn’t matter to Tommy, though. He’ll blame it all on Wilbur if anything goes wrong.

(“You can’t leave,” Dream tells him. “Until this over, I need to trust you, that you’ll stay here.”

“Sure.”

“Tommy,” Dream says louder. “Trust.” Dream waits for it, he waits for Tommy’s promise.

“Trust,” Tommy responds, and promises.)

Tommy breaks his promise. He doesn’t mean to, and it is not like Dream will know anyway.

They won’t get caught. He’ll make sure of it.

Wilbur knocks on his door three times. He leans by the wall, and his eyes reach Tommy’s, as he pushes his door open slightly. “Let’s go,” Wilbur says, and Tommy nods his head. “Don’t be slow, Theseus.”

They reach the elevator but take the stairs. As they travel down, the souls of their shoes pressing against the floor and reacting a rift of an echo, Tommy questions Wilbur. “Why?”

“Why, what?”

“Why are we going?”

Wilbur stops and shrugs. “If I, were you, I’d go insane stuck inside for weeks. And I know for a fact that Techno and Phil are busy this afternoon, so they won’t come looking for us.”

Tommy accepts his reasoning. Although he keeps the fact to himself that he won’t go insane. He lasted in the white room for quite some time, and he and his classmates had been locked in rooms for days before. Staying in an agency but more freedom he has had in a while is bearable. It’s nothing to his experiences.

Although Tommy knows his way around the Syndicate’s place well, Wilbur knows it better. He ditches busy hallways and finds an empty way to walk through and get to the back door. Tommy is sly and quick on his feet and follows behind him fast. Wilbur pushes Tommy back into the wall when he hears a sound.

Tommy flinches.

“Sorry,” Wilbur apologizes, and they quieten down. They hear Tubbo, who crosses the last hallway away from the last door. He’s on the phone.

“I know, Ranboo,” he says. “I fuckin’ know that. You know what Philza said about Theseus – to give him time and all of that shit. I get he’s his–”

Wilbur whispers harshly to Tommy, drowning Tommy out. “Take another route, not this way.”

Tommy nods his head, and he follows Wilbur away.

“That was close,” Wilbur states when they take a door away from the exit. This one takes them to the background, of the large fields and grassy view. It is where their agents commence outdoor training, and between the breath of the wind and Wilbur’s whispers, Tommy can remember a time of running until his legs would ache and his body was numb. They’d run through rain and Winter nights, and they would persist.

Tommy stares at the fields now, of stretching agents who joke around and laugh. He breathes out.

“Theseus,” Wilbur then says, and Tommy follows him out of the agency. Wilbur’s car is parked by a lot, and although Tommy is apprehensive and should not trust the man at all, he gets into his car. He’s gone against his training and Dream’s rules, but Tommy misses the feeling of freedom he’s witnessed for the last couple of months.

“We’ll get fast food,” Wilbur grins. “And spoil our dinners.”

“Sure.” Tommy doesn’t really care.

As Wilbur drives, he turns on the radio and passes Tommy his phone. “Put on music.”

“Music?” He asks, unsure.

Wilbur deadpans, “You don’t know what music is?”

Tommy does. Even at The Academy, he recalls a melody that the Teachers used to play when they were younger. One that he can hardly recall now, although he should. Even with that, Dream was pretty quick to share with him music choices when they escaped. Even Sapnap had, who shared a similar liking for songs with Tommy.

“I do,” Tommy ends up responding. “But I don’t know what you like.”

“It doesn’t matter what I like, put something on.”

Tommy holds the phone easily. Wilbur sighs. “I don’t know the name.”

“That’s okay,” At a red light, Wilbur puts on a playlist.

The song is rough and slow. Tommy closes his eyes to listen. It isn’t anything like Dream’s loud, or Sapnap’s rap, but it’s somewhere in the middle. Tommy can’t describe it, but he enjoys it.

Not that he’ll admit it aloud. “Shit,” he says. “That was shit.”

“I saw you nodding your head along,” Wilbur points out his lie. “Here’s another.”

The next is slow and quiet. It fastens its pace soon, and Tommy finds himself sucked into the world of music. He enjoys how it makes him feel – which isn’t much nowadays. But he feels a story behind the melody, even if younger Theseus wouldn’t. His old self would have ignored the sounds and paid no attention to it.

But Tommy admits he’s changed – or changing at least. He talks to Wilbur now, he opens up more to his brothers.

“I like that instrument,” Tommy then says as a song plays, one without words.

“It’s the violin,” Wilbur says. “Techno plays the violin; I play the guitar.”

“Do you make, uh, songs?” Tommy questions and Wilbur hesitates and coughs.

“No, we uh, we don’t.”

The two reach the fast-food place but Wilbur decides to take the drive-through instead. He orders a meal, burger, and coke while Tommy stares at the noises and screens around him. He analyses the parking lot and keeps an eye out for anything suspicious. It’s something he has to do and when he finishes, Wilbur hands him a meal.

“A Happy Meal,” he laughs like he’s said a joke.

“What?”

“For you,” he says. “There’s a toy in there too.”

“Fuck you,” Tommy spits and Wilbur laughs.

They eat in the parking lot. Tommy is quiet as he drinks his Coke, it tastes good.

“I don’t know if anyone’s told you yet,” Wilbur decides to say. “But I used to have a brother.”

Tommy recalls. He recalls a Wilbur tells him as Tommy. But he’s Theseus now, to him. He has his odd mask on and he’s a different person.

“Oh,” he ends up saying.

“If he were still here,” Wilbur stares out the car window. “I’d imagine this is what we would do.”

Tommy hadn’t done this when Dream, not exactly. They eat food in their apartment, sometimes in front of the television. Tommy doesn’t know what he would do without Dream, even if he should not have attachments. Even if he shouldn’t’ care nor hold connections he does because its Dream and Dream is his brother. He has Sapnap, and once, he has George.

“What was his name?” Tommy asks but Wilbur doesn’t speak.

“He was taken at ten,” Tommy presses his lips against each other. “Everyone says he was my second half, but I can’t remember him too well.”

“Oh,” Tommy sighs. “I’m sorry.”

He can’t apologize well. But Wilbur takes it.

“It’s okay,” And he finally looks over. “I- you know–” He sighs. “Never mind, forget it.” Tommy blinks. “Fuck, there’s no point.”

“No point of what?”

“Nothing.”

Tommy places his drink down. “Is he gone? Or is he missing?”

“I don’t know,”

“I hope,” Tommy hesitates, reluctantly. He’s unsure how to form his words and he’s unsure how to talk to Wilbur. He finds himself being Tommy. Tommy messes around with Wil, Tommy who isn’t apprehensive and waiting. He finds himself not being able to control it – to be Tommy when he should be Theseus. “I hope he’s okay. Everyone deserves a brother.”

Wilbur lifts his head and watches his eyes, like what Dream does.

“I made it through The Academy,” Tommy gulps. “But XD helped me through most of it. I wouldn’t have lived if it weren’t for him. He was there for me when no one was. And he helped me live.”

Tommy feels his throat close.

He says to Dream that he’s alone through The Academy, that he’s lonely.

But he does have Dream and Sapnap and George. And they are always there.

Dream gives him medicine when he’s unwell, so he survives. Sapnap trains him so he survives. George teaches him to be smart, so he survives.

He is the loneliest he will ever be when he’s there, between the walls of The Academy. They are taught that they are unloved and monsters. But Tommy is fortunate to have three people who are there and will never be not there. And although George may not be here anymore – he once is. He once is so giving and willing to help him through life. So maybe he isn't so lonely but he is taught he is. 

“XD helped me through a lot,” Tommy coughs and feels something in his heart. “And my other brothers – they were there too. They cared enough so I could live.”

“Yeah,” Wilbur whispers.

“I hope you find your brother,” Tommy turns. “I hope Quackity can help you too. Everyone deserves one.”

Wilbur nods his head. His brown eyes shine, and he sighs. “Thanks, Theseus. Thanks.”

 

 

 

 

 

That night, Tommy realizes things will happen.

Things will change.

He knows that the mission will come sooner than they think. When it does, he must be ready. He must train more, he must prepare.

He thinks of George. He thinks of Sapnap and Dream.

Tommy realizes that the inevitable will occur. The plan won’t work, that something will go wrong. He trusts Quackity’s plan and Philza’s agents, but he stays awake for hours and thinks.

The following morning, when the moon rests and the sun arrives, alive, he realizes he will die if he has to.

Tommy will die for his brothers. He will die to save them and he will die to keep them safe.

So, Tommy prepares for death.

 

He cannot live without his brothers. So Tommy will die for them instead.

Chapter Text

Punz watches his brother – or what is left of him, anyway.

Gray is his brother. Purpled cannot remember him or his past. He flinches at touch and keeps knives under his pillow at night. He is hesitant and does not speak, and when he does, there is a glance for permission in his eyes.

He is unlike Gray who is loud and is brought up on sarcasm. Who screams when he wants to and urges him to wake up and watch the sunset in the early morning.

Purpled is not Gray but regardless, he is still his brother.

Under the cold moon and cold air, Punz promises himself that he will help him and make things right again. He messed up once – he won’t make the same mistake again.

They move back to Florida. Instead of near the beach, they move closer to the city, and Punz rents a small apartment. He’s not wealthy but he has money saved from Quackity.

Purpled is hesitant at first. He almost refuses to go.

When they move back to Florida, things change.

“I’ll let you keep the gun,” he tells his younger brother who holds hollow and lifeless eyes. Purpled stares at him with nothingness. “But we’ll keep everything else in a bag, in my room. Deal?”

Purpled presses his lips together and contemplates. Eventually, he does agree.

It lasts three days before Punz wakes up to Purpled sneaking into his room, his arms pulling the closet doors open. They get into a fight, which ends up with Purpled taking a knife out of the bag, and Punz dodging and scrambling out of bed. Punz realizes that Purpled is much more trained and better than he is, his technique is flawless and while Punz fights rough and quick, Purpled is precise and sly.

But Punz has an advantage. He trains and the kid hasn’t been eating much. Punz uses his weight and height as an advantage and shoves him to the ground, pinning him down. He tosses the knives out of reach and presses his hands on his back until their labored breaths are all he hears.

After that, Punz does not fall asleep again.

He stays awake, either training or keeping an eye on Purpled. He manages to fit in a couple of hours of sleep between night and day, but it is rare because he must ensure Purpled is okay or Purpled is not trying to sneak out or that Purpled isn’t throwing knives at walls again.

(He’s stopped him from the latter, almost four times now.)

“Why don’t you sleep anymore?” Purpled starts to talk to him and asks. He asks him to call him Purpled and isn’t always fighting. “You’re always awake.”

“I sleep.” Punz mutters as he reads the newspaper. He starts smoking again.

The scent of smoke fills the house and Punz hears the rustle of the old paper and the gears in Purpled’s mind turn. “No, you don’t.”

Punz glances upwards. He is exhausted and his eyes close when he reads every passing inked word. The edition of the paper is old, he hasn’t had the time to order a new subscription. “What?”

“You don’t sleep,” Purpled repeats, and Punz remembers how the kid notices everything too well. His eyes always move, and his face remains in a permanent glance of thought. He used to be able to read him well, and now it’s harder. “Naps don’t count.”

“I don’t have time to sleep,” Punz mutters and drops the paper on the wooden table. There are two chairs on the table, but he doesn’t know why he bothers. Purpled eats food in his room. “Do you want lunch? I’ll make something.”

“I’m fine.”

“You didn’t eat breakfast.” Punz’s eyes close. He takes a deep breath and urges himself to stand up. He’ll make it a couple more hours before he’ll dip. “What do you want?” Punz asks and presses his cigar into the ashtray.

Purpled shrugs. His eyes are careful, and he watches as Punz maneuvers into the kitchen, pulling out bowls and ingredients from the cupboard. Punz pulls open the fridge and takes out the butter and milk. The milk expires a month ago and smells weird. He throws it into the bin, sighing. There is a long-awaited trip to the grocery store he has put off.

“I can make you a PB and J,” Punz says, half asleep. “Or do you want something else?”

“What’s that?”

“PB and J it is then,” He grabs the jelly and the peanut butter from the back of the cabinet, as Purpled watches carefully. He wonders if the kid will remember the mornings under the sun as they eat sandwiches with their toes in the sand. He wonders if he will ever get his memories back.

As he smothers butter on bread and screws the peanut butter jar open, Purpled leans forward. “Can you make pudding?”

“Uh, I guess?”

Purpled nods his head slowly. “Okay. We had that at The Academy.”

Punz makes a mental reminder and hopes not to forget. He also has to introduce the kid to more food because he hadn’t known of pizza and cake until the other day. He also has to get them out of this shitty apartment. He has to find time to sleep and get Purpled to open up a little more. He has to buy groceries and train and research more on The Academy and respond to Quackity’s emails and–

Punz is tired. He’s exhausted.

(He is once a good brother. He is once good at this.)

Punz can’t help but feel as if he’s failing. But he’s a brother and once Gray – now Purpled – will be his main priority. And Purpled must do anything to make sure that the kid is okay.

 

 

 

 

 

Over time, Sapnap sees more of Gray in Theseus.

They both like vanilla pudding.

(He sneaks his to Theseus when the Teachers are not watching, as he had to the boy before him.)

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap sees the ash of The Academy in his sleep. He sees George along with it.

He stumbles into the kitchen after the nightmare, almost jumping when he notices Dream seated on one of the kitchen stools, scrolling on the computer.

“You gave me a heart attack,” Sapnap steadies his breaths and reaches for a glass cup.

“You had a nightmare,” Dream notes.

“A bad dream,” He pulls the tap and lets the cup fill with water. “There’s a difference.”

“What’s the difference then?”

Sapnap watches the cup slowly fill, as he thinks of a response. When the water reaches the brim of the cup, Dream interrupts. “Sapnap?”

“What?” he almost flinches, and his hands shake.

“What was the nightmare?” Sapnap doesn’t bother to correct him this time. “Was it bad?”

“I don’t know,” Sapnap says plainly and stares at the water blank, again.

“How bad? One to fifteen?”

(“One to fifteen?” Dream asks after Sapnap is shot and has a bullet in his shoulder.

One is painless. Ten is the feeling of their hands on flame. Fifteen is that they’d rather be dead.

They use the measurement during missions or after lessons. Sapnap is honest and Dream treats him according to the number.

“Three.” Maybe Sapnap isn’t honest all the time.

“Three?” Dream rolls his eyes. “Try again.”

Sapnap grits his teeth and his eyes close. “I’ll give it a five then. It’s pretty bad.”)

“Sapnap?” Dream repeats now, as he had when they complete missions and something goes wrong. “Be honest.”

The dream isn’t too bad. Sapnap holds a match, and he creates the flame himself. He is the reason why The Academy results in flames. But it is not about that – it is about George who remains there, as Sapnap takes his life.

“This is your fault. You’re out of control,” they all say once.

Sapnap squeezes his eyes closed.

He focuses on the feeling in his hands. The cold glass presses against his skin, and he feels droplets stain his skin. It is taken from him a moment later, and the cup disappears from his grasp.

“Sit down,” Is Dream’s gruff voice. “Sit down, Sapnap.”

Sapnap sits down but he can’t stop shaking. He sees George’s last words. George’s last smile. George’s last breath.

“See you on the other side,” He hears George say, or perhaps he does not. The night is a blur, it is difficult to remember what was said and Sapnap’s last words to him.

He sees George though, between the flames, as he burns alive.

“Sapnap,” Dream interrupts. “Open your eyes.”

Sapnap opens his eyes, and Dream stands with his arm extended. A cup is in front of Sapnap’s face. “Drink, but you have to stop shaking.”

“Fuck you-u,” Sapnap mutters and takes the water, placing it on the table. He does not close his eyes again, and instead, leans back in his seat with sweat drowning him. His breath hitches and his legs bounce in anxiousness. He needs his mind somewhere else, away from George and away from The Academy.

Dream stays in front of him, staring.

“Breathe,” he then says. “Breathe, Sapnap.”

“You do that on the kid,” Sapnap stammers. Dream is usually the one that helps Tommy when he has a panic attack. Sapnap can only hopelessly watch as Dream instructs Tommy and Tommy listens.  “Won’t work on me.”

