Sans didn’t know how it happened. It was late, and everyone else had left the labs save for himself and Anthony, the older, human lab technician that he’d known for two years and was good pals with. One second, they were cracking jokes at each other; the next, a boom resonated with enough force to shake the foundations of the laboratory.
It didn’t take long for Sans to find the culprit —a malfunction of the Magic Extractor machine. It had overloaded, most likely due to improper cleaning of the filters. Smoke billowed out of the enormous apparatus, and a conglomeration of multi-colored liquid magic seeped into the linoleum floor.
As soon as Sans saw sparks spewing from the machine, he grabbed Anthony’s arm and readied his magic to shortcut them out of the lab. But before he could picture a destination, the Extractor exploded.
The blast hit them at full force, slamming them both against the wall. Stars dotted San’s vision as he tried to reorient himself. Just as he peered up, foreign magic splattered into his eye sockets and onto his chest.
Everything went black.
The next time Sans came to, he felt jostling. Indistinct voices buzzed around him, all of which sounded urgent. He was… floating… and lying on some sort of cushion? Was he being pushed somewhere?
Sharp pangs rang out from Sans’s entire body, but especially from his soul and forehead. The culmination of his entire being felt overly congested, and he couldn’t muster enough energy to ignite his eye lights. Unconsciousness claimed him once again.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The continuous sound roused Sans to the brink of awareness, though darkness surrounded him. His fingers twitched on soft cotton linens, his back lying on a mattress with a slightly raised, firm pillow. Jolts of pain shot out from his soul.
Was something stuck in it?
He sensed two souls near him..
“Doctor Fell… vision… gone forever…” he heard.
What? Where even was he? And why did one of the souls have an aura so similar to his brother’s?
The pitch-black fog enclosed Sans’s mind in a confuzed haze, preventing him from verbalizing. His attempt to lift an arm or his head led to a wave of dizziness that sent him back into oblivion.
Sans regained consciousness several more times, but never for long periods. Despite all the “napping” he was doing, he never felt rested. Noise constantly plagued him, whether it was the continuous beeping of machines, the noisy chatter, or the occasional rapid movement coming from a section away from him. Infrequently, he registered human workers — nurses, he believed — speaking with him. He could barely understand or remember what they said.
At some point, Sans gained enough awareness to attempt to light his pupils. It failed.
Trying to lift himself was impossible given the weight that seemed to sit upon him. Not to mention the agony coming from his soul. Instead, he turned his skull this way and that. He saw nothing at first, until eleven dim but differently-colored hearts, flickering in a sea of darkness, invaded his vision. It took a few seconds for him to realize what they were.
Each one of them glowed feebly, as though ready to Fall Down.
A sudden shrill beeping came from the area next to his. There was a mass scrambling of footsteps and someone repeatedly yelling “code blue”. Various green, yellow and blue souls surrounded a dull violet one. One that Sans recognized as Anthony’s.
A visible fissure drew down the center. It trembled and shimmered once.
Then, the purple soul, Anthony’s soul, shattered.
A loud, piercing scream echoed within Sans’s hearing. Phalanges clawed at his eye sockets, desperate and rough, as he thrashed about in blind panic.
Someone pulled his arms away from his face and held them firmly down against the bed. There was a sharp pinch at his lower left humerus. Seconds later, a bout of drowsiness slammed into him, stopping the frantic cries. As Sans’s mind entered a floating haze, he realized that the screams had been his own.
Sans woke up two more times to glowing souls surrounded by darkness. The sight of them consistently sent him into a panic, imagining them breaking into pieces like Anthony’s. Sans scratched at his sockets to try to get rid of the sight, constantly wondering why he was seeing them. He had to be sedated both times.
When Sans regained consciousness for the third time, the number of souls had dwindled to nine. Orange and green had supplanted a cyan and the purple one.
As his hands shot towards his brows, he heard a voice sounding eerily like his brother, except it had a sharp, gruff quality. “SANS!”
An inverted soul, radiating the indigo of integrity, hovered besides him. It was the one from earlier that was similar to his brother’s.
“pa-pap? izzat... izzat you?” Sans muttered incoherently, turning his skull towards the speaker, taking notice of the green human soul also beside him.
“I DO GO BY PAPYRUS, BUT PERHAPS NOT THE ONE YOU KNOW. I AM CALLED DOCTOR FELL HERE.”
Sans shifted with discomfort. “wh-where… where am i?”
“YOU ARE IN THE HOSPITAL, EBOTT MEDICAL CENTER TO BE EXACT.” Fell paused briefly. “YOU WERE HIT WITH A BLAST OF CONCENTRATED, FOREIGN MAGIC. A LARGE AMOUNT OF IT ENTERED YOUR SOUL AND INSIDE YOUR SKULL. IT WAS THANKS TO MY GREAT SURGICAL SKILLS THAT YOU SURVIVED.”
