“Why did you marry that prick anyway?” Tommy asks, kicking his feet out and treading the water of the brook. It splashes up against the bank and against his legs, soaking through the material of his pants. He finds he doesn’t care.
“Ranboo’s not a prick.”
“Yeah, he is.”
“No, he isn’t.”
“Yes, he is, and you shouldn’t have married him!”
“Why not?” Tubbo asks. A chord strikes itself down Tommy’s chest, ringing a discordant tone in his ears. It sounds awfully like bubbling lava.
His hands fist in the grass. “He’s a dick. A wrong’un. Why do you even like him?”
Tommy scoffs. “That’s it?”
“Hey, I’m still thinking!” Tubbo pauses. “I like him because I can trust him to always be there for me. I can confide in him and I know he won’t use it against me. And I do the same for him. We support each other.”
Tubbo goes quiet. Then, he whispers, “No it isn’t.”
Tommy stands up. The hem of his pants drags water droplets through the grass. The soaked fabrics stick to his skin and there’s mud on his hands, but he suddenly doesn’t care.
“I’m going home.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow?”
“Sure,” he lies.
Tommy doesn’t go home. Instead, he heads towards the water, the same spot where Dream ordered him to board a boat and leave his home. He sinks under the waves, treading the water and letting it wash over him. It’s cold enough that it makes his teeth chatter, but it makes him feel alive.
Puffy told him about coping mechanisms at his last therapy session. He doesn’t think this is one she would call healthy. But he’s stopped building towers and standing on top of them, so that has to count for something.
Besides, he should be happy, right? Dream is in prison. He’s out of it.
He and his best friend are both okay. They’re both alive, albeit a little bit scarred.
But it isn’t fucking okay because Tubbo’s gone and replaced him and Tommy lagged behind and now he can’t keep up and now Wilbur’s dead and Tubbo’s gone and Everyone hates him.
He feels so fucking alone.
He floats on his back, letting the water carry him. Dead Man’s Float. Pretty fucking ironic.
Puffy told him that he was allowed to talk about his feelings. But he doesn’t have anything to talk about.
Dream killed him. He came back. Sure, he might flinch every time he takes damage, but that doesn’t mean anything, right? Others have it much worse.
He thinks of the scattered scars across Tubbo’s face, as sporadic as the explosion that caused them. He thinks of the tear tracks that wore their way down Ranboo’s face, heavy white lines like rivers.
They make him and Tubbo a perfect set. The scars. The trauma.
It’s a new word to him. Trauma. Six letters, a nice even word. If only he could actually say it.
Tubbo said he could confide in Ranboo. Why couldn’t he confide in him?
It feels like everyone has someone else. Except for him. They all have their number one person, their close group, their family. Tommy used to have that. He used to have Tubbo, and Wilbur, and L’manburg. Sometimes he misses them so much it makes him sick.
Now he’s on the outskirts while Tubbo grows closer and closer to Ranboo and he has no one left.
They all fucking left him.
He doesn’t go to see Tubbo the next day. Tommy figures he can spend the day with his family, with Ranboo and Michael, and not Him.
He stays curled up in bed all day, the covers pulled up to his head. It’s childish, he knows, but no one is here to see him.
There’s a part of him, the sensible part, that knows that this isn’t healthy. He’s been trying to get better, he swears. He tries to go to his therapy sessions every week, he tries to spend time with Tubbo no matter how much it hurts him, hell he even tried sewing one time.
But none of it seems to be working. Because he’s still going nowhere.
It feels like he’s back in Limbo again. Waiting. Waiting. Doing nothing but Waiting.
He’s trying his best but it never seems to be good enough.
Puffy told him to stop isolating himself. He doesn’t think she’d like what he’s doing right now.
But he’s never needed anyone else. He survived exile on his own, he survived prison on his own, he survived Dream on his own.
And what was it that Dream told him?
Oh, right. Connections were weaknesses.
He tries to tell himself that but Tommy can’t help how his heart longs for people to finally look at him instead of pass over him. To speak to him first. To care about him.
He wants it so bad it hurts.
A few days later, Tubbo invites him over for dinner. Tommy makes the long trek to Snowchester by foot, mindful of the hills and craters that dot the landscape.
