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A Fixed Debt

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Sans pressed a hand to his sternum, allowing blood to soak onto his trembling fingers. Each breath came as a shuddering gasp that sent an excruciating jolt through his wounded chest. As he limped across the golden tiles of the Judgement Hall, he nearly tripped over one of his pink slippers. His hands latched onto the bright column closest to him as his thoughts tried to catch up with what he was doing.

It was over. He had lost. The child – that disgustingly indifferent human child – had already left the Hall for King Asgore. They had taken everyone he had ever cared for and had murdered them. Everything had been destroyed in a matter of hours.

And now he was dying too.

He clenched his sockets shut. His sweaty hands skated across the pillar’s smooth surface, and he slid to the ground with a resounding crack.

How could he have failed so monumentally? All the signs had pointed toward the anomaly. The Core’s data. The unique characteristics of human souls. He should’ve seen the child a million miles away. If only he had prepared better…

Then maybe he could have saved Papyrus.

At the thought of his brother’s death, Sans could feel his soul giving way to his injuries. It was only a matter of minutes, if not seconds, before he would be nothing more than a pile of dust. Frankly, he welcomed death. He was so very tired. It wasn’t worth the effort to keep going all alone.

Plus, maybe when he died, he would see Papyrus again. He could imagine him standing in their kitchen, twirling around as soon as Sans entered the room.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, LAZYBONES? I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO SERVE YOUR DINNER COLD BY THE TIME YOU GOT HERE!”

Heh. The playful jibes. That warm smile. Those cheerful eyes. The pain of death would all be worth it just to see that again.

And yet…

It was all well and good to hope for a happy ending. But to bank on an afterlife? Heh. Well, he wasn’t holding his breath.

No, really, he wasn’t. In fact, his breathing was getting faster and faster.

Even though his bones were protesting through every movement, Sans slowly climbed to his feet. If he wanted a happy ending, he needed to make it himself. There was no use waiting around for someone to hand deliver it to him.

He dragged himself across the length of the Hall. With each step, his ribs tightened; it was getting difficult to breathe past the agonizing pain. When he reached the Hall’s western entrance, he created a doorway to his final destination: an unmarked room in the heart of the Core.

The moment he teleported, a wave of fatigue rolled over his body, sapping much-needed energy from his magic reserves. He choked on the sulfur-laden air, his soul desperate for any sort of nourishment. The effort only sent more stabbing pressure around his chest.

His fingers scrabbled for the light switch, and after three attempts, the room lit up. Old memories flooded his mind as he peered around the abandoned laboratory room.

There was ‘Dings, standing at the Trait Overflow Pump. His face was set with purpose as he reviewed the data on the computer screen. But as soon as he turned around to see Sans, a bright smile alighted his face.

And there he was again, whooping with exhausted giddiness after Sans had played the old whoopee cushion in the hand trick on him. The reports on the anomaly that the doc had been handing him went flying across the room, coming dangerously close to the open pit of lava on the far side of the room.

No, no. This was no time to get lost down memory lane. He was at Death’s doorstep. His arms and legs were numb, and as he limped to the other side of the room, he could feel the tips of his fingers beginning to loosen.

When he reached his destination, he cast his gaze downwards. At his feet was a hundred-foot drop leading straight to the bubbling lava that haunted his nightmares. He could still hear his best friend’s screams as he realized that his attempt to prevent the anomaly had failed. Not to mention the image of the doc’s body melting into a charred mess was forever burned into his memory. And his memory alone.

But ‘Dings hadn’t had what Sans did now – teleportation. If the doc had only waited just a couple more years, the numbers would’ve matched up, he was sure of it. Then they both could’ve lived and avoided all this destruction.

It didn’t matter. Sans had to take that chance now. He needed to restore everything to before the anomaly came to kill them all. If he could do this, then maybe everyone could live. Undyne. Alphys. Paps. Even ‘Dings himself.

It was time to perform the experiment that he should’ve tried ages ago.

With a great shuddering breath, he threw himself over the edge. As the blazing air whipped through his clothes, a touch of giddiness stole through him. His body quivered from the thrill of the fall. He wondered if this was how Dings felt right before his demise.

As Sans approached the bottom, he called upon his magic to open a gateway. He concentrated, with all his soul, on the world as it was seven years ago. His mentor. His friends. His colleagues. His brother.

The last thought – of his coolest bro in the whole universe – lingered in his mind as he opened his shortcut. His magic had an immediate effect. A burst of lava exploded below him, cascading around his invisible doorway. The air stirred with a violent, frenetic energy that crawled across his bones. Sans didn’t have time to dwell on it; already he was falling through the portal, and –

Everything disappeared. Wind no longer rippled through his clothes. The smell of sulfur was gone. There was no lava. No light. Nothing at all.

Darkness pressed into Sans, gripping him like nothing else. All pain had disappeared, dwarfed by the intense and unnatural blackness. He was suffocating, drowning. There was no air or noise or anything at all. This was all wrong! This wasn’t the past or the present or the future or anything else!

He had failed.

Suddenly, as he tumbled through the emptiness, his bones prickled. After the absence of any other sensation, the sharp pain dragged him from every other thought. He glanced at his hands. Tiny particles of bone were sloughing off him, dissolving into the dark. He wasn’t sure if it was dust or something else, but it was clear that his body was giving way to the impenetrable void.

No! He needed to escape!

His soul screamed in fiery revolt as he called upon the last of his reserves to create a portal to anywhere, anywhere, god please anywhere but here. An explosion of light – blessed, wonderful light – appeared before him. As he fell through the shortcut, some invisible force gripped at his body, trying to pull him back.

But as he shut off the flow of magic and crashed onto solid matter, it was as if a switch had been flicked. The void’s magnetizing tug ceased and a rush of sensation returned to him all at once. Pins and needles prickled his bones and pain sliced through his ribs. He unleashed a piercing scream, his mind too clouded to do anything else.

There was no doubt he was dying. And this time, he had neither the energy nor the motivation to halt the process.

He was done. Forever.

“SANS!”

A surge of determination engulfed his soul. Papyrus. Those were his footsteps. How? His brother was dead. It wasn’t possible. Unless…

The last vestiges of energy had been sapped from his body. He couldn’t even raise his head off the ground. The shadows that had gathered at the borders of his vision melded together as he lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

Something tugged at the remote corners of Sans’s mind. At first the sensation was subtle, like a gentle whisper blowing against his bones. But the longer he slept, the more insistent the feeling became. Even through his exhausted haze, it stabbed at his soul, drawing panic into his mind, until every part of him was screaming with a singular thought: get up and run. By the time he finally had the energy to drag his sockets open, his skull felt like it was on fire from the overwhelming compulsion.

The world spun before him in a whirl of color and light. No matter how many times he blinked, his vision wouldn’t clear. Nausea gripped him, and he squeezed his eyes shut to block out the dizzying blur.

He poured his attention into his other senses. His breathing was so labored that his ragged breaths were all he could hear. The taste of metal lingered on his tongue. Blood. He recalled his injuries and all that had led up to them. He shifted, feeling the sharp slicing pain across his chest.

But it wasn’t all he felt. Something warm and soft hindered his movements. It was hard to tell with his eyes closed, but it felt like he was swathed in a cocoon of blankets. Every time he twitched his arms, they rubbed against a soft but scratchy fabric. It reminded him of Papyrus’s favorite fleece throw that their parents had given him so long ago.

And speaking of Papyrus, his scent filled Sans’s nasal cavity. The sharp pine smell. The crispness of fresh snow. The familiar scent of Italian spices. It smelled like home.

And yet, everything felt… wrong. It was more than just his vision or the nausea. Something was striking him at his very core. His soul was racing like he had just gotten back from one of Papyrus’s training sessions. And whether he was home or not, he felt the compelling need to teleport as far away as he could. The sensation burned at him, bringing his mind to a frenzied panic.

He needed to… get up… before it swallowed him whole…

It took everything in him to open his eyes again, but when he did, his vision had finally stopped spinning. Yes, those were clearly the wooden beams that stretched across his ceiling in his bedroom. And that was definitely his old lumpy couch he was sitting on. But it still felt undeniably wrong.

He tentatively rolled to his side in the hopes of finding out what was going on. Bad idea. The movement only left him lightheaded and shaky, and he had to stop midway through the motion. The way his skull throbbed, he wondered if he had somehow hit it. Though his soul was lurching similarly…

“YOU ARE AWAKE!”

Sans jolted at the sudden shout, sending another wave of pain through his bones. But it was nothing compared to the flood of relief that surged through him.

“paps?” he croaked.

Papyrus was on him in seconds, scooping him into a sitting position and wrapping his arms around him in loving hug. An endless babble of words was streaming from his mouth, melding together into an incoherent mess. It was so much at once, but Sans didn’t know what to do or say to get his brother to stop.

So instead of trying, he pressed into Papyrus’s shirt, desperate to share his brother’s exuberance in his own way. The scent of basil and rosemary clung to Papyrus. God, he never would’ve thought he’d appreciate that smell so much.

“papyrus.”

Even though his voice was barely audible, it cut through his brother’s excited chatter like butter. Papyrus silenced immediately and squeezed Sans tightly. It was only when Sans squeaked out in soft protest that he loosened his grip. As much as Sans wanted to do nothing more than hug his bro until the end of time, his chest felt damaged beyond repair. He wondered if he might break.

“ARE YOU OKAY?” Papyrus yelped, his voice gravelly from emotion. “ARE YOU HURT? I MEAN OF COURSE YOU’RE HURT, BUT DO YOU FEEL BETTER THAN BEFORE? I TRIED TO HEAL YOUR WOUND, BUT YOU WERE SCREAMING, AND I –”

“stop, stop.” Sans nuzzled against Papyrus’s chest. “i’m okay. better than okay.”

“YOU ARE NOT! YOUR VOICE IS SHAKING! NOT TO MENTION THE FEVER, AND YOUR CHEST –”

“’m fine, okay?” he murmured, trying his best not to fall asleep against his brother in such a horrible position. “bad nightmare. or accident. something.” He sighed. “just need to rest.”

For a few moments, silence reigned over them. Sans took it as a sign that his brother had believed him or that he was at least was saving the third degree for later. But as Sans started to doze off, Papyrus startled him awake again with a loud wailing noise.

“whazzit?” he said, jerking abruptly. “paps?”

“I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! YOU’RE HERE! HOW? HOW?”

Sans blinked and pushed himself away from his brother. “huh? what d’ya mean?”

“YOU WERE GONE,” Papyrus sobbed out. “AND NOW YOU ARE HERE! YOU’RE HERE!”

Sans’s eyes latched onto his brother’s face. Sure enough, tears were spilling down his cheekbones. Sans sucked in a breath. That wasn’t all. A giant, elongated scar stretched across his brother’s right eye socket.

“oh my god, what happened to you?”

Papyrus hastily wiped away his tears. “WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

“your eye! holy crap!”

Papyrus balked, his brow crinkling with anger. And not the playful anger that he usually displayed when Sans told a bad joke or when he yelled about dirty socks. No, it was that silent, deadly rage reserved for the rarest of occasions.

“YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT.”

“i’m not, paps. jeez, it looks horrible.” He extracted a hand from his pile of blankets and extended it towards the scar. “how in the world – ?”

Papyrus slapped Sans’s hand away fiercely. “DON’T TOUCH IT!”

The shock of his brother’s action stunned him more than the pain did. Since when did Papyrus ever yell like that? Or hit him? It was inconceivable. Whatever had caused this injury must have been terrible.

Papyrus must have realized how cruel his actions had just been because already he was clutching at Sans’s hand, rubbing it tenderly.

“I’M SORRY! SO, SO SORRY! I – I – I REALLY DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT, AND YOU CAUGHT ME OFF GUARD! AND – AND –” He narrowed his eyes. “HOW DO YOU NOT REMEMBER ANYWAY?”

Sans shook his head. How was it possible? He had lived with Papyrus since he was born. There was no way he would miss something like that, and the injury was clearly several years old.

When he had made his portal, had he… gone to the future?

That made no sense. Papyrus had died. If he had traveled forward in time, his brother wouldn’t be sitting here.

As he peered at Papyrus, the sensation of wrongness intensified. Now that he was looking more closely, his bro seemed… different. Yeah, he had the same face, and he was the same height, and heck, he even smelled the same. But there were little details here and there that didn’t match up. Papyrus’s shirt didn’t usually have a Royal Guard emblem. Plus he didn’t usually give off such a tired aura. And… had his brother filed his teeth? Some of them were sharpened to points.

Papyrus seemed to have sensed something as well because he was scrutinizing Sans as well.

“WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR TOOTH ANYWAY?”

“huh? my tooth?” Sans pressed a hand to his mouth, gliding against the grooves. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with them, and they certainly weren’t sharp like Papyrus’s. “what’re you talkin’ about?”

Papyrus’s glare deepened. “GET OUT,” he snarled.

“huh?”

“I SAID ‘GET OUT,’ SCUM!” He leapt to his feet, his eye blazing with magic. “YOU ARE NOT HIM! YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER! YOU ARE AN IMPOSTER, A SHAPESHIFTER, A – A – A DOPPELGANGER!”

Sans shrunk into the couch cushions, a cold lance of fear running up his spine. He could taste the threat of an attack in the air. He had never seen his brother this angry in his life. Not even when Sans had gone on an impromptu week-long journey through the remote regions of Waterfall.

Except this wasn’t his bro, couldn’t be his bro. Because he had messed up big time. That teleportation through that shadowy emptiness… crap, where had he ended up? Another timeline? Another universe? God, everything was all wrong.

“HOW DARE YOU?”

Not-Papyrus jabbed his finger at Sans’s chest, poking right as his injury. When Sans released a pained noise, the other skeleton hesitated for the briefest of moments before allowing his rage to take over again.

“WHO SENT YOU?! THE CAPTAIN?! ONIONSAN?! TELL ME!”

Sans shook his head rapidly. “no one sent me!”

“I WILL NOT BE BESTED BY THE LIKES OF YOU.” Papyrus hovered over him, his body throwing a shadow over Sans. “THIS IS SICK! DISGUSTING! LOW EVEN BY MY ENEMIES’ STANDARDS!”

“crap, it’s me! sans! i swear!”

“PROVE IT!”

“i will! ask me anything that only i would know!”

Papyrus straightened his posture, a reluctant expression crossing his features. Sans sighed in relief as he was given a little breathing room. But the gesture only seemed to infuriate the other skeleton.

“FINE THEN! WHERE DID WE GROW UP?” He waved his hand as if dismissing the thought. “NO, NO, THAT IS TOO EASY! WHAT ABOUT… HMM… AH! WHAT IS OUR PET ROCK’S NAME? WAIT.” He scratched his skull. “HE DOESN’T HAVE A NAME.”

He began to pace back and forth, casting a frantic energy over the room. Every few seconds, he spat out a question only to hurriedly reject it for one reason or another. If Sans wasn’t so frightened, he may have found it amusing.

After a few minutes of this, Papyrus snapped his fingers. “I KNOW!” He twirled towards Sans. “WHAT IS MY FAVORITE BOOK?”

A smug expression adorned his face, as if he had solved a particularly difficult puzzle after Sans had teased him all day.

“heh. that’s it? peekaboo with fluffy bunny. i read it to you every night.”

Papyrus’s eyes widened comically. “YOU – WHAT?!” All the anger melted away, replaced with pure shock. “HOW DID YOU GUESS THAT?!”

Sans allowed his bones to sag now that the immediate threat of death was extinguished.

“not a guess. i’m sans.” He closed his eyes as the truth nipped at his soul. “just not your sans. and you’re not my paps,” he admitted, his voice breaking.

Papyrus’s mouth opened and closed over and over, but no words came out. Sans wondered how the hell he was going to explain time travel – or hell, universe hopping, of all things – to this version of his brother. It had been hard enough explaining the basics of his job to Papyrus back when he had worked at the Core. Who knew what he had to work with here? Had the Sans from this universe told him anything at all?

Wait… the Sans from this universe. Was there another version of himself walking around here?

As he readied himself to pose the question to Papyrus, there was a heavy knock at the door.

Papyrus gasped. Before Sans could say a word, blankets slammed into his body, draping over him.

“hey, what the –?”

“QUIET,” Papyrus hissed into Sans’s skull. “DO NOT SAY A WORD AND DO NOT MOVE.”

The covers fell over Sans’s eyes. If Papyrus hadn’t sounded so painfully worried, Sans might’ve considered taking a nap right there and pretending like this was all a bad dream. But his soul was thrumming in his chest from the warning of danger in Papyrus’s voice. His senses were on high alert as he listened to the commotion outside his hiding spot.

Not that they had to be with how loud Papyrus and the surprise visitor were.

“Well? Where is it?”

“I ALMOST HAVE IT ALL. LEAVE IT UNTIL NEXT WEEK.”

Sans grit his teeth as the other monster’s forced laughter echoed through the house.

“You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me. You’ve had two months. TWO DAMN MONTHS! They're not waitin’ any more, buddy.”

“I ONLY NEED ONE MORE PAYCHECK AND –”

His sentence ended with a loud yelp as an unexpected slamming noise sounded through the room.

Sans couldn’t handle hiding any longer. He tore the blankets from his skull and leaned over to get a better look at the entryway. A mange-covered, blue-furred rabbit stood at the door, their hand pressed into the door frame. They wore a collared shirt that was on backwards and a pair of tacky, mismatched boots. Their posture oozed with a smarminess that disgusted Sans.

Despite the fact that this guy was clearly a creep, Papyrus was intimidated. He didn’t think the guest could see the subtle signs of it, but Sans was able to read his brother – but not his brother, definitely not his brother – like a book. Seeing that expression on Papyrus made Sans want to summon a blaster right there. It would be satisfying to see the fear in the other monster’s face as they ran down the road with their tail between their legs.

“You’ve been tellin’ me ‘one more paycheck’ for the last two months, asshole. If you think for one second –” The stranger’s eyes caught onto Sans as he threw the blankets aside. “What the fuck?!”

Papyrus followed their gaze. Any delusions of his not-brother hiding his fear were tossed out the window. “IGNORE HIM, HE’S NOT INVOLVED!”

The rabbit’s focus returned to Papyrus. “’Not involved?’ Is that some sorta joke? You said he was dead! Boy, when Boss finds out about this –”

“THAT IS NOT MY BROTHER, YOU ARE MISTAKEN!”

“You must be dumber than fuckin’ dirt if you think I’m gonna buy that!”

“that’s rich comin’ from a guy that can’t even put his clothes on right,” Sans interjected.

The rabbit flexed their fists. “The fuck you say to me?”

It was a ridiculous insult coming from someone like Sans who didn’t even wear more than one outfit, but this loser was ticking him off in all the wrong ways. No one insulted Papyrus’s intelligence, whether he was truly his brother or not.

“since you don’t seem to get pap’s real obvious hints, lemme say it slow for you: l e a v e   b e f o r e   i   g e t   m a d.”

The other monster stared him down. “You’re messing with the wrong guy, asshole.”

With a wave of their arm, they summoned a circle of glowing carrot bullets and aimed them Sans’s way. Suddenly Sans was all too aware of how low his magical stores were. He wasn’t sure if he even had enough to teleport. All it would take was one hit and poof! He’d be a pile of dust.

But Papyrus was having none of it. Before the rabbit released their attack, a wave of bones shot up from the ground, extending across the doorway.

“DON’T YOU DARE!” The air tingled with unspent magic. “IF YOU DON’T LEAVE RIGHT NOW, I WILL SHOVE A BONE SO FAR UP YOUR ASS, YOU’LL BE SPITTING UP MARROW FOR DAYS!”

Sans went cold. What did Papyrus just say?

“You asshole! You’re dead meat next time! You hear that? DEAD! Boss isn’t gonna sit and wait around when I tell them about this bullshit!”

“FUCK YOU!” Papyrus bellowed before slamming the door shut, causing the wood to splinter as it crashed against the bones. As soon as the two of them were alone, Papyrus rounded on him, fury outlining his features. “WHY DID YOU DO THAT? I TOLD YOU TO HIDE, NOT TO INSULT THEM! I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY FOR THIS BULLSHIT, SANS!”

Sans glared at him. “he was being a jerk over a handful of gold.”

“ARGH! IT IS MORE THAN A ‘HANDFUL!’”

“well, he didn’t need to call you stupid.”

Papyrus rolled his eyes. “WELL, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CODDLING, BUT I CAN HANDLE AN INSULT OR TWO.”

“yeah, i noticed. since when do you use language like that anyway?”

Papyrus paused, eyeing Sans with shock. “YOU REALLY AREN’T MY BROTHER, ARE YOU?”

A silence fell between them, heavier and more suffocating than even that of the void-like space from before. Sans cast his eyelights downwards, suddenly unable to look Papyrus in the face. He gripped his knees, as a thought came to him. A thought that Papyrus gave voice to.

“HE IS DEAD. MY BROTHER IS DEAD.”

So it was true. This Papyrus’s brother was dead.

Just like his own brother.

The weight of it tugged at Sans’s soul. He was alone. Alone in a world he didn’t know with a monster so similar and yet so different from his brother. It made him sick.

“PLEASE –” The desperation in Papyrus’s voice drew Sans’s attention, and when he looked his face was a mixture of tears and anger. “PLEASE GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM. I CAN TAKE A LOT, BUT I CANNOT TAKE THIS.” He swallowed. “JUST… LEAVE.”

And with that Papyrus went upstairs, making Sans’s isolation complete.

Chapter Text

Sans nearly slipped out of his chair as the sound of the front door startled him awake. With a loud slurp, he sucked in the pool of drool that had dribbled down his face. When had he fallen asleep? He raised his head and rubbed his sockets to dispel the sleepiness from his eyes. Was that clock right? Ugh, he must’ve dozed off hours ago.

The noisy clanking from the other room told Sans that Papyrus was home and taking off his boots. His soul squirmed as he tried to mentally prepare for the encounter. It was sure to be just as lovely as it had been the last six days.

Papyrus stomped into the kitchen, his Royal Guard armor clanging noisily as he rushed to the refrigerator. As always, he was avoiding making eye contact with Sans, and chose to stare straight ahead at his destination.

“so, uh,” Sans said, tapping his fingers along the edge of the table. “how was your day?”

Papyrus flinched, but otherwise gave no indication that he had heard Sans. He tossed open the fridge door with such ferocity that it hit the wall and rebounded. Sans sighed as Papyrus swore under his breath and reopened it.

“if you’re lookin’ for the lasagna, i finished the last of it this morning.”

Papyrus’s hand clenched around the door handle. “WONDERFUL.”

Sans watched with a mixture of curiosity and sorrow as Papyrus gathered his tools and ingredients and began to cook. He hadn’t felt comfortable enough to be downstairs while his not-brother had whipped up his lasagna over the last week. But tonight he needed to stop moping and talk to Papyrus. And cornering him like this seemed the best way to do it.

It was strange to see how easily Papyrus cooked a half-decent dish. His own Papyrus struggled to even boil a pot of water without burning the noodles. Sans clutched at his chest as a flood of overwhelming grief poured through him. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. How could Paps be dead?

His not-brother slammed a plate of steaming lasagna in front of him, jarring him from his train of thought. As Papyrus sat in the chair opposite him, Sans hurriedly wiped his tears away. He needed to get himself together to discuss different universes and time travel, dammit.

But it was Papyrus who broke the silence first. “I GROW TIRED OF YOU LURKING IN MY HOUSE AND STEALING MY FOOD, DOPPELGANGER. I DEMAND TO KNOW WHEN YOU PLAN TO LEAVE.”

“i’m not a doppelganger,” Sans muttered through gritted teeth.

“DO NOT LIE. YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER, AS WE BOTH KNOW. THEREFORE, THE ONLY LOGICAL EXPLANATION IS THAT YOU ARE A DOPPELGANGER.”

“not exactly logical if doppelgangers are extinct.”

The shapeshifting monsters had been employed in reconnaissance missions during the human war all those years ago. When he was kid, their history classes used to tell them all about the subspecies. They were brave soldiers who had to adapt to different human cultures or face detection. His teachers had also told them about how the humans had eventually tracked down and murdered every last one. All in the name of war.

“THAT IS WHAT THEY SAY, BUT HOW WOULD ANYONE KNOW FOR SURE? THEY – THAT IS TO SAY, YOU – CAN TAKE ON THE APPEARANCE OF ANYONE!”

“listen, i’m not a doppelganger. i’m sans… but also not sans.”

“THAT MAKES NO SENSE.”

“well, i’ve been trying to talk to you ‘bout it all week, but every time i open my mouth –”

“THAT IS BECAUSE I AM NOT INTERESTED IN HEARING YOUR LIES. OR THE LIES OF WHOEVER PUT YOU UP TO THIS.”

Sans let out an exasperated huff. “would you just listen, paps, for one sec–”

“YOU HAVE STILL NOT ANSWERED MY QUESTION!”

Sans pinched the space between his eyes. “i don’t even remember the question.”

Papyrus smacked his hand on the table. “WHEN ARE YOU LEAVING? I WANT YOU GONE.”

The last word was spoken with such venom that tears sprang, unbidden, to Sans’s sockets.

“i don’t know,” he said with a slight shrug.

It wasn’t like he was planning to stay forever. He had every intention of returning to the Core as soon as he was healed. Maybe he’d give another shot at teleporting back to his universe to a time when his brother was alive. The problem was his injuries weren’t healing as fast as they should. And god, when he focused on the wound, the pain seemed to grow even more.

He knew why. It was because he didn’t really want to heal. There was nothing to live for. Sure, he could jump into the Core again and try to manipulate the anomalous energies to get back to his universe. But that was assuming he could survive another journey through that void-like space. Not to mention, the chances of getting back to his old life were astronomically small.

And that meant his brother was truly dead. Forever.

Papyrus broke the silence with an angry sigh. “WELL, I WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU LEFT SOON. I AM SURE YOUR BOSS WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS CANNOT BE SO EASILY THWARTED EVEN BY SUCH LOW TACTICS.”

“i already told you,” Sans said with growing irritation. “i’m not working for anyone.” He raised his head to stare Papyrus straight in the eye. “and i’m really sorry if i’m botherin’ you.”

A flicker of rage ran through Papyrus’s features. “YOU ARE NOT BOTHERING ME.”

“i’m sure i am,” Sans sighed. “it’s like lookin’ at some messed up image of your bro. it’s different in the weirdest ways.” His soul lurched. “it hurts, i know.”

Without warning, Papyrus sprang to his feet and rushed to the front door.

“I AM LEAVING. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT DOWN HERE WHEN I COME BACK. GO UPSTAIRS AND WALLOW IF YOU MUST. OR BETTER YET, LEAVE THE HOUSE ENTIRELY! JUST DON’T BE WITHIN MY SIGHT BY THE TIME I RETURN!”

With that, he scurried out of the house. He didn’t even put on his boots.

Sans cursed to himself. Why the hell was this version of his brother so… frustratingly stubborn?! It was like running into a brick wall. A particularly pissed off brick wall that ran away every chance it got.

He glanced at the now-cooled lasagna and let out a grunt of disgust. That was it. He’d eaten this crap for every meal over the last six days. It was one thing to sacrifice his taste buds to someone who cared about him. It was another thing completely to do it for this… jerk.

He zipped up his hoodie –not his hoodie, but the black and red one that his counterpart had left behind – and exited the house. The familiar brisk winds of Snowdin whipped around him, chilling him to the bone. From the looks of the dark clouds hovering below the cave ceiling, he hazarded a guess that the town was about to get hit by a wicked snowstorm. A heavy flurry was already coming down on him, soaking his clothes.

He rushed down the path, dodging the confused stares of the townsfolk. Snowdin was undeniably different. The shops were dingier than he was used to, and the other monsters seemed unkempt and grouchy. Even the familiar Gyftmas tree was notably absent. Sure, it wasn’t that time of year in this universe – he had checked – but Snowdin residents left it up year-round. They always embraced the Gyftmas spirit.

But everything about this world seemed a little colder than he was used to.

By the time he made it to Grillby’s, he was more than ready for a pipin’ hot meal. He stepped inside the restaurant and shook the snow from his jacket. It was nice and warm in here, and yet… he didn’t feel like it was any friendlier than outside.

He made his way to the bar, glancing around the room as he went. Many of the patrons he recognized; others he didn’t. But every single one of them was staring at him. There was more than curiosity to their expressions too. Was Doggo glaring at him? Why did Red Bird look so revolted? And what was that aura coming from that moldsmal?

The feeling that something was wrong returned full force.

“…Sans?”

He directed his focus to the bar, his soul racing when he spotted the very monster he had hoped to see. Well, sorta. Grillby was… different, to say the least. How the hell had he made himself purple? And his black dress shirt was unbuttoned to his chest, leaving nothing to the imagination. It was actually pretty amazing. Sans sidled up to his usual spot, never taking his eyes off the mesmerizing flames.

“…Is that really you, Sans?”

There was something about the way Grillby said his name that invoked that familiar yearning to embrace the monster. He could imagine the way those flames would lick around him, warming him to the core. God, that was pathetic. They hadn’t dated in years, and it wasn’t like he shared any of those memories with this Grillby.

“heya,” he said casually.

Grillby frowned. “… I can’t believe it. After all this time?”

“yeah, well, don’t believe it. i’m not the skeleton you’re thinking of.”

“…What does that mean? Who are you?”

“sans. it’s hard to explain, but, uh, i’m not the sans you know.”

Grillby snorted, his flames popping. “…Well, ‘Sans I don’t know,’ what are you doing here? Your brother said you were dead.”

The way Grillby was speaking was odd. It was like he didn’t care that Sans was miraculously alive again. Maybe… the two of them didn’t know each other that well in this universe?

“well, i’m clearly not a walking pile of dust,” he joked. “i just came by for a ‘burg. gettin’ tired of lasagna.”

“…And your tab?”

“yeah, thanks, put it on the tab, grillbz.”

Grillby’s flames flickered wildly. “…I meant when are you going to pay it off? It’s been past due for years now.”

Years? Crap, was that how long the Sans from this universe had been dead or had the idiot not been making payments while he had been alive? Either way, it wasn’t good news for him.

“well, i don’t got any gold on me. figured an old pal like you would be willing to feed me.”

Grillby looked ready to throw him out the front door. Yeah, this wasn’t going to work. Sans was halfway out of his seat when Grillby stopped him.

“…Of course I’ll feed an old friend,” Grillby crackled, his tone gentle. “…What do you want?”

Sans smiled fondly. “damn, grillbz. thanks a bunch. really appreciate it. how about the usual? can't go wrong with that.”