“Breathe,” Dream repeats, and he does. Sapnap focuses on his own sounds that escape his lips as Dream leans forward on the counter, watching intently. “Keep going.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

“I’m good,” Dream smiles small. “I’ll be here.”

Sapnap eventually stops shaking. His breaths aren’t so labored either, but he still feels dizzy. He swipes the glass from the counter and downs it in one go. He places it down and wipes his lips with the back of his hand.

“Now,” Dream starts. “Do you want to tell me what that was about?”

“George,” he says plainly, and Dream knows.

Although he knows, he continues. “George what?”

Sapnap exhales. “You know, Dream.”

“I want you to tell me.”

Sapnap groans. He’s stubborn but he prefers sleep. Although, he isn’t sure he’ll be able to rest after this. “I saw The Academy after I put it to flames. And I saw him with it.” He lowers his eyes and stares at his palms. There are faint scars and they’re covered with sweat. He gulps.

“Sapnap,” Dream speaks lightly. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Sapnap does not say anything.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Dream repeats. “I need you to know that.”

But it is Sapnap’s fault. It is his plan. He lights The Academy on flames. He does not plan for George to burn along with it. Had if he dropped the matches before, or if he had waited, or had done something else, then George would be with them. George would be alive.

Guilt eats him alive. It carves into his soul, and he can’t breathe.

“Sapnap,” Dream repeats. “Sapnap.”

Soon, Dream is at his side, a hand pressed on his shoulder and his lips by his ears. “Listen to my voice. Hear me.”

“I hear you,” Sapnap lifts his shaking hands. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Survivor’s guilt,” Dream says and Sapnap inhales. “You’re blaming yourself when you don’t need to.”

“But–”

“Get it into your thick skull, Sapnap,” Dream shouts. “It wasn’t your fault! You and George both made that choice to go ahead with the mission. And you won’t blame George because it isn’t his fault either. The Academy put you in that position to make those choices. Blame only them.”

“Okay,” Sapnap says after a moment. After his breaths slow and he opens his eyes. His hands still shake. “Okay, Dream.”

“I don’t think you believe me.”

Sapnap doesn’t think he believes Dream either.

“But you will,” Dream then says. “I’ll make sure of it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy stares at the pills on his desk, unsure. His hands reach out, however, falters.

He sees night behind the curtains of his room. Everyone is asleep, yet he remains awake because he dreads the thought of the faces and the blood and screaming in between.

Dream calls him before he sleeps, “Take one, Tommy. If they don’t work, you don’t have to take them again.”

He still contemplates, however, because there is a dread of sleep that keeps him awake.

He goes to find Tubbo instead. He knows for a fact that the boy doesn’t sleep and if he does, he usually ends up resting in one of the beanbags in his room.

However, Tommy finds himself in the training room again. The lights are on, and he steps inside, unsure. When he notices no one is around, he moves to the weapon room. He decides that for tonight though, he will leave the knives alone and use the punching bags instead.

He’s bored and Tommy doesn’t mind something different.

Tommy wraps his fists with tape and heads over towards the bags. He fixes his stance and throws punches consecutively. He doesn’t stop, not when he is tired nor when his fists ache. He keeps going.

In his memories, he remembers when Dream introduces him to a boxing bag and chalk. He tells him to let go of the anger he holds before someone uses it against him.

But Tommy does not feel angry now. He feels nothing.

He continues until a voice from behind him interrupts.

“Theseus.”

It is Technoblade.

Tommy does not stop, however.

“Theseus,” he repeats. “What are you doing?”

Tommy delivers one last punch, and his arms fall. Between breaths he says, “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“I think you should be asleep.”

Tommy ignores him. Techno sighs.

“So should you,” Tommy then says, and lands another punch, before he leans back, his arms resting on his knees. He waits and catches his breath before he stands to face the man. He wipes the sweat off his brow and pays attention to his surroundings.

“I’m guessing we’re both awake for the same reason, then,” Techno mutters. “Well, don’t stop since I’m here. Keep going.”

Tommy doesn’t want to anymore. He prepares to leave, but Techno grabs his shoulder before he can.

The touch is sudden and unexpected. Tommy grabs his arm and pulls it backward, his arm lowering to his belt. It’s Techno, his mind reminds him, and he drops his arms and freezes.

Techno stills as well. “Theseus–”

“Shut up,” He grumbles. “Shut the fuck up.”

“I get we’re on speaking terms now,” Techno tells him. “But there’s no need to swear.”

Tommy’s prepared to curse him out. But that’s a Tommy thing and not a Theseus thing.

So, he quietens.

“Okay then,” Techno notices his silence. “You should go to bed.”

“No,” Tommy denies.

“Fuck, then at least get out of here. It’s not good to overtrain yourself.” Tommy knows a lot about overtraining. But he’s so used to pushing his body past his limit, that his muscles are used to being driven into pain.

Tommy stares blankly at Techno and Techno pulls his arm out towards the door. “Here, are you hungry? I’ll make you something.”

Tommy doesn’t want food from him. He’d rather just find Tubbo.

“You don’t have to say yes,” Techno sighs. “You have a choice.”

Tommy’s eyes edge into Techno’s. “Fine.”

“Fine, what?”

Tommy frowns and Techno gets an idea. He walks out of the room, Tommy trailing slowly behind. They arrive at the kitchen, and Tommy stares around.

“Don’t you guys have chefs?”

“No,” Techno doesn’t elaborate. “Sit in the dining hall. I’ll grab drinks.”

Tommy nods his head hesitantly.

When Techno returns, Tommy asks, “Don’t you hate the size of this place?” Tommy’s eyes graze around the hall and high ceilings. On the ceiling, there are paintings of light and gods and goddesses with white robes. They blend into color.

“No,” Techno places a mug on the table and sits down. Tommy remains standing.

“It’s big.”

The older raises an eyebrow. “We don’t live here, Theseus.”

Tommy blinks. “You don’t?”

“Phil has a house. We’re only staying here because…”

Tommy gets it. “Oh.”

“Trust me,” Techno snorts. “I don’t particularly like the large size of this place. But with the agents we have, we need room.”

“Right.” They remain in silence and Tommy’s eyes leave the mug with a warm drink as its content.

“It won’t hurt you,” Techno notices. “It’s hot, though.”

Tommy nods his head slowly and bites the inside of his cheek. He regrets coming. He should have stayed behind. He should have looked for Tubbo.

“I’m not good at this,” Techno says. “Not like Wilbur is.”

“What?”

“You don’t trust me,” Technoblade shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t blame you.”

Tommy is so sick of this conversation. He’s sick of opening up and admitting things. He’s sick of questions and

“You don’t want to talk,” Techno reads his silence. “That’s fine then, we don’t have to.”

“We’ll sit in silence?” Tommy asks in question.

“No,” Techno shakes his head. “I have a better idea.” He stands and drags himself to the corner of the room. There is a large box, he opens. Tommy remembers noticing the thing on the first day here, he had not mentioned it though. Techno opens the box, and what remains is a record player.

“You can pick,” Techno offers but when Tommy doesn’t say anything, he mutters, “Okay then, I will.”

He sits back down as the music begins.

A slow song with no words, different from Wilbur’s in the car. Tommy notices how their similarity in that sense, that they will go to music when words cannot fill a conversation.

Tommy closes his eyes yet stays alert during the song. It is slow and soft, and he listens carefully.

The melody progresses and Tommy hears the violin between. And when it finishes, Techno rises. “Did you like it?” He nods his head. “I’ll put on another.”

As each song continues, Tommy finds his hands itching towards the mug on the table. As the last song arrives, it is between his fingers and his palms are not cold.

Techno pulls the record player away wordlessly. “We can listen again, another time,” he promises. “If you have a nightmare, or if you’re awake.”

“Technoblade,” Tommy says before he leaves. “Uh, thanks?”

Techno leaves and Tommy finds Tubbo. He is in his room as he thinks he is, laying on the floor, with his phone in his hands.

“He’s weird,” Tommy says. “They all are.”

“Including me?”

“Sure.”

“Thanks,” Tubbo nods his head, sincerely, before laughing. “But nah man, that’s how he usually is. He’s always been like that.”

Tommy frowns. “And Wilbur?”

“And Wilbur,” Tubbo confirms. “They got into music after their, uh, brother disappeared. Well, they were already into it, but I think they take fifty instruments each. It’s impressive.”

“Did they tell you?” Tommy asks and Tubbo snorts.

“No, but I hear them.”

 

 

 

 

 

Techno plays music for Theseus to remember.

The boy’s eyes close and they open once the song finishes. He does not remember.

There is a record at the back of his player that he hesitates at. His fingers skim the cover, and he glances at the boy behind him – his brother, to see him watching the drink in front of him, unsure.

Phil tells him it will take time. For him to open up, for him to take his mask off. For him to be comfortable and feel comfortable. He opens up to Tubbo, and he speaks to Wilbur – it’s progress. But Technoblade has never been good with emotion or words, so he hopes that one day, Theseus can understand him through music.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy has many dreams.

He tells Dream once, of the faces. His past haunts him through the faces of the people he has killed. Whether they were his first kill or his last, they were present. With whispers and white eyes, they cry and wail and ask him why he is alive when they are not.

When Tommy is Theseus, he tells George, and only George, of one of his dreams.

(“I’m in the white room,” Theseus tells George when darkness looms and the night consists of city lights and bloody hands. “And I can’t leave.”

“In your dream…” George is hesitant. Perhaps because he is interested, or maybe because he is not used to speaking of topics as such. “Did you try?”

“I did,” Theseus says. “But I can’t leave. I’m stuck.”)

The dream is metal cuffs trapping him in a void room without escape. No one finds him, he is simply forgotten.

Tommy also dreams of death.

He dreams of falling. He dreams of his blood on his fingers and his brothers’ blood on his skin.

Once, Tommy dreams of George. It is only once when he dreams of what is left of his older brother between the crumbling academy and the ashes that remain.

Although Tommy does not sleep for a while until Dream makes him. He must take the sleeping pills, and the night he speaks to Techno, he does. He takes them.

And he dreams.

Not of the faces, or the white room, or the brother he will never see again. He dreams of his family.

The brothers of his breaths, and his parents that he sees when he drowns.

He sees them.

They are blurs and smudges, but they are there. He can feel then, he can almost touch.

He wakes up every morning, to Dream’s calls. “Theseus?” Dream asks. “Did you sleep?”

And every morning, he remembers that Dream will call him to make sure he has slept. He will know otherwise. “It’s just me,” he responds groggily and rubs his eyes. “What’s the fuckin’ time?” He mutters and licks his dry lips.

“Tommy,” Dream says slowly and says his name because no one else is around and he is alone. “It’s eight.”

Tommy blinks.

“Eight?” his voice stumbles.

“Yeah.”

(They wake up at six sharp because they are programmed as they arrive when they are of the age of ten.

Months after Tommy and Dream escape, they still awake at the same time every morning.)

And for the first time, Tommy wakes up later.

“Fuck,” Tommy mutters, then.

Dream stays silent. “I’m proud of you, kid,” he says, after, almost quiet. “It might be because of your lack of sleep, though. But I’m still proud.”

Tommy does not tell him of his dreams, or the fact that he urges his body to stay with his unconsciousness longer than he wants to, with the hope of something out of his grasp. He simply thanks Dream and tells him that he will see him soon. He attempts to fall asleep after, but he cannot.

He takes the pills earlier the next few nights, so he can sleep longer and so he can see his family again. So, he can see something more. Curiosity carves into his skull and a desire to know more eats him alive.

One night, Tommy returns to the white room. Only, he is not cuffed with metal chains that claw into his skin and make his skin red. Instead, he sits in the middle and a song plays.

A familiar melody, a melody he knows.

He hums the song under his breath, recalling the notes. He cannot figure out why he knows, or how he does, because it is so unrecognizable at the same time.

Tommy is stuck in the white room with the music. But this time, he stays.

Chapter Text

Punz wakes up and Purpled is gone.

He stumbles between each room, shoving each door open, before scrambling to the next. His fingers shake as he flickers each light switch, leaving the light on as he finds the next door to open. He’s tight on money to pay for electricity, but Punz couldn’t give two shits now.

“Purpled?” He shouts when the rooms are empty. His voice breaks. “Gray?”

Silence looms and Punz slumps on a chair, burying his head in his arms as he controls his breaths.

He shouldn’t have left Purpled alone. He should have stayed awake – he should have kept an eye on him. Punz had decided to sleep the night after he had almost collapsed in exhaustion the night before. And now it had backfired because Purpled is gone for a second time.

Tears stain his eyes, and his breaths are ragged as he pushes his arm into his pockets to find his cigarettes. He swears when he realizes they’re not in here, even if he had gone to sleep with the pair of sweatpants he usually wears.

Punz stumbles up and grips the table to control his dizzy mind. He waits a second – then another and proceeds to his room. His mind isn’t straight, and he can’t think well. He needs a smoke. He needs to figure something out.

Purpled couldn’t have gone far, he thinks to himself. If he had – there are always options. There is always Quackity, and he had gotten Purpled a phone, so many he can call him. His heart races and so does his mind, with possibilities of the whereabouts of his brother.

He just needs a smoke.

He shoves his wardrobe doors open and shoves his hands in the pockets of loose jeans and baggy pants. He remembers shoving the packet in somewhere – his mind is a mess to figure out where, though. He smells smoke –

Punz smells smoke.

His body turns fast, and he scans the room, noticing his open window. Punz jumps forward, pulling the lever open and shoving his head through.

He doesn’t know whether his heart stops beating or if he starts shouting first. “What the fuck?”

Punz is fuming. Purpled lays on the roof, his head on his palms as he lays back. A cigarette plays between his lips, as his eyes are closed. He wears his purpled hoodie and if it weren’t for his lips quirking a fraction upward, Punz would assume he is asleep.

“What?” Purpled opens an eye. “What d'ya want?”

Punz grits his teeth. “How the fuck did you get up there? You know what? – I don’t give a shit, get down.”

“Now?” Purpled smirks.

“Purpled,” Punz fumes. And shoves the window fully open. “I’m not asking again.”

His voice is threatening enough for Purpled to listen. As Punz stands back, his arms crossed on his chest and his face probably red, Purpled carefully crawls through the window, onto Punz’s bed. He flickers his cigarette and places it between his thumb and middle finger, as he sits on Punz’s bed.

“Put that out,” Punz orders. Purpled rolls his eyes and does. He doesn’t take a second, to blow up.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” Punz shouts. “I told you, I told you Purpled – to stay indoors. And God do you choose to ignore this simple request. One request – one. And you couldn’t fuckin’ follow it?”

Purpled stares and Punz continues.

“And you’re smoking? You took my cigarettes – which I didn’t give you permission to by the way, and you’re too young to smoke if you haven’t realized yet,” Punz breaths deeply. “Fucking hell. I can’t deal with this today.”

Purpled stares. “Okay, then.”

“Okay, what?” Punz snaps.

“Hit me,” Purpled offers. “Go ahead, it doesn’t hurt anymore, really.”

Punz stares. For a long time. Slowly, he speaks. “I’m not going to hit you, kid.”

“What?” Purpled doesn’t believe him. “You can’t deal with me, and I don’t listen. I’ve been waiting till you finally snapped.”

“I’m not hitting you,” Punz repeats, disgusted that his kid brother even thinks the thought. “Fuck.”

Purpled blinks. “I don’t understand.”

“We don’t do that here.” Punz repeats, “We don’t do that here.”

“Then what?” Purpled asks and stands. Punz doesn’t realize how tall he’s gotten, until now. “I broke your rules, Punz. Your only rule.”

“That wasn’t my only–” Punz pauses and thinks his next words carefully. “Where are my cigarettes?”

Purpled tosses him the packet and Punz pockets them swiftly. “You’re not smoking. You’re a kid.”

“I’m not a kid.”

“I don’t care,” Punz replies, with a frown. “Don’t smoke, it’s bad for you.”

Purpled furrows his eyebrows, but Punz is not finished. “Look, I don’t understand what The Academy did to you. I won’t pretend to understand, and I won’t ask you anything until you feel comfortable telling me. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, I do – but I’m not going to push you.”

