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Cherries in Snow

Chapter Text

The moment Sans opened his eyes, he knew. Some days were harder to place than others, but the sick, slick feeling in the back of his throat and the way his room swam around his eyes made it clear the anomaly had been up to something. He didn’t remember anything different happening from yesterday or the day before, but he had the strangest feeling… like deja vu, but with a slick bile that stuck in the back of his mouth.

Bringing his arm up to rest over his eyes, Sans resigned himself to another day of feeling helpless in the face of the universe. The thoughts that nothing mattered, he was worthless, and everything else dark in his head ran through, until he felt numb. He laid there for a few minutes in that position, eventually nodding off before the creak of the floorboards just outside his door made him blink awake.

“Sans, it’s time to wake up! I let you sleep in a whole five extra minutes!” Papyrus’ voice carried through the heavy wooden door, Sans huffing a chuckle as he slowly turned over and sat up.

“‘Kay, Paps. ‘M up.” At least, he was no longer in a horizontal position.

The floor outside creaked as his brother shuffled on his feet, clearly unsure. “Alright, but you better not lay back down and go back to sleep! Today is going to be a good one, I can feel it!” And with that, his brother’s thundering steps moved down the balcony and stairs, likely headed to the kitchen to whip up some coffee thermoses.

Sans rubbed at his face for a moment, letting his sockets close for a few more precious seconds before he was up and pulling on his jacket. Maybe Paps was right, and today would be better than he expected. Cause in every and all honesty, he wasn’t expecting much.

~.~

Sitting at his station was a bit boring, but for some reason, even when he’d woken up that morning with the taste of what he was pretty suspicious was a reset on his tongue… the existential dread wasn’t as bad as is usually was. Maybe his brother’s optimism about this day in particular was rubbing off on him, regardless of how ineffective that usually was. Most days, if he was feeling the shadows growing, there was little he could do to stop them from making everything gray.

Still, there was something about today, something different. Maybe he’d figure it out, maybe he wouldn’t, it was part of the mystery.

Pap came by every twenty minutes or so to make sure he wasn’t sleeping, or to share a pun he’d thought of by slipping it in regular conversation just to see Sans crack up. If anyone knew him best, it was his brother.

It hit the twenty minute mark once again, Sans watching his his chin propped on his hand as he listened to the boisterous footfalls of his brother rounding the corner. The two of them grinned as Papyrus came around, the taller smirking as he held up a paper bag, Grillby’s logo emblazoned on the side. In his other hand was a paper cup, likely with a milkshake special made from Grillby himself. Sans snorted as the bag was plopped in front of him, Papyrus making a show of wiping his hand off on his shorts.

“Lunch time already, huh? Hope it don’t go right through me.” Sans punctuated it with a one handed finger gun, the other hand busy unwrapping his burg. Two patties, four pieces of cheese and slathered in ketchup, just the way he liked it. Papyrus rolled his eyes as Sans took a bite, moaning loudly just to watch his brother gag.

“I don’t understand why you don’t just marry him if you love him food so much.” Papyrus slanted his eyes at him, eyebrows rapidly raising and lowering. Sans wheezed a laugh, shaking his head as he swallowed his bite.

“Naw bro, me and him? Two passing flames in the night, never to spark each other’s light.” Shaking his head sorrowfully, Sans put his hand to his chest. “‘Sides, even I get tired of burg.”

Papyrus snorted, taking a long sip of his milk shake as he looked off down the path that lead further into the woods. Squinting, he looked harder, until his sockets started to ache down to his teeth. “Sans?”

Sans glanced up, mouth full and ketchup dripping down his mandible as he mumbled a “what?”

There was a pause, before Papyrus turned to him, sockets still squinting. “Was there always a black rock in the middle of the path here?”

Sans blinked, then set down his burger, standing to join his brother. He stared down the path, eyelights constricting as they landed on a small pile of black that was mostly covered with snow. Cursing, he ported next to the pile, digging around the black until the body of… bones? Was uncovered. Papyrus was next to him, helping him dig the stranger out, the two of them keeping their shock to a minimum as they pulled out a small, scarred up skeleton, the poor guy wearing a tattered old crimson t-shirt and ratty, thin shorts that were barely hanging on his thin frame.

The scars were… extensive. One, hopefully the worst, ran through his left socket and up into his skull. Sans assumed that socket was blind, or impaired at the very least, but he wouldn’t know until the guy woke up. Other scars ran on every bone they could see, his poor knuckles and fingers in bad shape, some of the bones dislocated and glowing a harsh, pale red where the mana lines were out of whack. His bones were thin, thinner than they should have been for his apparent age, around the same as Sans’. His soul, when Sans checked it, was dim, his HP in the decimals.

Whatever happened to get him here, it’d done a damn number on him.

Papyrus gently picked them up, cradling them to his chest before nodding at Sans. Glancing at the ground and grimacing at the splatters of marrow left behind in the snow, Sans grabbed Papyrus’ scarf, porting them both home.

Chapter Text

Sans gently shut the door behind them, watching as Pap went to the couch on silent, socked feet, his boots left my the door frame. The bundle in his arms was laid gently on their couch, the skeleton immediately curling into a ball with a shiver. Sans could only assume it was the near drastic change in temperature, but it wouldn’t take long for the stranger to get a little more comfortable in the heat.

Papyrus had disappeared upstairs, likely to grab a few blankets and quilts to warm the little guy up a little quicker. Just laying the back of his hand on the skeleton’s cheek felt chill to the touch.

“Jeeze, buddy, how’d you end up like this?” He asked the quiet air, grimacing as the little guy shivered again. They really needed him to wake up, so they could figure out who he was and where the hell he’d come from, but they weren’t so indecent as to try waking him up. It was obvious just from looking at him that he needed the rest.

