Actions

Work Header

Cheshire Kitten

Chapter Text

You were a simple creature with simple pleasures. You enjoyed catching crickets out in the field, and pouncing on dandelions to send their fluffy white seeds flying. You liked watching fireflies flicker past windows and fish to wriggle around in their tanks. You liked curling up in warm baskets of blankets and drowning in the scents, or sprawl out in the sun and nap. You liked wandering the streets and perching at your favorite cafe and watching the people go by, making up stories about their lives and watching them interact. You’d learned so much by watching. You liked eating seafood and playing with dogs and rubbing your face against fabric to indulge in the texture.

“Momma, look, the kitty’s back!”

Ah yes, and you love the excitement of children. Children in general, really. So full of life and energy and so eager to learn about the world, with their big bright eyes and tiny sausage fingers and their shrieking laughter. Children were always ready to accept the impossible and dream the unimaginable.

And children really, really loved to pet the kitty, which is why when you heard the child, you turned, a purr working its way out of your throat. A young boy with dirty blonde hair and eyes so blue they put the sky to shame was heading your way, dropping his mother’s hand to approach you. You mewed sweetly as the little boy kneeled in front of you, setting eager but gentle touches on your back. “Kitty! I was so worried about you, where’d you go?”

Oh, Jonathan. Such a gentle little thing with a heart too big for his little body. He was one of the many human children you visited from time to time, hopping as you did from home to home. You purred and butted your face against his, prompting a sweet little giggle to burst from him as he scratched your ears. He carefully scooped you up, announcing, “It’s almost time for dinner, kitty, so you have to come inside now, okay?”

You mewed in response, content to rest your chin on his shoulder and let him carry you into the house. His mother gave you a similarly gentle smile, reaching down to stroke you between the ears. “Welcome back, kitty. Jonny, why don’t you take the kitty into the living room and get them some food while I make us dinner, okay? We should still have some cat food.”

“Kay Momma!” he chirped, setting you down and scampering down the hall.

You followed him quickly, your stomach rumbling at the promise of food. Cat food wasn’t exactly the… best tasting stuff, but while you were in this form you’d deal with it. Besides, you’d probably be able to get Jonny and his mom to give you food if you begged for it sweetly enough- they had a huge soft spot for you, after all.

Jonny was quick to scoop out your food, and you noticed he no longer had to stand on his toes to do so. A burst of pride filled you as you realized that he’d obviously gone through a growth spurt in the short few weeks you’d been gone. You wondered what the exact measurement was- you’d have to check the “Growing Wall” when you were done with your dinner.

“Here you go kitty!” Jonny declared, pushing the bowl over to you. You purred as he kneeled down and began to pet you again, taking a few tentative bites. It was still as gross as you remembered, but Jonny had gotten it for you, so you weren’t going to turn it down. Besides, as long as he was petting you, you could bear it. You lifted your head after a few bites, turning to lick his wrist in thanks and purring as he giggled again.

It was safe to say you loved your humans.

You heard his mother’s footsteps coming around the corner, and your ears flicked back as she called, “Jonny, could you please go wash your hands? I’d like some help with dinner.”

“Kay Momma,” he called back, twisting to look at her. He quickly turned his smile back to you, giving the space between your ears one more pat. “I’ll be right back, okay kitty? You keep eating. I love you.”

Aww, your sweet boy, you loved him too. You gave him an adoring mew, butting your head against his leg as he stood up and waved to you. You watched him run off, purring as you heard the water running in the bathroom. You might have to stick around for a bit just to spend some time with him.

 

You did end up staying with them. You spent a week and a half with Jonny and his mother, playing with Jonny in the living room or keeping his mother company at her desk while she wrote. You terrorized the neighbor’s dogs and chased birds in their backyard, and you slept in their laundry baskets perhaps more times than was appropriate. You couldn’t help it, you enjoyed the detergent she used too much.

On the final day, when your pelt began to itch uncomfortably, you waited until his mother woke to begin pawing at the window, mewing pathetically. She chuckled sleepily, coming over and giving you a slow pet. You expected her to open the window, but she startled you by murmuring, “Can’t you stay longer than two weeks?”

Stiffening, you turned to face her, cocking your head. She smiled sadly down at you, scratching you under the chin. “Jonny really loves you, you know. He likes having someone around to talk to and play with.” Her grin spread a little. “I love you too, kitty. You’re such a good writing partner. Always listening when I talk to you and giving me advice.”

You purred in amusement, tilting your head into her hand. The touch briefly grounded you, taking away the itch in your body. She stroked down your back, lightly curling your tail. “We’ve got a nice house. And enough food for you. So you don’t have to go anywhere, do you? You can just stay with us, and we could be a family…”

Oh, Jenny. Your poor girl. She’d been through so much, and all she wanted now was for her son to be happy and loved, and she needed to be loved, to have a family. You mewed softly, raising up on your back legs to butt your head against her face. She chuckled, lightly holding you under your front legs and nuzzling your nose with hers. “Look at me. I’m talking to a cat, as always. I know you’re a free cat, kitty. Just remember to come back to us someday, hmm?”

Of course, Jenny, you thought, licking her nose and making her squint at you happily. She placed a light kiss on your nose in return, then set you down and opened the window. I always remember the way home.

She muttered a final goodbye, which you returned with a mew, and then leapt out, landing elegantly on the fence below. You didn’t look back at her, even though you wanted to; instead, you picked your way along the fence and wandered into the alley between the two houses, out of sight.

Instantly, you let out a sigh and began to change. There was no pain as you slid between shapes, your body rearranging itself. You could feel your spine stretching and straightening, just like your arms and legs. You followed the pull upwards, wavering slightly in-between forms as your tail shortened, pulling back into your body and throwing you off-balance. The rest of the change seemed to happen all at once, reverting you to your default form- a human.

You groaned slightly, shaking your head and flexing your fingers. You were disoriented with the sudden lack of sound and smell all around you, dulled back to your human senses. You were shaking slightly, flexing your limbs as you got used to the additional length once more. You stretched a bit, taking some experimental steps to get back in the rhythm. It wasn’t hard once you started, but those first few movements were always strange.

You didn’t spend a lot of time in this form. It wasn’t that you didn’t like being human, it was just that you were so used to hiding as something else that you got comfortable. And the more comfortable you got, the harder it got to want to change back. A week and a half was by no means the longest you could go- you could postpone it for at least another week. But you did have other people waiting on you, and it was time to go and see how they were. You’d come back eventually, after all, it was no big deal.

Smoothing out your shirt- you were so glad that actual shapeshifting was nothing like what they showed on TV, where you ended up naked every time- you stepped out of the alley, curiously examining your surroundings. You were very familiar with this area, and you knew that a nice, cheap little diner was just around the corner. You would pop in, grab something to eat for breakfast, and be on your way, and by tonight you’d be prepared to shift again.

Mind made up, you strolled out of the alley and on towards the diner, stomach growling. Maybe you should have stayed for breakfast.

 

You spend the day pretty much the same way you spend it as a cat: Sitting at a cafe and watching people pass by. Stories are made for every individual who passes your line of sight, and several cups of coffee are ingested. Unfortunately being human means you have to pay for these drinks, since rubbing your head against a stranger’s leg and begging them to let you have a sip was socially unacceptable.

When you got bored of that, you wandered off to the park, and spent some time simply lying sprawled in the sun and dozing. You woke occasionally when a child screamed particularly loudly, or if a jogger ran especially close.

Most noticeably was the brief and rather odd interaction with a tiny skeleton with a booming voice, a blue bandana, and gorgeous sky-blue irises (??). Apparently he didn’t see you sleeping under the tree until he tripped right over your spread feet, faceplanting rather violently into the ground next to you. This startled you awake, of course, as he began to sit up and apologize, which shifted to a rant about safety precautions and sleeping in public spaces, and how you were just as bad as his lazybones brother, for star’s sake!

You endured all this with a stoic face. You’d encountered much worse things in your many years of living than a- quite frankly adorable - tiny, shouting skeleton. As a matter of fact, you were fairly certain you’d be able to lift him, which made him far less intimidating than what he was probably going for.

When he finally paused, you gave him a gentle apology and told him you’d be more careful next time- which you probably wouldn’t, if you were being honest with yourself, it was his fault for running into you anyways- and a tired smile. This seemed to mollify him somewhat, as he swelled with pride and smiled at you, a slight blush on his cheeks and a hint of excitement in his eyelights. He left soon after that, laughing loudly and congratulating himself for a job well done.

You really hoped you got to meet that adorable skeleton again someday. He seemed awful interesting, and he had such a cute name and demeanor.

If you ever did meet him again, you were totally letting him pet you all he wanted.

 

Night falls and you decide it’s time to move. You wander back into the city and find a convenient, out-of-the-way alley in which to shift and recover from the burst of sensation safely. When you’ve adjusted, you slip out of the alley, silent and black as the night.

...okay, you’re being dramatic, it’s not quiet at all, but you have taken on one of your favored forms: a simple black cat with green eyes. Most of your “families” saw you in this shape, as it allowed for stealth and, quite frankly, because it made you feel cool. This skin carried with it a feeling of cunning and dry wit, of power and intelligence. Despite your small stature, you felt big and agile, like you could take on anything. It was a good form, and one you found you quite liked.

The city seemed almost more busy than usual as you navigated through the streets, wondering which family you wanted to spend time with. There were a few close by, you knew, but you wanted to get away from Jonny’s house- less chance of him spotting you, and even though you knew he wouldn’t be able to identify you, you didn’t want to end up getting picked up by him again. It was unfair to the rest of your households.

(And also because as much as you loved those two, your other families gave you human food, and you didn’t want to eat cat food twice in a month. No, thank you.)

So you travelled farther, occasionally stopping to peek curiously into windows. You briefly debated sneaking into one of the restaurants, but decided against it. Much as you’d enjoy a hearty meal like that, most restaurants didn’t like having animals in it. Shame, you’d make such a good mascot. And good for business too.

You had just about reached the end of the block when a familiar voice reached your ears. Curious and alert, you picked up the pace slightly, gaining ground on it, and eventually the skeleton from earlier came into view. You huffed in surprise, but a purr built up in your chest- you hadn’t expected to see the cute skeleton so soon! He seemed to be talking to someone, rather angrily if your ears were to be believed- and they were, of course, because you had excellent hearing. Maybe you could fix that.

He was so preoccupied- and so loud - that he didn’t hear you coming up until you wound yourself between his legs. The skeleton startled, making a loud noise, then quickly reassuring whoever was on the other side of the line that he was fine. He tried to shoo you off with his boot, distractedly saying, “NO, PAPY, I SAID I’M FINE, I JUST- THERE’S A CAT HERE WHO WANTS MY ATTENTION-” Here he put a hand over the receiver, bending down to hiss at you, “Don’t you know it’s rude to interrupt people when they’re talking to someone else?”

You mewed, purring in amusement as you used his shortened height to reach up and butt your head against his cheek. He spluttered in apparent dismay, but you could see a smile tugging at his teeth. “YES PAPY, I’M STILL OKAY, FOR TORIEL’S SAKE! THE CAT JUST CAUGHT ME OFF GUARD. SOMETHING IT WILL NOT BE DOING AGAIN!” he added to you sternly, wagging his finger.

You reached up, grabbing his hand and rubbing your head against it. He had gloves on, so it didn’t feel too weird to rub against him, even if you could feel the joints in his fingers beneath it. You purred harder, nuzzling into him as he chuckled a little and unfurled his hand, obligingly giving you a pet. Yes, good skeleton, just like that. “I’LL BE HOME SOON, PAPYRUS. FIRST I HAVE TO SHAKE OFF THIS LITTLE MISCREANT. IT’LL KNOW BETTER THAN TO MESS WITH THE MAGNIFICENT SANS! ...YES PAPY, I WILL. GOODBYE.”

He finally hung up, giving you an amused look as he pocketed his phone. His voice lowered, so it didn’t grate quite as much against your ears. You noticed that when he spoke softly, he actually had a nice, deep voice. Rather soothing. “You’re quite the attention hog, aren’t you? Such a troublemaker.” His hands slipped under your chin, and you melted into his touch, body vibrating with the force of your purrs as your eyes drifted closed. Oh yeah, that was the spot, that was nice…

“Mwehehe. Fun as this is, I really must get home, so if you’ll excuse me, clever feline, I’ll be going now,” he suddenly declared, stepping away from you. Your eyes flew open and you mewled in protest, rubbing his leg again. Sans chuckled, raising his voice once more. “YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO LEARN TO LIVE WITHOUT MY GREATNESS, POOR CAT! MWEHEHEHE!”

Oh noooooo, how would you live without himmmm… You obligingly mewed louder, following him as he began to walk away. If he wanted to play hard to get, fine. You liked the chase. Made victory all the sweeter.

You heard him snort up ahead of you, and caught him trying to sneak glances back at you. Yes, you had him, hook, line, and sinker! He totally wanted you to come home with him! And he was speeding up, pretending like he wanted to get away from you, but darn it if you were going to let him do it! You picked up the pace, trotting lightly and mewing at him, staying on his heels as he chuckled above you.

(Who was playing who here? You had no idea. You didn’t care.)

Sans led you through several seemingly random turns, and you wondered if perhaps he was trying to throw you off. Was this a test of some kind? Because you were going to ace it. You were good at tests. The best at tests!

(You didn’t know if you actually were. You’d never gone to school.)

Finally, he began to slow down again, and you slowed so you walked beside him. He still kept his pace brisk, so you did the same, determined to show him you could keep up. You were a little out of breath, but it was nothing you couldn’t handle. He’d led you to a comfy little side of suburbia, with nice houses that all looked pretty much the same and clean yards. You didn’t recognize the neighborhood, but you doubted this would be a problem.

He stopped abruptly, turning to face you with a grin and a set of folded arms. “ADMIRABLE JOB KEEPING UP WITH ME, FELINE! YOU PASSED MY TEST!”

Haha! You knew you were good at tests! You purred excitedly, tail swishing behind you.

Sans stooped, scooping you up from under the arms. The sudden motion was a little jarring, and he did it a little rougher than you liked, but again, it wasn’t the worst you’d handled. He held you at eye level, nodding approvingly at your pleased self. “INDEED, YOU ARE A FELINE WORTHY OF KEEPING COMPANY WITH THE MAGNIFICENT SANS! PAPY WILL BE SO EXCITED TO SEE I’VE FOUND A PET!”

Ooh dear. You didn’t like that word. “Pet” implied attachment. “Pet” implied permanence. You really hoped he didn’t mind you disappearing for days at a time…

He shifted his hold on you slightly, trying to carry you in the way he’d scooped you up, and that was not gonna do it for you. If he wanted to hold you, he was gonna hold you the way you wanted it. You squirmed, meowing urgently, and he paused, giving you a perplexed look. “What is is, feline? Are you injured?” His eye- sockets you supposed?- widened as he held you away from himself. “HAVE I INJURED YOU IN SOME WAY?”

Something like that, you wanted to say, but instead you meowed again and wriggled, indicating you wanted to be let down. He seemed to get the message, as he kneeled and set you- surprisingly softly- on the ground again.

Were you seeing things, or did he looked a little hurt? Okay, nope, that wasn’t going to do at all. You were quick to launch yourself back into his arms, hooking your claws into the shoulder of his shirt and curling up in his grip. You were proud of the way he’d instinctively gone to catch you, which left you in just the right cradle. You liked this, and you rewarded him with a purr and nuzzle against his face.

“Ah… So you like to be carried like this then,” he surmised, sounding amused and baffled all at once.

He was such a quick learner. Good skeleton. You gave him another nuzzle for that and an affirming meow, though you doubt he understood. Still, he chuckled and straightened, giving you a soft look. “Very well then! I suppose I shall just carry you like this from now on.” He pivoted on his heel, marching down the sidewalk with his still-brisk pace, while you lounged in his arms. “I HAVE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT YOU, FELINE, BUT DO NOT WORRY; IT WILL NOT BE A CHALLENGE FOR SOMEONE AS GREAT AS I! OF COURSE, YOU HAVE QUITE A LOT TO LEARN AS WELL! SUCH AS MY BROTHER, PAPYRUS. HE IS AN ABSOLUTE LAZYBONES, AND…”

And so on and so on, as you began to doze in his hold. He didn’t seem to notice, content to ramble on about his brother and their jobs as guards- well, ex-job, apparently, since the guard wasn’t established anymore, and now Sans worked as a security guard at the mall and Papyrus worked just about everywhere, but used all that as an excuse to sleep more, really, he was so lazy…

You didn’t notice that he’d stopped until he abruptly shifted, awkwardly maneuvering you into one arm. You rumbled in displeasure, but he quickly remedied his grip as he opened the door, yelling into the house. “PAPYRUS! I HAVE RETURNED! COME SEE WHAT I BROUGHT HOME!” He lowered his voice, smiling at you. “I am sure Papy will like you. He’s really more of a dog person, but he’s almost as great as I am, so I’m sure he’ll see your greatness as well!”

Oh dear, he really is pretty adorable. Sort of a backhanded compliment, but you know, sometimes that’s just how it went. You gave him a purr, leaning up so you could rub your head under his chin. He chuckled faintly, briefly reaching up to pat you, and then his attention turned outwards. “AH, YOU’VE ARRIVED!”

“Hey, bro,” a soft voice came from behind you, prompting you to turn and look upwards.

And boy, did you have to look up, because wow, Papyrus was so tall. He was easily two, maybe three feet taller than Sans. He had a baggy orange sweatshirt with a soft-looking hood- you could already imagine yourself curled up in that beautiful hood. A perfect nest. You curiously noted that they didn’t seem very similar. In fact, they looked just about as opposite as it could get. Interesting.

“Heh. Well ain’t this a purr- fect surprise,” Papyrus drawled, amusement shining in his sunken eyesockets- poor boy looked like he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks- as he glanced up at his brother from you.

Sans groaned above you, scowling at him angrily. You pretended not to notice the way his mouth twitched. “PAPYRUS! WE JUST GOT THE CAT HOME, YOU CAN’T START USING IT AS PUN FODDER!”

“You’re right bro. That’d be a catastrophe.” He looks so proud of himself. Too proud. Especially as Sans begins to whine again, while you flatten your ears at him. If you had a dime for everytime you’d heard that one, you’d be rich. Papyrus seems to see this and snorts. “Heh. Looks like you and the cat share your opinions of my humor.”

“WHAT CAN I SAY? THEY’RE A SMART CAT,” Sans gloats, and you wriggle happily at the praise, purring and nuzzling him again.

Papyrus watches this with a fondly amused expression. “Guess they are, if they decided to come home with a cool guy like you.” He tilts his head slightly, giving you a strangely piercing look. You suddenly have the uncomfortable feeling he knows something, but a moment later he seems to snap out of his trance. “Welp, guess that’s my cue to leave. I’ll be upstairs if ya’ need me, bro.”

“WAIT A MINUTE!” Sans abruptly commands, moving towards him quickly. You blink in surprise as you’re abruptly shoved towards Papyrus, who panics and fumbles a little to try and hold you. You sink your claws into his thick hoodie reflexively, angling yourself so you can grip him with both your front and back paws. “HOLD ONTO THEM FOR A MOMENT, I NEED TO GO RESEARCH CATS! I DON’T KNOW IF THEY CAN EAT MONSTER FOOD!”

And just like that he’s gone, leaving you clinging to Papyrus’ coat while his hands hover over you uncertainly, both of you staring after the departing monster. You get the feeling this is pretty par for the course with him around.

After a moment of dangling, you mew at him, trying to pull yourself into a higher and more comfortable position. This seems to wake him, as he brings his attention back to you. He makes a confused noise, and ever-so-slowly brings his hands to support you, one sliding under your hind paws and the other cupping your back, so you sit on his arm. It certainly takes the strain off your front paws, for which you’re grateful, and you make sure to tell him so by purring and butting your head into his ribs.

“Heh,” he chuffs, and when you look up, he’s giving you a lopsided smile. “Guess, uh, guess that worked, then…” He glances at the door Sans had fled through, then back at you. “Suppose you and me will be chillin’ out on the couch for a bit then.”

He takes you into another room. It’s a nice room, very spacious, with a soft orange carpet and dark leather furniture and a wide TV. A rather fancy coffee table rests between the two, currently covered in newspapers with filled word search puzzles. Huh. Papyrus slumps onto the couch, and you slide into his lap easily, curling up on his femurs. You expected him to be harder, but amazingly enough, he seems just as soft as a human.

Magic, you conclude.

You doze again as he flips through the channels, not really caring what he puts on. What you do care about, however, is that he’s begun petting you, very hesitantly at first. He gains more confidence when you don’t bite off his hand, instead beginning to purr loudly and arch into his touch. He chuckles softly at this, stroking along the arc of your spine until you mew and turn, shoving your head into his hand. He lightly pets your ears, then boldy scratches them, so you reward him with a purr and nuzzle. Good skeletons. Such fast learners.

He’s quick to find all the spots that make you melt into a puddle, including the spot in the middle of your chest you don’t let anyone touch. This doesn’t set off the alarm bells you expected it too; instead, you simply purr harder, craning your neck to lick his wrist, letting him know yes, this is nice, I like that, that’s good, I trust you, and it’s weird how comfortable you feel with his bare bones digging into your fur, but you don’t mind it.

In fact, you roll over, giving him the rare chance to pet your belly. He pauses for a moment, suddenly unsure again, so you reach up and grab his hand, bringing it down to lick the palm reassuringly. It’s okay, big skeleton man, I trust you, you try to convey, and it seems like he gets it, because he takes the other hand and lightly pets you. You purr and nuzzle his palm.

Sans comes in a moment later, and he looks gobsmacked at the sight of his giant brother hunched over a tiny black cat, carefully petting them. You purr in amusement and pleasure, tail flicking lazily. “Wow, brother… They already trust you so much!”

Papyrus blinks up at him, motions halting. You meow in protest, butting his hand, and he snickers at you as he goes back to petting you. Then, he asks Sans, “What do you mean, bro?”

“Most cats don’t like to have their belly touched when they just meet someone, I read,” he responds, slowly coming closer. His eyes are on you jealously, and you want to laugh, because he’s more than welcome to pet you like this too. You like him. You trust him.

“Welp. Why don’t ya’ give it a try, bro? I’m sure someone as cool as you would have no problem getting their trust,” Papyrus suggests, moving the hand you’re still nuzzling away to give his brother room.

You don’t even hesitate. You stretch out, meowing as you reach out with both paws to him. Sans’ eyes fill with stars- actual stars, oh dear, he’s precious- as he offers you his hand. You do like you did Papyrus, twisting and leaning up slightly so you can lick his palm and wrist. It’s a little weird licking gloves, but you’ll live.

Sans finally takes the initiative, letting his other hand wander to your belly. You purr and shift closer, closing your eyes happily. Papyrus speaks up, even quieter than normal. “Told ya’ so, bro. Can’t resist your charm.”

“Mwehehe…” he giggles- actually giggles, someone help you, this is how you’re going to die, your heart is going to burst with cuteness and affection- and continues petting you, cradling your head in his hand. You peek an eye open to observe him and are rewarded with his absolutely ecstatic face. Excellent. You’d like to sear that into your mind, please.

You spend most of the rest of the night like that, lounging in Papyrus’ lap while they shower you with pets. They're already talking about getting you a bed, and setting up a cat door, and getting toys and maybe something for you to climb on, and what kind of food you can eat and for star's sake, they're even discussing names. It's not like it's the first time a family has named you, of course- over the years you've had tons of names. You just… didn't think they were the attachment type.

Ah well. You'd worry about that later. For now, you were going to nap and enjoy the attention. You'd deal with everything else in the morning.

Chapter Text

They’re still chatting fifteen minutes later when Sans abruptly scoops you up, startling you from your half-asleep state. You give him a startled look that only Papyrus seems to notice, if the snort he makes is any indication. You twist around for the express purpose of giving him the stink eye, and he snickers outright, hiding his grin behind his hand. “Think I upset your cat, bro. They don’t look very happy with me.”

You feel Sans’ eyes on you, so you crane your head back and meow at him, bumping your head against his chest. His face is way too far up for you to bother stretching for. Too tired. “THEY SEEM FINE TO ME. MAYBE THEY JUST DON’T LIKE BEING MADE FUN OF, BROTHER.”

You notice that Papyrus doesn’t even seem fazed by the subtle admonishment, simply reclining in his seat and grinning at Sans with a fond look. “I’m sure they know I’m just teasing them. Right, cat?” he directs at you, smirking when you rumble and turn away from him.

Sans puts one hand on his hip, keeping you to his chest with the other. “PAPY, STOP HARASSING OUR NEW FRIEND! AND DON’T STAY UP TOO LATE TONIGHT!” You’re surprised that Sans is bossing Papyrus around. You wonder if he’s the older or younger brother. Papyrus is more mature, but you get a feeling from Sans- especially when you were alone and he dropped his loud voice and demanding role- that he might be the older one.

Hmm. There’s a lot you have to learn about these two. You suppose you’ll have enough time to do that over the next two weeks.

You’re moving again suddenly, and you curiously scan the house as you go. You hadn’t really had a chance to explore their house, but that would change in the morning. You intended to stick your nosy little body in every nook and cranny of this place as you could. It’s all very nice and immaculately clean- you suspect Sans probably does that…- but it seems off somehow. The sparse white walls and pale carpet don’t really fit these two.

More mysteries, you suppose.

You’re taken up a flight of stairs, all carpeted with the same pale orange, and Sans begins talking again in his softer voice. “Papy said he’s alright with you sharing my room until we can get you a bed. Not that he doesn’t like you!” he’s quick to assure you, even though it hadn’t really bothered you- he’d told you ahead of time that Papyrus was more of a dog person, so you’d been prepared for it- but it’s still awful sweet of him. “He just doesn’t mind much. Papy’s pretty chill like that.”

What’s this?? Slang, from your Sans? Who is he and what has he done with the boisterous skeleton you met on the sidewalk? You meow at him questioningly, fixing him with big eyes to show your confusion.

Sans chuckles softly, shifting so he can put a finger to his teeth. “Don’t tell him I said that, he’ll be absolutely insufferable!” he whispers, and punctuates the statement with a wink.

Pfft, what a nerd. Is his excited voice all an act then? Hmmmm. Your skeletons are becoming more and more intriguing as the night goes on…

You purr at him, rubbing your head against his chest again. Sans chuckles and gives you and gentle pat, then continues towards his room, a spring in his step. You sneak a peek at his face, and you find that adorable happy smile is in place again. Mysterious background or not, he’s still very cute.

The room he brings you into is honestly not what you were expecting. Going from the rest of the house, you would have guessed his room would be clean and straight, but the feeling you get from this room is something akin to organized chaos.

He’s got a few bookshelves, tucked against the far wall and filled to the brim with books. Some are even stacked messily on top of the others, and action figures and other similar knick knacks litter the shelves in odd places. A desk is tucked into the space between the two of them, facing a window with deep blue curtains. It’s also covered in books- shoved off to one side- and several stacks of papers. Curious. He’s got a lovely oak dresser, upon which you spot yet more action figures and- is that cologne? Do skeletons wear cologne?? You’re definitely checking that out.

The free spaces on the walls are littered with anything from posters of some kind of celebrity- NAPSTATON, apparently, and you find yourself somewhat curious- and sticky notes, particularly around the bed area. He has a lovely twin sized bed, with galaxy-themed covers and dark blue pillows that match the curtains. It’s unmade. Blue fairy lights have been strung up around the room and on the posts of the bed, giving it a soft, whimsical feeling. There’s a treadmill tucked in the corner next to some weights, presumably over by the closet.

“What do you think, pet? A room worthy of the magnificent Sans, hmm?” he inquires proudly, kneeling to drop you on the floor. “Feel free to explore, I’m going to get changed.”

Well, if he’s offering… You set off instantly, wandering over to the treadmill curiously. You hop up on it, sniffing around it hesitantly. Your nose burns with the scent of sweaty socks. How do skeletons sweat? Magic, you suppose. “Oh! I see you’re interested in my treadmill! I use it every morning to stay in shape!” Sans announces behind you, but you merely meow to show you’ve heard him. Best to leave him his privacy. He chuckles, and the sound of ruffling clothes reaches you. “Maybe you’d like to join me on my morning runs?”

Ugh, you don’t know about that. You like your sleep, thank you. You divert your attention to the weights, hopping off the contraption to poke around them. “Those are my weights! How else do you think I’ve kept this masculine physique?”

Oh no, is he flexing? You risk turning to look at him and yes, he is indeed flexing, eyes sparkling when he sees you watching him. You burst into purrs, unable to help yourself, and he seems pleased with your amusement. He strikes a few poses for you, and you simply watch him with your tail twitching. After a moment, he chuckles and turns back to his closet, rifling through it for a shirt, and you go back to exploring.

Sans has commentary for everything. He tells you all about his “Battle plans” with the action figures, and you glimpse titles ranging anywhere from children’s books to advanced astronomy and physics. There’s even some “advanced puzzle books” and, perhaps most amusingly, a hidden joke book. Sans doesn’t say anything at that, and he’s blushing when you glance at him. Adorable.

He cautions you not to get prints on the papers on the desk, so you hop off as carefully as you can and continue around to his dresser. He’s impressed by your ability to get up on top, even if you struggle a few times, and he proudly admits to wearing “NTT BRAND BONE COLOGNE.” Eugh, if you’re going to stay here, you’re going to need to hide that. It doesn’t smell bad, per say, but it’s certainly not a scent you like.

While you poke around under the bed- nothing under there but a few dust bunnies and some action figures you almost step on- Sans straightens out the covers, humming to himself. You poke back out, slipping between his now-bare legs. Sans stoops, retrieving you from between his legs and hoisting you up so you can see his grin. “Are you ready for bed, feline? You’ve done a lot of exploring tonight.”

Well, you could certainly explore more, but… sleep. You meow an affirmative, stretching so you can nudge his nasal ridge with your nose. He chuckles and sets you on the bed, giving you a quick scratch behind the ears before he goes to flick the light off. You scoot over to the other side of the bed, beginning to knead the covers experimentally. They’re ridiculously warm and fluffy, and those pillows look so plush… you might not ever leave this bed.

Sans returns as you yawn, watching him through the dark to see where he settles. He slides in, pulling the covers up to his chin, and his eyelights glow in the dark. You notice that, curiously enough, he’s traded the blue for a pair of soft, fuzzy white lights. It gives his face a much more mature look. He reaches out and pets you a few times, eyelids (????) lowering, and you take the opportunity to slip out from under his hands and curl up against his chest, right under his chin. “Oh? So you want to sleep here, then?” he murmurs, sounding amused.

You purr, rubbing your head against his chin and licking his jaw. Sans snorts, rubbing your head, and then he carefully curls his arm around you, tipping his head so he can nuzzle you between your ears. “Alright then. I don’t mind this,” he whispers, and with a “mwah” places what you can only call a skeletal kiss against your head. “Good night, feline. Sweet dreams.”

Cuddling with him? Definitely. You give him one last lick and settle in his arms, curling against him. Good night, sweet skeleton.

 

Sans gets up at seven, which is later than you expected and far too early for your tastes. He tries to get you to join him in his morning exercises, but after the third time you run and hide under the bed he considers you a lost cause and lets you do your own thing. You end up leaving half an hour later, trailing on his heels, because you really want food, and you make sure he knows it too. You half expect him to get at least a little irritated with your constant talking- more like begging- like some other families have done, but he seems more amused than anything.

Papyrus is already up when you get downstairs, reclining on the couch in his sweatshirt. You wonder if he even bothered to change when he went to bed last night. Part of you wants to stay with Sans and demand food, but you also want to say hello to your other skeletal housemate, and so you break away from him to head for the couch, meowing loudly in greeting. Papyrus glances over at you, a slight smile tugging at his mouth, and watches silently as you hop up on the couch. You pace over and rub against his arm, meowing again as you lick his hand. He lifts it after a moment, letting you duck under it and try to coax him into petting you.

He doesn’t move. What is he doing? He’s just sitting there with his hand on you! Did he fall asleep? Pet me! You mew louder, trying to get his attention, but he continues to stay still, watching you with a grin. That jerk! He’s totally messing with you, isn’t he? He’s being lazy about petting you! How dare!

You are deeply offended and you yell at him to prove it- and also get pets, dang it- but he only covers his mouth with a hand, snickering behind it as he watches you. You clamber up on his lap, leaning back on your hind legs so you can put your paws on his chest and meow at him, giving him a wide-eyed look. No one can resist an adorable cat like you, right? You’ve got such big, soulful eyes and such nice fur… Papyrus is still laughing at you, covering his face with the other hand, though his fingers are parted to watch you.

Ugh, fine then. If he wants to be disinterested then so will you. You snap your jaws shut, backing off his chest and hopping down onto the couch. You pace to the far end and curl up, pointedly beginning to groom yourself.

Papyrus is hunched over, shoulders shaking. You stifle a purr. Bad cat, he wouldn’t pet you, he gets no purrs. It does not make you happy that you made him laugh that much. No.

When he recovers a little, he reaches out to pet you, so you jump down as stride around to the other side of the TV- making sure he can still see you- and continue grooming yourself. He absolutely loses it again, muffled laughter slipping out from between his fingers. You had no idea he would find this so funny. You want to be insulted but you can hear little “nyeh”s scattered throughout his chuckling, and dang it, that’s adorable and you’re weak. You’re so weak. You’re back around the coffee table and meowing at him before you can stop yourself.

He makes a truly valiant effort to stem his laughter. You can tell he’s trying very hard. It’s a battle he loses, and you don’t seem to be making it any easier. You jump up next to him, rubbing against his side and purring, and you’re starting to get a little worried. It sounds like he’s wheezing. Can skeletons pass out from lack of air? You don’t want to know the answer.

Papyrus finally manages to get himself under control, sockets creased with laughter as he sits up and takes a few deep, calming breaths. He gently picks you up, setting you on his lap and finally giving you the pets you deserve. You purr and reward him with a lick on the wrist, and he chuckles as he scratches your chin. “Heh. You’re pretty talkative, cat. And quite the attention hog.”

...You can’t even get mad about that. He’s not wrong, you do love your attention. Whatever, Sans says you’re cool enough to deserve that attention, so therefore you are! You nod affirmingly to yourself and slump into his touch, purring louder. He’s so good at this. Why is he a dog person. He was obviously made to be a cat person. Made for it. You’re not making any sense and that’s okay.

He’s still petting you and occasionally stopping just to see you whine about it when Sans finally comes in, having evidently finished breakfast. Now that you’re focusing on him, you can smell whatever he made. It smells good. You’re not quite sure what it is, but you’re not going to complain about it as long as it’s not cat food.

 

It’s not cat food. It’s some of the most perfectly cooked quiche you’ve ever laid eyes on, and you’ve seen some pretty lovely quiche in your time. A lovely golden brown color, just the right combination of melty and firm, with bacon and some kind of herb. It smells amazing, and you really, really hope that they’re considering sharing.

To test this, you jump up on an open seat and then onto the table, meowing at Sans hopefully. He puffs out his chest, that proud look in his eyes. “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME AS WELL, FELINE? THERE IS PLENTY HERE!” He carefully begins cutting it, scooping out a neat square and sliding it onto a plate. You meow again, tail twitching eagerly. Sans nods approvingly. “VERY WELL! I’LL GRAB AN EXTRA PLATE FOR YOU, THEN.”

He slides Papyrus a plate before he goes, and Papyrus gives you a calculating look. “You sure you want some of this? I thought eggs were bad for cats.”

Well, maybe if they were raw and you were a normal cat… but you’d be fine. It’d never bothered you before. Still, it was sweet of him to worry about you. You meowed and rubbed your head against his hand soothingly. Papyrus snorted, reaching up to pet you. “Sometimes I almost think you understand us, cat,” he mumbled, watching you arch under his hand.

“THEY ARE INCREDIBLY INTELLIGENT, AREN’T THEY? YOU CAN EXPECT NOTHING LESS FROM THE PET OF SOMEONE AS GREAT AS ME!” Sans boasts, bustling back over to the table with a smaller plate. He pauses, waving the spatula at you sternly. “YOU WON’T GET SICK FROM THIS, WILL YOU? IF I HAVE TO TAKE YOU TO THE VET I WILL BE VERY DISPLEASED.”

“We’re gonna have to take ‘em anyway, bro,” Papyrus speaks up, and your ear twitches. You give him an appalled look. He couldn’t be serious, right? You didn’t need to go to a vet like a common animal! You were perfectly healthy, thank you! “I was reading some last night, and it says we should take ‘em in to make sure they’re healthy, get ‘em the shots they need and all that.” He glanced down at you, quirking an eyeridge at your semi-flattened ears and glare. “Heh. don’t think our pet likes the vet much; check out the look they’re giving me.”

Sans snickered, finally dishing you up a plate. You slipped away from Papyrus and wandered over, meowing eagerly, and Sans pushed the plate towards you with another chuff of laughter. He nearly screamed, however, when Papyrus helpfully piped up with, “ Bone appetit.”

You sighed happily, wolfing down your food. You were really starting to get used to having these two around.

 

It’s agreed that since Sans has to work at the mall and Papyrus doesn’t start work until noon, he’ll be the one to take you to the vet. Sans also wants him to take you to the pet store, but he insists on waiting for the weekday so he can go with you two. You both agree to this plan, and after saying goodbye to Sans, Papyrus grabs his wallet and heads out the door, with you tucked safely in the crook of one arm.

As much as you adore being held, you’re also eyeing that lovely orange hood.  It looks very inviting from your place here, and you doubt that Papyrus would mind you hitching a ride in it.

With a soft purr, you carefully shift, stretching yourself towards his shoulder. He stops, sounding amused when he asks, “What are you doing, crazy cat?” Ah, alliteration, you like that. You don’t bother stopping however, carefully bringing yourself to perch on his shoulder. He reaches up carefully, making sure you don’t fall, and you crawl down into his hood.

It is just as fluffy and warm as you expected. It smells like honey, which is weird, but not necessarily bad. It’s incredibly comforting.

Papyrus cranes his neck back, trying to see you. “Havin’ fun back there, cat?” You meow. “A’ight then. Guess this is how we’re doin’ it.” He doesn’t say anything else, simply tucking his hands in his pockets and resuming his walk. The rhythmic bumping as he walks lulls you, and you curl up tighter and close your eyes for a little cat nap.

Hah. Papyrus would have liked that.

You alternate between dozing and staring at the sky as you travel, but you’re jolted awake by the sound of a bell. You grumble softly, sitting up and peering over his shoulder as unfamiliar scents of all kinds hit you. They’re not all very good smells- it reeks of sickness and infection, and there’s an overwhelming smell of chemicals, and there’s unhappy growling and yowls radiating around you. Your ears pin as you sink into Papyrus’ hood, pressing your face into his neck.

You really, really hate the vets. A few of your families had taken you in the past, and you detested the place. It made you feel so helpless and frightened, hearing the screams of suffering creatures around you. It reminded you of fire and chanting, of nooses around necks and bricks thrown into water. It reminded you of fear and the desperate need to run, to hide, to survive-

“Hey,” Papyrus suddenly murmured, catching your attention. You were trembling. When had you started trembling? He reached up, awkward but gentle as he fetched you from his shoulder and held you up in front of him. He searched your eyes, brows furrowed. “What’s’a matter, kitten? You’re shakin’ awful hard.”

You mewed pathetically, mildly soothed by the supposed nickname. You curled towards him, reaching out your paws- you didn’t even notice the extended claws- to try and hold onto him. He seemed to understand, as he brought you back to his chest and held you comfortingly. His baggy sleeves covered most of you, and you tried to make yourself as small as you could, wanting to disappear into his coat. Papyrus hummed faintly, and you could feel him moving, taking you back outside the clinic. Relief rolled through you and you relaxed slightly, starting up a stuttering purr.

“Huh. Guess ya’ really don’t like the vet’s, then,” he mumbled, and when he tilted his head, his teeth rested on your skull. “S’okay, kitten. You’re okay now. ‘M here, an’ I’m not gonna let ‘em do anythin’ to ya’, alright? Long as you’re with me, you’re gonna be okay, I promise.” And so on, gently hushing you until your trembling eased away. You trusted him. You knew he wouldn’t let them hurt you. “Heh. Feelin’ better kitten?”

Purring, you tilted your head to nuzzle his jaw. Papyrus gently patted your back. “Glad ta’ hear it. Think ya’ can go back in there?”

...You didn’t know. Just the thought of it made you sick. And really, you were fine, they didn’t need to check up on you. Hoping he’d understand, you let out a pathetic mew and shrunk further into his arms. A soft huff came from the giant around you. “A’ight. I’mma take that as a “no”, then.”

You peeked up at him cautiously. Was he angry? He didn’t sound angry. He seemed to notice, as he grinned and stroked your head again. “‘M not mad or anythin’. I get it. We’ll just go home ‘n rest for a bit, an’ then you can come with me to work. Sound good?”

That sounded perfect. You could do that. That was good. You purred and rubbed your face against his once more. “Kay. Let’s get ya’ home, kitten.”

You didn’t pay much attention to the walk home. You just pressed your face into his hood and closed your eyes, resting in his grip. The smell of honey enveloped you again.

That scent was quickly becoming associated with safety.

 

“Work”, as it turned out, was selling corn dogs. You… had no idea why, but it seemed to work for Papyrus, so that’s all that really mattered. He was set up in a nice park- the park where you’d first met Sans, coincidentally- near the play structure, presumably so he could sell to hungry kids. He was also strategically placed next to the jogging path, so anytime a jogger went by they’d be tempted to grab something. Clever skeletons.

You sat on the attached ledge where he kept the uncooked ‘dogs, watching the children play and basking in the sunshine. Kids loved to wander over to pet and fawn over you, and would subsequently go and fetch their parents for food. Even some of the adults couldn’t resist petting you, and while you basked in the attention, Papyrus basked in the influx of money.

When the most recent customers had wandered off, Papyrus leaned over to smirk at you and give you a quick pet. “You’re pretty good for business, kitten. I might have ta’ take ya’ to work more often.” You meowed contently, butting his hand, and he chuckled as he sat back down. You knew you’d be good for businesses! You didn’t even mind that you were his mascot, as long as you got pets.

He also snuck you a corndog to eat around lunch, so you figured this was a pretty good gig.

You changed locations a few times, switching every two hours or so. He seemed to have several stations set up just about everywhere with any kind of traffic, including random corners on busy streets and farmer’s markets. You got plenty of attention, and were snuck plenty of snacks to tide you over. Papyrus remarked that this was perhaps the most business he’d had in a while. You couldn’t help but be a little proud of that.

Papyrus packed up at eight, so you “helped” him store his food for the night- read: gave him moral support in terms of meows and purrs. There wasn’t much a cat could do, with things like health codes- and he let you ride on his shoulders home. He dithered a few moments outside of a few pet stores, categorizing them for future use. He mentioned that Sans wouldn’t be home until much later that night, so you two would just relax on the couch. That sounded just fine to you. Personally, any chance you got to sleep was a good one.

When you got home, he set you on the couch and left to grab himself something to drink- and, at your assistance, something for you to drink as well. He came back with a bottle of honey and, presumably, a bowl of water. You eyed the honey skeptically as he sat down, placing the bowl on the table. He caught your look and smirked, raising the honey as he drawled, “What, never seen a skeleton drink?”

And then, to your horror, he preceded to tip the bottle back and squeeze it directly into his mouth. All while maintaining eye contact. You had no idea what expression you must have been making, because he paused to cover his mouth and chuckle again. That was… not the most disgusting thing you’d ever seen but wow, was it up there.

He held the bottle towards you, urging you to take it. You grumbled and leaned away from it, staring between him and the object with wide eyes. Papyrus was chuckling again. “What, you don’t wanna try any? C’mon, it’s pretty good…”

You resorted to batting at it, glaring at him as he playfully tried to cajole you into drinking it. He snickered at your refusal, and after a few moments, he shrugged like it didn’t matter and simply took another drink of it. You resisted the desire to stick your tongue out in disgust, instead turning away and taking a drink of your water. Papyrus was still laughing behind you, entirely too pleased with himself for being so gross.

...You still cuddled with him when he turned on the TV and selected a movie about talking cats. He’d laughed entirely too long at the unamused look you’d given him, and he suggested turning it over, but you decided it was fine. You kind of liked his awful sense of humor anyway. Sans probably wouldn’t approve, but he wasn’t here to be mad about it, so… it was fine, right?

Right, you decided, as Papyrus began scratching you under the chin once more. Everything was fine. Better than fine, really.

You wondered if you were getting attached too quickly. You decided that it was a problem for future you, and you pushed all thoughts of anything but the movie from your mind. No point in worrying about it, really. It’d never happened before.

It’d be fine.

 

Sans came home about the same time as last night, and he seemed very happy when you jumped off the couch and ran to greet him. He swept you up, giving you a hug that was almost painful as you purred and licked his face. You hadn’t realized how much you’d missed him until he came home. He chuckled as he scratched your ear. “WHAT AN EXCELLENT WELCOME! I SUPPOSE IT’S ONLY FITTING SOMEONE AS GREAT AS I, HMM?” You mewed, continuing to groom him. “MWEHEHE! THIS WAS NOT THE SHOWER OF KISSES I EXPECTED TO ONE DAY RECIEVE!”

You calmed down shortly after that, content to curl up in his arms as he stepped into the living room. Papyrus raised a hand in a mock salute, grinning at your form as he took a sip of honey. “Welcome home, bro. How was work?”

