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the art and (mine)craft of war

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Techno wouldn't call himself competitive. Driven? Yes. Ambitious? Sure. But competitive? Never.

He wasn't competitive when, as a sophomore, he started a year long history class rivalry with the one kid who got better essay grades than him.

He wasn't competitive when that culminated in an all-out, no-holds-barred, cafeteria food fight dubbed by awed and horrified onlookers as The Great Potato War.

He wasn't competitive when they were made to clean the cafeteria for detention and he determined the most efficient and eco-friendly way to make the room shine.

And he certainly isn't competitive now, crushing his little brother to dust in a game of Mario Kart.

Techno eases up on the acceleration, letting the person behind him pass, only to watch them go up in a cloud of blue.

He cackles. "You thought you could blue shell me, you little gremlin? You thought wrong. Techno Blade-Craft never dies."

Tommy groans. "Oh, fuck off. You realize you just talked about yourself in the third person? That's a thing you just did."

"Sorry, can't hear you over the sound of me winning." He cheers as he crosses the finish line. "Get owned, nerd."

But when he looks at Tommy's side of the screen, his character isn't even moving.

He glances over to his brother whose controller lies in his lap. Instead of playing the game, he's typing quickly on his phone.

"Tommy?"

Four CPU's blow past Tommy on screen.

He replies distractedly, "Sorry, I'm just texting my friend, Dream."

"Dream?" The name is familiar. 

"Yeah, I think he's in your grade."

Techno's eyes narrow. That bastard.

Dream is the cocky, blonde-haired, green-hoodied asshole who stole Techno's top score in AP Lang.

Since when are they friends? Since when does Tommy have friends?

He, of course, voices this out loud, to which Tommy replies with an elbow in his gut and a mutter of dickhead. Techno retaliates by shoving him off the couch.

The TV makes a noise, declaring the round over, Tommy's character still static in the uncompleted course.

Techno snorts. "You didn't even finish. Cringe."

Tommy tosses his phone aside, picking himself and his controller back up. "Alright, let's go for real this time. No throwing."

But Tommy is distracted for the rest of the game, his phone turning the couch into a massage chair with its constant buzzing.

It's not a big deal, though, Tommy's annoyed many upperclassmen into "friendship" and nothing usually comes of it. As long as Techno isn't picking him up from the principal's office or the police station, it's not his concern.

---

"So boys, how was school today?"

"Holy shit, Phil, you'll never believe what Dream did during lunch..."

---

"Techno, could you help me with these equations? I don't really understand where the numbers should go."

"Yeah, one sec, I just need to finish up this chapter."

...

"Alright, what did you need help with?"

"Actually, I'm good now. Dream just explained it on call."

"Oh, okay."

---

Techno puts the finishing touches on his chemistry homework. He checks over every formula and significant figure. It's objectively perfect. A glance at his phone reveals the time. 8:12 PM. Early. 

He can hear Tommy's signature explosive laugh through the walls of his bedroom. Clearly he isn't busy and Techno wouldn't mind booting up Minecraft for some combat practice. He and Tommy haven't played together in awhile with Tommy's flourishing social schedule and Techno's overload of coursework. Sure, Mario Kart is fun, but Minecraft Hypixel is their thing.

Techno pushes open the door to his brother's room, wincing at the immediate rise in volume from the boy.

"BITCH BOY! YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT. GEORGE MORE LIKE BI—Oh, hey, Techno."

"Tommy," he says calmly.

He turns slightly in his chair. "What's up?"

Techno steps into the room. "I finished my homework pretty early, so you down for some Hypixel? I haven't crushed the dreams of enough children recently. Tryin' to meet my quota for the month."

"Oh, no thanks, Techno, I'm playing on Dream's server with him and George."

The words take a second to sink in.

Tommy's already turned back around to face his screen. "Woah, Dream, Dream, Dream, buddy. Let's talk about this..."

Techno stands there. He frowns.

This might be a problem.

---

Techno wouldn't call himself competitive. Dream can have the top grade in English. He can get first place in every Kahoot. If he's earned it, that's fine. But stealing Techno's little brother? Now, that's a line too far.

---

This isn't something he can just charge into. He’s not going to corner Dream at his locker and challenge him to an honor duel like one of those assholes from the musicals Wilbur and Tommy like so much. 

Instead, Techno does what he does best. He devises a plan.

"The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought."—Sun Tzu.

He spends the rest of the night researching. He wakes up and the first thing he does is check every one of Dream's social medias. During lunch he memorizes the other boy's schedule. As he walks home, he maps out all the paths he takes to and from school and work. He’s half-way through a spreadsheet on Dream's daily caloric intake when he realizes he might have gone a little overboard. So, he activates Plan Big Dubs.

