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Technoblade was perfectly capable on his own.

 

He knew it as well as every single enemy he had cut down. Techno was a force to be reckoned with, and anyone who got in his way would perish quickly. 

 

That didn't mean Techno wasn't prone to… mistakes. It wasn't that he was constantly dying or on the brink of it, he just tended to forget about, or pull dangerous stunts with a totem as his crutch. Nothing genuinely harmful had happened to Techno because of this, and having memories scattered across his body brought a certain type of pride. They were signs that he had survived, that he was stronger than the things he had been through. 

 

Phil, however, had a different view. He supposed it had something to do with the fact that Phil had gone centuries with only one life, but Phil preferred to minimize the amount of injuries he received as much as possible. His wings gave him a great advantage, as well as the fact that he preferred a bow to a sword.

 

This led to situations much like the one Technoblade was in now.

 

The battle had been going well for them; Techno and Phil easily cutting down their enemies. Techno had run into a combatant eerily stronger than the rest, and had been dueling back and forth for nearly a minute. He had the upper hand, and would have won, were it not for his chest plate breaking on him.

 

He should have expected it, really. The cracks and chinks in the armor had been growing with every random encounter they happened to have, and Techno had been putting off fixing it  in favour of sleeping in, or other tasks. So when his chestplate shattered under his enemy's sword, Techno had been shocked in a brief moment of stillness – leaving himself wide open – and that had been his mistake. 

 

Technoblade blinked, slowly bringing his gaze down to stare down at the hilt sticking through his chest numbly. The pain hadn't hit yet, but his heart was spasming in his chest in anticipation and electric adrenaline. His opponent laughed: a wicked and greedy sound full of glee. Red blossomed out from the wound, soaking his white shirt and staining it crimson. Techno's own sword slid from his grip, clattering on the floor as an odd numbness overcame him. 

 

"Huh," Technoblade said. He coughed wetly; blood dribbling down his chin. The world swayed around him, and Techno finally realized oh, I'm probably gonna die from this. His enemy cackled in front of him, and Techno remembered faintly that he should probably do something about him.

 

Technoblade slowly brought a trembling hand up: fingers curling tightly around the handle. He took in a steadying breath, and then yanked the sword out. It slid from his skin with a wet tearing sound, and Techno gasped softly: choking on sobs as the pain finally started to hit him. For a moment, Techno admired the way his blood dripped off the silver blade, the chat nothing more than a muffled hum in the back of his mind.

 

"Well now you've made things worse for yourself, haven't you, Blood God," the man across from him sneered. Techno lifted his gaze slowly, locking eyes with his opponent and grinning. The smug look was replaced with confusion, and then Techno lunged forward and slammed the sword into his own gut. Technoblade threw his head back and laughed as the man stumbled back; hands uselessly scrambling at the sword. Techno continued to laugh, the sound peppered with heaving sobs as he bent over, ignoring the hot burning pain in his chest as he picked his sword up with shaking fingers. The blade dragged in the dirt as walked, and Techno's breathing was ragged and wheezing as he lifted the blade over his head and stabbed down into the man's neck. Techno struggled to pull it out: stumbling back as the world spun into a swirl of bright colors. Techno's eyes fluttered, and then he was falling, slamming into the hard ground.

 

Across the field, Techno heard a scream of his name. Phil. For a time that was both endless and mere seconds long, Techno's vision darkened and everything was gone, and then he heard rapid wing beats. Techno blinked, and then Phil's face was above him, blurred by the tears that formed against his will.

 

"Techno?" Phil asked frantically. Phil unclasped Techno's skull mask, tossing it to the side as he cupped Techno's cheeks. Techno groaned, leaning into Phil's hands as the level of pain skyrocketed. Phil swore above him; wings fluttering uselessly. 

 

"Totem..bag," Techno croaked, coughing up more blood and gasping for breath. Phil's hands disappeared, leaving Techno's head to fall back onto the dirt. Techno whined at the loss of contact, but Phil returned a moment later, curling Techno's fingers tightly around a totem. 

 

"Fucking hell, mate," Phil whispered. He carefully lifted Techno up, resting his head on Phil's lap. Techno shoved his face into Phil's stomach and began shuddering as a wave of pain hit him. His lungs burned, and he knew he didn't have much time left. Phil's hand sunk into Techno's hair, carefully stroking it as Techno whined.

 

Technoblade groaned in pain, whimpering pitifully as pain tore through him. He clutched weakly at Phil's shirt: limbs jerking and twitching in agony. Phil gave his hand a gentle squeeze, his thumb rubbing circles into his knuckles. Techno shoved his face further into Phil's stomach as black spots danced across his vision. His energy rapidly left him the longer he laid there. Phil's head came to rest on top of Techno's, and Techno whined in the back of his throat; body convulsing once before stilling again.

 

Phil was saying something, but he was muffled, and Techno felt like he was floating underwater, slowly drifting downward. The light of the day faded as his strength left him – hand slipping from Phil's shirt – and then there was nothing. 

 

For a brief moment, Techno was in an endless void – the only sound his ragged breathing – and then golden light exploded across his vision, and Techno surged upwards, gasping and spluttering as air suddenly invaded his lungs. Phil didn't hesitate to pull him into a tight hug, shushing him as Techno gagged: spitting out the blood in his mouth. His body trembled with newfound magic adrenaline, and the voices screamed at their newfound energy. 

 

"I hate this part," Techno laughed into Phil's shoulder, grinning as his heart sledgehammered in his chest. Phil sighed shakily into Techno's hair: relief palpable. Techno sunk into Phil's embrace, wide eyed and numb. After a moment, Phil pulled away, placing a hand on Techno's chest right above his heart. His hand was cold compared to the electric burn of magic coursing through his veins, and Techno leaned into it, staring up at Phil through half lidded eyes. Tears dribbled from his chin- dampening his shirt -and making Phil's wonderfully blue eyes shimmer. His hair was a wild half braided mess: bucket hat discarded. A cut across his cheek bled sluggishly, tears turning red as they passed over it, and his face was a bright rosey color from exertion. Phil was a mess of blood, sweat and tears, and Techno had never seen something more gorgeous.

 

"You look beautiful," Techno murmured with a loopy grin, chat screaming PRETTYZA in the back of his mind. Techno reached up with a shaky hand and wiped the blood off Phil's cheek, thumb coming away red and sticky. 

 

"Shut up," Phil hissed, managing a stilted laugh that was too close to a sob than it had any right to be. Techno giggled, bonking his head into Phil's as his limbs twitched with energy. Golden-green light danced across his skin: little bolts of electricity that raised his hair and left goosebumps across his body. Magic and battle brought adrenaline that left his heart slamming in his chest: a wickedly pleasant anxiety that numbed the pain of his still present injuries. 

