Technoblade rarely travels in the Nether anymore. He’d much rather stay above ground where he’s stronger than everyone else- richer than everyone else. He’d much rather live his life where instincts can’t reach him. Being hindered by things such as dormant instincts brought to light by the heat of the Nether was never a good look for him, and he avoided them at all costs.
Which was why when he’d come to the Nether this time, it was supposed to be quick. Mine some gold, maybe gather the materials for a few Withers so he could get a few more Nether Stars, and then move on. Leave the place where he was born but not raised.
And then he’d heard the snuffling. It’s a quiet thing, sniffling mixed with high-pitched whines, and, oh, there go his instincts. Recognizing the sound even though he’s never heard it before- though he definitely made it in his youth.
There’s a piglet nearby, and they’re terrified.
He casts one final, forlorn glance at the gold he’d seen higher up, and then he turns to follow the sound. It’s not difficult to find the source of it, buried under the remains of a Bastion. Someone had come through and blown the place to smithereens, likely an Overworld human, as the ghasts rarely bother those who reside in Bastions.
His mind is slowly slipping away, instincts swallowing him whole as he searches with a new fervor through the broken remains of the Bastion that seems to have been rather large. The fortifications that had been destroyed seem new. They’d been recently built up to protect something, but Technoblade isn’t quite sure what. Unless the Bastion had come across a large sum of gold they wished to hide, there was no reason for extra fortifications.
Not that it did much, considering the place is in ruins now, but they’d done it for a reason.
He peels back bricks until he finally reaches the piglet, sitting back on his haunches and frowning down at the little thing that cowers behind what looks like a Brute. The Brute is long dead, face slowly bloating, but the piglet cowers anyway.
Techno’s nose twitches as he sniffs the air, and he tilts his head. A little boy.
Big blue eyes, so unlike the muted white of a true piglin, peer out at him from where the little thing cowers. He’s covered in dust and debris from the Bastion’s collapse, dyed a dark gray with the ash of it all. Techno slouches a little lower, sliding into the hole with the Brute’s body and the piglet.
“Hello,” he grunts, tongue unsure as it moves around the language. Phil had found him young, and he’d encouraged Technoblade to keep practicing the Piglin tongue even after he’d taught him English, but Techno had never had much interest in it. He knew enough to trade, and he had the vaguest memories of someone speaking the language to him before he’d been found, but now he’s here. Staring down at a piglin child who looks more like a hybrid -more like him- than anything else.
The piglet says something back, lower lip trembling as he clutches tightly to the hand of the Brute lying in front of him. Under the scent of death and decay, they smell similar. Brothers, maybe. The Brute doesn’t look old enough to be the piglet’s father, and Brutes are usually bred anyway. They’re not normally allowed to mate naturally, instead being paired with a strong female to produce more strong Brutes.
“Come,” Techno tells the child, holding out a hand and frowning when the little thing flinches. He shuffles forward a little bit further, making sure not to touch the other body in the hole. “It’s okay.”
The blue-eyed boy reaches out slowly, and Techno counts five fingers on his hand. Definitely a hybrid, then. A little one at that. He can’t quite tell how old the boy is, not with his size. A piglet that small shouldn’t even be weaned yet, but this one is walking on its own. This one has an awareness in his eyes that says he knows what’s going on. He knows what death is, and he knows to be wary.
The boy’s little fingers brush the calluses on his palm, and Techno slowly closes his own fingers around the small hand. He pulls the piglet toward him slowly, helping him step on little legs over the Brute’s body. The little boy sniffles, rubbing at the tears evaporating from his eye and then whining when he gets dust in it.
“Come on, runt,” Techno rumbles, soothing little chuffing sounds bubbling out of his chest. The piglet shuffles up to him and lets go of his hand, raising his arms to be held. He makes a soft noise that Techno can’t understand, words in the language he never learned, and he complies. The dusty piglet burrows into him, tucking his fuzzy little head under his chin.
How had Phil helped him shift before they’d entered the overworld all those years ago? Techno doesn’t quite remember. It’d been magic, he knows that much, but he still doesn’t remember how. He could force the shift, maybe, or he could risk the possible zombification of the boy.
Techno hadn’t zombified. He was a hybrid, so he was fine. The piglet should be fine, too.
The runt plays with the frill at the collar of Techno’s shirt, grunting words he doesn’t quite understand. He still snuffles every now and then, little sizzling sounds as tears evaporate from the dusty fur around his eyes. Techno holds him a little closer, chuffing under his breath. The piglet chuffs back softly, a self-soothing sound to accompany Techno’s own.
“You’re pretty small,” Techno tells him softly, cracking a small smile when the runt jolts at the sound of the new language. Big blue eyes stare up at him, open wide in surprise. The runt makes another small noise, reaching up to pat at Techno’s face. Dust comes off his fingers with each pat, likely leaving little handprints on Techno’s cheeks.
“Thank you,” Techno grunts, rolling his eyes when the runt laughs. “I love having to wash dirty handprints off my face.”
The piglet snuffles quietly, little nose turning toward the portal ahead of them. He asks a question Techno can’t understand, pointing at the glowing purple particles that dance around the portal.
“It’s a portal,” Techno tells him, mouth quirking when the little boy gives no answer. “It’s going to take us to the Overworld. It’s- safer there. Probably. Well. You’ll be safe with me, regardless.”
Hold on- when had he decided he was keeping the kid?
