The room is sweltering, it’s honestly a miracle that all the water in the cell hadn’t evaporated by now. The barrier of lava that blocks any exit from the cage is not only causing the heat, but trapping it inside along with them.
It must be torture, Tommy thinks, to live like this every day.
Well, it would be, at least. If not for the fact that he has been sitting in said cell for hours, knees pressed to his chest as he curled in on himself.
The yelling and instant fear that ensued after he was locked in with Dream had worn down, now they sit in silence on opposite ends of the room. Tommy’s face is buried between his knees, but he can still feel eyes on him.
“It’s better if you lay down.” The prisoner tells him, watching the sweat form patches through his shirt. “The obsidian is colder.”
Tommy ignores him, as he has been since they had finished yelling at each other.
Dream continues to suggest. “Or you could take off some clothes-”
“You fucking--” Tommy sighs, he pushes his head up just enough to stare at the man. “Shut the hell up, will you?”
“Just trying to help.” He smiles unnervingly.
The only reply Tommy grants is a grimace. Then, he returns to staring blankly at the space between his shoes on the ground.
They distract him for a while, not the sight of obsidian but rather the angry thoughts in his mind. Why did it have to be him? It was almost over, almost completely done with. This was the final step he had to take before turning the page in his story; to tie up loose ends and get some long awaited closure.
And now he’s here for god knows how long.
Tommy can’t really be blamed when the boredom begins to gnaw away at him. This place is completely depriving him of any mental stimulation, his thoughts can only remedy it so much.
Luckily, they do the trick until he falls asleep.
The nap isn’t restful, and though he can’t tell the time, he figures he hasn’t slept very long.
Searching for what had woken him up, he finds two potatoes thrown on the ground next to him, a glance upwards revealing Dream, who had probably thrown the food at him.
“Breakfast?” Dream offers.
Tommy finally caves and decides to respond after just a moment's hesitation. “This is really all they give you, huh?”
“Everyday.” The man replies before beginning to take bites out of the raw food.
Looking away from Dream, he picks up one of the vegetables and just stares. Any sympathy he could have for Dream living like this is overwhelmed by the knowledge that, had it not been Dream in this prison, it would have been him.
With a shudder, Tommy decides he’s lost his appetite.
The hunger is gone, but the anger persists. Without much thought, he chucks the potato at the wall, watching it thump and then fall to the ground.
To his surprise, Dream barks out a laugh. “Are you trying to mash it?”
“That would give you some variety, at least.” Tommy growls.
The inmate just looks amused, continuing to eat his own food. “Always the clever one.”
Tommy figures that reply is too weird too warrant any real response, instead, he just murmurs a ‘fuck off’.
A whole day manages to pass like this.
Words only said sparingly between the two and Tommy denying his lunch as well. In all honesty, Tommy is beginning to feel cramped in this small space, especially since he’s limited his movements to one select spot on the floor.
Dream, shockingly, does little to press on the near silence. He looks content enough, watching the crying obsidian drip or the lava run down the exit of the cell. It makes Tommy uneasy, to see all of the man’s previous persistence to talk to him seemingly vanish into thin air.
Whatever the case, Dream’s presence alone is enough to upset him. He wishes for nothing more than the ability to create more distance between them, and honestly the lava is starting to look rather comfortable.
“How long do you plan to sit there?” Dream’s voice cuts into his thoughts. “Why don’t we have some dinner together?” He says, signaling to the pile of potatoes Tommy had thrown into the wall across from him.
Tommy stares at the pile. “Those taste fucking gross.”
“Afraid I can’t fix that for you.”
He just hums in acknowledgement of Dream’s words.
Hunger and boredom are really doing a number on him. He looks between the lava and vegetables, then figures maybe he can kill two birds with one stone.
When Tommy stands, he can hear his joints pop with the movement, he had been sitting there the whole day. He can feel Dream’s eyes on him as he makes the journey across the cell to pick up one of the potatoes.
Looking at the lava, he asks. “Have you ever tried to cook these?”
Turning back to Dream, he watches the man shake his head. “Can’t say I have.”
Tommy sits down dangerously close to the lava wall, heat radiating into his skin. A few pokes into the potato reveal that leaving them in the hot room for so long has caused them to become soft enough to tear into with his fingers, so he cuts it into halves.
“Mind if I join?” Dream asks.
Tommy considers it for a moment, but finally, the boredom wins.
“Just- don’t be fucking weird.”
With that, the prisoner settled down with him, a comfortable distance away. At least as comfortable as it could get. Tommy watches him try and tear apart his food the same way he himself had, to no avail.
