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His Wish

Chapter Text

Once, a Creator started to make a world. They needed to come up with characters and their story, and draw a home for them. But, overcome with uncertainty, the Creator didn’t finish their work. “I can’t make anything that’s worth the effort,” — with that thought they left the sheet of paper half-empty: white space with pencil sketches; lines left without feelings or wishes, empty and soulless, waiting for their end. Abandoned by their Creator, they lost hope.

Ink was among them, the only one gifted with the light of a soul.

And then his light went out.

Ink saw that dream often. It wasn’t a nightmare, so Nightmare wasn’t to blame for it. It wasn’t a daydream, so Dream wasn’t the one to reproach for doing a bad job at refining it. No, it was a memory — the only one that the guardian of the AUs couldn’t forget, no matter how much he wished he could.

Ink sighed, smiling a moment later: he was always fascinated by the imitation of breathing in skeletal creatures — why’d they do that if they don’t need air? There were neither lungs, nor any other organs hidden inside the ribcage — and in his case, not even a soul.

His thoughts went back to the memory.

It felt like the days when he dreamed of his past lost some of their colours, and his body stayed half-numb to emotions no matter how much of his paints he drank. On days like these Ink made rash decisions he’d later had to apologize for. Sometimes he’d even end up hurting the few who he could call close friends.

But he was always forgiven.

He glanced at the alarm clock. The short hand pointed at twelve, covered by the long one, and the second hand convulsed in agony, stuck in place. It’s always noon, as if he’s at the Mad Hatter’s party table and not in his own bed. The broken device, useless in the Anti-Void, rang as if to mock him.

The ever-white space itself seemed to mock him, reminding him of its power every day. It broke the very idea of time: this had been the 150th broken alarm clock. The TV switched channels to show alternate universes, and the choice was always a gamble: anything from Underlust porn to Undernovela soaps. The channel couldn’t be switched either — just like how the TV couldn’t be switched off. Ages ago, Ink felt shivers running down his back as he held the power cord he’d ripped from its socket in shaking hands while the TV continued to work.

Sometimes, as if his house was haunted, drawers would open and close, or kitchen chairs would move away from the table, or the birds he’d created would smash themselves against the windows. Sometimes the hallways filled with whispers of alien voices and paintings leaked paint, and the furniture moved on its own.

Only years later the guardian figured out what was happening. The Anti-Void was settling, like a newly-built wooden house. It shifted, changed polarity, moved like the Earth’s crust, causing wild fluctuations in magic.

However, even after finding out about it, Ink didn’t move to one of the Pacifist universes, ignoring all the invitations he received from friends and acquaintances. He’d come to terms with not belonging to any universe. He was a child of the Anti-Void, and he continued to hide in its white maw like other creatures like himself.

The kettle whistled. Filling his cup with boiling water, Ink reflected on how he’d picked up nonsensical habits from other universes. His body had no need for food or water, or even air, yet every day he washed up, brushed his teeth, made breakfast and tea, and asked himself — why did he need all of this?

“To keep from going insane,” Ink replied out loud and looked around in unease. What if someone had heard him? “Damnit, Ink, you’re already insane. Who’s there to listen? And even if anyone hears, what do they care? They have a guardian with a memory of a goldfish — now he’s got schizophrenia too. Who cares as long as I do my job?”

As he was saying those last words, he felt a pressure in his chest. Despite having no soul, the guardian could swear that, whenever one particularly insane individual started destroying a part of the Multiverse, that’s what he felt it with.

“Why won’t he stop already?! Come on, Broomy, let’s set him straight!”

Speaking of talking to himself, it didn’t even cross the guardian’s mind how he talked to his paintbrush, his main tool and weapon, daily. He even gave it a name — Broomy — and there were times his friends could only smile awkwardly as he talked to it or asked it for advice. But everyone turned a blind eye.

The only thing that Ink was never forgiven for — neither by others, nor by himself — is when one of the many universes disappeared for good.

And there was only one known creature in the Multiverse who could pull that off.

“When will you quit it already, Error?”  Ink asked in jest, appearing behind the enemy’s back.

This got an immediate reaction: a forest of bones grew under the guardian, and a blaster shot from the side.

“Oh my, so scary.” Ink wasn’t the least bit put off by the chilly welcome and avoided the attacks with ease. The barrage of bones that flew at him was blocked with a spin of Broomy. “So, what’s your beef with…” Ink stopped for a moment to read off the name of the universe, “...Poketale? Wait, don’t answer. Last week you were trying to destroy Nekotale. I assume the reasons match.”

“Shut up already! There’s only one reason, and I’m sick of repeating myself: all errors must disappear!”

“Says Error.”

Error was just that, an error — even had that written all over him. He was abnormal, no matter how you look at him: black bones, glitchy voice (that repeated parts of his words like a broken record), crazy eyes and messed-up goals — just a laggy, virus-laden program with destruction as its only purpose.

The next barrage of attacks was harder for Ink to avoid. Error not only switched between blasters and bones, but also put his signature blue strings into action.

The strings weren’t as dangerous for Ink as they were for most creatures, since he didn’t have a soul for Error to bind and make use of. He was practically immortal. One time someone broke all his bones and watched as he turned into a puddle of ink — and guess what? He came whole again and was alive still. Sure, pain existed, but for him, soulless as he was, it had become an annoying friend: it sort of existed at the edge of his perception, but he could always pretend it wasn’t there.

Still, it was best not to get caught by the strings.

The blue web appeared right in front of his face, only to fall apart as black paint flowed down his brush, sharp like a knife. The artist sunk into the resulting puddle, avoiding a blaster ray, and came back up next to his enemy with a wave of his brush. A red line cut through space, but missed its mark as Error teleported and readied a new attack.

Ink barely evaded a bone attack, barely blocked a blaster ray, barely noticed a string coming at him… He had to admit that Error was getting stronger — which meant Ink was running out of time to earn his friendship.

That was a thing none of Ink’s friends could understand or forgive — his wish to be friends with Error.

“Error, let’s be friends!” How many times had he offered before?

“Fuck off?” How many times had he refused?

“Destroying AUs isn’t a way out, Error.” he offered, again.

“But it sure is fun!” No result, again.

Sighing, Ink turned his attention back to fighting, dancing away from the attacks, sending bones made of ink at Error and countering with Broomy.

Ink never wanted to kill Error — and was never forgiven for it. Not a single one of the destroyed universes would have forgiven him. Not a single one of Error’s victims would’ve understood him.

To AU inhabitants, Error was an abomination. He came to universes just to lay waste to them, erasing the very memory of them. He brought only pain and destruction. But at the scale of a Multiverse, Error was just one of its inhabitants — neither worse than Ink himself, nor better — which meant even someone like him could change.

Ink’s attempt to bind Error with ink shackles failed when Error teleported away and landed a successful attack on Ink himself — a blue string that cut into Ink’s right hand, making him let go of Broomy — only for the artist to catch Broomy with his left hand and use it to cut through the dangerous string.

Again, some distance put between them and, again, back to long-range attacks. Same old, same old.

“Error, please, let’s stop this fight. I believe we could be…”

“Agrh!” Waves of glitches ran over the destroyer, and he howled, “I’m so sick of you!”

He showed just what he thought of the senseless offers of peace with a new succession of attacks that had Ink running off, teleporting and showing miracles of acrobatics just to avoid it.

He was nearing a cliff with a flimsy bridge as the only way across. With no strength left for teleportation, Ink headed for the bridge, hoping to gain some distance from the enraged enemy, who was breathing down his neck.

Following instinct, he rolled to the right — just in time, since a moment’s hesitation would’ve had his back turn into a pincushion for glitchy bones.

He’s at the bridge, but so is a blaster. Creating a shield for cover, Ink ran over the whining, flimsy planks. He was almost halfway across, when the structure lurched and fell, drawing Ink down with it. The bridge crashed into the ground. Ink was saved from sharing its fate, caught in a tangle of blue strings, and soon came face to face with their master.

“Gotcha.” Error’s grin was about as crazy as his eyes.

“Got me.” Ink responded with a smile of his own. He still had Broomy in his hands — had a chance to free himself — but kept stalling. He didn’t have enough strength in him to continue fighting — which was the price he had to pay for his pacifism. If he were to choose to fight to the death, he would’ve had enough power to destroy the enemy, stomp them into the ground and dance rumba on top of whatever remained.

“Now, what should I do with you?” Error saw the paintbrush in Ink’s hands but considered himself victorious nonetheless. He knew Ink was low on magic, which would keep the artist from acting rash.

“Let me go?”

“You wish.”

“But if you let me go, I could be your friend!”

That was the wrong thing to say. The destroyer was just starting to calm down, and now he was back to enraged again. The strings cut into Ink’s body, almost shredding him into pieces. The paintbrush fell to the ground.

“Every time, every damn time! Are you stupid? Or insane? Or maybe deaf? I’m so sick of repeating myself: your attempts to become my friend are useless! I won’t stop destroying AUs, and you won’t stop protecting them! So what kind of friendship are you even talking about here?”

Ink had a response to that, but the string on his neck cut in between the vertebrae and tightened like a noose. Were Error to pull a bit harder, and the artist would’ve lost his head — literally.

“Got nothing to say? That’s what I thought! And if you try to mess with my head one more time…”

The string around Ink’s neck got tighter while the others loosened. He jerked, feeling a sting on his vertebrae with any motion, and tried to keep still. His hands trembled, wanting to pick at the noose to loosen it. True, skeletons might have had no need for air, but having unbroken neck bones were very much a necessity. Sounds started to fade out, and Ink didn’t hear any more of what Error had to say — he was too busy fighting for his life.

Error tsked. The sight of his enemy choking was depressing. It was high time he either finished Ink off — leaving him to regenerate, since he didn’t believe for a second that Ink would stay dead for long — or let him go and continued with this joke of a confrontation.

The joker’s eyelights were already gone, and there was a black stream running down his chin that joined the one on his wounded neck in staining the beige scarf.

The noose disappeared, and the body fell to the ground like a rag doll. Hearing the coarse cough, Error turned to leave when the sound of a paint vial opening made him glance back. He knew of Ink’s vialed emotions — found out about their use the hard way — and it wouldn’t have been too bad, were Ink to drink some blue paint so he’d be able to cry, but…

“Holy shit!” Error hurried to open a portal to the Anti-Void. Ink was drinking from the red vial.

Error had just enough time to get into the Anti-Void, but so did the rage-filled Ink.

If there was something that Error hated more than Ink’s proffered friendship, it was Ink on red paint.

It was his turn to run a marathon, teleporting and evading as he went. At times like this Error had to admit that Ink was getting stronger — which meant Error was running out of time to make him keep out of his business.

Rainbow-coloured bones whizzed by his side, making him veer to the right — and right into a trap. Bones shot up from the floor and… missed the startled Error completely.

Even under the paint’s influence Ink didn’t have the drive to end the fight in his favor. End it for good.

“You don’t have the guts, huh?” Error grinned maniacally. “Unlike me!”

“That’s funny, Error. Skeletons don’t have gu-u-u…” Strings crucified Ink, making him shut up.

“It really is funny. You fell for the same trick for the second time today.”

“You know what they say about rakes and the people who step on them.”

Error huffed, holding back a laugh. “And do you know what they say about the dead  who have to put themself back together again from bone shards and ink puddles?”

Ink shuddered. He could never forget that awful moment of his life: mind-numbing pain and the following resurrection. He shook, started to hyperventilate and held his paintbrush tighter, ready to spend his remaining magic on making his escape.

“What’s the use?” I’ll still return.” He tried to smile but managed only a pained grimace. His eyelights kept changing their shape, not sticking to one even for a moment.

“Great! Then I’ll do something that’ll keep you away from me for good!”

“What’s that? Kill me again? And erase a couple of AUs while I’m incapacitated?”

Now that had happened before, and had had very little effect apart from Ink drinking blue paint to cry, then red to chase Error around while promising a world of hurt. One time Ink even caught him, and the aftermath kept Error from destroying AUs for a good week. Then Ink apologized and offered friendship again.

“Grrr!”

Trying to come up with something , Error looked around and then at Ink, thinking of odd things — one of them being Underlust, an AU that Ink tended to avoid — until he blurted out:

“I’ll rape you!”

The statement was met with silence — one usually complete with crickets and a tumbleweed passing by. Ink’s eyelights disappeared, and he dropped his paintbrush out of sheer surprise.

Error blushed, not expecting that suggestion from himself either.

“Seriously?” Ink didn’t believe the threat in the slightest.

“I’ll do it!” Error promised.

“Okay. I actually want to see how that goes. So, my dear friend, how are you going to accomplish that ?”

Error looked lost. He didn’t plan that far.

“Um, Error, can I get some clarification here?” Ink tried to use his most gentle voice tone and fought to keep a shit-eating grin from appearing on his face. “You’re so scared of touch that it makes you glitch, and now you want to do something that implies a lot of touching? Did I get that right?”

“Fuck off…”

“And you want to do that with someone who is unable to feel strong emotions? Like love, hate, passion, rage?”

“...”

“And you’re ready to get into bed with a creature who’s fake through and through?  And you probably won’t be getting anything pleasant out of it either. No?”

“...”

“And, considering your haphephobia, you’re a virgin, right?”

If Error was a normal person, he would’ve made his escape then and there, hiding a bright blush. But Error wasn’t a normal person — and intimacy wasn’t a thing he was capable of… pretty much like Ink himself, really. So he stood where he was, glaring daggers at the guardian.

“Don’t you think our situation is sad and hopeless?”

“Shut up.”

“We could go back to plan A and beat each other up usual?”

“I’ve told you to shut up!”

The strings tightened, and the guardian kept quiet, unwilling to tempt fate any further. He watched from the corner of his eye how little drops of ink escaped the cuts in his bones to run down the strings. The sight was mesmerizing enough that he’d missed the moment his opponent came to a decision.

“Which paint?” Error asked.

“Uh, what?” the artist brought his attention back to Error.

“Which paint corresponds to arousal?”

“So you’re serious?” Ink’s eyelights were changing shape so fast they looked like tangled string.

“Yes! I hope, after this you’ll stop nagging me with your stupid friendship propositions!”

Ink tilted his head to the side. His eyelights settled on triangles. And he asked the last thing Error expected to hear:

“Your place or mine?”

Chapter Text

To the very last moment Error expected a trap, expected to be met with mockery and a door shutting in his face. What he didn’t expect was for his enemy — who’s supposed to hate him and want him dead — to bring him to his house.

“Make yourself at home. I’ll be right back. Broomy, wait here.” Ink left the paintbrush leaning against the wall and sauntered up the stairs.

The destroyer stared at the oversized brush. Since the artist left it behind, he wasn’t going to escape, or mock him, or set up traps, or start a fight.

Error was at a loss. Of course, he was used to some of the guardian’s quirks — he just wasn’t ready for the new ones. He was especially unprepared for the consent to the thoughtless, spontaneous proposition that he’d made out of sheer hopelessness. He didn’t know what to expect, and the suspense made him nervous. He couldn’t believe that everyone’s beloved ever-righteous and “good” Ink would agree to have sex with him.

Willingly. Have sex. With him.

Seeking a distraction, Error swept an inspecting gaze over the living room. Ink’s house was reminiscent of the original’s house, but it had more doors and was decorated with a great number of paintings. The living room alone had at least six of them. At first, the destroyer couldn’t quite put a finger on what unnerved him about the colourful pictures. Then one of the paintings sneezed.

Blue strings immediately turned over all the paintings in the room. A wave of shivers ran down Error’s spine. He remembered one quirky universe with a school of magic as its driving idea. There were living paintings there too, and, to make matters worse, they talked. Strictly speaking, that universe didn’t exist anymore. He wondered if such an approach to house decorum was chosen in memory of the destroyed universe.

Uneasy, Error sat down onto the blanket-covered couch and found a TV remote in between the cushions. He picked a random channel, and the TV showed Underlust. The scene of passionate sex was mesmerizing, making him fidget and worry. Still, the proposition was his own, and he came here and sat and waited out of his own free will. Too late for embarrassment.

The creaking that came from the direction of the stairs had the skeleton hurrying to press a button — any button — to switch the channel. The remote refused to work, so he got off the couch to tear the power cord out of the socket. To his utter astonishment, the TV continued to work, supplying his hearing with sinful sounds.

“Having fun?” Ink called. The artist wasn’t surprised in the slightest when he found his foe at a loss, cord in his hands and panic in his eyes. The images on the screen didn’t surprise him either. “What a nuisance.”

He poured something from a clear vial onto the TV. A smell of solvent filled the air, and the nuisance melted into a shapeless puddle.

“So, um,” the artist hesitated, “you should probably undress or something.”

It’s only now that Error noticed that Ink wasn’t wearing his usual get-up; he had a loose robe on instead, and it looked like there were only naked bones underneath. So Ink wasn’t joking — they really were about to commence a night of debauchery.

“You do know I’m haphephobic? I can’t stand touch.” Error was ready to give in and run.

“I know, I know,” Ink reassured and stared at the couch in thought. “But I hope you’re at least immune to the bare minimum we need, or this won’t work.”

Error was about to say, “Well, thank the stars,” and leave, when he was stopped by a question that sounded like a hit with a sack of sand — stunning and sudden:

“Do you want to top or bottom?”

Error glitched. He didn’t have the time to get his bearing when another question made him reboot almost instantly:

“So, I was right, and this is your first time? Oh stars, Error! You shouldn’t worry this much. I promise not to hurt you, not to hit you — and, anyway, I’m unarmed. If anything, it’s you who should promise not to use your wonder-strings to rip my hands off.”

“No promises,” The recovering glitch hissed, getting his bearing back. He sighed.

He could still refuse. He could smirk, call his blunder a joke, turn around and leave. But he was overcome with curiosity. For the first time ever Ink let him get this close, and he was about to do something that Error considered immoral. So Error obediently sat onto the couch and lowered his head, frowning up at Ink.

Unlike him, Ink looked confident.

“You gonna undress?” he smiled ingratiatingly.

Error took off his jacket, choosing to leave his undressing at that.

Ink laughed sonorously, holding back a joke about a sacrificial virgin.

“As you wish.” Still smiling, he leaned forward to be face to face with Error, meaning to kiss him, but was stopped by a near-animalistic growl and a string on his neck.

Error smirked: well, how are you going to screw me without kissing?

Sighing, Ink moved back and kneeled in front of Error.

The look Ink gave him from down below — very different from the one he was used to — had Error gulping. The stare was too attentive, focused, full of sparks. Error got distracted from counting the stars in Ink’s eyes by his shifting: he was trying to find something in the robe’s pocket.

“Ow, Error!” the artist frowned, picking another blue string that had magically appeared over his bones off of himself. “I’m just getting the paint.” He demonstrated a pink vial. “Or have you forgotten that I can’t feel strong emotions? You could use some too, actually — you’re too tense.”

“I’ll pass.” Error pressed his back harder into the couch, watching as Ink poured the pink liquid onto his tongue. In an instant his expression gained lustful undertones. The resulting blush and the heart-shaped eyelights suited him.

“Stars, I haven’t used this paint in a while. I’ve forgotten how strong it is.”

“Something along the lines of love being the strongest thing in the world?” Error smirked.

“Yep, though in this concentration, it’s more of a lust.” A confident smirk greeted his words in return. Ink breathed deeply, struggling not to lose rational thought, and asked, “Spread your legs and pull your shorts down a bit. I promise not to bite.”

It really was something . Unable to hold back a moan, Error threw his head back, giving into the sensations. He hooked his fingers into the blanket underneath, as if holding back from grabbing the guardian by the skull and pushing in deeper. Lost in carnal pleasure, Error missed the moment when Ink reached into his robe’s pocket to produce another vial — filled with something transparent this time. Error didn’t have the time to catch his breath and ask before the vial was opened, and the clear liquid spilled onto Ink’s fingers. The fingers moved down, under his own robe, which made Error blush even brighter.

One especially strong motion had Ink accidentally touching the other’s hips with his skull. Error twitched; the point of contact got covered in glitches. As if in apology, Ink picked up the pace, tearing short, frequent moans of pleasure out of Error. Then he stopped.

“What… are… you…” Error whispered, out of breath.

“Getting to the best part,” said Ink and straddled him, which was difficult and pretty uncomfortable, since Ink couldn’t touch anything but his partner’s aroused magic.

The robe slipped off the naked body, and Error got a surprise: starting at the artist’s neck and down to his thighs the bones were covered in tattoos — like vines growing through the cracks. Or Ink tried to cover the unhealing cracks with these vines. The second thing Error noticed was an empty ribcage. It had no soul in it. The chest was lonesome and dark with magic that boiled inside it. It drew in his stare like a void.

“Don’t get distracted,” Ink singsonged and leaned closer to Error’s face.

This time Error let the kiss happen. They didn’t touch with their teeth, only wound their magical tongues against each other, and Error tasted a faint leftover burn of chemicals from the paint. Ink’s tongue still held pink colour. Licking his teeth, Error deepened the kiss, almost touching Ink’s skull with his, and jerked back immediately.

Ink was shaking. He hadn’t been with anyone in a while, and, despite the lubricant and the pink paint, the pain was sharp. It was hard not to notice his struggle.

“Kiss me again,” he wheezed, tears at the edges of his eyes.

His wish was granted, and with a hushed groan Ink managed to fully lower himself onto the other’s magic. He grabbed onto the back of the couch with both hands, as if trapping Error’s head in an embrace, and started slowly raise and lower himself. At the same time, he kept kissing, finding enjoyment in catching the other’s moans.

Error was burning. He couldn’t believe what he was doing, who he was doing it with or how. Considering his issues, he never thought he’d ever be having sex, much less with a guy, and even less with Ink of all people — and that it would be consensual and at the rainbow asshole’s place.

The kiss was broken as Ink started to move faster, arching his back and throwing his head back, showing off the neck that Error really wished he could bite into. Ink’s moans bounced off the walls. Saliva ran down his chin. His eyelights kept changing their shape sporadically. His bones hummed in strain.

He heard his partner’s broken breaths, saw his fingers grip the furniture to the point of spasming, and, with no small amount of elation, felt Error move to meet his motions, ignoring the glitches spreading wherever their bones touched.

His scream was deafening. Arching in an abrupt victorious motion, Error stilled, savoring the kaleidoscope of feelings, and relaxed only after a couple of deep breaths.

Ink’s legs were shaking. He could barely hold himself up. With great effort he managed to move to the couch cushions without touching the destroyer. Only then did he get a good look at his satisfied lover. Error was breathing heavily and shaking a little, and he looked surprisingly cute under the effects of an orgasm. His open mouth looked like it was asking for one more kiss, and the languid body begged to be brought back to attention for a repeat of the passionate rodeo.

Ink didn’t think long. Smirking, he drank more from the pink vial and reached to turn his tired partner’s head towards him, kissing him demandingly.

Humming something unintelligible, Error opened his mouth to protest, but it was too late. He could feel and taste the unwarranted liquid seep into his mouth.

“Let’s continue in the bedroom.” The artist winked and tugged Error by the sleeve to guide him up the stairs.

There was no resisting the temptation. Error followed Ink like an obedient sheep, not knowing he was being led to the slaughter.

The moment they reached the bed, he was pushed face down onto the soft pillows.

“You’ll need to bear with this for a bit,” Ink demanded.

The words barely reached Error through the wall of arousal. The paint was such a strong aphrodisiac that he was just about ready to touch himself, which he would’ve thought beneath his dignity at any other time. Lost under the waves of sharp arousal, he had no time to understand neither what position he was in nor where he was being touched.

He jerked and hissed, as even the strong arousal was unable to drown out the pain.

Ink whispered something calming to him, something to make him even more excited, and promised more pleasure — even more pleasure than before — if he would just be patient. And Error shut his eyes, believing Ink but making a promise to get his revenge.

“Just stay still,” Ink whispered.

Thanks to the pink paint’s effects there were way fewer glitches from the touches, though the ones that remained still mottled Error’s whole body.

“Stop,” Error whined tearily, tired of the unpleasant sensation between his legs, the painful glitches and the pounding of arousal in his head.

“Sorry, almost there. Just bear with it a little more. Just a little bit.”

Error bit into the pillow and tensed. Finally, Ink pulled out his fingers, but Error didn’t have the time to feel relief before the real pain came. He screamed, tried to crawl away, call his strings, kill, but Ink laid down on him, pushing him into the mattress, and made him reboot.

“Bear with it,” the guardian demanded.

And Error did, even though he was ready to beg for it to stop. No torture could make him cry and beg — but the ever-kind Ink could.

Then the glitches passed. Ink wasn’t touching his bones anymore. The pain was still there, but it wasn’t quite as strong. It got replaced with the familiar feelings of arousal and pleasure.

Slowly. A bit faster. Deeper. Harder.

The bedroom filled with two blissful voices and barely audible begging: more, faster, please, faster.

Flattered, Ink grabbed Error by the sweater and made him stand on his knees.

“Hold onto the wall,” he wheezed. Once the demand was fulfilled, he moved even faster. He couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to whether he was touching his partner or not anymore. He was drowning in carnal pleasure, driving into Error, bone clashing against bone with a painful sound.

However, the moans and begging continued, so he must’ve been doing everything right.

“Oh stars! Don’t stop! Yes! Yes!!!”

The screams were the last straw, and the orgasm pulled him under, took everything out of him, drowned him in pleasure, made him tremble in sweet ecstasy.

Error couldn’t hold himself up anymore. Leaving long scratches in the drywall, he fell face down into a pillow and passed out.

“Er...or… Error!” It took him a bit, but Error came to, only to find a very worried Ink fussing over him. The artist was shaking a bit, and there were tears in the corners of his eyes, like he was ready to cry. “I’m sorry! Are you okay? I shouldn’t have… it’s your first time… oh, I’m an idiot, I should’ve stopped before… but I thought you wouldn’t want it ever again, and I… and I…”

Error felt the strongest yet most delightful exhaustion. He didn’t want to think about what had just transpired, and neither did he want to deal with Ink. He just wanted to sleep.

“Ink,” he called softly.

“Yes? Can I do something for you?”

“Yeah. You can shut up.” He yanked Ink towards himself and hugged him. The glitches immediately let themselves be known, but the moment Error felt the warmth of the other’s body, he fell asleep, and the number of glitches went down to its usual minimum.

Chapter Text

The alarm went off — right at noon, again.

The loud ringing reached Error through the heavy slumber, but he couldn’t for the life of him understand how the alarm clock ended up in the Anti-Void, and why the fuck had he brought it there. The sound was grating on his nerves, but the sleep’s embrace refused to let him go. His consciousness remained somewhere in-between dream and reality — that is, until he heard a familiar voice:

“Kill it.”

He didn’t recognize the voice’s owner at first, and when he did, he didn’t believe it. What would Ink be doing in Error’s part of the Anti-Void? And why would he be asking Error to kill someone?

“Wha?”

“Between the two of us you’re the one who’s good at destroying things. So kill that damned device.”

That’s when Error’s dream decided it had had enough and left him one on one with the unlikely reality.

Error opened his eyes and choked on air. He was not in the Anti-Void, but in a strange house. He didn’t imagine Ink’s voice either: Ink was hugging him, forehead pressed against the black ribcage. And, yes, the guardian of the Multiverse really was asking him to kill someone.

“Oh stars!” Ink hurried to let go of the destroyer and move farther away as the other rebooted. “Are you okay?”

“Get a...way fro...m me!!!” Glitching all over, Error crawled away to the edge of the bed. Fortunately, while falling he also knocked the alarm off the nightstand, silencing it for good.

“I hope your LV went up with killing the mechanical monster,” the artist chuckled, watching one of the alarm’s springs roll on the floor. Yesterday he didn’t get a chance to write the events down on his scarf, and now he couldn’t be sure he remembered everything right.

Error doubted his memory as well. He sat on the floor, doing his best to put his thoughts in order. The thoughts were being most unhelpful in that endeavor. Error remembered making an insane proposition, remembered Ink agreeing, remembered coming to the artist’s house — and then his memory failed him, hiding the truth. The sinful truth.

With great effort Error pulled himself together and started putting his outfit into order. He pulled down the sweater that, at some point, rode up to his neck, pulled up his shorts, put on the slippers he found lying by the bed and… wait, where was his jacket?

“Your jacket’s downstairs.” Ink interpreted the confused stare correctly. “By the couch, where we…”

“You raped me!” Error wheezed. The shock of the reality was enough to make him reboot — and reboot once more after that.

This gave Ink enough time to get dressed. He could only assume his nakedness wouldn’t make his glitchy friend more talkative. And Ink wanted to talk. He waited until “error.exe” finished rebooting to attempt just that.

“Might I remind you that you were topping at first…”

“Oh really?!” Error gritted his teeth. Even while riding his magic, Ink had managed to be in control of the situation. “And then you fed me an aphrodisiac, dragged me to your bedroom and fucked me until I passed out. That’s what you call “topping”?”

“Oh stars, Error. I asked you whichever you preferred: topping or bottoming? You didn’t answer, so I figured you wanted to give both a go.”

Error remembered just that: he really was asked that question, and he didn’t answer, thinking the answer was obvious. But he was wrong. Nothing was ever obvious when Ink was involved.

Torn between rage and bitter shame, Error hurried to the door.

“Don’t go,” Ink asked. He remained sitting on the bed, unarmed and bare-footed. He looked calm — even his eyelights didn’t change their shape, stuck as a triangle and a star.

“Why shouldn’t I go? If anything, you should be grateful I’m leaving. I could fucking kill you! Remember, just like then? Break your every bone! Make your death as slow and painful as possible!”

Ink shivered. For a moment, he could almost feel the memory: a black bone slams into his fist, shattering it, then strikes his head, covering the skull with deep cracks. It took some effort to stop himself from shaking.

“I wanted to ask you what we were going to do about this?”

“What are you talking about, rainbow asshole?” Error stopped by the door and turned around.

“Well, you liked it right?” Seeing the other tighten his fists, Ink hurried to add, “And I liked it too. So why don’t we discuss… our options?”

“What fucking options?” There were now strings hanging off Error’s fingertips, primed for attack.

“Option number one: We split and forget anything has ever happened. A one-night stand. Everyone’s happy. We fucked and forgot all about it.”

“That’s the best option.”

“Option number two: We can meet sometimes. Nothing serious. Just sex. This changes nothing about the rest of our lives. We continue our meaningless fighting in the name of the Multiverse’s existence.”

Error looked interested — or, at least, he didn’t look angry anymore, and the strings were gone.

“And what’s option number three?” he asked.

“You won’t agree to it,” Ink noted with visible disappointment. “We get into a relationship. But relationships mean compromises, and you never agree to those.”

Error huffed and looked at Ink with fresh eyes. He was soulless, deathless, emotionless and, as it turned out, lecherous. That damning array of characteristics could decorate the worst motherfuckers in the Multiverse — yet Ink remained beloved by all.

What a paradox.

Error considered how he could use being Ink’s lover against him.

The night’s sinful memories came back to him then — Ink between his legs, Ink on top of him, Ink behind him — and made him light up with blush.

“I’ll think about it,” he said before going downstairs.

“You do that,” Ink cheered up. ‘I’ll think about it’ was better than ‘no’.

“By the way,” he caught up with Error by the front door, “you’ve promised to have your revenge for — ahem — the second orgasm.”

If Error thought he couldn’t blush any stronger, he was very wrong. He had to hide his face behind the jacket’s hood just to avoid any more embarrassment.

“And I’ll have it!”

“I’ll be waiting,” Ink winked.

“Fuck off!”

Error walked some ways off away from the house, opened a portal to a random world and left to clear his head.

Ink followed his lover with a blank stare until he was sure the glitchy portal was closed behind him and only then let out a loud victorious squeal. Running around like crazy, he jumped on the couch and swung on the ceiling light, and couldn’t hold back the joy inside him. That is, until the yellow paint’s effect wore off.

“And I’ve barely licked it.” He stared at the yellow vial, embarrassed by his behavior. “And he only said he’d think about it.”

Exhausted, Ink fell onto the very same couch where only yesterday he had had such a genuine and passionate tryst with his enemy. The memories left him pleasantly warm all over. He reached for the yellow paint again. The second option — using the pink one and masturbating — Ink decided to keep as a last resort for dealing with the temptations in his head.

Chapter Text

The day went on as usual: Ink had breakfast, made the round of the AUs, stuck around in the Doodle Sphere for a while, forgot everything… He couldn’t remember how he got home, but, since there were no new notes on his scarf, nothing important must’ve happened.

A guest awaited him at home. Not Error, since, even if he really tried, the glitch wouldn’t be able to access the Doodle Sphere or the artist’s house. Those two places were barred from intruders.

Dream was the only person granted the ability to visit Ink’s house uninvited and at any time of the day. There were times when a fight left Ink on the precipice between life and death, and to ensure he remained closer to the former he needed immediate assistance. Then he’d only have to make one call — and he was free to pass out knowing full well that his best friend would help him for sure.

“Good evening, Ink!” Dream held a tea mug up in greeting.

“Evening. Make some tea for me too, okay?”

Ink did away with outerwear and sat at the table, at once taking all the tastiest cookies out of the bowl.

Dream — also known as the guardian of dreams — noticed his friend’s appetite and good mood, and his smile grew shrewd:

“My friend, you have ‘I’ve found a new bedwarmer’ written all over your face.”

The artist choked, coughed and washed the cookie down with tea.

“You’re lying,” he claimed. “My face is unreadable: I’m a skeleton.”

“A skeleton with some very expressive eyes.” Dream continued to grin, taking note of all the changes in his friend’s eyelights. He especially liked the glimpses of hearts and four-leaf clovers.

“It’s useless lying to you,” Ink sighed.

“Precisely. So how about you share the good news? Who was it that succumbed to your wiles?”

“Are you asking in hopes of stealing me back?”

Dream huffed and blew Ink a kiss in jest:

“Asking so that I can pity the unfortunate victim.” He shook his head, keeping the tone of his voice playful.

“Why don’t you show some pity to me?” Ink bit into another cookie and went on, “It’s not my fault all my lovers flee from my place in such haste.”

“They’re not fleeing from your place — it’s amazing — they’re running from you and your paint-induced feelings and sociopathy that’s slowly developing into a schizophrenic disorder.”

Ink shrugged without a care: this was true enough, so he wasn’t going to argue. He waved his half-eaten cookie as he said:

“But I never give in and keep believing that some day I’ll find somebody who’ll take me as I am with all my paints, sociopathy and schizophrenia.”

“Yeah, a disinsector, who’ll finally exterminate all the bugs in your head.” Dream finished his tea, put the mug aside and asked, “So who’s the guy or girl?”

“It’s a he, and you know him well.”

Dream gave it some consideration. He knew a lot of people, and more than half of them could plausibly be of some interest to his dear friend.

“Give me a hint, or I’ll never guess.”

“Well, I see him often…”

“Is it Blue?” Dream was horrified.

“Are you out of your mind? His brother would tear me limb from limb!”

“Then who is it?” Dream was beginning to worry.

“Well, he’s not from our gang.”

“What do you mean by ‘not from our gang’? Ink, just whom did you get involved with this time?” Any semblance of playful banter went out the window.

“He’s from the bad guys,” Ink clarified and went back to drinking his tea.

Dream clacked his teeth in surprise before reminding himself that the artist had a very tolerant attitude towards any life form in the Multiverse. Signing, he began to go through all the not very good and even very bad people he knew and got scared more and more as he got farther down the list.

“Okay, one last hint. Is he a Sans or someone else?”

“He’s a Sans.” Ink nodded.

“Let me think… Horror? Nah, can’t imagine you sharing a table with a cannibal. Nightmare? Stars, no! And I doubt you like mud baths. Dust? You don’t get along that well. Killer? You get along even worse. Fresh? Say, it’s Fresh, isn’t it?”

“Why would you think it’s Fresh?”

Ink looked puzzled though, really, he could understand why his friend would stop at that option.

“He has soul-related problems, like you do, and suffers without emotions too. And he’s colourful, positive in his own weird way, and, despite all of that, he’s prideful. He’s also not as bad as all the others I’ve mentioned: at least, he’s causing trouble because he needs it to survive, not just for the sake of causing trouble.”

Ink considered trying to form a relationship with the emotionless parasite — and dismissed the notion just as quickly.

“No, it’s not Fresh. He wouldn’t be able to give me what I need.”

“Oh. Right. Emotions.” Dream went back to sifting through his list of unpleasant individuals. “Maybe Geno? You both could use a shrink. Just kidding! Reaper? Hasn’t he made you a proposition back when he found out you aren’t going to fall apart from his touch?”

“He did offer — but nope. I declined. And he could use a shrink just like Geno and I. What I’m saying is, he’s insane. His job’s such a nerve-wrecker that I’m the picture of stability by comparison.”

Ink flinched. He could remember how unpleasant and clingy death’s touches were, though the main reason for declining remained forgotten.

“Cross? You two get along just fine, right?”

“No, it’s not Cross.” Ink put his empty mug aside. “Come on, Dream. You already know who I’m talking about.”

Ink’s eyelights changed into a spiral and a green quadrangle.

Dream went through his list of baddies one more time, and it finally dawned at him — only the realization didn’t make him happy:

“Anyone but him.” He jumped to his feet. “Even if you choose my brother, I wouldn’t protest.”

“Dream, don’t start again.” Ink thrusted a teaspoon forward like a sword.

“I never stopped, Ink! He destroys universes! Kills in bunches! How could you… How could you even consider sleeping with him?”

“Easily — or did you forget that I have neither a soul nor moral limitations? All I am is who I decide to be.”

“I’m not talking about your soullessness! Stars!”

Dream was shocked, scared, and his hands were shaking. In his mind’s eye he saw a huge black puddle and scattered bone-pierced shreds of fabric that used to be Ink’s clothes. The black blood was everywhere . And next to it all, grinning, stood the murderer.

“Just tell me,” Dream asked in a shaky voice, “do I have any chance of talking you out of this?”

“You could try,” Ink offered, aloof.

“Okay. Starting with the obvious—”

“You’ve already mentioned he’s a murderer of multiversal proportions,” the artist reminded.

“Like anyone could forget that! So, you do realize that you and him are alternate versions of the same thing?”

“Sure.” Ink walked up to the stove to refill his mug, looking at his friend a tinge of incredulity. “Just like you and a lot of the people we know. All of us are alternative versions of the same monster — and, may I remind you, it didn’t stop us .”

Dream blushed and shrugged, scratching the back of his head.

They dated — a long time ago. Back then Dream thought that Ink was perfect for him: someone who didn’t wish to feed off of his positivity, didn’t ask for dreams — didn’t ask for anything! Ink was ready to give himself, his whole being — but only after he’d drunk some paint.

Yet what Dream felt every time he touched Ink was terrifying emptiness. His lover was an empty vessel with only shadows of emotions hiding at the very bottom of it. Only drinking paint gave him the ability to feel emotions — fake emotions — and Dream could always feel that fakeness.

They broke up on good terms and remained close friends. In the end, their relationship was far from healthy anyway: alternative versions of the same being bringing satisfaction to each other — it was odd and reminiscent of narcissism.

“And, since we’re one and the same, then our sex was just masturbation,” Ink summed up.

“Then sex with that bastard is sadomasochism.”

Ink sat down at the table and shrugged: he wasn’t going to deny his friend’s words, but wasn’t going to accept them either.

“By the way, Dream, we aren’t a couple, so you shouldn’t worry about him being a bad influence. I think, we’ll just be meeting for casual sex now and then.”

“Stars! Ink,” Dream flapped his hands, “if all you need is sex, then you have all of Underlust at your service. And… I’m single right now too.”

“We’re done, me and you.” Ink put the mug down with more force than necessary. His eyelights turned into crosshairs, implying the beginnings of anger.

“Yes, of course, I’m sorry.” Dream sighed. “Okay, I’m leaving this business alone, and let this stay on your consciousness. Just know this: I’m worried. He could do that again…”

Ink felt a lump in his throat. It was like seeing a picture from the past: Error was sitting on top of his string-cut body, holding a black bone in his hand. Then came a hit. Crunch . Ink was going deaf from his own scream, and the glitch wore an insane smile on his face.

“Yes, he could.” Ink nodded in agreement and smiled at Dream. “But I’ll do my best not to let that happen again. Besides,” his eyelights turned into Rubik’s cubes, “if I make sure he enjoys our time together, he won’t have a reason to kill me.”

Chapter Text

Ink and Error didn’t cross paths for a while. It worried the former and pleased the latter.

Error was left unsure and lost after what had transpired. In the years he’d known the artist, their relationship hadn’t changed much. They started off as enemies, then the animosity started turning into ardor. Their confrontations, the spilled blood and broken bones — time after time, all of it brought them closer, like maniacs who shared a hobby. One could say their relationship was slowly warming up — but what’d happened two weeks ago soaked it in gasoline and set it on fire.

Error felt responsible for the change, since it was him who offered sex: he just wanted Ink to leave him alone and stop with the friendship proposals.

Welp, the plan worked halfway. Ink wasn’t trying to make the glitch his friend anymore — yet didn’t leave him alone, and now he wanted to see Error as his lover.

The guardian of the Multiverse — the very image of the Light’s triumph — agreed to sleep with him — a monster who had hands covered in dust and a kill-count higher than the number of bones in his body. The monster was beckoned, and — what an idiot! — he followed and was practically raped. Given full satisfaction, so to speak.

This hurt Error’s head, but, amazingly, brought not disgust.

That night often came to his mind and became a reason for sudden fluctuations in his magic, which embarrassed the ever-restrained destroyer to no end. Wet dreams starring the rainbow asshole became mundane and refused to leave him alone.

One night he woke up feeling hot and bothered and brought himself to orgasm with just his hands, rubbing himself and moaning a name — his name.

This state of affairs was driving him insane, angered him — still the wet dreams persisted. Ink was a sickness, and Error got infected. But every sickness has a cure, yet there was no cure for Ink. A noose, maybe — one wrapped around the destroyer’s neck, since tying a noose on Ink’s neck was useless: he’d come back anyway and offer his hand as if nothing had happened.

Error hadn’t even destroyed a single universe in the days that’d passed — that’s how much what had happened affected him. He was thinking what to do: he knew he had to make a decision before continuing with his mission, since the moment he starts taking apart another error, Ink would be there. And it wouldn’t matter how their fight ends: he’d demand the destroyer’s answer anyway.

Refuse? Wait for the erotic dreams to end and fantasies to let him go? Consider that tryst a one-night stand and got back to the status quo of their relationship?

Or agree? Meet up with Ink? Turn dreams into a reality and bit by bit uncover the artist’s weaknesses? Use the connection between them both to satisfy the carnal hunger and to help his cause?

Should he agree? Just sex. No-strings-attached sex. Wasn’t such a non-committal relationship ideal for Error? So why did he have doubts? Was it because, out of all people, it was Ink who became his lover? Maybe so. After all, the artist was one of the oddest creatures in the whole Multiverse: created and abandoned without a soul or any feelings, yet good and kind, and loved by many — and, at the same time, an empty, fake, cold wishing well that’ll never be full.

“We’re similar somehow.”

The decision was made, and Error smiled — a normal smile that slowly turned into a madman’s grin. “Time to die, errors!”

 

Ink was helping a Creator with a new universe. It didn’t even have a name yet, but there was a story already: all the inhabitants of Undertale as teenage school students.

Ink thought the idea was interesting. Teens had so many emotions, so many contrived problems and worries. They were so amusing in their belief that the world bowed before them. They had so much unrealized potential and will to live.

With those thoughts guiding him, the inspired artist created with a dancer’s enthusiasm. The paintbrush drew complex shapes, and the world was coming alive. Paint speckled the floor and turned into flowers, roads, trees and even small animals. Ink-stained fingers drew sketches that flew to the very heart of the universe to be absorbed into its core and be realized by the Creator. The dance of creation was growing quicker with every moment.

Ink was stopped by the pain in his chest.

“My apologies, but a personal matter requires my immediate attention,” the artist apologized.

It wasn’t right to leave the Creator with his work only half-done, but the human was already charged with inspiration and could handle things on their own so far. So Ink hurried to Birdtale, unworried about the fate of the newborn world.

 

The bird universe looked like a world-sized pandemonium. The towns laid in ruin, the trees were felled, the ground upturned — the brave birds weren’t going down without a fight. They attacked a much stronger opponent and fell to dust at his feet.

The scale of the attack left Error with no time to catch their souls to make into his puppets later. He had to keep batting away the sparrows and swallows with his hands and feet, and bones. Resident Papyrus almost broke his back with his huge white wings.

Ink couldn’t help but admire the spectacle. He sat down at the sidelines, put the paintbrush over his knees and watched the battle unfold. This wasn’t the first time an AU’s inhabitants turned out to be strong enough to give Error a run for his money, but it was the most impressive one for sure. The only time the confrontation looked more dramatic was, perhaps, the clash between Error and Seraphim. Ink couldn’t remember who was more surprised and displeased with that meeting: Error, who couldn’t choose which of the eight souls to go for, or Seraphim, annoyed by the weird “insect” scurrying under his feet.

Since then the two wished to never have to deal with each other again — a wish that was shared by all the AUs’ denizens. No one enjoyed having the two psychos running around the Multiverse and destroying everything in their path.

After spending a few more minutes watching the fight, Ink made his presence known and swiftly forced the destroyer to retreat towards the ruins. Error was happy to leave the city as well, just to get away from the aggressive birds.

“It’s been a while, Error,” Ink smiled, holding the brush out in front of him like a sword.  “Did you start a fight in Birdtale just to give me a call, or were you really going to destroy it?”

“Since when are things fun and useful mutually exclusive?” Error pulled new strings out of his eyes.

“Wowie! You think our meetings are fun? I’m surprised at your honesty, my friend!”

Error flinched. Dust fell off his jacket. Still, he found what to retort with:

“So you don’t deny that thinning out the Multiverse is useful?”

Strings wrapped around the nearest column. One sharp motion — and the stone pillar fell onto the artist. The stone shards flew everywhere.

Ink was unharmed; he danced out of the path of the falling pillar and blocked the shards with an ink shield. Avoiding the bones that followed wasn’t hard either. And a blaster? Been there done that.

“Hey, you’re in full view from up here!”

While Ink was busy evading, Error climbed up the stone dome of the ruins and watched him from above.

“Every world — be it strong or weak, light or dark, big or small — is the Creators’ treasure. It’s a vessel of hopes. And I’ll never consider destruction of those hopes useful, Error. Everyone needs to have their own world and hopes of their own!”

His position had just got dangerous. Error had the time to wrap strings around the pillars and was ready to unleash a real barrage onto the nimble artist.

“Where are your world and your hopes then, rainbow asshole?”

The question made Ink fall out of the rhythm of the fight. The destroyer used it to his advantage, and the pillars started falling one after another. The artist avoided the first one, and an ink shield saved him from the shards. The second one was barely evaded; the stone pieces hit his ribs. The third one fell close enough to rip off his sleeve and shave some bone matter off his arm. The fourth pillar fell on top of Ink.

A muted scream rang in the hall.

Error’s smile grew wider, but he knew better than to underestimate his enemy, so he spread his strings around the hall, getting the feel of the space that he couldn’t see. He found a puddle of ink but not the body.

“Lost someone, Error?” Ink was on top of a pillar row and approaching him quickly.

“Found ‘im!”

A bone and a brush clashed. Sparks and shards flew like fireworks. One more time, and one more yet. The bone was broken, and the brush flew off to the side. Now the guardian of life and its destroyer were fighting hand to hand. Without a weapon to weigh him down, Ink was more dangerous: faster, swifter, more brutal.

But Error wasn’t an easy opponent either. Years of battles made him a versatile fighter. He earned his chance of ever coming out victorious by learning to meet his enemies head-on.

They were too close. They could feel each other’s hot breaths. The pain of the landing hits felt like sweet touches. The blood flowing down the bones drew lines on the heated bodies. The torn clothes showed off the white and black bones underneath.

Pull apart. Breathe. They watched each other with wild amazement, shifting in place awkwardly. This battle brought too much excitement to both of them.

“So who’s gonna be the winner?” the artist asked in jest.

“Me. And I’ll destroy this world.”

“Oh please!” Ink picked up Broomy. “You don’t give a damn about this fight.”

He threw a knowing look at Error’s hips.

Error could only click his tongue in frustration. While the artist was busy covering his wounds with paint, Error thought that, yes, he yearned for a different kind of battle today.

“Yes, you’re right. I did promise you vengeance.”

Ink looked up with interest in his eyes and tilted his head a bit to the right. He forgot all about that particular promise and had to check the notes on his scarf.

“Oh, right. You swore to have your revenge for losing your virginity.” Ink’s words made Error frown, mouth turning into a snarl. “Heh, so you accept the second option?”

“I do,” he spat. “We’ll continue fighting for the errors’ fate, and we won’t compromise. But we’ll meet up for sex.”

“Glad to hear that.” Ink smiled, got up to his feet and asked, “So, your place or mine?”

 

Ink didn’t like the dark part of the Anti-Void for a number of reasons. The overhanging darkness of the “ceiling” was oppressing and created an illusion of someone unseen watching from the black nothingness. The “floor”, on the other hand, could be felt but not seen, which made it seem like you were walking on air, and, if you were unaccustomed to the sensation, it brought vertigo. The first time Ink visited here, he threw up. Not this time, thankfully. He got way better at controlling himself in the past few years.

But all these nasty things had nothing on the destroyer’s abode. While Ink built himself a house — Error made himself a nest.

The strings were everywhere — blue spider-webs that could be couches for guests or traps for victims. A hammock was hanging to the side, and a semblance of a tablecloth with traces of chocolate and coffee lay on the “floor”. Yet most of the strings were on the ceiling, weaved so tightly together that the darkness above couldn’t be seen. And there were puppets hanging in them.

Ink had nothing against toys, but those puppets made him shiver. Every one of the tiny things was a memorial to a destroyed universe and was filled with the dust of a monster it depicted. They looked at the world with their button eyes and seemed to judge him: you didn’t save us, you couldn’t, you lost .

There was a great number of dolls — a great number of monsters were killed in this horrible place.

But there was a silver lining: there were duplicates.

A bunch of AUs resurrected time after time no matter how many times Error destroyed them. In the end, the destroyer even came up with a list of universes to avoid so as not to waste his time. Sooner or later, Ink and the Creators would let their guard down and give him a chance to destroy those worlds for good.

“I could never understand why you’d want to live in a graveyard. Life is pain, the world is ashes?” Ink picked a battered doll up off the “floor”. The toy shed some dust. He wondered just how long it had been hanging in the strings before falling. What universe had this Sans belonged to? Perhaps that world was destroyed long before Ink and Error met — back in the day, when Ink didn’t consider himself the guardian of the Multiverse.

Error huffed, ripped the doll from Ink’s hands and threw it up to be tied in the strings once again.

“I thought we didn’t come here to talk,” he reproached.

Ink shrugged, put his paintbrush down onto the “floor”, took of his jacket and scarf.

“Do you want me to fully undress, or is ripping the clothes off me a part of the plan?” In Error’s domain and at his mercy, Ink felt unsure of his decisions.

“Undress already.”

Ink slowly took the rest of his clothes off, licked his teeth and took a pink vial out of his sash and a clear vial out of his secret stash.

“I think we’ll need these.” He approached the tense destroyer just as slowly.

Error was smirking:

“Not as brave today, I see?”

“Well, you’re about to have your revenge — of course I’m scared. I don’t even know what kind of vengeance it is. What if you decide to shove a bone up there?” Noticing an interesting look, Ink hurriedly waved his hands. “I’m joking! Don’t even think about it! It could kill me, you know.”

“Kill you,” Error hummed in thought. “No, I’m not gonna kill you, but fucking is a different matter!...”

Strings wrapped around Ink’s unresisting body and stretched him, earning a wince, but the victim wasn’t even thinking of fighting back. If anything, he looked intrigued, waiting for some real action.

“We won’t be needing these.” Error kicked away the vials with paint and lubricant.

“Um, Error?” Ink was growing worried. “You want to take me dry? Then give me back the paint.”

“Yea-no. It’s vengeance after all.” Error threw off his jacket.

Ink started to hyperventilate. His eyelights were changing shapes at an insane pace. As far as Error knew, a crosshair and a skull weren’t signs of good emotions, and a spiral, it seemed, was a sign of confusion.

“Okay. I’ve got nothing against doing it dry, but you’ll have to give me some paint,” Ink insisted.

“Once again, nope.” The red sweater joined the pile of clothes on the “floor”.

Ink frowned. His eyelights changed to teardrops.

“That would be closer to rape.”

“Then let this be rape.” The shorts slipped to the floor.

“Then give me some blue paint — just not too much — and I’ll be crying and begging. That’ll work for rape.”

“You’ll deal without any paint at all.”

Ink scowled but cheered up, watching his partner stuck not knowing how to proceed. Error was barely aroused, and Ink wasn’t aroused at all.

Ink’s eyelights changed into colorful diamonds, and a grin grew on his face: well, what are you going to do about it?

Chapter Text

Error didn’t know where to start. He could mimic what Ink had done to him before, but he wasn't sure giving a blow-job would arouse him. He could drink some paint… No. He didn’t want to give in to succumb to the more experienced partner like an idiot and find himself bottoming again. He could start touching himself and his partner — fighting down the disgust in the process — and hope that it’ll be enough to arouse them both.

“Have you reconsidered? About the paint, I mean.”

“Grrr! Why are you so fixated on it? Can’t deal without an aphrodisiac?”

“Well, not ‘can’t deal’ per se, but I won’t be able to return the feelings or express myself, and there’ll be a lot less pleasure in it,” the artist said with sadness to his voice.

“Like I could be bothered with your pleasure!” Error huffed, reaching forward, but stopped short of touching Ink, unable to get over his haphephobia — unable to do anything.

“Um, you know, I’m starting to feel very stupid hanging naked in the strings with zero sexy continuation to it.”

The strings dropped Ink onto the floor, leaving him to rub at the resulting bruises. The culprit of the ridiculous situation turned away, burning with shame.

“Are you okay?” Ink came closer, stopping just short of touch him.

“Just leave,” Error asked quietly.

“No, I’m not leaving. At least, not now when you’re in this state.”  The artist looked around in contemplation until an idea hit him. “Let’s try something? There won’t be much touching, and it won’t require much effort on your part. It’s also a great turn-on and, okay, you’ll be ‘it’ in this game. Tag me as much as you want.”

 

Ink promised: no touching. Well, he kept his promise, but he failed to warn that the role of “it” would be very limiting both in movement and in sight. Error’s already poor eyesight was made useless with the artist’s scarf covering his eye-sockets. The hands that he couldn’t use to touch anyone anyway — not without feeling disgusted — were tied together with strings. Error himself was sitting on the “floor” cross-legged.

Error reminded himself for the hundredth time that he was in no danger — and, for the hundredth time, he shuddered at the sound of footsteps. At first he didn’t understand what Ink was planning to do. What were all these humiliating preparations for? His legs were going numb from sitting still by now. Why was the artist sneaking around him, doing all sorts of weird things?

There was a hot breath on Error’s neck, but by the time he turned towards Ink, the artist already came around him, bent down and licked his chest. The destroyer jerked, tried to catch the freak with tied hands, but was late again: Ink was already at his side, brushing a feather against the black ribs. Moved behind him, teeth barely touching his vertebrae. In front of him, untying his hands. Finally, Error could knead the soreness away — yet was immediately distracted by the slippery track that a tongue left on his clavicle, moving down the sternum to the delicate lumbar. A pause to leave a kiss on the middle of his chest — then move to his hip.

Stars! It was turning him on just as much as a blow-job. There were barely any touches, yet Error was already way too aroused and started to fidget in impatience. He arched his back, spread his legs and leaned back onto his hands, giving full access to the most sensitive parts of his body.

Not seeing a thing, yet feeling so much was weird and amazing.

Just like Ink’d promised, Error could tag him, but on Ink’s own terms.

Error couldn’t hold back a moan. Ink was already on him. Error was inside him.

A kiss left a chemical taste on his tongue.

“Drunk on your paint again?”

“Sorry.” The quiet answer reached his hearing together with a hot breath.

Error couldn’t see what Ink was doing, but he could just imagine it. Those white bones covered in cracks and tattooed designs. The ever-changing eyelights: right now they probably look like beating souls. The vertebrae that looks sharp to the touch, forming a limber snake of the spine, that’s arching so temptingly. The neck, thicker than human’s and not as fragile, but so elegant and long — making him yearn to leave a mark, let everyone know who the owner of those vertebrae belonged to. The bones of the face: soft features, straight teeth, expressive eye-sockets, smooth skull — how he wanted to reach for that face and run his tongue over every small curve.

A moan left the glitch, and another one, louder this time, and one more after that…

The legs spread so lewdly, the rounded joints. The hips — the flat bones spreading a little with every motion; they’re very sensitive, especially on the inside — blushing with arousal and magic, wet with lubrication. The drops of it collect together and run down, falling to the “floor” of the Anti-Void. His knees shake from exertion, arms as well — it’s hard and uncomfortable, but he bears with it and brings pleasure to them both. It’s so tempting to grab him, help, take over, collect the wetness on the hips and spread it over the ecstasy-filled body.

Error wasn’t moaning anymore — he was growling as he moved to meet the motions, not noticing that the touching his heated partner brought no discomfort. He paid no attention to the knocking of bone against bone — heard only Ink’s moans and wanted to make him moan even louder. He broke the rhythm, setting a quicker pace.

“Ah! Error!”

He wanted to see Ink. Wanted to see the artist’s lewd expression, wanted to see him drooling in bliss, wanted to see his body strain more and more, movements getting sharper as he shuddered in pleasure. He needed to see this… Damn this scarf!

Their voices turned into screams, merged together to shatter against the dark “sky” of the Anti-Void and fall as shards of their heavy breaths.

“Take… take this damn scarf… off me…” Error asked, swallowed, running out of breath, barely held himself from falling. Almost begged. His arms felt so heavy, shaking and not holding him up as they should.

Finally! Nothing stopped him from looking at Ink, sweat-soaked, and the intricate changes of his eyelights: a sun and a heart, a clover and a star.  He didn’t see the next pair as the artist leaned forward and kissed him — not greedily but slowly and soothingly, prolonging the moment before their meeting comes to an end.

He got a kiss in response, just as slow but more demanding. Forgetting himself, Error reached forward and pulled Ink to his chest only to gasp and let him go a few moments later.

The artist obediently moved away and looked the surprised destroyer over:

“Wow. Someone must’ve liked this very much. So much that his haphephobia got cured.”

“Fuck you!”

“You just did, sweetheart,” Ink laughed, getting dressed, and, with a final salute, stepped into a portal. “See ya!”

Ink left, yet Error was restless, surprised both by his behavior and by his body’s reaction to touching Ink.

He wasn’t glitching.

Chapter Text

For the next few days Ink whizzed through the universes in high spirits. He served his duty as a guardian with zero incidents — only once he had to remind Fresh he wasn’t happy when the parasite shared his “fresh vibes” with everyone. After the reminder the “90s abomination” obediently collected his parasites and left. He rarely showed aggression — and thank stars for that! He was horrible. In all senses of the word.

For a few more days the permeating quiet was reminiscent of a burning fuse. It was too quiet. And when the explosion didn’t happen, the tension started growing. It was the small things that contributed to it.

Nightmare’s gang was a minor concern: they were holed up somewhere, keeping out of sight, which meant they were up to something, and the Multiverse was unlikely to meet their ideas with gratitude.

Error was a reason for worry as well. He was an unofficial member of Nightmare’s gang. Sometimes they were seen together, and they made a mess of some remote alternative or other. So, what was worrying is that neither Error, nor any of the “nightmares” manifested anywhere.

For a few minutes Ink was wistfully hopeful that the changes in the destroyer’s behavior were connected to their new relationship. He stopped that train of thought soon enough, driving the fantasy away from his rational thinking, and concentrated on his work.

He checked the outskirts of the Multiverse and made sure all the unstable new worlds were still there, the older worlds were safe, and the newborn universes weren’t ready for life yet: they only had a few lines, one or two uncoloured locations. Came across Dream, who was helping out in Underfell: the locals had a new bout of nightmares. Popped in Underswap to have some tea with Blue, making sure to avoid his older brother.

Papyrus of the swapped reality didn’t trust Ink, as if feeling his fakeness, and wanted the artist nowhere near his brother. Still, his distrust didn’t stop Ink from keeping in touch with the smallest of Sanses. He could appreciate the little skeleton’s energy, cheerfulness and optimism — they were infectious and inspiring, and he wasn’t going to give that up.

Unlike with Dream, Ink showed restraint when talking to Blue. He didn’t tell him anything that could ruin or change their relationship, kept quiet about the dangerous worlds and the creatures that inhabited them. Ink was content with the way things were: friendship with all its limitations. It was sort of funny how he acted the same way with Blue as Blue’s older brother did. He sheltered him from the violent world, wishing that Blue would continue believing in only the best in everything and everyone.

Ink sneered. Sanses in all the universes preferred to form relationships particularly with alternative Sanses. And resets were the reason why. You could befriend anyone or fall in love, but the next reset would take everything back to zero. The world’s inhabitants would forget about all the best and worst of times. For them, time was a snake eating its own tail. And only Sanses remembered: they suffered, corrupted morally, became emotionally numb — at times, went insane. The lucky ones, who discovered an ability to travel to different worlds, found out about others with those same problems, and their shared misery brought them together.

But in Underswap it wasn’t Sans who remembered, but Papyrus — and he wanted nothing to do with anyone. So, at first, Ink had zero intention of befriending him or the younger brother. Yet he continued to visit, stayed for tea after his patrols, told redacted stories of his adventures, met Dream. Week after week, month after month, year after year… but the resets didn’t come.

And Blue slowly became a fixed part in Ink’s life — the light, unblemished part of it. The artist saw himself in the kid: the person whom he could’ve become if he had a living soul and no burden to carry.

It’s been years, yet Papyrus continued to protest. The moment Ink was out the door, Papyrus caught him and pressed him against the wall.

“I’ve told you already, I’m not going to hurt him!” Ink tried to convince him yet again. His eyelights changed to colourful triangles.

“And I’ve told you already to keep away from my brother!” Papyrus hissed, breathing cigarette smoke in Ink’s face. “Do I have to break your skull for you to finally get it? Leave him alone! I know how you, beings of the Anti-Void, are — you’re all insane!”

“Oh! You’ve met one of us before? Then I get the lack of trust.” Ink gave him as friendly a smile as he could. His eyelights turned to stars, reminding the older skeleton of his brother’s eyes. But he’d been burned once, thinking an alternative version of his brother wouldn’t stab him in the back… Since then he’d treated all alternative Sanses with suspicion, considering them his enemies whether he’d met them before or not.

“No. You don’t get it! You’ve never had to live through resets. You’ve never lost a brother…”

“That’s because I don’t have a brother,” the guardian frowned, “and I do pity your misfortune. But haven’t the resets stopped? Hasn’t Chara disappeared? So why can’t you relax and keep living, Papy?”

For a moment Ink was sure that the awkward “Papy” would earn him a cigarette burn. He was lucky: the hiss of the cigarette being put out sounded to the right of his head. No matter how much he raged and threatened, the swapped Papyrus wasn’t a sadist.

“By the way,” he bent lower, magic burning in his eye-socket and lighting the artist’s tense face. “Do you know where the little creature has gone to?”

“Good question,” Ink shrugged in thought, “but you’re asking the wrong skeleton. And even if I was the one responsible for their disappearance, I doubt I’d get any thanks from you.”

“Consider this: my gut feeling keeps me from thanking you.”

“Well, your brother is thankful enough for both of you, and that’s enough for me.”

“He just doesn’t know who you are.”

“You don’t either.”

Papyrus moved away. He lighted another cigarette and let go of the guardian. The latter only sighed and rubbed at the sore shoulder.

“So you won’t tell me the truth about the last reset?”

“What if I don’t know it myself?”

Ink wasn’t lying. He first met Blue right after Chara’s disappearance: he felt that something odd was going on in the swapped reality, teleported to it — but found nothing. He did notice that Error must’ve been here: there were too many artblocks and glitches spread over the universe — but there were neither Error nor his usual modus operandi to be found, and all the characters, excluding Chara, were in their places. The human was gone, taking the resets with them.

“I don’t trust you.” Papyrus was insistent. “You’re lying.”

“Wrong.” Ink kept smiling. “Normally I don’t lie, I just shelter people from the bitter truth. And as for the human’s disappearance… What, you miss the time loop?”

 

After the unpleasant conversation was over and he left Underswap, his curiosity about the human’s diappearance piqued. Ink searched the notes on his scarf, but didn’t find anything relevant besides mentions of the aforementioned glitches.

The next day he visited Blue again.

“Have you ever seen a human?”

“No,” the small skeleton wearing a blue scarf shook his head, “but if I did, I’d capture them and become a member of the Royal Guard at once! It would be so cool!”

There were stars in his eye-sockets. He remembered nothing of the missing Chara, and Ink couldn’t even think about telling him of the forgotten nightmare.

“Not as cool as travelling between worlds,” the guardian noted, opening a portal to a place that could give you diabetes with its appearance alone — Chocotale. “Come on, before your brother catches us.”

The world of chocolate was an embodiment of someone’s weirdest dream: the Underground was set up as a candy-producing factory. It was probably the only universe where Frisk sometimes died from overeating and high blood sugar level.

By the way, speaking of Frisk: the first thing Ink did was make sure that the human was in a different location and there were no other monsters around, and only then did he let his friend enter the world of candy.

They came out into a meadow with monster houses standing abandoned here and there. Everything around them glimmered with glaze and looked appetizing and edible.

“Wowie!!!” The small skeleton squealed and ran about the sugar grass, tasting the glazed tree branches and scooping milk chocolate from puddles.

“Just don’t stuff yourself,” Ink laughed at the kid and opened a flower bud. Colourful candy poured out of it. “Ugh, sour. Not ripe yet.”

Blue ran around like a whirligig and almost bounce with joy. His powerful friend very rarely took him to other universes, but every time was amazing, and he was always treated to something unbelievably tasty — just like now: one sweeping gesture invited him to eat a whole world.

“I tried licorice fishes, marshmallow men, butterscotch flowers, lollipop seeds, marmalade houses, pastila grass, roasted-nut thorns and even jumping souffle… I’m gonna burst.”

“I’ve told you not to stuff yourself.” Ink was lying beside Blue, feeling full as well. He liked candy. Every time he visited the chocolate factory universe, he got some.

But then the bliss left him. The guardian jerked to his feet and looked around. He could feel someone else enter this world, and he doubted the person in question came here to replenish their chocolate stash.

“Blue, go home!” Ink demanded and opened a portal to Underswap.

He didn’t wait to make sure the kid got home okay before hurrying to the place he’d meet the other traveller — which, obviously, was Error.

Though Ink made a mistake in his assumptions: the destroyer wasn’t destroying anything — unless you count the single gingerbread house that he’d fallen onto — and was busy filling his pockets with chocolate.

“Oh! And here I thought you were wrecking the universe,” the guardian said, embarrassed, and hid the paintbrush behind his back.

“Yep, I’m ruining it alright,” Error snapped, pointing at the torn chocolate leaves of the flowers. “And eating while I’m at it.”

Error defiantly pushed a leaf into his mouth as Ink scratched the back of his skull. Watching his glitchy friend in a state close to peaceable, especially while inside one of the AUs he claimed to despise, was a rare sight.

“I come here for candy too,” Ink confessed. “I like marshmallows. Strawberry ones.”

Error laughed at that and offered a confession of his own:

“Chocolate. Especially bitter and with pepper.”

“The kind they make in Underfell?”

“Yep. That’s where I get it.”

“But you felt like having something sweeter today?”

“Gotta eat something besides bitter and spicy things. And cocoa goes better with sweet chocolate.” Error glitched, a bit embarrassed.

The situation was unfamiliar for them both: they were neither fighting, nor having sex — just making small talk.

Just having something quite similar to the very thing that Error was trying to avoid: a normal relationship. He didn’t want the small talks, didn’t want to share his life with anyone, didn’t want the sudden friendly meetings. And yet he didn’t hurry to leave and wasn’t being rude as he continued his unhurried chocolate collecting.

“Turns out we both have a sweet tooth,” concluded Ink, coming closer.

Error waved his words off. He was done collecting and turned to the artist, about to use a scathing remark in place of a ‘goodbye’, but shut his mouth with a clack and tensed. The destroyer was staring behind Ink. He looked scared.

“Is this your friend?” Blue was standing behind Ink’s back. Instead of going home as ordered, the kid followed his friend and was now staring at Error — the one person whom Ink never wanted him to meet.

“Y-yeah,” the artist said, hesitating a bit, and turned back to the black skeleton. “It’s… Error???”

For the lack of a better word, Error looked pale. He was giving Blue the same stare that he’d given Ink a long time ago, and seemed ready to repeat the hurtful words: “You’re an abomination!” — only this time they’d be addressed at the innocent teenager.

“I’m Blue! Nice to meet you!” Blue seemed unaware of any oddities in Error’s behavior. He saw a new person and wanted to be friends with them — that’s how it always was with him. He just offered his hand and went to meet people.

Error recoiled, created a portal behind himself and backed away into the Anti-Void, dropping the chocolate as he went.

“Did I do something wrong?” Blue stilled with his hand still extended.

“No. Error is just a very reserved person. It’s not your fault. Um… Come on, let’s take you home before your brother starts to worry.”

Ink felt a sharp need for some answers. He suddenly realized that he knew next to nothing about Underswap’s past. But he knew for sure that, in the past years, it was the only universe that Error hadn’t visited — not even once. And, Ink realized, among all of Error’s puppets there’s wasn’t a single one of Swap Sans.

Chapter Text

Dream felt the pressure the moment he entered the Anti-Void. Even the air in this place was unique — heavy, like in a room that wasn’t ventilated in a long time. Dream had never said it out loud, but the Anti-Void’s atmosphere always seemed oppressive to him, and Ink’s house, as if a haunted one, scared him at times. With time, Dream got used both to the air of this place and its oddities, but the tension never left him.

The guardian’s house met him with bright flowers, singing birds and a couple of bird carcasses turning into dust on the ground: must’ve killed themselves against the windows again. Dream just shook his head at the sight, entered without knocking and froze, dumbfounded:

“Oh, friend of mine, what are you doing?” Dream found Ink in a very weird position.

He was sitting on the floor in his underwear, and around him scattered lay notebooks, papers, notes, a laid-out scarf… At the moment, he was staring at his shorts with a look of: et tu, Brute!

“Oh. Hi. You’re just in time.” The artist’s eyelights changed their shape to exclamation points.

“In time for what?” Dream didn’t understand but grabbed onto the doorknob. Maybe he still had time to escape?

“For the investigation!”

“Huh?”

Soon there were two skeletons going through the old notes.

“I had to go through all of my clothes, but I’ve found everything I’ve ever written down.” Ink put his shorts back on. “Now I’m examining all of it.”

Dream read up to the part that described Ink’s Underlust adventures and sighed heavily:

“Why are you even playing detective?”

“What else can I do?” Ink was intensely staring at the middle part of his scarf. “It’s not like I can come up to Error and ask, ‘Hey, you! The person I fuck sometimes! Tell me why you avoid Underswap!’ Do you realize how that sounds?”

“Yes, like a wife trying to hunt out which of her friends her husband’s having an affair with.”

“Dream!”

“What, am I wrong?” Dream huffed, skipped a couple of notebook pages and found out that, according to Lust, he was a “sweet apple”. He shuddered. “You’ve never taken interest in this before. Besides, it’s not just Underswap that Error ignores; there’s also a few Fell universes. Outlawtale too. And he never comes to the big, open-world universes, like Cursetale.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Ink admitted, sheepish. “I’ve thought about it too. There’s a number of universes he doesn’t go to. But when Error saw Blue…”

“WHAT???!!!” The notebook fell to the floor, and Dream’s face went hot with anger.

“Stop shouting!”

“Why would you even let him?!”

“Stop shouting, please!” Ink dropped his eyes. He knew he was guilty and didn’t want his friend to make that feeling worse. So he hurried to vindicate himself: “We were in Chocotale, eating sweets. Who knew I wasn’t the only one with a sweet tooth? Error came there to grab some chocolate and saw Blue.”

“And you’re saying he did nothing to him?”

“He got scared of him and left at once.”

“Scared???”

Dream was astonished by what he’d heard and already regretted not being there so he could see everything with his own eyes. And yes, Error’s behavior posed some questions. No matter how many times Dream saw the destroyer, he was always acting like a self-assured, insane, all-obliterating monster — a complete opposite to the ever-calm, friendly creative artist.

“That’s the thing! I’ve only seen him scared once, and that was when he found out about my lack of soul and just how powerful I am.”

“Tha-a-at’s odd.”

“Not just that.” Stars glowed in Ink’s eyes, and his expression turned sly. “Among Error’s puppets there’s not a single one of Swap Sans. The kid has a pretty striking appearance, so I would’ve noticed. You know, I’ve had the time to look around with Error’s eyes covered with my scarf.”

“TMI!” Dream held up a hand, asking not to burden his mind with lewd imagery.

“As I was saying, he doesn’t have a puppet of Blue. Weird, isn’t it?”

“He doesn’t have your puppet either,” Dream said before he could stop himself.

“Actually, he does,” Ink sneered, and his eyelights changed to question marks. “It’s pretty old and worn. Saw it hanging over his hammock.”

The skeletons both imagined the same thing: the destroyer returns to his “nest” after the day of work, lies down in the hammock, looks up at Ink’s puppet, brings it to himself, hugs it and falls asleep.

“That’s an awkward thing to know.”

The question marks in the eye-sockets turned into a sun and a heart.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Ink propped his cheekbone with a fist. “The more I learn about Error, the more surprised I am. You know, for show he’s such a nutcase. Just keeps messing around and trying to destroy the world. So self-assured. But bring him to bed, and he sheds all the arrogance.”

“Stars! I repeat: TMI!”

“No, I mean, he starts acting like a teenager: doesn’t know what to do and how to behave. As if he’s still a virgin, even though I’ve done good work on him from both sides.”

“Ink!” Dream was blushing so hard you could fry an egg on him. Then he realized what his friend was talking about and got interested: “Wait, you’re his first? Oh, poor thing!”

“Why would he be a ‘poor thing’?” The artist was confused.

“You’re very domineering in bed. It might look like you’re ready for any sort of compromise, but you’re still at the helm. Your meetings probably leave him depressed.”

“No, I don’t think so.” The artist gave it some thought. “On the contrary, it helps him. He’s got zero experience, plus haphephobia. The first time I gave him the ‘helm’ he had no idea what to do with it.”

“Aren’t you scared he’ll rip that ‘helm’ from your grasp later and won’t give it back?” Dream asked.

“I’m scared he might leave both me and the ‘helm’,” Ink frowned. “Our relationship is quite one-side and unstable.”

“Glad you understand that. And — wait! — how did we go from investigating to bedroom topics?”

“Oh, sorry.” The artist went back to his notes. “I just… It’s just that all the leads are blue and pointing to Error. And the only place we get along is bedroom.”

“You’ve only been together twice. It’s not enough to make conclusions.”

“Thrice.”

“When did you even have the time?!”

It all happened recently and was very chaotic too. Ink came across Error in a genocidal universe — the artist couldn’t remember which one. They didn’t even fight. The angry and agitated destroyer just undressed as he walked up to the confused guardian, threw him to the ground and had his way with him — and left without a word.

“To be honest, I’m still at a loss. It’s the middle of the city, the ground is covered in dust, and — here we go! — sex without a preface, and he’s gone. On one hand, it’s kind of amazing: he took initiative for the first time and was very insistent. On the other: he didn’t even let me have the paint.”

“Oh.” Dream remembered how much absorbing emotions meant to Ink and gave him a sympathetic look. “And he didn’t notice anything?”

“I don’t think so. He was very weird — very twitchy and angry.”

“He’s always like that.”

“He’s different in bed. I think, that time he simply used me to let off some steam. Well, that’s fine. I don’t mind. But… it was…”

“Unpleasant?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I would have drunk some purple at that moment. It was very unpleasant. So I’m going to retaliate.”

Dream looked up in surprise, not expecting such words from his friend:

“Are you going to catch him and screw him too, just like he did?”

“No. I’m gonna lure him to my house…”

“And he won’t come.”

“In that case, I’ll bring him home like a trophy. And then…!”

“And then you’ll ask the odd Sans about his odd behavior.”

“After I’m done! I’ll ask him for sure. After I’m done.”

Chapter Text

The following day was hectic. Nightmare’s gang went all out, bringing harm to four worlds: Undershot, Sixbones, Gatetale and Digitale. Digitale was the one universe where they met resistance. The other three needed to be restored with positivity and paints.

Digitale was rightfully considered one of the most beautiful universes. Its appeal lay in the futuristic aesthetic and the locals’ open recognition of their digital makeup. Here no one could be surprised with new technological inventions or the discovery of the universe’s matrix. Digitale natives even died by breaking down into their source code.

On top of that, the inhabitants of this world had a couple of unique qualities. Firstly, they couldn’t leave their own world. At all. If they tried, they were returned to the latest respawn point — meaning they died. Secondly, Digitale natives were very powerful. They fought not just their enemies’ physical selves, but also their digital code, often damaging it. In a normal universe that damage turned into soul and body injuries.

Dream awaited Ink at the entrance to the digital world.

“Is Error with them?” This was Ink’s only worry as he reached Digitale.

“Yes.”

“Then here’s a different question: Why weren’t any of the universes fully destroyed?”

Dream rolled his eyes.

“Stop wondering so much about him, and let’s get down to business. Error and the other “nightmares” are creating havoc and causing pain. Nightmare’s getting stronger because of it. Just a little more, and he’ll be able to take over one of the light universes. Then the question we’ll have to ponder is: How do we reset an overrun world when there’s no Chara or Flowey left and the matrix is broken?”

“Speaking of those two, where are they?”

“I’ve managed to warn the local Sans, so they’ve hidden those two in Hotland.”

“I’m amazed at your promptness, my friend.”

The fight was unfolding in Snowdin — or, rather, in the local version of it, where ones and zeroes fell from the ceiling instead of snowflakes. The data stream piercing the world now caused the virtual trees to ripple, and the battle rendered the ground looking like a textureless unstable surface.

The “nightmares” were in full view. And they were losing.

Axe-wielding Horror was surprised to find out that the shopkeeper — a kind bunny — was pretty good at blocking melee attacks and could shoot some sort of numbers that tore through his clothes. Dust was stuck near the decimated bar and had no luck overcoming the enraged Grillby, who had him trapped in a ring of fire. Error lazily hung around Digi, the local Sans, and just as lazily parried his attacks. Nightmare himself was one the roof of one of the houses, feasting on negativity. There, he stilled and unerringly turned his head towards the two guardians.

“Go deal with your brother. He’s noticed your already anyway. And I’ll go take care of the others.”

“Try not to get too hurt.”

“Meh. If I get hurt you’ll heal me, and if I die I’ll resurrect. Just take care of yourself.”

The friends split up. Dream navigated his way towards his brother, careful to avoid “nightmares’” detection, and Ink joined the fray with the stealthiness of a tank, waving his brush, spilling ink and forming bones.

Horror spotted him first, but got distracted by the aggressive bunny and took a boned to the chest. He didn’t die, but the serious injury knocked the fighter out for a while. Dust had just left the ring of fire, evading a fire pillar. He wasn’t ready for that attack that came from his back and dropped to the ground as ink enveloped him.

“So you’re making sure both sides are equally numbered?” Error asked. It didn’t seem like he took any interest in the battle — if anything, neither the fight nor Digitale’s devastation were a part of his wishes. Yet, somehow, Nightmare managed to talk him into participating.

That’s what always surprised the artist. Why would someone like Error obey Nightmare and accompany the gang in sorties that he had nothing to gain from?

“Now what? Gonna handle this like last time?” Ink hinted, smiling. Not to say that he enjoyed what had happened last time, but he had nothing against some quick and thoughtless sex as an alternative to broken bones.

“Not in the mood.” The destroyer frowned and waved him off, strings flying off his hand as he did so.

Ink miraculously evaded them and hid behind a house. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Nightmare and Dream take their fight to Snowdin’s central square, which meant he’d better lead Error in the opposite direction.

“Not in the mood? That can be fixed!”

Two ink blasters attacked the destroyer from the back.

“Why, you rainbow asshole!!!”

That got his attention, and now Ink only needed to move, and fast. He jumped over a glitching rock, skirted around a virtual tree and avoided sinking in a mound of binary code, cartwheeling and somersaulting as he went — anything to avoid the blue strings and glitchy bones.

“Missed me!”

That made the attacks double in number in speed, but Ink avoided them with ease and kept running.

“Coward!” Error shouted after him.

“I’m not a coward, but I’m scared!”

It seemed like neither of them treated the fight seriously — but just as the guardian thought that, he lost his arm below the elbow.

Shrieking, the artist took a sharp right and jumped into a digital wormhole. Unfortunately, the tunnel’s other end was back where he came from and a little above ground level. Ink practically fell on top of Error, to the latter’s great surprise. A little hitch in judgement: Error didn’t move his hand to use the strings in time — and he lost the chance to capture Ink.

On the other hand, Ink got his chance to neutralize Error. Four meters to the ground and milliseconds of time — just enough for the artist to move Broomy to the side so, as he fell, the paintbrush landed on Error’s head, hitting the skull with the metal ring.

The strike was good — a little too good even. Ink had the time to be scared that he’d killed the destroyer. However, Error not only didn’t lose consciousness but got up to his feet and attacked, though the aim of the bones was off.

Error was reeling as he held onto a bleeding wound in his head.

“Hey, Error,” Ink needed only a moment to evaluate the glitchy’s state, “I think that’s enough for today.”

“Ha! Giving up?”

Error took his hand away from the broken skull, and Ink shuddered:

“No, it’s you who’s giving up. If you were a human, you’d have had your brains blown out of your skull.”

“Good thing I’m not a human.” The black skeleton shrugged, and his eyelights went out. “Meaning such a wound won’t take me out of commission for long. You’ve lost your chance, asshole.”

Ink bent down sharply, missing blue strings, rolled to the left to avoid a bone attack, howled from the pain flaring in the ripped-off arm and barely had the time to hid behind a tree. A blaster blew its crown off.

Error was fighting blind. Or was he?

The artist looked under his feet to find that, besides the strings attacking him, more of them were tightly stretched over the ground.

“Clever!” Ink was impressed. “So you’re reacting to the motions of a web like a spider?”

Error answered that with a half-insane smile and a sharp rise of his right hand. All the strings sprung up, and were Ink a little slower, he would’ve ended up trapped in the net and cut to small pieces. As it was, his escape only cost him a few deep scratches and his right foot. The paintbrush was carried off to the tops of the virtual trees as well.

The injury kept Error from seeing, but he could feel the weight of what he’d caught, and the paintbrush was way lighter than its owner. There went his chance of winning.

The code-covered ground rustled under Ink’s limping gait as he closed the distance between the two of them and attacked. The destroyer blocked the first two strikes, but the third one hit his neck. Ink paid for that with a couple of broken ribs, but it was all worth it, since with his next move his elbow fell onto Error’s head.

Crack!

Error’s arms went limp. Like a puppet with its strings cut, he swayed and fell onto Ink. He stubbornly remained conscious even though his body refused to obey him.

“We haven’t beaten each other up like this in a while, huh?” Ink noted with a laugh and brought the coveted trophy closer to his chest. Error hummed something in protest but had no strength to resist. “And it that’s how things are, in accordance to war prisoner laws, I have no right to leave you without care and medical attention. This time we’re coming to my place. I’ll be having my vengeance.”

Error wheezed something in reply and tried to push the victor away from himself, but he only had enough strength to lift his hand and grab onto the scribble-covered scarf.

Ink paid no attention to the glitch’s weak attempts at getting free; he was busy trying to get a feel for Dream. Judging by Dream’s soulbeat, he was safe but had already left Digitale.

“I hope he won’t be mad that I’m leaving all this work for him.” The artist got a comfortable hold on the wounded skeleton and opened a portal to his part of the Anti-Void.

Chapter Text

The trophy occupied the couch, and the artist himself settled down beside it.

The healing was painful. Drawing torn-off body parts onto living tissue had long become a habitual but absolutely not enjoyable routine. If Ink had real emotions, he would’ve hurled the paintbrush at the wall and cried over the wounds. As it was, he only winced and continued to draw the bone centimeter by centimeter.

Error’s injuries posed a problem too. The destroyer’s condition suddenly got worse, and Ink left his arm unfinished to start working on the enemy’s wounds. He painted over the hole in the skull and the cracks and peered into the empty eye-sockets for a long while until he noticed a dim light inside them.

The eyesight reluctantly returned to the destroyer, who sighed in relief.

“You good?”

“...better,” Error squeezed out and tried to get out.

He was weakened by the fight and its consequences and looked sluggish, but Ink didn’t want to postpone his vengeance and fished out Dream’s sphere of dreams. At first the guardian considered waiting for his lover to pass out, but Error remained vigilant in the enemy’s lair, so he had to resort to a dirty trick.

Ink touched the sphere to Error’s temple, and the glitch instantly collapsed back onto the couch. A moment later he was fast asleep.

“Get some rest,” Ink picked up the paintbrush again. “Let me finish, and then we’ll have some fun.”

 

“I’ve got some questions waiting for you,” was what Error heard the moment he started to regain consciousness.

“And I’ve got no answers to meet them.” The black skeleton woke up to find himself in an expected place but in an unexpected position.

“Hah, clever.”

“So am I a guest or a prisoner? Or have you forgotten our agreement?”

Error loathed his current position: stretched out on the bed, backside up. His arms were tied to the headboard tight enough that the ropes almost cut into the bones. His legs were spread but had a little more freedom, though the restraints still kept him from bringing them closed. The only cloth the guest-prisoner had on was a thin blanket.

"You’re a guest.”