Probably the second he picked the runt up. His instinct clouded brain had latched onto the soft noises of distress and refused to let go until they’d stopped, and in the ten-minute walk, it’d decided they were keeping him.
Great. Absolutely phenomenal.
Phil wouldn’t mind raising another piglin hybrid, would he? He’d raised Technoblade and Wilbur just fine.
The little hybrid squeals in surprise when the portal warps around them, clinging to Technoblade and hiding in his neck. He holds him a little closer, chuffing once again in an attempt to soothe him. He wraps his cape around the boy, distant memories of Phil doing much the same to Wilbur and him when he’d brought them to the Overworld.
The rush of cold air that comes with the Overworld -the Nether is hot, after all- is amplified by the fact that Techno has been staying in an old hunting cabin of Phil’s on the edge of the Antarctic. He’s sixteen now, and he’s been taking as many trips as he can to enjoy what remains of his freedom. He’s not the one who is supposed to be training for the throne, but Phil has been training him alongside Wilbur anyway. He wants them both to be ready should the need arise, or to decide amongst themselves.
Technoblade would have been a Brute in the Bastion.
He frowns down at the runt cowering in his arms, head tilting. The Brute had died protecting his runt. In the Bastion, Techno would have died to protect Wilbur. Techno would still die to protect Wilbur.
If Wilbur takes the throne, Techno will be his personal guard. If Techno takes the throne, Wilbur will become his advisor. They’ve talked it out already, decided years ago when Phil had first asked them if they’d be willing to be trained to be Emperor. They worked it out a long time ago.
The runt peers out of Techno’s cloak, whining as he squeezes his eyes shut. It’s too bright for him, and Techno pulls another part of his cape over the boy’s eyes. The cabin isn’t too far, thankfully, so he steps off the platform and into the knee-deep snow with little fanfare.
“You’re awfully quiet,” Techno tells the runt, chuffing softly and holding him a little closer. “Wilbur will teach that out of you, I’m sure. The guy never shuts up. Although, I kind of like you like this. It’ll be nice to have someone around who doesn’t talk as much.”
As if to spite him, the runt makes a series of grunting sounds. There are a few words Techno recognizes, but Wilbur was the one who actually kept studying the Piglin language as they got older. Techno knows a few words, but his twin is the one who can speak the language. Piglin isn’t a language that’s written down, so Wilbur had had a tutor, and Techno had spent his time learning to fight. He’d been studious, sure, but there was no reason for Piglin to be part of his curriculum if he wasn’t going to be spending any time in the Nether.
Wilbur just… wanted to get in touch with their heritage. For some reason.
Techno unlocks the front door of the cabin, kicking it shut behind him and reaching out to light one of the lanterns with a flicker of magic. He’d been far more in tune with the darker magics than the fancy ones like Wilbur, but they both knew the basics. Simple fire magic, a little bit of stuff with wind and plants. Nothing Techno plants has ever died, and he can grow anything anywhere.
“My brother and I used to come here with our dad when we were… your age?” It’s more of a question than a statement, but it’s good enough. Technoblade still doesn’t know how old the kid is, and he likely won’t until the piglet has been bathed. Even then, the size of him might still make it hard to tell. The runt is still coated in dust and dark gray, and he’s leaving ash all over his shirt and cape.
“Anyway, we used to come here when we were little. Some of our clothes might still be here, so you won’t have to wear your rags anymore. And they’ll be warmer. You’re going to be cold until we figure out how to teach you to shift, little runt.”
The piglet pouts, his snout twitching as his ears droop. His big blue eyes grow wet where he peers out of the cape, and without the heat of the Nether, the tears can gather in his eyes this time. Techno rolls his eyes, raising an eyebrow and flicking a bit of magic at the fireplace to light it. At the new addition of fire, the runt turns with surprised eyes.
“That’s called magic , kid. Phil might be able to teach you, if you stick around.” Techno doesn’t like the if involved, doesn’t like the possibility that they won’t keep the piglet, but. Phil is their dad. Phil is their gold. Whatever he says, goes. Techno clears his throat against the unease that settles there, hoisting the runt up a little higher. “Alright, what do you want first? Food, or a bath?”
The answer comes when the runt’s stomach rumbles, and he whimpers softly. Techno chuffs under his breath, bouncing the kid gently as he moves into the kitchen.
“Food it is, then. I still have things cooking from when I Ieft earlier- hope you’re okay with potatoes and chicken.” As an afterthought, he adds, “if you can even eat that yet. I still don’t know how old you are.”
He moves to set the runt down on one of the chairs, pausing when the kid clings to him even tighter. After a second attempt with the same result, he sighs. “Down,” he grunts, once more trying to detach the little ash-covered hands from his shirt with the same lack of success. It’d be easier to just keep holding him at this rate, and Techno doesn’t really feel like making the kid cry. He doesn’t like dealing with touchy-feely emotions, thank you.
“You know what? Fine. I’m already dirty anyway, might as well add a little more to it.”
He’s. filling the silence. Wilbur is usually with him, talking for ages on end about anything and everything that’s caught his interest. Little self-sustaining ecosystems, politics of other nations, you name it. Techno is used to the silence being filled, and now he’s filling it himself. It’s strange.
