Contrary to, well, just about anyone’s belief, Techno was not incapable of handling kids.
It wasn’t something he liked to talk about, ever. Not even to Phil, his oldest and most trusted friend, who found him as a teen and had been the one to pull him out of hell and into a world of grass and sky and life. It was something that came from deep in his childhood, a memory from the bellows of a bastion, buried far down with the tune of a red disc and an uncanny attachment to things that glimmered. It was something that Techno never allowed to see the light of day, if he could help it— instincts and memories from back then were always met by him with disdain and a burning need to move on and stay in the now.
Now, he had friends who would gladly share responsibility for something, if Techno even decided he wanted to have responsibility for anything at all (now, he had the choice). Now, Techno could live in the snow, surrounded by a chill that he savored every time it ran through his bones (now, he could accept that he hated the heat of the Nether and always did).
Now, Techno could joke and pretend he hated orphans for laughs, instead of being the only one to care for them in the sounder.
And now, Techno was an adult with a textbook worth of history on his shoulders, a friend for life by his side, and tentatively strung together reconciliations that lead him to roam around a snowy colony founded by the person he used to despise. He didn’t hate Snowchester, at all, really— he loved the snow that always blew through the little village, reminding him of empires long passed. It was just that, with Tubbo in charge, there was always that underlying caution waiting for the “colony” to lean more into the “country” side of things and spiral from there. Call Techno paranoid.
(It had taken a few tense days for Techno to come to terms with Tubbo as well— his new friend and trusted ally’s husband. Like, what even. It had all ended up working out under the insistence that Tubbo was strictly ex-government and Techno’s reluctance for another headache, as well as his trust in Ranboo.
Not a lot of interaction had been instigated by the two, but that was fine with them both. Mutual respect and a tentative camaraderie had formed between them, as much as it could have with that much tainted water under their bridge, and that was enough for now.)
But Snowchester was lovely, really. The people were nice, even given Techno’s reputation and him being the cause for so many of the citizens relocating to the colony in the first place. Tubbo and Ranboo had even been kind enough to point them in the direction of their shared villa and gave permission to take what they wanted when prompted with the request for materials.
And that was where Techno and Phil found themselves now, in the walls of a friends’ house, the chill of the outside climate fading from their noses and fingers with the movement of opening and closing the many chests on the shelves of the house. Techno had tasked himself to check through all the boxes lining the walls of the main villa, trusting Phil to the basement and the market people who were working inside.
He was just unlocking the latch on another box when Phil hopped up from the basement ladder behind him. Techno hummed his acknowledgment, hearing Phil walk up next to him.
“One of the folks downstairs has a high-end protection book,” Phil murmured absently. “Not exactly hard to find, but we could use one, yeah?”
Techno thought on that, raking his eyes over the contents of the chest one more time before closing it. “Maybe. I don’t know the state of my armor right now.”
“Yes, you do,” Phil called him out. Opening his own chest, he asked, “What does Chat think?”
Techno stared at a knot in the wooden plank in front of him, tuning into the presences that swirled around his mind. He was met with a chorus of extremely high-pitched tones all playing at once and immediately tuned them out again.
“Chat says E. A very insightful stance on the situation.”
Phil laughed, and Techno smiled. That’s all he was after a lot of the time anymore. “I’ll get the book, then,” Phil chuckled, already moving back to the basement ladders. Techno let him. He pried the lid of the next chest open and glanced in.
A couple of blaze rods, wooden planks, scraps of minerals. Nothing too fancy. Techno pondered over the stuff, wondering if they needed any of it. They had enough wood from the surrounding forest for sure, but the blaze rods might save them a trip and there was enough coal in the bottom corners of the chest to fix up some torches for the journey home.
Techno closed the trunk and wondered when he started thinking of that retirement cabin with Phil as home. Somewhere between his old attempted execution and Ranboo moving in next door, he thought. Definitely after Phil had broken out of house arrest and moved in with him.
Actually, speaking of Ranboo, where did that gangly enderman define as his home now? He lived with Tubbo in the commune now, sure, and was paying one of the nearby demigod-builders a hefty sum for a mansion, he heard. Despite all of this, the kid still spent plenty of time at his house near Techno and Phil’s cabins.
There were a few flower pots on the shelf. Techno let them be.
He quite liked Ranboo, he had found recently, and saw himself being disappointed at the prospect of Ranboo moving away. He wouldn’t mind seeing more of Ranboo, actually, even if he had to deal with Tubbo being dragged along as well. Phil seemed to be getting along well with both of them, dealing with all their shenanigans, and anything that got by a smiling Phil must be okay, right?
He’d have to think on it. Maybe he should invite them over more often, who knows.
Techno turned at the sound of someone climbing the ladder. Oh well. It wasn’t his problem anyway, just food for thought.
Phil hopped out of the trapdoor, arms full. “Got the book,” he stated, before promptly tripping over the last rung of the ladder and dropping half of the things in his hold.
The enchanting book as well as a couple of rolled-up maps fell to the floor with a prominent thunk. Techno’s arm luckily was quick and close enough to stabilize Phil so he wouldn’t follow them down. Quiet relief filled the space for a moment, Phil smiling shamefully and placing his hand over his heart like the old man everyone insisted he was, Techno reaching down to grab the fallen items and place them on a small table a few feet away.
“Thank you,” Phil nodded at Techno, following his lead and emptying his arms onto the same table to deal with later. Techno opened his mouth, ready to reply with a standard ‘you’re welcome’ or maybe to rib him about it, but instead of any coherent words a muffled yet powerful wail sounded through the cabin.
