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Big Brother Nightmare

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Nightmare brings his mug up to sip his tea and scoffs to find it empty. Placing it back down again on the table beside his chair, he squints down at the book in his hands and runs his thumb along the paper. It brings back pleasant memories of when he was a child to sit down every now and then with a nice book in his lap. His only qualm is that his vision worsened considerably due to his corruption.

He sighs deeply, sinking further into the cushions, and brings a hand up to rub his eye. It's not unlike Nightmare to get caught up in nostalgia for the days when he and his brother were guarding their tree. While he never regrets his actions that led to his corrupted state, he still misses the times when he was so carefree under the tree with his brother.

"Y'need something boss?" Killers voice brings Nightmare out of his thoughts; he blinks once, twice, before looking up to see Killer lingering in the open doorway to his study,
"Perhaps, I'm simply reminiscing on the past," He pauses, "Its nothing to concern yourself over though, do you need anything Killer?"

He can't help but reach out to sense what the other is feeling. It's a habit he has built up over the years. So when Killer flashes a toothy grin, Nightmare can't help but smile to know and feel that it is a genuine smile and not one of the many facades Killer had put on for so long.

"Nah- just wanted to check up on you, Horror's makin' dinner so it should be ready soon- maybe make your way down so he doesn't have to go hunting you down this time?"

"Of course,"

Horror's relationship with all things related to food is still complicated. Still, the best way Nightmare and his boys can help Horror progress towards recovery from his trauma is to make sure Horror sees that they all have plenty to eat and regularly do so. Horror is quite insistent on making sure everyone has a meal, and he has done so ever since Nightmare had taken him under his wing. Nightmare can't imagine how hard it must've been for him in his world to be so alone, with so little to eat. So, of course, Nightmare will indulge in reducing Horror's anxieties when it comes to making sure they all have enough to eat.

It was nice to have a table full of people to share a meal with, after all.

Nightmare carefully places his bookmark in the book before closing it and setting it down on the table with his mug. Yet, by the time he has looked up again, Killer is no longer lingering in the doorway. He manages to slink away silently like a lightfooted cat, even with Nightmare keeping watch with him through his emotions. Presumably, he has gone to bother one of the other two about dinner- most likely Cross.

Nightmare smiles at the thought of them before getting up from his chair and stretching, his joints popping slightly as he sighs in relief. A tentacle curls around his empty mug as another takes the book and carefully places it back on the bookshelf. He doesn't want to leave a mess after all.

A crash rings out from a nearby room.

Most likely, Cross and Killer making a mess, again.
He smiles. While he detests the mess, he always appreciates how the two no longer regularly engage intense and aggressive conflicts. Instead, their clashes have evolved into something more playful and lighthearted, as if they were siblings.

Someone yells in alarm, followed by another crash and unintelligible swearing.

However much Cross and Killer grow emotionally, their conflicts still often lead to one of Nightmare's many carefully placed decorations being smashed to pieces on the floor. He doesn't mind too much. After all, decorations can be replaced; Killer and Cross can't.

Dream couldn't be replaced either.

Nightmare shakes himself out of his thoughts. He doesn't need to dwell on the past anymore. People care about him despite his many mistakes. He has his boys- his family with him now.

Nightmare leaves his study and begins to make his way down the castle's staircase. He casts a brief glance to a smashed vase on the ground and to Cross sweeping up the shards. The former guard is scolding Killer- who sits upon the table the vase used to be on. Killer is unhelpful by giving witty remarks on Crosses sweeping technique, and Cross shoots right back with his own words with a warm grin on his face.

It fills Nightmare with warmth to see Cross more relaxed now, just as much as it does to see Killer and Cross no longer at each other's throats.

It took a lot of time for him and his ragtag group to get here, enjoying the little moments and truly living, but they made it. And nothing would take them away from all the progress they made in their lives.

Nightmare is brought back to the present once again (he has been awfully distracted today) by Horror, who is staring him down as he enters the kitchen. Horror nods at him in greeting before returning to his cooking.