"…No, you can't." Grillby turned towards his mixing station, grabbing a tumbler and some alcohol. “...I’m surprised your brother is allowing you to come here.”

Someone tittered loudly, but when Sans twisted around, everyone was engrossed in their own conversations.

“he’s not my bro,” Sans murmured.

Grillby set a bottle of beer in front of him.

“…You two had a fight then?”

Sans sighed. “that’s not what i meant.” He sipped the bottle and nearly gagged at the bitter undertones. Man, the Sans of this universe had some bad taste if this was his drink of choice. Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and boy, he was really begging for some alcohol right now.

“…So where is Papyrus?”

“dunno, don’t care.” He knocked back the drink and glugged half the bottle. “he’s sick of me taking up room in his house. don’t blame him though, i’d be sick of me too.”

“…Been cooped up in the house too long?”

“yeah, you could say that.”

Grillby’s grin twitched. Another customer called for him, leaving Sans alone at the bar. While he was gone, Sans tried his best not to dwell on the way that this universe’s Papyrus had spoken to him earlier. “I WANT YOU GONE,” he had said. Sans sipped on his drink, trying to drown out the words. Yeah, well, he couldn’t wait to leave.

As he drank his fill, his bones grew uncomfortably hot. He shed his hoodie, stuffing it below the bar stool. After what felt like a couple minutes, he was surprised to see he had already finished his beer. He was even more shocked when Grillby placed another on the counter almost immediately.

“hey, thanks, bud.”

“…Of course.”

He took a large swig, and continued where he had left off. “it’s just… i was afraid if i left and messed up again, he wouldn’t let me back in. got nowhere else to go until i can leave for good, y’know?”

“…That does sound like a conundrum.”

God, these drinks were strong. He was talking way too much, and everything was slowing down in a pleasantly soothing way. And boy, his bones were burning up. It was nice though. He hadn’t kicked back like this in a long time. He downed some more.

“and he’s so mad,” he slurred. “i mean, i would be too if i were in his boots, but he doesn’t gotta –” He twirled his finger in the air. “ – get so wound up when i try to talk to ‘im.”

“…That is true.”

“and what’s worse is that i’m the one that’s causin’ it. i messed up bad. real, real bad. shouldn’t even be here. if i hadn’t decided the core was a good place to jump, it’d be different. i coulda tried somethin’ else. the machine or i don’t know what else.” He smashed a hand to his face. “dumb, dumb, dumb.”

He closed his eyes. It was nice being able to talk, even if Grillby didn’t really get what he was saying. That’s what he had always done for him. He was a great friend, a right old pal.

And being comfortably buzzed helped a lot. In fact, he was the happiest he had felt in ages. He opened his eyes and allowed his eyelights to linger over Grillby’s body. His violet flames were so enthralling the way they curled and sputtered. It was almost exotic how they danced before him.

“…Feeling your drink there?”

Sans giggled. As soon as the noise escaped him, he clapped a hand to his mouth. His already warm face heated up even more.

“…No need to be embarrassed. It feels good, right?”

Sans blinked, trying to see past the blurriness. “yeah,” he said, nodding. “feels real good.”

“…And there’s nothing wrong with that, right?”

“heh.” He tilted his glass, which, amazingly, was already empty. “this stuff is strong.”

His bones were searing now. All he wanted to do was take off his shirt. Maybe roll around in the snow or… something. He parted his teeth and allowed his tongue to flop out as he panted.

“…That stuff is the strongest in the Underground, yes.”

Sans leaned into his hand and chuckled. “stronger than… than… crap, can’t think of a pun.” He hiccupped. “man, what’s in this stuff?”

“…Secret recipe.”

Sans winked. “c’mon, you can tell me.” He tried to grab at Grillby’s hand, but somehow ended up falling flat on his face. He giggled weakly against the counter.

“…I have a question for you.”

“heh. shoot.”

“…You know your brother is late on his payments, right?”

“late on… huh?” His brother hadn’t paid for a thing in his life, and he didn’t believe in credit. Sans tried to push past the fog in his brain to tackle this puzzle. “oh, wait… you don’t mean my bro. you mean the other paps.”

“…I wonder if you know how costly your tab is. It’s not my business if he wants to keep you locked up or whatever sort of thing you two have going on, but I run a business. He’s responsible for your debts.”

Sans blinked lazily. “slow down a sec there. i’m – i’m –” He clutched his head. “that’s a lot to process.”

“…While your brother may be making more money now that he’s joined the Guard, you’ve been a horrible burden on him.”

“that’s… not me… i don’t…” He didn’t know what to say. His mind was a muddled mess, and he couldn’t think past the heat that had taken over his skull.

“…You don’t want to be a burden on Papyrus, right?”

“no, ‘course not.”

“…Then why are you here?”

“i don’t… know.” He panted heavily, wishing that his body would cool down somehow. “i didn’t realize… crap.”

“…I figured you would want to help him. You two seemed so close. I guess I was wrong.”

Sans bristled at that. “’course we are. he’s my whole world.”

“…Then will you help him out? Tonight?”

“yeah, yeah. just point it out and i’ll do whatever.”

Out of nowhere, Grillby grabbed him by the arm. Sans cast his eyes downwards, but his head was all woozy. All he could see were indistinct purple and white shapes. He shook his arm, and it made the colors all wobbly. Another giggle fell from his mouth.

“…So who here wants to help Sans pay off a debt?”

Sans glanced up, confused. “huh? ‘s that supposed to mean?”

Grillby wasn’t looking at him, but out at the rest of the restaurant. “…150g a pop. Who’s in?”

A loud clamor reverberated through the room as the other customers shouted excitedly, but Sans ignored them. His eyes were glued to Grillby. When the bartender peered down at him, a wide grin graced his flames. Sans could see Grillby’s mouth moving, but the world had gone all funny. None of his words were making much sense. It took all of his concentration to understand even the tiniest bit of the conversation.

“ – and 100g per monster. Think of – extra – finder’s fee. And they – good – a deal?”

There was such exuberance in Grillby’s voice that Sans nodded even though he didn’t really know what he meant by all that. Suddenly he was lifted from his seat, his vision slanting and blurring. He wasn’t sure who was carrying him or why, but he just went with the flow. Soon he found himself sitting in the center of a table, surrounded by a host of familiar-yet-different faces. He swayed precariously, unable to keep himself still.

“…You want more to drink, Sans?”

Sans glanced around him, but couldn’t find where Grillby had gotten to. “for free?” he asked, skeptical. Hadn’t he just offered to help with… debt or something?

Someone barked out a series of laughs, and Sans found himself giggling alongside them.

“…Yes, Sans, for free.”

“okay, fill me up.”

“…Oh, we plan to.”

Something large, hot, and solid pressed against his back. Even though his bones itched with an overwhelming heat, he leaned into the mass, finding that he was oddly desperate for contact. He panted as his bones warmed further from the touch.

Someone edged a glass between his parted teeth and poured it onto his tongue. All the bitter flavors that he had tasted earlier seemed to have disappeared. He closed his eyes, inclining his head backwards so it’d go down easier. Mmm, it did nothing to satisfy his thirst, but it was so good.

The monsters around him were raising their voices now, but the words didn’t reach him. It was like he was detached from the rest of the world. He got to suckle on his drink, and they got to watch.

Vaguely he felt something lifting his shirt. A cool wind blew across his exposed ribs, but it did little to satiate the feverish heat that had crept through him. God, he was so damn hot. He wriggled and whined. Something wet and squishy grazed across his bare bones, invoking more of the heat. This time, however, it felt good. Real good. He released a low groan into the bottle. Whatever that was made his head spin, and oh god, he’d do anything for more.

“…Do you like that?”

He nodded quickly. The gesture sent a pool of alcohol slopping from his mouth and onto his shirt. Whoever had been tilting the bottle pulled back, leaving Sans’s mouth woefully empty.

“Stop dillydallying and grab it already.”

Something soft skimmed along the underside of his ribs, and Sans squirmed happily until, all of a sudden, there was a tightness. Sans gasped. His soul! Someone was squeezing it! No, no, that wasn’t right. No one could touch his soul! He tried to move, but his limbs weren’t working right. His instincts kicked in and he let loose a primal growl. He had to scare them off before they hurt him!

“…Shh, shh. It’s okay.” Something warm brushed the inside of his femurs, arousing the heat within him. “…It’s going to feel good.”

Grillby was right. Whoever had his soul was treating it well. A channel of calming energy was being pumped directly into the organ. With a heavy sigh, his body went limp and his skull lolled onto his shoulder. If his bones weren’t blazing, he’d go to sleep right now. But jeez, he wanted to move, to feel, to do something. The urge was biting at him so fiercely, and yet he couldn’t find it in him to even twitch a finger.

“…Here, take a photo. Let’s show Papyrus exactly how good of a brother Sans is.”

A tender hand lifted his skull. Oh, it felt good to be touched. He nuzzled into the palm, reveling in the tingles of satisfaction spreading through him.

“…Sans, smile for the camera.”

As Sans automatically parted his teeth in an open grin, another bottle was unceremoniously tipped into his mouth. More liquid dripped onto his body. He poked his tongue out, trying to catch all of it before it fell. As he slurped at it uselessly, a firm pressure against his pubic bone stirred him from his half-doze. Befuddled, he cracked open his eyes as a bright flash filled the room.

“huh?” He blinked wildly, trying to clear the spots from his vision. “’s going on?”

With a swift jerk, his shirt was torn from body. He screeched as the fabric ripped into his injuries. When he tried to squirm away, a firm weight grasped his limbs, holding him back.

“no! please!”

“...Stop, it’s okay. It won’t hurt for long, so stop moving.”

Sans quickly ran out of energy and had no choice but to obey. And, oh, was he glad he did. Something soft and slippery glided over his wound, and the sharp pain was replaced with a soothing pleasure that went to his very marrow. He glanced down, and through his foggy vision, saw elongated, green appendages weaving around his ribs. They writhed through his cage, leaving behind a thick coat of slime wherever they went.

At the same time, the kneading on his pelvis grew more insistent, pushing against his most sensitive bones. Sans loosened a throaty moan as he rocked into the unknown hand. It felt so good, and it drove straight at his heat-addled mind.

“Look, there’s light.”

“Fuck, there we go, his magic is doing something.”

“…Good job, Sans,” a low voice purred into his skull. Sans glowed from the simple praise. “…It feels nice, right?”

“yeah,” he groaned.

His body was so hot, he just wanted to tear his clothes off and rub himself on the table. The viscous appendages curled and stroked against the inner parts of his chest cavity, tickling at his hidden sensitive spots. Still, it wasn’t enough.

“more!” he gasped.

A chorus of laughter filled the room.

“He wants more!”

“That’s great!”

“Let’s give him what he wants!”

He whimpered as the tendrils slipped from his bones, leaving him wet and twitching for more. In reply, someone yanked his shorts to his feet, exposing his pelvis to the cool air. He spread his legs, welcoming the change in temperature. The burning still crawled through his bones, and it was beginning to hurt now that no one was rubbing him.

“please,” he begged.

The others were ignoring him again. It sounded as if an argument had broken out.

“No, I’m going first!”

“Fuck that shit!”

“…You’ll all have a turn to fuck him. Draw straws.”

“How do you fuck a skeleton anyway?”

“Rough.”

“Oh, ha ha. You know what I meant.”

“...Just shoot some magic into his soul.”

There was a pause, and then –

Sans unleashed an unearthly scream. Something hard and fast and sharp was pouring inside him, tearing through his bones. It was everywhere, all over him. He couldn’t move or speak. His mind was drowning in raw magic. It hurt, it hurt, but it felt so good, so terrible, so, so –

He collapsed backwards, his bones a rattling mess, as the sensation abruptly stopped.

“Well that fucking worked.”

“His soul’s going so fast now.”

“Who fucking cares about that? He’s got a nice little cunt to fuck now.”

“And an asshole too. Ha! I didn't know skeletons could do that!”

"Yeah, it was pretty shocking the first time I saw it too."

Sans gasped and spluttered, his chest heaving from whatever had rippled through him. He could feel his soul vibrating faster than ever before, but the sensation was distant, as if it were happening to someone else. He had to find his soul before that happened again. Or god, maybe he wanted it to happen again. Regardless, he had to make sure his soul was safe. He tried to lift his head, but his bones were weak and shaky. His head rolled uselessly against the warm mass behind him.

Someone thrust a palm to his groin once more, but this time it met his newly-conjured clit. He moaned and rocked into the motion, needing more of it.

“Heh heh, he’s all over this. What a fucking slut.”

“No wonder his brother kept him prisoner. Bet he squeezes you just right.”

“…Why don’t we find out?”

The world spun as someone dangled him in the air. He whimpered as his surroundings muddied together in a smear of colors. When he was finally set down, it was not directly on the table, but on something warm and lumpy. He was dizzy and sick, and he had to close his eyes before he threw up. Someone grabbed him by the wrists as he teetered forward.

“…None of that now,” came Grillby’s voice from behind him. “...Don’t you want to feel good?”

Sans released a needy whine. The heat had reached an unbearable level. He craved that sensational friction, that glorious rubbing. Anything at all but this stillness. He rolled his hips forward, and gasped in surprise when his conjured flesh slid against something hard and hot. Desperate for more, he increased his speed, the solid mass gliding smoothly along his folds.

“…Hnn… Yes, get my cock nice and wet,” Grillby growled. “...It’s going to feel real good inside you.”

The odd words broke through Sans’s heated haze. What had Grillby just said? Cock? Was he… having sex with Grillby?

He opened his eyes. Sure enough, Grillby’s massive violet length was cradled between Sans’s legs. And he wasn’t the only one with his dick out. All around him were half-nude monsters, many of whom were palming themselves roughly. Their motions made lewd, wet noises, and a few of them groaned under their breath as they watched Sans intently.

Even though the heat in his bones screamed at him to continue, he stilled his movements. Something… about this… was wrong…

Before he had time to dwell on it, Grillby spoke. “…Oh? Guess foreplay’s over then. Our turn now.”

Grillby roughly grabbed at Sans’s hipbones and elevated him a few inches higher. Sans’s position was adjusted, and he hazily registered that Grillby’s wet tip was pressed to his opening. Then, in one swift motion, Grillby sheathed himself to the hilt inside Sans.

“aaah!”

Tears gathered in Sans’s sockets. Holy crap, Grillby was huge and he sure as hell wasn’t waiting for Sans to adjust. He was already plunging in and out of Sans’s passage at a breakneck pace. Obscene, slick sounds emanated from their connection, blending with the furious beating noise from the rest of the patrons.

“...Fuck, Sans, your pussy’s so fucking tight.”

“gri-i-illbz!” he shouted, his voice stuttering as he was bounced frantically on top of the other monster. “o-o-oh, cra-a-ap!”

The heat was reaching a pitch he couldn’t contain. Every time Grillby pushed against the end of his canal, something deep inside Sans called for him to move. The friction was so good, so delicious. It did nothing to cool the blazing in his bones; to the contrary, it seemed to raise the temperature to a boiling point. Yet the contact made it bearable, even satisfying.

As Grillby rode him, Sans moaned and cried out, his hips grinding as fast as they could. The fire within him wanted more, more, more!

“Don’t hog him all to yourself, Grillby. We paid good money.”

“...By all means, join me.”

Grillby’s movements slowed as Sans was pushed slightly forward. But Sans’s need for more was so desperate that he continued to go as fast as he could, urging Grillby to resume his previous tempo. That was until someone furry sidled behind him and gripped his ilium, halting his motions. Before Sans got a chance to turn around, something pierced inside his second hole, going all the way in. He let out a pained gasp, flinching from the abrupt intrusion.

“Shit! He really tightened up from that!”

Grillby had finally returned to full speed. “...You’re good at this, Sans.”

Sans was alternating between giggling and crying now as the two of them slid in and out of him. Their thrusts were staggered so that every time one of them pulled out, the other pushed in all the way to the end. He was never left empty. Sans could hardly breathe as his senses were overwhelmed.

It wasn’t long before someone else – Punk Hamster, Sans registered dully – came forward. The newcomer crawled onto the table and nestled himself between Sans’s and Grillby’s legs.

“Yo, hold still for a sec. Let’s see if he can take a third.”

Horrified, and yet transfixed, he watched as Punk’s erection skated across his opening, rubbing where his conjured flesh met Grillby. It took Sans far too long to realize how much was already inside him.

Sans blocked his entrance with his hand. “it’s n-not gonna fit,” he spluttered.

Someone wrenched Sans’s arm backwards. “Oh, it’s going to fucking fit.”

The stranger was right. It took Punk a few attempts to push past Grillby’s girth, but in the end, he succeeded. Sans let out a high-pitched squeal as the addition stretched him to his limit. The combination of both their dicks painfully widened Sans’s canal all the way to his cervix.

The three monsters pounded into him with wild abandon, taking no time to coordinate their movements. Occasionally Punk or Grillby would slip out of him, but they moved so frantically that Sans hardly noticed the loss before he was filled again.

They jostled his body up and down violently, threatening to send him toppling over. His hands dug into Punk’s shoulders, holding on for dear life as they gave in to their frenzy. Punk took the opportunity to mash his tongue into Sans’s mouth. Although it disoriented Sans, the insatiable heat muddled his mind too much for him to push back. He could only concentrate on the way his body melded with the others. He was so full, so hot, so good.

“morepleasemoremoremore!” His words blurred together in an incoherent slur. “feelssssooogoodpleaseplease!”

With a powerful lurch, Sans reached his peak and came with an intensity he had never felt before. He clenched around the other monsters, whose orgasms soon followed. While his magic twitched with the aftershocks of his release, a wet warmth flowed inside him.

He collapsed against the furred monster directly behind him. His head was woozy, and his body exhausted from the exertion. All he wanted to do was pass out.

...If it weren’t for the heat.

It was still deep inside him, clawing at his every bone. He needed more movement, more friction!

“please,” he whined, reaching for a winded-looking Punk. “it burns, everything burns. i need more.”

Someone on the sidelines said, “More, huh? Coming right up.”

Out of nowhere, a deluge of magic ripped through him, paralyzing his mind and body. It needled along every nook and cranny, drilling into his most sensitive parts. Crap, crap, crap. It was twisting, pulling, tearing. It was amazing. It was horrible. He was going to come or pass out or – or –

The sensation ceased. Sans had nearly toppled over, but one of the monsters had gripped him.

“Fucking shit! He’s tryin’ to squeeze us for all we’ve got!”

“...He’s really a natural at this.”

“Hey, come on, you already got your turn! Move out of the way!”

There was a flurry of movement. Dazed and worn out, Sans stared into nothingness as he was extracted from the pile of monsters. A gush of cum spilled from his holes, trailing down his femurs.

By the time they returned him to the table, the fire in his bones was excruciating. A pathetic sob escaped him as he thrashed against the wood, desperate for something to caress his bones.

Two new monsters climbed onto the table. Doggo. The bear monster that lived down the road. What was his name? Billy? Sans’s mind was too messed up to remember.

Doggo crawled to Sans’s head, while the other monster lingered at his lower half. The latter didn’t hesitate in pushing inside Sans’s dripping entrance. A glop of cum spilled out of his canal as the bear’s thickness pressed all the way inside.

“Damn, you guys really warmed him up for me,” they mused.

“...That would be the drug.”

As the bear impaled him, Doggo wrapped a hand around his pink dick. It wasn’t quite as big as the others had been, but every inch of it was coated in a transparent, wet film. Doggo snarled as he slapped it across Sans’s cheekbones with a loud smack.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sans saw a moldsmal untangle itself into a curtain of the same undulating, glimmering tendrils he had seen earlier. Before he knew it, the appendages were coiling around his spine, pumping fiercely. He cried out as his sensitive vertebrae prickled from the pleasure.

Doggo took advantage of Sans’s opened mouth and pushed his wet member to the back of Sans’s throat. A strong musk covered Sans tongue and he gagged on the brutal invasion. When he tried to pull back, Doggo seized his skull and forced him to bob back and forth on the length.

Tears fell freely from his sockets as the thickness choked him. Occasionally Doggo would withdraw completely, giving Sans a brief opportunity to gasp for air. But the respite was only ever temporary, and Doggo would quickly push back inside. Every time Sans’s throat attempted to reject the entry, Doggo would moan and mumble something like “Aah, that’s right, squeeze it.”

All the while, the moldsmal had entangled itself throughout his ribcage, massaging his torso, lingering on his vertebrae. And the bear monster continued to drive into him, their balls slapping against Sans’s pelvis. Sans was tired – so very, very tired – but the heat was controlling him completely. He weakly moved his hips, meeting the bear monster’s every thrust.

It wasn’t long before they came. Sans was first, already worn down from his last orgasm. As Sans squeezed around the bear monster, they quickened their pace and soon added to the disgusting mix of fluids. Not long after, Doggo pulled out of the deepest part of Sans’s throat and shot a stream of hot liquid onto his tongue. The engorged dick slipped out of Sans’s mouth with a slick noise as Sans spluttered and choked on the bitter taste of his cum.

Even as the two of them removed themselves, more monsters instantly took their place. They squeezed into both his holes, stuffing him entirely. He wept as he clutched to a furred body that appeared in front of him, rocking into them out of instinct more than anything.

His mind was a fuzzy mess, and he knew he must have passed out several times; one moment he’d find himself humping one pair of monsters, and then he’d blink and there would be another set bucking into him. He couldn’t be sure how many times he came, or how many monsters used him. All he knew was that his body was soon raw from it all, and his sobs eventually turned back into giggles.

Through it all, his heat persisted, calling on him to seek out the other monsters for more. He obliged, throwing himself completely into the moment. Anything to satisfy that driving, compelling need.

All of a sudden, a resounding bang echoed through the room. Sans jolted, though he couldn’t move much given his awkward position. Someone had him by the femurs and had suspended him midair as they heaved into him from behind. In front of him was a red demon monster, balls deep in Sans’s right eye socket. There was a pause in the others two monsters’ movements as an upset clamor rang out amongst the onlookers. Raised voices. Glass shattering. Wood splintering.

Even though Sans was half-blind, he wrenched his neck to the left to find the source of the commotion. A forceful hand immediately pushed him back into position.

“...Keep going,” Grillby hissed. “...All of you.”

The monsters picked up where they left off, though they sped up considerably. The length inside his skull jabbed roughly, poking at the summoned pocket of flesh inside. It left Sans foggy-headed and weak, but he moaned nonetheless as the friction struck at his heat.

“I’LL KILL YOU!”

Papyrus? Sans couldn’t even attempt to move this time; someone’s fingers were digging into his sensitive neckbones, preventing any motion. There was a loud bang followed by a lengthy silence.

“...Watch your temper, Papyrus,” Grillby warned. “...I’m the one with Sans’s soul here.”

“LET HIM THE FUCK GO! HE DOESN’T DESERVE THIS!”

“...Deserve? My dear Papyrus, Sans is paying off the debt that he accumulated. Besides –” The pinching pressure around Sans’s neck increased. “ – Sans here is enjoying it. Aren’t you, Sans?”

“yes,” Sans keened. “more.”

As soon as he said the words, the monster in front of him swore loudly and buried himself to the hilt in Sans’s eye. The sudden movement stirred his conjured flesh, and as a burst of warmth filled his socket, the magic rippled with another orgasm. A hoarse scream tore from his throat as his vision blacked out in both eyes.

When he came to, he was lying crumpled on the table, alone. He was wet and sticky all over, and his holes were raw from the abuse he had taken. A stream of cum dribbled from his right socket and onto the tabletop with a steady drip, drip, drip.

He heard the sound of coins clinking into one another. Although Sans was curious what was going on, he was far too drained to investigate.

“...I knew you could be reasoned with,” Grillby hummed.

Something grazed at the underside of Sans’s ribs and he felt something blazing hot placed just beneath his sternum. His soul.

Suddenly Sans was lifted and he found himself cradled against someone’s chest. His surroundings were a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors, so he shut his eyes and leaned into the touch. As he breathed in, the smell of Italian spices invaded his nasal cavity.

“bro,” he sighed as he wrapped his legs around Papyrus’s waist.

“QUIET.”

Despite the sharp tone, Sans felt a firm but comforting hand nudge his head.

“Bye, Sansy! It was fun!”

“Come on in again if you ever get a hankering for my cock!”

“If your brother will let you that is!”

Laughter trailed behind them until it was lost to a sudden whoosh of wind. Sans further burrowed into Papyrus’s shirt as an icy chill bit at his naked bones. Even in the bitter cold, the minute amount of friction reignited the flame within him. Desperate to douse it, he ground his pelvis against Papyrus, his sore lips dragging along his brother’s ilium.

“STOP THAT!” Papyrus screamed over the howling wind.

“’s so hot,” Sans whined, quickening his tempo.

Papyrus clapped a hand to Sans’s tailbone, preventing him from moving more than an incremental amount. Now Sans couldn’t get enough traction. The heat was clawing at him, begging him for release. As they braved the storm, he bawled into Papyrus’s shirt and feebly punched at him. A litany of “please”s and “more”s trickled from his mouth. But Papyrus held his ground.

When they made it back to the house, the heat was inescapable. Sans scratched and kicked, trying to get Papyrus to loosen his grip. It wasn’t fair, he needed to move!

He didn’t know how he got there, but Sans suddenly found himself flung onto Papyrus’s mattress. He was too addled to do anything but squirm uselessly on the sheets before Papyrus enveloped him in a bundle of blankets. His brother wrapped the fabric so tightly around his arms and legs that he couldn’t move more than inch.

“papyrus,” he wailed as he tried to wriggle frantically. “it’s too hot. it hurts. please.”

“I’M SORRY.” The throaty tone, more than the words, dragged Sans’s attention from his confines to Papyrus’s face. There were tears running down his cheeks. “I’M SO, SO SORRY.”

This pissed off version of his brother was actually crying. The mere thought of that was so ludicrous, so bizarre, so hilarious. Yes, that was it. Hilarious! In fact, it was the funniest thing he had ever seen.

He rolled around on the bed as he dissolved into a fit of bubbly laughter. The motion did nothing for the heat, but it did help to distract him from it.

And it also helped him block out the sound of Papyrus’s sobbing.

Chapter Text

The ceiling of Grillby’s bar spun in circles, the dark wood blending together in a mesh of colors that had Sans reeling. Sweat was pouring off him in buckets, drenching his clothes so they clung uncomfortably. Grillby was somewhere nearby; his anger was radiating off him in waves, making the air hot and stuffy.

Sans must’ve pissed him off somehow. Probably something stupid like always.

He knew he needed to get home. His bro was waiting for his bedtime story, and after a long day at work, Sans was really looking forward to seeing him too. But no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t seem to move. Nothing would respond.

Even if they were working, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get through all of Snowdin without breaking himself. The way his head swam even with his eyes closed told him that he had drunk far too much.

Eh, maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal to rest it off here.

“...It’s time to go.”

Or maybe not.

Fiery hands seized him, sending a ripple of heat through his already warmed body. Though Grillby tried to drag him from the booth, his sweaty bones stuck to the worn cushion, begging him to stay there.

“mmm... grillbz, five more minutes,” he slurred.

With a loud popping noise, Grillby pried his bones from the booth. Sans tried to twist away from the heat, but Grillby caught his wrists, flames searing him.

Sans tentatively cracked open his sockets, and as he took in Grillby, his soul trembled in fear. His flames weren’t the usual shade of flickering orange and yellow, but were instead a vibrant violet. Despite the intense heat, Sans shivered as Grillby’s maw opened to display a predatory grin.

“n-no...”

Though Sans wanted nothing more than to scramble from his arms, it was as if he were paralyzed. His limbs were curled against his body, unable to move an inch.

The driving need to flee was boring into his soul, filling him with an indescribable fear. Sans couldn’t figure out why he needed to get away so badly. It wasn’t as if Grillby had done anything to hurt him. They were buds, exes, lovers...

Lovers...

Suddenly Sans realized that Grillby’s hand was kneading his pelvis, his flames playing lightly against his ischium. Wait, when the hell had Sans taken off all his clothes?

“...Disgusting,” Grillby spat out. “...Do you strip every time you walk inside a business? Or are you only a whore for me?”

“stop,” Sans whispered.

Grillby’s face flashed with anger. Without a moment’s notice, the world tilted, a rush of colors filling his sight, and he found himself face first in the pathway in front of the bar. The door slammed behind him with a resounding bang, leaving him alone in the snow. Already the iciness was crawling inside him, biting into his marrow, and cutting through the suffocating heat. He breathed in the snow as his body sunk into the ground.

Maybe he deserved this. Here he was getting drunk again when his bro had died. No, that wasn’t right. Papyrus hadn’t just died. Sans had gotten him killed. His brother had been the only good thing in his life and he hadn’t even gotten off his tailbone to protect him. What was wrong with him?

“UNDYNE WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LET ME IN THE GUARD AFTER THIS!”

What?

Sans craned his head up and his soul nearly fell from his chest. Papyrus was stomping down the road, absolutely and beautifully alive. Alive! He was sporting his usual bright smile, strolling down the road with a spring in his step, and shedding an air of optimism unmatched by any other monster. Sans could almost cry.

“papyrus,” he called out feebly.

His voice must have been too quiet; Papyrus didn’t even glance in his direction. In fact, he traipsed right past Grillby’s, almost stepping right on top of Sans. Sans squirmed uselessly, his limbs once again failing to respond. He raised his voice, and though his shout came out raspy and tense, there was no way Papyrus couldn’t hear him from this distance. Yet his bro kept on walking, not noticing a thing.

Then another pair of footsteps crunched in the snow, following not too far behind Papyrus. They were very light –imperceptible if you weren’t paying attention – but they reverberated loudly in Sans’s skull, invoking a memory he couldn’t ever forget.

He turned and saw exactly what he had been expecting – the human. They trailed after Papyrus, a broad grin stretched across their features. An aura of malevolence soaked the air, sending a chill through Sans’s spine that was entirely unrelated to the snow.

Red eyes flashed Sans’s way.

“no, please...”

The human’s smile grew cartoonishly large. They returned their attention to Papyrus and snapped a tough leather glove onto their hand.

“stop, please!”

The human marched forward.

Sans desperately ordered his arms to move, but something warm and soft was enveloping him, weighing him down, constricting him. His bones ached from the strain of pushing against the invisible barrier, but he couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop. Not when he could save Papyrus. He wouldn’t let the anomaly murder him again... Please, god, he had to move...

“SANS.”