"Before you get arrested for stalking and general creepiness, it is best to consult those who will be paying your bail."—Sun Tzu.

Summoning all the Drama™ of a guy who grew up in a household of theatre kids, Techno flings open the door to his big brother’s room.

“Wilbur, this man is tryin' to steal Tommy.”

The eldest sibling doesn’t even look up from his computer. “Is that such a bad thing?”

“Well, no,” Techno says, flopping down onto Wilbur’s bed. “Except that it’s workin'.”

That gets Wilbur’s attention. He stops his typing, craning his neck to look over at Techno. 

“What?”

“I asked Tommy to play Hypixel with me yesterday, but he said no because his friend Dream invited him onto his server and he wanted to play with him.”

Finally, he has Wilbur’s full attention as his brother pushes away from his desk to spin his chair around completely. “Tommy turned down Hypixel with you? Tommy never turns down Hypixel with you.”

Techno rolls his eyes. “I know, Wilbur, that’s the issue here.”

“Who’s the guy you mentioned? Dream? I know him, totally up his own arse.”

"Right?" 

Wilbur pauses, a smile creeping across his lips. "Techno, are you... jealous?"

"What? No. I don't care if Tommy wants to hang out with some guy who also plays Minecraft and knows the complete works of Emily Dickinson better than me. Why would that matter to me?"

"Aww, Techie's jealous 'cuz his baby brother doesn't want to play games with him anymore."

Clearly his brother isn't grasping the direness of this situation.

"Wilbur, Dream also has an older male friend with a British accent who all the student body simps over. If I'm goin' down, so you are."

The smile is wiped from Wilbur's face. "Gogy?"

Techno nods sagely. "Gogy."

He narrows his eyes. "This is war."

---

The plan is simple, as Ludwig who graduated the past year would say.

Wilbur deletes all of Techno's potentially incriminating spreadsheets (though Techno retrieves them from the recently deleted as soon as his brother turns his head) and creates a new Google Doc. 

They have an hour until Tommy gets out of band practice to come up with a foolproof plan to reinforce their positions as the Number One and Number Two (don't ask who is which) coolest big brother figures in Tommy's life. 

After thirty minutes of brainstorming, research, and font selection, they come up with their plan of action:

1. Spend more time with him.

They stare at the words on the screen, cursor blinking back innocently.

Techno frowns. "You really think that's it?"

Wilbur shrugs. "Not everything's spreadsheet worthy, bacon boy."

"It just seems a bit... simple."

"Well, think of it this way, Dream hangs out with Tommy at break, lunch, and after school." Wilbur counts off his fingers as he talks. "When was the last time you and Tommy actually hung out?"

Techno wracks his brain. Yesterday, he got home from school and immediately went to his room to do homework. The day before, Tommy had band practice. The day before that, Techno had stayed late at school to work on a project. Now that he thinks about it, the only interactions he's had with Tommy recently are car rides and passing by on his way to the bathroom.

"I suppose it'd be when we played Mario Kart a week ago."

His brother nods. "And during that week, he would have been talking to Dream for 25% of his school day and playing and calling with him for a few hours afterwards."

"So what you're sayin' is I'm a terrible brother."

"You're not a terrible brother, just an overachiever and over-worker," Wilbur says, "but we're gonna fix that starting now."

Techno sighs. "Startin' now."

---

It starts out well enough.

The first day of the plan is on the weekend, so Techno is able to wake up a little earlier to put it into action. 

He rolls out of bed, already hating himself, but summons the strength to brush his teeth and put in his contacts.

Tommy is the only member of their house with a semi-normal sleep schedule (for a fourteen year-old boy), going to bed and waking up the earliest. Wilbur can usually be heard bustling around his room all through the night to ungodly hours of the morning, but doesn't usually wake up until near noon on non-school days. Techno sometimes will work through the night, chug some energy drinks, and ascend to another plane of existence to go about his day. Phil works late nights and early mornings.

When he gets to the kitchen, Tommy is at the table, scrolling on his phone as he shovels scrambled eggs into his mouth.

His eyes flick up as Techno passes.

"Gugh mwowing, Theno," he says through a mouthful.

"Mornin'."

He heads straight to the pantry, scanning over shelves for his breakfast of choice, frowning when he can't find it.

He sticks his head out towards Tommy.

"Cereal?" he grunts.

Tommy points vaguely. "Behind Wilbur's weird sand jar."

"Ah."