Techno froze. That was a child. The wail was high-pitched and scared, definitely coming from someone young in the house. It… it sounded like…
“Oh shit,” Phil muttered, looking at the wooden ceiling, where the cries were coming from. “Fuck, where’s Ranboo? I think the racket we’re making upset his kid—”
A distressed squeal echoed through the black halls, making Techno jump and drop the golden sword he had been ordered to fix while the adults had left on a hunting trip. The blade bent as it hit the ground, but Techno left it there, his hooves making loud clacks on the stone as he raced to the source of the sound.
If the hunters found out he’d bent the sword, there would be terrifying consequences, he knew. Crossbows and fists and enraged shrieks that always left Techno with another wound he would have to hide. But they were supposed to be back two days ago and still hadn’t returned, so Techno was confident that they wouldn’t find out. Even if they would, Techno wouldn’t turn back now.
The high-pitched squeals were still ringing in his ears, having been going on long enough to alarm the other young piglins into their own meeker sounds of distress. Techno ran faster, thrashing his head every fourth step or so to get his pink bangs out of his eyes, until reaching one of the main youngling rooms of the bastion where the sound amplified with no barriers to get through.
It was one of the younger piglets making the racket, one of the two-year-olds if Techno had to guess from here. There was a small form lying on its side in the middle of the room next to a blackstone boulder, with the attention of all the other kids on it as well— It looked like the youngster had tripped over one of the jagged ledges the bastion had and taken a nasty fall.
Well, nasty for a two-year-old, at least. In reality it was, like, two feet, but for someone that size, it must have felt like ten.
Techno was already speaking reassurances as he picked his way through the litter, petting the heads of both younger and older toddlers with quivering lips as he stepped around their sitting forms. He thanked Prime that as affected as the other kids seemed by their brethren’s distress, none of them had started crying as well. When one was set off, it took hours to calm everyone down enough to hear one’s own thoughts again.
The piglet’s cries didn’t die down, even as Techno reached him and bent to his knees to better help the poor thing. A quick rollover and scan of the child’s body showed no physical harm whatsoever, other than a knee that would probably bruise in a day and hands matted with a bit of blackstone dust. Techno exhaled. No physical trauma, then, no scrapes or anything he needed to fix up. That was helpful.
What he still did need to attend to was the tears in the young piglin’s white eyes and the fear in his wails. The trip must have scared him good. Without a second thought, Techno easily scooped the little one into his arms and onto his hip.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he shushed the crying piglet. “It’s okay, you’re alright. Shhhh-shh-shh-shh.” He bounced the kid on his hip, forcing himself to keep a gentle smile on his face. The piglet hiccupped between his sobs, gripping onto Techno and burying his head into his neck. His squeals were right next to Techno’s ear now, but Techno ignored it with barely a wince. “Everything’s alright, I’m here. Big brother Technoblade’s right here, little one, shhhhh.”
He rubbed the piglet’s back as he slowly paced, the practiced circles on the kid’s shoulders bringing the painful wails into upset whimpers and fusses bit by bit. The other kids around were still staring with large white eyes at them, some clutching their gold playthings to their chests in adorably empathetic worry. Techno loathed and dreaded the fact that eventually they would be forced to grow out of that empathy by the elders, but that was for the future, and Techno lived in a world where one couldn’t afford to stray from the now. He smiled at the kids, reassuring them that their brother was just fine.
He carefully pulled the piglet’s head away from his shoulder, wiping the already-evaporated tear tracks from his face. “You had a scary fall, huh?” he asked just for the sake of taking the kid’s mind off it. It worked, as the piglet swallowed and nodded, sniffling his tears back. Techno melted a little bit at the soft snorts. “I know, I know. But it’s alright now, I promise. You’re just fine. You’re a very brave piglin, little one.”
The kid managed a watery smile, which made Techno internally sigh in relief. He knew he succeeded and everything would be okay when he asked in a less tearful voice, “reawy?”
“Really!” Techno responded, laughing a little. He tucked the long hair of the piglet behind his ear, saying “You got hurt and look at you now! Barely even a snort. The hunters will be lucky to have such a brave piglin when you grow up!”
Another squeal sounded this time, but this one was far more enthusiastic than the last. “Hunter!” the kid yelled, squirming in Techno’s arms now. “Imma hunter!”
“You are!” Techno agreed as he finally set the kid down. “Now, go tell your friends about your adventure!”
The piglet needed no more encouragement. “Imma hunter!” he laughed as he ran away, distress from earlier already a memory. “Brudder Techie says! He says!”
A hard blink, Techno was back in the overworld, back in Snowchester , with his best friend at his side. His best friend, looking at him in moderate concern with a hand on his shoulder. His best friend, to whom he spared not a glance as an old-buried instinct clawed its way to the surface of Techno’s body and caused him to move.
Of course Phil called after him. After all, he’d suddenly just blanked out for who knows how long and immediately started up the ladder in a house that didn’t belong to him when he came to. It wasn’t Phil’s fault that every muscle in his body begged for him to move, to help, to comfort. Even Chat’s whispers brushed about his mind as he frantically moved from rung to rung. Their words felt as startled as he did, gentle caresses of big brother and technohelp alongside more boisterous HELP IT and what the FUCK and KILL IT HAHAH!
Big brother Techno!
You’ve done this before.
Help the poor thing!
You know what to do.
Hold it close!
Stop its hurt!
Make it smile!
Surprisingly, the caring voices outweighed the violent ones this time.
He reached the top of the ladder. Phil was already following him, yelling half hearted protests and probably under the impression that Techno was going to do something brutal to the defenseless creature. His objections went ignored, and Techno opened the wooden hatch.
The ladders led to a warm room with all the brightness of childhood cheer. Techno vaguely noticed some furniture art on the walls, but the joy of the room was heavily dampened by the amplified shrieks of alarm that sucked Techno’s attention immediately. He jumped up from the trapdoor, unconsciously loosening his stance and unclenching his jaw. Looking as intimidating as he usually did wouldn’t help the situation at all.