 

"'M jus' sayin'," Techno said. He let his eyes fall shut as he slid his head down to plop his chin into the space where Phil's neck and shoulder connected, still cupping Phil's cheek with his hand. "Can't argue with me when I'm… post dyin'."

 

"Motherfucker," Phil groaned, but he didn't let go of Techno's hand all the same.

 

"Can we leave?" Techno asked. "'M covered in blood and it's not very comfortable."

 

"Yeah, let's go," Phil said. An arm slid under his knees, and then Techno was lifted into the air, carefully cradled against Phil's chest. Techno looped an arm around Phil's neck as he started towards their house, his ear pressed against Phil's chest. His heart was a steady, familiar beat. Badum. Badum. Badum.

 

Techno must have dozed off, because when he came to they were inside, and he was leaning heavily against a wall. Hands carefully unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off, fabric sticking uncomfortably to his skin.

 

"Buy me a drink first," Techno slurred with a grin. Phil's hands paused briefly with a snort before returning to their task.

 

"Glad to see you're awake," Phil said quietly. The relief in his voice was thinly veiled, and Techno hummed, unable to find the words to voice his concerns. 

 

Exhaustion clouded his mind: limbs heavy feeling and thoughts slowed. Even chat had calmed, though they seemed distressed at their inability to do more than whisper. Through the haze of pain and exhaustion, he could hear Phil gathering up their medical supplies. His wounds bled sluggishly, mixing with his sweat and leaving his skin sticky and uncomfortable.

 

Techno jumped as a cool washcloth met his skin, groaning as Phil cleaned around his wounds. The totem had healed his fatal injuries, leaving a phantom pain in his chest where the sword had pierced through his skin.

 

Phil wasted no time in cleaning out his wounds, carefully applying bandages with a care Techno was still surprised by. Techno winced at the pull of his skin, but held still so he could work properly. 

 

"You need to be more careful, mate," Phil scolded after a long moment of nothing but the sound of their breathing. Despite his firm and almost angry tone, he was nothing but gentle as he wrapped Techno's wrist.

 

"I had a totem Phil, it's fine. You don't need to be gettin' gray hairs from me," Techno teased. Rather than fire a quip back like Techno expected, Phil stayed silent, and that was when Techno finally opened his eyes. Phil's face was carefully neutral, but Techno had known him long enough to recognize the shine in his eyes. Phil was worried, well and truly, and Techno felt remorse creep up on him.

 

Phil sighed as he finished with Techno's wrist, setting the wrap to the side. After a few seconds, he gently took Techno's hand in his own, lifting it up to his face. Phil leaned forward and pressed a careful kiss across Techno's knuckles, eyes fluttering as he nosed across the scars that crisscrossed Techno's hand.

 

"I don't like seeing you hurt," Phil murmured into the back of Techno's hand. Techno hummed, leaning down to rest his forehead against Phil's and wincing as an injury on his side protested at the movement. 

 

"I know," Techno replied. He gave Phil's hand three gentle squeezes. I love you. "I'll try to be more careful next time."

 

"You better," Phil grumbled, but the joyful lit was back in his tone, and so despite the pain wracking his body, Technoblade smiled.




[———]




When Techno woke up, he knew it wasn't going to be a good day. The voices were screaming the second his eyes opened: an incoherent mess that left him wincing, squeezing his eyes shut again as he tried to block them out. Luckily for Techno, they got louder in protest, and trying to understand them was more impossible than normal, wild screaming nonsense leaving his head filled with an unpleasant static. 

 

After a few agonizing moments, Techno peeled his eyes open again with a grunt of discomfort. It took a second for his eyes to focus; the voices making it hard to stay in reality as his head pounded. Across from him, cast in a golden glow from the sunlight drifting through their window, Phil snored quietly, messy hair spilled onto the pillow around him in an almost halo. His wings were stretched out across the bed, feathers ruffled from sleep yet as soft and taken care of as always. Phil's face was relaxed in his sleep: a peaceful contrast to the stressed scrunch everyday life often brought. Not for the first time, Techno marveled at the level of trust it took for Phil to let him be seen like this... so vulnerable and almost small . Phil was careful with who he let close to him, and Techno felt honored to be able to hold his best friend in his arms as they slept, honored to touch Phil's wings that he was so prideful of, honored to simply know the man in front of him. 

 

For a while, Techno just studied Phil, watching the rise and fall of his chest, smiling fondly at the occasional chirp he made in his sleep. Almost unconsciously, Techno found himself gently tracing Phil's scars, trying to focus on the memory of them instead of the voices loud demanding for his attention.

 

Techno grew lost in thought, drifting into distant memories. The only part of reality that stayed was the feeling of Phil's skin beneath his fingertips, soft and covered in scars. The passage of time escaped him, and for a long time Techno drifted from the present, until Phil shifted under his touch and his vision slid back into focus. He watched as Phil shifted again with a tiny chirp: his eyes fluttering open and squinting at the sunlight. 

 

"Hiya mate," Phil murmured, his voice heavy and rough with sleep. Techno leaned forward, bumping his head into Phil's shoulder and snuggling closer to him. Phil's arm came to rest on Techno's shoulder blades: nails gently scratching at his back. Techno shivered at the sensation, pressing his nose into Phil's collarbone with a happy hum. Chat continued to shriek, and shouts of PHILZA appeared amongst the otherwise incomprehensible babble.

 

"Mornin', angel," Techno whispered into Phil's shoulder. He shifted ever so slightly to lay more comfortably against his friend, a hand coming to rest on the dip of Phil's hip. A weight appeared on the top of Techno's head as Phil bumped his forehead against Techno's, his hand reaching up to gently run through Techno's hair and detangle the knots brought forth by sleep. 

 

"You feeling alright?" Phil asked, voice muffled by Techno's hair. Techno grunted in response, fighting back a wince as the voices that had been saying Phil's name started shrieking nonsense again. Clearly, he didn't do a very good job about hiding the noise, as Phil sighed quietly.

 

"The voices loud again?" Phil guessed. Techno nodded, moving his hand up, before sliding it underneath Phil's shirt to place it right between Phil's wings: fingers sinking into the soft down between them and eliciting a soft chirp. Techno moved closer, tangling their legs together with a low whine, and Phil just held him tighter with a gentle coo. A soft wing carefully draped over him - warm and grounding and forcing his mind back into reality. The action itself seemed to calm the voices somewhat. Shame burned Techno's cheeks as a whimper was forced out of him against his will, but Phil had never once been one to judge. This was far from the first time they had done this, and it wouldn't be the last, but vulnerability was a certain type of terrifying no matter how many times it happened. 

 

"You wanna do anything, or stay here a while?" Phil asked, running his fingers up and down Techno's spine. Techno pushed himself closer to Phil in response, tightening his hold around him. The down between his fingers was soft, and the trills he brought from his friend was only more of a bonus. "Good thing we don't have anything to do today," Phil said, and Techno could hear the grin in his voice. 