It’s awkward plating food with only one hand, but he manages. The piglet perks up at the sight and the smell of it, peeking his way out of the cape he’s basically swaddled in with a happy little noise. Techno bites back a smile at the sound, fighting against the instincts that, while less aggressive now, are still very present. He sits them down at the table, the little piglet in his lap, and he offers the kid a fork. Which he tries to ignore. Lovely.
“No, idiot, your hands are disgusting,” Techno grumbles, smacking the little hand away and frowning when blue eyes are turned to him with so much -too much- hurt. Technoblade sighs, scooping a little bit of food onto the fork and holding it up to the boy’s mouth. The runt takes the bite after a moment, and then Techno feeds him another, and another, until the plate is clean and the little thing’s eyes are drooping.
“Bath time,” he tells the shivering boy, though he’s mostly talking to himself, and he hoists him up into his arms again. His boots were taken off at the door to leave the snow to melt, but he’d kept the cape on so the piglet wouldn’t freeze to death. Now it’s more a blanket than anything else, completely detached from its place on his shoulders and instead wrapped several times over around the runt. He seems relatively content like that, burying his head under Techno’s chin with little chuffing noises of his own.
The bath gets run slowly, the water hot enough to have steam covering the mirror and clogging Technoblade’s lungs, and the piglet snoozes through it all. Techno can only assume the kid’s exhausted. Though the Bastion had been recently destroyed, ‘recently’ didn’t mean within the last hour. The Brute had been dead for at least a couple of days. He still doesn’t even know what exactly the Bastion’s fortifications had been protecting, nor why they were destroyed so thoroughly.
Techno jostles the little piglet to wake him up, quirking a small smile when he blinks awake blearily. He slowly sets him on the ground, taking advantage of the fact that his arms are bundled up to avoid being clung to, and then he smiles a little wider. The kid is so little. He truly is a runt.
“Alright,” Techno tells him softly, keeping his voice low even though he knows he won’t be understood. “Cape off, then clothes, then it’s in the water with you.”
Predictably, the piglet simply continues to stare at him. This is going to be a challenge, then.
By the time Techno has managed to dump the little thing into the bathtub, he’s fairly certain he’s mostly gray as well. He’ll have to bathe before they head back to the kingdom. Dust and debris come out of the kid’s fur in waves, rapidly dying the water a sickly gray color. His hands come away a dark gray with the bubbly soap, nearly black, and he frowns to himself.
There’d been… a lot of dust. The Bastion had come down around the kid, but it seemed almost impossible for there to be this much. Almost like it’d been put there on purpose. He still hasn’t figured out what they were trying so hard to protect.
He figures it out, though, when he scrubs the remaining thin layer of dust and dirt away with a second round of clean water. The runt’s fur is gold. It’s a little lighter than actual gold, but it’s close enough that in the light of the lantern, Techno nearly mistakes it for the actual thing.
The kid is, quite literally, golden. He’d been what they were trying to protect. Whether that be from outsiders or Overworlders is still unclear, but Techno knows without a shadow of a doubt that this kid had been what they were protecting. His own instincts are quite literally going wild at the sight of the golden fur, the rarity of it turning the dial on his possessiveness up to one thousand.
There’s no way they’re not keeping the piglet. Wilbur is going to react the same way he is, and Phil can shove it if he says no. He’s their gold, sure, but you can never have enough gold. Gold is nice to have. Techno likes having a lot of it. He can always have more.
The runt grunts a soft question, one Techno can’t understand, but he’s clean. He drains the water and wraps the kid in several fluffy towels, carrying him into what used to be his and Wilbur’s old room. There are still clothes from their childhood inside, though things will probably work better if he can teach the kid to shift. He sits himself down in front of the dresser, letting the little boy sit facing him on his crossed legs.
He doesn’t speak enough piglin for this. Welp. Guess he’s going to force the shift.
Techno’s never done this before, and though he knows how to shift himself, he isn’t quite sure how to force someone else to do it. You’d think he and Wilbur would have practiced on each other, but no. It’s mostly just a concentration thing: pushing his innermost latent magic outwards and feeling it rush over his skin. Shifting is a strange feeling, like you’re growing a second skin, but then it settles and you feel fine again.
He cradles the runt’s jaw in both hands, smiling gently when the little thing grunts quietly and nuzzles into one of his hands. Techno focuses on feeling around with his own magic, nudging slightly at the magic wound tightly in the piglet’s chest. His little nose wiggles as he makes soft oinking noises, and Techno’s smile grows. They’re getting somewhere, then, considering he can feel the small bundle of magic in the runt’s chest.
The magic feels warm, gentle tones of red warping ever so softly around the runt’s lungs. Techno reaches in with his own magic, the color of which neither Phil nor Wilbur will tell him, and he coaxes the magic outward. He guides the runt’s magic out over his skin, watching in mild fascination as the golden fur slowly disappears. The skin that’s left behind is pale, but the curly head of blond hair atop his head is just as golden as the fur had been.
Good. Techno’s glad he’s still gold.
Two feet, ten toes, a couple of moles on his shins, and a smattering of the faintest freckles Technoblade has ever seen across his shoulders and nose. His hair isn’t quite frizzy, but the curls are reminiscent of Wilbur’s while still holding the golden color Phil’s hair possesses. His eyes aren’t as big anymore, but they’re still bright blue and wide. A little button nose that all younger kids eventually grow out of, lips set in a pout, and furrowed brows.
He’s perfect, in Techno’s opinion. A tiny little brother made of gold for them to cherish for the rest of their lives. Wilbur and Phil are going to be so pleased with him.
