Tommy fell out of the world. He was drowning in nothingness. In retrospective, it wasn’t what the boy had expected. He had expected a loud bang, piercing screams, a burning heat… and finally calm guitar strums, light, and a warm welcome. This wasn’t any of that; this was cold, submerged, and silent.
He began to hear noises, although muffled; they sounded like a man’s voice. He started to make up the sounds, he heard the man call him. Suddenly air was passing through his lungs. “Wilbur?” He called for his brother. The sounds were more and more clear, the voice more recognizable, no; it wasn’t Wilbur who was calling him, it was…
“Tommy!” He opened his eyes, the world was spinning fast, he winced and closed them again. All at once he felt the weight of his body, the cold stone against his bare arms, the heat of the lava a few blocks away from him (“no, please, not here, out of all the places not…”). “You’re awake”. He opened his eyes again, the world was settling down, and he was greeted with a face he’d sworn he never wanted to see again.
Tommy sat up and winced. His head was palpitating. He looked at his own hands, and for a moment the sight felt wrong. Still, nothing was out of the ordinary. In fact, his skin looked more healthy and lacked the bruises and scratches that it usually had.
Dream was crouched next to him. He chuckled and said “welcome back”. It was hard to breathe “what- what did you-” he almost didn’t recognize his voice, hoarse and dull. “You’ve been sleeping for a while, Tommy, for a moment I thought you wouldn’t wake up” Dream sounded calm, too calm. There was something wrong but he couldn’t figure out what. The boy tried to get up but Dream’s hands on his shoulders stopped him from doing so “you've been trapped here for a while, clearly it’s starting to affect you”. Was it? Tommy felt tired. He pushed Dream away and sat down resting his back on the walls.
While Tommy tried to catch his breath, the other walked around the cell. The air was warm. Dream stopped in front of the empty item frame “It’s a shame the clock got burned up” he looked at Tommy “would be nice to know what time it is”. The teenager felt too tired to properly get mad at him “Are you stupid? You’re the one who burned it”. Dream chuckled again and went to the desk. Tommy hated that laugh; low and fake, scary in a way.
He looked at the crying obsidian. When he first saw it, he didn’t know why Sam put that there, later he understood. A room that is in direct contact with lava is bound to overheat. Crying obsidian, although it looks like a normal block, can absorb heat. Dream would’ve ended up dying from dehydration if those blocks hadn’t been placed. It was kind of funny, how Sam had spent countless time planning every single detail to make the prison inescapable, and forgot a crucial detail to keep the prisoner alive. It was fucked up, in a way. Still, he was getting better at it, to the point where, worried about Tommy’s mental state, he even gave them a… no, wait, he didn’t give them the cat, the cat just appeared one- hold on.
“Dream”. “Yes?”. “Where’s the cat?”. Dream looked at him from his desk “you killed it”. His expression was unreadable.
“Tommy, you killed it, don’t you remember?”
“Shut up, tell me when it died!” Something wasn’t right. There was something that was slipping through his hands, that if he could only remember …
“You asked me if I cared about the cat”. Now his voice sounded serious, as it did every time something was about to explode. “I said yes, and you killed him.” No, wait, it couldn’t be, that’s not what-- “You did! Why do you look so surprised? See, Tommy, you and I aren’t that-” The teenager stood up.
“Oi, shut up with your bullshit! I know there’s something you’re not telling me-” Dream scoffed “ Something I’m not telling you- like what, Tommy?” “Like how I fell asleep and where my…” The boy looked at his hands once more “Where are my bruises, Dream!?” Wait, wait, hold on “Dream- you beat the shit out of me, Dream! For killing the cat” holy- wait, no no, wait, n- “You- you-” His health bar was full. It was full; it had never been so full since he entered the prison since he- “What did you do , Dream?!”
When he looked at the taller man, he was greeted with a surprisingly calm, cold expression. “I didn’t expect you to remember so soon” he grinned “to be honest, I didn’t expect you to remember at all , I was planning on making Ranboo do all the dirty work”. As the man spoke, Tommy started to remember it all; punch after punch, every broken bone. He was too shocked to speak. “Actually, y’know what? This is perfect!”
“I’m going to escape this prison”
“What the- you fucking killed me!” “And then I brought you back”. “You fucking- you fucker! You weren’t lying about the book!” Dream had a bored expression. “And you beat the shit out of me! with your bare hands!” “I fuking-” He had lost his third life. The last one. By Dream’s hands, and the worst thing was that it happened so-
“It was easy” … “You know, Tommy? You keep selling yourself like this hero who just keeps winning against me, when in reality every time you’ve had to fight me, I’ve, to put it in your words, beaten the shit out of you”.