 

Nothing more was said after that, and with Phil's wing wrapped around him, the voices' incessant screaming slowly grew quieter- chaotic energy quelled at last. Techno himself was growing sleepy; having been lulled into a cozy tiredness by Phil's ever present soothing coos. Years ago, Techno would have preferred to fall onto his old sword then waste a day cuddling in bed, but now, Techno would rather do this than anything else. There was something about being held in Phil's arms, his best friend, the man he had married and the man he loved – their relationship neither romance nor simple friendship but something wonderfully in between – that soothed the ache of his heart and finally put his troubled mind at ease.

 

Secure in the arms of his second half, Technoblade slept peacefully.



[———]




Technoblade officially hated parties.

 

It wasn't any sort of surprise to anyone who knew him. Techno hated socializing with strangers, and navigating the rocky water of polite conversation was too much of a headache for Techno to find any joy in it.

 

Phil, on the other hand, was a social person. While diplomacy was always exhausting no matter who you were, simple parties were nothing but a time to build friendly connections, if you knew how to push the conversation away from politics.

 

So here Techno was: glass of wine in hand and donned in an uncomfortable formal wear; heavy cloak ditched for a thin, barely there short cape with the Antarctica Empire's flag on it. At the very least, the loose shirt and new dress pants were comfortable, tucked into his boots like always. Techno felt uncomfortably vulnerable without the familiar weight of his cloak across his shoulders and back, or even his hair, but his adviser had stopped him at the door and informed him the host of the party didn't like seeing furs indoors.

 

It was stupid, and Phil had bitched about it the whole carriage ride there, but not even light hearted banter with his best friend could calm the nerves of social situations.

 

Phil was having a seemingly pleasant conversation with the people around them, but Techno wasn't paying enough attention to know exactly what they were talking about. All Techno knew was that try as he might, he couldn't focus on much of anything. Most of the time, Techno enjoyed his own thoughts, and zoning out was easier than making conversation, but this particular time something was… off.

 

It was after hearing a burst of laughter across the room and flinching, Techno realized that his heart rate had started to quicken without his notice. He frowned, trying to soothe himself by sipping at the wine, but it nearly made him gag at the taste. Normally he was fine with wine, but the particular one they had served didn't sit right.

 

Techno tried to keep his heart rate under control, but soon his breath started to quicken: growing more shaky with every passing minute. His stomach twisted itself into knots, and Techno readjusted his grip on his glass with a stuttering exhale. Techno was fine , he knew, but he couldn't help but glance around- noting all the exits he could find. Phil had specifically hired guards for them, and they had both made sure they had plenty of concealed weapons, but the fear was still there.

 

For a few agonizing minutes, Techno tried to calm himself down, to focus on identifying the source of his panic. There was usually a reason and Techno had learned to trust his gut feeling, but despite his searches there was nothing.

 

Techno looked at Phil, hoping to see if he felt a similar way, but he seemed as relaxed as always. Almost as if he felt the eyes on him, Phil glanced over at Techno, seeming to do a double take. His brows furrowed ever so slightly; head tilting in the way it always did when he was thinking about something. Phil shifted closer to him, pressing their shoulders together and loosely wrapping a wing around him as he leaned up to whisper into Techno's ear.

 

"You okay?" Phil murmured, eyes still trained on the lady talking to them. Something about wheat and pastries, but her voice was high pitched and grated on Techno's nerves. Techno's eyes flickered around rapidly as he shifted his weight from one leg to the next, and he tried to answer Phil but his stomach was twisting and the words refused to escape him: breath stuttering in his chest. Techno shook his head ever so slightly, swallowing roughly at the sudden dryness of his throat. He needed to calm down, he knew, but his hands were trembling all the same. Phil gave him a concerned glance, reaching over and giving Techno's hand a quick squeeze before he moved away, wing settling against his back once more. 

 

Techno forced down a shiver at the sudden lack of warmth, ears twisting back as the clamor of the party grew somehow louder. 

 

"I hate to interrupt," Phil interjected smoothly, successfully stopping the lady – Victoria, was her name? Techno hated to forget, it was impolite, but it was growing hard to focus on anything other than the sudden growing panic – on her endless rant. "But me and Technoblade have some uh...business matters to discuss. Privately."

 

"Oh!" the lady exclaimed (was her name actually Victoria, or had Techno imagined that, and why was everything blurry looking all the sudden?). "Don't let me keep you gentlemen. Have a nice discussion!" she giggled. Phil's smile was polite, but Techno had known him long enough to recognize the strain in it. For a moment, Techno stood there uselessly, feeling vaguely like the world had started to spin on its axis, but then Phil's hand slipped into his own, twinning their fingers together and gently tugging him forward. 

 

Techno let himself be led towards… wherever Phil was taking him. Techno trusted Phil to keep himself safe, and with that knowledge: Techno let his mind slip as he was dragged through the crowd. Couples danced and fed each other, drunken men laughed loudly; and groups of tiny, proper looking children ran between legs. It was too much, and Techno's shoulders hiked up to his ears to try and block the noise. Eventually, Phil managed to weave them through the crowd and towards the edge, heading straight towards a balcony. Phil didn't hesitate to throw the door open, tugging Techno out into the open.

 

The door shut behind them with a small click, and the difference between the inside and outside was stark. It was quiet, the only sound being the whistle of the wind and their breathing. Techno leaned heavily against the door, decorations pressing uncomfortably into his shoulders. Techno stared out, breathless for a single moment, before he slid down onto the floor, pulling his knees to his chest. Techno shoved his face into his hands with a heavy sigh as he tried, desperately, to calm his breathing. Each breath was shaky still no matter how deep it was, but the cool night air was refreshing, lungs finally accepting the oxygen he so desperately needed. 

 

"Mate?" Phil asked, worry bleeding into his voice. For a moment, Techno considered not responding – words escaping him – but he couldn't do that to his friend. Peering through his fingers, Techno could see Phil had knelt down in front of him; crown discarded and concern painted across his face.

 

"Yeah," Techno replied eventually: voice scarcely a whisper. Techno could barely hear it himself, but that was the loudest he could make his voice go, his heart still beating too quickly in his chest and the occasional shudder shaking his limbs. 

 

"Are you- what's wrong?" Phil asked. Techno made a noise in the back of his throat, floundering for an explanation that just wasn't there. He didn't know what was wrong. He had been perfectly fine before, but his traitorous mind had decided that everything needed to edge on the side of too much.

 

"Too- too-" Techno cut himself off with a frustrated noise. Phil deserved an explanation, hell Techno himself wanted an explanation, but everything sounded lame, an excuse for something that should never have happened in the first place. "Too...open, I guess…" Techno trailed off uncertainty, because he didn't know if he was telling the truth or not.