“Punz,” Purpled groans. “Don’t start–”

“No,” Punz denies. “You need a reminder. You were my brother first, and you’ll be my priority. Here is different from The Academy. We do shit differently – we do shit normally. So don’t smoke, and don’t hang out on the roof, unless you tell me – I guess? How the fuck did you get up there in the first place?” Punz wants to know because he isn’t usually a heavy sleeper.

“I pull sleeping pills in your coffee,” Purpled admits, guiltily. “You looked like you needed sleep.”

“You fuck.”

Purpled laughs when he sees him not angry. “Dude, you looked tired as hell. I was helping you!”

Punz can’t be angry. Not when the kid admits to wanting him to sleep because he notices him tired. Not when he doesn’t leave, he doesn’t try and escape. It’s something – it’s progress.

Punz takes it.

“Okay, okay, just don’t do it again,” Punz tells him. “I’ll never hurt you, kid.”

“Okay Punz,” Purpled nods his head, and Punz sighs, loud.

“Let’s go get breakfast then. I’ll be growing grey hairs soon, at this rate.”

 

 

 

 

 

Gray learns to smoke.

For many reasons, really. There are a couple of older students who sell cigars when the Teachers aren’t watching, by the field, on the other side of the hall. They tell them they’re good and handy. They’re sold for food and extra things Purpled must take a while to gather.

Gray learns over time, that not only must he be the fastest and smartest, but he must fit into a character. One day – soon – when he Graduates, he will be forced to play a character they want him to play, for missions.

(“The strongest survive. Only the greatest.” they tell him. “If you aren’t what they want you to be, then consider yourself gone.”)

He must be quiet. And when they want him to be loud, he must be loud. And when they want him to be something else – he will be something else.

Gray takes the cigarettes. He knows he’s getting ripped off – they aren’t worth what he gives.

But the smoke is familiar, the smell reminds him of something.

Gray learns later, that although he can be what The Academy wants him to be – he is never enough.

The strongest, and greatest survive.

Gray is not the strongest. So, Gray will not survive.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy lays on white floors, his hands in his lap and his legs crossed.

He hears the melody. His lips part and his voice catches up.

He wakes up when his phone rings.

“Fuck off,” he snaps, his eyes remaining closed. “Stop calling me.”

“Good morning to you too,” He can almost hear Dream’s smile. “Go get breakfast.”

“Why the fuck do you wake me up, anymore?” Tommy groans. “I’m sleeping, now.”

“Go have breakfast. I’ll be around this evening.” Dream tells him before there is shouting in the distance. “Sapnap says ‘morning’,” he says after a heartbeat.

“Go fuck yourself,” Tommy ends the call and tosses his phone on the floor. He shoves his face into his pillow, and groans when he knows he won’t fall asleep. He can’t take more pills either, otherwise, he’ll stay asleep until the afternoon.

Tommy does consider the option for a moment, though. Although Tubbo and Wilbur are pestering him more, he doesn’t believe the plan will go accordingly.

He forces himself out of bed, not long after. His eyes are still heavy, and his posture is slouched but he’s not at The Academy anymore, so he doesn’t have to fix himself. He passes a clock on the wall, but he has learned to stop being so startled at the late time, a couple of nights ago.

Tommy knows no one will be at the hall for breakfast. Agents and everyone usually file out after eight. He knows that there is a plate left for him every morning or taken to his doorstep if he doesn’t show up, but Tommy’s not hungry this morning.

So, he finds Tubbo, instead. The thing about Tubbo is that he doesn’t have to find him. Tubbo is in his room, he never is not.

He swipes the card on the door, and the doors open for him. The brown-haired boy sits on his desk chair, in front of his screens. He raises an arm when Tommy steps in. “Ranboo, can you grab me my phone? It’s somewhere on the shelf.”

“It’s Theseus,” he corrects him. Tubbo turns and blinks. “You need to get better at that.”

“Well, you refuse to teach me,” Tubbo turns in his chair. “Get me my phone, please?”

Tommy goes over to the shelf. He passes the boy his phone, instead of throwing it because he knows Tubbo isn’t as good as catching as he says he is. Tommy then slumps on the chair by him and readjusts his mask. “What are you doing?”

“Doing some shit for Phil,” Tubbo bites his tongue as his fingers scan the keyboard. “You know what I do, right?”

Tommy thinks. “Not really? I know you work in the tech part of it.”

Tubbo grins. “I’m a hacker.”

Tommy’s eyes widen a fraction, and he faintly recalls a memory of retaining this piece of information. Although he provides a reaction, not covering it up well. “Fuck, that’s cool.”

“Thanks,” Tubbo smirks. “I’ll teach you some time if you teach me that knife trick you do.”

Tubbo has seen him throw knives with his eyes closed. He’s been asking Tommy how to do it, since.

“Tubbo,” Tommy says slowly. “I know how to hack.”

(George teaches him. He tells him that he must be able to, because The Academy uses him for more missions, at an age younger than when Dream had started.

So, his capabilities must expand, and George teaches him the basics. Theseus is a fast learner and George teaches him more.)

“Fuck you,” Tubbo groans, slumping back in his spinning chair. “I had one thing over you – one.” He doesn’t seem truly angry, although Tommy would have mistaken his emotions a couple of months back, he knows Tubbo is only joking.

But Tubbo is wrong, Tommy doesn’t have much over him. Tubbo has a stable life and friends, and he goes to school, and a life free from murder and blood-stained hands and memories of people who have been killed by his own hand. Tubbo has much over him.

“How much do you know then?” Tubbo cracks his fingers and watches Tommy’s careful movements.

“Not much,” Tommy shrugs. Not much he remembers. Because he recalls coding to be difficult and he hasn’t used a computer in a while. “What do you do for Philza, exactly?”

Tubbo shrugs and thinks. “He gives me a list of names, and I’ll research them for him. Their name, their backgrounds, simple stuff to be honest. Other times, I’ll pinpoint areas and locations and hack into public cameras so he can have a better insight of what’s going on in the area.”

Tommy thinks carefully. He isn’t dumb – he knows that Tubbo has searched him, when is Tommy. It makes sense now that he figures it out. Because nothing would have popped up due to The Academy’s secrecy, leading to Wilbur’s queries and questions.

It almost makes him feel when he realizes Tubbo would have done such a thing. Friends trust each other, but Tommy knows he cannot blame Tubbo for being curious.

Tommy wants to know what they thought when they couldn’t find anything on him. What they thought of him, who they thought he was.

“How do you get into public cameras?” Tommy then asks and Tubbo answers straight away. His lack of hesitancy and straightforward answers tells Tommy that he isn’t lying, that he states the truth.

“Philza has a security camera company as a coverup for the public. So, he has them across the state and I’m able to connect to those and use them to direct to other locations that we don’t have control with. Although he hasn’t needed my help much recently since The Academy’s location is reserved and closed off. It’s far from anything – anyone.”

Tommy knows. They do it because they are unseen and unheard of. Their grounds and large yet can be covered as a boys’ boarding school in the countryside, for anyone who does pass. Their secrets lay between the stoned walls, where the students are taken into lives they will never escape from.

“You know,” Tommy then says. “Philza probably doesn’t want you telling me this.”

Tubbo furrows his eyebrows. “Why not?”

Tommy had thought it was obvious. “He can’t trust me, I’m not the most reliable.”

“Well, you haven’t done anything to seem, unreliable.”

Tommy sighs. “When the mission is over, and I return to…. I don’t think he’d want me knowing.”

Tubbo squints his eyes and seems baffled. “You’re going back? To Quackity?”

Words dry at the tip of Tommy’s tongue. “I guess?”

“Oh.”

“Oh,” Tommy agrees, he had assumed the obviousness from his statement. He will not stay here. He will return to his brothers, and they feel free. Tommy then stands, assuming he should leave. He isn’t sure what else to say. “I guess I should go,”

“You can stay,”

Tommy doesn’t want to. “Maybe later today.” He’ll train and attempt to sleep again. If he can’t, then he’ll figure out something else to do with his time. Although Tommy knows it won’t be such a problem to get more pills.

But Tommy hesitates, first. “Hey, Tubbo?”

“Theseus?” Tubbo coughs, uneasy.

“Philza said he found about me because my profile was presented to surrounding agencies,” Tommy says. “Can you show me?”

Tubbo doesn’t move his fingers. They twitch on his lap. “Uh?”

“Please?” Tommy then adds, “If you can?”

“I haven’t seen it,” Tubbo states. “Only Philza has.”

But Tubbo turns in his seat and clicks through a couple of files. Tommy slowly seats back down, steadying his shaking legs and his heart racing a fraction. Tubbo’s fingers scan and he pulls out a touch screen pad, pressing fast.

There are large documents that appear on the large screens. Then two pop up, that unblur slow until his face and information appear in front.

Tommy stares at Theseus.

Theseus stares at Theseus.

He is Theseus in the photograph, he is Theseus now.

Although, he doesn’t feel like his past self. He doesn’t feel as quiet and confirmed as he once was. He isn’t emotionless and uncaring.

He must pretend to be Theseus now, but maybe he is truly Tommy because he has changed.

“Theseus?” Tubbo calls him his name that has torn his meaning into pieces.

The photo is of Theseus with long brown curls and cold eyes. He has scars and does not look as he does now.

Tommy has seen it before. He needs to see it again.

“How old are you?” Tubbo questions, quiet. “In the picture?”

“I don’t know.” He does. He must be fifteen. He does not make it to sixteen at The Academy, he leaves before then. So, although George, Sapnap, and Dream will have photos in their database from age ten to sixteen, Tommy will miss a year.

He may only be a year older now, but Tommy hasn’t seen himself so young.

“Theseus…” Tubbo mutters. “Never mind, forget it.”

“Ask,” Tommy says. “Ask.” Because he knows what he will say.

Tubbo does and does not hold back. “Why do you wear a mask?”

Silence speaks.

“I see you,” Tubbo starts. “I see photos. So why do you wear one?”

“I’ve changed,” Tommy speaks. “I’m not the same person I was in those photos.”

“So?” Tubbo’s voice almost breaks. “Do you still not trust us? Do you still not trust me?”

“It’s hard to trust,” Tommy sighs. “I’ve lived a life when I’ve been taught against it.”

“I’m your friend,” Tubbo says. “So, what can I do? What can I do better?”

Tubbo isn’t Theseus’ friend.

But he is Tommy’s.

And although Tommy appreciates Tubbo now, when he was once with Tubbo before he wore the mask – Tubbo had not held back. He hadn’t been so held back and hesitant. He didn’t second guess his words and smile often. Tubbo was sarcastic and not overly nice.

Tommy tells Dream that Tubbo isn’t a friend, but perhaps he does not want to accept it. He doesn’t want to accept that he has another connection and another step to caring. To feeling.

“You don’t have to do anything better,” Tommy eventually states. “You don’t have to do anything better.”

“I don’t understand,” Tubbo desperately tries to.

“I have blond hair. It’s shorter too,” Tommy shrugs. “My bruises and scars are gone.”

Tubbo is silent.

Maybe he knows, maybe he’s known for a while.

Tommy doesn’t know. Tommy doesn’t care.

“I have a piercing and a long scar on my forehead.” Tommy’s eyes meet Tubbo’s eyes, intently. “And I’m not so young.”

“Theseus–”

Tommy grips his mask.

“Stop,” Tubbo grips his shoulders, tight, and forces his fingers loose. “Fucking hell, dude. Stop.”

“Guys?” Ranboo appears between their eyes and speaks unsurely. “What’s going on?”

Tubbo lets go of Tommy quickly, his chest rising and falling, and his eyes wide. Tommy stares back in silence.

“Uh, guys?” Ranboo repeats, slow.

“Nothin’ Boo,” Tubbo says, and Tommy notices his hands shake slightly. Maybe he realizes. “Nothing.”

“Oh-kay,” Ranboo replies. “What are you guys doing?”

Tommy stands. “I’ll go now.” He does not wait for permission or acknowledgment. Instead, he leaves for his bedroom, taking a detour towards the bathrooms by the training rooms that the agents use. There are large mirrors here, and he stares at his reflection, at his masked face and hollow eyes.

Tommy does not care. He pulls off his mask and his blond curls fall and bounce. He shakes his head and notices every small scar and bruise he has. He lifts his hair to notice the long one that travels across his forehead. When he lifts his arm sleeve, the straight scars from the experiment are shown, in thin patterns. He stares them down until his eyes roam to his legs, where he has stitches and more bruises littered on his skin. He sees himself as Theseus because it is who he once is. And he knows deep inside, he will never be again.

His mind is of an assassin. He is still hesitant and careful. His bruises and burns show a different life. Yet he feels and understands and believes – and is different. He is Tommy.

He pulls on his mask and returns to his room. Tommy takes the pills. And he sleeps.

 

 

 

 

 

“Theseus,” his dreams sing. “Tommy.”

The melody is louder.

Tommy has never felt so close to his past, and so far from his future.

 

 

 

 

Quackity watches the moon once again, a cigar between his lips and his eyes dipped closed. He speaks to it, as he usually does. “I’m a good listener, I’d like to think.”

Smoke surrounds and he flicks his cigar twice, it fits between his fingers carefully. “Karl speaks of many things, I listen well.” Then he thinks. “Sapnap, not so much. But Sapnap’s never been much of a talker.” Sapnap shares emotion, he does not share his words.

Although, recently, he is closed off. It is his inner assassin, pushing people away when they get close. Quackity will deal with that soon – he pulls it to the side for the time being.

“I’m a good listener,” Quackity continues. “But I think I’ve done enough. Philza thinks he’ll control me with my past for longer, he thinks I’ll keep my mouth shut. That fucker – he always wants the upper hand.”

Philza controls Quackity because of his past and what he’s done before. Philza values loyalty and trust, he requires it. Quackity breaks anything between them, a while ago. Until what remains are harsh ties that cannot be cut due to strong ropes of vengeance and revenge.

Once, Quackity has a family. Philza takes them away from him before he is left with nothing.

(“You’ll mess with me again,” Philza says once. “And you’ll have more coming for you.”)

“If he touches Karl, I’ll rip him apart. I don’t think I’ll have to worry ‘bout Sap so much–” Perhaps, Quackity should return home. He either resorts to the place under the starry sky when he is drunk, high or hurt. There is no other reason for him to be here if he is not one of the following options.

“He touches anyone, and I’ll tear his life apart,” Quackity chuckles, his splutters turning to coughs. “He thinks I won’t. I will.”

Quackity remembers love and a family. He almost forgets.

So, he lays under the moon and tries to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

George feels love when he is sixteen.

The feeling is strong. What if he feels now, may be stronger.

Freedom guides his bones and pulls his head to the sky, where the clouds are loud, and the sun is seen without a stoned wall blocking the life around him.

He asks Sapnap once, how their first sunset, free will feel.

He wonders if he has an answer to give. Yet George is unsure how a feeling so loud between his bones can be described. Because George is free, and George does not have to go back. George does not have to do anything.

Once he is an assassin, now, he is no one.

He is not George whose life is worth hundreds of thousands. He is not on a mission for blood, and he is not under the control of The Academy. He does not have a title to his name and is not Graduate Two, who must perform to the standards of others around him. He must not be better and excel and succeed because of the testing that is done on him.

Instead, he walks through the streets as no one, and he is content with that. He watches life and for once, does not bring death upon it. He doesn’t have to be George; he does not need to have a name either. He walks through streets with thick layered coats or sits at the back of coffee shops with his eyes low and his mind racing. Eventually, his shoulders learn to unhunch, and he begins to taste freedom with his coffee.

Time does not last, even if he will. He has The Academy to take down and his brothers to find.

Until then, he thinks, and he plans. He watches and waits. He trains and prepares. He cannot die, he cannot because he lives. So instead, he risks his life. He will put everything on the line, and if the world crumbles to save his family, then he will crumble along with it.

 

Chapter Text

His name reminds him of pain and murder. Nights starving and daylight begging.

So, he goes by Purpled instead.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream stares the agents down carefully. His eyes scan each, raising his eyebrows when one flinches, or another cannot remain eye contact.

