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glory falls

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Dream’s fall from grace is messy, quick, and very, very public.

It starts when Sapnap shakes him awake way too early in the morning, and Dream, tangled in his sheets, flails as Sapnap all but drags him out of bed.

“Dream, you gotta wake up, man,” Sapnap says urgently. He’s only got his black long-sleeve on, still in his boxers, and his hair is messy and uncombed. His headband is nowhere to be seen. “I’m not kidding, wake the fuck up.”

“Sap…?” Dream asks groggily. There’s dry drool on his chin, and he scrubs it with the back of his hand. “It’s… The fuck? It’s like, 4 a.m.”

“I know.” Sapnap’s voice is grim in a way that it never is. “But this can’t wait. You have to see this.”

His tone is serious enough to finally register in Dream’s brain, and so he sits upright.

“Show me,” he says and gets off the bed.

He follows Sapnap down the stairs of their shared house. George is already seated in the kitchen, face pale as he taps his fingers anxiously against the countertop.

“Thank Prime,” George says when he sees them, jumping to his feet. “They’re already on their way.”

Who’s on their way?” Dream asks. “Guys, what—What’s going on?”

George and Sapnap exchange a long, heavy glance that has Dream’s heart itself jamming into his throat. Then George sighs and passes over a piece of paper.

“This was issued just now,” George says flatly. “All across the server.”

Dream glances down and—

That’s him. His face, his smile, his axe strapped to his back, and—

A warrant for arrest. A bounty for his head. Dead or alive.

“What,” Dream says, or rather, tries to say. The word gets stuck in his throat, and he has to clear it several times before he can get it out. “What is this?”

“They’re saying you committed treason,” Sapnap growls. His fists are clenched at his side, embers sparking. Dream eyes him warily, but Sapnap takes a deep breath and reels his temper back in before he can burn their house down. “Apparently, you’ve abused your status as champion to come up with a plan on how to incite rebellion, and soon you’re going to try and overthrow the king.”

“That makes no sense,” Dream says. He’s in shock, he thinks, because his mouth seems to be moving independently of his brain. “Why would I want to overthrow the king? I—I’ve only been champion for a few months now. All of my matches have been public. The freaking paparazzi follow my every move!”

“Obviously, but—”

“When would I even have time?” Dream asks, frustrated. “I don’t even know who the king’s heirs are or—or where they are! I don’t want to be king, it makes no sense!”

“Dream, we know!

George’s shout stuns Dream into silence, and he reels back as George comes around the kitchen counter. His mouth is set, and his eyes are hard.

“We know,” George repeats. “But this—For some reason the king wants you gone, Dream. And he’s going to chase you across the entire server if he has to.”

The words fall like a judge’s anvil.

“Okay,” Dream says to himself. He feels reality slipping in and out of his fingers, and he punches himself in the thigh. The pain shocks him back to awareness. He can’t afford to lose focus now.

“Okay,” he says aloud again. The pieces are settling into place, and they form a picture that he really does not like. “So now—I need to go.”

Sapnap looks guilty as he says, “The guards are already on their way. Bad is stalling them.”

Dream had been wondering where their older brother figure was.

“I need to go now,” he amends.

Mentally, he counts off the supplies he needs. His clothes, some food, weapons… Where can he run to? If there’s been a server-wide warrant, he can’t trust any civilians to shelter him. He’s popular, sure, but not enough to go against the king’s wrath. Besides, it’s not like he has any true friends beyond the ones right here with him. For half a second, Dream considers going to the Nether and then dismisses the idea in the same breath. There’s a reason it’s forbidden to travel there. Capable as he might be, Dream doubts he’d be able to survive its extreme conditions. Maybe the forest? They could potentially hide there if—

A thought strikes him, and all of Dream’s planning skids to a halt.

“You can’t come with me,” he states.

George and Sapnap don’t even have to say anything. Their expressions answer for them, guilt and protectiveness splitting their faces in two.

“A group of three is more noticeable than one,” George says quietly, “And they’d know that we’re your weak points.”

“That’s—” This is a downside that Dream hadn’t thought of when he vowed to bring his childhood friends along with him on his journey to fame. “They’ll use you against me here.”

“They haven’t accused us of anything,” Sapnap says, face set. There are no flames, but Dream can sense the anger simmering beneath his best friend’s skin. “They can’t do anything but question us and suspect us of being accomplices.”