 

"Oh," Phil said, an understanding dawning on his face. When he spoke again, his voice was softer, quieter. "Okay. Can I touch you?"

 

After a moment of thought, Techno nodded into his hands. Phil carefully reached up and wrapped his fingers around Techno's wrists, gently pulling them away from his face. Cold air stung his cheeks, and Techno let his head drop; shame bubbling in his chest as his bangs hung over his eyes. Phil rubbed a gentle circle into Techno's palm with his thumb, tracing across the faint scars dotted across it. Phil's other hand carefully caressed Techno's cheek, brushing across his skin with a feather-light touch.

 

Techno leaned into Phil's hand with a shaky sigh, slumping over and nosing into the warmth. Phil chuckled, carefully scratching behind Techno's ear. Techno's eyes fluttered shut, and he let himself go limp, trusting Phil to not let him fall. Techno didn't fight as he was pulled forward into Phil's lap, face carefully tucked under Phil's chin. Soft feathers tickled his neck as Phil wrapped his wings around him, the weight far more comforting and soothing than it had any right to be.

 

"You wanna ditch this party?" Phil asked quietly, setting Techno's crown to the side and carefully pulling Techno's hair free from the tight braided bun it had been put in hours before. Techno made a noncommittal noise into Phil's shoulder, the exhaustion from a night of nothing but socialization hitting him.

 

"Pretty sure we need to be representing our Empire, or somethin'," Techno protested half-heartedly. He didn't want to stay – quite the opposite, actually – but a sense of duty and responsibility compelled him to sit through a few more hours of discomfort. 

 

Phil snorted, pressing his nose into the side of Techno's head with an audible grin. "Nah, they can manage without us. Besides, this place is boring anyways."

 

"True," Techno agreed, his voice muffled by Phil's shoulder. Phil hummed; hand tracing nonsensical shapes into Techno's shoulder blade while the other stroked Techno's hair, gently working out the tangles with a tender sort of care that left Techno's eyes burning despite himself. 

 

"You wanna head out now, or you wanna rest up a bit?" Phil asked, hand dropping from Techno's hair to instead wrap around Techno's own hand. Techno pressed his face further into Phil's shoulder as he laced their fingers together in response, and Phil laughed, torso bouncing with the movement. 

 

"I take it you're wanting to stay then, yeah?" Phil asked, asmused. Techno nodded, not quite able to force the words out of his mouth. "That's fine," Phil said. He sounded so sure of himself, so confident and decided in the reality that it was fine, that Techno found for once, he could believe him. Techno leaned up and nosed underneath Phil's jaw, giving Phil's hand three squeezes in quick succession as he tried to wordlessly show his gratitude.

 

Phil's laugh was full of nothing but fondness and care. "Aw, love you too mate."

 

And for a while, they rested there.




[———]




Technoblade would like to think he could take care of himself perfectly fine. He knew his limits more than anyone else did, after all (though perhaps Phil was an exception to that rule). No one else had  lived in Techno's brain other than himself – and the voices of the fallen gifted to him by the Blood God, of course – and no one could live in Techno's skin as comfortably as he did. Sure, sometimes he would forget to eat, and sometimes sleep eluded him in favour of churning away at work – that oftentimes seemed meaningless to others – but with Phil around to pull him away from his tasks and force him to take care of himself, he managed the troubles of life just fine. 

 

That being said, perhaps Techno had bitten off more than he could chew with the Antarctica Empire. It wasn't running the Empire itself that was pulling Techno thin - no, it was the amount of work Techno had shoved onto himself that was pushing his limits. Phil had just as much work as Techno did, but Techno had somehow found a way to give himself more work. There had been several skirmishes across the edges of the Empire along with new trade deals popping up that looked to use the business opportunity war brought. The boarding nations were hostile, and Techno could sense that war was brewing on the horizon, and he wanted to prepare.

 

Admittedly, Techno was perhaps preparing a little too much too quickly. He and Phil barely had any time to talk anymore and when they eventually did have a break in their day, it was too short a window for any of the quality time they once enjoyed. When they finally crawled into bed at the end of the day, they were too exhausted to talk, half-heartedly trying to rush self care while cuddling. Phil's wings were dusty and ruffled, with mismatched levels of care scattered across the feathers, and Techno's hair hadn't been brushed out in days. It hurt, seeing the lines of stress across Phil's face and the bags under them, but Techno knew he wasn't any better.

 

They usually had to drag the other away from their desk, oftentimes being too tired to change into proper bed clothes when they finally collapsed. It was exhausting, and the worst part was the lack of any real battles between any of the involved. It was just petty border skirmishes:pissing contests between both sides that sent ripples between the population and stirred unrest. It was a headache for everyone involved, and even worse, people were jumping at the opportunity for war and conflict; propaganda spreading in order to spark the flames of war.

 

It was exhausting to try and hold onto the peace they had worked so hard to get, and not for the first time, Techno found himself considering dropping the entire gig for good. Running away with Phil, living in the woods for a few decades: where they were the only people in the world and nothing else mattered than them. 

 

Regardless of how much he wished, Techno still found himself sitting at a desk all day, back and wrist aching. He would work until he had a meeting, return to working, and only stop when he went to drag Phil away from his own work. Often, Phil would be asleep the minute his head hit the pillow, and Techno would quietly slip away for more work and return only when the rising sun harshly reminded him that he needed sleep. Techno would eventually return, only to toss and turn until he grew tired of trying and pulled himself out of bed before Phil even woke up.

 

It hurt to leave Phil looking so tiny –curled into a ball with his wings around him to make up for the warmth Techno usually brought – but Techno had accepted the amount of work he had for a reason, and he couldn't let his guilty conscience keep him from it.

 

So there Techno was, sitting at his desk once more; a pile of letters and blank papers to sign and write. It was tedious work, and his hand was cramping painfully the longer he went on, but it was fine. He lost track of how long he worked for, but through his window he could see the shine of stars in the night sky.

 

Eventually, of course, because he couldn't have anything good these days, Techno's work was interrupted by the opening of his door.

 

"Techno?" a tired voice asked behind him, and Techno stiffened, hand freezing on the page. Ink bloomed from where it was frozen on the paper, a dot of black pooling out. Techno slowly turned around, and sure enough, standing in the doorway and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes was Phil. "What're you doing still working, mate?"

 

"Just finishing up a few more papers," Techno dismissed easily. Anxiety thrummed through his veins, because despite knowing he was in the right, being caught in the act was… unpleasant. Phil's face twisted into a scowl at his words.

 

"It's way past your bedtime, mate," Phil said with a chuckle, crossing his arms as he leaned against the doorframe. His wings were folded against him, feathers ruffled from a lack of care. Techno turned away from Phil, throat burning with shame.