Carefully lowering the empty mug he had been carrying into the sink, Nightmare casts a glance to the calendar to make sure that they didn't have any missions today he was missing. For a brief period- he is frozen- looking at the date. This one, in particular, marked the anniversary of his rebirth into his current self, the apple incident.

The day he lost his brother for good.

Nightmare quickly forced himself to look away and draw a shaky breath. It has been so so long since Nightmare had seen his brother, but the memories of Dream are still fresh in his mind. He could never forget Dream, and he has so so many regrets when it comes to what happened between them.

Perhaps he ought to pay a visit to what's left of him.

With a sigh, Nightmare moves to the door in the kitchen that leads to the courtyard. When he found and rebuilt the old castle, he felt it was only fitting to connect the kitchen and yard since they were only separated by a wall. Plus, this way, Horror had ease of access to the garden he had spent so long cultivating for fresh produce.

Weaving his way through the winding stone paths, Nightmare passes by the numerous bushes, trees, and garden beds teeming with various crops. He casts a scowl towards the singular apple tree that had only been planted recently. It had taken a long time for him to be okay with the trees around him again and even longer for him to tolerate the fruit-bearing trees. It took him nearly 500 years to allow an apple tree near him again. If it weren't for Horror's wish to have fresh fruits, he might have never let them near him again.

He finds his way towards the center of the lush courtyard. There is warm sunlight cast down on the plants and even the pleasant sounds of birds chirping and bees working away. It had taken a long time for this world- his world- to recover from Nightmare's initial corruption. Still, he's proud to have this garden show for all his efforts in healing his homeworld. There is a man-made pond in the center of it all he installed himself, the pond home to lily pads on its surface, frogs that somehow find their way into the garden, fish swimming about, and occasionally a duck or two. On a raised pedestal in the center of the pond is where Nightmare had placed Dreams statue as a sort of twisted memorial to his brother. He couldn't bring himself to leave the statute, but he couldn't bring himself to hide it like a dark secret either.

Yet when Nightmare approaches the center of the garden, he finds that the statute is gone. Dream is g o n e .

Nightmare feels himself boil with rage but forces himself to take a deep breath. One of his idiots probably moved it as a silly joke. None of them know the significance of the statue nor what it means to Nightmare. Even if they did move it, they wouldn't know how it would affect him, so he should try not to hold it against them-

There is a rustle and a sob, and it's close.

Nightmare looks around, not just with his eyes, but he extends his senses to search for emotions. He is surprised to feel something- no someone- in distress in the garden when he knows all his boys are still inside.

With caution, Nightmare approaches the trees he feels the presence by. Yet when he finds nothing there, a sob above him catches his attention, and he looks upward. He blinks, convinced his poor vision must be deceiving him.

There, curled up in the branches, is a little skeleton shrunk in on himself, as if trying to become even smaller than he already is. Dressed in yellow, with boots too big for his feet and a crown that slips off his skull every now and then, Nightmare recognizes him immediately.
Dream.

Chapter Text

Nightmare, frozen in place, stares up towards Dream, who is trembling and crying in the lower branches of the young apple tree. Nightmare struggles to push down the feelings, memories, the pain bubbling up within him, only to fail and let himself utter,

"Dream?"

Upon hearing his name, Dream spares a glance down at Nightmare, who stands at the bottom of the tree, only a few feet away from the branch he is crying on. Nightmare takes in a sharp breath upon meeting his brother's eyes. He didn't quite realize how much he missed Dream until now. He hesitantly reaches up towards Dream, only to cause the smaller to flinch back, panic painted on his face as Dream struggles to scramble higher up the young tree. Dream turns to him again, still crying and cries out,

"G-Get away! Or-or else!"

Nightmare draws his hand back, his mind racing, observing Dream carefully to make sure his brother doesn't fall from the amateur tree. The tree is so young that its bark is still smooth, and there was no way it could support much more weight. Nightmare never thought he would get to see Dream again- only one clear thought ringing in his mind over and over as he watches Dream struggle to stay high in the tree.

He won't ever lose Dream again.