“We’ll keep them off your scent,” George adds. He smiles, a thin wavering thing. “Who knows. If we’re convincing enough, they might send us after you. Just like old times.”

Dream can’t stop the snort that escapes him.

“That would be a sight,” he says sarcastically. Before he can say more, a rustle catches his ear, and he whips around. “What was that?”

Sapnap and George tense immediately, both reaching for their weapons. George creeps over to the window and peeks out briefly before withdrawing to the center of the room.

“Soldiers,” he says, face drawn and tense. “Dream, there’s no time. You have to go. Now.

Dream swears under his breath.

Scrambling across the room, he grabs his bag and fills it with supplies. Bread, flint and stone, some gold—

He pauses when he comes to his netherite axe, Nightmare. He’s used it for years, crafted it himself with painstaking attention to each detail. It molds itself to the palm of his hand, and the heft of it is a reassuring weight. This axe has seen him through the worst trials and the greatest victories.

It’s also one of Dream’s most distinctive trademarks.

Closing his eyes, Dream drops the axe.

“I can’t take Nightmare,” he says, voice heavy with regret. “It makes me too much of a target.”

“But—” Sapnap starts to protest before George shushes him and steps forwards.

“We’ll take care of it for you,” George promises. His eyes are sharp as he says, “You just stay safe until we get this all cleared up.”

“I will,” Dream says. “I will.”

George leans in, hesitates, then wraps Dream in a brief but tight hug as he says, “You better go.”

Dream sways in place. He wants to lean into George’s touch, but there’s no time, so he says, “George—”

“Dream,” George interrupts. His eyes are flinty as he pulls out his bow, one hand resting on his quiver. “Go.

So Dream, server champion, renowned fighter, and wanted criminal runs from his own house in the dead of night as the kingdom’s armies kick his doors down.

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Months Later

“Where did he go? Find him!”

Dream holds his breath as armored feet trample through the underbrush. He’s hiding in the treetops, branches obscuring his figure as he looks down at the soldiers chasing him. They’re more persistent than the last group; they’ve been on his tail since a few villages back, and try as he might, Dream hasn’t been able to shake them.

He listens as they disperse into the forest, and one shouts before the rest clamor to follow him. They must have found the false trail that he laid then. Good.

Dropping down, Dream winces as a small twig cracks beneath his leather soles. He waits with bated breath to see if anyone has heard, adjusting his mask. He’d made it himself in a moment of paranoia when freshly made fugitive. Something about it’s blank smile reassures him, makes him feel like less people can truly see who he is. He’s still not used to its weight, but keeps one hand on it as he listens closely.

There’s no response. The sound of the soldiers fades further into the distance, and Dream allows himself a quiet moment of relief.

Then, his gaze sharpens, and he heads out.

Sneaking through forests has become depressingly familiar in the past months that he’s been on the run. Dream has never been a slouch when it comes to roughing it, but his few glorious months as the server's champion, living in relative comfort, have definitely softened him. There had been a sharp learning curve as Dream found himself expecting blows to glance off diamond armor only to realize that he didn’t have that anymore, diving out of the way at the last minute to avoid a messy end.

Luckily, Dream has always been a fast learner. Especially when the only other option is death.

Now, more often than not, Dream finds himself continually scrounging for supplies to last him the next confrontation with his hunters. The shoddy wooden armor he can construct from planks isn’t quality enough for him to lug around, and it’s easier to just make it and break it as needed.

Make up then break up, he hears Sapnap say jokingly, and Dream chuckles softly, shaking his head before the pang of homesickness stabs him between the ribs.

He misses his friends.

Something snaps behind him, and Dream whirls around, hand going to the sword at his side. He wishes he had an axe, but his moves would give him away immediately to anyone who had been a fan, and, well, not to brag, but Dream had a lot of fans.

At least, he did before he was declared a criminal and sentenced to a serverwide manhunt.

Hand on the hilt, Dream eyes his surroundings warily. It hadn’t sounded like iron armor, no, the snap was too light for that. Still, Dream has quickly learned that letting his guard down will only get him killed, so he strains his ears, waiting.

Sure enough, he hears that same sound again, closer this time. Before he can think, Dream draws his sword and points it in that direction. Then, his brain catches up with his actions, and he blinks.

There’s a kid on the other side of his blade.

“Who are you?” he demands.

“Who are you?” the kid demands brashly. There are twigs sticking out of his blond hair, and his blue eyes are wide as he goes cross-eyed staring down the point of Dream’s sword. “Holy shit, is that real?”