“Then untie…”

“No. Today we’re playing by my rules. But don’t worry: I promise, you’ll enjoy it. But first, I need to ask…”

The destroyer jerked. The ropes cut deeper into his wrists and ankles. He squinted as much as he could to look at the artist leaning over him:

“Ink, that wasn’t a part of our deal. Sex, just sex!”

The guardian turned a deaf ear to the lover’s warnings, showering him with questions:

“Why did you react to Blue like that? Why don’t you ever attack Underswap? Why do you help Nightmare?”

“INK!” Error growled. “I’m warning you. If you continue asking questions, our deal is off!”

The artist stilled. He shifted in place, trying to make a choice, and with a sigh conceded that he didn’t want to break off the intimate relationship they had. So his questions could stay unanswered for now.

The gown flowed down the artist’s body, leaving him naked. Ink slowly got onto the bed and threw the blanket off the destroyer. He had to admit, the black bones were beautiful: they looked like ebony, but were rough to the touch and tasted faintly of salt.

Error was shivering.

The touches gave start to painful glitching, the kisses burned like coals, the ropes chafed.

“Relax..”

“No!”

“Trust me, I won’t be asking you questions during sex.” Ink straddled the tied-up body, touching their hips together. “All I want is to have a little revenge for last time. You know, it was quite unpleasant to be used and left behind. That’s not what we’ve agreed on.”

“Fuck off! Untie me!”

Ink’s tongue ran up Error’s spine, leaving a wet trail tinted pink with the paint the artist had drunk.

“Later. First you’ll become soft like butter.”

The artist’s hands ran over the other’s back, and Error howled. He rebooted. When he came back, he felt the hands on his hips. Another reboot. Lower, down at the toe-tips. And another reboot. Gentle, careful rubbing on his chest, a pressure on every vertebra. And another reboot…

“Ink,” Error wheezed when his head was lifted off the pillow by the chin. “It hurts.”

Peering into the empty eye-sockets swarmed with “error” messages, the guardian sighed heavily. Error’s haphephobia kept getting in the way of intimacy, limiting the touching. Perhaps, the past times when it didn’t manifest were accidental?

“Sorry, won’t touch you on purpose again.”

Feeling the chill of the lubricant and the fingers, Error hissed into the pillow, bit onto the fabric and dug his face into it. Bottoming seemed humiliating — as if he was submissive and belonged to the victor, and couldn’t do anything about what was happening to his body. However Ink’s example showed him that it was possible to fully control the process even when you’re not on top.

“Ready?” was whispered at the back of his head.

He offered unintelligible muttered swears in reply, which was taken for a positive answer.

Error breathed heavier, dug his fingers into the restraints and whined:

“Ah! Slower!”

“I’m very careful already. Relax.”

Error threw his head to one side and the other, powerless to stop the painful sensations, and bit onto the pillow again.

It felt like torture: as if someone was dragging white-hot tongs over his spine, intending to shatter every vertebra. A false thrust and a touch — in an instant the heat spread to his sweet spots and made him moan against his will. And the louder and sweeter were the destroyer’s moans, the more confidently was his partner moving inside him.

Ink’s motions were slow but deep. He watched his lover suffer in bliss and had no intention of picking up the pace — at least, not until he was asked to. He waited as his body burned with painful arousal.

“Ink,” Error moan as he exhaled and turned his head, trying to see his partner.

“Oh, stars! You’re blushing so hard!” Ink cooed.

“Shut up,” he wheezed over the heavy breathing. “You’re way too talkative today.”

“And why not? I have nothing against bedroom talk.” The artist thrust forward sharply, allowing their hips to meet.

Error shrieked and hid his face in the pillow again.

“You’re drooling all over the bed. Enjoying it that much, huh?”

“I,” sigh, whimper, “said,” exhale, moan, “‘shut up’.”

Ink leaned forward onto his hands, bent lower and started licking at the destroyer’s neck, feeling the other’s desire in the trembling vertebrae and the salty sweat.

“You love it,” the guardian concluded and bit onto the topmost vertebra.

A moan in response, unintelligible mutterings, another moan and a wheezing exhale. Unable to take any more of the sweet torture, Error lifted his hips and started to meet the thrusts, trying to speed up the pace.

“Uh-uh,” Ink smirked and pressed a palm to the other’s back, stopping him. “Today you’re not allowed to move.”

Moaning, Error fell back onto the pillow and, clenching his teeth, hit his head against it a few times. It was already soaked with his tears and spit.

Finally, there came a piteous:

“I can’t take it anymore!”

For a moment Ink thought that the lover wasn’t getting enough out of it and wanted to stop, but when Error turned his head, and the artist saw his face, he understood: the plan worked. The dilated eyelights, the drooling mouth, the burning face — Error was stuck on the edge. The slow pace kept him on the brink of orgasm, and he suffered, trapped in the most wonderful and painful kind of pleasure.

“Then ask me,” Ink smiled, enjoying the power high.

“Please, let me come,” the destroyer muttered, burning with shame over his behavior and words.

That broke the last of Ink’s resolve. He was thinking of tormenting Error a little longer, but his lover’s charming burning face, his quiet words put a stop to the torture. Hurriedly lifting his partner’s hips, Ink wrapped his palm around the aroused magic and started to move his hand in time with the thrusts.

Faster. Even faster. Harder.

He promised not to touch Error on purpose, but the sweetly arched body glowed with sweat so invitingly that Ink couldn’t hold back from pressing his chest to Error’s back, wrapping his free arm around to bring them even closer together. He pushed the other’s body to meet the last few trusts, reveling in the bliss of them touching. Moaning Error’s name, he begged the stars to prolong that moment. The stars heeded his plea, and granted their bones the tremor of a painfully sweet lengthy orgasm.

The lovers collapsed to the mattress.

Just like Ink promised, Error felt soft like butter. He didn’t even notice when the restraints were taken off — just continued to lie, shivering from the echo of the past sensations.

Ink still had questions to ask, but he didn’t want to ruin the moment: Error was beside him, drowning in sweetness, pleasantly tired and satisfied, their naked sides touching in a rare show of trust. His lover was there, not going anywhere, calm and slowly falling asleep.

Come morning, Ink would ask about the oddities. That would wait till the morning. But they’ll spend this night in peaceful silence.

Chapter Text

Error slept for a few hours. Upon waking he was surprised to have fallen asleep so carelessly in the enemy’s lair, for the second time now — like he was enchanted, and the wizard to blame was asleep right beside him.

The destroyer peered at Ink’s familiar features: the ingrained ink blotches that made the look so recognizable, the winding patterns of tattoos that flowed down the neck and onto the chest.

Smiling, Error thought he knew why, out of all the Sanses, Ink was the one who wore so many layers. He was trying to hide the fragile-looking body. Being smaller and more slender than most alternative Sanses — not counting Blue — the artist was, in Error’s humble opinion, the most elegant Sans.

I better go, ‘cuz now I’m just thinking nonsense, Error told himself and tried to get up.

A dreadful pain shot through his pelvis and spine.

“Ow! Dammit!”

The noise woke up the guardian:

“Are you okay? Heh, that’s a stupid question.” Ink rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and sat up in bed. His lover had already thrown the blanket off himself, so the artist could see where the pain was coming from at once. “Wow, we had a really good time yesterday, huh?”

A deep crack was running from Error’s ischium up the ilium, almost reaching the spine. Every motion made the crack widen, showing its dark insides.

“Did this happen during the fight or in bed? Man, what a mess. Give me a moment, I’ll go get a brush.”

Error winced, poked at the wound and jerked his fingers back, hissing. He’d had the pelvic bones broken multiple times before, so the pain wasn’t anything new, but to feel it after a steamy night was somehow insulting — as if they’ve continued their fight inside the bedroom, where he was wounded and defeated.

“This relationship is more trouble than it’s worth,” he complained with a sigh.

“I’d say, there’s way more good coming out of it.” Ink entered the room, carrying a small table littered with paints and brushes.

“And what good is in it for me?”

“Besides the sex and letting off some steam, you mean? Well, I’m healing you, and, if you haven’t noticed, I do that before — not after! — our passionate meetings.” The artist ran the widest brush he had over the crack, blurring it. Error hissed: he didn’t particularly enjoy healing the living tissue either.

“Okay. Then what do you get out of it?”

“What I get out of it is you .” Ink dunked the brush into a bottle of paint and brought it to the deeper part of the crack.

Error jerked, shrieked at the piercing pain and swore. The dialogue worked as a distraction for the artist’s work, so he kept it going:

“What do you mean, rainbow asshole?”

“Well, you don’t think I sleep with just anyone, do you?” Seeing the thoughtful look on Error’s face, Ink realized: that’s exactly what Error thought. “So, as I was saying, I don’t sleep with just anyone, and choosing a lover usually becomes a major pain for me.”

“Just go visit Underlust, and they’ll make the choice for you.” Error smirked, but his smile fell under the piercing stare of the guardian’s crosshair eyelights. The artist paled at the mention of the lewd universe and even his hold on the paintbrush weakened. “I take it you’ve been there already?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Ink shook his head, hastily took a sip from the yellow vial and smiled under the effects of liquid “happiness”. “That’s a long story that you won’t enjoy hearing. Or you might think it’s funny, and I’ll be offended. So let’s leave it for another time.”

“There’s something in this world that could offend a soulless person?” The destroyer huffed and returned to the previous subject of discussion, “So, what do you mean when you say you get me?”

Ink was almost done painting over the crack. He licked his teeth in thought as he tried to decide whether to elaborate, and, in the end, decided that he should:

“I’ve been trying to befriend you for… What? Five years? Ten?”

“Longer, I think. Hell if I remember.”

“Yes, well, I’ve been trying to befriend you for years, and I was always rejected. My fascination with you grew with every rejection, you know. So when you recently made that offer: rape me? I couldn’t hold back, because that way I was getting even more of you than I could ever wish for.”

Error was taken aback. The pain was gone, so he sat up and stared at the guardian in bewilderment:

“Why, you are… you! Do you do that to all the people you know? Offer friendship first, then drag them to your bed and call them a lover? You’re the Lust’s bastard child that he’s never had! What if I call off our deal?! Break off any relationship we have?!”

Ink looked as if he’d drunk from the red vial, he scowled, and his eyelights turned scarlet. Error didn’t have the time to get scared before the eyelights changed their shape to teardrops.

“If you don’t want to be my lover, then I’ll start offering my friendship again,” the artist said sadly.

“What, you don’t even care what to have me as, a friend or a lover?!” Error was scandalized. “Tell the truth. What do you want from me?!”

“You want the truth? Here’s your truth! I don’t care!” Ink jumped to his feet to look down at the destroyer. “You’ll be my friend? Works for me! You’ll be my lover? I’ll be happy with that! But, I’m begging you, don’t be a stranger to me!”

The artist looked tired and angry. He was desperate not to lose the relationship that took so much effort to build, and his revelations could ruin it all, tear the unstable connection they had, but the floodgates were open:

“You want more of the truth? Then listen! The moment I found out about you — another person born in the Anti-Void — I was happy! And I wanted you to be by my side. And I offered that to you every time we met. Because you were going insane with loneliness just like me! Because even when we’re surrounded by others — even if they’re our alternative copies — we feel empty. Because we don’t belong to any universe and can’t be a part of any of them. We just fell out of the system. We just stopped being a normal part of it.”

Ink covered his eyes with his hands. He kept on talking:

“I don’t know how you appeared in the Anti-Void. And I don’t know how you came to pick your end goal: I need to destroy all the alternative universes because I’m evil. But I don’t think your story is better or worse than mine. I think, it’s just as sad. And I’ve always wanted to share this emptiness with you — to be with you, on any terms.”

“You do realize that’s called ‘obsession’?”

“Yeah, that’s just another one of my insanities. Hello and welcome.”

Ink brought his hands away from his eyes. He expected to see anger on his lover’s face, but a different amalgam of feelings awaited him.

Error was embarrassed by his foe’s confession yet scared by it at the same time. No one had ever loved him, no one had ever wanted him. Really, he’d never even considered what he’d do in response to something like that — especially coming from Ink, the person he was supposed to stay away from.

After everything he’d heard, Error needed to do something: laugh at Ink, comfort him, agree to a more normal relationship or break off the sex thing they had going. But he could not: couldn’t laugh if off, couldn’t offer comfort — and he especially couldn’t agree to develop their relationship past where they already were. But he didn’t want to stop their passionate encounters either.

He was ashamed to admit that he was becoming dependant on them. Maybe, he really was enchanted.

“A confession for a confession?” asked Ink after a long period of silence.

“Clever. Are you trying to drag some answers out of me?”

“You don’t have to answer.” The artist shrugged. “And we’ll consider my confessions ravings brought forth by the amazing sex.”

Error got up, rubbing his back, and looked around, searching for his clothes. He found them neatly folded on the nightstand. No holes remained from yesterday’s fighting. He ran a finger down the fabric, feeling a wave of warmth in his chest.

He turned to face Ink. Right now, when they stood facing each other, their difference in height was apparent. Error was taller. Starting to get dressed, he said:

“Okay, you can ask me one question, Ink. Only one. And maybe — I repeat, only maybe — I’ll answer it.”

Stars in his eyes and hands held over his chest, Ink was almost bouncing with excitement. He didn’t expect such an indulgence and was eager to shower Error with questions. But he could ask only one. The guardian was curious why Error never attacked Underswap, why he was scared of Blue, and why he helped Nightmare.

The last question was chosen at the most important. Dream’s brother was capable of making a real mess in the Multiverse. He took over two worlds once, and while the two guardians were able to take one back, then other was left at his disposal. Winning back a single universe took way more power than both of the guardians had combined. They won with trickery and a lot of good luck. That was also the first time Ink considered drinking red paint to show the motherfuckers how scary he could be — but he held back that time.

“Okay, Error. My question is: Why do you help Nightmare? You’re stronger than him. As I see it, you’re one of the three strongest Sanses. And I’m one of them too — probably because I’m unkillable, heh.”

“And who else among those three, besides the two of us?” the destroyer wondered. He knew the list was wrong: the strongest creatures hide in the deepest holes.

“Reaper,” Ink cringed. “Experience showed that it’s not worth fighting him. He’ll come out victorious: by trickery, pressure, lying or simple backstabbing — but he’ll destroy his foe. And if you try to fight him head-on, he’ll rip your soul out in the most sadistic fashion and torture it some more afterwards. One time I pissed him off, and I was glad to be soulless. Very glad .”

“And where is Nightmare on that list?”

“Nightmare’s a complicated case. Leave him in a circus, and he’ll lose to Little!Sans. Trap him in a jail cell, and he’ll take down both of us. The only thing that can hurt him is positive emotions, so I’m barely holding back from forcing some yellow paint into Dream and locking the two of them up in a small room.”

“Pink paint would be better,” the glitch started laughing.

Ink’s eyes widened:

“That’s some thoughts you’re having! Though, that’s an option…” The guardian gave it some thought and laughed too: he’d just had the mental image of a very aroused and happy Dream chasing a terrified Nightmare around a circus. The abundance of natural — not paint-driven — emotions made the artist throw up ink.

While Ink was hurriedly cleaning up the mess, Error tried to sneak out, but a bottle of paint smashed against the door, and Ink appeared out of the resulting splatter, wagging a finger. He stepped out onto the floor, blocking the door.

“Don’t try to confuse me, Error, and don’t think I’ve forgotten the question. My memory lapses are getting rarer.”

“Heh, well, I tried. But, as I’ve said already, I may refuse to answer.”

“But will you answer or not?”

“Partially,” the destroyer nodded. “I’m helping Nightmare wreak havoc because it’s fun.”

Ink laughed.

“Fun? Yeah, that explains why you looked bored to death. You’re lying, oh friend of mine.”

“Yep, I’m lying,” Error agreed. “But, like I’ve said, I don’t have to answer.”

“But you don’t have to lie either.”

The destroyer clicked his tongue.

“I’m helping him on a whim, if that’s what you’re asking. He isn’t forcing me to do it. Let’s just say, I can watch that barrel of slime that way and make sure he doesn’t go sticking his nose where he shouldn’t.”

“And where’s that?”

“And that, Ink, is a second question.” The black skeleton wagged his finger in the guardian’s face. “And I’ve only promised to answer one.”

“I’m willing to work for it.” The guardian smiled slyly.

“Quit talking like a whore, or I’ll treat you like one!” Error cringed. “And now, let me out of the bedroom.”

“Or what, you’ll rape me?”

“You wish. I’ll just pin you to the bed with bones and leave.”

Sighing, Ink stepped to the side and offered to the leaving lover’s back:

“You want some breakfast, maybe? I can cook whatever you want.”

Error thought about it. He was presented two options: the front door or the kitchen.

“You got any chocolate?”

“I think so.”

He chose the kitchen.

Chapter Text

Ink was thinking.

Alone, in an empty house, surrounded by things he’d created himself, was how he had best luck puzzling things out.

Legs crossed and cheekbone resting on a fist, he gazed into a lukewarm cup of tea as if trying to see the future in the dark liquid. His scarf was laying on the table, scribbles up, and Ink was reading through notes of interest.

“Error said that he helps Nightmare to be able to keep an eye on him. Because he doesn’t want him sticking his nose where he shouldn’t.”

The artist took a sip of tea and returned to his thoughts. It felt like he didn’t understand Error, not anymore. Something had changed in the past ten years — give or take.

Before the glitchy had a very clear-cut goal: destroying alternative universes — and he went at it brutally and with zero mercy. Only Ink and Dream’s interventions could tear him away from another remnant of an AU.

And then something changed, both in the number of attacks — there were less of them — and in their quality — he didn’t destroy the worlds fully anymore, instead only tearing down their parts. The only times he finished his work was when dealing with weak or dying universes.

Then, about five years ago, everything changed again. Error often went off the radar: no attacks, no challenges. He could go missing for weeks. Then again, he got involved with Nightmare’s gang. He also became more nervous, perhaps.

And now, the culmination to it all: he agreed to sleep with his enemy. And ate the offered breakfast in the morning.

Ink sighed and sipped at the cold tea.

The guardian didn’t believe in evil miraculously turning into good, and Error wasn’t even trying to convince him. On the contrary, he flaunted his worst qualities. But this morning he was so peaceable. Some would even say, “humane”.

Ink told him:

“Someday you’ll tell me all your secrets!”

Those words left Error looking hunted, and his eyes seemed filled with sadness, as if he regretted something and wanted to share it, but couldn’t. But he quickly pulled himself together, smirked and left, promising to drag Ink’s skeleton out of his closet of secrets one day.

The joke seemed funny to the artist, and he laughed. Though Error wasn’t smiling.

Ink sighed, exhaled and stood up, leaving his tea unfinished.

“Time to check on the worlds.” First thing he did was contact Dream and belatedly tell him, “I’m okay.”

“I know.” Dream’s smirk could be heard over the phone. “I visited after dealing with my brother.”

“Oh!”

“Felt how very go-o-o-od you two were feeling! You know, so much positivity…”

“Okay, okay! I get it! Stars! Good job there: I’m blushing without any paint!” Dream laughed as Ink chastised him for tactlessness. “So how did it go with Nightmare?”

“Brother was full on power, so he took his gang and escaped to his universe. I ‘saw him off’ to make sure he won’t cause any more trouble, then restored the positive energy of the worlds. RIght now I’m in Undershot, and I’ll be glad if you joined me. The cities and locations… basically, a lot of stuff needs fixing.”

“Yeah, I get it. I’ll be there soon.”

 

After fulfilling their routine duty to the Multiverse, the friends went to Underswap to see Blue. On their way, Ink told Dream about the development in his relationship with his enemy.

“...And then we had breakfast together.”

“Yes, I guess, it is a step forward. But, Ink, do you really want to take this relationship any further?”

“I don’t know,” the guardian answered truthfully. “I want him by my side, but he’s sort of like a hedgehog: the closer you’re to him the pricklier he gets.”

“And hedgehogs and Error are both equally dangerous to hug,” Dream laughed.

Ink kept silent about how, in moments of full relaxation or especially sharp pleasure, Error could be hugged and caressed with no problem. On Ink’s scarf there was a new note: to try and give his lover a massage.

 

Blue met his guests with a cheerful smile; his brother gave them a death stare. However, today it was Papyrus who Ink wanted to talk to. So, once Dream had Blue engrossed in a story about a newly born universe, the artist pushed the older skeleton outside and asked:

“I think I’ve already asked you about why you were so against me associating with your brother. So I’ll rephrase it. That interdimensional traveller that made you hate all of us so much — was it Error? He’s a black skeleton with…”

“Glitches all over his body,” Papyrus finished for him.

“Oh. I guess, that’s the one?”

“Why the question, Ink?”

“I want the details. He destroys universes, you know. I’m glad yours survived.”

The older skeleton frowned and shook his head.

“The world survived,” he spat his cigarette into the snow, “but Blue didn’t.”

Ink flinched; his eyelights changed to colourful squares, then to question marks, then to squares again:

“What do you mean? Your brother’s right there at the table, poisoning our friend with his tacos.”

Papyrus could barely speak. Keeping everything a secret for so long was suffocating, so now he was ready to spill it even to a person he hated.

“Blue was a couple of years younger than me. We lived in a time loop, where I remembered everything, and he did not. It was this way for a long time — until Error came. He kidnapped my brother: manipulated his body to make us fight each other — then just snatched him away. And I haven’t seen Blue in a long time — I was sure I’d never see him again. Then another reset happened. And my brother returned. But…” The skeleton swallowed a lump in his throat. “...But as a small child, and lost almost all of his memories. I was horrified — but everyone treated that as normal. No one remembered that Blue was supposed to be older — like all that time didn’t even exist.”

“A glitch in the system?” Ink was surprised. He had no idea that all this time he was friends not with original Swap Sans, but with his younger variation. “Maybe a code from Littletale somehow got mixed into your universe?”

“Yeah,” Papyrus sneered, “and took the human with it. The resets stopped right after that. We’ve been living without them for ten years — it’s an incredibly long time! And I’m still terrified that everything could go back to how it was. True, at first I wanted that,” the older skeleton admitted, “I wanted to have my old brother back. But time passed, and Blue grew, and we’ve made new memories. Now he’s almost as old as he should’ve been, so I’ve accepted things as they are. Now I just don’t want to lose what I have — I want to keep it safe, you understand? And you, and others like you, can ruin everything!”

“I understand,” Ink smiled warmly. “Don’t worry. Error won’t come anywhere near your universe — even though I don’t know the reason why. And as for the human,” the artist pondered, “if I find out anything, I’ll tell you. Either way, your world isn’t the first one to be ridded of the human and their resets. So relax! I promise that there won’t be any resets in Underswap ever again.”

The older skeleton lit a new cigarette, looking most like a balloon that ran out of air.

“Okay. I can’t trust you, but a sweet lie to believe in would be nice. So thanks. And don’t…”

“I won’t tell Blue. Hiding skeletons in the closet is a family tradition.”

Papyrus huffed and returned inside. The guardian rubbed at the ink blotch on his cheek in thought and looked up at the ceiling of the Underground.

“Even if you won’t tell me, I’ll still uncover all your secrets, Error. Ten years ago. What happened ten years ago?”

 

The mystery refused to come together. Dream and Ink had been sitting in the artist’s kitchen for the past two hours, trying to figure it out.

“Like, it’s obvious that it’s all connected to the events that transpired ten years ago. But what happened?”

“Ten years ago,” Ink hummed in thought. “Error killed me back then. Do you remember?”

“Stars! How could I forget?! He actually caught me back then and brought me to see your ‘body’. I still see it in nightmares! Those nights, I swear, I feel like Nightmare,” Dream was horrified.

“We can add Blue’s kidnapping — after which he ended up younger and his universe stopped resetting — to this list. I wonder if this happened before or after me dying?”

Dream made a rough estimation and said:

“I think, Blue was kidnapped while you were dead. Error was acting very recklessly back then. Maybe, he did something to the universe’s code?”

“And now he’s scared of Blue because of that? Though the guess about the code is nice. But Underswap’s code doesn’t look damaged: I’ve checked.”

“The events that made a madman even crazier… Sorry, friend, but I’m at a loss.”

Ink sighed. He needed to dig deeper. Ten years ago something else happened — something besides the guardian’s death and the oddities in Underswap.

“Have you tried asking other interdimensional travellers?” Dream suggested. “Maybe one of them saw something? If whatever happened was big and involved Error, I doubt there weren’t any witnesses.”

Chapter Text

The friends kept thinking: Who could know something about what had happened ten years ago and have any idea of how any of that had affected Error?

“Fresh, Core Frisk, Seraphim…” Dream listed the known Multiverse travellers.

“I’ll definitely pay all of them a visit,” the artist agreed.

“Could what has happened to Blue and your death be connected to any other odd occurrences of ten years ago? Or any other odd events connected to Error?” Dream wondered.

“An unusual destruction of a world,” Ink read off his scarf. “Remember, I’ve mentioned Timetale?”

“The one where everyone’s a scientist?”

“Yes. A little less than ten years ago that world almost died. But here’s an oddity: it wasn’t broken down into code, like what Error usually did — it was crumpled into a tiny ball. When I got there, Error was standing over what remained and was about to dust it. That was some fight we had! I’ve managed to fight him off and restore Timetale — but I can’t remember Errror ever crumpling worlds instead of erasing them again.”

“Yes, that’s unusual,” Dream agreed. “But it’s not the first time he does something unexpected. Remember how you’ve complained that some universe bluescreened? That happened around the same time too.”

“Oh, yeah. That happened. That was a new world, and it couldn’t be saved. But I don’t think Error’s responsible for that one: most likely, it was the Creators themselves who did it.” The artist rubbed at his chin and immediately came up with another odd case. “And remember the time you’ve found me barely alive?”

“Yes, but that one’s recent — happened three years ago or so.”

“Not five?”

“Maybe. Sorry, can’t remember. But I remember you were very weak and couldn’t restore yourself on your own — as if someone’s drawn all the blood out of you…”

Ink’s eyelights disappeared. He recalled checking on a universe when he heard the sound of a portal opening behind his back, and then someone’s arms grabbed him. He tried to scream, but someone pushed a rag to his mouth. The rag smelled weird. His body was quickly growing lax, but Ink struggled like a fish, caught in a net. He tried to push the foe away, land a hit or turn to ink and flow away, but consciousness left him before he could do anything.

He was brought to a lab. Ink’s consciousness returned in short increments, and he could barely understand anything. His body felt heavy, and the figures surrounding him blurred. He saw tubes taking his inky blood away — who knows where? The world floated out of his perception. And then he saw Error leaning over him, saying something — not to him, but someone on Ink’s other side. Someone wearing bright colours and a pair of sunglasses. Fresh?

Then he woke up in Dreamtale. His friend found him on the stump of the great tree, barely alive, and tended to him for three days until he could take care of himself again.

“I think, I saw Fresh and Error. They kidnapped me and took almost all of my ink.”

“Are you sure?” Dream had a hard time believing something like that. “Now that’s definitely not something the destroyer and the parasite would do!”

“Whether I’m sure or not, I’m gonna go hunt down the 90s nightmare.”

“And I’m gonna go do both our jobs.” Dream said, accepting his fate.

 

Getting a hold of Fresh was quite an ordeal. That parasite wasn’t just on the move all over a universe — he was on the move all over the Multiverse. It didn’t matter to him which worlds he visited: pacifist, genocide or neutral. Even if the AU was going through hell, like, for example, the disfigured HELP_tale. He could still hang out there, feeling great and having a good time — all that, considering any other travellers would avoid such worlds like the plague.

Whether Ink was lucky or not — depends on how you look at it — but Fresh was found in his native universe. Actually, no. Freshtale was never his universe. The real Fresh died the moment the parasite invaded his body. That’s where the story turned sad.

The parasite took over Fresh and started to spread his fresh vibes to the world. In other words, he started to multiply and take over the place, which turned the universe that was hyped about the 90s into… a universe that was hyped about the 90s. Meaning, the AU being infected with parasites did nothing to change its story.

Upon visiting Freshtale for the first time and seeing just that, Ink scratched his head, shrugged and went on with his life. Not his problem.

Fresh became his problem, when one universe stopped being enough for him. The parasite went to Novatale, where he butted heads with their own parasite — Nova. The guardian had to break up their fight, drag them both back to their respective worlds, and inform Fresh that he shouldn’t disrupt the balance of the Multiverse: You have one world, and it supports you? Be happy with that.

But Fresh didn’t settle down. He tried his luck with Reapertale, where he got his lesson on taking over others’ worlds without Ink’s involvement. The guardian caught him again in Birdtale, gave him another lecture and brought him back to his home universe.

But Fresh refused to settle down: a week later he tried spreading fresh vibes in SixBones. He even had some luck with it.

The first serious fight happened in that world. Until then, Ink didn’t treat the parasite seriously, but afterwards he grew wary. Fresh, however, having seen what red paint can do, toned it down. He collected all his parasites and always did a clean-up after his outings since.

Infect someone, feed, take the worm back and return home. Or, well, travel to a different universe. He did all of this quietly, peacefully and without bothering anyone — besides the victim, that is, who’d be plagued with memories, stuck cleaning the fallout from their soul, thinking what to do with the colourful glasses and the newfound fear of earthworms.

So, Fresh and Ink were on peaceable terms. That’s why Ink came in, like it was a casual visit.

“Hey, Fresh!”

“Heya, bruh!”

The colourful skeleton was lounging on the couch. Somewhere in the kitchen Papyrus, wearing something just as colourful, was busy cooking. He moved to an upbeat tune as he was working on a culinary masterpiece.

If one ignored the parasites, this universe was was one of the most positive ones: music, dancing, love and peace.

“I’ve got a question.” Ink got straight to business. He didn’t want to end up staying for dinner. Last time he did, even his immortal body was ready to die for good. The local Papyrus’s cooking was even worse than Blue’s tacos.

“I’ve cleaned up after myself.” Fresh hurriedly waved his hands, wearing a wide smile.

“Yeah, I know. Frisk shocked the whole Underfell with their fresh vibes. Papyrus is still taking pills, and Sans holed up in the True Lab with amalgamates.”

“And Undyne?” Fresh wondered.

“Doing better. Tell me, what was the point of tying her up to a chair and making her watch that awful series and smoke weed?”

“She didn’t look unhappy.”

The guardian may have been keeping his tone serious, but he was barely holding back laughter. He chose not to interfere and watch through a “window” as the ever-meek and tolerant Frisk, influenced by a parasite, turned into an energetic psychopath, using the most pacifistic methods to get the natives of Underfell — who, admittedly, weren’t very nice — acquainted with the colourful culture of the parallel universe.

“That’s not what I wanted to talk about,” Ink smiled. “I wanted to ask you about something that happened ten years ago — and about another, more recent event too.”

“Memory problems, broski?”

“Yep.” Couldn’t argue with that. “So. You know Error, right?”

“Sure, I know him well.” Fresh gave a few nods. “Why?”

“Haven’t you noticed his behavior changing? About ten years ago.”

“Nah, he was a jerk, he’s still a jerk,” said the parasite, smiling.

“Well, yeah, but… You see, ten years ago he kidnapped a Sans from the swapped universe.”

“You mean Swap? The regular one, not Fell?”

“Yes. And after that kidnapping, something happened to Underswap code, and its Sans got younger. You know about that, right?”

Fresh pretended to think about it.

“Sorry, dude, but I’m not watching Underswap. The Paps there’s too aggressive, and I haven’t been to that side of the Multiverse in a while.”

“That’s unfortunate. Oh well, the other question then. About three to five years ago Error and you kidnapped me. Could you, maybe, tell me, why you two needed me?”

The text on Fresh’s glasses switched to “Oh my god! Busted!”.

“Well, yeah, that happened,” the 90s abomination didn’t try to dodge the issue.

“So, why did you kidnap me, what did you do to me, and why did you leave me alive?” Ink pressed on.

Fresh was visibly nervous, but didn’t try to dodge that one either, though it wasn’t clear whether he was telling the truth. Putting on his serious expression, the parasite took his glasses off.

“Pal, I was helping a friend.” Staring into the creepy eyes was hard even for Ink, and the artist looked away. Satisfied with the effect, Fresh replaced the glasses over his eyes and brought the lively tone back to his voice. “Well, since I’ve answered all your questions, how about I invite you to have dinner with us?”

“No, thanks! I’m in a hurry.” Ink couldn’t leave fast enough.

 

The next person the guardian wanted to ask was a monochrome Frisk.

Core Frisk existed on their own. They tended to keep away from Ink and Error’s fights, considering both of them akin to natural disasters. Core’s whole life was revolved around atoning for their old sin, constant resets — and they found a way to do that. They’ve created a separate Omega Timeline and took in those who survived a genocide and those unlucky ones who lost their own world due to the Creators’ uncertainty or Error’s doing. They let anyone come to Omega Timeline, anyone who really wished to have some rest.

Ink came to Omega Timeline. He rarely visited this world, since it wasn’t only inhabited by people whom Core saved from Error — these were people whom Ink wasn’t able to save. If only the artist did his job better, inspired the Creators more, reminded them of their importance more frequently, then, perhaps, those unlucky people wouldn’t have been missing their homes.

Those survivors were a monument to his failure.

But Ink drank from the yellow vial to face them with a smile.

He passed bunch of monsters crowded around a Sans from an unknown AU, who was giving a concert. She played a slightly sad but uplifting tune on the guitar, calling for everyone to be strong and stay together. A fitting melody for the monsters tired of the cyclic life.

Ink walked down the streets of a Hotland-looking city and entered a long corridor.

“Hello, Frisk.”

“Oh! Ink! Now that’s someone unexpected,” Core floated above the floor of a reconstructed Judgement Hall. It’s not like this place with its stained-glass windows held many good memories — quite the contrary — but there were citizens of Omega Timeline, who liked coming here to mourn.

“Yeah, sorry. Didn’t want to disturb the peace of your world, but I have questions, and I figured you might know the answers.”

The monochromatic child stepped down to the floor and shrugged. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

“Ask then.”

“Did you know that I was killed ten years ago?”

“Yes.” Something like that was hard to hide from Core. They felt the changes in the Multiverse and seeked out the reason for the balance changing for the worse. “But you’ve died before. Should I be worried?”

“No, of course not. You see, while I was dead, Error did something to Underswap. Swap Sans got younger, and the human of that universe disappeared. Besides, Error’s behavior has changed since then. He’s been avoiding Underswap since then.”

Core nodded and smirked:

“Wow, took you a while to notice. And why are you even interested? No human? That’s fine. Now the world of Underswap can keep developing. They’re doing fine.”

“Sure, it’s good that the human’s gone,” Ink smile, hinting at how Frisk themself had “disappeared” from their home universe one day. “But I’m wondering why that happened, and what’s Error’s role in all this. And why he’s afraid of Blue now.”

Monochromatic Frisk blinked with their empty eyes and shrugged:

“I don’t care. Is it bad that he doesn’t attempt to destroy the swapped universe?”

“Core!” Ink was all out of patience. “I know! That you know! That something outstanding happened! I’ve been deceived for a decade, and I want to know why!”

Frisk ignored the angry outburst, waited for the crosshairs in the guardian’s eyes to change into the usual triangle and start, and said:

“And you’ll be deceived for as long as it’s needed.”  They shrugged. “Sorry, Ink, but you can’t know everyone who’s born in the Void.”

With that cryptic message, Core opened a portal for the artist and gestured for him to leave.

Now there were even more questions and less answers.

Core hinted that Ink and Error weren’t the only ones born in the Anti-Void and that there was some unknown person who’d affected Error greatly. So much so that he didn’t dare approach Underswap and was scared of Blue.

 

The next person Ink sought out was Seraphim, a very peaceful Multiverse traveller, despite his colossal size and horrifying looks. He got his name for the six-winged appearance, which someone likened to an angel. And just like those beings, he also did some dubious things for the sake of a greater good.

Seraphim never brought any harm: he just came to AUs, found a comfortable place to sit and enjoyed the views, the talks and the treats. Though, most often, he stayed in his home universe, which was left without a barrier, but without an ambassador too. As a result, the monsters never came to the surface — they continued to stay underground, waiting for… something…

Seraphim was a Sans who absorbed seven human souls. And Chara. As a result, besides himself, he had eight people to talk to inside his head. Sometimes he even gave control to one of the kids. Sometimes that control went to Chara — which wasn’t always good, but wasn’t always bad either. For example, it was Chara who helped kick Error’s butt last time he tried to destroy “another mistake”.

It was a joy to watch.

Anyway, Ink came to the universe of ThoughtTale and almost immediately came across the giant among the Sanses. He was sitting on a cliff and looking at the sun.

“Long time no see!”

Seraphim hid all of his six wings behind his back and leaned down towards the artist.

“Oh, the guardian. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Compared to him, every skeleton would look tiny, but the giant made Ink especially insecure about his height.

“I wanted to ask: Do you know anything about what’s happened ten years ago? I know you weren’t travelling around back then, but, maybe, you’ve heard something from someone?”

“Why?” Seraphim asked.

“You see, ten years ago the universe of Underswap had a glitch that Error was responsible for. After that, the Sans of that universe turned into a child, the human disappeared completely, and Error became afraid of coming anywhere near Underswap. I’m trying to find out why.”

“That’s an interesting occurrence,”  Seraphim was intrigued. “But I can’t help. The natives of one universe rarely know what happens in the next one. And concerning Error, I don’t know him well enough.”

“Okay. That’s a pity. Well, another question then. Core hinted that, besides Error and me, there are others who were born in the Anti-Void. Perhaps you’ve met someone like me?”

The giant gave it some thought, discussing the question with the children, and they did their best to remember everyone they’ve ever met.

“Actually, yes,” said Seraphim. “I’ve seen unusual creatures that travelled the universes, but they didn’t talk to me — even avoided me.”

“But that means others exist!” Ink was excited. He’d never thought that the Void had given birth to anyone besides the two people he knew of. But that didn’t answer the questions about Error’s changes in behavior. Though, perhaps, that unknown new monster was the one protecting Underswap and scaring off the destroyer.

“They exist, I guess. Is that everything that you wanted to know?”

“Yes, thank you! I still have one Sans to interrogate, and I hope that’ll shed some light on this.”

 

Sci was busy in his lab. As usual, actually. Timetale was a science-themed AU. Almost all of its inhabitants were chemists, professors, teachers, physicists — renowned for their discoveries and inventions. Stars, even the local Mettaton hosted an educational science program instead of a cooking show.

The skeleton brothers had a set of hobbies unlike their original selves as well. The older one worked in the True Lab, maintaining the Core, and the younger one was Alphys’s lab assistant in a normal laboratory.

Ink knew Sci well. They’ve known each other for years, and had a pretty chummy relationship going. Sometimes the scientist even helped the artist untangle the strings of digital code.

And about ten years ago a cataclysm happened to this universe. Timetale was destroyed in a pretty unusual way — crumpled like a discarded candy wrapper. If Ink was asked for a comparison, he’d say it looked very similar to a save star.

Back then Ink saw Error and gave very little thought to how this was different from the destroyer’s modus operandi. So he unfolded the world, brought its people back to their senses and said “hello” to a very sad and nervous Sci.

“Was it Error?” Ink asked back then.

“...yes, he’s been here,” was the answer.

The guardian figured it would be pretty out of place to approach the scientist with a ten-year-old question. Besides, Sci didn’t travel across the universes and didn’t know much about the other AUs — but he had to know something about the time his world almost disappeared. Something. Anything would do.

“Hello!” the artist greeted his friend with cheer.

“Hello. Long time no see.”

“I’m swamped with work. Nightmare and the gang were up to some mischief recently, Fresh caused a tiny mayhem, and Error’s still at it.”

“So, just the usual for you.” The scientist turned off a burner and put his notes away. “Want some tea? I’ve got some clean cups,” he nodded at the beakers.

“I wouldn’t say no to tea,” the guardian replied, smiling, and added, “But I’m here for a serious talk.”

“Yeah? Got problems with an AU’s code?”

“No. I’ve forgotten something, and I’m trying to remember. You see, this thing happened ten years ago…”

Sci flinched but kept the smile firmly on his face.

“It’s been a while, but if I’m able to help…”

“Remember when your world got destroyed? I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s odd. Crumpling a world isn’t something Error does’.”

“No idea how that looked from the outside. I only know I didn’t like being… crumpled. And I have no idea what your enemy’s MO is — but he was here that day.”

“And why did he come?”

Sweat ran down Sci’s brow, and he shifted in his chair, answering with no certainty:

“I guess, that’s what he came here for. To crumple my world.”

“And has he come since?”

Sci was shaking. He was bad at lying but he gave it his best.

“No. He hasn’t been here since. And, you know, if he popped up here again, you would’ve felt my world collapsing. Right?”

Ink turned away and frowned:

“Everyone’s lying to me today. Or, if it isn’t lies, it’s half-truths. What happened ten years ago that got all of you in such a tizz?”

“I’m sorry.” Sci looked down in shame. “I really can’t tell you. Just pretend that I know nothing.”

“Are you scared of Error?”

The scientist sneered, looking at the floor.

“Maybe I’m afraid of him. Maybe I’m afraid of myself. Maybe I’m afraid of what he’s doing. Maybe I’m afraid of who he’s doing it against. Ink,” Sci looked up at the guardian in despair, “don’t get involved in this. It was a long time ago.”

Ink’s eyelights disappeared. Everyone knew something important. Everyone was hiding something important from him. Even the people he considered friends prefered to lie.

Chapter Text

Error stayed off the radar for a long while. The “nightmares” caused mayhem without him. No one destroyed universes. And getting to the dark part of the Anti-Void without Error was beyond Ink’s ability. Sure, he could ask Fresh or Core to take him there, but the recent talks left a bitter aftertaste, which kept Ink from asking either of them.

So he waited, rereading the notes on his scarf and in his diaries, and found out, to his surprise, that the destroyer and him had been in a relationship for almost four months now — and they had only had sex four times in all that time. He felt like a lot less time had passed, and they’d met in bed a lot more times. Even such rare meetings with the monster he desired left him satisfied for a long while.

“That’s not what you should be thinking about, you inky head!” the artist scolded himself. “You need to find out what secret is kept from you, not think about relationships. Though, okay. It’s important to think about relationships too.”

A week passed, then another one. No sign of the destroyer.

When a month passed, Ink was on edge with worry. What if something had happened to him? The destruction-obsessed maniac couldn’t have stayed out of sight for so long.

Things used to be so simple. Before Error killed him, everything was simple and clear. The destroyer tore things apart on the daily, and the guardian stopped him. They had fun breaking each other’s bones and didn’t bother with secrets or relationships — though even back then Ink was always offering his hand, and the gesture was always rejected. Though… Ink couldn’t get rid of a vision — as if a hand was offered to him: Error was the first to offer him a hand, and Ink held onto it. But that couldn’t have happened; that vision must’ve been just a dream.

 

At long last, the guardian got what he wanted: Error made his return, starting to tear apart one of the AUs — Aftertale.

Almost squealing with joy, Ink threw himself into a portal to get to the world in question as quickly as possible. And very soon he faced a furious Error. Really, that was the second time the artist ever saw him in such wild rage. Ink even checked to make sure he still had the red vial on him.

“Fuck off!” the destroyer shouted at him in a low glitchy voice, continuing to delete to code of the universe without stopping for even a second. Snowdin was already gone; Waterfall was barely hanging on three lines of commands.

“Stop right there!” Ink pulled himself together and slammed an ink hand onto the destroyer.

Error avoided the attack with ease. Glitching heavily, he teleported to the side and instantly responded with a shower of bones.

The paintbrush spun to save the guardian from being wounded, but, while it was blocking his view, the enemy pulled another attack.

“Oh, holy stars!” A lot of agility went into avoiding a pretty unusual attack.

Blasters were usually summoned for shooting or, in rare cases, for cover, but Ink couldn’t remember anyone ever summoning a blaster for it to try biting into an enemy! The sharp jaws struck out sparks and almost clenched on his arm. A sharp twist to the right saved his leg. A side roll left the skull choking on dirt. A shot and a miss.

Sharp pikes of ink struck through the animal skull, and it fell apart.

While Ink was busy dancing out of the way of the glitchy blaster, Waterfall disappeared.

The guardian was running out of time. For the first time in a very long while he was running the risk of losing a universe that was popular with the Creators. Taking a sip from the red vial, Ink let his attacks grow more angry and ruthless. His eyelights turned to a skull and a crosshair.

Strike, evade, go hand-to-hand, avoid the strings, make some distance, cut through a net, blasters try to outdo each other, dust settles, surprise attack from the side, block with the paintbrush, a shield of ink, bones, strings, bones, strings, bones, paint, strings.

Hotland was gone. Error wasn’t going to give up, determined to destroy Aftertale even if his other arm got broken and yet another crack appeared on his skull. He was going to be victorious this time!

Help came from where Ink least expected.

A huge bone scythe almost took off the destroyer’s head. Error managed to avoid it at the last moment and got off with a thin cut on his neck. Like a boomerang, the scythe left a shining trail as it returned to its master.

A skeleton was standing a dozen meters away from the battling duo, blue magic fire shining in his eye-sockets. He growled as he readied the scythe for another throw. His cloak’s ripped edge floated like mist, swirled and lifted to show the creature’s bare feet. He radiated the cold of eternity, an almost tangible sort of oblivion. It was Reaper, the god of death.

The battle came to a standstill. Ink couldn’t understand why such a powerful Sans decided to make his appearance, and he didn’t know what to expect. Error, however, instantly knew both the reasons for the death god’s arrival and just what kind of torture he’d just signed up for. He slowly brought his hands down, stopping the world’s destruction.

The silent staring contest between Reaper and Error lasted for a good minute. They didn’t move, didn’t breathe, just stared each other down, waiting for one of them to give up.

Ink stayed still, unsure what to do. He didn’t like death. Really, in the whole Multiverse there wasn’t a single creature, who liked the god — probably because of the unstable personality and psyche. Ink had no intention of helping him, especially if that meant going against his personal enemy-slash-lover.

On the other hand, helping Error meant making a very powerful enemy — like signing your own death warrant. Besides, that would’ve brought forth some unneeded questions, and revealing the intimate relationship they had with Error to the whole Multiverse seemed like a very unwise decision.

Everything got settled without Ink having to do a thing.

Error looked away first, admitting defeat, and walked into a portal leading to a random universe. In an instant, Aftertale started to reset, putting everything back into its proper order. Ink, unwilling to feel the code of his body or stay alone with Reaper, hurried into the destroyer’s portal.

It took him a moment to figure out which universe it was. A lot of bare trees — too many even — and all of them are similar, slender and gigantic. Behind the screen of the leafless branches the night sky was lit by a red moon.

“Vampiretale?” Ink was surprised. “Didn’t think you’d like this one.”

The destroyer didn’t respond. He looked tired but not angry. Rage drained from his soul, leaving exhaustion in its wake.

“Why the hell did you have to come? Do you think a genocidal world deserves to exist?”

“Every world deserves to exist!”

“Tell that to Geno.” Error leaned back onto a tree. “He’s so done with seeing death through a screen and being Reaper’s toy that he asked me to end it!” An insane smile graced his face. “Asked me! Himself! To destroy his universe! Do you hear that, rainbow asshole? He didn’t ask you to think of something and fix it. No, he asked me to fucking rip it all apart!”

It was hurtful to hear. Especially the part about someone asking to destroy a whole world because of one single creature’s pain. Ink remembered Geno. He visited him a time or two before Reaper closed the Loading Screen off, and the artist had no idea what was happening there between the two. Hearing about the “toy” and the plea for death, he could only offer his pity.

Pity was the only thing he could ever offer — and only after drinking some blue paint. The guardian had to keep the worlds safe from outside threats, but not from the storytelling cruelty of the Creators. That wasn’t his job.

“I admit,” Ink spoke with pain in his voice, “that the Multiverse has a lot of miserable worlds. They keep living through a cycle of suffering again and again, but that’s by Creators’ design. I’m sure, one day they’ll solve the cycle and grant those worlds happiness!”

Error guffawed. His chest twisted with pain, but he continued with the insane laughter until there was none left, then said:

“The only thing you can give those AUs is peace! Eternal peace! And you know that, rainbow asshole. Deep down you agree that the worlds that haven’t got an ounce of happiness — HELP_tale, Underworld, Aftertale, Novatale — they’re errors that shouldn’t exist. I’m sure,” the destroyer lifted his hands to the sky, “even Dream would have agreed that the universes with no positivity in them are garbage that upsets the balance.”

“You’re wrong!”

“And you think the Creators would show mercy and stop the time loop? That they’ll give up their stories for the sake of the pawns that mean nothing to them? You’re a fool!”

What could he say? Ink saw things differently. For him, the whole Multiverse was a bright sheet of clear patterns. Good and bad AUs? He couldn’t judge them like that. For him those universes were equally important; they were loved by their Creators, and even if those Creators were maniacs or perverts, the worlds got something that Ink never could — genuine love.

And he really believe that, having had enough fun with the worlds, the Creators would let them become whole instead of leaving them to face a slow death.

“Sorry, but I’ll keep believing the very best, even when it comes to the miserable worlds, and I’ll keep protecting them!”

The conversation made the guardian forget all the questions he wanted to ask. Somehow, he felt like they’d just had an intimate contact — maybe even more intimate than sex — as if he’d started to discover the side of the destroyer that was previously hidden from him.

I need to ask him about Underswap! Need to find out about the changes in Blue’s code! But not today, I guess. Or, rather, not now. Maybe later, when he’s more appeasable and might hint at the answers, at least. With that in mind, Ink knew where to take the conversation next.

“I’m tired of arguing with you. I’m exhausted today,” Error admitted.

“Hm, too tired even for sex? I’ve heard that it’s relaxing and recuperating.”

“Well, aren’t you a horny little thing? After all that fighting and arguing — straight to sex?”

“And why not? And we weren’t arguing, we were defending our points of view. Besides… Ah, who cares! I’ll ask later. Let me heal you — and myself too, actually.”

While the brush worked on his broken bones, Error stared at his lover with thoughtfulness of a maniac. He had an idea, but wasn’t sure of its realization.

“Heh, remember how you played hide-and-seek with me? Tied me up with a scarf and let me tag you. It was interesting,” the destroyer admitted, looking at Ink slyly. The guardian was just about finished with painting over the wounds.

“You want a repeat, or…”

“I want to play a different game. A game of tag. And I promise to tag roughly.” Seeing confusion in the artist’s face, Error called, “Ink?”

“Uh, what?”

“Run.”

“I don’t understa…”

“Run.”

Something clicked in the artist’s head. He smiled, turned around and ran as fast as his legs would allow him.

Chapter Text

Chasing each other wasn’t something new for the two of them. When Ink drank red paint, Error preferred to avoid fighting him for at least the first five minutes and ran. When the destroyer had to be led away from Nightmare’s gang or a victim, the guardian was the one running. Sometimes both of them tried to lure each other into an advantageous territory.

But they had never run from each other for fun. The hot kind of fun.

That imposed some restrictions. They couldn’t injure each other. Bruises and scratches were okay, but broken bones were off limits — that could ruin the moment. Magic? Ink wasn’t sure what magic he could use in this scenario — just the ink shield, perhaps? Error, however, had strings he could use to catch him. Not fair!

As such, the odds were unequal.

The guardian sprinted, not giving a single thought to where he was going, and the monotony of the forest surprised him: the trees looked copy-pasted, giving no hint of where you came from and if you had been here before.

Ink zigzagged like a terrified rabbit. He thought he saw a dark shadow behind him — but, no, it wasn’t a trick of his eyes, though the shadow didn’t follow behind him; it came from above.

“Gotcha!” Error leaped onto his victim off a branch like a predator.

“Ack!” The guardian dodged and threw himself behind a tree, expecting a magical attack. When it didn’t come, he continued to zigzag between the tree-trunks.

“You won’t get away!”

Error picked the strategy of a big cat: he used strings to pull himself onto the tree branches, followed the artist and, whenever Ink slowed down a bit, leaped down onto him. For now, he kept missing on purpose: Ink had to be well worn-out before consumption.

The artist was breathing heavily, exhausted yet grinning. He hadn’t had that much fun in ages. And all that, despite the horror movie atmosphere that surrounded them: faded autumn leaves, bare trees, black night and blood moon. By now Ink understood that his choice of strategy made him easily trackable by the rustle of leaves, but he didn’t even consider rectifying that. On the contrary, he made sure to make even more noise.

“I’ll find you wherever you are,” was what he heard as he was swooped off the ground.

“Error!” the guardian shouted indignantly, hanging in the strings.

“What?” The destroyer gave him a pleased grin.

“You haven’t caught me yet!” A smile in response, and the paintbrush drew a halo. The cut strings fell to the ground together with the freed Ink.

The game of tag continued, but Ink was already out of breath, and Error was still ready to perform.

“Uh-oh, I think you’re tired. Time to rid you of all things that weigh you down.”

The strings blocked the artist’s path again, and he struck at them, only this time Broomy got stuck in the webbing.

“Gotcha!”

Shrieking, Ink left the brush in the spiderweb of strings and ran on. Only a hundred meters later did he notice his paint sash missing as well.

“Error! Are you trying to undress me?”

“Yep!”

This time he wasn’t able to dodge the surprise attack, and Ink was pinned, his back flat to the ground.

Their breaths were heavy, bodies sweating, and eyes shining bright. The kiss turned out scalding-hot, demanding, full of impatience and sweet anticipation.

Ink didn’t resist when his lover pulled the clothes off him, ripping the fabric in his haste. Any attempts to remind of the paint were swallowed with greedy kisses. That pushed all the stray thoughts out of his mind and left him only the haze of passion, which left the artist barely coherent. His body responded, sung to the one playing on it like an instrument tuned to its master’s hand.

Error leaned over the bare lover. He felt in control and intended to make full use of it — but not like last time, when he just pushed the guardian over and vented all his stress. He wanted to make his lover scream in bliss and ask for more.

This time the sight of Ink alone was enough to turn him on: his burning eyes, his naked tattooed body, his submissiveness and heavy breathing.

Uncertainly, the destroyer moved down.

Unbelieving that Error decided to give something like that a try, Ink spread his legs and watch in astonishment as the black skeleton took his magic into his mouth. Even without the pink paint, Ink’s whole face, from his chin to the top of his head, was flooded with blush. The artist even bit on his finger from the overabundance of feelings, afraid that he might ruin the moment with his inky vomit.

“Ah! Error! Mh! Stars!”

When the destroyer broke away from the unfamiliar task, he saw something beyond anything imaginable: Ink was burning with bashfulness. Always so confident in bed, he now looked like everything was happening to him for the first time.

The paint, Error realized. He hasn’t had any. That means everything will be a little different for him this time. But he said he feels almost nothing without it and gets way less gratification. Which means I’d better put more effort into this.

A victorious smile graced his face, and he pulled the artist into a kiss.

“Am I doing it right…?”

Without breaking the kiss, Ink led the destroyer’s hand to his hips and shuddered: saliva wasn’t the best replacement for lubricant — but, goddamit, he didn’t care!

“Yes… yes, you’re doing everything right,” Ink wheezed through heavy breathing. He barely held himself back from clinging to his lover and pressing close — but “errors” appeared at the faintest of touches, so Ink had to remember to be careful.

“You’re impatient.” The destroyer licked his teeth. The artist, arching, pushed himself onto his fingers and threw his head back, showing off the deceptively fragile-looking neck.

Error licked his teeth again and did something he had wanted to do for a long while. He bit into Ink’s neck. A long moan was his reward.

Bite, give it a lick, bite down again, lick around the bone and leave another bite mark, all the while working his fingers and bringing mind-numbing pleasure.

“Er — ah! — ror — you…”

“Shhh.” The glitch pressed a finger to his lover’s jaw only to pull it away a moment later. Glitches got in the way of lingering touches.

String wrapped around the nearest tree trunks and tightened, pulling the guardian’s legs apart and lifting his hips just a little bit to open up a wonderful view.

Amazed with Error’s boldness, Ink forgot about the paint and what could happened when he went through strong emotions without drinking it — said to hell with it! He craved for his passionate lover’s show of dominance over himself, resonated with Error’s emotions and lost himself in them like a straw in the ocean.

Ink was moaning so loud, he should’ve been surprised how every AU’s inhabitant hadn’t heard him yet. He arched so hard that only the top of his head touched the ground, hooked his fingers into the forest turf until they hurt. His eyelights got stuck in the shape of shivering souls.

He felt unbearably good, and Error did too.

The destroyer was suffocating from the sensations and the overwhelming desire to hear more of the cries, more of the moans, more of… everything. He bent forward, their chests touching, but the glitches couldn’t keep him from attending to the artist’s neck again.

Ink wasn’t moaning anymore, he was screaming his lover’s name, unable to hold back from curling his fingers around the black spine. Mouth wide open, he shook from the maddening sensations. His eyes went dark. In his chest, a darkness swirled, seemingly growing darker still. Like a black hole, it absorbed the light that Error’s soul gave off, taking it for itself.

The strings came loose and let Ink embrace the destroyer with his legs, press their bodies together, like Error was the only source of warmth in the cold world. The desired one.

Their last motions were ragged. Error was shuddering, he could barely breathe, Ink’s embrace didn’t give him enough space, his eyesight got misted. The body below him arched as much as possible, moved to meet his motion, and breath caught in his throat.

The sharp pleasure made him utter a victorious scream and fall on top of his lover, all worn out.

Their breathing was slowly winding down, and, despite all the touching, there were no glitches to be seen on Error yet. Ink couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

“Can I… be on top for a little bit?” he asked.

Error squinted at him. The destroyer felt satiated, but if his partner wasn’t yet, then Error wasn’t good enough in the leading role. He shrugged, a little upset over it.

Ink immediately climbed on top of him and straddled him.

“Gotta do this before you start glitching. I’ve wanted to do this for a while.”

Expecting something a little bit different, Error was about to ask what the artist had in mind, when he felt a firm grip on his scapula. The flat bone was kneaded, caressed, then the touch moved to the cervical vertebrae and did something similar. Then came the other scapula…

Every bone, no matter how small or fragile, was lovingly caressed by Ink, practically sculpted under the gentle fingers. From the shoulders, down to the sharp spine to the lumbar, then the hips — bringing forth a wave of faint moans and almost a second turning him on again — lower yet, to the tips of the toes…

“Wow, I could pick you up and kiss you on the nose right now. Damn, you’re so relaxed!”

“Uh-hum,” the very pleased monster hummed in reply. For the first time in his life someone gave him a massage.

Ink continued to sit on top like a victor, but he didn’t feel like one. He was more nervous than anything. Error wasn’t the only one keeping secrets. The dark matter in the artist’s chest continued to swirl like a sated snake: it had never been fed quite this much. Ink hoped that Error didn’t understand just what he’d seen during their passionate escapade — or didn’t care about it enough. Because if he found out about that peculiarity of the guardian, he’d surely think of him as the most fake and disgusting creature in the Multiverse.

Chapter Text

As it happened more than once, Error went off the radar again. To many people’s surprise, Cross appeared on that radar instead, made sure everyone was alive and left with Dream to attend to some business of theirs. Ink could imagine in detail just what that business was, but he had no intention of getting into others’ affairs. He had enough to deal with on his own.

The heated meeting left the guardian just about as happy as he was sad. He wasn’t going to share his little secret with the destroyer and didn’t want him to find out about it either. The thought that Error must not have realized what he had seen was reassuring.

Life went back to being peaceful and quiet, rarely spiced up by the small raids of “nightmares” and Fresh’s messes. Twice the artist felt like Error breached the code of this universe or that one, but whenever he got to the crime scene he never found the destroyer at there, and the tiny code warnings barely looked like his doing.

That’s how it went, day in and day out. Until one day the mediocrity was broken by an unexpected guest.

 

Ink was wrong to think that the conflict with Reaper was over.

“Ink!” Dream burst into Ruintale, almost falling on top of the artist. “Come to Overtale, now. Error and Reaper are there, and they’re fighting. To the death!”

The last word hit Ink like a ton of bricks. Were he told that Error was fighting Nightmare, Killer or Dust — or even Cross — the guardian would have just lazily waved it off. However, Reaper had always been the strongest of Sanses. The meaning of his very existence was to take others’ lives away, so a serious fight with him could only end in defeat. A full stop at the end of life’s sentence.

“Stars! Error! Has he been to Aftertale again?” Ink asked, running.

“No.” Dream followed a step behind.

“And he hasn’t visited Geno in the Save Screen?”

“Didn’t you feel anything?”

“No, nothing!”

“Maybe, that’s revenge for the previous attack?”

“He does it discreetly: makes it slow and painful. Tearing off heads as vengeance isn’t his style!”

Overtale looked like insanity feels.

Two most powerful monsters tore the world apart in their attempts to kill each other, and it was Reaper who attacked, while Error mostly stayed on the defensive. His attacks gave off the feeling of hopelessness. All the destruction was physical, with no damage to the code, which is why Ink hadn’t felt something was off.

Dream, however, felt the growing negativity of the AU’s natives to the fullest. The poor people ran, hid in whatever nooks they could find and cried over those killed.

Reaper stood on top of a bell tower and, like a terrifying gargoyle, stared down at his prey, who held himself up with strings.

“Reaper! Error! Stop!” Ink tried to call to their reason. But neither of them responded.

A swing of the scythe, blocked with bones. The web of strings is ripped, and the destroyer falls towards the ground. He isn’t afraid to fall. With a practiced motion he summons more strings and stops before hitting the ground. Then he runs, using a giant blaster skull for cover.

Blaster’s bone shards fly like bullets, and their hits are just as painful. Reaper is cornering the prey with hopelessness and pain, getting ready to land the finishing blow.

Ink knows he won’t be able to intervene in time.

“No!” he screams, voice full of despair.

He didn’t have the time to intervene. But someone else did.

A blue crack formed in between the destroyer and the god of death. Both jerked away from it like it was poison. The crack ran off through the world thinning out to the size of a needle point at its end. And it started at the feet of a very familiar skeleton.

He wore simple clothing: shorts, a t-shirt and a blue scarf. The last detail was what caught the eye. Ink and Dream knew a small skeleton who donned the exact same scarf — his just wasn’t as worn. That friend of theirs also had the exact same smile, and his eye-sockets had exactly the same starry eyelights in them.

“Blue?”

But that couldn’t have been him.The tall, mature skeleton couldn’t have been their friend — the tiny joyful taco-lover.

Dream clung on to Ink, holding him back. The keeper of dreams could feel the emotions of everyone present, and earlier he found Reaper’s boiling rage scary, but now he was shaking under the outstanding resentment of the newcomer. The stranger was dangerous, and the crack he’d left in the world, that, apparently, took him to effort to make, was the evidence of just that. The other such evidence was the emotions the god of death went through: he got scared, stepped away and put the scythe in between himself and the stranger.

That’s when the stranger introduced himself:

“Do you know why they call me Bluescreen? Because everywhere I go,” blue glitches spread from the feet of the grown-up Blueberry, filling the crack with uniform blue matter, “you will only see a blue screen. And nothing else.” His smile was cold.

The world of Overtale was slowly falling apart, filled with the blue “nothing” like a vessel held in a firm grip. It was disappearing.

Making use of the interruption, Error created a portal and left to the relative safety of it.

“Stop!!!” Reaper came back to his senses and followed the prey into the Anti-Void.

“Double the idiots — double the problems! Where do you think you’re going?!” The stranger, who had Blue’s appearance, dove into the crack he’d made.

The only ones left in the ruined Overtale were its terrified inhabitants, Dream, and Ink — all of them confused.

Ink just about entered a portal, stopped, swore and started to put Overtale back into proper order. Fighting the fatal code error, that turned everything into blue nothing, turned out to be way harder than restoring the code after Error’s visits. All the guardian could do was stop the spreading of the blue plague.

“Dream, find monster-Frisk and have her reset everything. And I… I’ll find out what’s going on.”

Ink painted over empty space with his brush and slipped into the Anti-Void through the inky portal. By the time he got there, the arguing was going full-force. Despite the artist’s expectations, the skeletons weren’t fighting. They put their full strength into screaming at each other.

“You killed him!” was what left Reaper’s mouth most often — not counting the swears.

“I wasn’t even there!” was what Error was unconvincingly fighting back with.

“Shut up, you two!” The one calling himself Bluescreen stood between the two of them. “Or I’ll make the Void empty for real!”

Ink didn’t feel like his presence was necessary — if anything, it could make things even worse. He couldn’t take one side or the other, and he didn’t understand what exactly was going on. And, dammit, who was that stranger, who looked so much like Blue?!

Reaper took up his scythe again — a promise of the fight renewing. But then, far off in the misty white haze one more figure appeared.

That was… Geno?

The skeleton had white clothing, a red tattered scarf and a glitch over the eye — nothing else could be made out from the distance. But Ink knew of no one else who’d fit such a description, and neither did Reaper.

The god of death lost his interest in arguing or fighting, staring only at the distant figure that suddenly turned and ran.

“Geno? Geno!!! Stop!!!” Reaper chased after the prisoner of the Save Screen. He didn’t wonder how he got free or why he hadn’t dusted, only worried about catching up. He couldn’t let Geno get away.

Bluescreen watched the god leave then turned to Ink, gave him a chilly blue-eyed look and stepped out of the way, letting the artist see the pitiful state the destroyer was in.

Error looked awful: bones mottled with cracks, right shoulder nicked by the scythe, arms and legs sporting a lot of abrasions from successful blocks. There was a blade wound on his chest and cracks covered his skull. One of them crossed his left eye-socket, and the eyelight inside wasn’t glowing.

“Error?”

“Go away!” the destroyer snarled.

“Just grab that piece of idiot and take him home.” Bluescreen crossed his arms over his chest.

“You too!” the destroyer growled at him. “Leave me alone!”

Ink didn’t like the growing puddle of blood at Error’s feet, and he was ready to follow the stranger’s advice and go pick Error up. The glitch could complain as much as he wanted as long as he survived.

“Hit him on the head, that’ll make him more agreeable,” Bluescreen continued to supply “valuable” advice.

“Oh, shut up, you!” Error swung at the advisor and started to fall over.

Ink managed to get to him in time to hold him up. The destroyer tensed and tried to get away.

“Let’s do it this way: I won’t ask any questions, and you’ll let me heal you. Deal?”

Thankfully, the permission was granted: Error nodded. He also gave Bluescreen such a look that he didn’t even offer to accompany the two, only stomped and dove into the resulting blue crack.

It was clear that the newly-discovered Bluescreen and the conflict Ink had witnessed were a part of the secret that was kept from him. The artist held the wounded destroyer tighter and knew that he wouldn’t let him go until he got some answers.

Chapter Text

The state Error was in turned out to be even worse than it seemed at first glance. Apparently, Reaper chased the destroyer around for a long while, because he had the time to break almost every bone in his body.

“Stars,” Ink breathed out, staring at this “beauty”. “Did he torture you or something?”

“Almost,” Error wheezed in response. It took Error a little while to understand that he was in the artist’s bedroom, lying on the bed he knew so well. Naked.

Ink didn’t risk it and just erased the destroyer’s clothes. Now he was at a loss, seeing all the work cut out for him and not knowing what bone to start with.

“Is he still mad about your latest visit to Aftertale? I thought you’d parted pretty peacefully back then.”

Error was slow to answer. As if picking the right words to use.

“Geno got away from him,” he said, “and that idiot blamed me, thinking I’d killed him, and refused to listen to anything I said. But you saw it yourself: Geno’s in the Anti-Void.”

Ink remembered the distant blurry figure. Yes, it looked like Geno: the white clothes, the red scarf and the familiar glitch over one eye — and he took off the moment he saw the god of death. But how did he manage to leave the Save Screen without dying? He couldn’t, could he? He had tried more than once, and he wasn’t able to. It’s no surprise that, when he’d actually managed that, Reaper assumed the worst and lashed out at the destroyer as the most likely perpetrator.

“I see. Well. Glad you’re answering questions. Could you answer a couple more?”

“You can do without…”

“And you can do without painkillers!” Ink snapped in return. “Sorry, but I need to realign the bones before I can paint over them. You can take it, right?”

“Do I have a choice?” Error had a coughing fit, staining a pillow with redness.

That only served to make the guardian fret even more. If he had a soul, he would’ve been shaking and shuddering hysterically. However, he knew: the black skeleton was way tougher than he looked. In the past, the two of them often brought their fights to way worse outcomes — yet here they were, still alive. And so the artist took a gamble: he put their relationship on the line and used this chance to get some answers.

“So, who was that? I’m talking about the skeleton who looks like Blue,” Ink asked, pushing an arm bone into place so quickly and precisely that the glitches barely had the time to appear. Crack!

Error clenched his teeth and hissed, “You’ve promised. No questions.”

The brush ran over the crack, and the paint hissed, soldering the broken bone.

“Sorry, I’m just trying to keep the conversation going. But I’ve got so many questions on my mind by now, that they’re the only thing I want to talk about. So who was that skeleton?”

Crack!

Error stared at the artist with a hint of fear.

“Ink, are you torturing me?”

“Why would you think that? I’m just healing you,” Ink responded with a maniacal grin, put the brush to the side and — again, crack! A leg bone took its proper place. The destroyer’s breathing grew heavy. “So, are you going to answer the question?”

“Go to Hell!”

Crack! The pelvis was whole again. The binding paint flowed down the flat bones.

“Don’t pass out, Error. It’s not like you! You’ve always been good at dealing with pain.”

“Fuck you!”

“Of course, but only after you answer my questions. What kind of a universal secret you’re hiding, if you’ve managed to talk people into hiding if from me too? Even Core Frisk is in on it — and they hate you.”

Crack! A rib on the right side became whole.

Error couldn’t take it anymore and whined, “I don’t have to answer. And I won’t,” hoarsely, quietly, unconvincingly.

“That’s a pity. But I still need to finish healing you.”

Crack! A rib on the left side returned to its former shape. The brush painted over the cracks.

“Aaah!” Error couldn’t hold back a scream. “That’s enough, asshole!”

“There are still your neck and skull left, and I still don’t have a single answer!”

“Ink, that’s enough!”

“I would think not. Healing should never be left unfinished!”

“Ink!!!.........”

The last of the injuries were healed.

“There! And you just had to keep acting like a little ba… Error?”

The black skeleton looked unconscious, but the eyelights were still shining in his eye-sockets. His soul’s pulse was slow and sluggish, his bones were cold and covered in sweat, and his whole body was shaking.

Cursing himself, Ink flew out the room and returned with a pack of painkillers and a glass of water. Quickly grinding the pills between his fingers, he stirred the resulting power into the water and held Error’s head up, helping him drink the medicine.

“Drink. Come on, come on. There. Good. Small sips.”

The destroyer made the last few sips reflexively, passing out.

Ink sat on the floor beside the bed, cursing himself — he even drank some red paint just for the occasion. And then he added some white, which he barely ever touched, to make himself shake, horrified at the evil he had committed. That was thoughtless and cruel of him, and he had a growing suspicion that Error wouldn’t forgive him for that. So Ink dreaded the moment his enemy woke up.

Luckily or not, but an hour passed, then another, and the destroyer was still passed out. The painkiller doubled as a sleeping pill. That gave Ink enough time to recover — and even find a way to justify the cruel healing.

Once he calmed down, he called Dream. He checked out the AUs and confirmed Ink’s guess: Reaper really did chase the destroyer around the universes for a while; the two were seen in many of them. Where he ended up after the fight and where Geno had gone to — remained a mystery.

Involuntarily, Ink’s thoughts went to the relationship Geno and Reaper shared. He stayed out of it, but when he saw the downtrodden and nervous glitch, he tried to help him. Turned out, it wasn’t in his power to drag the glitch out of his prison, and when Reaper found out about his good intentions, turned out, it wasn’t his business either.

Error mentioned that Geno was a toy to Reaper — the most favorite toy, judging by the god’s behavior.

What a bizarre love to have. Ink caught himself thinking he would have settled even for something as odd as that — if that meant he’d be able to love.

The mood was ruined, and, as if to mock him, right at that moment someone invaded his part of the Anti-Void. And that someone wasn’t Dream. The code was practically cut thought to make an entrance.

Picking up his paintbrush and taking a sip of red paint, Ink readied for a fight. However, the unknown world-hacker knocked at the door like a civil person.

Readying ink for attack as he slowly came up to the door, Ink asked:

“Who’s there?”

“Death!” The answer almost costed the stranger a bone to the head. “Don’t you get what a joke is?!” Reaper cried indignantly and looked inside the house through the resulting hole in the door.

“You’ve given me reasons to be wary.” Ink stared back at the visitor through that same hole. “What do you want?”

“Open the door. It’s kind of awkward to be talking through the door, stuck at the doorstep.”

“With you, that’s the best way to talk. That you and vampires have in common.”

Reaper faltered. He clearly didn’t want to reveal the reason for his visit right away.

“Still, I insist. Maybe you could invite me in, and we’ll drink some tea and talk in private. Or are you not alone?”

“I’m not alone.”

“Is Error there?”

The tone of his voice clued Ink in on what the dancing around the subject was all about. The god of death was searching for the destroyer.

“Supposing he is,” the guardian chose not to lie, “ so what?”

“I need to talk to him.”

“After you’ve broken all of his bones, he’s in no state to talk.”

“I want to know where Geno is!” Reaper blew up.

“Reaper!” Ink was losing his patience, and his eyelights turned into a crosshair and a skull. “I don’t know where your — whoever he is to you — is! And it’s not my job to search for missing anomalies!”

“Then get out of the way! I’ll ask the glitchy ass!” the god of death hissed.

“Screw you! That glitchy ass is my prisoner!”

“Having fun with him?” Reaper tried a different approach, attempting to get under Ink’s skin. However, he didn’t expect the reaction he got.

Ink put on one of his most frightening faces. A dark emptiness with empty streaks running down the chin took the place of a smile. The eyes turned to bottomless wells. The darkness that sat where other beings had souls, thickened and seemed to move forward, reaching out through the clothes.

“Yep! Care to join us?”

Reaper jerked away and held his scythe up in defence. The god of death completely forgot just how scary of a creature the normally nice and easygoing guardian could be.

“Dammit, Ink!”

“Why not ask yourself: Just what have you done to Geno to make escaping into the Anti-Void worth the risk? And, may I remind you, we’ve all seen him. You failed to catch up to him? That’s your problem! And Error is mine, and that problem is lying in bed like a good boy and not causing any problems for anyone else! And when he does, I solve them instead of dragging others into this shit!!!” Ink snarled the last part of it, then ran the brush over the hole, sealing it off.

Only after feeling Reaper leave did he walk away from the door and to the couch.

He couldn’t calm down for a while. Even the green paint — that let him be surprised at his behavior — and yellow one — that let him celebrate the fight-less victory — didn’t give him peace of mind.

 

A call from the second floor made him just up and hurry upstairs.

“Are you awake?” asked the artist, as if that question needed answering. “Sorry for the…”

“Unbind me!” Error demanded, rattling his “jewelry”.

Ink chose not to take any risks and, unlike with their erotic game, secured the destroyer to the bed with chains.

“Sorry.”

“I’m not in the mood for sex.” Error jerked. The chains rattled.

“Me neither,” the guardian replied sadly.

“Heh,” the destroyer sneered. “Who am I now: a guest or a prisoner?”

“A prisoner for now. We’ll see how it goes. I like you better as a lover.” Ink allowed himself a smile.

Error fixed him with an angry glare and fell back onto the pillows with a heavy sigh. His body still hurt. He could neither fight, nor get out of the chains. Things weren’t in his favor.

“Great,” he huffed.

“So will you answer my questions? As a prisoner?”

“Or what? You’ll re-break my bones and heal them again? Huh? You sadist!”

A barely noticeable blush covered Ink’s face, and he looked away:

“I guess, I should apologize for that, but I won’t. After all, I didn’t promise to heal you. Yet I do. Didn’t promise to take you to my house. Yet I do. Didn’t promise you comfort. Yet you’re in bed and almost in full health. The only thing we’ve agreed on were short meetings to satisfy our carnal desires.”

“And I remember that, unlike you!” the destroyer said tiredly, staring at the ceiling. He was trying to find a way out of this situation, and he kept the conversation going to play for time. “How about you explain why you keep doing that? Why are you showing me kindness that we haven’t agreed upon. Are you trying to gain my trust?”

“No.” Ink shook his head, move a chair closer to the head of the bed and sat down so that Error could see him better. “I’m doing what I think is right.”

“And right now you think it’s right to force answers out of me?” the destroyer huffed. The artist sighed heavily and nodded. Error snarled, “Even if I break off our relationship after this?”

Ink looked down and clenched his teeth.

“Do you have to use our relationship as a bargaining chip every time? It’s fragile as it is.” He paused, then asked again, “So are you going to answer? Just one question? I have thousands of them by now.”

“Then ask, and I’ll think about it.”

“Who’s Bluescreen?”

“Haven’t you guessed yet? Well, if you haven’t then go find him and ask!” the destroyer offered with a smirk, which infuriated the guardian.

“Stop dodging the question! I don’t want to chase down Void-knows-who, considering how neatly and quickly he can destroy universes. I have no desire to get on his bad side and then deal with the consequences.

“So I’m asking you. Who is he? I could ask Reaper. He came searching for you, so you owe me for saving your neck. Again!” Ink almost roared in indignation. “It’s ridiculous! Tell me about this secret of yours at least! And I won’t ask you today about whatever you’re hiding together with Fresh, Sci and Core!”

Error’s eyelights went out for a moment. He didn’t expect the guardian to go so far in his amateurish investigation. On the other hand, Error now had an idea how to get out from under the mountain of Ink’s questions. He could tell a part of the truth and use it to conceal the rest. He just needed to keep one thing a secret. Everything else didn’t matter.

“Okay,” he started. “I’ll tell you who Bluescreen is and why his existence was hidden from you — or, rather, from everyone.”

“Let me guess, because he’s a destroyer too?”

“No, not just that.” Error smirked and tugged at the chains. They rattled obnoxiously. “Because he appeared in an unusual way… Unchain me. I’m tired of lying down.”

“Nope. Finish answering first, my friend. How did that guy appear? And where did he come from?”

That’s when Error’s patience ran out, “Stars! You’re talking as if you’ve met everyone in the Multiverse! Just…” He almost choked on his breath out of sheer indignation. “You have no idea how many psychos crawl around the universes. I doubt you know even a third of them. Heh, speaking of, the ones I’ve met you’ll never get to see. Though there are a few that have escaped me.

“Frisk, for example. Did you know there’s Gaster Frisk? She talked Blaster Papyrus and G, that’s Gaster Sans, into participating in her shenanigans. They travel to the worlds that have problems with their Pacifist route and beat the shit out of Charas.

“And there’s also Merisk — a very strange one. Thought they were from Freshtale the first time I saw them. They’re very colourful — and get along with Fresh just fine, by the way.

“And so many Gasters have crawled out into the Void — that sure is a number. I don’t have nearly enough string to make that many puppets. And that’s not to mention all the Floweys that escaped their timelines.

“Do you want me to go on? Because you look like your mind’s blown.”

Ink just sat there, eye-sockets wide and hands curled into tight fists. The magic in his chest boiled in place of the non-existent brain. Turned out, there was so much he didn’t know. He hadn’t met so many interesting characters.

“Oka-a-ay. I get it. I’m way behind the times. Bogged down in my work… And you’re getting off the point.” Ink was clutching his head, while Error glitchily laughed at the guardian’s reaction. “Now, back to the subject at hand. I mean Bluescreen. He looked so much like Blue, but his ability to destroy the worlds is horrifying. He just appeared and — bam! — cracks and ruin everywhere! Where was he hiding and why haven’t I heard of him before? If he’s a destroyer, like you are, then why doesn’t he rip apart a world every day? I don’t get it!”

“He doesn’t get it, he doesn’t know, he’s horrified!” Error mocked him. “It’s easy. That guy is Blue!”

Chapter Text

The black skeleton put out his eyelights. He remembered how heavy a blow meeting Bluescreen was — what memories it resurrected and what stupid things it made him do to himself.

 

Back then life seemed seemed simple and clear to Error. He had a goal. No, an intrusive, mine-enveloping idea to destroy all alternate universes! And he followed it like a robot with one single program installed. But very soon he grew bored.

Boredom was allayed when he met the guardian of the Multiverse.

Error could remember their first meeting well. The strongest emotion he got out of it was… fear.

That came out of nowhere, huh?

He confidently fought with another error, marvelled at its strength and almost won. Only a while later did he realize: he was being toyed with, studied. It seemed that the burning stare of the shape-changing eyelights saw right through him, saw his very core.

It was time to end this!

The destroyer reached beyond the white bones with strings and… didn’t find a soul. At first, Error didn’t believe it — couldn’t believe it.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” the guardian laughed at his reaction.

Years later those words would sound like an eerie, painful self-irony, and that laughter, which hurt Error’s pride back then, he would see in a new light — as fake through and through. No soul, no emotions, a goal.

We’re similar!

Error had a soul, had emotions that he tried hard to ignore and had a goal that he continued to work towards.

Destroying universes became harder with such a devoted enemy.

Everything repeated with admirable regularity. He destroyed. Ink saved. And then…

It became boring again. The monotony was tiring, and Error started toying with the AUs: he’d destroy a world by erasing just one line of code, or he’d kill everyone and only then destroy everything, or he’d find the person responsible for resets and destroy them, or he’d find the Sans to find out just how different the two of them were.

That last one turned into a peculiar hobby.

Error dragged his alternative versions to the Anti-Void, where he would put him to a slow and painful death. Afterwards, left behind were the dust and the memory of the person he had killed. But his memory could not reliably keep all of those memories. So the destroyer started to give the memories a physical form: he knitted puppets, dressed them into the next victim’s clothes and used the dust as filling.

Every puppet was an urn, a button-eyed gravestone — a frightening likeness of a person now gone. Soon there were a lot of them. They lay on the floor and in the hammock and hung on the ceiling, scaring “future victims” to the point of passing out.

But then it stopped being enough.

Like an ungreased machine, he struggled, realizing he couldn’t cope with the workload. The number of AUs wasn’t getting any smaller, but the number of puppets grew. The puppets repeated: the universes resurrected — not without some help from Ink, the guardian of the Multiverse, the only person who could fight him as equal in an honest — or not so much — fight…

Until Error killed him.

After that, something snapped in him. The machine broke down completely.

Perhaps, that’s why the black skeleton had trouble going back to the usual pace of his work and held Swap Sans — called Blue — captive for three days.

The white skeleton was amusing, cute, kind and talkative. Basically, he belonged to the kind of people whom Error killed without hesitation just to avoid listening to their whining and begging. But the odd thing was that the destroyer didn’t want silence. So he’d keep Blue with him — not for long, just a couple more days.

Only Error had never kept anyone in his Anti-Void for so long before, and he didn’t know what could happen.

And what happened was a reset — one just like dozens before it. Only Blue was missing when the universe reset, and he had to disappear from the Anti-Void to return home.

Error saw glitches cover his prisoner. Blue screamed in blinding pain and squirmed on the “floor” like a worm. He wasn’t just dying, he was breaking into code that trickled out into his home world.

The destroyer had never seen anything like that before, and he tried to stop the victim from leaving his home.

That was a grave mistake.

Strings wrapped around Blue and started to interact with his code: restore, rewrite, complete — trying to keep him in the Anti-Void.

Error had never wondered where he’d learned to change code, destroy it and interact with it, and he wasn’t ready to find out the answer. But what had happened to Blue jogged his memory.

Blue’s code stopped trickling out, and the reality of Underswap had to make do with only half of the data. It was enough to create a new Blue, one much younger than the original — the one who lived in that world to this day.

What happened to the half that got left behind in the Anti-Void was much more interesting.

Error jerked away from the ball of glitches that poor Swap had turned into — a defective set of codes with parts missing here, there and everywhere.

The same had happened to him. Happened? Something like that that had happened to him? Cutting into his soul were memories that couldn’t have been his. But they were.

While Error handled the memories that came out of nowhere, Blue managed to get up.

“What’s happened to me?” he said in a horribly glitchy voice of a disfigured mechanism. “What have you done to me?”

Error didn’t know how to respond. He froze in an image of terror and watched as the thing that Blue had become tumbled around the void, blinded and scared. The booted feet stomped the “floor”, breaking it. The cracks spread, showing blueness full of numbers and letters, and Swap fell into it.

Finally, the destroyer pulled himself together and rushed after the escapee. What he saw next remained carved into his memory for a long time to come.

Blue stood on his knees in the middle of a young world. He held his hands up to the sky and whispered something, like a prayer. Chaos spread around him. The young skeleton was the epicenter of the plague that swept over the world and broke it, broke its code into pieces and drowned them in the pure blue of death. Where a universe should have been, there was only a blue screen left.

The only thing the black skeleton could do was grab the newly-created destroyer and drag him back to his Anti-Void. The world of the blue screen was crunching and cracking as it collapsed behind their backs, leaving a hole into nothingness behind. It wasn’t at all how Error’s destruction was. The remaining hole seemed to bleed until it healed over.

Blue got his shit back together… relatively got his shit back together a few hours later. The glitches on his body subsided, and he stopped looking like Geno’s bastard child. Blue questioned Error about what had happened, tried to get any answers at all, but the destroyer seemed to go into shock: he didn’t speak, didn’t react to touches even — he just sat and stared at one spot.

Not restrained anymore, Swap tried to return home. He managed to open a window, just like one of Error’s, and looked through only to find out he didn’t have a home anymore. A tiny skeleton with a blue scarf was now Papyrus’s brother, replacing Swap.

He was replaced.

Blue cried and cried, until he saw a human come to that universe. The memories of prior resets came back to him! Good or bad endings — it didn’t matter! His brother and him were suffering! He was killed! They were killed!

Blue managed to open a portal. He almost infected his home world with blueness upon stepping inside, but he had just enough time to get hold of the human and drag them to the Void. Underswap would never have to face a reset again!

Blue hid away the human, made them his prisoner. He called himself Bluescreen and chose the Save Screen of Underswap as his dwelling to stay close to his loved ones and watch them live their lives. Sadly, that’s all he could do, since he couldn’t step into the world without damaging it.

