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Handle With Care

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Red rolled his eyelights as he dropped the last of the moving boxes onto the living room floor. Even trashed from the move in, this place looked better than the last. The walls had paint on them and the carpet was from this decade. Best go see what poor sap his little bro was yapping at before they got kicked out. Moving into the hallway outside the apartment, he spotted Edge and his victim. Red swallowed. It was a skeleton monster. Who looked up and winked at Red.

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Red stood on the porch and smoked, skull flushed, the cigarette distracting from the fact that Edge had no doubt made him look stupid in front of their new next door neighbor. Their adorable—single—neighbor named Sans. Whatever. Nothing new. That’s what kid brothers did best. Be embarrassing. At least Sans didn’t seem offended.

“cute kid, yours?” he’d asked, voice hinted with humor.

“unfortunately,” Red grunted back.

Edge proceeded to interrogate Sans about himself and the area until the other skeleton’s phone began to ring.

“gotta take this call. see ya around. don’t get too bonely while i’m gone.”

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The feeling of eyes on him made Red open a socket. Edge sat cross-legged on the floor, twisting his fraying scarf, browbone furrowed in the picture of childish petulance. “what’cha doin’ boss?” Red yawned, rolling over to hang an arm off the side of the futon. Boxes cluttered the room, left packed as he took a much needed nap.


“yer face gonna stuck like that.”

“SHUT UP! I SAID I WAS THINKING!” Red snorted and sat up. Before he could chase away the drowsiness, Edge spoke again, “Are you going to ask Sans to be datemates?”

Red sputtered.


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“how do ya like it here, boss?” Red sat on Edge’s mattress his bedtime story in hand. The little skeleton rolled under Decepticon sheets.

“....Why did we leave?”

“your bro gotta new job. was too far away for me to ‘port, but it pays better, so we can live in nice digs like this.” He saved every penny to afford the move. They’d be living on ramen until his paycheck, but what was new?

“Do you miss crazy lady?”

Red glanced up, the image of their old, paranoid, punning goat neighbor rising to mind, “yeah.” It hadn’t been all bad.

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Red was thirteen when his old man returned home with a bundle of bones and a dead stare. He was sixteen when the news came from the powerplant that daddy dearest decided that the liquor wasn’t enough to drown the pain and hopped the safety rails. He was seventeen by the time anyone noticed they were orphans—nobody cared. He was eighteen when he earned his GED and picked up a third job.

Edge was five when a stray bullet shattered the kitchen window.

Edge was five when Red started applying to every job he could find in Northside Ebott.

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A knock at the door had Red cussing, ready to rip the head off the idiot that decided to wake him at six in the morning. He stomped to the front, Edge snickering in the kitchen with a bowl of microwave oatmeal. Some monsters slept for more than two hours at night.

Red cracked open the door with a snarl (you can take the skeleton out of the slums but not the paranoia out of the skeleton), his anger sputtering out at the sight of a babybones about Edge’s age weilding a plate of blackened cookies.


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Papyrus was, in a word, colorful. From his butter-yellow jacket down to his superhero style rain boots, he looked cut from some cheesy kid’s cartoon. Red accepted the cookies with a blink. This had to be the brother Sans mentioned. He’d been expecting someone a little less...excitable. Or maybe he was just getting old.

“where’s yer bro?”

Papyrus huffed and waved at the apartment door, “SLEEPING! LIKE A LAZYBONES!” He peeked past Red, “OH, HI! ARE YOU EDGE? YOU LOOK SO COOL. WANNA BE FRIENDS WITH THE GREAT PAPYRUS?”


Papyrus grinned. Challenge accepted.

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Knock. Knock.

“who's there?”


“tell who?”

“tell paps i'm here.”

Red opened the door; Sans stood on the other side looking rumpled from sleep, a yellow sticky between his phalanges. Papyrus did say he left a note after he barged in and started yammering at Edge. Speaking of which…

“oi pipsqueaks, one of yer dead yet?” The response was a smattering of giggles from Papyrus. “wanna come in while i get'em?”

Sans nodded, “sorry bout paps. he's never been good remembering the stranger danger lesson.”

“s'all right. no harm done.”

Red walked to Edge's room, soul fluttering a little.