Sans’s mind was still slow to comprehend.
Fell cleared his throat and continued, “HOWEVER, THE DAMAGE AT THE MAGIC NEXUS IN THE BACK OF YOUR EYE SOCKETS HAD BEEN MUCH TOO EXTENSIVE EVEN FOR ME.” When Sans caught up to Fell was saying, panic gripped his soul. “SINCE, WE, SKELETON MONSTERS USE THAT TO SEE, YOUR VISION HAS BEEN COMPROMISED.”
“Doctor…” the green soul whispered. “Shouldn’t this wait until he’s more stable?”
“NONSENSE! TELLING THE TRUTH IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE!”
Fell said more but Sans barely registered the rest, his breath coming in short, irregular bursts. His chest constricted, and dizziness overcame him.
A hand settled on his ribs, and waves of calming magic poured into him. Sans shuddered.
“RELAX. WE WILL MOVE YOU TO A DIFFERENT LOCATION,” was the last thing Sans heard as he fell asleep.
The faint silhouette of a frail-looking male stood a few distances away from Sans. Although his features had to distinctive qualities, Sans knew from the pulsing violet, that it was Anthony.
“This is your fault. All your fault! You led me to die!”
The distorted words reverberated repeatedly within Sans’s skull. The purple soul dimmed considerably as cracks lined its surface. And shattered.
Suddenly, Sans found himself in a ruined hallway bathed in golden light. The human child, with their brown, bowl-shaped haircut and striped sweater, lay dead in front of him, bones protruding from their small form.
Their gleaming red soul quivered in the air. And shattered.
Sans shot up with a gasp. Sensing a looming presence beside him, he scrambled backwards. His back hit air.
Before he tipped off the bed, a large hand —a skeleton’s?— grabbed his right wrist to prevent his fall. The skeletal hand nearly engulfed his entire radius and ulna.
“careful there, pal. didn’t mean ta rattle yer,” a deep, gravelly voice said.
The speaker helped shift him back into his bed. The movement left him breathless. Intense, throbbing pain shot from his ribs, which were wrapped in bandages.
“th-thanks,” Sans croaked.
He directed his skull at the speaker and identified an inverted yellow heart tinged with bits of red. The dim quality reminded Sans of the failing souls he’d seen earlier.
“heh, don’t sweat it, sweetheart.”
Heat and bewilderment arose within Sans. They’d just met. What kind of person called strangers by that moniker?
Sans’s thoughts were cut off by a, “Hello, Mister Sans Snowdin?” A cyan human soul floated a few feet away from him. “I’m Nancy, your nurse for the next few days. Would you mind if I do a routine assessment on you?”
After a minute, he gave a faint nod. The heart approached him, and Sans had half a mind to not flinch away. A sliding of metal across metal hit his ears.
“Don’t worry, I’m just closing the curtains to give some privacy,” Nancy explained, her tone kind.
As Nancy checked his vitals and magic levels, Sans relaxed enough to ask her of his status. He’d gotten three broken ribs from the blast. A large amount of foreign magic had gotten into his soul and eyes -both of which were places that contained a skeleton monster’s magic reserves- and damaged them. Dr. Fell had been able to repair the damage to his soul, but not his eyes. They still had to monitor his magic level daily until it stabilized. If it got too high, his body would start rejecting it. He was not allowed to use any form of magic in the meantime, which meant no shortcuts for him. If he still had that ability.
The nurse couldn't elaborate much more than that, possibly due to her not understanding monster anatomy. Although Ebott Medical Center was the first established human-monster hospital, there were still many humans that didn’t understand the crucial relationship between monsters and their magic.
By the time the human had left, a deep-seated numbness soaked into Sans. He laid in bed with his curtains drawn, barely acknowledging the existence of his new roommate. The other mainly stayed to himself, though Sans occasionally heard him limping about the room or making snide comments to the nurses.
At some point after - hours or maybe even a day? - Sans was brought out of his seemingly endless haze by visitors.
Sans snapped his attention to, what he presumed, was the entrance of the room. Two monster souls, one he recognized as Toriel’s and the other as Alphys’s, approached him. Shock, horror and concern bled out of them, the miasma of emotions surrounding Sans like a toxic cloud.
Had he always been this intune with other people’s emotions? Sure, due to his Judge status, he had a better read of other’s souls than most, but this was much too vivid. It was disconcerting.
“How are you? We’ve been so worried,” Toriel said gently.
Not wanting to cause more concern in his friends , Sans mustered a casual reply. “‘m doin’ much better, tori.”
“S-sans… what ha-happened… what happened to y-your eyes?” Alphys spluttered.