After getting the hang of his powers, Screen went to pay Error a visit. The young skeleton held no hatred for the destroyer, since the kidnapping gave him a chance to help his home universe. But he was in no hurry to offer his thanks either. He just wanted to make sure Error had recovered.

Turned out, he didn’t… Error remembered more of his past, and that broke him.

For the first time, Error considered ending his life without finishing his destructive mission.

“I’ll tell you something, and you’ll agree that I’m better off dead.”

 

Error remembered everything in minute details: the fear the two of them shared, the stupid decisions of the days that followed, the truth coming to the surface — and he smirked. He already knew how to present this story to the curious Ink.

“I’m guessing, you’ve heard the story of how I kidnapped Blue?” Getting a nod, Error continued, “Well then. Usually, I kill people like him and fill puppets with their dust. But Blue was amusing, cute and talkative. And all his talking got me distracted! So I kept him around for company.

“Then a reset happened in his universe,” Error made a pause for dramatic effect. “I saw something that I’ve only ever seen in Geno’s Save Screen. Blue was all covered in glitches, senseless and… he had to fall apart into code. Die. Cease to exist and return back home. But, of course,” the destroyer looked away, “I did something stupid. I tried to keep him there. My victim, mine, no touchy!

“And his code split in half. One half went to Underswap and became baby Blue. And the other… became Bluescreen. Not immediately. He stayed with me for a while. I… regretted playing a part in creating something like him. And… that’s why I helped him… and kept his existence a secret… asked — nicely or not — everyone to keep quiet… There aren’t that many who know about him.”

“And you’ve made it into a secret?”

“We did!” the destroyer confirmed. “Imagine what would happen if Nightmare found out about a way to add people to his army. Or Cross — who, mind you, still suffers from loneliness but refuses to join the ranks of the world-less. And here he’d get an opportunity to replace his friends without any of his zombie tricks! And who knows just how many other bastards the Anti-Void holds! Well, or people who’d wish to become world-travellers without taking a dip in the Core.”

Ink thought about it. He tried piecing the facts together, but something just didn’t add up.

“You were scared of Blue when you saw him in Chocotale. Does that mean you’re afraid of Bluescreen? But why did he come to your rescue then?”

“I’m not scared of him!” Error resented the assumption. “He’s unstable, get it? The only world he’s looking out for is Underswap, and he makes sure its inhabitants are safe. But if someone in his family — Sans or Papyrus — gets hurt, he loses his head. You should’ve seen my Anti-Void after one of his fits! I bet he’d be able to destroy it even! That’s why I made my escape back then.”

“So you’re enemies?”

“No. We get along.”

“Wow! You have a friend?” That was no less surprising than the secrets.

“We’re not friends,” Error rejected the notion. “We just don’t try to kill each other — as long as I stay away from Underswap. Yes, he doesn’t come out of hiding often. His code is unstable, and sometimes it doesn’t agree with itself. For example, he could be stuck in the shape of a couple of glitches on the Anti-Void’s ceiling. I’d guess, that’s the state he’s in right now. He’s spent a lot of power on getting involved where he wasn’t wanted.”

“I see. So that’s what everyone was hiding from me? A method of creating mega-destroyers?” Ink smirked and whispered, “I don’t believe you, but I’ll accept it. For now.”

Error growled and rattled his chains, “Since we’re done talking, and you’ve forced the answer out of me, will you take the chains off?”

“Maybe.” The guardian smiled lopsidedly, drawing his hand down the black ribcage.

“Ink, Void damn you! I’m… not… in the mo...od. Hey, hands off!!!”

Chapter Text

“You fucked-up dom!”

Error cursed, trying to stop his lover with words, but his body had already responded with greedy compliance. Blush and sweat covered his skull, his eyes showed pleasure-muddled desire, and his body arched into the caresses.

The artist’s hand knew exactly where the lover’s most sensitive spots were and guessed without fail which one of them craved the touch.

The destroyer trashed in bed, suffering from the touches that brought pain and the flowers of pleasure that bloomed when they left. He cursed his haphephobia for the glitches and sung it praise for keeping him from getting lost in the sea of bliss.

Giving up, he moved to meet the hand that caressed him, whining and asking for more:

“Don’t stop. I’m… almost! M-m-m!!!”

Ink smirked and, holding the stare of his recovering lover, licked the magic off his fingers.

“Hate to repeat myself, but you’re a pervert,” said Error after catching his breath.

He stared at the partner who was laying by his side, waiting for a continuation with almost impatient eagerness. But the follow up didn’t come.

“Let’s consider this my apology for the sloppy healing and the questioning,” Ink answered the questioning look.

“That wasn’t nearly enough,” Error huffed.

“Oh! Well, let’s raise the stakes.” Ink smirked and threw his leg over his partner. Moving up to a cowboy pose, he hovered over him without touching and was glad to see predatory impatience in Error’s eyes. “So how should I apologize for you to find it acceptable?”

“You can start by unchaining me! And telling me what asshole taught you to treat people like that! I’ll pay their universe a visit… so we can talk.”

Ink choked on laughter:

“Are you jealous?”

“More like outraged. It’s not the first time you tie me up and reign supreme.” Error sighed, and the sparks of passion left his eyes. “I’ve answered your questions, so quick dodging mine.”

The smile left the guardian’s face, and he poured a drop of solvent onto the chains . They immediately melted, letting the destroyer sit up.

“Lust.” Just one name, and everything was clear. However, Ink voiced it with a pretty glum expression — and usually that name was uttered with disgust or shame. The artist sat up cross-legged and held his head in his hands. “The thing between us ended up in a disaster.”

“You’ve been to that whorehouse?” Error couldn’t believe that at first.

“Why are you so surprised? I’m a guardian, not a saint. I have needs, and I was fulfilling them. But it would’ve been better if what I had with Lust remained a one-night stand.”

Error was overflowing with contradictory feelings. On one hand, there was no reason for him to be jealous — Ink and him weren’t even a thing. And who’s there to be jealous of? The whore of the whole Multiverse? On the other hand, he still felt wounded. Also, seeing his lover be so upset over his past turned out to be uncomfortable.

“Tell me?”

The guardian’s eyelights kept changing, unable to describe his state of mind. Judging by the shapes, he was sad and thoughtful, but nothing beyond that. And he wasn’t going to keep his past a secret, though he had to get up and walk to a cabinet where he kept his diaries. His memory could use a reminder.

“I was upset back then.”

“Like now?”

Ink flinched, glanced at Error and reached for his paint sash, but the glitch intercepted him and pushed the sash out of reach.

“Yes, I’m upset. You happy?”

“No.” The black skeleton sat against the wall, settling more comfortably. “So what happened between you two?”

“He asked me out.” Ink’s expression grew even darker. “And I said “yes”, despite knowing what kind of person he is. But I wished so much… to be loved.”

The guardian looked at the floor and grew silent.

“And?” Error prompted.

“And! And our relationship grew diverse. You know, besides sex we also went on walks, flirted, went to movies. He didn’t even sleep with anyone else but me. We were a normal couple. And I was happy. I think, I was.”

“Stars, Ink! Just tell me what happened!”

Ink looked up at Error. The shape of his eyelights spoke of murderous desires.

“One day I found out that Lust was just toying with me! Oh, how cool is that, to own the guardian of the whole Multiverse!” The artist jumped up off the bed and threw the diary into the cabinet. “Oh, how awesome it is to screw him! Teach him all the perverse ways!” He kicked the cabinet’s door closed. “And lie that you love him!” He turned away from the destroyer. His voice cracked, turned scratchy. “But I would’ve forgiven him for it. And I would’ve let him boost his ego that way.”

Error got off the bed too and came closer. He reached out with his hand but stopped short of touching his lover to avoid the pain. So he remained standing behind Ink as a silent supportive shadow.

“What did he do?”

“Nothing. He killed me with words.” Ink turned to face his lover. His eyelights disappeared, and the eye-sockets turned into bottomless black pools. “Lust told everyone, in public, that having sex with me was the same as fucking a robot pre-programmed for sexual satisfaction. No emotions just the same, and it would still have better form. He said that laying with Mettaton would be better than with a soulless freak — the soulless freak that can’t ever be sincere. Said that if it weren’t for the paints, I’d be no better than your puppets.”

The room filled with tension and withering silence. The edges of Ink’s tattoos seemed to sharpen, giving them the look of real plants ready to choke the artist. The ribcage, usually filled with darkness of magic, looked abandoned, as if it belonged to a corpse. The lightless eye-sockets complemented the unappealing image. It looked as if Ink had just died, and his body was about to turn to dust.

Error surprised himself: he embraced the artist, shuddered from the glitches enveloping his body, but didn’t let go. He was scared: What if he let go, and his lover broke like a cracked vase, slipped through his fingers like sand and left him — but this time without resurrecting?

“A puppet, you say? You know, soon there will be a bit of a commotion in Underlust. Don’t go there.”

The guardian didn’t have the time to object and start his tirade about how his duty was to protect all the AUs independent of the qualities of their inhabitants before he was dragged onto the bed.

“And now, you still owe me an apology…”

Chapter Text

Error thought that seeing the ceiling of Ink’s bedroom upon waking was starting to become familiar. The artist himself was still asleep beside him, lying on his side with a hand stuck under his cheek. The blanket covered the white skeleton almost up to the middle of his chest. This looked a bit more erotic than it should have.

Error smirked, slowly got out from under the sheets and slipped into the bathroom. Magic had many uses, but it couldn’t replace a shower. Especially after staying up last night.

Throwing on one of the white robes he found on the hangers, the destroyer went downstairs. The guardian wasn’t awake yet — not surprising, considering their very active pastime.

The black skeleton shook his head, trying to banish the memories from his mind and focus on what he was doing. He opened a portal to his Anti-Void and looked around, seeing no one. He reached out, and a phone dropped into his hand. Previously the device was hidden up in the darkness of the ceiling, among the strings.

There weren’t many entries saved in the contacts list.

“Guess who? Yes, believe it or not, I’m still alive. Can’t say the same for all of you, ‘cause when I get there, you’re so dead! I’m kicking all your asses!

“Whose idea was it? Oh, you don’t know?! But you have a guess? Well, I’m betting it’s Shino’s doing too. Not directly, of course. But I’m sure that pipsqueak came crying to her brothers, and they got to work. And, by the way, keeping them under control is your responsibility! Why, just why did they have to go get Geno?! The pitying bastards! Nothing would’ve happened to him! And now what?! Yes, that’s what I’m thinking — what? While Reaper had Geno, he could be kept under control, he was predictable. And now… and now Reaper even shows up in closed-off worlds. Yesterday he came to Ink’s…

“Oh! Yes, I’m at his place. Are you surprised? And I sure am!” Error covered his eyes with a hand and took a couple of deep breaths as he listened to the worried reply at the other end of the call. That calmed him down a bit. “By the way, thanks for Bluescreen and the masquerade. It helped distract the reaper.

“I’ll stay at the artist’s for now.” Error’s expression darkened. “No, we’re not discussing this. And I know… I know… you don’t need to remind me. I’m the one who started it all, so…

“Anyway, I’ll visit your world when the scythe guy stops tailing me. But, just in case… you know what to do. Keep in mind, there’s too much at stake.” The response on the other end was lengthy enough for Error to visit the kitchen and rummage inside the fridge.

Then he remembered the yesterday’s conversation and sneered,” By the by. Lust could use a hint on just how bad of a person he’d been. Send a dream-keeper to Underlust — someone tough! Yep. Yes, this is personal. I’ll pay that AU a visit in a bit and add a puppet of a slut to my collection. But nothing could ever torture a motherfucker better than his own guilty conscience. I would know. So bad dreams to you, Lust. Heh. Yes, and you too. See ya.”

Ink was sitting beside the staircase and playing a spying game. It wasn’t like he understood a lot, but he got the important part: Error wasn’t as solitary as it seemed.

A little while ago the guardian was convinced that the destroyer only associated with Nightmare’s gang — as in, with people who somewhat shared his views on life values: death and destruction. However, now Ink wasn’t sure of anything — neither of his views on Error, nor of his social circle.

He remembered Error telling him that he stuck around Nightmare’s gang to keep an eye on them so that they wouldn’t stick their noses where they shouldn’t. And now, turned out that he needed Geno to control Reaper’s behavior — to keep him from sticking his nose where he shouldn’t as well?

The phrase “closed-off worlds” bothered him too. Perhaps, Error meant only his own and Ink’s worlds. However, now, after the destroyer mentioned so many creatures Ink had never heard about, the artist thought that there could be way more closed-off worlds too. The question was: who was hiding inside them?

And those dream-keepers Error asked to be sent to deal with Lust — who were they? And who was Error talking to?

The questions kept multiplying. Ink felt his head ready to explode, glitch and forget everything at once, so he hurried back to his room to add everything he’d found out to his diaries.

 

When the guardian came downstairs, Error was sitting in front of the TV. Admittedly, he looked odd wearing a white robe, holding a coffee mug in his hands and watching Undernovela — so domestic. A domesticated destroyer.

“Good morning,” Ink greeted.

The destroyer turned towards him and choked.

Unlike Error, Ink didn’t bother with clothing and pranced around naked — only threw a towel over his shoulder to soak up the water still dripping out of his skull after a shower.

“Is that a hint, or do you always walk around like this?”

Ink laughed and gave it a thought.

“I rarely have guests. Actually, I haven’t brought anyone here, except for Dream and you.”

“So Dream knows about your shameless habits and love affairs?”

“Sure,” Ink stated with a smile and added, “We used to be lovers.”

Error choked, spilt half a mug’s worth of coffee on himself and put the rest ways onto the coffee table.

“You’re so…” the black skeleton made vague gestures as he tried to come up with a fitting word, “...sociable!”

Ink just shrugged, not ashamed in the slightest.

“He has soul problems too. It’s neither a monster soul, nor a human one, and it looks most like an apple. So we started dating, thinking that it would be easier for us to adapt to each other’s quirks. But it didn’t work out. It was just making us both miserable. It’s a wonder we remained friends.”

“Dream, Lust… I’m afraid to ask who else you’ve slept with only to find out there’s a list three pages long made in tiny handwriting.”

Ink sat down beside the destroyer and grimaced:

“Nope. There’ll be a couple more names, and the list would end there. No tiny handwriting, Error. Just me and my sins.”

“Heh,” smirked the biggest sin of all and took off his coffee-stained robe, throwing it onto the floor.

They sat on the couch, naked and at a loss, watched tragedies of a different universe and had no idea how to act. They could turn back to sex, come together in passionate ecstasy and forget about everything for a while. Or they could continue the careful conversation and find out more about each other, slowly open the veil of secrecy.

Ink chose the latter.

“Yesterday you listed a lot of names: Gaster Frisk, Merisk, and Blaster Papyrus. Could you introduce us?”

Error laughed, offensive and loud, “And how do you see that happening? The destroyer of AUs introduces his potential victims to the good people of this Multiverse. Yep!” He laughed again at that mental image. “Just imagine me catching one of them and going, ‘Don’t worry! I just want to introduce you to my lover.’ The poor thing would die from a heart attack before they even see you.”

Error reached for his remaining coffee and was about to grab the mug when a question stopped him.

“And who’s Shino?”

Painfully slowly, the black skeleton turned to look at the guardian. His eyes were missing the eyelights.

“Where have you heard that name?”

Ink answered with a deliberately careless shrug, “Wrote it down on my scarf at some point,” he lied, “and never found out who that was. So I thought you might know. I mean, since you know more travellers than I do.”

Error’s stare was razor-sharp: one wrong word, and it would slit the artist’s throat. The growing tension had Ink sweating.

“Is something wrong?” the artist unconvincingly pretended to be surprised.

“No.” Error picked the mug up after all, finished his coffee with one gulp and lied, “I don’t know anyone bearing that name.”

Trying to take the conversation away from the dangerous subject, Ink smiled and said, “Okay then. I hope I’ll come across at least one of them sometime. You said they’re doing good things?”

“Something like that. They’re like Fresh: they parasitize on others’ misfortune wishing good fortune for everyone. Sometimes they even manage to fix the wrongs of a universe. I think, you’ll come across them sooner or later… Oh, damn, what?! I don’t remember this episode!”

Ink turned to the screen and saw the pretty unusual sight as well: a big portal opened in the Undernovela sky, and something huge, bony and winged fell out of it.

“Speak of the devil. Ink,” Error was holding back laughter, “meet Blaster Papyrus.”

Alarmed, Ink rushed upstairs to get dressed. The process was so hectic that the destroyer kept hearing things fall and shatter into pieces.

The sound of footsteps down the stairs — and the artist was by the door.

“I’m going there.” Ink struggled with shoelaces. “And you… rest up or something. Stay for as long as you like. I’ve changed the world’s lock. Bye.”

“You forgot the brush, idiot!”

Ink returned.

“Sorry, Broomy!” he apologized to the brush and ran out the door again.

Error could only laugh and watch the show from the comfort of the couch.

Chapter Text

The world-travellers appeared with a bang. Literally. They materialized like a bolt out of the blue and made an impression of a falling plane over the Italian town — complete with a smoke trail behind them — and had their emergency landing inside a church.

The reverend of this stronghold was a Gaster, who, instead of huddling in the Core, like most of his alternatives, posed as a holy man while the hem of his robe hid his dark past and a gun.

The latter wasn’t hidden anymore, and the metal muzzle was pointed straight at a dragon’s forehead. Everyone in the church followed the reverend’s example. With rustling and clicking, the whole congregation pulled out their firearms, pointing them at the ones responsible for the disruption of the divine service.

“Oh hell,” hissed the teen on the dragon’s back.

“It’s not hell, we’re just fucked.” A tall skeleton wearing a leather jacket bent lower to be a smaller target. He was sitting behind the teenager.

“Rrr!” The dragon shared their opinion.

“I’ve told you we should’ve gone to Underswap,” whispered the skeleton.

“And get our butts kicked by Bluescreen?”

“Better a butt-kicking from a friend than a bullet from a psycho! Okay, Papy, I hope you’re bulletproof? No? Oh well. What I’m saying is… Get us outta here!”

The bone dragon gulped and spread his wings.

The congregation, the reverend — everyone was blown away by the resulting gust, and the roof gained a second dragon-sized hole.

The unlucky travellers had no time to relax before they were almost shot. The local Sans — Sin — was standing on the rooftop and reloading a rifle. In the Italian universe he worked as an assassin, and he was one of the best. The other two of the best — Gaster and Asgore — joined him on the roof.

If the dragon weren’t made of bones, he would’ve gained a few new holes in his body. The skeleton managed to dodge the bullets — literally — and the teenager shielded himself with his symbiote’s hands.

“Come on! Come on! Come on!”

Only beyond the town’s borders did the three of them feel relatively safe. The skeleton and the teen fell to the grassy ground, kissing it in relief.

“Rrr!!!” the dragon growled at them.

“Sorry, Papy,” the skeleton got to his feet. “But that was a bit too much.”

“‘A bit too much’ started when you decided to be rude to Genocide Papyrus,” the teen almost replicated the dragon’s growl. “What were you thinking, G?! We’ve warned you to be considerate with him. He’s insane.”

“I was considerate,” G looked away, lighting a cigarette.

That was when a fourth person joined their conversation:

“And what were you going to do to Genocide Papyrus?”

The world-travellers flinched in surprise, instantly surrounding themselves with blasters and barricades of giant Gaster hands. Only then did they take a better look at the stranger and relaxed.

There, standing in front of them, was Ink.

The guardian got to Undernovela as quickly as he could and got there just in time to see the dragon leave the church. Even he — the person known to many as a good guy — avoided coming to the universe of mob wars more than necessary. He remembered his first careless visit and its results: three bullet holes in his skull and cement shoes. So Ink knew just what awaited the careless travellers and hurried to their aid. Turned out, he needn’t have: the travellers quickly got their bearings and avoided a fatal outcome, bringing a bit of mystery to the Spanish series at the same time.

The artist couldn’t wait to find out just what kind of headlines would fill the newspapers: “The Appearance of the Devil in a Church”; “The Congregation Saves the Reverend From a Dragon”; “The Holy Man VS Satan”; “The Mob Fights Against the Forces of Hell”.

“You’re... Ink, right?” the teen spoke to him. He looked like a Frisk, and was definitely male, which was rare.

“Yes. Glad that you know who I am.” They shook hands.

“It’s hard not to know you. In most worlds they only speak good things about you.”

While the teenager spoke, Ink scrutinized him. He noticed a few oddities. First off, the teen’s eyes were of two different colours. Secondly, his clothes weren’t typical for a Frisk: black pants, a black sweater, a black scarf, black shoes and a white scientist’s coat on top. Were it not for the mask on the side of the human’s head, Ink would’ve been lost in thought for a while longer.

“So you’re an amalgam, I presume?” he asked bluntly.

“They are,” the teen nodded towards Gaster Sans and Blaster Papyrus. “Complete fusions of two creatures. And I…”

“We’re not an amalgam,” the mask on Frisk’s head said, “more like symbiotes.”

“Hello, Doctor Gaster,” Ink hurried to make up for the rough introduction and asked, “Maybe you could all introduce yourselves? After all, it’s the first time we’ve met.”

Frisk introduced his friends:

“Oh, of course! That’s G. He’s the quiet one.”

The quiet one was trying hard to tear a hand of symbiote Gaster off his mouth. The symbiote didn’t want him to ruin the first impression with his manners — or lack thereof.

“He’s from an alternative of Echotale — can’t make it more precise than that, since his universe doesn’t exist anymore.

“And that’s Papy,” the teen pointed at the dragon. “He was a Papyrus in a universe very much like a version of OuterSwap. Disaster struck, and the space station everyone lived in was destroyed. He’s the only survivor. His brother and father saved him, but he’s been stuck in a beast form ever since.

“And I — as you’ve already figured out — am Frisk.”

“Did you fall into the Core? Like Core Frisk?”

“No,” the teenager smiled. “No one had thrown me there. I wanted to find Gaster myself and help him out of his imprisonment. Well, the first part of the plan worked out just fine — we found each other and came to share this body, but it left us unable to return to our universe. It was as if we had never even existed.”

Ink finally understood just who he was dealing with: all of these characters have lost their homes and came together as a team. One thing was unclear: why had they come to Undernovela? And made their appearance so conspicuous to boot.

“Nice to meet you,” the guardian coughed and brought the conversation back to the matter of interest. “So what was that about Genocide Papyrus?”

G managed to rip Gaster’s hand off his mouth to say, “He’s an asshole. That’s what happened!” and that earned him his mouth being covered again and his hands tied up. Still, dragon Papyrus nodded, confirming the tall skeleton’s words.

Ink tried to remember who they were talking about. The genocidal world appeared somewhere beside Dusttale fairly recently. Inside it, everything happened the same way it did in Dusttale: Sans killed everyone to raise his LV. However, when he attacked his brother, the story changed. In an attempt to defend himself, Papyrus accidentally killed Sans, which left him all on his own in the dust-covered world — only him and Chara.

Saying that killing his brother affected the gentle skeleton’s psyche was putting it mildly. His sanity slipped, making him unstable and aggressive — worse than Dust. It was kind of strange that Dust Sans and Genocide Papyrus had never met and didn’t even know of each other’s existence.

“We tried to help him,” Frisk pointed out what their end goal was, which surprised the artist. It took him a moment to remember Error’s description of the trio: they travel to the worlds that have trouble reaching a Pacifist ending.

“Oh! Yes, I’ve heard you help fix the internal problems of AUs. And, I’m guessing, you’ve had some problems with Genocide?”

“Let me go, you ass!” G raged. He had managed to get out of Gaster’s hold again. “You don’t say! That asshole almost killed us on sight. We barely managed to calm him down. And, as a result, he decided that there was no better thing in the world than his cooking…”

“Which you called shitty!” Frisk hissed at his friend. “And if you just kept quiet, maybe we could have brought him back to his senses! And convinced Chara to reset. They would have agreed to a Pacifist route — if only to be let out of that damned basement!”

“Oh, so that’s my fault now!...”

While Frisk and G argued, Ink approached the dragon. Paps greeted him with a magnanimous grin of a predator, wagged his long tail and lowered his head.

On a whim, Ink petted the dragon on the muzzle.

“You haven’t lost your brains, have you, Papy? And if your world was a swap one, then you are more like a Sans than a Papyrus. And that means you’re the main protector of your friends. Right? I’m sure they’ll be okay if someone like you is protecting them.”

G and Frisk had calmed down and were smoking as they watched the dragon and the guardian.

“Careful, he bites,” warned G and was instantly cuffed on the head with the tip of the bony tail, which made him spit out his cigarette.

“So, that means you’ve ended up here by accident,” Ink concluded.

“Yes, an unlucky teleportation. Sorry for the commotion.”

“That’s fine.” The artist smiled. “If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t have met.”

“One should seek positives even in the shittiest of situations,” G noted.

“Kind of, yes,” Ink laughed and held up his index finger. “Oh, right! I wanted to ask you something.” He searched his scarf until he found the notes he needed. “I don’t know how long you’ve been around, but maybe you’ve heard something about the odd events that happened a decade ago? I mean, a universe being replaced with a blue screen, Blue from Underswap losing a few years, Error behaving strangely. Do you know anything about that?”

The dragon spat out a blaster shot, G slapped Gaster’s hand over his own mouth, and Frisk froze with a smile so unnatural that he could be immediately called out for lying.

“Oka-a-ay,” Ink realized. “You too?”

The friends looked at each other.

“Sorry, but our lips are sealed.”

Ink growled. His eyelights turned to a crosshair and a skull. He was so sick of this!

“What’s this big secret that everyone’s keeping from me?!”

“Sorry, Ink. But in the name of Multiverse, we will keep silent even if your kill us.”

The guardian found the good guys keeping a secret from him surprising, but not as surprising as the fact that they were ready to die for it.

“Wow.” He stepped away, looking sad, and his eyelights changed to triangles. “So that’s how it is. In that case, I guess I shouldn’t be trusted.”

He drank some blue paint and hurried to teleport away.

Chapter Text

When you spend your whole life alone, you get used to emptiness both in your house and in your soul.

Ink lived in a white void, alone in a house and soulless. So when he stepped inside after the end of his work day, upset and exhausted, he was surprised to see Error. He needed at least a minute to recall the events of yesterday.

“Your memory has failed you yet again?” guessed the destroyer.

“Yes.” The artist gave him a sad smile. “It happens after rapid mood swings. I’m used to it.”

Error was still sitting on the couch and watching Undernovela on the TV, as if he’d spent the whole day doing just that. In the world of Italian drama the characters were agitated by the recent appearance of the travellers.

“Looks like those idiots have created a new timeline,” Error told Ink enthusiastically. “Don Asgore accused the church of aiding the Devil and severed all the connections with Right Reverend Gaster. The son of the reverend, Don Sin, left his family and is now busy saving his brother, who’s supposed to be used as a sacrifice to save the town from the forces of darkness. Donna Muffet’s drug cartel has some strong shit. Alphys should’ve stayed away from her, but now they’re both hunting down Papy, and she keeps seeing demons everywhere.”

The guardian uttered a wheezing sound of a suffocating fish and plopped onto the couch beside him. The artist didn’t know what was more surprising: the changes in the world of Undernovela or Error being so engrossed in the series.

In fact, that meant that the person who had been for destroying worlds, fates and relationships his whole life… was engrossed in fates and relationships. The artist tried to remember the moment Error had stopped: quit reaching the strings out towards others’ souls and using those “puppets” to clear out the universes, quit pitting Sanses against Papyruses. That was ten years ago.

Crosshair eyelights stared at the destroyer, and the guardian sighed heavily. What was the use of bringing up the secrets again? That would only put more strain on their relationship, and there was a strong chance of a door slamming closed in place of a “see ya”.

“Have you seen Reaper?” Error continued to stare at the screen, keeping up the pretense of making small talk.

“No.” Ink wasn’t looking for him anyway. “I’ve checked Aftertale — still the same. But the Save Screen is empty. Geno’s gone.

“I know he’s gone. I doubt Reaper has any chances of finding him.”

“So you’re involved in his disappearance?”

“No. Who knows where that glitch is?” The mask of indifference cracked, and the black skeleton visibly tensed.

Ink remembered the overheard phone call. Error really took no part in Geno’s disappearance, but he knew who the culprits were. And he was covering for them.

The guardian gave the destroyer an intense stare of empty eye-sockets, then the eyelights took shape of a star and a square. He figured he could live without answers for a little longer. It would take time, but the secret would be uncovered eventually. But for now he had someone he desired by his side, and that person wasn’t going anywhere or destroying anything — calm and domestic.

Ink wanted to get the most of it, so he gave up on questioning again.

“Can I?”

Before Error could ask, “Can you what?” the artist had lain down, putting his head on Error’s knees to his great displeasure. The black skeleton jerked as if to push off the impudent burden, but thought better of it and leaned harder into the couch’s back, avoiding the unnecessary touching.

That’s how they stayed until the guardian started to yawn and rub his eye-sockets. That’s when he got up and, grabbing the destroyer by the sleeve of the robe, led him into the bedroom.

“Why did I bother putting anything on?” Error complained as Ink undressed him.

“You could walk around naked. I’d be delighted,” the artist laughed and lay on the edge of the bed. He threw off all of his clothing, bringing dirty thoughts with his looks alone. However, the tired look and the sleepy stare put a sexy continuation out of the question.

“You’re gonna stay a bit longer, right? A few more days, at least? Until it blows over.”

“It will never blow over,” the destroyer huffed, “but Reaper will calm down and come to talk. Perhaps, he’ll come here. Aren’t you worried?”

“About Reaper?”

“About everyone finding out about our…” Error wanted to say “relationship”, but stopped himself and replaced it with vague gesturing.

“Nope. I’m a creature both soulless and shameless.” Ink smirked and immediately corrected himself, “A little bit. If that knowledge reaches certain people, we’ll both be in trouble.”

Error’s right eye started flickering when he imagined that knowledge reaching Nightmare’s gang.

“Yeah, that wouldn’t end well. Got any suggestions?”

“Well, I have a very convenient basement. I could draw some cages, chains, torture devices…”

He didn’t get to finish before the destroyer fell onto the bed with a raucous laughter.

“Okay. I’ll stay here for a bit, and if Reaper shows up, we’ll try out your plan with the basement and chains. I’m ready to play along… Ink?” The guardian was fast asleep. “Aw stars! Exhausted yourself while searching for answers?” The smile left Error’s face. He lay as close to his lover as he could manage without touching him and whispered, “I’m sorry. But you just can’t be allowed to know about this. Should you find out, he will know it too. And we’ve never been closer… Just give us more time… be patient… and we will… be free…”

 

Error was the first to wake up. Again, he was met with the familiar ceiling and the living warmth by his side, which he had grown to need. Ink was still asleep.

The blanket slipped off, giving the full view of the naked bones. Ink’s relaxed face, the jaws slightly clenched. His defenseless neck and thin clavicles. The arch of twelve pairs of ribs. The rounded vertebrae. The enticing circlet of hips. Strong legs, pulled up so adorably now.

Error gulped. A strong wave of arousal pulled him under, setting his soul on fire and bewitching his thoughts.

Painfully slowly, trying not to wake Ink up, the destroyer threw the blanket off the bed and moved to the guardian’s legs. With the lightest of touches he spread them and caressed white bones without taking his eyes off the sleeping face. He stroked the vertebrae of the lower back, ran thumbs over the flat wings of the hips, gently touched them on the inside.

Ink was getting aroused and started to moan in his sleep.

Neither the caresses nor the preparation woke him up — not even when his lover became one with him. Only the first thrusts made him shudder and start to come back from the land of dreams. His fingers shakily hooked into the bedsheet. The eyelights shivered in his eye-sockets, and the arched slightly to meet the motions.

“Er..or?” Ink moaned, barely aware of himself.

Error smiled and started to move in earnest, encouraged: his lover didn’t confuse him for anyone else — even in his sleep, Error was the one he desired.

Ink’s whole face was covered in blush, melodious moans left his mouth, and his body shook with growing arousal. Finally, his eye-sockets brightened with realization.

“Error!” Ink has finally woken up.

“Good,” thrust, “morning!”

Either from the suddenness of it or from a mixture of emotions, but the guardian arched sharply and moaned, coming onto his bones.

The black skeleton smirked at that and didn’t stop. On the contrary, he started to move harder, faster, deeper, making his partner reach a new high of pleasure, balance at its peak and lose his head in the dizzying fall.

Ink was barely aware where he was and who he was. All that he knew was that he felt amazing.

“Oh! I wouldn’t mind getting such ‘good mornings’ more often,” he smirked, looking at his lover with amusement.

“Well, since you’re asking.” Error leaned over and kissed him.

In the back of his mind, the black skeleton knew the situation had gone out of control. Their relationship wasn’t “just sex” anymore.

Chapter Text

Reaper didn’t keep them waiting. He turned up the following evening and banged at the door.

Jokes aside, Ink did draw a prison cell complete with chains. Who knew they’d need it not for some kinky erotic game but for Error to pose as a prisoner.

“You again? Reaper, we’ve been through this alrea… What’s happened to you?”

The god of death quietly stood at the door. This time he wasn’t looking for an argument and was in no condition to handle it anyway. He looked like a long unwashed cleaning rag: dirty, tattered and smelly. Shadows and cracks lay under his eye-sockets, and he looked thinner and paler than usual, barely able to hold his own weight.

“Ink, I’m begging you, let me talk to Error. I promise not to cause any trouble. I only need Geno. I have to find him.”

Ink had drunk some red paint in advance, but pity seeped even through the rage, and the artist let Reaper enter.

“Come in. Error’s in the basement.”

The entrance to the basement was hidden inside a wardrobe, like an entrance to a secret lair — which was exactly what Ink made the space into. The door seemed very like a portal to a different dimension: it led out of the light and homey house and into a damp and chilly vault. The stone walls glistened with water drops, which flowed down and dropped into puddles, creating an atmosphere of a long-forgotten place with the resulting sound.

“Didn’t think you were capable of keeping someone as a prisoner, Ink. Especially confined in bad conditions,” the god of death noted.

“That’s not my style, you think? Consider this: you have no idea what my style is.” For added effect, the skeleton’s eyelights briefly changed to very rare shapes: check marks. They looked like creepy cracks, ready to unleash a demon, so Reaper hurried to look away.

The staircase led to an actual dungeon, the kind you could only see in a movie or in the Medieval AU — the one with witches, torture and burning innocents at the stake. Steel instruments and spiked chairs were everywhere, an iron maiden stood in a corner, joined by a rack and an assortment of knives.

In the middle of this brilliance stood a cage with the black skeleton inside it. He was curled up on the floor, shivering from the cold. No blanket or mattress were provided, only a pile of straw.

“What do you want?” Error intentionally made his voice even glitchier than usual.

“I have something to ask.” Reaper stood a couple of steps away from the cage to keep out of the prisoner’s reach, since right now the god was in no state to fight, but Error didn’t even bother to stand up.

“Go to your Undertale and ask questions there. It’s your fault I’m stuck here.”

“Consider this a vacation,” Reaper couldn’t hold back a joke, which earned him an evil look from behind the bars.

“This resort sucks.” The destroyer got up, showing the state he was in. Almost all of his bones were broken, cracks and chips littered his whole body. “I’d like to change my tour operator and,” an insane smile graced his face, “send the previous one to his grave. Though, judging by your looks,” he smirked, “you’re halfway there.”

Reaper looked back towards the entrance. Ink was painting a picture right on the dungeon wall with a serene smile of an artisan. The subject matter made it perfectly clear that the artist was in a very bloodthirsty mood. Reaper’s stare lingered on a very out-of-place-looking chainsaw that the artist kept giving ambiguous looks to.

“How long has he been like this?”

“Overzealous now that he has me captured? Since the day he caught me. So what do you want, you undeadly sin?”

“I want to know where Geno is.”

“How should I know?!!!”

The glitchy scream made Ink flinch, spilling way too much red onto the picture. He gave it an appraising look and added even more blood to the artwork.

“I repeat for the complete idiots, Reaper. I have no idea where he is! Better yet, tell me, did you really think you’d be able to keep him on your chain for eternity?”

“What makes my chain worse than others’?”

“Its length and width,” Error huffed. “Not a step past the Save Screen, and, with you weighing him down, it’s not like he could go far even inside its limits.”

Reaper’s expression darkened. He didn’t like just how aware Error was of his personal business.

“I’m not the one who came up with those rules!”

“But you exploited them.”

“Are you judging me?”

‘Well, all Sanses are judges, aren’t they?”

“Stop dodging the question. Where is Geno? Is he alive?”

“Oh stars! Reaper! I don’t know where your poor underkilled thing is! And whether he’s alive… Well, I guess he is. We’ve all seen someone in the Anti-Void after all. Though I was a bit out of it back then and thought I was seeing things. Hey, Reaper, maybe you’ve pushed the glitch so far that he’d killed himself?”

Error managed to draw back in time: long bony fingers of the reaper barely missed his throat.

“He’s! Not! Dead! You hear me?!”

“I hear you.” The black skeleton grimaced and dropped down onto the straw. ‘And do you hear me? If you want to know about Geno’s fate, ask someone else.”

“I’ve already asked everyone. Core, Winding, Nightmare…”

“Wow, I wish I could’ve seen that. The slug must’ve had a heart attack.”

“...Horror, Dust, Seraphim, Gaster…”

“Even Bluescreen?”

“I’ve asked him too.”

“No wonder you’re so beat-up. Everyone’s fucking sick of you by now!”

“I need Geno!” Reaper whined.

“And he doesn’t need you!”

“He needs me, he just doesn’t understand that!”

Error gave the god of death a dark look.

“Go take care of yourself, Reaper. Living people don’t want you, and the dead need you even less, and the only person you could touch without killing hightailed from you the moment he could. It seems to me, you’ve fucked up your only chance at happiness.”

Reaper punched at the bars and hastily fled from Ink’s house. Ink just as hastily changed the code of the universe and added a second lock.

 

“I don’t even know whether I pity him or not.” The artist was carefully erasing the pictures of injuries from the black bones.

“Or not,” Error stated in a tone that allowed no objections.

“But he loves Geno. It’s twisted, yes, but he loves him.”

“Fuck that kind of love! You just don’t know how exactly he loves him — which eye-socket gets more love or the space between which ribs.”

Ink shuddered, but Error went on:

“It’s not my place to judge someone for their insanity — but if that asshole loved the glitch, he would’ve granted him either peace or freedom a long time ago. But he preferred to keep Geno as a slave and a toy.” Error winced. “Sorry, Ink, but I don’t see any love there.”

The guardian scratched at the back of his head and thought of the universes where the pure and gentle feeling was interpreted as something much more sinister than what the destroyer had described. But he kept quiet. He imagined himself in Geno’s place and knew he wouldn’t have been content with that kind of love. He thought of his relationship with Lust, when he was a toy himself, and his mood hit rock bottom.

Ink tried to imagine his ideal romantic relationship. Unlike teenagers with their sweet grand ideas, he had a mature enough outlook.

He saw love as a joint pursuit of unity, built on mutual understanding, loyalty and compromise.

He saw reciprocity of feelings as a big part of a relationship. Unlike Reaper, the artist never would have forced anyone to love him. He never would have lied about being unable to love. So for him mutual understanding was very important. He hoped that one day someone would accept him, flaws and all.

Loyalty was no less important for the artist — not loyalty to the partner, but loyalty to one’s self.

It was beautiful when feelings made people act different. Ink often saw monsters and people follow their heart to do things stupid, heroic or horrifying. However, as a person who would never be able to feel in the real meaning of the word, Ink understood that this change of heart was very much a violation of self. He thought that were the feelings to go away, they’d be replaced with resentment for all the things done out of passion.

Hurt, pain, misunderstandings — that’s all that Geno and Reaper’s relationship was.

“I guess, you’re right.” Ink put the brush away. He had already finished erasing the “injuries” and mending the clothes. “I hope Geno is happy now, wherever he is.”

Error thought about it and shrugged, smirking.

Chapter Text

Living with Error turned out to be unexpectedly easy. He was quiet and not messy — on the contrary, he demanded cleanliness. For the better part of the day he watched AUs through the TV or one of his “windows” and made puppets or other knitted things.

He was entertaining to watch, and almost every day Ink found out something new about the destroyer. For example, he had never known that Error wore glasses — thin and red-rimmed.

“I’m farsighted,” shrugged the destroyer and added with a huff, “in my right eye. And nearsighted in my left one.”

Ink leaned over him to stare into his eyes. They were different: the right one was a white dot, and the left one looked quite okay, glowing a healthy blue. The combination was always startling.

“Did you damage your eyes?” the artist guessed.

“And you?” Error blinked and moved away.

“I was created with eyes like that. I guess, that’s to make up for the missing soul,” he smirked. “The eyes are the window to the soul. According to that saying, I’m quite emotional. The eyelights give away every miniscule emotion, be it joy or fear.”

The black skeleton glanced at Ink anxiously and confessed:

“My eyes were damaged with magic.” He touched the right eye-socket, pulled strings out of it, adding them to the ones he already had on hand, and continued to knit a base for a puppet. “That’s when I got both the markings and the strings. That was a long time ago. A very long time.”

They never touched upon the subject of eyes again.

Every day Ink left to check up on the AUs and came back a few hours later. Each time he was surprised to see that Error hadn’t left yet — and was overjoyed to have him around. They had sex almost every day, as if using that as an excuse to live together.

That’s how almost a week passed.

 

“So, everything’s fine between the two of you?” Dream often accompanied Ink in patrolling the universes. Today wasn’t an exception.

“Yes. It’s a bit weird, but nice.”

“Yet he’s still keeping his secrets?”

“Yes,” Ink admitted with a sigh. “And I don’t want to pry. Every time I try, he dances around the subject, gets angry and tries to get a rise out of me. And I’d rather stay with him for a lot longer.”

“Oh, Ink, your obsession with that guy won’t end well.”

“Obsessions never end well, but, at least, I’m aware of it. And should it happen, you’ll soften my fall into the abyss, right?”

“That’s what friends are for.” Dream smiled sadly and, finally, asked, “So, where are we going?”

“The the Save Screen of Underswap to get acquainted with Bluescreen. Stars, where’s the entrance?”

The guardians had been running circles around the swapped reality for fifteen minutes now, unable to visit a certain very secretive person, who had been hiding right under their noses for a decade.

“Maybe there’s a ‘lock’?”

“Then we’ll have to make some noise…”

“Quit snooping around!” Bluescreen showed up when he was unable to take the “knocking” at his “door” anymore. “What do you want?”

“We’re just here to visit. And we’ve got cookies!” Ink showed the promised treats.

The shaking of the bag made the right impression. Bluescreen was lost for words for a bit there, then said, “Well, come in, if you want,” and ripped the bag out of Ink’s hands.

The Save Screen of Underswap was as empty as the one in Aftertale. The two places were very much alike: both dark, both with stone arches, both home to glitches of the system, both held humans…

Chara sat in a tiny cage and started to shake and whine at the approach of their captor, but he just threw them the cookies and returned to his guests.

Bluescreen’s behavior shocked the guardians. They expected the adult Blue to be similar to their young kind friend. But they were wrong. Bluescreen was rude, didn’t bother acting hospitable and stared at them with a poorly concealed challenge: come on, compare me to the original; spot ten differences.

There were way more differences than that. The tall — almost a head taller than the guardians — skeleton smiled lopsidedly. He had an aura of repulsive negativity about him.

“Don't you think that keeping kids in a cage isn’t very nice?” Dream gave in first.

Bluescreen sneered at that.

“It isn’t very nice to kill me time after time or pretend to be my friend. And this,” he nodded at the cage, “is a perfectly normal way to treat a guest.” He turned to look at Ink and Dream and asked with a joyful smile, “Do you still want to be my guests?”

Dream shut up and decided to let Ink handle the brute.

“We still want to be your guests,” Ink smiled and took a sip of yellow paint, “but we’ll pass on the permanent stay. The living conditions just aren’t up to par, to be honest.”

Bluescreen laughed quietly.

“Okey-dokey. So what do you want from me, guardians? I don’t believe you’ve come all this way just to say hello.”

Dream threw an unsure glance at the artist, who shrugged:

“Actually, I’m here on business. I want to talk, get acquainted. First off, let me dot the i’s. I don’t care about your tricks. As long as you don’t get in the way of my work, I won’t get in yours. Moreover, I’m impressed that Underswap has its own protector. However, I won’t be trying to become your friend or something — but if anything happens, I’ll come to your aid.”

“I like your frankness.” Bluescreen nodded and turned his attention to the big window to the left of the Save panel. The window was split into a multitude of smaller windows and allowed to monitor almost all the inhabitants of the swapped universe. He stared at Papyrus, who sat at a cafe and talked to the greedy she-spider about something. “I value honesty.”

“If that really is so, then, maybe, you could clarify something?”

“Let me guess,” Bluescreen turned to face Ink again, “you’re not talking about how I came to be.”

“Yes. Error has already told me how you were born.”

“That chatty bitch!” The guard dog of Underswap didn’t hold back on the swears. “Can’t even keep others’ secrets safe!”

“If so, maybe you could share his secret?”

Bluescreen didn’t take the bait. He laughed obnoxiously and wagged his finger:

“I’m not him. And I don’t give away what’s been entrusted to me. Now get out of here, both of you. Shoo! Quit messing up my solitude with your smug faces. Out, out!”

They were practically shoved out into Underswap with the “door” slamming closed behind them.

“How rude! I hope Blue won’t grow up to be such a brute!” Dream was outraged.

“Blue? No, how can he? He’s growing up in a world without resets, with his brother and his friends by his side. He doesn’t have to give all of that up for the happiness of others.”

Dream bit his tongue. He didn’t consider the sacrifice that was made, and now he was ashamed.

“Are you going to visit him again?”

“I will sometime. I don’t think he needs my company, but I feel like he’s more interesting and kind than he wants to seem.”

“Like Error?”

“...Like Error,” Ink agreed.

Chapter Text

Error soon got used to the oddities of Ink’s house: the cursed TV box that chose the channels on its own, the moving pictures (good thing they didn’t talk), the whispers coming from the corridor. He didn’t even bat an eye when cupboards opened and closed, but he still flinched when birds smashed against the windows, leaving blood and cracks behind.

All of this made him sneer. Such fluctuations in magic of the white Anti-Void had nothing on the things that happened in its darker part. Error’s Anti-Void did much more sinister things.

“Ha! Well, if you think so, then maybe that’s how it really is. Either way, no one has a simple answer to that question. Oh! Of course, if I had a lab, some time and any at all desire to deal with it, I could have it figured out. But do I need to? That’s what I’m thinking: why bother? Curiosity killed a lot of idiots — and I’m no idiot. If the cat gave its life for that, then let’s consider that furball an idiot and move on. Who’s Lomonosov? Another person to die of curiosity? No, I don’t want you to read me a poem! And, really, fuck off with your advice and questions! You wanna know where to fuck off to? And proper directions???”

Ink stood at the stairs, listening to that nonsense, and couldn’t understand: Who was Error talking to, what was he talking about, and was he okay?

“Error?”

The destroyer flinched, waved his hands as if shooing a flock of flies, and turned to face the artist.

“What?”

“Who were you talking to?”

“Myself.”

“Yourself?” Ink didn’t believe him.

“I’m a psycho-slash-killer-slash-world-destroyer. I can.”

The guardian grimaced and shrugged: Who was he to judge others’ quirks?

Error got up, having finished the puppet of his next victim. The destroyer was fully dressed and ready to leave the welcoming home of the artist.

“Will you come back?” was the only thing that Ink cared to know.

The black skeleton froze by the door. He uttered a long “hm” and looked back at Ink:

“Will you give me the ‘key’?”

Ink did, and he didn’t say a word when he noticed the puppet looking like Lust. He wasn’t going to interfere.

What an odd situation — so illogical and stupid.

“Oh, shut up, all of you! You fucking advisors, you!” Error was angry at the voices in his head. “May I remind you, that shit happening was your fault as well! So stop yammering! I’m doing what I think is right!”

 

Underlust met him with a light chill of Snowdin. As usual, the brother universe was perversely busy. There wasn’t a spot or a nook left that wasn’t occupied by a screwing couple — sometimes even a threesome.

What was the Creator of this “masterpiece” thinking? The question is off, the answer is obvious — and what they were thinking with was clear as well.

Error considered Underlust a disgusting place, not worthy of existence. Were it not for Ink protecting it, this universe would have died every Tuesday and every weekend. The destroyer would have come up with a separate schedule just for this universe alone, and he would have had great pleasure in executing it. However, that was a useless endeavor.

He had destroyed Underlust three or four times already. What’s the use? The Creators liked the slutty, sleek pole-dancing Sans so much that they were ready to resurrect the universe the moment the last byte of it was erased.

But today Error wasn’t here to delete the world of perverts. He was only going to roughen up one of them — for educational purposes — and then kill him.

Locating Lust wasn’t hard. He was at home.

Admittedly, out of all the Sanses, this one was the most well-groomed. He obviously took great care of himself. Yet the bright colours of his clothes could compete with Fresh’s. The purple coat with blue fur just screamed “pimp”, and the blue heeled boots screamed “gay”.

However, right now the ever good-looking Lust looked ruffled and sleep-deprived. Black shadows settled under this eye-sockets, his face looked haggard, and his movements were sluggish. He probably wouldn’t have batted an eye even if Chara started to cut Papyrus into pieces right in front of him.

The dream-keeper did a great job. Error knew only three of them, who could handle a victim so well: Palette, Radier and Incubus. And, maybe, Tenpatch, but he was way too young to be allowed into such a perverted universe.

“Trouble sleeping, I see?” The destroyer appeared in front of Lust like a ghost of guilty conscience.

“Error?” The exhausted skeleton didn’t immediately recognize the destroyer — and didn’t believe his eyes when he did. He reached out to make sure the vision was solid.

“I’ll break your arm. Starting with your fingers!”

“Ah. Got it. Not a dream.” Lust laughed stupidly and, finally, got scared and pressed back into the couch. “What do you want?”

“Figured I’d see how you were doing,” Error sneered. Blue strings stretched between his fingers like spider webs.

“Fucking awful!” Lust snapped and pulled up his legs. He was never a good fighter. “So why are you here? I don’t remember seeing you among our world’s clients — there’d be rumors going around..”

“Oh, speaking of rumors…”

The black skeleton pulled a puppet from his pocket and set it onto the table in front of the couch. The puppet looked exactly like Lust and stared at the perverted skeleton with its pink button eyes.

Lust’s face fell. He had already died at the hands of the destroyer, and he knew what the puppets were for. And since the puppet was made in advance, his fate was sealed.

“A little birdie told me that I could do whatever I wanted to you. Rainbow asshole won’t come to your rescue. Why is that?”

“Why are you so sure?” The pimp curled into himself, knowing he couldn’t run from the bleak fate and seduction wasn’t an option — he’d tried that before.

“That bird can’t lie, and it was singing pretty convincingly. So I’ve decided to check whether our mutual acquaintance would come or not.”

“Who needs him!” The attempt at acting tough brought Lust nothing but suffering. He howled, holding onto the stump of his arm, and fell off the couch.

“Who? Well, you do,” Error said, acting like nothing had happened. He picked the cut off hand up from the floor, fiddled with it and started to rip off a phalanx after phalanx under the shocked stare of his suffering victim. “He tells the truth, he lies, he tells the truth, he lies, he suffers long, he dies…”

“You sick motherfucker!”

“And everyone knows that,” Error laughed. “So, will you tell this motherfucker why the ever-kind guardian happens to be so mad at you?”

“If I do, will you let me go?”

“If you do, I’ll make your death quicker.” The bones of the hand turned to dust that the destroyer poured into the toy. “You know, you have about two hundred bones in you. And each one could be broken separately and ground to dust to fill up the puppet slowly. I’ve done that before. I know how to savor the moment.”

“I fucked your damned guardian!” Lechery showed on Lust’s face even though the overwhelming fear. Memories of the power he held over one of the strongest creatures in the Multiverse made him shiver with delight.

His soul instantly moved into Error’s hands. The next moment there was a glitchy bone poised over it.

“And how many monsters know about it?” the destroyer asked him quietly.

Lust knew that were he to tell the truth — I’ve told everyone and keep running my mouth every reset — his death would be even worse than the one he had been promised.

“No one,” he wheezed and tried to crawl away.

“That’s the correct answer.” Error grabbed the victim by the leg and yanked it back. The leg crunched, and the next moment Lust was screaming again. The puppet got a new portion of dust.

“So what did you do to Ink?” the black skeleton continued with a polite smile.

“Nothing,” hoarsely choked out the sexually-active minority.

“Exactly. That’s what you’ll be saying.” Error pricked the soul with the sharp tip of the bone. “Because if I ever hear you boasting about your sexual victories again — even worse, upset someone like that — I’ll make a lot of puppets in your image. And I’ll be filling them up bit by bit — grind your bones to dust one by one, until your soul shrivels and dies from the sheer pain and fear. Understand?!”

Lust nodded stupidly. And only when the pain let up a bit did he ask:

“Did Ink set you on me?” he was afraid to find out the answer.

“Oh no,” Error’s smile got wider, “why would he do something like that? He’s so righteous, so soulless,” the destroyer sat on top of Lust and patted him on the tear-soaked cheekbone. “He never gets upset, he can’t take revenge. That’s what you were thinking, right, you fucker?” The victim whined and trembled in fear, unable to even utter a word. “However, he could just come a bit too late. Or decide not to come at all. And I can and will make a repeat of our meeting. Are we on the same page, Lust?”

“Yes… I’ll… be quiet. I… I…”

“Good.”

The next moment the soul returned to Lust. The destroyer was gone. He chose not to kill his victim, leaving him to live with an arm and a leg missing — suffer like that until the next reset. This kind of punishment seemed more fitting.

Chapter Text

Error spent the rest of the day — if that could be called that, considering the concept of time worked poorly in the Void — working. Though what kind of work could a destroyer have? He made some calls, met a few monsters and, finally, grew tired.

Error considered whether to come back to Ink’s place or end their cohabitation now. Returning was unbelievably tempting, but just as strong was the fear that his attachment to the guardian would ruin the plan that he and his followers had in the making for a decade now.

He wanted to stay with Ink, wanted more of his warmth and the comfort he created. Did he really have to deny himself that? No, he didn’t.

The destroyer chose to return. He was also curious just how the guardian would react to the revenge he’d exacted for the longstanding offense. Was he going to be angry or grateful? Error couldn’t imagine Ink brushing everything off, and the reaction couldn’t be completely positive either.

The “key” let the destroyer back to the house of the guardian. It was so weird — opening the door to a warm welcome. Way too warm welcome!

Ink was sitting on the couch. When the destroyer stepped inside the house, the artist drank the prepared pink paint and pounced on his prey like a predator.

Error wasn’t given the time to object before he was cornered right there, by the door. He was pushed into the wall in a passionate kiss, forced to reboot from the abundance of touching, and before he could recover, his shorts were dropped to the floor.

Ink hurried to fall to his knees and run his tongue over the protruding bones to turn his lover on, burning the bridge of a possible rejection with his caresses.

“What is this, gratitude?” Error was struggling for air.

“Is there something I should be grateful for?”

Ink didn’t let him answer, enveloping his partner’s magic with his mouth. Error’s knees buckled under the talented tongue’s attention.

“Ah, stars! Ink, void damn you! Ah!”

Error dug his fingers into the wall, leaving dents, opened his mouth wide and moaned. Encouraged, Ink picked up the pace and got an even louder moan out of his lover. And another one…

“Oh, stars, you’re insane!” Error realized Ink wasn’t going to stop halfway, felt lubricated fingers enter him and arched his back a bit. One, two, three... “M-yeah-ah! … So go-ood!”

Burning with painfully sweet tension, the black skeleton put his hands on the guardian’s head, got a bit scorched by the glitches but kept his fingers on the white skull, pushing, asking to take him harder and deeper.

In response Ink started to pull his lover’s hips into the motions and pushed his fingers in deeper.

The destroyer felt his skull burning, tears slipping down his face, knees buckling, and his head grew empty. A sweet shudder made him let out an unbecoming squeal and put out his eyelights. Then he heard a loud gulp and finally let go of his lover’s head.

Ink looked pleased but painfully turned on. He licked his teeth lewdly, and it didn’t take a genius to guess what he wanted. However, Error didn’t want to be pushed down and fucked again. So, smiling, he offered:

“Lie down on the floor. It’s my turn to take care of you.”

Still clueless as to what his lover had in mind, the guardian sat down and let his partner position him however he would find most comfortable.

The black skeleton pushed Ink onto his back and straddled him. Under the heavy stare of the changing eyelights, he took in his lover’s magic with a sharp exhale and, shivering, moved up, pushed back down. The unfamiliar movements were awkward at first, but became more confident and smooth as he went on.

Ink’s face showed awe and bliss. He couldn’t take his eyes off his lover and moaned in time with his movements, encouraging him to continue.

Error leaned down and pulled him into a kiss, creating a link of mixed saliva between their tongues, and moved to  the white neck, biting in.

“Ah! Error, not so hard! Ah! You’ll bite me to death!” Ink moaned and ran his hands over the other’s ribs, making sure that the glitches weren’t getting in the way, then started to caress every bone he could reach.

“Do you like it?” the destroyer asked.

“Yes. Stars! Yes!” the artist half-moaned.

“Faster?”

“Yes! Yes, void damn it!”

Grinning, Error picked up the pace. His soul shone like a supernova — a precursor to the soon-to-be conclusion. He threw his head back, filling the hallway with glitchy screams of pleasure.

Ink moved to meet the motions, adding fuel to the fire of the nearing orgasm, grabbed his partner by the hips and helped him change the angle a bit — enough to make the destroyer’s moans change in tonality, become shorter and louder.

It came like an electric shock. Quick, sharp, unexpected, painful, yet mind-numbingly beautiful.

“Error, I have the stupidest compliment for you, and you’re gonna be ashamed of it,” Ink smiled slyly.

“Surprise me,” the black skeleton whispered breathlessly.

“You’re an amazing lover!”

“Stars, Ink!” Error slipped off his partner and lay beside him on the floor, shaking with laughter. “I’m not sure that’s something I can be proud of!”

“Told you it was stupid.”

Error hid his burning face in his hands. The compliment may have been awful, but it still made him blush.

Neither of them mentioned the destroyer’s visit to Underlust. Ink was a guardian, and he was supposed to be angry at Error, but he couldn’t bring himself to be — and he was the tiniest bit ashamed of it. Still, whatever Error had done, it was all going to be back to normal after the next reset. And Lust… well, he got what he deserved — which was something Ink promised himself he’d find out about through a third party.

“Let’s go sleep.” The suggestion was followed by a quick kiss to the cheekbone stained with blue “tear tracks”.

“Carry me,” Error laughed. “Stop! I was joking! Ink, void damn you, put me down!”

So he was dropped back onto the floor.

“INK!”

After chasing each other around the house until they were completely exhausted, the skeletons went to bed. It seemed so right, so habitual, to share a bed. Ink would wait for the glitchy to fall asleep then press his whole body against him and relish the warmth. And in the morning he would listen to the pained hissing — due to the glitches that appeared on the black bones — and promise to never do that again. And he would break that promise every night.

They both knew it couldn’t last long, so they did their best to enjoy their every day and every night. But they had no idea that night would cut their time two times shorter.

 

A whine. Some movement to his right. A heavy exhale. What was it with him?

The black skeleton rubbed at his eye-sockets and sat up. The guardian was twitching and whining softly. Were his expression more gentle, and it would’ve looked like he was having a very pleasant dream — but he looked scared.

“Ink, what’s going on?” Error thought the artist was having a nightmare and waking him up would be enough. A single touch wasn’t enough to make the fit pass, so he started to shake the guardian, scorching his fingers on the glitches.

It became worse. Ink was suffocating, clawing at his own chest and kicking his legs, as if trying to push someone off him. When Error leaned over him, he grabbed onto the glitch’s shoulders, gurgling, as if choking on water.

“Ink!” This was getting scary. “Snap out of it!”

Screw the glitches! The destroyer hugged his lover, laid him over his knees and hastily checked for possible wounds — but there were none. Checked inside his mouth — because who knows? — but nothing was blocking the way. Reached inside the white ribcage with his hand and jerked it back with a shriek — his fingers were singed.

That’s when Ink tensed and, just as suddenly, relaxed. His head hung back from Error’s knees, giving him a horrifying look of a dead body.

Error gasped, touched the artist’s cheekbone and turned his head to face him. He looked into the empty eye-sockets, hoping to see sparks of life in them.

What had happened? What if there was a wound that he had kept quiet about? What if he had been poisoned? What if that was a nightmare? What if he was sick? Would he wake up? Was he asleep? Was he dead?

The black skeleton anxiously watched the swirling magic in Ink’s chest. It made no signs of fading, which meant the guardian was alive — and not even sick.

Signing in relief, Error held Ink to his chest. He was alive, thank the stars! But what had happened?

A phone rang. It wasn’t Ink’s — he never would have used such a ringtone. That was the destroyer’s phone. Unthinkable! There had an agreement: no one called him, only he called them. Irritated and angry, Error reached for his shorts and pulled out the device:

“Who!...”

He didn’t have the time to rage before a scream came from the other end of the call:

“We did it!!! Error! It worked!!!”

The destroyer was struck still. They did it?! They were successful?!! His mouth went dry, the phone almost slipped from his hands, and his stare bore into the body in his lap.

“I understand.”

“Aren’t you happy? You don’t sound…”

“Everything’s fine.” He hung up and repeated, hugging Ink tighter. “Everything’s fine.”

Without noticing, the black skeleton started to pet his lover on the head and whisper sweet nothings, rocking him gently. He stayed like that until Ink came to.

“Error?”

“Are you okay?” A quiet, rough voice.

“Yes. Just. It’s weird. I’m so tired. As if we’ve spent half the day fighting or fucking. Did something happen? Did I forget something again?”

“No. Go back to sleep. Just. Sleep. Everything’s fine.”

Ink fell back asleep almost instantly, not even realizing how oddly the destroyer was acting. Error kept holding the guardian, keeping him close and petting him. He was so lost that the glitches didn’t manifest.

Chapter Text

What Error couldn’t understand was the alarm clock at noon.

What was the point? Why set up an alarm that wouldn’t ring at nine in the morning like it’s supposed to, but would scream bloody murder at midday — if it would have to be thrown at a wall? So why put a new metal abomination on the nightstand every evening?

That seemed like sadomasochism — or an incurable habit.

Eventually Error started to wake up ten minutes before the hellish ringing and throw the insolent device out the window. Which led to Ink jumping out of bed half an hour later, screaming about being late as he ran out of the house with his paintbrush in hand.

That morning wasn’t any different. Though Error hadn’t gone to sleep at all and destroyed the alarm clock sometime at night. He spent the night holding the artist close and struggling to solve the dilemma posed to him.

“Oh, stars! I’m late again!” Ink opened his eyes. He reluctantly got out of the black skeleton’s embrace, gave his cheek a brief kiss and disappeared downstairs, carrying his stuff.

The destroyer waited for the slam of the front door before pulling his phone from under the pillow.

“And now, in detail: what did you pull off and how?”

 

The usual AU patrol was going without a hitch. Nightmare was hanging around the Fell universes for the past couple of days, but wasn’t causing any trouble yet. Fresh was last seen around HELP_Tale — he felt like hanging around pain and suffering, it seemed. Reaper was gone, and no one knew where he went. Error acted the part of the guardian’s house cat. And there was no one else to wreak havoc.

Dream laughed at his friend — or, rather, at his newfound drive to drink yellow paint like water.

“Ink, you surprise me! Is it really so great to have someone so… unlikable… as your lover?” Dream held back a more fitting description to avoid upsetting his friend.

“Yes! I’ve told you before, I find him attractive.”

“Yes, you did. Years ago even. But I was hoping that infatuation was temporary.”

“Nothing is more permanent than things temporary,” Ink laughed and froze.

He stepped a world back. Returned. Repeated the same thing thrice.

“Is something wrong?” the keeper of dreams couldn’t understand what he was doing.

Instead of answering, the artist pulled out a list of AUs and a map of their placement and showed them to his friend. The blue area of the map held the water-themed universes: pirates, seas, underwater depths, tales of mermaids, etc. So, in between Carribeantale and Oceantale there should have been a young but very detailed and amazingly vast Cursetale. But it wasn’t there.

“So. Dream. Tell me, am I blind, stupid or one of the two?”

“If you’re blind, then blindness is contagious. I don’t see Cursetale either. Where is it?”

Ink and Dream spent more than half an hour running circles over the AUs that previously surrounded the vast world of a pirate saga. They went to Doodle Sphere and searched there, but it looked as if Cursetale had never even existed — even the sheet of paper with its name was gone.

The whole world simply disappeared.

No, it wasn’t destroyed. It vanished.

“Dream, you do agree that it’s impossible, incredible and very odd, right?”

“Maybe the Author themself erased it?” guessed the keeper of dreams.

“Overnight?” Ink was shaken. “There was enough in that world to keep Error busy for a week. More than thirty thousand kilometers of oceans and seas! More than eight thousand kilometers of isles and continents! Even the Author wouldn’t be able to erase their world so quickly and thoroughly. Other Creators would’ve kept some pieces of it — enough to recreate it.”

“What if the Creators worked together?”

Ink considered it for a moment. It was a possibility.

“I don’t know. I don’t understand those creatures well enough to know for sure. But even if they’ve destroyed Cursetale themselves, why isn’t there a void left behind?”

Dream and Ink examined the closely-fitted worlds in complete confusion. There were none of the usual ripped wounds, empty spaces or holes — nothing that the erased-destroyed-dead Cursetale should have left behind.

“Okay, we should check on all of the AUs today.”

“All of them?” the keeper of dreams gasped. There was a great number of universes, and visiting all of them — even for just a minute — would take them at least a couple of days.

“All of them! Some other world might have disappeared.”

 

Error took his time dressing and making the bed. Then he sat on the edge of it for a long while, going over the thoughts in his head like a priest goes through a rosary. One bead after another, each thought worse than the one before it. Together the thoughts formed a long chain — a noose for his neck.

Sighing heavily, the black skeleton got up.

If anyone had told him that there would come a day when he’d be sleeping with the guardian, when he wouldn’t want to leave his house.... Perhaps, if there was a person brave enough to say that to his face, he would’ve laughed and thought it impossible.

Error could still remember the terrifying event that had changed so much in his life.

A little over ten years ago he killed Ink.

He drove the guardian into the dark part of the Anti-Void, tied him up with strings and beat him to death with a bone, like an animal.

That was stupid. The black skeleton didn’t know about the real purpose of the guardian’s paints back then, but he had noticed that when Ink drank the red one, he got stronger. Error didn’t know that the red paint unleashed rage.

He drank it — a bit more than half the vial — and… He couldn’t remember the details of what he had done, but he couldn’t forget what had happened once his mind cleared.

 

A black bone struck a clenched fist, shattering it to pieces. Then it hit the head, and deep cracks covered the skull.

Ink screamed himself hoarse, but his cries meant nothing to the murderer. He raised the bone and brought it down. Crack . Crack. Crack. That went on until the guardian’s voice gave out, and he wheezed, went quiet. In complete silence: crack. Wet, horrifying, deafening.

Error was breathing heavily, almost suffocating. The bone fell out of his weakening hands. The mist in his head started to dissipate, showing the destroyer the surreal, frightening image.

Bodies of monsters fell to dust upon their passing, which saved any onlookers from seeing the grim look of death.

Ink didn’t dust. He wasn’t even dead.

White shards inside a huge inky puddle — like porcelain ships, they floated away from the body that was barely holding onto life. No bone was left unbroken. Half of the skull was missing, and inside the remaining eye-socket the eyelight was shaking convulsively: an hourglass, a spiral. Ink was stuck waiting for death which couldn’t come soon enough.

Error got up and backed away slowly, stepping onto the torn remainders of blue strings. Each step made circles spread in the inky blood. A bitter and chemical smell permeated the air. The black liquid covered his bones, soaked into his clothes and burned him.

He threw up. Why? Why did he feel so bad all of a sudden? He thought he’d be happy, having killed another error, but his enemy was dying a cruel and torturous death, and he didn’t feel good about it one bit.

Then Error thought: perhaps, he was just squeamish. Take Horror for example: he was always covered in blood and enjoyed that, so he always went for a messy killing. But the destroyer never found interest in that. He killed by breaking souls — a quick death which left only dust behind. If the victim was human, their body just dropped to the ground — a soulless doll.

But the guardian had no soul, so Error had to follow Horror’s example. Just this once. The important thing was, no one was going to get in his way anymore.

That was worth it, right? The empty red vial caught his eye and made him throw up again — magic and blood, slime and the red chemical of rage.

Error stepped even farther away to avoid looking at the inky puddle or the mutilated body. Only then was he able to catch his breath. A strange thought came to mind: what if Ink was still alive and suffering; what if Ink was still alive and could recover?

He turned around, clenched his teeth and held up a hand. A hundred bones materialized over the white center of the ink blotch. He brought his hand down, and the bones dove at the body.

Now he was dead for sure.

And still, for an hour more Error couldn’t make himself approach the spot, and when he managed to do so, he only found a pile of clothing left behind in the ink puddle. The scarf looked especially sad: normally beige, it turned entirely black. It floated in its owner’s blood like a fallen gravestone. None of the artist’s writing could be made out anymore.

For the following week the destroyer remained in an odd state of mind. He finally could destroy any universe with no repercussions, but whenever he started to do just that something shrunk inside of him. He felt his sins crawling up his back, reaching his neck and biting into his skull, whispering strange things. He turned around but saw no one. The destroyer almost started to believe in ghosts.

He wanted someone else to know about his victory, someone else to share the tangled mess of feelings. So Error kidnapped Dream and practically shoved him face-first into the puddle that his friend had left behind. The destroyer told him in great detail about the poor guardian’s demise, made him cry and scream of hatred — then threw Dream back where he’d found him.

Did the destroyer get what he wanted? He didn’t even know what he wanted — but it didn’t make him feel any better.

He spent another week holed up in the Anti-Void, making puppets, one after another — a whole pile of Inks and a few other alternatives. Then he threw all of them out into the hands of a very confused Fell. The puppets looked like were judging him.

That’s when the first child appeared in his Anti-Void. At first, Error thought little of it. He got rid of the little nuisance and tried to return to his usual way of living. And kidnapped Blue.

Perhaps, his loneliness and guilty conscience were to blame.

He didn’t kill Blue. Held him back. Turned him into Bluescreen. Remembered his past. Broke down. Tried to kill himself. He wanted to die.

Hundreds, no, thousands of voices begged him not to do that. He continued to ignore them and tried to end himself, end the memories that were tearing him apart — end the burning, overwhelming guilt.

They say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Turned out, Error had two such friends. One of them was Bluescreen, who forced him out of his suicidal tendencies and spent many horrible weeks keeping him company. The other one was… Fresh:

“So, you’ve remembered, Glitchy?” The parasite knew everything. Which wasn’t surprising, considering he played a part in those events. He was one of the few who had kept their memory.

Error didn’t think he’d be forgiven, didn’t think he’d be supported, didn’t think that anyone would want to help — and even bring others in.

There were just the three of them at first, then four, then ten. Error didn’t have the time to blink before he was surrounded by loyal monsters. Ironically, those were the very same people who had wanted him dead before. What a strange turn of events.

Especially after the death of the guardian of the Multiverse.

Yes, Ink died — and resurrected.

He appeared before the destroyer a couple of months later and smiled as if he wasn’t the one torn to pieces and left to slowly die.

That happened when Error was picking apart the code of a newly created Samuraitale. He was checking for something or other. The guardian materialized, unharmed, and, as usual, asked:

“Why would you want to destroy something the Creators treasure?”

Error had never been closer to passing out from shock before. He forgot about his attacks, forgot about his strings, forgot about his magic and backed away from the living image of guilt.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” That phrase again. It sounded pained.

That day the destroyer didn’t have it in him to fight. So he made his escape. And for the first time that week he visited Ink’s dying place. The remainders of paint, clothes and torn strings were still there.

He thought he was going insane, but then Ink’s friends must’ve been insane as well: they too saw Ink and talked to him.

That’s when Error collected everyone who believed him and set one very important rule:

“Not a word to Ink. He can’t know anything. If any of you lets anything slip, then you’ve already doomed the Multiverse.”

And then they found a second kid, a third one, a fourth one. The first one returned with a set of demands. Things kept happening one after another. The lines between friends and enemies got blurred. The number of people born in the Void grew up to ten, then fifty, and then there was a hundred of them. Hiding them from the others was one issue. The other issue was keeping them under control.

Plans. Plans. Plans. Plans held together by hope. Their hope.

And here was the culmination of it: they had managed to tear a world out of his grasp. If they could take ten more of them, he ’d be sufficiently weakened. They would win the war that was started more than twenty years ago.

Error tried not to think about what was going to happen to Ink.

“You idiot! Why did you have to take my hand?” He looked at his palm. He felt as if he was holding a pencil sketch by the hand. It was a skeleton with a lot of leftover structure lines, a shining star in his eye-socket and a bright soul in his chest. “I’ll just end up betraying you again.”

He got a weak smile in return. Ink knew and yet still held him by the hand.

Chapter Text

Ink came home late. In every sense of the word.

He was met with silence. No one came out to greet him, no one said they were happy to see him. And if at first he had a sliver of hope that the destroyer was asleep, when he came upstairs the look of the made up bed smothered even that.

Error left.

The week they had spent together felt like a dream. It came to the artist in his sleep and left beautiful memories in its wake, but now it was time to wake up and admit: he could never make Error stay for as long as he wanted him to.

Ink grinned sadly. He understood that, yet he wanted to stay in his made-up reality a little longer. Now he was smothered by loneliness — the awful feeling, which he was born with in the Void.

Ink hadn’t felt it in a while. If he needed company he could always call Dream or visit Blue. But right now friends weren’t what the guardian needed.

He picked up a pillow and hugged it — a sad replacement for Error.

“Addicted. I’m addicted. Give me back my drug.”

He fell onto the bed, still holding onto the pillow, and fell asleep, still clothed.

 

The next day gave start to something inane. Error was destroying universes left and right — any and all, indiscriminately — as if he’d been resting for a decade and now came the day to spend all the stored energy.

“Error! What are you doing?!”

Ink enjoyed his lover waking him up with sex, but waking up to the pain of collapsing worlds was easily one of his worst awakenings ever.

“I’m doing what I must!” Error announced and went from Littletale into the god-forsaken Limbotale. He ran past the confused Chara and Gaster and came up in a Pacifist route of the Skeleton Frisk universe, starting to tear it apart.

“Error!” Ink caught up with him and was about to use paint as bindings, when the destroyer slipped through a portal again.

Dreemurr Reborn, Predatortale, Creepytale, Gatetale — all of those universes suffered while Ink chased Error. He finally managed to drag him into a fight in Gatetale.

“Stop it! What’s gotten into you?”

A blaster shot and a wall of bones were the answer he got. Left without a choice, he was forced to use his fists and magic instead of words. The blast was blocked by a wall of ink, and paint melted down the bones. However, the black skeleton had already made a net out of blue strings, and the artist barely dodged it, then a wave of his brush left the ripped strings hanging off the walls and stones.

Error was nowhere to be seen. He hadn’t used a portal, so he was still somewhere in this universe.

Ink spun around, ready for and attack, but instead he heard the laboratory blow up off in the distance. The guardian teleported there in haste.

“What’s gotten into you?!” That sounded almost hysterical.

“Work,” the destroyer stated indifferently, watching the scurrying scientists from the roof of the lab. Strings killed a couple of them. “And why are you shirking your direct responsibilities, rainbow asshole?”

Error dodged the bones that grew below his feet by jumping off the roof. Strings clung to the edge of it, and he kicked off the wall to avoid a punch. Letting go of the strings, he fell. Ink had the time to get scared — such a fall could break all of the destroyer’s bones — but instead of hitting the ground the black skeleton dove into a portal leading to Oceantale.

Splash!

“Dammit, Error!” A glimpse of crosshairs showed in the guardian’s eyes. He took a gulp of red paint and continued the chase.

 

“I’ve spent fifteen hours chasing him! Fifteen, Dream! More than a hundred AUs were damaged! A hundred, Dream!”

Ink was running in circles around the stump of the Great Tree, gesturing wildly and choking with sheer indignation.

The keeper of dreams, in turn, was calm.

“Well, it’s kind of normal,” he said.

“How is this normal?!!” Ink’s eyelights showed all of his resentment by turning into bright red skulls.

“He’s a destroyer.” Dream shrugged. “That’s his creed: destroying and breaking. Or did you think that a week in your company would change anything?”

“I wasn’t trying to change him,” the artist said, discomfited, and frowned. “But nothing like this has happened before. Error has never run about like a headless chicken, creating miniature pandemoniums here and there. We have always fought for every world! And he has never run from a fight — at least, not like today. Everything was wrong.”

Ink looked saddened.

Dream was tired too. Nightmare was filled with enthusiasm: a lot of the worlds suffered that day, and that gave more power to the keeper of nightmares. As a result, while Ink chased the destroyer, Dream chased his brother. His attempts to reason with his relative were just as unproductive as the artist’s attempts to stop Error.

The two friends sighed woefully.

“Maybe we should have a day off?” the keeper of dreams suggested.

“Why not go all the way and call it a stag party?”

“Sure!” Dream agreed. “Tonight, just the two of us and a bottle of rum!”

The artist looked at his friend with question marks in his eyes and nodded. Why not? He didn’t feel like going home. It was lonely there without Error.

“Where to?” Ink opened up the map of the Multiverse.

“How about Dancetale?”

“I’ve had enough dancing today, thanks.” The artist responded with a jittery smile.

“I’m talking about Dancetale’s bar. It’s pretty good. The only one better is in Underlust, but you wouldn’t want to go there. The one in Underfell — most of them — is also good, but I don’t like the genocidal setting.”

Ink shrugged, “Okay, Dancetale works. Let’s go!”

The two continued to discuss the destroyer’s odd behavior while sitting at the bar. Only Dream didn’t consider it particularly odd, and Ink was more invested in voicing his outrage rather than figuring out the situation.

And what was there to figure out? Why the destroyer acted like a destroyer?

“What a me-e-ess!” Ink got drunk quickly and wasn’t acting quite right.

“That’s enough for you.” The keeper of dreams pushed the third empty bottle away from his friend. The alcohol had his face flushed as well, and, despite his exhaustion, he was throwing interested looks at the dancefloor. While he was distracted, the barman gave his friend a full glass. “Didn’t know they served that strong a wine here.”

“I thought that was brandy.” Ink’s stare wandered around the bottom of the glass.

“It’s a cocktail,” was the barman’s disappointing answer.

“Then I’ll have two!” The drunk artist waved his glass.

“Thank you, we’ve had enough.” Dream stopped the barman’s attempt to get Ink too drunk to walk and left some coins on the counter. He grabbed his friend under the breast and dragged him out, grumbling, “You consider this relaxing? I thought we’d drink a bit and have a chat. But you had to grab the bottle and not let go until it was empty! How did you even manage to down three of them? What’s your secret?”

Ink felt better when they stepped outside. He managed to stand on his own and even sobered up a little. In body, not in mind.

“Relax? We could do that too,” he smiled and pulled the confused Dream closer. And kissed him.

Dream’s brows went up in surprise, and he hesitantly responded while still making attempts to lead his drunk friend farther away from the bar. However, when the artist deepened the kiss and demandingly pushed him into a wall, the keeper of dreams realized he had to either take the “offer” or push Ink off immediately.

“Whoa there, friend!” Dream’s palm was pushed between their mouths. “I actually have a boyfriend, and I don’t want to have an argument over an affair with my ex. And you have a lover too. I don’t know what Error thinks of cheating, but something tells me that the Multiverse might not survive finding out. It’s been through enough misery today. Are you sure you haven’t cheated on him?”

Ink burst out laughing.

“Yeah, sorry. Went too far there. And no. I’ve only slept with him this year. Oh! Dream, I’m sorry. Really.” Ink hid his face in his hands. “Open a portal for me. I’ll walk home myself. Because if you come with me… well, you know. The temptation is strong!”

“Go sleep it off, you perv!”

Kicked out into his own world, the artist stumbled into the yard in front of his house and waved goodbye at the closing portal. He barely managed to walk to the door. Locked. Not a problem — there’s always a window! The drunk brain decided that the second floor window was the best option, and soon a poorly drawn grappling hook broke the glass and caught on something. The well-trained body easily climbed up and fell onto the glass-covered floor of the room, taking the window frame and the curtains with it.

Good night.

 

There’s no such thing as “good morning”. Especially if yesterday you worked to exhaustion, then drank the sorrows away and then got home in the most anal way possible.

The window was broken, the shards were sticking out of his body like cactus thorns. A grappling hook was caught in the mattress.

“So,” Ink appraised the damages done to himself and his house, “yesterday I was either under influence or concussed.” He smelled his breath. “Stars-dammit! I hope I haven’t messed things up.”

His memory helpfully came up with an image of tied-up Lust. Once, his ex figured that getting the guardian drunk was a good idea. The poor idiot couldn’t sit straight for a week, and the house was easier to rebuild than fix. So the two of them waited for a reset without a roof over their heads and with a piano stuck in a wall.

Ink laughed at himself and his past and started cleaning up. He would deal with Error later. He could always tie him up and bring him back as a trophy.

 

Ink and Dream weren’t the only ones who needed to rest after the action-filled day. Another worn-out character was lying, exhausted, on the floor in the darker part of the Anti-Void. He was sleeping — that is, until a phone call woke him.

“Hello? Oh, it’s you. Nah. I’m beat. I’ve spent the whole day distracting the guardians from your games. Fifteen hours, Paper. Fifteen! And I won’t be able to pull off the same thing tomorrow. So postpone Endertale for a couple of days. Yes, I know you’re ready to go tomorrow. But either you reveal one of the destroyers, and he does the job in my stead, or you let me rest. Good decision, kid. Okay. You all need some rest too.”

Chapter Text

The day after the insane game of tag with Error, Fresh went nuts. It unclear why he chose that exact day to try taking over the very odd DTtale . That was the AU, where all of the inhabitants got injected a huge dose of Determination. That made their bodies completely useless for parasitical habitation. However, Fresh was determined to prove that wrong.

“Fresh! What the Gaster?!!”

The parasite was sitting on a bench in Snowdin, nibbling on sunflower seeds and watching his “children” chase the determined monsters around. He waved hello at the guardian.

“What? I came here to feed. So I’ll feed and leave.”

“When you come to feed, you infect a couple of monsters. Right now more than twenty are infected. Care to explain yourself?!”

“Nope.” Fresh gave him an insolent smile and got to his feet. Sunflower seeds and husks poured to the ground. “I want one more world all to myself!”

The glasses slipped down, uncovering the uncanny sight of the purple-lighted eyes-sockets: a tiny soul showed in one of them, parasite’s tentacles stuck out of the other.

Ink flinched. He was used to fighting Error. Battling the “nightmares” was familiar too. Even if Cross showed up and tried to build a world out of shards of other universes, Ink wouldn’t have been fazed. But fighting Fresh…

The paintbrush blocked a swing of a skateboard. Ink dodged to the right, went up to avoid a barrage of bones.

“Fresh, let’s make,” left, jump, avoid a couple of sharp projectiles, “a deal!”

“What are the terms of the deal, broski?” It went too fast. Fresh popped up right in front of Ink — “Fun!” written on the glasses and a baseball bat clenched in hands.

“Star-dammit!” Fall back, now! Ink knew too well why Fresh ever got close. He backed off just in time: a parasite fell into the snow, barely missing the artist.

“Stars? Stars it is!” Fresh was the only known Sans not to use teleportation. Instead, he had a trick of his own.

The parasite opened a portal and swung the baseball bat into it.

Ink saw stars. The corresponding portal opened right behind his back and closed before the artist could turn around. A crack appeared on his skull.

“Dance, baby, dance!”

Ink got onto a roof to get away from the bones rising from the ground and immediately leaped back down and zigzagged to avoid the projectiles falling from above.

Everything was happening too fast, giving him no time to form a strong attack.

A skull formed out of ink and rushed at Fresh, spitting out a shot, but the parasite easily dodged and shattered the blaster with a swing of a bat. Then he stepped into a portal.

Above? No. Below? Nope. On his right? On his left? No, and no again. Behind him? Still no. Where was he?

“Right in front of you!”

Another hit to the head.

This time Ink managed to soften the blow and whack the parasite with his paintbrush in return. Fresh was still smiling even as it hit his ribs and head. His left arm cracked under the the impact of the metal ring.

He didn’t feel pain. To him, this body was nothing more than clothing.

“My turn.”

Ink barely had time to parry. When he put the brush in front of him, Fresh opened a portal and hit his leg. Ink expected a blow to his chest, but the bat met his head again — the crack grew. Ink protected his legs — and got a broken rib. He covered his head and shrieked from the pain in his leg.

Growling, he fell back and hid in an ink cocoon. He drank from the red vial in haste and rushed at the enemy, shielding his back with inky wings.

“Aw man. Dude. It’s not nice to cheat. You ain’t got feelings, I ain’t got feelings. We were on equal grounds, bruh.”

“Stars damn that equality!”

“Stars, you say?” Fresh shrugged and fell back. His “kids” — the infected inhabitants of DTtale — were running towards him. Some of them were already starting to melt from the abundance of Determination, others were barely alive, and the rest still held their proper form. “Show him stars!”

Simultaneously fighting a Sans, a Papyrus, an Undyne, an Alphys, a Toriel, an Asgore, a Frisk, a Monster Kid, a Nice Cream Guy, a Shopkeeper — all without killing them — was a challenge.

Ink practically let himself be torn to pieces before he surrounded himself with a shield.

“One last warning, Fresh!” There was a threat in the guardian’s voice.

“You don’t have a trump card to play, broski! You’ve lost.”

The artist sighed. He didn’t want to do this, but he had no choice. After drinking some more red paint, Ink filled the paintbrush with solvent.