 

"I'm not a child, Philza," Techno said stiffly. He tried to return to his work, but the words on the page were blurring in front of him, almost floating in the air. For a moment, Techno thought he had somehow forgotten his glasses, but he realized it was just exhaustion clouding his mind, leaving his thoughts slow and sluggish. 

 

"You still need to sleep at some point though, mate," Phil snorted. Techno resolutely ignored him, determined to have his way. His hand was shaking as he tried to keep writing, but he needed to get the letter done. His handwriting came out rough and shaky, and Techno made a noise of frustration at himself. 

 

"Techno," Phil said sternly from behind him. Techno ignored him once more, continuing to work through the letter he was writing despite the way his head pounded. He needed to get the stack on his desk sent out by morning if they wanted anything to be accomplished, and he couldn't let Phil distract him.

 

"I'm busy," Techno said curtly. His back ached from sitting all day, and his eyes burned and blurred with the heavy fatigue that had followed him all week, but he didn't let it hinder him. The sound of his quill scratching against paper grated on frayed nerves, but he forced through it.

 

Phil sighed heavily, and then footsteps approached him. Techno stiffened in anticipation, but he continued to ignore him in favour of work. It was only when his glasses were plucked from his nose did Techno finally respond.

 

"Phil-" Techno started, but he never got to finish as blessedly warm hands pulled his head back and forced him to lean back so he was no longer hunched over. Techno tried to will himself to fight against the touch, but his limbs refused to cooperate with him: mind disconnected from his body. Phil gently brushed the hair out of his eyes, taking the quill from Techno's hand and carefully setting it to the side. Techno's eyes fluttered shut against his will, and he could only manage a soft noise of protest.

 

"Yeaah, that's what I thought," Phil murmured, and Techno cursed how much his friend knew him. "Go to bed, Techno."

 

Techno groaned in response forcing his eyes open. Phil was staring down at him, his face pinched. He traced gentle circles into Techno's temple, and Techno's eyes slipped shut once again. Techno needed to get up, he knew, but the task was so daunting a whine left his lips against his will.

 

"I know," Phil said, pressing a small kiss on Techno's forehead with a coo. Techno hummed back as Phil gently nudged their foreheads together, words of protest settling on his tongue yet refusing to leave.

 

After a long moment of internal argument – chat useless as always –Techno breathed a shaky sigh out. Reluctantly, Techno gathered his arms beneath him to push himself up, knowing it was useless to try and fight him. His legs wobbled underneath him from disuse, and Phil quickly appeared at his side, wrapping an arm around him and tucking him into his side. Techno loathed to admit it, but he leaned heavily against Phil as they walked: eyes half lidded. A wing slid around him, soft and warm and so much like a blanket that Techno's eyes were practically forced shut against his will. He let himself be led, trusting Phil to remember the way. When their bedroom door suddenly shut behind him, he was startled more awake, but as soon as he was gently pushed onto the bed exhaustion hit again. He let Phil tug his coat and boots off, happily letting himself be manhandled into bed.

 

Phil slid into bed next to him; an arm wrapping around him and gently massaging his back. Techno breathed a sigh of relief as he finally relaxed, Phil cooing gently beside him. As Techno finally allowed himself to breathe, the stress of the past week finally hit him, leaving his breath hitched and tears prickling his eyes.

 

Phil held Techno's hand in his own, carefully massaging the tension out of his palm. "You can't keep doing this to yourself, mate," Phil murmured. Techno sighed shakily, hiding his face into Phil's shoulder so he didn't have to look at Phil, to see the disappointment in his eyes.

 

"I know," Techno replied, eyes burning in shame. "I know."

 

Phil pressed a gentle kiss to the crown of Techno's head, other hand still working out the knots of his back muscles. It hurt, but in the best way possible: weeks of tension finally released. He was practically melting under Phil's hands, the exhaustion finally catching him in its grip and holding him like a vice. 

 

"We're both gonna take the day off tomorrow, okay?" Phil said: voice leaving no room for argument. Techno opened his mouth to protest, but Phil just shushed him as if he knew what he was thinking. "We both need a break, the Empire can live without us for one day."

 

Techno hummed. Phil's hand eventually moved up to Techno's hair, carefully detangling it. Techno had forgotten how horrible the lack of upkeep had made him feel until it felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Much like Phil's wings were his pride and joy, Techno's hair was of great importance to him: a crucial part of the culture in his piglin half he spent so much time trying to preserve. As Phil worked, Techno started to gently preen his wings despite how slow his hands moved, hoping to show his gratitude where his words failed him.

 

Before he could get anything substantial work done, however, Phil gently knocked his hands away from his wings. "This is about you, not me," Phil reminded him.

 

"Isn't flock suppose' ta reciprocate flock?" Techno fired back smugly, voice a tired drawl. Phil was silent for a long moment, his hands stilling in Techno's hair. Techno grinned widely, knowing he had won the battle, and he happily returned to preening his friend. Phil groaned in irritation, but didn't try to stop him again, returning to gently combing his hands through Techno's hair. 

 

The longer Techno laid there, secure in his friends arms, the more exhaustion made itself known, until Techno's hands refused to move, simply laying on Phil's wings.

 

"Get some rest, okay?" Phil whispered, bumping their heads together with a coo. "I'll be here in the morning."

 

And how could Techno say no to that?




[———]




It was supposed to be a regular vacation and a regular mining trip, but of course their luck could never be that good, could it?

 

The trip had started out well enough, light banter being exchanged between them as they mined. They were getting lucky with their finds, acquiring more iron for the complicated  contraptions Phil insisted on making; and more diamonds and gold, despite neither of them needing more shiny things. It was the way back- once they had decided they'd gathered enough materials -that things went wrong. 

 

Mobs had started to spawn more as they walked, and while bullying zombies was almost always fun, skeletons were a pain to deal with in caves. It was far from the trickiest situation they had to deal with, but avoiding arrows in tight spaces was always difficult no matter how much experience you had. They had been laughing and joking around for the entire time making a little game out of it. It had been quaint, the thing they loved to do, but when had they ever had anything simple?

 

"I think you're getting rusty, Philza,"  Technoblade teased. Phil glared at him, stabbing his sword into a zombie with a huff. The zombie disappeared with a puff of magic, the smell of burning rotten flesh invading Techno's nose.

 

"I'm not rusty, just tired," Phil replied. Techno made a disbelieving noise as he twirled his own sword in his hand.

 

"Have you tried sleepin'?" Techno drawled, lips twitching into a smile.

 

"Oh, fuck off."

 

Technoblade laughed, shaking his head as they continued to walk. It was silent aside from their footsteps, torchlight casting flickering the shadows on the walls. It was a peaceful quiet, and then Techno heard a faint scuffle behind him. His ears twitched back, because he knew every noise Phil made and that wasn't one of them.