“I’ll be your instructor for the next couple of weeks,” He directs. “You can call me Dream.”

Quackity has given Dream a couple of classes to take for teaching. They will be trained and shaped once the mission begins. Dream has a lot of work to do. He starts with stretches, before demonstrations.

(He is reminded of a time when the faces staring back, were younger and innocent. They were children, they grow stronger over time. They learn to see the world, for what it truly is.)

Although now, the faces are mature and bold. They are older and are not forced into this position. They have seen the world and the cruelty that comes along with it. They understand – and that is the difference.

Sapnap comes in to assist. They show basic throws and punches, before improving the technique of agents by sparring.

(Dream does not have to hit and shout. He does not have to call the Teachers to come to collect the weaker students and out of line. He does not have to hold down a student if they speak back, as George hits his face.)

Here, he is bold, but he is not strict. He does not watch blood and empty faces struggle to survive. He congratulates students and will let out a small smile when one jokes – although that is all they will get from him. He will continue to be blank-faced and ensure they complete their necessary training but here, Dream does not have to be who he once is.

At the end of the lesson, many students leave for lunch or have a break. Some return and sit around him as they stretch.

“You were really from The Academy?” He is an older one, perhaps twenty or so. He shows interest when he fights and has good technique. The rest are slightly younger.

Dream nods his head slowly and their breaths are sharp.

“How was that like?”

“Strict,” Dream states and watches the interest on their faces. “Very strict.” They want more, so he gives it to them. “We learned how to fight and use weapons very early. Training and exercises were missions themselves, to survive.”

One asks, “How much training did you do?”

“All day,” Dream replies. “We trained all day for years. When I started doing missions, I had more breaks, but it was constant.”

“He – Sapnap, was at The Academy too?” The older boy asks, and Dream nods his head. “How did you guys meet?”

Dream smirks. “So many questions,” but he responds anyway. “I had finished my training when I met him. I had ‘graduated,’ so I wasn’t expected to go to classes anymore. I was an instructor for a couple of his, and we started talking.”

He does not explain the long process. He does not explain Sapnap being hesitant and how he saw potential in Sapnap to survive, unlike the other students in his class who were weaker and did not hold the passion he did. He speaks softer of the time, because no one will understand, and he will not make them.

Their questions continue. They ask about his technique, and he demonstrates a couple of his knife exercises. Some leave, others stay with questions. Dream for once will answer them because he does not mind.

“You weren’t meant to get close to people?” One student question. “But you got close to Sapnap, didn’t you?”

Words dry on Dream’s tongue. “Yeah,” he says and nods. “We did.”

The others must understand he will not elaborate. The same student questions, “Was it just you two?”

“No,” Another one denies. “I’ve seen another guy with Quackity.”

“Yeah,” Dream almost smiles. “That’s uh – Tommy.” My kid brother, he almost says until he remembers he isn’t.

“I’ve spoken to him before,” A boy who is a little younger than the other, speaks. “He threatened to stab me if I didn’t give him my knife.”

Dream rolls his eyes. “That’s him.” He does remember telling the boy not to speak to anyone he didn’t know at Nevadas, but he shouldn’t be surprised at his lack of listening.

“You guys escaped?”

“We did.” It had been Dream’s plan from the very beginning. Only it had not occurred because Sapnap and George stay behind, and George never makes it out. “And it difficult to, nothing easy. So, we’ll be taking them down, once and for all.”

The agents nod their heads. There are flames in their eyes.

“I’ll do as much as I can to help,” One student nods his head, and the others agree. “No one should have to live like that.” Dream blinks – he isn’t sure why they’re suddenly so eager.

“I agree,” Another student speaks. “I’ll try the hardest I can,”

“Me too,” Others agree.

Dream smiles.

 

 

 

 

 

It is another ordinary day, except it isn’t.

Gray hears rumors spreading.

“They’re taking some of us away,” They say. “There are too many of us.”

Gray ignores the rumors and continues training.

The rumors are right.

They line up in long rows, and Teachers, Instructors, and the Headmaster pass students one by one, watching them from head to toe. The occasion student must step forward and is led away by Teachers.

Gray hears the voices around him. “What are they doing? Where are they going?”

Others speak, “We didn’t do anything wrong,” And Gray attempts to fight the fear out of his eyes.

They go through students slowly. Gray’s eyes travel across the field, expecting to see Sapnap around. He is not present and his reassuring eyes do provide a sense of comfort as they usually would.

(Gray just wants to know what’s going on.)

They stop at a student a couple of rows down. Gray’s back is straight, and his eyes remain forward but he hears the screams of the student who struggles and is pushed to the ground. He is dragged by a Teacher away and Gray gulps. He knows to cooperate, as do the rest of the students.

They soon stop in front of him. Gray does not break eye contact, nor does he flinch as the Headmaster stares into his soul.

He nods his head. Gray is taken away.

He is shoved into a truck, where the doors close behind him and he smells the sweat and fear of the other students.

“We won’t be coming back,” One student says, his words slurred and stutters. “We won’t be coming back.”

“Why not?” Another student asks, bolder.

“I overheard from other students that are too many of us. So, they need to get rid of us, weaker.”

“You’re lying!” The other accuses and a brawl commences. He does not hear their voices again.

The doors open a couple more times. More students are thrown in, but it is too dark to understand how many students have been collected. Gray sits in a corner, his arms around his legs, pressed up against his chest. He closes his eyes and takes a breath out. He knows he will survive. He has made it too far, not to.

He hears Sapnap in one ear. Be strong, he says softly.

One of the last students is pulled in, when they are given the answers, they desperately want but are afraid to ask. “We’ll be taken somewhere and then they’ll leave. We’ll have to survive on our own, after that.”

“We can do it,” Another says. “We can, right?”

“Shut up,” One growls and Gray attempts to block out the noise. “We don’t have any fucking food or water. We older ones are controlled and trained, but we won’t last much longer than the younger ones.”

“We can’t give up,” A quiet voice speaks amid the silence. Because they have made it far, they have to survive,

But the strongest survive and they are not enough so they don’t.

The truck lurks forward one moment, and students stumble into others. The ones with balance stay still and sit down. It is a mixture of life and death and everything in-between as they wait. Gray keeps his eyes closed and presses his palms together. He breathes and he makes sure he does not forget his voice and the voice of Sapnap, to tell him that everything will be alright.

(“Persistence is a virtue,” Sapnap states. “Without it, you are nothing.”)

It is hours before the truck stops. They are cuffed to one another and soon all Gray can feel is ashes and rocks. The truck lurks forward, and some students stumble forward, only taking a couple of steps forward before they stop in their tracks, between the rocks and the sun, and realize that life is pointless.

They don’t take long to take off the cuffs. Once they do, some leave. The majority stay put.

Sapnap would have told Gray to go – to find. That nothing is limited, and that there was hope somewhere. They are abandoned in rock and desert, but there has to be someone willing to assist.

Yet, Purpled sits and sleeps. Among the other students who have lost hope of survival, he joins them and waits for death.

He is woken up with rough arms that pull his face and hair. “Wake up,” the voice says. “It’s not time to leave, yet.”

Gray is groggy and disorientated. He hasn’t felt like so, in a while. The sand stains his hair and his stomach is empty.

The face is recognizable yet unfamiliar. “Someone caught a wild bird. You’re one of the only asleep – so I wanted to save you some.”

“What?” Gray grumbles and sits up.

“D'ya want some?” The boy shoves meat in his face. “It’s not cooked too right. We couldn’t work with much.”

Gray watches it oddly. “Why don’t you have it yourself?” Because it’s all for themselves, they do not share, nor do they help each other. It is something to understand at The Academy – that you prioritize your own survival over any other person. It isn’t selfish. It is simply wanting to live.

The boy shrugs. “We’re all going to die anyway.”

Gray takes it. He eats slow.

“You’re a good agent,” the boy says. “I’m surprised you’re here.”

Gray shrugs his shoulders.

“You’re thirteen?” The boy questions and Gray nods his head. “I’m fourteen, that’s cool.”

It is not. Gray will be thirteen and the other will be fourteen when they die. They will not make it past now, they will never be able to live on. Death has always been so close, but now they almost taste it within their dry tongues and sore throats.

“Most of them went to get food,” the boy points to the others who sit a bit away. “Those don’t talk.”

Gray doesn’t blame them. He finishes his meat, and his stomach is almost satisfied. He ends up laying on the rocks and watches the sky for a final time. He hopes to be alone, but the boy won’t leave him alone. Gray does not want the company, not so close to death.

“We accepted our fate a long time ago,” the boy speaks again and Gray listens, as his eyes close. “We accept it but here we are, fearing it.”

“I don’t think we accepted it,” his voice is quiet. “I think understood it – we never accepted it, though.”

They lay with that thought for a long time.

The boys who look for food do not return. The sun grows hot before it grows cold, and the moon settles over.

“Did you have anyone close?” the boy asks.

“Hm?” Gray turns his head.

“Did you have anyone close?” he repeats.

“I do,” He had Sapnap. “What about you?”

“Not really,” he yawns. “If I did, they didn’t survive, and I can’t remember. You stop remembering their names, after a while, don’t you? At some point, we stop asking for each other’s names.”

He is right because Gray has not asked for his name, and he has not asked for Gray’s.

What is worth knowing one more name before death? What is worth knowing one name if death approaches and the name will be forever gone?

“I hade Sapnap,” Gray says after some time of thought. “He’s a Graduate.”

“I know Sapnap.” They all know Sapnap. “He took a couple of my classes. Wasn’t so nice.”

“He can’t be.”

“I know, I know,” he sighs. “How’s he like?”

Gray smirks. He can say a lot of things. “Persistent,” he ends up saying. “Wouldn’t be happy that I accepted this so quick.”

“Can he blame you?” the boy snorts. “I took a walk. We’re surrounded by nothing.”

Sapnap would have still told him to try. To survive. To hold that desire above everyone else.

“I wonder if he knew,” Gray sighs. “If he knew this was happening.”

“Likely not,” the boy denies. “The Graduates would have been against it. They listen to the Teachers, but they’ll be against what they do. I’m sure they didn’t.” Maybe he knows, or maybe he says this to give Gray a piece of mind before his death. Gray appreciates it, nevertheless.

“How much time do you think we have left?”

He shrugs. “If I’m being honest, I’m not so sure.”

They don’t speak after that. The boy sleeps and Gray watches over him. When he is awake, they watch the sky and wait for something – anything. Perhaps hope, perhaps death.

(Perhaps both because death was the only hope they have left.)

He watches over Gray when he is asleep too. It’s an unspoken agreement.

Students who stand up to leave do not return. Some promise food, but their faces aren’t seen again.

It is night four when they get hungry. “I think it’s my turn to look,” the boy sighs. “I’m the oldest here.” There are students in another group. They are all thirteen and younger.

“There’s no point,” Gray shrugs.

“Maybe there isn’t,” he stands anyway. “I’ve been here for long enough, though.”

Gray almost asks for him to stay. But the words burn the tip of his tongue.

As the boy leaves, Gray stops him. “Wait!”

“What?”

“I never got to know your name.” Gray wants to know. He will remember it, he promises himself. He will.

“I told you,” he says, though. “I don’t ask anymore.”

“Okay,” Gray resigns.

“Your eyes are purple,” the boy remarks. “I’ve never seen eyes like yours. I just… I’ve wanted to say that.”

Gray laughs. His last laugh. “Okay,”

“Purpled,” the boy smiles. “That’s your name.” He leaves.

He does not return.

“Purpled,” Gray tests the name between his teeth as the sun rises above the rocky land. He likes it and keeps the name. He wonders if the boy would have ever told him his.

(He wonders if the circumstances were different if they’d ever be friends.

He hopes so.)

It is not long later when Gray slips. When the world goes back.

He falls asleep with a smile and a reminder of those before him. In between hope and death, he dreams of a wonderful life.

 

 

 

 

 

In between hope and death, he wakes up within familiar arms of love and care.

 

 

 

 

 

“Theseus,”

Tommy’s eyes open and he lifts his head from his cushion.

“I’m outside. Put your mask on.”

Tommy does not hesitate, shoving the mask on, with a wish he is asleep again. Wilbur waits for a second more, before barreling inside his room.

(Tommy had forgotten to lock it, between tiredness and fatigue.)

“You sleep too much,” Wilbur stops in his tracks, his eyebrows almost raising off his forehead.

“What?” Tommy grumbles, wanting to know the reason he is awoken at such a time. He grabs his phone from the side table – it’s almost six. He’s been asleep for too long.

Tommy turns back to Wilbur who still watches.

“What?” Tommy repeats slowly.

“Your hair,” he says quietly. “It’s blond,”

Tommy does not put his mask on. He checks his reflection from the blackness of his phone screen and sighs quietly to himself as his curls have escaped his mask, peeking through. They refuse to stay put and spring out.

“Yeah,” Tommy mutters. “I dyed it.”

Wilbur stares. For a very long time. He eventually asks, “why?”

Tommy shrugs. “I’m not the same person I once was.” Wilbur understands partially, Tommy sees in his eyes. He steps closer and speaks quietly.

“I get that. I don’t understand what you’ve been through – but I understand changing to separate yourself from the past.”

Tommy nods his head and stares away.

“You sleep too much,” Wilbur then announces. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Tommy responds. He does not mention the sleeping pills (Phil has probably already told Wilbur, anyway) or the dreams. He will not tell Wilbur, he might tell Dream next time he sees him, though.

“Do you want to eat?” Wilbur asks.

“I’m tired. I think I’ll sleep.”

Wilbur frowns. “Get up, we’ll do something.”

“Wilbur–”

“I’m not going to stop pestering you, let’s go.”

Tommy groans and Wilbur leads the way.

He leaves the hallway away from his rooms, and the elevator they take is not the one to the training rooms or dining hall.

“Where are we going?” Tommy frowns.

“To our house,” Wilbur quickly interrupts his previous sentence. “I mean, Phil, Techno, and mine.”

“Aren’t you twenty-five?”

Wilbur grumbles, “Fuck off,” Tommy almost chuckles.

They go to the parking lot, and Wilbur’s car is almost familiar. “Are you getting in?” Wilbur rolls the window down when Tommy does not step inside.

“Why are we going?”

“I’ll show you something. I got Phil’s permission this time, don’t worry about that.” Tommy isn’t worried about that. He hesitates at the car door handle, and after a moment’s thought, he pulls the door open and sits down.

Wilbur turns the music on as they drive. He sings under his breath and Tommy almost compliments his voice – he doesn’t though. Instead, he baskets the sun and the warmth and watches the passing trees and homes with a wonder.

He remembers going to their house and watching Up with Tubbo. He almost remembers feeling something for the first time in a while. It stands strong, as it had all those weeks ago. There is another car parked though, and Tommy notices how the nature seems less lively. Winter approaches.

“Techno’s home too,” Wilbur says and watches his reaction to the room, rather too carefully. When he doesn’t say anything, Wilbur leads him inside. Tommy knows where the exits are, due to his memory, but he can’t help it as he double-takes every room and maps out the home in his brain to pinpoint every detail of the household.

“The backdoor is open. There are three doors to get into the backyard, by the dining room.”

Tommy blinks and wraps his arms around himself.  “Uh, thanks.”

“No problem, we’re going upstairs.” They pass familiar hallways and the photos that Tommy glimpses over. He sees the young boy from Wilbur’s past before he must look away to the room that Wilbur steps into. It isn’t his bedroom or any other room. It’s a studio, and music instruments row across the walls and shelves.

Wilbur grabs a guitar. “This is a guitar.”

“I know what that is, prick.”

He strums the guitar strings with a smile. “I go here when I need to think to myself. Techno comes in here too, we used to play a lot.” He uses past tense, so Tommy guesses they do not anymore.

The similarity between Techno and Wilbur: is their music.

“Chose an instrument,” Wilbur speaks up, laying the guitar down. “Any, I don’t mind.”

Tommy looks at each, uncomfortably. They look delicate and expensive.

“That one,” He points at the one he is less likely to break. Tommy is rough, he’ll break a smaller instrument he thinks.

