Tommy comes to see him just when he’s putting the finishing touches on his house.
It’s a small thing, built for one but with room enough for two, in a pinch. It’s made of spruce and stone. It’s cold, despite the few torches he’s strewn about the place, because he’d chosen as uninviting of a biome as possible. Snow has already started to collect on the roof.
It’s not running away. Not really. What it is, is independence. He’s finally making something for himself. He’s going to take a step back, take some time to think, somewhere away from all the wars and blame.
The blame follows him, through the suit he still wears despite the way it scratches on his skin, through the way he swears he can feels horns breaking through his skull, the way he’s out in the snow instead of in the White House because there isn’t any ground for the White House to stand on, anymore.
He is not running away. This is independence.
He first sees Tommy through the trees to the east. He thinks it’s a hallucination, at first, so he shakes his hair out of his eyes and keeps circling the building, making sure everything is structurally sound.
Tommy doesn’t go away. He keeps inching closer. Tubbo pretends he can’t see him and stands in the front yard with his hands held out to frame his house.
Everything happens fast. There’s the sound of a creeper exploding and he’s turning with his hackles raised and gunpowder in his nose, and then Tommy is standing seven feet away, blurring between his fingers, unharmed by the explosion.
Tubbo drops his hands. Tommy’s eyes follow them to the pommel of his sword.
“Hello,” Tubbo says, unceremoniously, far more steady than he deserves to sound.
“Hey,” Tommy says. His voice grates deeper than it does in Tubbo’s nightmares. “What are you doing?”
Tubbo thinks it’s pretty obvious. “Building a house.”
“All the way out here?”
“I don’t have any,” he breathes out sharply, “obligations. To L’Manberg, anymore. I don’t have to stay.”
Tommy frowns. “I guess.”
“I haven’t ever had a house,” Tubbo says quickly, rapid-fire fiberglass excuses. “Not one that stayed. And it’s calm, out here, you know? I can - I can get away from the, uh, the noise of the - the rest of the world.”
“Yeah.” Tommy takes a few steps forward. He comes into view like the focus of a camera, and Tubbo feels something stick in his throat. “Sounds like you’re in denial, man.”
“What?” Tubbo splutters, tearing his eyes away, moving to pace a circle in the snow. “I’m not in denial. That’s a grief thing. I’m - I’m not in denial.”
“That’s what someone in denial would say.”
“You’re all the way out here, in denial,” Tommy gestures, still moving towards him. He’s so tall. Is he taller? Does he just feel taller? How long has it fucking been?
“No, I’m - I’m, what, I’m, acceptance-ing -“
“You’re in fucking deep, huh?” Tommy’s so close now that his breath mists in Tubbo’s face.
Not that long ago, Tommy had been dead - maybe not truly, but it had been true to Tubbo. Tommy was dead, then he wasn’t dead, but just as unreachable. Now he’s not dead and so close Tubbo can smell him. Now L’Manberg is dead, and Tommy’s chest is rising and falling, every detail about him is thrown into high definition even in the dark of the evening and Tubbo is not President of a crater, he is simply not the President, and Tommy is real and alive and I’m with Tubbo, worth more than you ever were -
“Come on, Tubbo, it’s a nice house and all, don’t get me wrong,” Tommy says, oblivious to the tidal wave washing Tubbo’s brain out of his ears. “But please, hear me out.”
Tubbo’s legs buckle, and he collapses to his knees. Snow seeps through his pants - he’s still in his suit -
“Oh, my God, I’m in denial,” Tubbo croaks out, threading his hands through his hair until it hurts.
Tommy laughs, albeit a little uncomfortably, kneeling down to join him in the snow. “Come home, Tubbo.”
Tubbo shakes his head. “Home’s gone. I haven’t got a home.”
It’s what he’d been trying to do. It’s what he knows he never can do, cause home isn’t a place, someone had said once - home isn’t a place, it’s where your people are. Where’s your home, Tubbo?
The cheesy answer is that Tommy is his home, but Tubbo thinks he may have forfeited the right to keep thinking that the day he made Tommy leave his. The real answer is that sometimes, home is a fucking place, and he’s just made another one - the thought of having to give another fragile framework away crashes into him, whatever stubbornness that hasn’t been beaten out of him clinging to it and refusing to let go.
“Please, Tubbo,” Tommy murmurs, reaching out with spider-silk fingers, all pale and burned and scarred, some new, some far too old. “Listen. I know we’ve - I know we’ve both been through some shit, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Tubbo manages. He takes Tommy’s hands on impulse. Impossibly, they’re warm.
“Yeah. And you know who’s been behind it all?” Tommy’s whole expression shifts. “Dream.”
Tubbo shivers. It’s cold, out here.
“But you know what I think - I think he ran away, yesterday, Tubbo. I think he’s vulnerable, he’s - he thinks he’s on top of the world and shit, thinks he’s immortal, fuckin’, uh, impervious -“
“What are you saying?” Tubbo asks, knowing where this is going.
“I’m saying, this is the time to get back what’s ours.” There’s a steel in Tommy’s voice that Tubbo isn’t sure he likes.
Ours. Ours. Ours. Ours.
“Tubbo, we - we’ve got one chance,” Tommy says.
“I know,” Tubbo says. He does, all too well. He feels the gaping hole in his head, behind his ribs, as much as any poor sap having a two-thirds-life crisis before they turn eighteen.
“Please, man, I,” and here Tommy sounds like nothing Tubbo has ever heard, “I need your help.”
Tubbo stares. He just can’t stop staring. Tommy breathes, in and out, clad in iron armor that he’s too lanky for, hair too long and falling into his eyes.
“We’ve got to get the discs back. One last stand, Tubbo - one last fight.”
“If we die,” Tubbo says.
“Then we’re done,” Tommy finishes, with a lot less reverence than he used to. “But, I - I just know it. Dream’s weak. And he’s the reason all this has happened, he’s - he’s manipulated me, hell, he’s manipulated you -“
“To be honest,” Tubbo laughs, breathless, and he is being honest, he’s being so fucking honest, “I have no clue how any of this happened -“
Tommy laughs with him, melodic and high and childish. That hasn’t changed a note.
“Yeah. We have to do this. Yeah, Tubbo. Please.” Tommy’s fingers slide between Tubbo’s, squeezing, solid, real. “One last fight. And then we’re free.”
Fight with me, Tubbo, Tommy says, pointing to the concept of a revolution for a nation. I will, Tubbo says, and fights for Tommy instead.
“Okay.” Tubbo lurches forward, pressing his face into Tommy’s shoulder.
“And I’m sorry, too,” Tommy mutters into his hair, arms wrapping around him. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the shit I did wrong.”
Stay with me, Tubbo, Tommy says, holding him close in a ravine that echoes too loud. I will, Tubbo says, sixteen with burn scars so thick it hurts to breathe and all too aware of the fact that he cannot - will not - ever be able to keep that promise.
“It’s okay,” Tubbo says, “I’m sorry too,” and he is.
“Come home,” Tommy says. It breaks.
Die with me, Tubbo, Tommy says with fire in his eyes, hands clutching his so tightly it aches. One last stand. Die with me, Tubbo.
“Okay,” Tubbo whispers.
I will, Tubbo inevitably says, because it never was going to end any other way.