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Aster stumbles on the rickety platform, his head lowered, shoulders slouched and hands shaking as they hold onto a patchy blue coat. He’s alone—a blessing, really, given that the last thing he needs right now is people pestering him. Quiet tears slip down his face, the monster biting his lip to keep from openly sobbing, trying to keep what remains of his dignity. His exterior melts—though, it’s not because of the Core’s heat.

He and his twin brother, Wingdings, had gotten into another fight. Nothing major, of course—it’s normal for them to bicker and argue over something meaningless and irrelevant. Whether it be in private or public, Aster can’t recall a time in the past few months in which a simple conversation hadn’t ended in a near-fist-fight (…and, in some cases, actual fist-fights). Usually, he doesn’t let the emotional turmoil get to him, especially considering how wild his emotions have been since the acc—…since he was a child.

But…this time is different.

“I told you to leave the experiments be!” Wingdings said, slamming a stack of paperwork down on his desk for emphasis. “Their souls are unstable—any meddling will shatter them and bring us back to square one!”

“I had no other choice, Dings!” Aster swayed, anger making him dizzy, the younger twin leaning against his cane. He didn’t usually walk around with one, but his illness sometimes messed with his balance—like now, though his exasperation certainly wasn’t helping matters any. “Sans was about to fall—”

“What did I tell you about naming the experiments?”

“That doesn’t matter right now! What matters is that she was going to—”

“It.” Wingdings’ grip on the papers tightened, crinkling them. “It is not a she, it is an it.”

Anyways,” Aster fought the urge to clench his jaw, “sh—they were falling. If I hadn’t stepped in, then we would have lost progress regardless! I couldn’t just let that happen—”

“Have you ever considered that it would have stabilized itself?” Wingdings countered, rising to his feet. Though only a couple inches taller, his rage made the other wince, shrinking back—though, not fully. Aster is no coward. “Honestly, Aster, I cannot begin to understand how you are somehow smarter than me, and yet you act with such foolishness! Whether or not they fall does not matter, because they’ll bounce back and fix themselves! You behaving like this could do more harm than good! Do you really want this to fail?”

“Of course I don’t!” His voice cracked. He was starting to cry—but then again, when didn’t he? “I care about this project just as much as you do! The hell kind of question is that?”

Do you?” Wingdings asked, ignoring his brother’s question. “Do you really? Because all I can see right now is an overemotional idiot who is, once again, allowing his emotions to dictate his actions! Truly, if you did care, then you wouldn’t become so attached to things—things that we both know won’t survive long, due to what their purpose is.”

Aster fell silent. His tears fell freely, the younger twin staring at the other with wide, startled eyes.

Dings paused. Sitting back down, he turned back to his work, his back facing Aster. He picked the paperwork back up, thumbing through it absently. “If you aren’t going to be useful, I suggest you leave,” he said, the bite to his words weakening. If Aster was in a better state of mind, he might have registered the shred of guilt peeking through Wingdings’ cold demeanor. “We—you won’t get any work done if you’re going to sit there and cry over a broken toy. It’s almost sad to think about—I mean, really, who gets that worked up over things?

“And yet, somehow, Mom and Dad favored you over me…”

Those words stabbed Aster in his chest, straight through his soul. There was an unspoken rule between them, one that neither of them dared break: never speak of their parents.

Never mention their mother.

Stifling a sob, Aster does nothing but shake his head, turning away, “I have to go to work.”

“Fine.”

Silence. Aster steadied himself, limping out of Wingdings’ study, his pain only growing worse the more he walked.

And yet, before he left, he placed his cane besides the door, his mother’s coat held tightly in his hands…

…And now, he’s here.

Everything between then and now is a blur; just a bunch of meaningless faces, drowned in grey, his senses numbed despite the pain wrecking his body. His mother’s coat, still, is in his hands, and yet part of him wonders why he even bothered to take it with him today, on a day where he couldn’t even be bothered to wear his lab coat. Couldn’t be bothered to be anything but Aster.

Just weak, worthless Aster.

He stumbles again, trips—falls to his knees. He balls up his fists, twisting the blue fabric almost hard enough to tear it, eyes squeezed shut. He doesn’t have the energy to stand.

So, instead, he shakes.

He sobs.

