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The Priestess and the Soul Guardians

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Autumn on Mount Ebott was always beautiful. The large, aged maples dusted a rainbow of color across the landscape, the poison sumach turned scarlet, and the tall grass gave up its lush greens as it turned to straw. By now, the only foliage retaining its green was the variety of pines that dotted the mountain. You closed your eyes and inhaled that peculiar scent that was unique to Fall. It was the scent of rain, drying leaves, moss and pine needles. It was crisp and clean. It might be the only thing you'd ever truly miss if the soul truly was immortal. Staring down into the jagged crevice, the weight of your choice became all the heavier.

This was really it.

The end.

It hadn't been that difficult to decide. You weren't needed or wanted; you wouldn't be missed, and you had no special skills that would make your future bright or promising. Death would provide freedom, relief, and much needed release. It certainly seemed preferable to the oppressive melancholy you'd been enduring all these years. Everyone said it would get better, that it was a sadness you'd grow out of, that everyone got depressed sometimes. However, it never went away. It was a black veil before your eyes that darkened everything you gazed upon, and no amount of positive thinking, mantras, or therapy had lifted it.

Of course, you had tried to make things work. You tried changing how you thought, being less pessimistic. You took plenty of vitamins and tried not to keep your problems in. You even took up exercising and yoga because everyone seemed to claim that it would cure you. Unsurprisingly, it didn't.

So why were you hesitating?

It was obvious you weren't meant for this life. Your soul had always longed for something else, something this world couldn't provide. Sure, you could force yourself to join the workforce and try and put yourself through college, learn a trade and spend your days struggling just to make ends meet. Drowning in student debt at such a young age just didn't seem like an interesting path to take. It sounded like a death sentence in itself.

No. You don't want to spend your life struggling just to survive and fighting to just get by. You didn't want...this--what your life had become.

Maybe on the other side, your real life was waiting, you thought as you stared down into the the blackened maw of the Earth. Maybe there would be some new place that would shine some light onto why you felt destined for something else.

Your eyes closed, your hand lifted to press over your breast and felt your oddly calm heart thump softly. You were resigned. You were free.

You were determined.

You jumped.

"I'M TELLING YOU SANS, SHE'S DEAD!"

"i know it looks that way bro, but i checked. she still has a pulse."

There were voices...who were these people?

"WHAT'S A PULSE?" came a loud, but genuinely curious voice.

"oh, well it's--" The other one was softer, deeper with a practiced calm. "--it's a throbbing movement in a human’s body that's caused by their heart beating. you can feel it in their neck wrists, and chest."

"SO A PULSE IS A GOOD THING?"

"yeah, a very good thing. if it’s moving, they're alive. if it stops, they're dead. pretty handy thing actually."

You attempted to open your eyes, but that small movement made you very much aware of an intense pain stabbing in the back of your head.

"WAIT, YOU'RE RIGHT! I SAW HER FACE TWITCH!"

"hey, kid." There was shuffling beside you as one of them went to their knees to your right. "can you hear me? are you ok?"

Something hard and oddly alive touched you. It felt so similar to a hand, but there was no flesh-- like living rock. It was on your wrist, digits gently finding the pulse point and pressing. With a soft whine, your chest vibrated in discomfort.

"shh, don't move," that deep, quiet voice soothed. "that was quite a fall. give yourself a minute."

"BROTHER?" There were footsteps pacing around you, and you got the feeling this person was trying to walk off excess energy. "DO... DO YOU THINK SHE'S THE--"

"there's no way of telling just yet," the other replied, and you felt careful arms slide under your body and lift your upper torso so that you were sitting. Even with your eyes closed, you felt the world toppling this way and that, the discomfort increasing intolerably. "it's best to let her majesty decide if she is or not."

"SHE'S MAKING SUCH AWFUL SOUNDS! IS SHE IN PAIN?"

"i'd assume so, pap. it was a long fall." You didn't know who was talking, but you let your head roll onto what you knew had to be their shoulder. You didn't know it was possible to feel this much pain! Your head was splitting apart, and wetness was hotly gliding down your cheeks. "shhh, it's ok, kiddo... just a sec. hey pap, do you have enough HP to spare to heal her a bit?"

Heal?

"OH DEAR, IS SHE THAT BAD?"

"yeah, there's blood in her hair. she hit her head pretty good."

"SAY NO MORE!" You heard him drop down behind you, and gloved hands appeared gingerly at your temples, followed by the touch of his forehead to your own. "JUST BE STILL, HUMAN! TRUST ME AND LET ME IN!"

You weren't sure what he meant by 'let him in', but it seemed you didn't have much choice in such a weakened state. Something odd and unfamiliar began to move through you from those points of contact. It felt so warm that your body comparatively felt like ice, and yet the touch didn't burn. It was...comforting. Tingling. The rigidness of your body slowly began to release, and the pain that was making it impossible to open your eyes was coaxed into recession. Even your breaths began to come easier.

You had to ask what was happening and tried to force the query out, "What is-?"

"SHHH, YOU'RE SAFE." the man cut you off, speaking soothingly, his head nuzzling yours. That magical warmth spread out and touched each nerve ending, robbing them of your ailments, "I AM ALMOST DONE."

"don't over do it, pap." The other sounded concerned, "....please....pap, please!"

You felt a pang of worry suddenly. What was going on? Was he healing you, but it was hurting him?

"I'M DONE." Your healer sounded tired, apparently left with no more excess energy to walk off now. "IS SHE....BETTER?"

Experimentally, you shifted in the odd grasp that was steadying you. The pain was gone, but a fatigue still remained. Once more, you attempted to open your eyes, your lashes fluttering as the hazy world came slowly into focus. Above you was a sliver of light set amongst a high black ceiling. Was that where you had fallen? It looked so small and far away.

Wait, you...you were alive! You jerked free from the arm around you and grabbed your head, touching it. There was indeed blood in your hair, and it was still wet and sticky. There were no bumps or bruises or scrapes or-- or anything! How could you have possibly lived after falling from such a height? Alarmed, you looked under your body.

Well, that might explain things.

You had landed in a bed of golden yellow flowers so thick and spongy, that it might as well have been a matress. It wasn’t enough to make you land unscathed, but it provided enough cushion to prevent certain death. It was incredibly soft, and the moss beneath your hands was impossibly thick. Lifting your hands, you noticed that they were a little grass-stained, but otherwise fine. Your jeans fared the same, your tank top and sweater dirty but intact. Your gaze lifted to the rocky walls. Marble columns lined them, reaching high like hands trying to grasp the small shafts of sunlight that filtered from the crack where you had jumped.

It'd be beautiful if you weren't so disappointed. You were supposed to die, but you had failed. You were supposed to leave this life behind and now--

"Who said you could heal me?!" you sobbed, bending over your lap as your wide-as-saucers eyes clouded with tears. You watched the droplets overflow and fall to the petals of the flowers you sat on, gathering like dew. "Why....why? WHY DID YOU--?"

You turned, ready to scream at your saviors, but stopped short.

Staring back at you were two living skeletons.

The taller one on bended knee wore what appeared to you like a suit of armor over his ribs, and a well-loved red scarf was draped around his neck and shoulders. On his hands were matching gloves, and his boots were complimentary as well. He was slim and athletic in shape.

The shorter one on his knees wore black basketball shorts and an open blue hoodie. On his feet were fuzzy pink slippers that appeared to be very well-worn. He had a calm smile and a gentle stare that was taking in your reaction like it was the most natural response in the world. Your blood was on the white bones of his hands and smeared on his T-shirt from when he had helped you sit up. He, unlike the other, was shorter and stout, even somehow appearing chubby despite having no flesh to speak of.

Both of them, however, had bare skulls devoid of skin, muscle, or tendon, and black hollow sockets for eyes that were illuminated with pinpricks of optic light.

Skeletons.

They were....skeletons...

"I....I’m...dead?" you asked, suddenly very much afraid. "I...I didn't think...I was bad enough to go to hell! Oh god, no--"

The shorter skeleton was suddenly grinning uncontrollably and looked like he was desperately trying to keep from laughing. The other had taken to glaring at him, unamused.

"SANS, DON'T YOU DARE!"

"i'm trying, bro," he said, raising a bony fist to chuckle behind as his grin spiraled out of control, "but y'gotta admit, that was one hell of a fall at least?"

The tall one’s eyelights rolled in disgust at the bad pun. "UGH! THAT WASN'T EVEN CLEVER."

"but ya know," he added, his gaze settling on you. "if I threw myself off a cliff and failed at killing myself... i'd raise a little hell, too."

Something about his smile now seemed very false, and you acutely felt like he could see through you as transparently as you could look through glass. It made you feel cold and on-edge.

"WAIT!" The tall one suddenly looked horrified, and those dark sockets turned to look at you with worry. "YOU--" His voice cracked and then softened, suddenly losing its boisterous quality. "...You...human...did you truly wish to...?"

Your limbs were shaking and teeth chattering. How dare they judge you for what you had to do! How dare they look at you like he knew what you went through! How dare they make fun of it! You were on your feet, swaying at first as you caught your balance, but you managed to still cry out at them in your anger.

"I didn't ask for your help!" You gasped as you slowly backed away from them, stumbling over the tangle of buds and vines. "You should have left me! I was so close!"

"YOU WERE IN PAIN," the taller one explained, a gloved hand pressing to the breast of his armor to convey his sincerity. "HOW COULD I LEAVE YOU TO SUFFER AND WITHER AWAY?"

The smaller skeleton--Sans, you had heard him called--closed his sockets and slowly rose to his feet.

"give her a minute to come to terms with it all, pap." he said rationally. He raised the exposed bone of his hands up to his face and examined the blood still on them. After a moment’s reflection, he wiped them clean on his shirt. "it's a lot to take in."

"BUT SHE TRIED TO KILL HERSELF!" 'Pap' cried in reply.

"yeah, she did, but there's worse things, bro." he explained evenly. "we don't know what life was like for her up top. just like she doesn't know what's going on down here. she's going to run through the gamut of emotions before she's done. just be patient."

That surprised you; you had expected him to continue to make light of your decision, to continue his flippant comments. You weren't expecting understanding. Abject reprimands, scolding words, judgemental remarks, definitely--but not understanding.

"I don't get it...What's going on?" you whispered tearfully, trembling from head to toe. "I was supposed to die. How... how is any of this possible? And you're skeletons, you're talking, you're-"

"DO NOT DESPAIR HUMAN FEMALE," Pap began, his worry fading into hopeful optimism. He approached you, and to your surprise, despite his size and undead appearance, you felt no need to cower away. "I SHALL EXPLAIN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES TO YOU! YOU HAVE FALLEN TO THE UNDERGROUND WHERE MONSTER KIND HAS BEEN SEALED FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS. I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS!" At his introduction he sank to bended knee in front of you. For having a face of bone, his expression moved and seemed incredibly kind and compassionate. "I AM CAPTAIN OF HER MAJESTY'S ROYAL GUARD AND IN CHARGE OF GUARDING THIS AREA OF THE RUINS. THIS," he gestured behind him to the other skeleton, who offered a lazy wave, "IS MY BROTHER, SANS. HE IS A SENTRY."

"hey kiddo." Sans greeted, the endless carpet of golden blossoms obscuring his slippers and ankles as he came forward. He offered his hand. "always nice to meet a new pal."

You hesitated, but slowly slid your hand into his. Instantly, the obnoxious sound of flatulence filled the air. Sans had pressed a whoopee cushion into your palm. In spite of the tense situation, you cracked a smile at the gag and laughed. He seemed pretty pleased with himself.

Papyrus apparently didn't find it very amusing. "OH MY GOD, SANS!" he groaned.

"what? that joke’s a real gas," he claimed with a shrug. "besides... she's smiling now."

"AT LEAST SOMEONE IS!" Papyrus huffed, crossing his arms and straightening with a haughty tilt of his head.

Sans turned his attention to you. "so what do we call you, kid?"

"I'm Y/n..." you answered, looking back and forth between the two of them. "I... I know I seemed ungrateful. I'm sorry for that. I just--..." You began anxiously hugging yourself, rubbing your arms as you looked anywhere but at them. "... I wasn't expecting to survive the fall. Now that I'm here, I'm so confused, and I don't mean to be rude... but I don't know what's supposed to become of me now."

You almost missed a meaningful glance between the brothers. You froze.

"Wait...if you're sentries and are here to guard this spot..." Your brow rumpled tensely. "Were you expecting a human to fall?"

"EVENTUALLY WE WERE, YES." Papyrus admitted readily. "IN FACT, WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR A LONG TIME."

Sans shifted his weight, nodding in agreement. "yeah actually. it's been 43 years since the last human fell underground and we were re-stationed here to guard the ruins."

Papyrus' smile had a sad glint to it. "HAS IT BEEN THAT LONG?"

"it'll be 44 in three more months."

"This spot?" you asked. "Why this spot?"

"this is the place where the most humans have fallen. and...." the short skeleton scratched the back of his skull, glancing away. "....well this spot has a lot of history behind it. it's where her majesty's human child fell, and where both of her children are buried now. along with the king."

Your blood went cold. There were dead children under your feet?

Papyrus nodded as the two reminisced. "THIS IS ALSO WHERE FRISK FELL."

Sans’s smile became a bit tight at the mention of that one, but he digressed and agreed.

"yup, and all the other human children."

You were confused. "Why were you waiting for another human to fall?"

"BECAUSE OF THE ORACLE’S PROPHECY!" Papyrus explained excitedly, his high cheek bones bouncing on his smile. "THE NEXT HUMAN TO FALL WOULD BECOME THE HIGH PRIESTESS! SHE WOULD HAVE THE POWER TO SUMMON THE BEAST GOD AND FREE MONSTERKIND FROM THE UNDERGROUND!"

....What?

Your expression must have been one of obvious confusion and disbelief because Sans took one glance at you before he patted his brother’s arm and chuckled. "you're getting ahead of yourself, pap. there's no way of knowing if she's the priestess."

"RIGHT! WE MUST TAKE YOU TO HER MAJESTY RIGHT AWAY!" Your hand was instantly swept up between his gloves as he implored you, "WON'T YOU PLEASE ALLOW ME TO ESCORT YOU TO THE CAPITAL?"

"P-priestess?" you stammered, expression falling. "I'm... I'm no priestess, this is some mistake! I was trying to end my life, not--"

"you did end your life," Sans asserted as he walked past you and toward a row of crumbling marble columns. They appeared to be the only path away from this cavern. "your life above ended the moment you stepped over that edge. you did so with no intention of ever returning or surviving. now you have a new life."

Papyrus' face lit up at how Sans had chosen to view your obvious attempt at suicide, "WELL SAID, BROTHER! NO MATTER YOUR REASONS FOR WISHING TO SNUFF YOURSELF OUT, SINCE YOU’RE DOWN HERE, THEY NO LONGER MATTER! YOU CAN START OVER!"

You stood as still as a statue as all of that sank it. They weren't wrong. The worries and troubles of life above apparently couldn't reach you in this place. Nor could the encroaching pain of a doomed adulthood or tumultuous political climate. Maybe they were right. Maybe that you was successfully dead.

Maybe you...could possibly be... the priestess they were waiting for.

But.. that was craziness! You weren’t even sure you believed in gods or an afterlife. How could you be a priestess for something you don't even believe in?

Papyrus, with your hand still securely in his, began to lead you chivalrously off the mossy mound of flowers and towards the path where Sans was waiting. The scattered blossoms carpeting the earth grew thinner and smaller until all that remained was hard, trampled dirt. The shorter skeleton was watching while you approached with his brother. One thing was obvious: he may always be smiling, but that man was hard to read. As you passed, you looked up at him as if for help. His gaze softened.

"it'll be ok, kid," he said as he took a position to your right, keeping you between himself and his brother. "we won't let anything happen to you."

Walking beside him, eyes searching the oddly pliable bone of his face, you sought something solid to hold onto in his expression. You needed strength and security.

Tremulously, you pleaded, "Do you promise?"

His face flinched, his smile tensing down at the corners. What did you say to compromise that placid expression he seemed to constantly maintain? Maybe asking for a promise from someone you hardly knew was asking too much? This was a world you didn't understand. Surely, there were things at play here that were beyond you at this point. Yeah, it'd been a dumb thing to ask, but then he looked back at you, searching your own face just as you had searched his.

"OF COURSE WE DO!" Papyrus eagerly interjected. "YOUR SAFETY AND WELL-BEING IS IMPORTANT!

It made you look up at him. You didn't understand why Papyrus was so eager to help you, from hurting himself to heal you, to so readily giving into such a childish request.

"yeah, kid." Sans agreed as well, but there was a deep disconnect between his words and his expression. Despite his smile, there was pain weighting in his gaze. You clung tighter to Papyrus's hand.

The tall skeleton monster looked down at you and offered you a soft, comforting smile, before he vowed, "I SWEAR I WON'T LET ANYTHING HAPPEN TO YOU, Y/N! TRUST ME, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO TURN OUT FINE!"

It was only a tiny gesture, and yet it meant everything to you in that moment. You didn't know what was going to happen or where life was going to take you now. Were you really this priestess they had been waiting for? Could you live up to the kind of expectations that would place on you? Aside from those things, you had so many questions about the Underground, monsters, and how they had all gotten here.

Not to mention... how was this priestess supposed to save them?

The shadows of uncertainty were oppressive but through it, the light of Papyrus's promise gave you an anchor. No matter what else was to come, you knew at least you'd be safe with him.

You don’t know what you should have expected of the Underground. You had heard the old stories that revolved around Mt Ebott, and the folklore was entertaining, but you had never thought there was any truth to those old tales. At it turned out, many were true, but only time would tell just how many. Still, filtering through what you knew and the things you had asked Papyrus and Sans had filled in a very bleak picture that they weren't keen on explaining in further detail until they took you to their queen.

Right now, they had taken you to a waiting gondola where a cloaked Riverperson was waiting for them. They were a tall, mysterious figure that regarded you with passing curiosity and a soft chant of tra la la that you found oddly soothing.

You couldn't help but feel as if you were about to be carted down the River Styx. Did the monsters themselves realize the many correlations they already had between their own world and the fabled hell told on the surface?

Sans had settled in the far back of the little boat, kicking up his slippers and leaning his head back for a nap. Papyrus sat beside you and patiently answered your many questions.

"All right, let me see if I have this straight," you began quietly as you stared out over the dark rippling waters. "Forty some years ago, a human child fell to the Underground and passed through. You were supposed to take this child’s soul, but you let them go, as did many others, but when they reached the king’s castle, the king was mysteriously murdered, the souls that had been collected vanished, and the human child left and never returned?"

Papyrus nodded and despite his smile, you could tell this wasn't a happy memory. "YES, THAT'S CORRECT. IT IS UNFORTUNATE EVERYTHING HAPPENED AS IT DID, BUT WE HAVE ALL BEEN TRYING TO KEEP OUR HOPES UP! THE QUEEN HAS HELPED, BUT MANY QUESTION HER RIGHT TO RULE AND HER DECISION TO WELCOME HUMANS AS FRIENDS AFTER THE HUMAN VANISHED WITH THE SOULS. MANY BLAME THEM FOR THE LOSS OF HOPE." How he could keep smiling as he told you this impressed you, "IT'S LED TO GREAT UNREST AMONG THE CITIZENS OF THE UNDERGROUND, BUT I AM SURE WITH YOUR ARRIVAL, THINGS WILL CHANGE! HOPE WILL RETURN BECAUSE WE HAVE YOU TO GIVE US HOPE NOW!"

You smiled at his wishful thinking, but you shook your head. You explained, "I'm not all that special Papyrus. Besides, Sans said--"

"DON'T WORRY ABOUT WHAT SANS SAID," Papyrus insisted, his hand coming to your knee and grasping it gently. "I HAVE A GOOD FEELING ABOUT YOU THAT I KNOW CAN'T BE WRONG! YOU'RE EXACTLY WHO WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR! SANS JUST--" Breaking off, he glanced back at his napping brother, his smile faltering. His voice lowered, "Sans does the best he can, but after Frisk came and went, I noticed a big change in him. I mean he's always been lazy, but now I worry the lack of hope has affected even him. I think Sans is just guarded. But, he'll see what I see in you, too, just give him time!"

Your gaze fell to your lap, and you put your hand over Papyrus's.

"But what if I'm not all of that?" you asked the tall skeleton. "I mean, if I can do that for you guys, I'd gladly do what you need but... there's the chance I'm not. What then?"

“THEN I HAVE MADE A NEW FRIEND, AND TODAY IS STILL OUR SPECIAL BEGINNING!” he declared, his voice regaining its vociferous nature.

When he put it like that, it was difficult to argue. You smiled, feeling a full, warm feeling building in your chest. It was a new--and bright..

It gave you hope.

"I always wanted a friend like you. You're so sweet."

"WELL NOW YOU HAVE ONE!" he beamed proudly. "AND THERE IS ONLY ONE GREAT PAPYRUS! NYEH HEH HEH!"

His laugh made a huge smile split your face, "Wow, Pap, your laugh is--"

"STRONG AND INTIMIDATING?"

"Adorable!" you squeaked as you hug his arm.

He grinned, leaning into your touch. "WELL, THAT WORKS TOO!"

The Riverperson slowed the gondola to a stop and looked back at the lot of you, a glimmer of light from under their hood making you feel like they were looking at you in particular.

"Tra la la, humans and monsters should strive to get along," the dulcet voice sang, "but peace will be difficult since lives were lost."

Papyrus stood, either oblivious to the cryptic message or ignoring it altogether. He got out of the boat and offered you a hand to help you out, but all you could do for a few seconds was stare into the black abyss that enshrouded the Riverperson’s face. They said nothing more. Uncertainly, you took Pap’s hand and got out, but you were having a hard time tearing your eyes away. Sans, hands in his pockets and yawning lightly, skipped off the boat after you.

"What did they mean by that?" you asked Papyrus.

It was Sans who answered as he strode past you, seemingly carefree, "the riverperson says a lot of things." He shrugged nonchalantly. "some don't mean anything." Then, the lights of his eyes shifted towards you. "other things...well.. i guess it’s up for the person to decide."

Papyrus took a moment to fish his phone out of his pocket, texting someone for what felt like the dozenth time since you'd met him. He doesn’t seem like the type to be preoccupied with that sort of thing, so somehow you assumed it was business. From his next words, you realized you were right.

"HER MAJESTY IS AWARE WE'RE COMING AND IS MAKING PREPARATIONS!" he announced proudly. "BUT SHE WARNS THAT THE CAPITAL SOMEHOW HAS ALREADY GOTTEN WIND OF OUR PRECIOUS CARGO AND IS RATHER ABUZZ WITH PROTESTERS!"

Sans gave pause beside his sibling, and the two began to talk. "undyne supporters?"

"IT, UHH, WOULD SEEM TO BE THE CASE, YES," Pap admitted uncomfortably as he pocketed his phone. "IT...DOES MAKE OUR ARRIVAL IN THE CAPITAL FAR MORE... DIFFICULT."

"it's definitely a 'fishy' situation."

"UGH!" Papyrus rolled his eyelights. "THAT MIGHT BE FUNNY IF I HADN'T HEARD IT A MILLION TIMES BEFORE."

Sans’s easy smile never faded, and he didn't seem to be too worried about the apparently dangerous situation they were walking into.

You were lost. "I'm sorry, what's going on?"

"WELL, DO YOU RECALL ME MENTIONING THAT THERE IS A DEGREE OF CIVIL UNREST?"

Sans chuckled nervously, "heh, yeah, it's putting it rather mildly. it's more like the brink of civil war."

"I HAVE A VERY DEAR FRIEND WHO IS NOT HAPPY WITH OUR QUEEN AND IS LEADING A REBELLION IN HOPES TO OVERTHROW HER."

You blinked in shock. "A...a friend?"

He shuffled. "WELL, I KNOW SHE'S REFUSING TO SPEAK TO ME, AND SHE'S THROWN A SPEAR AT MY SKULL A FEW TIMES... BUT WHAT'S A FEW SQUABBLES BETWEEN FRIENDS? WE'LL BE FINE AS SOON AS YOU TAKE YOUR PLACE AS PRIESTESS AND HOPE IS RESTORED!"

Slowly, you blinked, heart sinking into your feet. "P-Papyrus...you couldn't mean--"

From behind him, Sans crossed his forearms franticly to make you stop talking, and instantly, you obeyed. You may not know much about Papyrus, but he was a sweet man with a very good heart. He assumed the best in everyone and every situation. There was no need to make him face the devastating truth of a friend lost if he didn't have to. So, you smiled.

"You know, I bet she'll come around."

"I AGREE!" He said cheerfully, "NOW LET’S GET YOU TO THE CAPITAL!"

"you’re on point," Sans said as he fell in step behind you.

"RIGHT-O!"

Papyrus's optimism aside, the trek to the Capital turned out to be extremely dangerous. They had passed through a steaming hot terrain, past an old abandoned laboratory, and to a system of elevators that apparently would take them where they were going. True to Papyrus’s words, protesters were coming out of the woodwork in the form of unhappy monsters.

It was terrifying seeing so many odd creatures gathering around, shouting.

"Humans stole our hope!"

"You're why we're down here!"

"You sealed us away!"

"DEATH TO HUMANS!"

Behind you, Sans kept telling you to keep moving. Don't look at them. Don't look at anyone. You glanced at him. He was walking backward only a foot’s length behind you. You had never seen him so alert. You couldn't see Paps’s face as he split the ever-thickening crowd.

"Take the human’s SOUL!"

"keep moving, kid," Sans said again, louder.

"I'm trying," you responded, but your voice quaked, and your eyes were darting this way and that as the screams and cries of the crowd grew louder, rising to a furious crescendo. You hurried to get as closely behind Papyrus as you could manage, grasping the fringe of his scarf and closing your eyes against the sounds. "Why do they hate me?"

"THEY WOULDN'T HATE YOU IF THEY KNEW YOU, HUMAN! JUST STAY CLOSE! WE’RE ALMOST THERE!"

How could he sound so unwaveringly optimistic? This was horrible!

Quickly, it got worse. Sans grabbed you and pulled you down just as a rock was hurled through the air toward you. Papyrus stopped in his tracks, and you looked up in time to see him moving his hands, slowly materializing magical bones out of thin air before he grabbed them and brandished them like clubs. Bright blue bones shot from the ground, forming a cage around you and Sans with Papyrus on the offensive outside.

Was this....magic? You reached out to touch one of the bones, but Sans grabbed you to keep you away from them. "blue means stop kiddo," he explained quickly. "if you don't move, the bones won't hurt us, and they’ll protect you from anything flying this way."

As amazing as this was, you were worried.

"What's he doing?" you gasped in a panic, seeking Sans’s gaze for answers. "He can't take on all of them!"

"THIS HUMAN IS UNDER THE PROTECTION OF HER MAJESTY AND HER ROYAL GUARD!" Papyrus announced to the crowd, his back straight and shoulders square. Awed by his commanding presence, you stared, holding his scarf a little tighter as he went on with fierce passion in his booming voice. "JUST AS THE WORDS OF THE ORACLE OF WATERFALL FORETOLD, ANOTHER HUMAN HAS FALLEN AND AS PREDICTED, THE HUMAN IS AN ADULT FEMALE WITH A POWERFUL SOUL! THIS HUMAN WILL BE THE HOPE OF THE UNDERGROUND AND THE KEY TO OUR VERY FREEDOM! BUT THAT WILL NOT COME TO PASS IF WE GIVE IN TO FEAR AND DISSENSION NOW!"

The crowd was quieting down and listening.

"WE HAVE SUFFERED MUCH AND HAVE STRUGGLED TO REMAIN OPTIMISTIC. WE HAVE BRAVED THE DEATH OF OUR KING AND MANY FELLOW MONSTERS!" His proud voice echoed across the crowd. "I KNOW IT IS HARD TO REMAIN IN GOOD SPIRITS! HOWEVER, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE WAY TO COWARDICE, OR TURN ON ANY SOUL SIMPLY FOR BEING DIFFERENT FROM OUR OWN CAN BE DESCRIBED AS! MY BROTHER AND I WILL TAKE THIS HUMAN TO THE QUEEN, AND IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME, SHE WILL ADDRESS YOU HERSELF! SO I IMPLORE YOU!" He opened his palms, the bones he'd gathered to fight vanishing in a gesture of good will to the onlookers. "FOR THE TIME BEING, MY MONSTER BROTHERS, LET US PASS! THE TIME TO RISE MAY YET COME, BUT THE HOUR FOR HAS NOT ARRIVED!"

The crowded streets slowly parted to make a direct path to castle. It was so close that you could see the gates.

"THANK YOU!"

Papyrus smiled brightly and led the way, keeping you caged within the blue bones, just to be on the safe side. There was only silence now as every eye of each monster, from Whimsum to Tsundereplane, watched the human who might save them pass by under her skeleton guard.

You dared to look at a few. You saw their strain and the pain on their faces, tired and so in need of hope. Papyrus's words to you on the gondola came back to mind. He had so much faith in you, and it had filled your heart with something intense and new. You wanted to save them. You wanted to be the one to give them their hope back and help them be free.

It filled you with determination, and for once, it was not on your own behalf!

The giant carved doors you reached had two enormous guards in front of them. They grasped the brass handles and pulled the giant gate open for you and the sentries. Only after Papyrus had led you within the safe, beautiful confines of a palace courtyard did his cage of bones vanish.

He looked down at you with a proud smile.

"YOU WERE VERY BRAVE, HUMAN!" He commended proudly. "I KNOW I'M RIGHT ABOUT YOU!"

Sans laughed lightly. "i hope so, bro, because you just told the entire kingdom that she was the key to restoring hope."

"And with good reason," came a motherly voice from the other end of the garden.

Appearing from behind an intricately-crafted marble fountain of a goat kid and human child playing with flowers, a female goat monster appeared. Her white fur was draped in purple robes, and she had kind ruby eyes with a smile that could warm even the coldest of hearts. This had to be the queen.

Both the skeleton guards dropped to their knees at her arrival, but you stared in amazement as the woman approached.

"Y/n," she whispered, eyes glassy with emotion. "My child... we've been waiting for you."

End Part 1

Chapter Text

When you had been told you were going to be taken to the Queen of Monsters, you’d admittedly had a lot of preconceived ideas on what to expect.

A few had been correct, as you were currently standing in a palace courtyard surrounded by some tokens of grandeur. The beautiful fountain was certainly one such item, but so far it’s calming trickle of water and polished marble only aided in an overall natural serenity of the garden. In fact, most everything about this place was natural. Creeping vines resembling ivy spread its tendrils up the limestone walls, slabs of uncut rock had been arranged into cobblestone paths, and it was foliage and those ever present golden flowers that decorated the grounds.

Indeed the scene relied on the significance of natural beauty rather than shows of money, power and importance.

The queen herself was nothing you’d thought she’d be. She wasn’t some jeweled monarch on an elevated throne above you and your guards, but a humble woman wearing modest robes and a welcoming smile. She didn’t leer down her nose at you despite being quite taller, she had no ladies-in-waiting in tow doting on her, nor did she even have a crown on her brow. No, this woman didn’t rely on a display of riches to convey her royalty. It was in the dignity of her stride, the confidence of her gaze, and the elegance of her mannerisms.

“Greetings, y/n. I am Toriel.” Her voice was warm and weathered with wisdom and age, the kind that was further highlighted by the crinkle near her eyes. “I am so relieved that you made it safely. I hope you do not judge my people too harshly for reacting to your arrival in such a way. They have endured much and are tired. Under normal circumstances, monsters are usually far gentler and friendly.”

She was in front of you now, standing nearly as tall as Papyrus, who was still kneeling with his brother behind you. You were openly staring with your jaw slack. Toriel giggled to herself and hooked a finger under your chin to close your mouth.

That seemed to snap you out of your daze, and you quickly dropped to one knee as well.

“Oh, please, do not behave this way.” She took your hand right away and raised you back to your feet. Her hands were soft and furry with pink pads. “I was caretaker of the Ruins and outcast for a great many years. I am still not quite used to such shows of servitude, and they are largely unnecessary. Besides, we do not have time to waste on formality, child. There is much to discuss.” She turned her attention to Sans and Papyrus, scolding gently, “That goes for the two of you as well; you should know better by now.”

They both got up, Papyrus exuberantly replying, “YES, YOUR HIGHNESS!”

Sans nodded, hands in his pockets again. “sure, tori.”
“Sorry, your Majesty,” you anxiously said, “I’ve never met royalty before so I’m not quite sure what to do.”

“Oh, nonsense. You act as you would with anyone else.” She clasped her hands in front of her with a sweet smile. “I am sure you will quickly learn I do not often stand on ceremony.”

This had to be the case because Sans was already striding uninvited down the cobblestone path towards the entrance to the main structure. He glanced over his shoulder at you with a grin. You just knew another pun was on the way.

“she’s right, kiddo. you’d be hard-pressed to find a queen so royally at ease!”

To your surprise, Toriel covered her snout with a squeak of laughter!

“CAN WE NOT?” Papyrus begged. “JUST THIS ONCE? CAN WE PLEASE TREAT THIS SITUATION WITH THE KIND OF IMPORTANCE IT DENOTES?”

Toriel tried composing herself, but her smile was still lighting up her face. “Of course Papyrus, tee hee--!” she apologized as more giggles escaped. “We should retire into the castle. Y/n, I’ll have arrangements made for you so you can bathe. We will meet in the library to discuss everything over tea.”

“ah,” Sans sighed, rocking back on his heals and delivering a wink along with a punch line. “i always look forward to dining with royal-tea.

Toriel made a very unladylike noise as she tried her best to suppress her laughter for Papyrus’s sake, but even you were laughing at that one. Maybe some of Sans’s puns really were clever! The taller skeleton brother was storming away down the path, obviously knowing where he was going and eager to escape the puns. The queen clapped her large paw gently on your shoulder, with tears of laughter in her eyes.

“Forgive me, Papyrus,” Toriel apologized, but then she apparently couldn’t help herself and called, “--but it is best to move oolong, nothing to tea here!”

Sans was bent over his knees, clutching his middle as he laughed. You could hear Papyrus screaming from inside.

You were so swept up in it all, you held up a hand. “Wait, wait, wait!” You pointed to Toriel, snickering. “That means you’re nobili-tea!”

Toriel was roaring now, her head thrown back in joy as she squealed in mirth. “Oh, my child, what a wit!”

hier heir.” Sans agreed with a snort.

“YOU’RE ALL DEAD TO ME!”

As Toriel instructed, you were brought to a bath by a small insect-like monster with a quiet voice and shrinking disposition. You’d thought perhaps you would be taken to a tub of some sort, but the place where you were instructed to bathe wasn’t a small interior room like you expected the castle to contain. No, it looked more like paradise. It was a spring-fed pond with stones lining the bottom and odd glowing flowers lining the banks. Hazy specks of golden light floated in the air like pollen in Spring. It was positively ethereal.

Your monster escort took their leave once you reached the area, allotting you privacy. After you undressed and waded naked into the waters, you spent more time than you probably should have sitting calmly in the gentle current simply to take in the experience. You’d never been naked in a large body of water before. It was vastly different than swimming in a pool in a swimsuit or lying naked in a bathtub. It felt uncannily liberating, as though the water actually had a silky texture that was gliding across your exposed skin, lifting it of impurities seen and unseen. Was such a thing even possible? You assumed it might just be the novelty of skinny dipping that made it feel so spiritual. However, you couldn’t help but feel as if it scrubbed you tenderly to clean both body and soul.

Even if it wasn’t as deep as you had to admit, it at least felt good to get the blood scrubbed out of your hair.

When you were finished and exited the pool, you felt oddly prepared for what was to come. A placid smile was on your lips that came easily, and you felt a gentleness in your soul that was far reaching; even your steps felt a little lighter.

A towel and change of clothing was provided, neatly folded and waiting for you. Once you dried yourself and got dressed, that sense of belonging only intensified.

The robes you adorned were provided by Toriel, and seeing yourself in them came with an odd sense of purpose. The slip you put on first was a long, silky white garment that ended just above your knees. Over that was a tunic of gossamer fabric with iridescent threads. It was gathered on one shoulder, leaving the other exposed and moved freely around your body, leaving your movements unencumbered.

You swallowed the lump in your throat as you gazed at your reflection in the antique mirror that was propped against the wall by the room’s exit. You’d never been very comfortable with your body. You wished your curves were more appealing, that your breasts were nicer, that your legs had a nicer slope, but seeing yourself like this you felt... beautiful. Your flaws didn’t feel as important. Even more baffling was that it felt as though these clothes were made for you.

All of these instincts you felt-- could they mean that deep down you know you’re the priestess?

No, it’s just wishful thinking….right?

Looking back, though, standing on the edge of the crevice you’d thrown yourself down, hadn’t you thought that your soul had been meant for something more?

You took a deep breath to calm yourself and goosebumps bristled your exposed skin. This was really happening. This was really truly happening.

You gathered your courage and stepped outside the room to discover the little insect monster waiting. You let them lead you through the castle, to a cozy sitting room where the others were waiting. There was a tea cart pulled up beside a small table that the skeletons and the queen were sitting at. They were chatting quietly among themselves, but they paused when you arrived.

Toriel lifted a hand to her mouth in a gasp. “Oh, my child, you are such a vision of loveliness!”

Papyrus was staring slack-jawed while his brother was looking anywhere but at you with a tea cup raised to his mouth. For some reason, his cheeks appeared blue.

“WOWIE!” Papyrus exclaimed at last, standing respectfully as you entered the room. “Y/N, YOU LOOK….WELL...YOU’RE--”

Toriel laughed softly and set her cup aside. “I believe the word you are groping for is ‘beautiful’, dear.”

“WITH ALL DO RESPECT, IT IS NOT!” he protested vehemently, his own face appearing to be dusted in an orange glow. “THAT WORD PALES IN COMPARISON TO Y/N’S EXQUISITE PRESENCE!”

You suddenly rolled your shoulders forward, bowing your head shyly as you felt yourself blush. Did he really think that about you?

“Gosh, Pap… Thank you.”

“well, he’s right.” Sans finally spoke up, looking at you with that same easy-going grin. “you look nice kid.”

“You certainly look like a priestess.” Toriel claimed, a wistfulness in her voice. “After all this waiting….Come, sit with us.”

“SO, YOU REALLY THINK SHE’S THE ONE, YOUR MAJESTY?”

“Well Papyrus, tell me what you think,” the queen said seriously. “You have seemed convinced from the moment you texted me. Do you still feel that way?”

“I STAND BY IT!” he said with conviction as he pulled out a chair for you.

You took the offered seat as Toriel picked up the tea pot. It was delicate and looked incredibly old. A sweet smelling amber liquid glided out of the steaming spout and into a teacup in front of you.

“What about you, Sans?” Toriel’s attention shifted to the smaller skeleton.

Sans was quiet, staring off in a random direction with his tea cup balanced carefully in his slim phalanges. He appeared to be thinking, but you couldn’t help but feel that his silence was thickening the air.

You wondered why his thoughts were so important to the queen, but you tried to distract yourself by sipping from your own tea cup. After a swallow, you smiled softly. It was very good.

When he finally spoke, he sighed and lowered his cup down to rest on his knee cap.

“i initially had my reservations, but,” his eye lights shifted back to Toriel, and he nodded. “i felt it, too. i just didn’t want to jump to conclusions,” he said ironically, trying to lighten the tensions, “before we knew anything concretely. seeing her in that get-up, though…” He glanced at you discreetly again. “yeah, she’s….she’s the priestess.”

Puzzled, you looked at him and asked, “What do you mean, ‘felt it too’?” You glanced down at your clothes. Were these the robes of the Priestess? “My…’get up’?”

Toriel was using a dainty spoon to scoop a sugar cube into her tea. “He means that, just like Papyrus, he had instincts that told him who you were and to protect you. Seeing you in the arraignments of the Priestess convinced him.”

In disbelief, you gaped, the tea in your hands forgotten. “Wait--why would seeing me like this convince him? What instincts?”

“Y/n,” Toriel said gently, her palm outstretched to you and gesturing to the skeleton brothers. “These men were predicted by the Oracle of Waterfall to be among your Guardians, two of six that will come to protect you, lend you their soul power, and ultimately enable you to call forth the Beast god. Their very SOULS, the culmination of their entire beings, are wired to recognize you.”

You leaned back in your seat, breathing in and trying to absorb this news.

“So... you know for certain that I’m this Priestess? Because...you have a feeling?”

“it’s a lot more than a feeling.” Sans admitted, once more lifting his hand and staring at it. You suddenly remembered him doing that exact same thing when you had met him on the mound of flowers in the Ruins. That was the hand that had been stained by your blood, though it was now clean. It lowered, and he looked at you with intensity in his gaze, explaining, “i may have reserved saying for certain until we got you here and we heard tori’s thoughts, but...” He stopped and paused, as if considering his next words. “i... knew it in my bones.”

Papyrus nodded as well, looking overjoyed and barely able to contain himself. He was so excited that he didn’t even draw attention to Sans’s skeleton pun. “ME TOO! MY SOUL LEPT AND--”

“--it felt fuller...”

“BRIGHTER!”

Sans laughed quietly, hesitantly adding, “...complete.”

“EXACTLY!” Papyrus bent closer to you, giving you a nudge. “SEE! I TOLD YOU I WAS CERTAIN!”

“I can’t believe it…” you whispered. “There’s never been anything remarkable about me. How did this happen?”

“your soul was right for it,” Sans said, finally abandoning his tea to the table and rubbing his chin. “the nature of souls is mysterious and deeply steeped in magic. when pap and i were told of this prophecy, it was under the understanding that he and i would both know the priestess when we came across them. it’s called a soul resonance. two souls would come into contact with each other, and the resonance would indicate a potential bond.”

“Then why didn’t I feel anything when I met you two?” you ask in concern. “What if that means you’ve got the wrong girl?”

“IMPOSSIBLE.” Papyrus said resolutely. He turned to face you seriously. “MONSTERS ARE FAR MORE IN TUNE WITH THE PRESENCE OF THEIR SOULS THAN HUMANS ARE. IT WOULD ONLY MAKE SENSE THAT YOU WOULD NOT NOTICE ANYTHING WHILE WE WOULD. WE’VE HAD MUCH MORE PRACTICE!”

“pap’s right,” Sans readily agreed. “humans seem to have largely forgotten the very existence of their souls and their importance, so often, it’d take coming into contact with a monster for them to even see its physical form.”

Your head sank between your shoulders.

“Well, you’ve got me there. I didn’t know any of this.” You picked at the hem of your robes nervously. “So... you guys felt a ‘resonance’ with me? What does that mean?”

 

“In ancient times, this was a term used to describe the relationship between human and monster partners.” Toriel explained, standing up and walking over to a nearby bookshelf in search of something. “Those partners could be anything from allies in battle, to the kind of soulmate that leads to being lovers. All it really means is a soul recognizes when another is compatible. Just how compatible varies from person to person. It takes nurturing to solidify the bond and make it something permanent. Ah-- here it is!”

Toriel carefully slid a very old book from the shelf. Its binding was leather, the texture which betrayed its age. Quite meticulously, the woman moved through the brittle pages until she found the one she was looking for and handed it to you.

Showing the same care Toriel had, you took it into your grasp and looked at what was shown.

There were diagrams of colorful hearts beside humans, and to the side of the human, a monster. Their ‘heart’ was upside down.

“These, dear child, are human souls.” Toriel gestured to the colorful hearts by the human. “These,” she tapped the white upside-down souls with the claw of a finger, “are monster souls. This diagram shows a human and their monster partner. When the resonance is honored and one wants to make it permanent, the pair release their souls from their bodies and let them merge. In this state, a human and monster share everything from their memories to their abilities. As Priestess,” Toriel explained, “you can bond with all six of your guardians, enhancing and even unlocking their abilities and sharing them.”

Sans stood up. “words are cheap,” he said, heading towards the door. “it’d be best to get some hands on experience.”

Papyrus was on his feet next, looking excited. “WELL SAID! WHY DON’T WE JUST SHOW YOU, Y/N!”

Toriel blinked at that, protesting. “So soon? Merging souls is quite intimate, and she may need time to--”

“Actually…” you cut in as you followed suit and stood, peering up at the kindly queen apologetically. “I think they’re right. I’m pretty nervous, but I’m a visual learner. And judging from all those sad faces outside these walls, well...” You hugged your arms and dropped your gaze. “Maybe it’s best to dive in instead of wasting time testing the waters?”

Sans was waiting with his brother at the door. He seemed to be quite focused on what you were saying. By comparison, Papyrus was practically dancing in place.

The goat monster slowly closed her book and nodded. “Yes, of course. That would probably be for the best.” She didn’t sound convinced, but still acquiesced. She put the book away. “There is no better way to understand your role as Priestess. So... to the courtyard, then.”

Once there, the brothers selected a relatively open area to begin.

“ok, kid, let’s start with the basics,” Sans said as he turned to Toriel. “heya, mind if we, uh...pull out yours too? for comparison?”

The queen nodded, more than willing to go along with Sans’s plan. Both her paws moved to her chest, and with a deep breath, she exhaled while she drew her paws away. With them came a soft white light. In its center floated a spiraling white heart. Just like in the illustrations, it was flopped from the position of a traditionally drawn heart.

“It’s beautiful!” you breathed in awe. “Oh, wow.”

Toriel blushed modestly and smiled. “Thank you, child!”

The soul radiated warmth and created a movement in the air that swayed the queen’s long soft ears and rustled her fur. After a few moments, she cupped her soul and guided it back to its place of rest within her.

“alright, that’s what a typical monster soul looks like.” Sans said, and when you nodded, he moved on. “ok pap. do your thing.”

“ON IT!” Papyrus put one hand to his chest and did just as Toriel had. Again, an inexplicable warmth filled the air along with radiant light. However, his was noticeably different, making your eyes widen.

“It’s--!” You exclaimed, suddenly moving closer to it. Papyrus didn’t shy away; instead, he brought it closer to you for inspection. Unlike Toriel’s soul, Papyrus’s was haloed in an orange glow. “Wow, it’s got an orange tint to it! It’s so pretty!”

“NYEH HEH HEH.” Papyrus laughed, blushing as he looked away. “IT IS INDEED RARE I’M TOLD!”

“see, kid, monsters who are destined to be the guardians of the priestess will be blessed with an unusual soul. usually only human souls have a color and would be defined by a dominant attribute.” There was something proud about the way Sans looked at his brothers soul. “papyrus has been blessed with an orange soul of courage to uh...well, aid you.”

“Aid me?” you echoed, glancing to the other skeleton.

“WE HAVE TO FIND THE OTHERS.” Papyrus said, and you noticed him looking at you with gentle intensity. “WE DON’T EXACTLY KNOW WHERE THEY ARE BUT IT IS MY DUTY AND DEEP HONOR TO LEND MY TALENTS AND ABILITIES TO YOU TO HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PURPOSE.”

The bright tangerine light of his soul was casting his face in its color, and the movement and power caused his scarf to sway behind him. He looked like a knight in shining armor standing with you like this, and you felt a lump in your throat.

Was it possible for a human to have a crush on a skeleton monster? Was...that okay?

“Purpose…” you whispered, unable to look away from him. “What is my purpose?”

Toriel answered, calling over the rustling of fabric and flowers, “You must find your other guardians with blessed souls! You must gather the six of them and yourself together and combine your power to summon the Beast god, shatter the barrier, and free monsters everywhere. Then you will have the power to make your own dreams come true!”

Your own dreams? You had known that they needed you so they could be free but….your own dreams? Was this like a wish? Were there limits? These were definitely questions for later!

Papyrus reached past the hovering of his soul and gently grasped your hand as his other made a slow unhurried motion towards you. All at once, you felt suction within you, an uncomfortable pressure that took your breath away. You began to panic and pull away!

His voice came again, uncharacteristically quiet but still just as sturdy and strong, “Don’t be afraid, Y/n, I’m calling your soul to me.” His eyes darted from a soft red light that was starting to pulsate from your chest, to your eyes. “That pull is the same pull my brother and I felt for you from the moment we met.” He took a small step closer. “Relax and don’t fight it. Trust me. I would never hurt you.” An odd fire was beginning to burn in the lights of his eyes, casting them in the same glow of his soul. “Never, my Priestess. I exist to protect you.”

Your knees were trembling beneath you. The sensation was new and intense, but at his earnest promise, despite how much of this you still didn’t understand, you nodded and smiled back. You did trust him. Already, this man without knowing you a day, had taken your protection seriously. He’d healed you in spite of it draining him, he kept you calm and in good spirits, and stood between you and hundreds of angry monsters.

You shifted your hand to lace into his own and breathed out, “I trust you, Papyrus.”

There was a moment of joy on his face before his hand shifted. You felt one final tug and with a gasp, an intense red light burst out of you. You saw your soul for the first time, the light of which mingled with your first skeleton guardian. The spiraling hearts were drifting closer in mid-air, but you weren’t looking at them. Your eyes were on him and his on you.

“You’re doing great,” he assured you, and you noted a bit of breathlessness to his tone.

“What do I do?” you asked, only to find your own voice sounded as thin as his.

His hand simply help yours tighter. You didn’t notice how his soul was about to touch yours, their rotations just barely missing each other. However, when they did at last touch a gale of wind and light swept up a tempest above you. Your robes flapped against you, and your hair lifted clean off your back in a burst of sudden power.

Not that you noticed. No, your mind was instantly on something else. Before your eyes, you were seeing flashes of memory that didn’t belong to you and feeling emotions that weren’t your own. You could see a younger Sans reaching out to you with a loving smile and picking you up and telling you how great you are. Were you seeing life from the eyes of Papyrus as a child? Sans was wrapping you in warm clothes, two packed bags beside him. Sans seemed rather bright-eyed and so unlike how he is now. His smile was huge and genuine, and when he tugged Pap in for a hug, he nuzzled the little skeleton with an affection few birth parents could even muster for their children.

There was a real, beautiful and genuine bond here.

“hey, can a little bro as cool as you sit on my shoulders so i can get these bags?”

There was laughter, a young and squeaky, ‘nyeh heh heh’ that confirmed your suspicions. You were in Papyrus’s memory! The world shifted, and there was a lot of walking. Sans talked constantly about everything they passed, teaching him. From a city, to wetlands, to some place frigid and cold.

Then a new house! It was devoid of furniture, but you felt his excitement at having a place of their own. You didn’t understand, though; where were his parents? The memories played out in nonsensical flashes and so many were difficult to follow.

You saw Sans coming and going, wearing lab coats, looking tired, but always smiling when he saw his brother and providing no matter how worn he was. And….always making jokes that Papyrus had heard over and over again through his whole life. Yikes, no wonder he got mad and stormed off when he made them.

One day, Sans came home. His lab coat was ripped and dirty, a thick layer of dust on his shoes, and a hand was clutching one eye socket. He was shaking and unsteady.

“SANS!” little Papyrus shouted over and over in excitement, not seeming to notice things were off. “COME SEE MY DRAWING THAT I DID IN SCHOOL! I GOT A RIBBON FOR IT!”

Sans ignored him, trembling as he pulled off his lab coat and threw it in the kitchen garbage can. In the middle of the tile floor, the skeleton sank to his knees and collapsed, sockets open and devoid of light.

“SANS?” Papyrus was running to him. “SANS? GET UP BROTHER!” Now he was shaking him, Sans’s skull rolled lifelessly against the cold floor as his younger brother struggled to rouse him. Something red that looked like blood oozed from his left eye socket.

Papyrus kept screaming, over and over again, but nothing would make his brother get up. Eventually, the child quieted and sat at his brothers head, petting him gently and talking chipperly like everything was okay. He told him about school, about how he’d completed a puzzle book in record time, how he didn’t care that he didn’t have a mom or dad, that he was so happy he had his big brother as his parent and best friend.

But you knew better. These were the worst moments of Papyrus’s life. His voice was bright and lively, but through his eyes, you saw the tears clouding his vision and felt the aching burden in his soul as clearly as if it was your own.

Eventually, Sans did wake up. He looked dazed and moved as though in a cloud. Papyrus kept chattering happily to keep him distracted.

The memories after that were different. Sans had changed. He worked a new job and Papyrus kept encouraging him, but he slept all the time, did the bare minimum, and the liveliness little Pap remembered was gone.

He never saw any more lab coats after that.

Disjointedly, you saw Papyrus grow, excel in school, take on a particular penchant for creating and solving puzzles, and aspire to join the Royal Guard. One person in particular, a blue scaled fish lady with long red hair, was ever present. It seemed they were close friends. They cooked together, laughed, trained--

Then the woman was living on the couch in the living room with a vacant stare. She didn’t move, rarely ate, and though he had managed to help her find work to keep busy, she lacked the zest for life that she once had.

“UNDYNE?” He said, his hand on her shoulder, “PERHAPS IT WILL PERK YOU UP TO GET REVENGE? SURELY WE CAN COOK UP SOME GREAT TRAPS AND JAPES TO MAKE FRISK PAY FOR... FOR….”

His hand was swatted away, and she managed a pained response. “It doesn’t matter,” she croaked. “It won’t... it won’t bring them back.” Her blue fingers twisted into her hair, body curling tighter and shaking as she began to cry. “I couldn’t protect her...I couldn't…”

And Papyrus sat there, loyally rubbing her back. You felt his pain at being unable to help her, just like his pain when he had been unable to help his brother all those years ago in the kitchen. You felt the heavy burden and how hard it was to keep smiling.

Through it all though, you felt something else.

There was the Courage to keep hoping, to keep believing, when no one else did-- to be the one to smile and lift the spirits of those around him and make sure they all knew they were loved. He dared to believe this wasn’t the end. This sadness wouldn’t last forever. He believed when no one else would. He believed!

His voice was back, but it was real; not distant memories, but something trying to pull you out of yourself.

Your eyes refocused on him. The sensation of elation was tainted with worry as you stared up into his face. You were back, but oddly, you knew you were still feeling what he was.

He was blushing, but he was smiling.

“IT LOOKS AS THOUGH YOU GOT A LITTLE OVERWHELMED, PRIESTESS!” he said, the impressive glow of your merged souls shining their light on you both. “FEAR NOT, I WAS QUICK AND CAUGHT YOU!”

Oh...you were in his arms, bridal style.

Did you just...swoon?

Oh god, please say you didn’t!

“Did...I just..”

“PASS OUT? YES!” He laughed. “PLEASE DON’T BE EMBARRASSED! IT WAS OVERWHELMING FOR ME AS WELL BUT I FEEL I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO IT! THE SURGE OF EMOTIONS AND MEMORIES INSTILLED, BUT I CAN, WITH A BIT OF EFFORT, KEEP FROM INVADING YOUR PRIVACY FURTHER!”

You were turning a red as bright as your own soul, you just knew it!

His voice lowered, and he looked a little uncertain. “Can...you tell me how much you saw?” He glanced away. “I knew an exchange would happen, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be so….quick and intense.”

You searched his face. He was embarrassed, too? Suddenly, the fact you had fainted and the knowledge he’d likely seen much of your deepest, most private thoughts no longer mattered.

“Hey, Pap.” You cupped his jaw bone and coaxed him to look back at you. “I trust you, remember? Do you trust me?”

He blinked once, but then, overcome with affection, he nodded and put his forehead to your own. You felt his relief and joy at the bond you were sharing.

“how’s it feel pap?” Sans’s voice broke the odd spell you were in, and you blinked, suddenly remembering that you had onlookers.

You felt Papyrus’s pride surge through you as he exclaimed, “WE DID IT, SANS! LOOK!” The both of you looked up at the red-orange soul you were sharing. “AND I FEEL FANTASTIC, ACTUALLY! A LOT STRONGER! I FEEL LIKE MY MAGIC IS OVERFLOWING!”

“and you?” Sans eye lights shifted to you suspiciously.

Remembering now how lively Sans used to be, according to Papyrus’ memory, made this man before you now seem far more worrisome.

What in the world had happened to him?

You tried to move on from that thought and concentrate on what exactly you felt as Papyrus gently set you on your feet.

“It’s strange,” you confessed with a sheepish blush. “I feel everything Papyrus feels. I think we even exchanged some memories.”

Toriel was looking upon you, her red eyes glittering with tears as the soul power fluttered her garments. She appeared so full of hope!

“Then it has been done. Tomorrow, I will address the people and tell them the Soul Priestess has been found!” Her large paw found your own and grasped it appreciatively. “Congratulations, my child. You’re the New Hope of the Underground!”

Chapter Text

Days turned into weeks and you began to settle into your new life's routine.

True to her word Toriel addressed the kingdom the next day. Her speech was heartwarming, inspiring and broadcasted to every city, town and home. For now, it seemed like everything was looking up! Civil unrest was calming a bit, everyone was talking about the prophecy and the New Hope, and you were learning very quickly how souls worked and getting used to the merging process.

Every day Papyrus and yourself went into the courtyard to practice. The process had taken a little getting used to, particularly the suction of your soul leaving your body and the overwhelming sensations that came with the fusion. Luckily Papyrus was a very gentle and patient teacher. If he was having trouble handling feeling what you felt, he didn’t show it and instead concentrated on progressing you to the point of being comfortable. He wanted it to feel second nature by the time his brother, and the other, had to experience it with you. Under such caring guidance it wasn’t very long before your knees stopped wobbling and the surge of two peoples emotions within you became something you could sort through with more ease. It also didn’t hurt that feeling Papyrus’s positivity was rubbing off a can do attitude onto you.

Sans, however, was largely absent and when he was around, it was oddly while you trained with his brother. Despite his lackadaisical attitude you got the feeling he was being very watchful. It was starting to make you uncomfortable. Each time you thought you were going to work up the courage to actually have a conversation with him about his role in all of this he vanished the moment you looked away.

It was getting to the point even Toriel noticed. When you asked her about it, a sad disquieted look tainted her motherly expression.

“Sans is a hard person to get to know.” she’d explained over tea. “He’s private to a fault and despite him being friends with nearly everyone the only one who seems to be actually close to him is Papyrus.”

The palace study was a quaint library with polished pine floors and shelves built directly into the walls. While one end of the room had a writing desk with quills and paper, the other had a coffee table circled with comfortable aged leather reading chairs all placed on an old hand woven area rug. There were random stacks of books on the floor, out of the way of foot traffic and betraying the need for the better organization.

It was the Queens favored sitting area and you’d come to associate it more with tea time and much needed guidance than reading and research.

Her words made you think. What was it like to have so many friends and yet no one to really talk to?

“What about you, Your Majesty?” you asked, “He speaks very familiarly with you. He calls you Tori. No one else does.”

The goat woman had gone deeply silent after that, busying herself with pouring you another cup just to have something to do with her hands.

“He and I are friends and have been for a long time now. Back when I was caretaker of the Ruins, he and I had a pleasant daily routine of knock knock jokes through the door that separated my home from Snowdin. That is where his sentry station was located.” It sounded nice from how she spoke of it so fondly, but her eyes betrayed a deep hurt, “We had never seen each others faces until after the last human child left the underground. We...almost had a more romantic relationship but--” the woman stopped and shook her head, “but no, it would never have worked. Not after I read the files detailing what the former King, had him do when he’d been a scientist at the royal laboratory.”

This made you stare unseeingly into your tea. Sans in a lab coat within Papyrus’s memory and the haunted look on his lifeless face flashed before your mind's eye. The dust on his shoes and the blood leaking from his skull and that day that traumatized your closest friend; It was obviously connected to what Toriel spoke of.

“I...saw in Paps memory that Sans had worked at a lab.” you spoke quietly, “I don’t know anything else about him. He won’t speak to me.”

Toriel nodded in understanding, looking troubled. “This has been a worry of mine as of late. Your journey cannot progress until you and Sans can bond as you and Papyrus have. Judging from all I know, he has good reasons for not wanting to let you in on the kind of level his brother seems to embrace but, if it cannot happen, we’re at an impasse.”

You swallowed hard at the lump in your throat before trying to wash it down with a drink of tea.

“Has he done bad things?”

Toriel quietly looked into the murky water of her in cup before nodding. “It was things that made it impossible for me to love him as I once felt I could. I cannot love a man who has done the things Sans has and I only know what the papers had written. Still,” Toriels smile returning was as soothing as ice on a burn, “Sans is not a bad person and I cannot oust him as a friend for what he did under my ex-husband's command. He had little choice and I am certain much of it haunts him in ways I cannot grasp. If he resists bonding with you it is because he’s afraid.”

Afraid. It hardly seemed possible one as cool and collected as SAns could be afraid of anything.

So you asked, “Afraid of what?”

“Afraid of you knowing, I suppose. After all, he and I were almost lovers and learning what he did kept me at bay. Maybe he feels the same would be true of you.”

“Can I ask what he did?”

“No.” she denied quietly, “It is not my place, both as his friend and as yours. This gap must be bridged by you two and no one else. My best advise is to not worry about merging your souls for the time being but give him the space to come to terms with his part in this.” She smiled, “After all, it must be terrifying to have the fate of monsters riding on your own ability to trust and open up to a human girl you barely know.”

You had to admit that was a good point. Your bond with Papyrus had come so easily and naturally. It wasn’t reasonable to think Sans, or even other guardians you would find in the future, would fall in line as eagerly and effortlessly. As it was you were embarrassed that Pap had seen into your own memories but to his merit he didn’t discuss with you what he saw there aside from remarking that he loved the sun dress you wore to your 13th birthday party.

You knew for a fact the skeleton had seen more than that, deeply upsetting things you’d never told anyone. He hadn’t pushed you away however and instead, held your hand a little tighter, spoke his words a little more sweetly, and ever attentively reminded you that you could talk to him if you ever felt like you wanted to open up.

He’d very quickly become the best friend you’d ever had.

Tonight though you didn’t feel like you could venture out and talk to him. Instead you were lying on your bed in the privacy of your room. It was typical that after soul merging you would take a nap. It had been very taxing the first several times. You weren’t sure if now you were just getting used to it now or if your mind was too active to doze off.

You sighed and stared at your room. It was lovely, all things considered, modest, but elegant, cozy yet dignified. There was an oak wardrobe full of clothes Toriel had prepared for you, a desk with a large mirror that doubled as a vanity stocked with paper and other needs, but the dresser and shelf sat far too bare for your liking. Then of course there was your bed. It was ordinary but it was oak as well, stained to match the wardrobe. What was special about it was the variety of fluffy pillows and blankets on it and the carefully pinned up canopy of fabric that enshrouded your sleeping area. It felt cozy and quiet, a small private cave within your personal space. There was a cord you could pull and tie back to open it up for ease of access too which was a nice detail. It was so delightfully girly you felt like a princess laying there!

