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5 times it wasn't a hug, and 1 time it was

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1.

Techno was irritated. Irritated, because the villagers in his basement raised their prices, his reading glasses broke in half, he couldn't go outside because of the raging snowstorm, he couldn't find feathers for the life of him, and Phil kept looking out the damn window.

The last one he wouldn’t normally consider a problem, but Phil had a particularly gloomy expression on his face, and he was fidgeting with his golden necklace anxiously, staring directly at Ranboo's shack, sparing pointed glances at Techno between his exaggerated sighs.

He had asked Techno to let Ranboo in an hour earlier, and Techno naturally said no, and ever since then he had been doing that.

It’s not that Techno had a problem with Ranboo, but when Phil had asked if Ranboo could stay with them, he (very generously, might he add) said yes, with one simple condition, which was that he was not allowed to stay in the house. He learned his lesson with Tommy.

“It just looks so cold out there...”

“Shoulda’ built walls then. He's gotta learn to take care of himself eventually,” Techno said, continuing to shuffle through his chests.

Phil hummed. “He’s an Enderman, isn’t he? Doesn’t snow hurt Endermen?”

“You’re doing the thing, Phil,” Techno said, opening up another chest, full of emeralds. When had Phil reorganized these? He could have sworn there were feathers and stone in there yesterday.

“What thing?”

“When you try not to push me, but you really want the thing you don’t wanna push on me, so you end up guilt-tripping me by accident. It happens surprisingly often.”

Phil let out a cackle. “Fuck off.”

“I need a feather, Phil.”

“I used up the last one this morning. But... He might have a few, He glanced at Ranboo’s shack with a barely suppressed smile.

With a grunt, Techno shook his head and turned around reluctantly. He grabbed his cloak and stepped out into the cold, the wind hitting him in the face, making him stumble back a bit. The sky was grey, snowflakes flooded his vision, and even darker clouds folded over the horizon, painted deep purple by the slowly sinking sun. The storm wasn’t leaving anytime soon.

Techno found Ranboo under no less than 6 blankets, shivering, which was the only reason he didn't mistake the teenager for a lifeless heap of bedcovers.

“Ranboo?” The blankets moved and Ranboo shot up in bed, eyes wide and cheeks flushed.

"H-Hey?" His teeth clattered together with the greeting.

Techno shifted his gaze uncomfortably. "Do you happen to have a feather?"

“Oh, yeah,” He answered as he pushed the blankets off of himself. “Over there, in that chest.”

Techno walked over and fished two pieces of feather out of the messy chest. “Thanks.”

Ranboo blinked up at Techno with his big, mismatched eyes, as if to say, ‘anything else?’. His clothes were drenched, and wrapped around his skin tightly, making it impossible to not notice how skinny he was, and the cold wind blew through the material like it was nothing.

“You look terrible.”

Ranboo let out a chuckle at his bluntness. “Thanks.”

“This build is just… horrible. Why don't you have walls?”

“Didn't think I’d need it,” He shrugged. “I like the snow. I've never lived in a snow biome before this, or ever really seen snow,” He dragged his tone up at the end of the sentence, which made it sound like a question. “So blizzards were an unpleasant surprise. B-But, I love it here, though, thank you for letting me stay.”

Techno pressed his lips together. “You're welcome. So you're not used to the cold? You can die from it if you're not careful.”

Ranboo’s polite smile slipped off his face for a second. “Yeah, of course, I knew that.”

Techno hummed with a half-smile, then shook his head, giving in. “Phil would kill me if you died of hypothermia out here. Come with me.”

“N-no, you really don’t have to, Techno, I’m fine.”

Techno raised his eyebrows. “No offense, but you look on the brink of death, Ranboo. You at least need a change of clothes, man.”

Ranboo blinked up at him again, with something in his eyes that Techno couldn’t quite recognize and pushed himself up, limbs trembling like leaves in the wind. The breath he let out painted the air grey for a second before being blown away by the wind, and he wrapped his arms around his own shoulders as a violent shiver shook his body.

Techno shook his head and took off his cloak and threw it at Ranboo’s face. “There.”

 

2.

Techno was slowly getting used to little gifts appearing around the house every day, an emerald block here, some enchantment books there, today it was home-made cookies. He wasn’t surprised to see a small note resting on the plate with the letter R on it. With a grunt, he grabbed the plate and let the food slide off it and into the trash below the sink, the cookies giving a depressing thud against the empty metal bin, then all but threw the piece of porcelain under the faucet.

TECHNOMEAN

His eyes lingered on the note for a second then let go of it and sent it drifting down to the bottom of the trash can. Just by the sheer number of notes exactly like that one he had received, he was pretty sure he could recognize that letter ‘R’ anywhere, Ranboo’s clumsy and nearly incomprehensible handwriting was burned into his memory, against his will.

The admittedly delicious smell of the gift unfortunately didn’t cease after being thrown out, and it left Technoblade with only the usual golden carrots to feed the demanding acid burning his stomach. Some would perhaps ask why, then, did you throw out the cookies, Technoblade? And he had a perfectly sensible answer to that, he just didn’t trust Ranboo. He had only known the guy for a month, why would he accept food from him? It could have been poisoned, for all he knew.