“BORING,” he groaned, slipping off his shoes and coming over to flop down on the couch next to Papyrus. “NOTHING EVER HAPPENS! I DID GET TO CHECK OUT THE NEW NAPSTATON SHOP, HOWEVER! WE’LL HAVE TO DROP BY SOMETIME AND PICK UP HIS NEW ALBUM!”

“Heh. Sounds like a plan, bro,” Papyrus agreed, slouching further against the couch, if that was possible. “Took the cat with me to work. The kids loved ‘em. Thinkin’ of bringin’ ‘em with me next time, too.” He reached out to scratch your ear.

“HOW WAS THE VET?” Sans interrogated, leaning towards him and missing the way you went stiff in his arms.

Papyrus glanced down at you, perhaps taking in your wordless plea for his silence. You didn’t want Sans to know you had completely chickened out; he was so certain that you were cooler than that, and you didn’t want to disappoint him. Finally, the taller skeleton chuckled and gave you another scratch. “Did great, bro. Clean bill’a health.”

Bless Papyrus. He deserved extra cuddles after this. You purred at him, twisting your head to lick his hands as Sans rejoiced above you. “EXCELLENT! I KNEW THEY WOULD DO WELL!” He brought you up to his face, beaming at you as he nuzzled your nose. “THE NEXT STEP IS FINDING YOU A SUITABLY AWESOME NAME, AND GETTING YOU SOME NICE THINGS SO YOU CAN FEEL MORE AT HOME!”

Honestly, you were feeling pretty at home right here, without any toys or anything, and even the idea of a name didn’t make you as anxious. You purred, licking his nose in reply. Go ahead, little blueberry, I’m ready for whatever names you think up.

Papyrus chose that moment to let out an exaggerated yawn. “How ‘bout we save names for tomorrow, bro? I’m pretty beat, and I’m sure the kitten is too.”

Using you as an excuse? For shame, Papyrus. But he wasn’t wrong; you were pretty tired. You went ahead and yawned when Sans peered down at you for confirmation, purring in amusement when he pouted. “VERY WELL. SINCE IT SEEMS YOU ARE BOTH SO TIRED, OUR BRAINSTORMING SESSION WILL WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW!” He stood up, carefully keeping you in his arms, and smiled at Papyrus. “THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE CAT OUT! SLEEP WELL, PAPY!”

“Anytime, bro,” Papyrus replied, winking at him. He scratched your ears quickly, adding, “And night to you too, kitten. Sweet dreams.”

You meowed, letting Sans cart you back up the stairs. You cuddled into his bandana and purred happily. He set you down on the bed to change, and just like before you turned away and settled on the covers instead. He joined you a moment later, once again hugging you close and pressing a kiss to your head. You purred and carefully hooked a claw in his shirt, silently keeping him close to you.

Papyrus… Sans… they were both so good to you. You were happy you’d found them, even if you didn’t intend to stay with them for long.

Good skeletons.

Chapter Text

Sans’ alarm wakes you at seven the following morning, and you actually whine a little as you try to bury your head in his neck. It is still far too early for you to be up. Why is his alarm so annoying. Why did he put it all the way across the room instead of within arm’s reach, so he could just roll over instead of prying you off and depriving you not just of sleep, but also a cuddle buddy.

You let out a pathetic mewl as you roll over, dramatically stretching your paws over the side of the bed towards the sleepy skeleton. He snickers at the sound, but he doesn’t stop until he’s turned off the blasted machine. You mew again, weaker this time, as you’re already starting to fall asleep once more. Sans wanders back over, amused as he grabs your paws and shakes them slightly, waking you up. “It’s time to get up, sleepy kitty! You’ve had plenty of time to cuddle.”

But it’s not enouuuuuuugh, you try to convey, mewling again and squirming over so you can butt your head against his. Seems he’s leaned over to coax you up and out of bed, but you’re not having it. You’re luring him back into bed with your cuteness so you can cuddle some more.

Sans snorts, placing a pseudo kiss- still accompanied by the dramatic “MWAH!” sound that you adore- between your ears and pulling away, resolute despite your valiant efforts. “Come on, kitten, you’ll be much more awake if you exercise with me!”

Was that supposed to motivate you? Because it definitely did not. In fact, it did the opposite. You grumbled at him and rolled over, curling back up and wrapping your tail over your head. Hopefully that would dissuade him from bothering you again. It seems to work, because Sans chuckles softly and wanders off, presumably to get dressed. You let out a content purr and relax, safe at last to continue dozing. You can get in maybe thirty minutes of sleep before breakfast…

You should have known better. Sans is persistent.

As soon as you’ve let your guard down, gentle hands are on you, carefully picking you up from the bed. You let out a yowl of surprise, hackles rising as your paws reach for solid ground- or, in this case, the bed. You hear Sans snicker behind you and your panic fades slightly, prompting you to twist in his hands and send him a heated glare, ears twitching back. You hope he knows you’re mad at him. You hope he feels bad for scaring you like that.

He doesn’t look like any of those things. Instead, he looks equal parts amused and affectionate as he carries you over to the treadmill with him. Your subtle growls don’t seem to warn him, as he starts speaking. “Since you won’t take the initiative, I’ll just have to take it for you!”

He sets you on the treadmill, crouching and smirking at you knowingly. The devil, he knows exactly how mad you are at him! And he thinks it’s funny! “Come on, kitten, just a few minutes, okay? You need to be active some time!” Then, he gives you an innocent, hopeful look, eyelights shifting into stars, and dang it, you cannot be weak at this moment- “And I was hoping to spend some time bonding with my favorite cat!”

Curse this adorable blue-eyed skeleton! How dare he appeal to your weak nature! You grumble again, weakly batting at him. It’s not much of a threat- you don’t even have your claws out. Your paws make a soft noise when they land on his cheek, and you just leave it there, and dang it, you’re really considering this aren’t you, you can’t say no to Sans can you.

You swear he sees the moment your resolve breaks, because he picks you up excitedly, spinning you round in the air. You yowl again, hitching your claws into his- thankfully gloved- hands, your fur standing on end. He laughs and brings you into a slightly-too-tight hug, and you mrow at him softly, settling into his arms. Okay, this is not too bad, but you really hope he never does the other thing without telling you again. “THANK YOU, DEAR CAT! I KNEW I COULD GET YOU TO WORK OUT WITH ME!”

Oof, ouch, your ears. Sounds like in his moment of excitement and pride he’s forgotten to monitor his vocal range. He catches himself a moment later and holds you out at eye-level, worry in his face. “Oh, dear, I’m sorry, I got so excited I forgot about your delicate ears! Are you alright, little feline?”

Well, you wouldn’t call yourself delicate… You purr reassuringly at him, using your paw to pat his cheek again. It’s okay, sweetie, at least you learned from your mistakes.

He sighs, fretting instantly forgotten. “Good. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hurt you,” he chuckles, and dang it if that doesn’t hit you right in the heart. How does someone this sweet exist? How did you get so lucky to meet him? You owe someone big time?

Sans finally sets you down again, determined fire returning to his eyes. Oh boy, can you go back to the moment you were just having? Please? He sets his hands on his hips and beams at you. “Alright, cat! It’s time to get to work! Get ready for the most intense workout of your life!”

Is it too late to rescind your gratitude?

 

Papyrus laughs at you when you arrive in the living room, a spineless heap in Sans’ arms. Sans assures you that any lingering soreness you may be experiencing is a sign of growth and progress, and you should be proud of yourself; you did so good keeping up with him! He’s very proud of you!

Thanks, Sans.

You’re deposited in Papyrus’ arms, grumbling as you realize that he’s still laughing at you. Sans scratches you under the chin in reward and skips off to the kitchen to make breakfast, and you slump completely into the warm orange hoodie around you. Sans is intense. You’re pretty sure that if you were a normal cat you’d be in a lot worse condition right about now.

Thin fingers gently comb through your fur, starting at the base of your skull and trailing slowly down your back. You purr contently, if not tiredly, and had you more energy, you might arch into his touch. Seems he’s being even more careful than usual, finding the spots in your back where it hurts the most and pressing ever-so-softly, easing the soreness out of them slightly. How does he always know where to touch?

Must be magic.

“Heh. Looks like Sans really did a number on you, kitten. What’d you do, try an’ lift his weights?” Papyrus jokes quietly, barely a murmur. You rumble softly, pressing your head into his arm. You don’t wanna talk about it. Papyrus chuckles and moves towards your shoulder, gently raking his fingers through the short fur there. A tingle of warmth follows the motion, and more of your pain eases away under his fingers. Dang it, he’s good at this!

Come to think of it… you’re feeling a little more energized, too, and… you hardly feel any pain! What is Papyrus doing?

“Heh.” You turn your wide eyes upwards, meeting Papyrus’ as he grins down at you. He gently works down the rest of your leg, and you realize that the longer he touches you, the less you hurt. You must make some kind of face, because he snickers again, briefly retracting his hand. You think you catch a spark of green fading from his fingertips as he wiggles them and breathes, “Maaaaagic.”

Oh! So it was magic! Good job, you, very observant. You deserve extra pets. With a purr, you sit upwards- no pain at all! No fatigue! Papyrus is amazing!- and stretch up until you can bump your forehead against his, rubbing your face against his. You try to convey the extent of your gratitude with the gesture, leaving no area of his skull untouched as you brush against him. He deserves to know how good he did. Good skeleton.

Papyrus is chuckling softly, reaching up with one hand to scratch your ears while the other rests on your side, stabilizing you. You wind your tail around his hand, leaning into his scratches eagerly, and he speaks up again, just as quiet as before. “I’m gonna take it that worked, then, and this is a thank you.” Good skeleton! You rub against his hand again, passing off your nod as affection. You think you feel his fingers twitch, but it might just be him scratching you again. “Heh. No problem, kitten.”

You back off after a moment, sinking down into his lap contently. You’re still purring, nearly vibrating with the force of it, and he can probably feel it as he rests his hand on your back again. Not petting, just resting, at peace, there at your spine. The other hand picks up the remote and changes the station, and when that’s done, it sets the remote off to the side and carefully tucks back around you. You rest your head on his arm, watching the TV and feeling so, so happy.

 

Sans cooks you another beautiful breakfast of eggs, seeing as how you liked them so much yesterday, and neither he nor Papyrus make a comment when you scarf them down. Seems they believe that since nothing bad happened yesterday, you’ll be alright today. You wonder if all their knowledge of cats comes from the internet.

When Sans leaves later that morning, he gives you a scratch and a kiss goodbye, and then it’s just you and Papyrus. Papyrus stretches and heads for the living room, inviting you to come and watch something with him, but you’ve been wanting to scope out your new digs for a bit. You meow at him from the hall, one paw raised towards the hall, and he seems to get it- he seems to get a lot about you. “Oh, you wanna explore?” A mew. “Heh. Alright. You got the right cattitude; just be careful. Don’t want any trouble on our paws, do we?”

Eugh, disgusting. You thought you’d escaped the puns this morning after he drove Sans up the wall with egg jokes. You don’t even give him a response, simply stalking further into the house. You pretend not to purr when you hear Papyrus laughing in the living room.

The first thing you do is take a moment to assess the hall. What do you want to explore first? There’s several doors open, including the bathroom. Might as well.

It’s still warm from when Sans took his shower after breakfast. The carpeting in here is the same as the rest of the house, and they’ve got a cute little blue duck mat in front of the tub to catch water. You scrunch your nose up at that and decide to ignore the bath entirely. You’re not really sure why skeletons need to shower, but you’re also not sure why skeletons sweat, either, so you just sort of accept it. You also steer clear of the toilet, because unused as it’s probably been, you have had bad experiences with toilets. No, thank you.

You decide to stick your head in the cabinets first. They’re easy enough to get open with a little tugging- silly skeletons haven’t even kitty-proofed their house yet- and you manage to pop the first one open fairly easy and poke your head in. You’re a little- okay, a lot- disappointed to discover that they don’t seem to have anything in this cupboard. Hrm, time to move on.

The next two are relatively more interesting. There’s a ton of cleaning supplies in the first one, and you’re quick to shut that one, because the reek of chemicals makes your nose burn. The next one holds several extra towels, some of them too small to be full-body towels. You have the urge to clamber into the limited space and rub your face all over those lovely-smelling towels, but you decide you’ll have time to do that later. For now, you want to finish up your exploration.

You cannot resist rubbing your head against at least one of them. Your towels now.

The next one absolutely baffles you, because it’s filled with… bones? Big ones, small ones, thick and thin ones, some of them blue(??) and some of them gold(?!). They smell weird and they carry a faint trace of something tingling- a feeling you recognize instantly as magic. Why do they have a cabinet full of magically constructed bones? You have questions. You shove the door closed and struggle briefly to get yourself up on the counter.

You have to laugh. There’s several “NTT BRAND” products on the counter, which you instantly recognize from the shape and color. You recognize several words on them, such as “hair spray” and “gel”, which is already hilarious enough as it is, but the icing on the cake is the giant tub labelled “NTT BRAND DAILY BONE MOISTURIZER”. How does one moisturize bones? What does a skeleton do with hair spray? What a goofy skeleton.

For kicks, you take a whiff of the openings of the bottle. It’s… actually not that bad. Certainly better than the… bone cologne that you hid in San’s socks (he still hasn’t found it). Why doesn’t he just use this stuff instead?? You have questions.

The bathroom doesn’t have much else interesting to stick your nose into, so you take that as your cue to leave. The next door opens into- miracle of miracles, the laundry room. It’s a small space, rather cramped, with two massive machines- neither of them are running, go figure- and a little closet next to the door. There’s a basket of clothes, dirty by the smell of them, sitting in the corner, and a metal fold-up chair next to it, with a newspaper resting on it. There are cobwebs in the upper corner, and all in all the room just looks a little run down. It’s a weird comparison to the rest of the house. At least the machines are nice and new.

You jump up on the one closest to the closet, examining the buttons. It’s… a pretty typical machine. Boring. You still press a few buttons, delighted with the musical chimes they produce. You screw around with that for several minutes, purring in amusement, before you get bored again and shut the machine off. Your attention moves to the closet, and you creep over, crouching on the edge of the machine. It’s close enough that you should be able to reach it with the way you’re stretching.

You go ahead and give it a try, batting at the door knob with a determined paw. It rattles and almost turns, but either it’s locked or you’re not turning it far enough. Your tail swishes as you stretch further, trying to put more momentum behind your motions. Maybe you should use two paws…?

What the heck. You shift your weight towards your back paws and slowly reach out for the handle again, precariously resting your front paws on the slick metal. This seems like a much worse idea than it did originally, but you’re already here, so you might as well give it a try right? Right. Good plan, you.

You go ahead and try to turn it. It’s difficult to keep your paws on it, even with the padding on your toes, and your hind legs strain to keep you on the machine. It’s not turning though. It has to be locked- you’ve opened doors before, and it should not be this hard.

With a huff, you decide to give up. Shuffling back onto the machine is a little harder than you thought it would be, but you manage it pretty easily. You leap off the machine and stroll out of the laundry room, shooting the closet one last dirty look. You’ll be back for that closet, one day.

You pass by the door to the little closet under the stairs, unwilling to go through that twice. Instead, you bound up the stairs two at a time, purring in amusement to yourself. (You’re grateful they don’t have any kids in the house- you’d stayed with a family of seven once, and toys were always hidden on the stairs somewhere, lying in wait to abuse your poor paws. And at least their stairs were carpeted. You don’t want to think about all the moments you’ve slipped down a flight of stairs.)

You haven’t been around up here much. You know there’s another bathroom up here supposedly, and Papyrus’ room had to be up here somewhere as well- you could smell the honey from here. You nosed around the first door to the left and were somewhat surprised to find it was open. As far as you remembered, it’d been closed every time you came up here- but then, you hadn’t really explored this area much, so you could have just missed it. You peek in.

It’s a spare bedroom, from the look of it. It’s got a small bed, maybe about the same size as Sans’, and a bunch of drawers line the bottom. There’s a dresser on the back left wall, and on the one right across from the door is an old vanity. Next to it is a full-length mirror. There’s a small nightstand next to the bed, bare, and across from it is the closet. There are no bookshelves or desks like in San’s room.

Hmm. Definitely a spare room. This doesn’t smell like either of the skeletons. You move on.

The next room appears to be the bathroom, and it’s decked out much the same way that the bathroom downstairs is set up, so you don’t dally there. The next room is obviously Papyrus’, but aside from the smell of honey you can’t tell anything- his door is closed. You sniff around under it anyways, trying to crane your head so you can see under it, but you can’t make anything out. You snort in disappointment. That was a lot less interesting than you’d hoped it would be.

The only other room open on this floor, it seems, is Sans’ room, which you decide to check out anyways. You’ve been in there, sure, and become very well-acquainted with the dust bunnies under his bed, but the rest of the room is a mystery to you. You go ahead and slink in. Sans wouldn’t mind if you snooped through his stuff, he was cool like that.

You just had to put everything back where you found it.

Sans carries his own scent- mint, bizarrely enough; none of his soaps have mint in them, and it’s not like he ever eats it or cooks with it, so you’re not sure where it comes from- and it soothes your irritation as soon as you step in. You’re curious to see what he keeps in his closet- aside from clothes, obviously- and so you pad across the room to the closet.

You’re sure to offer the treadmill a hiss when you come close to it, still metaphorically sore over this morning’s torture. Maybe you’ll chew through the cord on the devil machine some day. Aww, but that would make Sans sad, and you don’t want to do that. Not to mention you physically cannot stand to make Sans sad, as this morning proved… oh well. You can dream. You’ll get your revenge some other way. For now you turn your nose up at it and stick it in the little opening in Sans’ closet.

Clothes, shoes, more clothes, some more exercise equipment… how many dumbells does one skeleton need? Some of them haven’t been touched in a while, and you notice they’re a lot heavier than what Sans usually uses. Hmm. A shunned gift perhaps? Curious.

There’s also several boxes, most of them relatively small, littering the floor. You nudge the closest one- a shoebox- open, and discover that it’s a box of pictures. Your ear twitches, tail flicking as you contemplate the box with curious eyes. You should probably not disturb it, but… you’re so curious.

You said it would be fine as long as you put everything back…

You carefully snag the corner of the box in your teeth, dragging it with you as you back out of the closet. It’s a little difficult to maneuver over some of his boots, but you manage it by pushing them out of the way and tugging the box through with your paws. With the box freely in the open now, you flip the lid off once more and nudge the box over, scattering the pictures. You’re careful not to scratch or smudge any of the pictures as you use your paws to spread them out.

Oh no. Oh dear. Oh good heavens. You were going to keel over and die. You could already feel your heart stopping. This was it. It had been a good run, but your time was up. You simply can’t function when faced with overwhelming adorableness.

It’s baby pictures. Of the brothers. Or, really, it’s baby pictures of Papyrus, with an older Sans, so you guess that answered your question about who was the eldest. Some of them are of Sans holding tiny baby Papyrus, stars in his sockets and a gap in his teeth as he stares at the little bundle. If you’d have to guess, you’d say he’s about five in the picture, but it’s hard to tell with skeletons. Another picture is of Sans, sleeping, with Papyrus sprawled on his chest in a tiny red set of footie pajamas. They appear to be sitting in a rocking chair, and Sans has one foot dangling down- he was probably trying to rock the chair to get Papyrus to sleep.

A lot of them are just of Papyrus, and goodness, you never thought the lazy skeleton could look so lively and cute- and so, so small. Smaller than Sans, for a large majority of his life, it would seem. There are more baby pictures of him doing various things- playing with blocks or puzzles (this one is a picture of Papyrus, smiling widely, a precious tangerine blush on his cheeks, as he proudly holds up a completed puzzle; it’s captioned “PAPYRUS’ FIRST PUZZLE! XOXO” in large, blocky letters) or with bones (“PAPYRUS’ FIRST BONE ATTACK!! I’M SO PROUD!!!”) and one of him, in a tiny Santa outfit, on the lap of a motherly-looking goat monster. She seems to be giggling at Papyrus, who is hiding his face with his hands shyly, that blush of his peeking out of the corner. Sans is standing next to them, beaming as he looks down at his brother with pride and affection.

Others are of an older Papyrus (“FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!” in which Papyrus is posed with an orange jumper with bold red stripes, blue jeans and large rain boots, holding onto his backpack straps and grinning at the camera) or him doing some kind of sport on the ice in an elaborate costume (“HIS FIRST GAME!!” followed by a picture of him and several other monster kids holding a trophy- this one labeled “THEY WON! GO ICECATS!”). Another seems to be him in a puzzle tournament, and some are him at a restaurant named “Muffet’s”. He’s guzzling a bottle of honey, giving the camera a startled look- seems this one was a surprise for him. Some of them are simply Papyrus next to Sans, growing taller as the years go on.

Further on there’s images of Papyrus with some kind of acceptance letter, smiling awkwardly as a much shorter Sans wraps his arm around him, beaming widely. You can’t make out the whole name on the letter, but it seems like it’s some kind of big, important university. There are more pictures of that older Papyrus, visiting for the holidays or more puzzle competitions. Seems he was big on those. A few are him, supposedly having graduated, and you notice there’s a slight smudge in the corner, like someone had cried a little on it. Your heart twinges.

The last few are, you notice, suddenly more full of Sans. There are several pictures of a costume affectionately labeled “MY BATTLE BODY!” and some where Papyrus and Sans are constructing it. Others are of Sans training or hanging out with someone named Alphys, a ferocious-looking lizard-like monster, or sneaky shots of Alphys and a fish monster apparently named Undyne. There are even some of Papyrus and Undyne, sitting on the floor in front of the TV, playing an apparently fierce video game together.

You notice that in a lot of these Papyrus seems… tired. More like the Papyrus you know now. He’s wearing the same thing in almost all of these pictures, and aside from the video game one and the ones with Sans, he looks rather unhappy. You wonder why.

“Well, you’re quite the nosy kitty, aren’t you?”

Jumping slightly, your fur rising, you spin to face Papyrus, who is leaning in the doorway watching you. He’s got a relaxed grin on his face, hands in his pockets, and you realize that he- thankfully- doesn’t seem mad. There’s no tension or subtle furrow of the brows that you’ve noticed on people faking relaxation. You still look away from him, embarrassed and ashamed you were caught snooping, and let out an awkward little “mrow” in reply.

Papyrus chuckles and strides over, kneeling down next to you. “It’s fine, kitten. You were just curious. Gotta wonder what you stuck your nose in though.” He gives you a quick pet and then leans over, observing the pictures you’d pulled aside, and you’re delighted to see him flush that pretty light orange in the flesh. “Oh, heh, oh jeez. You found the babybones pictures. Of course you did. Just my luck, hah.”

You purr, rubbing against his arm as he scratches his skull. You’re seeing shy Papyrus in real life! And he’s just as adorable now as he was back then, apparently! Goodness, he won’t even look at you, smiling crookedly at the box. He always seemed far too smooth and charming to fluster, but here he is, and all it took were some unbelievably adorable pictures to do it.

With another awkward smile, he begins to gather the pictures back into the box, rambling as he goes. “Heh. Guess the secret’s out now. Surprise, I’m actually a huge nerd who plays video games and was obsessed with puzzles for most of my life and went to college. I’m a big science dude; pretty cool, right? Heh. And yeah, surprise again, Sans is actually the cool older brother. Heh, my one redeeming feature is that I’m still taller than him. He got so mad when he stopped growing. Used to chug gallons of milk everyday, hopin’ it’d get him to grow a little more. Never did. I used to tease him about it all the time, an’ he’d retaliate by reminding me that he still had these stashed away somewhere to show my friends… guess he wasn’t just ribbing me, huh, kitten?”

You purred again, briefly rising up on your hind legs to rub your face against his, tail flicking with amusement. You knew his secret now. The cool, lazy, level-headed, charming Papyrus was really just a big dork. If only you could use this against him somehow. He’d never get away with not petting you again. Curse your feline vocal chords for not allowing you to utter human sounds!

Ah well. You suppose that just knowing it is good enough for now.

Papyrus finishes packing up the box and storing it haphazardly back in Sans’ closet, then chuckles as he  faces you. “It’s about time for me ta’ head to work. You wanna come with?”

Does he even need to ask? You mew excitedly, jumping up into his arms without a second thought. Papyrus catches you with a laugh, scratching your ears with one hand as you purr and rub your head against his. “I’ll take that as a “yes” then. C’mon, today you can help me set up the cart an’ everythin’.”

Sounds just fine to you.

 

The rest of the week- a short three days that felt much longer- passed much the same. Your early-morning exercise session with Sans becomes a dreaded routine, and every morning he’d carry you down and hand you to Papyrus, who would heal you and watch TV with you until breakfast was ready. After breakfast you’d taken to helping with dishes- that is, carrying dishes over to Papyrus to load in the dishwasher while Sans showered and got ready. After that, you’d usually head back with Papyrus and just good around until Sans left, at which point you’d go to say goodbye. Then you’d laze around until it was time for work, and Papyrus would carry you to the cart and you’d spend the day with him.

It was strangely comforting to have a routine, and of course there was room for deviation. While they were out the brothers would occasionally snag toys they thought you might be interested in and bring them home for you, so you had plenty to keep yourself occupied with. And of course, if all else failed, you would find someplace to slip into a snooze for a little bit. Papyrus got very good very quickly at finding you before work, and it more or less became a game for the two of you.

Sans had been trying to talk his boss into letting you come in with him, apparently, but it simply wasn’t working. He lamented this fact when he got home each night, petting your ears while Papyrus punned at him. He seemed very jealous of the fact that Papyrus got to take you to work with him every day, but you could also tell he was very lonely. From the sounds of it, not many of the other security guards talked to him, likely either because he was so loud or a monster. It made your fur bristle, and you made sure to give him plenty of affection to make up for it. Papyrus assured him it would pass, and then the subject would change.

A lot of conversation ended up turning to the weekend. The brothers both got progressively more excited, eager to finally brainstorm a suitable name for you and pay a visit to the pet store to get you some suitable furniture. Sans kept talking about this lovely little scratching tree he’d seen in the shops, and Papyrus teased you about collars, but it seemed like they both planned on getting you one. You.... weren’t too sure how you felt about that yet, but you didn’t worry about it- it made them happy, and whatever happened would happen, no matter how you felt about it. Best to just not think about it.

Everything would turn out alright.

Chapter Text

For once, you’re not woken by Sans’ blaring alarm clock. Instead, you’re stirred awake by the feeling of nimble fingers gently running through your fur, incredibly gentle. You purr sleepily, cracking one eye open groggily. You’re met with the sight of Papyrus’ grinning face, sockets drooping as he curls up on his side, one arm tucked under his head. He chuckles when he sees you looking at him, reaching up to scratch your ears. “Convinced Sans ta’ let ya’ sleep in today. You can thank me later.”

Screw that, you’re thanking him now! You can’t believe he got Sans to let you sleep in. Papyrus was truly a miracle and you did not deserve him. You purred louder, scooting over so you could nuzzle him and place a few grateful licks on his nose and jaw. He chuckles softly, petting your back, since you’re busy rubbing your head over him. “Thought I told’ya to thank me later,” he teases softly, even going so far as to tug on your ear.

You rumble playfully, turning to lightly gnaw on his finger. He snorts, trying to pull his hand away, but you bring your paws up to grab the limb, curling around it. You continue to hold his hand- not gnawing, not biting, just holding, as you turn your affectionate gaze up to him. He unfurls his fingers, using his position as an opportunity to pet your belly. Your eyes slide closed as you purr at him, tail flicking slightly. You’re starting to feel sleepy again, and you know if he keeps this up you’ll be napping in no time.

Papyrus seems to realize this, as he chuckles again and begins trying to pry his hand away. “Alright, kitten, you’ve had time to sleep. Ya’ gotta get up. We’re gonna need your help findin’ you the right name, y’know?”

Oh, is that today? Well, you suppose it is the weekend, finally… it makes sense they’d wanna name you now. You try to push off the weird feeling in your gut and finally let him go, giving his hand one last quick lick before you roll over and sit up. You yawn and give a hearty stretch, claws kneading the bedding, and Papyrus chuckles again, patting you paws. “Easy on the bed there, tiger. It’s not made to stand up to such clawful abuse.”

Eugh. Has he used that one already? You think he’s used that one already, and it’s just as awful the second time. You give him a reproachful look that has him snickering, finally sitting up himself. He mimics you, stretching his arms above his head and arching his spine, and for a moment you wonder if it’ll pop, which of course makes you wonder if it’ll hurt, which of course worries you. You mew and poke the curve of his spine, and he startles slightly and glances down at you over his shoulder. “Whattaya doin’, kitten? Ain’t anythin’ interestin’ about my spine.”

That has nothing to do with it, but it’s hard to explain this particular worry, even to someone as observant as he is. Instead, you mew again and paw at his back, giving him big, pleading eyes. Papyrus snorts, expression softening into amused affection, and he twists to pick you up. “I get it. You just wanted more cuddles, didn’t you?” You mew. “Pfft. Maybe we should name you ‘Needy’,” he teases, standing and heading for the door.

You’re offended and you have to let him know that, so you give him your most insulted meow and bat at him irritably. You are not needy! You’re affectionate, there’s a difference! Stupid Papyrus, making fun of you for liking cuddles. The nerve. Like he’s not actually a big cuddle bug too…

“Aw, c’mon kitten, y’know I’m just messin’ with you,” Papyrus coos, scratching under your chin and grinning at your offense. He leans down, nuzzling the space between your ears with a low chuckle. “Sorry, kitten. You make such cute angry faces when I tease ya’. I can’t help but agitate you.” That! Is not an excuse and you are very flustered! Bad Papyrus! “Heh, yeah, just like that. Lookit you, gettin’ all puffy and indignant. Maybe we should call you Fluffybutt instead.”

That’s it, you’re not letting him hold you anymore. You wriggle in his grasp, half-heartedly trying to dislodge yourself from his arms and pretending to be irritated. He laughs at your attempts, those little “nyehehe”s of his prompting you to continue your struggle. You’re purring, and you hope he can’t hear it over his giggles, or feel it in the tightening grip his arms have on you.

“PAPY! WOULD YOU STOP ANTAGONISING OUR CAT AND GET DOWN HERE FOR BREAKFAST ALREADY?” Sans abruptly appears at the bottom of the stairs, one hand on his hip while the other brandishes the spatula at his brother in a playfully threatening way. You can see him smiling, and when he catches sight of you his sockets fill with stars. You feel warmth bubbling in your chest. “KITTEN, GOOD MORNING! I, THE MAGNIFICENT SANS, HAVE MADE YOU YOUR FAVORITE BREAKFAST: EGGS!”

They’re only your favorite if Sans makes them and that’s a fact. You meow back at him warmly, and he lets out his own laugh as he darts back into the kitchen. Papyrus snorts softly, adjusting his grip so he’s holding you more comfortably. “Well, better get going then. Don’t wanna keep him waiting, huh, kitten?”

 

Sans is so excited he’s vibrating all through breakfast. He spoke at a mile a minute, eagerly discussing all of the naming sites and books he’s picked up from the library. The stars haven’t faded from his sockets, and a light dusting of blue highlights his cheeks. Papyrus chuckles as he listens, unable to get in much more than a snort or quick pun, and even that doesn’t deter Sans like it normally would. You yourself remain quiet, working your way through the delicious omelette Sans has made you with a purr.

You suppose you’re a little excited. You haven’t really had a name in a while- most of your families just called you “cat” or “kitty”, and that was just fine with you. Let’s see… what was the last thing you’d been called? Someone had known you as Rosebud once, and you’d gone by Moon several times… There was the man who named you Rogue and the lady who called you Lionheart and the twins who insisted on calling you Bunny, for some reason… You couldn’t think of any others off the top of your head. You’d heard a lot of them, answered to a lot of them- a different name for every skin you wore. And there’d been so many over the years…

“Kitten? Are you alright?” Sans’ voice startles you from your recollection, and you quickly look up at him. Both brothers are watching you with varying degrees of worry, and when you glance at Papyrus, you get that feeling of being looked through again. Sans speaks up again. “You stopped eating, and you were just staring at your food! Are… are you feeling unwell, kitten?”

Oh, darn it! You hadn’t meant to make him worry about you. You’re quick to remedy the situation, skirting your bowl to rub your head against his and purr reassuringly. I’m fine, sweet skeleton, don’t worry.

Sans giggles and reaches up to gently scratch your ears, and you notice that although he’s no longer frowning, his smile doesn’t quite meet his eyes. “Mwehehe. I guess you’re feeling alright then. But you know you can tell us if there’s anything bothering you, right?”

You blink at him. He’s pulled away to give you a firm smile, hand still on your head, and… that’s a really weird way to put it. How would you tell him anything? You were a cat.

There’s a brief- very brief- moment when panic runs through you and you wonder if, somehow, he’s found you out. That maybe you weren’t as good at acting as you thought and he knows what you really are, and the fear and panic that comes with being revealed almost overpowers you- and then Sans laughs a little and sheepishly amends, “Well, I suppose it’d be “show us”, hmm? As normal cats can’t speak.” He strokes your head, gaze impossibly soft, and you relax again, your previous fear abating. “We’re here for you, kitten. You just have to let us know when something’s wrong and we’ll help you. Okay?”

That one’s safe enough to answer, you suppose. You mew and press your head against his again, and he strokes your back gently, smiling in the corner of your eyes. You feel Papyrus’ gaze on you still and look up at him, but when he meets your gaze, he’s smiling too. He reaches out and cups your chin, just holding you there a moment, and then he chuckles and scratches you. “I ain’t as good as Sans is with words, kitten, but what he says is true. We’re always gonna be here if ya’ need us.” An over exaggerated wink. “ No bones about it.”

“Ugh, Papy, you ruined the moment!” Sans whines, trying very hard to hide his smile.

Papyrus shrugs, looking not the least bit apologetic. “Sorry bro. But it’s not a fibula. No need to be so sternum.

Sans stands quickly, grabbing his dishes. You and Papyrus both laugh- or purr, in your case- as he rushes to the sink to deposit his plate and stomp back angrily. “I WILL BE IN THE LIVING ROOM WHEN YOU’RE READY TO STOP BEING SO… SO!!!”

“So punny ?” Papyrus offers sweetly, and that’s Sans’ breaking point. You have to cover your ears as he lets out an agonised wail and rushes out of the room, shouting something you don’t quite understand. You glower at Papyrus, who shrugs and smirks at you impishly. “What’s with the dirty look, kitten? Didn’t I tickle your funny bone?

Well, there goes your appetite. You decide to follow Sans’ example and make a break for it, leaving a laughing Papyrus to pick up your dishes and set them in the sink.

Sans is indeed already in the living room, a stack of books on the table in front of him. You eye the pile warily- there have to be at least seven of them in that stack. You really hope he doesn’t plan on making you go through all of those, because no, that’s not happening, thank you. He’s got one open on his lap, and he looks up when you meow at him, beaming again. He sets the book off to the side and pats his leg, and you take the invitation to scramble up and perch with your back to his chest.

He chuckles at your slouched position, briefly scratching your head before he picks up the book again and holds it open in front of you. You feel like a child suddenly, getting their bedtime story and excited to look at all the pretty pictures. “The lady at the bookstore said that this one had an especially interesting variety of names,” he begins to explain, talking softly into your ears as you peek curiously at the book. You recognize some of the words, but others are lost on you. “I saw some really nice names I thought would fit you really well!”

You watch curiously as he flips through the pages, and Papyrus makes his entrance, sliding onto the couch next to his brother. He’s got that terrible grin on his face that you know is the precursor to heckling of some kind, so you steel yourself. “I already came up with a few fitting names this morning. Ain’t that right, kitten?” He smirks at you, wiggling his eyebrows.

He’s not talking about those atrocious nicknames he’d pelted (dang it, Papyrus was rubbing off on you) you with this morning, is he? Because no, you are not going to be named Fluffybutt for star’s sake! You grimace at him to show this, and Papyrus claps a hand over his teeth, sockets scrunching as he holds in his laughter. “Oh my gosh, kitten, you should see the face you’re making. That was priceless,” he mumbles, barely subduing his snickers.

“What did you call them?” Sans demands, one hand leaving the book to wrap around you protectively. You purr and lick the limb, ignoring the gloves for the moment. Why does he even wear them still?

Papyrus begins to respond, so you tune back in, glaring at him. He smirks as he reaches out to scratch your chin. “Oh, y’know, real flattering names. Sweetheart, honey, tiger, things like that.”

He lies! He only called you one of those things! Bad Papyrus! You growled softly, batting at the hand on your chin weakly and giving Sans a distressed wail. Papyrus was outright laughing now, playfully trying to pet you again while you beat him away. Sans joined you in swatting him away, much to your and Papyrus’ shared amusement. “PAPYRUS! Somehow I get the feeling that is not what you called them- would you stop heckling our cat?” He scooped you up, book falling off his lap, and scooted to the far end of the couch, curling around you. “Stay on that side of the couch until you can behave yourself!”

“Gee, bro, what am I, five?” Papyrus drawled, still grinning at the sight you two made: Sans glowering at him, both arms around you, and you, straining to see over his knees.

“Well you’re certainly acting like it,” Sans replied primly, and you twisted around to get a look at his face. Yup, that was a smile he was trying to hide with his pout. You supposed this was just a sibling thing, then. You purred, settling into his arms so you could watch this play out.

You heard Papyrus shifting against the couch, probably slouching into it. You could easily imagine him stuffing his hands in his pockets. “That hurts bro. Right here.” You guessed he’d put a hand on his chest.

Sans snorted, reaching up to pet your ears briefly. You turned your head into his hand, tail flicking. “Papyrus, as much as I enjoy our exchange of wits- in which I have undoubtedly succeeded- we do eventually have to name our cat.” Cue a pointed raised eyebrow.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while doing it. Besides, kitten’s enjoying it, ain’t ya’?” He looks to you for backup. You turn your nose away from him. Sorry Papyrus, only good skeletons get feline companionship. You hear him snort. “Ouch, cold. Okay, let’s see what we got…” There are excessive, exaggerated groans from the other end of the couch as Papyrus leans over and weakly attempts to retrieve the book. Sans’ fingers twitch, like he’s debating lunging off the couch himself to grab it, but you really hope he doesn’t. You don’t wanna think about what happens if he tries that with you still in his arms.

Finally- with even louder groaning, much to Sans’ ire and your amusement- Papyrus sits upright again and opens it to a seemingly random page, scanning it for a moment. You can hear the smirk in his voice as he speaks up. “Oh, this is a good one. Totally fits them. How about Whiskers?”

He looks up in time to see you physically recoil in disgust, and as he begins to laugh you have intense flashbacks of the time he tried to get you to drink honey. You wonder if he was like this as a child. Poor Sans must have been driven up a wall with all his antics.

“We are not naming our cat Whiskers, Papy!” Sans exclaims, distraught. “They deserve a much more sophisticated name! Like…” He looks at his stack of books and then, in a rare show of magic, he levitates the top book off the pile. You watch, mesmerized, as it floats over to him, and he flattens his legs, setting it on his femurs. You can still feel his magic, cool and sharp, radiating from the book as the blue glow fades away. Sans leafs through the book for a moment, then stops and says, “Aha! What about Orion? The mighty hunter of the night sky! It’s perfect for this one!”

He ruffles the fur between your ears, and you lick a paw and drag it over your head to smooth down the fur, considering. You like the name; it’s interesting and it sounds pretty cool. But… you’re not sure it’s right. Papyrus, watching you closely, says, “I dunno about that one bro. It’s neat, but I don’t think kitten likes it much.” He raises an eyeridge at you as your head snaps up, staring at him with wide eyes. “What? Just didn’t look like you were that into it.” Cue noncommittal shrug.

Sans made a thoughtful sound, cupping his chin and examining you. Finally, he nodded to himself. “Good call, Papy. They don’t seem very interested in it. Next name then!”

Sometimes it surprised you how well the brothers could read you. You’ve never been with a family who could tell how you felt unless you made it blatantly obvious like they could.

The brothers take turns suggesting names. It’s… to be honest, it’s a mess. Sans will suggest interesting, serious names- Othello, Maryam, Coco, Bast, and other such names, none of which really appeal to you- and Papyrus will reply with a horrible or stereotypical cat name- Fluffy, Stripes, Tigger, Ajax, Bacardi, and other similarly ridiculous names that you nyx right off the bat with either a hiss or a yowl, depending on the level of awful. Sometimes you just give him a Look, and he’ll start cackling- apparently you and Sans share an awful similar “Really, Papyrus?” glance, which when you look at him you find really does look pretty similar. Huh.

You go through a few of the books this way, and you’re starting to feel bad for being so picky. And, okay, you’re honest enough with yourself to admit that the interaction is kind of hilarious, and maybe you’ve turned down a few good names just because you want to see what happens. But really, this is an important decision, and you want one that actually works for all of you.

Papyrus proposes a break for lunch, which Sans reluctantly agrees to. He’s got his nose buried in a book, and you can see the gears turning as he reads them and categorizes them, seeing which ones you’d turned down and which ones were likely to piqued your interest. You really appreciated how much effort they were putting into this- because even when Papyrus was goofing around, you could see how he analyzed you with every suggestion, and was the first to tell if you liked a name or not. He just liked to pretend like he wasn’t taking it serious, for some reason.

(He probably saw how much you enjoyed their antics, you would realize later.)

While Papyrus goes to call someone for food, you work on getting Sans to take a break himself the only way you know how. You start out by pawing at his arms, mewing softly and rubbing against the book. When that doesn’t work, you raise your voice, pawing more insistently at him- both on the book and his arms. Still nothing. You try sticking your head over the book, squirming to get your face in his, but he gently pushes you back. You try worming your way under the book next, still meowing, and yet again he gently pushes you back.

Hrm. He is… very determined to not acknowledge you. His concentration is honestly ridiculous. Time for the big guns.

You scramble up onto the back of the couch and carefully work your way down to the arm where his head rests. You perch right behind his skull and lean on him, stretching your face down into his and meowing again. His eyelights flicker up, and you hear a soft huff of laughter, but he simply pushes you away again. You try patting his cheeks next, and he brushes those away gently, but you can see him smiling a little more, and his chest twitches with restrained laughter. It’s working!

You continue to paw at his face, meowing at him tirelessly. He reaches up, but instead of brushing the paw away, he gently grabs it and presses a “MWAH!” into the soft pads, then lets you go. You’re stunned into inaction for a moment, staring at him with wide eyes. You… you were not expecting that. And going by his devilish grin, you think he might have planned that.

That fiend! Trying to distract you from distracting him! How dare he! You redouble your efforts- though you don’t try to bat at his face anymore. You can’t afford to be distracted again!- by kneading his shoulders instead, slowly creeping further into his line of sight. He’s still grinning, dang it, but he pointedly keeps his eyes on the book. You meow into his ear, rubbing your head against his, making sure that you’re reaching into his line of vision. It doesn’t seem to deter him from reading.

Okay, you’re starting to get a little frustrated now. How high is his tolerance? How can he withstand this amount of distraction from your adorable self? Even Papyrus hadn’t been able to deny you this long! What else could you even do?

You try creeping further down his chest, and suddenly he moves, seizing you and holding you over his head. You stiffen, startled, as he beams up at you, those adorable stars in his eyes. “Mwehehehe! Caught you, nifty little feline! I bet you weren’t expecting that, hmm?”

You… most certainly were not. Sans seemed to be catching you off-guard quite a lot today. You wriggle a little, moody as you meow at him crossly. You’re not happy with him for ignoring you and then scaring you like that, dang it, stop looking so smug!

Sans chuckles and brings you down, nuzzling your face gently, still quietly “mweh”ing. You snort, nuzzling his back, amused at his Cheshire grin-

Wait!

You squirm again, letting out an urgent meow, and Sans startles, holding you away. “Kitten? What is the matter? You’re not actually mad at me, are you?”

Heavens no, Sans, quite the opposite- bless him and his precious, smug grin- but dang it, you need him to set you down so you can find what you need! He looks incredibly worried, but he seems to understand that you want to be let down, because he sets you on the coffee table. Perfect! You’re quick to pull off the top book, purring in satisfaction as you put a paw on it and meow at him.

Sans gives you a confused look, but he sits up and sets the other book aside, reaching out to grab the one under your paw. “‘Cat Names Inspired by Fairytales’?” he reads aloud, then glances up at you as you meow eagerly once more. You leap across the small distance between the couch and the table, putting your paw back on the book and looking up at him expectantly. You can see the exact moment he realizes what you want. “Oh! You must have thought of a name, and you think you’ll find it in this book?”

Good skeleton! Aw, they’re so perceptive, you’re so glad that out of everyone you got stuck with these two- You mew, squirming back into his lap so you can point to it when it comes up. Sans gives you a bemused smile and begins to page through the book, going slowly so you could pick out the page you wanted. You took your time, struggling through the words on the page- you didn’t recognize a lot of them. This might be the first time you were angry you’d never gone to school; this could be so much easier if you knew more than the average fourth grader…

Finally, you flipped to a familiar section. Wonderland. You let out an excited mew and Sans chuckles as you pat at the page. Under your direction, he flipped slowly through the section and you scanned for the word- there!

You pawed at the name, twisting to look up at him and meowing pointedly. Sans leans over, humming as he reads the name and the attached “biography”. You watch as, slowly, the stars grow in his sockets, and his smile widens. The book is discarded in favor of wrapping his arms around you, squeezing you tightly- but not tight enough to hurt this time. He’s learning. “Ooh, kitten, this is perfect! It fits you so well!” he cried, nuzzling your ears. You purred in return, licking his cheek as satisfaction curled in you. Looks like you did a good. He raises his head and his voice, calling for his brother. “Papy! Papy, come here, I think we’ve found it!”