Papyrus’s voice was much closer this time, as if Sans could reach out and graze him. Oh god, if he hadn’t headed home, maybe he really could save him. He had to save him!

“SANS, STOP. PLEASE.”

If only he could get up or turn around or do anything!

“SANS, YOU ARE OKAY... STOP...”

Sans’s eyes snapped open. He was no longer lying in the snow, but curled up in Papyrus’s racecar bed. A dense wad of blankets was wrapped around him, holding his limbs tight. His breathing was fast and shallow, and with every inhale, his chest seared with a stinging pain as the covers cut into his wound.

His wound...

It hit him all at once. Papyrus was dead. Truly dead. The Papyrus he had just seen had never been real... It had all been a dream.

And as he lay there, his eyes finally taking in his surroundings, he saw all the signs that he was not in his bro’s room at all, but in some twisted version of it. Next to the bed was a table covered with different robotic action figures, each clearly decked out in villain’s attire. The walls were painted dark red and were mostly lined with posters of various human musical bands dressed completely in black and white. The dark colors, combined with the fact that thick black curtains blocked the only window, made the room was much darker than what Sans was used to.

Still, the nearby floor lamp made up for it – the blinding light was shining directly in his sockets, driving a piercing headache through his skull. His head hurt so much he wondered if he might throw up. Scrunching his eyes, he huddled in on himself and inhaled deeply.

The nausea tightened around his soul as the memories slowly returned to him. His brother’s death. The fall into the Core. The other Papyrus. Grillby’s.

At the last thought, Sans sucked in a shaky breath. All at once, images of different monsters surrounding him, touching him, fucking him flashed through his mind. Grillby pushing inside him. The taste of Doggo in his mouth. The acrid scent of slime filling his nasal cavity as tendrils squirmed inside his ribcage.

It couldn’t have happened. That had to have been a part of his nightmare. No one would ever do that.

But even as he denied it to himself, he could feel the remnants of last night’s escapades caked on his pelvis and the insides of his femurs. The stickiness was impossible to ignore.

Not to mention his soul was heavier than before. Those monsters... They had pumped his soul with their magic. He remembered seeing stars as they had done it.

Sans rolled over to the side of the bed and vomited, his soul quivering violently from the force of it. Though he choked on the chunks of white magic, he forced himself to expel every last bit from his soul. He wasn’t going to let the tiniest iota of the other monsters’ magic remain there.

As the liquid fell from his mouth, something pressed through the blanket and pat him on the back.

“IT IS OKAY.” The hand pat more firmly. “I’VE GOT YOU.”

Sans forced the last of the foreign magic from his body and allowed the last drops to dribble to the ground before rolling to face the other side of the bed. Warmth suffused his face and his soul sunk as their eyes met. Everything from last night was a blur, but he distinctly remembered rubbing himself all over Papyrus. In fact, the perverse sensation stuck out above all else.

He had done that to his brother.

“god, what did i do?” He tried to bury his face in the blankets, but Papyrus prevented him by clasping his shoulder. A weight settled on Sans’s soul as he spotted the tears in Papyrus’s sockets.

“papyrus, oh my god, i’m so sorry. i can’t believe – ” He drew in a breath as his own tears manifested. “i’m so, so sorry. i’m – i can’t believe it, just – no, no, no – i –”

Papyrus slammed Sans to his chest. “STOP! I AM THE ONE WHO SHOULD BE SORRY.”

Violent sobs wracked Papyrus, catching Sans off guard. As Papyrus wrapped his arms around the mass of blankets, another wave of nausea rippled through Sans’s soul and he had to make a real effort not to throw up again.

“what?” Papyrus couldn’t possibly be blaming himself for this. “papyrus?”

“I AM SO, SO SORRY!” Papyrus wailed as tightened his grip.

“what’re you sorry for? i was the one – i was the idiot – i can’t believe – i tried to touch you!”

It was the worst thing he could’ve ever done. There was no forgiving him.

“STOP! IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT, YOU DID NOT KNOW WHAT YOU WERE DOING.” Papyrus’s fingers dug into Sans’s ribs. “I HAD A RESPONSIBILITY TO YOU. I SWORE I WOULD NEVER LET YOU GO THERE AGAIN, AND I...” He shook his head. “I WAS THE REASON YOU ENDED UP THERE!”

Sans yanked back, desperate to escape Papyrus’s hold. As he peered into the familiar but different face, Sans all the signs of guilt.

“paps, don’t –” Sans started before realizing he had used the nickname for his bro. He swallowed and tried to continue – to tell this Papyrus that he was fine. That nothing bad was happening. The usual lie. Nothing new.

But something inside him had broken. He was... all alone. His brother wasn’t here – would never be here – and he needed him more than ever. All he wanted was to hear his bro’s voice again, telling him everything was okay, that they’d be okay. Or hell, if he could listen to him talk about his newest idea for a puzzle, or his newest recipe, or his training session with Undyne...

Just not this. Anything but this.

He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be stuffed into this blanket. He didn’t want his body to be covered in a sticky film of cum and sweat.

His breathing was coming in quick, reedy gasps, and he couldn’t stop his vision from spinning. He needed to get out of these blankets. They were so hot, and they were smothering him, burning him up just like last night. God, he could still feel that insatiable heat.

But he couldn’t get out of the blankets no matter how much he struggled; they were wrapped around him so tightly, choking him, drowning him. He was going to die here, swallowed up by the sea of cotton. He was... he was...

Papyrus grasped Sans’s shoulder, and the bone scraping against bone drew him back to reality. Without a word, Papyrus pushed Sans onto his side and grappled at something along his back. Sans released a muffled cry between gasping breaths, a surge of panic rising in his soul. His body was stuck beneath Papyrus’s firm grip, preventing him from escaping. Magic bubbled in Sans’s soul, his desperation to leave reaching a pitch.

But before he could do anything to ward off Papyrus, the blankets around him loosened and the weight lifted. Sans quickly shrugged the suffocating fabric off, his bones welcoming the kiss of the frigid air.

“I – I AM SORRY, SANS,” Papyrus said, his voice shaking. “LAST NIGHT YOU WOULDN’T STOP... MOVING, AND I – WELL, I DID NOT KNOW HOW ELSE TO STOP YOU.”

Yeah, he hadn’t been able to stop himself from trying to fuck his bro.

And Papyrus was blaming himself. Perfect.

Sans moved onto his back, pressing his hand to his sternum and making every effort to calm his breathing. But his gaze shifted, and as he glanced down, the horrors of last night resurfaced yet again. The ugly scar slashed across his chest was bleeding freely, bright red liquid mixing with the dried green gelatinous substance caked on his ribs that had been so soothing only hours ago. And between his legs...

He clenched his sockets shut and tried not to think about it. But the stickiness on his femurs tugged at him, drowning out all other thought. The way those monsters had relentlessly fucked him. He raised a quivering hand to his eye and felt something crusted along his cheekbone.

God, and he had begged them to do it.

Sans curled up into a tiny ball and sobbed into the blanket, the mattress shaking from the force of his tears. Every choked breath sent a slicing pain through his ribs. He knew he was only exacerbating his injury, but he couldn’t stop. He allowed the world to fade away as he gave into his emotions.

Throughout it all, Papyrus gently rubbed Sans’s scapula and whispered calming reassurances beside him.

After only god knew how long, Sans finally cried himself out, his limbs going slack as the tension unspooled from his body. His vision whirled; he was so lightheaded and dizzy, though he didn’t know how much of that was from his crying and how much of it was from the side effects of whatever drug he had ingested last night. Exhaustion had stolen through him and was now threatening to drag him into unconsciousness.

But Sans didn’t want to sleep. He had always been prone to nightmares, especially after what happened to Dings. And after everything the last few days... He shuddered.

Not to mention he was disgusting, even by his standards. He wondered if he smelled.

As if he could hear his thoughts, Papyrus murmured from beside him, “YOU REALLY NEED A BATH.”

“heh.” Sans sniffled. “you’re always the same.”

“WELL... YOU ARE THE SAME TOO. SO SMELLY! DID YOU EVEN BATHE AT ALL THIS WEEK?”

He had adopted a playful tone. Like everything was normal. Like Sans hadn’t just been raped. Like the two of them were actually brothers.

Some of the tautness in his soul slackened. It was exactly what he wanted right now.

“nah. just as lazy as ever.”

“UGH!”

“i know, this really stinks, doesn’t it?”

Instead of the laughter that Sans had been expecting, Papyrus went silent. When Sans glanced up, Papyrus’s brow was furrowed. It had to be pity.

Sans didn’t want that.

“anyway,” he said, hunching his shoulders, “yeah, i could use a bath. but uh... i don’t know if i can even walk there. my legs kinda feel like noodles.”

“THE DRUG,” Papyrus sighed. “IF YOU ARE NOT USED TO IT, THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS. I HAVE READ ALL ABOUT IT.”

Sans sunk into the bed, ashamed that Papyrus knew the details of what had happened. It was horrifying that everyone knew about his stupidity.

Papyrus climbed out of bed and scooped him up. Sans’s face warmed as his naked body grazed Papyrus. Thankfully, Papyrus didn’t seem to care at all; he clutched Sans close as he walked down the hall, one of his hands supporting Sans’s legs, frighteningly close to his pelvis. But Sans supposed that was how Papyrus always acted. He didn’t think about ulterior motives or impure stuff like Sans did. Papyrus took things like at face value. That was just one of the things Sans loved about him.

With that, he relaxed against Papyrus, allowing his head to loll against Papyrus’s shoulder. Italian herbs clung to Papyrus’s shirt, invoking pleasant memories of his bro learning how to cook his first batch of pasta. Sans inhaled deeply, eager to lose himself in the emotions of that day.

Instead a wave of guilt to crashed over his soul.

He needed to stop. This wasn’t his bro.

He pulled away, unable to stand the shame of his actions, and as he did, he saw the strain on Papyrus’s features. It was obvious then that Papyrus was putting on an act. He wasn’t as okay with this situation as he was pretending. Sans wondered what had changed between them; last he knew, Papyrus hated him and wanted him gone. But now he was being so... nice.

In this universe, that level of kindness didn’t seem possible.

Papyrus set Sans down on the long-unused toilet and turned the tap for the bathwater. Soon the room was filled with a warm steam, and as Sans was lowered into the tub, a soothing heat seeped into his marrow.

Yet as relaxing as it was, it didn’t stop the jolt of pain that traveled through his chest when the water hit his wound. He groaned and gripped the sides of the bath as he submerged his ribcage completely. Soon the water was tinted with his blood.

Papyrus scratched his skull as he eyed the reddened water. “I DID NOT THINK THIS THROUGH.”

“doesn’t matter,” Sans rasped tiredly. “just need a rinse.”

“YOU NEED MUCH MORE THAN THAT.”

“yeah.”

An uncomfortable silence fell over them. Papyrus squirmed nervously, looking at Sans with unease for a couple minutes before seizing a washcloth and dunking it in the water.

“HOLD STILL,” he demanded as he pressed the cloth to Sans’s cheek.

“heh. wash out, someone is serious.”

Papyrus ignored him. His expression set with determination, he scrubbed at the bone carefully. Sans exhaled and relaxed his body, silently thankful that Papyrus had volunteered to do the work. As embarrassing as it was, he wasn’t sure he had the energy to clean himself.

And Papyrus was not holding back. He cleaned off Sans’s face, dipping into the sockets to remove the residue that had crusted along the edges. It was then that Sans realized that the other monsters’ cum was inside his skull. He nearly gagged as his tongue ran over it at the back of his mouth.

Papyrus must have noticed it as well because he ordered Sans to dismiss his tongue, and as soon as he did, Papyrus reached back there, slowly scraping the substance from inside. Although it hurt to stretch his jaw open so wide, and it felt strange to have a cloth rubbing against the back of his skull, it was also oddly therapeutic. Every bit that Papyrus scraped off was like throwing away a memory of last night. All they had to do was rinse it away and it was gone forever.

By the time Papyrus was done, Sans’s jaw was aching, but his soul was a bit lighter. He sunk into the tub and sighed, the air whistling somewhat painfully past the sore, raw spots.

As he relaxed, Papyrus retrieved a fresh washcloth. When he returned, he went right back to business and gently pushed the rough material to Sans’s chest, a sharp sting shooting through his ribs. Sans let out a small grunt but kept himself as still as possible. Better to get it done quickly than to draw it out. For a few moments, Sans focused on staying immobile as Papyrus dragged the flecks of dried slime and blood away.

It was only when he was nearly finished that Papyrus whispered, “I AM SORRY.”

“mmm, don’t worry about it,” Sans said groggily. “gotta clean it.”

“NO, I MEAN... I AM SORRY ABOUT YESTERDAY. ABOUT WHAT I SAID TO YOU.”

Papyrus was staring at the washcloth that he was twirling in his hands, his brow etched with guilt.

“nothing to apologize for.”

Papyrus glanced up, anger spreading to his features.

“YES THERE IS! YOU WERE TRYING TO TALK TO ME AND I REFUSED TO LISTEN! IT WAS VERY UNBECOMING OF ME, ESPECIALLY AS A ROYAL GUARD!” His eyes darted back to his lap and when he continued, his voice dropped to a near whisper. “AND... AS SOMEONE WHO SHOULD CARE MORE FOR HIS BROTHER, I SHOULD HAVE BEHAVED BETTER.”

Drops of red water spilled onto the floor as Papyrus twisted and wrung the washcloth in his hand. Sans went quiet for a bit, watching as the red liquid pooled on the tiles as he chose his words carefully.

“i think it’s because you do care for your bro so much that you acted the way. i know i’d be beyond pissed if i thought someone was pretending to be my paps. anyone would be.”

“YES.” Papyrus’s paused his movements, though his fingers continued to dig into the cloth fiercely. “I KNOW WHY I SAID WHAT I DID. WHEN IT COMES TO MY BROTHER I CAN BE... STUBBORN. BUT IT DOES NOT EXCUSE MY BEHAVIOR. ESPECIALLY SINCE... NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF I HAD KEPT MY TEMPER.”

“don’t blame yourself,” Sans said hurriedly. “that’s not your fault.”

No, it was Sans’s fault. He had been literally begging to get raped. God.

“PERHAPS. REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES FROM LAST NIGHT, I WILL APOLOGIZE. I REGRET MY WORDS. I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO YOU WHEN YOU WERE TRYING TO SPEAK TO ME.”

Papyrus looked like he wasn’t going to let up until Sans forgave him. And if Sans were to be honest, he wasn’t gonna refuse the apology now that Papyrus wasn’t blaming himself for what happened at Grillby’s.

“okay.”

Papyrus relaxed. “GOOD.” He swallowed and rubbed the back of his head. “DO YOU HAVE THE STRENGTH TO CLEAN... DOWN THERE OR...?”

Sans reddened as he realized Papyrus was talking about between his legs. “yeah, don’t worry about it. just hand me a towel.”

Blushing, Papyrus politely looked away as Sans quickly scraped off the last of the cum that hadn’t dissolved in the water. Even that tiny amount of work left Sans drained. The last of his energy gave out as he finished, and his arm flopped uselessly into the tub as the last physical remnants mixed with the water.

“YOU NEED TO EAT,” Papyrus ordered when he noticed Sans was done. “YOU THREW UP SO MUCH, AND THAT DRUG TAKES A LOT OF ENERGY FROM YOU.”

Nausea prickled Sans’s soul. “i don’t know if that’s the best idea.”

“YOU NEED TO,” Papyrus repeated with much more venom, and Sans shirked away. Papyrus’s expression softened, and he continued, “IF YOU DUSTED... IF I LOST YOU AGAIN...”

Papyrus shut his mouth, his jaw taut. Guilt needled through Sans’s soul. Here he was being an ass when Papyrus was clearly trying to help him. Even though the similarities in appearance to Papyrus’s brother probably had his head spinning.

“yeah, okay. let’s get some food.”

Papyrus sighed. Whether from relief or frustration, Sans didn’t know. He rinsed Sans off one last time before lifting him from the bath and setting him Sans on the toilet again. With unexpectedly gentle hands, Papyrus patted him with a towel. Still, despite his tender touch, Sans’s bones ached, and every time he breathed, his chest felt like it was going to split open and begin bleeding anew.

After Papyrus thoroughly dried him off, he left the room and returned with a fresh set of red, black, and gold clothes. Sans remembered with burning shame that he had abandoned his last outfit at Grillby’s. He silently accepted the replacements, on the brink of tears once again. The thought of this universe’s Grillby possessing his clothes... He shook his head.

When he finished putting on his clothes, Papyrus picked him up and announced they were going to have a hearty meal and there would be no way out of it. As Papyrus marched downstairs, Sans smashed into him, once again savoring the familiar scent.

Memories were bouncing around in his mind, reminding him of the last time his bro had carried him through the house like this. It had been years ago, not too long after they had first moved into Snowdin. Dings had gotten sick but had shown up to work anyway.

Sure enough, just like always, Sans had caught it too and ended up unable to care for himself. When Paps had finally realized how ill Sans had been, he had been near delirious with a fever and hadn’t eaten in days. Though his bro had scolded him for not taking better care of himself, his voice had been high-pitched and shaky.

The Papyrus of this universe suddenly shook him, and Sans sucked in the drool that had dribbled from his mouth.

“NO SLEEPING UNTIL YOU EAT!”

Yeah. His bro had sounded just like that.

Papyrus placed Sans on the lumpy old couch. As Sans was about to flash an apologetic smile, he noticed that Papyrus was peering somewhere behind Sans’s shoulder. Following his gaze, Sans turned toward the front window. A sea of white and grey clouded the outside air, obscuring the landscape. Shards of ice clinked against the glass, leaving behind long bands of water. There was one hell of a storm raging outside.

“some weather, huh?” he asked sleepily.

He hoped it wouldn’t knock out the electricity.

“IT IS QUITE THE SNOWSTORM!” Papyrus shouted, not sounding worried at all. In fact, his voice was downright ecstatic. “MAYBE IT WILL KEEP GOING FOR A COUPLE DAYS! THAT WOULD BE PERFECT!”

“it would? why?”

Papyrus’s eyes widened, though he quickly adjusted his expression so his brows were crinkled with anger. He crossed his arms against his chest and glared down at Sans.

“NO REASON!”

From the tone of his voice, there was totally a reason, but Sans was too tired to press it.

“y’know, you might wanna be careful what you wish for. these storms are snow joke.”

Papyrus lowered his arms, looking affronted. “SANS!”

“heh. icy you like my jokes.”

“UGH! STOP!” He pinched the gap between his eyes and exhaled. “YOU SHOULD NOT WASTE ALL YOUR ENERGY ON BAD JOKES!”

“guess i’m really on thin ice, huh?”

“ARGH!” Papyrus threw his hands into the air and stomped into the kitchen.

Sans called out behind him, “hey, don’t storm outta here!”

He couldn’t help but smile when Papyrus screamed from the other room. It was nice to banter with him. He hadn’t gotten a chance for some lightheartedness in days. The last time had been when his bro...

Sans’s soul constricted. Dammit, he needed to stop thinking about that day like it was the last time he’d see his bro. As soon as he healed up, he was going to get out of here and return home! Failure wasn’t an option.

There was nothing he could do now though. His body wouldn’t let him right now. Careful not to exert himself too much, he reached for the remote and turned on the television. The screen flickered with static.

He sighed and sat back, staring at the fuzz blankly. From the other room he could hear Papyrus taking out pots and pans to make a meal. Probably lasagna.

The storm continued to pelt the house, the wood creaking under the force of the howling wind. It was one of those days when no one could travel except those monsters that could burrow underground. Snowdin always shut down when these big storms came through. Years ago, during a particularly bad ice storm, Sans had been forced to wait around for hours at Grillby’s.

God, maybe that was why Papyrus had been so happy about the storm. Grillby couldn’t get to them now. Had Papyrus paid off his debt to him when he rescued him last night or was he still waiting for some sort of payment? Was Sans in danger of getting attacked?

He’d be ready to return fire at a moment’s notice, but the thought of seeing that cruel, smug man again... The image of bartender’s wide grin right before he had fed him to the pack. His searing dick, rubbing alongside the other monsters’ inside him. The low, crackling laughter. All of it was burned into his mind, permanently tearing away at the core of his being. The ghost of pleasure was still tickling the edge of his soul. It was something a bath could never wash away.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a hand appeared in his vision, yanking him from his thoughts with a gasp. He blinked and saw that Papyrus was standing near him, holding a steaming mug. His brow was scrunched with concern, and though his mouth was moving, his words were inaudible. Sans shook his head.

“what? did you say something?”

“ARE YOU OKAY? YOU WOULD NOT RESPOND!”

“i –” He realized he was gasping so he took a steadying breath. “yeah. yeah, sorry.”

“YOU ARE SHAKING.”

Sure enough, Sans’s body was a trembling mess once more. His rattling bones drowned out the sound of ice plinking against the window.

“JUST HOW MUCH OF THAT DRUG DID YOU TAKE LAST NIGHT?”

“i don’t know,” he said shortly. After taking another deep breath, he continued, “i don’t really wanna think about it, to be honest.”

Papyrus frowned but didn’t say anything else. When Sans finally got his breathing under control, Papyrus handed the mug to him. Billows of steam poured from the cup, filling his nasal cavity with a rich, chocolatey aroma.

“hot cocoa?” he asked skeptically as Papyrus retrieved his own drink from the nearby table.

“JUST BECAUSE I DO NOT CONSUME A POUND OF SUGAR WITH EVERY MEAL,” Papyrus said as he sat on the couch, “DOES NOT MEAN I DO NOT ENJOY THE OCCASIONAL TREAT. ESPECIALLY ON A DAY LIKE THIS.”

“that’s not what i meant. i’m wondering where you got it from.”

In his universe, they could only get this sort of thing at the capital, and it had been a real luxury. Sans had only had it a handful of times, and that was when he had been Asgore’s guest.

“THE STORE, OF COURSE!” Papyrus replied, squirming in his seat. A blush spread across his skull. “I AM NOT RIFLING THROUGH THE DUMP FOR THIS SORT OF THING. I WOULD GET MYSELF KILLED.”

“they sell this in snowdin?”

“NO, I DO NOT THINK SO,” Papyrus said as he continued to fidget. “I CANNOT REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I SHOPPED AT THAT SHOP.”

“wow, they really pay you a lot in the guard.”

“NO, I –” Papyrus huffed. “WHY DO YOU CARE WHERE I GOT IT? JUST DRINK IT! IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TREAT, NOT A MATTER OF DISCUSSION!”

He was acting... strange. Even though he was sipping on his own mug, he kept wriggling and casting side glances at Sans.

After last night...

“this... doesn’t have anything in it, right?”

“WHAT? I JUST FILLED IT!” He peered into Sans’s cup. “IS THIS A JOKE? YOU HAVE A FULL CUP RIGHT THERE! YOU HAVE NOT EVEN TOUCHED IT!”

“i meant...” He shook his head. “nevermind. i’m being dumb.”

Papyrus’s eyes bugged out. “WAIT... YOU MEANT DRUGS, DIDN’T YOU?! NO! A MILLION TIMES NO! HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS OF STOOPING TO SUCH LOWS! I WOULD NEVER TOUCH ANY SUCH SUBSTANCE! IT IS ILL-FITTING FOR ANYONE TO –”

“okay, okay. i already said i was being dumb.”

“YOU ARE!”

Sans hunched his shoulders. “yeah, thanks.”

“GRR! THAT IS NOT WHAT I INTENDED TO SAY!”

Sans sighed. “okay.”

He took another whiff of the drink and tentatively sipped it. No funny aftertaste like last night. In fact, it was really good. The chocolate was quality and the taste stuck pleasantly to Sans’s tongue. Plus it surprisingly helped his nausea. He took another gulp much more enthusiastically, and before he knew, the cup was empty.

“YOU FINISHED ALREADY?” When Sans nodded slowly, Papyrus asked sheepishly, “SO... YOU LIKED IT?”

“it was really good. first decent thing i’ve had in ages. would love some more.”

“OH NO YOU DON’T! THAT WAS ONLY TO HOLD YOU OVER UNTIL THE PASTA IS READY! I DO NOT WANT YOU TO GET SICK FROM THE SUGAR!”

“i doubt i would.” When he caught sight of Papyrus’s expression, he quickly said, “but eh, you’re the boss. where’d you get so good at making this sorta stuff anyway? you’re a pretty good cook.”

“NYEH! IT IS NOT THAT GOOD! I HAVE A LOT OF ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT AS UNDYNE WILL TELL YOU ANY DAY!”

“so undyne taught you too, huh?”

“SHE STARTED THE LESSONS, BUT... MOSTLY I READ RECIPES! UNDYNE GAVE ME LOTS OF COOKBOOKS. SOME WERE EVEN HANDED DOWN FROM THE QUEEN HERSELF!”

“the queen?”

Papyrus nodded enthusiastically. “I AM NOT GREAT AT BAKING, BUT PASTA HAS BECOME EXCEPTIONALLY EASY FOR ME! I SHOULD MAKE ZITI FOR YOU ONE DAY! I KNOW LASAGNA CAN GET TIRING.”

“eh, whatever you want. i’m a guest, so i got no right to complain.”

Papyrus didn’t respond, and the silence lengthened uncomfortably. Sans set his cup on the floor. If it was already awkward between them, then now was just a good a time as ever...

“i wanna say sorry to you again. seriously, what i did last night, on the way home...”

Papyrus reddened. “THOSE WERE THE DRUGS AT FAULT. I KNOW YOU WOULD NEVER DO THAT UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES!”

“you still didn’t deserve that. especially after saving my tailbone from... that mess. so please accept my apology.”

Papyrus lowered his mug to his lap. “NO.”

“no?”

“NO. I WILL NOT LET YOU APOLOGIZE. MY HONOR WILL NOT ALLOW FOR THAT. YOU WERE NOT THE ONE AT FAULT. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT YOU WOULD –” He shook his head. “IF THERE IS ANYTHING YOU EVER NEED TO SAY SORRY FOR, I, THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS, WILL ACCEPT YOUR APOLOGY WITH GRACE AND DIGNITY. BUT NOW IS NOT THAT TIME.”

Sans didn’t know what to say to that.

“NOW ENOUGH OF THIS! WE SHOULD BE RESTING, NOT FRETTING!” He glanced out the window again. “AS MY BROTHER ALWAYS SAID, FRETTING IS FOR TOMORROW. AND THE NEXT DAY. AND PROBABLY EVERY DAY AFTER THAT UNTIL WE END UP A PILE OF DUST.”

“uh...”

“BUT NOT TODAY! NOW... WHY IS THE TELEVISION IN SUCH A STATE?”

“i’m guessing the storm.”

“NO MATTER!” He bounced to his feet and marched over to the TV and pulled out a tray of old VHS tapes. “WE HAVE HUNDREDS OF MOVIES TO CHOOSE FROM! I HAVE BUILT UP QUITE THE COLLECTION SINCE... WELL, NEVERMIND! WE COULD WATCH TRANSMORPHERS: ROBOTS IN HIDING! OR PERHAPS YOU ARE MORE IN THE MOOD FOR MY LITTLE MINIATURE HORSE: THE AWAKENING OF THE GIANT PAPAYA! THAT ONE ALWAYS MAKES ME LAUGH!”

Sans shrugged. “why don’t you choose?”

He was probably going to fall asleep pretty quick. His soul was craving sleep, and now that he had consumed something, he didn’t feel like he was on the verge of falling down. Hopefully Papyrus would let him rest a little.

“THE HORSES THEN!”

He popped the tape in, and soon the screen was covered with pastel-colored ponies waving swords and guns at once another. Papyrus threw a blanket over the two of them and watched with an almost-contagious glee. It was nice to imagine that this sharp-toothed Papyrus truly was his brother, keeping watch over him as the storm raged on outside.

So Sans curled up on the couch, focusing on the ponies as they engaged in bloodthirsty battle. It wasn’t long before his eyes grew heavy, and he felt himself drifting off. As he began to lose consciousness, he could’ve sworn he felt Papyrus brushing his back through the blanket.

Chapter Text

“we’re going a new route – no humans.”

Hands stuffed in his lab coat pockets, Sans half-walked, half-jogged down the busy sidewalk, struggling to keep up with his bro’s pace.

“I DO NOT UNDERSTAND! CAPTURING A HUMAN WOULD BE SIMPLE ENOUGH WITH THE RIGHT PUZZLES!”

Craning his neck upward, Sans grinned at Paps. Man, how had Papyrus gotten so tall so fast? It was pretty awesome.

(An ugly mixture of jealousy and desire flitted through his soul.)

“yeah, that’s probably true. but we’re trying to avoid the humans altogether.”

“BUT WHY?”

Sans shrugged. “i’ve never seen one but everyone who has says they’re not all that nice to be around. in fact, from the sounds of it, they’re pretty scary.”

“NONSENSE! I HAVE SEEN THE PICTURES! THEY LOOK AS SOFT AND HUGGABLE AS THE KING! THOUGH I DO NOT THINK A BIKINI WOULD FLATTER KING ASGORE’S BODY MUCH. HMMM. MAYBE I AM WRONG?”

“heh. i think he’d look swimmingly.”

“SANS!”

Sans chuckled. “but yeah, the humans are in ads, bro. those make the humans look better than they actually are.”

“NONSENSE! THEY STILL LOOK SOFT!”

“bet you they aren’t as soft and fuzzy as skeletons.”

Papyrus exploded into a series of whooping NYEH HEH HEHs, and every monster within a block turned towards them, some with expressions of annoyance, others seeming like they might join in and laugh as well.

(Embarrassment swept over Sans, though he wasn’t entirely sure where it came from; when was the last time he had ever been embarrassed of his bro? Even as he wondered it, his face contorted with an ugly scowl, and he shushed Papyrus sharply. His brother shrunk in on himself, looking abashed.)

“point is,” Sans continued, (as if there had been no interruption,) “dings and i are avoiding using humans in our research if we can help it. the man’s on a mission, what can i say. it’s why i’ve been working such long hours lately.”

(Despite himself, his soul twitched with guilt. He had been in the office a lot lately, and Paps didn’t really know exactly what he had been up to...)

Papyrus, however, was as ecstatic as ever.

“THAT IS OKAY! YOU HAVE YOUR OWN OFFICE, YOUR OWN RESEARCH PROJECT, AND THE BEST JOB A MONSTER COULD ASK FOR! WELL, BESIDES THE ROYAL GUARD, OBVIOUSLY.”

“well, obviously.”

“BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT! THE POINT IS THAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED ALL THIS AND RIGHT OUT OF SCHOOL! ALL YOUR HARD WORK IS FINALLY PAYING OFF!”