TECHNOMEAN

“I’m not mean, chat, he’s weird,” He muttered, trying to keep his voice down. Phil was sleeping for the first time in days, he wasn’t going to wake the man up. “Just because he keeps giving me gifts, that doesn’t mean I trust him. If anything, it makes him look even more sus.”

TECHNOMEAN, RANBROTHER, E, E, you still use the axe tho lmao

Well, of course he used the axe, he wasn’t going to let an admittedly well-crafted axe go to waste. He didn’t bother explaining that to chat, though, they wouldn’t have understood. It was kind of funny in a twisted way, what in his teenage years terrified him completely now felt like dealing with a bunch of toddlers.

mf gave you a map to a wooden mansion and u still don’t trust him

Chat could never understand his thought process, they had a collective IQ of 5 and the vocabulary of a first grader. He shook his head and climbed up the ladder, steps and breaths soft, and peaked through the hole in the floor. That was approximately the fifth time that day, but his ears perked up every time he heard the slight snoring of Phil, something that he would have normally thought was annoying, now managing to make his underlying worries and anxiety disappear. He was pretty sure the ocean would calm at the sight of the hybrids closed eyes and peaceful expression.

Phil hadn’t been alright, been talking and thinking about Wil and the last L’manberg war, and when he wasn’t, he was working to distract himself. Techno was never too big on sleeping himself, but he usually tossed and turned in bed because of insomnia, and not because of his housemate smelting weapons downstairs and upgrading the bee sanctuary at three in the morning.

It was sad to see, how grief can grip a person and never let go, squeezing down harder every once in a while, just for fun. Techno had never gotten close enough to someone for that to happen, and he wasn’t going to let Phil kill himself working because of grief, that would be a tad more poetic irony than even Techno could handle. Luckily though, Phil recognized how self-destructive he was acting before Techno had to step in.

He let his eyes linger on the man’s rising and falling chest for one more minute, then sighed and climbed back down.

He grabbed a book and sat down on the armchair, but he could never get past the first sentence because his eyes kept wandering to the plate in the sink, its void-like black color and shiny silver inlay, it just simply didn’t fit the house’s color scheme, and it was annoying. With a sigh, he dropped the book and pushed himself up, he supposed he’d have to bring the plate back eventually anyway, that’s what neighbors do, don’t they?

(He definitely wasn’t searching for an excuse to talk to someone because the house was getting suffocatingly quiet in the absence of Phil. He liked the quiet.)

He grabbed the plate and his coat and headed outside. Ranboo’s shack seemed empty, at first, but then Techno remembered the basement he had spent the last few days working on, and he banged his feet on the trapdoor. “Ranboo?”

Sure enough, seconds later the trapdoor opened up, and Ranboo pushed himself up the ladder. “Hey,” He greeted with a smile. “What’s up?”

“I brought this,” Techno said, extending the plate, gaze fixated on the object, avoiding eye-contact.

“Thanks!” He took it and hurried over to a chest and locked the plate away. “Did you like them?”

“Mhm,” Techno answered, eyes settling on Ranboo’s back and caching a small, finger-shaped bloodstain on his collar.

“I’m glad,” the kid turned around, grabbing a large sweater off his bed. “I need to get some welding done,” He said as he shook his jacket off.

Techno’s brows furrowed as his eyes wandered to Ranboo’s shoulder, his shirt stained red with half-dried blood, teeth-shaped rips embellishing the material, wide enough for Techno to see the bitemarks on his snow-colored skin.

Ranboo must have noticed him staring, because he waved and chuckled weakly. “Oh, this? It’s no big deal, just a family gathering went sideways.”

Techno raised an eyebrow.

“I– It was an Enderman,” He explained. “They don’t like me very much.”

“Fair enough, but that looks pretty nasty, not gonna lie.”

Ranboo shrugged and tried to hold back a wince as his shirt brushed against his wound. “It’ll heal.”

“Do you even know how to disinfect that? An Enderman bite can cause all kinds of stuff…”

Ranboo thought for a moment. “I – I used to… I grew up in Hypixel. I’m pretty sure if someone handed me the materials, I could probably do it by muscle memory.”

Him? Hypixel? He’d leave that one for later.

“Well do you have the materials?”

“Um, I don’t think so, but I’m sure I could get some pretty easily, so you don’t have to bother with it.”

“Listen, kid, I wouldn’t normally care, trust me, but Phil is asleep right now, and I’m supposed to take care of his responsibilities in the meanwhile. You, for some reason, are one of them and I’m sure he’d be pretty pissed to find out you lost a life to a very preventable infection. Follow me,” He turned around.

“But –”

“I wasn’t askin’”

Ranboo hesitated for a few seconds before hurrying after him and following him into the house.

“Sit,” Techno instructed, and the teenager took a seat on the couch, visibly uncomfortable, bouncing his legs as the piglin grabbed a piece of cloth, a couple healing and regen potions, and bandages from Phil’s chest, then set it down on the ground and sat down next to Ranboo.

He raised an eyebrow at the teen. “I can’t clean it through your shirt.”