Papyrus is suddenly right there, and while you jump and give him a startled look, Sans simply beames at him, thrusting the page his way. “This! Look! Read it! Isn’t it perfect? Our clever little kitten found it!” He’s still hugging you as he gushes and Papyrus scans the page.

You watch his face, looking for any trace of discontent, but as he reads, the smile continues to inch upwards, and his eyebrows hike higher and higher. This… this might be the happiest you’ve seen him outside of those pictures you found. It’s a different look than his usual smile, and you really, really like it. You want him to smile like that more often.

Finally, he snaps the book shut and kneels down, reaching out to scratch your ear gently. You lean into his hand, giving him a slow blink as he grins at you, a sparkle in his sockets. “I think it’s perfect. Welcome to the family, Cheshire.”

 

To say they’re happy with the decision is an understatement. Sans won’t stop addressing you by your new name every moment he can, and he gets stars in his sockets when you respond. He insists on watching the movie the name came from that very afternoon, after they stop by the pet store of course, and Papyrus agrees with an easy-going grin. Sans will steal hugs from you at random times, humming excitedly as he utters the moniker.

Papyrus is a little more subtle with his happiness. He gives you plenty of pets, scratching around your ears with that little curve to his sockets. His smile hasn’t faded since he called you by your new name, and you think you hear him chuckle every time Sans says it. He still mostly calls you “kitten,” but every now and then he’ll call you Cheshire out of the blue, and you can’t help but mew back at him.

Lunch comes soon after your naming, so you all head to the kitchen and wolf it down. Sans finishes before either of you and sits at the table impatiently, nearly vibrating with energy and playful agitation. Papyrus purposefully takes longer to eat than necessary, just to bug Sans, who absconds from the kitchen at some point to get his things together.

You finish up your own lunch and bring the dish to the sink like you’ve been doing, then hop up into Papyrus’ lap. He winks down at you and picks up the pace a little, much to your amusement. Figures he’d only do it to annoy his brother.

It takes you much longer than Sans would like for the three of you to get going, but you do finally manage to get out of the house. Sans scoops you up the second you set paw outside the door, grinning at you as you blink at him. You purr softly, squirming up onto his shoulders instead and pressing your face into his neck. He strokes your head and waits for Papyrus to lock the door, and then you’re off. He keeps wandering several feet ahead of Papyrus, then stops and waits for him with crossed arms and a tapping foot. Papyrus meanders up slowly, grins at you, and faces Sans’ rebuking with a lackadaisical shrug.

Silly skeletons.

 

Papyrus eventually takes the lead, guiding you to the pet shop that he saw the first day you went to work with him. He holds the door open for his excited brother and ducks in soon after, and you take the moment to stare around the shop with wide eyes. It’s not a very big shop, but it’s filled with animals of all kinds, and rows upon rows of tanks, bags of food, and toys. There are hundreds of strange and familiar scents, and it’s honestly a little overwhelming. It reminds you of the vet, almost, but the atmosphere here is lazier and warmer, and that takes the edge off of your anxiety.

The worker at the counter offers the brothers a warm smile, but doesn’t make any move to assist them. You attribute this to the fact that Sans is already steadfastly moving through the store, “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing at everything as he goes. You have to join him in his admiration; there are so many amazing things here! Strangely shaped tanks and little constructs for all kinds of pet, and food and cleaning supplies and lots of other weird things.

You spend a little time just perusing the fish tanks. The brothers get a kick out of the intense way you watch the fish swim, and against your better judgement, you reach out to bat at the glass when some of them curiously drift too close. This sends them both laughing, and you come back to yourself with a huff, embarrassed by your behaviour. Sans worries about the betta fish kept in their small, separated containers, but he seems excited when he finds a black one, claiming it looks like you. You purr and nuzzle him, side-eyeing the fish.

All it looks like to you is a nice snack…

You continue to putter around the store. Sans gets distracted easily, and Papyrus certainly doesn’t help, pointing out weird things in the store or things he thinks you might like. They both have a good laugh at you when they find the cat nip toys and you jump off his shoulders to sniff at the toys. Papyrus retrieves you before you can make too big a fool of yourself, which you’ll be grateful for later, when the particles you’ve inhaled have worked themselves out of your system.

As such, you sort of tune out the other animals they visit. Sans tries to get the parrots to talk, and Papyrus stops to pet all the dogs, which you bat at him angrily for. How dare he pet dogs when you’re right there! You know Sans said he was a dog person, but really? You thought you’d done a good job converting him! Wait- what is he doing?

He’s found the other cats, and he’s looking directly at you as he pets the other cats. Is he serious? Really? While you’re right there? Excuse you? Sans is asking you something in a worried voice, but you’re more concerned with getting over there and causing some mayhem.

He looks far too amused as you saunter up, meowing at him loudly and rubbing against his leg with a purr. Nonchalantly, he says, “Oh, hey, kitten. What’s up? You need somethin’?”

Do you need something? Yes, him to stop petting them. And the cats! For pete’s sake, can’t they see that this monster is yours? Go get your own! You mew again, sweetly as you can manage, and rub your head on his sleeve, maintaining eye contact with the cat in the pen. It seems to get your meaning, and while it certainly doesn’t seem happy, it slinks off to the far corner of its cage, pretending to be uninterested. Yeah, that’s right, move away, nothing to see here…

Both brothers are watching you with amusement. The weight of what you’ve done sinks in and your ears pin. You are very, very glad cats can’t blush, because hoo boy, this is embarrassing. You cannot believe you let your cat instincts take over. It’s not even close to being time to shift! Ugh, and now they’re snickering, this is awful, can the earth please swallow you whole, you’d appreciate that, thanks-

“I never took you for the jealous type, Cheshire,” Sans teases, and you crouch, trying to make yourself as small as possible. Can you just. Become a bug or something and not deal with this? If only.

Papyrus scoops you up, grinning wickedly as he scratches your ears and you bury your face in his sleeves. “Sorry for making fun of you, kitten, but that was too cute. You should have seen the way you glared at that poor cat-” He breaks into another snicker as you turn and give him the glare he was just mentioning. It might be a little more intimidating if you weren’t dying internally. “Yeah, just like that,” he chokes out.

“Aww, Cheshire, you know you’re the only cat for us,” Sans singsongs, coming up to pet you as well, and you simply bury your face back in Papyrus’ hoodie with a low, discontent growl. No, you are not happy to hear that, stop purring for star’s sake you’re supposed to be embarrassed- “Alright, alright, let’s stop teasing our poor cat. I don’t think they can take much more. It must be overwhelming to receive such affection from the Magnificent Sans!”

You’ll bet anything that he’s posing right now- yep, that’s a pose, you feel a thousand times better already and now you can blame your purring on that. Sans gives you an audible wink- as in he literally says the word “WINK!” the way he makes the kissing sound effect, you can’t believe there exists someone on this planet as adorable as him- and adds, “We must go find you a suitable collar! Onwards!”

Papyrus snorts as he tears off like an excited child towards the front of the store. He offers you another quick pet and trails after Sans, the slightest hint of a smirk still on his face. You’re just grateful that he doesn’t say anything about the other cat as you gradually follow behind.

The counter worker has puttered up to Sans and seems to be on the receiving end of one of his excited ramblings, if the awkward smile on their face and Sans’ loud voice and wild gestures is any indication. You can’t help but snort at their stiffness, and you can hear Papyrus chortling above you as he wanders over. Sans hears this and immediately turns to you, lowering his voice. “Ah! There you two are! I was just telling this kind human about Cheshire!” He gestures to you proudly.

“Oh!” they say, and the look a little relieved to see you. Seems they knew how to deal with pets better than rambunctious skeletons. “Well, hello there beautiful! Wow, you weren’t kidding, they’ve got lovely eyes,” the worker murmurs, reaching their hand out for you to smell. You oblige them, giving them a cursory sniff. Not a bad scent, all in all, if you ignore all the weird animal smells. You lean into their hand and purr. “Aww, and they’re so friendly!”

“Aren’t they?” Sans enthuses, still so very proud of you, and you shoot him an affectionate glance that he returns with a grin. He turns back to the worker. “We’re looking for a collar! It has to be at least as great as I am!”

“Impossible,” Papyrus immediately pipes, and you twist to see the fond look he shoots his brother. “Nothin’ in this store could be as great as you are, bro. ‘Cept maybe our cat.” Here he shoots you a wink, and you wither bashfully into his hoodie, fur fluffing again. Why? Does he have to be so charming?

Sans hums thoughtfully. “You are absolutely right, brother. We are both very great. I suppose we’ll just have to settle for second best, hmm?”

“Well,” the worker cuts in awkwardly, and you get the feeling they might be a little overwhelmed with your group. Whoops. “We certainly have some cute collars that would look really good on them. Would you like help deciding?”

The three of you exchange glances. Papyrus shrugs, and when they glance at you, you simply flick an ear. You don’t care much either way. Sans turns to the worker and smiles. “I think we’ll be fine, but if we need help, I will be sure to call you, desk human!”

“Desk human” smiles wanely and excuses themselves back to the counter, looking like they might be experiencing an existential crisis. Sans is quick to turn his attention to the collar racks after that, with you and Papyrus following his lead. There are… certainly quite a few of them. A ridiculous amount, really.

“Ooh, bro, we gotta get ‘em this one,” Papyrus speaks up, reaching out to hold up a bedazzled pink collar. You and Sans recoil in unison, with Sans letting out an affronted “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” while you hiss at it.

“We are not doing that to Cheshire,” Sans adds with his own hiss, swiping the collar and setting it back with a grimace.

Papyrus grins. “What’s wrong with it? I thought it was purrfect.

No, Papyrus, whyyyy… You sort of expected it, of course, but you’d really been hoping… he’d been so good this trip too- not including the cat thing, you suppose. You squirm, reaching toward Sans pleadingly and letting out a pathetic mew. Sans immediately swoops in and steals you from Papyrus, who makes no move whatsoever to retain his grasp on you. “Now then. Time to get serious.”

 

You’re having deja vu. This is exactly like when they were trying to name you. Papyrus would choose increasingly ridiculous collars, occasionally decked out with puns, and Sans would find you more fitting collars: things that matched your attitude or eyes or whatever. You’d give a yes or no and you’d move on. Admittedly, you kind of liked some of Papyrus’ choices, like the orange one with the fish on it. Too bad he’d ruined it by commenting about how fishy it looked. And okay, not all of Sans’ choices were the most sensible- he really liked the spiked collars, going on about how cool you’d look, but it was a firm “no” for you. Those things were uncomfortable for everyone.

You also couldn’t help but notice that they kept choosing collars with either bells or bones on them, and you had to admit, that was pretty adorable. It was like they wanted you to match them. Which, let’s be honest, you’d be fine with.

Surprisingly, it was Papyrus who found the one you liked the most. It was a soft blue color, like Sans’ bandana or eyelights, and printed with little orange fish skeletons and, of course, a bell. They were both a little surprised when you reached for it, mewing excitedly, but they were quick to put it on you and see how it looked.

“Papyrus,” Sans breathed, sounding amazed as he examined you. “This is perfect. You did amazing, bro. I’m so proud of you.”

What was this? Sans using more slang? He sounded a lot more like Papyrus when he talked like that, you noticed. It was really cute.

Papyrus was pretty cute too, blushing that light orange color you’d only rarely gotten to see and scratching the back of his head. “Thanks, brother. I didn’t think they’d like it so much, nyehehe…” A blush and a nyeh?! Today was a blessed day. He was quick to deflect the situation, visibly trying to beat down his pleased blush. “Anyways, we should go get it bought and everything…”

“Oh!” Sans perked up, gently removing it. “You’re absolutely right, Papy! And we have to get them a tag, in case they get lost!” He grinned down at you. “That way you can always come back home, right?”

I always remember the way home, you remember saying, and you purr as you butt your head against his. You suppose it didn’t hurt to have a little extra precaution.

 

The counter worker brought you back to the shop where they printed the brothers’ information on the tag, which was a surprisingly quick process. Unsurprisingly, they’d chosen a bone tag, and even though the worker gave them a strange look ( you do know that’s a cat, right?) they got it engraved and hooked on the collar. The brothers thanked them and paid for everything, including a personalized water bowl and a cat tower, courtesy of Papyrus who had run back to get it. You made sure to give him a lick for that.

They stopped outside the shop to put the collar back on and then you were on your way home. You were exhausted from the long day, but it wasn’t even night yet. Papyrus was talking about taking naps, and you were inclined to agree. Maybe you could sneak one while Sans made dinner…? Worth a try, and you’d be willing to bet that Papyrus would join you.

It felt… weird, to wear the collar. Not bad exactly, but… weird. You can’t remember if you’ve ever worn one before, but feeling it, seeing your name on it… it felt so final. So permanent. You hadn’t had a “permanent” place in… decades. Maybe centuries. You’ve been running, hopping from place to place so much, that you’ve never considered… staying. Having somewhere you could really call “home.”

Did this mean you couldn’t visit the others? No… you didn’t see why not. This collar, this name, that all belonged to this skin. “Cheshire” was… just another form. Another place to escape to. Nothing was permanent. You didn’t have to be tied to them. You just… had connections with them! Yes. Just like any other family.

...But what would they do when you left? They expected you to stay, that much was obvious, but you just couldn’t. You’d lose yourself if you stayed too long. And there were others who loved you too, you couldn’t just leave them!

It would be fine. Everyone else had gotten used to your wandering, the brothers would as well. It was just like any other family. No problem.

“I’m so happy we’ve finally gotten everything sorted out, Cheshire,” Sans abruptly murmures, arms tightening slightly around you. You feel him lean down, pressing his teeth to your crown. “We’re finally a real family. Isn’t that wonderful?”

You twist around, gently licking the bridge of his nose and purring as he giggled at you. Yes, it was pretty wonderful.

Chapter Text

You’re woken up at five in the morning by the sound of pounding footsteps. As you crack your eyes open, you wonder moodily why on earth Sans would be out of bed two hours early, already running on his treadmill- because you know that that devil machine sounds like intimately now. It’s a Sunday for Pete’s sake, he doesn’t even have work! And it’s colder than normal, so either he’s running the fan or the window has been cracked open, and you don’t know which one is worse.

A yawn rises in your throat and you sit up to stretch, but a small jingling sound makes you pause. You sluggishly reach a paw up to bat the little bell attached to your collar, focusing on its foreign weight around your neck. It’s not uncomfortable by any means, but it’s there, and it drives home the reality of the situation.

Yesterday really happened. You’ve got a name, a collar, and a new family. It’s a rather strange thought, but not an entirely unpleasant one. You give a little purr, lightly batting the bell again and delighting in the little ringing noise it makes. You could very easily get used to this…

The devil machine in the corner beeps as it speeds up, and you finally look over at him. Sans is dressed in a loose tank top and short jogging shorts, with a… is that a sweat band? That’s a sweat band. You’ve never seen him in anything other than tee shirts or his work uniform. This is weird.

There’s a haggard, exhausted expression on his face, and it looks like despite the speed the machine is set to, Sans is flagging. Hmm. He must have been at this for a while, then; he’s usually right on time. You don’t think you’ve ever seen him work out this hard, which is… really saying something.

A soft creaking noise catches your attention, nearly drowned out by Sans’ thundering feet. Your ears twitch, swivelling to the door, and you blink at it curiously, suddenly more awake. Papyrus is leaning in, one hand on the door knob. He winks when he catches your eyes and presses a finger to his smiling teeth, then gestures to Sans with the same finger. Finally, he beckons you towards him and sneaks away from the door.

Oh Papyrus, your hero! Your white knight! You’re quick to accept the escape route, slipping down to the floor on the other side of the bed and crouching, making yourself as small and silent as possible. You have no doubt that if Sans catches you, you’ll be made to exercise with him, and with how rigorously he’s he’s going this morning, you’d rather sneak away while you could still move.

You slip out of the room without any opposition and take a moment to assess your surroundings. Papyrus appears to have disappeared, likey retreating down the stairs once more to inhabit the couch. You’re about to follow his lead and scope him out- and, probably, catch a nap with him- when something catches your eyes.

The permanently-closed, mysterious door and the entry to the only room you haven’t explored yet is peeking open.

Your heart leaps into your chest as you stare at it in mixed disbelief and awe. It feels like every sense in your body is angled towards the door. The familiar, warm scent of honey taunts you, and from here you can just glimpse a thoroughly-postered wall and the foot of a bed. The thrill and curiosity of exploring the mysterious, forbidden room is simply too tempting, and you find yourself gravitating towards it cautiously.

You pause every now and again, casting wary glances at the stairs. It seems too easy, too convenient- you feel like any moment now Papyrus will apparate in the doorway, smirking down at you. However, he never does. Maybe this is a sign of trust, a sign that he’s really accepted you into the family?

The doorway looms ever closer, and your paws prickle with anticipation. You can now make out a surprisingly clean room, set up much like Sans’, right down to the desk beneath the window. Unlike Sans’, however, Papyrus’ desk is home to a computer, which seems to be opened to some kind of… messaging app? (You’re pretty sure that’s the wrong word for the computer, but you don’t care.) His posters seem to primarily be star maps of some kind- you recognize some of the constellations from a previous family, like Cygnus and Orion. There are also strange posters with grids and messy criss-crossing lines you can’t even begin to make sense of. Something sciency, probably.

You stop short of the door, staring at the carpet (orange, like the rest of the house, you note absently). Somehow, this seems… unappealing. Wrong. You had ventured into Sans’ room unheeded because he’d invited you in, made it clear you were welcome, and never endeavoured to keep you out. He’d always been open with you.

Papyrus… he kept you at a distance. He was a deceptively quiet monster who kept his cards close to his chest. You didn’t feel as though he disliked you, of course- you fully believed him when he said they’d be there for you, and he didn’t seem like the type to pretend to be friends with someone.

You just weren’t close enough yet. Snooping now would be a breach of trust. If you ever saw his room, it would be because he’s invited you in.

Mind made up, you quickly turn for the stairs and creep down. While you’re a little disappointed at the missed opportunity, you also felt good about your choice. You liked Papyrus quite a lot, and you didn’t want to do anything to drive him away from you. You’d just have to try a little harder to get into his good graces.

No problem. You were way too likeable and adorable to withstand for long.

You find Papyrus reclining on the couch, as you expected. The TV was on, but Papyrus’ attention is on the phone in his hands, and you catch a glimpse of the same messaging app that was on his computer. He glances sideways a moment, looking troubled, and catches sight of you. His furrowed expression instantly gave way to a gentle smile, but you couldn’t help thinking it looked a little stiff still. “Mornin’, kitten. You were takin’ so long up there I thought you might’a got caught by Sans, heh.”

He pats his stomach area and you quickly take the invitation, hopping up onto his belly and curling up with a purr. Papyrus chuckles, giving you a scratch, and went back to reading whatever was on his phone. Occasionally he would type or stretch out to pet you. It’s mostly quiet, and between the white noise on the TV, Papyrus’ gentle touch, and your own exhaustion, you find yourself slipping back into sleep.

You’re almost out when Papyrus speaks up again, voice soft as his hand settles over your back. You can’t quite describe the tone. “So, you find anythin’ interestin’ up there?”

Well, that’s one way to wake you up. You raise your head slowly, giving him a tentative look as your heart pounds and your anxiety skyrockets. Does he know you were going to snoop? Is he mad? He doesn’t look mad; he’s still staring at his phone with a face as blank as his tone.

His focus shifts to you, and you suddenly feel very vulnerable. Your sins are crawling on your back, and you realize you haven’t given him an answer. His hand on your back is comforting and restrictive all at once.

You’re not even sure why you’re so nervous. You never actually went into his room. You didn’t really see anything you thought would be too personal, unlike discovering Sans’ memory box. Maybe you just felt guilty for considering poking around where you don’t belong.

You still have to give him some form of reply. What would convince him of your innocence when it appeared that he was staring straight into you? You decide to simply take a chance and risk his ire. Slowly, softly, you meow and shake your head, never taking your eyes off his.

His hand twitches and suddenly he’s back to smiling, and the intensity of his gaze softens. He chuckles and gives your chin a gentle scratch, and while the sense of tension has passed, you still feel a little wired. “Heh. Guess there wasn’t much up there to stick your nose into this time, huh kitten?”

You purr and lean into his hand, but you can't stop picturing that searching look in your mind. You already knew that there was more to this monster than he let on, but you feel like this has added another layer to the mystery.

What curious skeletons you keep company with.

“By the way, we've got some friends coming over today,” Papyrus adds quickly, like he's trying to move on from the previous encounter. You blink at him curiously as he grins at you. “S’what’s got Sans up so early and workin’ himself to the bone.” Cue dramatic wink and distant rimshot noises while you bury your head in his sweater and grumble. It's nice to know what's got him all worked up, however. Papyrus continues, patting your back. “Oh, and a fair warning. They're a little… intense. And there will probably be lots of shouting and throwing things and maybe a fire, never too sure with them…”

How can he say that so casually? What kind of people are coming to your house?! You give Papyrus a horrified look, and he's quick to reassure you. “They're really not bad people, they just tend to get a little excited real easily. Alphys was head of the Royal Guard underground, and Undyne was the Royal Scientist, so they're both uh. Pretty unique personalities. Combine that with Sans and, well… it’s a recipe for disaster.

...Somehow that’s a pun. You know it is, but you’re not getting it. Instead, you focus on the new names, although they sound familiar-

Oh! The fish and the lizard ladies from the pictures! Seems like you're actually going to meet them. You have mixed feelings about this. You’d sort of gathered from the pictures that they were a little on the wild side, but getting to see it would be an entirely different experience.

You were a little nervous, to be honest. Wild, aggressive people have always put you a little on edge. It’s not even the noise- although you had to admit, angry shouting still made your fur stand on end- it’s just the possibility of thrown things and… fire. Eugh. You hate fire with every hair on your pelt.

Papyrus is suddenly petting you again, the slow, gentle movement soothing you. You blink up at him and he winks at you. “Don’t worry about it, kitten. You can just hide inside with Undyne and I. She’s a little intense when it come to anime, but other than that she’s pretty chill. Heh, and super cool too. She’ll like you. Sound good?”

That sounded wonderful, actually. You pause a moment, then begin worming your way up Papyrus’ torso so you can rub your head against his jaw, purring loudly. Papyrus gives a little huff of laughter, the motion moving you slightly, and scratches your ears again. “Guess that’s a “yes,” then,” he muses, tilting his head a little to nuzzle you back. The gesture sends warm happiness through you and restores a sense of familiarity, causing you to purr louder as you lick his cheek. “Heh. You sound like a tired motorcycle.”

Mmm… you’d let that one go. Especially because you were tired. You take that moment to yawn again, and Papyrus smirks. “Yeah, me too kitten. Why don’t we catch a few “z’s” before Sans gets down here?”

Good plan. You liked that plan. You could totally do that. You yawn again and curl up, pushing your head up under his chin pointedly. Papyrus lets out a drowsy chuckle, resting his hand back over you gently. You purr again and close your eyes, already beginning to drift to sleep once more.

Before you fall asleep, you feel a pair of teeth press into your crown and hear a whispered, “Sleep well, Cheshire.”

 

You’re woken by the soft exchange of voices some time later. You crack one eye open, glancing over curiously, and you catch a glimpse of blue. Seems Sans has finally come downstairs, decked out in a new pair of workout clothes and looking refreshed. He must have taken a shower and changed at some point.

“Oh! You’re awake!” he exclaims softly, though he’s a little louder now that you’re up. You pick your head up and peek at him, purring at his apologetic smile and the dusting of blue on his cheeks. “I’m very sorry if we woke you!”

Eh, you’ve already forgiven him. You mew and stretch towards him, wordlessly asking for pets. You’re rewarded by a fond chuckle as he strokes your ears and nose. Another hand lightly strokes your spine and Papyrus abruptly joins the conversation. You’d forgotten you fell asleep on him. “I don’t think it bothered ‘em all that much, bro. They’re a real cool cat.

You and Sans make matching disgusted faces, and Sans scoops you up, cradling you protectively. “Never fear, Cheshire, I shall save you from Papyrus’ terrible puns!” he declares, darting to the kitchen with you. A little “mrow” of laughter escapes your, and you carefully hitch your claws into his shirt, watching Papyrus salute you over his shoulder. Silly skeletons.

He deposits you on the table with a careful pat on the head, then quickly moves on to start breakfast. You watch curiously as he pulls out several more pans than you’re used to seeing, setting them at various places on the counter. He flits around the kitchen, collecting ingredients for what you guess is pancakes, and you realize that he’s also doubled those. Seems your guests will be dining with you. You wonder how long you have to hide until they get here, if that’s the case.

“I trust Papy has already told you we have guests coming over?” Sans asks over his shoulder, cracking a couple eggs at a time into the bowl. You watch with wide eyes, in awe of the trick, and Sans chuckles, startling you from your stupor. He winks at you- not audibly, this time, you’re a little disappointed- and says, “Pretty neat trick, hmm? Alphys taught me how!” Stars appear in his sockets, and he briefly turns to you. “Oh, you’re going to love Alphys! She’s super cool, just like me, and she was Head of the Royal Guard! She taught me everything I know about fighting and cooking! And how to suplex boulders, just because!”

You’re not sure you want to know what a suplex is, but Sans looks happy, so you let it go. He turns back to the mix and continues to make the pancakes, talking all the while about Alphys. He tells you about how he got her to train him (you can’t believe he literally waited outside of her house all night just to talk to her. Talk about Determination…) and some of their escapades. It’s clear how much he looks up to her, because every word is spoken with fondness and admiration. He tells you what she’s capable of, and describes her “massively cool axe!!” with stars in his sockets the whole while. To be quite frank, it’s adorable.

He also tells you about Undyne and some of her work underground, like making Napstaton, who you already knew was his favorite performer of all time (and, coincidentally, the only performer in the Underground…). He makes sure to tell you all about Napstaton’s music and TV broadcasts and how “radical” he is. You haven’t heard anyone use the word “radical” unironically in years.

By this point, he’s got a decent stack of pancakes going, leaning precariously next to his elbow. He’s half-way through a story about the time Alphys tried to get him to use his magic to float her down the abyss in Waterfall- which of course, he explained to you beforehand- when a rather aggressive knocking from the front door startles you. A nervous glance at Sans reveals that the stars are back and bigger than ever as he grins at the door. “They’re here! PAPY, CAN YOU GET THE DOOR PLEASE?”

“Too far,” Papyrus complains from the living room, and you just barely catch a glimpse of his orange sweatshirt sleeve waving at the door weakly.

Sans scowls, putting a hand on his hip. “PAPY, I’M MAKING BREAKFAST! I NEED YOU TO GET THE DOOR!”

“But it’s so faaaar…” Above the sound of his whining comes a harsher knock on the door, and you hear its hinges rattle. Your ears pin and you crouch against the table, eyeing the doorway warily.

“DO YOU WANT TO HAVE TO REPLACE THE DOOR AGAIN, PAPYRUS?” Sans snaps, and you catch the scent of something burning. There’s smoke rising from the pan, but it goes unnoticed by Sans, who’s still staring sternly into the living room.

“Well, when you put it that way,” Papyrus drawls, finally rolling off the couch. The rattling noise grows louder and Papyrus yawns, waving a dismissive hand at it. “Yeah, yeah, I’m comin’...”

You meow loudly, hoping to catch Sans’ attention. The pancakes are turning an inedible black color that makes your stomach turn. Sans finally seems to smell the mess, because his eyesockets widen and he whips around to see the pancakes. You just barely catch sight of his eyes boggling as he clutches his head with both hands, comically wailing, “MY PANCAKES!”

It would be mean to laugh at that, wouldn’t it? That’s mean. You shouldn’t do that.

You’re doing it anyways.

As Sans hurries to try and salvage the pancakes- which you know for a fact are unsalvageable- your guests make a roaring entrance. Literally, as the lizard woman abruptly rounds the corner, bellowing, “SANS YOU PUNK GET OVER HERE!” She’s got a fierce grin on her face that seems like more of a snarl, showing off her large fangs.

You let out a yowl of fear and surprise, every instinct in your head screaming at you to get away from the angry dragon lady as soon as possible. Which you instantly follow because hey, that sounds like a really good plan right now, especially since she’s coming closer with large, stomping footsteps. You streak across the table, taking a flying leap off the wood and landing, miraculously enough, right in Papyrus’ arms. You latch on instantly, hooking your claws into his sweater protectively.

“Woah! Hey, you’re okay kitten, s’alright,” Papyrus murmurs, quickly bundling you up in his arms and moving further into the living room. He frowns down at you in confusion and worry, scratching your ears. “What’s got’ya so scared, honey?”

How do you communicate “big scary lizard lady” in cat to someone who doesn’t speak cat? You settle instead for just resting your head against his sternum and relaxing as his scent washes over you. Papyrus makes a little huffing noise. “Oh, I get it. Alphys gave ya’ a little startle, huh?” You nod. “Mm. Sorry, honey, should’a known she’d be a little riled up when she came in.”

“Um... Are they alright?” Your ears twitch at the new voice, and you hesitantly turn your head over your shoulder. The fish lady- Undyne, you remind yourself- is standing a little ways away from you and Papyrus, watching you worriedly. Her voice is gruff but softer than Alphys’, and that soothes you a little. She doesn’t seem as intense in real life, but looks can be deceiving. You’ll be on guard.

Papyrus gently scratches your chin and you tilt your head, melting into his arms. He chuckles softly. “They’ll be alright. Got a bit of a problem with loud, angry or sad voices. Nothin’ they can’t handle, right kitten?”

Sure, now that you’re somewhere safe. You can’t help but wonder if Sans saw you flee like a coward and really hope he was too busy to notice. You were trying very hard to keep up your “cool cat” reputation in this household, but you were failing miserably today…

Realizing you still had to answer him, you purr and stretch up to lick his chin. He grins at this, lightly ruffling your ears. “There’s my kitten. Brave little thing, ain’t they?” He directs this at Undyne, who you glance at and find already staring at you- curiously this time, and slightly analyzing.

“Yeah. Pretty smart, too,” she muses, adjusting her glasses and blinking at you. You can’t help but cringe away a little at her intense expression, wondering what she’s looking for. Suddenly, she claps and turns her attention to Papyrus again, offering him a toothy smile similar to the lizard monster in the kitchen- who is still yelling something indiscernible; you think you can hear Sans wailing “PLEASE DON’T NOOGIE THE SKELETON!!”- though significantly less intimidating and predatory. “Anyways! Papyrus, you said you had a cool movie to watch?” A sparkle appears in her eyes as she leans forward, hands clasped hopefully. “Is it a new anime? It’s been a long time since we watched anime together!”

Papyrus shrinks a little, a drop of light orange sweat forming on his brow. “Uh, no, sorry. Just a regular movie.”

Undyne pouts, shoulders sagging dramatically. “Aw, man! Too bad, last time we watched one it was super fun! Whatever! Next time, I’ll bring the anime!” she announces passionately, only to pause a moment later, a blush on her cheeks. “Uh. If you’re cool with that, that is. If not that’s totally cool too! It’s not that I don’t like normal movies or anything, it’s just that I found this really great anime recently about this guy who gets hit by a truck and ends up in another world and it turns out he’s actually the demon prince and he’s married to this other boy and-”

You try very hard to keep listening, but it’s incredibly hard when she just keeps going on and apologizing for the spoilers. Papyrus sets you down on the couch to dig through the movie collection while Undyne continues to ramble. You admire the fact that instead of ignoring her or interrupting her, Papyrus listens and engages when he can- which is not very often; this woman can talk- even though you’re completely lost. You have the feeling that he’s dealt with this pretty often.

Undyne abruptly stops talking, clapping her hands over her mouth as her fins pin. “Oh! I’m sorry, I can’t believe I just kept talking, haha, silly me! I’m so sorry, you must have been getting so bored- I didn’t want to bother you-”

“Undyne.” Papyrus finally interrupts, standing up straight to give her a firm but gentle smile. He crosses the room to set his hands on her shoulders, bringing her eyes to his- you realize that he’s actually much shorter than her, even when she’s hunched in on herself. “You’re not bothering me, and I’m not bored. It sounds pretty interestin’. Definitely bring it over next time, kay?”

She gives him a watery smile, though her fins have perked up. You’re a little startled when she sweeps him up in a tight hug, gripping him hard enough for his smile to strain. From your spot on the couch, you hear her bashfully mutter, “Thanks, nerd. I really appreciated that.”

“Anytime, Undyne,” Papyrus wheezes, worming one arm out so he can wrap it around her neck and give her shoulder an affectionate pat.

Oh dear. They’re so cute. Look at these nerds. You like Undyne a lot already.

She finally sets him back on his feet, giving him another shy smile. “Heh, sorry ‘bout that. I just needed a hug, I guess.”

Papyrus shrugs, smirking as they make their way over to the couch. He plops down next to you and draws you into his lap. “Well, y’know, skeletons make the best cuddle buddies.” He leans over, meeting your eyes as he scratches your chin. “Ain’t that right, kitten?”

Oh, most definitely. Especially big nerdy skeletons who pretend they don’t have a massive soft spot. You purr and lean towards him, rubbing your head against his. You hear Undyne give a muffled laugh, and when you look over, she’s watching with a cat-like grin peeking out from behind her hand. “You guys are so cute, I swear. I thought you were a dog person, Papyrus!”

“Yeah, well, kitten’s changed my mind,” he replies easily, scratching your chest now. You roll over, grabbing his hand and rubbing your head against it. You hear Undyne “aww!” in the background. Dang right, you’re adorable and you know it. “Heh. How can ya’ dislike cats when ya’ got one like this?” He gives you a little rub on your stomach, amused when you sprawl out further. He returns his attention to Undyne. “Wanna start the movie for me? Got my hands a little full here.”

“Sure,” Undyne snickers, reaching for the remote and navigating the controls expertly. “Want me to grab you some breakfast too?”

“Whatever’s left of it,” Papyrus quips, and they both share a giggle like it’s some kind of inside joke. She departs for the kitchen, and you roll upright again, watching her. “Heh. What’cha think of Undyne? She’s pretty cool, right?”

You mew and nod, tail twitching as you blink up at him. You definitely like Undyne. Much easier to be around. Papyrus chuckles again and pats you, and you both cuddle until she wanders back in, a blush on her face. Papyrus waggles his eyebrows at her teasingly and she gives an indignant squawk, nearly slamming the plates on the table and sitting down with an embarrassed huff. You look between the two in confusion, but no one explains anything further, so you just let it go. You have breakfast to eat, after all.

Papyrus is a little wary about giving you syrup, but after the honey debacle a week ago, that’s just fine with you. You simply eat yours plain, enjoying the fluffiness. You mew gratefully at Undyne, only to find her staring at you with her brows furrowed. Then, slowly, she asks, “I thought cats couldn’t eat pancakes?”

...This was news to you! And how on earth does she know that? Does she have a cat? You haven’t smelled it on her. Maybe she looked it up…?

Papyrus doesn’t seem fazed, although you’re staring back at her like a deer in the headlights. “Oh, yeah, it’s like I was tellin’ ya’. Kitten can eat a lotta stuff they don’t usually recommend for cats.” He ruffles your ears. “Their favorite breakfast is anythin’ egg, heh.”

You give Papyrus a wary look. What all has he been telling her, exactly, and why? Maybe this is just one of those cat owner things. Some of your families loved taking videos of you no matter what you were doing and showing them to friends. Apparently you had a… what did they call it, a “blob” or something? Who knows.

“Oh. Interesting,” Undyne chirps, and the stare she gives you now is more curious than anything. You’re starting to feel a little like an experiment.

Thankfully, however, the movie chooses that moment to start, and their attention is drawn to the TV. You lick your paws thoroughly, cleaning in between the toes for any remnants of the fluffy goodness, and the rub them over your muzzle to wash off. Once you feel substantially cleaner, you turn and evaluate the pair. They’re both focused on the movie, so you take a moment to weigh your options.

There’s always Papyrus. You’re more familiar with him, and you can usually read him pretty well. You know that an intrusion on his lap would be welcomed. But on the other hand, you like Undyne. She’s new, but she’s nice, and Papyrus seems close to her, and that’s enough to put her in your good books. Plus… she kind of reminds you when you were younger. You didn’t always used to be so friendly and outgoing like you were now.

You decide to just give it a shot. You make the short jump between the two and clamber fearlessly into her lap. Undyne freezes, a quiet, startled gasp coming from her. You ignore this and simply pace around her legs a few times, getting used to the feeling of flesh instead of bone under your paws. Suitably comfortable, you curl up, purring softly.

“Oh my gosh. Papyrus. Papyrus what do I do?” Undyne whispers anxiously, hands hovering several inches above you.

“Just pet ‘em, Undyne,” Papyrus whispers back, sounding amused. “They’re real friendly, they won’t bite or anythin’.”

“But how?” she hisses, and you suppose that answers your question. She has clearly never dealt with a cat before. What an honor that you’re her first experience!

Papyrus snickers. “It’s easy, I promise. You just gotta-” He reaches over, gently petting you, and you purr and move into his hand. “There. See? Easy. Jus’ do what I did. An’ scratch their ears or chin, they really love that.”

There’s a pause. Undyne makes a few uncertain noises, squirming slightly, and you sit patiently in her lap, purring and calm. You’re wondering if she’ll ever do it when suddenly, an unfamiliar hand touches you. It’s much different from the feeling of skin or bones you’re used to: her hand is warm but rough, with a weird scaly texture you’re not used to. It sort of feels like you’re being pet by one of those faux alligator products or something, but it’s not… bad. Just a little weird.

“Oh my gosh. I did it. I’m doing it!” she whispers, sounding so excited over her little victory. A breathy giggle leaves her as she uses the stubby claws on the ends of her fingers to scratch your ear, just like Papyrus told her to. You reward her with a louder set of purrs as you tilt your head into her hand, raising your head to encourage her to get your chin too. “Ahh, they’re so cute and fluffy! And they purr so loudly!”

Papyrus snickers, lightly pulling on your tail. You lazily slide it out of his grasp, letting it rest on the other side of you, and he reaches out to try and grab it again. You move it once more and he chases, movie forgotten for a moment. “Nyehehe, yeah, they’re pretty noisy for someone who doesn’t talk.”

“I’m so coming over more often to pet your cat, Paps,” Undyne announces suddenly. “I think I’m in love.”

“Don’t let Alphys hear you say that, ‘Dyne, she might be jealous,” Papyrus teases again, nudging her in the ribs, and you finally understand the joke earlier. So they’re together? That’s cute. You can see them being together- opposites attract and all that.

Undyne flushes and begins flailing her hands at him, but Papyrus leans away from her with a cackle. You scoot out to avoid being crushed or hit by their swats, but you don’t hop off. Instead, you simply turn to watch them play fight with one another, exchanging empty threats and insults and generally just being childish. Large smiles decorate both their faces, and sounds of “nyehehe” and “fuhuhu” and general adorableness fill the living room.

It fills you with glee to see see them having fun and just generally enjoying themselves. You could get used to this.

The movie drones on in the background, and eventually they calm themselves enough to settle back down and watch it. You sprawl across both their laps and receive absent-minded pets for your struggles, and you turn your drifting attention to the moving pictures as well.

Seems today might actually go more smoothly than you were anticipating.

Chapter Text

You waste several hours this way, alternating whose lap you sit on between the movies. They were entertaining to watch movies with, as they had a tendency to talk amongst themselves and make many comments. Their conversations were, quite frankly, hilarious, and sometimes they would even go so far as to pause the movie so they could have an in-depth conversation or debate about whatever they were watching. They made a game of throwing popcorn- which Undyne had kindly retrieved- at scientific inaccuracies.

For the most part you dozed and watched whenever something struck your interest, and of course you made sure to steal pets whenever the opportunity arose. Papyrus made a habit of tugging on your tail when you weren’t paying attention, grinning down at you cheekily when you twisted to glower at him. You were appalled when Undyne followed his lead, tugging on your ears or paws gently. They got a good laugh out of agitating you for most of a movie, snickering when you would squirm away and bat at them playfully.

Undyne had just started up another movie when Papyrus glances at the clock beneath the TV and frowns. “It’s been a while since they went out there. Shouldn’t they be back in by now? Sans is gonna wanna make lunch.”

This seems to deflate Undyne’s good mood, as she sighs and scratches your ears thoughtfully. “Dunno. Alphys… she’s had a pretty tough couple of weeks. Seems like everyone we talk to turns her down.”

Papyrus cringes sympathetically. “Yikes. That must be bugging her.”

Undyne nods, her fins drooping and her eyes gaining a distant look. “It is. It’s bugging her a lot. She pretends it doesn’t bother her, but it clearly does!” She let out another sigh, more frustrated this time, and her mouth curls into an imposing sneer. Her voice raises slightly, but it’s not the happy way she was shouting earlier. This speaks of a lot of pent up anger. “And she won’t talk to me about it! Every time she comes back from an interview and they’ve turned her down she just says she’s fine and then goes off to beat her punching bag! And she’ll talk to me about everything else, but every time I bring it up, she changes the subject!”

Her hands leave your pelt, burying in her hair. “NGAHHH! I wanna help her, Paps, but how am I supposed to do that if she won’t talk to me?” she demands, and her fire suddenly extinguishes. Her hands fall back into her lap and she slumps against the couch, muttering, “This is just like when we were, um. Back there. And she’d never talk to me about anything. About being in the Guard and all that.”

Oh no. Oh noooo, your new friend is unhappy! You absolutely will not be having this! Not in your house! You mew urgently, standing clumsily on your hind legs in your hurry. You plant your paws on her shoulders, prompting her to raise her head to give you a surprised look. You meow again, leaning forward and purring as you rub your head against her face. You have no idea if it’ll actually help her, but everyone appreciates being consoled by a cat, right? Some of your families insisted that petting cats was scientifically proven to be therapeutic!

Undyne and Papyrus both chuckle, though it sounds a little half-hearted coming from Undyne. She reaches up to scratch your chin, offering you a crooked smile. “Thanks, cat. I appreciate the effort…” She sighs, looking at Papyrus regretfully. “Sorry, Paps. Today was supposed to be fun, but I totally brought it down…” A rueful laugh as she rubs the back of her neck, giving him a sheepish grin. “Geez, I’m just the worst, huh?”

“You’re not the worst, Undyne,” Papyrus soothes again, reaching out and resting his hand on her shoulder. He looks sad, almost pained, like it physically hurts him to see his friend so distressed. Your heart immediately goes out to the big softy. “You’re just worried about Alphys, and you needed someone to talk to. I’m your friend, ‘Dyne, you can talk to me about this stuff.” He mimics her posture, leaning back into the couch with a drawn out sigh. “I’m worried about her too. I know how hard she’s been tryin’ to get any sort of job. To be turned down so many times… gotta be rough.”

You wish there were some way to multiply yourself. You can only stretch so far to comfort him, and you don’t want to leave Undyne’s lap. What a predicament.

You solve this by going ahead and flopping over so you land on Papyrus’ knee. He snorts, giving you an amused look, and you mew and rub your head on his leg. They’re both snickering again. Yes, good, that’s perfect. Laugh at your antics. Feel the happiness!

“I think your cat is trying to cheer us up,” Undyne giggles, her fins twitching upwards. It’s a slight movement, but it’s so similar to your own that you recognize the little motion with hardly any difficulty. You purr loudly, satisfaction curling in your chest. You’ll never get over how good it feels to make people smile.

Papyrus scratches your chin, giving you that warm, affectionate smile you like so much. “Heh. Yeah, looks like. Doesn’t surprise me much. They’re a softy. Ain’t that right, Fluffybutt?”

Really? You’re trying to be nice and cuddly and make them better and he decides to make fun of you? Rude.

... you’re really glad to see him smiling again-

The front door blows open at that moment, startling you badly enough to send you scrambling all the way into Papyrus’ lap and, without much thought, right up his sweatshirt. Papyrus splutters, saying something you can’t quite make sense of as you scramble around the small, warm space, finally just settling against his ribs. You notice, idly, that they’re heaving beneath you, and not for the first time you wonder why a skeleton breathes.

From outside your orange confines, you hear Sans and Alphys enter the living room. Alphys speaks up first. “Hey, PUNKS! We’re back, and we BROUGHT THE MEAT!”

“You went and, um, got Arby’s?” Undyne questions, and you can hear her get up to greet them.

Sans speaks up, a smile in his voice. “WE DID! WE WENT ON A RUN AROUND THE CITY TO WARM UP AND STOPPED TO PICK UP LUNCH!”

Warm up? “Running around the city” was a warm up? What did they do to actually train?! Papyrus made a good call this morning when he offered you a safe place inside…

Speaking of, Papyrus’ hands have come to rest on your back through the sweater, and he’s chuckling softly. “I, heh, I didn’t expect this, kitten. You’re a regular scaredy-cat ain’t ya?”

You rumble warningly, squirming upwards to push your head through the collar and give him a glare. As you ascend, you notice that he wriggles away when your paws hit certain spots. Is he ticklish? You definitely have to investigate that later.

Papyrus chortles at your expression, patting your head. “C’mon, kitten, ya know I’m just messin’ with ya. It was pretty funny ta’ see your fur poof out like that, though.”

“PAPY, WHY IS CHESHIRE HIDING IN YOUR SWEATSHIRT?” Sans abruptly returns from the kitchen, carrying two bags and frowning at you worriedly. Two drinks, surrounded in a blue aura, float along behind him as he heads over to the couch. He deposits the bags on the coffee table, the cups following soon after, and takes the seat Undyne had vacated.

“They wanted to cuddle,” Papyrus replied with an easy-going shrug, winking down at you. Of course that would be his excuse. You appreciate that he’s still trying to keep up your image- you don’t think Sans has realized yet that you’re an absolute wimp.