It wasn’t true, Tommy wanted to say; but he couldn’t stop thinking about what could’ve happened if Punz and the others hadn’t showed up in time that one time. He had felt so helpless, so weak. Then he remembered how he died. The anxiety he had felt when his potatoes had run out, when even though he kept screaming , that he had only two hearts left, to stop it- for a moment he had felt so small, so insignificant, and the realization (‘this is how I die’) had hit too late.
“You’ve been lucky that I decided to use the book to save you. Which brings me to my next point”. “You are going to help me get out of here”. That’s when Tommy snapped and looked at the man. “What?! No! I’m not going to-” “Oh, but you are ” He stepped close to the boy, “You know why?” His tone was menacing, slightly deranged. “Because if you don’t, I’m gonna kill you. And this time-!!” his voice was getting louder “This time, it’s over. No more coming back, you’re dead”.
Tommy was pale, he was sweating cold. He looked like a scared animal. Still, he was oddly composed.
“Dream, you’re not getting out of here” he said in a low tone “Over my dead fucking body I’m letting you escape the prison”. The other man looked like he had expected that reaction.
Dream smiled. “Tell me, Tommy, how was death?”
“What the fuck do you mean how was it, you-”
“No, really, tell me, did you find yoursef in a field of flowers? Did you feel calm? Fulfilled”
“Hey stop changing the subject you fu-”
“C’mon, did you? Did you see Wilbur? Did you talk to him?” Now that was something he didn’t want to think about at the moment “Did he hug you? tell you he’s proud of you?” No, he didn’t. He didn’t see Wilbur, even though Ghostbur had told him he would. Dream put a hand on his shoulder. “Be honest, we both know you didn’t. You didn’t see Wilbur, or Mexican Dream, or Henry, not even Schlatt! Nothing was waiting for you there''.
Death had been… anticlimactic at best. Not what Tommy had expected. It’s funny, because he had spent a lot of time in exile, thinking about how it would be once he gathered enough courage. Secretly, he had expected something similar to what Dream had described; to reunite with his loved ones, to finally, fucking hell, get a little bit of peace.
“It was lonely, wasn’t it? And cold. And scary. You don’t have to say it, Tommy, I know”.
“You can act all you want, saying that you’d rather die than help me, but I know that you’re scared” The boy stayed quiet. Dream scoffed “I mean, really? You expected to die like what, a hero? A tyrant? You, Tommy? You’re just a boy!” “Shut up”. “And your death will be, has been, completely uneventful. Sure, some of them were upset, but…”
Tommy couldn’t keep listening to this, this was just like exile, he couldn’t let… “Do you actually know how much time it took me to bring you back? Hours!” Dream was smiling “I mean, it was kind of hard to tell how many, with the clock burned and all, but I think, that if Sam had ever actually cared about you, he would’ve had plenty of time to come and rescue your dead body from me” “Shut the fuck up you stupid green-”
“And let's not even get that far ahead, you know how much you screamed and cried for him to get you out, and he didn’t even have the decency to give you anything other than the same cold, raw potatoes that he always gave me to eat” “Shut up shut up you know nothing of-”
“How do you still not see it, Tommy?! You’ve been betrayed! by someone you considered your best friend!! That sound familiar?!”
“I don’t need your fucking opinions!! This is JUST LIKE EXILE!”
“...Just like exile? You know what’s just like exile? Those people you call your friends will spend time with you, joke around with you, make you feel like they care, and then the moment you fall into a hole, they’ll just give up on you.” Dream’s tone had softened. “They’ll say you had it coming. And when you die, they’ll go to your funeral, they’ll think ‘poor Tommy, it’s terrible what happened to him’ and then they’ll forget about you.”
Just like they did in exile, huh… Tommy knows, in his head, that it was Dream who destroyed the invitations, but still an irrational part of himself would never be able to let go of how awful he’d felt. How isolated and uncared for.
“I’ll ask once again, Tommy. Will you get out of here with me? Or will you die?”
The boy gulped.
He wanted to scream at him (I’ll kill you first!) and if he had been in that situation a day ago he would have definitely done so. He would have tried to land a punch on the man, maybe he would have succeeded. But at the moment, all he could think about was how easily, almost accidentally, his end had come. He remembered how he had felt months ago in his first duel against Dream. He would never admit that to anyone but before it had even started he knew he was done for. The man in front of him had won countless battles against him; would win countless more… and he’d just won this one.
Tommy lowered his head.
“So? What’s your answer? :)”