"Dream, please, calm down-" Nightmare attempts to soothe his panicked brother, but-

"NO! Where is my brother?! Where's Nightmare?! I-I just want to find Nightmare and go back to the tree..." Dream's shout quickly turns to small sobs, tears falling from his sockets. He attempts to wipe them away with a gloved hand only to have his grip on the young tree slip; he manages to catch himself before glaring down at Nightmare with teary eyes,

"Where is he?! Where am I? Why aren't I in the village?!" He cries out. Nightmare braces himself for Dream's emotional aura, only to be surprised to barely feel Dreams feelings around him, as if they were only a light breeze.

"I can explain everything to you Dream, but you need to calm down-"

"I-I won't! Not until you tell me where my brother is and what happened to me!" He shouts, sobbing still as he reaches up to his sockets again, all his weight being shifted to a weaker branch. And under Dream, that branch snaps, and the young skeleton yelps as he starts to plummet to the ground.

It has been a long, long time since Nightmare has come close to losing something he's cared about. Even with his boys in his life, fighting dangerous battles- he never felt they were in any danger at all. He has never felt as much terror over the years as he sees Dream's fearful expression as he starts to fall to the ground. He never understood how people felt like time had slowed down in frightening situations. Now though, his body feels heavy, and time feels slower as he lunges forward, using his tentacles to propel himself into the air towards Dream to catch him before he hits the ground. Even once he lands and Dream safe in his arms, he can't stop himself from shaking, his breathing fast and panicked.

He glances down, finding himself holding a small Dream who is crying even harder in his arms- but he can't bring himself to focus on the words that Dream is crying.

It takes him a minute, but when Nightmare brings himself back to reality and looks down at Dream still held tight within his arms. Dream is crying into his shirt now, crying out for him when he can. But Nightmare can feel how weak Dream is, hear how his cries are getting weaker, and how much closer he's getting to passing out-

Nightmare hadn't felt ready to tell his newly found family about his life before his corruption. And while he is afraid, he chases down his own fear with a shaky breath. They would accept him and help him in this.

"Horror!" Nightmare shouts, holding Dream close as the child's eyes begin to close with exhaustion, "I need help!"

 

---

 

When Dream regained consciousness, he had thought that the confusing conundrum he had been in was just a bad dream. He never liked using the word nightmare to describe his fitful dreams, not when his brother always looked so sad every time. But when he rubbed his eyes open only to see a room he didn't recognize, along with a person watching him wake, he also didn't recognize. Dream struggled to force down the panic and alarm that seized him. He stayed quiet for a moment, looking at the unfamiliar monster with a wary expression before speaking,

"U-uhm... hello! Where am I?" Dream fumbled his words out, trying to sound confident, but Nightmare had warned him about strangers-

"You're in a guest room- Nigh- uhm... we found you in the garden dangerously low on magic. How are you feeling?" Dream blinks and looks closer at the skeleton monster seated on a chair close by to the bed Dream was lying on. The bedsheets were made of a soft material, so soft Dream had to imagine it must have cost a fortune. He gingerly runs a hand along the soft fabric in awe before shaking his head and focusing on the conversation again. He couldn't get distracted! He needed to find Nightmare after all! When Dream returns his attention to the stranger by his bed, he notices a scar under one of the others mismatched eyelights and blurts out-

"Are you okay? You look hurt." The skeleton looks taken aback and blinks once before laughing gently.

"No no I'm not hurt- but what about you? How did you even get inside the garden little guy?" The strange skeleton in front of him asks. Dream instantly lights up-

"Oh! I'm glad you're not hurt! But, Uh, I don't know how I got here... Um... Have you seen my brother? I don't want him to worry about me..." The skeleton in front of him smiles, but Dream can't help but notice it's not a typical happy smile... it's closer to the ones the villagers gave him when he brought up Nightmare but different at the same time.

"I don't know where your brother is, what's his name? Oh, and what's your name too little guy? Mine's Cross." The skeleton- Cross asks

Dream frowns; everyone in the village knew about him and Nightmare. Maybe Cross was just new to the village? Or a trader? Oh, he loves meeting the traders that came to the village on occasion; Nightmare especially loved them and would talk to them for hours before coming back to the tree!