“Oh,” Sans murmurs, finally lowering his voice. He smiles down at you longingly. “I would offer you cuddles as well, but…” He glances down at himself, and you follow his gaze. He’s covered in grass and dirt, somehow, and a few rather obvious sweat stains. You can’t help but be amused as he shifts, adjusting so the stains aren’t as noticeable and blushing. “W-well! I am a little! Unhygienic??”

Psh, like that bothers you? You’d totally crawl right into his lap and demand for pets if it didn’t seem like he genuinely didn’t want you to get dirty. You were also very comfortable in Papyrus’ sweatshirt, and it seemed like he’d finally adjusted to having you rest there. You’d just be sure to give Sans extra cuddles tonight when he’d cleaned up a little.

Alphys and Undyne re-enter the living room, with Alphys hauling both their bags in the crook of one arm, while the other is slung around Undyne’s waist. Undyne, blushing furiously, carries both of their drinks, and she looks significantly happier with Alphys right there with her. You cannot get over how adorable they look together.

Papyrus and Sans scoot down, letting the couple squish in on the other side. It’s only a bit cramped- clearly this couch was made for large gatherings like this. You finally squirm back out of Papyrus’ sweatshirt, amidst a myriad of absolutely delightful squeaks and “nyeh”s from Papyrus as you hit more of his ticklish spots. Oh, you are definitely exploiting that at some point in the future. You clamber over so you can squish between the brothers, who chuckle and move their arms so you can lounge against their ribs more comfortably.

“So, what’re we watchin’?” Alphys is the first to speak, fishing around in her bag for a moment before pulling out a giant burger of some sort. You eye it incredulously, and your eyes widen as she sets it aside and pulls out another burger. She catches you watching, and a wicked grin crosses her face as she raises one eyebrow(?). “What’s a matter, punk? Never seen a girl eat before?”

She proceeds to unwrap the first burger and, not breaking eye contact, halves it in one bite. You watch, horrified, as she chews the meat far too vigorously and swallow it in nearly the same motion. What on earth? What do they train their guards to do Underground? Or is that just an Alphys thing?

“Oh, babe, you know you shouldn’t eat so fast,” Undyne scolds gently, a tender smile on her face as she grabs a napkin and wipes the corner of her girlfriend’s mouth.

Alphys, much to your amazement, flushes bright red at the gentle show of affection, and she replies with a bashful smile. “Sorry, sweetie. The punk’s cat was giving me a weird look.”

“Weird looks are Cheshire’s forte,” Papyrus drawls, taking a bite out of something golden and triangular. A horribly familiar amber liquid is leaking out the sides. When he sees you staring at him, disgusted but not surprised, he snorts, raising a hand to his mouth, and raises a brow ridge. “Shee? Jusht like dat,” he slurs through his mouthful, gesturing to you with his free hand.

Sans scowls, gently hitting his brother’s arm. “With good reason! You should not eat so many sweets; it’s bad for you! And all that honey!”

“Says the skeleton who ate nothing but tacos and burritos everyday,” Papyrus refutes lightly, with a pointed wave of his triangular food thing in Sans’ direction. “Besides, you’re the one who brought me to Muffet’s. And you bought me this, so you can’t complain about me eating honey.”

Sans blushes and fumes, moodily munching on his lunch, and you purr in amusement. Alphys pipes up again. “Hey, no one ever answered me! What’re we watching?”

“Action?” Sans offers instantly, and they both share a grin as Sans sets his lunch aside and gently ushers you off his lap. You hop back into Papyrus’ lap, and fall into the familiar routine of dodging him as he tries to coerce you into tasting the awful honey pastry. Alphys throws some suggestions to Sans, and of course Papyrus and Undyne automatically chime in with what they want to watch. Eventually they settle on some animated movie you haven’t even heard of (and they all argue over how you pronounce the studio’s name. You find this very amusing, even if you’re completely lost.)

Everyone settles in to watch it. You steal some of Papyrus’ fries- he feeds them to you, actually, and you catch Undyne giving you that thoughtful look again that you ignore- and settle back into place between him and Sans for another long hour.

 

Watching a movie with all four of them is… interesting. If you thought Undyne and Papyrus were talkative during movies, they had nothing on Sans and Alphys. The two were talking almost non-stop, pointing out and reacting to everything that happened. When it seemed like the main character would be in trouble, they would yell and encourage them, and they raged when a favorite side character died. Combined with Papyrus, who made a pun out of just about everything on the screen, and Undyne, who would occasionally squeal as Sans and Alphys’ movements jostled her, it was easily one of the noisiest movie nights you’ve ever been a part of.

Yet, despite this, it was fun. You enjoyed all the chatter and the jokes and the action and yeah, so you missed some important parts, but it didn’t bother you too much. You were having much more fun being part of their antics and just getting to be with them.

You were even getting used to all the screaming! And you had ventured into Alphys’ lap at least once! She had seemed surprised at first- after all, you’d done your best to avoid her the the whole time, but you were really starting to warm up to her, and after hearing how much she’d been struggling, you couldn’t help but want to help her a little.

So you’d crawled over during one of the lulls and curled up, practically melting into her lap. She was like a personal heater! She practically radiated warmth! You had purred and sprawled out further, soaking up as much of her warmth as you could, and she had snickered and reached out to run her blunt claws through your fur. Her scales had a texture almost like Undyne’s, but much rougher and warmer. It was a little hard to stand at first, and you had to wriggle onto your stomach- she’d been getting uncomfortably close to your underbelly, and as much as you wanted to get to know her better, you weren’t that friendly with her yet.

And then she’d nearly thrown you off her lap when one of the action scenes started and in her fervor she’d abruptly stood, and that was the end of that. You licked her hand when she apologized- and she was genuinely sorry about it, you could tell- and stalked back over to Papyrus to ease your nerves. He’d chuckled, but obligingly took to stroking you until you were calm again.

As much fun as you were having, it feels like it ended too quickly. As soon as the movie ends, Alphys hops up and stretches in an entirely too aggressive manner. “Whoo! That was fun, but it’s time for the two of us to get back to training, Sans!” She points dramatically at Sans, a challenging gleam in her eyes. “I wanna rematch for last time, cheater!”

“I won through totally legitimate means,” Sans defends with the same competitive grin. He stands smoothly, one hand perching on his hip while the other returns her gesture. “HOWEVER! I WILL NEVER SAY NO TO A FIGHT! LET US DUEL!”

Alphys laughs boisterously- it’s really more of a roar than a laugh, in your opinion. “THAT’S THE SPIRIT! I’ll be in your backyard when you’re ready to GET YOUR BUTT HANDED TO YOU!”

She takes off without giving him a chance to respond, thundering through the house to the back door. You all watch her go in silence, which Papyrus breaks by inquiring, “Aren’t ya gonna go after her, bro? Defend your honor and all that?”

“OF COURSE I AM!” he declares grandly, turning to smirk at him. His smile softens as he kneels, addressing you warmly. “But Cheshire, I was wondering if you would like to watch Alphys and I battle! I promise you that I will keep you safe.”

You… don’t know how you feel about that. On the one hand, you’re curious what he can do, but on the other… you have a feeling this won’t just be a little spar. You trust Sans, and you trust him to keep you safe, but you don’t quite trust Alphys. And Sans is great, but he can’t prepare for everything. There’s a high chance that someone could get hurt in a magic battle, even if the intent isn’t to harm. You would know all about that, and though you don’t want to think about those times, you can’t stop yourself.

Maybe… maybe you could just pop out for a bit. See some of what he could do and then head back inside and not have to worry about it anymore. Papyrus would cover for you if you did, you knew, and Sans would probably understand. You didn’t think Alphys would really care one way or another.

Why not? You were all for taking chances. Risks made life fun, didn’t they? You purr, leaning forward to bump your head against his. Sans chuckles softly, scooping you up with an excited grin. The stars you love are back in his sockets. You made a very good choice. “Excellent! I’m very excited to show you what I’m capable of. And you’ll get a chance to see what Alphys can do! I learned most of what I know from her, so I can assure you that it will be a sight you’ll never forget!”

Oh, you had no doubt about that. You meowed again, settling into his arms for the short ride out to the back.

Alphys was stretching when you arrived, muttering something to herself. You could tell from her expression that it wasn’t anything good, but as soon as she heard you two exit the house, she looked up and gave Sans that toothy smirk. “‘Bout time! I was wondering if you’d chickened out!”

“Of course not! I simply had to get Cheshire!” Sans returns, gesturing with a tilt of his head down to you.

She raised an eye ridge, staring first at Sans and then down at you in his arms. “Uh… You sure that’s a good idea? I mean. A battle ain’t exactly the safest place for a little cat.”

“I will look after them, of course,” Sans soothes, gently setting you down at his feet. You licked his hand as he pulled away, and he ruffled your ears briefly before standing upright and strolling towards her.

Her smirk returned and she stood to greet him challengingly. She was just taller than Sans, but he didn’t let that intimidate him, standing with his hands on his hips and his feet firmly grounded a few feet apart. “Fine. Just don’t let it distract you, kid; I won’t go easy on you!” she declared with a threatening sneer.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Sans shuffled backwards slightly, and a glistening white bone materialized in his hand. He shifted again, one leg slightly bent, and brought the bone up across his chest. “READY WHEN YOU ARE, ALPHYS!”

Alphys took a few steps back herself, mimicking his stance, and with a flick of her wrist, an axe manifested itself. Your eyes went wide. It was nearly as big as she was! And she was twirling it in one hand, effortlessly! You couldn’t believe the strength in this monster.

She abruptly stopped spinning it, grasping the handle with both hands and brandishing it at Sans. This seemed to be some kind of cue, as Sans suddenly sprung into motion, waving the bone club in his hand ruthlessly. Alphys caught it with the edge of her axe without even flinching, taunting, “Is that the best you can do?”

She shoved him backwards as another bone flickered into life in his other hand. She lunged at him, but Sans crossed the bones in front of himself, catching her swing in a mirror of her earlier actions. They struggled against one another, with Sans leaning his weight into her attack. As they strained, Sans abruptly spoke up. “I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU WOULDN’T HOLD BACK! WHAT’S THE MATTER, ALPHYS?”

“‘Holding back’, huh? I’ll show you, punk!” One hand was flung to the side, the air shimmering as another axe began to materialize. She didn’t get far, however, as a row of white bones suddenly sprung up from beneath her, knocking into her wrist and the semi-formed handle. Alphys let out a roar of surprise, flinching back from the attack, and Sans took that moment to swing at her face.

You and Alphys flinched at the same moment. Sans was ruthless! You hadn’t expected him to attack with such vigour! You watched as they danced away from each other, keeping their weapons drawn and their gaze locked on each other.

Sans was talking again. “THAT WAS A LITTLE SLOPPY, ALPHYS. ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE ALRIGHT?” He dodged a smaller axe thrown at his head. “YOU HAVE BEEN A LITTLE SLOPPY ALL DAY, ACTUALLY! I HAD TO FISH YOU OUT OF A BUSH ON OUR RUN, AND-”

S-STOP TALKING AND FIGHT ME!” Alphys roared, lunging at him and swinging her axe wildly. Your breath catches in your chest and you find yourself on your paws, pelt prickling in alarm. She looks… she looks really, really mad. You have no idea what it was that Sans said that set her off so bad. “I’m fine!”

Sans dodged all of her swings with a practiced ease, occasionally parrying her blows and lunges with his own attacks. His eye ridges were drawn down in a serious, thoughtful expression. Another row of bones sprouted from the ground in front of him as Alphys charged once more, knocking her back. Sans leapt over the wall, landing with a foot on either wrist. “ALPHYS, I AM YOUR FRIEND. YOU CAN TALK TO ME ABOUT WHATEVER IS BOTHERING YOU.”

“I-I keep telling you, I’m f-fine! Get… get off of me!” she growls, straining to push herself up, and for a moment it looked like she might succeed. She managed to free one arm, grabbing hold of his leg to throw him off, but went rigid suddenly. A small noise sounded from them, and her body slammed back against the ground, shocking her into immobility. Above her chest floated a blue, upside down heart. “S… Sans, you cheater, l-let go of me r-right now!” she sputtered, trying to struggle, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t seem to get up.

“YOU ARE CLEARLY NOT FINE,” Sans denies, frowning as he shifts off of her. “YOU ARE STRUGGLING, AND AS YOUR FRIEND I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT IS BOTHERING YOU SO BADLY THAT IT HAS YOU STUTTERING.” He kneels, offering her a bittersweet and understanding smile. “IS IT YOUR JOB HUNTING?”

“Stop. Asking. About. My JOB HUNTING!” She snarls, struggles doubling. “Stop a-asking me if I’m fine! S-stop- Stop telling me I’m not- I’m not doing good enough!” You and Sans both watch, startled, as angry tears well up in her eyes. “ Don’t you think I know that? D-don’t you- don’t you think I’ve- I’ve heard it a m-million times?”

The blue heart hovering above her fades away. She shoots upwards, one hand smacking the ground hard enough to send chunks of earth flying. The other wipes viciously at her eyes and nose, but it does nothing to stem her tears. “I k-know I’m not- not good enough for a job! I-I’m loud, a-and I’m- I’m vulgar, a-and I’m mean and I’m- I-I’m scary-lookin’ and- and I’m a monster! I’m bad f-for business! I-I get it, okay?!” Her claws cup her eyes, hiding her face as she curls in on herself. Muffled by her hands over her snout, you hear her keen. “I get it. ‘M useless an’ I’m… I’m holding her back!”

Her head snaps up, facing Sans, and the agonized expression on her face breaks your heart. “Undyne… she g-got… she got a, a job, r-right off the bat! She’s working s-so, so hard, and I’m trying, I’m trying, but I ne- I never get anywhere!” She snarls angrily, hitting the ground again, and sparks of yellow surround her fingers. “I-I’m SO USELESS, AND I’M SICK OF IT!”

You can’t watch this any longer. This is physically paining you. You scamper over, meowing urgently, but she doesn’t look up from her claws. You settle for just rubbing against her arm, purring loud enough to make your body vibrate, and licking her wrists gently. You sit next to her, curling your tail over hers and continuing to nuzzle her persistently. She trembles next to you, taking deep, shaky breaths, trying to stop anymore tears from escaping.

Sans shuffles over on his knees, squeezing in close to you. He reaches out, resting a gentle hand on her shoulder. His voice and expression are serious but full of tenderness. “Alphys. You are not useless. You are not vulgar. You are not mean. You’re… admittedly a tiny bit scary.” Alphys gave a weak chuckle, her trembling easing slightly. Sans’ expression lightened a little, clearly relieved by this reaction. “You are Alphys, the Head of the Royal Guard. You are strong and passionate and determined! You never let anything get in the way of doing what you think is right! You are everyone’s hero, Alphys, especially mine!”

This prompts another watery laugh from her, and she raises her head, sniffling slightly as she delivers a weak punch to his arm. “You’re such a sap, punk.”

“I may be a sap, but I am also right,” he teases, and she gives him another light punch.

He chuckles, and then grows serious once more, reaching out to grab her other shoulder and angle her towards him. “Alphys. You are not alone. You have Papy and Ms. Toriel and Asgore and I; and, most importantly, you have Undyne.” He narrows his sockets at her. “And I am willing to bet that you have not talked to her about this, knowing you.”

She looks away, a blush rising on her scales, and nods sheepishly. Sans snorts, affectionate but exasperated. “I knew it. Talk to her, Alphys! Let her know what is going on and how you are feeling! Let her help you with your problems! That is what you do for her, is it not?” Another nod. “That’s what I thought. Let her support you, Alphys- let us all support you! Me and Papy and Ms. Toriel and Undyne and even the humans!” He glances down at you, and gives you a quick pat. “And Cheshire, of course. They’re good at comforting people.”

“They’re just as sappy and cuddly as you are, nerd,” Alphys agrees, awkwardly scratching your ears and grinning at you. You purr in reply, rubbing your head against her hand and puffing your chest out. It feels good to help her.

She heaves a sigh and returns her gaze to Sans, grinning a little more sincerely. “Seriously, thanks, Sans. You’re, uh. You’re probably right. I should talk to Undyne.” Her grin turns savage as she reaches out, grabbing him in a headlock and rubbing the top of his skull aggressively. “Where’d you get so good at handling people, huh, you big baby?!”

“PLEASE DON’T NOOGIE THE SKELETON!” Sans cries, eyes boggling out of his head as he tries to struggle out of her grip.

Alphys all but roars with laughter, seemingly coming back to her normal attitude. “I’LL NOOGIE THE SKELETON ALL I WANT, NERD!” She stands up, still holding him, and declares, “Now get ready for a FRIENDSHIP SUPLEX!”

You scramble out of the way, watching in amused horror as she transfers her grip to his waist and bends backwards, laughing as Sans yells at her. As soon as she straightens up and lets him go, he dances away from her and brandishes a bone, and their training resumes once more.

“Heh. Looks like it all turned out good, huh?” Papyrus asks, suddenly at your side, and you yowl in surprise and leap away from him. He snickers as you turn your wide, angry gaze up to him. “Pfft. Sorry, kitten, didn’t know I’d rattle you quite so bad.”

Uggggh, why did he come outside? As you glower at him, Undyne wanders out, watching the two monsters fight with the same sense of delighted warmth Papyrus sometimes gives you. You glance at the dueling friends just in time to see Alphys catch sight of Undyne and flush that brilliant ruby red, right before Sans uses her distraction to clock her across the face. You cringe, but you can’t help laughing a little. What an interesting relationship.

You sit back and watch them tear up the yard, Papyrus and Undyne muttering jokes at your side. Somehow, even in this hectic moment, you can’t help but feel at peace.

 

The couple ends up staying for dinner, which Sans is more than happy to cook for everyone. He lets Alphys into the kitchen to help, but from the sound of it, he still does most of it, while he relegates the safer tasks like getting water to her. You wonder if anyone in this house can actually cook.

You all pile back onto the couch for a few more movies- anime found on Netflix, this time, just for the girls- and waste the rest of your evening vegetating. You’re sad when they finally announce that they’re leaving, but as you take in the way they hold hands and the significant looks they shoot each other, you can’t help but feel accomplished. Even though you didn’t really do anything, you felt that you’d helped them work out their issues.

They gave the skeletons several bone-crushing hugs- Papyrus’ words, naturally, not yours- and, in Alphys’ case, a suplex. Then, surprisingly, they said goodbye to you.

Undyne was the first to scoop you up, smiling at you softly. “It was, uh, nice to meet you, Cheshire. You’re just like Papyrus said you were. Keep looking after these boneheads, okay?”

You mewed the affirmative, purring as Sans protested. Undyne chuckled and set you down, giving you a quick scratch under the chin. Alphys stepped forward next, handling you a little more roughly. You tolerated it all the same- you were pretty used to it by now, after all. “Yeah, you’re pretty cool, for a cat. Even if you were, like, totally terrified of me for the first half of the evening!”

Ah crap, she noticed? Well, you suppose you hadn’t made it that hard to tell. She snickered at your expression. “Relax, cat, I’m not mad or anything.” She paused, shifting you into one arm and scratching the back of her head. “And, hey, uh… Thanks. F-for, uh, y’know. Tonight. It was nice of you to try an’ help out. So… yeah.”

Aww… You weren’t surprised that she was secretly a big softy. Seemed like all of them were. You mewed and craned up, rubbing your head against her cheek. She startled slightly, clearly not expecting the sentiment, but relaxed quickly, reaching up to pet you again.

It was official. Alphys had joined your list of good creatures. You licked her to let her know this.

Alphys made a disgruntled face that sent the others into cackles, handing you off to Papyrus and scrubbing her cheek. They exchanged one more round of goodbyes, and then the two were gone, disappearing into the night.

What a day. You were absolutely exhausted, passing out right there in Papyrus’ arms.

You hoped everything worked out for Alphys.

Chapter Text

You’re cowering in the shadows of the laundry room, body tense and quivering. Your ears are pricked, straining for any sign of your pursuers, eyes wide open and fixed on the door. Your heart pounds in your head, your breathing labored but quiet. You cannot let them find you. If they find you it’s all over. You don’t even want to think about what happens when- if!!- they get you.

Footsteps. Your breath catches and you push yourself further behind the washing machine, just barely peeking out around the edge. Lint and dirt clings to your pelt, but you couldn’t care less. You press yourself further into the dusty corners, silently thanking the dust bunnies for giving you a place to hide.

The footsteps stop. Your chest is beginning to ache, and you realize you never exhaled. You breathe out slowly, and the door creaks open, squealing ominously. You’re quick to duck back, freezing as you hear the first creeping footsteps. They prowled into the room, cooing, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,” in a sweet, coercing voice that made you shudder, lips curling slightly.

They traverse further in, giving quick glances behind the dirty clothes basket- still full- and under the chair. You curl up as much as you can, barely daring to breath and closing your eyes tightly. Please don’t let them see you, please don’t let them see you, please don’t let them see you-

You can hear him breathing. He’s clearly right next to you, peering into the darkness you’ve hidden yourself in. You don’t dare move, even to shiver, forcing yourself to be as still as possible. Your pelt prickles under his gaze and you swallow thickly. You want to make a run for it, but if you move now, he’ll catch you, and it’ll be all over!

Finally, he makes a frustrated huff, and you can hear him mutter in frustration as he retreats. You wait until he’s gone to release your breath in a great, relieved whoosh. You really thought he had you there for a few moments. He was looking for so long…

You creep out from behind the machine, sweeping the area warily. You don’t see any signs of him. You’ll bet he went down the hall to check if you tried hiding by the stairs. You congratulate yourself on your little victory, though you know it’s too early to celebrate. You have to relocate before he comes back and make sure to stay out of his clutches until he gives up.

You could probably spare a few moments to clean yourself off a little, right? You’re absolutely filthy, covered in lint and other weird particles. It’s nothing a quick tongue bath won’t fix, and though you don’t exactly like the taste of dust, there’s not much you can do about it.

Nodding to yourself, you twist your body, running your tongue over your pelt and cringing. You’re definitely gonna have to drink some water after this- you can already feel the hairballs coming on. Disgusting. Maybe you should get Papyrus to get you a brush or something, this was gross. You can’t complain too much, of course, it’s better than-

A pair of hands seize you around your waist, too fast for you to comprehend. You yowl in dismay are you’re lifted into the air, twisting to try and free yourself. It’s no use, however: the hands have an unbreakable grip on you, and it’s clear that they’re not letting you go until they’ve achieved their nefarious purposes.

“MWEHEHEHE! CHESHIRE, I THOUGHT YOU WOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TO RELAX WHILE THE CHASE WAS AFOOT!” crows your captor as you slump in his grip, resigning yourself to your fate. Sans twists you so you’re face to face, and you unleash the full force of your irritated glare on him. He snickers at your expression, tucking you into the crook of his arm and petting you. Rather patronizingly, you think. “Now, Cheshire, there’s no need for such dirty looks! You knew this would happen sooner or later.”

That did not mean you had to like it! You growl softly, slinking further into his arms as Papyrus comes into view, smirking at the sight of you. You are not ready for the teasing he is no doubt about to unleash on you. “Hey, you caught ‘em. Nice job, bro.” He wanders over, snorting as he takes in the sight of you. “Wow, kitten. Y’look more like a bunny than a cat at this point.” He picks a piece of lint off of you, winking when you growl at the unspoken pun. Yes, you are a dust bunny, ha ha, he is so funny. You are amused.

No you’re not. Papyrus knows it. He chuckles again, patting you, before he addresses Sans, clearly still obnoxiously amused. “I got it all set up for ya, Sans.” He looks you dead in the eye, adding, “Bubbles ‘n all.”

You think you might have just died a little inside. This is terrible. This is the worst possible thing. Why do they insist on doing this to you.

“Excellent! Thank you, Papy!” Sans, ever chipper, exclaims, already carting you upstairs. He gives you an affectionate squeeze. “You’re going to be in top shape in no time, Cheshire!”

Uggggh. You’ll take being a grungy street rat over getting a bath, of all things.

This all started yesterday, when Sans came home nearly bursting with excitement. He’d practically kicked the door open (there was no practically about it; he had in fact kicked it open, and there was a nice little dent where the knob had hit the wall to prove it) and yelled, “I HAVE WONDERFUL NEWS!”

You’d poked your head out from Papyrus’ sweatshirt, which you had now dubbed your safe space against all things loud and scary, to peek at him curiously. Seeing that it was just Sans and not, in fact, a murderer, you’d promptly slipped out of his sweatshirt and meowed loudly, padding over to greet Sans. He’d lit up, scooping you up so you dangled over his head as he beamed at you. “I did it! I convinced my boss to let you come with me to work!”

Oh! That was wonderful news! Sans had been trying so hard to get her to agree, and it’d finally paid off! You weren’t surprised; Sans was notoriously determined. You’d purred happily, craning forward in his grip to nuzzle his nasal ridge with your nose. He giggled, returning the affectionate cuddle and bringing you closer so you could rub your face over his skull.

“Nice job, Sans,” Papyrus piped up from the couch, watching you two with a small grin. “So I take it Kitten’ll be goin’ with ya to work tomorrow?”

“That’s right!” He gave you another nuzzle, then pulled away to give you a boop on the nose. “Which means that I’ll be giving you a bath first thing in the morning!”

So of course when he woke up this morning and tried to bring you to the bathroom, you wriggled away and found somewhere to hide. You’d actually managed to evade the brothers for at least an hour before they caught you in the laundry room.

“I really hope that we’re not late,” Sans frets, nudging the door open with his foot, and you cringe a little to yourself. You hadn’t even considered that. All you’d been thinking about was getting away from the water. You kind of regretted giving them so much trouble now… even if it meant staving off the inevitable a little longer.

Or at least, you regret it until you’re in front of the bathtub, staring down at the bubbly white monstrosity. You know that lurking below the tower of playful, fluffy foam lies a horrible wetness that you have no desire to come in contact with. Your ears pin as you curl in on yourself, and you give Sans the most pleading look you can manage. Is he really going to make you go in there? Really?

Sans gives you an apologetic look, catching onto your distress easily. He gently scratches your chin, sweetly soothing, “I know you don’t want to do this, kitten, but we have to. You will feel much better once you are clean. And! We can play a little, so it’s not so awful!”

Ugh, playing won’t do much, but you don’t want to fight him anymore and make him late. You utter a mournful mewl, and he pats you again before lowering you towards the bath. You tense as you come closer and closer, claws sliding out to grip onto his shirt reflexively. You stay out of the water for as long as you can, but soon you can no longer evade it. You cringe as you’re submerged, Sans keeping a gentle hold on you as he carefully pries your claws out of his shirt.

You’re up to your ears in bubbles, but the water level is actually much lower, allowing you to sit down without covering your head. The water itself is also pretty nice- not too hot, not too cold, but just the right temperature. And though you hate the feeling of being soaked, you have to admit, you like the addition of the bubbles. It’s kind of funny.

Sans snorts overhead as you shake yourself slightly, dislodging the bubbles so you can see him. His sockets crinkle as little stars form in his sockets, a dusting of blue on his cheeks as he covers his teeth. “Cheshire… you look adorable,” he finally manages, just barely holding back a laugh.

Oh yeah, you bet you look adorable. You grumble and sink slightly lower, reaching up to irritably flick some of the foam at him. Sans giggles outright, grabbing a handful of bubbles and plopping it right between your ears. You mrow in displeasure, trying to knock them off with your paw, but your foot has bubbles on it too. All you do is spread the bubbles all over your face. Your nose scrunches in distaste. You take it back, you don’t like these bubbles.

Your skeletal companion is getting a kick out of watching you. He keeps piling bubbles on your head and watching you try to shake them off. You fling more bubbles at him in retaliation, sending him into a giggle fit.

He leans back, flicking the soap off his fingers at you, and then begins to pull his shirt off. You tilt your head at him curiously, but can’t resist looking at his ribs. Surprise surprise, he looks like a skeleton. But a bulky skeleton. Normal ribs don’t meld like that- you’ve seen enough bones to know that. “There! Now I can do this!”

He reaches into the bubbles, which reach up to his elbows, and- somehow- scoops up a handful of water, dumping it over your head before you can get away. You yowl, betrayed, and try to back away, but the water makes your paws slip and you end up floundering in the water, splashing him as you try to regain your balance. Sans is bent over the side of the tub, laughing breathlessly, his fingertips brushing the surface.

Oh, you’ll show him! You calm down enough to get your thoughts together, and you rear up, both paws in the air. Sans glances up as you move, and when he sees the gleam in your eyes, his laughter dies. “W-wait a minute, kitten, don’t-”

Suffice it to say, the water was mostly gone by the time he got around to actually washing you. He was gentle as ever, scrubbing soap into your fur and around your ears. You greatly disliked that part, but he was quick to apologize as he rinsed them out and moved onto your face. You didn’t like that much either, until he started making silly faces at you, effectively distracting you from the fear of getting soap and water in your eyes.

It took a while until Sans was satisfied with the state of your pelt, but then came your least favorite part: rinsing off. The water around you was murky and gross, and you knew you had to wash it off, but the idea of standing under the water made your skin prickle and your lips draw back in a little snarl. It’s bad enough  just sitting in the stuff, but feeling it rush around you was a no.

It exasperated Sans to no end. He complained about how responsive and cooperative you’d been up until this moment, trying to wrangle you under the spout. You’d hissed and writhed away, using your slick pelt as a means to escape his grasp.

Unfortunately, you could only do this for so long before Sans resorted to cheating. And by cheating you meant magic, of course. You had just wormed away from him for the seventh time when a familiar ping! caught your attention, and suddenly your limbs refused to cooperate. You squirmed, yowling in dismay as you were lifted and rotated, floating in front of a smirking Sans. When you glanced down, you found a dark blue heart floating mere centimeters from your body, surrounded by a pretty light blue halo.

You were so transfixed on the strange sight that you missed the way Sans’ eyelights guttered out, or how Papyrus, in the middle of bringing in a towel for you, stopped in the doorway, staring at it.

This little heart… you got the feeling it was important, somehow. Clearly it was a part of you- it’d come from you and Sans’ magic was affecting you through it in some way… You feel like you have a name for it, and a reason why it’s so important, but you can’t for the life of you think of it now. Maybe one of the skeletons had mentioned it bef-

Warm water crashes over your head. You make the mistake of yowling again, getting a mouthful of water for your troubles, and while you’re attempting to cough up the liquid, Sans is back to scrubbing you off, keeping his gentle grip on your heart. You try to beat his hands with your paws, but your movements are sluggish and it’s overall more taxing just to move. Eventually, you resign yourself to your fate and just hang limply, waiting for the torture to be over.

After a short eternity, the grip on your heart eases away, and you find yourself back in Sans’ arms. You growl at him grumpily, and he chuckles apologetically in reply, soothingly stroking your ears. “I apologize, dear, but as I said, I had to make sure you are clean! I don’t want the boss to kick you out because you’re dirty!”

“Don’t want any dirt on your name,” Papyrus quips, alerting you to his presence finally. He chuckles at your startled look, trudging over to drop the towel carelessly on your head. You hiss at it, struggling to shove it off your ears. Combined with its sheer size and your awkward position in Sans’ arms, the task seems impossible until Sans pulls it off you, sending a rebuking glare his brother’s way.

“Papyrus! We do not have time to antagonize our cat! We have more important things to worry about!” A sheen of sweat built on his temples and he glanced nervously between you and his brother. “Like getting to work on time, of course! Here, Papyrus, dry them off-” He shoved you, blanket and all, into Papyrus’ chest, darting out the door. “I WILL SHOWER AND GET DRESSED!”

You and Papyrus both watch as he absconds, and you’re treated to the brief, hilarious image of Sans nearly tripping over himself as he tries to slip off his pajama shorts while running. You both snicker at this, and then Papyrus leases a sigh and plops you on the counter. “Okay, kitten, let’s get ya’ dried up…”

He’s as gentle drying you as Sans was washing you, ruffling your fur with the plush towel. You lean into the ministrations, helping him rub you down and purring. He squishes your cheeks when he goes to dry your face, and he snorts as he pulls your eyelids into slits or your lips into a forced grin. You try to escape his reach at those times, feigning annoyance, but you’re just as amused with his childish antics as he is.

“Gonna miss ya’ today,” he suddenly muses, rubbing your ears much more gently. You blink and look up at him, finding him smiling sweetly down at you. “Gotten pretty used ta havin’ you around, you know? You’re my little mascot now.”

Aww, Papyrus! That’s really cute of him. You purr louder, wriggling out of the towel so you can press your head into his ribs, nuzzling his sweatshirt. He chuckles softly, reaching down to scratch your chin and chest. “Ah well. I’ll just have ta steal ya away with me tomorrow,” he decides playfully, winking at you. You mew and lick his hand, more than alright with this plan.

He finishes drying you off, teasing you for being so fluffy. You moodily set to grooming yourself, side-glaring at him to let him know how irritated you are. He snickers again, taking mercy on you and helping you smooth down your fur- or maybe he’s just petting you, you can’t tell. Doesn’t matter, because in the end your pelt is flat again and Sans has just darted back up to retrieve you in his guard uniform.

He apologizes for being unable to make breakfast, but Papyrus just waves him off and tells the both of you to have a good day. You give Papyrus’ cheek a lick in farewell, as you usually do with Sans, and he grins, resting a hand on the spot and waving you goodbye. With that, you’re out of the house, bustling towards Sans’ workplace.

“We might have to take the bus,” he frets as he scuttles down the street, doing his best not to jostle you as he rushes. “Ooh, but the buses are always late, it might just be faster to run…”

You do not want him running with you in his arms. You love him but that sounds like far too bumpy a ride for you- not to mention it’d be harder for Sans. So you squirm a little, and Sans pauses momentarily so you can safely clamber up to his shoulders. You settle back down, wrapping around his neck like a living scarf and bumping your head against his. You hope that he’ll be able to run without you getting in the way now.

He chuckles, seemingly amused by your actions, and pats your head briskly before picking up the pace again. He’s jogging now, so you cinch your claws into his shirt and enjoy the ride. It’s not quite as uncomfortable as you thought it would be, and when he begins outright running, it’s not hard to stay on.

You make it just in time. A rather imposing woman, easily twice Sans’ height and equipped with arms like tree trunks, greets you at his office with a wry grin. “Cutting close, aren’t we, Serif?”

“I apologize, Ms. Jenson; Cheshire was being finicky this morning,” Sans apologizes, giving you a stern look as you purr proudly around his shoulders. He boops your nose warningly, but you only lick his finger in reply.

Jenson raises an eyebrow. “You’re being awful quiet today, Serif, you feeling alright?” she inquires, making way for Sans to enter.

“Oh, yes, I’m fine!” he chirps, beaming up at her. “I just have to be careful. Cheshire’s ears are very sensitive, you know!”

This seems to amuse her, as her lips quirk up almost imperceptibly. “Really?” She leans down to look at you, reaching out to offer you her hand. “Well, on behalf of the rest of the mall, I thank you,” she teases gruffly, much to Sans’ ire. You purr, leaning into her calloused fingers without a second thought.

“Heh, awful friendly little critter. Okay, here’s the deal.” She suddenly straightens, clapping to get his attention. “I don’t mind you bringing Cheshire here around the mall, but they’re your responsibility. Don’t come crying to me if they get lost, you hear me? I will make you stay after hours to look for them by yourself. Also, don’t let them attack anyone, or I’ll have to escort you out. Are we clear?”

You’re offended. She just called you friendly! Does she really think you’ll attack anyone? Does this look like the face of someone who can hurt anyone? Sans, as though sensing your indignation, raises a hand and strokes your head soothingly, nodding to the woman. “Of course, Ms. Jenson, but you really won’t have to worry about them! They are very well behaved, aren’t you, Cheshire?”

Darn right you are! You mew a bit petulantly, leaning into his hand and giving her your most innocent look. She chuckles, her stern demeanour melting at the combined cuteness of you and Sans. She gives you another brief pat and then, much to your entertainment, she pats Sans’ head as well. “I’m sure they are. I gotta get going, and so do you. I’ll be around to check on you later, Sans.”

You both give her a goodbye, and then Sans takes you off his shoulder, setting you on the desk. You take the chance to glance around the room, curious. The desk you’re sitting on is littered with monitors, depicting several places in the mall. It attaches to another two desks, which curve around the room and hold several of their own monitors and control panels. On the desks themselves are papers, most of them doodled on, and some figurines, like a pink cupcake with big blue eyes. It instantly sets your teeth on edge, so you turn your attention elsewhere.

The room in fairly small, and it sports a small, worn leather couch and a mini fridge, tucked away under the far desk. On the other side of the leather couch is a large metal cabinet of some sort. A tiny trash can is tucked between it and the door. The walls are decorated with a mix of inspirational posters (the classic Cat Hanging From A Branch, captioned “Hang In There!” for instance) and posters depicting basic guard etiquette.

Sans gives you a “tour” of everything, then tells you that you’ll be sharing an office with two other guards until about three, at which point he shifts to working in the mall. He tells you that his three-to-ten shift is his favorite, since the morning shift is usually rather boring. His colleagues prefer to spend their time on their phones or talking quietly to each other, rather than him.

You promise to make this a good day for him.

Sans is… not wrong when he says that the morning shift is very boring.   His co-workers show up an hour late, and Sans lectures them on the importance of being punctual. They ignore him completely, seemingly more interested in your presence by his desk, but when they try to pet you, you bristle and hiss and swat at them. The men retreat, turned away by your aggression. Sans is astonished for this behaviour and sweeps you into his arms, scolding you and apologizing to the men, but you can’t bring yourself to be mad.

Nobody treats your skeleton like that and gets to pet you. Nobody.

It’s very uneventful after that. You sit in his lap and watch the screens with him, and Sans chats with you quietly. At some point you hear the men joke to each other about how crazy he is for talking to you, something about monsters, and if Sans hadn’t been holding you, you definitely would have attacked them, but that was about it. Eventually you decided that you needed something to occupy yourself, and so you started pointing out people acting silly. It took Sans a while to catch on, but when he did, you two made a game of it, seeing how many people you could spot.

As the hours dragged on the game broadened, with different points for every category, and you passed the time this way. When it got boring, you moved onto games like tic tac toe and eyespy. It was… rather one sided, but Sans seemed to be enjoying himself, and he doesn’t even flinch when one of his coworkers snickers at him anymore.

(You always twist to give them a savage glare that shuts them up. Despicable cowards.)

           Finally, finally, to your shared relief, his shift ended. You leap back up onto his shoulders, purring in excitement. You're eager to look around the mall with Sans, and he seems just as eager to show you. He gives the jerks in the office a cheerful goodbye they don't deserve and exits into the bustle of the mall.

It’s… a lot louder and much more crowded than it had been when you came in, though you’re not sure why this surprises you. You’ve been watching these crowds all day, after all! But being in them was completely different… and there were so many strange smells! Fruity ones, greasy warm ones, delicate flowery scents… It was all a little overwhelming, if you were being honest, and you press closer to Sans subtly.

“Are you alright, Cheshire?” he asks softly, the familiar sound of his voice easing some of your tension. “We can go back in the office if you-”

Absolutely not! You are not letting him go back in there with those wastes of air! You meow a vehemenant “no”, startling him with the force of your refusal, and you instantly feel embarrassed. You hadn’t meant to get so worked up, but… You really could not stand another moment with those jerks.

You mew apologetically, rubbing your cheek on his. He relaxes slightly, looking concerned as he tilts his head to return the gesture. He brightens up a moment later, however, and says, “Ooh! I know where we can go! I always stop by on my rounds, the women who run it are very nice!”

You certainly hope so. You’re tired of dealing with rude people. You mew again and settle on his shoulders, and he strides through the mall with confident steps. He waves or nods to everyone he makes eye contact with, his smile large and infectious. Several of the shopkeepers seemed familiar with him, as he would stop periodically and chat with them about whatever. Most of them were rather taken with you, eagerly asking him if they could pet you or hold you. He always said yes and you behaved very well for them, and you were rewarded with lots of praise and cuddles for that.

Finally, you came to a stop in front of a shop. It was a nice, cozy size, and painted in darker colors. A sign above it red “Devil’s Eye” in jagged, bold red lettering, and warm burnt-orange light spilled from the windows. It was styled to look a little like an old, black brick cottage.

You could not picture Sans hanging out in this place. You just… couldn’t.

Sans enters and the clamour of the mall is suddenly much quieter- you can barely hear it, in fact. It’s replaced with a soft, haunting tune that’s equal parts soothing and eerie, and a sweet smell that you can’t quite describe. The shop is filled with glowing crystals and strange trinkets, like glass orbs and bulky silver necklaces embedded with rubies. A velvet curtain cuts off the door in the back, and the sign above it gleefully announces “Fortune Telling!” in dark gold letters.

You don’t know how you feel about this place. It’s weird.

The shopkeepers you meet are even weirder: a pair of women with mischievous smiles and knowing glints in their eyes when they look at you, and they radiate a feeling of wisdom beyond the present. It’s horribly unnerving, but Sans seems friendly with them, so you poke around the shop while he talks to them. The stones give off a strange vibe, sort of like magical intent, but you doubt that’s the case- they’re just humans, after all.

You’re just starting to get impatient when Sans declares that it’s time to move on. You scramble to his side, and he helpfully lifts you up to his shoulders once more. You settle around his neck and mew at the ladies as he waves them off, and they return the gestures with those same, eerie smiles that never seem to fade.

The relief that washes over you when you leave is hard to describe.

 

Sans heads for the food court an hour or so later as your stomach growls. You would have gone earlier, but you and Sans had stopped to help a young boy find his father. He’d been wandering around the mall crying, asking anyone if they’d seen his father, but no one had stepped in until you heard him. You had chased him down and sat in his arms while Sans led him back to the office and sent out a message calling him up. The father had been overjoyed to see him, of course, and thanked Sans profusely. You’d given the boy a lick on the nose and he’d giggled and waved goodbye to you as his father lead him away by the hand.

Sans had teased you about how good you were with kids. You’d lightly swatted his head and he’d giggled, and you were on your way again.

It doesn’t take long to get to the food court. The smell of all the warm, greasy food has you salivating fiercely, and you swipe your tongue across your lips, treating yourself to a brief taste of the scent on the air. Your stomach complains loudly again, and before you can transfer those complaints to Sans, he chuckles and gives your ears a scratch. “Let’s get you something to eat, Cheshire. Any long and I’m afraid your stomach will eat itself!”

You’re pretty sure that’s not a thing, but you’re not willing to risk it. You mewl pathetically and he snickers, strolling further into the bustling food court. Your eyes are assaulted with bright oranges and reds, neon lights shining so loudly that you can’t look at them too long. The roar of the mall seems louder here, emphasized by the cramped space and the extra bodies and the noises from food machines. There are scents everywhere, ones you recognize and ones you don’t, and your head is starting to ache a little from all the extra stimulus.

Whining softly, you paw Sans’ shoulder, trying to convey your displeasure. You hadn’t thought it would be this busy. Or this noisy! You paw at your ears and mew again, and Sans gently fetches you from off his shoulder, frowning at your worriedly. “What’s the matter, Cheshire? Are your ears bothering you?”

You hiss softly and rub them again, nodding. That’s probably the closest you’re going to get to what’s bothering you. He winces slightly and cradles you to his chest, soothingly rubbing your head. You lean into the touch, the pressure easing your headache slightly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that this would bother you,” he murmurs, glancing around. He offers you a little smile. “Why don’t we get some food, and then we can move somewhere quieter?”

That sounds lovely. You’d like that. You nod and push your face into his ribs, purring softly as he strokes your ears. You let him readjust you so you’re draped half over his shoulder, closing your eyes to block out some of the noise. You half-listen as Sans orders something from on of the courts- something egg related, you think- and thanks the man. You dither a little ways off until your number is called, and he hurries back over to grab it and take you away.

You don’t open your eyes again until you hear a door open and a rush of air washes over you. You breathe deeply and sit upright, peering around. He’s taken you out to a little green space, surrounded by trees with pink flowers and white benches. There’s a pretty fountain in the center and a cobblestone path, which Sans is now following down to the nearest bench. He sets the food down first, then sits and lets you drop into his lap. You purr gratefully and rub your head against his chest, prompting him to smile and stroke your ears.

He’s gotten a breakfast tray. You don’t know why they’d be selling breakfast in the middle of the day, but you’re not complaining- you’ve got eggs. He portions it out carefully, pushing half of the eggs over your way and digging into the rest. He also scoots over a few pieces of bacon, laughing as he watches your eyes light up as you gnosh on it. You’re purring loudly, glad to finally get something to eat.

Sans pulls his drink over, taking a quick swig to wash down his breakfast burrito. He offers you a drink, apparently not minding the possibility of getting cat hair in his drink. You go ahead and stick your head in, taking a few long drinks before you go back to eating your eggs.

You catch his movement from the corners of your eye and glance up as he lifts a shiny green ball to his teeth. Tilting your head, you mew at him curiously. He glances over, another little ball already in hand, and smiles a little as you lean over and sniff at it. “Have you ever tried a grape, Cheshire?”

You have not, in fact, ever tried a grape, although you’ve heard about them. Sans offers you the grape in his hand and you take it, rolling it experimentally in your mouth. It’s smooth and almost perfectly round, which some part of you finds weirdly pleasing. When you bite down, a rush of sour sweetness fills your mouth, and you purr happily, wriggling in delight. Sans chuckles and offers you another one, and soon you’re sharing grapes between the two of you. You devour them all with a gleeful purr.

It’s a beautiful day.