 

Technoblade moved to turn his head, lips parting around a question, and then he heard the horribly familiar hissing of a creeper. Techno's eyes flew open as he stumbled on his feet in surprise, but before he could try and warn Phil, hands appeared on his back and shoved .

 

Technoblade was sent flying forward, sword slipping out of his hands, and with a boom , everything went dark.

 

When Technoblade woke up it was not all at once, but slowly. The first thing that returned was his hearing: an oppressive, high pitched ringing that made his head slam with pain and muffled the voices' cries. The second thing he became aware of was something coating his legs and back, heavy and digging into his skin. When he shifted in his place, they rolled across his skin. After a long moment of only that, he could feel the cool stone beneath his hands, and the taste of blood in his mouth. 

 

When the ringing eventually cleared and he could finally focus on reality, Techno inhaled, coughing as dust invaded his lungs. His head pounded in tune with his heart, something wet sliding down his neck. His eyes burned when he forced them open, tears rising to get rid of the dust and sticking to his lashes. Techno slowly pushed himself up from the floor with shaky arms, grunting with effort. The light in the cave was almost completely gone, only the embers of his torch remaining and casting a low orange glow. Techno's palms stung with pain; gravel digging painfully into his scratched up hands. Rocks and gravel debris slid off his back and onto the floor as he moved to rest on his knees, head spinning at the movement. Techno coughed again, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand as he tried to blink his tears away.

 

Techno waited for the dust in the air to settle, breathing shallowly. His throat and mouth were uncomfortably dry, and no amount of trying to clear his throat would soothe the burn. For a moment, everything was horribly quiet, too quiet, and it was only until Techno heard a high pitched whine echo across the cavern that he remembered what was so horribly, horribly wrong with the situation.

 

"Phil," Techno breathed. He inhaled sharply at the memory of being shoved forward before the explosion. He coughed into his hand as he twisted around, frantically searching the fallen boulders for a sign of his friend. You self sacrificing idiot, he hissed in his mind, shoving away chat's attempts to get his attention. For a terrifying moment, there was nothing. Techno's ears perked up to attention as he waited, desperately hoping, and he heard faint, wheezing breaths.

 

Techno scrambled across the cave, blindly searching across the line of rocks until he made contact with a limp, cold hand. Techno didn't hesitate to curl their fingers together, pressing the pointer and index of his free hand into Phil's wrist. For a second where Techno's heart stopped, there was nothing, until he pressed harder and found a weak, fluttering pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief, but the fear in his heart had been jump started and refused to be quelled. 

 

"Phil?" Techno asked in the silence, desperation creeping into his voice. After a moment where Techno couldn't breathe, Phil's hand weakly squeezed his back. Techno couldn't even let out a relieved sigh, breath still caught in his throat. As Techno's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could make out the faint form of his companion amongst the rubble. 

 

Techno swallowed roughly. The silence was deafening, and the lack of response was more terrifying than anything else. "Are you… okay?" Techno asked hesitantly. He received two squeezes of his hand back. No.

 

Techno swore softly, rubbing Phil's knuckles with his thumb as he tried to figure out a plan to get him out from underneath the rock. Techno hated to hear how strained Phil's breathing was, and almost absentmindedly, he returned Phil's squeezes with three of his own. Phil's fingers twitched in response, muffled whimpers cutting through the silence. 

 

"Well, I need to move the rocks from on top of you. Where's the worst uh, part?" Techno asked. No response. "Phil?" Techno pressed. A low whine finally answered him, and Techno forced down an irritated sigh.

 

"Phil, you gotta answer me, man," Techno said with a nervous chuckle. His heart was beating too fast in his chest: lungs rattling in between his rib cage as he tried to force his breathing to calm. Phil was never so quiet, never , and that was more terrifying than anything else could have been. The silence stretched on – only their shaking breathing filling the air – until finally a choked sob sounded out, the only response to his question. Techno wanted to press more, because he needed an answer, and then Techno remembered so many situations where the roles had been swapped, where Techno had been the one not responding and oh, he was an idiot.

 

"Oh, are uh, you... Words hard?" Technoblade finally asked. His hand was tightly squeezed almost immediately, followed by a pained chirp. Yes. Techno sighed heavily, head hanging as guilt crashed over him. He should have recognized that almost immediately, because even when he was in crippling pain Phil had never been silent before, never been reduced to tiny chirps that used to only signify happiness. The worst part of it was that it made sense, because of course an avian hybrid wouldn't like tight spaces or being pinned down and unable to escape. Of course.

 

"Sorry," Techno whispered. He tapped Phil's wrist with his thumb three times, a silent, apologetic I love you. Phil weakly squeezed his hand back. I love you too.

 

"Alright, I'm gonna uh, work on those rocks now.”

 

Techno let out a nervous laugh as he gave Phil's hand a final squeeze. Reluctantly let go of Phil's hand, because even though he wanted nothing more than to hold on for the rest of time, he needed to get the rubble off. Immediately, Phil whined at the loss, and all Techno could do was gently shush him. Techno hated everything about the situation he was in, hated to hear Phil sound so scared, but his friend was counting on him and he couldn't let his own anxieties get in the way of helping him.

 

Techno carefully moved his hands to try and get a gauge on what he needed to do, tracing the outline of the cold stone. Thankfully, Phil had managed to avoid the large boulders, but several large rocks had still pinned him down across his wings and back. Despite knowing how badly it could turn out if he accidentally knocked a stone loose, Techno knew he needed to move quickly before Phil broke even more bones than he probably already had. After double checking to make sure he knew what he was doing, Techno slid his fingers underneath a large piece of stone – ignoring the sting of his palms at the movement – and lifted it up with a grunt of effort, carefully setting it to the side.

 

The process was slow, far too slow for his liking. The occasional sharp intake of breath or whimper Phil let only made it worse - a constant reminder of the pain he must have been in. As he worked, Techno talked to fill the silence, both to assure Phil he was there and try to fill the silence. He was rambling about absolute nonsense and things Phil had surely heard before; he knew it, but he didn't care. With every stone removed, the weight on his chest lessened ever so slightly, until he finally pulled the final piece off Phil's back and placed it to the side.

 

Phil's wings twitched, quivering at newfound freedom from being trapped. Techno carefully pet Phil's hair, sighing shakily. Techno wanted nothing more than to pull Phil into his arms and hide him from the world, but Techno had memorized what a broken wing looked like on his friend and his wings: Phil's wings, his pride and joy, were so clearly broken, sprawled out across the stone in a disjointed way and accompanied by choked noises of pain.

 

"Your wings are…" Techno took Phil's hand in his own once more as he tried to gather his thoughts. "Gods. Okay. Are you heavily injured anywhere else other than your wings?"