“heh.” Warmth suffused his cheekbones. “guess so.”

“WELL YOU MAY GUESS SO, BUT I KNOW SO! MY BROTHER IS THE BEST EVER!”

(For some inarticulable reason, Sans’s guilt deepened.)

---

Clang!

Sans jolted out of his reverie, his eyelights taking a moment to adjust to the light. A pot had crashed to the floor, leaving a long trail of soapy water across the floor.

“RAAAARGH! DARN IT, DARN IT, DARN IT!” Papyrus screamed, every other word punctuated by the stamping of his feet.

Sans blinked the exhaustion from his sockets. “you okay?”

“YES, OF COURSE I AM FINE!” Papyrus snapped. “I AM NOT SURE HOW SOMETHING LIKE A POT COULD HURT ME.”

He snatched a dish towel from the counter and dove to the floor, scrubbing at the water with a fervid energy. As he wiped up the mess, Sans sat back in his chair, fighting the tautness that had crept into his chest.

Earlier, when the two of them had first woken up, Papyrus had greeted him with a hearty “GOOD MORNING” and had immediately checked to see if Sans had recovered from yesterday. His touch had been gentle and cautious, as if he had been afraid Sans would turn to dust in his hands. Sans hadn’t been complaining; he kind of liked how careful Papyrus was being. And once he had verified that Sans could walk with no problems, he had offered to make breakfast. He had been so full of energy and the brightest of smiles had graced his features.

It had reminded him of his bro.

But as soon as they had gone downstairs, Papyrus had opened the curtains, and the mood had quickly soured. The storm had abated, leaving behind a thick layer of snow that looked like a pain in the tailbone to get through, but navigable nonetheless. The moment Papyrus had seen it, it had been like flipping a switch; one second he had been all rainbows and butterflies, and the next he had been commanding Sans to get into the kitchen and eat. No time for a sleep-in because Papyrus had to go. The whole meal Papyrus had been irritable and snippy, and every few seconds he had twitched his head towards the front window, sighing in aggravation.

It had been exhausting.

“UGH!” Papyrus shouted as he grabbed another towel to sop up the mess. “WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE SO DIFFICULT? AND OF COURSE I GET NO HELP! I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING ON MY OWN!” He glared at Sans. “THIS IS... IS... A... FFF-GRRR! A DISASTER!”

Sans crossed his arms and spat, “y’know, you don’t gotta stop yourself from swearing on my account.”

Papyrus stopped and glanced at him, looking genuinely confused. “WHAT?”

“if you wanna say ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ or whatever the hell you wanna say, i’m not gonna stop you. you clearly want to.”

He knew he was being ridiculous, but he didn’t give a damn; Papyrus was being just as ludicrous. He hadn’t even asked Sans to help him out, so what the hell was he supposed to do? Read his mind?

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? NO, I DO NOT WISH THAT! I HAVE MORE ELOQUENT VOCABULARY TO EXPRESS MY... DISPLEASURE!”

“yeah, that’s why you had no problem dropping the f bomb the other day.”

“YES,” Papyrus said slowly, his brow furrowing. “BUT THE OTHER DAY WE HAD A GUEST.” When Sans continued to frown at him, he continued, “ONE MUST INTIMIDATE THEIR FOES. ESPECIALLY IF SAID FOES ARE ATTEMPTING TO ATTACK MY VERY WEAK AND ALMOST DEAD BR– VISITOR.”

“oh.”

“YES, ‘OH.’” His expression softened. “I HOPE YOU WILL NOT JUDGE ME TOO HARSHLY BY HOW I ACT AROUND... CERTAIN MONSTERS.” He fidgeted. “I DO NOT ENJOY USING SUCH LANGUAGE, BUT I HAVE HAD TO ADAPT SINCE... WELL, I HAVE HAD TO ADAPT.”

Sans’s guilt deepened. “yeah, okay.”

With that, Papyrus returned to cleaning, this time in silence. His cheekbones were shaded a brilliant red and he was keeping his head down, clearly avoiding eye contact. Sans covered his face and sighed. Why couldn’t he keep his temper under control? He never had a problem around his bro, even when Paps had been in the grumpiest of moods.

But this Papyrus wasn’t his bro. He had to keep remember that.

Sans lowered his hands to get a good look at Papyrus. He wanted to memorize where that god-awful scar stretched across his skull. To see that hint of anger. To catch any other reminder that this Papyrus was not the same monster as his brother.

But as his hands dropped to his lap, something flashed out of the corner of his eyes. His gaze darted towards the living room, and though he had sworn he had seen a shadow or a light or something moving, there was nothing there. It was empty. He trained his eyes on the window, expecting to see some sort of movement, yet all was eerily still.

He grasped the edge of the table, his fingers straining from the tension. If someone from the bar came by, what the hell would he do? Yesterday he would’ve been too tired to fight even though he had been wanting to all day. Now though... He swallowed past the lump in his throat.

“SANS, I –”

At the sudden noise, Sans jolted, his hands sliding against the table and a low gasp slipping through his teeth.

“IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT?!”

Sans clutched his sternum, feeling his soul’s strong magical energy rapidly pulsating beneath his fingertips.

“i –” he squeaked. After clearing his throat, he continued, “yeah. i thought i saw something, but i was wrong.”

The color drained from Papyrus. “SOMEONE WAS OUT THERE?”

“i think it was a trick of the light.” Though Sans tried to shrug nonchalantly, his tone betrayed him.

Papyrus rushed to the window, and as he craned to see every possible angle, Sans’s soul did loop-de-loops in his ribcage. Any moment Grillby would appear in the window, that evil grin on his ugly mug. Or Doggo would knock on the door, asking for another round. Or maybe that giant bear from down the road. Sans cringed.

“NO ONE IS THERE,” Papyrus announced, closing the curtains to throw the room into shadow.

Sans hadn’t realized he had been holding his breath until that moment. Nor had he realized just how much his soul was pumping and fluttering against his ribs, like a bird trying to escape its cage. On top of it, every time it constricted, something twisted inside it violently, causing him to break out in a cold sweat. He wondered if his soul would shatter into a million pieces, leaving behind only an empty husk of who he once was.

Maybe it already had.

He scrunched his sockets shut, hunching forward as his vision spun. Every breath came as a deep, heaving gasp, and he knew if he didn’t get himself under control, he’d never recover.

A pair of hands grasped his shoulders.

“SANS,” Papyrus said quietly, “ARE YOU OKAY?”

No, he wasn’t okay. He was never going to be okay. And the more he dwelled on it, the more he knew with all his soul that he was going to be broken for the rest of his life. He was someone who deserved this crap after all the things he had done, and after failing to do all the things he had needed to do. A useless pile of bones. Too stupid, too lazy, too disgusting, too...

He had to stop.

Though his arm was shaking real bad, he reached up and placed his hand on Papyrus’s.

“yeah,” he managed to say. “just... not feeling like myself, y’know?”

Papyrus gently squeezed Sans’s shoulder. Sans’s eyes suddenly felt warm, so he clenched them shut, trying to fight off his emotions. Thoughts of the other night continued to swirl in his mind, but they became subdued the longer Papyrus stood next to him. Eventually his breathing calmed, and though his soul was wound with indescribable emotion, it was no longer threatening to kill him.

When Papyrus finally let go, Sans leaned back in the chair, lightheaded and dizzy. He wanted nothing more than to rest his weary bones.

“I DO NOT KNOW WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW,” Sans opened his eyes and saw that Papyrus was standing next to him, wringing his hands, “BUT WILL YOU BE ABLE TO STAY HERE WHILE I ATTEND TO MY DUTIES TODAY?”

A tremor of renewed fear flitted through him at the thought of being here alone all day, in the same town as the monsters that had done this to him. What if they rang the doorbell? Hell, what if they marched right in? Would he have the moxie to fight them off? Would he have the energy? He felt like he had spent himself sitting here thinking about someone outside the door. How the fuck would he ever defend himself?

Papyrus held out a hand as if to say “stop” and Sans realized his breathing was growing out of control again.

“OBVIOUSLY NOT.” Papyrus swallowed. “ARE YOU EVEN GOING TO BE ABLE TO WALK TO WATERFALL IN THIS CONDITION? WITHOUT ATTRACTING UNWANTED ATTENTION?”

Sans blinked. “unwanted attraction? i’m not gonna stop to tell them jokes if that’s what you mean.”

“THIS IS SERIOUS. I DO NOT WANT ANYONE TO AMBUSH US.”

“ambush us? who the hell is gonna do that?”

Papyrus cocked a brow at him. “ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

“yeah? i mean, are you expecting someone from snowdin to follow us or something?” He laughed humorlessly. “or are you expecting a temmie to attack us for some flakes? don’t think we got that many enemies, do we?”

“EVERYONE IS AN ENEMY UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE.”

“uh...” There was no hint of a smile on Papyrus’s face. “are things really that bleak here?”

Another blush crept onto Papyrus’s cheekbones. He averted his gaze, leaving Sans feeling sick. God, what sort of hellish universe had he landed in? Apparently ambushes were a regular thing here. Was rape a normal thing? Did monsters just do it on the regular? Maybe what had happened to him wasn’t all that big of a deal by these guys’ standards.

The very thought made him want to vomit.

He brought his attention back to the topic at hand. “why don’t we take the boat?”

“YOU MEAN THE RIVER PERSON? I DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY.”

“you have to pay?”

Papyrus shook his head, rolling his eyes. “OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO PAY. IT IS THEIR JOB, NOT A VOLUNTEER JOB.”

Sans was pretty sure Asgore paid the River Person for their services back in his universe, but he didn’t really know. Usually he teleported wherever he wanted. Maybe he should try that out now, but... he was worried about the universal differences. Clearly things weren’t the same here, and even back home it had taken a long time to imprint his mental coordinates to get to the right places on demand.

And he had experienced a few scares there too. One time he had been testing out his abilities and had tried to land on a bridge in Waterfall, but he had ended up teleporting in the middle of the air next to a large, roaring waterfall. The air had whooshed around him as he had plummeted down the chasm. It had taken him a few soul-stopping seconds to gather his bearings and teleport home, and when he had, he hadn’t been able to stop his momentum. Papyrus had never quite forgiven him for crashing into his action figures, and he was sure that was why Paps had moved the collection to his room.

That experience was one reason why he was so particular about where he teleported to and from. Better to aim for those places he knew than to chance dangerous areas like that.

Which was why he wasn’t going to mention anything about his abilities to Papyrus right now. He didn’t seem to be aware of his teleportation. Had the Sans in this universe never developed the skill after all those experiments with Gaster or had he just not used it around Papyrus? Whatever the reason, Papyrus wasn’t relying on it, and that was fine by him.

“well then, i guess we’re walking.”

Sans shakily climbed to his feet. Papyrus stood perched on his toes, looking ready to grab Sans at any second. Surprisingly, Sans’s trembling subsided after he took a few deep breaths. Though he wasn’t feeling 100% by any means, he could at least walk. That was more than he had been expecting.

As they stepped out the door, his eyes darted around the landscape, on the lookout for any hint of flame or fur hidden in the shadows. But all was quiet; the only things he could hear were the sounds of snowdrifts falling from the nearby pine trees and ice crunching beneath their feet.

Still, he felt exposed out here. Like any moment Grillby or some other monster would step out and grab them without warning. Papyrus’s behavior only served to heighten the sensation; even as they entered Waterfall, his head swiveled in every direction, as if expecting an attack at every corner.

But no one approached them. In fact, as they got closer to some of Sans’s usual spots, he even caught sight of a few monsters scampering away. He was glad for it; his wound was not happy with their journey, and every step sent a jolt through his ribcage. He vaguely wondered if it was bleeding again.

As it became apparent that no one was going to challenge them and that Papyrus was being overly cautious, Sans relaxed. Well, maybe not relaxed – he was still nervous that someone would follow them from Snowdin. But he slowed down enough so he could catch his breath even as Papyrus encouraged him to go faster.

“hey, why waterfall anyway?” Sans called out as they entered a cramped cavern. “i would think you’d be assigned to snowdin. do you guys even have a guard out there?”

Though Papyrus did not deviate from his routine of peering around every corner, he straightened his posture and puffed out his chest. “A GOOD GUARD CAN ADAPT TO ANY LOCATION. THAT IS WHY I HAVE A NEW ASSIGNMENT EVERY WEEK. SOMETIMES IT IS EVEN EVERY DAY. THEY KNOW THEY CAN DEPEND ON ME TO GET ANY JOB DONE RIGHT.”

“huh. that’s pretty cool.”

“INDEED IT IS! THOUGH THAT IS NOT THE REASON FOR OUR VISIT HERE. TODAY WE ARE VISITING MY CAPTAIN AND GOOD FRIEND UNDYNE,” he boasted. “YOU KNOW WHO UNDYNE IS, RIGHT?”

“yeah, i know her.” Well, he knew one version of her anyway.

“GOOD. I WAS NOT SURE. I MEAN, OF COURSE EVERYONE KNOWS CAPTAIN UNDYNE. BUT YOU ACT SO STRANGE SOMETIMES. IT IS LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE.”

“i mean... that isn’t wrong.”

“WHAT?” Papyrus turned his focus toward Sans. “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

“eh, nevermind,” he said, shrugging. “i’ll tell you later.”

It didn’t seem like an appropriate time to discuss multiverse theory and the mechanics of interdimensional travel, especially when it was something he wasn’t too sure about himself.

Papyrus retuned to guiding them, though now his brows were furrowed and he was mumbling something to himself angrily. Guilt fluttered through Sans, though he pushed it down, reminding himself that he would tell Papyrus later when they weren’t busy.

The two of them exited the smaller cave and entered a wide, open cavern teeming with dozens of echo flowers. An ethereal glow that permeated the room, refracting off the cavern walls so that the very air was stained with their blue hue. A nearby stream babbled softly, and Sans longed to jump in and unwind for a while. But Papyrus was pressing on, and there was no time for that. Still, Sans wasn’t about to let that stop him from taking it easy; while Papyrus was still rushing about and on the watch for enemies, he paused to listen to one of the flowers.

“500g a night for Golden Flower in North Waterfall,” said a sing-song voice. “Ask for Lucy at the Echo Inn.”

Strange. Was it an advertisement? He went to another and listened intently.

“Don’t ever say a word,” a soprano voice whispered. “If she caught us, she’d rip our throats out and feed them to her pet. Or worse. They never found all of Yer’s body, did they?”

A chill ran up Sans’s spine.

“NO DILLYDALLYING, SANS! THIS IS NO TIME TO GET CAUGHT UP IN ECHO FLOWER WHISPERS!”

Sans pulled away from the flower, all too eager to leave it behind.

By the time they got to Undyne’s place, he was wiped out. He knew Papyrus had slowed down for him, yet even at their “leisurely” pace, Sans’s chest was burning from the exertion. As they approached Undyne’s house, he practically collapsed against the house’s outside wall, out of breath and his ribs screaming in pain. God, maybe he should have tried to teleport after all.

Papyrus took one last surreptitious glance over his shoulder before he marched to the front door, his features set with determination. It only took one quick knock before the entrance burst open with a loud bang. Papyrus bounced backwards, barely dodging the assault of wood and fury. Undyne, appearing the same as ever, stepped onto her welcome mat carrying a bright blue spear. Her forehead was creased with anger, and she looked ready to attack at full strength.

“You. Are. LATE!”

Much to Sans’s panic, she spun her weapon in her hand and pointed it at Papyrus, mere centimeters from his breastplate. Sans straightened his posture, magic tingling in his soul, ready to be unleashed at a moment’s notice.

But Papyrus didn’t seem all that concerned; he stood still, moving only to bow his head slightly.

“I APOLOGIZE.”

“You ‘apologize’?! Papyrus, I thought you were hurt!”

Papyrus frowned but didn’t speak.

“ARGH!” She stomped her foot, and, to Sans’s relief, she dismissed her spear with a wave of her hand. “You know you should message me when I’m worried!”

“THERE WAS NO SIGNAL YESTERDAY.”

She rubbed her face and huffed. “Okay. You couldn’t call yesterday because of the storm. I get that. Once I heard the weather report, I didn’t worry. But today? After last week’s fiasco? Come on, nerd! I expect better from you than that!”

“I KNOW.” Papyrus hunched his shoulders. “IT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY TO PERFORM MY DUTIES AS A GUARDSMAN... AND AS A GOOD FRIEND. I AM SORRY FOR MY BEHAVIOR. I TRULY THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO ARRIVE ON TIME. A ROYAL GUARDS SHOULD ALWAYS BE PUNCTUAL! BUT... I WAS DELAYED.”

“By what?” She peered behind Papyrus. “Did someone confront you about – ?”

“NO. NOT THEM.” He clenched his fists and with gritted teeth he nodded towards Sans. Undyne twisted around, her eye widening comically upon taking him in.

Sans?”

“y-yo.” Sans feebly waved at her.

“What the hell.”

“uh... yeah, i know.”

“What. The. Hell.” She balled her fists.

“maybe we should go inside and –”

“WHAT! THE! HELL!” she bellowed. Sans’s bones prickled with unspent magic as waves of rage exuded from her, filling the chamber with a frenetic energy.

“UNDYNE, CALM DOWN!” Papyrus exclaimed, obviously taken aback by Undyne’s behavior.

“Calm down?! CALM DOWN?!”

A loud dinging noise rang through the hollow, and Sans gasped as something gripped his soul, adding to the tightness around his chest. He instantly knew what this was. After all, it wasn’t like Undyne hadn’t tested her magic out on him before. But this time it was different. This time she hadn’t given him a shield to protect himself. He was left frozen, without any means to defend himself unless he resorted to using his own magic.

With a flick of her wrist, Undyne summoned another spear. And another. And another. Sans’s soul sunk as the weapons hovered midair, their points aimed directly at him. Though Sans opened his mouth to say something – though what, he wasn’t sure – to get her to stop, Undyne shouted before he got the chance.

“What the hell are you doing here, you horrible – ” She loosened the first spear so it pierced the wall immediately to his right of his head with a sickening crunch. “ – disgusting –” She released another, this time to the left so that his skull was trapped. “ – IDIOTIC skeleton!” She flung the last one across the room, this time directly at his face.

Time slowed to a crawl as the magic came hurling towards him. With no other choice, he called upon his magic, his soul stirring beneath the foreign green energies that held him fast. He ordered himself to teleport a couple meters to the right – not too far, just enough that he’d avoid the attack but not risk getting stuck in a wall.

But as a storm of energy thundered within his soul, something went terribly wrong.

He was falling through the gateway he had placed at his feet, but at the same time, he wasn’t. It was as if his mind had been split; he was distinctly aware of two realities, one in which he was inches from blinding blue magic, and the other...

An impenetrable darkness constricted his body, his mind, his soul. He was tumbling, falling, collapsing, drifting, dying...

The light was gone. (But it wasn’t – it was dazzlingly bright, only a few centimeters from his sockets.) That horrible Void had returned, come to fill his skull with emptiness. (His head wasn’t empty; there was a spear going right through it.) A scream threatened to rip from his throat, but it wouldn’t manifest. Nothing would... (How could he even scream? He was a pile of dust, deprived of his body forever.)

The air was gone. The Void was collapsing in around him, sucking all his breath away, all his memories, his dreams, his everything....

He needed to leave! Better to die by Undyne’s strikes than to face whatever the hell this was!

With a mighty tug, he pulled himself back to where he had started, like he had never fallen in the first place. But that couldn’t be right. He must have moved because directly above him, jutting from the house, were three crackling spears.

It was then that Sans realized he was lower to the ground than before. He was crouching over the slick rocky ground, and it felt as if something was dragging his soul down. When he peered down at his chest, he saw that the green magic had been replaced with a dark blue. The color illuminated his immediate surroundings, and Sans was struck by the way his ribcage cast oblong shadows along the dank floor.

An almost drunken giggle fell from his teeth as he realized how close he had come to death.

When he was able to tear his gaze away, he glanced up at Papyrus. His arm was outstretched towards Sans and all the color had drained from him. Undyne’s eye was bugging out of her head as she stared at the results of her havoc.

“SANS! ARE YOU OKAY?!”

He chuckled again as he nodded sloppily, his skull rolling on his shoulders. Unable to maintain the awkward position, he sunk to the cold ground, wetness soaking into his shorts. His vision tilted as the last of his reserves drained from his body, and he was dimly aware of his head slipping from the wall to the floor.

The world had gone all funny. The glowworms that dotted the ceiling were spinning, and though he tried to ground himself by grappling at the stone beneath him, he couldn’t make it stop. But it was more than that. It was like everything was muted or discolored or vibrating. Something had changed because the world felt off-kilter, like trying to solve a puzzle with a missing piece. Maybe some part of him was still in that Void, desperately trying to escape that bleak emptiness. He shivered.

“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!” cried Papyrus who, from the volume, had to be right beside him, but seemed far away. It was like a layer of snow was muffling the noise. “HE WAS ALREADY INJURED AND YOU ATTACKED HIM?!”

“How the hell was I supposed to know he was hurt?! And more importantly, why the hell should I care anyway?!”

“LISTEN TO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING! THAT IS SANS! YOU WERE TRYING TO HURT SANS!”

Sans had never heard his bro speak to Undyne so angrily before. It felt... wrong.

“Listen to what you’re saying! I can’t believe you’re defending him! Your brother goes and pretends he’s dead for months, and you expect me to give him a big hug and say ‘That’s okay, Sans, glad to have you back!’ HELL NO! I don’t know what you’re expecting from me!”

“I EXPECT YOU TO NOT ATTACK HIM!”

“I should’ve shot ten spears at his stupid, good-for-nothing ass!”

“AAARGH!” Something slammed into the stone next to Sans loudly, and though Sans heard it immediately, it was several seconds before he jolted in reaction. “THIS IS UNFORGIVABLE! DESPICABLE! YOU DO NOT GET TO ATTACK MY... MY...”

He faltered and a dense silence fell over the cavern. Sans blindly groped along the stone floor until he found Papyrus’s hand and clasped tightly. Though he was trying his best to squeeze as tight as possible, the sensation felt detached. Even when Papyrus pressed back, it felt almost like it was happening to someone else.

A few seconds later, the world shifted, and he felt himself lifted into Papyrus’s arms. His view of the ceiling was soon replaced with Papyrus’s face. Though it was hard to tell – god, why wouldn’t anything stay still for a little while – he swore there were tears trickling down Papyrus’s cheeks.

“WE ARE LEAVING, UNDYNE. I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU WOULD EVER DO SUCH A THING. I AM....” He puffed and hugged Sans to his chest before turning around.

“Woah, woah, woah! You can’t leave with him like that! Who knows who’s watching?”

“YOU HAVE LEFT ME WITH NO CHOICE!”

“Wait, stop!” she called desperately. Papyrus took a couple more steps, and then hesitated, though he didn’t look happy about it. “Alright, look, I’m sorry, okay? I may have lost my temper.”

Papyrus huffed. “REALLY. I HAD NO IDEA.”

“Ugh! I don’t know what to say, Papyrus!” she yelled. “I don’t want to order you inside the house, but I will if I have to!” Her voice softened. “I don’t want you to get hurt trying to save this bastard. It’s not fair to you.”

“yeah,” Sans muttered so faintly he wondered if anyone could even hear him. “not fair. inside.”

Those few words ripped the last of his energy from his body, and an intense fatigue overtook him, seeping into his bones. His sockets sagged closed, and an almost peaceful feeling embraced him as everything went dead quiet.

Chapter Text

*************************************************

Papyrus scrunched his face, trying to ward off his nausea. His brother was heaving on the other side of the cramped room, the excess magic splattering into the toilet water. Every time he retched or choked on the chunks, Papyrus clawed his arm, the pain a distraction so he wouldn’t get sick himself.

At some point the noise stopped, and it was only after the silence lingered for several minutes that Papyrus peeked his sockets open. Sans was huddled into a ball, shivering against the bathroom tile, his face contorted with pain and his bones slick with sweat. Glowing blue and yellow liquid trailed from the toilet and onto the floor. The magic wasn’t nearly as luminous as the first splashes of vomit had been all those hours ago, but Papyrus could still spot some of it soaking into his brother’s already-stained pants.

“SANS?” he fretted. Sans hunched in on himself a bit more but didn’t reply. Papyrus allowed a few seconds of silence before he pressed him further. “HOW ABOUT WE GO BACK TO BED? YOU SHOULD REST.”

“leave me alone,” Sans replied, his voice muffled by his shirt.

“YOU WOULD BE A LOT MORE COMFORTABLE IN BED.”

“fuck off.”

Papyrus sighed, uneasiness coursing through his soul. He leaned against the wall, resigning himself to another long night in the bathroom. Surely Sans would have to throw up more. After all, the book had said the process would leave a human sick for days, and when it came down to it, monsters reacted the same in every other respect. It was unlikely this would be any different.

Though Sans had been sick for so long, and he hadn’t slept for more than a few minutes over the last few days. The hospital wasn’t an option, but... what would the two of them do if Sans took a turn for the worse?

Yet Papyrus could only stand there, acting as a guard over his brother. His legs ached and his sockets were weighed with days of no sleep. As he slumped against the wall, he could feel the heft of his responsibilities dragging him. It was only when he caught himself stumbling forward after nodding off that he realized how much he needed to lie down.

He turned his attention to Sans who was still a quivering lump in the same exact spot. There were no signs that he had returned to the toilet. Perhaps, at long last, they were done with this stage. If so, they were near the end of this horrible ordeal.

Papyrus crouched next to his brother, taking care not to step in his filth. It was evident that Sans was not in good shape. He was still doubled over, his arms wrapped around himself and his breathing arduous. Dark shadows underlined his sockets, a reminder of how much he needed sleep. How much they both needed sleep.

With all the tenderness he could muster, Papyrus grabbed underneath his brother’s arms and lifted him to his chest.

“i said fuck off!” Sans screeched, and without warning, he turned into a kicking, scratching, punching, wild ball of fury. Wholly unprepared for such an assault, Papyrus released Sans. His brother’s bones thumped loudly as he hit the ground. Still, Papyrus was too slow, or perhaps his brother was unaware that he had been let go, because he was still thrashing about, his limbs going everywhere. One of his feet slammed into Papyrus’s knee, and his leg buckled beneath him.

As Papyrus stumbled backwards, his foot slipped across Sans’s stray vomit, and, with a sharp crack, his right eye smashed against the toilet.

For a moment, the world slowed to a crawl, and he could see every detail on his brother’s face as his pure, unbridled rage transformed to shock. Papyrus could tell from that expression that Sans hadn’t meant to strike him. In that brief moment, his soul lightened more than it had in years.

Then the pain hit.

It shot up his skull, blossoming in his socket and forehead all at once. He broke out into a cold sweat, and, like a switch had been flipped, his right eye went blind. Acrid magic burst in his skull, his soul automatically trying to protect him from whatever had happened. Yet it only made it worse.

He slumped to the floor, and for a moment he was too stunned to do anything. But then everything rushed through him at once and he unleashed an unholy howl. He clutched desperately at his socket, scrabbling at it as if he could somehow tear the pain away, but only making everything worse. His fingers grazed across a deep crack that protruded from his eye and his cry grew shriller as the pain overwhelmed him.

There was a flurry of movement beside him and hands grasped at his back.

“shit, shit, shit! paps, oh my god, i didn’t mean to –”

Curling away from the sound of Sans’s voice, Papyrus wailed, drowning out the rest of the sentence. A mixture of the caustic protective magic and tears flowed down his face, cutting into his injury, and he was forced to close his sockets.

“fuck, stay here, paps!”

Though Papyrus couldn’t see him, he heard Sans stumble out of the bathroom, crashing into the walls, doors, and whatever else was in his way. A tendril of concern wrapped around his soul, cutting through the haze. Sans couldn’t be on his own right now... He wasn’t well... He hadn’t been for a long time... What if he left? What if he ruined everything after all this hard work?

Panic bloomed within him, gripping him like nothing else, even driving past the pain in his skull. But rather than allowing it to consume him, he used it as a focal point. A reminder that he needed to get past this and be the best brother he could be. There was no point in acting like such a babybones when Sans had been in so much pain for so long.

He opened his good eye and took a deep, shaky breath as he pressed his palm to the ground. Just as he was about to climb to his feet, the door flew open and smashed into the wall. In the doorway stood a mountain of blankets that would topple over were it not for the tiny, frail arms wrapped around them. Immediately Sans rushed over, allowing the covers to fall from his grip and onto Papyrus.

“hold on a sec, bro. hold on. hold on. god, just hold on.”

Papyrus almost wondered if Sans was high with the way he kept repeating every phrase. But there was no way he had found drugs so fast. It wasn’t like his brother could teleport.

Sans maneuvered the sea of blankets, tucking them around Papyrus tightly. Though he was moving quickly, and his hands were trembling, his touch was unusually tender, as if afraid he might break Papyrus. More than he already had. Papyrus accepted the treatment silently, and as Sans brushed against his bones, his soul knotted with emotions that he oh-so-wished had suppressed long ago. On the upside, though his head was still throbbing, the sensation was muffled behind the fog of embarrassment, guilt, and above all else, warmth that flooded his mind.

Soon he was swathed in a cocoon of fabric just like when he had been a kid stuck home with a fever. And like when they were young, Sans was caressing his skull, whispering reassurances under his breath. It was nice to pretend that his brother was going to look after him while he recovered like in the old days.

Except they weren’t children anymore. And his brother certainly wasn’t capable of taking care of anybody.

“SANS.”

Sans stopped muttering and drew his rattling hand back to his chest. Now that Papyrus was talking, Sans was refusing to look at him again; whether it was out of some newfound sense of guilt or because of his usual stubbornness, he wasn’t sure.

“YOU NEED TO REST. PLEASE.

His brother glanced back at him, and there was no hiding the concern in his eyelights now. “bro, maybe we should try healing your face first.” He started to reach out again, but Papyrus shied away from the touch.

“NEITHER OF US HAS THE ENERGY FOR HEALING MAGIC RIGHT NOW. ESPECIALLY YOU.”

“but –”

“I WILL HEAL MYSELF IN THE MORNING. AFTER WE SLEEP.”

Sans backed away. “i’m sorry,” he whispered, and for a moment, Papyrus wondered if he was hallucinating.

Then Sans’s voice returned to its usual tone.

“i just don’t know what you expected.”

The warmth drained from Papyrus in an instant, replaced with cold, hard reality once more.

“I WAS TRYING TO HELP YOU.”