Drawing an arch, he spilled the solvent around him. Like acid, the chemical burned through bones and left holes in bodies. Three of the enemies died at once. Two more weren’t able to get up again. Now the only thing that could help this universe was a full reset.

Fresh stepped into a portal to avoid his dose of liquid “fun”. He stepped out ten meters to the right.

“Mr. Good Guy is having fun today?” The parasite’s face lost its smile. “That’s what good guys do now? Kill, maim, date destroyers?”

The last part made Ink freeze. How did Fresh find out about his relationship with Error?

“Why are you so surprised, friendo? He spent a week at your place and returned without a scratch. It’s a give you were either banging or composing a needlessly long treaty. Seven nights worth of it. Care to share the deets — was it on the bed, against the walls, on the floor, or maybe you have a playroom, like Lust? By the by, I’ve heard a little something from Lust…”

Ink clenched his teeth and rushed into battle. His eyelights, like rifle crosshairs, never let the enemy out of sight.

But Fresh didn’t even try to hide. He let the artist get as close as he could manage, dove under his arm and spat a parasite at him.

The artist kicked the creature away but took another hit with the bat — to the head again!

Groaning, he fell over.

“I only had to make you angry, and you’ve become so reckless.” The parasite shook his head. He leisurely walked up to Ink and pressed the end of his bat to the widening crack in his head — and stepped right into a puddle, which spread its black tentacles over the ground. “You’ve lost.” He pulled his bat back, ready to swing it down, and asked, “Any last words?”

The guardian’s head was hurting like crazy, and he couldn’t figure out whether he was lying on the floor or on the ceiling. Everything spun and flowed, like liquid paint down a canvas. But there was more than enough strength in him to sustain one single magic attack.

“You’ve lost,” Ink whispered, smiling.

The next moment Fresh was swallowed by an ink wave. It wound around him like pita around a filling and tied him up like ham with twine.

With great difficulty, barely moving his fingers, Ink reached for his phone.

“Dream, I’m in DTtale . I’ve got Fresh immobilized for an hour — I need you to put him to sleep. I think, we should interrogate him. And he also cracked my head. And broke my ribs. And damaged my spine. And leg. And arm. Come quick. I feel like I’m one step away from dying.”

While he waited for his friend to get there, Ink remembered how he once lost to Error in a pretty similar way. That day Ink badly hurt the destroyer, came closer, wanting to help, and got hit with a blaster shot from behind.

“How ironic is that? Now I’m using his tricks. I wonder where he is? What is he doing? How is he? And… Where’s that parasitic shawarma???”

 

Error sneezed, turned to the other side and continued to sleep. He didn’t know Fresh was chosen to work as a distraction. And he had no idea that a huge black limbless bundle would fall on top of him and whine in a very familiar voice:

“Heya, bro. Can you give me a hand?”

Chapter Text

The week was hellish. It started with Error’s leave and his attack on a hundred worlds at once, which was followed by Fresh’s attack the next day, a raise in activity among “nightmares”, who tried to mess up the Pacifist route of an Underfell universe — and, as a result, Dream disappeared for an unspecified amount of time.

Ink’s friend was exhausted and chose to spend his well-earned days off by his lover’s side. The latter, by the way, had found out about the kiss and kept glaring daggers at Ink. The artist had to give him the most sincere apology he was capable of — meaning he drank blue paint and cried, then purple one and felt disgusted with himself, then he mixed them and bowed and begged for forgiveness, then drank white to feel scared.

Finally, the guardian got tired of this song and dance and let the happy couple enjoy each other’s company somewhere else. He headed in the opposite direction himself. His place of choice happened to be a Genocide timeline of Outertale. Why not Pacifist? Ink wanted the quiet and solitude.

One more world had disappeared. That came to light at the end of the seventh day. The promising world of Endertale was erased from the Multiverse.

 

Another weird thing had happened too. One night Ink felt terrible. He woke up, feeling as if his body was incredibly heavy. It also felt as if someone threw a strong-smelling rag over his face, but he couldn’t lift a hand to check, and the room was too dark to see through the cloth.

The smell seemed familiar — a sweet, viscous odor. Chloroform?

His consciousness was swimming. He thought he saw the destroyer standing by his bed. A moment away from falling asleep, Ink called for help:

“Error… help…”

How stupid, he thought back then. He fell into a deep slumber.

And in the morning Ink woke up alive and unharmed: not a scratch, just a little headache — like the one you get after drinking strong alcohol.

Was it a nightmare? Perhaps, it was. That week was nerve-wracking, so a nightmare was a possibility. Besides, lately the guardian had to spend a lot of time keeping tabs on Nightmare. The foe could give him a nightmare without Dream noticing — especially considering the keeper of dreams was missing from his job.

Sighing, the artist declared his night vision a dream. A weird dream.

Outertale was beautiful! Lying in a meadow of flowers, that grew out of monster dust, and watching the glorious vastness of the outer space, Ink slowly regained his inner peace.

But his paranoid belief that an unknown conspiracy was unraveling around him didn’t leave him. And it wasn’t going to leave, he realized. There was a conspiracy! No one even tried to deny it! Even Core looked him in the eye as they stated: I’ll keep lying to you for as long as it’s needed. The three world-travellers stated that they’d rather die than tell him. Fresh told him that, when Ink was kidnapped and almost killed, he was doing that to help a friend — someone whom Ink, apparently, hadn’t met yet. Sci said outright that Error was scheming against someone who the scientist was scared of. And Seraphim said that he’d met unusual creatures in the Void and other universes, but all of them avoided contact with him and even ran from the giant — though, to be fair, considering Seraphim’s terrifying looks, the reaction was understandable.

“My head hurts!” Ink whimpered and turned off his sight.

The pieces didn’t form a picture. He would’ve asked the conspirator himself, but there was a big chance he’d finally get dumped, and he didn’t want to be left both without his lover and without his answers.

“What if the disappearance of the AUs and Error’s secret are connected?” That thought hit him like a ton of bricks, making him search for a link between the events.

Not a single one. None. Nothing in common. Those universes, Cursetale and Endertale — Error had never even attacked them much. They were too big for him to handle. All in all, the only common thread between the two worlds was their scale: huge, bulky, detailed, inhabited by thousands of sentient and tens of thousands of non-sentient creatures. They could even be considered self-sufficient. Oh, right! They had another common feature: they didn’t have resets — not in a very long time.

Ink’s eyes lit up again. The eyelights were question marks, and there were no answers.

Holding back a heavy sigh, the artist got up and headed home. He hoped some healthy sleep would help him relax a little bit.

 

Error was exhausted. The past week was truly tiring, but he was satisfied with the results. They’d managed to rip another world out of the Multiverse — though that required an ungodly amount of effort!

It was completely nerve-wracking and left him with his head heavy and bones tired from endlessly running about.

The story of how Error sneaked into Ink’s house late at night to put him to sleep with chloroform so that he wouldn’t wake up when the universe left the system — that was an undertaking in and of itself. Yes, the destroyer suspected that the guardian was trusting and careless, but he still hoped the reason the “lock” and key remained unchanged was due to the artist’s crappy memory. Though it was nice to think that he’d left them unchanged on purpose — because he expected his lover to come back.

By the way, why couldn’t he come back?

Error realized just what he needed to unwind.

“Ink.”

Who else could make him melt and feel soft and malleable? His memory helpfully brought up the hot moments of their time spent together. There were a lot of them. And the artist managed to surprise him every time.

“Someone likes to experiment, hm?” whispered the destroyer, starting to get excited. He swallowed and got up off the floor.

If it’s decided, why wait?

 

Ink was sitting on the couch and trying to guess just what he was drinking — tea, coffee or juice? He forgot, and he couldn’t figure it out by taste. The turbid liquid was most reminiscent of a mixture of those drinks in equal proportions.

And then someone kicked the front door open.

“You haven’t changed the key,” Error noted.

Ink jumped on the couch as if stung. He absolutely didn’t expect the destroyer come visiting, especially so loudly. It wasn’t clear whether he came looking for a fight or for something more intimate.

“Sorry for asking, but why are you here?”

“To fuck.”

“...I see.”

The guardian shook his head and hurried to take a sip of pink paint. It didn’t take away the heavy thoughts but brought forth the arousal they both needed. Hesitating a bit, Ink approached his lover, slipping out of his clothes as he went. The discarded items — gloves, the blue jacket, the shirt — marked his trail like rose petals.

“You wear too much stuff!” The destroyer was impatient and roughly helped his lover undress, simultaneously taking notice of how quiet he was and how he kept looking away.

“You’re tense,” Error stated and ran a hand down Ink’s bare back. “Say that you don’t want this, and I’ll leave.”

“I want this.” Ink rubbed his head against the destroyer’s chest, making him hiss as glitches appeared.

“Okay then,” Error smirked, and the pants with suspenders and leggings fell to the floor. He looked around and asked, “Where?”

“Where what?” The artist was confused.

“Where haven’t we had sex yet?”

“Does the ceiling count?”

Error huffed and finally found an unclaimed space. Ink had no time to argue before he was set down onto the kitchen table.

“Get comfortable, babe.”

“Sure, but no stupid nicknames or pet names.” Ink spread his legs and noted, “Lust loved using those, and I really don’t want to remember him at all.”

“So you don’t know how he’s been doing?”

The guardian squinted slyly and licked his teeth, moving his hips closer to the edge of the table:

“I don’t give a damn. But, considering your recent meeting, not good, for sure.”

Error smirked and used his strings to make his lover rise up for a kiss. The same strings were used to throw him back onto the tabletop and crucify him like a sacrifice for a ritual. Error leaned down, starting to draw patterns over the lines of the tattoo with his wet tongue.

Moaning languidly, the “sacrifice” arched to meet him and whispered sweet nothings… until he got distracted and tensed, frowning.

“Oh, what is it?” Error whined impatiently. “Don’t tell me someone other than me started to destroy a universe! I promise, if you have to leave because of them, I’ll bury them alive!”

“Nightmare has entered Mobtale,” Ink huffed.

“Too bad for him,” the destroyer smirked and followed the tattoo lines down to the hips. “For the next hour you’re only mine. And screw Nightmare! You can pick what’s left of him from the bottom of the river later.”

Ink laughed. His laughter turned into a moan, and he threw all the unnecessary thoughts out of his head, surrendering to carnal pleasure. In the short time of their meetings the black skeleton learned to masterfully use his tongue, bringing unthinkable bliss with it alone. And what his fingers were capable of!...

“Error! If you keep going! Ah! Um! Ah! I’m gonna!...” He didn’t have the time to finish that thought as he arched and shook in ecstasy.

Though the destroyer had no intention of swallowing. He carefully spat into his arm and laughed at Ink’s disappointed face.

“If I don’t like it, then I don’t like it.” With that, he threw his shorts off and moved forward sharply, provoking a ragged cry from his partner.

“You sadist!” Moaned the guardian, trying to catch his breath.

“Yep.” The destroyer pulled him into a kiss.

The table gave a desperate creak with every motion, shifting like a living being under the bodies united in their passion.

Forward, creak . Backward, creak . Louder and louder. Like the coming of thunder clouds — they swirl with lust, shudder and come down with thunder, lightning and rain.

 

The strings weren’t holding Ink back anymore, so the guardian turned to lay on his side and watched Error hastily pull his pants up.

“Will you stay?” he asked, hopeful.

“No,” the black skeleton was quick to shatter his hopes. “I’ve already spent way too much time under your roof last time.”

“Is it bad?”

“It’s bad for me.”

“Will you come again? Just like that, out of the blue.”

“I will, if you won’t change the key.”

The front door closed, leaving the artist alone again.

He got up, looked at the mess they had created and noted that he felt better. He also thought he’d never see the kitchen table the same way again.

And Error hoped that he could be sure his lover wasn’t going to change the code of the world, and he’d be able to come again. The question was, what he was going to bring next time — his passion or chloroform?

Chapter Text

Ink’s sleep was restless. His mind was plagued by the questions, the odd dream featuring Error standing by his bed, and Error in general — his behavior in the past few weeks: sudden attack on the AUs, just as sudden a visit, his escape after relieving the stress.

Everything was wrong somehow.

Come morning, the guardian of the Multiverse hurried to Mobtale to find out just what Nightmare wanted with it. As a result, he had a strong desire to follow Error’s example and erase the aggressive universe for trying to dress the exhausted guardian into cement shoes. Half a vial of yellow paint was the only thing that kept him from putting solvent to good use. Though, after such a knockout dose of happiness he shouldn’t have visited HELP_Tale. The disfigured monsters weren’t prepared to get a surprise hug then watch the guardian run off, chanting Christmas songs.

Ink was aware just how off his behavior was. That was why he spent the next day at home, using painting as his substitute for meditation. Yet he still slept poorly that night. The thoughts were getting to him.

When heavy thoughts replaced healthy sleep for the third time in a row, Ink gave up and called Dream.

“Talk to me,” was all he said — and his friend was already opening a portal to his world.

He came looking slightly off. His diadem was missing, his shirt was put on backwards, his cloak was askew, and the monochromatic pants weren’t even his. Dream greeted Ink a withering look and asked with a gesture: what the Void do you want? Got a gesture in reply: let’s talk in the kitchen.

While the artist poured tea into the mugs and took out zefir, Dream stared at the table. The thoughtful gaze of the keeper of dreams was directed at the scratches the legs left on the floor and the scratches bones left on the tabletop.

Were he human, he would’ve arched an eyebrow and given Ink a look: what an active life you have, my friend. But skeletons didn’t have eyebrows, so he shook his head and sat at the debased kitchen table.

“So what’s happened?” he got to the point first.

“Nothing special. Everything’s fine.”

“Don’t lie to me. I can feel that everything’s not fine.”

Ink sighed and wiped the fake smile off his face.

“You know, they say life is made of little things.”

“I know what they say: a little thing can ruin a life.”

“Yeah. So.” Ink didn’t know where to start. He could talk to Dream about anything, cry at his shoulder and find solace, repent and get forgiveness, admit to his mistakes and get punishment he deserved. But sometimes the artist couldn’t put his thoughts into words. “I’m worried over a lot of little things. Can’t sleep even.”

“The destroyer’s secrets again?”

“Yes. Though I’m sort of used to them by now. There’s something else I wanna talk about — about Error himself, not his secrets.”

Dream took a sip of tea and got ready to listen to complicated confessions of the soulless creature. The story was short and ended with:

“He just came, said he wanted to fuck and fucked me. And then refused to spend the night and left. Just left!”

“Wasn’t that what you wanted? Sex without strings attached?” The keeper of dreams couldn’t understand the reasons for Ink’s indignation.

“I did, but…” Ink’s eyelights frantically changed shape, not able to pick a single one. “I’m starting to think that sex alone isn’t enough.”

Dream choked on tea.

“Wait — cough — describe when and what you’ve felt and why you’ve come to this conclusion.”

The guardian estimated when the feelings first sprouted and shrugged:

“When Error lived with me — that week. I felt amazingly warm. No offense, Dream, but not even with you have I ever felt such… mutual understanding, I guess — don’t know a better word to call it. When he left, I felt bad, but not too bad. But when he returned…” The artist grew silent, picking the right words. “It was like a lightning strike — sudden and loud. So many conflicting emotions, all growing inside me. They were weak, of course, but I want to feel them again!”

Dream drummed his fingers on the tabletop, touched the scratches and frowned.

“Are you sure you want me to explain this to you?” he asked. The keeper of dreams didn’t want to hurt his friend, but, for the sake of his inner peace and safety, it had to be done as soon as possible.

“Yes, or I wouldn’t have called you.”

“I could still just nod and pretend to be happy for you, instead of opening your eyes to the sad reality.”

Ink gave him a sad smile and shook his head. Living in his fantasies was a privilege he couldn’t afford.

“Well, if you say so,” said Dream and asked, “Do you remember why we broke up?”

“Remind me.”

“I wanted more. I wanted not only to love but to be loved. And you couldn’t give me that.”

“I’m sorry for…”

“Don’t you dare apologize!” the keeper of dreams raised his voice a bit. “You’re not to blame for being unable to feel. Or for wanting to be able to.”

“And I perfectly realize how impossible that is! Take Flowey — he went insane because he wanted the impossible! He wanted to feel but couldn’t.”

“Yes. That’s why we’re sitting here and figuring out what you’ve felt. Or rather, you do understand that those conflicting emotions weren’t yours?”

Ink looked at his friend as if he’d just noticed him there. He shook his head, rejecting the very notion:

“No. It’s impossible.”

“But he’s a monster too. And, besides physical needs, he has those of the soul too. He may want to,” the following words were hard for Dream to say, “love you.”

“No, he doesn’t want that, he can’t. He avoids me like the plague. Those aren’t his emotions!”

“Ink,” Dream was watching him with pity, “I know you wish to believe that those feelings were yours, but we both know that’s impossible. You can’t feel a thing without paints or… mirroring others’ emotions. We both know how you look alone and without your paints. And we both know that everything you feel, supposedly, yourself is fake.”

“Dream, please, stop.” Tears flowed down Ink’s face. “You’re hurting me!”

“It’s me, who’s hurting! For you! Because of you!” Dream didn’t hold back his tears. “And I get scared when you try to deceive yourself. And then you drink blue paint and suffer! I just want you to… I just don’t want what’s happened before to repeat itself. So don’t deceive yourself. Don’t!” He covered his eye-sockets with his hands, and teardrops fell through his fingers. “I can give you wonderful dreams. They’ll be full of laughter and joy, and, while inside them, you’ll feel all of that. Even love. But you’ll wake up, Ink. And you’ll feel the heavy burden of disappointment again.”

Yes. Ink understood. Everything fell into place. Even his lack of restraint in Mobtale. Even when fighting Fresh — he was showing a bit of Error’s feelings.

They both stayed silent for a long while, wiped each other’s tears and drank herbal tea. Only an hour later did they manage to continue their conversation.

Ink asked:

“So that means that Error wants to love me? He wants not just to have sex with me, but to actually be together? But why does he avoid me then? Why doesn’t he make any attempts to become closer?”

“I can’t answer that.” Dream leaned back in his chair and gave it some thought. “I don’t know him well enough. In my eyes, he’s still a maniac, a killer and an abomination. And it’s hard to believe that such a monster could fall in love.”

“But it’s possible?”

“Yes. Since you’ve mirrored his emotions and found love among them, then yes. Congratulations.” Dream gave him three listless claps.

“Not funny, Dream. Apart from love, there’s a violent mix in him: exhaustion, anger, gratitude, delight, disappointment, excitement, perseverance. And there’s also a lot of guilt and care. But more than all of that, Error feels hope.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know.” Ink shrugged. “His very being is full of it. Dream, do you think he could be connected to those two worlds that have disappeared?”

A tense silence fell over them.

Chapter Text

After talking to his friend, Ink felt better. No, the conversation was in no way pleasant, but it helped him figure out the situation and put up with the state of affairs.

Dream is right, he thought, it’s dangerous to deceive myself.

The artist smiled a bit. It was nice to know he was loved — yet, no matter how sweet it was, it left him feeling bitter too. If one day Error decided he wanted a more traditional relationship, sooner or later he would find out about Ink’s absolute emotionlessness and… leave him, like a toy he’d grown bored of.

“I’m surprised at your pessimism, Broomy,” the guardian reproached, talking to his paintbrush. “You could try thinking of more positive things — like what shade the destroyer’s love is, for example…

“Oh, right! The paints!” The guardian slapped himself on the forehead. “They’re almost empty!”

After running around the house to collect vials and flasks, Ink bared his chest. The dark mist of magic swirled like a thunder cloud inside his ribcage. Answering his summons, the dangerous-looking substance slowly floated outside and stopped above the tabletop.

With a soft touch of his palms to the bundle of darkness, the guardian felt the magic overflowing with emotions. Almost all of them belonged to Error.

The mist got thicker, shrunk and gave a leak like an old bucket.

Dream’s viscous and thick blue sadness slowly, in large drops, fell into a vial of the corresponding colour, filling it to the brim.

Error’s bright, flammable rage filled the red one. Happiness, delight, gratitude, excitement, care — all of that became the gold inside the yellow vial. The blue one was already full, so Ink poured Error’s guilt into a spare vial and it still stained his fingers, pouring over the brim.

The guardian licked his finger. The destroyer’s guilt turned out to be awfully bitter. It lay on his shoulders as a heavy burden, weighing him down.

Ink choked and coughed, horrified by the strength of the emotion, and poured the guilt down the sink. He drank some yellow and felt the familiar hope: all of the destroyer’s emotions were bitter — even this one was, a little bit.

“What’s happening to you, Error?”

No one answered him. The mist was already squeezing out the last — but no less important — paint. Love — pale but already showing the hint of its colour — filled the pink vial with its liquid composition.

It was salty-sweet to taste — weirdly reminiscent of brine that some Sanses drank to deal with a hangover. The comparison made Ink laugh as he corked the pink vial.

Ink rarely used green surprise and purple disgust, so they were still full. Same went for white fear. So the artist returned the magic back into his ribcage. Involuntarily, his fingers ran over a line of his tattoo, feeling the never-healing cracks. He frowned.

Those cracks were the proof that the dream Ink saw sometimes was a memory.

In that memory Ink wasn’t the guardian yet, wasn’t yet an artist — he was a sketch, a bunch of guidelines, an unfinished piece left behind by a Creator to await his end. And then… All that he could remember after that were snippets, lone phrases and barely perceptible thoughts. And tears — not his tears. And a hand, that was offered to him....

His soul was ripped from his chest. It broke his ribs to leave the imperfect body, and was shattered.

That was all that Ink could remember. Sadly, Dream wasn’t able to help him uncover more details, and the artist had to do with the shards he had. However, that night the dream of his past took a new course. It got mixed with dreams and turned into a true nightmare.

 

The guardian could safely walk inside the unfinished worlds, down its empty streets, and he wasn’t worried at first — as if he was walking around yet another genocidal universe. Then a wind blew, carrying a lot of dirt and leaves, and dust. The artist had to cover his eyes with his hands.

“I’m sorry,” came an unfamiliar voice.

Someone was standing in front of him. Ink tried to see who it was, but every time he pulled his hands away, dry leaves got in his eyes. No, those weren’t leaves — those were filled notebook pages. On them were drawings of him, the person he was today. Don’t look, don’t look, whispered the pictures, but the artist wanted to see the stranger and kept fighting the papers.

“If only there was some other way,” the stranger continued.

Ink stepped forward, hands outstretched. Even if he couldn’t see the stranger, he could touch him, recognize him by his clothing, scars.

Bony fingers grabbed his hand. The stranger was definitely a Sans. What AU was he from?

“You idiot. Why are you giving your hand to me? …”

Ink reached forward and hugged the stranger. He couldn’t let him escape. But he felt the skeleton fall apart in his arms — not to dust, but to art-filled pages of his notebook.

Then it got quiet.

Paper didn’t rustle anymore, didn’t try to cover his eyes, yet for some reason Ink was scared to open his eyes now. Slowly, he pulled away his hands and saw dozens of strangers around him. Kids, teenagers, adults. Mostly skeletons. All of them were staring at him and waiting for something. Then, they reached towards him with their hands and started to turn to dust.

“Don’t kill us!”

 

Ink woke up covered in cold sweat. He cursed Nightmare and promised to kick his ass. He was about to go back to sleep when he sharply bent over and threw up. The ink stained the blanket, soaking in and glimmering with blotches of blue guilt.

“Void-dammit!”

Yet another sleepless night. The guardian walked into the kitchen, made some strong coffee and glanced at the phone. He didn’t want to risk calling Dream a second time, so he tried to figure out his dream himself. The giant paintbrush was put into the chair across him to act as an interlocutor.

“Error’s guilt? Broomy, do you think it was his repentance for the destroyed universes? That would’ve been logical. I would have guessed that the skeletons in that dream are the alternative Sanses that died at his hands.

“But, sadly, it’s not so. If Error really felt guilty about the destroyed worlds, he would’ve changed his ways — wouldn’t have destroyed, wouldn’t have tortured, wouldn’t have killed. But he’s still a destroyer. That’s how it’s always been. Broomy, what else could he be blaming himself for? I don’t know either.”

Ink tried to remember the stranger in his dream. He only heard the voice, and even that was distorted beyond recognition. He was asking for forgiveness and called him an idiot for offering him his hand…

Ink’s eyelights changed from question marks to exclamation points. There was only one person whom Ink had always offered his hand to and who had always called him an idiot for it. That person never took the hand of friendship — but ended up in his bed instead.

“No,” the guardian shook his head, “it couldn’t have been Error. He has nothing to do with my pas…” His soul was torn out. And wasn’t that what the destroyer did? Though he never broke any ribs while doing that, and no one he’d ever torn a soul out of had survived.

Whimpering, Ink laid his head on the table. Trying to figure out the “what, when and how” just left him with more questions.

Chapter Text

The Creators called him — or, rather, one of them did, loud and clear. He couldn’t hide from the voice — not under his blanket, not even under his pillow. That call made the sleep-deprived skeleton get up, get dressed, get a liter of coffee into himself — forgoing a mug — and get into his role of a creator.

Who cared that the artist wasn’t in the mood for creating? He simply had to.

The Creators didn’t literally talk to him. They showed him what they wanted, showed him the place where they had already started to build their worlds and gave him an intent.

To Ink’s surprise, quite often those Creators just whispered: there’s a new world — and the guardian only had to come familiarize with it. That happened about once a week. But every month, without fail, at least one Creator wished for the guardian’s personal involvement. It didn’t matter what kind of world was being created — one leaning towards good emotions or bad ones — Ink couldn’t refuse. And once he entered an unfinished universe, he couldn’t stop.

To him, the act of creation was much like a dance. Music plays, and his paintbrush works. Stuck under a million stares, he has no right to make a mistake. And so, he dances, enchanted by a new idea, and creates someone else’s treasure, which, much like a fairy-tale dragon, he promises to protect.

A river here, there a house, over there some snow, here’s a castle, and here are the inhabitants. They’re wearing armor, there’s a war going on. And inside the castle is a princess, who is meant to be sacrificed to the people of darkness — the people of darkness, obviously, being monsters. Two paths, two roads to choose: the princess will either take the sword and fight for her freedom or walk into the darkness. Will she come back?

So many paths and possibilities. The world had just begun to breathe. Its story was on the screen of life for the very first time. Since the smaller details weren’t yet settled, the world could possibly break into two or three similar ones. That’s how it happened with Underfell, for example. There were more than five similar version of it, and three versions that didn’t look like the original idea at all.

Just some finishing touches left…

Ink sighed, relieved from his duty. That was all. The world came alive. It didn’t need a creator anymore, and the artist left the tiny fairy-tale. Now he could go home and get the sleep he’d missed out on. He couldn’t see the Creator’s gratitude, but he could feel it.

Sometimes it felt like he — much like his brush — was just a tool, and if he had a soul, he might have been offended.

After fiddling with the blue vial for a bit, Ink put it back in its place and drank from the yellow one — and everything was great!

Ah, no!

“Nightmare! Can’t you take a break?!”

Dream’s brother was hanging around the Fell universes again. He’d been visiting them a lot lately, but it wasn’t causing any significant harm, so Ink didn’t confront him. He did, however, have the right to ask about the nightmare he saw. After all, Nightmare was the lord of bad dreams and had to know everything about them.

“Hi, boogeyman!” Ink practically fell on top of the “octopus”. That wasn’t planned: the portal was just off thanks to the lack of sleep. “All alone today?”

Despite his complexion of black slug, Nightmare nimbly moved out of the way, not allowing the artist to land on top of him. He avoided the swing of the paintbrush effortlessly.

“Boogey-what? How cute, guardian,” grinned the lord of nightmares. “What was it that Error calls you? Oh! Rainbow asshole. Or should I call you ‘rainbow ass’?”

Ink’s expression showed surprise, and he looked back at the aforementioned body part.

“None of me is rainbow. Especially not my ass.”

Nightmare was amused by the childish remark. There was, however, a drawback. He couldn’t latch onto Ink’s emotions, since there weren’t any, and that always enraged the lord of nightmares: it felt like he was fighting nothingness. The same thing happened whenever Nightmare crossed paths with Fresh. Though, Fresh actually did radiate emotions — they were just so incomprehensible and alien, that they couldn’t even be parsed into positive and negative ones, which rendered them inedible for the lord of nightmares.

“So what do you want, Ink? Can’t remember angering you or inviting you for a meeting.”

“There’s something I wanted to ask.” Ink avoided drinking paint on purpose and let his body absorb the indignation of the “octopus”. He knew that, as long as he had no emotions inside him, Nightmare was weak before him and wouldn’t dare attack. “I’ve had a nightmare yesterday. Was it yours?”

The black slime-covered skeleton was surprised:

“A nightmare? You?” He laughed. “My brother must’ve completely abandoned his duty, if even the guardian of the Multiverse is having nightmares. No, I haven’t sent anything like that to you.”

“That so?” Ink was at a loss. “Oh well. Thanks for your honesty. Bye.”

He was about to leave when Nightmare stopped him with, “Don’t you want to figure that nightmare out?”

The guardian froze half-turn and stared at Nightmare with eyelights of uncertainty: a square and a spiral.

“Let’s say, I do. But you’re not gonna lure me into your world.”

“I can handle it here.” The lord of nightmares was so curious to see Ink’s dream that he hadn’t even considered tricking him. “Will you grant me your nightmare?”

Ink hesitated. Gifting a bad dream to Nightmare wasn’t unusual. He ate them the way Ink ate marshmallows. The artist would literally be treating him to a free meal. However, when Nightmare fed on bad dreams, he saw them and could figure out the person’s hidden fears, then use them to manipulate and enslave the victim.

The artist huffed and came closer.

“Take it,” he said.

Nightmare quickly passed a hand by Ink’s head, and a black sphere appeared in his palm. Then he moved away just as quickly, popped the bitter candy into his mouth and went numb to the outside world.

While he was out of it, the artist ran around the “statue of Nightmare” and sketched him from all sides. When would he ever have such an opportunity again? He hid away the sketches the moment he was done. See, he had sketched Error before, but when the glitch saw those pictures, he instantly had a problem with them. Apparently, Ink wasn’t allowed to draw him naked, and erotic scenes were prohibited too.

Dream’s brother regained his senses and looked at Ink with an indescribable expression.

“Question: Were you drunk, drugged or ate something weird?”

“I was just fine. Low on sleep, maybe, So what can you say about that dream?”

“It’s a nightmare alright,” Nightmare laughed and added in a more serious voice, “And I’ve definitely had nothing to do with it. It’s a spawn of a mind, one that is fraught with suffering. So I doubt it’s yours. All that’s left is to find out, whose it is. Care to tell me?”

“Thanks, bye!”

Ink left through an ink portal in haste and instantly shut the “door” behind himself. Nightmare hadn’t told him anything new, only confirmed what he’d already known: he wasn’t responsible for that nightmare and, since he didn’t recognize it, then he hadn’t sent it to Error either. Which meant that the dream was spawned by the destroyer’s suffering.

“Okay, it’s daytime. I can call Dream again.” Decision made, the guardian returned home and called his friend.

 

“Void-dammit, Ink!” Dream wasn’t happy to see him.

“Sorry,” Ink replied happily and unapologetically, offering tea to his guest.

Dream rolled his eyes.

“I hope it’s something important.” The keeper of good dreams plopped onto a chair. “You’ve promised me days off while the worlds aren’t being attacked.”

“I’ve had a nightmare that your brother had nothing to do with. And it’s not even mine. It’s Error’s.”

That made Dream sit up, now curious, and forgive Ink for everything.

“Show me.”

Unlike Nightmare, Dream had trouble swallowing the black sphere he’d extracted, and he was sitting with a grimace on his face for a long while.

“That was gross,” he said ten minutes later. “It’s even worse than your dreams-slash-memories. But I can tell you this: it’s not exactly Error’s nightmare. It’s a mix of your dream and his emotions. But,” the keeper of dreams drank his tea — the whole mug in one go — and only then went on, “this dream tastes like your memories. Of course, I’m not good enough at this, and I can’t tell for sure, but could a part of that dream be your memory?”

“Of course, it could,” Ink agreed. “But which one?”

Dream drummed his fingers on the table and said thoughtfully:

“Maybe we should go to Reapertale and ask Muffet?”

“Isn’t she a goddess of luck?” Ink was confused.

“She’s also a goddess of wealth and a weaver of fates. I’m surprised you’ve forgotten that, my friend.”

The guardian knocked on his skull and shrugged: you know how my memory is, so why are you surprised?

“You think she can help?”

“Who knows? Let’s go and ask her.”

“We can also see what’s happened to Reaper. I haven’t seen him in a while. Haven’t even heard of him.”

Chapter Text

Reapertale was one of the most mysterious alternate universes. Nearly every one of its inhabitants were endowed with incredible power. Literally every one of them could affect alternate worlds. The most amazing thing, however, was that this universe was tied to every other AU with unseen strings — and that was why it was placed at the center of the map of the Multiverse.

Despite its unique nature, Ink rarely came to visit Reapertale. One of the reasons for that was the power of its locals: this world simply didn’t need a guardian. And this wasn’t a good place to forge friendships either, since each person was more arrogant than the last.

Unlike in other worlds, where one could chose the place to pop up, Reapertale had a designated “landing ground”.

“Where are we?” Ink didn’t recognize the place.

“Snowdin,” Dream stated.

“Then where’s all the snow?”

“Died. Or did the opposite: came alive and flew off to conquer the natural water cycle. The people here like playing with the forces of nature.”

Spring was in full swing. Birds were singing, flowers were blooming, crickets were chirping, and the locals were passing by, paying no attention to the visitors. This version of Snowdin was buried in lush greenery and had a shamelessly well-kept look: bushes were trimmed, no litter to be seen, and instead of the sounds of town chatter there was a bunny playing a harp.

“This is beautiful.” The artist was enthralled by the sight  and pulled out his sketchbook.

“Ink, I thought we were here to see Muffet.”

The guardian instantly put the art supplies away and, sighing, followed his friend down a paved path.

“And not only her. We should go see how Reaper is doing. After all, he took the disappearance of his… ahem… the disappearance of Geno very poorly. He even paid me a visit.”

“You haven’t told me about that.” Dream was concerned. “Did it blow over?”

“Yes. Haven’t seen hide nor hair of him since then.”

The guardians headed towards the center of the town, hoping to find the alternative of Sans’s dwelling at the usual spot. Just to be safe, they asked the god of health — Grillby — for directions and found out the house of the Death siblings wasn’t hard to find.

Yes, it wasn’t a house one could easily miss. This was the only house in the neighborhood that held a mournful look to it. The grass was withered, the bushes were dead, and the tree in the backyard served as a shelter for crows. The Sans — who else had such a weird sense of humor — made things worse by setting up mailboxes that looked like gravestones.

The friends shared a look and knocked.

The door swung open so suddenly that they almost fell inside.

“Sans?” Papyrus exclaimed with hopeful joy in his voice but, upon recognizing his guests, grew despondent again. “Oh! Sorry. I… thought you were someone else. Are you here to see me?”

Ink, under the effects of yellow paint, managed to show the brightest of smiles. He instantly offered his hand for a handshake and didn’t let the younger reaper flinch away.

“Good day, Papyrus.”

“Good indeed,” Papyrus confirmed in a shaky voice, watching their interwoven hands unblinkingly. He wasn’t used to needlessly touching people — he would have had to shake dust off his hands all the time otherwise.

“Will you invite us in?”

“Yes, come in.” The younger reaper was so confused he didn’t even consider refusing. “Did you want something?”

“Yes, we’ve come to see Muffet, but I figured we should visit you and ask how Sans was doing. Last time I saw him, he was very angry and depressed.”

Papyrus frowned and sighed:

“Then we both must’ve seen him the same day. Before disappearing, he was very agitated and kept screaming and crying.”

“He disappeared?!” Dream and Ink had a hard time believing that.

“Yes, my brother has disappeared.” Papyrus plopped down onto a couch and put his head in his hands. “And I can’t wrap my head around it.”

Ink sat beside him and started to rub him on his head and back to comfort him.

“I’m sure he’ll come back. What could even happen to him? He’s a god of death, after all!”

“That’s right! He’s a god of death.” The younger reaper straightened up, and magical fire ignited in his eyes. “You know that we — the gods of death — have always done our job well. The souls of the dead have never walked among the living and never will, not as long as we’re here. And so I don’t understand my brother, who sacrificed his principles and disappeared — he left me all on my own and he left our work behind!”

“Don’t worry. He’ll surely return both to you and to his work. By the way, I’m surprised that death is taking a day off.”

Papyrus giggled quietly. The silly joke raised his spirits.

“You’re right, Ink. He’ll be back. And for now I’ll double my burden for his sake. Though we’ve had less work than usual lately. See — hyeh-heh-heh — I even get to stay home right now.”

“Are you talking about the big worlds that disappeared?”

“Cursetale and Endertale, yes. The former world had a variable cycle thanks to the power of the medallion. The latter one had a continuous cycle. Handling them was the main part of our job, along with three other similar worlds.”

“Variable cycle? Continuous? Isn’t handling the cyclical worlds a part of your job?” Ink was surprised. “I’ve always thought that cyclical worlds took up the most of your time. Thousands of people die in those worlds every day.”

“What? No! We don’t handle the souls of the cyclical worlds. It would’ve been odd, taking them away for a short while to give them a tour of the world of the dead, then waving them off and wishing them a happy Pacifist route.”

Dream kept his distance from Death. He had never touched Reaper or his brother before and wasn’t sure he was going to survive that, so he stayed a fair distance away. Still, he was curious about the missing worlds and about reapers’ job, so he asked:

“Could you elaborate? I’m deadly curious. You see, I create a lot of beautiful dreams, and people often wish to see visions of afterlife. It would’ve been nice if I could create something closer to the real thing.”

“Nyeh-heh-heh!” Papyrus laughed. “Yes, I can elaborate. After all, you’re the guardians of our Multiverse. I don’t think it would be right of me to keep such secrets to myself.” He went to the kitchen and returned with tea and pie for the guests. “As I’ve already told you, we don’t deal with cyclical worlds. They live inside their own repetitive eternity. Our job is to handle the people who die in the worlds with continuous or variable cycles — and there aren’t many of those. There are also worlds with interrupted cycle, like Dusttale, but those are isolated cases. In variable cycles, sometimes new people appear, children are born, and then the times gets rolled back a few years, and those unfortunate people die. Since their chance to be born again is minimal, we take their souls. And you surely understand how it is for the worlds with a continuous cycle: life gives and we take.”

“And what does that world of the dead of yours look like?” Dream listened, enchanted. He even fought down his fear and came closer to the younger reaper. Stars glowed inside his eye-sockets.

“I’m curious too,” Ink joined his friend. He even drank some green paint for the occasion. “I have to say, no matter how many times I’ve died, I’ve never been there.”

“You’re a special case. I think, there’s only a couple other people like you. Neither I, nor my brother can reap you, and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I don’t know the reason why.”

Papyrus sipped his tea and huffed. The guardians were staring holes in him with their curious gazes.

“Is the world of the dead really so interesting to you?”

“Of course,” the two answered in unison.

“Okay. I’ll show you.” The reaper got up and opened a “window” to a very odd place. “The world of the dead isn’t what you might think. The dead don’t dance here, they don’t sing, and they most certainly don’t float around using wings.”

The window showed something incredible. The whole of the otherworld was filled with white mist, and there was a light inside it. It was easy to believe that the glow was coming from the souls that came together inside the haze, but it was really the mist itself glowing. Like a living thing, it swirled and seemingly tried to take a recognizable shape.

“Energy. Life gives, we take.”

It was an incredible amount of energy. No monster alone could take in that much of it or use it. It lived, swirled and exuded light, calling out to them to join it, like an amalgamate. In essence, that’s what it was: a fusion of millions of memories, aspirations and feelings.

“Oh stars!” Ink cried and with shaking hands held up the green vial to drink some more of the paint. He hadn’t been that surprised in a long while — perhaps, never.

Dream could barely hold himself upright. His eyes were empty and his body was weak, threatening to fall over.

“Where does it all go afterwards?” he whispered.

“It goes back,” shrugged the younger reaper, “back to the universes. Or did you think new souls appeared out of thin air? We take and give to Life.  And Life gives. We take. And give again. It’s an endless cycle,” Papyrus smirked. “Impressed?”

“Yes!!!”

Lost in awe, the guardians stayed silent for a while longer, unable to put their thoughts into words.

Ink, being soulless, regained his bearings first.

“And what about the worlds that get erased by the Creators? Or Error? Do the souls of those worlds end up there as well?”

“No,” Papyrus shook his head in sorrow. “The things erased by the Creators or the destroyer become Void. Unless, of course, the Creators later recreate what’s been destroyed. But, as you know, that doesn’t always happen.”

“That’s a pity. I thought those worlds could stay alive in the form of energy, at least.”

“Yes, that’s a pity,” the younger reaper agreed and thought of something. “I’ve noticed something strange. Maybe that has nothing to do with anything, since the Creators could deliberately stop the cycle of death and birth in their worlds before erasing them… But Cursetale and Endertale stopped needing the services of death a year before they disappeared. It’s as if people stopped dying there. Which is very odd — especially for Cursetale. It’s as if no one was born there.

“Something like that is happening to one more world right now, and that world is a big one too.”

The guardians tensed. They were about to find out the name of the universe that was fated to disappear very soon.

Chapter Text

The guardians left the skeletons’ house in mixed feelings. Literally. Ink sipped some paint from all the vials he had and was now suffering from the overwhelming emotions. On one hand, a big universe was going to disappear soon, which was terrible. On the other hand, however, knowing which world it was, the guardians had a chance of saving it — or, if it couldn’t be saved, they could find out the reason for its disappearance to prevent anything like that happening in the future.

“Glitchtale,” Ink mumbled. “The world that rejected resets. Frisk shattered the button there, right?”

“Yes. All the monsters live above the ground, and they’re mostly busy with the matters of inter-species conflicts. Glitchtale is a pretty big world.”

“Why is it that the bigger worlds are the ones disappearing?” Ink wondered. “I’ve always thought that it’s the detailed and vast universes that would live and prosper. Even Error can’t take them down.”

“We were wrong about the world of the dead too. So, I think, Multiverse is way more complex than that. What if it wasn’t made for bigger worlds, and now it’s purging them?” Dream guessed.

“In that case, our Multiverse is screwed up.” Ink grimaced. “Cyclic worlds. Mentally ill Sanses. Insane Frisks. A ton of universe-hoppers trying to solve this nightmare. The Anti-Voids. And Error and I are the cherries on top of this crazy cake.”

Dream laughed hysterically and rubbed at his temple. He couldn’t help but agree with their Multiverse’s diagnosis.

They had to search for the River Person so that they’d take them to Hotland, since it was easier to get to Muffet’s web from there.

At first, there were strings of webbing, then full-sized webs, and then the guardians were sinking into the sticky mess, like two flies who came just in time for dinner. Of course, Ink could pour solvent onto the web, and Dream could tear it with his staff, but that would have been disrespectful towards the creator of these webs.

“I wonder how many ‘Don’t use the back door’ signs I need to put up for people to stop ruining my beautiful backyard?!” the she-spider was indignant.

Unlike her original counterpart, she was flaunting white cloths that flowed to the floor and gold, and glittery jewelry.

“We’re happy to see you too, Muffet, oh the beautiful goddess of luck.” Dream tried his best to flatter his way to her good side.

“You’ll be lucky to leave here alive, you marauders!” She tugged at the strings, and the trap tightened — and it was no weaker than Error’s.

Ink gave her an endearing smile and looked at the goddess with stars in his eyes:

“Sorry. I forgot that the entrance is on the other side of the tunnel,” he admitted. “And we’re here on business.”

“I won’t give you any luck.”

“Oh, no.” The guardian shook his head. “We’re not here for luck. I’ve had a very odd dream recently — not mine — and I wanted to ask you to split it into strings of fate. You see, a part of this dream happens to be my memories from before I was appointed as the guardian.”

The she-spider was intrigued, so she weakened her hold and, finally, let the guests out of the web.

“Well, okay. Follow me. But my services don’t come cheap.”

“You can rob us blind,” the skeletons laughed, making Muffet puff her cheeks.

“There’s nothing to be had off of you, you jokers. You, Ink, are more likely to produce a soul than luck, and Dream has only dreams in him and nothing more. Let’s just assume that I’m doing a good deed for the sake of the Multiverse.” She waved them off and brought the guests to her abode.

The room was different from the corridor only thanks to the presence of a table with some treats and tableware. Just like everywhere else, the walls and the ceiling were covered with whitish webbing that shined with waterdrops: Muffet had recently finished cleaning.

“Okay, give me your dream.”

With a practiced motion Dream extracted the nightmare from the his friend’s mind and gave it to the she-spider. She stared into the dark sphere for a long while then took it with all of her hands and ripped it apart.

“Oof!” The girl swayed. Tearing the dream was obviously taxing for her.

The dream fell apart, leaving strings of different colours in her hands. She started to nimbly weave them into a pattern.

“What an unbelievable combination,” she said, examining the resulting web. “You say that only a part of the dream has something to do with your memories.” Muffet rubbed her chin with her front pair of hands. “In that case, that’s a very big part of it. I have to admit, it was very hard to split the dream, and there’s a reason for that.”

“What is it?” Ink was almost bouncing with impatience.

“All of this dream, one way or another, is connected to your past. You’ve mentioned that the dream isn’t yours — but it’s definitely about you. Whoever was dreaming it, that skeleton was there when you had become the guardian of our Multiverse — or, possibly, he was there even before that memorable event.”

Ink and Dream shared a shocked look. Error was there? No, impossible! It couldn’t be real. That had to be a mistake. He had always lived in the Anti-Void. He was born there.

While the skeletons were staring at each other, Muffet continued to stare into the pattern intently.

“Aha! There it is!” She pulled at the edge of the pattern, and the web fell apart. In the girl’s hand there remained a single blue string. She looked at it from one side then another — from every angle. “Hm, so that’s how it is. Like that, even,” she muttered and then made a conclusion, “Whoever he is, that skeleton is long dead.”

“Are you sure?” Ink didn’t want to believe her. When he last saw him, Error was more than alive and showed no signs of dying. Something pulled at Ink’s chest. “How long ago did he die?”

“Two decades ago, maybe more,” the she-spider answered without certainty, which confounded the guests. They shared a look again.

It was impossible. Ink drank Error’s guilt and saw the dream that was a reflection of Error’s guilt. However, inside that dream, for reasons unknown, was a person who knew the artist before he was appointed as the guardian. Somehow, that long-dead skeleton got into Error’s guilt? That made Ink’s head spin!

And now he couldn’t say: it’s just a dream, anymore. He couldn’t wave it off.

“Thank you, Muffet,” Ink said in a colourless voice and headed towards the exit.

“Ink, are you okay?” Dream followed a little behind him, holding his arms out as if ready to catch his friend should he fall backwards. To be fair, Ink really looked like he was about to fall over.

“I don’t remember ever being okay. But according of half of the worlds, I’m in perfect mental health, and according to the other half, I’m hopelessly insane.”

Thanks to the storm of feelings he’d gone through, the darkness was going crazy inside his chest and practically rid every passer-by’s emotions of colour.

“Okay,” Dream bravely stepped close to his friend and embraced him, “we’re going home. That’s not up to debate. Once you’ve rested, we should get to work on Glitchtale.”

“Maybe we could do it now?”

“No!” the keeper of good dreams said firmly. He felt his emotions being copied: hesitation, exhaustion, doubt. “You need rest. And we will solve the mysteries of Error and your past, but we’ll do it later.”

Ink turned his eyelights out momentarily and, after giving it some thought, nodded. He needed to put his thoughts and feelings into order before handling the matters of the Multiverse.

Chapter Text

After resting for a short while and coming to terms with the growing number of questions, Ink and Dream went to Glitchtale.

The rapidly developing universe met them with lit up streets. Not in a fiery way. The worst of the interspecies conflicts were left behind, and a week of festivities awaited.

The streets were filled with pedestrians — humans and monsters — with smiles on their faces and bright bow-tied boxes in their arms. Garlands hung everywhere, spruces were dressed in lights, decorations covered every surface. One word: Christmas.

“This world doesn’t look like it’s on the precipice of collapse.” Dream was surprised by the atmosphere.

“Don’t you dare blurt it out to anyone,” Ink muttered into his friend’s ear.

They walked down the decorated streets, looking for familiar faces. Obviously, they didn’t notice anyone they’d recognize.

Almost all of the greater worlds, that weren’t limited to the Underground, were amazingly populous and showed a great deal of variety. A burly man passed by them; a girl with horns ran by; an armless monster child overtook them; something humanoid and fuzzy rolled down the electric wires; a flock of winged boys flew through the sky.

“Do you remember where local Sans lives?” Dream gave up after they’d spent an hour wandering around the city.

“He’s still alive?” That took Ink by surprise.

“I think he got resurrected, or, maybe, he didn’t die at all. Can’t remember. Do we really need the Sans? Wouldn’t the Gaster do?”

The guardian slapped himself in the face.

“I’ve forgotten all about him! Of course, he’ll do. He’s a scientist, at least. The Sans of this AU is more of an action hero and is far removed from science. Or do I remember it wrong?”

“I don’t think so.”

The laboratory of the scientist was situated away from the bustling center of the city. It was a low building with small windows and minimal decorations: a garland hung under the eaves, and a wreath adorned the door. Despite the unwelcoming look, the lab doubled as Gaster’s home.

Dream tried to knock, but the door wasn’t locked and opened at his touch with nary a creak.

The skeletons invited themselves in and walked down a hallway into a spacious living room. Gaster wasn’t alone. A human woman kept him company. The artist remembered that she was the mother of one of the kids who fell into the Underground. Despite her child’s tragic demise, she didn’t seem angry at the monsterkind. She sat on the couch beside the skeleton, a mug in her hands. Gaster didn’t show any signs of discontent either, acting calm and sort of quiet in a homely way.

The guardians felt like they’d just ruined a date rather than a colleagues’ after-hour hangout.

“Excuse me, Dr. Gaster. Could I have a word with you?” The artist smiled.

The woman started to question them, outraged: who were they and why were they here? But Gaster stopped her with a gesture and invited the guests to sit in armchairs.

“Ink, I presume?” He looked a bit tense.

“Oh! Have we met? I’m sorry, my memory’s horrible.”

‘No, we haven’t met in person, but Sans have told me about you. And he described you in detail, so there’s no mistaking you.”

Ink gave him a lopsided smile. He could just imagine that description: soulless, a bit insane, with blotches of ink on his skull and a giant paintbrush behind his back, wearing way too many clothes.

Dream awkwardly tried to hide a laugh behind coughing.

“I hope his description hasn’t made me a welcome guest on your lab table” joked the guardian and, seeing the sharp stare of the scientist, understood: if he wasn’t the big cheese, he would’ve been captured and tied down by now — all in the name of science, so to speak.

The woman looked at on of the skeletons, then the other, unsure what was going on.

“Should I leave?” she whispered to the doctor.

“Oh no, please, stay. These… guys are our friends.”

Those “friends” offered the most innocent smiles they were capable of.

“Sorry for the interruption,” Dream belatedly apologized for the intrusion.

“But this couldn’t wait,” added Ink.

“Is it something serious?” Gaster was worried. “Is there a threat to our universe?”

Dream and Ink had agreed beforehand on whether to tell the locals their world was about to disappear.

“No, nothing serious. Something has recently happened in a universe next to yours, and I need to know how it affected its neighbors — meaning, you. Could you tell me if anything has changed in your world in the past month? Or has anything out of the ordinary happened? Even if it was just a tree that’s sprouted in a single day, I need to know about it.”

Gaster gave it some thought before answering:

“I don’t think anything has happened that was bigger and more unusual than monsters coming to the surface and the following conflict with humans. It almost started a new war. Compared to it, small things like a tree sprouting in a single day wouldn’t interest anyone. Which means, no one would talk about it. Which means, such an event couldn’t have reached my knowledge even as a rumor.”

Upon hearing that, Ink considered looking for the Sans now, but Gaster added, “However, something interesting did happen. Not a month ago, though, but about a year ago.”

“Do you mean that sky phenomenon?” the woman intervened.

“Yes. That one.”

“What do you mean?” Dream was going through all the dreams of Glitchtale in his head. He sent very few dreams to this universe and rarely visited, but in the beginning of this year he had had to almost drain himself to calm down Glitchtale’s inhabitants. They were having nightmares left and right. Since Nightmare was hanging around this part of the Multiverse at the time, Dream didn’t think much about this case. Turned out, he should have.

“At night, right before New Year’s, the sky disappeared.”

“What do you mean, ‘disappeared’?” Question marks lit up in the artist’s eyes.

“Just like that.” The doctor shrugged. “There were no stars, no moon, no clouds — nothing. That night I sent a drone with a camera up into the air, and you know what?” He made a dramatic pause. “It flew up and hit something. As if there was a dome — an edge of the world.”

“But your world has no edge, right?” Ink clarified.

“None.” Gaster nodded and smiled. “Our world is a sphere. If you were to walk in one direction, then one day you’d circle the whole world and return back to where you’ve started from. And above it all is space.”

“And did that edge — or dome — stay there for long? What was that thing?”

“I can’t tell you what it was. I don’t know. And no, it didn’t stay for long. Come morning, it was gone, as if light dissolved it. The sun came up, as if nothing had happened, and a day started. That strange phenomenon hasn’t happened again. Do you know what it was?”

“No.” Ink looked away. He didn’t want to discuss the insanity of the Creators, who sometimes added quite strange — and even deadly — details to the worlds. For example, in one of the worlds there appeared flowers that fed on monsters. That AU branched off Flowerfell, which was a sad universe even without the addition, but the Creator wanted to make it even sadder. “And apart from that thing — were there any other oddities? Anything more recent?”

Gaster shook his head:

“No. Nothing. But we’re busy solving our own problems here. We could easily overlook something that would have been obvious to guardians like you.”

“That’s a pity.” There was no other choice: they had to go find the local Sans. “Then could you tell us where your eldest son is right now? We’ll try asking him.”

Gaster frowned and dialed a number on his phone. He listened to a number of rings and put the device away.

“I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to that. Lately my son has become very absent-minded, and he keeps forgetting his phone at home. But around this time he’s usually at home. Since he’s not responding, I think, he must’ve stayed longer than usual at the bar.”

“Grillby’s?”

“Exactly, there. Will you be able to find it by yourselves?”

“Yes.” Dream got up and headed outside. “I know where it is. Hurry up, Ink.”

 

Here they were, in front of the bar. Which was missing the Sans. Moreover, Grillby surprised them by saying that Sans hadn’t visited the bar in a month.

“Dream,” Ink hung on his friend, exhausted, “tell me that the Multiverse hasn’t conspired against me.”

“Even if I say that,” the keeper of good dreams smiled sadly, “it won’t change anything and it won’t answer any of our questions.”

“And they keep multiplying.” The guardian gave Dream some space and rubbed his forehead. “So where do we look for the local Sans?”

The guardians thought about it, stepped away from the bar and saw a tragedy unfold. A human tried to cross the road in front of a truck, and that’s where their life ended. A screech of the breaks, a scream, a hit — and the breathless body was bleeding out on the concrete.

Dream looked away, but Ink watched the scene, alert.

Here was death! He even saw the energy of the soul leave the body. Where was a reaper?

Talk of the devil! And it wasn’t Papyrus, it was Reaper! He descended in front of the body, unseen, grabbed the string of the soul and pushed himself back up into the sky. And disappeared.

Ink rushed forward, cut through the fabric of the world with his paintbrush and found himself on its other side. That’s where the reaper was hiding.

The other side of the world — some called it the Inside — was a bit like the Anti-Void. The same kind of white space but denser, somehow. Not every world had one; most had a Save Screen instead — a small, limited space. The Inside seemingly had no limits.

The guardian saw him at once. Reaper was facing away from him.

Reaper, he wanted to call out and held his hand up for a greeting but froze in shock.

The reapers never wore white. Both the younger and the older gods of death wore exclusively black cloaks. Wearing a noose as an accessory wasn’t his style either. It would have been funny — symbolic even — but not what Reaper would choose.

“Who are you?” the guardian realized: it wasn’t the older reaper in front of him, but someone who looked very similar to him.

That someone slowly turned his head, and Ink shuddered. The new acquaintance looked off-putting: blood dripped out of the empty eye-sockets, red streaks ran down the clenched jaw, the white clothes were stained with blood as well. But this blood, as if covered with a mist of glitches, fell to pieces of code before reaching the floor.

Another traveller? Ink thought and wanted to greet him — but then the unexpected happened. His chest ached. Dream’s pained scream came from the other side of the cut in the fabric of the reality. And Error’s voice.

“Ink!!!”

The destroyer was going all out, which required the guardians’ immediate attention. Dream couldn’t handle this alone.

The unknown skeleton, who looked so much like Reaper, watched the artist leave and only let out the breath he was holding after Ink left the Inside.

“That was close!” He plopped onto the floor.

Chapter Text

Error was sleeping. He enjoyed the peace and quiet — until his phone rang in the web of strings somewhere at the ceiling. Why did he have to create this hellish device?

A snap of his fingers — and the device fell into his waiting hand.

“Paper, unless it’s urgent, I’m..”

“Ink’s in Glitchtale! He found Rouge!!!”

The phone was thrown away as Error rushed into a hastily opened portal. It didn’t matter where in Glitchtale he ended up — once he started to destroy the world, the guardian would find him himself. The most important thing was to make this attack as painful as possible.

Blue strings tore into the ground, the houses, the people and started to split them at the pace, limited only by the destroyer’s agility and strength. The first one to react to the screams of dying people and noise of falling buildings was the keeper of dreams.

Now the atmosphere of the city matched the coming end of the world: blood, death and suffering.

Feeling others’ pain, Dream obviously rushed to protect the innocent people and instantly got his share of pain. He could barely get his staff out before his body flew to the side in the embrace of strings, and his soul went straight into the destroyer’s hands.

“Error, what are you doing here?!” Wrapped in strings, the keeper of dreams could only watch as his soul was squeezed inside a fist and feel the pain of it. He screamed.

Ink was nowhere to be seen.

“I’ve always wondered what the golden apple tastes like,” Error said loudly and brought Dream’s soul closer to his mouth.

Seeing what kind of fate awaited him, Dream could hold back a scream:

“No! Don’t! Ink!!!”

This time the guardian heard him.

The instant the artist left the Inside and came to his friend’s aid, the destroyer threw the apple away and dodged an ink wave at the last moment. A blaster appeared out of the wave and spat a shot at the destroyer, who had no time to avoid it.

However, Ink — on subconscious level — didn’t want to hurt his lover, and his magic came in conflict with that wish, which led to a very odd result.

“Where in the Multiverse have you learned something like that?!” Error complained, rubbing the rainbow of colour off his face.

But Ink was just as stunned as he stared at the rainbow-painted street and just as rainbow-y destroyer. He squinted at the blaster that whined guiltily.

“But you’re so colourful now!” Ink couldn’t hold back a smirk.

“Fuck you, Ink!”

“Wow, is that a proposition?”

Error growled, then said quietly, almost in a whisper, hoping he wouldn’t be heard:

“The loser bottoms.”

But he was heard:

“You’re on.”

Dream watched his friend and enem…

“I didn’t sign up for watching two idiots’ mating games,” he hissed, twitching in the web of blue strings. He needed to get out of the trap as quickly as possible and return his soul to its rightful place — but so far he’d only managed to free his right hand.

Meanwhile Ink got extra motivated and, under the destroyer’s shocked gaze, drank from the red vial.

Error considered his chances of winning, turned around and ran out of the open space into the yards filled with trash cans and junk. After him, like a hound on a trail, went the guardian. He waved his brush, cutting down string traps and easily evaded the bones thrown at him.

On their way they passed the local Sans and Frisk. The Sans followed the fighting guardian and destroyer with a tired gaze and shook his head:

“No, Frisk. We’re not dealing with this shit. No way!”

“But what if they’ll need our help?!”

“They already did, and we’ve done what we could. They ’ve done everything they could for us. And we still need to deal with Betty.”

“Okay.” The child agreed and pointed at Dream, who was still struggling with the strings. “But let’s at least help him.”

Error zigzagged around the city a bit more, vandalized a couple more places and figured: that’s enough. He’d done enough to distract Ink from what was going on in this universe.

Getting a hold of a mobile phone wasn’t a problem in an advanced universe like this one. After going through dead people’s pockets with his strings, he had a dozen of them. Error dodged a couple of bones and managed to dial a number:

“Hello. Paper, get ready. I’ll keep the guardian distracted for a couple of hours. … You’re gonna talk to me about ethics? No? That’s what I thought.”

After finishing the call, the destroyer got rid of the device and opened a portal to a genocidal world — presumably Zombietale. He saw the living dead, cursed and moved on to the next universe. It was uninviting as well, but much less populated. He recognized a genocidal route of Underfell. Nightmare had come here more than once, and Error sometimes accompanied him.

This world would do: it was quiet, dusty and had no unwanted witnesses.

Error turned around sharply and in a moment had a barrier of strings and bones rise in front of him. Ink broke through it without slowing down. Error was forced to stand his ground, summon a bone and fight hand-to-hand. The bone and the paintbrush clashed, creating sparks.

Strike. Strike. Cut him down. A trick move. Ah, it didn’t work.

Error managed — not without a struggle — to put some distance between the two of them and slid down a snowy hill, summoning a glitchy blaster to cover himself from inky projectiles. Once he caught his breath and sprinted off again.

A hunter’s instinct overtook logical thinking, and the artist followed him ignoring the openings he had for a ranged attack. He wanted to catch his prey worn out and unharmed.

An icy river was straight ahead. Error dived in head first and climbed out onto a block of ice, spitting out curses.

“You’ve decided to wash off the rainbow barf, huh, Error?” the guardian laughed.

“Fuck off!” The destroyer spat and jumped to the shore, where he continued to zigzag, leaving rainbow tracks behind.

They reached Snowdin that way.

“Time to admit defeat!” Ink took to the roofs as he followed his prey. He noticed that the destroyer was low on magic and was in no condition to fight him off. So he was simply chasing his prey into a comfy spot, which happened to be the house of the alternate Sans and Papyrus. The destroyer so conveniently happened to run inside.

“Gotcha!” The door squealed as it shut behind Error’s back, like they do in cheap horror movies.

“Yep,” the black skeleton admitted with a smile: just who got whom?

He went to meet the artist head-on. Ink easily dodged the first few of his attacks, then took hits to his side and his chest but got the time to summon ink and pin his lover to the wall.

“Mine! What was it we’ve agreed upon? The loser bottoms. You’ve lost.” That said, the artist threw his jacket to the floor, slid his suspenders off.

Error admitted defeat, even though it hurt his pride. But being pinned to the wall with ink, helpless before his enemy as he pulled off his pants — that was a low blow.

“Stars, Ink! If you want to fuck me, then go on and fuck me. But, dammit, why is it that every time I bottom I’m tied up?!”

“Not every time…”

“But often. Just unbind me.”

Ink obediently let the destroyer out of the paint bindings and licked his teeth:

“Is this your way to reconcile?”

“Can’t remember breaking off our relationship. But, Void-dammit, I’ll kick this bondage shit outta you, mark my words.”

“Oh, I’m so scared,” Ink said in mock fear and stumbled back, holding his hands in front of him.

“So scared you’ve reconsidered screwing me, dear ?” That last word sounded so sugary-sweet and fake that the artist grimaced.

“I haven’t reconsidered, and I’ve even come up with the way I wanna do this. But I’ll need your consent. The pose implies more touching than usual. Can you handle that?”

Error dropped the joking tone:

“Only if you promise me a very good time.”

“I promise you the very best time. So, are you up for an experiment?”

“Stars! Yes!”

Ink smiled as he finished undressing and was happy to watch Error as he threw off his clothes. This time the artist didn’t forget to drink the paint and was panting with impatience. The destroyer’s rough movements looked very erotic in his eyes.

Who cared if recently their fights started to look like wild foreplay? Who cared what Dream would think? Who cared what Error was doing in Glitchtale? Right now Ink wanted him, and he got what he desired.

Everything else could wait.

Error was nervous when, following instructions, he turned to face a wall.

“Now put your hands on it. Great. Spread your legs a bit more. Push your hips out. Bend over more.”

“Ink, stop telling me what to do.”

“Okay. You ready?”

“Shut up and do it!”

The next thing Error felt was the artist’s tongue. It teasingly went over his hip bones, leaving a wet trail. The tongue snaked around the edge of his iliac crest and ran up to its peak, then went back down, moved to the center and slipped inside the aroused magic.

“Ah! Stars! Ah! Ink, what are you doing?”

“Making you feel good,” the guardian replied.

His lewd actions made the destroyer’s knees shake, and he bent over more, pushing his hips further back. Magic and saliva ran down his legs. The realization that he loved this new perverted game was driving him insane, but he would’ve never admitted that out loud. His body betrayed his thoughts anyway.

Ink added his fingers and was surprised to see that his lover was already on edge — and they’ve barely even started to have their fun. The artist got up off his knees, leaned forward to his partner’s ear and whispered:

“You’re so wet. My fingers are sinking inside you. Can you hear that?”

Error heard the wet, lewd sounds, felt the teasing fingers and barely held back from begging his lover to switch them for something more substantial. Thankfully, he didn’t need to beg.

“Stars, I’m fully inside you in one go. Error, did this little experiment of ours turn you on so much?”

Instead of answering, the black skeleton turned a bit, and Ink could see how brightly he was blushing, how saliva dripped from the edge of his jaw, how hazy his eyes were. All of that was complemented by the noticeable shaking of the black bones. Error could barely hold himself up.

That was too erotic! Ink didn’t even notice when he started thrusting into his partner, not thinking of the pace or the touches. He stopped thinking, just pressed their bodies together, put his hands over his partner’s, intertwining their fingers.

He moaned, screamed, pressed brief kisses to the dark skull and bit into the black shoulders.

What he got in return were just as passion-driven motions to meet his, and screams, and moans with whispers mixed in:

“Yes! More! Ink! Please, more! Stars! So good!”

How could he refuse, when he was asked so fervently?

Ink pulled out sharply and turned Error to face him, pulled him into a dirty kiss and pushed him into the wall. Screw the glitches! He held him under the thighs, threw his legs over his bent elbows, and felt the destroyer instinctively wrap his arms around his neck, searching for a support.

Their pace was wild. They moaned into each other’s mouths, unable to break the kiss. Sweat ran down their bones, in some places the bones were bleeding — sharp fingers scratched the tender outer layer. Error’s hips felt like they were burning; Ink practically got scorched on them but didn’t dare stop. He couldn’t scream anymore — only whine in a single tonality.

The lovers were hit by an orgasm so strong that they almost passed out. They fell to the floor in a heap — miraculously without breaking their bones — and, breathing raggedly, they huddled together, giving in to their desire to stay as one for as long as possible.

“Ink,” Error called softly, moving away a bit. “Your place, maybe?”

“You wanna continue?” Ink kept holding onto the sweaty destroyer, happily breathing in his natural smell, and had no desire to go anywhere.

“Yes. But after a shower.”

“How about in the shower?” The artist’s eyes glowed with a dangerous shine of a not yet satiated predator.

“... In the shower works too.”

Chapter Text

Cool water jets hit like whips, trying to bring down the temperature of the two bodies moving in ecstasy, but only managed to urge them on, adding to the passion. Legs were barely holding up the monsters, who were drowning in the greedy coition. Hands gripped the porcelain surface, leaving scratches behind. The sound of the hips coming together was drowned only by the screaming and begging for more.

Black on white — a harsh dance, reflected in the tiles of the walls as uncertain, blurred silhouettes. But Error made his lover look into the mirror, and inside it everything was reflected with perfect clarity: his face burning with lust, the shivering souls in his eye-sockets, the lines of drool at the sides of his jaw.

The destroyer gripped the white hips, lifted them up — the edge of the tub became Ink’s only support — and let out a long moan to accompany the final three strong thrusts. His voice mingled with the voice of the white skeleton and drowned in the oncoming bliss.

The lovers left the bathroom satisfied and clean. After sex the skeletons used the room for its intended purpose and washed each other — or, rather, they managed to turn that process into an erotic massage.

“That was something ,” Ink said, sitting at the kitchen table with a robe wrapped around him.

Error sat across from him in a similar robe. He nodded and returned to drinking his hot chocolate.

Staying silent seemed wrong, so the guardian tried to think of a conversation topic. He knew that if he were to touch upon the uncomfortable questions he’d lose his opportunity to have the destroyer in his embrace that night — which is where this day was going so far — so he did his best to find a neutral subject. However, as it happens, his thoughts kept coming back to the cycle of oddities of last few years.

He wanted to shout, “What are you hiding from me? Why does everyone help you? Are you involved in the disappearance of the big universes?”

But if Ink dared to ask all of those questions, he wouldn’t have received any answers and, to boot, would have lost his bedwarmer. So he blurted out the first safe question he could think of:

“Which do you like, cats or dogs?”

Error choked on hot chocolate and stared at Ink as if, instead of that innocent question, he’d asked all of the ones he was thinking about while also pounding the table with his fist.

“Why do you ask?”

The tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife.

“Whoa! Error, why such a strong reaction? It’s just a question.” Ink hurried to come up with an excuse. “Doggietale appeared recently, and I was comparing it to Nekotale. So now I’m trying to figure out which universe I like more.”

The black skeleton seemingly relaxed. Although the former light-hearted look was gone from his eyes, he sprawled in his chair again and kept on drinking hot chocolate.

“I hate dogs,” he replied with an off-putting grin of a butcher. “And you?”

His tone made the challenge clear: I dare you to disagree.

Ink shrugged and put it that way:

“I don’t care for dogs. They don’t seem like good pets, with all their barking, gnawing on shoes and making messes. They look cute, but they like bones way too much. Can’t really appreciate the company, when someone tries to eat me or bury me as their secret stash.”

Error burst out laughing, and the conversation turned peaceful again. He asked:

“And you’re okay with cats then, even though they pee into shoes?”

“As long as they don’t demand my bones in return for affection.”

“So why don’t you get a cat?”

“I’ve already got one,” smiled the artist and scratched the side of his lover’s skull. “Say ‘nyah’.”

Taken aback, Error got covered in glitches. Then he leaped over the table, screaming:

“Nyah, motherfucker!”

That’s when Ink got reminded that cats also bite, scratch, tear clothes and enjoy lying under the covers with their loved ones late at night while hugging them with their strong paws.

The guardian got who he wanted in his bed. And the destroyer got what he wanted: the guardian, asleep.

He sent a single word in a text message, “Begin,” — and started with his part of the plan.

Error crawled out of his lover’s embrace as carefully as possible and got chloroform out. Who would’ve thought that there’d come a day when he’d be keeping that chemical in his Anti-Void — and not to make people suffer. On the contrary, it was to ensure one particular skeleton wouldn’t suffer.

He poured a generous amount onto a clean rag and covered the artist’s face with it. Putting the blanket on top, he hugged the resulting cocoon and stilled in wait.

The body weakly jerked once, twice and didn’t try to struggle anymore. Ink slept, not feeling his body struggle. He didn’t feel the burning pain. Didn’t know that there was one less world in the Multiverse now. Didn’t see Error pull him out of the blanket, growing progressively scared as he tried to bring him back to consciousness. Didn’t remember how he opened his eyes and smiled.

But the pained stare of the destroyer got burned into his memory.

Ink reached out and whispered:

“Don’t cry.” He ran his fingertips over the blue lines that went down from Error’s eyes. “I’m with you.”

 

Everything was falling apart. The ceiling, the walls — they crumbled under unseen force. Blue strings were everywhere. There were so many of them. So many tears. But their master wasn’t crying. He wasn’t in pain — not anymore. He laughed, and the sound echoed in his ears.

It would all be over soon. Everything would disappear. The long-awaited freedom was so near.

Everything was dying… but not him — that soulless lamb — the sacrificial skeleton walked towards him. He put one foot in front of the other, not heeding the cracks in the floor and holes that led into the Void, and he reached towards him with his hand.

He reached him and touched his injured eyes.

“Don’t cry… I’m with you.”

Crack. The space and time broke in two, and…

 

Error regained his senses. His soul shrunk, almost falling to pieces, and dimmed.

That place didn’t exist anymore. It wasn’t there, and he would never have to go there again. Ink was alive. Error was alive. The plan was coming along. Everything was fine. Everything would be fine. They were so close.

The black skeleton’s soul slowly returned to its usual glow, and he finally let out the breath he was holding.

The destroyer suppressed the glitches and petted Ink’s sweaty skull:

“I’m not crying because you’re with me.”

Chapter Text

Glitchtale was gone.

Ink found out about it from Dream’s text message. The keeper of dreams didn’t bother the artist at night, since there was nothing to be done anyway, and waited until the morning.

The phone chirped from the corner of the room, notifying its owner about the incoming message.

Error was asleep, so the guardian got off the bed as carefully as he could, trying not to wake him up, and creeped up to the device.

“Glitchtale is gone. Come meet me.”

The guardian noiselessly left the bedroom. He instantly came across his pants. A trail of clothes started at the front door and stopped inside the bathroom.

Smirking, Ink picked up his underwear at the bathroom’s threshold and put it on there and then. That way, like kids followed their breadcrumb trail home in a fairy tale, Ink walked to the front door, gradually dressing into his usual get-up and ignoring the darker clothes that accompanied his own. Broomy was the last thing on the “trail”, waiting in a corner by the door.

 

“So. What do we know?”

Dream met the guardian by the cut down Tree of Feelings in Dreamtale and invited him into his house. Staying outside in a world that had gone through a genocide wasn’t one of his favorite things to do.

“Three worlds are gone. Cursetale, Endertale, and now Glitchtale,” answered the artist. “Three huge, detailed, highly populated worlds are gone.”

“Besides the vastness, they have a few other similarities,” Dream reminded.

“Yes.” Ink nodded and took a sip of tea. “According to the younger reaper, it’s been a year since anyone died or was born in any of them. But,” the mug was noisily set down onto the table, “we saw how erroneous that assumption is! That human died and… his soul was taken away by some other reaper.”

The memory of it made the guardian shudder. The unknown skeleton looked frightening — those empty eye-sockets of his, the blood coming out of his mouth, white clothing similar to what Reaper wore and a noose around his neck. And there were glitches around him, weren’t there? Ink couldn’t remember.

“That means someone bypassed Reapertale. But why? The reapers and Life don’t care about new worlds appearing and old ones dying. It’s not their job to handle it. And why go through the trouble of bypassing them just to destroy the universe later?

“And,” Dream slapped himself on the forehead, choking from the sudden realization, “they’ve been bypassing me for a year now. I haven’t been giving them any good dreams, and Nightmare, quite possibly, haven’t given them any bad ones. But why go through all that trouble?”

The skeletons got to brainstorming. After a couple of minutes, Dream made a tentative guess:

“Unless… those universes don’t disappear. I mean, what if they aren’t destroyed, like we’ve thought.”

Ink made a futile attempt to consider this possibility, then gave up and asked his friend:

“What are the chances that the AUs simply were closed off and continued to live on?”

“There is such a possibility.” The keeper of good dreams relaxed a bit. The scenario of the worlds closing off was was way less awful than them being destroyed. “But, again, why?”

Ink held his head in his hands, forgetting about his lukewarm tea.

“I don’t get it.”

“It’s so, so weird.” Dream set his mug away as well and rubbed his forehead.

“Lately, no matter where you look, everything is odd!”

Dream kept rubbing at his forehead, unsure how to start the long overdue conversations, which, he was sure, Ink wasn’t going to like.

“All the oddities are connected to Error, right?”

“I guess. Do you think he’s involved in the worlds’ disappearance?”

“Don’t you think so?” Dream was surprised at the artists ignorance. “All the oddities started with your death eleven years ago. After that Error started to act oddly. Do you remember?”

“My own death?” A shadow fell over the artist’s face.

“No, what the changes in the glitch’s behavior were?”

Ink thought for a moment and listed them:

“Correct me if I’m missing something. He stopped working towards his goal, which he used to proclaim nearly every time he attacked, ‘All the alternatives are errors; they have to die!’ He held onto every world with a death grip, and even a good hit to his head didn’t always give us a chance to rip the unlucky AU of the day out of his grasp.

“But after my resurrection I’ve noticed those damned changes.” Ink picked up his mug again and drank half of the lukewarm tea. “There were less attacks. And razing the worlds to the ground was no longer his goal. Usually he stopped at destroying a location — two at most. He started to give up easily and only finished the job when he was taking down weak or dying AUs.”

“As if he was playing a role.” The keeper of good dreams nodded.

“Yes, as if he was playing a familiar role, but without any of the former passion. And then… Six years ago, I think, everything changed again. Though I don’t remember how.” Ink’s memory let him down again.

“He was gone for weeks at a time. Sometimes he disappeared for months. We thought that the bastard had finally calmed down and there’d be some peace for us. Yeah, I wish!” Dream downed all of his tea. He looked saddened now. “Error got involved with my brother’s gang and started to join them in troublemaking, sometimes leaving us with a mess of a Multiversal scale.”

“Oh! I remember. Cross was there too. Those were some hard times, but we’ve pulled through.” The guardian nodded and asked, “But what does all of that have to do with the missing worlds?”

“Here’s what.” The keeper of good dreams knocked on the table. “Core Frisk, who dedicated their life to saving the survivors of genocidal and dying worlds, supports him. And so do the other neutrals — and even good guys — of our Multiverse. Admit it, that it’s odd.”

“It’s odd, but…”

“You know what else is odd? The growing pile of oddities has a culmination. And it’s happened not so long ago.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your relationship with Error, of course.” Dream put his empty mug away and gave his friend the serious look of a parent about to tell their child that Santa doesn’t exist. “I think, he didn’t agree to sleep with you just like that. You’ve become a part of some big plan that we don’t know about — but a lot of world-travellers know about it and support it.”

Inside the tiny kitchen, a deafening silence reigned, full of questions that the two of them weren’t able to find answers to.

“In other words, to sum up what you’ve just said — you think he’s using me.”

“Yes.”

Ink thought about it and looked at the window:

“I’m using him too. Just like I’m using you. Just like I’m using everyone I know.”

Those words hurt more than a blaster shot and sounded sharper than the sharpest bone — yet were more true than the soulless creature that uttered them. But Dream didn’t agree with them:

“You’re not using anyone.” He shook his head. “You grant protection in return. The AUs need you, your power and abilities. You’ve chosen to be their guardian yourself, so you’re not using any of us. It’s a barter. A payment for your services.” Not leaving Ink time to argue, Dream went on, “Besides, I’m your friend despite knowing about your abnormality. You’re not using me because, in return for emotions, you give me something no one has been able to give me yet.”

“What is that unbelievable thing that only I can give you?”

“Hope.” Dream smiled. “The hope that everything is going to be alright. If even someone who doesn’t have a soul chose the right path, then one day my brother and other psychopaths too will see the narrow path of what’s right and… everything will be alright.”

Ink smiled sadly at his friend’s sincere words.

Ink figured there was no hope for him. What did he have to hope for if even the one person he desired was full of lies and guilt? He stood in front of the guardian like a healed-up wound of his past, the scab of which he wished he could scratch off.

The artist made a decision: if he wanted the answers so much, then he needed to try getting them. Even if that was going to destroy their relationship. He wanted to figure things out — ask outright and hope for at least a speck of truth.

His chest ached. Today the darkness hadn’t found a source to absorb positive emotions from. Dream was too tense to be happy.

Chapter Text

Done with their discussion, they left to check up on the AUs. While the keeper of dreams dutifully did his job, the guardian was careless. His mind was elsewhere, thinking of the veil of secrets that hid the answers from him.

However, after a scolding from his friend, Ink approached his responsibilities with so much zeal that he’d ended up intimidating a few inhabitants of a peaceful universe with his questions — why was it their world that kept seeing nightmares and was it really Nightmare’s fault at all?

Ink worked to exhaustion. His biological clock thought it was past midnight, so his houseguest either was asleep already or had left. This time the artist preferred the latter outcome — mostly because he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back, worn down by all the questions.

Or, rather, that mental strain wasn’t his — it was Dream’s, but the darkness in his chest accumulated it, assimilated it and made it a part of Ink. Just like not so long ago it endowed the artist with Error’s irritability and anger.

Bidding farewell to the just as exhausted Dream, Ink transported home. He entered, trying to make as little noise as possible, walked up into the bedroom and to the bed, where he found the source of his questions sleeping peacefully. The black skeleton spread out on top of the blanket, naked and enticing — apparently, he had plans for the night but fell asleep waiting for the artist.

Ink swallowed the lump in his throat, drank some yellow paint, gave it some thought and drank some more. A smile barely made it onto his face. He undressed and lay by Error’s side.

“We’re using each other,” he whispered. “There’s nothing between us but fighting for AUs, sex and nightly cuddles — not a speck of sincerity. And a huge secret. You know,” the artist smiled sadly, “I think it’s heavier than a gravestone.”

 

Error woke up and found the space beside him empty. He fell asleep alone and woke up alone — nothing new. But upon running his hand over the wrinkled sheets, the black skeleton smirked: just an hour ago Ink was there, keeping him warm.

Dressing into the clothes he’d found discarded on the floor, all of a sudden Error noticed that the sleeves of his jacket were too short for him. His red sweater was too small for him as well. His shorts, that used to look oversized and reached almost to his knees, now looked somewhat indecent.

The destroyer scratched his head and stared at his fingers, which changed slightly over the past year — became longer and thinner.

“Gaster-dammit!” Error swore.

Though what did he expect? Paper warned him that he couldn’t predict the consequences of living in the universe he had created. As that bundle of activity joked when he had suddenly grown a lot himself: apparently, the air was healthy and the food was fresh.

Error huffed and chose to ignore the issue of his height for now. He was taller than Ink before. The shorty wasn’t likely to notice how his lover wasn’t half a head but a whole head taller now. Pacified by that, the destroyer went down to the first floor.

Ink was waiting for him there. He looked tired and the unhealthy sort of pale. At the sight of the black skeleton, he cheered up and tried to act normal.

“Tea or coffee?” the guardian asked with a forced smile.

Ink’s unhealthy look didn’t escape Error’s sharp gaze.

“Hot chocolate.” He pretended to be blind in every sense of the word.

Soon a mug of the chocolatey drink was steaming in front of him. Ink made himself some strong coffee. He sat down across from the black skeleton, worn out but filled with an odd sort of determination. The destroyer thought he looked determined to break off their relationship.

It all started with the words of, “I want to talk to you.”

Error threw an extremely displeased glance at the guardian but didn’t try to stop him: speak if you’re going to.

Ink took a gulp of coffee and only then bluntly asked:

“What’s going on?”

The destroyer flinched. He knew what the artist was asking about but did his best to keep the mask of indifference and continued to play the fool:

“Between us? Did you forget the word? Here’s a hint: it starts with ‘s’ and ends with ‘ex’.”

“I’m serious!” The mug’s bottom hit the table, and coffee spilled onto the tabletop. Ink was burning with indignation. “What’s going on in the Multiverse? Why do people — even those who I thought were partial to its fate — hide what’s going on from me?!! Why does everyone who used to despise you is suddenly on your side, claiming I could kill them yet not get the answers?!!”

Ink looked so lost, angry and sad, that Error almost blurted out, “It’s nothing bad. You’ll learn about everything later. Just be patient.” To keep the words from escaping, he clenched his jaw and, feigning indifference, shrugged: how should I know?

“Error.” Ink leaned over the table and grabbed his lover’s skull with his his hands. Ignoring the glitches that appeared from the touching, he repeated the question, “What’s going on?”

The black skeleton looked into the triangle eyelights of his lover through the veil of errors and regretted ever starting this vicious relationship. He shoved Ink away and hastily got up to leave the artist’s house as soon as possible.

Naturally, he wasn’t getting away that easy. The guardian got in his way, arms spread, a skull and a crosshair in his eyes — a clear sign that the bullheaded artist wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

“Out of my way!”

“I won’t let you leave until you tell me what the Gaster is going on! I’ll use the basement for its intended purpose if I have to — but I’ll get to the truth!”

Error shuddered at the memory of the stone walls, chains and tools of torture, but only huffed:

“You wouldn’t dare! Or it’s over between us,” and added firmly, “for good!”

Ink’s eyelights changed to exclamation points, and he almost gave up, yet shook his head and asked in a pleading voice:

“At least tell me, what’s eating you? Why do I suffocate from your emotions?”

He let it out. Overstepped an invisible line. No one but Dream should have known about his abnormality — the truth about his soullessness, the darkness in his chest and the paints. Parts of it, maybe, but not the whole truth. No one should have known that the well-respected guardian wasn’t so different from the ever-annoying Fresh. Only Fresh couldn’t feel common emotions, and Ink mirrored them — literally stole them and drank them.

Error froze.

“Wait a sec.” It didn’t take him long to put two and two together. “Care to elaborate?”

The destroyer wasn’t in a hurry to leave the guardian’s house anymore. Ink, however, stepped away from the door — he wasn’t trying to stop him from leaving anymore. He whispered:

“I’ll tell you, if you tell me.”

“No dice. Remember? One question — one answer. I’ll answer if I want — but only one question.”

Ink sighed heavily. He had no strength left to climb out of the web of lies that the destroyer pulled him into. And Error could always get away with a vague, “Nothing bad is happening,” or, “What’s happening doesn’t concern you,” and leave the answer at that. He needed to pick a good question, a specific one. It would be best if it only needed a “yes” or a “no”.

“Are you involved in the disappearance of the big worlds? Glitchtale, Cursetale, Endertale.”

He knew the answer, because Error’s appearance in Glitchtale was very timely and kept him distracted until the universe disappeared.

Ink needed a confirmation from the culprit, and he got it.

Error tilted his head to the side, thought about it and, seeing no use for words, simply nodded.

“Welp, at least that’s clear. I guess, asking about the fate of the missing worlds is useless. You won’t answer.”

“Yeah-yeah, now tell me about yourself, in detail. Do you feel my emotions? Like Dream does? Or, maybe, you can read thoughts too?” The answer to that last question worried Error the most.