Sighing, Tommy hands him a softer potato from the pile wordlessly. Dream accepts, and soon enough they are just sitting there, watching their food cook slowly.
He still isn’t quite used to seeing Dream without his mask, he’s only seen his face the last time he visited the prison and, well, exile. He’d rather not think about that now.
But Dream's features are just as soft as the last time he had seen him, save for a few scratches here and there that Tommy finds unfamiliar.
“Something the matter?” Dream asks him, and Tommy hadn’t even realized he had been staring until then. “Or just admiring, perhaps?”
“Ew,” Tommy frowns. “There was one rule man, leave if you’re gonna be a creep.”
“Just messing with you.”
Tommy’s had enough of that for a lifetime.
The lava sizzles, the only sound in the cell for some minutes. Deciding the food was cooked enough, Tommy tries to lift it off the ground, only to yelp when it burns the shit out of his fingers.
A chuckle can be heard from Dream, to which Tommy scowls at him.
“Little hot, I assume?”
Dream hums and rolls his sleeves down to cover his hands, then proceeds to use them like oven mitts as he lifts his potato away from the heat source, letting it rest beside him to cool down.
It’s a good enough plan, Tommy figures, but upon trying to copy it himself, he quickly realizes the fabric of his shirt is too thin and burns himself again. Dream laughs this time, and Tommy swears he’s going to murder whoever lit the tnt today; he’ll make it slow and painful.
There’s no protest when Dream lifts Tommy's food for him, placing it on the colder ground further away.
Soon enough, they’re both eating the now cooked potatoes, cooled down enough to not burn them. It would be better with some salt or something, Tommy thinks, but it’s really not too bad. Maybe it's the hunger from a day of fasting talking, though.
“Gotta say, this is one of your better ideas.” Dream compliments, probably half done with his meal.
Tommy shines in the praise, he always does. “You can just say I’m a genius, it’s what we’re all thinking, yeah?”
Dream just smiles. “Sure, Tommy.”
When Tommy sleeps, he does so on the floor once again. This time he lays down, Dream was right, it is a lot more cold.
The next day, or whenever he wakes up, it becomes increasingly apparent that Tommy wasn’t built for this kind of temperature in the cell.
Dream is over by the lava when he wakes, and it looks like he’s baking another potato. Two, actually.
But Tommy is too overwhelmed by the heat to care, his insides feel like they’ve reached a boiling point. He sits up, groaning in pain while he does so.
The inmate looks up to stare at him questionably, but doesn’t say anything.
When he moves, Tommy can feel his body sticky with sweat, it runs down his face and drenches his clothes. Suddenly, the tension in his stomach snaps and before he knows it he’s throwing up onto the floor. He coughs until yesterday's food finishes leaving his system.
“Tommy?” Dream calls for him. “Need some help over there?”
The younger can only respond with a whine as he grabs at his stomach, hot agony gripping his intestines.
Then Dream is at his side, he begins to rub his hand across Tommy’s back soothingly. Normally the touch would be very unwelcome, but Tommy is too out of it to care.
“Dizzy…” Is all he’s able to murmur.
“I know,” Dream says sympathetically. “Heat exhaustion. Happened to me too.”
Tommy imagines Dream in his spot, clutching his stomach and writhing in pain. “Fucking hell.”
“Yeah,” He agrees. “It’ll wear off, you just need to adjust.”
“Took me a few days.”
That throws him into another painful sob. Days? It would take days to recover? He was hoping to be out of here within days!
A few minutes pass with Tommy just catching his breath before Dream speaks again.
“Come on, you’ve gotta get something to drink so you don’t dehydrate.”
Too weak to protest, he just nods and allows Dream to help lift him to his feet. They stumble over to the cauldron-sink that rests against the wall of the cell. The older informs him that he wasn’t given any cups to drink out of and simply uses his hands, to which Tommy begins to do the same.
The water that runs from his hands to his throat is as warm as the rest of the room, it only nauseates him further and he whines in discomfort.
“I know, I know,” Dream whispers. “But you need water in your system unless you wanna start puking again.”
With a grimace, Tommy downs a few more handfuls of water, hating every sip. Then he begins to stumble, the floor shifts beneath him and his vision blurs. Dream is the only support that keeps him from falling.
When he’s set down. Dream leans him against the wall, he is able to find a little comfort in the cold obsidian.
“Wish I had somewhere more comfortable to put you.” Dream remorses. “You could use your shirt as a pillow, I’ve done that before.”