“dammit, why can’t you leave me alone? you’ve already got me locked up here, why do you have to control everything?”

“YOU ARE SICK, SANS. YOU NEED TO GET BETTER.”

“sick. heh. that’s hilarious.”

Papyrus remained silent. He wasn’t going to be goaded into another one of these arguments. It was pointless trying to get his brother to see reason.

Sans crossed his quivering arms against his chest and turned his gaze away again, that familiar anger flickering across his face. While he simmered in his rage, Papyrus was left to curl up on the floor, the pain pulsing through his skull. He knew it was going to bruise, and leaving the cracks like this overnight would mean he’d probably have a scar. But he didn’t have it in him to use healing magic tonight. He was too tired.

In fact, he could feel himself beginning to drift off. He wasn’t partial to sleeping on the bathroom floor – especially given its current state – but the blankets were so comfortable, and his aching body yearned for a moment’s rest. His good eye was growing heavier by the second, tugging him down, down, down...

But as his eye was about to close, he chanced a glance at Sans. His brother was still looking away, but something had sparked in his eyelights. Something that made Papyrus uneasy. And as he followed Sans’s gaze, he understood why: his brother was staring at the door.

Papyrus sighed and awkwardly pushed himself into a sitting position, shocking his brother from whatever ill-conceived plans he had been concocting. One thing was certain: there would be no sleep for Papyrus tonight.

*************************************************

---

Papyrus’s soul stuttered when Sans’s weight sagged against his chest. He shook him wildly, so desperate for him to wake up, to not fall asleep, to not die in his arms – oh god, oh god, please, anything but that.

“Papyrus!” Undyne barked, drawing Papyrus from his spiral. Her brow was furrowed with obvious concern, but she exuded both calmness and authority that stilled Papyrus’s soul. “We need to get him inside,” she ordered. “If one of Muffet’s cronies sees him like this...”

For a moment, Papyrus wanted to refuse. Undyne was the reason Sans was in this state to begin with! That rage still prickled at his soul, demanding him to take action and stomp straight back to Snowdin.

Then he remembered Sans’s garbled plea. And Undyne’s warning was as true as ever. If he ever lost his brother again...

He wasn’t his brother. He needed to remember that.

Still, he wouldn’t let harm come to this monster. He wasn’t sure his soul could take it.

He swallowed and nodded at Undyne. Without waiting for an invitation, he marched into her house, rushed past the living room and kitchen, and went straight into her dark, familiar bedroom.

Carefully cradling Sans’s skull, he lowered the fragile skeleton onto the bed. Immediately he began raking over his body – which in almost every aspect was his brother’s body, and oh, he should really not be looking at him like this without his permission, he’d be rightly upset – and searched for any sign of injury from Undyne’s attack. When his fingers grazed over the old wound that was slashed across his chest, Sans yelped and convulsed.

“SANS? ARE YOU OKAY?”

Sans didn’t reply, nor did he open his eyes or give any other indication that he was conscious. Papyrus gently lifted Sans’s shirt to reveal the ugly injury, ignoring the embarrassment and guilt that needled through his soul at the intimate gesture. The wound was the same as the day he had appeared in the living room all those nights ago, and really, he wasn’t sure why he was surprised. Of course his healing had done nothing. He was a failure through and through.

“Holy crap!” Undyne shouted. Papyrus jolted from the sudden noise. “Did I do that?”

Papyrus lowered the shirt and glanced over him one more time to ensure there were no other injuries before he began bundling him up in the blankets.

“NO, HE HAS BEEN LIKE THAT SINCE I MET HIM.”

“’Met him’?”

“YES.” He offered no other explanation, and she didn’t press him for one either. It was only after Papyrus had completely drowned Sans in blankets and several minutes of fretting over him that Undyne spoke again.

“Papyrus, he’s fine.”

“HE MOST CERTAINLY IS NOT FINE.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to keep tucking him in. He’s not going anywhere.”

He stilled his hands.

“Come on, let him get some rest.” She motioned toward the door. When he didn’t move, she continued, “He doesn’t need you hovering over him like that. He’ll be scared out of his wits if the first thing he sees is your face two inches from his.”

There was no denying what she said was true. He didn’t want to exacerbate Sans’s condition any more than it already had been, and it appeared as if his pain had passed for the moment. His labored breathing had transformed into a quiet snore and he seemed quite peaceful.

With great reluctance, Papyrus followed her into the other room. She offered him a seat at the kitchen table, and although he wanted to say no, she levied a look at him that told him there was no room for negotiation. He slumped onto the stool as she put a kettle on. While she tended to the tea, he crossed his arms and legs, telling himself that if he wouldn’t engage with her no matter how much she tried!

However, perhaps sensing his displeasure, Undyne did not speak. Even when the tea was done, she did not say a word as she handed a steaming cup to him and sat next to him. Papyrus begrudgingly accepted the tea, knowing that she was trying to soothe his nerves. Still, wasting food was not something the Great Papyrus ever liked to do, so he sipped the drink, savoring the familiar floral flavor.

After they had been drinking for several minutes, Undyne finally spoke.

“Okay,” she said quietly, “I know you’re pissed at me, and yeah, maybe I deserve it, but if I had known he was so hurt, I probably wouldn’t have gone all out like that.”

“’PROBABLY’?”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

“I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU.”

“Come on, the little shit can usually take more than a few hits and you know it. And can you really blame me for wanting to bruise him up a little?”

“YES! YES, I CAN! HE DID NOT DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE SUCH BEHAVIOR!”

“You cannot be serious.” When Papyrus remained silent, she yelled, “Papyrus, he faked his death! You expect me to forgive him after he goes missing for months and leaves you with how many messes to clean up? And god only knows what he was doing with the rest of the Underground the rest of the time!” She slammed her hand on the table. “What the fuck is wrong with him?!”

Papyrus grit his teeth. Unwelcome memories swirled in his mind, threatening to cloud his every thought. He forced himself to take several deep breaths before he continued.

“HE DID NOT FAKE HIS DEATH. IF YOU HAD JUST LISTENED TO ME INSTEAD OF ATTACKING, YOU WOULD KNOW THAT ALREADY.”

Undyne cocked a brow at him. “He didn’t fake his death,” she stated skeptically.

“NO,” he said, his voice breaking. “HE DID NOT, I CAN ASSURE YOU.”

It hurt him so much to admit it, but it was true. This Sans was not his brother. He acted too differently – from the way he acted, to the manner of speech, to the way he seemed to have no clue what life was like in the Underground. It was utterly bizarre how much he stood out, given that he was a monster and had to have grown up here. Yet Sans had offered no explanation.

Secretly he couldn’t help but wonder if this was his brother and he had some form of amnesia. He knew it was a fruitless hope. This Sans had insisted they weren’t brothers, and he had seemed so sure of it. He had even said his own brother was dead, and he had said it was such finality that Papyrus knew in his soul that it must be true.

Maybe that was why he had treated him so badly... He couldn’t stand the truth. The truth that his brother was gone. It was hard to fathom after seeing Sans abruptly turn up in his home one day, out of the blue. And it didn’t help that his soul felt like it was breaking all over again every time he laid eyes on him.

Even now, when he wasn’t in the same room as Sans, his soul was clenching, and oh no, were those tears collecting in the corners of his sockets? He tried to brush them away but they wouldn’t stop obscuring his vision, and he was having a hard time breathing, and oh....

Undyne slid a hand across the table, and despite how angry he was with her, he placed his hand on hers, welcoming the familiar gesture. Every now and then she’d cast aside her role as captain and fully embrace their friendship like this. And every time she did, he ended up either having the time of his life or having a meltdown.

Today it was apparently the latter.

Loud, hiccupping sobs wracked his body as he released all his emotions over the last couple weeks. He had spent so much energy procuring Sans from that damned bar and helping him recover that he had hardly had any time to reflect on how tired he was. Sans’s presence had utterly sapped him, and he knew why. This wasn’t his Sans. His Sans was gone.

Undyne sidled up next to him and rubbed small circles into his scapula as he let the tears flow. “Crap, I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

Though he wanted to reply, he was choking on his emotions, tears clogging his throat. He made a spluttering noise as he tried to speak, so Undyne hushed him and wrapped him up in one of her best friend hugs. It was exactly what he needed. After releasing a few more sobs into her shoulder, he got himself under control (though still a bit sniffly).

“You okay?” she asked, handing him a tissue. He nodded. “Crap, Papyrus. I’m really sorry.”

This time she sounded genuine.

“I WISH YOU WOULD LISTEN TO ME INSTEAD OF THINKING... I DO NOT KNOW. I GUESS THAT I AM STUPID!”

“I don’t think you’re stupid!” She huffed. “I just want to know what the hell is going on!”

That was fair. He explained everything that had happened over the last two weeks. From Sans’s sudden entry to the horrid affair at the bar where he had been forced to witness his brother doing... that with the patrons.

“What the hell? Papyrus, this all happened and you didn’t tell me?”

Papyrus noisily blew into the tissue before continuing. “I DID NOT THINK YOU WOULD BELIEVE ME.” He hadn’t really believed it himself.

“More like I don’t believe him.”

Papyrus blinked. “WHAT?”

“Papyrus, he’s clearly an enemy! Do you think the lab wouldn’t do something like this? Or Muffet? Any one of them would totally send a fake to ruin your life! Or your brother’s reputation... or what’s left of it anyway.”

Papyrus balled his fists. “IT WASN’T THEM.”

“How do you know?”

“I HAVE ASKED AROUND.”

Undyne dragged a hand down her face, sighing. “We’ve talked about this. Just because people say one thing doesn’t mean it’s true.”

“I KNOW THAT, BUT... EVEN IF I HAD NOT ASKED, I KNOW HE IS NOT WORKING WITH THEM.”

He may have accused Sans of being a doppelganger more than a handful of times over the last few days, but he had never truly believed it. This Sans didn’t seem to have any hidden motives. Or if he did, they were well-hidden.

And if he was a doppelganger, then Papyrus was convinced that he had accidentally taken on his brother’s appearance because he was not a very good mimic. If that were the case, that would be quite unfortunate for everyone involved. The worst sort of misunderstanding. Though maybe Papyrus could convince him to turn into someone else. Like a human. Then they could see the Surface! Wait, no... That wouldn’t work...

Undyne interrupted his thoughts. “You need to find out who he is if he isn’t your brother. You’ve got some stranger living in your house, getting who the hell knows what out of it –”

“HE IS HARMLESS.” He rubbed his arm. “AS YOU CAN TELL FROM EARLIER.”

“Still, get his story straight. Or he’ll have me to answer to. Again.”

Papyrus exhaled. “SPEAKING OF ANSWERING TO YOU, THAT IS WHY I AM HERE.” He squinted at her. “IF YOU CALLED ME IN FOR A SPARRING MATCH, I THINK WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THAT FOR ONE DAY!”

“No, that’s not it. I wanted to talk in person because I didn’t want anyone to overhear our conversation.”

“WELL?”

“Muffet contacted the Guard yesterday.”

“ABOUT ME?” he asked, his voice going up an octave.

“God, no! If I ever got an order like that it’d get lost in our files or something. Or I’d raise hell and overthrow the establishment!” She laughed, but Papyrus knew she would if it came down to it. Well, maybe if King Asgore died or retired she would. Some bonds weren’t so easily broken.

“THEN WHAT?”

“She asked for some Royal Guard intervention in some eviction case out in Deep Waterfall. Apparently she wants us to stop a squatter from getting thrown out.”

“WHY?”

“I don’t know, that’s the weird part. She’s got no relation to any of the monsters. As far as I can tell no one involved is any of the usual junkies or drug mules or anything else. I checked into it and she doesn’t even have a connection to the property or the owners. As far as I know, she doesn’t even run shipments into that area. It’s a pain in the butt to get to.”

“MAYBE SHE WANTS TO SET UP SHOP THERE?”

“That’s a possibility. I don’t know, though. These guys she’s trying to help aren’t the sort that usually get involved in that sort of business. They work at the university. Apparently they’re there to test some electromagnetic field or something. I don’t know why Muffet would care.”

“IT IS STRANGE,” he agreed. “AM I TO STOP THE EVICTION?”

“Pfft, hell no! The court says Muffet’s got no basis for interference, and it’s pretty obvious to the Guard she doesn’t either. No, I want you to go make sure nothing happens to those squatters and keep an eye out for anything strange while you’re there.” She hesitated. “Well, I wanted you to go and do that. But after all this mess...”

Papyrus shook his head. “OF COURSE I WILL STILL DO IT.”

“I can get someone else, you don’t have to –”

“I WANT TO DO IT! IT IS MY DUTY!”

And anything to hinder Muffet was fine with him.

Then he remembered Sans. Papyrus glanced toward the bedroom door. He was still hurt, and Papyrus couldn’t very well leave him on his own. It wasn’t safe for him.

“Don’t worry about him.” Papyrus returned his gaze to Undyne who was frowning at him. “I’ll watch over him while you’re out there.”

He squinted his sockets. “YOU WON’T HURT HIM?”

She folded her arms. “Of course not.”

“UNDYNE,” he said dubiously.

“That’s ‘Captain’ to you!”

At that, he sat up straighter. It was their inside joke... of sorts. She always intended it as a joke, but every time she said it there was a hint of seriousness to the words that drew them back to their duties. This time Papyrus understood what she was telling him. He needed to trust her to watch over his brother.

“RIGHT, CAPTAIN!” he said, climbing to his feet. “I TRUST YOU WILL TELL HIM WHERE I AM IF HE WAKES UP?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“AND... WOULD YOU TRY TO HEAL HIM?” His face warmed. “I KNOW IT IS RUDE TO ASK, BUT MY HEALING MAGIC DOES NOT SEEM TO BE WORKING.”

In truth, he didn’t really expect his healing magic to ever work again.

Undyne hesitated but nodded. “I’ll try.”

His soul loosened the tiniest bit. “THANK YOU.”

“Yeah, don’t mention it.”

He got to his feet and headed for the door.

“And Papyrus?” He turned towards her and saw that her posture had relaxed some. “Be careful out there. Word on the street is that Muffet is really pissed at you.”

Papyrus gulped. “OF COURSE. THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS ALWAYS CAREFUL!”

Though as he stepped out of the house, he made a note that he would have to be especially careful while he was out today.

Chapter Text

Sans sipped on the last dregs of his drink, his eyes half-lidded and a lazy smile sprawled on his face as he watched Grillby wipe down the tables. The bar was unnaturally quiet. Everyone had gone home for the evening, and Sans was in too much of a drunken haze to climb to his feet.

The room was much dimmer than usual, so Sans’s gaze didn’t wander far from Grillby’s dancing flames as he cleaned up after the long-gone patrons. Not that he wasn’t enjoying the show. Grillby had a slight swagger to his step, and the way those pants hugged his hips... Sans hummed under his breath. Grillbz was always nice eye candy, though watching him made Sans miss what they used to have together.

(At the thought of their last escapade, his body grew warm.)

“...Don’t you need to be getting home?” Grillby said, not bothering to look up from the table he was scrubbing.

Sans’s soul stirred. He really did need to get back. Papyrus was at home, probably pacing back and forth across the living room, watching the clock with ever-growing worry. He would be waiting for his bedtime story, getting increasingly cranky with every minute.

(The image filled Sans’s soul with a sense of dread and he couldn’t articulate why. Didn’t he usually enjoy his time with his brother?)

But it wasn’t that he didn’t want to spend time with Papyrus. It was because... Well. It didn’t matter why. He wasn’t in any rush to get home tonight.

(Not until he could get rid of the growing heat below.)

“what? trying to throw me out already? i expected more from my old flame.” He winked, though he knew Grillby wouldn’t be impressed. He braced himself for another argument about moving on with their lives, and responsibility, and blah, blah, blah.

To his surprise, however, Grillby dropped his rag onto the table and faced Sans with a smile curled on his face.

“...If I had known that’s why you stayed late tonight, I could’ve told you hours ago that you were boned.”

For a moment Sans was too stunned to do anything more than gape. Then he began wheezing with uncontrollable laughter, his sockets clouded with tears. It was rare that Grillbz played along with his puns, but wow, when he did, Sans couldn’t be happier.

(Or more turned on.)

He must’ve been laughing for a lot longer than he had thought because when he cleared his vision of tears, Grillby was inches from his face. His laughter died in his throat.

“...Have you missed me?” There was a husky timbre to his voice that prickled at Sans’s heat.

“yeah,” he admitted. “why? have you missed me?”

In reply, Grillby pressed his mouth against Sans’s. All too eager to reciprocate (and to chase that intense heat growing in his bones), Sans immediately opened his mouth, welcoming him to explore inside. Grillby enthusiastically accepted the invitation and slipped his tongue between Sans’s teeth, and with a rush of magic, they were soon entangled with one another. Face suffused with warmth, he closed his sockets, moaning as he savored the moment.

When they unraveled from one another, Sans was shocked to find that he was no longer sitting at his regular spot at the counter but instead lying on one of the tables with a very topless Grillby straddling him. How had he moved without feeling it? Was he really that drunk?

When Grillby tore off Sans’s clothes and began peppering his neck with tiny, warm kisses, he shrugged it off and threw himself back into the moment. As soon as his shorts had been extracted, Sans ground his pelvis against Grillby. His magic was already tingling with anticipation, and all he wanted was to get started. Before he could get any real momentum, Grillby gripped his hips, stilling his movements.

Sans opened his mouth to protest, but Grillby staved him off by dragging his hands to Sans’s spine, allowing the flames to lick the crevices of his vertebrae and penetrate the most sensitive parts of his bones. He fell forward against Grillby’s chest, no longer able to sit up on his own.

“grillby…” he groaned, his eyes clenched shut. He leaned into the touch, his bones burning from head to toe as Grillby skimmed his spine and trailed down to his tailbone.

“…Shh, let it happen.”

Something about that sounded… wrong.

He peeked open his eyes and saw that Grillby was no longer against him, but crouched on the floor, his face level with Sans’s pelvic bone. His soul flared with panic as he caught sight of something violet deep within Grillby’s body. He suddenly a violent urge to teleport as far away from him as he could. Before he hurt him. Before something unforgivable happened. Before... Before...

He blinked. All he could see was the familiar red and orange. Sure, there were hints of blue along Grillby’s fingertips and cheeks, but no sign of anything purple. He shook his head, his fear disappearing in an instant.

Grillby was already roughly massaging Sans’s pubic arch, and he fell back against the table, his phalanges scratching the wood.

“…You look so beautiful like this,” Grillby said, continuing his strokes.

It wasn’t long before his magic gave way and Grillby’s three middle fingers were diving between the lips of his summoned flesh, strands of wetness clinging to them as he pumped steadily. Still, it was strange. The pleasure that emanated from his groin was distant – almost as if it were happening to someone else. Convinced that Grillby wasn’t doing his job properly, Sans grabbed onto his wrist and rammed the intruding appendages more deeply. Grillby chuckled and, with a burst of blue light, unfurled another finger, his flames extending to the deepest recesses of Sans’s sex.

(A wild, untamable heat filled his cavity, heightened by the drugs he had taken. God, when he got like this, there was nothing quite like Grillbz fucking him raw.)

“please, i – ah!” he screamed as he tore into the table with his fingers, etching long scars in the wood. “i need more!”

The final finger penetrated him, stretching him almost painfully, and he angled his hips so that Grillby could fill every inch of him. Tears pricked at his eyes as the thrusts grew faster and harder all at once. Even though it felt so damn good, and Grillby was fucking him harder than he could handle, somehow the heat that clawed at him was insatiable. He clawed at Grillby’s shoulders, leaving deep caverns of bright orange where they scratched. He was so close to release, and it felt so good, and his hips wouldn’t stop, and if Grillby pulled out he’d probably cry, and oh god, oh god, oh god –

A wide smile spread across Grillby’s features as he stared into Sans’s eyes.

“…You’re so tight, Sans,” he whispered.

At those words, Sans’s soul froze. “what?”

“…You heard me,” Grillby said, his tempo unchanging. “…Look at the way your cunt is sucking me in.”

Sans looked down, and, sure enough, every time Grillby tried to withdraw his fingers, his magic pulled him back and sucked him deep inside. With every outward movement, Grillby had to force his hand out, prompting a perverse squelching noise.

Usually something like that would turn Sans on, but Grillby’s words had struck him at his core. Physically, he was having the time of his life. But his thoughts swirled with hesitation, and as he dwelled on what Grillby had said, realization hit him.

(What the fuck was he doing?)

(His brother was waiting for him, and if he knew what he was doing right now...)

He had just been raped! By the very monster who was wrist-deep in him right now.

Without warning, a dazzling purple color blossomed from within Grillby’s chest and spread outward until, like a raging wildfire, it had consumed his body. The color cast a malevolent light over their surroundings, reminding Sans of the last time he had visited the restaurant.

“no!” Sans tried to shove himself away, but Grillby heaved him closer, his hand going in even further, his forearm breaching Sans’s opening.

“…Don’t be scared. We’re having fun.”

(He wasn’t scared, dammit. It was because he was having fun that he was pushing away. Papyrus would be pissed – so fucking pissed – when he found out what he was doing.)

Sans was tugging at Grillby’s arm, frantic to extract it. “please, grillby! i gotta get home! please! paps is – ah! – paps is –”

“…Papyrus is what?”

“he’s waiting!” he shouted as Grillby’s arm began to pump again.

“…No he isn’t. He’s enjoying the show.”

Sans blinked, his hand fumbling against Grillby’s chest, his mind too muddled to understand.

Then he spotted him. Standing at the entrance, his hands pressed to his mouth and his eyes wide with astonishment, was Papyrus.

What? No! How long had he been there? His brother couldn’t watch this, it wasn’t right!

Sans released an unbidden moan as Grillby snickered and somehow went deeper, elongating the flesh to his rib cage.

(He blushed and he wasn’t sure if it was from arousal or shame.)

No matter what he did, he couldn’t pull away. Grillby was too far inside him and was moving too quickly. All he could do was watch in horror as Papyrus stared at where they were connected, his expression transforming from one of shock to curiosity.

“please, grillby,” Sans begged, “stop… you can’t do this while he’s here…”

“…I can’t?” Grillby teased.

“please… i don’t want it…”

“...Are you sure about that? You got so much tighter when you realized he was here.”

“pull out, please!”

Grillby snorted. “…Alright, then.”

A wave of relief crashed over Sans as Grillby slowly removed his fist. As desperate as he was for orgasm, he could never do this in front of his brother. He panted as the pressure lessened and his organ shrunk to a normal size.

But as Grillby was about to withdraw the last few inches, he paused, his fingers twitching. Sans shot him a questioning look, but when Grillby didn’t respond, he directed his gaze to his pelvis. As he was about to reach down to drag the intruding hand away, a torrent of energy exploded from Grillby’s fingertips, sending a scalding mote into Sans. The bright purple erupted and swirled, shining radiantly through the blue magic.

Sans shrieked as his canal burned with a pleasure so intense that his vision sputtered. Whatever Grillby had summoned was expanding, penetrating every corner of him, forcing his flesh to swell to accommodate the intrusion. The air was laden with his strangled moans, and he was writhing so much, he could hardly maintain a hold on Grillby’s arm. He was still trying to pull him away, to tell him to dismiss the conjuration, to do anything, but it was too hard to concentrate with the flame piercing him, growing hotter and hotter.

Besides, Grillby’s hand was no longer inside him, but was instead smashed against Sans’s hole, acting as a plug to keep that blaze within.

“…Beautiful,” he heard Grillby say. “…It’s getting so big. I bet it’s so tight in there right now.”

And it was. It just kept getting bigger and bigger, and Sans watched in horror as his organ lengthened so much that it was nudging his lower ribs, appearing like a belly filled to the brim with squiggling lava. Sans flung himself backwards, his body a thrashing mess against the table, and though he wasn’t exactly sure what he was screeching, hysterical pleas left his mouth until his throat was raw. He scratched at his flesh, drawing out beads of blue liquid but not the foreign magic that he needed out, out, out!

“…You won’t get anywhere by doing that,” Grillby muttered as he rubbed the bloated magic. “…If you want it out, you know what you have to do.”

Sans knew, but he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to give Grillby the satisfaction. This was wrong. Horrifying. Absolutely disgusting.

(It felt so damn good, he could hardly stand it.)

“…You can do it,” Grillby urged. “…Cum for me. It’ll feel good.”

There was no stopping it. The flame kept growing bigger – it was already spilling into his ribs – and the longer it went on, the more enthusiastically it squirmed, the closer it drove Sans to the edge. Holding back his orgasm was like trying to stop water from falling through his bony hands. And if it was inevitable anyway…

Sans gave in.

Within seconds, his vision went dark and his hips jutted into the air with great force as his walls clamped down. Time seemed to dilate as his orgasm rippled through him, the scorching magic inside his canal elongating it past the point of comfort. When it finally abated, his body plopped onto the table, and he was too tired and hurt to even open his eyes.

Besides, he didn’t want to look down. Even though his sexual organs were by no means a permanent addition, he didn’t want to see how badly the flame had transformed it. He didn’t want that image burned in his vision.

“WOWIE!”

Sans’s eyes snapped open. Papyrus had taken Grillby’s place on the floor, his face inches from Sans’s opening. Though his magic was not swollen like before, it was stretched, worn, and packed with what looked like molten lava.

“THAT LOOKED LIKE FUN!”

Sans was still out of breath, and he didn’t get a chance to speak before Grillby, who now stood behind him, clamped a hand over his mouth.

“…It is fun.” Grillby pointed towards the muddy mixture of blue fluid and lava that dribbled from Sans. “…You always know when someone has had a good time if they’re leaking like this.”

“REALLY?” Papyrus said, tilting his head. “BUT WHAT IS HE LEAKING?”

“…It’s magic.”

Papyrus extended a single finger towards the opening, and though Sans tried to shake his head, Grillby was gripping him too tightly. He shivered as his brother grazed his folds, causing more of the liquid to slop out.

“MAGIC? WAS THAT A TRAINING EXERCISE? IS IT LIKE WHEN I SWEAT WHEN I SPAR WITH UNDYNE?”

As Papyrus continued to play with Sans’s overstimulated magic, Grillby stroked Sans’s head almost soothingly.

“…Somewhat. This training is special. You only do it with monsters you love.”

“SANS LOVES YOU?”

“...Yes. And he loves you too, Papyrus.”

Terror flooded Sans’s soul. Grillby couldn’t know.

“I KNOW HE DOES! AND I DO TOO! DO YOU THINK I CAN TRY THIS WITH HIM?”

“...I think that is an excellent idea. Why don’t you give this a lick?” he said, pointing between Sans’s legs.

Excitement flashed across Papyrus’s face. “REALLY?”

Grillby nodded. “…Yes, if you love him, it’ll taste very good. I promise.”

Papyrus scooched forward, his already-summoned tongue unfurling from his mouth, ready to scoop up the magic even as Sans tried to find the strength to throw Grillby off. It was no use. Grillby was too strong, Sans too weak, and Papyrus too innocent.

(His magic tingled once again.)

As Papyrus’s tongue was about to make contact, Sans jolted and suddenly the other two were no longer in his sight. He kicked his legs, desperate to get away from his brother before he did something he couldn’t even comprehend was wrong. But Sans was trapped. A tight bundle of blankets engulfed him, making it impossible to move. He twisted and turned, gasping as he searched for a way to escape before Grillby pushed him down against the table and compelled his brother to fuck him.

It was a couple of minutes before he realized that Grillby and Papyrus were not there, and that, in fact, he wasn’t in the bar at all. He was lying in the middle of an oversized bed, surrounded by blankets and pillows. Sucking in shallow breaths, he craned his neck every which way as he took in his unfamiliar surroundings.

It was in total contrast to where he had just been; the air was cool, though heavy with a humidity so dense it felt like it was coating the inside of his bones with dew with every breath. Everything was much darker than the bar, and it took him a couple seconds to adjust to the dim lighting. What he saw didn’t reveal much; most of the space was bare. He noticed a potted fern here, a bookcase there, and rumpled clothes thrown haphazardly in a corner, but not a whole lot else.

But what caught his eyes was the wall to his right. Comprised entirely of glass, it allowed him to peek into a spacious cavern on the other side. The cave hosted a large, faintly glowing pond that was dotted with lily pads, water sausages, and a host of insects that skimmed the surface, leaving behind little ripples in their wake. Slender stalactites glistened overhead, trickling drops of moisture into the scene below. Not too far away from the building, a waterfall poured fresh water into the edge of the pool, and it was loud enough that he could hear it even through the glass.

The sound echoed in his skull, and it drained some of the tension from his bones. Realization slowly nestled in his soul.

God, he had been dreaming.

He huddled in on himself, ignoring the throbbing in his chest that the movement caused. Wetness had gathered at his groin, and from the achiness in his leg bones, he knew that when he had come in his dream, he had done so in reality as well. Stars, he had gotten pleasure from that. Why the hell would he be dreaming about Grillby and Papyrus doing something like that so soon after having been raped? What the fuck was wrong with him?

Wanting nothing more than to scream out his frustrations, he rolled over so his face was buried in his pillow. Yet when he opened his mouth to shout, he instead released a broken sob and then another, and another, until the fabric was wet with his tears.

When he felt like he had cried enough, he began to lift his head, but was suddenly struck by the thought of seeing Grillby’s flames at the foot of the bed. What if he hadn’t been dreaming? Maybe Grillby was waiting, alongside the rest of the patrons at the bar. It wasn’t true, he knew it couldn’t be true, and yet he couldn’t stop shaking at the idea. His chest began to heave as panic overtook him, and he couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop, even though he needed to stop because Grillby was probably there watching him. Oh god, he was so hot, and he had to cool down because if it wasn’t hot that meant Grillby wasn’t nearby. So he ripped off the blankets that imprisoned him, but he couldn’t slow his breathing, and it was still so hot, and... and... and....

When he finally came to, he didn’t know how long he had been hyperventilating, but his bones were drenched in sweat and weighed with exhaustion. He sat immobile and listened to the waterfall splashing into the pool, determined to focus on it instead of the horrid memories of the dream, the bar, the death of his brother, everything. He just wanted to drown it out. Please…

An abrupt crashing noise jerked him from his stupor. He tore his head away from the comfort of his pillow and whipped around. Light spilled from the nearby door, and standing right in the center of the doorframe, casting one long, eerie shadow over him, was Undyne. Shadows played across her face, which served only to deepen the glare she was throwing his direction.

Her sudden entrance sent Sans scrambling to get into a defensive position before she attacked. But as he tried to push himself up, his limbs trembled from the exertion, and before he knew it, he was sprawled across the bed once more, gasping and clawing at his chest.