“The piano,” Wilbur smirks. “Nice choice.”

Wilbur lets Tommy sit down and try the notes out. “I’ll teach you each–”

“I’m a fast learner,” Tommy promises.

“It’s difficult, Theseus,” Wilbur laughs. “You won’t get everything so easily.”

Tommy didn’t get knife-throwing easily. So, he adapted. He didn’t have much of an appetite, but he learned to eat more and train his stomach. He had to learn how to murder pretty fast too.

(Murder is fast. One moment, you are a normal person. A second after death, you are a murderer.)

Wilbur teaches each of the keys and their sounds. Tommy is right, he gets it pretty fast. As he tests each note, Wilbur takes out his guitar and strums chords lightly. He closes his eyes and hums light, under his breath.

“Do you write songs?”

“Yeah,” Wilbur says.

“Techno showed me some of his.”

“Yeah, he told me.”

Tommy nods his head unsure.

“I’ll play a song before we leave,” Wilbur then offers. “Or I can teach you more piano.”

Tommy doesn’t mind listening. He sits on the floor, leaning against the wall as Wilbur sits on a stool, repositioning the instrument on his lap. He begins by tapping the guitar and his words are smooth and rough.

Tommy never gets the time to appreciate music as it is never brought upon them. He recalls faint radios and soft voices as George had introduced him to German and Swedish bands to improve his accent. He listens to more now, than he has ever before.

Wilbur’s song continues. Tommy listens carefully, holding only each word and syllable and note of the song.

Wilbur ends the song soon, “How’s it feel? How’s it feel to be so loved, yet so alone?”

Tommy freezes. Wilbur strums and lifts his head to gauge his reaction. “Did you like it?” And Tommy nods his head, standing up. A rush of fatigue has hit him, maybe to do with the music.

Wilbur is not as keen as Tommy to leave. “Theseus–“

Tommy snaps his head to him. His mind pounds, and he feels something inside of him erupt.

“Can I play one more?”

“I’m tired, Wilbur,” Tommy replies.

“It’ll be quick,” There is a flash in his eyes, something warm and daring.

“Okay, then,”

Wilbur starts.

The song begins and Tommy’s eyes fly open.

Wilbur hums as the song progresses and Tommy’s heart stops.

He knows the song.

The familiarity is bone crashing, and he cannot look away. Wilbur continues, and Tommy feels it all at once.

Whispers of previous faces and a life before this. Tommy remembers.

And Tommy can’t breathe.

Because that song means something to him and is in his memories – and no one else knows it but himself. He has not even told Dream or Sapnap. Yet Wilbur knows, and Tommy fights to admit the truth.

Tommy can’t breathe.

“Theseus?” Wilbur snaps his head at him. “What’s wrong?”

Tommy closes his eyes and clings to the carpet under him. He is helpless and his mind urges him to say something, to speak. But he cannot utter any words, as his throat closes and his mouth stays shut. His heart pounds through his ears, and he feels nothing and everything all at once. Reality screams at him with a sudden epiphany.

“Theseus?” Wilbur comes next to him. “You need to breathe, Theseus. You’re having a panic attack. Can you hear me?”

Tommy panics. It is not irregular, and he has dealt with this feeling for his whole life. A horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach threatens to escape when he is in a horrible or unsafe condition.

“I can’t breathe,” Tommy says once and over and over again. He needs Dream. “I need him.”

“Listen to my breaths, Theseus,” Wilbur says, and he feels close. Too close, Tommy needs him to move away. But he can’t do that, the words can’t escape his lips as his heart hurts and his mind breaks. The song in his mind quickens, he hears it between Wilbur’s soft words and the melody he recalls.  

“I need my brother,” Tommy gasps and struggles for any air. “I need him.”

Dream helps. Dream knows what to do when he feels like this – on the brink of death itself.

The walls cave in, it is hot, and his skin burns with the touch of air. And Tommy needs Dream.

“Theseus,” Wilbur says softly. “I’m here.”

Tommy can’t hear him. His eyes stay closed and there is a whistle in his soul that screams.

“I need Dream,” Tommy says, or maybe he doesn’t. His heart almost jumps out of his chest when he opens his mouth again, for his hoarse voice struggles to be heard. “I need XD–”

Fatigue and tiredness rush him. He does not remember falling asleep, he does not remember waking up.

“Tommy,” the voice is soft, near. “Can you hear me?”

Tommy’s heart stops. “Dream?”

“I’m here, I’m here,” Dream gives him distance, yet is close enough for comfort. Tommy’s eyes stay squeezed shut and he presses against the wall behind his back. “Breathe for me.”

“I’m trying,” Tommy stutters. “I can’t.”

“Try,” Dream sounds as if he struggles to stay sane. “Listen to me kid,”

Tommy feels hot and sweaty. He pulls his arm up to tug his mask, but his fingers graze his cheek.

Tommy’s fly open, and the room feels small. “My mask–”

“I took it off,” Dream tells him carefully, hesitating between each word. “You passed out, kid.”

“They’re here–”

“It's okay,” Dream reassures him. “Copy my breathing.”

Tommy does, after struggling to come to terms when Dream’s revelation. He ignores it, for his heart to steady and feel okay again.

He slumps back when he is in control again. His head hits the wall, and his damp curls fall.

“Tommy,” Dream sits beside him. “Don’t do that,” He forces Tommy to sit properly, so his head doesn’t dig into the hard surface. “Tell me what happened.”

Tommy tells him. “I heard it, Dream. The song.”

“What song?”

He controls himself before anything happens again. But it’s difficult to state more. “A song.”

“Tommy?”

“Yeah?”

“It’ll be okay,” Dream promises.

“You don’t get it,” Tommy sighs. “I remember that fuckin’ song.”

Dream freezes.

“I remember it from my past – I can hear it.” Tommy hears it in his soul. He hears it when he sleeps.

“So, what does it mean?”

“I don’t want to know,” Tommy thinks of Wilbur and then the brother he dreams of. The brother he thinks he will never see again because his past is gone and when he arrives at The Academy, he will never get it back.

“I want to go home,” Tommy then declares. “I want to go home, Dream.”

“We can do that.”

Dream stands and helps him up. “Uh, Tommy?”

“They know who I am, don’t they?”

Dream does not need to answer for him to know the answer. He can almost see the betrayal on their faces. They’ll ask him why he is untruthful, why he didn’t tell them. Tommy doesn’t know.

They leave the room slowly.

Wilbur is in the living room, with Technoblade. Their heads snap to them, and maybe they stare a little longer, in case they cannot believe it themselves.

“Tommy,” Wilbur mutters, simply.

“He’s going home,” Dream instructs. “Back to Quackity’s. I’ll inform Phil.”

“He knows,” Wilbur says. “But he can stay.” He hopes.

Dream shakes his head. “Thanks,” and that’s all he can say before they leave.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy hears the song somewhere.

Louder and faster, it continues.

Each note accompanies a flash and a face.

(A mother, a father, and two brothers.

A family.)

Chapter Text

They stare silently.

“Headmaster,” he asks them. “What will we do now?”

Their highest agents are gone.

Graduate One. Fugitive.

Graduate Two. Initially presumed deceased.  Fugitive.

Graduate Three. Presumed deceased.

“Was a body found?”

“No, but–”

“Silence,” They turn to watch him strictly. “Do not speak over me. A body was not found, there will not be any assumptions until it is.”

“They are our best,” he says quietly. “Our collaborations and bidders are stepping back, we need to do something–”

“They were the best,” The Headmaster glares. “Not anymore.”

“Pardon?–”

“They have weakness,” The Headmaster frowns. They turn around, to the window where their agents surround the floors. They train and fight and mend the damaged agency that the Graduates have broken. “They hold a connection. They are weak because of it.” They stare for longer, analyzing each student carefully. None of them will achieve greatness as the three before them. “So, we will take it away.”

“No one has come forward with the bounty.” He responds. “Sixteen is not found.”

“We will find him,” The Headmaster sneers. “We will. And we’ll kill him.”

He understands. They will kill the Graduates' only weakness, so they are strong again.

“Even better,” The Headmaster smirks. “They will kill him, themselves.”

They will finally complete their final mission. The Graduates will kill Sixteen because The Headmaster denies imperfections.

He nods his head and apologizes. “Sorry for wasting your time. Thank you.” He leaves.

The Headmaster smiles.

 

 

 

 

 

The stars are bright.

George wonders.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy sees Wilbur in his dreams.

He has his guitar out and plays the familiar song. Technoblade is with him and performs the violin.

Philza is with them. As well as another figure that he cannot recognize.

Tommy wakes up in sweat and fatigue. His heart beats against his chest, and he clings to the bedsheet, his fingers curling into fists as he regains reality.

Dream is by him in a moment. “Breathe, kid.”

“Fuck off,” Tommy groans and tips his head back as the faces carve into his skull. They won’t leave even alone, even if he desperately pleads them to. “Fuck off, Dream.”

“No,” he refuses. He holds his shoulder, “Are you okay?”

“Give me a second,” Tommy’s vision unblurs and the faces aren’t as vivid. “Okay, I’m fine, I’m fine.”

Dream continues staring as he regains his senses, processing his surroundings and the room that surrounds him. He is at the Syndicate. This room is smaller and has large windows. There is a painting in the corner and a bag laying on the floor.

“What the fuck?” Tommy whispers, squinting around. “I’m not there?”

“You’re not,” Dream confirms but does not say more.

Tommy snaps his head to the older. “How did you get in here so quickly?”

Dream doesn’t respond, Tommy realizes.

(When they start moving around after escaping The Academy, Dream does not sleep. Instead, he rests by Tommy’s floor, sometimes on the chair or the edge of the bed)

Tommy wakes up one day, to see Dream’s presence, his eyes closed and his back against the wall.

He goes to sleep and does not bring it up after.)

“It’s one in the afternoon,” Dream determines. “You’ve slept a lot; do you want to get up?”

Tommy doesn’t want to. He’d rather lay in bed and stare at the ceiling with a thoughtless mind. Yet he hasn’t seen Sapnap in a while and he feels his stomach stir. So, he nods his head and follows Dream out of the room.

“I’ll make lunch,” Dream says and Tommy slumps on the kitchen stools. He misses the feeling of familiarity and a place he feels comfortable in. He does not have to constantly look over his back or keep the mask on. He isn’t second-guessing his words or changing the way he acts to fit into what he is.

They stay silent as Dream navigates around the kitchen and Tommy daydreams. They’re both out of it, after the events before. But Tommy appreciates the silence for what it is because it’s not uncomfortable nor is it awkward.

But the silence is broken when arms wrap around Tommy from behind, and Sapnap makes his presence known. “Tommy!”

Tommy flinches as Sapnap wraps arms around him and tightly holds. “Holy shit, I’m going to go deaf.”

“Say you missed me,”

“Well, I didn’t, prick.”

Sapnap doesn’t let go and Tommy struggles to pry his arms off. He feels weaker, he doesn’t like it. It’s likely due to the exhaustion and lack of food. Tommy doesn’t like feeling weak.

“Let go,” Tommy gives up after struggling for a few moments more.

“Say you missed me,” Sapnap repeats.

“Sapnap,” Dream huffs.

“I’ll fucking kill you,” Tommy threatens. “Don’t think I won’t.”

Dream rolls his eyes. “Tommy.”

Tommy widens his eyes as Sapnap laughs loudly. “Tell him to let go! You can’t be on his side!”

“Sapnap, let him go.” Sapnap does, not before ruffling his hair for Tommy to slap his arm away. He slumps on the chair next to him.

“What’cha making, Big D?”

“Don’t call me that,” Dream grumbles as Tommy snorts. “I’m making Tommy lunch. You just ate.”

Sapnap rubs his stomach and leans backwards, resting the back of his head on his palms. “I’ve been training for a couple of hours, I’m starving.”

“Fine,” Dream grumbles. He grabs a pot, and fills it with hot water, placing it on the stove. He dumps a packet of pasta in afterward and takes out the vegetables.

Sapnap leaps off the stool to help him out.

“I can tell help,” Tommy offers, and Sapnap and Dream look up at him.

“No,” they say in sync.

Tommy frowns as Sapnap smirks. “Dream told me what happened the last time you held a kitchen knife.” He laughs.

“Sapnap,” Dream mutters and tosses him a tomato. “Be quiet.”

Tommy takes the knife out of his boot to sharpen it. He considers throwing it at Sapnap, but Sapnap glares at him with a look that says ‘don’t you dare’ so he doesn’t. Instead, he gets off the stool, to lay on the couch until they are finished. Tommy considered turning on the TV, but he decides to go to sleep instead.

As soon as he closes his eyes, he opens them again when a figure hovers over him. “You’re sleeping again?” Dream comments with a frown. “You were sleeping a lot when you were at the Syndicate’s as well.”

“So?” Tommy rolls his eyes. “So what?”

“I’ve just noticed,” Dream hums. “You didn’t use to sleep this much.”

Tommy groans. “Fuck off.”

Dream frowns and returns to the kitchen.

Tommy falls asleep and wakes up again when Dream announces the pasta is already. They sit around the dining table, and for the first time in a long time, Tommy does not feel hesitant about eating. His shoulders are not hunched, and he is not alert when Sapnap and Dream are with him. They eat, and Sapnap carries the conversation, Tommy interrupting from time to time.

He won’t admit aloud he misses this. Sapnap will make fun of him, and Dream will give him that expression he usually does, so Tommy doesn’t.

“You know?” Dream then pipes up. “I think I know why you might be tired, it’s probably the pills.”

“What pills?” Sapnap asks.

“Philza gave him medication because he couldn’t sleep,” Sapnap looks over at Tommy. “And remember the last time he took anything? It didn’t turn out too well.”

“That makes sense,” Sapnap shrugs and Tommy rolls his eyes because Sapnap will agree with anything Dream says. “So, what do we do?” Sapnap asks with a mouth full of food.

“I’m fine,” Tommy sighs. “I’ll just sleep it off.”

“I told you,” Sapnap whispers in his ear, leaning over. Sapnap and he sit beside each other, Dream sits opposite, watching them whisper with an eyebrow raised curiously. “That Dream’s the only one that stops the nightmares. You can’t sleep well if he isn’t here.”

Tommy’s cheeks heat and he shoves Sapnap away. He would have had crashed off the chair if Tommy had more energy.

Apparently, Dream notices that too. “Are you not feeling well?”

“I’m fine.”

His older brothers exchange a glance.

Dream sighs. “If you stop taking them, I guess the tiredness will go and you won’t need to sleep so much.”

“What did happen the last time you took anything?” Sapnap asks Tommy.

Tommy doesn’t have to think about it because the day is engraved in his memory. He had been fifteen or so and had contracted a bad flu from one of his classmates. Training in the rain and swimming periods didn’t help and Dream had given him medicine to deal with his fatigue and swollen throat.

Tommy had ended up fainting in the middle of class – only George was taking. Tommy had been punished, but George had somehow managed to reduce the punishment, somehow.

Dream grimaces, likely unhappy with recalling the memory. “I gave the kid medicine and he fainted in class.”

Sapnap glances at Tommy, who chuckles uneasily. He recalls his burning fingers and sore back from the punishments. “I blame Dream,” Tommy says.

Dream frowns. “Yeah. I did pardon you through my classes, though.”

Tommy recalls. Dream had felt bad so through his lessons for the next week, he didn’t go too hard on him. Which was a lot, considering Dream’s nature and the extent of the punishments Dream would receive if he had been caught.

“Damn,” Sapnap leans back. “I wonder why you react so bad.”

Tommy has a clue. Dream understands the look on his face and freezes.

“What?” Sapnap asks.

“The testing,” Tommy mumbles. “Probably screwed me over, with what they were putting into me.”

Sapnap shuts his mouth shut tightly, and Dream’s eyes flicker. “I can’t wait to get revenge,” Sapnap says, after the momentary silence.

Dream is against revenge. Well, he used to be. “Me too.”

There are flames seen in Sapnap’s eyes. “I’ll burn them to the ground for a second time.” Tommy chuckles after.

Dream stands with his plate once they have all finished. Tommy hasn’t felt so full in a long time. “We have to go to Quackity’s office, he needs to speak to us.”