 

One squeeze back. Yes.  

 

"Do you think it could be fatal?"

 

Yes.

 

"Fuck," Techno swore softly. "I think I have a couple of potions still intact in my bag-"

 

Technoblade was interrupted by Phil digging his nails into his palm with a sharp trill. Techno froze, lips still parted around words lodged in his throat. He glanced down at Phil, brows furrowing in confusion. "What…?"

 

Phil groaned, his hand twitching. He made a soft rasping noise, a clear attempt at talking, and Techno's heart jolted. "Wings won't.. heal right," Phil gasped out; voice so small Techno had to strain to hear it. Techno could hear the pain in it, could hear how forced it was. It felt like an invisible rug had been pulled from under Technoblade's feet, as if the world was spinning on its axis.

 

"But if I don't, you'll…" Techno trailed off helplessly: head pounding in tune with his heart. "You said it could be fatal."

 

"Just- break them again," Phil breathed, coughing wetly. Techno couldn't stop a quiet, mournful noise at the idea.

 

"Phil, I can't-"

 

"Please," Phil begged, "I- I can't- I can't-" Phil's voice rose into a breathless and panicked whine. Techno gently shushed him, brushing Phil's bangs from his hair with his free hand. Phil leaned into his touch with a broken sob, and Techno swallowed back whatever words he wanted to say. 

 

"Okay," Technoblade whispered. "I can… if it's what you want, Phil. But, I could try to fix them-"

 

"Too dark."

 

"I could still try," Technoblade argued, "and are you sure they'd actually heal wrong?"

 

"Yes, for… flight," Phil sobbed. His grip on Techno's hand was tight – nails digging into already distressed flesh – and it was all Techno could do to force down any noises of pain.

 

"And you're positive?" Techno asked slowly. Phil squeezed his hand, muffled whimpers cutting through the silence. Techno bowed his head, biting back the words he wanted to say, because the longer he thought about it, the more horrifying amount of sense it made.

 

Based on Phil's quiet, hiccuping sobs, and the wrong shape of his wings, they had been broken in several places. The healing process was made more complicated with a potion, and was often hit or miss for whether it healed right . Healing so many breaks at once would often cause the bones to heal disproportionately, and often left one or more places weaker or out of normal alignment. Techno had been forced to rebreak his own bones before, so he wasn't a stranger to the concept, but Phil had told him breaking a wing was one of the most painful things Phil had ever experienced. 

 

"If you're sure…"

 

Phil nodded into his hand with a strangled coo. Technoblade didn't want to agree, because even though he was right, breaking his best friend's wings was the last thing he wanted to do. Techno knew it was best to listen, and yet a selfish part of him wanted to be stubborn and disagree so he wasn't left haunted by what he had to do.

 

"Fine," Techno said eventually. Hesitantly, Techno pulled his hand away to sling a bag from his shoulders, dropping it to the side and opening it. to search for the potions he had mentioned. Sure enough, his fingers hit glass, and when he pulled it out a faint purple glow of regen met him, casting a colored light across the cave that sharpened the outline of Phil's shaking figure ever so slightly. 

 

Techno pulled the stopper out quickly, titling Phil's head up to give him a better angle. Phil made a soft noise as Techno pressed the glass against his lips, but he dutifully swallowed anyway. The process was slow, and Techno carefully caressed Phil's cheek, trying to keep his breathing steady. The sound of the potion working filled the cave- a faint sizzling pop of energy. When Techno pulled the glass away, Phil pressed his face into Techno's knee with a quiet trill of distress. Technoblade sighed shakily, rubbing circles into Phil's shoulder as he waited for the effects to finish. Even without full knowledge of what he was looking at, Techno knew the wings hadn't healed correctly, much like Phil had said. It had been expected, of course, but it still ached to see Phil in so much pain. Phil was clearly trying to hide his cries, and that was perhaps the worst part: hearing his quiet sniffles and trembling, wheezing breaths. 

 

When the faint bubbling of magic eventually faded, Techno carefully reached down and scooped Phil up, using a gentle care he rarely was able to show. Phil's wings barely moved even as he was pulled up to rest against Techno's chest, and even though he had fully expected it, Techno's stomach still twisted at the reminder of what he would have to do.

 

As soon as he was secure, Phil shoved his face into Techno's shoulder with a whine of pain, chirping miserably. Techno gently shushed him, bringing his hand up to search through Phil's hair for injuries: fingers ghosting across his scalp. It didn't take long to find a cut across the side of his head, and Techno's fingers came away damped with what could only be his blood. Phil trembled violently in his grasp, and his skin was cold to the touch as he tried to shove himself as close to Techno as possible. Techno hummed distressingly, pressing his nose into Phil's hair. It was such a stark contrast from the forced calm of before, and Technoblade had never been more concerned for his friend.

 

Phil's walls had always crumbled with physical contact, Techno supposed, heart twisting at every poorly concealed sob. Any words of comfort he tried to summon failed him. Phil had always been the one to comfort him, and being left to be the strong one was unexpected and quite frankly frightening. Phil had always been prideful, and seeing him completely vulnerable left a sour taste in his mouth.

 

Technoblade didn't want to prolong the inevitable, and Phil's breathing only grew more and more uneven and quick the longer they rested, so with a heavy heart, Techno slid an arm under Phil's legs and lifted him up. Using the cave wall to brace himself, Techno carefully stood. Phil's arms wrapped around his shoulders, a cold nose pressing into his neck. Techno tucked his bag back over his shoulder, and wasted no time in setting off, long legs carrying him through the cave quickly. Phil's wings settled against his back in a way that looked fundamentally wrong and painful, and it only solidified the horrible truth.

 

Leaving the cave system took too long, far too long, each footstep echoing loudly. Phil was shivering in his arms, noises of pain breaking through the uncomfortable silence. Techno hated it, and chat was an unhelpful scream in the back of his mind.

 

When light appeared through cracks in the ceiling –and Techno finally saw the light of day – the sense of relief he felt was numbed by an overshadowing sense of dread. The way back to their camp was familiar, and Techno had to force himself to not sprint back, not wanting to accidentally make the pain worse.

 

When Techno got to the camp, he breathed a sigh of relief, carefully setting Phil down onto the sleeping bags they had used the night before. Phil whined as Techno carefully spread his wings out across the blanket, and Techno rubbed at the spot between Phil's wings apologetically.

 

"Where should I uh. Y'know," Technoblade asked lamely. Phil's hand reached back towards his, guiding it to rest over his wing. Numbly, Techno offered his other hand, letting Phil place it too. Techno spent a long moment trying to memorize the locations, to make sure that they really needed to be broken again, but no matter how much he wished the opposite was true, Phil was right. 

 

"Go ahead," Phil croaked, after Techno had done nothing for a long and silent minute. 