“No,” Ink shook his head, “I can’t read thoughts. Only emotions. And not like Dream does.” He grew even more sad. “You do remember that I don’t have a soul, right? I don’t have emotions of my own . So I use the ones I get from others.” Ink pulled his shirt up, baring his chest where the darkness swirled. Scary and dark, it poked through the ribs and seemed to reach out to Error, demanding he gave it something he had. “My magic takes others’ pain, joy, sadness… love. I pour them into bottles and use them.” The shirt was pulled back down. “Without it I don’t feel a thing — as if I don’t exist.

“Even now I feel nothing but your pain and disappointment. I’ll pour them into the blue vial. And then, when needed, I’ll drink them. And once I drink them, I temporarily won’t be able to consume others’ pain and sadness.

“That’s why I drink the pink paint when I’m with you… but lately I find myself wanting to drink the blue one more and more often. Because when you’re with me, you’re hurting. Error, why?”

Error didn’t answer. He walked around the guardian, giving him a wide berth, and slammed the door goodbye.

Ink fell to his knees, curled into himself and stayed sitting like that, lost in emotions that weren’t his own.

On the table lay two overturned mugs. Spilled coffee and chocolate were dripping to the floor.

Chapter Text

Error had no idea how to feel about anything. Of course, he’d suspected something like that. Since Ink, on emotional level, was empty, he should have pretended to be emotional, like Fresh did — but he didn’t pretend, he felt something even without having paints on his tongue. Now it was clear just what he felt and how.

At first, the destroyer came to his Anti-Void but immediately opened a portal to one of the closed-off universes. He stepped out onto a paved park road and instantly had the eyes of at least a dozen skeletons trained on him. Those looks were filled… no, not with fear or hate, but, rather, with awe.

Jerking his shoulders, Error hurried to step off the road onto a narrow forest path and used the shelter of the trees  to get out of sight as quickly as possible. He zigzagged, picking his way until he got to the lab, hidden in the center of the park.

His lab.

“Damned kids!” the black skeleton muttered, walking into this abode of secrets and research.

“Wow, you think so highly of us,” came a voice from a dark corner.

Error shuddered. The “black cat” was barely visible in the dark room, and only the shining eyes gave him away. One of those eyes had the shape of a familiar star — only this star-shaped eyelight didn’t belong Ink.

“Did you expect anything else, Paper?”

A click of the light switch, and light was shed onto the creature wrapped into a blanket. Paper Jam was vaguely reminiscent of a skeleton — lately he chose to to give his body features of that race — but was otherwise alien to all known living beings. Tightly woven blue strings were his bones, and black ink was his skin and blood.

“No. I would have been surprised if you started to coddle us and carry our photos in your pockets.” Paper Jam got up. “So how did it go? Kept him distracted to your heart’s content?”

Error huffed in response, put on a white lab coat and red-rimmed glasses and turned away from PJ, giving all of his attention to the contents of the lab table. He considered answering that question beneath his dignity.

But Paper refused to back down:

“Oh, you know as well as I do, that your relationship won’t last long. You’ve said yourself that you’ve only started it for our sake, just to keep him distracted. But I’m concerned how seriously you’re treating a relationship that’s meant to be a distraction.”

Error didn’t even turn to look at him. He was using a burner to heat up ink and watched how it reluctantly boiled, exuding an unpleasant chemical smell. He added a clear liquid and cringed at the result: it was time to up the chloroform dosage. The old dose might not put the artist to sleep next time.

He looked over his shoulder and flinched. Paper sneaked up to him and now stared at him, arms crossed, as he waited for an answer. Well, the destroyer answered, both getting things off his chest and making an attempt to embarrass the way too nosy kid:

“I just want to take everything I can out of this relationship. Everything that can be mine: the memories, the lustful desire to be together and the false feeling of satisfaction — it’s never true because it’s never enough.”

“It will never be enough.” Paper wasn’t embarrassed in the slightest, but he found something to embarrass Error with, “That’s how it is when you’re in love.”

Error flinched as if struck. His smile withered and uncertainty and hidden fear appeared on his face.

“Paper, I’ve told you before. I don’t love him.”

“Tell your lies to someone who would listen, Error.” The skelinkton was a bit taller than Error, which made it seem like he was looking down on the glitch. “I’ve already heard of your plans to sacrifice yourself to be exploited for the good of our cause. And you know what? I didn’t believe you then just like I don’t believe you now.”

“Why would you even think I’d be in love with an immortal, soulless being that, by definition, can’t reciprocate my feelings?!”

“Because being with him makes you happy. You want to be with him, and you get a kick out of the game you’re playing. You don’t even care about reciprocation,” Paper copied Error’s huff, “as long as you can keep being by his side.”

“Dammit, Paper!!!”

“And you still feel guilty! What is it? Masochism? Are you with him out of guilt?”

“No, dammit!”

“You’re in love and you torture yourself. If Dream were to pass by the two of you, that mess of emotions would’ve given him a heart attack. Palette has seen all sorts of shit by now — and you make even him cringe. Why isn’t Fresh chasing you around with a fork and a knife yet? He loves this crap.”

“Are you done?”

Error was gripping a beaker and a bottle of chloroform with shaking hands, frowning like a thunder cloud. His angry stare promised to make PJ the test subject for the chemical if he didn’t shut up.

Paper backed off:

“Yes.”

“Good.” The destroyer turned back to the table. “I’ll do anything for our cause. Anything to keep that scum from returning to our Multiverse. But I don’t want to hear any more of your judging me. Got it?”

The skelinkton returned to the corner of the room:

“I get it, I get it. I wasn’t judging you.” He yawned. “I’m just worried.”

“By the way,” Error managed to smirk again, “why are you sleeping here and not at home?”

“Omni is in one of the unfinished worlds, and Palette and Goth are on a mission. And there’s no one else who can stand in for me. We have so much to do that I have to forgo sleep. In other words, the moment I walk out of here, I’ll be put to work again. And I don’t want to collapse from exhaustion again.”

“I see.” The black skeleton lost his desire to mock the kid. The skelinkton gave his all to their cause and actually worked himself to exhaustion.

All of them were working stiff for the sake of their fragile plan.

Error had the code of the Multiverse spread out over the table. He spent a long while staring into the matrix of numbers and characters until he noticed one of the lines change its colour and font. “Code not available” lit up next to the “glitchtale” variable. The block of code corresponding to the world was crossed over with “file transfer” written in big letters. Then the line flickered, and the whole block of code disappeared. It was exported — and received on the other end.

“Which artisan remained in Glitchtale?”

“Spilledink.” Paper replied. “Whipple from the dream-keepers. Rouge from the reapers. Mistake from the correctors.”

“They’re doing good. They’ve just received the code.”

“Cool.” It was hard to tell by Paper’s voice whether he was happy. Back when they were freaking out over the first world to leave their Multiverse, they screamed in joy and had a wild celebration — in spite of their exhaustion. “We’ll start on the next one in a couple of months. There’s still a lot of work to be done there.” The skelinkton yawned and mumbled, “We’ll need to work even harder,” and fell asleep.

Error looked at Paper in sympathy and smiled: the kid used Error’s old jacket as a blanket.

“What a weird relationship we have, huh?” The black skeleton didn’t expect a reply.

He stared at the sleeping skelinkton for a minute more then looked at his clothes. They were getting too small for him. If living in the Anti-Void either blocked pieces of code or produced new ones, then the world Paper Jam had created removed code restrictions — for example, the limits of height and age. Error had an awkward thought that, were he to keep on spending more time here than in his own “nest”, he’d die from old age one day. He smirked at the thought that he’d grow to be as tall as Gaster first — which would be a cause for envy in most Sanses.

Creeping up to Paper, the black skeleton carefully took away his old jacket and threw a warm blanket over the sleeping skelinkton instead. Then he took a pair of scissors and got to sewing. He cut the sleeves off the old thing and sewed them onto the new clothes with rough, easily noticeable stitches. The pants were way more complicated to deal with, so he took a spare from Paper’s locker instead. If the kid tried to complain, he’d have a hundred new pairs drawn just for him — he had enough fans.

Distracted from the issue of his relationship with Ink, Error cheered up. However, the moment his thoughts went back to the guardian, he was tormented with a variety of feelings. And, since the bastard could read emotions, the glitch shouldn’t come to him with such a concoction inside him. But…

Ink clearly hadn’t wanted to tell him about the secret of paint production, and now he was left alone with the pain of his lover’s reaction — because Error responded to his honesty with making an escape.

“Void-dammit!” The destroyer cursed himself. “I’ll come visit him later. I still need to work with the codes a bit more.”

That promise pacified his guilty conscience and let him return to work. As it turned out, his work intertwined with the guardian. Turned out, in a very short period of time the restless tool of the Creators managed to interrogate half of the known universe-hoppers and kept digging into Error’s business with perseverance of a grave-digger.

The guilt was replaced by anger. The black skeleton no longer wanted to talk to Ink — he wanted to force him to drop the investigation. And break a few bones while he’s at it.

 

Come evening, Ink returned home completely exhausted. Nightmare’s gang managed to badly mess up one of the Fell AUs, and Ink chased them over three universes, giving them the beating of their lives. Dream spent that time fixing the positivity of the world — or rather the rudiments of it, since it was a “kill or be killed” world. You survived? There’s your positivity!

Despite the exhaustion Ink had trouble falling asleep. He twisted and turned, and suffered, but when he closed his eyes nightmares came for a visit.

He rummaged in the nightstand, but couldn’t find any of Dream’s spheres, and he didn’t want to call his just as exhausted friend and burden him with his troubles. So Ink got a pill bottle out of that same nightstand.

The bottle sounded like it was almost empty, and inside it the guardian found the last two pills — just enough to make him sleep without dreams, good or bad. He’d be able to simply sink into nothingness.

The empty bottle fell onto the blanket, and Ink didn’t bother to shove it off the bed. He yawned — the medicine was truly strong and acted fast — and barely had the time to put his hands over his chest before he fell asleep.

 

Error didn’t knock: what for? He just entered and walked up into the bedroom, expecting to wake the guardian up and tell him exactly what he thought of his investigation.

The door almost flew off the hinges — Error pulled at the handle with enough force to send it slamming into the wall.

“Wake up, rainbow asshole! I’m here to talk!”

But neither the noise nor the shouting woke up the artist.

Error walked up to the sleeping skeleton and, indignant, clapped his hands in front of his face. Such a sharp and grating sound was bound to make anyone flinch and wake up — but Ink continued to sleep. He didn’t move a bit.

“Oh, so you’re playing dead now!” The destroyer hissed and picked the artist up by the collar of his shirt.

The arms hung down listlessly, the head was thrown back, showing off the vertebrae of the neck, and a white pill bottle slipped down the covers, fell onto the floor and rolled under the bed.

Error watched it happen with a blank stare, then let go of the sleeping Ink and went to get the plastic escapee. A simple pill bottle — it came without a drug name but with an instruction. Okay, those were sleeping pills, strong, with a recommended dose of no more than three pills a day…

The bottle fell out of the black skeleton’s slack fingers back onto the floor.

“Ink?” Error asked in a very different voice. “Nah, you wouldn’t. It’s not like you… I think. Wake up, now!”

The destroyer didn’t know how many pills had been in that bottle — and he couldn’t imagine there being less than three — so he violently shook his lover, slapped him in the face and begged him to wake up. When none of that helped, he wrapped Ink into a blanket and hugged him.

He almost forgot that Ink was immortal and even if he were to commit a suicide, he’d come back anyway. Though recently, Error couldn’t bear to even think of Ink’s death — much less wish for it. The thought alone was almost physically painful.

“Come on, shorty, wake up,” he whispered, leaning to his lover’s skull and touching the cool bone with his teeth, and whispering sweet nothings.

Then a weak light appeared in the white skeleton’s eye-sockets.

“Error?”

“Thank Void and all its bastards! Why did you do it???”

“Do what?” Ink was still half-asleep and stretched his words. His tongue didn’t serve him right yet.

“How many pills did you take, asshole?”

“Two.”

There was no limit to Error’s indignation. He’d imagined who knows what, and the rainbow asshole, apparently, was just asleep!

While he collected all of his anger to pour it out onto the guardian, Ink fell asleep again, cuddling up to the destroyer.

Shoving this disgrace out of his hands and fastidiously wiping his palms on his pants, Error left the artist’s house, swearing without bothering to keep his voice down. He slammed the door as he went — literally and figuratively. Error didn’t want to see Ink in the next few days — or even months.

Chapter Text

“So, you’re done for good?” Dream consulted the map of the AUs and directed Ink to a world slightly to the right of where they were headed.

“I think so,” the artist grew sad. “It’s been four months. And he… well…”

“Doesn’t call, doesn’t write, doesn’t destroy AUs and doesn’t come to see you,” the keeper of dreams helped make Ink’s expression even more forlorn and cringed: such behavior was beneath the hero of positivity that he was. “Sorry. I mean, your relationship was never exemplary, so perhaps all is not lost?”

“Perhaps.” Even licking some yellow paint failed to fill Ink with hope.

The artist forgot all about the moment where he was under effects of the sleeping pills, and Error woke him up. Come morning, he thought he’d dreamed it. Though had he written that event down on his scarf, he would’ve been way less worried right now.

“You’ve been out of touch for months before.” Dream kept at trying to calm his friend down, not noticing how his words only served to make Ink’s expression darken.

“But we’ve never had an argument like that prior to any of those times.”

“It’s also the first time you’ve tried to, um,” Dream hesitated, picking a fitting expression to use, “step past a relationship based solely on sex.”

“It would’ve been best if sex was all we did.” The guardian completely lost his spirit. “What’s the name of the AU, where the story’s about a Medieval cathedral, demons, angels and other crap like that?”

“It’s called a mess! Have you decided to become a monk?” Dream asked, alarmed. His wild imagination offered him an image of his friend dressed in a cassock and beating Nightmare up with a heavy metal cross. Afterwards that very cross was shoved up the body part that his dear brother used instead of brain when eating apples off the Tree.

“No, we’ve just passed it, and I can’t remember what it was called.” Ink laughed. He imagined something similar to what Dream did, but he picked Error as his victim.

When Error decided to destroy the aforementioned universe, he was in for a surprise. It was the first AU where people met him with chanting, threw holy writings at him and proclaimed him a demon sent from Hell as punishment for their sins. Those very same fanatics called Ink a dead angel — a fallen one, since he had no wings.

That time both skeletons hurried to escape that world.

Dream didn’t want to ruin his friend’s good mood, so the rest of the way to Underswap was spent discussing their favorite foods, drinks, stars and other unimportant things.

Blue met them with cordiality usually reserved for family. He’d grown over the past year but was still shorter than Ink and Dream. He invited them both to sit at the table and offer them his specialty tacos.

Ink hurried to apologize for the rarity of his visits as of late. In reality, with all the Error-related issues and worries about the Multiverse at the forefront of his mind, he sort of forgot about his tiny friend. And as for Blue’s alter-ego — Bluescreen — Dream even needed to give the artist a detailed reminder.

“My memory is full of holes!” Ink complained.

“Don’t worry. I forget things too. At least, you have something to justify it.” Blue laughed quietly, unaware of the older version of him, who sat in the Save Screen and monitored his world.

After having a talk and a taco each, the friends started to leave. That’s when Blue begged:

“Take me with you!”

Ink’s eyelights changed to exclamation points. Considering everything he’d learned about Blue — particularly the part of the story where he split thanks to a reset — he had no wish to take the tiny skeleton anywhere. Even though Underswap wasn’t running the risk of a reset anymore — since the human was kept prisoner by Bluescreen — he was still scared.

“What will Papyrus say?” The keeper of dreams used Blue’s brother as a trump card.

“Nothing,” smiled the tiny skeleton, “as long as you bring me back by evening.”

Dream scratched his head and shrugged.

“We could go to some harmless universe. Littletale, for example, Doggietale, Nekotale. Oh! Maybe we could visit Chocotale?”

Ink still didn’t like the idea of taking Blue out to the other AUs, but outnumbered he caved and offered:

“Outertale. It’s quiet and has beautiful stars.”

Ink obviously didn’t mention why the genocidal universe was quiet — or the fact that it was genocidal. He wasn’t asked about it either, since the tiny skeleton was taken in with the second part of the world’s description.

“Stars!!!” Blue needed nothing else. His eyes showed the things he wanted so badly to see. “Come on! Come on! I wanna see the stars!”

Waterfall was home to the most beautiful place in all of Outertale. It was a cliff overgrown with flowers; stars filled the sky, it was quiet, and no one was around.

“Wowie! Stars!” Blue was awestruck. He looked up and rationality left him. He ran around, bouncing and squealing. The guardians only needed to make sure he wasn’t going to fall of the cliff.

Dream could be proud of himself: he’d found the best possible source of happiness for Ink. There he was, smiling as he and Blue watched the constellations and gave them weird names, like “chocolate”, “pillow of sweet dreams” or “apple core”.

In a good company, in a world where no one could hurt them, the skeletons forgot all about being wary, and knowing that Blue had his alter-ego watching over him did nothing to make them more cautious.

They simply had no idea what had happened to Bluescreen the day before — which, despite his wishes, left him unable to do anything to help them.

 

“No, I don’t want to know about the success, or, rather, your failure! I only want to know what’s happened to Bluescreen!” Error was beside himself with rage.

During the latest mission, a bunch of pipsqueaks went against Paper’s orders and, as a result, ended up in one of the glitched worlds. If Errortale existed, it would be the thing that the kids walked smack into. Thinking they were so strong, they tried to handle the broken world without Paper Jam — thought they’d show their merit. And then they came across the locals, who really didn’t like them.

As luck would have it, the only person who could come to their aid was Bluescreen. As a result, that world didn’t exist anymore. At all! Instead there was a lovely blue screen in its place. Bluescreen spent way too much energy and froze for an unknown period of time. The kids getting injured wasn’t considered a loss.

“Idiots!” Error spat and hung up.

Then he walked into Nightmare’s world, where the lord of bad dreams had set up a meeting.

“Yo!” The first person the black skeleton came across was Dust. “You’ve added an even bigger heel or have you really grown now?”

When Error’s sudden growing was noticed, he joked that he’d started to wear boots with thick soles, and everyone reluctantly believed him — as in, no one wanted to discuss someone else’s physiology. But when Error became a head and a half taller than everyone in the gang, the “nightmares” all had a natural question: how?

“Ask Gaster!” the destroyer snapped, knowing full well that Gaster was the only person Dust wasn’t able to get to to perfect his LV.

Grumbling, Dust rummaged in his pocket to procure a test tube with ink.

“Came across Ink three days ago,” he explained. “Care to share what you’re doing with his blood? Paps is very curious.”

“No,” Error cut him off and pulled out a test tube with a clear liquid inside. “There’s about half a LV in here.”

“You’ve promised a full one!”

“And you’ve promised not to ask questions. You’ll get the other half in a couple of months. This shit isn’t easy to make, you know.”

Arguing, Dust and Error walked to the place of the meeting, where the other “nightmares” and Nightmare, their leader, were already waiting. Though Nightmare, Horror and Killer weren’t the only ones there.

“Meet our new addition.” The creator of the gang pointed at the new Sans with his tentacle.

The Sans was, admittedly, very recognizable. Red-eyed, dressed into worn sneakers, a jacket with fur lining, a red sweater and a rough spiked collar. This could only be one of the Fells. Since he wasn’t wearing a star-shaped amulet, he wasn’t from Flowerfell, and since he wore a collar, he was from a dysfunctional genocidal world. So, from somewhere between HELP_Tale and Underlust — the two AUs which, unlike most other universes, had one instance each.

“Red,” the newbie introduced himself.

Error looked down on his own sweater, then on the exact same sweater of the new “nightmare” and realized that he really needed to update his outfit — starting with the sweater. It was better to switch it for something else.

Killer, wearing a white sweater, and Dust, wearing a beige one, snickered both at the name and at the similar clothing elements. Horror, who wore a white T-shirt in place of a sweater, considered himself very original.

“Twins! Heh-heh!”

Red wasn’t happy about the match in outfit elements either, and his choice of the nickname — to match his favorite colour — didn’t seem all that good anymore.

“Quiet,” Nightmare called. “Today I want you to pluck my brother’s feathers.”

“Then why did you call me?” Error growled. “It’s your brother — you handle him.”

“Because right now he’s accompanied by your enemy. Ink’s with him. They’re in genocidal Outertale.”

The black skeleton shivered. He didn’t want to see Ink. Or, rather, he didn’t want what meeting him would entail — discussing things. Though, of course, turning everything towards sex as usual was an option, but Error didn’t believe into its viability. And — why deny it? — since he’d found out Ink could feel his emotions — moreover, mirror them — he was uncomfortable thinking about their meetings.

As if I’m meeting with myself, he thought. But the destroyer quickly realized how erroneous such thinking was, and now he stubbornly avoided Ink, unwilling to torture himself or his lover.

Once another world was ready to be exported, he’d meet with Ink. But not now. It was too soon!

Nightmare continued to talk, but no one was listening, so, forgoing his speech, the leader for the “nightmares” opened a portal.

 

“Peek-a-boo!”

Dream and Ink turned around and grabbed their weapons. Even Blue summoned bones, immediately aware that the newcomers weren’t friendly.

Nightmare himself was in the front — four squirming tentacles in addition to a bucket of black sludge — and behind him in wait were a maniacally grinning Dust, Killer, Horror, Red and Error.

The guardians barely recognized the destroyer. The black skeleton grew tall, which gave him a more slender appearance, and his new clothes made him look older.

They didn’t have time to look him over in detail. Nightmare gestured for the gang to attack.

Chapter Text

Dream immediately stood in front of Blue, not letting the young skeleton join the fight, and shot three arrows. They didn’t hit their mark, but drove away the way too cocky Killer.

Ink, who considered himself the main target of the villains, split from his friends and stumbled into a forest of bones made by Dust. He easily avoided them but almost got a cleaver to the head from Horror, who chose to go hand-to-hand. Ink wasn’t used to people going into the fight head-on from the beginning, but after dealing with Fresh, Horror was nothing more than a nuisance. One slam from the paintbrush sent him flying like a baseball from a bat. Red was in no hurry to go into close combat and sent blasters after the artist, gauging the enemy’s strength and dodging ability.

Nightmare and Error hadn’t intervened into the course of the battle yet. One of them was content with his role of a lazy leader, and the other put up a fake smile and mentally prepared himself for a painful demise should Blue end up hurt in this fight. So far, Error had no ideas of how to get the kid off the battlefield that didn’t involve broken bones and concussions.

Dream easily held one enemy off, but when Dust joined Killer the keeper of dreams started to back away, forcing back Blue, who was eager to join the fight.

Ink noticed that there was one less “nightmare” going after him and got worried. He almost missed a bone sent by Red, dodged a new lunge from Horror and fell back to give himself more fighting space. There simply wasn’t enough of him to simultaneously protect his friends and protect himself. However, as long as the remaining two enemies stayed out of the fight, he had hopes of making an escape. Or making sure Dream and Blue escaped. Or, at least, making sure Blue did.

The keeper of good dreams had the same thought. Arrows successfully kept the enemies at a distance, but didn’t stop them from using long-range attacks. Keeping the way too brave tiny skeleton out of the harm’s way was taking a toll on Dream — so much so that he didn’t even see one of the incoming attacks.

“Careful!” Blue sharply pulled the keeper of dreams from under a hail of falling bones.

Their side of the battle consisted of running around, and Ink’s fight was all dodging and parrying.

“Error.” Nightmare got tired of watching the two guardians make his gang’s members look bad and wanted to end this nonsense with one fell swoop — or, rather, with one skeleton.

The leader of the “nightmares” and the free-spirited black skeleton had an odd relationship. Error had to claim to leadership and didn’t question orders, if they suited his whims, but he wasn’t a controllable gang member. He came and went as he pleased and chose himself whether to participate in the attacks or not. Sometimes he offered his services himself — supposedly out of boredom.

Nightmare knew just how powerful the destroyer was and didn’t try to limit his freedom — didn’t dare threaten him either. It was better to have this kind of fighter in reserve than among his enemies. The creator of nightmares didn’t delude himself: he knew that were Error to grow bored of his gang, he’d just kill every single one of them and make five cute puppets that he’d hang up in his nest to tell his next victim:

“These bozos used to be my pals, but they got too cocky…”

These thoughts made Nightmare shudder. He switched his commanding tone for a jesting one:

“You’ve said yourself that Ink’s your blood enemy. Go waltz with him.”

Error huffed and obeyed. He already had a couple of options for how he could solve the current problem, but all of them started with “capture and immobilize”. There was also one plan that involved breaking off his relationship with the “nightmares”, which the destroyer could only use if things got dire.

Ink flinched away from blue strings like a demon from holy water. Dream was just as agile. Blue didn’t immediately understand that the strings were dangerous and became their first victim.

“Help!” he squeaked, rising up over the meadow to hang a few meters above it.

No one had the time to help him. No matter how quick they were, the guardians soon joined him, though the artist managed to use ink in time and avoided the fate of a butterfly caught in a web, which left him alone versus six enemies.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” Nightmare swayed his tentacles when Ink changed his triangle eyelights to crosshairs and prepared for a violent attack.

Following the orders of the leader, the black skeleton tightened the strings, and his captives squeaked in pain.

Ink looked up at his friends and clenched his teeth in helplessness.

He knew Error wouldn’t let anything happen to Blue — or he’d be as good as dead — but Ink and Dream had no such immunity. Four months ago the guardian would have assumed that the destroyer wouldn’t go as far as to murder the two of them, but now he had doubts. In either case, Ink would resurrect, but Dream… who knew?

“Give up or they die,” — that was the simple ultimatum.

Ink gave his friends one last sorrowful look and threw Broomy on the ground, letting himself be disarmed. His paint sash and paintbrush were taken away from him.

Unarmed, surrounded by the evil Sanses, with his friends’ fates hanging by a thread — literally — the artist felt more awful than he ever did. On top of that, the emotions of the “nightmares” were all filled with nauseating blood lust.

“Hey, boss! What do we do with him?” Red didn’t know what the way of things was in the gang, so he figured he’d ask.

But even Nightmare himself had never thought of capturing the guardian of the Multiverse and was now asking himself the same question. What could he do to Ink to torture both him and the other? Most importantly, he had to ensure his brother’s mental suffering!

“Let’s kill him!” Killer and Dust responded in unison — they thought alike.

“Let’s eat him!” Horror disagreed.

“How?” Dust asked him. “Are you going to make soup out of him?”

“I’ll eat his bone marrow.” The broken-skulled skeleton’s insane smile confirmed: he would eat it without hesitation.

“Let’s just break all of his bones and leave him to suffer.” Error was as “humane” as the others.

Ink shuddered. He tried not to look in the destroyer’s eyes and didn’t know the other was watching him and waiting for any objections: what if he found the idea of being eaten more appealing?

Dream and Blue shivered as they listened to all of that. But none of the voiced options brought forth animalistic horror, like the one Red flippantly suggested:

“How about we fuck this doll?”

Red’s universe was situated somewhere near Underlust and was about as perverse as a porn movie. However, the universes of the other “nightmares” were situated way farther from it and were way more reserved in their sexual desires.

Nightmare, Dust, Killer and Horror all stared at Red as if he was a flying pig.

Ripping off arms and legs, torturing, killing and cannibalism — all of those were a part of their familiar reality, but they’ve never stooped to sexual assault, and the very possibility of it suddenly shocked them.

It shocked even Ink, who suddenly preferred to be broken and eaten but not fucked. He threw a terrified glance at the destroyer and realized that the other didn’t like the idea of sharing his lover either.

Error felt cold sweat on his back. His hands curled into fists. His teeth clenched. They could injure Ink, beat him up or torture him — Error wouldn’t care. Ink’s duty was to protect the AUs and get his ass kicked in the process. But he couldn’t let Ink be raped.

The destroyer looked at the guardian’s pale face and realized that the eyelights were changing their shape too slowly, as if sending him a message.

Spiral, star, triangle, heart, teardrop, skull.

He couldn’t understand it. But, to accommodate for this new turn of events, Error got a new plan — though it was an immoral and disgusting plan, no matter how he looked at it — but it was better than remaining an observer and watching his lover be crucified and raped.

“Don’t touch him!” Blue screamed.

Dream was horrified as well, but he had Swap Sans to think of too, so he tried to shut Blue up.

“Blue, quiet! Everything will be okay!”

“It won’t! Don’t touch my friend!!!”

Dream was ready to howl in despair. What if those motherfuckers decided that one toy wasn’t enough for them and set their minds on the way too loud Blue? How could he protect him?

Luckily, the two of them received no more attention than butterflies in a spiderweb.

“So who will screw that doll?” Meanwhile, Nightmare had had the time to think over the idea of debasing the artist.

“The one who offered.” Horror cringed. Sexual perversions weren’t a part of the cannibal’s repertoire. He even shuddered at the thought.

Red was overjoyed and started to pull off his jacket in his impatience. Killer and Dust watched the scene unfold with curiosity but didn’t hurry to try out the role of a rapist.

Ink seemed to curl into himself. The fact that his friends were watching made his chest ache. His lover’s inaction made that pain worse. He couldn’t believe he was about to be defiled by a skeleton he barely knew in front of his enemies, his friends, and Error. And then, quite possibly, the “nightmares” would be taking turns.

The thought made him throw up ink, which deterred the overeager Red and gave the destroyer the time to intervene:

“Heya, Nightmare!” Error called to the leader of the gang. “Like I’ve said, Ink is my problem. We’ve been fighting each other for years. So why does the newbie gets the dibs on the rainbow asshole? What, you’re in love with that red wimp?”

There were some laughs — the jest about the wimp was well-received, and so was the one about love.

Nightmare cringed and said:

“Aren’t you the ‘don’t touch me or I’ll fall apart’ guy here?” There was laughter again. “How do you intend to fuck him?”

“I can bear with it for a cause like that,” spat the destroyer and stopped Red, who was ready to undress the artist, with a glitchy bone that rose at his feet. “Back off, punk.”

“Make me.”

A black bone that met with his skull was enough to make Red black out.

“Get this scum away from here.”

Everyone watched the scene unfold with obvious curiosity. For the gathered motherfuckers rape was a novelty. For Nightmare it was a great source of negative emotions. For the captives hanging in the strings it was a horrifying nightmare. And for the rest it was a spectacle.

Chapter Text

Dream begged Blue to turn away and not to look. But he himself didn’t take his eyes away from the circle of skeletons and the center of it, where Error threw his friend to the ground.

In Dream’s opinion, Ink and Error’s relationship was odd — just like the two participants of said relationship, really. It wasn’t even clear if they had broken it off or were going to continue their erotic meetings. He didn’t know the limits of their agreement, but he was sure that coercion wasn’t a part of it — otherwise there was no reason for them to form that relationship in the first place.

However, what was happening in front of his eyes wasn’t just coercion. It was public rape. And if it wasn’t Error leaning over his friend, Dream would’ve been even more horrified.

It’ll all be okay. Ink isn’t easy to break. The destroyer and the guardian have just decided to make a porn show. Nothing too bad is happening, he told himself, and he almost believed that, but there wasn’t a single chance of talking Blue into believing nothing bad was going on.

Blue cried, sobbing loudly, and kept begging the gang to let his friend go and not to hurt him.

Dream worried about him. What would happen to the kid’s psyche if he saw a violent sex assault? Could it survive such a blow of fate without consequences?

Ink would certainly tell the kid about the other side of his life later — to calm him down. But what would happen to him once he’d learned such embarrassing and dubious things? Would he be able to accept it? Would he be disgusted? Would he turn away from his friends? Wasn’t he too young for such a talk? For such a spectacle?!

Dream was brought back from his thoughts by a horrified scream:

“No! Don’t! Please!” Ink cried. His voice was full of pain and suffering. Blue screamed with him out of sheer despair and helplessness.

“Blue,” the keeper of dreams called to his friend, who hung in the strings by this side. “Please, be quiet. He’ll be okay.”

“But… but… but!”

“I promise!”

Ink’s cries and pleading did nothing to back Dream’s words up. Blue was about to start screaming and pleading again, but the destroyer’s blue strings covered their mouths, as if to say: keep quiet and don’t attract attention.

The friends could only silently watch the horror-inducing spectacle, where their friend was roughly taken in front of an appreciative crowd.

Error, not hesitating even for a second, pierced the guardian’s arms with a bone. Then he straddled the defeated enemy and bent over him. Blue had no idea what was going on, but Ink remained silent until the destroyer backed off. The “nightmares” kept quiet too, watching what was going on with bewilderment in their eyes.

Dream could just imagine the dirty kiss, Ink’s attempts to turn his head away and the firm grip that kept him from doing that.

The next thing that happened made Ink kick out, the crowd hoot, and Blue turn away. Error ripped the suspenders and tugged the pants off the victim, spread the legs with his knees and settled in between them.

Dream threw a furious glare at his brother: are you happy, motherfucker? He saw Nightmare stand to the side, watching the scene with queasy interest. He wasn’t happy that he let his bandits have fun that way, but couldn’t stop them — he didn’t want to lose his authority. He didn’t have the right to show weakness and look away either.

A thrust. Ink howled in pain.

Blue flinched and cried soundlessly. He tried not to look, but he couldn’t cover his ears. Dream would’ve been happy to put him to sleep, hug and console him, but couldn’t even reach the tiny skeleton. The only choice the keeper of dreams had was to either look away like a coward and try to ignore the cries of pain and pleading, or watch and hate himself for being unable to stop his friends’ suffering.

He stared at the destroyer’s back, watch his motions and heard the pained, wheezing moans that followed every one of them.

That’s when the strings slackened, and Blue and Dream started to fall — not onto the ground but into a glitchy portal that took them to Underswap and closed behind them.

 

A glitchy bone was wedged exactly between the radii and ulnae, pinning the victim’s arms to the ground above his head.

“No! Don’t! Please!” Ink’s screaming wasn’t very believable, yet his attempts to throw Error, who straddled him, off himself were more convincing.

The black skeleton bent down and kissed him.

A familiar taste hit his tongue. Paint. No, two paints — two colours.

Error smeared pink over his tongue, bringing arousal to himself, and put blue on top of it and let the artist hastily lick it off, which made the kiss way too passionate.

“Are you seeing this?” The spectators were in shock and couldn’t take their eyes off the sight before them. Thankfully, none of them wished to join in, mindful of Red’s fate.

Upon moving away, Error saw the tear-streaked face of his lover. It if wasn’t for the pink paint, he wouldn’t have been able to touch him. Even with the paint, he internally cringed at the thought of them being watched. At the thought that there were motherfuckers around them, who wanted to rape his Ink . At the thought that he had to have sex without his lover’s desire for it or his own, and act out this shameful scene.

He forced himself to divorce from his surroundings — see and hear no one.

The destroyer ripped the suspenders and tore the pants off with one sharp motion, then used his knee to spread the guardian’s legs.

“No! I’m begging you, don’t!” Ink didn’t use his name. Like in a sex scene, the name became a “safeword”. He screamed, pleaded and cried, not directing it at anyone in particular. The blue paint made him a total crybaby. Under its influence, he saw life in a negative light, saw the saddest side of it and couldn’t hold back the pained scream of a soulless creature.

The scream was timely. Error couldn’t apply lubricant without anyone noticing, and it hurt a lot .

Ink did his best not to look at Error, scared that his lover would think of it as Ink blaming him — scared that Error would blame himself. He cried, satisfying the audience with his moans, and tried to let his thoughts carry him away from this meadow and the shameful pleasure that slipped in despite the pain. He didn’t know where to look.

On the left were Dust and Horror, staring with curiosity. On the right were Nightmare and Killer, cringing. And above were stars, swaying in time with the thrusts.

Every inhale was a spasm. Every motion was pain. Every sound was a sad cry. Every attempt at tenderness was torture. The end of it all was deliverance.

“Hey, Nightmare,” Red, who’d regained consciousness by then, called to the boss, “Error had such a good time with that doll. Can I have another of the captives: the kid or your brother? I promise to make it a good show.”

Nightmare was relieved to turn away. He turned towards the meadow, where the captives were supposed to be hanging but saw only torn blue strings.

“Where are they?!”

All of this time the “nightmares” were too preoccupied to watch the captives, and no one saw where they’d gone.

“Error!”

“I don’t give a fuck.” Error was straightening his clothes. “I already have a trophy. You can chase down yours on your own.”

Ink lay on his side, hugging himself. He did his best to appear broken. Or, at least, Error hoped he was just pretending.

“Dibs on the tiny one!” Red was happy to go hunting for the escapees.

The “nightmares” — some hastily, some reluctantly — went to hunt down the runaways. Error hurried to collect Ink’s things, pick him up and carry him into a portal.

“Are you okay?” he asked belatedly.

“Public sex isn’t my thing,” came a whispered reply. “What happened to Dream and Blue?”

“Putting others first even now, huh? They’re okay. Once everyone was preoccupied with us, I threw them out into Underswap.”

“Thanks…” With shaking hands and alarming carefulness, Ink embraced Error and gave him a pained smile. Complemented by the empty eye-sockets, that smile was horrifying, and the black skeleton ran the rest fo the way to the guardian’s house and then to the couch.

Ink wasn’t okay. Even a blind person could have seen it. He was trembling, his hands shook, his eye-sockets stayed empty for an unusually long time.

“I’m sorry.” Error couldn’t take it anymore.

“For what? For saving my ass from rape?” Ink was surprised by the apology.

“For doing… myself…”

“Forget about it. I’m just shaken by that whole situation. But I’ll be fine. Honest.”

“You will be,” the black skeleton agreed. “But for now, what will you have: wine, brandy or liqueur?”

“Yellow paint. A third of the vial. Mix it with something strong.”

They drank something — and couldn’t be bothered to know what it was and where it came from — and sat on the couch, leaning onto each other, and watched Undernovela until the artist fell asleep and was carried to bed.

 

Dream barged into the artist’s house. He expected to see anything but Error cooking hot chocolate on the stove.

“What are you doing here?”

“Hello to you too.” The “rapist” saluted him with a teaspoon. “I’m making hot chocolate.”

“Where’s Ink?” he asked as if he was sure the destroyer not only raped his friend but also killed him and stuffed his remains into the fridge.

“Ink’s upstairs.”

Dream glanced towards the second floor. All was quiet. No noises, no negative emotions.

“Um, and how is he?”

“He won’t admit it, but awful. I don’t know how Ink usually handles stress, but I made sure he got drunk and waited until he fell asleep. I’ve put his paints way, just in case. Left him only the yellow one.”

Dream finally relaxed and even sat at the table across from the destroyer. It was the first time he was talking to him in a peaceful setting, and he didn’t know what to say. Tell him that, at first, he didn’t believe Error was helping them and not getting a kick out of publicly humiliating Ink? No, of course he didn’t dare say that.

“Didn’t expect you to be so caring.”

“Yep.” Error sipped hot chocolate and smirked. Dream kept giving him a tense stare, so he asked, “Should I leave?”

“No. I don’t think that Ink would prefer my company over yours when he wakes up.”

“You know what kind of a relationship we have?”

“Yes.”

“And what do you think?”

“I’m not going to judge — especially not Ink. But I’m scared.”

“That I’ll kill him one day?”

“No.” Dream’s expression darkened for a moment. “I’m scared that one day you’ll want more from Ink, and he won’t be able to give it to you. I’m scared that one day Ink will want more from himself but won’t be able to cross the limits of soullessness and produce a real feeling. Your relationship will only remain comfortable until… you two will want the impossible. And I’m scared that it will do Ink more harm than good.”

Error didn’t look surprised by Dream’s words. He only nodded, accepting them.

“You’ve changed,” the keeper of dreams noted, smiling.

“Grew taller?” guessed the black skeleton.

“Well, that too.” Dream finally managed a genuine smile. “You’ve become calmer, and your emotions don’t inspire terror anymore. Perhaps, you will be able to build a proper relationship with Ink for real…”

“That’s impossible!” Error put the mug down and frowned. “One day Ink will find out the truth… about everything… and then the only thing he’ll feel for me will be hatred. And that could happen very soon.”

“What is this secret that everyone is hiding?! What is this conspiracy?!”

“A secret is called a secret because it’s kept safe, not blabbered out to everyone. And this one’s the kind of secret that people get killed for! And erased! For good!”

Dream felt the familiar wave of dread that Error had always made him feel and shuddered.

Chapter Text

Neither of them had a good night’s rest.

Error hadn’t slept a wink, staying by the sleeping artist’s side — or, rather, by the side of the artist, who kept thrashing in bed like he was possessed. What if he got up and ran off, and then Error would have had to search for him all over the Multiverse?

Ink, obviously, didn’t get a good night’s sleep either. His dreams were murky — not even Dream had managed to save him from that. He didn’t feel rested. And he remembered everything. Dammit! Why did he forget the good things, but the crappy ones stayed in his memory and refused to leave?

“You alive?” Error asked the moment the guardian opened his eyes.

“The answer would be closer to ‘yes’ than to ‘no’,” the artist replied sluggishly and rubbed his arm bones. They had cracks and notches in them — a nasty reminder of the recent events. “Um, I should heal myself. Can you give me my paints and brushes? And it’s me who should be asking you: how are you? Or have you forgotten that my emotions are yours?”

Error huffed, “Yeah, sure. But your reaction isn’t mine,” and brought back the artist’s things.

Ink painted over his arms and, throwing the blanket off, meticulously examined his body. When he requested some help with his hips, the destroyer jested:

“Is that your way of offering sex? Haven’t you had enough yesterday?”

But the guardian’s chilly tone made him drop it:

“I’ve had more than enough yesterday. It hurts there.”

They located an insignificant crack, which Error quickly painted over under Ink’s watchful eye. The artist suddenly smiled, as if the yellow paint he’d drunk the night before had finally kicked in.

“You have no idea how funny you look with a paintbrush in hand and your tongue sticking out,” the artist voiced the reason for joy and laughed.

Error looked into the bedroom mirror and was surprised — not at how silly he looked but because he knew someone who made the exact same face when he drew. He was one of the kids they’d found at the very last moment. Were they an hour late, inside there would have never lived a tiny artist called Gradient, whom Paper was successfully bringing up to be one of the most powerful artisans.

“Earth to Error!” When the black skeleton got lost in thought, Ink’s joy subsided, and he got worried. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. It’s just that yesterday was shitty for the both of us,” Error answered truthfully, rubbing at his eye-sockets.”How about some coffee?”

The destroyer offered his hand.

It confused him. The hand confused him. Puzzled, Ink put his hand on top and frowned — not because of the glitches that appeared, but because of the size of the black hand. A year ago their hands were almost the same size, but now Error’s was noticeably bigger, and the fingers looked thinner, became longer.

At a loss, Ink stood up facing Error, and his forehead came up to the other’s chest. He looked up.

“When have you grown so much?”

Error smirked, “When have you grown smaller, shorty?”

Still perplexed, Ink stepped away and angrily looked his lover over with fresh eyes.

The black skeleton grew up like a well-nourished tree and changed his clothes too. He didn’t look anything like a standard Sans anymore. Pants replaced shorts, and the familiar jacket got roughly sewed-on extensions — an attempt to cover up just how hopelessly small the jacket was for its owner. Even the familiar sweater looked short, and the slippers couldn’t fit Error’s heels.

And Ink remained no taller than an average Sans. His clothes were the same that he’d worn ten, twenty years ago. They were comfortable, and he wasn’t growing out of them. He would never grow out of them.

Before, the guardian thought that the Multiverse was stuck in a time loop forever, but now he knew it was slowly but surely moving forward. Blue would grow up to be tall like Bluescreen. Error had grown taller. Dream was already two finger’s widths taller than Ink. Inside the universes that were safe from resets new children were born.

The Multiverse was moving forward. It was Ink who was stuck in place.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Error held his lover’s face in his hands, made Ink face him and rubbed his tears away. “What’s made you so sad that you’re crying without any paint? I knew it. You hate me now?”

“No.” Ink sniffed and tried to smile. “What happened yesterday couldn’t have upset me that much — couldn’t have made me cry without any paint, that’s for sure.” His eyelights turned from teardrops to a crosshair and a skull. “But Nightmare’s not getting away with it. He’s getting trapped in a circus alright! I’ll give the Creators the idea of such world just for that, and I will lure him there. And then we’ll see just how much fun he’ll be having!”

Error couldn’t hold back a smile. The artist’s evil plans didn’t scare him in the slightest, since Ink was never going to put those plans into action — he was just letting his frustrations out.

“Can I make you new clothes, since you’re a Gaster now?”

The destroyer huffed:

“You joking? I’ll never grow as tall as that beanstalk. He’s at least two meters tall!”

“You sure?”

Error thought about it and shrugged. It was already weird to see his own reflection, and what was going to happen when he changed even more?

“Okay,” the destroyer yawned, “you can draw me some clothes, but if I don’t like them, I’m not wearing them. And… how about that coffee?”

Heeding Error’s pleading, the skeletons got some bean juice and afterwards Ink got down to drawing the outfit. It turned out looking like something a native of Mobtale could wear.

“I thought you were making me new clothes, not bringing your sexual fantasies to life.” The black skeleton perplexedly stared at the stack of clothes that the artist handed him after two hours of work.

Ink listened to the destroyer’s wishes and created a tank top instead of a sweater, but complemented by black pants, red-and-black jacket with blue lapels and fluffy slippers, it looked like an overkill.

This was a look for either a homeless psycho with grenades in his pockets or a mobster who left his house in a hurry and had no time to switch into work clothes.

After trying it on, Error couldn’t deny that the outfit Ink had made had a certain charm. The destroyer left wearing it. Why should he stay? That would have only brought them back to the uncomfortable conversations. He’d already made sure of the important thing: his lover had gotten over the events of the day before.

The guardian picked up the clothes Error had left behind and frowned. He sniffed them. The smell of his lover had always seemed strange to Ink. Everyone would expect the destroyer to smell of dust and death, but the smell was different — chemical, as if Error frequented a lab. Sometimes he smelled of pastries and, often, of chocolate — and sometimes he smelled of absolutely unimaginable things. If the artist hadn’t been to Littletale before, he would never have recognized the smell of baby food.

Just what world was Error getting those smells from?

The clothes also smelled of dirt, sweat and something sour, which came from yesterday.

Ink cringed and threw the clothes into a washer. He shook his head to get rid of the unwanted thoughts and decided it was time to call Dream and visit Blue.

The guardian of the Multiverse wasn’t scared of answering to Bluescreen and Swap Papyrus. He couldn’t leave the young skeleton without answers — at least, not if he wanted for them to remain friends.

Chapter Text

Dream came in the blink of an eye, like a mother to a crying child. He made sure that Ink was awake and healthy — if not happy — and only then calmed down.

“How is he?” the artist asked nervously.

“He was very worried about you. I’ve told him it was all staged to save us, but I don’t think he believed me all that much. His brother came, and I got in trouble with him, and when he found out what has happened, I got thrown out of their house. Through a window. He warned me that should he see us again, he’d drive us into the floor with a baseball bat.”

The friends chose not to wander around the Multiverse, skipped patrolling, going straight to the Doodle Sphere, and opened a path to Underswap. They looked around warily, but the streets of Snowdin weren’t full of traps, and Papyrus wasn’t waiting for them with a bat at the ready, so they walked up to the skelebros’ house and knocked.

The door opened almost instantly. Blue saw Ink swept him off the porch in a hug.

“... Ink!...” he sobbed.

“Blue! I’m okay. Aw! Don’t cry. Or I’m gonna cry too! Dream!!!” Now there were two crybabies.

The keeper of good dreams led them both inside and made them tea, adding honey and cinnamon into the tiny skeleton’s mug and yellow paint into Ink’s. Only after they were done drinking did he continue the talk that got interrupted the day before.

Dream chose against starting with questions of the “do you know what sex is” kind. It was clear from Blue’s reaction that he knew what it was and the day before wasn’t the first time he saw it. The kid was about fourteen years old — just the right age to be curious about that kind of things. However, his outcry the day before made it clear: he knew only of the positive side of things and considered rape about as bad as an apocalypse.

Dream repeated his story about everything being staged, and Ink added details to that, talking about how they were forced to do such obscenities in that meadow and absolutely didn’t want Blue to witness that, and how the act itself was normal for the two of them, and that no one was hurt. And, no, no one enjoyed it either. And, all in all, it was very wrong and don’t follow our example!

Blue took it way better than Ink had expected. Of course, he blushed like an overripe tomato, but he didn’t even think to turn away from his friends and call them sickos. In reality, he’d already seen more than enough thanks to his brother and his dates, including Napstaton.

Once he came home to see the two of them on the living room couch, getting down and dirty. After that his brother couldn’t look him in the eye for a whole week; he even put away his socks and washed the dishes daily — that’s how ashamed he was.

Now Blue was ashamed as well. He felt as if he was a curious spectator rather than an unwilling witness. He looked away, looked back at Ink and asked for confirmation:

“So you two love each other?”

A spiral and a question mark lit up in the artist’s eye-sockets: how could he explain to a child that a soulless abomination born in the Void was incapable of love. He would’ve had to tell about the kid about his soullessness and emotions first.

Dream was just as perplexed. The child didn’t need to know the messy truth: grown-ups don’t need fairy-tale love to sleep with each other, and it’s normal for them to seek support and pleasure with one person, then marry another and confess undying love to a third one.

Ink chose against lying to his friend and found a half-truth to tell him.

“Blue.” He smiled. “You see, he and I…” He hesitated. “He and I don’t know how to love, but we’re learning. And what has happened was,” he attempted to find the right words, “unpleasant for both of us.  But we needed to pretend so that we could save you two and ensure I wouldn’t have suffered more.”

“And you didn’t break up after that? Since it was unpleasant for both of you.”

“No.” Ink granted him a tiny smile. “Error was very worried about me too.”

Blue gradually relaxed. He mulled over what he’d heard and made some conclusions.

“I understand.” He nodded. “Sorry for acting like a child.”

“You are a child. And I’m not angry. You were just worried.”

“So that means you and Error are… um… lovers?” Somehow, the tiny skeleton managed to blush even more. Discussing things like that was very embarrassing even with his own brother.

“Yes. But no one can know about it.” Ink held an index finger to his mouth. “It’s a big secret.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep your secret.” Blue slapped a hand over his chest, and stars glowed in his eye-sockets. “No one will ever hear a word of it from the Magnificent Blue!” Then he toned it down a bit and mumbled, “I think, I’ve heard of Error before. I don’t remember whom I’ve heard it from. And I was told he’s a bad person. But he didn’t look like a bad person. And he saved us… using what methods he could… And if Ink trusts him, I will too.”

The guardian frowned a bit but nodded, accepting his young friend’s oath.

They were about to leave when Papyrus returned. Like a storm cloud, he hung over the alternative versions of his brother with a pointed bone readied to cut them up.

“It’s your fault my younger brother went through that!”

“Brother!” Blue was in his face immediately, standing between him and his friends. “I’ve told you already that it wasn’t their fault! We were attacked!”

“But if those idiots hadn’t taken you out of your own world…!”

“I asked them to myself! So if you’re filled with rage, let it out on me, not on them.”

Papyrus clenched his teeth and threw a murderous look at Ink — the main culprit of the child’s trauma.

“And I thought you got hurt.”

“That’s an overstatement. We’ve explained everything to Blue. And now we’re leaving.”

“No, now it’s time you explained it to me , you sexual educators!”

Blue realized there was no other way to save his friends and said:

“Sorry, but you were the first one to give me Sex Ed back when you were having fun with Napstaton. Oh, and those screams: Ah! More! Faster! Deeper!”

The way the tiny skeleton moaned those vulgar things made Papyrus not only drop his weapon but also blush and choke on his cigarette.

Ink couldn’t hold back a chuckle, and Dream only stared in shock.

The older skeleton was fully neutralized:

“I’ve apologized for that already… That was an accident… He just jumped me… And we never meet at my house anymore. And just… Don’t you ever repeat what you’ve heard back then — especially with such an innocent tone!!!”

Dream and Ink sneaked out the door and, laughing, dived into a portal.

Only instead of the Void they ended up in the Save Screen, where the cage holding Chara stood and Blue’s alter-ego lived.

“We’re gonna have such a good talk, my friends,” came from a dark corner.

Armed with popcorn, Chara was delighted to sit and watch the guardians get their asses kicked.

Chapter Text

After “talking” to Bluescreen, their everything hurt. Even things that skeletons weren’t supposed to have hurt, and the thing, that textbooks call coccyx and people call ass, felt like it was broken when they finally managed to escape.

“That was rough,” Ink managed to say, rubbing where it hurt, taking his friend’s hand and getting up.

“Why did we get all the punches? It’s Nightmare and his gang’s fault.”

“Judging by his shouting, he left that great mission — punishing the “nightmares” — to us. And we got in trouble for not being good friends and not keeping his younger copy safe from the horrors of the world of adults.” Ink stood up straight, hissing. He was the one, who opened the portal, and he was also the one who flew through it first, meaning his landing was doubly rough — Dream flew out after him and onto him. “Though, turns out, his brother got him familiar with the world of adults way before us.”

“That’s probably for the best.” Dream was examining his right leg: it was either bruising, or there was a crack waiting to appear. “If we broke the kid’s mind and introduced him to sexuality, that mother hen wouldn’t have let us off that easy.”

The friends shared a look and giggled. Bluescreen, when furious, actually was reminiscent of the angry mother they tell jokes about. He was just missing a frying pan in hand to complete the image.

“It seems, Error got a butt-kicking too,” Dream noted. That intel too came from the furious screaming of Blue’s angry alter-ego.

“I wonder if he’s still alive.” Ink reached for the yellow paint.

“Your sweetheart’s alive,” the keeper of dreams waved him off. “Bluescreen noted that he crawled into a portal the moment he got distracted.”

“He’ll be okay then.” The artist nodded. In the past it so happened that the former enemies sometimes crawled off the battlefield missing limbs — or even had to be carried off.

“So what do we do now?”

That left Ink perplexed. It was the middle of the day. The Creators weren’t calling for help. No Nightmares or Errors attacked the AUs. Calling this a day off seemed like indolence, so the guardians chose to do their usual patrolling routine — and check out the new outlying worlds.

Recently, two new universes appeared — Undercute, a positive one, and Virustale, a negative one. So far it was hard to tell whether they were going to stay unique or they’d soon have copies with different outcomes; whether they’d be cyclical or free from that curse; whether they’d live for at least a year or would be destroyed from the inside by their problems. Young AUs hadn’t had the time yet to tell their stories. They were only just starting on their journey of existence. So the guardians decided to watch them from a distance without interfering.

The first universe they were able to admire without any problem, but the second one threw problems at them the moment the guardians stepped through a portal. The virus-inhabited world met them with severity.

The local Sans teleported to their side — not to meet them but to infect them, like Fresh. Naturally, the friends opposed such treatment. Dream instantly escaped back into the portal, throwing out a few spheres of dreams before he disappeared. Ink, on the contrary, rushed away from the portal, shutting that one and only way out of this world. Last thing he needed was to unleash one more dangerous psycho into the Void.

So the artist had to run, spilling ink and setting up traps as he went, until he got a moment of time to create a new portal — it didn’t matter where it led, as long as it was a different universe.

That’s how Ink stumbled — literally — into another traveller that he hadn’t met before.

“Sorry!” Ink apologized hastily and only then looked at who he was offering his helping hand to.

At first Ink thought he was facing Fresh, then took a closer look and reconsidered — that must’ve been Frisk from Freshtale. However, giving them an even closer look, he realized he had no idea who it was before him. The white-haired, oddly dressed girl didn’t look like any of the Frisks he’d known.

“Don’t worry about it,” the weird Frisk replied and, taking Ink’s hand, got to her feet. She didn’t let go of his hand then, still shaking it, and smiled. “You’re Ink, right? I’ve heard so much about you!”

“Only good things, I hope,” the artist smiled nervously. “And I’m afraid I know nothing about you. Who are you?”

“I’m Merisk,” the weird girl introduced herself, still smiling.

Ink looked her over again and thought: this lady must’ve escaped from a Genocide route, taking trophies with her. Merisk was wearing Alphys’s white lab coat and Undyne’s blue pants; Papyrus’s scarf was wrapped around her neck; Toriel’s necklace jingled under it; Asgore’s purple cloak flew behind her, and Sans’s familiar fluffy slippers dangled on her legs.

Perhaps, calling her looks weird wasn’t quite right. This Frisk looked insane — complete with an insane smile — and she kept shaking the guardian’s hand, which was starting to unnerve him. What if she was like Horror: the kind of person to shake your hand then cut it off?

“Oh, sorry!” Finally, the weird Frisk called Merisk let go of the guardian’s hand, embarrassed. “I know that I probably come off as a little bit weird.”

“A little bit…”

“Yes, and sorry about that. In my world, a lot of bad things happened, and things like that,” she pinched a lock of her white hair, “leave a mark.”

Ink understood well just what the girl meant and, not seeing her insanity as a threat, relaxed.

“Don’t worry. I’m not the least bit put off by that. All of my friends are weird.”

“Glad to hear that.” Merisk gave him a genuine smile and asked, “So what brings you to HELP_Tale?”

The guardian felt a chill run down his spine. He looked around and recognized one of the most horrifying universes: the trees were crooked, the ground was covered in blood and dust, and the monsters were incarnates of pain and fear. It was no wonder that all the worlds situated close to this one suffered from it.

There was almost never any work for the guardians here, so Ink barely ever visited here. The question was: why was Merisk here?

“This is an odd place for a walk, miss.”

“I’m not here for a walk.” She said and proudly announced, “I’m working!”

The list of occupations a human could take on in this universe was limited to two options: food for monsters or monster exterminator. Merisk didn’t look fit for the latter, so Ink guessed:

“As food?”

The weird Frisk got the joke and guffawed.

“No, of course not. I’m helping the local Frisk reset this world.”

“Reset this world?!!” Ink couldn’t believe it.

The very idea of fixing HELP_Tale was shocking. The artist knew that the human trapped in this world did their best to either turn everyone to dust or knock some sense into their insane friends — and he also knew that they were never successful. The world of HELP_Tale had never seen a reset, since the reset button only appeared at the end of Pacifist route — which had never been reached thanks to the overall insanity of this universe.

“We think that this world could be saved with a reset. And that would also save all the universes created around it,” Merisk shared her grandiose plans.

“Wow.” Ink didn’t know what to think. He was caught between awe at how “wow, they’re really doing it!” and panic of “what would happen to the balance of the Multiverse should they succeed?”.

Actually, if they were to succeed, the balance wasn’t going to be upset at once — and whether it would be upset at all was debatable. When Dreamtale was forced into a Genocide route — that was a heavy blow for the Multiverse. But if HELP_Tale was brought to a Pacifist route, and the worlds around it gradually moved away from their genocidal state as well, then it would be too slow to shake the Multiverse. Perhaps, on the contrary: the Multiverse would finally leave its overall negative state and reach a more positive condition.

“And how are you doing so far?” He decided to check on their progress.

Merisk cringed and crossed her arms.

“Fifteen loads later, and I’m starting to doubt that the local Papyrus, dubbed Lucky Seven, is actually all that lucky, or he wouldn’t have choked to death on Frisk last time he tried to eat them. His brother still hasn’t forgiven us. But we’ve already managed to domesticate Toriel, and she almost never bites.”

The artist’s eyelights went through seven different symbols and settled on boxes. Okay, so one of the activists was in front of him — but where was the other one?

“Where’s Frisk?”

He got his answer in the form of a scream of terror and the human in question running by. Something horrid and ugly, that had way too many mouths, followed them.

“Run, Frisk, run!” Merisk called after them. “And leave them alone, Sans!”

Ink’s eyelights changed to exclamation points, and he decided he was done with this universe — especially after the round and toothy alternate Sans noticed him. Only after escaping to the Void did Ink remember that Error had told him of Merisk. Which meant that the strange Frisk could know of the secret everyone was bent on keeping.

The artist took out a brush and made a note on his scarf: interrogate Merisk.

 

Meanwhile, the slightly injured and angry Error picked up the phone.

“We’re not sure, but I think we saw Reaper,” came from the other end of the call.

“But you’re not sure?”

“We didn’t dare come closer, and it was dark. We watched him from afar. That guy was too old to be a fusion. Scythe, black cloak, wings. He looked a lot like the missing reaper.”

“A lot of Sanses wear cloaks, and any cloak would look black at night. And some have scythes. And there’s more than enough winged ones.”

“Yes, but not all of them can travel the universes, and not all of them act so suspiciously.”

“Where exactly did you see him?”

“In Demontale, Genocide route. He was doing something inside a temple for two hours, then left. We didn’t see where he’d gone to. We searched the temple, but haven’t found anything out of the ordinary. It was your stereotypical demonic temple: summoning circles, books, human remains…”

Error wasn’t listening anymore. He was going over his thoughts in his head: each one was worse than the last. Finally, he asked:

“Was he pleased or angry?”

“I smile like that when something awfully good happens.”

Error switched his line of thought from bad to horrible. And went silent for a long while. That worried the person he was talking to:

“Is everything…”

“Everything is bad, Goth. Meeting’s at Paper’s in an hour. Gather everyone.”

Chapter Text

The world of the fusions was a unique place. There were about a hundred and fifty beings, that only a handful of chosen people knew about, living and working inside it. They were crudely called fusions or children of the Void — accidents “born” in the place of randomness. These creatures weren’t created in this world; this world was created for them.

It’s just that one day Ink died in Error’s part of the Void, and the balance between the light and the dark parts of the Anti-Void was broken. Unlike most fusions, the first one wasn’t a skeleton. It wasn’t born in the literal sense of the word: it was put together out of scraps of Error’s and Ink’s magic and given a soul and a mind of its own. That first creature was named Paper Jam.

Let’s say, he got a cold welcome.

Then, almost two years later, the Void put forth a few more fusions — but of the usual skeleton kind. And then there came more, and more, and more… Like an ant queen, who is fated to give birth to new children its whole life, the Void never failed to surprise with all sorts of weird combinations. For example, a fusion of himself and Nightmare made the destroyer wake up in cold sweat for a long while. And when he found a fusion of Blue and Dust, he almost died from laughter. Fusions of himself and Ink made him think of fate’s sick jokes.

How did it work?

At first, Error couldn’t understand who those weird Sanses, who kept appearing in his home, were and where they were coming from. Only some time later did he realize what kind of error he’d committed once and kept repeating for years. Error killed people inside his Void and filled his puppets with the dust of the dead. But some part of the dust always got scattered…

The Void was filled with scraps of alien codes and had no way of ridding itself of them. Unlike AUs, where anything could be erased without a trace, the Void’s nature was different. Inside it nothing could be erased. At least, not without leaving a trace. At least, that rule stood for the dark part of it.

As it turned out, it wasn’t necessary to die in the Void for fusions of you to appear. It was enough to spill your blood there or, like Nightmare, lose a tentacle. All of that matter fell apart into strings of code and was later reused.

After the “birth” of Paper Jam, the Void seemed to have found a solution to the issue of unused codes and started to combine them together, which resulted in a complete being whom no one had ever created. Fusions simply appeared in the Anti-Void and wandered around until they died or were found by search parties. At least once a month a search party would find a live baby-child-teen-adult, who didn’t know who they were, where they were, why they were and who were those weird guys, smiling at them and offering candy in return for following them into a better world.

The world the newbies were taken to was a bit reminiscent of Littletale due to the prevalent age group among its inhabitants: there were lots of kids and only a handful of adults. In reality, some of those adults were barely three years old.

In that world newbies were quickly assigned a nanny-job-house, depending on their age, development and needs. Then the newbies were appraised and given their future occupation.

Fusions were roughly divided into dream-keepers (usually, fusions of Dream or Nightmare), correctors (mostly fusions of Error), artisans (fusions of Ink), reapers (fusions of Reaper), fighters and rangers. The last two groups was comprised out of the strong and brave ones, who didn’t fit into the other categories.

Most of the kids just studied, played and got into the kind of trouble that kids are expected to — but there were a few who were given important responsibilities by Paper Jam, the master of this world.

 

Today those important kids were gathered in the living room of the main house. There were about forty of them, joined by Core Frisk, Winding, Blaster Papyrus, G, Merisk, Fresh, Bluescreen, a couple of Gasters, Paint and Geno.

Geno wasn’t required to come, but the genocidal Sans insisted on participating:

“Since you got me into this mess, don’t try and stop me from floundering in it.”

Geno’s addition to the team was markedly nerve-wracking. First off, he was deeply troubled even before the met the fusions, and he wasn’t ready to be kidnapped and dragged to an unknown world. He thought he’d finally get to die — yet he woke up the next day, alive and unharmed. He thought he’d gone insane — and had that guess proven when he met Goth, Sorell, Shino and other fusions who looked like him. That resemblance wasn’t what rattled him — what was terrifying is that his saviours also looked like Reaper.

The familiar tone of the voice, the looks, the clothes — all of it made Geno hide in his room the same way as he hid behind the pillar in the Save Screen, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He almost agreed to move to a house next door — or even to a hut in the streets — if only to avoid seeing “his family”. But slowly he learned to trust the kindness of the kids that surrounded him and started to warm up to them.

In the end, Geno relaxed enough to help bring up the new fusions and joined the ranks of the teachers to pass his knowledge to the next generations. He stayed living with Goth — the kid who saved him — no longer afraid of the teen’s likeness to the reaper and instead noticing how the head of the house held so much more resemblance to himself.

And so, now Geno participated in the discussion. He, like everyone present, knew who they were fighting against.

“Why are you so sure that Reaper had found him ?” Paint asked Error.

Paint was respected by all the fusions and travellers, and Error found him unnerving. At first, he couldn’t even understand how something like Paint could exist and existed.

He was a Papyrus, but not a regular one. The thing was that Paint was born the same as Ink — in the same universe as him — but Ink lost his soul, and Paint had never had one and had no replacement for that vital organ. He was frighteningly empty. His chest was not only void of a soul — it hadn’t even any signs of magic — and his eyes had “living” eyelights, just like the guardian’s, but they rarely changed their shape — just like the skull rarely changed its expression.

Paint didn’t help the Creators create universes. He actually didn’t create anything and never went anywhere. He was huddled in a tiny corner of the Multiverse in a closed “box”, where he existed, not knowing any joys. Only Paper managed to snap him out of it and get him on their side.

It’s a good thing he did. Paint turned out no less of a creator than Ink. He was also the one who helped keep order among the fusions in the past, shutting up the loudest and distributing slaps to the strongest. He also did some teaching and helped make a closed-off nook of the Multiverse into a proper world, where all the fusions lived now.

One thing was unclear: why didn’t Paint want to find Ink and stay with him? They were brothers after all. He never answered that question, when asked. It seemed as if he didn’t even acknowledge they were related — as if he didn’t care. He had only gotten curious once, and it was when he found out that Error had started an ambiguous relationship with the person he used to call his enemy.

“Do you want to hurt him?” Paint asked.

Error almost blurted out: yes — but realized just in time that Paint wasn’t talking about broken bones and other joys of fighting, but about emotional suffering. And Error didn’t answer.

Either way, right now that tall skeleton was asking something else.

“I’m not sure,” the black skeleton replied. “But if there’s the slightest chance that he’d found him , we’ll need to accelerate the plan and be ready to meet our ‘guest’ with open arms.”

“But the kids aren’t ready,” Core Frisk tried to intervene. “A lot of them are still only babies, and the others only know a few magic tricks.”

That was true. The plan had a time frame of twenty years. No one expected the young reapers to steal Reaper’s “toy” and with that cut their time in half.

Oh, if only there was a chance to kill or trap the reaper!... But now, even if they gave Geno back, it wasn’t going to stop the coming of evil — only postpone it.

“I’m not talking about all of them,” Error said patiently, casting a look at everyone present, “but our level of preparedness will affect everyone. Don’t forget that should we fail, that creature wouldn’t care if its enemies are adults or children. We will all disappear!” That’s when the destroyer looked at Geno and corrected that statement: “Except for you. You’ll end up in the Save Screen again, back in Reaper’s grasp.”

That warning made Geno shudder and grip his red scarf like a lifeline. Error wasn’t threatening him — he was just stating the facts of their pitiful future should they refuse or be unable to fight.

“But the kids!” Core Frisk tried to object again.

“Yes, I know we’ve got a bunch of babies, and no one’s gonna drag them into the fight.” The destroyer waved them off. “So we’ll change the plan a bit. On top of the things we’ve already discussed, I want you to prepare one of the AUs for an emergency evacuation. That’s where you take the kids and that’s the world you’ll start your endless journey with, should we fail.”

The thought of the possible defeat made everyone go silent. Even the ever-arguing Goth and Palette felt the pressure of the moment. Even the ever-smiling Bleed frowned. Shino, who always cheered everyone on, pressed against Geno, shivering.

Only Fresh kept a positive outlook:

“Bro! Why’d you have to bury us before we’re dead?!”

“Because I know just who we’re up against!”

“But you haven’t even started the battle yet, and you’ve already prepared coffins for everyone! That’s not the attitude you need for a fight!” The brightly dressed skeleton got up onto the table. “I know who we’re up against as well! I’ve seen him! I was there! I participated in that crap! And I’m telling you, we can pinch his tail a second time!!!

“The most important thing is that we’ve kept our secret! Ink knows nothing of fusions! And that means he doesn’t know about you either! So he can be three times all-powerful, but he’s not powerful enough to handle all of us! This time it’s not just a parasite and a glitch against that abomination — it’s an army!!! Fusions of the strongest among the strongest! When he sees us, he’ll be so scared he shits himself! And that means we will win!!!”

Fusions, Frisks, Papyruses, amalgamates — everyone in the room cheered, applauded and was ready to move mountains — both literally and figuratively.

Error looked at his friend in surprise. He didn’t expect an inspirational speech to come from Fresh of all people. He also realized he quite liked the idea of psychological warfare — if only they could scare him so much that he’d chose not to fight altogether.

Perhaps, all was not lost yet. Perhaps, a little bit of cutting would save them yet.

Once everyone calmed down, Error took the floor again — this time to give orders:

“Paper, pick an alternative that you will be able to prepare for export as soon as possible.”

“The one we’re currently working on — Underswap,” Paper Jam replied without blinking an eye.

Bluescreen beamed. Finally, everyone he loved would be free.

Error went on:

“All the rangers are on Reaper watch. All the sketch worlds must be cleaned up and collected. How’s HELP_Tale?”

“In progress,” Merisk replied.

“Put your all into it. We need to minimize the negativity in the Multiverse. Core, if it’s possible, consider replacing Frisks in some genocidal AUs. I still need to deal with Nightmare.”

That’s when the trio of travellers stepped up. Their leader, Gaster Frisk, was the one who did the talking:

“We have an idea that might help. We could fuse two genocidal worlds.”

At first, G stared at his friend, perplexed, then remembered something and slapped himself on the forehead:

“Right. Two negatives will definitely make a positive. Well, that or the two worlds and their two psychos will disintegrate.”

Error waved them off: let them try. He was fine with either outcome.

“Why are you all still here?” Error sneered. “The meeting is over. Scram!”

Everyone, except for Paper Jam, was instantly out the door — and Gradient was still there, staring at them from the second floor with his crosshair eyelight.

“Hey,” the first fusion called his “father”. “Do you really think we stand no chance of winning? Or were you just trying to give us a scare?”

Error, exhausted, sprawled on the couch, put out his eyelights and shrugged.

He believed they had a chance, but he didn’t know if he’d foreseen everything, if he’d taken all the variables into consideration. If not, then…

“We’ve got less than a month, Paper. Don’t tell the others.”

Both of them knew well that they wouldn’t be able to prepare Underswap for extraction in a month. In this war, they would either achieve victory with a single blow, or die.

Chapter Text

That night Ink had a weird dream. He purposefully drank the emotions he got from Error to make fragments of memories enter his dreams again. This resulted in an odd and unintelligible nonsense full of purple octopus parasites. They sort of crawled out of a test tube and filled the whole lab, winding their tentacles around him to keep him from moving. In the corner of the lab, facing away from Ink, someone sat, crying.

Ink screamed, called to the stranger, promised to help them, but they weren’t paying attention to the guardian and kept crying. They turned around only at the very end of the nonsensical dream. For reasons unknown the stranger turned out to be Geno. Tears fell from the monster’s only eye; an insane smile was stuck on his face. Only when the prisoner of the Save Screen turned around fully did Ink see what he had in his hands. He was doing something horrifying: in one hand he held someone’s soul, and the other kept driving his own soul shard into the soul.

“He can hear you!” said the insane Geno and… Ink woke up.

After a dream like that neither camomile tea nor Dream’s gift helped him get back to sleep. The moment he closed his eyes, his mind brought up the image of the octopuses and the insane Geno.

This crazy dream granted him no answers, but, at least, he wasn’t sleepy anymore. So the guardian decided not to postpone talking to Merisk and went to the Doodle Sphere to open a portal into the most horrifying of the AUs — HELP_Tale.

The creepy world met him with familiar silence, the smell of dust and crooked trees. Giving the monsters, disfigured by the Creator’s imagination, a wide berth, Ink seeked a meeting with the colourful Frisk — or the local one so that he’d be able to ask where to find the colourful one.

However, two hours of searching produced no results.

The last place he checked for the humans were the local Sans’s mouths.

“Are you sure you haven’t eaten them?” The angry Ink stared at him with crosshair eyelights.

“I have not!” claimed the cornered monster.

Ink came back with nothing. But the surprise that awaited him at home took away the sadness of the useless search in a heartbeat.

“You got hot chocolate?” Error asked as he searched the kitchen.

“In that cupboard over there.” The guardian was happy to see his lover and came over to embrace him from behind.

Surprisingly, he got none of the expected threats, slaps or promises of pain. Error stoically took the wave of glitches and demanded Ink tended to his guest — meaning himself, “Make me some damn hot chocolate already!” and then quietly watched the guardian fuss around, thinking: what a bastard I am.


“Are you sure you’ll be able to stay with Ink this whole month? Without consequences?” After the meeting Paper Jam looked very tense. He sat at the table the black skeleton was working at and stared at him, waiting for the answer.

“I can stay with him without any consequences for any of you.”

“And what about you?”

Error gave the leader of the fusions a heavy look and continued to mess with the phone’s circuits. A black smoke of welding rose towards the ceiling.

“It’s all settled, Paper. If he appears, I’ll give you a signal. And that might mean I’m not alive anymore.”

“You’re gonna give up just like that?” The skelinkton threw up his hands.

“Not ‘just like that’, Paper. I won’t give up. I’ll play my part and fall off the chessboard.”

“Then maybe you should stay away from Ink instead?”

“No.” Error shook his head and looked up, at Gradient. The tiny skeleton was sitting by the railing of the second floor, looking down at them with silent reproval. The kid was still too young to participate in the war but already understood the dangers of their current situation. The destroyer met his reproachful stare, sighed and returned to work. “Only if I stay by Ink’s side will I be where I’m supposed to be — in the thick of things. And that’ll give me the time to give you a signal.”

Paper Jam gave up:

“Well, at least, you’re going to spend these last days with your loved one. Heh. Won’t you regret it?”

“What? Choosing him over all of you? What do you expect me to regret?”

The skelinkton cringed. Going along with the subject of relationships meant getting stuck fighting his “father’s” stubbornness, so Paper Jam chose to address a more important matter:

“What’s the signal?”

“The beacon of my phone disappearing.” Error closed the lid of the device and turned it on, waiting for the “welcome back” screen to light up. “I doubt I’ll be given the time to make a call, so the moment the phone gets broken, get to work.”

“What if you break it by accident?”

“I have a spare in my Void. I’ll use it to call you and say that I’m an idiot.”

“And Ink won’t realize that you’re spying on him?”

Error sighed heavily.

“In our relationship, honesty only happens between the sheets. He’ll be curious as to why I suddenly desire his company. But he won’t ask about it. And even if he does, he won’t get an answer.”

Paper shook his head. He wasn’t going to get into the details of the relationship between his “fathers”, and neither was he going to judge them for their sins. Still, he couldn’t help but worry for their future. Or, rather, the lack of that future — for either of them, together or otherwise.

“Does he have a chance of survival?” he asked. “When he comes, what is he going to do to Ink?”

“He has about as much of a chance as each and every one of us.” Error put the phone into the inside pocket of his jacket. “Meaning, not much. Either way, he’ll be the first target.”

“And the second one?”

“Sci.”

“Should we warn him?”

“Fresh already did. And I’ve put a second beacon on him. If I’m unable to give a signal, but Sci’s beacon in Timetale goes out, then someone took him from his home world — and that can only be him — or he was murderized and not taken. The Frisk has been warned, so there won’t be any resets or loads.”

Error was ready to leave, and the skelinkton asked him one last question:

“Do you think we have everything covered?”

“I don’t know, Paper. I can only hope we do.”

Rubbing at his tired eyes, the black skeleton gave a final look to the barely awake Gradient and offered the inky teen his hand:

“In case this is the last time we see each other.”

“A handshake from the person who can’t stand them? That means a lot.” Paper Jam huffed and shook the black skeleton’s hand. “I hope it isn’t our last one.”

“Hope is the one thing we have left.”


And here he was, in his lover’s kitchen, ready to lie to him for the next three or four weeks — which could end up being the last weeks of their Multiverse. So, if they were the last ones, let them be filled with the only sincere thing he could give.

Ink didn’t have the time to stir chocolate into milk, when he was sharply turned around and kissed — greedily, demandingly, cheekily. And upon parting, he was stumped with:

“I. Want. You. Here. Now. No waiting!”

Ink instantly got his bearings, drank some pink paint and smiled:

“So. Take. Me. Here. Now. Don’t wait!”

Chapter Text

The night ended up being pretty wild. The lovers only had a couple of hiccups thanks to bad memories: the first one happened when Error fixed Ink’s hands above his head; the second one was when he didn’t apply enough lubricant. Both oversights were quickly fixed without stopping their fascinating activities that brought bliss to both of them. The event of the past could stay an unpleasant memory of a necessary measure.

In the morning Ink woke up in the destroyer’s embrace.

The black skeleton figured out a way to hug him while avoiding the pain from glitching. He pushed one hand under the artist’s pillow, and the other put on top of the blanket he wrapped his lover into.

Ink wasn’t able to get out of the resulting cocoon without waking Error.

“Where are you going?”

“To the AUs. I’ll be back soon,” Ink promised and hurried out of the room.

“Don’t get caught by Nightmare and his gang,” the black skeleton called after him and, after hearing the front door close, took out his phone.

 

This time Ink was lucky enough to come across Merisk almost at once. The pale-haired girl was calmly talking to the beastly Sans of HELP_Tale, and he seemed to be acting calmer than usual. At the very least, he wasn’t trying to eat her, which was good enough already.

“Oh!” She looked back at the guardian and shuffled her feet awkwardly like a child caught stealing candy from a bowl. “Hello.”

“Good day to you too.” Ink faked a careless look, even though he was tempted to drink some green paint and exclaim in surprise: how did you reach an agreement with him and why are you still alive?

The Sans, apparently, had the same thought because he shivered and decided that having friends was good, but having food was even better.

They barely managed to get away.

“Is there something you needed, or are you here just to talk?” The girl, despite being chased up a pine tree, wasn’t taken aback in the slightest.

The artist, who was sitting right next to her, shared her equanimity — he too sometimes found it easier to make his escape that use force to prove himself inedible.

“Actually, there is something I need. Or, rather, there’s something I want to ask.”

Warned in advance, Merisk only smiled: ask away; you won’t be getting any answers anyway.

 

Ink returned home, feeling like the Multiversal conspiracy was just a figment of his imagination, and its participants didn’t exist at all — in fact, all of this was a dream.

“What a brainbusting child. It’s no wonder she even talked that horrible Sans into submission,” Ink mumbled, crossing the threshold. With his head hurting from that endeavour, he didn’t want to patrol the AUs, especially considering he was running a chance of bumping into Nightmare, and then he’d have to pretend to be heavily traumatized by rape.

“Welcome home,” came a snarky call from the couch. Error sounded like he knew where Ink had been and what he had been doing. The only thing missing were some leading questions: “Have you found anything?”, “Has anyone cracked?”, “How is Merisk doing?”.

Still, having someone waiting for him at home was nice.

“I’m home.” Ink smiled. He’d lost his round, so why rage about it? Enjoying the rare feeling of warmth seemed like a much better option: he felt as if he’d sipped some pink paint in advance ,and it spilled into his bones in the form of anticipation. “I’m not going anywhere else today. What do you propose we do?”

At first, Error gave him a lewd smile, then scratched the back of his head — he hadn’t yet recuperated after staying up yesterday — and patted the couch cushions by his side.

“We could watch Undernovela.”

Sans and Toriel were standing at the altar, when the enraged Asgore broke into the church, and a new bout of drama and accusations started — and that’s when a phone rang.

Error was about to grab his — even patted his pocket — when he realized that his device was set to vibrate, and the tune was coming from a pocket of the artist’s jacket.

“Hello? Ah, Dream! Did something happen? Really? Okay, I’ll be right there.”

Confused, Ink put the phone away.

“Sorry, Dream’s got some problems with positivity in one of the worlds. I’ll be back as soon as possible.” He leaned towards his lover and left a quick kiss on his cheekbone. “I hope, by then you’ll be ready for a little more entertaining pastime.”

 

Dream called Ink for a pretty serious reason. However, as mentioned before, the artist didn’t want to face his friend’s brother.

“You don’t need to.” The keeper of dreams waved him off. “We’re not confronting Nightmare. I just need your opinion on this world’s condition. Go on, take a look!”

“What’s wrong with it?” Ink couldn’t understand what his friend wanted him to look at, since they’d come to Dusttale. This place had been joyless since day one, and it was also Nightmare’s territory — or the territory of one of his bandits’ anyway.

“Look closer and feel that !”

Sighing, the guardian focused fully on his perception of the genocidal reality and gasped in surprise.

“Do you feel it?”

“Yes, and I don’t get how this is possible. Dusttale is one of the saddest realities. It doesn’t have a second chance. And, besides, Dust wasn’t going to leave Nightmare, since he gave him an opportunity to travel across the universes. But…”

“But Dusttale was reset.”

The guardians could see Snowdin through the snow-covered branches of the bushes. The town looked so much like many of its alternatives: lively and happy. The most surprising thing, however, was that in the crowd they caught a glimpse of a red scarf and a blue jacket. A Sans and a Papyrus were walking through the crowd, and they looked happy. The red rims of their eyelights were the only reminder of the tragedy they had lived through.

“What’s happened?”

“I keep asking myself the same thing.” Dream crossed his arms.

 

While on their way to the Genocide Papyrus’s world, Blaster Papyrus, G and Gaster Frisk were filled with enthusiasm and hope for a better future. However, once they’ve reached their destination and faced the lunatic, they were tempted to cancel the operation and run, run, run!

The blue jacket-wearing Papyrus looked way too happy to see them. His wide smile didn’t bode well for the travellers; neither did the charged up blaster or the sharp bones.

So they had to run — but not like last time, when they didn’t care where they were going. This time they needed to lead the madman after them and lure him into a portal and into the neighbouring universe.

Dust was waiting for Error in his world, at the spot they’d agreed upon. Or, rather, he was waiting for the second part of the promised payment — the one that would help him raise his LV. But instead of Error what he got was the inseparable trio of travellers fall on top of him. The dragon was the biggest reason for him not to attack and instead lie in the snow a bit longer, checking his bones for injuries. Then, just as quickly as they came, the three escaped into the forest.

Dust didn’t have the time to lose his cool and chase after the strange guests before out of the portal came… Papyrus. He was nothing like the alternate versions of his brother that Dust was used to seeing. His brother stood before him like his mirror image: a person who’d traded his despair for insanity, who’d lost everything and everyone — proved by the dusty blue jacket on his shoulders.

The younger skeleton, who was ready to kill and destroy a moment before, saw the older one and froze as well. Dust was a spitting image of his brother in the last moments of his life — he even lay at his feet just like his brother did, and, just like then, the fire of madness in his eye-sockets was replaced by the sparks of surprise.

The brothers stared at each other, put down the bones they were almost ready to set off, and stilled in indecision.

“Sans?”

“Papyrus?”

For the first time in a really long while the hallucinations of the dead left the skeletons — or, rather, they solidified. Why’d they need an imaginary brother if the real one returned?

Only the dead don’t come back to life — at least, not without a reset for sure — and Dusttale no longer had anyone who could make one happen.

“You’re not my Papyrus,” Dust said, regretful, and sat up.

“And you’re not my Sans,” the younger realized, but his smile never left his face. He fell to his knees and leaned forward, embraced the older skeleton. “But do you want to be?”

What did he have to lose? He’d lost everything he could already. Might as well gain something…

“I will be…”

 

The fusion of the two universes went smoothly. The branches of the same story came together and replaced each other’s missing codes. The freed Chara popped out of the cursed basement like a jack-in-the-box — dirty, with hair standing on end and a clear understanding that they’d never go through with a genocide again.

The reset went as they usually do. The fusion of two worlds had only two deviations. One: Genocide Papyrus replaced the one who died at Dust’s hands. Two: the Chara from the Genocide Papyrus’s world replaced the one who’d disappeared in Dusttale.

And most importantly: both the Sans and the Papyrus remembered everything that had happened to them.

 

Both guardians hung around in the Snowdin forest for an hour longer, trying to understand the changes that had occured. They had yet to find out about the disappearance of the Genocide Papyrus’s world, and when they did find out, they started to realize what a miraculous event they were lucky to witness.

“Minus two negative worlds, plus one neutral one — potentially positive one,” Ink summed up.

“Unless one of the genocidals or the Chara mess this up.”

Ink rubbed at his forehead. There were strange thoughts going through his skull, starting with “Nightmare will be pissed that there’s one less member in his gang now” and ending with “Does Error know about this?”.

To handle the threat of the former, the guardian put a “lock” onto the former Dusttale. And to find out the answer for the latter he needed to ask the destroyer himself.

“I’m gonna go home. I need some time to think about it all.”