He makes his bowl and brings it to the table.

They sit in silence.

It's nice.

Bonding, he thinks, listening to the rhythmic tapping of Tommy's gremlin fingers.

---

On Monday, Techno makes a big move.

Everyday, Wilbur drives the three of them to school. Usually, Techno will sit shotgun—a seat Tommy is banned from after the Great Incident—but that morning he instead climbs into the backseat next to his younger brother.

Tommy gives him a strange look. "Why're you back here?"

He shrugs. "Just felt like it."

Tommy still eyes him suspiciously, but just buckles his seatbelt.

In the front, Wilbur adjusts the rearview mirror, giving him a nod.

They pull out of the driveway.

Bonding, he affirms, watching his brother's face from the corner of his eye.

---

The third day of the plan is when things start to go wrong.

After his round of musical chairs on Monday morning, Techno had also taken the initiative to take Tommy to lunch off-campus. Tommy, an ardent hater of cafeteria food, begged him to take him on Tuesday too. This was good, a sign that Tommy wanted to spend time with him (or at least would rather eat good food with him than bad food with Dream), or so he thought.

Gremlin: Can Dream come w for lunch? He has no friends because he is a loser and Gogy and Sdsiufp aren't here today

That's how Techno ended up at an In-N-Out listening to his brother and "rival" debate metabolism and the healthy number of shits to have a day. 

Their numbers get called and Techno leaves them to their discussion. He grabs the trays from the worker, nodding thankfully at her.

"Here's the soda and lemonade for your friend and his brother." She passes over the drinks.

Techno takes them, lips turning down slightly.

Your friend and his brother.

Tommy and Dream are actually a very good duo, he notices throughout the meal. Dream picks on him when Tommy makes it easy to, but he's also nice to the younger boy. He's nice to Techno too, so much so that Techno has to make a conscious effort to dislike him.

Dream includes Techno in the conversation. What an asshole.

Dream offers to pay for all of their lunches. A complete dickhead.

Dream compliments Techno's presentation from English last period. Wanker supreme.

Techno tries to remember getting 98%'s compared to Dream's 100%'s, tries to remember Tommy going to him for homework instead.

The other boy goes to the bathroom, leaving Tommy and Techno at the table together.

Tommy's chattering away about something Bitzel did in Spanish class the other day. Techno struggles to keep with the undoubtedly exaggerated story.

He notices someone approaching from the corner of his eye. He turns slightly and sees a girl around his age walking up to them. She stops, blushing and shifting nervously on her heels.

The brothers exchange looks.

"Uhm, can we help you?" Tommy asks.

The girl giggles. "Hey, so, uh, your brother's cute, is he single?" She gestures towards the direction Dream walked off in.

Tommy bursts into shrieking laughter.

Techno slams his forehead on the table.

---

Later in the week, something comes up for Phil, so Techno volunteers to get Tommy from band practice.

"His brother actually picked him up thirty minutes ago."

Techno frowns. "His brother?"

"Oh, yes," the lady continues obliviously, "Lovely young man. Tall. Blond. Green hoodie. Very charming."

With every word, Techno's eyes grow narrower.

That bastard.

---

"Hmm? Oh sorry, Techno. I guess I just forgot to text you when Dream came. He's gonna teach me to speedrun. Did you know he's going for the world record? He's surprisingly not that shit."

---

"Wilbur!" he hollers, dropping into the seat at his desk. "We have a Code #990F03!"

"Oh, shit," Wilbur says, sticking his head in the doorway. "Is that Ruby or Scarlet?"

"Neither." Techno opens a new spreadsheet. He says gravely, "It's Cherry."

They up their game. 

---

"According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans."—Sun Tzu.

2. Spend as much time with him as Dream does. If the green bastard is there, so are you. Do not allow him to gain the upper hand in brother points. Fall like a thunderbolt. A fucking thunderbolt.

---

Now, Techno isn't a terrible person.

He's not going to sabotage his brother's friendship just because Tommy might think some asshole who only owns one article of clothing (a lime green hoodie of all things, fucking lime green) is cooler than Techno.

He doesn't want Tommy and Dream to stop being friends, he just wants random school administrators, teenage girls, and In-N-Out employees to stop mistaking them for brothers.

From the time he's spent with Dream when the three of them were hanging out, he's gathered that the other boy is fun. He's cool and playful and good to be around. And Techno... Techno isn't really anyone's definition of fun.

He doesn't have a large group of friends, he doesn't go to parties, he's not fun to play games with.

His family had always been the ones who made up for that. Phil, Wilbur, and Tommy are all extroverts, they flourish in front of crowds, under attention. The world is their stage.

