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we have joyed to be forlorn

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“It’s pointless!”

“They’re my friends.”

“So you’re recklessly endangering the life of our son, because you want to prove to the people who blew up my country that I’m totally harmless. No matter that they might waltz in and -”

“Tubbo.

“Are you going to tell me I’m wrong?”

 

“So, uh,” Ranboo says. His eyes are fixed firmly on the meeting table in front of him, rather than the folk gathered around it, all of them with their armour shed (but waiting nearby), their weapons set down (but within reach). “This is. My husband. And our son.

Niki makes a startled noise, before covering it with her hand (Ranboo catches it in his periphery), trying her best to be polite. God, she’s so cool. Ranboo really wants to be her friend. They’ve spoken like, five times, and it’s just really cool. She has tattoos and stuff, which is just - 

Anyway.

“Wow, Phil says, sounding not surprised in the slightest. “What a surprising development that I had no idea about. Holy fuck. Ranboo, I am stunned. You have a husband?”

Ranboo buries his face in his hands.

 

“Yes, that’s - that is what I’m doing. You’re wrong.”

“... You seem awfully sure of that.”

“Like I said. They’re my friends.

 

“You knew about this?” Techno says immediately in response to Phil’s shitty acting; it’s incredibly predictable. “That’s, uh. Ranboo. I’m. Happy for you?”

“Yes, Ranboo, that’s lovely,” Niki says, her tone far more genuine than Techno’s - not that Techno is lying, per se, but Ranboo can absolutely tell that Techno’s more preoccupied by the fact that Phil knew and didn’t tell him. Which is … wow, he should not feel guilty about that, and yet! Every day his ability to feel guilty over things reaches new heights. Or new lows? One of those.

“Well, uh, Ranboo says. “You should probably - Should probably meet them. But I just wanna preface it with -”

 

“Yeah, and I’m your husband.”

“Which is why I want you to actually talk to them! I care about you both!”

“Oh. Oh, right. I see how it is -”

“No, don’t do that. Stop it. You don’t get to make me choose, Tubbo, you know how I feel about this.”

 

“- Don’t make me choose between him and you,” Ranboo adds. His conviction, he knows, comes from somewhere deep in his marrow. “But not because it would be difficult. It’s just that I like you guys, and don’t want to have to leave.”

“Oh, Ranboo, we’d never,” Niki says, striking some balance between concerned and fierce. “Isn’t that right, Techno - it would be against your rules to do so.

“Sure,” Techno says. His eyes meet Ranboo’s, and rage swells brief and prickly in him before Techno looks quickly away.

“Well, this is awkward,” Phil says cheerfully.

Ranboo steels himself, takes the instinctive eye-contact fury and turns it into resolve. “Alright, then, he says, and calls over his shoulder, “You guys can come in now.”

 

“... You’re right. I do.”

“So you’ll meet them?”

“You know how I feel about this, too.”

 

Tubbo shuffles into the meeting room, Michael in his arms. “Hi, he says, and all hell breaks loose.

Niki gives a startled giggle, then retreats into herself, her eyes suddenly complicated, conflicted. Phil doesn’t react, but gives Techno a worried glance; Techno, for his part, has taken up his sword in one fluid movement, with no hesitation, like coming home to an extension of his arm.

 

“But we keep getting swept up into the same cycles, Tubbo. Over and over.”

“Ha. Let me guess, next you’re going to talk to me about history repeating itself.”

“I wasn’t - You can’t just discount that because Techno said it. It doesn’t make it any less true.”

“‘Techno’, huh?”

“Tubbo, drop it.”

“You drop it first.”

 

“Techno, says Phil all quiet-like, a gentle warning.

Techno repeats, angrier, “You knew about this.”

“I did. I’m sorry. There’s nothing else, I swear.

The two of them lock eyes; Tubbo and Ranboo trade hasty glances as they do so and, ridiculously, Ranboo has to stifle a laugh of his own. Even as jarring as it is, to see Tubbo framed by the Syndicate’s meeting room, to see Michael cast in the gloom of the lights above, Ranboo feels steady on his feet: here he’s both husband and Lethe, and he feels stronger for it.