Sans’s soul seized with dread at the memory of Dr. Fell’s words. He inhaled deeply to calm himself and curled his teeth into a painfully wide smile.
“why, what’s wrong with it? have i become bone-chillingly handsome with my new looks?”
He didn’t know how he looked, and he’d hoped his light-hearted comment would bring some chuckles. Neither monsters laughed, though he caught snickering coming from his roommate.
Not wanting to prolonged the uneasy silence, Sans cleared his nonexistent throat and shrugged with feigned apathy. “doc told me i suffered some magic damage to my eye sockets so i, uh, won’t be able to see anymore.”
Alphys gasped. “I’m sure… I’m sure th-there must be a m-mistake. Um, was it… was it a human doctor who told you? Th-they might be wrong,” she suggested in askance.
“nope. was a monster doc. a skeleton one, no less.”
His roommate’s soul flashed, which he chose to ignore.
“I’m so sorry, Sans.” Toriel’s apology was laden with guilt.
But why? It wasn’t their fault what happened to him. It wasn’t there fault that he’d failed to check the filters; it wasn’t their fault that he’d gotten caught in a magical blast and couldn’t save his co-worker and friend. It was his fault that Anthony died.
Why should they feel guilty when he was the one who should?
As though sensing his distress, a pair of warm, fuzzy arms embraced him. Sans tensed, and eventually sank into Toriel’s hug, with Alphys soon joining. They whispered encouraging words to him, though Sans found it hard to believe them. The influx of pity from their souls didn’t help matters.
Toriel suggested that she and Alphys leave Sans to rest. Before they did, Sans had one request for them.
“hey, could you two promise me to not tell papyrus about what happened yet. i... i don’t wanna worry him or the others on the trip.”
“But Sans,” Toriel began gently, “how do you think he’ll feel when he comes back home to find that you’re blind and had not been informed about it?”
Sans flinched as though he’d taken a bone attack directly at his core. He sank into his bed, body and soul heavy despite feeling so empty.
“please, just at least… at least not until i’m ready.”
Alphys, understanding Sans’s plight, convinced Toriel to agree. They left soon after making the promise, reassuring that they would visit again. As Sans laid in his bed, his mind finally processed everything that had occurred.
He was blind.
What would he do? Laze around even more than usual? Leech off his brother like a disgusting parasite?
He would never see again except for those stupid souls. The thought filled him with dread and regret. Once again, he visualized a fractured purple soul breaking into pieces.
Was he going to see humans and monsters dying like this forever?
“stop that, sweetheart, yer hurting yerself and makin’ it worse.” A pair of giant, thick hands entirely engulfed his own, and slowly drew them away from his skull.
It was then that Sans registered the pain stabbing like knives around his eye sockets. When had he started scratching again?
“should probably get some ointment for ‘em. lemme get yer nurse.”
Sans shook his head, keeping his skull bowed low. The other skeleton sighed, “alright. but let’s at least cover ‘em so the area can heal.”
His roommate led Sans’s arms down onto the bed and let go. His empty palms tinged with the warmth from the larger skeleton’s grasp.
“name’s red by the way.”
It was a fitting name, given the red of determination glittering in the other’s soul.
“m’sorry to hear what happened to yer." There was a surprising amount of empathy there.
Sans gave a weak shrug and clenched his fingers into fists, resisting the urge to attack his sockets again. Thankfully, Red returned to his bed before Sans could do any more damage. Strips of cloth were wrapped around his forehead, covering his eye sockets like a blindfold. Sans noticed that he could barely see Red’s soul now, though it didn’t stop the oppressive yet flickering quality of his magic.
“thanks,” Sans murmured.
“heh, my services ain’t free ya know,” Red teased. “it'll cost yer a kiss.”
Sans flushed and looked away, at a lost for words. Instead, he mumbled a lame joke about kissing strangers, which had Red cackling. They spent the rest of the time in pleasant silence.
Some time later, after slipping in and out of restless sleep, Sans discovered that his new roommate was the brother of the Dr. Fell that had treated him. He had awoken to quiet chattering, though Fell’s volume was hardly what most would constitute as “soft”. He laid in bed, pretending to be asleep as he listened.
“What if you fall and break more bones?”
“i’ll be fine, boss, yer get creases on yer face like me if yer worry too much.”
“But this is the second time in the past month you have been hospitalized! I just want you to be more careful!”
Red sighed in irritation. “m’fine, alright! it’s just a tibia fracture.”
There was a faint clack, followed by a huff. “Your magic is already too low. Any more damage to your bones, and you will be on weekly magic transfusions.”
“guess i’ll find out in a few days.”
A tense silence pervaded the room. With a swish of clothing and click of heels, Fell’s indigo soul approached Sans, who remained pretend sleeping. After a Check, he sensed relief flooding from the doctor’s soul.