 

"Are you sure about this?" Technoblade couldn't stop himself from asking one more time. "If I run, I could probably make to a city that sells something to put you under or numb the pain a bit, heck even some alcohol."

 

"I'm postive."

 

"Okay," Technoblade breathed. "Okay. And… I'm sorry, Phil," Techno whispered; heart twisting at the chips of fear Phil couldn't quite force down. "I'm so sorry. I'll do it as quick as possible, okay?"

 

Phil whined, and his entire body shook, but he nodded into the pillow all the same. Heart in his throat, Techno settled his other hand right where Phil had directed him, chest tight with anxiety. Technoblade's breath refused to leave his chest: a burning sensation in his lungs he couldn't shake. Techno took in one final steadying breath, and then moved.

 

Phil shrieked, wing flapping violently as he writhed under Technoblade's hands. Technoblade shoved a palm on Phil's lower back with a grunt, pressing him into the ground and holding him there. Sobs pitched up into terrified trills and screams as Phil wailed , desperately trying to claw out of Techno's hold, and Technoblade couldn't stop a sob of his own - throat and eyes burning. Tears trickled down his cheeks, and Technoblade moved forward, shoving a knee between Phil's wings as he moved his hands to the other wing. Desperate pleas and warbles tumbled out of Phil's mouth, and Technoblade choked on his own tears as he was forced to pin his friend down. When Phil had first trusted Technoblade with his wings, Techno had made a silent vow to himself to never abuse that trust, and even with Phil's full consent something in Techno shattered alongside Phil's bones. 

 

Techno didn't let himself flinch as he moved to the other wing and once more snapped the fragile bone beneath him.

 

Phil's body convulsed with another shriek, limbs jerking and shuddering as he cried and squirmed under him. Techno carefully guided Phil's wings into the position they needed to be in to heal, swallowing a sob as Phil cried out in pain at the movement, going still under him. When they were settled in the form Technoblade had memorized in case he of a situation like this one, he wasted no time in twisting Phil's head to side, uncorking the regen potion with his teeth as he held Phil's cheek down into the pillow. With the new angle, he could see the tears that streamed down Phil's face and the way his eyes were wide and glazed and full of fear. Technoblade didn't allow himself time to feel remorse as he pinched Phil's nose shut, blocking off his airflow, and shoved the bottle against his lips.

 

Phil gagged and choked around it, briefly struggling once more, but after Techno grinded his knee into the space where his wings connected his back Phil finally swallowed. Technoblade watched numbly as familiar burgundy swirls danced across dark feathers, spiraling off into the air and dissipating into nothing as Phil's bones and skin slowly knit themselves back together. 

 

Slowly, too slowly, Phil drained the bottle, until there were only a few drops remaining. When Techno pulled the empty bottle away, Phil coughed and sputtered, still sobbing without relief. The injuries healed both at a snail's pace and all too quickly. But eventually, after an agonizing long time of listening to Phil cry and beg, it was over.

 

Gingerly, Techno ghosted his fingers across Phil's wings. Phil flinched away from his initial touch, but stayed still as Techno prodded at it to make sure everything was healed. When he found his wings as good as new, Techno finally allowed himself a single, mournful cry. 

 

Technoblade carefully shifted away, pulling his leg back as Phil shuddered and sobbed. He wanted to comfort his friend, to pull him into his arms, but Phil had curled himself into a tight ball, wings a feathery shield. Technoblade leaned back, tipping his head back to stare at the sky as he covered his mouth with a shaking hand. He couldn't cry, he needed to be strong, but seeing Phil so broken had shaken him to his core. All he could focus on was the feeling of Phil struggling underneath him, his cries of pain and begs and gods, the image was burned into the back of his eyelids. Techno could feel his bones snap under his hands, and feel their blood mix together on his palm, and Techno sobbed into his hand, squeezing his eyes shut as he tried to force his tears back, and he wanted to vomit, but he forced himself to take deep, stuttering breaths.

 

After several long, horrible minutes, Phil finally started to calm down: rapid breathing slowing into something more normal. Technoblade watched as Phil shifted his wings away, blinking unseeingly at the ground in front of him. When Phil's eyes finally focused on Technoblade, Techno tried to give him a reassuring smile. Before he could react, a weight barreled against his chest as Phil flung himself forward, and was upon pure instinct that Techno's arms wrapped around him. Phil was shaking once more, cries loud as he tightly clung onto Techno. Phil's wings quivered, and Techno ran his fingers across his spine as an almost apology and held him close. 

 

"Tech," Phil whined desperately into his shoulder. Techno shushed him, carding his hands through Phil's hair. 

 

"It's okay," Technoblade whispered, voice cracking under the pressure of the cries he forced down, "It's okay."

 

Technoblade slowly rocked them back and forth, avoiding touching Phil's wings at all cost as he held him that much closer. For a while they rested there, until Techno eventually pulled back to look at Phil. Phil's eyes were bloodshot – tears streaming down his face – and the cut on his face was freshly healed and he was an absolute mess but he was okay and that was all that mattered.

 

Technoblade pressed desperate kisses on every inch of Phil's face he could reach, brushing his hair out of the way and grinning at the wet giggles he got in response. Techno cupped Phil's cheek with his hand, and Phil's eyes fluttered shut as he nosed into his hand with a chirp. The smile on his face was weak, and the hiccuping sobs that escaped him only further proved the point that he wasn't okay but he was better and that was all the matter. Techno pulled Phil back into his arms, burying his face into Phil's shoulder and trying to hide his cries because he wanted to run his fingers across ruffled feathers but all he could feel was the sensation of bone snapping beneath him.

 

His attempts didn't last very long, because soon Techno was sobbing apologies into Phil's shoulder, clinging onto him desperately as the voices screamed. Phil bumped their heads together with a coo, wings curling loosely around him.

 

"It's okay, mate," Phil assured between his own cries, and Technoblade shook his head, gasping around half formed explanations. They were both crying in earnest and the moment was so raw, vulnerable and open and all of their walls had been torn apart for the worst reason possible. His mind was spinning with guilt and concern and Phil had yet to stop crying but maybe, maybe they could be okay. 

 

(When they eventually ran out of tears and turned in for the night, exhausted beyond belief, they clung to each other tightly, Techno refusing to let go.)

 

And when they woke up and Phil was unable to walk, the effect of two potions in quick succession leaving him with an exhaustion unlike any other along with horrible chills, Techno had let him borrow his cloak as he packed up camp, and then scooped him up to carry home, cloak and all. A little bundle of feathers and delirious comments on the woods around them: annoying and yet endearing all the same. Techno carried Phil all the way back to their home, just so he could be sure Phil didn't try to push himself too hard. 

 

(Phil deserved to be the one cared for every once in a while, after all.)