“You’re… I can’t tell. I don’t know a lot about kids,” Techno mumbles, swiping a thumb across the cheek he’s still cradling. “Six, maybe? You could be eight, I guess. You’re awfully small.”
The piglet makes more soft oinking sounds, and Techno chuffs in answer. The runt shifts forward and buries himself in Techno’s chest, sighing quietly and pressing his ear -his small, pointed ear- to where the chuffing originates from.
“I’m calling you Theseus,” Techno decides, running a hand through soft blond curls and then forcing himself not to literally purr at the feeling. He and Wilbur had named themselves when they learned enough about the English language, but the piglet is far older than they were when they were found. They’d been maybe three at best, and Phil had been a good teacher, so they picked their names by the time they were six. Theseus is that age now, maybe older.
“You might fit into some of my old clothes,” he mumbles, scooting toward the right side of the dresser and pulling out the bottom drawer that he never uses anymore. The higher up the drawers go, the bigger in size -and less in quantity- the clothes become. “Wilbur was always real gangly, I think you’re a little too short for that. Even my clothes might be too big for you.”
There are several things that Techno pulls out, aiming for thicker material to keep Theseus warm. He’s a little thing, still shivering even though he’s wrapped in several fluffy towels. Techno slips little socks over his feet, warm sleeping pants -all they have is pajamas here- and a soft blue sweater that is much too big for him. It matches the boy’s eyes.
Theseus grunts at him, another question, Techno thinks, but he still doesn’t understand the piglet. The little thing turns his head up, chin pressed into Techno’s sternum, and Techno continues to pet at his hair. He watches with a fond smile as Theseus’ eyes slowly flutter shut, head drooping to the side until Techno’s holding it in his hand. His cheek is smushed against Techno’s palm, round with baby fat squishing upward.
He’s cute. He’s golden, too. Technoblade doesn’t know what will happen if Phil decides they can’t keep him. Wilbur is the one with the fondness for children, and if Techno is already attached after such a short time, Wilbur is going to be even worse. They’re both stubborn, nearly detrimentally so, and if they’re both attached to the kid, Phil won’t be able to do much.
Techno leaves the kid on one of their old beds, bundled in several blankets and nestled in every single pillow in the room. The Nether doesn’t have comforts like this, nor does it really give you that much time to sleep, but Techno has gotten used to the plush life of being a prince, and Theseus is going to be a prince, too. Might as well get him started as early as possible.
He bathes himself and makes sure the house is locked down tightly before moving into the largest bedroom, stealing the pillows and blankets from the bed and returning to the smaller room, and lying in the other bed- Wilbur’s old bed. Under the stale smell of lack-of-use, it still smells vaguely like his twin. It’s nice.
The runt oinks quietly in his sleep on the other side of the room, burrowing into the pillows he lies on with a little smile. Techno smiles near involuntarily, rolling onto his side so he can face the kid and closing his own eyes. They’ll ride on horseback back to the kingdom tomorrow, likely to be intercepted by guards about halfway there, though the protection is unneeded. Several trained assassins couldn’t kill Technoblade if they tried. Not when he’s protecting something as precious as the gold he’s found.
It’s with that thought that he drifts off, body content to slip into sleep as it anticipates the hibernation he’s going to have in about a month’s time.
He’s woken up several hours later by the runt squealing in fear, several thumps reverberating through the room as the little thing tumbles off the bed and nearly hits his head on the bedside table. Techno shoots up, nearly falling off the bed himself to grab the kid as Theseus throws himself at him. He’s crying in earnest this time, fat tears rolling down his cheeks as his sobs bounce between broken human cries and piglin squeals.
Techno grabs the kid when he throws himself at him, pulling him up and into his chest as he scans the room for whatever it is that could have hurt him. Theseus hinders his vigil by grabbing at his face, patting at his cheeks and neck and- resting his little hand on Techno’s jugular. The other hand rests over Techno’s heart.
He’d been checking to make sure he was still alive- he thought he was dead.
Techno’s earlier chuffing does become a borderline purr this time with how deep and rumbling it is, and he guides Theseus’ head down to press his ear over his heartbeat. He pets gently through his hair, twirling curls around his fingers and leaning back against the pillows again.
He’s glad the responses are mostly instinctual considering he’s never been good with touchy-feely emotions, but this is a little different. Techno understands fear- he’s spent years talking Wilbur down from panic attacks and nightmares. Theseus being gold just makes the instinct to comfort and protect more aggressive.
“It’s alright,” he murmurs, leaning forward to bury his nose in the boy’s hair. “I’m okay, runt. Technoblade never dies, you don’t have to worry.”
They sleep there, bundled together in a bed a little too small for Techno, a small ear and hand over a big, steadily beating heart.
Theseus takes one look at Carl, Techno’s prized horse, and falls in love. Techno watches it happen as he helps the heavily bundled kid up onto the saddle, smiling fondly as Theseus pats at Carl’s neck and chuffs under his breath.
The clouds are heavy, promising a snowstorm by nightfall, but Techno promised he’d be home by then as well. They have no choice but to head back. Theseus is bundled in several pairs of pants and socks, at least three coats, two pairs of mittens, and there are boots a little too big on his feet. Techno found a little cloak from the closet that’s the tiniest bit too large, and he’s bundled Theseus in that as well, the hood pulled over his head.