Niki murmurs, under her breath, “I think they might be a while.

“This is so incredibly awkward, Tubbo says candidly, and - again - Ranboo has to choke back his laughter.

He sobers, though, when Niki turns a brief look his way. Because she, too, is angry, and he can tell, no matter how gentle the version of herself she presents is, no matter how calm and placid her actions are. She does not hold the eye contact, but there is a brush, and Ranboo has to settle himself with a long, deep breath, and Niki’s hand twitches towards her own axe.

She says, coolly, “I wish you had told us.”

“This is me telling you,” Ranboo says, and shuffles sideways to stand at Tubbo’s side; the proximity emboldens him, makes him feel stronger, and recklessly he slings an arm around Tubbo’s shoulders. Lifts his chin, daring Niki to say something about it.

She bites her lip. Looks at the floor. Her own shoulders are rising and falling with the force of her deep breaths, like she’s fighting to stay calm; her eyes alight on the child in Tubbo’s arms, and instantly Ranboo tenses.

Unexpectedly, though - Niki softens.

“And this is your son?” she whispers, her fingers twitching, again, but differently - as though she wants to reach out, but is unsure of her welcome and afraid of the answer.

 

“... If it’s what you really want, of course I’m not going to make you. Don’t - Don’t misunderstand that. You get to make this call.”

“...”

“I just think you should consider it.”

“There it is. Spoken like a true member of the -”

“Don’t you start -
“Oh.
“Oh, hey, Michael.”

“Aw, hey, Michael, what’s up, bud?”

“Sorry, Michael, I know your dads were being noisy. We’ll be quieter, okay? You go back to sleep. Shh, shh - hey, you’re alright -”

“Holy shit, you’re good at that.”

“Shush, hang on a second, Tubbo, I’ll just - I’ll just put him back to bed, I’ll be back in a minute -”

 

“This is Michael,” Ranboo says. The air thrums with things unsaid.

Across the room, Techno - Technoblade - looks over. His eyes, too, land on Michael’s small form, nestled, protective, in Tubbo’s arms - clutched to his chest, with all the fierce parental protectiveness Ranboo and Tubbo have been discovering, together, all this time.

Techno says, softly, “Ah.”

“There you go,” Phil says amiably, and bumps his shoulder into the Blood God’s, impossibly and effortlessly casual.

 

“Why does he listen to you and not me? This isn’t fair, this is favouritism -”

“Maybe I’m just the better dad.”

“Aw. Sure you are.”

“... You seem less mad.”

“I wasn’t mad.

“Uh-huh.”

“Just … hesitant.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“I’m just - I really care about you, y’know, Ranboo. And him, too. If anything happened -”

“Hey, breathe, breathe.”

“I don’t know what I’d fucking do -”

“Just breathe with me, Tubbo. Okay? See, like this.”

 

Tubbo’s eyes are wide, and he knows not to look at Ranboo, but Ranboo notices the way his hands are shaking where he’s holding Michael to his chest; so Ranboo tugs Tubbo closer into his side, too. The three of them, all linked, one unit. 

Across the room, Techno is making a familiar expression: he wants to participate, but is unsure, too, of his welcome. And there is the faintest of smiles gracing Phil’s face, bittersweet and tear-pricked, as his eyes, too, trace the contours of Michael’s sleeping form in Tubbo’s arms.

Ranboo says, “Hey, Tubbo, give him here for a minute?”

Tubbo tenses, not visibly, but Ranboo can feel it. But Ranboo squeezes him briefly before letting go, as reassuring as he knows how to be.

Half of what they have is built on taking leaps of faith, putting their trust in each other even when it seems foolish, stupid, misguided. (The other half is built on love, or maybe on watching The Office together; jury’s still out on that one, by which Ranboo means that Tubbo refuses to say the L-word no matter how much he likes throwing around the S-E-X-Y one.) And so Tubbo takes a deep breath - Ranboo feels it shudder through all three of them - and turns to Ranboo, briefly, so that the Syndicate cannot see his face, and whispers, “Please be careful,” and gently, carefully, presses Michael Underscore-Beloved into Ranboo’s waiting arms.