The quiet sound of Papyrus coming back down the stairs distracted him from his thoughts, Sans glancing up to find his brother coming over with a handful of quilts, some of the thickest they owned. Maybe the little guy would wake up from sheer overheating, this time. Still, he helped his brother wrap two of them around their guest, leaving the others in a neat pile on the end of the couch. The skeleton didn’t even reach both ends, with how short he was.

Afterwards, the both of them sat at the kitchen table, in full view of the couch in case the little guy woke up, and lowered their voices.

“Did he seem like he was waking up at all?” Papyrus glanced back out to the living room as Sans shook his head, slouched in his seat.

“Nope. Just kept shivering, probably from bein’ buried in the snow.”

Papyrus laid his fist on the table, looking from the skeleton on their couch to Sans, a very serious look in his eyes. “I don’t believe he’s from around here, brother. No one would stand for that kind of abuse.”

Sans nodded. “Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t expect it from Hotlands or the Capital but damn, we don’t go up there enough, maybe it’s gotten bad.”

Tilting his head, Papyrus squinted his eyes. “Is this you being deceitful and acting like you don’t know what I mean or are you serious.”

Mocking his brother, Sans tilted his head. “I dunno what you mean bro. I mean yeah you’d think the King wouldn’t stand for it anywhere Underground but maybe things have gotten out of hand.”

Papyrus stared hard at him for a moment. “Sans, please tell me you noticed. You aren’t usually that dense.”

Sans had no answer for that, staying quiet long enough that Papyrus felt his confusion and sighed.

“You really didn’t notice our guest looks exactly like you?”

Sans’ eyelights jerked to the living room, where the little guy had made a noise in his sleep. Now that he was looking, really looking, he could sort of see the resemblance, if you took away the sharp fangs and scars. Round skull, wide sockets, and a small nasal aperture. But…

“You don’t really think he’s me, do ya bro?” Sans tried not to let his disbelief sound too judgmental, but that was a far fetched idea. Papyrus simply gave him an unimpressed stare before getting up to check on their guest. He made sure he was still asleep, pulling the quilt up to his chin before moving back over to Sans.

“I’m going to grab some extra soup and tea from the store, please keep an eye on him until I get back. I’ll try to hurry.”

Sans nodded, watching as his brother made sure what else was needed and wrote it all down in a list before grabbing his scarf and coat, slipping both on before sliding into his boots and heading outside. The door shut softly behind him, leaving Sans in the silence, alone.

He watched the slow up and down of the skeleton’s shoulders for a while, and when that became boring he played around on his phone for a few minutes. He answered a few comments about when he would be back for another comedy night at MTT’s, and answered a question Alphys had about the Core. What eventually caught his attention, though, was a low keening that sounded like it was coming from the living room. Standing to his feet, Sans glanced around, making sure nothing was about to explode, only to turn to the couch and find a single red eyelight staring back at him.

The sound had been the skeleton, tears streaming down his face and a hitch in his breaths. Sans took a tiny step forward, hands raising up into a I Mean No Harm position, but the skeleton flinched back, almost violently. Taking a full step back, Sans noticed that the guy looked a little less likely to freak out, so he stayed there.

“What’s your name, bud?” Sans asked, keeping his voice calm and low. The skeleton squinted at him, seemingly confused, before he coughed wetly once and spoke.

“S-Sans.”

Sans blinked, thinking back to what Paps had said, before nodding. “Okay, Sans. That’s a cool name, for cool guys like us.” He ignored the brief flash of disbelief in the little guy’s face as he continued. “I’m gonna ask a couple questions, that okay?”

The Sans looked even more confused, his one working eyelight flitting around the room as if looking for some hidden trap, before he nodded.

Sans nodded back, taking another shuffle of a step back and feeling internally grateful that the little guy’s hunched shoulders were no longer at such a severe angle. “How’d you get in the snow?”

The Sans seemed to think for a moment, staring blankly off into the distance. “I… I d-don’t remember.” He seemed upset about the loss of memory, his form trembling.

Sans nodded, looking down at the floor. “Okay, that’s okay. How about, where do you live? Do you live with anybody?”

This he seemed to have an answer for, his eyelights lighting up a bit more. “Oh, I uh, I live with G-Grillby. In Snowdin.”

Welp. That made things about ten times more complicated, since Sans knew Grillby personally and had never seen a lookalike sneaking around. Inwardly he was cringing, trying to come to terms with everything, but on the outside he was nodding, smiling a little in encouragement.

“Thanks bud, you rest now, Pap’ll give you some food later.” And with that he went back to the kitchen, sitting back in his chair within easy sights of the living room. The Sans was still looking around, clearly afraid, still trembling. Sans could only hope Paps would be back soon.

Chapter Text

Sans looked up when the front door opened, Pap coming through with bags of groceries in his hands, though the two of them stopped dead in their tracks as the sound of panicked crying filled the living room immediately afterwards. Papyrus immediately set the bags down, ready to go and comfort their new visitor, but Sans popped in front of him, holding him back.

“He’s uh, he’s real afraid Paps, lemme try to talk to ‘im.” Sans pleaded, hoping a familiar stranger would sit better with the terrified little skeleton better than an unfamiliar one. Papyrus nodded, hurrying to pick up the bags and into the kitchen, leaving Sans with the huddled, trembling lump of tears that was curled into the couch.

“Jeeze bud, uh… that was just Paps, y’know, Papyrus?” Moving slowly, he came over to the side of the couch, close enough to reach out and touch the trembling ball but not enough to grab him if the little guy was quick enough. “You have a Papyrus, don’t ya?”

The near pitiful crying continued, no recognition he could observe in the same sobbing panic he could feel from the skeleton. Sans sighed as he tried to figure out how the hell to calm him down, only to nearly knock back into the table as the guy suddenly looked up, red eyelight peering up at him behind crimson tears before it slit in terror at their proximity, the little guy scrambling up and off the couch to hide in the narrow crack behind it, between it and the wall.