The situation being the piglet on a yellow bed in the far corner of the room, heaving stuttering breathes between gut-wrenching sobs. In his stout little arms (and Techno was pretty positive they were a he) sat a small teddy bear clutched tightly against his chest. His big eyes were wide open and trained on Techno.
Oh, jeez. This really took Techno back. The only thing Techno ever missed from his life in the Nether, the only thing Techno could ever let himself dwell on was the children he’d cared for back then.
Perhaps that was why Techno was so protective over the people he cared about now. The first few years of his life had been spent protecting the defenseless who loved and relied on him, and somewhere deep inside, he suspected that part of himself never went away. Phil wasn’t exactly defenseless, mind you—far from it— but the image of a blonde boy in a dirty hole looking at him for any kind of aid burned itself into his retinas and was gone by the time he could blink.
We all know how that turned out. Techno still felt the burn of the betrayal every now and again.
But this was practically a baby. Barely even out of the toddler years. It couldn’t yet hurt or make life-changing decisions or stab someone in the back. It was young and helpless and wouldn’t understand right from wrong for many years down the line, and it was of Techno’s kind, and it was hurting. Every part of Techno’s soul wanted to reach out and comfort.
Techno took a step closer, clearing his throat in the midst of the child’s cries and taking a breath, snorting a couple of times to familiarise his native language on his tongue. He lifted his hands up to show that he wasn’t a danger.
“Shhhh, it's alright, it’s alright.”
The piglet immediately paused his cries, stunned into temporary silence by the sounds of a familiar language. Techno took the small opportunity the small victory provided and took another few steps closer, paused when the child scrambled even further into the wall. “You’re okay,” he smiled, hoping he didn’t look too scary and that the use of his rusty Piglin would get the kid to fear him less. The child hesitated a moment, and then to Techno’s delight, spoke.
“Who are you?” He squealed from the far side of the bed like the barriers around it would save him from any potential threat. It was almost humorous.
“A friend,” Techno responded immediately, despite not having a clue who this kid was. “I won’t hurt you, I promise.” At least that part was true. Not even Chat could convince him otherwise now.
The piglet was silent for a moment, squeezing the little bear until he tentatively asked “You’re like me..?”
Techno took another step forward. Prime, this kid was too alone for his own good. Piglins were herd creatures— they needed and thrived on having a sounder to interact and live with. Techno was lucky enough to have grown some before he left with Phil to learn common, but it was still difficult for the first year or so. He couldn’t imagine being however old this piglet was and alone. Even when Techno hated everything about the world he lived in, at least he had a purpose in caring for the rest of the young. That got him through a lot more than he let himself think about. Being with others of your kind, especially when you felt alone in life— well. Techno was glad he had found this kid if that was the case.
“I am,” Techno nodded, giving him a smile. Apparently he must have been more starved for his own kind than Techno thought, because that was enough for the little guy to trust him. In the next moment his arms were held out to Techno and a fresh wave of tears was building up in his eyes.
Techno would know that request anywhere. Up.
He crossed the last few feet to the small bed, already reaching over the childproof barrier and picking up the piglet from under his armpits. The kid easily clung to Techno, wrapping his arms around Techno’s neck and letting the older piglin reach under his legs to settle him onto his hip. He immediately pushed his face into Techno’s shirt, as if to hide from the outside world, and Techno gasped at how familiar the weight of a toddler felt in his arms.
The piglet hiccuped into the cloth, out of breath and still upset from his earlier cries. Techno let him scrunch his face harder into the fabric and tutted, hips already starting to sway in placating movement. “There there,” Techno heard himself coo (coo? When was the last time he cooed? ). He put his hand on the back of the kid’s head, which he knew made children feel safer, and let him whimper into Techno’s shoulder. “No need to fuss, li— little one,” he stumbled over the pet name he hadn't used for years, “No need for tears. You’re safe.”
The piglet sniffled and peeked one eye away from the shirt, nose and forehead still firmly pressed into Techno’s chest. Techno smiled and smoothed the kid’s hair down a couple of times. “I’m Techno,” he whispered, like it was a special secret between the two piglins, hoping to seem trustworthy enough that the toddler would open up. “What’s your name?”
The kid’s wide eye didn’t stray from Techno’s gaze. Techno let him stare. It was always a little funny, how kids would be wary around a person but not wary enough to not want to cling, like how the kid was now. Finally, a meek mumble of “Michael...” was heard, and Techno nodded like he was processing vital information.
“Michael, ” he repeated, nodding once again to seem overly sure of himself for show. “That’s a wonderful name. A warrior’s name. Do you know of the angels up in the sky, Michael? ”
Michael took an arm out from around Techno’s neck to grab a fistful of his collar and tug it close to his face. Like a comfort blanket, Techno thought. “Papa says I’m named after a angel,” Michael mumbled. “Mm— ‘e says I’m strong ‘n brave ‘n kind like one.”
“I see,” Techno nodded somberly. “Your Papa’s right.” He had begun to pace the room, his slow footsteps somehow relaxing an instinctual part of both of them. Both his revitalized instincts and Chat were being placated, the latter still spitting a constant stream of thoughts, albeit far more comforting thoughts than usual. Techno let the silence drag on for a little while longer to let the kid settle until he could ask, “So tell me, little angel, what’s wrong? Did my friend and I give you a fright?”
(Said friend being Philza, who was frozen halfway out of the hatch and staring at Techno with his mouth agape and eyes comically wide.)
Michael sniffed again and turned to hide his eyes once more, butting his forehead into Techno. “Papa,” he whimpered. “I wan’ Daddy and Papa.”
Oh, Prime. Techno fought to not let those words sting his mind. He’d lost count of all the times he’d heard requests along the same lines from other piglins Michael’s age, pleas for their big brother to make their hunter parents come home. He’d lost count of all the times he’d had to let them down.