“You don’t recognize me?” Dream asks as his mind whirls. Is this a trick? Have the soldiers sunk so low as to send out a kid as some kind of bait?

“Should I?” the kid fires back. His red and white shirt is stained to hell and back. “You’re a fucking arrogant prick, aren’t you?”

“You really don’t know who I am,” Dream states. There’s no recognition in the kid’s angry eyes, and he looks more pissed than shocked that he’s run into the highest bounty in the kingdom.

A few months ago, Dream wouldn’t have believed it. His rise to champion status had been swift, and he overshot the rest of his rivals by a longshot to claim the abandoned position with all eyes on him. With his distinctive speed and easy smile, Dream had quickly won the citizens over. He hadn’t been able to go anywhere while wearing his signature green outfit and netherite axe slung over his back, at least not without getting mobbed.

To be fair to this kid, though, Dream doesn’t recognize himself much nowadays. He’s gotten rid of the green hoodie (too distinctive), grown out his hair (now in a messy ponytail half the time), and taken to wearing a mask to hide his face.

The porcelain smiley face doesn’t sit that comfortably against his skin yet and Dream finds himself tugging on it more often than not. Still, it offers some semblance of anonymity, and Dream is grateful for it.

“I already said I didn’t. What, are you deaf?” The kid spits to the side as he glares down Dream’s sword. “Put that fucking thing down, you’ll hurt someone with it.”

“That’s kind of the point of a sword, kid,” Dream says dryly. “What are you doing out here? Where are your parents?”

The kid juts his chin out.

“Don’t have any,” he says.

An orphan. Common enough around these parts.

“Other family? Friends?” Dream tries.

“Wil—None that matter,” the kid hisses, and finally, there’s some sign of weakness as his shoulders hunch minutely forward.

“So there is someone,” Dream concludes.

“It’s none of your fucking business, bitch!” the kid erupts. “Now let me go, idiot. You really gonna hurt a child?”

“No!” Dream says, because he would never, no matter how annoying the kid is. “Look, it’s not safe for you to be around here. You need to leave.”

“Well, I would, but there’s some fucking freak pointing a sword at me, innit?”

This kid has a sailor’s mouth, Dream thinks despairingly and turns his eyes toward the sky. What has he done to deserve getting cursed out?

Suddenly, his gut twists, and Dream cranes his neck as he tries to listen for his hunters. He’s outpaced them by quite a bit, but they’ve gotten better the past few months. Either the king has been sending out stronger bounty hunters, or the survivors have gone back with reports about Dream’s techniques. One of them had almost gotten the drop on him a few days ago, and Dream had narrowly escaped while clutching his wounded arm.

His shoulder still throbs from it.

“I can’t drop the sword,” Dream tells the kid. “But you need to leave if you don’t want to get hurt.”

“Why?” the kid asks, eyes bright. “You’re wearing a mask and asked me if I recognized you… Are you some kind of criminal? A murderer?”

He sounds disturbingly fascinated by the possibility.

“Something like that,” Dream concedes. “Just… Forget you saw me. Go back to wherever you came from.”

“Can’t,” the kid says, jaw set in a stubborn clench. “Got nowhere to go.”

That makes Dream look, really look.

When he does, he sees signs that he hadn’t noticed earlier: the scowl painted on the kid’s face, making him look older than his skinny frame suggests; the defiant jut of his chin; the grime smeared along his hollow cheeks.

It reminds him too much of another dirt-poor blond kid who grew up staring at slivers of sky between cramped alleyways, who had seen the glittering crowns adorning champions’ brows and vowed to take their place someday.

Fuck.

“What’s your name?” Dream asks.

“Tommy,” the kid says, and he really shouldn’t be giving his name out that easily, but Dream is just relieved that he doesn’t have to call him ‘kid’ anymore. “What’s yours?”

“Dream,” Dream says. “Tommy, can you run?”

The kid—Tommy blinks, frowns even more deeply, and says, “Is that supposed to be a trick question? Of course I can run, you dipshit—”

“Good,” Dream interrupts. “Get ready.”

And then the bushes erupt with soldiers.

Dream explodes into motion. He sweeps Tommy behind him (and hopefully out of the way) with one movement and blocks an incoming blow, biting back a shout as the pressure jars his wounded shoulder. Straining under the weight for a second, Dream lets his body go lax and dodges to the side as the soldier’s axe comes swinging down. The axehead buries itself in the ground and Dream takes the chance to kick the soldier’s legs out from under him.