Chapter Text

Ink came back home and didn’t immediately remember who was staying at his place and why, so he got to be scared for a short while when he was tied up with strings and thrown onto the couch. The guest stood over him, covering the light of the lamp, and moved closer with a smile.

“Error?”

“Who else did you expect? Nightmare?”

“No, thanks.” The artist brought his eyelights back to positive shapes. “Not a fan of mud baths.”

He jokingly pushed his lover away and jumped to his feet. In retaliation for the rough handling, he hugged the destroyer, spreading glitches over his body, then frowned. Error’s height was becoming a problem. After hitting his forehead against his lover’s chest a couple of times, Ink smiled slyly and thought of a couple convenient sex poses where his small size wasn’t going to stop him from topping.

“What the?!” Error exclaimed when his lover’s hand slipped into his pants from behind.

“What, you thought that, since you’re taller now, I’ll be bottoming every time?” Ink sneered. His eyelights turned red: the left one was a crosshair and the right one — a heart. “Fat chance!”

Error hadn’t actually considered it. He still couldn’t decide which position he liked more. He enjoyed being with Ink both as a top and as a bottom. He got carnal pleasure out of it in either case — it was just different. The thing is, when he was bottoming, it hurt his pride, but not enough to make him give up the ecstasy his lover brought him.

He suddenly realized that he’d never asked Ink which he liked more, and he really should.

“Ink?”

“Hm?”

The artist playfully put Error’s fingers into his mouth, and the glitch felt hot all over. Inside the destroyer’s imagination his lover was playing with something other than his fingers. He lost his train of thought and struggled to rediscover the words:

“I’ve just realized I have no idea which you like more: topping or bottoming?”

Ink pulled the drool-covered finger bones out of his mouth and purred:

“Doesn’t matter to me. Each has its benefits. And what about you?”

“I support your convenient approach to the matter.” What was the use of searching for the answer to this awkward question, if they already felt good together, and the limited time of the Multiverse was elusively slipping through the fingers of life.

The guardian licked his teeth in thought and proposed:

“Since neither of us cares, then maybe you’ll agree to one more experiment?” Upon saying that, he arched his back, stood on tiptoes and touched his lover’s chin in a meek kiss — this came instead of saying: oh, please, I really want it!

“If that experiment is going to be enjoyable, then yes.” The black skeleton couldn’t say “no” to the erotic manipulator and was pulled into the bedroom.

 

Error got no pleasure out of giving head. He was ready to do it for his partner to add a little extra excitement to sex — well, and to see the passionate expression on the artist’s face. When he received a blowjob, it turned him on, made blood race through his bones and made him choke on air — Error was ready to come at any sudden motion.

Ink proposed they’d combine things pleasant and unpleasant — meaning, he proposed they’d try the sixty-nine position. He took their talk of “who’s comfortable with what” and decided to make them both uncomfortable.

At first Error considered declining such a questionable experience, but when Ink lay before him on his back, opened his drooling mouth and showed with his fingers just where he wanted him… Resistance was futile.

And so, here was the destroyer in the most lewd of the positions they’ve tried: hesitant, in between his lover’s legs. On the sides of his head were the shaking white knees, barely holding back from squeezing the black skull. From the corner of his eye he saw white finger bones shake as they hooked into the sheets. Error too was shivering from the feeling of the artful tongue that was drawing a complex pattern on his magic.

Fondling someone’s organ with your mouth wasn’t the most pleasurable part of sex, but feeling that very someone fondle you, trying hard to match your rhythm, turned out to be wonderful. Unwittingly, Error succumbed to his lover’s enthusiasm and picked up the pace.

Wishing to add some thrill for his partner, he pushed his fingers between the trembling thighs and almost bit down when the feelings became too much: in response, Ink worked his tongue more diligently and a couple of eternal seconds later followed his partner’s example.

Too. Unreal. Way too many sensations.

They fondled each other with their fingers and tongues, moved to meet each other’s motions with the silent fury of monsters eager for pleasure. White thighs and face had drool and lubrication running down them, their jaws were cramping, saliva dripped down from the black one, white noise filled their skulls. Moving faster and faster, they felt a wave coming, ready to break against the two bodies merged into one.

The room filled with muffled moans and hums. Shivering with the growing pleasure, the skeletons clung to each other, trying to hold onto the sweet explosion of sensations and make it last as long as possible.

Ink choked but managed to overcome it and not only swallowed but held onto his partner’s hips, making the black skeleton’s orgasm last longer. Error fought with himself and, under the onslaught of the overwhelming bliss, compulsively swallowed.

The lovers froze. Then quickly parted and took places on the opposite sides of the bed, giving each other wild looks Both of them dirty, yet satisfied.

“Void damn you, Ink!”

“But you liked it!” The guardian rubbed a stain off his cheek.

“Perhaps. But you won’t talk me into this a second time! Stars! I’m going to shower!” And, seeing Ink get up, he clarified, “Alone!”

“But, Error!”

“No ‘Error’ from you! I know your games, you pervert!”

Proud of himself, the destroyer shut the door in the offended guardian’s face and quickly, before the other had the strength to follow him, locked himself inside the bathroom.

Despite his grumbling, Error didn’t leave to sleep in his Void or downstairs on the couch. At nighttime, he returned to the artist’s bedroom and lay down, complaining all the while. But before settling down he got cocooned in a blanket — “You’ll deal without cuddles!” — and made a barricade out of pillows — “ I know you!”.

 

Turned out he didn’t know Ink well enough.

The guardian was the first one to wake up in the morning. First things first, he threw away the pillow barricade — Error was tossing in his sleep and got out of the blanket himself. The artist remembered how his lover woke him up once: suddenly and passionately. Inspired by the idea of “vengeance”, Ink shifted to the foot of the bed and pulled at the destroyer’s pajama pants. They were loose-fitting and easily slipped down, baring hips, knees, ankles.

The next step was harder. Error was already starting to stir: he was a light sleeper, unlike Ink, who could sleep through a tsunami. Ink needed to act fast, and, unlike Error, he didn’t have a problem with giving oral and knew how to do it well — and how to use it to quickly turn his partner on.

He ran his tongue over the pubic bone: up and down, side to side, barely touching the inside. Almost instantly he heard the moan he was waiting for. He rubbed his partner’s pelvis in a circular motion — thumbs on the inside, index fingers on the outside — and brought his tongue down on it again.

He licked his teeth and smiled slyly: the goal was achieved — time to begin.

“Ah!!! Void-dammit, Ink!” Error cried angrily. Waking up from being thrusted into was a new experience.

Arching his back, he hissed from pain — “Where’s the lube, asshole?” — and glitches — “Quit touching me.”

Ink didn’t even think to apologize. Belatedly, he took out the clear vial and, not stopping his energetic motions, said:

“Good morning to you too.”

The cold substance mostly smeared over the hips and legs and very little of it ended up where it was needed.

“Mh! Ink! What is this, revenge?” Error realized. He lifted himself up a bit and started to move to meet the other’s motions.

In response the guardian smiled and put his tongue to his lover’s chest, then his neck, bit the vertebrae and enjoyed the resulting birdsong. Error threw his head back in pleasure.

“Ah! Ink! You could’ve asked at least, ah! Mh! Ah!”

“Oh, come on. I know you’re loving it!” Ink smiled and picked up the pace. Sometimes he touched his partner with his hands, giving start to waves of glitches on his body. In those moments the moans were louder.

“I love it,” the black skeleton admitted and wrapped his legs around the guardian, pushing him in sync. “We’re both loving it. Right?”

“Right.” The guardian gave him a passionate kiss and, without stopping the dance of their their tongues, started to go deeper. He caught a pleasure-filled scream with his mouth and gripped the sheets so hard his fingers hurt.

Error lifted his hips, pushed his fists under them for support and used his legs to make Ink’s thrusts harder and faster.

Now it was the artist who broke into moans, going crazy from the sensations. He pulled away from their kiss and screamed:

“Yes! Oh, stars! Oh, Void! I’m gonna… Error! Ah! I…”

“Keep going!” the black skeleton moaned, unwilling to end this so soon. He was turned on by the thought of suddenly being the master of the situation despite bottoming. “I want more.”

The artist let out a muffled moan and, clenching his teeth, kept up the energetic motions, losing his grip on reality more and more with each thrust. But he didn’t want to give up — not when the skeleton he so much desired was asking him not to. He wanted to give him as much of this bliss as he could. And he tried something he’d never offered to Error before — touching his soul — only he was caught by the hand and suddenly ended up pressed into the mattress.

“Don’t touch my soul,” the destroyer warned and, smiling as if nothing had happened, straddled his lover.

“I won’t,” Ink breathed out and grabbed hold of Error’s hips with one hand, helping him set a brutal pace, and wrapped the other around his magic, working it in time with the motions.

The destroyer gave up and, with a heated cry, decorated his lover’s white bones with dark stains. His insides got wet. He smirked and offered a kiss as an apology:

“Good morning. Breakfast is on you.”

Ink got the hint, and the next moment the artist, his spirits high with morning sex, ran out of the room. Error wiped the smile off his face and covered his face with his hands.

Today he was going to interrogate his lover, and if he “didn’t like” the answers, this could be their last peaceful night together.

Chapter Text

In the Void it wasn’t necessary to eat, drink or sleep, but the skeletons, used to certain routines, tried to follow them — as Ink had noted once: to avoid going insane. The destroyer often neglected routines and any semblance of order — as he assured: I have already gone insane. And then his memories returned, something in his head clicked, and now it was the Multiverse that seemed insane.

“What are you cooking?” Error came down the stairs and found his lover fussing by the stove.

“Good question,” hummed the artist and looked inside the fridge. Checking the contents again didn’t miraculously make more food appear. “An omelet, a salad and hot chocolate.”

“Works for me.” The black skeleton sat at the table. He did his best to fake being cool, calm, and collected. There was an important question he needed to ask, yet he kept stalling, even though there were ways he could set up the situation for least resistance. For example, he could offer to exchange secrets and unveil one of the many secrets he knew…

“Didn’t get enough sleep?” The guardian noticed his lover’s state.

“Kinda.” Error made a show of yawning. “But, actually, I was just thinking.”

“About what?” Two plates took up two sides of the table, joined by mugs with chocolatey drink.

The destroyer waved him off, as in: it’s nothing, none of your business, you wouldn’t like what I’m thinking of.

“Oh, come on!” Ink smiled. “It’s not like I’d be embarrassed by whatever lewd thing you came up with.”

“That’s the thing you’re thinking of?” Error huffed.

“And why not?” The artist shrugged. “It’s hard for me to get pleasure on the emotional level, but physically it comes easy.”

“That’s why you got together with Lust, huh?”

Ink cringed but didn’t blame his lover for bringing up his past:

“Yeah. Something like that.”

“But you still experience emotions.”

“With great difficulty and using paints, for the most part. Or by mirroring others’ emotions.” The guardian answered the questions as he ate, showing with his attitude that he was okay with this conversation subject.

“But still,” Error had a hard time swallowing and a hard time talking; staying calm demanded a lot of effort, “you pick which paint to drink. You don’t mirror everything, but only some of the emotions. That means there’s something you do feel — the appropriateness of this or that emotion, at the very least.”

Ink didn’t argue, only nodded. He didn’t want to dig too deeply into the darkness of his being and work out the details. Everything inside him worked without breaking, the magic in his chest provided the paints, and the world kept bringing him joy — and that was enough for him.

The black skeleton swallowed another piece of his omelet and brought the subject of the conversation to where the answers he needed were hidden:

“What I’m saying is, you must’ve been so mad at me when I… killed you.”

Ink choked. After he was done coughing, he stared at Error with a look of pure bewilderment:

“I didn’t think you cared when and how you’ve hurt me.” He met his lover’s gaze and changed his tone. “I mean, I wasn’t mad at you. But it wasn’t pleasant either.”

“Sorry.”

“Are you sick?” In response to the sad look and apologies, the artist reached forward and touched Error’s forehead with his own. “Do you seriously still care about that? It happened more than a dozen years ago.”

“I’m fine.” Error pressed his palm against the guardian’s face and pushed him away. “Can’t remember ever getting sick. And yes, I do care.”

Ink nodded and sat back down. He took his lover’s confessions for granted. He too cared about their shared past and possible future, though the guardian had sincere doubts about the latter.

Error didn’t believe that they had a future at all — and tried not to think about it. Finally, he asked the accursed question that was going to decide the fate of Ink and, quite possibly, the fate of their Multiverse:

“Hey, when you… um… died, how long did it take you to recuperate and where did you appear? Sorry for such a question,” the black skeleton hurried to calm down the surprised white one, “I’m just curious. Since I brought it up, I figured I’d try to get a better understanding of it all.”

Ink’s eyelights went through a dozen shapes. The artist was thinking. That time was the last in his string of deaths:

“Two weeks. I was nowhere for two weeks. And then appeared… here. In my Void, I mean.” He shrugged and smiled blithely.

“Two weeks,” the destroyer repeated and sipped his hot chocolate. To keep the conversation going, he asked:

“You must’ve been scared? I mean,” Error hesitated again, “you’re dying — and then suddenly you’re alive again.”

“I was when it happened for the first time,” Ink admitted.

That answer made the black skeleton jump to his feet:

“Wait, that wasn’t the first time that happened? You’d died before?”

That’s when Ink got flustered. He reluctantly nodded. It’s not like the story of his past was worse than other unpleasant secrets, but… No, it was way worse!

“I had only just appeared back then, and we hadn’t met yet,” the guardian started, “and I had a very poor understanding of emotions or how to use them. So I often experimented on myself. Or others… And one day I really wanted to feel sad.”

The guardian went quiet for a long while, so Error had to prompt:

“And?”

“And I drank the whole blue vial.” And, as if that explained things, Ink finished the story there. “The end.”

And he put away the dirty dishes like nothing had happened. Only the mugs of hot chocolate remained on the table.

“What do you mean, ‘the end’?”

“I mean, it was the end of me.” Ink gave his lover an unreadable look. “Do you remember, back then? When you drank the whole red vial? You were breaking my bones one by one…”

Error felt chills run down his spine. He couldn’t forget that if he tried.

“And yet you keep saying you’re not mad at me…”

“... I wasn’t crying in pain, and I wasn’t trying to protect myself. Otherwise I would have survived. I was trying to force that crap out of you and screamed for you to spit it out. Since you’re still here, then you must’ve puked.”

“How did you…?” In his mind’s eye he saw a puddle with clear, bright blotches of paint in it.

Error was disgusted with himself. Did that mean that Ink, despite the horrifying state he was in, was still able to understand what was going on around him? Just thinking of the past almost made the black skeleton throw up in the present.

“Any emotions is deadly in high amounts,” Ink said calmly. He sipped at his hot chocolate, not letting the shadow of sadness touch his face. Error wasn’t the only one who couldn’t forget that event. “Especially the concentrated ones I have. So when I came back, for the longest time I was sure that you were dead. And when I felt someone tear apart a universe, I was overjoyed. I realized you were alive.”

“And I was terrified. Figured you were a ghost.”

“I remember that.” The artist smiled. “You saw me, backed away and ran off.”

“And I’ve kept your secret. Nightmare doesn’t know of your immortality. And he will never find out.”

Ink smiled. It was always nice to know that someone kept your secret safe, even if that someone was your enemy. Former enemy. And now that very enemy had become someone so near and dear to him — and yet so distant.

“Well, I hope one day you’ll be able to trust me with your secrets as well.” He dropped an obvious hint.

“I hope so,” Error assured him in turn and rapidly switched the subject, “So what are your plans for today?”

“I need to check on a few worlds and, unless the Creators call for help, I’ll be home early. Will you still be here?”

“Yeah, I’m on vacation. I’m tired of terrified screaming, sounds of binary code breaking and making new puppets. I hope you don’t mind if I hang around at your place again?”

“I’m all for it. We could continue our morning marathon.” The guardian winked and started to get ready for the day.

As soon as Ink left, Error made an important call.

“Two weeks,” the skeleton said into the device.” He stays dead for two weeks.”

“Well,” the voice on the other side of the call said thoughtfully, ”in that case the Multiverse will have to deal without its guardian for two weeks.”

Chapter Text

The door of the office flew open and hit the wall.

“We need to talk!”

Paper Jam jumped in his chair. Before Error burst in, he was sleeping, using his arms as a pillow. Reflexively he threw a glance at the clock and clicked his tongue: he’d only slept for fifteen minutes. He shook his head and turned his attention to his “father”. The teen assumed the worst had happened:

“Did something happen? Is he here? Have we missed him ? Did someone get hurt? Is Ink gone? Are we doomed?!”

“Scaredy-cat,” Error huffed and sat into the armchair standing by the table. “No. I want to talk about our plan.”

Paper instantly knew he wouldn’t like this conversation.

“Shoot,” he sighed, throwing a couple of coffee beans into his mouth. His physiology regrettably barred him from enjoying coffee in the form of a beverage. He chewed the beans up and grimaced.

“Need some sugar?” The destroyer offered to sweeten the bitter pill and handed him a bar of chocolate.

“Gimme.” The teen took the candy from his “father’s” hand. “So, what did you want?”

“I’ve come to talk.”

“About Ink?” Jam understood at once and bit off half of the chocolate bar.

“Yes.”

“Your beloved.”

“I don’t…”

“‘I just fuck him, but I don’t love him.’ Yeah. I believe you, sure.” Paper Jam’s smirk ended up crooked and unpleasant. He ate a couple more beans and finished off the chocolate.

“It’s not about love.”

“If it’s not about love — if it’s only about sex — then we have a lot of mature fusions! Just beckon — and any of them would gladly be your toy. To most of them you’re a hero! I won’t even ask you to refrain from incest, if you’re attracted to any of your own fusions.”

Error’s expression made PJ wish he had a camera at hand.

“Paper, are you messing with me?” It took a while, but the black skeleton snapped out of the shock.

“Stars!” The inky teen threw his hands into the air. “I’m trying to solve your problem!”

“I don’t have a problem!”

“Ink is your problem!”

“I just like being with Ink. Anything else is your imagination.”

“If Ink’s your type, then we have a bunch of Ink’s fusions. Bleed is his spitting image, no matter how you look at him. Only he throws up blood, not ink.”

The destroyer thought of the ever-smiling teenager. He was a fusion of Ink and Geno — a nuclear combination, able to turn a funeral into a party. Even in the moments of mortal danger or when people he knew were on their deathbed, that idiot still managed to stay positive and wonder at the others’ negativity.

“Are you trying to get me to fuck an idiot? Clever.”

“Oh, sure, Void-dammit! So clever! Couldn’t be smarter than fucking the person you’re supposed to stay away from!” Paper Jam quipped and kept listing the fusions. “There’s also Romer. He’s an artist too, optimistic as well and is a fan of yours. I’m sure he could replace Ink.

“If you prefer the quiet ones, there’s Empi. She has Reaper in her, so she either keeps silent or makes some morbid jokes.

“There’s Suret, a fusion of Ink and Stars-know-who…” Jam thought of his friend — Palette — who was a fusion of Ink as well, and imagined Error coming on to that psycho. In his imagination, after that attempt Paper ended up one “parent” short. “Basically, you’ve got plenty to choose from.”

“I’ve made my choice.”

“You’ve chosen our doom!”

Error sighed deeply and said:

“Paper, the one thing I ask of you is not to make rash decisions behind my back. Try to make sure the intel about “two weeks” and our plan of eliminating Ink doesn’t leak out, like it happened with Geno.”

Paper Jam clicked his tongue and looked away. That was his mistake. Goth knew about Geno, knew about the horrifying situation he was in, but sacrificed his “father” for the greater good. But he couldn’t keep his big mouth shut, and his sister found out about Geno. Shino, bypassing everything and everyone, saved the “lamb from the slaughter” — and, as a result, she might have doomed them all.

“Shino’s scared of being anywhere near you now…”

“As she should be!” Error snapped. “But even if I killed her, it wouldn’t help us any.”

“But something else will.” Paper looked at the black skeleton again, his stare chilly. One of his eyes took on a shape of a diamond — just as firm as his resolution to stick to the plan. “Tell me, when the time comes, will you be able to kill Ink?”

Error hesitated. He knew that was necessary and he knew that Ink would come back to life. But doubts plagued him: What if Ink wouldn’t resurrect? What if this decision was wrong? What if, by killing Ink, they’d help him be reborn?

Ignoring the thoughts that kept leading him astray, the destroyer nodded:

“I will,” he said and sat back, exhausted. Despite how draining the conversation was, Error needed it to stay on the path of the right decision and keep from straying towards compassion and… love.

“You can make it look like an accident,” Paper said when Error was about to leave. “Then he wouldn’t even know you’re the one to blame for his death.”

“But I would know. Just don’t take away what little time I have left to be with him.”

“I won’t.” The leader of the fusions shook his head.

This month was promising to be not just their last, but also the most exhausting.

 

Nightmare was furious.

At first, when Dust stayed off the radar for a while, no one paid it any notice. But when he ended up missing for a day, then two… On the third day they decided to pay Dusttale a visit — but they found no Dusttale. Moreover, while they were looking for the missing member of the gang, they’d discovered that the Multiverse held less negativity than before.

HELP_Tale, which used to frighten everyone, was suddenly much calmer. The local Frisk even managed to make it halfway through the Pacifist route of that underground Hell! And they were ready to see it to the end, which threatened to finally tip the scale towards positivity. In other words, it lessened Nightmare’s power. But the worst part of it was that they couldn’t access the damned HELP_Tale anymore. Someone put a hefty lock on the universe, and the only person they knew who could take that lock off for them — Error — had gone missing as well. Without him at their side, pushing the Multiverse back into negativity turned into a nigh impossible task, since someone had to keep Ink away and hold Dream back.

By the way, why was that rainbow idiot still alive?

“Where is that blackboned motherfucker?!” Nightmare muttered. “He needs to bring more chaos and suffering into the Multiverse as soon as possible! Find him!”

Killer and Horror were sprawled on a couch, watching movies, and had no desire to go anywhere and do anything. Red, however, being a newbie, was still trying to show off and happily offered to track Error down:

“I’ll find him and drag him back to you!”

Mean cackling came from the couch:

“Who’s gonna drag who?”

Nightmare gave the lazybones a murderous look, and they immediately dropped the laughter, got up and reluctantly stood before their leader.

“Go and search for that bastard. Got it?”

“Yeah, sure.” Killer shook his head and mock-described the search, “We’ll take a metal detector and scour the Multiverse, all the while hoping that he’s got change in his pockets.”

“Killer is right,” Horror agreed. “We can’t travel from one world to another. How do you expect us to find a needle in a haystack, if there’s neither a needle nor any hay? And… Error? Do you really hate us that much? Wasn’t losing Dust enough? Or has Cross decided to come back?” The cannibal held no illusions as to where the power lay. He knew how strong the black skeleton was, and he didn’t want to test that strength on his long-suffering bones.

The reminder of Cross’s betrayal was a painful blow for Nightmare. His mind went to the rumors of that traitor getting close with his brother — way too close — and that made him even angrier.

“Just tell him that I am looking for him!”

“Tell him that yourself,” Horror snapped.

Nightmare too held no illusions as to what Error thought of him and the possible answer he’d get — likely a violent one — so he wasn’t going to go looking for the black skeleton himself.

“His Void is closed off! That means he’s either out and about but isn’t destroying the AUs, or someone has killed him, which is highly unlikely. So shut up! And go! You,” Nightmare pointed at Horror, “go to Outertale. He hangs around there sometimes, and after the, heh, sex show he might just get a bit nostalgic. I’ll pick you up in an hour.” A portal opened up before the skeleton with a broken skull, and he immediately stepped into it — new worlds, new places, new tasty locals.

Killer was sent to Chocotale. He tried to protest — he hated pacifistic worlds — but was kicked through anyway.

Meanwhile Red had an idea. He couldn’t forget the teen with a blue scarf, who slipped away from them, so he proposed:

“Maybe he’s in Underswap?”

Nightmare couldn’t imagine why the destroyer would be there, but he was out of ideas anyway, and he needed to send Red somewhere . Telling him to fuck off wherever wasn’t productive, and inside the AU he could, maybe, at least mess things up a little and, perhaps, add to the negativity of the Multiverse.

“Go to… Underswap.”

The last portal opened, and Red stepped into it, rubbing his hands together. He instantly forgot all about searching for Error. He had young Blue to meet.

Chapter Text

The check-up of the universes went quietly. Only two of them needed dreams allocated to them, and only one needed repairs. That day Ink was in high spirits, which brought a crooked smirk out of Dream:

“Oh, friend of mine, let me guess. The bedwarmer is back in your bed and took up permanent residence there?”

The smile of the guardian became even wider.

“Did I actually guess right?”

“You did. He decided to stick around for a couple of days, and I’m hoping he’ll stay for a couple more weeks.”

The keeper of good dreams shook his head, not sharing his friend’s joy:

“It’s as if his secrets don’t bother you anymore. You’ve stopped digging. Don’t you want to know why those secrets are kept by so many people?”

“Sorry, Dream, but I think I’ve made peace with his silence and everyone else’s as well. You know, I don’t think Error’s doing something horrible. He’s been acting different for a long while. Like, you know he’s stopped being the main problem of the Multiverse a long time ago.” Ink hesitated, choosing his words. “I think, he’ll tell me everything later. I think, he wants to — and I don’t understand the reasons why he can’t. But it will all become clear later. I’m sure of it.”

Dream shook his head again, holding belief neither in Error being selflessly good, nor in keeping secrets without consequences. He didn’t like what was going on in the Multiverse, and even the sudden improvement to the positivity couldn’t quiet down the bad premonition he had. Everything felt like a low tide, coming right before a giant tsunami wave that would destroy everything in its path.

“And what if he tricked everyone? What if he got your trust for a reason? What if all of his plans will have bad consequences? Then what?”

“Then I’ll be hurt,” Ink admitted, and his eyelights turned to teardrops.

“Do you still hope to have a normal relationship with a destroyer?” Dream couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Do you still believe that a soulless monster could have a normal relationship with anyone?” the guardian responded in kind and gave him a sad smile. “I wish. I wish.”

With their mood ruined, the two friends checked on ten more universes. When chatting, they purposefully avoided the subject of relationships in general and Error in particular, and gradually Ink’s eyelights glowed with stars again.

To make “the happiness effect” permanent it was decided to go visit Blue. Only the young skeleton wasn’t at home. Neither was Papyrus. Not that the house itself was there either — only its ruins remained.

“What’s happened here?” Dream and Ink were horrified.

 

A few hours earlier Red, one of the “nightmares”, entered Underswap through Nightmare’s dark portal. He flagrantly crossed Snowdin town to reach the skelebros’ place. The house reminded him greatly of his house in his native AU, so Red took pleasure in kicking the door in. He was surprised when he didn’t find anyone inside, then got angry and levelled the house to the ground with a blaster as a result. He went to search for his prey, getting intel from the monsters he came across.

Kids turned out to be the most cooperative:

“Sans and Papyrus went to the forest! Back in the morning! Said they were having a picnic!” squeaked a horned monster child, who was missing one of their two horns.

“If you’re lying, I’ll rip off your other horn,” Red warned and let the child go. He wiped his hands on his dirty jacket and hurried to leave the alley. He didn’t want to cause a ruckus, since he didn’t only want to find Blue, but also kidnap him and “play” with him, and if there was a commotion, he wouldn’t be able to do that. Plus, he’d land in trouble with his new Boss as well.

The freed child ran off and out of sight. The “nightmare” headed into Snowdin forest, already looking forward to his filthy entertainment. The fact that the young skeleton had his brother with him meant nothing: his own Papyrus wouldn’t have lifted a finger to save him. This one wasn’t going to be any different.

That’s what Red thought. He was wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

Swap Papyrus didn’t just rise to his brother’s defence; he was ready to rip Red apart with his bare hands — and he would’ve done just that, was it not for Blue, who insisted Red be given a chance to explain why he ruined their picnic.

The remainders of the basket and the food smoked in a puddle of melted snow.

“Oh! You don’t remember me?” Red was surprised. That pipsqueak had the gall to forget him! And that, despite him being in Nightmare’s gang — one of the most frightening forces in the Multiverse!

“You were with the bad guys.” No, Blue didn’t forget. “But why are you here?”

“For you!”

That answer made the tiny skeleton tilt his head in thought and echo:

“For me?” He tried to guess, ”Did you want to ask me something?”

“Heh,” Red smirked. “No, I want to play with you.”

“Play what?” Blue didn’t understand the danger yet, but he didn’t like the tone of the Underswap’s visitor.

“Play you.” Red’s eyes glowed, and he licked his teeth with a very telling expression.

Papyrus got sick of listening to that crap, and he stepped in front of his brother.

“I don’t know what kind of bonkers alternative you are, but you’re not welcome here, and my brother most certainly doesn’t want to ‘play’ with you. So,” the tall skeleton’s eyes burned with dangerous fire, “go to Hell! Or you can leave this place in pieces!”

Fell Sans and Swap Papyrus attacked simultaneously — one with bones, the other with blasters. The older brother barely managed to throw the younger out of the line of fire.

Blue flew off and rolled away in the snow, with demands that he ran and hid following him. A sensible demand it was, and any monster with a self-preservation instinct would have heeded it — but not the future Royal Guard of the Queen!

The young skeleton hid behind a tree not far from the battlefield. He didn’t dare leave Papyrus alone with the dangerous stranger, but he had to believe in his brother’s abilities too. So he remained watching, torn between believing in his brother and fearing for his life.

His violent alternative’s attacks were accurate, quick and merciless, as if he’d been fighting for his life daily. Papyrus, however, hadn’t fought in years, and his attacks spoke of laziness. Most of them missed their mark, and those that didn’t were blocked with blasters’ bodies.

Red kept Papyrus from getting close — kept fighting from a distance, which he was stronger at than in close combat. Papyrus, on the contrary, was trying to get close so he could land a blow, but he lacked the experience: Red fought nothing like Frisk, who was always trying to drag the tall skeleton into close combat themself.

Bones flew in all directions, felling trees and getting stuck in the ground. Blasters melted the snow and blew the ground up and sent if flying into the air.

Blue squeaked and fell to the ground — one of the blasts burned through the tree the tiny skeleton was hiding behind and almost scorched his back. That squeak of his blew his cover.

Red smiled nastily and started to inch closer to where he’d heard Blue’s voice. He took his time getting closer, though he’d gotten carried away and forgot all about the time limit he had: the hour he was given was almost up. So when Fell Sans got to the spot where Blue was hiding, he was surprised to see a portal open up right in front of him, black slimy tentacles appearing out of it.

Red wasn’t going to give up his toy, even if that got him into trouble. He got to the young skeleton’s side with one leap, grabbed him by the bandanna, almost choking him, and dragged him into the portal.

“Blue!” Papyrus howled, running towards the portal, but he didn’t get there in time. It shut right in front of him. Papyrus fell to his knees. He’d failed to protect his brother — for the second time. “No!!! Anything but that!!!”

Dream and Ink followed his scream. They were running around the area, trying to find the brothers, when they heard the noise of the battle, saw the lasers of blasters and hurried to the battlefield — but didn’t get there in time.

“What’s happened?” Ink demanded. He was in such a hurry to get there, he almost ran into Papyrus and managed to stop only a step away from him.

“Another Sans. With a golden tooth. In a dirty jacket. He took Blue,” Papyrus described what had happened in short sentences, hyperventilating from the onset of panic.

“Red??” the guardians exclaimed in unison. They had no idea what that outcast could need Blue for — or why Nightmare could need him, for that matter. Unless he wanted to hurt the guardians, that is. And where was Bluescreen? Wasn’t he supposed to be protecting the peace of this world?!

“It’s all your fault!!!” Papyrus lashed out at them. He stood up, materialized a bone in each hand and readied to lethally punish the ones who caused this mess.

Just for the sake of the matter at hand Ink dropped any manners he had:

“Keep your strength for saving your brother!” he snapped at Papyrus. “Dream, we’ll have to pay Nightmare’s world a visit.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dream sighed and started to open a portal to the most joyless of universes: the former world of pacifism that had become the fortress of the “nightmares” — Haventale.

Chapter Text

One Creator made a universe that had no place for sadness — the bright Haventale, full of happiness and sugary-sweet kindness. While it existed, the positive side of the balance outweighed the negative one. While it existed, Nightmare couldn’t rest. And one day he came to visit.

Neither Dream, nor Ink got there in time to stop him. The maker of nightmares spent a lot of his power to close this AU off and stop the guardians from ruining his plans. He gave so much of his strength to that cause, his weakness kept him from getting off this throne for months.

But it was worth it! Now he had a world full of fear and pain, a world of his own, where he was the king, and not one of the brothers — not the crowd’s favorite brother.

The “nightmares” killed off most of the populace, and the ones who survived sustained their new king with their suffering. The gang changed the world to suit their needs so much, that it was unrecognizable. Formerly bright, it became a grim image of the deepest darkest parts of the subconscious. Formerly happy, it cried tears over the graves of the dead. Formerly kind, this world had only fear left in it.

Blue wasn’t ready to see all of that. Ink had always sheltered his young friend from the grim worlds, never even talked about them. No, Blue wasn’t as naive as he looked. He understood that he was simply spared from the truth: there were dark corners in the Multiverse — and after witnessing the fake public rape, he was sure of it. However, he didn’t think that those dark worlds were literally dark.

Withered grass under his feet. Black sky above his head. Charred ruins of the city and bare, dried trees all around.

“Where am I? Where have you taken me?!” Blue managed to break out of the enemy’s grip, leaving his bandanna in his golden-toothed alternative’s hands. He put a few steps between the two of them and looked around in panic: where to go, where to hide?

“This is your worst nightmare,” Red stated and threw the blue bandanna to the ground. “No one will find you in this universe. No one will save you.”

The young skeleton gasped, squeaked, but found the courage to answer:

“It’s not true.” To give himself some encouragement, he stomped his foot. A cloud of dust rose from under it. “My brother and my friends will come for me and save me!”

Red laughed at that:

“They won’t even be able to get in here!”

And while he laughed, Blue backed away from him. One step back, two, three… He turned around and ran.

“Run, kitten! Run!” Red called after him. “You can’t hide from me anyway.”

He waited for the kid to get out of sight and only then teleported.

“Boo!”

The young skeleton ran into Red, fell down and stared at the bad Sans in surprise — how had he appeared right in front of him? — but caught a lustful stare and started to crawl away. He didn’t know what this alternate wanted to do, but he remembered what had happened to Ink, and he didn’t want to share his fate. Unlike the guardian, he had no one to make it easier for him either — and he didn’t want to stage a horrible scene like that anyway. He was just a child who wanted to avoid the pain.

But he was a future Royal Guard as well...

“Wow! Kitty’s got claws,” Red commented on Blue’s attack. The “nightmare” rubbed the arm he used to protect himself and gave the kid a nasty smile. He too created a bone in his hand, and he used it with way more skill, a lot more violently and spared no effort.

Blue blocked, and his block was struck through. He tried to fall back, and was grabbed and dragged back like a leashed mutt. He tried to evade, and got struck from the direction he evaded to — Red still had teleportation. He tried to be strong, and his attempts were mocked.

Red toyed with his victim like a dog with a cat. He was waiting for the tears and begging — a sweet prelude to what was about to happen. He wanted to break the poor kid’s morale first and then break him physically, turn his gentle blue-eyed alternate into a ruined ball of suffering akin to Red himself.

The young skeleton rolled to avoid the next blow, turned around, didn’t see anyone and realized: the enemy was behind him.

“Peak-a-boo!”

Blue had his arms pinned behind his back. He was pushed onto the dusty ground and, to his great horror, felt his pants being pulled off.

“No-o-o!!!” Blue screamed as loud as he could and twisted and turned in attempts to get away, ignoring the creaking of his bones.

“Come on, baby! Resist! Cry! It will be very painful. For you. And very pleasant for me.”

Face covered with tears, Blue tried to throw the rapist off himself, but Red didn’t even notice his attempts, continuing to pull the clothes off the poor victim as he described the horrors that awaited him:

“You’ll learn to love it, you know. Not now. Not in a week. But, sweetheart, once every single one of your bones cracks in my skillful hands, once you realize that no one will answer your cries for help, then you’ll have no other choice,” Red said, continuing to undress the young skeleton. “You’ll be crawling at my feet and begging me to fuck you, to satisfy your lewd desires — and that’s when you’ll lose my interest. That’s when you’ll be thrown out! And then I will…”

“Kill you,” was whispered in Red’s ear.

The gold-toothed skeleton sharply turned his head and came face to face with… Blue. He glanced at the kid he was pushing into the ground and back, at the kid and back again. His eyelights trembled and shrank to scared dots.

“You should be scared,” the second Blue whispered and blinked. Lines of code ran inside his blue eyes, showing system errors. The lines changed to show more and more of “death” and “destruction”. A wave of glitches ran over his body.

Blue, pressed face-first into the ground, didn’t see who’d stopped his tormentor but froze in fear as well. He didn’t know whether he was saved or that person was there to join Red. So he squinted as much as he could and squeaked something unintelligible that sounded like “Help” or “No”.

Bluescreen didn’t bother to figure out what his tiny copy was saying. He kicked Red hard enough for him to fly into the air, stepped over Blue and headed over to bring punishment and death. After him, like ivy up a tree, grew blue cracks. They branched, spread and glowed.

The young skeleton forwent straightening his clothes just to get away from the scary cracks first. He couldn’t get up off the ground: his legs refused to hold him. He was out of breath. He couldn’t take his eyes away from his double, who caught hold of Red. There came a cry of pain and the sound of breaking bones.

At that very moment, with a sound of ripping space, the belated saviors fell into Haventale. Even with their joined efforts, they’d barely managed to break the code of this alternative. They fell in together, in one big pile of bones. Papyrus instantly jumped to his feet, not caring whether he’d ended up stepping on someone in the process, and started to call for his little brother.

“Blue!!!”

Dream got up next and looked around in search of enemies, his brother, or his friend. Ink, being the trampled and bruised victim who played the role of a landing pad, got up last. He used up a lot of his magic and wobbled a little on unsteady feet.

“We won’t be able to use our magic in this universe. Even opening a portal would be a problem. So we need to rely on our physical strength only.”

They didn’t end up far from the scene of action, so they quickly spotted Blue on the ground, Red, who had his bones broken, and the person who’d broken those bones.

“Blue!!!” Papyrus ran over to his younger brother. He was horrified to see the state of his clothes: ripped and half-pulled-off. Blue’s bones were covered in bruises, and there was a crack in his skull. “My poor brother!” Papyrus held him close.

But his brother didn’t even look at him. He was just opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water and pointed at the person who was tearing the universe apart with his presence alone. Papyrus’s eyes followed the direction Blue was pointing in, and he froze.

A little way away their enemy was beaten down by… someone who looked like Blue — just taller and older. This was what Blue would’ve looked like if he hadn’t lost years of his life one day, hadn’t become a child. This was the older Blue, who remained in the Void and was living in the Save Screen. He was the one who had kept the peace over their world for years — and was almost too late when his help was crucial.

“Blue?” Papyrus’s question was barely audible, and even as he asked the stranger, he pulled his little brother closer, as if that stranger could take him away.

Unlike Papyrus, who was so scared of the similarities between Blue and Bluescreen that he could see nothing else, Ink and Dream took note of the glitches around Bluescreen’s body, the cracks spreading over the world, and the barely alive Red, whom the inhabitant of the Save Screen was effortlessly grinding into bone meal, hit by hit.

“Stop!” Ink rushed to fulfil his direct duty as the guardian. He tossed Red aside with his brush and stood in front of the glitching Bluescreen. “Everything’s okay now! Blue is safe! Calm down!”

He got only the noises of glitching in reply.

Bluescreen didn’t attack; he just stood there and stared with glitch-filled eyes. Then, among the endless noise, the guardian managed to make out the words:

“Why should I stop? He’s the one who attacked...”

Ink didn’t know what to say. Tell the tale of how this version of Fell Sans was tormented and driven insane for years? How he was used as a doormat, and once he was broken he was thrown out like a useless toy? How, despite him almost commiting crime, Red wasn’t a complete bastard and didn’t follow the path of Killer and Dust?

None of this was an option. Bluescreen himself was broken and had no desire to pity anyone — and least of all the person who attacked his family.

Blue cracks around him multiplied. Bluescreen wasn’t about to calm down. He was ready to destroy Haventale and everyone within it, and no guardian with a brush or keeper with good dreams could stop him.

But Error could.

“Just what have you done here?!” the destroyer shouted at his fellow destroyer.

It wasn’t clear just where Error had come from. He just appeared, shoved Ink away so hard that he stumbled and rolled on the ground, and faced Bluescreen, ignoring the mortal danger he posed and his diminished mental responsibility.

A couple of minutes ago Error got a call from Paper, who told him of how Bluescreen left his post and shouted something about Haventale and kidnapped Blue. The destroyer threw away his knitting needles and dived into Nightmare’s kingdom — literally dived into a portal like a fish. He saw Ink in front of Bluescreen, who was barely holding it together, and his soul dropped. He wedged himself between the two of them, throwing his lover out of harm’s way, and brought Bluescreen’s full attention to himself.

“Do you hear me?!! And if you do, go back home!!!” This wasn’t working. The older Blue wasn’t snapping out of it. So the destroyer decided to use an underhand tactic. “Look!” The destroyer pointed at the Papyrus and Blue, who kept clinging to each other. “You’ve scared them to death!!! You happy?!!”

Bluescreen slowly turned towards the brothers, tilted his head to the side. Horror showed in his eyes, and he started to fall apart — as if he consisted of bricks, and those were falling off and turning into binary code. Soon there was nothing left of the strongest among the universe-destroyers. The only reminders of his recent visit to Haventale were the numerous blue cracks and the creaking of the world as it was falling apart.

“What are you waiting for?!” Error suddenly snapped at the guardians. “Do you need an invitation?” A portal to Underswap appeared by his side. “Leave!”

Still lost and scared, Papyrus was the first one to step into the portal, carrying the trembling Blue in his arms. Dream and Ink wanted to stay and ask Error a couple of questions, but he gave them a rage-filled look, making it clear he could just as well walk out himself and leave the two of them to deal with Nightmare.

So the guardians had to choke back their questions and leave. The portal snapped close behind their backs.

Error opened another portal for himself and dived into it. He didn’t even suspect he was being watched by Nightmare this whole time. He saw the behavior of the two “enemies” and realized that the rape was all an act of deception. Moreover, it was quite possible he was being deceived for years.

Nightmare was preparing for vengeance.

Chapter Text

Ink wasn’t allowed to leave. The moment Papyrus was sure his little brother was alive and well, just in shock, he went off on the guardian sparing no effort — or his fists.

“You! You! You!” exclaimed the tall skeleton, throwing his punches. Ink barely managed to block half of them and silently bore the pain of those that met their mark, since he considered himself guilty and the punishment just.

“Stop!” Dream tried to intervene and got his share of bruises.

That was something the guardian wasn’t going to stand for. He caught the next punch and shoved Papyrus away with his paintbrush, exclaiming:

“I’m at fault here. You can beat me up if it makes you feel any better. But I would ask you keep Dream out of this. It wasn’t his fault.”

Papyrus himself realized he’d overdone it and groped for a cigarette pack with a shaking hand. He smoked, looked at his unresponsive brother, who just sat where he was set down and tried to get over what’d happened.

Blue couldn’t stop thinking about the person who’d saved him, so the first thing he asked was:

“Who was that?”

“Red,” Ink answered, thinking Blue was asking about his failed rapist. “He’s a Sans too, but he comes from a dysfunctional universe. He’s not all bad, but the circumstances…”

“Not him,” Blue shook his head and slapped his own cheekbones. He too remembered what he’d been through just recently. “I’m talking of the one who’s me . I mean, the one who looks so much like me. That is… well… there are a lot of alternatives of me, right?”

What was Ink supposed to say to that?

His eyelights disappeared, and he stood there for a few seconds, scaring the others with the emptiness of his eye-sockets.

“Yes, there are multiple Blues in the Multiverse,” the artist started from the very basics. “For example, there’s…” He cut himself off. It definitely wasn’t the best idea to tell his young friend of the version of him who went down the genocide path or the one who’d made a slave out of his own brother.

Fortunately (or not), Blue had come to a few conclusions himself and voiced them:

“So there are other Blues? I see.” His belief in his own uniqueness shattered and was now laying in pieces at the edge of his consciousness.

“But out of them all only you are my friend. I haven’t talked to other Blues much,” Ink hurried to assure him.

“Me too,” Dream added.

“I see,” the young skeleton rubbed his face. “And that guy who saved me from, um, Red. Who is he?”

Either Dream or Ink should have said, “an alternative!” without hesitation, but they shared a look and kept quiet.

“He isn’t an alternative, is he?” Blue understood. That kid was surprisingly understanding in general, though this time it weren’t just his smarts. The young skeleton seemed to feel a part of himself in the stranger, as if the other was his twin or his mirror image — something that leaves emptiness behind when it’s not there. He felt it now — something long lost was suddenly found, but it was already alien to him.

The guardians stayed quiet. They weren’t looking at Blue, who sighed heavily, pulled his knees up to his chest and hid his face in them. They were looking at Papyrus, who was finishing his cigarette and mindlessly flicking the ash onto a windowsill.

“Blue,” he called. “Come on, I’ll put you to bed. And you two,” the tall skeleton pointed at the guardians, “don’t go anywhere.”

In the time it took Papyrus to carry his little brother to his room, read to him and promise to return later, Ink and Dream had made tea in the kitchen and were sitting there, drinking and trying to imagine the upcoming conversation. They were especially worried about the consequences of that conversation.

There were AUs where Swap Papyrus could no longer take the unfairness of the world and did awful things. That’s why the guardians didn’t leave. They didn’t dare leaving their friend’s wellbeing to chance.

Finally, the tall skeleton came back downstairs.

“And now you two will tell me everything. The truth, in detail.”

Ink knew what Papyrus wanted to know and continued where they’d left off:

“The person you saw was…” The artist needed a moment to work up the courage. “That was Blue.”

At first, Papyrus didn’t understand him, so Dream clarified:

“Ink means that the Blue your saw is your brother. He’s not from a different universe.”

The tall skeleton’s face betrayed no emotion, and Ink decided to tell the whole story:

“Do you remember the time Error kidnapped your brother? After that Blue returned to you as a baby. That’s also when the last reset happened.”

“Like I could ever forget that,” Papyrus mumbled, not yet realizing what conclusion the guardians were leading him towards.

“Basically,” Ink sighed heavily, “we’ve found out the reason Blue became so young and why resets stopped happening.”

Papyrus tensed, curling his hands into fists, and his eye-sockets glowed with magic.

“We weren’t trying to hide it,” Dream hurried to intervene. “We just couldn’t tell you. And we’ve only found out about it recently.”

“Why couldn’t you tell me?” the tall skeleton growled through clenched teeth.

“Because Blue asked us to keep quiet,” Ink admitted.

“What???”

Papyrus choked; the magic in his eyes went out. If he were a human, he would’ve paled, but even as a skeleton, he managed to take on a deathly gray colour just thinking of what the guardians got Blue involved in, if he’d even learned something he couldn’t tell his brother about.

“Not that Blue.” Ink nodded towards the ceiling and advised, “It’s best if you sat down.”

“Tell me already!!!” Papyrus roared with the force of a Gaster Blaster.

“When Error kidnapped Blue and that last reset happened, a part of your brother’s code got lost in the Anti-Void. That’s why he’d grown younger. However,” the artist had an idea of what reaction would follow and came closer to the enraged skeleton, “that other part of his code didn’t disappear. It stayed in the Anti-Void along with his memories and turned into the Blue you saw not long ago. He’s called Bluescreen, and he’s your younger brother.”

Papyrus looked ready to faint. All of his rage left him. The tall skeleton feverishly tried to wrap his mind around what he’d just heard and say something, but his mouth opened and only wheezing came out.

Ink helped Papyrus sit down on the couch and brought him some water. That helped, and the older of the brothers finally managed to say:

“So Blue, my little Blue, isn’t my brother???”

“He is your brother,” Ink said, pronouncing each word separately. They really didn’t need one more genocidal Swap Papyrus in their Multiverse. “It simply turns out that you have two of them.”

“Two brothers,” the shocked Paps echoed in a shaky voice and grew speechless again. He imagined the second Blue suffering in the Void — in the company of the destroyer to boot — while he enjoyed his life, raising his little brother. “Why did he… how did he… is he okay?”

“Yes.” Ink nodded, even though he wasn’t sure of it. After all, Bluescreen disappeared in a rather disconcerting way — as if he’d died and fell apart. But he remained optimistic, so out loud the artist said, “He’s become one of the strongest world-destroyers. But don’t worry, Bluescreen isn’t bad. He doesn’t destroy anything. He looks after your universe and keeps resets from happening.”

“But why… why did he…”

“I guess,” Dream stepped in, “your brother didn’t want to give you a reason to worry and,” he smiled sadly, “take your love away from Blue. The child needed it more.”

Papyrus seemed to deflate. He sat back and held his head in his hands. This whole time he’d had a second brother, whom he didn’t know about and did nothing for — just abandoned him.

“He’s always been looking out for all of you.” Ink put his hand on Papyrus’s shoulder. “He was always ready to come to your aid and protected your world from invaders.”

“And Error? Did Error do something to him?”

Ink thought about it before answering:

“No. I’m not sure, but I think they’re on good terms. Yeah, and,” he chuckled then, “Error is wary of him. Even just now, when he came to pacify Bluescreen, his knees were shaking.”

The memory of Bluescreen calming down and falling apart made Papyrus grow gray again:

“And that thing that happened to him?” He tried to show it with gestures.

“That’s normal for him,” Ink hurried to lie, since he didn’t really know if it was normal for Bluescreen to fall apart into code.

“I see.” The tall skeleton looked at his breast pocket, where his cigarettes were, but reached into another one where he had lollipops. “Okay. I need to wrap my mind around this. Just answer one last question. Will he come here? Will he talk to me?”

The guardians shared a glance. Ink answered:

“Sorry, but I don’t know. But I’ll ask him to come next time I see him. You two need to talk, even if the truth will only bring more pain.”

After making sure that Papyrus wasn’t going to run off or go into rage and was just sitting there, lost in thought, Ink and Dream decided to leave him alone.

“Here’s some ink.” The artist gave him a vial. “Just in case. Either break it or pour it out, and I’ll be able to get here skipping all the in-between transitions. I don’t want Blue to end up in trouble again.”

A nod was his answer.

Once the guardians left, Papyrus slowly got up, walked to his little brother’s room and stood there, watching for a long time as the other lay there without motion. He knew that Blue wasn’t asleep. He came closer, lay on the bed and held his little brother close.

Chapter Text

Dream walked Ink home. Once they came to the Void, where the two-story house of the guardian stood, he said:

“Ink, we need to talk about your relationship with Error.”

“Then talk.” The artist stopped, not at all in a hurry to walk up to his house and invite his friend to come inside. He instantly knew he wasn’t going to like this conversation.

“You do realize he’s using you, right?”

“Just like I am using him.”

“I mean, it’s way too convenient how Error keeps appearing in different places and in the most bizzare of situations. Remember how he came to Glitchtale the moment you’d found the stranger who was taking the souls — and the next day that world was gone? And the way he’d appeared this time — it’s like someone tipped him off. And the way he acts around you…”

“And how, pray tell, does he act around me?” Ink asked with a hint of anger.

“As if he’s watching you the same way he watches Nightmare — just to make sure you don’t stick your nose where your shouldn’t.”

“Do you mean to say he’s sleeping with me not for fun but as a distraction?”

“Exactly!” The triumphant expression didn’t stay on Dream’s face for long. Seeing a dangerous glint in his friend’s eyes, the keeper of dreams wilted and gave up, saying, “But you don’t really care about it, do you?”

Ink sighed:

“I’ve noticed the coincidences, but… Dream, I don’t want to dig in that direction. Not anymore. Last time I did I wanted to kill myself with my paints. I don’t know whom Error is covering for and what he’s trying to achieve, but there are too many people supporting him. Too many good guys.”

“Isn’t he the puppeteer? You think he’s covering for someone?” Dream was surprised. He felt that Error was at the helm of whatever was kept in secret.

Ink didn’t give him a final answer, only shrugged and said:

“Okay. I’m very tired and I want to sleep…”

“And your beloved is waiting for you in your bed,” the keeper of dreams finished for him.

The artist glanced towards the house. The light was on in his bedroom. A smile immediately found its way onto his face, and Ink hurried home with poorly disguised anticipation.

“Bye, Dream!”

The door closed. The lock clicked.

“... Bye, Ink,” Dream waved, threw a disapproving look at the only lit window and mumbled, “What a bastard, using his need to be loved. And Ink’s no better, the lovesick idiot.”

 

Error settled his business fairly quickly: talked to a few fusions, made sure that Bluescreen temporarily left the real world, and returned to Ink’s house.

The destroyer frowned every time he thought of the deep pit of the relationship, which he fell into head over heels, and the heavy weight of fate above that gave him no breathing space — it kept getting heavier and heavier, promising death. The time was running out — Error knew that well, and he wanted to enjoy the last few weeks he had with the person he used to hate.

“Vicissitudes of fate,” he said out loud. “I understand the meaning of that saying now.”

He heard the door open and close on the first floor: Ink was home. His footsteps echoed through the house, getting closer and closer until the artist opened the door and stepped into the room.

For a moment the skeletons stared at each other with gauging gazes: Is everything still the same between us? No unnecessary questions? Is the desire to be together still stronger than curiosity? Then Ink hurriedly walked up to the bed, where Error was resting, impatiently fell on top of his lover, kissing him firmly, and straddled him before the black skeleton could argue.

Ink squeaked, when his pants were simply ripped apart with one rough motion, and let out a pained sob, when sharp fingers pressed inside him.

“Error,” moaned the guardian.

“Quiet,” demanded the destroyer and rolled them over to end up on top, winced at the “errors” that spread over his body in waves every time he touched the white bones for too long and growled in impatience until he replaced his fingers with his aroused magic.

“Ah!”

“Shh!” Error pressed a finger to his lover’s teeth and grinned. “Let’s try to keep it quiet today. You’re not the only one who can set up the rules for our experiments.”

Smiling a bit, Ink nodded. His eyelights turned into colourful souls. He spread his legs wider and licked his teeth in anticipation.

The first thrusts almost made the artist break the rules. Ink arched, turned out his eyelights and clenched his teeth, as if in pain. Error actually thought he was in pain for real and started to search for lube with his eyes, but Ink’s eyelights lit up with so much passion that the destroyer forgot all about everything but the pleasure of the body beneath him. He leaned down and licked his lover’s face from his chin up to his teeth, got a kiss and almost pulled a moan out of Ink when he pushed in deeper.

“I wonder just how long you’d be able to hold back your voice,” Error whispered, moving to this lover’s neck. The bite was gentle; he barely scratched the outer layer of the bones with his teeth, pressing his tongues into the crevices between the vertebrae.

Ink covered his mouth with his hands, but Error grabbed them, bearing with the glitches, and held them above Ink’s head:

“Sing, birdie, sing!”

Ink arched, trembled, clenched his teeth but held on — until the black skeleton laid him on his side and scissored his legs, throwing one of them onto his shoulder.

The sharp motions brought forth loud short screams and moans.

“You’ve lost,” grinned Error, satisfied, and, without further ado, started to move his lover’s pliant body to meet his, quick and rough. He found pleasure in the lustful song that accompanied their “dance”.

“Error! Stars! Yes! I! Ah! More! Almost!”

The “birdie” was silenced with another kiss, and the destroyer trapped Ink’s last moan inside himself like a sip of fine wine. He found himself unable to pull away from the vessel of such delectable a treat, and when he finally moved away, he was surprised at how out of it Ink looked. He couldn’t even focus his eyes.

“I’ll keep in mind that ruining your clothes and silence affect you no less than your pink paint does.”

Ink belatedly realized that he’d forgotten to drink his paint. He was just in too much of a hurry to see Error, make sure he hadn’t left his house.

“It turns me on when you’re taking control,” the guardian answered, when he caught his breath. “You don’t pounce me yourself often. And you don’t often come up with games either. I’m just living in the moment!”

Error smirked and rolled off his lover, blissfully sprawled on the bed. He was living in the moment as well. He stared at the sweaty white bones and the sparks of delight in the ever-changing eyes.

“You’re beautiful,” he blurted out. The moment the black skeleton understood how cliche that sounded, blush flooded his face.

“Thanks,” Ink accepted the compliment with a chuckle. He moved closer and embraced Error, kissing his cheekbone. “You’re not so bad yourself. Strong, smart, a little insane and mysterious beyond imagination.”

Error swallowed the lump of indignation, thought about what he’d heard and, trying to keep in the limits of jesting, asked:

“What, you’re going to say you love me now?”

Ink flinched, as if struck:

“No, of course not. I wouldn’t ever do something that vile.” He moved to put some distance between them and hurried to turn away, but Error still noticed the pained grimace on his face. “Because even if you fell in love with me, I’d never be able to respond in kind. I’ll never be able to love anyone. Even if I poisoned myself with pink paint, I still would never be able to do that. I’m so sorry.”

He sat up with his back to the destroyer, lost and hurt by the subject that arose. He was thinking of escaping into the kitchen under the pretense of getting a snack, but Error’s embrace held him back.

“I know,” he whispered. He wanted to say something else — something that started with “but I still” — but he held his magical tongue and only exhaled a hot breath at the back of his lover’s skull.

The artist let out a heavy sigh and touched Error’s arms with the tips of his fingers. He found the other’s hands by touch and held them tight. Oh, how he wanted to walk with him through the universes and carelessly share the little joys of life without having to hide their relationship. He wanted to love him, but all that he could do was to be loved. And only during their passionate lovemaking could he feel, mirror, consume the painfully scorching feeling he so wished for, beautiful in its hideousness.

Chapter Text

A dark figure crept unnoticed down the familiar grim paths of Reapertale and into the gothic castle of Asgore, the god of sky. Like a shadow, it slipped up the stairs into the Judgement Hall and stopped at its center, where the statue of the god of magic stood. At the base of that magnificent sculpture the patterns of the marble floor formed something akin to runic writing — unreadable and, at first glance, meaningless. It seemed it was only there to make the place seem even more mysterious.

However, the visitor of the Judgement Hall discovered that this statue of Gaster wasn’t as simple as it looked, and the same extended to the runes below it. The stranger had been searching for a long time, collecting knowledge in tiny flecks, in shards scattered over alien worlds, but he finally found the lost truth.

One day, a long time ago, one more God existed — someone so powerful that he held all of the worlds of the Multiverse in his grasp. Someone who could return to Reaper what he had lost. But for some reason that God was forgotten, like Gaster was in other worlds. The thing was that Gaster, who died for reasons unknown back at the beginning of times, took it upon himself to guard the entrance to the place, where the ancient God could be brought back. To uncover that secret, the mysterious guardian had to be summoned at the outskirts of the Multiverse, which happened to be quite troublesome.

Preparing the ritual didn’t take long. It was much harder to destroy the statue — the silent guardian of the horrible secret — wrapped as it was into a cocoon of protective magic.

“I guess, you wouldn’t have approved of it,” the skeleton said to the statue.”But I can’t help it.”

A scythe ripped through the protective veil of magic and cut into the statue like a hot knife into butter. The stone cracked and started to fall apart like old plaster under the pressure of water: quickly and irreversibly.

Reaper, for it was him, leaned over the runic writing. He quickly completed the unfinished lines with the right symbols, which he’d found out about through the summoning as well. An entrance opened up before him: a black hole in space that led into darkness.

He was surprised. The mysterious room on the other side didn’t look strange or frightening, or magical. It was simply yet another Judgement Hall, just like the one the god of death left a moment ago. Only it lacked the statue, and the stained-glass windows had frightening white emptiness behind them. There, beyond the walls of the hall, something huge and powerful shed its light — as if all of the life in the Multiverse was concentrated in one spot, which happened to be behind those walls.

The god of death shuddered. For a moment he even considered leaving the path he’d chosen and forgoing his sinful goals. But he couldn’t.

Geno. Geno belonged to him and no one else. For the right to possess him, Reaper was ready to put the whole Multiverse at the unknown God’s feet. The only thing that mattered is that the God would return his favorite toy to him.

Reaper slowly came up to a door. In other universes this door was always open and inviting. Here it was shut with locks, chains and hooks, boarded up, and it looked like it was a solid part of the wall.

The skeleton walked up to it and heard something scratch at the door from the other side, uttering barely audible whines and growls. It was calling for its faithful servant.

Reaper swung his scythe and struck the smooth surface. A crack. One more swing. One more crack. And one more!...

 

Ink woke in cold sweat. He tried to take off who knows where, and only Error’s embrace kept him from getting out of bed and running out of the house and into some unknown universes.

“Ink, what’s going on?”

The guardian had a look of madness to him. He shook, couldn’t focus his eyelights and kept trying to break out of the circle of arms that kept him captive. He was also whispering — quietly and almost unintelligibly:

“He’s coming! He’s here! He… let him out! That… That… Creature…”

His speech seemed incoherent and senseless, but, after making out the words, Error tensed. He threw a glance at the black mist that was thrashing about inside the white ribcage and embraced his lover tighter with one arm, using the other hand to stroke him on the head. And lied:

“There, there. Everything’s okay. You saw a nightmare. You saw a bad dream. No one was let out. There’s only us here. You and me. Everything’s okay.”

Ink was growing calmer with every motion of the black palm, and soon he stopped struggling. Breathing raggedly, he trembled, hiding his face in the black chest.

Error was still stroking him, and every time he ran his fingers over the cervical vertebrae, he caught himself thinking that should he squeeze them tighter they’d crumble like sugar. He could break the neck — it was quick, and Ink wouldn’t even have the time to feel anything. Or he could make his lover some calming tea that would keep him calm for two weeks. He could put the predefined plan into action right now… But he only continued stroking and whispering sweet nothings.

He waited for the guardian to calm down and fall asleep, listened to the harsh inhales and exhales, sobs, and thought about how he’d never seen Ink do that before. Which meant that the artist didn’t dream of his return — he felt that abomination return to the Multiverse.

Error barely managed to pull the still shaking Ink off himself, wrapped the other in a blanket and kept calming his lover until the other fell asleep. Giving it half an hour more just to be sure, the destroyer hurried downstairs, dialing a number as he went:

“Paper, I’m afraid the bastard decided to come early. No, I haven’t seen him. And I have no proof. It’s just that something weird has just happened. Ink saw a dream, and when he woke he kept saying, ‘He’s back.’ Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But believe me, I know how that rainbow asshole usually acts. And I know how he acts with paints affecting him. What I’m saying is, I’ve never seen him act like this. But I’m not a hundred percent sure, so I’ll keep my guard up and hold off on our murder plan until I know for sure. And you, be careful as well. I’ll be waiting for news from our spies.”

The destroyer threw a worried glance towards the second floor and threw himself onto the couch. He was shaking just at the thought of what he had to do. Just a decade ago, given a reason, he would have killed Ink without hesitation. That’s actually what had happened. Red paint, then insanity, then the dead body bleeding ink and a disgusting feeling in the depths of his soul. It only got worse when Paper was born out of that spilled ink. Error killed him too. Perhaps it was a good thing that the kid came back to life.

The black skeleton could no longer remember why he’d brought the child to Sci: whether he really wanted the scientist to find a way to kill the kid or only wished to protect the child from his own bad influence. Either way, that string of events left Error feeling awful. He needed company, a person he could pour his soul out to — if he got the courage to overcome his insanity. Blue became that person.

The images of his past came to Error then: what had happened to Blue was worse than death. It was a miracle that Bluescreen didn’t hate him for it.

Back then, watching the poor kid’s code come to the surface, Error remembered the same happening to him, remembered how he once proved the well-known saying: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

He laughed, choking on insanity.

Oh, how blind he was. How stupid.

Bluescreen stayed by his side for weeks, quite literally taking the noose off his neck and wrapping the wounds he inflicted on himself, and he kept asking Error to snap out of it. Then Fresh came, and whipped his “brother” back into shape.

Unlike Bluescreen, the parasite focused not on “there’s a lot of happiness in this life and everything will be okay”, but on “that bastard might come back yet, and your knowledge of fighting him might be needed”.

That worked. Error got his shit together and started to live for the sake of the upcoming meeting with him — the one who’d once forced him to do the unthinkable, something so horrible that, compared to that old sin, destroying universes looked like childish games.

His life changed. At first there were crowds of fusions whom he’d taken partial responsibility for. Then came making deals with people he used to hate — Core Frisk, for example. Coming up with plans of action, improving a closed-off world, etc. And, the final change — his relationship with Ink.

Error regretted that last part.

If only he hadn’t flippantly thrown that threat — to rape him. If only Ink hadn’t turned it into intimate meetings. If only Error hadn’t become addicted to those meetings, to the longing for the warmth of a soulless being…

The black skeleton roughly rubbed his face and whined, unable to make the right decision. He had to kill, had to delay his return for as long as possible, had to save at least a handful of kids who got born because of his own stupidity. Because he, half-insane, brought victims to the Void and put their dust into puppets. Because that was the dust the Anti-Void used to create its unnatural combinations. That was what it used to create fusions.

“Just a couple more days. A couple more days before he regains his power. A week at most,” Error whispered. “I have a couple more days…”

Chapter Text

Ink woke up feeling absolutely worn out. At first he had some obscure nightmare about a door opening, and then another one replaced it. The second dream started off pleasantly — with sex. The artist mellowed under his lover and was ready for a delightful ending when black fingers wrapped around his neck and snapped it like a twig.

“I guess, I shouldn’t wish you a good morning,” Error said, looking at his sleepy and disheveled lover.

“A not good morning to you too,” Ink called back, noticing the black skeleton looked no better than he did.

Haggard, they went downstairs into the kitchen and made themselves a mug of coffee each.

“Nightmares,” Ink explained his current state.

“Nightmares,” Error agreed. They didn’t come to him when he was asleep; he saw them whenever he thought about the future.

“Nightmare must be raging,” the guardian sipped some of his drink. He hated thinking of how the dreams of that night were the result of their passionate lovemaking without him drinking the paint. In other words, that night he visited the swamp of Error’s feelings. Again. “You’ve heard that the balance of the Multiverse is leaning towards positivity now, right? That’s why he’s taking it out on everyone.”

Error nodded in assent:

“You’re probably right. I think, I should pay him a visit. Who knows what he might be up to after what’s happened?”

“Do you mean what’s happened to Blue?”

“That too, but I was actually talking about Dust leaving the gang.”

“You know about that already?”

“About the merging of the worlds of Genocide Papyrus and Dusttale? Yes, I know. What I don’t know is what Nightmare’s plans are. That’s why I’m going to drop in on that pile of goo. To scope things out, so to speak.”

Ink wasn’t surprised by the destroyer’s awareness. He’d come to terms with being a pawn in Error’s game, but was ready to jump off the chessboard if that game turned out to be perilous for the Multiverse.

“Perhaps, you shouldn’t go? Those nightmares could have nothing to do with Nightmare’s mood after all.” Ink didn’t believe his own words, but a shadow of bad premonition fell over him, and he didn’t want to let Error go face the lord of bad dreams.

The black skeleton shrugged and said:

“Whether I should or not — that I’ll find out in an hour. I’ll just finish my coffee and go.”

“Aren’t you afraid of him?”

“Of course not!” Error snorted. “There aren’t many things in life that I’m afraid of. There are much more of those that I hate.”

“Ha! Well there are many weird things in this life — and many weird characters who are afraid of those weird things.”

“Like what?” Error was glad to get off the subject of Nightmare.

Ink rummaged through his memories and came up with some funny phobias:

“There are those who are scared of dancing…”

“Thanks to Dancetale, I know why.”

“There are those who are scared of rubber duckies.”

“Thanks to Ducktale, I know why.”

“Some are afraid of buttons.”

“Thanks to Buttontale, I know why.”

“And puppets.”

“Those must be the ones who’ve been to my home.”

“Yeah, you’ve got enough puppets for a full-scale house of horrors.”

Error snorted in response and finished his coffee. He didn’t voice his thought that, inside his “house of horrors” he was the main attraction — and had no right to give up that role yet.

He stood up and turned towards the door, but was surprised when white bones gripped his sleeve and tugged him back. He turned around, opened his mouth but didn’t have the time to ask anything — he was pulled into a demanding kiss.

Ink didn’t want to let his lover go to Nightmare, but he didn’t know whether the dark premonition was the reason or the sudden feeling of being left defenceless. The guardian didn’t want to admit it, but after the nightmares he’d seen he felt like the whole Multiverse had suddenly become his enemy and was ready to tear him to pieces.

But no, he had no right to tie Error to himself even more than he already did.

Ink forced himself to let go of the slightly shocked black skeleton and, smiling asked:

“Come back soon.”

Error didn’t say anything in return. He silently walked out of the house and out of the guardian’s Void, teleporting to Nightmare’s world, where he was given a wary and chilly welcome. The whole gang was there, as if they had been waiting for him.

They were waiting for him!

A heavy reason for suspicion was brought down onto the black skull in the form of a bone bat. Before his eyes went dark, Error saw himself being surrounded by the “nightmares” — grins on their faces and tools of murder in their hands.

“Well, hello, traitor!”

Sorry, Ink. I won’t be coming, neither soon, nor late.

Chapter Text

The guardian sat in front of the TV but couldn’t follow the plot of Undernovela. His thoughts thrashed inside his skull like caged lions. The bad premonition didn’t leave — if anything, it grew stronger, building pressure in his throat, collecting into a lump there. His fingers aimlessly fiddled with a pencil; a sketchbook lay on his knees, opened to a blank page.

Error left a mere hour ago, but it felt as if he’d been gone for a week already. Ink wanted to go to Nightmare’s world, consequences be damned. Attempting to knock some sense into himself, Ink even drank some of the mind-numbing white paint.

It didn’t help much.

The emptiness was quickly replaced with the emotions he’d absorbed at night — not the pink aphrodisiac but the dark remnants of the night’s fears. It felt like he was watching his neck-breaking nightmare on repeat, but something flipped inside him when that mental image changed. It wasn’t the artist who lay dead anymore, but the destroyer — motionless, breathless and cold. The black body was turning to dust, and that dust settled over his bones like flakes of acid, burning holes through them.

The haunting image was driven away by a “knock on the door”. Someone really wanted to get into the Void and “knocked” persistently on its defences, searching for a weak spot, like a woodpecker in search of insects. Knock-knock! Knock-knock! Or they could just be trying to get Ink’s attention.

They sure were annoying!

Ink went to check it out and was surprised to see Red. Red saw the resident of the white Void as well:

“I have a message for you, guardian!” he said loudly. “Come to Haventale. Nightmare wants to see you.”

The bad premonition turned to certainty: something had happened to Error!

Red left through a portal made of nightmarish slime, and Ink hurried to the Doodle Sphere. Hovering in weightlessness, he quickly found the blackened, scorched page of the formerly happy universe and moved to Nightmare’s residence.

Haventale hadn’t changed much since his last visit, but a part of the city and a neighboring patch of the forest were blown up and torn apart, mixing garbage with debris.

Lines of torn up ground — the sign of blaster shots — were everywhere. Bones grew out of the ground like forests of the dead — those were very recognizable red and black bones. Blue strings decorated the battlefield like garlands.

Error didn’t go down without a fight… He probably didn’t give up at all. But where was he then?

Ink walked towards the center of the battlefield and saw traces of blood. There was plenty of it all around, but only in the form of drops or smears. But here — at the edge of an especially large crater, in a crown of someone’s white bones — there was a lot of blood. It formed a huge red puddle, and broken bones were sticking out of it like arms of a drowning man. They were broken off on purpose — to take the stuck, captured victim off them.

“Are you looking for someone?”

The mocking question belonged to the skeleton covered in black sludge. The master of bad dreams appeared from a portal, followed by his henchmen.

The guardian turned to face the “nightmares”, prepared for a fight and almost batted away the thing that was flung at him. That thing wasn’t a bone but a familiar black coat — or, rather, not black anymore, but gray with the dust that had settled on it.

Ink froze.

No! It can’t be!

“Where did you get this coat?”

“Take a guess,” Nightmare continued to mock him.

Dust creaked under the guardian’s fingers, but he simply couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe Error was gone.

“Ghack!” He threw up ink — right on the dust-covered coat, staining the only thing he had left of the monster he held dear.

“Hey, look! He’s gonna cry,” Killer laughed.

But Ink wasn’t going to cry. What was the point? Tears never worked; they couldn’t magically bring a person back from the dead. Tears were just an outward image of a soul’s suffering. And Ink had no soul. So he smiled, and that unnerved Nightmare’s gang.

The coat fell to the ground. The laughs went quiet, the smiles vanished, and the skeletons instinctively took a step back.

The guardian kept smiling as he chose a paint from his sash. As if mocking himself, he ran his fingers over the blue one — pain, sorrow, suffering — and ripped the red one out.

Usually cautious about dosage, Ink pressed the vial to his mouth and downed all of it, dropped his head to his chest, waiting.

The skeletons felt cold sweat run down their spines, felt that something horrifying was about to attack them, but couldn’t understand why their souls were filling with fear of the weakling of an artist. Why were their souls screaming for them to run?

And then the guardian raised his head, and the skeletons realized that it was too late to run.

A wild, frightening smile with black drool leaking out, empty expressionless eye-sockets with smears of inky tears and an aura of death.

Nightmare had never feared bad dreams, but suddenly he was locked in a room with the most terrifying embodiment of fear. For the first time in a really long while he was scared.

The guardian turned into a merciless soulless death machine. He said nothing. His throat, filled with red rage, couldn’t form words — just a low roar of a bloodthirsty beast.

Ink took a step towards the terrified alternatives.

 

When the fight had just started, and Error first got hit, he realized there was no peaceful parting with the “nightmares” to be had. They were going to try to take him down using their numbers. So the destroyer decided to avoid the fight and leave for the safety of the Anti-Void, but the moment he thought of opening a portal he noticed his phone. The blasted device fell out of his inside pocket! And was laying at Horror’s feet! Who could step on it at any moment!!!

He had to retrieve his phone! Stars-forbid it would break, and Error wouldn’t be able to inform the fusions that it was a false alarm. That would be a mess…

Error easily avoided the bone and blaster attacks and almost reached his phone when he got caught. Thinking himself superior, the black skeleton completely forgot about the sneaky tricks of the newbie. Red’s bones surfaced from the ground and broke through his arms and legs like nails of a crucifix.

Before Error had a chance to break free, Nightmare grabbed him by the neck, like  one would do to a kitten before hitting it against the tree, to keep it from wheezing. The octopus had the forethought to hold Error’s hands with his other pair of tentacles.

“Gotcha!” His smile didn’t bode well for the captive.

Error gulped. He remembered the time he’d captured Ink just the same way, and the other talked him into starting their bedroom adventures. The destroyer struggled at the memory and almost broke his own neck.

“Stop struggling, idiot!” Nightmare smacked him against the ground, smearing the puddle of blood that collected from his broken limbs.

“What are we going to do with him?” Red asked.

The resident of a Fell universe didn’t look so hot. Meeting Bluescreen left him twitchy and nervous. There were more cracks in his bones now as well. He didn’t even dare suggesting rape this time.

“Eat him?” Horror remained true to his basic needs.

“Kill him?!” Killer asked.

“Interrogate him,” Nightmare waved them off and raised the slightly shellshocked body of his former comrade off the ground. “And listen to what he’ll tell us.”

“He’ll tell you to fuck off!” Error snapped and was smashed into the rock-hard ground again for that, then once more to make that lesson stick.

“And now?” Nightmare asked him almost affectionately.

The word “error” spread over the black bones, and it was multiplying. His head was in severe pain, blood was running from his nose. The body started to betray its master, shutting down on him.

“Since you insist on talking…” Error smiled, knowing full well how pathetic his attempt at saving face looked. “Then I have a question. What’s with the ambush?”

“That’s for lying,” Nightmare gave a simple answer and elaborated, “I saw you helping Ink and my brother. And I saw that the guardian didn’t look at all angry about the recent rape. And you didn’t show nearly enough hatred towards him either. And I’ve come to some conclusions, Error. Do you know what they are?”

“I can guess.” The destroyer gulped. He looked away, pretending to think, though in reality he was looking for his lost phone. Oh, yeah, there it was — quite a ways away, but it wasn’t broken at least.

“And do you know what I’ve decided?”

“No, I don’t. I have no idea what happens in that octopus brain of yours.”

The jest earned Error another meeting with the ground — this time it was so strong he almost passed out, and his already poor eyesight was gone completely. Cracks branched over his ribs; a similar pattern decorated his skull.

“Watch your tongue, motherfucker.”

“And if I won’t?”

“Then you’ll die… But you can still save yourself.”

“Heh, and what do I have to do for that to happen?”

Nightmare smirked. The black skeleton couldn’t see that smirk, but he could just imagine it: disgusting and self-assured.

“You have to kill Ink right in front of us.”

All of the thoughts in his head instantly turned into a jumble of possibilities. He could agree, and that would have solved his problem of choice. He could kill Ink, claiming that was a necessity — Ink would resurrect anyway! He’d say that he had to do it. He’d lie that it was necessary. And save their carnal relationship.

But it was so disgusting and cowardly!

Error spat out blood and considered how he was sick of lying to himself. And to Ink. And to Paper. To everyone.

“And what if I refuse to kill him?”

“Then I’ll make him suffer worse than last time. Perhaps, I’ll let everyone have a turn. And then, only then, will I kill him.”

Error flinched. He stared at Nightmare with unseeing eyes and clenched his jaw to keep from pleading for Ink to be left out of this. He smirked instead:

“Have fun trying.”

“I will! Good night, Error.”

A slam against the ground, harder than the ones before it, blew the air, breath and consciousness out of the body.

“What do we do with him?”

“Tie him up. And bring me Dust’s jacket — there should be one left in the wardrobe. Now give me Error’s coat…”

Nightmare brought the two items together. Dust’s jacket shared some of its dust with Error’s clean clothing. Now the destroyer’s coat looked as if someone had died wearing it.

“And now, Red, I need you to deliver a message…”

Chapter Text

Error was slowly regaining consciousness. His everything hurt — literally everything! — every inch of his body and soul. He would have liked to fall back asleep and not wake up until the pain passed, but he couldn’t afford to do that.

His eyelights lit up, and Error found out where he was. He sneezed out the dust that was filling his nose and a couple of brooms fell onto his head. He was left inside a garden shed that stood in the yard of Nightmare’s castle.

Howling in pain, Error pressed his feet against the door and kicked it — once, twice, almost passing out from strain.

If the shed happened to be newly built, the black skeleton’s efforts would’ve done nothing, but the dried-out boards creaked and started to give, falling down to the ground.

It took a lot of effort, but the destroyer managed to climb through the resulting hole.

He waved his hand. Neither strings nor a portal appeared. Nightmare had cut him off from magic — the bastard!

Error forced himself to get up and walk back to the place where he was beaten up. He still needed to find the damned phone, and then one call — and he’d be pulled out of this shit. He also needed to warn Ink so that he would stay away from here. The artist, being stupid and kind as he was, would surely come to his rescue instead of thinking with his head.

The realization that someone was ready to risk their life to save him made Error’s soul fill with warmth.

Slowly but surely, he was walking towards the place of his beating. The closer he was getting, the better he could hear the cries of fear and pain. At first the destroyer thought that Nightmare was having his fun, and it was best to hide until the other was done, but then the lord of nightmares uttered a pained cry of his own, and Error picked up the pace.

Clumsily, he got to the ruins of a destroyed house and rested on top of what remained of a dressing table for a few seconds. Only then did he look out into the open and saw… Ink — only he had never seen his lover wear so scary an expression.

His face could be used to scare kids and their parents alike. Anyone would shudder in fear, and smelly puddles under their feet could be guaranteed. The “nightmares” didn’t get away with just shudders and puddles. Killer was floundering in a puddle of blood, kicking with the stumps that used to be his legs. The only thing that kept him alive was the amazing amount of LV he had. Red was hanging in a tree, unconscious; some of his ribs were missing. Horror took shuddering breaths, pinned to that very tree with his own ax. And the leader of “nightmares” was howling in pain: Ink was methodically lifting and lowering his foot, crushing him like a bug. The crunching of bones provided a soundtrack to the crazed artist’s actions.

Error couldn’t make himself open his mouth and call the artist; he had trouble calling that monster, who was rotting in his rage, Ink. But that was him — the guardian, the savior, the beloved kind artisan, who never refused a person in need. And right now, it was him who needed help.

Slowly and quietly, Error walked out from behind the cover of the ruins and made three wobbly steps towards the battlefield. It became apparent that the artist was wounded too: his skull was broken, and thin lines of cracks wound over his bones. But he paid no mind to his injuries. The only thing that mattered to him then was Nightmare’s death.

One day Error went just as insane after drinking the red paint. Yes, from the very vial that lay empty a little way away.

“Oh no… Ink…” Too quiet. “Ink!” He still couldn’t hear that. “INK!!!”

The guardian stilled, then slowly turned his head and stared at Error as if the other was a ghost.

The destroyer feverishly tried to remember if he’d ever seen red check marks in Ink’s eyes. No, he couldn’t say he ever did. They looked like demon eyes from children’s tales — the same kind of lights that would be watching from the darkness.

“Ink?” Error asked in a trembling voice and continued to walk on unsteady feet. The artist didn’t move, didn’t make it clear he’d recognized him. “What’s happened to you? You look… beat-up. Though I do too. I got a bit roughened up, as you can see.”

In the time it took the destroyer to come up to the guardian, the other’s eyelights hadn’t changed once. Even their colour remained blood-red.

“Come on, Ink, say something. You’re so quiet today.”

Error didn’t want to admit that his legs were ready to give out in fear. He was scared of this Ink. The fear made his soul shrink, because he wasn’t only scared of him — he was scared for him as well.

“Ink, say something.”

A few more steps — and Error was standing right in front of Ink. There was a measly meter between them. Ink remained quiet and still, standing over his falling enemy, and stared at Error with his checkmark eyelights. Something black was trickling out of his eyes and mouth. Blood? Ink? Darkness itself?

Finally, the check marks disappeared for a moment, and the guardian shuddered.

“E… Er… Ero…” Quietly, as if he’d just woken up, Ink was trying to say his lover’s name. “Error?”

“Were you expecting someone else?”

Ink reached out with his blood-covered hand and touched the destroyer, unaware just how much willpower it took for him not to flinch. Ink felt the other with his palm, made sure he was solid, and only then believed he was real.

The artist stepped forward, hid his face in the destroyer’s shoulder, uncaring of his haphephobia, embraced him tightly and whispered, “Alive… you’re alive… Alive…” — and his strength abandoned him. The thought of avenging his lover was the only thing that kept him standing.

Were it not for Error catching the artist in time, he would’ve hit the ground again. The black skeleton forgot all about his own wounds. All the things that mattered to him now fit into his embrace and were slowly losing consciousness.

“How can I help you?”

“I’m… okay… okay… I just need to sleep a bit.” Ink didn’t look “okay”. Beaten up, exhausted, covered in black blood, with his skull broken and bones covered in cracks, with lifelessly dark eyes, he looked like he was ready to die.

“Hey, don’t you dare pass out.”

“Everything’s okay,” Ink kept saying. “I’ll just sleep a bit. I want to be lazy today.”

The last shreds of light left the guardian’s eye-sockets.

“Ink???”

The body in Error’s arms seemed to grow colder — heavy, wet, without a shred of warmth in it, just like back then…

The artist showed no signs of life and looked like a puppet with its strings cut. The sight of his ribcage was frightening: there was no magic inside it anymore — just an empty birdcage.

“Come on, rainbow asshole, open your eyes. Let me know you’re just asleep.”

Silence was his answer.

Not thinking straight, Error opened the artist’s mouth and breathed magic into it. It bore no result, so he repeated the process but breathed into the chest — the place where everyone else had their soul. That took a lot out of the destroyer, but a ghost of magic started to boil in the guardian’s chest.

“Come on, Ink. Where’s your determination? You have the tenacity of a cockroach, so keep up your reputation and don’t you dare die!”

He knew that Ink had to die, and if he died now, not at Error’s hands, it would be just wonderful! Two weeks later Ink would come back, and the whole incident would change nothing in their relationship.

His other thoughts were less rational and more egotistical. Error simply didn’t want to see his lover die. He didn’t want to feel the weight of the other’s dead body in his arms and tears in the corners of his eyes. Even if that death would mean nothing to Ink, Error’s soul was tearing itself apart.

Realizing that he couldn’t make the rational decision, the black skeleton chose to pass that responsibility to someone with their head set straight.

“Hey, Night. I can add to that beating, if you want. What, no? Then open up this universe. It’s time for us to go.”

The lord of nightmares wheezed a curse and waved his hand. A moment later Error was able to open a portal.

Giving the lord of nightmares a kick for good measure, Error dashed off to where he’d last seen his phone — thankfully, the device was undamaged — then returned to Ink and picked him up.

“Everything will be okay. Just hold on a little longer.”

Chapter Text

Paper Jam was nervous. He kept dropping things: mugs, papers and even children. Thankfully, there were no injuries. He was terrorized by a bad premonition this whole day, but Error wasn’t calling, so Jam assumed that his nervousness was due to the coming of the day that would decide their fates and the fate of the Multiverse.

Constant lack of sleep made it hard to keep his eyes open, and sometimes the teen fell asleep having barely shut them. Standing, sitting or mid-jump — he just turned off like a burned out lightbulb. That earned him more than one lecture from his friends.

“You need to rest more,” they said. “It won’t do anyone any good if you wear yourself out,” they kept repeating.

But how could he, in good faith, sleep when their whole plan was falling apart?!

That evening Paper Jam found out just how bad things were. The reason for his bad premonition appeared before him. It happened in Error’s lab, which was where Paper had gone to so he could spend some time alone.

Error fell through a portal like a sack of potatoes, and he wasn’t alone: he brought Ink.

“Have you lost your mind???!!!” Paper was horrified.