But this wasn’t the bastion. Michael’s parents were probably around somewhere in the colony.
“You want your Daddy and Papa, okay,” Techno spoke gently. He turned back towards the hatch to stare down Phil. “Tceujā erah gris— ahem, I mean, do you know this kid, Phil? Or who and where his parents could be?”
Phil blinked back at Techno before glancing pointedly at the wall. Techno followed his gaze.
The various family murals featuring Ranboo and Tubbo stared back at him. The knowledge that he was literally in their house, with their permission, flooded back to him. How did he not notice that before?
Phil sighed, looking back to the piglins and smiling. “Hello, Michael.”
Michael turned his head towards the voice, his ears perking up when he recognized the face. “Gampa!” he called out in Common.
“Hey, buddy,” Phil laughed, “how’re ya doing?”
“Daddy,” he commanded, vocabulary much more limited in this language. “P—Papa. Daddy.”
Phil nodded, already retreating down the ladder. “I’ll grab them,” he said to Techno more than anyone else, to which Techno threw back an affirming grumble.
He turned back to Michael. “Your parents are coming home,” he told him, hand now stilled on Micheal’s back.
Michael just snorted. “You’re warm.”
“Mhmm,” Techno muttered, a tad in thought. He tried to remember what he should do next. Um, the kid had stopped crying, but was still upset, so— distraction, right.
Techno walked them back to the bed. He leaned over, careful not to drop Michael, just enough to grab the stuffed blonde bear that had been abandoned minutes prior. Looking up from Technos shirt, curious, Micheal perked up once he saw what was in Techno’s hand. He reached for it, oinking excitedly. Techno chuckled and let him grab it.
“Can you introduce me to your bear?”
Michael blinked up at him, the spark that every young kid should have in their eyes returning. Techno was glad to see its presence.
“This is Nugget,” he proudly announced, shoving the bear up enough that it was touching Techno’s nose. He flinched, but smiled and patiently tilted his chin back to look. “She’s gold, and she’s the bestest bear ever.”
“Oh, is she now?” Techno teased. “I don’t know, I have a pet bear at home, Steve. I think he might be the bestest, don’t you think?”
Finally, Michael giggled for the first time that afternoon. The sound made Techno’s heart swell, although he would deny it till the day he died.
“No!” Micahel yelped, on the edge of another giggle. “Nugget! She’s the bestest everest ever.”
Techno beamed. “Ever ever?”
“Ever ever ever ever!” Michael yelled.
Techno sighed, overdramatic and falsely exasperated. “If you say so. I guess I’ll have to agree with you.”
“Yay!” the little piglet squirmed in his arms, arms flapping out at his sides. A little victory dance at a job well done. It was so precious Techno almost started bawling himself.
“You’re the best, Nugget,” he told the stuffed bear for good measure. Through the window, Techno spotted movement out of the corner of his eye.
“See?” Michael told the bear. “He says so, and I say so. You’re the best.”
… And, yup, that sounded like many sets of footsteps on the porch downstairs. He watched Michael squirm and babble at the bear over the muffled creak of the front door.
“You’re very well spoken, Micheal,” Techno commented. “How old are you?”
Michael stops his one-sided conversation to valiantly throw up three fingers. “This many!”
“Wow, you’re almost all grown up, huh?” Techno acted surprised. To be fair, he kind of was. Michael was far more chatty than he remembers of the other piglets his age were. Perhaps it was a development of the growing bilingualism. There were books scattered around the shelves in the room, both in Common and a few battered Piglin copies. Techno would have to commend Ranboo and Tubbo on that front.
Suddenly, the trapdoor to the room slammed open and Ranboo’s head peeked through, calling Michael’s name before he was even through the passageway and looking around rapidly. Michael squealed, kicking his legs on either side of Techno, too delighted to quell his excitement.
“Papa!” he called eagerly while Techno set him down, dropping the bear as well. Ranboo sighed in relief as his son ran up to him, stepping up from the hatch and letting him hug his legs. Ranboo picked him up, patting Michael on the back as Tubbo followed after Ranboo up the ladders.
“Hey buddy,” he smiled into the top of Michael’s head. “What’s goin’ on, huh? Did the scary men startle you?” he asked, Tubbo stepping even closer to put his own hand on Michael’s back.
Phil was the last to re-enter. The chill from the outside climate had made his cheeks rosy once more, even only after the few minutes it took to find the boys and bring them back. Techno, no longer with a child to occupy his attention, quickly went over to the hatch once he had seen Phil’s arms reach over and helped him up and off of the ladders.
“Thank you,” he muttered under his breath.
Phil puffed out his cheeks. “No, thank you,” he said. “You got him to stop crying. It’s been a while since I’ve been around kids that young, it would’ve taken me far longer to calm him down. I got the easy job.”
Techno scoffed quietly, looking at the family squishing the piglet between them in a group hug. “No, you didn’t. He just needed an introduction and some reassurance that we weren’t gonna kill him or something, he’s fine. Nothing a little attention can’t solve.” At his friend’s lack of acknowledgment, he turned.
Phil was still looking at him, soft, reminiscent awe shining in his eyes. Techno pursed his lips and crossed his arms. “What?”
“Nothing,” Phil smiled. “I just haven’t heard you speak Piglin in a long time. I didn’t know if you still remembered how.”
Techno shrugged. “Well. I do.”
“And that caretaker-type side of you that came out of absolutely nowhere? Are we going to discuss that anytime soon?”
Techno grumbled, shifting his weight awkwardly. “So, Ranboo,” he called out just to change the subject, ignoring Phil’s fond snickers. “When, exactly, were you going to tell me you had a kid?”
