“so,” Sans says brightly once his brother's snores have finally evened out into a soft rhythm, “you, uh, you sure don't talk much with him around, huh?”
Papyrus's head is a heavy, familiar weight on his shoulder, his breath hot on Sans's clavicle. He's sort of drooling a little bit, even, clutching onto an empty beer bottle like it's a teddy bear, and Sans wishes for the life of him that he could understand what it is in his sweet, sad brother that has his doppelgänger frozen in terror every time they so much as make eye contact.
Papyrus normally didn't drink that much the night before a morning shift, but to be fair, he'd been matching the new Sans beer for beer. If Sans has picked up anything about his twitchy little twin in the handful of hours he's been conscious, it's that the guy seems pretty well-acquainted with the bottom of a bottle.
His skittishness seemed to increase exponentially with every drink Papyrus finished. He didn't seem happy about it, but he never refused the bottles Papyrus kept handing him, even if he looked more and more distressed each time he twisted a cap off with deft fingers.
Pap's a giant, sure. He's kind of got a tendency to loom, like he's not totally sure just how big he is, and Sans can sort of see how that might be intimidating, if you didn't know him.
But. This is a Sans, right? A Sans from....somewhere else he doesn't quite understand, okay, a Sans that probably shouldn't be able to exist in the same reality as him, never mind curl up at Papyrus's feet and work his way steadily through a twelve-pack, but.
He should know Papyrus too.
“sorry,” his not-twin mutters to his own curled toes. “i don't know much aside from what i told you, though.”
“yeah.” Sans sighs and tips his head back to stare up at the ceiling, browbone wrinkled in thought. “so you just...woke up there.”
His counterpart sighs, picks at the label of his beer. “yeah.”
“and you don't remember anything? you weren't—” he cuts himself off and then, apologetically, “i mean, Pap gets pretty hammered every time he goes to Muffet's, I just thought—”
And that's a flinch, that's the closest thing he's gotten to a reaction out of the guy in at least the last hour. His head snaps up, sockets wide in what might be surprise, if only he didn't look so horrified about it. “Papyrus...does this regularly?” he asks quietly.
“fuuuuuck,” he whispers, low and awed. “how do you—”
“how do i...?”
He somehow scrunches down even further into his jacket, shoving both hands deep into the pockets and dropping his gaze back down to his own feet. He's silent, still, for such a long time that Sans nudges at him with one knee and even then, he doesn't look at Sans. It sort of sounds like he's grinding his teeth. “d-doesnt it hurt?”
“doesn't what hurt?”
“when he— “ and they're so close there, so close to his dented little doppelgänger spilling something quantifiable at last, but he shrinks into himself and shakes his head instead. Takes a long swig from his probably-warm beer. The tip of his tail beats a tense staccato on the carpet. Sans is pretty sure he hasn't noticed.
“where are you from?” Sans asks gently, sick. “what...man, what happened to you?”
“i—how the fuck you expect me to answer that?” his twin rasps with a humorless little chuckle. “i just...this isn't where I'm from. I know that much. that,” and here, he jerks his head at Sans's big brother, curled around him and snoring softly, “isn't my brother.”
“dude, i hope not.” Sans eases out from under Pap's arm and slides to the floor with a soft thump. He reaches for his twin's hand, traces his thumb over a nasty crack spanning the width of his palm. Doesn't miss the way the other Sans sucks a breath in sharp through his teeth at the touch, but doesn't pull away. “no offense, but your brother sounds like a real asshole.”
“you don't even lock your door,” the other Sans says instead of any kind of real response. “do you—you really don't worry about that?”
He's dodging. Sans knows it—his brother gets the same kind of cagey look about him when he's trying not to tell Sans something, flicks his eyelights quick to the side exactly like that when he's forced to make eye contact.
Sans hates it when Papyrus does that.
But if he's like Papyrus in that regard, it's likely he doesn't corner well either—Pap gets snappish and cruel with his metaphorical back to the wall, like panic just saps all that chill right out of him, like he looks at Sans and doesn't see anything familiar. Like he's an enemy, which never lasts long, but continues to suck every single time. He's learned to leave his brother exits and right now, his doppelgänger is broadcasting loud and clear that he requires the same courtesy.
Sans blinks at the front door. “about...?” Papyrus had a bad habit of forgetting to lock the thing behind him when he stumbled home from Muffet's. More than once, Sans has opened the front door to leave for work and found his brother's keys still hanging from the lock, blessedly somehow untouched.
They lived in a pretty decent neighborhood. It also helped, probably, that they didn't have much worth stealing—the tv was too big to smuggle out unnoticed, and he had a hard time imagining anyone would bother breaking in for his action figure collection. “i mean, I do wish Pap would learn to lock the door, but.” He shrugs. “Snowdin's pretty quiet. Is it different, where you're from?”
For a moment, dim pink eyelights fix on him and just—he stares, blank, like he maybe doesn't understand the question.
“yeah,” he murmurs eventually, gaze flicking off to the left. “It's...different.”
He's quiet for a long time, after that, but he lets Sans hold onto his hand, so.
