Illustration of Ghostbur by this AU's artist and lore writer Chael Meybuyan.
The ghost appears on the very first day of New L’Manberg.
Fundy pretends he doesn’t see it, for a little while. Going on Hunts with Tubbo could mess with your mind a little bit, and the land around the old Camarvan is probably laced with drugs, so maybe he's just hallucinating. After all, he only sees it out of the corner of his eye, while they’re clearing the debris: a flash of curly hair, faint humming of a familiar tune.
But then, a few weeks into their rebuilding, a little wooden shed appears behind his house. It’s haphazardly built; just a few spruce planks stacked over each other and nailed together crookedly. It smells unpleasant, and there isn’t even a roof.
One day, Fundy gathers his courage, sneaks away from the build site, and scales the side of the crater to peer between the gaps in the planks. The little room in the shed is empty except for a barrel and a wide hole in the ground. At the corner adjacent to him, there’s a smidge of yellow, and he cranes his neck to peer further into the space—
“What are you doing?”
Fundy jumps. “Prime, Big Q. You scared me.”
Quackity looks at him knowingly. “You see him too, huh?”
It isn’t really a question.
“It’s kind of rude to talk about someone when they’re there,” says Fundy.
“It’s alright, he’s usually out of it in the day,” says Quackity, but he pulls Fundy away from the shed anyway.
“So he’s real, huh?” Fundy asks as they walk.
“Yeah. He built that shed himself, you know.”
“It looks… bad,” says Fundy.
“I guess he needed some space.” Quackity shrugs. “S’not like he has any right to build out in the crater.”
“Is the president okay with this?” Fundy asks. Then, thinking better of it, “Does Tubbo even know?”
“‘Course he knows. They talk a lot, in the night.”
“He can talk?” Fundy wonders.
“Only to Tubbo,” says Quackity. “I tried, but it was kind of awkward, you know? The ghost tried talking to Philza while he was here, but Phil didn’t really stick around, if you know what I mean.”
“What, so he only speaks to family?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” A pause. “Come to think of it, aren’t you his son? You should give it a shot. Ask him how hot it was in hell, or something.”
Fundy shifts uncomfortably. “I’m... not sure that’s a good idea.”
“I kind of disowned him,” says Fundy. “Back when I was working for Schlatt.”
“Oh, shit,” says Quackity.
“Yeah,” says Fundy, little humor in his tone. “Shit.”
“But, I mean, you were a spy, right? You didn’t really mean it.”
Fundy has been asking himself that question a lot, recently.
“I don’t know,” he says honestly. “I mean, he was a pretty garbage dad.”
Quackity grimaces sympathetically. “Maybe it’ll help you get some closure, at least,” he says. “You can deck the dude who orphaned you, or something. It’s your choice, man.”
Fundy spends days stewing over that. He talks to President Tubbo, and Former President Tommy, and even his newly-resurrected grandfather, but the people of New L’Manberg skirt around the presence of the ghost haunting the ruins like it’s taboo.
A few days after he finishes his house, there’s a knock at his door, a little past dinner. Fundy, who has been expecting Tubbo to come over with papers for him to sign, runs down the stairs with a toothbrush in his mouth and throws the door open.
“Hello,” says the apparition of his… something. “You’re the foreman, right? Do you know where I can borrow some nails?”
Fundy almost slams the door in his face.
He stops himself. Instead, he says, “Thish ish awkward,” around a mouthful of bubbles.
The ghost laughs. It’s a shy, nervous sound, and Fundy startles when he hears it. He’d forgotten what it sounded like.
“Why don’t you finish that up,” says the ghost, gesturing at his toothbrush, “And you can come back and meet me out here?”
“Right,” says Fundy, who grabs his excuse to get away from the ghost, shuts the door, and runs back upstairs.
He spits and gargles at record speed, then spends a disproportionate amount of time staring at the mirror.
“C’mon,” he says to his reflection. “You’re a man, aren’t you? It’s just your shitty old man. You got this.”
He adjusts his cap to cover his ears and, with no small amount of trepidation, goes down the stairs and opens the door.
The ghost is there, shivering, and Fundy immediately feels terrible about himself. “Oh god,” he says, “I didn’t realize you could get cold. Come in, please.”
He turns away to light the hearth. Behind him, the door shuts gently.
“He isn’t real, you know.”
“What?” Fundy says distractedly, as he tries to get a spark from his flint and steel.
The coals catch fire, and Fundy turns. In the firelight, he sees the ghost a little more clearly. It looks younger than his father ever did, only a little older than Fundy himself. He’s grayed out and translucent, and gazing at the hearth with faraway eyes; but his skin is whole and unscarred, and he’s dressed in a yellow jumper that looks more comfortable than any of the suits and coats he’d worn in life.