Or, rather a Priestess.

You loved it but you felt so spoiled. You’d never had such a large space to yourself back home and growing up your room was full of hand me downs from family members or thrift stores. All of this, even if it was modest all things considered, felt like so much more than you were used to.

Yet it still didn’t feel like home. Those empty shelves mocked you. There were no personal effects, nothing of your old life, no memories to look at when you were feeling taxed and down-

You rolled onto your belly and hugged a velvety pillow to you, burying your face into the fabric. It was no substitute for a real hug but was as good as you could get.

That’s where there was a knock on your door.

You sat up curiously. It had to be Toriel. She had a habit of checking on you in the evenings before you were called to dinner where you’d dine together. Papyrus and Sans lived in a place called Snowdin and rarely joined you for meals. You’d been told though that within the next week they’d be given rooms at the castle so they can stay close to their Priestess. It was an odd feeling being told that but at least it meant Pap would be around more.

You pulled the cord to pull the drape surrounding your bed back and got up, finger combing your hair and double checking your clothes to make sure they were in order. It felt good to be wearing your tank top and jeans again. Toriel had been stressing the need for you to wear your robes when you left your room but you really prefered what you were used to.

Your fly was down though. Well, that wouldn’t do.

“Who’s there?” you called to buy you a moment while you zipped up and flipped the zipper pull back down to lock it in place. Crisis averted!

“boo.”

You paused.

Did you just walk into a knock knock joke?

Sans.

You decided to play along.

“Boo who?” you giggled walking up to the door and opening it.

Sans was standing there in his usual clothing and a bag in hand, chuckling, “awwww, don’t cry kiddo, the joke’s not that bad.”

Despite the tension that had been surrounding the two of you lately his joke had definitely succeeded in lightening things up. You managed to smile and opened the door a little wider for him so he could come in.

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I really wasn’t expecting you.”

“yeah, i figured.” He admitted as he stepped over the threshold of your door. “That’s uh… kinda why I came. Tori had a talk with me and i guess I owe you an explanation so…. I sent Pap home on ahead because you have a bone to pick with me.”

You felt a little chill at that news and hugged your bare arms to soothe down the gooseflesh.

“Oh...I’m so sorry I-”

“naw, don’t be.” he assured you as he looked around your room curiously. “I know i’ve been kinda… well, to be blunt i’ve been avoiding you.”

“Nice to know it wasn’t just my imagination.” you laughed uncomfortably.

“nice room.” he diverted suddenly, “doesn’t really seem like you though.”

You regarded at him oddly. Of all the people to have an opinion on what was and wasn’t in your taste, Sans was the last person you’d pick to have an accurate idea.

“Okay I’ll bite. How do you know?”

He tossed you a lazy smile and shrugged, “i’m more observant than most people give me credit for. hmm, let’s see-” he set the bag down and sank his now unoccupied hand back to it’s home in his pocket. “if i’ve got you pegged here, then... the walls are too blank for one, you have a love hate relationship with your looks so that mirror on your desk is bigger than you need and in a bad place, and you’re definitely not used to this much space.”

You blinked in amazement. “Okay, you’re actually pretty spot on. How did you figure that out.”

He chuckled a little bit and those eyes of his met your own. “It’s not too hard.” he explained, “those clothes you’re wearing are the same ones from when you fell. they’re at least a few years old, the elasticity on the tops going so it’s laying a bit looser than it should and the jeans are very worn in, especially in the knees. you like things that are familiar and comforting. change is fine but when given a choice you fall back on what you know. so, just going on that and assuming your personal space reflects that same kind of attitudes then- yeah. needs a homey touch.” He nudged the bag he’d brought along towards you with a slippered foot, “here.”

You looked at him and that tired smile then to the paper bag. You picked it up and took a look. You pulled out a cell phone, charger, thumb tacks, and… you started smiling. A camera and a small photograph printer.

“ha, got a smile. It’s a start.heh.” He rubbed the back of his skull nervously, “well, the little printer works for the camera and the phone, so if you take shots out and about then you can still print them out and hang them up and put some memories on these walls.”

“This is really cool-!” You said appreciatively, pulling out the chair of your desk so you could sit down and look at the gifts, “Sans, this is.... Actually perfect. I was literally just laying in bed feeling like this space wasn’t me!”

“I know it doesn’t make up for me uh...being so negative, but it’s an icebreaker at least.”

You lowered the phone into your lap and looked up at him. He was really trying.

“Does this mean we can talk.”

There was a moment of that tell tale silence that seemed to fill in spaces while Sans was in thought.

“we can try.” he said before tensely exhaling, “i dunno what tori said but-”

“-barely anything. I promise.” you interrupted as you powered the phone up. “She said if you told me anything it had to be your choice and her getting involved wouldn’t really help us.” you smirked a bit, “didn’t stop her from dropping hints about all this awkwardness though.”

“she knows how to talk to me I guess.” he replied. If Toriel’s interference was bothering him it didn’t show in the least, “she’s really ‘no nonsense’, ya know? not many people light a fire under me and get me to do much like Tori does.” He was looking away, tension in his brow in spite of the smile. “she kinda forcefully reminded me that this situation is a lot bigger than uh...some of the stuff i have to deal with and that me dragging my feet was holding up this whole ‘break the barrier’ process.”

“Well she’s not wrong.” you admitted as you scrolled through the phone contacts. Sans, Papyrus, and even Toriel were already names in the contact list. You smiled a little that he’d been thoughtful enough to program the information in even before giving it to you.

“no, she’s not but…” He shifted in place so that he was leaning against your desk. His smile finally dropped and the expression that remained was chilling. At such a stark change he instantly had your undivided attention. “tori doesn’t know everything...she doesn’t even know the half of it. moving forward with these soul resonances? it’d mean me making all that’s in my head available to you and i’m really not ready for that.”

You set the phone aside, searching that cold distant expression on his face with your own. He wouldn’t even look at you.

“You don’t talk like this to people much do you.” you stated.

“Never.” came his flat reply.

“Why?”

His sockets closed. “Because it makes no difference.”

“I don’t under-”

“you will.”

Your brows lowered, “why do you say that? I’m here to help.”

Sans took a very slow and deep breath. “It’s your soul kid. I’ve felt you use it already to mark your progress even if you don’t know what that means. I guess it’ll make it easier for us guardians to know if we mess up you get a do over but-” he shook his head, “it’s too much power for any one person to wield properly. even a priestess.”

“I know you’re trying to explain something to me but I don’t follow.”

“You have a human soul ruled by determination.” he finally met your gaze again, “i’ve seen humans in the underground use this power before and, heh,” he laughed bitterly once, “let’s just say it did not leave a very good impression on me.”

You tried to stay calm in spite of the unsettling aura of unease coming off him.

“-but...I’m not those other humans. I don’t even know what this power your talking about means.”

Sans fell quiet, staring hard across the room.

“I’m supposed to trust you kid…” his voice dropped, the rumbling baritone so dark it made your gooseflesh return. “hell, y/n, i want to trust you. Every inch of marrow running through me is literally pushing me to you and i do want to give in but I can’t. not yet.” He stood up, “and i don’t want you to feel bad about that. it’s not your fault. but it’s gonna take a lot of effort to make this merge work between you and me.”

“Sans, that’s just not fair to say…” you protested, “Paps and I came together easily, and it’s made us understand each other and grow closer! I trust him with my life! The same could be true of you! If we merge and share these experiences I would see it all from your perspective and understand, not ostracize you!”

“It’ll be impossible for our souls to merge as they are now.”

Your eyes widened. “What?”

“i’m too resistant, kid.” he was making his way to your bedroom door. “i’m not my brother. i don’t have the courage to trust as easily and completely as he does and my lack of will to make it work wouldn’t allow the souls to come together.”

Your fists clenched in your lap so hard your knuckles went white. On one hand he was admitting his flaw here and communicating the subject could help you resolve it. It was a good first step. It was effort. On the other hand, his stubbornness was a roadblock impeding the progress of freeing the people of the underground.

“You’re not Papyrus. I don’t want you to be. Courage is his attribute and if we can’t move forward with the ease he and I had then we’ll think of something else.” you reasoned, desperate to reach him, “So why can’t you tell me about your soul? What’s your attribute? Let’s stop talking about how you’re not Pap and discuss what could work for you!”

Sans had stopped walking. You could tell he wanted to leave but he was hovering there by the door, unwilling to. His restlessness had not faded but his lingering made you feel that maybe he was, at least, considering your words. You still felt a pull towards him in that moment, a deep and heavy ache to go to him, to beg him to trust you.

Wait...you were feeling a pull.

To him.

You suddenly realized this was the resonance. It was a magnetism born from such a deep place that fighting the urge actually was feeling borderline painful!

By all means, now that you were feeling it, it made no sense! If he was feeling the same pull as you but from the moment you’d met, you wondered how could he resist it so successfully. Judging by how his weight shifted from foot to foot and how you saw his fists clenching in the pockets of his hoodie, it wasn’t easy. There was definitely an inner war being waged over this.

“Sans,” you asked quietly, your voice tight as you spoke, “Don’t you feel a pull to me like Pap does?”

“....yeah.” he admitted after some thought. “the resonance isn’t the problem kid. you’re not either. it’s on me and I know that.”

Shifting in place you looked at the camera he’d brought you. It was a thoughtful gesture, a show that he cared and was paying attention. Still, camera of all things. Something to capture memories with and display them. To hold on to them.

Memories.

That was the entire premise of his gift. Something about that made you suspect memories, under everything else, was the key to who he was.

“Sans.” you said carefully as you stood. You noticed him twitch at your movement. You were determined to be brave. “I feel it.” You took a deep breath and took a step towards him. “I feel the pull. I didn’t feel it before, not with Pap, not with you, but I do now. I don’t want you to go. I want to figure this out and make this work.”

When you reached him you weren’t sure what to do but your hand hovered in the space between you.

You wanted so badly to comfort him.

Gingerly, you touched his shoulder and he suddenly looked back at you in surprise. The lights of his eyes were bright. For the first time you noticed a beautiful blue tint to them.

You felt your soul take such a leap inside you that for a moment it was hard to breathe.

“If my soul is the problem, if you don’t trust me, I’ll earn it.” you smiled with certainty, “ You’re the authority on souls, right? Teach me. If it’s as dangerous as you say, teach me how not to use it. I’ll listen to you. I’ll do what it takes.”

Those star like eyes of his didn’t break from yours for a second as you spoke and you knew everything was hinged on this moment. He was perceptive, he told you. Right now, he was taking in everything about you. Your tone, your eyes, your body language, he was looking for any reason to doubt you.

Or maybe, to trust you.

In the end, he close his eyes and his signature smile returned with a gentle laugh.

“how do i say no to that?” he said turning to face you more fully. “Alright. I can’t promise anything kid but… if you’re willing to give it your all then i’ll give this a shot.”

In your old worn out tank top and jeans you followed him out to the garden where you had been receiving instruction from his brother. Once there, standing with only about five feet between you, you could already see the strain in Sans expression over this.

“so uh,” he began, looking to the side as an insect of some sort fluttered from flower to flower, “i guess i should start by… telling you the kind of soul you have, huh?”

You nodded patiently.

“alright.” he took a deep breath and looked over at you steadily, “yours is a soul of determination. It’s arguably the most powerful kind of soul in existence and is unique to humans.”

You tilted your head in confusion.

“None of my guardians will have a red soul like mine?”

“no.” he said. “determination is something monsters may have in spirit but not in substance and any monster exposed to too much determination loses its form and melts.”

“Wait-” you said in worry, “will my soul hurt you or Papyrus? I mean, I saw it fuse with him and he was okay but-”

“it’s alright darlin, it’s safe.” he assured you, and for a moment it looked like he was about to step forward but he stopped himself.

Had he….called you darlin?

You hoped he didn’t notice the color that rose to your face at that.

Sans didn’t draw attention to it if he noticed and instead continued, “the soul fusion works with your soul because of its determination. We can get huge powers boosts off of it, even gain new abilities, but in the end the determination is still yours, even when we’re fused. when separated all of the DT returns to you.”

You nodded in understanding. “Power boosts and new abilities?” You questioned.

“yup!” He nodded, “Pap discovered his ability to heal not too long ago but with your DT boost when fused, he’ll be able to be much more proficient at it.”

“And that has to do with his soul type too?”

Again, a nod. “that’s right. he’s the Orange Soul of Courage, vexed with Audacity with the ability to Heal. All of your Guardians will have special powers when we’re tied to your soul.”

“What’s yours?”

Sans eyes were boring deeply into your own for a stretch of several long seconds before he nodded. It was time. He simply closed his eyes and with no other movement, cobalt light began to flicker and throb in the space between you. A white monster soul with a royal blue aura appeared.

“You pulled your soul out so easily.” you whispered, eyes drawn to the glittering heart before you. The blues were mesmerizing! “How?”

He smirked, “a guy bares his soul to you and you’re getting held up in technicalities?”

“Hardy har har, Sans.” you said, but the presence of a smile took any bite out of your words.
He chuckled, “well, to get to the heart of things, my soul is the Blue Soul of Integrity, vexed by conceit with the power to Tether.”

Your attention flickered from the soul to him. “Tether?”

The way Sans looked at you next made your soul take yet another leap in your body. His eyes were regarding you so…reverently. Instantly something was changing between you.

“tether as in….linked. bound.” He murmured, all his focus on you,“my soul will know where yours is no matter where you go.” a little blue magic appeared on his cheek bones, “while we’re fused, apart from the power boost, I’ll be able to move you, myself, and the other guardians in our party anywhere between worlds.”

Amazed, you stared at him over the sparkling light of his beautiful soul. The kind of bond he was describing he would have with you was so…so... Toriels words from nearly a week ago came to mind suddenly with crystal clarity. Soul merging was an intimate experience. That had been obvious when you had shared it with Papyrus, but what sans was describing was on a different level. It was exciting, it was moving, it was...a little scary.

You swallowed hard.

“That’s…”

“heavy.”

“Very.”

“...if you’re not ready for this then-”

“No. No I am,” you insisted, “I just...I guess I understand on some level why you were reluctant to do this with me.”

His expression darkened and he looked away, the openness and connection from before slowly retracting. Even his soul was drifting away from you.

“Sans.” you gently begged, stepping forward and reaching out to him. He flinched away. “please… don’t close off now. We’re so close.”

His eyes closed and his expression hardened as he tried to find his resolve.

“...i said i’d try.” he said, his voice hushed, “so….let’s….just try.”

His hand waved lightly in front of you, effortlessly drawing your soul from your body. It was lucky you’d had practice because the swiftness of the motion would have otherwise left you staggering for breath! Obviously, he knew this. He knew you’d made progress. There was no use dallying. There was a task at hand.

He looked at the shining red of your soul for a moment, the vacancy of his stare betraying a secret inner torment. You let him have time to compose himself appropriately. It was troubling. Before he pulled your soul out, that resonance felt so strong and the hurdle you had to cross to start bonding with him as a Guardian felt surpassable. Faced with the imminence of your merge however, you could see that his explanation about having a rough history with red souls was unsettlingly true. The camaraderie from before all seemed forgotten when touched by its scarlet light.

At least a solid minute ticked by before you noticed a subtle nod from him.

Already the experience was very different from what you’d had with papyrus. With him, your souls had naturally drifted towards one another without much thought or effort. With Sans the they remained in place and it took some concentration to get them moving into position.

He also didn’t reach out and lend you support for this important moment like his brother had.

The red heart between you flinched at that thought and Sans eyes darted to yours in awareness.

“You’re scared.” he stated.

“It’s just...different.”

He closed his eyes and turned away.

He looked like he was shutting down. You couldn’t let him!

“No, come on, I…we can do this!” Determined, you focused your soul towards his.

They touched. Instantly you felt a shock move through your body, purple shafts of power blossoming from the point of contact! It stole your breath and your body buckled slightly against the current.

You felt exhilaration! This was it, you were doing it, you got through to him, you were going to bond you were...you were…

Terrified!

It took you a moment to realize this fear wasn’t your own but belonged to the skeleton across from you!

“w-wait!” he choked, his jaw tight..

Vivid flashes of memory played before your eyes, like watching scenes on a dvd in fast forward. There was a lab and a tall skeleton with cracks splitting the eye sockets of his skull. He was standing proudly beside Sans. There were preserved human souls in capsules. For some reason, you knew they were the souls of children-

Sans voice, in the present, was cutting through the vision, “s-stop!”

“We almost have it, don’t give up!” You encouraged boldly, “Please, trust me! I can feel you!”

All too quickly, you wished you didn’t. There was ear splitting screaming and strobing red light as the other skeleton began melting into an inky formless mass! You felt what Sans had felt potently. It was panic so acidic it was burning your veins as your heart moved your blood! Blackness was opening up and spreading before you and it swallowed not only the scientist skeleton that’d been with your guardian but also many of those around him. Somehow Sans was escaping the carnage, snatching the wrist of the doomed man you’d seen with him. Blue magic was aiding his struggle, but the man just sadly smiled.

“Sans...let go.”

No… No he could still be saved, he was right there, he had him!

“I didn’t take you in just to have you die too.”

I’m not giving up!

“Please son.”

Son?

“Let me go.”

No! NO!

-and he let go.

Outside his memories, Sans terror and regret suddenly flowed into you without restraint, so thick and horrifying that you instantly dropped to your knees in the flowers and screamed! His soul had retracted forcefully from touching yours, severing the link and his flow of consciousness!

You were left shaking on the ground, a hand over your mouth as you attempted to bite back your cries.

“i told you to stop.” he ground out, tone biting.

Sobs were wracking your body too hard to reply.

The words were spoken through gritted teeth. “i warned you.”

“I’m so sorry…!” you choked, your fingers sliding up to grasp trembling handfuls of your hair. My god, what had this man been through? So much pain and struggling! “I didn’t know!”

“No one does.” He said with cold resignation. “not even Papyrus. that’s...not even all of it.”

You became aware that he was on his knees in front of you when the bones of his fingers gently began detangling your fists from your hair. When he drew you forward and your upper body was crying softly into his lap your arms stole around him as you wailed. Patiently, he waited for you to calm and quietly stroked your hair.

“you...understand now, right?” he whispered, “our souls weren’t even merged kid...they were only touching.”

Your eyes opened wide, staring down into the now wet fabric of his basketball shorts. All of that and it had only been a touch, not a full fusion.

“I...I failed.”

You felt him stiffen and his hand stilled on your head.

“no…” he said quietly. “you didn’t kid, you…” you could hear him attempt to take on a more cheerful tone but it kept failing,”you were takin it like a champ. i just… i mean i couldn’t...” he was bending over you now, his bones quivering. He whispered. “...i failed.”

It was obvious he wasn’t just speaking of your attempt to merge with him.

You shook your head, squeezing your lashes down as more tears wrenched free.

“...no, I-”

“you gave it your best shot,” he assured her before he started set you aside and get up. “you tried to be ready for whatever was to come and I pulled away. this isn’t your failure.”

“Sans, wait-” you got to your hands and knees before sitting back on your legs, “We can’t give up- we’ve got to keep trying!”

When you looked up however, he was gone.

 

------------

Sans may have said the failure to properly fuse was his fault but that didn’t mean you didn’t feel responsible as well. You pushed too hard, you insisted to plough forward even when he was apprehensive. Most of all, you failed to truly take his warnings seriously until it was too late.

And he said there was more.

That no one knew.

Not even Papyrus.

It really spotlighted some serious problems about yourself to you, the first of which being how little you really knew about real suffering. When you had stood at the top of the mountain you were now under and thrown yourself down you thought you knew pain. You’d internalized your own with no outlet for a long time. You thought yourself compassionate and empathetic because of it. You thought you were fit to help him.

That illusion was shattered the instant your soul touched Sans.

You knew nothing of pain and you had been arrogant to believe you could just convince Sans to trust you and afterwards it’d be fine. Now your lack of understanding had pushed him away again.

You skipped dinner that night and instead remained in your room, the curtains of your bed drawn and crying quietly as you wallowed in your guilt.

You’d been such a fool.

There was a firm knock on your bedroom door, making you shoot up in bed with a start. There was no time for conjecture on who it was though, because immediately after a voice you’d grown to love followed.

“Y/N? THE QUEEN SUMMONED ME, SAYING YOU WERE IN NEED OF A FRIEND SO I RUSHED OVER! PLEASE LET ME IN SO I CAN BEGIN MAKING YOU FEEL BETTER!”

Had Toriel seen what had happened between you and Sans?
You did your best to rub your eyes free of the evidence of your tears as you got up.

“Coming Pap.”

When you got the door open you’d been about to explain away the encounter, thinking of ways to calm him and assure him you were fine.

But then he hugged you, his tall form bent over and embracing you dearly. He didn’t say anything. He didn't’ have to. Everything he could have said was conveyed by his actions.

You started to whimper and immediately your arms found purchase around his rib cage.

“I messed up!”

You felt him shaking his head, voice low, “No, you didn’t.”

You protested as your tears soaked his scarf, “I did, so bad- I don’t think Sans will ever trust me after this!”

“He will.” He insisted firmly, “He simply needs more time.”

“I knew that, I did, and pushed too hard!”

His grasp around you tightened and his voice came soothingly, “Please my Priestess, you were only trying to do your duty. Our mission to find the other guardians will not continue until Sans finds it in himself to let you in as I have.”

“Pap?” You asked,“”Were you scared when we fused?”

He took you by the shoulders and pulled you back to smile at you, “Of course I was a little. Opening yourself that much to anyone always is! Some of us just have a lot more we keep private than others. Sans has….” His expression grew reflective, “Well, he’s always carried his own burdens. He’s not used to sharing them with anyone... BUT BE ASSURED DEAR PRIESTESS THAT HE’S AWARE OF THE GRAVITY OF OUR SITUATION AND HE’LL COME AROUND ON HIS OWN!” His smile returned and was bright, “HE WILL MERGE SOULS WITH YOU AND TAKE HIS PLACE AS YOUR GUARDIAN JUST AS I HAVE, I’M POSITIVE!”

He lifted the tattered edge of his scarf and used it to dab the tears off your reddened cheeks.

“SO PLEASE DO NOT CRY ANYMORE! YOU’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG! IT IS MERELY A DIFFICULT SITUATION AND TIME WILL RESOLVE IT!”

It was so hard not to smile when faced with his encouragement. Still, you were emotionally spent. You thumped your head to his sternum with a whine and was relieved when he embraced you again. His arms felt like a protective cage that kept the weight of the world at bay.

“But…” He said, returning to that softer voice that he seemed to keep reserved only for you, “if for a little while you feel the need to be sad- that’s okay.” He rested his temple on your head, “I’ll stay until you feel better.”

“I’m so glad you came back.” you whispered into him, feeling no shame as you sank even more firmly into him.

You still marveled at how life had changed. You had traded in the occasional guarded embrace with humans for the more sincere cuddles from the hard edges and living bone of this skeleton monster. You wondered if the unreserved affection you felt for Papyrus would be something you’d have with all of your Guardians or if it would be unique to him.

Would you feel this close to Sans some day?

For the time being you didn’t care one way or the other. Papyrus was your first. He’d always be special. He had embraced his role as your Guardian with commitment and enthusiasm, and not for a single moment had he held anything back from you. You were his Priestess, and with it came a tender and mutual camaraderie. You didn’t understand it, but you didn’t need to, and neither did you feel the need to label it.

Somehow, just calling him your Guardian was enough. It defied the traditional definitions and created it’s own. It was more than being a protector and aide. It was just…. More.

“Can you stay?” You asked him nervously, feeling sore from the position you were in but still needing to feel the reassurance of his presence. “I can’t eat right now and I want to sleep but my mind’s racing. I just keep thinking about how much I blew it with-”

“Say no more-” He murmured into your hair.

You felt his knees bend as he lowered himself a little more and your arms readily moved around his neck as he slid an arm under your knees to lift you. Thank stars for Papyrus, for him understanding what you couldn’t say, for just being there.

He carried you to your bed, sat down and toed off his boots. When he laid down, it was with you securely in his arms and your head tucked under his chin. He tugged off his gloves and his bare bony fingers slid into your hair to pet you soothingly. You curled into place and soaked in how safe he made you feel.

The feel of bones should have made you feel….well something negative, right? Instead, his humerus under your head, though hard, betrayed living warmth. There was no awkward tension between you, no sexual charge born from being in such an intimate setting- there was only trust.

“Please just give him time.” he said after a minutes silence. It was amazing how quiet his voice could get when it was just the two of you. “You’re new at this and still discovering what it means to be the Priestess. I feel like I was waiting for this, that my life's ambitions were realized when we found you in the Ruins. I can’t speak for my brother but- if that pull to you was anything like it was for me, he’ll know when the time is right to solidify his place at your side. Use this time to allow yourself to adjust. You’re taking on too much too soon.”

Your hand closed on his scarf, so tired and worn out from the complexity of the emotions you felt.

“I know you’re right.” you said quietly, “I’m used to just being...me. Some normal human girl.” You shifted to slide a arm over him. “I felt that ‘pull’ to him today and I was surprised to find that it….hurt. How can he keep his distance like this?”

“That pain lessens being around you, at least it did for me until our souls merged. Then the pain vanished entirely and left only keen awareness of you.” he gave your head a little pat, “It may be hard for him to stay back now but he won’t stay away forever. I assure you, he does want this.”

“I feel it even now.” you confessed sadly, “I feel like I’m failing him and knowing he’s hurting like this too doesn’t make me feel any better. If we could have just connected today like we were supposed to I-” your voice cracked, “At least you being here makes it hurt less.”

“My Priestess-” Papyrus whispered with an affection that made your soul swell and tears sting your eyes. “-you have such a good soul. It’s so bright and eager to fulfill your role to the best of your ability. While I admire your dedication, you’re trying too hard. Building bonds free of this resonance takes a lot of time. Just because you resonate with someone doesn’t mean those old rules of building trust don’t apply. Sans has to feel safe with you. Yes, it will fall into place eventually, but trying to force it will put it under undue strain and make the bond too weak to survive.” You felt his teeth press to the top of your forehead in something similar to a kiss. “So for now, my Priestess, rest. You’ve done enough for today and tomorrow will have it’s own challenges.”

After that he pulled a blanket over you and a comfortable silence fell.

Basking in the unshakable strength of Papyrus’ courage, you were eventually able to drift off to sleep feeling safe and reassured. He was right. Tomorrow would have it’s own problems to deal with.

In the not too distant future, however, you would find that the challenges of today were but minor stepping stones on the impossibly steep winding path you were destined climb.

Chapter Text

“I mean it, Pap,” you coaxed, hands clasped casually behind your back. “What memories did you see?”

By all means, you tried to act light-hearted and conversational, but the truth was that you were nervous. There had been a lot of time spent with lots of practice between the two while you got the hang of soul merging. He didn’t speak of what he’d seen, and that unnerved you.

Did he see you being locked away in your room with cuts on your body?

Crying in the shower to drown out your cries from your family?

Holding that bottle of your mom’s Ambien, praying for help?

“NYEH HEH HEH!” came the trademark laughter that warmed your heart. “IT’S A SECRET!”

“Well, that’s just not fair!” you argued. “I told you what I saw!”

“AND IT WAS SUPER NICE OF YOU TO SURRENDER SUCH INFORMATION, BUT MY OWN EXPERIENCES IN YOUR NOGGIN ARE FOR ME TO KNOW!”

You groaned exaggeratedly and squirmed a little. “Okay, so I know you saw that silly sun dress I had to have when I became a teenager, but you had to have seen a lot more than that! Tell me!”

“NOPE!” He protested cheerfully. You were getting the feeling he was loving the banter and wouldn’t tell you just to prolong it. “THOSE ARE CHERISHED SECRETS!”

“Paaaaaaaaap!” you whined, tugging on the arm he was using to escort you. “Coooome oooon!”

He smiled softly down at you, that same unconditional warmth you’ve come to know radiating off him like the warmth of sand on a beach.

Then, he turned on a dime and playfully scolded, “YOU KNOW, THIS WHINING BEHAVIOR IS HARDLY FITTING FOR A PRIESTESS.”

You rolled your eyes, muttering sarcastically, “Sorry, I’ll make sure to consult my manual on Priestess etiquette when we get back.”

He laughed, “NYEH HEH HEH, BE SURE YOU DO!”

You noticed that Sans, who had taken point for this outing with you and Pap, was chuckling. Or at least, you thought he was by the tremble of his blue clothed shoulders and how his head was ducked a bit lower than normal.

“SOMETHING TO SAY, BROTHER?” Papyrus called, apparently eager to poke at you further.

With a nonchalance only he could pull off, Sans glanced back at you and shrugged. “not really. just thinking about some of the stuff i saw when our souls brushed. nothing important.”

Your eyes widened. Why hadn’t you considered that he’d have seen things over that brief encounter last week? You’d seen something, after all.

“OOOH, I WANT TO KNOW!” Papyrus shouted, “WAS IT THE TIME HER CAT POOPED IN HER BED AND SHE DIDN’T KNOW UNTIL MORNING?”

Oh god…

“Papyrus!” You let go of his arm and gave him a bit of a shove, face scarlet in mortification.

Not that you could move the skeleton even if you tried; you’d learned trying to move either of the brothers when their feet were planted was like trying to blow over a mountain. They were very solid.

Sans was chortling. “naw, but that one is pretty crappy!

It was Paps turn to roll his eyes, “YOU JUST CAN’T HELP YOURSELF, CAN YOU?”

“nope.”

The crowd split as you made your way through. It was a market on the outskirts of the capital that they had promised to take you to before visiting the Oracle of Waterfall. It was upon Toriel’s request as you had spent too much of your time already within the safe walls of the palace. With there being a lull in the civil upheaval of the kingdom, she felt now was the perfect time to get a feel for the underground.

In the end, it was just a nice dalliance before getting down to business and trying and figure out a way for Sans and you to work past your difficulties with soul merging.

On the up side, Sans hadn’t seemed to hold the ordeal against you and had actually made some efforts to be around more. Most of your interactions with him came down to jokes, puns, and light conversation. It hadn’t taken you long to realize it was his way of diverging from the bigger picture. That was okay. Even Papyrus had agreed you’d tried to go too far too soon, and you needed more time to spend with him to create a good foundation for the bond to form. It was a learning experience and a good one, but it left you wondering.

What if the Guardians you had to set out to find, like Sans, were resistant to bonding souls but less willing to work with you to make it happen? What then? Sans was at least trying. He understood how important this was, and because of this you were certain it’d fall into place. What if you came across a guardian who adamantly refused to work with you?

Despite your lack of confidence, you were feeling more prepared for the inevitable merge with the older skeleton brother. You had a more relaxed relationship with him now, but lurking under the surface of puns and laughter was the threat of having to face those terrible memories he kept hidden from those around him. You kept what you’d seen that day to yourself. You owed him his privacy if the two of you were going to bridge the gap.

The market itself was what you considered a charming throwback to simpler times for humans above. It consisted of a few wide streets lined with tented vendors, though there were the normal storefronts and shops, businesses that had made enough to justify the expenditure of renting such a building. Just from browsing, you were amazed to find that they sold anything from fabric and clothing to magic-boosting items and potions.

Because of the lack of natural sunlight on these streets, there were also several whimsically blown glass lamps mounted around the start of the second story of each respective building. Each one was a little different, varying in shape and color, and mounted with a metal that was crafted to spiral around the glass and hold it to the facia of the structure. Inside were flames that seemed to be burning on nothing at all, but were so bright, you almost forgot that you were underground!

When you’d asked about it, Sans told you fire elementals loaned their unique magic to their creation, each one surrendering a tiny bit of their very life force to provide light to this area. Apparently, the lanterns would only burn out when the elemental that birthed it passed. It was a willful charity from that group of monsters, and one that apparently earned them a great deal of respect and admiration in the occupants of the city.

It was immediately your favorite thing in the underground so far, and you quickly made use of your phone, taking pictures of each one as you passed.

Sans delighted in pointing out how you were acting like a tourist.

Papyrus delighted in yelling at him for saying so.

In the end, all of you made your purchases before heading to the Riverperson and taking the gondola to a place called Waterfall.

As you stepped off the boat, Sans excused himself, vowing to be back shortly after he dropped off the items at home and insisting that he would meet up with you in time to see the oracle. You’d been about to question how he could make such a detour quickly, but Papyrus just patted your head with a big grin and told you he’d be back. You let the topic rest.

It made you feel less guilty for spending so much time gawking at this new terrain. It was aptly named, the sounds of rushing water audible from every place you walked and even the most solid of ground perspiring wetness. It bubbled up under your shoes as you walked on the moss, it sprayed from churning currents, and the floorboards of bridges were slick.

Aside from being wet, it was sublimely captivating, its bioluminescent foliage and fungi making the fields glow. The high ceilings of the caves were speckled with glittering gemstones that twinkled like stars. It may not have been the actual sky, but it was positively celestial. In fact, everything about this place was otherworldly.

You could only assume this was the inspiration for the private bath you’d been shown to your first day underground.

You traced your fingers over protruding gems on the cave walls.

“It’s amazing.”

“DON’T YOU HAVE PLACES LIKE THIS ON THE SURFACE?” Papyrus asked, pausing your trek towards the Oracle’s place of residence to allow your perusal of what he’d obviously seen at least a hundred times before.

“No. Well...” You shrugged. “Maybe. Nowhere I’ve ever been. I think places like this up-top get roped off and mined until the tunnels are so unstable, they collapse.”

He looked a little perturbed at that. “WHY RUIN THE NATURAL WONDER OF A PLACE TO THE POINT OF DESTRUCTION?”

Your expression of wonder fell a little, fingering the luminous crystal.

“Greed.”

“WHEN WE GET TO THE SURFACE I WILL HAVE TO INFORM THEM OF THE ERROR THEY ARE MAKING! BUT, IN THE MEANTIME...” He turned to the water-carved bedrock and with a hard phalange, wedged a small crystal out of the rock. Once it was freed, he walked to you, gently took your hand, and placed it in your palm. He coaxed your fingers to coil around it. “A SOUVENIR,” he thoughtfully explained.

You took a moment to uncurl your fingers and appreciate the cyan, spear-shaped gem before you fisted it in your hand to tap over your heart.

“Thank you, Pap,” you whispered. “I love it.”

And you did. You wondered if it would be hard to get it on a chain for you to wear.

He offered you his arm again, which you readily accepted, walking with him to what appeared to be just a tunneled-out hole in the cave wall. To your surprise, there was a door which Papyrus, with a fist on his hip, was already energetically knocking upon.

“GERSON! IT IS THE GREAT PAPYRUS AND THE PRIESTESS HERE TO SEE YOU!” he announced . His voice echoed so greatly in this place, you swore those in the other side of Waterfall could hear him!

Alarmed, you began looking around for Sans. “Wait, Papyrus, your brother!”

He chuckled with an animated ‘nyeh heh heh’ and gave you a playful nudge just as the door opened.

You decided to trust him and not worry.

Once again, the reality of the underground surprised you. When you thought of oracles, you thought of beautiful shrines, tokens of holiness, and some divinely-blessed creature of mystery.

What was awaiting you on the other side of this opened door was a shriveled old turtle monster with clouded blue eyes, a wiry, silver haired beard, and a bald lumpy head, speckled with liver spots and general uneven pigmentation. His toughened leathery skin was sagging off his bones from a millenia of feeling the weight of gravity, and where it did not loosely sway, it was gathered gauntly and without elasticity. The teeth in the shriveled beak of his face appeared yellowed and loose, and he smacked his dry lips constantly.

The man was positively ancient!

“Eh? Papyrus?” came his scratchy weathered voice. “You young monsters and your high decibels, what are you shouting for?”

He swung the pointed end of his walking cane forward, tapping the wood against the solid bone of your guardians exposed shins.

“FOR JOY, OF COURSE!” Papyrus exclaimed, patiently standing as that cane tapped up and down his leg. “AS YOU FORETOLD, THE PRIESTESS OF THE BEAST GOD HAS FALLEN TO THE UNDERGROUND! I HAVE BROUGHT HER HERE FOR MORE OF YOUR WISDOM!”

“Eh? A Priestess?”

“YES!”

“What Priestess?”

Papyrus’s expression fell and his smile dimmed around the edges. He recovered quickly, patting you on the head when he noticed your worry.

He leaned in to whisper, “Have patience my Priestess. He’s the oldest living monster in the underground.”

You made a silent ‘oh’ with your lips and nodded at him.

“Ah, yes, that’s right, old wrinkled Gerson is the oldest living Monster in the underground!” He hobbled forward on wobbly knees, his walking stick now gently tapping up and down your side. “Gotta emphasise living because I gots me a few ghost neighbors who’d take offense to me claiming to be the oldest in general.”

“I’m very happy to finally meet you, Mr. Gerson.” You said in greeting, smiling at how his cane found your shoulder and lifted to bop you on the head a few times. It hadn’t taken much conjecture to figure out that he was trying to get a feel for your shape and size.

“Ah, such a polite young human! Reminds me of the last one that meandered past my shop.” He lowered his cane and turned around to hobble back inside. “Course, that was forty some odd years ago. A drop in the bucket of time, but still a remarkable landmark for the history of the underground with the disappearance of Fluffybuns and the collected souls…”

Your smile fell as you followed him inside, which looked to be just a storage room full of crates and archaeological oddities. Not far away was a counter and till.

Had this been a store?

“I heard about the souls disappearing,” you replied, looking around the hovel the Oracle of Waterfall lived in. It was musty, and the air stagnant. “I’m not sure I know who Fluffybuns is though.”

“Eh? No one told you about Asgore?”

“Oh! Actually, yes! Queen Toriel’s ex-husband!”

“I was bout to say youngin, what’s this useless bag of bones teaching you?” He made his way to a crate, readied himself unsteadily, and sank down to sit. “Yeah, ole Fluffybuns is sorely missed. A shame you didn’t meet him. He and I went way back before Monsters were banished underground. Have a seat, you two.”

To be so old that he could remember monsters being forced underground. You were already conditioned to respect the old timer, but now the respect took on much deeper meaning.

You walked forward, tripping a little over the edge of an ill-placed crate. Papyrus paused and took great care in shifting it back exactly into the place it had been. You wondered about his actions briefly before you put it together in your mind. Gerson had his home memorized so he could easily make his way around in it. Even something being the slightest bit off could be a falling hazard for him.

Your soul swelled strongly in admiration for your thoughtful Guardian. He took a seat on a very short crate beside yours. He looked silly with his long legs bent so severely, and you bit your lip to control your laughter.

“What brings you three to my home today?”

“Three?” you asked, blinking.

“hey,” Sans greeted from the doorway, looking tired and in need of a nap. He had a red cylindrical bottle in his hand. Was that a bottle of ketchup? “sorry i’m late. there were a few things i had to ketchup on.”

Okay, so you guessed right!

As Papyrus groaned over the pun, you were at least impressed at how truly quick his detour had been. You wondered how he managed it.

“THE PRIESTESS,” Papyrus inferred with as much patience as he could muster, “WE FOUND HER AND HAVE BROUGHT HER TO YOU TO FURTHER SEEK YOUR WISDOM!”

“Eh, you found the Priestess, you say? Why didn’t ya say so!”

At this point, you were glad Gerson was blind so he didn’t see the ‘done’ look on Papyrus’s face.

Sans spoke up in his stead, “yeah, fell at the beginning of the ruins and you were right about the soul resonance too.”

“I’m only sensing one bond in this room.” Gerson hummed tensely, his fluffy white eyebrows drawn a little tighter in concentration. “Why aren’t you bonded and lookin’ for the others? What’s the hold up?”

You winced at those words, and Papyrus instantly had his hand between your shoulder blades supportively. Sans was looking away, nipping the tip of his ketchup bottle between his teeth.

You spoke up. “Papyrus and I were able to go forward right away but...” Your hands grasped your knees, digging your pinky into a worn hole in your jeans and giving it a little tug, “Sans and I are….still trying.”

“What’s so hard about it?” the old turtle barked accusingly. “The resonance is there, you just need to heed its call!”

Papyrus spoke up in your defense, “IT IS NOT AS EASY AS THAT, YOU SEE--”

“Now look here,” Gerson snapped, his walking stick slapping the floor loudly and jerking all of you to attention. “The only reason you can’t form a soul bond in spite of the resonance is your own stubbornness!”

“she isn’t the problem, gerson,” Sans admitted evenly, effectively channeling the old man’s ire onto himself. You met your soon-to-be Guardian's gaze with gratitude. He gave you a subtle nod in response. “and, heh, i’ll admit i’m being stubborn. It’s uh… a bit difficult to let someone else have such clairvoyance over your thoughts and memories.”

This made the old man pause, knobby aged fingers stroking over his beard hair in thought.

“Hmmm, you can’t reciprocate, eh?” He chuckled, “Someone like you--I’d think would jump at the chance for someone to understand them.”

Sans visibly tensed at those words, clearly uncomfortable in rebellion of that ever-tightening smile.

“You think you’re above this, Sans?”

This actually drew the skeletons attention, the atmosphere of the room suddenly very palpable with currents of magic and tension.

“no sir,” he said darkly.

His voice chilled you to your very core.

Gerson was unperturbed, pressing even harder, “I think you do! You’re so used to being the one call’n the shots, to stand back and observe? To judge? That’s what Asgore had you do, right? Given your ‘experiences’.”

Sans’s smile slowly vanished, and a darkness bathed his face in seriousness. Papyrus’s hand on your back stilled and the glove-covered bones twitched anxiously.

“SANS…?” Papyrus inquired, and it took only a glance at your Guardian to see his confusion.

Oh, no…

“Please,” you said quietly, “I don’t think this is neccis-”

“no…” Sans interrupted with a shrug, looking at you squarely. “maybe it’s about time.”

Papyrus’s hand dropped from you, and he stood up. Sans buckled under his brother's gaze and looked away.

“SANS,” he began compassionately ,with a hand pressed to his sternum. “I’VE KNOWN FOR A VERY LONG TIME THAT THERE IS MUCH YOU DON’T TELL ME, AND I HAVE NOT PRESSED IT. I TRUST YOU. I KNOW YOU PREFER TO SHOULDER YOUR BURDENS ALONE, AND IF IT REMAINED BETWEEN JUST ME AND YOU, I COULD CONTINUE TO ALLOW IT. HOWEVER! I HAVE TO SPEAK UP AND PROTEST AT LAST!” His face grew resolute. “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU AND ME ANYMORE. THIS IS ABOUT THE FATE AND HAPPINESS OF HUNDREDS OF MONSTERS LONGING FOR HOPE AND FREEDOM. THE PRIESTESS IS HERE AS A FOCAL POINT FOR OUR LIBERATION, AND HER SOUL IS STRONG AND BRIGHT. IF YOU CANNOT TRUST ME, AS MUCH AS I WISH YOU COULD, AT LEAST TRUST HER!”

Somewhere throughout those spoken words, Sans had to look back to Papyrus. You’d never seen Sans look so exposed, not even when you had witnessed a glimpse into his mind the time you had tried to fuse souls. This conversation had been brewing. Your favored Guard’s words were so well-chosen and precise, cutting to the heart of the entire situation as though he had rehearsed it. Maybe, mentally, he had.

Sans un-pocketed a hand and rubbed his face.

“Pap…” he said, groping for words, “i’m sorry i made you think that i don’t trust you. my uh….reasons for not telling you… it was never about trust.”

“I DISAGREE,” Papyrus said firmly but kindly. “I DO NOT DOUBT YOU HAVE YOUR REASONS FOR WITHHOLDING ALL YOU DO, SANS, AND I RESPECT YOUR NEED TO BE PRIVATE. BUT NOW, WHEN TRUST HAS TO BE BUILT AND NURTURED, WHEN OUR PRIESTESS TRIES HER BEST TO FULFILL HER DUTY TO YOU AND CRIES BECAUSE SHE FEELS SHE FAILED YOU? IT IS PRECISELY ABOUT TRUST! SANS, YOU AND I BOTH HAVE KNOWN WHAT OUR DUTY WOULD BE FOR DECADES NOW! WE’VE BOTH HAD TIME TO PREPARE! THE TIME FOR PREPARATION IS OVER!”

You felt a splinter press into your index finger as you clutched the crate on which you sat, anxiety pulling more air than you needed into your lungs and making you feel dizzy. Sans’s stunned gaze moved from Papyrus to you, and you saw his words had gotten through.

He looked hurt.

Guilty.

Gerson spoke up, “The tall one’s right! Your role as judge in this world ended with Asgore and the last humans departure. You’ve had ample opportunity to get your shit together!” He waved his stick animatedly, “All this hullabaloo you’re dealing with, it’s in the past and if you can’t handle it, give it to your Priestess, that’s what she’s here for!”

Sans looked at Gerson in confusion. “she’s here to summon the beast god. to shatter the barrier.”

“Is she?” he chuffed, “Wow, that’s lucky for us now, isn’t it?”

Sans and Papyrus both rolled their eyelights, struggling not to vocalize their aggravation at the senior moment the turtle was having. You supposed given his age, it had to be expected and patiently tolerated.

Sans’s smile returned, looking a little sheepish. “heh, guess there’s a few barriers that need breaking. alright then, no more procrastinating.”

Pap smiled at his brother, forgiving his pun in lieu of the deeper meaning of his words.

You took the moment to speak, “I was wondering, do you think it’s possible to maybe…channel these soul merges so not everything is exchanged?”

Papyrus looked at you in confusion, “DOESN’T THAT DEFEAT THE PURPOSE OF THE BOND IN THE FIRST PLACE? THE ENTIRE PREMISE OF THE RITUAL IS TO BUILD TRUST AND UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN GUARDIAN AND PRIESTESS. ONE CAN’T DO THAT IF THEY HOLD THEMSELVES BACK!”

“I just think it’d be awfully hard to fight in such a state.” you insist, looking at your hand and the tiny, sharp, shaft of wood that had slid beneath your skin. “If we’re supposed to do these fusions so you guys can get boosts of power, that means fighting, right? So, how can you do that if we’re constantly barraged by memories?”

“Oh, poppycock!” Gerson shouted, his clouded eyes rolling in their sockets unseeingly towards you. “When in battle, your mind’s not going to be on everything you’re afraid to share; it’ll be focused on survival and victory!”

Your gaze widened in understanding. “So, it’s all about where you direct your focus!” You looked hopefully to where Sans stood. “If that’s the case, then maybe we can use that to help our own transition!”

Sans smile was suddenly back and much more genuine. “that’d actually be really helpful.”

Papyrus pumped a fist into the air. “THEN WE KNOW WHAT MUST BE DONE!”

Gerson was laughing, “Wa ha ha, and to spite the face of Hope, the Piranha will become the Leviathan!”

Sans and Papyrus both stopped, staring at Gerson in naked alarm. You had no idea what just happened, but the two skeletons with you exchanged looks that betrayed the hidden gravity of those words.

Was this another prediction?

Sans actually walked into the room and placed a hand on your shoulder to steady you in your uncertainty. His attention, however, was on his brother.

“THE PIRANHA.” Papyrus’s voice was flat.

“is a toothed fish.” Sans puzzled out gravely. “and a leviathan is an ancient blanket term for a much bigger, more dangerous one, rumored to be more like the devil itself.”

Papyrus looked away, his fists clenching.

You reached up to touch Sans’s hand on you, inquiring, “I don’t get it. What does this mean? Pap?” Your guardian wasn’t looking at you. “Papyrus, are you okay?”

Sans gripped you supportively before explaining, “it means undyne is going to get stronger and come after you.” The subtle blue lights in his eyes shifted down. “we need to be prepared for it.”

“Undyne? You mean the one who’s gathering the rebellion against the Queen?” Then you understood Papyrus’s reaction. Undyne had been a close friend of his, the fish lady you had seen in his memories--

And it was now clearly prophesied that she would become his sworn enemy.

“Oh, Pap….” you whispered, reaching out to him and touching his hand. “Pap, I’m so sorry.”

When he turned to face you, his smile was as bright as ever, voice hopeful and exuberant, “DO NOT BE CONCERNED ABOUT ME! UNDYNE IS A GOOD PERSON! PERHAPS SHE IS MISGUIDED, BUT SHE NEEDS TO BE REMINDED THAT HER FRIENDS ARE STILL HERE FOR HER!”

You met his optimism with an encouraging smile, but the tears had still risen out of empathy. Whoever Undyne was, she was lucky to have someone as fiercely loyal as Papyrus.

As were you.

“I won’t give up on her, either,” you vowed, taking his hand firmly in your own. You distinctly remembered seeing the woman crushed and defeated in her depression, and wasting away on his couch. There had been no comforting her. You knew how constraining one’s own emotions could be. This was obviously a person in pain. She could be saved, even from herself. “I promise, Pap. I believe it.”

Sans let you go and looked away at such a declaration, but you hardly noticed in light of the warmth on the face of the other skeleton. Your reassurance had reached its mark, and he was comforted. You were glad that for once you had been able to strengthen him.

“we should get on our way.” Sans said, the tip of his ketchup bottle in his mouth again. “gotta remember we’re in fish lady’s pond here, and given this new information, i feel like we should,” there was a chuckle as his smile returned, “get kraken.”

“Eh, suit yourself.” the old man said, scratching at his shell with split fingernails. “But before you go, come here, Priestess.”

You obeyed and strode forward, eyes searching those of the blind monster before you. He obviously couldn’t see a thing with how fogged over the lense of his orbs were.

“Don’t be rude, kneel!” He ordered. He conked you once on the head with his cane.
With a wince, you dropped to both knees in front of him as you rubbed the sore spot..

Ow-- that hurt!” you complained.

Suddenly, his hand was stretched forward, his palm over your jugular notch. Your soul’s response was instant; abruptly, shafts of light from it dyed the algae green walls crimson, the crystals refracting prisms onto every surface. Those blind eyes of his suddenly looked like they were back lit, rolling with such light that the optics looked opalescent.

You stared at them, breath still in your lungs as you got the odd feeling that he could see you right then.

Through your mind, however, a vision was forced. The mirage was of a dark snowy forest consisting mostly of pine with swirling eastern winds whipping stinging ice through the air. You could see a figure from behind amidst the frigid backdrop, the fur lining of a hooded jacket catching crystals of snow in their rustling textures. The black leather was drawn up over his head and his hands were buried deep into the pockets.

Why did he feel so familiar…?

You could see the lower fibula and patella appear out from under the fringe of black basketball shorts. He turned, only slightly, an ambient red glow of magic emerging from some hidden place in the hood. Try as you might, you couldn’t discern a face.

There were so many similarities, from the sloped body language to the stoutness of his frame, that the familiarity began to make sense.

“S-Sans?” you gasped in both recognition and confusion.

The man-- no...the skeleton was about to look over his shoulder at you when the vision flickered to something else. That same snow, that same encroaching atmosphere of oppressive darkness, but with a different figure. He was tall and jaggedly angular. He wore long leather pants that rode low on his hips, heeled boots, and a spiked leather vest torn from age and use. A scarlet scarf was around his neck, tattered to near uselessness yet still donned proudly, whipping against the arctic air. He, too, was a skeleton judging from the exposed spine. His posture was perfect. With his gloved fists on his hips he struck a picture of confidence and intimidation.

Your heart dropped into your stomach. He had the same lank and height of your first Guardian but-- that was impossible!

Papyrus was strong, but defined by his optimism and kindness-- a literal knight in shining armor! Sans was a well-meaning albeit secretive comedian. It just wasn’t possible that the two in this vision should so closely resemble your Guards. By all means, however, they did look like twisted variations of the brothers you already had with you.

You gasped sharply as the trance was broken, your soul slingshotting back into your body and Gerson rocking back on his shell. As your vision cleared, Sans was in front of you, his sockets wide in concern. Behind you, Papyrus was cradling you supportively, arms keeping you upright from where he sat. Apparently your body had fallen sharply, landing you right into his lap.

“kid, what just happened?” Sans asked in a rush.

You’d never heard his voice so thin with worry, his eyelights so intense and bright.

Your soul reacted to it, the resonating between you two making the yearning to merge stronger than ever. He must have also felt it because when you were able to focus your sight more and smile in response to his concern, he reached out to brush some of your hair off your sweat-dampened brow. He seemed satisfied with just that look. You were okay.

Tired and feeling like you just ran a marathon, but okay.

“PRIESTESS?” the panic in Papyrus’s voice made you feel instantly guilty, “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?”

You lifted a hand weakly and patted his as he gripped your shoulder.

“Yeah,” you said in breathless confusion. “I’m okay. I’m so sorry to make you two worry. Something… really weird just happened.”

“yeah, kinda saw that..” Sans said facetiously, his grin returning with a wag of his brow. “had a nice light show and everything, but it still left us in the dark.”

You felt Papyrus’s head fall forward onto your shoulder as he contained a frustrated scream.

“NOT NOW!”

You, however, were smiling at the attempt to break the tension.

“It was weird,” you explained, staring unseeingly up at the ceiling. You could feel sweat trickling down the hair of your temple. “I think he gave me a vision. It was cold and snow was everywhere, and a forest of pine trees...”

Sans from his crouched position in front of you, listened attentively. “that sounds a lot like snowdin.”

You shot him a quizzical look. “The town you and Pap live in?”

“yeah,” he affirmed.

You bit your lip and wondered aloud, “Do other skeletons live in Snowdin?”

Sans seemed to visibly tense, but Papyrus was quick to speak up. “WHY NO! SANS AND MYSELF ARE THE ONLY SKELETONS IN THE UNDERGROUND.”

Sans pressed with a question, and you got the suspicion he knew where this was going. “you saw other skeleton monsters?”

“Yeah...there’s no mistaking it. They were definitely skeletons.” You made a soft moan of effort as you sat up, drained and clinging to the last vestiges of energy you had. Your eyes closed again, trying to envision what you’d seen. “There were two of them, both looking a lot like you and Papyrus but...they just weren’t. They felt so dangerous and unapproachable.”

Sans brow twitched before he distracted himself by putting the nib of his ketchup bottle between his teeth again. He spoke around it, deep in thought.

“can you recall anything specific?” he inquired further. “anything at all?”

Papyrus rubbed your back as you pressed a palm to your forehead. You felt a tension headache coiling behind your eyes.

“They wore red and black.” you recalled after a moment, grasping through the already fogging details of the once perfectly clear image. “The one that looked like you, Sans, had a thick leather jacket on. It had a hood and fur on the collar. There was something on the arm of it.. A circle? A patch?”

The description didn’t seem to please him as his eyes closed, and he stood.

“SANS?” Papyrus questioned.

Usually, this was where Sans deflected with a joke or changed the subject. Instead, he stood in rigid silence as he lowered his ketchup from his mouth.

“so, uh...no more barriers, right? no secrets between the guardian and priestess?” he murmured, laughing awkwardly before he met your gaze. This was obviously hard for him. After a few uneasy seconds, he confessed, “i actually know exactly what you saw.”

You blinked, but you were having a hard time keeping your eyes open. “You do?”

Papyrus shifted behind you, and you were lifted in his strong, capable arms so you could rest. He also seemed interested in what Sans would say. You took the opportunity to close your eyes, plop your head on his shoulder, and will the world to stop spinning. You didn’t need to keep your eyes open to pay attention. Your ears worked just fine.

“yeah.” He paused, looking anxiously to the ketchup bottle in his hands. He was trying to form the words or come up with some explanation. In the end, he just blurted it out. “you saw an alternate timeline. one i, uh...i’ve actually been to.”

Your mind came to a tire-squealing halt, and you shook your head as though it would clear it of cobwebs and change the meaning of his words.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

“A what?!”

“WHAT’S AN ALTERNATE TIMELINE?” Papyrus questioned. “AND WHY ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN TO ONE?”

“well, think of time like a tree,” Sans began explaining, turning to Gerson and helping him up off the back of his shell. He obviously needed to busy himself as these secrets came out. “for every choice made, the tree forks. the more choices, the more branches. the world we exist in is one such branch. the world she saw is another, just one born from different choices.”

Glancing up as Papyrus spoke, you could see his confusion. “SO….SHE SAW US, BUT FROM ANOTHER WORLD?”

“that’s right.” Sans said, patting the old man's shoulder as Gerson recovered from the experience. “it, uh….actually makes a lot of sense. i mean, skeleton monsters are the most human-like monsters in the underground, and our history has human origins. that there’s only you and me here, Pap. that we were able to have our souls blessed with the qualities of human souls, and we’ve been unable to find others despite searching... it stands to reason no other monsters would be able to serve the purpose as a guardian. not without melting or amalgamating, anyway.”

“Amalga-what?” you ask in concern, rolling your head towards Sans.

“remember when I told you that too much DT-- determination-- can hurt monsters? make them lose form? that’s basicly it, but... it also makes them kind of...merge with other monsters around them.” His gaze shifted back to you, “that’s not really what’s important, though. i guess what this means is gerson gave you a vision of some of the other guardians you have to find. kinda like a clue to go on. thing is,” he glanced away, worriedly, “back when souls were still being harvested in an attempt to break the barrier, i was, uh...pretty desperate for a solution. i worked a lot with trying to figure out the secret to the human soul. paps was still a baby bones.”

You felt Papyrus’s fingers clench slightly. The night Sans had come home from the lab and collapsed...

“nothing really came of it, except to know that it wasn’t a force anyone should be tampering with. but then i thought, as desperate as things were, what if i could see if some other universe out there had a better solution? so i started to work on this machine again, something i built with… a fellow scientist ages ago, and... well, after frisk managed to get out of the underground and there was nothing left to lose, i got it to work.”

A fellow scientist, he said, and your mind with a sinking dread immediately went to the skeleton monster caught in that lab accident in his memories-- the one who’d called him son. You were slowly, piece by piece, getting a clearer picture of what must have happened. They had been tampering with human souls to see if they could find some other means of breaking the barrier with no success.

Come on girl, try to refocus. This isn’t about getting a clear picture of who Sans is, it’s about this machine he built and how this plays into finding your other guardians!

He made a shrugging motion as if making a machine to traverse alternate timelines was no big deal. “course you learn all the other timelines are in the same boat as us-- and some far worse off.” He got a faraway look in his eyes. “i mean, at least we don’t typically struggle with violence amongst ourselves, you know? we’re there for eachother. those guys? the ones i think you saw in that vision? they’re alternate versions of paps and i, but their version of our world is not exactly hospitable. it’s made them violent and dangerous.”

“You mean they need our help?” you asked, and instantly his gaze was drawn. “I mean, they’re only like that because they had to be in order to survive right?”

“i don’t think they can be helped, kid.” Sans said regretfully, rubbing a bony thumb over the plastic of his bottle. “they have incredibly high levels of LOVE. once someone kills, it’s a lot easier to keep doing it. these guys are pros.” His face tensed. “i really don’t like the idea of having to take you there.”

 

You felt Papyrus wince. You couldn’t blame him. Sans had explained the concepts of LOVE, EXP, and HP to you before.

“If it’s true that these are my next Guardians, then we have no choice but to try.”

“I DO NOT DELIGHT IN THE THOUGHT OF TAKING HER ANYWHERE SO DANGEROUS, BUT WE WERE NOT OPERATING ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT OUR ROLES AS GUARDIANS OF THE PRIESTESS WOULD BE EASY.” Papyrus’ words held a great deal of apprehension, but then, you could quickly hear the smile return to his voice. “SO WE HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO GET THERE, CONVINCE THEM TO BE GUARDIANS, AND NOT DIE? WITH Y/N AS PRIESTESS, THIS IS NOT SO IMPOSSIBLE! ASIDE FROM THEM HAVING A SOUL RESONANCE TO HER JUST LIKE US, SHE IS INCREDIBLY DETERMINED! IF ANYONE CAN CONVINCE THEM TO JOIN US, IT WILL BE HER!”

Sans didn’t appear as sure as his brother, but the resulting smile showed that Papyrus’s can-do attitude had done its job in keeping your small group motivated.

“alright then,” Sans said, conceding. “then as soon as y/n and i can solidify our soul bond, we’ll be off. for now, let’s get ourselves trout-er here before fish lady swims in.”

You cracked a smile and giggled. Gosh, you had needed that! Sans, emboldened by the reaction, pressed on mercilessly, wagging his ketchup bottle at you as he prepared another punchline. “Aww, no need to be koi, kid. if you wanna laugh don’t scale back on my account.”

You covered your mouth and gave into the mirth a little more, your face turning red as, for Papyrus’s sake, you tried to contain yourself. Given the tension of moments ago, a little laughter was greatly needed.

Papyrus groaned in disgust and quickly tried to change the subject. “LET’S JUST GET ON OUR WAY AND MAKE THE NEEDED PREPARATIONS! UGH, IF I HAD A ‘G’ FOR EVERY BAD PUN THAT YOU’VE HAD TO SUBJECT MY EARS TO--!”

You were still fitfully giggling. “You don’t have ears, Paps!”

“WELL, YOU DON’T HAVE TO RUB IT IN.”

“hey gerson.” Sans patted the oracles shell, making him snort out of his impromptu nap. “thanks for the info and advice. i think y/n and i can handle it from here.”

“Eh? What?” he stammered deliriously. “Oh, I have company? Wa ha ha ha, lucky day! Do you need any crab apples? I got some bags of good sea tea too! It’s good for the joints!”

He made to move towards his counter but Sans patted his shell a few more times to subdue him.

“s’okay old timer, you get you a snooze. we’ll see ourselves out.”

“Yes, thank you for everything!” You agreed, patting Pap’s shoulder to signal that you felt like you could walk now. He carefully set you on your feet, bumping his teeth to your cheek in a little kiss. You blushed under his show of affection.

“THANK YOU, GERSON!” He called as the lot of you made your way out of the little cavern he called home. “A PLEASURE AS ALWAYS!”

Your little faction made it’s way back through the tunnels towards the River Person’s boat. You still felt a little lethargic from the vision but gratefully you found your footing steady. You were pretty certain a good long nap was in your future as soon as you got to the palace though.

Sans seemed to notice the heaviness to your gait.

“you gonna make it?” he asked. “that really was some sort of light show, kiddo.”

Papyrus nodded in agreement, but despite the concern, there was a skip in his step. He was obviously feeling pretty good given the direction your mission had been given. Forward momentum seemed to be a driving force for him. With a goal to strive for, and knowing what steps to take to achieve it, that skeleton monster was practically overflowing with energy!