Grabbing the axe, Dream yanks it out of the ground and brandishes it. Another soldier charges forward with a yell, and Dream narrows his eyes. There’s a chink in the armor, right where the helmet and chestplate are supposed to connect…

He strikes, and blood sprays.

Dream forces himself not to wince as the soldier collapses in front of him, his blood sliding down Dream’s mask. That’s definitely not earning points in his favor, but Dream can’t afford to go easy. Not when they want him dead for a crime he didn’t commit.

So Dream turns and keeps fighting.

It’s not a fair fight at all. Dream is outnumbered and exhausted from all the running he did before. He can feel himself weakening rapidly, but there’s no time to rest. He grits his teeth and shoves a soldier off of him, banging their foreheads together. His mask protects him, but the force knocks the other guy out.

Panting, Dream turns and sees Tommy wrestling with another soldier some distance away. Prime, he’d almost forgotten about the kid.

Tommy seems to be holding his ground though, dodging between strikes as the soldier lumbers towards him. Dream can see right away that the soldier is hesitating, pulling his punches. He’s probably confused at what a random kid is doing in the middle of the woods with the former champion. He might even be comparing him to his own kid at home, if he has any. Maybe a younger brother.

It’s nice of the soldier to not aim to kill Tommy. Kind, even.

Too bad for him—Dream doesn’t have time for kindness. Not anymore.

Sneaking up behind the soldier, Dream drops his axe and grabs his neck. He twists it in one quick, efficient movement, and the soldier drops like a stone.

Tommy gapes at him, but Dream doesn’t waste time trying to explain himself. Instead, he grabs the back of Tommy’s shirt and pulls him toward him.

“We’re going,” he grits out, glancing back over his shoulder to see the decimated squad regathering. One of them, the captain, points and shouts something in their direction. “Time to run.”

Then he’s hauling Tommy over his shoulder, ignoring his protests, and running.

 

 

 

 

Dream runs until the forest and the hunters are far, far behind him. Tommy’s skinny frame bangs against his shoulders, but he’s smart enough not to struggle. Once Dream judges that they’ve put enough distance between them, he dumps Tommy on the ground.

“Come on,” he demands. “We have to keep going.”

“Fuck, man,” Tommy swears as he clambers to his feet. “I’m not a sack of potatoes! That hurt!”

“Save your breath,” Dream says and pushes Tommy forward. “Let’s go.”

They run until they hit a desert plain, sand spraying beneath their feet. Dream’s feet are burning through his leather soles, and it feels like the heat has reached into him and is piercing through his bones, but he forces himself on. Leather is the best he can get without iron, and it makes less sound. He’ll take the pain.

Eventually, they come across a desert temple, and Dream pushes Tommy back.

“Stay here,” he orders, peeking his head around the corner.

“When are you going to—”

“Shh!” Dream hisses. When he’s confident that Tommy isn’t going to barge recklessly in and set off the TNT lurking beneath the floor, Dream cautiously steps in. He does a brief sweep, confirms that it’s clear, and nods. “You can come in now,” he calls.

Tommy steps in after him, brushing sand off his shirt.

“The fuck is this?” he asks, looking around.

“A desert temple,” Dream replies. He opens a chest in the corner of the room, making a small sound of satisfaction. Two golden apples. Not bad. He snatches them up and pockets them. He’ll need them later. “Normally abandoned by ancient villagers, but they’re sanctuaries in the desert. A blessing for people lost in the wilderness.”

“Or people on the run,” Tommy says, slanting Dream a wary glance. It seems like his self-preservation instincts are finally kicking in. Good. “Who are you?”

“I told you already,” Dream says. He sits cross-legged on the ground and pulls out his water flask, turning to the side as he raises his mask to take a long sip, melting in relief as the water quenches his thirst. “I’m Dream.”

He sees the way Tommy is longingly eyeing the flask and passes it over. Tommy snatches it with greedy hands and starts chugging, water spilling over his chin. Dream winces. He’s going to have to find enough water for two people now.

“Okay, Dream,” Tommy says, wiping his face with a grimy sleeve. “Why did you take me with you?”

That’s… a surprisingly hard question to answer. If he’s being honest, Dream isn’t entirely sure himself. He chews his lip, glad that Tommy can’t see his conflicted expression behind the mask.

“I don’t know, Tommy,” Dream says, placing equal emphasis on Tommy’s name. “Why did you want to come?”