“Uhh…” was the very eloquent answer from Ranboo. He looked at Tubbo over Michael’s head, the piglet sandwiched between the two, and shrugged, embarrassed. “S— surprise? I have a son?”
Techno stared, unimpressed.
“We didn’t think you’d be too fond of him sharing a kid with me, to be honest,” Tubbo chimed in. Despite his words, he didn’t look worried at all— but yeah, knowing Tubbo’s history with Techno, that was fair. It had taken a few days for Techno to wrap his head around the fact that Ranboo was married to the guy when he first found out.
“And when were you going to tell me that you were good with kids, Technoblade?” Ranboo asked back, a small grin tilting his lips.
“I’m—” Techno tried to deny, interrupted by Michael squirming out of his parents’ embrace.
“Tech! Techo!” He called as his parents set him down and let him rush over to Techno. He didn’t even think twice before opening his arms and scooping the little piglet up as he had mere minutes ago.
Michael settled himself into Techno’s side, already delightfully comfortable in his hold. “Techno,” the older piglin corrected kindly, smiling back.
“Techno,” Michael echoed, nodding to himself in satisfaction. He then reached both of his hands out to grab two of the spires on Techno’s crown, squeezing the metal in his fists. “Gold!” he declared in Piglin.
“It sure is,” Techno agreed.
The protests and apologies from Ranboo and Tubbo for their son’s behavior stopped short when he plucked the crown off of his head and nudged it against Michael’s chest, letting him hold the full weight of it, to Michael’s absolute elation.
“I’ll admit, I’m glad you know of him now,” Phil chuckled. “You probably understand his nature more than anyone else here. When I first met the little guy, I thought the soul fire would’ve freaked him out, but apparently I was wrong.”
Techno nodded. He understood the logic, really. Even he didn’t know why some piglins didn’t mind soul fire like the others usually did. He always assumed it was his own voices that banished the fear for him, that his own whispers and consciences brushed up against his mind too often for the souls in the fire to have a chance of doing the same. That theory wouldn’t hold up with Michael, though, so Techno resigned himself to the knowledge that Michael was seemingly fine around soul fire and that it was just a weird twist of nature.
“Uhm,” Tubbo mumbled from the other side of the room, catching everyone’s attention and looking like he was restraining himself. “He’s, he’s probably going to drop that, Technoblade.”
Techno looked down at Michael, who was absolutely entranced by the crown in his little hands. He doubted it. He knew from experience how hard it was to get piglets to let go of golden playthings, and with how focused Michael was on each glimmering peak and gemstone, Techno was certain he was no different.
“He won’t,” responded, crinkling his eyes at Michael who snorted happily back. “Trust me on this. He’s fine.”
“... If you’re sure. It’s just that he gets distracted easily, is all.”
Techno gently pressed his finger to the top of Michael’s nose, tapping it playfully, muttering a small “boop” as he did. Michael’s high-pitched and loud giggles filled the room.
“And what is it that you think distracts him?” he asked knowingly
Tubbo opened his mouth, saw the gold in Michael’s hands, and closed it again. “... Nevermind.”
“Mhmm.” Their attention was once again torn by the abrupt pointing of Michael, who had apparently swiveled his focus from the crown to something else in the room.
“Ah,” Ranboo clasped his hands together. “His corner. It’s his favorite spot in his room, Prime knows why.”
Techno followed Micahel’s pointing finger to the corner Ranbo was speaking about. It was the corner between the bookshelf and the small table in the middle of the room, the one with a window out into the snowy colony outside.
“I told you, he wants to go outside. He wants freedom,” Phil tried to interject. Ranboo and Tubbo rushed to stutter out objections to that.
Techno ignored them in favor of looking back to where Michael was pointing, searching for what Michael was really looking at.
Aha. He understood. He looked back at the other three, still bickering.
The banter in the room tapered off with Techno’s heavy footfalls making their way to the corner, Michael still sitting on his hip. He stepped up to the window, feeling around the wood at the top of it and running his index finger over the shiny latch on top.
He looked at Michael expectantly, who smiled wide and kicked his legs, before glancing back at the curious eyes of the family.
“Sorry,” Techno said, not sounding sorry at all, and snapped the golden window latch off of the wood.
“Techno!” Both Ranboo and Tubbo shouted at him. They only halted for Michael’s excited grunt when Techno placed the latch in his little hands, trading it for his crown back. He turned it over and over with his fingers, positively fixated on the thing, Techno quickly checking to make sure the window was still closed. The crown was set on the small table nearby.
They’d just need to get a new latch anyway.
He turned back to Michael, gently pushing the child’s hair back out of his face.
“What do we say when someone does something nice for us?” Techno asked him seriously.
“Thank you!” Michael chirped.
“You’re welcome. Now, you wanna surprise your parents? Let’s try in Common.”
The kid’s eyes lit up, and he started moving his mouth to try and replicate the sounds he had spent the last few months learning.
“T—t—” Michael tried. His snout scrunched up in frustration, knowing what the right sound was supposed to be but not quite remembering how to make it.
“Almost,” Techno encouraged, eventually pressing his own tongue to his upper teeth so Michael would have a demonstration to follow. “Thh.”
Michael picked it up quickly. “Th— Thank ooh,” he managed. He looked up to Techno for approval. “Thank ooh?”
Tubbo and Ranboo gasped happily.
Techno smiled. His cheeks were starting to ache a bit, but he wasn’t complaining. “Close enough. Good job!”
Gleeful laughter once again fills the room while the two parents crowded around Michael again and cheered for the achievement. The toddler beamed, ecstatic now that he had made his parents proud.
“How did you figure out what he was looking at!” Tubbo shouted at him, his hand still pinching Micahel’s cheek. “He’s been here for so long and we hadn’t figured it out!”