Ranboo nodded and his hands went to hesitantly unbutton the shirt and let it drop from his shoulder. In a crescent shape, four angry red bitemarks painted the skin on his upper chest, still oozing blood. They weren’t long enough for Techno to be able to accurately guess their deepness but judging by how Endermen had few but sharp and long teeth, and by how much Ranboo was bleeding, he assumed they were almost half an inch deep. And the kid was sitting in front of him, keeping a straight face.

Techno pressed the dry cloth against the cuts and watched as it soaked up the blood, avoiding eye contact, as Ranboo hissed in pain. “How did you even…? Are there any on your back?”

“No, this was the only spot my armor didn’t cover,” He said, something unusual lurking in his tone.

The Blade hummed in response and glanced up at him. Ranboo’s shoulders were tense and his eyes flashed with clear distrust as they followed Techno’s every move, his little finger dancing on the pommel of the sword he had brought with him.

It made Techno stop for a split second. Ranboo… didn’t trust him?

By Techno’s own logic, it made perfect sense not to, but Ranboo had been nothing but disgustingly, suspiciously kind and polite to him, bringing him gifts, sharing the map to the woodland mansion, not using anything without asking and thanking him over and over again, and Techno had chalked it up as a pathetic attempt to gain his trust. But now, sitting here in front of him, Ranboo was ready to attack, watching Techno like any second he’d press down too hard with the cloth, or he’d dig his nails into Ranboo’s wound, like he’d hurt him. That set a deep, uneasy feeling in his stomach, this was wrong. Techno wasn’t used to being so hypocritical and contradictory, and he wasn’t used to being so ignorant he overlooked the fact that distrust could look a hundred different ways.

And if Ranboo thought his kindness would keep him from getting hurt, then he was right, because as Techno’s hand brushed over his injuries, he kept his touch featherweight.

“So, Hypixel, huh?” He broke the silence.

“Huh?” Ranboo’s gaze flickered to Techno’s face. “Oh, oh, yeah. It’s… interesting. You were kind of a legend there.”

Techno snorted. “I’m sure I was. I honestly didn’t take you as the type to fight in Hypixel.”

Ranboo’s shoulders shook lightly with something that could be hardly called a laugh. “I can fight, actually, I just choose not to. I’d much rather get along with people and resolve issues peacefully, to be honest. Not that that wish of mine ever gets fulfilled.”

“Violence is inevitable sometimes,” He answered and loosened the pressure. “The bleeding is stopping, you’re gonna be fine.”

He stood up and got another piece of cloth and drenched it in a health potion. “This potion’s water-based, I don’t know if it’s gonna hurt you, but you don’t got any other choice.”

“Can– Can I do it?” Ranboo asked, and Techno stared at him for a second before handing over the cloth.

The sight was almost jarring, watching Ranboo wince and hiss and shut his eyes in pain as his hands kept going, and pressing the cloth even harder against his skin so more potion dripped down his chest and into the open wounds. It remined Techno of himself, how he’d rather cause pain to himself and be in control, than be at someone else’s mercy.

“I think, I’m done,” Ranboo said after a good two minutes, and let out a sigh. “Heh, this is just like Hypixel, isn’t it? I didn’t miss any bloody spots, right?”

“Nah. Here, I’ll bandage it up and then you can go.”

“Oh, it’s fine, Techno, you can just give me the bandages and I’ll do it myself at home, it’s really fine.”

“Sit down.”

 

3.

“Where are we going, exactly?” Ranboo asked as he jogged to catch up with Techno.

The piglin had knocked on his door early in the morning to tell him that if Ranboo wanted to come, he would appreciate some help. Not quite like that, but he could read between the lines.

Techno shot him a rather judgmental look as Ranboo tried to catch his breath. It wasn’t his fault he ran out of pearls. “My old base.”

“Hm,” Ranboo offered thoughtfully. “Why?”

“I have some stuff down there that I almost forgot about. Probably. I told them to take anything they wanted, but c’mon they could’ve held back a little… I grinded for a whole month to get those items and for what? For what?”

Ranboo’s ears perked up in curiosity, but kept his questions to himself. With Techno, he never knew what kind of touchy subject he was dipping his toe in with each question, and he didn’t want to make it awkward today. Maybe he’d ask Phil about it sometime.

“So, what do you need me for, exactly?”

“Help me carry stuff. I don’t have enough inventory slots for all those materials, and why would I carry them in hand when I have you, Ranboo?”

Techno stopped on the shore of a small pond. “We’re here.”

“An underwater base? That’s – That’s really cool actually.”

A proud smirk flashed across Techno’s face for a milisecond, Ranboo barely caught it. “Yeah. Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

He put on the enchanted purple helmet and a faint violet glow appeared around his body, protecting it from water. Ranboo thought he should get one of those, but the enchantments were ridiculously rare, with good luck it would take him a week to find a villager that was willing to trade one. Plus, the water rarely soaked through his armor, anyway.

Techno jumped into the lake, feet first, letting the weight of his armor drag him down, leaving behind circular waves.

Ranboo watched them die at the shore and slowly fade out at the center, the lake eventually calming like it had never been touched. It looked out of place, more peaceful than anything on the server was allowed to be. Unbothered, even by that eye-sore, the pink thing towering over the field. Ranboo knew one day, destiny will come for the pond too, and the sun will eat it up, with all its calmness. Until then, Ranboo stared at the velvety smooth surface, and the reflection of the clear sky.