“Keep a watch on him.” The words surprised Sans.
“gotcha covered, boss.” Red’s response was completely sincere.
“Good. Perhaps you two can help each other.” And then Fell left.
A minute later, Sans heard Red turn in his bed and say to him, “i know yer awake.”
Feeling guilty for eavesdropping, Sans swung his attention to Red. “sorry. didn’t wanna interrupt.”
“it’s ok.” Neutral, but truthful.
Silence reigned once again. The conversation Red had with his brother sparked Sans’s curiosity, but he was hesitant to ask, afraid his roommate would find him too nosy or annoying.
“if yer wondering, i have this condition similar to what humans call gigantism. it’s why i’m almost as tall as boss, even though he’s over six feet. though i got him beat in width, heh,” Red explained as if it were the weather. But Sans didn’t miss the embarrassment radiating from him.
Hoping to abate it, Sans quipped, “guess you could be described as big boned.”
He immediately regretted his joke, assuming he’d offended Red.
Much to his bewilderment, Red laughed. “nice. can’t believe i’ve never came up with that one.”
Sans’s teeth lifted into the first smile in days.
“anyways, since i’m so damn big boned...” Another snicker. “my bones are apparently weaker than normal skeleton’s so it’s real easy to break ‘em.”
“is that why your soul is so dim?” Sans blurted.
Red didn’t answer for a length, so much so that Sans was afraid Red wasn’t going to.
“yer can still see my soul?” Red asked abruptly.
“yeah. it’s about the only thing i can see now.” Sans turned away. “sorry for intruding.”
Sans knew how private a monster’s soul was. Now Red was going to get angry and never speak to him.
“hey, it’s cool. i ain’t even mad. but is that why yer keep tryna claw at yer head?”
Sans shrugged. Red must’ve taken it as an unhappy yes, since he didn’t pry further.
“so yeah, my magic’s real weird cuz of the condition. too much of it is used to grow my bones. and heal ‘em i guess. once it falls below a certain threshold, i’ll need magic transfusions to keep me functioning.”
Although Red didn’t elaborate more than that, Sans detected the meaning behind Red’s words; he would die without the magic transfusions once it reached the point that he would require them.
An idea suddenly came into Sans’s head.
“if it came to that, i’ll offer some of mine, since i got too much, apparently."
For a few seconds, Red was silent. Eventually, he replied, “thanks, but don’t let this worry yer. it prolly won’t even get to that point.”
And the conversation was dropped. Red switched the topic to shitty sci-fi movies, and spent the rest of their time chatting about them. Sans found that he enjoyed the other’s company.
Toriel and Alphys visited again, this time bearing gifts from Sans’s monster friends. He got a ton of flowers and get well cards, though Toriel had to read them to him. Sans ignored the sharp pangs as she did, and laughed at the punderful ones. Alphys was awesome and cool enough to get him a new cell phone, since the one he’d been using had gotten destroyed in the lab accident. It was voice activated and allowed him to make and answer calls without having to see the screen. Sans couldn’t thank Alphys enough.
Sans took some time to introduce Red to them, who used the classic hand-in-buzzer prank as a greeting. Toriel bleated with laughter while Alphys giggled and muttered to herself while blushing pink. Sans was afraid to ask her why, though he had an inkling. They left after wishing him well.
He also, after many days, finally called Papyrus.
“SANS! YOU HAD ME WORRIED SOMETHING HAPPENED SINCE YOU HAVEN’T CALLED IN OVER THREE DAYS!”
“sorry, bro, got caught up in the lab, heh.”
Papyrus gasped loudly over the phone, nearly squealing, “IT IS WONDERFUL TO HEAR YOU WORK SO HARD!”
Sans’s core twisted with guilt. “yeah, busy with work. eheheh…”
It was just like his brother to believe in the best. Sans was already having thoughts of quitting his job. There was no way he could go back after what had occurred.
Wanting to change the subject, he asked, “so how’ve things been with you and the others?”
His brother, Undyne, Frisk and Asgore were traveling in Europe to improve monster-human relations. At least, Frisk, Papyrus and Asgore. Undyne tagged along as a bodyguard for them.
“IT HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! DID YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE DRIVES ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE ROAD IN THE LAND OF ENG? AND THE ROYAL GUARDS ARE AS STILL AS STATUES!”
Sans listened to Papyrus’s excited rambling with fondness. He only interrupted to make a comment or well-placed pun. At some point during the conversation, he heard Red leave the room, probably looking for some peace and quiet. He would’ve left if he weren’t blind and unable to walk anywhere. And that was when a harrowing realization dawned upon Sans.
He would never truly see his brother again.
“SANS?” Papyrus’s concerned tone cut through his thoughts. “ARE YOU SURE EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT? ARE YOU LONELY LIVING BY YOURSELF WITHOUT MY GREAT CARE AND COMPANY?”
