There is a certain monotony that comes with immortality. Or perhaps monotony isn’t the right word. Perhaps it is apathy. It is the sense of loss dulling itself smooth, until grief doesn’t bite as much as it gnaws, aching but not quite fierce. It settles around your shoulders and leans, but it does not push or shove, and you don’t realize your axis is tilting until the ground meets you halfway.
It is frostbite’s beginning, and he wears it like a cloak. It’s like snow packed against him, muffling, quieting, and he feels the frost creep into his veins. It blocks out the hurt, and the pain. It blocks out the indescribable grief. It blocks out the lonely nights spent clawing at his own wings, bloodied feathers at his feet. It blocks out the dark. It blocks out the sun.
It blocks out the way his best friend looks at him some nights, like yearning and halfway to resignation, like he’s come to a conclusion he didn’t like. He doesn’t notice the way Techno pauses thoughtfully every time Phil disregards a mob’s death, or the way he stops chuckling when Phil cracks at his years lived, or the way he stops jokingly calling Phil old.
He doesn’t notice, because he averts his gaze when hearts are bared. He leaves the castle when the moon is high. He buries himself in his builds and his plans, and he sighs in the sweet relief of drowning. And when the water that clogs his lungs isn’t enough to freeze him from the inside, he takes to the skies. And he flies high, so high into the atmosphere that the air thins and the stars wrap him in breathless embrace, and he can dwell in the choking safety of living, and of falling, and of the denial he’s wrapped so tightly around his heart.
And so he lies in his nest of snow, iced walls encasing him in their frigid certainty.
And then it fractures.
The first strike of the awl comes one evening in the Antarctic, when they share a quiet night by the stables. He leans into Techno’s side, watching the lantern’s flame flicker through half lidded eyes, and frowns sleepily at how Techno fidgets, as if he’s nervous.
“Something worrying you, mate?” He asks, voice laden with sleep.
He shifts, as if to answer, then hesitates.
“Paperwork.” Comes Techno’s rumble, and Phil accepts it, nosing deeper into his cloak with a soft trill.
The second strike of the awl comes by a dying wolf at the forest edge.
Techno kneels at its side, cupping its panting muzzle. “It’s dying.” He says, softly.
Phil hums, “Looks like a runt. The pack must have left it alone to the mercy of the forest.”
Techno shifts in the snow, bringing a whimpering animal to his lap, tenderly avoiding its wound, where red sluggishly bleeds into the white.
“Mate,” Phil says, wings fluttering in the breeze, “we have to go.”
“I want to stay with it.” Techno says, avoiding Phil’s gaze, “Just until it passes.”
“It’s just a wolf, Techno.” Phil places a light hand on his shoulder, and Techno gently nudges it away.
“Please, Phil.” His voice is rough, heavy with something Phil can’t place. He steps back, and allows Techno his space to mourn.
When its chest no longer rises, Techno cradles it in his arms and places it gently under the arching trunk of a nearby spruce tree. He stands and brushes the snow off his pants, and his eyes point steadily ahead.
Phil asks hesitantly, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Techno replies.
And they continue westward.
The third, and final strike, comes weeks later at midnight, when the two leaders of an empire drunkenly stagger to the palace gardens, cheeks reddened by whiskey and wine. A party raves in the ballroom, celebrating the birth of a coalition, and the reconciliation of two neighboring factions. The music is stifled under the evening air.
Techno is leant against the trunk of an ancient dark oak tree, fist in his mouth, trying to keep from bursting out into laughter. Phil had already abandoned all pretenses of decorum, halfway to the floor, arms curling over his abdomen as he giggles into his sleeve.
Techno cracks a quip, and Phil laughs harder, wiping his eyes roughly.
“Gods, Techno,” Phil says, “What would I do without you?”
And there’s a beat of silence. And then several beats more. Phil glances over at his partner, half expecting to find him slumped over the bench, snoring. Instead, he finds Techno staring wistfully ahead, contemplative. There’s part of a question in his eyes.
Phil sidles closer, chin tucked in propped up elbows.
“Penny for your thoughts?” He asks softly.