Technoblade locks up the stable behind him, hoisting himself onto the saddle behind Theseus and smirking down at the boy when he tilts his head back to stare up with wide eyes.
“You ready to go meet the rest of the pack?” he asks, looping his arms around Theseus and grabbing the reins. “Better yet, you ready to ride a horse? We’re going to go fast, so I hope you’re ready.”
Theseus has no clue what he’s saying, so without much more hesitation, Techno snaps the reins and sends Carl into a trot down the path. Theseus squeals in surprise, grabbing onto the sleeves over Techno’s arms and pushing back into his chest. Techno holds him a little tighter, letting go of the reins with one hand to press his other hand flat over the runt’s chest.
They pick up into a canter as they slowly move onto the more traveled trail that leads out to the hunting cabin, and by the time they’ve reached a gallop, Theseus is vibrating with laughter. His eyes water as the cold wind whips into them, round cheeks and the tip of his nose growing pink, but he never stops smiling. His little tusks poke out as his lips stretch wide, and almost unintentionally, Techno finds himself laughing along.
They cover ground quickly, entering the main road within a few hours as they switch between galloping and trotting to give Carl a break. He’s a strong horse, maybe a little magically enhanced, so they make good time. By the time the group of guards is within sight, they’re well over halfway back and almost safe from the impending snowstorm.
“Prince Technoblade!” One of the guards calls, nodding in greeting when Techno nods back. Theseus is bundled in the folds of Techno’s cape, peering out and making soft noises. They’re not quite fearful, but maybe a little uneasy. Techno chuffs back, wiggling his fingers around to move Theseus’ hands and distract him from the ten guards that are all eyeing him.
“Who is this, Prince Technoblade?” the same guard asks, head tilted. She’s the Captain, someone Techno enjoys training with, and she has a son of her own. He’s about Theseus’ age, Techno thinks.
“My new brother, if Phil allows it.” He says it with certainty and a little possessiveness, and the Captain shakes her head fondly. “Once Wilbur meets him, it’ll be set in stone.”
“I never would have pegged you as the type to pick up strays, Prince Technoblade,” Captain Puffy says, her smile almost fond. She’d been a kind of strange aunt for Techno and Wilbur growing up, having a son their age who often sparred with Techno for hours or hid away with Wilbur in the music room for just as much time.
Techno shrugs, holding Theseus a little closer. “I couldn’t leave him there.” Is his answer, and the Captain doesn’t question it.
The guards close rank around them, Puffy and her right-hand man ahead of him, three guards flanking either side, and then two behind him as well. It’s an unnecessary precaution, but Techno appreciates it considering he has Theseus with him. He doesn’t doubt that he could defend them both, but the added protection is nice.
“Your father wants you in the throne room as soon as you get back!” Puffy shouts over her shoulder, glancing back at him and flashing a smile. “Something about a family meeting!”
“He’s got quite the surprise coming!” Techno calls back, grinning sharply when the Captain throws her head back and laughs. She’s old enough to be his mother, but he considers her one of his closest friends.
They make good time, and soon, the group of eleven horses are riding through the large gate into the kingdom and down the back roads that lead to the palace. Techno pulls his crown out of one of his bags and slips it onto his head, grinning down at Theseus when the little boy catches sight of the glittering gold of the crown.
“You’ll get one of your own soon enough, runt,” Techno tells him, brushing a finger over Theseus’ nose and between his eyebrows. The piglet sneezes in response, little face scrunching around the sound, and then he blinks in surprise. Techno laughs under his breath. That’s the kid’s first sneeze, how sweet.
He dismounts Carl in the stable in the palace gardens, leaving him with the stable hand with a nod and a few coins that he isn’t supposed to be giving out. The advisors say the staff get paid more than enough, but Techno has never been one for listening to people he doesn’t care enough about to remember their last names. The advisors are old and Phil doesn’t listen to them anyway. They’re only there for show these days.
Theseus stays bundled in his cloak, though Techno helps him take off a few of the jackets and the thicker pair of pants and one of the pairs of mittens, stuffing them into one of his bags and handing them off to one of the servants to carry to his room. The magic of the walls keeps the kingdom relatively warm, but the soft chill of the antarctic is always there.
“You ready to meet our pack?” Techno asks him, crouching down to his level and welcoming the runt into his chest when he pushes his way in for a hug. He whimpers quietly and Techno chuffs back, nose tucked into the top of his hood. “You’re all good, kid. I won’t let anything bad happen.”
Theseus reaches up to be held, and Techno situates him on his hip with ease. He climbs the stairs into the side hall of the palace, ducking around corners and into the main hall, climbing another set of stairs into the throne room. Techno has never really liked the throne room- it’s far too large and echoey. It’s fortified well, but the sheer size of it makes it hard to guard, and there are too many places to hide.
But as the guards open the large doors before him, Technoblade walks with steady, confident strides toward his father and brother where they lounge on two of the three thrones. They light up at the sight of him, though both their faces drop into mild confusion at the sight of the little kid he holds on one of his hips.
“Techno, mate,” Phil says, brows furrowed, “you’ve got a kid?”
“Yup,” Techno answers, popping the ‘p’. “This is the new prince.”
Wilbur slides off his throne and walks down the several steps that take him to the main floor, tilting his head. “Not that I’m disagreeing or anything, but what’s with the occasion?”