“nah, i’m fine. even met a new friend. another skeleton too.”
Papyrus’s tone perked up again. “I AM SO HAPPY TO HEAR YOU STILL MAKING FRIENDS! YOU WILL HAVE TO INTRODUCE ME TO THEM WHEN I GET BACK! ARE YOU STILL CHATTING WITH THE HUMAN LAB FRIEND OF YOURS?”
Sans’s soul clenched at the mention of Anthony. “...yeah.”
"EXCELLENT!" Garbled shouting came from the phone. “SANS I MUST BE OFF, UNDYNE IS GETTING IMPATIENT WAITING!”
“tell the others i said hi”
“I SHALL! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, BROTHER. I LOVE YOU!”
“love ya too, paps.”
Just when Sans ended the call, Red strolled into their shared room. Sans kept his skull angled downwards, phalanges clutching his phone in a vice grip. A painful lump formed in Sans’s throat, and his sockets prickled with incoming tears. Tears that he refused to show, especially not to his new friend. It would be so pathetic.
Unexpectedly, a gentle hand settled on his shoulders and began to rub soothing circles within them.
“there’s prolly not much i can do to help yer, but if yer need to let it out, don’t let my or anyone else’s presence stop yer.”
With a sudden surge of magic from Red, the door to their shared room slammed shut. That had been the signal, because as soon as he heard the click of the lock, tears fell unbidden from Sans’s empty pits for eyes, soaking the bandages covering his sockets and stinging the area around them.
Sans wept for his inability to see Papyrus’s beaming smile, or his newly cooked masterpieces, or any of his major milestones in life. It wasn’t just his brother. Never again would he be able to see the twinkling constellations in a pitch-black sky, the brilliantly shining sun, or even his friends enjoying themselves at the beach. He also wept for the friend that he’d lost, for the family that most likely hated him for causing his death.
And throughout all of this, Red continued to knead alleviating strokes down his back without judgment and without saying a word.
After Sans’s breakdown, something changed in the way Red acted around him, though it wasn’t for the worst. Conversations came easier with the two of them. Red also had a similar taste in humor. Though his were more cynical and dark in nature, Sans didn’t mind. He appreciated their chatter about the most mundane of topics. It prevented his mind from slipping into the dark void, from brooding over his blindness and Anthony’s death. It didn’t stop the nightmares that plagued him, but Red was always there for him during the aftermath.
At least the urge to scratch at his eye sockets had abated. Sans kept the bandages on as a deterrent. Red even assisted him with replacing the old ones, which had been stained with magic fluid.
Enough of Sans’s strength had improve that he grew restless from lying in bed for days. Wasn’t that a joke? His lazy self wanted to get up and move about. But how? He wanted to ask his friend – was that what Red was? – for help but he didn’t want to bother the other.
So late in the night, after Red’s rumbling snores echoed in their room, Sans fumbled around until he grasped the supports on the edge of his bed and attempted to get up. His legs wobbled precariously as he stretched his arms, waving them in front of him. They came in contact with air. He then tumbled into a boneless heap onto the floor, not able to stop a grunt of pain from escaping his mouth. Cursing at his ineptitude, he attempted to pull himself up.
One second he was on cold tiles, the next he was scooped into a pair of thick arms. He sensed the pulse of Red’s soul against the back of his ribs.
“damn, sweetheart, why didn't yer say somethin’? i woulda helped.”
“i didn’t… didn’t wanna bother ya.”
“i wouldn’t’ve minded.”
Sans hummed as he became limp within Red’s sturdy arms. Despite what Red had said about his bones being brittle and weak, they felt sturdy. Warm. Safe.
Sans hadn’t even realized he’d been carried back onto his bed until Red had snuggled in with him still in his embrace. Sans also realized just how much bigger Red was compared to him; his curled up form could fit compactly against the other’s broad chest.
“hey, sans, why couldn’t the skeleton cross the road?” Red asked without warning, a playful lit to his voice.
“cause he ain’t got the guts.”
“heheheh, nice one.” Sans laid his head against the crook of Red’s neck.
“who’s there?” Sans answered, and sighed against the rhythmic rumble of Red’s chest.
Sans chuckled again. This back and forth continued until drowsiness overtook Sans. For the first time since his arrival at the hospital, he fell into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
The nurse came into their room the following morning with a look of disapproval. Sans sheepishly disentangled himself from Red’s grasp, his entire skull burning like the heat of Hotland. They both received a reprimand from the nurse about how it was inappropriate for patients to sleep together in a single bed. It wasn’t as if they had sex or anything, though it probably didn’t appear as innocent as it was.
