Edge stepped off the bus with his luggage in hand. He stepped to the side after surveying the small courtyard and finding it clear. Red stepped off immediately after, dropping his suitcase as he meandered down the trodden dirt path, lidded sockets keenly doing their own observations. Then Stretch, moving at a snail’s pace with his bags slung over his shoulders. And lastly, Sans, yawning and rubbing the sleep from his sockets. Edge counted the luggage and then nodded to the bus driver in thanks.
They smiled and closed the doors. Edge was aware they didn’t immediately drive away.
Pulling out his phone, he noted his prediction had been correct. They’d arrived in the early evening after all. He sent a quick text to Papyrus and Blueberry to let them know they’d all arrived safely. He was sure Sans and Stretch would send their own but like himself, their brothers appreciated promptness. Tucking his cell away, he glanced toward his own brother who was now leaning on the wooden fence further down the courtyard.
He seemed at ease, which meant he was alert, but the sight of Red less… twitchy already bolstered Edge’s confidence at this rather abnormal plan.
He would admit, the sight of so much green was a refreshing change.
The city they’d all been ushered into upon reaching the Surface had been concrete and steel. Very little organic life that wasn’t contained and constructed for aesthetics’ sake. The sheer amount of nature around him felt like a balm against the well of irritation and stress that had long been accumulating in his skull.
The air was fresh, the sky clear and crystalline blue. After growing up in a place like Underfell, Edge had learned to read the feel of a place. The wariness of new surroundings aside, it felt calm here. Quiet and calm.
Beside him, Sans had dropped his own luggage as well and was currently using Red’s suitcase as a backrest. He was flipping open his cellphone and no doubt texting Papyrus, a bittersweet smile playing at his teeth as it chirped back a response. The smell of smoke told Edge that Stretch had lit up without even looking. He didn’t bother confirming it either. It had been a given that he would need to keep an eye out for how many cigarettes Stretch went through.
The move hadn’t been easy for anyone and they all had different ways to cope with the stress of it.
He hoped this was the right decision to make. It sounded ludicrous when you said it out loud. Moving from the city, out here in the middle of nowhere to run a farm? Edge had only said it aloud once and it seemed surreal even then. Yet here they were.
His shoulder still ached from where his former Captain had clamped on tight and announced he needed to see a doctor. This was of course after he informed her of the move. A little grappling, some gut punches here, sweeping kicks there, and a tight headlock had allowed him to explain his decision. That it was none of her business and he knew what he was doing.
She wasn’t his Captain anymore after all. Friendship only leant so much leeway and he had a much more important duty to the monsters who were his own to look out for.
The human city hadn’t bothered Edge. The pace of life had in fact been somewhat enjoyable at first. However, it quickly became apparent that humanity just never stopped. The relentless pace against the clock day and night was exhausting to a species unused to it. Monsters who were not naturally inclined to that way of life needed to adapt. If not, there were rising reports of monsters suffering from the strain of it.
Sans and Stretch were two such cases. And in the approaching weeks to their move to Stardew Valley, he had begun to see the cracks in Red’s façade as well. And, loathe to admit it except to himself, Edge knew this was likely for his benefit as well.
There had been more than one occasion where his LV had spiked in his marrow when encountering aggressive or confrontational humans in the city. Not wholly unusual and Edge never had a problem repressing the violent urge in his magic. It was the increasing rate of flare-ups that was more concerning. This was likely the reason for Red’s increased agitation as well; though Edge knew there was more to it.
Edge had gone to Papyrus and Blueberry for advice after a particularly Bad Day for himself and his mates. They were aware too. They couldn’t not be, particularly after… recent developments. It had been a struggle to get Papyrus on his own for that meeting but Red was fully briefed on his worries (shared them even if he didn’t say it) and offered to ‘chaperone’ the trip to Grillby’s.
Hours of tossing around ideas and plans led to nothing but frustration at how expensive the Surface was.
Then Papyrus, unusually solemn, pulled out a small pamphlet. It was plain with soft colors and its borders were well-worn. Papyrus passed it to Edge as Blueberry fell silent, staring at his hands.
The pamphlet was of a small and out-of-the-way region called Stardew Valley and at its heart a little town on the seaside called Pelican Town. It was full of farmers and down-to-earth types, where a museum, a community center, and a cave system ranked as the most exciting tourist attractions. A bar, two grocery stores, small populace. Simple.