How long was he supposed to wait, anyway? He was kinda hoping to follow Techno and take a look at his base, but if Techno didn’t want him looking at his stuff, he’d respect that.

It was kind of surreal, imagining Techno grind for a straight month for materials, not even for himself. He had always known Techno as rich; he was pretty sure he had never seen neither him nor Phil go mining even once for the however long he had been staying with them. Time flew by him these days; contrary to his stay in L’manberg, life was pretty boring, peaceful, even, so he’d tolerate losing his concept of time if it meant gaining something akin to happiness.

(Well, except for when Dream’s voice was haunting him, but he’d deal with that later.)

It resulted in him having to spend his time somehow, and more often than not he settled on mining and getting materials, totems, potions, levels, enchantment books and everything under the sun, he was pretty sure he was becoming the richest person on the server. At least if someone was going to drag him into their business again, he was going to be prepared this time.

Leaves shuffled behind him and Ranboo’s shoulders tensed with the slimy feeling of being watched.

“Hey, there.”

Ranboo whirled his body around, to meet the owner of the too-familiar voice. Quackity was standing barely a few feet away, arms crossed.

The scar stretching across Quackity’s face was angrier and more amplified than before, his eyes, the color of freshly cooled netherite, seemed even colder, so much so that Ranboo’s blood froze, and a greeting withered in his throat.

“What are you doing out here?” He asked, tone vaguely veiling his thin anger, as he raised his eyebrows and smiled diplomatically. It was a kind of smile that Ranboo instinctively recognized as a threat, but he forced his legs to stay in place, and rocked back and forth on his toes.

“Was just, uh, getting some stuff.”

“Oh yeah?” Quackity asked but didn’t wait for an answer. “Honestly, Ranboo, I thought you’d be smart enough to not show your face around here ever again.”

Ranboo chuckled nervously. “The last time we talked you were trying to team up with me. What – What changed?” He said, and quickly realized he had made the mistake of saying what he was thinking out loud, because Quackity’s face hardened and his smile dropped.

(It was not a mistake he’d usually make, but he had fallen into a level of comfortability in the past few weeks with Techno and Phil, and hard as it was to reach that, it was even harder to drag himself out of it.)

“A lot, a lot has changed, Ranboo,” Quackity turned his head as he clenched his jaw. “I have a lot of regrets. One of them is letting Tubbo convince you not to throw you into the old L’manhole and let you drown.”

Ranboo swallowed and took a step back. “Listen, Quackity, I don’t want trouble. L’manberg is gone, we don’t need to do this anymore.”

“Oh, it’s purely out of principle. The principle that I don’t trust you,” He get closer and placed a finger on Ranboo’s shoulder, nudging him backwards towards the water.

Ranboo glanced back at the lake, and then Quackity, the harsh glint of the diamond chestplate making him squint. But the rest of his armor and the weapons in his scabbard glowed with a purple that only enchanted objects had, and the words of the Old Tongue, if a little sloppily, were scraped into the material. So thing have changed, he remembered Quackity almost begging the other Butcher Army members for pieces of netherite armor before they attacked Techno. (Ranboo eventually ended up giving him pants, a helmet, and a chestplate, just because he had them to spare. It didn’t end up helping either of them, though.)

Quackity probably did this all on his own, this time, and whatever he was planning, he was taking seriously, or maybe simply, with losing two of his lives, he came to realize how frighteningly real death was. He still had a diamond chestplate, though and Ranboo had a whole set of maxed out armor and weapons, and he was a fairly capable fighter when it came to hand-to-hand combat, he didn’t spend half his childhood in Hypixel for nothing.

But Quackity’s sharp gaze reminded him of days he almost forgot – of fear and pressure, and pulling his hair in stress, squeezing his eyes together to keep in the panicked tears, guilt gripping his chest until he couldn’t breathe, missing his book and people telling him that he was a traitor, and them being right – so much so that it rendered Ranboo incapable of reaching for his sword.

Even if he could shake that feeling and take him, the possibility of killing Quackity paralyzed Ranboo. He had never been close with him at all, but he had watched him build El Rapids and laugh with his friends, back when L’manberg wasn’t just rubble and sour memories, and he saw the light glimmer behind his eyes. Even now, the vision of the person beneath the vicious, spiteful façade tugged on his conscience.

Seeing Ranboo’s panicked eyes, Quackity’s face split with a smirk and stepped even closer – uncomfortably close. Ranboo pushed his foot back on the sand, stopping as his heel touched the water.

He raised his hands up in surrender. “I – I don’t – I’m waiting for someone right now, but we’ll leave right after, I don’t even come here often.”

Quackity reached up to grab Ranboo’s collar. “I don’t care. You and your friend should leave voluntarily before you wake up in your bed with two lives left.”

This situation felt way too familiar and pushing Quackity back was a visceral reaction. “Leave me alone.”

Quackity stumbled back, almost tripping on a branch and falling on his ass. His frown snapped back into a snarl like a spring. “Or what?”

Ranboo pressed his lips together and almost bit back with a threat, but shook his head. “What’s your problem? Just let us leave in peace, you’ll come out of it better, trust me.”