Red also left their room for a few hours to get some tests done, leaving Sans alone. It was unbearable, since he couldn’t read, watch TV or find a way to keep himself entertained. He wanted to walk around but lacked the motivation to ask his nurse for help. He also wasn’t inclined to see more faltering souls. With nothing to keep his mind busy, they began to wander to unpleasant thoughts and memories.
Sans picked at the fresh bandages that had been wound around his skull. Before he gave into the urge to remove them, he heard Red being wheeled back into the room.
Immediately, a crushing heaviness settled into the room. The solemn despondency that eluted off of Red jolted Sans out of his own worries.
“red?” he called out.
“hey.” The greeting was lined with weariness, which made Sans’s soul twist with concern.
Although Sans couldn’t see Red’s soul clearly with the bandages on, he still saw that it was fluttering faintly. Fear seized him.
“is everything ok?”
“it’s no big deal,” Red deflected. His wheelchair halted in between their two beds.
Sans furrowed his brows. Red was clearly upset, but would not tell him why. With all the times Red had comforted him and provided him good company, how could he not return the favor?
Feeling around, Sans lifted himself off the bed, and down the side closer to Red’s division of the room. Before the other could stop him, Sans stumbled towards Red, following the dull throb of his soul.
“sans!” Hands grabbed his outstretched arms and guided him forward until he was seated on Red’s bed. “ya didn’t hafta…”
Sans moved his palms upwards to cup Red’s face. Fingertips brushed against the smooth bone.
“consider this as payment for everything you’ve done for me,” Sans mumbled.
“it’s not like i did much, sweetheart.”
Sans shook his head, flushing at the term of endearment. “nonsense. you’ve been a great pun pal.” A snicker. Sans smiled at the sound. “you don’t gotta tell me what’s wrong, but at least let me do this to help.”
Red leaned his head into Sans’s tender ministrations. Even though he couldn’t see Red, Sans wanted a visualization of his features; his chiseled jaw, nearly doubled the size of Sans’s palm, his defined cheekbones and his sharp teeth. It was so different from Sans’s own. When his phalanges brushed against a scar running from Red’s left temple down to his cheek, Sans frowned.
“how did you get this?”
“this? it’s nothin’.” There was a brief pause, followed by a sigh. “was sparrin’ with boss ‘n hit a tree branch. with how weak my bones are, ‘m surprised it isn’t worse, heh.”
Despite the levity in Red’s words, Sans’s frown deepened. He himself always had low HP so any ill intent or major damage would dust him. He couldn’t imagine what it must’ve been like for Red.
“does it scare ya?” Red’s question cut through Sans’s rumination like a knife, and he paused his movements.
“well i’m not one to judge,” Sans began with a hint of irony. “but it doesn’t matter to me how big or small you are. bet you’re the life of a halloween party.”
Red gave a hearty chortle, the sound causing Sans’s soul to flutter.
“remember how the condition i have uses more magic t’ heal and grow? until i may need magic transfusions?” Sans nodded, dread filling his entire being. “welp, looks like i reached that point.”
Red fell silent, his soul trembling with fear. Sans resumed his ministrations, using the recent upsurge of his own magic to soothe Red. “my offer still stands.”
“look, sans… i don’t wanna--”
“please, red? at least consider it?” Sans’s thumb traced over the edge of Red’s left eye socket. Relief surged within him as the dark emotions pouring from Red’s soul began to recede. Desiring to get rid of them completely, Sans added, “i’m sure your bro will be there for ya.”
Red instantly perked up. “yeah, boss is the best. y’know he works here ‘cuz of me? spendin’ all that time and effort to study both human and monster medicine to become a doctor fer his big bro. the first monster doctor on the surface. he’s so great, isn’t he?”
“the greatest,” Sans agreed.
He thought back to his own brother, giving it his all as the monster ambassador alongside Frisk. Human and monster relations would’ve had a much more turbulent beginning when they’d all Surfaced if not for his friendly and sunny disposition. Papyrus’s ability to see the best in everyone definitely helped earn a lot of trust from even the most belligerent humans. Both of their brothers were the best.
They spent the next twenty minutes gushing to each other about their own brothers. Red hummed in contentment, and his soul brightened considerably compared to earlier.
Sans made a promise, then, that he would be there for Red whenever he could.
When Red’s doctor informed him of his discharge from the hospital, Sans was devastated. It took all of his effort to congratulate his close friend without breaking down.
“really enjoyed yer company,” Red mumbled. He sounded mildly embarrassed. “and thanks for the other day… it was… it was real nice.”
Sans shrugged concomitantly, lifting the corners of his teeth into a forced smile. “same to ya.”
A beat. Then, “hey, how bout i give yer my number.”
Before Sans could reply, Red retrieved Sans’s phone off his night stand and punched in his number. Mischievousness radiated from his soul.
“yer gonna love the ringtone i set fer myself.”
