“Are you sure you want to go in alone?”
Tommy’s fingers closed around the small package in his hands. Sam had taken his sword from him, as well as most of the other things he had in his backpack and pockets. The vulnerability was nauseatingly familiar, but Tommy’s resolve was strong. He wasn’t alone anymore.
“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I’ll be fine.”
Sam pursed his lips in worry, but allowed Tommy to step inside the long, dim hallway that led to the central cell. “Alright. I’ll be right here if you need me.”
Tommy gave the man a small smile that he then returned, albeit with uncertainty glinting in his eyes. Sam pushed a button on the wall; with a low screech, the obsidian walls closed in between them, locking Tommy in the darkness.
He was alone.
The central only had one window from which people could look in or out. Sam, with all of his seemingly-boundless knowledge of redstone and enchanting, had made it all but invincible. The glass glimmered in the dim light as Tommy neared, reflecting his appearance back at him like an undisturbed lake. He looked so small, so fragile.
Is this the me you saw every day? The me you manipulated until I was nothing but a shell of my former self?
Tommy swallowed. He would not be afraid. He had nothing to fear, really. Not even Dream could escape from this hellish place.
The place you thought was being built for me.
The sound of his own footsteps echoed echoed off the obsidian walls. Tommy was mere feet from the window, now — close enough to see the small bed tucked into one of the corners, the toilet in the other. There were books and other entertainment items as well; Sam wasn’t a monster, and he’d made it clear that the prison was not built to torture. “We’ll take care of him in there,” Tommy had once overheard him saying to George. “He’s a sick man, but a friend nonetheless. I’ll make sure he’s okay.”
Movement within the central cell caught Tommy’s eye. A figure, wrapped in a blanket, rose from the shadow of the bed against the wall and moved closer to the window, gliding as if he were a ghost. How fitting.
He practically was.
Dream didn’t have his mask on. Tommy fought the urge to avert his eyes. You can look at him now, he told himself. He’s not a god anymore.
Dream smashed a hand against the glass. “Tommy!” He repeated, louder this time. His voice was clear in Tommy’s ears as if the two feet of obsidian and enchanted glass that separated them were nothing more than a thin blanket. “What are you doing here?”
There were deep bags etched into the flesh of Dream’s cheeks. His scarred lips were twisted in a snarl. And yet, Tommy noticed with a spark of awe, there was fear in his eyes. There was fear everywhere. In his eyes, his mouth, his balled-up fists. The essence of Dream’s fear was carved into every wall of that cell.
You wanted to put me in there forever. All because you couldn’t control me like you controlled everyone else.
“I’m here to visit,” Tommy said simply. “It’s been a while.”
“Fuck off.” Dream turned sharply and stormed to the other end of the room, half-collapsing in the far corner. “You’re the reason I’m in here, kid. This is your fault.”
“It’s not, Dream. And you know it.”
“It fucking is!” Dream threaded his hands through his hair and seemed to curl in on himself. “All of this! Every fucking piece!”
Tommy knelt down and slid the small package in his hands through the small slot in the wall. “I brought you a little gift.”
“I don’t want your pity gifts!” Dream spat.
Tommy cracked a smile. Familiar words. “It’s not a pity gift. I have no interest in pitying you, Dream.”
“Please just—“ Dream’s voice broke. “Just leave. You’ve got me, okay? You can torture me all you’d like.”
Tommy rose back to his feet and leaned his arms on the small divot of the windowsill. The obsidian was cool against his flesh. You’d probably like that. You want to revel in my anger, in my revenge, in the time you’d spent domineering my thoughts.
Dream had been in the prison for three weeks. Sam told Tommy he was the first person to request a visit.
“We’re friends, Dream,” Tommy said. “Friends don’t torture each other.”
Something deep within Tommy shuddered as Dream tipped his head back and laughed. His eyes were wide and wild, red around the edges. “I was your friend, Tommy. And look what I did to you.”
Tommy raised his arms. The Antarctic Empire cloak that rested on his shoulders was a welcome weight. “You didn’t snuff me out like you wanted to. I’m doing pretty well.”
“Don’t be stupid. Phil and Technoblade will throw you out once this is all over,” Dream said bitterly. “They’re not your friends. None of them are.”
“Maybe not.” Tommy shrugged. “Who knows where everyone stands. But they’ve helped me a lot in my exile, so I owe them my thanks.”
Dream launched himself to his feet and was pressed up against the glass before Tommy had the chance to blink. “I helped you!” Spit hit the glass in droplets. “I was your only friend! I am your only friend!”
“ Are you my only friend, Dream?” Tommy took a step closer, his nose mere centimetres from the glass. “Or am I yours?”
Dream’s palm hit the glass with a resounding thunk . “Fuck you!” He screamed, baring his teeth. “I’ll raze this whole fucking village to the ground when I’m out! I’ll throw everyone you love into a pit and make you blow them to pieces!”
“Stop it, Dream.”