“Is that a threat, Ranboo? Have you finally grown a pair?”

The sound of the water’s surface breaking split the tense silence between them. Ranboo didn’t risk turning around, instead observed Quackity’s face, as the smile withered off his face, and his mouth twitched with obvious phantom pain. Ranboo almost felt bad.

“Nah,” Techno answered the question as he pushed himself out of the water. “Still the pacifist he always was. You, you’re even more of a coward though.”

Ranboo didn’t appreciate the comparison.

Techno walked over to where Ranboo was standing and let the end of his trident rest against the wet soil. “Now, if you ever touch one of us again, or even just think of us, I’ll know, and I’ll take your last life.”

His casual tone as he threatened people never failed to amaze Ranboo.

Quackity kept his face blank, if only a little hostile and an enderpearl appeared in his hand and he threw with all his strength. “Goodbye, Techno. Ranboo.”

Ranboo watched Quackity dematerialize and with a sharp, relieved exhale, he unbuttoned the two buttons on his shirt and loosened his tie, as if that was the thing squeezing on his windpipe.

He looked at Techno, a smile tugging on the edges of his lips and a faint, unfamiliar warmth settling in his lungs, he had never had someone who had his back, not even through condescending words and indifferent tone.

“Can you believe that guy?”

Ranboo breathed out a chuckle. “He really hates me.”

“Something we got in common. Apparently, people don’t like it when you kill them, or whatever. People these days…”

“Honestly,” Ranboo said with a small smile. “He doesn’t like me because I betrayed them, I don’t really understand what’s wrong with that, frankly.”

Apparently, Techno sensed the guilt behind the joke, because he looked up at Ranboo as he crouched down beside his enormous bag. “Don’t feel too guilty, he’s not someone who’s worth being loyal to.”

Ranboo scratched the back of his head. “Yeah… Still, I guess it just bothers me that I backstabbed basically everyone there...”

“I should have someone transcribe what I’m saying at all times and give it to people, so I don’t have to repeat myself. Not worth being loyal to.”

Ranboo stayed silent.

“You know,” Techno chewed on a piece of bread loudly. “The average time between breaths is supposed to be 16 seconds, you haven’t breathed for about two minutes now.”

Ranboo inhaled sharply. “I’m just above average.”

Techno snorted at that. “If it makes you feel any better, I think you made the right choice, honestly.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I’m no stranger to peer pressure, and I don’t think that… was great for anyone there, I’ll tell ya that much.”

“Yeah…”

They let a comfortable silence settle between them, Ranboo trying to get his breathing under control, and Techno letting him.

The gentle breeze caressed his skin, and the sweet scent of the cherry blossom trees made him want to keep breathing. Once his chest stopped hurting after every inhale, he sighed.

“Don’t just keep standing there, Ranboo, make yourself useful. Here, take this.”

 

 

 

 

4.

Techno woke up at the harsh sunlight seeping through the gap between the curtains. It was unusual, he was used to being woken up by the howling of the dogs at the break of dawn, or Phil’s movements or simply just his body not being able to handle more than 4 hours of sleep at once. His atrocious sleeping habits had finally caught up to him, it seemed, as the clock on the wall hit 11 AM. He rubbed at his eyes and got up, showered, and put on his usual clothes.

Phil was reorganizing chests downstairs.

“Morning, sunshine,” Phil greeted with a cheeky grin.

Techno shook his head lightly. “It’s not that late.”

“Sure, mate. I’m just glad you slept well for once.”

“What are you up to? Reorganizing chests, for a change?” He asked sarcastically and Phil shook his head with a laugh.

“Can you check on Ranboo? He said he would help yesterday, but he’s half an hour late. He probably forgot.”

“Sure.”

Techno liked Ranboo’s new house, probably because it finally had walls, and it looked alright, too, even though it didn’t really fit the theme that him and Phil had going on. That ugly shack had been driving down his property value since Doomsday, and also, it provided next to no protection against the vicious snowstorms that swept through the tundra about every week.

He banged on the doorframe and no reply came. “Ranboo?”

His call was only answered by the fading echo of his own words. Impatiently, he went to push the door open, only to stop his hand mid-air when he saw that it was half an inch open already. He furrowed his brows and let himself in, a cold, slimy feeling settling in his gut. The house was empty, his bed was unmade and the bowls of Ranboo’s pets were unfilled. His foot met something rough as he stepped forward, kicking the object across the room.

The book titled ‘do not read’ slid across the floor and stopped by Ranboo’s chests.

He wouldn’t leave that here, Techno thought, as something akin to worry tickled his spine. (Not worry, though because he didn’t care.)

‘RANBOO, /rainbowchat, TECHNOPROTECT, EGG, E, E, RANBOO HURT, PROTECT RANBOO, E’

He could barely make out what the chat was screaming about, and truth be told didn’t care much, they were always so unnecessarily dramatic about everything – he learnt to ignore concerns like this since Phil fell two steps down the stairs and Techno basically sprinted home from the nether, panicking, only for him to be completely fine. Techno was sure it was nothing serious, like Phil said, the kid probably forgot and went mining, or something.