“Help,” Error wheezed in response. The destroyer was trying to both get up and pick up Ink, but he didn’t have the strength to pull that off. So he struggled on the floor like a helpless kitten, staining the tiles with blood and ink.

That’s when Jam noticed that Ink was barely alive and unconscious, and Error wasn’t doing much better, only staying conscious out of sheer stubbornness.

Paper walked around the guardian, giving him a wide berth, as if the other carried some deadly and contagious disease. He didn’t touch Ink and barely even looked at him, but Error took the heat for both of them. The teen pulled the black skeleton to his feet by the collar of his shirt and dragged him away from the artist.

“What are you doing?!!” The skelinkton hissed like a snake.

Error didn’t reply. He looked away and only then whispered:

“Help… I can’t…”

“Can’t what?!!”

“Accept our choice… And kill Ink.”

Paper Jam pursed his lips and squinted at the guardian. His face showed neither sympathy, nor pity — only anger. The eye he’d inherited from the artist was stuck in the shape of a tough diamond.

“Idiot!” Jam spat into his “father’s” face.

Error only chuckled at that. His legs buckled, and his eyelights flickered like lightbulbs about to blow out. That only served to make Paper angrier: Error neither kept himself safe, nor fulfilled his mission.

“Again: you’re an idiot!” Ink wrapped around the skeleton, like snakes do in horror movies, but instead of hurting him it covered the wounds and broken bones and hardened, turning to splints and bandages. “I’ll deal with you later. Right now we need to handle Ink.”

Ignoring his wounds, Error rushed to get in Paper’s way:

“You could look him over first. Perhaps… we won’t even have to kill him? I mean, if he dies on his own.”

The fusion was tired of dealing with his “father” by now — or, rather, with that thing he had about the soulless guardian of the Multiverse. However, Jam had to admit that the destroyer wasn’t the only one, who’d rather have the artist die without them contributing to it. That way there would be less of a hassle with Error, and PJ himself would have one less thing weighing down on his conscience.

Paper cautiously walked up to Ink and used ink to move the other from the floor to the table. He checked and rechecked, and rechecked again, to make sure that the barely alive artist wouldn’t wake up, and put chloroform close by just in case.

“He’s a tenacious one,” the teen mumbled after examining the injured guardian. “If we don’t kill him, he’ll survive.”

Turned out, it had to be a murder.

The skeleton and the fusion shared a heavy look. The dialogue that followed was just an attempt to postpone the inevitable.

“He’ll resurrect anyway, remember?” Jam kept trying to persuade Error.

“And what if he doesn’t?”

“Doesn’t what?”

“Doesn’t resurrect?”

The skelinkton closed his eyes and said:

“Then he will die for two hundred innocent fusions and thousands of universes. He’ll give his life for the cause he’s fighting for. And we will honor that death!”

Paper Jam dashed into the storeroom and returned armed with an ax — of the ordinary kind, that’s used for chopping wood. The sharp blade was shining threateningly in the light, and the wooden handle sat firmly in the fusion’s hands. Before Error could panic and make new attempts of protecting his lover, the murder weapon was given to him.

With an ax in his hands, Error reminded himself of Horror. He even had a hole in his skull to complete the image. If only the outward similarities could grant him the bloodlust…

Was there really no choice?...

Error caressed the guardian’s face, as if trying to remember every feature, looked into the dark eye-sockets to make sure they lacked the sparks of consciousness, and turned Ink’s head a bit to the side.

Raising the ax was easy, but bringing it down…

He won’t feel a thing. He won’t feel a thing, Error repeated like a mantra. He’s sleeping and won’t even wake up.

His hands shook. His fingers touched Ink’s neck, the joint between the vertebrae. If he hit that spot, it would separate the head from the body, and Ink’s death would be swift. The agony would last mere seconds.

He won’t feel a thing. He’ll just sleep. His hands shook harder. It’ll just be a very long sleep.

He swallowed a bitter lump.

He’ll resurrect. As usual. He’d died more than once before. He’ll resurrect. We need those two weeks. But…

In his mind’s eye he saw an image of the smiling guardian, who tried to stay optimistic in every situation. He was painfully kind. Even the time Error killed him before, he was only thinking about the other, scared that Error would die from paint poisoning. He was such a vivacious monster, desperate for love. It was Error’s fault that he’d never be able to fully experience that feeling, that he’d keep trying to fill that void with carnal pleasure and feeding on others’ rendition of that bittersweet feeling.

It was his fault…

In his mind’s eye, Error saw the pencil sketch. The star-shaped eyelight glimmered in his eye-socket. The bones of the sketch were visibly turning gray, but that white skeleton kept extending a hand towards him. The white chest was already empty; the shards of his soul twinkled above the floor like gemstones. But the skeleton didn’t care about those shards — or the floor that was falling apart under his feet and the space that was being crushed around them. The only thing that held the attention of the dying skeleton was the other skeleton, who cried blue strings and laughed like a madman.

The sketch got up; he was slowly walking forward and reaching out for him. Finally, he walked up to him and touched the injured eyes:

“Don’t cry,” he whispered. “I’m with you.”

Error slowly lowered the ax.

“I can’t,” he said in a pain-filled voice.

Paper growled at his “father”:

“Then step away! I’ll do it.”

“No!” The destroyer stood between him and Ink again. “Sorry, but no.”

“Have you lost your mind? Or did you forget what’s at stake here?”

“I didn’t, Paper! I’ve started this, and I’ll see it to the end. But Ink…”

The skelinkton gave up and gave the destroyer an astonished look:

“Are you insane?”

“Maybe I am.” The destroyer didn’t move. A look of pity appeared in Paper’s eyes.

“Void-damn you, Error! When did you fall in love with him? You said it was just sex. Liar!” He sneered. “Step away, or there’ll be two dead bodies here.”

“I’ll watch him. Paper, I can do it! I’ll keep him chained if I have to.”

Jam pursed his lips and looked away. He didn’t want to go against his “father”, but saw no other way to buy them more time.

“How can you prove it? Error, you have no proof. And if you fail and nothing goes according to plan… If he gets out early…” The mental image made the skeleton shut his eyes tightly. “Error, you’ll doom us all! You’ll ruin the Multiverse’s chances. You’ll ruin the fusions’ chances. You’ll ruin Ink’s chances. And your own. And everyone’s.”

“I know.” The black skeleton looked exhausted. “I know all of that. And I apologize for my selfishness. Let me propose a different plan.”

“What is it?”

“Constant supervision.”

“As if that could save us from him ! If he gets to Ink, the Multiverse is done for !”

“He won’t get to Ink.” Error smiled sadly. “I’ll shut Ink’s world using every lock possible and stay locked in with him. The moment he starts to break into that universe — and getting in would take a few minutes even for someone like him — I’ll call you.”

Paper Jam cringed, as if he’d just taken a bite out of lemon:

“What makes the idea with imprisonment better than two weeks of oblivion?”

“My inner peace.”

“Your inner peace costs too much!”

“But it’s worth it!”

The inky teen glared at his “father” and couldn’t fathom just when the cynical, angry, goal-driven motherfucker had turned into a blind, lovesick fool! Jam suddenly grew very calm and quietly said:

“Leave.”

But Error refused to listen to the voice of reason, that came in the form of the fusion’s voice, and kept standing by the guardian’s side.

“Error, leave the room. If you can’t make the right choice, it will be made without your involvement. That’s how I’m helping you. That’s what you’ve come to me for, ‘father’, — for me to help you make the right choice.”

The black skeleton hesitated. He knew he had no right to put himself or Ink first when the fate of the Multiverse was at stake, but he couldn’t remain impartial anymore. Just like back then, when a different body was laying before him, and Fresh — the idiot! — was standing nearby, holding his head in his hands and mumbling apologies and begging the dying child for forgiveness.

Before walking out the door, the destroyer said:

“In this Multiverse there are only four beings that I’d risk this whole damned Multiverse for.” The ax flew through the room and got stuck in a wall.

Hearing that, Paper looked away from the closing door. He remembered the moment when he, just like Ink, was laying there, barely alive, and his life was slipping through his fingers. Back then Error took an unwarranted risk: he kidnapped Ink. Despite the possibility of ruining the multi-year plan, he brought the guardian to his lab and transfused the guardian’s blood and magic to his “son”.

That saved Paper Jam’s life and let him know that, one way or another, he meant something to his “father”. He was even slightly jealous of Gradient, who got to bond with Error sometimes and who didn’t have to wander around the Multiverse to get some life experience. On the other hand, Paper was glad that at least one of their “family” members had something akin to a normal childhood.

Paper thought about whether he would have taken the risk for Error or Gradient? Yes! But was he ready to risk it for Ink’s sake?

He didn’t know him at all — only through others’ words. A guardian, a savior, a good friend and a strong fighter. He’d only seen Ink a scant few times. The artist was always smiling and joyful, always surrounded by the inhabitants of AUs. And only once did PJ see him alone, looking dry on the inside, empty. The artist was in Overtale, wishing on the stars. His silent prayer could be clearly read in his scary eyelight-less stare. That day the guardian had badly wounded Error, and he prayed for his eternal enemy to survive. He’d never wished death on the person who’d condemned him to a life without a universe or a soul… because he didn’t know that it was Error’s fault.

Would that change once he found out?

Today was the first time Paper Jam got to see Ink — his second “father” — this close. He was so different from Error — white, elegant, brightly dressed. Someone who only wished good for everyone, but whose mere existence could doom them all.

On a whim, Jam touched the splodge on Ink’s cheek and smiled a bit — he had a similar decoration on his face.

The smile faded. It was neither the time, nor the place to seek similarities. Under the weight of his thoughts, Paper Jam wrapped the guardian in ink and prepared to squeeze the deadly vice.

 

Error stood in front of the door like people stand in front of a surgery room in a hospital. The “doctor” was about to come out and report the time of death. There was fatality written on the destroyer’s face; his eyes went out; his back hunched; his arms hung down listlessly. He just waited, not trying to enter the room, and listened to the silence, scared to hear the crunching of bones and splashing of ink.

When the feeling of uncertainty was starting to make him shake and shiver, the door opened.

Paper looked grim and thoughtful. And Ink, who was laying on the table, looked whole.

“Only if you really believe that your plan will work,” Paper Jam said.

Chapter Text

Reaper was waiting.

That’s what he’d been doing for the past year. Waiting for his favorite toy to be returned. And before that he’d been searching for someone who’d be able to bring back the skeleton that had already been erased from the Multiverse.

Of course, Geno was erased! Otherwise how could it be that death himself couldn’t find him?

Reaper had no doubts. His conviction was unshakeable, just like his belief in his significance for the Multiverse.

So what if his brother handled the duty of the grim reaper just as well as he did? So what if there were worlds where his presence wasn’t needed at all? Reaper didn’t care about that. He only cared about Geno, who’d disappeared from the Save Screen.

Obsessed.

The reaper was obsessed with the person he could touch, embrace, kiss, have in any perverted way imaginable. He was obsessed with the person he possessed — the only person who didn’t fall apart under his touches.

A toy.

Reaper didn’t understand the views of Error, Ink and other people he knew and didn’t listen to whatever hints those people dropped.

Okay, I get it — rough sex is your fetish. You enjoy it. But what does Geno like?

“He likes the same things I do, of course!”

Maybe you should think about getting Geno out of the Save Screen?

“Why? He’s fine where he is.”

Are you sure you’re doing enough for him?

“I keep him entertained. He should be grateful for that.”

Are you sure Geno is okay?

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

Maybe you should stop?...

“And deny myself the pleasure? No!”

...Or he’ll leave you someday.

“...”

When Geno disappeared, Reaper’s head got all messed up. At first he was just spewing accusations and running around like a madman. Then he started thinking: Did Geno really enjoy what he was doing to him?

In his mind’s eye he saw the beaten-up, naked skeleton begging for him to stop.

No, Geno didn’t like what Reaper was doing to him — Reaper simply convinced himself the opposite was true, and, being lazy, he didn’t seek any other forms of communication anyway.

Why didn’t he want to let Geno out of the Save Screen? Why did he make himself think that the other was happy there?

In his mind’s eye Geno was hopeless. He was broken. And he laughed, looking towards the non-existent sky and praying for death. So death came to him — but not as absolution. Death came as his personal demonic torturer, who refused to give up the toy he liked so much, because if it left its cage, it would have definitely escaped.

Geno was never okay, stuck inside the Save Screen, with Reaper to boot. Geno wanted to leave — this Save Screen, this Multiverse, this life.

And Reaper didn’t stop, didn’t give him hope, didn’t make his lot any easier, didn’t become important to him — and lost him.

But he’d get him back for sure!

Death gripped his scythe tighter and closed his eyes. He kept telling himself: I’m doing everything right . But he didn’t believe it. Reaper was doing nothing right and had nothing good in store for Geno. He wanted Geno to return back to the Save Screen of Aftertale, forget everything that had happened and become Reaper’s toy once more. That desire stuck out of what’s right like strings stick out of a ball of yarn. Every loose thread was a doubt, and the strings of doubt kept multiplying. But he couldn’t turn back anymore.

He was already in this Multiverse. He had already begun to act. That… creature.

Reaper realized he was shaking. He scared him — scared death himself! The power of that beast inspired terror unlike anything else.

A string seemed to tighten around his soul. That was him giving him an order that he couldn’t resist. If he ordered to die, Reaper would die. If he ordered him to jump, Reaper would ask, “How many times?” And if he so desired, their entire Multiverse would be gone in a heartbeat.

It was probably going to disappear soon anyway. He was almost done gathering his power and would soon be ready to act. For now he just demanded Reaper visited the main Underfell universe and led Frisk down the Genocide path, then waited for the human at the barrier. Underswap was next.

Cutting through space with his scythe, the reaper left for the alternate universe.

 

Ink was woken up by his own scream. He jumped up in bed and was saved from falling to the floor by Error, who didn’t dare leave the artist alone and sat by his side for hours, waiting for the other to wake.

“Where do you think you’re going, asshole?”

Ink didn’t know himself just where to hide from the overwhelming fear he was feeling. Trying to calm down, he clung to the destroyer and pressed close to him like a shivering kitten.

“You’re shaking! Are you unwell? Saw a nightmare? Well, that’s not surprising. I wouldn’t expect good dreams after meeting the lord of nightmares himself.”

Ink nodded. He saw a nightmare, terrifying in its merciless simplicity. In it everyone the artist knew, everyone he’d ever met, seemed to forget him, as if Ink had never existed — shouldn’t have existed — and the only place he could return to was filled with soulless mannequins.

Left all alone, Ink called for Error. It felt like he’d been crying for millenia, crying for Error to come and embrace him and calm him down. He called until he was wheezing, until he was coughing up blood — and Error came, held out his hand, but didn’t reach him.

He appeared and said: Soon, I’ll come for you and take what’s rightfully mine!

And that horrible creature took Error and ripped him into pieces.

Gray dust. Tears. Awakening.

“Error?” the guardian whispered, recognized him and pressed closer to him. “You’re alive?”

“Yeah, I’m alive. Very much alive.”

Error hugged the shivering skeleton, who was covered in cold sweat, and realized that this embrace could be the last shred of gentleness they’d ever show to each other, because tomorrow Error was planning to turn Ink’s house into a prison. He could already imagine Ink’s look of confusion when the destroyer takes away his brush and paints. Even now he felt his soul shrivel at the disappointed look Ink would give him once he realized Error wasn’t going to let him leave.

Ink, quite possibly, would never forgive him.

The black skeleton held his beloved close and thought of how the time of their love was coming to an end. As if sharing that sentiment, the guardian sobbed.

“Ink?”

Unintelligible mumbling came in response, then one more sob.

Leaning away a little, Error saw the tear-stained face. He’d never seen Ink cry — not like this. Upset and teary-eyed, the white skeleton looked unexpectedly fragile — like glass — sensual and more alive than ever.

Once he’d cried all the tears and swallowed the lump in his throat, Ink finally said:

“You have no idea what I felt when Nightmare gave me your coat, covered in dust. I thought I’d lost you. That I’d never see you again, never touch you — that your smile and our time together will stay only in my unreliable memory.” He cuddled up to his lover again, hid his face in the other’s shirt. “You’ve come to mean so much to me that I was ready to throw away my personal code, say ‘fuck it’. I wanted them to be in pain, lots of pain. And I made that happen.” His hands shook, and he hugged Error tighter. “Then I saw you. Alive. I thought I was seeing things. And once I realized I wasn’t, there was nothing left for me to fight for. ‘Thank god,’ I thought, ‘he’s alive.’ Nothing else mattered. And… and… I…” The rest of it drowned in a new wave of tears.

“If you died, I would’ve cried too. Because you’ve become very important to me too.”

The sudden confession knocked all the bad thoughts and memories of the past nightmare of an event out of the artist’s head. Ink froze in that embrace, stopped trembling. They’d told each other that they valued each other’s company many times before, putting words into vague phrases. They’d admitted that they needed and admired each other. But they’d never been closer to putting their feelings out in the open.

Ink awaited the next words that would come out of Error’s mouth with impending sense of doom — like a criminal awaits the strike of their executioner’s ax. But the destroyer only held the guardian closer and clumsily patted him on the head, then said:

“Everything will be okay. Not instantly, but it will be. For now, get some sleep. You need to rest.”

The guardian heeded his words and fell asleep still embracing the other.

 

Meanwhile Nightmare and his gang were almost done licking their wounds and were planning their revenge.

Chapter Text

Error was running about Ink’s Void and feeling for the boundaries of the world. He was adding “locks”. He started with the most hard-to-reach and distant spots and was gradually coming closer to the places where Ink could notice what he was doing. He was planning to add the overall protection — and the biggest, hardest to crack “lock” — last. So for now it was still possible to leave the Void, though Error wasn’t worried about about Ink leaving: the exhausted guardian followed his lover’s advice and was lying in bed — stayed put for once!

They both felt when someone broke into the world — not through Error’s “locks” but right through the front entrance, which the destroyer had left untouched so far, worried that Ink would question his excessive care. He was thinking of sealing if off last. Too late for that…

Before the black skeleton could start searching for hair to pull out, he realized that the uninvited guests were neither Reaper, not his master — whew, they’d dodged that bullet! Those weren’t Ink’s friends either though: the company that came in without permission looked neither like Dream nor like Blue.

Nightmare, Horror, Red and Killer. The gang was hastily healed and taken on a quest for revenge. Judging by the lack of smiles and battle ardor, the guys wanted no vengeance. After seeing the bad side of Ink, their only desire was to hide deep in their own universes and keep from attracting attention to themselves for as long as possible. The lord of nightmares was of a different opinion:

“Quit shaking! He’s tired and injured too! It’s the perfect moment to make him pay for our humiliation!”

That was only partially correct. Ink wasn’t back in shape yet, but he could still kick all of their asses like it was nothing — especially if he decided to kill himself and drink some more red paint. He was on his own turf and knew about the uninvited guests. Moreover, he looked out of his window and gestured to the black skeleton: Everything’s okay. Don’t interfere.

Error was curious as to what the artist had come up with, so he let the “nightmares” enter the house of the guardian unhindered. Meanwhile he reached into some AU and pulled out a bucket of popcorn. Something told him it would come in handy.

Nightmare had never visited the guardian’s Void before. He’d heard of it from his brother and Error but didn’t dare come into the residence of the artist. He figured it would have better security than most other worlds — but, at it turned out, the front entrance was wide open!

The “nightmares” didn’t even consider that Ink could have left it open on purpose.

Finding Ink’s house was even easier than getting into his world: it was the only building in the endless milky space. Here it was, so similar to the house of the original skelebros: two-story, with wide windows — though it was lacking decorations and garlands, since they didn’t celebrate Christmas in the Void. There was no shed either, since the guardian kept no pets and had no human to lock up.

Nightmare kicked the front door in and entered. He immediately heard loud noises, as if someone was hitting metal against metal. The sound was coming from a side door, left ajar. He couldn’t remember seeing such a door in any of the AUs. The sound got louder as he came closer to the door.

Nightmare held a finger to his teeth and gestured upstairs to Killer, at the kitchen to Horror and towards the living room to Red. He stayed put himself, keeping his eyes on the door the noise was coming from.

The search yielded no results: the guardian wasn’t in the kitchen, the living room or upstairs.

“Boss, those paintings are staring at me!” Red said when they all regrouped by the mysterious door.

Only once that observation was out of his mouth did the “nightmares” pay attention to the slightly odd decor — by the skeleton house standards. Like Error, they were impressed by the living paintings. The paintings, in turn, stared back at them disapprovingly, shook their heads and fists, and some even made a show of running their index fingers over their throats.

Red’s teeth were chattering. The others were getting nervous too.

“You cowards! Those are just paintings! They’re harmless!”

“You said the same thing about Ink,” Killer reminded him. “You said that he wouldn’t hurt a fly. And what happened? Hurt us he did! It’s a miracle we’re even alive. I don’t even want to think what that psycho would have done if we offed Error for real!”

Red gulped. Horror’s smile got wider, and he turned towards the exit but was caught by the hood and kicked towards the mysterious door.

“Girls,” sneered the lord of nightmares, “you can go to the ladies’ room once we’re done. And now, suck it up! Ink will pay for our broken bones, and it’s best if it happens now, before he recovers from the fight!”

Horror, Red and Killer shared a look. They weren’t feeling so hot themselves. Even though Fell Alphys did a good job patching them up, she couldn’t make them forget the crazed guardian of the Multiverse.

Tired of waiting for his gang to show some spirit, Nightmare crossed the threshold first. He slowly walked down the stairs, feeling the silent tension of his companions — and their horror when they saw where the crooked stairway had taken them.

Yes, they expected anything — starting with a science lab and ending with a cellar full of pickles and preserves — but not a Medieval torture room with cages, chains and tools of torture on tables and walls. That sight conflicted so much with the image of the ever-smiling artist, who always talked of peace and love, that the “nightmares” were dumbstruck for a good minute.

Lost in shock, they didn’t immediately realize that there was no noise anymore, only deafening silence. The slam of the door and the sound of footsteps sounded like first chords of a funeral march.

None of the “nightmares” had the slightest idea where Ink was hiding before, but he was coming down the same staircase that the “nightmares” came down a minute ago.

Nightmare didn’t get a chance to straighten up and order his gang to attack before he saw the guardian and the thing he was holding in his hands. They were being approached by a psychopath with skulls in his eyes and a chainsaw in his hands.

That prompted a collective squeal of fear and a joint maneuver of “we’re not cowards, we just wanna stay alive”, where they backed off deeper into the basement. Horror hid his cleaver behind his back, just in case it could give Ink the idea to turn this into a face off. Killer dropped his knife.

“I’m happy to see you, oh friends of mine!” Ink greeted them in a sarcastic voice.

Unintelligible mumbling served as his answer. Nightmare belatedly realized that breaking into the psycho’s house in secret was a really bad idea. Though doing it openly didn’t sound like a great idea either. Who knew what other medium the artist used beside paints? He could be making collages out of dead bodies and adding blood to ink. Why else would he have had such a basement?

To complement the image of a madman he was projecting, Ink giggled and pulled a lever. The chainsaw vibrated, came to life and added the flavor of a skilled serial killer to the artist’s image. The next thing he said completely assured the “nightmares” that their lives were going to end here, in different body bags.

“I like guests. And I don’t like it when they leave.”

Error regretted not coming downstairs to see all of that with his own eyes. Oh, how they screamed! And how quickly they ran, showing no mercy to windows — flew out of the house like fishes! They must have considered the destroyer, who was standing in the doorway and munching on popcorn, a psycho no less dangerous than the one who chased them around the basement.

The artist was laughing so hard he was crying, and he couldn’t stop for a long while. Even his paints didn’t help. The “nightmares’” expressions were just too good!

“Do you think they’ll leave you alone from now on?” Error asked when he was done laughing.

“I think, I’ll start carrying this thing with me.” Ink held up the chainsaw. “Then they’ll stay away for sure.”

That was the last time they blissfully laughed together. There was no telling if they ever would again...

Chapter Text

Once the “nightmares” left the Void, Error continued to block off the space. At first Ink didn’t think much of it. He thought Error was just playing it safe. He got worried only when he realized he couldn’t leave the limits of the Void. So he sat onto the couch, not daring to start arguing before he knew the whole story.

“Error,” he called the destroyer the moment he stepped inside. “I get that you’re worried, but why did you block off the entrance to my world? I mean, I understand why you’d block off the entrance, but tell me this: why did you block off the exit?”

Error froze in the doorway. His eye-sockets were empty, and his fingers kept curling and uncurling as if he was kneading dough. Instead of saying anything, he hastily walked up to the couch, sat down beside Ink and hugged him tightly. He put his head on the other’s shoulder, pressed his whole body against the other and whispered:

“I need you to put your full trust in me. Please, just for two weeks — maybe a little more — stay with me. Stay here. I promise, once it’s over, I’ll open up to you. There will be no more secrets between us. But I’m begging you, Ink — just two weeks of patient waiting.”

The guardian stilled, shocked by what he’d heard. He couldn’t decide what to be more surprised at: the promise to share the cherished secrets — kept safe not only by Error, but also by people all over the Multiverse — or the sudden display of affection.

The artist couldn’t see his lover’s face and didn’t know whether the other was smiling or frowning.

“Error?” Ink found it in himself to swallow the lump in his throat. “You want us to stay in my Void for two weeks?”

“Yes.”

“And you won’t tell me the reasons why?”

“No. I’m sorry.”

“Then at least tell me this: will it compromise the Multiverse?”

“It won’t. I swear.”

Ink tentatively embraced the black skeleton in return, feeling the other’s racing soul, shaking hands.

“I trust you.” The guardian smiled. “I will stay here, with you, for two weeks. Let’s consider it a long-awaited vacation. But,” he twisted out of the other’s grip, hopping off the couch, and winked at his lover, “you’ll have to keep me entertained so that I wouldn’t want to leave.”

Error looked dejected, having not grasped the meaning of Ink’s words at first. Once he finally did, he almost cried from sheer shock.

“Thank you. I’ll honour your trust. And I’ll keep you entertained. Both of us.”

The artist licked his fingers, stained with yellow paint, and his smile turned genuine. It’s not like resting for two weeks and in good company took much effort. Moreover, afterwards he’d finally get access to the black skeleton’s box of secrets.

 

Meanwhile Dream was running around the Multiverse in a state of panic. He didn’t know whom he wanted to find more: his idiot brother or his guardian friend.

He found out about the mayhem of Nightmare luring Ink to his residence using Error as bait by accident: the omnipresent Core Frisk enlightened him.

That day Dream and Core were having a meeting, as usual. Core Frisk consulted the keeper of dreams on a number of AUs, which needed his attention, since they were on the edge of falling into negativity. Suddenly they grew quiet and thoughtfully asked:

“What is Ink doing? He’s just entered Nightmare's world.”

Dream and Core barely managed to break into the formerly beautiful universe, conquered by Nightmare, and found themselves in a battlefield. There were no bodies or dust, but a sea of blood and rows upon rows of bones tearing up the ground — and ink, a lot of ink!

That’s when the keeper of good dreams panicked, since Core couldn’t tell him where his brother or his friend were — or, rather, they knew exactly where they were at that very moment, and that’s why they kept quiet. The world of fusions remained a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

“I’ll look in the Omega Timeline. Perhaps, that’s where Ink is. And you take a look around. He could be wounded and waiting for help.” That’s how Core got Dream off their tail and hurried to Paper Jam’s, eager to learn the latest news.

Dream ended up running around the AUs, searching for his missing brother and his missing friend. In his quest he wandered into Underswap. He was greeted not by the joyful Blue — who had run off to train with Alphys — but by the gloomy Papyrus.

“Is Ink here?”

“No. Haven’t seen him in a while… Wait!” The tall skeleton grabbed the keeper of dreams by the golden cape. “I can see that you’re busy, but I really need to see Bluescreen. Please, take me to him. I’ll figure out the rest on my own.”

The keeper of good dreams looked away. He didn’t know what the meeting of Swap Papyrus and Bluescreen would result in and how that meeting would affect Blue. What if Papyrus would grow cold towards the small cheerful copy of his brother? He didn’t want to let Blue down, but refusing the older skeleton seemed wrong as well. He had the right to know.

“Sorry, I’m a bit busy. Maybe next time?” Dream tried to wriggle out of it.

“You don’t need to come with.” Papyrus gripped the golden cape tighter. “I don’t think my… brother would do anything to harm me. And I’ll get the moral support from Blue once I’m back.”

Still unsure he was doing the right thing, Dream opened a portal and let Papyrus into the space between the worlds.

“Call him. And I… should go. Sorry…” Having finished the jumbled apology, Dream disappeared into a newly-created portal and went on with his search.

Papyrus stood in silence for a few minutes, smoking and looking at the empty white nothing as he worked up the courage to call. Finally, he put out his cigarette and whispered:

“Blue, I want to talk to you.”

The whisper was enough. A glitchy portal opened up in front of the tall skeleton, and Papyrus walked through it.

His soul shrank at the sight of his brother, all grown up and nothing like the kid he’d been caring for for more than ten years.

“Hey, bro.”

In the dark space of the Save Screen, arms crossed, stood Bluescreen, watching his brother with a mix of contempt and tense anticipation of an argument. He didn’t know what to say to his brother and didn’t know how to tell him the part of the truth that Dream and Ink weren’t aware of. He was also scared of being condemned by his brother.

There were things to condemn him for: He went missing and never reached out to his brother. He tore Chara out of their world and became their prison guard. He silently watched his brother struggle without answers, search for traces of his former brother in Blue and cry at night. Bluescreen watched it all happen — and he didn’t help him.

Papyrus walked up to him, stopped at arm’s length away and asked:

“How are you, bro?”

Bluescreen looked away and answered with the sad smile of a suicidal person:

“Could be better. Sorry for… everything.” He spread his arms, unable to put the full magnitude of his sins into words.

Papyrus put a lollipop into his mouth.

“You can smoke if you want.”

“Blue — well, the little Blue — doesn’t like it when I smoke. Especially at home.”

Bluescreen sneered bitterly at that:

“Don’t call him ‘the little one’. He’s your brother. He’s Blue.”

“Then who are you?”

“And I… I…” The guardian of Underswap hesitated. “I’m a memory that’s never happened. Just one of the versions of the likely future that will never come to be.”

The tall skeleton’s expression let Bluescreen know that the other didn’t get it. However, he didn’t know how to explain his existence and what’d happened to him in simpler terms. While Error called them both “two big errors”, Bluescreen thought of himself as a protective code of Underswap, which appeared by chance and proved itself useful.

While Bluescreen was choosing his words, Papyrus came to some conclusions based on what he’d heard:

“But you’re still my brother. You were one, and you still are.”

“Yes, and you’re my brother.” Bluescreen smiled, but his smile soon faded. “You were. You see, the thing that happened to me… It… Basically, I died.”

Papyrus shuddered, his jaw dropped — the lollipop fell to the ground — and he stared at his brother in horror:

“What do you mean?!”

“I mean exactly what I’ve said. I died. That day when our universe was reset, most of my code went back and became the young Blue. The lesser part stayed in the Anti-Void to rot and change.

“The Anti-Void is a really strange place — both intelligent and insane, if that could be said about something indescribable — and it’s capable of giving the gift of life. I was the second being it gave life to.” A wave of white glitches ran over Bluescreen’s body, almost covering the skeleton fully, but they vanished almost as quickly as they’d appeared.

“What do you mean? I still don’t understand. Are you sick? Can I do anything to help?”

“No. I’m not sick. And there’s nothing you can do. Basically, my current state is one of the reasons I haven’t talked to you in all these years. You’ve seen for yourself just how powerful I am and how dangerous I can be. When I appear in AUs, I bring them harm or even destroy them completely — not on purpose. I can only live in the Save Screen or in a few other shielded places. Like here, for example.”

“But why did something like this happen to you? And what’s happened to you anyway? I still don’t understand the full extent of it.”

“Do you wish to know the truth even if it will shock and hurt you?”

“Yes.”

Bluescreen gave his older brother a heavy look and said:

“I am Blue’s residual code and Error’s code mixed together.”

The news hit him like a sledgehammer, it made Papyrus flinch. He had seen the amalgamates in Undyne’s basement, but Bluescreen didn’t seem to melt like they did.

“I know what you’re thinking. But no, I’m not an amalgamate. Not literally. Say, what’s an amalgamate?”

“A fusion,” Papyrus gulped and reigned in his hoarse voice, “of monsters.”

“Right. But amalgamates are a fusion of not only bodies, but souls as well. Almost all amalgamates are in constant state of conflict with each other, since there are multiple consciousnesses inside their bodies. It’s hard enough when there are two of them sharing a body, but sometimes there are dozens crowded in there together.

“So. I’m a fusion too, but not of souls — of magic, essence and code. My body lacks the conflict of souls, and that’s why I’m not susceptible to melting and dividing. The only error of my being is my memory — Blue’s memory — that stayed with me in full. Well, and my body. Since Error tried to single-handedly bring me back to life, he didn’t let the Anti-Void adjust my body to our mixed essence. That’s why I look like your brother.”

“I think,” Papyrus said, “you look like my brother because you are my brother.”

Bluescreen laughed:

“You got that right.”

“Say, did it hurt?” Papyrus stepped closer to his brother.

“It did.”

“And now?”

“Not anymore. I’m fine.”

“But why didn’t you let me know you’re okay then? Did you really think that your new essence or power would drive me away?”

“No.” Bluescreen smiled sadly and stars glowed in his eyes. “The little me needed all of your love and care. I couldn’t do something as vile as taking you away from him. Sorry for that, bro.”

Papyrus took the last step that separated them and embraced his brother tightly.

“I forgive you.”

Chapter Text

Ink had no idea that somewhere out there Dream was running around searching for him. And even if he knew, he wouldn’t have seeked a meeting with him. There were times when the two friends didn’t see each other for weeks. It was fine; Dream could survive without the artist for a couple of weeks.

Ink didn’t think of the fates of the worlds he was supposed to protect for a little while. So what? The main villain of the Multiverse was right there by his side — literally — and Nightmare and his gang would need some time to get over the chainsaw incident. Ink didn’t think of the smaller worlds that would go out like candlelights without the guardian’s constant involvement. Either way, Ink couldn’t save everyone. He could only try and postpone the inevitable end of the nonviable worlds, abandoned by their Creators, but, sadly, he couldn’t support the life of those worlds indefinitely.

So Ink shrugged off the heavy thoughts. He was on vacation, and he was enjoying it — unlike Error.

Error spent the first three days of their voluntary imprisonment flinching at Ink’s every sudden movement, thinking the other didn’t find it in him to trust the destroyer and wanted to leave the Void. The guardian only chuckled sadly at that and offered some chamomile tea — for his nerves. When Error finally relaxed and sat down to watch Undernovela, Ink took advantage of his current state and… no, he didn’t escape, but pounced him like a tomcat in heat — pounced him and straddled him and pushed him into the back of the couch.

“Ink, Void-dammit!”

The unexpected contact made a wave of glitches run over the black bones.

“You’ve promised to keep me entertained,” the artist reminded. “But you’ve spent the past three days freaking out and haven’t fucked me once. It wasn’t fun, you know, so now it’s my turn to entertain !”

Error looked into his lover’s eye-sockets and gulped. A crosshair glowed in one of them, and a heart in the other — the mixture of red and pink paints. The black skeleton only managed to squeak something vaguely disapproving before he was aggressively kissed and pushed into the couch even harder.

Not giving him time to think of a retaliation, Ink pushed his hands into his lover’s pants and roughly ran them over the most sensitive spots, catching the exclamation of outrage with his mouth.

“This feels nostalgic,” he whispered to an overwhelmed Error. “Our first time happened on this very couch.”

Error didn’t answer, only licked his teeth and, breathing heavily, moved into the caresses, uncaring of the glitches that wrapped around his body. He deserved this pain.

Soon their clothes were all piled on the floor, and the temperature in the room went up a couple degrees.

“Do you want to try something new?” whispered the tempter, who must’ve only become a guardian due to some cosmic mistake.

“Hm?” Error barely got his eyes to focus and tilted his head to one side: What do you have in mind? What do you need me to do?

“Make a swing.”

“Why?”

“You’ll see — no — you’ll feel it.”

Error pulled a few strings out of his eye-sockets and quickly weaved a swing out of them, securing it to the ceiling. He obediently sat down on it and shivered under Ink’s hungry and passionate gaze.

The guardian threw his lover’s legs over his shoulders, forcing Error to frantically adjust the height of the swing — he didn’t want to fall off at the crucial moment.

“Ready?”

The black skeleton didn’t say “no”, leaned back and put his faith in Ink. He loudly moaned his lover’s name at the other’s sudden thrust, arched his back and melted in the pleasure rhythmically rolling over him.

The impossibly smooth motions and the chance to relax and surrender to the sensations enchanted Error and almost made him pass out. The ceiling swung before his eyes, his body was burning, and a song of passion flowed from this throat. The house was filled with heavy breathing, unrestrained moaning and the clatter of bones. He wanted more of these sensations, more of Ink, more of these unrestrained feelings. Who cared that the guardian had no soul and couldn’t feel? Error was ready to feel for both of them — pack up and give the other all of his emotions just to make this last forever.

“Stop clinging,” Ink asked, struggling to get out of his lover’s restrictive embrace yet again, but Error, lost in the sensations, didn’t seem to hear him. So he had to switch the position.

The destroyer hummed in outrage when he felt the emptiness inside and gasped when he was laid onto the swing on his stomach. A dozen deep thrusts, and he was ready to surrender to ecstasy. Ink’s voice broke through the haze of pleasure:

“Not yet!”

Without further ado Ink wrapped his hand around the black skeleton’s magic and squeezed it at the base, making up for the rough treatment with passionate caresses: neck, shoulders, shoulder blades.

“Ah! Ink! Ah! I can’t, ah, anymore! Let go! Ah! Let me come! Ah!” Error whined, choking on moans. He arched back, almost laying his head on his partner’s shoulder, bit down, left a mark and put out his eyelights, overwhelmed by the sweet pain of the denied orgasm.

“Error!” the guardian wheezed. He was on the edge too, but was still able to hold himself back. “Just a little! Almost!”

“Please… please…”

“‘Please, more’ or ‘please, let me come’?” Ink couldn’t resist teasing him.

“More.” The destroyer found it in him to tease back. He saw from the corner of his eye that Ink couldn’t take it anymore either: he was shaking in anticipation of release.

“Ah, more?! Well, get ready!”

Ink’s motions got way more aggressive than they were a moment ago, and he let go of Error’s magic, letting him get lost in the long-awaited bliss.

Their voices merged into one — lewd, passionate and unstoppable — and slowly got lost in the atmosphere, like their owners did in the waves of languor.

The swing disappeared. The skeletons almost collapsed onto the stained blanket on top of the couch.

The guardian had to hold Error up as he kicked the dirty rag away. Ink set his lover down onto the couch, showering him in kisses.

“Did you like it?”

Error didn’t bother to answer, only held up his hand and gestured: Something like that. Why are you asking when you can clearly see the state I’m in?

“I’m glad. But,” Ink put his head onto his lover’s shoulder, “I’m the one, who’s supposed to be the prisoner here, and it’s me who should get entertained. So tomorrow the entertainment is on you.”

“That’s a deal!” Error found it in him to smile and ask, “You really trust me?”

“Yes.” The guardian nodded. “I trust you, Error. I don’t know what’s going on, but I see how hard you’re trying and how much faith you have in the future you’re working towards. I want to see the future you wish to be in so much. The one supported by so many of the people we both know.”

“Do you believe that this future is better than the one that could’ve been without me?”

Ink considered it. He could barely imagine a future without the destroyer — and he didn’t like it.

“I don’t want a future without you,” he admitted.

“And what kind of future do you want?”

“Full of peace and understanding.”

“You can’t have something like that without waging a war, you know.” Error chuckled. “If you want peace, prepare for war. Can’t remember who said it, but they were right.”

“And who would that war be against?”

Error bit his tongue in time, chuckled and shook his head:

“Sorry, Ink, but that I can’t tell you. I’ve already said too much.”

Ink let out a heavy sigh and squeezed Error’s hand. He was suddenly struck with fear, and since the artist hadn’t drunk the paint, it wasn’t his fear.

“What are you scared of, Error?”

But the destroyer didn’t answer.

Chapter Text

Dream spent a week searching for his friend, but no matter who he asked, everyone told him they hadn’t seen Ink. Thankfully, he was able to locate his brother.

Nightmare holed up in the farthest corner of the vampire AU, in a cabin in the forest, and was tending to his mental state. Dream found him by following the traces of slime and locals’ inarticulate descriptions of a terrified swamp monster — black and with tentacles.

The knock on the door got a jump out of the lord of bad dreams — and out of his henchmen too. Horror almost bit his own finger off. Killer swung his knife and almost beheaded Red, who, thankfully, fell to the floor, covering his head with his hands.

“Brother, are you there? May I speak with you?”

The response consisted of quiet whining and mumbling:

“Is Ink with you?”

“No.” Dream had no idea what was going on anymore.

The “nightmares” let out a collective sigh of relief, and the door opened before the keeper of good dreams.

Dream had never seen his brother so tense and scared, so he asked straightaway:

“What’s happened to you?”

“Your friend happened to me!”

With a hint of dread, Dream thought that the artist must’ve misused the pink paint again and messed things up. His brother dispelled that suspicion with his fascinating story — one where the guardian chased him around with a chainsaw, and Error watched that nonsense happen. Just for the sake of sharing that story the brothers put their feud on hold for an hour.

Dream bit back an indignant remark about how Ink wouldn’t have chased anyone with a chainsaw. He would! And he could’ve done worse! Especially if he drank some red paint. The keeper of good dreams focused on a different detail.

“What do you mean, Error watched it happen? Was he with Ink? When, you say, it happened?”

Turned out it was right before Ink’s Void became inaccessible, which meant the artist was locked in there with the destroyer.

Finally, Dream could breathe a sigh of relief: his brother was alive, and his friend wasn’t hurt and even kicked some ass. Ink must’ve taken this time off work and was spending it with his lover. But… something didn’t sit right with him. A feeling of impending danger was clawing at his soul.

“Don’t worry. Ink won’t seek vengeance, I promise,” Dream said and was about to leave but heard Nightmare say:

“I sure hope so. I’ve had a bad premonition for a week — as if something massive is about to happen in our Multiverse, and not one of its inhabitants would like it. Not even I.”

The brothers shared a worried look, and, for the first time in a long while, a thread of understanding appeared between them, and they wished to join forces.

 

It was raining in the world of fusions. The raindrops smashed against the glass, knocking for someone to let them in, trickled down like tear tracks and disappeared from sight.

Paper Jam didn’t like rain — not only because water hurt him. Rain invited sadness. The world seemed to cry, and it was easy to share in its misery.

“Jam,” Palette called him, “pay attention. The plan’s got more holes in it than Swiss cheese.”

Reluctantly, the skelinkton went back to examining the thousands of charts of their future standoff.

“The holes aren’t going anywhere.” Paper shoved away a chart of a possible strategy, disgusted. “We don’t have enough data. If Error’s intimidation idea fails, then it won’t matter which plan we use.There will be lots of casualties. Me and you, and Goth, and everyone in the first line of defence won’t live to see the end of this war. He will kill us before the battle even starts. Our only chance is preventing this war from happening.”

“Jam is right,” Goth bowed his head, agreeing with his leader, “the best fight is the one that doesn’t happen at all.”

“And how do we ensure that?!!!” Palette roared. “Especially since Error let all of us down and let Ink live!”

Paper Jam closed his eyes and smirked:

“Error’s betrayal doesn’t matter anymore. It has already happened and made me rethink our strategy. Here’s what we’ll do…”

 

The week kept going at a snail’s pace, and the less time there was left until the promised deadline, the more tense and nervous Error became.

Ink felt with his every bone how the string of the secret stretched and readied to break the silence with the first heavy chords. He knew that Error and himself were in some kind of danger — otherwise why were they holed up “behind closed doors” with Error checking the “locks” on the hour?

“Error?”

The destroyer flinched. He didn’t see the guardian walk up to him.

“What?”

“It’s pretty boring, holed up as we are. TV and sex are our only entertainment.” Ink blinked, and his eyelights showed hope. “Perhaps we could add some variety to our voluntary imprisonment?”

“Like what?” Error kept using short, sharp answers. He was scared of letting something slip and giving Ink a new piece of information.

The artist stilled for a moment, his eyelights went out, then he waved his brush, and a chessboard appeared before the skeletons.

“Do you know how to play?”

“Of course!” Error crossed his arms. “Like most Sanses, I’m not lacking in the smarts department.”

“Great!” Ink’s smile glowed with concealed triumph. “Which ones do you choose: black or white?”

Error snorted — that should be obvious! — and sat at the black side. Ink took the side of the white pieces.

A couple of minutes later the artist found out that he was terrible at chess.

“Hey!” he exclaimed when a black pawn took a white bishop.

“Eyes on the board, asshole. Your queen’s next.”

The white skeleton stared at the chessboard in confusion. The queen really was in danger, but if he took it away, that would endanger the much needed rook.

“Are you an idiot?” Error was outraged. “You should have sacrificed the queen. Now I’m gonna take three of your pieces.”

Ink only shrugged:

“I didn’t want to sacrifice anyone.”

Error shook his head and did his dirty business: took three white figures off the board.

“You have to! You’re the king! And everyone around you are only pawns.”

“There are all kinds of kings.” The guardian pouted. “There are pawns that a king cannot sacrifice.”

“Hah,” Error chuckled. Even when playing a game, Ink stayed true to his nature. “Okay, King of White Pawns, your move.”

“I hear you loud and clear, King of Black Pawns,” Ink proclaimed and made his move.

“I’m no king. I’m a knight — the damned cheater, who can draw the pawns away from danger.”

“Oh! And is the knight strong enough for that?”

“If the knight avoids making mistakes, he’ll be smart enough not to put the pawns at risk. And look, there are two knights on the board. At least one of them should be able to handle the job.”

Ink thought about it, stared at the board full of black pieces with only a few white ones left and smiled. Once again Error let something slip about the conspiracy that was unfolding all around him — and there was no telling how this whole plan would end.

The white king fell off the board.

“Checkmate!”

Chapter Text

Error took a deep breath and let it out. He stood by a window, tirelessly looking through the glass, and poked at the code of the world, checking the locks. And ignored Ink, waving him off and foiling his every attempt to make the other relax a little.

His tension spread to the guardian, and now he too couldn’t sit still inside the familiar house, feeling as if the walls were closing in around him. Yet Ink stayed patient, aware that rebelling wouldn’t achieve anything but rid his lover of the last of his nerve — and Error was already skipping on sleep just to ensure he didn’t miss the moment he feared so much.

Sometimes the destroyer’s phone rang, and he answered the calls with shaking hands and listened. He never said a thing, only listened. The short reports he got only served to make him even more nervous.

That’s how things went until the thing he was waiting for finally happened.

At the moment, Ink was on the second floor, in his studio. He was trying to find some solace in putting paint to a canvas. That’s when he felt faint. He reeled, fell down, hit his head against the floor. The guardian felt heat, born in his chest, spread to his whole body. Before he could howl in pain, that pain turned into overwhelming weakness. He couldn’t lift an arm or whisper, or take a breath. His power that used to serve him true, his magic that had always been inside them — they suddenly rose against him and became alien, flowing away into the unknown and pulling the artist’s slack body with them.

Error heard the loud noise of the fall, but dismissed it at first. Ink sometimes managed to stumble into something simply because he would forget he’d moved a chair or drawn a new shelf. But then came the crunching and the cracking. A thick web of cracks spread over the glass in front of Error’s face.

The birds — the ones Ink created to make the Void more lively — those birds lost their minds. They all dashed at the guardian’s house at once, hitting the windows, the shingles, the walls. Feathers fell from the sky like colourful snowflakes. Bloodied bodies of the living projectiles fell like stones. A window shattered, and the insane birds filled up the house, crashed into the walls, the paintings, the furniture. Crashing, crunching, dying squeaks — louder and louder! That went on until the last of the birds broke their fragile little bones and fell to the floor in agony.

The paintings on the walls started bleeding paint. The characters inside them howled in agony and thrashed about their square cages. The TV blew up.

Then a ringing silence settled over the house.

“Ink? Ink!!!”

Error knew he’d lost before he even finished walking up the staircase that was bleeding ink.

Ink lay on the floor in his studio, and a dark ink puddle was spreading underneath him.

The look of the guardian’s dark eye-sockets burned the destroyer, the mouth opened a bit in an attempt to call out to him, then the body got sucked into the inky portal. A moment later Error was left all alone in the guardian’s house.

“I’m sorry, Ink. I should’ve kept you safe.” He held his phone up to his ear. “Paper. I failed. Ink’s been kidnapped.”

“We’ve lost Sci as well. Didn’t even see who took him.”

He lost — and changed the plan to boot. He practically betrayed the people who had put their trust in him, thinking he’d keep Ink safe but was powerless to do so. He should have used Ink as planned and only then, when all was over, they’d figure out their relationship. But no! He wanted “what’s best”!

“Okay, think, Error, think. Where do I start searching? That bastard couldn’t have pulled that off without using summoning ink. Who did the summoning? Who could Ink have given his ink to? Who would have used it? Bastard! Using others to do your dirty job! White, fluffy, slobbery bastard !”

 

Underswap was looking at yet another peaceful day. Papyrus stayed at home while Blue was returning from his training. He could be proud of himself, since he was becoming stronger and faster, and today he’d even managed to win in a sparring with Alphys a few times. Say what you like, but the kidnapping made Blue more cautious and forced him to take his training even more seriously than before.

The skeleton was walking home and humming a tune when someone called him:

“Howdy!”

Blue tensed, looked around and even materialized a bone, expecting an attack. However, he didn’t see anyone, but the voice repeated:

“I said hello.”

Surprised, the young skeleton looked down and saw two black pearls, a wet nose in the middle and a bright red tongue sticking out of a mouth. A tiny white dog was sitting at Blue’s feet.

“Hi,” Blue said belatedly and hurried to crouch, since it was rude to look down on such a tiny monster. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

“Oh, yes. I haven’t been around here before. You see, I’m lost.”

‘Where are you from?” Blue instantly had a burning desire to help the tiny creature find his home. As a future Royal Guard, it was his duty to do just that.

“I come from far far away from here,” the dog whined, not taking his eyes off the young skeleton. “You see, I don’t come from this world. I’m looking for Ink, so that he can take me back home. I’ve heard he came by here often.”

“Oh!” Blue’s desire to help the tiny dog skyrocketed. He had a non-aggressive world-traveller, who needed help, on his hands. “Of course, of course I’ll help! But Ink hasn’t visited in a while, so…”

Before Dog could grow disappointed, Blue remembered:

“But Papy’s got his ink. We could summon Ink here!”

Dog grinned, and sparks of fire twinkled in his eyes.

“I’m very glad,” he said. “Let us hurry then.”

Blue and the tiny dog raced to the skelebros’ house.

“Papy!” The young skeleton was the first to barge into the house. “Where’s Ink’s ink? There’s a monster who needs his help!”

The older brother was sitting on the couch and almost swallowed his cigarette thanks to the loud entrance of the younger one. He stood up, throwing only a cursory glance at the tiny white and fluffy dog, who was hopping in impatience, and handed his brother the vial he took from the top shelf of the bookcase. He didn’t even consider how dangerous a creature had entered their house.

“Thank you very much,” said the dog.

“Yes, we’re very thankful,” someone reiterated behind the skeletons’ backs.

By the time Blue and Papyrus turned around, the stranger had already teleported to the dog’s side and took the vial of ink out of Blue’s hands.

The second guest was a Sans dressed into a black cloak and carrying a scythe behind his back.

“We really are thankful.” Reaper smirked, and the next moment he, the dog and the vial were gone from the skelebros’ house.

Blue and Papyrus shared a look and suddenly felt an insane amount of pressure weighing down on them. They almost fell to the floor and passed out but that’s when the supernatural force let up.

‘Oh, stars! What is going on?!!” people screamed in the streets. The other monsters felt the weird bout of weakness too — as if someone was stealing all of their strength. And then the whole world shuddered.

Again, and again, and again!

The walls were covered in cracks, and Blue ended up in his brother’s embrace. Both skeletons were shaking.

“What’s going on?” the younger squeaked.

“Nothing bad — not anymore.”

Their house was turning into a public thoroughfare: someone teleported to their house without permission — again. Bluescreen was standing by their side this time.

“There’s nothing left to fear. We’ve managed to severe the link to that abomination, that you were unlucky to meet, just in time. Soon Underswap will be evacuated from this Multiverse. And I have something to ask of you.”

A Gaster from an unknown AU appeared beside Bluescreen, holding a tiny sleeping bundle of life in each of his hands. A dozen more toddlers were huddled at his feet.

“Take care of them.”

 

Error rushed into the world of fusions, shaking in overwhelming panic.

“You knew this would happen. And don’t tell me you haven’t thought of anything. I’m sure you’ve long since adjusted the plan and are following your own course. Am I right?”

Paper Jam nodded. Unlike his “father”, he remained calm and collected.

It was time to put all the cards on the table.

Chapter Text

It started at Reapertale. The universe became the epicenter of the wave that spread over the Multiverse, bringing the worlds to their final ending. The inhabitants of the worlds felt it coming, instantly stripped of their strength and falling where they stood. The bout of weakness didn’t last long, but they couldn’t just get their bearings, get up and believe that the unknown ailment left with no repercussions. And repercussions there were. All of the Frisks — and characters playing their role — in the Multiverse, as if on command and choking back tears, pressed reset.

A new cycle started — but there was a key change to it: every Frisk was replaced by a Chara — or whoever was playing their role in that particular AU — and they only wanted one thing — to commit genocide! It was an eight-hour countdown to the end of the old ways, before the even more ancient ways were to come.

Some worlds were lucky: they didn’t reset. Dreamtale was one of the lucky ones. That AU had neither a human, nor any inhabitants in general — apart from the two apple brothers, who’d come to Dreamtale to negotiate, accompanied by Nightmare’s servants.

The skeletons were gathered by the stump of the Great Tree, when it happened.

“I feel like I’ve been turned inside out and upside down!” Dream managed to say, barely making it to his feet.

Nightmare was the next one to return to the vertical state of existence. Nausea hit him, and, very much like Ink, he threw up black slime. Horror chose not to stand up at all and stayed lying on the ground. Killer sat up and tried to focus his eyelights. He asked:

“What’s just happened?”

Not Dream, not Nightmare — and especially not Horror — could give him an answer.

“Something horrifying,” someone the “nightmares” and Dream had never seen answered for them. A teen with stars in his eyes looked at the skeletons through a wide-open portal akin to the ones Ink usually created. “And we’re probably all gonna die.” Despite what he’d just said, the young skeleton’s eyes were filled with excitement and ardor.

Behind his back stood an even weirder child: gray, with mismatched eyes, a floating crown over his head and an even more impatient gaze. And that second child said something even more bizarre:

“We finally get to meet our ‘fathers’! That’s so awesome, Palette!”

Dream and Nightmare froze for a good minute, trying to wrap their heads around what they’d heard.

“Uh!” was their smartest first response. “Die? Fathers? Children, what are you talking about?”

Horror and Killer had already managed to get up, but the news of their leader having kids, who were also foretelling their doom, almost made them fall over again.

While the shocked grown-ups were trying to recover from the news, the young skeletons came out of the portal and started to examine the brothers.

“Just as I was told,” concluded the one called Palette. “I look like Dream, but I’ve inherited Ink’s personality — how he gets when he’s had too much red paint.”

“And do I look like Nightmare?” the other one asked and held up a second pair of arms made out of the familiar black slime.

Nightmare watched the sprouting of the extra extremities like hypnotized.

“You sure do, Radier. You’re a spitting image of each other! Though I don’t know who you take after personality-wise. Not after Error, that’s for sure.”

Dream threw a confused look at his brother, who forgot to breathe out of sheer absurdity of the situation, and found no similarities between the gray child and Nightmare. The child looked cheerful and happy, and his brother was evil and gloomy. And what did Ink and Error have to do with any of this?

“Wait a sec!” Dream recovered. “Who are you? Where did you come from? What’s going on? And why do you think that you’re our children?”

Nightmare unfroze next and added a remark of his own:

“I thought that procreation requires sex, and  I’ve… well… never… basically, it’s impossible that I’d have any kids!”

The “nightmares” chuckled behind his back. Dream grew embarrassed. The kids smiled like shark pups.

“Oh! Sex isn’t needed for kids of our kind to appear.” Palette winked and walked back through the portal. “Follow us. It’s time for you to learn something. And take your friends with you. There are people eager to meet them as well.”

Surprisingly, Killer and Horror were the first ones to walk through the portal. They were overcome with curiosity — who were those kids that wanted to meet them: new victims, new meat? Behind them, still in the state of confusion, followed Dream and Nightmare.

And froze in shock.

“Welcome to the world of fusions!”

A huge world, as lively as an anthill, opened up before them. Everyone was running around, appearing from somewhere and disappearing out of sight — and almost all of the people in this world were young Sanses.

Dream had travelled a lot and helped Ink check on many universes, but he could say with confidence that the world of fusions was unknown to him. He’d never seen this world before, and he’d never heard of it — just like he’d never heard of the hundreds of skeletons living here!

Someone black, with markings on their cheeks and wearing dark blue clothes ran past them — but it wasn’t Error. In the opposite direction, someone colourful, with bottles of paint in their hands and a crazy grin on their face, ran past the guests — but it wasn’t Ink.

“Who… what… how?” Both dream and the “nightmares” were at a loss for words.

What surprised them even more was that some of the monsters used portals to move from one world to another, which meant that they should’ve come across one of the guardians or the “nightmares” at some point. Dream should’ve been giving them dreams, and Nightmare — nightmares. They should’ve known about them.

Nope. Neither he, nor Nightmare knew of those strange children — which was incredible.

Who could keep this many world-travellers a secret and collect them all in one world to boot?

One more portal opened up nearby, and a new group of monsters, led by a one-eyed copy of Reaper, entered the world of fusions. Then more portals opened, and more and more beings entered the world, brought in by odd Sanses that no one had ever heard of. The last portal to open was the biggest one yet, and the world of fusions was flooded with citizens of the Omega Timeline — or, rather, the part of them who weren’t dragged back to their universes by resets.

Why were they all invited into this world? And who invited them?

“We’re here!” Palette waved to someone.

“Us too,” the one-eyed Reaper said in a more reserved way than his star-eyed friend.

Who were they speaking to? The answer turned out to be worrying. A puddle of ink formed on the ground. It looked just like Ink’s, and Dream got excited for a second, thinking it really was Ink. He realized he was mistaken, when, mid-transformation, the body of the stranger lengthened, showing more delicate features, and the star-shaped eyelight was joined by a regular one.

The inky creature looked scarily similar to Ink but wasn’t him.

“Great!” the stranger said. “Tell Core to come here immediately.”

“Yes, Boss!” Palette saluted and ran towards the crowd of Omega inhabitants.

“As for you.” The skelinkton pointed at the shocked guests. “I need to talk to you. And don’t interrupt me. It’s important, and we don’t have much time. What I’m going to tell you is the true story of our Multiverse. We’ll have to protect it today. Even at the cost of our lives.”

“Why should I?” Nightmare objected. A few other dark personalities of the Multiverse joined him, but they were all silenced by the notorious destroyer.

“Shut it, octopus.” Error came out of a new portal. He looked exhausted but filled with determination. “It’s no time for your tantrums. If you don’t want to help, I’ll tie you up and throw you into the Void. You can wait for your demise, hanging in blue strings.” He turned to the skelinkton and said, “Paper, everything is ready. I’m waiting for the go-ahead, and we’re starting. How’s it going on your side?”

“The rangers are in position, but it’s quiet so far. The correctors are ready to start. The artisans are in the second group. The fighters are in the first one. Babies and anyone who asked were evacuated with Underswap.” Paper took a deep breath. His star-shaped eyelight turned into a touch diamond of determination. “Yes, we’re ready. I’ll brief our guests, and we’re off.”

Paper told them something they had no clue about, something that completely changed their stance on the fate of the Multiverse and their own fates. When he was done, not a single visitor of the world of the fusions wished to wait out the battle. All of them desired to pick up their weapons and fight.

 

Ink didn’t know where he was, and he didn’t want to know either. He could barely feel the chill of the stone underneath him, and it was the only thing keeping him from falling into oblivion. His vision focused on separate elements of his surroundings: stained-glass windows, white pillars, red and gold, the marble of the walls.

Inside the viscous syrup wrapped in apathy, that replaced his thoughts, a single bright thought pulsed: Error. That was the only thing that kept the guardian from losing his connection to the world and succumbing to the alien authority. Because Error would miss him. He was waiting for him. There. Somewhere. In the Void.

Error, is this the one you were afraid of?

Ink managed to focus his eyelights on the tiny but dangerous creature — white, soulless eyelights. Ink couldn’t do a thing. Didn’t want to? Couldn’t? He was empty inside: no wishes, no emotions. The white dog took them, all of his hopes and dreams — he licked them off like cream off the top of a cake, and now he exulted.

“Who are you?” Ink whispered.

“Me?” The dog seemed surprised by the question, as if there shouldn’t have been a single being who didn’t know his name. “I’m God!”

Ink couldn’t be surprised, but he felt like something in his chest protested the loud proclamation and let him change his expression a bit, frown.

“You don’t believe me?” The dog snorted. “You really should.”

He seemed to be talking to himself, savoring his victory:

“One day a Creator appeared. Every world has one. Including Undertale. But that Creator wasn’t content with just creating a world, he wanted to live in it. The problem is, Creators are such creatures that cannot live inside their creations. So they create their incarnations inside their worlds. And I became the incarnation of the God of Undertale.

“You see,” the dog licked his nose, “he needed to be someone, and I became that someone. At first I didn’t see myself as separate from him — and I couldn’t have, since while he existed, I did not. But then the Creator left his world.” For a moment the dog’s ears drooped. “Who knows, perhaps he simply lost interest in that world. Perhaps. And that’s when I started to awake.

“I have to admit, at first I was content with being an observer and had no desire to interfere. I didn’t see the point. The human fell, went through their journey and finished the story — sometimes once, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Unsatisfied, they seeked the best ending. Or maybe it wasn’t them, but an incarnation of a different Creator possessing Frisk. It doesn’t matter. The point is, it was fun!”

The dog came up to Ink, stood on its hind paws and put its front paws on the skeleton’s chest, looking down at the other with his beady eyes.

“You know, time passed, and I grew bored of being the God of  a tiny world. And you know what? I realized that something appeared next to Undertale. That happens when one Creator makes a world, then another grows fascinated with it and gets an idea . A variation of the “what would happen if” kind. That was an amazing moment!” The dog jumped in place, and his tiny paws almost slipped between Ink’s ribs. “That was the moment of truth, the moment of my emergence as a creator . I caught that idea and connected that weak parasite to the existing world, letting that idea develop into a new world.

“And you know what?” The dog tilted its head and looked into Ink’s eyes, as if he expected an actual answer. “I liked it even more than the original world, because it followed a simpler logic. It didn’t have timelines — just one straight path, which I helped the Creators choose. I admit, I couldn’t hold back and interfered for the first time, led the human down the Genocide path.

“And that’s when the second miracle happened. When Chara killed Frisk, I received that energy — the energy of hundreds of lives, everyone that had been killed in that world! And I already knew what to put this energy into. New ideas were growing in the Void. Dozens of Creators were asking for their worlds to be brought to life. And I knew exactly how to do it.

“But you know what?” The dog wagged his tail. “That world didn’t die — the time rewound, just like in the original universe, and soon it was ready to give me more energy, so that I could bring more worlds to life, because Chara was ready to kill again.

“Do you like the truth, Ink? The truth of how the Multiverse was born from blood and dust?”

Ink didn’t answer, but tears glittered in the depths of his eye-sockets, and the dog licked them off with delight.

“Heh, and then one day a problem arose.” He frowned. “That guy almost stopped me. He locked me up in nowhere and turned me into nothing . But this time there’s nothing he can do.” The dog turned his head towards the sound of a portal opening.

Reaper walked out of the portal, dragging scientist Sans by the collar of his shirt.

“Alive, just like you’ve asked,” Reaper said.

Sci saw Ink and clenched his teeth. He saw Dog, and his knees shook. However, the scientist sighed deeply, pulled himself together, straightened his glasses and found it in him to smile.

“Hello, egghead.”

“Hello to you too, false god,” Sci mumbled, twisting out of Reaper’s grasp and taking a few steps away from him. If he was still alive, then they still needed him for some reason, so, since murder and torture weren’t forthcoming, he’d backtalk while he can.

“Gotcha?”

“Got me,” the scientist admitted.

“You see,” Dog pointed at Ink with his paw, “I’ve got your creation right here. You’ve lost.”

Ink flinched, squinted at Sci and a shadow of surprise managed to enter his gaze. He was Sci’s creation? What the hell? What was that dog talking about? What was going on?

Sci was surprised as well, then he smirked and burst into laughter. He laughed till he was crying, till he was wheezing — he laughed like a madman, and his grin almost split his face in two.

Reaper was considering smacking the lunatic with his scythe, when the other wheezed:

“Who knows, Dog, if I’ve lost or not. Who knows. Up until you reset the Multiverse, my pawn will remain on the board.”

Chapter Text

Dog only snorted at the scientist’s claim, and Reaper forced Sci to fall to his knees.

“Quit rocking the boat, or you’re dust.”

“I’d rather you broke his arms and legs,” the dog barked. “I want him to see how everything he’d lived through, everything he’d sacrificed was all for naught. I want him to see me come back to power. Ugh,” the dog wrinkled his nose, “you really made a mess, didn’t you?”

The white dog started to walk in circles — a circle around Ink, then a circle around Sci and Reaper, and one around Ink again — listing what he thought the mess entailed:

“The boundaries between the worlds are glass-thin. The characters keep visiting each other. There’s zero quality and quantity control when it comes to AUs. The worlds are created spontaneously, by whoever so desires and in whatever way they want! This is a total chaos! I wouldn’t have let this happen.”

The dog growled.

“Once I regain control of the Multiverse, I’ll bring it back to order. There will be only perfect finished worlds, ready to show the same story over and over again. And, of course, that Multiverse will have no place for unplanned garbage like you,” the dog pointed at Ink with his paw, “or your friend here.” He pointed at the scientist. “The same goes for all the other outcode uncontrollable idiots! The Multiverse should stay in perfect order — no surprises!”

Ink winced a bit at a thought that slipped through his mind. A Multiverse like that — one without any surprises, without his dear Error, without the scrappy Nightmare, without the friendly Dream, without the smug Core, without the petty Fresh — that Multiverse would have been boring. A world without surprises wouldn’t have been alive.

Then he was surprised by the news of Sci being an outcode. How could that be? Ink had checked before: Sci was born in his own universe and tied to it. He had never left it before — not even when invited as a guest — and always followed the flow of his AUs story, never going against what’s canon.

Sci didn’t comment on himself being called out as an outcode, but he didn’t like the idea of returning to the previous world order either, and he voiced his thoughts:

“Nothing good came out of your rules last time. And now you’ve decided to step on that same old rake again?”

His free-spirited remark earned him a shaft of the scythe to the skull. He bowed his head low again to the dog’s delight:

You are my old rake, and this time you can’t stop me. So enjoy your front-row view of this show. We’ll have the time to talk later. I’ll turn your life into living Hell, endless and full of pain.”

Sci snorted:

“A world full of endless resets. What could be worse than that kind of Hell?’

The dog didn’t answer. He turned his furry head towards the stained-glass window and looked into the play of light and shadow beyond the glass.

The Judgement Hall — or, actually, the Hall of Creation — took up an unexpected space. It existed neither in the Anti-Void, nor in the Void. It wasn’t a separate universe. It wasn’t a subspace of an existing AU, unlike the Core or the Save Screen. This Hall seemed to rise above all of those things, watching over everything like a God — yet it remained closed off and hidden until the right moment came.

Despite its former glory, the Hall of Creation looked abandoned and ruined. Parts of it floated into the subspace and turned to dust. Only one room was left out of the nine there used to be — and even that one was pieced together from shards, like a mosaic. The floor was covered in cracks, the pillars were chipped, the ceiling had pieces missing, showing off the iridescent underbelly of the Multiverse.

Ink stared at the iridescent shine of the mysterious forces. It enchanted him and brought the last shreds of his attention to itself. Yet even despite the apathy and admiration, the skeleton found it in him to focus when Reaper and Dog’s conversation touched upon Error.

“We should be wary of the destroyer.”

“How many times have you warned me about him already?” The dog huffed in displeasure. “He’s just a stupid anomaly, who got a stupid idea stuck in his head and ran with it.”

“But he’s a powerful anomaly — as powerful as I am. And he’s unpredictable. And his power is slightly similar to yours: he can take over someone’s soul and control that monster like a puppet.”

Dog growled:

“How dare you compare my power over you — pathetic monsters — and those tricks he does with strings! Enough!” The dog stomped his paw. “I’ve told you he’s not worth my attention. And once the Multiverse resets, he’ll be gone, just like all the other outcode freaks.”

Error will disappear, and so will all the others? Ink clenched his jaw and tried to move again, but his body refused to obey him.

Screens appeared before the dog, showing off different Frisks going through their Genocide routes.

“Only five more hours left, give or take,” Dog said, pleased, and kneaded his paws in anticipation. “I can’t wait!”

With great effort Ink managed to move his finger and even moved his hand just a little bit. He squinted at the scientist and saw him grip his lab coat so hard that his hands were shaking. He looked at Dog, then at the Hall’s entrance, and at the dog again — as if he was waiting for something. Someone.

He met Ink’s stare and his eyes filled with regret. Sci mouthed, We’re sorry.

For what? Ink wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

The dog snorted and snapped at Sci:

“The artist wants to know why you feel guilty.”

Ink shuddered: What, he can read thoughts?

“Only yours!” Dog sneered. “Or did I forget to tell you?” the dog smiled smugly. “I know everything that you know, artist. It just so happens that that egghead,” a nod towards Sci, “put my ability to preserve life in AUs into you — or, rather, not into you, but into your soul.

“Oh! You’re surprised. Very surprised! You didn’t know you have a soul? Or, rather, you don’t know where it has gone to? Hah!” The dog let out a shrill laugh, then turned towards the scientist. “We’ve got some time left, so tell him your story, scientist. And you, artist, better listen! You’ll like it. And I will too. I’ve always wondered just how you’ve pulled that trick off. So, scientist, we’re waiting for that story.”

To ensure the storyteller got more talkative, Reaper pulled him up by the collar and set him down onto a newly-created bone chair.

“So? We’re waiting!”

Sci sighed, smiled at some thought of his and started his story from the very beginning, since the longer he’d spend telling the story, the longer he’d have the attention of those Multiversal pests.

Chapter Text

Once upon a time there lived a skeleton. His name was Sans. He lived in a world where everyone was obsessed with scientific research.

Sans showed great curiosity and smarts since childhood. That skeleton persistently — too persistently sometimes — followed his goals, and one day he peaked — became the Royal Scientist.

Though what difference did the past make, if right now he was laying on the marble floor of the Judgement Hall, bleeding out. He was dying. He died.

And then he opened his eyes again and saw the ceiling of his home. He heard his dear brother’s voice and, after having breakfast with the other, left to do the job he adored.

Perhaps, he’d only dreamed the human and all those deaths? Probably so. Otherwise, why was he at the lab table again, working on research that he already knew the results of?

Was it a dream?

The human comes again, and his brother loses his life for the second time.

“Papyrus, do you need anything?”

And again, the familiar ceiling. His brother calls him downstairs for breakfast. His job, again, and that same research, bearing the same results.

How could this be a dream?

Sans was going insane in his search for the answer. He scared his friends and his brother with his weird questions. They considered him insane and locked him up. Then he died, and everything started all over.

Ceiling. Breakfast. Brother. Work. Human. Death.

Sometimes the human didn’t come for a while. Day, two, month, three, four, five. By the sixth month they always stormed the monsters’ lives and turned the poor people into dust.

Sans had always been headstrong. He fought. He refused to give up and continued to search for answers.

Why was this happening? How could he stop it?

One day he considered something incredible: What if Gaster was right, and their universe wasn’t the only one? What if it was possible to reach the other universes and ask for help — or for some answers, at least? The old man had even built a machine that was supposed to prove the existence of alternate universes, but he didn’t have the time to use it: the Core became Gaster’s gravestone.

Sans was filled with determination, and one day he managed to get Gaster’s machine to work.

What did the skeleton expect? Being greeted with open arms? A bullet to the head? An explosion of reality itself? The end of the Multiverse? Perhaps. But what he didn’t expect was a guest to appear behind his back.

“Howdy.”

Someone pulled out the power cord, and the machine went dead and closed the portal.

Slowly, Sans turned around and saw… a dog. The very dog his brother brought home one day. The pup that sometimes visited their house to gnaw on their bones. The tiny white and fluffy dog. And that fluffy dog was talking to him.

“I’ve said ‘hello’. Well-mannered monsters are supposed to say ‘hello’ in return.”

Sans slapped himself in the face. The vision of the dog didn’t disappear.

“I guess the portal causes hallucinations,” the scientist mumbled. He kept groping for the medical kit, that was sitting on the table, without taking his eyes off the pet.

“Did you hear that? He thinks we’re a hallucination.”

The dog was talking not to him but to someone behind him.

Sans swiftly turned around and screamed in surprise: he came face to face with himself — a different version of himself, wearing black clothes and holding a scythe on his shoulder. That was surely the proof of the existence of alternate universes, in the flesh.

“God.” The skeleton uttered a wheezing sob.

“How did you guess? You’ve got the deathly bone some God before you. And fluffy there.”

“Hey.” Dog jumped onto a table. “Keep talking like that, and you’re getting demoted. Anyway, we can talk about your behavior later. First we need to explain something to our scientist friend.”

Sans jerked away, knocking a table over. Piles of calculations spread over the floor as the terrified skeleton pressed himself into a corner.

“Who… what… how… who are you???”

They were coming closer and closer, making Sans’s soul beat harder with every step they took. His soul was racing so hard it felt ready to shatter and fall to the floor through his ribs.

“We are the pillars of the universes. I’m the creator and the destroyer. You can call me God — I won’t mind. That’s flattering and all, you know.” Dog tilted his head to the side and stuck out his tongue. It would’ve seemed cute were it not for the words he was saying. “And we’ve come to you because you’ve been a bad boy.”

The black-wearing skeleton laughed. He was burning holes in Sans with his disgusting, slippery stare, and he was no less scary than the talking dog. However, Sans had always been as stubborn as a mule, and that mule couldn’t believe what he was being told without some proof to back it up.

“Gods? God? I… don’t believe you. Prove it.”

The dog let out a barking laugh and said:

“Reaper, prove to him that you’re the god of death.”

The one called Reaper took a step forward.

To hell with proof!

Sans rushed towards the door on all fours, got up. The door was only a few steps away when… He stopped. He couldn’t move a single bone.

“You didn’t really think you’d be allowed to leave without permission and without the proof?” The dog snorted. “And, yes, since you’re my creation, you’re completely under my control. All of your universe is. Until death do you part.”

Reaper walked around Sans to stand in front of him, so that the scientist could see the face of his death, and reached forward with his hand.

Sans jerked, shivered and did his best to break out of the other’s control and run away — but he couldn’t. The hand was getting closer. The sound of his thrashing soul was getting louder, and here it was — the momentary touch.

No pain. Nothing. Only the familiar ceiling of his room again. His brother calls for him to come have breakfast. He needs to go to work and finish his research, that has become completely meaningless. Because the human will come. Meaningless! Because he can’t call for help. Because no one will help. Because his universe is ruled by a cruel creator.

His universe?

Sans knew how to repair the machine, and he turned it on again.

“Looks like one lesson wasn’t quite enough for him.”

“Guess I didn’t dream it, huh?” The scientist wasn’t quite as scared the second time around, though his knees were still shaking. “I just wanted to make sure.”

“Is he lying?” Reaper asked.

“Partially,” Dog confirmed. “But we should repeat the lesson just so that he wouldn’t think of breaking the rules again.”

“I…” Sans smiled: quiet and painless death didn’t seem scary to him anymore. “I was just checking, honest. I thought you were a dream. So you are Gods?”

“Yep.” Reaper threw a questioning look at Dog: How do we punish the culprit?

“With pain.” The dog smiled.

Sans gulped. He instantly felt uneasy, but he didn’t take such a risk out of sheer curiosity, so he hurried to ask:

“Are you the gods of all the worlds in this Multiverse?”

For some reason Dog didn’t like this question. He growled:

“Yes, I have full reign over this Multiverse and every world within it. And I will keep it and people like you under control. So remember this lesson, and remember it well, because if you repeat your mistakes… It’ll hurt worse.”

Sans prepared himself for torture, but none came his way. Dog and Reaper simply vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. However, before the scientist could sigh in relief, his phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Sans!” It was Papyrus calling. “I’m so scared, Sans! Help me!!! I don’t know why I’m doing this!!!”

Everything inside him went cold with fear. They weren’t going to torture him .

Sans teleported to a horrifying image: His brother was standing in the kitchen,and there was a knife in his hands, but instead of cutting a steak he was slashing at his own bones.

One swing — and a phalanx flies to the side. Papyrus is screaming in terror and pain, but he can’t stop hurting himself, so he swings again.

Sans can’t stop him. His feet are frozen to the floor again, and yet again he’s under the pressure of someone else’s will. He watches his brother mutilate himself, cutting off finger after finger while he’s still able to hold the knife, then he breaks his own ribs.

He calls for Sans, calls for help, swallowing blood mixed with screams.

But Sans doesn’t move. Tears blur his vision, and he barely sees his brother fall to the floor — straight onto the blade.

Papyrus survived. But he didn’t get up from the bed anymore, almost never spoke and never asked for anything. He needed to be spoon-fed like a baby.

For the first time in his life, Sans begged for the human to hurry up and kill everyone — come and end it all, so that the damned story could start from the beginning, so that Sans could wake up again and hear his brother’s voice calling him down for breakfast, so that he could see his brother healthy and happy again.

For the first time ever, the human’s arrival was delayed. Five years went by without them making an appearance.

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” was what Sans heard one morning.

“Yes.”

The human came the next day.

The familiar ceiling. His brother is calling him downstairs for breakfast. Time to go to work.

Did he give up? Did he give in?

Really?

Just like the other Sanses from those other universes? Would he let the mutt and his dark alternative break him — someone so smart and headstrong? The others must’ve broken, or they would’ve taken care of that mutt a long time ago!

Sans felt like a crab stuck inside a bucket along with others of his own kind. The crabs can’t climb out of the bucket and drag him to the bottom, time after time. They trample his dead body with their tiny legs until they die themselves, and other crabs start climbing up their bodies.

If he were to be a crab, he’d be the one that climbed out. Let his way up be built on corpses — but he would succeed! It didn’t matter what price he’d have to pay.

And pay the price he did. Instead of restoring Gaster’s machine, he built a different one and met Dog and Reaper again. They broke a few of his bones, killed all of his friends — or, rather, first they were made to assault his poor brother, and only then they killed each other.

This time Sans didn't wait for the human to come. He killed his brother himself, then locked himself inside his lab and worked for a long while — or, maybe, he was just sitting there, going insane from loneliness.

Ceiling. His brother calls him downstairs for breakfast. Time to go to work.

“Hey, Sans. You’re going insane.” The skeleton laughed. Everything he’d done so far had amounted to nothing, and he could only laugh at his fruitless attempts.

Apathy. Rejection of everything. Death. Attempt at fighting. Death.

Again, from the beginning. Time after time. Time after time.

And then Sans managed to poke at the fabric of reality and rip it — and Dog and his henchman didn’t come to punish him, so they either didn’t notice or, maybe, were too busy to notice. Either way, it was his chance, and Sans made the most of it.

He tried to open a portal not to a different universe, but to a completely alien Multiverse. He got a chance to open a window to a place, where Dog’s powers didn’t work! The dog himself said that he only controlled this Multiverse and only the worlds within its limits.

Sci worked on this window for a hundred resets, and then spent another year perfecting it. He forgot about everything: his family, his friends, his home world, the human with their damned genocide, his responsibility to execute the human for the deaths of his loved ones. What did it matter whether he stood in the human’s way or not? That kid wasn’t his main problem. All that mattered was to complete the window and find a way to save his world — and, perhaps, even the other worlds.

And now, finally, his research was finished, all the calculations were complete, and the window pulsed like a gut in a cross section.

An entrance to a different Multiverse, that Dog had no control over. A place where he could find help.

All of Sans’s hopes shattered in a heartbeat. Instead of sentient inhabitants the alien Multiverse was filled with disgusting creatures and had nothing in common with his world.

The window stayed open for mere seconds, then it shut, almost killing the skeleton with the resulting shock wave. As a final gift, it spat an unknown lilac tentacled creature at the scientist.

The creature gripped his skull with its tentacles and grinned with its toothy eye-socket, looking for the tastiest place to start with.

Chapter Text

The scientist screamed, ripped the unknown creature off himself and flung it away, then grabbed a mop and scored the most successful goal of his life.

The purple octopus smacked against the wall and pressed itself into a corner like a terrified mouse. Its red and toothy eye glinted as it hissed in its own alien language.

While the creature was disoriented, Sans ran up to it and smashed the wooden handle onto the tiny body, pressing down until something cracked.

“What the hell are you?” He couldn’t hold back the emotional outburst. The scientist groped with his hand for something dangerous enough to kill the creature. Okay. A scalpel. That would do.

As if sensing its impending doom, the octopus shrunk, shut its eye and shivered, pulling all the tentacles in. It reacted like any other living being would. If it could talk, it would’ve been begging: Don’t kill me!

The scalpel was switched for a big lab glass. Throwing the mop away, Sans hurried to cover the creature with the glass. He could always kill it later, but this could be his only chance to examine the alien object while it was still alive.

Relaxing a little, the octopus opened its eye and stared at the scientist with an easily identifiable question in its expression.

“I won’t kill you. It’s my fault you’ve ended up in my world. Just give me some time, and I’ll open up the window again and throw you back. If there even is enough power for that, that is.”

Sans didn’t suppose the purple octopus was sentient. He was just talking to himself, like he often did lately. To his astonishment, the octopus reacted to his words and tried to explain something with gestures.

The octopus started to wag its tentacles and smack them against the glass. It pointed one of them at the machine that created the window and pointed a second tentacle at the skeleton.

“So you’re sentient?!” There was no end to Sci’s surprise. Of course, he’d suspected that there might be different forms of life in the other Multiverse, but he never dared to hope that a life form that looked like that would be able to communicate.

“If you really are sentient, then maybe we could talk? Only I don’t know how.”

The octopus grinned with its toothy eye-socket and wrapped itself into its tentacles. It stared at the skeleton, waiting for something.

“You want me to take away the glass?”

The octopus started to squat and blink. That was about as disgusting as it was funny.

Sci had no way of knowing whether he was doing the right thing, wasn’t sure the creature wouldn’t attack him again, didn’t know what horrible diseases it could be carrying, but… Oh, what the hell! Whatever happened, the human child would come, and the universe would reset like a glitchy game. Again and again.

He lifted the glass.

Slowly, not taking its eye off the skeleton, the octopus crawled up to a table leg and climbed up. It sprawled on the tabletop like a rag, resting. Then it extended one of its tentacles towards the scientist, as if it wanted to seal their truce with a handshake. When the skeleton offered it his hand, it hurried to climb onto it and crawl up to his shoulder. Feeling the skeleton tremble, it started to reach for Sans’s face.

Naturally, the scientist wasn’t happy about it and leaned away. They both froze. The toothy eye-socket squinted. Sans gulped. He wasn’t going to like what was about to happen. However, he was overwhelmed with curiosity, and he allowed the unknown critter to crawl onto his face.

It was pure Hell from that point on.

The octopus swiftly slipped into his eye-socket, like an earthworm, dropped into his chest and bit into his soul.

 

The familiar ceiling.

“Sans, time to get up. You’d better come down for breakfast now, or you’ll be late for work!”

“Coming…” Sans muttered quietly and got up.

And that’s when something, that’d never happened in a single reset, happened. Out from under his shirt fell the purple, one-eyed octopus, hitting his every rib on its way down.

For a moment Sans was at a loss. His mind couldn’t wrap around the probability of this critter making an appearance. After the world was reset, everything should have gone back to normal. Right? But the octopus was right there, at his feet — he could easily step on it and stomp it into the ground. It was lethargic, disoriented and barely moved.

“Well, I’ll be,” the scientist mumbled and picked up his guest from the other Multiverse. He examined the little purple “rag”: four tentacles, toothy eye and minimal energy. “I’ll deal with you later.” He put it into his jacket’s pocket.

He got changed, threw on the jacket holding his guest and went downstairs for breakfast. There he listened to his brother’s reproaches — he was such a lazybones that he was bound to be late today — and sat down at the table. Then another thing, that had never happened in previous resets, happened.

Papyrus set a dog bowl down onto the floor, and a white dog scurried up to it. Dog looked at Sans from the corner of his eye and squinted slyly, then started to chow down the offering as if nothing had happened.

“Oh! The dog’s back?” Sans asked, as if that required an answer.

“Yes. It was scratching at our door today. I wonder where it disappears to now and then.”

Sans gulped, moved farther away from the dog and hurriedly munched on his toast. However, he still wasn’t able to finish his breakfast before his brother.

“Bye, Sans. Don’t be late.”

The front door clicked shut, and Dog and the skeleton were left alone.

“So? What have you done this time?” Dog asked, curious.

“Nothing.” He was frantically trying to come up with an excuse. “Last time I had an accident during an experiment and died. So I couldn’t have done anything!”

Sans pressed his hand to his pocket, but he didn’t feel the captured creature inside it. Where was that thing?

“Really?” Dog returned his muzzle to the bowl and licked it clean. “What kind of an experiment was it?”

If Sans was scared before, now he was terrified. He desperately lied:

“An ordinary experiment. I was trying to increase the energy output of the Core, thought I’d use a different metal as basis. I tested it under controlled conditions in my lab, and it didn’t work. Or, rather, it worked badly.”