Sans stared, uncomprehensively as the crying continued, quieter now, though still loud enough to be heard. He… hadn’t expected that at all really. Now the little guy was crammed back where neither of them could really get at unless they moved the couch or reach back behind it, neither of which seemed like a great option when the little guy was so scared in the first place.

So, instead of trying to get him back out into the open, where he’d undoubtedly only be more and more stressed and panicked until he hurt himself, Sans let him be, heading for the kitchen to tell Paps the bad news. Likely he’d heard the commotion and seen it for himself, but… they still needed to talk about what the hell to do about this. There wasn’t any precedent for dealing with a sudden copy of yourself, abused and clearly hurt, just appearing on your doorstep.

Still… with time and patience, they’d figure it out.

~.~

It turned out to be quite a bit more time and patience required before any kind of progress was made towards the little guy’s situation. Well, one plus was that they’d decided on a kind of nickname for him. “Red”, seemed appropriate enough, Sans thought at least, and while Papyrus had sworn he’d think of something better, Sans would put money on Red keeping his name.

Red had stayed behind the couch, and nothing other than God’s Right Hand was getting him out at this point. Sans and Paps had tried to offer him food, blankets, hot drinks, hell, even condiments to get him out of his hiding spot, but nothing was budging him. Papyrus had started leaving plates of warm food on the end table, hoping eventually the smell of it would entice Red into leaving, if only for a little while.

Sans wasn’t sure if that’d actually work, given just how scared Red had been since they’d brought him here. But, after about a week of the sound of rattling bones coming from behind their couch, the plates started showing up empty. They were even licked clean, Red’s hunger seemingly catching up with him after so long of being afraid out of his mind.

Then, one night after he and Paps had gone to bed, Sans moved like a whisper from his room, deciding that just popping into the kitchen with their guest downstairs would be a bad idea. Moving down the stairs, he peered down into the dimly lit living room, only to stop in his tracks.

Red was out, blanket pulled firmly around his shoulders as he picked at the roasted chicken breast Paps had left him, the mac and cheese already completely gone, only a smear of off white left on the plate.

Silently, Sans sat on the stairs, avoiding the one that creaked as he peered down with dimmed eyelights. It was almost endearing, watching the little guy as he picked carefully at the chicken, bringing the small pieces up to his fangs to chew almost thoughtfully. He clearly enjoyed the flavor, Sans’ mouth watering as he remembered the mix of spices Pap had used on that particular batch.

Soon Red was finished, his ruby tongue moving over the plate to catch any remaining grease or cheese before he set it carefully back on the table, moving without a sound to crawl back behind the couch.

Damn he wanted to figure out how to help him. Sans grit his teeth as he thought, trying, actually trying to think of a way they could reach Red from a perspective he’d understand. It’d been a while since he’d tried much of anything, that muted agony of sameness he’d been experiencing for years keeping him from doing much trying. He tried for his brother, and on rare occasion he tried for his friends, but most of the time… it felt like it didn’t matter enough.

But with Red? With Red, Sans almost felt like he owed it to the little guy to try his hardest to help him out. Taking him back to his universe was a no go, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t help him have a life in this one.

Deciding against getting a snack after all, Sans got up and moved back to his bedroom. He and Paps would figure out how to help Red. They just needed to look at it from a different angle.

They’d help him. They would. He’d be okay. Sans had to believe that.

Chapter Text

Sans glanced over at the couch, trying not to let his emotions get the better of him as he nodded to Paps’ statement, which had been something like “I made it extra special this time!” It was his brother, everything he made was special.

“And you’re sure you can talk him out?” Papyrus asked one more time, Sans grinning up at his brother.

“Just gimmie the plate, and let me work some magic.” He winked as Paps groaned, though he did finally hand him the plate that was swimming with an orange tinted sauce, the chicken breast in the middle reeking of mustard and surrounded by two pieces of thick, white bread and a healthy dosage of greens. Mustard braised chicken was definitely the way to go, after Paps had left their little guest a hot dog with the stuff on it a few nights ago, and the thing had been woofed down in seconds.

Part of Sans wondered if that was because he liked mustard, or because he was still working on getting past some serious malnutrition, but either way, he always seemed to like the chicken Paps made so it was a win win.

Leaving Paps in the kitchen, Sans padded almost carelessly over to the couch, trying not to flinch as the sound of movement came from behind it. They’d been trying for a full week to get him out, and if Sans knew anything about himself, it was that the fastest way to his soul was through a good meal. Red didn’t have to fully trust them, he just had to come out. He surely needed a bath, or medical attention for his still working socket, which had become inflamed in the past few days.

And the only reason he knew that was from his nightly spying sessions, when Red finally came out to eat his supper, assured in the belief that he was alone. It made Sans feel almost dirty, watching him when he thought he was safe, but knowing that he could lose sight in his one good eye made the guilt dissipate.

Finally standing just by the edge of the couch, Sans cleared his throat and scuffed his foot, letting Red know he was there, though by the labored breaths, Red already knew.

“Alright buddy, I know it’s gotta be cramped as all hell back there, and I know you’re sick.” He let his words settle in, grin pulling taunt in concern as Red still didn’t speak. “I’ve got you a damn good meal that Paps made for you, right here. All smothered in mustard, stinks it’s so yellow.”

There still wasn’t an answer, so Sans stepped a little closer, placing the plate of food down beside the edge of the couch, where Red could see it but wouldn’t be able to just reach out and take it. He’d have to come out to get it. Backing up a couple steps, he spoke again, “I’m not gonna crowd you buddy, but you gotta come out.”