Memories play on repeat in his mind—memories of his parents, of his brother. Living on the streets. Being taken in by the King and Queen, and later, being given the position of the Royal Scientist. His brother had almost received the same treatment, but the royal couple feared giving them both the title would just tear them apart, and due to Wingdings not being as gifted in science as Aster, he just happened to be the lucky winner. Just happened to earn his brother’s envy in one of the worst—and, in some ways, the best—ways possible.

The skeletons cross his mind, and something in him twists. Shatters.

His mouth moves before he can stop it, “I’m a terrible person…”

How long has the experiment been going? A week, maybe two? A month? A year? He wouldn’t know. All those tests blur together into one, the sounds of grinding gears, breaking bones, crackling souls all ringing in his ears. All for the sake of bringing people to life…just to kill them all over again.

What kind of person is he—is his brother—for them to do such things? To feel no remorse?

…To feel nothing at all?

“I’m sorry…”

Aster coughs, his chest heavy. Aching everywhere.

Tired.

“I’m sorry…”

Weak. Cruel.

Worthless.

He truly is a monster.

Or, no—perhaps not. He could never be a monster—monsters are kind and merciful, after all. Loving.

He’s closer to the definition of a human than he is a monster.

In fact…

His eyes cast an exhausted glance over the edge of the platform, sweat beading on his forehead. He wheezes, struggling to breathe. To stand.

He stares over the edge, bent over, swaying, his stunted soul pounding in his chest. He feels too much at once—and at the same time, not enough.

…it would be better if he didn’t exist

at all.

He leans forward—

No! Aster, no, oh my God—”

Before he knows it, arms wrap around him, warm, strong, pulling him away from the ledge. Away from his own death.

He has half the mind to struggle. To scream. To fight.

But he doesn’t. He just hangs there, useless in their arms, eyes blank.

The person turns him around, and he’s met with the frantic expression of his brother, awfully pale and his eyes watery. His hands grip his shoulders painfully, shaking him, refusing to let him go. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he screams, his volume only rising in his hysteria as his gaze bores into the other’s face. “How dare you try to throw your life away? Do you have any idea how much you mean to people? How much you mean to me?”

“…H…How much I mean to you…?” Aster fixes him with a confused look. “But…y-you don’t…you don’t care…”

Wingdings’ eyes blow wide.

“You never have…”

“Excuse me?” The shaking gets worse. Aster feels like he’s going to puke. “This is absurd! Of course I care—you’re my brother!”

Something wet lands on his hand. Curiously, Aster looks down, surprised to see tears running along his palm. When he looks up again, his brother is crying.

He doesn’t know what to make of this.

“I’m…” his voice fails him. His pain dulls, growing numb, his eyes starting to slip closed. “I…don’t…understand…”

Wingdings starts to panic. “Don’t you give up on me!”

Shake, shake, shake. Aster opens his eyes again, though this time, his indifference breaks. His crying grows worse. “I’m sorry…I’m—I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry—”

I’m sorry—

He babbles on, his words jumbled and incoherent, the younger twin rocking back and forth mindlessly in his brother’s arms. Wingdings lets him, pulling him to his chest, holding him so tightly one might wonder if he’ll ever let him go again. A strange expression rests on his face, almost one of realization, the older brother’s soul flooding him with so much guilt and self-directed hatred he has no idea how to handle it.

“It’s okay, Aster,” he murmurs. He presses a kiss to the other’s forehead, giving him a comforting squeeze. “I’ve got you.

“You’re going to be alright.”

 

~*~

 

“…How is he?”

Wingdings leans back in his chair, acknowledging Asgore’s presence. A few days have passed since his brother’s outburst, though to Dings, they might as well have been years. Aster is asleep; as he has been, not long after he’d been found. Asgore allowed the twins to stay at his home until he recovers, though he’d reassured Wingdings that Aster’s condition will improve.

He won’t fall down. He’ll be fine…

Wingdings addresses his brother again, his chin in his hands. “There hasn’t been any change,” he says, his voice hoarse, though so unbelievably quiet that it worries the older monster. He shifts, crossing his legs. “His soul seems stable, however.”

“That is always a plus,” Asgore states, nodding thoughtfully to himself. He makes his way over to the scientist, taking a seat on the bed opposite his brother. His expression is conflicted, one of kindness but disappointment, love and shame. “…So. About…‘Dr. Gaster.’”