The inside of Tubbo’s house is swelteringly warm compared to the winter lurking outside his doorstep. Tommy moves to open the door, hesitates, then knocks.
Tubbo opens the door almost immediately. His face is stretched wide into a large grin and he absentmindedly wipes his hands on his apron, dragging flour across the yellow fabric.
“I’m so glad you could make it. Ranboo and Michael are in the dining room, I’m just going to finish up in the kitchen, and then we can eat.”
Tommy nods, dreading the idea of having to interact with Ranboo without Tubbo there. Hesitantly, he enters the dining room.
“Michael! We don’t climb on that.” Ranboo shrieks, running to scoop up Michael before he can crawl across the dinner table. The zombie pigman wriggles in his arms, hands reaching for Ranboo’s hair. He coos at the baby, allowing it to hold onto one of his fingers.
Finally, Ranboo looks up, noticing Tommy in the room.
“Oh, hey Tommy. Have you met Michael yet?”
Tommy feels like he’s intruding on something. Ranboo and Tubbo have their life here already, their own routine. They don’t need him barging in and mucking it up.
“Michael, come say hi,” Ranboo says, walking over to Tommy. He holds the baby’s hand and makes him wave at Tommy. Tommy hates the way it makes him smile. This is their kid. He doesn’t deserve to be in their life like this.
“Hi,” Tommy says, his voice softer than usual. The moment is quickly interrupted by a shout from the kitchen.
“Ranboo! Can you come help me with this, please?”
Ranboo turns to Tommy. “Here, can you hold him for a bit? I don’t want him getting on the table again.”
Before Tommy can even respond, Michael is placed in his arms. He’s lighter than Tommy would have thought and way too small. Tommy never knew anything could be this tiny.
Michael’s hands clench into little fists and Tommy can’t resist the urge to let him grab onto his finger, cooing at the baby.
He thinks he understands why Tubbo and Ranboo fell into parenting so effortlessly. He’s spent only a few minutes with the kid and he wants to see him grow up happy, away from the constant war of this server.
Tommy’s heart longs for peace, for Michael, for Ranboo, for Tubbo. And for himself.
The other two return to the dining room, carrying plates of food. Tommy hands Michael off and Tubbo rests him in his lap, feeding him bites of food off his plate.
The scene is achingly domestic.
Tommy’s reminded of little kids playing house, passing around dolls, and pretending to be all grown up. They’re all too young for this kind of domesticity. Tubbo and Ranboo are kids themselves, they shouldn’t be trying to raise one themselves.
None of them got the chance to be kids. Maybe this is just Tubbo and Ranboo’s way of finding some sense of normalcy in the chaos they were forced to grow up in.
The two of them are the picture of perfect parents. And Tommy is just the outlier, as always. Dream was right. No one actually wants him in their life, they all just put up with him and his annoying nature because they have to. Even here, surrounded by people he should be able to call friends, he’s still so fucking alone.
Abruptly, Tommy stands up, his knees knocking against the table.
“I should go.”
Tubbo gapes at him. “But you haven’t even had dessert yet! I made pie.”
“It’s obvious that you two don’t want me here. You’re happy with each other and your kid. I’m just intruding, so I’ll leave.”
“Wait,” Tubbo interrupts. “Who said we didn’t want you here?”
“Why would we invite you to dinner if we didn’t want to see you?”
Ranboo uses Tommy’s pause to speak up. “I don’t know what I did for us to start out on the wrong foot, but I’d like for us to be friends, Tommy.”
Tubbo nods. “We want you here. With us. You’re my family.”
“Then why’d you marry Ranboo?”
“Because I wanted to. Just because I’m married to Ranboo doesn’t mean that you’re not as important to me. I care about you, Tommy. Always have. And I want you to be a part of my life.”
“Of course I am. We both want you here. Now sit back down, your food is going to get cold.”
Tommy sits. The evening is much easier after that, full of laughter and stories and happiness. After dessert, they sit together in the living room and Tommy tries to teach Michael swear words, despite Ranboo’s distress.
They feel like a proper family. And to Tommy, who’s never had a family to call his own, who’s always been alone, they’re perfect.
He doesn’t feel alone.