With a shake of his head, he pulled out his communicator. The kid might have legitimate memory issues, but Techno still didn’t appreciate leaving Phil hanging. Turning on his device, an unread message in the form of a red blob on the top of his screen caught his eyes. He clicked on it, expecting it to be Ranboo, or maybe a message from Phil he accidentally ignored.

You have One unread message from: Badboyhalo

His chest tightened as he read the name, and his mind wandered to the worst of possibilities.

‘Hey Technoblade! I know you declined working for the Egg, but I have something that may change your mind. Ranboo (if a little reluctantly) accompanied me to the Egg room once again. The Egg likes him, but It likes you more, so we could do a little trade, if you’re interested. Come alone without armor and weapons if you want to see him again. Oh, and I left you a little message in Ranboo’s memory book, to make sure you know that I’m not bluffing :3’

Techno crouched down and grabbed the book, flipping through the pages quickly until he reached the last page that was written on, in a handwriting that didn’t match the rest of the book. It read: ‘Hi :D – Badboyhalo.’

Techno hated that his gut feeling was right, hated that his pessimism turned out to be realism more often than not, and typing out the next words made his stomach turn. ‘Proof of life?’

The reply came almost instantly. ‘He’s sleeping or passed out or whatever. He needed a little coercing, so he’s exhausted, but alive. Can’t send proof though :(. You can come see for yourself!’

Techno pressed his fingers into his palm, swallowing the anger crawling up his throat, and started mentally drafting a plan.

He couldn’t go alone, but he also couldn’t tell Phil. Bringing him so close to the Egg was not a wise idea, seeing what it did to Badboyhalo, who knows how Phil would react. The Egg had a strange magnetic aura around it, that pulled you in if you stepped too close. You never learned its language but as soon as it whispered into your ear, you were connected, and you just understood. If Techno didn’t have so much experience with voices that claw at your thoughts and squeeze your mind and try to control you, then who knows how that afternoon might have gone. It made it feel like giving in and obeying was the easiest thing in the world.

Techno didn’t know Badboyhalo, but if he would have had any empathy left in him, than he would’ve felt bad for the demon, he probably got roped into it by those slimy scarlet vines that ran across the SMP as well. He didn’t know if Badboyhalo had always been like this, or it was the Egg’s effects on him, but he was persistent and vicious and kept it all under a honeyed surface of flattery and empty promises, and when Techno looked into his eyes, they seemed hollow and soulless.

Techno would not let the Egg have Ranboo if he could help it.

A single image of the teen being held down by his shoulders and waterboarded flashed through his mind, it came and went like the wind and left him gasping for air.

He dropped the book and turned around, swallowing the hint of fear lingering under his tongue. Standing around like an idiot wasn’t going to help the kid.

Puffy, he was going to contact Puffy.

 

Techno stepped inside the red-walled room expecting the worst. Because when he didn’t, he got disappointed, when he thought he wouldn’t get betrayed, that he had someone to rely on, or that he was safe in retirement, he was proven wrong time and time again, and he already noticed himself slipping with Ranboo, the way he let himself fall asleep some nights when Ranboo stayed at his house, the way warmth crept into his chest each time a kid came up with a new gift now, and how he invited him along to his adventures, even if it meant sharing the loot, and how he found himself laughing at his corny jokes.

Without the armor pushing his shoulders down, his steps felt light and wrong as he climbed over the bloodvines to get to the shadowed the corner. The vines swallowed the sound of his footsteps. His ears picked up a quiet, unsettling melody, that made the hairs on his back stand up. It was Bad’s voice, he was singing.

Badboyhalo’s arms were wrapped around the side of the egg and he tilted his forehead against the shell. “Welcome,” He turned his head to look at Techno and dropped his arms. “I see you decided to follow my rules. Good. It would have been a shame if I had to kill him. Such a nice kid.”

Technoblade finally let his eyes wander to the boy in question, who was resting against the red-laced wall, his eyes closed and back hunched, skin pale. Empty glass bottles and a towel laid on the floor next to his stretched legs, and a thick trail of water led from the small pond to his body.

‘HURTBOO, PROTECT, PROTECT RANBOO, HURT RANBOO, WATER’

“He’s fine,” Badboyhalo said, upon noticing Techno’s intense staring. “He would be a great asset to have, he didn’t even give away anything. But you, you’re even more significant, according to the Egg,” The piglin-hybrid dagger-like glare towards Badboyhalo, who visibly tensed. “You can check on him, if you want, but like I said, he’s perfectly fine, he’s just sleeping.”

Techno walked over wordlessly and crouched down besides Ranboo and placed a hand on his wrist. His pulse was weak, and his breaths were shallow at best, but they were there.

“Now, I’ll tell you what the Egg needs you to do, okay, Technoblade?”

Techno grunted in reply, barely paying attention, brushing a thumb over Ranboo’s face, the irritated and burned, angry red skin around his mouth and cheeks and under his eyes. Ranboo’s eyelids twitched at the contact, and he tried to shrink back further, but the wall blocked the movement. A soft, whiny breath escaped his lips and his shoulders slumped again, he was clearly barely conscious and not understanding anything around him.

Techno’s heart clenched in a familiar way. “You did good,” He murmured and clenched his jaw. He slid a hand under Ranboo’s legs and arms, lifting him up easily.