"My name is Dream! I'm a guard-ee-an!" He takes his time to sound out the word correctly, like how the villagers taught him, "My brother Nightmare is too! Have you seen him? He's my twin, so we look the same! He just likes purple more than yellow!" As Dream excitedly talks, Cross's expression changes to one of confusion, then something seems to click in his head.

"Oh... I don't know if I've seen someone like... that..." Cross hesitates, "Maybe someone else here has, if you're feeling okay I can go ask. How are you feeling?" Dream tilts his head as he begins to sit up, trying to understand the look on Cross's face.

"I feel fine-" Dream tries getting up, only to feel a wave of dizziness catch him and have Cross help him lie back down.

"You're still not completely recovered little dude, why don't you take it easy for a little longer?" Cross requests, "I'm going to be right outside getting some more help for you, okay?" Dream manages a weak nod before Cross smiles at him reassuringly and exits the room, the door still left open a crack.

Dream frowns at the silky softness of the bed beneath him. It was so different from the comforting bark of his mother or the firm ground when he and Nightmare decided to sleep together. He tears up a little. Nightmare always worried about him when he was gone for a long while, what if Nightmare is worried about him now? Dream manages to slowly sit up again, the dizziness less intense than before. Maybe he could try to walk out and ask around for where his brother is-

Dream jumps as a knock at the door pulls him out of his escape plan, the skeleton- Cross pokes his head in the door and smiles reassuringly,

"Hey there, Dream, a friend of mine wants to talk to you if that's okay... He can be a little scary, so he won't bother you if your scared, but he's really kind- just a bit rough," Cross pauses, looking at Dream for a response, to which the smaller skeleton frowns and shakes his head,

"I need to get back to my brother soon... maybe later?" Dream asks, a bit concerned by the way Crosses face twists with worry,

"Maybe my friend can help you find your brother- would you try talking to him for a little bit? He's been worried about you since you passed out in the garden," Dream pauses. Perhaps he could help get home since he's a bit dizzy and feels so tired, which is strange for him. Plus! If this friend of Cross's is so scary, maybe they could be a friend for his brother! He would just love it if Nightmare had a friend.

Dream nods hesitantly to meeting this stranger, and Cross gives him a reassuring smile,
"I'll be here too, okay?" He says, Dream nodding again, although he can't help but still feel on edge without Nightmare by his side. What if that bad dream was real? What if he was gone? Cross opens the door up and steps in, motioning for someone to follow as he goes to sit in one of the two chairs next to Dream. Following Cross is another person, except they're taller, darker, and they look quite slimy. Dream feels like he should know them, but he just can't quite remember. There's a familiar look to their eye and the way they hold themselves, but he decides he can solve this puzzle later.

The darker person sits next to him, where Cross had been sitting beforehand. An iridescent blue eye watches Dream. It's so eerily familiar that Dream can barely hold himself back from asking questions. He searches the new person's face for an expression. He is surprised to see how neutral they're holding their face, only the slightest curve of their brow, just like Nightmare giving away their worry.

"Dream, what's the last thing you remember happening before waking up in the garden?" They ask. Dream feels like he should know them even more when he hears their voice- however, they asked him a question, and Dream feels he would be rude not to answer. He takes a moment to think, tilting his head slightly in thought,

"I... I remember going into the village to try and see if I could get some pastries from the bakery since Nighty seemed stressed." He can't help but notice how the others' expressions change to a pained expression for a split second before returning to their nearly neutral state.

"I remember... the sky started getting dark and there was... so much noise... but thats all..." Dream shakes his head, trying to forget the awful dream he must've had. "I must have tripped and fallen, but I really do need to go find my brother now," He states firmly, his small face forming a firm pout.

Dream notices how the other still seems a bit... hurt. He waits and watches them take a shaky breath,

"Dream, do you know how long you were asleep?" The darker goopier skeleton asks, to which Dream shakes his head, looking to Cross only to see the other shrug before looking at the taller figure curiously.

"You've been asleep for about five-hundred years, Dream," The other takes a shaky breath, "It's been five-hundred years since I've seen you, and yet you haven't changed a bit."