Papyrus had discovered through his own revenue of research on how to help his brother that sometimes getting away from the source of distress was the best cure.
“I THOUGHT THAT IF SANS COULD GET AWAY FROM THE CITY… IT DOESN’T SUIT A LAZYBONES LIKE MY BROTHER, NYHEHE…” If there were something glimmering in the corner of Papyrus’ socket, no one had said anything, “PERHAPS GOING TO A PLACE LIKE THIS COULD HELP. FOR ALL OF YOU. A PLACE TO HEAL AND BE OKAY AGAIN.”
… Of course, they had noticed. So, they researched further and when their brothers returned, they all sat down and had a long talk.
And here they were.
Eventually his mates had agreed. Otherwise they would still be in the city. Forcing a change as huge as an unwanted move would solve nothing. They were still carrying a haggard air for all that they’d willingly come along. Edge would be more concerned if they were chipper about it. It’s not like this was a particularly happy occasion after all.
He eyed the dark scores under Sans’ sockets, telling him what he already knew. Identical ones matched on Red’s face. Neither of them had slept more than a couple of hours in the last few days. He was eager to get them into a bed and ensure they had a full night’s rest. Now that they would be under a single roof, he could do that.
Aware that Red was walking back, he caught the scowl before it shifted into a grin. Red met his gaze, rolled his shoulders, then kicked at his bag. If Sans were bothered, he made no show of it. If anything he slouched further into the suitcase and yawned again. It might have been a mock except for the genuine exhaustion apparent in Sans’ expression.
The bed, Edge vowed, as soon as he was able.
The faint rustle of grass and leaves accompanied by footsteps moved him forward until he was in front of them all. A young woman with vibrantly orange hair strolled up the path. Her smile was welcoming and bright. She seemed completely unsurprised to see four skeleton monsters.
“Hello!” She hailed, raising a hand to wave as she neared, “You must be the new farmers I heard about.”
Edge nodded, “LIKELY. MY NAME IS EDGE ASTER, THIS IS MY BROTHER RED.”
Red gave a slow smile that looked friendly if not for the way his eyelight was looking her up and down with a well-hidden scrutiny, “evenin’.” was all he drawled.
Stretch exhaled a cloud of smoke before finally turning and stepping up beside Edge. He balanced his cigarette between his teeth and with both hands in his hoodie pocket gave an underwhelming, “Hey.”
He’d spoken, that was enough for Edge, “AND THIS IS SANS SERIF.”
The smallest of them had gotten to his feet, relinquishing Red his suitcase at last. With his own luggage in hand, he waved, smiling, “hey.”
The woman smiled back, apparently not at all affected by the strangeness Edge knew they presented. “I’m Robin, the local carpenter. Mayor Lewis sent me here to fetch and show you the way to your new home. He’s there right now, tidying things up for your arrival.” Robin gestured down the left side of the road, the opposite direction than she’d arrived. “The farm’s right over here, if you’ll follow me.”
Edge led them after Robin as soon as all the luggage had been picked up and it was a very short walk to the entrance of their new property.
“This is your new farm, Vita Nova!” Robin announced, stopping just beyond the end of a well-trodden path.
They all took in the sight before them in silence.
Edge stared out at the mess of nature than had taken over what once had been empty farm ground. The pictures on the website had clearly been outdated. The forest surrounding the farm had encroached on once clear land. It was a challenge to see bare dirt anywhere the further you looked. It was not what they signed up for but Edge was not as disappointed or annoyed as he should be.
The sight of the complete mess of the farmland was undeniable but it was a goal to accomplish. Something concrete to do, that had to be done. For that he was glad.
Of course, his mates were far less enthused.
Robin chuckled, “What’s the matter? Sure, it’s a bit overgrown, but there some good soil underneath that mess! With a little dedication you’ll have it cleaned up in no time.”
Stretch kicked at a fallen log. One of dozens scattered around. “If you say so…” he muttered, tired sockets falling away from the farm. Sans pats him sympathetically on the back while Red stared out at it; equal parts suspicious and disgusted.
They walk a little further and Robin comes to a stop again, “And here we are, your new home.”
Edge is just taking in the need for repairs that is required when an old man stepped out of the cottage. He is set on edge immediately and inherently recognizes the same signs in his brother. A pure reflex. Despite the fact they’ve never set foot in the cottage before, it’s their new home, and the sight of a stranger (a human stranger) coming out of it after doing Stars knows what? Their hackles are raised and he knows it’s going to be a long night.