“Weren’t you scared of dying?”

Sans let out a hysterical chuckle:

“I knew I’d wake up alive at some point.”

“And you’re telling the truth?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe you.” Dog grinned and ordered, “Take off your jacket and give it to me.”

Sans did as he was told. Dog started to sniff at the jacket so diligently, as if he was looking for illegal substances. His expression, which showed zeal at first, was now thoughtful and alarmed. He looked at the scientist and demanded:

“Undress. Fully.”

A minute later the skeleton was standing before the dog absolutely bare, and a maniac in dog’s clothing was sniffing at his clothes. He even sniffed at the skeleton himself.

“Why was that necessary???” Sans tried to sound as indignant as possible.

“Just because.” The dog’s expression remained thoughtful as he vanished.

Sans dressed up in haste and ran around the house, as if all the demons of Hell were chasing him.

“Hey, you! What’s your name! Octopus! Where are you?” But he didn’t find the missing guest.

Then he realized the octopus could have crawled onto his brother during breakfast and was now with him.

The moment that thought popped in his head, Sans teleported.

Papyrus worked in the same building Sans did, but on a different floor. He worked in tech development with Alphys.

Sans appeared on Papyrus’s floor, ran up to his lab and burst inside without knocking.

“Bro, are you okay?”

Papyrus was okay — but only at first glance. He was standing with his back to the door and feeling around the table like a blind man, moving his fingers over different objects: paper, stapler, pen, pencil, chocolate wrapper.

“Bro???” Sans’s voice shook. He could see something was wrong.

“Bro? What is it, brother?”

Papyrus turned around, and Sans flinched. That very octopus was sitting inside the younger skeleton’s skull. As if mocking him, it poked its tentacles out of the eye-sockets and moved them around.

“You… You… What the hell are you?”

Papyrus — or, rather, the creature that was sitting inside him and controlling his body — thought about it. It spent a ridiculously long time thinking — it would’ve been enough to make, cool and drink a cup of hot tea.

“I guess you could call me a parasite.” The octopus finally came up with an answer.

“Wow, look who’s just invented a wheel! Of course, you’re a parasite!”

“Really?” Papyrus showed surprise and became thoughtful again, then said something weird, “Hard. Understanding everything. You are weird. Skeletons. These bones. These souls. Everything on the outside. And so fragile. But it turns out we match well.”

“Match?” the scientist spat venomously. “Get out of my brother, now!!!” Sans grabbed a mop, stared at it in confusion and tossed it away. A bone materialized in his hands.

The parasite didn’t react to the show of aggression. It remained standing and thinking, and only a minute later it said:

“No. He’s mine.”

Such a claim made Sans choke.

“What do you mean, yours?”

“Well, you said ‘my brother’. But since you weren’t possessing him, I possessed him. So he is mine. That means he is my brother now.”

Sans needed a moment to grasp the alien logic, and he still couldn’t fully understand it. However, they’d run out of time for thinking and arguing. There was someone scratching at the door with a very familiar paw.

Sometimes the dog visited Papyrus in his lab. The younger skeleton had told his older brother about it before. And the older brother had forgotten all about it.

Chapter Text

Sans felt his soul drop. He struggled to make a decision — who to save and how? He almost considered this choice impossible, when he suddenly realized the simple yet cruel truth.

Why should he save Papyrus?

A reset would come, and his brother would call him downstairs for breakfast. Besides, that octopus, it seemed, couldn’t hold onto a host body through a reset, so nothing would happen to his brother anyway. Perhaps, Papy would wake up, see the purple creature and squish it like a cockroach — and only then would lament killing such an interesting previously undiscovered specimen.

That would be a waste. A waste of a parasite. Perhaps the creature could help him escape the endless cycle — or, at least, could help him learn more about the phenomenon, because the parasite had somehow survived the reset and kept its memory, just like Sans… He needed to research this! That parasite had to be saved!

“Listen here,” the skeleton whispered angrily, “behind that door there’s a creature that will annihilate us both. And, while I will suffer but will also return in the next timeline, I wouldn’t be so sure about you. You’re a guest — and who knows what Dog thinks about uninvited guests. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sit them down at a table to feed them spaghetti.”

The octopus was quick to come to some conclusions. Papyrus opened his mouth wide, and the octopus crawled out, jumped onto Sans and hid under his clothes. Just in time.

Before Sans could shudder in disgust, he was overwhelmed by a different emotion. He watched his brother turn to dust, and the only thing he could feel was regret. His brother died way too often, coating the older skeleton’s fingers in way too thick a layer of dust. His deaths were just too terrifying.

So a death so quiet almost slipped past Sans’s heart. He only sat beside the cooling pile of clothes and scooped up a bit of dust, rubbed it between his fingertips, licked it without thinking and laughed, realizing he’d finally gone insane.

“I see I’ve got some bad timing.” Dog stood inside the room. The door remained closed, so he must’ve used a shortcut. He restlessly sniffed at the air, feeling a thin thread of alien scent, and he didn’t like that scent. The dog had already checked Sans, his house and his lab, but he still hadn’t found the source, which meant that whatever was happening in this world, it required more radical measures than usual.

“Yep.” Sans could no longer control his expression; it was stuck in a painfully wide grin of a psychopath. “I’ve just saved my brother from suffering, you see.”

The dog sat down, tilted his head to the side and looked at the skeleton’s jaw in surprise: a few specks of dust still remained there.

“I have a proposition, scientist,” Dog said, burning holes in the skeleton with his odd stare.

“I’m all ears,” Sans threw his arms to the sides, blowing his brother’s dust around a bit. “By the way, where’s Death? I figured the white God always has his black henchman by his side?”

The dog winced so hard it looked like it was about to throw up a hairball.

“The black henchman is with his ‘glitchy cutie that looks so good covered in injuries of different severity and who won’t ever face an easy death’. He’s at his lover’s.”

The statement brought forth a wave of laughter. Sans couldn’t believe Death had the ability to love anyone.

“And what’s the poor soul’s name?”

“Geno… Ah, enough! I have a serious proposition for you.” The dog stomped his paw, growling quietly.

Sans was forced to break one of his own fingers: the pain helped stop the hysterics and take what he was told seriously.

“Just tell me already, what do you want to do to me this time?”

“True reset.”

Dog said it as if offering him a solution for all his problems, fears and pains — just hold out your hand and grab it. But the skeleton didn’t believe in free gifts.

“What do you mean?”

“Your whole world will clear of errors, and you will lose the memory of everything that’s happened to you. You’ll get a fresh start — otherwise, it seems, you’re going to go crazy soon.”

He could lose the memory of the nightmare that’d happened, forget how he died, how his friends and his brother suffered…

For a moment, Sans hesitated. He wished he could forget, but he knew that oblivion wasn’t going to solve his problems. He would forget, but the resets wouldn’t stop. The human would come again, and the cycle would repeat itself. This God wouldn’t go anywhere; he would continue watching Sans and punishing him.

“Why do you care so much all of a sudden?”

“Let’s just say, I’m in a merciful mood today. I’m ready to admit that I might have overdone it with the lessons aimed at your stubborn inability to play by the rules.”

The skeleton snorted. He didn’t believe a single word.

“Thanks for caring. It’s so obvious you do, and it’s making me sick.”

“Don’t sass me,” the dog growled.

“Yeah-yeah, I won’t. But I don’t want to lose my memory yet. Later, perhaps. I still have an experiment waiting for me.” That said, Sans walked past the dog, throwing, “Say hello to Reaper and his miserable lover for me.”

The dog growled at his back but didn’t confront the rebel. There was a lot of work to be done in other worlds and with other Sanses. This one wasn’t going anywhere — no matter how much he wished he could.

 

Sans burst into his lab and immediately started to grope under his clothes in search of the parasite, but the octopus hid behind the ribs and got dangerously close to his soul. The white upside down heart beckoned it with its pure light. It watched, unblinking, overwhelmed with greedy desire.

Sans squeamishly shook the parasite out of his chest and, without further ado, picked it up by one of its tentacles. He threw it onto the table and froze with a silent question written on his face.

“Dammit! I can’t talk to you like this.” The skeleton ground his teeth. His thinking capabilities had long since gotten worse: the stress was getting to him.

Sans hummed: Time to stop hesitating when it comes to moral choices. I’m in no position to do that. He thought about it. The octopus was a parasite and could speak in a language he understood only when it had a body. So he needed to give it a body.

Almost none of the employees were at their workstations so early in the morning, but there was a scientist who never left. She practically lived in the lab, since she had everything she needed right here: a TV and an easy access to anime.

“Alphys, come see me.”

One call — it was so easy. He didn’t even need to get blood on his hands — only stand and watch the lizard enter and squeak in fear before she could even ask a question. Then she choked and changed — the parasite leaped down her throat and took over its new host.

“This body isn’t as comfortable. And I don’t like her soul.”

“I’m not worried about your comfort here,” Sans huffed and hurried to get to work on Gaster’s machine so that he’d be able to open a gap between the worlds. He didn’t want to look at Alphys. His decision had just killed her, and her soul was still beating, but not for her.

“I see. But you didn’t save me out of kindness.”

“Of course not! I want you to help me, and I’ll help you in return. But first, I’m going to hide you. That dog can smell you, so you can’t stay here.”

“So where should I hide?” The parasite gave the bottom of a trash can an appraising look.

“In an alternate universe.”

The scientist heard neither words of awe nor questions, so he continued to weld wires inside Gaster’s old machine.

The parasite said in Alphys’s voice:

“That dog. I felt it. He’s dangerous. A lot stronger than me. Like a queen.”

Sans noted that the octopus was getting better at understanding speech and talked with more confidence now — and all that after only a short time spent in a new Multiverse. So he concluded: the parasite was gaining knowledge straight from souls.

“And you are not a queen?”

“No. I’m…” The parasite tried to choose a fitting word. “Ordinary.”

“Like a worker ant?”

“Yes. But I can be special. Hm, I don’t like this lizard’s soul. But there’s a lot of information in her head. What’s hentai?”

Sans almost tore out a cable in surprise. He cursed and tried not to get distracted like that anymore.

“Do you eat souls?”

“No. They fall apart on their own. And as they fall apart, they ‘tell’ me things. Can’t survive me. Don’t want to be with me.”

“Duh, you’re a parasite. Who’d want to be with you?” Sans snorted.

“I wonder as well: who would? I need to search. When I find them, I can have offspring. A lot. And then I will be with everyone, and everyone will be me. Together forever.”

Sans threw a wary glance over his shoulder and returned to his work. He’d learned to fish out the information he needed through innocent conversations just like that — and use it. Sans figured he could call himself a psychopath now, since he didn’t feel any remorse at the thought that the world he’d unleash the parasite onto was quite possibly doomed. Thousands of innocents would die.

“So, I’ll let you into an alternate universe, and you’ll infect it?”

“Yes. First I’ll find a mate. Then the world will become mine.”

“And then Dog will come and kill all of you,” the scientist shattered its dreams.

This time the parasite was able to show strong emotions on the face of its host. The thought of itself and its young disappearing at Dog’s wish had Alphys’s expression go crooked.

“Will you help me?”

Wow, he’s trusting. Or is he just as calculating as I am? Sci thought. Either way, I need to make use of it while I still have the chance. And then… Better the octopus parasite than the white and fluffy God.

“You want a world all to yourself?” Sans faced the parasite and was surprised at how different the parasite-possessed Alphys looked: she didn’t curl into herself, didn’t fidget, kept her back straight and her arms akimbo, and a supernatural purple light was flowing from her eyes. “Your own world? Where you’re the boss of yourself and your ‘children’?”

“Yes. That is my desire.”

“Then help me get rid of that motherfucker! Help me find a weapon to defeat Dog. There’s none in this world. I’ve looked. Maybe, there is one in a different universe.”

“Looks like I’m your last hope.” Parasite Alphys crossed her arms.

“We’re each other’s last hope,” Sans chuckled unhappily. “Or did you think you’d find many psychos ready to help an alien invader?”

The parasite shrugged. It hadn’t seen much in this life so far, but it realized it was very lucky to end up here. Here, in this new Multiverse, it wasn’t one of the millions of cells that got separated from the queen. It had a chance to become its own person and a progenitor to a new colony. That was incredible luck.

And the only thing it needed to do was to get rid of one single enemy.

“I will cooperate with you. I will help. I don’t know how much time I’ll need, but that doesn’t matter. You can count on me.”

Sans let out the breath he was holding. He was halfway there.

“It might happen that I’d lose my memory…”

“I heard that. And understood. If you forget me… I’ll remind you of myself. I will keep reminding you for a long time. I can be persistent.”

The skeleton couldn’t hold back a smile. He set up the parameters for one of the worlds. He remembered seeing a bit of greenery and a piece of sky through the window — and what did it matter that the pieces he managed to see had a psychedelic colouring to them.

“Then good luck. To both of us.”

The window of the portal appeared, and the parasite, wearing Alphys’s body, rushed into it, instantly disappearing behind the blurry edges.

Sans clicked the off switch. Not willing to wait for Dog and his punishment, he pushed his hand into the tangle of wires inside the machine.

His body shook from the volts running through it. His soul turned to dust before his guests could come bursting into his lab.

He was so tired...

Chapter Text

The suicide didn’t save him, and this time it wasn’t Papyrus suffering, but Sans himself. He would’ve loved to forget that awful week of Hell like a bad dream, but he kept telling the fluffy god one thing:

“I want to finish an experiment. It would be a shame to forget about it.”

“Why would you care if you won’t remember it?” Dog scratched his ear with his hind paw and lay down on the skeleton’s chest again. “Show me what you’ve got, and maybe I could give you a hint. You know, I watch different Sanses, and I could have seen a solution in their work.”

“No. I want to reach the solution myself.”

“And if you won’t?”

“Well, then I’ll really need help.”

Once, when the scientist still thought Dog was just a pet, he liked petting him, but now he only wanted to break the bastard’s neck. But he couldn’t. The string that tied his being to the God’s power tightened inside him. It wouldn’t let him do anything that could hurt Dog.

Sans discovered that string during the week of torture. The moment he thought about hurting Dog, it tightened, wrapped around his soul, and the stronger was his desire to hurt the dog, the more the string tightened — until it finally paralyzed Sans’s body.

He practically became a puppet on strings, stripped of free will and obedient — not even an actor in the dramatic theater of the Underground, no, but an obedient puppet. Just the way the God wanted him to be.

Oh no! No way I’m playing that part! I’ll find a way out whatever it takes! Sans swore to himself.

Finally, Dog grew bored of watching the scientist and vanished.

It seemed like a rebar was lifted off the skeleton’s chest and not a light ball of fluff. For the first time in a while he felt a semblance of freedom.

The dog didn’t appear for a day, two, a week. The world of the Underground was quiet: the child either hadn’t fallen yet or was stuck in the Ruins with Toriel, which happened a lot.

Sans took a shortcut to his lab. First thing’s first, he rushed to Gaster’s machine and made sure it still existed. One of Dog’s threats was the destruction of this machine. Without it the skeleton would have to either cool it or find other ways to further his research and quest for absolution from resets.

He’d tried all sorts of things. Tried to shield the room from possible rays. Tried to mess with biology and chemistry. Tried to find the oscillations of matter before death — his own, others’ or the world’s. Tried to open windows to other worlds more than once. And the only thing he got out of it was pain — a lot of physical and mental pain — and a weird ally, who was doing who-knows-what who-knows-where. Was he even still alive?

Sans shook his head. Off with bad thoughts! Let the machine work!

This time Sans wasn’t going to create a window — which would have earned him Dog’s violence. He had other plans. The moment the machine showed signs of “life”, the scientist hooked its wires up to his computer and fell out of reality — at least, when it came to his own world. He was analysing the data of the world that he’d managed to let the parasite out into.

Zeros and ones. Bytes, gigabytes, mega…

This was the “fabric” the universes were made of. It was clear that nothing irreparable had happened to that universe. The world wasn’t gone — though, judging by the numbers, it hadn’t reset in a long while.

Sans rubbed at his chin, figuring that the purple parasite was behind it. But how had the octopus achieved that? If it had caused any problems, Dog would’ve found out and long since did away with it. However, neither Dog, nor Reaper hadn’t been alarmed once. They had fun crushing the scientist’s bones and discussed a lot of interesting — yet scary and disgusting — things in his presence, but they had never mentioned the parasite.

So what was his ally doing?

Sans let his head fall onto the tabletop, exhausted. Even though he could see the “fabric” of another world, he could do nothing with that of his own.

“Coffee?”

He jumped in place and turned around… Ah, no. That was just Alphys. Not Dog or the psycho with a scythe. Damn them!

“I’d love some.”

Sans caught himself thinking he could look at his colleague without shame. He gave her to the parasite — killed her, literally — but he didn’t feel any remorse. The sins that crawled down his back whenever the skeleton’s inaction caused the deaths of his friends and family — they stopped tormenting him, along with his conscience. Everything inside him was dead. Soon gangrene would set in — and that would be the time to cut off the last of his morality.

“You need to rest more. Even your brother takes breaks…”

If he were to believe what Dog had blurted out once, then in one of the worlds there was a Sans who went so crazy that he killed everyone and ended up one on one with the human. That happened in every reset. It seemed like that Sans liked killing, since he was way better at it than at his useless attempts to protect anyone. That Sans woke up thinking, How do I kill them this time?

Perhaps, he’d turn into someone like him soon?

“Yeah, I probably should, ‘cause I’m starting to get ideas.”

The pained smile of the skeleton made Alphys frown.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Sans shook his head. He asked his friends for help once, told them everything, and they joined forces — but what could regular monsters do against a God? Their rebellion was short-lived, and their demise pitiful.

Dog warned him of the consequences should there be a repeat.

“I didn’t sleep well today. I’m fine.”

He’d never had to lie this much before. He hadn’t been okay in so long — and he would never be again.

 

Days followed one another. The human came and killed everyone. Sans woke up and looked at the familiar ceiling. Breakfast. Work. Dog’s rare visits: he was pleased to see Sans broken and didn’t see a reason to come more often. Even death turned into a routine.

And that went on until one day…

“Heya, bro!”

Sans didn’t even flinch. What did he care who came to his lab this ti… Stars almighty, what is that???

Sans leaped to his feet from where he was sitting at the table, knocking reagents to the floor, and stared at the stranger with eyes wide open. Even the first appearance of the talking dog didn’t surprise him as much as that .

The scientist rubbed his eyes, but the vision of the rainbow visitor didn’t disappear. Pinched himself — no change. Slapped himself in the face, but it was still standing before him: neon-coloured, wearing glasses and holding a skateboard in its hands. Behind this epileptic nightmare, that could only be called clothes by mistake, there was a living being — a skeleton, it seemed, and a Sans as well.

“What was in those flasks? Hallucinogens?” The scientist came to the most logical conclusion.

“Oh! Bro, so our tiny problem messed with ya brains, huh? Dat’s no good. But no worries, Fresh — the cool dude I am — will getcha noggin all fixed in no time.”

“Is this some alien tongue or something? I didn’t get any of that.” Sans shook his head and put out his eyelights for a couple of seconds, afraid he’d go blind from the abundance of colour in front of his eyes. “Who are you?”

“I’m Fresh, dude. Dat’s my name now. Cool, right?”

Thanks to the distraction of the psychedelic colouring of the clothes, Sci only now noticed the weird glasses. They were switching the lines written on them. For example, right now they were showing “Go! Go!” — and a moment later there was a new word glowing: “YOLO”. Whatever that meant.

“That name is… weird. And you’re weird in general. And your clothes are…”

“Rad, right?” The stranger not only used an odd manner of speech, but he also kept gesturing — a lot — and none of the gestures made any sense. “Dat world is a radical place. Everyone’s cool there. All of dem dudes and mates. And I’ve learned much, and tried lots of stuff too! Joints, weed, drugs! And I’ve found da things I like, and I’ve found da machine too. Dere was a Gaster there as well, and he was rad dude.”

“Machine? That world?” Finally, Sans found the words he knew in the emotional stream of the stranger.

“Yeah, but I didn’t use it. You used it, and the fuzzball caught you. I visited da Gaster dude instead. Da tall bruh. And he helped me. It took some time, but I’ve learned to travel da worlds, broski. Sorry I didn’t come ta ya first, but I got kinda lost for a while.”

“Wait!” Sans held his arms up in a protective gesture, then held his head in his hands. He was slowly starting to realize just who was standing in front of him. “Parasite, is that you?”

In response the stranger lifted his glasses and let him see the purple tentacles of the octopus-like creature moving around inside the eye-socket of the possessed body.

“Fresh,” he corrected, putting the glasses back in place. “I’ve chosen ‘Fresh’ as my name. Or, rather, dat’s the name of dis body,” he pointed at himself, “but he kicked the bucket along with his soul, so now his name and body are mine.”

Sans sat down right there on the floor, because he had no strength left in him to pick up the chair. His legs refused to hold him, his head was being stupid, and his hands were shaking. He couldn’t believe he had the parasite in front of him. He thought the bastard had left for good. Wait! If the parasite was here, then…

The scientist practically leaped into a vertical position and started to look around.

Fresh calmed him:

“Fluffy doesn’t know I’m here, bro. He doesn’t know about me at all. Dere was dat one time I was hiding right under his nose, and he didn’t even notice me — just kept wrinkling his nose. My smell is all over da worlds by now, so fluffy dere won’t find my trail. He’s too used to da smell.”

“Wait, give me a moment. And drop the lingo. It makes my head hurt.”

The unfinished coffee came to be very apropos, but right now Sans wanted something stronger. Rubbing alcohol? That would do. Whoa! It kicked the breath right out of him, but also helped him recover from shock.

“So Fluffy didn’t force you to forget?”

“No. Not yet.” Sans was glad, that Fresh had switched to a more intelligible style of speech, and even allowed himself to smile. “But he could reconsider at any moment. I don’t get why he wants me to agree to that myself.”

Fresh picked up the chair that Sans forgot about, sat down on it and started to spin like a playful child — left, right and a full spin.

“Do you want me to tell you why?”

The scientist was surprised.

“Since you have a guess, tell me.”

“It’s not a guess. I know for sure.” Fresh stopped and stared at Sans with a cold, unemotional stare. His glasses were blank. “He’s not a god. He’s a sham.”

Chapter Text

“Sham?” Sans looked at Fresh with horror-filled eyes. “How?”

He couldn’t spill out the whole pile of questions he had — couldn’t utter a word — and the questions persistently knocked on the inside of his head like mad woodpeckers. If Dog, with his power over the inhabitants of the worlds, wasn’t a god, then what was the real Creator of all things capable of? Why did they give up their place, and where did they go?

“Just like that. He simply took the vacated place. You know how it happens: you stand up, you lose your spot, and a fuzzy butt sits in that spot.”

“Wait!” Sans tried taking deep breaths. He had just found out more in a second than he did in all the years full of resets, and it seemed that he was about to have more knowledge and guesses dumped on him. “Give me a second to wrap my head around it.”

Fresh shrugged and looked around, though it seemed like he wasn’t looking at the lab — wow, it’s still the same — but somewhere beyond the walls, beyond this world.

“Rest up. No Dog in sight.”

After a sniff of smelling salts Sans was able to show surprise at such a small thing — though, of course, it was only small compared to everything else.

“You can… sense him?”

“Something like that.” The parasite pulled up both of his legs and sat cross-legged. “I’ve told you, I got some skills. In my own Multiverse, they wouldn’t have let me do that: the competition and the queen — you know the drill. But here I’m the only one fresh like this. There’s no one to stop me.”

Sans thought of his ally’s goals — reproduce and take over a whole universe — and shuddered, but his thoughts immediately went back to their common goal. He even had a thought that was enough to pacify his conscience: one universe was a small price to pay for the wellbeing of the whole Multiverse.

“So what did you mean when you said he’s a sham? Whose place did he take?”

“I don’t know the names.” Question marks appeared on Fresh’s glasses. “I know that one day the primary Creator simply vanished, and left our white and furry bastard behind. He was supposed to be an observer, but Dog wasn’t satisfied with such a small role and took upon himself the powers of…” Fresh stumbled on words and waved his hands as he tried to find the right word, “Creators of worlds. Yes. It’s probably best to call them that.”

The scientist got off the floor and sat on the table, because the scene looked stupid to him. He was the chief terrorist here, yet he was sitting on the floor and wrapping his head around everything while his spy was giving him a report from the heights of the chair.

“Who are they, those Creators of worlds? Are they Sanses as well? Skeletons?”

The parasite smirked:

“No. They don’t have bodies at all. They’re the voices that the dog hears. They’re the power of creation that they give him. They’re thoughts and ideas and the foundation of the worlds. They’re not here and they will never be able to be here. For them, our world is just one of their billion thoughts, one of sextillion ideas floating in the sky — just a game, a tale, a dream. Poof — and it’s gone! Poof — and two new ones appeared!”

Sans scratched his skull in thought and chuckled. He figured now they could consider schizophrenics being able to hear the Creators of worlds, which would make them almost equal to Dog. That thought seemed so hilarious to the scientist that he couldn’t stop laughing for a long time.

The end to that laughter was sudden. Too sudden. It was when Sans thought of contacting the voices, even though he wasn’t sure what to ask them for. How to ask? Would they help? Or would they immediately tell the dog?

“Too much information.” Sans held his head in his hands and tried to handle the piled up questions, which wasn’t working out that well for him: the questions started an orgy and multiplied like rabbits.

Finally, Sans was able to come to certain conclusions:

“Okay, let me get this straight. Dog isn’t a god, but he took the place of one and gained ability to control the worlds through Creators. Right?”

“Your thinking in the right direction, bro!”

“And what do they get out of helping him?”

Fresh spun on his chair and only then answered:

“They get the worlds that they create through him. They like watching them — well, or they could simply enjoy knowing they exist. Who knows with those higher powers? In return they give Dog the right to collect a tax from the worlds — in the form of life energy. Basically, everyone has to die, so that Dog can keep his power — and he needs it.” That’s when Fresh frowned for the first time. “Without his power all of the worlds would turn to dust. In fact, all the worlds in this Multiverse are living off the energy of death. The dog collects and accumulates it, and puts it either into maintaining the existing worlds or creating new ones.”

“So we can’t kill him? It’s impossible to free the worlds?”

The news hit him like a sledgehammer. It broke his fragile bridge of hope with a kick of circumstances and left him to mentally rot before its remainders.

“How is it…?” Sans’s world lost its colours. Nothing had meaning anymore.

“Hey! Bro! Get a grip!”

A couple of hits to his face — with the skateboard, judging by how it felt — and Sans was able to face reality again.

“What does it matter!!!”

“Everything!” Fresh got angry. “You didn’t hear me out to the end, yet you’re already giving up. And I wasn’t even done talking yet. I’ve been spying on the dog for a long while and found out a lot. Ha! He didn’t even notice me, and I was hiding — you’re not going to believe this — in plain sight. Once my smell was everywhere, I even started climbing into Reaper’s clothes.”

Sans was surprised: the parasite took a huge risk, doing something like that. The scientist didn’t expect such a commitment to their cause. He assumed the critter from another Multiverse would find itself a world somewhere on the outskirts of the Multiverse and lead a comfortable life there — or would try to do so, at least… But Fresh turned out to be way smarter and more of a risk-taker.

The parasite went on talking for a long time. He told Sans about thousands of worlds, their problems, their Sanses, their resets. Resets happened in all of the universes, along with death and pain. This tale rekindled the burning desire to fight in the scientist.

No, he wouldn’t give up. It wasn’t about him or his universe anymore — he needed to save the Multiverse from this neverending nightmare.

Just like Sans, Fresh was filled with aspirations and ready to overcome obstacles. He’d already overcome and gained a lot. He had a body. He had thousands of worlds. He could become the most dangerous creature in all of those worlds. But only under one condition — he had to stay out of the dog’s sight, and that was annoying. He should be feared, not scared. Dog had to be eliminated.

“If we kill him, will I become the scariest monster in all the worlds?” The parasite shared his thought with a smile.

Sans laughed bitterly:

“Didn’t think a parasite would know how to joke.”

“And why not?” Fresh didn’t understand what the problem was. “I thought that was our common goal — overthrowing the bastard who made such a mess out of your fresh Multiverse and gets a kick out of it.”

The scientist was surprised to realize that the parasite wasn’t joking:

“You’ve said it yourself: without the motherfucker the worlds wouldn’t have enough energy to exist. I assume, without his energy fuelling them, they’ll just fall apart. Or detonate from the accumulated energy of LOVE. Whichever comes first.”

“I didn’t suggest leaving the worlds without any support.” Fresh waved his hands. His glasses read “Idea!”.

“Do you really have an idea?” The scientist didn’t believe him.

“It’s easy.” Fresh shrugged. “We need to find a replacement for him.”

This was both brilliant and insane. Only an alien would have come up with such an idea. But what the hell? If Dog replaced God at some point, then he could be replaced too.

But how??!!

“Fresh, how do we do that? I’m not mobile — I’m trapped in this world. And you’re not that strong. Though, if you could possess the dog…”

If the parasite had fur, it would’ve bristled. He tensed, as if readying for a leap.

“I’ve tried.”

Sans’s soul almost cracked at that statement. Did Dog know about the parasite, leaving all of his hopes empty?

“No, he didn’t see me.” The parasite hurried to calm down the panicking skeleton. “I watched from the sidelines as a possessed human tried to freshify the dog. But it didn’t work. His body is too unstable.”

“Wait!” Sans was tired of being surprised by now. “How would you be able to watch yourself from the sidelines? Did you find yourself a mate and start to reproduce?”

He saw the mental image of an octopus-filled world. If Dog didn’t see the oddities of the tentacled populace, he was either stupid or blind.

However, as it turned out, neither was the case.

“No, I didn’t find a mate. Even though I’ve tried everyone. So I just made an offshoot out of a part of myself and used it to possess the human. I’m not a Sans and I keep my promises. And I’ve promised the human a fresh time if they continued to be a bad kid.” His grin got painfully wide, and he didn’t continue.

Sans clacked his teeth in surprise. He remembered trying to stop the human, a long time ago. He tried killing them at the beginning of their path, locking them up, holding them back, but it was all for naught. Yet Fresh succeeded.

“So that offshoot tried to possess Dog. But it turned out that Dog can control the populace even when they are possessed. He can even control the dead bodies — a creepy sight.” Despite his words, Fresh was grinning. “He thought there was an error in the universe and forced a true reset, setting that world back to zero.”

“And your offshoot fell out and gave us all away?”

“No.” Fresh snorted. “I only fall out of skeletons. You only have bones and nothing else. After the reset my offspring was left inside the human, and the moment the kid came to, the parasite took them under control again. It enjoys staying with the goatmom, under her care.”

“So that’s why there were no more resets in that universe!” Sans realized, and he was tempted to talk Fresh into making one more octopus for this world’s human. Let it live in the Ruins with Toriel as well and stop torturing the poor populace. However, he stopped himself right there. He couldn’t do that! Dog visited this world way too often, and he’d immediately notice the changes and look into the reasons behind them.

It wasn’t an option.

“So he can set the world back to zero… So that means, he can even erase my memory?”

“Only if you ask him yourself. Well, or give up under torture.” Fresh clarified. “I don’t know why he needs the Sans’s permission for it — seems like it’s a power given to Sanses by the first Creator themself. And Dog can’t do anything about it.”

I keep thinking about all the wrong things! How can we defeat the dog and who can we replace him with?

“I can’t fight the dog. Could you snap its neck somehow?”

“One person pulled that off.” Fresh said. “Geno. He’s a Sans that doesn’t belong to any of the worlds.”

That name sounded familiar. Geno? Geno?! Wasn’t that Reaper’s lover?

“I need more details, Fresh. What’s with that Geno?”

“Oh! He’s a fun guy. Just like you. One major difference: death doesn’t rape you using any hole he can find.”

Sans shuddered. He remembered the description Dog gave to that poor soul: “glitchy cutie that looks so good covered in injuries of different severity and who won’t ever face an easy death”. A lump formed in his throat. His own fate seemed quite nice by comparison.

While the scientist recovered from the conclusions he’d made, Fresh went on:

“Just like you, he tried to fight resets and ended up thrown out of his own world. Not all of him, just a shard. I’ve seen it myself — that guy has a shard for a soul.” The parasite showed the size of the poor guy’s soul, and Sans instinctively grabbed at his own aching chest. He felt as if he only had a shard of his soul left as well, and the mutt chewed off the rest. “So, one day he lost it, and when Dog came to visit, he attacked him! You should’ve seen that! The furball couldn’t do anything to stop him. Fur was flying everywhere! If Reaper hadn’t intervened, the god would’ve been torn to shreds with that guy’s bare hands.”

“It’s a pity he wasn’t… But why was he able to attack him?”

“From what I’ve gathered from a conversation between Dog and Reaper, the characters that lose their worlds lose the strings that linked them to those worlds. And the dog can’t control them without the strings. No world, no strings, no Dog’s control.”

Sans repeated the parasite’s words like a mantra:

“No world, no strings, no Dog’s control.” And a terrifying thought came to his mind. What if he didn’t have a world as well? “Even so. We still need to figure out the dog’s replacement. Who do we replace him with and how?”

Fresh shrugged and waved his hand to show he had no good ideas to offer:

“Ask the voices.”

And his words were taken seriously:

“Okay. Let’s ask the voices.”

Chapter Text

Sans didn’t know how many resets had passed. He stopped counting. He lost any contact with his world, his friends and family. His life narrowed down to the limits his office, and his social circle was limited to Fresh, who brought new intel on a regular basis, and Dog, who visited the scientist to make sure the other really gave up and wasn’t going to rebel anymore — he came, watched, understood nothing and left.

Unlike Dog, Reaper didn’t limit his visits to observing and tried to pull the scientist into a conversation, make him nervous, scared or even provoke him into attacking. However, Sans chose the strategy of “ I don’t care, you’re a hallucination, ” and masterfully ignored his aggravators, even when they trashed his lab in attempts to gain his attention. Or peed on the carpet — that happened!

His friends worried, called the doctors, broke down his door and put him under house arrest.

It failed to make him care, stopped having any meaning. He could always kill himself, wake up in the morning of the next cycle and continue his attempts to contact the mysterious voices.

And he tried. Till insanity. Till exhaustion — he even died from it twice, to Fresh’s utter delight. The parasite applauded such dedication.

And the day came when a Creator answered.

Sans put on the helmet he’d created in his work, turned the computer all the way up and sat without moving for three days. He was quietly thankful, that the godly duo didn’t come to visit during those days, but also growing angry thinking that he’d fail again. And that’s when someone unknown slowly repeated his thoughts inside his head:

I can’t do this. No one will like this. I’m just not talented enough.

At first, Sans thought that those voices were the signs of exhaustion, so he answered, talking to himself:

“Get some rest, pull yourself together and try again.”

He was about to take off the helmet when the same voice exclaimed:

Yes! I should rest, put my thoughts into order and try again!

With shaking hands, Sans saved the data of the unknown voice: the frequency of the vibrations, the point of data reception and the power-direction of the signal. He tried to find the voice again, using that data, but failed. Despite that, Sans was almost jumping with joy! He did it! It wasn’t quite clear yet what he did exactly, but he’d heard the voices and managed to instill something into one of them!

The skeleton continued his attempts to contact the Creators of worlds, and fate smiled upon him once more. That was also when Sans found out he couldn’t start a dialogue with the voices. The Creators perceived his words as their own ideas, and they could listen, but they could also ignore what he had to say.

“Better start thinking about what we need to instill into the Creator we manage to reach,” Fresh concluded when he heard the news.

And really, what were they going to instill into them?

They needed to replace a God, but, it seemed, the Creators cared neither about Dog, nor the problems of the Multiverse. They didn’t care who realized their ideas, so any advice they could give would be worthless — but they could be asked for something. What could the Creators of worlds do? Create worlds, of course.

“So, Fresh, spit out everything you know about world creation. And about how it so happens that Dog has power over them. In detail!”

Fresh sat at the familiar table, made tea in a test tube and started to throw facts at him:

“Dog hears the voices and picks the best ideas for the worlds. It’s like winning a lottery, dude. He lets the winner create a world — not just make it out of nothing, but he gives them the power for it.”

“Can a Creator make a world without Dog’s power?” Sans was starting to form an idea.

“Never heard of it. But the fuzzball was angry once; he said, ‘They missed it, the power was wasted’. As in, one Creator tried to do so, but ended up with a sketch instead of a proper world — they didn’t have enough power on their own, and they didn’t get any support. I don’t know the details. But I know that it took Dog a while to find that world.”

“So it’s possible!” the skeleton concluded and gave it some thought. “But what does that mean for us?”

The idea thrashed inside his skull, but it wasn’t ready yet and couldn’t fully form, so Sans worked on it, holding it back until he was done thinking it over.

Fresh had a simpler approach, so he said the first good thought that came to his mind:

“It gives us characters, who aren’t connected to Dog. Even if the resulting world would be imperfect, it wouldn’t be connected with the dog.”

“And we can use one of the inhabitants of such a world to replace Dog…” Sans finished for the parasite and started to think out loud, “Replace the connection? If an inhabitant of that world would have a soul, it could be used to link the worlds, if we shatter it and give each world a shard. That would be a soul without Dog’s strings, so it wouldn’t be connected to him in any way. And the former connection between the worlds and Dog… it needs to be broken!”

Sans was speaking hastily and refused to acknowledge that he was planning a violent murder of an innocent being, complete with torture. The only thing he cared about anymore was ridding the Multiverse of Dog. It didn’t matter what methods he’d have to use.

“About that connection.” Fresh rubbed his chin in thought, and “By the way!” glowed on his glasses. “There is that one amazing place. The space between the AUs isn’t completely empty, and Dog and his few servants live there. So, there’s the ‘Doodle Sphere’ there, where Dog can see the existing worlds. There’s the ‘Crypt’, which holds records of worlds that don’t exist anymore — a scary, dark place. There’s a hall beside it, where Dog talks to the Creators. But the biggest hall is called the ‘Hall of Creation’. That’s where Dog creates worlds, and he’s both at his weakest and at his strongest there.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember how I’ve mentioned the connection between Dog and the worlds? Turns out, it’s very much material, and inside that Hall it becomes visible. The worlds are literally tied to the dog with strings. When Dog creates a new world, those strings can be seen. When he ties a new string to himself, it becomes material. I saw Reaper accidentally cut one of them and get quite an earful from the boss of the whole Multiverse.”

Many ideas went through Sans’s head. Maybe he didn’t need to reach out to the Creators and ask them to create a new world so that he could violently kill a resident of that world for the good of the Multiverse, huh? He could just cut off a string from an existing universe… and torture its inhabitant for the good of the Multiverse.

Sans clicked his tongue at himself for being so narrow-minded and pitying the future victim in advance. He couldn’t just cut off a string of an existing universe — it was a huge, unjustified risk. The dog would instantly notice. But if they used a new world then, according to Fresh’s assurances, it would take Dog a couple of days to find it.

Ah, it was such a pity they couldn’t just use Fresh. But the parasite didn’t have a soul — or he had one, but it was too different. Plus, he belonged to a different Multiverse, so his connection to this one was too fragile.

Their plan grew more precise and was more real than ever. The only thing left was to contact a Creator again, talk them into creating a world, teleport to that world and take a local, who didn’t have a connection. And…!

When Sans shared his plan with Fresh, the other shook his head.

“Pal, I can’t take anyone to a different world. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. I won’t even be able to take you. Travelling between universes takes a huge amount of energy to make the ‘jump’, and you don’t have that at your disposal. Travelling through the Void isn’t an option either. The only ones who can survive there are people on Dog’s support, like Reaper. It’s tough stuff, bro!

“And me? I’m not from your Multiverse, so your laws don’t apply to me.”

The plan was falling apart. How could they pull it off then? Unless…

“And what if I had enough energy, Fresh?”

Fresh laughed at the response, and, after laughing, he said:

“Do you think you’re the first Sans to try escaping the system? Even just to get enough energy for a jump to your neighbors, you’d have to take everything you can out of your own world — all of its energy to the last drop! You’d have to be a desperate psychopa…”

“I am a desperate psychopath.”

Those words became a memorial to the Sans that the scientist buried inside himself. He’d do anything for his goal.

Chapter Text

The parasite froze for a moment, hummed and nodded at his own thoughts, then took off his glasses.

Sans didn’t flinch. He was mentally exhausted and, it seemed, lost his ability to react like a normal, sensible person. He looked into the purple glow of the eye-sockets with a stare of a tired skeleton and felt nothing but the desire to finish what they’d started as soon as possible.

“I can get that much energy if…” Sans was speaking slowly, well aware that once he voiced his thoughts, there would be no going back. He would set a goal, and he would follow through. “Only if… the Core blows up, and this whole world blows up with it!”

The parasite moved inside the eye-sockets; its purple tentacles slipped outside and reached for the scientist — either to grab him or as a show of support.

“You have to make sacrifices, dude. One world is a small price to pay when you’re headed for a greater goal.”

Sans continued to give Fresh a tired look. His words had an air of resignation to them:

“Not just my world, Fresh! At the very least, we’ll have to destroy the newly created world we’re going to take our sacrificial God from. If we follow this plan, we’ll have to destroy two worlds! Two worlds full of life! What does that make me?”

“An abomination, bro!” The parasite gave him an honest answer and put his glasses back on. “Everyone will consider you an abomination.”

The glasses read “Beast”.

Sans turned to a blackboard and started to write down columns of calculations: write, calculate, wipe off, repeat. He never saved anything — everything was wiped off or burned — as he was wary of Dog’s visits. What if he saw them and understood what was going on? Not now, not when victory was so close. Or defeat. What did it matter though? The most important thing was to break out of the same old cycle of repeating days.

The scientist was trying to calculate the momentum that would transport two characters from the new world to the Hall of Creation. Fresh dutifully travelled to other worlds with measuring equipment in hand and returned with data. Turned out, there wasn’t going to be enough energy for two characters to perform a jump.

“You know, I could stay behind in that universe — the one we’re going to have a Creator make. And you could take it from there? Take the sacrificial lamb and go?” the scientist suggested.

That gained an unexpected reaction. Fresh hit him — a simple, man-to-man, punch to the head.

“Do what you want about your conscience, but don’t you dare back out of this,” the parasite demanded. “You can whine all you want about the awful things you’ve done for the good of everyone — but only after we get some of that good for ourselves. I get a world, you get your peace, and the Multiverse gets a new God. Got it?”

Sans got up, wiped the blood off his nose, straightened up the blackboard and smiled.

“You’re right. It’s too early to relax. We need to work out the details of our plan. Though I still have no idea how to transport two characters with only one world’s worth of energy. Though we could destroy one more world.” Sans let out a nervous chuckle. “We’re already going to destroy two worlds — why not make it three?”

“About that…” Fresh straightened his glasses — they showed a long moving line of “Hmmm” — and suggested, “I’ve been thinking. Without a world you’ll be an outcode, just like Geno. You’ll lose the string connecting you with your world and the dog — but it wouldn’t make you a traveller like myself or Reaper, for example. However,” he hesitated, “what if you took Geno’s ability to ‘glitch’?”

“Glitch?” Sans had already found out a lot about his poor Save Screen-dwelling alternative, but he hadn’t heard about the glitches yet.

“Yeah. He’s not exactly a part of the system, which makes him unstable and dangerous for Dog. I assume, that’s why he was locked up in the prison of the Save Screen. That place stabilized glitches and stops him from using his potential.

“But I’m not talking about his fate here — I’m talking about his power. His instability has a side effect. If he had a way out into the Void, he’d be able to slip through the codes with impunity — like a virus in a database. Perhaps, he would’ve been able to infect others too. Either way, he would’ve become a world-traveller.” Fresh continued to describe the various ways the poor half-dead skeleton’s ability could work.

Meanwhile Sans rummaged in old documents. He already knew that Geno’s state was a result of tampering with determination — a pretty positive result, considering he remained his own person and didn’t fuse with anyone. In essence, Fresh suggested he pull off that very fusing, so Sans was reading everything he could find on amalgamates. Sans really didn’t want to become one — a melted, insane, unstable fusion of monsters. However… If that worked…

“If that works,” the scientist whispered and louder added, “Actually, why not? It’s worth a try. You’ve said he’s got a shard instead of a soul. How small is it?”

“Tiny. One ninth, I think. I’m no mathematician.”

“Yeah, you’re a very smart parasite, who understands fractions. Ha! Basically, if we kill Geno first and only use his soul, not his body, then it might work out. That way, if I replace a part of me with that shard, then, maybe, I won’t turn into a melted mess.”

They got right back to work.

 

Amalgamates lived in the basement. They couldn’t be considered unhappy, but they didn’t look happy either. Sans fed them and threw a stick for the merged dogs a few times, which earned him their slobbery gratitude. He spent a long time staring at them, as if trying on that fate, coming to terms with the possible outcome.

“Hah!” he chuckled. “I guess, that’s not the worst that could happen. Well,” he scratched the dogs on their collective head, “soon your story will come to an end, and I don’t know whether it’s good or bad. Sleep. Oblivion. No pain or dreams.”

Sans felt envious. He wasn’t getting any rest in his near future.

This was his third reset spent trying to contact the Creators, estimate the probability of merging that wouldn’t leave him an amalgamate, consider all the finer details of their theoretical plan and not go insane.

To make things worse, the visits of Dog and his henchman started happening more often. Sometimes the henchman came alone.

“Hey, egghead!”

“Hello, Reaper,” Sans greeted, still petting the amalgam of dogs. “Are you here just to mock me, or is it something important?”

Reaper grinned and walked up to him — close enough that they were almost touching.

“It’s important. You’ve been waiting on a full reset of your world for Toby knows how long, and you haven’t made up your mind yet. Why?”

Sans kept on petting the amalgamate and didn’t pay attention to the question. Instead he rambled:

“How long? Really, how long has it been? I wonder if I can consider myself an old-timer now? Or have I outlived everyone I could and become someone even older than that? I have probably developed dementia and other elderly diseases a long time ago. If time worked normally, I would’ve died a long time ago.”

Reaper cringed. He hated the clients who were practically asking for death. But this Sans was entertaining. He still had some fight left in him, and his inner core was worn but still strong. Thankfully, Reaper had no idea what made that core hold on.

“Well?”

“No. I want to leave everything as is. I sort of wonder how much longer I can keep going…”

“Until you fall at his feet and beg?”

“Is that how you got your job? Fell at his feet?” Sans was intrigued. That was his last question during that cycle.

Reaper hated being asked why he started to work for the God — though it wasn’t that big of a secret. Sans had long since understood how easily people like him could be manipulated. They all had the same Achilles’ heel.

“Brother, come have breakfast! You’re gonna be late for work!”

Sans slowly got out of bed and slowly walked up to the door. He walked downstairs and looked at his brother — always so kind and sympathetic.

“Papy.”

Papyrus turned around and dropped the fork he was holding.

“Oh my God, Sans! You look awful!” He practically ran up to his brother and looked him over. He thought Sans was sick.

Sans just stared at his brother, who used to be the most important being in his life.

“Papy, tell me,” his voice was raspy, as if he had a cold, “if I ever did something horrible, deserving of hatred, would you hate me?”

The question surprised Papyrus. He knew his brother to be a passionate and stubborn person, not prone to melancholy and sadness. He didn’t believe his brother was capable of doing something horrid. The tall skeleton sat on his knees to look into Sans’s eyes and only saw bottomless wells full of repentance.

“Sans, whatever you do, I won’t hate you, and I’ll always forgive you — even when no one else will.”

Sans shakily hugged his brother, tugged him closer and held him inside his embrace for a full minute.

“Thank you, bro. You’ve given me the strength and determination I need.”

 

The next time he was able to contact one of the voices came out of the blue. One day, when the scientist put the helmet on and was picking a frequency, he simply heard a voice. The Creator was deeply depressed and didn’t believe in their own powers. The only thing they did was complain about their life and lack of skill.

Sans hesitated for a moment. Perhaps it was better to search for a more confident Creator? However, the very thought of wasting decades or more searching made him ill.

He needed to act fast. Sans started talking the voice into trying to create a world. He talked of believing in your own skills and the worth of a realized idea, spread hope of self-fulfillment through such a deed and promised internal peace afterwards.

Meanwhile Fresh was hiding in the Doodle Sphere, awaiting the appearance of a new world.

“I’ll try…” were the voice’s last words before the connection died.

Worn out, Sans slid out of his chair and onto the floor, threw the helmet off and curled into a ball. He fell asleep. He needed to rest. As for the results… they would come later — or wouldn't. It was a matter of luck.

Luck was on their side.

Fresh had no qualms about waking up the scientist, shaking him and spilling the news: the new world was created!

He got silence in response. Sans felt no joy, fear or sadness, only acceptance of this part of the plan being done, and he was ready to get to the next part.

The two of them descended to the Core together and walked up to the weird contraption at the base of the bridge that was assembled in advance.

Sans mounted that odd device every cycle, and every cycle someone approached him and asked, “What is that thing?” Usually he lied and said, “It’s measuring equipment.” But sometimes he told the truth, “It’s a bomb, and when it falls into the Core, our whole world will die.” They didn’t believe him. Well, they should’ve!

That bomb was designed by Gaster to be used against humans in the war, but when he realized how powerful a weapon he’d created, he got scared. Were it not for the remaining notes, Sans would have never found out about the horrid weapon.

But he found out about it and created it — and was ready to use it.

“Sans, are you there? What are you doing?”

Fresh stood guard by the door, not letting anyone in while Sans handled the last of the preparations. A lot of people gathered behind the door, and all of them were trying to enter. They were starting to get nervous, and there were promises of breaking down the door.

Sans didn’t hear them. A lever had his full attention. He needed to pull it. His hand shook, wrapped around it. Just one move — and the bomb would fall into the Core, and all the people in this universe would disappear, cease to exist, live, dream — cease to die. No one would ever be able to hurt them again. The world and its endless cycles would meet their end. Dog would have no power over them anymore.

Sans was smiling — as if he wasn’t about to destroy everything and everyone. He just wished for a “peaceful sleep”. Eternal sleep. Eternal peace. For others and himself.

An uninvited tear ran down his cheekbone — a modest epitaph.

With the screeching of rusty metal the bomb flew off the chains and into the open mouth of the Core. At the same moment Fresh ran away from the door, unable to hold back the people anymore. Alphys, Papyrus, lab assistants and guards all burst onto the bridge. They were all staring at Sans in fear and confusion. Sans was crying and smiling all at once.

“I’m sorry.”

It wasn’t the Core that blew up, but his soul, and the shards stung his bones like wasps, blowing right through him and making him thrash in agony.

Fresh had already pulled him into a jump, but Sans still saw the faces of the people who didn’t exist anymore. The world snapped into nothing — a point in nowhere — and ceased to exist. Nothing remained of it, as if that world had never been. But Sans was, existed and shuddered with sobs.

He’d done it. He’d committed an unfathomable sin against himself, personhood, monsterkind, the world, the worlds, and he had to be ready to do that all over again — very soon, within an hour — because in his line of sight stood another Sans, dressed in all white and wearing a red scarf around his neck. White patches of glitches ran over the skeleton’s body. That was Geno.

That was the person Sans had to kill. The person, whose powers he had to take.

Chapter Text

Geno looked at him, as if he knew of Sans’s horrid deed, and Sans wasn’t ready to face that stare. He looked away, choked on sobs and sank into the pain of his loss.

“You bonehead!” Unlike Sans, Fresh didn’t care about the death of a whole universe one bit. He’d seen thousands of them. So what if one of them disappeared? “You almost left the tools behind.”

The parasite was holding a big box full of various jingling metal pieces. Beakers were packed separately.

At the sight of the box that held the tool of destruction of the next world, Sans lost the last of his willpower and fell down unconscious. He dreamed of his home world and everyone he knew. Papyrus, Alphys, Undyne, Toriel, Asgore, Flowey, Grillby and even the human. They surrounded the skeleton and looked at him, expressionless. The black stares were crushing him.

The world started to crumble like old paint, baring an emptiness that had no walls or roof — endlessly white and endlessly empty.

“I’m sorry,” Sans whispered.

But no one answered him.

They turned away from him and walked away, getting farther and farther, until they disappeared in the haze of the mysterious nothing. Only Papyrus remained. He stood and stared at his brother. It seemed he was trying to tell him something, yet couldn’t. Then he turned and followed the others.

Sans was left all alone in the empty space, and he wandered around that nowhere until voices woke him.

“...plan is pretty risky. And just as absurd as mine.”

“You’ve tried, bruh. Now it’s our turn.”

Sans identified one of the voices as Fresh. One would assume that, since the parasite lived in an alternate Sans’s body, he would have had Sans’s voice — but no, the parasite’s voice was different both in the manner of speaking and in timbre.

The second voice sounded awfully familiar — just as exhausted and quiet as his own. It was clear Geno had lived through as much pain and suffering as Sans did — maybe even more.

“You awake?”

Leaning over Sans was a skeleton much like him but with glitches all over his body. They were especially numerous over his right eye.

The scientist slowly got up to stand on shaky legs and stared at his alternate version in utter confusion. Geno looked back at him with poorly disguised curiosity. Despite his worn-out look, the white-clad skeleton found it in him to smile at the guest and even managed to joke:

“Hello, Sans. I’m Sans.” He offered his hand.

“I thought your name was Geno.”

The offered hand wavered.

“Please, don’t call me that. The nickname was Reaper’s idea. Geno — like ‘genocide’. And no, I didn’t kill anyone. The human did. But I was the first one who dared to fight against the world order and the genocide route of my world. You can see the results. I’m glad you’re picking up the mantle.”

The Sanses shared a firm handshake. Fresh joined them.

The current situation was looking less and less like breaking and entering complete with a premeditated murder. It looked more like old friends catching up. However, the subject Geno — Sans called him that mentally to avoid mixing things up — chose to talk about wasn’t a good basis for a joyful hang-out.

“Fresh has told me everything,” he started. “I have to admit, I’m both astonished and scared. I don’t know if I would’ve had the soul to do something so desperate.” He didn’t condemn him, and that lifted Sans’s spirits. “Can’t say I can approve of what you’ve done, but I can’t offer a better solution either. I’m even kind of glad that it will all be over soon. This endless nightmare has taken all of my strength, and now it’s taking my mind as well. So… kill me and destroy my world.”

“You’re okay with dying?” Sans had a hard time believing it.

“Would you have wanted to live like this?” Geno spread his arms, inviting him to admire the emptiness around them, then pulled up his shirt to show off the crooked bones — the effect of the administered determination. Among the old wounds fresh injuries could be seen: bitemarks and scratches. “An immortal shadow? A toy? Watching the resets unable to do anything?” A nod towards the screen, where the human was killing the people of the Underground again. “And continue suffering under the authority of Dog and Reaper? I don’t know which one of them’s a bigger bastard! That’s why… I assent.”

Sans saw himself in him, broken physically and mentally. Here he was, ready to give up and pass the reigns to another — a broken version of him.

“Hey, bro. We can’t keep wasting time. They could come rushing in here at any moment.” The parasite rushed the skeletons.

Sans nodded and turned to Geno again:

“Are you sure? We could fail, you know?” Sans was already holding a beaker filled with a solution. Fresh was busy putting together the bomb. The two of them knew the moment Geno died the gods would, as the parasite put it, come rushing in.

“Yes. Even if you fail, I’ll die knowing I helped an attempt to get out of this cyclic hell.”

“And what about your world?”

Geno smiled unhappily. Sans saw the same determination and desperation in his eyes that he saw in his own. The glitchy skeleton ran his fingertips over the edge of the red scarf, and his eyelights went out.

“I love all of them. Papy, Undyne, Alphys, Asgore, Toriel. Even Mettaton. But I can’t stop the furry bastard from torturing them. So… do it. Break the cycle. Let my world leave the Multiverse forever.”

Sans turned to Fresh for support, but the other only waved to show that everything was ready. So Sans came closer to Geno. A bone broke through the fragile, crooked ribs; they melted like sugar in water. The last thing Geno said before disappearing for good was a wish:

“I hope you’ll find peace as well, Sans.”

The tiny fragile shard of a soul fell into the beaker with solution, and Fresh pulled the lever. A moment later the world that used to hold Geno captive in the Save Screen — the world Sans didn’t get to see — simply vanished. Just like Sans’s own world did an hour ago.

He’d destroyed two worlds. The realization left him dazed, and Fresh couldn’t bring him back to his senses for a long while. Once he did, there were questions to answer.

“What is this… world? Where are we?”

At first, the scientist wanted to use a different, more fitting word for what he saw.

“What do you mean, ‘what is this world’?” Fresh didn’t get what part of their surroundings confused his ally. “It’s the world the voice has made thanks to you.”

“Why is it… like that?!”

The thing the Creator had made was horrible! Not because the world was full of beasts or violent — it simply wasn’t finished. Rough sketchy strokes were everywhere, and not a single clean line. There was a shortage of colour. The ceiling and the floor looked almost the same. The same could be said about characters and houses. The trees didn’t move. There was no wind. The silence was deafening, and a chemical smell hung in the air. It smelled of paint.

The smell of paint made the scientist feel faint.

“Bro, we’re almost done. Hold on.”

Sans lay down on the rough sketch of grass, trying not to think of what would happen if they couldn’t find anyone capable of replacing the God in this motionless ghost of a story that didn’t happen. He was nauseous. His head felt heavy. He wanted to fall asleep and wake up to find out that he’d dreamed all of this craziness — that there was no Dog, no resets, no deaths of worlds, no murder.

He couldn’t escape the truth.

The reality made him face the unsightly facts: He was an abomination. He destroyed two worlds. He took the future from the people of two worlds. He killed two worlds’ worth of people.

Sans threw up. He switched between crying and laughing, and the hysteria went on for a while — until Fresh whacked him with a skateboard.

“Are you ready to go on?” Fresh asked the moment Sans recovered.

“You soulless bastard!” the skeleton snapped, got up and ground his teeth. “And I am one as well.”

“You actually do have a soul, and you still need to work on it.”

Sans reluctantly took the beaker, that held the soul shard inside it, and started shaking again. He was holding his soul — or, rather, the soul of his damaged alternate self — a tiny fragile shard, so warm and strong, still fighting to exist.

“Hey, that guy was counting on you. Don’t let him down.” Fresh tried to cheer him on the best he could, considering his understanding of the current situation.

After looking around, Sans concluded that he could operate right in the middle of the street. No one would pay attention anyway, since there was no one who could do that. There was a shopkeeper... Her eyes weren’t even drawn! Was she made of wax??? Was she even alive???

“I hope there’s at least one monster with a soul around here,” the scientist mumbled.

“There is. I’ve seen him.” The parasite confirmed and put two devices onto the ground: one to destroy the world and one to operate on the soul. “We’ll find him once we’re done here.”

And so, Geno’s soul was floating in the solution, and Sans’s soul was laying in his hands. He needed to cut a piece out of it, but his hands were shaking, and his head was swimming. Nonetheless, the scientist put his soul inside the device and got ready for the worst pain in his entire life.

Well, he guessed wrong. The pain was way worse than all the deaths he’d lived through over all the resets combined.

“Holy shit!” Fresh leaned over the convulsively shuddering scientist, who was only kept from screaming by the gag in his mouth. “Are you dying?”

“Nooo...ooo… Hel...help me… up,” Sans wheezed and, once he was near the device again, pointed at the beaker holding the soul shard. “Hurry. Need to put the shard into the crack.”

Correction. This was the worst pain the scientist had ever felt...

Chapter Text

His consciousness slipped away and returned as a tidal wave of understanding: something was wrong. He needed to get up, but his body was alien and cold, as if kilometers of ground were pressing down upon him. He needed to wake up. His magic boiled inside him like water in a kettle. It felt sick and couldn’t be controlled. He needed to open his eyes! But how could he, when his own body turned into his enemy?

He had to! It didn’t matter how, but he had to!

Somehow Sans lit up the lights in his eye-sockets, struggled to move and recognized himself as alive — exhausted and ill but alive.  The unfinished world surrounded him. Fresh was sleeping nearby, and weird “flies” floated in front of his eyes. At first the scientist thought that those were some local bugs, but no matter how much he tried to wave them away, they weren’t becoming any less. Then he realized those were none other than the glitches he’d seen on Geno’s body.

Did that mean they’d succeeded?

Sans forced himself to sit up and managed to look himself over. He seemed the same, but his body had become… unstable. Glitchy. The “flies” didn’t let him see clearly, and white lines of glitches tickled his body. His soul looked straight up terrifying. It was almost fuzzy with glitches!

Well, whatever. The important thing was that he didn’t belong to Dog anymore, became a traveller and could continue to bring their plan to life.

Fresh shifted, woke up and, seeing his ally alive and relatively well, breathed a sigh of relief.

“You gave me a heck of a scare,” he said. “I thought you were gonna die. You kept shaking, screaming bloody murder, foaming from your mouth. Then went still and didn’t move anymore. I thought you wouldn’t wake up.”

The parasite’s worry didn’t look fake, though it wasn’t clear where it was coming from. Maybe he was just scared for his own life, since without Sans he’d have had to finish their plan alone and face the dog head on. Or perhaps he really was worried about his only ally. After all, they’d known each other for years — hundreds of years, quite possibly. It was hard not to nurture some semblance of friendship over such a period of time.

Sans smiled awkwardly and asked:

“Where’s the shard of my soul? Did it shatter?”

That’s when Fresh surprised him again. He smirked and moved the glasses out of the way.

“Surprise, surprise! Why let it go to waste?” A tiny heart replaced the eyelight inside his left eye-socket.

It wasn’t Fresh’s audacity that shocked Sans, but the fact that the shard of his soul seemed to be quite comfortable inside the dead body’s eye-socket and even took on the correct shape, which was utter nonsense in and of itself. The tiny heart felt safe, wrapped into purple tentacles. The remainders of former curiosity — which demanded he researched and understood things — made Sans reach for the interesting phenomenon with his hands. Fresh moved away in response and asked:

“I hope you don’t mind?”

“No.” Sans hurried to pull back his hand. “Why would I need it? Not like I have anywhere to put it.”

And mentally he added, And you won’t give it to me anyway. I see you clinging to it.

“Ready?”

“For what?”

“To check our theory, of course. Bro, have you forgotten? We need to see if you’ve become a traveller, and whether you’re gonna be able to move about on your own or you still need the energy of a world?”

He couldn’t get up. His legs refused to hold his body upright.

“Need a hand?”

Sans grabbed Fresh’s outstretched hand, and his bare bones felt like they were struck by lightning. The scientist abruptly pulled back his hand and stared at it in honest confusion. What was that? Hastily, he held the parasite’s outstretched hand again and saw glitches multiply around the place where they were touching and felt… very much panicked. But not from the glitches. It felt as if someone hammered a nail into his soul? Then his soul was taken, crumpled, and the nail was twisted. And all of that happened in a fraction of a second.

Gritting his teeth and bearing with the odd panic attack complete with multiplying glitches, Sans paid attention to his feelings and tried to analyze his current state. What did it feel like? As if he was… groped. Stars! That was… Disgusting!

“Are you okay?”

“Do I look okay?”

“No.”

“Then why the stupid question?” Sans snapped.

“Out of courtesy. I’m learning to pretend to be one of the people of this Multiverse.”

The scientist forced himself to get up and was relieved to let go of the parasite’s hand. He swallowed the bitter lump that formed in his throat and shrugged. He wished he could get under scalding water and rub his bones clean with bleach. It wasn’t his pain, weren’t his fears, but they’d become a part of his being and promised to cause a bunch of problems in the future — not only physical ones.

Though what did it matter? Death was the only suitable punishment for what he’d done and was going to do. If no one was going to grant him that, he’d bring it on himself, and he’d make sure no reset would ever bring him back. So there was no use in thinking of the future mental issues. He had more important things to do.

When Sans got worried, a wave of glitches covered him whole, but the moment he calmed down, it instantly subsided.

“Okay, I’m ready, Fresh. Guide me!”

The parasite’s confusing explanation could be summed up with “Focus, wish for it and take a step”. Supposedly, that was enough to jump from one world to another. Fresh promised to catch him if he jumped too far.

Sans focused, wished for it and took a step — and nothing happened. He focused, wished for it and took a step again. This way he’d walked a hundred meters, achieving nothing. Then he decided to try something else. He focused, pulled his unruly magic into a lump and took a step.

Fresh barely caught him in time: he almost fell into magma in a version of Hotland.

“Good job, bro! Now we know for sure. You got off the white fuzzball’s hook!”

They returned to the unfinished universe and started to search for a monster with a soul.

They searched in Waterfall — if it existed, that is. There was some water present, and they even saw sketches of a waterfall. They were about to move on to Hotland, but turned out that the location wasn’t provided at all, so they turned around and found their way to Snowdin.

There they started to come across things that looked somewhat similar to living beings, but none of them had even a hint of a soul. Empty shells without the flame of life stood everywhere, watching the guests blankly.

Sans remained hopeful. He was searching for someone alive among the emotionless dolls, stupid sketches: looked into their empty eyes, tried to talk to them, but it was all for naught. They didn’t respond, showed no interest and no one was doing anything.

In their search they reached an oddly familiar area. Everything around them was alien, unfinished, but the sight of a path and a house ahead still made Sans’s chest ache. The skelebros’ house stood before them. It lacked most of its colours, was weaved from rough strokes — but that was definitely it. It was hard not to recognize. Here were the two mailboxes, and there was the entrance, decorated with a garland. It was all so familiar. The familiarity was strengthened by the sketch of Papyrus that froze by the front door.

“Why are you just standing there, bro? It’s no time to dilly-dally!” Fresh’s voice trembled with tension.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m just surprised: this house looks similar to mine.”

The house could be entered, and the guests of the world did just that. Sans tried to pass by the Papyrus as quickly as possible, not looking at him. His soul burned at the memory of his dead brother.

He was inside the house. A skeleton. Sans the skeleton. Just like bodies of other locals, his was a sketch, but the monster’s lively eyes distinguished him from the rest. The moment Sans and Fresh entered, the sketch, who was sitting at the floor, turned his head towards them and stared at them with curiosity. His eyelights kept changing shapes, as if they were trying to show emotions: a star and a triangle shifted into question marks.

But the most important thing was that the skeleton had a soul — a soul that didn’t belong to Dog, that could become everything for this Multiverse: its support, its matter, its life. The only thing left was to sacrifice this skeleton and his badly-drawn soul, which shone like a candlelight from behind the picket fence of lines.

“We’ve found him,” Sans whispered. He felt relieved, but also terrified at the fact that even in this world the one creature with a soul ended up being a skeleton just like him. One more martyr, one more Sans. “I guess we’re fated to suffer. Hey, Fresh. Check where the dog is. We need the Hall of Creation empty at first, or we won’t have the time to prepare.”

The parasite nodded — his glasses read, “Let’s go” — and disappeared inside the mouth of a portal. Sans was left alone with the person he’d have to murder for the sake of peace in the whole Multiverse.

“Heya. Um. I’m Sans. Sans the skeleton. But you are too, I guess… So you can pick a nickname for me…” Feeling awkward, Sans offered a hand to the future sacrifice, and the sketch took it with a smile and got up onto his feet.

Glitches rolled over the scientist’s body, but he forced himself to bear with it. He had no right to pull his hand away from that poor soul. The sketch was only created because Sans wished to save the worlds, and it was his fault this sketch would die. It was his fault this sketch’s life would be short and inadequate. The sketch remained silent and continued to stare at him with curiosity, question marks shining in his eyes.

“Oh, you can’t talk?” Sans guessed. “But do you at least understand me? No? Well, alright. So, what do I call you? That other Sans — he’s not actually a Sans though. His name is Fresh — guess the world he took a liking to had some really fresh vibes, heh. There was one guy called Geno, because he was from a genocidal world. And I’m a scientist.” Sans thought about it and proposed, “Call me Sci.”

Sketch smiled in response — so lightly and kindly, with childish innocence, as if there had never been any evil in his life and there would never be. Oh, how wrong he was.

Fresh appeared just as suddenly as he’d vanished.

“Dog isn’t in the Hall of Creation. He’s somewhere in distant worlds. But he could come back any moment. We need to hurry, bro!”

Sketch obediently followed wherever they lead him. When he passed Papyrus, the other got a bit of life in him and turned his head, followed them with his gaze and suddenly started to approach them.

Sans didn’t notice. He was tightly holding the future sacrifice with one hand and setting up equipment with the other. Only the final part of their plan remained. One last world to destroy, a jump to Dog’s residence and a very complicated procedure of passing over godly powers by means of sacrificing this kid, who continued to look at him with eyes full of kindness and trust.

When the last lever was pulled and the red button pressed, something unexpected happened. Papyrus flew at them and tried to rip his own Sans away from the alien one.

The process was already set in motion, and only one person could make the jump together with the scientist: either the chosen sacrifice or the suddenly conscious soulless Papyrus. Upon realizing that, Fresh leaped onto Papyrus, bringing him to the ground.

Sans didn’t know what happened next. He and the sacrifice successfully jumped into some weird corridor.

Where were they? Where were they supposed to go? Sans didn’t know, since he assumed Fresh would be his guide. Even though the parasite went through the trouble of sketching maps for him, Sans still couldn’t instantly understand what part of Dog’s residence the portal had taken him to.

He waited for a minute and, when his ally didn’t join him, Sans squeezed Sketch’s hand and felt the other return the gesture. Sketch was still smiling. A star and a triangle shone in his eyes.

“You probably don’t even understand what’s happened. Your world is no more. Neither is your brother. Perhaps, not even Fresh.” The scientist didn’t know what could happen if one was to stay in a dying world. According to logic, Fresh had to be annihilated along with the dying world, but he didn’t belong to this Multiverse and wasn’t a part of the sketch world, so he must’ve remained alive — at least, Sans wanted to believe he did.

But what was taking him so long then? Had he really lost his last remaining friend? His last support?

There was no time left to waste, and Sans walked forward. The corridor opened into a large hall with multiple doors. Upon further inspection, it became clear that the doors led to the halls Fresh had mentioned before. In one of them Dog talked to the Creators, from another he watched the worlds. Further in, past this hall of doors, was a spacious room with high ceilings, stone pillars along the edges and tall stained-glass windows. It was filled with thick magical tension. This was the Hall of Creation.

It looked scarily like the damned Judgement Hall of Sans’s home world. Even the stone floor had a similar pattern. This magical tension, it reminded him of fighting the human and the sad results of those fights: failure and death.

Sketch felt the wave of anger and fear coming from Sans and stroked the other’s head.

The touches brought him back to reality with their stinging pain. Sans gave a haunted look to the person he’d be forced to murder within the next few minutes and said:

“You won’t understand this, but what I’m doing will help everyone. And I really am sorry. But I have to stop Dog and give the worlds a chance to break out of the damned cycle.” Sketch only tilted his head to the side. It didn’t look like he understood the gravity of the moment. “I guess, it’s better that way — when you don’t understand the horror of this situation. I would’ve liked to be ignorant like this.”

Sans pulled out the last remaining device. The fourth of the ones he brought from his home world. Unlike the bulky three before it, that remained in the two previous worlds, this one was always on his person. It was needed for two reasons. One: It helped him find the point of the maximum tension of the energy. That had to be the place where the strings of the worlds crossed. Two: This device was required to connect to the soul of the sacrifice, which was needed for the final step of the plan. But they were still missing something. Or, rather, someone.

They stayed there, waiting for Dog’s return.

Chapter Text

That’s where Sci cut the story off, saying:

“And you know the rest.”

Ink forgot how to breathe from all the questions boiling in his head: What was he supposed to know? What happened next? What happened to him in this very place so long ago? How did he lose his soul? What happened to Sci? How did Fresh survive? How did the Multiverse reset? And, most importantly, what did any of this have to do with Error?

Dog scratched his ear. He looked thoughtful and even a bit lost:

“Other Multiverses. Aliens. Sanses getting off the hook. Oh boy, you’ve really done it, haven’t you? Even sacrificed those worlds.” His voice turned venomous. “And what? Did you save everyone? Are you happy?”

Sci looked away to the sound of Reaper’s guffaw. No, he failed. Replacing the God with the Guardian achieved nothing. The worlds remained cyclical, and at times the human relapsed and committed genocide.

However, as he straightened his glasses, his sleeve was hiding his smile. There was a silver lining. His world was revived. In the morning he woke up and heard his brother’s voice. And the next time the human came, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I’m Sans. Sans the skeleton.”

“And I’m Frisk. I’ve fallen from above. Nice to meet you, Sans.” The human didn’t look like a bloodthirsty beast anymore. They didn’t attack everyone in their line of sight and at first they tried to stick to the Pacifist route.

Later Sci found out that the space between the worlds thinned, and the Void became more forgiving. One could travel to other worlds as much as they liked, since it didn’t require a world’s worth of energy anymore. The Creators gained full freedom and realized their ideas in bunches. Every day new worlds were born — or died. It turned out that among the endless cyclical worlds there were a few lucky ones that didn’t have to go through that. It was worth going though everything for their sake at the very least. World-travellers turned up here and there, and Sci met a lot of them. And learned the part of the story he kept quiet about.

The fight wasn’t over yet. Yes, he gave up once he’d found out he could pass his heavy burden to another. Yes, he admitted he couldn’t carry it anymore, but he was ready to give his life to defeat the old enemy.

Sci glanced at Ink and met the questioning eyes. He looked away again. When it came to Ink, he felt guilty. After the Multiverse reset, he soon met him but didn’t recognize him — and once he did, he didn’t believe it. Just like when he met himself. He couldn’t recognize himself at all! Until recently he didn’t even accept that relation.

“So what happens next?” the scientist asked, tired of listening to the barking and laughter.

“Full reset, of course!” Dog barked.

“And Geno will return to me,” Reaper added.

Sci’s bones crawled. No matter how many years passed, he couldn’t forget that beaten down skeleton — the result of time spent with Reaper. He recently saw Geno in the world of fusions and was surprised at how happy the other looked. Taking that from him now would be inhumane!

“He wouldn’t remember a thing!”

“So what?” Reaper didn’t get what the problem was. “It’s enough that I would remember.”

“What kind of a bastard are you?! You’ve found yourself a toy and you keep breaking it!” Sans couldn’t take it anymore. He remembered the feeling of horror, pain and alarm that became a part of him for a short while, and he couldn’t bear for his alternative, who’d finally found happiness, to go through something like that again. “He doesn’t belong to you!”

“You’re wrong,” Reaper drew his scythe, and its blade almost touched the scientist’s chest. “He’s mine, has always been mine and will always be. He doesn’t understand just how important he is to me — he’s the only person I’m ready to reset the Multiverse for.”

“That’s insanity, Reaper! Stop, or you’ll come to regret it!”

Laughter in response.

The dog listened to that dialogue, yawning. He was tired of waiting. He wanted to regain his former power as soon as possible and reintroduce his rules to the Multiverse. He wasn’t content with being just a dog. He wished for his former authority, and soon he’d be able to get it. The Genocide was completed in most of the worlds, and energy filled the Hall of Creation like air fills a balloon.

What Dog didn’t know was that not everyone involved in the past events were gathered in the broken Hall. Inside the part of the story that the scientist left untold was the cause of his coming defeat. And that cause was already walking up the stairs.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Dog stopped scratching, Sci and Reaper dropped the argument, and Ink put his pondering on hold. Everyone turned towards the sound.

Error entered the Hall, agonizingly slow, as if every step was causing him pain. He didn’t look at Ink or Reaper — only at the white dog. His voice seemed even more corrupted than usual:

“Long time no see.”

Dog stared at the black skeleton in surprise.

“Who’s that?” he asked Reaper.

“Error, an outcode piece of trash. The destroyer of worlds,” was the death god’s unflattering description. Reaper didn’t get it as well: How did Error know the God? And if he knew him, why did he act so insolent?

Dog grew tired of considering the other’s insanity, so he brushed off the uninvited guest.

“Well, kill him then, so that he wouldn’t get in the way.”

Error didn’t move. He didn’t even spare a look at the nearing Reaper. He was only looking at Dog. The god of death was surprised at the docility of the normally obstinate  destroyer. He effortlessly called forth and took the glitchy soul. It was so easy to do that he was taken aback at first, but then gasped and started to back away.

Error’s soul behaved in an odd and even scary manner. It fell apart into pieces of code right in Reaper’s hands. But Error didn’t seem to mind that he was missing his soul. He stood where he was, glaring daggers at the dog. Then his soul returned to its rightful place, and the black skeleton paid no attention to its odd behavior. As if that was how it was supposed to be.

“Are you done?” Short, sharp question.

Instead of answering, Reaper continued to back away. He was used to outcodes surviving his touches, so if he had to get rid of one, he relied on physical damage — preferably done to their soul. However, he’d never seen a soul behave like this — or, actually he did. Once, before the Multiverse was reset, when he was still trying to fight back, he tried to take Dog’s soul away, and it reacted in a similar way. It was invulnerable.

“Who are you?! What are you?!!” Dog bristled and growled.

The destroyer laughed — coldly, loudly, until his jaw hurt.

“You don’t recognize me! After all that’s happened! That deserves a round of applause! But I’ll give you a hint.”

Error pulled red-rimmed glasses out of his pocket, put them on and saw the dog more clearly. Now he could appreciate the look of confusion on the dog’s face. Then Fresh, who’d followed the destroyer in, clicked his tongue and threw a white lab coat over his brother’s shoulders.

“It’s odd that you’ve forgotten me.” Error grinned. “Because we’ve already met at this very spot once. And you lost.”

 

Dog appeared in the Hall of Creation and, upon noticing his guests, froze in shock. Once he got his bearings back, he growled. That’s when he made the fatal mistake. He connected to a world, wishing to call Reaper.

That was enough for the scientist to see the strings. With one hand he gripped them like a lifeline, and held the device tightly in the other, striking Sketch with all of his might.

The shards of sketched ribs flew everywhere like broken glass. That was a direct hit to the fragile soul, and there was an explosion. Sans, Dog and Sketch were thrown to the different corners of the Hall. The string of the worlds threw violent fits like distraught snakes. They ripped like guts, splashing everything and everyone with their transparent blood. The space was agonizing and falling apart. The dog howled like crazy. The Multiverse was coming to its end. It was dying in agony. And it was all Sans’s fault. The walls were breaking down, the codes tangled with each other, whipping around.

In the eye of the destructive storm the cracking soul was shining, wrapped tightly into strings, and Dog was crawling towards it.

“Oh no, you bastard!”

Sans pounced at Dog to rip him apart like a dog would a rat: with his hands and his teeth — anything just to keep that motherfucker from getting to the soul. Who cared if all of the universes vanished? At least, Dog wasn’t going to have any power over them anymore!

The dog whined, howled and bit him, but couldn’t break free. That’s when he made his second fatal mistake. He threw the remainders of his energy at Sans, which wrapped around the scientist as strings. They threw him off and cut into his bones, breaking his ribs and legs. The dog squealed like an injured mutt and fell through the floor, beyond the reaches of creation. The dying Multiverse spat him out like gum that had lost its taste. But a worse fate awaited the rest of them.

The sketch’s soul exploded!

One of the shards ended up inside Sans’s eye. His eyesight immediately gave out, and the pain made him scream. The strings that were choking him were about to melt away without an energy source, but upon feeling the shard — pure energy — they rushed towards it through both of the eye-sockets.

Sans thrashed on the floor, ripped at them, screamed. He could see nothing but felt the strings bite into the shard stuck inside him, felt his soul burn from Dog’s energy, which mixed with his own being, felt his thoughts get lost in the darkness of his final demise, felt his broken bones bleed.

Finally, it ended, and he could see again. His eyesight got even worse than it was before, but he could see… the end of everything. The pain subsided. The strings hung out of his eye-sockets like parasites, lay at his feet like loyal dogs. Inside him, power was boiling without a way out, and in his mind one single thought was beating in agony: he was the only abomination here — way worse than Dog had ever been.

Everything was falling apart around him. The ceiling, the walls — they crumbled under unseen force. Blue strings were everywhere. There were so many of them — an ocean of tears. But he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t in pain — not anymore. He laughed, he’d gone crazy, and the sound of his insane laughter echoed in his ears. He was going to die alone.

But he wasn’t alone. Turned out, he wasn’t.

The soulless sketch, broken and pitiful, got off the floor and walked towards him. He put one foot in front of the other, not heeding the cracks in the floor and holes that led into the Void. Paying no attention to his broken ribs and empty chest, he still gave Sans the same smile and extended his hand towards him. Despite everything, he was still alive.

He touched his injured eyes.

“Don’t cry… I’m with you.”

Sans reached out with his hand in return and had the time to touch the other with his fingertips before they were flung away from each other.

Everything spun, blending together. The shards of the soul, the shards of the dog’s palace, the strings, the worlds and the two injured skeletons. One of them was flung up, knocked into the Doodle Sphere and thrown somewhere towards the light. The rest of it all fell into the darkness.

The crypt holding the records of the dead worlds, filled with shards of the Hall of Creation, practically smashed into the Hall Dog used to talk to voices. This lump spun like a whirlwind and kept shrinking. Sans ended up at the center of it. He felt his bones break, his marrow leak out and the last shreds of oxygen leave his body, taking his consciousness away.

And then everything froze. Something changed — in the world, in the Multiverse, in the Void. Sans was pulled back into his home world, which shouldn’t have existed anymore. Even if it existed, what right did he have to return after all that he’d done?

He was torn in two, pulled apart piece by piece bringing him unbearable pain. The holes in his code couldn’t be fixed anymore. There was nothing to fix them with. And they didn’t need to be fixed. Glitches rolled over the body.

“Error”

Again, a fall!

This had to be the end… But!

“Hold on!” “Don’t die!” “Don’t you dare die!”

He heard the voices. The very voices he was trying to reach out to. They were suddenly talking to him. Could they see him?

“You’re strong!” “You can do it!” “We believe in you!” “Don’t you dare give up!” “We’ll help!”

The voices became louder and stopped being helpless. As a black cloud of messages, they practically picked the half-dead skeleton up and didn’t let him disappear inside the mysterious “nothing”, held him back from falling over the edge and talked him into staying.

A part of him. They held a part of him from falling over the edge. The part that was shuddering in agony. The part that forgot what he was doing and what for.

“I have to destroy… Error… I have to... Error… I have to destroy? Who do I have to destroy?”

… Error…… Error…… Error…

“I've already destroyed worlds. That means? Yes, I have to destroy worlds!”

… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…

“Why do I have to destroy worlds? Is there a meaning to it?”

… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…

“I've made an error… Error… There was some sort of error… Error… Is there an error in the worlds?”

… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…… Error…

“They are errors!!!”

… Error…

“I destroy errors!”

… Error…

“Is someone an error?”

… Error…

“I am an error.”

When the Multiverse reset, the world of scientist Sans was returned to its original code, and Sans was returned to his rightful place. He didn’t lose anything — not age, not mind, not magic. He kept his memory and didn’t gain any “gifts” from Dog! His soul was whole, and there were no glitches!!!

Only after giving it some thought did the scientist realize: something like that could only happen if someone else was left suffering from those miseries. Which meant he’d left something behind. Or someone.

He was right. Inside the shattered Void, in the black part of it, something he’d abandoned awoke — the part of him that went through the long journey full of pain and suffering, the part that left the pain and suffering and everything it held dear behind. Something dark and sick awoke, a creature infected with Dog’s power, left with incessant voices of the Creators and without any of its memory.

When the thick black “sky”, filled with voices of the Creators, lifted up, a skeleton was left behind on the floor. His body was glitching with the holes of his code, and it wasn’t white anymore. The bones went through inversion and looked black. The broken ribs and legs healed but took on a saturated blood-red colour. The strings were forever pressed into his face as tear-tracks — and became a part of his magic.

That skeleton shouldn’t have existed, shouldn’t have awoken and done what he’d been doing for years after his awakening.

He didn’t know what had happened to others — didn’t remember them either, just like he didn’t remember all that had transpired. He didn’t know that the sketch of a Sans survived, that he was taken upwards, where he awoke all alone, learned to live crippled, soulless, and learned to be the guardian of the Multiverse. He didn’t know that Sketch came to be called Ink, and that he forgot the beginning of his life. He didn’t know that their first meeting would bring a whole ocean of emotions up inside the guardian — enough to make him throw up.

The Papyrus of the sketch world survived as well. That happened because of Fresh. Before the world of sketches died, Papyrus managed to greatly damage Fresh’s body. The parasite had to move into the other’s body — but how could he possess a body that didn’t have a soul? That’s how the parasite ended up in the position of a caged bird. Which saved Papyrus. He didn’t fall a victim to the world’s annihilation, and even managed to avoid the fate of the entire Multiverse — even though he was flung to the margins of the worlds.

One of the Creators showed mercy to the soulless sketch and gave him the name of Paint, and finished him as well. They even gave him an empty world to live in. Yet that couldn’t make Papyrus show zeal for living. He didn’t see meaning in anything — even in the parasite’s death. On the contrary, he took the octopus under his wing and gladly shared his energy with him.

Which was good. This whole time Fresh was holding onto the shard of the soul he’d liked so much — the only one that didn’t fall apart when exposed to him. For Fresh it was a very valuable… partner. The parasite would’ve rather died from starvation that ate it, because, thanks to that shard, he could finally feel in the way the people of this Multiverse did. His dream had finally come true as well, and he could make his own “nest”.

A couple of years later the parasite could travel through the worlds again. He searched for a long while for that fresh world he’d liked so much the first time, where the familiar body was already waiting for him. There was also a rad Papyrus he liked sharing the house with, a fun break-dancing Undyne and a cool human kid.

After settling in a little, Fresh tried to take over the neighbouring world and was stopped with a slam of a huge paintbrush to the spine. That was the first time he was surprised that much.

“I’m Ink, the guardian of the Multiverse. You can do whatever you want in your own AU, but I’d have to ask you not to cause problems for your neighbors.”

“Okay, bruh! One world’s enough for me. But I can’t promise not to make things fun now and then. By the way, colourful, have you seen my broski? Last ti