Techno slides his magic over Theseus, poking at the ball of soft red and pushing it outwards. His own magic responds to it and he shifts as well, pink fur rolling out over his limbs as his tusks and snout grow in size. Theseus peers up at him, hood falling off his head and exposing his floppy ears, and the piglet squeals in excitement.
He only has eyes for his twin’s face, watching his pupils dilate as he shifts just the same. Soft brown fur rolls out over his skin in a wave of magic, and Techno finds himself grinning.
“He’s gold,” Wilbur mumbles, stepping into Techno’s personal space and holding out a hand for the piglet. “Our gold?”
“Absolutely,” Techno responds, rearranging Theseus in his arms so that Wilbur can hold him as well. Wilbur bends down a little to make eye contact, smiling gently and speaking with words that Techno can’t understand. Theseus responds in kind, lighting up at the language he understands and speaking rapidly with Wilbur.
“He says his name is Tommy,” Wilbur tells him, bending down to nuzzle his forehead against the kid’s. “He’s eight, and he likes you very much.”
Tommy isn’t as cool as Theseus, but if that’s the kid’s name, then that’s his name. And he’s eight, which is one of the ages Techno had been preparing for, so that’s okay. Overall, pretty good.
Wilbur exchanges a few more words with Tommy, huddled into their personal space and practically smothering them both as he gets more and more excited, and Tommy starts bouncing in Techno’s arms. He. kind of wishes he’d taken the time to learn the language with Wilbur now. Feeling like he’s lacking isn’t something he likes.
Someone clears their throat and both Wilbur and Techno jolt, Wilbur stepping half in front of Techno to cover Tommy entirely. It’s only Phil, though, his smile so fond he looks like he might melt on the spot.
“There’s no talking you two out of this, is there?” he asks gently, reaching out to pat each of their shoulders. Wilbur rumbles some kind of purr in response to the touch, bumping his forehead against Phil’s.
“Could I at least see him? If he’s going to be the new prince, of course.”
Techno and Wilbur share a glance, and Wilbur steps out of the way. He still sticks to Tommy’s other side, a hand on his back as he hovers near his ear, whispering soft grunted words. All Techno manages to catch are the words ‘good’ and ‘dad’ and ‘gold’.
Tommy stares with wide eyes up at Phil’s face, and Techno gently pulls both of the mittens off when the little boy reaches for him. He snorts curiously, grabbing strands of Phil’s hair in one hand while he picks at it with the other.
“Gold,” Tommy mumbles, looking up into Phil’s eyes. He reaches out a little further, leaning so far out of Techno’s arms that Phil has to take him. It’s the first time he’s put the kid down in nearly twelve hours, and it makes him the tiniest bit antsy. But Wilbur is at his side, clinging to him in excitement and maybe a little anxiety.
“Gold,” Phil answers, smiling softly and hesitantly bumping Tommy’s forehead with his own. Tommy grasps both sides of Phil’s face, tilting the man’s head from side to side and watching the way his eyes move. He shifts the three of them back with a surge of magic and a shake of his wings, and Tommy’s jaw drops at the sight of them. He climbs over Phil’s shoulder to reach for them, patting at the feathers with a gentleness to him that Techno hasn’t seen yet.
“Alright, mate, let’s calm down,” Phil murmurs, readjusting the little boy so he can hold him on his hip. Tommy stares up at him, and Phil glances at Wilbur and Techno with a smile. “So he’s staying, then?”
“Yes,” Wilbur and Techno answer in unison, glancing at each other and then back to their father and new brother. Their gold.
“Welcome home, Prince Tommy,” Phil announces, keeping his voice soft, and his words bounce off the walls of the throne room.
There’s a moment of contentment before Wilbur shatters it, reaching out for the runt. “Okay- my turn to hold him now. Give me the baby.”
“Mine, mine, give him to me immediately or I will cry-”
“You’re gonna scare him-”
Tommy settles in nicely within the next month, almost like he was born to be with them in the castle. He and Wilbur talk endlessly with each other, and Techno has been learning words in his native tongue so he can talk with his little brother, too. Tommy is learning English as well, but it’s slow going.
A week ago, Phil had presented the little boy with a crown of his own. He’ll get another one when he’s grown more, but for now, this is the one he’ll be given. Tommy had taken it from Phil hesitantly, near reverently, big blue eyes wide and lower lip trembling.
“Me?” He’d asked, the word awkward on his tongue, and Phil had crouched down to help him place the crown amidst his golden curls.
“For you,” Phil had answered, and the smile Tommy had given him was more rewarding than money could ever be.
Today, though, Wilbur and Techno are supposed to start their biyearly hibernation. It’s part of the way their genetics work, allowing them to remain in the Overworld for so long. They need less sleep at night, sure, but that sleep catches up with them eventually. They’ve been putting it off since Tommy showed up, but they can’t any longer. Their bodies need it.
That doesn’t mean Techno is very happy about the fact. He’s overtired and more than a tiny bit possessive, taking the little prince with him into his room. He may as well teach Tommy to hibernate, too. He’ll have to do it just like the rest of them.
“Why?” Tommy asks him, head tilted even as he burrows under the blankets and against Techno’s side. His crown rests beside Technoblade’s on the bedside table, and he presses his ear to Techno’s heart.
“Tired,” Techno grunts back, wiggling until he’s closer to the center of the bed and releasing a content sigh. His bedroom isn’t cold, but it’s not warm, either. This is so he can bury himself beneath the blankets and be warm there. “You, too?”