Wingdings doesn’t look him in the eye, “I will not excuse my actions, nor will I defend them. However, I do not regret it, and I would hope that you have enough mercy in you to give whatever punishment you have to me and me alone. Aster—my brother can’t handle something like that. Not right now—”

“Good lord, Wingdings, I haven’t even said anything on the matter yet, and you’re already thinking I’m going to harm you and your brother?” Asgore cries, obviously appalled by the very suggestion. “What you have told me is quite serious, going against your king’s orders and creating a false identity for yourselves in order to…ah, how did you put it?”

“Play doctor,” Wingdings mutters.

“Right.” Asgore sighs, putting his face in his hands. He stays like this for a moment, his thoughts racing, before he lifts his head again, addressing the other with such a hard stare Wingdings can’t help but meet it. “…Considering this, and what you’ve told me about your…other experiments, I am afraid you cannot be pardoned for your crimes. However, I can say that you both will not be harmed. Such actions are immoral, similar to the actions brought upon…my…”

He trails off. Wingdings nods, taking a guess as to who he is thinking about. Another wave of guilt hits him, though he knows better than to tell Asgore about that particular crime against Monsterkind. That would just be foolish of him. “I understand,” he tells him, trying his best at an appreciative smile. It falls flat. “You truly are a kind king, your Majesty.”

“Well, I would not have been so kind if not for your brother’s situation,” Asgore admits, absently waving a hand to the bed across from him, “…and if not for your honesty. I am still surprised you confessed, all things considered.”

Wingdings just shakes his head. He doesn’t respond.

The two fall silent. All that can be heard is Aster’s breathing, hooked up to too many machines and body so still it’s hard to imagine he’ll wake up at all. The sight…reminds Wingdings of something else. Of another time.

A terrible, terrible time, that he’d rather not think about.

“…Sir,” he croaks, the monster clearing his throat in order for his next words to come out stronger, more determined than the last, “I know that I cannot ask anything from you, especially now. However, I do have…one request, if you don’t mind. In regard to our sentence.”

Asgore hesitates. “I will allow one request,” he says, “though if I see it unreasonable, I may not allow it.”

“Understood.” Wingdings steadies his breathing. Relaxes. “…If it would be too much to ask, I-I would like to ask if…if my brother and I…i-if we could…

“…I request that we finish with the skeletons, as long as we don’t go through with our…original plan.”

Asgore’s eyes widen slightly. He looks taken aback—and, for a brief moment, enraged. Though, his anger is quickly replaced with confusion. Then, suspicion. “Why?” he asks.

A simple enough question, he supposes. Wingdings looks down at his brother, pulling his knees to his chest. “…Given our readings,” he explains calmly, his voice still lowered in that quiet, humble manner, “it is probable that the skeletons are already alive, albeit in a…pacified state. If we were to terminate the experiment, then—then we would be ki—terminating them. As well.”

The King relaxes. His expression softens in understanding. “It would still be taking their lives, then,” he says.

Wingdings nods. He adjusts his glasses, sighs. “I…I never meant to hurt anyone. I never wanted to hurt anyone. All I wanted to do—what we both wanted to do—was to help break the barrier and set everyone free. To…” He chokes, his breath hitching, “to make it up to our mo—our parents. And though we shouldn’t have ever hurt others in the process, nor should we have started messing with…other realities…without permission, we did not mean any ill will. And…even now, I would really prefer not to hurt anyone else.”

“I…understand.” Asgore leans back, considering it. He intertwines his fingers, frowning to himself, looking between the twins. “…I will allow it.”

Wingdings’ eyes light up, “You will—?”

“On one condition.”

Dings’ soul sinks. “…Yes?”

Asgore’s gaze fixes on him, a warning clearly written in every word he speaks: “You shall continue with the skeletons, but after they awaken, you will discontinue your project and leave science alone altogether. You will help me find another Royal Scientist to replace ‘Dr. Gaster,’ and…” he suddenly grows quiet. “…You both will work off your crimes by assisting me with the human situation, as well as any problems I may need help with in the Underground.

“Am I understood?”

Wingdings finds himself at a loss for words. Part of him is devastated—having to leave behind a part of himself that held great importance to him definitely hurt. However, he can’t say that he blames Asgore for doing so, considering what he and his brother had done, nor can he blame him for being as angry as he is with them both. He also finds himself surprised at his last condition, due to it involving a lot of trust and loyalty, two of which he feels he’s personally broken.