(Fundy thinks that, maybe, that's what he had been wearing in his casket. He hadn’t looked at the body long enough to be sure.)
“I died,” says the ghost. “And there was nothing after. So I decided to come back.”
There’s a moment of silence.
He snorts. “I thought for sure that you’d gone to hell,” he says.
The ghost looks back at him. He has dark, sad eyes that look a little too much like Fundy’s own. “Ah,” he says, like he’s had an epiphany, “you hate me too.”
Fundy doesn’t answer that directly. “Everyone in L’Manberg has plenty of reason to,” he says pointedly.
“Yeah, everyone says so,” the ghost says, matter-of-factly. “They say I blew up the nation and killed a lot of people. I can’t imagine why I’d do that, though, so it’s all a little strange for me.”
Fundy scrunches his eyebrows as that sinks in. “What,” he says incredulously, “so you’re saying you don’t remember anything?”
The ghost sits on the other side of the hearth, and opens his palms to the crackling fire. “I remember founding the nation,” he says. “And winning the elections. And then there was a—a ravine…? And then, er, dad came back to life and killed me, and now I’m dead.”
The ghost shrugs. “I mean, I remember my family,” he says. Despite himself, Fundy leans in. He wants to know. “But I think dad’s avoiding me, and I think Niki and Tommy are angry at me. I haven’t seen Techno or my baby anywhere, so Tubbo’s the only person who speaks to me…. And you, I guess.”
His breath catches. “Your baby?”
The ghost nods, seriously. “A little fox boy, around three feet tall. Answers to Fundy. You haven’t seen him anywhere, have you?”
Fundy stands abruptly, and the ghost startles so hard that he actually flickers for a split second. “I’ll go see what we can do about those nails,” he says, his voice a little high pitched. “Be right back.”
He takes a few pounds of nails from the warehouse. The ghost thanks him with a boyish smile, and Fundy watches as he clumsily pieces together the facsimile of a crane out of wood and stone over the next few nights, all the while humming that tune. He seems to think that it’s actually helpful, and he looks so determined , patiently nailing the edges down despite the hammer slipping from his fingers every other stroke, that the foreman hasn’t the heart to tell him otherwise. It looks good over the stilt-houses, at least.
When it’s finished, and the ghost has made a little home for himself in the sewers , of all places, he asks the foreman what he thinks of the whole thing. Fundy looks over the crane, the little lamps in the sky, and the water mill; and he says, “It’s pretty good.”
The ghost puffs up in pride. Fundy thinks that that’s the end of that, and tells himself that he’s relieved.
The ghost comes over every day.
“I wanted to thank you for the nails the other day, foreman! Have some donuts.”
“So, er, I’ve been trying to sort my book collection by date. Do you recognize this title?”
“I’ve been trying to make regen potions taste decent, foreman.” says the ghost. “I added a little sugar to this, would you try it for me?”
“You have a sauna? Do you think I’ll still feel it?”
His enthusiasm is wearing Fundy down. Or wearing him out. He hasn’t decided yet.
By the time Phil and Fundy’s Designated Gramps Bonding Day rolls around again, the ghost is pretty much a permanent resident in his sitting room during daylight hours. He’s around far more often than he had been in life. Fundy’s not really looking forward to the day—he and Phil were awkward at best, seeing as his apparent grandfather had been alive for all of eleven years longer than he—and the ghost on the couch, playing with note blocks, is not helping.
Nothing like having a dead, amnesiac terrorist mess with your redstone while you stare at the door, waiting anxiously for your freshly resurrected grandfather.
The knock comes. Fundy nervously pats down his cap, making sure his ears are still covered, then moves to let Phil in.
“Hey, Fundy,” says Phil, spreading his arms for a hug at the same time that Fundy sticks out a hand for him to shake.
Fundy fumbles, steps in close to get the hug. By the time he’s moved, Phil has already stuck out his own hand. Fundy laughs nervously and settles for an awkward pat on the back.
“Phil,” he says, closing the door behind them, “there’s something you need to know.”
Phil tilts his head, narrows his eyes. “What kind of bullshit have you gotten into now?”
“Wh—I didn’t do anything!” Fundy protests. “I’ve just been rebuilding!”
Phil relaxes a little. “What is it, then?”
“I have a… roommate,” says Fundy, and the whole, dreary tale spills out of him like that disastrous potion.
By the time he’s done, Phil is grimacing. “Well, shit, kid.”
“If you want to reschedule, or something, I’m cool with it,” says Fundy quickly. “I know you’ve been avoiding him.”
Phil’s eyes widen. “I haven’t—I—” he shakes his head, sighs. “I suppose I have been. But I can’t skip out on you as well. I can’t keep avoiding him forever.” He smiles then, wryly. “And neither can you.”