“A little,” Tommy mumbles. Techno can feel his magic spread out a little bit, nudging against his own. Techno relaxes even further into the bed, and Tommy seems to relax with him.
They’re nearly asleep when his door -which he definitely locked- is unceremoniously thrown open, a disheveled Wilbur standing in the doorway with one of his pillows. The glare he pins Techno with is murderous, but he softens when Tommy’s head of gold pops out of the covers to look at him as well.
“You took the runt,” Wilbur mutters darkly, frown firmly in place.
Techno pins him with his own glare, pulling Tommy closer. “Fuck off.”
“Don’t say fuck,” Tommy whispers, and Techno would laugh if he weren’t so tired. He just lets his head thump back against the pillows, pushing Tommy back under the covers and against his side.
Wilbur closes and locks the door before he makes his way to the other side of the bed, climbing in and practically smothering both Techno and Tommy. Tommy squeals in surprise, peeking out of the covers again to watch Wilbur drape himself over the both of them. Out of the twins, Wilbur has always been more touch-oriented. It gets worse when he’s exhausted.
“Stop moving,” Techno mumbles, tossing his head in Wilbur’s direction and getting a mouthful of brown curls in return. He lifts his head until Wilbur has tucked himself against his shoulder, resting his cheek against his brother’s forehead.
“I don’t want to suffocate Tommy,” Wilbur mutters, but sleep is already slurring his words. He reaches with barely functioning arms under the covers and pulls Tommy out of them, squishing the little blond boy between them. Tommy lies nearly perpendicular across Techno, and Wilbur presses his face into the boy’s back.
“Did you lock the door?” Techno asks, but he gets no answer. He wouldn’t have been able to hear the answer anyway, eyes fluttering shut and remaining that way.
It’s only Tommy who is still awake, moving up and down with the rise and fall of his brother’s chest, his other brother using him as a pillow. One of his hands is trapped under Techno’s on the older boy’s stomach, squished there when Wilbur had thrown an arm over Tommy and shoved his hand into the pile.
It’s warm in here, and it’s soft, and he feels safe with his brothers on either side of him.
His little body isn’t used to hibernating yet, though, as he hasn’t expended the same amount of magic as his brothers have, so he’s awake again within three days. Techno and Wilbur haven’t moved much, but that doesn’t mean Tommy is going to stay here trapped between them when he’s bored. He wiggles his way out from between his brothers, nearly tumbling over Techno and onto the floor, but he rights himself at the last minute. Tommy turns around to pat the covers up around their chins as best he can before he slips off the bed and grabs his crown, placing it on his head and approaching the door.
The locked door. That he can’t really reach the handle of. Truly not fair, in his personal and very correct opinion.
Tommy jumps for the lock, the tips of his fingers barely grazing it, and he huffs. He crouches as far as he can and springs up a second time, latching onto the handle with both hands and hanging there. His feet really aren’t that far off the ground, sock-covered toes barely brushing the floor. He flips the lock and shimmies around until he can pull the handle down with the weight of his body, and the door creaks open slowly.
One of the guards outside, a nice lady with cool horns and fluffy hair that’s half white and half black, grins down at him when he slides out of the door. She helps him close it, and then she crouches down to be closer to his height.
“Hello, Prince Tommy,” she says, a greeting that Tommy recognizes only because so many people in the castle greet him that way now. He likes just Tommy better, but apparently, the crown means they’re going to call him ‘Prince’ too. Whatever that word means.
“Hi,” he murmurs, tasting the word on his tongue. He much prefers piglin, but Wilbur is the only one who can really talk to him in it. He loves Wilbur, sure, but he wants to talk to other people, too. Like Technoblade and Phil. “Phil?”
“You want to go see Phil?”
He nods, and Puffy stands up again. She turns to the person beside her and says more words Tommy can’t quite recognize, and then she and the other person are squatting down to his height again. Tommy knows this guy- he’s called ‘Dream’. He and Techno are friends, he thinks. And Puffy is his mom.
“Dream can take you, is that okay?” Puffy asks, and Tommy nods again. Dream smiles kindly at him, standing up and offering him a hand. Tommy holds a few of his fingers, turning back to Puffy with a question in his eyes.
“I’ve got to stay here and guard your brothers, Little Prince,” she answers. Tommy doesn’t recognize all the words, but ‘guard’ and ‘brothers’ are familiar enough to him that he can guess what she says. “Go with Dream, he’ll help you get to Phil.”
Dream waits until Tommy is ready, and then the two of them begin the trek to wherever it is Phil is at the moment. Dream says a lot of words that Tommy doesn’t understand, but he kind of likes listening to the older boy talk. He and Wilbur sing together sometimes, and even though Wilbur’s voice is a lot more melodic, he still likes listening to Dream talk. Not that he has any clue what he’s talking about.
English is such a strange language compared to Piglin, different sounds that sound the same winding around each other several times over. Piglin is a different series of grunts, relying heavily on body language and volume to determine if a phrase is angry or fearful. English has too many words for all of the same things, and Tommy finds the entire language incredibly tedious.
But he wants to talk to Phil and Technoblade, and Dream’s little brother and Captain Puffy, and the tall servant boy who gave him a flower during his first week, so he’ll suck it up.
“There’s Phil,” Dream tells him, nudging the door to the library open and pointing at where Tommy’s dad rifles through several books. “Have fun, buddy.”