No answer. Not shifting clothes, no timid skull peeking out from behind the couch, no pulse of fearful magic that was nearly always felt. Now worried, Sans slowly moved forward, hands held up in a peaceful gesture. “I’m coming over, no worries I won’t do… anything… Paps!”

The sound of thundering steps came up behind him from the kitchen as he shot forward, pulling an unconscious Red out from behind the couch, hissing at the heat coming off his bones. His eyes were closed, but both sockets were crusted shut and inflamed a sickly looking crimson. He was having trouble breathing, each breath a slow hitch in his chest and a wheeze of air as it released.

Sans held him up and Papyrus scooped him into his arms, allowing Sans to wrap their charge in a blanket before Sans took a gentle hold of his arm and shortcutted them both to the one person that knew how to deal with a sick skeleton.

The smell of smoke and grease soon surrounded them, Papyrus laying Red on the couch in the back room and Sans rushing to the front to find the monster they needed. It wasn’t difficult to follow the sound of crackling flames, Sans grinning tiredly as Grillby glanced up as he popped through the fire exit, surprise showing in his eyes.

“Sorry to just pop in like this, Pops, but we kinda need your help.”

Grillby nodded, signing something to Red Bird who nodded and hopped behind the bar as Grillby walked quickly to join Sans. The two of them headed for the back room, Sans attempting to explain along the way.

“We found him in a snow poff, and one of his eyes don’t work, and he’s been real scared and he’s not from around here so when and if he wakes up, don’t be surprised if he tries to get away and he’s real sick-” Sans was brought up short as they came into the back room, Papyrus pumping healing magic into little Red, who was trembling up a storm on Grillby’s couch. Papyrus looked up, a somewhat strained smile popping on his face.

“Hello, Dad! We might need a little assistance?”

Grillby wasted no time seeing to the little skeleton, the warmth in the room elevating as he broke his fever and told Sans and Papyrus wear to find the medicine and extra blankets, as well as a bowl of lukewarm water and some rags. They each did as they were told, and soon Red was bundled up, breathing a little easier, the gunk around his eyes gone and his temperature a little lowered.

“Thanks Pops, we were a bit boned there for a minute.” Sans winked tiredly, even as Grillby shook his head and Papyrus gave him a glare. For a brief moment, it was like nothing had changed. And then Red sneezed and the three of them went back to making sure he was comfortable, and safe.

Later, they took him home and laid him up in Sans’ bed, still covered in the blankets they borrowed from their pops. He slept, they worried. But nothing really changed until he woke up.

Chapter Text

Sans had been sleeping on a small pallet of blankets and a pillow on his floor for the few nights Red was sleeping in his bed. In hindsight the little guy had been really, really sick, and had probably not slept much if at all in the time he was stuck behind their couch. But to watch him sleep, expressionless in Sans’ bed… something felt wrong about watching him. So every night, Sans checked on him, washed the excess magic from his arms and forehead, and went to bed on the floor.

Papyrus was usually the one to check on them both in the morning, always bringing a fresh cloth to wipe Red down with before nudging Sans awake to come eat breakfast. Then they would decide who would go to work and who would stay to keep an eye on Red, although Sans usually stayed home and Paps usually went to work. Sans wouldn’t be inclined to waste all their precious cleaning products on already clean surfaces when he stayed home, and their wallets thanked him. 

Still, according to the few times Sans broke down and texted Pops, the flame had reminded him that Red had been under a pretty severe fever and would likely come out of it on his own. That didn’t make it any easier to listen to his feeble, wheezy breaths at night, or hear his bones rattle when a chill took him, but Sans felt he’d been dealing with all this about as well as could be expected.

So the one morning that Papyrus didn’t wake him up, he opened his eyes wondering what it was that had jarred him out of sleep. There were old triggers, old whispers of things that used to make him afraid but now just kinda made him agitated that could wake him from a dead sleep, but in his own room they were few and far between. Hearing the bones rattling after a moment, however, made it apparent what it was. 

Glancing up at the side of his mattress, he really wasn’t expecting to see much more than a still, slightly trembling lump of bone. Instead he was met with the sight of two glowing red eyelights, peering out from underneath the blanket that had become a safe hiding spot, apparently. Sans puffed out a breath, sitting up on his pallet with slow movements, before sighing.

“I don’t suppose you’re hungry at all?” he asked, but was a bit surprised that he actually got an answer. Red shook his head, eyelights brightening to a lighter shade than they’d been the entire time the little guy had been here, and Sans tried not to let himself get too excited thinking about that. “Well, should I get Paps? I think we should talk.”

Red seemed too… well, not scared, but too apprehensive to answer one way or the other, so Sans took it as permission. Fishing his phone out of the closest pile of shorts, Sans sent a short but efficient text off to his brother. Hopefully Paps had just been downstairs, and hadn’t already taken off for the day. After a few moments of silence, the sound of his brother making his way through the house came through the walls, Sans relaxing a little. 

Red watched the door anxiously, sweat dotting on his forehead and for all Sans knew it’d be a monumentally bad idea, he wanted to wipe it away like he’d been doing for days. Then the door was gently opening and he was taken out of his thoughts, Sans glancing up at Paps with a grin that was returned before Papyrus was giving Red a gentle smile. 

“Are you hungry, Red? You really should eat if your stomach is feeling alright, it’s been a few days.”

Red once again shook his head, curling up a bit more on the bed, and Sans was positive that if the two of them weren’t there, Red would be fast asleep. Papyrus nodded, moving to sit on the floor beside Sans, hands draped carelessly over his lap.

“Alright, then I believe we should discuss some things.”

Red glanced to Sans, who smiled at him peacefully. Then, after a long moment, he nodded. Papyrus grinned, happy at this turn of events, and turned to face Red fully.