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tibia-honest, i've shut off that smoke alarm enough times i can do it in my sleep.” Sans said when Red asked him about the charcoal called cookies. It was evening and they were both taking out the trash. “he knows how to wake me up if there's a fire.”

“yer let him use the stove?”

Sans gave him a long-suffering look, “he's the best kid one can ask for...but sometimes he's too smart for his own good. tends to do what he thinks is best and will spend hours arguing he was right after the fact.”

Red chuckled.

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“c'mon, i thought yer liked school.”


Red rubbed his skull, head throbbing. Between the ungodly hour, the lack of coffee in his apartment and Edge's fit of extra loud shouting, he was just done with the day.

“edge, you hafta go to school.”


He groaned, picking up Edge's bag, ready to drag out the babybones kicking-and-screaming to the bus.

Knock. Knock.

“uh, everything alright?”


Wait. Sans meant Papyrus.

“real shame. and here i thought yer wanted to prove to the powderpuff yer the best.”

Edge never got ready so fast in his life.

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Good thing about grease monkeys was that they tended to be a tougher lot, fewer of them wigged out by a shark-toothed skeleton showing up to fix cars. There were a couple he'd need to keep a socket on, but Red had high hopes. Despite less than reputable reasons, he knew his way around import vehicles, and his supervisor approved.

If only the uniforms weren't so dorky. The pants were too big on his pelvis and he spent half the morning tripping. And there was a smiley on his temp badge. Whatever. He'd break out the sewing kit at home.

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“i'm home. how wuz school?” Red called as he went to drop his keys on the kitchen counter. It was dark. Edge usually turned on the lights unless there was a code Yellow or worse. Had someone tried to break in? “edge, where are yer?” No response. His soul pounded and his eyelights shrank. “edge! dis aint funny.” He flipped on lights, opened doors, checked anywhere a babybones could hide.


He grit his teeth as fear shifted into fury. He was gonna find who took his brother and--

Laughter. From inside Sans’ apartment. Red practically 'ported to the door.

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Sweat beaded his skull and his soul buzzed like a bee in a bottle, as he pounded on Sans’ door. Papyrus opened it, but before Red could speak, a figure stepped up behind him. A human. No more than 14 or 15.

“Papy, what have I told you about answering the door by yourself?” she scolded, before cocking her head, “You must be Red.”

“who the eff are yer and why are yer in sans’ apartment?”

Unfazed, she replied, “Frisk. Family friend and Paps’ babysitter. Now, I'm guessing someone didn't leave a note.” She stepped to the side, revealing Edge.

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“I DID TOO LEAVE A NOTE! NOT MY FAULT IF YOU DIDN'T SEE IT. I PUT IT ON THE FRIDGE LIKE THE HUMAN TOLD ME…” Edge crossed his arms, craft paper stuck to his skull with glitter glue. He was visibly displeased about Red dragging him home. “PAPYRUS HAS PROPER PUZZLING SUPPLIES AND I'M NOT ABOUT TO ACCEPT A SUBPAR GRADE ON MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT.”

Red's soul didn't calm, “yer supposed to come straight home.”


“so? you don't know frisk! and she didn't sign up to babysit two kids.”


“room. now.”


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Red was burning through his second cigarette in a row on the porch when Sans’ outside door opened. “heard what happened today.” Red kept smoking, staring at the stars above. “frisk is a good kid, real responsible. always feel better knowin’ someone is with paps when i can’t be…”

“good fer yer,” Red gritted his fangs. He could sense Sans’ stare.

“paps shouldn’t have invited edge over without permission. m’sorry. but neither frisk or i care if he visits after school. we both think the boys are good for each other.”

Ash flitted to the cement.

Red lit another cigarette.

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Having screaming matches with a small child probably wasn't the best way to make a good impression on anyone, least of all his (still adorable) neighbor. But Red didn't care right now. Their souls understood each other despite the raised voices. Also, who didn't every so often have shouting matches with their sibling?

They were quibbling over after school plans in the hallway when Edge decided to pull his usual stunt.