“Yeah, I’m fine!” you promised with a courageous smile. “Just a little bit tired! It’s okay, though; I’m really excited that we know what to do in order to find the next Guardians! I’m, uh…” You looked down at your feet as they passed over the rock underfoot “I’m even more excited about our progress, Sans.” You shyly glanced at him to find that he was holding your gaze as well, smiling. “I’ve been so worried we’d never get it.”

You saw his smile stretch higher in warmth as he looked away. It also might be your imagination, but his cheekbones were looking a little blue as well. The lack of trust and tension of the past days seemed only a memory now, leaving you both mutually ready for the next steps. There was so much you wanted to say to him-- that he could trust you, that you’d keep his secrets, that he didn't have to worry. He was to be your Guardian and as loyal as that made him to you, and you’d reciprocate without question or reserve. You were determined to do right by him!

He glanced at you, seeming to notice something before he looked back behind your group.

Oddly, in the next moment, the wind was knocked out of you.

A sudden pain in your chest snapped you out of your thoughts and made your eyes bulge in surprise. Try as you might, you couldn’t catch your breath! Your diaphragm spasmed, desperate to draw in air, but nothing came. Slowly, your eyes lowered to the source of your agony. Shocked, you saw a luminous, cyan spear embedded in the ground before you, it’s long shaft disappearing into your chest cavity, skewering through your lung, and exiting your back. You were impaled, trembling upon it. Against the intense glow of the thrumming magical weapon your own blood appeared black. It was splattered on the ground, draining out of you in tiny rivers and running over your fingers as you desperately gripped the rod you were stuck upon.

What….what just happened? You’d been walking and everything was fine! Things were looking up, even!

You heard Sans and Papyrus screaming for you distantly, but your mind was already losing focus and strength as the weight of your body slid down the pole until you were on your knees, slumped against it. Static filled your ears, and spreading darkness began to blur the outline of your unsteady sight.

It hurt so much. Your jaw trembled, but you couldn’t speak. The voices of your Guardians were in a panic, but you couldn’t respond to them. It was becoming difficult to even hear, as though your head was stuffed with cotton.

Your lashes fluttered down, blessed numbness dulling the terrible pain as you began to...die?

No!

It couldn’t be over! You had so much to do, people to save!

No! No. No..no…

The world pivoted precariously.

No…

Someone…

It can’t end...like this...

Sans?

P-Papyrus…?

And then there was only blackness.

Chapter Text

The actual sensation of death, when the pain was traded for numbness and everything went blissfully blank, was not as bad as what you had imagined. There had been no process of thought and all your senses had successfully been turned off.

No heaven.

No hell.

It was like a deep, dreamless, sleep.

If you had the presence of mind at the time to consider it, you’d have been amazed at the sheer nothingness of it. When you had tried to kill yourself, had this been the result you had longed for? You’d seemed convinced of the inevitability of some ‘otherness’ waiting for you past the mortal coil. Maybe that otherness had simply been a premonition of your role as Priestess to this world of monsters. Being truly dead however? The actuality of it all was abysmally anti-climatic.

What happened after was what you were unprepared for. One moment was spent in the realization that you were about to die and fading into numbness; the next you were jarred into awareness, back to walking between Sans and Papyrus in waterfall and clutching at your chest where the phantom pains of injury were now only a memory.

You stopped in your tracks, eyes wide and terrified as you gasped greedily for the breath you had thought you so desperately needed! There was no spear through your chest now to necessitate such a needy intake of air.

Wait-

This isn’t right!

You’d just died!

You felt the pain, you remember fading away, everything! You remembered everything!

There was no time for you to dwell on it. Almost immediately Sans had you swept up into his arms, moving with a quickness you didn’t know the lazy skeleton was even capable of! The fabric of his hoodie flapped as he leapt backwards away from the path.

“pap move.” he barked.

You were still off kilter, mind struggling to catch up with what was happening when the spear that had been meant for you stabbed deeply into the rock where you’d been standing. You gasped at the sight of it and shuddered in memory of what you knew it had felt like skewered through your unaware body!

“Sans…?” you whimpered. “What just--”

“it’s okay, i’ve got you.” Sans assured you firmly by your ear, but by the grip he had on you and the dangerous drop in his tone, you wondered just how much he believed those words. “you just had your first reset. take a sec to catch your breath.”

From your curled position against him you looked up, but he was focused on something else. How had he known that you’d been about to be killed? That had happened right?

What was a reset?

He landed with a lightness that surprised you, considering the density of his bones, but he didn’t set you away from him. On the contrary, he gripped you protectively tighter. You followed his gaze to the object of his focus and gasped in fright.

 

On the crest of a tall stalagmite, a large intimidating and obviously female figure stood clad in armor. Her cobalt scaled face was placid and split by streaks of black bleeding down the like-colored sclera of her eyes, the iris a slit of narrow yellow. Her mouth was set in a grim, straight line, but couldn’t containing the sharp evidence of a jagged snaggletooth. Long cardinal red hair was pulled tightly back in a very long ponytail.

Her eyes stared, devoid of life, directly at you.

This had to be Undyne.

“Tsk, too bad…” She said, her voice rough and lacking passion. You detected the strangest echo behind her words. “I didn’t think a lazy sack of bones like you could move that fast.” there was a short, pitiable laugh that huffed past the barest of smiles. “Here I thought it was about to be over. I didn’t want to have to kill you”

The skeleton carrying you chuckled darkly and you became intensely aware of a tingling sensation against your skin as his magic prickled to the surface of his bones.

“aww, you’d miss my jokes too much?.” He remarked familiarly, but you felt the coiled tension in his joints harden. “but uh...you, pal? that’s quite a makeover. how’d ya manage it?”

Her smile broadened to reveal a mouth full of needle like teeth. “Kind of borrowed something you had wasting away in your basement. Visited another world. I figured if our souls here were gone, maybe other worlds were a bit more prosperous.”

“you...you stole my machine?” He stammered in shock.

She gave a cocky little nod, “It practically stole itself. You had everything preset, Sans. You even left out the blueprints. I may not be Alphys but...I know enough.”

You could hear Sans teeth grinding in contrast to his taut smile. “and that soul you’ve got in you now?” He questioned. “what are you planning to do with that?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” She snatched a spear out of the air with a flourish before brandishing it towards the bundle in Sans arms.

Towards you!

“I’m going to stop humans from ever hurting anyone in this underground ever again!”

Your breath caught in your windpipe, holding onto Sans hoodie with white knuckled fingers as she spoke.

“Toriel is unfit to lead the Underground to safety and prosperity and I WILL dethrone her to protect everyone who’s left! We’re going to start over with the soul harvests and then, when we’re free, make humans pay for all the injustices they’ve done to monsterkind.” She took a step forward, “I’ll only ask you once, Sans.” Undyne continued quietly as a few more spears flickered into existence in the air around her advancing form, “Surrender the human.”

Sans magic began bristling like hackles off his body, his stance shifting wider and knees bending in readines.

“you can have this human when you drag her from my dust.” He scowled.

“NO!” Papyrus shouted.

Up until now, the other skeleton had been stunned into inaction by the sudden encounter and the startling change in his once close friends appearance. When Undyne demanded the relinquishment of the Priestess, he’d snapped out of his trance to remember his duty.

He fearlessly put himself between Undyne and you, staring her down her harrowing form with undaunted boldness.

“WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS UNDYNE! THE ONES WHO CARED FOR YOU AND NURTURED YOU! PLEASE DO NOT MAKE US ENEMIES FOR STANDING WITH THE PRIESTESS! SHE IS THE NEW HOPE FOR THE UNDERGROUND! HER EFFORTS ARE FOR THE LIBERATION OF US ALL!” A hand lifted to his chest, eyes imploring, “EVERYONES HOPES AND DREAMS NOW RIDE ON THE PRIESTESS!”

Blankly, the woman turned her attention to the other skeleton. It was hard to see if she was affected by his words.

“Do you remember the last time our hopes and dreams rested on the shoulders of a human, Papyrus?” Her mouth twisted into a snarl, her teeth gnashing in anger, “DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO ALPHYS AND ASGORE? TO METTATON? DID YOU FORGET HOW PEOPLE DIED AND THE SOULS MEANT FOR OUR FREEDOM VANISHED?”

Papyrus didn’t even flinch at her anger. You wished you could say the same, having to turn away and cower your face into Sans shoulder.

“I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN. BUT THIS HUMAN IS NOT TO BE JUDGED BY FRISKS ERROR!” He boldly insisted, “THIS HUMAN HAS A VALIANT SOUL, A STEADY RESOLVE, AND IS GENTLE AND KIND! SHE IS NOT YOUR ENEMY!”

“You said the same thing about that little punk!” she grated out, trembling in rage, “YOU BELIEVED IN THEM TOO! CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT YOUR DAMN GOOD FAITH DOES FOR US, PAPYRUS? IT DOES NOTHING BUT GET PEOPLE KILLED!”

You felt Sans twitch and you swore you heard him growl above you.

Papyrus’ resolve was not shaken, though his expression did sadden considerably, “WHILE I WILL NOT ARGUE THAT I MADE A MISTAKE, I DO NOT REGRET GIVING THEM THE CHANCE! WE ALL DESERVE SUCH CHANCES!” slowly he offered her his outstretched hand, and smiled, “AND MY GOOD FAITH SERVES ME WELL. AFTER ALL, I STILL BELIEVE IN YOU, AND I WILL NOT GIVE UP ON YOU, MY FRIEND!”

Undyne looked down upon Papyrus with pity, her hair moving languidly behind her on the current of some unseen power.

“Join me, Papyrus.” She asked. “The Civil War is coming whether you want it to or not. Your loyalty to the Queen is going to get you hurt. I spent so much time teaching you to be a Guardsman Papyrus but--” She closed her eyes, pained, “--you’re not cut out for it. You never were. You’re too naive and good hearted and you’d rather befriend your enemy than make the hard choices.” A genuine smile brightened her face. “You can’t protect this girl from me and you won’t succeed in saving the Queen either. So...make your choice. Stand with me, let me do what has to be done. Or…” Her smile vanished, looking loathingly over at you, “--stand with her.”

 

Papyrus’s outstretched hand slowly recoiled and fell limply at his side in defeat.

No. This woman, Undyne, was wrong about everything! Since you had come to the underground Papyrus had been a pillar of strength! He’d calmed an entire crowd with his words, he’d healed you, protected you- Why would someone who had claimed to care about him tear him down so utterly!

Suddenly, despite your fear, you jerked in Sans arms, crying out, “You’re wrong!”

Undynes laughed coldly, those demonic slitted irises flitting unsettlingly to you. “You think so, punk?”

“Yes!” You shouted back despite the quiver in your voice. You were emboldened by seeing your friend in such needless pain! “If you truly believe Papyrus isn’t fit for a guard then you don’t know him at all!” your heart was pounding in your ears you were so afraid, but, as Papyrus looked over his shoulder to you, and you saw how dejected he’d been by his friends words, you forged onward boldly. “He’s not weak because he chooses to believe in others and give them chances! He’s not stupid for seeing good in a bad situation! Right now he’s looking into the face of someone he saw as a friend and is trying to reason with them and appeal to a person who under all of this is better! We can see how powerful you are, we know you’re here to kill us, but he still put himself between you and me! And you can’t see the courage and valor in that?” You shook your head, nearly in tears as you cried. “That’s not weakness! He’s the bravest man I know and just because you don’t see the value in how he handles himself doesn’t make him any less strong!”

 

Undyne laughed bitterly, “It’s weakness if it gets you killed.”

Papyrus’s eyes met your own gratefully and you could see a renewal of purpose in his expression. Resolved with his course, two bones materialized by his head and he took them, crossing them defensively in front of him.

“UNDYNE, I AM YOUR FRIEND. I WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR FRIEND. BUT I WILL NOT LET YOU HURT HER! IT IS NOT ONLY MY DUTY TO KEEP HER SAFE--” he paused, his expression steadfast as he smiled,”-- BUT MY HONOR!”

The woman's’ face hardened, resigned. “Her continued existence here in the Underground, after all humans have put us through, is a crime! If you are putting yourself between me and her, Papyrus? After all we’ve been through--” her yellow eyes gave a mighty flash of power and spears began to fly down towards not just you and Sans, but Pap as well, “THEN YOU ARE MY ENEMY AS WELL!”

“Papyrus!” You screamed, your fingers clutching the zipper of Sans hoodie as he took off like a shot towards his brother! All that energy he’d kept at the ready sprang into action!

It was almost all a blur it happened so quickly! There was a flash blue magic rolling above you and it took but a glance to see that Sans eye was suddenly inflated against the blackness of his socket, the iris flashing with a raw power and his body consumed in blue flame! He expertly moved, shifting you into one arm as the other made a forward thrust! Just as the spears were about to hit their mark, a grid of blue bones rolled out of the earth, deflecting the spears in a thatched shield! Papyrus was thankfully unharmed.

The spears kept coming with Undyne, stoically waving them forward!

“hold on to me.” Sans ordered and quickly your arms wound around the spine of his neck, grasping as tightly as you could manage.

The bones from his first attack faded away and he further conjured more to deflect the spears but they were coming too rapidly, forcing him to weave back and away from confronting his target! In the end he gave up blocking the attacks and returned both hands to you to keep you in place.

A sudden frigid cold met your skin and you glanced over Sans shoulder for its source. Your eyes were wide as saucers as 6 enormous canine skulls phased into reality from a pocket of darkness. They were split down their nasal cavities and severing the center of their lower jawbone, protruding teeth and enormous eyes that very much reminded you of the iris sans was now sporting, lighting up the their sockets. Their unnaturally gaping maws opened, the fragmented lower jaw parting unnaturally as intense magic shafted past the gaps in their teeth.

All six fired at once and then darted forward to circle Undyne. Again the blasts discharged in quick succession but the fish woman easily spun herself to evade them, like she was merely dancing.

You stared, slack jawed and frightened.

After all of that, she was still standing.

Papyrus landed lightly beside you, his bones in hand. His awed expression was regarding Sans quietly. He was as obviously astonished by his brothers carefully concealed abilities as you were!

“this isn’t working.” Sans confessed, eye strobing as his fingers darted this way and that to control his blasters. His attention never wavered. “the human soul she absorbed keeps her right outside my range. i won’t be able to land a hit.”

Papyrus, agape, looked at him, then to Undyne. “AFTER ALL OF THAT? WOWIE, SANS I’D COMMEND YOU IF WE HAD THE TIME BUT--” He laughed tensely, “NYEH HEH,I ADMIT I’M WORRIED!”

Sans smile was gone, teeth bared and clenched. “If we’re going to get y/n to safety we need to act fast.” He didn’t even look down at you when he said it, perspiration beading on his skull. “...kid. you’ve gotta fuse with me. right here and now.”

“Wh-what?” you stammered “Wouldn’t it be better if we-”

“i know, i’m sorry, darlin,” he explained regretfully, “but uh, we don’t have the luxury to wait. when we fuse my ability to tether will activate and I can pull all three of us back to the palace.”

“WE’RE RETREATING?” Papyrus exclaimed before his expression turned stern, “VERY WELL. YOU FUSE AND I WILL DEFEND YOU!”

Sans didn’t look comfortable with the scenario either, but he also knew there was no time to hesitate. With a grunt and flush of blue to his face, he pulled out his soul, then yours, and spared an ambivalent glance at you.

For a moment, the sound of his blasters faded and the spray of dust and debris slowed in the air. He was looking down at you, his flashing eye vanishing with a blink and those more familiar blue tinted eye optics returned. His gaze was gentle, his smile doing its best to be reassuring as he held up his hand to you.

This was it. The irrevocable moment.

Your heart was slamming anxiously against your rib cage. You were so scared tears were flooding your eyes. What if you died again? Would that reset thing happen? You wanted answers so badly but it all just had to wait. Right now, the only escape lay with Sans and the power your fusion could give him. Your hand rose, and in unison, fingers of bone laced against flesh and grasped tightly. In the next moment his forehead was to yours, eyes clenched shut and bracing for what was to come.

The gravity pulling your souls together increased and without any more hesitation they came together with a burst of blinding power.

--------------------------------

Everything was silent.

Somehow you knew it wasn’t the usual quiet of this place. Usually there was some distant chatter beyond the rustle of winter wind, or movement beyond one’s line of sight, or at least there was based on Sans memory. By all appearances, it looked beautiful and peaceful. Snow lazily fell spurned on by magical weather patterns unique to the underground, accumulating into pillowy whiteness that crunched pleasantly under his steps.

But this silence wasn’t peaceful.

This silence was telling. It was a one devoid of life that churned up the most acrid of these second hand emotions. No one was left. No one was spared. Under it all, you didn’t care on some numb level. Even this wouldn’t be permanent if the past years you’ve lived in the resets were any indication.

but what if this is the new normal?

Sans body stopped and he shuddered.

no...no this won’t last. he had to hang back, watch, and judge. That’s my job. They’ll finish with this world and reset it like they always do.

Inwardly, as you watched through his mind’s eye, you wondered- resets? He had mentioned that before when you had brought your souls together, that a ‘reset’ had been the reason for you coming back from the dead. Thinking a bit more on it now, he had talked to you about it being easier on your Guardians knowing you’d get a ‘do over’ if they messed up.

That’d been during the conversation you two had exchanged on red souls. Was coming back from the dead another of their powers? He’d only spoken of DT, or determination. Was this one of the red souls he’d known that made him distrust them?

You felt dread and agony suddenly capsize your thoughts as, through Sans eyes, you watched the unthinkable transpire! From under the boughs of a snow weighted pine he stood and you saw Papyrus in the snow ahead, his arms stretched wide in a show of friendship and trust. There was a human child standing in front of him. Their smile was scathingly blithe as they slashed forward with malicious intent.

Papyrus was unceremoniously decapitated..

NO, you wanted to scream, your own sanity clawing at the memory in grief along with Sans’s own choking despair. Not him, not Papyrus, not him, not him!

You could only stare as his body began to turn to dust, his red scarf fluttering to his footprints in the snow.

His head still remained, speaking in spite of his obvious pain. “W-WELL….THAT’S NOT WHAT I EXPECTED...B-BUT….” The human child came forward and lifted their foot to his temple, but your dying friend clung to his hope and smiled, speaking even as the pressure from the boot slowly fractured his skull. “S-STILL I BELIEVE IN YOU! YOU CAN DO A LITTLE BETTER!”

N-no…. you begged. The tree Sans was beside splintered under the pressure of his gripping phalanges.

With a sickening crunch, half of Papyrus’s skull caved in and turned to powder.

He still spoke, voice unsteady with pain. “EVEN IF YOU DON’T THINK SO!” The human applied more pressure and his voice cracked, “I….I PROMISE…”

A second later the bone gave way with a small puff of dust. The human didn’t even observe the damage, they just started walking through it, callously tracking the remains through the snow like it was only dirt.

You felt his emotions as well as your own, a hybrid marriage of internal torment inside you as the living skeleton came forward to where his brother had fallen. Already there was not much of him left, amounting only to a little bit of sooty grey against the glittering white of the snow. His favored scarf lay amidst it, worn thin and torn in places, well loved, he’d called it.

Sans sank to his knees, reeling as his quivering fingers reached out and grasped the garment before pulling it up to him. It still smelled like him, was still warm for a few fleeting moments. There in the snow, the last living person in Snowdin, the man broke down, magical tears saturating into the fabric he clutched.

You had seen Sans show only the vaguest passing emotions, shown through variances in an ever present smile. Under the comedians surface there was….this. Just seeing this, feeling what he felt now, you knew this wasn’t the only time he’d felt pain at the hands of a ‘reset’, or at the hands of a human with a red soul.

It was just the last straw.

Despondency began to crack, giving way to wrath, and then a haunting calm. He may fall by this humans hand as well, given time, but he would pay back every bit of pain they had afflicted upon his brother and all monsterkind first. With interest. He’d make them bleed. He’d make them suffer. He’d make them hurt.

Like echoes of thunder from far away announcing a storm’s approach were his footsteps through the snow now. He had more watching to do. More murders to witness.

More weight to add to the increasing burden on his shoulders.

You felt a change in you now regarding him. You’d know he had his secrets and his pains, but to see the death of the person you loved most in the world? Yet he didn’t act in vengeance. No, not yet. He’d waited. He watched. He judged. His integrity would not stand for anything less.

---------------------

“please , y/n, come on, focus!” Sans voice above you dragged you out of the memory and you found yourself still clinging to him.

Papyrus struggled to keep up a shield of blue bones to ward off a downpour of Undyne’s spears. His arms were up, bracing the shield bodily. He was enduring but he couldn’t for long, his bones not nearly so strong as his brothers apparently.

How long had you been wasting time in that memory?

only a few seconds, Sans assured you, his mind still tied to your own. It took only a glance to see Sans had your conjoined souls shielded jealously from the attacks by his own hand, expression firm as he watched his brother struggle.

You blinked the memory away completely. Sans needed you to focus.

He seemed to notice the moment you were mentally back and his instant relief rushed through you as he spared you a gentle smile.

good kid, we just need both our minds clear and on task if it’s going to work.

But Papyrus-

he’s doing his best so we can do ours. His attention diverted back to his brother, but we don’t have time. you need to relinquish your soul power to me. i’ve already tried to teleport and I can’t.

What, you thought in a panic! But why?

i think we both need presence of mind. you can’t be watching my memories or thinking of something else. you need to be here, with me.

I’m sorry, I’m here now, how do I do this?

heh, he mentally chuckled just as clearly as your ears heard it, i can only hope it’s as simple as you wanting it so, try that?

Your hands slid up his jacket further until you were nearly at the hood. You concentrated on him, the ability he needed to utilize, but… how were you supposed to concentrate on an ability you had never seen, how do you visualize that?

too much detail, just, offer me your power. You felt his grip on you grow almost bruising as Paps knees buckled under the impact of the next few spears. His worry mixed with your own, his desperation to keep his brother safe like a dam breaking between you-

But wait… it wasn’t just his brother concerning him. It was you. He was afraid of further failing you, of being the reason their mission to free the underground failed, of you resenting him for it. What if he failed and you had to reset again?

Distantly, a flicker of a thought he had zipped past your mind. Had the reset had done damage to you in some way?

You ignored that for now.

The hand you had moved up his hood suddenly slipped behind his skull, making him dip it down so you could hurriedly press a reassuring kiss to his cheek. The bone under your lips was warm and alive, and a spark of magic that had been close to the surface snapped at the contact. His eyes shifted to you in shock, but you found courage to smile through your tears. Amidst your own fear, your emotions screamed of your faith in him.

“You’ve never failed me, Sans.”

You felt a sudden throbbing force between you as the new bond began to solidify. For some reason, all the other thoughts you two had about making the joining work were not what was needed. The stronger your feelings were for each other, the stronger the merge made him. His confidence returned with his smile and he straightened up.

i dunno what you just did darlin but...it did the trick.

You felt it too. The burden of his own self doubt had vanished upon feeling your faith in him. It had made him bold. It had made him strong!

He put a hand on his brother’s shoulder, signaling that he was ready. Papyrus tiredly dropped to one knee and his shield collapsed.

“Giving up?” Undyne mocked, still not breakin a sweat.

Sans just grinned under the light of your conjoined souls overhead, shrugging.

“nope. “ he said and you could sense intimately just how greatly his power had grown from the fusion. “I just wanted to say it was nice seeing an old pal again and if you ever decide to stop being a colossal cunt, both Pap and I would be pretty happy to give you another shot. But-” He looked down at you and you felt some strong undefinable emotion pass between the two of you, “but we have something worth protecting. we’re not going to give an inch.”

You felt heat in your face.

Hopes...dreams...the barrier breaking. That’s what he meant.

R-right?

He rose a hand up to her and the ground trembled as a void between worlds opened and a giant bone monstrosity crawled out! It had the head of the blasters that Sans seemed so fond of but with the body of what you could only describe as a dragon!

Undyne actually staggered back a step, her jaw slackened in surprise.

The creature began to power up a deadly charge at its enemy but Sans took that moment of distraction to grasp onto his brother and utilize his special ability.

He’d told you tethering was a unique connection between the two of you. He’d always know where to find you after you were bonded. There was no place you could be, no place you could be taken, where he couldn’t follow and take you home. Now, having tasted the makings of his soul, having seen the depths of his integrity, and feeling the beginnings of his loyalty towards you, nothing could be more comforting. Even without the fusion Sans was devastatingly powerful.

He could find you.

He could keep you safe.

He was a force to be reckoned with.

However, you simply were not ready for feeling his teleporting in action. It was like slipping into a pocket of white noise and demonic whispers. You swore you felt the brush of ‘otherly’ hands against you in the inky black. Still merged as you were, you could slide a bit deeper into his thoughts and discern that this place was known as ‘the void’. It was not a place one would want to be under normal circumstances.

Sans however, had enough knowledge of this place to accurately rip holes between places and slip through, creating shortcuts.

You were only there briefly, a split second maybe, but it had been chilling, disorienting, and more than a little creepy. When the world shifted back in and you heard the familiar sounds and smelled the scents of the palace courtyard, you relaxed with an uncomfortable groan. Your face was buried into his shoulder and you were trying not to throw up.

“Oh god,” you exclaimed, “I didn’t like that!”

“SANS THAT WAS DREADFUL!” Papyrus breathlessly shouted, still winded from holding off Undynes spears. “IMPRESSIVE BUT….UGH-” He swayed and covered his own mouth.

“heh, you get used to it.” Sans said as you felt his head incline down to rest atop your own. He hadn’t put you down yet. “you okay darlin?”

You smiled when he called you that, your heart skipping a beat in your chest. You couldn’t place why but each time you heard it you felt so special. It was certainly a step up from ‘kid’.

From his faces resting position atop your head you felt a bit more magic popping. His grip on you slid so he could set you down in front of him and you only then opened your eyes so you could keep balance. It was then you noticed how he was looking away, rubbing the back of his skull, blushing fiercely! You froze.

Every thought that passed your mind he could still sense!

Oh god!

He was chuckling.

heh, yeah i got a real sense for you now, huh -oh god that was bad- uh...but hey, if you like it that much… You watched as his eyes looked back at you, illuminated with hope and the color of your joined souls. darlin it is.

For just a moment, you saw that moment on the battlefield where you had kissed Sans’s cheek. It hurried through his mind and his blush got a bit stronger.

“that’s uh, enough for now I guess.” his soul gently parted from yours and both returned to its owner. “look, y/n--” he took your hand in his and that flutter in your chest returned as he leaned a bit closer, “i’ve got some explaining to do to papyrus. a lot came out today and i really owe it to him to settle all of that between us before--”

“No,” you cut him off abruptly. “I get it, please, go talk to him. We’ll get together later and maybe--”

“do it right?” he offered with a warm smile.

It took you a moment to realize the playful way he’d interrupted you in return. His bone thumb swept over your knuckles gently and for a moment you had to appreciate how someone with such great power could in turn be so gentle.

You smiled bigger.

“I’ll ketchup with you later.” he punned as he let your hand go.

From behind him Papyrus shouted, “YOU ALREADY USED THAT ONE TODAY!”

“hey, a classic’s a classic for a reason.” There was a little hesitation before the shorter skeleton walked over to his brother and gave him a few firm pats on the back, “so, uh….can we talk bro?” His brow was furrowed tensely but his grin remained.

Papyrus lowered a gloved hand to his brother’s shoulder and understandingly nodded.

There was much to discuss.

You held back as the two retreated a distance while you sat down on the marble curve of the garden fountain and watched them. It was impossible to hear what was being said over the many trickles of water and it was, of course, impossible to read lips on a skeleton. That was okay. You weren’t watching them out of a need to pry.

You watched because you hoped this would go well. From what was said at Gersons, there had been a chasm like rift of secrets between those two. You couldn’t tell if this would be the end of it but it’d be a start for certain. On some level, you could understand, just from the brush within Sans’s mind, why he had chosen to carry that kind of burden alone.

After all, how does one even begin to explain a reset? Your own knowledge was limited, but what you’d felt had been jarring. There had been a backwards loop, landing you back in time to retry a failed moment. Somehow, it’d been something you could control but for Sans, it was the opposite. He was a bystander, and for reasons you couldn’t figure out he was aware of what had happened while Papyrus apparently was none the wiser.

In that loop you had died, and that was only one reset.

He’d endured thousands.

How could he reach out to anyone for support if they would only forget. It’d get tiring and eventually, hopeless. You wondered if he did try initially to reach out and gave up. You wondered a lot of things, honestly.

For instance what kind of damage was done to him having to face it by himself. You tore your gaze away from the two brothers as they talked, and instead studied a golden flower between your feet. Second hand memories of Papyrus dying ripped past your vision when you blinked, causing you to grip the stone you were seated on. Empathy coiled uncomfortably within your breast, making your breaths shudder.

Papyrus… sweet, hopeful, courageous Papyrus… had been murdered for his mercy.

It’s weakness if it gets you killed.

No. You would never believe that and you doubted Sans believed it either! His brother was a miracle of optimism and him staring down that human child at risk of death was bravery personified!

….but how many times did Sans have to watch his brother die like that?

There was simply no mistaking it. As much as he tried to mask it with a smile and jokes, Sans was a deeply tormented and perhaps even traumatized man.

Coupling these resets with the images you had seen of him with the man who called him ‘son’, you wondered just how vast this ice-burg was below the surface. Could Sans allow himself to open up enough to you to help shoulder his burdens? Gerson had said that’s what you were there for. He also seemed to have some uncanny idea of what Sans was hiding.

You turned your head back towards the skeletons to see Sans talking, his smile strained and his eyes pained. He was shrugging in his usual way and you swore when he rose to scratch an itch on his face he was actually trying to smear away an unwanted tear.

Oh Sans...

Then Papyrus dropped to his knees and hugged him, the others sockets wide and suddenly very wet before he grasped a hold of his brother and turned his face into his scarf.

You smiled and averted your eyes as the two embraced to allot them their privacy. It made you happy though. This was how it should be. The bond those two shared was far beyond familial and was strong enough to survive even gaps in honesty. After all, you had two siblings and you had never felt so close to them as these two appeared, secrets be damned.

It felt good to know that despite how trying this day had been, and how much more difficult the days ahead were starting to feel, that at least you and your existing Guardians were closer than ever!

Chapter Text

As it turned out, the hours that followed would be too busy to reconnect with Sans.

After the brothers had discussed what they needed, the three of you couldn’t delay in bringing forward the new information to Toriel. Needless to say, the revelation of Undyne taking the power of a human soul to aid her was received with worry and much verbal deliberation. A counsel was called, many political figures sat at a circular table exchanging thoughts and ideas of how to keep not only the kingdom, but the castle that stood between the rest of the underground and the barrier, secure in this time of crisis.

It came as news to you that with only one human soul, Undyne could cross it and venture into the human world. In her current state, she could easily take the souls of any human she came across and wreak incalculable destruction. When she gathered seven she could easily return and shatter the barrier for the rest of monsters.

To you, given the current state of the underground, you wondered if it wouldn’t be so bad to let her do just that.

At what cost though? Toriel expressed concern, not only for the humans above, but about what the actions of Undyne would do for the reputation of innocent monsters once freed. It was apparent, because of the strength of human souls, that pasifistic diplomacy would be crucial for the success of monsters/human relations. Starting out by killing humans for their souls was, undeniably, starting things out on the wrong foot. It had the Queen fretting horribly for the fate of her people, should Undyne succeed.

She didn’t once bring up her own fate, should Undyne force her way through the castle, but it sat like a weight, ever present, in your own mind.

Papyrus, Sans, and yourself had to sit and listen to the goings on of the debate. Papyrus excitedly listened, just happy to be included, while his brother only five minutes in seemed to have fallen fast asleep.

You? You sat there stiffly, attention switching between speakers as everyone tried to make their voices heard.

The general consensus was that Undyne would most likely try to continue to use her popularity to pull in more followers before trying to face the royal guard directly. From there she would make demands using the threat of civil war as an incentive for compliance. As bad a threat as Undyne presented, she still had her own way of doing things and a personal moral code she followed. She wouldn’t take an innocent monster’s life if she didn’t have to.

It was one of many possible scenarios. Another was she could also try to fight her way in and use force to get to the barrier and from there collect the human souls she’d need before returning.

It was also argued that Undyne was well-known and well-liked. She was very clear about her intentions and they had spread to every corner of the Kingdom of Monsters. Her primary goal was to overthrow the Queen, kill the Priestess, and take control of the underground.

Someone else theorized she would spread misinformation to take the Queen by surprise.

With every new scenario your sense of dread only increased.

In the end, no matter what her goals were, the fish woman would have to get through the castle to cross the barrier if she hoped to harvest more souls, so for now the best that could be done is to be ready and fortify the guard.

That also meant the Priestess had to continue to find and bond with her guardians while somehow maintaining the facade that they were there protecting Toriel and the castle.

Meaning, it fell on you.

Papyrus, several times, had reached over to put a hand on your knee, startling you out of a dissociative stupor. He was worried, and though Sans feigned an air of leisure, you noticed him shifting in his ‘sleep’ and stealing knowing glances in your direction. You liked that he didn’t pry, and sure, it was touching that he was so in tune to your moods already.

But you really wished you could just run away from their very justified concern.

The longer the counsel went on, the more those familiar sensations began to rise from within you, along with the anxious bile in your throat. They were the same sensations that had brought you to standing at the ledge of Mt. Ebott to end your life.

Fear of failure and disappointing yourself and others. Helplessness under daunting circumstances. Feeling small in a world that felt like it grew bigger by the second.

The inevitability of your best, and of your best never being good enough.

Eventually, you found you couldn’t breathe. Everyone was depending on you to do a job you didn’t ask for! You’d only just decided to go along with this because it gave you a sense of purpose, and now? Now hundreds of monsters, maybe even thousands, were relying on you for their freedom, protection, and liberation! And Toriel, sweet motherly Toriel; if you failed what would happen to her? What if you were away trying to find the guardians and the castle was attacked and Undyne killed her? What about Sans and Papyrus, risking everything to be your personal Guardians! What if they got hurt in the cross fire, because in some cruel twist of fate your life was mysteriously more important than their own?

That was the worst thought yet and your stomach fell into your bowels in a swirl of nauseating anxiety.

This was too much pressure to bear, and when the counsel had let out you slipped away from them as quickly as you could in a crushing panic. You just had to be alone.

The tapestry adorned corridors of the palace passed in a blur as you ran through them, eyes clouding as you gave in to the tears you’d been fighting through that whole meeting.

What had you been thinking? These people needed someone more than you! You were a depressed and over-anxious human girl with nothing to offer anyone! You were damaged and broken and running from your past had only made it rear it’s head again in a situation far more dire than the one you left! These prophecies had to be wrong, they all had to be, you couldn’t hold up under these sorts of expectations! You weren’t royalty, or a trained diplomat, or scholar- you were grossly unprepared and had nothing to offer these people!

When you’d set out running you didn’t know where you were going, but you ended up at a familiar set of double doors that led to the nature bath. You gave a moment's pause as you looked over the fine wooden grain and the images intricately carved into it’s surface. Those ‘echo flowers’ from the caves were scrawled into the corners in a twist of vines and the likenesses of monsters at the bottom beseeched with outstretched hands towards a floating figure in the center. Six levitating monster souls created a barrier around a single human soul.

This was a depiction of the prophecy, right?

It was the last thing you wanted to see. At this point, you had the urge to scream at how it mocked you and your inability to live up to its purpose! In fact you did, as loudly as you could until your face was so red and tear stained that you had to drop to your knees just to catch your breath between sobs.

You hated this.

Your life down here was supposed to be different. Instead, you were feeling exactly the same. Except now there was no mountain to throw yourself down.

Exhausted, you forced yourself back up to your feet and staggered past those doors. For reasons you couldn’t quite pin down you just wanted to undress and bathe in these waters again. The first time you’d visited this place, you had left feeling renewed and ready. Was it possible that doing so again may rekindle your determination as the Priestess?

Maybe it was worth a shot. Lethargically, you pulled off your old tank top and dropped it to the floor, followed by a hand behind you to unclip your bra which you added to the pile. As you took off your shoes and wriggled your jeans down your hips you were already moving towards the serene setting with a keen desperation. Please, let this work. The hot soles of your feet touched the cool stone and already you sighed in relief, lightly squirming your toes against the rough texture of the rock. The sensation was, at least, grounding.

Now fully naked you strode forward to the uneven slate steps and then down into the natural waters. The smooth, cool, liquid gently flowed past your ankles refreshingly, encouraged, you waded out into the lake’s center until you were waist deep. The echo flowers swayed in a breeze you couldn’t feel, and you could swear you heard a distant song if only you could close your eyes and focus on it. Lashes fluttered down to caress the crest of your cheeks and your head tilted back, listening attentively.

It wasn’t your imagination.

You could discern some far off sound so lilting and lovely it beseeched you to listen..

It was too far away to solidly latch your hearing onto, so instead you concentrated on reclaiming your calm.

One deep breath expanded your lungs, and you counted slowly as you exhaled, trying to release the tension with a breath. It came out as a broken shudder. You tried again. Breath out, blow away the poisonous anxiety that had been making you want to give up. Give it away, offer it up to some higher force and let yourself be cleansed.

It was a technique you had done often in the past. Somehow, visualizing that your exhale was literally ‘blowing away’ the negative feelings had managed to offer some relief when you were at your worst.

Not that it helped much as of late. If it had, you’d have never ended up on top of Mt Ebbot with the intent to die in the first place. If you were honest that moment had been brewing for a long time. No amount of breathing exercises or positive thinking could truly help you mount the obstacles you had been facing on the surface. For a long time, they had been like a backpack, and with each passing year the burden to carry grew heavier and heavier until your body ached and begged for relief.

How long had you been trying to carry that load? It hadn’t been that heavy at first. It seemed like it was something you could manage. How had it gotten so out of control and… painful?

You didn’t feel completely better by the time you were done but there was a small amount of relief.

Suddenly you heard a rush of air along with the slosh of water. The echo flowers stilled and that distant voice was silenced.

The timber of a familiar baritone called, “y/n, are you in h-”

You turned around, stunned as your eyes landed on Sans. He stood half way between you and the shore, water lapping over his knees from his sudden arrival in the pool. He didn’t seem to care about the sudden appearance of water even though it was dampening the hem of his shorts. His eyes, after quickly assessing the scene and sweeping over your nudity, were very instantly and very carefully remaining on your own. His voice died in his throat and cerulean magic began to make his face glow.

Oh...oh god. He...just saw you...completely naked.

Neither of you moved or spoke the shock was so complete, seconds ticking by as both of you stood frozen and locked in a stare. His face was twitching, and those bright beacons of light set against his black sockets seemed so much brighter in this dimly lit space. He was trying so hard to keep his gaze up, but you were amazed to find that, a few times, he lost control and managed to take another look at what he had haplessly stumbled upon.

You could hear your heartbeat hammering in your ears as your newest Guardian struggled to speak. The tension in the atmosphere was so tangible, but from what, was incredibly hard to discern. Was it embarrassment? Fear? Anxiety?

It was none of those things and that revelation shocked you more than the situation itself.

You swallowed, trying to force down a stubborn lump in your throat as your cheeks burned.

No, it wasn’t any sense of lost modesty that was keeping you both locked in place. Sans seeing you here like this, after finally kindling the beginnings of your bond and activating an intimate ability only he could utilize, had thrust you both into a very emotionally strained situation. You had stepped into each other’s minds. You had glimpsed a shared look at the others life. You had seen a piece of the secret person under it all and the resulting commiseration had already made you two very close, very quickly.

Neither of you had even had a chance to speak of it yet, but right now, the reality of it had slammed into you with the force of a train wreck

Judging by how the usually quick-witted skeleton’s mind had come to a screeching halt as well, he had to be feeling it too.

The ‘tether’ he’d used to draw himself to you was like a pulsating string of life sewn between your souls, keeping you close in spirit, in spite of any distance. You could feel him now even as you breathed, taste him on the air- his meticulously concealed strength, the gentle thrum of his considerable magic, and….his ever growing need to protect you. Right now, that meant even from himself.

Given the very solid impression you had gotten from him in this moment, you wondered, even without your souls being fused, could he feel your desperation for support through this new bond? For guidance?

If he couldn’t, you were sure the tracks of tears were still plainly visible on your face.

Finally you remembered yourself and slowly submerged into the waters, wrapping your arms around your bare chest. It seemed to, likewise, snap Sans out of the stupor he’d fallen into.

The strength of the link weakened slightly, but it’s presence remained a bit distracting.

“sorry bout that,” he said quickly, lifting a hand to rub the back of his skull and finally averting his eyes. Magic remained glowing in his face, “after the counsel let out i went to look for you. You weren’t in your room and so i thought i’d give this ‘tether’ thing a try. I uh, heh- knew that soul fusing would bare a lot of things but this wasn’t one i was counting on.” he chuckled tightly, “i’ll uh...just go wait-”

“Stay.” you whispered.

Wait, you said that? Why were you asking him to stay right now? This was crazy talk! You sank instantly lower into the water and turned away as his gaze returned to you. You were startled by your own boldness, but you knew you needed his instinctive understanding right now.

You needed help.

“you uh...what?” His voice sounded a little thin, breathy. A moment later you heard him exhale as he attempted to recompose himself. After a few seconds the water where he stood sloshed as he took a step forward. When he spoke again the deflecting humor was absent from his voice. “you’ve been, uh... crying. don’t try and tell me you’re fine, your eyes are puffy.” He stopped approaching when he was closer, but still a respectable distance away. When you peeked at him, his back was slightly to you and his gaze averted. Your fingers crept up your shoulders to try and hide a bit more, even though it was obvious he was done trying to peek. “kid, why are you shut away in here crying like this?”

The sudden choice to call you ‘kid’ after he’d began using ‘darlin’ hit you with unexpected force. You shrank down lower.

“Why’d you call me ‘kid’?” you asked dejectedly.

The silence in the air stretched uncomfortably, before he answered, voice a little rough “because… seeing you like this… i didn’t think referring to you so… um... affectionately was ....such a good idea.”

You blushed hotly, catching the meaning of his explanation in a way that made your belly flip. The air between you right now was already charged enough. He didn’t want things to get out of control. It took a heaping load of will power to rip your mind away from the implications of such a scenario and look back up at him.

When you did, and he was looking down at you again, he offered you a comforting smile.

“so,” He said very quietly, “you gonna tell me what’s got you so upset?”

The deepness of his voice and the patience in which he spoke unwittingly drew a response from you. You sank up to your chin in the water and stared out towards shore, fresh tears slowly falling.

“I got scared.” you admitted. “Everyone was talking about Undyne and the dangers she was posing, and then me collecting the Guardians, protecting the castle, protecting Toriel and everyone else and I just-” you shook your head and lifted a hand up out of the water to hide your tearful grimace. “this has to be a mistake. I’m only one person. There’s nothing special about me. I do nothing but get overwhelmed and mess up! I tried to kill myself because I didn’t want to be stuck with so much I couldn’t live up to, and now lives are depending on me doing all of this and I can’t-”

You hiccuped on a fresh wave of tears, unable to continue.

“y/n….” Sans sighed heavily, and you could hear that his smile was gone. “i’m not going to mince words about this, you’ve got your work cut out for you. And uh, the stakes are only going to get higher. but, you’re forgetting-” you sniffled and rubbed your face before looking back at him, his expression earnest, wrought with purpose, “you’re not taking this on by yourself. Pap is ready for this, ready to support you, kid. he’s believed in you from the second you fell and-” he looked down at the rippling water, shifting his weight from foot to foot a few times before he confessed, “-well...you’ve got me now too. look, your job as priestess won’t be easy but that’s why you have us. no one with an important task can do it alone. you think Tori as queen runs the kingdom by herself? no, that’s why there’s a counsel. the same’s true of you. you have your guardians and we’re invested in your success.”

Sans looked up at the sparkling ceiling in thought for a moment before he went on. “back in waterfall, when Pap had to hear what Undyne had been thinking about him achieving his dream as a royal guard, that was…” Sans fists clenched in his pockets and you could hear his bones creak from the gesture, “crushing. he adores undyne. he looks up to her. hearing what she really thought of him hurt him a lot, even though he won’t show it. but, then you spoke up. you told her she was wrong and why and-” his smile returned and those vibrant eye lights met yours again, full of gratitude, “you gave him strength because you believe in him. you see what so many others can’t or, i dunno,” he shrugged, “-just refuse to. hearing you be that brave for my bro when i could literally feel you shaking in my arms, well… kid. when you’re not feeling strong, i’ll give you my strength. both me and my brother will. it’s… why i’m here now.”

You found while he spoke you couldn’t turn away. His words were spoken so sincerely your eyes watered for an entirely different reason.

“no one can do anything completely alone. or, if they can, it’s… not good for them.”

From the way he averted his gaze again you could tell he spoke from experience.

At last, you spoke up, dipping your cheek against your shoulder and smiling a little.

“I didn’t know my stupid words made any difference. I just… I know that Pap chooses to be so optimistic and happy. From what I’ve seen in his memories there’s plenty to be sad about.” You looked up to the glowing crystals dotting the stone ceiling of your bath, reminiscing about earlier that morning when he’d pried a jewel off the cavern wall and handed it to you, “but he uses his optimism to support others. He knows there’s plenty to be sad about so he tries to share a different way of seeing things with people to offer them hope.”

“you understand him.” Sans said, “some people think he’s foolish. or dumb. they can’t really see what he does. I mean, yeah, he can be silly and he does seem to think that spaghetti can solve most any problem but it comes from a very good, pure, place.” Sans laughed quietly, “if you can uh, look pasta the surface, my bro is the coolest guy in the underground.”

You rested your cheek on your opposite shoulder and gazed at Sans. You knew the brothers were close, even in spite of the gap in communication about Sans’ past. Hearing him talk about your first Guardian so affectionately made your soul swell inside you.

“You’re cool too, you know.”

Sans blinked in surprise at that statement before he scratched his femur idly. “That’s sweet y/n, and I appreciate that you think that but uh, ya see...” he argued, not in a truly disparaging way, but with self honesty. “I know i’ve got a lot of neat tricks up my sleeve, but i don’t have the courage to care like my brother does. or, you know-” he smiled a little bit, one shoulder bobbing nonchalantly, “least i used to not care. kinda met someone recently that’s been challenging how i see things.”

You felt a slow blush creep across your face, and you sank up to your ears in the slowly flowing current.

“I haven’t done anything.” you denied modestly.

“you have though.” he countered, “i was reluctant starting out, you know that. i was also pretty surprised when you jumped into your role as priestess so easily.”

“It made me feel like I had a purpose.” you explained. “Then today happened with Undyne and that meeting, and I realized i was just trying to ignore the same problems that landed me down here.”

“i can see that. thing is, you did it because you wanted to help. you saw the monsters, their need for hope, and if they needed a priestess to have hope you wanted to do it. that counts for something.”

You mulled that thought over, recollecting when you had followed Papyrus through the capital in a cage of bones as the monsters looked on. They had looked so empty and hollow but….they looked at you with a little hope. Sans was spot on.

“I guess that’s true.” you sighed.

“you see kiddo, your problems don’t just go away because you ignore them. trust me i know. whatever your reasons were for trying to end your life, that life is over. I saw how you looked when we led you to the queen’s castle that first day. how you looked at the monsters. I saw your determination. i figured if you wanted to be priestess because of that, even if it seemed like it was an easy way to convince you, i should just hang back, watch, see how you handle yourself…”

You remembered those early days. They had mostly been spent with Papyrus. Sans had barely been around, and he’d admitted to actively avoiding you. However, you had known he’d been watching.

Your curiousity got the better of you.

“I’m afraid to ask, but,” you pried, “what do you think?”

Sans took a moment to gather his thoughts before he took a few steps closer. You lifted your chin to watch his approach.

“i think papyrus was right about you after all.” he told you quietly, the lights of his eyes glowing brighter than before.”you made that bond with him, you two connected so easily, and even when i was resisting out of my own, uh... fear…, well- you kept trying. that spoke pretty well for you in my book. then you clocked in so many hours practicing with your soul, getting to know him, and even just hanging out and talking. on top of that, you also spent a lot of time talking with tori. you wanted to learn and you were so uh, determined to have that with me too.” Magic dusted his cheeks again as he looked down at you, unpocketing a hand to reach forward and brush an out of place hair away from your eyes with his index finger. That connection, his tether between you, pulsated strongly with emotion, both your own and his as you listened. “It uh, made me want to try. seeing what you had with pap, how easy it came to you two, hell, even how you started to go to him just as a friend- it was easy to see we aren’t just guardians to you. see, I didn’t like what the concept of a priestess meant. being at someone's beck and call, having someone that could connect with you on a level where having a secrets was almost impossible? for a guy like me, who’s pretty much nothing but secrets that’s not very appealing.”

You smiled, reaching up to take his hand before he withdrew. His bones felt so warm against your cool, wet skin. He didn’t pull away. Instead he took a step closer and curved his bone palm to cradle your cheek.

 

When he spoke again, his voice was only a whisper. “i thought it’d be nice to find someone who understood, but that’d be a rare thing, right? too much too hope for? neither of us knew what kind of person the priestess would be.” you closed your eyes as his thumb stroked over the tear paths on your cheek, rubbing them away. “i mean, I’ve warmed up to the idea of it now, but I’m still not sure what you’re gonna think of some of the stuff I have buried up here.” he tapped his skull with his free hand. “but, for the first time in a very long time, and after feeling the kind of soul you have for myself... i want to try.” his baritone dropped even lower as he finished by confessing, “you did that, darlin.”

A few warm, fresh tears rolled over his phalanges, deeply moved by his words. You sniffed and raised your glassy stare back to him to find him gazing back with unquestionable devotion. Your eyes widened. How had that happened? After all the effort and trying how had you reached Sans in such a way that made his resolve on your behalf so strong?

...What memory had he glimpsed in exchange for what you had seen of his?

Worriedly, you tried to look away, but he wouldn’t allow it as he moved closer. He was so close you could smell him. His scent like crisp clean air, pine, and the tang of ketchup. Your trembling fingers lifted to slide over his carpels looking up at him, feeling far too exposed.

Compassionately, he smiled, “hey, don’t worry. your secrets are safe with me, darlin. half the time i’m too lazy to be listening properly to them anyway, right?”

You blushed but smiled, “I guess I’m still worried about what exactly you and Pap have seen of me.”

“You’re sitting here naked in front of me and you’re worried about what i’ve seen in your head?” he chuckled, his gaze growing intense, “at this rate the only thing there will be between us is skin and bones.”

Did...did he just…?

You blinked a few times trying to decide if you had indeed heard him right, but he finally released you and took a respectful step back, his hands back in his pockets.

“You should probably finish up here.” he suggested, “we were going to meet up later, if you remember, if you’re still up for it. we still have some more things to lay bare, right?”

“Uh, yeah, but I know how hard it’s been for you to get to this point.” You said distractedly, mind still struggling to catch up to his apparent flirting. That was flirting right? “We, uh, can go as slow as you need to, Sans. I don’t need to know everything right away, or even ever. I mean, we can just talk, right? Like we have been? Small steps?”

“hmmm, small steps?” Sans echoed for you, a bony brow raising. “wonder where else that’d be useful.”

He was staring at you now, his gaze seeing straight to the heart of you with a shit-eating grin you were becoming increasingly familiar with. It took you a moment to realize what he had succeeded in doing with this conversation and when it came to you, you raked your fingers into your hair with an incredulous smile.

“Wow...Sans, you’re good.” you exclaimed, “But, you’re right. I guess I got overwhelmed because I was seeing the big picture and felt like I had to figure it all out and do everything at once.”

“ya know kid, it’s okay to not know where you’re going sometimes.” he explained as he slowly began walking towards shore. You watched him, with hands pocketed, take the steps out of the pool as water drained from his shorts. “when things get a little too out of control and small steps don’t seem possible, it actually helps to let things play out a little bit. sometimes, all that it takes to make the direction you gotta take clear is a little time.”

His slippers hit the dry rocks with a few quiet squelches.

“Sans?” you called after him before he could leave.

He paused and glanced over the shoulder of his damp hoodie, “hmm?”

For a moment, you marveled at him. Lazy, sleepy, punny Sans, secretly one of the strongest monsters in the underground and a judge of this world, had his soul blissfully fettered to your own. He didn’t insult your sadness and measure it against his own. He shouldered it with a glad smile.

You desperately wanted to know why. Was it really as simple as he said, him seeing that you were a good person and that you unquestionably supported his brother? Had that really been enough to earn his loyalty or was it something else he’d seen within you through your still new bond? There was no telling, but for now, your gratitude for him shone from your wide toothy smile and still watering eyes.

“I really needed this. Thanks.”

His sockets, half lidded and his smile softened, closed as he huffed a short laugh.

“always, darlin.” he answered. “always.”

-------------------------------------------

The two of you decided not to meetup that evening. Instead, you had gone to bed and slept so late you hadn’t just missed breakfast, but lunch as well. Usually you’d feel guilty about being so lazy, past reprimands from an over-stressed and over-worked mother replaying in your mind too loudly to allow yourself such a reprieve, even if it was needed. Today though, you were able to silence that voice.

You had desperately needed the time and freedom to recharge from the previous day’s events. This wasn’t a tiredness born exclusively from depression resulting in some missed chores; this was you dealing with the pressure to save a nation.

When you finally tore yourself away from your mounds of pillows and blankets and slipped past the veil surrounding your bed, you walked to the wardrobe provided to you. You knew Toriel was keeping it happily stocked, saying once in passing sadness that it made her feel like she had a daughter. Remembering the burial mound of golden flowers where her deceased family was buried made your acquiescence to her doting easier. She’d been through so much. If she wanted to mother you, you’d graciously accept it.

It helped ease the sting that thinking of your own mother brought. It was becoming a comfortably symbiotic arrangement.

Still, you wished the underground had a selection of jeans.

You pulled out a fresh robe and got dressed. It looked much like your surrogate mothers complete with the delta rune embroidered with care across the chest. It looked comfortable and once it was on you decided it was, even if your shape was lost inside the less than flattering cut of the garment.

It’d do for the day at least. You didn’t really have any plans other than to further solidify your bond with Sans.

You washed your face, brushed your teeth, the usual wake up routine carried out in the small adjoining bathroom to your room. You had been making your bed when a booming sound and the tremble of earth underfoot made you lose your balance, your upper body falling to the bed and your knees collapsing to the floor!

You sat in place for a moment, thoughts racing when Sans suddenly appeared in your room. He had the bones of his hands over his eyes this time, the sockets tightly closed. You wondered why he bothered, he’d already seen you naked so that mystery was sufficiently solved.

It didn’t mean that the memory of it didn’t make a humid blush stain your cheeks.

“Sans,” You called, unsteadily getting to your feet. “What was that?”

He tentatively unshielded his eyes and looked at you, relieved to find you dressed this time. His smile was pulled tight on his face, the stare of his eyes hard.

“rioters are attacking the the east castle wall.” he explained grimmly, “Pap and I need you to make a stand.”

“Is it Undyne?” you questioned anxiously as you crossed the room to him.

“no, thankfully. just some misguided monsters who are buying into her propaganda.” He reached out for your hand just as you did the same, bone and flesh twining against each other. It was instantly grounding as he tugged you a little closer, “we can handle it, y/n. but we need the boost of a soul fusion to make a proper point.”

You recoiled a bit. “You’re going to fuse with my soul to make a show of power? Just to make them back off?” Your expression soured and you shook your head. “No. You can’t control these people using fear as a tactic, then you’d be no better than her!”

Sans sighed as he stepped in closer to you, holding you firmly as he prepared to make the jump through the void.

“i’m not saying it’s the best scenario darlin, but it’s better than people getting hurt.”

You didn’t like this, but you didn’t say as much he used his power to teleport.

The rush of frigid air as you moved through the void made your skin bristle with gooseflesh, the inky blackness and it’s overwhelming white noise momentarily disorienting you. You couldn’t help but wonder how Sans could use his short cuts so often and not be phased by how unsettling this empty space was.

Sensing your discomfort, his arm tightened around you. As short as these teleports were, lasting only a mere second, he seemed to understand how much you found them unnerving.

When the blackness evaporated and the dark cold exchanged for warm air and light, you released the breath you’d held. Solid ground was under you, or rather, solid wall. You were standing on a walk way that passed between the turrets of two towers. Toriel was there, along with Papyrus and several guards looking out upon the crowd below from the closest embrasure. The sound from below was almost deafening and the crowd that was swarming was thick. Apparently the stronger monsters were taking turns powering up their best attacks and lashing out at the walls.

Toriel was obviously distressed, her furry white paw raised up to her mouth to cover a deep worried frown. Her ruby eyes were crinkled around the corners and shimmering with a gloss of unshed tears. Her expression showed no change when she noticed you’d arrived. Slowly, she came towards you.

“This behavior is truly unprecedented.” she explained, a quiver to her voice. “Monsters have souls composed of love, hope, and compassion, or-” she paused, seeming to be uncertain, “-so it has been said.”

Sans released your hand stepped forward to look over the side of the wall. “people say a lot of things to try and explain the nature of stuff they don’t understand. obviously monsters haven’t been pushed this far before. endurance under hardship reduces hope and morale has been low.”

Papyrus looked at his brother, “THEY NEED REMINDING THAT WE HAVE A NEW HOPE! OUR PRIESTESS HAS GIVEN YOURS AND MY OWN SOULS THE STRENGTH OF A HUMAN’S! ONCE WE FIND THE OTHERS WE’LL BE STRONG ENOUGH TO FREE EVERYONE UNDERGROUND!”

“it’s not enough,” Sans said, “especially considering undyne’s vendetta against humans.” His eyes narrowed at the crowd. “she views it as tainting the purity of monsters, but looking at this, I think her ideals are what’s poisoning them. their HOPE is just low enough to be misled and corrupted.”

Toriel shook her head, refusing to believe it. “How is such a terrible thing even possible? Even when Asgore was living and the soul harvest was active, there was still enough
HOPE to keep monsters peaceful. If they have such low hp-”

Sans looked at Toriel, knowingly. “-they don’t care anymore.”

It had been hard to follow at first, but now, you suddenly understood. Like LOVE was a real force in the underground, measuring one’s level of violence against the true nature of love and the absence of it, HOPE was directly related to a monster’s hp, or very life force. A lack of literal hope effected the very life energy of a monster’s soul and when low enough, monsters were corruptible.

You gasped softly behind your palm, and Toriel lowered her face into her hands in distress.

“Sans,” you looked at him, remembering clearly from his memories how low he had gotten, “I… I mean your...hope? Are you speaking from-”

“experience?” he asked, his smile dropping at the corners, the lights of his eyes dim with recollection. “-‘fraid so, darlin.”

You felt your soul drop within you, understanding all the more clearly why Sans during your fusion had always felt so heavy and burdened. Beyond the terrible memories came a very real side effect that robbed him of his very life force. His HOPE was almost to zero! All of his napping, his lack of enthusiasm to reach the surface-

Sans wasn’t lazy.

He was depressed.

Looking at him now, feeling the string of fate between you tighten, you could discern when he saw the exact moment you figured it out and he looked away.

Another secret of his, you assumed. You thought back to when you had been in battle the day before and just how energized he was when the fusion had taken full effect. It had been hard for him to embrace it fully. Like pouring water into a once sealed and empty cup, it had taken a gesture of kindness from you to open himself enough to let it fully penetrate his soul.

Papyrus was measuring all of this news, and ever the voice of optimism, he exclaimed, “AND YOU, DEAR BROTHER, ARE STILL HERE AND ABLE TO ACCEPT NEW SOURCES OF HOPE! OUR MONSTER BRETHREN WILL BE NO DIFFERENT!”

Paps answer made you consider- had fusing souls with Sans cured him of a lack of hope? Had his hp risen?

It was a question for another time.

Sans patted Papyrus on the back and smiled, “true as that is bro, y/n can’t fuse souls with every monster in the underground and give them HOPE enough to stop being misled by undyne.”

“Or...or can she?” Toriel glanced at you with widening eyes. “Sans your hp had been at 1 for a very long time. That changed after fusing with the priestess!”

Well, that answered that, but raised so many more questions it left you feeling a little lost!

Sans was rubbing his chin in thought. “the priestess’s arrival was to gather the guardians and summon the beast god. that much is concrete. we assumed that meant shattering the barrier because of the nature of the blessed souls she’d be finding.”

“In all likelihood that is still probably the case-” Toriel said pointedly, “Still, the benefit of the Priestess’s fusion with you can’t be ignored, Sans.”

“but gerson mentioned yesterday, when we brought her to see him that it was news to him. I thought he was having a ‘senior moment’ but… now i’m wondering-”

“If there is a way to extend such an ability to other monsters it would certainly be advantageous!” The Queen said hopefully.

Your expression of confusion must have been obvious because Papyrus came towards you, steadying you with a reassuring hand on your shoulder. You bypassed it and took to clinging to his side as he hugged you for a moment.

After a few moments spent in uneasy speculation, you finally spoke up, “but, isn’t there some, I dunno, something to look back on? Some place where all that gerson said is written down so we can know for certain?”

Toriel blushed at such a reasonable question and Papyrus chuckled, “THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD IDEA! WHY HAVEN’T WE BEEN DOING THAT?”

Your heart sank in disbelief. They could engrave doors and spread it by word of mouth around the kingdom but they didn’t have someone to reliably write it down?

Sans was chuckling, “don’t be so sheepish tori, you weren’t there when gerson first started spouting about all this priestess stuff, you couldn’t have done anything and the folks at the snowdin library are still working on other facets of monster history. Don’t let it get your goat..” Even Sans was looking a bit embarrassed about this, but hearing his joke certainly lightened the mood some, “i mean, even asgore didn’t chronolog the meaning of the delta rune for future generations and our history books aren’t exactly scholarly works.”

Toriel wrinkled her nose at this, actually sounding a little snide, “I had told him on numerous occasions to hire someone for that and I have for my own reign employed several writers to log our history properly!”

Another explosion against the palace walls jarred your group out of conversation, Papyrus’s arms caging you to him as he planted his feet to keep you from falling. You grasped the edges of his armor, whimpering.

It was back to the task at hand.

“I don’t want to fuse and use that kind of power to intimidate the populace!” You refused despite your fear, “There has to be another way that won’t trample what’s left of their HOPE.”