Dream goes quiet for a moment before laughing nervously and saying, "theres... there's no way I slept for that long! Y-you'd need a spell or-"

"There was a spell, it made you sleep for so long I thought you'd never wake up. I thought you were gone-"
"NO!" Dream shouts, catching Cross and the darker skeleton by surprise.

"The-theres no way Nighty would leave me alone for 500 years! He'd be here! H-he'd b-be here..." Dream sniffles, holding back tears as the darker figure takes one of his hands, Dream trying to pull back unsuccessfully.

"Dream, I want you to do one thing, do you think you can do one more thing for me?" They ask. Dream wants to say no, and he wants to go back to the tree. But if this person knows anything about his brother, he decided to take the chance and nod in response, tears still in his eyes.

"I want you to close your eyes," The darker person starts, "and I want you to use your magic to search for what your brother feels like. Can you do that?" They ask, their eye soft with emotions Dream can't really process through his own.

"Mhm... I-I can do that..." Dream stammers out, trying his hardest not to cry. He closes his eyes and reaches out his senses as Nighty taught him when they were younger, searching for Nightmare.

He pauses, searching repeatedly but always getting the same response, feeling the same person, feeling Nightmare. Right in front of him, holding his hand comfortingly.

He opens his eyes slowly and looks up at the darker skeleton, he couldn't see it before, but the shape of his skull and the look in his eye when he looks at Dream is the same one as his brother. Dream blinks, tears starting threatening to fall from his sockets as he realizes this is Nightmare.

"Nighty...?" He asks, struggling to speak and hold back his tears,

"It's me, Dream. I'm different now but-" Nightmare's words are cut short by Dream grasping him tightly in a hug and sobbing into his shirt. Nightmare blinks before slowly hugging Dream back and letting his own tears run down his face for the first time in decades. He holds Dream tight and closes his eyes as Dream cries into him. He feels Cross put a hand on his shoulder reassuringly, and he lets himself cry with Dream. There was so much relief he was feeling from just seeing Dream again, and he made a promise to himself there and then.

He was going to make sure Dream could be safe and happy. He wouldn't let anyone hurt them ever again.

Any of them.

Chapter Text

After a tearful reunion between the two brothers, Cross couldn't help but feel a slight ache in his soul. He's happy that Nightmare found his brother, of course, but none of them even KNEW Nightmare ever had one. It makes Cross realize Nightmare still doesn't tell them a lot of things.

But to be fair, he never asked- none of them did. And while Nightmare has always been slick with brushing things he doesn't like to talk about under the rug, Cross appreciates how Nightmare has begun to talk to all of them about more complicated things. Things like the balance, his fears, and his feelings. Yet, none of them ever really focused on their own pasts, so none of them ever asked Nightmare of his own.

Cross remains quiet as the small sobs from the tiny skeleton in Nightmare's arms die down gradually. He can only assume the yellow-clad skeleton named Dream was still a child; he couldn't be older than nine. Of course, he would need to ask Nightmare about specifics. Nightmare has stressed that since he isn't a mortal, time, age, and necessities for life were different for him. Cross still can't help but see Nightmare as some sort of otherworldly god for taking pity on him and giving him freedom from his prison of a white abyss. Not to mention Nightmare silenced the human that had been fused to his soul. Nightmare was practically godlike, untouchable, and invincible even to those in Nightmare's inner circle. Cross has seldom seen his savior weak before.

The young skeleton in Nightmare's arms finally pulls away to look at Nightmare in the face and pulls their own face tight together, as if scrunching their eyes up into a squint would prevent further tears from falling. Cross watches Nightmare sit up, the difference in height between the two less noticeable than when Nightmare first came into the room. Cross can't help but feel a bit tense as they look at each other before Dream opens his mouth,

"H-How did you get so..." Dream tries to find the words before waving a hand at Nightmare, attempting to gesture to all of him, "Slimey?"