“We think… that the place you’ve come from was not very peaceful. That you were… hurt, quite a bit, and that you don’t know what it’s like to live in safety. We want to prove to you that you have nothing to fear here, that neither Sans nor I will hurt you or attempt to hurt you in any way, no matter what you do or what you say.”

Red’s face grew progressively more confused as Papyrus went on, until he finally just seemed shocked. It made the two brothers feel for the small skeleton, and essentially confirmed their fears. Neither one of them wanted him to feel scared in their home, or feel like any wrong move would get him hurt, or worse. 

Red stared hard at the both of them, before diverting his eyes to the floor. His voice was soft, misused, but the two of them heard it all the same. “Y-you won’t… sell me?”

Papyrus was the first to recover, stating a quick “That’s not how things are done here, but no, we would never.”

Red glanced up at him, then back at the floor. “Do I...b-belong to you?”

Sans answered with a quick “No, if you want to leave you can, and we’ll help you find a good place to live, with good food and a nice view.”

Red stared hard at the floor, before he looked up almost desperately, tears filling his sockets, as he asked “Y-you won’t give me b-back to the-the D-d-doctor again-!”

This time both Sans and Papyrus gently, slowly moved toward him, taking a small, easy hold of his hands to look him in the eye. “We would never leave you to that fate. Never ever.”

Sans nodded his agreement with Papyrus, and the two of them backed off when Red took his hands out of their own, something like confused relief in his eyes.

It wasn’t like he would understand at first, they needed to take it slow. But getting this out of the way first hand seemed like the first step.

Chapter Text

The weeks that followed were filled with tremulous emotion, as best as Sans could explain it. He and Papyrus worked hard, cooking and cleaning and going to their stations in shifts so that Red was never alone for very long, but no matter how hard they worked to keep him from falling back into the fears that plagued him, panic attacks and severe bouts of depressive episodes abounded.

Sans would wake up some mornings to Red, laying on his side, starting despondently at the wall. Instead of attempting to get him up, the Plan for these days (worked out extensively with his brother, who’d researched what he could and spoken with their dad about how it was to raise them right after...well) was to lay him a plate of something that wouldn’t spoil quickly beside him on the floor, as well as a large glass of ice water. The ice would keep it cold for as long as it took for Red to finally turn over and work up enough strength to drink some. 

The cups were never more than half empty, the plates almost always still full of crackers and hard cheese when one of them returned to check on him, but the days he wasn’t in an episode certainly made up for the days that he was.

Red was somewhat of a narcoleptic, though he tried to hide it at first. It became something like a game to try to find the odd place in house he’d fallen asleep, the warm, fresh laundry downstairs seemingly a favorite spot. It would have been cute if Red didn’t fall into a panic attack every time he woke up somewhere he didn’t remember drifting off. Pap made it a point to never move him from wherever he’d fallen asleep, but some days he would move around like a human zombie, unaware of anything around him until, once again, he was down for the count face first in a pile of Sans’ dirty socks. 

The panic attacks were… a bit more common than either brother had hoped they would be, but they’d expected it, just not as often as they came. Papyrus himself was more than acquainted with them himself, but it’d been a few years since they’d been this numerous, so another trip to Grillby’s had been in order, this time with Red tagging along. 

Red had been terrified to hear they were taking him out of the house, but after Grillby lead them to the back and offered him a thick, greasy cheeseburger smothered in mustard, he seemed to warm up a little, or as much as he did for the brothers. 

Grillby had only been able to advise them that they not touch him during one of his attacks, but to simply, calmly talk him through it. After, they’d all eaten and Red had been given a doggy bag to take home, another burger waiting for when he was hungry again. It was eaten later that night, after the brothers had gone to bed, Sans waking up to Red clutching the empty paper bag to his chest in his sleep. 

It was a random idea, really, that Sans’d had while nearly asleep at his station. There was nothing out there, nothing but silence and snow, and not for the first time he wished that he had an occasional companion to talk to. His thoughts jumped to Red, who would have been back home with Paps, probably helping clean something up or watching a movie, and that was when the idea hit him.

It would do Red some good to be out of the house, at least a few days a week or so, and Sans would do well with someone to bounce his best jokes off of, so really it was a win win. He only needed to convince Red.

Shortcutting home was easy, seeing that he’d startled Red was not, but he was honestly so proud of the way Red’s eyelights slowly filled back to their normal size, his hands gripping the couch as he tried to calm himself. 

“H-Hello, Sans.” Red said, voice quiet. Sans couldn’t help the grin on his face as he nodded his own greeting, flopping on the couch beside him. 

“How’d today go, kiddo?” He glanced over at the kitchen, where the sounds of pans clattering and something sizzling on the stove came through the open doorway.

“It w-went alright… I think…” Red answered, eyes directed solely on the floor as he scuffed his foot. “Only one… a-attack. Pap s-said that was g-good?”

Sans nodded, grin widening. “That’s real good, kid. Only one is way better.”

He’d ask about Red coming on his shifts later, he thought, after Paps had brought in supper and the three of them were relaxed, or as relaxed as Red got, and watching some random movie. Papyrus would bring out a tray of nachos and a side of chips and salsa, the table pulled close to the couch so they wouldn’t have to reach far to grab a handful. Drinks were set out as well, dark purple and light blue and fizzing with bubbles and ice cubes. 

They would watch some kind of comedy Red would swear he’d seen in the dump, but that it looked a bit darker than theirs was. 

Yeah, Sans reasoned, he had plenty of time to talk Red into the idea. It would be good for him, to get some fresh air, and maybe see that monsters here weren’t anything like whatever passed for a monster in his world.

It made him wonder, some days, what Red’s Grillby had been like. If he’d been kind to Red, if he’d been a father figure in his life, or if he’d used him like it seemed everyone else had. 