The clacking of bone on glass could be heard. Immediately after, a familiar jingle played followed by the words, “...I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling… Gotta make you understand. Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you...”
Sans blinked his sockets once before breaking out into laughter. “pffftt. you're such a memelord.”
“yer know it and love it, sweetheart.”
Heat rushed to Sans’s cheeks. He'd almost said yes to that, but caught himself before the word could escape his mouth.
The two of them spent the rest of the time laughing over outdated memes and shitty jokes until Red got picked up by Fell after his shift. Fell also informed Sans that he would be safe and well enough to go home after three more days. Sans thanked both of them one last time, and they left.
Sans didn't sleep that night. There was the constant threat of nightmares, and every time he tried, memories of the accident and Anthony’s death would creep into his head. Guilt gnawed away at the culmination of his entire being. He began picking at his eye sockets again, though he made sure to rewrap the bandages around his head after he finished. When his nurse recommended he remove and change it, he refused.
Sans’s hopes that Red would call were also unmet. He could only presume that the other was busy, and Sans never made an attempt to call him, not wanting to seem clingy. He missed Red so much and realized just how important Red had become to him. The piercing loneliness from his absence sent Sans tumbling further into a seemingly bottomless black pit.
Even visits from Toriel and Alphys became unbearable, due to the constant stream of pity and concern that poured from their souls. It was stifling and only made him feel more like an invalid.
A useless burden.
At least hearing Papyrus’s voice always brightened the darkness. But like a recurrent plague, it would return stronger than ever when the call ended.
One morning, Sans was paid a surprise visit by Anthony’s family. When the nurse first announced their presence, his soul churned painfully within his ribs, and it only worsened when a green heart stepped inside his room. He was a breadth away from a panic attack.
“Hello, Sans, I believe this is the first time we met,” a female introduced. “I’m Sabrina, Anthony’s daughter.”
“...hi,” Sans barely managed to croak.
Was she going to scream and condemn him for killing her father? He couldn't get a good read on the emotions coming from her soul. Only...
“I would like to thank you.”
“You have brought a lot of laughter and smiles for my dad. At least, based off what he’d always tell me.”
Sans was dumbstruck. “but why? what happened… you don't blame me for his…” he shuddered. “...his death?”
“No. I mean, I did initially, when I first got the call from the hospital. But after speaking with him before he died, I realized it was an accident. You shouldn't blame yourself for things you can't control.” Sans wanted to disagree, but the daughter interrupted him before he could. “Listen, Sans, my dad wouldn't have wanted you to blame yourself for his death. Sure, it was unexpected, but he was always running on borrowed time.”
For a brief instance, Sans thought about the time resets that had occurred in the Underground. “borrowed time?”
“Yeah. He was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer about a year and a half ago. Doctor said he only had six months to live, yet he survived beyond that. He always was a determined fellow. Still wanted to work even! But maybe it was thanks to you and monster magic that he’d lived that much longer.”
Neither of them spoke for a period. Sans mulled over the information, never realizing how sick his friend had been.
“Anyway, I just wanted to stop by and say thanks. From both myself and from him.” A gentle hand settled on his left shoulder, causing him to tense. “Don't give up okay? Dad would’ve wanted you to keep moving forward. Take care of yourself.”
And Sans sensed no deceit to her words, only honesty. She and Anthony really did forgive him. If only it were that easy to forgive himself. Still, his soul became a touch lighter.
Shortly after the visit with Anthony’s daughter, Fell came in for Sans’s daily progress check. Most of his injuries were healed, and although his magic was still higher than normal, it had stabilized to a safer level. Sans was antsy throughout the whole checkup, itching to ask about Red.
Finally, after Fell finished, he did. “is your bro doin’ ok?”
Sans could feel Fell’s appraisal of him. The doctor had surprisingly good control over his emotions, which left Sans tugging at a loose thread in his hospital gown in nervousness.
“He has been well.” No further elaboration.
“that’s… that's good.”
Silence. Sweat beaded on Sans’s forehead.
“But what about you, Sans? How are you doing?”
“i’m fine,” Sans answered automatically.
“That's a fucking lie and you know it.”
Sans blinked. “wow doc, uh, are ya allowed to curse at a patient?”
He received a forlorn huff to his question.
“The nurse has informed me that you are not doing well. She can tell by the magic stains that your scratching again.”
Welp, he really was slipping if he’d been caught that easily.
“This will be hypocritical of me for saying this, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it. All you need to do is ask, and we will come.” This was not something Fell said out of pity. “As for some good news, you are well enough to be discharged tomorrow.”
The news had Sans wondering how he would fare going back to either his lonely home or his friends'.