“Stop!” Undyne yelled as she rushed forward. Once again, Sans tried to get away, only to find himself gasping and straining against the covers as the slicing pain across his ribs intensified.

“Ugh! I said stop!” She held him down to the bed so he couldn’t move. A new wave of panic, born from an entirely different fear, sparked within him. He shoved against her arm, trying to break contact so he could teleport as far away as he could before... before...

She leaned her weight into him, and as her fingers pressed against his wound, his vision blacked out. Suddenly devoid of energy, he flopped onto the bed.

“Dammit!” she exclaimed as she lessened the pressure. “Would you stop moving? I’m not trying to hurt you, asshole!”

He didn’t know what she was complaining about; whatever she had done to him, he couldn’t move an inch now even though he needed to. All she had to do was summon a spear and he’d be dust. Or... oh god, was she taking off his shirt? No, please... Not again... He could already feel the whisper of her touch against him, her fingers easing down his spine like Grillby had done in his dream.

There was nothing he could do, so he tried to tune everything out. Better to not feel anything than to feel too much. And this? This would be too much for any monster to handle.

Yet as he started to space out, something warm and heavy drifted into his chest cavity, and with a surge of energy, the pain from his injury became muffled. He hadn’t even realized how much it had been hurting until now.

With trepidation, he resummoned his eyelights and was stunned to find wisps of ethereal green flowing from Undyne’s hand and into his ribs. Her magic was strained and loose; so much of it was escaping his ribcage and dancing in the air, flickering like the soft flame of a candle. But the small amount that was entering his body was like a breath of fresh air.

“you’re healing me?” he slurred. Never would he have expected this level of intimacy from someone like her. He’d be embarrassed if it didn’t feel so refreshing.

“Shut up, jackass, I’m trying to concentrate.”

“where’s paps?” He looked towards the door, half-expecting to see his brother – no, not his brother, the other Papyrus – standing there.

“Working! Now shut it!”

He relented to the gentle pressure of the magic and sunk into the bed, his soul slowing to an even pace. As his bones grew heavier, a soft sigh escaped his teeth.

After a minute or so, Undyne yelled, “Ugh! Why isn’t it working?!”

Through barely-open eyes he saw the magic grow taller. More of it seeped into his chest, and the sincerity of Undyne’s intent to heal him cradled his soul, making everything feel fuzzy and pleasant.

“dunno what you mean,” he murmured. “feels fine to me.”

“No, it isn’t! You’re absorbing it, but nothing’s healing!” She increased the channel so that the magic spiked to the ceiling, but after only a few seconds she bellowed, “NGAH! THIS IS POINTLESS!”

She withdrew her hand and the green swirls sputtered away, throwing the room into darkness once more. Though he was half-tempted to close his sockets all the way and go back to sleep, the pain was already creeping into his chest, cutting through the haze. He blinked and returned his attention to Undyne. She was scrutinizing his torso with a frown, and when he followed her gaze, he saw that his wound was as ugly as ever.

“oh, you’re right,” he mumbled. “it didn’t heal. weird.”

Her brow furrowed. “Not really.”

“what do you mean?”

“Tch.” She got up from the bed and crossed her arms. “My healing isn’t going to work with you.”

He cast her an inquisitive look.

“Really? You don’t know?”

He gingerly lowered his shirt so his injury was no longer exposed. “look, i don’t know what is going on, but –”

“Healing –” she said through gritted teeth, “ – doesn’t work if you don’t have a strong enough connection to a monster. A basic level of trust. And believe me, I don’t trust you.”

Sans tensed up and flinched when the minute movement shot pain through his bones. For some reason, that hadn’t been what he had been expecting from her, though... he didn’t know why. He remembered learning about what she had said in school when his own healing magic hadn’t seemed to work for ages. But... he had never seen any other monster have problems with it before.

Why was he surprised? This Undyne knew nothing about him and had even attacked him earlier. They had no connection.

“i’m not the untrustworthy one here,” he said as he pushed himself into a sitting position, ignoring the aches in his body. “i don’t know what your problem is, but you almost got me killed with that stunt you pulled earlier.”

“If I had known that you were hurt –”

“what? you would’ve gone easy on me?”

Her eye narrowed. “You think you would have deserved it?”

“look, i don’t know what the sans you know has done to you, but –”

“Don’t give me that crap!” She jabbed her finger at him. “Where the fuck have you been?”

“i –”

“Or, no, better yet, how about you tell me who the fuck you really are?”

“i’m from –”

“And no more lies! You might be able to fool Papyrus, but not me!”

“it’s –”

“Let’s hear the truth!”

He huffed in exasperation, and only when he was sure she was done did he reply. “i’m sans. just not the sans you know.”

He explained, in the simplest terms he could, how he had traveled to this universe. He left out the details of his brother’s death and all that had led up to throwing himself into the Core and pretended it had been an experiment gone wrong.

“And why didn’t you tell all this time travel bullshit to Papyrus, huh?”

“i just... didn’t get around to it.” Guilt squirmed in his soul. He should have told him yesterday, he knew that, but it had all been too much at the time.

“Pssh. You really expect me to believe that? How about you tell me who sent you to fuck up Papyrus’s life? I’ll give you double whatever your boss is paying.”

“god. no one sent me! is it really that hard to believe?”

“Time travel? Uh, yeah, asshole. Either you’re a doppelganger like Papyrus thought or –”

“how in the world would there be a doppelganger –“

“OR –” she continued, “– you really are Sans, in which case I’m going to kick your ass all over again for hurting Papyrus like you have.”

“i would never hurt papyrus. he’s –” He stopped himself. “i’m... not gonna hurt him, okay?”

“You already have! Have you seen the way he’s acting? God, if you really don’t have any plans to hurt him, then leave. Your being around him is going to kill him!”

Sans was silent. She was probably right – if his dead brother showed up out of the blue, he’d probably lose it. But there was nothing he could do about it until he traveled back home. And he wasn’t sure it was all that safe to do that in his condition...

“Look, whoever you’re working for –tell them that I found out about the scheme and scared you off. That should satisfy them.” Her glare deepened. “Or I could actually scare you off, if that’s what you really want.”

“would you stop? i’ve already given you my explanation. as soon as i heal up, i’ll go back home. which... er, thank you for trying, i guess.” He glanced at his chest again.

“Don’t thank me. It was Papyrus’s idea, so you can thank him. Or here’s a better idea: don’t.”

Sans sighed. “i don’t want to stick around this hellhole any more than you want me here, believe me.” He thought back to his nightmare and shivered. “if i could get this cut fixed...”

“If it’s such a big concern, then heal the natural way. Away from Papyrus. Go stay at an inn or something. There’s nothing stopping you.”

“uh, money? i’ve got none, and in case you haven’t noticed, paps doesn’t have any either. you were the one offering to pay double or whatever the hell, so if you wanna hand over some gold for a night at the inn –”

Undyne snorted. “Typical.”

“what?”

“Your behavior. Typical! Now I know it’s you. Asking for money, not giving a crap about your brother.”

“you were the one that offered money!”

“Well I don’t have any,” she said, her arms outstretched. “I bet you were excited when I offered.” She shook her head. “What, were you planning to go out and get drugged up again? Have a night out at Grillby’s and leave your brother to pick up the pieces?”

Sans’s soul sunk. “he... told you about that?” Why would he tell anyone about that? That wasn’t Undyne’s business.... It was no one’s business...

“Of course he told me. Papyrus and I are friends. He tells me everything. And even if he hadn’t, the whole Underground knows about the crap you did.” She clenched her fists. “I wouldn’t even care what the hell you did with your personal time if you didn’t hurt Papyrus every time you fucked up. I don’t know if you’re more of a masochist, a sadist, or just plain stupid for the crap you’ve done, but it’s messed up how little you care.”

The reality of what she had said hit him all at once. He lowered his head onto his knees, hiding his face from Undyne.

“dammit.”

What had Papyrus said to her?

“dammit.”

How badly had he hurt him? Had he cried to her? Or... was he pissed about how he had ended up in that situation at the bar in the first place?

“dammit, dammit, dammit.”

Papyrus never should’ve seen something like that. It was disgusting. He was disgusting.

“dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit.”

(All he wanted to do was die.)

Something flickered in his vision and for a moment it felt like his soul was being stretched in two.

“What the hell.”

He edged his sockets out from behind his knees, hating the fact that it was so obvious that he was crying.

“what?” he spat.

“Were you just –” She shook her head. “Never mind.”

“was i just what? crying? freaking out? breaking down after i’ve just gone through the worst couple weeks of my life?”

“No, that wasn’t what I meant.”

“then what, undyne? i know you have papyrus’s best interests in mind, i really do. but you don’t know a god damned thing about me, and what you’re doing is hitting the below the belt.”

“And how do you figure that?”

“you’re acting like i deserved what happened. like i enjoyed it.”

“You didn’t?”

His mouth went dry. “no,” he lied. “how can you even say that? do monsters not even care about rape here? is that just how it is here?”

Undyne blanched. “What?”

“what kind of fucking thing to say –”

“You were raped?”

“i – what? didn’t you say –?”

“Who raped you?!”

“but you said...”

Something was wrong. There had been some miscommunication between them because it didn’t make sense that Undyne didn’t know that. But his thoughts were such a mess that he couldn’t focus on how he had made that error.

“it doesn’t even matter,” he said more to himself than to Undyne.

“Like hell it doesn’t matter! Tell me what happened! I’ll kick their fucking ass! I’ll set the entire Guard on them!”

no.” He couldn’t even remember most of the monsters from the bar. One forgotten name and they’d come after him. All of them. He shuddered. “just drop it, okay?”

“If there is a rapist roaming around in the Underground, that’s... How long has this been going on? Who’s been doing that to you? Is that why you’ve been missing?”

“i already told you i’ve only been in this universe for a few weeks, dammit! so stop pretending like i’m someone i’m not!” He turned towards the glass wall and watched the water cascade into the pond. “it happened recently, so stop asking about it! i don’t wanna talk about it!”

To his surprise, she didn’t press it, but stood there silently, watching him carefully. Nervous energy poured off her and filled the room. He ignored her and continued to stare at the waterfall, following the ripples in the pool until they disappeared amongst the reeds and lily pads. It was so much easier to focus on the motion of the water than his thoughts of the other night. Or about how he felt about his brother. Or how this universe’s Papyrus probably hated him for having to save him from Grillby’s the other night.

Or the way his pants were still wet from the nightmare this morning.

So he kept watching, pretending that Undyne and the rest of the world didn’t exist. It was only him and the pond. He breathed in and out, tuning himself to the ebb and flow of the water.

After a while, he distantly heard Undyne call out his name, saying something that his mind didn’t register. Still, his subconscious must have been listening because when he heard her say something about calling Papyrus, he snapped out of it.

“what?” he asked, dazed.

Undyne was staring at him, wide-eyed and looking ready to flee. He had never seen her like that before.

“Finally. God, you scared me. Are you okay?”

“what do you care?” he asked, his voice hollow.

She sat on the edge of the bed. “Look, I don’t know what you’re going through. I really, really don’t. And... I pretty much hate your guts!” Doubt flashed across her face. “Well, maybe I don’t if you’re not Papyrus’s brother. Which, uh, I still don’t believe! But you say you aren’t, right?”

“that’s right.”

She rubbed the back of her head. “Well, even if I’m right! I would never think you deserved anything like that.” She looked at her hands which were folded in her lap. “No one does.”

He stayed silent.

“And, uh, if you want to talk about it, we can.”

His face warmed. “thanks.” He’d never talk about something so personal with her, especially since she’d take action if she pieced together who had done it.

As if reading his mind, she said, “Let me tell you, I think Asgore would get personally involved if he heard about something like this. So don’t think for a second you wouldn’t be protected if you decided to tell me anything, okay?”

“yeah,” he said, not believing her for a second.

“Anyway. How about I make you some tea and we can uh... talk?” Perhaps sensing that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with that offer, she hurriedly continued, “Or you know, not do that! Let’s hang out! I can play the piano, we can spar! Or. Maybe not that.” She slammed her fist down on the bed. “We’ll do stuff! Great activities! Together!”

“you don’t gotta do that.”

“Yeah I do! Papyrus said I had to make sure you were okay while he was working, and that’s what I am going to do, dammit!”

“you can make sure i’m okay while i’m asleep.” He lay back on the bed. “how’s that sound?”

She looked uncomfortable, like she wasn’t sure what to do. “Can you really just sleep?”

His soul hammered at the thought of another nightmare. “sure. sleeping’s easy. i can even do it with my eyes closed.”

“Ha.” She sighed. “Listen, the tea will help you relax. Screw the rest of what I said, just have a cup with me. We don’t need to talk.”

He stayed silent, and after a minute, she climbed to her feet, looking defeated.

“Well, think it over,” she said as she reached the door.

“wait.” He slowly crawled out of bed. “if you’re gonna make me a cup of tea, you’ll need me there. you don’t even know how many sugars i take.”

She flashed him a triumphant grin as he joined her at the door.

Chapter Text

*************************************************

“SAAAAANS!”

Papyrus’s whine echoed off the cavern walls over the gentle hush of the nearby stream.

“papyrus, would you quiet down?”

“YOU ARE GOING TOO FAST! I CAN’T SEE!”

Sighing in exasperation, his brother stopped and swung around, lantern in hand. The flames flickered precariously as the wind whipped through the glass container, and Papyrus tensed, ready for the light to sputter out. Thankfully, his worries were for naught; as soon as Sans stilled, the flames calmed and glowed as brightly as ever.

“BE CAREFUL! THAT IS THE ONLY LIGHT WE HAVE!”

It wasn’t strictly true. They could navigate back home by traveling along the stream’s edge, using the luminescent blue as their guide. But the light was not that strong, and every time Papyrus fell too far behind, he’d get stuck in the mud and had to fight against the strong suction to get his feet out. He could not imagine how horrible the journey would be without even the flame to aid them.

Sans impatiently beckoned Papyrus closer. Groaning, Papyrus crept forward, trying his best not to slip on the moisture-coated rocks beneath his feet. The embankment was narrow here, and – never mind the mud – if he wasn’t careful he’d end up in the water. Whatever came of the rest of this ill-begotten journey, if he got wet he’d be furious. His schoolwork would be completely drenched and as it was, it was already unlikely that he’d have enough time to finish it before tomorrow. His teachers would be none too pleased with him if he turned in sopping wads of paper, and with his grades…

If he had known this is what Sans had meant when he had invited him, he would’ve insisted that he at least drop the backpack off at his locker first! That, or he would’ve gone straight home.

Upon reaching Sans, he grasped onto his shoulder so he wouldn’t get too far ahead again. As soon as his hand made contact, his brother continued forward, stretching his arm out so the lantern lit the ground before them. Everywhere that Papyrus looked, tall weeds, slick moss, and slippery rocks covered the thin strip of land, and there were no signs of even a single echo flower along the way. If there had ever been a path, it had long since faded.

Papyrus cleared his throat and said, “SANS, MAYBE WE SHOULD GO HOME.”

Sans pressed on, not saying a word.

“WE CAN GO TO OTHER TOWNS AND TRY TO FIND WHAT YOU NEED,” he said, his voice speeding up as his nerves got the best of him. “I HAVE HEARD THAT SNOWDIN HAS A WONDERFUL SELECTION TO CHOOSE FR–”

“snowdin doesn’t have what i need, paps.”

Papyrus squeezed his brother’s shoulder. “YOU WENT TO SNOWDIN?”

“yeah, the other day,” he said, shrugging. “it wasn’t a big deal.”

“WHY DIDN’T YOU ASK ME IF I WANTED TO GO?”

“you were busy with the pre-rg club. i didn’t think you wanted to come for that.”

Papyrus stayed quiet, knowing that Sans was right –training for the Royal Guard was the most important thing, much more so than this. Still, he wish that his brother had waited until he was free. Usually he enjoyed these impromptu trips to other parts of the Underground. It was an excellent opportunity to scout the other regions, and if he ever hoped to become an accomplished Royal Guard he was going to have to get a lay of the land.

Today, however, was a different matter entirely.

“THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS, YOU KNOW!”

“what is?” Sans said. There was a hint of something to his tone that might have indicated sarcasm, though Papyrus always found it difficult to tell, as his brother full well knew.

“THIS TRIP!” he huffed. “I WOULD NOT HAVE MINDED GOING TO SNOWDIN, YOU KNOW THAT! BUT WE ARE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, SURROUNDED ONLY BY PLANTS AND DIRT AND WATER –”

“what, is the water gonna jump up and bite you?”

“WE COULD GET LOST AND NEVER FIND OUR WAY HOME!”

Sans stopped suddenly, and Papyrus lurched as his feet skidded along the wet stone.

“i can’t believe this.”

“WHAT?”

“i never thought i’d see the day where my bro was afraid,” he sighed, shaking his head.

“WHAT?! I AM NOT AFRAID! TAKE THAT BACK!”

“can’t. sounds like you’re being a scaredy cat, bro.”

“THAT IS NOT FAIR! I AM NOT A CAT! AND I AM NOT AFRAID! YOU KNOW THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS WOULD NEVER BE SCARED!”

Sans snorted but started walking again, prompting Papyrus to follow.

“DO NOT LAUGH AT ME!”

“i’m not,” he said with clear humor in voice.

“WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME? I AM NOT SCARED! I AM JUST... VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE LEGALITIES OF WHAT WE ARE DOING! WE WILL GO TO JAIL, SANS!”

Sans stopped laughing. “shhh, quiet. do you wanna get caught?”

“THAT IS MY POINT!” Papyrus shouted. “WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE WORRIED ABOUT GETTING CAUGHT! WE SHOULD BE AT HOME DOING OUR HOMEWORK! NOT COMMITTING CRIMES!”

“you’re acting like this is a big deal. it’s just a petty crime, bro.”

“NO CRIME IS PETTY, BROTHER! IF THE ROYAL GUARD FOUND OUT –”

“the royal guard doesn’t care about this sorta thing i promise.”

“THEY SHOULD! THEY SHOULD UPHOLD EVERY LAW –”

“the sun don’t shine outta the guards’ asses. they look the other way for this kinda shit so they can get to the real garbage –”

“LANGUAGE!”

“– and i know sometimes it’s just to add a few more gold coins to their pockets.”

Papyrus bristled. “ONLY THE BAD GUARDS DO THAT!”

all guards do that.” He shook his head. “i keep trying to tell you that but you won’t listen.”

“YOU ARE WRONG! AND – AND EVEN IF YOU WEREN’T, IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

“why? because it’s wrong?”

“WELL, YES. THAT TOO! BUT REALLY, IF THE GUARDS ARE AS CORRUPT AS YOU SAY – WHICH THEY AREN’T! – THEN THEY WILL NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY FOR US AND YOU KNOW IT!”

Sans rolled his eyelights. “you underestimate my ability to talk us outta this stuff.”

“LAST TIME YOU TRIED TO TALK US OUT OF SOMETHING YOU NEARLY GOT US KILLED!”

A smirk lit up his face. “i don’t know about ‘killed.’ more like… seriously injured.”

“SANS!”

“hey, we got away in the end.” He hit Papyrus on the arm. “and you got a cool scar on your hand to show for it. the rg will be impressed.”

Papyrus did not want to be reminded of that horrid affair. After “negotiations” with a group of criminals had soured, one of the other monsters had aimed their magic right for Sans, hoping to catch him off guard. Being as great as he was, Papyrus was always on the lookout for such intolerable behavior from the scoundrels that his brother associated with. At the sign of first trouble, he had dashed in front of Sans, taking the brunt of the attack and almost getting his hand blown off.

Sans was acting nonchalant about it now, but at the time, he had… freaked out, to put it mildly. He had retaliated with his own magic, though it hadn’t done much; with such poor control over his magic and his difficulties doing even the basics, all he had managed to do was make the gang of miscreants double over in laughter. In the end, Papyrus had been forced to knock over a nearby fruit stand to escape.

“I AM SURE THE GUARD WOULD NOT BE IMPRESSED IF THEY KNEW THE DETAILS OF HOW I RECEIVED IT!”

“nah, they’d think it was badass. standing up to a bunch of no-good criminals? i know i thought it was cool.”

Warmth blossomed in Papyrus’s chest, constricting his soul and filling his mind with fluff until he was left almost breathless from giddiness. His fingers automatically clenched around his brother’s shoulder, but as soon as he noticed he yanked his hand away, hoping to all that was good in the world that Sans hadn’t felt it. He didn’t need another lecture.

“NO, THAT’S NOT–! I MEAN YES! I MEAN – ARGH!” He shook his head, trying to dispel the fuzziness and get back to the topic at hand. Scars. Fights. Criminal activities!

“NONE OF THIS MATTERS, SANS! EVEN IF THE SCAR IS – ” he coughed, his cheekbones warming, “– ‘BADASS,’ I DO NOT WANT TO GET INTO ANOTHER FIGHT WITH ONE OF YOUR SO-CALLED ‘PALS.’”

“well you didn’t have to come,” Sans said, his tone edging on serious.

“I AM NOT ABOUT TO LET YOU GO OUT HERE ALL BY YOURSELF WITH NO WAY TO PROTECT YOURSELF!”

“i can take care of myself, you know,” Sans retorted. “you don’t gotta babysit me.”

“YOU CANNOT TRAVEL ALL THE WAY OUT HERE BY YOURSELF, SANS! IT IS DANGEROUS!”

“what’s that supposed to mean?”

“YOU CANNOT EVEN USE MAGIC PROPERLY!”

Sans swiveled around, and the flame wavered again as the lantern veered through the air. The light danced across his skull, and the shadows only highlighted the angry furrows lining his face. Too late, as always, Papyrus realized he had crossed a line.

“would you give it a rest already? your nagging isn’t gonna do anything when we’re almost there.”

“I AM NOT NAGGING!”

“yeah you are. that’s all you ever do. it’s not cool, you know, and if you don’t watch it, the guard is never gonna let you in. no one wants to hear it.”

Tears sprung to Papyrus’s sockets and an icy pain seeped into his chest, eliminating all traces of the warm happiness that had flooded him just moments ago. Sans was right. Every time he whined or moaned, he knew how irritating he was. No one – absolutely no one – could bear to be his friend when all he did was worry and fuss over trivialities, and really, who could blame them? It wasn’t as if he didn’t know he was insufferable. Sometimes he wished with all his might that he would just… just… be normal for once.

Sans stomped off, leaving Papyrus alone on the narrow strip. For a moment, he wasn’t sure what to do. His brother obviously wanted to leave him behind so he could take care of his business without his incessant whining. But as much as Papyrus had been nagging, deep down he knew that he needed to keep his brother out of trouble. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Sans; in fact, there wasn’t a more trustworthy monster in his life. His brother had just gotten… a little rebellious since Dad had died. And with Father working all those late hours, it was up to Papyrus to keep him in line.

As Sans stomped away, the darkness closed in once more. Unwilling to leave his brother’s side, Papyrus dashed forward and fell in line behind him.

Neither of them spoke as they traipsed through the underbrush, and every second of stony silence caused his soul to twist and throb. He wanted to yell at Sans, or apologize, or say anything so they’d start talking again, but he didn’t trust himself not to mess things up further.

“fucking finally,” Sans announced.

At first Papyrus wasn’t sure what he meant by that, and he opened his mouth to tell Sans to stop being rude. But then his brother lifted the lantern above his head and examined their surroundings more closely.

The remnants of the trail ended at Sans’s feet, giving way to a larger piece of land spotted with pools of luminescent water. Upon closer inspection, he noticed a handful of buildings, barely distinguishable from the rest of the muck, nestled between the puddles. The residents here clearly didn’t care for their homes much; many of the mossy stones that comprised the foundation had long-since fallen to the wayside, and the thick, humid air had caused the wood to rot and mold. It was a miracle the buildings were still standing.

Papyrus didn’t have much time to study the dilapidated buildings. Already, Sans was taking off, his light bobbing as he rushed toward a particularly wide building some meters away. After taking a quick peek around to ensure they weren’t being watched, Papyrus ran after him, painfully aware how difficult it was to see without the aid of the lantern or the stream. With his long gait, he caught up to Sans in no time, but as they approached the larger building, his foot smacked into something solid, and he had to fling out his arms to stop himself from falling to the ground.

“Hey, watch it!” cried out a nasally voice.

With the help of Sans’s torch, Papyrus spotted a mosquito monster a few meters away. They were bedecked in muddy overalls, worn leather gloves, and oversized glasses that amplified their pupils to a comical size. Their long legs and abdomen went unclothed, giving them the appearance of someone half-naked.

“Look where yer going before ya tear up the garden!”

Papyrus glanced down. At his feet was a dark brown mushroom mottled with deep red spots, broken at the stem where his foot had made contact. Sure enough, the stranger was right; the dirt surrounding the building was littered with fungi of varying sizes, clearly making up a garden.

“SORRY! IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!”

“Well, keep an eye out, will ya? I won’t have ya killing my babies just because yer in a hurry.”

Papyrus ogled the broken mushroom with horror. “THESE ARE YOUR CHILDREN?” Oh my god, what had he done?!

“In a matter of speaking, yes,” the mosquito said as they peeled their gloves off.

“don’t freak out,” Sans muttered. “he doesn’t mean it literally.”

“OH.”

The mosquito lurched over to them, their legs stretching over the mushrooms with ease. “How can I help ya folks? Not much out here that would interest skeletons, I wouldn’t think. Unless ya were wanting some O Negative Shrooms.” They chuckled. “Ya don’t strike me as the type though.”

“nah, it would go right through us.” Sans winked as the stranger laughed more. When their chortling died off, his brother said, “we’re looking for my bud who lives out here. goes by the name ‘psilocybin’ online.”

As Sans said the last sentence, his voice tautened, prompting Papyrus to study the stranger carefully and prepare for an attack. The mosquito sobered, their posture straightening as they stared at Sans with newfound intensity.

“Oh? Psilocybin?” they asked in a would-be casual voice. “Don’t know about them, but we got plenty of peckii in the house for sale.”

“nah, can’t have any of that. i got a bleeding tooth.”

What? When had Sans broken his tooth?! As Papyrus was about to order his brother to open his mouth for inspection, the mosquito broke into a wide smile.

“Ya made it! I didn’t think ya’d come out all this way!”

Sans relaxed. “what can i say? with the right incentive, i guess i can do anything.” He winked again.

The mosquito chuckled. “Incentive? Got plenty of that.” They urged them towards the front door. “I’ll show ya my stock.”

“knew i could count on you, psilo.”

Papyrus was a trembling mess as they followed Psilo to their decrepit house. He wanted to yank Sans back and take him home before they really got into trouble. But he didn’t, and as the three of them stepped into the dank, musky home, his soul weighed with guilt.

Psilo led them down a dark, narrow hall where the damp wood beneath them creaked with age, and into a cramped room lined with shelves of jars and overflowing boxes of mushrooms and dirt. Filthy laundry covered the moldy floor, and in the middle of the mess sat an unmade twin-sized bed.

“Sit on the bed, I’ll get them for ya.”

Sans immediately complied with Psilo’s request, throwing himself onto the bed. He peered all around him, a bright grin plastered on his skull, seemingly oblivious to how disgusting the bed was. Even from here, Papyrus spotted the dubious brown and red stains on the tattered sheets. Ugh. He was perfectly fine standing right here, thank you very much.

Psilo shuffled several boxes aside, sending billows of dried and powdery dirt through the air. Mushrooms tumbled to the floor as their arms banged into the overfilled boxes, and after several minutes, they dragged a box from the back corner to the bed, leaving behind a trail where it scraped through the thin layer of dirt on the floor.

When Papyrus caught sight of what the box contained, he grit his teeth, the guilt redoubling.

“damn, look at these!” Sans shouted, bending down to pull out the books. “you said you found a shitload, but i thought you were pulling my leg!”

“I’m not the type to exaggerate, ya should know that. I had a few more before ya came in too, but someone came by just yesterday and took a few. Wanted to learn how to draw apparently.” Psilo cleared their throat. “Now… ya wouldn’t have been exaggerating about yer gold, now would ya’ve?”

“what? of course i’ve got gold.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time someone’s tried to swindle me. Emphasis on tried.”

Sans jingled the coin purse at his side. “yeah, calm down, i got money.”

Psilo nodded and sat down on a tower of boxes, staring intently at Sans as he pulled out the collection of illicit books and placed them on the bed. Papyrus swallowed. If anyone found out about this, they would be marked as criminals for the rest of their lives. These books were supposed to be in a library, shared between monsters for the common good! King Asgore had made it clear they were not something to barter over!

Maybe if he suggested Snowdin’s library again, or perhaps another visit to one of the capital’s, he could convince Sans to give it up…

“yes, here it is!” With a loud thump, Sans dropped an oversized book labeled “A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics” onto his lap. His hands quivered as he paged through the textbook.

Any arguments that Papyrus had been about to make died in his mouth. His brother had been searching for a book on this subject for months, digging through every library in all corners of the Underground just to read it. Here it was, finally within his grasp.

As Sans silently skimmed the book, Papyrus flopped on the floor next to the bed. He wouldn’t say a word. His brother deserved this. This was his gateway to attending the university. It would put him a step ahead of everyone else. And really, Papyrus was proud of him. There weren’t many monsters who could learn as quick as his brother. All he needed was the opportunity.

Papyrus brought his chin to his knees and allowed his eyes to drift over the remaining contents of the box. At the bottom sat a few more textbooks that covered a myriad of subjects, including physics, mathematics, engineering, and a few other topics that probably had Sans leaping for joy. None of them interested Papyrus. Science always gave him a headache, and while he loved to read, technical jargon always bored him to dust unless it had practical application.

But as he raked over the supply, his eyes caught on to something bright, colorful, and glossy, hidden beneath the other books. He shifted the textbooks aside and uncovered a thin hardback book decorated with pastel rabbits hopping along a field. Peekaboo with Fluffy Bunny. It was a children’s book, hardly befitting someone as great as he – who read at an advanced college level, he might add! – but he couldn’t pull his eyes away from its splendor. Not only were the illustrations gorgeous, but it was in such pristine condition!

He jolted as something warm weighed against the top of his skull. When he looked up, he saw that Sans had placed his hand to Papyrus’s head and a gentle smile had replaced the angry glare from earlier.

“that the one you want?”

Papyrus shifted his gaze towards the book, his face warming. “REALLY? YOU – YOU ARE GOING TO BUY ONE FOR ME?”

“i promised i would if you came with me.”