“frick! leggo brat,” Red grumbled, his hand trapped in Edge's mouth. Painful, but minimal HP damage. A sharp breath drew his attention. There stood Sans with dark, frightened sockets

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“uh, sup?” Red gave a small wave, yanking his hand free of Edge’s mouth. Sans looked terribly small as he inched back, his eyelights returning slow and fuzzy. That was when Red felt it, the resonate pull of being CHECKED, and he squared his shoulders. “oi! what the hell?!” It was rude to CHECK someone outside of an Encounter, and in their old neighborhood, monsters only did that before they jumped someone. Sans probably didn’t mean any harm, but still—

“your stats…”

“pfft. gonna take more than a nibble to dust me, sansy.”

“edge has to stop biting.”

Say what?

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“whaddya mean by that?”

“he can’t go around biting people! what if he lost his temper and hurt someone? kids don’t always have a lotta hp, red.”

“don’t talk like you know anythin’. he’s never bit someone that didn’t deserve it! until he can make bullets, biting is the best way to defend himself. unless letting him get kidnapped or left in some ditch is better?!”

“what?” Sans rocked on his heels, “look, it’s just, he needs to be careful.”

Red growled and in his anger, hit Sans with a CHECK. His fury instantly sputtered out, “oh.”

1 HP

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And here Red thought five was a crummy number.

Sans didn’t reply as he retreated back into his apartment, and Edge stopped fighting the rest of the walk down to the bus stop. The tiniest bit of carelessness could dust Sans. Heck, most monsters Fell Down by the time they reached Red’s HoPe, and here Sans was persisting with one. His soul twisted, unfocused anger and unwarranted protectiveness mingling in his ribcage.


Red’s skull flushed scarlet.

Edge strutted off like a little lord, Papyrus rushing up to hug him.

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It was the weekend and Red decided to take Edge to the park. Neither were expecting to see Sans with a cart, peddling monsterfood. They hadn’t spoken since the biting incident, but Sans smiled at him without guile as he approached.

“sup, neighbor,” Red grumbled.

“sup. you two hungry?”

“YES! BUT RED SAYS EATING OUT IS TOO EXPENSIVE.” Ouch kid. Red was about to just fork over the buck when Edge pointed at a little sign, “I WANT THAT!”

There, written in sloppy letters read: finish the sans challenge in 1 min or less and get a free ‘cat.

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A bottle of ketchup. The special was literally just a bottle of ketchup. Red protested, but Edge set his jaw, held out a hand and didn’t budge until Sans handed over the freshly opened bottle, “START THE TIMER!” Both older skeletons looked at each other, and Sans shrugged, tapping on his phone.


Edge upturned the bottle and drank. Red’s nonexistent stomach churned. Then, just as the alarm rang, he slammed the container down.


“you hate mustard…”

Edge shoved the ‘cat at Red before running off to go play on the swings.

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Red was caught between chuckling in affection for the little squirt and scolding him for his gall. What happened was a choke and a sputter, his skull flushing rose. At the corner of his eye he caught Sans arch a browbrone. Out of reflex, Red flipped him the bird before scarfing down the dog. Sans laughed. It was a low, dusty sound, like he didn't do it often. He leaned over the stand and winked at Red.

“he always that cuddly?”

“as a bear trap.”

“paps wants to hang out again.”


“sleepover. he insists.”

“i dunno…”


That look...

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He shouldn't allow it. Boundaries weren't learned through lax rules. But he wanted to give Edge the childhood Red didn't have. Which was how he found himself at Sans’ door, Edge in his PJs, tense but wavering. Papyrus made a giddy sound and picked Edge up, carrying him off squawking in protest. They'd be fine.

So why did he linger? Sweat beaded down his spine.

“y'know, you can join if you want. paps wouldn't mind.”

Red narrowed his sockets at Sans, “what about yer?” Sans reply was ‘that look’. The one he couldn't name. Or resist. “lemme grab my toothbrush.”

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The inside of Sans’s apartment made Red wonder if the other skeleton was colorblind. Between the off-green couch and the violently orange-and-purple striped rug, it was a legitimate thing to ponder. “i’ve got snacks and the tv’s all set up. ‘course paps will want to build a pillow fort before we start the movie.” The way Sans said it gave the impression that he’s done this a thousand times before. “not a sleepover without a fort.” Red followed him into the kitchen, kicking off his shoes, his eyelights going wide. “condiment?”

On the counter were bottles of ketchup and mustard.