“…I understand,” Wingdings finally agrees, giving his King a slight bow.

Asgore smiles. “Good.” He stands and brushes himself off, giving the two brothers a final glance. His expression softens when he sees Aster, though he’s quick to put a smile on his face again. “Well, I will be in the kitchen if you need me. You haven’t eaten in hours—how does pie sound?”

Wingdings offers him a sad smile. “That’ll be fine.” He forces the image of the Queen from his mind as he says this, lowering his gaze. He wonders if either of them would be mad if he told the King he hadn’t eaten at all since he’d gotten here, and had merely thrown away what the King had given him.

…Best not to mention it.

“Excellent! I will be back…take care, Wingdings.”

“You too, your Majesty.”

The King leaves him alone with his sleeping brother, Wingdings’ shoulders slumping the moment he’s gone. Face in his hands, he curls into a ball, letting out a long, pained sigh.

There’s a lot they have to answer for.

 

~**~

 

It takes Aster a week to wake up. Two to regain strength in his body long enough to get out of bed and do some menial tasks.

It takes a month for the twins’ sentence to fully take effect.

Backlash comes slow to them; the news let out at first as rumors, and then as an official confirmation from the King himself. People are confused, then hurt, then outraged. Their colleagues give them the hardest time, coming directly to their home.

“How could you lie to us?”

“How long were you going to pretend? Did you really think we wouldn’t find out?”

“Cheats! Liars! You didn’t deserve that position—you didn’t deserve any of it!”

“What else are you hiding?”

“What else have you done?”

And on, and on, and on it goes.

The twins keep their windows shut and their door bolted.

The only monster who showed them kindness through all of this, besides Asgore, is their old assistant, Alphys. She had originally come to their door to talk about things, to smooth things over, but when they didn’t let her in, she took to texting them. She did express betrayal and hurt for their actions at first, but she was quick to follow it up with forgiveness—believing that they wouldn’t have done anything to purposefully hurt anyone. She talked to them a lot, ranging from work in the Core to her comic books to anime, sending them “cute pics” on the occasion (such pictures involved self-depreciating humor at times, which only seemed to worry the twins). She…proved to be a true friend, in the end.

Still, time passes.

A few months, a few more, and slowly, the drama fades.

A year, and then two…

…And one of the skeletons comes to life.

 

~***~

 

Wingdings isn’t in the room when the skeleton wakes. In fact, he’s startled by Aster’s screaming from their private lab, the twin believing that something terrible had occurred and rushing over to see what was amiss.

He, as well as his brother, are both shocked by what—or who—is now residing in their lab.

“Easy, buddy,” Aster holds onto the skeleton’s arm firmly, supporting its weight to keep it from falling. The monster responds with an exhausted, pained whine, leaning onto the goop monster despite how much the other is vibrating. Aster’s voice shakes almost as much as he does, unable to keep his excitement to himself, “Wow, this is—this is really happening—alright, here we go, easy—”

The skeleton takes one step, two. Trips and falls, though Aster is quick to keep it on its feet. Wingdings watches the two in a mixture of awe and disbelief, seated next to the taller, misshapen skeleton, witnessing the smaller skeleton’s first steps.

“I can’t believe this,” he murmurs, so out of it that he doesn’t notice his brother’s face-splitting grin. “It—they’re actually alive…”

Aster responds with a barely-suppressed squeal, startling the skeleton and making it jump. “We made a person, Dings!” he bounces, calming only when his creation gives him a tired, confused stare. “O-Oh, right, sorry—still, I just—wow—”

Aster leads the skeleton over to a chair set against the wall, sitting him down and running out of the room with a rushed explanation of “grabbing some clothes.” Wingdings and the skeleton stare at each other, creator and creation warily looking the other up and down.

It’s quiet.

“…So,” Wingdings mutters, scratching the back of his neck. “That happened.”

The skeleton doesn’t respond.

“Can you, you know…talk?” Wingdings asks. He leans forward, careful not to disturb the other sleeping monster. He wonders if Pa—if the other skeleton will wake up soon, now that its sibli—the other is awake.

Again, the skeleton is silent.