Toriel looked torn. “I would usually agree, my child but I can think of no other way to peacefully end this protest.”

Sans nodded sagely, “if we’re going to defend you, the queen, and the barrier a show of power will make them back off.”

“NO!” Papyrus objected to your relief. One arm remained around you in case of more blows to the palace and the other animatedly gestured his refusal, “THE PRIESTESS IS CORRECT AND SUCH A DISPLAY WILL FRIGHTEN OUR FELLOW MONSTERS INTO SUBMISSION AND THAT IS GROSSLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE! WE NEED THEM TO HAVE FAITH IN HER, NOT FEAR HER!” He pointed to the people below. “THE ANSWER IS HOPE! DOMINANCE WOULD ONLY FURTHER CRUSH NOT ONLY THEIR FAITH IN OUR QUEEN, BUT THEIR HOPE IN OUR PRIESTESS! I STAND WITH Y/N!”

You beamed your gratitude at him in the form of a smile and the arm he’s kept around you secured you closer supportively. With him behind you on this, you were filled to the brim with determination!

Sans gave you a perceptive glance before closing his eyes with a nod. You had a feeling that he had sensed your determination, or, as he called it, marking your progress.

“she’s decided then.” he shrugged, yielding to the will of you and his brother, “sorry tori, i stand with the priestess first.”

Toriel pinched the bridge of her nose and took several deep breaths before she looked at you. You could tell both as a mother and as a woman commanding respect that she was not used to being undermined. Still, with humility, she found her smile and nodded as well.

“I am willing to hear alternatives, my child.”

You didn’t have the heart to tell them you didn’t have a plan, but after piecing together what the lack of HOPE had done to Sans and that those attacking were likely suffering, you were unwilling to do anything to make matters worse.

“Papyrus?” You turned in his grasp, and searched his eyes for answers. “What do you think?”

He looked a little surprised and his skull canted slightly on his spine.

“WHAT DO I THINK?”

You nodded eagerly.

His expression hardened as he gave the situation some serious thought.

“I DO NOT FEEL THE PEOPLE ATTACK OUT OF A PLACE OF MALICIOUSNESS BUT FROM A PLACE OF FEAR. FOR TOO LONG MONSTERKIND HAS BEEN FORCED TO BEAR UNDER THE ABSENCE OF HOPE NOT ONLY FROM THE LOSS OF THE ROYAL CHILDREN BUT THE LOSS OF THE HUMAN SOULS ASGORE HAD COLLECTED AS WELL.” He closed his eyes, shaking his head. “THEIR HOPE WAS ALREADY LOW ENOUGH TO ACCEPT THE DEATHS OF CHILDREN AS A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO ANY REAL PLAN. NOW WITH THAT OPTION GONE THEY ARE NOW BEING MANEUVERED THROUGH THE WORDS OF ONE THEY ADMIRE TO TURN ON YOU WITHOUT KNOWING YOU. SO-” he met your gaze and suddenly smiled brightly, “I THINK THEY SHOULD GET TO KNOW YOU! ADDRESS THE PEOPLE! LET THEM SEE YOU ARE A PERSON AND NOT SOME FACELESS HUMAN THAT THEIR ACTIONS DON’T EFFECT! LET THEM LOOK IN THE EYES OF THE ONE THEY ARE DEMANDING TO DESTROY AND SEE IF WHAT IS LEFT OF THEIR SOULS CAN BARE TO DO WHAT UNDYNE SUGGESTS!”

Toriel shook her head right away, “No, addressing the people would mean her being in a public space and it could leave her too vulnerable to attack!”

“that might be a chance we have no choice but to take, tori.” Sans countered sensibly. “it’d at least be a blatant sign of the trust she’s placing in them. if you’re looking to restore hope, this option is a lot more feasible than scaring them away with a show of soul power.”

The walls shook again and you yelped, grabbing onto Papyrus until you were steady.

“WHATEVER WE DO WE NEED TO DO IT BEFORE THE STRUCTURE COLLAPSES!” He shouted, “AS LOVELY AS A NEW ENTRANCE WOULD LOOK IN THE EAST CORRIDOR IT’S NOT WISE TO PLAN RENOVATIONS AROUND UPRISINGS!”

“heh, you’ve got a way with words, bro.” Sans agreed after making sure Toriel was alright. “I think, to be safe, she should be fused with one of us for this.” He looked up at his brother. “I think you’d be best for it. she’ll need the boost of courage.”

From the uneasy pace your heart had taken, you felt Sans had the right idea. You took Papyrus’s hand and nodded, accruing your boldness to do what had to be done.

“I feel this is most unwise.” Toriel fretted, wringing her paws together as she averted her gaze from them. “But I will relent. If it works it will be the best possible outcome.”

“It’ll be okay.” You assured her, hoping that saying it aloud would further reinforce it in your own mind. “I’ll have Papyrus with me. I can do it.”

“There’s one more thing.” Sans said, making everyone give pause. His gaze leveled at you. “We haven’t had the time to really um...talk about what happened with Undyne yet. I was going to tell you today because I don’t think you’ve noticed it yet.”

You blinked and Papyrus was eager voice to the question on your mind. “NOTICED WHAT?”

Sans closed his eyes. “Priestess or not, y/n’s soul is not as strong or resilient as frisk’s. I noticed something about your determination that’s unique to you.”

Toriel stepped forward and Papyrus leaned in to hear what his brother had to say.

The shorter skeleton brother looked away, obviously about to deliver bad news. His eye lights were dim and his posture a little saggier. Uncertainly, he glimpsed your way before breaking the stare again.

“remember how i finally spoke up to you about the concept of resets, pap? how I said that y/n had used the ability against undyne to roll the timeline back because she has a determined soul? well…”

He hesitated.

“Sans, just tell me.” you pleaded, grasping onto your other guardians wrist for moral support.

He grimaced and continued. “Your hp sat around 15 when you got here, y/n, and it dropped a point immediately after your first reset so now it’s 14.”

Papyrus shook his head in disbelief and Toriel gasped into her paws. His hand shifted to take your own.

“YOU’RE NOT SAYING THAT-”

You felt a heaviness within you as you Sans began to walk, leading the way to the stairwell and implying the rest of you to follow and do what had to be done. Or maybe he needed his back to you, just so you couldn’t see how upset telling you this made him.

He didn’t have to. It resonated over your bond and made your soul feel like lead.

“our priestess only has 14 resets left.”

Chapter Text

The news of the side effects associated with your resets shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to you. The kind of power a determined soul had, winding back time to achieve more favorable outcomes, simply couldn’t be something used without repercussions. There had to be a greater balance.

You get a chance to change time and in exchange, part of your vitality is offered as recompense. It seemed like a worthy exchange.

Your mind had to wonder however, why this ‘Frisk’ had not had such limits on their own power. Sans had made it clear that this doc off your HP was unique to you so one of two things had to be the case. Either Frisk’s power was a rare sort that superseded preconceived limitations and set a new standard for that sort of soul, or your soul was a lot weaker than you ever imagined it to be.

You supposed it could be a mix of both as well.

Still, it was more than you could have hoped for considering on the surface, human soul magic was sedentary and mostly went unnoticed. When Undyne’s spear had impaled you, you had thought that was the end, and you had failed. Being given another chance was a surprise and eventually, a relief. The fact that it came at a price shouldn’t be discouraging. You should be grateful.

Yet, you were scared.

You had glimpsed your next guardians in a chilling vision, and Sans’s description of their world had stuck with you. Though you hoped you were wrong, you suspected your ability to reset was going to be invaluable once you were there trying to recruit them.

Their world was one of violence, and you knew you couldn’t count on the soul resonance to be enough to convince them to join you. After all, Sans had that same resonance, and it had taken time to form a bond with him-- and he was simply being cautious. These alternate versions of themselves might be outright obstinate.

From Sans’s reluctance to bring you to that place, you imagined they might even turn on you.

There was no denying you’d need every reset available to you if you were going to do your duty as Priestess and bring them to your cause.

That wasn’t the task at hand, however. Right now, you needed to shed this news and focus on not reaching your new Guardians, but the people you were resolved to liberate.

Sans had brought up your idiosyncrasy now for good reason. Monsters were being unnaturally unruly and belligerent in the face of decreasing HOPE. Under normal circumstances, monsters would attack simply out of fear with no real intent to truly fight. Right now, things were different and your life was on the line. Knowing your queue for resets had a limit meant proceeding with extra caution.

You were nervous. You were scared. You felt unprepared.

But you weren’t alone. Sans’s pep talk in the bath the day before was still fresh in your memory, and even as he led the way, slouching and shuffling his dirty pink slippers across the corridor, you felt his ubiquitous tether on you.

no one with an important task can do it alone.

Maybe when you had been on the surface, you’d felt the weighty burden of solitude, even when surrounded by family. Here, you couldn’t fall into that trap, not with your Guardians always with you in some way or another. Sans had a sixth sense about you now, and Papyrus’s cheerful encouragement and affectionate support had served you well already.

It made you smile to realize you’d never be alone again.

It made the daunting task of facing a crowd of desperate people and appealing to their mercy a little more feasible.

From his place at your side, Papyrus paused to hold you back when you came to the double doors that would lead out of the palace courtyard and into the open--and dangerous-- streets of the capital. His crimson gloved hands curled around your shoulders, and he bent a bit lower to speak privately with you.

His expression at this moment… it brought your mind back to those tense moments right before the two of you had first fused souls. His face was always bright and cheerful (at least when he wasn’t shouting at his brother to stop being lazy or groaning over his puns), but there were times when he looked at you as though he were seeing past the surface and to something precious you couldn’t see in yourself.

Now was one such moment.

“My Priestess,” he began, “no matter what happens when we step outside these walls, be assured that I am at your side and will allow no harm to come to you.”

You smiled but shook your head, “Don’t get hurt for my sake, Pap. I know I’m safe with you, but I’d feel so terrible if something happened to you because you were protecting me.”

“I knew you would feel that way.” He said before tugging you forehead-to-forehead with him. It was an intimate gesture you two had taken up to express your adoration for each other. In moments of tension such as this, it surpassed the need for words and conveyed indecipherable emotions that went unspoken. “It only fortifies my resolve. Everything will be fine, Y/n.”

You laughed softly, nuzzling your forehead to his own. He reciprocated without hesitation.

“My Knight,” you whispered.

His hand glided from your shoulder, down your arm, and laced with your fingers.

“My Priestess,” he replied in reverence.

Sans leaned against the double doors with two armed guards, waiting patiently as Toriel stared out a nearby window at the swarm of monsters outside. He looked relieved in part, a fact that moved along his tether to you as you took one more moment to embrace your first guardian for support. He must have been worried the news about your HP would dampen your spirits, especially after how you had crumbled the day before. Seeing you comforted by his brother had a trickle down effect of lessening his own worry.

“if you’re done with your ‘pap-talk’, you should probably go ahead and fuse.” he said, ignoring the livid glare his brother offered over the pun. As always, Sans was unfazed, though it did make Toriel finally crack a smile.

“Yes, now would be a good time,” she agreed. “If we are to take this route we must be thoroughly prepared. Are you certain, child?”

Your own smile was answer enough as you took a deep breath, hovered your hand over your chest, and gently drew your soul out. The tug of its release was getting a lot easier as time went on, and the queen looked deeply encouraged to see the ease at which you could now summon it. It had taken work, but with the help of Papyrus, you had managed to get it down.

From beside you, he too pulled out his soul and with no effort at all, the gravity between them drew them together with a pulse of warm hues.

It took a little concentration to keep from getting pulled into the depths of Papyrus’s memories, but you did manage to keep your mind on task this time. He, however, took a moment to close the sockets of his eyes and take a breath to achieve clarity.

You didn’t know why, but something about the subtle pain that crossed his face made you think he had unwittingly stumbled across a snippet of your mind that bothered him. It was actually the first time you had managed a soul fusion without getting pulled into a string of memories yourself.

“Pap?” you said, gently tugging his hand to draw him back.

He nodded, seeming to be coming around and his smile returned, but not without looking slightly haunted after.

You felt your eyes widen a bit, but he quickly assured you, “Everything is fine.”

“What did you see?” you asked.

“WHAT I ALWAYS SEE!” he announced cheerfully, and your heart sank slightly realizing he was doing so for your own benefit, “I SAW YOU!” His hand drew your own up between you both, highlighting that you were united in this. It was sweet and reassuring. “COME! WE HAVE A JOB TO DO!”

He was right about that, but the worry over what he’d seen was hard to ignore. Of course with your souls fused like this, he’d know that, so he reached out and smoothed his free hand over your hair, that warm companionable smile on his face. Your souls gave a flicker of light as you felt his confidence wash over you-- his affection, his courage.

No, what he saw was just not important right now. You had a very important job to do.

With a nod, you both headed to the door, and Sans pushed it open, allowing Papyrus to lead you out. Toriel, standing between two guards, remained behind with hands clasped in front of her.

“Good luck.”

Outside the doors, the Royal Guard was busy trying to calm the monsters and hold them back from forcing their way into the castle. Not that it would work. Apparently, there was some sort of enchantment on the structure to make it hold up against a certain amount of force. Toriel had been vague about the details, not eager to discuss it when it had come up. It was simply said that it was impossible to enter through the castle doors without expressed invitation or being pre-approved.

In all things, it came down to magic, and that was something you still largely misunderstood.

A young chimera woman with a sash tied over one eye was standing solidly, her massive clawed paws held out wide as she bodily pushed against the crowd to keep them back. Her powerful hind legs were solidly grounded so she could hold her position, without quarter if need be. Other guards were doing the same thing, but it was she that Papyrus acknowledged when he passed with a nod. Her long rabbit like ears instantly lowered. She didn’t even look at him. She only nodded and pushed harder.

You watched the exchange curiously.

“Who is that?”

His reply was an offered flash of memory. The chimera had been a street rat in the city, not a monster herself, but hailing from a hidden colony that shared the underground with monsterkind. You briefly witnessed in your mind’s eye Papyrus training with Undyne. That girl had been there as well, and you knew just by the imprint of emotion that the girl had been very close to the rebel leader herself, and like Papyrus, had taken her stand loyally with the queen. They had trained together, they had risen through the ranks together, and though Papyrus was now the new captain, the two maintained being friends.

You also felt how he swelled with pride at the sight of her and how her lowering her ears was a recognized sign of respect so she wouldn’t stand taller than her superior.

You decided to ask him about what you’d seen later, given the flash of memory was quickly retrieved so you both could stay on task.

Papyrus, his hand holding tightly to yours, motioned with his free hand and another barricade of blue bones surrounded your entourage. He led you a little ways into the crowd towards the city square. It wasn’t far, but to keep moving was your best bet. When you had passed through before, no one had really dared to get close to Papyrus’s famous blue bones, the knowledge of their danger apparently widespread enough to keep most monsters at bay. Today was different. Monsters were bodily throwing themselves at the shield and literally bouncing off them like flies against a screen door. Your grip on your guardian’s hand grew clutching, and you stole a glance behind you to Sans.

At least he didn’t appear to be concerned. His gaze was calm and half-lidded, though the lights of his eyes kept moving to diligently take note of the details of what surrounded them. You concentrated on his tether to your soul to get a feeling for how he felt and was surprised to find his exterior matched his interior.

He wasn’t worried. At least not yet.

“keep lookin forward,” he said, meeting your eyes. “between you being fused with pap and me taking up the rear, you’re fine. we all are. let us concentrate on your safety. you just focus on getting through to them.”

You felt Papyrus’s emotions convey a pang of guilt at Sans words, and for a moment, you wondered why, but he too was too focused on leading you through the crowd to truly imprint an answer upon you. Oddly, it mirrored a similar sensation from Sans across the tether.

It came to you suddenly. They felt guilty about Undyne killing you the day before and forcing you to reset!

“STAY FOCUSED,” Papyrus reiterated, but you felt his soul’s reaction to your turn of thoughts. He was saying it as much for your benefit as his own.

You decided they were right. Dwelling on the in’s and out’s of what was truly a failure in this endeavor and their obvious innocence in your eyes could wait. They needed your mind on the task at hand.

What could you say to get through to a whole crowd of angry monsters?

It was something you’d have to come up with soon! The city square of the capital was coming into view. It was a lovely place, if not a bit quirky. Its most notable feature was its circular area paved in hand laid cobblestone, a focal point that most main city streets lead to. In its center was a risen monument to the fallen King, Asgore. The visage stood tall, but there was nothing intimidating about the man depicted. He eyes were cast skyward, a gentle smile on his goat snout, and he seemed to be standing in a stiff breeze. He was lifting up what appeared to be one of the golden flowers you had fallen upon back in the ruins. At the base, there was a spread of them planted, hiding his feet and ankles.

There was some sort of importance to these flowers that you were missing. Why were they covering the burial mound in the ruins? Why were they in the palace courtyard? Why were they here at Asgore’s memorial?

Sans, pointing his finger this way and that, quickly assembled a small ‘soap box’ of sorts out of white bones for you to stand on so the monsters in the crowd could see you and speak to you directly. Papyrus was already maneuvering his blue bones to gently coax the crowd back to give you a little space, and did so with kind words and a smile. Their compliance varied, a few monsters having to feel the shock of the Pap’s blue attack to be convinced to, albeit begrudgingly, move.

“THE PRIESTESS WISHES TO ADDRESS YOU DIRECTLY!” Papyrus announced to all those present. A great majority of them were murmuring to each other at seeing the conjoined souls of a monster and human in the open. “BY WORD OF MOUTH THE PROPHECY OF HER WAS WIDELY SPREAD, AND HER ARRIVAL AWAITED! NOW THAT SHE IS HERE, YOU SPURN HER? INSTEAD OF GIVING WAY TO FEAR AND TALK OF DISSENT, LISTEN TO HER AND PASS JUDGEMENT ON HER FOR WHO SHE IS, NOT THE SPECIES SHE HAILS FROM!”

He turned and looked at you with an encouraging smile, and Sans lightly clapped a hand on your shoulder.

You remembered that back in school, you hated public presentations. You’d spent such a large amount of time sitting in class, fearfully lamenting over the flaws in your projects, hoping you’d caught all the typos and that your words flowed smoothly. Looking out into this crowd, the anxiety from school paled. How unimportant and trite those little speeches felt compared to this.

You did splendidly even then and achieved glowing marks! You should be proud! Papyrus’s voice assured through the merge of your souls. This will certainly be no different!

I had time to prepare back then Pap. This is-

No different! he stated again, and your gaze flicked over to where he stood at the front of the crowd. His smile and the determined set of his features left little doubt in your mind that he meant it, even if you couldn’t feel it across your bond.

Sans grasp on your shoulder tightened briefly and you met his lazy smile.

“remember what tori said, darlin.” He looked back to the crowd, “monster souls are made of love hope and compassion. appeal to that. you’re uh…” He closed his eyes, a genuine tilt to his grin. “good at it.”

He gave you a gentle push towards the platform he’d created, and you followed his motion, accepting his offered hand to help you step up. When you let go and smoothed the robes you wore, you allowed your eyes to sweep over the now quieting crowd. Your face felt hot, your knees felt like jelly, but there was a surge of emotion moving through you, not your own, that emboldened you.

Papyrus’s courage was already overpowering your apprehension.

“Why should we listen to a human?” a monster in the front of the crowd heckled. He was an aged and worn rabbit. “Humans have done no good for monsters from the very beginning!”
There was a rise of shouts agreeing with him, a few even demanding blood in return for their pain. You felt a spike of alarm, but once more, Papyrus’s soul spurred you forward.

You swallowed, moisture on your brow tickling down your temple as you began.

“I...I am a human. I can’t be anything else. I only know the stories of what you’ve suffered but the truth is…” You braced yourself, ready to be blatantly honest. “--there’s no possible way I could understand the injustice humans forced on you.”

A monster cried out in agreement, another shouting then you’re useless while another reiterated their demand for recompense. Sans moved to defensively stand more to the front of the podium and you felt, being this close to him, the magic brimming readily under the surface.

You soldiered on, assured by the alertness of your guardians that you were safe.

“I’m admitting that because it’d be condescending to stand here and claim that I understand your troubles and how hopeless you all feel! I don’t! I’ve only been underground for a month! I can try to learn, listen to your stories, and I can try to empathise with how you feel, but I haven’t lived the lives you’ve had to! I know you had a lot taken away. The royal children, King Asgore, the human souls, and every bad thing that’s happened to you seems to be the fault of humans. But don’t you think that means it should be a human’s responsibility to make things right?”

A few monsters were shushing those speaking in the crowd now, and suddenly, you realized in awe that you actually had their attention. You smiled, tears stinging your eyes.

“I only know a few of you so far. I’ve met the queen who’s had to persevere past the loss of her entire family, I’ve met my two Guardians, who served as sentries for the king... I have been able, as the Priestess, to share their souls and look into their lives to briefly feel how they feel... and--”

Your voice choked a little on your own emotion. Sans had been stuck in an endless loop of resets, robbing him of hope. Papyrus had remained a pillar of bravery to try and give those around him courage despite his own pain. You closed your eyes, quivering as hot tears swept down your cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” you whispered, before forcing it out louder. “I’m sorry humans hurt you! I can’t undo what’s been done, but I’ve been put into a position where I have the power to make it right! I want to do that for you! For all of you! I just need to be given the chance!”

“But Undyne has a human soul now! All she needs to do is cross the barrier and get more to shatter it! Then we’ll be free! We don’t need you!”

A cry went up in agreement and panic made your heart lurch in your chest.

“You’re wrong!” you shouted forcefully, surprising even yourself. “If we allow Undyne to cross the barrier and harvest souls, yes, she’d succeed, but when monsters go free, it will be war all over again! Humans won’t let you have a place on the surface if you start it by killing them for your own gain! You need to rise peacefully, build trust so everyone can find their place! If you’re following her lead, it will lead to a massacre and no one will be spared!”

The result varied. A few looked uncomfortably at each other at the news while others screamed about taking their chances.

“Undyne’s way will hurt all of you! I’m only asking for a little more patience, a little more time to make out a way that will hurt no one!”

Suddenly, someone nudged their way through, which must have been hard considering this monster lacked arms. They were of an average height, looked like a small orange dinosaur, and had a mohawk of spikes over their very large head.

Papyrus seemed to know them and moved forward when they arrived at the head of the crowd.

“CASEY, BE CAREFUL--!” he said, holding up a hand.

“I know man!” The monster finished for him, smiling his bucktooth grin under his sad tired eyes! “Please, can I speak with the Priestess, Pappy?”

Pappy?

Sans stepped forward between you and the new arrival, but Papyrus didn’t hesitate to move one blue bone aside and allow him past the barricade. Your guardian, for one reason or another, trusted this monster implicitly. Across the bond, you knew they had known each other a long time. His brother was more cautious, his eye beginning to flicker, but you slowly lowered yourself to both knees and sat on your legs.

“It’s okay, Sans. If Papyrus trusts him, I do too.” You leaned down to touch the shoulder of his hoodie and the flickering stopped, but he didn’t relax.

The orange scaled monster came forward slowly, his dark sunken eyes looking up into yours with some sort of retained youthful innocence. He was wrapped in a brown sweater which looked more like a tube around his torso than a garment, and his spiked tail dragged heavily on the ground. There were a few long spikes protruding from the tip.

You remained seated as he approached you, keeping your hand on Sans’s shoulder to keep him at bay.

“Hi,” you greeted with a warm smile. “I’m Y/n. You’re Casey?”

A memory from Papyrus invaded your mind. Years and years ago, in his hometown of Snowdin, he watched this boy grow up. This armless monster had idolized Undyne, and later, Papyrus when he became a Royal Guard. He’d been a naive and enthusiastic child playing in the snow and exploring the caves of Waterfall in hopes of glimpsing his heros. When Undyne gave in to despair, and Papyrus had stepped up to pick up the slack, he’d become a role model for the boy, even adopting the name ‘Casey’ as a reference to his hero’s name, only ‘lowercase’. Pap had been too touched to be upset about the pun.

Now, he was an adult, bearing the burden of loss just like everyone else, but holding onto HOPE better than most of his neighbors. However, he was still cautious.

Your eyes got moist again, and you wiped at them.

“I’m sorry,” you said quietly before you explained, “with my soul joined to Papyrus, I can actually see his memories of you.”

Casey gave a slight disenchanted smile. “That’s a neat trick,” he said, a nice tenor to his voice. “Pappy’s like my big brother. I trust him, but...I trusted a human once, too. They pretended to be my friend. To be my hero's friend. Afterwards, they took everything from her and left.”

You swallowed and any semblance of a smile left your face.

“I know…” you said. “And I’m sorry they did.”

“How can you prove to us that you won’t do the same?”

“I’m not them,” you explained.

His eyes narrowed. “You come here talking big like they did. Acting nice.”

This was news to you. What kind of person had Frisk really been?

“I don’t know anything about them. Just what happened when they left.”

He turned to Papyrus who was facing the crowd on alert, but inclining his head to hear the conversation taking place. He seemed to be thinking.

“Papyrus used to trust everyone,” Casey said quietly. “He’s more careful now, but it’s still easy to get on his good side. You befriending him isn’t proof enough for me, or anyone else here.” The Monster took another step closer, and you felt Sans tense silently under your hand. “If you want to win the crowd, to win anyone over to trust you, you need to do something to prove to us you’re here to help, and that you’re not leaving until you do. Because it’d be real easy for someone in your position to kill a monster, take its soul, and cross the barrier to never look back.”

You were startled at the statement, actually blinking in alarm. Doing such a thing had never even crossed your mind.

“CASEY,” Papyrus called. “THE PRIESTESS’S TIES TO THE HUMAN WORLD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY SEVERED.”

Casey turned to Papyrus in surprise. “What?”

Papyrus looked into your eyes, a flood of regret moving through him before he addressed the other monster again.

“SHE CAN’T RETURN UNLESS WE DO SO WITH HER. HER FUTURE IS WITH MONSTER KIND EVEN WHEN WE GET TO THE SURFACE.”

Casey turned his attention back to you, observing your surprise and trying to puzzle out what was going on.

“pap, stop.” Sans protested, and in his tension, you could feel his magic tingling your palm. “this isn’t the right time for her to hear this.”

“For me to hear what?”

“My Priestess,” Papyrus forged on, voice dropping softly in defiance of his brothers wishes, “we do not tell you what we have seen in your memories because what we are shown is locked away from you.” He tore his gaze from you and looked back out to the crowd. “Repressed.”

Sans made a sound of resignation. He really hadn’t wanted you to know, but the cat was out of the bag now, leaving you stunned.

He spoke.

“unless your mind wishes to remember, it’s not our place to tell you what we see.” Sans muttered, “the mind pushes memories away as a means of self-preservation. to tell you ourselves could hurt you, and as guardians, we can’t allow that. but what pap said is true. you can’t go back. as much as we’re trapped underground, you’re trapped with us until we’re free. your future rides on your success as much as ours does.”

Casey was looking at Sans and Papyrus, and in their words, he found satisfaction. He took a step back and smiled. The crowd that had over heard was already spreading this news.

Push past it for now, I’m sorry it was to be brought out in this way, but we need to continue.

You felt numb, and the knowledge of them knowing things about you that you didn’t know yourself filled you with a sense of unease that made your skin crawl.

My priestess?

You were shaking. No, no you couldn’t think about all of this right now, you just couldn’t!

Y/n!

Sans was also looking at you now.

“Y/N!” Papyrus shouted.

A niggling sensation in the back of your head made your eyes wet, and suddenly, Sans moved from under what was now your clutching palm. He hopped onto the platform and moved to pick you up. Concern throbbed across the tether, alerting you to his worry.

You sucked in a quick breath and held it, finding your resolve.

“No…” you said, your face suddenly hardening, refusing to give in to the weight of this revelation.

Sans stopped, but his hand was on your shoulder, steadying you. He measuredly watched you to gauge if you were really okay. You nodded.

You didn’t have time for a melt-down. There was too much at stake. You no longer had the luxury to feel sorry for yourself or dwell on the past, especially not in front of a crowd of monsters you were here to win over. “Thank you, Sans, but... I’m okay.”

You hoped.

He backed away a pace as you stood back up, remaining beside you.

When had your hands laced together?

You faced the crowd.

“My place is with you, the inhabitants of the Underground and soon-to-be the monsters of the Surface.” Though your eyes glimmered with tears, struggling to forge past your own emotions, you continued, “I am glad and grateful to share the fate you do. You are my people, the home I always wished for, and the family I’ve always needed. From this day forward, your pain is my pain; your home, my home. Your liberation is my priority above everything else, even my own life!”

You smiled at that. When you had first fallen, you asked Sans why it had been you? He had replied, ‘your soul is right for it’. Now, you understood what he meant. The job of the Priestess was a harrowing one that had needed one thing. The willingness to persevere in the face of, and even the lack of, fear regarding death. You’d already taken your own life, proving you weren’t afraid to die. It was further proven when you experienced your first reset. Nothing lay beyond death, and for you, that didn’t leave you fearful. It made you stronger and more determined than ever.

You could do this!

A gasp filled the crowd as your soul joined with Papyrus’s swelled with fierce light, your determination marking this moment as you made your vow to the public.

“I am your Priestess, and I promise I will not give up! I will not stop until I fulfill my duties to you!” You looked beside you to Sans, who was smiling warmly at you. Your conjoined hands, fingers entwined as deeply as your souls, rose above your heads in a show of unity before the crowd. A human and a monster, a representation of both worlds coming together. Eyes never leaving his, feeling an excitement flutter in your heart, you declared. “For Monsters!”

The cry that ran up echoed those last words, cheering and shouts of praise deafening the air! It became a chant that rang up.

You didn’t see any of it. You just saw the way you newest Guardian regarded you, his gaze half lidded and some beautiful, warm, secret kept in that ever present smile. Your soul gave another flash and his grin grew.

His thumb lightly rubbed your hand.

“i knew you could do it, darlin.”

“Are you certain you want to do this now? Even after learning of your repressed memories?”

Toriel was busying after you as you strode towards the courtyard. Each of your Guardians had taken their place on either side of you, both as ready as you. You were back in your jeans and jacket, but today, wore a thick heavy sweater that had belonged to Sans.

You were going to UnderFell.

“I know it’s sudden, Your Majesty, but after the rally yesterday, I feel I can’t afford to delay any longer. Besides, those memories are gone for a reason.” You looked over your shoulder at her with a confident smile. “Too many people are depending on us for me to be caught up in selfishly worrying over my own messed-up brain.”

Papyrus gave you a reprimanding glare at putting yourself down like that, but you ignored him.

“But my child,” the queen worriedly protested, “would it not be wiser to...to prepare more? Face what you have discovered and adjust a little?”

“My memories have nothing to do with accomplishing my duties as Priestess,” you stated with resolve.

“But this place you journey to... has Sans not said this it is dangerous?”

“well, it is tori,” he agreed, “but it’s not going to get any safer putting it off.”

“I MUST AGREE. THERE HAS BEEN FAR TOO MUCH PROCRASTINATION FOR MY LIKING!” Papyrus declared, his stride long and purposeful. It was hard to keep up with him, and he inevitably ended up leading the way. He had to keep stopping to wait for you to catch up. He was smiling. “THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO GO AND GET THINGS DONE! BESIDES, BETWEEN SANS AND MYSELF, Y/N WILL BE SAFE AND SOUND.”

The aging lines in Toriel’s face seemed deeper and darker today. She forced a smile. “Y-yes Papyrus, I am aware of how capable you and your brother are, but--”

“her mind’s made up tori,” Sans reminded her, his eyes staring ahead. “trust me, i already tried to talk her out of it.”

He really had. That morning when you’d told him you were ready, his response had been much like Toriel’s. Even now, you didn’t mistake his support for ease; even though he smiled and looked calm, you felt the tension coming off him through your bond. He didn’t want to be doing this, but he’d agreed to call Papyrus to your room, and the three of you had sat and discussed the universe you had to go to.

The outlook hadn’t been good. He’d named each universe he’d gone to, and this one he’d called UnderFell. It was a much more dire version of the world they inhabited now. The people, names, and places, were all the same, but hardship and an underground full of monsters who were truly dangerous had made the credo of the world ‘kill or be killed’. It was something he assured you they took seriously. Sans hadn’t gone into too deep of detail about his own time spent there, but admitted he’d met his double and had caught a glimpse of his brother.

The plan was to go, stay together, and stick to Snowdin. They would approach only one Guardian at a time and explain their situation. Sans would remain fused to your soul in order to maintain the upper hand and explain the situation while Papyrus remained alert to your protection. Red, the nickname Sans had assigned his double, apparently had accumulated such a great deal of LOVE that he felt he didn’t have much chance of standing against him without the aid of fusion, but then again, he also admitted he couldn’t be certain. Still, with the fusion, he said he’d be able to take him.

You didn’t like it. It didn’t feel right that you’d go confront your next Guardian on the defensive. It showed such a lack of trust, and you knew that was imperative in developing a bond.

Sans had very flatly told you there was no other choice. Red wouldn’t listen to reason and probably wasn’t in tune enough with his soul anymore to feel the resonance right away. Until they were satisfied that Red wouldn’t actually harm you, they had to err on the side of caution.

It felt like overkill, but you allowed Sans to make this call. You trusted him, and if it lessened the unease you sensed from him across the tether, it’d be worth it.

Neither of you discussed the reveal about your repressed memories or your reactions to them. You got the feeling Sans was more grateful for your dismissal of it than anything. The curiosity over what they had seen was definitely a thing of the past.

Your entourage walked into the palace courtyard, the grand display of stone pathways and that beautiful marble fountain the prefered site for Sans’s enhanced teleportation abilities. It would be his first time using it, and the site was familiar enough place for him to map, what he called, an exit point back to this world.

Toriel stood at a distance. Her worry was plain as day on her face, but she didn’t protest any further. It had to be hard for her to remain behind like this when it was the future of her people at stake.

You offered her a reassuring smile. She returned it, her jaw trembling.

You were pulled back into the moment by Papyrus leaning in to zip up your hoodie, carefully making sure you were warm and bundled for the first trek to another world. You bumped your forehead to his while he was bent over and he gave a zesty ‘nyeh heh heh’ at the gesture.

“Alright! Let’s do this!” you said eagerly.

Sans sighed and pulled his soul from his chest, and you did the same. The souls wasted no time in merging, and you smiled. You both successfully merged without getting drawn into your minds. All that happened was an intimate strengthening of your tether. In relief, Sans sighed at this.

He took your hand, and briefly, your gazes met.

You couldn’t exactly put your finger on it, but there was an evolution happening between you and Sans that you didn’t quite understand. You both had known starting out that his ability after bonding would mean a deeper, more intrinsic bond than you’d feel with your other Guardians. Sure, you got an imprint on Sans and his feelings, even when you weren’t fused, but day-by-day, it felt that there were roots stretching deeper and deeper into your souls.

How deep was the bond supposed to go?

“so uh, first things first,” he began, trying to snap the both of you out of your thoughts. You finally broke the stare, Papyrus good-naturedly laughing at you two. “to be safe, get yourself determined and mark your progress here.”

That was easy enough. You felt phenomenal at the moment! You had your best friend and first Guardian on one side of you, Sans and his unshakable tie on you on the other, your role as Priestess to ground you and give you purpose-- your conjoined souls above showered the three of you in a brief rain of sparking light! You were so full of determination you could probably put on a firework show to the populace.

Papyrus squeezed your hand tightly as the three of you began stepping into a circle, shouting, “LOVE THIS ENTHUSIASM!”

“Same!” You laughed in delight, smiling over at Sans.

His smile was ever-present, but terribly false. You tried to ignore it. The pessimist.

“oookay,” Sans muttered to himself, closing his sockets and adjusting his phalanges around your hand. “i’ve never done this before so i’m gonna need a minute. darlin, get the images of your vision in mind. your abilities as priestess will give my world-jumping something to anchor to. you focus on them, and it should bring us right where we need to be..”

You obeyed, closing your eyes and letting your mind open wide to him. Both of your hands suddenly intimately moved against each other, and you had to slowly breathe in and exhale to not focus on it. His thoughts flew off target a moment himself and you almost glimpsed something in his mind before he withdrew it from you quickly. You grinned and peeked over at him, to find him doing the same. You breathed a little deeper, wondering if he was remembering what he saw when he’d stumbled on you in the bath those few days ago. He had stared at you a long time, several long tense seconds where those bright lights in his eyes had quite obviously strayed.

“Focus Sans.” you teased.

“oh, i am…” he said, his eyes giving a bit of a flash, “but i kinda like where your mind’s goin, darlin.”

“Not on me,” you giggled, “On UnderFell”

“didn’t i ask you to focus on underfell?” He said, “all that’s going through your mind is that time when i found you in the bath.”

You blushed suddenly, and Papyrus abruptly bent forward and scolded him in surprise, “SANS! YOU DID WHAT?”

water you so mad about, pap?” He sheepishly looked away, but he wore a shit-eating grin. “I did kinda spring in on her and her spirits were already so dampened that i thought i would just try and help her by, uh, ya know, showering her with some wisdom, heh.”

Papyrus forged past the puns and barked on the one thing he got out of all that, “YOU SAW Y/N NAKED?”

You were bowing your face as low as possible, squealing in embarrassment.

“Guuuuuys?” You begged, “Can we please stop?!”

Sans wagged his brow at you. “get your head in the game, and we can get out of here. or...you know, maybe we can focus a little harder on--”

“SANS, I DEMAND YOU APOLOGIZE TO HER FOR YOUR INDISCRETION RIGHT NOW!”

Sans paled, laughing uncomfortably. “i did bro, promise. i don’t teleport in blind anymore, the last thing i need is to be in more hot water.”

“UGH-!” Papyrus turned to you as you lifted the turtle-neck of your sweater over your face to squeal. His hand was on your shoulder. “I APOLOGIZE FOR MY BROTHER’S LECHEROUS BEHAVIOR, MY PRIESTESS! I WILL GIVE HIM A MUCH FIRMER TALKING TO AS SOON AS TIME ALLOTS!”

“Okay, sure, whatever, can we please just get back to trying to go?”

Sans chuckled, “are you gonna be able to turn the tides of your thoughts long enough to or does your current train of thought have you allwet, darlin?”

He winked at you over his blatant flirting, and your stomach excitedly flipped in your torso in surprise.

Papyrus wasn’t having it, though, and swatted his brother upside his head at the innuendo and barrage of puns. Sans rubbed the spot and at least managed to appear apologetic.

“SANS, THAT WAS FILTHY!” Pap screamed. From across the garden, even Toriel was blushing. “THAT IS HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE TALK TO BE HAVING WITH YOUR PRIESTESS!”

“heh, yeah, that was a bit far.” Sans said, but on the cords of the tether, you knew he was lying through his teeth. He glanced your way, but his eyelights betrayed only mischief. “sorry kiddo.”

That sneaky little--!

You all joined hands again, trying to calm yourselves down and get on the same wavelength. After a few moments of quiet, you tried once more to pull forward your vision. This time, your focus was better, and as you grabbed onto a mental still frame of the first of your next Guardians, you tried to keep the image clear in mind.

You felt your bodies begin to lift, the sparking of magic surrounding you. You squeezed both skeletons’ hands as you tried to not wonder about these new sensations and feelings. There was a weightlessness that made you gasp, the give of something sweeping up under you as the teleport began to move you to the void, and the blast of cold that always accompanied the place.

One thing was instantly clear: the process was taking a lot longer than the usual split-seconds that was typical for Sans’s shortcuts.

Your eyes opened and you saw the stretching blackness, felt the brush of some otherworld force against you--

--saw something moving just to the side of your peripheral vision that disappeared the moment you turned to look.

It had been undeniably skeletal.

You felt Sans suddenly mentally recoil and demand y/n, please, focus.

You reconjured that mental image in your mind as quickly as you could, but what you thought you’d seen kept trying to resurface-

kid please.

You concentrated harder, but it became quickly obvious that something wasn’t right.

One moment, you felt the weightlessness and you were falling. The very next, the fusion ended and rubber-banded your soul back into you. You couldn’t feel Sans anymore, and his hand was ripped from yours, as was Papyrus’s.

Oh god, what was--

Your mind was never able to finish that thought.

Your body hurt, soothed slightly by the numbness of cold settling through your heavy limbs. Something soft and wet was landing lightly on your cheeks and adding to their already flushed coldness. It was quiet.

What the hell had just happened?

With a little moan of discomfort, you blinked your eyes hazily open. At first, there was nothing. Your vision was blurry and your eyes unable to focus. At least wherever you were, as cold as it may be, was silent and peaceful. You ran your tongue out to moisten your already dry lips and sucked on them a moment to give them needed moisture. When a crystal of ice landed on your exposed tongue, your mind instantly began to clear, along with your vision.

You were staring up into greyness, white flakes of snow drifting lightly down and accumulating both on and around you. You’d been out of it long enough to be lightly dusted in a very thin sheen of white.

It was snowing.

You may be in a bit of pain, but the towering pines and the tiny doilies of ice slowly swaying down to settle on you made you smile. This was beautiful. So much like the winters where you’d grown up. You had distant memories of playing in the snow banks of your childhood home. The giant maple in the front yard was barren of leaves and wearing a new white cape on its boughs, offering you the perfect place to build a snowman, and around it, a carefully crafted fort. Your older brother was near the driveway building his own, admittedly much better, fort. You were the youngest, and he simply had much more experience packing in the cracks and making it solid and reliable. He was also using the scraps of snow from your father shoveling out the driveway to add to it, so his walls were much higher, too.

The moment was tainted as your father entered your mind. ‘No, not right now, I can’t think of him now.’

Instead, you focused on slowly sitting up. No serious wounds shifted in warning, and though your spine popped in a few places, you seemed relatively no worse for the wear.

A quick glance around told you that your Guardians were nowhere to be seen. Now that you thought of it, Sans did seem to have trouble with the teleport. Or was it your concentration that was to blame for this bad landing? No matter, Sans had his tether on you and provided he could find Pap, he’d be back to your side soon enough. Your best bet was to sit tight until he showed up.

Ugh, still... sitting in the snow was getting awfully cold and your jeans did a poor job of keeping your legs warm. At least you had one of Sans’s cable knit sweaters and your hoodie on. You weren’t feeling the more negative effects of the climate just yet, so you had plenty of time to wait for them.

Provided they were safe.

With a light grunt of exertion you got up, the snow compressing underfoot with faint crunches. The air was very still around you which was a good thing, as wind chill would have made this experience a lot more harrowing. So far, it seemed fortune was in your favor. With a shove of your hands into your pockets for warmth, you took a few steps away from where you landed to appraise the scenery. Every direction looked the same, and you knew you were hopelessly lost. The more you thought about it, staying put seemed more and more the logical choice.

Keeping that in mind, you walked a short ways to the lifted root of a near by tree to sit down and wait.

Sans would be along soon with Papyrus in-tow, you just knew it. If all three of you had been separated, you knew as long as he sensed you were safe across the link of his tether, he’d know he’d have time to find his brother. Afterwards, he’d come to you with your party intact and ready to go. You took to hugging your arms, looking around and trying to be patient.

He’d said this place was called ‘the Fell verse’ and had been extremely hesitant to bring you here. Of course, none of you had much of a choice. This was where you’d find your next Guardians. Ugh, just peachy. It didn’t matter how pretty these woods happened to be, it was starting to make you nervous that after all of that time discussing the dangers of this place, you were alone.

It wasn’t like you had powers of your own to defend yourself.

The air moved slightly and you shivered, lifting your bare hands to rub your arms in an attempt to keep you warm. You decided to stand and walk in a tight circle just to keep your blood moving. You had to stay warm.

There was another movement in the air, and you suddenly stood still, the fine hairs all over your body standing on-end.

These weren’t passing breezes you felt.

Something nearby was moving.

Hyperaware of the world around you now, you scanned the the forest and the gaps between the trees looking for even the barest of movements to betray an animal, your Guardians, or... an onlooker. Nothing turned up, even as you slowly pivoted your entire body to get a 360 degree view.

There was another sweep of air behind you, closer this time, and with a gasp of alarm you twirled around.

Nothing was there.

Abruptly, it happened again, closer still and carrying with it a deep throaty chuckle!

You cried out, your fear manifested in panicked puffs that escaped your lips in vaporous ghosts.

“Is...is someone there?” you called, voice cracking. “I...I mean no harm to anyone here, I’m looking for someone!”

This time when the air moved, a very faint warping sound accompanied it, and you knew it well. Sans made that sound when he used his shortcuts. This couldn’t be Sans though. While you didn’t think he was above using his abilities to pull pranks, you also knew how seriously he was taking this outing. He wouldn’t stoop so low as to purposely scare you and pawn it off as a joke. If this was him, he’d have approached you normally. In your mind's eye, you could imagine him slowly making his way over with his hands in his pockets, apologizing sheepishly for keeping you waiting. He’d ask if you were okay, check you over just to be certain, then relax you with a bad pun that’d inevitably make you smile and forget the discomfort of being alone in this place. Then, you’d feel safe and know everything was going to be okay.

Right now, you’d give anything to be wrong. Oh sure, you’d yell at him for doing this to you but it’d mean that you weren’t in any real danger.

You heard it again and had to acknowledge your intuition as the truth. This wasn’t him.

Yours fingers were so tight on your arms that you were certain you’d leave bruises. It was needed. The dull ache aided in keeping you in the moment, alert. Looking this way and that, you slowly backed away from the last place you’d heard that noise. You didn’t notice the fresh sneaker tracks in the snow, nor the subtle change of smells in the air.

You were too afraid to pick up on those nuances with your attention so narrowed on trying to spot who was circling you, although your mind did race with a possible explanation. Sans had mentioned that your next Guardians were alternate versions of himself and Papyrus. That’d mean it wasn’t too outlandish to reason that they’d share a few talents. Your Sans might not use his abilities to purposely intimidate you, but this one? Obviously he didn’t see a problem with showing off to give him the upper-hand.

You pressed your back to the trunk of the huge pine you’d been taking refuge under, eyes wide and unblinkingly keeping watch.

Could this be the Fell-Verse’s version of Sans?

If it was, he was destined to be one of your Guardians. He was one of the blessed souls you were looking for. Somehow, that wasn’t comforting. Sure, you wouldn’t have to search him out, but being hunted by him wasn’t very desirable either. It also worried you that maybe the resonance between your souls wouldn’t be enough to guarantee your safety.

Maybe you could try appealing to him, explain why you came and who he is to you.

Trying to accrue something resembling bravery, you called out, voice embarrassingly unsteady, “Are you...are you the Sans of this world?” You paused, but heard only silence. You continued, “I….I’m Y/n. I came here looking for you from a...a different...timeline.”

That sounded completely ludicrous even in your own ears, but your Sans was a scientist and had already traveled here, right? Maybe this one was as well and the explanation would make sense to him.

From behind you in the snow, you heard the heavy gait of footsteps. He wasn’t playing anymore and was making his approach very known. You swallowed nervously and had to suppress a whine of fear.

“I know I must sound ridiculous but…my Sans--” When had you started calling him your Sans? “--has been here before right? You know about the other timelines? So… you know I’m not lying.”

From behind the very tree you were leaning against came a voice that froze the marrow in your bones. It was deep and rough, a growling undertone to a very deep masculine tone. With it came the wafting scent of cigarettes, though you only briefly caught sight of a curl of smoke. You couldn’t move. You couldn’t breathe.

“there’s a lotta shit in life i really don’t like, dollface,” he said, “but ya know, there’s a few special things that just piss me off.” Your nails bit fitfully into tree bark scraping at your back, sap making your palms sticky. “i hate that there’s other worlds. i hate that there’s other versions a’me- that one in particular- and i especially hate people fuckin’ with my brother.”

From the corner of your eye, you saw a bone hand, the phalanges tipped with talons, slowly claw down the side of the tree near your head. The sound of it made you shudder as debris from the motion settled on the shoulder of your jacket. You ever-so-slowly tried to curl away.

“unfortunately for you, ya just nailed every. fucking. one.” That voice came dangerously close to your ear, reeking of spice and tobacco, making the hairs on your neck bristle and stand on end. “cuz i’m such a nice guy i’m gonna give ya a head start n’ have a lil cat’n mouse with ya.” His tone frigidly dropped. “It’s only right t’have some fun after all the shit ya pulled. ya got one minute. I suggest ya run.”

You had no idea what he meant. You had only just arrived and had hardly been there long enough to even meet anyone, never mind make any enemies. What could he possibly think you had done?

“I-I don’t understand.” You frantically tried to explain, “I… haven’t done anything! Please, can’t we talk? You’ve got to have me confused with someone else!”

“not a chance.” His quiet voice drawled dangerously. “y’think i can’t smell that scrawny other me on ya? i know where y’came from, n’ i know what you’re doin here. thing is, i caught wind a ya. so you’re not gettin no more of our souls.”

“Souls?” you gasped in confusion. “I’m not here for-”

“clock’s tick’n doll. thirty seconds left. ya really wanna waste em chattin’ with me?”

“I haven’t taken any souls!” you vehemently protested. “Please, listen to me!”

He chuckled darkly and mocked. “tic tock, dollface. tic. tock. tic. tock.”

Seeing that he wasn’t interested in hearing what you had to say, you needed no further prompting to try and get out of there. In fact, it was a relief to run and give in to the fight or flight of your instincts. You darted away from that tree and pounded your sneakers to the ground as fast and hard as your adrenaline pumped muscles would move you, leaving the tutted ticking of his tongue behind. Sans had meant it; this world was dangerous! No, this was more than dangerous! This was deadly! You squeezed your wettened eyes closed as you pushed even harder, trying to concentrate on Sans’s tether. He had to feel this; he had to know you were in trouble! That’s what the tether for for, wasn’t it? You focused your will onto the bond and tried to send to him an SOS.

Sans where are you?

“Sans!” you cried, throat hoarse from labored breathing. “Papyrus!”

You unfortunately misstepped, the tread of your sneakers packed with snow and unable to keep you from sliding against the slush. You landed hard on your hands and knees. A shoot of sharp pain came from your wrist, and with a hiss your cradled it to your belly protectively. The knees of your jeans were now wet and dirty, your sticky palms picking up dirt and pine needles as you scrambled back to your feet. You looked back over your shoulder. No sign of him yet. You went back to running.

Was there even any use hiding from someone who could teleport? Your heart sank like lead.

No. He was toying with you. These woods were his, a terrain he knew well and could traverse far more easily than you could, as evidenced by your clumsy fall. He didn’t have to run. He didn’t even have to walk! In the blink of an eye, he’d appear near you at any moment and the chase would slowly come to a close and exact some sort of twisted revenge for some fabricated wrong-doing. It made it hard to want to keep going, and you paused just to catch your shuddering breath.

No, you just had to keep moving! It’d at least buy your Guardians time to find you! After all, this was much more than your own survival. This was the liberation of monsterkind and the happiness of everyone at stake.

Your decision was made, and you pushed harder, digging deep into yourself for resolve. Sans had to know you needed him, and he’d show up soon. You just had to last long enough for him to--

A scream split the still air, and your body was slammed hard into a tree. For a few tense seconds, all your world knew was pain and confusion.

What was going on? Your knees tried to give out so you could writhe on the ground, but you were effectively stuck in place. It was only when your tear-soaked eyes opened and looked towards the source of the pain that you saw a bone skewered through your shoulder. Its length was tapered, the narrowed and sharpened tip that had pierced you now deeply imbedded into the tree at your back. The length jutted out nearly two feet, widening gradually until it reached it’s bulbous end. Without thought, you instantly wrapped your sap-coated fingers around it, tugging hard in an effort to remove it, but to no avail. You were trapped! Still you tried, clawing at it and sobbing desperately until you saw a dark figure slowly lumbering forward.

You stilled, watching like a deer in headlights as your attacker finally showed himself.

You were right. It was the Sans of this world, a perfect match to the vision you’d had of him while visiting Gerson. This was not a passing glimpse obscured by flying snow that you’d been allotted, but a full frontal view that exposed the face that had been hidden. His skull was split with what looked to be a violent and painful looking crack. It was all you could do to keep from staring at it and wondering how he had come to suffer such a wound and live. In his black sockets, his eye lights burned-- not the tinted white lights of his counterparts, but rather, a hellish crimson that promised vengeance. His grin was spread wide over his face, the teeth jagged and sharp like that of a sharks. A single golden tooth, slightly longer than the others, replaced one that had apparently been lost.

You recognized the leather jacket from your vision, every detail correct from the yellow stripes down the arms, to the patch on the upper arm stitched with the delta rune. His hands were even shoved deep within the pockets, an action that was so like your Sans. In fact, there were a lot of similarities. He wore black shorts, but the white stripe had been traded for yellow and slippers were replaced with untied high-top sneakers. Beneath his jacket was a red knit sweater where a black, spiked collar hung around his neck. A few links of a golden chain rattled lightly against his sternum.

What really had your mind reeling was just how big he was. Your Sans was a bit stout and big boned, so to speak, but this nightmare version of him was at least 8 inches taller and even wider! His hulking mass was imposing and cast a dark shadow as he came to a towering stop over your helpless form. You shrank back, but your eyes couldn’t look away.

A hand lifted the remains of a cigarette to his teeth, and he sank them into the filter.

“Tic….tock….tic….” His serrated smirk spread and his sockets narrowed on you maliciously. “ding.” A chill ran up your spine. “time’s up.”

You sank your back against the tree, a hand clutching the bone stuck in your body, still feebly attempting to pull it out. You began to whimper over your crying, shaking your head in disbelief. This couldn’t be happening! He was supposed to be one of your Guardians! Weren’t they supposed to feel a resonance? Some kind of connection?

If he did, he wasn’t showing it. He just lifted his hand up to rest on the blunt end of the offending bone and leaned into it, pushing it’s fattening length inch by inch deeper into your shoulder.

For several long seconds, he bore his body weight into it, casually smoking while you screamed. When he was satisfied, he stopped so you could catch your breath.

“Sans…” your broken voice croaked in agony. “Oh god, Sans, h-help...” You tugged at the bone again, trying to stop it from making your already gaping wound any larger when you found your nerve and screamed, “Sans! Papyrus! PLEASE!

That made him angry. “stop callin that faker my name!

Your lungs deflated as he punched your stomach to silence you. You imagined if he had actually used his real strength to do it, it might have punched a hole clean through your body. Between the pain from the blow and the pain your arm, you were reduced to a trembling mess as you tried to regain the wind that had been knocked out of you.

“hmmmmm….” He rumbled quietly with a sneer that fully exposed his golden fang. “better.”

He returned to leaning on the weapon and casually smoked, watching you with half-lidded sockets.

“y’too noisy. do y’want ta alert every dog in snowdin to where you’re at? trust me, you’d prefer me killin ya to bein torn apart by the pack. b’sides, i dun’ wan t’leave such a fox to the wolves. heh.”

Those words hit their mark. The thought of him leaving you pinned to a tree to be mauled by canines was a brand of terror that surpassed the kind he inspired in you.

Just barely.

Still struggling to catch your breath, you dug your heels into the snow in an effort to take pressure off of the wound in your shoulder.

“y’know, ya ain’t too hard on the eyes.” he muttered, more to himself than to you as he tilted his skull to the side, his eye lights flicking up and down as he appraised you. “too bad i gotta kill ya… b’fore i do though, there’s a few things i wanna know. ya gonna be a good girl and answer me, sweetcheeks? ya end doesn’t have t’hurt like hell ya know.”

You tried to keep from crying out for your Guardians again, biting your lower lip to stay silent as you struggled to think of what to do.

In your stricken state of mind, you almost missed his question, but you nodded, managing to say, “I’ll try, but I didn’t do anything...please, I know you’re Sans… you...you just can’t possibly want to hurt me like this. Please. Stop.”

He reached in, hooking a clawed phalange under your chin to make you look at him. The talon dug into the hollow uncomfortably, and a bead of blood dribbled against his finger. The smouldering end of his cig was almost to the filter, and he was definitely looking at you curiously.

Your eyes widened. Was he feeling the resonance?

“didn’ do nothin?” He ignored what you’d said almost entirely, mouth curling into a smirk, “you got some nerve sayin that. you been screamin’ f’ them and i know you and the little shits from your timeline are the ones that stole the soul from asgore. ya put our freedom back by decades for the sake a y’own and the blame’s been put on boss for lettin’ it happen.” He blew a breath of smoke into your face, your resulting coughs jostling you against his weapon and making your pain so much worse. “n’i can’t let no one get away with disrespecting my bro.”

You blinked away your tears, trying to make sense of that.

Undyne, the soul she had stolen-- had come from this place? She’d stolen it from them?

You pressed past your pain and met his stare fully, trying to implore him with your sincerity. He was watching you very closely, his expression impassive. Considering how he claimed that you hit every last one of his pet-peeves, this neutral demeanor was surprising. Maybe you could still reach him.

“I’m not with the person who stole from you,” you said honestly, trying to shift into a more comfortable position. There was none to be found. You begged, “Please, let me explain. I came here for you--”

He scoffed, that sneer returning, and you flinched away.

“liar,” he said flatly, the cigarette bobbing as he spoke.

He suddenly snatched your jaw to keep you looking at him. With a sharp jerk, he wrenched the bone in your wound, digging it mercilessly up and down, bone grinding against bone and shredding muscle and tissue to pulp. His hand almost kept you quiet, but your torture was still haplessly vocalized as you squirmed in place. It was pure agony!

“stop bullshit’n me n’tell me where the soul is.” He growled impatiently. “return it!”

You tossed your head back and forth, trying to make him let go. He just squeezed harder.

“We didn’t take it!” you managed around his iron grip, tears leaking over the bones of his fingers, “Undyne did! She absorbed it!”

He didn’t like that answer and savagely jerked the bone upwards against gravity’s pull on your form, snapping your clavicle and making your cries echo across the underground.

“didja come back fer the rest, then?” He got in your face, his angry huffs rustling your hair and his spit flying. “where’s my shit double? did he drop ya here t’distract me so he could swipe them?”

You were shaking, stammering incoherently as you began to go into shock from the experience.

“fuck, worthless bitch-!” He snarled, spitting the butt of his cig away and lifting his hand up between you to press between your breasts. “fine, ya took a human soul from us, guess i’ll jus’ take yours t’replace it! buh bye sweet cheeks!”

You grunted as he ripped both your soul and his bone from your body. You numbly sagged against the tree and slid to sit at its roots with wide, barely-seeing eyes. Your breaths were coming in short quick gasps with blood beginning to saturate and spread through your sweater. You began to bleed out.

You were dying again… oh god, you were dying!

His attention had ceased being on you, however. Instead, his sockets were wide, staring in stunned silence at the red soul hovering above his palm. His jaw hung open slightly, trembling as the blood splattered bone he’d used to maim you fell from his suddenly limp fingers.

There was the strong pulse of a heart beat that echoed in your body as the resonance, a bare whisper in the back of your mind, now grew stronger. Finally, you felt him just as he began to feel you.

He continued to stare at your soul in disbelief.

“…oh shit…” he breathed before looking at where you had sank to the snow. You could swear, for a moment, you detected regret in his expression, a softness that almost seemed out of place given his aggressive features and violent actions. “sweetheart…” He dropped to a knee where you collapsed, suddenly demanding, “who the hell are ya? c’mon, answer me. answer me!”

You didn’t have time to before you fell sideways in a heap. Your sharp breaths grew shallow, darkness creeping into the corners of your vision.

He looked back and forth between you and the soul he’d taken before he grimaced angrily.

“figures.” he said bitterly.

It was then you saw your Sans teleport in and see you. His face wrenched in panic, but you saw in his eyes that he knew he was too late. That guilt gave way to ferocious anger, and he turned on his crimson counterpart.

He was shouting, but you couldn’t make out what was said. Your torturer stood to face him, letting your soul go to float over you. It was slowly fracturing, seconds from bursting apart, sprinkling glittering powder as the cracks grew deeper.

As your Sans witnessed this and his eyelights hauntingly vanished, his body hunched slightly as his magic bristled like a porcupine's quills and made his blue hoodie flutter ominously. In a sudden flurry of judgement, he summoned his blasters and bones and attacked his double.

A second later, you died.

Chapter Text

You were back in the palace garden. The soothing trickling from the marble fountain was directly behind you, the chirping of a few odd birds were ahead, perched on a trellis. Above, your soul, still conjoined with Sans and full of warm light, dulled sharply.

Papyrus was confused and his attention was instantly darting between the sudden dimming of your souls and the ghostly pallor of your face.

Sans was standing still as stone, fists clenching in his pockets and head bowed too deeply to see his face.

You were all back where you started.

“UM… I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO GET DETERMINED AND MARK THE MOMENT.” Papyrus said as he tried to puzzle out what must appear to him as a sudden shift in mood. “YOU WERE SO ENERGETIC BEFORE, WHAT-”

Then he stopped and looked to the deathly stillness of Sans posture. Understanding that Sans, aside from you, were the only ones who had memory of resets, he put two and two together.

Your hand, quivering unsteadily, rose to your now in tact shoulder. You still felt some odd body memory of the pain you endured there, but the wound was gone. In actuality, it had never even been. It had been real though. You could remember everything that happened with accursed clarity. Sans remembered too, judging by his taut stoicism and refusal to meet your eye.

Papyrus shifted closer and dropped to one knee in front of you, trying to catch your gaze. You stared right through him, still seeing the red Sans approaching you with murder in his smile.

“Y/n…” he whispered, trying to draw you from your shock. “I’m here, my Priestess. Speak to me.”

Toriel was trotting forward now, a hand lifted to press over a breast with maternal concern.

“My goodness, what happened?” she asked as she too lowered to her knees beside you. “My child, are you alright?” her paws shifted some hair away from your face. “You’re so pale.”

“there was a reset.” Sans explained at last, voice dark and low. “red killed her.”

Aghast, Toriel looked to him in horror. “What? But the resonance-”

“-wasn’t enough.” Sans muttered.

Papyrus looked to his brother for answers, expression firm. “WHERE WERE WE? WERE WE UNABLE TO-”

“my teleportation between worlds was off.” he said flatly. “we landed in snowdin but not together. I knew I could sense y/n if she ended up in trouble so I went to find papyrus first.” His brother was about to scold him for this, but Sans continued, “the tether on her… it… when he hurt her... i felt it all. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Toriels crimson eyes watered, brimming in the corners. She tenderly touched your shoulder. “You mean to say when he….attacked her that you felt what she did?”