Cross stifles a laugh and relaxes, taking notice of the gentle, pained smile that crosses Nightmares' face. The same sort of smile he took on when the boys said something about their own painful pasts. The taller gently brushes Dreams tears away with a thumb while watching the other with a fond expression. Nightmare drew a shaky breath in before answering his younger brother,

"There was... a fight. At the tree, I mean," Nightmare starts, his hand moving towards the blind side of his face and rubbing it tenderly, as Cross knows he is prone to do when he is stressed, "Some of the villagers were furious, since I allowed no one to touch the tree or the fruit unless both of us were there..." His eye darts to the side, going quiet for a moment as heavy tension hung in the air. Nightmares magic flaring up, an aura of negativity starting to leak into the very air around them. If Cross didn't know Nightmare was just processing his own feelings, he would have thought to run away. He glances at Dream, but the other seems to take no notice or care in the change of aura around them.

Dream watches quietly, looking down and mumbling to himself before Nightmare continued, "You had gone to town to try and buy us a pie I believe... but a few minutes after you left the villagers started... to come up in groups and demand the apples..." Nightmare glances at Cross and brings his hand down from his empty socket, "Ah, my apologies Cross, this must be... confusing for you..." Cross watches as Nightmare shifts on the bed to better face Cross while still remaining close to Dream, moving the smaller body to sit up, despite Dream still clinging to him.

"Me and Dream were meant to guard a tree, a tree that held the emotional balance of the multiverse. Isn't that right Dream?" Nightmare asks, a small smile on his face as he gets the other's attention. Dream blinks away from his thoughts and smiles a grin so wide it makes Crosses own cheeks hurt,

"Yeah! Me and Nighty are the best guardians! We make sure everyone has all their feelings and protect mom!" Dream beams happily, pointing to Nighty for Cross, as if Cross wasn't aware of the skeleton holding Dream, "Nightmare is super strong! I don't think anyone can beat him!" Dream beams happily as Nightmare gives a weak smile, a smile Cross has come to recognize when Nightmare grows uncomfortable.

"Yes... Thank you for saying so Dream," Nightmare pats Dream on the head, and while the smaller skeleton smiles obliviously, Cross watches with concern. Nightmare is not saying everything, which is obvious, but what really concerns Cross is that children were supposed to be some of the guardians of the multiverse.

It suddenly clicks in Cross's mind why Nightmare was so intent on keeping them away from the delicate balance of the multiverse for so long. He must've been forced to shoulder this burden since he was a child. It explains quite a lot on how Nightmare didn't ever really understand how Cross and the rest of the gang saw him as a father; he must never have had one.

Cross swallows down his dread from his sudden realization and nods, smiling at the smaller skeleton, pushing back his previous thought for later,
"I bet Nightmare is strong, maybe even stronger than you remember! He's a lot older now after all." Cross smiles as he speaks reassuringly. Nightmare rolls his eyes before Dream giggles softly,

"Nighty, are you old?" He asks innocently, which causes Nightmare to huff and reply,

"Yes, yes, I'm old now Dream! but that only means I'm the older brother now!" He smiles lightly and scoops Dream up into his arms, causing the other to laugh happily. Cross smiles, watching Dream stick his tongue out at Nightmare in rebellion as the other chuckles at Dreams' actions.

Nightmare lets his laugh die down a bit before his smile falls sadly, nervousness clear on his face.

"But... I suppose both of you still want to know about how exactly I got... as Dream so kindly put it, 'slimey'" he scoffs lightly with a displeased expression that always made Cross just a little nervous. Yet Dream seems unfazed, nodding with his cheerful face knit into a tight pout.

"Yes! What happened...? Why was I asleep? Where's the village? And the tree?" Dream questions, only stopping when he watches Nightmare flinch visibly, the darker contemplating the question with his eye glancing to the side, his hand moving back to his socket.