“Ah, the new farmers! Welcome! I’m Lewis, Mayor of Pelican Town. You know, everyone’s been asking about you.”
Edge nods once in acknowledgement and there is an unpleasant slither of maliciousness in his marrow that keeps him from speaking. He can do nothing but hold the impulsive aggressiveness of LV back and wait. He doesn’t have to check his brother.
Red was always the one with the better mask.
“It’s not every day that someone new moves in. It’s quite a big deal.” Lewis looked up at the cottage. “So… the old place is finally being moved into. It used to belong to a friend of mine. Gave it to me to take care of after he died a few years ago. It’s a good place… very ‘rustic’.”
Looking at the structure, Edge found himself agreeing with the carpenter when she comments, “Rustic? That’s one way to put it… ‘Crusty’ might be a little more apt, though.”
Stretch wanders in his peripheral, looking at the cottage with a closer eye. Edge has so far catalogued the hole in the porch, the fractures in the wood paneling, as well as the rough shod tiles of the roof. It was honestly, not that bad off. They’d lived in houses in much worse condition, in harder circumstances in the Undergrounds. Some monsters were still down there. By choice of course.
Lewis scowled and snapped, “Rude!”
As Robin giggled to herself, turning to hide a mischievous smile, Edge found himself relaxing slightly. He could tell by the gleam in the Mayor’s eyes and easy cadence of Robin’s teasing that this was a common occurrence. Not unalike a child teasing their parental figure.
“Don’t listen to her, boys. She’s just trying to make you dissatisfied so that you buy one of her house upgrades.”
Robin made a ‘hmmph’ noise off the side, crossing her arms.
“Anyway… you must be tired from the long journey. You boys should get some rest.” Lewis said with a warm smile. “Tomorrow you ought to explore the town a bit and introduce yourself. The townspeople would appreciate that.”
The suggestion isn’t inconvenient. They have to go into town eventually. Stardew Valley is their new home for the foreseeable future. However, the ashen color of Sans skull and the way Red shifts just enough, fangs clenched tightly, tells Edge that it is very unlikely they will be venturing into town tomorrow. Even the next day might be too soon for some of them.
Stretch reappears beside Sans, clasping a hand on his shoulder. His noncommitted, “sure, sure.” is somehow convincing when paired with an easy-going slouch and smile.
Lewis appears to be satisfied that his suggestion is headed and motions to Robin as he heads toward Pelican Town. Before Edge can take even a moment to attempt to soothe his mates, Lewis pauses by a very large, wooden crate with a hinge lid.
“Oh, I almost forgot. If you have anything to sell, just place it in this box here. I’ll come by during the night to collect it-”
Red’s answer is quick, cutting straight across the distance like a blade. Lewis looks startled and Robin freezes, wide eyed. Edge can hardly bring himself to reprimand Red. The disturbing thought of a human coming onto their territory, near their home while they slept, is enough to incite his LV once more. He doesn’t care if this is how Stardew Valley operates. The faintest rattle of bone coming from Sans, the hand that grabs onto his sleeve is a powerful motivator to argue.
“THAT WILL NOT BE NECESS-”
This time he is interrupted by a call from further down the road.
“Don’t worry about these young lads, Lewis! I’ll take care of collecting their harvest. You have too many responsibilities to begin with, whahaha!” The old turtle hobbling down the road is a monster and Edge finds himself surprised. Though perhaps he shouldn’t be. Considering why there were here, perhaps others had been drawn to the Valley for the same reasons.
Sans brightens like a flower catching sunlight. The smile on his face is genuine for the first time that day, “Gerson!”
The turtle, the famous Hammer of Justice, tips an imaginary hat as he reaches them.
Sans met him halfway, “i thought you stayed underground?” and got an affectionate tap on the head for his question from Gerson’s walking stick.
“Not even a proper hello! No matter, no matter.” Gerson smiled queerly at them and Edge felt oddly exposed as his eye roved over him. Knowing and wisdom glimmered in that eye, acquired from experiences gathered over the ages this monster had been alive. “Been a bit of a rough one I see… Well! Decided to see if my old home was still standing. Imagine my surprise to see a quaint little town, barely changed at all after all these centuries! I met Lewis here and decided to stick around.”
Gerson looked upward, “It’s a nice change of pace.” Was all he said.