“I THOUGHT YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO AFTER ALL MY NAGGING,” he said quietly.

On the last word, his throat tightened and he forced himself to stare at the colorful book in his hands so he wouldn’t start crying.

Here was Sans, being as kind and generous and wonderful as always. All Papyrus had done was whine the whole journey like a little kid.

“nah, bro, it’s fine.”

Papyrus levied a look at him.

“listen,” Sans said, sighing, “i’m sorry for snapping at you earlier. you were just… doing what you always do: watching out for me. i should’ve listened to you.”

“IF YOU HAD LISTENED TO ME, WE NEVER WOULD HAVE FOUND THE TEXTBOOK,” he choked out, hyperaware that he was so close to tears with the strange mosquito monster watching them from nearby.

“pfft. doubting my abilities again, huh?” When Papyrus remained silent, he continued, “bro, you’re always watching out for me. you’re so cool. the coolest of monsters. and you know what the coolest of monsters deserves after a long day at school and some ass-backwards trip to the middle of nowhere? a reward.”

Papyrus knew that his brother was just trying to smooth things over and make him feel better about himself. No one really believed he was cool, especially not his brother. But Papyrus was all too eager to put the argument aside; anything to get Sans talking with him again.

“I GUESS…”

Sans nudged him. “go on, pick your book.”

His brother rubbed his skull, and once again, that unwanted warmth prickled through his soul, heating up his every bone. Without hesitation, he clutched Fluffy Bunny to his chest, vowing never to get rid of it, even if King Asgore himself ordered him to hand it over. He’d never tell anyone how he had gotten it. This was their secret. A reminder of how amazing his brother was, even when Papyrus was such a pain in the tailbone.

Whatever Sans said, his brother was the coolest one here.

And Papyrus loved him for it.

*************************************************

Papyrus clenched his fists as his eyes fell upon the rotting house a few meters away. It was in shambles, far dumpier than he remembered, and he wondered if it had been abandoned years ago. But then he spotted the same mosquito monster from all those years ago, still in those atrociously dirty clothes. They were digging through their garden, plucking oversized mushrooms from the mud. He turned away, hoping they wouldn’t recognize him. That was one conversation he never wanted to have, especially while on duty.

His gaze settled on the house he was supposed to be watching.

To his surprise, the eviction had so far gone uneventfully. When the landlord had delivered the notice to the five inhabitants of the building, Papyrus had expected a scuffle or an argument at the very least. It wasn’t often that monsters would let something like an eviction go unchallenged, even with a court order. But the tenants had agreed without question, and had immediately begun emptying the home of their possessions.

Not long after the eviction had begun, an intimidatingly large bull monster had led a covered wagon to the clearing. The five monsters were now scurrying to and from the building and had already loaded countless boxes onto the vehicle; it was quite astounding how much the small building had held. They called back and forth between themselves to ask where a certain box would go or if they should keep a certain object, not bothering to keep their voices low. Their shouts echoed through the caves and not long after the wagon arrived, the other inhabitants of Deep Waterfall crawled and skittered over to the home.

“As loud as ever!” an old hermit crab bellowed, shaking one of his large foreclaws in the direction of the evicted cat monster with an overly-wide grin. “Don’t you have any respect?”

“This is why they got kicked out in the first place,” said a black fish monster with a mouth full of sharp teeth. “They never shut up!”

“Goin’ all night and all day like they’re in the capital or summat,” said a young earthworm.

“Let’s hope that’s where they’re headed,” the hermit crab said. “Ain’t going to find a lot of folk that appreciate their noise out here.”

Papyrus kept a close eye on the onlookers, ready to fend off any attacks aimed at the ex-tenants, but the other monsters seemed perfectly content to gossip amongst themselves from the sidelines. Uncouth, but not dangerous as far as he could tell.

As he patrolled the perimeter of the crowd, one of the evictees – a small, wide-eyed humanoid monster with stubby legs and a distant expression– stumbled over a piece of brush. The box they had been carrying spilled out of their arms, sending objects spilling to the ground. The spectators tittered as the short monster cried out and immediately dove to pick up their possessions.

Papyrus dashed over and bent down next to the monster.

“HERE,” he said as he arched towards a metal cube the size of his palm.

Before he could grab it, the other monster snatched the object away and shuffled it into their box. Papyrus glanced up at the monster and… were their eyes even wider than before or was that just their face? They moved to the wagon, and Papyrus saw what looked like glass flasks and notebooks stuffed inside the box before the stranger folded it closed. When they were done, they twisted towards him again, that same detached expression scrawled across their features.

“Thank you,” they signed with their hands. The monster said something else, but Papyrus was so bad at hands that all he caught was something about “fragile” and “small.” Before he could ask them to repeat themself, however, they hurried past him and into the house, presumably to get another load.

Papyrus shook his head though he eyed the unattended box with curiosity. What he had seen hadn’t seemed like drug manufacturing equipment, but, then again, he hadn’t gotten a good view. Maybe if he was fast he could….

“They’re right rude, ain’t they?” said the earthworm monster. Papyrus jumped. “Can’t even be friendly. I have a right mind to teach them some manners.”

“IT IS NOT AN ISSUE.” Papyrus tried not to let his guilt show. “STEP BACK PLEASE.”

The earthworm monster grumbled as they inched back to the sidelines. Papyrus sighed and returned to patrolling. How could he have thought it was a good idea to search through their belongings without a warrant with all these spectators present? It was downright foolish.

The rest of the day went by uneventfully. The residence was cleared with no signs of damage to the premises and the evictees left without incident, though the hermit crab monster lobbed a rock at the wagon as it disappeared deeper into Waterfall. The monster scampered off before Papyrus had a chance to stop and question them, and he didn’t see the point in chasing them; he knew that the gesture had been out of pettiness and not motivated by anything sinister.

Throughout his journey home, Papyrus tried to keep his mind off his brother. It was difficult given that all he could think of was the imposter Sans he would be returning to. His soul knotted with painful nostalgia as he focused on the differences between the two different monsters. And the similarities. God, the way that Sans had crumpled back at Undyne’s house, just like his brother had done when he had o–

Papyrus shook his head. In any case, he was not looking forward to confronting Sans about how he had ended up at their home – no, his home. It would be much easier to pretend that this Sans and his brother were one and the same. But he couldn’t do that…. Fantasizing that his brother hadn’t died wouldn’t solve anything, and it certainly wouldn’t relieve him of his well-deserved guilt.

No matter what he did, his thoughts kept arriving to the same topic, and by the time he reached Undyne’s home, he was shaking from the unwanted memories. He stared at the entrance, taking deep breaths to calm himself like Undyne had taught him.

When his soul finally settled down, he approached the door and, drifting through the wood, came the muffled sound of the piano. The song was soft and slow, the notes rising and falling gradually like ripples in a pond. He paused to listen for a couple minutes, before he finally knocked on the door twice in the traditional fashion, announced himself, and entered the house.

As he expected, Undyne sat at her piano, her body rocking back and forth as she pressed the keys. She didn’t look up when he entered the room, but by the expression on her face, she had long lost herself to the music. If past experiences were any indicator, she was well-aware that he was there, but she was too enraptured by her own music to disengage.

His gaze drifted over to Sans and his soul panged. He was sitting near the window, plopped down in an armchair that Undyne must have dragged from her bedroom. His body sagged into the cushions, as if he were physically weighed down by some invisible force, and tear tracks ran down his cheekbones. At first glance his sockets appeared blank, appearing like they did whenever he was lost to drink or drug, but as Papyrus walked closer he saw that his eyelights were merely shrunken into pinpricks. He was staring at Undyne, seemingly oblivious to Papyrus’s presence, his chest rising and falling in time to the music.

Papyrus’s anxiety quickly dissipated, aided by the gentle melody that seeped into his bones and tugged at him softly. Whenever Undyne played the piano like this, the room became imbued with a peaceful energy that Papyrus always found difficult to resist.

Not that he ever wanted to resist it. Back when his brother had first died, Papyrus had found himself practically crawling over to Undyne’s every chance he got, doubled over with breathless panic. As soon as she had spotted his state, she would play, allowing the music to work its magic through the worst of it.

When it had first happened, he had been mortified by his behavior. Acting that way in front THE Captain Undyne? He had been shocked that Undyne hadn’t removed him from the Guard. But not only had she let him maintain his duties, she had let him stay the night and had encouraged him to return any time he needed her to soothe him.

These days he usually only visited when his duties required or they had training practice, but on occasion she’d invite him for dinner and she would pair their after-supper tea with a few songs on the piano.

This time, however, he kept his eyes fixed on Sans and didn’t allow the music to enthrall him; it just wouldn’t do to get caught up in it when he had to escort Sans, injured and weak, back home.

Eventually the song petered, the final notes lingering eerily in the air. Even when those faded, Sans didn’t move, and his eyelights remained contracted and fixed onto Undyne.

“Papyrus?”

He swiveled around. Undyne had gotten up from the piano and was squinting at him with a serious expression.

He saluted her. “CAPTAIN!”

She motioned for him to relax and then glanced towards Sans. His appearance was unchanged, and he continued to stare at where Undyne had been sitting, as if he hadn’t realized she had moved. As Papyrus moved towards him, Undyne coughed, drawing his attention back to her. She motioned for him to join him in the kitchen.

“Sorry,” she whispered once they were out of Sans’s earshot, “I don’t want him listening in since it’s official Royal Guard business.” When Papyrus nodded, she continued, “So how did it go?”

“IT WAS UNEVENTFUL.” He gave his full report, noting the strange equipment he had seen. “I DO NOT THINK IT WAS A DRUG CELL, BUT IT WAS MOST UNUSUAL. SOMETHING FELT OFF.”

“There were no sign of Muffet’s cronies anywhere?”

“NO, THOUGH THEIR WAGON DRIVER SEEMED MORE THAN CAPABLE OF FIGHTING OFF ANY ENEMIES. PERHAPS THAT IS WHY NO ONE ATTACKED.”

Undyne sighed. “Yeah. Or maybe that was one of her people.”

“IT COULD HAVE BEEN, BUT THERE WAS NO WAY TO TELL.”

“Hmm.” She brought her hand to her chin. “If there’s a rival trying to set up their operation… But that makes no sense…”

She trailed off, lost in thought. Usually Papyrus would have been happy to contemplate why Muffet would have had an interest in this, but right now he was too distracted. He glanced back at Sans. Though he was still slumped in the chair, he was now staring at his lap with that same hollow expression.

“UNDYNE, IS HE OKAY?” he asked, whipping back around to Undyne.

“Huh?” she said, shaken from her thoughts. “Who?”

“MY B– SANS. I AM GLAD HE IS AWAKE, BUT HE LOOKS… NOT WELL. DID YOU TWO FIGHT AGAIN?”

“No…” she said, her voice wavering.

He clenched his fists. “YOU PROMISED! WHAT DID YOU DO?”

“No, no, you’ve got the wrong idea!” she said, waving him down. “We had an, um, exchange, but we got over it pretty fast. Hell, I even tried healing the little bastard. It didn’t work, but…”

“REALLY? YOU DID? SO… YOU TWO HAVE BEEN GETTING ALONG?”

“I guess? He’s been pretty quiet.”

“HE KEEPS TO HIMSELF USUALLY, YES.”

“I mean, I guess. I was working on reports most of the day, so I wasn’t exactly pushing for conversation, but…” She rubbed her shoulder, averting her gaze. “He seemed like he needed a piano session.”

“HE PROBABLY DID AFTER YOU THREW A SPEAR AT HIM.”

Undyne sighed. “That’s not what I meant.”

“BUT IT IS TRUE!”

“Maybe. Um… Have you talked to him a lot? You know, about… life?”

“NO, I ALREADY TOLD YOU THAT I HAVEN’T.”

“I think you should.”

“IF HE PLANS TO STAY WITH ME ANY LONGER, THEN IT WOULD BE FOR THE BEST.”

“That’s not what I mean. Papyrus, when he and I spoke earlier he told me some stuff that really has me worried.”

Papyrus’s chest tightened at the familiar words. “WORRIED? ABOUT WHAT?”

“He told me that –”

“hey.”

Papyrus and Undyne jolted and turned towards Sans. His eyelights were back to normal and he had climbed to his feet, though his body was shaking badly.

“not to interrupt whatever private conversation you guys are having, but are we heading back soon?”

Sans started to walk over, but after only a few steps his legs gave out; his hands latched onto the piano, preventing him from falling flat onto the ground. Soul thrumming, Papyrus rushed over.

“YOU SHOULD BE CAREFUL! HERE, GRAB ONTO ME!”

Sans took a quick glance at the proffered hand and shook his head. “nah, i can take care of myself.”

Papyrus withdrew his hand though he stayed close to Sans, ready to catch him should he fall again.

“well? are we leaving?”

“What’s your rush, Sans?” Undyne asked. “I was going to invite you two for dinner.”

“no thanks.”

Undyne narrowed her eye. “What? Don’t want to try my cooking?”

“not really.”

“SANS, DO NOT BE RUDE!”

“sorry, i guess i just know how inconvenient i can be. wouldn’t wanna burden you.”

Undyne’s mouth clamped shut.

“WHAT? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

“look, i just don’t wanna be here while you two have some secret discussion about me.”

“WE WERE NOT HAVING A SECRET DISCUSSION! UNDYNE WAS MERELY EXPRESSING HER CONCERN ABOUT –”

“it doesn’t matter. i wanna go home. watching undyne do paperwork all day really wore me out.”

Papyrus huffed. “THAT IS THE LAZIEST, MOST RIDICULOUS THING YOU HAVE EVER SAID, BROTH–“

Realizing his mistake, he choked on the last word, but it was too late. Color flooded Sans’s cheeks and his eyes darted to the side. It felt like forever before Sans broke the awkward silence that fell between them.

please. i wanna sleep. i’m so tired.”

Maybe it was best that they left. Sans truly didn’t look well, and truth be told, after all the emotions of the day, Papyrus was exhausted too. Not to mention, if arguing with him got Undyne riled up…

In one swift motion, he bent down and scooped Sans into his arms.

“hey!” Sans shouted, pushing against Papyrus. “what’re you –”

“QUIET. IF WE ARE LEAVING, YOU WILL ALLOW ME TO ESCORT YOU AS I SEE FIT. AND I BELIEVE THE BEST TACTIC IS TO KEEP YOU CLOSE SO NO ONE WILL ATTACK YOU WHILE YOU ARE IN THIS STATE.”

“put me down, no one is gonna attack us.” Despite his words, all the bite had left his tone, and his flailing was growing weaker by the second.

“I KNOW WHAT IS BEST!”

He expected Sans to argue more, to fight and struggle just like his brother used to do, but instead he lowered his head against Papyrus’s shoulder and sighed.

Papyrus nodded to Undyne. “THANK YOU FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY. I THINK IT IS PROBABLY BEST WE TAKE OUR LEAVE.”

She frowned, her gaze darting towards Sans. “Are you sure you don’t want dinner? You can stay the night if you want and we can talk about what you saw today. Hell,” she said, her mouth crooking upwards, “forget Royal Guard crap, let’s invite Alphys over and make it an all-out sleepover!”

He held Sans closer to him. “ANY OTHER DAY, I WOULD ACCEPT! BUT I THINK WE HAVE PROBABLY HAD ENOUGH EXCITEMENT FOR THE DAY.”

She sobered. “Seriously, are you sure it’s safe?”

“IT WILL BE NO SAFER TOMORROW MORNING.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right, but maybe I should follow you back, just to make sure no one’s on your tail…”

“I AM CAPABLE OF FENDING OFF AN ATTACK!”

The truth was that he didn’t want her to put herself in harm’s way. Even if she could handle it, Papyrus knew better than anyone that all it took was a well-placed ambush and that was it.

Undyne exhaled. “Fine. Have it your way. But if I found out you dusted because you wouldn’t accept my help, I’m going to kick your ass!”

“BUT I’D BE DUST! AND I DON’T HAVE A BUTT!”

“Excuses, excuses!” She placed her hands on her hips, her smile faltering. “Anyway, I’ve got you set up to collect taxes tomorrow, okay? Should be a pretty easy day. But uh… call me if you need help with anything.”

She stared at Sans meaningfully and Papyrus nodded. He’d take him to her if he needed a babysitter.

“And Sans?” Sans shifted and gazed at her with half-lidded eyes. “If you ever want to talk about what you said earlier, let me know.”

“yeah, okay.”

“I’m serious – I’ll do everything in my power to get justice for you.”

“okay. sure.”

“I mean it.”

“i know.” His voice was laden with guilt. “thanks, really.”

He turned away and slumped against Papyrus once more. As the weight hit his chest, Papyrus’s soul fluttered. It was like all the other times he had carried his brother to bed. Horrified with himself, he immediately discarded the thought.

“G-GOOD NIGHT, UNDYNE. THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR HELP.”

With that, Papyrus stepped outside, his soul still quaking. As he peered around at the cavern, it struck him how utterly vulnerable he was. If Muffet was keeping an eye on them, she’d know how hurt Sans was right now, and all it would take was one hit and he would…

He gulped. Maybe it was a good idea to make Sans walk.

But as he was about to ask, Sans sighed tiredly and gripped on tighter. Papyrus’s soul clenched painfully.

No. He’d carry him.

As he always did.

Chapter Text

*************************************************

The freshly fallen snow crunched beneath Papyrus’s feet as he trudged down the path to his house, gloved hands curled at his sides. One of the neighbors called out to him from down the road, their voice raised with friendliness, but the words were lost to the wind.

Not that he cared. He was in no mood for idle chitchat, and if anyone else approached him right now, he would have to carry on a polite conversation – Oh yes, we’re from the Capital. No, no, it isn’t too cold. Yes, I attended the academy! No, I gave it all up for my brother! – and he’d just have to stand there and bear with it. If he wasn’t careful, he’d end up crying right in front of them.

As it was, he was already close to tears.

So instead of tarrying for a moment longer, he bounded up the final steps to his home, his soul fluttering with relief to find that Sans had left the door unlocked. With a click, the door closed behind him, and he was finally, mercifully, separated from the rest of the world.

“RRRRRGH!” he growled to himself as he cast off his jacket.

It wasn’t fair! This day was supposed to be great! Not… terrible!

He unsnapped his boots and promptly threw them against the wall, slush splashing everywhere. Wonderful. Now he would have to clean up because he couldn’t just calm down for but a few moments.

As he moved towards the kitchen to gather the cleaning supplies, he heard Sans raspily call his name from upstairs. He released another huff of frustration, and, abandoning the mess for later, he stomped his way to Sans’s room.

As he entered the room, a hush fell over him. The lights were, of course, off, and Papyrus could barely make out the lump that was his brother on the old mattress. Upon closer inspection, he saw that Sans was facing the wall, his back turned towards the door, and his breathing slow. The wind from Sans’s nearby self-sustaining tornado had Papyrus shivering, and he had to wonder why his brother didn’t at least have a blanket.

Sighing, he turned on the light and marched over to the bed.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HOME?”

Sans rolled over. Dark shadows hung beneath his sockets and that familiar aura of utter exhaustion cloaked him.

“taking a nap,” he said, yawning.

“YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO APPLY FOR A JOB!”

“tried. shopkeeper turned me down. she let me start a tab though.”

“A TAB? I THOUGHT WE WEREN’T GOING TO START TABS HERE. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A FRESH START!”

“it was just a few things, bro. we gotta eat.”

“I COULD HAVE PAID FOR IT! WE ARE NOT THAT BAD OFF!”

“then you can pay it off next time you go. then if we ever do need it, they know we’re good for repaying.”

Papyrus sighed. “I SUPPOSE. I JUST WISH YOU WOULD CONFER WITH ME BEFORE MAKING DECISIONS LIKE THAT!”

“you’re busy at work, i can’t just call you for every little think. speaking of, how’d that go? was the captain everything you pictured her to be?”

Oh, blast it.

“EVERYTHING WAS FINE,” Papyrus lied. “THE CAPTAIN WAS AS INTIMIDATING AS I HAD IMAGINED.”

Sans scrunched up his legs and patted the bed. “tell me about it. i wanna hear all about it.”

Papyrus swallowed. “I WOULD RATHER NOT.”

“uhh… why is that?”

“BECAUSE – BECAUSE I THINK YOU SHOULD GET OUT OF BED,” he invented wildly. “IT IS UNHEALTHY TO STAY COOPED UP IN HERE FOR SO LONG!!”

Sans frowned. “i get outta bed to eat.”

“BUT YOU STILL STAY IN THE HOUSE! IT IS JUST LIKE BACK AT NEW HOME! YOU NEVER LEAVE!”

“we don’t got the money to go out, paps.”

“YES WE DO! I AM NOT A STUDENT ANYMORE! A SENTRY JOB PAYS, SANS.”

“not much.”

“IT PAYS ENOUGH FOR AN OCCASIONAL NIGHT OUT.” He scooped his brother into his arms. “AND THAT IS JUST WHAT WE ARE DOING!”

“hey, get off!” Sans yelled, flailing until he was set on his feet.

“COME ON. LET’S GO!” He took one look at the stained pajamas his brother had been wearing for the last week and added, “AFTER YOU GET DRESSED IN PROPER ATTIRE.” It was no wonder the shopkeeper hadn’t given him a job.

“where are we even gonna go?” Sans asked as he opened his drawers and pulled out a shirt and shorts.

“HAVE YOU TRIED THAT BAR DOWN THE ROAD? WHAT IS THE NAME AGAIN… CHARBY’S? BURNBY’S?”

“grillby’s?”

“YES, THAT ONE!”

“no, i haven’t been, but the shopkeeper was telling me early that it’s a hot spot in town.”

It took Papyrus a few moments to realize why Sans was chuckling, and when he did, he released a playful groan.

“SANS!”

“heh.” For once, the smile on his face was reaching his eyes, and it warmed Papyrus’s soul. “but yeah, grillby’s. apparently the shopkeep’s cuz likes to hit the bottle there. sounded like a relaxing place.”

“HIT THE BOTTLE? WHY WOULD ANYONE PUNCH A BOTTLE? GLASS WOULD GO EVERYWHERE!”

“nah, it means they get drunk. it’s where everyone in snowdin goes after work for a drink.”

“OH. I SEE.”

After the horrible interactions earlier, Papyrus had already devoted enough time to speaking to strangers for one day, and he truly didn’t want to talk to anyone else but Sans. On the other hand, if a trip to the local eatery was enough of a distraction, then he wouldn’t have to discuss how his day had gone. Better to face the crowd than to admit his precarious position within the Royal Guard’s ranks.

“THEN IT IS DECIDED! WE SHALL JOURNEY FORTH AND PROCURE SUSTENANCE FROM THIS ESTABLISHMENT!”

“sounds like a quest.”

“YES! THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS WILL CONQUER THIS MISSION WITH EASE!” he shouted with exuberance he didn’t feel.

Once Sans had finally dressed in wrinkled but fresh clothes, they left the house. His brother shuffled behind him, his every movement slow and labored, as was typical of late. A light flurry was falling upon them, blanketing the town in an eerie quiet that was broken only as the two of them approached the glowing bar in the center of town.

They entered the building and were welcomed with a cacophony of noises; from the excited babble to plates clinking together to the loud laughter, Papyrus was overwhelmed by the onslaught of sound. Sans’s eyelights, however, seemed to brighten, and he pushed past Papyrus and sidled up to the counter. Swallowing his nerves and doing his best to ignore the patrons’ intense stares, Papyrus marched across the room with his head held high.

As he slid onto the barstool next to Sans, a tall purple flame monster, clothed in a black shirt and grey slacks, slunk over. Papyrus could only assume he was the bartender from the way he was polishing an empty shot glass.

“…Hello,” he crackled as he glanced between the two of them.

“GREETINGS, BARKEEP!”

“’lo.”

“…I don’t think I recognize the two of you. Are you new to town?”

“THAT IS CORRECT, STRANGER!” Papyrus proclaimed, sticking out his chest. “WE JUST MOVED IN A COUPLE WEEKS AGO!”

“…Down the road? Near the cave to Waterfall?”

“INDEED! NO SECRET GETS PAST YOU, DOES IT?” Papyrus joked.

When the bartender snorted in response, Papyrus’s soul swelled with pride. Yes! Finally! A monster that could appreciate his banter!

“…Two weeks though?” he said, shifting his gaze to Sans. “…I’m surprised I didn’t see you two sooner then. There aren’t many from around here that don’t come in for at least a drink or two. Or… for other entertainment.”

“heh. moving kept us busy.”

“…It took you all that time to move?”

“among other things.”

The bartender cocked his head. “…What other things?”

Papyrus was curious how his brother would answer, considering “other things” included lying in bed for hours on end while Papyrus was left to unpack, cook, clean, and acquire his sentry job.

“oh, you know what kinda things i mean,” Sans replied with a wink.

Papyrus rolled his eyes and was affronted when the flame monster started laughing.

“LIKE WHAT, BROTHER?” Papyrus interjected. “SLEEPING DOES NOT COUNT AS ACTIVITY, YOU KNOW!”

Sans shot a subtle glare his direction. “neither does complaining.”

Papyrus’s face warmed as the bartender’s laughter grew louder.

“anyway, i’m sans. this is my bro, papyrus. what’s your name?”

“…Grillby.”

the grillby, huh?”

“…The one and the same.” He offered his hand. “…It’s nice to meet you, Sans.”

His brother shook the proffered hand. “heh. likewise.”

They stared at each other for an unusually long time, their smiles growing as their hands locked together.

“YES! IT IS WONDERFUL TO MEET YOUR ACQUAINTANCE!” Papyrus announced, finally fed up with how long the two of them had left him out of the conversation.

“…Oh, yes. A pleasure.”

Grillby withdrew his hand, though his flames lingered across Sans as he pulled away. Papyrus didn’t know his fury could deepen, and yet here he was, stewing in his own emotions, seconds away from running out of the restaurant in a rage.

Instead, he scooped Sans into a one-armed hug.

“hey, what the hell –”

“WELL, MY NEW FRIEND, MY BROTHER IS SIMPLY STARVING! THAT IS WHY WE CAME HERE! FOR NOURISHMENT!”

“…I see. I’ll grab some menus.”

As he walked to the other end of the counter, Sans pried himself from Papyrus’s grasp.

“god damn it, paps. what the fuck was that for?”

“LANGUAGE, BROTHER!”

“fuck your ‘language,’ that was embarrassing.”

“I APOLOGIZE THEN. IT WAS NOT MY INTENTION TO HUMILIATE OR DEMEAN YOU.”

Sans sighed and crossed his arms, though brightened considerably when Grillby returned, this time with menus and two bottles of beer. He opened them up and slid them across the counter.

“…On the house.”

“wow, thanks,” Sans said, inspecting the bottle with excitement. “been a while since my last one.”

Papyrus didn’t touch the glass. “THE MENUS?”

“…Right here.”

To his dismay, Grillby did not leave even after they ordered. He seemed perfectly content to listen to Sans babble on and on about the lives they had left behind at the capital – though he carefully avoided mention of his old job. As the night wore on, he seemed to get closer and closer to Sans, and it wasn’t that long before his brother became inebriated. Papyrus had to watch in horror as Sans did the most horrendous things. Like stroke Grillby’s hand. Or wink flirtatiously as he delivered utterly unfunny jokes. Or unbutton Grillby’s shirt.

Of course Grillby reciprocated; after all, who would not find Sans’s attention alluring? But he wished that the bartender would have left them alone so that the two of them could have some peace. Papyrus preferred talking about Captain Undyne to witnessing this!

Long after they had long finished their meal – and after Sans had imbibed four free drinks – Grillby was called away to tend to one of the few remaining customers. As soon as he was out of earshot, Papyrus grabbed onto Sans’s arm.

“I THINK IT IS TIME TO GO!”

“what? we just got here.”

“WE HAVE BEEN HERE FOR NEARLY THREE HOURS NOW, SANS!”

“really? heh. time flies.”

“WHETHER TIME FLIES OR STICKS TO THE GROUND, IT IS TIME TO LEAVE. I AM TIRED AND WE HAVE A LONG DAY AHEAD OF US TOMORROW.”

“speak for yourself, i got nowhere to be.”

“YOU NEED TO APPLY FOR A JOB!”

“that can wait. besides, staying a bit longer won’t hurt. heck, maybe grillbz over there can land me a waiter gig.”

“I HIGHLY DOUBT THAT.”

“well, you can doubt it all you want. i can tell he’s a nice guy. a nice-looking guy too.”

“UGH. I FAIL TO SEE HOW HE IS MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS.”

Sans peered at him out of the corner of his eye, his smile transforming into a frown. “don’t.”

“DON’T WHAT.”

“you know what.”

Papyrus crossed his arms and legs, sudden tears biting at his sockets. “I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.”

“right.”

Papyrus closed his eyes, hoping and praying that Sans wouldn’t make a scene. It had been so long since they had last discussed this, Papyrus had almost thought his brother had forgotten.

He needed to make a good impression. This was a new town with new people. If they argued about this, and everyone in Snowdin found out about how he felt…

“…If you’d like, I have a special drink I can treat you to.”

Papyrus’s eyes flashed open. Grillby had returned and was now on their side of the bar, pressed up against Sans. His arms were draped over his brother’s shoulders and onto his chest. Sans was looking up at him, his hands rubbing the top of Grillby’s and s seductive smile playing across his features.

They were so… indecent! How could they do this in front of so many people?!

But as Papyrus glanced around the room, he realized that they were the only three left. Everyone else had gone home.

“heh. that sounds nice. i’d love to taste it.”

“SANS.”

Sans turned back to Papyrus, his eyes narrowed. “hey, bro, why don’t you head back? i’ll catch up with you later.”

“BUT –”

“really. i’ll be fine here.”

His tone brokered no argument. Sans wouldn’t budge no matter what Papyrus said, even if he reminded him of what happened the last time he had decided to do something like this.

So Papyrus threw down a few gold coins onto the counter and stood up. “FINE THEN. GOODBYE.”

With that, he scampered out of the bar, Sans’s and Grillby’s quiet laughter echoing in his skull as he closed the door behind him. The storm had picked up since he had last been outside and had shrouded Snowdin in a layer of snow that had him trudging back home. Even though the cold burrowed into his bones, it did nothing to cool his burning anger.

When he got home, he didn’t sleep. He simply couldn’t. Instead he sat on the couch, watching television, reading books, contemplating his next moves so that he wouldn’t lose his position within the Royal Guard. Anything to avoid thinking about Sans and Grillby and what they were doing right now.