 

You’re relieved when Sans finally announces that it’s time to clock out. He heads back to the office and bids Jenson goodnight (you manage to steal a few pets from her) before heading on his way. You’re limp in his arms, absolutely exhausted after the long day. You can barely keep your eyes open, and more than once you find yourself dozing off. You didn’t think you’d be quite this tired, but you suppose it’s been a wild ride, so you’re entitled to a nap.

You end up sleeping until you get back where Papyrus’ gentle scratch behind your ear wakes you. You yawn and crack your eyes open slightly, but your lids are so heavy and your limbs feel like lead. You don’t even have the energy to purr as he pets you and departs for bed. You can hear worry in Sans’ voice, but you’re so tired that it simply lulls you to sleep again.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

When you wake up, it’s still dark, and your stomach is aching. You shift slightly, trying not to wake Sans, but the movement makes you feel a little nauseous, and presses his arm into your belly. You squirm again, trying to worm out from under his heavy arm bones. He stirs slightly, groaning in his sleep, and moves just enough for you to get free.

You feel hot and uncomfortable. You whine and roll away from him, trying to shift into a more comfortable position, but the gross feeling in the pit of your stomach gets worse. You whine and fall still, the ache spreading throughout your body. It feels so hard to move, and movement just makes it worse… maybe if you just go back to sleep you’ll feel better? Good plan, you, nice job.

Except it’s not working.

The longer you lay there the worse the sickness gets, and you swallow a heavy gulp of saliva, trying to keep the nausea at bay. You can feel it trying to creep up your throat, and you breath raggedly, avoiding the inevitable for as long as you can. You have to get out of his bed, you can’t get sick in his covers, that’s really… that’s re-really gross-

It doesn’t help. What little you ingested today has come right back up, and you’re helpless to keep it down. Your retching wakes Sans, who is instantly hovering over you, alarm in his voice and sockets. He hovers over you uncertainly, and as you finally stop, you give him a weak meow. You’re fine, no need to worry, it’ll go away soon, you’re-

You’re not fine. You’re sick all over again, and Sans runs his fingers through your fur, whispering something you don’t understand. You try to squirm away as the gentle touch burns your pelt, but you hurt so bad you can’t move. You whine between gagging, panting and trying to get your stomach under control. Why won’t it stop?

Sans scoops you up. The abrupt motion makes you dizzy, and try as you might, you can’t help retching into his shirt. He makes a distressed noise, but it’d drowned out by the sound of his pounding feet, falling in synch with your throbbing heart. You think you hear Papyrus say something, but you can’t focus on that now. You’re trying to keep what’s left in your stomach in your stomach, and being jostled like this isn’t helping.

Stars, you just wanna sleep again. You wanna sleep and wake up and find out this was all a bad dream. You want Sans to stop crying above you. You want to stop throwing up.

The world around you in a blur. There’s nothing left in your body but acid and you’re still gagging, and Sans is pumping weak magic into you in an attempt to help. It soothes the ache a little, and you finally have a reprieve from being sick for a moment. You breathe in ragged relief and try to close your eyes and sleep again. You don’t wanna stay awake.

Sans stops. He bursts into a too-bright place, and past the smell of your bile, you pick up a strangely familiar scent. There’s shouting all around you and it’s too bright, it’s too smelly, and there’s a man coming towards you with a long white coat and thick glasses and the smells register and you realize-

You’re at the vet’s. Sans has taken you to the vet and there’s a man coming towards you with claws for hands and lights for eyes and you hiss and squirm and claw at him and there’s magic in your veins and it feels cold, feels so cold, but you’re so hot you’re burning it’s burning they’re burning you y o u r e d y i n g!

You don’t want to die you don’t want to die you don’t want to die you don’t want to

Chapter Text

    (You don’t realize anything is wrong when you first wake up.)

    Your body is warm and fuzzy, resting on something soft and clean smelling, and even though it doesn’t smell like the right detergent- when did they get something new?- you can smell Sans as he envelops you, and it starts up a muggy purr in your throat. You burrow further into the warmth of his chest and let out a soft sigh, feeling his bones in your fur, his ribs pressed against your-

    Wait a minute. You’re distinctly missing the hard feeling of ribs pressed against your side. You’re also definitely not feeling his breath ruffling your pelt or the slim hole where the bones in his arms leave an open space. There’s bones in your fur, sure, but you’re missing the feeling of his arms.

    You open your eyes very slowly. Very, very slowly, because you realize that you still feel like you’ve got a weight keeping you pressed to the bed and your eyes don’t want to respond. You get a glimpse of darkness, first, and then white, and then a lovely, familiar blue color.

    Sans. That’s Sans’ magic. Why is he using his magic? Why isn’t he in bed? Why is his bed white?

    There’s a sound. A few sounds, actually: a slow, steady beeping noise that you’ve just noticed, soft breathing (yours or his? You can’t tell) and muffled voices from somewhere else. That’s weird. Does Papyrus have someone over? It’s so early. Or maybe it’s late. Why are you sleeping again?

    Your eyes finally open. They adjust instantly to the darkness, allowing you to make out the details of your surroundings. You’re lying on a flat white bed, surrounded by strange beeping machines and stark white walls. There’s a thin metal pole staked by your bed, from which dangles a translucent bag filled with some kind of liquid. When you follow the tube, you discover that it’s attached to your front leg, where a small patch of fur has been shaved off. It itches a little.

    You feel… like you should be a little more panicked. And true, you can hear some small, small part of your brain screaming at you to run, to get out of there, before they burn you, before they kill you, but… You just feel calm. Serene. It’s all too easy to block out the fear and panic when the smell of mint is drowning out everything else.

    Speaking of mint, where is your skeleton? If you’re smelling him this potently he must be- ah, there he is. Sitting slumped in a chair next to your bed, hand outstretched so he can touch you. His skull is pillowed on his other arm, and there’s a frown on his sleeping face, and pale blue tear tracks staining his cheeks. Your heart clenches at the sight of him, and your memory is finally jogged back into place.

    Wow, that sure was a thing that happened. You’re mortified when you remember that you threw up in Sans’ bed. And all over yourself. And all over Sans. That’s awkward.

    Come to think of it… It takes you moment, but you manage to ratchet your hazy head up enough to observe yourself. You’re no longer covered in your sickness, thankfully, so someone must have washed you while you were out… And you can’t really smell anything beyond Sans, but it looks like he’s changed out of his pajamas since you saw him. You’re relieved. You’d hate for him to have just suffered in that gross shirt. You wonder if he’s the one who bathed you.

    He makes a little noise, and his face scrunches in agony. Small blue tears are beading the corner of his sockets, and just the sight of it makes you want to cry yourself. Instead, you use whatever strength you have to scoot across the bed and push your face into his, purring drowsily as you lick away the tears. He makes another noise in his sleep and burrows closer, pressing his head into your chest as his shoulders shake, and you purr louder for him, licking the crown of his skull.

Your poor sweet skeleton, suffering like this… you never meant to make him so sad. You hate seeing him like this. You want to see his smile and his sparkling eyes again. You miss his loud voice and his quiet chuckles and his little skeletal kisses.

(You seem to have become unbearably sappy in your half-asleep haze. Awful.)

You nuzzle him again, licking his forehead, and suddenly his trembling stills. He pulls back slightly, and you blink sleepily as he looks up at you. He looks so much… older like this, with just his small white eyelights and the lines beneath his sockets and the frown on his teeth.       He stares at you uncomprehendingly for a moment, as though he can’t believe he’s seeing you, and then his face crumples into a mix of relief and guilt and he pulls you into his chest, sobbing quietly as he holds you.

The tube in your leg is jostled a little but you barely notice, focusing on the shaking monster. You curl into him, purring loudly as you nuzzle into his neck, tongue rasping over his bones soothingly.

You have a sudden, intense urge to change. You want to be big again, to be able to scoop him up into your arms and rub his back and whisper to him, tell him that you’re okay, that it’s all going to be fine, you’re feeling better already, really. You want to be able to rock him in your arms and hum to him and soothe away the pain.

You want to, so badly you almost go through with it, but the exhaustion hovering over you stops you. You’re definitely not in your right mind right now, and changing would only upset him further.

Also shifting like that would be way too much work. You’d pass right out and then Sans would be even more unhappy and you were trying to make him feel better, dang it! Ugh, why’d you have to go and get sick for?

“I’m sorry.”

...what? Your ears twitch, eyes growing wide as Sans continues to whisper apologies, rubbing his face into your pelt, and you… you don’t know what to do? What is he saying sorry for? He didn’t do anything! Everyone got sick from time to time! You squirm slightly, trying to push him away so you can see his face, but his grip is unrelenting. You settle for mewing loudly in his ear, urgently trying to drag his attention away from his unnecessary regrets.

“I shou- I should have b-been more care, more careful, should h-have studied m-more, should- should have seen wh-when you weren’t, when you w-weren’t feeling well! Sorry, I-I’m sorry, I’m sorry... ” he sobs, and you have absolutely no clue what he’s going on about but you absolutely don’t care, this is your Sans blaming himself for something he didn’t even do, and you’ll die before you let him feel like that any longer!

But you’re tired again. You’re so tired, the stress of the day- night? Evening? You have no idea- weighing on you again, and you fight it as best you can, meowing to him firmly. It’s okay, it’s okay, not your fault, not your fault, not your fault…

You feel his magic shift around you. You’re dazed, drowsy, but you push on, meowing to him with as much intent as you can. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here…

“Cheshire…?” he rasps, sobs quieting, and you’re getting quieter too, body sagging in his hold, your eyelids drooping.

You don’t stop. You talk until the world goes black again. You hope he feels better when you wake up.

 

(Waking up the second time feels just like the first.)

    Your body is warm and fuzzy, resting on something soft and clean smelling, and even though it doesn’t smell like the right detergent- you feel like you’ve thought this before - you can smell Papyrus as he envelops you, and it starts up a muggy purr in your throat. You burrow further into the warmth of his chest and let out a soft sigh, feeling his bones in your fur, his ribs pressed against your-

    Wait. No. Not only is there a distinct lack of ribs under your paws, but there’s also a distinct lack of Sans. You remember much quicker this time- the strange white room and the strange machines and Sans’ bright blue tears (i’m sorry i’m sorry i’m sorry-) and your eyes snap open.

You immediately hiss and close them again, because ow, that’s the sun and it’s right in your eyes, that’s nice. The lights are still off in the room, and the sun paints it a warm amber color. It also brings into focus the shapes of the machinery monitoring you, and while you cringe at the sight of them, you’re still not panicking, thanks to whatever Papyrus is doing to you.

Papyrus… You find him slumped in a chair next to your bed, back against the chair and his head dangling backwards over it. His legs are sprawled out in front of him as he slouches, snoring lightly, just barely keeping himself from sliding out of the seat. His hand stretches out to touch you, laying lightly on your back. Green magic pours from his fingertips.

You give a fond, exasperated purr. Silly skeletons, healing you and watching over you even while they slept. What did you do to deserve them?

He grumbles softly, shifting a little, and for the first time you register the crease between his sockets and his frown. From his magic you can sense discontent and worry, and you huff softly. Sweet worrywarts, that’s your skeletons. Time to return the favor.

Purring, you shift closer under his hand, licking his wrist gently. Like before, you put as much soothing intention into the motion, hoping somehow that Papyrus will know what you’re trying to say, the way he always does. He stirs again, letting out a soft groan as he tries to sit upright. You watch as a hand goes to the back of his neck and a pained grimace crosses his face, wincing at the pain. Seems even skeletons could get sore from sleeping in bad positions....

You give him another lick, delighted when he startles slightly and flicks his eyelights down to you. Several emotions cross his face all at once before settling onto relief. “Cheshire. You’re up,” he breathes, shifting upright with only a little cringing this time. He leans over, raising his hands to cup your cheeks, and rests his forehead against yours, healing magic still spilling from his digits. You purr, nuzzling his nasal ridge, and he sighs gently, sockets falling closed. “You really scared us, Kitten.”

His breathing shutters, grip tightening slightly. “You scared me. Please don’t ever do that again, okay?” It's the most fragile you've ever heard him.

You certainly don’t intend to, even though you don’t have any control over that. You lick his cheek, meowing softly in agreement, and he hovers there a moment longer, just staring at you. It’s clear he was worried about you too, and once again your heart clenches. You hadn’t meant to scare them so much. You supposed, being skeletons, they probably hadn’t seen much sickness. Then again, they weren’t exactly normal skeletons… You wondered if they could get sick.

You shove that thought away. You’ll have time to wonder about how skeletons work later, but for now, you have a more pressing question. You paw Papyrus’ hand, meowing loudly and patting the bed where Sans had lain earlier. You’re relieved to see him smile a little, although it’s a look tinged with sadness. “I made Sans go home a while ago. He didn’t wanna leave ya’ while you slept, so he stayed up most of the night lookin’ after you. I insisted he go home an’ get somethin’ to eat and some rest. Put up quite a fight, heh.”

Oh, Sans… you were giving him so many cuddles when he came back. As soon as they got this awful tube out of you, that is.

Your stomach growls. Papyrus gives you a startled look, and you meet his eyes sheepishly. He begins to chuckle, covering his mouth with the back of his hand, then outright laughs, and you stare at him, confused. Why on earth was he laughing? What was so funny about needing to eat?

“I can't, heh, I can't believe you,” he wheezes, wiping his sockets as though he'd been crying. He gives you an slightly bemused look. “You were just expellin’ poison from your body for most if the night, an’ now you wanna eat?” He shakes his head. “Guess all the healin’ magic did what it was s’pposed to.”

You're even more confused now. What did he mean by poison? You hadn't eaten anything poisonous. Sans would never let you eat anything poisonous.

Papyrus catches the bewilderment on your face and his laughter dries up, sobering quickly. “Guess no one had the chance to tell ya yet.” You shake your head and he sighs, leaning back in his chair and observing you with serious eyelights. He speaks slowly and softly, the barest hints of pain in his tone. “Doc said it was the grapes. 'Pparently they're toxic for cats, so you eating them…”

A frown crosses his face as he trails off. “You, uh… you could’a been in real trouble, Kitten.”

Understanding hits you like a brick to the face. That's why Sans was apologizing! He thought he'd poisoned you! Aww, crap, poor Sans, he was probably still beating himself up over this…

The rest of Papyrus’ statement catches up to you suddenly. You shift uncomfortably and decide to ignore the implications of his words, focusing instead on making him feel better. He's making a sad face right now and you don't like it when your friends make such expressions. You mew and lick his hand again, rubbing your head against the bones. Everything is alright, you don't have to worry, please don't be sad.

Papyrus flips his hand over, gently scratching your chin and head as you nuzzle him. You purr deeply, cuddling into his touch, and even as the stream of healing magic dies away, you feel completely at peace. Papyrus is here and he's safe, and he won't let anything happen to you.

After a moment, he shifts and stands, smiling at you softly. “Let's see about getting you some food, okay Kitten?”

You meow in agreement and he strides over to the other side of the bed, picking up a button. You watch the process, curious and content. The machine gives a jarring crackle that has you jumping slightly, staring at it with wide eyes. A moment later, a soft, feminine voice sounds over the speaker. “Hello, this is Nurse Sophie speaking! How may I help you?”

“Cheshire’s woken up. Think we can get some food in their systems? They’re startin’ to look like me an’ my bro.” He aims a wink your way, and you snort at his satisfied smile. What a dork.

The woman on the other end of the line gives a tentative laugh, like she doesn’t get the joke but doesn’t want to be rude and not laugh. “Sure thing, honey! What room number?”

You snort so hard your nose aches, and Papyrus’ shoulder are shaking. The absolute irony of her nickname for him is far too amusing for the both of you, and it takes him a moment to recover enough to rattle off your number.

The lady tells you that someone will be with you shortly, so Papyrus sets the instrument aside and then makes himself at home on your bed. You squirm over to him and press against his leg, purring loudly as his bones find your pelt. “Heh. You’re as cuddly as ever… How are you feelin’, Kitten?”

You look up at him, meeting his gaze. His shoulders are slumped and his sockets are half-lidded, giving him a relaxed look, but you know Papyrus by now. There’s a slight gleam of worry and that intense, calculating look underneath it all. You wonder what he’s looking for when he watches you like that, and what he sees.

Sometimes, you feel like it’s everything.

Purring, you rub your head against his leg, tail twitching lazily. You’re feeling great, actually! Between him and Sans, you’re back to your usual self! You’d probably be good to go today, ac-

“Cheshire,” he murmurs, interrupting your thoughts gently. The mask of laziness has slipped from his face, leaving behind the searching glare. “I don’t mean how you feel. I mean how you feel.” He pokes your chest gently, and you blink in understanding. “And don’t bother trying to lie. I’ll know.”

Of course he would. He always did, didn’t he? He always had such a good idea of you. You thought about his words for a moment, staring at the tube in your leg.

You felt… like you were okay right now. You had Papyrus with you and Papyrus wouldn’t let anyone hurt you. He’d already saved you from them once, so he’d do it again, right? If you thought you were in trouble he’d protect you. He wouldn’t let anyone get to you, so there was no use in being scared, right? And you’d been here overnight, and you were fine, so that meant it was okay, right?

You were okay. You were better than okay, you were fantastic!

And okay, maybe you've been doing what you always do and neglecting to think about it, because thinking about it means you think about everything else and you think about the tube in your leg and the beeping machines and the whimpering next door and howls down the hall- someone is calling for their human, someone is mourning their mate, someone's in unspeakable pain- and you think about how you actually feel, which in hindsight is not that great and-

Your vision is obscured by orange. There's no magic and the sounds and the smell don't die away, but the gentle fingers on your back and the scent of honey and Papyrus’ low, whispered words are enough for you to bury your head in his hoodie and get your breathing under control. His ribs rise and fall steadily under you, slow and constant, and you breathe with him, coming down from your panic.

“Heh. Sorry Kitten, shouldn't 've asked,” he mumbles, scratching your ear. “You're real strong, y'know? Not breakin’ down until now.”

You don't feel like it.

 

Sans brings in the food you were promised a moment later, which is good because you don't think you'd be able to handle the sight of a doctor. Seeing him is just as bad, however, in a completely different way. The shadows haven’t faded from under his sockets, the pain and guilt still written on his face. He can’t look at you, eye lights dancing in every place in the room except for you, shoulders hunched. He shuffles in like a scorned child, holding a bowl of wet cat food in one hand.

Somehow, seeing this hurts more than the sickness did.

“How are you feeling?” he asks, quieter even than normal, setting the bowl down on the bed next to you. You lean in to rub against his hand, but Sans pulls away before you can get close enough.

You stare at the food like it’s personally offended you, then give him a pleading mew. You want to make this right again. You want to fix this… weirdness between you two. Why is he pulling away?

Sans squirms, glancing up at you quickly, and then back away. He makes a noise like he’s going to say something, then stops and fiddles with his fingers, then does it again. The room is filled with awkward, uncomfortable silence, which Papyrus finally breaks by nudging you towards the bowl and ushering, “Eat.”

You’d much rather deal with your skeleton’s emotional needs, and between that and the unappetizing texture of the cat food, you’re not feeling so hungry anymore. But Sans still looks wretched and hopeful as he glances at the bowl, and Papyrus’ hand on your back is firm and worried, and you can’t deny them.

You lean forward and take a tentative nibble, trying not to growl. It’s even worse than normal wet cat food, tainted with something gross and chemical. Medicine, probably. It’s slimy and lumpy and it makes you want to gag, but if it makes them happy, you’ll stomach it. Besides, you’ve had enough sickness to last a lifetime.

Both Sans and Papyrus seem visibly relieved to see you eating, so you keep it up while they talk to each other quietly, pretending like you’re not listening. “How’d you sleep, bro?”

“Fine,” Sans answers dismissively, looking away from Papyrus guiltily. If the bags under his eyes are to be believed, he hasn’t slept a wink since you saw him last night.

Papyrus snorts, giving him a knowing look. “You went home and worked out, didn’t you?” Though it’s phrased a question, he says it more like a statement, as though he already knows the answer. He groans when Sans hesitates for a moment, shifting his weight, and then sheepishly shrugs. “ Bro. I told you to go home and rest, not work yourself up more!” He sighs. “You gotta take care of yourself, Sans.”

“I know,” Sans replies remorsefully, offering Papyrus a tiny smile. It looks so much better on him than his frown, even if it’s a little shaky. He glances at you again and you can see his restraint break, as he comes over to the bed and kneels down to address you. The look on his face reminds you of last night, and you quickly lick your lips clean so you can lean over and butt heads with him.

Instead of pulling away, he leans into you, and you purr loudly. It feels so good to have this contact with him again, to have him look you in the eyes finally. I missed you, you mew softly, and he reaches out to scoop you up, burying his face in your fur. You lick the side of his skull. I missed you, please don’t do that again, talk to me, you continue, babbling unconsciously, curling into his arms.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers back. “I didn’t mean to leave you, I wanted to talk to you, but I hurt you and I…” He huffs. “I thought you’d be mad at me.”

Silly skeleton, you think, pulling back to pat his cheeks with your paws. There are tears in his sockets again and you nudge those away with your nose. You didn’t know. I’d never be mad at you. You pause, considering, and then add, unless you put me in a bath again. Then I might be a little mad.

There’s a snicker behind you. You twist to give Papyrus a confused and exasperated glare- this is a very serious moment, Sans is crying in front of him for star’s sake, why is he laughing- and then Sans starts laughing as well, an adorable watery sound that you’ve missed so much. You look between the two of them for answers, but your confusion only seems to amuse them further, and soon the room is filled with their laughter, “mweh”s and “nyeh”s echoing. You have no idea what’s happening, but you purr tentatively with them, just glad to see them in higher spirits.

“Phew,” Papyrus recovers first, still chuckling faintly and wiping a tear from his socket. “Oh man. That was too good. I needed that.”

“Indeed,” Sans agrees with his own breathless giggle, and those lovely blue eyelights you adore have finally returned. The sight makes you so excited that you leap up, meowing loudly and planting kisses over his cheeks and sockets, drawing more giggles from him. You’re glad, you’re so glad, it seems like your skeletons are finally getting back to normal.

He pulls you back after a moment, affection and warmth in his gaze, even if you can see the lingering doubts. You’ll just have to work even harder to show him that you’re alright and he doesn’t have to apologize! “As much as I would like to keep bathing in kisses-” You and Papyrus share a snort. “You have to finish eating! The humans put very special medicine in your food to ensure you are healthy and strong, so you have to finish all of it, understood?” He points his finger at you sternly.

Bleh. Maybe if you’re cute enough you can distract him from making you eat that junk. You lean up to lick his finger, and he grins a little wider, but before you can celebrate, he ruffles your ears. “You are very cute, Cheshire, but that is not going to sway me! You still have to eat!”

“Hey, go easy on ‘em, bro. Clearly, dishes a hard task for them,” Papyrus pipes, and for once you let the pun slide, because annoyed as you are with the food, he's punning again and that's a good sign.

Sans, on the other hand, is not so inclined to ignore his joke, and he lets out a familiar groan of frustration. “Papy nooooo! You were doing so good! Why did you have to crack, brother?”

“Not a fan of my egg -cellent puns?”

“NO!”

You purr happily, watching their antics with glee. You even sneak in a few bites while they banter, knowing it'll make them happy.

You're so glad everything is back to normal. You don't want to have to-

Oh, wow, there's a thought you don't want to entertain anymore, so you shove it aside and focus on Sans’ boggling eyes. Future You will deal with that.

 

Despite the brother's insistence that you're fully recovered, the doctors refuse to let you go. They want to keep you under surveillance for at least another day, just to make sure you've gotten all the toxin out of your body. Nobody is happy with this, but Sans isn't willing to take the chance with your health (you don't miss the guilty look on his face), so he agrees to let you stay another night. Both brothers quickly assure you that they'll stay with you no matter how long it takes.

Papyrus runs home to get them both a change of clothes and some stuff to keep you all busy. The doctors don't want you leaving the room or doing anything too active, but with some difficulty they’d finally removed the obnoxious tube in your leg, leaving behind an irritable ache. Papyrus was quick to press a few healing digits to the area when he caught you licking at it uncomfortably, for which you rewarded him with a kiss on the palm. He nyeh’s at you and flicks your ear playfully.

    Sans eagerly tackles the puzzles Papyrus brought with you, flopping into the large recliner by the window and helping you up onto his lap. He spreads out the puzzle book in front of you, a pencil in one hand while the other holds the book open. Papyrus is quick to throw himself into your hospital bed, falling asleep in seconds. You suppose it’s been a long day for him.

    You waste several hours doing puzzles and listening to Papyrus snore. Eventually you find yourself dozing as well, and Sans lets you nap until the doctors come back with more gross trash- sorry, your dinner. You’re not bitter at all. You grudgingly eat and then join Papyrus on the bed, curling up on his chest while Sans finds something for the three of you to watch on the TV. Eventually, he comes to sit next to Papyrus, reaching over so he can pet you.

    It feels good to fall asleep with the smell of both of them around you, chasing away the last of your discomfort.

   

    “Cheshire, please, I know it’s uncomfortable, but I really think you should do this-” Sans coaxes, reaching towards you from where you’ve hidden under the crossing beams of the bed. You hiss softly and crouch further away, narrowing your eyes at the box behind him. He wants to put you in a crate! “Please, I know it’s a little… cramped. And demeaning. But! You will also not have to see the doctors on your way out!”

    “We even put your favorite stuffed animal in there,” Papyrus adds, crouching down next to him. You’re a little amused to see how much he has to hunch over to make eye contact, but not enough to come out.

    You don’t care if you won’t see the doctors. You don’t want to be in that tiny, stuffy, smelly crate, with no way to get out if the doctors come at you. Okay, so logically you know that neither of them would let any of them do anything to you, but the idea of being helpless and cramped like that makes your fur bristle. You feel completely out of sorts and paranoid in this room, staring at it.

    Papyrus shifts abruptly, blocking your view of the crate, and leans over to whisper something to Sans. You watch suspiciously as Sans’ sockets widen slightly, and then he gives a tiny nod. Papyrus shifts away again and stands up, moving over to the crate. You tense in preparation to make a run for it, but Sans is talking, and his soothing voice is calling all your attention. “Okay, Cheshire. We’re not putting you in the crate. I’ll carry you out, okay? No more crate.”

    There’s the sound of a door opening, and you see Papyrus’ shoes disappear. You watch suspiciously as the moment lingers, and then he returns, coming over to crouch in front of you again. His hands are empty. “See? No more crate. You’re safe, okay? You can come out.” He grins. “We’ll crate- er to your every need.” Corny wink.

    The pun has the intended effect, as you can feel yourself relax at the awful joke. You hesitate for another moment before squirming out towards them, letting Sans scoop you up gleefully. You give his wrist an apologetic lick, and he leans down to place a skeletal kiss on your forehead. “No need to worry, Cheshire, we understand. Monsters don’t like closed spaces very much either,” Sans muses, scratching behind your ears.

    You supposed they wouldn't.

    You don’t have much more time to contemplate. Sans is moving, cradling you to his shoulder, one hand gently resting on the back of your head. You follow the light guidance until your face is tucked into his soft blue bandana. A purr rumbles from you as you burrow closer, drowning in his scent and relishing in the light scratching on your crown. Papyrus holds the door open for the both of you, not that you even notice. You’re dozing again.

    It’s been a long couple of days.

 

    The walk home is nice. After a bit you change hands, ending up curled in Papyrus’ warm hood again, resting on his shoulders. They talk amongst themselves, bantering and laughing the whole way. This evening is cool and calm and it smells so good, so fresh and lively after the sterile death-smell of the hospital. You hope that you never have to go back there- you don’t think you could ever give up the feeling of sun smiling on you, wind in your fur, bird song in your ears. You think maybe your companions feel the same, because they can’t stop looking at the sunset and smiling.

    (You feel a pang of guilt as you think about the fact that you effectively trapped them inside with you for two whole days, then promptly shove it to the side. Not. Now.)

    Sans gets excited when he sees your familiar neighborhood, running ahead of you with an enthusiastic shout. You and Papyrus chuckle at his energy, meandering behind him at a much slower pace.

    You blink your eyes open sleepily as said skeleton comes to a stop, reaching up to fetch you from your place around his shoulders. He smiles warmly down at you, but you feel that searching look again, and you squirm, wondering what you’ve done wrong now. He snickers at your expression. “Relax, Kitten, you’re not in trouble. It’s just… well, it’s passed time we talked, Cheshire.”

    You shiver. You don’t understand what he’s getting at. You don't like what he's saying.

    “Kitten, you-”

    “PAPY!” Sans abruptly reappears in the distance in front of you, eyes bright as something large and gray dangles in his arms. “PAPY, LOOK WHAT I FOUND ON OUR PORCH!”

    As he comes closer, you finally make out what it is: A sleek silver and grey tabby cat with wide, amber eyes. Their coat is long and healthy, expertly groomed, and a sky blue ribbon is tied around their neck.

    Another jolt runs through you, but it’s for entirely different reasons. You cannot believe your eyes.

    What is she doing here?!






Chapter Text

The second Papyrus set you down in the doorway of the house, you took off, sprinting through the house and darting into every open room. You rolled around in the lint behind the laundry machines, you pressed your face into the towels in the bathroom, you flopped on Sans’ carpet and wriggled around, and you pressed yourself into the couch cushions. You rolled and rubbed and squirmed until the awful hospital smell had once again been overridden by the gloriously familiar and comforting smells of home. You were completely content.

Or you would be, if not for the nuisance that was currently sitting in the middle of your couch, in your spot, grooming himself like he belonged there.

Winona- or Winston, as you’d learned he was going by now- had, despite all your protests, come home with you. He had been carried in by none other than Sans himself, and if it weren’t for how outrageously happy Sans had looked while talking about all the fun you’d have with another cat- please, someone kill you- you wouldn’t have hesitated to shred his pretty little bow into ragged ribbons.

Sans was currently in the kitchen making dinner, hopefully eggs, while Paps went upstairs to take a shower, per Sans’ request. This left you and your arch nemesis together, alone, in the living room.  

Winston drew his dainty paw over his ears, smiling at you innocently. You’ve been glaring for an awful long time, old friend. Have I done something to upset you?

Ugh. Stupid jerk. He knew full well what he’d done to upset you. Cut the innocent crap. What are you doing here, Winston? Last I checked, you were half-way across the states, conning some poor old man into taking care of you, you hissed, tail lashing as you glowered at him.

I wasn’t conning him, dear. He loved me, Winston responded, setting his paw down and smirking at you. And what about you? Living with monsters? Hits a bit too close to home, doesn’t it?

Your claws pricked the carpet. You took a few deep breaths to keep yourself from tearing it up. I don’t know what you mean. And you didn’t answer me. What are you doing here?

Can’t I visit my dear old friend? He purred, leaping off of the couch and padding closer. You bristle as he nuzzles your scruff, the scent of dust and peanuts filling your nose. You cringe and stagger back, hissing warningly at him. He just looks on, amused. Now now, friend, there’s no need for that. I’m just trying to say hello.

Don’t. Touch me. You sit down again, agitatedly licking your shoulder and grimacing when his smell lingers on your tongue. Gross, you just got yourself smelling nice again! Why do you taste like peanuts? Who the heck are you living with, an elephant?

He lets out a mrow of laughter, tail flicking lazily behind him. He looks much too comfortable in your own home. You hate it. Close. My new owner is a ringmaster, actually. He runs a lovely travelling circus. He gave me this. He ran a paw over the ribbon around his neck lovingly, expression softening in a way that caught you off guard. In all the time you’ve known Winston, he never looked that fond when talking about his humans. He continued in a grossly dreamy voice. He’s a wonderful man. He takes such good care of us. We’re part of his show, you know.

Your ear twitched. “Us”? Who’s “us”?

Fellow shifters, he replied with a grin, clearly amused at your startled expression. We’re very good for his show, you know. Actual shapeshifters? It enthralls the crowd every time.

Your pelt prickles with fear and unease. You’re bristling again, clutching the carpet tightly. Leaning forward, you hiss, What do you think you’re doing? You’ll get yourselves killed! How many of us are there? What does he make you do? Do you even realize how reckless you’re being by-

Relax, old timer, he cut in, rolling his eyes dramatically. Your jaw snaps shut with a sharp click as he goes on. The age of fear that you lived in is over. Magic and monsters are all the rage nowadays! We don’t have to hide ourselves anymore. He licked his paw again, soothing it over the ribbon. Besides, the ringmaster takes good care of us. Anyone who tries to harm us is… dealt with.

Your insides churn, ears pinning. You can’t believe what you’re hearing. You know it’s much safer for you now than it was then, but there are still those out there who want to hurt you. He’d just said it himself! And this ringmaster man. Why was he collecting shapeshifters? The whole thing just rubbed your fur the wrong way. You felt like there was something else going on, something worse- and you’d long learned to trust your instincts. Winston, I know you think you’re safe, but you should leave. This sounds like a bad situation, you can’t-

Why do you care? He demands, harsher than you’d been expecting. I thought you hated me.

Well, he’s not wrong. I don’t hate you, Winston, I just don’t like you much. But we’ve still got to look out for each other. You can’t help the bitterness that creeps into your voice. Although I don’t suppose you know what that means.

Oh, come off it! He snaps, and now you’re both bristling, glowering heatedly at one another. I left you there because it wasn’t safe for us-

So you snuck off in the middle of the night to leave me and the others to die?

You can handle yourself-

Tina and Sage died that night, Winston, you selfish, insufferable-

“DINNER IS READY!” Sans suddenly calls from the kitchen, and both of you fall silent, startled by the interruption. The skeleton bustles in, beaming at the two of you and wiping his hands off on his apron. He looks toward Winston, chirping, “I WASN’T SURE WHAT YOU’D LIKE, SO I JUST MADE SOME EGGS! CHESHIRE LOVES THEM, SO I HOPE YOU WILL TOO!”

“I’m sure it’s eggcelent, bro,” Papyrus drawls, suddenly appearing next to the couch. You take immense satisfaction in Winston’s jump of surprise and pad over, rubbing against his leg affectionately. Papyrus chuckles, leaning down to scoop you up and scratch under your chin. “Kinda surprised you ain’t pountin’ at me, Kitten. I’ve used that one before.”

Had he? You didn’t much care at the moment. Your heart was still racing with the phantom traces of anger and all you wanted was to cuddle. You pushed your head up under his chin and purred softly as he stroked your spine. Already you felt much better.

Papyrus carried you into the kitchen, setting you down on the table between him and Sans. Sans had returned to the counter to dish up plates, leaving Winston to scramble up onto a seat and- subsequently, the table- on his own. You smiled innocently when he shot you a dirty look, purring as Papyrus scratched your ears. Every little bit of leverage you had on the little gremlin was a win in your books.

Dinner was delicious. Sans had cooked up eggs, as promised- although he gave you a stern look and told you that the doctors at the vet had scolded him for it, and that he’d be making a much more cat friendly diet from now on! You could keep the eggs, though- and given you a bowl of milk. Winston looked like he wasn’t going to eat it, but he ended up choking down a few pieces anyway. You never understood what he had against eggs. Eggs were the best.

By the time dinner was over you were exhausted. It’d been a long, stressful few days, and now that you were somewhere comfortable, you just wanted to curl up and sleep. You couldn’t nap just yet, however. First, you had a very important task.

If Winston was going to be staying here for any length of time, he needed to know whose house this was. Namely, that it was yours.

So after dinner, you licked Sans to thank him and hopped off the table, heading for the living room. You didn’t much like the idea of leaving Winston alone with them, but you could handle that later. For now you needed to mark your territory.

You went over the house again, thoroughly rubbing yourself over every surface. You left nothing untouched. Everything was scented. The couch. The table. Your toys. The stairs. The laundry room. The hallways. Sans’ room. The bathroom. Everything was touched. Everything was yours.

When you were content with the overwhelming scent trail you’d left, you returned downstairs to discover that the skeletons had moved to the couch and were now watching a movie. Winston was poking his nose into your pile of toys, wrinkling his nose when he scented your possessive intent. You watched smugly as he glanced up at you and growled softly, retreating to hide under the table.

Purring contently, you strode into the room and leapt up onto Sans’ lap. You set about to rubbing your head against his chest, discreetly marking him the way you’d marked everything else in the house and keeping an eye on Winston. That’s right. Everything in this house was yours, including the skeletons. He could mope under the table.

Don’t you think this is overkill? He rumbled from below, creeping out enough to peer up at you.

Snorting, you settled on Sans’ legs and purred smugly. No. Mine. My house. My skeletons.

Tch. Just one of the many, Winston griped, scowling at you with an angry gleam in his eye. You don’t really care about them, Cheshire. You just don’t want me to have them. You’re nothing but a petty, spiteful ball of instincts.

Liar! You hissed, bristling angrily. Sans made a startled noise, resting a soothing hand on you, but you weren’t paying attention. Your whole, undivided rage was on the intruder. There was a threat in y o u r   t e r r i t o r y.

I’m telling the truth. His lips curled. They’re just another hand to feed you. You don’t have a home, Cheshire, you have minions. People you’ve tricked into caring about you that you’ll always leave and abandon.

Your claws pricked the fabric of Sans’ shorts. Papyrus and Sans were both talking, voices distant.   I don’t abandon them! I go back! I always go back!

Oh, really? His voice dropped into an oozing purr. Then what about Agitha?

You didn’t even realize you were moving until you were on him, screeching furiously as your claws bit into his pelt. He yowled beneath you, rolling to try and dislodge you, but you held on tight, gripping him harder. His teeth dug into your shoulder and you hissed in pain, raking your claws over his neck, shredding his precious ribbon and dragging up tufts of fur.

He wriggled away from you, hissing furiously at you, and you shrieked again, swiping at him blindly. He just barely danced away, your claws missing him by mere inches, and suddenly hands were roughly grabbing you, plucking you off the ground. You hissed and spat, writhing and swiping blindly, senses filled with fury. You could still taste him on your tongue, the scent of his blood filling your head with red, red, red, blinding anger, how dare he presume to know anything, anything at all about you and about her and about the skeletons-

Mint. Blue clouds gently pushing away the red haze. A sense of calmness and security, rocking you to sleep on gentle waves. You went limp, breathing heavily as your mind returned to you.

You glanced around the room. Papyrus was nowhere to be found, as was Winston- though you could hear him screaming from above- which meant it must be…

Guilt. All-encompassing guilt. You didn’t want to look back at him. He would be so disappointed in you. Sans was always so gentle, so kind and sweet. He’d never have reacted like that. He would have been calm and patient and handled it all with a smile. How could you face him when you were so-

“Stop that,” Sans murmured, gently shifting you so he was cradling you tenderly, pressing his face to your neck. “You're okay. We all lose our tempers sometimes. We all reach the end of our patience. Even someone as magnificent as me, mwehehehe!” You rattle out a tentative purr, leaning your head against his. He lifts his eyes to meet yours, abruptly serious once more. “I do not know what happened between you and our guest to make you so angry, but I am sure you did not attack without a reason. And while I think talking it out is the best option, I also understand that sometimes we get overwhelmed and simply can't control ourselves. So I don't want you to feel bad, but I do want you to apologise, so you don't have anything to regret anymore! Deal?”

Deal, you purr aloud, rubbing his cheek. You don't know how Sans is so good at talking angry people down. Maybe he's just that magnificent.

Sans takes you to the kitchen to get cleaned up. You don't bother protesting this time, letting him wash you without fighting it. He's extra careful of your shoulder, gently scrubbing it clean with a wash rag. You half expect him to fish out a bandaid, but instead he grabs something from under the counter. When he straightens, you discover it's a small piece of candy. You tilt your head at it curiously. Sans smiles sheepishly. “I'm not technically supposed to feed you candy- it can be a choking hazard, after all!- but… since this is Monster Candy, I will make an exception. Just eat this and it should heal your injuries.”

Should? You echo, eyeing the candy warily as he unwraps it.

Sans shrugs, holding it out towards you. “I suppose we don't have to worry. It's always worked on humans.” He held it out towards you.

You consider telling him that it's not a guarantee it'll work on animals, but decide it'll just be easier if you eat it. It's slightly chewy and tastes like something sweet and salty. You kind of like it, even if it's a pain in the butt to lick it off your teeth. You feel your body tingling just like it does with Papyrus’ healing magic, so you assume it's working.

Sans looks pleased as he observes your shoulder. “See? Not a scratch!” There is indeed no scratch. Just black fur. He leans in and gives it an over exaggerated kiss, complete with the obligatory “MWAH” noise. Then he scoops you back up and you both head out to the living room. He turns the TV on to the now-familiar Napstaton channel, and you let yourself zone out to the synthetic sounds pouring from the speakers and the drone of the hammy robot actor.

Your mind wanders to your arguments today. Winston is… a younger shifter. A much younger shifter. He was born a mere two hundred years ago, from your understanding, in a much different and somewhat more progressive era than you did. He’d grown up with his parents- only one of which was a shifter, which wasn’t uncommon these days- in a higher class home in a higher class neighborhood. He’d grown up drunk on rebellion and rock n’ roll, on troublemaking and sneaking out at midnight. An entirely different world from yours. Maybe that’s why he was so careless with his abilities. He’d grown up in the age of “take care of number one.”

Maybe that’s why he was so willing to leave you that night.

It’d been the dead of winter. You’d been travelling for weeks with a pair of young shifter twins, barely even fifteen, and Winston- Winona, at the time. They’d all fallen on rather unfortunate events: the twins were one of the rare cases where both parents were human, but they decidedly weren’t. Apparently their parents had gotten tired of their “freakishness” and thrown them out. You’d found them scavenging for food out of a dumpster in the back of an alley and taken them in. Winston had been kicked out of his most recent house for some reason he never bothered to tell you, and at the time you hadn’t thought about being suspicious. You’d just been concerned with looking out for your little group- your little family.

Your group had wandered into a small town. You’d heard rumors that there was a pack of shifters here, and you figured you’d be safe to hunker down with them for a few weeks while the snow passed. Unfortunately, the pack was decidedly not friendly, and hadn’t taken kindly to your quartet of “interlopers.” You’d managed to obtain one night of safe harbor in a warehouse on the edge of town without their knowledge, but when you’d woken up, Winston was gone.

You’d panicked. You’d gone looking for him, worrying that the pack had found him, and when you’d come back, it was too late. “A warning,” the leader had said, “To you and the little worm we ran out of town last night who told us you’d gone against us.”

Thinking back on today, all you felt was guilt. It hadn’t really been Winston’s fault. He’d told you it wasn’t safe, but you’d insisted on staying anyways. But you’d all been so weak, going weeks without food or rest, and you were so cold, and Sage had been coughing non-stop, and… You just wanted to look out for them. But instead you’d killed them.

Winston wasn’t totally innocent, however. If he hadn’t run, if he hadn’t told them, then maybe Tina and Sage would still be alive. But was it his fault if you’d been the one who made them stay? Who’s to say they wouldn’t have found you anyways? You would have all died then.

Maybe you’d never really been mad at Winston. Maybe you’d been using him to do what you did best: avoid reality.

And okay, maybe for someone who moves in with their humans for several months, sometimes even years, at a time, you suppose that the way you live looks a little… callous. Winston didn't often show it, but you knew he got very attached to the people he lived with. He talked frequently of the people he'd lived with before he met you, and he still thought about his parents. He just couldn't understand why you wouldn't just pick a family and stay with them. Did he think you were cruel, leading on the people you visited? Were you cruel?

And… Agitha. You hadn't visited her in years. She would be… goodness, she'd be about eighty now. Would she still remember you? Would she want you to come back? She hadn't seemed upset when you'd left. Maybe… maybe you could pay her a visit. Talk some things out. If she even wants you around, after you left all those years ago...

“Cheshire,” Sans murmurs over the din of the TV, lightly tilting your head up and smiling down at you. “I told you not to feel bad, didn't I? Just apologise and move on. You can't change the past, but you can make the future better!”

Aww, Sans… What would you do without such a magnificent guy looking out for you? You purr and sit up, resting your paws on his chest so you can lean up and lick his cheek in thanks. He chuckles quietly and nuzzles you back, gently stroking your spine and scratching your chest. Eventually you settle back in his lap, trapping his hand between your front paws so you can cuddle it and groom him- nevermind the fact that he's all bone. It's the thought that counts.

It wouldn't be hard to apologise to Winston. He was generally pretty chill until provoked. And Agitha… well. She was too kind to hold a grudge. Maybe when you left you would visit her.

...If today was any indication, that wouldn't be long now. You were nearing the end of your rope. You could feel your human mind receding, especially in moments like this where you were left with your thoughts.

So you decided to focus on the TV and the feeling of Sans’ fingers in your fur.

 

Papyrus comes down the stairs, carrying a pouting Winston, a few moments later. You eye each other warily as Papyrus sits next to Sans, and you sit up, ears drooping. You hunch in on yourself as Winston growls softly, warningly, and Sans gives you an encouraging pat.

Hey, Winston. How're you feeling? You hazard sheepishly, glancing him over. His injuries have been healed, most likely by Papyrus, and all the fur has grown back.

Fine, no thanks to you , he huffs, pointedly licking his neck. There's a distinct lack of blue that makes you cringe.

In an even smaller voice, you mumble, Sorry about your scarf.

It's fine, he says, in a tone that clearly says it's Not Fine. He still won't look at you directly, preferring to glare at you from the corner of his eye as he keeps grooming. Trying to look aloof.