When Fundy gets back to the sitting room, the ghost is still there, tapping a note block through the scales of a guitar.
“We have a visitor,” says Fundy.
“Cool,” says the ghost. His pale eyes crinkle up at the corners in a smile. “Is it one of the people who hate me, foreman?”
There’s no resentment in his tone; it’s an honest inquiry, devoid of judgment.
“Er, I don’t know,” says Fundy. “You’ll have to ask him yourself.”
As soon as Phil walks in, the ghost jolts up, back ramrod straight as he combs his fingers through wild dark hair.
“Dad?” he asks.
Philza tries to smile. It still looks a little like a grimace. “Hello, Wilbur.”
“I thought you were avoiding me,” says Wilbur. It still isn’t accusatory, but there’s an undercurrent of hurt in his words.
“I didn’t mean to,” says Phil. “I just don’t know how to speak to you.”
“Well, you’re speaking to me now, Phil, aren’t you?” A smile creeps across Wilbur’s face, until he looks like a child on Halloween. “Now you just have to keep it up!”
Phil laughs, surprised. “He’s enthusiastic, isn’t he?” he says to Fundy, who is caught somewhere between a smile and a sigh.
“I’m so glad you’ve decided to try and forgive me, Phil,” says Wilbur. “I know I’ve hurt you a lot, and I don’t know how I’m going to begin to make up for that, but I’m going to do everything I can to deserve it, alright?”
Phil’s smile falters. “You don’t have to apologize to me,” he says. “Wil, I was the one who wronged you. I don’t even know where to start.”
“Oh, it’s alright,” says Wilbur.
Phil blinks. “It’s… alright? Wil, you don’t even know what I—”
Fundy cuts in. “He knows, Phil,” he says, “It’s one of the only things he remembers.”
“You killed me,” Wilbur says, nodding. “You used my sword. It’s okay, though, I probably deserved it.”
Phil’s face is the picture of heartbreak as he turns back to his son. “Oh, Wil,” he says, reaching up to grip Wilbur’s shoulder, gentle as anything. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You didn’t deserve to die.”
Three things happen at once. First, Wilbur shudders, closing his eyes. He reaches a translucent hand up to grasp Phil’s. Second, Phil gives a quiet “Oh,” and pulls his much taller ghost son into a hug. Third, Fundy has a realization.
Ah, he thinks, this is the first time he’s been touched since he died, isn’t it?
Wilbur is shaking like a leaf in his father’s arms, trying futilely to hug back with half-corporeal arms. Phil rubs his back, shushes him.
“It’s okay,” Phil whispers. “Everything’s okay now.”
It’s beautiful, objectively speaking: murderer and murdered, resurrected and reanimated, forgiving each other for the memory of being father and son.
Fundy sees it, and he’s happy for them, for the most part. But a small, nasty part of himself feels like a lead weight has fallen in his stomach, leaving a sweetly poisonous taste in his mouth.
He presses his lips into a line, and turns to leave.
It’s almost sunset by the time Phil seeks him out.
He finds Fundy sitting at the edge of the dock, arms aching after a long day of helping Niki work her bakery. Fundy nods shallowly when Phil sits beside him, eyes still fixed on the sea. High tide has passed, and the waves are beginning to shy away from the shore.
“We set this day aside for us,” says Philza, “but we actually didn’t spend any time together, did we?”
“It’s fine,” says Fundy shortly. “You talked. That’s more important. I get it.”
Phil shifts beside him, sighing. “Why’d you run off, Fundy?”
Fundy doesn’t say anything for a long while. There’s only the shrieking of the gulls above, and the crashing of the waves below.
Finally, he says, “I don’t know. I guess I was a little jealous.”
“Jealous?” says Phil, surprised. “Of what?”
“I don’t know!” Fundy’s voice rises against his will, and he takes a deep breath before he speaks again, trying to compose himself. “I guess I’m scared that I won’t—it’s just—” he sighs. “You were so comfortable around each other,” he tries to explain. “And you forgave each other so quickly.”
Phil nods slowly.
“I don’t have that kind of bond with him,” he says. “He started the revolution when I was little, so he wasn’t really around while I was growing up. Then, when it was over, he still acted like I was a baby who couldn’t do anything. I resented him so much for that that after the elections, when he was in Pogtopia, I disowned him, Phil.” Fundy kicks at the water. “I never got to apologize for that. And now he’s dead, and I’m scared that I’ll never be able to… I don’t know. Beg for forgiveness. Or tell him that I forgive him. I’m not sure.”
Phil looks to the setting sun, contemplative.
“I can’t say I know what it’s like to be in your shoes, Fundy,” he says. “But I know Wilbur, alright? And I’ve been in his place, sort of.”
