Eight Months Ago…
With a loud groan, Wilbur slowly cracks open tired eyes, his entire body burning like it's on fire, each and every limb feeling too heavy to move even the slightest bit.
It takes a few moments for his vision to focus, but once it does he's met with unfamiliar surroundings, his heart leaping into his throat when he sees fancy tapestries covering the purple walls of the room, plush carpet on the floor below him and the comfiest bed he's ever laid on beneath him.
"What the fuck," Wilbur mutters under his breath, wondering why the hell it looks like he woke up in a fucking mansion, especially since the last thing he remembers is Tommy and him desperately scrounging the woods for food, both of them on the brink of starving.
Before Wilbur can panic anymore, the door to the room slowly opens and in pokes Tommy's head, his face lacking the usual layers of dirt and grime, the sight of his little brother making him smile weakly.
"Wilby, you're awake!" Tommy cheers as he rushes over to the bed, just barely refraining from flinging himself at his brother in a tight hug. "Don't you fucking do that again!"
"What'd I do?" Wilbur softly asks, his words slightly slurred together, his tongue feeling as heavy as lead, much like the rest of his body.
"You took those hunters attention off me, and then they fucked you up real bad," Tommy mutters with an annoyed huff, but he can't help but be thankful Wil did that, especially since one of those hunters had been coming toward his wings with a dagger, and nothing good could come from that.
"Explains why I feel like shit," Wilbur mumbles as his eyes slip shut again, feeling far too heavy, but also kinda floaty, to keep them open.
Even though Tommy wants to keep talking, especially since his brother has been asleep for days, he can see the bone-deep tiredness and pain on Wil's face, the sight causing him to say in an uncharacteristically soft voice, "Get some sleep, Wil. I'll stay here with you."
Without needing to be told twice, Wilbur drifts off to sleep in a few moments, his battered body desperately needing the rest.
The next time Wilbur wakes up, it's to the sound of hushed voices speaking, one of them belonging to Tommy, and the other from a voice he's never heard before.
"Toms?" Wilbur groggily calls out, too tired to open his eyes, instead choosing to just keep laying in the cushy bed without moving a muscle.
"Hey, Wil," Tommy greets with a small smile as he stands up from the chair he was sitting in on the other side of the room, instead moving to the foot of the bed. "How you feeling, Big Man?"
"Shitty," Wilbur mumbles, the word partially swallowed by the pillow pressed against his cheek, his response causing both Tommy and Dream to chuckle.
After hearing that other person laugh, once again reminding Wil that some fucking stranger was in here while he slept, he questions, "Who that?"
"Oh, that's Dream!" Tommy explains with a grin, having gotten much closer to Dream in the days he waited for Wilbur to finally wake up. "He's fucking awesome! He totally saved your ass from those hunters, you should've seen the way he killed all five of them in a second and then pulled you away to safety. It was so fucking badass!"
While most of Tommy's words simply go over his head, too exhausted to properly process them, Wilbur understands that Dream's the reason why he's still alive and, instead of being trapped in a cage by those hunters, he's resting in a nice, soft bed.
So, with a shaky little smile, Wilbur tiredly yet sincerely says, "Thanks, Dream."
"You're welcome," Dream replies without hesitation, a small, sad smile slipping onto his features as he continues, "I'm glad I could help you guys out there. Hunters fucking suck."
"Damn right they do," Tommy agrees without hesitation, his words drawing a soft chuckle out of Dream and a small smile from Wil.
Even though Wilbur wants to keep talking, wants to ask more about their mysterious savior, exhaustion tugs him back into the world of unconsciousness, far too hurt and tired to stay awake any longer.
A few days later, Wilbur wakes up again feeling much stronger than he has lately, most of his pain fading into a dull thrumm rather than the constant agony it was before.
Slowly, Wilbur sits up, his body protesting the movement, but he pushes past anyway, knowing that they have to get out of here, and fast.
He doesn't know what this Dream guy wants or why the hell he saved them, but Wil isn't gonna stick around long enough to find out.
With trembling, shaky legs, Wilbur stands up, his toes sinking into the plush carpet, the soft material making him want to curl up and lay down again, but he pushes that feeling aside, knowing that they need to escape before Dream hurts them too.