Fell cleared his throat. “MY BROTHER CAN BE AN ENORMOUS NUMBSKULL-” Sans couldn't help but snicker at Fell’s unintentional pun, which the doctor ignored, “WHEN IT COMES TO THE MATTER OF FEELINGS! BUT HE IS WAITING FOR YOU!”
Sans’s breath caught in his throat. “whaddya mean?”
A sudden influx of satisfaction and excitement hit Sans, much to his surprise.
“YOU WILL FIND OUT TOMORROW! YOU HAD BETTER MAKE THE CORRECT DECISION!” And then Fell was gone, leaving Sans confused.
Sans spent most of that night mulling over what Fell had said, occasionally slipping into dreamless slumber. When he woke up the following morning, his nurse performed her final checkup on him, confirmed Fell’s information on his discharge, and helped him change into a fresh set of his usual t-shirt, hoodie and shorts.
Sans sat on his bed and fiddled with his phone, filled with indecision. Toriel had offered to take him in until his brother returned. Would she treat him differently now? He also didn’t want to burden her with his blindness and take time away from her teaching duties.
Where should he go? Shouldn’t he just accept Fell’s offer to help? He yearned to see Red again, to be within his warm arms, to hear his guttural voice and—.
“...I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling. Gotta make you understand. Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry. Never gonna say goodbye. Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you…”
Startled, Sans barely managed to keep ahold of his phone to give a verbalized order to answer the call.
“hey, sweetheart. sorry fer not callin’ earlier. i’ve been, uh, thinkin’ and… and i…” Sans waited with baited breath. “uh, it may seem weird since we’ve only known each other fer a week, but these last two days, i realize i wanna get to know yer better and… and tibia together with yer.”
Equal amounts of shock and happiness rippled within Sans, and startling chuckles rang out from him at Red’s pun.
“so, basically, uh, you’re free to come over and stay at my place for a bit. at least until yer bro’s back. or even longer. it’s yer choice.”
Was this what Fell had meant? There was no other answer except—
“yes.” Something wet plopped onto Sans’s arm. “yes, i wanna be with you too.”
There was a loud crack, followed by heavy footsteps. Sans released his phone, letting it drop onto the bed, and reached out. A pair of familiar arms hugged him, pulling him flush against ribs that nearly doubled the size of his own. Fingers wiped away the tears dripping down his face.
“d’ya... d’ya really mean it?” Sans sniffled. “what ya said?”
“yep, every word of it, sweetheart.”
“and wanting to be together with me? even though i’m blind and useless?”
“hey, don’t sell yerself, heh, short. you can see souls, but have ya ever looked at yer own?”
Sans shook his head, which Red responded with a disappointed tsk. When Sans made no movement to peer at his own soul, Red’s palm settled lightly over his chest, it taking up nearly the entire expanse of Sans’s ribcage.
“well it’s beautiful. and yer amazin’. wonderful. and strong.” Tender strokes traveled down Sans’s ribs through his shirt and hoodie, making him shiver. “so strong. anyone else in yer shoes would’ve been far worse. and yer were there fer me.”
“‘m not.” Heat rose within Sans at the praise. “i—
Before Sans could get another word in, sharp teeth pressed against his own. He heard the curtains being drawn around his bed. Red’s kiss was surprisingly tender, and Sans melted into it, warmth flooding his soul. A soft, slick appendage swiped across his teeth. With a muted groan, Sans allowed it entrance into his mouth. His own tongue materialized, and they twirled around each other. When they finally broke apart, Sans was panting and flushing deeply.
“i love yer, sans,” Red whispered against the side of his skull.
Sans’s heart stuttered as he processed Red’s confession.
“me too. i love ya too, red.” He was grinning so wide, his cheekbones hurt.
“and i don't give a damn if yer blind, crippled or whatever.” Red clasped Sans’s tiny palms within his own. “‘cause i’ll be yer eyes… if yer have me.”
Speechless, Sans nodded. He remained wrapped in Red’s warm embrace, the two of them basking in the happy affection emanating from both of their souls. They were both interrupted by the opening of the curtain keeping them hidden from view.
“YOU HAD BETTER NOT BE DOING ANYTHING INAPPROPRIATE, BROTHER. REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A HOSPITAL, NOT YOUR BEDROOM!”
A heated denial came from the large skeleton, which sent Sans into a fit of snickers. After confirmation from Red that Toriel was aware of his new living arrangements and approved of them, Red slowly guided Sans to his feet. His legs wobbled once… twice… and then steadied.
Red’s wide, sturdy arms wrapped around his shoulders to keep him stabilized. Tilting his skull against Red’s ribs, Sans could hear the rhythmic, soothing pulse provided by Red’s soul.
It filled him with determination.
He unwrapped the bandages covering his eye sockets, and saw yellow as bright as the sun surrounded by a pinprick of red. Using that as his guiding light, Sans took his first step forward.