“All of us, or just him?” Tommy jabs a finger at Sapnap. He ducks when Sapnap swings at him.

“No,” Dream rolls his eyes and pulls dirty-blond hair out of his eyes. “He needs to speak to us.”

They leave not long afterward, Dream throwing a coat in Tommy’s direction, and snatching his jack jacket from Sapnap. Sapnap and Tommy manage to get into a fight, and Dream steals the knife off him and tells him to stop flickering it around. Tommy hasn’t felt so at home in a while.

He realizes, as he walks by his brothers – that the Syndicate was once his home. He does not remember it, nor will he ever – but once the walls were familiar and the dining room was a usual place to be in. Once he had his own room and called Wilbur his brother.

Tommy had once so desperately wanted to know the people behind the faces. He had stayed up thinking of a family of before.

Now he wants to forget. He wants Dream and Sapnap to be his brothers and he doesn’t want Philza to push him back.

“Tommy?” Sapnap nudges him. “You zoned out.”

“Oh,” They step into the elevator. “Sorry,”

“Are you okay?” Sapnap questions, unsure.

He’s just thinking. He’s okay.

“Yeah,” Tommy nods his head.

“You don’t have to go back,” Sapnap promises with determination. “You can stay, Quackity will figure something out.”

“They’ll want me to go back.” Why wouldn’t they? It makes sense why they had been so adamant about his staying, and why they had cared so much – and worried. Phil was always watching him, and Techno had changed the way he treated him, from when he was just Tommy. Wilbur was too close for comfort and treated him carefully.

It makes sense, as Tommy pieces everything together. Their lost brother who was stolen at ten. The oddly familiar pictures of the young boy.

(Tommy realizes that it is him in those photos. That it is him.)

He also realizes that it is Philza who gives him away. Philza who results him becoming an assassin of The Academy.

“Tommy?” Sapnap repeats. “You good?”

“I don’t have to go back,” Tommy’s hands form into fists. “I don’t,”

Dream places a light hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he breathes. “You don’t.”

They leave the apartment building and don’t take long to arrive at the main Las Nevadas building. The elevator ride is slow, as they wait to arrive at the highest floor.

Punz stands in front of Quackity’s door as they approach.

“Punz,” Dream greets, who nods his head.

“He’s inside,” Punz confirms, and his eyes flicker to Sapnap. He smirks, “So is Karl.”

“Thanks, Punz,” Sapnap rolls his eyes, and the bodyguard opens the door, following them inside. Quackity sits back in his seat, but he doesn’t have his legs on the desk as he usually does. Instead, he sits up straight, speaking to Karl and Antfrost who stand by him. Slime is already here.

“Hello, Dream!” Slime greets, Quackity and Karl ending their conversation for their eyes to look over. “And Sapnap. And Tommy, from…–”

“Hey Slime,” Tommy interrupts his hesitation.

“Tommy,” Quackity grins then, “It’s good to see you kid,”

“You too, Big Q,”

Dream gets into business straight away. “Quackity, are there any updates on the weapons?”

“They’re expected to arrive in two weeks. The ammunition in a week.”

Dream nods. “We’ll go ahead in two weeks, then?”

“There might be a problem,” Quackity sighs. “Philza.”

Sapnap and Dream exchanged glances. Tommy stiffens.

“I’m unsure if we can still trust him,” Quackity tells them. “He won’t trust us, especially since we’re refusing to comply with his requests of giving Tommy back.”

“He’s not going back,” Dream spits.

“I’ve told him,” Quackity mutters. Sapnap walks over to Karl, and whispers in his ear. “Dream, he wants The Academy to pay. All of them.”

“We’ve gone through this Quackity,” Dream growls. “We’ll abandon our alliance as he won’t know of the reallocation of the agency. It gives us enough time, to coordinate our own plan.”

“You don’t understand,” Quackity stands. “He knows.”

Dream blinks. Sapnap’s head whips to Quackity, startled. “What?!”

“He knows,” Quackity sneers. “He found out.”

“How?” Is Tommy’s voice. “How did he?”

“That’s what I want to know,”

“Someone told him,” Antfrost announces. “One of us told him.”

“Don’t blame anyone here, Antfrost,” Quackity glares.

“If anyone, it’s you,” Sapnap accuses, pointing at Ant. “You have a connection to Awesam. You have every opportunity to tell him.”

“I haven’t,” Antfrost glares. “I haven’t told him anything.”

“Then how do they know?” Sapnap raises his eyebrows. “Because no one fucking knows, other than us.”

“Sapnap.” Quackity and Karl say his name at the same time, and Sapnap immediately quietens. Tommy would have laughed if it weren’t for the circumstances. Sapnap’s boyfriends are the only people who can make him quiet.

“We won’t point fingers,” Quackity looks around. “Until we know for sure.”

“We can’t accuse anyone,” Karl agrees. “There’s no reason to, anyway.”

They understand the nature of the situation. Sapnap, Dream, and Tommy’s eyes bear the burden and pain of their past, and they all understand that. They all also understand that there are children, and teenagers there, that will endure the punishments and training to this day. They are not guilty; they do not deserve more.

Philza does not. Philza does not understand the pain they all undergo, to survive.

“We’ll continue training,” Quackity then states. “Dream, I need you to lead more classes–” Tommy turns to Dream, who avoids his eyes. “Sapnap too. Antfrost, I’ll need your assistance with guarding Nevadas. We’ll need more guards and enforcement.” Antfrost nods his head. “And Slime, stick behind – we’ll attempt negotiations with other agencies. I didn’t want to get to this point, but it’s what we’ll have to do.”

“Other agencies?” Dream raises his eyebrows.

“I have a couple of connections, they’re good people, Dream.”

“For your sake, I hope they are.”

“Tommy?” Quackity asks, and Tommy looks up at him. “I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to help Dream, and Sapnap with training. If you don’t mind.”

“Uh,” Tommy goes breathless. “I, um...”

“Thanks, Quackity,” Dream interrupts, quickly. “Is there anything you wanted?”

“No,” Quackity pulls his drawer and takes out a cigarette and a lighter. “Punz, stay for a moment as well.”

Dream and Sapnap leave with Slime and Antfrost. Tommy hesitates, looking back at Quackity.

“Philza wants to take down The Academy….” Tommy stumbles on his words. “You said that he doesn’t agree with what they do,”

“Tommy,” Quackity says softly.

“You told me because he doesn’t agree with that they do,” Tommy tells him, looking into his scarred eyes. “What’s the real reason?”

Quackity sighs. “His wife was killed by them. He’s wanted revenge since.”

Tommy furrows his eyebrows. “That doesn’t make sense.” Because he gave Tommy up to The Academy. Why would he if he despised them so much? “He gave me up to them – why would he–”

“Tommy,” Punz interrupts with hard eyes and hard words. “He didn’t give you up,”

“Punz,” Quackity grits his teeth in the guard’s direction. He is surprised because Punz doesn’t usually talk and remains silent.

“Tommy?” Dream returns into the room, questioning why Tommy hadn’t followed him out of the office with Sapnap. “What are you doing?” When no one speaks, he speaks louder. “What did you tell him, Quackity?”

“I didn’t tell him anything,” Quackity scoffs.

“Tommy?”

“Is that why Philza is attacking The Academy?” Tommy realizes. “Because of me?”

Tommy realizes. He is taken. Philza wants revenge for his wife – and his son. Him.

“Yeah,” Quackity responds.

Tommy nods his head and glances away. “Okay.” He leaves the room, Dream behind him.

“Tommy?” His brother asks softly. “Hey, look at me.”

Tommy shakes his head as they push the doors open. “You knew he was my father.”

“I did,” Dream nods. “I had read the files–”

“You didn’t tell me.”

Dream speaks. “You didn’t want me to tell you. You told me that you’d ask me when you were ready.” Dream is right, he is never wrong.

Philza wants revenge because of the death of his wife and his lost son – he who was taken. He is taking them down in revenge, because he cares for his son, and will destroy those who had destroyed his family.

Philza does not get his son back. Because his son is not Theseus, his son is Tommy who is different.

Tommy’s chest tightens, and his breaths quicken. Dream grabs his shoulders quickly, and his words are instant. “Tommy? You need to stop thinking about it, or you’re going to have a panic attack.”

Tommy panics. “Phil wanted his son back, Dream. I can’t be his son, I’m not Theseus anymore. He’s probably… he’s been looking for Theseus for so long, but I can’t be him.”

“You don’t need to,” Dream persists. “Hey kid, listen to me. Stop thinking about it, breathe.”

“But–” Tommy closes his eyes. “I can’t be him, Dream. I can’t be Theseus, I’m so different and I can’t fucking remember.” Wilbur misses his younger brother. He won't get him back. Nor with Techno. And Philza won’t have the son he’s been searching for, for so long.

Dream tries to calm him down. But Tommy panics and he can’t control the dread and feeling that erupts.

He can’t be Theseus. He isn’t Theseus, anymore. He is Tommy, he can’t be Philza’s son or Techno and Wilbur’s brother.

Arms of familiarity wrap around him. Dream, who is a part of him, Dream who is his brother. He can be Dream’s brother because Dream understands that he was once Theseus and how he is now Tommy.

Tommy calms and rests between the arms of his brother.

 

 

 

 

 

They celebrate Purpled’s fourteenth birthday.

Purpled tells him that they do not celebrate birthdays at The Academy and that there are no celebrations because they are never told of their birthdays. All they know is that each passing year, they are another year older.

Punz must inform him that he has in fact had a celebration before, although Purpled cannot remember them.

“Your ninth birthday,” Punz remembers clearly, with a soft smile. “You wanted to go to the beach, and we went surfing. You built sandcastles until the sunset.”

Purpled frowns, “I can’t remember.”

“That’s fine,” Punz responds. “What do you want to do this year?” He remembers a year ago when his younger brother was found. And although Purpled is not the same as he once was, they are getting better. Purpled opens up and Punz can sleep without too much of a worry.

Although there are things that do not change. Purpled’s apprehensiveness, and his assassin roots rearing him back into his past. He still falls asleep with a knife under his cushion and looks out for exits whenever they enter a building.

“I’m not so sure,”

They end up ordering pizza and each on the couch as they watch movies. Purpled will always pick it apart and Punz will always have to ask Purpled to put his knife down when he tries to recreate any knife tricks that play. Which is why they tend to avoid action and murder.

(Murder isn’t a good option, they avoid horrors and murder mysteries as much as possible.)

Purpled always translates different languages, when Punz doesn’t understand. “How many do you know?” Punz asks through a mouthful.

“I don’t know.” Purpled shrugs. “More than fifty maybe. I can’t count them all because I’ll pick it up in a conversation.”

Punz appreciates the time they have. There are worse nights when Purpled lashes out or throws a knife around in frustration.

(“I just want to remember!” Purpled shouts. “I can’t be who I was, because I can’t remember, Punz!”

“I don’t need you to remember,”

“Yes, you do!” Purpled continues. “I can’t be your brother when I’m so different from who I once was.”)

The worse days become rarer, though. Purpled speaks stories of the past, ones he keeps hidden for a while.

(“I’m Purpled because I don’t want to be Gray,” He says. “Gray is different, and I’m not him anymore.”)

Punz makes sure after that, to refrain from slipping up. Even if the name Gray will leave his lips from time to time, his brother is now Purpled.

Purpled is almost sixteen when they move to California.

“I have a job, Purpled,” Punz tells him on their drive away from their small apartment and city views. “I’ve been putting it off for too long.”

“You haven’t ever had a job,” Purpled frowns.

“I do, but I’ve put it off.” He explains that Quackity his boss, and the agency he works at as an assassin. When the words leave his mouth, Purpled freezes and clings to his seatbelt. “No, no, I don’t work for him anymore. And neither with you.”

“Why not?” Purpled asks quietly. “Won’t he want me?” Punz learns that The Academy students are used around and bided before. Because they are of greatness and greatness is used.

“No, he doesn’t know about you,” Punz tells him. “Not really. I’ll be working as his bodyguard. He pays a fuck-ton.”

“Oh,”

“You can go to school, if you’d like,” Punz offers. He knows Purpled knows fifty different languages and excels in subjects. But it is a taste of freedom and teenagehood that he never gets to experience. He will be able to form friendships and speak to others. “Only if you want to. You do complain that I’m the only person you talk to.”

“I don’t complain that much,”

“Yes, you fucking do.”

Purpled speaks after a second, “Okay,” He murmurs. “I’ll go to school.”

Punz smiles.

“I don’t know,” Purpled then says. “How to be a proper teenager.”

“That’s okay,” Punz shrugs. “You weren’t normal before, either,”

Purpled shoves him, and Punz swears the car swerves. “Don’t hit the driver!”

“Fuck you,” Purpled swears, making Punz laugh.

“Give me a story,” Their drive is slow and quiet, and they will soon arrive at the airport. Purpled asks for a story, as he usually does when he is tired and curious. Punz gives him a story of their past, one he cannot remember.

Punz thinks, turning to his brother at a red light. “Hm,”

“Nothing embarrassing. I’d like to keep those forgotten.”

“You used to surf a lot,” Punz says lightly. “I bought you a surfboard for your eighth birthday and you kept it in your room, and it took a while for me to convince you not to carry it everywhere. It was a funny sight since you used to be so short.”

“You suck.”

Punz grins, and he drives again at the green light. “You entered your first competition a couple of months in, and you were up against kids double your size. But you pulled through and won.”

“Really?” Purpled raises his eyebrows, stifling in another yawn.

“Yeah,” Punz smiles, proud. “You got a trophy too. I still have it.”

Purpled’s lip’s part. “You still have it?” his voice is incredibly small and Punz almost sees his ten-year-old brother sit by him again. He could choke up because Purpled is so big now. He’s almost sixteen and Punz can’t believe it, remembering the days when the kid was ten and he was sixteen and they were against the world.

Purpled is moments away from sleep when he speaks again. “Thanks, Punz,”

“What, kid?”

“We were told that our families gave us up,” Purpled murmurs between unconsciousness. “And that they didn’t want us anymore. I-I’m glad you’re my brother.”

When Purpled goes to sleep, Punz cries.

Chapter Text

Tommy is Wilbur’s brother.

Tommy is Theseus.

“Wilbur,” Techno snaps. “Wilbur.”

“What?” Wilbur’s eyes cannot look away from the floor. Not when everything comes together, not when his mind forms the pieces into one and he finally understands. Because Tommy shares the same eyes as Theseus did, and they are both hesitant and second guess their surroundings.

They are the same person, and Wilbur finally understands.

He asks Tubbo to check their cameras situated around the town at Tommy’s disappearance. Tommy one day stops communication and his apartment is empty. Dream is gone too; it is almost as if they are never there in the first place. Wilbur asks himself through previous nights if Tommy is real, to begin with.

Tubbo does not get any updates from the cameras. But then Wilbur takes Theseus to their house, and wonders if his brother will remember the melody their mother once sang.

He does remember, Wilbur supposes. Theseus passes out and Wilbur calls XD.

Theseus is Tommy and XD is Dream.

Technoblade never gets close to Tommy. Wilbur does. He remembers banter and child movies. He remembers the arcade and Tommy buying two plastic guns because he refused to buy any other piece of plastic. For a second, Wilbur sees Theseus in Tommy, because Tommy is like a sibling to him, and almost what Theseus couldn’t be.

“Wilbur,” Techno repeats and Wilbur glances up at his older brother. His face remains passive and cold. Wilbur knows better. Wilbur knows he crumbles. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“I don’t know what I’m thinking,” Wilbur responds with hollowness and truth.

“I didn’t think we’d ever get Theseus back,” Techno says. “It doesn’t feel real.”

It doesn’t feel right, Wilbur almost says aloud. They do not have Theseus, because he is Tommy and Tommy does not want them. He has a family – he has Dream.

Wilbur wants his brother back.

He recalls when he sleeps, of a younger boy with bright eyes and brown hair.

When he wakes up, his mind flashes to a boy with empty eyes and blond curls.

“I want to know why he couldn’t tell us,” Wilbur says softly when Techno enters his room as they both cannot sleep when the moon hangs in the air. “I want to know.”