Edge glanced up as well, everyone did, to the sun and the beautiful evening sky. It was still as breathtaking as the day they reached the Surface.
Gerson tapped his walking stick once, “I’ll pick up your harvest, boys, and ya’ll come around town when you’re ready, ya hear? You might even see some more familiar faces.” He winked.
Even Red perked up at that and Edge thought perhaps his brother might sneak into town sooner than he’d predicted. If there were old connections to renew, Red would be jumping to rattle those chains for information on their new home.
“thanks.” Sans glanced upwards at him and Edge nodded, both to the smaller skeleton and the veteran soldier.
“WE APPRCIATE IT, SIR.”
Gerson let out another powerful laugh and then turned, prodding Lewis and Robin along.
“Good luck, laddies!”
It was a testament to how well they knew each other when Stretch and Sans looked to them after the welcoming committee was gone. Allowing he and his brother to satisfy their instincts without question was more touching than it should be.
Edge and Red walked a circle around the cottage, inspecting with a different intent than Stretch had been earlier. After that, Edge led the way into the cottage and they swept the interior, doubling over each other’s area, checking the furniture until finally they deemed it safe for themselves and their mates.
He stepped out and beckoned them inside. The wood cottage was one room, with a table and chairs, dresser with a TV atop it, a single painting and potted plant, as well as a brick fireplace and a nice bronze rug. On the table were four bowls and shakers, no doubt gifted to them for their arrival.
There were also two beds on either side of the room and they didn’t even need a discussion before one slid up next to the other to form one large bed.
The bags were lined up at the foot of the bed for now. There was exhaustion in his mates’ movements and he wasn’t cruel enough to ask them to put anything away properly right now. Tomorrow morning was another story. As they dig out their sleepwear, Edge steps to the fireplace and grabs the matchbook on the hearth. It takes little effort to bring the firewood to a healthy blaze.
Turning to see everyone changed, he announced, “Time for bed.”
He received no arguments. Sans was already crawling into the now king-sized bed, rolling over until he thumped against the wooden wall, his face planted into the pillow. Red followed after him, grinning widely. There were hushed whispers and then Sans snerked into laughter, making his brother’s grin widen as he laid down.
“Not joining us?”
Edge shook his head, “Not yet.”
Striding past Stretch, Edge stepped outside and closed the door behind him. Now that they were here, his mates settled into their new home, he could take a breath and figure out what was next. Settling down on the porch, he rested his chin on folded fingers and looked onto the farm.
They would need a schedule. At the very least a routine. It was very unlikely that it would be kept to perfectly considering who he was in a relationship with, but the structure would be helpful nonetheless. To start with, the farmland itself would take work to clear. No doubt days, if not weeks, depending on how they did it. Crops ideally would be started right away. Not to mention, the cottage would need some organizing.
All these thoughts swirled slowly in his skull, formulating a plan through meticulous process. The night’s stillness was undisturbed but for the calls of an owl, rustles of the crisp wind in the trees and even after he’d developed a plan for the morning, Edge sat there quietly. Only when the moon had reached its zenith did he stand up and step back inside.
He made a mental note to install a better lock tomorrow as well. No doubt Red would be laying his own security efforts as well. A simple latch was not nearly enough to soothe their ingrained paranoia. Coming up to the bed, he took a moment to take in the sight of the intertwined limbs.
Stretch laid with his back to him, arm thrown over Sans who was in the middle and Red who had somehow taken the spot against the wall. The glimmer of red prompted a short nod from Edge and Red’s socket closed. His brother would sleep, but it would be lightly.
Edge however would not be sleeping at all. Not tonight at any rate. Even if he wanted too, the area was still too new, too unknown to allow himself to be so vulnerable.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and lay above the covers. As careful as his movements were, Stretch stirred and then turned his head to eye him sleepily.
“… you good, edgelord?”
Edge honestly thought about it and was truthful as he answered, “Yes.”
That was apparently all the taller skeleton needed, closing his sockets and turning back over to tighten his grip on the other two. “cool…” came the faint mutter as he fell back asleep.
Edge let an amused smile play at his fangs as he rolled onto his side, away from his mates so he could face the door. His sockets closed, but in the meditative state of awareness and rest he could be up with a construct in hand in a second. Still, despite his impressive stamina, there was a big day ahead and he’d take any rest he could.
For the rest of the night, the calm breathing of four weary souls filled the cottage; on the brink of a new life that would be filled with hope.