The odd persistence from Dream’s request for him to undress flies over his head. At this point, Tommy will agree to anything to ease the painful heat out of his bones. He tugs his shirt off and places it between his head and the floor, then promptly lays down.
Truthfully, this is a lot nicer. His skin against the floor is heavenly, it quells the burning for a moment and allows him to relax. And now he has some support under his head. Maybe he should have done this sooner.
“Any better?” Dream asks him.
“Mhm,” He replies, the dizziness clouding his thoughts.
He’s sure Dream continues talking, but his body gives into unconsciousness before any of the words can reach his brain.
Besides the weird fever dreams this illness seems to be causing, Tommy wakes up in a considerably improved condition.
He was not expecting Dream to be sitting on the floor next to him. Too close, Tommy thinks.
Briefly, he just wonders how Dream is able to put up with this every day. While some of the more major effects of heat exhaustion have left, every bone in his body still screamed at him, muscles cramping. Does the pain only dull over time? Does it never truly leave?
Then he shakes his head, Dream isn’t allowed any of his pity.
He hopes that he suffers.
“Did your brain fry itself too?” Dream jokes.
“Fuck off.” He says, but has to repress a laugh, he must be fucking delirious.
Dream ignores him. “Almost like the nether, right? Except the nether is usually just for travel, never there that long.”
How long had Dream been here? A month? Two maybe?
“Like living in hell.” Tommy finds the strength to sit up. “Good. You deserve it.”
“What a rude thing to say after I helped you.” Dream says, presumably referring to Tommy’s sickness. “I stayed here the entire time you slept, you know? I watched over you.”
Watching over him.
“Nothing’s changed, then.” He growls. “You’re still a fuckin’ creep.”
“C’mon Tommy, you don’t mean that.”
Trying to tell Tommy how he feels.
He insists. “I do.”
“Lighten up a little, we might even have some fun here together.”
Having fun together.
This really is like exile, isn’t it?
There is pain that comes with the thought, which steadily evolves into a panic. Fuck being in here for a week-- fuck being in here for another day-- Dream’s dead wrong if he thinks he can stockholm syndrome Tommy into bonding with him twice in his life.
Tommy lifts his head back and clears his throat. “Saaam!”
His voice is weaker than when he called out yesterday, it gives him little hope he will be heard, but what else is he to do?
“Again?” Dream’s head tilts to the side.
Tommy ignores him. “Saaaaam! Phiiiil!”
“Technooo…” His voice trails off until it is too strained to yell anymore.
It’s just like exile, and nobody is coming to save him. He wants to call out again, but he gets stuck on the first syllable of Tubbo’s name, his voice sounds too watery, like he is on the verge of tears.
Uselessly, he lifts his hands and pushes his palms into his eyes. It’s not like he can cry, anyways, he’s wasted all his body’s stored water on sweat. But something tells him, if his body was less weak, he would be crying. That thought makes him feel infinitely worse.
“Are you gonna try Wilbur next?” Dream says. “He’s just about as likely to come.”
Tommy wants to throw this man into the lava. Or maybe even himself.
Dream continues speaking. “If you want to escape so bad, we could always get out of here together--”
“Stop.” He tries to make his voice sound demanding. “You-- do you ever fucking shut up??”
His roomate smiles. “Only if you ask nicely.”
“For fucks sake--” Tommy removes his hands to look Dream in the eyes. “Would you please shut your goddamn mouth?”
No reply, Dream just smirks. Tommy brings his knees to his chest and buries his head between them. Finally, he hears the older man get up and leave his side. Thank fucking god.
Tommy compared this prison to hell earlier, and upon revisiting that statement, he’s beginning to think there’s even more truth in it. If he had any faith that hell did exist, he supposes it would be a lot like this. The orange tinge that stains the walls as they reflect the lava, blistering heat of the room.
Worst of all, stuck with the man who has tormented him the most. The majority of, and Tommy would dare say all, of his trauma contained inside of one person. The thoughts make his lungs grow tight.
But he’ll live. A week at most, right? Tommy has been through worse.
Two days in, he’s really starting to question that.
There isn’t any way to tell the time here, actually. But Tommy figures that at least two days must have passed. He hopes, at least.
To Dream’s credit, he hasn’t been much of a bother, just stares at the ceiling and watches it drip. Tommy wonders how he can do that all day. His limbs, though still aching, beg to move outside their confinements. It might just be the minor claustrophobia talking, but he really needs to get up and move.
Or at least do something.
He never thought he would find the option of starting a conversation with Dream appealing. But it might be better than going insane in this quiet little box.
“Is that all you do all day?”