“Bye-bye,” Tommy answers, waving at Dream as he leaves and then running on little feet -that still have no shoes- directly into Phil’s legs. Phil makes a little oof sound, grinning down at him and placing a hand in his hair.
“Hello there, Little Prince,” Phil croons, reaching down to pick him up and situate him on his hip. Tommy is going to miss being held when he starts to grow again. “You’re awake awfully early for someone who’s supposed to be hibernating.”
Tommy shrugs, picking the few words he knows and drawing the closest thing to a conclusion he can. “Not tired.” He reaches out and grasps some of Phil’s hair, toying with the little braid in the side of it with a small smile. Phil smiles back at him, sitting down in one of the chairs with Tommy in his lap.
“Well, since you’re up, do you want to learn some more?”
Not really, but Tommy likes listening to Phil talk, too. He makes the words sound easy, and he never gets mad like the old tutor did when Tommy doesn’t get it right. Techno had threatened to behead that old lady, and he may have done it when no one was looking.
They work through simple books together, children’s tales with small words that don’t have too many sounds to them. Phil connects words to the pictures, sounding them out with Tommy when they find one he struggles with. Tommy knows the alphabet, Wilbur taught him a song for it, so there are some words he can sound out. There are other words that are stupid, though, and those words don’t obey the rules he’s already been taught. He says them how they’re supposed to be said and somehow they’re still wrong, and he hates those words with a burning passion.
When they’re done with words, Phil takes Tommy into the kitchens and they eat lunch together. Apparently, Wilbur and Techno won’t be awake again for at least two weeks, maybe even longer. Which means… Tommy gets to spend all of his time with Phil.
Alas, it seems he has no choice but to become the favorite child. Truly a burden only one as strong as him will be able to bear.
Phil takes him flying one night when it isn’t snowing, the two of them swooping under the fancy lights that dance in the sky and caress the stars. The Nether was never anything like this. It might not have been as cold or bright, sure, but the Nether doesn’t have sky lights. It didn’t have stars, and it didn’t have the moon, just masses of glowstone that sometimes got mined away and never came back.
Tommy loves the sky and its lights. The ones that look like they’re waving at him are his favorite, and he clings to Phil’s shirt as his dad flies them so high that he feels like he could touch them.
For Phil, seeing the stars reflecting in the eyes of his youngest is a good enough reason to ignore the soreness in his wings for the next week.
Tommy follows Phil around for weeks, being the man’s shadow wherever he goes. One hand stays clasped in his father’s or on the edge of a wing, keeping them connected at all times. Phil never seems to mind; he just carries on with his day with his personal shadow. Tommy attends meetings with him, sits with him in his office, even follows him to training sessions he has with swords.
Apparently, Tommy is “too little” to be given a sword, even though he’s been using them since the moment he learned to walk. It’s not his fault he’s small. That’s just what happened when he was born so early, and especially when his fur was the color that it was. Even the Bastion treated him like he was some fragile piece of glass.
Tommy is handed a dagger after enough pouting and puppy-eyes, and he spars with Phil. It’s not the greatest fight, not when Phil is so much taller than him and Tommy is still getting used to his knees bending forward and not back, but he has fun. Phil does, too, if the surprised laughter he releases every time he has to parry one of Tommy’s strikes is anything to go by.
“You’re rather feisty, aren’t you?” Phil teases, hoisting Tommy into his arms when the little boy has tired himself out. “You remind me so much of your brother when he was your age.”
Tommy can barely respond, completely limp where he lies against Phil’s chest. He can kind of see what Techno and Wilbur were talking about with the hibernation thing now. This is what he gets for not sleeping for a week and then using up all his energy in the span of two hours.
“Are you tired, Toms?” Phil asks gently, and Tommy can feel him smile into his hair when he barely musters up the energy to nod. “You ready to go back with your brothers?”
Tommy hums under his breath, closing his eyes and tucking his face into Phil’s neck. He recognizes the smell of his own room after a while, and Phil undoes his little boots and leaves his crown on the bedside table before going back to Technoblade’s room. He exchanges a few words with Puffy that sound like warm whispers along the back of Tommy’s head, and then the door is unlocked and Phil steps inside.
Blue eyes peel open to glance around the darkened room, and he burrows a little closer to Phil who laughs in response. Phil flicks a hand at the candle on one of the bedside tables, and the orange glow from the fire reminds Tommy of the Nether all over again. He personally prefers the stars, now that he’s gotten to have them.
Phil sets him gently between Wilbur and Techno, and when Tommy sinks between them like a ragdoll, Wilbur chuffs in his sleep and slings an arm around him. They haven’t moved much, but there’s a decent amount of room between his brothers that he fits nicely into, head on Techno’s shoulder with Wilbur on his side behind him. Techno turns his head and tucks his nose into Tommy’s curls, exhaling and somehow relaxing further now that the littlest brother is back.
Tommy watches Phil from behind heavy eyelids, struggling to reach out for him from under the heavy arm Wilbur has thrown over him. Phil shushes him quietly, placing a large hand over his small one and pushing it down on top of Techno’s. He pats Tommy’s hand down and then reaches over for Wilbur’s, resting it on top of Tommy’s and patting it as well.
“Sleep well, my sons,” Phil murmurs, and the last thing Tommy sees as his eyes slide shut is his father’s hand resting atop his and his brothers’.