You sigh, folding further in on yourself. No, it's really not. I hurt you. And I don't just mean your ribbon, which I really am sorry about, because it was really nice and I didn't wanna ruin it… You dip your head submissively. I'm sorry for everything. For the way I treated you today and for the way I've treated you in the past. I'm sorry I put you in a situation where you felt uncomfortable and unsafe and I'm sorry that I never listen to you. I'm not asking for forgiveness, I just… wanted you to know I'm sorry, I guess.

You glance up at Sans, who nods approvingly at you. You nudge him with your paw, grateful to have him here to support you.

I’m still angry at you, he states, and you cringe, nodding your understanding. You’d expected that, after all. But… I’m also sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I said. You look up, surprised, and he stares back calculatingly. I don’t understand you, Cheshire. I don’t understand why you do some of the things you do or the kind of life you had. I can’t even fathom what you went through, because my life’s been so different… But I don’t have any right to judge you for that. And I certainly shouldn’t have poked at old wounds. His ear flicks and he looks away, looking a little uncomfortable. And… what I did to you and the twins was.. Bad. I should have taken you all with me-

No, Winston, that was my fault, you interrupt with a smile. He stares at you, confused and startled. You suppose he wasn’t expecting you to take the fall for that after so long… I should have listened to you. You were right, it was dangerous for us. Maybe if we’d kept going you wouldn’t have had to-

Cheshire, no offense, but you’re wrong. Again. You were just trying to look after us, I should have-

But Winston, looking after you means listening to your concerns, I should have-

Are you really fighting me on who’s to blame? He demands incredulously, and the absurdity of the situations strikes you so suddenly that you can’t help but purr, amused with your own silliness.

By the stars, I am, you laugh, muscles loosening, and it feels like a heavy weight lifts off your shoulders when Winston starts purring as well. We’re a couple of numbskulls, huh?

Winston snorts, stepping off of Papyrus’ lap and nosing your scruff, starting to groom you. It’s all your fault, old timer. You have to set a good example for us youngsters.

I had nothing to do with the way you were raised, young man, you retort, returning the gesture. You discretely nose around his neck, making sure that the wounds have all been healed- not that you doubt Papyrus’ abilities, of course. It’s just habit.

“Phew. I take it you’ve both worked everything out?” Sans says, sounding relieved as he watches the two of you. You mew affirmatively, licking Winston’s ear to prove your point. The fact that Winston hates people playing with his ears and grumbles at you quietly does not phase you. You just nip him teasingly, making him bat at you.

Papyrus sighs, reaching out and flicking you between the ears. He smirks when you give him an offended look and an indignant meow, shrugging playfully. “Sorry, Kitten, couldn’t have ya startin’ another fight so soon after ya made up.” He ruffles your ears, then smooths down the mussed fur affectionately. You yawn, leaning into his hand and huffing contently. “Heh. Looks like someone’s a little sleepy. We should let ‘em get to bed, bro.”

Sans pouts, glancing at the clock. “But we only just got them home and we haven’t gotten to spend any time with them…”

“I know, bro, but they gotta get some sleep. We’ll have plenty of time ta hang out with ‘em tomorrow,” Papyrus soothes, lightly nudging Sans and standing up. “C’mon. Go get ready for bed.”

“But I’m the older brother,” Sans mutters petulantly, even as he reluctantly shoos you and Winston off his lap. He slides off the couch, kneeling to gather you in his arms, but you lightly pap his face, mewing softly. He pulls back, blinking at you curiously. “What is it, Cheshire?”

You glance back at Winston, tilting your head and mewing. Sans beams. “Oh! You’re worried about your friend?” Kinda yeah. You just don’t want him down here by himself. It gets cold. “Well, he can just come sleep with us!”

You’re not proud to admit that the suggestion has you bristling a little. The thought of another cat on your bed- okay, it’s Sans’, but you also sleep in it and that makes it yours, you don’t make the rules here- makes you want to get hissy and defensive all over again. You firmly squish that part down, forcing your fur to lay flat, reminding yourself that you’d just made up with Winston and wanted to get past your bad blood. So you reluctantly nod, and Sans grins, scooping you up in one arm and cradling Winston in the other.

Papyrus putters over to say goodnight, leaning down so you can give him a few licks. To your surprise, he even gives your head a little kiss, the way Sans does, as you stare up at him in shock. You… don’t think he’s ever kissed you goodnight before. He chuckles at your awestruck face, gently stroking your ears, and murmurs, “It’s good ta have ya back home, honey. Sleep well.”

And then he’s gone, leaving you a stunned but happy puddle of fur in Sans’ arms. Winston snorts at the whole thing, but from the envious gleam in his eyes, you guess he’s just putting up a fuss because he misses his human. You decide not to tease him about it, content to laze around in Sans’ arms as he hauls you up the stairs.

    Winston takes his time poking his nose into every corner of the room, much like you did when you first arrived, while you immediately make yourself at home on Sans’ bed with a happy purr. You catch him sneaking glances at Sans as he changes, no doubt intrigued by the workings of a skeleton, but a pointed growl from you has him rolling his eyes and sulking into another corner of the room. Sans also comments on everything he eyes, reminding you of your first night in his room. You wonder if Sans will want to keep him too. If so, he’s in for an unfortunate surprise: Winston’s already wholly dedicated to this “ringmaster” dude.

    Eventually he joins you on the bed, and Sans follows his example soon after, making himself comfortable in his usual spot. Then he looks down and beams at you happily, stretching his arms out towards you, and you all-but leap into him, wriggling up under his chin and curling against his ribs, purring so hard you’re vibrating. He chuckles quietly, a relieved and happy sound, and wraps his arms around you tightly, nuzzling your head and cheeks. This close you can hear the hum of his magic and feel it vibrating from his chest- almost like his own purr.

    “I really missed you,” he whispers softly, pressing a lingering kiss to your head. “I’m so glad you’re home.”

    So am I, you purr, sighing happily and returning his kiss with a lick to his chin. You feel fuzzy and warm and so, so happy…

    Eugh. You two are so disgustingly cute, Winston mutters, padding over to curl up next to you, resting his head on your back. You allow it, and Sans moves his arm so you can cuddle more effectively. Why do you bother responding verbally? It’s not like he understands you.

    You shrug, tail flicking against his leg. You pretend to ignore the subtle purr you can feel coming from him, and smile slightly. You… kinda missed this. It would take some time for the two of you to rebuild your relationship, but today had been… a good step. Maybe he doesn’t understand my words, but he understands my actions. Besides, I’ve been talking aloud to you all day. Totally all your fault, you tease, turning your head to shoot him a mischievous grin.

    I thought we were past the point of blaming me for everything, he teases back, closing his eyes as Sans lazily pets him. You can tell the adorable skeleton is starting to get tired. It won’t be long before he drifts off, and you’re not far behind him.

    Maybe someday. But that day is not today, you respond sagely, words broken by a yawn. You set your head back under Sans’ chin, and he lightly scratches your neck. Goodnight, Winston. And goodnight, Sans.

    “Good night. Sweet dreams,” Sans whispers back, finally closing his sockets and relaxing fully. His hand settles on your side and does not move.

    Good night, Cheshire, Winston murmurs, licking your side. And thank you for today.

    Anytime, Winston. Sleep well.

 

    Are you sure you don’t want to come with me? Winston asks the next afternoon, standing on the front steps with you. Sans had, miraculously, let you sleep in, only waking you for breakfast. The four of you had sat down at the table for breakfast, and then Winston had complained about needing to hit the road, so you both put up a fuss to be let outside. It worked like a charm, naturally, and now the two of you were quietly talking on the familiar steps.

    You snort and lick your paw, drawing it over your ears almost-violently. And expose myself to be gawked at by thousands of humans, who could possibly hate our kind? No thanks. I’d much rather stay here.

    Winston tips his head, peering at you with narrowed eyes. You can’t stay though, can you? Your time is almost up, isn’t it? You cringe, ducking your head, and that’s all the answer he needs. I thought so. You weren’t quite yourself yesterday. He smirks. It was actually pretty funny to rile you up like that. I had no idea you were so possessive.

    Your fur fluffs up slightly, ears dropping. Hissing with embarrassment, you swat at him, watching as he dances away. You! Are! The worst! You sputter, tail flicking rapidly behind you as you settle again. I’m not exactly proud of it, you jerk!

    Hey now, with adorable monsters like that, I don’t blame you. He purrs tauntingly, sauntering closer again. If they weren’t so attached to you I’d definitely steal them-

    He’s cut off by you pouncing at him, but he dodges last minute and stands a little ways away, laughing at your irritation. Relax, dear, I’m just messing with you! I promise I won’t steal your skeletons. Besides, they like you far too much for that. He pauses, licking his paw innocently. Speaking of, why don’t you just tell them what you are? It’s not like they’ll shun you or anything. They’re monsters, after all, and they’re your monsters. They’ll love you no matter what you are.

    You deflate, anger leaving you, and pad down the steps to stand next to him in the sun. I know. I know they would. But I just… I’m still so scared, you admit weakly, claws scraping the dirt. You can’t look at him. I’ve thought about it, you know. In the hospital. How much easier it would be if I just told them. But I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s just… scary.

    ...And what are you going to do when you leave? Winston asks slowly, side-eyeing you. What do you think they’re going to do?

    I’ll come back, you mutter defensively, shuffling uncomfortably. You think about how distraught Sans was when he thought you were going to die- how scared even unshakeable Papyrus had been, sitting with you in bed that first morning. How would they take you leaving for three weeks or more? You didn’t want to worry them. You didn’t want them to be afraid they were losing you forever. You’d promised Papyrus you weren’t going to scare them again. Maybe if you just… told them everything, you could leave without worrying them?

    Winston sighs, standing suddenly and knocking you from your thoughts. When you glance up, you see him watching you with a surprisingly gentle smile. You’ve never seen him smile like that before. It looks good on him. Just think about it, Cheshire. I’m sure you’ll figure something out. And if anything ever happens, you know how to find me. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again soon.

    You sigh, standing to walk with him to the edge of the yard. Before he can leave, you lean forward and nuzzle his scruff, even giving his ear an affectionate lick. Be safe, Winston. I know you’re happy with your new human, but don’t let your guard down. I want you in one piece the next time I see you, understand?

    Yes, mother, he drawls, amused as he returns your gesture. I’ll be fine, I promise. Goodbye, Cheshire. I wish you the best of luck.

    Thanks, I’m gonna need it, you say, only partly joking.

You watch him sway down the sidewalk until he’s gone, then stand there for a few more moments and think about Agitha.

“Cheshire?” Sans call from the house, stepping out and looking around. “Oh! Your friend is gone! Where could he have wandered off to?”

“Mighta gone home, bro,” Papyrus suggests, stepping out after him and glancing around. When his sockets settle on you, he smiles gently, but you can see that searching look in his gaze. Slowly, never taking his eyes off you, he kneels and holds out his arms, tilting his head slightly. “Why don’tcha come back in, Kitten? Sans and I were gonna start up a movie, figured you wouldn’t wanna miss it.”

You nod, purring softly as you sprint back up to the steps and throw yourself into his chest. Both skeletons chuckle at this, and Papyrus carries you back in, using magic to pull the door closed.

You’ve got at least one more day. You’re completely out of time.

You decide you’re going to leave tomorrow.

You decide you’re not going to tell the skeletons.

It’s better this way.

 

    You don’t sleep that night.

    You’re afraid that if you close your eyes and let yourself sleep now, you’ll lose yourself forever.

    So you just don’t sleep.

    You stay awake and you stare out Sans’ window. You prop your chin up on his shoulder and stare. You will the sun to rise faster, eyes straining and burning and fluttering shut. It’s hard to pry them open again. But you refuse to sleep.

    You busy yourself with thinking. Sometimes your mind goes to nonsensical places, confusing half-dreams that almost pull you under. But you fight back every time. You think about tomorrow- today? Stars you hope it’s today already, your eyes hurt- and how you’ll escape. Out the window, like with Johnny’s mother? Papyrus would let you out the front. That would be easiest. You’ll do that.

    You, unfortunately, think about the skeletons themselves. You wonder how they’ll react. What they’ll do while you’re gone. Sans would still go to work like usual. Papyrus would still makes puns like usual. Their life would move on without you. They might worry, but eventually they would move on. And then you’d be back and they wouldn’t have to worry anymore, and eventually they would figure out that everytime you leave you’ll be back. And then they won’t be worried. And they won’t wonder about you. And it’ll be fine.

    You hope that Sans’ coworkers are nice to him when you’re gone. You hope Papyrus drinks lots of honey. You hope that they stay up late watching bad movies. You hope that they wake up early and watch the sun rise. You hope that his corn dog cart does well without its mascot… that his weird gem friends show him lots of pretty stones… that he watches that anime, and that he...  and that he trains hard… you hope he takes care… of his brother, and him… self, and… and the… house…

    You hope… you hope… they know… they both know… that you…    

 

    When you open your eyes, it’s a morning like any other. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Sans is pounding away on his treadmill. Papyrus is downstairs watching TV. You’re curled up blearily in mint-scented sheets.

    It’s time to leave.

 

    Papyrus looks surprised to see you in one piece. He teases you about escaping Sans’ wrath and you don’t bother with a response, striding straight past him to the door with heavy feet. You half-heartedly paw at the door, meowing loud enough for him to hear you. He comes around the corner, eyeridges raised. “Guess you need out pretty badly, huh?” he teases, reaching over you to pull the door open for you.

    You mew softly, hesitating as you stare at the open door. You already told yourself you wouldn’t say goodbye to either of them. It would just worry them more and be overall harder for everyone in the long run.

    And yet… you wanted to do just that. You wanted to turn around and spend one more day with the two. But you couldn’t. Not if you wanted to be with them.

    So you steel yourself and bound out into the yard, heading straight for the bushes where you usually do your business, just so Papyrus won’t suspect anything. You can feel him watching you as you duck into the foliage.

    Don’t do it.

    Do not do it.

    Bad Cheshire! Stay strong! Stay strong! Stay-

    You’re weak.

    Against your better judgement, you find yourself looking back over your shoulder. You take in everything as quick as you can- the shape and color of their house, the flower curtains in the window, the Christmas lights on the eaves, Papyrus and his relaxed smile and bright orange hoodie and pretty white bones- and feel a lump in your throat. Before you have a chance to worry him, you duck into the bush and crouch in the dirt, trembling.

    Why does it always have to hurt so bad? The first time you leave is always a struggle, but you haven’t hurt this much in years. It feels like you’ve left a piece of yourself behind, and that piece is begging you to go back.

    It’s not too late, it whispers, filling your mind. You can still tell them. Just turn around and tell them.

    But you can’t. You have to go. You have to see the others. You can’t be selfish.

    So you force yourself upwards and squirm towards the fence blocking off their property from the neighbors’. You’d scouted a little hole in the fence a few days ago that was just big enough for you to squeeze through. You squish through and take off, running as fast as your legs can carry you out of the yard and away from the house. Away from your house. Away from your skeletons.

    But it’s fine, you reassure yourself, pushing yourself impossibly faster. You’ll be back. It’s fine. Just keep going, just keep going, just keep…

    Going.

 

    You stop at your usual coffee shop to people watch and catch a quick nap. The quiet clamour of the cafe lulls you into sleep, and you end up slumped back against the soft, velvety seats of a booth. Your mind feels much clearer now that you’re further away from the house and in your human form. It’s a little weird to be back- you feel like it’s been years since the last time, even though it was only a few weeks ago. How strange.

    You’re woken by an awkward, freckly teenager who apologises profusely for disturbing you. You wave him off with a gentle smile and ask what he wants, but he just blushes and holds his notebook up. You’ve never seen him before, so you assume he’s new. Unfortunately you don’t have any money, so you tell him you’re just here to relax for a bit. He seems to loosen up at this, and shyly admits that he, being a college student, does the same thing. You wish him luck and he putters off to quietly bother other patrons.

    With that out of the way, you go right back to napping, although this time you slide down in your booth, curling up and pressing against the cushioned back for warmth. It doesn’t feel very comfortable. You suppose you’re a bit spoiled, considering how soft Sans’ bed was.

    A twinge in your chest makes you grimace, and you quickly banish that thought from your mind. You’re not going to think about it. You’re just going to go back to sleep and forget everything. Sounds like a great plan.

   

    You’re sort of at a loss for what to do now. You consider visiting the park, but you don’t want to run the risk that Papyrus might be working there. You end up mindlessly wandering town, idly observing items in glossy shop windows and listening to the bustle of the city. It doesn’t seem as… vibrant as you’re used to. Not as exciting. It’s strange.

    With a sigh, you decide it might be time to get a move on. You see no point in dallying around here if you’re just going to be bored and unhappy. Besides, Agitha lives somewhere outside of town; if you want to make it there before night, it might be a good idea to head out. As you pick a street that looks vaguely familiar, you plan what you’re going to say, how you’re going to explain yourself. You find your mind spiralling back to whether or not she’ll even want you back, but you quickly banish the thought. If you entertain it for too long, you’ll chicken out.

    You’re strolling back a cute little monster bakery when you’re struck with the oddest feeling. Something deep within you tugs slightly, and inexplicably enough you feel a bubble of happiness rising. It feels familiar.

            At that same moment, you hear the unmistakable sound of Sans’ voice, and your heart leaps in both joy and terror. What is he doing out here? He had work today, and there's no way he would skip it just to… do what, exactly?

            Trying very hard to appear casual, you tuck your hands in your pockets and stroll away from his voice, walking just a tiny bit too fast to be normal. You flinch a little every time you hear his voice- especially when you realize he's calling your name.

            At this realization, you speed up further, ducking your head and staring at the side walk. Are they looking for you? Already? It hasn't even been a day! Why did they even bother? Cats were known for wandering off, didn't he know that? Maybe not.

           Your fingers brush your collar. You'd been surprised and suitably confused when you'd transformed and found the collar was still attached, fitting snugly around your neck. You hadn't… really expected it to come with you? You'd ended up just shoving it into your jacket and leaving. The little charm on the end jangles as you walk, and you wrap your fingers around it tightly, rubbing the cool metal with your thumb. You feel… comforted. Safer. This is a thing you've come to associate with home.

           And home is back the other way, calling your name.

            You pull your hands away from the collar and pause for a moment, groaning and rubbing your face. If you could just stop thinking about that, it'd be great, thanks.

           Somebody abruptly bumps into you from the side. You jump, stumbling slightly, and whoever it was reached out to grab you, stabilizing you. “Ah, crap, sorry, wasn't watching’ where I was goin’,” comes Papyrus voice, and your wide eyes swing up to see him standing before you, forehead beaded with sweat and a strained smile on his face. It feels weird not to have to crane your neck back as far. “Heh, uh, really sorry bout that, buddy. Say, uh, you seen a small black cat around here somewhere? Oh, uh, here-” He lets go of you, fumbling in his pockets for his phone as you stand there, struck dumb and silent. You cannot believe this is happening.

            He seems to find the phone, because he makes a triumphant noise and pulls it out, quickly unlocking the phone and accessing the photos. He swipes for a moment, then holds the phone up. Predictably, it's of you, with your collar, sitting on his good cart, staring up at a leaf that's drifted down from a nearby tree. You don't recognize the picture. You look happy. “I, uh, I think they mighta headed out this way, around here somewhere, but I… I haven't seen ‘em.” He trails off for a moment, glancing between you and the alley behind you. The air prickles suddenly, and you get the feeling you're being looked through again.

            And then, inexplicably, his sockets widen and he whispers, “Kitten?”

            And you run.

             You don't even realize you're running until you hear Papyrus yelling for you, and you push yourself faster. You shove your way through the crowd, ignoring their angry shouting. That feeling from before tugs on you, and somehow, you just know it's Sans and Papyrus- and you know that you're not fast enough to outrun them forever.

            You're going to have to shift. You're nowhere near ready to do so, but you have no other choice. If you want to have any chance to get away, you'll just have to suck it up.

            Stumbling over another person's foot, you catch yourself against a corner of a building, stopping for a moment to breath. Your chest aches with exertion and caustic emotions, your head swimming, but you push yourself on, staggering into the alley. You think idly that you should start taking Sans up on his training.

            The twinge in your chest tells you that you don't have long, so you duck behind the nearest trash can and begin shifting. Your body screams in agony as you force your bones to shift and contort, pushing feathers from your skin and stretching your jaw into a beak. It's clumsy and painful, and for a moment you just sit in the alley, your tiny body trembling. You give your wings an experimental flap, and though pain lances through the limbs, you shake them out and take off. You're out of time.

             You ascend, higher and higher, until you can let the warm air carry you and the clouds mute the tugging on your chest.

 

           There's only so far you can stress your already over-taxed body. You're not sure how long you fly- you're not even sure where you're going, just letting your instincts guide you- but eventually the pain and exhaustion outweigh your adrenaline. Your wings seize and you go spiralling towards the ground, asleep before you hit. Good thing we were so close to the ground, you think, as you give in to the darkness.

 

            By the time you wake up, the sun has set and you're back in your human form. Moving hurts, but not as bad as it did when you were a bird. You're grateful as you push yourself upwards, rolling to your feet and checking your pockets quickly. The collar is, miraculously, still in your pocket. You take a moment to examine your surroundings. At least the neighborhood you landed in was small. It's also… vaguely familiar, but you're not quite sure where you've seen… it…

            Wait. Yes you do. That tree, the little house on the corner with the weird scarecrow in the front, the toys and broken down slide in the other yard… and a pale yellow house with flowers of all kinds running rampant in the front, covering the lawn and creeping over the fence and up the walls of the house.

            You smile fondly, pushing yourself to your aching feet. Last time you'd seen it, the roses had been carpeting the cobblestone walkway, but it'd been cleared away now. She always did love her flowers far too much.

            The house is quiet when you get to the front door, and when you knock and receive no answer, you think maybe she's not home. You dither for a moment or two, debating over whether or not to knock again, when the door abruptly opens and reveals a young girl. She looks maybe sixteen, with long brown hair and wary green eyes. You give her what you hope is a disarming, if not somewhat awkward, smile, and her eyes narrow. “Uh… hi. Can I help you?” She finally says, eyeing you.

    “Oh, hi! I’m just, uh, here to see Agitha?” you stammer, tripping slightly over your words. You don’t recognize her at all. What is she doing here?

    She gives you a once-over, then leans back in the door to yell, “Ms. Agitha! There’s a weird person here at the door for you!”

    You glanced down at yourself. You’re a little roughed up, sure, but you wouldn’t say you look weird. Whatever.

    “Bring them in, dear.” Your chest squeezes and a slew of emotions runs through you when you hear her voice. She sounds older, of course, but still with the same familiar warmth.

Your hands clench into fists. With some hesitation, the girl steps aside to let you in, then guides you down a short hall. You look at the hall, eyes tracking over the pictures. You know all of them, from the picture of her with her first husband to their daughter, and then her with her second husband, their three children piled into the edges of the picture. You see pictures of her at family reunions and at a sewing tournament, proudly brandishing a first place trophy and sporting a smile that reminds you of Sans’. Your heart swells at the sight of them.

The hallway opens up into the kitchen, and when you glance around you see that yes, it is in fact still completely overrun with potted flowers of all sorts and little hanging pots with flowers and creepers. You reach up and affectionately brush the closest one with your hand. Bleeding hearts. You helped her plant these. The living room is just through a little arch off to the left, so you peek through hesitantly.

And there she is, sitting in a rocking chair in front of the window, the girl standing off to one side. Her silvery hair is pulled up in a bun, and she’s dressed in a white floral dress. She smiles as she peers in your direction, milky blue-white eyes settled firmly right in the center of your chest.

“Well, I’ll be,” she murmurs, and her voice is just as sweet and mirthful as it’s always been. Your heart pulses faster as you step further into the room. She raises a hand towards you, and you come forward, tentatively taking it. Her hands are warm and wrinkled and rough, calloused from years of work. “Is that my Atlas, come back to me after all these years?”

You don’t know how she always knows. She just does. You squeeze her hand, smiling when you say, “Hello, Agitha. I’m home.”

Chapter Text

 

The first time you shift it's a complete accident.

It's spring in your little ocean side village, and the wheat in your family's fields has grown tall and golden-brown, and you're running barefoot through the stalks, laughing gleefully. You're chasing grasshoppers, clumsily lurching forward and trying to catch them. Your tiny feet stir up the little aphids and trample path in the patch, and you know your father will scold you, but you don't care. You're outside, all on your own and playing for the first time ever!

You loved your mother. Or course you did. Who didn't live their mother? But as much as you loved her, she was so… so! She always kept you inside with her, and she never let you play with the other kids and you were bored and lonely! The only times you were allowed away from her side was when you were at school, and that was even more boring. It was the most boring thing ever! You didn't want to sit in stuffy, stiff clothes in a small room with kids who didn't even play with you! You didn't want to learn how to read or write or anything!

You just wanted to play.

So today, while your mother was distracted by her latest project- a dress for some lady in town- you'd snuck off and out through the front door. You'd thought about going down to the ocean and trying to see your father, but that would mean going through town, and you didn't like the way the adults looked at you. You didn't quite understand what everything they said or did meant, but you could sense something… bad, coming off of them. Something that made you uncomfortable and cling to your mother's skirts.

So you went instead to the fields, and now here you are, the soles of your feet turning black with dirt and tickled by grass and your heart so full and warm that you can't resist laughing again, long and loud and free. It feels so good to just run and jump and twirl through the grass and wheat, arms splayed wide and face turned to the sun. Your arms and legs are bare, wearing nothing but your underclothes and a loose undershirt. You snicker when you think of what your teacher would say if she saw you. Maybe she'd even faint. That'd be pretty funny!

You dive for another grasshopper, hands out and cupped to catch it, but only succeed in hitting the ground. It hurts a little, and for a moment you're stunned into silence, but then you begin to laugh again, rolling onto your back and clutching your stomach and roaring up at the sky. Your eyes water and scrunch up as you stare up at the clouds, and it's really not that funny, but you're just so happy!

And that's when you hear your mother's voice, calling from way across the field in a tone you know means trouble. You wince, slapping your hands over your mouth and sitting up. You can't see her through the wheat, but you can already picture her standing at the door, frowning with one hand on her hips and a storm in her eyes.

You pout, standing up and trudging through the wheat. Why does she always have to ruin it for you? Why can't she let you play in the fields or with other kids? Why doesn't she ever speak up when the adults glare at you? Doesn't she love you? Doesn't she want you to be happy? Because you're not, at all! You're bored and sad and angry and-!

A bird suddenly whips by your cheek, close enough that you can feel its wingtips brush your skin. You startle and look up, watching in amazement as the bird spirals up into the sky and loops in the air over your head. It dips down, disappearing into the field again, and a moment later bursts out of the stalks next to you, chirping loudly.

You've got a weird feeling in your chest. You… you want to be like that bird. You want to be able to fly. You want to be able to go wherever you want, and touch the sky, and see everything! You want to get out of this little village and sail across the ocean and be free…

You start running, eyes on the bird, arms out like wings. You beam as wind rushes through your hair and tugs at your clothes and you don't notice when your skin begins to prickle and crawl; don't notice when your body begins to shift and shrink and curl in new ways, your eyes getting sharper and your tiny feet lifting off the ground.

You do notice when you get up into the air, the other bird just ahead of you, and you look down, down, over the wheat fields and your little house and further out to your little village, and the vastness of the ocean, and the endless reach of the forest. Your chest feels like it's going to burst with excitement and elation, and you laugh again, except this time it comes out as a victorious song.

This feels good. It feels right. Something deep within you is glowing, shining with your newfound freedom. You bank towards the ocean, a shower very of anticipation going through you as you think of flying over it, of what you'll fi-

Your bird companion screams suddenly, a warning that some part of you recognizes instinctively and sends fear coursing through you. You understand that call as danger, there's a predator, you have to fly you have to fly you have to fly-

Massive talons seize you. You let out a scream of distress, trying to twist your way out of the grip, but it's useless. You are far too small to fight the giant bird that's captured you, but you keep fighting, because you don't want to die, you don't want to be eaten, you want to see your mother again and tell her you're sorry and see your father and his g him and smell the fish and ocean on him again and-

Little one, a familiar voice says, and you look around frantically, distressed chirps escaping you. The creature holding you bends its head, lightly running its sharp beak through your feathers, and while a part of you is screaming still, something about the touch feels familiar. Soothing. A predator wouldn't do this. That's right, darling. Relax now. Momma's got you.

You go limp, a soft chirp escaping you. You don't know how, but somehow you can tell that this really is your mother. You have nothing to fear.

Your mother takes you both down to the ground again, landing behind your house. She sets you down first, letting you hop away from her massive body, and you turn to look up at her. She's still beautiful, with pretty brown and red feathers and soft yellow eyes. You chirp affectionately, skipping back over to cuddle into her chest, and she sighs, wrapping a wing around you and nuzzling you. Oh, my baby, I'm so relieved, I didn't know what to do when I saw you shift… I thought you'd fly away forever.

You shuffle uncomfortably, not wanting to tell her that's exactly what you were going to do. You feel guilty, thinking all those mean things about your mother while she worried about you. Of course she cared. Of course she wanted you to be happy and safe. I'm sorry Momma. I didn't mean to, you chirp back softly, returning her nuzzles.

I know baby, I know, she soothes, carding her beak through your feathers one last time before pulling away. Change back, sweetie. We need to have a talk, and you can't stay like this forever.

You briefly consider asking why not, but quickly decide against it. Your mother looks distressed enough already. Instead, you tilt your head and ask, How do I do that? I… I don't really know how I did it in the first place.

She pauses for a moment, staring up at the sky thoughtfully. Well… You just… Her feathers ruffle in frustration. She seems to be trying to recall something. When you changed… what were you thinking? She finally asks, returning her eyes to you.

You shuffle again, trying to remember the whole thing. It was all kind of blurry and weird… Um… I think… I was thinking about flying? I wanted… You decide not to tell her you wanted to leave. I wanted to fly. And see things the way the bird did. And then I… was? This is confusing! You complain, and your mother snorts in amusement, lightly brushing your head with her wing.

I know, little one. The first time is always the strangest. She sighs again, picking at the dirt with her talons. Especially when no one has warned you. I suppose we just never thought that you would shift so early… She shakes her head. Nevermind. We have to get you back. You said you thought about wanting to be a bird? You nod curiously. Good. Then all you need to do is think about wanting to be a human.

That was… a little boring. You'd kind of expected there to be something else. That's it? That's all I have to do? You pry, hoping for something more exciting. Maybe a dance of some kind.

Your mother makes a weird sound that's almost but not quite a laugh. Yes, baby, that's all. It's a very simple process, you know.

Boring, you decide with a huff, but bob your head anyways and look down at your feet. You imagine them as your little human feet, and your wings as your tiny human hands, and your beak as your human face.

It feels strange to think this way, but you can feel the little tug on your chest again, and you watch in amazement as you begin to change again. This time you're aware of the changes- you can feel your bones and organs rearranging themselves, filling out and stretching out and straightening. Your eyesight abruptly shifts, reverting to its normal levels, and your other senses are suddenly much stronger. The imbalance has you overwhelmed for a moment, and you have to admit, you didn't quite like the feeling of all your parts shifting like that.

You must be making a face, because your mother laughs- a human sound; when did she change back?- and sets a hand on your head. “I know, dear. Feels pretty strange the first couple of times. You'll get used to it eventually.”

“What?” You feel strange hearing your own voice again. You'd gotten kind of used to your little chirps. “What happened? Why was I a bird? Why were you a bird? Why were we different birds? Have you always been able to do that? How can I do that? Will I always be a bird? I wanna be a squirrel. Ooh, or a deer, those are so pretty-”

Your mother laughs- resting a hand over your mouth. “Slow down, dear. I promise I'll answer all your questions, after I tell you a little story and get us some food. You must be very hungry after all that.”

As if to prove her right, your stomach grumbles noisily. You blush, folding your arms over your stomach and smiling meekly up at her as she chuckles. She takes your hand and leads you into the house through the back door, then leaves you at the table to fix some porridge. You wonder if it'd taste different if you were a bird. Did birds like porridge? Hmm. You'd have to test it.

You sit impatiently at the table, swinging your legs and drumming your hands on the wood. You're still a little jittery from everything that's happened today, and you really want to hear your mother's story. You brighten when she finally sets it in front of you, leaning across the table to accept a spoon and your bowl. “Story?” You inquire, as soon as she sits at the table.

She snorts, pulling her bowl over closer. “Eat your food first.”

You whine, squirming anxiously. But you wanna hear the story now! You drag the bowl over and start shovelling spoonfuls into your mouth, only to pause and whine as it burns your tongue. Your mother watches exasperatedly as you open your mouth, blowing around the food with watery eyes. “That's what you get for being so impatient,” she scolds, sighing as you finally swallow the mouthful and pout at her. “You're just as bad as your father sometimes,” she laments, finally taking a bit of her own lunch.

Still pouting, you sulkily finish your lunch, blowing on it several times before you eat it.  You push the bowl away with a little burp, which your mother frowns at you for. “Story?” You prod again, tacking on a big, hopeful grin.

Your mother reaches up and rubs her forehead, staring at you from under her hand. She gestures to her bowl with one hand. “May I finish eating, please?”

You groan and slump against the table, whining, “But Motherrrrrrrrrrr… if I don't hear the story soon, I'll dieeeeeeeeeeeee,” as dramatically as possible to get across the point that yes, you are definitely dying, you are on your last legs, you might not make it, if only she'd tell you the story before you die…

“I take it back,” she states warily, rolling her eyes. “You're even worse than your father.”

“You said there was no one more annoying than Daddy,” you remind her matter-of-factly, not looking up from the table.

She reaches across the table and roughly ruffles your hair, smirking as you whine and wriggle away, putting your hands over your head and glowering at her. “Well, that was before we had you. Now sit up straight. Tables are for eating, not for moping on.” She pauses, eyeing you as you start to slide towards the floor. “You will not mope on our floor either, you little troublemaker! Sit there like a big kid and wait for me to finish.”

While you bemoan the unfairness of life, your mother finishes her porridge and takes both your bowls to the sink. You're surprised when instead of washing them right away, like she normally does, she simply leaves them there and returns to the table. Realizing that you're finally going to get your story, you squirm into a more comfortable position and lean forward eagerly. She chuckles quietly at your actions, and then she begins talking.

The story goes like this:

Once upon a time, two races ruled the earth: Humans, and Monsters.

 

“I thought you told me monsters weren’t real,” you pipe up, only a little accusatory.

She chuckles softly, reaching across the table to brush your hair. “Not those kinds of monsters, dear. I mean monsters made of love, kindness, compassion, and magic.”

You think about this for a moment, then decide that yes, this is a perfectly acceptable answer. “Then… what are humans made of? Are we made of love, too?”

Her eyes soften, and she strokes your hair again. “Some of us are, darling. Humans… humans are made of determination. And some of us are made of magic.”

“Only some?”

“I’m getting to that part, baby.”

 

Humans fell into one of two categories: Human and Mage. Mages, like Monsters, were born with the ability to use magic. Many mages went to train under Monsters and learn how to use their magic. And some mages were like us.

 

“Like us? ” you can’t resist interrupting, your eyes going wide. You look down at yourself, confused. “I thought we were human!”

“We are,” she confirms, nodding slightly. You stare at her, not quite understanding. “Mages are still human. Just… magical. And we are… something else. Still human, but not… quite the same. Does that make sense?”

“No.”

“Hmm. Let me try to explain then.”

 

Certain mages learned that they could use their magic to transform into other creatures, whether they be human, animal, or monster. These mages did many things, from running messages between villages to guarding their homes. Some mages even worked for the rulers of both species.

For a time, these mages were highly valued, but as the generations went by, they began to lose their ability to perform other types of magic. The humans began to look down on them, and view them as a subspecies of sorts. Something not worth their time.

 

“That’s awful rude,” you grumble, crossing your arms sternly. “I mean, they could do such amazing things still! And they were super useful!”

Your mother nodded gently. “Indeed. But the humans didn’t see it that way. They wanted the best of the best, and these new mages- who we call shapeshifters- were not their idea of the best.”

“So… we’re shapeshifters then?” You stumble slightly over the copious “s”’s, but manage somehow.

“We are.”

“Then… are there other shapeshifters in the village?”

She winces slightly, looking away. “No. We are the only ones.” She strokes your hair again, something timid in the touch. “That’s why I never let you play outside or with the others, little one. I’m afraid… I’m afraid that you might lose yourself, again, and change.” Her eyes sharpen slightly, and she leans towards you, cupping your cheek tenderly. “You musn’t tell anyone any of this, understand? If they hear you speak a word of this they’ll think something is wrong with you. They’ll think you’re possessed. Do you understand, baby? You can’t tell anyone this.”

You bite your lip, squirming uncomfortably under her intensity. Finally, you nod, and she softens again, petting your head. “But… why? Why would they think that?”

She sighs and sits back in her seat, loosely crossing her arms. “Well… there was a war.”

“A war?”

“Yes. Between Man and Monster.”

 

Monsters had a special gift. A powerful advantage over the humans. If a monster absorbed seven human souls, it would become unstoppable. The humans began to fear this power. They worried that the monsters would use this ability and wipe them out. To avoid this, they declared war on the monsters. The mages that the monsters had tutored turned against their mentors.

 

“Why?” you exclaim, slamming your hands on the table with a passion that startles your mother. “They didn’t do anything wrong! And they- they’re made of love, and, and… and those other things! And, and the mages were their students, why would… why…”

Your mother sighs, rising from her chair and coming around the table to gently grab your hands. She kneels in front of you, catching your eyes firmly. “People make mistakes, baby. They let their fear make them do bad things. The humans gave in to their fear and they ended up hurting the people they loved.” She smiles, squeezing your hands. “Not all the mages were bad, though. There were some who still stood by their mentors, even when all their friends left.”

There’s something she’s not telling you. You can feel it. You look down at your hands and squeeze them back. Quietly, you ask, “Were they okay? If they had to fight their friends?”

She’s silent. Then, softly, she continues her story.

 

The war went on for many days. The humans began to get desperate the longer it went on, fearing that the monsters would become too powerful. So they had seven of their strongest human mages devise a plan. They would construct a barrier and seal the monsters underground forever.

 

She pauses, glancing up at you warily.

You already know where the story is going, but you prompt her to keep talking anyways.

 

The plan was successful. They drove the monsters into a mountain called Ebott, where they are still held, to this day.

The humans were overjoyed. The war was finally over… but a new one had  just begun. The humans, seeing how powerful the mages had become, began to fear them, as well. They sought out all the mages and set out to kill them. Thankfully, using their magic and wits, several mages managed to escape, although their numbers were far fewer than the years before. They spread out across the land and went into hiding, for they knew that if the humans ever found them again, they would be killed.

As the years passed, people began to forget the truth behind the legends of monsters and mages. But they never forgot the fear and the hatred…

 

“And that, baby, is why you cannot tell anyone what I’ve told you today,” she finishes, leaning forward to kiss your forehead and frown at you worriedly. “Are you alright, dear? I’m sorry it was such an upsetting story.”

You pull your hands away from hers so you can rub your eyes. “M’alright. Is… is that why the people in the village give us such mean looks for? Because we… because we’re magic? B-because we’re… mages?”

She hesitates, eyes scanning your face, but you know she can’t lie to you. She’d said as much herself. Defeated, she murmurs, “Yes. They don’t actually know about us, but they’re… suspicious. Because we don’t interact much with anyone and we don’t let you out to play and because we live so close to the forest. They haven’t… no one’s accused us of anything, outright, but they have… suspicions.”

“And that’s why I can’t play outside,” you finish, confirming sullenly what she’s told you.

Your mother’s face pinches and she leans forward, drawing you into a firm hug. “I’m so sorry, dear. I’m so sorry this is the life we’ve given you,” she whispers, voice thick with tears, and you squeeze her tightly, not entirely sure why you’re crying as well. “I promise you we’ll take care of you, dear. Your father and I, we will watch over you until our dying breaths. You’ll always be safe with us, and one day, you will live a life without fear,  I guarantee it.”

The two of you sit there in the kitchen for a long time, holding each other. You’re afraid, you admit it. The thought that at any moment someone could say something and come in and kill you or your mother or your father… it’s terrifying. It scares you so badly.

But you trust your mother. She wouldn’t lie to you. Can’t lie to you.

One day you’ll be safe. One day you can live without fear.

One day you’ll be okay. You just have to hold on until then.

 

You change a bit after that, but not by much. You’re still spunky and adventurous, you’re just… adventurous a little closer to home. You stay behind the house at all times, drawing in the dirt or singing or playing in the small patches of grass between you and the forest. It’s boring, and it’s lonely, and sometimes you see a squirrel or a bird flutter through the trees and wish that could be you, still, but you never act on it. You talk only as much as you need to with your classmates, and resolutely turn down any offers to play, even if they say mean things or look at you weird.

Your teacher frowns at you all the time. The villagers watch you longer than they watch the other children. You learn very quickly to ignore it, to forget about it, to busy your mind with anything other than what’s going on around you. It’s very easy once you get the hang of it to simply lose yourself in your daydreams and imagine a world where you get to fly again.

This continues for a few years of your life.

You’re eight when the boy from the north arrives.




Agitha’s house is just like the woman who owns it. That is to say, it’s small and old and cozy and warm, and filled to the brim with so many green things you’re grateful your only allergy is grapes. Everything is in floral or pastel shades, and the windows are open in every room, letting in warm sunlight. It feels like something plucked straight out of a fairy tale.

You poke your nose into every open room, examining them closely. You don't know why you're surprised to see that it hasn't changed at all since the last time you've been here. Well, some rooms are a bit dustier now, like the rooms her kids day used to stay in and her husband's study. There are also a few more plants in these rooms- lavenders and mint. The mint makes your chest ache, so you back out of the room quickly and move on to the rest of the house.

After exploring for a bit, you come back just in time to see the girl- Iris, apparently; you'd laughed for a while when Agitha introduced you. Of course she would befriend a girl with a flower's name- heading for the front door. She pauses when she sees you and her eyes narrow again. You swallow thickly when she makes a “come hither” gesture with her finger and slowly inch over.

You're startled when her hand reaches out and snags the front of your shirt, pulling you down to her level. She scowls at your startled expression. “Listen here, buddy. Miss Agitha is the nicest lady on the block and everyone loves her. If you do anything, and I mean anything, to harm her, I will really make you regret it.” She punctuates this statement by shaking you slightly, and all you can do is gape at her.

“Now, now, Iris,” Agitha interjects softly, catching your attentions as she shuffles in from the living room, cane in one hand. She doesn't even seem to need it as she moves over to you, gently pulling Iris’ hand away from your neck. You breath a soft sigh of relief and lean back, and she sets a hand on your shoulder. “Atlas is an old friend of mine. They won't do anything to hurt me. I appreciate you looking after me, though.”

Iris huffs, giving you one last solid glare. “Okay, Miss Agitha. But don't hesitate to call me if this goon starts acting up!” She punches her palm and you're suddenly, inexplicably reminded of Alphys. “If they do, I'll give 'em what for!”

“I'm sure you will, dear,” Agitha agrees with all the patient indulgence of a mother with a high strung child. “Be sure to tell your family I said hello. Oh, and tell Jason that he did very well at his recital!”

“Sure thing, Miss Agitha!” She pipes, beaming at the woman next to you. She turns and sprints out the door, slamming it shut behind her. You don't know how Agitha doesn't wince.

Chuckling softly, she pats your shoulder and begins to make her way back into the living room. “Iris is quite the spunky young girl. You can imagine my surprise when she approached me about gardening!”

You adjust your shirt and follow her. “Really? Is that what she was doing here before I came?”

“Oh, well, she also helps me around the house. Cleaning, doing laundry and dishes, things like that. I insisted she didn't have to, but she told me she wanted to, and she is very persistent. Not very patient, but she makes up for it with her tenacity.” She sinks into a couch with a sigh, then smiles up at you and taps the cushions beside her. “Come and sit with me! It's been so long since we've talked.”

With an awkward chuckle, you slowly move to join her, sitting a respectable distance away. “Uh, yeah. I know. Um, sorry.” You scratch the back of your head irritably. That's not how you meant it to come out. You should have practiced. “Wait, um, that is- Agitha, I'm really sorry that I haven't been by in a few years, I, um…”

She remains silent, patiently waiting for you to get your thoughts in order. You're grateful for it. “Uh. I sorta. Moved way out of town, heh, and uh… headed west? Towards Ebott, y'know? Figured… Figured I'd be…” You definitely don't want to say “safer”, because you don't want to insult her.

Her eyes gleam knowingly. You get that strange feeling you're being looked through, kind of the way Pap… You scramble to keep talking. “Uh! Anyways! I've been out there for a while hopping from place to place and checking it out, it's, uh, pretty cool there, y'know? Lots of, um, great people, and…”

You deflate, folding over your knees and burying your head in your hands. “Who am I kidding?” Your groan is muffled by your palms as you scrub your face. You came back to apologize and explain yourself and here you are, dancing around the subject and trying not to think about them because thinking about them hurts and you're not fooling anybody, especially not her, and…

A hand gently rests in your head, stroking your hair. You slump a little further, the familiar touch soothing your building nerves slightly. It reminds you that you're okay, she's not angry, you can take your time and collect yourself and figure it out.

It reminds you of your mother.

“Oh, Atlas,” she murmurs suddenly, sounding so heartbroken, and moves closer so she can curl her arm around your shoulders. “You don't have to be guilty, dear. You had every right to be afraid. Why, if I were in your shoes, I'd do the same thing.”

You chuckle dryly, shaking your head and sitting up so you can look at her. “Agitha, don't lie to me. You'd never just run off and leave someone who cared about you for such a selfish reason. You're too kind, and too brave, and…” Your fingers curl into fists. “I'm sorry.”