“…Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t be able to…you haven’t learned yet. Idiot.” He says the last part more to himself than to the skeleton. He hesitates, rising to his feet. “Do you…are you alright? How are you feeling?”

Nothing. The skeleton does nothing but stare, wary of his every mood, looking more and more alarmed the more he moves, the more he talks.

Wingdings backpedals. The last thing they need is the skeleton panicking and throwing a fit. “…Do you understand me?” he asks finally, swaying. He fights the urge to rush over and check the skeleton over, to inspect every inch of it, to search its soul and see just how it functions and how this miracle occurred.

How the hell did they do this?

The skeleton’s eyelights flicker. Hesitating, the skeleton presses against the chair, giving the goop monster an odd, awkward jerk of his head.

No.

A sarcastic response. Wingdings frowns. “Ha, ha. Funny.”

Silence again.

Wingdings’ mind won’t stop racing. The skeleton can understand them—maybe unable to speak itself, but it can understand. It can learn. How much did it know? Does it remember what they did to it? What they were going to do? Will it see them as a threat? A target? What kind of morale would an artificial being have—

“I’m back!”

Ah—”

Everyone present jumps, though if it’s due to Aster’s sudden appearance or Wingdings’ scream, it’s difficult to determine. The skeleton is the most startled, falling off of the chair and letting out a wail.

Both brothers move towards it the moment it starts to cry, “Oh, sh—”

Ping!

They freeze.

The skeleton’s gaze is fixated on them, left eye alight, flashing yellow and blue, yellow and blue. Its hand is held up, as if to summon an attack, but nothing appears, nor do they feel any pain or discomfort.

…Well, besides the heaviness suddenly weighing their souls down, and the blue glow around them.

The twins look at each other, stunned, mouths moving but no words forming. They look between themselves and the skeleton, almost comically with the amount of head-turns they make, before both of them smile wide.

“Oh my God—”

“It’s already using magic—”

“This is astonishing!”

“…m…mmm…?”

Another stunned silence. The two whip their heads around to face the skeleton, who’s begun to shake.

“M…ma…mag…?”

Ping!

The glow around their souls lifts, and the twins find themselves able to breathe freely again. At the same time, the glow in the skeleton’s eye fades, though it seems startled at the change. Scared, even.

Nn.—”

“I-It’s alright!” Aster grabs its wrist before it can get away, still holding the clothes in his free hand. He offers it a gentle smile, trying to reassure it. “There’s no reason to be scared! We’re here to help—here.”

He hands over the clothes—and it’s then that Wingdings notices something odd. Little red dots stain the fabric, stains he knew weren’t there before, and as Aster helps the skeleton dress, Wingdings notices little red spots elsewhere, too.

Specifically, the monster’s soul.

“What…”

Before Aster can ask what’s on his brother’s mind, Wingdings rushes forward, getting a closer look despite the skeleton’s startled squeak. “Hey, Dings—”

He ignores the younger twin. Instead, he peeks down the skeleton’s ribcage, eyes searching the dim white soul residing within it.

He’s not sure how he didn’t notice it before, but they’re definitely there. Little red spots, spattered across the skeleton’s soul like paint, glowing just as dimly as the aforementioned white. The blood on the shirt his brother had given it is stained in a similar red, soaked through with the sticky red liquid, stationed exactly where Aster had been holding it…

Wingdings lets the skeleton go and takes a step back. Slowly, he turns to Aster, who’s grown a couple shades paler. “…What did you do.” It’s not a question.

Aster, flustered, tugs at his sleeve, “W-Well, I, uh—”

Wingdings watches his movements, narrowing his eyes. His gaze locks on his brother’s sleeve, which, he notices, is also spotted with blood.

“D-Dings, don’t you dare—hey!”

Too late.

Dings grabs his twin’s wrist and yanks his bloodied sleeve up, examining the damage. His hard stare crumbles the moments he sees the source of the blood flow, turning almost as pale as the skeleton’s bones, who just watches curiously from its spot on the floor.

He’d known for a while now that his brother is depressed. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the signs, after all, even if it manifested in different forms. Still, to see his little brother’s scars…

Aster rips his hand away, looking down at his feet. He pulls his sleeve back down. “You, uh…weren’t supposed to see that,” he mumbles. He glances over to the skeleton, gesturing to it with a nod. “I, um…I swear, th-this time—this time it was an accident, okay? I was just, y’know, doing the normal readings, a-and—and my wrist, it caught on one of the scalpels. Hurt like a bitch.”