“Trust?” Technoblade offers. “He couldn’t trust us; we were the Syndicate to him.” Wilbur had hoped to be more than just the Syndicate. Wilbur and Tommy had talked and opened up. They had confessed to struggles and Wilbur made a promise that he’d introduce him to every movie he knew.

(Wilbur watches Dream and Tommy with jealousy. Dream has a younger brother and Wilbur can only dream of one.)

“Phil will talk to Quackity,” Techno starts. “He’ll figure something out, he’s Philza after all.”

“What will he figure out? There’s nothing to figure out,” Wilbur grits his teeth and stares at the wall.

“Quackity is playing with Philza. He knows he won’t back out of the alliance now that we know the truth of Theseus.”

“Tommy,” Wilbur corrects softly because that is his name.

Technoblade raises an eyebrow. “He’ll be back again, Quackity’s games won’t work this game. He’ll use the kid against us because he’s been searching for our weakness for so long and now, he has one. We can’t offer to back out of the alliance at this point in time.”

Techno continues, “He also should know we want to take down The Academy as much as he does.”

The Academy steals the lives of their mother and their younger brother.

Their mother, deceased, and their brother who will never have a childhood because he is taken away and forced to be an assassin. He is forced through grueling processes and his mind is wired to act and behave differently. The conditioning and brainwashing to be someone he isn’t.

Wilbur almost cries. Technoblade is in the room though, and Wilbur refuses to cry in front of him.

The Academy takes away their years with their mother and brother. They take away Theseus – Tommy’s first memories of life and replace them with teachings and recollections of punishment.

“We’ll get Theseus back,” Techno promises. “Quackity cannot continue doing this.”

“You don’t understand, Techno,” Wilbur closes his eyes. “Tommy has Dream – he has a family now,”

“That doesn’t–”

“You haven’t seen them,” Wilbur shakes his head. “Not as I did. Tommy relies on Dream; they understand each other more than anyone else. Dream would do anything for him–”

“And so would we,” Technoblade interrupts with a frown.

“–and Tommy would do anything for him.” Wilbur finishes and Techno closes his mouth. “Dream’s witnesses his life. He’s witnessed him grow up. And we can say we have, but we haven’t. Tommy isn’t Theseus anymore.”

Techno huffs. “I don’t understand you, Wilbur. Quackity has no right to use him against us.”

“He doesn’t, but we have no right to take Tommy away from his family.”

Techno leaves. Probably to talk to Phil. He was always closer with their father, anyway.

Wilbur sits on the floor. He looks up at the ceiling and rubs his cheeks until they are red and hurt. He feels young again, as he had laid on the floor with tears and ache, when his brother does not come back. When Philza tells them the news that their brother is taken and won’t be returning home until he is found. Wilbur feels young again, but maybe he still is.

Yet loss and hurt have aged him. Losing the people he loves the most, losing the people who matter.

He has still lost Theseus. Theseus will not return, he will remain as the little boy in his memories, with loud shrieks and a large fascination with the world and everything around.

Tommy returns instead. He is sixteen but his memories and life say otherwise. His lost ten years and the other six as an assassin, leave him cold and skeptical, with reluctance and unwillingness to form any form of friendship.

Wilbur leans on the bedframe. He allows his memories to take him away.

 

 

 

 

 

“Theseus?” Wilbur laughs. “Turn around!”

Theseus turns fast. “Wilbur?”

“Smile!”

Theseus smiles. He slaps his hands on his eyes at the loud sound and bright light. “Oww,”

“Look, Theseus,”

“Wilbur,” The nine-year-old complains, dramatically. “My eyes,”

Wilbur rolls his eyes, and nudges the boy, turning the screen for him. Theseus’ eyes widen and his bright blue eyes fixate on the image in front. “That’s me,”

“It is,” Wilbur chuckles and ruffles the boy’s brown curls until the boy complains again.

“Take another, Wilbur, please!”

 

 

 

 

 

On Wilbur’s desk, there are pictures. Some hang by his walls and above his bed. The ones he keeps close are the ones of Theseus. 

Over time, his memory fades and he begins to forget the sound of the kid’s laughter and the sight of his smile. So, he keeps the photos closer so he will never forget.

(He hopes that Theseus won’t forget of him either.)

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy hears Dream’s voice.

“Today we’ll begin with weapon training. I want to see technique and good form. Sapnap will be here soon, too. If we finish quickly today, we’ll move onto weapon spars.”

Tommy hears more voices and students shuffling around the room. He stays behind the door, contemplating stepping inside.

(“You don’t have to join,” Dream reassures. “If you don’t want to. But don’t stay inside all day, you can train with Sapnap if you want.”)

Tommy ditches training with Sapnap. Sapnap is too busy watching Karl from the other side of the room, and if he needs a fighting partner, he can always use Antfrost. Which is how Tommy finds himself by Dream’s class as his mind has a battle with him, about whether he should enter the room or not.

He recalls training with Dream at The Academy. Dream is stoned-faced and hits when they slack or do not pay attention. He uses Tommy as a demonstration sometimes, and his classmates and Instructors watch as Dream flips him over and slaps him when Tommy does not perform the technique to what is expected.

“Tommy,” a voice makes him jump, which shouldn’t since he should be aware of his surroundings and sudden movements. But there is no one around. It ends up being Dream, who steps into the hallway.

Tommy blinks, caught.

“If you were trying to hide, then you didn’t do a good job,” Dream smirks. “I could hear you breathing from outside.”

Tommy’s mouth feels dry and there is something lodged in his throat. He steps around Dream, to leave, but the older grabs his shoulder, rearing him back. “Where are you going? I thought you were staying.”

“I can’t,” Tommy chokes out and gazes away.

Dream goes silent. “Tommy,” he then says. “You trust me.”

“I do,” Tommy confirms.

“I did it because I had to,” Dream stares into his eyes. “You know that,”

“Yeah,”

“I’d never hurt you,” Dream continues. “Nor would Sapnap. And if anyone does, we wouldn’t let them. Nor would you.”

Tommy ends up nodding his head.

“I’m going over some exercises, I’d appreciate your help. You always did say you were better than me with knives.”

Tommy bites the inside of his mouth. “I don’t know if I can.”

Dream presses his lips together. “I’d never hurt you,” he repeats.

But you did, Tommy thinks. Although he knows inside of him that it is unfair for him to think so. Dream had no choice, otherwise, he would face the repercussions of not being strict enough and being stripped away from his role as a classroom teacher if he was not impartial with all his students. Dream had to hurt him. He had no choice.

Tommy knows it was not a choice. Yet he still hesitates.

“Tommy,” Dream sighs and presses his eyes closed. He takes a deep breath in as if he’s trying to control himself from lashing out.

“I’m sorry–” Tommy stumbles on his words. “I know I should be teaching with you, I know.”

“I’m not angry,” Dream reassures. “I’ve been getting angry recently. I’m not angry with you, but I’m, um, trying to control it.”

“Angry?” Tommy raises his eyebrows, unsure if he is hearing correctly as Dream is known as the calm and collected one. Sapnap is the spitfire who uses his anger to dominate his opponents.

“Yeah,” Dream chuckles, but his eyes flash. “I have changed. I don’t know if it’s a good thing but since I did punch a wall through the apartment wall that one time, I’ve felt more on edge.”

“It’s a good thing,” Tommy nods his head. “Maybe not the hole thing. But the changing.” Tommy does see it in Dream’s eyes now, that he refuses to have weakness, and if anger is one of them, then he wants to let go of it. They can’t have emotion, not when emotion is uncontrollable, and assassins must be stable and regulated.  

Dream continues, “We both are changing, huh?”

“Yeah,”

“And that includes now,” He places a hand on Tommy’s shoulder, lightly. For him to know that he can step back and have space if he wants. “I’m not bound by the teaching techniques I was before, Toms. And I don’t want to force you to go in there with me, but you need to know that that will never happen again.”

“Okay,” Tommy says. “Okay.”

Dream smiles and steps back, treading back into the training room. He keeps the door open, and Tommy has the choice to come inside, or not.

Choice; it’s unfamiliar yet comforting. Once, Tommy is denied choices. Yet now, he is free with them.

He decides to join Dream, who stands by other students correcting their technique with the weapons. When Tommy steps inside, many students glance his way. Others whisper.

Dream nods his head in Tommy’s direction when he turns. “Everyone! Attention here for a moment!”

Tommy glares, Dream pretends to ignore him.

“This is Tommy,” Now all eyes are on him, but Tommy does not cower. As he is once taught, he keeps his back straight and head forward. “I expect you all to listen to him, as you do with me. He’s good with knives, better than me so I’d rely on him for any questions.”

Dream pauses. “He’s my brother,” and then he adds, “Ignore him if he threatens you with, well, anything.”

The class laughs. Tommy is not used to the sound of laughter whilst training. Nor smiling faces and for Dream to be joking around. He is right. They are changing.

Although Tommy’s mind is not on the brother comment – his mind sticks with his previous one. Because Dream compliments his knife skills, and his heart has never felt so whole before. Dream is the best; he is The Academy’s first prodigy. Their Graduate One. And Dream compliments him.

Tommy’s eyes edge to Dream, and he does not look away. Dream feels his eyes on him, and watches Tommy, his smile gone but his eyes knowing. Tommy hopes he knows how much it means for him. And for him to know what the comment does to him.

“Uh, Tommy?” A student says his name, with a questioning edge to his tone. “Do you think you can help with my technique? Tommy nods his head in response, and it takes him a while to warm up to the class. He may not admit it, but he is on edge and looking over his shoulder to Dream. Dream helps his students and guides their arms. Although he does shout, it is not aggressive and threatening.

Although when Tommy does warm-up, he isn’t afraid to show off his skills.

“You’re good,” Guy says. Tommy learns he is nineteen. “When did you start knife throwing?”

Tommy thinks. He ends up shrugging his shoulders. “I can’t remember. A while ago,”

Guy spins a knife between his fingers. “I’ve been learning for a while. Do you want to compete?”

“I hope you’re not a sore loser,” Tommy shouldn’t be so cocky, after all, his Teachers once teach him against it. (But he is.)

Guy has three knives. His skill is good, but he only gets two bullseyes. Tommy gets three.

“Next time,” Tommy grins. “That will be your eye,”

“Tommy,” Dream appears by him, suddenly. “Stop threatening my students.”

“I wasn’t threatening him,” Tommy rolls his eyes, but Dream knows better. When Dream turns his back on them, Guy speaks to Tommy.

“I’m confused, I thought you weren’t allowed to have siblings at The Academy?”

Tommy pauses. He does not allow emotion to settle across his features. “How do you know that?”

“My friend told me,” Guy’s words are slow as if he remembers he should not have admitted the words out loud. “He was, uh, from there too.”

“The Academy?”

“Yeah,” Guy pauses with regret and scratches the back of his head. “He was.”

“What’s his name?” Tommy then questions and picks up the knife from the floor. The metal glimmers under the light of the room.

“Purpled.”

Tommy does not recall a student named Purpled.

He recalls many students. Although his memories reflect their numbers with their faces as students do not usually share their names around. They know of each other’s numbers, as they wear them on their clothing, wrist, and stomach.

(Tommy has the number sixteen imprinted into him. Sixteen on his wrist, sixteen on his back. It is a part of him that will never change, a part that will remain in the past forever.)

“Do you know his number?” Tommy then questions and Guy responds with a frown.

“No, I don’t, sorry.”

At the end of training, Dream and Tommy roll up the mats and stretch. They do combat for a bit, although Tommy prefers to watch instead of attend any demonstrations. Maybe next lesson, Dream understands.

As they wipe their sweat and clean up the hall, Tommy asks the older. “Do you remember a student called Purpled?”

“No,” Dream raises an eyebrow. “Why?” He tosses a water bottle to Tommy after taking a long sip.

Tommy unscrews the cap. “Guy, the person I was talking to said he knows a student from there.”

“What?” Dream furrows his eyebrows. “The Academy?”

“Yeah,” Tommy recites their conversation, word by word from recollection.

Dream’s frown deepens. “That doesn’t make sense. No student escaped before us.” They are the first. No student dares before them. If they have, then they are found and killed. They usually do not make it past the walls though. “Unless he did, after us.”

“I assumed he was an old friend. Guy mentioned him as if they’ve known each other for a while.”

“Did Guy know his number?”

“No,”

Dream’s eyes crinkle in confusion. “No, Tommy that doesn’t make sense. If Purpled had escaped, I would have recognized his higher ability beforehand. His name should be recognizable.” Dream lingers. “Although there is something about his name that feels…”

“Maybe he changed it?”

“Maybe,” Dream stands after they finish, and the room is spotless. “Let’s go then.”

“Where?”

“We’ll talk to Quackity,” Dream responds. “Because there’s a chance that Purpled is an assassin here, and Quackity knows who he is.”

And if he is, Dream does not add but Tommy knows what his brother thinks in his mind. Then he has some explaining to do about why he didn’t tell us.

 



 

 

Theseus looks up to George.

Because although Theseus wants to be as skillful and fast as Dream, and as good as fighting as Sapnap, he admires George’s intelligence and wise words. Dream teaches Theseus everything he can to survive, and Sapnap gives him motivation and reasoning to push through lessons and exercises, but there is a part of George that Theseus wants to be.

George does not care and is blanked-faced. He remains silent and ensures no opponent can use anything against him. George is the assassin that Theseus wants to be.

When they are on missions, Theseus admires him from afar. George’s kills are clean and the weapons dance on his fingertips as he carves an ‘A’ into the thick skin of their victims. The only smile on his face is a simple smirk, but it vanishes fast as George is not cocky.

Theseus desires to impress him. He trains harder, improves his technique, and watches George’s face as he catches knives and weapons that are thrown his way. Yet, George stays still and passive. So, it is Theseus’ mission that he does not tell another soul, to impress the older.

It takes three years.

They undergo a mission, where they are taken to a smaller town in Australia, where the dirt is orange and so is the sky. Dream is initially chosen to go with George, but Theseus goes instead after Dream is on the other side of the world for a mission.

The plane there is silent, as George stares blankly out the window, as he focuses on his element. Theseus keeps his eyes closed until George gives another rundown.

“We’ll stay for three days, maximum. We have to befriend the locals and find the location of John Andy Smith. He will seem like any other person there, but before we finish anything – we’ll have to find what he’s hiding.” Smith hides money. A lot of it. George states the location four times. “In his shed. They require all of it. Then we will kill him.”

Theseus nods his head.

“Do you understand?”

“I do,” Theseus nods his head and continues when George waits. “George, I understand.”

George watches his blue eyes and turns away.

Western Australia is hot and sandy when they land. They take a car to their residence for the next couple of days and are abandoned by the Instructors that had George a phone and more technology to assist their mission. There is a reason why they do not give it to Theseus because George is valued and trusted more than he is.

Their house is small, but they cope. They do not waste time, changing into suitable clothing, and keeping protective wear under their jeans and shirts. George throws Tommy a hat, and they head to the town square afterward.

They are treated with friendliness as newcomers. George is Wayne and Theseus is Justin. They mold into their roles and pick up on the accents quickly. They are brothers from the city, and their story is that they move to the town for calmness and to start afresh.

“This town isn’t so calm,” Oliver, an old man in his late forties, laughs with a golden grin. He sits in the pub with a beer in his left hand and his phone in his right. He is friendly enough to carry on a conversation. George orders a beer to blend in, and Theseus sticks with water. “Quite the opposite, actually,”

His wife Jan, swats him with a tablecloth playfully. She runs the pub and George and Tommy exchange glances, holding a knowing that they will receive the most information from them. “Oli, don’t try and scare them off already. They just got here, for goodness sakes,”

“I’m not wrong, Jan,” Oliver laughs and downs the rest of his beer with a gulp. “Keep away from the west, they’ll do you no good.”

“Why so?” George smiles easily. It is convincing, Tommy knows that his emotion is not doubtable to an untrained eye. “We heard about a family before coming here, the Smiths? Were told to stay away,”

“Whoever told you, was right,” Oliver leans forward, nodding. “The Smith’s are no good, it’s best to stay away. If you’re looking for calmness, stay away from them for good.”