“Mhmm. Well, just a tip, don’t add furniture or housing accents or whatever made out of gold for a piglin’s room if you don't want them to pick it out,” Techno tilted Michael away so that it was easier for his parents to ruffle his hair. “If he was fascinated with that corner like you say, that’s probably why, you guys. Piglins will find gold, no matter how small or subtle.”
“Of course!” Ranboo covered his forehead with both hands. “That is, like, so dumb of us for not realizing. Oh my Prime.”
“Don’t take it personally,” Techno drawled, a bit smug. “Not everyone can have the sharp eyes for shiny things piglins have.”
“Well, now you’re just boasting,” Tubbo scoffed. “I built this place myself. I guess I just didn't remember to change out the golden window latches, that I probably didn’t even realize I used, Techno.”
“Hey, don’t get snarky with me,” Techno matched Tubbo’s sarcastic tone, “I told you to not take it personally. Phil lives with a piglin and didn’t even notice.”
“Hey!” Phil snapped. “Don’t bring me into this! I’m just the cool grandpa! I’ve done nothing wrong!”
“Uh huh,” Techno mumbled as Michael pulled back into Techno’s space, nestling his head under Techno’s jaw and turning his attention back to his prize. The four of them watched him for a moment, Techno unconsciously going to gently rub his back again as he lounged in the elder’s hold.
“Just to make sure,” Techno started, quieter, “what are you feeding him again?”
Tubbo jumped at the opportunity to prove himself as a good parent. “Well, we try to feed him a variety of things, since he’s an omnivore,” he holds up a few fingers and squints at them, putting a digit down for every food he listed. “Golden carrots, mostly, he loves them, and pork chops made from hoglin meat, specially delivered fresh from the Nether. Lots of potatoes, as well, because you always loved potatoes and if you can eat them we reckon our little man can eat them too.” He nodded at Ranboo, who nodded back. “We cut them small, of course, so he doesn’t choke. He’s pretty responsible when it comes to chewing, though, so we don’t really worry.”
Techno nodded. “You shouldn’t worry. The eating skills develop at a young age so the piglets can feast on whatever the hunters have brought back by the time they can stand.” Techno patted Michael’s back. The little guy was still playing with the latch, head getting heavier on Techno’s shoulder. “He seems very mature for his age, which is good, but keep cutting the big things like potatoes and hoglin pork so they’re manageable for him until he’s a bit older. Just to be safe.”
Ranboo nodded behind Tubbo, taking a small notebook out of his coat pocket and presumably scribbled what Techno was saying into the pages to remember.
“Uh— also, and I really don’t mean to sound intrusive, but it might do him well to try eating some more Nether veggies. Specifically warped fungus.”
Ranboo looked up from his notebook, matching Tubbo’s curious look. “Why warped fungus?”
Michael, upon recognizing the word, slightly perked up from his daze. “Fungie?”
Techno smiled, putting his hand on Michael’s head to coerce him into laying back on his shoulder. “Because it tastes awesome.”
“That’s that blue-green mushroom, right?” Tubbo asked, making a face of disgust. “The one with the yellow spots? I’ve tried it, they taste horrible!”
“To you,” Techno retaliated. “To our more refined piglin tastes, I’ll have you know that warped shrooms are a delicacy.”
“You’d think the literal piglin knows what he’s talking about, Tubbo,” Phil cut in, eyebrow raised.
Tubbo rolled his eyes. “Alright, sure, Blade, we’ll get him the fucking mushrooms.”
“Watch your mouth in front of the kid, please,” Ranboo reminded, tucking the notebook away once again.
“He’s my son too, Memory Boy, he can learn a couple swear words if I say so.”
“Yeah, let the kid live a little. Fuck.”
Techno chuckled. “If you want, I could teach him some Piglin expletives.”
Ranboo puts his hand over his chest, scandalized. “Not you too? Techno, I thought I could trust you!”
“What gave you that horrible idea?” Techno replied, shifting his weight and hiking a far more relaxed Michael back into his hips properly.
Tubbo hummed. “Tempting, Technoblade, maybe later— speaking of Piglin, however, that’s something Ranboo and I are still struggling with. He’s picking up Common pretty well, but neither of us know anything about his own language. And we totally forgot slash didn’t know that you can speak it. Can you teach us?”
Techno tilted his head. “That depends. What do you want to say?”
“He’ll probably tell you that some horrible phrase is something nice to make the little guy cry,” Phil said, with too much of a smile on his face to not love the bit. Ranboo nodded seriously and pointed at Phil like he was making an actual point. Techno and Tubbo laughed.
“You would,” Tubbo giggled.
“I would never,” Techno rebutted.
“Mmn” Michael hummed, head still buried into Techno, eyes closed and body lax. The golden latch from before was still gripped in his fingers, but the hold he had on it was finally weakening and threatening to let it fall as his mind and body fought off sleep.
“I’m sorry, Michael,” Techno muttered, his voice much lower and softer than before. “Are we being too loud? You tired from all this commotion?”
He yawned, and Ranboo sighed, rubbing his eyes.
“This was supposed to be naptime,” he admits. “We’d just gotten him down when you two showed up. I guess we just assumed he'd stay asleep.”
Techno shakes his head, still swaying. “Piglins are light sleepers by nature. We have to be ready to wake up and fight at any given moment— and I guess that translated into our blood at some point.”
Ranboo, the poor guy, looks about as tired as his son. “Yeah, well. Either way, it takes him forever to finally pass out, no matter what we do. We’ve tried everything.”
Techno nodded. Everything by Overworld standards, probably. He could imagine the difficulty of taking care of a child from another dimension, when you didn’t know all the tips and tricks that came from the deep crevices of their home to help you along. The Nether especially was a blistering, rotting hellscape which clung to its secrets as easy as it devoured the life of so many of its trespassers. It was almost amazing that the parents of this young piglin had already known and utilized so much.