“Atlas,” she begins firmly, squeezing your shoulder. “You were not selfish. You were scared.”

You think of your mother. They let their fear make them do bad things.

“You've lived your whole life hiding,” she continued softly, shaking you from your memories. “For me to shake that foundation so suddenly was startling for you. I understand why you left, and I'm not mad.”

“But are you upset?” You pressed, looking you and into her eyes, and you saw her falter for a moment. You smiled sadly. “You've always been a bad liar, Agitha. I hurt you. I left you without any warning just because I couldn't handle the thought of you rejecting me. Of you… of you hating me. I never stopped to think about how you would feel. That I knew you better than that…”

You both sat in silence for a long time, watching each other. Finally, she sighed and leaned towards you, resting on your shoulder. You wondered if this drained her as much as it drained you. “When you left… I wondered what I had done wrong. I'd thought everything was fine. You'd told me the truth, and I'd told you the truth, and when you curled up with me that night, I'd thought… I'd thought it was fine. You seemed shaken, but you didn't seem… unhappy.”

She grips the sleeve of your jacket, her voice shaking slightly, and shame settles in your rib cage like a monstrous bird. “And then I'd sensed that something was wrong, and when I got up you had gone, and I thought…  I wondered what I'd done? Why I'd scared you so badly you… you had to leave. I just… couldn't understand.”

You curl your hand around hers, silent tears trailing down your cheeks as you turn to press your face into her head. She smells like lavender. “I'm sorry… I'm so sorry… I know it doesn't… doesn't make up for what I've done, but I…” Your voice cracks. You're getting very tired of being so emotional. “I'll be better. I'll be… I'll be braver, next t-time, I'll, I'll talk to you like, like I sh… should have, I promise Aggie, I'll get better…” You stifle a sob, holding it so tightly in your chest that your lungs ache and a whine escapes through your teeth.

Agitha shakes, threading her arms around you, and you draw her in and bury your nose in her silvery hair. She gently pets the back of your neck. “You're already doing so much better, dear Atlas… I'm so glad you came back to see me…”

You're glad too, even if it's turned you into an emotional mess. She's always been so good at drawing out the feelings in other people.

You suppose that's what happens when you're a mage with a green soul as bright as hers.

Chapter Text

    They blow in with the winter storms.

    It’s been raining and freezing for the past few weeks. The furnace burns almost all day and you all huddle around in blankets and thick clothes to try and conserve heat. Your father can’t even take his boat out on the water, lest he be washed away with the rolling tides. Mother has been hard at work making clothes and blankets for the family and anyone in town who needs them, and though the townspeople are usually wary of your family, come winter they welcome you into their folds. Everyone bands together when the storms come.

    It’s late at night and you’re bundled up by the fire, shivering as you rub your tiny hands together. You adore fires, and could sit for hours in front of it just watching the flames dance. A half-formed blanket lies loosely in your lap, your mother’s knitting needles abandoned on the floor in front of you in favor of curling up under the hearth.

    Mother and Father are in the kitchen, talking quietly as they prepare food for the next week, and with the way the wind batters your tiny, shaky cottage, none of you hear the first raps on the door. It’s not until the pounding on the wood grows desperate and frantically loud that you notice it, and you instantly jump out of your blanket, running to the door. You’ve no clue who would be crazy enough to go out in this weather, but it must be very important.

    You throw the door open, nearly knocked over by the gust of wind that follows the motion, and peer up through the freezing rain to see who’s come knocking. You stare in confusion and curiousity up at the stranger. You can’t make out much about him with the water in your eyes, but he’s large and he’s got a big beard and he’s cradling something to his chest. It takes you a moment to realize it’s a small boy.

    With a gasp, you turn and run back to your parents. They seem about to scold you for going out in the dreadful weather before you babble, “There’s a big man with a child in the door!”

    They both exchange a look and then hurry forward to investigate. The man has moved inside, wrestling the door closed behind himself. He stands in the middle of the floor, slowly dripping onto the wood, and in the dim light of your home you can make out more of his features. He looks a bit like your father, with his bushy beard and his thick black hair and his weathered but kind face. The boy he’s holding is actually much larger than you thought, and looks to be about your age.

    Your parents both make an astonished noise when they see him, though it’s your mother who speaks up first. “Timothy? Good heavens, it’s been so long! Oh, you’re positively soaked! Wait here a moment while I get you some clothes!”

She bustles off to do just that while your father steps forward, smiling warmly. He clasps the man on the shoulder. “It’s been ages, Tim. Where’ve you been? Where’s Marie? And who’s this?” He lightly strokes the boy’s wet hair, moving it out of his face.

He tips his head in a vague direction. “Further north. In the forests. This is my son, Aaron.” He pauses, his gentle face saddening. “And Marie… She fell dreadfully ill and passed some weeks ago. I thought it best we leave, and this was the first place I thought to go.”

Your father seems very sad to hear this news. He squeezes his friend’s shoulder. “Well, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you like. What’s ours is yours.”

Your mother returns finally, smiling brightly and loaded down with an armful of clothes, towels, and blankets. “I brought you some of Will’s clothes, and I figured your little one could take some of ours! I also got you a few towels to dry off with, but you can do that in the bedroom, and-” She finally takes in their dull faces and frowns worriedly. “What’s the matter? Why the somber mood? Oh…” She seems to realize something, as she cups a hand over her mouth. “Marie… Is she…?”

Your father nods, and Mother shakes her head in disbelief. It becomes very quiet and depressing for a moment, and while you want to break it, you’re not sure how.

Thankfully, a distraction comes in the form of the boy stirring, raising his head from his father’s chest and looking around curiously. He stares at your parents with obvious interest, and your father smiles again. “Hello there, Aaron. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is William, and this is my wife, Anne.”

She smiles at Aaron as well, waggling her fingers. “Hello Aaron! It’s nice to meet you. We’re friends of your father.”

“How do you do?” he replies pleasantly, sounding just like the grown ups. It’s strange. He gives another curious look around, and then down, his eyes meeting yours from the floor.

The moment your eyes meet, you’re overcome by a feeling of shyness and duck behind your father. You’re not used to meeting new children. You’ve known everyone in your class your whole life!

The adults chuckle faintly, and the man finally puts Aaron down. Your father sets an affectionate hand on your head, introducing you briefly. “You’ll have to forgive them, they’re not used to meeting new people.”

“No worries. I understand it can be a little intimidating. And I don’t suppose Aaron minds, do you, boy?” He tousles the boy’s still-wet hair.

Aaron beams up at him, then looks back at you. He marches forward and holds a hand out to you. You don’t take it, instead turning and running back to your place by the fire to hide under the blanket. You’re embarrassed by your actions, but more than that you just don’t want to talk to the strangers. You hope they don’t stay long.

    Your parents give them clothes and a bit of your food and then sleeping arrangements are discussed. Somehow, your parents decide it would be a good idea for Aaron to share your bed, and while you don’t want to fight them and be rude, you also really, really don’t want to share your bed. At all. Ever. Especially not with a stranger. It’s your bed for crying out loud!

    And yet, somehow, you find yourself in the dark, scowling at the young boy next to you. There is admittedly not much space in your tiny bed for more than one body, but you’ve scooted as far away as possible, back pressed to the wall. Aaron looks progressively more nervous as you continue to glare at him.

    Finally, you huff and soundlessly turn away from him, burrowing deeper into your blankets. Your back is unfortunately cold, the result of having to share your blanket, and it just makes your grumpier. You don’t like this at all. You want your own bed back!

    Whatever. You’ll just have to make do. Hopefully they’ll be gone soon and you can be comfortable again.

    With this in mind, you burrow as far into your bed as you can and close your eyes tightly. You try counting sheep like your mother taught you, smiling slightly as you pictured the fluffy animals milling around the fields.

    ...You still can’t get to sleep. You’re all too aware of the presence of two new people in the room, of the strange breathing pattern from the body on the floor and all the shuffling from the body behind you. Seems Aaron was trying- and failing- to get comfortable, much the same way you were.

    Suddenly, he shifted slightly closer, quietly whispering your name. “Are you asleep?”

    “Yes,” you whispered back, drily, like you heard your father do sometimes.

    There was a pause, and then he said, “Oh, alright,” and fell silent.

    You rolled your eyes- another bad habit you picked up from your father, as your mother insisted- and turned around to face him with a frown. “Of course I’m not asleep. What do you want?”

    He shuffled awkwardly, apparently uncomfortable with your irritation. You felt a little bad for being so rude, but you couldn’t help it! He was in your space! A dangerous stranger you didn’t know! “Um… Do you… want to see a magic trick?”

    The word caught your attention. Since that day three years ago, your mother had been telling you all the stories she knew about mages and monsters and the old days. Both your parents had also begun training you, teaching you what they knew about your abilities and all the tricks to being a shapeshifter. You were absolutely enthralled with all things magic.

    But what did he know about magic? Was he a mage, too? Was he maybe even like you?

    You had to find out. If there was even the slightest chance that he was like you, that you weren’t alone anymore, you’d take it!

    So you nodded, eagerly, and leaned towards him curiously.

    He smiled widely, seemingly pleased with your answer. “Okay! Um, I’m still practicing, so it might not be very impressive, but…” He wormed his hands up in front of your faces, concentrating hard on it. You watched them as well, wondering what he could possibly be doing.

    At first, nothing happened, and you felt the disappointment setting in.

    And then he smiled.

    You felt the heat first, and then saw a flicker, a tiny spark, and suddenly there it was. Floating in his hands, small and bright, was a little ball of fire. It was warm, much warmer than you would have thought possible for such a tiny flame, and it filled you with a feeling of joy, of trust, of safety.

    “Isn’t that neat?” He whispered softly, watching your face, and you nodded vigorously, cheeks cramping with how wide you were smiling. He couldn’t seem to stop grinning either. “Touch it.”

    Now you gave him an incredulous look. You weren’t an idiot, and you hadn’t been born yesterday. You knew better than to play with fire!

    He giggled quietly at your expression. “I know, I know, it’s fire! But you can touch it! That’s the neat thing about magic…” He leaned towards you, grinning in a mischievous way, and murmured, “It does whatever I want it to.”

    You wriggled slightly, delighted and intrigued, and challengingly whispered back, “Prove it.”

    That seemed to have been what he was waiting for, because he leaned back again and beamed at you, then focused on his hands once more. You watched, enraptured, as the flame began to change. It faded from a bright orange-red to a purple-blue color you’d never seen, and then greenish-yellow. He made it grow and shrink and even fly around a little.

    Then the flame lightly brushed your cheek, and you flinched away, anticipating a burn that… never came. You laughed loudly before you could stop it, then clapped your hands over your mouth, muffling your delight. It hadn’t burned, though it did feel warm and playful. “Do it again!” you urged hopefully, feet kicking slightly.

    He nodded and did as you’d asked, going through the colors again, and then letting the fire circle around your heads. You watched it with wide, sparkling eyes, unable to believe what you were seeing. He brushed it against your curious hands, over your smiling cheeks, bumping up against your nose when you giggled.

    Finally it erupted, a harmless shower of sparks that rained upon the two of you, and with a muffled squeal you lurched forward and hugged him tightly. Aaron seemed startled, tensing in surprise, but as you whispered a rain of “thank you”s on him, he gradually hugged you back. He couldn’t seem to understand why he’d made you so happy.

    How could you explain to him that he’d finally given you hope?

 

    Aaron and his father stayed with you while they began to build a house on the edge of the woods next to you. You and Aaron did what you could to help, running around and grabbing wood and nails and helping hold beams in place. You helped your mother make them clothes and blankets and beds for their new house, and often went out with her to get them cooking utensils from town.

    You were… pretty embarrassingly smitten with Aaron. You couldn’t help it. You’d follow him around and spend as much time with him as you could and you’d talk and share food with him. When he enrolled in school, he sat next to you and played with you at recess. Other kids tried to convince him to leave you alone, but he refused to leave you by yourself again. You smothered him with hugs you were certain embarrassed him, but he never protested.

    The two of you would run down to the beach together and play in the sand and freezing water. You took him to the tidepools and taught him how to find the best shells and you’d bring them back to your homes. You’d also pick up weirdly-shaped rocks, although Aaron was particularly fond of the stones that were perfect circles, while you liked the strange ones. Between the two of you, you had quite the collection.

    Perhaps your favorite parts of the day were when chores were done and you could go play in the woods. Although your father always warned you not to, you played with your magic, shifting into different animals to entertain him. Sometimes you’d even chase him around, pretending to be a hungry wolf or bear, and sometimes he’d chase you, pretending to be a fierce hunter looking for deer and elk.

Aaron practiced his magic, too. He was particularly good at making warm things, like fire and light, and he could create amazing images and light shows with it.

There were, of course, difficulties. Sometimes you’d scratch or bite a little too hard, and although magic was based on intent, it could sometimes get out of hand. It was hard to explain to your parents why you kept coming home with minor burns and scratches, and they always scolded you for it, but you never stopped playing. You just couldn’t give him up. He was your best friend.

 

Today you were out in the forest again. Aaron suggested your usual game of chase, this time with you as the helpless prey. He gave you a few fond pats when you shifted and nosed his face affectionately, then focused hard and conjured his magic. It was a simple but effective spear, and you knew from experience that even if he didn’t mean to hurt you, it’d still sting a bit. It was in your best interest to be as quick and agile as you could.

With an eager snort, you kicked your legs and bounded a few yards away, moving deeper into the forest until you could no longer sense him. You began grazing idly, chewing on some sweet clover you were particularly fond of. Your ears swivelled and pivoted constantly, searching for any trace that he was coming your way, but he was silent for now. He’d gotten very good at tricking your senses the last few months.

Suddenly, a twig snapped loudly. Your head shot up, ears rotating, heart beginning to race in anticipation. You turned your head slowly, searching for him, but you couldn’t see him yet.

All the same, you began moving slowly, picking your way across the forest floor quietly. You kept one eye on the ground behind you, scanning the forest. You blocked out the feeling of the ferns brushing your legs, focusing all your attention on sight, smell, and hearing.

There was another soft rustle and your nostrils flared, alarm coursing through you. That wasn’t Aaron.

You searched your brain, raising your head again and angling it towards the smell. You didn’t recognize it. It wasn’t Aaron, and it certainly wasn’t your family… It smelled sharp and dangerous. It smelled like metal and fire.

You recognized it abruptly. Gun.

You wasted no more time, body and instincts kicked into overdrive. You took off, bounding as quickly as you could away from the hunter, and you heard a terrible sound like thunder fill the air. An awful, acrid smell filled your nose, and bark splintered off the tree next to you. With a cry of alarm, you pushed yourself faster, racing towards safety- towards home.

The hunter was pursuing you- hunters, your mind screamed, recognizing the second pair of footsteps crunching through the underbrush, and then another two shots were loosed in the air. They scattered dirt around you, just missing your feet as you sprung away. Your chest heaved with fear and exertion as you tried to recall what your father had taught you, but you were so scared, you couldn’t think, you could only run, you had to flee you had to get away you had to run run run-

The forest was beginning to look familiar, and the realization shook you back into reality somewhat. You couldn’t go home. If you went home and they saw you then your family would be in danger. You couldn’t do that, you wouldn’t let them hurt your family!

You veered again, hoping to throw them off. You heard a far-off curse and then the crash of a body, and then another gunshot.  Pain shot up your leg and you screamed, tripping slightly. You scrambled for a moment on the ground, disoriented by the pain and the all-consuming fear, but you finally managed to get your legs back under you.

It was too late. The hunter was too close. You could see him, not even twenty yards away, a furious grin on his face and triumph in his eyes. He lifted the gun slowly to his eye, and even though everything in you screamed at you to move, you couldn’t. You couldn’t. You didn’t want to die but you couldn’t even move, nothing was working, help me please somebody please help me p l e a s e and the gun clicked-

And then somebody screamed, and the world went blindingly white, and for a moment you thought perhaps he had shot you, this was it, this was the end, and then you were blinking back into reality, spots dancing in your vision and…

And Aaron was there, standing in front of you with tears in his eyes and his arms flung out and his magic still crackling at his fingertips. He faced the man with a determined, frightened gaze, and the man looked bewildered when he saw him. “Don’t you dare touch them! Don’t you dare hurt them!” Aaron yelled, voice thick, and your heart rose up into your throat to choke you.

The man didn’t look bewildered anymore. He looked… scared. His gun hit the forest floor with a loud crunch, and he backed up slightly. In the silence of the forest, his whisper of “witch” seemed to echo loudly, and then he was gone, stumbling blindly through the forest, screaming that dreaded word as loud as he could.

Aaron fell to his knees, winded, and you rushed forward, transforming mid-way and flinging yourself into him. You hugged him tightly, like you might lose him if you let go.

“Why?” you demanded, shaking him angrily. “Why did you do that? Why did you let him see you?”

Aaron smiled sadly, stroking your hair and wiping away your tears. “I couldn’t just let him kill you, silly. You’re my best friend.”

“You idiot!” You thumped his chest weakly, bowing your head to his shoulder. “You have no sense at all… Don’t you get it? Don’t you get it? He’ll kill you, Aaron, he’ll kill you, he’ll tell everyone and they’ll-”

He hugged you again. “It’s okay. I don’t mind, if I can keep you safe.”

You cried harder, continuing to hit him, and he just sat there and let you. Eventually, when you had no more tears to shed, he helped you up and limped home with you. A heavy air sat over the two of you, so unlike your usual playful energy.

Someone had seen you.

Someone had seen you.

And now you were going to lose the only friend you’d ever had.

 

….

 

You woke with a slight start. Your heart was pounding, remnants of… your dream, no doubt. You sighed and dropped an arm over your face, welcoming the darkness of the backside of your eyelids gratefully.

It had been… a really, really long time since you’d dreamed about them. And so vividly, too. For the most part, you refused to think about it all, and that made it easier to keep your consciousness from dredging it back up. And yet, tonight, or the first time in months, it had surfaced again. Maybe it was because of everything that had happened recently to remind you.

With another sigh, you dropped your arm and took in your surroundings. It was still clearly late at night, as the room was still mostly shaded in blacks and dark purples. A single beam of moonlight cut across the floor, just barely touching the foot of the bed. It provided enough light for you to make out the shape of the plants growing abundantly in the room. The sheets were a lovely pale cream and blue, with little flowers on them, like most of the furniture was. Woman really loved her flowers.

You flopped back against the cooling covers and scowled at the ceiling. Everything was so familiar, and while you appreciated it, you missed… Everything. Everything else. You missed the mint smell and the glowing blue lights and the stars on the wall and the treadmill looming ominously in the corner. You feel too light without his sturdy bones resting on you- and so, so alone, despite knowing Agitha is right next door.

Stars, when did you get so pathetic? You hadn’t felt this way since your parents died. Curse those magnificent skeletons for making such a mess of you.

It was unlikely that you would sleep anymore tonight, so you hauled yourself out of bed and creeped carefully across the floor to the door. It only creaked a little when you pushed it open, and you glanced down the hall cautiously, strangely paranoid that Agitha would suddenly emerge from her room and ask what you were doing up.

You closed the door gently behind you, then shuffled down the hall with your bare feet. It felt pretty weird to be human again, you’re not even gonna lie. Usually you would have shifted by now, but at the moment you just… sort of wanted to be yourself again. Get used to being human. You definitely missed your enhanced senses though. It would be nice not to almost stub your toe because you couldn’t see what you were doing.

You passed the lavender room and paused. You debated for a long moment if you really wanted to do this, then decided you had nothing to lose and just went in. The smell that greeted you instantly released the tension that’d built in your shoulders, and you sighed gratefully as you crossed over to a little rocking chair in the corner. It had plush, light blue cushions that sunk under your weight, wrapping around you like a hug.

Well, it wasn’t quite bone, but if you lay down just the right way, with your legs hooked over one arm and your shoulders against the other… yeah, that wasn’t comfortable. You may be small, but you weren’t quite small enough to make that feel nice. Drat. You settled for just slumping into it like a regular person, one leg down so you could push yourself idly.

You reached a hand out, lightly brushing the lavender plant beside you as you rocked. Would Agitha mind if you took a bit of mint with you when you left? It might be awhile before you saw the skeletons again, and you were already having such trouble sleeping…

This was stupid. You had grown far too dependent on them. You needed to grow up and get back on track!

….

…….

………..

You fell asleep on the bed,  a few mint leaves resting on the pillow beside you.

You were so weak.

 

    Agitha was mildly alarmed when she couldn’t find you in your room the next morning, and you had blurted apologies for several minutes straight before she demanded you stop. She gave you a horribly knowing look, curiously wondering why you’d sought out the mint room specifically- bit of an odd choice, she said. Were you perhaps missing someone, dear?

    You’d awkwardly laughed and brushed it off, saying you’d just developed a fondness for it while you were out, and left it at that. You’d offered to attempt to make breakfast, but Agitha waved you away, telling you that Iris would be over shortly to help, which was really for the best, considering that you were a miserable cook.

    In the meantime, you joined Agitha in the living room, taking the spot by the window. She didn’t seem to mind at all, sitting on the couch closest to you and letting you control the remote. You honestly had no idea what to watch. You were used to either Napstaton related movies or whatever random junk Papyrus was watching.

    After a while, you just settled on some movie that looked interesting and proceeded to tune out, staring out the window instead. Agitha had such a lovely neighborhood here, and the flowers framing her windows made everything look whimsical and surreal. You watched people walk by and tend to gardens and kiss their partners goodbye. It was all very calming, and you appreciated the chance to just unwind and people watch a little like you normally did.

    It wasn’t long afterwards that Iris showed up. She gave you another dirty look when she spotted you in the kitchen, but she wasn’t threatening you anymore, so you considered it a win. She chatted with Agitha and you went back to sightseeing, pretending not to hear the two of them exchanging small talk. She sounded much happier when she talked to Agitha.

    When she left for the kitchen, Agitha tugged on your sleeve- a borrowed shirt, since you didn’t have anything other than what you’d been wearing- and leaned over to whisper to you. “You should go join her. Talk a bit. Maybe you’ll find it’s not so hard to get along with her.”

    You doubted it, but decided to do as she said anyways. After all, you’d promised that you’d be better about everything, so maybe this was a good first step?

    Iris was making pancakes, apparently, if the precariously-situated bag of flour on the counter and batch of eggs was anything to go by. It reminded you of Sans’ attempts not long ago, and you chuckled despite yourself, remembering how Alphys had interrupted him before he could salvage them.

    Unfortunately, the little noise caught Iris’ attention. She whirled around, spatula raised as though to beat you, and her elbow knocked the bag of flour off the counter.

    You dove for it without much thought, throwing yourself forward and reaching for it. You managed to catch it, miraculously enough, but knocked your hands on the counter in the process. With a soft hiss of pain, you straightened up and set it on the counter, then cradled your injured knuckles. Cripes, that hurt!

    Iris was staring at you with wide eyes, so you let out a deep breath and smiled awkwardly at her. “Uh, hi. Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to, you know, scare you, or anything. Aggie just- Agitha, uh… she told me to help? You? Make breakfast?”

    Excellent. Good going. You were the master at social situations.

Why was it so hard to talk to humans?

    She was still staring at you, and it was incredibly uncomfortable. Finally, with awe in her voice, she said, “That was so cool. You moved so fast! How did you move that fast? Oh, your hands…”

    “Ah, I have great reflexes,” you replied with a laugh, and then held your hands up to her and smiled brightly. “They’re fine! Just a little red. It’ll go away soon.”

    ...And now she’s staring at your hands. You frown a little and turn them over, wondering if perhaps they were worse than you thought. You didn’t think they were bleeding or any-

    Oh. Right. You’d… forgotten about those.

    Pale, knotted scars ran in strips along the back of your hands, creeping up your forearms. The palms and fingers of your hands were worse, you knew, but they were lighter than they had been all those years ago, and you’d recovered all the mobility in them. You hadn’t really payed attention to them in so long, though- usually they were covered by your fur, except for the pads of your paws.

    You raised your gaze back to her, wary and a little self-conscious. It’d been a while since anyone had gotten a good enough look at your hands to wonder about it.

    “How’d it happen?” she asked quietly, hands raising slightly to touch them, then pulling back. “Um, wait, sorry, I shouldn’t have asked, I just… Um, nevermind.”

    After a moment’s thought, you held them out to her, offering a wry smile. “It’s okay. I, uh… I’ve kind of… gotten used to it.” You hadn’t, but you didn’t want her feeling bad.

    She hesitated a second more, then took your hands, curiously turning them over and running her fingers over them. It tickled a little, and it felt strange to have someone actively acknowledging them, but it didn’t make you uncomfortable like you’d though it would.

    It took a while before you felt brave enough to talk, and even then there was a slight lump in your throat. “It… it happened a long time ago. I was… really, really little. Well, not too little, I guess, I was eight… There was… This accident, um, and my friend, he…”

You cleared your throat slightly, fingers twitching as the memories tired to return. That familiar and awful burning smell teased your nose, remembering the screams, and your fingers tightened on hers, breath a little unsteady. You had to calm down, remind yourself that you were okay, you weren’t there anymore, you…

You were surrounded by the heavy scent of mint, cool and crisp and lively. You were cradled by the scent of honey, warm and steady and sweet. You were safe. You were okay. Everything was alright now. You’re okay now. Long as you’re with me, you’re gonna be okay, I promise.

Even though you knew he wasn’t here, just remembering his words made you feel better. You sighed and steeled yourself, pushing through to finish your tale. Your voice was much steadier as you quietly explained, “There was a fire, and he was… caught, in it. I went in to save him.”

She looked up at you, eyes wide in disbelief and amazement. “Really? Wow.” Her excitement died a little. “Did, um… did you do it?”

    Deep breaths. Remember the smells. You’re okay. You’re okay, kitten. “Yeah. Yeah, I got him. But we didn’t have any… hospitals, nearby, and he was… he was pretty bad when I got to him.”

    The kitchen fell silent. You were pretty sure she knew how the story ended, so you didn’t bother telling her. Instead you just swallowed and breathed, slowly, in and out, drowning out the panic and the fear.

    You were… proud of yourself. When you’d told Agitha this story, you’d been a mess, and it used to be that you couldn’t even talk about it without having a full-blown attack. Provided, you were a little rocky there for a bit, but you made it.

And all on your own! This time you didn’t have to rely on anyone else to talk you down! You’d done it all by yourself!

(you pointedly ignored the snide little voice wondering if it really counted if you still had to rely on the memory of someone else. Yes, you obnoxious little naysayer, it counted and you were darn proud.)

Finally, she let go of your hand, giving you a considering look. Then, a little awkwardly, she said, “I guess… You’re not so bad. It’s really cool that you’d risk yourself like that for a friend.” She shuffled a little bit, then offered you a hopeful smile. “Do you… have any other stories? Could you tell me while we cook?”

“Oh…” Well, you hadn’t been expecting that, but you supposed it… wouldn’t hurt? Maybe this was what Agitha was talking about. “Uh, sure, yeah. I have tons of stories, actually.” You’d just have to change a few minor details…

The two of you got to work. You were admittedly very clumsy, and so at some point she shooed you away so she could make sure the pancakes were actually edible. You were relegated to a glorified story book, but you didn’t mind much. She was an avid listener, and very involved in your tales, and she laughed at all your jokes and funny exploits.

You couldn’t help but think about how much Sans and Papyrus would like these stories. Maybe you’d tell them when you got back.

There was a tugging on your chest at the thought, and you raised a hand to rub it. Iris shot you a worried look, but you waved her off and helped her set the table. You put the stack of pancakes in the middle, and while she went to get all the toppings, you fetched Agitha from the living room. She gave you a smug look as you took her hand, once again leaning over to whisper to you. “So, was I right or was I right?”

“Okay, okay, I get it, you’re the master of relationships,” you groaned playfully, smiling as she chuckled at you. “I swear you’re a fortune-teller or something.”

“Oh, I think master of relationships works just fine,” she joked back, leaning on your arm slightly. Her jesting mood quickly faded as she leveled you with a serious look. “Which reminds me. We need to have a little chat soon. I think there’s something weighing on your soul and you don’t know how to handle it.”

Curse her and her abilities to read people. She sure could be scarily perceptive when she wanted to be. You let out a strained laugh, patting her hand. “Uh, I’m honestly okay, but sure, we can… talk, later.” You brought her into the dining room, where Iris was already sitting and eyeing the meal eagerly.

Like a switch had been flipped, Agitha smiled again and brightly said, “Oh, good! Don’t let me forget, will you dear?” You led her to her chair, already pulled out, and she sank into her seat with a sigh. She smiled between the two of you affectionately. “It smells delightful in here! You make a very good team!”

Iris blushed, looking away with a slight pout as you took the seat across from her. “Well… I guess they’re not as bad as I thought. They’re actually… sort of cool.”

“Gee, thanks,” you laughed, making her glare at you.

Agitha chuckled quietly. “Ah yes, the start of a beautiful friendship. How about we celebrate with this lovely breakfast you both made?”

Iris cheered, standing up to dish Agitha first. You waited until they’d both been served to get your own, and then you all dug in. You chattered between bites, exchanging jokes and stories and laughing brightly.

You felt warm and happy. For a brief moment, the ache in your chest had eased. 

Chapter Text

Agitha never gets a chance to interrogate you about your emotions, as after breakfast you insist on helping Iris around the house. Agitha looks noticeably annoyed by this, which is pretty uncommon for her, and it makes you feel awful. You told yourself you were doing better. You promised her you’d be better, and yet here you were, running away from your problems. As usual.

Argh. It was amazing anyone stuck with you after all you put them through.

You distracted yourself from the guilt by doing house work. You and Iris flit from room to room, watering and pruning the plants, and even pulling up a few weeds here and there. Thankfully there was no shortage of plants to water, so it took you a decent amount of time to get around to all of them.

You even offered to do the ones outside so Iris could handle laundry and dishes and things, and while originally she pouted about you giving her all the gross tasks, she quickly agreed when you told her you’d never used a dishwasher or washing machine. Provided, she’d proceeded to demand how that was possible and freak out about the fact that you did your own clothes by hand.

Which you didn’t, but it was a convenient lie that would cover the fact that you very rarely wore clothes.

So you went out and watered everything and even spent a couple back-breaking hours out in the sun, pulling up grasses and other nuisances that were invading her garden. You’d been stupid enough to tackle the job without gloves of any kind, and ended up cutting up your hands pretty bad. Iris had just about had a heart attack when you’d awkwardly walked in with blood dripping off your hands. The way she acted, you’d think you’d killed someone.

What proceeded was perhaps the most intense mother-henning you’d ever experienced. Both Agitha and Iris lectured you about being stupid and taking care of yourself while Agitha healed your hands. Iris insisted on helping you wash them off, although you were pretty sure that it wouldn’t matter now that Agitha had treated them, but went along with it anyways. Afterwards tea had been made and they insisted you sit by the window for a bit while Iris finished the garden- with gloves, she was sure to stress, scowling at you.

“I cannot believe you actually thought pulling up thorns was a good idea without gloves,” Agitha lamented exasperatedly, sipping her tea and shaking her head in disbelief. “You’re really something else, Atlas.”

“Thanks,” you replied with a sigh, sinking in your seat and staring at your cup. You missed being Cheshire.

Agitha gave you that look like she was about to talk about feelings , but Iris, your saviour, chose that moment to reappear, shucking off her gloves and leaving them by the door. She gave you an annoyed look. “I can’t believe you did most of the garden with bleeding hands. You’re insane!”

You laughed, amused by how much she sounded like Agitha. They definitely spent way too much time together. “Sorry, I wasn’t really thinking about it. I won’t do it again.”

“You definitely won’t,” Iris grouched, crossing her arms. “I’m going to check that you’re wearing gloves every time you step out of this house to garden.”

Tilting your head slightly, you said, “What makes you so sure I won’t just… garden while you’re gone?”

She paused, mouth opening and closing a few times, and then scowled at you angrily. You smothered a smile. “You! You are insufferable! Argh, I can’t believe you’re friends with them, Miss Agitha!”

“Oh, they’re not so bad,” Agitha replied with a soft chuckle. She reached up at patted your arm gently. “They are, however, notoriously good at getting out of situations they don’t want to be in.”

Haha, wow, was it hot in here or was that just the feeling of suffocating guilt? You gave her a shaky smile, then turned to Iris with forced brightness. “Anyways! Iris, you said you had some shopping to do today, right?” Please tell me you have shopping today. Please. Please. You are my only hope.

Her eyes bounced between the two of you, squinting, and you felt your smile twitching the longer the silence went on. She could clearly tell there was some tension between you and Agitha, but it was obvious she didn’t know how to address it. “Uh… Yeah, I do. Did you wanna come with me?”

“Oh, yeah, sure!” You were saved! Thank the stars for Iris! “Lemme just get my shoes back on and we can go!”

She raised an eyebrow at your eagerness, but didn’t say anything as you bustled past her to slip your shoes on. As soon as you were out of sight you let out a breath and sunk against the wall, sighing as you rubbed your cheek. Ugh. You… you definitely had to talk to her later today, after shopping and everything. You owed her big time.

Iris came around the corner before you could straighten yourself up, and she gave you a confused look. “Why are you sitting on the floor…?”

“I was! Just!” Quick glance around the hall. “Tying my shoes!”

“...Okay.” She looked like she was regretting bringing you along. “Well, if you’re done, we can go now.”

You nodded, picking yourself up and dusting off quickly. You opened the door for her, smiling awkwardly, and she muttered a quiet thanks as she exited before you. She gave you a scrutinizing look as you slowly pulled the door closed. “I don’t suppose you have a car?” she asked, though it seemed she already knew the answer.

Your sheepish shrug was all she needed to confirm her suspicions, and she sighed heavily. “Okay, guess we’re walking then. This is gonna be… so much fun.”

“How far are we going?” you questioned, hurrying to catch up to her and tucking your hands into your pocket. Once again you brushed against the collar and let out a muted, relieved sigh. You kind of missed the familiar weight of it on your throat. Could you get away with slipping it on? Maybe if you pulled your hood up. Or wore a longer shirt…?

Iris hummed a thoughtful note, head bobbing side to side as she thought. “Well… The nearest store is, like, an hour that way.”

She gestured the way you came and you cringed, hoping you wouldn’t have to go too far into town. It’d be pretty uncomfortable if you ran into the skeletons. “Oh… Okay, well, that’s not, uh, so bad… I’m sure if we… Walk fast?”

Iris just sighed.

 

She seemed a little down today, for some reason, or maybe just more reserved, but you didn’t like it. You didn’t want to see her unhappy for any reason, so you wracked your brain for any suggestions. You couldn’t very well jump into her arms and be all cute like usual- that’d be weird and you’d probably break her back- so you had to think a little outside the box.

Thankfully it wasn’t hard to think of something that might make her happy, so you began telling her another story. You decided to tell her one of your more exciting stories with Winston and the twins, putting a spin on the whole thing to make it sound like a fairy tale. You were… a lot better at storytelling than you’d realized. Or maybe you just had a great audience, who knows. Either way, she was looking much happier by the time you got into town.

You were still quite a distance away from the brother’s home, so you didn’t worry too much about it. Instead, you focused your attention on the list Iris retrieved from her pocket. Your first stop was a traditional grocery store, in which you picked up some basic foods and things like that.

 

It was only when you got to the tea section that you began to have a little… difficulty.

“Look, I’ve been making Miss Agitha tea for two years now, I’m pretty sure I know what she likes,” Iris was saying irritatedly, holding up a box of plain green tea.

You curled your lips at it. “Look, no offense, Iris, but I’ve known Agitha for a pretty long time now, and I can guarantee you that this-” You shook a box of peppermint flavor (a little surprised they still had it this time of year) pointedly. “Is definitely one of her favorites. And so much more flavorful than… that. Also you’re supposed to treat your elders with respect, soooo…”

She made an exasperated noise, crossing her arms and scowling at you. “Oh, whatever! You’re not that much older than I am! Just how long have you known her anyways?”

Oh if you only knew, you thought, chuckling softly as you reached forward and patted her head. “Older than you’ve been alive, squirt.”

“What?” she balks, staring at you in disbelief. “No… no way! You are not that old! You don’t look a day over twenty! When’s your birthday? I bet you’re just saying that to mess with me!”

This makes you pause, searching for the right words. You tap your chin thoughtfully, eyebrows furrowing. Hmm. That’s… a tiny bit problematic...

Iris mimics the expression, frowning worriedly. “Do you… not remember your birthday?”

You chuckle, giving her a sheepish smile. “I suppose not. I haven’t exactly… celebrated it in years.”

“Not even with family or friends?” she prods, leaning closer curiously. “Not even with Miss Agitha?”

“Nope.” You shake your head, offering her a shrug as she stares at you. “It just… never really occurred to me. And…” You rub your hands, feeling the scars. “I don’t… exactly have family to share it with anymore. They’re all gone.”

Her eyes fall on your hands, a look of understanding crossing her features, followed closely by horror. “Ah- Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring it up-”

You wave her off, letting out an airy chuckle. “It’s fine, I know you didn’t. I never told you about my parents, so… it’s fine.” You gently pat her head, smiling as she looks down at her feet guiltily. “Honestly, it’s okay. Now you know not to be so nosey, huh?”

Without waiting for her to reply, you drop your box in the bag on your arm and take hers. “Why don’t we both call it a tie and buy them both? I’m sure Aggie won’t be upset by it.”

Iris nods quietly, following you out of the tea aisle. For a while you worry she might be sad about it still, and then she pipes up saying, “Your taste in tea is awful.”

You laugh, completely agreeing with her, grateful that it seems she’s moved on. You’re glad- the last thing you want is to weigh her down with your problems. “Yeah, but Aggie likes it, so I guess that’s all that matters, huh? C’mon, let’s get checked out and head for that book store!”



“This is not the bookstore!” Iris hisses as you push her into a clothes shop nearby. She digs in her heels, leaning back against your hands to try and deter you, but you are bigger and stronger than her and it’s a losing battle.

“I know, but you looked like you really wanted to check out those dresses!” you reply brightly, laughing as she gives you a mortified glance. “You don’t have to look so terrified, they’re just clothes!”

You finally let her stand and she folds in on herself, looking surprisingly self-conscious. “I just thought they looked kind of nice, but not- not on me. And besides, I don’t have any money!”

Um, no, you are not letting this slide? You scrutinize the dresses, then nod and turn back to her. “I think they’d look good on you. And besides, you don’t have to buy anything, but if one of them catches your eye, Aggie gave me a little extra for spending!”

“You can’t buy me anything!” she squeaks, giving you an almost panicked look. An employee peeks up from behind a clothes rack, worry on their face.

“Well, why not?” you demand with a pout, looking back up at the dresses. That light green one was calling to you… or maybe the pale blue next to it.

“B-because!” She runs a frustrated hand through her hair, biting her lip. “I can’t… I can’t take Miss Agitha’s money. Or your money. And… And it’s not like I’m ever gonna have the chance to wear the dresses anyways, so… so it’d be pointless.”

It sounded rehearsed, like something she’d said to herself several times. Or maybe something she’d been told several times? Either way, she looked upset, which was definitely not your intentions and you had to fix it right now.

Gently resting your hands on her shoulders, you called her attention back to you. “Look, I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I really just wanted to make you happy, but if this is just gonna stress you out, then we can just head on to the bookstore, okay? No pressure.”

That was sufficiently comforting, right? It sounded like something Sans and Papyrus would say, and they were, like, the best at being comforting, so… maybe you did a good?

Iris continued to frown at her feet for bit, weighing her options. Finally, she took in a deep breath and raised her head, giving you an awkward but grateful smile. “Okay. I’d… I’d like to try on the dresses.”

Yes! Score One for Cheshire the Human! You gave yourself a mental pat on the back, returning her smile with a beam of your own. “Great! Let’s start with these ones!”

You shove a pair of dresses from the window display into her arms, ushering her off to the changing room, and then skirt around the rest of the shop, eyeing clothes and seeing what you thought she might like. Would she like floral…? Maybe not. She didn’t strike you as a floral person; that was more Aggie’s thing. Mmm… Something bright, probably… Yellow? Mmmmmaybe orange…? You tugged out a few outfits just to see, excitedly bustling over to the changing rooms.

Honestly, you couldn’t care less about clothes. But you really wanted Iris to be happy, and you had a feeling that this would make her happy.

She protested when you dumped your extra outfits on the stall door, but they sounded halfhearted, and you could hear her giggle, so you didn’t worry too much about it.

What proceeded was essentially a fashion show. She would put on one of the dresses and stride out to “model” it for you, blushing as you hooted and clapped. She was shy about all the attention at first, but with each dress she opened up more, flaunting the designs and laughing at your antics. The employee looked a little endeared by the whole thing, if not a little exasperated by all your shouting. You do not care. You are shameless!

Fornowatleast-

Eventually she pointed out how late it was getting, and you agreed that it was time to pack up. You helped her return all the dresses to their proper place, although the employee gently insisted that you didn’t have to do that. You didn’t end up buying anything, but her spirits had been sufficiently lifted, and you could feel satisfaction curling in your chest like a lazy cat (haha, you were so clever). Running around with her sort of felt like… like having a sibling. Like being with the twins again. It made you feel warm and fuzzy.

 

By the time you finished in the bookstore, it was starting to get late and your stomach was rumbling. You grabbed some dinner at a nearby sandwich place, taking a bit to just talk and rest your arms. The restaurant was nice and homey and warm, and the quiet din of talking patrons created a soothing lull. You sipped your tea and let out a content sigh, smiling softly out the windows. You watched passerby milling around outside, going about their daily lives: some shopping, some talking on their way home from work, a pair of monsters trudging down the street-

Hold up, you knew those monsters!

You quickly turned in your seat, watching as Alphys and Undyne paused for a moment outside some shop, talking amongst themselves and giving it a considering look. There was a stack of papers clutched in Alphys’ claws, and she was fiddling with a dog-eared corner nervously. Beside her, Undyne was wearing a supportive grin, gently squeezing her girlfriend’s shoulder and no doubt giving her an encouraging pep talk.

Were they out for an interview? Had Alphys found a prospective job? You leaned closer to the window, nearly pressing yourself against it as you tried to see what was going on. Behind you, Iris slowly inquired, “What are you doing?”

“Oh!” You pulled away a little, a lopsided smile on your face. “Uh. I just… thought I saw someone I knew?”

You looked back out the window. A human had  come to the door, and seemed to be shouting at them. Alphys was standing defensively in front of Undyne, her teeth bared, but you could see the way her arm trembled. An image of her crying, slamming the ground, rose unbidden to your mind, and a fierce feeling bloomed in your chest. You couldn’t imagine how frustrating this must be…

“Where are you going?” Iris called, alarmed, but you didn’t respond, marching determinedly to the door.

The feeling grew stronger, spreading warmly through your body. Alphys didn’t deserve that. Undyne didn’t deserve that. But what to do? You weren’t a confrontational person. You’d much rather try and work things out.

Maybe… You could try and diffuse the situation? Talk the human down a little? Convince them to give her a try? Okay, that was a stretch. But at the very least you could make sure no one got hurt, which was what you were really worried about.

The human was shouting some very unkind things when you arrived, and a small crowd had gathered, some of them recording. You scowled and shouldered past them, breaking free of the crowd and coming to a stand right beside the monsters.

It grew very quiet as everyone gave you a confused look. You could feel them staring, filming, and your skin was prickling with discomfort, your chest tight. You balled your hands into fists and hoped it hid the shaking. Putting on your sweetest, most disarming smile, you said, “Hi there! Sorry to bother everyone, but I couldn’t help noticing that it was getting a little rowdy out here! Is everything okay?”

“It’s none of your business,” the human muttered angrily, crossing their arms and eyeing you.

“Actually, it kind of is,” you replied, almost apologetically, as you set a hand on Alphys’ shoulder. She jumped a little, and looked like she might tear your hand off, but you barreled on, speaking quickly, your nerves making your voice shaky and loose. “See, these two are my friends- good friends, known them a real long time now, uh, and you see, these two, they’re the best, you get it? They’re actually the best. Real hard workers, real sweet people, couldn’t ask for better friends. And it’s, uh, it’s a little rude of you to yell at them? All they’re trying to do is get a job, so, uh... maybe... stop saying those things? Because? They’re bad?”

The last few words were a squeak as the human stormed towards you, fury in their eyes. Surprisingly, Alphys moved you back behind her, bundling you and Undyne together. The human faltered, glancing between the two of you before their eyes settled on you. “Listen here, you disgusting monster-loving freak-”

“I’m sorry, is that your best insult?” you interjected, unable to stop yourself, and then immediately regretted it. Were you trying make this worse?

They bristled further, face turning an alarming shade of red. They began reeling out insults, one after the other, shouting barely-intelligible slurs, and you felt panic prickling in your body and you felt warm too warm and your hands were shaking so badly and you.

You just sort of.

Booped them.

You don't know why you did it. You hadn't meant to do it. But they were getting awful close and right up in your face and your whole body had bristled and they were yelling and angry and it was freaking you out and you just reached out and lightly bopped their nose. You hadn't hit anywhere near hard enough for it to hurt, but you'd done it all the same.

And that's how you found yourself sitting with Alphys, Undyne, and Iris at one table, holding a bag of ice to your aching eye while Iris simmered in ire.

“I cannot even comprehend how incredibly stupid you are!” she hissed, drawing the stares of a few of the closer patrons, while the monsters with you just looked awkward. “I mean, first this thing earlier with the garden gloves and now this? Do you have a death wish?”

You laughed faintly, a sort of dry and forced sound. Alphys, as awkward as she looked, offered you a sharp smile. “Gotta say I agree with the punk, human. Just what were you thinking? You don't even know us.”