“Why?” Theseus asks, curiously. His interest can go excused for the character he plays.

“I shouldn’t tell you this,” Oliver mutters. “But the Smith’s have connections with the wrong people. They export all sorts of goods across.” Oliver tells them to not get into trouble, and that he has to depart. George and Tommy discuss under their breaths, so no one in the bar hears of their plan.

“Tomorrow,” George states. “Today, we’ll understand his schedule. We’ll have to figure out how to get around his property and get him out of his home, so we are not caught. According to Oliver, he lives alone and his family lives in homes nearby, so we only have to worry about him.”

They stop talking when a couple of men pass him. George acknowledges them, raising his glass slightly and nodding his head. He takes a sip and almost scrunches up his face.

“How does it taste?” Theseus smirks.

“Not good.”

“I have an idea,” Theseus whispers in Polish, for extra measure. “Smith’s probably expecting packages from wherever he gets them from. We’ll call him – tell him of another package under his name, and then get into his property.”

George raises his eyebrows. “Good idea,” he adds, “Justin.”

“No problem, Wayne,”

They commence their plan the following morning. George calls John Andy Smith and changes his accent into a rougher, thicker tone. “There’s a package waiting for you, Mr. Smith. I’ve been informed that it needs to be collected immediately.”

“A package?” Smith’s voice is old and grouchy. Theseus could roll his eyes at the man’s lack of patience and immediate complaint. The man grumbles under his breath, “I wasn’t told there was another package.”

“Mr. Smith?” George continues, his eyes glued to the property, as they hide in a car behind a couple of trees. “The item was sent with high importance.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” Smith grumbles. He hangs up, and the assassins remain until his car is seen driving out of the driveway and onto the road.

They enter his home, after. They are assassins, Sixteen and Graduate Two and they will complete their mission swiftly and flawlessly.

The shed is located past long grass and a wired fence. George presses the lock and gets it undone in a moment, no longer.

Inside, is empty. Not exactly empty, as shovels and equipment litter the area. Theseus surveys the surroundings, picking up a small spade.

“Don’t touch anything,” George grits, and grabs the gun from his belt. He surveys the scene and walks carefully. They expect what they are looking for, money and a lot of it. Yet they are empty-handed as the shed does not have what they want.

“Theseus,” George states again when Theseus moves around belongings. “What did I say?”

“Gogy,” Theseus mutters. “There aren’t stairs, so there has to be something obscuring any way down.”

“What?”

“The floor is hollow,” they both tap their feet on the wood. “There should be something here, to help us get downwards.” George stares at Theseus then, with something clouding his vision.

Eventually, he says, “Good idea,” and they both search. George finds it, hidden behind a metal shelf. A lever he pulls for a flight of stairs allows them to travel downstairs. They are met with stacks of money, rows, and rows that cover the surface. They smirk.

Theseus tosses the spade between his hands as George assesses the worth. “Over a million,” he announces.

“A million?” Theseus drops the tool and joins him. “No fuckin’ way.”

“Now what do we have here?”

Their plan is not flawless, not anymore. Smith appears behind, a gun pointed at them. “I don’t know who the fuck you are, or who you work for – but I want your arms in the air before I shoot.”

George steps forward, his knives flickering forward as he quickly swipes toward Smith to dismantle his gun. He is not successful, however, he manages to square Smith in the stomach and shoulder, for him to stumble backward. He loses his footing, but he still shoots.

George is fast and shows no hesitation. Smith is no match for him.

But then the gun is aimed at Theseus and time goes still. “Take a step,” Smith dares. “And I’ll shoot him.”

“You think I care if he lives?” George persists, with an eyebrow raise.

“I think you do,” Smith growls. “Drop your weapons,” his fingers edge towards the trigger. “Blood isn’t a nice sight to see,”

George glances around. Smith shoots behind Tommy, an inch beside his ear. He does not bluff, and George drops his weapons.

“And you,” Smith glares at Theseus. “Don’t try anything.” Theseus drops his weapons, too. “Now,” Smith starts. “Who do you work for? I want fucking names.”

“You would not have heard of us,” George smirks.

“Considering I am the one with the gun, I suggest elaborating.”

“The Academy,” George says.

“I can’t say I’ve heard of you,”

“Well, you’re about to,” George says and Tommy charges towards Smith, his feet sliding as he pulls for Smith’s arm, to pull him backward. He shoves him to the side and kicks his upper arm for the gun to fly forward. George shouts at Theseus, to keep him away from the weapons littered on the ground, as George jumps on Smith to shove his head into the floor.

Smith fights back, clawing into Theseus’ skin and throwing him to the side. Theseus knees him and grabs the top of his head, to slam him into the floorboard. Smith growls, grabbing Theseus’ leg, refusing to let go, until he stamps on his side. Smith pulls his shirt, for Theseus to fall on the ground, and he is out of breath for a moment and wind. It is not enough to keep the assassin down, as Theseus grabs the spade that he has discarded on the floor, to hit him on the head. He raises his arms and Smith flinches as the metal collides with his skull. Smith groans and uses his last strength to reach for his gun which is situated to his right.

George takes a step and presses his shoe against it. He raises his gun and shoots. Smith’s eyes roll back.

The two boys collapse on the floor as the adrenaline leaves both of them.

“Well done,” George nods his head, through their heavy pants. “Well done, Theseus,”

“You did it,” Theseus responds. George had killed him. He had done the dirty work and will see his face in his dreams.

“You came up with the plan, you located the money. I’d be proud to call you our fourth.”

They return with blood-stained cash and tired eyes. George wraps his arm around Theseus’ shoulder before they are collected. He tells him again that he is proud. Theseus does not think he will ever forget.

 

 

 

 

 

Sapnap still dreams of fire and flame.

He wakes up angry and he falls asleep exhausted from what life has become. He lives with regret and grief. He blames himself for what he has done to George, and what he has done to his family.

(Dream will never be able to spend another moment with his partner. Tommy will never speak to his mentor – his brother - again.)

The fury keeps Sapnap alive, it fuels his persistence for revenge.

He is ready to take The Academy down. Blades rotate between his fingers, and he throws them as he leaps. He pins the targets down and he stands again, blood pumping and his heart racing. He will avenge George, and he will keep his family protected. So, he trains and fights and lets the light ignite inside of him.

The flames have never felt so close, they have never felt so hot.

 

Sapnap will avenge George and protect his family. Even if it is the last thing he does.

Chapter Text

It is not common for Purpled to receive phone calls from someone, who is not Punz.

The phone flashes with the name ‘Guy’ and Purpled sighs, picking up.

Guy is a person he meets through his brother. Punz pushes him to talk to other agents at Las Nevadas, as Purpled is present on the grounds for hours every week. They are not friends. Purpled does not make friends. (Although Punz does make him give his phone number away.)

Purpled waits for Guy to respond first.

“I’m sorry,” the man says after a beat of hesitation.

Purpled rolls his eyes and sits up from his bed. “What did you do this time?” He huffs, fatigue present in his morning voice.

“Did you just wake up?” Guy asks incredulously. “It’s the afternoon, dude.”

“You’re not my father,” Purpled snaps. He is fully aware of the time after checking the clock on his phone. He’s tired from training the previous day. (The freedom sometimes confuses him, even if it has been years since he’s escaped. Punz doesn’t mind when he sleeps or wakes up. As long as he gets to school on time and completes his daytime responsibilities, he’s a free man.)

“Ok, yeah,” Guy mutters.

“Spit it out.”

“I met someone from The Academy. And I told them I knew you–”

Purpled scrambles out of bed and he screams. “What the fuck?”

“Hear me out!”

“Fuck,” Purpled groans and presses his eyes shut. “Guy, do you know how fucking stupid, you are? How fucking stupid?” He regrets disclosing his past to anyone. His mind spins with thoughts, as he realizes: they've finally found him. 

“Purpled!” Guy shouts, interrupting. “They escaped too,”

Purpled’s heart stops.

“What?” His voice is slow and quiet. Guy gulps. He may be three years younger, but he knows Guy fears him.

(He is from The Academy, after all.)

“I don’t know the details, but they’re working with Quackity to take down The Academy. Did Punz not tell you?”

“No.” Purpled swallows thickly. “No, he didn’t.”

Punz is busy guarding for Quackity. When they do speak, it’s never about work. Although, Purpled would have expected Punz to tell him this.

“His name is Tommy; he didn’t recognize your name. Do you know him?”

Purpled does not know of a Tommy.

“What number is he?”

What?” Purpled hears his confusion.

“We’re assigned a number,” Purpled states calmly, even though he is anything but. “Did he tell you, his number? It’s on his wrist.”

Ohh,” Guy exclaims with a chuckle. “He had asked for your number. I thought he was asking for your phone number,”

Purpled blinks. “Why would he want that?”

“I don’t know!”

“Do you know how old he is, then?”

“He’s sixteen.” So, he is a year younger. Although they do not go around telling each other their names, Purpled knows many. He knows why Tommy does not know his name – as he’s changed his. Maybe, Tommy’s changed his too.

“He has an older brother as well. He’s our mentor, and he escaped too. His name is, uh, Dream.”

Purpled reacts almost immediately. When he does, his heart pummels.

“Did you say Dream?”

“Yeah, why?”

Purpled may go into a state of panic. But he must compose himself and figure out a solution. Dream is here to get him – why would he have escaped? He is The Academy’s highest performing assassin; he is who the students must become. Dream is unbeatable and valued. He is enough to survive The Academy. There is no reason for him to escape – no single reason.

Dream is here to find him. Dream is here to kill him.

The longer he thinks about it, the longer it does not make sense.

“Purpled?” Guy questions. “I’m sorry for telling him, Tommy can be pretty uh, intimidating? You should join us again; they need as many agents as possible to take the agency down.”

Purpled freezes. They’re taking it down?

“I have to go, dude. I’m sorry again, I’ll speak later,” The phone call cuts, and Purpled drops it on the floor.

Dream escapes. Guy says that they are working with Quackity.

Purpled thinks for longer, and it makes more sense. Although his heart still races at the thought of seeing Dream, he knows that he is not here for him. He is here for The Academy. And Punz must know of him – so he’s safe for now.

Purpled wonders to himself, that if Dream is here, then maybe Sapnap is too. Sapnap.

Purpled grabs his phone and rushes to find Punz.

 

 

 

 

 

“Gray,” Sapnap chuckles. Sometimes, his eyes look like orange fire. “You need to increase your defense, you can’t just attack,”

“Why not?” He swings and Sapnap stumbles.

“Because then, this will happen.” A moment later, Sapnap finds his unguarded side and flips him. He crashes down onto the mats with a loud thud. He groans when Sapnap laughs.

“Told you.”

“I hate it when you say that,”

“So maybe listen to me more,” Sapnap rolls his eyes and helps him up. He is about to continue speaking when they both feel eyes on them. Twisting to the door of the training hall, they see Dream staring blankly.

“Dream!” Sapnap waves and calls over. Gray tenses. It’s not that he doesn’t like Dream, but he is tough and strict, and will likely tell the Teachers if he is out of line. Although Dream is Sapnap’s associate – they complete missions together as they are Graduates. Two of the highest.

“Sapnap,” Dream nods his head and peers at him. “Twenty-nine.”

“Gray,” Sapnap corrects his name, and Gray gulps. If Dream knows there is a connection – a friendship, then Gray will face the consequences. “You can call him that,”

“A word, Sapnap?” Dream frowns and Sapnap nods his head, patting Gray’s shoulder as he leaves the room.

He hears them when he stretches. “What the fuck are you doing, Sapnap?”

“Nothing, man.”

“Don’t do anything you’ll regret, I’ve told you.”

“I know, I know. But this kid’s got potential, Dream. I see it,”

“I told you to not do something you regret.”

Gray turns away when Sapnap returns. “Sorry ‘bout that. Do you want to go over what we did in class, again?”

“I heard you,” Gray stands up and faces the Graduate. “I have potential?”

Sapnap’s forehead creases. “Don’t listen to our conversations,” but his voice is not threatening. “You do. I think you can be our fourth, Gray. I see it in you.”

“You do?”

Sapnap grins and covers his expression in a second, into boldness. “Okay, back to training.”                                                                                                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

“Where’s Quackity?” Dream barges into the training hall, Tommy on his tail. They go to Big Q’s office, which is left empty. Punz is not present, so they find Karl and Sapnap instead.

Tommy swiftly shields his eyes when they find two figures by the mats. “Fuck!” He slaps his eyes closed. He did not want to see an image of Karl and his brother making out – certainly not on his agenda.

“Sapnap,” Dream groans and Tommy peeks through his fingers to see red, flustered faces. “Where’s Quackity?”

“How would I know?” Sapnap groans and whispers in Karl’s ear. Dream and Tommy can both hear him, because their hearing is irregular, as he apologizes.

“You should be apologizing to me,” Tommy groans, hearing his words.

“Shut up, Tommy.”

“Shut up, Sapnap.”

Dream rubs his temple. “Karl, do you know where Quackity may be? He isn’t in his office.”

Karl raises his eyebrows. “Why do you need him?”

Dream and Tommy swap expressions. “Do you know a person called Purpled?”

Karl furrows his eyebrows, and Sapnap interrupts. “Who’s that?”

“A person from The Academy,” Dream frowns. “He’s an assassin here, which Quackity forgot to inform us about – for whatever reason that is.”

“What?” Sapnap moves closer to them with Karl behind. “We’re talking about the same Academy, aren’t we?”

“What other one would we talking about?” Tommy rolls his eyes. Sapnap scoffs and pulls a face at him.

“One of the students in my class knew him. Apparently, he escaped as well,”

“I don’t remember anyone called Purpled,” Sapnap mutters. “Not one who escaped, anyway.”

“Maybe he escaped before you guys did?” Karl offers. “A while ago?”

Sapnap and Dream look over at each other, and Sapnap shakes his head. “We would still know. I have a feeling he’s younger if he’s friends with someone from one of Dream’s classes. The agents he teaches are younger.”

“That’s right,” Dream confirms. “There’s a reason why Quackity kept it from us, then.”

“Wait,” Sapnap gulps. “Purpled?”

“Yeah?”

“That name is recognizable,” Sapnap hesitates. “I remember it.”

They all have good memories. (Tommy maybe less, due to the testing and disappearing faces from his past – but they’ve returned so we wouldn’t say his recollection is completely worse.) But Sapnap’s has always been the best.

“Where from?” Dream folds his arms.

“I’m not sure,”

They walk back to Quackity’s office as Sapnap attempts to remember. “I remember someone saying the name,” he says. “I don’t know when or who though,” They arrive at Quackity’s office who still isn’t present. They stay here because Quackity will return soon enough and if Sapnap sits down, then he may remember faster.

Tommy bolts for Quackity’s spinning chair when they enter. Yet he is stopped by Dream he clutches the back of his shirt. “Tommy,” Tommy can almost hear his eyes roll.

“Dream,” Tommy mocks.

“Sit on the couch,” Tommy sighs and sits by Karl and Sapnap. Sapnap leans back and stares at the roof while Karl holds his hands. Tommy knows they’re dating, but it’s almost strange to see Sapnap so close with someone else who isn’t Dream, George, and well, himself. Sapnap leans into the touch and holds, and Tommy recalls the countless lessons Sapnap was strict of a lack of connection and care to survive.

He did end up caring. They did end up becoming brothers.

But it had taken a while. So, Tommy’s glad because he knows Dream and him are changing, as well as Sapnap.

“We were in here,” Sapnap suddenly blurts. “Dream, you had left the room after you were getting angry.”

Dream squints his eyes, slowly remembering.

“You had punched Quackity, something to do with Phil,”

“Sapnap,” Dream growls. “Get along with it,”

“This is helping me!” Sapnap squawks as Dream reaches over to punch him, and Tommy laughs. Dream turns to him and smiles lightly.

“After, we had asked Punz if he had any advice,” Sapnap then says, and his words become softer and slower.

“I think I remember this,” Tommy confirms, but Karl is left clueless. “What did he say?”

“I don’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure he mentioned his brother’s name being Purpled.”

“Punz?” Karl questions. “Are you sure?”

Sapnap hesitates. “Yeah, I think I am.” Tommy doesn