And maybe alcohol loosens the tongue, or weeks long pondering gives way to resolve, or some mixture of both, and Techno hums thoughtfully, and he asks,
“Will you mourn me, when I die?”
Phil laughs uneasily, “Where’s this coming from? Technoblade never dies, right?”
Techno huffs quietly, “I’ll try my best, you know that,” he says, “But you and I both know you’ll outlive me in the end.”
Phil glances away, “You don’t know that,” he argues, “Piglin lifespans have always been incredibly under-documented, there’s a good possibility you’ll live up to centuries—“
“And you, longer.” Techno says.
“I’ve made my peace with it, with dying,” Techno says, simply, like he isn’t driving a knife through Phil’s heart and twisting, “I was wondering if you’ve made yours.”
There are words caught in his throat, and he opens and closes his mouth, like a fish gasping for air, and suddenly he’s made aware of how he’s drowning, of how hairline fractures stretched across the ice warn of an avalanche.
Phil tries for a laugh, voice teetering on the edge of wavering, “Truth be told mate, I was hoping you’d live forever.”
Techno softly exhales, light flickering in his red eyes. He takes Phil’s hand in his, loosely tracing over weathered scars.
“I wish for that, too,” he murmurs, “I want to live, breathe, and laugh by your side. I don’t want to be a distant memory.”
Phil swallows, his other hand digging into the piglin’s coarse fur, “A distant memory?”
“You don’t have to grieve for me, or mourn or miss,” Techno says, eyes pointed down, “I just— It’s selfish, I know, but I just don’t want you to forget me.”
“Techno,” Phil says, the wind knocked out of his lungs, “Techno, why wouldn’t I miss you?”
“You avoid it, when things die,” Techno swirls patterns onto his palm, constellations he on better days would appreciate, “and I thought that, well, it’d be easier if you avoid me too, that it would be better, if I didn’t continue to hurt you even after my passing. That you were doing it to save yourself the trouble of it.”
“You- You thought that I wanted to forget you?” Phil says, a warble rising in his throat, “ Techno .”
“It’s selfish, I know,” Techno says, ears pinned down, “It’s just—you’re the only one who knows me for me, and—“
Phil reaches up and drags him down, sniffling into his shoulder, “I’m sorry,” he says, “I’m sorry that I made you feel like I’d rather forget about you than get hurt.”
“I mean, it’s understandable , of course—“
“ Techno .” He says, despairingly, and the piglin goes quiet, “living like this, living this long, time tends to fly by so fast, a blink or two and a century’s gone by,
“But, with you,” Phil pulls back to look him in the eyes, and he gives a shaky smile, “Techno, these have been the longest years of my life.”
Techno sucks in a breath, and he lets out a quiet noise.
“You mean so much to me,” Phil says, “and I’m going to miss you so fucking much—“
And oh would you look at that, he’s tearing up.
“—but I’d rather grieve a millennia than miss a second of that time with you.”
“Oh.” Techno says, quietly, a small thing fragile enough to break.
Phil wipes his eyes roughly, knocking their foreheads together, “Yeah. Oh . You’re not getting rid of this old man just yet.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Techno says unsteadily, something like a smile pulling past his tusks. Phil matches is with a small one of his own. It wavers, when Phil averts his gaze.
“It’s hard for me to stay, sometimes,” Phil says, letting his head fall forward onto the other’s chest, words muffled into cloth, “It scares me, the thought of loving someone enough to break me.”
Techno shifts, breath rumbling in his lungs, “I think, and this obviously can’t compare to what you’ve experienced, but,” He forges on at Phil’s mumbled assent, “I think I’d rather lose you than face the thought of never having met you at all.”
And isn’t that such a novel thought?
“I don’t want to have lose you.” Phil says.
“I know.” Techno replies, solemnly, so seriously that Phil can’t help but believe it, even for a few precious seconds, “but I’ll find you, and you will find me, again, and again, in this life, or the next.”
Philza laughs quietly, “Yeah?”
Techno smiles, like he has a secret only he and the universe knows, eyes hardening with resolve, “You know me, Phil. Technoblade never dies.”