Tommy pouts and crosses his arms. “Fair enough,” he says grudgingly.

They sit in silence for a few moments. Tommy hands the water skein back, and Dream takes it. It’s lighter now. They’ll need to find a river soon.

“Hungry?” he asks Tommy.

Tommy starts, surprised at being addressed. As if on cue, his stomach grumbles, and Dream laughs.

“Shut up!” Tommy exclaims, face turning bright red. “Not my fault I haven’t had my breakfast or lunch, fucker.”

“I have bread,” Dream offers through his wheezes. “It’s stale, but better than nothing.”

“Give it here!”

Dream passes his bag over and watches as Tommy rummages through it, pulling out the half loaf that Dream had been saving. He bites into it, making a face as he has to work to pull a chunk off with his teeth.

“It is stale,“ he says through a mouthful. “Gross.”

But he finishes the loaf anyway.

Dream props his chin up with one hand and stares at Tommy, fascinated. It’s been a long time since he had so much face to face interaction with someone, not on edge or waiting for them to inevitably recognize him and turn him in.

Tommy is incredibly expressive in the way that all teenagers are, every emotion flitting across his face. Annoyance that the bread is stale, then satisfaction when he feels full. Leaning back, he pats his stomach and burps. This time, it’s Dream’s turn to make a face.

“Thanks for that,” Tommy says. Then, he looks guiltily down at his empty hands and says, “Uh… I don’t have anything to give you.”

“That’s okay,” Dream says and mentally files that away. So Tommy does have manners. Someone taught those to him. “You’ll pull your weight eventually.”

“Right,” Tommy says under his breath. “Yeah, I can do that.”

Dream waits another second before he says cautiously, “You know… I’m wanted.”

“Figured that much out myself, yeah,” Tommy grumbles. “What about it?”

Dream shifts uncomfortably. Were Sapnap or George ever this difficult?

“So you probably don’t want to stick with me,” he offers. “I’m on the run.”

“Sounds exciting,” Tommy says.

Dream throws up his hands in exasperation.

“What is your deal?” he demands. “Is it something like, like—What, you were living on the streets? Bad household? Cause I know what it’s like in one of those, and it sucks, but at least you have a roof over your head. Taking your chances with me is probably worse.”

“What? No!” Tommy blurts. He gets to his feet and balls his hands into fists at his side, glaring at Dream. “I wasn’t—I don’t have a bad household or whatever. Or at least, not recently.”

“You said you don’t have parents,” Dream observes. Adrenaline creeps up on him, the kind that makes itself known when he’s facing a particularly clever opponent, one he has to figure out to defeat. “And you’re too skinny. That all reads street kid.” He squints as Tommy shifts uncomfortably under his gaze. “But you’re defiant. Mouthy. That probably wouldn’t last in a rough house. So… a rebellious street kid. With someone who looked after you.”

“Who said someone looked after me?” Tommy bristles.

“You trusted me too quickly,” Dream starts.

“Okay, fuck you, bitch, I don’t trust you—”

“You came with me,” Dream says quietly as more pieces begin to slot into place. “You let an adult you don’t know throw you over his shoulder and run for miles. That doesn’t come from a kid who’s been hit by an adult. You have someone who loves you.”

“Fuck you,” Tommy spits. He crosses the room in a few gangly strides and jabs a finger into Dream’s chest. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“Am I wrong?” Dream asks. His chest pangs as he thinks about George, sleepily waiting at the kitchen counter with a mug of hot chocolate, Sapnap and Bad bickering out in the training yard. Even in the years before that, when they were fighting to survive and went nights without food, they had always comforted themselves with the fact that at least they had each other. To have someone who loves you, no matter how hard the outward circumstances… “Why would you leave that?”

“Because he was suffocating me!” Tommy bursts out. “Okay?” He begins pacing, gesturing with his hands as he rants. “He treated me like some fucking kid who doesn’t know shit! Wouldn’t let me go out by myself, wouldn’t let me fucking breathe without hovering around me like some kind of mother bird. And he wouldn’t tell me about his family even though I know he has one—”

“It sounds,” Dream interrupts gently. “Like he really loves you.”

That makes Tommy go stockstill, the only motion in his entire body the rise and fall of his chest. Then, like all his strings have been cut, he collapses to the floor and buries his face in his hands.

“Yeah,” he says, muffled. “He does.”

