Most of the time, Technoblade slept well enough. In the bastion, all of the children shared one bedroom. They spent their nights piled on top of each other like gravel on the side of the hill, intertwined in a silly puzzle of limbs and hugs.
Techno was thankful for this arrangement. He liked being able to reach out for someone’s hand after a bad dream, tucking himself under a cousin's arm. With the other shoats so close, it was easy to stomp down the nervous, grating feeling that something was wrong, always present in the back of his throat.
Sometimes, though, it wasn’t enough.
Techno wasn’t like the other members of his sounder. His skin was paler, and his hair only grew from the top of his head. His body was smaller and thinner, easily burnt by the Nether's constant heat. Even his voice was different, more inclined towards shrill notes than hearty grunts, like a warped music disc.
There was a clear reason for this: Technoblade wasn’t a piglin. That much had been clear from the beginning.
It didn’t matter. Techno's sounder loved him anyway, despite his fragile skin and tiny body. They were sweet to him, even if he was the smallest runt they had ever seen. He was theirs, and that made him more precious than gold.
Techno knew that he was strange. None of the other shoats cared about how their blankets were positioned, or that their bedroom felt too exposed. They couldn’t respond to his anxious warbles or understand his nervous disposition, and they certainly weren’t happy when Techno woke them up unexpectedly, frantic about things he couldn’t explain.
That’s why Techno was in the adults’ bedroom now. Perhaps one of them would sympathize.
As Techno stood in the doorway, he screwed his eyes shut, unsure of what he even wanted. A hug, perhaps? A watchful eye? The promise that he was safe, even if his entire being screamed in disagreement?
“Techno?” a voice whispered, “Is that you?”
His aunt, Arrowskin, was sitting up in her cot, peering straight at him. All of the grownups slept in separate beds. If the bastion was any bigger, they probably would have preferred separate rooms as well.
The thought made Techno feel even worse.
“I—“ Techno sniffled, blinking hard, “I can’t sleep.”
Arrow sighed, leaning back onto her pillow. “You never sleep,” she grunted, voice heavy as she rubbed her eyes.
At once, a hot wave of shame washed over Techno like lava. It was stupid, coming here. He wasn’t a piglet anymore. He couldn’t go running to the grown-ups whenever he felt sad.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, already stepping out of the room, “I didn’t—“
“Oh,” Arrow interrupted, immediately sitting up again, “Oh, no, Techno, piglet, I didn’t mean it like that. Come here, little warmth. You’re okay.”
That was all the encouragement Techno needed. At once, he flung himself against his aunt’s chest, letting her thick, scarred arms hold him close and tight.
“There,” she whispered, her rumbling purr shaking Techno’s very bones, “See? You didn’t do anything wrong. I could never be mad at you.”
Techno hid his face in her shirt, wiping his eyes and nose. He knew that he was being kind of gross, but as his aunt rubbed gentle circles into his back, it was difficult to care.
For a few minutes, they just laid in the cot, pressed against each other as Techno desperately tried to fall asleep. Then—
“Did I ever tell you about how we found you?” Arrow asked, voice soft.
The answer was yes, but Techno just hummed. His aunt accepted the cue without hesitation.
“I'll never forget it. Your uncle Bloodflame brought home this massive gold nugget, all smooth and round. It was the largest piece of raw gold I had ever seen. Bigger than my head, at the very least, and I know because we checked! Bloody wanted to melt it down, but I convinced him to let me keep it.”
Techno had heard this story a thousand times before, but there was no harm in listening once more.
“I placed it in front of the fire, and, oh, I must have spent days staring at it. Every flame in the hearth shone on its surface like fragments of glass. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.”
Techno tried to imagine it. He had never shared his sounder’s fascination for gold, but even he could understand the appeal of the treasure his aunt described.
“And then,” Arrow said, sweeping a strand of pink hair from Techno’s face, “on the fourth day of watching, I noticed a crack in the nugget.”
“Was it a big crack?” Techno asked, staring up at his aunt.
She smiled. “Huge. And you know what happened next?”
Techno did, but he liked playing along. “What?”
“The crack got even bigger,” Arrow stressed, as though she could hardly believe her own words, “This big curved line, like the thing was smiling at me. Just like this!”
Arrow loosened her grip on Techno, lowering her snout to blow raspberries into his stomach. The child squealed and squawked, pressing his hands over his mouth to quiet his laughter. Still, his tiny palms couldn't cover his entire grin.