“Hey, uh, what are you doing Technoblade? Can you please sit down so the Egg can speak to you?”

Techno didn’t even glance at him. “Pass.”

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD

He pressed his lips together, for once in his life pushing down the insatiable bloodlust running in his veins and shook his head. The sound of a golden apple’s skin breaking, and chewing came from behind Techno.

“You’re dealing with her now.”

“What?” Badboyhalo asked, before a sword and pieces of netherite armor appeared in the air.

“Go, Techno, I’ll handle him,” Puffy said and her quick stepped echoed through the hall as she rushed at the demon.

With a nod, Techno held the teen even closer, afraid that Ranboo will slip out of his grip any second.

 

The kid woke up just hours after and quickly recovered physically. By the third night, he was staying in his own house, but during the two nights he spent at Techno’s, Techno didn’t sleep an inch. Ranboo woke up screaming in the middle of the night, broke down at the sound of water splashing around in a bucket, and he barely spoke. Phil helped him, and Techno hated that he couldn’t bring himself to.

Ever since he was 15, Techno knew that people around him get hurt. When he ran away from home and joined Hypixel, and begun climbing the leaderboards dangerously quickly, breaking records and taking lives like no one ever had before, his success got on most other player’s nerves; they called him a cheater, lucky, said that he was trying too hard, and eventually threatened the few people who stood by him and tried to aid him. Some of them he never saw again.

Techno stood in front of the window, watching the lights of the Ranboo’s house turn off. “I think we need to kick him out.”

Phil let out a surprised chuckle, not even taking Techno’s sentence seriously. “What?”

“I can’t have him living here anymore.”

Phil pushed the curtain aside more, so he could also peak out the window as he stepped next to Techno. “Why? Did he accidentally kill one of your foxes or something? What’s going on?”

“He’s in danger here,” Techno said, then added, as an afterthought, “With us.”

“Yeah, and?”

Phil said it so nonchalantly, Techno focused his eyes again and whipped his head around to look at him.

“Mate, he’ll be in danger everywhere. You can’t undo this friendship.”

“Yes, I can,” Techno countered. “It’s surprisingly easy to end a friendship, I’ve found. Plus, we’re not friends.”

“Sure, mate,” Phil said with a small smile. “Look, Techno, I know what you’re thinking, because we’ve been there before, but abandoning someone is not the answer. Yeah, him being our ally, our friend puts him in danger, makes it easy for people to hold him over our heads, but at the end of the day that’s just how it is.”

“Phil, we can avoid this happening again. We should kick him out before he’s in too deep.”

Phil let out a sigh. “I’m in too deep, mate, you are, too. And I bet he is. Attachments are just like that, you can try and cut all of them, but you’ll end up like Dream.”

Techno pressed his teeth together. “Don’t compare me to him.”

“I’m not,” Phil assured, voice gentle as ever. “This server isn’t safe for anyone. Difference is, you can protect him here.”

Could he? Since when did he want to?

 

5.

Ranboo jolted awake and found himself struggling to breathe. Cold sweat dripped down his spine, his throat tightened as he drew in short beaths. He placed a hand on his chest, fingers curling around the material of his shirt tightly. His blood felt freezing cold as it pumped his racing heart, skin crawling with a paralyzing sense of dread.

In the back of his mind he was vaguely aware that a dream had caused this, but fishing the buried memories back up again felt impossible, and he couldn't think about it because his chest hurt and he had to run, and get away, and he needed someone, he needed someone to

His thoughts melted together, and he pushed the blanket off of himself and scrambled to his feet. He stumbled and his knees shook violently, his vision twisting and curling and crumbling. A sudden wave a nausea hit him, and he forgot where up and down was for a stretched second.

He stepped out the door, the cold winter air finally reaching his lungs for a few milliseconds, the high the oxygen reaching his blood gave him made him forget about the chest pain for a short moment, before his feet reached the snow and he realized he forgot to put his shoes on. He hissed in pain and fastened his steps, breaking into a full-on sprint towards Phil and Techno's house.

He hopped on the cobblestone stairs and pressed himself up against the wall of the house where the snow couldn’t reach. It took his shaking hands a good two minutes to find the end of his socks and shed them. He wiped his tears and the world stopped spinning for a second, though each breath still felt like a knife to the chest and the nausea still hadn't left, stomach acid threatening to climb up his throat. Swallowing, he stalked up the stairs, keeping his steps as light as possible. He went to place a hand on the door handle but stopped himself mid-movement as doubt and guilt tugged at the back of his mind.

Only then, he looked around, turning his head a little too far and too quickly. It was the dead of the night, the only sounds Ranboo could hear through the blood pumping in his ears were growls of zombies and mooing of the cows. Everything was asleep, as were probably Technoblade and Philza, judging by the silence and dark windows.

Phil said he could come by whenever there was something wrong, or he needed help, but they had already helped him so much, the last thing Ranboo wanted to do was disturb them. Besides, Ranboo really didn’t need help, he was just throwing a fit again and being crazy and unreasonable and panicking for no reason.

Knowing that didn't stop the excruciating tightness and pain in his chest, though. And it didn’t stop the longing in his heart and the tingling of his fingertips, needing someone to hold him so desperately, for someone to stop the world for a moment so he could catch his breath.