He nodded once and looked away. “it knocked me right off my feet. i couldn’t move and by the time i figured out what was happening and pushed past it-” he shook his head, unable to explain her death any clearer. “i messed up-”

“No I did.” you croaked, tears finally beginning to run down your cheeks. As the numbness slowly faded. “You told me to concentrate and I didn’t.”

Papyrus scoffed at that and stood abruptly, pulling you up with him. You might as well been a rag doll for how limply you allowed yourself to follow. His arms locked around you, keeping you against him protectively. It may be too late for those arms to shield you from what had happened, but the embrace was still soothing and made you feel more secure. Your arms slid up his rib cage until you clutched his scarf, beginning to shake.

“I SWEAR SANS, YOU AND Y/N BOTH AND YOUR INFURIATING HABIT OF ACTING LIKE SINGULAR ERRORS ARE THE END OF THE WORLD! THIS IS A SET BACK BUT IT IS NOT THE END!” his gloved hand cupped the back of your head and coaxed you to rest against his chest, soothingly petting down your hair as he continued, “WE KNEW VERY CLEARLY BEFORE WE LEFT THAT THE WORLD WAS VIOLENT, THAT IT WAS YOUR FIRST TIME TELEPORTING BETWEEN WORLDS, AND THAT THIS ‘RED’ CHARACTER WAS TWICE AS STUBBORN AS YOU! WE ENDED UP SEPARATED. SHE WOULD NOT HAVE...have...” he bit back the sudden emotion, unable to even say she had died aloud. “-NOTHING WOULD HAVE BEFALLEN HER HAD WE BEEN TOGETHER! IT WILL BE BETTER WHEN WE NEXT ATTEMPT IT!”

“Please do not talk of any further attempts for the time being.” Toriel was rubbing your back worriedly, but she contributed to that train of thought as well. “As horrific as it is to learn that she has suffered so greatly so quickly, I must agree with Papyrus. Errors were made, so we must learn from them. For now, the Priestess needs to recover.” compassionately, her voice softened, “To fall at the hands of your Guardian is a tragedy that should have never come to pass and it will make the journey so much more difficult for her. She must be allowed to rest and meditate on how to proceed further.”

Papyrus looked down at you, your wide eyes staring off unseeingly into the distance. He bent forward and put his forehead to yours, trying to reassure you that you were okay.

You weren’t. You’d died. It had been your Guardian that had killed you. The resulting shudder had him holding you closer.

Sans walked slowly forward, moving to you at last. He didn’t say anything as his hand rose and gently joined Toriel’s on your back in quiet support.

You never even noticed he had drawn his soul from yours.

--------

In the following days you spent a great deal of time by yourself in your room. You tried to sleep, but the intrusive memory of your torture kept you awake. The experience was branded into your mind and there simply was no shaking it. You tried to eat but whatever was put in your mouth was tasteless. As a result you lost your appetite. Anxiety was tight in your body, leaving you too high-strung to take visitors… half the time you just layed in bed and cried.

You had felt so helpless at his hands. He’d overpowered you so simply with the practiced ease of a killer. On top of it, you had to go back. You had to let his soul bond with yours.

The concept, for the moment, left you nauseated.

The worst thing about the experience, was that as bad as you were feeling, you were deeply concerned about how this was affecting Sans. He had felt what had happened to you and for a time, had been helpless to even respond. You kept thinking of what it had to have been like for him, to suddenly feel your pain and torture, to be unable to move, even to help you. Then when he did and had to look at the result of his delay- god how you remembered, as you lay near death, him finally showing up. The look on his face would never leave you.

He’d looked so broken.

Even the knowledge that there would be a reset hadn’t comforted him. He’d attacked Red, looking like some sinister reflection of the calm, funny, and sturdy man you knew. He became something else entirely. The Judge. You could see clearly why his judgement was something to be feared and why Asgore had given him such authority. His discernment was sagely wise and the presence of his rage, terrifying.

At least he had his integrity to keep him balanced.

Papyrus came every few hours. You didn’t let him in so he’d often sit outside your door and read to you from one of his many books. His voice gave you something to focus on aside from the incessant presence of your time in UnderFell. He was surprisingly articulate, his pronunciation perfect, and the subjects he shared quite far beyond your personal understanding.

It was only when he read to you that you could find yourself drifting to sleep for a couple hours.

He never pried and never forced his way in.

Five days had passed when Sans finally came to your door with a few tell tale knocks. You didn’t get up to answer it, nor did you call out at all. You were weak from a lack of nourishment and to be honest, you stank. You didn’t want company.

He knocked again.

You remained silent.

“darlin-” he called tiredly. “i’m comin’ in. ready or not.”

You made no effort to move and simply accepted you’d be having a visitor. He flickered into existence inside your room. Facing him as you were, you could still see how haggard he was. His hoodie and t-shirt was stained and dirty from being worn too long without washing, and his typically tired expression looked even more dark and sunken.

He had a bag in both hands and you smelled something amazing. For the first time in days you felt your gnawing hunger and slowly sat up. You were not steady, but you didn’t have to go far. You pulled the cord of your bed to lift the curtain, slid off the mattress, and sat on the floor with your back to it. He sat down across from you and without another word he began to reach into one of the bags and pull out burgers and fries for the both of you. You managed a smile

“when i can’t eat,” he explained, his voice rougher than normal, “grillbys is always my go to.” his ragged smile tugged a little higher when you picked up a fry. “comfort food, ya know?” he shrugged, “Paps thinks i just don’t like eating healthy, but the truth is i just can’t be tempted to eat much else feeling as lousy as i do sometimes.”

“No jokes today?” You asked, surprised to find your own voice was pretty rough too, likely from disuse.

He shook his skull ‘no’. “kinda past the point where i can.”

You carefully nibbled the fry, tentative given your empty stomach as you looked him over. It looked like he had been just as bad off as you these past few days. He was looking at you in much the same way.

“you look like shit.” he said with a hint of a laugh.

You smiled at the truth of the statement. “I bet. You do too.”

“we’re two of a kind then?” he said, “that’s good, seeing as i’m here to lay some cards on the table. heh.”

You couldn’t help the light laugh that came at the joke, “I thought you were all punned out?”

“guess i had an ace up my sleeve.”

It was timely. The joking gave the situation an air of normalcy you appreciated.

“I’m glad you did.” your stomach rolled in warning as the first bits of food made impact. You waited a little bit before trying to eat any more. “Your jokes make me feel better.”

“then you know my secret then.” For a moment, his smile appeared more authentic. “sure i like a witty play on words, but as heavy as things get, i try and lighten things up. it’s a special thing when i meet someone who really appreciates them.”

He pulled a bottle of ketchup out of the take-out bag and began to unwrap his burger, using the wrapper as a plate and dumping his fries on it. He practically emptied the condiment bottle onto it.

“Is that why you came by?” You asked, still biding your queasy stomach time before trying to ingest more. “To get me to eat something and liven me up?”

“yeah, it’d be good for both of us though. they say misery loves company, right?” his alarmingly dim eyelights flicked over to you as he offered his bottle. “i guess i never would have known. in the past i always dealt with it by myself. it’s around these times when pap would double his efforts with me, yelling to get me motivated, carting me under one arm to drop me off at my sentry station…” You took the bottle with a thank you and began to unwrap your food, listening to him. He looked down at his own, his stare distant. “i guess most people would be annoyed by that. me? i just kinda took it as a hint that he cared.”

You squirted a decent amount of ketchup over your own fries and Sans seemed pleased.

“Paps is good at caring.” you finally picked up another fry, eating it. It was good, and you found the flavor of the ketchup was strong enough to be tasted on your deadened tongue. “I guess being his sibling it’d be a bit more overbearing, but he’s been over here a lot. He sits outside my door and reads to me.”

Sans nodded, picking up a few fries and tossing them into his mouth.

“he mentioned that. he said we should talk about what happened now that we’ve both had time to ‘get in touch with our feelings’.”

“Is that what was supposed to happen?” you snorted.

“i guess.” he shrugged again, “i haven’t gotten too far. what about you?”

“Not really.”

“he’s right about one thing though.” he said as picked up his burger, taking back the ketchup and squirting an extra dose between the buns. “the only way we’re gonna feel better at this point is to talk about it.”

You stared unseeingly at the french fry in your fingers, the ketchup on its tip sliding down to glide over one digit.

It looked like the blood on the bone that Red had pulled out of you.

You shook your head, physically trying to rid yourself of the mental image.

Instead you ate it and sighed,”Sans, what I said to you when we first fused is still true. You’ve never failed me.”

He was still and quiet for a long moment before he shook his head. “can’t say i agree.”

“It’s the truth.” You looked over at him. “I didn’t get much out of all this time alone, but I do know this. None of us could have known what was going to happen. You were testing a new ability, I wasn’t concentrating hard enough, we got separated… I had no idea you could physically feel what happened to me through our tether. It had to be a shock.” the long pained sigh that resulted after those words had Sans looking to you.. You were sure your worry was being conveyed very clearly. “But that’s an accumulation of things and no one person’s fault.”

Sans shrugged, pushing the ketchup across his make-shift plate with a few fries in his fingers.

“not gonna lie, darlin, it wasn’t a fun feeling.” he took a deep breath and explained, “i was looking for Papyrus. i knew he wasn’t far and i had almost found him when i felt the pain. i just… dropped. i had no idea what it was at first and i thought maybe ‘red’ had snuck up on me, but then the tether-” He closed his eyes in a grimace. “every atom in my body suddenly knew you were hurt, knew you were calling for me. but i couldn’t move, i felt everything so intensely it was hard to get any clarity.”

“Sans-” you murmured compassionately. Your chest felt tight. You had to say something to soothe him. “Please, it was new and it wasn’t something you knew how to handle. It was the first time we’d had that. I reset, I’m here, see? It’s okay.”

“cept you’re not okay, are you?” he stated, a levelness to his gaze as it captures yours again. Your breath caught. “you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you won’t see anyone- darlin,” he said pointedly, “this connection’s gettin stronger. i’ve been able to sense your mental state even without us being fused.”

You blinked in surprise at that.

“When did this start?”

“after i felt the pain from red killing you.”

“That long?”

“yup.” he sighed in resignation and picked up his burger finally, needing to busy himself with something. “i left you alone, thinking Pap would be able to coax you out, ya know, like he usually does? but it got clearer as the days passed that he wasn’t getting through to you, and sensing you like i do, i figured i should step it up a bit.”

You shook your head. “No, he was helping. Just not in his usual ways.” You drew a knee up, huddled behind it as you bowed your head down to it. “I just.. I wanted him to comfort me like he always did, but I didn’t think I could even handle simple touch right now. My skin feels weird. Sensitive. In fact everything feels overwhelming. It’s like the volume of my life was suddenly turned up way too loud and even the barest of extra stimuli on top of all the static would make me just... lose it. I wanted to let him in, but i didn’t want to have another panic attack. I also didn’t want to explain why i’d have one just from him comforting me like we’re used to.”

Sans smiled softly. “you went through something physically traumatic.” he explained patiently, “it kinda makes sense that physical contact wouldn’t be something you’re too eager to have right now. pap knows that, believe it or not, and gets it, but he’s still gonna worry about you.”

The barest smile touched your lips as you moved your chin to sit atop your knee. You grabbed another fry. Your stomach seemed to not be revolting anymore so you kept eating.

“He’s too good to me.” You confessed as you chewed. You swallowed. “I’d be lost without him. He’s my best friend.”

“he’d be lost without you too, darlin.” he said honestly over a bite of his burger. “he’s been ready for his duty to the priestess his whole life. honestly lookin back, i think his aspirations to be in the guard were just a foreshadowing of all this. he was made for it. it’s in his bones.”

“How’s he handling all this?”

Sans took another bite of his burger, a glob of ketchup falling on his shirt. He made no move to clean it up. “better than you or me. he’s bein real level headed and keepin busy. he’s trying to give us time to sort all this out on our own, but he’s feeling the need to be productive so he’s been with the royal guard. just some extra training and drills to help them be better prepared to defend the castle from further attacks and making sure the queens protected while we’re gone.”

That wasn’t much of a surprise. Papyrus was not an idle person. Even when worried it only made sense he would channel his nervous energy into something positive.

“I wish I had that kind of motivation.”

“yeah, you n’me both.” he wolfed down the last of his burger just as you were picking up yours, taking small, careful tastes. “paps has always had a knack for everything he tries. I always assumed it was because of his energy. if he’s not good at something he won’t stop until he is.”

You fell quiet as you chewed. It was going down easier, and his company wasn’t as strenuous as you assumed. Spending so much time on your own had definitely left you over thinking how overwhelming contact with your friends would be. You felt a pang of guilt. You should have known better than to keep them shut out like this.

Maybe that’s what Papyrus had meant by ‘coming to terms with things’. Maybe you just needed time to be allowed to feel what you instinctively had to before facing the situation again with a more clear, realistic outlook.

“I asked about Pap but…” you tilted your head, appraising his disheveled appearance again, “-how are you Sans?”

He picked up the last of his fries and ate them to buy himself a few moments of silence to contemplate an answer. When he swallowed he crumpled up his wrapper and threw it in the bag before wiping his hands clean on his already messy shirt. Something about his careless sloppiness made you smile.

“i’m here about you, not me.” he predictably deflected.

“I know.” you answered. “But I can’t be okay unless you are.” you closed your eyes, giving yourself a moment of introspection to explain what you were feeling. “We had a real rocky start, didn’t we? I was afraid I’d never have with you what I found with Pap. As it’s turned out, it’s just different.” You set your unfinished half of your burger down, sucking the ketchup from your fingers absently. Unbeknownst to you, Sans was watching you do it very closely. “I don’t know if it’s the tether. I’m not sure if it’s me. Or you. It’s just different. Papyrus-” you smiled and explained, “He’s my anchor. He keeps me focused and grounded. He helps adjust how I see things to keep me going in the right direction and is so full of positivity and energy that he gives me strength. Then he turns and that intensity becomes so gentle and patient. I can’t define it as anything because nothing fits. It just is. With you, it’s kinda the same because there’s no real explanation for what I feel for you-” You blushed a little, ducking behind your risen knee, “I just… feel you. It’s in the back of my mind all the time, some kind of awareness that you’re there and I’m not alone. Sometimes I can get busy and forget about it and other times, when I’m by myself, like these past few days… I focus on it. It just-”

“-feels right.” Sans finished for you, drawing your stare. He wore half a smile, looking calm with an expression of affection. “yeah i… i’ve been kinda thinking the same. when we saw gerson he’d mentioned that he thought someone like me would jump at the opportunity to have… this bond with the priestess. at the time i didn’t really get why. well, i mean i got why, but it just seemed like a big invasion of privacy. i didn’t know how it was suppose to work.” The tether between you quivered, stealing your breath a moment. He was blushing. “now it’s hard to imagine not having it.”

You felt warmth flutter in your belly, but you frowned, “I’m sorry about all this. I mean, that it’s not good all the time. I’ve been feeling terrible knowing that when Red found me that you-”

Sans cut you off quickly, firmly saying, “no, i’m glad for it.” His eyes were seeming a bit brighter now as he spoke, “the constant presence of you is actually kinda great, but, even when things get rocky, knowing that i’ll get a clear signal if someone hurts you is going to be helpful. i’ll learn to deal with the pain and make my response time better. it just-”

“-came as a surprise that first time, right?” You smiled and he did too. It seemed you both finally had closure. “I’ll say it again Sans,” you swore, “You’ve never failed me. I don’t think you ever could.”

The way he looked at you had your soul swelling in your chest and from the brief flash in the lights of his eyes, you knew his had done the same. Something you didn’t understand was transpiring between you, but you didn’t feel the need to identify it. Yet.

“i came here to say i’m sorry for letting you die.” He admitted, looking down at the stains on his shirt. “it’s been keeping me awake- remembering it. finding you like that.”

“Seeing you loose control was kinda intimidating.” you confessed and he looked surprised. “Yeah, I saw you attack him right before my soul shattered.”

Sans smile vanished, as he recalled those moments, eyes dim again.

“i wanted to kill him, darlin. i didn’t care that you’d reset, that he’d be a guardian eventually. he could never know what… what it felt like. to feel you- your heart beating inside of me, slowing, dying, all of your pain and i couldn’t help you. i couldn’t stop it and he was the cause.” His expression was thoroughly soured, teeth clenched. “i wanted to hurt him. to be honest i still do.”

You knew better than to trust those words. He doesn’t want to hurt him.

He wants him dead.

Sans took a deep breath and recovered from his anger, smiling at you again, “-but there’s one thing he’s got going for him. he didn’t keep your soul. see, he had taken it from you, right? to replace the one undyne stole? like me, he did a lot of research on them and he knows how they work. it’s kinda telling that he let it go. if he kept it, you would have died, but it wouldn’t have shattered, and a soul needs to shatter in order to reset.”

Your gaze widened. Red had killed you for your soul. He was going to use it to exonerate his brother.

-and he had let it go so it could shatter and do another loop.

You looked down at your half-eaten burger as this news slowly sank in.

“He regrets killing me.” Saying it aloud made it feel so much more real. You needed that reassurance.

Sans nodded. “there’s no other explanation for it. he had us at an advantage taking your soul. guess he felt he had more to gain by letting you have it back.”

You trembled, bowing your face into your hand and starting to cry, “He regrets it… after all that he did to me, and all he had to gain, he let me reset!”

“i’d venture to think he’s hoping that you’ll come back.” Sans admitted begrudgingly, the idea of it obviously distasteful to him. “i know it’s good news in the long run, but i admit i’m enjoying that he’s having some time to sweat it out. but, yeah darlin.” He flashed a shit eating grin, “ole red knows he screwed up and wants another chance.”

“But why would he want to see me?” You tried to puzzle out aloud as you wiped your wet eyes, “He’s your double, and you were very resistant to fusing with me. Why isn’t he?”

“truth is, babe, as much as we’re alike he’s still his own person.” He stretched his legs out to the side, changing positions while you blushed. Had he called you ‘babe’? That was new. “you saw what that world’s made of him. he doesn’t really have many people in his life, cept his brother. seeing your soul, feeling that resonance and feeling there’s a chance for a bond? i bet it’s something he’s been wanting for a long time.”

You were surprised, raking your fingers into your messy hair, “Oh my god. Come to think of it, he did look surprised after he saw my soul and the resonance got a lot stronger. This could really work, he could really want this.”

“if you can find it in yourself to face him again.”

“Well, that’s true. I’m not exactly looking forward to going back there.” you agreed, brow tight in worry. “God Sans, how am I supposed to face him? I’m supposed to trust him, but I can’t after what he did to me.”

Sans laughed bitterly, “i hate to sound petty, but i hope he’s worrying about that too.”

You lowered your hand from your hair and thought about that. “You think he might be?”

Sans chuckled, “he’s my double. if he’s anything like me, he is.”

“He’s nothing like you.” you mumbled, once more remembering how virulently he had been as he ground that bone onto you. There had been no empathy for your pain, no hesitation at all to hurt you. If you hadn’t seen his reaction to looking at your soul, you’d have thought he was incapable of such feelings. “Barring the fact you just insinuated that yourself, I know you’d never… what he did, I mean... you’re incapable of hurting anyone like that.“

Sans stared at you for a long moment before confessing, “well, i wouldn’t hurt you like that. or most people. but i’m not above doing my fair share of killing.”

This news shocked you.

“I don’t follow. Sans you’re not violent like he is. You’re not-”

He suddenly tapped his skull and gave you a revealing smile and you stopped short of arguing your point.

You looked away. “Right… in other resets?”

“i tried to stop ‘them’ when things went far too far.” He sighed and moved forward to sit next to you, stealing one of your fries. He was talking about Frisk. “i should have acted sooner, to be honest. but… i cared about the kid. i still do. i guess i thought eventually they would remember who they are and just… stop. go back. do things right like they did that one time.”

You watched him. He was staring at the fry in his hand, slathered in ketchup. The two of you hadn’t ever really been this open and honest about his past before. You looked to where his hand rested on the floor between you, so close to your own but not touching.

“What was Frisk like?” you asked him finally. “I’ve only gotten bits and pieces.”

Sans was quiet as he leaned his skull back against the mattress of your bed, staring at the ceiling like some movie reel was turning in his head that he was watching.

“they were friendly to a fault, usually. a shameless flirt,” he recalled, “with an easy smile and an eagerness to please. the first time i met them they were pretty confused and wandering around. back then Toriel and i still hadn’t met face to face but, but we were good friends. she liked my jokes and during that time i was already so… tired. there was an anomaly i was dealing with and their resetting was so troublesome that the only real joy i was getting in life at all was going to those doors and exchanging jokes with her. when she asked me to watch over Frisk once they exited the ruins i couldn’t say no.”

You moved a little closer and let him keep talking.

“the kid i met that first time was real sweet, laughed at the whoopie cushion gag right away, and they just loved papyrus’s puzzles. i was happy to watch over them but i did so at a bit of a distance. i knew about their ability to reset so i knew they had the power to help themselves. but i guided them, warned them about the flower, taught them about LOVE and EXP.” He smiled bittersweetly. “when they first fought that stupid flower and after beating him they promptly reset, looking for more answers. i… i dared to start hoping. Frisk came back. that kid, that measly, silly, kid full of love and determination actually came back for us... and freed us.”

Your eyes began to water as you silently watched him, already knowing that the freedom hadn’t lasted. Your pinkie finger gently nudged his own. He nudged yours back before those small digits hooked together.

He was so still as he stared above, voice quiet and low, “you know, i still remember the sun set when we got out. how the fresh air tasted. you don’t quite ever find the words to describe something like that. you can’t hold it and show it off. you can’t pocket it for another day. it’s some living still-frame in your memory that gets a little less clear day by day.” pained, he suddenly whispered. “a few more minutes and i would have finally seen the stars.”

You let your body slide off kilter and lean into his side and felt a rush of emotion as his pinkie unhooked from yours in favor of threading your hands together. You both squeezed and you felt a tear of empathy wetten your cheek.

“You know-” you began, “living up top we take things like that for granted. There’s been a sunset every day of my life and half the time I was whittling my life away inside, too busy with something stupid to appreciate what you and other monsters have been dreaming of.”

Your fingers moved against his, subtle at first as you began touching and exploring the bones of his hand. You could feel the hum of his magic, the sensation strongest near the joints of his slender phalanges where you dipped your fingertips. It was his very life force. Intimately, his fingers moved against yours in return, his own touching curious and exploratory. A press here, a rub there, experimenting with the pliability of human flesh against living bone. You found yourself blushing, holding your breath. It was so strange that such innocent, curious touches could feel so personal. Through your ever emerging bond you knew he was having a similar reaction. Whatever this feeling was, it was mutual. It kept shyness at bay and emboldened you to keep going.

“I feel selfish now, looking back.” you said, noting how your tone had dropped.

His was deeper and oddly husky, “that’s true of anyone. anyone exposed to the same thing day after day eventually starts to take it for granted. just look at us monsters and our use of magic and how you reacted to us.”

The nodded with a smile, nipping your lower lip. “I guess that’s true. Sans,” you whispered, lowering your head onto his shoulder. You felt him suck in a low short breath. “I promise, I’ll do my job, I’ll make it so that you can see the stars.”

You’d expected some kind of warmth to result from such a declaration, maybe mutually vow to see them together. That’s not what happened, however.

He took a deep breath, one that made your head rise and fall on his shoulder before he warned, “you gotta stop making promises like that, darlin.”

...What?

You sat back up, irritated and a bit hurt. You’d thought you were having a moment. An… important moment.

“I was trying to be nice.”

You stared hard as you waited for an explanation. He met your gaze without apology.

“i know you were.” he said seriously, “i also know why you keep making promises and asking for them in return, dating as far back as the first few minutes i knew you.”

Instantly you remembered that moment. They were leading you through the Ruins and Sans said they wouldn’t let anything happen to you. You asked for a promise. Back then, you had noticed Sans subtle reaction to it but had chalked it up to him not knowing you well enough to justify such a thing. Apparently, Sans’s dislike of promises went a lot deeper than that.

“you feel uncertain about the future, right? but if me, or pap, or anyone makes promises to you, it can make you feel like there’s something solid there, something to depend on. right now especially you’d crave stability, but-” he shook his head, “it’s an illusion at best. promises are fragile and if you depend on them so much the future ends up being a precarious house of cards. i’m your guardian, darlin. i’m not gonna let you cling to illusions for comfort. i’ll be there for you, support you, be loyal to you, but i’m not going to make you promises i can’t keep and i don’t want you to either.”

Resentfully you retracted your hand from his. The audacity of him, second guessing your promise like that!

“Geez, why are you overthinking this?” you snapped hurtfully, pulling even further back.

He persisted, bone fingers sliding up your jaw and making you look back at him. You had no choice but to meet his stare, but your own was hardened with hurt. His was warm with sincerity.

“listen to me.” he said soberly, “people are not perfect. they can and will promise things with the best of intentions and let you down. no one’s above it.” you tried to break his gaze but he leaned closer, adding his other hand to your face to keep your admittedly aggrieved attention. “y/n, there is no such thing as ‘always’ or ‘never’ and using those words and promising them will only lead to the integrity of those statements to be tested. trust is built on actions. not well-meaning words.”

Integrity. That stuck out in your mind and his feelings began to make more sense.

This was coming from a person who had been forced to break promises.

“Promises can be kept Sans.” you argued still but less harshly.

“on occasion.” he allowed, “but darlin… not the big stuff, the stuff that matters. broken promises hurt people. they break relationships. i don’t want that with you”

Your eyes closed, begrudgingly seeing the truth in his statement. You leaned your cheek to his palm in search of his affection and confessed, “It just makes me feel you don’t believe I can make it happen.”

His thumb tenderly stroked over your skin a moment longer before his touch dropped away.

Instantly, you missed it.

“i don’t doubt the abilities of any soul of determination.” he looked back out into the room, “even now i keep thinking any day Frisk will reset again. start over. do it right.”

You turned your back to the bed and sat in silence. You were trying not to take his words personally. He didn’t open up easily; Toriel had made that very clear. He was talking to you now, with honesty and you didn’t want to ruin it by saying something wrong, but you couldn’t help feeling let down. You were doing everything you could to save the underground and he kept thinking Frisk would come back and save them?

It stung.

The quiet stretched uneasily, and Sans eventually spoke up, voice low and heavy with regret.

“y/n…” he breathed, “i know frisk isn’t coming back.”

You pulled your legs up to your chest and hugged them in silence.

“i know they left us for dead. i don’t know why.”

You buried your face into your knees, struggling with a medley of emotions.

“Are they a good person?” you asked carefully.

“under all the bullshit resets and bad choices… yeah.” If you had bothered to look up, you’d have seen how pained his expression was. “frisk was just a child who had too much power. they were curious. wanted to see what would happen if they did things differently here and there. but like all kids they got bored and left to do something else.” the emotional quality of Sans voice was changing and it drew your empathy out from your soured mood. “i sometimes wonder what they’re doin out there now. they’re probably still alive, considering the human lifespan. but… they never returned my calls. never tried to come back. maybe they had some place they had to get to and couldn’t-” he grimaced and got quiet. After a few moments he took your hand suddenly, his face bowed. “i want you to know. i do, but i can’t… talk anymore.”

You lifted your head, looking between his grasp on your hand and his face.

“i want you to understand. everything. so just… fuse with me.” the dot like lights of his eyes lifted to bore into yours and in unison, your fingers wound together again. “see for yourself.”

Your heart was beating frantically in your ears, the gravity of his request not lost on you for an instant. Aside from the very first time you had fused with him, he had been careful to erect defenses to keep you from diving too deeply into his memories.

Now, he offered them to you freely.

It’s not how you wanted it to be, sitting here in your room after 5 days of starving yourself, not showering, greasy from fried food and with ketchup under your nails. You were also fairly certain your hair was a rats nest.

Yet here he was, holding your hand, looking at you like you were someone worth keeping, and wanting your souls together again. Maybe, as sloppy and unkempt as he was, it’d be hypocritical to point out how nasty you’d let yourself get. Or maybe how you looked didn’t matter at all and he was seeing something else, something you could never hope to see in yourself.

In the end, it didn’t matter and your soul of its own accord was slipping out of your body into the space between you, yearning for what he offered. He smiled and his soul slid from himself as well.

“Are you sure?” you asked, having to focus to keep your soul back from embracing his right away.

His answer was a chuckle. “i’ve been waiting a very long time for someone who would understand, darlin.” His body shifted closer, and with certainty, he affixed, “i’m done waiting.”

With no further delay, your souls melted together and you were willingly plunged into the depths of Sans memories. This time, there was no form of resistance between you. His soul embraced yours fully, his magic saturating and touching each corner of your mind and body. It left the breath thin in your lungs and your body weak. Even Papyrus had never managed to imprint himself so deeply on you, a fact that momentarily left you staggered. This experience already was something different, if only you could figure out why.

Your eyes were still staring into his as images flickered through your mind. His arms were winding around you and pulling you close, a physical embrace to accompany the magical one that was drawing you so soundly in. You let yourself be drawn easily against him, and bowed your head to his shoulder and he, in kind, put his own on yours.

For hours, this is how you remained.

In this state, you understood so much more than you had before. Frisk had not been the only source of resets. There had been a flower that he had fought within a loop so endless that it was no wonder Sans HoPe had been brought so low. To calculate how many hours, days, and years he had spent in that loop was impossible. It made his mental age impossible to determine. Asgore, though he had no personal memory of the resets, had known them to be a reality. Even before Sans, there had been a Judge appointed to oversee the nature of the loops and try and keep order.

Apparently, it had been a lab accident that had given Sans the ability to exist outside the effects of resets, a memory you had glimpsed at once before. It had left you wary depths of his trauma. Seeing it now, you grasped it so much more clearly.

He stood bent over a computer console in a white lab coat. There had been an accident with the DT extractor. The soul power of determination should never have been tampered with by monsterkind. It may have enabled a human power over the progression of time, along with cause and effect, but in such a concentrated state and being focused through this machine, it was discharging so much of it that it was tearing the fabric of the timeline. He was at the computer panel, clamouring over the controls to lessen the pressure on the device and keep it from malfunctioning further. Theorems and formulas were racing through his mind as he muttered the problems to himself until he reached their solutions. He’d make the adjustments and move on to the next thing at a speed that left you dizzy from trying to keep up.

Sans was a genius. A complete, certifiable, brilliant genius! All this time you had known he was smart but this was something else entirely!

His boney fingers flew over the dials, the machine still sputtering and hissing as steam shot from the valves on DT tanks. The world around him was growing chaotic, though he did his best to tune it out so he could focus. Red light was flashing, alarms blaring, and a suction was starting pull at the fringe of his lab coat.

A scream ripped from a scientist behind him and he turned, watching in horror as what had started out as an inky slit by the machine trembled and tore wide open. The blackened gap swallowed his colleague whole! Another at an adjoining panel directly attached to the extractor scrambled to hold on but was ripped into the maw between worlds. He could only stare agape in shock.

What had gone wrong? The formula had been solid, the science concrete! This couldn’t be happening-

“We have to release the pressure on the DT tank or we’re going to loose all the samples and our progress will be for nothing!”

Sans whipped his head to look at another skeleton approaching to his right.

Gaster was this mans name. W.D. Gaster. The man was tall and like your Guardian, had an affinity for wearing sweaters beneath his lab coat. Looking over him now, you you could make out he was a man of meticulous ways, and Sans mind lent the knowledge that he was borderline obsessive compulsive, but boundless in his love and generosity.

Sans choked on a breath, seeing his skull was in the midst of cracking in two places with residual traces of DT dripping down the bone. One down his forehead towards his right eye, and another dripping down his left cheekbone from his eye socket.

“your skull-”

“Backsplash from the first tank rupturing.” he explained, unconcerned as he blinked the substance away. It looked painful, but the scientist was forging onward. “I barely feel it.” He lied, and quickly switched subjects. “I sent Alphys to the floors above to put the facility in lock-down. The more we can keep this situation contained the better off we’ll all be in the long run.”

Sans seemed to marginally relax at hearing she was out of danger. He moved on as well.

“releasing the pressure on the DT extractor would mean getting closer to that rip and we don’t know what getting sucked in would do.”

Gaster stared at Sans a moment before glancing back to the tears in alarm. “You don’t remember? The intern just got sucked in!”

Sans stared back, confused. “what intern? we’ve never had an intern.”

There was a tense silence, both coming to the conclusion unanimously.

“Being sucked into the tear-”

“-removes and erases one from the timeline-”

“So of course they wouldn’t be remembered!” Gaster rubbed one of his gaping hands against the new splits on his skull. “I was close to the tear when it started, I looked within it. It is why I can recall what you cannot.”

Sans scoffed, “that makes no sense-”

“-but it makes it no less accurate! Looking into the tear changes you, you see things differently, you see things with clairvoyance!” He began making his own adjustments to the machine, “There is no time to explain this, you must simply trust me on the matter. We must remove the source of the tears, the DT tanks!”

Sans uncharacteristically rose his voice, shoving his father back, “getting close enough to the dt tanks to remove them is suicide!” he turned back to the controls “no progress is worth everyone dying for. i’m going to do a hard shut down.”

“Sans-!” Gaster shouted, physically grabbing his adoptive son’s shoulder and making him turn to him. He was now yelling over the noise, his face was stern and serious. “If we do a hard shut down the rip will remain! The DT will not be contained and that is what is feeding the fissure! The pressure needs to be released before the canister shatters and this whole lab is sucked into the vacuum between worlds! If we do not do this we will all have never existed!”

Anger bubbled up in your Guardian and he barked, “if you go near that thing you’re going to get sucked in!”

There was another scream and the both of them looked in fright as another of their friends was pulled into the rip. Sans sneakers were squealing softly as they slowly slid against the old linoleum. The blackness was stretching further, increasing the gravity of its pull.

“This whole world will get sucked in if I don’t.” The tall skeleton said firmly as he straightened, the lights of his eyes beginning to flicker with intense violet magic. Multiple magic hands appeared in the air around him and moved to make further adjustments to the machine, one grasping Sans by the arm and positioning him so he could brace himself behind the console. All the adjustments were made. “Son, use the blue attack to keep me stable, at least until the DT canister is removed from the machine. Then shut it down, cut the power, blow the damn thing up if you have to- just turn it off! Without the leaking soul power the rip should close on its own! Stay here, hold on, and keep me steady.”

He hated this course of action, but there was no other real option open to them. Both of Sans eyes activated with his magic and he grabbed the edge of the console to anchor himself. He reached out his hand and with a halo of cerulean blue grasped Gasters soul, haloing him in blue.

“It’ll be alright, Sans.” You saw something familiar in Gasters smile when he said that; some constrained sincerity that you so often saw mirrored in Sans own grin, born of necessity more than sincerity. “I promise. This will work.”

With no other course of action at their disposal, Sans had no choice but to comply.

He simply said, “go.”

They exchanged a meaningful glance, but nothing more was said. He moved into position. Along the wall, furthest from the tear, Gaster moved slowly, trying to skirt the worst of the pull to get behind the machine. Sans, true to his word, used his blue attack to combat its gravity and give his co-worker a better chance.

But that wasn’t just his co-worker was it? You had seen a clip of this memory before and you knew with a sense for foreboding what was about to happen. This was the man Sans had viewed as a father, more than the one who had birthed him. Skeletons were rare in the underground and Gaster had been the only other one left after the great war between humans and monsters. Having lived long enough to see and even be in said war, Gaster had adopted the orphaned boys and raised them as his own. He’d willingly filled a very necessary role in Sans’ and Papyrus’ life that he didn’t have to. He’d been the ideal surrogate. Warm but firm and eager to help the boys thrive, giving Sans the edge to get into the field he had always wanted, and nourishing the younger brothers knack for puzzles. As busy as he was being the royal scientist, somehow, the arrangement truly worked.

You hadn’t understood why it was that in all the time you had spent in Papyrus’ mind there wasn’t so much as a single memory he’d shared involving such an important figure in his life.

As you helplessly witnessed the events unfold you got your answer. Gaster had made it to the back of the machine, and had succeeded, with the aid of Sans magic and his many magical hands, to remove the DT tank-

- just in time for it to shatter under the pressure.

Shards of glass caught the flashing red emergency lights in a sparkling shower over the skeletons body, the precious DT that it had contained splashing across his chest to drip down his already malforming body. His pained screams deafened even the blare of the alarms.

Sans choked on a breath, “dad!” He quickly conjured a boned, eviscerating the controls to kill the power to the extractor as he had been instructed.

With the DT free of the machine, the tear began to close, but the intensity of the vacuum only intensified. Gaster could no longer maintain his footing, his violet magic sputtering uncontrollably as he was thrown off balanced towards the rift.

Sans was screaming, straining with all his might to keep his powers hold on him, but it wasn’t enough. He swiftly made the choice and let go of the ruined panel and dove after him. He grabbed the DT extractor and hooked an ankle against one of the many cables winding out of the device, just in time to snatch his wrist; But the man was oozing apart, looking up at his son with the smile of a man who knew he’d reached his end and was content.
“Sans… let go.” he said kindly, his voice distorting as his lower body fell apart into the rift, “Someone has to be around for Papyrus.”

Sans was too strained to even respond. His body was shaking and all his power was put into holding on to him. He couldn’t give up, he couldn’t let him down, not after all he’d done for him-

“I didn’t take you in just to have you die, too.” The voice he knew was changing, barely recognisable.

He shook his head, refusing. “no! c’mon, dad, we can fix this, you can make it, dammit h o l d o n t o m e!”

“Please, my son.” Gasters hand went utterly limp, offering no help. He was sliding slowly through Sans roughly clutching phalanges. As he further lost form the inkiness of his body squelched between the gaps of his desperate grip. “Let me go.”

Helplessly Sans looked down at his father, tears spilling out of his sockets. He hated it, but he was right. He was going to get sucked in at this rate and then what would happen to his baby brother?

Papyrus…

“Do it, Sans.” He said gently, the words almost lost in distortion.

Sans couldn’t watch, not then, and not now looking back. Gaster was resigned to his fate, but you felt the crushing burden of this, Sans most hated regret, intimately.

He let go.

Only after Sans knew that his father was gone did he open his eyes again, intending to pull away from the tear. It was almost closed. Instead, when his eyes opened, he looked deep into the abyss.

What he saw was something no monster was ever meant to see and Sans gazed into it in a stupor, unable to look away. A writhing inky blackness, infinite in its reach and holding the secrets of the universe itself was laid bare before him, too great for his mind to accurately absorb. There were other worlds, other timelines, other lives he had lived and other paths he had taken and it all stretched out before him like strings. Some ran parallel, other intersected, while others still looked to exist independently.

Just beyond that, though, was something else - and his mind ceased all thought. His body grew still. He didn’t draw breath. His very marrow was frozen. He could only stare.

The original beast stared back, a skeletal creature of impossible size, colossal in its brevity unable to be housed within any physical realm. It’s blackened sockets held prism eyes that refracted light of every conceivable color. It’s maw stretched for miles and was filled with teeth the size of houses! It’s body was incalculably vast.

It’s minions writhing around it were recognizable as the skeletons of dragons, their skulls the very blasters he had learned to summon from the void for battle. Rooted in horror and awe as deeply as Sans was, you still recognized them. The sight of Sans calling one forth from the void to defend you from Undyne was not a memory that was easily forgotten.

It had been a discovery of science, he had thought, a weapon of design. In truth, they were sentient beings that obeyed the call of someone chosen.

Why had such an infinitely powerful beast allowed the likes of him to summon the blasters?

The truth was beating wildly in your very soul just as it was in his. This was just a glimpse of precious foresight, a gift to aid him through hardships destined to come. Because he would one day be guardian to the Priestess of that mighty god.

He only sat comatose as his right eye, one of the magical ones that still throbbed with power to keep himself from getting pulled completely in, was taken by the void in payment for glimpsing its secrets. Even now, you knew that eye remains there, still seeing what should not be seen, making it possible for him to exist within his timeline without adhering to the laws that grounded everyone else.

For far too long, this had felt more like a curse.

Since meeting her, it felt more like a blessing.

Your heart skipped into your throat.

The magic of his soul caressed you, assuring you of that truth.

can you handle more? His mind probed gently, neither of you opening your eyes for fear of breaking the spell you were under.

You nodded into his now tear-stained bony shoulder, grasping his hoodie to keep him close. The tether was vibrating so strongly you could do little else but hang on to him.

Don’t stop. was your answer.

He gently gathered you into his lap and your arms wound around his neck. You smelled the ketchup on his shirt, felt his hands in your messy hair holding you to him.

there’s still a lot more. You felt his face turn into your neck. His breath condensed on your skin, teeth pressing to your pulse. i don’t want to overwhelm you.

It’s worth it, just don’t stop. Your breath shuddered out against the vertebrae of his neck and you could have sworn you felt him shiver.

darlin, i’m your guardian, his fingers spread against your back, clutching you tighter, nothing exists that can stop me anymore.

Chapter Text

You shifted in your sleep, a steady pulse resembling a heartbeat echoing soothingly through your mind and body, aiding your rest. In some distant part of your mind you knew this was a little different. There was a weight around your waist, a warmth behind you. Odd. You knew your usual cuddle companion was a lot taller than the one currently spooning you.

Slowly, your lashes parted, still feeling the steady >‘beat-beat’ in your body. The sight that met your eyes was the polished hard wood of your bedroom floor. The trash of the take out meal was still littered about with your french fries and a half eaten burger within an arm’s reach. The bag they’d arrived in was toppled over alongside the other bag Sans had brought along.

Wait. Sans? A glance above confirmed your souls were still fused and floating weightlessly, the obvious source of that placid pulsing that had been lulling you. Next you looked down to the pleasant pressure encircling your waist, recognizing the blue clad arm that was tossed over you. The sleeve of his hoodie had ridden up, exposing the bones of his carpels and the meeting of his radius and ulna. The tips of his phalanges rustled your shirt slightly before the arm scooped you in closer. You couldn’t stop yourself from smiling.

Sans, you thought contently.

go back to sleep, darlin. his mind told yours. You could feel his breaths rustling your hair as he began to rouse. i dunno bout you, but it’s been a long time since i slept this well.

A blush heated your cheeks at this confession, arousing a modest shyness at the intimacy of the situation you’d found yourself in. This was very different than the comforting cuddles you had gotten used to from his brother. Papyrus’s presence when sleeping beside you was certainly no less soothing, but it was done with a comfortable platonic understanding that had kept your mind from taking a more amorous turn. In contrast, there was a peculiar tension that accompanied Sans presence when found in the same situation, but you had no intention of moving away. Instead, your hand moved down to his and grasped it.

No, I...I definitely haven’t slept in ages. Taking a deep breath you tilted your head back against his face just as he offered a gentle nuzzle. Your heart began to beat a little faster and the pulsing of your souls mimicked the pace. I don’t remember falling asleep.

He groaned softly from behind you as he pushed himself up onto an elbow and looked down at you.

you’re going to make me wake up, aren’t you?

From his smile and warm expression you knew he wasn’t as broken up over it as his words would like you to believe. You rolled onto your back and just took in the moment in amazement.

You had spent so much time emotionally laboring over bonding with him. There was a time you doubted it was even possible. You had cried, forlorn, to Papyrus, sought Toriel’s advice, and doubled your efforts to reach him. Even when you had first fused in battle it had been done with reservations and he had so many walls thrown up that he couldn’t use his gifted ability.

It seemed fitting that in the end that it had just been honest conversation that had made the bond truly strong.

You mentally toiled for a moment, wondering if his soul trait might have had something to do with the previous difficulties. Yes, Sans was stubborn, but reasonably could only be partially to blame. With Papyrus, you had appealed to his courage when you bravely agreed to try the fusion so quickly. With Sans, it seemed something similar had transpired. When the two of you had started talking and finally been truly honest with each other it had touched the core of his integrity by building trust.

You wondered what Red’s soul trait was. Maybe knowing would help you go in with a plan on how to best reach him.

You couldn’t dwell of that for now, not when Sans tether on you was so strong you felt like you could absorb each other.

Gosh, and he had shown you everything- or, at least a lot of what he’d kept hidden. The moment he lost his father, looking into the void and the loss of his magic eye to the beast god, all the way to the resets with the flower and the subsequent ones with Frisk. He hadn’t held back. You had your answers seen through his very eyes, a deeper exchange of trust than you could have ever imagined possible.

Briefly, you wondered about what had happened before the lab accident. Toriels rejection of Sans for a more intimate relationship had everything to do with something that had happened while he was a scientist and you had only seen the tail end of that part of his life.

No, all that would come in time. You were sure Sans would divulge that to you when he was ready. For now you were busy rejoicing in the success of your completed bond.

You rose a hand to touch his face appreciatively, a deep sorrow aching in your chest for the sheer amount he had suffered. This poor man. He had born this pressure too long by himself. It was with a smile you realized that just as you weren’t alone anymore -as he had told you that day in the bath- the same was true of him. He had you to shoulder his yoke with now, to help him, to commiserate with.

Your fingertips slid down his temple, to his cheek and swept over his jaw and in response he closed his sockets and sighed.

careful, darlin. I might get used to this. His perma-grin twitched upwards, inclining his head into your palm indulgently.

You laughed lightly as you stroked your thumb against his cheek.

Would that be so bad?

His eyes opened, the lights giving a bright flash that synced with a sudden vibrancy in your levitating souls.

waking up to your face? he leaned in a little closer, both arms now braced by your head and his face dipping lower, is that a trick question?

Those lit optics of his darted from your eyes to your lips. Your heart began to race. That odd tension you noticed earlier was swelling further as the seconds ticked by, fed by some need you couldn’t yet wrap your mind around but were desperate to understand. He was descending slowly, giving you ample time to stop him, but instead, your free hand lifted uncertainly to his side just within the confines of his open hoodie. The touch was light at first, as careful and tentative as his own actions. You stroked over the rise of each rib to the divots between, the cotton fabric stretched between like trampolines for your fingertips. He took a deep breath and you paused.

He was watching you attentively.

The hand that you had been exploring him with stopped entirely at that expression, resting closer to his spine. While you had intended to puzzle out what he was thinking, to move across the tether to get a feel for his emotions, your attention shifted suddenly what you were feeling under your touch. You had experienced the brushes of magic in the skeleton brothers touches in the past, but here the flow passing between the gaps in his vertebres was so much more intense. You could literally feel the vibrating hum of the magic, his very life blood, tickling your palm. It had your smile growing in amazement.

“Wow…” you whispered.

You pressed your hand firmer to those bones, noting how his face became lightly flushed with blue, but he never made any move to stop you. Instead his upper body settled lightly on yours, your faces so close they were nearly meeting. You felt in him a longing, a desire, a hunger that had your mind reeling against his for answers. This was all too new, something you’d never felt before.

It made you innocently wonder how skeleton kissing works despite feeling a little self conscious at how your breathing was getting quicker.

do you want me to show you? the mental poke caused you to remember how closely you were linked at the moment and you broke the stare to try and get a ahold on your bashfulness. He seemed amused by your embarrassment and wasted no time in nudging his careful touch against your cheek to make you look back at him. His face tilted to align with yours and the candor of his smile marginally calmed you. you know darlin, they say kissing is the language of love. He shifted so that his bone fingers could weave into your locks. do you wanna have a conversation?

You almost missed the joke, but when you got it and laughed, the nervous tension successfully dispersed. He seemed downright pleased with himself and you had to admit, you found his wit charming.

In offering, you rose your chin up for him and twisted the fabric of his shirt your fist.

“Alright,” you whispered, “-talk to me.”

There was a sudden knocking on the door, making your body jolt in surprise under him. Sans bowed his head into your shoulder, subdued laughter suddenly jostling his.

You couldn’t help but giggle a little yourself. Of course that would happen, now of all times.

“MY PRIESTESS!” Came the familiar voice muffled by the door. “I KNOW YOU ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH SELF CARE AFTER YOUR TRYING ORDEAL AND I HATE TO DISTURB YOU, BUT I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR MY BROTHER FOR HOURS NOW AND I THOUGHT HE MIGHT HAVE TAKEN MY VERY PRACTICAL ADVICE TO COME COMFORT YOU!”

Sans reluctantly sat up. The mood was broken but neither of you felt need to lament it. However, there was a promise to his gaze that this would be resumed at a later date. The thought of it bred a family of butterflies in your belly.

He climbed off you and with a thunk, landed on his backside, rubbing his hand over one socket exasperatedly as he continued chuckling.

“i’m in here pap.” he called.

You sat up too, finger-combing your snarled hair and trying to recompose yourself. Being as sloppy and gross as you felt right now, Sans willingness to kiss you was nothing short of a miracle. It took you a moment to will your blush away.

“OH! HOW SERENDIPITOUS!” Papyrus shouted, obviously pleased, “HAVE YOU TWO SUCCESSFULLY HELPED EACH OTHER THROUGH THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE LAST RESET?”

You couldn’t control your smile and one glance at Sans betrayed a similar reaction. You two locked stares, feeling the drumming of the tether again. Papyrus was so contagiously upbeat and now that you both were in a better mental place, the encouragement was pushing you to make more progress in the mission at hand.

“Yeah Pap, we have.” you told him, getting to your feet. “I feel a lot better now!”

Sans, grinning, agreed, “me too, bro. we’re ready to move forward.”

“SPLENDID!” Papyrus chirped, “THEN WILL WE BE MEETING SOON TO DISCUSS THE PLANS FOR ‘OPERATION UNDERFELL TAKE 2’?”

“Give me an hour to shower and clean myself up.” You said definitively, “Then, we’ll plan our next move!”

Sans leaned back on his carpels, that tell tale grin on his face that betrayed a coming pun, “it’ll be hard to plan facing off against Red, seeing as us skeletons can see right through each other.”

You heard Papyrus groan from beyond the doorway while you snorted suddenly.

Sans didn’t relent. “glad you found that humerous. it’s a bone-ified rib tickler.” When you reacted in a fit of giggles, he gazed at you with unconcealed affection, “finally found a girl to laugh at my jokes. Hip hip hurray.”

-------------

All of you parted ways for that hour to prepare. You headed to the bathroom to shower and scrub the depression off your body. It wasn’t like you weren’t still feeling your fair share of horrible or that you weren’t feeling anxious waves over the thought of going back and facing that nightmare version of Sans, but you knew monsters would never be freed if you kept indulging in your fear. It wouldn’t be easy, but you weren’t alone either. Between Sans, Papyrus, and you, you’d be going in this time feeling far better prepared than last time and that would count for something.

It only took you half an hour to properly get clean though it took a lot longer than usual to get your hair neat and knot free. You brushed your teeth, got dressed in your favorite jeans and a t-shirt the brothers had gotten for you that said ‘bad to the bone’, but in permanent marker - and Papyrus had scribbled out ‘bad’ and written ‘COOL’. He’d explained it to you it made the shirt far more awesome and you had to admit, he was absolutely right.

You were comfortable and clean by the time you wandered out of your bathroom and back into your main room, quickly tidying up. You tossed the leftovers, by now very cold and inedible, into the paper bag he’d brought them in when you paused.

The other bag Sans had brought was still there, sitting conspicuously in the middle of your floor. He hadn’t taken it with him when he’d left? Was it an oversight or- You approached it curiously. It was a pretty average looking brown bag, plain and without decoration, with handles that looked like they were braided from bailing twine. Falling from one handle, was a loop of ribbon holding a small folded paper card.

It was clearly addressed to you.

Your heart made a giddy leap and you smiled uncontrollably, flipping the tiny card open.

darlin,

are you wondering
if you light up my life?
you could say it’s
in the bag.

;) sans

You rocked back on your heels, wondering what he meant by that. It was obviously a pun about what was in the bag, but the connotation was decidedly personal. You straightened up, nibbling your thumb nail.

There was a telling swish of air behind you announcing that Sans had arrived for the meeting. You glanced back at him to see he was in a fresh t-shirt and looking more cleaned up himself aside from his ever present and slightly stained blue hoodie.

“you gonna see what’s inside?” he asked, tilting his head as his smile got a little wider.

“Uh, yeah, I’m just, surprised.” You admitted.

He walked up to you. “why’s that, darlin?”

You began to blush, skirting his gaze to look at the bag in question.

“You and Pap already do so much for me.” You admitted, gesturing to the wall by your bed where you had already been tacking up the photo’s you’d printed out from his gifted phone and camera. “I know you’re my guardians and all but- you do so much.”

Most were of your trip through the market before your visit to Gersons. At least two dozen were of the lamps fueled by soul magic that lit the city and their different colors shapes and sizes. There were several pictures of you and Papyrus taking a ton of selfies together with the silliest, happiest faces you could muster; A perfect personification of two peas in a pod! There were two of Toriel in the study, happily reading a book with her spectacles carefully perched on her snout.

There was just one of you and Sans. You had taken him by surprise and looped an arm around his neck, but he was looking away, smiling sheepishly with a bit of blue over the ridge of his nasal cavity. It was before you had met with Gerson

For some reason that already felt like a lifetime ago.

He followed your stare to the collage, his smile softening a bit.

“i’ll ask ya again, darlin.” the sidelong glance he tossed you made your soul tremble within you, a deep ache tugging against the tether that bound you. It stole your breath for a moment and made heat rise in your cheeks. “why don’t you open it?”

Why did everything between you feel so different now?

You turned back to the bag and picked it up by the twine handles. It was kind of heavy. You sat on the edge of your bed and began to pull out crumpled newspaper from within, tossing them to the floor seeking to unearth his gift. Sans watched you with a calm but expectant expression.

When you saw what was hidden you choked on your own breath, gasping sharply. You dug both hands in and carefully withdrew a blown glass lantern just like the ones you had seen in the market! The glass was multicolored in a cascade of hues reminiscent a sunset and from the small looped stem for mounting it on a wall, it fell downward and curved back up in a widening bowl resembling the shape of a petaled saxophone. Hovering in the bowl was the barest splinter of a soul endlessly lit with the magic of a fire elemental.

It was the most beautiful thing you had ever seen!

“Sans-” You stammered, “H-how did...you-? I mean, it’s fueled by a piece of a monsters actual soul, right?”

“so a close buddy of mine happens to be a fire elemental.” He shrugged, nonchalant as ever. “once he learned who this was for, he was pretty excited to do it, but it takes a bit of preparation, otherwise i would have given it to you sooner.”

“Preparation?” you questioned, lowering the priceless gift slightly to rest in your lap.

Sans nodded, “a little bit, just some special monster food to make sure your magic levels are up and can handle the slight dock in hp.” he winked at you, “and before you freak out, he’s fine, darlin. he’s probably the strongest fire elemental in the underground and half of what was in the city was gradually donated by him exclusively. one more wasn’t going to hurt him, his words not mine.”

You stared adoringly back to the lantern. You could see that splinter of soul in the center of the flame, so small but very much alive. It might have been the most beautiful gift you’d ever received.

“I love it.” you said, voice thick with emotion. “I don’t know how to thank you, either of you! I’ll treasure it!”

Sans chuckled a little bit. “we were both glad to do it. grillby is a staunch supporter of the new hope. He seemed pretty excited that the priestess was such a fan of the lanterns and practically jumped at the chance to be the one to light it for you.”

“Really?”

“heh, well, I may be embellishing a bit.” he admitted with a chuckle, “all he really did was burn a bit brighter and say he’d do it, but when you’ve known him as along as i have, that kind of reactions a big deal. he’s uh...pretty stoic. hard to read.”

“Can I meet him so I can thank him in person?” You asked, fawning over how pretty the glass was.

“yeah, i’ll take you. i think he might be carryin a torch for you darlin.” he looked away, a little color rising in his cheeks as he added under his breath, “but it sure don’t hold a candle to the one I’m carryin.”

The tether between you pulled so taut it stole your breath and drew your stare. Had you heard him right? You gripped the flickering lantern tighter.

He moved on too quickly to dwell, trying to draw the conversation back to the gift, “I saw you looking them at the market so when you were busy with pap, i bought one. usually you fill it with some kind of fuel and wick, but I took a detour down to see my pal to get the ball rolling and met you back in waterfall.”

You stared at him openly, mouth ajar.

“Thats where you disappeared to?” you exclaimed, realizing how long he’d been planning this. “Here I thought you had to get your ketchup fix!”

“well, there’s that.” he freely admitted, “but I saw you really liked them. monster culture isn’t your culture and you’re really embracing it, along with this whole priestess thing. heh, bacteria is the only culture some people have, so, ya gotta appreciate the effort where ya see it.”

You found yourself smiling, not just at the pun, but at the meaning of his words. “You don’t strike me as the kinda guy who’s into his culture all that much.”

“heh, you got me.” he said, rocking back onto the heels of his slippers, “pap actually said that and he had a good point. not the amazing pun, though.”

“Of course.”

He wagged his brow at you, his smile stretching wider. “that one was germinating with me for a while.”

You giggled heartily. ”Naturally!”

Still he pressed on, leaning in comically as he delivered yet another punchline, “hmm, if a jokester like me enjoys germ jokes does that make me a fungi?”

You lost it with a snort, doubled over your lantern in laughter. He seemed satisfied, which was timely, as Papyrus knocked on the door not a second after.

“I AM HERE AND AT YOUR SERVICE MY PRIESTESS!” He called.

You stood, looking around your room for the perfect spot to mount what was now your prized possession.

“Come on in Pap, it’s unlocked.”

He swung the door open, his expression as bright and cheerful as always. It took only one glance at him to inspire your smile to journey even wider. The second he caught sight of you he rushed forward with a hug, a gesture you returned eagerly with an arm around his neck and a nuzzle to his cheek. He got so caught up in the moment he lifted you off our feet,

“IT’S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU SMILING AGAIN!” He said before he set you back down.

“I’m so sorry I worried you. I promise, I feel a lot better now.” you pressed a kiss to his cheek and he sighed contently, returning your kiss with a bump of his teeth to your cheek bone. It tingled pleasantly. “I did enjoy you coming by and reading at my door, I just couldn’t-”

“THAT HARDLY MATTERS.” he said, dismissing your apology. “I’M JUST GLAD YOU HAVE MADE PEACE WITH THE UNPLEASANTNESS AND WE CAN MOVE FORWARD. I KNOW YOU MAY STILL YET SUFFER FROM THE ORDEAL BUT THIS IS STILL PROGRESS TO BE CELEBRATED.” His gaze lowered to the lantern in your hand and his cheerfulness multiplied, “OH HE GAVE IT TO YOU! SANS DID NOT INFORM ME IT WAS DONE!”

He gingerly took the lamp up in his hands to inspect it appreciatively and you joined him, running a finger across the glossy planes of colored glass that were so handsomely illuminated by the flicker of its magical flame.

Sans, who was busy pulling a small variety of screws out of his pocket, responded, “well, between what happened in underfell and moving into our rooms here in the castle i guess it slipped my mind.”

Papyrus rolled his eyelights. “YOU DIDN’T DO ANY OF THE MOVING! YOU SLEPT EXCESSIVELY WHILE I DID ALL THE WORK!” He calmed himself with a sigh, “AT LEAST THAT WAY I KNOW IT’S ALL BEEN DONE CORRECTLY.”

You walked to your bedside and held the glass up, moving it around to figure out where exactly you wanted it mounted. Papyrus stepped up.

“ALLOW ME!”

He carefully rose it to the wall and positioned it higher than your reach would have comfortably allowed and you took a few steps back to deliberate on positioning.

“A little to the left.” you murmured, nibbling your lower lip. “That’s a little too far. Closer to the bed but not too close to the curtains. Maybe center it over the night stand?”

Papyrus attentively followed your instructions and then paused. “HERE?”

“Yes! Perfect!” You clapped once as Sans stepped up to your side, his eyes glowing mists of cobalt as he levitated a screw with his magic and carefully, with a circular motion of his index finger, twisted the metal into the wood. “It’s perfect.”

Papyrus walked backwards a few steps to appreciate the addition to your room as Sans used his magic to flick off the overhead light.

The cadence of color from the glass danced ceaselessly wherever the light touched. It lit the room well in a rather romantic lowlight. Papyrus put an arm around your shoulders proudly.

“SANS, YOU ARE A LAZY PILE OF BONES BUT SOMETIMES, YOU REALLY IMPRESS ME!” He looked down to the shorter skeleton, “NICE WORK!”

At his brothers praise Sans looked up, “thanks pap. guess y/n lights a fire under me.”

“IF IT GETS YOU OFF YOUR BUTT, I AM GRATEFUL FOR IT AND MIGHT IMPLORE HER IN THE FUTURE TO TURN UP THE HEAT, BUT FOR NOW-!” He gave your shoulder one last squeeze before he walked back to the light switch and flicked the overhead back on. “WE HAVE BUSINESS!”

You blinked, “Pap, was that a pun?”

His expression fell suddenly, his face glowing in mortification. “N-NO!”

“aww, bro.” Sans cooed exaggeratedly, “i’m proud of you.”

“UGH-!” He grunted. “MOVING ON!”

Sans settled lazily into the chair at your desk while you sat on your bedside. Papyrus remained standing.

“To start off,” you said, still admiring the warm light of your new lamp, “I had a thought that I wanted to run by the two of you.”

“Shoot, darlin.”

“I AM ALL EARS!”

Sans snorted and laughed, earning a glare from his younger brother. You continued on, glad for the light mood.

“I was wondering if you knew what Red’s soul trait would be.” You said, explaining, “you see, it crossed my mind that maybe appealing to the dominant trait of his soul would be the best way to reach him. I mean, I could be wrong but,” You looked up at Papyrus, standing tall with his shoulders squared. “I may have appealed to Paps’ courage by agreeing to the soul fusion right away.”

Paps’ expression lit up. “THAT IS QUITE ACCURATE! I WAS VERY IMPRESSED BY YOUR INTRINSIC WILLINGNESS TO VENTURE INTO SOMETHING SO UNKNOWN, KNOWING SO LITTLE ABOUT SOULS AND YOUR DUTIES AS PRIESTESS!” His expression grew soft and kind, “YOU WERE SO BRAVE. I WANTED TO BE THE FIRST, TO GUIDE YOU, TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. I KNEW OTHERS WOULD FOLLOW, BUT-” He reached out and brushed his gloved hand over your still damp hair, “I wanted to be first and further embolden you.”

“To be honest,” you confessed, “I don’t think I could have progressed as I did without learning and relying on your courage, Pap.”