You couldn’t know everything of a place that hated you, though, and luckily, Techno was arguably the best Nether-born creature around.
“Let me have a shot?” He asked Ranboo and Tubbo, Michael’s body warm and fitting on his shoulder.
Ranboo shrugged, waving his hand in a ‘go ahead’ gesture. The poor kid looked worn out.
Techno turned back to Michael, starting to sway once more as he made his way slowly towards the small bed in the corner of the room. Gently prying the window latch out of the piglet’s now weak grip, he mumbled to Michael;
“Time for a nap, angel. Growing piglins need their rest.”
Michael tried to protest, shaking his head no, but he was doing so while again, quite literally, falling asleep in Techno’s arms. “Don’t wanna. M’not tired.”
“Oh, I know,” Techno mumbled, handing the latch to Tubbo, who was nearest, and snapping and pointing at the bear on the floor to get someone to pick it up for them. “But we’re gonna try anyway, okay? I think Nugget is tired too.” Within the next second, plush felt was in his fingers and he mentally thanked whoever had swiped it for him while his attention was on Michael. “Let’s do it for Nugget.”
Michael easily clung to the bear brought to him, rubbing his eyes, giving a little nod in agreement.
And the sight of him, tired and trusting of his own kind, even only having met him minutes before, struck something deep inside of Techno. It was the feel of him in his arms, such a small soul completely at his mercy, their biological connection in such a different world nudging its way at Techno’s heart and pulling a melody long forgotten from his chest.
The song wasn’t complicated. Lilting tones only meant to provide ominous comfort to those who had been born and raised in the music. It sounded like it came from far away, each higher note tripping over itself from Techno’s throat to give just the pleasant reminders of heat and dim light and that feeling of floating right before you fell asleep.
The hum surprised Techno as much as everyone else, despite it coming from his own chest. He hadn’t sung a lullaby in a very long time. It seemed to be working, however, if the way Michael downright melted into him meant anything. He cuddled up to the rumble in Techno’s chest, nuzzling his head with every step closer to the mattress.
From this angle, only Techno could see the soft smile he had. Techno restrained himself from returning the smile to a sleeping child and kept humming.
By the time the pair had reached the bed, Michael was already fast asleep. He barely stirred when Techno set him down on the fitted sheet, or when Techno pulled the blanket out from under his leg to cover his small little body and keep the chill away, or when Techno faded the already slow, awkward song in his throat to a stop when it was no longer needed.
Techno turned back around to face the small crowd. He looked smug, his hands on his hips. “Everything, huh?”
Ranboo peeked through the fingers covering his face. “How did you do that.”
The piglin turned back to Micheal one last time, making sure the blankets were up to his chin and gently pushing Nugget closer to his shoulder. He debated saying something as a joke, like ‘Piglin magic’ or whatever, but decided to just fess up. “Just a common lullaby from back home,” he said, although the word ’home’ felt bitter on his tongue. That place hadn’t been his home for a long time. “He’s probably fallen asleep to it a thousand times already from then. Chrysopoeia, it’s a miracle worker. Any time I had trouble with the other younglin’s, a little hum of that tune would put them out like a light.”
Giving a last tender caress of Michael’s hair, Techno stepped away from the bed and looked back at the three, who were staring at him oddly. “What?”
Ranboo bit his lip like he was hiding a grin. “The ‘other younglin’s?’”
“I—” Techno went red as he realized he'd said that out loud.
Tubbo tilted his head, smiling. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot about you tonight, Technoblade.”
Techno groaned. He pressed the palm of his hands into his eyes. “More than you should be. You’re the ones with the piglin son, let’s focus on that.”
“This entire scenario is bizarre,” Phil declared, not looking one bit bothered. “So let’s just acknowledge that and move on, shall we? Ranboo, just ask Techno to be a babysitter, huh? Spit it out, son.”
Ranboo opened his mouth and decided against whatever he was going to say. He bit his lip, put a finger up, and also decided to put it down immediately after. “I— alright, I've got nothing to come back with for that. Jeez. Thanks Phil.”
“You want me to be a babysitter?” Techno asked, a bit surprised. No, scratch that, very surprised. He was a violent person, even while in “retirement.” He was the Blood God, for Prime’s sake, never once after entering the Overworld for the first time did he ever believe that anyone would trust him with kids. He made sure of it.
“Only if you want to, of course,” Ranboo rushed to add, and, wait, that was also not something Techno was expecting. He brought his hand up to his eyes, pushing the pads of his index finger and thumb into his eyelids. “I’m not about to force you to take care of a kid that isn’t even yours, I promise. It’s just, that, um,” Ranboo shrugged. “Well, you’re good with kids. We would trust you with him, I think, and that’s more than a lot of people in this land can say. ”
Techno pulled his fingers to the bridge of his nose instead and opened his eyes to spot Tubbo nodding along in agreement.
This was interesting. A long time ago, amongst grass and clouds, Techno had thought and sworn to himself that he would never have to care for a kid again. He wanted to hate them. The yells and fists of the domineering piglins back at the bastion, forcing him into a role he never wanted, were still fresh in his mind as he made the vow to himself all those years ago. Although, looking back on it now, and comparing his own emotions and instinct around the idea of caring for a youngling here and now, and a piglet at that…
He had the choice to say no. He wasn’t being forced or guilted or bribed into, what, being a babysitter every now and then? It wasn’t exactly a hard task, and it would be of his own free will. Plus, it was Ranboo. Ranboo and Tubbo. They were already so young to be fathers, and they were his friends.
And, Techno hated to admit it to himself, but Michael was adorable.
“... Sure,” Techno spoke after a long pause, surprising everyone in the room, including himself. Alright, he just agreed to spend more time around a child and care for it and comfort it and entertain it. Alright. Awesome. Cool.