He let out a small whimper as his hand dropped back to his side and let his back relax against the front door instead. Allowing himself to slide down the rough surface, he buried his head in his hands, trying to breathe through the burning tears that were streaming down his face again.

There was a click and the next thing he knew, was the door supporting his weight was gone and he fell on his back with a yelp. His heart raced against his ribs even more as he found himself staring up at the pink-haired piglin-hybrid.

“The hell are you doing, kid?”

Ranboo wiped his tears and pushed himself onto his feet quickly, embarrassed. “I don't – I don't know, I'm so sorry for waking you,” He choked out and was about to turn his back when Techno spoke up.

“Stop. Come in.”

“But I –”

“Don't care. Inside.”

Techno turned around and closed the door behind them, watching the barefoot teen stumble through the darkness. When he had first heard the noises from outside, this wasn't quite how he expected his night to go. Watching the teen curl in on himself on the couch and pull and tug on his hair, shivering, he was glad that insomnia kept him up for once.

Techno grabbed his cloak that was resting on the chair as gently as he could, draped it over Ranboo’s shoulder. The kid let go of his hair with one hand and let it trail through the soft white fur. Techno quickly lit a lantern and placed it on the floor next to the couch, then crouched down in front of Ranboo, who didn't meet his eyes.

“Ranboo, you have to breathe with me, okay?”

The kid lifted his head. He looked horrible, his pupils were cut into a slit, his face lost all the (minimal) color that had painted it previously, his split-colored hair stuck against his forehead with sweat. He was obviously having a panic attack, which Techno had had his fair share of, but Wilbur had always been the one to struggle with them the most, so Techno knew how to handle it.

“It hurts,” Ranboo said through a sob.

“I know, but you have to breathe with me, Ranboo. Can I touch you?” He gave a jerky nod and Techno took his hand into his, and guided it to his chest, exaggerating his breaths. “Follow.”

They stayed like that for a while, eventually Techno moved to the couch and took a seat next to Ranboo as his breathing calmed, and his eyes closed from exhaustion and he drifted off to sleep.

His head fell on Techno’s shoulder and Techno was too tired to push down the small smile tugging on his lips.

 

+1.

Techno covered his eyes as the netherrack easily blew apart and crumbled. He hopped down into the shallow hole, carefully avoiding the lava as he spotted the piece of ancient debris laying at the bottom. He jabbed his pickaxe into the netherrack and mined around the ore.

Crouching down, he put away the ancient debris and fished the communicator out of his bag to check the time. He must have been in the nether for at least ten hours, now. He glanced at the device and pressed the button, only for the screen to remain unchanged, the black screen reflecting Techno’s light frown. Lightly smacking it in the back, he tried again, but there came no response. That explained why he hadn’t gotten any messages or calls, he wondered how long it had been dead for. It wasn’t a big deal, he supposed, he remembered mentioning to Phil that he was going to the nether.

If he was honest, he didn’t need the netherite and the gold as much as he enjoyed the warmth of the nether. He found himself no longer referring to it as home anymore, and it set a strange feeling in his chest, something akin to bittersweet nostalgia. He had two people on his side now, and a beautiful home in the tundra, yet sometimes an overwhelming homesickness came over him, missing the dry, boiling air, the sound of the flowing and melting lava, the screams of ghasts in the distance, it was comforting, in a way. Techno never missed the people, though.

He threw the device back into his bag and started heading back home, he was running out of steak and his bag was getting a little too heavy to carry easily. His stomach growled and he swallowed the last piece of meat he had on him. Phil was on a trip to an ocean monument, so there probably wouldn’t be any home-cooked food when he returned, he’d have to settle for golden carrots.

At the portal, he placed a foot on the obsidian before taking one last look at the nether, then stepped through. The cold wind hit him in the face with full force, forcing him to narrow his eyes and tighten the cloak around his shoulders. He couldn’t be bothered to walk in this weather, so with a few pearls throws, he was at the front door of his house.

“Hi, Carl,” He greeted with a nod, then pushed the door open with one hand.

He was not expecting the site he was greeted with, Ranboo pacing around the room, hands running through his hair, panicked, then turning to face Techno as soon as he heard the sound of the door opening, and freezing in place.

Techno let out a concerned chuckle. “Ranboo? What’s up?”

Ranboo’s lips parted with a soft breath, wide eyes blinking finally. He moved too quickly for Techno to process what was happening, and the next thing he knew was two arms wrapping around him and Ranboo’s body slamming against his own, causing him to stumble back.

Techno went rigid and the bag slipped out of his hand as Ranboo buried his face into his shoulder. “What– What’s–?”

“I was so worried,” He mumbled into Techno’s shoulder, his voice cracking. “I couldn’t reach you and Phil wasn’t answering me either, I’m so glad you’re okay.”

Techno’s expression softened and placed a hand on the back of Ranboo’s neck, and let it trail through his soft hair without even noticing. “Sorry.”

Something so dangerously close to love bloomed in Techno’s chest. Love was risky, it was a weakness, it was a vulnerability, and yet, he couldn’t find it in himself to resist, to push the teen away, and pulled him closer.