"Well… the villagers were very angry with me for not giving any apples to them… and so they decided they were going to take them by force," Nightmare pauses for a breath, but before he can continue, Dream interrupts,

"But! They can't do that! The apples aren't supposed to be taken!" Dream cries out, Nightmare nodding sadly and looking up at the ceiling as he continues,

"But they did, these villagers were not worried about the balance of the people around them Dream. They were selfish, and ready to hurt others for their own gain." Nightmare says, his expression grim before looking at Dreams trembling lip, his expression softening as he takes Dreams hand, and says softly, "Not everyone is like that though. These were just a few mean people who found other mean people-"

"I know not everyone is mean Nighty! B-but… Did they… did they hurt you?" Dream asks, Nightmare looking surprised by the sudden question. It takes him a moment to think before nodding slowly. Dream tears up again but wipes them away with a gloved hand and asks in a trembling voice, "Wh-why did they… why did they do that?" He blinks up at Nightmare for answers, but he looks over at Cross when he gets none. Cross is shaken by how afraid the child is as if he's never experienced an act of malice in his life.

Cross gets a feeling he might not have.

"I don't know little guy… sometimes people want to hurt other people…" he tries to explain, unprepared for the complex task of explaining cruelty to a child, "Sometimes hurt people hurt others,"

Dream opens his mouth to say something, but Nightmare stops him, saying for himself,

"These villagers thought that we were holding the keys to endless happiness on the branches of that tree, and I'm sure they thought that since they were fruit they would simply regrow, Dream. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to understand that that's not how it worked," Nightmare tries explaining with a schooled expression on his face, "But they… they couldn't get the apples… I was trying my best to defend the tree and so they couldn't climb up it to pick them… so…" He pauses, taking a deep, shaky breath and bringing Dream into a shaky hug before murmuring,

"They cut down the tree, Dream… I-I'm so sorry…." Nightmare's voice is shaky, and Cross blinks, realizing that tears were beginning to fall down Nightmare's face. He is shocked into silence as he watches Dream silently tighten his grip onto Nightmare and begin to cry gently again.

Cross watches the two cry for a few awkward minutes, shifting in his chair slightly, unsure if he should say something, before hearing the child's voice,

"Th-They cut mom down?" Dream's voice is wobbly as he clings to Nightmare, his face hidden from Crosses view.

But Cross can see Nightmare's face as he cries harder; he never saw Nightmare cry before. Honestly, Cross wasn't even sure if Nightmare could cry until now. Cross watches uneasily, unsure of what he should do as Nightmare gently holds Dream, who surprisingly stops crying first after a few minutes.

Cross watches with awe as the smaller skeleton pulls away slightly and wipes away Nightmare's tears in a similar fashion to how Nightmare wiped away his earlier. The older skeleton watches Dream in confusion as Dream softly says,

"I-its okay Nighty... You d-did your best to protect the tree- I know you did!"

"Dream..." Nightmare says, tears still falling as he takes a deep breath, "I did something horrible Dream. After the villagers cut down the tree..." he takes a shaky breath,

"I ate the apples, Dream." He sobs softly, "I ate almost all of the apples, Dream... I threw the balance off for years..." Nightmare goes quiet, looking down,

"Nighty! You... you ate the apples…?" Dream asks, his voice quiet. Cross can only watch as Nightmare nods, Dream stumbling over his words, "N-nighty… n-no one was supposed to eat the apples… not even us-"

"I KNOW!" Nightmare snaps, his eye wide with a mix of fear and anger. Cross recognizes from when he gets stressed, but he quickly calms himself. Dream looks surprised at Nightmare's outburst but not scared. From the way Nightmare looks away quickly, though, Cross can guess the other must feel anxious about possibly scaring the small child in his arms. Cross can't blame him since even he gets scared of Nightmare at times.

Nightmare takes a deep breath before sighing,
"I know, we weren't supposed to eat the apple's Dream. I'm sorry," Nightmare mumbles. Cross can only watch as Dream reaches up and grabs his brothers face, squishing it playfully,

"Nighty- it-its gonna be okay! I forgive you! We're both okay right?" the smaller skeleton asks shakily, only continuing once Nightmare nodded in response, "You w-were trying to protect the tree... b-but... what about my apples? Are they...?" The child trails off, clearly nervous about upsetting the other.

"I ate a lot of the apples Dream..." Nightmare paused, smiling softly as he pokes his brother on the nasal with a finger, "But, you saved one of your apples," he finishes, smiling gently as the others tearful eyes got bigger in awe,

"I-I did?" Dream asked, pointing at himself as if Nightmare must be mistaken, "B-but how!?"