Wingdings listens to him talk, dead silent.

“A-Anyways, when I went to clean it up, I—I might’ve…made a mess. It might’ve gotten on her a little—”

“…hhher?”

The monster pauses when he’s interrupted. The twins turn to face the skeleton, eyes wide. “Excuse me?” Aster asks.

The skeleton makes a face, “N…not…h…hhhh…”

The twins share a glance. “…Are you not a girl?” Wingdings questions.

The skeleton shakes its head.

“…mmm…h…hhim…?”

“You’re a boy?”

The skeleton’s face lights up. He nods. “Y—Yes.”

The twins share another look. They’re almost surprised—but then again, everything they’ve dealt with thus far involving the skeletons has been uncharted territory.

“…Of course you are,” Aster offers him a smile. He turns back to his brother and, still seeing Wingdings’ worry, he does his best to calm him. “…Look, I swear, it was just an accident. And it was only a little bit of blood—I didn’t think anything of it, so I was just worried about taking care of—of the cut.” He swallows. “And, well, when I was trying to find some bandages, sh—I mean, he woke up.”

The older twin just listens. He studies his brother’s expression, calculating, analyzing, looking for any holes. Any hesitation.

And he finds some—he finds plenty. His brother fidgets, lowers his head as though he’s done something wrong, as if he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t be, and all that does is make Wingdings’ soul hurt. He wants to believe him.

But he doesn’t.

He doesn’t know what to do.

His first instinct is to get mad…

…But he doesn’t.

Wingdings turns to the skeleton, lifting him up into his arms, pausing only when the other flinches away from his touch. When he’s settled, he directs his gaze to his brother, his expression hard to read. “Why don’t you take him upstairs?” he suggests, his voice lowered. At Aster’s protesting, words tumbling out too fast for his response to be coherent, Dings sighs. “He needs clean clothes, Aster—and you need to clean up, too. Besides, we can’t keep either of them in here forever. That’s just mean.”

Aster hesitates. The skeleton in his brother’s arms gives him an odd, suspicious look, almost like he’s afraid Aster will hurt him, but there’s also something close to curiosity in his eyes.

Or maybe that’s just him.

“…Okay.” He takes the skeleton into his arms, Wingdings’ arms falling to his side the moment their creation is taken from him. “Okay. Just—you’re not mad, are you?”

Dings doesn’t look at him, “Can’t be. Can’t judge you, either.”

Aster frowns at that. “Right…” He turns, starting to head into Wingdings’ study. Right before he leaves, he pauses, turning to face his brother again. “Say, I’m sure if we did something with P—the other one, they’d wake up, too.”

Now, Aster.”

“I’m going, jeez!”

Click!

The closet doors close behind him as he and the skeleton leave, Wingdings standing alone with an immobile skeleton.

A minute passes. Two.

Wingdings sighs, walking over to the taller skeleton’s table, taking a seat next to it. He puts his head in his hands, thinking to himself.

“…God-dammit, Aster.”

He picks up one of the knives on the table, presses it to his palm…

 

~****~

 

NINE YEARS LATER…

“…Hurry up, Sans! We’re gonna miss it!”

“We’re not gonna miss it, Paps.”

“We will if you drag your feet like that! Now, come on—Asgore said its this way!”

Crunch…crunch…

Snow flattens underfoot as the tall skeleton, Papyrus, rushes forward, boundless energy driving him through the harsh conditions of Snowdin. Sans follows not too far behind, keeping an ever-watchful eye on his brother, his hands in his pockets. Though neither of them usually travel this far out from the Capital, where the twins lived, today happened to be a special case.

Today, a human had been spotted, just outside the Ruins’ door.

Of course, that news would have gone ignored initially, given how often false alarms are, especially in the Snowdin area. However, when the Royal Scientist, Alphys, called Dings and Aster about a human, it was hard to ignore then.

So, they went out, and following not far behind them is…

“…This is dumb. Why did they have to come along? We’re the ones that are supposed to deal with humans—just getting Sans and Papyrus involved is unnecessary,” Wingdings gripes, arms crossed. His teeth chatter, the monster shivering from head to foot. “Ugh, I hate the cold!”