Dream doesn’t go toward him, doesn’t offer him a hand on his shoulder because Tommy’s words have just opened the wound sitting in the center of his chest. It’s been there since he had to leave his own home in the dead of night, never properly scarring over. How could it, when George and Sapnap and Bad each own a part of his heart, and Dream will never be complete without them by his side?

So he sits, waits for Tommy to collect himself, and misses home.

When Tommy looks up, eyes red-rimmed, Dream offers, “Do you want me to take you back?”

Tommy’s mouth drops open, and Dream continues, “If you tell me which town you came from, I’m sure I could help you get there. Whoever your...”

“Brother,” Tommy fills in. A sort of longing infuses his voice as he finishes, “Wilbur’s my brother.”

“Right,” Dream says. Wilbur. He’ll remember that name. “Your brother is probably really worried about you. I can help you get back to him quicker.”

Going back the way he came is sure to spell trouble for him, but Dream has handled worse before. He’s not called the fastest champion for nothing. It’s just a matter of how many injuries he’ll take before he gets out.

Still, he can’t in good conscience let this kid tag along with him when he’s got a loving brother waiting.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Tommy says urgently. He holds out both hands as Dream pauses, tilting his head to listen. “You can’t take me back.”

Dream looks at him incredulously.

“Uh, we just talked about why you should go back,” he points out. “Or was I the only one listening?”

“No, you don’t understand,” Tommy says, distressed. “You can’t take me back.”

“Why not?” Dream is starting to wonder if he spoke too quickly and misjudged the situation, as he is wont to do from time to time. More often than just ‘from time to time’, George’s mocking voice drifts by. “Does Wilbur hurt you?”

“No!” Tommy genuinely looks sick at the thought. “But it’s… complicated.”

“I’m on the run from the king for a crime I didn’t commit,” Dream says, and maybe it’s a little reckless to reveal that much to a kid he met today, but he’s tired of hiding. “Try me.”

Tommy hems and haws for a bit longer before he plops back onto the ground, scooting so that he’s sitting closer to Dream now.

“Wilbur’s got some kind of family issue he’s not telling me about,” he confides, dropping his voice as if telling Dream a secret. “We used to live in some house that his deadbeat dad left him, but something happened, and we got kicked out. That’s when he started getting all paranoid.”

“What happened?” Dream asks, leaning in as he gets absorbed in Tommy’s story without intention.

Tommy scowls.

“City evicted us, made up some bullshit about, ‘abandoned properties’,” he says, making quotes around the last words. “Nevermind that we’d been living there for years. So we were on the streets for a good bit, and Wil was pretty worried that I’d get myself into some kind of trouble.”

“I can imagine,” Dream says dryly.

“Wilbur said something about getting in touch with his brother to help us, but we’d have to leave the city,” Tommy continues. “So we wandered around for a bit, uprooting ourselves and traveling and all that big man shit—”

“You’re like, twelve!” Dream says in disbelief.

“Oi! I’m sixteen, bitch.”

“Oh, like that’s so much better,” Dream rolls his eyes.

“—and Wilbur wasn’t having any luck getting in contact with his brother, so I thought I could help him out and get him instead. Save Wilbur the stress, you know?” Tommy’s voice takes a turn for the genuinely upset, and he picks at the ground as he mutters, “But Wilbur wouldn’t tell me anything. Even though I was being helpful, even though I was being good, he kept—kept hiding things from me.”

Dream winces. He never had the chance to be treated like a child, but the pain in Tommy’s voice is real.

Tommy sniffs and wipes his nose aggressively with his sleeve.

“So I decided,” Tommy says, squaring his jaw, “I would prove myself to him so he can’t treat me like a fucking child anymore.”

“By running away,” Dream says and privately thinks that Tommy has probably given Wilbur nothing but a heart attack. He doesn’t even know the guy, but he feels for him. “Alright. And why can’t I just drop you back where you left?”

“Uh...” Tommy is caught off-guard at that and scratches his head sheepishly. “I… don’t… remember?”

“How the fuck do you not remember where you left?” Dream demands.

“Hey, in my defense, we’d been traveling a lot!” Tommy protests. “Man can’t remember every place he’s been. I can’t remember a lot of things!”

I can, Dream wants to point out, but that would mean he’s trying to one up a sixteen year old, so he holds back.

“So. Let me get this straight,” Dream says instead. “I’m stuck with a sixteen year old runaway who doesn’t remember where he left his loving brother because he felt stifled.”