It was only once Sans came home the next morning, covered in sick and reeking of campfire, that Papyrus finally broke down.

*************************************************

Panting and drenched in sweat, Papyrus slammed the door shut behind him and leaned against it as a wave of relief crashed over him. Instead of taking it nice and slow like earlier, he had chosen to take his traditional sprint home before evening fell over the Underground. With Sans’s extra weight, it had taken longer than he was accustomed to and his bones were shaking from his efforts.

Thankfully, Sans hadn’t thrashed or tried to get him to stop. In fact, he hadn’t really moved at all. He was still slouched against his chest, gripping Papyrus’s shoulders like he was afraid to let go.

Papyrus gently pried Sans away to get a better look at him. What he saw wasn’t encouraging. The shadows under his sockets were dark, darker even than yesterday, though perhaps not as bad as the day they had met. His eyelights were flickering, as if they might sputter out at any moment, and if Papyrus hadn’t known about Undyne’s attack, he would’ve thought Sans was high.

“what?” Sans asked, narrowing his eyes.

“YOU LOOK ILL.”

Sans shrugged. “been a rough day.”

“YES. IT HAS.”

Recalling how concerned he had been this morning, Papyrus briefly checked the room for any sign of intruders. Once he verified it was all clear, he walked into the kitchen and deposited Sans into a chair.

“what’re you doing?”

“YOU NEED TO EAT,” Papyrus said as he tied his apron around him. “YOU LOOK READY TO COLLAPSE!”

“i ate earlier.”

“WHAT DID YOU EAT?”

“tea.”

Papyrus sighed. “AS WONDERFUL AS UNDYNE’S TEA IS, I MUST INSIST YOU EAT SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL BEFORE BED.”

Sans started to get up. “this is stupid, i just need –”

“I WILL HEAR NO EXCUSES!” he yelled, pushing Sans back down firmly. “YOU NEED TO RECOVER.”

Sans glared at him but sat back in his chair, crossing his arms. Papyrus reluctantly took that as a sign that he wasn’t going to get up and pulled out a pot to boil noodles.

He knew why Sans was angry; he had let his worries get the best of him this morning, and had taken it out on him. And with Undyne attacking like she had, it was no wonder Sans was upset.

It was about time Papyrus took the initiative to repair things between them. No more dillydallying around sore subjects. He had done that once before and it had ended horribly for everyone.

“YOU AND UNDYNE APPEARED TO HAVE MADE UP QUICKLY,” Papyrus said as he turned on the water.

“yeah.” Sans shrugged. “she didn’t say sorry, but she seemed eager to patch things up.”

“THAT IS GOOD! IT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO GET HER TO APOLOGIZE! I AM PROUD OF HER! SHE CAN BE QUITE STUBBORN SOMETIMES!”

“’sometimes,’ huh?”

“YES, SOMETIMES.” He put the water on the stove and began opening a can of tomato sauce. “BUT NOT ALWAYS! MOST DO NOT KNOW THIS OF HER, BUT SHE HAS QUITE A FEW SENSITIVE SPOTS! NYEH, JUST LAST TRAINING SESSION, SHE ALMOST –”

“you and her are always best buds, aren’t you? no matter what.”

It wasn’t said with any malice, yet Papyrus felt suddenly and inexplicably defensive.

“I – WHAT? NO? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

“my bro and her got along like peas in a pod.” He clenched his eyes shut. “all it took was one training session and they hit it off.”

Papyrus had no idea what Sans was talking about, but irritation needled at his soul at the words.

“WELL, I DO NOT KNOW WHO YOUR BROTHER WAS, BUT HE MUST HAVE MET A MUCH DIFFERENT UNDYNE THAN THE ONE I KNOW! I WAS NEARLY THROWN OUT OF THE ROYAL GUARD WHEN I MET HER!”

“huh?”

“THAT IS RIGHT!” he shouted as he poured an eager helping of Italian herbs into the saucepan. “SHE TOLD ME I WAS PATHETIC!”

“that doesn’t sound like her,” Sans muttered, his brow furrowed.

“I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW OF UNDYNE, BUT AS FAR AS I AM AWARE, SHE HAS A REPUTATION FOR NOT ACCEPTING ANY TOMFOOLERY WITHIN HER RANKS. SO WHEN I SHOWED UP TO HER HOUSE WITH THE OTHER RECRUITS, SHE TOOK ONE LOOK AT ME AND KNEW I WASN’T READY!”

“not ready maybe, but… ‘pathetic’?”

“YES! PATHETIC AND STUPID AND IMMATURE. AND I WAS ALL THOSE THINGS AND MORE! I HAD NO FIGHTING SPIRIT! I HAD NO – NYEH HEH – BACKBONE.”

He flashed a smile at Sans, expecting him to reciprocate with his own pun, but Sans’s face was still lined with anger. Or perhaps it was disappointment. Papyrus just couldn’t tell. In either case, the expression reminded him of the last argument he had had with his brother.

“ANYWAY,” he said hurriedly, “I HAD TO PROVE HER WRONG BEFORE SHE KICKED ME OUT OF THE GUARD! IT TOOK SOME TIME TO CONVINCE HER, BUT I, OF COURSE, MET HER CHALLENGE HEAD ON!”

“you two finally became bffs then?”

“NO! SHE WANTED LITTLE TO DO WITH ME!”

“the hell.”

“IT WAS UNDERSTANDABLE. SHE IS A VERY BUSY MONSTER, AND AT THE TIME, SO WAS I!”

“you’re not anymore?”

Papyrus gripped the spoon he was using to stir the sauce. “NO.”

There was a pause, and then –

“so how did you two become pals if she hated you so much?”

“SHE NEVER HATED ME. SHE JUST DID NOT THINK I WAS CUT OUT FOR THE GUARD. WE DID NOT HAVE A TRUE CONVERSATION WITH EACH OTHER BEFORE SHE SAW HOW I REACTED WHEN YOU – I MEAN, WHEN MY BROTHER…”

He trailed off, suddenly aware what he was saying. That was not really something he wanted to discuss right now, especially considering that he and his brother obviously suffered, to some degree, the same ailment. Or maybe that was just him projecting because they looked the same… Yes, this Sans had taken drugs the other night, but that didn’t mean he was addicted. There were casual drug users amongst them, and if this monster was merely taking on the appearance of his brother…

Oh, who was he kidding?

“i’m gonna leave tomorrow.”

Papyrus twisted around and saw that Sans had his arms crossed, conviction spelled into his features.

“WHAT? LEAVE?” Where had this sudden announcement come from? “BACK TO UNDYNE’S YOU MEAN?”

“no, i’m going back home. to my universe.”

Papyrus blinked. “UNIVERSE? AS IN… A DIFFERENT WORLD?”

He vaguely recalled one of his high school science teachers teaching the concept to their class. The idea that there was another place just like theirs but different. Like every other science class, he had been bored out of his skull. The details of the lesson were lost to him.

“uh. yeah. maybe it’s best to tell you about a few things.”

Sans explained how he had once worked on a time machine using human souls and had experimented on his own soul so he could teleport. He had apparently thrown himself into a pit of lava to teleport to the past and had somehow ended up here, in a completely different universe.

“it was an experiment gone wrong,” Sans said bitterly, not making eye contact.

“AN EXPERIMENT.” Papyrus’s head hurt. “IS THAT… WHAT MY BROTHER DID AT THE LAB? WORKED ON TELEPORTATION AND TIME TRAVEL?”

“probably,” he said shrugging. “i told my brother some details about what i did there, but maybe yours didn’t.”

That sounded about right.

“SO… YOU ARE SANS.”

“yeah.”

“SANS. MY BROTHER. EXCEPT NOT REALLY?”

“let’s get one thing straight,” Sans spat, ire returning to his voice, “i’m not your bro. i’m never gonna be your bro. and you aren’t my bro. my bro would never…” He shook his head, his face creased with disgust.

“WHAT?”

Sans hesitated, but then scrunched his sockets and muttered, “my bro would never tell undyne about what happened in grillby’s. even if they were best friends.”

“WHAT? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND! OF COURSE I TOLD HER! IT WAS NOT A SECRET! EVERYONE IN THE UNDERGROUND PROBABLY KNOWS BY NOW!”

“wow, thanks.” He stood up and began to walk towards the door. “i’m going to bed. i’ll be outta your way by tomorrow morning.”

“NOW DON’T YOU MOVE AN INCH!” shouted Papyrus as he slammed the spoon down on the counter, splattering red sauce all over the cupboards. Sans paused by the entrance to the living room, his features contorted with rage.

“I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT I HAVE DONE WRONG HERE! WHY WOULD YOU THINK I WOULD NOT TELL HER ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING SINCE YOU HAVE GOTTEN HERE?”

“it’s none of her business!” Sans cried, his knees shaking. “i don’t get why you’d bring up that night at all!”

“BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER, IT IS APPARENT THAT YOU ARE PLAGUED WITH MANY OF THE SAME ISSUES. I NEEDED HER HELP!”

Sans balled up his fists. “help with what? grillby?”

“YOUR SOBRIETY, SANS!”

“what?” Sans said, his volume dropping to barely above a whisper. “my sobriety?”

“YES! MAYBE IN YOUR UNIVERSE YOUR BROTHER DOES NOT CARE IF YOU GET WASTED AT GRILLBY’S, BUT I CERTAINLY DO!”

Tears gathered in Sans’s sockets. “i can’t believe you’re pretending like this whole thing is about… this! i had one beer. one! and you’re blaming me for everything that happened?”

“ONE BEER DOES NOT HAVE THOSE EFFECTS! YOU CAN PRETEND OTHERWISE, BUT I KNOW BETTER!”

“yeah because i had a choice!”

“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

“grillby drugged me!” Sans wrapped his arms around himself, his entire body trembling as he sank to the floor. “he drugged me. and he fucked me. got everyone to fuck me. and you blame me for that just because i had a beer? well fuck you, and fuck him t–”

“HE DID WHAT?”

The air sparked with a sharp current of magic as Papyrus smashed his hand against the counter. His chest felt tight, like a band was wrapped around his ribcage, and his magic threatened to spill out, igniting into a series of bone attacks. Sans stared at him wide-eyed from the floor, his mouth slightly ajar.

Soul hammering in his chest, Papyrus rushed across the kitchen to where Sans sat and said, as calmly as he could, “YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT YOU DID NOT AGREE TO ANY OF THAT?”

“what?” Sans said softly.

“DID HE GIVE YOU DRUGS AGAINST YOUR WILL?”

Sans’s eyes dropped to his lap, and for a moment, Papyrus thought – hoped – that he was about to say that he had consented, that the whole thing has been his idea to pay off Papyrus’s tab, or to have some fun, or anything.

But then he nodded.

Something inside Papyrus broke.

For a moment, all he could do was stand there, gawking at Sans as he quaked on the floor, tears spilling onto his lap. He was still clutching at his own arms, not saying a word. Everything about him looked tired, miserable, defeated.

Sans looked just like his brother.

“I WILL KILL HIM!” Papyrus bellowed, prompting Sans to jolt so that he smacked his head into the wall.

As he groaned and rubbed his head, Papyrus hurried past him and out of the house. Night had already fallen over Snowdin, and monsters were returning to their homes, the lights on their porches winking out. Grillby’s bar blazed brightly in the center of town, and even from here, Papyrus could hear the patrons whooping and hollering.

He was going to tear Grillby apart, snuff him out like a candle. It would be payback for everything he had done to Sans. To his brother. To their family.

Chapter Text

Sans groaned as he rubbed where his skull had smacked the wall. Normally something like that wouldn’t throw him so off balance, but after today, he was having a hard time seeing.

Somewhere in the distance, a door slammed, shaking the floor. He shook his head, his eyelights blinking back into existence as Papyrus’s last words echoed in his head.

He had said he was going to kill Grillby.

His brother would never do that. There wasn’t a bone in his body that wanted to harm another being. He would try to convince Grillby and the rest of them to turn themselves in, but kill them? Not in a million years.

Well, his brother wouldn’t hurt a fly, but this wasn’t his brother. And back home, no one went around raping people either. Hell, the concept of rape was only known to those monsters who had studied human history. That any monster could even do such a thing was unheard of.

So maybe this Papyrus was serious when he said he was going to kill Grillby.

The thought sent him flying to his feet. As he stood up, he nearly toppled over as a spell of dizziness knocked him over the head. He gripped the nearby chair, scrunching up his face until the vertigo passed. By the time he could move, the dire reality of the situation had crashed over him.

Papyrus was about to walk into a bar full of his rapists.

Sans dashed to the front door, ignoring the aches and pains pulsating through his body. Fight all logic, he prayed that Papyrus had simply gone upstairs to rage on the undernet about Grillby. It was wishful thinking. Even his own Papyrus would never let something like this go. He’d storm to Grillby’s and demand to talk to him.

So when he spotted Papyrus’s black and red apron lying in the snow just outside the house, he wasn’t surprised. Still, his soul sunk at the sight, and as he looked down the path and saw Papyrus marching up to Grillby’s door, his mind froze. Without a second thought, he gathered his energy to open a shortcut in front of the restaurant’s entrance.

The magic went awry.

The now-familiar Void cloaked him in an instant, knocking the breath from his chest. Sans didn’t even have a chance to think; already the darkness was stretching over him, clinging to his bones, his chest, his mind. It seeped into his every injury, drawing out pain from deep within and sawing at the wound across his chest. But the sensation went deeper than that. It was piercing at his soul, muddying his thoughts, making it impossible to do anything but scream silently.

(He tried to claw at it only to find that his hands were missing.)

Bits of white sloughed off him.

(He turned his attention to the rest of the Void. Just in front of him, he saw something… white?)

Was it bone or snow?

(Was that… another skeleton? They were standing there, staring straight ahead and not moving at all. Yet their body flickered rapidly, as if they were an image from an old film.)

Flecks of red and grey intermixed with the white as they drifted across the darkness. Bone it was.

(The figure looked like him, but… with minor differences. Was his tooth…?)

The specks of color were pooling together, forming something… Sans couldn’t tell what it was… Were they…?

(They were wearing the same clothes as him, but they were… dissolving. The particles were flying in Sans’s direction, and he reached out to catch it, remembering last second that he didn’t have hands. Except… wait, he did have hands…)

A pair of hands appeared in the darkness, followed shortly by a skull, and…

(Was that his own face staring back at him?)

He jerked away, his magic revolting instinctually. He landed face-first into something hard. In the blink of an eye, the figure disappeared and the endless black was replaced with a mass of solid white. The Void had already knocked the breath from him, and the impact had his wound throbbing. For what seemed an eternity, that pain was all he could focus on, and it took him far too long to remember how to breathe.

When he finally did, he inhaled something cold and wet. It was then that he realized he had collapsed in the snow. He slowly arched his neck upwards, coughing and spluttering from the snow that had crawled down his throat.

“GET THE HELL OUT HERE, GRILLBY!”

He glanced to his right and found that his shortcut had been successful in the end – he was lying right outside Grillby’s restaurant. One of the local rabbit monsters was standing at the entryway, holding the door open as she peered into the building with wide eyes. Just on the other side stood Papyrus, his stature ramrod straight and his chest glowing with magic.

“papyrus.” He had meant to yell, but his voice came out as a croak. Nonetheless, his cry caught the rabbit’s notice and she hopped forward, her eyes widening even more.

“Sans?” She asked, perplexity coating her tone. “Is that really you?”

Nodding, Sans tried to push himself to his feet, but didn’t get far; his arms gave out and he fell flat on his front once more.

“dammit.”

“Hold on there, hon, don’t move.” The rabbit lifted him up, his weight leaning heavily into her as she brought him to his feet. “What happened to you? You look horrible!”

“it doesn’t matter – it’s just –” He shook his head, trying to clear away the fuzziness. “papyrus is –”

“You brother did this?”

“what? why would –”

The inside of the restaurant suddenly erupted into a ruckus. All at once there came the sound of dogs barking and glass breaking, followed shortly by a loud crackling whoosh that caused the rabbit monster to gasp and hop backwards with Sans in tow. The movement wrenched his back, and he cried out, phalanges digging automatically into the rabbit’s arm.

“Ouch! Sans, what are you –?”

Papyrus released a wordless bellow from within the restaurant, and half a second later, a series of bones shattered the nearby window into a million pieces. Smoke was trickling out from the entrance, clouding the lanterns on either side of the door.

“dammit, help me get in there, please!”

Though the rabbit didn’t look eager about getting involved, she dragged Sans to the entrance. Whatever had happened to him had left his reserves dangerously low, and the tiny amount of effort it took to get inside the bar left Sans reeling. The rabbit didn’t seem to have much strength either; after moving Sans only a few feet, she was panting. She propped Sans against the doorframe and slunk onto the ground on the front step, trying to catch her breath.

The chaos around him quickly stole his attention. He couldn’t see much; the air was choked with heat and smoke that itched at Sans’s throat, and all that was visible was the occasional burst of blue or violent light that shone through the darkness. Magical energy crackled through the air, and the sound of shouting, snarling, and something banging on metal rang throughout the restaurant. Something was causing the floor to rumble, and Sans had to clutch the door tightly to stop himself from falling over.

“pa –” He coughed on the air. “pa-papyrus!” Even if the smoke hadn’t been clawing at him, there was no way anyone could hear him over the din.

A sudden gust of wind from outside sucked some of the smoke from the bar, unveiling the discord.

Sans’s soul stuttered. On the other side of the room stood Grillby, looking worse for the wear. His violet flames were bursting through his clothes so they were burned asunder, and smack in the center of his abdomen was a long, charred bone, stuck all the way through. His face was a misshapen mess; strings of lava were threaded in his gaping mouth, and his eyes were wide and glowing a luminescent blue akin to Sans’s own magic. His flames towered over him, licking the ceiling so that it was aflame.

A layer of black ashy soot covered the top half of the bar, and parts of the wallpaper were burning and peeling off to fall to the floor below. Some of the patrons were cowering in their seats, and Sans recognized many of them as his friends from town or patrol. On the left side of the room, on the other side of the large table – where he had been fucked, Sans remembered dully – congregated many of the Snowdin dogs. Their snarling filled the air as they bit and clawed at some figure huddled against the wall.

There came a loud dinging noise and Doggo, who had been smashed in with the rest of the dogs, was suddenly cast in blue light and thrown against the table. It was then that Sans spotted Papyrus, hunched up against a wall, aiming wave after wave of bone attack at the dogs. Most of his attempts were fruitless; the dogs’ armor protected them well, and try as he might, Papyrus couldn’t seem to land a hit. The dogs continued to snap at Papyrus’s red and black leather armor, and Sans saw that Greater Dog had their teeth sunken into his exposed bone.

“no!” Sans cried as loudly as he could, but no one seemed to notice.

Dredging up as much energy as he could muster, he summoned a wave of bones, and, with a flick of his wrist, he flung it at the attackers’ heads. Most of them splintered against the metal, crumbling uselessly to the ground. But three of them struck Lesser Dog’s head, and with a high-pitched yelp, Lesser Dog swiveled towards Sans, slobber foaming at their jowls.

Automatically, Sans tried to turn their soul blue, but as he extended his arm to Lesser Dog, he dully realized that he had overdone himself. His arm was shaking. The magic didn’t work. His legs were no longer able to support him.

He sunk to the floor, and when his head smacked the wood, his vision guttered briefly and an intense chill ran through his bones. He reflexively hunched in on himself, forming a tight ball, as he shivered. Everything about him felt weak, like he might fall apart at the seams.

The floor thudded with heavy footsteps, and for a second Sans hoped it was Papyrus – his Papyrus – here to take him home so he could rest. God, what he would do to see his shining face again. He wished he’d just take him away from this horrible world, tell him everything was going to be okay. More than anything, he wanted Papyrus to be alive.

Someone roughly turned him over, and as his eyelights adjusted to the light, he was shocked to see Lesser Dog standing above him, whining softly.

(Lesser Dog’s tongue wrestled with his as they made out in the back alley. Everything was so blurry and unfocused. Fur was pressed against his face. Claws tore into his chest. He moaned softly against Lesser Dog’s mouth, warmth spreading through his bones.)

He gagged at the unwanted images that flashed through his mind, and tried to scuttle backwards, away from Lesser Dog. His arms were too weak. Everything was too weak. All he could do was quake beneath Lesser Dog’s stare, his vision flickering as the last of his energy fled his body.

“GET AWAY FROM HIM!”

Sans hadn’t even realized the bar had gone quiet until he heard Papyrus’s scream. He heard another blast of magic and shortly after one of the other dogs yipped. Within a few seconds, Papyrus came into his view.

Sans’s soul churned. Papyrus’s head was cracked open and a rivulet of blood was pouring down his face and dripping onto Sans’s with a soft plop plop plop noise. His bones were lined with scratches and bitemarks where the dogs had clearly torn into him, and Sans wanted nothing more than to heal him, take away the pain.

Yet Papyrus was clearly more concerned about Sans than himself. He was inspecting Sans, turning him over and allowing his hand to brush against his every bone. When he grazed Sans’s chest, Sans gasped as his pain redoubled and his vision darkened completely. He could feel his mind going dim, his bones loosening, and finally, the pain went blissfully numb.

Then, Sans heaved as a sharp blast of energy entered his chest.

Sans’s eyes flew open. Papyrus’s features were contorted with concentrated as he bore down upon Sans, firing one, two, three jolts of green magic into Sans. With every discharge of energy, Sans inhaled sharply, the magic electrifying his soul. Papyrus pulled away, panting and looking disheveled.

The magic had done its job. He was by no means healed – his body ached and he was sure that he still couldn’t walk unassisted – but he was no longer on the brink of death. Tears fell down the side of his skull, misting his vision. He reached out to Papyrus to convey his gratitude for saving him, but he was already turning away, his expression darkening.

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?” Papyrus sniped at Lesser Dog who sat next to him. “WHAT? YOU DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH OF HIM ALREADY? BACK FOR MORE?”

Lesser Dog bore their teeth, a low growl rumbling from their chest.

“paps,” Sans mumbled, his words slurring slightly, “what the hell are you doing?”

“…A wonderful question. What the hell are you doing?”

Sans’s gaze darted to the bar where Grillby was watching them intensely. He had calmed down somewhat; his flames were not nearly as tall or loose as they had been moments ago, but were still not entirely contained, occasionally popping loudly. His eyes continued to glow bright blue as he glared Papyrus down.

Papyrus stood and faced Grillby, his chest glowing with magic. “YOU DARE ASK THAT OF ME, YOU DISGUSTING, MISERABLE CREATURE?”

“…You came into my bar, demanded I exit the kitchens, and attacked me as soon as I stepped out here. I would contact the Guard, but they’ve already made it clear that they mean to apprehend you,” he said, nodding to the sentry dogs who were watching Papyrus with unease. “…I do not know who you think you are, but I have every right to demand answers.”

“I AM THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS, THAT IS WHO I AM! AND I AM HERE TO DEMAND RETRIBUTION FOR YOUR CRIMES!”

“…Crimes?”

“YES, YOU WILL PAY FOR DEFILING MY BR – MY GUEST, SANS.”

There was a pause, and then –

“What did you just say?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“Is he serious?”

Grillby’s voice cut across the commotion. “…Is that what you’re calling it? ‘Defiling?’ I know we used your sex toy without your permission, but to accuse us of something like that?”

Sans’s soul constricted.

“’SEX TOY?’ HOW DARE YOU?! SANS IS NOT – WE HAVE NOT – I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS SLANDER!”

The bar erupted into riotous laughter. The only one who didn’t seem amused was Grillby.

“…That is not slander, Papyrus. What’s slander is what you just said: that I defiled your brother.”

“HE IS NOT MY BROTHER AND YOU DID DEFILE HIM. YOU RAPED HIM, YOU VILE MAN!”

The restaurant went deathly still.

“…Is that what you told him, Sans?” Grillby chuckled humorlessly, sending a shiver up Sans’s spine. “…I’ve heard some lies in my day, but this? This takes the cake.”

Sans’s mouth went dry. “what?”

“…Don’t pretend you weren’t begging for it. We all heard you.”

The crowd roared its agreement, and, in the quickest of movements, Papyrus glanced to Sans, a flicker of doubt in his eyes. Anger unlike any Sans had felt before bubbled within his soul.

“are you fucking serious?!” Sans couldn’t move, but his voice had finally returned to full volume. The room fell silent again. “you’re going to pretend that whatever you doped me with didn’t mess with my head?!”

“…Are you fucking serious?” Grillby’s tone was downright dangerous now, and as he leaned across the counter, Sans’s soul raced uncontrollably at the mere hint of him coming any closer. “…You were the one that asked for ‘the usual.’”

“i have no idea what the hell that means.”

“…If you go down this route, Sans, there’s no helping you.”

“go down what route?! i came in here to get some grub, you offered me a beer that was laced with drugs, and then you ordered everyone to fuck me!”

“…I don’t know if this is an attempt to get your money back or to escape punishment from him,” Grillby said, gesturing to Papyrus, “but don’t lie. In the long run, it won’t help you.”

“i’m not the one lying here, and you know it.”

“…You really have deluded yourself, haven’t you?”

Grillby sounded so serious, so sincere, that even Sans wondered if he was the one getting the details wrong. Everything from that night was a damned blur, thanks to that drug. But no, he remembered everything leading up to then very clearly. He never would’ve said yes to drugs. It just hadn’t been something he had ever been interested in. If he had, what would Papyrus have thought about him?

“…If you continue to accuse me of this nonsense, I won’t hesitate to get all relevant parties involved. And I mean all relevant parties,” he warned.

Sans puffed up, and with confidence he didn’t feel, he replied, “i don’t know what you’re trying to threaten me with, but i got news for you, pal: i don’t care what authorities you go to. no one here heard me give permission for drugs. no one.”

“…As I said, you ordered ‘the usual.’ Everyone here knows what that means.”

“everyone but me apparently.”

“…So I just imagined our deal?”

“what deal? any deal we made was when i was wasted! that doesn’t count!”

“…We have had a longstanding deal, as you well know.”

“how about you fill me in on the details then, bud?”

“…Maybe the terms changed slightly the other night,” he said, his voice laden with guilt, “but is it really much of a logical leap from ‘you can fuck me as long as I get access to your customers’ to ‘you can fuck me to pay off some of my tab?’ It’s the same shit, just a different lender, Sans. And the deal didn’t change when your brother decided to fake your death and imprison you.”

Sans really had to focus on Grillby to comprehend what he was saying. Obviously the two of them hadn’t had a deal, but had this universe’s Sans really agreed to do something like that? And what did he mean by imprisonment? What the hell kind of place was this?

“SHUT UP!” Papyrus screamed. “I DID NOT FAKE HIS DEATH, YOU SWINE!”

“…So he’s a figment of my imagination?”

“HE IS NOT MY BROTHER!”

“…Right.”

“it’s true, and i told you that the other night, you piece of crap!”

“…I don’t know what sort of joke this is, but I’m afraid I don’t understand your sense of humor,” Grillby said coolly.

“it’s not a god damned joke!”

He was desperate to impart this to Grillby, to all of them. He gazed around the room, aware that all eyes were on him as he lay helplessly on the floor. It was just like the other night, when he had been strewn upon the table, naked and moaning before them. His skull warmed at the mere memory.

“i’ve never been more serious in my life, you gotta get that. please,” he begged.

The silence lingered for a few moments, but was broken by Red Bird peeking out from behind the counter. “You’re a fucking liar! We all heard you say it was fine!”

“Yeah! How about you get the hell out of here, you lying sack of trash!” Punk Hamster shouted, emerging from one of the nearby booths.

One of the dogs barked at them, and soon the whole pack was yipping and growling. All except Doggo, who was staring at Sans with wide eyes. As they made eye contact, Sans was reminded of the last time they had looked at each other, and the memory of Doggo’s musky taste still cloyed his tongue. He averted his gaze, trying his best to hold back the vomit that threatened to escape his soul.

“I WILL MAKE YOU ALL PAY FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO HIM! AND TO MY BROTHER!”

A surge of bones cracked through the wooden floor and went flying in Grillby’s direction, whistling through the air. Grillby’s hands immediately sparked and a ball of flame exploded forth, colliding with Papyrus’s attack midair. The bones disintegrated into a pile of ashes before the magic disappeared entirely.

When the fire extinguished, Sans peered around the room and saw that many of the monsters were preparing their own attacks. Whether it was to mount an offense or to defend themselves from Papyrus, Sans didn’t know. Nor did he care. If any attack hit him, he was done for. There was no way he’d be able to dodge, not when his teleportation wasn’t working, and he couldn’t even pick himself off the ground.

More importantly, though, was Papyrus. If the others released their magic, Papyrus would end up wounded or worse, and if there was anyone innocent in all this, it was him. Sans never wanted him to get hurt. He didn’t deserve it.

So, despite the pain that lanced through his arm at the movement, Sans grabbed onto Papyrus’s pants and tugged to get his attention.

“WHAT?” Papyrus asked, his eyes darting between Sans and Grillby.

“we need to leave.”

“I WILL BRING THEM TO JUSTICE!”

“please, papyrus,” Sans begged. “we gotta go. now.”

Papyrus was frowning at him, his chest continuing to glow with barely restrained energy, and to Sans’s dismay, he glanced away, his brow furrowing. Sans knew that expression. It was the look his brother always got when he was hellbent on pursuing something his way. Once he got like that, there was no stopping him.

Sighing softly, Sans clenched his eyes shut and grasped the leg of Papyrus’s pants. Maybe, if he had to go, this was the best way to do it. With Papyrus at his side.

He should’ve done that the first time.

All of a sudden, Sans was whisked off the ground, and when he opened his eyes it was just as Papyrus was bringing him close to his chest.

“FINE,” he muttered to Sans, hugging him gently. He then turned to the rest of the bar, and yelled, “FINE! WE WILL LEAVE. YOU WIN. BUT I SWEAR, IF YOU EVER COME ANYWHERE NEAR US, I WILL UNLEASH A FURY UPON YOU UNLIKE ANY YOU HAVE SEEN BEFORE. I PROMISE IT!”

“…Get the hell out of here. I’ll send you the bill for this mess.”

Papyrus squeezed Sans tighter, but thankfully said nothing else even as the Snowdin residents’ jeered and shouted. He straightened his posture, held up his head, and marched out the restaurant.

As they walked onto the front step, Sans caught sight of the rabbit monster from earlier, still sitting there. Sans tried to flash her a weak but thankful smile as they passed, but was met only with a glare. He sighed and shifted closer to Papyrus, huddling in his jacket to shield himself for the walk home.