His reputation was done for. Techno absently and borderline hysterically wondered if a tragedy this great deserved a gravestone.
“Great,” Phil broke some of the newfound tension in the room with a clasp of his hands and a smile. “We can work out the details later, I don’t really care. Just, right this very second, I would like to get ready to set off back home, if you don’t mind.” He looked at Techno, who reluctantly nodded in agreement. “We should get going soon if we want to get there before dark.”
“That is true,” Techno pointed out, mostly for the purpose of having something to say. He turned to Tubbo and Ranboo, nodding his head at them. “Thanks for letting me meet your kid, sorry we woke him up?”
“No, thank you,” Ranboo corrected with a teasing tilt to his tone. “You’ve saved us a lot of trouble in the time to come with your piglin ways and wisdom. We really appreciate that.”
“Um,” Techno stumbled, “I guess now I should say, ‘anytime?’ Now that I have the pleasure of being the little guy’s babysitter.” Techno smiled, once again speaking a bit more genuine. “You do really have a great kid. I’m glad I got to meet him, really.”
Ranboo smiled at him. Tubbo looked pleased, but there was something unreadable in his face, not prominent enough to concern Techno. He turned to Phil, indicating that he was ready to leave, and Phil nodded back as they both took to moving towards the ladder downstairs.
Only for someone to call his name.
“Techno—” Tubbo cut himself off, and when Techno looked at him expectantly, the boy looked too tired for his years. He was picking at the skin on his thumb nervously, chewing on the inside of his cheek like he didn’t know how to say what he was thinking. Ranboo seemed to understand, if the way he wrapped his arm around Tubbo’s shoulder squeezed meant anything. He sighed and looked at Ranboo, the two having numerous conversations in the span of a glance, before both of them turned back to Techno and Phil.
“Does he—” Tubbo tried again. “Does he miss his home? Does he, does he like it here? With us?”
Techno blinked, taken aback. His eyebrows pulled together in confusion. Michael? Does Michael miss the Nether? Are they serious?
Techno looks to Phil, who turns to him as well. Phil was the only one who had an inkling of comprehension for what Techno felt of the Nether. He had flown him out, after all, had taught him how to pronounce the syllables of the overworld and how to fight and how to not fear thunderstorms when they were still so new . Phil didn’t pry, Techno wouldn’t let him, but he knew of a teenage Techno’s nightmares and determination to protect himself. He knew of the years that had to pass before Techno ever stepped foot in the Nether again, he knew of how silently grateful Techno was that Phil had found him.
Phil gave him a proper look, a tilt to his head that said they don’t know, mate. Humor them.
“Techno, please,” Ranboo spoke quietly. He seemed just as worried as Tubbo did, even had a matching face of a tired, anxious dad who just wanted to know if they did the right thing.
Techno turned back to them. Opened his mouth. Closed it again. Trying to think of how to correctly put his thoughts in order and into a coherent thought.
“Tubbo,” he starts. “Ranboo. The Nether is not a fun place. It’s mean. This is common knowledge, obviously, the entire dimension’s a shithole. Everything is ten times more dangerous than here— the monsters, the lava, the fire and steep cliffs, every single thing. It’s dangerous even for experienced travelers like Phil.” Techno paused, watching Tubbo and Ranboo’s faces. They were listening intently, despite knowing everything Techno was saying already. Techno hoped they understood his need to lead into his point with all this. He looked to the ground, lacing his fingers together. “You know I wouldn’t be speaking of this if you didn’t have a Nether-born creature with you, but good gods, you have a piglin son that relies on you in a world he doesn’t understand yet, so here we are.
“Bastions are not good places. They’re dark and unsafe as a building, but the environment inside is… horrible. Mature piglins and brutes leave the young to fend for themselves for the entirety of their childhoods, or stick another kid to care for them, in some cases,” Techno didn’t dare look anyone in the eye, “and the ones who don’t survive are seen as weak and a blessing to be rid of. Whenever they are paid attention to, there’s violence and savagery until the piglets grow into the next generation, who end up being just as bad.”
Techno looked over to where Michael is sleeping, the only one in the room he can look at and not feel like a thousand needles are pricking his neck right now. The others followed his gaze, all eyes resting on Michael’s little form under the blankets. Techno let the sight comfort him, release some tension in his shoulders and bitterness in his voice. “There’s no books to admire,” he said, softer. “No windows to look out of, no stuffed bears or coloring books or cake,” Techno rattles off, still watching Michael breathe slowly. “No soft beds, no family murals, no tailored clothes and no mansion.”
He takes a step closer to the two teenagers, finally looking back at them. “No fathers who love unconditionally and would do anything for their son.”
Tubbo looked like he would start crying on the spot if not for the people still around him. He didn’t look particularly upset, though, rather his eyes clouded up with desperate gratitude and he squeezed Ranboo’s hand, which had somehow found his during Techno’s monologue. Ranboo looked much of the same, except for the soft saddened gentleness in his own expression. Techno put a hand on both of their shoulders and smiled.
“You'll only ever hear this from me once, but whatever you’re doing,” Techno said sincerely, “You’re doing it right.”
Ranboo exhaled, pressing his nose into Tubbo’s hair and closing his eyes. For his part, Tubbo leaned into the embrace, showing a shaky grin towards Techno.
“Thank you,” he said, and Techno would count that to be one of the most heartfelt things anyone has ever said to him. Not that he was keeping track of anything like that.
“Can you tell him,” Ranboo muttered, “Will you tell him that we love him more than anything? In Piglin so he understands?”
Techno looked to the bed for the last time.
Michael was sound asleep with a small, peaceful smile on his face.
“Nah,” Techno said, grinning. “He already knows.”