“You were dead too,” says Fundy. “I remember.”
“Listen,” says Phil. “Wilbur came back, alright? And when he got here, who did he choose to stay with?”
“...Me?” says Fundy.
Phil nods. “You,” he says firmly. “He could have stayed with Tubbo, or Tommy, or me, but he stays with you. And he still calls you ‘foreman.’ You’ve never even told him your name.”
“He stays with me because he thinks no one else can stand him,” says Fundy.
“And you think he’s wrong?” says Phil. “Can you stand him?”
“Of course!” says Fundy hotly. “He was a crazy fucker in life, but he’s my dad! Of course I want him around!”
Philza smiles, then, and claps a hand on his back.
“So does he,” says Phil. “You don’t need to forgive him, Fundy. You just have to want him around, and all he needs is to know that. Just take that first step, and all the other things can come later.”
Fundy stares at him, astonished.
“I guess Tubbo didn’t call you the Provider of Earthly Wisdom for nothing,” he mutters.
Phil chuckles. “Another piece of Earthly Wisdom? Close your mouth,” he says. “The seagulls will go anywhere.”
“I take it back, you’re disgusting,” says Fundy.
Phil laughs again, full-bellied and bright.
“You ought to go home,” he advises. “Ask him to show you what he’s been working on. And take off that cap, for Prime’s sake.”
“I guess I will,” Fundy says, climbing to his feet and dusting off his hands on his trousers. It's a terrifying concept, still, but he could at least try.
“Yeah?” he says, turning back to his youthful grandfather, so long dead and so recently restored.
“Remember that you’re family too,” Phil says softly. “Same time next week?”
Fundy feels a smile quirking up the edges of his mouth. “Same time next week, gramps.”
When Fundy comes home, his father’s ghost is bent over a series of note blocks, carefully spacing them out. As he steps inside, Wilbur grins and waves, before ducking down to check the redstone again. “Look, foreman, Phil helped me get it right,” he says. “This works properly now. You wanna listen?”
“Maybe later,” says Fundy, taking off his cap. “We need to talk about something first.”
“Sure, what’s this about?” Wilbur looks up, smiling.
Fundy braces himself as Wilbur’s eyes drift up to the fox ears on his head. His lips part in confusion, and his eyes widen as it dawns on him—
“It’s me, dad,” he says, screwing his eyes shut in anticipation.
Nothing bad happens. Instead, Wilbur scrambles to his feet and flies across the room to tackle him into a hug that’s far warmer and more solid than it has any right to be.
For the second time that day, Wilbur is crying into an embrace. This time, Fundy is crying too.
“I thought you were dead ,” his father sobs, “No one would—no one told me anything about you, so I thought I killed you, too, I thought I orphaned you and killed you and left you alone in the void—”
“I’m okay,” says Fundy, “I’m all healed up, dad.”
“I’m sorry. I hurt you, I blew up the country I built to keep you safe, I left you all alone, Fundy, I’m sorry —”
Fundy laughs into his father’s ghostly shoulder. It comes with an embarrassing amount of tears. “You’re here now, and you’re helping us rebuild. Jury’s—jury’s still out, on the forgiveness part,” he says honestly, “but someday, I think.”
Wilbur pulls away, cups his son’s face in one hand, and smiles as he traces his cheekbone. “My beautiful son,” he says in a thick voice, “you’ve grown up so wonderfully, so smart and so wise and so kind. I am so, so, so proud of you.”
Fundy’s eyes well up again. “You can’t just s-say that,” he protests. His voice breaks in the middle of his sentence, and he rubs his eyes furiously. “Dad, you can’t just—you can’t just—”
Wilbur only laughs tearfully and pulls him back into the embrace, and they cry until they exhaust themselves, warm and safe in a wooden house over the crater of L’Manberg, the dust settled at long last.
Long after, when the moon is high in the sky and every apology they could think of has been said, Fundy says, “About those note blocks.”
“Oh!” Wilbur exclaims. “I almost forgot. I can’t hold a guitar anymore, so I had Phil—your grandfather!—he helped me play a song on them. It might not be up to scratch for you, though, Fundy,” he adds, self-consciously. “You’ve always had a talent for redstone.”
“I’m sure it’s good,” Fundy says, feeling a pleased blush spread over his face. “But that’s not the point. Do you know the chords?”
“Well, yes. They’re rather simple,” he says. “I wrote this song for you, when you were little. I’ve been humming it after I came back, so I wouldn’t forget you.”
Fundy swallows the lump threatening to form in his throat. “Teach it to me.”
“You still play?”
“Of course,” says Fundy. “You taught me.”
Wilbur smiles softly. For the first time in a long time, there is not a trace of melancholy on his face; only pure, unadulterated joy.
“Then it’ll be my pleasure.”