Either way, it didn’t matter, because Red was with them, now. He was safe, where they could protect him, and show him that he didn’t have to live in fear anymore.It was a hard fought battle some days, but he could tell that Red was slowly, but surely coming around, healing on his own time, and no matter how long it took, Sans was going to be there for him. That was a promise he didn’t mind making.

Chapter Text

It took a few weeks for Red to come around to the idea of leaving the house every other day, even when Sans promised him Grillby’s for lunch on those days. Papyrus had nearly had an aneurysm when he heard the plan, but had endorsed it if only for Red’s healing process. These days Sans sat at his station, Red bundled up beside him on a little stool they’d borrowed from Grillby, a stack of books beside him as the cold, silent hours passed them by.

Red had turned out to be a rather voracious reader, which was surprising considering his background. The two brothers hadn’t even been sure Red could read until they found him, hiding in his favorite spot in Papyrus’ room, a large book in his hands. It was a picture book, one of the easier ones but Red was mouthing along to the words as he read, the picture of adorableness. 

Neither of them had said anything about it, simply backed out of the room without another word, and if more challenging books began showing up in odd places, something a bit more difficult than picture books but even more rewarding, then Red would just enjoy them even more. 

Most days Red would spend the time out at sentry reading or napping, though he often cowered behind the sentry station wall when one of the dogs would come by to chat. Often times either Dogamy or Doggo would ask them to come to lunch with them, their treat. Sans certainly never turned down free food before they’d met Red, but on the days he was trembling especially hard, the rattle of bones clear in the otherwise quiet air, he would give them some excuse to beg off before leading Red in a shortcut back to the house. Paps usually left them some kind of lunch, since it wasn’t often Red felt up to going to Grillby’s, but some days he was a bit braver and deigned to go visit the flame.

Then, there were days like today, when one small, innocuous thing set the rest of the evening ablaze.

Sans glanced up from where his head was pillowed on his arms, Red silently reading beside him though he too looked up as Papyrus came into view, a beaming smile on his face.

“Red! I have wonderful news!” he exclaimed, Red perking up and setting his book face down to look at Paps better. He didn’t ask what it was, didn’t try to figure out what the surprise could be, he only seemed to turn stiff as a board as Paps reached in his pocket and pulled out a small white bottle.

Sans knew what it was just by looking at it. He had a bottle of his own, likely from the same source, though his wasn’t for the same affliction. Papyrus seemed to notice the way Red’s eyelights constricted, as he quickly set the bottle out of sight. 

“It’s medicine, dear Red, for your anxiety. Alphys said it’d-” Papyrus began, but the moment Alphys’ name passed his teeth Red was gone. Sans sat straight up, sockets wide as he began searching the nearby clearing, Papyrus doing the same until it was obvious Red was no longer there.

“Oh no, Sans, I’m so sorry, I don’t-?” Papyrus shut his teeth with a click and turned aboutface, running full on toward town to check the house. Sans watched him leave, then with fear pooling in his soul he began shortcutting to all the places he’d been with Red that seemed like a safe place. Any monsters he saw along the way promised to keep an eye out, Dogaressa gathering the rest of the Dog Pack and sending out a search for him when an hour passed and no one had caught hide or tail. 

Hour after hour passed, no one able to find a trail or a path that Red might have gone down. Papyrus had finally decided to stay at the sentry station, hoping Red might return, and Sans had finally gone to Grillby’s to tell the flame what had happened, though with the gossips in town he likely already knew. 

After a long chat with his pops, Sans headed home with an extra large order of cheese fries, for when Red finally came home. He didn’t expect much of anything when he went into the dark, silent house, the lights off and the rooms empty, but he was greeted with a faint crimson glow, the sounds of rattling bones filling the living room. 

In the end Sans was able to explain what the medicine was, what it would do, and any and all possible side effects, from what he knew of monster medicine. He was able to explain that this Alphys wasn’t the crazed, violent mad scientist Red’s Alphys had apparently been. 

Red didn’t agree to take the medicine. But he did give Papyrus a small hug when he returned and ate his portion of cheese fries. That was all Sans could really hope for.

Chapter Text

If there was one place in Sans’ universe that Red seemed to like, it was deep in Waterfall, close to the Star Cave, at Sans’ little hotdog stand. It’d taken a while for Red to venture out of Snowdin with either of them, but he’d take up heading to the capitol with Paps for the good groceries and, more recently, with Sans on his various sentry shifts. Undyne had been fairly lenient with him missing his Waterfall and Hotlands shifts for the first month or so Red was still settling in, but by then she’d had enough and pretty much knocked down the door demanding to know when he was going back.

For the first week or so Red had been too anxious to leave the house, other than when he went with Sans on his Snowdin sentry shift, but Sans had convinced him that Waterfall would help him. 

The soothing sound of far off rain, bubbling brooks and the rushing river that ran nearby, and the general soft, blue lighting of Waterfall was perfect for someone with high anxiety and a bad history to heal in, in Sans’ opinion. Or at least, he was hoping.

After about a week of sentry duty with Red accompanying him, though, and it proved correct. Red’s bones would lose their tension almost as soon as they walked into the cool tunnels, his steps a little less careful as he stared around in wonder at the bright rocks and high up crystals. 

Today was a lay day, for the most part. Few monsters came for their ‘dogs, something that usually only happened when there was a landslide in one of the main tunnels. Unruffled, Sans simply looked through his newest car magazine, Red seated on the soft dirt beside him, eyelights locked up at the ceiling. 

It would have been a perfect day, had the silence remained until they headed home. Would have been.

“Y’know…” Red stopped, as if rethinking saying anything. Sans simply continued looking at the pictures of hot rods in his magazine, waiting, and eventually rewarded. “I never had a brother.”

If you rethought your definition of reward. 