But maybe Tommy's gone off and found someone who suits him much better. Whose small talk isn't awkward and stilted. Who conversations with don't take twice the effort. Who expresses emotions easily and has the words to say what he feels.

Well, you know what? Techno can be fun. He can go outside his comfort zone. He can be the best fucking brother Tommy could ever want.

Just watch him.

---

"Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected."—Sun Tzu.

Techno is at a party. A genuine, house-shaking, migraine-inducing, high school party.

It's at Dream's house, of course.

They were eating dinner when Tommy had asked Phil if he could go to a party at Dream's and please please please, Phil, even Tubbo's going to be there, TUBBO.

Phil had said Only if Wilbur goes with you.

To which Wilbur replied Fuck no.

And Techno, being the awesome, cool, fun brother he is, spoke up I'll take him.

The pure shock on his family's faces is a memory he'll carry forever.

So, that's how he got here.

He's holding a red solo cup (cliché) and he's not sure how it got in his hands, but a sniff reveals it to be full of Diet Coke.

Tommy had run off with with Tubbo and a boy in a purple sweatshirt the second they entered, so Techno's just been loitering around the foyer.

He sees some people he recognizes as his brothers' friends and others he's vaguely knows from classes he takes. 

There's Fundy who was Wilbur's son in that play they did last year and Big Q who sometimes comes over to their house and screams.

Eret from French class freshman year and Bad from Computer Science are whispering to each other and unsubtly gesturing towards Techno. He makes a decision to ignore them.

He checks his phone. 

Wimblur: can't believe youre actually going through with this. dont die and dont be a loser

Dadza: Love you both. I'll fucking yeet you if I get any calls from the police. Have fun!

He pockets it. Three more hours of this. Techno blows out a breath. He can do this.

"You look kind of lost," a deep voice says.

He looks up and Eret from French is standing in front of him with a kind smile. He's wearing sunglasses inside as he always does and for some reason has a plastic crown on his head. He's also rocking a killer pair of high heeled boots.

"This is actually my first high school party," Techno says, "if you couldn't tell."

"Whaaat?" Eret says, "I never would have guessed."

"Yeah..."

"This isn't a real high school party," the other boy says, "We're all kind of nerds here, we're just loud."

"Ah. Yes, there's a lot less peer pressure and drug-doing than I've been lead to believe."

"Yeah, but the sheer amount of high energy people here more than makes up for that."

From across the house, Karl Jacobs screeches.

A shout, "SKEPPY JUST PUKED IN THE FRIDGE!"

"WHAT THE FUCK?"

Eret laughs. He points back over his shoulder.

"C'mon, Fundy and I found Dream's karaoke machine."

Eret from French, he finds, is actually a pretty good singer. Fundy, Wilbur's son, less so, but they sound good together. Tubbo, best friend of Tommy, even pauses in whatever chaos he's wreaking on the other party goers to deliver Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire before taking off again.

Succumbing to peer pressure and puppy dog eyes, Techno graces the party with a deadpan rendition of Taylor Swift's Blank Space. Dream, who was passing by, throws himself down on the couch next to him for the entire song, interjecting between each line with yeah's and slayEret plops his plastic crown on Techno's head, declaring him the Supreme King of the Karaoke Machine.

Towards the end of the night, Eret selects a song from Hamilton, and the sound of distant crashing is the only warning they get before Tommy is sliding into the room, summoned by the first two bars.

It isn't until he's tapping his foot along to Tommy juggling every part of Alexander Hamilton when he realizes that he's having fun.

Huh, who would have thought?

The rest of the night is spent gorging on cold pizza and chocolate-covered raisins (weird party snack), and restraining Tommy from starting a fight with the upperclassmen. It's after his little brother tries to jump Sapnap for the third time that Techno decides to call it a night.

He wrangles the sweaty and exhausted child outside to the car, awkwardly waving goodbye to the other people still at the party. 

Techno sits in the driver's seat for a long time, not even starting the car, but just taking the night in. He stares at himself in the rearview mirror, studying his own flushed cheeks and wide eyes. The crown still rests lopsidedly on his head.

Tommy is slumped against the passenger's side window, halfway to sleep already.

"Thanks for today, Techno, by the way," he mumbles, "I know this wasn't exactly your scene."

Techno allows himself a smile. "No problem, brat."

He doesn't even care that Wilbur takes a million photos of him carrying a fast-asleep Tommy up the stairs and tucking him into bed. (If he asks his brother to send him a few of the pictures, that's nobody's business but his. After all, he still has a reputation to uphold.)