Aster laughs. “Oh, relax, bro!” he tells the other, turning to walk backwards, facing him directly with a cheeky grin. “They’re excited! You can’t blame them—it’s not everyday a human falls out of the sky. Literally, in this case.”

Wingdings huffs, brushing snow from his shoulders. “Maybe not, but we both know how they can get with strangers. Monsters already are an iffy case when it comes to those two—bringing in a human, of which we have no prior experience with besides a war that was miserably unsuccessful for us, raises too many alarm bells for me to be comfortable with.”

“Aww, you sound like a doting parent, Dings! It’s adorable!”

“We’re not their parents! We’re not even related to them, Aster—ugh! Honestly…”

They make their way up a hill, Papyrus and Sans waiting at the top for them—impatiently, as shown by the expressions on both of their faces.

Sans’ disgruntled expression is quickly replaced with a sly grin. “Hey, Dads.”

“Do not call me your father!”

Aster just giggles at his brother’s exasperation, patting the other’s back and giving the skeleton a wink. “He’s just grumpy.”

Wingdings glares. “You do realize that technically, he is insinuating that we did something incestial, correct?”

Aster’s humor dissipates. “…Don’t call us your dads.”

The skeletons laugh.

They continue down the path, Aster and Wingdings trailing behind the skeleton brothers. Their previous conversation is forgotten as they stand back and study their creations, watching their excitement to meet a human bubble over into their curiosity for their surroundings. They haven’t been to this part of the forest—and, like most things to them, everything is new. A learning opportunity.

“Hey, Sans,” Papyrus calls. He stands next to a moldy, broken sentry station, one that’s been out of use for quite some time. He poses next to it, trying to look heroic. “When Undyne lets me into the Royal Guard, do you think I could have a station here? Like this one?”

“You want a station out in Snowdin?” Sans asks, raising imaginary eyebrows. “Why…?”

“Because it’s nice, duh! Why else?” Papyrus deflates a little, giving him a confused look. “What, is that weird? Am I being weird?”

Sans backpedals, “No, no, it’s not weird! It’s not weird at all! You do you, Paps.”

The skeletons beam at each other.

Aster and Wingdings share a look of amusement, Aster stifling his laughter.

“Alright, you two,” Wingdings waves a hand in the air, starting off again, “let’s get goiiIIING—”

He screeches to a halt, doubling back at what stands in front of him. Absently, he jumps behind Aster, who’s just as startled by the newcomer, frozen in place with a look of horror on his face.

A small, petite child stands there, their head tilted due to their strange reactions to them. They wear a purple jumper with pink stripes and tiny little boots, their hair a mess atop their head and a bandage wrapped around their head. They hold a stick in hand, and a gentle, amused smile on their face.

They wave.

Wingdings looks ready to throw up his lunch. “Aster—”

“I see it.”

“Is that what I think it is—”

“’Fraid so.”

Wingdings shudders. “It’s…it’s so fleshy…”

“Humans are fleshy, Dings,” Aster responds, “don’t be stupid.”

“What—why is it—?”

Aster suddenly snaps. “Why are you asking me? Do I look like a human expert to you?”

Sans and Papyrus exchange a look as the twins start to bicker, walking up to the human with absolutely no fear, no hesitation, not even a little bit of surprise. All they do is smile, looking them over.

“Wowie! We found a human, Sans!” Papyrus exclaims, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

The child giggles at this, mimicking him and nodding. They don’t seem afraid of him, either—which is probably reasonable, given that it’s Papyrus.

Sans, seeing how happy his brother is, relaxes any internal tension he had, leaning forward to look them in the eye. “They sure are funny looking,” he mutters, laughing at the offended expression he receives. “It’s hilarious!”

“They’re so tiny! I could carry them on the palm of my hand!”

“Papyrus, you can carry me on the palm of your hand.”

“You’re both the same size! Obviously, it would make sense for it to apply to both of you, nyeh-heh!”

Aster and Wingdings snap out of their back and forth, watching the events unfold. They still don’t move, clinging to each other as though letting go would lead to disastrous results.

“…So…,” Aster turns to look at his brother, a frown on his face as he crosses his arms over his chest. “We, uh, found the human.”

Wingdings nods, breathless. “We did…”

“What do we do now? I mean, do we take them to the King? That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?”

“Well…”

The child turns to them, hearing mention of the King. They start to shake, waving their hands frantically in the air, trying to get their attention.