I know you better than you think, you mused with a mysterious smile. “Well, I just saw the two of you being yelled at and figured I couldn't sit around and let it happen. Besides, I'm good friends with some monsters, I can't just let people bully you like that.”

“Oh! Who do you know?” Undyne asked innocently, tilting her head in curiosity. You thought it was really cute how her fins twitched. Reminded you of your cat ears. You wondered if they were as sensitive as yours. Could she hear your heart hammering with the fear of it all still?

Wait, shoot, you'd gotten distracted! Quick, what had she said… “Ah… A few monsters. They're not around here, though. I'm… from out of town.”

You were not expecting that to work, and yet they simply nodded in understanding and accepted it. You sighed, wondering what your mother would think of your lying habits…

Iris gave them a quick look over. “What were you even doing in that shop in the first place?”

“Job searching,” Alphys said, tone heavy with resignation and exhaustion. “Been at it all morning.”

You couldn't help reaching across the table to set a supportive hand on hers. She jumped at the contact, eyes shooting open and fixing on you. With a sheepish smile, you pulled your hand away. “Uh, sorry. I didn't mean to freak you out or anything. Just, uh, wanted to say I hope you find somewhere soon?”

“Thank you,” Undyne murmured politely, taking Alphys’ hand and stroking her knuckles. You smiled at the casual display of affection. “It's been a bit of a struggle, but I'm certain we'll find somewhere soon. Right, sweetie?” She squeezed Alphys’ hand.

Alphys just sighed and sipped her water, not bothering to reply.

You frowned softly. Time to think. What could you do to cheer her up? She didn't strike you as the joking type, and physical affection was definitely out of the question… Maybe a story would help? You didn't think she'd enjoy being talked at by a total stranger for so long.

“What kind of job are you looking for?” You asked distractedly, squinting out the window thoughtfully, hoping it would give you some clues.

The monsters exchanged glances you completely missed. “Honestly, I'd take anything at this point,” Alphys muttered bitterly, then grew a little more reflective herself. “I guess… Something active. Something where I can use my strength. Somewhere that doesn't mind my volume. And…” She fiddled with her claws, scowling. “Somewhere that doesn't mind that I'm a monster.”

You nodded, mulling the information over in your head. That made sense, given all you knew about her… She'd probably want somewhere that would give her a challenge. Somewhere that she could be herself and feel good about it…

A thought brushes the corner of your mind and you stand abruptly, gently setting the ice pack on the table. You smile at all of them, and Iris looks like she's about to murder you. “Stay here a sec, I gotta go see something, I promise I'll be quick-” Iris opens her mouth, brows furrowing. “ And I won't get into any more trouble, I promise.”

You didn't get very her a chance to give you a snarky reply, instead hurrying out with purpose in your strides. You couldn't be sure, but it was all you had to go off of and you were going to check it out if it killed you. Alphys deserved to be happy and you were going to do all you could to make her so.

See, when you'd been out earlier, you'd come across a little gym. It looked a little intense at first, with bright colors and bold lettering and some very audible screaming, but when you'd peeked in it seemed just like any other gym. People milled about between machines, some of them clustering together in small groups and encouraging one another.

Best of all, you noticed several monsters. It was perfect for Alphys. You just had to hope it was hiring.

It took you… some time to find it. You got turned around a few times and ended up asking for directions, but finally, finally, you'd found it again. It looked mostly empty now, which you supposed made sense, since most people had gone home to eat dinner by now. There were, however, a few instructors left over, including an intimidatingly buff octopus looking thing. That was… not gonna lie that was weird, but you decided to ignore it for now. You had a mission, darn it!

You can not believe you're doing this.

It smells like sweat and determination inside, and it's filled with the familiarly ominous noise of a treadmill, except a thousand times worse because there were more of them. There were so many treadmills. It was like a nightmare come to life!

The octopus seemed to catch you standing stricken in the doorway, as they meandered- undulated? You had no clue how to describe that motion except for mildly unsettling- over to you, a towel slung over their… shoulder? Stars, why were monsters so confusing? “Hey there. Lookin’ a little lost, human. Need some help?”

Wow, that was… a much deeper voice than you expected. Okay! You could do this! Just… focus, for goodness's sake. “Uh… kinda. I was, uh, I was just wondering if you, um, if you had any? Jobs available here?”

They paused, giving you a dubious once-over, which okay, you weren't exactly a bodybuilder but you weren't that much of a wimp either!

(You were. You absolutely were. What was that saying about denial and rivers?)

“Well… We are looking for new instructors, but… You sure you wanna try that?” He didn't seem to be making fun of you, just genuinely asking. It was sweet in a sort of backhanded way.

You smiled awkwardly and held up a hand. “It's… It's not for me. I've got a friend who's been struggling to find a job for a while now, and when I saw this place I instantly thought of her.” You fidgeted with your fingers and gave him a hopeful look. “Could I bring her by so you can meet her? She's really cool! Very strong and kind and a very hard worker! I know you'll love her!”

He stared hard at you for a moment, humming uncertainly to himself. Finally, he gave a gentle chuckle and bobbed in place, which you guessed was sort of his nod. “Alright kid. Bring her down here tonight and I'll talk to 'er.”

Immediate and intense relief filled you, and you beamed at him widely. “Thank you! Thank you so much! I promise you won't regret it! I'll be right back with her!”

“Hey!” he shouted, stopping you before you could flee out the door. He undulated towards the counter, reaching one long tentacle around and fishing for something under the desk. After a moment of angry muttering, he made a victorious sound and pulled a bag from the depths. In it were several brightly-colored candies with shiny wrappers. He retrieved one from the bag and set the rest on the counter, then moved closer and handed it to you with a sympathetic smile. “Looks like you could use a lil’ somethin’,” he explained, gesturing vaguely to his face.

You took the candy, peering at it curiously. “What is it?”

He chuckled slightly, amused by your confused look. “Bit o’ monster candy. It’s infused with magic, so it’ll heal that sucker right up.”

Aww… How sweet of him. “Oh! Well, thank you very much! I really appreciate it!” You gave him a small wave, vowing to be back soon, and spun out the door. You took a moment to unwrap the candy and pop it in your mouth, making a confused face as the taste of eggs fills your mouth.

You can’t focus too much on it, however- the familiar tingle of healing magic distracts you. The skin over your eye prickles slightly as it mends, getting rid of any lingering ache and easing away the throbbing. You feel a thousand times more energized now, and it puts an extra bounce in your step as you sprint back to the restaurant, excitement in every move.

You have to force yourself to calm down a little when you finally get back, hurriedly but carefully pulling the door open and running back to the table. It takes a bit for them to understand what you’re attempting to say, just because you’re talking in half-sentences and resorting to tugging and pulling. Eventually, however, everyone gets up, rushes to pay the bill, and follows you down the street.

 

The octopus man knows Alphys. He gushes about how good it is to see her again, how it’s been so long, where has she been? Why hadn’t she come to him sooner? He scolds her playfully about getting help and she gives him a sufficiently sheepish look. He offers her a job as an instructor (he offered a chance to take over first, actually, and she’d been quick to decline) and agreed to let her start the next day. Alphys had thanked him, and you thought you might have caught her crying, but she turned away before you could tell.

Undyne thanks you fervently for helping her girlfriend, shaking your hand with a crushing grip. No matter how many times you insist that it’s fine (you didn’t do much, really, she doesn’t have to thank you for this-), she refuses to let up until you accept her gratitude. You hadn’t expected her to be so intense about this, but it makes you grin all the same. She has so much love for Alphys it’s not even funny.

Even Alphys drops by to thank you, giving you a crushing hug that cracks your spine. She laughs loudly as you wheeze out a “you’re welcome”, rubbing your back tenderly. “You’re not bad, punk! You should drop by sometime and we can work on putting some meat on those bones!”

No thanks, you’ll pass. You get enough of that from Sans. You thank her anyways, bidding them both goodbye and goodnight. Finally, you can head back to Agitha’s.

Iris gives you a sort of weird look as you exit the building and let out a giddy sigh. “I don’t get you at all. You can be so nice, but you’re also really stupid. You’re just a big, dumb, goof.”

You laugh, leaning over to knock her shoulder with yours. “Hey! You’re really rude, you know that? You can’t just say that to people you hardly know!” You give her a conspiratorial grin. “But I suppose I’ll let it slide, since we’re friends now.”

She just snorts, rolling her eyes at you and picking up her pace. “Hurry up, idiot, Miss Agitha is gonna be really mad at me if I lose you in the dark.”

“I’m not a baby!” you protest, but hurry to catch up with her nonetheless.

You tilt your head back, grinning as you observe the stars starting to peek out in the darkening skies. It’s been a really good day.

You’re glad you let Winston talk you into going back and visiting Agitha.

 

Agitha was indeed very mad with the two of you when you finally got back, and so was Iris’ father. They both scolded you, although they eased up a bit when you finally explained what all had happened. Iris and her father- Brendan, apparently- stayed for a bit of tea, and to get to know you, and then said their goodbyes and headed out.

You and Agitha were left alone in the living room, and you began to shrink a little as you realized she was staring at you expectantly. You set your cup down and fiddled with your fingers. “Um. Agitha, I’m… I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have run off today… I know you wanted to talk, but I ran away like I always do…”

She sighed, giving you a small smile. “It’s alright, dear. Old habits are hard to break. We’ll discuss it tomorrow, hm? For now, we should head to bed. It’s been a long day.”

“Okay,” you mumbled guiltily, moving to help her up. You were a bit relieved when she took your hand without complaint, leaning into your shoulder again.

You took her back to her room. When you turned to leave, she caught your arm gently. You turned back to her and she dragged you into a hug that you returned instantly.

“I know you’re struggling with a lot right now, darling,” she murmured, gently carding her fingers through your hair. You leaned into the caress, finding comfort in the familiar touch. “But you don’t have to run anymore. Let me take care of you, Atlas. Just for a little while, let me care for you.”

Grip tightening, you nodded into her neck. You almost felt like a little kid again, clinging to the adults for safety and support and solace. She smelled nice. Like roses. Like love.

Eventually, she pulled back and gave you a kiss on the forehead. Then she offered you one last smile and disappeared into her room.

You lingered outside for a bit, feeling at a loss, and began gravitating back towards the lavender room. You didn’t even bother to change your clothes, just collapsing onto the scented sheets and sighing.

Looks like you still had some more growing to do.

Chapter Text

    Your world is raging orange and red and yellow, burning light that sears your limbs. Distant screams echo in your head, voices you almost recognize, and the most clear of them is him, Aaron, he’s burning in front of you and you have to save him-

You reach out. Fire crawls along your limbs. Your skin burns and blackens and peels, stripping down to brittle glowing bones. You try to pull away, to put it out, but nothing stops the fire. It’s consuming you. It’s eating you alive.

You look up. Aaron’s pained face stares back at you, blistering. The fire is eating him, too. You watch in horror as it creeps over him, eyes reflecting the burning light, and his jaw creaks open and he speaks with a thousand familiar voices as he asks, “Why did you leave us?”

You try to apologize. You try to tell him you didn’t want to. You try to scream. Smoke comes out instead, and it’s in your lungs and swirling dark and poisonous in your chest and you claw at your skin like you’re trying to tear a hole in your body and let it out.

Stumbling, gasping, still choking, you fall back. Burning orange gives way to utter darkness. You flail and gasp and sob soundlessly, a heavy weight settling on your chest.

You call for help…

A golden light falls across your face and a small hand grabs your wrist and pulls you up. Sunlight falls across your face. Your lungs are clear and your head is filled with the scent of golden flowers. There are children holding your hand and urging you to play with them. Your little siblings.

You turn to face the man and woman you know will be standing there. They wave when they see you looking, laughter tinkling like bells. Your heart swells with joy and love and you whirl around, fully intending to join your siblings in their play.

You’re greeted by a long, looming row of houses. Dark figures surround you, whispering warily to one another. You can’t make out what the villagers are saying but you know it’s about you. You know they’re wondering how you’re still so young. Curious and uneasy of your mysterious arrival in the village. Who you are.

Dread fills your body like water and you run. You run headlong into the darkness at the end of the street, your world spinning as you pitch forward. You’re falling, falling, falling down down down, down onto the ground. When you look at your feet, they’re not your own. They’re someone else’s feet. You keep running.

You’re not yourself anymore. You wear a thousand other faces. You wear a thousand different skins. You own a thousand names and none of them are yours. You’ve lived a thousand lives you were never meant to live. You’re running, always running, running and you can’t stop, plunging deeper and deeper into the cold, lonely darkness of existence.

Who are you?



Who are you?





Cheshire…





Wa ke u p………









C o m e              b a c k

 

H o m e

 

***



    “You just can’t catch a break, can you, dear?”

    You grunt noncommittally, not bothering to look up from where you’ve buried your face in Agitha’s lap. She strokes your hair gently, scratching behind your ear lightly. She doesn’t seem to mind that your hair is matted and sweaty, or that your face is covered in tears and snot and her skirt is damp from crying. It’s disgusting and you feel disgusting and tired and you’re tired. You notice she smells like mint. You really just want one night of nice sleep, thank you.

    Argh. Nightmares are so frustrating. Why is it that you can never remember good dreams, yet the bad ones always stick to your mind like glue? Totally not fair. Who’s in charge of that? You’re gonna fight them. Nevermind the fact that it’s your brain’s fault. You’re gonna fight your brain.

    Agitha’s wrinkled fingers drift down your cheek, drawing your attention up to her warm smile. “Are you feeling any better?”

    You almost settle for brushing it off, telling her you’re fine, when you realize that’s stupid and also clearly not true and you’re supposed to be honest with your emotions today anyways, right? So you swallow thickly past the burn in your throat and quietly admit, “Not… really. Not right now. But I will be.”

    Her smiles fades into something a little more bittersweet, brushing the underside of your eye. “Yes, you will be. You’re strong enough to get through this, even if you don’t think so.”

    “Oof, getting right into feelings?” you joke weakly, averting your eyes. You know you can be strong, but sometimes you… forget. It’s hard to remember when you’ve felt so weak lately.

    Chuckling, Agitha pats your face. “Not until we’ve gotten something to eat and gotten dressed.”

    You take that as your cue to sit up, scrubbing the gunk in your eyes. You tilt your head curiously, watching as she carefully slid off the bed and reached for her often-unused cane. “Are we going somewhere?”

    She turns, smiling at your from over her shoulder. “That’s right. There’s a nice cafe in town I’d like to take you to. It’s a bit of a walk but it’s worth it, in my opinion. What would you like for breakfast? You’ve seemed particularly fond of eggs this visit.” There’s a subtle, unspoken question in the statement that has you cringing as your chest aches.

    “Uh… Yeah, well, y’know, they’re pretty good…” She’s watching your knowingly. “It’s… It’s a Feelings thing. Eggs sound good though. Give me a minute to, uh, wash off, and then I’ll come help.”

“Sounds good,” she agrees softly, giving you one last smile, and then you're left alone again.

You flop back onto the bed, briefly startled as something soft tickles your cheeks. You turn your head and find a crumpled mint leaf sitting innocently next to your head.

Sighing, you turn over and press your nose to the leaf. You linger for a long while, breathing deeply to try and capture the smell, and then decide you've wasted enough time and haul yourself out of bed. Your body and chest ache still, but you ignore that and stumble into the bathroom to wash off your face.

Agitha is hard at work making eggs when you arrive. You're not sure how she manages to do it without sight. If it were you, there would be eggshells floating around. She doesn't look up from the stove, though you can hear a smile in her voice as she says, “Hello again, dear. Could you please make us some tea while I tend to these?”

“Sure. Just please be careful not to bu… hurt yourself.” You stumble over the word, wincing as you shove the unpleasant images from your mind. You focus instead on heading to the cupboard where you know she keeps her tea, dragging down a box of her favorite and a jar of honey. You stare at the little jug fondly, noting that she seems to crave this stuff as much as Papyrus did.

What did they see in this stuff, anyways? Was it really that good? You don't think you've ever tried it. Especially not the way Papyrus just… drinks the stuff. It doesn't look drinkable. It's way too thick to just drink, but he makes it look so easy. Maybe it's magic.

A gentle hand settles on your arm. You blink, looking up at Agitha. She's staring in the general vicinity of the honey with a worried face. “Are you alright, dear? You've been staring at the honey an awfully long time.” She pauses, then shifts her gaze up to your cheek. “Another “Feelings” thing?”

“Yeah,” you sigh, resigned. “Seems like everything is a Feelings thing. There are… A lot of Feelings.”

“Well, breakfast is ready, so why don’t we sit down and talk about some of them?” Agitha suggests kindly, drawing your attention to the sizzling of the eggs and the whistle of the kettle. You give her a nod and a tentative smile, hurrying to finish up the tea while she carefully dishes up the eggs.

In no time at all you’re settled at the table, working through your pile of eggs while Agitha sips daintily on her tea. It’s quiet save for the sound of the two of you eating, and you don’t know how to break it. Does she want you to talk first? Should you wait for her to start? You have no idea how this is supposed to work or what she expects of you.

Thankfully, Agitha seems to sense your turmoil as usual, because she sets her fork down and smiles at you. “So, dear, why don’t you tell me what’s so special about the honey?”

Poking at your eggs, you explain, “It’s Papyrus’ favorite. He drinks the stuff like you drink tea. It’s kind of funny, really, but also super gross.” Your nose wrinkles, recalling the time he’d tried to get you to drink it. He’s so weird.

“And Papyrus is from one of your families?” she prods carefully, urging you to continue.

“Yeah. He’s a skeleton monster, and he’s got a brother, Sans.” Your chest twinges. “They’re both really cool. Sans is probably the most cheerful person I’ve ever met, and Papyrus is a lazy sweetheart. He pretends he’s not a nerd but he really is. And Sans was almost in the Royal Guard- he’s friends with the old captain, Alphys, and they train together, it’s pretty cool!” You smile faintly. You like talking about them, even if you miss them.

She leans forward slightly, a warm look on her face. “Seems like you really care about them.” Her head tilts slightly. “They’re part of the reason you’ve been so spacey this visit, aren’t they?”

Cringing, you sink slightly in your seat, giving her a guilty look. “Sorry, Aggie. I know I’ve been pretty rude this week. Honestly, I… I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I just can’t stop thinking about them! Every little thing seems to remind me of something. And when I left, it… It hurt!” You gesture to your chest wildly. “It felt… It felt like when I left my village. And when I lost the twins. And when I left you.”

Slumping against the chair, you lay your hand over your chest and sigh. “It felt like… Like I was leaving part of myself behind. And it hurt. And now I can’t stop thinking about them... I can’t even sleep without them! It’s why I’ve been sleeping with mint on the pillows. Sans smells like mint.”

You’re a little bit embarrassed to admit that’s the reason, but Agitha only gives you a sympathetic smile. “I thought that might be the case. I’ve caught you muttering about them in your sleep, face pressed to the pillow.” She sighs. “It’s hard to leave the people you love behind… Especially when they hold such a large portion of your soul.”

You sit up a little, giving her a confused look. “My… Soul?” You squint, trying to remember something. You’ve heard of souls before of course, and you know from your adopted father that everyone has one. They were the source of your magic and everything that made you who you were. You’d never seen one before, since Aaron had never summoned his and you’d never used mag- wait.

...Have you?

Your mind bounces back a couple weeks and a little piece of the puzzle clicks into place. Your eyes widen and you hit your head with the palm of your hand. “Oh! Duh! The little- the little heart things, right? The source of all we are!”

Agitha nods, chuckling as you bounce excitedly. You feel a little stupid for forgetting so easily- you should have recognized it the moment Sans pulled it out in the bathtub. Good thing you’d had a few trips down memory lane to jar your brain! “Yes, that’s right. As you said, souls are the culmination of our being. Everything we are, everything we’ve ever done, thought, and dreamed- it’s all right there.” She points at your chest, beaming. “And every bond you’ve ever created is there, too.

“You see, when you begin to care for a person, you offer them a piece of yourself- of your soul,” she begins, eyes focused on the thing you now know lies under your hand. “And the deeper the love, the more of your soul you give to them. And when someone cares for you, they give you a piece of themselves, as well, and the deeper they care, the more of themselves they give. This way, you create a bond.”

You nod thoughtfully. “So… Basically, when you love someone, you give them a piece of your soul?”

She hums an affirmative. “And that is why it hurts so badly if they do not love you in return… Or if you leave them. You were correct, my dear: when you leave someone you love, you are leaving a piece of yourself with them.”

You groan, tipping your head back against the chair. “That’s… Weird. I’ve never felt like this with my other families.” You sit back up and wave a hand at her frustratedly. “I haven’t even known them that long, Agitha! It’s been literally two weeks! How on earth did I get attached so easily?”

“Monsters are made of love, compassion, and magic,” she begins patiently, looking rather amused with your distress. You pout, finding it completely obnoxious that she’s laughing at you when you’re finally talking about Serious Feelings! “They are all soul, and so they feel much more deeply and attach much more quickly than humans. It is possible that the loving nature of their souls have caused yours to bond more rapidly than you would with another human.”

“How do you know so much about this?” She was old and wise, certainly, but that didn't translate into such in-depth knowledge.

Agitha chuckles again. “I've talked with quite a few monsters, dear. It helps that I am also much more in tune with souls than most individuals, and I can understand these things easier.”

You hum, glancing down at your plate thoughtfully. The eggs are cold. “Wow. That's uh. That's intense.” You chew on your lip thoughtfully as another thought occurs to you. “So… A week ago, when I first left, I was in a crowd and I got this… feeling. A tug on my chest- although I guess it was probably my soul. And then Sans appeared. Is that… a normal soul… bond… thing that happens? Because I've never had that happen before.”

Agitha gives you a considering look, clearly trying to recall something. “Well… I don't believe I've ever heard of that happening. At least not to such a specific degree. A bond can sometimes give you an awareness of another's presence, but usually it's in a shorter distance.” She tapped her chin. “Perhaps the heightened sense of awareness is because they're monsters… I'd have to ask.”

Ugh. You drop your head on the table, scratching your scalp lightly. Soul stuff is so confusing. Kinda cool, but confusing. At least you know why you've been feeling like this.

You wonder if Sans and Papyrus felt this way too. Did they have trouble getting you off their minds? Did they stay up at night and wonder where you are? Did they feel that aching tug on their chest? You hoped not. You didn't want them to be hurt by your absence.

But… Agitha said that it would hurt to leave someone behind. If they really had bonded with you, wouldn't it also hurt them if you left?

“Well! I believe that's enough of that,” Agitha murmurs, rising slowly from her seat. You don't miss the way her hand goes to her back, and it startles you. It was easy to forget just how old she was, given her generally rather spry nature. She smiles at you warmly again. “Could you do the dishes for me? I'll go get my coat and we can head to the cafe.”

“Alright!” You spring up, reaching over the table to grab her plate and yours. You frown guiltily at your cooled eggs, wondering if there's any way to save them, but end up dumping them after all. It doesn't take you long to get them all rinsed off and set in the dishwasher, and then you go back to the lavender room to grab your coat.

 

Iris meets the two of you outside. She seems surprised to see you, and maybe a little worried. You wonder if Agitha told her something about last night. Agitha tells her that you’ll be heading to the city together, so she has the day off. Iris wishes you well and, much to your surprise, gives you a quick, bashful hug. You tease her about it a little and she hits you for it, and then you’re off. Already you feel much lighter.

Agitha continues to talk as you walk. She tells you about how her family is doing now, where all her kids and grandkids are. You can’t believe that her youngest grandchild has finally entered middle school. Feels like just yesterday you had to deal with the little tyke enthusiastically tugging on your tail while the adults laughed sympathetically. You sort of miss the days and wonder if you’ll see them again. You’ve been reconnecting with so many old friends, you suppose it’s possible.

The city is just as busy today as it was last time, streets crammed with people and vendors. Agitha holds tightly to your arm and you keep her close against your side, not wanting her to be jostled too badly. Thankfully most people see her cane and skirt around her, but there are the occasional jerks or people who are too rushed to notice her until last minute. It’s a little nerve-wracking, to be honest, and it reminds you of the day in the mall. At least this time you only have to deal with your limited human senses.

You walk for quite a ways before Agitha suddenly perks up and begins dragging you somewhere. You hurry to follow her and come to a stop at a little newspaper stand nestled between a bakery and an antique shop. The man working at the booth lights up when he sees her, dark eyes crinkling. He’s heavyset and tall and quite frankly, he looks like he could snap you with one hand, but chooses not to because he’s too nice.

“Aggie! There you are, you old fossil!” he teases jovially, in the way only old friends can. You suppose he’s about her age. You wonder how they met. “I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age! Where have you been? An’ who’s this whippersnapper?” He winks at you from beneath his bushy eyebrows and you laugh softly. You find it hard to be scared of such a friendly guy- and honestly, can you be scared of anyone who uses the word whippersnapper?

Agitha smiles brightly back at him. “Hello, Thomas. I suppose it has been quite a while. I’ve just been at home, tending to my flowers.” She lightly tugs your arm. “This is Atlas, my cousin’s child. They’re visiting me for a few weeks.”

Thomas thrusts a large hand at you and you take it carefully. He’s warm and soft and his movements are energetic. “A pleasure to meet you, Atlas! I think I remember Aggie telling me something about you… You’ve been travelling for a few years, haven’t you? Where’ve you been? What have you seen?” He leans eagerly over the counter, eyes bright like a child’s.

It strikes you suddenly that as young as you feel at heart, you have several centuries worth of experience on him. The things you’ve seen would blow his mind. You smile cryptically. “I’ve seen a great many things, sir. Mountains and valleys and little forgotten cities. I’ve seen it all.”

He sighs, like your words have healed some longing in his soul. “I’ve always wanted to travel. Never quite had the money. I’m glad you got the chance to experience so much.”

You rest a hand over his, patting him lightly. “I’m sure you’ve seen quite a bit on your own, sir. I hope one day you get the chance to go somewhere. There’s so much beauty out there.”

“You’re awful thoughtful for such a young’un,” he laughs, ruffling your hair, and goes on to ask Agitha how her flowers are doing.

You’re content to sit back and listen, watching the two of them interact and trade stories, catching up with each other. Agitha seems very happy to have the chance to visit her old friend, and Thomas is eager to share all the details of his life. He’s so proud of his little girl, who’s just gotten her promotion, and her daughter, who’s in the advanced math programs in school. It’s nice to listen to the two of them talk about their families.

Thomas is half-way through a funny story about some school play when you feel a familiar tug in the center of your chest. You stiffen in surprise, turning slightly to examine the crowd while you soul begins to spin. A mixture of excitement and apprehension fills you and you grip Agitha’s arm tighter subconsciously, heart leaping into your throat.

You know what that tug means now.

One of the brothers is nearby.

“Are you alright, Atlas?” Agitha asks softly, tugging once more on your arm to get your attention.

You startle slightly, turning back to her. You’re about to brush it off when your soul gives another heave, like it’s trying to tear itself from your body and fly to meet him. You cringe and lean down, panic edging your voice as you whisper, “One of the brother’s is nearby and he’s coming our way fast and I don’t know what I’m gonna d o if he sees me-”

“Easy, easy,” she murmurs back, rubbing your arm soothingly, and she goes to further reassure you when the tugging suddenly stops and you have a moment of perfectly clarity in which you understand that he’s right behind you and then Agitha murmurs a soft, “Oh.”

Screaming internally, you straighten up and turn your head, just slightly, so you can see him from the corner of your eye, and when you spot that familiar bright blue you can’t resist turning the rest of the way to meet his gaze dead on. You feel locked in place, staring down at his wide sockets, drinking in every familiar detail of his face- his eyes are small white lights, rather than the blue you’ve become accustomed to, and there are dark blue circles under his eyes like bruises and you can tell somehow that his bones are paler, and your heart sinks because he looks awful, like he hasn’t slept in months, and he’s staring at you with so much disbelief and excitement and pain that you can feel it in your soul…

You want to rush over and throw your arms around him. Just scoop him up into your arms and bury your face in his bandana and breathe in his magic and tell him everything. You have so much to apologize for and all of it comes bubbling to the surface, longing to escape and dribble past your lips and yet you can’t move, rooted in place by that familiar fear and wondering if he even wants to see you.

“Atlas, is someone there?” Agitha suddenly asks, in a perfectly blithe tone of voice, like she can’t feel the way your entire body has just stopped working. “You’ve gone so quiet all of a sudden!”

“Uh,” you reply, very smartly, voice thick and choked as you final pull your eyes from Sans and turn mechanically to her. Can you please be swallowed by the ground? You would like to be anywhere but here at this exact moment in time.

And yet you can’t stand the thought of leaving. What a predicament.

Thankfully Thomas is still there and swoops in to save the day. To Agitha he quickly explains, “It’s a skeleton monster,” and then to Sans, he says, “Good morning! Lovely day for a walk, eh? What can I get you?”

“Uh,” Sans says, in a perfect echo of your brilliance before, and you can’t help but find it both a little funny and a little worrying. He’s usually so put together. Carefully, hesitantly, glancing between you and the man, he steps forward and holds out a stack of papers. They’re slightly wrinkled from how hard he was holding them. “I… I was wondering if I could put these up around your stall.”

His voice is so quiet and tired. You hate it. Thomas leans over the counter to get a closer look and you follow his gaze.

...Oh. It’s a picture. Of you. Well, you as a cat. You’re playing with one of the toys they got you. You’re fingers brush the collar in your coat pocket, tracing over the line of the bones you can see in the picture.

It’s a “missing” poster.

“Ah, lost your pet, did ya?” Thomas murmurs understandingly, shaking his large head. “Lost my bird recently. Haven’t seen ‘er since. Go ahead an’ put ‘em up wherever you want,” he invites, gesturing broadley to his stall.

Agitha makes a small noise of distress, but her expression is calculating. You can tell she’s plotting something and you don’t know what it is, but you already know you’re probably not gonna like it. “Oh, poor dear! It’s always so scary to lose something you love so dearly. Why, I lost my cat some years ago. Quite traumatic.”

Gee. Thanks, Agitha. Way to rub it in.

She leans past you to give Sans a sad smile. “Will you join us for some tea, dear? You can tell me all about your dear pet!”

AgitHA WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

You don’t know if you love or hate this plan. You decide both is good. You wish you were asleep.

Sans glances between the two of you, lingering on your awkward attempt at remaining neutral and then on Agitha’s earnest and hopeful face. He debates for entirely too long for comfort, at which point you become aware that you’ve begun to sweat. How unfortunate.

Finally he nods, giving a quiet affirmative, and you stiffly offer to help. The two of you work in perfect silence side-by-side to tack up a handful of posters. You muse over how weird it is to see your face on a missing poster while you’re standing right there. Even weirder when the one looking for you is right there.

You’re not stupid. You know without a doubt that he knows who you are. Between the bond and the fact that you know Papyrus told him what happened- you’d be more surprised if he hadn’t- there is no chance that he doesn’t know.

Stars, when did life get so complicated?

You say your goodbyes to Thomas and make your way to the cafe. Agitha, obnoxiously, instantly takes the inside of the sidewalk, leaving you and Sans to walk next to each other. Due to the crowd, you keep bumping into each other, and while you definitely don’t mind it- your heart (soul?? You can’t tell anymore) jumps excitedly every time- it’s also incredibly nerve-wracking and every time you apologize for bumping into him you die a little more inside. It’s so hard not to just fall into your old dynamic but you know you can’t.

Not until you tell him.

... Can you tell him? You glance down at him. He’s looking up at you. He looks away quickly, shoulders hunching. You swallow down a scream of frustration.

This is agony. This is pure, awkward, awful agony. Why? Why, of all days, of all places, did he have to come here?

“So, Sans, what brought you all the way out here?” Agitha suddenly asks, breaking into the tense atmosphere between the three of you by voicing the very thing you’d been thinking.

If Sans notices her strange wording, he doesn’t say anything. He just ruffles his papers a little, giving her a shallow impression of a smile as he says, “I… Received word, lately, that someone had spotted… my cat out here. So, I… I figured… My best bet to find them was here.”

He tries hard not to look up at you and he’s only a little successful. You stare so hard at the pavement it hurts. Dang, what an interesting crack filled with moss. You’re so grateful you got the chance to see that little crack of crumpled moss. What a beautiful bit of dirty, brown moss.

“Oh, I see! How long have they been missing?”

“...A week and a half, now.”

“Goodness, that must be awful for you!”

You ignore the feeling of white dots on the side of your head. “...Yes. It is.”

The breath of relief you release when Agitha finally announces that you made it to the cafe is… indescribable. You’ve never been so grateful to see a cafe before. You collapse into the nearest cushy booth seat you can find, slumping against the back with a soft groan. Agitha slides in next to you, giving you a worried look. “Are you feeling alright, Atlas? You look a little troubled.”

You turn your head to her slowly, narrowing your eyes pointedly. She stares back at you innocently. You know exactly what you did. You know exactly what you’re doing. Don’t play coy with me!

Sans asks you both for your orders. He leaves before you can offer your assistance, which turns out to be for the best, because you take the moment to sit up and lean over to Agitha, demanding, “What are you doing?”

She returns your intense stare with a demure smile. “Just getting some food at my favorite cafe, dear.” Then she becomes a little more serious. “And getting you to talk to Sans. This is part of Feelings, Cheshire. You need to work things out with them.”

You startle, giving her an alarmed look. You… you hadn’t told her about that name? As far as you could remember, anyways. “Um… Agitha, how… How do you know that name? I never told you.”

“Yes, you did,” she replies matter-of-factly, giving you a mischievous smile much like the one you’d given Thomas. Maybe she was who you got it from. “Your soul told me.”

Before you get the chance to grill her further, Sans reappears with all your stuff. You thank him quietly and watch warily as he settles into the seat across from you. He takes a steady drink from his cup, staring out the window, and his shoulders slump into a more relaxed look. If you didn’t know him any better, you’d say he was content, but you’ve seen him tired and content enough times to know that this isn’t content. It’s just soul-deep exhaustion.

Idly, you wonder again if skeletons could get sick. Would it be possible for him to get sick from not getting enough sleep? Or from stress? There’s still so much about monsters you just don’t know.

    “Thank you very much, dear! You’re so kind,” Agitha cooes, in her patent Grandma Voice. She takes a little nibble of her coffee cake, humming delightedly. She rests her chin on one hand, smiling as she stares at the space beside his head. “So, Sans. Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do for a living?”

    And so went their conversation, exchanging little tidbits of their lives. Sans opens up a little more the longer they go, smile becoming a little more real. He seems completely taken in by Agitha’s disarming warmth and charm, not that you blame him. She just has a way of making you feel better. You participate as little as you can, even though Agitha constantly tries to get you to engage. You can tell she’s a little frustrated with you, but there’s not much you can do. You don’t want to bring the mood down.

    It seemed like the conversation was going well. And then Sans mentioned Papyrus.

    “He’s my younger brother. He’s a total slob and the laziest skeleton I’ve ever met! Well, the only other skeleton I’ve ever met. But still!” Sans seemed particularly annoyed at this, which was pretty unusual. Generally he’s got an exasperated sort of affection for his brother’s antics, but today he looks genuinely agitated. “He’s such a numbskull! He’s been moody and even lazier than normal since Cheshire left! I can’t even get him to leave his room! He’s driving me insane!” He scowls, crossing his arms.

Some of the fire drains out of his expression and he stares at the table. “We… We had a fight. Before I left this morning. He said I shouldn’t bother coming out here.”

Agitha glances at you, but you firmly stare into your coffee, brows furrowed. That doesn’t seem like them at all. You’ve never seen them get angry enough with each other to fight. Especially not to a degree like this, that would put him in such a mood. And he’d never stop Sans from doing something he wanted, unless it was something dangerous.

Agitha gently presses, “Why would he think that?”

Sans pauses, staring hard at the wood. He seems to be thinking very deeply about something troubling, and when you catch him glance up at you, your soul sinks. He’s quick to avert his eyes, however, face grim as he mutters, “He doesn’t think it’s worth the effort. He’s completely given up looking for them.”

Ah.

That’s.

Wow.

You, uh. You weren’t expecting that?

“He thinks,” Sans continues, slowly, eyes on your face. You don’t know what expression you’re making. “He thinks that they… don’t care. He thinks that if they left, surely… They didn't want to be there?”

No! How… how has he gotten that impression? Could he really not tell how much you cared about him? About both of them? Did he really think so little of this bond?

You were frustrated now, yes, but you were also guilty and… and if you were being honest- which you were now, thanks Aggie- hurt. You didn't have any right to be hurt. This was your fault. How could you possibly expect him to keep looking for you just because you wanted to go back? He didn't deserve that. Sans didn't deserve that.

Maybe… maybe you were just hurt he thought so little of you. If he knew how scarcely you cared like this-

Ah. But he didn't know, did he? Neither of them did. How would they, if you never told them?

“Ah! Human, you're bleeding!”

Sans’ alarmed declaration jolts you from your thoughts and you quickly look down at yourself, wondering where and how you'd gotten hurt. The taste of iron distracts you, however, and you run your tongue over your lip. It stings and you cringe, realizing that you'd been chewing on it hard enough to make it bleed. “Oh.. shoot, sorry, that's probably pretty freaky, huh?” You give him an apologetic smile, licking away the little bead of blood.

Sans frantically shoves a napkin at you, standing up and leaning over the table so he can press the cloth to your lip. “Goodness! You must be more careful! Human bodies are delicate, they bleed so easily- ah, stop trying to lick it away!”

You can't help laughing, trying to duck away from his hands. It's kind of cute to see him so worked up over this. “Sans, Sans, relax, it's just a little bit of blood. It'll go away faster if I suck on it.”

“That!! Is unsanitary!” He cries, with a face of absolute disgust. “Hold on a moment, I have bandaids!”

“You can't put a bandaid on your lips!” You protest as he begins to rifle through his pockets, laughing once more. It's so like him to just start fretting over something like this.

He sits up and pouts at you. You forgot how absolutely adorable Sans is, but you sure do remember now! “And why not?”

“Eh…” You can't really think of a good reason. Shoot! You have to think of something quick, before he can take advantage of your weakness!

Luckily, Agitha is still there and on your side, as she chuckles and says, “Putting a bandaid on their lip would make it hard for them to eat and talk. But you don't have to worry. A little cut like that will heal in a few days without risk of infection or anything like that.”

Well… that's not entirely true. There are tons of ways something like this could get infected. Not that you're gonna tell Sans that, of course.

He glances between the two of you warily, eyelights lingering on the little cut. You smile back at him, just to show him that doesn't hurt. It's even stopped bleeding already, just like you said it would! He seems relieved by this, and for the first time today when he looks up at you he smiles, and it looks much more like the Sans you're used to seeing. You feel like a weight has been lifted.

Your thoughts wander back to the topic before and your smile falls a little. Sans had come all the way out here to find you. He still talked to you, still worried about you, and still smiled at you, even if you'd hurt him. He was putting up missing posters for you, for star's sake. It was clear he wanted you to come back home. Or at least talk to him.

Papyrus… It didn't seem like he wanted anything to do with you. Which you totally understood, of course. But… If you attempted to go home, would he welcome you? Sans might try to convince him to let you stay, but you didn't want to risk a fight.

Trying to keep your voice steady and conversational, you ask, “Hey, so… Papyrus… Doesn't want them to come home?”

Shaking his head, sobering slightly, he says, “No.”

…Ah. Okay. Yeah. That uh. That makes sense. Hmm. Maybe… Maybe you'll just stay with Agitha-

“Not! Not no as in “no he doesn't want you to come home”!” Sans blurts, shaking you from your planning. He looks regretful. You don't like it. You want to see him smiling again. “I meant no as in that's not what he wants!”

He gives a frustrated huff and leans back against the booth, staring at the table once again. “Papyrus… Can be so stubborn sometimes. And he likes to keep everything bottled up and hidden beneath a layer of apathy and jokes until it goes away and he never has to tell anyone. The fact of the matter is that he's afraid to admit he cares and he's afraid to just handle his emotions because he doesn't want to be hurt. So he runs away from them and shoves them down and pretends that it will make all his problems go away.”

That sounds… pretty much exactly what you've been doing for the past four hundred years. You never would have guessed, but now that you're hearing it, you think you can see what he means. Papyrus has always seemed so lackadaisical and relaxed about everything, even those moments when he was testing you. You wouldn't be surprised if there was more you're missing.

Sans sighs, turning his gaze up to the ceiling, and in a quieter voice continues, “I think, to some extent, we all did. Everyone under the mountain. Because if we lost Hope… we would Fall Down. So we all learned to put on a smile and ignore our problems and find some other day of handling them. And now that we're on the surface, we're just not sure how to handle them properly anymore.”

“I get what you mean,” you mutter, reaching out and placing your hand tentatively over his. He turns his hand over, gripping yours tightly, and warmth blooms in your chest. “I've been running from my problems since I was little, and now I don't know how to do anything but…”

Sans sits up, squeezing your fingers gently, and fixes you with that same intense look Papyrus will give you. There's quiet desperation and hope I the look. “Cheshire, I don't know why you left. I don't know if it was something we did or something else, and I don't know what you're dealing with. Stars, I'm realizing I don't know anything about you!” His thumb rubs the back of your hand, and his voice begins to shake a little. “But I want to know. I want to help you deal with whatever it is you're struggling with. More than anything, Cheshire, I… I want you to come back home.”

Your chest squeezes and your mind is flung back to the nightmare this morning. When you had been lost in darkness and confused and not sure who you were, those words woke you.

You'd been searching for a safe place for so long. A place to call your own. And it had been sitting right in front of you this whole time.

Laughing shakily, you rub at your eyes. There's a lump in your throat and burning in your eyes and your soul is humming louder than you've ever heard it. “Sans… I wanna go home,” you tell him softly, smiling up at him.

He returns the gesture and you see hints of blue gathering in the corner of his sockets, and then that beautiful blue color that you adore so much fills his eyelights and he laughs airily.

Just like magic.

There's a soft sniffle from beside you that pulls you from the joy of the moment. Your heart plummets as you quickly turn to Agitha, already feeling guilty. Aggie had waited so long to see you and here you were, so eager to go back with Sans and Papyrus. You'd hurt her so many times already, and here you were, hurting her again.

And yet, when she turned to look up at you, she was smiling. Wider than you'd seen her smile in a long time. She cupped your face, stilling your apologies before you could even get them out. “My dear Atlas… Cheshire. This… this is the happiest I've ever felt you. Please, do not feel guilty for this. This is all I wanted for you.”

You lean forward, resting your forehead on hers. “But… but you waited for me for so long. It's rude to just ditch you like this!”

She chuckles, reaching up to scratch behind your ear. “Well, you're not planning on leaving right this second, now are you?”

“Absolutely not,” you reply resolutely, then look up and give Sans an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Sans.”

He waves you off, looking just as happy as Agitha does. “Please, do not be sorry. I don't want you to leave just for our sake. We can manage as long as we know you're coming home.”

Agitha strokes your hair, bringing your attention gently back to her. “I have always loved you, Cheshire. Even when you left, I let you go because I knew one day you would come back to me, because that is what love is. I cannot possibly hope to hang onto you forever, and I want you to be happy wherever you are.” She brushes the underside of your eye. “And I know that you will be happy with them.”

“Thank you, Aggie,” you murmured, nuzzling into her hands.

“Of course, Cheshire,” she replies softly, kissing your forehead and letting you go. You lightly brush away some of her tears and she chuckles bashfully, glancing Sans’ way. “I apologise, dear. I'm quite a mess.”

“Welcome to the club,” Sans jokes, in such a bold way that it draws a bark of startled laughter from you. He snickers at your incredulous expression, rubbing his sockets pointedly. You stick your tongue out and he snorts, turning his attention to Agitha. “In all seriousness, though, I completely understand. It's been… an emotional week.”

Agreed, you can't help thinking, smiling softly at the two people you care about more than anything in the world.

...if only the last one was here, too.

 

Unfortunately, you have to part ways soon after. Sans wants to get back and tell Papyrus what's happened, he informs you excitedly, looking up at you with bold blue eyes. You can't resist bending down and scooping him up, just to see if you can.

You can. He's much lighter than you would have thought. His laughter as you spin him around is music to your ears. He fits just right in your arms, like you thought he would.

With a final squeeze and a promise to see each h other in a few days, you finally part ways. You hold Agitha's hand all the way back to the house, chatting more animatedly than you have the whole visit. You finally feel more like yourself.

You and Agitha settle down in the living room, cuddled under a blanket with cups of hot cocoa, and watch TV. You laugh and talk and yell at the TV until your voices are raw and she falls asleep on the couch. You know that won't be good for her back, and so you carefully- and regretfully- shake her awake and help her to her room. She falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow.

You're halfway down the hall to throw lavender room when you stop, staring at the door thoughtfully. Then you turn and creep back into her room, careful not to make too much noise.

For the first time in a long time, you shift into your Atlas skin. You take a moment to just examine yourself, to get used to the feeling of being a cat once more.

You feel… different. Or rather, you should say you feel the same. Usually when you shift you take on a separate personality- you've just always associated certain skins with a certain life.

But now, despite it all… it's still you. Just Cheshire.

A thunderous purr rattles from your throat and you carefully clamber up onto the bed. You squirm into place beside Agitha, settling on her pillow. She stirs slightly, rolling over, and throwing an arm over you. Her face presses into your fur and you hear her murmur your name, ever so softly.

As lightly as you can, you lick her cheek and settle down in her arms. The room is quiet and still, save for the rustle of her breath, and the faint scent of lavender and mint reaches you even from here.

Finally, you settle down to sleep, and for once, your dreams are peaceful.