“You’re the one who threw me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes,” Tommy sulks. “And you could always try not being on the run, have you thought of that?”

“Thanks, but I like my head attached to my neck,” Dream says.

“Would they really kill you?” Tommy asks, sounding morbidly fascinated. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Dream says. “And my bounty says dead or alive, so yes, I assume they wouldn’t be opposed to killing me.”

“If you didn’t do anything,” Tommy says, believing Dream way too easily (a part of Dream glows at that unconditional trust. It’s been a long time since someone listened to his side of the story), “Then why does the king want you gone?”

Dream has turned that same question over in his head hundreds, thousands of times, tossing and turning during sleepless nights under the open sky. The king accused him of trying to overthrow him, but the thought has never even crossed Dream’s mind. The king is… well, he’s the king. He’s always been there, and Dream can’t remember any kind of dissent against him. So why would the king make up such a lie? Why would the server believe him?

As far as he can remember, Dream hasn’t done anything to offend the king. They’d crossed paths at tournaments as Dream, custom for the champion, paid his respects at the opening ceremonies before beating people up for the king’s entertainment, as well as the required rites inside the palace, but Dream can’t remember much of what happened during those.

Of course, he knew that opinions were split on him inside the castle. Dream was equally loved and hated for the fact that he didn’t come from the champion training grounds and had never gone through their system. There was reason to think that the king would look down on an outsider like Dream, but they’d never exchanged more than a few congratulations and murmured thank yous, so why…

Prime, Dream hates this. Thinking about it makes his chest seize up, something hot flashing through his body in response to his distress. He never used to get so anxious about things like this, but that’s what living on the run will do to a man.

“... I wish I knew,” he says at last. “But I don’t.”

Tommy shifts forward, placing his hands under his legs like a child.

“Let’s go find Wil’s brother,” he says earnestly. “I’m sure he can help somehow.”

Dream snorts.

“Sure, a random guy can solve all my problems,” he says sarcastically. “How would he help? And besides, he’s your brother too.”

“Nope!” Tommy pops the ‘p’ sound, blond hair flopping as he falls back so that he’s laying half-sprawled on the ground. “Wil took me in. We’re not blood-related.”

“Oh.” Dream frowns at that. “Guess I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“Yeah, well, you’re an arse anyway, aren’t you,” Tommy snarks.

Dream stifles a laugh and stands up, leaning over Tommy so that his shadow falls over him.

“I don’t mind getting you to your… Wilbur’s brother,” he says truthfully. “Though that might end up putting a target on his back if the soldiers follow us that far.”

“Meh, I’m sure he can handle it.”

“What makes you say that?” Dream asks. “Who is Wilbur’s brother?”

Tommy shrugs.

“Dunno,” he says, then adds completely casually, “Wilbur says his name is Technoblade?”

Dream chokes.

Technoblade?” he exclaims.

Tommy eyes him.

“You’re acting quite weird, man, you alright?” he asks before bulldozing forward: “Yeah, yeah, Technoblade. Fucking stupid name, but I guess he can’t help that. Why, you know him?”

Does Dream know him. Well.

What a question to ask about Dream’s predecessor.

“Dream? Dream, you there?”

Dream thinks his fingers have gone numb. He opens his mouth to reassure Tommy and tell him that he’s fine, but nothing comes out. Scratch that, maybe his whole body is numb.

“I think I have to sit,” he tells Tommy and awkwardly keels over to the ground in an ungainly pile of limbs as Tommy squawks.

“The hell happened to you?” Tommy demands, scrambling over on his hands and knees. “You get poisoned or something?”

Dream waves a hand in the air, hoping that conveys the appropriate amount of, Your brother’s brother is the fucking Blood God, the champion who got away, and now we’re going to find him? Holy fuck.

“I can’t understand sign language,” Tommy says, annoyed. “Use your words, dumb fuck.”

“It’s not—Whatever.” Dream pulls himself up with a sigh. “Wilbur’s brother is Technoblade? You’re sure?” he checks.

“Why would I lie about something like this?” Tommy asks indignantly. “I’ve never even met the guy in my life.”

“You’ve never heard of him?” Dream asks in bafflement.

“What is with you and asking if people have heard of—No! No, I haven’t heard of him, alright?”

Tommy crosses his arms and huffs, looking for all the world like a toddler whose toy got taken away. Dream would chuckles in amusement at the sight if not for the complete confusion he feels.