Sans glanced up from the magazine, giving Red a sad look, Red’s face thoughtful as he continued staring up.

“What?” was Sans’ thoughtful reply, Red glancing at him once before his eyelights were once again locked upwards.

“I never had a brother. Like Paps. I think… I think the, the…” He stopped, licking at his teeth nervously before continuing. “I don’t think He made me one.”

Well. There was a lot of subtext in that, most of it so toxic Sans didn’t want to touch it with a nine foot temmie, but still…

“Me and Paps could be your brothers.”

Red’s grin went crooked, something that shocked Sans for a moment. Still he didn’t say anything, so Sans stayed silent. The silence lasted until the shift ended, past their walk home and, other than the conversation with Paps when they got home and over dinner, neither Red nor Sans said anything until after they’d both gone to bed.

“Kill or be killed.” Red said, the sentence hanging in the air between them like a noose. Sans licked his own teeth, staring up at the dust covered ceiling as he tried to process what Red said.

“What?” 

“Kill or be killed. That’s what they said in my universe.” Red said simply, before turning on his side, seemingly going to sleep.

Sans stayed awake for a long time.

Chapter Text

Sans wasn’t sure why he thought the Anomaly would stop just because Red was here. It was a few months late, sure, and for a good while Sans had just assumed that whatever Red had done when ending up in this universe, it’d stopped them for good.

That assumption was proven wrong when he felt the magic in the air that always blasted out from the seal on the Door being broken, the thing opening, then closing. It was a good sign; typically if the kid had killed Toriel the door would have just stayed propped open. Red was staring up at him, clearly feeling the powerful magic seeping into the air around them, and Sans almost thought about calling Paps to take him home and keep him there indefinitely.

If Frisk dusted Red, Sans wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop himself from just killing the kid every time they peeked their dusty little face through that damn Door. But, judging by the look on Red’s face, sending him home with no explanation would only end with him shortcutting back here, exactly where Sans didn’t want him to be, and likely on his own. Which was, yknow, unacceptable, so Sans decided that honesty, in this instance, was going to be the best policy. 

“A human kid comes through here. Sometimes they save everyone, sometimes they kill everyone, it just depends on their mood.”

Red was staring at him with wide, shocked eyes, but didn’t say anything, so Sans continued.

“Hopefully they’ll have been in a good mood and there won’t be any dust, but if there is even a speck of dust on their clothes, take a shortcut home and stay there, please?” He knew he sounded desperate, but honestly he was so done with little killer kids. Red gave him a concerned look, which, he probably looked halfway to a panic attack of his own, but in the end he just held out his pinkie finger, Sans taking it gratefully. 

“Thank you.” Sans said with great feeling, Red giving him a careful look even as he stood from his spot on the floor of the station, brushing off his shorts.

“Where are they gonna be?”

Sans sighed, rubbed a hand over his face, then turned to the forest. “Where they always end up.”

~.~

To say the kid was shocked to see another Sans, standing next to Sans , was an understatement. Their deceptively sleepy eyes widened enough that Sans could see the whites, their hand gripping their stick a little more firmly. They gave Red a look over, clearly curious who he was and where he’d come from, but before they could start signing their questions, Sans held up a hand.

“Lemme tell ya something, kid. Listen closely, alright?” He said, waiting until their attention was solely on him, instead of Red, who was staring back with an even coolness. Sans wondered at that, but he had something he had to make sure the kid understood.

“This is Red. He’s Pap’s and my little brother. And if you decide to do anything untoward , well…” he chuckled, the sound grating. He ignored the weird sidelook he got from Red, instead focusing all of his attention to the kid, his sockets blacking out. “I’ll just have to have words with you. Got me?”

The kid nodded frantically, holding their stick up in front of their chest protectively, and if Sans hadn’t known it was an act he might’ve believed their frightened antics. As it was… 

Just as Sans was about to turn and shortcut Red home, so he could keep a better eye on the kid and who they dusted along the way, Red stepped in front of him, sticking his hand out for the kid to take. 

“Why don’t you come home with us, you look like you could use a hot meal.”

Sans tried to not let his mouth drop open as the kid took hold of Red’s hand, smiling gratefully as he started to lead them back towards town, the two of them gently talking in sign, Red at more ease than Sans had seen the entire time he’d been here.

In the end he followed them home, watching carefully as Red introduced them to every guard and villager they came upon, none of the dogs willing to attack a friend of Red’s. Sans was nearly shocked as Red led the kid into Grillby’s with barely a flinch, sitting in his usual spot and ordering the two of them some cheese fries. 

Of course Sans sat with them and ate a burg, doing his usual ketchup gag, and followed them all the way home after the kid seemed sated and content with the amount of cheese fries they’d consumed. Paps had been elated at the sight of a human guest, and even more so that they’d become Red’s friend. He’d made dessert, which put the kid right to sleep since cookies and milk were the obvious late night choice. Then he’d put the kid to bed in his own bed, which meant he wasn’t planning on sleeping, shooing Red and Sans up to their beds before settling on the couch to watch MTT all night.

Sans settled easily into bed, but his soul was roiling in discomfort at having the kid in his house , in just the other room, where they could do anything and he’d be unable to stop it. 

Red rolled over and looked at him, studying his face. “I had a kid. Frisk’s their name.”

Sans wanted to snap that he knew they had a name, he was aware, they’d gotten to the surface before, but the look on Red’s face stopped him. It was contemplative, and melancholy. 

“They died too many times. I dunno if they stayed with Toriel that last time or just...never came back.” He turned on his back, staring up at the ceiling. “They were a good kid.”

Sans stared at him for a long time. Until after Red had fallen asleep, long into the night.

He didn’t understand, he could say that with certainty. This wasn’t Red’s human. Wasn’t his Frisk. 