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Sans’ couch was one of the most uncomfortable things Red ever had the misfortune of sitting on. At least two springs dug into his lower spine and the padding inside the cushions were about as soft as rocks. But Red quickly dismissed his discomfort when Sans tossed his jacket over the back and bid him to do the same, giving him full view of his humeri and clavicle. Sans sipped his ketchup, eyelights drifting between the tv and the mound of blankets and pillows. Adults were banned from the fort.

Suddenly, their gazes met.

Red near forgot his own name.

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Three hours. That is as long as the kids lasted before they conked out. Papyrus, a skeleton of standards, insisted that the floor wasn’t for sleeping, and dragged a dozing Edge to his room. They made a pile of bones on his race car bed. The sight made Red’s soul ache. He’d never seen Edge so relaxed around another monster before.

He retreated to the couch, the MTT channel glowing pink-and-purple on the screen.

“yer willinging watch the trash can?”

“paps loves him. his shows make decent background noise.” A pause. “it’s still early.”

Neither mentioned how their shoulders touched.

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There was a hum to the air. The kind that had Red lurching awake in an instant, soul hammering, aura flaring at the threat. He was being attacked! On blind instinct he located the source of the magic and grabbed it, clumsy but firm, their soul turned blue. Oh angel above, did Sans attack him?

“woah, easy there.” Speaking of...Sans’ voice rumbled by his skull. Wait. Had he fallen asleep on the couch...on Sans?! Then who? He looked up, strung up above them was Edge, flailing, a halo of tiny bullets (His first ones!!!) still bright around him.

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Red was proud of the little brat. Nobody else in his class could make bullets, not even Papyrus. But the pipsqueak’s explanation for why he snuck up on them like he did, earned a glower. Apparently, upon seeing him sleeping against Sans, he’d decided that they were ‘doing things out of order according to the Relationship Handbook’ and planned on poking Red with a bone. He sent the kids back to bed with a warning, and flopped on the couch, skull flushed.

“relationship handbook?” he looked at Sans, who shrugged.

“one of pap’s books. it is for a video game.”

Chapter Text



“sorry ‘bout my bro.”

“it’s fine.”

“he coulda…”

“nah, he couldn’t.”

“but your hp...”

“red, i’ve been their age, and done some babysitting myself. i can handle baby’s first bullets. he wouldn’t have hit me.”

“yer were asleep too.”

“...i was awake the moment they started playing with magic in the other room. they spent about five minutes sneaking up on us.”

“wait. yer just...pretended to sleep?”


“and yer didn’t move?”

“what can i say, you looked comfortable.” Red covered his face and Sans chuckled. “wonder how long it’ll be before paps makes his own?”

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Red and Sans remained awake, MTT muted on the television. This distance between them felt like miles. His thoughts whirled. After an hour, Sans slumped, dozy, shoulder once more touching his, wonderful and warm, Red couldn’t bear the silence any longer.

“uh, hey. can...we talk?”

“izzit serious?”

“maybe? yes?” Sans sat up, blinking away sleep. Angel he looked perfect. “do yer...i feel...and yer..” He’d never done this before. Never confessed. Never tested to see if another monster felt the same. Sans tilted his skull, confused. Taking a page from Mettaton’s terrible soaps, Red pulled their teeth together.

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For an unbearable soulbeat, Sans was still. Unresponsive. Cold. Red felt his hopes crumble as he began to pull away. Then smooth phalanges caught his shoulders, careful, tentative, and he leaned into the kiss. It was quiet and chaste, neither pushing, both ebbing and flowing. When they broke apart, Red’s soul soared, Sans’ own humming along with its song. A perfect first kiss. Dazed, Red leaned in again, but Sans backed off, standing. Red rose with him, broader but shorter than the other skeleton.


His smile was sad, “that shouldn’t have happened.”

“but yer kissed me back...”

“i know…”

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Joy festered with humiliation and shame, leaving Red speechless as he tried to piece together what went wrong.

"red, we barely know each other," there was a tiredness to Sans' voice, like he didn't want to be having this conversation either. "and i didn't intend to lead you on…"

"bullshit." Sans flinched back.

"i understand you're hurt…"

"i heard yer soul!"

Silence. Neither of them could deny the mingled harmony that sang between them. They both wanted that kiss! But Red wasn't going to force the idiot to get over his emotional constipation.

"it's not that simple."

Is it ever?