He'll count it as a win.
Papyrus doesn't knock.
He can't, with the armful of not-Sans, wrapped around him like a koala. He's shaking so hard Sans can hear his grimy bones rattling even from across the room. His flushed, ruddy cheekbones are pressed deep into Pap's bare shoulder, his back heaving in what looks like the beginning stages of a really spectacular panic attack.
“Um,” Sans says. He wasn't sleeping before he'd been so rudely interrupted. Instead, he's propped up against his headboard, battered copy of A Brief History of Time sprawled open across his lap, wearing his glasses and chewing on the end of a pen— not exactly equipped for a sleepover—but Pap's eye sockets are frantic.
He deposits the other Sans onto the foot of the bed, scrubs one hand over the back of his skull, mutters, “I'm, I'm going to Muffet's,” and promptly vanishes with a disarming pop.
“He's n-not, he's not wearing a sh-shirt,” the other Sans points out, blank sockets still fixed on the patch of carpet Papyrus had occupied not five seconds earlier. He's sweating again, fingerbones curled tight into the ragged hem of his hoodie. He looks like he's going to be sick.
“she'll think it's funny,” Sans says, waving a hand in dismissal. He sticks his pen into the book to hold his place and flips it closed, setting it next to his alarm clock, pushes his glasses up onto the top of his skull and pats the pillow next to him. “you wanna come up here and tell me what that was all about?”
His doppelgänger furrows his brows in what might count as a scowl on their fixed grin. He does not move. “no,” he snalps waspishly, his shoulders hunching up around to where his ears should be. “i really don't.”
His hands go still in his lap but they don't relax much. There's a nasty crack spidering all across the ridge of his knuckles, both hands, like he'd thrown a punch at something unyielding and promptly just gone for it again with the other fist. As Sans watches, the left hand reaches absent for his own throat, claws pausing just short of making contact, like he's feeling for something that's no longer there.
(Sans has a pretty good idea of what that something could be.
Papyrus isn't nearly as good at hiding things as he thinks.)
Sans considers his next words carefully, head canted slightly to the side.
It's...strange, isn't it, that he seems terrified of both of them, but only slavishly obedient to one? He hadn't really thought it strange, the new Sans's bristling introduction, but maybe that was because he hadn't actually seen Papyrus yet.
It didn't seem odd that the newcomer—injured and scared and clearly coming out of some kind Of bad situation—would snap at anyone who got close. It was only natural, only self-defense, but.
Papyrus seemed (seems) to...override that, almost. Like somehow his needs prioritize whatever terror has his twin so shaken.
If he'd just stopped to process at the time, if he had just thought it through, he would've seen something like this coming, maybe.
Not that he wants to—it's still him, after all, still essentially Sans under those horrible clothes and that weird, vacant smile and it's deeply, deeply unsettling to realize that it's only some lucky cosmic twist that landed him here, in this cozy bed with a warm—if generally lethargic and currently absent—brother and a job he adores instead of...well.
Wherever he's from.
And Sans isn't naive, okay—he's still a royal guard. He still has a job that's got him rubbing elbows with the less savory residents of the Underground. He's seen...not a lot of it, but enough to know clumsy doesn't always translate the way it should. Enough to guess, at least a little, what it means that his doppelgänger flinches at even the slightest movement from Pap, but seems relatively unruffled by Sans, even as he huddles, shivering at the foot of the bed.
He told him no, after all. Sans gets the impression that's not a word that comes out of his mouth with any kind of frequency.
“Okay,” he says, and squirms back into his pillows. The glasses join his book on the bedside table and he is acutely aware of two dull pink eyelights fixed on him as he snuggles down under the covers. “Turn the light off when you go to bed, if you don't mind? There's books, if you're not tired.”
He can't imagine that's the case. The guy looks positively drained, pale, deep shadows dragged beneath his eye sockets, and the kind of slump to his shoulders that can only mean bone-deep—hah—exhaustion.
He's still staring when Sans finally drifts off to sleep, though.
Sans wakes up at around three am, mouth dry as a desert and manages to make it all the way downstairs for a drink and back upstairs to his bedroom without actually remembering he has a guest.
(He makes a stop at Pap's door to check on him, of course, and is pleased to see that he managed to kick his sneakers off before collapsing on the mattress this time.
He's somewhat less pleased when he realizes the whole room reeks of gin and dirty laundry.)
He starts, nearly drops his glass when he sees the dark figure on his comforter. He only just manages to catch the thing before it falls to the carpet.
The other Sans is curled into a little ball like a dog, skull pillowed on crossed hands, his nasal cavity tucked neatly under the end of his tail. He's still fully-dressed, the fur-lined hood of his jacket obscuring the top half of his skull.
He looks so much smaller than Sans feels.
It's the work of only a moment for him to gather his pillows and dump them at the foot of the bed before clambering carefully over his twin and slipping back under the covers. He's careful not to touch the other occupant of the bed, but he'll be damned if he lets a guest sleep at his feet.
He does not, however, move away when his doppelgänger gives a tiny, contented sigh, or when he shifts minutely into Sans's side in search of warmth.