“that’s our job as guardians, darlin. we’re meant to lend you our strengths to fortify you. but back to what you were saying,” he rubbed his chin, “i felt the thought cross your mind on the tether when we were fused earlier and i think you’re onto something. we may have bonded our souls in battle to face undyne but the link wasn’t solid. i couldn’t even teleport right away until you-” He stopped short, suddenly blushing and clearing his throat, “well, yeah hun, you appealed to my integrity by being open and honest so-”

Papyrus laughed to himself, a delighted ‘nyeh heh heh’ entering the air from behind his fist.

“DON’T BE SO COY!” He teased, “SHE KISSED YOU AND ASSURED YOU THAT YOU WERE NOT A FAILURE!”

Sans lifted the collar of his shirt to hide his face, groaning, “paaaaaap…!”

“WHY BE BASHFUL? WE WERE ALL THERE! IT WAS VERY HARD TO MISS!” Papyrus looked genuinely puzzled over his reaction. “REALLY SANS, FOR APPRECIATING HONESTY IT SEEMS HARD FOR YOU TO BE EQUALLY FORTHRIGHT!”

You were admittedly blushing a bit yourself, but you took mercy on Sans and shifted things back on topic. “The, uh, point...I was trying to make is if I know what Red’s soul trait is going in, it might aid me in reaching him before he strikes me down again.”

Papyrus instantly bristled, “IF THAT IS YOUR WORRY YOU NEEDN’T FRET; NEITHER MY BROTHER OR MYSELF WILL ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN AGAIN.”

“paps right about that. we won’t be having a repeat performance of last time.” Sans was still avoiding your gaze, but added his two cents. “as far as his soul trait goes i can’t pinpoint it. his magic is red and that’s not a good sign.”

“Why not?”

Papyrus sighed, “A MONSTERS MAGIC TURNS RED WHEN THE TYPE OF MAGIC THEY WIELD IS CORRUPTED. HUMAN DETERMINATION MAGIC DOES NOT EXIST FOR MONSTERS AND WHILE IT RESEMBLES THE COLOR IT IS A DEEPER MUCH DARKER SHADE.”

“your soul is bright, y/n, a true crimson. the magic he used is a dull burgundy. it denotes the corruption of healthy magic.”

“I’m confused.”

“okay, take my soul.” Sans explained patiently, “i have a soul of integrity but if i let myself be corrupted it i would have the vice of conceit.”

“MY OWN WOULD BE AUDACITY.” Papyrus chimed in.

You reclined back slightly, propped up on one wrist as you thought about this. Tainted soul guardians? That complicated things.

“Okay, so, what are the possibilities that we’re working with here?”

Sans counted them off on his fingers, “well, i doubt he’s kindness corrupted by compliance or patience viced by idleness. if i were to venture a guess he’s either perseverance who has become inflexible or justice tainted by vengeance.”

You perked up at that last one, something within your soul throbbing.

He’d said something that came to your mind with intense clarity. Despite the pain you had been in, you remembered his words.

He had said ‘didn’ do nothin? you got some nerve sayin that. you been screamin’ f’ them and i know you and the little shits from your timeline are the ones that stole the soul from asgore. ya put our freedom back by decades for the sake a y’own and the blame’s been put on boss for lettin’ it happen. n’i can’t let no one get away with disrespecting my bro.’

He had hurt you, tortured you, because some twisted sense of right and wrong had demanded it.

“He’s justice.” you said right away, no doubt in your mind, “the way he attacked me to make me pay for the soul he thought we took, even the things he said to me- that’s definitely vengeance.”

Sans thought a moment, “makes sense. he’s my alternate, so he was, or is judge of that world. having a core trait of justice would be fitting.”

Papyrus looked perturbed. You reached our and touched his humerus in concern. “What’s on your mind?”

You could see Papyrus was thinking critically on this matter. “THE BEAST GOD CANNOT BE SUMMONED IF YOUR GUARDIANS HAVE CORRUPTED SOULS. YOU HAVE TO CLEANSE THEM AND THAT IS GOING TO TAKE ADDITIONAL TIME WE MAY NOT HAVE.”

Sans breathed heavily, obviously agreeing and not liking that implication. “while you were recovering y/n, civil unrest has worsened. the monsters are dividing into segments based on their loyalties to either the queen or undyne and staking claims on territory across the capital. lucky for us you reached the souls of a lot of monsters who are putting their faith in you.”

“VERY WELL PLACED FAITH.” Papyrus assured you right away. “YOU TOUCHED THEM WITH YOUR WARMTH AND SINCERITY, REMINDING THEM OF WHO WE ARE AT OUR CORES.” He looked to the floor, his expression hardened, “IT IS DISAPPOINTING WHAT IS TRANSPIRING BUT WE KNEW THE WAR WAS COMING. AT LEAST NOW IT WILL NOT BE THE ENTIRE UNDERGROUND WE MUST OPPOSE.”

Sans drummed the tips of his phalanges against the wood of your desk. “then the sooner we get the rest of the guardians the better.”

You took a deep trembling breath. There was a lot at stake and now there was the matter of having to cleanse corrupted souls.

“If Red is the soul of Justice, then it’s going to be his sense of right and wrong that I have to reach. A moral core.”

“if there even is one.” Sans sighed, shaking his head, “he’s been corrupted, babe. we may be better off trying to appeal to his vengeance, just to get him here.”

Papyrus blanched, “YOU DO NOT MEAN RECRUITING HIM TO ENACT ILL WILL TOWARDS UNDYNE FOR STEALING THAT SOUL, DO YOU BROTHER?”

“look, i’m just saying it’d be a place to start.” he argued, reluctant to argue this point with his sibling. “we both know he’s out of touch with the good pull of his soul. he didn’t even feel the resonance with her right away because of it. i know it’s not ideal pap, but he can’t possibly meet with y/n and suddenly just be purified enough to desire justice over revenge.”

Your touch, which had lingered on Paps arm, rubbed gently to get his attention. “Speak your mind, Pap.”

Your first guardian was downright unsettled, a frown marring what was usually a consistently upbeat expression, “I… I BELIEVE IT’S COWARDLY TO TAKE THAT ROUTE JUST BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE IS MORE DIFFICULT.” he stated, his expression firm, “I CANNOT ABIDE BY IT. SHE IS MISGUIDED BUT SHE IS STILL MY FRIEND AND I STILL BELIEVE SHE WILL SEE HER ERROR IN TIME. BUT SHE WILL NOT GIVE US THE CHANCE IF SHE WERE TO LEARN WE RECRUITED A GUARDIAN UNDER THE GUISE OF SEEKING REVENGE ON HER FOR WHAT SHE’S DONE.”

His reasoning came from such a place of compassion and understanding that you couldn’t bring yourself to consider the alternative.

You looked to Sans, giving him opportunity to speak, but he was looking thoughtfully to the mish-mash of printed photos on your wall, pensive and quiet.

“Is there anything you’d like to add, Sans?”

A supportive warmth spread to you across the tether as his sparkling magic eye-lights latched onto yours. It didn’t take much conjecture to garner he’d gladly relented. He smiled and you did as well.

“Thank you.” You whispered.

He just shrugged, as per usual, and responded casually, “what can i say, the two of you make sense. undyne might not be my favorite person right now, but if we’re going to move forward with as few casualties as possible then this the right way. let’s not give her a reason to demonize our side any further.”

Papyrus found his smile again, tears shining against his sockets. “Sans.” He murmured thankfully.

“Yeah, he’s a softie.” You agreed, happy to see another brush of blue on his cheekbones.

“so you appeal to his justice.” he said, back to the point. “you have a plan for that?”

You lifted your thumb to bite on the nail, mulling over all you’d spoken about so far.

“I think I do.” you suddenly said with a smile. “In fact, I think I know exactly how!”

You were ready.

--------------------------------

By the time afternoon rolled around you had already marked the moment with your determination and joined the skeleton brothers in the castle courtyard. The queen had already been informed of the impending departure and you were bundled once more in Sans’ sweater and your hoodie. It was hard to put the garment back on, reminding you all too clearly of the pain you’d endured while wearing it, but you had forced yourself through the anxiety.

You could do this.

There was a plan in place.

History would not repeat itself.

“remember,” Sans said as the three of you formed a circle and joined hands. Your souls were already merged and floating above you, “if we get separated again-”

“I SEND UP A BLUE BONE AS A FLARE SO YOU CAN FIND ME IMMEDIATELY!” Papyrus reiterated.

“and as soon as i have you pap,” he turned a steady gaze to you, “we use the tether to teleport to y/n.”

Both skeletons gave your hands a squeeze of reassurance.

“We both have you.” Papyrus promised, “But I must make doubly sure you are feeling prepared.”

You nodded, closing your eyes and breathing deeply. “Not gonna lie guys, I’m scared but I know it’ll be different. Red won’t hurt me twice, not after letting me reset. I just know it.”

“just sit tight and wait for us.” Sans said, “you ready?”

“Yes.” You were already concentrating on the guardian you were seeking. “Let’s do it.”

With no further waiting, Sans snapped your group into the cool atmosphere of the void. Already the process was a lot smoother and to maintain your focus, you kept your eyes firmly clamped shut. You couldn’t afford to let your mind stray. Still, last time you’d been in this place, you had seen something, hadn’t you?

Why had you forgotten it until now?

darlin, don’t start.

You snapped back to attention, and clung to the mental picture of Red. Instead of your vision however, you were confronted with a sharp unforgiving memory of him twisting the bone into your shoulder, his cruel unforgiving smirk and the memory of pain making you audibly whimper.

shhh, babe it’s okay. you’re safe. you’re gonna stay safe. don’t panic now.

You heard Sans mental whispers, trying to soothe you, but they were drowned out by the louder memory of your agony at his double’s hands!

Then you fell weightlessly, the hands of your guardians leaving yours at some undefinable point and making you land alone in the biting cold of Underfell.

You were disoriented for a moment, shaking as you were still struggling to shake off the intrusive memory. You whined and bent low, doubling up on yourself and pressing your forehead to scrape down against the frigid ice.

“Come on, y/n,” you gasped, making yourself open your eyes to focus on the here and now, “Can’t afford to lose it now. Ground yourself-”

You looked around to try and get your bearings. You were in a different location than last time. There was a cliff only a few feet away to your left and a rock formation to your right forming a narrow mountain ridge. Ahead looked like a cave and a glance behind showed more rock formations and trees.

At least you hadn’t passed out this time. That was progress right? Sans was getting the hang of teleporting still, too. The group hadn’t landed together but you’d all known this would be a possibility. Now you just had to sit tight and wait for them.

There was a sound, one you almost missed, but as it drew closer you recognized it as galloping. You turned to see some sort of deer charging you. Their head was lowered aggressively, barbed wire wrapped painfully around it’s tree-like antlers. Its gaze was bulging and bloodshot, snorting with rage as it made a lunge at you.

You were frozen in fear unable to even dodge when a fiery red bone passed over your shoulder, narrowly missing your ear, and embedding right between its eyes like a spear. Its legs lost all strength and it tumbled in a heap. It would have made impact had it not burst into dust the second it hit ground.

It had all happened so quickly your mind was fumbling to catch up. You tasted the ashen remains on your tongue while you struggled not to panic, the debris of the dead falling on you like snow.

That bone. You knew who that bone belonged to and that he had found you so quickly left you immediately shaken.

“don’t i at least get a thank ya?” he said, the dark rumble of his voice slathering your spine in ice, “geez, lady…”

You stayed still, hearing his sneakers slowly approaching you as the snow sank under his weight.

“I…” You struggled to find your voice, the fear evident in the quaver of your tone, “I… I’m grateful.”

“y’don’t sound like it, doll.” His footsteps stopped behind you, but you were too terrified to look back at him. “either you’re braver than i gave y’credit for, or you’re stupid.”

His footsteps resumed, circling to your front before he dropped into a squat, forcing his imposing presence into your line of sight. He was every bit the monster you remembered, from his untied shoelaces to the split in his skull. Those hellfire eyes were trained onto your own, the smoke of a lit cigarette curling in and out of the space between you. To your merit, you bit back the whimper that rose in you at seeing him again, but he saw through your efforts easily with a deep frown.

“scarred ya f’life last time, didn’ i?” Though his words denoted irritation he didn’t seem angry. Instead, his face was impassive and blank.”but y’still came back.” he snorted, “you a masochist, babe?”

Your attention shifted away from the insinuation of his words to a blue bone being fired up not too far away. The signal. Sans would find Papyrus and he’d be here in seconds-

Unfortunately, Red seemed to be catching on to it all too quickly, straightening to his full height over you. His eyes narrowed and that blank expression twisted into displeasure, making you flinch back.

“seein as i don’t have too long with ya b’for the cavalry shows up,” he sneered, “how bout you cut the shit and tell me who the fuck you are! why’s y’soul callin me? n’while we’re at it, why’d ya…” He topped suddenly, seeming to catch just how confrontational his tone was. He ended up looking away from you while he forced it softer, “...why’d ya come back after what i did to ya?”

The instant he reigned his temper in, you felt it again. The resonance, like a warm needy ache weighted and burdened your soul, seeking fulfillment that could only be found in the fusion. Judging by how things were going that would be quite some ways off still.

At least he hadn’t killed you.

What should you do now? You studied his expression for clues. Well, you came here for a reason and you supposed now was as good a time as any.

“You could have kept my soul, you needed it, right?” somehow, you managed to smile, “you let it shatter knowing I’d reset, right? Hoping I’d be back?”

He snorted incredulously, but he didn’t deny it.

“You just saved me from whatever that was…”

You were met with stony silence.

“Is it because you feel us resonating?” You were raising your voice, unnerved by how he met your entreaties with silence. “and you regret killing me because of it, right? Please say something!”

“Dammit ya bitch will ya-” There was a rattling growl seconds before he snapped, baring his teeth savagely, “JUS SHUDDUP!”

It was just in time for the familiar auras of your other two guardians to appear behind you.

Sans was scooping you out of the snow just as Papyrus smacked Red in the face with a bone club, sending him careening backwards several feet to skid on his back to a stop in the snow.

“you okay?” Sans asked, urgency in his tone as he gripped you to him. His magic was so close to the surface it was flying off him in static pops that prickled your body. “i came as quick as i could, but i sensed…” you saw his expression flinch and he took a moment to look you over for injuries. “dammit, you were scared, i just knew he’d found you first.”

“I’m okay,” you said, though your voice was unsteady. You shifted, putting an arm around his neck. “He actually just...he killed a monster that had been about to attack me.”

Sans didn’t seem very comforted by this news, and through your tether you felt a surge of bitterness you didn’t understand.

Ahead of you, Papyrus stood tall, pointing the blunt end of his bone at Red. His red scarf had loosened during his attack and hung slightly askew around his neck and shoulders. He was breathing deeply.

“FORGIVE ME FUTURE COMRADE, BUT I WILL ALLOW NO ONE TO ADDRESS THE PRIESTESS IN SUCH A BARBARIC MANNER! APOLOGIZE AT ONCE!”

Red looked like a beast spurned, rolling in the end of the large divot his body made through the snow with barbs of hot red magic shooting from the joints of his bones. It was making the leather of his jacket flutter under the whip of his own power. He sat up snarling, one eye socket vacant and the other blown wide with fury over a cracked cheekbone. Clumps of snow and dirt fell from him as he began to stand.

A torrid burst of crimson magic melted the snow around his feet as he growled, “y’gonna fuckin regret that ya filthy piece a-”

-and just as suddenly, he stopped. His eye-lights were blown out and he stared in numb silence at the skeleton in his way; an uncanny doppelganger of his brother.

“LANGUAGE!” Papyrus scolded further, expression righteously cross.

He gestured his bone back to you, and Red, now completely slack jawed, looked back and forth between the two of you.

“apologize…? b...boss?” he blinked a few times, standing fully once more. “no…” he murmured to himself. “you’re...you’re th’other one. well shit-”

Disgustedly, Papyrus repeated, “LANGUAGE!”

You were shocked to see Red flinch at being reprimanded and nod. Sans chuffed an amused chuckle at the sight.

“r-right.“ Red ducked his head sheepishly, fishing a new cigarette out of his pocket to replace his old one. It was lost the second he’d gotten smacked by Papyrus’ attack. “s-sorry, doll.”

A few tense moments passed and Papyrus dematerialized his magic bone. He smiled in greeting. You felt Sans tense, sucking in a breath as his brother walked to the stranger.

“I BELIEVE I OWE YOU THANKS.” He outstretched his hand.

Red stared at it dumbly, his mind trying to catch up with everything that had just happened.

“f’what…?” he grunted, avoiding eye contact as he smoked.

There was a brief sadness that crossed Papyrus’ expression.

“THERE IS DUST ON THE PRIESTESS AND I CAN ONLY IMAGINE SHE WAS UNDER ATTACK. YOU, BEING THE ONLY ONE HERE, MUST HAVE SAVED HER.” He kept his hand outstretched and his expression welcoming. “I AM DEEPLY INVESTED IN HER SAFETY. YOU HAVE MY GRATITUDE.”

You couldn’t tell what was happening. Red looked unsettled, even backing up a step from the offered hand as though taking it would do him great harm. Instead, he shrugged in a manner far too reminiscent of the skeleton who held you.

“whatever,” he said, belittling the praise over a pun, “just gettin rid of an unwanted gyft.”

“You saved me.” You protested.

“meh, that too.”

Sans slowly began to let you down, saying, “finally figured out why we’re here, huh red?” Your guardian’s remark was more cheeky than helpful, a wryness to his tone that belied his distrust. “good. didn’t wanna have to kick your tail-bone again.”

Red’s smirk returned with a volcanic flash of his red eyes, one that glinted off the gold of his fang.

“ya don’ have the spinefer’it, blue boy.” his burning gaze shifted to where you stood, looking you up and down, “not when, from what i understand, y’priestess has an interest in recruitin’ me.”

You stepped forward, cutting into the argument, “Then you’re aware of the prophecy and why I’m here?”

“yeah sure, everyone knows that ole tale.” he lowered the cig from his teeth, puffing the smoke out of his nasal cavity in a stream, “never really gave it much stock though. that gerson’s bat-shit crazy and has dusted his fair share a’ monsters. he may be old but we all know better than t’fuck with someone that unhinged.”

“LANGUAGE!” Papyrus said again, this time bopping Red on the head.

“owe- alright alright!” He rubbed his skull, looking at Papyrus with a half hearted scowl, “geez dude, gimmi a break.”

“he already did.” Sans chuckled, gesturing to Red’s fractured cheek.

“Hey,” you said, walking forward cautiously.

Red snapped his attention to you, watching interestedly as you made your way up to him. Your heart was pounding anxiously, but you persisted until you were standing in front of his bulky presence. You forced your eyes up to meet his and it was hard to not revisit the memories you had of the last time he was this close.

His entire persona inspired fearful respect.

“Pap…” You didn’t even glance over your shoulder to him. “You’re the healer, right?”

With no further provocation, Papyrus pulled his soul from himself and offered it, hovering over one hand, to you. With a sidelong glance to Red, you pulled out your own to lend to Papyrus. They met readily in an embrace both knew intimately and the warming balm of Papyrus’s courage saturated you.

Already you felt a lot calmer.

Red had his eyes slitted, watching the joined souls as he sucked his cigarette down to the butt.

“How do we heal him?” you asked.

The taller skeleton stepped up behind you, took off one glove, and laced his hand behind your own and led it towards Red’s cheek. He jerked away with a growl of warning.

“Please,” you said, meeting his stare without a hint of fear for the first time. “I just want to help.”

He shifted, distrusting of the situation and looking from Papyrus to you. The air around him was thick with magic, tension hardening his posture. He didn’t move away, and Paps bone hand behind your own hovered in invitation in the space between you.

“i could kill all a ya right now…” he warned, leering into your steady gaze, but you felt no real threat behind his words.

“I know how scary you are, you don’t need to prove it.” you said with a nervous smile. “Come on big guy, we need to start somewhere, right?”

“assumin’ i’m comin along already?”

“If you didn’t want to, you would have left me to that deer thing.” You smiled at him. “In fact, I think you sensed me arrive here. Right? It’s why you showed up so quickly.”

He cracked a smile and chuckled, surprising you by actually loosening his scowl into something softer. He didn’t deny it, but he didn’t confirm it either.

“wow… y’really did come back f’me…?” he marveled. “i didn’t think ya would, i mean- who could blame ya, right? but… here y’are… that pretty lil human dropped herself right back in m’lap.”

A deep purr rattled his chest as he leaned in closer to you, those clawed phalanges invasively reaching in to stroke your hair and graze the curve of your jaw. Your heart began to race at his nearness as the resonance grew achingly strong. Papyrus slid an arm around your waist from behind. You couldn’t tell if it was protective or possessive.

“admit it, sweetheart.” he murmured, his smoky breath warming your winter chilled cheeks, “y’came back so i could bone ya properly.”

You gasped at the innuendo and Papyrus made a sound of disgust.

“STOP BEING VULGAR AND LET US HEAL YOU!”

“right right…” he chuckled as he flicked his finished cig over the cliff then leaned his cheek into your offered palm. “go ahead.”

The feel of his cracked bone under your hand made your stomach churn instinctively. Even without a bond formed and in spite of what he had done to you, the resonance did much to remind you of your importance to each other. Your fingers stroked along the fresh wound, amazed to see that there was a wet redness leaking from the bone. Blood? Marrow? If the exploration hurt him, he didn’t show it, but his half lidded gaze remained on yours. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say he was soaking in your touch.

He’s starved for affection. Papyrus said observantly from within your mind as the magic of your conjoined souls began to move through your hands and into the wound. A part of me wonders how terribly he must have suffered to be so gratified at so simple an exchange.

You had been in wonder at that yourself, but queried, The other part?

Wonders how he made it this long being as vulgar and foul mouthed as he is. I’ll do my part to teach him to treat you respectfully, dear.

Red groaned audibly as you watched the cracks slowly knit themselves closed, his expression heart-breakingly relieved. Even the chasm of an old wound on his head began to recede marginally. The poor abused skeleton closed his eyes at last, trustingly letting the weight of his skull relax into your touch. It made you smile warmly, stroking your thumb over the now healed swell of his cheek.

“pull it back, pap.” Sans warned, approaching from where he had remained silent on the outskirts of the exchange. “you’re using too much magic on him.”

Red bared his teeth a moment at the comment, but didn’t open his eyes as he reveled in the healing. Your soul swelled affectionately for him. This poor man. How much had he endured in this place to make him so hardened and angry?

Papyrus turned an apologetic look to his brother.

“He’s far more wounded than what I had inflicted on him, Sans.” Papyrus explained quietly. “To be blunt, I’m not sure how he was going about with the kind of injuries he’d sustained. I can’t leave him like this.” He turned back to the task at hand, resting his chin on your shoulder, “Neither of us can.”

Sans said no more but the tether was tense. For the moment, you ignored it and concentrated on offering as much magic of your own that you could spare.

In the end, it was Red that put a stop to it, reaching up and carefully prying your hands off.

He took a step back, rolling his shoulder a few times before a loud, cringey crack filled the air. He sighed in relief before he lifted an arm and held it in place to arch. Ribs popped in succession back into their proper homes one by one.

It didn’t bother you, but Papyrus and Sans both vocalized their revulsion.

“yeah, that’s the ticket.” he sighed in satisfaction. “all that’s been out for months. i owe ya.”

“DOES THAT MEAN YOU WILL JOIN US IN BEING GUARDIANS AND AID THE PRIESTESS TO SUMMON THE BEAST GOD?” Papyrus asked excitedly.

“heh,” he shrugged once more, “maybe.”

Incredulously, Papyrus exclaimed, “WHAT?”

“i wanna talk t’her first.”

Sans was the first to protest, and despite him appearing as composed and casual as ever, you sensed his protectiveness of you clairvoyantly. “no way, not without us, red.”

“c’mon.” Red challenged, his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket as he began to stride towards his double. “i’m a guardian or whatever too, ya know. i got some shit-”

“LANGUAGE!” Pap said yet again as he tugged his glove back on.

Red flinched and dodged a blow that never came, quickly correcting himself, “uh, i got stuff i wanna talk t’her bout.” he glowered at Sans. “that ain’t a crime, right?”

“heh, turns out murder is. and that’s what happened last time you were alone with her.”

“she reset dumbass, it never happened.”

“like hell it didn’t happen,” Sans smile miraculously vanished along with his eye-lights, his magic fluttering his clothes and Red answered the threat in kind. “you didn’t have to see the aftermath of what you did.”

“aftermath, eh?” Red’s grin was as wide as a cheshire cat’s. “here’s an equation for ya! whaddaya get when ya subtract ya double from a problem?” He leaned in and whispered, “the girl.”

Sans magic eye burst to life and quickly you hurried forward and got between them, hands instantly up on your guardian’s ribs and coaxing him back.

“Stop, please, we’re fine, all of us!” You tried to reason, but Sans’ smile was back and looking over your shoulder at his rival. You took his head in your hands quickly and forced him to look at you. “Sans!”

At your insistence, he closed his eyes and breathed deep. When he looked back at you, his gaze was almost normal, though there was a subtle strobing effect transpiring that you almost missed in those pin pricks. You focused on the tether to transmit wordless comfort to him. You stared at him hard, and he did the same.

It took a tense few seconds, but Sans did take a step back, agitated, but by all appearances, calm once again.

Red’s laughter pulled you out of your concern and you whirled on the monster, saying, “I will go somewhere to talk to you like you want, but don’t you dare provoke him like that again!” He blinked at you in surprise, but didn’t seem intimidated. You poked him in the sternum. “Our world is torn up enough by internal fighting, I won’t stand for it among my Guardians!”

A prurient smile split his face, one that you had to begrudgingly admit was charming despite how it made your stomach uncertainly flip flop.

“wow, kitten. nice claws. alright, i’ll leave the pip-squeak alone.” you wrinkled your nose and stepped back as you let him speak, “n’don’t ya boys worry none, i run this place. no one’ll touch her if she’s with me.” He glanced at Papyrus, barking, “hey, mind backin off so a guy can get to know a girl?”

Papyrus was apprehensive, but he did draw his soul from yours, and both receded into their homes. Then he finally took to fixing the positioning of his scarf, looking like he desperately needed something to do. Once your soul was without his though, the anxiety returned. Free of your guardians courage, you had to rely soul on your own.

Oh god...you realized too late. You’d made a mistake.

“stay here and wait, i’ll bring her back soon.” Before you change your mind, Red tugged you to him. You collided to his chest with a little yelp, instinctively grasping handfuls of his sweater for balance as he spun you to face your two very suspicious guardians, “relax boys, she’s in good hands.”

His grip dropped to your backside just in time for him to teleport you away.

Chapter Text

The sensation of teleporting was not new, despite the unfamiliar man who was performing it. Had Red simply spirited you away to talk, what happened after would have never come to pass, but no, he just had to grab your butt! It was no simple pat or slip of the hand. His bone fingers had spread lustfully over it, groped the flesh hard, and used the hold to scoop you as close as his boundless audacity dared! He must have it in spades to justify touching you like that, particularly after he’d delighted in torturing and killing you.

So, as far as you were concerned, it was understandable that as soon as you reached his destination you wrenched yourself from his grasp and smacked him in the very face you’d just healed.

His eyes were wide and blank. He obviously hadn’t expected you to retaliate in such a way.

You had intended to scold him immediately after, but the sharp stinging pain from the strike had you bent over your now cradled hand. Wow that smarts. Then again, what did you expect to happen hitting a creature of living bone? It was like trying to spank a brick wall. You didn’t regret it however. You were glad that for once in your life you had stood up for yourself. It wasn’t something you were able to do often.

“Owe owe owe owe!” you muttered to yourself while you shook your hand out to try and rid it of the worst of the pain. The skin of your palm was burning and the sensation of the hit was echoing up your arm.

You were so preoccupied you didn’t notice the stares your actions had drawn. Other monsters were around, noticing you with one of the most notorious killers of the underground, and gawking in shock at what they’d just seen you do.

Red, however, was at least ten steps ahead of you. He grabbed you by the wrist you’d struck him with and towered over you with his mountainous bulk. The gold chain against his sternum rattled with his threatening movements and the jeer of his maw was nightmare inducing. An angry puff of hot air froze in the frigid air between you like smoke blown from a dragon about to attack.

You froze. Why did you think you could get away with hitting him? You tugged back to escape but found your back literally against a wall.

Oddly, in spite of his actions and your fearful response, the resonance was strengthening inexplicably, needy and confusing.

Red bent over you, practically roaring, “listen here ya little bitch! ya dare fight me again, mate or not, i’ll rip out ya throat with my teeth and fuck your bleeding corpse!”

You violently shuddered at the threat, trying hard to shrink away from him but his grip was like a manacle that fettered you to him.

“I-I’m sorry!” you insisted, ghostly wisps bursting from your lips on each anxious pant, “God, please, don’t-”

His thumb, ever so subtly, stroked against the underside of your wrist - a motion that mitigated his words and made you look timidly back up to him, confused. The resonance swelled between you.

It was only then you took note of where you were and the circumstances you found yourself in. You were between him and a building enshrouded by a ledge of powder-dusted trees. There was enough room only for the two of you but there was an open space, a road or a town square, directly to your right. People were watching, one a small mouse with oversized and torn ears and a ratty red and orange scarf trailing behind him, his beady eyes shifting from the scene between you and Red and the other onlooker, a massive black bear with wiry fur and a missing eye.

The skeleton who had you trapped stroked your wrist comfortingly again, but in contrast he snorted at you.

Was it all a performance to save face in front of onlookers?

“y’better be sorry.” He hissed, then shot a malicious glare to the spectators, challenging them, “ya little shits got somethin ya wanna say t’me?”

The mouse scurried away in fright, practically tripping over his scarf in his haste, but the bear rumbled deep in his chest, backing away slowly while shaking his head in pity.

“How you treat your mate’s not nonna my business.” His words were hard to make out over his rolling backwoods accent. He turned and lumbered away, his torn red and black flannel stretched tight over his hunchback. “Nope, not my business… poor thing.”

Reds stare remained on him until he was out of sight and the heavy plopping of his paws could no longer be heard on the trampled snow. Only then did he look back down at you, those beads of red light looking over your expression to gauge how you were doing.

He didn’t apologize for how he treated you, but he did explain, “i got a certain reputation to consider, dollface.” He used his body to block the exit to the open area beyond the building, obstructing your only means of fleeing and hiding you from prying eyes. “now i ain’t used to no one havin the balls to hit me round, b’sides m’boss. i’d hate to have t’hurt actually ya again jus t’make a point to people who can’t mind their own business.”

His words were not comforting, though you suspected, to him, they were meant to be. You were shaking and struggling to calm down.

“I thought you were…” flashes of memory made you whimper, a hand rising to clutch at a wound that was no longer there. “...were going to-”

You didn’t finish speaking before his arm came forward and, with surprising gentleness, pulled you into the warmer and softer space his sweater and jacket made against him. He didn’t say as much, but it seemed he was trying to placate you before you got back to the task at hand. You didn’t question it, the resonance was strong in its longing and the sore pull was very distracting. The nearness he offered you was providing a short reprieve from its intensity. So you rose a hand to grasp his sweater, your face avoiding the chain on his chest as you sought the comfort he offered.

You felt so conflicted. This man had made you know suffering beyond imagination and yet you felt a pull to him. You stiffened in remembrance, whimpering again as you fought to calm down. You felt his large bone hand that had remained on you tense before trying to rub comforting circles between your shoulder blades.

You wished your other guardians were here. You’d feel so much safer, but you had to talk to Red alone and show him you trusted him.

Even if you really didn’t just yet.

A soft rumbling sound vibrated his ribs where you had been resting your head, and you lifted it up to see him keeping his eyes on the terrain. They scanned the woods, shifted at sounds you’d have never noticed, and occasionally dropped to you to check on how you were faring.

“take y’time, sweetheart.” he said, quiet and watchful. You hadn’t expected such patience from him.

“Why are you doing this?” You finally asked.

His hand continued to rub your upper back and he shrugged.

“i dunno, the resonance thing?” he muttered, and you got the feeling he was avoiding the real answer. “y’got me curious.”

You had to press on. “So you won’t hurt me?”

There was a short pause, his face twitching once before he answered you. “naw. already did that. didn’t like it.”

That made you smile and some tension escaped your rigid body. He seemed pleased at that, his fanged mouth tilting into something that almost looked kind.

“So you admit, you let my soul go so I could reset?”

Again, there was a long pause, and he huffed in exasperation. “da fuck- why you gotta know all this, doll? do ya like holdin it over me, bein right?” His frown curled into a sneer, exposing that larger golden fang, “that it?”

Those words only further highlighted to you how little you knew of each other. You wished you could find it in you to be as confident and sure as he suggested, but it’d be at the sacrifice of some softer parts of your personality that you weren’t prepared to lose. So you dipped your head back to his ribs and shook your head against the front of his sweater, the chain lightly clinking next to your ear.

“No. Not at all.” you explained quietly. “I’m the Priestess. I need to find my Guardians. You’re one of them and I really want to trust you. It’s just so hard to after you killed me. I can’t stop thinking of it.”

You felt his already hard body grow more taut.

“yeah well…” he grumbled bitterly, “ya took your time comin back, didn’t ya?”

“I needed to try and come to terms with it.”

“didja?” He sounded reservedly hopeful.

“A bit.” you took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, counting to yourself. “The rest depends on how this goes.”

“lucky me” he said sarcastically. “i ain’t exactly charismatic. so i gotta win ya over?”

“What?” You drew back to look at him once more, “No. Not all. You don’t have anything to prove to me, you being a Guardian’s enough. I just, we have to start somewhere. Me asking you if you let me reset, if you let me go, hoping I would come back- if that’s true it’d tell me a lot about you and it’s really great way to start covering over how we met.”

He was uncomfortably quiet, his expression twisted as magical beads of red sweat glided down his skull.

“Well?” you pried. “What I suspect- is it true?”

Finally, he gave in and grunted, “yeah. yeah, i let you go.” his sockets closed, tightness in his expression, “ya kept me waitin’ a fuckin’ week and i started to wonder if ya were actually gonna show up again or if i’d be waitin’ forever.”

“Scared that you ran me off?” you attempted to tease.

He denied quickly, “i wasn’t scared.”

You found yourself smiling again and he seemed to discern that you saw through his rebuttal.

“okay.” he confessed, his gaze boring into yours suddenly and with an intensity you were unprepared for. “i admit it. seein ya soul, feeling it’s hard pull t’mine- fuck!” he spat, looking away, flustered. “i been waitin for that kinda thing my whole damn life and… you were layin there, bleedin out, couldn’t answer cuz’a me… i fucked up, okay? now can ya leave all that alone?”

The words came out, the honesty blatant and you knew in your soul it was the truth.

“Yeah.” You agreed readily, earning a passing look of surprise from him. “Yeah, I won’t mention it again.”

“really?” He asked, looking unconvinced, “jus’ like that?”

“Yeah. I promise. I won’t mention it or hold it against you.” You took a slow step back from him and his hand slid off your back and returned to his pocket. “You thought you were doing right by your world and your brother. Undyne’s theft of that soul put your guys freedom back by decades, you said.” you nodded to yourself to further solidify all of this in your mind, “Anyone would be upset over that. I just was unlucky enough to be there at the wrong time.”

And you meant it. Oddly, his admitting that he did regret his brash actions made you understand the circumstances of that reset a lot more clearly. From his perspective, he was doing his job. He was defending his brother. He was acting, misguidedly, under his core attribute of justice. You didn’t think you could wrench an apology from him but you felt satisfied by his words and the closure this conversation had allowed. It felt like a weight was being eased off of your shoulders.

Interestingly, he seemed to be experiencing something similar, regarding you with a placid gentleness that made his overall vicious appearance look, in the right light, kind of sweet.

He looked you over and after a moment's consideration, he took off his jacket and dropped it on your shoulders. It was heavy, the weight of the leather settling on you with comforting warmth. It smelled like tobacco smoke, pine, and spice.

“keep that on ya, sweetheart.” he ordered, approval in his gaze as he appraised how you looked in it. “hmmm. perfect.”

You couldn’t place why, but you suspected this meant something. There was a possessiveness to the way his eyes raked you and the pleased smirk of his fangs. You were grateful for his offering, though - you had been starting to get cold and the garment was very warm.

Maybe it was best not to overthink it, so you gratefully said, “Thanks.”

“heh,” he chuckled, glancing away with a light crimson blush. For a moment, you could see your Sans in the naturalness of the gesture, “s’nothin. keep it on ya while ya here, it’ll keep other monsters from messin with ya.”

He turned and began to lead the way out into the open and you had to note how different he looked without his jacket on. The high collar of his red turtleneck sweater was enclosed with a gold spiked collar. He was still wide and large, but without the coat, he seemed a bit less bulked out and threatening. You followed after him without being told.

“How does it protect me?” you asked curiously.

He glanced back at you with a grin.

“cuz that’s mine, and whoever wears it, is mine.” he said and you felt your breath catch in your windpipe and warmth rush to your cheeks. “no one’ll fuck wit what belongs t’me, sweetheart.”

Suddenly, you remembered how he had screamed at you earlier. In front of everyone, he’d called you his mate. Your steps faltered slightly and you had to catch yourself against the corner of the building he’d just rounded. It looks like you were near some sort of town square.

“Wait, you gave me this to...” It took a moment of reflection, but you understood the protection he was offering despite feeling a bit flustered by what it suggested, “Thanks, it’s a good ruse. Clever.”

He stopped, hands in the pockets of his shorts. You followed suit as he smirked at your bashfulness. Why did he look so amused?

“it ain’t no ruse.”

Your confusion had to have been obvious because he shifted himself back into your path. He braced an arm on the building, lazily throwing his weight into it while he soaked in your reaction.

You blinked slowly. He couldn’t be serious, could he? He was suggesting taking you as...a…

You laughed nervously. It was a joke. It had to be a joke.

Red, however, wasn’t laughing.

“You’re...serious.” You whispered.

He hummed in satisfaction, “now ya gettin it.”

“But we just met.” you argued.

“that don’t matter.”

“You don’t mean to say that…” you rose a hand to touch your chest, your heart rate increasing, the resonance in your soul burning painfully.

“hmm?” he coaxed as he leaned over you a little closer, “c’mon sweetheart, ya can say it.” his eyes gave a flash of burning red, an action that corresponded with a firm tug along your resonance with him. Had his soul made that flash? “i want ya to. it’ s easy. soulmate.”

You shook your head right away in disbelief, refusing to believe him.

“You’re claiming...that…” you were struggling to form the words, “-I’m your soulmate?”

“s’cuz ya are. well-” he declared boldly, holding your gaze steadily. “least, ya gonna be. we’re gonna have our little talk n’then i’ll stake my claim b’fore i bring ya back.”

“Wait! Don’t I have say in this?” you asked, stepping back a pace to put some space between the two of you.

He was laughing now, a deep spreading sound that shook his shoulders. He took you by the arm and kept you moving with him towards some preset destination. You were aware of how the monsters in the area took one look at the two of you and scattered, giving him a wide breadth of space and not daring to even cross his path.

“damn, did my worthless double teach ya nothin bout’ souls?” he mocked. “this tuggin at your soul? i know ya gotta be feelin it, even as a human you gotta. it’s fuckin strong.”

“It’s a...a resonance,” you argued stubbornly, desperately trying to get this idea out of his head, “I was told that could mean anything! THIS could be ANYTHING!”

“just a resonance wouldn’a made me regret killin ya.” he said, his words leaving little doubt in your mind that there was no swaying him. His mind was made up.

“Please!” You begged, digging your feet into the snow to try and stop him from dragging you forward. “I need to have a say in this! This effects everyone! You’re not being reasonab-”

“i know m’soulmate when i see em doll!” he promised you sharply, his face hardened at your resistance. “any monster worth his salt does! and i’m not givin up my mate just cuz some half pint double a’mine from a cookie’s n’milk timeline thinks he’s got a claim on ya!” His nasal cavity twitched irritatedly, scenting the air near you. “you’re even wearin his clothes, his smell is all over ya, n’he’s acting like ya god damn boyfriend! the little shit was tryin to show me you’re his without sayin a damn word! i ain’t havin it! ya mine, sweetheart, and that’s happenin right fuckin now!”

Your entire world came to a stop suddenly, your eyes seeing through Red as those words struck with the force of lightning. It wasn’t his forcefulness you heard. It wasn’t the veiled threat of forcing your compliance.

It was what he’d said about Sans.

“Sans…” you whispered, your mind slowly shifting through all the memories of your second guardian. “You’re...saying Sans is…”

He’d always been guarded with you. It had made sense considering how hard it was for him to truly open up to anyone, but what if Red was right?

What if Sans’s reluctance had been for a completely different reason?

When you had fused with Pap, you recalled passingly that there was a brief moment where Sans had been tense; suspicious. Now you needn’t wonder why. It had been the first time he’d seen your soul. Just like with Red, there was a moment of knowing. Only for Sans, you were fusing your soul with his brother’s. He’d had to tread carefully to determine if that act would interfere with what your soul had shown him.

Then there were all his efforts following, each tense moment you couldn’t explain - his watchfulness over you and Pap, the way he’d looked at you in the bath, the extremely thoughtful gifts, the attentiveness, the fun mutual flirting, how carefully he guided you through his mind to keep you from wandering into unwanted areas, his unwillingness for you to be alone with Red-

-the suffocating emotion you felt at that almost kiss.

Sans knew.

He had known all along.

You were soul mates, and he knew that connection could possibly be transferable to his counterpart.

… Suddenly his aggression towards Red made so much more sense.

“He…” you stared unseeingly down into the snow, “He never… he never told me. Never… made me think that we-”

Your eyes began to finally refocus, seeing Reds face again, and heart beating frantically in your chest. You looked down at the sweater you wore, the cable knitting thick, warm, and so large on your comparatively smaller body. There was even a stubborn ketchup stain on it. When he had loaned it to you, you had noticed how it smelled like your Guardian - you’d even enjoyed it.

“He didn’t have me wear this for warmth...” your voice was flat and numb as you pinched the fabric in your fingers, looking at it as overwhelmed tears clouded your eyes.. “He knew. Oh… god. He knew…”

Red stepped closer and your attention flicked back up to him in alarm. To your relief, he actually looked concerned.

“holy shit, sweetheart.” he murmured, those clawed phalanges sliding into your hair and carefully cradling your head. You were too overloaded to protest or move away. In any case, he was being comforting, and you desperately needed that as your tears fell free and rolled onto his hand. “ya really had no clue…? oh fuck...”

He carefully put an arm around your shoulders and guided you around the building you had stopped by and you went along numbly. Its windows were broken and the cracks taped together to try and keep out the cold, but broken glass still littered the ground, crackling under your swaying steps. The sign above the front door was a piece of particleboard, the title ‘Grillbys’ done in graffiti artfully scrawled and hung in favor of a proper sign.

You were too shaken up to notice the familiar name and let Red lead you to the front door.

“c’mon.” he muttered regretfully, “looks like ya could use a drink.”

You were grateful that his talk about claiming you and implying Sans’ perceived stake on you had ebbed. It was too much to take in and had thrown the entire premise of this mission off. If this was true, if Red really recognized the resonance as the call of a soul mate, then-

-where did this leave you and Sans?

Red’s words pulled you back into the present.

“look, i kinda thought ya two already had it worked out b’fore ya got here.” he said as he opened the door to the establishment. “thought ya weren’ even givin me a chance, n’i was pretty pissed. i didn’ know he had kept it from ya, cuz i know i wouldn’t have.” Again, he didn’t apologize, but he explained himself. “guess this talks gettin more ’n more important by the second, eh hunni?”

 

The inside was a lot better kept than the outside, but there were a few suspicious burn marks on the creaky wood planked floor and on one far wall. There was also the chalk outline of a body. You couldn’t tell if it was decorative or an actual relic of a death that had taken place, but it didn’t take much deliberation to decide you didn’t want to know. The walls were done in graffiti art, stylistically depicting a pack of vicious dogs with blood stained teeth and beady empty eyes. You took a quick look but again, decided that you didn’t want to look at the art too closely either. Red led you towards the first booth to the right after coming inside. It was clean enough, though there were a few messages scratched into the wooden surface of the table. The only one you found decipherable was a phone number and a decidedly phallic illustration.

There was something deeply unsettling about this place.

Maybe it had nothing to do with the decor and everything to do with how you were being stared at, a detail your escort had noticed too. One glowering gaze from him sent the other patrons back to what they were doing, the very air thick with suspense… and fried food.

“jus sit down,” he muttered, eyes still staring down each and every other patron of the place, “grillbz’ll be out in a minute, ‘n we got a lot t’get through, so get cozy.”

He slid into the spot next to you, boxing you against the wall and once more hiding you from sight with his larger form.

You said nothing.

“ya alright?”

You tried to form an answer, to say something, but in the end you shook your head no and slowly bowed your head down onto the table, tears once more stinging your lower lash line.

“you’re gonna be okay, i’ll make sure of it. alright? so don’t worry bout what shrimpy me did or didn’ do sweetheart.”

You shook your head yet again and murmured into the table, “I have to worry.”

You felt the pressure of Reds hand on your back again and felt his body leaning in to talk privately with you.

“okay, i’m gonna cut the crap here cuz otherwise we’re not gonna get shit done.” he said decidedly, “let’s start over. hey doll, i’m sans. sans as in, lackin or without- as in ‘sans a girl’, for instance. so if you wanna be on my arm i’m gonna have to find a new name.”

You smiled slightly at his flirting, lifting up a bit in time to see him wink at you.

“Hi, Sans. I’m y/n… I’m so glad I finally got to meet you.” Calling him Sans felt so strange. This wasn’t Sans in your mind and it was hard to view him as anything other than Red. You decided to ask him, “Well, I can’t call you Sans anyway. That’d get confusing. So is Red okay? That’s what we’ve been calling you.”

“if that’s what you’ve been callin me, sweetheart, then red sounds perfect.” He slumped against an arm on the table, looking over you with unconcealed affection. “so long as that ain’t a no, i’m good. there’s time ta win ya over.”

You made yourself sit up all the way, staring at your lap. “You won’t make me be your mate then, right? You were just… just talking?”

Red answered quickly, to your relief. “naw. now that i know you weren’t close t’havin it with that other me i can take my time and do it right like i wanna.” His grin was huge, his gaze very focused on you. “n’for the record, i wouldn’ve hurt ya… not too bad anyway.” he reached out, his pinkie finger trailing the harmless outside curve of his claw from the hollow below your ear down your neck, then flipping it to pull the high collar of the sweater aside to reveal the smooth flawless skin beneath, “woulda jus’... left ‘my mark’ on ya.”

You flinched a little, covering the exposed skin with your hand, but looked at him apologetically.

“I don’t belong to anyone, Red.” you explained calmly. “I know what you think is going on, but I love my Guardians, all of them, and I know I’ll love you, and everyone else as well. But… marks? Claims? Mates? This is all a bit much and I don’t understand any of it.”

“is that all? well, that ain’t hard t’explain.” he said, leaning a little close and undeterred by your lack of compliance. “see, wearin his shirt or my jacket is just a show. ya can take it off, it’s not permanent, but it tells others ya not available right now. all monsters do it across all worlds, though it’s a lot more important here because if ya belong to the right person, it keeps ya safe. but a mark?” His eyes gave a desirous flash, “that’s permanent. no takin it back.”

You didn’t follow, and your brow scrunched in concern. Your hand was still on your neck.

“How is it permanent? How do you mark someone?”

“a bite’s pretty personal, sweetheart.” The growl in his throat as he leaned in and licked his fangs was answer enough, gnashing those jaws once for emphasis. “no two monsters’ have got the same pattern of teeth, n’mine are pretty unmistakable.”

You’d never seen either Papyrus or Sans manifest a tongue before, and you rudely stared at Red as that glowing and obviously magical appendage swept wetness over his serrated maw.

“You’d...bite me?” Your hand closed tight and protectively around that spot on your neck and you recoiled. “I really don’t like that idea.”

Red chuckled, “oh ya will. trust me. once our bond’s strong enough you’ll be proud to have it.”

You turned away, heart hammering and soul swelling once more. “Please, stop talking like that.”

“s’okay that ya feel like this now. it’ll change.” He stroked his hand over your hair a few times, taking his time to touch and experience the texture. You wondered passingly if he’d ever touched human hair before. He sure seemed to be enjoying it.

“we got time, right?” he drawled confidently. “so long as i know the other me don’t got you either, i’ve got a fair shot. before i thought i had t’hurry up n’jus do it or risk losin ya forever.”

You uncertainly looked back to him, pulling the collar of Sans sweater up towards your ear, just to be safe. His words though, admitting he’d been afraid of losing you before he’d had a chance to have you? Something about that was oddly touching. Your soul was definitely responding and it only heightened your confusion. Just what did all of this mean for you and the others in the long run?

“The way you’re speaking makes me think you’ve already made up your mind to come with me.” you said, deciding to focus on the here and now.

“like hell i’d stay behind and let him have ya,” he sneered angrily. “b’sides, the prophesy has been around a long time ‘n i already knew i was waitin on it.”

This was the business at hand and a much needed distraction from all this ‘mate’ talk.

“Okay, while we’re on the subject, you’ve known you were going to be a Guardian?”

He nodded with a dismissive shrug, his lower jaw jutting out slightly with a scoff.

“yeah, since I off’ed my old man.” the confession made you shudder, realizing he meant this timelines Gaster. “after i shoved the asshole in i looked into the void n’the beast god took my eye. it gave me some abilities that i didn’t really understand or like, not till gerson started losin his damn mind and inscribing shit all over the caves of waterfall.” he laughed shortly, “no one really took it seriously but-” his eyes shifted over to you gently, “then for shits’n’giggles i read about how a priestess would come from another world to shatter the barrier across all timelines, freeing monsters everywhere. foretold it’d be a human girl, lookin jus’ like you, and she’d come here seeking two warriors to guard her. a warrior a’ justice and a warrior a’ perseverance.”

“You and your brother.” you whispered, your eyes tearing up again but this time for sheer joy. “And your prophesy specifies it’ll fix all timelines? That’s such good news.”

“yeah…” he said quietly with a nod, hooking a gentle knuckle under your chin and tilting your smiling face up to him. “n’ya did finally show up, after all this time wonderin if it’s bull shit or not, you’re here. course i didn’ count on you bein my soulmate, but i’m ready doll. fuck it all, i’ve been ready! get me the fuck outta this place, take me from this hell hole and i’ll follow ya anywhere. i’ll keep ya safe, i swear to whatever god is out there, to the beast god himself- if you need a warrior babe? a fighter?” sweetly, he moved that finger to gently wipe a tear off your face, vowing, “i’m your man.”

Your eyes were fixed on him, smiling and crying over his beautiful words. He was being open with you, a lot more open than you ever could have expected considering he was an alternate to Sans. You’d expected recruiting him to be a lot harder than this, but here he was, already confessing his eagerness to join you.

He shushed you as he kept trying to wipe the tears off your face.

“hey, hey, stop that.” he said, “i don’t handle a girl’s tears too well.”

“Thank you, Red.” You whispered, voice thick with emotion. You rubbed your moist cheek with the heal of your hand, turning and looking over the engravings and gouges in the table in front of you, laughing quietly. “Heh, I had a plan to try and convince you to come with me and it turns out I didn’t even need it.”

“you were gonna extort me?” He scooted a little closer, “now ya got me curious.”

You ran a hand over your hair, needing to fidget a bit as nervous energy built up in you. “Nothing so heinous, but I was going to, well… I guess appeal to your sense of justice and, heh, kinda bring up the fact that you killed me for no reason. I was going to give you the option to exonerate yourself by trying to give this whole thing a chance.”

He certainly wasn’t put off as he leaned back in the booth, looking impressed. “heh, that’d have prob’ly worked, too.” he rubbed his chin, his smirk carrying with it a sense of interest as he once more appraised you. “you’re more than ya seem, doll.”

You were still avoiding his undressing gaze. “Well, don’t take it too much to heart but-” you glanced his way, admitting, “You are too. Thanks for agreeing to come along.”

He suddenly leaned in, cupping your chin and stroking a talon against your cheek to keep your attention this time, “can a soldier get rewarded with a kiss?”

You blinked in surprise at his request, but he was so close, the resonance a burning force between you that made it almost impossible to refuse. Still, in spite of the moment between you, the memory of laying on your bedroom floor, so close to kissing Sans invaded your mind. You knew what Red wanted, what he meant, but instead, opted to tilt your face to the side, softly pressing your lips to the hard living curve at the corner of his mouth.

Even if it wasn’t what he’d been asking for, the color that surged into his face in response snapped a spark against your skin at the contact. Startled, you pulled back, rubbing your lips. They were tingling and Red looked surprisingly sheepish at his own reaction to the gesture.

He… wasn’t what you had expected. At all. The first impression he’d made had been pretty horrific, but under his violence and anger, he was actually kind of…

Wonderful.

You nudged him with your shoulder, smiling in your seat.

Everything was going to be okay. You were sure of it.

“Who’s your friend, Sansy?” came a rich tenor timber of a new voice.

The voice startled you and you shrank back into the oversized coat to hide. You leaned further back behind Red and didn’t dare to even get a look at the monster who approached.

You’re aware of Red’s shifting next to you to look at the newcomer.

“bout time,” Red groused, his tone biting. “it’s a wonder i come here at all with ya lousy service, grillbz! we’ve been here at least 15 minutes waitin’!”

“Well, it’s not like i’m used to seeing your bony ass parked anywhere that’s not at the bar.” the voice replied, the words thinly masked among the dull hum of flame and burning crackles. “I had to have proficient time to gawk at you actually being kinda sweet with someone before I came to get your order.”

“like hell,” Red barked, “y’were out back for a ‘sausage delivery’ weren’t ya?”

“Maybe?” The voice drawled lasciviously, “Man or monster cannot live on bread alone, after all. You jealous?”

Suddenly an arm looped around your shoulders, scooping you forward to look up into the glimmering violet flames of a fire elemental! For a moment you were certain your stare could be considered gapingly rude, but you had never seen a monster have such a striking appearance before. His body was clad in a fine black pinstriped suit and a long leather trenchcoat sat over it, silver grey fur lining the collar and cuffs. The cut and tailoring of everything he wore was perfect and precise; pressed without any hint of a wrinkle. Despite the fine garments, he wore no tie and kept the first three buttons of his dress shirt undone to hint at the masculine planes of his chest.

Those clothes meant nothing without noting how he wore them. The man stood tall with his shoulders squared in confidence and a fist propped up on his hip. He exuded sass; truly a wild fire.

“do i look jealous, ya lit fart?” Red spat, but when he turned his nasal cavity pressed a nuzzle into your hair. You squeaked in surprise, “i’m fannin other flames these days.”

The monster in question canted his head as he got his first good look at you, a few stray licks of flame from his jaw harmlessly lapping at the fur collar of his coat. Slowly, he lifted his hand to slip angular black sunglasses down a plane on his face that could be described as a nose. The movement revealed blackened eyes with blue irises, almond in shape and possessing the focus of a bird of prey.

“How interesting.” he remarked. His voice somehow lacked the playfulness of moments ago. He seemed genuinely curious. “You’re harboring a human Sans. You do realize I could be paid handsomely for passing on such knowledge.”

You gasped audibly, parlour robbing your face of signs of life. You had no idea what kind of reputation humans had in this version of the underground but if it were anything like it was back home, this could be a big problem.

Your skeletal guard didn’t like the suggestion himself and was in the midst of glowering at the monster. “you greedy motha fucker, as if ya don’t get enough gold off the interest you put on my tab-”

“When you actually pay your tab.” Grillby rebuttled. “In any case the ransom of a human is far more affluent than even the kind of tab you’ve let pile up.”

“ya more evil than asgore’s shit if ya do it to the likes a this girl.” Red snapped.

“Uh… Sir?” You said, your voice annoyingly small in your ears, “I really mean no harm to anyone. Please. I’m just passing through.”

“‘Sir’?” He echoed in surprise, appearing completely taken off guard by your words. ”And ‘please’?” he was the one blatantly staring now and you could practically hear the cogs turning in his mind as he tried to figure you out. In the end, the speculation ceased and his original tone returned, “Oh, she is sweet though, isn’t she? Such a rarity.” The man leaned in closer still, appraising what he could see of you. By the curve of his mouth you’d venture to assume he was pleased. “So timid and polite. Quite pretty too. Don’t concern yourself, dear. While I do love gold I think seeing you perish might actually bother me.” He studied you a moment longer before turning his attention to Red, “Why the fuck is she under your arm?”

Red grinned wolfishly and proudly announced, “she’s my soulmate, man.”

This fell-verse Grillby straightened again, making a sound of disgust. “Ugh- you poor thing.” he murmured as he slipped his glasses back into place. “She’s too good for you, Sans. She’s clean and has impeccable manners.”

“heh, yeah she might be, but she’s mine.”

To your surprise, Red didn’t seem too incensed by that remark, which was good. You were too stunned by the exchange taking place to properly intervene should things go too far. The skeleton just leaned back in his booth, keeping his arm around you, and let the other monster get a good eye full of the scene. It felt like he was bragging.

You wished you could shrink under the table and escape the entire scenario.

Grillby seemed to still be studying you. He suddenly smirked, his flames flickering brighter. “You haven’t marked her, have you?”

Now Red tensed, the bone line above his upper row of teeth curling back in warning as he growled, “back off.”

The other didn’t seem bothered by his posturing. “Do you want to be his mate, sweet pea?” he asked, “believe it or not, fate can make mistakes and there are some more aesthetically pleasing options out there who might be willing to fight for you, given-.” he peered his cerulean irises over his shades at you desirously. “- incentive.”

Red stood suddenly, growling at Grillby like a beast. You scrambled to the back of the booth in fright, but the fire-man’s composure held unwaveringly. He stared the fearsome skeleton down as his grin spread wide to reveal rows of pointed needle like teeth. A few patrons in the bar fled out the front door and others sank under the tables for cover.

Oh god, were they really going to fight? Over this? Right now?

“How cute, Sansy.” Grillby whispered, the hush of his tone and the soft bonfire crackle of his voice somehow far more unsettling than Reds yelling. “You’re actually willing to fight for someone other than yourself? None of your other trists have been so lucky.”

“Please stop!” You pleaded.

They ignored you.

“the girl’s m i n e, ya half burnt birthday candle.” he warned chillingly, “and if ya don’t back the fuck off i’m gonna blow ya out and use your dust in doom-fanger’s kitty litter!”

Grillby suddenly looked amused, laughing, “Blow me out, Sansy?”

Red snorted, suddenly joining him for a laugh, “da fuck man, i toldja, i got a girl now. stop tryin’ t’jump m’bones!

You had no idea how the tension that had built so dangerously had suddenly been so perfectly extinguished, but it left you suffering from emotional whiplash. Your hand pressed over your racing heart, trying to calm down.

These two had a very strange relationship. Were they even friends?

“Will you stop being rude and introduce me to her properly?” Grillby said as Red sat back down.

“yeah sure.” he looked back at you and tossed his head slightly in the direction of his ’friend’. “sweetheart, this is grillby. he owns this joint and makes the only food worth eatin in th’underground.” He looked back to him, “grillby, this is y/n. she’s dat priestess gerson’s been squalin’ bout the past few decades.”

“You don’t say?” His composure seemed to crack for a moment, but he quickly recovered, exclaiming, “A pleasure, dear!”

Grillby leaned on the table, bracing one flaming hand to the wood and offering you the other. You weren’t sure how this worked, and though you stared at how his touch didn’t burn the table, you were still a little unsettled by the idea of putting your hand in living flame.

Red chuckled, seeming to understand your hesitation.

“s’okay, hunni.” he coaxed with a softness to his voice that gave you butterflies.

You were becoming increasingly aware that you were having reactions to him that made no sense to you, considering you were still moderately afraid of him. Why was there even another side of the coin like this? But gosh he was looking at you now with those hardened and fearsome features all soft and warmed with affection you hadn’t even earned yet! Your soul swelled in response to his earnestness and you obeyed him.

“I’m very glad to meet you.” You said, slipping your hand into the offered one.

The touch didn’t burn you in the least, though you could describe it as being uncomfortably warm and not as pliant as touching flesh, but it was not without substance. It was certainly an odd sensation but... it wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, you took a moment to give his hand a curious squeeze. After your hand sank through the licking vapors of his fire, something more solid could be felt under it. Maybe a skeleton of some sort?

“I take it you have never met a fire demon?” Grillby said. He seemed pleased by your willingness to shake his hand and humored you by keeping it outstretched so you could explore further.

“go on sweetheart, get a feel for him.” Red was chuckling a little.

Grillby grinned, murmuring suggestively, “She has a pleasing touch.”

“i ain’t sharin.” Red gruffed, that arm around you tightening.

“Really?” Grillby remarked with a raised brow. “That’s new.”

Red didn’t answer right away and when he did, he turned to you warmly. “cuz i actually care bout this one.”

Your soul swelled again, almost stealing your breath. You gently withdrew your hand. None of this was making sense to you and the situation seemed more convoluted and foreign than any other conversation you’d been a part of in the past. You knew some of these comments were of a sexual nature too, and you had absolutely zero experience there. It made you very uncomfortable.

You shifted out from under Red arm, drawing both his stare and Grillbys.

“I think I want to go.” you explained, head bowed. “We’ve talked about what you needed to and the other Guardians are waiting.”

Red teased, “what, it’s just a little sex talk, doll. you gettin a little hot? i can take my jacket back...maybe…” he rumbled, “find a few other ways to stroke ya hotter till ya cool off?”

“There are times when you stroke a fire hotter to make it burn out faster.” Grillby added flirtatiously.

Red shifted closer to you. His hand wandered to your thigh and you slowly scooted away, saying, “I don’t know what you’re getting at, but I really don’t like how this is sounding.”

Grillby looked surprised. “Sans...Oh Sansy, where did you find such an ‘unlearned girl?”

The skeleton chuckled lustily, “bein with me, she’s gonna get quite the education.”

You didn’t really understand what he meant, but you could guess. There was an innuendo to be had there, you just knew it. You continued to move away from Red, suddenly wishing your other guardians were here. You were sure Red wouldn’t dare try and touch you like this if they were around. Grillby could tell quickly what was going on, but Red looked offended.