“You’ll end up in here with me,” Dream panted. He looked so thin, so sallow. Tommy didn’t even recognize him. “They’ll turn on you too.”
“I’m not like you.”
“Tubbo and Technoblade and Phil and all the rest of them! All of them! They don’t love you!”
“ Dream .”
Dream froze. Tommy raised a finger and pointed it at him. “Cut that shit out. I’m not falling for it anymore.”
Dream gave him a gruesome, toothy smile. His skin stretched tightly along his bones. A stray tear fell from his eye and dribbled down the gaunt lines of his cheekbone. “You know I’m right. You know—“
“Dream, I don’t care. I can survive on my own. You taught me that.”
Dream’s face fell slightly. Tommy chuckled, shaking his head. “Everyone in this town could turn on me tomorrow. For what reason, I don’t know. But I know I’d survive.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Dream said. “You can’t.”
“I could,” Tommy replied. “And I did. All thanks to you.”
Dream seemed to deflate before Tommy’s eyes. A strange mixture of pride, fear, and apathy bubbled in Tommy’s chest. How was I ever scared of you?
“Thank you, Dream. For all you’ve done for me. I’ll make sure Sam takes good care of you in here.”
Tommy dipped his head in a small bow, mostly out of habit, then turned on his heel. “Wait!” Came Dream’s immediate cry. There was an edge to his voice, a pitiful attempt at an order.
Tommy froze, but did not turn around. “Yeah?”
“How are George and Sapnap?”
“Fine,” Tommy responded.
“They haven’t come to see me.” Dream’s voice ached with loneliness. Tell me why, he silently begged. Tell me something. Anything.
“They’ve been busy. They’re running the nation on their own now. You sure cut their work out for them.”
The large obsidian door looked so inviting. Tommy wanted to go see Tubbo, or perhaps Nikki. Someone that would make him forget all the awful memories that being so close to the man who’d once directed his nightmares brought up.
“Do they want to see me?”
“I don’t really know. I haven’t seen much of them.” A half-truth, but Dream didn’t need to know that. “I could ask next time I see them.”
Dream’s figure retreated back to his bed, collapsing in a heap against the wall. “No. I want them to come on their own accord. I want to deserve it.”
A moment of silence hung in the air between them before tommy finally forced out the words he’d been hiding in his throat. “I forgive you, Dream. For everything.”
Dream’s figure didn’t move. “Stop.”
“I’m serious,” Tommy continued. “I’m not mad at you. I forgive you. I want you to get better.”
“I don’t deserve your forgiveness!” Dream whirled to face him, tears streaming down his cheeks. “You should be torturing me right now! You should fucking hate me! I nearly killed you!”
“But I don’t. I don’t hate you.”
“You have to! I deserve to die. I fucked up everyone’s lives and I deserve to have my teeth fucking punched in—“
“Dream,” Tommy commanded. The strength in his voice killed the words in Dream’s throat. Dream leaned forward, moaning as if he were in pain. “No more of that. Face what you did and learn to heal. For us. George and Sapnap especially.”
“Just kill me,” Dream whimpered.
Tommy did not reply. In the silence between them, Dream’s resolve finally cracked. He leaned his head on the wall, shaking with sobs. Tommy looked to the floor. Was it out of respect or discomfort? Even he wasn’t really sure.
“That’s a pumpkin loaf.” Tommy motioned in the direction of the small package he’d brought. “Eat it within the next two days or it’ll go stale.”
“Who told you I liked those?” Said Dream quietly. Please say it was George or Sapnap, came the silent addition.
Tommy shrugged. “I just knew. Everyone likes them.”
“Are you going to come visit again? Gonna come keep an eye on me?” Dream said tearfully.
“Of course. And not just to keep an eye on you. You’re a friend, Dream.”
With that, Tommy walked away, feeling Dream’s eyes on him as he left. Sam looked worried as Tommy breezed through the obsidian doors, but relaxed when he saw the gentle smile on Tommy’s face. “How was it?” He asked, handing Tommy back his weapons. They’d been shined in the time he was gone.
Tommy blew air out through his nose. “A weight off my chest. It’s weird seeing him in there.”
“And how is he?”
“A sad young man,” Tommy said with a small chuckle. “Bored, lonely, depressed. Exactly what I expected, but much less scary.”
Sam gave him a pat on the back. “I’ll take care of him, I promise. We’ll find some way to fix him up.”
Tommy adjusted his cape on his shoulders. “I think I’m going to go visit George. Tell him how Dream’s doing.”
The smile on Sam’s face wavered. “Tommy, he’s fragile right now. Maybe wait a little.”
“I won’t tell him too much,” Tommy assured. “I just want him to know that I gave Dream his pumpkin loaf. I think it’ll make him feel better.”
“Alright,” Sam said uncertainly. “Just don’t overwhelm him with information. I don’t want him feeling forced to come here when he’s not ready.”
“I won’t, I promise.” Tommy gave him an encouraging grin. “I’ll stick to the pumpkin loaf topic. I won’t even say rude words.”