 

“... I’ll consider it.”

“Oh! Oh my God, really? I did not actually think -”

“Ranboo.”

“Sorry, sorry.

“...
“It means a lot to me, is all.
“Thank you.”

 

Ranboo says, lampshading the sting of it with an awkward laugh, “I’m pretty sure you guys get why you can’t hold him, right? But, uh, if you wanted to come say hi. You could maybe do that. If you’re quiet.”

“Oh,” Niki says, still seeming starstruck, blindsided, “he’s sleeping.”

“Yeah,” Tubbo says. “He’s a toddler. They do that.”

Niki laughs, and it is genuine, and something swells in Ranboo’s chest.

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

Techno takes two steps towards them, then pauses, looking to Phil, then to Ranboo, then, desperately, to Niki, as though for guidance. Niki, though, isn’t paying attention to him - she extends a hand to Michael, almost as if to touch the top of his head, just gently, and then pulls away before she can.

“I’m happy for you,” she says. Her eyes are shining; whether with joy or unshed tears, Ranboo doesn’t know, and he’s not exactly going to stare at them to figure it out.

“Thanks,” Tubbo answers, for both of them. “We found him in a box on the side of the road: Nether remix.”

Across the room, a startled chuckle bursts out of Phil’s chest; Tubbo only looks at him levelly. It dies down after a moment, but Phil’s smile has not faded, and Ranboo considers that a win.

Michael stirs, ever so slightly, in Ranboo’s arms. Niki looks like she’s fighting back a coo.

Techno clears his throat, and Ranboo almost jumps - you take your eyes off the guy for one second and suddenly he’s crossed the entire room in total silence without you even noticing, holy cow. “He’s - from the Nether,” Techno says, slowly. He has positioned himself so that Ranboo is between him and Tubbo - it hits Ranboo, suddenly and clearly, that while it could be to make Tubbo feel safer, it could just as easily be for Techno’s benefit.

He turns to Techno, squaring his shoulders; Tubbo’s so comically short that he can absolutely just hide behind Ranboo if he feels so inclined. “Yeah,” Ranboo says. He notices, absently, that he’s swaying slightly back and forth - that’s right, Michael gets antsy if he’s not at least a little in motion. Doesn’t sleep well unless someone’s rocking him. God, the sleepless nights. “Wanna say hi?”

“Hi, Michael,” says Technoblade, the Blood God. His voice breaks over it, cracking like a teenager’s.

Behind Ranboo, Tubbo gives an audible cough, one that is very clearly an aborted chuckle caught too late.

The room freezes.

Ranboo takes a step back, closer to Tubbo, and watches the panic play out across the stage of Techno’s expressions - the curl to his lip, the way his shoulders tense, the deep breath that rumbles through him. Niki and Phil have both stilled, Ranboo notes dimly, but his focus has narrowed to Techno. And to Michael, in his arms. And Tubbo, behind him. So much for not having to choose, then, because by the way Tubbo has gone utterly still, and the way Techno’s hands have ceased their constant motion -

Techno looks, slowly and deliberately, at Ranboo’s shoulder. 

Tubbo steps out from behind him.

Then, impossibly - slowly - tersely - they exchange nods.

Niki lets out an audible sigh, and Phil gives an awkward chuckle, and Michael shifts, turns his head, blinks blearily up at Technoblade, and Techno looks like he’s melting, says something rumbly and chuffy in a language Ranboo doesn’t know, turns his back and hurries away to vanish from the meeting room.

Phil laughs. “That’s the limit of his social battery,” he says, and the tension is broken.

 

“You don’t have to do this.”

“I know. But I want to.”

“Okay - have you got the, uh, the thingie? The backpack leash thing -”

“God, we sound so domestic.”

“Well, yeah. That would probably be the fact that we’re literally married, Tubbo. That’ll - that’ll do that to ya.”

“True, true.”

 

Michael nestles further into the crook of Ranboo’s arm.

 

“Thank you, seriously.”

“Stop it, or I’ll take it back.”

 

Ranboo reaches out to Tubbo.

 

“You wouldn’t.”

 

Tubbo takes his hand.

 

“You’re right. I would never.”