Nightmare chuckles, the fondness in his expression clear as day, "You were gone in the village when they came and cut down the tree, but as soon as you saw trouble you came back to the tree to help, but..." Nightmare looks to the side for a moment before a strained smile appears on his face, "You managed to save an apple before... before a villager tried to put a sleeping spell on me," Nightmare can't make eye contact with his younger brother, something Cross takes note of.

"You saved both me, and the apple, but then when I saw you weren't moving... I feared the worst..." Nightmare trailed off, his expression unreadable as he looked at the smaller skeleton.

Cross always thought Nightmare couldn't understand how he and the others felt since they lost their families. But sitting here, during this conversation, Cross realizes Nightmare lost just as much as them.

It suddenly makes a lot more sense to him why Nightmare intended to care for them- as friends- family rather than just minions. Cross realized Nightmare must have experienced the same pain the others felt when they lost their lives, their families. Nightmare, a near god, must have experienced just as much pain as all of them.

In one moment, Cross felt like he understood the other even more than ever through the few years of working with him.

"But I didn't dust! Why did you think I was dead?" Dream asks his words taking Cross out of his thoughts as the smaller looks up at his brother worriedly, tiny hands grabbing his face, forcing the other to look at him.

"Dream, we aren't normal monsters. We're closer to nature spirits, you know how some of the forest spirits used bark and flowers to make a body?" Nightmare asks, Cross unable to completely understand where Nightmare is going with this, but Dream nods,

"Well, after some research I found out that since we are guardian spirits, it's likely our bodies aren't really all that important to what makes us- well, us." Nightmare pauses, "I don't know if we would be able to die, or what would happen to us. I thought I lost you for all these years..." Nightmare trails off. Cross can see how he's fighting tears again,

"Yet here you are. There's so much I want to tell you, so much I want to do, but you need to recover first." He states, Cross recognizing the tone from when Killer or Dust got too reckless on a mission and ended up with a broken limb or two, "Maybe after some food and sleep we can talk more about what happened, but things haven't been all bad since that day," Nightmare says, smiling softly as Dream watches him hopefully

"It wasn't?" Dreams question is just as full of hope as his face, Nightmares smile grows even softer,

"It was rough for a while, but after some time, I began to try to make a life for myself. The tree was gone, but since I ate the fruit- in some ways, I am the tree now, and you are too Dream," Nightmare taps Dream on the nasal with the last few words, Dream smiling and giggling slightly as his hands go to shield where Nightmare tapped him,

"I started to explore, and I made friends too," Nightmare says, gesturing towards Cross, who can't help but color a little in embarrassment. It was nice to hear how much Nightmare cared for them. (even though it wasn't very professional.)

Cross could live with the lack of formalities, though, and smiles still.

"Explore? You mean like the other worlds mother told us about?" Dreams eyes are sparkling as he watches Nightmare as if he hung the sun and moon in the sky,

"Yes, since we are essentially the tree that needs protecting now, we can go all over the multiverse and travel to all sorts of places and worlds-"

"Can you take me to the other worlds Nighty!? Please!" Dream's smile is so big Cross is worried it might fall off his face. He watches, in awe, as Nightmare laughs such a light, carefree laugh that Cross thinks Dream must infect everyone around him with happiness.

"Of course Dream, but for now we need you to stay in the castle while you recover-"

"You live in a CASTLE?! Like from fairy tales? That's splendid Nighty!" Dream giggles and smiles, "Are you a king?"

Cross tenses as Nightmares smile falls slightly, he gives Cross a look that tells Cross to keep quiet before gently patting Dream on the head, "I suppose I am Dream, but now that your here, perhaps you could be a prince," Nightmare smiles as Dream continues to talk and talk, far more excitable than Nightmare whom watches with fondness.

Cross can't help but get lost in his thoughts again. Nightmare has been spreading his influence and negativity throughout the multiverse, so he could feed easier and grow stronger. But... with his brother back, Cross has a feeling that things are going to change. Not just here in his family but across the entire multiverse.

But for once, Cross finds himself not scared of the change in his life.

Cross is looking forward to seeing Nightmare smile more.