The twins stop. Once again sharing a look, Aster bends down to their level, addressing them with a nervous smile, “Yes, human?”

They hesitate. Looking between the four of them, their hands still waving at their sides, they let out a huff, stumbling over their words. “Mmm…w-ould like. See. K-King?”

Papyrus grins. Seeing an opportunity falling into place, he grabs their hands, turning them to face him. “You want to see the King?” He asks, words rushed.

Vigorously, they nod, smiling. “Yes!”

Sans blinks. Though unable to frown, the edges of his smile dips, the skeleton’s eyelights blinking out. “Why?”

“Yeah,” the twins add, speaking in unison, “Why?”

The child pauses. They make a few “um’s,” repeating the word to themselves as they try to find their words. Seems they struggle with speech. “If I s-see King, I—I go. Home? Can help. Free? Monsters? …Help go. To the Surface!”

The monsters process this.

“…You want to free us?” Aster asks. Neither he nor his brother trust this, as evident in the way they both straighten their shoulders, towering over the child with their added height. “What would you possibly get out of that?”

The child just shakes their head, “Want help! Want help! Want hel—”

“We get it, kid,” Sans interrupts, patting their head. They grin wider at the action, seeming to appreciate it. Sans turns to the twins, giving them warning looks, “We’re gonna help you get to Asgore, no worries. You can discuss whatever you want with him then, okay?”

“Sans—”

“But they—we need—”

Sans gave them the Look. Oh, God, the Look. How the hell did he master that? (…Doesn’t help he’s wearing their mother’s coat…) “Helping you means we can all go free,” he says, matter-of-factly, the twins deflating with every word, “which means we get to see the surface. Which also means we get to work things out with the humans…an’ stuff.”

“…Right,” the twins grumble, stepping back. Whether it’s from the skeleton or the human, they don’t know.

“Right.” Sans faces the child again, this time with a smile. “So we’re gonna help ya, okay?”

They bounce up and down, “Thank!”

“No prob, bob.” Sans winks. Nobody knows how he pulls this off.

Papyrus clears his throat, pointing dramatically back the way they’d came. “Then we’re off! To the Castle, little human!”

He rushes off, disappearing into the haze.

Sans just laughs. “Welp, here we go…”

Zzp! – he vanishes, presumably to wherever Papyrus ended up.

The child runs in place for a moment, expression determined, before they rush forward—

Eek—”

Before they’re caught by the twins, each twin grabbing a hold of one arm.

Wingdings gives them a dangerous glare, unbelievably tense as he holds them in place, his cold stare penetrating their confused and uneasy one. “I am not one for threats,” he tells them, “so I will make this frank: if you step out of line, even if it’s just once, I will make sure that you never return to the surface. Do you understand?”

“And if he doesn’t,” Aster adds, “I will.”

The child looks between the two of them, letting out a whimper, nodding quickly. They’re let go, and they stumble forward, a little dazed.

When they look back to the twins, they do nothing but gesture to the road ahead, coaxing them forward.

The human gives them their best determined face. “Will not do bad,” they promise. “Help you—go fr-ee!”

They run off then, following after the skeletons, nothing but a shadow in the mist.

The twins visibly relax, both sighing. They look equally exhausted. “God, can you believe anyone would like humans?” Wingdings mutters, waving a hand in the air as though it’s to blame. “Who acts like that?”

“A human,” Aster says, matter-of-factly. “Or, at least this one does. Can’t say the rest of them are like that…”

“How would you know?”

“I don’t.”

Dings groans. “This is gonna suck.”

The brothers begin to walk. Aster chuckles, wrapping an arm around his brother and pulling him into a sideways-hug, saying, “hey, fuhgeddaboudit! If we make it out into anything worse than what it is, then it’s just gonna get worse. So, let’s just try and enjoy this, alright? ’Sides…I know someone who’d really appreciate us at least trying to be nice.”

 Wingdings flinches. His expression softens. “…Yeah. Yeah, me too. Still, though—they’re weird.”

“Humans have always been weird! Sans and Papyrus are weird, too!”

“Well, yeah, but I’m used to their weirdness…”

Their voices trail off into the distance, the twins both becoming silhouettes against the cold fog blanketing Snowdin forest—unaware that the human child they’re following will be the one to save them, once and for all.