Wilbur takes an unsteady step forward, then immediately falls flat on his face, too weak to keep himself upright for more than a few seconds, let alone long enough to walk.
As he hits the floor, despite it being soft carpet, a choked scream tears through his throat, the harsh landing creating friction across many of the burns littering his skin, the bandages doing little to protect him against falling like that.
While feeling stupid and helpless, Wilbur tries to push himself off the ground, but his arms don't comply, all his strength already spent and his wrists aching terribly from the chains that the hunters had put on him, which he realizes are somehow gone now.
"Tommy!" Wilbur shouts as a few tears begin to slip from his eyes, feeling absolutely pathetic that he has to call for his little brother to pick him up off the ground, but he'd rather that than let Dream see him like this and take advantage of his vulnerability.
A few moments later, the door opens, relief flooding him only to be snuffed out a second later when a man with emerald-green eyes, dirty blonde hair, dark pants and boots, and a lime-green hoodie steps inside, the sight telling him that this must be Dream.
Dream's alone with him in this room, and he's stuck on the floor, tears steadily leaking from his eyes while he's helpless to stop it, just like how he's unable to stand up.
"Here, let's get you back on the bed," Dream says in a low, soothing tone, frowning at the way Wilbur flinches violently when he tries to step closer to the man.
"Get the fuck away from me," Wilbur growls, but he sounds much less fierce when half his face is smushed against the carpet, tears still rapidly cascading down his cheeks.
"Hey, it's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you," Dream softly says as he sits down a few blocks away from Wilbur, raising his gloved hands in a placating gesture. "I just want to help you."
With a bitter laugh that speaks from experience, Wilbur firmly says, "No, you really don't. I've seen this before. You act all nice at first, and then the pain is always worse when you turn out to be cruel."
Then, as Wilbur closes his eyes against the still falling tears, he whispers in a resigned, defeated tone, "If you want someone to hurt, please, just do it to me. Don't hurt Tommy, he's still just a kid. Please."
While feeling his heart absolutely shatter at Wilbur's words, Dream closes the distance between them, carefully helping Wil sit up without agitating any of his burn wounds.
Wilbur's body is tense, waiting for Dream to start hitting him at any moment, but the man doesn't strike him. Instead, he finds himself pressed against Dream's chest, warm, comforting arms wrapped around him in a hug.
And, even though he doesn't trust Dream for a single second, Wilbur instantly slumps into his embrace, the hug reminding him of when his dad gave him such wonderful hugs, before he was captured by hybrid hunters last month; even though they've been looking for their father and his best friend almost non-stop, he and Tommy haven't found any sign of either of them, their hopes, and chances of surviving on their own, diminishing each day that their family spends apart.
After a few moments of just sitting in silence as they continue hugging, Dream softly and sincerely murmurs, "I promise you that you two are safe here. We're in the Kinoko Kingdom Palace, which is the safest place for hybrids. No one will hurt you here, but especially not me."
"Why should I believe you?" Wilbur asks in a low, weak tone, his mind reeling over the thought of being inside the Palace, especially since Tommy has always dreamed of coming here.
"I don't expect you to yet," Dream replies without hesitation, knowing that, if he's able to gain their trust, it'll definitely take a while. "If you stick around though, I promise you and Tommy will be taken care of. We have plenty of food, clothes, rooms, and if there's anything else you need we'd find a way to get it for you."
"That sounds nice," Wilbur can't help but mutter, unable to deny that it would be great if they didn't have to fight to survive each day, this last month of the two fending for themselves having been absolute hell.
Finally, in a firm, unwavering tone, Wilbur states, "I'll stay on one condition: you help me find our father and his best friend. They were captured by hunters about a month ago and we haven't been able to find them."
"Of course, I'll make sure you find them, no matter how long it takes," Dream adamantly promises without hesitation, his words causing a huge weight to lift from Wilbur's chest.
He still doesn't trust Dream, but the thought of not being alone anymore, the thought of it not being him and Tommy against the world, brings Wil tremendous relief.
"Thank you," Wilbur sincerely whispers as he rests his head against Dream's chest, his ear pressed over the kind man's heart.
Instead of saying anything in response, Dream just holds him a little closer, vowing to himself that, no matter what it takes, he'll protect them and help reunite their family, something that still holds true many months later.