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With morning came goodbyes, Papyrus and Edge more subdued than normal, obviously thinking the odd mood between Sans and Red were their fault. Edge clutched his sleeping clothes and scuttled home, while Papyrus retreated back to his room, obviously not liking the tension despite the smile on his face. It was terribly awkward. As Red made to follow Edge, Sans grabbed his wrist, suddenly close, making his traitorous, masochistic soul skip.

“don’t take edge away from paps, please. your brother has made him happier than i’ve ever seen before.”

“i wouldn’t do that to the kid.”


Red went home.

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"Where's your head, kid?"

Red blinked up at his scruffy, grey-bearded supervisor, realizing in a burst of panic that he was standing in the breakroom, staring aimlessly at a mop bucket, instead of cleaning like he supposed to. How long had he been daydreaming?

"Easy, easy. You're twitchier than a squirrel without a tree today."

"sorry. i'll get back to work."

The old man crossed his arms, "Red…"

"it's fine. i'm fine. stop hovering bossman." Reassured by Red's snark, he nodded. Leaving Red alone again. He swore softly. Even days later, he couldn't keep his mind off Sans.

Crushes sucked.

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Love, was, in short, simple for monsters.

Male or female, big or small, at the core of them was the same beating pulse, their forms all but varied shells for the same fragile souls. It was terribly easy for a monster to love. A hint of trust and closeness, and a pair would know in an instant if the feeling was mutual. To deny it once known...was odd. Culturally. Why would one not want to be with their beloved?

Red paused to watch Sans leave his apartment, their eyelights meeting.

His soul pulsed.

If only he could let go.

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Frisk watched Papyrus most evenings. With some pestering, Red relented and allowed Edge to visit, still leery of the fact that she didn't ask for payment. It was on one such evening that work kept him late (some high roller that the shop bent backwards to meet his demands), and left him scurrying home past Edge's bedtime. He knocked, sweating, only to be greeted by Sans. Who wore round wire-framed glasses and a crisp white coat. Not exactly hot dog salesman attire.

Red followed him in and Sans led him to Papyrus' bedroom, cracking open the door, "kiddos are asleep."

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"what's with the geek gear?" Red asked with a wave, closing the door to let the kids sleep. Sans picked at the tape holding the frames on his skull, glancing away.


"figured since it aint halloween."

No elaboration came. Instead Sans shrugged out of the jacket, looking even more exhausted than normal. He fidgeted. Red rolled crimson eyelights and grabbed Sans' wrist, pulling him to the couch and flipped on MTT. "yer look like hell froze over, bud."

Red didn't ask questions. Not a word. But within twenty minutes, Sans was asleep, and Red selfishly basked in the warmth.

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"mornin sunshine."

Sans blinked bemused up at Red, as if trying to puzzle why his pillow was talking and why it had blared rock music for a few seconds. Then understanding dawned and he straightened, clearing his throat. It was morning and the boys would be awake soon, meaning work for the both of them.


"it's fine."

"no it's not i…"

"i don't mind. it's whatever. we're friends...right?"

Conflict was evident in his sockets. Sansy, why are you fighting what you obviously want? Eventually, he capitulated, voice distant, "yeah. we're buds." They readied themselves to face the day.

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Everything was fine. Just...fine. So when Red recieved a call to pick up Edge from school in the middle of the day, he nearly broke time-space to get there, soul a rioting bird in a cage. He stumbled upon seeing both Edge and Papyrus in the hallway, Paps sporting a band aid and Edge glaring holes into his boots.

"HI MISTER RED!" Papyrus waved, cheerful as ever.

"hey pipsqueak, what's goin' on here?"

"OH! EDGE AND I GOT IN A FIGHT!" A what? And why was he so chipper? "DON'T WORRY, WE'RE DONE NOW. WE COMMUNICATED!"

"thats...uh, good."

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According to the principal, Edge had been in a poor mood all day, before lashing out during recess when Papyrus pushed him to play. There were bullets involved, and one grazed Pap’s cheekbone before the teachers noticed. Papyrus was insistent that Edge was sorry, and didn’t hurt him, even going as far as to hug the other boy in the office.


And that was that. No harsh feelings. Just excitement for the future.

Edge didn’t speak for the rest of the day.