“Good.” Sam nodded. “Now go on, little arctic boy. I’ve got a meeting with Techno in five minutes.”
Tommy poked his head into the small cabin, finding it empty. “Sapnap’s out with Punz,” came a familiar voice from the other room. “But George is here if you need him.”
Tommy walked in and closed the door behind him gently. “It’s Tommy!” He called out, slipping off his boots. The cabin was warm and smelt of firewood. Tommy remembered with a stab of guilt how he’d tried to burn it down. It made him happy to see it still standing, bearing the proud marks of age and wear.
The ashy smell of firewood couldn’t mask the stink of loneliness and stress that permeated every corner.
Tommy knocked gently on one of the bedroom doors. “George?” He said quietly.
“Come on in,” George replied. “It’s just me in here.”
George sat on a small couch in the corner of the room, wrapped up in a blanket. His tired eyes, trained on the rain pattering against the window, did not move as Tommy entered. “Hello,” George murmured.
“I brought Dream the pumpkin loaf,” Tommy said. His voice was instinctively quiet; George did not look well in the slightest. He’d grown thin and weary, grey in the way Tommy once had. “I didn’t tell him it was from you.”
George nodded. “Good. I hope he eats at least a little. Did he look thin when you saw him?”
“Uh,” Tommy scratched at the back of his neck. “Not really. Maybe a little. But not tons.”
“Good. I want him eating.” George motioned for Tommy to sit next to him, which Tommy then obliged. George rolled his neck, mumbling under his breath in a voice too quiet to hear. “How was he?”
“Fine,” Tommy lied. He leaned back into the springy cushions and closed his eyes. “He’s not the happiest guy around, but he’ll survive.”
“You can tell me the truth,” George said quietly. “I know Sam’s probably told you to not tell me any details.”
“Uh—“ Tommy’s chest tightened with anxiety— “He’s sad. Scared and shit. He tried some of his old tricks on me when I was in there and then freaked out when I didn’t fall for them like I used to.”
George blew out a long breath through his nose. “Bastard,” he muttered. “Good on you for giving him a little spook. It’s what he needs right now.”
“I told him I forgave him. I don’t want him having any power over me anymore. Anger included.”
“And how did he take that?”
“He begged me to kill him, so I’d say not well.”
“Gods,” George breathed. “You’re officially a better person than me, Tommy. No way in hell could I walk in there and forgive him after everything he’s done.”
“It’s different with you two,” Tommy said. “You two are like—“ he bumped his knuckles together— “In love or some shit.”
George rolled his eyes, chuckling wearily. “Yeah,” he said. “Emphasis on the ‘some shit’ at this point in time.”
“I can’t even imagine.”
“It’s not fun, Tommy. Not fun at all.” A pregnant pause. Tommy looked out the window and watched the blur of his own reflection. “Thank you for visiting him. He needs it.”
“Don’t feel forced to go see him if you don’t want to,” Tommy assured. George smiled at him warmly. “I already have plans to go back in a little while. I’ll keep him company. You and Sapnap can rest.”
“Thank you, Tommy. That means a lot.” George rose to his feet, letting the blanket fall, and walked to his bedside table. “There’s no chance Sapnap will visit him yet. He’d probably kill Dream if he got anywhere near him. He’s mad. Very, very mad.”
George picked up a glass of water and downed it in one go. Tommy bit at his cheek. “And you? Are you mad?”
“In a way, yes. What he’s done is unforgivable.” George opened a drawer and rustled around, cursing when he couldn’t find whatever it was he was looking for. “But I still care for him and always will. Sapnap feels the same. That’s why he’s so angry.”
The couch creaked as George sat back down and placed his blanket over his knees. “It would be so easy just to hate him and be done with it, but Sapnap and I don’t get to have that luxury. We have to go on with our lives and accept that we’ll always love him in some way or another. Sapnap lost a brother and I, well—” George sighed and closed his eyes. “I lost my Dream.”
Tommy leaned his head on George’s shoulder. He smelt of sweat and sadness. “I’m sorry, George. I wish I could help more, really.”
“Go be a happy young man and keep building this nation. That’s how you can help me,” George said with a smile. “Just don’t burn down my house again.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Tommy laughed. “I definitely learnt my lesson. No more arson for me.”
He stood, stretching his sore back. “I’m going to go see Ghostbur. Want to come with me?”
George shook his head gently. “Sapnap will be home for dinner soon. He doesn’t like being alone in the house. It’s best if I stay and rest.”
Tommy nodded. “Alright,” he said. “Well, you know where we’ll be if you ever want to come and relax for a bit, okay?”
“Of course. Now off you go, annoying child. Get out of my house before you cause more damage.”
George shooed him back out into the rain with a wave of his hand. He stood in the doorway as Tommy sprinted back into L’Manburg, looking rather ghostly against the dark browns of his wood cabin.
Ghostbur, upon hearing of Tommy’s plans to visit Dream again, made sure to leave out some extra blue to be taken with him.