“Hey.” The fire man said and you could no longer detect any more lust in his tone. He reached in, offering you his hand to help you around the booth to get to your feet. “Forgive me if my comments were too risque.” Surprised, you looked up to listen to him, “It’s a poor excuse, but I really can’t seem to help myself half the time. Life here is rather... dim and depressing. As different as Sansy and I are, we both tended to find reprieve from it in the flesh of the willing, so to speak. I see now that’s not in your nature and while I usually would advise you to get over it, I think urging such a thing might actually be a disservice to your very charming personality. Myself and Sans should do better at controlling ourselves and maybe ample time with you will curb his perpetual horniness.”

Your face turned scarlet.

“says the flamin pansexual who ain’t picky so long as he has someone to throw wood on his fire.” Red was quick to snidely remark, apparently sore at being scolded. “i ain’t the only horn dog bein’ grilled here.”

Grillby ignored him and continued on.

“I suppose I should have suspected that one predestined to be a Priestess would be too pure for such comments. It’s a miracle that it was this lazy debt-saturated barbarian who was destined to guard you. Being that as it may, you are a kind and sweet girl and that is not a common thing where we live.” he smiled, offering selflessly, “You have a friend in me should you return again. Call upon me. I would welcome the chance to aid you in any way I can.”

Red huffed as he stood up to join you, looking angry but so far controlling himself, “she’s got me, she don’t need more than that.”

“Red.” you said quietly in reprimand.

He snorted and looked away, but surprisingly obeyed.

“he’s right though.” he muttered. “this place is a fucking dump and you do what you gotta to keep ya’self goin.”

You stared back at Grillby for a long moment as you took his words in. Being in Underfell, albeit briefly, gave you some idea of how wretched life was here. Everyone seemed fearful, always anxious and alert, and you even noticed when you’d been outside Red never dropped his guard. He was very attentive to his surroundings lest he be caught unaware and pay the price. All things considered, Grillby’s words made sense. The residents here coped in ways you had never had to and here it was just a part of life. It was violent, it was sexual, and it was dangerous.

Slowly, you nodded in heavy-hearted understanding. “I’ll never know what that’s like,” you admitted humbly, touching a curse that was half-carved into the table you’d been sitting at. “Even things in my life I’ve found hard are very different from the hardships I’ve seen monsters face, even back in my version of the underground. I came here, thinking I knew what to expect, but it’s even harder. If that’s how you two have coped then who am I challenge it?” You took a deep breath, and said brightly, “Thank you for taking a moment to explain it to me and thank you for your kindness while I was here. If you’re truly offering your help, I may have to take you up on it one day. Things back in the capital of my timeline haven’t been very good and civil war is imminent. If it means the destruction of the barrier across all timelines like Red, uh… like Sans said, having allies elsewhere to come help could be invaluable in freeing everyone.”

Grillby’s tall and squared posture softened and he bent lower to gaze at you, eye to eye. Gingerly, he lifted your chin to keep you from timidly bowing your head. With his free hand he slowly removed his glasses completely. You were amazed to see how transfixed he was by you, his blue eyes looking incredibly bright against the black sclera.

“You truly are a remarkable girl.” he marveled quietly, “Your strength is not in your limbs or in magic, and not in your LOVE or HP... but your capacity for empathy. Where ever it is you travel allies will be drawn to you like a moth to a flame.” he restated his offer, “Do be sure to call on me.”

“Would you be willing to relocate to our world for some time to do so?” You asked hopefully.

The fire of his body suddenly grew hotter, his smile sharpening into a vicious smirk. “Oh sweetpea, I would leap at the chance.”

“I’m deeply grateful!” you exclaimed, “Thank you!”

You didn’t hesitate to embrace him, the gesture coming naturally. His offer, his sincerity, the hope of this new ally- it all filled you to the brim with determination. However, when you withdrew and saw his surprise, you realized, judging by his expression, that such an affectionate act was likely not common in this world. “I’m so-”

One arm came around you suddenly and you felt the heat of his head touch your temple as he squeezed.

“Priestess.” He whispered, “ A soul with a light like yours can only burn so hot for so long.” His arm tightened, his words reverent and hushed in warning, “Take care of yourself and do not become dulled by anyone or anything. There is nobility in you that comes not from blood and name but from spirit. Burn bright, burn hot, and if you are too kind or too tired to turn your enemies to ash, I will without question do it for you.”

He pressed a kiss to your cheek and straightened, a hardness in his gaze as he looked to Red.

“If you do not take care of this precious woman I will turn you to dust myself.”

Red managed a grin despite his soured mood and shrugged.

“if somethin happens t’her i’ll just dust m’self, deal?”

“You better.” Grillby sighed with a frown as Red steered you towards the door. “Good luck.”

The two of you left in silence, walking through that creaky old door and back out into the cold. As good as you felt at how the meeting with Red went, you were emotionally drained by the things you’d learned.

Sans…

Your soul gave a hard sickening pang and the tether between you vibrated intensely. How were you going to handle this? Soulmates. Even thinking it felt burdensome. Why hadn’t he trusted you with this news? Why had he kept it to himself? You felt like an idiot. Again, that connection to your second guardian reacted to the intensity of your emotions.

Worry from Sans flooded into you despite the distance. You closed your eyes, wishing you could stop thinking about it.

As you flinched from it, Red paused from his watchful eye on your surroundings to look down at you.

“y’alright?”

When you didn’t answer he stopped and tugged you to hide behind what, at first glance was a christmas tree. Standing this close though, it was something far darker. There were no presents under it, but there was ugly red and brown slush. From the branches hung horrible odds and ends, from rusty stained knives and razors to small dead animals hung by their necks on nooses. Some had their stomachs cut open and their innards spilled out, shriveled from age, but preserved by the cold.

You scrambled back from it.

“What is this thing?” You almost shrieked.

Red made a move to cover your mouth but stopped, franticly looking around to see if you’d been heard.

“keep it down!” he hissed past his sharpened teeth, “ya don’t want the wrong people ta hear ya!” After a few tense seconds he sighed, looking at the tree. He was obviously used to it. “meh, ages ago it used ta be a christmas tree. now instead’a leavin gifts under it th’townsfolk tend ta leave offerings. some like t’leave their blood, others that don’t bleed leave critters that fall from up top. they figure if they give enough life n’blood maybe some bigger power might hear them and gift them their freedom. s’the only gift anyone wants down here. nothin else really adds up to anythin.”

You grimaced, having to look away from the morbid sight.

“Do you think the beast god knows what they’re doing? That he hears them?”

Red scoffed, about to reply with something snarky when he stopped, looking you over. Your eyes met and suddenly his expression changed.

“ya know, sweetheart… if ya’d asked me that a few days ago i’d have said no god cares bout what’s happenin t’us.” his boney fingers brushed yours and you held your breath as he gently entwined your fingers together. It felt familiar yet so foreign. “Course… then the beast god sent you.” his cheeks dusted with red magic, “so… yeah. he knows. ya being here is proof a’ that.”

Caught up in the warmth of his ember lit gaze and the way his thumb was stroking your knuckles, you didn’t noticed right away when your two guardians teleported in, but Red did. His eyes hardened again and his mouth dipped into a sneer. He pulled your entwined hands so that you tripped forward against him and had to catch yourself on the chain dangling from his collar. His arm scooped around your waist to keep you there.

 

l e t h e r g o.

 

The voice from behind you sucked your breath anxiously away, and you looked towards it to see Sans. His smile was pulled to a farcical height and his gaze shifted from where Red had his hands within your own to the jacket on your shoulders.

He may be smiling, his face may be placid, there was a manic strobing flicker in his narrowed dot like eyes that betrayed him.

Red didn’t for a second comply. You sucked in a gasp of air as he only pulled you closer. His head bowed to your own to press his nasal cavity against your hair.

His reply was a flat, “n o.

Your eyes flicked from Sans to where Papyrus stood behind him. He looked concerned, but remained silent as Red nuzzled at your temple.

Sans head lowered, his sights never shifting from Red as his feet slid apart to widen his stance, preparing to fight. The tether between you felt like a suffocating noose of barely contained desperation. The sensation chilled you to your marrow. You had felt a lot of emotions off Sans via the tether in your short time together but every last one paled in comparison to this.

But why?

Red leered at Sans as he took a long heady sniff of your hair.

“what?“ he mocked coldly, his grip on you tight and unyielding, even as you tried to step back. “didja just figure out that ya suspicions were correct? that she’s my soulmate, just as much as yours?”

Sans slowly removed his clenched fists from the pockets of his hoodie, the knuckles popping under their own pressure.

He was shaking.

“red…” he said breathlessly as his eyes at last flickered out to leave blackened sockets behind. “i swear. if you don’t let her go right now… i’m going to rip your hands off so you can never touch her again”

“SANS…?” Papyrus tried to speak, undoubtedly to try and defuse the situation, but Sans wouldn’t allow it.

“stay out of it pap.”

Undaunted, Red chuckled. “wow. never thought i’d see the ole poker face crack.” he hummed, “hmmm, if she means so much to ya why didn’ ya tell her? didn’ she have a right t’know?”

You tried once more to push away, but his grip was concrete. The air grew thicker with the presence of magic and Sans didn’t even try to maintain his smile anymore.

“red!”

‘did ya think i was jus’ gonna lay back and let ya have her?” He accused. “cuz i’m not. i’ve been fuckin waitin m’whole life ‘n she’s mine!

“no…” Sans whispered, his struggle with his rage seething across the tether as his magic eye began to manifest. “she’s not yours. and…” his teeth began to chatter they were clenched so tightly, “she’s not mine either.”

Your eyes widened.

“oh?” you heard Red chuckle above you, “you gonna be a pussy n’just see how it all plays out then? you’re a fuckin idiot. if ya want somethin you fight for it! you play dirty t’keep it! cuz if ya don’t someones gonna take it!”

You felt Red brush your hair back from your face and neck as you stared at Sans, trying to figure out what was happening. When your attention shifted to Red and looked up at him in confusion you were just time to see his sharp teeth parting, the bright glow of his magical tongue behind them adding an eerie light against his golden tooth.

You froze.

You opened your mouth to protest but he fisted his hand in your hair and jerked your head to the side, exposing your skin.

d o n ‘ t y o u d a r e!

RED STOP!

Your cry of pain filled the air, drowning out the warnings of your guardians as those jaws snapped down onto your neck, his huge fangs sinking easily past the flesh and latching on like a leach. You struggled and thrashed in his arms, screaming, crying, but he held you locked into place against him, all the while glaring at your other guardians with your body between them as his shield. It burned so badly, the teeth sinking deep enough to easily scar!

But your soul was hurting so feverishly you felt like it might crack under some unknown strain!

“Stop!” You begged. “Please, stop!”

y/n! Sans echoed in your mind, but his voice felt distorted and so far away, darlin please…!

Red was working his tongue over the skin in his mouth, the licks spreading something that sparked and popped against your wounds. The lacerations began to go numb from it. You gave up and slumped against his body, trembling fitfully as you felt the tether between you and Sans begin to grow weak and thin.

No! you mentally screamed.

Red however, was purring happily, his hands rubbing you to try and calm you down.

Sans…? you squeezed your eyes closed, grasping at what was left of the tether. You had never been so desperate to keep something in all of your life, but slowly you felt it slipping away like water through your fingers. You couldn’t hold onto it and make it stay. The last thing you felt across it was a terrible lonely despair.

Then it was gone.

“SANS DON’T-” Papyrus cried, but it didn’t reach his brother.

Sans had lunged forward and Red shoved you to the ground at his feet, your blood staining his teeth as he shot a superior smirk to his rival and met him head on. The two collided like hot air meeting cold, shoots of magical electricity kicked up from the storm of power they were brewing-

You stared unseeingly at the snow under you, tears clouding your vision as you rose a quivering hand to touch your wound. It was wet, blood soaking into and ruining the garment Sans had loaned you. When you drew your hand away, you looked at your blood slicked palm.

Why had he done it?

He’d claimed you even though he’d said he wouldn’t.

Now the tether was gone and Sans... was…

You hiccuped on your breaths and just as you began to wail in grief Papyrus was gathering you up in his grasp. He was shaking too, his bones rattling as he stood up with you held very protectively against his chest. His hand was in your hair, cradling your skull into his shoulder.

“Pap-!” you cried.

“I know, My Priestess, I know, I’m so sorry.” His voice was low and tearful, and when you looked up into his face, you sobbed again to see him so heart-broken. His face was dripping with his tears. “I didn’t know how to stop him- he was… supposed to be an ally! I didn’t want to hurt him but I didn’t think he’d… force his mark on you.”

“I can’t feel him!” you cried, clinging to him for support. “The tether’s gone, I can’t feel him at all! Papyrus-” You buried your face into his scarf, “I can’t feel Sans!

He held you, bowing his face into the uninjured side of your neck as he trembled with his own tears.

“Just hold on, we’ll figure something out!” He said as he gathered his courage to comfort you. He straightened his back and stood tall, looked out at the two Sans’s fighting.

As you held onto Papyrus, you opened your eyes to gaze behind him. The streets were bare, all other signs of life knowing better than to remain where a fight of this magnitude was taking place. You didn’t want to see them, either of them, you never looked. They were going to tear each other apart and for what? What good would this alliance do if they fought among themselves over… over you. You didn’t understand why, and right now, all that mattered was that this was the reality of this situation.

… It did leave you to wonder though, if Sans’ tether was gone, what of your link to Papyrus? Could you even bond with him now?

You didn’t have much time to consider it further as you saw something approaching. It moved with practiced grace, the kind that betrayed power and prestige. Your eyes slowly began to widen, staring down the road into narrowed red eyes that zeroed right back in on you.

It was a skeleton. He wore black knee-high heeled boots and leather pants that rode low on his hips. His spine and rib cage were exposed and clad in a tattered vest that had likely once been an tact leather jacket. The remains of a red scarf was around his neck, whipping in the air behind him. His fanged mouth was set in a perpetual scowl and one eye socket was split with a brutal crack.

His sights were set on you and around his body was radiating an eerie red glow, upon which bone spears began to materialize.

“Pap…?” you whispered, fearfully. “Pap, we have company!”

Your Guardian turned from watching the Sans’s fight to look upon his own double. He was frozen in place in surprise and you too stared out at the man approaching to attack.

With your attention ahead to the obvious attack being prepared, neither of you saw the rush of bones coming out of the earth behind you.

Never knowing what hit him, Papyrus dissipated into a drifting cloud of dust.

Your death was slightly more prolonged. You knew your lower back was broken and your left hip shattered from one bone. There was another lodged in your shoulder.

You heard screaming from behind you, but you weren’t afraid of your death as you watched this dark Papyrus approach. His expression didn’t even change as he rained his attack on you to finish the job.

It hurt, but you had never been so grateful to feel the icy onset of death.

Chapter Text

You found yourself back in Grillby’s restaurant still embracing the flame elemental when the reset kicked in. What had been an encouraging moment of finding a new ally dissolved like sugar in hot water as you had to face the truth of what had just transpired. Red had forced his mark on you. It had completely severed the tether between you and Sans. You and Papyrus had been murdered by his brother.

Oh god, what if his actions lasted through the reset?

“Sweetpea?” Grillby questioned from above you in concern, “You’re trembling.”

You couldn’t even hear him, eyes squeezed tightly shut as you concentrated hard on the tether and felt it quiver. It was still there and Sans seemed to be reaching out to you to to be reassured as well. The reset had thankfully repaired the damage Red had done. Slowly, you drew your tear stained face back from Grillbys satin vest and turned a hardened glare to your would be Guardian. He was busy looking at his hands and blinking.

“the fucker dusted me…” he whispered to himself in shock. “he actually fuckin did it-”

Being out of this weird loop was upsetting Grillby and he hissed, his flames shooting up in warning, “Sans, what the hell?”

“uh-” the skeleton caught his reaction and was about to make some sort of excuse for their odd behavior when he caught that look in your eye and froze. “Hey...sweetheart,” he tried to schmooze, a quirk to his smile that you just wanted to smack off his face, “jus’ cool down for a sec. i had t’do it-”

“Do what?” Grillby demanded.

In fact, you did just that. With a cry of indignation you turned on him in a frenzy of emotion, a ready fist drawn back as you swung your entire body weight into a blow that audibly cracked into his skull. It wasn’t his bones that broke, but those of your hand. Your knuckles were shattered and bloody, your fingers now useless, but your adrenaline was pumping too hard for you to feel the pain. You were fueled by the loss of all he had taken from you in that one selfish second of time. He’d ripped you away from your role as Priestess, uprooted your bonds with your other guardians, and erased Sans tether on you, leaving such a hollow emptiness in its wake that it had left you feeling utterly listless with despair. His head had whipped slightly to the side from the blow and there was a small smear of your blood on his cheek from the impact, but it didn’t appear to have done him any damage.

Instead Red was staring at you in amazement, looking from the fire in your eyes to the hand you’d willingly destroyed on his face.

How could you?” You screamed, brokenly over your tears as you threw his coat to the dirty floor, “Why did you do it? You said you wouldn’t, you said we’d have time, but you did it anyway!”

“sweetheart…” he whispered, holding both hands up in a show of surrender. His face conveyed hurt, and it only angered you more. How dare he think he’s the one hurt after what he’d done! He looked at his jacket on the floor, crestfallen, “ya gotta listen t’me, if i hadn’t marked ya he’d a-”

You didn’t want to hear it, advancing on him fearlessly, “You marked me and severed my bonds with my other guardians- with Sans, just so he couldn’t do it first? And why? For what?” You felt strong hot hands gripping your shoulders, gently drawing you away from the skeleton you were yelling at and buckling you against him with both arms. Still you ranted passionately, “Besides it being cruel, without Sans tether on me, we’re stuck here and what’s more, I can’t do my job as Priestess! You don’t get to make that choice, I don’t care what you think I am to you! I do not belong to you!

Awareness dawned in Reds expression as your words hit their mark and he looked to the side, scowling. You couldn’t speak anymore you were crying so hard.

“i didn’ know…” was all he had to say for himself.

“Dear-” Grillby murmured against your ear, his voice dangerous and low. “When did this happen? I smell no blood on you.”

You slowly turned back into the flame monster, shuddering in remembrance of being trapped against the skeleton and his teeth sinking into your skin; of Sans voice fading from your mind as you desperately clung to the last threads of the connection.

“There was a reset.” you gasped, trying to calm down.

“A what?” he queried.

“When I die, I get sling shotted back to the last moment I felt determined. So I slipped back to this moment when you said you’d help me.”

Grillbys flames began to leap like someone had thrown gasoline on him and he clutched you a little nearer.

“You died?” he asked carefully, “And in moments ahead he forced his mark on you?”

You nodded, whimpering in the affirmative.

“Say no more, precious.” he said as the blue of his eyes bled across the black, the optics now glowing.

Red wisely took a step back, staring as Grillby ran one harmless stroke of his hand over your hair before moving you behind him. His maw curled into a deep malicious frown that showed off his sharpened teeth. His flames were slowly lapping at the air, making the room feel unbearably warm.

“I knew you were a piece of shit Sans, but I didn’t think even you would stoop so low.”

Red bared his teeth at him and held his ground. You saw beads of perspiration sliding down the planes of his skull, betraying his anxiety.

“y’don’t know shit bout what happened! back d’fuck off!”

“Let me break this down for you.” Grillby said, pushing the plush sleeves of his coat up his powerful forearms to prepare for combat. “I don’t need to know the circumstances. i have a daughter, Sans, and it’s predators like you that keep me up at night with worry. Whether it’s the underground or not, i thought the one thing we agreed on was that you don’t force yourself on anyone.”

Red tugged his jacket back on, a deathly glare set on his opponent. “y’fuckin know i never have n’i never will.” he argued, “but she’s my soulmate and someone else who wants her was startin shit. i didn’ fuckin know it’d break her bonds with th’others, i was tryin t’protect whats mine! you know good n’well that’s how things work! If someone’s takin what’s yours you fuckin fight for it!”

“You didn’t know, you say? Pity.” Grillby chuckled, his palms up as he accrued flaming spheres to throw. “Because now, she’ll never be yours. Her guardians won’t allow it, i won’t allow it, and she- well… it’s true, a female in the underground might forgive you just for the protection you’d offer, but certainly not a Priestess who relies on the power of chosen monster souls to aid her quest. Now don’t you wish you thought that through? Surely now even a thickheaded mule such as yourself would understand why reinforcing the bond of a mate would invalidate all other soul bonds she may have developed. ”

Reds face was bled of its anger and the truth of those words made impact far more fiercely than her fist had. He understood. You weren’t a female of the underground, you weren’t a monster, and you weren’t free to offer your soul as a mate to anyone. You were a Priestess with a job to do and as much as he wanted you for himself he couldn’t just take you. He looked so embittered, so upset, but buried beneath the more aggressive emotions was a very deep misery. He knew now the repercussions of his impulsiveness and it had left him estranged from you.

Watching the revelation on his face somehow….hurt. You had been justifiably upset, but now that it was draining and you saw the signs of remorse on his face, you felt a moment of pity for him. He really hadn’t meant to destroy your other bonds. He had just wanted to ensure his own. It by no means made it right in your mind, nor did it make you forgive him for forcing such a serious thing on you, but distantly, you understood. Maybe Grillby had been right about your empathy being your greatest asset. It was beginning to help you move on from Reds violation.

Truthfully though, you wanted to remain angry a bit longer. Red could stand to suffer it out.

A split second later your other Guardians arrived via Sans renewed tether and without missing a beat, Sans whirled on Red and laid him out on the floor with a concussive strike to his face. You jealously had to admit that had been exactly what you had intended to do to the skeleton, but lacked the power.

“f-fuck!” Red snarled opening his mouth and rolling his jaw bone uncomfortably, rubbing where the impact had been made.

Sans eyes were blank and his expression unreadable as he warned. “next time i tell you not to touch her i expect you to listen.”

Red groaned and picked himself slowly off the floor. “ya didn’ have t’dust me, asshole.”

Grillby stiffened defensively at the strangers, but you rushed past him with a sob of relief towards Papyrus.

He was safe. You had been so pained to see him turn to dust that seeing him standing here, alive and well made you actually happy for your death! The second he made eye contact with you he moved forward and you hurled yourself into his waiting arms where he caught you in a fiercely adoring embrace.

“Thank goodness, Papyrus-” you whispered against his neck, “do you know what happened?”

“SANS TOLD ME!” He said right away against your neck. It made you happy that Sans was making efforts to be forthright with his brother, even about things as unpleasant as deaths during resets, “I ASSURE YOU I AM PERFECTLY WELL, BUT YOU- ARE YOU OKAY MY PRIESTESS?” He rose a hand to pet your cheek before tilting your head to inspect your neck. You felt his relief in his posture as he relaxed. “YOU NEVER KNOW IF THE RESETS ARE TRULY ERASING EVERYTHING…”

You nodded quickly, your good arm around his neck, “But I am okay, more than okay now that you’re here.”

Sans finally spoke up, his sights still on Red with a glare that promised retribution. “what about your hand?” he asked, voice chillingly low, “what happened?”

“i didn’t touch her.” Red spat, baring his teeth, “she broke the damn thing on my face!”

Sans laughed shortly and without humor, a wry smirk lifting his mouth as he took a step closer to you and Papyrus. The instant he looked at you his features softened into something warm and concerned, the lights of his eyes reappearing.

“darlin, are you really okay?”

You knew what he meant. In times previous, after any upsetting event, you’d need time and space to recover. You may yet need it, but your job here in Underfell wasn’t yet done, so you just nodded. You were sure your sniffle that followed and how Papyrus was drying your cheeks with his scarf weren’t convincing, but Sans didn’t question it.

He looked to Grillby with a raised brow. Apparently he hadn’t missed how the man had taken a defensive position between you and Red.

“Your Guardians, I presume?” Grillby asked, returning Sans gesture as he dissipated his flame attack and crossed his arms over his chest.

“mmhmm.” Sans hummed with a smile. “thanks for being her fire wall, heh..” He tossed a glare to Red who stormed towards the door. “it seems our good faith in someone else for her protection was ill placed.”

“fine,” he snarled, “y’don’t want me, y’don’t need me.”

“good riddance.” Sans jeered.

“fuck off, short stack.” Red barked, sweeping the dirt off his coat as he yanked the door open, “if i’d a’known her bonds with the other guardians would be broken, I wouldn’ave done it!”

“i don’t give a shit why you did it,” Sans spat, surprising you with his language, “you forced it on her!”

“i don’t gotta explain shit t’the likes a you, asshole!” Red shouted back, spittle flying from the crooked zipper of his sharp teeth, “you know damn well you’d have already marked her up b’fore bringin’ her here if ya’d known for sure the bond echoed in me! it’s why she’s in ya clothes, smelling like ya, why ya posturin me for her! you’re jus’ pissed because ya know you can’t mark her now either!”

Magic thickened the air palpably from both of the Sans’s and Papyrus, done biting his tongue, finally spoke up.

“YOU BOTH ARE BEHAVING LIKE CHILDREN!” he scolded, still taking care to stroke your hair and soothe your shredded nerves. “I DON’T CARE WHAT THE REASONINGS WERE FOR EITHER OF YOU! NOT WHY SANS DIDN’T TELL HER IN THE FIRST PLACE OR WHY YOU LEFT YOUR MARK ON HER UNINVITED! RELATIONSHIPS REQUIRE COMMUNICATION! YOU DON’T ASSUME, YOU DON’T ACT ON YOUR OWN, YOU SPEAK!” he spared a soft glance down to you. “IN ANY CASE, YOU’RE DESIRE FOR HER IS NOT WHY WE’RE HERE AND YOU MAKING THIS A GRUDGE MATCH WHILE WE SHOULD BE RECRUITING OUR NEW COMRADES IS NOT ONLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE, BUT DISTRESSING TO THE PRIESTESS! WE NEED TO REMEMBER WHY WE CAME AND GET TO THE TASK AT HAND. NOW STOP SQUABBLING AND START ACTING LIKE GUARDIANS!”

Both looked at him in surprise and once again you felt grateful for the clear headed and level thinking of your first guardian. You sighed, relaxing as both men seemed to take his words to heart, looking away from each other but equally pensive, expressions almost perfectly mirrored.

Grillby chuckled, rubbing his chin as he observed, “How uncanny. They are incredibly different and yet their mannerisms and expressions are almost like that of twins.”

Papyrus carefully picked you up and set you on the polished wood of the bar counter, ever so carefully taking your injured hand atop his, putting his forehead to your own, and beginning the healing process. The tranquil flicker of magic in his eyes soothed you and you met the contact with a nuzzle of your own. Your first Guardian always had a way of calming and centering you, so you took a moment to bask in his warmth. His magic numbed the the pain and knitted skin and bone alike back together.

From across the room you felt Reds jealous gaze on the two of you, his eyes as intense and focused as laser pointers.

“I KNOW LITTLE OF THIS PARTICULAR SANS, BUT HE’S NOT WITHOUT REASON.” Papyrus explained patiently. He shifted his gaze to look into yours and you found yourself nodding in agreement still forehead to forehead. “REMEMBER, HE IS STILL STILL YOUR GUARDIAN, NO MATTER WHAT HE’S DONE. HE STILL OBVIOUSLY CARES FOR YOU AND DOESN’T KNOW THE PROPER MEANS OF EXPRESSING IT. BE VIGILANT, PRIESTESS. WE CAN WORK WITH THIS.”

Those words were sobering and had you closing your eyes thoughtfully. He was encouraging you to forgive him and give him another chance to see the best in him. It was something that came naturally to Papyrus and it seemed only right that he’d urge you to do the same. It at first felt naive. Someone who’d hurt you so much already was more than capable of doing it again if given the chance; But then again, living in this world, you had to remind yourself that he was the product of his environment and he’d never had the opportunity to be any different.

Maybe Red, if taken out of a world that’s forced him to be so ruthless, could adapt and change. Maybe then you’d see more clearly who he really was.

“I guess you’re right, Pap. We need to move on, and quickly.” You agreed, trying to push aside all the unpleasantness of the last reset with finality. “I’ll deal with what’s happened later when I have time to process it all, but you’re right. We can work with this.” You took a deep breath, gathering your courage. “Red... please, don’t go.”

Everyone present seemed to suddenly hold their breath and look your way. Reds grip on the door grew so firm it made the wood creak. He didn’t look at you as the blowing snow rustled the fur on his jacket’s hood, snow flakes snagging their edges against the fluff.

“I don’t get to chose my guardians.” You explained quietly, “You’re all predestined for a reason, reasons I’ll come to understand as I get to know you. I see now I don’t have the luxury to make each bonding experience one that’s… perfect. It’s going to be hard.”

Papyrus looked up at you, almost done healing your hand. “NO BOND WORTH HAVING IS EVER PERFECT.”

“And it is a bond worth having.” Saying it aloud was reassuring. You had seen the good in him in your short time together and he was so eager to be a part of this, if only he could get along with the others. “Red made a mistake, one I’m going to have to trust him not to make again, and if I’m trusting him, you guys have to as well.”

Sans stiffly shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. He looked to be lazily accepting your words, but the tether told another story.

He hated everything about this.

Red however, despite the fact that he was shutting the door, was deathly silent. You looked over at him, trying to figure out what he could be going through, but he was carefully turned and his face stoic. He fished a cigarette out of his coat pocket and he was in the midst of looking for his lighter.

His cheeks were a little flushed.

Papyrus was finished healing and to prove his good work, he laced your fingers into his and rose them between you. His indomitable smile lifted your spirits and filled you with hope and determination! You flexed your limb carefully against his. What was it about Papyrus that made even the worst of circumstances so much easier?

In relief, you sighed, “Thanks Pap. That’s a lot better.”

He bumped a kiss to your cheek and helped you down.

“NO MORE BREAKING YOUR HAND ON YOUR GUARDIANS FACES!” He advised, capping it off with a good spirited nyeh heh heh!

“we need t’get outta here.” Red muttered, finally finding his lighter and after lighting the cig, needily sucked it so hard the embers on the tip glowed as bright as his eyes. When his spoke, the smoke billowed from every hollow of his skull. “my bro will be here on his rounds soon. y’dun wanna run inta him.”

“Yeah, that last encounter hurt.” You said, taking a moment to pull the zipper of your hoodie up over Sans sweater. You tried not to think of yourself wearing it and what it meant to other monsters for the moment. “If I’m going to reach him I’ll need a plan.”

Red shook his head in the negative, “sorry doll,” he said, “i don’t think any amount a plannin’ is gonna get boss on ya team.”

You stared at him for a moment and he finally shifted his gaze back to you. He was being very guarded. You could understand why. At least you were back to speaking.

“Can you tell me why you think that?”

His frown deepened and his brow knitted in tension, “it ain’t my job t’tell people my brothers business. he’s jus’... he don’t want this. not like i do.”

Grillby put a hand on your shoulder and offered his thoughts, “I must agree, sweetpea. He’s a savage one even on his best of days.”

“I don’t exactly have a choice.” You explained, trying to get a bigger picture on what you were dealing with, “I need all six guardians to summon the beast god. He’s one of them. There’s no question of ‘if’, it’s ‘how’.”

Grillby grimaced and shook his head. Red finally approached you a few short steps. His face maintained its concern, “i mean it. y’can’t reach him. he knows who ya are, he knows why y’here, and he’s more aware of his soul and its calls than anyone i ever met. he don’t want this.”

You blinked in alarm at this news.

“BUT HE’S A GUARDIAN AND AN ALTERNATE VERSION OF MYSELF ON TOP OF IT!” Papyrus argued reasonably, “THE RESONANCE WILL DO ITS JOB AND HE’LL EMBRACE IT, JUST AS WE ALL HAVE!”

Red growled and shot Papyrus a warning look, “look, ya nice n’all but i don’t think ya quite get what ya dealin with. take the worst a ya, sunshine. all those bad things in ya that ya wish you didn’t have and that’s my bro times ten.”

“And his soul is tainted like yours?” you asked, nibbling the tip of your thumb nail nervously, “he’s perseverance right? Which would make his vice-”

“inflexibility.” Sans finished for you, apparently having pieced this troublesome situation together already. “there’ll be no convincing him. he won’t listen to reason. but… why?” he said quietly to himself. “to be honest, i was most worried about recruiting red and thought an alternate papyrus would be easy to figure out.”

“I CONFESS I AGREE. DIFFERING AS WE MAY IN THE OBVIOUS WAYS, ONE OF THE GREATEST ASSETS OF MY PERSONALITY IS A SENSE OF DUTY.” Papyrus nodded to himself, looking deeply pensive, “IT MADE COMING TO TERMS WITH BEING A GUARDIAN EASY. IT WAS MORE THAN MY JOB, IT WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY. HEEDING THE CALL WAS SOMETHING MY HONOR DEMANDED.”

Red spoke up with a bit of a shrug, chewing on the butt of his cig, “y’right bout that. that’s boss in a fuckin nutshell.”

Papyrus shot a glare to Red at his language and with an amused laugh rubbed your Guards arm to restrain him from reprimanding him for it.

You asked, “So why doesn’t he want to be a Guardian? If he is so honor bound why wouldn’t he fulfill his obligations?”

Red closed his sockets, a deep rumble in his chest. “he’s got his reasons and they ain’t for me t’be spoutin. s’personal.” he nervously glanced towards the door and his maw twisted urgently. “we really gotta go.”

You hesitated. “No. I’m here now. I should at least try.”

Reds teeth clenched so tight his cigarette was chomped in two, the still lit tip falling to the floor and fizzling out.

“y’don’t fuckin get it!” he ground out, “he’s not gonna be convinced t’join this lil party, he’s just gonna kill ya on sight n’i don’t wanna see ya die again!”

“none of us do.” Sans agreed, fidgeting his weight subtly from foot to foot as he too watched the door.

Papyrus frowned, remarking, “I SUPPOSE I SHOULD COUNT IT AS A BLESSING I LACK MEMORY OF THESE RESETS.”

Red and Sans both nodded, a jaded distance to their stares for a moment.

Grillby put his hand on your shoulder. You turned to face him.

“Sansy is right, dear. You need to go, and quickly.” he said, trying his best to convince you. “Papyrus has risen the ranks of the Royal Guard and is formidable in strength. He is trained to be lethal and unforgiving and he has only grown more insufferable since-”

You never did hear what Grillby meant to say. You knew Red had shouted something, trying to warn you, then there was a shatter of glass, but the next, there was the nothingness that accompanied the space between resets.

You didn’t even know what happened.

After a moment of nonexistence you gasped into life once more, still sitting on the counter of the bar with Papyrus finishing up the healing process on your hand. Stunned, you sat in silence a moment, barely registering when Pap kissed your cheek again, just as he had done before.

“NO MORE BREAKING YOUR HAND ON YOUR GUARDIANS FACES!” Then the skeleton paused, looking at your blank expression. “PRIESTESS?”

You reached up your hand to touch a tingling spot on the back of your neck, getting your bearings. This, you thought touching the nape, is where it happened. You still felt the skin crawling in remembrance of an injury. It had all been so fast.

“There was a reset…” you whispered, “-but what happened?”

Sans was suddenly next to you and his brother, who was still trying to steady you. He reached out to do the same, but then thought better of it and retracted his hands to shift back into his pockets.

“reds brother showed up and threw a bone into the back of your neck through the window.” he explained tensely, “darlin, that tears it. we need to leave.”

“But if I could just talk to him-” you protested, forcing your mind back into clarity.

Red was pacing like a caged beast by the door, angry huffs on his every breath as he kept his eyes outside watchfully. Grillby was watching the scene unfold, catching on to the situation with remarkable swiftness.

“Your Guardian is right.” He said firmly, “Papyrus has risen the ranks of the Royal Guard and is formidable in strength. He is trained to be lethal and unforgiving and he has only grown more insufferable since-”

Red snarled as he stopped his pacing and cut him off abrasively, “that’s no one’s fuckin business grillbz, so shut ya trap!”

“And you’re supposed to be a Guardian?” The fire man spat back, tisking past his sharpened rows of teeth. “You can’t protect her by keeping her in the dark like this!”

Red clenched his fists and stormed up to the barkeeper, “he’s my brother!”

“And she is your Priestess and ‘destined mate’!” He snapped back, throwing the reality of who you were in his face, “Your brother is no longer a child in need of protection and this woman needs you far more than he does!”

“shut your damn mouth!” he roared, spittle from his teeth hitting grillbys flame with a sizzle, “i can do m’job as her guardian n’still be loyal t’boss!”

“From where I’m standing circumstance has proven you can’t! She’s already died twice and what have you done to prevent it!”

Red reacted in unrestrained anger, his bulk hunched slightly as bones began to materialize around him. “keep talkin, i’ll bone ya in a way i haven’t yet!”

This wasn’t a bluff, you knew. He was about to attack!

“Red, please stop!” to your astonishment he actually paused to glance at you. You felt your heart double up for a moment before you decided to try and coax him down. You gave him a warm smile. “We all need to stop wasting time fighting each other and figure out a course of action. Can you help us do that?”

Red, still obviously discontented, backed down and his attack faded.

Sans, though Grillbys comment wasn’t directed at him, looked numbly to the side. “we all could have done more to protect her.” he admitted sourly, pulling the murderous tension out of the air and back to the problem at hand. “so uh… let’s all agree not to make that mistake again.”

Papyrus picked you up off the bar and set you gingerly on the floor while Sans took position between you and the window in silence. It took a moment of contemplation to realize why. He was closing the opening that had been the cause of your death. You’d been spotted through the window and there had been a clean shot to take. He was making sure the same opportunity wasn’t afforded again.

He seemed to know you were looking at him and in a quiet exchange, your eyes met. It was brief, his attention drawn to the source of danger he sought to shield you from. He still somehow managed to look impassive despite the emotional imprints you were getting across the tether, such as his intense pained pang of guilt.

You looked away, not knowing how to feel. You didn’t blame any of them for your deaths, but you were still reeling over the fact that he had known that you were soul mates and never told you. Which was the source of his guilt? Knowing you were soulmates could have helped you to understand what you were facing when meeting his double, it could have helped you understand the unique aspects of your bond with him, and more over you felt you just plain deserved to know.

You tried to remind yourself that he was used to dealing with everything on his own, but your mind instantly argued that you thought you had grown past that already. Apparently you weren’t as far along in the trust aspect of your relationship as you had thought.

He winced slightly as the tether conveyed those feelings and you were forced to see once more it was getting stronger.

Honestly for the moment, you wished you could turn it off and have some time to yourself to process how you felt without him getting some second hand emotions off of it. It was frustrating to not have any privacy.

The door to the bar was suddenly kicked in with a burst of ice and cold and everyone present turned to the daunting figure shadowing the doorway.

Before when you had seen him at a distance he’d been fear inspiring, but being this close to the Underfell incarnation of Papyrus was almost too overwhelming. He easily towered over his alternate and had to duck just to slip his angular skull under the crest of the doorway. With the focus of a raptor his sharp crimson gaze looked through everyone there to stare scaldingly into yours. The split in his socket shifted, narrowing his sights even further as a hiss of revulsion eased past his sharp teeth as they twisted into a hateful scowl. His presence, his posture, his very aura demanded respect and deference.

Papyrus pushed you behind him cautiously and Sans and Red both stepped into his path as well. Even Grillby reacted to the arrival by re-conjuring his fire balls and leering at him over the dark rims of his sunglasses.

“boss,” Red said unsteadily, sweat gathering on his brow, “y-y’gotta listen-”

A sharp glare without a word, to everyone's amazement, had the stubborn and powerful Red quailing back out of his brothers path.

Your heart was pounding. Seeing Red timorous was not a sight you had ever expected to witness, but indeed, under the harrowing sight of his sibling he had removed himself from your defense. All at once you were worried and resentful over his reaction.

Your attention shifted from that would be guardian to the other.

“Please-” you called to him from behind Papyrus, grasping the tail of his scarf and feeling his magic prickle to life under your fingers. “-I just want to talk to you. I’m-”

Those hellish eyelights lifted from reprimanding his brother to narrow at you and you struggled to keep from cowering any further.

“I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.” His voice boomed accusingly The heels of his boots clicked against the splintered wood floor as he strode confidently forward. He left the door ajar behind him, the chilly breeze rustling his leather vest and stroking up the tattered remains of his scarf. He spat mockingly, “YOU ARE THE PRIESTESS OF THE BEAST GOD, HOPE OF ALL WORLDS AND YOU SEEK TO ENLIST MY TALENTS TO AID YOU.”

You cringed at the condescension of his tone.

“T-then...you know I’m not here to cause you trouble.” You stuttered.

He looked down his nasal cavity at you, “YOU ARE A FEMALE. FEMALES ARE NOTHING BUT TROUBLE.”

With a sweep of his hand a bone spear appeared in his grasp.

The very air was static with simmering magic.

“MOVE!” He ordered the others so loudly the windows rattled. “THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING!”

No one obeyed, and you even saw a few embers fly from Grillbys flames and flickers of blue magic bounce off of Sans. Papyrus reached behind you to keep you shielded.

Red, in contrast, had his face turned away avoidantly. Why was he allowing this? After all the talk of soulmates and him being so desperate to keep you, he was allowing his brother to make violent advances forward- it was madness! You looked his way but he avoided your gaze despite the claws of his phalanges flexing against his sweater over his sternum. His eye-lights were flashing slightly and he was breathing heavily.

When his eyes lifted and met yours, you saw the turmoil he was in. Finally you felt you understood. This was his brother and if it was anything like the original Sans and Papyrus, he had raised this man and the bond was strong. On the other hand, you were his soulmate and he was trying to earn your trust. There was a weighty choice to be made and it was one he was struggling with.

darlin, Sans said across the tether, i think red’s right. we need to get out of here. this guy’s in a class all his own. he’s a tank.

Your resolve wavered.

I don’t know what to do. you admitted, We can’t fight him, he’s one of us!

if we stay we’re not gonna have a choice.

The tether was rippling against your mind as his own raced, looking for any openings in which he could attack Fell-Papyrus.

I don’t think we can move tight enough together for you to teleport us out! you told him, wincing as you saw the guardian shielding you materialize his bone clubs in readiness.

“STAY AWAY FROM THE PRIESTESS!” Papyrus shouted in warning, “OUR MISSION IS ONE OF PEACE, BUT I WILL NOT TOLERATE VIOLENCE TOWARDS HER SO DO NOT TAKE ANOTHER STEP FORWARD!”

His double cocked a jagged smirk, his cackling shaking his shoulders, “NYEH HEH HEH- FAIR ENOUGH!”

His gloved hand shot forward and suddenly you felt like your body was under pressure, constricting your soul uncomfortably and making the air rush from your lungs. It was as though gravity itself had increased and you could barely stand!

You heard Sans swearing loudly and Red telling his brother to stop as some strong magical force lassoed you and with a jerk of his hand, quickly pulled you out from the shelter of your Guardians. It didn’t even take a second. As soon as you were within his reach he snatched you by the collar of your jacket and shoved the sharpened tip of his bone into your stomach, angled it up, and shoved the entire length through your guts. You were screaming mindlessly, the sound hurting your own ears as you clawed at his grasp on your to get away. He gave his weapon one last shove and it popped it’s way through a lung and exited your ribs behind you, interrupting your cries with a grunt and silencing you.

The pain was white hot, excruciating and intense, easily the most painful death you had experienced so far. His face betrayed his pleasure at your suffering, a twisted satisfaction in his sneer as he roughly jerked the weapon up and down a few times, snapping bones out of place and shredding your innards. Your vision grew foggy and your tortured body quivered until he, pleased with his work, swiftly pulled it free. You felt your blood running out of you, saturating your clothing and pooling in your socks and sneakers until it slowly it began to drip on the floor.

He pulled you up against him, his fangs by your ear, “My soul is loyal and is not going to be coerced into use by you or anyone else, you harlot!” he spat with venom, shaking you so that your head limply rolled back to look up at him. His eyes were so intense and red, but through the anger there was something else, something very raw and grieving. It made your souls resonance on his swell sharply. He must have felt to too, because he winced in disgust before denouncing you further. “Rot in hell, Priestess.”

Somehow through the bleary amount of pain you were in, you could recognize an important clue in his words. His soul was loyal, but to who, and why did that mean he was so repulsed by the idea of being a Guardian loyal to you? Suddenly it felt like you were looking in a mirror and seeing a part of yourself with sudden and real honesty. He was hurting over a deep loss, the kind that was so important the pain had torturous longevity.

In your mind you heard a car door slamming shut and your voice, hoarse from screaming for him to stay crying out for him.

Daddy! Please don’t leave us!

The memory cut intrusively through your dying moments.

You saw the same terrible grief in him.

He’d lost someone.

Blood bubbled up your throat and leaked out of your mouth, your breaths barely there yet still sputtering red fluid to speckle his ivory jaw.

“I’ll come back… to help you.” you rasped weakly. “I won’t give up… no matter how many times you kill me. I’ll come back... want to… help...”

Your eyes were closing and the world was blurring, but before your dying breath deflated your one good lung, you saw his expression change. Awareness dawned, then a moment of reflection.

You had said something that touched him.

It gave you hope even when your hp suffered yet another crucial dock.

When you came around this time, still sitting on the polished counter, you toppled forward against Papyrus with a short wail of pain. He caught you readily and suddenly was looking over you for some unseen injury.

“PRIESTESS?” He patted up your arms gently then inspected your sides. “OH NO, WAS IT A RESET?”

“Oh god,” You whined, taking a moment to shudder again his shoulder. You felt, for a moment, that you might throw up. “That one really hurt.”

“shit, sweetheart!” Red was next to you a split second later, having to inspect you closely to make sure you were okay. You were surprised to see him so outwardly concerned, his brow damp with ecto-sweat, “please, ya see, ya tried? can we get ya outta here now?”

Papyrus furrowed his brow and asked, “WAIT, HOW MANY TIMES HAS THE PRIESTESS DIED?”

“that makes three.” Sans said, his voice rough and entire demeanor uneasy. “come on darlin, let’s not make it four.”

You took a moment to bury your face into Paps scarf, indulging in a quiet moment with him just to calm yourself and garner your focus. His scent of winter snow and italian cooking was filling your senses, his grounding embrace strong and sturdy but so soul soothingly gentle.

Yet this other version of him had easily ripped you away from him.

You shivered as you recalled, but you shook your head. You couldn’t give up. That man was suffering.

“No…” you refused, “No, I...I think I reached him-”

“You’re shaking like a leaf sweetpea-” Grillby tried to reason. “You’re petrified! You can go make a plan and come back later.”

“THAT SOUNDS WISE.” Papyrus agreed, still trying to soothe you over that last death.

Sans was already moving forward to start taking hands so he could teleport your group, but you jumped down off the counter on your own volition and stepped past him, looking out into the snowy area beyond the bar.

“No...just one more try.” You felt dread in the pit of your stomach spreading like ice but you were resolved to leave this place at least making an impression on him. “Papyrus…” you looked back to him, hugging your arms. “Fuse with me. I need your courage and your strength to defend me against him.”

Sans was actually staring, agape at your obdurate resolve. His grin had already dropped low and tight, but now, it simply vanished.

“y/n, i’m uh, not too good at begging…”

“fuck it all, then i’ll do it!” Red snapped, restlessly glancing from you to the window before reaching out to take your hand in his. His grip, though thrumming with life and magic, was cold from fear as it coiled around your fingers. “sweetheart, please.” you actually paused as those ruby lights implored to your own. Your soul was aching in response. He really did care about what happened to you. He stepped closer, bringing your hand to touch the area under his chain. “i can’t stomach seein ya die again.”

You looked down from his eyes to where he’d placed your hand, feeling the braided knit of his sweater thick under your palm. There was something else. Raw magic was surging helplessly, barely restrained and making your hand numb. His soul was in turmoil, reaching desperately for yours.

Sans gave Red a pointedly sour look at that and you knew why. He was angry. Red had cowered from his brother and by all appearances let your deaths happen.

You looked to your sneakers and closed your eyes, gripping the fabric over his chest for a moment. You knew though that Reds inaction was a struggle between his own loyalties, the most important ones he had. You were grateful for his concern, understood where his pleading came from, but you couldn’t acquiesce.

“I’m sorry.” you said quietly as you lifted your gaze. “To both of you. You have to see and remember each time I...die. I don’t mean to put you through this, but I have no choice. We need him.”

Sans was avidly looking anywhere but at you. “y/n, you’re hp is down from fifteen to ten, four of which have been from resets here. we need a better plan than this.”

Reds magic hit your palm solidly at that news, looking at Sans in disbelief.

“what the hell? you mean she only has ten resets?” He shouted, his hands suddenly gripping your shoulders, “all red souls i met have an unlimited amount! i’ve fuckin seen it!”

“yeah well, surprise.” Sans laughed dryly, shooting him an accusing look. “one is your fault. good luck sleepin with that hanging over you.”

Suddenly, you witnessed the horror cross Reds face as the limitations of your soul were made plain to him. Gruffly, anger coalesced his magic to pound through his bones, a reaction you felt under your hand.

“great. fuckin perfect!” He shouted, “ya mean t’tell me we’re wastin her life away standing around here tryin ta get through my numbskull brother?”

You slid your hand away from Red, his chain sliding over the back of the very hand you’d hit him with not minutes before, and turned to Papyrus for support.

Standing tall with his shoulders squared, he looked every inch the knight you had always seen him as. He was so strong and his heart so good and true. Being near him made you brave, made you better. You were afraid though, seeing the worry creasing his brow. He looked doubtful and for a moment, you thought he too would refuse you and go along with the others call for retreat, fearing another dock to your HP. Quickly though, you saw the namesake of his soul firmly brighten his face as he strode conclusively up to you.

Red tore his gaze away from the both of you indignantly and stomped over to the window to keep watch. Sans just closed his eyes, accepting your choice but looking deeply disturbed.

“AS THOUGH I COULD REFUSE YOU ANYTHING, MY PRIESTESS!” Pap said warmly and you both reached out to take each other’s hand. Twining your fingers against his gloves and sighing in relief as he bent his forehead to your own, you had faith that with him you’d be able to meet this challenge.

“Thank goodness for you Pap.” you whispered to him, relieved. “Thank you.”

“IT WILL BE A FIGHT THIS TIME.” He warned you soberly. “I WILL NOT HESITATE TO DEFEND YOU WITH ALL MY MIGHT.” For some reason, the tone he used sounded like a warning. You gently rubbed your heads together and squeezed his hand and he returned the gesture, understanding. “THEN WE FIGHT.”

Grillby huffed and crossed his arms, not liking the turn things were taking, “Hurry and fuse, but then get the hell out of my bar. If you cause my establishment damages, as much as I like you sweetpea I will not be lenient in my charges.”

“I understand.” you said even as Papyrus drew his soul from his body in a swath of golden light. He put a hand to your chest, wasting no time in gently drawing your soul out. You didn’t even flinch as it appeared and the two forces lurched together in a blinding flash. You felt all that was ‘him’ wash over you, soaking in his boldness and goodness and compiling it upon your own strength of will.

Still hand in hand he led the way towards the doorway, ripples of hot tangerine power looking like fire leaking from his battle ready form.

Red turned to Sans as they began to file out behind you.

“gotta admit…” he said quietly, “your bro is, uh… pretty cool.” His red eyelights looked over him, particularly your joined hands. “but i still don’t think he can take on boss.”

Sans met Reds skepticism with a grave smile, one as unsettling as it was a warning. “So, uh.. you ever read about icebergs?”

His alternate scoffed and shrugged, “yeah, a bit. what, ya gonna pun about givin me the cold shoulder after i tried ta grab ya girl?”

Sans leered at him, “naw, y/n’s got a too good a head on her shoulders to cool her heels with you.” his grin grew darkly, “let’s just say... my bro? he’s uh,” he chuckled, “a bit of an iceberg. he’ll show ya the tip of what he can do, but if he faces a ‘titanic’, well- the best he’s got you never see coming.”

Chapter Text

After stepping back out into the gently falling snow beyond Grillby’s bar you took a moment to close your eyes and allow Papyrus to lead you into the town square. The cool air was bracing, moving ever so gently as the ice fell from the age-old icicles on the cavern ceilings above. You were focusing on being calm and collected, gathering your thoughts to be ready for what you were about to face.

You thought back to the moment Undyne had attacked you in Waterfall. It had been the first battle you had experienced with your guardians. It had been nerve wracking, but upon fusing with Sans’ soul, something had happened.

A marriage of peace and trust, a deep rightness to the stand you made together lending to a distant something that had called you to fall to the underground to begin with. More had been waiting for you out there somewhere. Now you had found it. You had known life was more than what you’d known and as Sans had said, ’your soul was right for it’. His statement never seemed to make as much sense as it did now. Deep within you, in the secret core of your soul, you felt some whispering ethereal spark slowly growing brighter and brighter.

With Papyrus’s soul merged with your own, you felt resolved and uncannily peaceful about what you were about to face.

You felt strong.

You felt serene.

You felt determined.

The glove of your guardians hand stroked over your knuckles and you knew without opening your eyes that he had glanced back at you, feeling the change you embraced.

Privately, as your small entourage stopped in the center of town, he stepped close to you , his head dipping close to your ear to speak.

“My Priestess,” he murmured familiarly, “- your soul is shining so radiently.” His smile as he tilted his head to the side warmed you despite the cold climate. “It’s like a beacon to me. With its power emboldening me, I will not fail.”

“You never have and you never will, Pap.” You replied.

You stared down the path, knowing his alternate would be appearing any second. Sans, Red, and Grillby spaced themselves out to provide cover for the altercation to come.

 

With the morbid christmas tree at your backs, townsfolk who had been leering suspiciously at your presence began to cower back. Down by the Inn, a rabbit woman with haggard fur slammed the door of her shop closed and flipped the sign over from ‘have your gold ready’ to ‘fuck off we’re CLOSED’. Another monster, looking to be a child, leapt behind a snowbank and peeked over it.

As you waited Papyrus scratched his head suddenly, looking befuddled.

“Something wrong?”

“I HATE TO BRING THIS UP NOW WHILE WE’RE ON THE PRECIPICE OF DISPLAYING MY GREATNESS, BUT I BELIEVE IT WOULD BE CONFUSING TO ADDRESS THIS OTHER ME AS SIMPLY PAPYRUS AND CALLING HIM SOMETHING...er…UNBEFITTING MIGHT FURTHER SPURN HIS IRE.”

You had to give that some real thought, keeping your eyes ahead and on alert.

Red had his hand sunk deep into the the pockets of his puffy jacket, the leather creaking as he shrugged.

“jus’ call ‘im boss n’that’d be easy enough.”

Sans bristled at the thought. He ended up casting his double a doubtful look. “and risk him thinking he’s the one in charge here? not a chance.”

“WOULD ANYONE HERE OBJECT TO ‘CAPTAIN’?” Papyrus suggested.

Sans didn’t answer, but Red nodded, seeming to be fine with it.

You were again grateful for Papyrus’s quick thinking . “I think Captain works very well!”

“great!” Sans said with a smile though his words dripped with sarcasm. “now can we focus on making sure y/n doesn’t die again?”

Red began to growl deeply, his sockets narrowing on a spot in the distance. Papyrus’s spine stiffened and he stood taller as he spotted the approaching threat as well. Everyone unanimously fell silent as the newly dubbed Captain made his way forward. At first, he was unarmed, simply striding with purpose to continue his rounds. Without skipping a beat however, those tight sockets narrowed onto what was awaiting him and his empty hand was suddenly carrying a bone spear.

You didn’t feel intimidated this time. Papyrus’s hand was in yours, your souls merged and floating above like the golden strobe of light from a lighthouse.

Much to your surprise, the Captain didn’t immediately attack. He simply walked up to your group and stopped a few long yards away with the arctic wind snapping his tattered scarf to and fro behind him.

It was he who spoke first, a deep sneer on his cracked skull.

“I HAD ASSUMED THIS DAY WOULD COME.” He said sourly, “BUT YOU COME FOR NAUGHT, WRETCH.” He rose his chin in defiance, “YOU WILL NOT COERCE ME INTO JOINING YOU AND FURTHERMORE YOUR QUEST WILL END HERE.”

Half a dozen sparkling crimson bones hazily came into sight around him.

“IF YOU WISH TO FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE HOWEVER, I ENCOURAGE IT.” He began to smile, the expression deeply unsettling for the bloodlust it contained. “FIGHTING THE CHOSEN GUARDIANS OF THE SOUL PRIESTESS MIGHT BE A CHALLENGE FOR ONCE.”

You took a tentative step forward in spite of your fear.

“Captain,” You said respectfully, to which he rose a split brow. You had tried appealing to him before, saying you were going to come back for him, to help him. You had to try that again. “I don’t know why I have earned such animosity from you, but I want to help you, to understand-”

Papyrus suddenly pulled you to his chest, a sharp bone shooting up where you had been standing. You stared at it in open shock, clutching Paps exposed radius.

The Captain looked livid, his hand open but tensed in front of him as he controlled the magical bones bobbing around him.

UNDERSTAND?.” He barked so loud the onlookers who dared to watch winced behind their hiding places. “A HUMAN FEMALE COULD NEVER HOPE TO COMPREHEND MY POSITION!” He scoffed and suddenly waved his hand forward, sweeping the bones around him forward towards you, “*DIE BITCH!*”

You yelped as Papyrus kept you to him and hopped back out of the way of the attack. When he landed he bounded to the side to escape another impalement of bones coming from the earth. Then, he was on the offensive, keeping you turned away from your attacker and shooting a spray of blunt bones.

“*LANGUAGE!*” He reprimanded, bone after bone just barely missing their target as he dodged out of the way and tried to duck past his defenses and land a strike. Pap frowned. “Ugh, seriously, what is with everyone in this world using such foul speech?”

With a bone club in his hand as he spun towards his alternate. The two mens weapons collided with such intensity the concussive force of their magics meeting made a crater divot under their boots.

He pushed you behind him and ordered, “STAY BEHIND ME, MY PRIESTESS!”

Sans waiting grasp took you by the shoulders and he teleported you back from the fight, watching in his eerily calm way.

Red appeared beside you two and a rumble churned in his chest as he frowned. “okay, gotta admit, ya bro’s pretty good. but boss’s jus’ playin with him till he figures out how he works. then he’s gonna slay ‘im.”

A snort of air from Sans ruffled your hair. “what makes ya think pap ain’t doin the same damn thing?”

You brushed Sans grasp off you, not bothering to look behind you at him as you focused on the battle. It was escalating just as Red had said. From crossing bones like swords to leaping out of the paths of each other’s attacks, their movements were steadily growing faster and faster. You felt no anxiety from the Guardian you were fused with, his confidence still strong. You trusted that he was going to come out ahead.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, however. Just like when you had last died by that mans hands, you had tried convincing him you wanted to help, but he’d reacted in anger rather than softening those too sharp edges like you’d thought. What had gone wrong? You even tried to use some of the same words.

I’ll come back… to help you. I won’t give up… no matter how many times you kill me. I’ll come back... want to… help…

You turned to the two Sans’s and said, “There has to be something more that can be done beside watching them fight it out! Even if he’s not on our side yet I don’t want him hurt!”

Sans looked away stubbornly. “we toldja it wasn’t gonna work, darlin.”

“sweetheart-” Red met your focus head on, firm but not unkind as he restated, “he’s corrupted and inflexible. I know ya think ya can reach him but he doesn’t want it.”

“I had said something before that had done it!” you insisted, looking back to the fight in dismay. “But I just tried saying it again, that I wanted to help him and it had no effect!”

You gasped sharply as Sans suddenly had you in his arms, leaping out of the way of yet another sneak attack of bones that pierced the ground where you’d been.

DO NOT DESPAIR PRIESTESS! Papyrus’s voice reassured you through the soulmerge. You looked his way to see him intensely focused on the fight. IF YOU SAY YOU REACHED HIM I BELIEVE YOU! PERHAPS IT WAS NOT WHAT YOU SAID TO HIM, BUT RATHER SOMETHING ELSE YOU CONVEYED WITHOUT REALIZING IT!

Sans landed and with your arm around his neck, you watched as you rolled those words around your mind.

However, Sans was dodging again. Somehow, the Captain was managing to focus on the fight and still follow through on his threat to kill you. Nervously, your hand fisted Sans hoodie in your grasp. He looked down at you, however briefly, before he continued to keep his sights set forward and his awareness broad for more threats.

“darlin, we should go before someone gets hurt again.”

You pushed yourself from his safe grip rebeliously, firmly replying, “No, we’re not done yet!”

“y/n!” he turned you to face him, those azure tinted eyelights boring into yours, “do you really wanna get yourself, or even pap seriously hurt over this? stop bein so damn stubborn and let us keep you safe!”

In all you could recall, Sans had never rose his voice to you. He’d always worn a smile, kept his voice soft and even, and had offered you insight and wisdom. Looking at him now he felt so different.

HE IS AFRAID FOR YOUR SAFETY. Papyrus supplied.

You searched Sans eyes, your heart aching at seeing Paps words were all too true. Fear had a tendency to make people act out of the ordinary and in times of stress you often saw sides of people you wouldn’t have normally.

You rose a hand and put it over his exposed carpals, managing a smile.

“It’s going to be okay.” you said before putting your arm around his neck one more time as you turned back to the fight. “Please, trust me.”

Then, you noticed his jaw was underlit by some ominous red glow.

“shit!” Sans swore as he swept you up into his arms bridal style, “hold on as tight as you can!”

The entire village square was awash with crimson light. Sans was foreseeing already that their would-be ally was going to rip up the entire area trying to kill her. Knowing this, everyone who’d been standing by watching took off in a run to seek shelter in the buildings. Everyone except a small emaciated monster child still watching from the cover of his little cardboard box home. To your amazement, just as Sans jumped, as well as the two Papyrus’s locked in a momentary stand off, Red wasn’t seeking his own shelter.

That presumably self-centered volatile skeleton had teleported to the child.

“ya damn runt, move!” he bellowed past angrily bared teeth.

The kid only froze in place like a deer in the headlights.

He picked him up by the scruff of his sweater and as he too jumped just as a field of bones sprouted from the ground. The armless child was screaming, his legs curled up and tail between his legs like a kitten as his savior grabbed the stalk of one and rode it up safely.

Pap and landed on the bulbous joint of the one that had been under him, Sans landing with you in much the same way.

He was chuckling nervously, “heh, that coulda been worse.”