Tommy doesn’t like the way Dream perks up at the sound of his voice; too eager. “Ever since Sam stopped giving me clocks to stare at.”
“Hm,” Tommy huffs. “What about the books, then? You don’t write?”
Dream shakes his head. “Do you want to?”
There’s only a moment of contemplation before Tommy admits that he does. To which Dream reaches into his chest and pulls out a book, tossing it in Tommy’s direction along with a pen.
The first page of the book is empty, as expected, but when he connects the pen to the paper he quickly realizes that the pen is out of ink. “Need a different one,” Tommy signals to the pen. “This one’s no good.”
“Most of them aren’t.” He is tossed another pen.
He can’t help but be curious. “But you said you didn’t write? Why’re they empty then?”
Dream just shrugs, smiling like it’s some sort of secret. Tommy doesn’t care enough to pry.
Writing doesn’t go well, in short. While Tommy definitely considers himself creative, this is not his strong suit. Especially when he feels like he could pass out with a heat stroke at any moment. He writes one page with some poor spelling before ripping it out and tossing it into the lava.
Unfortunately, he does think of way to pass the time.
“You ever play hangman?”
Before long, the two are sitting next to each other, swapping the book at taking turns at the game. The first word Tommy was made to guess is, for some fucking reason, his own name. Then Tommy makes Dream guess the word ‘bitch’. The rest of the rounds set a similar tone.
Tommy hates to admit it, but this definitely beats staring at the wall.
“That’s not how you spell ‘bastard’, Tommy.” Dream says after Tommy makes him guess said word. “It’s an ‘a’ at the end, not an ‘e’.”
“What?? That’s how Tubbo spells it!”
“Tubbo has dyslexia.”
“Yeah, well, what do you know. Shut up.”
Tommy closes the book and sets it down. The games were enough to satisfy his boredom, now he wanted Dream gone again.
“Why’d you close the book? We were having fun.” Dream pouts.
“Go back to staring at the ceiling, you green freak.”
Dream doesn’t put up a fight.
Another (maybe) day in and Tommy’s trying to convince himself that Dream is still the bad guy he remembers him as. This depressed shit he’s trying to pull? Clearly it has to be a ruse.
Tommy isn’t the same person he was before exile, Dream had taken that trust he used to have and torn it to shreds. Now, where he might have once looked at Dream’s kindness and saw friendship, he only sees the cruelty and manipulation.
Everything Dream does, there’s some horrifying motive underneath it.
So why is he acting so vulnerable? So pliant?
There’s no resistance in him, save the few times he’s mentioned wanting to escape. He almost, almost seems to have made peace with his fate.
And his behavior only gets more odd.
“You know,” Dream starts to say, not even looking at Tommy, just into the lava. “My first few days in here, I used to call out for George.”
It catches Tommy off guard, and he’s not in the mood for a serious conversation. “What? While jacking off?”
Dream huffs out a laugh. “No. While rotting away and wishing I wasn’t so alone.”
There it is again, vulnerable. Why? What is Dream trying to gain from this?
“I tried for Sapnap, too, even though I knew he wanted nothing to do with me.” Finally, Dream looks at Tommy. “Funny how that works, right?”
It starts to click. “Don’t go looking for my sympathy. I want you to rot here--”
“That’s why you called for Phil. For Techno.”
Tommy’s stomach dropped. “You--”
“You know they aren’t coming, but you just can’t stand the fear, the lava, this cage. And you’re desperate for anyone to save you.”
“It hurts, doesn’t it? When you finally realize that no one--”
“Shut the fuck up!” Tommy’s voice is firm, but panicky. “You have no idea what you’re on about. One more fucking word from you and I’m throwing myself into the goddamn lava.”
He doesn’t mean it, but when he sees the way Dream’s eyes widen at the threat, he brings his body close to the exit, feeling the heat burn into his back. It’s satisfying to see Dream afraid, until he gets up and tries to push Tommy away from what could be his final death.
Dream grips his shoulder, trying to create distance between Tommy and the lava.
“You wont die. Not in any way that matters.” Dream says. “But trust me when I say it isn’t fun to feel your skin melt off your bones.”
He flips the tables and turns them so Dream’s back is dangerously close to the lava. Dream even begins to fall over the edge, held up only by Tommy’s grip on the front of his shirt.
“Unless you want to experience it again, you’ll stop fucking talking.” Tommy threatens.
The older’s hands reach up until they find Tommy’s, then he covers Tommy’s hands with his own.
“Go ahead, if it will make you feel better.”
The lack of self preservation is scary. And so is the last thing Dream says.
“Either way, there’s no way out.”