What was he supposed to do? He couldn't kill the kid now, not even if they hurt Red. 

Sans sighed, turning over on his mat to face the door, a protective intent filling his soul, along with a weird fuzzy feeling he wasn't going to pay attention to. Not when there was a kid to keep an eye on.

Chapter Text

When Sans got up the next morning, he found Papyrus and Frisk already downstairs, working through a giant mound of pancakes. He settled into a chair with an easy smile, only giving the kid a side glance as he piled up his own plate and tucked in. Red came down a near half hour later, sleepily trudging to the table to receive his own plate full of pancakes and a special bacon filled with extra magic. 

The kid left almost immediately after breakfast, Papyrus following after them to show them around town. Sans had a mind to follow as well, but Red convinced him that going to his shift would be better. He wanted to disagree, wanted to remind Red that this wasn’t his Frisk, but in the end he agreed. Red went to the sentry station in Waterfall with him, the two of them staying there until a certain kid came through. 

Sans did his usual spiel when they came up to talk to them, but then the kid turned to Red and asked him something Sans didn’t quite catch. Red nodded and, shockingly, winked, the kid giggling quietly before going along their way.

He gave Red a side eyed glance, noticing the self assured look on his face but deciding not to say anything. Red was sure about something, but there was no way to know what it was. So Sans kept quiet and, as per script, headed down to where he had to meet the kid, Red trailing along to every spot. 

And things stayed to script, until Red gently took the kid by the hand and led them straight to Undyne’s house long before they were supposed to meet her, Sans watching with wide eyes as Red went right up to the Captain’s door and knocked, the kid standing just behind him with what looked like trepidation in their eyes. Sans didn’t blame them.

Undyne came after about the fourth knock, banging the door open with a scowl, the look near melting off her face as she looked between a grinning Red and a near frightened kid. Then she looked at Sans, giving him a sort of “get him out of here and I’ll take care of the human” look, but before he could do so much as shake his head, Red’s grip on the kid’s hand was tightening, his sockets narrowing. 

“Don’t you want to greet my new friend, Captain?”

Undyne near gulped, sticking out her hand for the kid to shake, even as she seemed disgusted with the thought of touching them. “Yeah, uh, duh nerd! I’m Undyne, Captain of the Royal Guard!” She glanced down at them sideways, seemingly debating hurting Red in the attempt of a wide attack. One look at Sans had the energy in the air slowly dissipating. “Normally we arrest little punks like you but… since you’re Red’s friend… ” The word friend was spit like acid, her hands resting on her hips as she gestured for them to come inside.

Sans was shocked, again, but he followed them inside, just in case Undyne tried an attack from behind.

The visit went about as well as it could have, though in the end Red actually got a promise, an honest to god promise from Undyne that she wouldn’t try to kill the kid. Sans had no idea how he did it, or how he was even facing down a nearly furious Undyne without having some sort of attack, but… Sans was almost proud of him.

They left the kid on their own after that, the world pausing and stopping just a few times to tell them that some monster had gotten in a lucky shot here or there. Sans had to wonder how many monsters they were getting their hands on, but every time they caught up to check on them, there wasn’t a speck of dust visible. 

The kid got through Alphys, Mettaton, and Muffet without breaking a sweat, something born of doing this hundreds of times. But still, when they entered the Judgement Hall, there wasn’t any dust on them. Not a single monster had been killed, something that was proven when Sans checked their LV. One, and not a digit higher. He gave his usual spiel about how he was proud of them and their insistence on not killing anyone, but even the kid would tell he didn’t mean it. 

Red stepped forward then, and offered his hand, the kid taking it with a soft smile and letting him lead them into the throne room. Sans stayed out, until he fell to the floor, unconscious. He didn’t wake again until the kids was gently shaking him, Sans gasping and scooting back a pace before they desperately signed at him, telling him that Red still wasn’t waking up. 

Sans felt something like bile rise in his throat as he all but ran to the throne room, finding everyone there, Flowey sulking in the corner like a child, Red in Papyrus’ arms. Frisk took him by the arm after he’d stopped, dragging him over and begging him to check Red’s stats, to see if there was something wrong. Sans almost wondered why no one else had done it while he put his hand over Red’s chest, checking his soul. 

There was nothing out of order, Red’s HP holding steady at the same 5 it’d been at since he’d been there, but he still wasn’t waking up. Everyone around them was distracted by the Barrier being open, Sans and Papyrus following mutely and walking into the sunlight, Red in their arms. 

As soon as the warm sunlight hit Red’s face though, his eyes opened, his eyelight darting around in confusion before he saw Papyrus and Sans, sockets tearing up as he turned to cuddle into them both.

“I went back, I saw Grillby, I told him I was okay, I’m okay, I’m back, I’m okay-” Red mumbled under his breath, Papyrus holding him closer even as Sans felt his soul constrict in something like fear. The two of them held him as close as they could, until long after the others had left, entranced by this “new” world for them all. 

“It’s alright, Red, you’re here with us.” Papyrus finally said, laying a small skeleton kiss to the top of Red’s skull, Red snuggling further into the front of his sweater. Sans sat close next to them, Red’s hand in his own, his thumb gently massaging the small bones as he stared out at the sunset. 

There was quiet for a while longer, until Red finally spoke up, little red eyelight looking out at the sunset. “Oh. Is that the sun?”

Sans nearly choked, Papyrus making some kind of noise as the two of them snuggled him even further.

Eventually, they traveled down the mountain and joined the others. Eventually, Sans and Papyrus found a nice little mountain cottage with a stream for the three of them to live in, away from the noise and intent of the city. And, eventually, Red confessed his feelings for the brothers, with a shy (sly) kiss and a plate of badly made cookies. 

Papyrus had been ecstatic. Sans had been shocked. 

And in the end, they never missed a single sunset.