“Wait, wait,” Dream says, raising his hands to slow Tommy’s impending sulk. “Tommy, have you… ever heard of the champions?”

“Well, I’m a champion,” Tommy says. “The biggest, in fact.”

Resisting the urge to face palm, Dream says, “No, like, a server champion.”

Tommy hums and blows a stray lock of hair out of his eyes.

“What’s that?” he asks.

Dream reels.

Champions are the superstars of the server, so revered that parents send their children to the king in hopes of their child becoming the next victorious winner. People flock to the selection tournament from every biome, near and far, and when the final drop of blood is shed and the new champion stands—

They become legends.

But Tommy doesn’t even know what a champion is.

Dream doesn’t know what to make of it.

Then again, Dream thinks as his stomach twists. It’s not like there aren’t disadvantages to having a champion in the family. Dream himself is familiar with most of them, and when he thinks back on the resignation in George and Sapnap’s eyes as they stayed behind…

Maybe it’s better that Tommy doesn’t know what the champions are, much less the only man whose location is more wanted than Dream at the moment. Wilbur must have known that. For Tommy to not know that his adopted brother was related to the most infamous champion of all and to never hear of Technoblade’s name…

Wilbur must have taken every precaution to protect Tommy.

“Do you know Technoblade?” Tommy challenges, oblivious to Dream’s inner turmoil.

“Not personally,” Dream admits. “But I’ve heard of him.”

“What’s he like? Go on then.”

Dream thinks back on the whispered rumors he’d heard in the tunnels beneath the palace, where wannabe champions milled about between rounds as the air stank of fear and ambition. No one was your friend in that hellhole, and the only way out was up. To get there, you had to climb over scores of dead bodies.

The most important skill in a place like that?

“Immortal,” Dream says, turning back to Tommy. “They say Technoblade never dies.”

Tommy’s mouth drops open.

“Cool,” he whispers fervently.

“It’s all an exaggeration, of course,” Dream says. “Reputation makes up for a lot of things.”

Even as he says it, his mind whirls. If Tommy really does know where Technoblade might be, will the former champion be able to help Dream? Surely he didn’t disappear for no reason. He must know something that could restore Dream’s innocence.

“Did Wilbur say where to find Technoblade?” Dream asks, urgency leaking into his voice. “Any details you can remember?”

“He said...” Tommy trails off, furrowing his brow as he thinks. “He said we were headed north. To the Arctic.”

The Arctic.

Dream sits back on his heels, shoulders slumping. The Arctic is famously inhospitable, practically unlivable with its harsh conditions. If Technoblade is truly up there, it’s no wonder that no one has been able to locate him.

“Fuck,” Dream breathes. “This just got a whole lot harder.”

“Why, why?” Tommy demands. “Tell me, tell me, tell me—”

Dream shoves a hand over Tommy’s mouth, Tommy making a muffled noise of indignation behind it as Dream massages his temples with his other hand.

“The Arctic is a long way from here,” he says, thoughts racing. “The soldiers will never follow me up there, it’s too dangerous. But if I go, there’s no way for my friends to reach me either.”

Something wet and slimy touches his palm, and Dream yelps, dropping his hand.

“Did you just lick me?” he asks.

Tommy smirks.

“Shouldn’t have put your hand over my mouth,” he says triumphantly. “You’ve got friends?”

“Yes, I have friends,” Dream says, rolling his eyes for the umpteenth time that day. “They’re in the capital.”

“Why aren’t they with you?”

Dream pauses and considers Tommy, tilting his head. Tommy shivers a bit at that, and Dream is glad to know that the intimidation factor of his blank smiley face mask is still there.

“They’re protecting me,” he says quietly. “However they can.”

Tommy stills.

“Oh,” he says meekly. “I can understand that.”

“Good.” Dream gets to his feet, stroking his chin as he thinks. “We can go,” he decides. “It’s killing two birds with one stone. You get back to your brothers—”

Wilbur is my brother, this Techno-whatever-blade isn’t—”

“—and I might get more clues,” Dream finishes. “Hopefully, I lose the soldiers on my tail too.”

He casts a considering glance down at Tommy, who glares at him, albeit weaker than before.

“What’re you looking at, bitch?” he asks.

Dream scans him up and down, taking in the boney arms, still growing limbs, and uncalloused fingers. That won’t do. There’s potential there, but it’ll need to be brought out, refined.

“Tommy,” Dream says, a grin curving up his mouth behind the mask. “How do you feel about training?”