Your eyes were on Red who had just adjusted his grip to carry the trembling kid under one arm. A part of you that had been hardened by Reds forceful marking of you melted away at seeing this. He had risked precious seconds of escape time to save a child.

A child that looked so much like the Casey you had met only a few short days ago.

Tears of emotion stung your eyes and Sans followed your gaze. He found his smile again.

“wouldja look at that?” he said quietly. “the bone head’s got a soft spot.”

You nodded and joked. “You know, those usually heal as the baby matures.”

He laughed wryly, “what’s that say about him, huh?”

“About as much as it says about you.” You quipped, still feeling raw over him not telling you the truth about the two of you. “Bonehead.”

There was a moment that he regarded you pensively, his smile tightening. Finally he sighed, “suppose i deserve that.”

The ground shuddered as Papyrus shattered the bone the Captain had been perched on and rode another back to the ground in a spiral as they dissipated.

“Later.” you said decisively as Sans jumped back to the ground, “First I need to figure out why my entreaty didn’t work this time when it did the last. Pap said it might have been less to do with my words and more my actions.”

You looked up to Sans for his thoughts but he clutched you to him, curling over you as snow and debris flew across the area from an excessive burst of magical energy from Papyrus.

I DO NOT KNOW HOW MUCH LONGER I CAN HOLD HIM BACK!

A sharp pang of worry constricted your chest.

“Pap says he can’t hold him back much longer!”

Red and Grillby came up on either side of you but Sans didn’t put you down.

“He can’t go on like this forever either, sweetpea.” The flamesman said, the fur lining his jacket rustling as his flames stoked a bit hotter. “Strong as he is, his reserves have to be taking a hit for how long he’s been going at this with your guardian.”

Red continued to frown, his narrowed gaze astute. “don’t bet on it. there’s few in the underground who’ve got a level of violence as high as my bro does.”

“There just has to be something to be done!” you argued.

“i ain’t bankin on it, babe.” he said quietly, unpocketing a cig to lift to his maw. “i still say we should get out while we can.”

“And while you and all your allies are in one piece.” Grillby agreed. “Or, you know, Red could let his balls drop and stand up to his brother.”

Red shot the man a murderous glare, but said nothing.

“no.”

In surprise you and the others turned to look at the guardian who held you.

“Sans?” you asked, baffled. Hadn’t he not moments ago told you otherwise?

To your encouragement Sans’ smile had returned, confident and warming you despite the chill of the surroundings.

“y/n says she reached him somehow before. i’ve already made the mistake of not trustin her and i won’t be doin it again. she’s the priestess for a reason, right?” He looked down at you with confidence. “well, darlin?”

Out of nowhere you gasped sharply as pain wracked through your form. Your soul forcefully broke from Papyrus’s and floated over to sink into the protective cover of your body. A few yards away Paps body landed hard in the snow and skid a few feet before coming to a stop, still and unmoving.

Papyrus!” You cried, trying to scramble from Sans arms, but he held you fast, his teeth clenching so hard you could hear his molars grind.

The Captain landed lightly beside him, his expression oddly stoic as he used the sharpened end of his conjured weapon to turn the unconscious monsters face towards him. He seemed to be thinking.

“No, Sans, let me go, let me down! I have to go to him!” You cried, frantic. “Please! Papyrus!

Red looked at you as you struggled, by all appearances looking unmoved. Yet when he looked forward, he began to walk.

“that’s enough, boss.” he called .

His actions drew your wettened gaze.

“he’s a good monster. there’s nothin t’gain from dustin’ im.”

The Captain straightened to his impressive height and glowered at Reds approach, the jagged pattern of his fangs turning all the more deeply downward.

“YOU SIDE WITH THE HUMAN THEN?” He spat accusingly.

“it ain’t bout sides.”

Red came to Papyrus’s knocked out form, stepped over him, and stood between him and his brother.

“IT IS BECAUSE OF HER THAT I WAS BLAMED FOR THE SOUL STOLEN FROM THE KING!” The Captain shouted, “IF YOU CAST YOUR LOT WITH SUCH SWINE YOU WILL NO LONGER BE UNDER MY PROTECTION.”

Red closed his sockets at his brothers screaming.

“we both know that ain’t why ya really pissed, boss.”

A thick silence suffocated the small town at those seemingly simple words. The weight of them however seemed enough to bring the taller deadly skeleton you had been trying to recruit to speechlessness.

“we’re bros, pap…” Red said quietly. “we been t’gether from the beginnin. we stubborn as fuck, n’butt heads like goat monsters, but we’ve always had each others backs. i don’t wanna have t’go without ya.” Then, boldly, he proclaimed, “but i will.”

The Captain proudly lifted his chin, but said nothing.

“the priestess ain’t gonna give up on ya.” he went on to say, his cigarette bobbing in his teeth as he shifted his weight to his other foot. “she don’t look like she’s all that tough but… heh, ya’ve killed her three times already n’she keeps comin back thinkin she can reach ya.”

Suddenly, the seemingly impenetrable ire of the tall skeleton wavered. He lowered his head to look more squarely at his brother.

“THRICE SHE HAS FALLEN AND SHE STILL INSISTS ON FACING ME?”

“naw,” Red chuckled, “she’s died three times and insists on reachin ya. last thing any sane fucker’d do is wanna face off against ya, boss.”

Your breath caught in your throat as suddenly the Captains burning eyelights lifted and stared at you from across the upturned soil of the battlefield. There was no way you could discern what was going through his mind in those moments, but you did speculate upon one thing. Had it been Reds words regaling him of your perseverance that had made him actually stop and consider you?

When his eye lights left you and he looked back upon his brother, it was as though you could detect some hidden sadness in him you hadn’t seen before.

Red forced a smile, a single droplet of reddened magical perspiration sliding down his temple.

“C’mon… pap. we’re brotha’s...we should stick t’gether.” He shuffled a bit in place, looking uncomfortable at how open he was trying to be. “come wit’ me.”

The alternate Papyrus closed his eyes for a tense moment. Mercurial as he was it seemed there was still a bond there with his brother.

“If you wish to leave, then leave.” he finally replied, “ I will not stop you. However do not return or I will make sure neither of you live.”

Red bowed his head, clenching his fists. He’d been composed up till now, a lot more so than you would have ever given him credit for, but now that resolve was dissolving as quickly as the snow at Grillbys feet.

“why ya gotta be like this!” he ground out, “i raised ya t’be a tough asshole but not t’me n’i’ve been takin ya shit f’years!” He grit his teeth and snorted angrily as his blazing red iris engulfed one eye, “this is what it’s all about, what we been waitin aroun’ this shithole for n’when she finally shows up ya just gonna act like ya can avoid it? cuz as much as ya try t’run it’s in ya fuckin marrow to protect her!” He jabbed a finger at you as he continued shouting. “our future is right fuckin there! if she was here she’d tell ya to go n’yagoddamn know it!”

She? You wondered.

The crack heard across the town made you wince away. The Captain had struck Red hard in the face with a balled up fist, his ribs expanding and deflating from deep angry huffs. Even Sans gripped you tighter at the sight of it, but no one made a move forward.

Red stood in silence absorbing what had been said and done. Just from overhearing their conversation you knew they’d never been without each other before. They were a team in a world where not having someone at your back meant someone could stab it. It was also apparent that the two didn’t bring up things as sensitive as what they had just exchanged and apparently for good reason. Slowly Red’s hands lifted to the spiked collar around his neck. He lifted the strap from its loop, the quiet following the strike’s impact so perfect that as he unbuckled the latch you could hear it across the field. He slid it off of his knit turtleneck and without looking away he dropped it at his brothers feet.

“Fine then.” the Captain hissed with ice in his voice.

Red turned from him and bent low, picking up Papyrus and tossing his body over his shoulder as he made his way back to where Sans held you, sporting a few new hairline fractures webbing out from his left eye socket.

There was an apathetic downturn to his teeth as he lumbered back to you and the group.

He never once looked back.

--------------------------------------

The teleport back went smoothly. Even though you felt guilty for not bringing the Captain back there was a good sense of accomplishment that came from recruiting not only a new Guardian, but also a new ally.

Upon arrival back home, Toriel had been delighted to accommodate the both of them in the new wing dedicated to the Priestess and her allies. That is, she was delighted until Red made a very vulgar pass at the old fashioned and modest Queen.

If memory served, Red had asked, i can’t help but notice ya not wearin any socks, baby. are ya wearin th’matchin panties, to which Toriel, after a very expressive squeak of mortification, told him you need not even put forth the effort as I prefer my men to have a little more meat on their bones.

Sans had laughed, which had been a relief to hear, though the absence of papyrus’s groaning over the bad jokes was noted. It just didn’t feel right without him. He was taken to the infirmary for a quick examination to be sure he wouldn’t sustain lasting damage before he was left to recover. It didn’t take too long for him to wake and happily eat a bowl of oatmeal with what appeared to be tiny dinosaur eggs in it.

In the privacy of the infirmary you had a bowl too and was delighted to find it was as delicious as it was playful.

In the days that followed, the team of Guardians regrouped often to figure out what to do next.

You only wished it was going better.

Sitting down with the crew to discuss what to do next felt like trying to grow a forest in a desert. Sans and Red were perpetually exchanging distrusting looks, Papyrus was irritated by their lack of focus, your trust in both Sans as his bad boy counterpart was compromised, and their trust in each other was making it impossible to get any real brainstorming done. Each attempt to gather together as a unit simply devolved into a petty argument done mostly in word play. That of course had Papyrus giving up and storming off and you and Toriel exchanging looks of exasperation.

“Child, you need to unify your Guardians before this can progress any further.” Toriel said to you as you walked the palace halls after your third attempt to plan your next move. She had her paws clasped in front of her, her gentle ruby eyes staring ahead.

You almost made a sarcastic retort but bit it back. Of course you knew you had to do this. Reminding you of it after such a miserable failure felt counter productive and your own patience was incredibly thin. With this in mind you took a deep breath. Keep your conversation objective and don’t give in to your frustration, you reminded yourself.

“Do you have a suggestion on how to get that done?” you asked tiredly.

Toriel sighed in lament. “It does seem like I am stating the obvious.”

“No offense.” you agreed.

The queen gave pause as you came to the large almost japanese style courtyard where the rooms of you and your Guardians were located. When you had first taken residence there the entire area was obviously suffering from disuse. Now in the short period of time since the decision was made for Sans and Papyrus to relocate to the palace for the time being the area had been cleared, cleaned, and repaired. The porches outside your rooms were trimmed with fences and two gates on opposite ends of the garden provided a few steps down into a little path with benches and large glowing crystals excavated from waterfall to provide light when the Cores day cycle gave way to night.

Red and his worlds Grillby, who everyone had decided to nickname Fellby, had been assigned rooms in this area and were both smoking on the opposite end of the shared living space. Their voices were low and serious and you couldn’t make out what was being said.

Toriel looked down at you.

“You are the Priestess for a reason, my child.” She assured you. “I am certain that you can unify your Guardians. Perhaps it is that remarkable ability of yours to understand others that will do it.”

It was a cryptic little hint, but it made you smile.

“You know… I’ve been going about this all wrong. I need to put the Captain out of my head for now and focus on them.”

Toriel gave a nod of agreement. “I know your trust has been shaken, but do not delay too long in rebuilding it. Both with Mr.Red and with Sans.”

You turned to lean against the mouth of the hallway.

“Did you know?” You asked, “About Sans and I, I mean?”

“I had gotten him to disclose it to me when I approached him about his reluctance to seek a bond with you.” She explained, looking back over to where Red was. He sat perched on the new fence now, his intense scarlet gaze looking at the two of you. “It was uncomfortable for him to say, but once he had, I had to admit it made his actions seem more understandable.”

“I wish he had told me.”

“What good would it have done?”

“I don’t know, but I could have been better prepared for the possibility of that transfer when meeting Red.”

“Perhaps, but understand, you cannot become romantically involved with your Guardians, the reasons now I must assume are incredibly clear.”

You sighed heavily. That did make sense.

“If anyone lays their mark on me and creates a bond it’ll make it impossible for me to fuse souls with the others.” You began to hug your arms, your head bowed.

“Sans knew that, y/n.” Toriel said sadly. “He felt he had no right to burden you if there was nothing the two of you could do about it..”

she’s not yours and she’s not mine either.

The memory of him uttering those words through his chattering teeth flashed through your mind. You hadn’t understood what he truly had meant until now.

Your face scrunched up in irritation, muttering, “He’s still trying to take on the world by himself.”

“It is his way, child.” she said, making to turn and leave but hesitating when you reached up and grasped the sleeve of her lavender garments.

“Toriel…” you whispered, unable to look up. “Is...there any hope for us? Sans and I, I mean?”

Her expression, soft and sad, said so much more than words could. “I know not.” she answered, “but love, if it comes, finds a way. For now, put it from your mind and try to unite your Guardians. They need you as much as you need them.”

You let her go, staying where you stood for a long time even after she had gone. Red didn’t move towards you but in the slowly darkening area his eyes on you didn’t sway.

You didn’t want to go to him and iron out the issues you had. You still had phantom pains that accompanied the memory of what he had done to you. Understanding why it had happened didn’t change the fact that it had.

For some reason your lack of willingness to make peace with him just yet made you feel guilty. He had been through so much and he had only wanted to secure what he had seen as his key to happiness. You lifted your hand up to your unmarked neck. Apparently it was that motion that had him approaching you, hands deep in his jacket..

There was a spike of panic in you but you reminded yourself that you had nothing to fear from him now.

Any man that saves the life of a child isn’t all bad, you reminded yourself.

“hey sweetheart.” his rough voice blew a plume of smoke as he talked.

Seeing how you swatted the air to clear it away he plucked the cig from his teeth and ground it out on the back of his hand.

“Don’t do that-!” you yelped, grabbing around his phalanges to lift the nearly extinguished embers off his bones. You looked over his hand, the only real sign of harm from his action a light swell of magic to the affected area. Your anger with him was a direct result of your worry, an affliction this particular skeleton suffered from tenfold. “Red you idiot, I don’t want to catch you doing that again. Why do you smoke anyway?”

He smirked in that shit eating way, readily leaving his bones in your hands as you made sure he was alright. He twirled his extinguished cig between the fingers of his free hand before waving it at you.

“what? worried i might be lendin’ new meanin ta ashes t’ashes n’dust t’dust?

His sudden wink had you instantly thinking about Sans, making you stare at Red in amazement. A moment later you laughed softly, shaking your head.

“Every now and then I see how you and Sans are just different versions of each other.” You released his hand and leaned back against the wall. “Does smoking hurt skeletons? I mean, seeing as you don’t have lungs?”

Red stepped his hulking mass closer, murmuring darkly, “maybe i’m jus’ lookin t’take ya breath away.

You choked out a laugh, sidestepping to keep him from being too close, “there’s better ways of going about that.”

Red didn’t seem swayed, his half lidded sockets your movements with warmth. “well, seein as i think we’re a match a guy’s gotta explore all his options.”

“You’ll end up the butt of that joke after what you did.”

He managed a nervous chuckle at your pun, pocketing the still good cig. “i uh...was hopin we was past that.”

“I don’t know Red. I do trust you in the respect that you won’t risk doing it again but… I’m still having a hard time truly letting it go.”

Red frowned, suddenly gruff. “hey, i’m here ain’t i? fuckin stood up to my bro n’left him in that hell hole for ya!” You flinched at those words and he immediately lost the sharpness in his tone. “look, i’m tryin. that’s all i’m sayin.”

“I know you are…” you said, looking down to your shoes. “I just...need some time to put what happened in its place.”

For a tense moment Red kept looking at you and you finally looked back to him. The fissures around his injured socket hadn’t been removed when Papyrus had healed him. Seeing them now was a bold reminder that he was indeed backing up his words with action. It had been hard for him to confront his brother. You didn’t doubt it had been his own desire not to see you die again that had spurned him into action.

He was truly trying.

You ran your fingers through your hair anxiously.

“I’m sorry. I just need a little time to put it away. You really scared me, Red. Both from being killed by you and then being...marked. It was-”

“i’m sorry.” He said quietly, making you stop suddenly.

He’d just apologized. Every time he had wronged you in the past no such words had been uttered and observing his personality you had thought it’d be something you’d never hear from him. Yet there he stood in front of you in the approaching underground twilight with the apology echoing in your mind.

He closed his sockets and breathed, “y/n… i fucked up. if ya need time, i’m okay wit’ that but…”

“I forgive you.” you said right away, wetness in your eyes and your soul moved by his admission. “Thank you for saying it.”

You weren’t the only one moved. Red for a second looked a little flustered, his magic coloring his cheeks as he scratched behind his skull.

“i’ll still give ya time.” he assured you, turning and making his way down the hallway just as the lighting fixtures began to light up for the evening, “i get why it’s hard n’i ain’t gonna rush ya. when ya good n’ready we’ll take th’next step.”

Watching him go, you couldn’t help but smile. You were sure he felt how the resonance between you felt rejuvenated by the brief conversation. It was the first step of many you’d take with him, one that set you up along a path of trust and companionship that would serve you both well in the uncertain days to come.

You were so happy over this small amount of progress that you didn’t even notice Sans watching from the shadows by his room.

Chapter Text

“CAN WE FOR ONCE GET THROUGH THIS WITHOUT BEING REDUCED TO USELESS SQUABBLING?” Papyrus scolded for what felt like the dozenth time.

You’d been sitting together with your Guardians and allies for only an hour today and things had already fallen apart. Fellby sat beside you and Papyrus was on your other side. Toriel, Sans and Red were across from you. It seemed like a simple solution, sharing some tea and snacks to chat over what had happened so far and see what to do next.

You had tried many times over the past several days to get everyone together peacefully. Each time tensions had won out in favor of deciding on a course of action.

You had counted on people having varying ideas, but you hadn’t thought differences of opinion would lead to what you had dubbed the ‘pun wars’.

You enjoyed a good joke as much as the next girl, but these were different. Instead of them being uplifting and keeping your group lighthearted as it had in the past, the puns now were insulting and meant to degrade.

Red was munching his way through his eighth pastry, looking bored and Sans beside him wore a tense smile with a half lidded gaze, nibbling on the nib of his bottle of ketchup.

“I dunno what ya wanna accomplish here,” Red said, showering crumbs over Sans as he spoke, “Boss ain’t gonna change his mind n’fixatin on it ain’t gonna change shit.”

“LANGUAGE!” Papyrus cried exasperatedly.

Again.

Red chuckled sheepishly as Sans rolled his eyelights, brushing bits of pastry off his hoodie.

“Red, if you’re not gonna help, grab a doggy bag and leave it to those of us who want to accomplish something.” Sans said, barely keeping the bite out of his voice. He seemed a master of moch geniality. “grab some pastries to go.”

“n’leave y/n with a crusty sneak?” Red snorted out his nasal cavity, glowering at his alternate. “ya damn well know why i don’t, bub.”

Toriel, on the other side of the boys, lowered her head to the table and tried to stifle an annoyed bleat. As much as she loved wordplay this had gotten to be annoyingly excessive.

You just stared, not finding it in you to find their jokes funny under the circumstances.

“Hey sweetpea,” Fellby leaned over, heating your cheek with his hot breath, “Want to take bets on who storms off first?”

With a hopeful half smile, you looked up at him.

“I think if we let them, they’ll keep going like this for hours.”

The flame man laughed quietly and put an arm around your shoulders.

“You realize the Queen and myself could try lighting a fire under them to be more objective?”

“I’ll get back to you on that.” you said, watching the two continuing to argue. “Least I know it’s an option.”

“heh, what’s wrong, donut trust me?” Sans grin stretched in mock innocence, “think i’m a crepe?

Red growled, “they ain’t even glazin’ th’surface a what i think’a ya-”

Sans only grinned wider the more he appeared to get under his skin, “i cannoli imagine the kinda bitterness you’ve got cookin for me!”

“there ain’t muffin to it if ya try.” Reds vicious grin stretched to match his doubles, his eyes giving a flash. “ya see, i’m jus’ tryin t’turnover a new leaf. ya know what that’s like, dontcha?”

That seemed to touch a nerve and Sans smile vanished as swiftly as the lights of his eyes.

“careful red, ya gonna fritter away any chance ya got at redeeming yourself at this rate-!”

Red stood from his chair, towering over Sans, barking, “maybe if ya weren’t bein such a marzipain in my ass i’d-”

“I’VE HAD IT!” Papyrus bellowed, his patience gone, “LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU TWO ARE READY TO TAKE YOUR ROLES OF GUARDIANS SERIOUSLY! I AM GOING TO GO OVERSEE THE PROGRESS OF MY GUARDSMEN IN THE NORTH CASTLE COURTYARD!” He stomped over to the door, threw it open, but before he stormed away he turned back to the Queen with a cheerful smile. “OH, AND THANK YOU FOR THE DELIGHTFUL TEA AND PASTRIES YOUR MAJESTY! ALWAYS A PLEASURE!”

“You are welcome as always, Papyrus, dear.” Toriel said, her smile strained. She stood next, casting a scathing glare to the skeletons who were responsible once more for their meeting not coming to fruition.. “I agree with him I’m afraid. We have tried too many times and failed so until you two can get along-”

She bowed, her lavender robes fluttering as she quietly began to walk away.

You however had your elbows on the table, had bowed into both hands.

“eh... sweetheart?”

You tensed at the sound of Reds voice and when you lifted your head it was to glare at him.

“Do you have no self control at all?” You asked a bit more angrily than you intended.

“look, darlin-”

“And you!” You snapped, “Don’t you dare call me that, not now and not after everything else that’s happened!” You stood sharply, seconds from shouting and trying very hard to keep yourself under control. “We have a job to do! Fellby left his home and business and daughter to help us, and other than deciding that he’ll be staying to help protect the Queen and the castle while we’re away finding the others we haven’t made a single step forward since Red came to be with us five days ago!”

You pushed your chair back in to the table and stared at the both of them. Their expressions were mirrors of each other, their sockets wide and jaws hanging slightly open. You stared down Sans as you shook your head.

“I thought of everyone here that could appreciate what’s on the line right now it’d be you.” You said, “I know we’re all still feeling raw about what happened in Underfell and what that truly meant between all of us but the truth of the matter is we don’t have the luxury of bickering over this!

For days the emotions and feelings you’d usually get across the tether from Sans had been largely dormant and inactive. You knew he was closely guarding his thoughts and feelings again and you yourself didn’t want to be getting impressions from him either. As a result, you felt like the bond you had with him was weakening.

It all centered around Red and his arrival.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on and maybe you would entertain their thoughts on the matter if something could come of it. For a moment, you closed your eyes and hid them with one hand, a rush of emotion making your eyes sting with tears.

You still remembered how it felt when Red had biten your neck, the slow fading of the bonds you’d formed with the Guardians… with Sans.

There was no use in dwelling on the ‘might have beens’ and wishing things were different. The simple truth remained that the Priestess wasn’t in a position to have the luxury of any relationship deeper than that of the Guardians who had to protect her so they could summon the Beast God.

Shaking her head again she didn’t say anything more. She excused herself and walked to the door.

“Smooth going boys.” Fellby was standing up as well, clad in black slacks and a handsome black dress shirt. He was only a pace behind her. “Enjoy your time out.”

You didn’t look back as you left the parlor and made your way through the hallways of the palace towards your room. It felt like if you couldn’t move right now, and fast, all the excess energy from your approach to anger would explode outwards.

You didn’t get mad often but when you did it was a bit explosive.

“You move fast when you want to.” Fellby said from beside you, his long strides making it easy for him to keep up. “Makes a guy think that maybe there’s more you’re trying to run from than a couple of immature skelle-dipshits.”

You snorted at that, unladylike but suspiciously close to a laugh.

“Well, I won’t say you’re wrong, but I’m at my wits end with those two.”

“Oh sweetpea,” he laughed, peeking at you from the side of his dark shades, “you had better find your wits beginning or life is only going to get harder for you!”

His arm suddenly settled around your shoulders, making you stop as he bent his impressive height over you with a grin, “My recommendation would be to have a few drinks with your friendly neighborhood bartender and approach it again with a hangover! Everything seems easier to deal with when you compare it to the morning after a good binge drink.”

That made you laugh, thankfully.

“Fellby, that almost sounds tempting but I somehow think getting drunk off my ass shouldn’t be high on my list of things to do right now.” you leaned into him and sighed, looking out the window you stopped by in time to see a bird bringing a little twig by the stained glass to build its home. You sighed. “I think maybe I just need some quiet and a little perspective.”

He thought a moment over that before pushing his shades back up his would be nose.

“Then I recommend a nice bath, with water given your species. I don’t think a nice tub of petrol would be as comforting to a human as it would be to my kind.”

Now that had you laughing much brighter, exclaiming, “Not to mention pricey!”

“And likely death inducing.” He ruffled your hair gently before straightening back up to his full height, “Go on, dear, and if all else fails, my offer for a drink is always open.”

You nodded, your speedy pace slowed by the calm he’d helped you attain.

“I think a bath is a good idea.” you agreed at last, “Thanks, hun.”

He was lifting a cigarette to his lips as he turned to go down another hallway, likely to his new post. Part of his new duties were to help protect the castle, particularly when yourself and the other Guardians were away. He was already very good at his job and had voiced it was far easier than protecting his bar back at Underfell.

He’d expressed to you that first day here that he hadn’t had much to stick around for anymore. His daughter who he’d been supporting was now estranged from him and as much as he loved his business and making a good handful of gold he knew that it’d mean nothing if they were stuck underground forever.

On a softer note, he’d also confided in you that his best hope of giving his daughter a better life was to get the barrier down. To him, that meant helping you.

Being on such a warm, pun completely intended, rapport with him had been a very nice change of pace from the bickering between the Sans’s. You could only hope that problem would pose a solution sooner rather than later.

Taking Fellbys advice to relax in a bath seemed easy enough in theory, but standing outside those enormous double doors once more, you were confused. You hadn’t gone to your room and its joined bathroom to have a bath.

You’d come here, your feet carrying you while your mind was otherwise occupied.

The day you fell and had been urged to bathe in these waters had renewed you with a sense of purpose. When you had visited when you had felt like you couldn’t live up to the duties of a Priestess you’d come and left with feelings of hope.

Something about this sacred place, whether it be magical or spiritual always seemed to end up pointing you in the right direction.

You touched the carved wooden runes on the door in wonder. The echo flowers, the vines, the beseeching hands outstretched towards the hope of a human soul and six monster souls around it, it all filled you with… something.

It was not determination. It was too soft and gentle to be, some sense of more being out there for you to discover, to attain, to become.

You closed your eyes and touched your chest, feeling the gentle strumming of what you now knew was your soul inside of you. It thrummed along to the pulse of your heartbeat. Your very lifeblood and magic alike circulated within like an infinity knot of life and energy tying you to a purpose.

Last time you had stood here you’d screamed at this door in frustration. Looking back you wondered what on earth had brought you there in the first place that day. You’d simply fled in a panic and like the moon influencing the tides you’d been drawn here. Today, it was simply the instruction for you to take a bath and relax. Now that you were here though it had you wondering what would come from today's visit.

Without further preamble, you parted the doors to walk in and was met with something curious. Along with the feeling in your soul that something awaited you here, you saw that standing on water, in the middle of the sacred pool was the ghostly visage of a human child. They had golden brown hair that ended just under their ears. They were singing, a song that accompanied the rhythm you’d felt in your chest, a song you knew down to the atomic level.

You dared not speak as you watched. Instead you silently stepped from your shoes, shed your clothes, and made your way forward in the nude. Down the laid stone and towards the waters edge you walked until you took your first step in the water. Instead of sinking down into the spring water, your bare foot did not sink. Instead, the water miraculously supported you.

In disbelief you stared at how the water simply dimpled under your toes. You took a tentative step forward, both feet now on the placid surface and showing no signs of letting you sink.

You looked up to find the child watching you. On a breeze unfelt the echo flowers swayed, golden spores of pollen lifting up from their sprawled cyan petals to drift weightlessly in the air them, their eyes a warm brown, almost red. The two of you locked in a stare, but seeing as the child did not flee, you continued to approach. Oddly, though their lips did not move, the song was still being sung somewhere in the distance.

“You have found half of your guardians and brought them here, have you not?” the child said, their diction well measured and betraying a fine education.

You answered with a single nod.

Then, they turned to you fully, a softness in their eyes as they smiled in a way that made the rosiness bob on the apples of their cheeks.

“Then it is time. I believe introductions are in order.” Bowing at the waist in a manner that was reminiscent of Toriel's movements, the child said, “Greetings, Priestess. I am Chara.”

Slowly, your eyes began to widen in recognition. You had seen this child before. Their likeness was woven in tapestries and chiseled into stone and marble alike throughout the Underground. The very courtyard where you had first merged souls with Papyrus had a fountain centerpiece that depicted this child playing with-

-a young kid, the son of the King and Queen.

“You’re the first fallen child.” you whispered softly, “The one Queen Toriel and King Asgore took in as their own… the one that was lost.”

Chara did not look away. The child didn’t even blink. It was strange how unsettling you found their stare to be.

“I am that child.” they said. “My soul is indeed gone, but my spirit, the memory of my soul, remains. Or,” They tilted their head to the side with an impish smile, “-it remains now. It had been tempting to follow Frisk out of the underground as their soul and mine were so bound in determination, but for once, I wanted to know what would happen if I remained here.”

You strode closer, feeling a lightness to the air in the pool, making you feel like gravity itself had turned off.

“Yours was a determined soul?” you asked, mind suddenly racing with those implications. “Frisk’s was as well, right? So is mine.”

“Correct.” Chara actually laughed, the mischief in those glittering eyes holding your own. “But Frisk did not want to come back.” Chara answered, also adding, “That was unexpected. So we needed someone…else.

“Who’s ‘we’?”

”Myself. My brother..” The human shrugged as if the news wasn’t particularly interesting. “The Beast God.”

You however felt so focused on every word said that your mind was snapping them securely to memory in an iron box.

“You know the Beast God?” you asked, heart pounding anxiously.

“I do know a Beast God.” was their cryptic answer, floating from where they stood to hold their hands behind them. “You have to be quite specific, you know. There exists many gods.”

You got the feeling this meeting would leave you with more questions than answers.

“Then, do you know the Beast God?” You ventured.

Chara did not answer. Instead, they were floating around you curiously.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you.” You said.

“No. When your soul is ready for it, you will receive the answers you need.” They stopped in front of you again, “Until then, you must exercise patience. Wow, but you are already powerful.”

A little smile touched your lips. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Chara. I’m just a human girl who wants to help.”

Silence stretched between you, a steady blank stare from the child meeting your statement before they looked around, even outstretching their small ghostly hand to a floating glowing spore. It passed through them.

That was the moment you realized that the strange environment hadn’t been a result of Chara’s presence.

It was your own.

“I’m doing this?” You murmured in awe, looking down at your hands. “How?”

“Do I look like a Priestess to you?” The tone was a little snarky, no matter how well articulated their sentence was. “I am a dead child. No reset or soul of determination can change that I am only a restless spirit seeking peace.”

Hearing such an expression of pain hurt you to your core. “Is there something that I can do to help you?”

“You are already doing it.” they said quietly, “Frisk would have, but they have long left this place.”

“Why did Frisk give up on this world?” you ventured to query. It had been on your mind ever since Sans had spoken so fondly of them. If they had cared so much for so long, why had they left the underground this way? “Is that why I am here?”

Chara regarded you with interest now, eyes narrowing with a perceptiveness beyond that of a mere child.

“Yes. Only a determined soul can change the tides of fate after all. A soul that is too determined can wreak terrible chaos. Papa saw that and so did Mr. Sans. That is why you, as Priestess, must fix what has been done. You’re not interested in bending space time to your whims. You are grown and only seek peace. Frisk was a kid who was simply done playing. Would you not say that playing the same game again and again becomes tiresome?”

You found that you were searching the child’s face. Such a statement made you wonder how long they had been trying to be at peace but remained doomed to be a spirit stuck in time loops and now, a world where they never found peace. Something was gnawing in the back of your mind, some warning that things may not be what they appear, but still feeling no reason to distrust what you were being told. It was like this apparition before you, in a stage where their development to learn to be good or to be bad had simply been paused.

“The lives of people are not games.” You said seriously.

“Oh, but they are if you’re powerful enough.”

A lump formed in your throat, tense and fearful of the implication of what this dead child had just uttered.

“Why didn’t you go with Frisk if it was so tempting to remain a leech on her determination?”

Suddenly, the expression on this seemingly harmless human became extremely unsettling. “Because I hate humans.”

The ease at which that was said chilled you.

“But... you are human.”

“I was human.” they corrected.

You waited a few moments. The spirit of the royal families lost heir was literally hovering before you, some key part of the plot you had found yourself ensnared in and seeming to know so much more than you.

“Why are you here, then?”

“The underground is my home. I can not leave. Not anymore.” Chara hummed softly. They kicked their ghostly foot against the water, but their shoe merely passed through, causing no disturbance on the glassy surface. “I was meant to be the hope of the underground. Along with Azriel, we were to join monsters and humanity together as it had always been meant to be.”

Your brow furrowed. “And both of you are gone now.”

Sadly, the young human looked at you. “You must restore balance.”

Balance? You thought to yourself. Was balance truly lost when the children died? Or was it Frisk never coming back that had upset this balance Chara seemed so invested in.

“I was told I was to summon the Beast God, free all monsters, and make my dreams come true.” You questioned, nervousness in your voice. “I wasn’t told balance had anything to do with it.”

Chara giggled as if what you’d just uttered was pure silliness, lifting higher from the waters surface and fading away slowly.

“Everything is about balance, Priestess.” They said before fading away completely. “In life, and in death

The echo flowers ceased their swaying, whispers of the conversation they had overheard echoing across the water where you stood, still aloft on the water.

In life, In life, in life-

And in death!

Standing there upon the waters surface, weightlessness making your hair sway along your skin, you looked up to the cavern ceilings and watched the tiny stones twinkling like stars where Chara had been.

Balance.

Balance

-------------------------------------

The hours that followed were spent in heavy thought. You had sank down into the waters of your bath and had mulled over Charas appearance. You found that the gravity of your roll being hung over you once more had ended up centering your thoughts regarding your Guardians.

A group of people thrown together in any circumstance would lead to disagreements and head butting. You had thought it was their responsibility to bury the hatchet and just get along but in the end, it was yours. Toriel had told you that it was you who was needed to unify them. You thought giving them time and opportunity would do just that. Instead your passive role had led to tensions rising.

Chara had mentioned patience in getting the answers she needed. You were no fool. That was no idle suggestion regarding your questions. It was a direct reference to a soul trait.

You had found the souls of Courage, Integrity, and as corrupted as Reds soul was, his was still ruled by Justice.

Patience. You needed to seek that Guardian to move forward. It was also that trait that would unify your team.

But where? It was an intense moment of thought, one where you focused so hard on everything you had come to know and learned that you felt a tense straining within you snap under the strain.

It was like a flooding of sensation through your body, bursting out from your chest to the top of your head and the tips of your fingers and toes. You felt the soul energy of Sans and Papyrus within you.

It was peaceful, making you feel connected to this world, to the worlds that lay just beyond your reach.

Suddenly the echoflowers stopped swaying and the pollen floating slowed to a stop. It was like time paused and your wide open eyes stopped seeing. That distant song, pounding in your chest through the resounding notes in your soul, blared in your ears and drowned out all other noise.

You could see.

There was a warm sofa, a blanket, and two skeletons sitting together peacefully watching tv. Outside the window a storm rages, but within their home, there was such warmth and content.

On the surface.

The shorter of the two resembled Sans, but his stout body sported a grey shirt and charcoal grey pants tucked into a pair of azure boots. He had on matching leather gloves and ascot, the tails of which were so big it looked comically like rabbit ears. His big shiny toothed smile, with a small gap between the two front teeth, was full of energetic warmth. Just seeing his big blue eyes had you smiling to yourself.

The other was tall and lanky, obviously an alternate of Papyrus but something felt strange. A cigarette hung smouldering from his teeth and though he smiled, his white light eyes were heavily lidded and tired. His entire posture, tall as he was, was slumped in what looked like exhaustion. His orange pullover hoodie had a few cigarette holes burned into it, and his tan cargo pants looked well worn with his pockets full of things.

Just as quickly as the vision came, it left. The song you’d heard was now feint and far away. Everything looked like the first time you had been there.

You didn’t speculate as to why. You had a direction to take. Maybe the Captain wasn’t ready to come and help just yet but surely these two peaceful looking skeletons would be easier allies to win.

Just as you were standing and beginning to head towards the shore, you felt a strong, intense vibration along your tether to Sans. It came again.

He was knocking along it, and it was insistent.

You hurried to the shore, carefully padded along the stones to a table that had a few toiletries upon it for convenience purposes. You grabbed the towel and wrapped yourself up in it, not noticing how the stones where you stepped glowed palely until fading.

It didn’t take much to send a message along the tether that you were ready and Sans appeared.

“What’s wrong?” You asked, making sure the towel was secure before picking up the smaller one to use on your hair.

Sans choked on whatever he had been ready to say, cobalt magic rushing into his cheek bones. He at least politely averted his gaze after a moment.

“hoo boy, sans, water ya doin?” he was laughing nervously, “look, i know you’re mad and i’m not tryin to make it worse-”

“I’m not mad anymore.” You said honestly, watching him fidgeting with the inside of his hoodies pockets. “I think I have some clarity on everything now. So don’t worry.”

He rose a brow skeptically, but after a moment he relaxed.

“somethin does seem different about you.” he admitted, a wistful tilt to his smile and his half lidded sockets. “wish there was time to wade around and talk about it but we got a problem, dar- eh...kid.”

You set the small towel down, feeling a sharp pang of hurt from both Sans across the tether and your own soul revolting against that subtle change.

“Look, before anything else, I’m really sorry I snapped at you.” you said quietly, ashamed of how you’d lashed out now that you looked back.

Sans looked like he wanted to reply to that, his smile tight, his hand fisting in his pocket, but instead, he just nodded.

“maybe we can just let this matter drop and try and hash it out later.” He walked a bit closer and reached out to put a hand on your shoulder. “right now, undynes at the castle gates with a hostage. we need you out there with the rest of us to figure out what to do.”

You stared at him, the color draining out of your face like water from a tub.

“A hostage?” you asked, already reaching for your clothes. “Who?”

You quickly began tugging them on as Sans kept looking away.

“it’s one of paps guardsmen.” he said, his voice thinly veiling that he was upset by this turn of events, “well, more like a friend really. pap and her have known each other for quite some time now. they rose through the ranks of the royal guard together. thing is, i’m pretty sure undyne singled her out for just that reason.”

After pulling your shirt on you suddenly narrowed your eyes on Sans, remembering back when you had to address the people of the capital. The mental image of a chimera girl lowering her large ears as Papyrus passed by with her to head to the town square. She had one eye carefully covered with a sash and the other violet with an odd crosshair pupil in the center. Papyrus had literally shared memories of her with you so you could understand that they had been friends without losing concentration on protecting you before addressing the crowd.

Suddenly you were moving to the door and out into the hallway with dripping hair and with a teleport, Sans had joined you.

Papyrus, your soul was crying in empathy as you hurried along.

Sans suddenly caught your wrist, twirled you to him, and hastily teleported you both to the courtyard before the main gates. You didn’t have a moment to even consider the golden flowers or the newly appreciated fountain sculpture of the lost royal children. All you could think of was your first guardian standing by the tightly locked front gate, stoically waiting with the Queen and Red.

As soon as he caught sight of you, he managed to smile, but it was forced.

“MY PRIESTESS, THANK YOU FOR COMING SO QUICKLY!” He called.

“Yes child, I am afraid this is not a call any of us can make on our own.” Toriel said from behind a risen worried paw.

Red was smoking and glowering at the door as if he could burn holes into it. Something seemed to be eating up his mind.

“Thank you,” you told Sans before running to Papyrus and leaping into his arms to hold him, “I’m so sorry-”

“Do not be-” he whispered to you, but his hold on you tightened. “We are all prepared to face the worst for the sake of peace in the underground.”

After a few more moments of embracing he set you down, looking at the doors as it was kicked several times. You felt the aura of erratic magic behind those blows.

“Are you punks gonna open up and surrender or am I gonna have to kill this hostage?”

It was Undyne’s voice, strong and shaking the air with magic.

Toriel bent lower and turned to you, “Those doors are nearly ten inches of pressure treated lumber made by the most skilled rock Monsters in the underground. That they shake like this should be impossible!”

Papyrus closed his sockets and had to look away

“Go on and let them know who they’ve gotta sacrifice for hiding away like cowards!”

“No way-!” The woman voice was suddenly cut off with a whimper as she bit off an all out cry of pain. “Don’t do it Captain, please!

The sound had of it nearly had Papyrus flinging the door open himself but instead, he looked to you to make a choice.

Balance and patience, you reminded yourself.

After taking a deep breath you turned to the door and cried, “You were a hero to everyone underground, Undyne, I don’t believe you’d hurt an innocent monster!”

“ESPECIALLY ONE YOU TRAINED YOURSELF!” Papyrus added boldly. “WE ARE ALL FRIENDS, YOU CAN’T MEAN TO RESORT TO THIS!”

Red muttered softly, “yeah she could.”

Both you and Papyrus turned to look at him.

“Red?” You asked, to which he looked at you, surprised you were even speaking to him. “What do you mean?”

He stepped closer to you, keeping his voice quiet and serious, “look sweetheart, yeah, undyne’s got a heroic streak in her and under normal circumstances I’d agree that ya fluffy cuddles n’hugs timeline’s undyne wouldn’t be able t’stomach somethin like this. but-” He looked to the door where she was kicking again, “from what i’m gettin, your timeline don’t got al in it anymore, does it?”

“Alphys?” you asked before shaking your head, “No, from what I understand she disappeared around the time Frisk left the underground.”

“frisk didn’t kill her,” Sans said, “but it doesn’t matter, Undyne thinks they did.”

“n’that is what’s gonna make undick capable of killin her own kind. she thinks by doin so she’ll be protectin everyone from you.”

You nodded and turned back to the door.

“Please, you know we can’t do that.” you said, chest feeling tight. “Maybe there’s something else we can do; a sign of good faith to show you that we are trying to free the underground, that I’m not here to hurt people.”

“Then give yourself up!” You could hear a struggle between Undyne and the chimera through those doors and their buckling locks.

Suddenly, Papyrus called, “TAKE ME AS HOSTAGE IN HER PLACE!”

“pap, no!” Sans tried to argue, “we need you to find the others, bro-”

“The Priestess is the one who must find the others, and she needs you to reach those worlds.” Papyrus explained, his voice much lower than usual but no less firm and resolved. “Sans, it can be no one else. I am the one she is most likely to not harm while in her custody.”

You shook your head, the tears already soaking your face and neck, “N-no-!” you choked, “Pap, she could...could still…”

He stepped forward and slid his gloved hand into your hair, pulling you forward so that your forehead met his chest. In that moment, you lost your composure and began to cry, shaking your head over and over but knowing he would not change his mind.

From through the door, you could hear his friend trying to protest. Undyne however, was silent.

She was actually considering the exchange.

“UNDYNE!” Papyrus called again, “IN EXCHANGE FOR A CEASEFIRE AND AS A GESTURE OF HER PRIESTESS’S GOOD WILL TOWARD MONSTERS I VOLUNTEER MYSELF AS YOUR PRISONER OF WAR ON THE CONDITION YOU LET COTTON GO!”

Toriel muffled some soft crying behind her paws and Sans kept his face turned away, his expression hidden. Through the tether however, you could feel his own horror over the situation.

“Alright, Pap, you got a deal.” She agreed, “BUT ONLY ONE WEEK, YOU GOT IT? And if she tries anything-”

“SHE WILL NOT. ONE WEEK. THEN WE WILL MEET AGAIN, HERE, AND DISCUSS MATTERS FURTHER.”

“Fine.” Came her mutter. “SANS, I KNOW YOU’RE THERE! TIE HIS HANDS AND BRING HIM HERE! THEN I’LL LET COTTON GO.”

“bro-” Sans tried to speak but his voice failed. When he turned his face back to the group, his sockets were empty and moisture was creeping around the edges. “...pap…”

“It has been decided.” Papyrus said, smiling as though he were not about to be delivered into the hands of the enemy. Tenderly, he lifted a hand under your chin and made you look at him. He was smiling, so brave and sure of his choice. “My Priestess. I have complete confidence in you. I know you will not fail.”

You grimaced over those words as a fresh wave of tears ran down your face. He tried to smooth them away with the thumb of his glove.

“You’re my rock, Pap. My...my best friend.” you brokenly began to sob, “How am I supposed to be brave without you?”

He chuckled a spirited nyeh heh heh. “Do what I do, y/n.” He bent low, bumping his teeth to your forehead. “I am brave because of you, dearest Priestess. If you fear you cannot do it without me, then do it because of me.”

Those words, so wise and full of love, rocked you to the core of your soul. You nodded. There was no other way.

“Be safe-” You slid a hand behind his skull and pressed a kiss to his teeth, a spark of magic that was active on the surface of his bones lending a little static jolt to the touch. “Please… if nothing else- be safe!

He gathered you close for one last embrace.

“Believe me,” he whispered privately, “when the time comes I will be by your side to help you summon the Beast God. Until then, we shall both do our parts to see that day comes as soon as possible.”

Those next minutes were torture. Having to see Sans tie his brothers hands as Toriel and you wept were the hardest moments of your life underground thus far.

Resets and fear all paled to having to send your first and most loved Guardian into enemy hands.

Before he left, you two shared one last exchange.

He smiled brightly despite being bound and called, “I BELIEVE IN YOU, y/n!”

"We'll come for you, Pap." You forced your most convincing smile and choked, “I won’t be long.”

Then, he was gone.

Chapter Text

There was no time to let yourself be caught up in the tempest of emotion that Papyrus’s departure left you in. One week. You only had one week. In that amount of time you had to recover the other guardians and be bonded with them or risk not having enough support behind you to get him back from Undyne, by force if need be. So it was with that level of stubborn mental focus you told the others through tear clenched tonsils to be prepared to leave tomorrow to find the two from your vision and that you won’t be returning to Underfell just yet.

Too caught up in your own feelings to address the confused looks that statement received, you strode out of the gateway courtyard.

You needed more time to think about what to do about the Captain. Besides not feeling like you could face him just yet without Papyrus's courage, there was still the looming threat to kill you and Red upon your next arrival. At least you had been able to leave with his brother without him making another attempt on your life. That was progress. In any case, any time you could afford to give him would likely allow him time to contemplate what had happened. Maybe by the time you returned his thoughts would be clearer and his position changed.

You arrived in your room and immediately walked across it to your wardrobe.

In a whirlpool of emotion and determination you vowed to yourself to do just as Papyrus had advised. Be strong because of him and find the others. The ceasefire had a timeframe and every moment had to be used to its fullest.

You rifled purposefully through your clothes, pulling out a fresh pair of pants and a thick heavy sweater in your favorite color. This one didn’t belong to Sans. That was one mistake you didn’t want to make twice. No more quarrelling, no more perceived relationships, and no more misunderstandings.

Just you, your Guardians and ones to be, and the goal to summon the Beast God.

A knock on your door made you jump, but you knew who it was without even looking, a fact you didn’t dwell on too deeply as you reached for an undershirt to wear beneath the sweater.

“What is it, Sans?” You said as you hurried your clothes to your desk and began to lay them out.

Your hands were shaking, your movements a bit erratic, but you couldn’t stop. If you did, if you started to think about how Papyrus had given himself up to the enemy, trusting his old friend would not hurt him, trusting *you* to do what you were supposed to-

Don’t stop.

Sans didn't reply. He simply teleported into your room and silently watched you as you quickly folded and piled up your garments for the next mornings departure. Having him watch you made you feel like even more weight was piling up on your shoulders, heavy like a bulls yoke.

“I know I’m acting crazy.” You said, unable to deny your manic energy, “I just, there’s a lot to do and I can’t just sit around worrying about Pap so-” you stopped talking when you turned towards him.

Sans eyelights still hadn’t reappeared and his face was drenched from his magic tinted tears. His smile was as fake as the fur trim on the collar of his hoodie.

In different ways, you were clearly both coping the same. If he just could keep smiling maybe the situation wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it felt. Like you. If you stopped moving the horror of the loss would be too extreme to bare.

“i can’t keep goin on like this, y/n.” he said, his voice so rough he almost sounded like Red. “we gotta fix this. we’ve...we’ve got to stop pretending nothin’s wrong.”

You thought instinctively he’d be talking about Papyrus, but it didn’t take much time to come to a different conclusion.

You hadn’t realized it until now, but the tether between you had substantially weakened, but you could still kind of feel his souls magic. You could get a vague impression of what he was feeling but nothing was as clear as it once had been. You couldn’t speak along it, nor could you pinpoint why he was here of all places.

Had Reds attempt to mark you weakened the tether?

No. That wasn’t quite right. The tether got stronger the more time you spent with him, so why-

It hit you suddenly, the reason so painfully simple that you hated that you hadn’t addressed it sooner. The trust you two had been building had been damaged when he’d failed to tell you that you were soulmates. The longer you failed to try and fix the damaged trust, the weaker the tether was becoming.

Seeing him so close to deteriorating, you stopped thinking, stopped moving, stopped breathing.

You had to find something to say, some way to explain yourself, to dodge this horrible conversation and avoid the utter breakdown you knew it would lead to. You were too close to your own, you couldn’t handle this, not yet-

You croaked out, “Sans...I-”

“no.” he said coldly, cutting you off immediately. “you’re gonna stop and listen to me.”

Stunned silent by his command, you swallowed nervously and nodded.

His head bowed deeply.

“i ain’t used to letting people in and i ain’t used to sharing details about things that I thought was only affecting me.” You saw his hands clenching from their hiding place in his pockets. “then you came along. you told me to trust you, that you’d share my…” he hesitated for a breath, “-my burdens and that i wasn’t alone. and against what time’s taught me i believed you.”

He suddenly took a step forward, making you flinch when he looked at you finally. The trademark composure you were used to seeing in him was shattered.

“so okay! i get that i fucked up!” he barked, “i shoulda toldja about us being soul mates! i made a mistake there and i won’t bother tryin to justify it, i’m just sorry and wanna fix it but you keep avoiding me and expect the problem to go away!”

Your hands moved to grip the ledge of your desk as he kept coming closer. The lights being gone from his eyes was soul seizing, his ground out words reminding you of Red’s anger. You’d never seen him like this.You had initially thought it was his brother being held hostage that had him so upset, but now he was talking about his relationship with you and how it’d suffered.

Was this even a relationship?

Your voice small, you tried to explain, “I didn’t know what to think or what to do-”

“bullshit.” he interrupted again, that fake smile gone to reveal barely concealed anger. “if i had an issue with you and was avoiding you, you’d come to me with a speech about trust and communication just like you had before!”

He had you there - and it had you instantly defensive.

“I’m sorry, but both you and Red put me in a very uncomfortable position!” You insisted.

“that’s not how apologies work, y/n!” he barked. He was now directly in front of you. “there’s no ‘but’! you may have had your reasons for acting how you did, but those reasons were wrong! own up to it!”

You were wrong!” you cried back, hot tears wetting your lashes before they tumbled down your cheeks again. “You can’t pin all of this on me when you were the one who kept such an important thing from me!”

“i was tryin’ to protect you!” He shouted back so heatedly you could see his usually hidden canines.

From what, Sans?

You stared at him bitterly, crying in silence as he looked at you.

Everything he said was right and you hated it. You had plenty of excuses for why you’d been avoiding the inevitable confrontation, but the truth of the matter was that ignoring it was making it worse. He was increasingly on edge with Red, the tether was weakening, and now his brother was taken as a prisoner of war. All those things were steadily simmering into an all out boil and the pressure had to be released somewhere. Who could he turn to when he wasn’t used to having to? It left him with-

You.

You wanted to be touched by that realization and take to heart how he had wanted to come to you for comfort but couldn’t given the immediate strain between you, but your pride was having a hard time admitting fault for his present state.

He still hadn’t answered you and so you repeated it again, quieter. “What were you protecting me from, Sans? You telling me could have helped us work with Red, it could have given us opportunity to plan around the chance the bond might transfer to other worlds.”

He was still silent, visibly trying to reign his reactions in like a rancher with unruly cattle.

“it wasn’t a matter of not wanting you to know, y/n.” he said tightly, “and it was more than red, more than the others, more than...the fact we couldn’t even act on it if we wanted to…”

Confused, you shook your head not understanding. “What is it then?”

There was a pregnant pause as you both locked in stare, both too worked up to articulate your frustrations, but far too stubborn to back down.

Then in the timespan of a heartbeat he suddenly closed the last of the space between you.

With a growl of both anger and need he slid his phalanges into your hair, grasping the back of your head as he bent your smaller body slightly back over the desk and pressed his teeth against your gasping lips.

Your heart skipped a beat and you were shocked into stone like stillness. Sans was kissing you. Your soul felt like it was swelling larger and larger in your chest. Even its color, so hot and bright, was radiating from under the skin of your sternum. Electricity felt like it was shooting out from it into your fingertips and toes; The natural magic residing in your human soul surging towards the closeness of Sans at the mere connection of your mouths. It recognized him. It wanted him. It begged for him with warm longing you had unwittingly been denying it.

It was like the light had been switched on in a dark room and everything was suddenly clear.

Your hands, which had tensely hovered at your sides now thoughtlessly lifted, sliding up his ribs to circle around his neck to draw him desperately closer. His teeth moved, nipping your lower lip and tugging it with a soft groan while he dragged you to press flush against him. The sound went straight to your core, making your thighs squeeze together and your fingers clutch at the soft worn fabric of his hoodie. He was your anchor in this storm of passion as the magic of your souls at last collided.

Nothing else felt like it existed. Not the Beast God and certainly not the barrier or anyone else in the world. There was only him and how he understood you, supported you, *needed* you-

Nothing else mattered.

When at last he pulled back, his eyelights had returned, hazy with mist, and you were left panting softly. Already the most intense of the sensations were fading, but the memory of what this kiss had shown you remained.

Sans, from the very beginning, was far more than your friend. Out of care and respect he allowed you the space to discover it on your own, patiently sat with the knowledge that his soulmate was right in front of him, a soulmate with a bond that had transferred over time and space to his alternate. A lump of regret formed in your throat. He hadn’t told you even when he suspected Red could have the same draw…

If you were to come to him, and...and love him, you had to do it because of the reality of your feelings. Not because fate dictated your souls were compatible.

You had never been so overwhelmed by a kiss before. It had left you wanting for more, a more you could already tell Sans wasn’t willing to let happen, even though he remained close. Even now, his every step was measured and weighed and in all ways put you and your purpose here first.

“do you get it now?” he whispered huskily, teeth almost grazing your mouth again as he spoke. “humans aren’t aware of their souls like a monster is, darlin… but i feel you like this all the time. if i caved, gave in to this…”

His hand slowly slid down your scalp and to the nape of your neck. You closed your eyes, remembering what his teeth felt like against your pulse and suddenly longing to feel it again.

His voice was soothing as he continued to explain. “i knew, y/n, from the moment i saw pap pull out your soul. i just knew.” his touch moved reverently from your neck to the skin of your chest. The magic of your soul responded to his nearness and once more stealing your breath and making you tremble. He closed his eyes savoring the sensations circulating between you. “i hadn’t expected it to happen to me. souls can resonate and be harmonious but soulmates are so rare... but there you were, so brave and eager to help monster kind, so hopelessly naive, but so earnest. i told myself i had to wait on you, make sure you felt it on your own and came to me because it was what you wanted-.”

The press of those bone digits had you breathing thin and fast but you didn’t look away from the intensity of his gaze and how it stared at the ruby glow of your soul meeting his hand.

“stars above darlin, i feel even now how your soul’s cryin out to me, how it feels like home.” Sans’ lowered gaze felt like it could very well seize the soul they were admiring, take it and bring you together in a way that would keep you forever entwined. Finally though, he looked back up to your eyes. “but the temptation is too strong. if a hug turned to a kiss, if a kiss turned into, heh, passion…” He momentarily closed his sockets with a chuckle, “darlin, i don’t think i’d be able to stop myself from doing exactly what red had. I couldn’t risk it. that’s why i never told you.”

You slowly, almost drunkenly nodded. It made sense. Even now you didn’t want this to stop. It was so much more than simply having your souls merged or the comfort of the tether. You had tasted the truth.

This was pure magnetism born from the chemistry you’d already begun to feel. It was young, in need of nurturing, but it was growing so strong.

“If you..you knew you might not stop...then why did you just ki-”

Sans silenced you with a simple bump of his teeth to your lips before replying, “at the end of the day i’m only a man, darlin. i was at my wits end. seemed like the only sure fire way to make you understand.”

The regret you felt as what had been going on finally fell into place was suffocating. He was more than a Guardian. He was your protector, the only guardian who’d be able to reach you at a moments notice and the only guardian who could get imprints of your thoughts and feelings without being soul merged. Your bond with him was more important than you could have ever guessed- from the intimacy of the tether to the way you somehow balanced each other.

On top of all the reasons you had assumed to be behind his silence, him protecting you from himself hadn’t been something you had thought possible. Even Sans, after a life as a judge and for all his integrity... was still only a man.

Worst of all, because you had been selfishly biding time, that bond you had worked so hard to establish with him had been under tremendous strain and his stress was only exacerbated by being unable to help his brother. And being soulmates, with such a forced and tense distance, he had been suffering and only now did you understand even slightly what that must have entailed.

“Sans…I’m so sorry.” you said remorsefully. “I know you’re upset with me and I deserve that-”

“forgettaboutit.” he said with a single shrug of his shoulder before using the cuff of his hoodie to chase away a subtle tear he was trying to keep hidden. “I just want us back on track… no more goin off the rails or-”

Loco motives?” you finished for him, managing a wet giggle.

For a moment, you swore he was looking at you like you were the north star in the sky he was dying to see.

You looked down between you, weighing your next thoughts.

“So… What track are we on Sans?”

He tilted your chin up to look at him, his gaze blatantly affectionate.

For a moment, you held your breath, expecting him to say something earth shatteringly romantic like he did once more.

nothing exists that can stop me anymore.

Instead he said, “well, let’s just keep things moving forward and let me appreciate your caboose and... that should do for now.”

You snorted in laughter at that, shoving at his solid rib cage playfully.

“Right when I thought you couldn’t derail this conversation further!’

Sans was outright laughing with you now, the heaviness finally lifting. You thought that there’d be awkwardness knowing you were soulmates, having tasted what that meant,but instead things simply felt right as you comfortably fell back into your old raport. As your laughter quieted, he exhaled.

“i.. thought of telling you once.” He confessed quietly. “seeing you laying there under me, so trusting and looking at me like no one else existed…” he dipped his head to your cheek, softly grazing a kiss along it indulgently, leaving your skin tingling as though you’d been grazed with peppermint. “i thought maybe it’d be worth it…”

“When you brought me burgers and we merged souls…” you sighed, knowing exactly the moment he was thinking of. “Sharing memories...”

“and fries.”

“Falling asleep..” you added wistfully.

“wakin up together…” he murmured, his smile truly genuine now. “couldn’t forget that, huh?”

You nodded, feeling a tautness in your chest as the tether began to strengthen again. He closed his eyes and basked in the sensation. Already he seemed calmer and more himself.

“Then Papyrus knocked on the door right when we were about to-” you began to fluster, laughing, “ah, you know, do what we just did.”

Sans was chuckling again, but now you both were feeling a commiserating sadness over the mention of Papyrus.

“... i guess if anyone would miss him more than me it’d be you, darlin.”

“You’re his brother, Sans. You raised him. There’s nothing that’d come close to comparing to that.” You slowly lowered your forehead to his shoulder. “It’s so hard… I didn’t want him to go.”

“me either.” he gathered you to him and shifted so that he was leaning his hip against your desk as he held you, stroking your upper back. “but that’s pap. ever since he was a baby bones he was a problem solver, people or puzzles; he always threw himself into everything head first.” He gave pause and sighed, “n’sorry i got so mad at you. just... with pap leavin and then-”

His shoulders flinched and he once more kept his gaze averted. When he managed to resume, his voice was so quiet you had to strain to hear him.

“there’s nothin that can be done about pap right now.” he whispered. “I could go try and look after him, stay outta sight, slink around just to be sure nothing happens; i’m used to doin that. but my duty is to stay with you...and...with you and i bein uh…” he lifted up a hand to his face, phalanges pressed to his brow as his one arm tightened around you. “darlin, feelin you pushin me away when it’s the one bond...that… actually matters...? I mean...are ya? pushin me away?”

“No…” You didn’t hesitate then to lift your hands to guide his head to your shoulder and put your temple to his. “Oh god Sans, no, never.”

He was practically falling into you for comfort now. His arm lowered and hung limply at his side and though he didn’t cry, across the renewing strength of the tether you felt his anguish.

“I’m sorry,” you said again, offering no excuses this time. “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking about how how I was handling it all was efecting you.”

You felt him shake his head.

“i deserved it…” he muttered with raw self loathing. “i’m used to makin the hard calls, darlin. i figured what good would it do to tell ya when we can’t even act on it. so... why burden you.”

“I know.” you slid a hand over the back of his skull. “At least for now that’s how things are, but there’s always time and the future.” you smiled a bit. “I mean, I won’t be Priestess forever. The Beast God will be summoned then my life is my own again.”

You felt his entire body tense carefully.

“i don’t want ya to think you’re locked into anythin with me. if things happen they happen on their own. but-” he nodded, slowly. “... it’s nice to know that there’s always a chance.”

“We should figure out what to do for now. You and Red are at odds and without Pap around to be a buffer it kinda falls on me, doesn’t it…”

Sans looked at you, weighing the explanation with a sagacious wisdom that you were grateful for. He seemed to get it. Red would smell him on you and any favoritism of one over the other would be met with increasing tensions you couldn’t afford.

“alright, i get it.” he said, taking a step back from you. If he was disappointed he hid it extremely well, even with the tether feeling stronger again. “I’ll uh..try not to push the red button heh.”

As Sans punctuated his joke with a wink you felt bravery swelling within you, as if even while enduring Papyrus’s absence, a piece of him still remained.

With that thought you curled your hand into Sans’s.

“I get your train of thought.” he assured you, laughing subdued and eyelights warm and comforting. “you’ve got this, darlin.”