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Edge wasn't himself. He was a mouthy, bitey babybones. This hole up in his room in silence was wildly concerning after the first day. Red panicked. Because there was no other word for it. So instead of waiting it out, he knocked on Sans' door, telling Paps immediately he needed to speak to the older skeleton.

Papyrus looked a little haggard as well, but he let Red in, "HE SHOULD BE IN HIS ROOM." He beelined for the door, "sans it's red. i uh...need some parenting advice here. it's edge." No response. He knocked again. The door creaked open.

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According to his brother, Sans kept his room locked. Even Papyrus was rarely allowed in. But that was just a mental side note when Red peered into the dimly lit space, soul sinking a touch at the disaster area. There was messy and then there was 'why the hell would you subject yourself to this?' He was intimately familiar with the why…

Red walked in, wondering if Sans was underneath that lump of bedsheets. Of course as he tried to be discreet, he had to go and trip. Him and the box kissed the carpet, Red sputtering a muted swear.

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"sorry, i'll pick it up," he said, realizing that it was likely a promise nobody else would hear. Sans didn't seem to be here. Red sighed and righted himself, gingerly refilling the box's spilt contents. There were photographs, most starring Paps. Then he found a slim folder labeled 'Sans' in unfamiliar handwriting. It was bad taste, but he let the folder fall open, and was met with a scatter of photos of Sans as a kid holding different trophies. There were clipped news articles too. "son of renowned scientist earns first masters at 16. will he someday change the world?"

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Sweat broke out on Red's skull. How smart was Sans? He shifted some news clippings. With crumpled edges and creases were a number of diplomas, like someone balled them up and regretted it. He furrowed his brow at the dates. Wait. If Sans was sixteen in that news article then…"no wonder he freaked. he's almost ten years older than me." And that little bit of info still didn't kill the flutter in his soul. Red realized he was loitering and hurried to put away the photos. Absently, he noted that there were no photos of Sans and Papyrus' parents.

Chapter Text

"yer brother aint in his room."


"missin' yer, pipsqueak."


"not everyone is cool wit unexpected hugs, even from friends."


Red patted his skull.

Chapter Text

“sup, paps said you were lookin’ for me earlier?”

Red near choked on his cigarette upon seeing Sans, “where yer been?”

“not far. y’know, those things are bad for you.”

“bite me. m’quittin’...soon.”

“expensive hobby.”

“stop distractin’ me by changin’ the subject! an’ imma adult, i can make my own bad decisions.”

Sans held up his hands in defeat, “sorry, bud.”

Red blew out a cloud of smoke, “edge is still down. he hasn’t backsassed me all day.”

“...guilt, maybe? frustration.”

“why yer say that?”

“magic is all about emotions. sounds like he lost control of his.”

“i see…”

Chapter Text

“get back here yer little brat!” Red slid across the kitchen floor in socked feet, one hand raised, his socket bright with magic.

Edge twisted against the gravity magic, lobbing bones right at his face, “MAKE ME!”

Red dodged to the side and flicked his wrist. A single blue bone impaled Edge’s chest and the babybones went still, skull flushed with frustration. A few seconds later, he dropped to the floor. Red chuckled, “when i said surprise your opponent, i didn’t mean jump me in my sleep, whelp.”


“eh, fair point.”

Chapter Text

Magic practice was a welcome distraction, though Edge was still more reserved than before, and that left Red trying to puzzle his way into the babybone's skull. It was a whole week after the incident before he stayed over again.

"Good to see you both back," Frisk said when Red came playing fetch. Too knowing eyes followed him. "Oh, my mom told me to invite you two to lunch Saturday. Snowdin Park, noonish. Sans will be there."

"why? yer mum don't know us."

A sly smile crept on her lips, "She knows enough. Consider coming. Free food. Bad laughs. Mustard."

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"toriel dreemur. yer mum is toriel. dreemur. wife of asgore dreemur…"

"Founder of Dreemur Energy and BioTech, yes," Frisk shrugged.

Red stared at the goat-monster chatting with Sans a short distance away, both surrounded by heaps of food. Edge had run off to play with Papyrus, and he could see the pair talking to some kid that looked sorta like Frisk and a blue fish girl.

"I'm surprised you figured it out so fast."

" old man worked at the core. may have done a paper or two growin' up on the place."

Sans looked up at last and waved.