---

He's in Tommy's room, watching him PvP with a few of his friends. It's Sunday, two days after the party, but Techno still feels drained from the amount of outside-his-comfort-zone he partook in that night. He's glad Tommy opted for a chill night in on Minecraft so Techno can spend time with his brother while flicking through flashcards for French class.

In game, Tommy lands an axe crit on Tubbo.

“That was good, Tommy,” Techno says absentmindedly shuffling through vocabulary words.

“Thanks! Dream taught me that.”

He drops the card he's holding. His mind screeches to a halt.

“Did he?” Techno's voice stays even.

“Yeah, the other day when we were on his server we dueled in 1.16 for a bit. Then, we went on Hypixel and I completely destroyed him.” He doesn't even look up from the screen.

Tommy. Dream. Hypixel. 

Tommy. Dream. Hypixel.

TOMMY. DREAM. HYPIXEL.

The flashcards are a ball of card stock.

"Oh, nice," he says.

Tommy cheers as Tubbo's character disappears in a shower of items.

That bastard.

---

Techno marches into school the next day with a violin case in his hand and murder in his eyes.

His target is leaning against his locker with his friends, signature green hoodie making him easy to spot. Techno comes to a halt in front of him.

“Dream, let’s duel.”

The other boy's head jerks forward, completely cutting the conversation he'd been having with George.

“What?”

Techno says firmly, “You and me. Minecraft. A couple rounds in 1.8 and a couple in 1.16. Both of our specialties.” (Of course he knows which version of Minecraft Dream is best at. Techno did his research.)

Dream grins. Beside him, George and Sapnap exchange excited looks.

"Okay. That sounds cool. Sounds really cool," he says, "People tell me you're really good. Let's see how right they are."

Techno holds out his free hand. "I'll message you the details."

Dream shakes his hand. "Looking forward to playing with you."

Dream and his friends leave the hallway, high-fiving and cheering.

Techno blows out a breath and slumps against the wall.

"You fool. You moron. You absolute buffoon."—Sun Tzu.

---

The door to his bedroom bangs open.

Techno, who had been calmly working through his English homework, jumps.

Tommy barrels in, slamming his hands on Techno's desk next to the keyboard.

Techno yanks off his headphones. "What is your—"

“Is it true? Techno, is it true?” Tommy asks, nearly buzzing.

“Is what true?”

“You’re dueling Dream for $100,000?”

Techno chokes. “That’s just a rumor, Tommy.”

“Oh.” The boy visibly deflates. “So you’re not dueling Dream?”

“No, I am. Just not for money.”

Tommy perks up. “PogChamp!”

"The fuck is all this noise for?" Wilbur enters the room, disgruntled and mildly concerned. 

"Techno and Dream are gonna fight!"

Wilbur looks alarmed.

"In Minecraft," Techno hurriedly adds.

His brother raises an eyebrow. "Are they now?"

Techno didn't know eyebrows could be so judgmental. What happened to the plan?  they seem to say.

Techno, unfortunately, cannot convey such messages through eyebrow movements, so he just shrugs.  

Wilbur sighs, plopping down on the bed. "Is it at least a duel?"

"It's a series of duels."

"Can I do the countdown?"

Before Techno can answer, Tommy butts in.

"Ooh, can I commentate? It'll be so awesome. You have to let me commentate. Please, Techno, please."

"I'll ask Dream."

"POG."

“So,” Techno says, ever the tactful conversationalist. “Who are you rootin' for?”

Tommy blinks. “You, of course.”

“Ah, yes. Of course."

The boy tilts his head. “You really thought I’d root for that green bastard over you?”

“Well, you two are friends,” he says.

“Yeah, but you’re my brother.”

Somewhere, deep inside his chest, Techno’s dead heart swells a little.

“That is true.”

"Suck it green boy!"—Sun Tzu.

Tommy continues, "Besides, I'm not gonna support a loser. You're so much better than him at 1.8 and if you practice 1.16, you'll fucking dominate."

"SUCK IT GREEN BOYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!"—Sun Tzu.

He smothers a pleased grin. "A wise decision."

“And Techno?”

“Hmm?”

“Green is Dream’s color. It doesn’t really suit you.”

With that, the little gremlin darts out the door.

“He’s more trouble than he’s worth,” Techno says.

Wilbur pats his shoulder. “Yeah, but we want him anyway.”

A smile makes its way to Techno's lips. “I guess we do.”

"Well." Wilbur claps his hands together. “Now that that’s settled… do you think Dream would want to go for pizza sometime?”

“Wilbur!”