Arrow beamed back at the little boy. “Exactly! A nice, big smile. And then, out you came! As naked as a newborn, screaming for the whole Nether to hear!”
Techno was still giggling. “And then what?”
“What do you mean, ‘And then what?’” Arrow teased, pulling Techno closer, “You were there! Are you telling me that you don’t remember?”
Techno shook his head. Arrow pretended to look disappointed.
“Well,” she said, a considerable amount of fake thought on her face, “Then you got bigger. And we all loved you."
Arrow pressed her forehead against her nephew's, unbelievably gentle. Techno pressed back a little harder, eager to be close to her.
"'Technoblade,'" she whispered, smile clear in her voice, "Our little gold.”
The story was a gross oversimplification, but there was no reason to point that out. Not when the weight of the day was finally beginning to take its toll.
“I’m sorry I’m bad at sleeping,” Techno mumbled, eyelids growing heavy.
Arrow kissed her nephew’s forehead. “We all have our struggles, little warmth. You’re still small. You don’t have to have everything figured out yet.”
In her arms, it was getting harder and harder for Techno to stay awake. Suddenly, it occurred to him that he didn’t want to keep his eyes open any longer.
Nestled against his aunt’s chest, Techno let himself slip away into dreams.
Somehow, Techno had never gotten used to how dark the Overworked was at night.
Back in the Nether, times of day didn’t exist in the traditional sense. How could they, when the dim light of the lava bubbled ceaselessly, uncaring of the world around it? Techno’s sounder had slept after every other meal, a decision based on pure logic: It was most convenient to have a structured schedule, even if the Nether didn't naturally provide one.
The shoats being able to sleep together, curled next to the people they cared about, was an added bonus. It was hard to justify any changes when the kids looks so cute sleeping in each other's arms.
Despite being an adult, Techno had brought that childhood tradition with him to the Overworld. Tonight was a perfect example. Three tiny, avian children, smaller than any piglet, were sleeping in Techno’s nest, snuggling close.
Ranboo, the eldest, was pressed against Techno’s side, fingers curled into the adult’s shirt. His black and white wings were pulled in tight, as though it was possible to make himself any smaller than he already was.
Tubbo, the middle child, was sprawled across Techno’s legs, impressively unconscious for someone in such an uncomfortable position. His brown wings were as stretched out as his limbs, the tips of his feather just barely brushing the bottom of Ranboo’s foot.
Techno turned to look at the last kid. Tommy’s head was resting on the man's chest, his tiny, red wings covering them like a blanket. The kid would occasionally chirp something vague in his sleep, a testament to his complete inability to stay silent.
Techno pulled Tommy a little closer, his other hand rubbing circles into Ranboo’s back.
“They sleep better when you’re here, you know.”
Techno startled slightly at the voice, though there was no need. Only one person in the village spoke Techno’s native language, Piglin, so fluently.
Phil was standing in the doorway, looking fondly at the scene before him. Techno tried not to laugh. He didn’t want to wake up the kids.
“I once saw Tubbo fall asleep in the middle of a sidewalk,” Techno said, “I think they’d be fine without me.”
Phil shrugged, making his way over to the nest. Carefully, he lowered himself into it, running a gentle hand through his friend's golden wings. Techno let himself savor the touch.
“I mean it,” Phil said, “Avian children can only sleep when they feel protected. It’s instinct.”
Techno’s wings had presented themselves late, only making themselves known the year before. It had been quite a shock, to say the least. Even the boys, only seven years old, had their wings already, albeit ones that were still heavy with down.
Phil claimed that such delays were normal for avian children who grew up in stressful situations. According to him, even if Techno had experienced a safe and happy childhood, his instincts hadn’t agreed. The Nether was apparently no place for a fledgling.
But that hardly mattered now. With the boys close and Phil keeping a watchful eye, it was hard not to feel drowsy.
“Go to sleep, mate,” Phil said, lips graced with a comforting smile, “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
A small part of Techno wanted to disobey the gentle order. He didn’t want to sleep right now, not when everything felt so peaceful. Instead, he wanted to hold the boys close, brushing back their hair and kissing their foreheads. He wanted to exchange quiet banter with Phil, watching his best friend’s smile grow in the moonlight.
But it was hard to deny the wonderful exhaustion in his bones. As Techno closed his eyes, every inch of his body agreed on one thing: In this nest, it was safe to sleep.